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August 2, 2013 | 0 comments

            No sooner did I get back from the Oregon trip with my daughter, elder son and three grandchildren, than Rick and I packed and headed off with a couple from our Bible study to see Philadelphia and Gettysburg.  We’d been planning this trip for almost two years, eager to get a taste of history with the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. 

            We arrived in Philadelphia and checked into the Penn’s View Hotel within a few blocks of the old city and its historic buildings.  We had one day to wander before we headed to Gettysburg for the re-enactment.  We headed for the Visitors’ Center for maps, and visited Philosophical Hall, the Congress Hall, Christ Church Burial Ground (Benjamin Franklin’s grave), walked by Betsy Ross’ house and went to Christ Church (where several founding fathers worshipped). 

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July 26, 2013 | 0 comments

Yesterday, I emailed my third and final scene to my editor.  She has already completed the deletions and sent me the “clean copy” and will be dropping the new scene in when I’ve finished my read-through.  I must admit, when I saw the small pile of work, I gulped.  Is that all that’s left of 200,000+ words and eighteen months of hard work?  But then, it is single-spaced with wide margins, and not the double spaced manuscript format I submitted.  Whew.    

It’s always better for me to read the manuscript with all deletions completed so I can see if the characters and story track well or if the work needs more transitions to smooth over areas that have been plucked out.   It’s also less heart-wrenching than to see 80.000 words red-lined out.  My eye would go to what is being removed, rather than what remains.  I trust my editor.  Nothing I’ve written is sacrosanct, and readers are probably not as interested in the...

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July 19, 2013 | 0 comments

            When my children were young, I took them up to Brookings-Harbor, Oregon each summer to visit with my parents who lived up the hill and across the highway from Whaleshead Beach.  We usually spent 7-10 days.  Mom always had “stone soup” waiting for our arrival – and a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies.  Mom got up early every morning and prepared a picnic basket.  Dad often kept the kids occupied in the forest behind their house or making sling shots or hunting salamanders.  We’d all head to Whaleshead or Lone Ranch Beach to explore the tide pools.  We drove south to Smith River or over to Oregon Caves.  We went to the aquarium in Crescent City and drove up to Humbug State Park, the Prehistoric Gardens and West Coast Safari Park where they held and petted baby Bengal tigers, bear cubs, cougar cubs and were surrounded by a herd of friendly deer, rams, and goats...

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July 5, 2013 | 0 comments

A number of years ago, environmental groups went to war with the lumber industry over the plight of the snowy owl.  It nests in redwoods, and people wanted its habitat protected.  People climbed and camped in trees.  Some chained themselves to redwoods.  Eventually, they won and lumber mills were shut down in northern California.  Some towns went into rapid decline with high unemployment.  Some are still struggling to survive.

But I have new found hope because pot farms (illegal and otherwise) are doing greater damage to the environment than the lumber industry ever did.  Here is a real war for the environmentalists to fight.   Pot farmers are mixing carbofuran with tuna and sardines to kill off bears.  Pollutants are seeping into the watershed: fertilizers, soil amendments, miticides, rodenticides, fungicides, plant hormones, diesel fuel and human waste.  Salmon and trout are dying off, not to mention putting snowy owls...

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June 30, 2013 | 0 comments

No one likes paying taxes, but they’re necessary to keep the country going.   However, the last thing we want to see is a bunch of IRS workers doing line dances and dressing up as Trekkies on  taxpayer money at conferences that tally up to $50M.  And we don’t want to hear the IRS targeting any group, be it conservative, religious or liberal.  Targeting anyone is not what our country is all about, or wasn’t until recently.  We don’t want a government that behaves like a kingdom.

Here’s my solution, not that anyone will listen.  

Abolish the current tax system.  Dump the whole thing.  Hit the reset button.  Replace it with a flat 10% tax on ALL citizens above poverty level.  Taxes would be taken directly from paychecks (like Social Security).  No forms to fill out at the end of the year.   On top of the 10% flat tax, have a 2% tax on everything sold in the U.S.A.  Everything.  That...

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June 21, 2013 | 0 comments

Over the years, Rick and I have played tourist wherever we’ve lived.  Sonoma County is no different, except that people come from around the world to visit the wine country, redwoods and Pacific coast, and we have it close at hand.  When I’m neck-deep in a project, I don’t have time to wander too far from my computer.  Once the manuscript is turned in and I’m waiting for the editorial conversation on what more needs to be done, we are free to explore. 

Recently, we decided to head out to the coast.  It’s a beautiful winding drive through redwoods, past vineyard and pastures with flocks of sheep.  We stopped at Duncans Mills, remnant of an 1870s lumber town on the Russian River, and browsed through the shops and art gallery.  We drove on to Jenner-by-the-Sea, long-time homeplace to Mom and Dad Rivers.  We’ve spent numerous week-ends in the small hillside coast town over-looking the mouth of the river and Pacific Ocean.  We parked...

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June 14, 2013 | 0 comments

After numerous reader critiques in-house and a conference call between agent and editors, the  comments and concerns were compiled and made ready for presentation to the writer – me.   I got the call early Monday morning and already knew what to expect.  Too long.  Needs major cutting.  This seems to be a common thread in my work. Thankfully, I have an editor who is very good at carving excess fat away and getting to the meat.  We talked about scenes I want to keep in and why and what might happen with the scenes that can go.  “Deleted scenes” posted on line, perhaps, so readers would know more of the backstory to the characters that will fill the final published version of the mammoth manuscript I turned in.  Sometimes a machete is better than a carving knife, especially when cutting 50,000 words from a 200,000 word manuscript.

Most of the cutting will be done in the first nine chapters where I was getting to know my characters...

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June 10, 2013 | 0 comments

I’ve been writing for over thirty years and still get nervous when I turn in a manuscript.  Have I succeeded in bring the characters to life?  Will the story comfort, encourage, challenge readers?  Is there any “take away” value? 

While waiting, I tend to go into a reading frenzy, enjoying the books I’ve been stacking up on my TBRP (to be read pile), two shelves full, one of fiction, one of non-fiction.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve read six books and two manuscripts, all very well-written.  I’m thankful to live in a Golden Age of publishing with a plethora of genres and excellent writers, on and off-line.  I am an old fashioned “girl” who still likes to have a book in hand, not on an iPad or Kindle.  There’s something about the scent of a real book, the feel as I turn a page, the weight of someone’s work in my hands.  

Meanwhile, agent, associate, senior editor, editor and others are reading my most recent attempt at...

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May 31, 2013 | 0 comments

I remember this line from “Poltergeist” years ago when the teenage daughter was standing on the street as an entity was wreaking havoc inside the house and everyone was fleeing.  I’m beginning to feel that way when I read the newspaper and wonder. 

Is the “affordable” health care program going to help?  I have a relative who has had to pay her doctor out-of-pocket because she can’t afford health care.  Now, with the new law, she will receive a fine for not buying health care she can’t afford, and the cost of that fine will be more than she’s been paying out-of-pocket to see a doctor.  The clinic in her area is closing down because they can’t afford the equipment required by the new law.  And this is supposed to help people in need of health care? 

Next we have the IRS singling out conservative groups for tax audits.  Apparently, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is on their hit list.  I wonder how long it will be...

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May 24, 2013 | 0 comments

My brother and sister-in-law stopped for a night with us on their way south to attend the Vietnam POW Reunion at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum that coincides with the 40th anniversary of a White House dinner hosted by President Nixon to honor their sacrifice.  Finally, after so many years, these survivors who suffered so much are again being honored. 

I was in college while my brother served in an intelligence unit in Hue.  He worked with Vietnamese and loved the city.  He and his co-workers became good friends as they carried out their duties in the beautiful ancient capital of Vietnam.   On January 31, 1968, the city was overrun.  Our family didn’t know for days whether he was alive or dead.  When the Marines retook the city, my brother was found severely wounded. He still has pieces of shrapnel imbedded in his body. 

My husband, Rick, was serving as a Marine in DaNang during the Tet...

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