For the Cost of a Sandwich…

Today’s the first day of SPRING! It’s the perfect time to do that cleaning and get those taxes prepped, and the perfect time to take a look at how you’re spending your pocket change.

Consider that most people spend far more money each day on dining out than they spend each week (or month, even) on purchasing books. As an author, I can assure you that we who publish spend far more time creating the stories, adventures, poems, dramas, and lusty tales you enjoy than your local cafe spends on “creating” your sandwich.

So swallow that last bite of mayo-drenched sammich and buy a book. Please.

I’d like to suggest this one: Journey Home

Proceeds go to Honor Flight, an organization that honors American Veterans. Thank you, Tori.
Proceeds go to Honor Flight, and organization that honors American Veterans. Thank you, Tori.

I met Tori Meyer this weekend at a CIPA conference and was blown away by the beauty of her creation, the proceeds of which will go to honor American Veterans. I just bought two. You should too.

Five-Year-Old Siren Song

I attended a Chaffee County Writers Exchange workshop today about point of view and took a trip down memory lane with two of the exercises. The first was to write about a childhood memory from a 1st person perspective present tense, like we were experiencing the event for the first time and delivering a blow-by-blow account. We had only 5 minutes to write, so it’s brief. Here’s what I wrote. Don’t judge me.

*  *  *  *  *

There he is. He’s wicked cute. He’s the cutest boy I’ve ever seen. I love his blond hair and his tan. Wish I could get a tan. It looks real good. I bet he’s nice. Cool bike too. I wonder if he knows who I am since I live down here and he lives way over there. I like him a lot. I wanna kiss him. I feel all tingly. Mom would kill me. But I’m gonna do it. There he goes again. I’m gonna do it.

“Hey,” I yell at him. He looks over at me. Probably thinks I’m just a kid. He’s probably 10, maybe even more.

“Hey, come here. I have a secret.”

Five-year-old bombshell!
Five-year-old bombshell!

Oh boy…he’s riding over here. I can’t believe I’m gonna do this. Wish he’d get off his bikes.

“Come here. Come closer.” I wave him toward my lips, ‘cuz I have a secret. He’s leaning over. It’s now or never.

“Smack!” I kiss him right on the forehead and run away. My heart’s beating real fast and my tummy feels all weird.

“EEwwww! Cooties!” he’s yelling and riding away real fast. That hurts my feelings a little bit. But I think he likes me.

I’m gonna marry him someday.

*  *  *  *  *

Our next exercise was to write about that same incident (we had about 7 minutes for this) from a 1st person past tense perspective at our current age. Here’s what happened:

I was as little hussy by the time I was five, most likely because I watched and envied my three older sisters with their constant stream of hunky boyfriends.

I honestly believed no boy would ever love me. Why would they? I was a chubby little freckle-face pale thing with curls that erupted from my head at all angles and bangs that my mother always cut too short.

When I saw Andy on his bike that day, I have no idea how I mustered the courage to do what I did. I had little-girl-lusted after him all summer. He was the new boy, their family having moved into a house on an adjoining street earlier in the summer, and he was the perfect specimen of a 10-year-old boy. He was confident and cute. I knew I’d never have a chance with him.

Somehow in my 5-year-old brain, I knew I’d have to trick him. When I got his attention and called him over, I don’t think I really had a plan, but evidently I had an innate ability to improvise.

I’m pretty sure I closed my eyes when I went in for the kiss, which is probably why my lips landed on a cool forehead rather than on their intended target, but hey, I was only five.

I wonder where my mother was while I was kissing my first boy.

*  *  *  *  *

So there you have it. My first act of passion. I wonder where Andy is now?


Tell Me I Can’t

Someone told me that with all the work required to launch a new book, there was no way I’d publish my new novel on Leap Day. I just love it when someone suggests I can’t do something (because here’s the link to Waterwight, my new novel, published on February 29th: Waterwight)

This past summer I had an opportunity to reflect on other “you can’ts” that contributed to making me the person I am today. I discovered that Smith College was having a Leadership Conference the first weekend in April 2016 and was looking for panelists. Although I’m not a Smith grad, I decided to complete their 200-word essay application just for the heck of it. Here’s what I submitted:

United States Military Academy
Senior West Point photo in “full dress” for parade uniform.

In 1976 my guidance counselor told me Smith was beyond my reach. In 1978 during my sophomore year at Smith, the college president said I was making a big mistake leaving to attend West Point. Many believed I’d never graduate from West Point, but after proving them wrong and serving my country as an Army officer for thirteen years, I now stand with classmates from Smith and West Point who applaud successful women who continue to shatter barriers.

I laugh at myself frequently when I look back on how I’ve redefining success over the past decades. My memoir will be called “Danger! Comfort Zone!” because as the black sheep in a family of five girls, I’ve lived my life believing that with comfort comes complacency, and complacency breeds boredom. My three semesters at Smith opened my eyes to countless opportunities available to intelligent women. I wanted them all.

My success as a Smith student opened doors to experiences far beyond any realm of comfort. At West Point I redefined my goals and challenged myself on every front: academic, physical, and emotional. Graduating with the fourth class of women in what had once been a “No Girls Allowed” institution launched me into a life of increasing responsibility, and I loved it.

With each major transition—Smith to West Point, Army to civilian life, mom to teacher, teacher to author and mentor—satisfaction in my accomplishments grows. My credo: Embrace change. Challenge the status quo wherever you find it. Challenge yourself always.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’ll be heading to Smith College on March 31st and look forward to meeting three other women who will join me on the “No Girls Allowed: Game Changers” panel! I plan to have fun. Go ahead. Tell me I can’t.

My Smith College uniform. "Full Jammies with Tab Bottle Mic"
My Smith College uniform. “Full Jammies with Tab Bottle Mic”

I Write Short Stories Too!

Pearl at the Wheel

“You look cold, dear.” Pearl pushed her jacket onto Frank’s lap, keeping her eyes on the road. It was her turn to drive the ’58 Oldsmobile coupe, Frank’s pride and joy, second only to his wife.

Frank’s proposal nearly 65 years earlier had made her giggle.

“Please be my forever girl, my lovely Pearl! I’ll do my best never to irritate you!”

Pearl had cherished each day since becoming Mrs. Frank Newhart. Her husband had a way of making everything wonderful, even the childless years when she had questioned why he would keep her as a wife.

“ ‘Twasn’t meant for you to take care of anyone but me, my bumblebee! You know you’re my whole worl’, Pearl. Now, give me a hug.”

And with each hug she knew her place in his heart was safe.

She was uneasy behind the wheel of “Ol’ Brownie,” but Frank had already driven through the morning and she could tell he was weary. They drove only during daylight hours now that their vision wasn’t the best. Their last drive south had been hairy, and Frank’s frequent remarks about the “daredevil whippersnappers” on the road had made her reconsider this year’s trip.

“Oh, but the kids’ll miss us! We’ll just take it slow. What do you say? Shall we give it another whirl, my pretty Pearl? Just one more jaunt?”

Pearl could never say no to her Frank. Even when his plans involved doing things she’d never imagined, she trusted he would keep her from harm and expand the small world of her past. And he was patient. She never understood how he could be so patient with her fretful ways.

Frank was a good driver, too, and loved their road trips, but the journey to visit their favorite nephew’s family took days. There was no need to hurry in either direction, though, so she helped him pack the car.

“ ‘Twill be an adventure, my tweety-sweetie-pie,” he told her.

“It’s always an adventure with you, dear. But I think we’ll fly next time.”

They had just passed the “WELCOME TO OKLAHOMA: Discover the Excellence” sign when she stole a glance at her husband. How she loved his strong nose, his wispy silver hair, his bushy eyebrows, and the mischievous grin that always played around his lips.

“How can you tell if he’s happy or sad?” their friends would ask her because his expression never seemed to change, even when Pearl knew he was troubled. She wondered if it was his way of protecting her fragile emotions.

“Oh, I know,” was all she’d say.

Pearl grasped the wheel and briefly considered pulling over to the shoulder. “These double-long trucks scare the bejeebers out of me. Look at him! He’s taking up half our lane! They should be illegal. Hey, you, pick a lane! Should be illegal, don’t you think?”

Jittery chatter was how Pearl dealt with tense situations. She drove on more slowly, her knuckles white at ten and two. Another quick glance at Frank reminded her how patient he’d been over the years. When he learned she’d be fine once she finished her rant, he’d wait it out, the little furrows on either side of his mouth indicating an ever-present grin like the one he wore now.

“I sure will be glad to see that ‘Welcome to Colorful Colorado’ sign. Tomorrow, maybe. Isn’t it just the funniest? Cream letters on a brown sign. Colorful Colorado. Ha!” She squinted. “This is the worst time to drive, you know, with the sun setting. Maybe we’ll drive through the night tonight. Get home in time for Bridge with the girls tomorrow. Won’t they be jealous when I tell them about the show at The Grand Ole Opry?”

When the truck was out of sight, she took a deep breath but didn’t relax her grip on the wheel. She stared straight ahead, concentrating on keeping Ol’ Brownie between her lane markers. She let the silence sink in.

Miles later, Pearl placed her hand over Frank’s.

“Still cold, darlin’?” She pulled her hand away quickly and fumbled to adjust the heat knob.
Tears threatened the corners of her eyes, rolled over her sparse lashes and disappeared in the soft scarf Frank had purchased that morning to protect her from Colorado’s impending winter chill. She wiped the rest away brusquely. Wind buffeted the car and she grasped the wheel firmly again.

“I wish you’d say something, my love. Anything.”

But Frank had nothing more to say. He had stopped talking near the eastern edge of Oklahoma shortly after their last McDonald’s coffee when Pearl took over at the wheel. There were two more states to traverse before they’d be home. She’d have to be careful where she stopped. Maybe she’d close his eyes and lean him against the door.

It would look like he was just sleeping.

almost home