Sunday, December 4, 2016

Catching Lizards and the Path to Publication

Did you ever try to catch a lizard when you were a kid? I did. It’s not easy. They’re incredibly quick, and they don’t often get too far from safety. Meet Roxy – Lizard Hunter. She’ll spend hours prowling around rock walls and rip-rap piles, sniffing in the cracks and looking for lizards. She’s had little success, but the occasional lizard sighting or scent is enough to keep her hunting.

I was thinking today that a career as a writer is a little like lizard hunting. Someone said eighty-one percent of people surveyed wanted to write a book. I have to wonder why, because another survey said only seventy-two percent actually read even part of a book last year, but that’s a topic for another day.  The point is there are a lot more people writing than there are publishing slots to fill.

Sending out queries to agents, hoping to catch their interest, is a little like sniffing around the rock pile. Just as Roxy occasionally spots a lizard, occasionally an agent will ask to read all or part of the manuscript, but more often than not, that ends in a polite rejection, or in Roxy’s case, a vanishing lizard.

So you write another story. And then the big day comes. An agent actually likes the manuscript and wants to represent you. Hurray! Now you’ve got the lizard by the tail. But as Roxy discovered, sometimes those tails are detachable.  Sometimes, even though the agent loved the manuscript, she can’t sell it.

So you write another one. And another. Don’t give up now. Catching that lizard tail only spurred Roxy on to greater enthusiasm, and eventually, she caught a lizard. And, if you’re very, very lucky, eventually your agent finds an editor who recognizes your brilliance, and you become a published author.

Of course, that's just the beginning. Every new book you write will be a challenge. As a writer, you must prove yourself over and over. 

So why do it? I think Roxy’s wagging tail as she sniffs along the rock wall answers that question.  She hunts because she’s a hunter. That’s what she was born to do. Writers write. Whether or not they’re ever published, they create stories.  It’s what they were born to do. 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Being Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving, a day set aside to take stock of all the good things I tend to take for granted. Family, community, home, health, country, pets, books, love, laughter, and so much more. I have so much to be grateful for.

It’s funny how even bad things can turn out to be blessings, like that broken leg in March that gave me lots of couch time to write one of the two stories that led to a writing contract in September.  I’m thankful for good medical care and a devoted husband who picked up all the slack while I was laid up. I’m thankful to the people who shared their knowledge and experience to help me become a better writer. And I’m thankful for the support of my friends and family. My cup overflows.

What were your special blessings this year?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Visit to the Corvette Museum

Can a car be a work of art? I vote yes. I’m not really a car person, but even I can appreciate the sinuous curves of a Chevy Corvette. I should say Corvettes, because in the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, we got to see Corvettes of all vintages, and I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite.

Seeing these amazing cars, many displayed in historical dioramas, makes me wish I could climb into Roy Orbison’s '67 Vette and roar off to explore Route 66.

The Corvette factory is here, too, and in the entryway to the museum, brand new Corvettes sat behind velvet ropes, awaiting their proud parents to come and claim them.

The museum also contains an unintentional display of a natural disaster. In February of 2014, the cave under part of the museum collapsed, creating a huge sinkhole that dropped eight Corvettes thirty feet into the earth. Fortunately, the museum was closed at the time, and no one was injured. The cars have been pulled out, but as you can see, they were severely damaged. A tape marks the outline of the sinkhole, and they’ve left a window in the floor so visitors can see just how far they fell.


To top off our nostalgic tour, we enjoyed burgers and fries at the adjacent classic diner. It was a fun outing. If you ever find yourself in Bowling Green, I’d highly recommend it.

One warning: a trip to the Corvette Museum can be expensive. Not the entry fee, that's only ten dollars. No, the expensive part is that after seeing all those gorgeous sports cars, my husband is itching for a 1977 model of his own. And judging by the vintage Corvette dealer just a block away, he’s not the first to catch Corvette fever. 

What do you think? Can you see yourself in one of these beauties?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Christmas Gourds: How To

Two years ago, a garden experiment resulted in an overabundance of gourds. I've been trying to find ways to use them ever since. These are small gourds, about four or five inches tall, so they're not really big enough for birdhouses. I've been dying, painting, and woodburning them, and even adding polymer clay. Results have been, shall we say, mixed. I'm not much of an artist, but I've been having fun.

My latest project turned out fairly well. It involves making gourds into Christmas tree ornaments, for indoor or outdoor trees. It's a fairly simple project. If you'd like to try your hand at gourd-craft, here's how I did it.

You'll need a gourd, a pencil, a small paintbrush, and paint. Also a woodburner, a jump-ring, jewelry glue, and spray-on clearcoat, all optional.

1. Clean the gourd well, scrubbing with a stiff brush or steel wool. You'll need to remove the natural waxy coating so the paint will stick. As they cure, gourds get this ugly black stuff that looks awful, but most of it scrubs away. If it leaves a few stains, that's okay. It adds character. Now let it dry.

2. Mark your design with a pencil. I freehanded this one, but there are lots of poinsettia clipart designs on the internet. 
3. Use a woodburner and go over all the lines. Add veins to the leaves and petals. My woodburner cost around twelve dollars. This step is entirely optional, but I like the way it looks.

4. Paint. Because I wanted the woodburned lines to show through, I thinned the acrylic paint with water to create sort of a transparent wash. If you decided to skip the woodburning, you'll want to use paint at full strength so it's opaque. If you use the opaque method, let the paint dry and then paint veins onto the leaves and dots in the center.
Here I used ivy green for the leaves, and red for the flower, and yellow-green for the center.


5. Glue a jump-ring on top so you can hang it on the tree. Jewelry Goop works well, and you can get the rings cheap in the bead department of the craft store. I tried screwing a tiny screw-eye in, but the stem end of a gourd is surprisingly hard. The glued-on ring works well. Or you could just glue a ribbon to the top.

6. Let dry, and spray with a gloss clear-coat if desired. I recommend it. It protects the paint, darkens the gourd to a nice leathery finish, and makes the whole thing shine. 

7. Thread a ribbon through the jump-ring, and there you have it: a Christmas gourd ornament. 

Are you working on any crafts for the holidays?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Spirit of Giving

Here's a chance to do good and have fun. A group of wonderful writers have joined together to produce this collection of fourteen holiday novellas, and the proceeds go to to diabetes research. 

I've got my copy.

Google Play:

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Celebrating Autumn

I love autumn. Love the harvests, the cool evenings, the pumpkins. I usually make an apple pie. One of the few downsides of living in Alaska and Arizona is we don’t get those incredible fall colors. Oh, we get some nice golden aspens, and the mountain ash are lovely and covered with berries. Just not the incredible blend of warm shades I’ve seen in pictures of hardwood forests.

But I’m hoping I’ll get my fix. Next week, we’re visiting my husband’s grandmother in southern Illinois. I'm always amazed by the huge variety of trees there, and if we’re lucky maybe the leaves will have started to turn. I can’t wait to find out.

In the meantime, this is my own spin on a fall display. Mums, because they’re traditional and beautiful. Sweet alyssum, because the lacy honey-scented flowers appeal to my romantic side. And hot peppers, just to spice things up a little.

How are you celebrating Autumn?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Wealthy Dog

Wealth can be a burden. Just ask Roxy. Two weeks ago, I spent a dollar on a new squeaky ball for her. She loved it! In fact, she loved it so much, she couldn’t stop thinking about it.

We’d play fetch and it would roll under the bed. Roxy would do her best to lift the bed high enough to crawl under, and when that didn’t work she stood at attention and pointed out where the ball was hiding until one of us would get a yardstick and knock it out. She’d grab the ball the moment it shot out and prance around the room, thrilled that her precious was safe and sound.

It was also great for her favorite game, Hide the Toy in the Blanket. She’d sniff and feel around until she’d located the lump, then pump it with her paws to make it squeak until she’d worked it free.


In between playing sessions, the ball went in the bin with the other toys, but she couldn’t be sure it was safe there. She’d stand next to the basket, staring at it and trying to convince anyone who walked by to throw the ball. Sometimes I’d try throwing one of her other toys, but she was having none of that. Only the squeaky ball was good enough. She’d ask for a play session even before asking for breakfast, and if that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Her love for the ball even led her to crime. If we set the ball on a table or shelf after a play session, Roxy would wait until we were out of the room and steal it. We would return to find it nestled under her chin, or in her mouth. She would try not to squeak it, so as not to draw attention, but eventually she would. We’d take it away and put it in the bin, where she would stand and gaze at it.

Finally, the pressure was too much. Roxy gave in to impulse and chewed a hole in the ball, permanently de-squeakafying it. She still carries it around, but now that's it's less valuable, she feels comfortable going outside and leaving the ball in the house. She doesn’t spend her entire day worrying.

I’m torn over whether to replace the ball or not. It’s a great feeling to provide so much joy, but with great wealth comes great responsibility, and I’m just not sure Roxy’s up to the burden. We’ll see.