Monday, February 25, 2013


Just a random post about a variety of things today.

First, a big thank you goes to my neighbors, Deb and John Paisey, who hosted a swanky and delightful "Academy Awards" shindig for the neighborhood. The food was great, the conversation lively, and the decor was perfect. They even handed out swag bags to the guests!  The best part was hanging out with neighbors with whom we raised our kids.

It's sad commentary on the pace if life that our post-childrearing interactions are frequently shared from the seat of a riding mower now. We still wave as we pass one another's driveways, but we rarely drive down them as we race off to work or on errands. When the snow piles shockingly high, or when power fails, we rally together, and when tragedy strikes a home, we pull together, but I have to admit that Tom and I have been sorely negligent in this area, and we are vowing to be more involved neighbors.

I've been posting snippets from, "The Dragons of Alsace Farm,"  on my web site. Those who follow  the blog or my web site know I've struggled over the title, vacillating between "Rabbits" and "Dragons" these past few weeks. "Rabbits" refers to the rabbit hole of dementia, which one of my characters, Agnes, suffers. There are also dragons on Alsace Farm, but you'll have to read on to understand them.

I've started a new blog called "The Rabbit Hole Diaries," that deals with the ups and downs of supporting a loved on with dementia. I hope you'll visit it or pass the link on to a friend. I'm encouraging sharing of information and experiences.

I'm so spring-hungry! We didn't get any snow to speak of here in Maryland, and the cold is therefor unwelcome. So I'm ready for warm, sunny days and FLOWERS!!!

Friday, February 22, 2013


Last year, Gallup released the latest presidential poll. President Reagan was the winner, in fact, this question has been asked eight times in the last twelve years and the winner has consistently been Lincoln, Clinton or Reagan. George Washington, the father of our country, the leader of the Continental Army, victor of the Revolutionary War, the glue that held the Constitutional Convention together, beloved first President of the nation, the man who could have been a king but who resigned the presidency to secure this nation's liberty--this man comes in at number five, behind Clinton and Kennedy. What of Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, or Madison who framed the Constitution. Are we still grateful for these men? Do we even remember? Hmmm. . . .

I loved Ronald Reagan, and who can deny Abraham Lincoln's courage and vision, but couldn't the same be said of Washington? It all begs the question, "What do we actually know of our nation's presidential history?" Perhaps it raises an even more critical question. "What do we really want in a leader?"

While pollsters and pundits analyze every move or non-move by Barack Obama, we need only look at this poll to see that the American people are slightly schizophrenic when choosing a president. Obama was called "a rock star" by some voters who, if the polls are correct, now wish he was more decisive like Reagan. Others upset by his recent withdrawal of support by the "Defense of Marriage Act" seem to want a more morally conservative president, but then how does that jive with the number two ranking of Clinton, and Kennedy's number six slot, behind Washington? My head is spinning.

I'm over fifty. My peers and I grew up with the images of the presidents in every classroom. We were taught the biographies of the Founding Fathers, and we were quizzed on the major accomplishments of the early presidents. As a guest speaker, I've visited classrooms and I rarely see those comforting, familiar images anymore. They were once the supermen of history, but time and political correctness have been their Kryptonite.

As much as I've enjoyed the scrutiny of Lincoln's legacy and assasination, I wish some high profile author like Bill O'Reilly would take on the content of these other great men's contributions. Better yet, I wish parents and teachers would bring the pictures back out, dust them off and teach this generation about these visionaries. Tell the whole story--the good, the bad, the amazing stories of valor. Greatness can stand the scrutiny. The race is already beginning for 2016. What do we really want in a leader?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Nook Review: "Table Talk," by John and Tina Bushman.

Table Talk
John and Tina Bushman
How do you change the world? It’s a question raised in the introductory pages of Table Talk, a new release by John and Tina Bushman, and the suggested answer is one we all can guess—begin with yourself, and you will affect your family, who in turn will eventually impact the world.
It sounds simple enough in theory, but even the closest and the most vigilant of families can eventually reach a point of conversational impasse, where over scheduled lives and generational differences of opinion slow the flow of sharing to a trickle, and reduce the depth of topics covered to brief exchanges about the necessities of life.
Enter the Bushman’s book of thoughtful conversation starters, touching on some of the most important topics of our day—patriotism, values, faith, and fun. From individual self-reflection to breaking the ice at a large family fireside, Table Talk facilitates thought, and opens lines of communication through a non-threatening format that feels like a game.
The Bushmans drew upon John’s fifteen years of experience as an educator and youth speaker, and Tina’s experiences with their own family, when crafting the questions.  The Bushman’s explain their reason for writing the book:
John and I feel that Table Talk can be so helpful to families trying to establish healthy lines of communication through fun and insightful questions. We hope it will give parents a tool to get their kids talking and to help parents teach values in an informal way. As children develop a pattern of talking with their parents about a wide range of topics, they will be able to turn to their parents in times of great need. As our kids are “dished up” and “served” many positive and negative values each day from so many different sources, family discussions can help children learn their families’ values and expectations more clearly. It is in the home where these things need to be taught.
Three important tips or guidelines are provided to help parents avoid the pitfalls that stifle conversation and open sharing. A 1984 study by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints found that when partnered with religious activity in the home, such interactions have the most critical impact on the development of values and plans in children.  
Table Talk’s insightful questions inspire a variety of uses, from husband/wife sharing, to group family discussions, Family Night getting-to-know-you games, and as a springboard for a family fireside or testimony meeting. As an empty-nester, I was excited to get my hands on a copy. Our family is scattered across the country and our time together is precious. Having a ready-made list of hundreds of discussion topics on hand provides limitless opportunities to draw the family together, reconnect, and grow closer.
Could families compile such a collection of questions themselves? Probably, but will you? Having topics at the ready is half the battle, and the authors' reminders about conducting comfortable discussions on challenging topics is invaluable.

I loved this book for its potential to encourage family discussion and closeness. Table Talk would be an invaluable tool in any home It would make a great gift for any parent, and deserves a spot on every family's shelf.

Sunday, February 17, 2013



Many thanks to Kathy at "I'm a Reader, Not a Writer," for setting up the hop and for co- sponsoring it with "Read For Your Future."

I'm pushing on with the completion of my current WIP--"The Dragons of Alsace Farm," (previous followers know how long I've struggled over that title) which I'm slated to present to an agent in May, so we'll keep the requirements to enter this hop short and sweet.

Since the hop is about acts of kindness I'm offering two of my favorite books that are filled with acts of love, service, and kindness. The first novel is one of my own titles, "Awakening Avery," and the other is from my friend Tanya Parker Mills, "A Night On Moon Hill," which is currently up for a coveted Whitney Award.

Please note that each entry MUST be posted separately to be considered. Thanks! Here we go.

First, you must be or become a follower of this blog.

Second, even if you friended me on my old Facebook page, please now friend me on my new author page at Thanks!

Third, please visit my web pages "News" page and read an excerpt from the book. Just come back and say, "I did it!"

Now visit all these other great blogs.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I'm working like a demon to get a book finished, so I've been neglecting the blog. My apologies, so I've been digging through the archives for some old posts that I really love and that will probably be new to most of you.

This one on research was written in 2010 when I was in the thick of work on Free Men and Dreamers. As I reread this post I felt the old thrill of discovery. Writers, like teachers, are the ones most blessed when preparing to share information with others.

I was researching  my favorite park the other day for a scene in my new book. I've been there so m,any times, and blogged about it a few, but that day I discovered that it was once named the second most beautiful park in America. Nice find.  Now I'll appreciate it even more.

So here's my little post about some of my greatest American history research discoveries. I hope you enjoy these finds as much as I did.


The Historical fiction requires diligent research. Get sloppy with a fact, and like a date who catches you in a lie, a reader's trust is gone and everything else you say is scrutinized.

In the past five years I've probably spent over 1000 hours conducting research on people, places, clothing, battles, guns, churches, ships. . . you name it. Today I spent an hour researching the history of the C-section for a scene. It was fascinating!

I've stumbled upon some informational gems in the public collections. My favorites are the minutes of the congressional hearings from the Revolution through the War of 1812, old maps, and my very favorite--personal correspondence.

I love to read the writings of great men and women in their own "voice." It makes the hair rise on my arms to see their penmanship, to read the beauty of their rich vocabulary, to see the gentility with which they handle even the most bitter exchanges. There certainly was something lovely and elegant in the way they respected and regarded one another, at least on paper.

Today I wrote a scene regarding Thomas Jefferson's offer to sell his exquisite personal library to the nation to replace the volumes lost when the British burned Washington. (The top photo is a view of the book room in his study.) Among the vast collection of his personal correspondence are several letters he wrote to various individuals as he worked out the details of this transaction. These letters are among my favorite "finds."

The first letter was written by former President Jefferson to his dear friend President James Madison. Even though they were very familiar, with Dolley Madison having served as Jefferson's hostess during his term, he addresses Madison as "Dear Sir," honoring his office. It is my most favorite find.

Dated September 26th, 1814, it was Jefferson's first communication with his friend after the loss at Bladensburg, the burning of Washington and the banking crisis sweeping the country. I love the gentle way he comforts Madison in an hour of extreme national need. Madison knew he had nearly lost the government, and that he was hated by many of his own people, and Jefferson bolsters and encourages him as he advises his friend on how to deal with these events. It is a beautiful glimpse in time.

Dear Sir,

It is a very long time since I troubled you with a letter. . . in the late events at Washington I have felt so much for you that I cannot withhold the expression of my sympathies. . . All you can do is order . . . execution must depend on others. . .I know that when such failures happen they afflict even those who have done everything they could to prevent them. . .

The other two letters were written to Samuel H. Smith, another friend and government official at the time of the destruction of the Capitol. It is to Smith that Jefferson makes his initial proposal. Couched within the letters are tidbits that reveal much about Jefferson's personality and point of view. In referring to his collection of books, he writes:

I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection; there is, in fact, no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.

Maybe I'm just a history geek, but I thought some of you would enjoy reading these gems. Follow the links and you'll see other wonderful trails to follow another day.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Stink bugs are a huge problem here in Maryland. They're an Asian bug that hitched a ride to the U.S. in a piece of furniture, and since they're not indigenous, they have no natural predators here in the states so they multiply until swarms literally coat your outside walls and swarm you when you walk. And to my knowledge, we have no sure repellent for them either.

So they are a huge nuisance, entering even the cleanest, tightest homes on your clothes and in your grocery bags. We pick them off the walls and pray one doesn't get squished because the scent they give off is . . . well . . . stinky.

My daughter's two-year-old son, Brady, loves these pests. He will obsess over their whereabouts all day crying, "Bug! Bug! Bug!" until he gets hoarse. They're harmless, so Amanda will allow one or two to crawl in his hand so he can see them close up and feel the tickle. When Brady is finished playing with the bug, his mama instructs him to toss it in the toilet and say, "Bye bye, bug," and then . . . you've got it . . . flush the critter away.

For Christmas, Brady's daddy, Nick, bought him a bug terrarium, and they quickly found a few winter survivors for Brady's bug house. This was, perhaps, Brady's favorite Christmas toy. He 'd carry the terrarium around saying, "Bug! Bug!" while proudly displaying his pets for all to see.

One day, however, Brady was hollering, "Bug! Bug! Bug!" ad nauseum, until his voice became hoarse, (and until his mother and sleepless baby sister were about to go mad), so Amanda told Brady, "That's enough, Brady. Time for buggy to go bye-bye." Her plan was to distract Brady on to another activity, but a few moments passed and she heard noise in the bathroom. Unbeknownst to her, Brady had promptly obeyed his mother's directions.

She heard some bumping in the bathroom, and then the flush. When she went in to check on him, Brady had submerged the entire terrarium into the potty, and was attempting to flush his critters and their plastic chateau down the drain.

At the moment, his mother was of mixed humor. She had a mess to clean up, but the innocent attempt of the child to obey her was not lost in that concern. She had given a direction, and Brady had, to the best of his ability, obeyed her.

It provided an interesting reminder about example and direction. Could another line of instruction saved the day? You bet. "Brady, it's time to take the buggies out of their house and make them go bye bye." (Forgive me if this entire scenario makes you want to call PETA, but honestly, we are over-the-top sick of these bugs.)

Just because we know what we are thinking, it in no way guarantees that the listener does . . . or the reader. We need to listen with our eyes, so-to-speak--to create a visual image of what we're saying, so we can see the instructions as the child would. Or as the reader would.

I once saw a kids' show that illustrated what certain phrases might conjure up in a child's mind. It  clearly showed the potential collisions between intention and perception. Consider what a child might imagine from a phrase like, "That really blows my mind!" Frightening...

In order to avoid such miscues in your writing, get additional eyes on your project,  have several people read your work to be sure they see and hear what you intended. A miscue can completely alter point of view, perspective, and in some cases, the entire book, leaving our reader, and our work, well . . . in the toidy.