Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Beth 1/1/18

I’m supposed to be composing fresh material for untitled Book Two of The Daughtry House series, so of course I’m going to spend the last afternoon of 2017 doing something else. My children and grandchildren have vacated the house for their own pursuits, leaving me a little melancholy and reflective. Which, I guess, is how you’re supposed to feel on the last day of the year. To ward off the blues, I’m eating sweet potato fries with ranch dressing, one of my favorite things on the planet (right up there with banana pudding)—one of the many tricks I learned from my daughter this year. She’s handy that way.

Also I’m waiting for my toenail polish to dry so I can put on my socks, and my feet are cold. But, you know, priorities.

This has been a very strange year. Second year of a new teaching job, which basically means the honeymoon is over. Everything is upside down and reality sets in. A classroom in a more than fifty-year-old building has collected its share of peeling paint, resident rodents, arthritic air-conditioning units, and 1970’s-era television sets in the closet. Teenagers act like teenagers, grownups say the wrong thing and refuse to back down, and policy makers create paperwork. Teaching is no different from any job in the universe. It’s just all packed into 10 months of the year.

I have nothing to complain about. In fact, I’m blessed beyond measure to have a front-row seat to watch young artists take leaps and fly. To see the “Oh, I get it” look in an intelligent pair of eyes. To reap the fruit of laughter and camaraderie where hurt feelings and anger had threatened to take root.

Back to the strange part. I wrote A Rebel Heart this year, turning it in in early August (a full year after its original due date). Started over three times, and pretty much hated it until I was in the last chapter, which is not the ideal way to tackle a book. Of course I now love it, and the fact that it was so emotionally draining is a good sign. At least I hope so. The Reconstruction Era in American history was a defining time, a confusing time, a forgotten time. I learned a lot, winced a lot, and found some heroes I never knew existed. I hope my readers will be challenged and uplifted. I hope they’ll identify with my hero and heroine. We’ll see.

Then there’s my journey with personal discipline. I read through most of a Chronological Bible. Mainly I just chugged it every day without trying to contemplate too much. But I did find pieces winding themselves into my everyday walk, often informing and explaining and smoothing the quandaries in which I’d find myself. Or creating mysteries for further contemplation.

And I continued into a second year of daily exercise and balanced nutrition. I found this system in June of 2016 through the examples of my two youngest sisters. I’m a notorious lazy-butt, but the physical energy and general sense of emotional chill that settled on my undisciplined life made a believer out of me. Beachbody.com, if anybody is interested. I started with 21 Day Fix and have moved on from there. Really, habits matter. I lost 25 pounds and 3 dress sizes. I’m 60 years old, and this is the best I’ve ever felt in my life. Yes, it’s a sacrifice to get to bed by 9 PM and get up by 4:30 AM to work out for 30 minutes before work. But the alternative is unthinkable. Seriously. People ask me how I get everything done, so there you go.

Next day…Here we are in 2018! I look at my calendar for the year, already largely planned, and it’s frankly overwhelming. I’ll finish Daughtry House Book Two at the same time I’m launching The Rebel Heart. I’ll assist in producing a high school musical. I’ll take students to All State Chorus, County Honor Choir, Show Choir, State Choral Performance Assessment, and Solo and Ensemble. I’ll keep up with a variety of family and church events and activities and hopefully read a few good books.

Some of that will go smoothly, perhaps even brilliantly, but I always brace myself for the unexpected. The weird. The disastrous. The joyous.

Bring it on!


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Don QuijoteSometimes you run across some little piece of writing that is so useful and at the time so entertaining that it’s worth stealing….I mean, reposting—with the author’s permission of course. So if you’ve had a frustrating day and you want to feel better about yourself, or perhaps you are what my son calls a “gear head,” or maybe you simply want to avoid the slowest way in history to repair your car’s window mechanism, this is for you.
You’re welcome.

Dear Don Quixote la Mechanica: I have two car locks and two windows that need new regulator assemblies. Would you please post a tutorial on how to install them?

Sure! Honestly the hardest part is getting the door panel off without breaking the clips, and removing the plastic insulation without tearing it to shreds. After that it’s mostly just nuts and bolts.

First, make sure you don’t buy a regulator with the motor attached, if you can reuse the old motor. You just have to be careful putting the new one in the door, so that you don’t yank any unseen electrical wires. On that note, it’s worth the extra minute to disconnect the negative lead from the battery terminal. We won’t talk about how I learned that step. Also there should be one of the 6 or 7 bolt holes in the door that has a spot where you can put the bolt on the regulator first, then push it through from the back of the inner door and drop it down in a notch. Do this one first so you can hang it there while you do the rest of the bolts. We won’t talk about how I learned that either. Then reatach the window to the regulator. That’s pretty much it.

Unless, like me, you realize after all this work that half of one of the plastic clips that attaches the window to the regulator is still attached to the old regulator because it’s stupid and it broke and it’s stupid. Then you have to completely remove the window from the door and move it to your SleepNumber brand work bench. My window’s sleep number was 3 but yours could be a 7. Good thing it’s adjustable.

Next, pull the clip off the window, and then use a solvent, a heat gun (pronounced “hairdryer”), and a putty knife to remove the glue that was holding the clip in place. Most of the old glue should now be conveniently attached to your skin for easy transport to a disposal location. Clean the window thoroughly to remove any residue. Next you have to put a new clip in exactly the right spot on the window where you just removed the residue that would have shown you where the old clip was attached. Pro tip: the new clip can be found on the same aisle as unicorns and fairies at your local parts store, which I thought was poor inventory management.

Anyway, now you have to use an acrylic based epoxy to secure the clip to the window. Let the fancy glue cure for 2 episodes of Seinfeld, then put the window back in and reattach the clips to the regulator. Extra bragging rights are awarded if you manage to do all this without breaking the window. Don’t forget to re-plug in any electronics that you had to unplug in the process before you put the door panel back on. Again, I don’t want to talk about it. Now you’re done. I think.

Wait, why won’t the car start now? Oh yeah, the battery. Ok, now you’re done.

Hope this helps.


Ryan, I owe you a bag of jellybeans.

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51V-JziXCuL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Dinner Most Deadly, the fourth full-length installment in the John Pickett Mystery series by Sheri Cobb South, lives up to its predecessors (In Milady’s Chamber, A Dead Bore, and Family Plot) in its lively plot, engaging characters, and spritely dialogue. I have read and enjoyed all of South’s work, and this one does not disappoint.

Dinner Most Deadly continues to twist the romantic tension building between handsome young Bow Street Runner John Pickett and Julia, Lady Fieldhurst, whom we first met as Pickett’s number one murder suspect in In Milady’s Chamber. Cursed with a self-admitted penchant for involving herself in complicated murder plots, Julia suffers through her friend Lady Dunnington’s awkward dinner party, only to have it end with the urbane and unsavory Sir Reginald Montague being shot dead.

Pickett, who has demonstrated a particular talent for detective work related to the beau monde, is called in to investigate. Along with a plethora of uncooperative suspects, Pickett has to deal with the humiliation of annulment proceedings (having accidentally married Julia in Family Plot), the flirtatious advances of Lady Dunnington’s pretty housemaid, and his own determination to maintain a platonic relationship with the lady of his dreams. Meanwhile, Julia struggles to uphold her promise not to implicate her friend Emily’s estranged husband in the murder, while keeping the integrity of her friendship with Pickett—who insists on holding her at a frustrating arm’s length.

Sheri Cobb South

As always, South injects wry humor into what could be dark subject matter (murder, after all, being the plot center) and casts Pickett’s gallant self-deprecation into charming relief against the self-serving attitudes of the society toffs vying for Julia’s favors. There is real tension and maturity in Pickett’s perfectly normal red-blooded desire for a relationship (physical and emotional) with a lovely, bright, and sweet woman—a desire held in check by the societal boundaries that separate them—but South still manages to keep the sexual content at a PG level. I found the treatment of the awkward annulment proceedings to be more funny than titillating—a tribute to South’s skill as a wordsmith.

The murder mystery plot is deftly handled, kept lively and logical, though I confess it was less interesting to me than the romance (I like mysteries well enough, but I wouldn’t call myself a raving fan of the genre). I guessed the perp early on (I probably watch too much NCIS and Forever), but it was fun to see character motivations unreel as Pickett interviews each witness.

I recommend Dinner Most Deadly as a satisfying romantic mystery, particularly for those who enjoy romantic tension, sympathetic characters, funny dialogue, and brain-teasing plots in a historical setting. If you haven’t already read the previous three books in the series, I highly recommend starting with In Milady’s Chamber. Dinner Most Deadly can be read as a stand-alone novel, but it will be more enjoyable read in continuity.

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When I got married thirty-*&%$# years ago, I had a beautiful bridal shower, given by my high school best buds. I’m pretty sure that’s where I received a wonderful Sunbeam stand mixer. It was sturdy enough to last through most of the rearing of two children and all their Christmas cookie decorating, a three-year binge of homemade sourdough bread baking (during which every member of our family gained 30 pounds), and a plethora of Funfetti birthday cakes.

One day I stuck a metal spoon into the beaters and the Sunbeam was never the same. By that time I couldn’t find replacement beaters (this was before The Internet, people), so this beloved family member was retired to the back of the corner cabinet (where it lies in state to this very day—one day I’m going to find those beaters in an antique store, I’m quite confident).

Anyway, I went to Walmart and bought a simple portable electric mixer that cost about $20 and lasted, to my great surprise, another ten years. No, it would never mix bread dough, but by that time I had recovered my senses and learned to buy bread at Fresh Market. It did just fine, however, with the occasional pone of cornbread or batch of cupcake batter.

Then a couple of months ago, my kids’ Bible study lesson plan called for a portable mixer in a game called “Celebrity Chef Mix-Off” or something ridiculous like that. I searched my kitchen high and low for that Walmart mixer. I found the little flimsy beaters in a drawer, but could not locate the mixer itself. Mystified, I stopped by Walmart on the way to church and purchased a really cool little mixer which came with its own storage box. The lesson and game proceeded without a hitch, the kids had a ball, and Bible principles were learned. Boom.

This afternoon, I was pulling down kitchen stuff to be packed for our impending move to the great metropolis of Saraland—downsizing, you know, have to get rid of unnecessary items. I get up on a stepladder to reach Christmas tins and empty jelly jars and plastic bottles that say things like “Circle K Grab-N-Go” and “Cottage Hill Baptist Church Cheerleaders” and “Providence Hospital—It’s a Girl!” and guess what I find! Yes! It’s my #2 Walmart mixer!

Who put it up there? Scott White, are you trying to drive me crazy? I know I’m absent-minded, but why would I put the mixer way up there? Those questions may haunt me for the rest of my life. And now I have THREE mixers!

And that is all. I’m sorry, but this is the kind of story you get when:

A. You don’t care.

B. The author is on a 3-week deadline and has another 30K words to write.

C. The author is avoiding 1814 American history because she doesn’t know what happens next.

Back to your regularly scheduled programs.

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Welcome to the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt! I am a part of TEAM PINK, and this is Stop #5. If you’re just joining us, there are two loops—pink and purple—and they begin at Lisa Bergren’s site and Robin Hatcher’s site for stop #1 for either stream. If you complete either the pink loop or purple loop, you can enter for a Kindle paperwhite and the 17 autographed books from that loop. If you complete BOTH loops, you can enter for the Grand Prize of a Kindle Fire HDX and ALL 34 autographed books.

BE SURE to keep track of the clues at the bottom of every post in the loop and the favorite number mentioned. You’ll need those clues to enter for the loop prize and every number mentioned in order to enter for the grand prize.

The Hunt begins at NOON Mountain time on April 16 and ends at midnight Mountain on April 19, 2015, so you have a long weekend to complete all 32 stops and maximize your chances at prizes!

ALSO, please don’t use Internet Explorer to navigate through the loops. Some web sites won’t show up using IE. Please use Chrome or Firefox—they’re better anyway!

Without further ado, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to my guest for the Scavenger Hunt, Elizabeth Goddard.

goddard-LR-1 (2)

Elizabeth is the bestselling, award-winning author of more than twenty romance novels. A seventh generation Texan, Elizabeth graduated with a B.S. degree in computer science and worked in high-level software sales before retiring to home school her children and fulfill her dream of becoming an author. She currently makes her home in Minnesota, where she works with her husband in ministry. Find out more at elizabethgoddard.com, facebook.com/elizabethgoddardauthor, twitter.com/bethgoddard.

Here’s the summary of her latest book, BURIED:

Nowhere To Hide…

Fleeing to Alaska is the only option for Leah Marks after witnessing a murder. Afraid for her life, the legal investigator hopes a remote cabin will be a safe shelter. But the killer has tracked her to Mountain Cove. As he chases her into snow-packed Dead Falls Canyon, an avalanche buries them both. Saved by daring search and rescue specialist Cade Warren, Leah longs to tell him the truth. But how can she, without bringing even more danger into Cade’s life? Especially when they discover the killer is very much alive and waiting to take them both down.

Mountain Cove: In the Alaskan wilderness, love and danger collide

And here’s her EXCLUSIVE content, that you’ll only find in this hunt!

Avalanche Specialist: A Day in the Life

In BURIED, my hero is an avalanche specialist. That title covers a wide range of responsibilities, but mainly he’s a forecaster. Until I began research for the story, I had no idea there was such a job! I contacted an avalanche specialist to get details. He shared what he does for a living and his day-to-day activities. An avalanche specialist is an expert who works to keep people safe on the mountains and in urban areas where an avalanche can wreak havoc.

All photos by Bill Glude
He first gets experience on ski patrol, the best way to learn everything about avalanches. Ski patrollers get out early and assess the hazard by digging snow pits and setting off explosives to trigger avalanches in a controlled environment—all of this before the public hits the slopes.

After spending years doing this, a person gets a feel for the mountain, snow and backcountry terrain. Being in top physical condition, along with superior mountaineering skills, is also a requirement. And for a top job as a forecaster, an avalanche specialist needs a college degree in a technical or science field such as meteorology, engineering, geology or glaciology.

The work is grueling, and the pay isn’t always great. He lives and breathes avalanches. Lives are at stake.

But an avalanche specialist spends hours in the pristine mountain backcountry. He sees terrain and scenery that most never see. He skis or snowmobiles. Lives on the edge. Plays with explosives. Best of all, he saves lives!

So what does his day look like? Let Cade Warren tell you:

My day starts at 5 AM. I check temps, look out the window, record the weather and study weather websites as I get ready. At the office I work on the forecast that goes out at 7 AM so people can plan their day. Any changes in weather or avalanche warnings go out by 4 PM, again so people can plan their evening.

On field days, two of us work together for safety reasons, while others remain at the Mountain Cove Avalanche Center to monitor and report weather. We check paths, monitor loading and wind at starting zones, and study paths through binoculars, recording activity and conditions. When we forecast over Mountain Cove, we test slopes next to the starting zone that would affect the houses below. That requires helicopter access.

In case of extreme danger, an alert goes to the city, the National Weather Service, and SAR teams and media. During avalanche season, we’re in the field at higher elevations observing first hand. If we’re caught and a helicopter cannot return, then we have a designated path to ski down. Field work can take all day, taking pictures and making notes before skiing back down. At home I continually monitor conditions, especially during inclement weather. This sounds simplistic, but it’s too complex to explain. Avalanche stability evaluation includes observation, slope and traveling tests, and snow pit studies.

And there you have it—a day in the life of an unsung hero of the mountains!


Thanks for stopping by on the hunt! Before you go, make sure you WRITE DOWN THESE CLUES:

Secret Word(s): The

Secret Number: 12, for the number of steps in the chromatic scale

Got ‘em down?? Great! Your next stop is #6, Elizabeth Goddard’s site. Click on over there now. And if you get lost, a complete list of the loop with links can be found at our mother host’s site.

One more thing before you head out—I’m offering an extra treat for anyone who signs up for my newsletter: a free electronic copy of my novella “Reforming Seneca Jones”! Just fill out the subscribe form on my home page.

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Come hang out with me and Lyn Cote today!

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Will and BonnieI have been writing for publication since 1998, when I sold my first novella, “Miracle on Beale Street,” to Tyndale House. The next one to appear was “Reforming Seneca Jones,” which released in the fall of 2000, in the anthology Prairie Christmas. PrairieChristmasCoverFourteen years and fifteen books later, I’ve begun to get back the rights to those early novellas and republish them as ebooks, giving them another editorial polish and fresh covers.

“Seneca” is one of my favorite stories, both because of its western Pony Express setting and its irresistible hero. Seneca Jones is an orphan cowboy who grows up wild and adventurous in a land and time full of such self-made men, just prior to the outbreak of the Civil War. He loves his horse and his gun, he’s loyal to his friends, impatient of pretenders, and he’s protective of women and children. He also has a penchant for mischief and flirtation.

Bonnie displaying a bit of diva temperament

Bonnie displaying a bit of diva temperament

So after updating the manuscript and preparing it for upload to Smashwords, my e-publisher, I began to plan the cover. This was no easy task, since I live in South Alabama, where snowy prairies and rough-hewn cowboys are about as common as…well, prairies at the beach. I considered hiring a marketing company to design the cover. But I figured I might wind up spending a lot of money on a generic romance cover, featuring some stock-photo sissy masquerading as the one-of-a-kind Seneca Jones—or, worse yet, a middle-aged, grizzled cowboy with a cigarette dangling between his lips.

Um, no.

So I decided to shoot the cover myself, using one of my nephews as a model, my niece’s horse and my sister’s rural property as background—but schedules, weather, costuming, and all sorts of challenges prevented the project from coming together. The season for releasing the book passed, and I slunk back to Square One. Nearly a year passed.

Then I met Will Dorminy.

Will and Bonnie

Will and Bonnie

Will recently came on staff at our church as one of our music and worship leaders. He’s a talented musician, sings and plays guitar, and has a gift for leading people into the presence of God—which is amazing enough. But the first time I saw him, I did a double-take. He’s in his early twenties, blond and blue-eyed, with an infectious smile and a killer dimple—Seneca Jones come to life. Will probably wondered why the crazy lady in the orchestra kept staring at him, but I was just thinking, What if I could put a cowboy hat and duster on him, and get him on a horse? There’s my cover!

For a long time, I didn’t say anything to Will about my nutty idea, because where was I going to get a realistic cowboy outfit? Where was I going to get a horse? And I’m not a photographer, except with my handy iPhone, so who was going to man the camera?

Those horses were...big!

Those horses were…big!

My daughter Hannah is my favorite photographer, but she lives inconveniently far away, so I asked my friend Jan Johnson to do the actual shoot. She agreed, with the stipulation that Hannah do the artistic editing and design of the cover. Boom. Photography issue solved.

Meanwhile, I’d been checking costume shops, both online and in Mobile. Everything I found looked both fake and cheap. One night I mentioned the project to my friend Billy Graham (no, not that Billy Graham), our missions and evangelism pastor at North Mobile. Billy has always been one of my greatest prayer warriors and cheerleaders, and I probably should have gone to him at the beginning. Within twenty-four hours I got a phone call from Billy’s friend Roy Hill, pastor of First Baptist Church Satsuma.

HorsesRoy owns four horses and a stable. Roy’s son is a professional horseman who has a gospel-centered “horse-whispering” ministry (with the charming title “Spurs“) and owns all kinds of vintage cowboy clothing and accoutrements. Roy and Chance were both thrilled to help me out. Super-score!

So I finally called Will and asked if he’d ever done any modeling. He’s a very modest guy and kinda laughed at me, but agreed to give it a shot. With a little back-and-forth texting we found a time when model, host, photographer, and I could all get together. And this past Tuesday afternoon, in spite of seasonal torrential rain in our area, we got together at the Hill Hacienda in Satsuma, Alabama.

Donkey and German shepherd

The Hills’ donkey and friendly German shepherd checking out the strangers

You never know how these things are going to go.…But we got Will all togged out in cowboy gear, from hat to spurs, even a gunbelt and chaps, and trekked out to the barn. Jan and I spent a few minutes choosing a horse (what do I know about horse color?) and picked a buckskin named Bonnie, Pastor Roy’s personal mount. Bonnie wasn’t real excited at first about her new modeling gig, but a bucketful of oats enticed her to cooperate. You can see in the photo above that the Author was a little nervous, due to a Traumatic Horse Experience some forty years ago. And Jan’s Chocos got a little, um, coated with manure, but she was a good sport about that too.


Antique saddle

Here’s a shot of a hundred-year-old saddle that we would have used, except it’s missing a stirrup. All the rest of Will’s gear is well-used, real-life tack and clothing from Chance Hill’s Spurs Ministry. We spent about an hour trying various backgrounds and poses, and wound up with over two hundred shots that Hannah will be able to pick from. Fortunately, Will has some experience with horses, and dealt well with Bonnie, the mud and manure, and two bossy women. He now has a random entry to his resume that may or may not give him credibility as a musician and minister—but at least will make great conversation one day.

The shoot is a wrap! Whew!

The shoot is a wrap! Whew!

In any case, I’m grateful for friends who are willing to go along with my sometimes oddball adventures in publishing. If I can ever return the favor…

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