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.

Friday, November 20, 2015


The topic of stress keeps bouncing around in my brain and I feel I need to wrestle this universal experience to the ground. Every day, everywhere I have encountered family, co-workers, and friends who are struggling with stress in their lives, including myself. We all live it. It weighs us down, but not all of us are aware of the tools and techniques that are available to manage stress. I usually prefer to go with my right brain, but stress is one of those topics that seems more appropriate to the left brain. And after all, in my last life I was a technical writer. This is how my left brain wants to break it down.

1: Everyone has to live with stress. Some have more. Some have less. Stressful situations may be imposed on us, but we also create or feed our own stress. For a few, the wiring of their brains presents an additional obstacle to dealing with stress, in which case medication and psychotherapy may be necessary.

2: Everyone has different methods of dealing with stress—positive ways (meditation, religion, art, work, helping others, therapy, etc.) or negative ways (drugs, alcohol, obsessive behaviors, violence, depression, etc.).

3: The biggest mistake you can make when confronted with stress is to let the enormity of the situation overwhelm you. If you focus on the whole, you will be fearful and paralyzed. Or you may become angry and lash out at others. You will lose your objectivity and the calm you need to make decisions and allow good things to happen. Instead, break each stressful situation into manageable pieces. Turn on the analytical side of your brain and organize your counter attack. You have to start somewhere, whether it's a work project, a terrible disease or a relationship. Snag a corner and get to work. Eventually the whole will come together but in a less stressful way that allows you to breath and think clearly—maybe even laugh.

4: Stress loves company. One stressful situation invites another. The only way to deal with multiple stressors is to divide and conquer AND avoid sending out the invitations yourself. There are enough stressful situations in your day-to-day life. If your stress load has reached critical mass, you should avoid taking on additional responsibilities that can only add to your load. Learn when to say NO or LATER.

5: Prioritize your stressors. Otherwise, you will just be chasing your tail. Deal with the most important stressors first. Make a decision, a first step, and then move on to the next stressor. Learn to judge when a quick response is necessary or a delay in action may be a benefit. Stressors with definite deadlines should be handled in a timely fashion in order to avoid further stress. On the other hand, some stressors resolve themselves by a little strategic foot dragging.

6: Simplify and organize your life. Clutter and disorganization add to the stress load. Taking on too many tasks, activities, or responsibilities adds to the stress load. Balance.

7: Don't let others stoke the fires of stress. Well, it's easier said than done, but you can't let others negatively influence your ability to handle stress. Be careful who you confide in. Make sure they respect your space. At the same time you should try to be open to mature, intelligent opinions that may be beneficial to you.
8: Take a deep breath and center yourself. This is where the right brain takes over. Go for a walk, meditate, be still and let go. Stop the mind chatter of “what ifs.” Trust the universe. Trust the Divine Spirit. Trust yourself. Give yourself the mental space you need to strengthen yourself so that you can manage stress. Let the right brain provide creative solutions to the problems in your life that are causing stress. Find positive, creative outlets that help siphon off anxiety and depression.

So there it is in a nutshell—my prescription for dealing with stress. Admittedly, the advice is a little cut and dried, like weed whacking, but if you can get the weeds out of the way, it gives that marvelous right-brained magic the opportunity to dance circles around whatever is causing stress in your life, Set yourself free.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Movie Review: Bridge of Spies

Are you old enough to remember the 50s? If not, Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies is a good introduction to the cold war espionage years of the 1950s. He paints an accurate picture of American middle class life then--stay-at-home moms who dressed in long skirts and high heels, black and white TV, patriotic hypocrisy, U2 spy planes, and the mass hysteria over communism and the nuclear bomb threat.

Tom Hanks plays a New York insurance lawyer (James Donovan) whose boss (Alan Alda) pushes him into providing legal representation for alleged Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (wonderfully played by theater actor Mark Rylance). It's a hypocritical gesture to put American justice on display with no belief that Abel is deserving of fair representation. Donovan worries that taking the case will make him unpopular for defending a man charged as a Russian spy. "Everyone will hate me, but at least I'll lose," he says. He worries that others will view him as a traitor, including his own family.

This is the story of an ordinary man forced into the big story of cold war intrigue who has the courage to step up and do something better than just being ordinary.  There are a lot of twists and turns and Donovan successfully pleads to save the life of the spy and argues that he may be useful in a spy exchange if any American spies are caught by the Russians. Also he comes to believe that Abel is just a man following orders for his country. And then, guess what? Francis Gary Powers gets shot down by the Russians. Another man following orders for his country.

Bridge of Spies is based on the true story of the spy swap negotiated by James Donovan to free Francis Gary Powers and an innocent student arrested by the East Germans. (Donovan was also later called upon to negotiate the release of 1,113 prisoners taken by Castro in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.) It's a riveting feel-good story about a courageous man who knows right from wrong and doesn't let anyone, including the CIA, get in his way.

It's a Spielberg movie with Tom Hanks as the lead actor. You can't beat that combo. Go see it and take a step back in time. And, by the way, Mark Rylance is outstanding as Rudolf Abel.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Seer (Part 5)

The following short story is a continuation of the Seer series:
It's true I see the world through dark glass. I see the clouds in your sky and I call it as I see it but sometimes the glass is rose colored. Sometimes I catch the ray of sunshine that puts a smile on your lips or makes your heart skip a beat for joy or wonder. I might see the storm that is brewing but I might also see the miracle waiting on your horizon. I have to laugh at myself. Psychic weather reporter. I hope I am more accurate than the cute girl with the skin-tight short skirt on the local weather channel.

And so this Saturday morning I am standing at the end of my driveway. I have just stuffed a handful of bills in the mailbox as I look around to locate the source of the cacophony of squealing children and barking dogs. I see the young teenage boys running behind three leashed dogs, big dogs, barking and straining in their pursuit of a cat. I am not troubled for the cat. It is faster than greased lightning. But then I see a red-headed, freckle-faced boy ahead of the pack as he raises a mewling fuzzball of kitten in his fist and he dances in circles before the unruly hoard. The dogs leap forward; their boys hold them back, laughing hysterically. Then the boy pulls back his arm and launches the kitten.

"Stop," I yell at them.

The kitten lands on his feet and skitters under a large bush near the end of my property, then zigzags across the lawn toward my house.

"Shame on you."

They laugh and contemplate tearing across my lawn after the kitten. "Let the dogs go," someone yells.

I raise my cell phone. "The cops are on their way."

They scurry off.

And then I see him--a small teary-eyed boy shuffling down the sidewalk, choking back his sobs.

"Your kitten?" I ask.

He pushes out his lower lip and nods, eyes me suspiciously.

"I think we might find your kitten. Shall we look?"

He looks up at me from under long wet lashes.

"He will be very frightened." Somewhere a little heart is pounding in a 2-pound, wide-eyed kitten. "What is your kitten's name?"


I detect the light trembling of leaves and I look up at the flame-red blooms of the African tulip tree. I sigh. "I think we need a ladder." I point.

He smiles and wipes his eyes with his chubby little fist.

I wish I could dish out some karma to this little boy's tormentors but I will settle for the safe return of the kitten to the little boy who loves her. He is a good soul rising. Anyone can see that. I send him off with a cookie and a kitten.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Short Fiction: The Seer (Part 4)

I don’t know whether it’s the cold or my dream that wakes me up. I pull the down comforter over my shoulders and snuggle into its warmth. I try to fall asleep. I expect whatever nonsensical dream I was entangled in to evaporate as they always do. I am careless with dreams. I banish them because they annoy me. But this morning’s dream stays with me. I know I should pay attention to a dream that insists on hanging around because it could be an omen, a message. Sometimes a dream warns me of death or a disaster. It’s usually not good news, which is why I prefer amnesia when it comes to dreams.

I recall the dream. Almost always I am lost in a maze of rooms trying to find my way out. In this dream I was in a huge shopping mall, lost as usual, in and out of stores, going nowhere, around and around. But then suddenly I am sitting next to a man I have not seen in 10 years and he is telling me he is divorced. I ask him how his children are doing and comment how difficult it must be for them. He puts his arm around me and kisses me on the cheek. Well, that was enough to jolt me awake. I wonder what the hell he was doing walking around in my dream and then I remember he has visited me in dreams before but I can no longer recall what he said to me. I can only recall the time when I was wide awake and he was 4000 miles away and I burst into tears because I suddenly thought he was in danger. He survived the car accident.

And so now all these years later I stare at the ceiling in the gray morning light and wonder what I am to make of this. Some psychic I am.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Short Fiction: The Seer (Part 3)

The following short story is a continuation of the Seer series:

I am tending my orchids, these delicate beauties that produce a glorious but short-lived bloom once a year if I meet all their demands. I glance out the window at the Heliotrope that has withstood heat, drought, caterpillars, and brutal pruning but still keeps producing masses of purple, vanilla-scented blooms all summer.

There is a French song running through my head--an old Aznavour ballad of regret about carelessly playing out one's youth as if it were a magic wand only to realize too late that youth has vanished. The song will not leave me and I sense it is a foreshadowing. I check my watch. It is time to go to my office to meet the first client of the day.

* * *

I hear them talking in whispers punctuated by giggles as they sit in the reception area. They are two stylish young women, friends who have come to test my skills.


A long-legged woman in her mid thirties rises out of her chair and offers her hand in greeting. She has long blond hair, a delicate complexion, and a beautifully shaped body. She shines--her bright blue eyes, white teeth, painted nails, the golden sandals on her pretty feet.

I smile. She smiles back. It is a careful grimace and I catch a glimpse of her soul. She is an orchid, a fussy spoiled orchid, and she expects my reading to amuse her.

She follows me in and seats herself at my table. "How long have you been giving readings?" She glances around at the candles, the cards, the crystal ball.

I shrug. "It seems like forever." I explain my usual procedure in preparation for the reading. She takes the cards in her hands and we bow our heads in a short prayer. When I open my eyes she has that cat-that-swallowed-the-canary smile on her lips/.

"Shuffle the cards," I say. "What would you like to know?"

She stops shuffling and cocks her head to one side. "My love life."

I take the deck and lay out the cards. I stare at the cards for some time, trying to see what she is concealing from me. The words fall out of my mouth. "How will the man you are with feel about your new attraction?"

Her mouth drops open. "Should I leave him?"

"If you feel you must. If you love him, then give it careful thought. Look into your soul and know yourself."

She does not like this response. I close my eyes and see a haggard old woman who has sipped the bitter dregs of life. She is alone. Her body is bloated with illness and anger. I open my eyes and wish I could hold this mirror up to her eyes.  "Your youth and beauty are gifts. Use them wisely before they are gone. You will not find happiness with another until you solve the riddle of yourself."

Her mouth thins and her eyes are a cold blue.

"I see a tall man with dark hair and he is wearing a red and black plaid shirt. It's not a very flattering shirt. You kiss him on the cheek but no matter how much you both try, you can not talk to one another. Your words shimmer and waffle in the air like bubbles and then burst."

She rolls her eyes. "He has a shirt like that. He has terrible taste when it comes to clothes."

"You must learn to communicate from the heart and in order to do that you must know what is in your heart. You must grow a soul through meditation and prayer."

She bites her lip. "But what about the man I'm interested in?"

"He needs to grow a soul too, but that is not something you will be able to successfully do together."

"But I'm sure he loves me."

I shake my head. "The gift of youth and beauty is not a magic wand."

Monday, August 31, 2015

Short Fiction: The Seer (Part 2)

This is a continuation of psychic Celia's readings. (Click here to view the first part.)

* * *

Large drops of rain, cold and unrelenting, pelt the window and drizzle down the steamy panes. I button my sweater and put a pot of tea on the stove, wondering why on a day like this my client is so insistent on having an appointment. A psychic should know why. I laugh at myself. In a flash I see a woman carrying some sort of bundle in her arms.

The kettle whistles and I fill my tea pot. The client will want a cup, I’m sure. I start a fire to take the chill out of the house and set my tarot cards on the dining room table. The doorbell rings as I light candles.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Great Land

I just recently made my first trip to Alaska. It is an unimaginably big place forged in a cauldron of fire and ice.  It is a place of big silence: the skies are heavy and gray and the rain is softly insistent. The wildlife that you know is there moves quietly. It does not want to be seen--the back of a whale, whisker of squirrel, statue of moose, cluster of caribou, flutter of bird wing, splash, running bear.

Here are a few interesting facts about Alaska:

  • It's a water world of over 3,000,000 lakes and it's twice the size of Texas.
  • It has 29 active volcanoes and 100,000 glaciers.
  • The Alaska pipeline moves 88,000 barrels of oil per hour. The pipeline was a monumental accomplishment considering the geology and climate of Alaska.

Alaska is still largely untamed frontier and we should be thankful for that. What a gift it is to see nature as it was created. I'm not sure how anything manages to live in a place of such extremes in geology and climate. Most people seem to visit during the summer months and head back south before winter arrives. By the end of September, resorts shut down for the long winter, roads close, and the year-around residents hunker down for winter. Those living in the bush stock up on food and other supplies to last several months. The bears hibernate and the caribou and moose hopefully are carrying enough fat to get them through the long winter. Survival in Alaska is a supreme challenge for wildlife and people.

Try to imagine living in such a challenging environment. Once you are outside of the few small towns, you stand alone in the wilderness awestruck by the stark beauty and the necessity to stay alive. And you are just one small creature in a big, big country.

Glacier Bay