Category Archives: #AmWriting

If Not Now

I’m likely to catch hell for this post, but I don’t care. I’ve written passionately about rape, bullying, drug violence. I don’t think I’ve felt the anger I felt yesterday when 21 people, mostly children, were slaughtered in Uvlade, TX. Children who were days away from the beginning of summer vacation. Children who had come from an award ceremony. Children who were looking forward to rising to the next class in the fall. Teachers getting ready to send their students off to summer vacation and new classes in the fall.

I watched news reports about the slaughter this week, listened to speeches by government officials saying this is “not the time” to debate gun laws. Well, if not now, when the hell is the right time? We thought we had reached the tipping point for talking about gun safety and gun education after Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook Elementary, Stoneman Douglas High School. We hoped after each tragedy we’d have a real conversation, a real debate, which would lead to elected officials doing the job they are elected to do: protect their constituents.

What do we get after these tragedies: bromides (guns don’t kill people…), calls for thoughts and prayers (as if that will bring back someone’s child), lip service about how we need to regulate guns (that won’t pass as long as the lobbyists own politicians), better mental health services? Maybe the latter is something we can actually tackle, since gun lobbyists don’t have a controlling position on mental health.

So, what do we do?

We have open discussions at all levels about gun reform. We need congressmen and senators to listen to their constituents and find a path forward to keeping the vulnerable safe. Maybe, it’s putting metal detectors in each school at each entry. Maybe, we need to have fewer entries into a school so they can be more safely monitored. Maybe, then we can return to a place where we have the right to know our children are safe when we drop them off at school. After all, one of our inalienable rights is the right to life, just not for children slaughtered in their classroom.

Steve Kerr exploded before his NBA game about the shootings. Like him, I’m sick of reading, of hearing about these tragedies. Senator Chris Murphy stood in the well of the Senate and castigated his fellow senators for not doing their job. When a bill on background checks, which should not need a lengthy debate, sits in the Senate for two years with no action after being passed by the House, what do we do? Nothing. And even Matthew McConaughey,. born in Uvalde, said enough is enough.

Is it? Is enough enough? Are we so complacent that we will let this evil fade from the headlines, to be bumped by another story of more or less importance? I don’t know what is more important than protecting our children.

If you care passionately about the lives of innocent children, act, damnit. Write your elected officials. Learn their positions. Vote them out if you don’t agree, but DO SOMETHING. it’s damned clear that our elected officials once again will wait this out unless we make our voices heard.

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Twas the Night Before Deadline

I always rerun this post just before Christmas in honor of the angst my fellow writers and I often feel. I hope you enjoy it.

with apologies to CLEMENT CLARKE MOORE

‘Twas the night before deadline, when all through the house

Not a writer was stirring, not even his mouse;

The laptop was set on the table with care,

In hopes that words soon would appear.

Images nestled all snug in his head;

Visions of page proofs filled him with dread;

With good guy as hero, a bad guy with a rap,

How to keep the right words, and edit the crap.

When out on the street there arose such a ruckus,

He sprang up in anger at loss of his focus.

Away to the window he flew like a flash,

Drew back the curtains and peered through the glass.

Red lights swirled on ceiling and wall,

Shattered concentration caused him to bawl.

When what to his curious eyes did appear,

Images of pages, blank and austere.

He wielded his pen so sure and so quick,

He knew in a moment his edits were mixed.

More rapid than eagles his cross-outs they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Bracket! now, Period! now Colon and Slashes!

On, Comma! on, Hyphen! on Quote Mark and Em-Dashes!

To the top of the page! to the top of the wall!

Now erase away! erase away! erase away all!”

Ideas that normally flowed freely and fast,

Now met such obstacles, they left him aghast;

On the screen his cursor stood still,

Hours to deadline, no words to kill.

When, in a twinkling, he heard in the hall

The shuffling gait of his wife’s footfall.

As he drew back his head, and turned to see,

Into the study she carried fresh coffee.

Dressed warmly in flannel, from her neck to her foot,

Her clothes were all rumpled, no makeup to boot;

She set the cup down with deliberate care,

Steam rising and swirling, to drink it a dare.

He wished she’d call his editor to plead

All he needed was one day to re-read.

His editor he knew would shout and decry,

He was behind in his contract, he couldn’t deny.

That editor so mean, so nasty and bold,

“Not another second,” his memory so cold,

With a nod of his head and a stroke of his pen,

He fought his way out of the mess he was in.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

Delete key melt down, words appearing from murk,

Finally laying fingers on keyboard, a touch so slight,

He typed and typed well into the night.

He sprang from his chair, the manuscript to send

The deadline met, the last words “The End.”

His editor sent a note of delight,

“Happy deadlines to all, and to all a good write!”

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Introducing BETRAYAL

It took longer than I thought, but at last I can announce that my latest thriller, BETRAYAL, is days away from publication. It’s nearly a year late, partly because of COVID (no, neither I nor my family have been ill), partly because of COVID malaise. I’d write and write, only to find I didn’t like much of what was on the screen. I found the delete key became my best friend. And then, one day, I woke up and began working in earnest. So, a year after what I’d hoped was my release date, I’m now closing in on it. For real.

My ARC team read the manuscript and gave me so many great suggestions for improvement. I read them all and took the majority. They were truly great catches, mostly of plot holes. My editor, who is also a pilot, edited not only with an eye for misplaced commas but also for bone-headed mistakes about flying. Thanks to her, I don’t sound like an idiot when I talk about following a flight path to a target. My cover designer fought through unanticipated school closures for her young son to come up with this cover.

“[When] a military jet [crashes] at an Army-Navy game, the danger has never been greater nor the investigation more personal.”—DIANE FANNING, NYT Best-Selling Crime Writer

“…a thriller with heart, and the human side of the drama…makes this book a winner.” AUSTIN S. CAMACHO, Author of the Hannibal Jones Mystery Series

Over 70,000 fans gather at the M&T Bank Stadium for the annual Army-Navy game. Three Navy fighters roar into the stadium air space. A fourth lags behind. The plane loses power. Cheers become screams when it crashes into the tailgating parking lot outside the stadium and explodes.

Was it pilot error? Suicide? Mechanical failure? Or worse?

Three couples in the Section Two Fan Club who knew the pilot—or thought they did—join a multi-departmental government task force to investigate.

Coincidentally, cameras capture a mysterious figure they call Fedora Man at a series of attacks on civilian and military targets. When he appears at the stadium, the Fan Club works to discover if the bombings and plane crash part of a larger pattern.

Amazon link coming soon..

What do you think? Is this something you’d be interested in reading? I’ll update with purchase links shortly.

Thanks again for joining me on my writing journey. See you in this space again soon.

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Pods, Pods, Pods

I’ve been thinking a lot about pods lately. All kinds of pods. Pea pods, to be sure, since the harvest is in and mounds of fresh veggies are available.

Pod people from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Some days I think pod people have taken over the airways. I’ve always enjoyed that movie, but living it gives me a whole new perspective. 

Other pods include learning pods, where groups of parents gather together to hire a professional teacher to augment distance learning.  

My favorite pod, however, is our Saturday at 6P “cocktail pod.” You read that right. Since the middle of March, neighbors have gathered at the end of our cul-de-sac for human interaction and cocktails. Strictly a BYO drinks. Oh, and chair. We do keep our distance but don’t wear masks because we are outside. 

Last week, we had 14, including a few kids and dogs, which provided entertainment by dancing in the circle. We had an unusual event. One home owner is renovating his house and nearly doubling its size. He had grown children, in-laws, and grands at the circle. Another couple came with their 6 yo girl. She usually draws in chalk and leaves her art for us to enjoy. 

The story was complex, but it began with a mention of the university the renovator went to. Two other people who are regulars also went to the same school, although a couple of generations separated them. One woman mentioned that her aunt also graduated from said university. Very long story short, the renovator and his clan and the family with the chalk artist are related by marriage and never knew it. The longer they talked, the more relatives they identified. 

When we broke up, one of the younger regulars mouthed, “WTF was that?”

That, folks, was a moment. Two families who had never met, met. So, we can be physically distanced, but can still interact socially. 

What cool pandemic things have happened to you? 

Peace, out.

#AmWriting
As a writer who is happy as a clam in her writing cave, I glad I turned this time into creative endeavors. I’m making fantastic headway on Betrayal, a suspense story with lots of explosions. I can’t wait to share the cover with you.
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#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 
You can get all three Mad Max ebooks for $5.97 at https://amzn.to/2V4d76v. 
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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#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

#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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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

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

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