Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How about a FREE short story?

Download for FREE at Amazon.

Download for FREE at Apple.

Download for FREE at Barnes and Noble.

You're very welcome! I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Whoops! I accidentally wrote a short story!

I'm not yet happy with the two novels I've been working on, so last month I started writing my first-ever short story in an attempt to recharge my creativity. It was a great writing exercise, and the story came out so well that I have published it at Amazon's Kindle Store. Here's the product description for "Living it Up in Fiddly Falls":
She might be as old as the hills, but she's not dead. So what is Maryann Flemming's obituary doing on Page 4 of the Fiddly Falls Citizens Gazette?

Click here and you'll be zapped to Amazon.

Folksy and fun, this 7,000-word short story is a quick read featuring Christian themes and a touch of romance. Download it now to enjoy during your next coffee break or at bedtime. (Goes great with cookies!)

Click here to see "Living it Up in Fiddly Falls" at Amazon.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The blogger is (mostly) off-duty

I'm now updating this blog only sporadically, but as there are 1,004 posts (going way back to December of 2004), these pages still get a great deal of traffic from Google and other search engines. I know that some of you riding in on those links will check to see if I'm still blogging, so I just want to say: No, not really. But thanks for asking.

If you want to connect with me, here's how to do that:

If you're not a spammer, shoot a message to I'll usually reply within 24 hours.

For daily chatter and tons of photos of my cottage-style flower gardens, check out my Facebook profile and my Twitter feed.

...and of course you're welcome to leave a comment on this blog post.

If you'd like to view ordering information for my books and read a long excerpt from each, please visit my website. (Just grab yourself a fresh cup of coffee first, because they really are l-o-n-g excerpts!)

When I have news about new book releases and sales and so on, I'll be sure to post here. So if you don't want to miss those updates, it might be a good idea to subscribe to this RSS feed or sign up for e-mail notifications of new posts. (You'll find the little sign-up box thingies in the column at right.)

Thanks so much for stopping by No rules. Just write. If you'd like to check out some of the 1,004 other posts, knock yourself out. You can locate entries by specific months and years by using the handy drop-down box at the bottom of the right-hand column. There's also a search box down there.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

One-minute video: My Front Garden at Night

On balmy summer evenings, I enjoy sitting on the bench behind the fountain in my lighted front garden. The splashing and burbling of water against a background of cicada music is immensely soothing. But last night the pink four-o'clocks and the orange crocosmia were practically glowing in the dark, making the garden a delight for my eyes as well as my ears. In an attempt to share some of that magic with other garden lovers, I grabbed my camera and made this very short video.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Crazy in love with Japanese anemones

(This "golden oldie" NRJW post was originally published on August 20, 2009.)

I wonder why Ogden Nash never wrote a poem about Japanese anemones? The words roll trippingly off the tongue and suggest all kinds of delicious rhymes:

Japanese anemones.
See them dancing in the breeze.

They're my favorite late-summer flowers. Their strong, graceful stems rise high over lovely mounds of foliage to offer up unscented, nearly translucent flowers featuring adorable green-ball centers surrounded by egg-yolk-yellow ruffs. I mean, just look at these beauties.

I must plant some more of these
Japanese anemones.
The whites are charming, but I think
I should also have some pink.

[So far, I haven't planted any pink ones because I have so many pink roses in the front garden. But my white anemones have grown and spread and this year (2013) they're more delightful than ever.]

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

This is your brain on writing

(This "golden oldie" NRJW post was originally published on January 30, 2007.)

I've been writing all morning, and just now I decided to break for "elevenses," as my British friends call it. I made a lovely pot of English Breakfast tea, and just at the end of its steeping time, I remembered that my sugar bowl needed a refill.

I had been composing lines of dialogue as I prepared the tea, my laptop computer sitting just a few feet away on the kitchen table. I started to rush over there and enter the exchange I'd just thought up, but then I paused to say it out loud first. Would it sound as clever as I hoped?

It did, so I said it again. Then, chuckling over my amazing wit, I lifted the teapot and...

Poured tea into the nearly-empty sugar bowl.

I didn't merely start to pour it; I actually filled the container more than half full before I realized what I was doing.

But this was not a problem, I quickly assured myself. In fact, this solved a problem, because now I had something to blog about. Heck, I could even post a photo. So I grabbed my camera and then ran over here to whip out this post. As soon as I hit Publish, I'm going back to writing that scintillating dialogue.

There are two kinds of people reading this right now: those who are wondering how I could have done something so moronic, and those who know how I did it because they, too, are fiction writers.

Maybe we could have a little fun with that second group. Fess up, friends: What goofy things have your bodies done while your minds were wandering in storylands of your own making?

Friday, August 16, 2013

Writing with my eyes open

(This "golden oldie" NRJW post was originally published on May 23, 2008.)

How many other novelists, I wonder, avoid looking at their words as they type them onto the page? I'm actually a fairly fast and accurate typist, but somehow watching my words come out one a time distracts me and disrupts their flow.

So I don't watch.

Sometimes I write with my eyes shut, my head thrown back like Stevie Wonder at his piano, pushing words through my fingertips in the same joyous way he pushes music through his. But most of the time I'm looking over the screen of my laptop and out the window opposite my desk. It's just a normal-size window, but it affords me a partial view of our patio garden and beyond that, several mature black walnut trees and a bit of sky--in other words, plenty of light and color and movement to stimulate my imagination.

I would have taken my computer out into the garden this afternoon, but it's been looking like rain. A little while ago I went out with the idea of moving this pot of daisies and petunias in front of my office window (the one on the left side of this photo) so I could enjoy the jazzy orange-and-purple bouquet from my desk. But alas, the stand was too short. So I returned to my desk, where I spent a good five minutes watching two fat robins splash in the bird bath.

I've decided that the view from this window doesn't need improving, after all.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Is there a recipe for writing romance?

Most published romance writers are pretty quick to deny it when anyone dares to suggest that category (or "series") romance novels are written to a formula. But I insist that there is indeed a recipe for romance. The category books absolutely do follow a formula.

Do you disagree? Then go ahead, please, and tell me which step in this "romance recipe" is not always followed in a category romance novel:

1. The hero and heroine will meet (or meet after a long
separation) within the first few pages.

2. Early on it will be made clear to the reader, although
not necessarily to the hero and heroine, that this couple
absolutely belongs together.

3. Physical or emotional obstacles (usually both) will
make it seem impossible that this man and woman, as
perfect for each other as they are, could ever be together.

4. After many trials, one or both characters will make a
sacrifice for the other and/or change in some major way
that proves their love and opens the possibility of a
future together.

5. After the last big crisis is resolved the hero and
heroine will admit their love to themselves and to each
other and will then enter into a committed relationship.
These steps came right off the top of my head, so I've probably left out something important, but I think this is enough to get my point across. Why do we pretend there is no formula for romance novels? Because we feel it cheapens the genre and makes us look like unimaginative imitators rather than intrepid innovators?

That's ridiculous. Are we really that insecure? Anyone who thinks it's easy to follow this recipe and write a salable romance novel should try doing it sometime.

Writing a romance novel is a lot like making chicken soup. Certain ingredients are always going to be present in chicken soup (chicken and water, for instance), but other things can be tossed in, as well, so your chicken soup will be very different from mine. Mine's thin, with savory broth. Is yours thick and creamy? I never put rice or noodles in mine, do you?

All chicken soup is similar in some very basic ways (that chicken-and-water thing again), but not all chicken soup tastes the same. And so it is with romance novels. Even when many of the same elements are present, each author will handle them in very different ways to craft stories as unique as snowflakes.

So, yes, there's a basic recipe for writing romance novels. But that doesn't mean it's easy to make a good romance novel, and it doesn't mean that all romance novels will "taste" the same. Recognizing that should deepen rather than lessen our admiration for the genre.