Thursday, April 30, 2009

Whoopiee -- new newsletter

My May Newsletter is now posted.

Big surprises in store for you...better go read it.

For information about BULLYING, see these books by Canada's Rita Y. Toews:

Let's do something about this abuse. No more bullying alowed. Are you with me on this?

Sticks and stones...childish games

There is a bumper sticker that reads: Mean People Suck. If I put bumper stickers on my Mustang, which I don't, I'd probably consider that one.

If you have seen my YouTube, you have heard my son's music. I think he was 14 years old when he wrote and recorded that song. He is what is called a "triple threat." He can act (oh wow can he act), dance (ballet, tap, jazz, swing), and play the piano. When we moved here he attended a performing arts school -- very tough on academics too. Then in public high school, he couldn't be in the dance class because it was only for girls. BTW, he likes Eastcoast Swing best.

Now this is the good part. Four years later, just a month before graduation, he was asked to help with the dance classes recital. He was the narrator for both recitals and a 'prop' for one dance. Too bad they wouldn't let him dance all these years. Their loss.

When I was in sixth grade, we moved and I went to a new school mid-term. I was very shy. I didn't do well on the spelling test, to motivate me the teacher stood me in front of the class (most of whom I didn't know their names yet) and said: "I don't know if you are lazy or just stupid." School was hard enough for me with dyslexia. I still couldn't hardly read at that point. (I learned to read at age 12 or 13.) I really hated (dreaded, felt sick, wanted to cry) going to school every day for the rest of that year.

Now this is the good part. I've written three novels. Guess I'm not lazy or stupid.

Susan Boyle has a learning problem due to oxygen depravation at birth. She has spent her life in a small village teased and bullied by kids, but I bet some adults too. She is sometimes called, "Susie Simple" by the Villagers. We saw the Britain's Got Talent judges' attitude toward Susan both before and after she sang. Judge Piers apologized to Susan when they were on the Larry King show.

Now this is the good part. Susan's singing brings 'on-your-feet-applause.' Susan is every underdog's hero -- worldwide. She is above being exploited because she has heart and courage.

My YouTube:

Susan Boyle's YouTube: (nearly 50 MILLION viewers)

Live YOUR dreams!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The proof is in the...pudding?

I'm a bit giddy. Hubby picked up the proof book of Storm Surge at the printer today. That saved me a trip to downtown since he was already in Phoenix.

My first thought on seeing the book was, wow that is big. It is only 50 pages longer than Kathryn's Beach, but wow...

The printer did a fabulous job. Now I'm dividing my time between proof reading and looking for the photo that is supposed to be on the cover (not the one I used for the proof book). In fact, I'm beginning to think that I might have to change the cover from what we have on my website, because I cannot find that photo (or negative or disc) so I can scan it into the laptop.

I don't do galley books, also known as ARC's -- advance reading copies. A galley and a proof book differ in that a galley is a preview book sent by big publishers to reviewers. It isn't totally edited yet and often doesn't have cover art, just a plan cover with the title and the author's name. That is how a book gets all those reviews before it is published.

A proof is the final version of the book, edited and with cover art. It is funny how reading a printed proof is different from reading a manuscript on screen or printed by my laser printer, though some publishers send a digital copy to their authors.

Since I'm the boss around this publishing house (room) I order a proof copy from the printer. I like to read it carefully for last minute word fixes or formatting issues. I pay close attention to my text graphics for letters and journals, since they are intended to add to the reading experience -- not detract from it. I am, the first person to curl up with Storm Surge. It is like reading it for the first time -- not like I wrote it. Maybe there is a Muse.

Pre-order Storm Surge at:

Oh! Watch for my May newsletter. There is a surprise in there about this book's reviews.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Everyone's darlin' ~ Mr. Goldstein

As I watch Mr. Goldstein climb the stairs to his apartment, I think about him living alone. I am sorry his wife died while I was away. I would have liked to have seen her again. The two of them were inseparable; I can't imagine him living alone.

He is frail without a companion. It is obvious he hasn't been active and he probably doesn’t eat right, either. For the most part, he seems to do all right on his own.
Mr. Goldstein returns unexpectedly as I am preparing to leave for the beach and my evening walk. He wants to walk too. I accept his desire for companionship and acknowledge my need for the same.

He is wearing his everyday street shoes since he doesn’t have athletic shoes. With his shoulders back and his chest swelled, he looks proud in his new warm-up outfit, complete with price tag still dangling from his arm pit. With a quick snip, the price tag is removed and we are officially walking buddies.

On this first walk, Mr. Goldstein makes it across the street to the edge of the sand. Technically, we are on the beach, but at least a hundred yards from the last high tide mark. It is obvious this is as far as we are “walking” today.

Now that we are in the sand, I am not sure he can make it back across the street on his own. Apparently, neither is he. He slides his arm desperately around my waist, while I slip mine around his back to steady him. I hope this is enough support for his weak, spindly legs. The urgency in his grasp doesn’t boost my confidence in this endeavor. It seems the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Mr. Goldstein has an odd quick-step gait that is hard to match. His pace throws me slightly off balance, causing us to be even more out of step with each other. We stop to rest several times before we make it home where we are safe.

I think we were both scared he wouldn’t make it back, but neither of us mention it. We breathe a sigh of relief when I finally ease him into a chair to rest before going upstairs to his apartment.

Mr. Goldstein becomes stronger as the days pass. We walk a little farther each time. Bit the end of two weeks he is walking to the water's edge with ease.

During our walks, we begin to talk about things people with a two-generation age difference talk about with each other. They are comfortable non-intrusive conversations. Still, a deeper warmth is developing between us. I love the easy way we laugh together. It is always preceded by a slow grin on Mr. Goldstein’s lips and a twinkle in his eyes.

From Kathryn's Beach:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Meeting Grandfather McKenzie

The park is nearly deserted. Apparently recently cleaned, the fountain bubbles pleasantly, inviting my fingers to dabble in the water. It is colder than it looks, but it feels fresh – like a fountain should. Maybe there is extra magic to the first coin in the fountain after it has been cleaned. Even if not, I pull out a shiny penny from my purse, turn my back, close my eyes and take a deep breath. Plop!

“For luck, Kathryn?” a voice in front of me asks. I open my eyes to see an old man in a wheelchair being pushed by a younger black man.

“Grandfather?” I query to the wheelchair-bound man.
“Do you play?” Grandfather asks, as his fingers touch the wooden box on his lap. There is an inlayed checker square on top of the box, surrounded with carving and other marquetry designs. It looks old and opulent – and he handles it like it is a treasure.

“Yes,” I say, not entirely certain of the game he has in mind, but sure I am able.

James takes the box, positioning it on the bench between Grandfather and me. Grandfather opens the lid, and begins to remove chess pieces.

“Black or white?”

“Black, always black,” I say without thinking that he might have preferred black. The pieces are heavy and smooth. I think the black are mahogany. The white men are a lighter wood, not oak, maybe something exotic – nothing I recognize. I like the feel of them, as I set my men in place on the board.

James locks the chair brakes, and retires to a nearby bench to watch. The game begins.

“Your move,” Grandfather says with an impatient look of ‘get on with it, girl.’

Apparently, this is not meant to be a leisurely game. I ease into the competition looking for hints of his strategy. His moves indicate Grandfather is a serious player. He seems to have no intention of holding back.

I lose my queen’s bishop.

Then, I will not hold back out of politeness. The game moves on. There is no conversation. “Your move,” is all Grandfather says – and only when he thinks I am taking too long to move my men. Maybe it is part of his strategy to rush me. I take his rook. He takes more of my men, and my pawns fall mercilessly.

I move, “Check.”

He stops dead! His hands retreat to his lap. “That is your father’s move,” he says. “Enough of the game; you are Kathryn McKenzie!”

With a slight grin, he waves toward James. The game board is removed. It is all a little odd. I hadn’t expected a test of my parentage. Goodness, there are DNA tests for that. Grandfather settles his hands together in his lap.

“Tell me about yourself. Are you married?”
“Children?” He seems to have a litany.

I stop the rhythm of the questions with a pause. “No,” I say with a sound of boundary-setting finality.

He leans back in his chair slightly and studies me. “You must look like your mother.”

“I look like me.” I’m beginning to enjoy our volley back and forth.

He grins. “Yes, I suppose so.” Grandfather twists in his chair to view James. Without exchanging words, James gets up, and releases the brakes on the chair. From behind Grandfather’s chair, James flashes a big smile that lasts only a minute and is gone. I smile in response.

“Shall we meet again, Kathryn?”

From High Tide:

Friday, April 24, 2009

A matter of style

Every author has a unique style. What we like about our favorite author is their ability to tell a story that engages us, in a voice that becomes familiar.

I've been told that my writing style is an acquired taste. I usually write in first person present tense. Granted, that is odd. Often my sentence structure and word choices are dictated by my dyslexia. I have a meandering style. I'm a complex thinker (aren't we all?) and can't rush to the point of my stories.

Another maddening thing I do is to begin every novel in the middle of a conversation. Why? Because we enter people's lives midway into who they are. Arrogantly, sometimes we forget they had a life before we knew them, and even now have a life we know nothing about.

Besides I don't much care for a book that begins with the telling of the character's entire name or a full description of their physical appearance. In the UK it is common to start fiction of any genre with a prologue. But in America, that practice is rare in contemporary fiction. In my stories, the reader jumps in with both feet and begins there.

You might note then, that the excerpts on my website are not always from the first page of the book. The same is true for excerpts on this blog. The excerpts here are new to the Internet. They were not posted on the writing forum where I was once a moderator. These excerpts are not on my website. And now that google has removed my books from their scanned books element, these excerpts are nowhere, but here and in my books.

I select scenes that do not give away huge story elements, but are delightful little snippets from my books. Enjoy!

Note that my web designer,, added my books and a link on the left side of my blog.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sand lot baseball

I love to write character development -- especially kids, old people, and nuns, or strong ethnicities. In the post about Shasta you get a feel for that feisty little street urchin.

Here is another 'kid' moment at the convent turned homeless shelter.

[Kathryn goes] outside to play with the children who are laughing and hollering on the playground. Each day they get a little louder, a little braver, a little more like other children.

Paul is leaning against a tree, supervising the playground activities. It is a nice day to be outside. I join him in the shade.

“Hi, Paul. I’m done for the day, if you want to be relieved from playground duty.”

“Thanks, Kathryn. I was thinking I may have to give some batting lessons to that bunch over there.” He nods toward a group of pathetic ball players.

“Want some help?”

“Sure, they need all the help they can get.” He laughs.

We walk toward the ball players. Two or three of the older boys are trying to arrange a game, but they have a lot of raw talent on the field. One of the boys throws the ball in the dirt, disgusted, but checks his half-spoken cuss word when he sees Paul and me approaching the group.

“What’s up, Ronnie?” Paul asks the boy who has thrown down the ball.

“Ah, it ain’t no use. Girls can’t hit worth a darn,” Ronnie answers honestly.

That’s news to me, but who am I to question an eleven-year-old expert on girls?

Paul turns to me with a cheeky grin and a smirk in his voice, “Can you hit?”

“I think so. Can you pitch?” I field his question and take up the bat by the makeshift home plate.

The kids start to gather around me to see if girls can hit. The pressure is on to uphold the honor of my gender. “Paul is going to need some fielders,” I say, as I give the bat a few easy warm-up swings, then point the tip toward the outfield to show them the way.

The children take field positions in more or less the right place with some impromptu positions, as well.

“Want a couple of practice pitches?” I call to Paul, knowing that I need them too.

Paul is in average shape, just about like me. Neither of us can be classified as athletes, but we aren’t couch potatoes.

Paul winds up, and throws one over the plate. I evaluate it for his idea of a strike zone, and hope it is somewhere near mine. He throws another one just as good as the first.

“Bat-ter up!” Paul calls with a smirking grin. He squirms his shoulders and begins his wind up.

“No fancy stuff, Paul, I’m not a kid any more.” I taunt him and smile.

“Ready, Slugger?”

The kids laugh.

Holding the bat in my left hand, I make the sign of the cross with my right hand. “God, pleeeaassse, don’t let me strike out!” I mumble loud enough for my fans to hear my prayer.

The catcher falls over laughing about my petition, which is nothing like the nuns' prayers, thus causing a game delay.

“Give me a break. I haven’t even swung yet!” I fake insult, as I extend a hand to help him up; playing up the moment just for the fun of it.

Everyone else laughs loudly, infectiously.

I make the sign of the cross again, lift my bat, take my stance, and check my elbow position. I nod to Paul. “Let’s see what you got!”

Before the kids can laugh again, Paul pitches a sweet strike right where I like them. Crack! My bat makes solid contact. The ball is headed for orbit, well at least past the infield, toward the oddly-placed multiple centerfield players. Paul jumps for the ball as it whizzes past the makeshift pitcher’s mound – minus the mound. I’m not sure, but I think he let the ball get by him on purpose. No one fields the ball, not the girls or the boys. We all stand there in amazement, including me.

“Well that settles it. Girls can hit!” Paul announces.

The ballplayers applaud. Someone tags me out once they retrieve the ball. I forgot to run to first base. I also forgot to find out what was first base in this misshaped ball diamond.

I hadn’t noticed that Mother Elizabeth joined the spectators. “Nice one, Kathryn,” she says, as she approaches.

Shasta cuts through Mother’s path, and reaches me first. “You did good, Kathryn!” she bursts in amazement and pride, patting my hand.

Mother grins. “You have a phone call.” She takes the bat from me and hands it to Shasta.

One of the kids yells, “Hey, ‘ya wanna play tomorrow?”

“If I can, I will,” I call over my shoulder, as I walk back inside with Mother Elizabeth.

From High Tide:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Back on track

Wow, I get sidetracked easily. I finish a manuscript and totally forget where I was going with the posts of excerpts from the books -- you'd think finishing a ms was a big deal. Well, it IS a big deal, very BIG.

You know what it is like to finish reading a book? Finishing writing one is a million times MORE. More what? More everything.

Back on track: I like to use places I've been as settings. Thanks to my mom's Gypsy spirit, I've been lots of places.

For example, how about a bit of wheat harvest?

The following day Mr. Goldstein returns for what is to become our daily ritual: a walk on the beach. Since California is the only place Mr. Goldstein has lived in the U.S., he asks questions about life on the prairie.

I tell of the combines cutting wide swaths around the wheat field until it circles down to the final pass of the equipment. “There is haze in the air from the machines churning out the chaff to remove the grain from the heads of the plants.”

Only the most essential activities occur during harvest. It was always a race with the weather and crop prices. Nothing else mattered until the wheat was in, until harvest was finished.

Twelve-year-old children, women, and old men drove two-ton grain trucks. Some trucks were so old they looked like a parade of vintage vehicles creeping down Main Street. Some farmers had several matching new grain trucks that were bought on the gamble it would be a good crop this year.

There are long lines of trucks at the elevator waiting to weigh and dump their load of grain. The drivers got out of their trucks to stand under shade trees along the road, waiting their turn at the elevator and worrying about their grain’s moisture content. Sometimes two or three drivers would gather near the lead truck, visiting with each other while watching the activities across the yard at the double circle CO-OP® elevator for their turn on the scales.

From Kathryn's Beach:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Test readers

It is amazing to watch a reader when they get a book in their hand. They look it over, read every word on the cover, then start leafing through it. I know someone who always reads the last chapter first. Others read the first few pages, still others skim through stopping randomly to read until they decide the book worthy of their time.

Writers get the same high from writing. It is a good match -- readers and writers.

Once in a while a reader will contact the author and tell what they liked about a book, or maybe didn't like.

I love hearing from readers. The first bunch I hear from are my beta readers. They test the story and ask questions that help with the final polishing before it goes to the editor. There are several kinds of edits that occur: content editing (which my beta readers do); grammar, punctuation, and spelling; and proof reading or line editing.

It takes a long time to produce a book.

I was lucky enough to catch my friend in England, Carrie, reading the last couple of chapters of Storm Surge. We had our web cameras on and I watched her read.

Her eyes quickly moved back and forth. Once in a while she made a face or smiled, even laughed. It was amazing. I've never seen anyone read my books before. I wanted to interrupt and ask what part she was reading and what she liked about it. But I didn't.

Writers don't get the audience's applause at the end of a book, like a singer does. Watching her read was a rare treat. I hope the rest of you enjoy it as much as she did.

My beta readers are: Judith McKee, Jan Zitek, Mary Edington, Carrie Sheppard, and Ilene Wood. Personally, I think these women are the best team on the planet. Thank you, Ladies!

Oh...almost forgot. Watch for my May newsletter, there is going to be something very different about the cover of Storm Surge.

Newsletter link:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Comment section

I think I figured out how to open the comments so anyone can comment, not just blogger members. Although, it isn't hard to be a member of blogger.

Someone give it a try and let me know if the comments are open now, okay?

Also I was told the pre-order link for Storm Surge was a 404 error. Fixed it.

For the next time I do that, here is my website again:

Thanks for helping, supporting, and keeping an watchful eye on me.

Friday, April 17, 2009

First impressions

Upon hearing my trilogy was finished, writing friend, Fred, send this note:

They’re calling it “one of the greatest mistakes in publishing history.” In 1797, a publisher named Thomas Cadell didn’t bother to look at the three-volume novel. Instead, he declined the book and sent it back to the disappointed young author “without a word of encouragement.” That author was Jane Austen. The book was an early version of “Pride and Prejudice.”

I'm sure everyone in America knows who Scotland's Susan Boyle is. Her fan site says, "Don't judge a book by its cover."

Like everyone else with any sense, I cried for Susan as she sang. The song told her story well. Unpretentiously, she set the audience and judges straight on what is talent, real talent. It isn't a famous name, packaging, or handlers.

God Bless you, Susan Boyle. Best wishes and hopes that all your dreams come true.

One more time, watch Susan shine:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Done. done. done!!!

Last night, I sent out an email to the people on my newsletter list. I finished Storm Surge and it felt finished. This is my third novel, so it isn't like I've not done this before. But I have to say, this felt amazingly [and emotionally] different. Not only have I finished book #3, I have finished the trilogy, and I am very happy with the way it ended. What an amazing journey this has been for this short story writer.

I want to share the email with you:

Storm Surge is done...288 pages. Few edits yet to come in, but the book will meet deadline and be out in May. Pre-ordering is now available on my website.

I've tweaked the ending three or four times in the last few days. [Then wrote an entirely different one.] I just finished the last words minutes ago. I am VERY VERY happy with how it turned out. OMGosh! OMG! I can't believe it is finished.

Thank you, everyone, for your help all of these years. I couldn't have done this without you.

I need help with one more thing. I'm on my own now. It is all up to me. If you like my books, please tell your friends and tell them they can get the books at my website. Please 'buzz' (or tweet) my books.

I'm going to hold off reviews for a while, because some of them give too much info and I'm not on amazon anyway. And, I ask you not to tell anyone the ending. OMG! I can't believe it.

As I've said several times, the end of the trilogy is in the first chapter of KB and HT. And, I've given clues in the newsletter over the past three years. It is so amazing this all came together in the way I wanted, and better than I'd hoped. I love to read when the book leaves me feeling like I do right now. OMG!

I want to look up the YouTube songs [and post the links for you]: Stand By Me; Bridge Over Troubled Waters; That's What Friends Are For; Celebrate: Dancing On the Ceiling...but,

Gotta go now because I think I'm going to cry. I love you guys. I love you lots.



Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The other beach

Calling Seal Beach, California, the 'other beach' sounds like the 'other woman.' That's not the case. Though not mentioned by name in the books, it is the main beach, Kathryn's Beach.

Note the difference in the physical features of her beach and her father's beach. The photos linked with the last two blogs point out the rugged difference quite obviously. (I'll post the link again at the end.)

Here are snippets of Kathryn's Beach/Seal Beach, California.

... a greenish cast to the water and the glitter in the wet sand ... Seagulls screech at each other ... sandpipers play a hurried game of tag with the tan foam at the waves’ edge as it advances and retreats ... The endless sound of the waves coming and going, and the occasional sound of a boat motor revving to pull away from the pier ... The last of the commercial fishing boats begin to come in with their morning catch. They pass into the channel leading to port. The boats are near enough to see the swarm of seagulls following them to the wharf beyond my view. The familiarity of the sights, sounds, and smells wrap around me in a maternal embrace. (Kathryn's Beach)

...the essence of the sandy saltwater scents, and listening to the sound of the crashing waves as the tide comes in ... As the tide rises, the mist of the breaking waves reaches out to touch me from the darkness. (Kathryn's Beach)

The sound of the pounding surf is a loud distraction ... Thundering waves resonate in my chest each time one comes in and hits hard, high on the beach, and again the aftershock when the backwash collides. The sound carries for blocks in the thick, evening air ... people run quickly to see what is happening with the Pacific. Surfers huddle on the beach with their wetsuits hanging at half mast on their trim bodies. They evaluate the quality of the waves with the precision of the Army Corps of Engineers ... [they] fidget – longing to be in the water. Low-hung clouds darken. Hypnotizing lightning comes. It spiders across the dark clouds, driving most of the people from the beach. Strikes of lightning light the beach long enough for me to see the surf is more violent than before ... The wind is coming inland, bringing with it the smell of the ocean ... For a long time I stand and watch each flickering in the distant sky. The umbrella is only a ruse. The rain ignores any attempt to be shielded from it. High tide will be monstrous tonight. Finally, long after I come inside, the lightning moves up the coast and away. (High Tide)

The evening breeze is beginning to blow inland. It is still hot out, a July hot. The sand is radiating the heat it accumulated from the day. The breeze is slight and gentle against my cheeks. (Storm Surge, manuscript)

The September beach ... The sky is clear and a crisp, rich blue. There are no clouds or smog today. The warm sand feels good on my feet as I carry my shoes ... three people [are] in the water wind sailing. They glide effortlessly over the waves. (Storm Surge, manuscript)

Beach photos in YouTube:

Beach photos on website (again):

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Father's Beach

(condensed excerpt from the Storm Surge manuscript)

“James, let’s take Pacific Coast Highway this time.”

“Yes, Miss McKenzie.”

James moves the limousine effortlessly through the traffic. The road veers back along the ocean. In some places the elevation is ten to fifteen feet above sea-level. The limousine rounds a curve in the road, and I see the familiar sight I have been waiting for; Father’s beach.

“James, stop here for a minute, please.”

“Yes, Miss McKenzie.”

I expect James to stay with the car, like drivers do in movies, but he follows a few steps behind me.

Turning to face him, I say, “James, you don’t need to walk behind me. Come,” I stretch out my hand, “and walk with me.”

He hesitates a slight moment, nods to himself, and joins me, “Yes, Ma’am.”

He is old enough to be my father and he calls me, “ma’am.” I don’t like it, but I understand it is his job, so I let it be.

We walk from the parking lot to the beach through the tunnel under the highway.

James looks at the rock formations in the shallows, the sea birds perched on them, and the raising rock walls surrounding us. The waves are calm and the water is a deep blue.

“Isn’t it beautiful here, James?” I ask as if he’s a dear old friend.

We are standing side-by-side, looking straight out to the distant horizon. My arms are comfortably folded across the front of me. James has his hands casually in his pockets. It is as if the universe is standing still and we have this corner of it to ourselves. The sounds of the waves, the slight breeze, the clear water – everything is perfect.

“My mother always called this place, ‘Father’s Beach’,” I say aloud to my newest ‘best’ friend.

"I want to show you the next beach.” I move to where the wall of rocks meets the water. I hold my hand parallel to my shoulder with the palm facing him, indicating for him to wait. “When the wave goes out follow me. Run. Run fast when I tell you.”

Like waiting for a jump rope to swing out of the way, I gauge the motion of the waves. I wait for the biggest one in the series to pass, since it will recede the farthest and allow us more time to get around the rocks.

“Okay, get ready. Now! Go, now!” I run around the rocks through the temporary doorway the wave left behind when it went back to sea.

James clears the rocks before the next wave comes in. We both turn to watch the passageway disappear under water. The wave hits hard, then sprays into the air – majestically. James smiles a delighted smile, then we both laugh. His laugh is hearty and deep.

I show James the hidden entrance to the cave that leads to the next beach. He can touch the cave roof, if he stretches a bit. He is wearing dress shoes, so I advise caution on the wet sand and rock floor. I know we can only stay a short while because the tide is coming in and will trap us here if we aren’t alert, then we would have to mountain goat our way back up to the road.

Pre-order Storm Surge now:

Find this beach here:

Monday, April 13, 2009


My Mid-April newsletter is posted:

Finally! Now taking pre-orders for Storm Surge:

Setting the set

My writing style is a bit old school. I tend to make the setting part of the story, which isn't as common now. In the excerpt [below] from Kathryn's Beach, the playroom wall comes alive as it advances center stage for a brief close-up shot. It is never mentioned again, but makes the transformation of Saint Mark's Convent and School into Spirit of Hope Homeless Shelter have more depth. More of the convent is detailed in the excerpt from [again below] High Tide where Shasta leads Kathryn through the convent hallway to her secret passage.

Like Hemingway's, Old Man And The Sea, of course, I feature the beach as a character, especially in Kathryn's Beach. Since Kathryn is less dimensional in Kathryn's Beach, the beach takes on more moods and dimensions to fill in the gaps of a full bodied character that every story needs. I'll remind everyone again, Kathryn doesn't even have a last name in Kathryn's Beach.

As Kathryn travels through the trilogy, her character develops and the list of characters around her increases. This is especially true in High Tide where the cast of characters increases dramatically from the cast list in Kathryn's Beach.

In writing fiction, it is almost as if there is a formula to the balance of character elements with the other elements in the story. As the character side of the balance needs less from the setting to balance their weight in the story, the setting specifics diminish, as I think you'll see if you read Kathryn's trilogy from beginning to end.

While the speed of the story is a main feature in an adventure story, literary devices have to be employed more in stories, such as mine, that meander along in the telling. That is not to say that a good adventure story is less well written, which isn't the case, than a story-story.

As I find the focus of this blog, I will continue to share excerpts from the books, even the unpublished third book, Storm Surge, and discuss elements in the story telling process -- much like a director's commentary is done for a DVD. Hopefully, I will be able to enhance the reading enjoyment without tipping key elements of the story line with these excerpts that have not been posted anywhere else on the internet.

A good writer writes to the enjoyment of the reader -- not the publishing industry, not for their own satisfaction -- but for the reader's enjoyment.

Here are pictures of the setting in the trilogy.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Shasta the Explorer

(excerpt from High Tide)

Shasta comes to find me after school. My case notes, Weekly Summary Report, and Needs Assessments have been updated; so I take the time to pay back some of the attention she missed yesterday.

“What did you study in school today?”

“We studied the explorers that came to California,” she says in a disappointed tone.

“Explorers?” I ask with piqued interest. “Why don’t you be the guide and we can explore your short cut?” I deliberately demonstrate I had paid attention to what she said this morning.

“Well okay, but you can’t tell no one else,” she insists with deadly certainty.

“Deal!” I agree and offer her a pinkie-promise as a sign of my sincerity.

Quickly, Shasta hunkers down and tiptoes down the hall in the direction of the alcove where the staff hang their coats.

I follow behind her a slight distance.

She stops abruptly and turns toward me. “You gotta get down!” she harshly whispers the command, motioning me lower with her hand.

“Of course,” I whisper. “And that would be because of–”

Shasta stands up straight, hands on her hips, seemingly annoyed with my adult ignorance. "Because of the bears! Haven’t you seen the California flag?” Her voice is full of indignation and disappointment in me.

Quickly, I stoop down. I’ve seen the flag. I know enough to hide from bears. My Mamma didn’t raise no fool!

We tiptoe near the wall as if in step to Henry Mancini’s ‘Pink Panther.’ Rushing to stand flat against the wall next to a statue of Saint Ann, Shasta motions for me to do likewise. I don’t even want to think about what we look like sneaking around the hallways of the convent. I can just imagine what would happen if Mother Elizabeth came around the corner.

We tiptoe past the saint and down the hall in tandem, then slip in an alcove behind the statue of Saint Ursula. Shasta pushes on the wall behind Ursula.

I look back to make sure we weren’t seen. However I am sure our names would have been sounded had any one of the sisters noticed us. A faint click earns my undivided attention. To my surprise, Shasta pushes open the panel to a hidden passageway. It’s an interior hallway, but there is sunlight coming through narrow horizontal windows high in the walls.

“Wow! How did you find this?” I whisper my amazement, as Shasta shuts the secret door behind us.

“I’m a kid!” She beams.

Of course! I think sarcastically. That explains it! I simply smile and nod understanding.

Shasta leads hastily to a door with a small window. “Lift me up,” she requests. “I wanna see inside.”

No wonder she agreed to show me the secret passage without protest; she has an agenda of her own. I marvel at how long she must have wanted to see in the window. Before I agree to help her look, I peek through the window to see if there is something she shouldn’t see beyond the door. It looks safe enough for a child’s eyes.

“Come here, Little One. Ah, you grew while I was away!”

Shasta giggles at the thought she grew so much in one day. Growing is a big thing to a first grader. She slides her arm around my neck, and leans closer to the door to see through the window.

Together, we look through the glass at an open-air courtyard garden fully in bloom around a larger-than-life size gray statue. Although the statue is facing away, from the look of it it’s a statue of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of these Franciscan nuns. There is a marble bench in front of the statue.

Shasta nudges me. We both catch a glimpse of a brown-robed nun move from the bench. My instincts scream, Run!

From High Tide

Thursday, April 9, 2009


If there is a bike in a yard and someone who does not own the bike tells a passerby it is okay to take the bike, how many people committed the theft?

If the new 'owner' uses the bike for a paper route to earn money, who does the earnings belong to?

What if it isn't a bike that is taken, but words in a book?

I don't understand how a library (or anyone) can give permission for a book to be scanned by someone else to use to generate (lots of) money, and not think there was anything wrong in what they were doing. (Think about the forces and motives involved.)

There is a huge difference between buying a book and buying the rights to a book. Only people with the rights to a book can assign those rights to another party.

Serving notice: My copyrights are enforced.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


It has been a while since I've used my laptop. I've had my nose to the desktop monitor doing rewrites on Storm Surge. This morning, I fired up my laptop to get an old file and email it to my desktop. I'm such a geek, as most everyone knows.

This will be quick. Drum roll, please. I'm not even going to need to get the mouse out -- wireless, can you believe?

Drum roll keys down to something like, In The Mood.
Norton wants to know if I want to get live updates. Sure.
HP wants to know if I want to get updates. Sure.
Microsoft wants to know if I want to ck for updates. Sure.
Adobe reader wants to know if I ... SURE.
Something Flash player.... YES.
As I close AOL, do I want to install a new version? Sheesh.

Do you ever have days like this?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Who knew?

US Army Col. Thomas Brown, retired, likes this best of anything I've written. Who would have guessed that a guy would like this? (Sorry, that didn't come out right. It is just that I write like a girl.)

Note: Just going to jump in here because it is out of the middle of something. Try not to worry about the part that is missing, the point is what is here.

(excerpt from Kathryn's Beach)

“One of our sisters and a local artist painted a mural around the walls of the playroom,” she beams.

I stop in awe just inside the door and look around the room. Amazingly, it isn’t overwhelming to have the mural from floor to ceiling on all four walls. It’s detailed, but not too busy. It’s rather calming. I feel its effect standing here, though my eyes are eagerly moving from one surprisingly delightful detail to the next.

To the left of the door and around the nearby corner is a country scene with a cottage and a variety of domesticated animals and squirrels that ventured near the dwelling. Midway along the wall the terrain rises slightly to gentle rolling hills covered with wild flowers. A paved road emerges from the far side of the hills and turns the corner onto the next wall.

The road quickly grows into a freeway system with bridges over a barge-filled river in the forefront of a city, which includes tall smokestacks belonging to a factory. Towering apartment buildings glow with the setting sun. The buildings blend into silhouettes with light-filled windows as the painted sky fades to darkness, except for the moon and stars over the city. The cityscape takes nearly the entire wall opposite the door.

Beyond the city, nearing the third corner of the room, the ground rises to a high meadow at the edge of a forest which begins on the third wall. The forest grows dense with hardwood trees that reach to the ceiling, blocking most of the painted light to the forest floor and a small overgrown footpath. Tiny shimmering rays of sunlight filter through the forest canopy to illuminate deer, bears, and other indigenous adult animals in the distance, keeping watch over their youngsters in the forefront – within reach if a child wishes to touch them.

Moving on along the wall, the forest thins and a stream gives way at a steep drop. The rising sun glistens through the mist of a waterfall cascading down the corner of the room and splashing into a freshwater pool with brightly colored trout, frogs, and dragonflies. At the far edge of the lake, the water rushes to the sea and the waves splash with a pair of dolphins. Farther back, a California gray whale spews a waterspout while another breaches into the water. Beneath the surface, a whale calf is visible swimming at an adult’s side.

On the fourth wall the waves rush onto the shore where there is a wonderfully intricate sandcastle. Beyond the grassy sand dune beach, a desert materializes. It is full of cacti, Joshua trees, horny toads, a burro, and a scorpion with its tail turned up. The sand grows green and golden with California poppies that end at the door. The entire picture connects together, and I love it!

My eyes go around the room a second time looking at the details. There are butterflies, seagulls, hummingbirds, soaring eagles, and a cactus wren – all in the appropriate habitat. The idea and the art are brilliant.
From Kathryn's Beach

Find Colonel Thomas Brown here:

Monday, April 6, 2009

It's a Jeep thing

About ten years ago, one of my sons and I had a conversation about Albert Einstein's early essays. I was thankful for the science classes I had at university and nursing school. My child discussed his reservations about a few theories, but generally agreed with most of the thesis.

The other day when I came home, my 'physicist-to-be' kid was working on his old CJ-5 Jeep in the driveway. He hasn't had this Jeep very long, so there are things needing repairs and caretaking. It is still in primer light gray like when he bought it. He had the hood up, his head and shoulders hidden, and a tool box on the ground within easy access. Farther over was a neat row of bicycles and one that looked like it might have been dismounted in transit by a tardy kid.

In the back of this open-air Jeep sat five little boys, very quiet. Wisely, they had been relegated to the back of the Jeep, so no one would get itchy feet and try the clutch or play with the shifter even though the keys were pocketed by the owner. When the owner/mechanic appeared from under the hood to exchange tools, someone asked a question. Then all the little boys got chatty. My son leaned against his Jeep and talked to the boys.

When their light bulbs came on and someone said, "Ooooh! I wondered how that worked." He said, "Yep, that's how it works," and disappeard under the hood again. The boys returned to staring at the top of the raised hood until he reappeared. Then the scene would repeat.

I didn't think to take a picture. No matter. I won't post pics of my kids on the internet. But it was lovely.

I went through 14 pages of Google images looking at CJ-5 pictures. This is sort of like his Jeep -- not as cool as his. I know 5 little boys who will back me on that. it says this one has been sold, so I hope the link works.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

DemYStifying dyslexia [DYS-ing my dyslexia]

Let's make this easy, so we can sit back and enjoy our time together. There are tons of 'types' of dyslexia. The easiest (and unscientific) way to explain mine to 'normal' people is to say that written English is my second language. Keep in mind, American English is the only language I've ever spoken.

The person who tanked in foreign language class likely did so because they thought in their primary language, then translated into the language they were learning. Of course, the trick is to think in the second language.

With me, I think in my first language (dyslexia) and translate into WRITTEN English when I write. To read, I translate written English into my first language, then into spoken English. As you can see, it is a bit easier for me to write than to read, because there is one less translation in the process.

The reason I titled this blog FIRST DRAFT is because it is what it is. I'll do my best. If my errors are annoying, this isn't the blog for you. If they are laughable, then come get some stress relief at my expense.

Next: a word about writing fiction. Fiction is lies, all lies. Fiction writers hope they are believable lies, but fiction isn't true. (And neither is anything I write about people in this blog.) As a writer, I tend to exaggerate and go for the dramatic punch line to make my point. Other times, I will 'sincerely' propose the opposite of what I believe or something outrageously stupid to make my reader think.

I've written three [very popular] novels, so 'handicapped' is a relative term. Let's don't let 'handicaps' define people.

Look what I saw after I wrote this blog:

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Play date

Around the corner from our house is a neighborhood play area. It has the usual little kid climb-on things and swings, all under a shade canopy -- smart, this is sunny Arizona. The ground in the play area is that spongy rubber stuff in case someone falls.

How did we ever live through childhood with so few safety devices? Goodness, I used to climb trees; ride my bike down the hill pedaling as fast as I could, then coasting through the intersection with my hands in the air [no helmet]; jump off the garage to feel airborne -- briefly -- then climb up and do it again; disappear into the desert for hours... I never broke a bone or went to the hospital. Besides, we never mentioned small injuries, if they stopped bleeding, because someone would say, "Well, you'll be ok. Rub it, it will stop hurting. I love you. Be more careful next time." It was OUR responsibility to be careful. That is how they taught us life-lessons. Simple. Easy. Direct.

Last week, I overheard the neighborhood kids discussing the parent imposed ban on playing in neighbor's yards. Too bad, I thought. We have great hiding places in our yard. I'd rather have the kids than the people who walk their dogs and leave 'gifts' and yellow spots in our lawn. The kids are more interesting.

I went outside the other day and ran into a kid almost at our front door.
He stopped suddenly. Fearful.
I said, "Are you hiding or seeking?"
"Hiding," he whispered.
"Ok," I whispered back.
He started to breathe again and swiftly hid.
I stood at the mailbox as the other kid ran past looking for him. No one would dare hide in a yard with an adult outside, so he didn't look by our door. Heh heh, I helped the hidden kid. (But, sometimes, I point where to look.) Over by the palm tree is another good hiding place -- just I thought I'd mention.

Yesterday afternoon when I was sitting in my office writing, outside my window was the sound of two giggling girls about six years old. We have older boys, so I stopped to listen to these girly voices. They were excited sounds. I could almost imagine the girls wiggling and squirming. Suddenly they broke into high pitched screams that rattled the window. The boys (not mine) must have come out.

We have a fountain in our front yard. It is a really, really, really large 'ball' set in a bowl on top of a low pedestal. Sometimes I find rocks from our landscape in the bowl and wonder who has the record for chucking a rock into the bowl from the sidewalk. I don't ask.

No one has come forward.

It's funny how kids haven't changed much from when we were kids. It is kind of refreshing to see children still manage to have fun with nothing more than a bike and the neighbor's yard.

There is still hope for the future, I think.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Marking time

Who knew 'customize' and 'dashboard' both lead to 'edit posts'! (Probably everyone, except me. Oh well.)

I was happy to see, though I probably can't find it again, the Time Zone option to set time for this blog. It offered Pacific Time, which we are part of the year. Another option was Mountain Time (Denver, Colorado), which we are part of the year.

Finally, I saw that Arizona Time was an option -- as it should be. Arizona is the only mainland (or 'lower 48') state that does not change time. Forget "Spring forward, Fall back" to adjust the time here. We don't change our time -- wise decision, btw.

I think we should do things naturally like the Native American's did before we came and 'organized' things. They made or found places where the equinox sun or full moon struck on a specific place to mark the time changes. That's good enough for me.

When I was single and lived where the time follows Daylight Savings, I had three clocks: The microwave, oven/stove timer, and my alarm clock (and a watch). It didn't take much to reset the time and be right with the world again, not that I used my alarm clock (more on that some other time).

The bad thing about children learning to tell time is you can't 'fudge' on bedtime, if you're tired. The good thing is they are delighted to run around the house on a scavenger hunt to find all the clocks and reset them -- not necessarily in sync with each other, but they get reset. They set them all at 9:01, but it may not still be 9:01 by the time they find the last clock. (Kids are marvelously entertaining.)

It was always a relief when my body adjusted to the time change. Unfortunately, that was about two weeks before the next time change.

Well, time for me to go do something else.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Blogs are a first draft environment

I've been a 'member' of Blogger since 2007, but created my blog in 2009. It isn't that it took two years to compose this first entry. I simply didn't want to blog. That's even in my newsletter: (I guess I'll be changing that now.)

The biggest issue that deterred me from blogging was I have an opinion on nearly everything. That doesn't necessarily mean I should voice it. I don't know if it can be blamed entirely on being dyslexic, but I often see things much different from the accepted norm. At any rate, that trait has caused plenty of 'stir' and it isn't always a good thing.

The other issue about blogging is dealing with that pesky dyslexia. I'm sure there are specific factors documented somewhere on why dyslexia is not static. Some days my brain fires on all cylinders and some days -- well, my spark plugs need re-gapped. (Don't worry if you didn't understand that reference. You'll either get used to my metaphors or move on.)

And that is the first draft of my first entry.