Saturday, January 31, 2015


It’s the first week in February and I have a ‘hearty’ look to my house, celebrating Valentine’s Day.  I am reminded of Van Gogh’s line: “The way to know life is to love many things.”

I’m glad this famous man, known for his exquisite paintings, made such a comment, because if loving a lot of things means I know about life, then I definitely know life.  Those of us who love ‘widely’ are seen by some as not discerning enough-as dilettantes, shallow and superficial.  Critics complain we can’t possibly love as many things and people as we do, or at the very least, we are misusing the word “love.”  Even if we replaced “to love many things” for “be passionate about many things,” I’m sure we’d still get criticized for being over-passionate.

Every one of the things I love, I love with gusto.  For example, the ten fruit trees I love in my yard are also trees I prune, fertilize, water (just so), spray with dormant oil, and treat for pests.  Of course, I enjoy eating the fruit off my trees (and squeezing my home-grown limes in my Gin and Tonic), but my enchantment with fruit trees comes with knowing all about them.

I love white wine, and my search for favorites as my palate changes, means I have lots of bottles in my refrigerator.  Ah, the joys of sampling!  Chocolate is a favorite, so I’ve tried a hundred brands to find the milk and dark versions I like, without destroying my budget.  Ever tried Guittard milk chocolate?  You can buy those chocolate chips in the cooking aisle at your local grocery store, so the price won’t kill you.  Yum!

My husband, the moon, my family, an orange, golf, sunny days, travel, my MacBook air, our house, Oregon Juncos, our wood carvings, all aspects of our renovation, shoes, jewelry, my new car, my collection of bottle stoppers.

You get the point. My love of many things comes with knowing them well and cherishing them, lifelong.  So Van Gogh is right, I know life better by loving many, many, things. 

Sidenote: I love LIE CATCHERS, my latest novel, set in Petersburg.  Here are the Amazon and Wild Rose Press buy sites:

Relax! It's the End of the Beginning by Andrea Downing

"What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from."  T.S. Eliot

By the time January 31st rolls around, we know all too well we are truly into the New Year and all the resolutions of January 1st are but a fond memory for most of us.  It's about this time I ask myself, 'what's different from last year?'  As Eliot says, the end makes a beginning but the beginning also marks an end.
There's been a lot of discussion recently about writers losing their impetus to write, losing their joy of creating.  Is it a case of the mid-winter blues or was that joy just left behind with the holidays?  At a time when we should be relishing the feeling of it being a brand new year with tons of possibilities, some people carry the problems of the last year into the new and get bogged down.  It's difficult to let go; it's almost impossible to ignore the lurking fear of failure and strike down the voice demanding if you're going anywhere wfith all this work, that last year wasn't the outrageous success you'd envisaged.  We gaze goggle-eyed at the heap of drudgery before us—for writers, it's generally promotion and social media that suck out the life blood of the actual writing—and wonder if we can recreate the day to have twenty-six hours instead of twenty-four.
So let me ask you this, stockbroker or author, inventor or artist:  did you ever wonder why your best ideas come to you just as you're about to drift off to sleep?  Or while sitting back in the tub with that glass of wine?  It's because, quite obviously, you're relaxed!  The two sides of your brain are no longer fighting each other; you're able to let creativity flow.  Creating is rather like giving birth and, don't laugh, but we've all heard the stories of what doctors initially tell couples unable to conceive when there's no evidence that anything is wrong:  take a cruise!  Turn off the phones, get away from the computer and the demands of house and home, and relax.  And then there are those tales of couples who go ahead and adopt only to then find they've conceived.  Why?  Because the angst and worry has been finally taken from them.  When my first book came out, I wrote a blog post comparing the book's creation and publication to giving birth.  Conceiving ideas is not so far from conceiving a child, even if it isn't quite so much fun. 
So.  Don't worry about those forgotten resolutions.  Don't bite your nails over the problems leftover from the previous year/month/week/day.  Grab a glass of wine, sit back, and make a continual new beginning and take things in your stride.  Easier said than done?  Perhaps.  But perhaps the very act of creating is relaxing. After all, it's an escape. Once you start and are focused on what you're doing, everything else disappears into a sort of inconsequential fog.  Try!  That's my advice, and I'm taking it…but I'd like to know how you get your creative juices flowing again and get out of the winter doldrums.  Have you stuck with your resolutions?  And can you relax?!
   Thanks, Roses, for having me.  And Happy New Year everyone.

Blurb for Dances of the Heart:   Successful, workaholic author Carrie Bennett lives through her writing, but can’t succeed at writing a man into her life. Furthermore, her equally successful but cynical daughter, Paige, proves inconsolable after the death of her fiancĂ©.
Hard-drinking rancher Ray Ryder can find humor in just about anything—except the loss of his oldest son. His younger son, Jake, recently returned from Iraq, now keeps a secret that could shatter his deceased brother’s good name.
On one sultry night in Texas, relationships blossom when the four meet, starting a series of events that move from the dancehalls of Hill Country to the beach parties of East Hampton, and from the penthouses of New York to the backstreets of a Mexican border town. But the hurts of the past are hard to leave behind, especially when old adversaries threaten the fragile ties that bind family to family…and lover to lover. 

 Excerpt:  “You know how to Texas Two-Step?” he asked.
 “No,” she said, laughter just below the surface.
 “Well, sweetheart, you have come to the right place. Or at least got yourself the right man. By the time I finish with you, you’ll be the best dang stepper on the floor.”
 Carrie looked around. “There isn’t anyone else on the floor at the moment, Ray.”
 “Well, heck, I know that. That’s perfect for learning.”
 As soon as his hand closed around hers, the leather of his palm a strange glove over her own fingers, a sudden frisson of connection ran through her she hadn’t known in a very long while. He moved her to face him squarely on, a small smile tipping the edges of his mouth, the dark, impenetrable eyes shining with his captured prize.
 “Just follow me,” he said as his right hand went to her back. A cover of a Vince Gill ballad started, the mournful tune setting a moderate tempo. “Perfect.” He held her right hand high and applied slight pressure to move her backwards. “Fast fast slow slow, fast fast slow slow.”
Carrie felt a light bulb go on. She got it. It was good. It was fun. And she relaxed in his embrace. He was an excellent teacher, a fabulous leader on the dance floor. Would wonders never cease?
 “You’re doing well. You’re doing fine,” he assured her. “We’re gonna try a little promenade now, and then a twirl, so get ready.”
Carrie couldn’t stop herself from smiling, anticipation bubbling for just a second. And then out of the corner of her eye she caught Ty watching them, beer half-raised in salute and a smirk plastered on his face. A moment’s hesitation and she missed the step.
 “What happened there?” asked Ray, oblivious to the effect the on-looker had on her.
Other couples were finally joining them on the dance floor, but despite the company, Carrie’s discomfort increased. “That boy, that Ty,” she told him. “He was watching us. It made me feel…uneasy.”
Ray scanned the sidelines, but Ty had gone, nowhere to be seen. “Oh, don’t pay him any mind. He’s harmless enough.”

Friday, January 30, 2015

Question Everything by Diane Burton

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning. ~ Albert Einstein

Words to live by—especially not to stop questioning. Do you remember the Sixties? (either personally or what you’ve read) We were such a “horrible” generation. So disillusioned by the Establishment. We dared to question authority. “Because I said so” didn’t cut it for us. Even worse when it came from people we were supposed to respect. Government, organized religion, Big Business. “Don’t trust anyone over thirty.” LOL

We grew up cynical, just knowing we were being lied to. Even when we weren’t. Worse when we could say “I told you so.” Questioning authority led to many arguments, even estrangement, within families. It also led to protest marches, riots, major disruptions of large assemblies (like the Democratic National Convention).

I’m pretty sure that type of questioning was not what Einstein referred to. While I’m not a flower child anymore (never was, actually), I haven’t stopped asking why. Or what if. Isn’t that what writers do? We want our readers to ask why, to leave them wondering what happens next when they finish our books. But first we have to ask those questions ourselves. What came before the story starts? Why do our characters act the way they do? What in their past formed their attitudes? What will it take to make them change? Why?

I’ve always been a reader. I love learning something new. Maybe not everything, like when Microsoft changes something that was perfectly fine. I’ve never enjoyed reading non-fiction, but if I need a fact for a story or blog post, I’ll delve deep into the internet. I’m very curious about other people, cultures, worlds. Not only do I wonder if there is sentient life on other planets, I make up stories about them.

Yesterday, Glenys wrote about age and attitude. I just shake my head at my contemporaries who won’t try something new, won’t use a computer (or are afraid to try), or think they’re too old to learn a new skill. They may be the same chronological age I am, but they’re years older in their attitude. 

I’ve frequently mentioned my three “Moms”—my mother, mother-in-law, and her sister. They are ladies who traveled to Europe in their eighties and nineties. When Aunt Cora broke her wrist in her mid-nineties, she learned to use a microwave. You should have seen her amazement when she discovered microwave popcorn came with butter and salt already on it. If laptop computers had been cheaper then, I’ll bet she would have loved learning to use one. Here's a picture of the three of them at St. Moritz. They continued going on European tours for another seven or eight years.
Cora, 89; Dorothy, 74; Grace, 91
I hope when I’m in my nineties, I’m still asking why and what if. Still writing stories to answer those questions.

Diane Burton blogs here on the 8th and 30th of each month and on Mondays on her own site: