Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Bettie Boswell, On Cue

 Bettie Boswell, On Cue


From time-to-time I’ve had the opportunity to interview authors on my blog. COVID-19 has certainly upset many a plan –but a friend, an author I first met through our Ohio chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers is releasing a book I have heard nothing but great comments about. I decided it was time to connect with her and offer this fun interview. And before my fellow CCU/CBC &S friends ask…yes this is the same Bettie Boswell you know!


Me: How did you come up with the title for your book, On Cue? And by the way, I love the cover. 


Bettie: Oh, thanks. And thanks to my publisher, Mt. Zion Ridge Press. They designed the cover and I love it, too. The story involves a musical production and actors have to come in 'on cue.' I thought that it would be a good title because at the end, when the musical and the romance finally come together, it is right 'on cue.'


Me: Perfect. Although I met you through some writing connections, I know you have a musical background so having a story featuring a musical production and the performers in it makes sense. Best advice I ever received was “Write What You Know.” So tell us, how long have you been writing?


Bettie: I have written stories since I learned to hold a pencil and form words. As a teen I wrote several skits for church and I continue to do that. My career as a music teacher allowed that passion to grow into musicals for my students. Along the way, I wrote several articles for The Christian Standard and for music teacher magazines. 


Me: And now you’ve turned your pen to writing novels.


Bettie: I have. Novel writing and studying the craft more seriously began about ten years ago. In fact, I submitted "On Cue" several times and it was rejected. I decided to attend some conferences and writing classes. I revised the story over and over. In the mean time, an opportunity came through one of my children's writer's groups to write for the educational market. That was an interesting challenge, but I never lost interest in this book. Last May, I attended the online Mt. Zion Ridge conference and decided to submit my novel to them. I was very pleased when they decided to work with me.


Me: I so appreciate you sharing that path. I often meet writers who, at their first rejection, give up their dreams. That willingness to revise and tweak and constantly improve your writing is powerful and is the pathway to success. It demonstrates a great amount of self-discipline as well as a teachable spirit. (I think I made her smile.) It’s true. So how do you stay focused and keep the discipline it takes to chase that dream?


Bettie: Right now I am still working full time as a teacher so that takes up most of my daytime. Weekends, summers, and some inspired early mornings or late nights are my chances to write. I am retiring next summer and plan to spend time writing each day.


Me: Exactly, carving out time is sometimes hard but extremely important. In my writing books, Designing a Business Plan for Your Writing and Writing with E’s , I emphasize it isn’t tons of time it is consistent blocks of time that get that manuscript completed. And I know how hard that can be, especially when you’re still teaching. Been there. Done that.


One thing I notice about your writing is your great dialogue. I loved your story “Fred’s Gift” that appeared in the anthology, From the Lake to the River. Dialogue is rather tricky for a lot of new authors. How did that come about so naturally for you?


Bettie: Thank you. Actually, I think writing scripts helped me to create meaningful dialogue. I’ve written many scripts for both church and school. Dialogue may be one of my strongest areas in the discipline.


Me: Is there one take-away from your book,  On Cue , you hope readers will identify with? 


Bettie: Absolutely. Forgiveness and follow through for something that you believe in, including believing in yourself. It’s the same advice I’d give to aspiring writers.


Hang in there and write what you believe in. If a big publisher never buys it, be willing to take a chance with a smaller one, or take advantage of a printer so your family has a limited edition of your work as an inheritance. I have a lovely book of poems that my Grandmother's uncle left her as an inheritance and it is a treasure. And also, get involved with supportive groups and with critique partners. Go to conferences. Take classes. Learn to take criticism with grace and understanding. You are the one who knows the heart of your story so learn to critique your own work as well. Stay true to your story, but apply the advice that makes it stronger. 


Me: Great advice. So what’s next? 

Bettie: I have several projects including the historical prequel to On Cue . I'm also experimenting with the concept of a Novel in Verse for a middle grade story about a girl's changing relationship with her father when he has to move ahead of the family for job relocation. 


Me: Bettie, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I wish you well with this sweet book. I think one of the editors I met called it “adorable.” I think we need a heavy dose of “adorable” in 2020.


Bettie: Thank you for the opportunity. I look forward to when we can get back together face-to-face.


Me: Absolutely. Readers, I am including a brief description of the book On Cue , as well as the link to purchase the book. What a great Christmas gift this would make for family and friends. (You probably noticed I hyperlinked the books mentioned as well as the links below.)


On Cue

Ginny's musical may save the local museum, but restoring her trust in men is another matter. When theater professor Scott finds himself coerced to direct her musical, they must work through humorous misunderstandings and a couple of pet disasters, until they finally discover that forgiveness and trust produce perfect harmony.


The book is on pre-sale at Amazon. The release date is November 1st.

(You can be one of the first to read and review!)




If you want to connect with Bettie and follow her on her writing journey, here is her contact info:






Be sure to leave your comments and encouraging words for Bettie below.




Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Blowing up Brain Blocks

 Blowing Up Brain Blocks


We all get them. Those times when we feel stuck. Our brain can’t possibly function. Our work suffers. That project can’t seem to get off the ground or an email we should answer gets buried because we simply don’t know what to say. 


We often talk about “thinking outside the box” but rarely poke our noses out to see what’s there. We are creatures of habit. We get up at the same time, eat the same foods, and view the same programs on television. We do the same things over and over and we expect different results? 


I am a writer. For me, having a brain block means the story in my head never makes it to paper. The clever dialogue I created in my dreams gets lost somewhere between my brain and my keyboard. 


What to do when face with a brain block?


Step Away From It


Literally. I like to walk. I like to take advantage of these beautiful autumn days to get my steps in outside. But I find it doesn’t matter if I’m walking, riding my bike, or engaging in some other physical activity, exercise is the key. Exercise releases endorphins and endorphins make most people feel good. In effect, we increase our energy by expending it. What I find is that while I may be stepping away from my computer, enjoying the sunshine, my brain is continuing to work on its own. 


Change Your Routine.

Mixing things up a bit makes your brain work differently. Retraining your brain is healthy. It’s kind of like using a different piece of exercise equipment to build your muscles. You reach the same goal but grow a bit and become more flexible along the way along the way.


I am currently working on a suspense novel. It requires a lot of brainpower to keep the story for my protagonist, antagonist, and a couple of detectives working on a case moving in the same direction. I have timelines and calendars hanging all over my office. I needed to have something set my antagonist off so I had him lose everything—his home, his job, his belongings—everything. 


James Scott Bell once told me to create the most dire circumstances I could muster. When I give a character a problem, think of how I can make matters worse. This is for my antagonist as well as my protagonist.


Here I have my guy with no place to live and very little cash. He tires of sleeping in his car. He has this desire to rebuild some kind of life. But where can he go?


I have a route I take on my daily walks. I know how far the course is and how long it will take me to complete it. I was stuck in my story my story, so I set out walking. 


There is a newer subdivision behind my neighborhood. At one point there is a street that goes down a long, steep hill. I wasn’t sure where it led. If it was a dead end, it meant climbing back up that steep hill. Not all that appealing. But on this particular day, with a brain block on what to do with my antagonist, I decided to tackle the hill. Near the bottom of the hill, in this pristine subdivision with its big brick houses, some children had built a village using stripped bark from a wooded area in a ravine near their home. 


Teepees. Don’t send me messages about stereotypes or politically correctness. These were kids. They took what they had and created shelters of sorts. They put a “fire pit” in the middle of the village. It was actually creative and industrious. Two qualities I admire in young children. I took a picture.


I continued my walk, turning around at the next bend in the road and trekked home. By the time I arrived, my antagonist had figured out how to break in to a rarely used storeroom at the community college where he took a computer course. He pilfered a few items to make it more comfortable for him. He was, like the children on my walk, being creative and industrious, albeit illegal. Illegal is okay for an antagonist.


The point is simple, exercising…stepping away from the task at hand, and changing your routine can help you solve a problem. Those two activities alone can help destroy whatever is blocking your thinking and keeping you from getting out of the box.


But there is more:


Do One Small Thing.

One. Small. Thing. Whatever your circumstance, if you simply do one small task it is often enough to unlock your brain. 


Talk It Out. 

Find someone who will listen and talk through your dilemma. As you talk, you will often find your next step presents itself. 


Change Your Diet.

Spice up your life by spicing up your diet. Move away from sugar and carb overload that will only slow your thinking down to more interesting and healthy foods that will feed your brain. 


Play Hard and Get Dirty.

Remember the saying all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy? Well, it not only makes him dull, it makes him less productive. Our brains need activity. Personally, I’ve enjoyed a summer of “playing” in my garden. What I used to see as work, (weeding and such) was pure fun. Find something you enjoy. Something that gives you pleasure, and do it. Don’t wrestle with the guilt of spending time away from your work. Know that the time you spend playing is actually increasing your brain power.


Wow, this isn’t the post I set out to write. It’s a bit of me as a professor teaching child development and me as a writer facing down problems I created on a page. 


Hopefully, it is me as an encourager, offering a few tools to my readers so you can move forward.


Happy reading, writing, and living. Happy problem solving! And be sure to share with me your own experiences in solving the “brain block” problem. 




Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Blogging...a Journey

 Blogging…a Journey


Some authors maintain a blog because they have something to say…outside of their books. 


Occasionally, a book emerges from a blog. The “Julie/Julia Project,” a blog by Julie Powell was later turned into a memoir and then became the award winning movie Julie and Julia. That’s one example. And there are others.


I was told at my first writing conference I had to blog. 


I didn’t even know what a blog was until then. I heard the term, but thought it was some sort of electronic diary. Maybe it is. For some. 


I had a hard time keeping up with one of those tiny diaries with a key when I was a child. I tried maintaining a journal as a young mother but that fell by the wayside in favor of keeping up with the laundry.


Still, since my publisher told me I had to have a blog, I knew I would do it. I spent the summer of 2011 “studying” blogging. I enrolled in a free blogging course offered by Jeff Goins and tried to read blogs by other authors. I was doing this while I was finishing my first book. The publisher wanted my manuscript by December 1. And…I was still teaching my final courses at the university.


I loved teaching. I fully enjoyed writing. Blogging? I was stymied.


My publisher expected it of me so I jumped in and started A Novel Creation. The blog was to be my take on how a beginner learns to craft a novel. I was the beginner. I officially began the blog in January 2012.


My research on blogging revealed that consistency was key. I knew I couldn’t write daily as a few bloggers do. I decided monthly wouldn’t do much to build an audience. I settled on writing a weekly post. I invited others to join me in my writing journey.


I wrote about lessons I was learning about pace, point of view, editing, and revision. Lots of revision. I learned I could interview other writers for the blog and other writers wanted to interview me. I reviewed books and articles. I started building what is known in the industry as a platform. A small platform.


When I moved to Kosovo in 2017, I became the novel creation. I wrote about my life there, an American living in a southeastern European country. My readership grew. People enjoyed reading about my adventures and mishaps as an American in Europe. 


Now my blog is more about my life journey. I am not afraid to share my feelings and views. I still write from time-to-time about my life as a novelist and often feel compelled to share what I learn through writing, publishing, and being part of the writing community. 


I’m sure my publisher wanted me to build an audience for my book, but blogging has offered me so much more. 


Consistency and deadlines: Writing on a regular basis with a deadline is paramount to success for any author. My weekly blog posts have made that a part of my writing DNA. They may not always be stellar, but they are posted. Consistency yields discipline.


Voice: Finding your writing voice is critical to success as an author. The publishing world doesn’t need “more of the same.” Readers need to hear what you say and how you say it. Blogging frees the writer to do that. 


When my husband died in late October of 2014, I felt as though the ink ran out of my pen. I had no words to share. Only grief. My blog posts were already scheduled through November and into December so I didn’t need to think about writing for a while. 


I was committed to the consistency of writing so I stayed with my blog and managed to keep the blog going. A few months after I moved to Kosovo (2017) and began blogging about my life there, a writer friend messaged me. She told me I was writing again; I had once again found my voice. Those were words of encouragement. Words that prompted me to begin the submission process and publish once again.


Connections: Now I understand “platform.” It isn’t about building readership; people who will one day buy one of your books. It’s about connecting with people. Connecting other writers and with readers. It’s about sharing a bit of yourself and inviting people to join you in life’s journey. Of course I want people to buy my books. And leave reviews.


But what I really want is for people to get to know me as a person. I want them to know I am a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. I want them to know I love and care about others. I want them to know I am a person of substance and worth and that I value them for their own substance and worth. 


I’ve been blogging consistently for almost nine years now. If I live through 2021, I will have blogged for ten years. That is mind boggling to me. Or shall I say mind “bloggling.” (Not a word, by the way.)


If you’re a follower, thank you. If you’re a new reader, welcome. If you’re on a journey, I’ll walk with you. And if you’re a blogger? Keep it up.


Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
















Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Change Marks the Seasons of Our Lives

The leaves are beginning to change color here in southern Ohio. I read a post this morning from a woman who doesn’t like autumn because it means winter is close behind. Some people don’t like any sort of change. Others appreciate the changing of seasons.


As many of my readers know, I spent a great deal of my youth in Florida. I have family and friends there. I always find it humorous when people I know in Florida shudder at the thought of living in Ohio. “No way would I want to live up there with all that snow!” they tell me. 


I live in southwestern Ohio. In the Ohio Valley. Our snowfall is minimal and our below freezing temps are few. In fact, I’ve known Tom to play golf in his short-sleeved shirts in January. His last round of golf…the one he played with my son-in-law and grandson was, in his words, the most fun he’d ever had golfing. That was on October 25, 2014. Late into Fall. He mowed my mom’s grass that afternoon. Yeah, Ohio isn’t all cold weather and snow; At least not in our region.


Of course now that I write that, I fear we’ll have a terrible blizzard and I’ll have to eat my words. Still, Tom and I moved with our two little girls to the Cincinnati area in the summer of 1978 after one of those once-in-a-lifetime (I hope) blizzards and I’ve never had to experience anything like that personally since.


My Ohio friends shake their heads and wonder how they would handle living in Florida. “Florida has no seasons!” they cry. They claim to love the changing of seasons. Until they retire, that is. Then again, old bones chill faster. And FYI, Florida does have seasons. They are defined a bit differently, but they are evident. 


As I took my morning walk, I began to wonder if how we deal with the changing of seasons is reflective of how we deal with change in general. Or not. Some people seem to embrace change while others, as I mentioned earlier, don’t like any sort of change at all. Some even fear change. 


In the Bible, in the Old Testament, there is a book called Ecclesiastes. Most people think Solomon wrote it. Maybe. The first couple of chapters read like a sleepless night. Chapter three, however, speaks to this notion of the seasons and changes in our lives. It starts by stating, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”


[Honestly, I think I first heard that chapter as a song by the Byrds. Turn, turn, turn. If you’re younger than me you may need to look that one up.] 


The point is, I embrace the changing seasons of my life. I’ve learned that while I don’t always like change (especially with technology) I don’t fear it. 


There is a time for everything and God has made everything beautiful in its time


So how do you handle change? I love to hear from my readers.







Tuesday, September 22, 2020

I Have No Words


Last week I blogged about how our words outlive us. As I sat down to craft this week’s post, I had no words to share. This week, my sweet husband would have celebrated his 68th birthday. 


My family has indulged me these past few years in recognizing Tom’s birthday by getting together for one of his favorite activities, bicycling. This year may look a bit different. We are planning a socially distanced walk. I still intend to ride my bike. At least in my neighborhood. It feels right to me.


Back to the blog post. At first I considered posting a series of pictures. Pictures I have of Tom growing up and pictures of our life together. I simply have no words. Ultimately, I decided to share some of Tom’s words. I offer them in no particular order. Use them as you will:


On Fixing Things Around the House

“I just took it apart and put it back together.”

This approach was successful roughly 99% of the time.


On Treating an Injury or Wound:

“Breathe deep.”

“Put ice on it.”

“It’ll feel better when it quits hurting

99% return on the first two. 

100% right on the last one.


On Hospitality:

“I invited (someone from South Korea, Taiwan, Finland, India, Italy, Brazil, you name it) and his family over for dinner tonight. I hope that’s okay. I don’t know if they speak English or not.”

85% okay, but I did it anyway and 100% return on friendships around the world.


On Politics:

(No way am I going to write anything Tom said about politics on this post for the world to see.)

100% sure I left the room when the subject came up.


On Facing Challenges:

“You can do that.”

100% Encouragement with 100% positive results.

I feel compelled to offer examples here. 


From the kids:

“Dad, I’m thinking about trying out for….(swim team, band, symphony, cheerleading, you name it.)” 

Answer: “You can do that.” Not permission to do it, mind you. He expressed a genuine assertion that he believed our kids could do about anything they set their minds to do.


From me:

“I’m thinking about going for (my masters, doctorate).”

Answer: “You can do that.” Again, an assertion that I could do what I set out to accomplish.


“I’m going to be a teacher.”

“You can do that.”


“I think I’m going to be a professor.”

“You can do that.”


“I’m going to be an author.”

“You can do that.”


Almost three years after Tom died, I was asked to travel to Kosovo to teach. As I prayed about it, I could almost hear him say, “You can do this. I know you can.”


Tom was a problem solver. He was an encourager. He was fun and loving. He cared about people and never considered himself above others. Tom was a good man.


But my favorite words I heard from him?


I love you.

100% received. 100% returned.


Happy Birthday in Heaven, Tom Waters. I love you.
















Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Our Words Outlive Us

 Words Have a Lifespan Longer Than Our Own



My great grandmother’s final words to her six young children were, “God bless mother’s children.” From her deathbed, she told them to always trust Jesus; to do what he would have them do. She assured them God would take care of them. My own grandmother was a mere seven-years-old when she was orphaned that day, yet her mother’s words guided her life.


 And my mother’s. 


And mine.


As I talked with my daughter about fragments of this post, she said, “Our words outlive us.” 


It’s true.


I once heard Neil Armstrong say he knew the world would be watching when he landed on the moon. He knew it was his opportunity to inspire. He thought long and hard about what he would say. 


“One small step for man. One giant step for mankind.” 


My generation remembers those words. We huddled around our black and white televisions, watching and listening intently to the transmission. We put a man on the moon. Surely there was nothing to keep us from realizing our dreams. Anything was possible. Or so it seemed.



The words of George Floyd, “I can’t breathe,” capture for us the weight of systemic racism under which our lives and dreams are crushed. His words, uttered as a plea for help have become a battle cry for social justice. Words paint pictures of not only the way our world is, but also how it can be transformed.


The morning after a tragic accident many years ago, I was asked to offer a public prayer for the faculty, staff, and students at the school where I taught. When I am asked to pray or speak I always ask God to let the listeners hear what he wants them to hear. Even as I prayed aloud to the people gathered that day, I was also praying a silent prayer for God’s words to bring comfort to us all. 


This past week I received a message from a friend. He was remembering the words I shared that morning in chapel. We’re talking many years ago. Many. He wanted me to know he shared those words with someone else recently. Someone hurting. 


Words of comfort are like that. God gives them to us and they resurface when the hour is darkest. 


Quite simply, our words outlive us.  


But I would be remiss to leave it there. You see the ultimate source for words of wisdom, inspiration, transformation, and comfort are found in the Bible. 


God’s words outlive us all.


In the Gospel of Luke, (chapter 19, verses 47 & 48) Luke writes of Jesus, “Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.”


And they still do.


Note: Some of my readers may look at the Bible and feel a bit overwhelmed by the mere size of it. From beginning to end it is the story of God’s love for us, his creation. If you are not at all familiar with the story, you may want to start small. For example, you can read something like The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Don’t worry because it was written for children. We are, after all, children of God. Get some friends or kids together and get a picture of the “big story.”


Another option is to start with the New Testament. The first four books of the New Testament are called the gospels. It means “good news.” All four recount the story of Jesus as he lived among us on earth. These books were written by different authors for different audiences. Choose the one best suited to you. And then read the Book of Acts, also in the New Testament, to see how the world was transformed. Social justice? Words of inclusion? You’ll find them in the New Testament. Words of love and care and comfort are embedded throughout the text. Words of inspiration? From the beginning to the end.





Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Weed the Manuscript, Edit the Garden: Musings From a Tired Writer

Did I say "weed the manuscript?" Yeah, well it's been a long week.

My Rose With Her Rose Many Years Ago
My youngest granddaughter carries the name Rose. She was named after her paternal great grandmother. When our little flower came along, I decided to gift her with a rose bush in honor of her birth and her name. Her father planted it in their front yard. It continues to grow. I have pictures of our little Rose watering her plant when she was two. 

Recently I made the comment that the now seven-year-old plant needs a good pruning. My granddaughter sees the few blooms on it and doesn’t want to cut it at all. It is big now. Too big. 

But for a seven-year-old, bigger is better.

For a 7-year-old, Bigger is Better
This week, as I was weeding my garden, I thought about that rose bush. Weeding out the unwanted weeds helps my tomatoes grow. Now they don’t compete for needed water. The sun can reach the plump skin of the growing fruit, allowing each tomato to turn a beautiful red and sweeten the juicy flesh. Getting rid of the weeds, offering support to my trailing vines, pruning a rose bush? 

If I may, I’ll put it in writer’s terms: It’s all about editing. 

Writers love words. Especially those we put on paper. Sometimes we become so excited to watch our word count in a manuscript grow we hesitate to hit the delete button for any of them. 

For many writers, like many seven-year-olds, bigger is better. 

But is it? Even if we edit the unnecessary words in our story, a tale too long is like an overgrown squash: pithy and undesirable.

“But what about the classics?” you ask. 

Epic novels such as War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy or Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, were well over the 500,000 word count. An “epic” novel by definition is a work of fiction over 110,000 words. 

Do I think Herman Melville could have tightened his rendering of Moby Dick? Absolutely. Did I really need to read the over 200,000 word tome in high school? Obviously not. I’m sure I skipped some of the long narratives in both Moby Dick and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment (also more than 200,000 words) and still passed the class with flying colors. I haven’t read either of those books since.

 Margaret Mitchell penned over 400,000 words for Gone With The Wind. I watched the movie.

I meet writers all the time who want to craft an epic novel. They want to be the next Tolkien or Rowling. Tolkien’s largest offering in the Lord of the Rings series was under 200,000 words and Rowling’s only one in the Harry Potter series to exceed 200,000 words was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Quite simply, it isn’t about the word count. It’s the story. Write the story you need to tell. Edit it to until you can do no more then wait a while and edit it some more. 

Pull the weeds out of your manuscript. Pluck off the “deadheads” doing no good to the overall look of it. Pluck, prune, weed, and pick. And when you think your crop is ready, take it to the county fair…or in this case to an editor to judge and give you advice on your next step. Try again or publish. 

I want the fruit of my effort to be delicious. I want to offer my readers my best efforts. 

Of course I can take this editing reference to other areas of our lives. Ridding our homes of clutter, dumping twenty-year-old tax files, and donating those clothes we will never fit into again to charity. We can “weed” our medicine chests, pantries, and storage sheds, trashing out-of-date or dangerous unused items. We can reevaluate our “need” for collectibles.

I can apply editing to many areas, but I won’t. I’ll leave that to Joshua Becker. You can check out his website at becomingminimalist.com. 

Please share your thoughts. I love to hear from my readers.