The End

My “professional” bio says I am currently working on the sequel to The Red Kimono, and that’s true–partly. But in the last year, I’ve been drawn to finish a book I started almost three years ago, called Mo’s Shadow.

The book is based on stories that a dear friend of mine used to tell me about life on the lake and his friendship with a little girl who lived across the street. Two years after he began telling me those stories, he took his own life.


Here’s a brief synopsis:

Eleven-year old Mo Winston is mad at the world. She’s mad at her alcoholic father. She’s mad at her bratty-Mama’s-Boy brother, Shiloh. Most of all, she’s mad at Mama for making her move away from Daddy and all of her friends.

She’s pretty sure she’s the maddest person in the world, that is, until she meets Mr. Dean, the mean old man who lives across the street with Lulu, his vicious-looking Mastiff.

Determined to crack Mr. Dean’s curmudgeonly shell, she embarks on secret snooping expeditions. Her curiosity intensifies when, while peeking through Mr. Dean’s window one day after he took off on his Harley, she sees a picture of a little boy on the mantle.

Of course, she’s plenty afraid of being caught, but her father always told her to face her fears. Day by day, Mo learns Mr. Dean is an old softy. Though, like her father, he drinks too much. He, too, is mad at the world and in Mo’s opinion, for good reason. In ways Mr. Dean will never know, he helps Mo to understand herself as well as her own father.

kirkWith a friend at the lake, life is better and she’s not so angry at the world. Mr. Dean teaches her how to bake an apple pie, how to meditate and best of all, how to sail. He even plays catch with her and bratty brother, Shiloh.

But one day, a sailing accident changes everything when Mo’s mother tells her she cannot spend time with Mr. Dean anymore. This sets off a series of events that lead to Mr. Dean’s death.

This is where to story has remained for the last two days. Here are the last couple of sentences I wrote:

The realization sucked the breath out of her, like a silent scream, though it rang in her ears louder than anything she’d ever heard before.

Mr. Dean is dead.

It’s been hard to get past that last sentence. How do I end the book, when to me, this was the end? And yet, there’s a part of me that knows it can’t end there.

So, I’ve been stuck.

Today, while listening to Pandora, I heard this song by David Gray, a favorite of my friend’s and mine when we dated–more than a dozen years ago:

It takes a lot of love
It takes a lot of love my friend
To keep your heart from freezing
To push until the end
My oh my

And now, I know how to end the story of Mo and Mr. Dean. But, for now, that’s my secret. (Planned release is June 2017.)

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The Literary Citizen Has Arrived!

I first met my friend, author Karen Nelson at Ozarks Writers League. She served as President of OWL following the end of my term in 2013.

Karen is a multi-talented mom, author, photographer, editor, webmaster and entrepreneur, which brings me to my happy announcement that she has published a new online magazine, The Literary Citizen, which is a great resource for writers and readers. Inside, you’ll find lots of information about online events, tips and encouragement.


I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to introduce you to Karen and her new magazine!

Jan: What inspired you to start an online writing magazine?

dsc_0190-2Karen: As a long-time member of my local writing organization, I had noticed that there wasn’t an effective way for writers to connect with other writing groups or to isolated areas. I was inspired to take action after a presentation on what it meant to be a literary citizen. I realized that I had been enjoying the benefits of my writing community without contributing as much as I could. I had already been an editor for other publications, and two digital magazines, so starting an online magazine for writers seemed the best match for me!

I really hope that The Literary Citizen unites writers and artists across genre and region, and makes them feel they are not alone in their publishing journey. I also want to showcase as many regional and upcoming authors as possible. The publishing field can be intimidating and nameless. Not everyone has access to a regular critique group or conference. I want the magazine to be their partner – their cheerleader – when that moment of loneliness threatens.

I’m excited for anyone who wants to contribute material for future issues – visit for guidelines. I’m looking for unique, personal commentary on genre, craft, community, and publishing, and it’s a great place to list your writing group, event, book for sale, or editing services.

Jan: What inspired your love for writing?

Karen: I was writing creatively from elementary school age. I remember a book of poems (hand-bound!) that won an award in 5th grade, and a series of writing awards in high school. I was very shy, and it gave me a lot of confidence to have my writing recognized by people I looked up to. One of my favorite projects was a parody newspaper of Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR. It was tremendous fun, and I thought then that pulling disparate pieces of information together to form a more complete picture of an era was the most intriguing thing. Even though I was involved in vocal and instrumental performance, I’ve never forgotten that first thrill of having someone read my work and find it enlightening, or funny, or tragic. Music is an emotional connection with an audience, too…but writing doesn’t give me stage fright!

In the past two decades, I’ve written for the educational and nonfiction market with both books and articles, and I’ve found that it really feeds my love of learning and teaching. I can get lost in a topic for months (thank you, Amazon, for making sure I buy the most obscure research materials in the world), and I love the challenge of organizing information and distilling it into manageable pieces. My past work as a librarian and an educator still finds plenty to do in my writing.

after-ever-after-cover-2Jan: You’ve also written the book, After Ever After. What inspired you to write a book about what happens after the closing to many of our favorite fairy tales?

Karen: I’ve always had a curiosity for secondary characters – those marginal people that have their own unique story, if only someone would tell it. We can’t all be young, gorgeous princesses or rich, handsome princes, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our own point of view on events. I began by imagining I was a maid in Sleeping Beauty’s castle at the moment she pricked her finger on that spindle. I’d have been washing dishes, ogling the new yard boy outside the window, chafing against my skirt that was getting too tight around the waist, and bam! I’d wake up a hundred years later with everyone I know dead and gone, and a serious fork imprint on my face.

I loved the original fairy tales, and I revisited Grimm, Perault, and Andersen to jog my memory. Some of my favorites are retelling The Emperor’s New Clothes with the voice of the boy who told the truth, pondering the mother’s thoughts from The Ugly Duckling, and dishing the gossip from The Princess and the Pea…as the Pea.

I also held true to the darker aspects of the original tales. Bluebeard, Rapunzel, Twelve Dancing Princesses – these are not happy endings, and the psychological effects of the characters, had these been true, would have been chilling. That idea also coincides with the reality that someone else may get Happily Ever After, but the rest of us live the After Ever After. Life goes on…prince or no prince.

Jan: In the inaugural issue, you talk about the pros and cons of the digital age. How do you think it has best helped writers, and how do you think it’s hurt us most?

Karen: That’s a loaded question, because sooner or later you have to talk about the staggering amount of dreck that gets self-published. And that leads to hurt feelings. But really, I think the digital age has freed up “ordinary” people to pursue their writing dreams. Just having a blog that your family reads can be immensely rewarding. You can build on your online publishing, create a marketing plan, work on a hybrid project with a small press, be picked up by a big publishing house…the possibilities are endless. Supporting a vibrant digital writing community is the adult continuation of promoting literacy. The real negative to the digital age is the narcissistic molding of social media. We’ve lost the ability to self-censor and make respect and dignity a priority in conversation. Some protest that social media isn’t “writing”, but I disagree. If you are expressing yourself through text, it’s writing. Now we’re reading handwritten love letters and farewell notes from generations past, and it’s obvious to me that casual words matter.

I decided a long time ago that I wasn’t here to judge. I got my master of fine arts in creative nonfiction because I wanted to network with like-minded people and fill in the cracks of my earlier education, but earning that degree made me feel more open to all writing, not less. As a librarian, I watched patrons be equally thrilled with the latest formula mystery, the newest trashy romance, or an in-depth look at the life of Gandhi. I loved that it wasn’t the content, but the connection that made readers keep coming back for more. As long as people are reading SOMETHING, they can always move to a higher intellectual plane. It’s not something I have to worry about. This belief kept me going when my son refused to read anything but Captain Underpants for two years. Now he’s a Mark Twain fan. And if he had never progressed past fart jokes, at least he was entertained by something other than a screen.

Jan: What does literary success look like to you?

Karen: I have a really bad habit of forgetting what I’ve written, so being published is not the penultimate for me. (Don’t get me wrong. I like being published almost as much as I like paychecks.) Like musical performance, for me the most growth and excitement was to be found in the rehearsal, not the production. In a way, the final result is kind of a let down. I love the act of creating, of collaborating, of seeing where an idea takes you. For me, success is not a destination. There is no sign at the end of the road saying, “You Made It! Here You Are! Success!” I believe success is doing the work you love and being engaged with your community – whether it is 2 people or 2,000.

I tell you what I’d like to have, though. I’d like to have a contract to write cozy mystery novels. I have several ideas started. I don’t want a contract for the fame. I want it for the deadlines. I always do my best work when someone else is waiting for it.


I, too, understand the power of a deadline! Thank you so much for visiting, Karen, and best wishes for much success with The Literary Citizen!

To read the inaugural issue of The Literary Citizen, click HERE.

To submit content, click HERE.

Posted in Interview, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Facebook’s Lost Opportunity

nohTonight on Facebook, I’ve seen several people post that they’ve had enough of political posts. Some have said they’re sticking to cute animal videos. Some have said they’ll unfriend anyone who posts anything political. Some have said they’ll unfriend anyone who goes ugly or negative. Some have said they’ve had it all together and plan to get off of Facebook.

I’ve felt all of these things, not only since the election, but even before, as we became more and more divisive, and here’s why for me:

  • More and more comments on Facebook lead me to believe people don’t think it’s okay to disagree. If you think differently, you’re WRONG and it seems to give permission to tease or call names.
  • Facebook used to be a place where people shared photographs and commentary about their families, their lives, where they were traveling and even  what they were having for dinner–remember when we complained about that? But it’s been taken over by political commentary, memes and fake news posted by people who apparently think they’re going to “sway” our opinions.
  • I’m interested in what’s going on in our political world, and I have lots of opinions. But I don’t feel comfortable posting an article or opinion about something because I have family and friends on both “sides of the fence” and I don’t want to offend anyone. The thing is, my OPINION should not offend anyone. Yet, it does.
  • Finally, if I can’t be honest without offending, what’s the use of being on Facebook? What started out as a wonderful way to get to know people has devolved into a political battlefield.

So, some say the compromise is to drop the politics. I get that. I enjoy looking at the “lightness” as much as anyone and I often do. But I like knowing what other people think. And then there’s the problem that not everybody will drop the politics, so what we’ll be left with is people on both sides who feel it’s their mission to change our minds.

So, what am I going to do? I, too, have been tempted to leave Facebook all together. But it’s a great way for me to stay in touch with a lot of people at once, so leaving all together thought doesn’t appeal to me.

As best I can, I’m going to stay away from politics on Facebook. I can’t promise how successful I’ll be, but I’m going to try to keep my virtual mouth shut when it comes to politics.

That may feel like a “win” for those that will continue to post their nasty stories, memes and comments, but it’s not. My silence does not mean you’ve changed my mind.


I’ll continue to post my thoughts on this blog and simply won’t share political posts on Facebook. (I welcome anyone interested to follow my blog so you won’t miss a single political episode.)


And if you disagree with me? All the better. Leave me a comment. I like nothing more than discussing politics respectfully with someone with whom I disagree. I do it all the time with Steve, my daughter and some of my best friends. It’s how I was brought to the center from the right.

We could all learn something from each other, if we’d only listen. But we don’t seem to be able to do that on Facebook. And what a lost opportunity.

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Southern Writers Magazine Giveaway


I’m excited to announce my workbook, Creative Characterization, is being offered as part of a giveaway sponsored by Southern Writers Magazine.

Discover your characters’ secretes using exercises in this workbook, many I used to develop characters like Sachi, Nobu and Terrence from my historical fiction, The Red Kimono:

• Interviewing
• Describing Photos and Paintings
• Writing Letters
• Writing in a Different Point of View
• and more!

Click HERE by January 31 to enter!

Good luck!


Posted in Contest, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Haiku: The Power of Brevity


I had the privilege of writing about one of my favorite topics in the January/February issue of Southern Writers Magazine – haiku!

I love to write haiku just for the sake of writing haiku. I even have a separate blog dedicated to the Japanese poetry form — Life: Haiku by Haiku.

But did you know there are many ways haiku can help you with other writing? I describe several techniques I’ve used in this month’s issue. Here’s a clip:


If you’d like to read more and are not a current subscriber, I highly recommend Southern Writers for their consistently helpful articles in each bi-monthly issue. For more information on subscriptions, please click HERE.

And of course, if you have any questions on any of these techniques, feel free to leave a comment!

Posted in Haiku, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , | 9 Comments