Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Widowhood is a Journey

 Widowhood is a Journey


Yep that's Tom...wanted his hair cut short. 
Always tried to please him.


This last week of October I usually post something about Tom; A remembrance of this man who had been part of my life for over forty years. He died on October 29.


I’ve written of his last day, our last week. 

Conversations and experiences we shared those late days of October 2014. 


Those moments are forever burned into my mind…and heart.


Along the way I’ve shared sweet stories of a life well lived.


And on occasion I’ve shared the tragic story…the one where he left this earth. My tragedy. Tom was a believer. Heaven is his new home. It was actually the best day of his life. My worst.


Last year, I experienced on this journey something along the lines of emotional exhaustion. It was hard. The pain of that made me a bit timid about how this year, this sixth anniversary of Tom’s death would unfold. 


Widowhood is a journey. Sometimes it feels as if you’re walking the bumpy path with a blindfold. Others can share their own experiences, but the best advice is to remember every journey is different. Expect the unexpected.


Then came 2020. We are all here. We are all living the unexpected.


With 2020 came the COVID-19 pandemic. My scientist husband would have been a frontline warrior for all with the CDC, but moreover, he would have been a pillar of strength for me during long periods of quarantine.


This summer, racial tensions, ever present but always just below the surface erupted in a challenging way. Though I must say there are some good results. I am seeing more discussion and awareness and thankfully more, shall I say “pigment challenged,” people striving for understanding of our brothers and sisters of color in this place we call the land of the free… I know where Tom would stand. He took to heart the message of reconciliation outlined in the Bible. Moreover, he never thought himself better than anyone else.


The political scene would have given Tom a heart attack. Enough said.


This year we’ve seen raging fires destroying everything in their path, and like COVID-19, left unchecked, will cross boundaries and continue to obliterate life as we know it. 


And although I grew up in Florida, I don’t remember a hurricane season like this one. Ever. 


Last Sunday the Bengals lost. In the final moments. I must have been “channeling” Tom because I was cheering over each victory on the field and yelling for the defense to step up their game in the end. And no, I don’t really believe in “channeling.”


I envy Tom not having to deal with all of this. Is that sinful to envy? But I’m here and he’s there. I’m still walking… yes sometimes crawling along this path called widowhood…feeling my way. I too, am a believer in Jesus Christ, so I don’t do this in despair. I know God has a plan. Over and over in my life, He has proved to be trustworthy and in a better position to know what may lie ahead for me. 


Six years. And the journey continues.

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.