Being “Unshod”


Unshod – Without shoes, barefoot.

To me, “unshod” invites images of dancing barefoot in soft green grass, or perhaps on a sandy beach. A deeper meaning might be the joy of freeing oneself of whatever it is that binds.

I’m not sure if that’s what the editors of the new anthology, Unshod, had in mind, but I think perhaps so. In the editors’ words, Unshod is “a book filled with traditional and contemporary western stories in which the characters are lain bare.” Now that’s freedom!

I’ve read many of the following authors’ works and look forward to reading their stories in Unshod. I’m honored to be included!

Pamela Foster
Staci Troilo
Joan Hall
P.C. Zick
Janna Hill
Michele Jones
Frances Guenette
Lorna Faith

For a limited time, click HERE to get the Kindle version of Unshod FREE! 

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Beautiful Little Voice

Waterolor beautiful girl. Vector illustration of woman beauty salon

As I tried to think about all the beautiful things I could write about for August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blogfest V, I realized most had to do with what I’ve learned with age:

  • Patience
  • Let it go
  • Live in the moment
  • The power of hindsight

I could go on and on. But in the end, I decided the most beautiful thing about growing older is removing my mask—a mask that was molded by the philosophy of “saving face.”

Wikipedia defines “saving face” as:

The term face idiomatically refers to one’s own sense of dignity or prestige in social contexts. In the English-speaking world, the expression “To save face” describes the lengths that an individual may go to in order to preserve their established position in society, taking action to ensure that one is not thought badly of by their peers.

This was my mom’s philosophy—to do whatever necessary to preserve dignity. Of course, as a child, dignity was not at the top of my priority list. Still, I pondered this concept, thinking it almost scary as I imagined not having a face. I even drew spooky people without faces. No doubt those images weighed on me more heavily than any desire to be “dignified.” Whatever the reason, I began the pattern of saving face from childhood, even if that face was only a mask.

What is the value of saving face, if that face is only a mask?

Yet, while my mother taught me to “save face,” I taught my kids to listen to their “little voice.” I realize there’s dissonance in those two philosophies, and there’s little doubt in my mind that my advice to my children to “listen to your little voice” was born of repressing my own inner voice in an effort to “save face,” or appear dignified to others.

Geisha (2)

That inner voice begins as a whisper. If I ignore the whisper, it begins to rumble. If I try to shove it aside, as I’ve often done, it starts to bubble and boil, until finally, it erupts and I have no choice but to listen. It may take years, but that little voice will be heard.

Many decisions in my life have been caught in this battle between saving face and listening to my little voice. In the past, saving face may have won the battle, but my inner voice always, always, wins the war. Not listening to this stubborn, beautiful little voice has had its consequences.

In much of my writing, my characters’ inner voices are practically characters unto themselves. As in The Red Kimono, I internalize a lot in my writing, so readers will know who my characters are behind the masks they wear for the outside world.

Don’t get me wrong. I still believe in “saving face.” But dignity shouldn’t come at the cost of authenticity.

Jan at ArtCure

Our little voice is the most beautiful part of who we are, because it’s the truth of who we are.





Click HERE to read more Beauty of a Woman Blogfest V stories!

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Barnes & Noble Book Signing

I’m so grateful to be joining Loiacono Literary Agency authors, Kathleen M. Rodgers, Diane Yates and Drema Hall Berkheimer on May 7 from 1:00-3:00 at the Southlake Town Square Barnes and Noble book signing.

Hope you’ll come visit with us!

Book signing

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An Imperfect Oldest Sister

photo (3)

Nobody is perfect, though I, like many others I’ve come to know, tried to be “perfect” for more years than I care to admit. The thing is, imperfection is a part of being human, and while I might have tried to be without flaw in front of those I thought expected it, my human imperfections often came out “behind-the-scenes” and toward the most vulnerable. In my childhood years, that was my younger siblings.

With the possible exception of one of my sisters, I think any of them would tell you I was a mean big sister. At times, that was true. My mother and father had five children in six years, and as the oldest, I became the “back-up” mom at the age of six. As I got older, if my mother was ill, which she often was, I was often the “primary” mom.

If, during those times, I couldn’t get my three younger sisters and one youngest brother to do what needed to be done, I would scream and yell at them. But why should they listen to a sister who was only slightly older? I liken the situation to students misbehaving with a substitute teacher. I was not their mom. Why should they obey me?

If screaming and yelling didn’t work, I’d pull hair. If that didn’t work, I’d hit, maybe even kick. And if that didn’t work, well, I’m ashamed to admit I tried tactics that were even worse.

When I look back, I feel much regret for the way I treated them, and I’ve apologized to all of my siblings. I can’t do anything about the past, but as an adult, I’ve tried to be a good oldest sister. Still, I’m human and have my flaws.

A few of us may still have some scars. But, when times are tough, we are there for each other. I have no doubt we all love each other. I’m grateful to have such compassionate, loving, supportive siblings, especially during difficult times, like the death of my mom last year.

Happy Siblings Day to all of my siblings–Cyndie, Kim, Tami and Chuck. I love you all very much and count my blessings for you every day.



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Wearing What I Want


Tonight, after Steve and I had each gobbled down our respective Fuddrucker’s cheeseburgers, his a medium-rare cheddar cheeseburger topped with onion rings, mine medium-well and smothered in pico de gallo, we sat and talked about a variety of things, as we often do.

Our conversation moved from how our day went, to what we plan to do this weekend, to how fast time goes by, to things we did early in our relationship, to writing.

And it was there, just after I decided to grant that last, cold French fry its reason for existence (I ate it rather than allowing it to be discarded), that I admitted my urge to write about suicide–about those who commit the act and those who are left behind. I confessed that with the topic of suicide, as with so many other “topics” in my life, I hesitate to write about it, worried about how it will make others feel, in this case, especially Steve himself.

As we approach the one year anniversary of my friend’s suicide, I feared Steve might think to himself, “Come on…when are you just going to get over it?”

“You know what my father told me once?” Steve asked, as he manipulated a napkin into a tiny sculpture.

“What?” I replied.

“He told me to wear what I want to wear.”

I tried to imagine the story behind what his father said, then asked. “What’s the story?”

“When I was in elementary school, in Penfield, New York, I remember standing by the bathroom door, watching my dad shaving in the bathroom. That morning, I’d dressed myself in gray baggy pants that were so big they had to be held up by a belt. ‘Dad,’ I asked. ‘Does this look okay?’ I’ll always remember what he said. ‘I want you to wear whatever you want to wear.'”

“Aw, that’s a sweet story,” I said.

“Well, I’m telling you this because I want you to write whatever you want to write. And I don’t want you to worry about what I or anybody is going to think of it.”

What a lucky girl I am. A Fuddrucker’s cheeseburger, a sweet vignette and acceptance, all in one night.

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