Category Archives: The writing life

EXCITING NEWS: Book 3 on its Way


I’m pleased to announce that my next book is now under contract with Holiday House publishers. BOBBY LEE CLAREMONT AND THE CRIMINAL ELEMENT will be published in the fall of 2016, and I couldn’t be happier!

Here’s a quick synopsis:

Robert E. Lee Claremont–or Bobby Lee, when he’s not walking the straight and narrow–is leaving New Orleans. He is bound for Chicago, where he hopes to join the criminal element and make a new life for himself, far from the condemnation of his mother’s death and the heavy-handed salvation of the Sisters of Charitable Mercy. He finds himself making the journey with a young widowed mother, her companions, and a policeman, who suspects them of having murdered her husband. It seems like his big chance to join up with criminals. So why does the truth about Jimmy O’Halloran’s death and his young widow’s hopes for a future make Bobby Lee’s hardened criminal heart yearn for the wholesome comforts of family and home? And once he’s uncovered that truth, how far is he willing to go to save her, and himself, from the criminal element he had hoped to join?

This will be my third book, but is also a first in several ways:

  • My first book with Holiday House
  • My first book not set in Colorado
  • My first book with a boy protagonist

This is the manuscript for which

  •  I spent a whole day reading about the history of toilets on trains
  • I sang The City of New Orleans around the house for days straight (the cats are really tired of that song!)
  • I read dozens of oral histories from African-American Pullman Porters

Because those are the sacrifices a person makes for her art. What can I say. Some days, my job is pretty amazing.

I look forward to sharing more updates as this manuscript grows into a book with the help of my amazing new editor. Every story is a journey. This one in more ways than one.

That time of year for making lists

Really, I make lists all year long. I’m a firm believer in the “To Do List,” mostly because I enjoy scratching things off of them. It makes me feel productive.  I admit, I have been known to add things I’ve already done. I also put down silly little things, like “refill coffee cup.” Because it’s all about the scratching them off.  “YES!” I think triumphantly, giving myself a mental high five for such grand accomplishments as “wipe off the table,” “hang up wet towell,” and “wash eyeglasses.” VICTORY IS MINE!!!

But this is the time of year for that other kind of list.

The holiday  list.

The truth is, I don’t go shopping on Black Friday. I don’t like the crowds, I don’t like the standing in line. But really, when I think about it, there’s nothing out there in all those deals that I really want or need. I’ve got plenty of stuff in my house. I’ve got plenty of clothes in my closet. And so do my kids, my siblings, my parents. Everyone on my holiday shopping list doesn’t really need anything, a fact for which I am very grateful.

Of course, there’s more on the holiday To Do List than shopping. There are the parties and cards and decorating and entertaining and baking and…

housewifeListening to the commercials on TV and the radio, what we seem to be sold most during the holidays, is stress. At some point, we lost the idea that we are supposed to do things at the holiday to spread and share  joy. Every radio commercial I hear on my commute to work features the frantic housewife, cooking and cleaning and decorating for the masses, the frantic parents or lovers trying to find the perfect gift, the overworked, stressed out shopper, desperate to get it all done.  They aren’t helping us enjoy the holidays, they aren’t trying to give us a sense of joy. They are selling us stress–If you aren’t stressed out, you aren’t doing it right!

If that’s right, I gave up doing it right a long time ago. This can be a joyful time of year, but only if we choose to make it so. Likewise, this can be a hard time of year, for those who have lost loved ones or are alone. So my list, this holiday season, isn’t about what I can buy or how many things I have to get done. This list is about joy.

  1. This holiday season, I’m going to do things that bring joy to myself and others.
  2. All those things that the commercial society tells me to do but I don’t really want to? I’m saying no. Seriously, I’ve seen lights, baked cookies, been to parties. If I’m in the mood, I’ll do those things, but the season isn’t made better by overdoing them, when I’ve already had enough.
  3. I’m going to spend time with those I love, instead of spending time spending money on useless stuff for those I love.
  4.  I’m going to remind myself to look on the bright side–even the things that make me angry or frustrated must have a bright side somewhere.
  5.  I’m going to seek joy, even when its hidden.
  6. I’m going to find time to write. Because that’s important to me, and grounding, and stress relieving. Even when the cats are on my page.

That’s my holiday list as we enter the Christmas season. Now to start ticking them off.

**Addendum: The cats have made their  stress free holiday season lists too:

ChloeThe Dowager Empress:

  1. Eat
  2. Sleep
  3. Eat




Little Sister:

  1. Eat
  2. Sleep
  3. Stalk birds through the windows


IMG_2950Demon Cat:

  1. Eat
  2. Sleep
  3. World domination


It’s Caterday. Time to play.

Something about the fall is making my cats go a little nuts. Maybe it’s the cooling weather. Maybe it’s the fact that night is expanding in the world, and they are creatures of the night. Maybe they are just a little nuts.

Whatever it is, they are running randomly around the house, attacking things (shoes, tennis balls, the dog, each other.)catfight

As I watch them, I realize they are taking play seriously. This is something I don’t really do enough.

It is something I need to do more in my life and my writing.Because I’m feeling desperate for growth right now, and one thing I used to do when I was growing, was play. A lot. But then I got all grown up, and I put away both growing and playing a little too much, I think.

So today, I’m going to go sit in the sun and write something silly and joyful. Maybe I will share it with you. Maybe I won’t. But I’m going to commit to making it fun. Who knows, maybe I’ll run around the house, throw myself down on the living room floor and attack a tennis ball. Or maybe I’ll go for a walk and enjoy the fall color. But I’m going to commit to more play.

So, I’m off. And I hope you are playing too.


Some thoughts on the sophomore novel

Four years ago, when I was first offered a book deal on my first novel, I started a debut author blog, EMU’s Debuts, with a group of friends. I’m proud to say that blog is still going, now on its fourth or fifth generation of debut authors!

Today, they invited me back to talk about the sophomore book experience. I’m sorry to have to say, I haven’t weathered it gracefully. But you can read more about that over at EMU’s Debuts.