Driver’s Ed

I’ve spent the last several days on the road–five hours to and from Bryan, six hours to and from the farm–and I believe I’m qualified to make this statement: there are some crazy people on the road today.

Apparently folks need a refresher course in driver’s education, so here are a few pointers:

  1. It is not wise to pull out in front of someone who is going at least 75 miles per hour. You never know whether the brakes on the on-coming car work–or if the driver is inclined to use them.
  2. Assuming you ignored rule #1, keep in mind that it is not wise to go 40 mph in a 75 zone after interrupting the stride of the on-coming car. You never know when the driver of that car suffers from road rage and is willing to use his vehicle as a weapon of intimidation.
  3. Crowding the bumper of the car in front of you will not make all the cars in front of him go faster.
  4. If the person ahead of you is not breaking the speed limit enough to suit you, riding his bumper is not likely to make him go faster. Wait for the opportunity, then pass at the appropriate moment.
  5. The universal gesture for “get off the road, you moron” is inappropriate if you’re the moron.
  6. Don’t assume an older car has no power or is being driven by someone who isn’t willing to use that power. (I’d pit Mom’s 1997 Ford Crown Vic against many of the cars on the road today. She has taken excellent care of it, and that sucker can go from 0 to 60 in less than a blink and crank up over 90 in less than two.)
  7. If you’re in the wrong lane to make a turn, don’t cut within inches of an on-coming vehicle to make that turn. Wait until the coast is clear.
  8. If you’re playing your music loud enough to vibrate the floorboards of the trucks and cars surrounding you, you’re not likely to hear emergency vehicles–but you are likely to go deaf before you’re thirty.

I’m not one of those road-rage people who will use an expensive vehicle to intimidate others. I’m not one to gesture at the idiots on the road. But I do–in the safety of my own little car–call them jerks and morons and drive with a black cloud over my head until I get over the attempt on my life. I don’t take kindly to someone who is so self-absorbed that s/he doesn’t care about other people on the road. What kills me about those who drive so aggressively is that they believe themselves to be good drivers.

Years ago, the slogan was “Drive Defensively,” meaning we must understand that the drivers in the other vehicles are as likely to be morons as not, so we must be alert and aware and prepared for any stupid move those idiots may make. Being a good driver isn’t just getting from point A to point B without getting in an accident or getting a ticket. It means waiting until the coast is clear to change lanes or enter a lane. It means giving space between your vehicle and those in front of you. It means pausing for a beat when the red light turns green to make sure some jerk isn’t going to run through the red light facing his lane.

It requires an understanding that (1) we don’t own the road and (2) we must share the road with idiots who think they do.

Which leads me to this–a personal note to all the high school and college kids out there: You don’t own the road. You haven’t paid enough taxes to consider one yellow stripe yours, much less the entire highway system. So please drive defensively and keep your finger to yourself.

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Especially for Writers

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Cool Underwater Museum

It’s Mom week again, and since I don’t know what to post, check out this neat set of pics I found on Pinterest!

theme pic set

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Setting Description

 He clutches the package tighter to his chest and shoots a glance over his shoulder. Still there. No shakin’ them. Whoever’d hired them is sure gettin’ his money’s worth.

His eyes dart to the “Walk” sign at the corner, and he quick-steps through the noon crowd to the other side of the road. Another glance. Stupid gorillas are still there, not two dozen paces behind. Here–cut in here. Nice busy place to lose them between the rows of bright yellow bananas and sweet smelling peaches. On another aisle, pungent onions compete with the scent of fruit. An apron-clad store clerk washes celery and sets it artistically among the squash and eggplant.

Whoa! Hold the guavas, there! What happened to our hero’s panicked flight? What happened to the gorilla goons on his tail? I got distracted with the scene description, didn’t I?

You may read this and giggle, but I’ve actually seen similar prose in published books–a little less exaggerated, but enough to rip me right out of the scene.

When the action is fast paced, detailed setting description simply does not work. You want your words and sentences short–not choppy, but short and quick to read. So stopping the action to set the scene isn’t the best route to go. Use a broader stroke when painting the scene, and combine the three previous lessons to keep the pace:

He clutches the package tighter to his chest and shoots a glance over his shoulder. Still there. No shakin’ them. Whoever’d hired them is sure gettin’ his money’s worth.

His eyes dart to the “Walk” sign at the corner, and he weaves around rushing nooners to the other side of the four-lane.

Another glance. Stupid gorillas are keepin’ pace, not two dozen paces behind. Here–cut in behind the peach stand. The apron-clad veggie hawker shots him the evil eye, but he don’t care. One more second and the goons’ll be closer. One hefty push topples the peaches, and he skedaddles through the fruit stall and out the back way.

Keep him in character and in the scene, and use the props to help describe the setting.

Sometimes the pace allows for more description. When it does, use the opportunity to set or enhance the tone.

Here’s a piece from one of my neglected manuscripts. In it, the MC, Claire, has a suspicion that the town’s mighty Sinclair brothers know the whereabouts of her surrogate grandmother, their great aunt. She’s afraid someone has kidnapped her, but she can’t get anyone to believe her claims. She decides to investigate on her own:

She turned left down Filmore Street, where home after stately home paled in comparison to the Stanfield mansion. “Re-elect Senator Marcus Stanfield!” placards planted ten feet apart down its entire length marred the street’s atmosphere of rich antiquity. She scowled at Marcus’s handsome, smiling face peering at her from the cardboard signs. The Stanfield brothers didn’t have an ounce of the kindness and compassion their late parents had possessed. They were nothing more than a waste of skin.

Her chest tightened as she pulled into the drive of their five-acre estate. When Mr. and Mrs. Stanfield were alive, they hosted Easter egg hunts and July fourth fireworks displays for the town’s children. At Christmas, their immense house had always been lit up like a fairy land castle. Today, with the charcoal skies overhead and the wind picking up from another wave of storms, the place looked menacing. The wet weather had given the brick drive a sweaty sheen, and the arched entry into the imposing mansion looked like a gaping mouth ready to gobble her whole.

Describing your character’s setting deserves as much attention as describing your character. In fact, the exercise can enhance your character’s description and add depth to him. When used to help set the tone, description can add depth to your scene also.

In other words, setting descriptions are a tool readily available to anyone who prefers a pen to a brush, a screen to a canvas. But like any other artist’s tool, it requires practice.

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Especially for Writers



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This One’s for Katie

outlineThe early results of the outlining experiment are in, and though more research is required before I say so definitively, all indications are that . . .

Y’all know I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, right? I’ve been at this business professionally for a number of years now, and every single one of my manuscripts–published or not–have been written one scene at a time, with no more guideline than a general knowledge of structure.

For years, Katie and I have been on the opposite ends of the spectrum where it comes to outlining. She’s an avid outliner, I’ve evolved into a hesitant hybrid. She’s right about where my fear of outlining comes from: visions of the rigid structure, complete with Roman numerals and indented letters and numbers, that we–in my generation, at least– learned in school. Rigidity and creativity don’t mix.

But when you think about it as free-writing, scribbling whatever comes to mind in response to structured questions–and sometimes not-so-structured questions–it makes a difference. Wakes the muse, gets the creativity flowing. After you’ve gone through a period of creating what, in all appearances, seems to be river sludge and start picking out the gold nuggets, it’s amazing how quickly things start to develop.

Granted, I did have the same trouble outlining as I do in SOTP writing–what to do with that saggy middle. Happens every time I sit down to write: I know the beginning and I know the end, but getting from point A to point B always threatens my meager sanity. The benefit of outlining is, when something doesn’t work, I simply tear up the index card and start over. In writing, I’d have to rip out entire scenes, then backtrack to change whatever went with them. It didn’t take long–seriously, how long does it take to paint the segment and hit delete?–but it was still a greater and more frustrating effort than just scratchin’ out the scribbles or tearin’ up the card.

My primary defense of being a pantser was that, when I was done, I had a complete novel ready to edit. Outliners have an outline ready to be turned into a novel, which was then ready to be edited. I figured I saved a few steps. And, in my defense, it does take Katie longer to get a novel out than it does me.

But in her defense, her novels are more complicated than mine.

I currently write romance, a genre whose key elements are dictated by time and tradition: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back, and they live happily ever after.

The challenges for writing are still there for me, because I still have to imagine an entire story world for all these wonderful events to take place, characters have to be developed, and the conflict defined, executed, and resolved. But because the elements are the same (yes, it’s formulaic writing–a time-proven formula that works for its readers), I don’t have to spend time making up my own.

And because those elements are the same, if I outlined the rest, I could produce more novels more quickly than I do when I write by the seat of my pants.

Believe me, I was surprised too.

So, early results about outlining? I like it.

Pass the crow.


Want to take the same journey? I recommend Katie’s book and workbook, available on Amazon:

Outlining Your Novelkatie


Similar posts of my outlining journey:


Don’t forget our 99c Kindle bundle special!

cover panel

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On Credit Cards and Scams and Mother’s Maiden Name

This is one of the rare days my cat PB let me sleep late. And because I didn’t have a post prescheduled for this site, and because I did get an extra three hours sleep, I’m late. I’ve been up for about an hour and a half now, and part of that time was spent wondering what I’m going to write about and the rest of the time was spent trying to figure out whether or not Mom’s credit card account has been breached.

If so, heaven help the jerk who did it.

Fortunately, whoever called her this morning and recited the last four digits of her card number woke her from a sound sleep. Her groggy head registered only the fact he gave a number, said “fraudulent use,” and gave her a phone number to return the call. I suspect, had she been coherent enough to return the call, she would’ve given the thief the rest of her credit card number.

Instead, she called me. Even half asleep, Mom is smart. She didn’t give out information over the phone. She has a deep-seated distrust of phone numbers and people she doesn’t recognize, and these days, octogenarians should have a healthy amount of distrust.

I fished her bill out of the to-be-shredded can and called the credit card. For verification, they wanted the last four digits of her social security number. Considering I’d been awake less than an hour and had downed only one cup of memory-pumping caffeine, I couldn’t think of it. I gave the lady the first number that came to mind, which turns out to be my husband’s.

So, for alternative information, she asked Mom’s birthday and her mother’s maiden name–and here’s where things got weird. I know Mom’s birthday and Grandmom’s maiden name, but the name wasn’t the one Mom used when she set up the account. Once upon a time, long ago and far away, she’d told me she had done that, used someone else’s name as her mother’s maiden.

“Anyone can figure out Mom’s maiden name,” she’d said. “They’ll never guess this one.”

True, and we thought it brilliant at the time, except now I don’t remember which one she used.

Now, I’m on a hunt for her SSN and awaiting a call-back from the wonderful lady who’d been so incredibly patient with my fumbling self this morning, while I down coffee like it’s a life-saving serum that will magically make my brain work again. If only it would.

Lesson here, kids: Don’t let your mom get cute about her password and info cues without filing them somewhere where you can actually find them again. Believe me, I feel like a huge idiot right now.

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Especially for Writers

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Musical Inspiration

chrisOne touch of a button on my CD player, one second of the galloping beat of “Hooked on an 8-Second Ride,” and I’m there—dead middle of the rodeo arena. Dust, cowboys, bulls so big they measure a foot and a half between the eyes. The smells of cotton candy and popcorn vying against ranker odors. The chorused groan of the crowd when their favorite crashes to the ground just an instant before the buzzer. The booming voice of the announcer echoing through the speakers. “Sorry folks. Maybe next time.”

The lyrics, “addicted to danger, ruled by passion and pride,” tell me all I need to know about the bull rider. But it’s the beat, the raw, driving, feral beat of adrenaline, that shows me how it feels to sit aback a brawny Brahma, with tension steeling my nerves and determination throbbing through my veins.

This one song by Chris LeDoux puts me there, ready to ride. Doesn’t matter that I’m female. Doesn’t matter that I’m too old. With that song, I’m a young man with jangling spurs and a hat firm on my head. I feel the animal shift under me, feel his restless power, smell his dirty hide. My hand’s secure in the braided rope, my teeth are clamped. All it takes is one short order barked at the gateman: Pull it!

The gate swings wide, and the bull explodes from the chute . . .

That’s the wonder of music. If you can’t live it yourself, the song will take you there. It will lift you out of your skin, whisk you from where you are, and settle you where you want to be like nothing else, except maybe a gripping novel.

When I was writing Give the Lady a Ride, I employed a variety of tricks to keep me in character, to inspire me, to immerse myself in this world I’d created. Although my mother’s family owned a ranch, I’ve never lived on one. Although several friends were involved in the rodeo, I’d never participated. So I needed all the help I could find to get this city girl on the ranch and rodeo arenas. I didn’t have a soundtrack of different artists. All I needed were my Chris LeDoux 20 Greatest Hits and Chris LeDoux: The Early Years CDs.

His cowboy and rodeo songs, like “Hooked on an 8-Second Ride” and “Stampede,” kept me in my setting, but his all music–not just his western genres–also played a huge role in my characterization. Through his lyrics, I gained an insight into the personality of a ranch/rodeo cowboy. He’s a practical joker and a little on the wild side. Loves his friends and family. Loves the land. He’s high tempered and foolish sometimes, quietly wise other times. Quick witted. Resourceful.

Is this an idealized portrait? No doubt. But when the hero in your romance novel wears boots and a Stetson, a little idealism doesn’t hurt.

More than any other tactic I employed, music put me where I needed to be, introduced me to personalities and a lifestyle I’m not familiar with, and provided a rhythmic realism to my bull riding scenes. (Thanks, Chris. RIP).


You can find Give the Lady a Ride along with six other fantastic Christian romance novels in our new set, Much Ado About Love!



Related post: “Much Ado About Love

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Much Ado About Love


I’m so excited to be included in this set! Give the Lady a Ride is one of six full-length novels written by some of the best romance and romance-suspense authors in the Christian Fiction industry.

Here’s what’s included in Much Ado About Love:

From Russia with Love by Susan May Warren: Kat Moore can’t believe that 24 hours after landing in Moscow, she’s on the run from the KGB. But after receiving a mysterious key, and an invitation to Russia, Kat can’t stop herself from hunting for her mysterious past.

Decorated FSB agent Vadeem Spasonov is good at his job – which is why he intercepts American “tourist” Kat Moore before she is snatched by an international smuggler. Unfortunately, she’s only made it worse by escaping protective custody. Now he has to not only track her down, but keep her safe long enough to get her home.

(Formerly published as Ekaterina.)

Beyond the Waves by Lynnette Bonner: Officer Kylen Sumner and Taysia Green have a history. He’s broken her heart more than once. So when he returns home claiming he just might be in love with her, she wants nothing to do with him. If only her heart would get the message!

Stealing Adda by Tamara Leigh: Adda Sinclaire, bestselling romance author, has no romance in her life. That might have something to do with her husband—correction, ex-husband—running off with her rival, Stick Woman. To top it off, Adda has a case of writer’s block. But just when she catches her breath—and the eye of a gorgeous man (ahem, her new editor)—her arch-nemesis gives the pot one final stir. Can you say “plagiarism”?

Tide Will Tell by Lesley Ann McDaniel: Kate Jennings is about to marry the man of her dreams. The rumor that he might have been involved in the disappearance of his previous wife pales in comparison to the past she’s running from.

Josh Collins just wanted a relaxing weekend with friends. Until he met Kate, the fiancée of a notorious billionaire. He’s drawn to her in spite of the loveless marriage she’s careening toward and the deadly secret she’s refusing to reveal.

Share With Me by Jan Thompson: Six years ago, Ivan McMillan was a budding crossover violinist, but that career was cut short when Grandpa Otto died, and Ivan came home to St. Simon’s Island to take care of Grandma Yun and her broken hip. Now he has found a new road back to the orchestral stage. The last thing he needs is a detour he cannot afford. But Brinley. Ah, Brinley. So pleasing to look at… So pleasant to be with… That is, until she turns his career upside down and ruins his life!

Give the Lady a Ride by Linda Yezak: She’s a classy New York socialite. He’s a rugged Texas bull rider. But opposites aren’t quick to attract when the lady who enters the cowboy’s world is on a mission to sell the ranch. But as she learns to love his integrity, she yearns to get to know him better. To buy time to explore the possibilities between them, she issues a challenge: “Teach me to ride bulls.” Now they’re in for the ride of their lives.

This is a great selection of romance e-books–and all for 99 cents!

Be sure to find us on Amazon!


[cover designed by Lynnette Bonner, Indy Cover Design]

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