Archive for May, 2010

Becoming a writer, a really bona fide writer, takes discipline.  I have read dozens of how-to and what-to-do and guide books that gave guaranteed success stories on how to become a published author. And I have discovered reading all these articles and books about being a writer brings me some understanding of the craft, but it also brings me no closer to being an author than I was before reading these testimonials.  To become a writer takes discipline, giving one’s self time each day….regardless of the day or the situation, to write. To hone  the craft of writing. I have been developing a method to my own madness. I now try to “assign” myself a schedule for each day, giving myself a block of time for networking, another for checking supplies or reading emails and the most important of all, the block for writing. I have even gone so far as to start a calendar with my daily schedule to follow. Now for those of you who know me personally, I cannot and usually do not function well on schedules. Many years ago I was a stickler for schedules…back in the days when I held a regular day job and was required to handle a great deal of responsibility.

But I love to write and my main goal is to become an established author. This is not only a goal but a mission. So…..the schedule is in place and I hope to stick with it. My daughters have helped me realize that to achieve my goals I need the push of trying to remain on schedule. LOL, I even now have an appointment book to schedule my time….ahead of time!!

For most of us who are not published, I think the drive to write is there but sometimes we need to treat writing just as we would a regular job instead of like a hobby. Keep outside distractions to a minimum, let friends and family know that certain times of the day are spent writing, even go so far as to establish a home office in a room or corner of its own….and have access to your area depend on when and if you are available.

Because when (not if, but when) you do become published…unless you are a one hit wonder…you will need to write that next book, and the next….and you need a definite writing schedule to achieve this. Whether you work by word counts, page counts or even time allowance…your writing is only going to flourish as long as you give it the attention it deserves. Will putting myself on a schedule work? Would I do better aiming for goals such as word or page counts? I don’t know….but what I do know is that I will succeed somehow, it is just a matter of what, in the end, works for me.


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This is the first time I’ve posted twice in the same day but I felt this should be added. We lost another television personality from my younger viewing days this past week. Gary Coleman, known for his signature question of his big brother…”What you talkin’ about, Willis!” and for his diminutive stature, died from a brain hemorrhage suffered after a fall at his home in Utah. Said to be lucid and talking when taken to the hospital, his condition took a turn for the worse and he slipped into unconsciousness then had to be placed on life support. Coleman was just 42. At the time of his death he was married to Sharon Price and was said to still be estranged from his parents. The three young cast members of “Different Strokes” included Coleman along with Todd Bridges and Dana Plato as his two siblings. The lives of all were marred in the years after the series with problems.

While Ms. Plato’s problems with drugs and her eventual overdose were well documented in the news; Todd Bridges, who played the older brother of Coleman’s character, was tried and acquitted of murder charges and is also said to have endured years of drug abuse. Coleman, whose short stature was said to be the result of kidney problems suffered as a young child, had undergone at least two kidney transplants as well as dialysis. He had several run-ins with the law and even a failed run for governor of California. He was estranged from his parents for quite some time and had been bitter about his early fame making it hard for him to get other work in acting. Typecast, he was always asked to repeat his signature line and often refused.

Young cast of "Different Strokes" Coleman, Plato and Bridges.

Some have called it the curse of “Different Strokes”. In a somewhat related matter, Dana Plato’s son, Tyler Lambert, took his own life this year shortly before Mother’s Day. It was reported he struggled with drug use while trying to cope with his mother’s death.

Bridges, the only remaining living regular young cast member, has written his autobiography and continues to do minor work in television. He has also lectured to young people about the dangers of drug abuse.

Rest in Peace Gary,


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Writing and research

Sometimes I think I love to do research as much as I love to write. I was always a  voracious reader as a kid and I have always loved learning about new and interesting things. In those days before computers and easy access, I remember some days I would get a volume from our encyclopedia and simply sit and read it…savoring all the knowledge that it contained. I’d even find subjects that intrigued me and I’d spend hours researching…going from volume to volume to learn as much as possible about whatever that subject might be.

While a great amount of realism is and should be in all novels, especially romance novels, there are times when one must take literary license and perhaps leave out details of the era or tweak what was happening at the time. I used to catch myself looking to see if I could find such differences in books as I read them….until I realized it simply ruined my reading experience.

I have research books to aid in describing perhaps the correct dress of an era…or to learn certain customs. These things to me are essential to a good book. Those dusty encyclopedias are still in my shelves for times I just don’t want to look up things on the computer. While I am becoming a computer age writer…I will always have a special place in my heart for the written word.

In the time I have been learning my craft, I have learned that research is a must…literary license is at times acceptable; however, all times and people and events should mirror the era you are presenting as much as possible. Stay true to your story and to your characters. The book will literally write itself.

Computers and books can and will exist together…there are needs for them both,


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He was already a television and radio star by the time I was born, yet I still remember fondly all the laughter shared with the American television kids of my generation. Art Linkletter, host of “People are Funny” and “Art Linkletter’s House Party” was a regular on radio then television from 1942 until 1969. After his hosting years, he wrote, lectured and appeared in television commercials as well as guest spots on Bill Cosby’s more recent version of a show featuring children. He published several books including “Old Age is Not for Sissies,” “How To Be a Supersalesman,” “Confessions of a Happy Man,” “Hobo on the Way to Heaven” and his autobiography, ‘`I Didn’t Do It Alone.” He also collected sayings from the children into “Kids Say The Darndest Things,” and it sold in the millions. The book “70 Years of Best Sellers 1895-1965” ranked “Kids Say the Darndest Things” as the 15th top seller among nonfiction books in that period.

He was preceded in death by his 20 year old daughter Diane in 1969 when she jumped from a sixth floor Hollywood apartment, son Robert died in a car accident in 1970 and son Jack who died of lymphoma in 2007.  He is survived by his wife Lois and daughters Sharon and Dawn.

Art Linkletter doing what I remember most!

I will remember the laughter, the times I watched his show when I was a little kid….and the times I would watch him interact with Cosby on more recent television shows highlighting the things that children say and do.

This post does not have anything to do with my writing, my everyday life or even my research. It represents the laughter that he brought to millions who listened to him on the radio or watched him on television. And laughter, to me, is one of the best things in life.

Rest in peace Art,


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Papers are scattered everywhere in my office…the computer peeking from the center of my desk. Unfortunately, the monitor is also surrounded by papers. Such is the organizational skills of this writer.  Many times I’ve delegated time to stop whatever I am doing, go into that room filled with paper and dig  my way out.  Many times I have found perfectly wonderful excuses not to do this.

My computer space is a chaotic room with probably more paper than you could imagine. I do genealogy research; research that leads to copies of land deeds, censuses, wills and more. My girls grew up using my computer to do homework, contact friends and explore YouTube…and lots of papers are theirs. Do I throw these out? Do I sneak these stacks into their personal space?

Books on writing, on eighteenth century customs and clothing, on Civil War battles and on genealogy fill the shelves…and are spilling onto various open spaces.

I tell my family I have a fetish for paper…..and quite honestly I think this is true. Unfortunately, this fetish has led to a small room being overrun by paper to the point that I expect the walls to bulge at any moment. Writing takes discipline and time, and I adore writing. I hate messes. Therefore, my current dilemma is how to continue my writing surrounded by the fruits of my labor…and my lack of organization. Do I move to another room and write or do I bite that proverbial bullet and organize my workspace for a day or two…then get back to the business of writing.

If all goes according to my current plan, I will clean out that office (think Trading Spaces or Hoarders….yikes!) while utilizing the den couch to keep current for a short time…..then it will be back to writing in my CLEAN office with hopes of keeping myself more organized this time.

Wish me luck and hopefully I won’t get lost in there…..’cause I have lots of writing yet to do,


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Tomorrow would have been my sister Maria’s 57th birthday. She was my big sister, the protector for me and for our younger sister. At first glance, you would see she was such a tiny person as the shortest of the three of us. It seems as my parents had the three of us girls that each subsequent daughter would be a bit taller in their adulthood than the next. Ria, as everyone called her, was just 5’2″ with eyes of such a brilliant blue. In retrospect she had my Daddy’s wonderful blue eyes. That old line of a song “Five foot two, eyes of blue…” would definitely describe her.

Maria had a laugh that could draw people to her. She never forgot a joke and was the life of any party or family get-together. Wherever the laughter and good times were occuring…she was in the middle of it all. She absolutely loved life and had fun living it. As she got older she loved to go on cruises, she visited Puerto Rico, and she loved to go to Orlando to play golf. She started her adult life at the early age of 17 when she married while still a high school senior…and spent the next twenty years of her life mostly raising her two kids. In fact, she went back to school, to college, to become a RN long after her high school years, when her children were older. She became a respected RN and her career spanned Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. She preferred nursing in Intensive Care and loved the night shifts. As a nurse, I often wonder if she knew or suspected the warning signs. Looking back, I can see one or two…but less than a year after the death of our mother, Maria was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2005. Not only did she have lung cancer, but it had already gotten into her system and spread to the bones in her legs and tumors were wrapped around her heart and spine. The news was fast and devastating. We went from hearing she was going into the hospital to get checked out to learning phone call to phone call of each thing that was found. We were floored. Maria was the strong one, the big sister that was invincible and so successful and so wonderful. We needed her.

I could spend days writing her story…and some day I plan to write a memorial to her and to my mom (also a victim of cancer). But today I remember the fun times, the happy times, the times she spent here with all of us. She had a laugh that made you smile, she had a temper that could make a grown man cower, and she loved life with such spirit that we could not believe she’d be taken from us so young. But she was. She fought this foe with grace and with dignity…and for a while we were amazed at the way she still played golf as long as she could, she took care of her own needs at times for she lived away from our family and her husband was employed with an offshore drilling company, she loved her grandchildren and she never gave up the fight. She was incredibly close to my younger sister and I often admired the way they seemed so in tune to each other…and my little sister and I still miss our big sister….she was the embodiment of a person living life to its fullest.

She lived with that cancer almost a year, in October of 2006 she was taken from us….our angel on earth. She collected angels, and today I have a shelf in my den with some of her favorites…angels in snow globes, angels dressed in nursing outfits, angels looking over children…today she is an angel, with a laughing face and twinkling eyes and still (hopefully) watching over her family and her two little sisters.

We miss you and we love you Ria,


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My grandmother was a young teenager when she married my grandfather. She met him when she was only thirteen or fourteen and was married by the time she was sixteen. It sounds amazing these days, but in the day of the Depression when times were hard, money was impossible to come by and tomorrow was not always a better day, that was quite normal. It is easy to say my father and my mother lived in what was possibly the worst of times in our country’s fairly recent history…both had terribly hard lives as youngsters. While mama grew up on a cotton farm, my father’s family was all employed in some capacity with the railroad and timber in his youth. When my grandmother was expecting my father, they followed the work, which in their case, was the Great Southern Timber Company. This company would set up camp near a railway, then the carpenters, millers, lumberjacks, etc. lived in this small camp as they cut and loaded wood in the area. When it came time to move on to another job, the camp simply moved along with the timber company. Living quarters for my grandparents consisted of three boxcars put together to make their home. These cars were removed from the rails to “build” the home. When the camp moved, these cars were again put on the tracks and chugged on down the rails to wherever the company stopped to begin work again. My father was born in one of these boxcar homes back in 1930, in a timber camp located in southern Louisiana.

In my writing, I find that I love to research the time and the places my characters experience. I want their lives to best depict the era. While my father’s lot fell to be a poor kid from the South…where luxuries were having indoor plumbing and electricity….in cities across the country people often lived in lighted homes, with running water as a given. My mother was a girl in her teens before the rural cooperative managed to get electricity to her home.

Now I try to use as authentic history as possible to give my characters true depth. How many characters from 1930 Hollywood, Chicago or New York could say they gave birth in a boxcar? I try to keep it interesting and keep it real,


Virgin pine trees of the Great South

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