Technical writers or non fiction writers scribble to pay the bills and for the love of the analytical or the exercise of truth or deception.

Fiction authors write to illuminate their world or escape it.

Whichever kind of writer, it's all about staying alive and helping or entertaining others.

The Writing Life

Like most writers, I have a love of reading and the power of words. When I was younger, I read everything I could get my hands on, but I don’t consider myself well read. I consumed books like a starved person, so quickly I hardly knew what I had read. By some strange process of osmosis, I learned from everything I read, but I cannot give you an erudite discussion of characters, plots, or authors. I can only tell you it’s lodged some where in the core of my being and informs my writing.

In addition to reading, I’ve spent a life time writing---from that first elementary school composition to my college days when I studied French literature and wrote explications de texte. Along the way, I fell into technical writing--to put food on the table and pay bills. In the 90s, I had the good fortune to take a dialog class with Sol Stein, former owner of Stein & Day publishers in New York and a prolific author. That led to his California-based writers’ group, Chapter One. It was a rigorous, ego-bruising experience, but I was intent on learning everything I could about fiction writing. A few years ago, I also had the good fortune to study with another writer, Louella Nelson, an experienced romance writer and teacher of fiction writing. She provided a different perspective and balance to my writing.

My novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, a mainstream, Sixties era novel, is available on Amazon in print and ebook (also available in Canada, Europe, Japan, and Brazil). Download a free sample. If you like it, I hope you'll download the book and post a review on Amazon.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Movie Review: The Ottoman Lieutenant

Sometimes you just need a melodramatic fix, a romance novel or movie. You overlook the worn plot elements and clichéd dialog and fall right into the story. Such is the case with The Ottoman Lieutenant. You can enjoy it for the melodrama it is and appreciate the backdrop of World War I, but there are some quirky things that might throw you off.

First a brief synopsis. This is the story of an idealistic, strong-willed young woman and love torn apart by World War I. Lillie is a nurse from Philadelphia who leaves behind her conventional, comfortable life after being inspired by a lecture by a Dr. Jude who runs a medical mission in Anatolia. She decides to donate a truck and medical supplies to the mission and deliver them in person just as the world is on the brink of war.

When she steps off the ship she encounters a dashing Turkish officer who invites her to view the beautiful mosque after warning that war is to come soon. The dialog is a bit awkward, not quite believable, but you go along with it. The scenery is beautiful and mysterious and you’re being introduced to a part of history most of us are not familiar with.

I dragged my husband along to this movie, but very soon he is paying attention because this is where his ancestors were murdered. He understands the occasional Armenian and Turkish words that flit threw the dialog. This all strikes a chord with him, a genetic remembrance. I am struck by the fact, after hearing the Armenian version of genocide so frequently, that this movie presents a Turkish point of view.

The idealistic young woman does not fall for the idealistic young doctor who is in love with her, but rather the Turkish officer who she first encounters when she gets off the ship and who becomes her escort to the mission. It’s an unlikely Christian-Moslem romance, but nevertheless you buy into it because here and there are moments of history that come to life and there is adventure.

I would recommend this movie but that you take it with a grain of salt. The characters could have been handed better dialog. The actors could have demonstrated a little more chemistry. The treatment of the Armenian genocide could have been more fully developed. It’s a good story that wants for more but you come away with a glimmer of understanding of the eastern front of World War I. And you get your melodramatic fix.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Things You Find in Desks

The following is submitted for the February WEPFF Back of the Drawer Flash Fiction challenge. Feel free to make a full critique (including the painting) and also submit your own entry.

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This is my messy desk. In the back of the main drawer is a tattered old folder that I never open, except for today. I have been dragging this folder around with me since I was in my twenties. It contains some diary pages written in French. I think I should reread these to remember who I was at twenty and then destroy them. 

There is the beginning of a romance novel (in English) that takes place in France during the Middle Ages. (The writing kind of makes my stomach turn.) Somehow I am still drawn to the mystery of the Middle Ages as if I had been there--to France as if I had been there.

There is a copy of Jacques Prévert's poem, Déjeuner du Matin, which I still love. My copy of La Ballade des pendus by Francois Villon seems to be missing. My taste in poetry runs to the dark side.

There is an old post card from a former boss sent to me while he was attending a law conference in Florida and a birthday card from someone I lost touch with long ago who probably isn’t alive anymore.
From my days studying for an AA degree in electronics, there are two small notebooks full of electronics formulas and notes about calculating power in circuits, all meticulously and beautifully written in small print. I loved those two years. It was hard work and a long story in itself.

I am usually a person who discards anything for which I no longer have any use. I am not a collector or a hoarder. Getting rid of things feels like taking a bath, feels like getting rid of the detritus of life. I rarely look back. Why I have hung on to these things I do not know and when I will be ready to toss them into the fire I cannot say. And so for the moment, the tattered folder goes back into my desk until I can decide.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Into the Chaos

We finally did it. We elected a monster through our own negligence, fecklessness, and unwillingness to deal in truth. Many prefer to bury their heads in the sand, hoping this nightmare will go away. Others have taken to the streets in demonstration. There is palpable anger as our nation divides into two camps--those who stand for freedom, justice, truth, adherence to the Constitution, empathy for the disadvantaged and poor, and stewardship of the earth. And those who feel entitled to disregard any laws up to and including treason that get in the way of their greed, racism, bigotry, hypocrisy, and so on. I'll admit that's a liberal point in view.

And then I stop myself. There is no use treading this ground any further. The world is at a crossroads. We will either destroy ourselves or we will decide to eradicate the evil that plagues every country in the world. Where do we go from here?

Friday, January 13, 2017


I don't like photos of myself. Never have. I prefer to take the photos or, if I don't have that option, then I prefer to hide behind someone else in the photo, Or a rock. Or a tree. Anything. No selfies for me.

So as I near my 70th birthday, it seemed like an important milestone. I've survived a long time. Many of the kids I went to school with are now six feet under. I see the downward slope I'm on and so I dug out a few milestone photos that were easy to unearth. Most of my old photos are hidden in boxes tucked in the back of a closet. Others are stored in a clutter on our iMAC. Still many others ended up in the garbage or on the receiving end of a DELETE key.

So here is metamorphosis--mine, that is.

Here I am as an infant smoking my first cigar. Where's my glass of scotch?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Evil They Embrace

What an awful experience this most recent election was! I blame voters for being uneducated about American history and the constitution or being unwilling to evaluate what is truth or lie. I blame the media for all their reporting of bogus information and opinion, for giving the platform to a man who has no capacity for truth just because he was entertaining and could boost their ratings. I despise those who are mean-spirited and unable to recognize their own hypocracy. I despise the Republican-controlled Congress for their corruption and unwillingness to serve the American people. The list of blaming is a long one and we each bear responsibility for the damage done to our democracy.

Thursday, October 27, 2016


Mention the word “hoarder” and we all think of the TV shows about unrepentant hoarders who are buried in disgusting trash in their own homes and unable to discard anything. Setting aside this extreme version of the hoarder, we all have to admit we hoard to some degree or another. There is a strange kind of comfort in it.

If you live in one place for any length of time, you accumulate a lot of things that you don’t have the heart to discard because, well, you might need it at some point in the future. Eventually, when we feel we have reached critical mass, we pack it up and park it in our driveway for charity pickup. There is at least the comfort of knowing someone in need might be able to use the things we have been piling up in our closets, basements, and garages.

I suppose the tendency to hoard must be something one is born with. I have one daughter who can’t tolerate clutter of any kind and who always throws out things no matter the value. My other daughter has always clung to her belongings. As a small child she would go dumpster diving for the old ragged blankets or broken toys I threw out.

I admit to being a particular kind of hoarder. I love my collection of paints, brushes, and art supplies. I love my collection of plants and gardening tools. I have an armoire cabinet with a sewing machine, sewing notions, and craft supplies, all carefully organized. I have a small chest that contains my collection of tarot cards, which I prize for their artistic beauty.

I know other people hoard clothes, shoes, tools, art, knick-knacks, and many other things. The thing about hoarding is that it always reaches critical mass if you are not vigilant. When I visit the home of a friend whose beautiful home is filled with knick-knacks and paintings, I go home and start cleaning out closets and drawers to remove anything I no longer need. It’s my compulsive reaction to too much stuff. Too much stuff makes me nervous so I guess in that sense I am not a true hoarder: I am not comforted as many hoarders are by the proliferation of stuff. When I was working full time and raising a family, I probably didn’t have the time to monitor the accumulation of stuff, but now that I’m retired I have a constant eye on it. There is a kind of beauty in the meticulous management of things you acquire, culling out the unnecessary and letting go of things. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with keep-sakes and retaining a few items which have special memories attached to them, but when everything has an emotional element, then you have a problem. If you acquire things to fill some hole in your soul, if you hang onto things which no longer serve you but to which you are emotionally attached, you are going to lose yourself in the excess of things. Less is more. On that note, I am plotting my next cleaning/reorganizing project. What about you?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Bad Sister

We never liked each other that much from the beginning. It was always a love-hate relationship. If we had not been born brother and sister, we would have never crossed paths in a million years.

I can't remember when I became aware of my brother Scott. He was three years younger but he never registered on my radar until he was old enough to form a sentence or break one of my possessions. I remember his temper tantrums: he used to hold his breath until he started to turn blue and then my mother would put a cold wash cloth on his face. Actually, according to my mother, he was blue when he was born. Nurses held my mother's legs together to prevent him from being born before the doctor arrived. Obstetrics were a little primitive back in the 40s and 50s. I probably had a better birth experience than he did, but my doctor died the following day. I trust I wasn't the cause.

Scott was the middle child, the odd one. Parents pick their favorites no matter how hard they try to be fair. He was not cute or cuddly or funny. He was intelligent but in a wrong-headed sort of way. He did not have any of the easy-going charms of my youngest brother. Life was difficult for him, partially because he made it that way for himself. He was immature, shy, ornery, a poor student, and dependent upon my younger brother for social interaction. He taunted and tried to bully me all through high school, but I was a good fighter, a down and dirty fighter. I would have fought to the death before admitting defeat to him. He was forever proclaiming that one day he would beat the shit out of me, but I never lost a fight. To be sure, I was no innocent either. But I do recall him coming after me with a butcher knife one time and putting me in a strangle hold another time (he got a pretty good bite on his arm for that one). Of course, our parents were mostly unaware of our fighting. We tore the house apart the minute they stepped out of the door, and put it all back together before they got home. And we lived to fight another day.

By the time he was in high school, Scott had joined the Mormon church which provided some of the structure he needed in life. He later enlisted in the Air Force which provided even more structure and at some point his life successfully came together. He married, had a son, and years later retired from a successful military career. Maybe he had a few bumps in the road but the same can be said of anyone. There was a lull in our ongoing rivalry, a period of time when we had no quarrels because we were too caught up in our day-to-day lives in different parts of the country.

Flash forward to 2016. We are now both in our twilight years and the fighting has resumed. We live on opposite coasts and that's probably a good thing. I tell myself he must have some good qualities and on some days I actually feel sorry for him. But then he posts some racist, misogynist, bigoted statement on Facebook and I feel like sinking my teeth in his arm like I did all those years ago. He thinks it's funny to post a negative story about blacks that portrays them as thugs or lazy welfare queens. He loathes Barack Obama. He thinks it's hilarious to post a picture of Hillary Clinton with horns or a dog pissing on a poster of her. He posts stories from alt-right websites that accuse her of murder. He never has a bad thing to say about Donald Trump or the "deplorables" who support him. Of course, Scott considers himself to be an exemplary Mormon and Christian. I figure if there's any chance of him getting into heaven, I would just as soon be in hell.

I will never understand how two so opposite personalities could have the same parents. Neither of my parents were narrow-minded and self-righteous. They mellowed even more with age. I can't recall either of them ever going off on an insane rant against a person or institution. Whatever flaws and personal prejudices they might have held, they had respect for other people and they had respect for themselves. They had dignity. They could distinguish fact from fiction. Their minds were open. They held no hate in their hearts.

So I am the bad sister. I cannot love this thing that my brother has become. One minute I am full of pity, the next I am angry. I am still that fierce little girl, that indignant and defiant older sister. I think my parents and I went wrong somewhere. We failed to nourish that difficult child. Somehow he didn't get enough love and attention. I must have stolen his thunder. I never lost a fight.