Wednesday, October 20, 2021


Filled with dreams of publication, in the early 2000's I attended a writing session on historical fiction. The presenter, Lisa Williams Kline had recently won the NC Juvenile Literature Award for her historical novel, Eleanor Hill.  I soaked up her wisdom and made it my goal to write as well as she did so I could win that award myself one day. Clearly she set me on the right path because I actually did a few years later! I've been writing historical fiction ever since. 

Lisa, on the other hand, is a multi-genre writer - from historical, to poetry, to contemporary, to romance and to realistic fiction with one magical element. She also writes adult fiction.

Recently I read two of her contemporary middle grade stories - One Week of the Heart and One Week of You. I was intrigued and decided to ask a few questions!

Hi Lisa - I loved reading One Week of the Heart and One Week of You! Both were poignant and funny and written with a lively, authentically teen voice. And they made me wonder, how'd she do that? So here are some questions for you!

Which of these stories did you conceive of and write first and where did your idea come from?

I wrote One Week of You  first. The idea came from two real-life situations. The first was that both of my daughters had to carry “flour babies” as part of their 8th grade health curriculum. Both boys and girls had to carry five pound bags of flour for a week, ostensibly to show them the meaning of having to be responsible for a baby 24/7. I found this curriculum kind of funny, and I thought it would make a funny story to have my main character forgetting her flour baby all the time, ironically because of a romantic relationship she was considering. The second real-life event was when there were three bomb threats in one week at my younger daughter’s high school. It was, needless to say, a chaotic and scary and emotional week, and I wanted to write about it. I wondered, could I combine a humorous story line with a serious one? I decided to try that challenge, and One Week of You was the result.
After One Week of You came out, my publishers asked me if they could have more of Lizzy, the main character, which really made me feel good, of course! They wanted possibly a series, but said a novella would work also. And so I decided to write One Week of the Heart, a novella, which is actually a prequel to One Week of You. Getting back into Lizzy’s flaky character was a delight. 

Brilliant idea, Lisa - to take this school experience that students recognize and center a story around it. Did you know, at the outset, that the whole story would take place in one week? What challenges are involved in fully plotting a story that takes place in a week? 

I did know that the story would take place in one week, because the students had to carry the flour babies for a week, and the bomb threats also took place in one week. And, of course, many teen-age romances last about a week, haha! I like using compressed time periods for my novels. It can keep the tension high, your reader doesn’t have to wait months or years for a resolution, and you still have freedom to explore the past through flashbacks. 

I hear you on teen crushes lasting about a week! One Week of the Heart is actually a play on words since protagonist, Lizzy is attending a Med Camp where the focus is on the physical heart. But she’s a teen, so of course, the emotional aspect of the heart is big part pf the story. Care to share any inspirations for the friendship and romantic aspects of the story?

I love the intensity of summer camp. So much learning can be packed into that week, and also friendships can bloom and flame out in a few days. You can see a completely different side of your BFF. You can fall in love and pouf! never see the person again, all of which is great fodder for fiction. I have vivid memories of an arts camp I attended on the Wake Forest University campus (where my dad taught physics) when I was a teen. Typical teen, I didn’t even want to go – I wanted to hang out at the pool with my friends – but my parents made me go. During that week I made an animated film and it was one of the most intense and fun learning experiences I’ve ever had. I was drawing on those memories when I wrote One Week of the Heart

I always wanted to write funny and you do it so naturally. Got any tips for me and others who want to tickle the reader’s funny bone?

That’s a very nice compliment, thank you! I think the concept of the flour babies is inherently funny, so I had that going for me in this book. I found the irony of Lizzy repeatedly losing her flour baby because of her crush –the very thing the flour baby was supposed to be training her to guard against– to be funny. Also, Lizzy is a very flawed main character – she is forgetful, she is susceptible to flattery, she is overly competitive – and I think flawed characters can lend themselves well to comedy. Some things that I write just come out funny, and I have no idea how it works. I tried studying humor once – I read articles by really hilariously brilliant writers like Tobin Anderson – but found that being analytical about it didn’t work for me. When I try to make something funny it never seems to work. I’ve written several serious novels, but have seemed to have more luck with the ones that just turned out to be humorous. 

Ha! Yes, I've taken workshops on humor writing too and the techniques make perfect sense. But writing humor works best when it catches even me, by surprise. I love how a funny line can actually express pain that readers have felt in their own lives. In addition to sharing the teen experience and fun-filled plot lines was there anything else you wanted to convey in these and your other stories? 

Recently I was rereading the inspirational book on creativity, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and she said something like, “Please don’t tell me you want to help someone with your writing. Please just tell me you are doing it for yourself.” She did add that if by some accident, someone was helped by what she wrote, that was certainly icing on the cake, but that wasn’t her initial desire. Meanwhile, many people may argue that books by Elizabeth Gilbert have changed their lives! The truth is, I keep on writing because I can’t seem to stop myself – it’s my major way of processing life -- and I certainly hope that readers are enlightened or just simply entertained by what I write, but I honestly just try my best to tell a good story.

Oh and you do that so well, Lisa - across genres even, which impresses me even more since I'm a one trick pony! Thanks for giving me this glimpse into your writing life! 

Learn some fun tidbits about Lisa at her Website's About Page.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


CALKINS CREEK BOOKS, a Highlights Company
The Enemy by Sara Holbrook 
makes me downright jealous! For 
starters, check out that cover.
Gorgeous, it is.  So simple in mostly red with the ominous newspaper background. So cold with falling snow and maybe a touch of fear.

But it's also the sort of book that I would love to have written, a Cold War story with the kind of research behind it that would feel like one grand treasure hunt.  

Best of all is the narrator's voice.  Marjorie Campbell is funny and sassy and so believably middle grade.  But she's serious too.  She has to be because it's 1954 and Senator Joseph McCarthy is agitating - seeking out communist sympathizers. The Red Scare reaches into Detroit, where citizens are forced to sign loyalty oaths and where classic books, suddenly labeled subversive, are withdrawn from the library. Marjorie watches as the Red Scare threatens her family and neighborhood.

The enemy theme seems to inhabit every relationship in the story.  Her parents, normally close, argue about whether Mother's social activities will be perceived as communist. Frank, the orphaned teen who moved into the basement after his father took his own life, spews his emotional pain onto Marjorie on a regular basis. And her neighbor, Bernadette, may or may not be her best friend, depending on what slight transgression Marjorie unwittingly commits. Like wearing a red scarf, for instance.

Marjorie is keen on remaining in Bernadette's good graces but that becomes an even greater challenge when Inga, a DP (displaced person) comes to school. Inga is all wrong. Her clothes smack of the "old country", her English is limited, and as if those things aren't bad enough, she's German. Possibly even a Nazi.

The class holds Inga at arm's length and when Mrs. Kirk assigns Marjorie to sit with her, the internal war begins. Part of her feels Inga's pain but peer pressure causes her to vacillate between kindness and rejection. When Bernadette, who has been out sick, returns to class she forces Marjorie to declare her loyalty to their friendship or face social ostracization by siding with Inga.  

Holbrook skillfully gathers the various threads of this story and ties them together to create a satisfying conclusion. An author note reveals that much of the story was inspired by people and events in Holbrook's life. 

I am ever-so-reluctantly giving this gorgeous book away. (I promised the publisher I would. But what was I thinking?😯) To enter, follow this link to TALKING STORY newsletter and follow instructions in the sidebar.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

In Which I Decide To Update My Blog

Good Saturday Morning!  Seeing that I last posted in April, I shall proceed to offer a brief update.

I've been writing a book. Rewriting, actually. DRIVE which is to be released in the fall of 2018 is a continuation of Bakers Mountain Stories and this one features twins, Ida and Ellie Honeycutt.  The year is 1952 and the historical backdrop is the Korean War, the arms race with Russia, the election of Dwight D. Eisenhower and the opening of Hickory Motor Speedway. The story is essentially about competition which seems to be a major issue with twins!  But it's also about the deep connection that twins share.

I'd love to reveal the cover here but I believe it's a wee bit early for that. So instead I will post an image of my bookmarks - one of the other things I've worked on.

Back - oops!
I ordered a thousand of these babies with my website address missing. So grateful I elected not to go for 2000 or even 5000 which I have done in the past.
Corrected Verson
I order my bookmarks from Overnight Prints and have always been delighted with the results. They are super fast and easy to use. And larger orders are not much more expensive than smaller ones.  Just be sure you get your design right when clicking on the quantity!

So there's my update for now.  Truth be told, I've done much more than revise a book and design bookmarks but enough is enough for one day.  I shall return.  I have to, because people who get their hands on my new bookmark won't find a website address.  Hopefully they will drop in here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017



It was Pop who taught me to shoot,
He showed me how to aim and hold that
gun real steady.

But when it came to life,
aiming wasn't so easy for him.
Seemed like he was always stumbling around
looking for something that would make him happy.
I don't reckon he ever found it.
When he died,
I was stuck with Granddaddy and with stories
of how back during the Great War,
he turned my pop into his own personal enemy.
Pop was just a boy then.

The way I figure it,
what I learned from the two of them
and from my own dumb mistakes
is enough to fill a book.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016


What does the bridge represent?
Of the many questions that editor, Carolyn Yoder posed during my revision process with AIM, this was my favorite. It helped me to think about the function that bridges serve. In the case of my story, a swinging bridge led my character, Junior Bledsoe, back into family history. It also provided a safe place suspended between two worlds - a place to ponder, to vent, to hear another person's story, and especially to connect with someone Junior did not like.

A rickety swinging bridge provided a platform on which two enemies could become friends.

Connection - that's what a bridge is all about. Providing a way to navigate between opposing riverbanks. Or viewpoints.

In our current political climate I keep asking myself - how can I build a bridge?  I have friends on the other side. (of one issue or another) How can we connect and find common ground?

I could pick up a brick in the form of an argument or strong opinion and then pile another on top of it. I've done that. It doesn't take long to build a wall.  But I'd rather build a bridge. I keep thinking about how to do that.

How do you find connection with people you disagree with?

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Happy Day! AIM is officially released today and, in addition, it's my mom's birthday. 

She's no longer here to celebrate so I think I'll share some of the wisdom she handed down to me over the years.

There were 8 children in our family and we did our share of competing for rights, privileges, and second helpings. Of course we often declared that one thing or another was not fair.  Mom was usually quick to respond with "Life is not fair." To be honest with you, I could see that by observing life itself, by comparing myself to others, and by reading about the sorrows of the world. At some level I think that is what all my stories are about - grappling with questions about life's inequities.

Mom dealt with her share of bickering and she did her best to defuse our petty quarrels. "Sticks and stones may break my bones," she'd say. "But words can never hurt me."  I learned from her that there is very little that is worth fighting over - or at least losing relationships over. I really do hate conflict - especially war and that seems to creep into all my stories.

Another Mom quote that I can't shake is, "Be the matter - great or small. Do it well or not at all."  This was the sort of thing she'd say when she wanted me to sweep the porch well or scrub the bathroom spic and span. But I believe those words have seeped over into whatever I do. I really don't want to settle for mediocre anything - whether it's weeding the flower beds, or speaking in public, or writing books. 

So, on my Mom's birthday (and AIM's) I'm having a contest.  Not a mediocre one with a single book giveaway.  This contest will have 10 different winners, each claiming one copy of AIM.  So please spread the word.  To enter, share this blog link on social media or by email. Be sure to mention the giveaway!

Just let me know where and how you shared it and I will enter you once for sharing. Oh - and for another chance, click on the "Follow Me by Email" link below my profile pic on the right of this blog. Let me know that you did so and I'll enter you, again! 

Thanks for your help. "Be the matter great or small, do it well or not at all!"

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


In AIM - my forthcoming historical novel, Junior Bledsoe hears about German U-boats attacking first British and then American ships. The news brings war closer to Junior's world. But always, the submarines are a distant thing.

In her non-fiction book, DIVE, Deborah Hopkinson does something totally different with submarines. She takes the readers deep into ocean and gets us up close and personal with a topic I knew little about. I'm honored to host Deborah on my blog today.

Welcome, Deborah and congratulations on the publication and great reviews of DIVE!  (starred reviews, I might add)  It's a tremendous book! You totally sucked me into a topic I would not expect to enjoy. And that has inspired some questions.

1.    When I think of submarines I think of hardware – of something hard and cold but also deeply mysterious. I would never think to write about them. What drew you to this topic?

Each book I write seems to have a different inspiration. I like to tell students that writers are like insects with their “story antennae” out!  For this one, I just happened to have read a WWII adventure book about submarines when I was a girl, and never forgot it.

But the real inspiration for DIVE! came from my husband, Andy Thomas, who one day brought home from the library the classic German U-Boat film, Das Boot. Our family somehow got into watching all sorts of submarine films after that, and when I was searching for a topic for one of my three nonfiction books on WWII, I decided I wanted to know more about the actual history. And I learned so much – one of things that keeps me coming back to writing nonfiction.

2.   Always learning!  Writers are lucky that way.  You made the topic immediately accessible for me because you focused on the sailors (and others) who lived and worked on submarines.  I could relate to the human story that naturally goes along with the submarine. Can you talk about how you found the sailors and their stories?

When I visit schools and talk to students, I always encourage them to think carefully about sources whenever preparing for a research paper.  Good sources are essential.

For DIVE! I read as many primary and secondary accounts as I could get my hands on and in the end focused on the sailors and submarines whose stories I felt young readers would enjoy. 

3.  Is there one individual or incident in particular that you found exceptionally compelling? 

In my research, I was fortunate to find three memoirs from sailors on the Wahoo, all of whom shared their own perspectives. One of the Wahoo’s most amazing patrols took the boat to an unknown harbor called Wewak, in Papua, New Guinea, where the submarine took a compelling “down the throat” shot at close range at a destroyer. Each of the three sailors was deeply affected by the incident, and each shared what happened and their role.

It’s a famous incident to begin with, but being able to “experience” it through the eyes of three different individuals made it especially exciting to write about.

4.   Yay - layers! What special quality did you find in the sailors that inspired you and how do you hope they will inspire your readers?

What I loved about the submariners I “met” through their first-person accounts and memoirs was their humor and sense of teamwork. One of my favorite chapters in the book is how some female nurses were evacuated by submarine from Corregidor in the Philippines. One young woman described how the submarine cook had made a chocolate cake to welcome them!

Of course, probably the most impressive thing about these young men was their indomitable courage and perseverance, and I hope this comes through in the book to inspire young readers.

5.  I remember the cake story - just one example of the human element of a story about a submarine. And what about submarines, themselves?  Any particular finding that fascinates you?

My husband and I took a tour of the USS Blueback, which is based on the Willamette River as part of OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. One of the most fascinating things to me was the compact, efficient design, and just how close the living quarters really were.  I am quite short, barely five feet, so in truth I felt pretty comfortable walking around!

6.   Clearly you are a master of research and I imagine you must thrive on it.  For this particular book, what was the most challenging aspect of research?  Do you have a fun story to share about tracking something down or some unexpected treasure you found?

Probably the most challenging aspect of the project was to try to hone a very complex, multi-faceted story into a compelling narrative. Several of my research books were hundreds of pages in length. I also wanted to help readers see the submarines as separate characters, and wanted to limit unfamiliar place names.

As far as an unexpected treasure, students who have seen me present in person or via Skype know that I love dogs. So, even though it didn’t fit all that well with the chronology, I wanted to include a chapter about wartime mascots and “stowaways.”  As I worked on that, I found something wonderful. Copies are available online of original submarine war patrol reports. They’re images from microfilm, and not very easy to read. But I stumbled upon the birth of a litter of puppies recorded – as it happened – by a submarine captain at sea, and therefore made part of official Navy historical records.

Speaking of dogs - 
meet Deborah's writing companion, Rue.

7.  Deborah, I know lots of writers are introverts.  We get our energy from being alone. And yet, writing also takes us into the public arena.  You do lots of workshops, conferences and school visits.  Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  How do you rest or re-energize after a big event?

While I enjoy meeting people, especially young readers at schools, I am probably most happy at my desk surrounded by a pile of books (with my little dog Rue sleeping beside me just as she is at this moment).  The Portland, OR area abounds with parks, and I love to take my dogs on walks. I also find exercise helpful, and after a long plane ride, I’ll head to a Pilates class to re-energize. 

And, of course, I read!

Yes, of course!  Thanks, Deborah for dropping by.  And thanks to the rest of you for listening in. I'm sure you know that Deborah is a prolific and much acclaimed author. You can learn more about her and her diverse titles at
 or follow her on Twitter@deborahopkinson.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

COMFORT - The Prologue

It was my friends and neighbors and the singing of Imogene's people that got me through that first year, after the war.

But to tell you the truth,
I never thought it would be a matter of just getting through.

For some reason, I thought that when my daddy come home from fighting, my world would be put back right again.

Not perfect right, of course, on account of Bobby dying of polio while Daddy was gone. And me catching it too, and coming home from the hospital on crutches.

Still, I thought Daddy and me both coming home would be like putting the last piece in a puzzle and sitting back to enjoy the pretty picture.

But hard as I tried, I couldn't make things be the way I wanted them with Daddy. I learned quick enough that when someone drops a bomb in one small place on this planet, it shatters the whole universe,

And not just for a little while either.
The breaking goes on forever...

Thursday, August 25, 2016


My Facebook feed is rife with back-to-school photos. Which makes this the perfect time to reflect on an era when enormous changes rolled across our educational system. During the late 1960's, racial integration of the public schools was finally being enforced.

In 1967 when Fall Creek Elementary in East Bend, NC became integrated, Shannon Hitchcock started first grade. 

Her school’s first African-American teacher taught her to read. Later, as an adult, Shannon learned Mrs. Porter was in poor health so she asked to visit. She wanted her teacher to know what an impact she'd made on her life. Mrs. Porter reminded her that white children had been uneasy about having a black teacher. To ease her students' concerns, she'd invited each of them to touch her face and hair. 

Shannon knew immediately that she wanted to write that story. The result is RUBY LEE & ME, inspired by her teacher, Mrs. Pauline Porter. 

RUBY LEE & ME is an authentic story of a 12 year-old white girl's struggles with guilt, loyalty, and circumstances that are beyond her control. Besides feeling responsible for her younger sister's accident, Sarah faces immense societal changes as her local school is forced to become racially integrated. She has a marvelous friendship with a black neighbor, Ruby Lee but school integration, which looms on the horizon, raises honest questions about how they will interact when their other friends are around. 

The uncertainty leads to misunderstandings, feelings of betrayal, and hurtful words.RUBY LEE & ME is tender, informative, impeccably written, and unflinchingly honest.

RUBY LEE & ME is a terrific addition to classroom reading lists and the learning experience will be enhanced with these Discussion Questions.  

Teachers and school librarians, you can enter the #MGGetsReal Giveaway that includes RUBY LEE & ME along with four other middle grade books covering tough topics. You'll find the contest widget at the bottom of the #MGGetsReal page. And do spread the word!


Thursday, August 18, 2016


I suppose most of us know someone who has Alzheimer's. Shannon Wiersbitzky's grandfather developed the disease and eventually he even forgot who she was.

That personal heartbreaking experience led to the writing of WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER, a touching novel about a resourceful girl who loves gardening with Old Red, a grandfather figure in her small town. Because Old Red's heirloom flowers are enjoyed by townspeople and strangers too, Delia comes up with a business plan for the two of them - saving and selling his seeds so their beauty will enhance life in Tucker's Ferry, West Virginia for years to come.

While they garden together, Old Red tells stories of his life. But as dementia moves in, Delia realizes he is losing his own story. Once again she comes up with a plan - this time to recapture Old Red's memories. But, for that, she needs the help of the whole town.

Shannon says, "I wanted to capture what it feels like to be forgotten, in the hopes that any child experiencing the disease would know it isn’t their fault.”  

She has done that so beautifully in WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER. I believe that children who've experienced dementia in a loved one will be touched by Delia's determination to keep Old Red's memories alive. Perhaps those readers too, will move closer to their loved one, rather than pulling away.

All of us, whether we know someone with dementia or not, would do well to value the stories of those who've come before us as Delia does. 

Shannon is also the author of THE SUMMER OF HAMMERS AND ANGELS, a prequel to WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER. 

You can learn more about Shannon at her website. She writes for Maria Shriver's blog and she is intentional about being a positive influence on the world. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016


One month from today marks the fifteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Very soon after the attacks, Kerry O'Malley Cerra  discovered that Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers, lived just around the corner from her.

In her words. "Within a day or two of the attacks, my alternating moods of anger, sadness, and pride suddenly had a new emotion to deal with. Fear."

As Kerry struggled with unexpected emotions and the changing landscape of American relationships, a story began to emerge.  JUST A DROP OF WATER echoes her own emotional experience as two boys, one Muslim and one Christian struggle to keep their friendship in the face of the 9/11 attacks.

Jake, a highly competitive cross-country runner has the usual  rivalries with  team mates and competitors. And those rivalries have him making plans for winning in a less than sportsmanlike manner. But his plans are hijacked when terrorists take over multiple airplanes and crash them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon building

Yet another plane is brought down by heroic passengers on a plane flying over western Pennsylvania. All airline flights are suspended. It is as if the entire world comes to a standstill.

Jake's meet is cancelled and Jake's world changes as his best friend, Sam, who is Muslim, comes under suspicion.  Fiercely loyal, Jake attempts to maintain their friendship but it feels as if he is the only one fighting to maintain trust and normalcy.

JUST A DROP OF WATER echoes the feelings of many Americans in the wake of 9/11 and it does so via the authentic voice of a boy with a big heart and sometimes misguided intentions. The sports theme lends itself to bigger questions of playing fair, fighting dirty, and making peace.   

Teachers and librarians, if you're looking for an engaging novel to help your students grasp the enormity of 9/11 and how it is shaping our worldview, reach for this book. Here's a quick preview.

Kerry's background in Social Studies makes her an ideal person to speak to your students about her book and her passion for peacemaking. She loves engaging with students and will turn them on to reading, not only her book, but many other examples that she'll bring with her.

JUST A DROP OF WATER will be included in the #MGGetsReal giveaway (open to educators) that will be kicked off on August 16 at the NCTE blog.  Please do enter for a set of five books on tough topics.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


I can't imagine how painful it would be to write the story of the bombing of Hiroshima. That would require some powerful motivation.

But Kathleen Burkinshaw, author of The Last Cherry Blossom was deeply motivated. On August 6, 1945 her own mother was in Hiroshima - two miles from the epicenter. Somehow she survived. I cannot imagine that either.  How does one emotionally survive such a trauma?
Kathleen Hilliker Burkinshaw with her mom.
“She lost so much that day," says Kathleen. "Yet she never lost her ability to love. Each person under that famous mushroom cloud was someone's mother, father, brother, sister, or child.”

While inspired by a true story, The Last Cherry Blossom is a fictional account. 

Twelve year-old Yuriko lives a life of physical comforts but on the emotional front, life isn't so easy. Being the daughter of a wealthy newspaperman sets her apart from her classmates.  She does, however, have one good friend. And she has a proud family heritage. At least that is what she's always believed.

Then, in the last year of WWII, secrets emerge that challenge her assumptions about family and personal identity. 

But challenges often hold hidden blessings and just when life couldn't possibly get any worse, when Hiroshima is bombed, and all hope seems lost, Yuriko's family secret becomes a blessing. 

Kathleen paints this painful historical landscape with just the right amount of detail. And thank goodness for the hope that colors the ending

I'm grateful to Kathleen, for daring to look this dark day in the face and for bringing it in story form to middle graders who otherwise may never know.

  • Back in May, when President Obama visited Hiroshima, Kathleen called into the Diane Rehm Show to give a personal reflection on the bombing.  You can hear her at this May 27 podcast.  It's a long show of course and worthy of listening to but if you want to skip to Kathleen's contribution she comes in right about 33:52
  • For a thorough review (no spoilers) of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM visit Carol Baldwin's Blog. Carol always gives fabulous insights as well as quotes from whatever book she is reviewing.
  • Kathy's book is part of #MGGetsReal - an effort to get books about tough topics into the hands of Middle Graders.  There are giveaways involved so do check it out!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


COMFORT (sequel to BLUE) has a bully.  Rob Walker is not a  huge part of the story but he manages to make Ann Fay's life with a disability extra challenging. What we don't see in COMFORT are the factors that influence Rob's mean behavior.

While writing AIM, my forthcoming prequel to BLUE, I had the opportunity to explore Rob's life. His older brother, Dudley is our window into Rob's world.  Dudley's behavior toward protagonist, Junior Bledsoe is bullying at times. And even Junior acts thoughtlessly and with a mean spirit a time or two in the story.

What Junior doesn't expect, is that he and Dudley have more in common than either of them imagined. And that explains a lot about Rob, too. As it turns out, a mean-spirit can pass right on down a family line.  Which is certainly not to say that meanness is in our genes - but that our family circumstances can make us hard.

Every bully begins life as an innocent babe.  Then something happens. Or a series of somethings. That's what I wanted to explore in AIM - when hard things happen, do they have to make us hard? Or can we choose to be positively shaped by them? Junior Bledsoe finds himself faced with these questions. 

For more on bullies and literature, check out the latest issue of Talking Story.

AIM will be released Oct. 4, 2016 but you can pre-order it now!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


AIM, a prequel to BLUE and COMFORT, is about family dysfunction spanning several generations. Junior Bledsoe has just lost Pop (his father) to an alcohol-induced death. On top of that, his insufferable grandfather has moved in and now shares his bedroom.

As a writer I had the challenge of figuring out, not only Junior's emotions, but also, what made his Pop tick. Living with his grandfather yields clues about why Pop drank and avoided his own family. But Junior also seeks answers from his aunts and, as stories unfold, he begins to understand Pop better.

I also wondered why Granddaddy, himself was such a miserable person. Until I figured that out, the story felt incomplete. I found the answers in the following paragraphs.
Source: Library of Congress

 First thing out of the box was a studio portrait of a soldier. “That’s your great-granddaddy there.”

“Your daddy?”

“Yup. Gideon Bledsoe. Confederate army.” Granddaddy picked up the tin can he kept by the rocker.  He spit a stream of tobacco juice into the can and kept on talking. “He was a pipsqueak when he joined. By the time, he came back, he was hard as nails. I wasn’t born yet but I can attest to the truth of it. A war will grow you right up.”

Gideon looked to be about my age. Fourteen. His eyes were might near as shiny as the buttons on his uniform. His dark hair curled out from under his wool cap. Looking at that picture, I couldn’t deny him for a relative of mine.

 As Junior struggles with the dysfunctions of Pop and Granddaddy, he's drawn to the soldier boy who looks so much like him. Clearly Great-granddaddy wasn't always hard as nails. 

In the course of the story, Junior makes some critical mistakes. He learns from those experiences but just as important are the lessons he learns from the generations that preceded him.

I'm pleased to announce that AIM is scheduled for release in Fall of 2016. What generational stories have you written or enjoyed? 

Book giveaways and more on generational stories at Talking Story.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


While going through my clothing 
at the change of season 
I long for a walk-in closet.

But then, I remember 
that some families live in houses
the size of a walk-in.

Still others search for home
via boats on the harsh November sea.

I cannot fear those shivering children 
or the parents who flee with them from violence.
I will not buy the idea that an entire people group should be shunned as evil.

The world has endured at least one such holocaust
and we ask how it could have happened.
It happened because one person at a time chose her own comforts over the well-being of others.

I've lived a life of near constant tranquility.

Therefore, should some random act of violence 
take my breath away,
I ask for the grace to die praying for the perpetrator.
Praying that he or she discovers the same Peace 
that seems to have so randomly selected me.

Samaritan's Purse volunteers putting arms of Love around grateful refugees.

Saturday, May 30, 2015


Incredibly my last post was six months ago. But every time I consider blogging, I just feel that it will steal from novel writing.  And why would I want to do that? Anyway, I've decided to try something new which is to journal a little nearly every day and then post it once a week.

MONDAY (hanging with Dad, squirrel hunting - the 2 are unrelated)
Our family met with Dad last night to explore options for keeping him in his home as long as possible. There are 8 of us to share the responsibility/pleasure. Dad's always been a doer and a server. Now it's his turn to be cared for and he's handling his lack of independence gracefully.
Dad serving coffee to his children a year or 3 ago.

I can write from his home, read, and do online research. Today I'm tweaking a squirrel hunting scene that gets to the heart of my character's story. I watched some "how-to kill a squirrel" clips on YouTube. But I much prefer watching  squirrels scampering in our backyard as I did from my deck this morning.


I called the local history museum to ask if they'd gather research materials for me on local schools and moonshine in 1941 - not that the two have any thing to do with each other.  I'm working on a novel proposal and wow, at a minimum I need 3 chapters and an outline.  Chapters are easy for me.  Sort of.  I have 11 written but um, uh, um now what?  I have a general idea where this book is going but the whole idea of plot is scaring me a smidge. 

Hubby suggested I get in NaNoWriMo mode and just write like mad, rather than trying to plot this out. Speaking of which, I love this plotting post by Jami Gold.  Beat Sheets For Plotters, Pansters, and Techophobes And yeah, I'm kind of working with her 4 major story beats rather than a full on outline.

WEDNESDAY (eating avocado seed)
We had coffee on the grill this morning since we woke up to no electricity.  Which also meant no internet which isn't such a bad idea once in a while. Hubby and I chatted more than usual and he listened while I brainstormed my work-in-progress.  Electricity returned and I ate an avocado seed, pulverized in a smoothie. It's bitter but the taste can be masked with just the right ingredients.  I'll let you know what those are when I figure it out.  Nut butters seem to work well. 

SATURDAY (Whatever happened to Thursday and Friday?)
Apparently Thursday and Friday evaporated into thin air.  In fact, I just now realized that I totally forgot to show up at the history museum to use the materials they agreed to gather for me. I can tell you I was with people mostly. And I mostly did not write.  But I did spend some time thinking about characters and also working on incorporating the build up to war (WWII) in my story.

We had rain which we desperately needed and everything turned gorgeous on us. I am so struck by the sight of golden wheat against the backdrop of greenery. And no, this picture does not do it justice.

Today, I anticipate doing yard work. Right after spending time with the 2 grands who stayed overnight.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Richard Eller and students at Catawba Valley Community College are Researching the Miracle which includes producing a video about Hickory's 1944 polio epidemic and the emergency hospital.

This week, I met with Richard to reflect on the writing of Blue and what I found compelling in this momentous event in our town's history.
Richard Eller
I was a smidgen nervous about whether I'd be articulate on camera. But Richard was so affable and quietly encouraging that it mostly felt like an enjoyable conversation. 

Richard, who believes that "history is best when you walk in its footsteps" has led students in multiple HANDS ON HISTORY projects, such as The Selma Experience below. 

Best class ever! Yay!

As it turns out, Richard is also editing a book which will examine our polio epidemic and the community's response to it from a variety of perspectives. I can't wait to read it!