Category Archives: #AmWriting

#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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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

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

Meditations On a Boot

Sometimes, life encourages you to rest a bit, slow down a bit, and put your booted foot up on the sofa. That’s me right now. Resting a bit. Slowing down a bit. And putting the boot up a bit.

No, the ankle isn’t broken, just rather spectacularly sprained. I slipped going down to my basement and bent the right ankle backwards. I pretty sure I hadn’t broken it as soon as I was able to assess any damage. Did it hurt? Of course. Did I cry? Nope. Did I try to stand? Of course, again.

So, why am I meditating on a boot? Having to keep a foot elevated is a perfect time to meditate on anything. For me, I chose to assess why I’m so clumsy. I am. No doubt about it. But why? I mean, I hold onto railings when I go up and down stairs. I watch where I put my feet when I’m out taking my daily two-mile walk. I watch for stones, twigs, and anything else that could jump up and grab me. I even avoid wads of gum on sidewalks. You never know when one of those gooey wads will reach up and grab an ankle. So embarrassing to fall because a giant Double-Bubble wad tripped me.

I’m also glad my father wasn’t around when I was born. He and Mom argued about what to name me. He wanted me named after his mother. Mom wanted to name me after her favorite sister. Thanks, Mom. Grace would have opened too many doors for name-calling.

Not being able to rush about gives me time to ponder what is really important. For me, it’s my husband, my best friend, who runs up and down stairs with hot coffee. It’s my kitty, Smokin’ Mocha Java, who enjoys tummy naps when I’m reading or running dialogue in my head. And it’s my writing, my only creative outlet.

I have a new novel due out later this year. I was going to push to get it out in June. Not now. Instead, I’m working on making the story the best I can. I have a series of beta readers lined up to read the advanced reader copy. I have an almost-final cover. Two more tweaks and I’ll share it. It took a long time to get the image right, but I think we have it now.

Oh, yes. You all weighed in on the “desert” book. You offered so many terrific alternatives to Toad the Dreamer and Out of the Desert. When I tallied all the votes, Out of the Desert won. The more I work with it, the better I like it. After all, it’s clear in the series of stories that you can take the main characters out of the desert…

I’m also working on another book, which I planned to have out in the fall. Not gonna happen. I knew it before I sprained my ankle. I could push to get the book out, but I’d rather it be ready and right than ready and right now. You know what I mean. We’ve all read books rushed into print. It’s not that much fun for the reader. So, I’ll put a bit more work into the manuscript. I’ll be asking for suggestions on book titles…

Until I’m more mobile, I may send additional posts. I refuse to be bored. I will try to share what I think you’d like to read. I hope you agree.

And now, the ankle is throbbing and needs to be elevated. Bye for now.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #Memories, #ToadtheDreamer, Uncategorized

Broken Hearted

No, I haven’t experienced a personal loss, disaster, or break up. I’m broken hearted about the number of people who have been killed while at worship.

This isn’t meant to be a political screed, but a personal reflection on what is happening.

Are you old enough to remember places of worship being unlocked throughout the week, all night? No matter what time, you could always find a place of worship open somewhere in a city. Sometimes a priest or minister staffed them. Sometimes they were empty except for the worshippers who tucked in for a bit of quiet contemplation of something greater than themselves.


I’m old enough to remember. In three of the largest cities in the world, I always felt I could find church or temple open to welcome me.

No longer. Too many churches can’t trust people to enter without desecrating the sanctuary. Churches have been robbed. Their treasures have been stolen. Their sanctuaries trashed, furniture broken, hate-speech spray-painted on walls.

And now, the worst descrecration of all: the slaughter of people practicing their faith. Whether it’s a gunman entering a Jewish synagogue, an African-American church, mosques in multiple countries, the end result is a descrecation of ourselves, of our collective souls. Maybe it’s bombs falling into a mosque in a conflict zone, killing helpless women and children. Maybe it was a bomb detonated at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963 and killing four young girls. It doesn’t matter. It’s all hatred.

While we can’t turn back the clock and erase the damage done to our souls, we can look deep inside and see the good in so many of us. We can look beyond the color of someone’s skin and see the dreams and desires within. We can learn from people of different religions. We can accept differences and similarities. We can see people for who they are.

My heart breaks at every death. Some murderers think what they do is righteous. They publish manifestos bragging about why they’ll do something. They want us to remember their names, laud their dedication, understand they are fighting a righteous fight against the government, society, people of different faiths. You get the idea.

I refuse to remember their names. I will remember the horror they inflicted on so many families, so many friends. And my heart will break just a little more the next time it happens.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #Memories

Never Throw Anything Away

Our mothers told us to clean our room, put stuff we weren’t using away, and throw/give away stuff we no longer use.

The same thing holds true with authors. Everything we see, every fragment of conversation we overhear is material. Sometimes it finds its way whole into a bit of prose or a poem. Sometimes it influences a scene. Sometimes it just plain old doesn’t fit and retreats into the parking lot where it waits for the right place to reemerge.

My novel, Out of the Desert, is saturated with just such bits. A few years ago, I published a story about a woman who had named her breasts before she had a double mastectomy. It was light-hearted, if ever that topic can be light-hearted. I needed a powerful scene between two estranged sisters. How to get them back together after a twenty-year separation. Recycling the long short story into a five page scene did the trick.

I wondered how I would end the novel. It had to have a positive ending. It had to answer one of the key questions asked near the end by the main character. I searched the parking lot for ideas. What did my eye fall upon except a small character sketch I called “The Greeter.”

Several years ago, my husband and I made the trip between northern Virginia and Smith Mountain Lake about twice a month. When we drove in daylight, we were overjoyed to see a man standing in a cross-over, waving to the passing cars, and grinning widely. We nicknamed him the greeter. As time passed, the greeter grew older and was in the cross-over less often, until one day he wasn’t there any longer.

My husband and I made up stories about his life. We wondered if he was a retired veteran. That idea fit with what we wanted him to be. We wove tales around his life. We made up names, a backstory, and an ending. I jotted these down in a file called “The Greeter.” When it came time to write the last story, I gave my main character a greeter who’d waved at him when he was a teen. I gave the main character an interest in the man, a curiosity to learn about the man’s backstory. I gave the main character permission to write about this humble in glorious prose.

I gave myself permission to recycle the greeter’s story in the final passage of the novel. Due out later this year, I hope you remember the path the greeter traveled to appear in the final movement of Out of the Desert.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #BookTeaser

Evoking Memories

What evokes the most memories for you? Is it the sound of a bird, a person’s voice? Is it the taste of a favorite food, or a not-favorite food? Is it the sight of someone’s hair, a color you wore on a special day? The feel of a favorite book, worn from overreading, that just feels right in your hand?

For me, it’s smell, that most powerful of senses. At Roanoke Regional Writers Conference 2019 at the end of July, three writers offered new ways of looking at the six senses, including the one we keep inside, our sixth sense. I drove home thinking about all the smells of my youth which define special moments.

Marcel Proust may have set the bar for a stream-of-consciousness memory invoked by dipping a small cake into a cup of tea. The resulting reverie is one of the more famous moments in literature. My memories are closer to home.

Home defined two great memories, one of my grandmother, the other of my mother. My grandmother smelled of Evening in Paris cologne. It was her favorite and she wore a drop for special occasions. She also smelled on Ivory soap and bleach, because she was responsible for doing the wash and hanging it out on the line to dry.

Mother smelled of Chanel No. 5, chocolate chip cookies hot from the oven, and, my favorite, chocolate-covered cherries. My mother was hooked on chocolate-covered cherries, the kind you bought in a box at the pharmacy, the kind with milk chocolate outer shells and mareschino cherries and a vanilla filling. God, they were awful. God, we loved them. Mom bought a box at Valentine’s Day every year. Confession: I have a box ready to open next week…

The other smell combines both scent, sight, and texture. It’s my memory. It’s one I’m writing about in my latest novel, Toad the Dreamer. It is sand. All sands are not alike. My two favorites are those of my main character, Todd, aka Toad. One is the scent of desert sands. Dry. Clean. Sun-baked. Filled with tiny pebbles, bits of lava, thorns. Shades of brown. tan, flat green.

Todd’s, and my, other favorite sand is beach sand. Todd has a house near the ocean. Here, the scent is of damp, early morning fog. The scent of red tide and dead fish. White, clean stretches with bits of shell. Sun-baked, salty. Smooth between the toes. A place to lie and nap in the sun.

Both of these memories shape the adult Todd, as the desert shaped the child Toad. It’s fun to write about places and events I lived. I hope I do honor to my memories.

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Filed under #AmWriting, #FiveSenses, #Memories, #ToadtheDreamer