Gluten Glutton

The stuff that goes on Behind the Scenes of a writer isn’t just about the words, the creativity, or finding new and better ways to get one’s butt into the chair to do the work.

To be effective Behind the Scenes, I’ve learned that I need to rest when tired, drink—water preferably—when thirsty, and to eat when hungry. It’s easy to put all three aside when in the zone and the writing is going well. I segue for a moment…

Part of my health journey for the past few years was to discover why I was having severe sinus issues, got vertigo, had been experiencing foot neuropathy since 2000 and had been having digestive issues starting about 2005. Every doctor I went to had no clue, and then one along the way said, “It’s going to be attached to a big disease down the road.”

In 2014, I asked my GP for a C-reactive Protein (CRP) blood test. I wanted to know my body’s level of inflammation. If high, that would tell me something was going on. The doctor tried to talk me out of it: expensive (it was but not to his $500 number. More like $250), insurance probably wouldn’t pay for it (they did), and it wouldn’t tell me much (it would give me the inflammation rate).

He did he test. When it came back, he was shocked. The CRP revealed I was celiac and my body’s inflammation rate was at 20%. The doctor said he couldn’t tell me where the inflammation was occurring, but I knew it had to be the celiac issues. Had to be.

Deeper research by me revealed neuropathy can be a symptom. Aha!

I searched for and found a local Functional Medicine (FM) doctor. The results: I’m definitely celiac, with a laundry list of allergen foods. From worst to least: tomato, vanilla, pork, hazelnut, pineapple, cauliflower, coffee, Cashew, casein, cow’s milk, blueberry, lemon, salmon, cola nut, peanut, pecan, sesame, paprika, garlic, kidney bean, green pepper, peas, orange, pear, raspberry, Red #3, cod, and flounder.

Additionally, I had a leaky gut. That means I had minute cracks in my digestive trac where food could slip between the thin layered cells and into my system—where it didn’t belong.

No wonder I had a 20% inflammation rate. Through more research, I discovered that cholesterol levels are attached to inflammation levels, confirmed by my FM. I’ve always had a bit higher than normal cholesterol number since the ’90s but nothing ever so outrageous that I needed statins. A few doctors tried to write a prescription, but I wasn’t buying into the sale. I never took them.

As a result of my work with the FM, we got my inflammation down to 4%, I lost about 15 pounds by eliminating foods my body couldn’t process, and all my aches and pains went away. ALL. OF. THEM.

My overarching goal was and still is to NOT go down the taking of regular prescription path, especially long-term. Back to Behind the Scenes original story…

Typically, I’m a solitary creative. I need large amounts of alone time. I enjoy my home: surrounded by books, favorite movies, and the quiet. I’m not interested in travel anymore, not when I was spending more time in the airport than I was in the air.

At this stage of my life, I’m content with pets of rocks and one lone pot of snake plants. Gotta have something that breaths in my carbon dioxide, right?

Whenever able, I enjoy opening the windows and door to hear the birds, rustles of leaves, or the rain. I’m such a pluviophile.

At the beginning of Covid-19, I didn’t have a problem. The only thing that changed in my life was no longer having Monday lunch at a favorite watering hole with a special group of friends, not having writing weekend write-ins or monthly meetings, and getting a regular haircut. I was okay, too, for a while in not going out to eat by myself, something I did a lot—several times a week—always taking a book with me; it was my reading time.

A couple months into the stay-at-home order, something snapped. I needed different.

I started eating bread. Every day. For two months. I was using drive-thru for that acquired difference.

I knew better but ignored that pesky ahem from my little inner voice.

For a few weeks of that first binge month, nothing happened. I thought: Maybe I’m not celiac after all.Yeah right, my pragmatic self criticized.

I continued eating bread.

And, I wasn’t writing. I was tired. I couldn’t concentrate. I felt overwhelmed every time I tried to sit at the desk. Even reading became difficult.

Then, I noticed my feet swelling at night. Tight, itchy skin, with toes looking like little sausages poking out from a swollen foot where I could no longer identify bones. An over the counter, no-name antihistamine took care of the swelling easily enough.

I continued eating bread. I gained back the weight I had lost.

A few more weeks passed. My body started talking to its many parts:

She’s not paying attention.

Yes, she did. She’s taking an antihistamine.

But that has to stop!

Then, we’ll have to do something that will get her attention.

I broke into hives in the middle of the night, waking up to a feverish scratching. There were hives were between my thighs and groin. At first, I attribute the hives to having worn underwear washed in a perfumed and dyed detergent. A mistake I had made and thought I had corrected. I was still taking the no-name brand with seemingly no difference. That was Wednesday.

By Friday, the hives extended down my thighs, behind my knees, on half my back, and huge hard ones on my scalp. Everywhere.

I stopped eating bread.

I went to the store and got the name brand Benadryl. That’ll do it, I thought.

That Monday, a week ago, I awoke with a swollen face and one eye nearly shut. A doctor’s visit where they fit me in that day (apparently to make sure it didn’t affect my throat or breathing—it can get that bad? Yikes!) resulted in a prescription for steroids. My FNP agreed with me: Yup, I had been incredibly stupid. No way could I claim ignorance.

It’s Monday again. In two days after starting the steroids, the hives disappeared. I’ve lost a solid four pounds from not eating any bread or gluten foods, eliminating all allergen foods, dairy, and soda.

I’ve been good, well, with the exception of a couple diet sodas the last couple days, which have proven again to be the wrong direction. More importantly, I feel much better. My energy is back. I’m sleeping good again—until I had those two sodas! The fog is gone. Mostly importantly, all pains and aches are gone. Again.

And, I’m back writing full-steam again. With renewed vigor and focus.

I now know that I can NEVER EVER eat gluten, dairy, or any of my allergen foods again. Or sodas as much as I hate to say it. I would much rather treat the cause and avoid all symptoms than indulge and forever be treating the symptoms.

I much prefer this Behind the Scenes writer than the one I had become. She was a sad story.

I should have taken a picture as a reminder for future temptations.

Posted in Writing Behind the Scenes | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Finding My Way Through the Genre Wilderness

With almost all of my writing projects from the start of writing the first word, I knew the genre and the form. Romance as a novel or as a short short story. Mystery as a short story or novel series. Poetry as a sestina, haiku, or sonnet. Romance novella series. 400-word column for XYZ (magazine/newspaper), non-fiction. And, so forth.

I say almost, because there’s only been one project that I began writing and had no idea what form it would take—would it be long, short, mid-length? —or the genre it would become. For its first written word, I dubbed it a historical, telling myself that I’d research the genre later. As to the form, I figured the story length itself would be the deciding factor. I suspected it would be a novel, but I wasn’t confident about it.

I knew the story took place in the late 5th century and I knew it would be fiction, based on a character from the world’s first English manuscript that had an unknown author. Those were the only two things I knew for sure.

The genesis moment occurred in the middle of my teaching a women’s study survey class where we were examining stories where women didn’t have a voice. In the middle of one student’s presentation of their book, I had that brilliant “Aha!” moment: Grendel’s mother in Beowulf.

I wrote those four words down and felt an excitement rise within, an excitement I hadn’t felt in while. Four years to be exact. Life had intervened followed by a decision to return to school so I could become degreed where I could teach accredited classes. Up until then, the classes I had been teaching in were either online or through adult enrichment classes at colleges.

Once I started going back to school, I was writing just as much as I had before, if not more, but it was all academic writing or creative writing forced by assignments, which were difficult to write because that deep-down bubbling joy and inspiration was always missing.

There was little time for laying any assignment aside, letting time work any creative juices. Instead, quick revisions and polishing, turning it in for a grade was the diction and process of my writing those days.

That initial excitement of a new idea stayed with me through the rest of that class I was teaching and through the commuting drive home. Walking to my car after class and during the drive home, the title was instant—Grendel’s Mother—and she was already talking to me. I saw flashes of scenes, but I had no idea of order or structure.

The minute I got in the door, I dropped my bookbag, keys, tore off my coat, and went straight to the computer. I didn’t even think about eating. That could wait a few minutes.

Those few minutes turned into an hour where I quickly wrote twenty pages of what I thought was the opening pages of the project. It felt like a book. It felt like a historical book. I saw it as a screenplay, too. The images were vivid, the dialogue clear and crisp.

Strangely, I didn’t have to struggle to discover any of the book’s characters. This is the one and only time where all the characters came fully formed, included their bitterness, goals, and wounds. All of them.

It was magical. I didn’t question anything.

I began to question the historical genre. I did some research. How was Beowulf classified? Medieval Poetry, Norse & Icelandic Sagas, English Literature, Epic Poetry, Mythology & Folk Tales. And then, I saw it: Epic Fantasy.

Not until, I was in the end revision stages—and there were many revisions—did the starting pages change. I changed the beginning to provide a better hook. To provide stronger action. The original beginning—that truly started at the beginning chronologically became the transition from present to past. The new beginning was an extremely active scene, taking place nine months later from the original beginning. The transition occurs as a way to deal with the present pain…and so, she starts remembering.

I even got as far as assigning the genre to YA historical because the heroine is a teenager in the beginning; but then, someone said, no, it’s not a YA because she ages. They were right.

The genre fit.

Grendel’s Mother became a novel and my first indie publication. To date, it’s still my most favorite book that I’ve written and published so far.


Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Posted in #IWSG, Grendel's Mother - Book, Inspiration | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Write When Struggling – Part II

Making Changes Can Make a Difference

Writers write in the best of times: when they’re healthy, working full-time, parenting, maintaining their homes, special celebratory events, births, and socializing.

They write in the worst of times: when ill, laid off, dealing with toxic neighbors or family, moving, and deaths.

And then there are the anormal times, such as the one we’re currently dealing with: Covid-19.

Up until now, I’ve been able to write through anything. I’ve written in playgrounds, noisy coffee shops, airports, and complete silence. I’ve written through two divorces, several moves, even the loss of jobs. I’ve written when sick with colds, fevers, stomach cramps, aching limbs, short-term migraines, and other ailments. However, having the flu for the third time in six weeks, three-day migraines I used to have, and vertigo have been the exceptions. Anytime my eyes are affected or when I’ve been lain out flat from an illness wishing for death, the actual task of putting words on paper or screen becomes non-existent.

One would think that during this current pandemic, especially while in lockdown, writers would be celebrating this huge chunk of solitary time, time they’ve wished for.

Surprisingly, despite the fact that I’m a full-time writer, I discovered I was struggling. So were many of my writer friends, plus thousands of other writers who are in my online writing groups.

For the second time in my life, I found myself facing depression even though my life wasn’t changing much. The things that changed for me were meeting friends and other writers in person and book club meetings.

While I’m not an expert on depression, from what I’ve read and researched, my depression came from loss. A loss of routine. The loss of physical connections. For me, the pandemic was a profound distraction, not to mention the fear of getting the virus.

Even though it was heartening to learn I wasn’t alone, it didn’t my problem.

After struggling through March and April of little writing or even the ability to concentrate on the most mundane of things, like paying bills or doing laundry, and feeling like every little task was a monster chore, I was ready for a mental spring cleaning.

I wanted to write again, and now, I am. So, what changed?

1) Recognizing Concentration Limits

During this pandemic, my ability to concentrate for long periods of time diminished greatly. I discovered if I did 15-45 minute sprints, I could do 1-3 sprints a day and write about 300-700 words per sprint, depending on the material I was writing.

2) Obtaining Accountability

I’ve always tracked my writing: how many words, how long, the tasks completed. Now, I’ve added an accountability partner. We check in with each other in the morning with either a live chat or a Messenger message, naming our goal(s) for the day. Then, we check in with each other in the evening, reporting what we’ve done.

Most of the time, we’re making forward progress.

On the days, where we did next to nothing, we acknowledge that we’re allowed. We’re exhausted, been injured, or just needed a day off.

The accountability works because 1) we’re verbalizing our goals and 2) we’re cheering each other on with positivity. It makes us want to do more!

3) Making Good Food choices

Since learning a year ago that I had a pile of allergies. celiac disease, and a high inflammatory rate, I changed my diet in big ways: avoiding the allergen foods and eliminating all grain, dairy, and sugar. I was doing well: losing weight and reduced my inflammatory rate to near zero. In fact, when I had one minor surgical procedure done last fall, the doctor expressed surprised at how fast the wound had healed. Additionally, all my aches, pains, and psoriasis had disappeared.

In February, I started cheating with just a couple foods. Then in March, April, and May, I jumped into the rabbit hole of unhealthy eating. No restrictions. All my previous comfort foods were back: ice cream, mac and cheese, cereal, sweets, and bread.

By June I was paying for those dalliances. All the previous ailments had returned and I was suffering, including gaining back all the weight I had lost.

Now, I’m eliminating all foods that are poisonous to my body again. I’m feeling better and I’m losing weight…again. The returned aches and pains are disappearing.

4) Connecting with Family and Friends

With all my writing meetings and weekend write-ins getting cancelled, online meetings became the next best thing. We can talk, laugh, and share our screens as we talk about the craft and continue to help each other with writing and publishing issues.

In fact, our monthly meeting this past Saturday was an all-day online write-in. We met in the morning, checked in a couple hours later, and then, checked in at the end of the allotted time. Everyone had met or were close to meeting the goals they had set for the day.

Online meetings, whether with one person or a group, have made a huge difference. I feel connected again.

5) Limiting Social Media

I’ve discovered the more I’m on social media reading the posts, comments, and tweets, the more likely I am to become angry, frustrated, or depressed about things I have no control over other than reposting, retweeting, writing a letter to my Congressional Representative, donating money, or venting to a friend. In the end, all of these things keep me engaged in obstacles to my writing. It’s one thing to stay informed; it’s another to spend hours learning nothing new.

The one change that has made the biggest difference for me has been the writing sprints, writing in short periods of time. Even during our recent online all-day write-in, I found that I couldn’t sit there for two hours at a time. I had to do a sprint, get up do a chore like load the washer or get the mail, then do another sprint, another chore, another sprint, and so forth. By the end of the day, I had written 3941 new words on my WIP.

Forward progress indeed!

Posted in Struggling to write, writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Write When Struggling – Part 1

When struggling with characters, plot, interest, or the writing

In wanting to write a new blog, I started going through my TO BE WRITTEN file of blog ideas. I came across a copy of Maggie Doonan’s blog, “4 Signs It’s Time to Quit a Writing Project,” remembering how much I had originally disagreed with each one of those signs even though much of what she had to say was good advice. Those 4 signs in her blog are:

  1. You’re struggling to flesh out your characters
  2. You can’t get the plot to make sense
  3. You’re not excited by the story
  4. You’re finding writing harder than normal

I think in the beginning of my writing career that I might have agreed with that list but I rarely threw anything out. In thinking about my own writing career and projects that I started, put aside, and ended up working on later, I disagree with each one of those signs and here’s why.  

When struggling with characters

In the early days of my writing when there was no Internet, I submitted through the mail. One particular rejection that I still remember forty years later was that my characters were flat.

Having flat characters is a common problem for both new and experienced writers. My characters are always flat in the beginning. Why? Because I don’t know enough about them. Oh, I might know their hair color, height, their goal for the story, and the external conflict they’ll face, and possibly even an internal conflict, also known as their wound—usually emotional or psychological—but I don’t know why they have that internal conflict, that angst, that deep, dark wound that is buried so deep and is so secret that it drives every bit of their goals, words, and actions.

My job is to go digging. Or, as I call it: journaling. I write in first person as if I’m that person, writing a journal/diary entry. Usually, it starts with where *I* went to school, what I like to do, who my friends are, and by the time I’m into the second page—of a single-spaced document—I’m fully in that character’s head. I have become them. I’m able to feel their emotions and start asking questions as if I was a third person interviewer, How did you feel when that happened? What did you do? Why do you think you’ve hung onto those feelings all this time? And, so forth.

By the time, I’m done, I often have three-to-four full pages. I’m exhausted. But, I always discover that deepest, darkest secret they never want anyone learning. I learn how it drives every decision they’re making now. That secret/wound becomes their character arc, the thing they have to resolve before they can achieve their external goal, which will include getting the girl or guy if the story is a romance. If not a romance, it’s a toss-up whether the story will be bittersweet or happily ever after.

When struggling with plot

Generally, I discovered I was struggling with plot because I didn’t know my characters well enough. After all, without character, there is no plot. Their external goal drives their initial action(s), but it’s their internal wound that drives their reactions both in thought and deed.

If I was still struggling with plot after going back and digging deeper into my characters psyche, then I don’t have enough external conflict coming at them. I don’t have a conflict equal to their strengths and knowledge. Every main character has to have an adversary that has a great chance of taking that character’s goal away from them. Dealing with plot is all about heaping on the drama, the tragic events, the problematic people.

When I’m struggling with interest in the story

If I’m becoming bored with the story, it’s either because I don’t know my character(s) well enough or I don’t have enough drama blocking their way.

Plus, if I’m bored with the story, readers will be bored, too.

The only way to fix my characters is to work with them, digging deep into inner cores until I’ve fallen in love with them and want to be with them even when away from the computer because they’ve become more interesting than even my best friends.

If they can make me laugh, make me sigh, or make me cry, then that disinterest has disappeared.

I know I’ve succeeded falling in love with them when I forget to eat, lose track of time when at the computer, and when I wake up wanting to be at the computer as soon as possible.

When I’m struggling to write

I’ll admit that I can be a procrastinator, one who is highly side-tracked with the ring of new mail, seeing the number of notifications sitting in Facebook or Twitter. I can get lost in the rabbit hole of research of some new science, a moment in history I never knew about, or as in today’s news, the political scene, or the new numbers of this pandemic virus that has a stranglehold on most of us.

Generally, when I’m struggling, it’s because I’ve allowed myself to be distracted.

To create a better writing habit again, I now have an accountability partner. Most every day, we communicate by video or text where we set our writing goals, and then at the end of the day, we message each other, stating what we did, whether we met those goals or not. As a result, both of us are writing far more than we’ve done in the past.

Is there ever a time I leave a project behind?


Some projects have taken time. Grendel’s Mother, which I published in 2016, was a ten-year project from start to finish. For most of that time, in two different large chunks of time as in years, it sat on the shelf. The first time was because I was stuck with the plot. I discovered I needed to do more research. I went and reread Beowulf again and got some more ideas. The second time was because I’d returned to school for my last degree.

Another project was a children’s novel I had written. The story was cute, but not interesting enough. Also, it had been the first full novel I had written and served as a learn-as-you-go project. I wrote it when my oldest daughter was in fourth grade. Three decades later, she’s teaching fourth-grade and when helping me go through my shelves one day, she said that the characters were still memorable. At least I got that element right back then! Today, we’re planning on rewriting it together adding some sci-fi to the plot…someday.

There were two short-short children’s stories that I finally and recently tossed. The market just isn’t there for me. Plus, I wasn’t interesting in investing any more time in them.

Also, I tossed out a number of ideas that didn’t have any real writing behind them. They were just ideas and today, I have no enthusiasm for them.

My first romance ever written—the one where the characters were flat? I recycled the setting, leaving behind the characters and plot and wrote a different romance. Traditionally published in 1997, I revised and updated it, changed the cover, and the title from New Beginnings to Love’s New Beginnings, publishing it last year. The book got a 5-star review rating from Kat Henry Doran, the owner of Wild Women Reviews.

All this said, these past few months have not been normal. I, too, have struggled to write during March and April. Eventually, in May, I found my way.

My next blog will talk about how I’ve been able most of the time to overcome this unusual time as we cope with a dangerous virus. They may be tricks you can use both in the normal and abnormal times.

Posted in #amwriting, Characters, Failures, Inspiration, Motivation, Persistance, Procrastination, writing | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

A Writing Dream

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

July 1 question – There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

A Writing Dream

Ideally, I would love to be able to think of a scene and that scene getting typed up grammatically correct and formatted perfectly just by my thinking it. Diction would be okay if I didn’t have to insert period, comma, new paragraph, and so forth.

Given all that, I don’t see it happening…

When I first started writing, I would read about various writing retreats – homes that had been turned into a permanent writer’s retreat, where a writer could come for a week, two weeks, or a month at a time and just write.

Ernest Hemingway had his own retreat in Key West. Something like that could work. Or, a castle in England, Wales, or Ireland; yes, that could work, too.

In my mind’s eye, though, I see a big rambling Victorian-like house with a large wrap-around porch, with someone cooking the meals, someone else cleaning the rooms, gardener, and general maintenance person. And best of all, a setting that I’d never get tired of. Mountains in the background, a lake, large river, or even an ocean in the foreground, with the house up on a bluff out of rising waters’ way.

All I’d have to do is mentor, teach, and write.

Yup, if I ever become successful enough where I’m able to have my own private retreat and a writer’s retreat where I could teach and pay forward everything I’ve ever learned and bring in other writers to teach…that would be ideal. The last thing on my bucket list.

Of course, you did notice that my literary success has to come first, right?

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Posted in #amwriting, #IWSG, Inspiration | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Writers Have Secrets? Oh, my!

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

June 3 question – Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

While I don’t consider that as a writer I have secrets, I suppose there are some topics not well-known about me. For one…

I enjoy bittersweet endings probably more than I enjoy happily ever after (HEA) endings in romances. Why, I don’t know. A true oxymoron considering I currently write HEA romances.

Some great bittersweet ending movies that I love:

  • Out of Africa
  • Message in a Bottle
  • Somewhere in Time – though it did have a happy ending on the other side, getting there was heartbreaking
  • The Thorn Birds
  • Possession

To me, these are great tales of romance, the best of the bittersweet best.

Second, I have collections without realizing I was collecting.

Lighthouses – I have them in every room, except the kitchen. It all started with a crayon drawing my grandmother did of the Biloxi lighthouse when she came to visit me upon my birth. I have wooden shelf lighthouses, ceramic ones, a pillow, blankets, huge pictures on the wall, and more. One day, while looking at one of my posters, my life represented a lighthouse: I was a teacher, sending my light out to those needing it.

Diana’s collection of gem stone hearts

Heart-shaped stones – The first one I received from a boyfriend. One was a gift from my daughter, and the rest I purchased only because I couldn’t walk away from the stone as it spoke to me at that time.

Dragons & The Green Man – The Green Man pieces (I have four) were the result of my medieval studies. I loved the myth because it is a symbol of rebirth, a new cycle of growth and that was my life at the time.

Diana’s collection of dragons.

The dragons were born of my writing Grendel’s Mother. The minute I saw this picture at a renaissance faire, I saw it as Grendel’s mother chatting with the dragon who shares her cave. One-by-one, the other dragons in my collection came from other renaissance faires. With each one, the minute I started walking away, I was draw back to it. Interestingly, once the book was published, no new dinosaurs have drawn me to them, demanding I take them home.

As to other secrets, it’s my characters who hold them tight, having pushed those secrets into the basement of their souls. It takes work to get them talking, to where they trust me to reveal their secrets, the wounds that they’ve carried since childhood.

It’s where our real secrets reside, you know.

I just realized: My characters have more secrets than I do. Some might see this as weird. Not weird to me at all.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Check out the IWSG website here.

Posted in #IWSG | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

I just got a 1- or 2-star review! What do I do now?

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

The May 6 question of “Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?” is one I can answer that in two simple sentences: Not really. It’s just a matter of starting because I can write anywhere.

As a result, I decided to write instead about 1- and 2-star reviews. I do look forward to reading about my fellow writers’ rituals, though.

I just got a 1- or 2-star review! What do I do now?

As writers, we want reviews. We love reviews when they’re great. But, when they’re not, how are we supposed to feel?

I belong to a dozen or so writing forums and groups on Facebook and Twitter. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen someone groan and moan because they just got a 1-star review, I could retire happily, never to write again.

Why is it that we love 4- & 5-star reviews, but absolutely hate the 1- and 2-star reviews? Two reasons.

First, it feels like a grade, like when we were in school. We forget that a 3 is average and that most of us are probably average.

Second, we feel like we’re being judged. And, no one likes being judged. For any reason. Well, except if we’ve entered a contest.

We all like to believe we’re better than average and that someone else’s opinion of us doesn’t matter. If it doesn’t matter, then why do we allow ourselves to get upset?

Here’s the thing. Those numbers simply represent someone’s opinion. Nothing more. It doesn’t mean your book is good or bad. It means they either liked it or they didn’t.

How many books have you read that you didn’t like? Did you recommend them? Of course not. Likewise, how many books have you loved and raved about to others?

I don’t like everything I read. Can I really expect someone else to love everything they read?

That’s all that those numbers represent, nothing more. Someone’s opinion. It doesn’t make your book good or bad. A masterpiece versus a dud. It’s just an opinion. ONE OPINION.

If you get a pile of 4s and 5s, hey, lucky you! You found your audience. Is there an occasional 1 or 2? Lucky you! Someone was trying you out as a new author because they were told by someone they know or because they were enticed by all the 4s and 5s but discovered the book wasn’t to their liking. And, they wanted everyone to know it.

An example. I hated Fifty Shades of Grey. I was one opinion in an immense sea of “love it!” Did my opinion make a difference? Not one bit. Would my opinion have made a difference if I had been the first one to post a review? Not a bit. There would have been enough others following me to overcome my low ranking. Word-of-mouth advertising sold that book. It wasn’t the reviews. It was people talking to other people. The same thing happened with Gone With the Wind, Bridges of Madison County, The Martian, and others.

It’s all about perspective.

Getting all 1s and 2s? Now, that’s a problem. Not with them. The problem is with your book. It’s probably ladened with errors, has plot holes, or has character issues. Did you have it proofed? Did you use beta readers to help you uncover those plot or character problems? If not, unpublish it, fix the problems, get a new ISBN, a new cover, and sell it as a 2nd edition, stating that previous issues have been addressed.

It’s not the end of the world to get the occasional 1- or 2-star review. It is a problem, though, if as a writer you think it’s a problem. And generally, it is the new writer who wails about these first 1- and 2-star reviews. Experienced writers ignore them.

Step back, look at the big picture, stop giving each review an all-or-nothing power, and keep writing. Look at the overall ratings, instead. If most of them are healthy, then you’re good.

If the problem is you only have a few reviews, then your job is to get more. Give your book away to reviewers. Find a reviewing website or two. At the back of each of my books, I talk about reviews and how they’re important to writers, showing them how they can quickly write a review.

Your goal is to find your audience. Your ultimate goal is to write a book that creates word-of-mouth advertising because those are the books that fly off the shelf and become the book-to-movie stories. Nothing sells books faster or better than word-of-mouth.


Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Check us out!

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My Life with the COVID-19 Lockdown…so far

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG)

 Our April 1 question – The IWSG’s focus is on our writers. Each month, from all over the globe, we are a united group sharing our insecurities, our troubles, and our pain. So, in this time when our world is in crisis with the covid-19 pandemic, our optional question this month is: how are things in your world?

  • On March 10, Michigan Governor Whitmer issued the State of Emergency Executive Order.
  • On March 16, she ordered restaurants and the schools closed
  • On March 21, she ordered a stay-home, stay safe lockdown for all residents to begin on the 24th

I began my physical distancing on March 16, so technically, as I write this (Monday, 30th), I’m on Day 16 of lockdown, with only four trips out for groceries or take-out food.

I’m one of the fortunate. My life hasn’t changed much because of this pandemic. Retired and writing full-time, I’m used to solitary time. The biggest change for me has been in missing lunches and dinners with friends and classmates, no meetings with other writers, and no book club discussions around the table.

Our library has been closed along with other businesses, but thankfully, I have several shelves of to-be-read (TBR) books. I thought I’d be reading more, but so far, I haven’t. Now that the stay-in has been expanded to the end of April, I expect that lack of reading to change.

My normal days, which look like my COVID-19 days at the moment, are about writing, jigsaw puzzles, reading, watch TV, and added cooking. I’ve never been fond of cooking but have always maintained a full pantry. Now that pantry provides me opportunities to be a bit more creative than I’ve been in the past. It helps that I have my own cookbook, The Super Simple Easy Basic Cookbook,  to fall back on.

All-in-all, this pandemic has treated me well. So far.

I wish we could say the same from those on the front lines: the doctors, nurses, caregivers, first responders, and the families of those who have succumbed to this horrible virus. My thoughts are with them all.

May the shortages stop and the line flatten quickly.


Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

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It’s Read an eBook Week – March 1-7: What are you reading?

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG)

Rather than answer the March 4 question posed by the group, I’ve chosen to write about this week’s national recognition on eReading.

It’s Read an eBook Week – March 1-7: What are you reading?

 Already, we’re into the third month of a new year. A year where I was going to do more writing and be more organized with my reading.

I have three shelves of double-stacked to-be-read (TBR) books. These are the remainders from last year’s thinning from fives shelves, where I got rid of books I knew I’d never read simply because my tastes have changed over time.

My TBR pile, though, isn’t going down quickly enough to suit me. I think I read only three of them last year, and I have just as many books on my Kindle, which I haven’t touched lately.

And now today, I learned that this week, March 1-7, is Read an eBook Week. Did you know that?

Are you like me with a huge assortment of books on your eReader?

So, here I am again, revisiting my wanting to do better.

And I am. One book at a time.

Right now, I’m finishing Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen. An excellent novel about Mrs. Francis Osgood, a poet who fell in love with Edgar Allan Poe and he with her. Osgood, too, became friends with his wife, Virginia, his first cousin whom he married when she was 13 and he was 26. A petite woman who behind the beautiful skirts and seemingly gentile manners was a conniving, jealous creature who wished harm on others, especially Mrs. Osgood–or was she?

Mrs. Poe has been a book difficult to put down. I highly recommend it including the notes at the end of the book.

Now finished, I need to dig into my TBR pile again. What other goodies lurk there for my reading pleasure?

So, what are you reading? Did it come out of your TBR pile?


Insecure Writers Support Group BadgePurpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

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A Valentine for You – With Love

Movies + Romance = The Key to My Heart

I’m a romantic in so many ways, it would take another blog to explain all of my many connections to Venus, the moon, nature, and more.

As a romantic, I adore love stories, both bittersweet and happily every after. Yes, I’m a Hallmark Channel junkie.

Combing Valentine’s Day this year with my love of movies, I’m sharing my top favorite romance movies in no particular order. These are my go-to romance movies, thus I’ve seen each of them multiple dozens of times.

Dangerous Beauty – With Catherine McCormack and Rufus Sewell. This is the movie where I really fell in love with Rufus. Based on a true story, it’s a movie about an aristocrat and one of the last courtesans of Venice. Just hearing the music score makes me want to go watch the movie again. In fact, I bought the music soundtrack. It’s that good.

The Love Letter – A Hallmark Channel movie with Jennifer Jason Leigh and Campbell Scott. A letter written in the 1860s is received by a man in 1998. Thus, begins their communication and a love story that transcends time. I fell in love with Campbell Scott.
The full movie can be viewed here.

Bridal Wave – A Hallmark Channel movie with Arielle Kebel and Andrew Walker. Laugh out loud funny and the very best of the best that Hallmark offers. Yup, I fell in love with Andrew Walker.

A Bride for Christmas – A Hallmark Channel movie. If you enjoyed Bridal Wave, you’ll enjoy these same two actors in this wonderfully funny Christmas movie.

Love Actually – With Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth and more. Great actors, great scenes, funny moments, and there’s not a bad story in the bunch. I’ve always adored the men of this movie: Hugh, Liam, Alan, and Colin.

Pillow Talk – A classic with Doris Day & Rock Hudson. There’s one scene that makes me laugh out loud every time I see it. Every. Time. Another movie that I’ve seen dozens and dozens of times. How can you go wrong with Doris Day & Rock Hudson? And, who didn’t love Rock Hudson?

Possession – With Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jeremy Northam, and Jennifer Ehle. Two stories, two time periods. Modern-day literary scholars are searching for any documentation on two different Victorian poets after one scholar happens upon some old papers where the second is mentioned. Could there be a connection? The second story features the two elusive Victorian poets and their forbidden secret love story. Book by A.S. Byatt. Yup, I fell in love with both Aaron and Jeremy.

Somewhere in Time – Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour – He travels back in time to be with the woman he fell in love with through a picture on a museum wall. Filmed on Mackinac Island, Michigan, my all-time favorite vacation spot. Movie was adapted from the book, Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the screenplay. I totally fell in love with Christopher here. Starting to see a pattern?

The Woodlanders – with Rufus Sewell and Emily Woof. Based on Thomas Hardy’s book, a story of two people—Giles and Grace—friends and childhood sweethearts destined for marriage. She’s now returned home from school wanting more. My favorite of Hardy’s stories.

Out of Africa – With Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. Her strength and determination and his…well everything combined with the majestic of Africa makes this movie unforgettable. I fell in love with the movie seeing the opening scene as the train, seen from a distance, is crossing the plain with the soundtrack music in the background. Another soundtrack CD that I own. Rightly so as the movie won Best Picture; Best Director; Best Screenplay Adaptation; Best Cinematography; Best Music, Original Score; Best Sound; and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration. Streep was nominated for Best Actress. Actually, I fell in love with Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Way We Were. This movie just reinforced my why.

And finally, from Jane Austen’s books:

Pride & Prejudice – The 2005 version with Keira Knightley and Matthew McFadden. My most favorite of all the versions produced of Pride & Prejudice. Needless to say, I fell in love the Matthew McFadden.

Persuasion – The 1995 version with Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root. The movie where I fell in love with Ciaran Hinds and absolutely adored and could relate to Anne, Amanda’s character.

Persuasion – The 2008 BBC adaptation with Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penny-Jones. I totally fell in love with Rupert here. There’s a second longer trailer behind the first one.

Sense & Sensibility – The 1995 version with Emma Thompson (won best actress Golden Globe award giving the best speech ever!), Alan Rickman, Kate Winslet, and Hugh Grant. I wish the screenplay’s actual music was playing in the background, but alas.

Sense & Sensibility – The 2008 BBC version with Hattie Morahan and Dan Stevens (of Downton Abbey fame). Screenplay written by Andrew Davies, one of my favorite screenwriters.

Sigh. If only…

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