Building Sandcastles

When writing a first draft, I have to remind myself constantly that I’m only shoveling sand into a box so later I can build castles.   Shannon Hale

I’ve been struggling with my writing lately. Justifying the time it takes as well as the lure of everything else “out there” that sucks me in. All it took was meeting with my writing bestie, Karen Whalen, today to turn that around.

Women often base their worth on how much they accomplish and how productive they are. Cleaning, cooking, taking care of family, working (for those of us who work outside the home), church obligations, laundry…the list goes on a mile long. And what about saying “no” to a request someone has of you? Gasp!

Sometimes when we get caught in the vicious cycle of doing, doing, doing, all we need is that someone to issue a gentle reminder that it’s okay to be. It’s okay to take some time to do what we love. To nurture the side of ourselves that brings joy. Writing is not wasted time, but treasured time. Not to mention extra income for some.

During our conversation today my passion was re-ignited, writing projects planned, and Camp NaNo next month is one of them. For those who aren’t familiar with Camp NaNo, it’s a spin-off of NaNoWriMo in November but much more flexible. While NaNoWriMo requires writing 50,000 words in a month, Camp NaNoWriMo allows the writer to set their own word count goal, hourly goal, or page goal. Also, where NaNoWriMo means working on a new piece of work, Camp NaNo allows you to choose to work on a novel, short stories, poetry, revisions, etc. It also includes virtual cabins so you can check in with your cabin mates each evening for support and encouragement.

I’m setting a word count goal of 50,000 and beginning a new novel, book two in the Whispering Pines series. If anyone wants to join in and share a cabin, let me know. We can share virtual s’mores, sit around a virtual campfire, and maybe tell a ghost story or two. Too busy? Even if you set your goal at 10,000 words or 10  hours over the course of the month, that’s 10,000 words or 10 hours you didn’t have before. That could be the beginning of your beautiful sandcastle.


Write on!

 There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.
― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings





International Women’s Day

Mother Teresa

I saved my Wednesday post for Thursday this week, because today is International Women’s Day. While I’m not a women’s libber or a women’s rights activist (Not that there’s anything wrong with those who are, in fact, if that’s you, KUDOS! Keep it up!), I do believe women are special and contribute far more to society than they’re given credit for. So today I celebrate a few of the women who have contributed something to my life in the way of lessons learned or those I greatly admire. Those are:

Marilyn Monroe – She was such a beautiful, talented woman, and yet so conflicted. Sadly, Marilyn Monroe has proven that beauty truly is only skin deep and cannot buy happiness or true joy.

Amelia Earhart – Aviation pioneer – She has demonstrated that being a woman should never stop one from doing what one truly wants to do. If anything, she has shown that one should try even harder, pursuing passion with gusto.

Oprah Winfrey – She has shown that no matter what we’re born with and what our past holds, it does not have to define and shape our future. We have the power within us to do and be whatever we choose to be. And, as with Amelia Earhart, passion and perseverance can move mountains.

Katie Davis – Katie has shown that we’re never too young to make a difference. At 18 she moved to Uganda to work with the poor and has adopted 14 girls and made a difference to an abundance of people. She radiates joy, love, hope, and the Spirit of Jesus.

Anne Frank – Her statement, “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart,” is astounding to me. She has shown that attitude really is 99% of what we become.

Kathryn Stockett – Wow! Talk about perseverance! After five years of trying to secure a literary agent and approximately 60 rejections, the author of the bestseller, The Help, never quit. Thank goodness she finally caught the attention of just one, because it’s a book I would recommend to anyone and everyone.

Jane Pauley – I grew up watching her on NBC’s The Today Show, and her simple beauty and love of being a journalist fed my love of words. Recently she has spoken openly about her bipolar disorder, helping to overcome some of the stigma surrounding the illness. Go Jane!

Maya Angelou – A woman who has overcome childhood trauma and used it to help others overcome through words. And the poem Phenomenal Woman? I need say no more. Simply phenomenal!

Mother Teresa – I don’t even know where to begin with explaining what this amazing Godly woman has taught me. She was the most perfect role model of grace, humility, and demonstration of love. Her simplicity and selfless service to others knew no bounds.

But the first and most influential woman in my life is my mother. She has taught me that hard work, faith, and dedication are the keys to success. She has taught me that taking care of and being present for my own family is the greatest gift I can give, and that to serve and follow Christ, I need not travel to another country to do so, but it starts in my own home. And she has taught me that laughter and joy are key to aging gracefully.

To you women, celebrate those women who have paved the way to make your life a better one. And to you men, celebrate those women who enrich your lives.

There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.   Michelle Obama

Well-behaved women seldom make history. 
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich


My One Word


As the New Year approaches–much too quickly, I must add–I’ve been preparing for, and contemplating, my one word for 2018. My One Word is an experiment developed by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen to help people get past the disappointment of not being able to keep News Years Resolutions.

I used to be one of those that set New Years Resolutions with all the best intentions and, each year determined that “I was going to make it this year.” I was lucky if I ever made it to the end of January. Of course, the type of New Years Resolutions I set was a problem, too. The expectations I had for myself exceeded what was humanly possible.

From there I tried New Years Goals. For these goals I lighted up a bit, lowered my expectations to a human level, but still was unable to keep them. Once again, the type of goals I set, despite being on a human level, were still based on extremely high expectations. Since then I’ve learned to set bite-sized goals. Along with that change, I don’t hold myself accountable to flawlessly execute each goal the entire year. I’ve learned to give myself permission to mess up. Messing up doesn’t mean I’ve failed. Getting back on track after I’ve messed up means I’ve succeeded.

In the middle of these transitions, I came across My One Word. I’ve incorporated this genius idea into my goals. The concept is to decide upon a single word that signifies something you would like to work on throughout the year. In the past I’ve chosen Grace, Silence, Love, and Risk. My One Word for 2018 is…

 Kindness text

How can one go wrong with Kindness. And practicing it daily can only bring positive results.

I would love to hear if you decide to use the My One Word challenge for 2018, if you have used it in the past, or if you were to implement it, what word would you choose?

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.
― Henry James


A Cozy Teatime

This past weekend I was one of six local authors to host a book event, A Cozy Teatime, (named for our love of cozy mysteries) at the local bookstore, Welcome to the Bookstore.

DSC_0005As a child, bookstores were the portal into so many worlds to which I wished to travel, the pages of each book an opportunity to expand my world. That hasn’t changed. There is still nothing quite like being transported into other places and sharing in the lives of other people through characters. As an author, it’s a special privilege to make that happen for readers.

A Cozy Teatime was spent visiting with book lovers, eating scones and drinking hot tea, enjoying the Christimas tree by the fireplace, and surrounded by shelves upon shelves of books. I don’t think it gets better than that.



We had author readings, drawings, cultivated friendships, and simply had fun.



From left to right is: Myself, Chris Goff, Karen Whalen, Margaret Mizushima, Rose Ramirez, Donna Schlachter/Leeann Betts, and Cynthia Kuhn.

Check out their websites. These ladies are immensely talented! You won’t be disappointed.

Until next week…Seize the day. Carpe diem.

A Rich Abundant Life

This past weekend I was fortunate to attend a women’s retreat through my church. Typically, when I get home from work in the evenings I long to stay in my home office with my computer, or at least within the walls of my home with my dogs and my husband. On weekends, I don’t venture too far from home, either. Being an introvert, and after spending so much time at a day job surrounded by co-workers and fielding phone calls and office visits from the outside, quiet time at home is heaven.

Since these kinds of activities are well out of my comfort zone, the fact that I’d signed up for the women’s retreat surprised me as well as my husband. I paid the fee the moment I signed up, knowing if I didn’t I would find an excuse to back out.

I’m filled with gratitude that I persevered and went. Not only was the scenery breathtaking, the experience taught me far more than anything has in a long time and has grown me in ways I desperately needed to grow.



At some point, I can’t remember exactly when, I closed myself off from relationship with others. And I found out I wasn’t the only one who did so. Playing it safe seems to be more popular that I’d imagined.



During the weekend, I remembered the joy of being connected to a larger group of women, especially Christian women, when my Christian self is the area in which I wish to grow. I remembered the fulfillment that comes with being open to relationships. For far too long, I had been weighing the joy of loving someone against the potential pain of loss. And the fear of loss had been greater.

It we’re not open to others, we’re not allowing ourselves to be available to those who need us. We’re not living to our full potential, living out our purpose to love one another. How can we make a difference in the world if we stick to ourselves, an army of one? How can we make a difference in the world if we’re closed to others? And being open to even one makes a difference in the world. One is all it takes to make a good start. Each one we make a difference to will make a difference to someone else.

The weekend refueled my energy tank. It opened my heart to a life of being open and available to others. God showed me where the fear was coming from and how I was living such a limited life.

Here’s my challenge to you. Search for an area of your life that feels comfortable. Too comfortable. An area in which you tend to fall into a rut because it’s the path of least resistance. Now take some time to explore that area. What if you stepped out of your comfort zone, tried something new, opened your heart to something more than comfortable? The more you resist, the more fear is probably ruling your life. Think of how your life could potentially grow more beautiful and meaningful if you stretch yourself beyond what’s comfortable.

Comfort is good, and it does have its place. But when it comes to living and loving, comfort holds us back from fully living and loving. And if we’re not living and loving fully, we’re only living half a life.

I choose to strive to live an abundant life rich with loving others and being loved.

After you are gone, people may forget most of what you have said and done. But they will remember that you loved them. 
― Steve Goodier

Permission to Write


This past weekend I was fortunate to attend a writer’s conference in Niwot, CO, hosted by Rachel Weaver, founder of  Colorado Writing School. I went with enthusiasm for what I might learn and came away with so much more than that. I came away with a head chock full of knowledge, a soul with renewed energy, a heart with renewed passion for the craft, and most important of all, validation for why I do what I do. A hall pass.

We writers are an insecure lot, and if we’re not making a lot of money at what we’re doing, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wondering if our time spent writing is frivolous and if we should be doing something “important” instead. Despite five published books, another due out by the end of the year, it’s a rut I fall back into frequently, like the gutters my bowling balls rolled into when I used to bowl.

Stephen King, in his book On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft (a book I highly recommend for writers of all levels) states that only approximately 5% of writers can support themselves and their families with their writing. Considering his book was published in 1999, eighteen years ago, that the number of writers has grown exponentially with the boom of self-publishing, and  the cost of living has gone up, that percentage is likely even lower today. Does that mean those of us who fall into the less than 95 percentile should pack it up and stop writing? Absolutely not!

Going to conferences or writer’s workshops gives me permission, if you will, to do what I love to do. My day job is a job. It’s my vocation. Writing is my avocation. My passion. And being in a room filled with other writers, those who find joy and fulfillment in the written word and telling stories, doesn’t only make that okay for me, it makes it healthy and good. And  Lord knows we can never have enough goodness.

Conferences and workshops provide the power of brainstorming with each other, the room alive from the electrical energy of so much creativity in one place. In one of the sessions I attended, the writing prompts and exercises produced the synopsis for book two in the Whispering Pines Mysteries. That, alone, made it a success. 🙂

Lunch was spent with Kerrie Flanagan, author, presenter, and writing consultant, who shared invaluable insight. Another was an agent panel with Becky LeJeune and Shana Kelly, who also had invaluable advice when querying. A writer cannot get these nuggets of gold camped out in an office with the door closed.


Writing doesn’t have to be a lonely endeavor. In a profession where most of us are introverts, finding comfort within the walls of our home office or tucked comfortably behind a computer screen, conferences and workshops offer a way for us to interact with people to “get” us. They provide connections to others in the industry. And it’s even enjoyable for us introverts!

So write on.  Go create. Get your stories out into the world. Permission granted.

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.           W. Somerset Maugham





The Joy is in the Journey

to an

We as a whole are a results-driven society.

  • We work so we have financial freedom, success, recognition, personal satisfaction, etc.
  • We raise our children with the goal of creating loving, responsible, productive people.
  • We create a date night with our spouse to keep the spark alive in the midst of daily chaos.
  • As writers, we write a set number of words (or minutes/hours/paragraphs, etc) to produce the finished product.
  • When reading a book, we often rush through it to get to the end in anticipation of what happens to the good guy/gal—or the bad guy/gal. (Or am I the only one who does that?)
  • We diet to reach a desired goal.

I could go on indefinitely.

While striving for our desired results isn’t a bad thing, if that’s our focus, we’re missing out on the process.

The process is where the gold is discovered. It’s in the process that we’re refined and made stronger.

It’s the process of achieving results that’s the teacher, showing us how to get from point A to point B while revealing the necessary seemingly little steps that eventually lead to the final result.

It’s in the process that we learn patience, perseverance, and self-control. When things aren’t going the way we’d planned, we learn to pivot as needed, taking the longer route if necessary, learning that our way isn’t the only way. It opens us up to bigger, broader horizons if our eyes aren’t stuck on the goal.

It’s in the process that holds the joy. Detours are often more scenic, more relaxed and enjoyable. We can either get to where we’re going by hurrying, scarfing down meals on the go, potty breaks only as needed, or we can sit back and enjoy the ride, take the time to taste exquisite cuisine, wander a bit in nature, getting to the same destination but with more to show for it.

Results are out of our control. Joy is not. Set your sights on the process and get to where you’re going joyfully.

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness