Author Archives: Betsy Ashton

About Betsy Ashton

Betsy Ashton, born in Washington, DC, was raised in Southern California where she ran wild with coyotes in the hills above Malibu. She protested the war in Vietnam, burned her bra for feminism, and is a steadfast Independent. She is a writer, a thinker, the mother of three grown stepchildren, companion and friend. She mentors writers and writes and publishes fiction. Her first mystery, Mad Max Unintended Consequences, was published in February 2013. The second in the series, Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, came out in April 2015. In her spare time, she is the president of the state-wide Virginia Writers Club. She loves riding behind her husband on his motorcycle. You’ll have to decide for yourself if and where she has a tattoo.

#ARoomofOne’sOwn

Let’s face it. We are spending more time in our homes than in offices or other places of work. We use our own space, our own toilet paper, our own food. We will be looking for new uses for the space we currently occupy. By that, I mean, we look for places we can set aside for work, for play, for quiet. And that’s perhaps new to most of us.

I work from home. Have for the past nearly fifteen years or so. I was a consultant for two large firms doing client-side work. I didn’t have office space at my corporate offices, because my work was done on site. When I was between assignments, I worked from my home. Once I retired and became a full-time writer, working from home became my norm. So, when we went COVID-19 lockdown, I continue to rise every morning, head down to my basement office, and begin writing. Oh, yes, and I do my hair and put on makeup first. And no, I don’t work in jammies or in my bunny slippers.

But, not all of us have the luxury of a room of our own. Many have children, who are now being taught remotely at home. Others work from home, those who can, and who need space. Most have had to put aside places in their homes to be school rooms, office spaces, and conference rooms.

Imagine the realtors who how have to recast a multi-bedroom home as having one or two home offices. Builders are designing better office space inside a new home with top-of-the-line electronics, wi-fi, and smart appliances. Space is not infinite. Quiet is not a norm. We work side by side with our kids and spouses.

One friend lives in a large city. She’s lucky to afford a two-bedroom apartment. With three children between first grade and ninth grade. Each has electronics in an older building where outlets are at a premium. In order to keep her sanity, she set aside three spaces, one in her living room where a card table serves as a desk, one at the kitchen table, and the last in her bedroom. Not optimal, but she’s thinking this is her new normal. Maybe the kids will go to school for a couple of days a week. Maybe not.

And now I have to go back to work sitting next to my husband who’s working at his own desk about six feet away.

Good luck. Stay strong.
Peace, out.

#AmWriting

I’m having way too much fun working on Betrayal, a suspense story with lots of explosions. I’m turning my anxiety about what’s going on around the world into emotional responses to events in my characters’ lives.

#NewReadersWanted

If you are looking for something a little different, these four books are all $0.99 each. Perhaps you’ll take a chance and see if you like what I write. And here’s the link to make it easier for you to find them.

Unintended Consequences https://amzn.to/2WWkONX
Uncharted Territory http://amzn.to/1T71q6D
Eyes Without A Face https://amzn.to/2xoP9ap
Out of the Desert http://bit.ly/outofthedesert

Please help out all of your favorite writers by dropping a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. We appreciate it.
Thanks, and read on, right now.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #EyesWithoutAFace, #OutOfTheDesert, Uncategorized

#BackToSchool

By the end of July, I’d be anxiously looking forward to the first day of school, usually Tuesday after Labor Day. I know I’m weird, but I loved school. Meeting friends. New teachers. New subjects.

My mother would let me pick out two new outfits. Only two, because we couldn’t afford more. I’d also get a new pair of shoes. Patent leather Mary Janes when I was younger, white Keds as I got older.

My mother would get a letter from the school with the name of my teacher, my classroom number, and other information she needed to know.  We often had a meet-and-greet individually a week before we began classes.

So easy. Then. Now, not so easy.

No longer is it a matter of showing up when expected. No longer is it a given that children will go back to classroom learning. In this time of COVID-19, no two school districts will function in the same way. Some schools will open for two days a week of classroom instruction, paired with three days of online learning. Some children will go on Monday and Tuesday, others will go Wednesdays and Thursdays. Families have no clue how to plan for the school year.

I hear parents ask how they are supposed to home-school their kids while they work full-time. Not every family has a grandparent support system which can care for the kids and help with their education. And what if a teacher or student tests positive two weeks after classes begin? Well, one local district blithely said, “we’ll close the schools for 14 days.”

And what of those families which count on schools breakfast and lunch programs for two meals? Most districts lack the ability to prepare sack meals and deliver them.
No, this year, going back to school will not be easy. It will not be the old normal. I hope it is not the new normal, but it may very well be. My hat is off to all parents who are grappling with these serious decisions. You are my heroes.

Peace out.

#AmWriting

Still filling this stay-at-home period with an increased level of creativity in my writing cave. I’m finished a satirical essay, The Return of the Blanched COVIDians  and have sent it to various contests and online ezines.

I submitted Revenge on the Rocks this week. I hope it will be published in a new anthology, Murder by the Glass. Same folks who brought you 50 Shades of Cabernet.

Betrayal, a suspense novel with lots of explosions, is booming right along. Yes, joke intended.

#NewReadersWanted

If you are looking for something a little different, these four books are all $0.99 each. Perhaps you’ll take a chance and see if you like what I write. And here’s the link to make it easier for you to find them.

Unintended Consequences https://amzn.to/2WWkONX
Uncharted Territory http://amzn.to/1T71q6D
Eyes Without A Face https://amzn.to/2xoP9ap
Out of the Desert http://bit.ly/outofthedesert

Please help out all of your favorite writers by dropping a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. We appreciate it.
Thanks, and read on, right now.

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#StayHomeAndRead

Like most of us, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and writing lately. My most recent book was Heath Hardage Lee’s A League of Women about the wives who refused to stay silent while their husbands were captive in Vietnam.

These women. who were raised in the white-gloves-and-hats era, shed their inhibitions and went public about the plight of their men held in Hanoi Hilton. They faced off with presidents and negotiators, used anti-war groups to get messages to their husbands, and refused to take “no” for an answer. Lee focused on the wives of POWs and MIAs. She could not write about a host of other women who were not recognized by the government.

I was one of those women. I was engaged to an Army doctor who was supposed to work out of a hospital, not in the field. An orthopedist by training, he was in demand to repair major injuries. He went missing one day. No word to his mother. No word to me. I know for a fact that I was listed as his next of kin, even though we weren’t yet married. I know his mother was also listed. We received no word, no visit from a uniformed officer with bad news. As far as the Army was concerned, we didn’t exist.

Lee’s book stirred memories. Anger. Grief. Anger. I was mostly angry while we waited for news. Grief came after 19 months when I finally pestered the Army into giving me information on his whereabouts. His status went from MIA to KIA, from missing to killed. I found myself thinking about what great work he would have done, how he would have lived his life, with or without me. I was angry anew that we women were treated like pesky flies to be flicked away with hollow platitudes.

Lee’s book is more than worth a read by those who didn’t know much about what the women experienced. I knew most of the stories, but having them packaged in a most readable book made them real all over again.

What are you reading?
Peace, out.

#AmWriting

For a writer who loves her writer’s cave, I’ve been filling this stay-at-home period with an increased level of creativity. I’m currently working on a short story, The Return of the Blanched COVIDians, an allegory, or a satire, or just a plain mess. Haven’t decided which.

Another short story, Revenge on the Rocks, will be published in a new anthology, Murder by the Glass. Same folks who brought you 50 Shades of Cabernet.

I’m making fantastic headway on Betrayal, a suspense story with lots of explosions. 

#NewReadersWanted

If you are looking for something a little different, these four books are all $0.99 each. Perhaps you’ll take a chance and see if you like what I write. And here’s the link to make it easier for you to find them.

Unintended Consequences https://amzn.to/2WWkONX
Uncharted Territory http://amzn.to/1T71q6D
Eyes Without A Face https://amzn.to/2xoP9ap
Out of the Desert http://bit.ly/outofthedesert

Please help out all of your favorite writers by dropping a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. We appreciate it.
Thanks, and read on, right now.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #Memories, #NewReadersWanted, #StayHomeAndRead, Uncategorized

Musings on Privilege

I used to think that privilege meant you had to have a lot of money, that you had to be born into the “right” level of society, that you had to be a mover and a shaker. I’ve grown out of those beliefs, because in the current environment, privilege has taken on an entirely different meaning.

We live in dangerous times. Millions are out of work. More millions are sick with this terrible virus. Even more are employed but working from home under conditions they never imagined.

I realized how truly privileged my extended family is. All of us can and do work from home. We are fortunate to have professions where we can transfer to online work and still be paid. We have enough food to eat, even though going food shopping can seem like a descent into the hell of the unmasked. We can go for walks, as long as we stay ten feet apart. We can run, play outside (but not in packs), meet in driveways for some human-to-human conversation. Maybe put on some music and do the electric slide. We are so very privileged.

I feel for the hourly employees who have lost their livelihoods. They can’t wait tables from home or clean houses or cut hair. They don’t have nest eggs of three to six months of savings to get through any rough spot. Many don’t have a nest egg at all.

Our government passed laws to help these employees, but when I ask my friends where I live if they’ve received any benefits from the more than $3T, that’s trillion, laws, only two have. The rest wait and eat the food they have at home, live off credit cards, or go to food banks.

I feel for the first responders and health care workers who show up every day, put themselves in harm’s way, and do their jobs. My hat is off to all of them.

What I do not feel is a sense of entitlement to walk around in public without a mask. That is the topic for a different message.

So, please join me in feeling privileged to live in a country where we have food to eat, medical facilities when we need them, and a population that is willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of keeping ourselves and others safe.
Peace, out.

#StayHomeAndRead

I just finished reading Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, about a pandemic that tried to wipe out mankind. Almost too close to what is  happening now, but I couldn’t put it down.

If you are looking for something a little different, these three books are all $0.99 each. Perhaps you’ll take a chance and see if you like what I write. And Max 3, Uncharted Territory, will soon join the $0.99 club. And here’s the link to make it easier for you to find them.

Unintended Consequences https://amzn.to/2WWkONX
Eyes Without A Face https://amzn.to/2xoP9ap
Out of the Desert http://bit.ly/outofthedesert

Please help out all of your favorite writers by dropping a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. We appreciate it.
Thanks, and read on, right now.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #NewReadersWanted, #StayHomeAndRead, Uncategorized

What Unties Us

You read that right. It’s not a typo. I’ve been thinking about how unmoored, how unanchored, how adrift so many of us are feeling about now. Forgive the nautical metaphors. I live on a lake, so I can’t help but think about water.

Anyway, with the vast majority of us in stay-at-home lock down, it’s hard to keep connected to the outside world. Don’t get me wrong. I love being in my writer’s cave with my best friend and husband by my side, a Velcro kitty on my lap. I don’t have to go places everyday to feel fulfilled. What I need is the pretense that I have the privilege of going shopping for more than toilet paper, of having lunch with a friend, or wearing sandals as Goldie Hawn cried in “Private Benjamin.”

I have become one of the queens of Zoom. I Zoom lunches. I Zoom critique group meetings. I Zoom chats with family and friends.  What I can’t do is give or receive a hug. A real, rib-crushing hug. Virtual ones don’t hack it, no matter how well intentioned they are.

I’m amazed, though, at the ways people are finding to stay in touch. Like the group of six late teen girls who drove to a school parking lot, pulled their cars into a circle, and hung out on the hoods. Like the comedians in England who post crazy lip-sync videos all the time to help us laugh. Like the bear hunt in suburbia for teddy bears in windows. Like sidewalk chalk drawings of hope and love.

I wear my mask whenever I go to the store. I also wear it on my daily walk, not because of the virus  but because we are at peak pollen season and I like to breathe.

I figure I have about four more weeks before I shave one side of my head and put purple stripes in the rest. So, what are you doing to stay sane and healthy?

Books You Might Like

These three books are all $0.99 each. Perhaps you’ll take a chance and see if you like what I write. And Max 3, Uncharted Territory, will soon join the $0.99 club. And here’s the link to make it easier for you to find them.

Unintended Consequences https://amzn.to/2WWkONX
Eyes Without A Face https://amzn.to/2xoP9ap
Out of the Desert http://bit.ly/outofthedesert

Please help out all of your favorite writers by dropping a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. We appreciate it.
Until my next post, peace out.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #GoofingAround

Finding Peace in the Time of COVID-19

We’re all doing our best to stay calm in the midst of a daily tsunami of bad news. As a writer, it’s less difficult to stay home than it is for someone who works outside the home.  I mean, writing is a very solitary sport. True, some of my friends do their best work in a crowded Starbucks where the background noise of the espresso machine provides inspiration. Others prefer fast food outlets where they can act out stubborn scenes in the parking lot without fear of arrest. We’re all weird in our own ways.

I prefer writing from my home office. Familiar setting. I can control my distractions. I can turn on or off the television. I can refocus on the words on my screen and nothing else. Except when my husband, who sits six feet away and shares the home office, needs technical support. That’s an interruption I love. At least, I can get back to where I was easily. Or not.

A Few Words About the Picture Above

My mother and I read to each other nearly every night until after I was seven. As an infant, she and my grandmother read to me. Later, when I could read more than “See Dick run,” we’d take turns. The black-and-white picture was taken when I was probably seven. Mom and I shared reading one of my favorite books, Sand Dune Pony. Along with Black Beauty, we wept over and over again.

I was sorting through one of my bookshelves when I ran across that book, along with a copy of Black Beauty which has lost its spine. I sat down to enjoy both the story of Sandy the horse and memories of the hours Mom and I shared over books.

I continue to consume books in this time of “house arrest.” I have enough to keep me occupied, so I’m peacefully reading away every night. During the day, I’m writing.

Books You Might Like

I know not all of you have read my books. I’m shocked to write that, but it’s true. So, in this time of staying safe, in this time of libraries shuttering their doors, in this time of Amazon taking longer than usual to deliver to our doorsteps, you can have instant gratification. These three books are all $0.99 each. And here are the links to make it easier for you to find them.

Unintended Consequences https://amzn.to/2WWkONX

Eyes Without A Face https://amzn.to/2xoP9ap

Out of the Desert http://bit.ly/outofthedesert

Please help out all of your favorite writers by dropping a review on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads. We appreciate it.
Until my next post, peace out.

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From Memoir to Novel

#ICYMI, It Started With a Memory

What did? Out of the Desert.

That memory was triggered by an old black-and-white photograph of two kids hiding in a fort they’d dug in the desert. My cousin, Jerry, and I loved to play cowboys and Indians, or war, or anything else that required a hole in the sand. We’d lie outside, gazing up at the stars at night, and dream about what we were going to be when we grew up. Kinda like most kids at 10, 11, 12.

We had grand dreams. Jerry was going to be a spaceman. I was going to be a doctor. He was going to fly airplanes. I was going to be a champion barrel racer. He wanted to escape; I wanted to stay. Neither of us got what we dreamed about. I did race around barrels (What the heck what I thinking???). I didn’t become a doctor. Well, not a medical doctor. Jerry didn’t have chance. Fate took him too soon.

But, when I looked at that picture, I knew I had to write about us. I started with a short story about daydreaming on the high Mojave desert near Victorville, CA. I was 11; Jerry was 12. I remembered a lot about how we dreamed of being something other than kids in school. I published that short story in The Best of the Virginia Writers Club: Centennial Anthology, 1918-2018 as “Toad.” I was pretty satisfied with it.

Guess I wasn’t through, because Jerry kept returning in my dreams some sixty years after he died. He wasn’t satisfied. I wasn’t through with his story. I couldn’t write a memoir of our life together, because I didn’t have enough material. What I could, and did, do was imagine what he would have become had fate not stepped in. I gave Jerry a life. I gave him the future he never had. And now, looking back on Out of the Desert, who’s to say this isn’t the exact life my cousin would have enjoyed.

So, do you have a memory? Or an idea of something that might have happened? Do you want to tell it? Well, darn it. Tell it. Shout it loud and clear. Let readers know how much you loved the person you’re writing about. Fictionalize the story when you run out of memories. It’s all right to do that. It’s your story. Own it. Tell it. Share it. You’ll be glad you did.

Out of the Desert is available on Amazon in print and ebook formats.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #OutOfTheDesert, #ToadtheDreamer, Burro

Back with a new book

It took longer than I thought, but I am proud to announce that OUT OF THE DESERT is now available in print and ebook versions on Amazon. To encourage followers of my website to try this novel, I’ve priced the print version at $10 and the ebook at $0.99. The ebook price will be live for the rest of August. http://bit.ly/outofthedesert 

Why? Because so many of you read the ARC earlier. If you liked the novel, I have a huge ask: please buy the ebook for a buck, write a review, and make me happy. Why buy the book you’ve already read? Because if you a post a review that is not “verified” as an Amazon sale, either the review can be rejected or taken down in the future. Just way the elephant in the room works. 

So, I’m shameless. I need reviews to get the book entered into contests. I think this book has different legs (even without any serial killers in the mix!) from the Mad Max series. I want to reach new readers, new book clubs, as well as loyal ones. Please help out. 

To remind you about the story, this novel focuses on Toad, his brother Cricket, his best friend Pollywog, and his cousin Phyl. 

Once upon a time a little boy named Toad the Dreamer lived in the Mojave Desert. He dreamed first of being a spaceman. Then, he dreamed about growing up and going to college. He dreamed his mother’s dream for him to become a writer.  

Todd, the grown-up version of Toad, neared his 50th birthday. He wondered what happened to the little boy who wanted to be a spaceman. Todd’s story, and those of his favorite cousin and best friend, bring him to this turning point. Will he go back to the desert he left behind and find Toad the Dreamer? Or will he continue as he has, living a good life but not being satisfied with what he’s doing? Will he reconnect with his best friend?. 
I’ve been absent, but now I’m back. Getting the book out was more time consuming that I’d anticipated. So was getting ready for a total knee replacement. Well, the book is out and the knee is in place. Healing begins. So does my brain, which is re-engaging with new ideas for the next story, for new promotions, for life. I hope you join me on the journey.

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Filed under #BookTeaser, #ICYMI, #NewRelease, #OutOfTheDesert, #ToadtheDreamer, Uncategorized

Announcing a New Book

My next novel is nearly done and I’m raring to get this puppy into your hands. I have an offer and an ask.

Here’s the offer:  If you want to be a beta reader, please raise your hand. Send me an email at betsy_ashton2005@yahoo.com. I’ll send you a copy of the manuscript in PDF format. All you’ll need to read it is a copy of Adobe Acrobat, which is free.

Read the book. 

Give me honest feedback. Loved it. Hated it. Fell asleep on page 3. Did the stories hold your attention? Did you find the characters credible/likeable/entertaining?

Here’s the ask: When I release the book, I’m going to put the ebook up for free for a weekend. I’ll send you an email asking you to go to Amazon and “buy” it. Even if you don’t read ebooks, please “buy” it.  And then I’ll ask you to wait a couple of days and post a review.

Why? Because Amazon tracks who buys books on its site. I’m trying to get some early reviews so that I can enter a series of contest later this year. Yeah, I’m trying to stack the deck in my favor.

I hope you can help me. Oh, one more thing. No serial killers in this one.

TO REMIND YOU OF THE STORY

Once upon a time a little boy named Toad the Dreamer lived in the Mojave Desert. He dreamed first of being a spaceman. Then, he dreamed about growing up and going to college. Next, he dreamed about having a big family. He dreamed his mother’s dream for him becoming a writer. 

One day, when Todd, the grown-up version of Toad, was closing in on his 50th birthday, he wondered what happened to the little boy who wanted to be a spaceman. Or a writer. Todd’s story, and those of his favorite cousin and best friend, bring him to this turning point.

Will he go back to the desert he left behind and find Toad the Dreamer? Or will he continue as he has, living a good life but not being satisfied with what he’s doing? Will he reconnect with his best friend?

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Filed under #AmWriting, #BookTeaser, #NewRelease, #OutOfTheDesert, #ToadtheDreamer

#ICYMI Convergence of Dates

This past week has been a convergence of important dates for nearly 40 years.

First, there was my mother’s birthday on May 9. She would have been 97. Every year I would buy two gifts, one for birthday, one for Mother’s Day. I’d buy two cards, different wrapping paper, and different favorite foods. I made sure to celebrate each special day with the importance it deserved. Even when Mom’s birthday fell on Mother’s Day, she had separate cards and gifts, although I sneaked through with only one meal out. She didn’t mind.

Then, thirty-nine years ago on May 11, my best friend, Terry Naylor, became my husband. I couldn’t have been happier when we started our lives together. I can’t be happier that the ride continues, although now without the motorcycle. We hung it up last year. We exchange cards and go out for a special dinner, usually a week after our anniversary to avoid the Mother’s Day crush.

A similar convergence happens again at Christmas. Terry’s birthday is December 19. I make sure his birthday presents are wrapped in birthday paper and NOT placed under the tree. They sit aside in their own place of honor. Christmas presents go under the tree, decorated in red, green, and gold papers, ribbons (if the cat doesn’t play with them first), and a card tucked into the branches of the tree.

Why go to such trouble? It’s a sign of love. It’s a sign of respect.

Why do we tell friends of different faiths good wishes on their holy days? My Jewish friends deserve recognition for their High Holy Days, for Passover. I’ve enjoyed many a Seder dinner with them. My Muslim friends deserve recognition for Ramadan and for Eid, when Ramadan ends and with it the daily fasts. I fast for one day each year to understand what Ramadan means. It’s difficult, but it’s helped me understand Islam better. I’ve celebrated the equinoxes and solstices with my older religion friends.

Why? May I repeat, it’s a sign of love. It’s a show of respect. Care to join me?

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Filed under #ICYMI, #Memories, Uncategorized