Writer’s Life

24 06, 2024

Fires, Hurricanes, and Evacuations

By |2024-06-22T09:38:32-05:00June 24th, 2024|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|2 Comments

CBS News reported fires burning in the Ruidoso, New Mexico area recently, which triggered memories for me.

Eleven years ago this month, the West Fork Complex East Zone FIRE erupted where we lived in southern Colorado.

As the name West Fork Complex implies, multiple fires surrounded our home in the Rio Grande National Forest. Lightning started all three fires that exploded into forests of heavy dead timber and pine bark beetle-infested pines.

That experience changed my whole outlook on the words we hear so often during hurricanes, fires, and floods: mandatory evacuation.

Our skies looked like this.

At first, there was no raised concern because forest fires in the summer are a common occurrence in Colorado. We lived with the smoke and kept going. Ashes landed on our decks and in our yards, on our houses and cars, and on us as the fire encroached upon our world.

That’s black ashes. It was everywhere, inside and outside.

At first, there was too much wind, too high elevations, and too much dead tree fuel to risk the lives of firefighters. Instead, they watched the West Fork fire closely.

Life became scary as we gathered in the Community Center to get details and updates.

We heard words I’d only heard applied to hurricanes – pre-evacuation notice. Reverse 911 calls began with updates on the status coming in. At six a.m. on Friday, June 21, 2013, the scary message came:

MANDATORY EVACUATION: be out by 10 a.m.

Thanks to Bob Mayer’s The Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide we were prepared. It’s a super book with lists of what you need to have ready in case of any emergency. Buy a copy here.

We finished loading our cars with possessions we wanted to save and left not knowing if we’d have a house when we returned. From our rearview mirror:

By the time the fires were contained on July 15, 2013, a total of 109,049 acres of public and private land had been destroyed. Amazingly no deaths and only a few structures were lost. It was the third-largest wildfire in Colorado history and cost about $33 million to fight.

Hopefully, those affected by the Ruidoso, New Mexico fire left when their Mandatory Evacuation order came. We’ve been there, done that and it’s not easy.

17 06, 2024

I Celebrate Three Fathers on Father’s Day

By |2024-06-14T15:19:52-05:00June 17th, 2024|Holidays, Writer's Life|0 Comments

For some celebrating Father’s Day might means a birth father. For others, it’s a stepfather or a relative or friend that serves the father’s role.

I’ve been blessed with three godly men who were notable examples of a father’s love, offering faith and wisdom and guidance along my way.


My daddy taught me how to fish, how to hunt, and how to dress out my bounty. He taught me how to build things, grow things, and cook around a campfire. He taught me raunchy songs and words as though a son, not a daughter, and then reminded me to always be a lady. =)


My second father was my beloved uncle who told me often he received word of my birth when he was on Ivo Jima. A Marine through and through, he taught me to shoot straight, with a firearm and with my words. He taught me the fun of antique auctions and old things. He showed unconditional love in the tough times and tough love when needed. He was a wise counselor.

I inherited my preacher father-in-love when I married his son. My third father shared his Bible wisdom and whetted my appetite for Bible study. Best of all he raised his only son to be a great husband and a godly father.

All three are gone so Father’s Day is a bit sad for me. Remembering them on their special day brings back fond memories and makes me smile.

As Holley Gerth says:

“One of the greatest blessings God can give us is a father whose faith passes on the heritage of the past, provides blessings in the present, and guides us with wisdom for the future.”

Do you have a father figure you count as a blessing? I’d love to hear about your daddy in the comments.

20 05, 2024


By |2024-05-17T10:22:57-05:00May 20th, 2024|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|0 Comments

It’s raining, it’s pouring.

That’s been the situation where I live for too many days lately. Yesterday, we had another wild storm.

As the rain and wind increased, a poem my grandmother quoted during rainstorms ran through my head.

It’s raining, it’s pouring, The old man is snoring.
He went to bed, and he bumped his head,
And couldn’t get up in the morning.

With a quick Google check for the origin, I was gravely disappointed to learn that the nursery rhyme wasn’t talking about the weather at all, but a tale of a man who liked to drink.

I prefer thinking it’s about rain. That’s what my grandmother said, and she was smarter than Google.

The poem is also a catchy folk song.

The rains are gone today, but I’m not singing. The devastating storm with one-hundred-mile-an-hour winds knocked out power lines. Take a look at this screen capture from our local news station:

Plus there were lots of trees and limbs downed. Predictions range from hours to days to weeks to get everything up and running again.

I’ll still be singing my grandmother’s nursery rhyme during the next storm, but for now, I’m thankful we have a whole house generator.

13 05, 2024

Mother’s Day and Flowers

By |2024-05-12T09:53:58-05:00May 13th, 2024|A Writer's Life, Holidays, Writer's Life|0 Comments

love background with mothers day illustration

Did you wear a corsage for Mother’s Day Sunday at church services? I did.

Growing up in the Hill Country of Texas, almost everyone at church sported a carnation or a corsage on Mother’s Day. It’s a longstanding Southern tradition, and, even though you’re the one wearing the flower, the purpose is to celebrate your mother’s presence in your life.

Color matters. Red or pink flowers meant your mother was still with us. If she’d crossed over, you wore white.

Every Mother’s Day, my mother would load us into the station wagon and take us to her mother’s house before church. Grandmother grew red and white rose bushes. We’d pick a blossom to wear on our Sunday dress or shirt.

Because our Mother was very much alive, all three of us cut red roses. Nowadays, I wear a white rose.

Wearing a Mother’s Day corsage is a Southerner’s way to say, “I love you, Mom and I’m so glad to share this day with you” or “I’ll never forget you and I’ll love you always.”

Flowers on Mother’s Day is one of the many ways Southerners show their manners without words. Like when we pull over for a funeral procession to let the bereaved know we understand their grief and we’re sorry for their loss.

Or “carry food” to a neighbor or to church after a funeral to offer support and love.

Or open doors for the person behind us to be helpful and show respect.

For me, it’s a matter of being polite. Something that’s stressed to all Southern children until it’s automatic.

If you’re not into corsages, cut flowers also work for Mother’s Day remembrance. Flower colors in bouquets silently speak too. According to Pantone, the color specialist,

Green reflects a mother’s protective nature,

Yellow– Mom’s optimistic outlook towards life and her children,

Pink – her compassionate and nurturing soul, and

Red – a mother’s passion and empowerment.

If you missed Mother’s Day, flowers are welcome any day.

I’m sure you’ll find lots of flower bouquet choices half-price today. My supermarket sure had Mother’s Day flowers everywhere.

29 04, 2024

Wind Chimes – Yea or Nay

By |2024-04-28T15:40:45-05:00April 29th, 2024|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|1 Comment

Wind chimes are one of my favorite yard art forms. The high winds we’ve been having lately have my chimes whipping up lots of music.

Did you know wind chimes date from around 1100 BC in Ancient Rome? The first wind chime was an assemblage of bells on a pole called a tintinnabulum. It served to ward off evil and bring good fortune and prosperity. Tintinnabulum chimes were often found hanging in temples.

From Rome, “modern” wind chimes spread to countries like Japan and India eventually worldwide. Today, wind chimes have other uses besides warding off evil spirits.

Besides the obvious yard art, other uses include:

  • Scare birds from farming lands.
  • Feng Shui arrangements.
  • Hung in memory of a loved one.

Most people use wind chimes like I do for decorative purposes and to listen to nice sounds.

It is true some wind chimes don’t make pleasant noise, but those constructed with tuned tubes make lovely soft tinkling sounds. You can even choose the musical key you want.

This article from Better Homes & Gardens suggests “The 13 Best Wind Chimes of 2024 to Create a Soothing Soundscape”

My newest wind chime is a glass chime with bluebonnets, a Christmas gift. The glass adds the perfect tingling sound to my collection.

What about you? Are you a fan of wind chimes or do you fall in the don’t-like-the-noise category?

18 03, 2024

Wearing of the Green

By |2024-03-16T12:20:37-05:00March 18th, 2024|Writer's Life|0 Comments

On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish for a day. I count myself Irish for the other 364 days too.

My Irish heritage can be traced through both my mother and father’s parents. Mama Callahan Smith, my daddy’s grandmother, and my mother’s mother Oma Johnson Ulit. Both families’ heritage can be traced to the Emerald Isle.

I still remember the first time I felt my Irish genes. I’d tagged along on my husband’s business trip not thinking about the family stories of Irish heritage.

When I looked out the airplane’s window as we descended for landing, my blood truly began to tingle, and my heart sang at the site of the green fields below. I dipped my hand in the River Shannon and knew I’d found home.

After ten trips, those roots solidified and my love of all things Irish grew deep.

It’s why you’re likely to find characters with an Irish background in my books. There’s even an entire book set in Ireland, Claiming Annie’s Heart.

Something else happened when I went to Ireland – a very native-sounding brogue surfaced. It filtered into my writing so much that my copy editors must correct syntax when proofing my books for publication.

I wore my green yesterday and celebrated Ireland’s patron saint, Patrick, who, as you may know, wasn’t even Irish but English. Still, he’s credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland … and if you believe the Irish folklore, chased all the snakes away.

I hope your St. Patrick’s Day included a wee bit of green too. After all, 38,597,428 people claimed they were Irish alone or in any combination during the 2020 Census. That’s 16.4% of the overall population.

Happy Day After St. Patrick’s Day!

4 03, 2024

Hooks and Scrabble

By |2024-03-04T09:11:57-06:00March 4th, 2024|Writer's Life, Writing Craft|0 Comments

Scrabble is popular at our house. The game is all about words. Guess that’s why I love it.

Scrabble players can score fifty points when they have the right tiles, the perfect fit to play on the board and know the RIGHT word. Hubby-dear is our current fifty-point champion.

Scrabble players earn points from the words they create. Writers keep the reader hooked into turning the pages with their words.

A hook is what incites the reader to turn the page and read just one more chapter. Or decide to buy a book. In writing, hooks are words used at the beginning of scenes and chapter breaks. Screenwriters use hooks the same way.

The hook idea came from the 1914 silent movie series titled The Perils of Pauline. Pearl White starred as Pauline, the damsel in distress menaced by assorted villains, pirates, and Native Americans in the serialized movie. In 2008, the movie was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

In each episode the audience is convinced poor, pitiful Pauline’s situation will surely result in her imminent death until at the last minute she is rescued or otherwise escapes the danger. The damsel in distress and cliffhanger endings kept moviegoers returning.

How do successful writers use hooks like the screenwriters did with The Perils of Pauline? The simple answer is strong characters like Pauline and strong chapter breaks.  

K.M. Weiland suggests these other ideas to hook readers.

1. Promise conflict to come.

2. A secret kept.

3. A major decision or vow.

4. An announcement of a shocking event.

5. A moment of high emotion.

6. A reversal or surprise that turns the story upside down.

7. A new idea.

8. An unanswered question.

9. A portentous metaphor.

10. A plot turning point.

Weiland warns: “Not every chapter needs to end with a cliffhanger, but they do need to encompass a question powerful enough to make the reader crazy to know the answer.”

Unlike the silent movie success, the overuse of Pauline-in-peril gimmicks in stories can turn a reader off. Writers use caution.

If you’re a writer, what strategy do you use for hooks? If not sure, check out Mary Buckham’s Writing Active Hooks for great ideas.

As a reader, what hook from Weiland’s list keeps you turning the page?

26 02, 2024

Swimming and Books

By |2024-02-25T14:54:57-06:00February 26th, 2024|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|0 Comments

 There’s a new feature at the gym where I swim. A book table is now in the hallway to the indoor pool.

That’s right, a free books table and it warms the heart of this writer/reader.  

You can leave a book or simply choose from the selection available. Sometimes the books are fiction and non-fiction. Sometimes how-to and biographies.

SOURCE: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/383017143282395248/

It’s like one of those Little Free Libraries on a stand that neighborhoods have only this free library is on a table.

I leave the gym after my early morning swim refreshed in body and a brand-new or slightly used book tucked inside my swim bag.

 Life is good for this writer who is also an avid reader.

12 02, 2024

Valentines Say I Love You

By |2024-02-10T07:59:52-06:00February 12th, 2024|A Writer's Life, Holidays, Writer's Life|1 Comment

Valentine cards say the words we sometimes find difficult to voice.

When I was in grade school – not Little House of the Prairie days, but close – we had Valentine’s Day parties at school and gave our friends homemade cards. We made mailboxes from shoe boxes or decorated envelopes to collect our cards.

Those years helped form my love of Valentine cards and began my Valentine card collection. And, yes, I still have a few cards from that era. For sure, I’ve collected cards from those days.

Vintage valentines can be very valuable, especially Victorian-era pop-up honeycomb ones. Value varies and can range from the hundreds of dollars up to thousands. Check Kovels Valentine’s Day collectibles Pinterest board for examples and values.

Interested in becoming a Valentine card collector, here are some tips on how to start.

What to look for

  1. Cards that relate to the news of the day
  2. Valentines signed by someone known
  3. Older homemade cards
  4. Victorian three-dimensional valentines
  5. Postcard valentines
  6. Die-cut school-type valentines from the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s
  7. Mechanical valentines with moving parts

Hairstyles, clothes, cars, or trains pictured in older valentines will help date the card.

Where should you look?

  1. Old scrapbooks
  2. Keepsake boxes for sentimental ephemera
  3. Old heart-shaped candy boxes
  4. Flea markets or ephemera shows
  5. House sales, garage/yard sales, and thrift shops

Are contemporary valentines worth collecting?

The simple answer is yes. According to Terry Kovel of Kovel’s Antiques, Inc., look for cards with certain characteristics:

  1. Current news, pop culture, and/or historical events.
  2. Cards depicting characters from Disney, children’s books, cartoons, movies, and television shows.
  3. Be cautious about modern technology cards. Those record-your-own-voice cards will stop talking as they age.

Learn more about Valentine collecting from these sites:

The Ephemera Society on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/TheEphemeraSociety

National Valentine Collectors Association on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/126503137423748/posts/412749768799082/

National Valentine Collectors Association. Marketplace on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1411386215859744

Here’s a peek at some from my collection. I love displaying them for Valentine’s Day each February.

5 02, 2024

The Nana Block

By |2024-02-04T14:14:02-06:00February 5th, 2024|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|1 Comment

At one time our son and his family lived next door. Having four grandchildren right next door was great fun.

The children would slip next door any time they wanted. Especially the oldest grandson and often his brother. Their momma was a late sleeper, and he knew his Nana was an early bird.

Just about every morning, he’d come across the driveway over to where the Captain Crunch cereal and Pop Tarts were and spend the day.

I’d ask, “Does your mother know you’re here?”His answer was always yes.

This was long before cell phone texting, back when phones with long stretchy chords hung on the kitchen wall. My wee hour calls to verify they had permission always woke their whole household.

Because that didn’t work so well, we devised what we called the Nana block, a wooden block from their bucket of blocks with Nana written on it. If they had that, then I was to let them in for Nana time.

No Nana block. No entrance.

This worked nicely until I discovered our clever little grandson who was tall and resourceful was snitching the block.

He’d climb from a chair to the counter to get the block from the refrigerator or stand on an upside-down pot on the counter to reach it from the top of the kitchen cabinets. Totally bypassing the ask mommy part.

We went back to confirmation calls.

Fast forward to now. I get up at 4:30 a.m. most mornings to go swim at the gym. Before I leave I take the dog out. Sometimes when I walk Finnegan that early, he takes care of business. Other times he doesn’t.

We needed a way for hubby-dear to know if he should walk our Finnegan. One that didn’t involve sticky notes, which never seem to stick.

He made a new sorta of Nana Block from a keychain disk. I set it beside his coffee station.

Works like a charm. No wake-up texts or phone calls are needed.

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