Category Archives: Writing

Finding Your Muse


I working on novel 3: “Counting Coup.” It is in the bare bones beginning stages, where I am throwing a bunch of ideas and characters down on the page and seeing what works. I’m about 15,000 words into this story — part of which is set on a farm in Nebraska in the 1950s and the other side, set in modern day Phoenix.

One of the characters has dementia. I’ve been struggling with how to get the details right about her care and her symptoms without barraging the reader with information that reads like a medical journal entry. Books that accidentally teach me something are my favorite. (A recent example is “All the Light We Cannot See,” and the creation and engineering of radios.)

Writing about dementia that lets the reader experience it emotionally, but doesn’t hit them over the head with sentimentality, is tricky.

This week my boss asked me to attend a health care conference in town. She was presenting and wasn’t able to attend several sessions of interest herself. Imagine my delight when I got the course material and realized one of those sessions was with an expert in dementia behaviors and treatment. Seriously. I took five handwritten pages of notes, was able to ask questions and got the details and nuance I needed to better develop this character.

When the universe aligns in this way, I feel like my friends Creativity and Inspiration are sitting on either side of me, paving the path to something great. I skipped out of there with new motivation to get back to writing and feeling very lucky. Speaking of — time to get back to it.



On Publishing

Female Shepherd

More than a year ago, I sent my second novel, “Basket Baby” off to a small publishing house in Montana. A friend of mine had success in publishing with them, and spoke highly of their work. She said she’d put in a good word.

They read the first few chapters, requested the rest of the novel, and returned it with detailed editing and a note that said, “This may or may not be for us. There are a lot of cliches.” (I’m paraphrasing, but the word cliche was definitely used.)

I made their changes, page by page. And I workshopped the novel with a group of people I trust. I watched common errors fall away — word echos that are hard to catch in your own work, for example. I noticed that my dialog skills were strengthened by reminding the reader who is speaking, even if it is just two people and it is wildly clear to you, the writer. My character descriptions became more consistent and true.

These are a few of many areas I worked through before sending “Basket Baby” back to the original publisher. A month later, I got the news: they had decided to publish the book. The edits were good, and I’ve been assigned another editor to work with during the next 60 days to make the story ready for print. I’m working with another staff member on designing a book cover. “Basket Baby” will be on store shelves December 6, 2016.


I mean… I’ve been talking about this day for decades. This novel, like the first, took years to see the light of day. And then took increasingly thick skin to make something worth sharing publicly. I’ve called myself a novelist since I self-published “Under the Same Moon” in 2010. Today, it feels real. And, it feels absolutely marvelous!

Thank you for hanging around here all these years to see this dream to fruition. I’ll be sharing book signing dates as they are scheduled and hope to see as many of you as possible.


(the novelist)

Chapter 15: Happily

Heart o' PB

Our first date was nearly two years ago. He surprises me regularly with his thoughtfulness and ability to make me laugh — especially at myself. (His patience is demonstrated in laughing with me, for example, at the previous 14 chapters.)

Two teenagers, three dogs, one bunny and us: the happy little family I’ve dreamed of.

Our story continues!



Chapter 14: Brunch Weather

Nacho who?

T asked me to have lunch with him the next week. It was a Monday and he was doing that “I might have something better” type of communication via text that makes me bubble with anger. Either make plans, or don’t. But stringing someone along until the last moment to see what your other options are is rude in every case.

I needed to eat regardless and figured if he didn’t show, I’d sit outside, enjoy the weather and read a book. It wouldn’t be the first lunch I’d spent holding a fork with one hand and a paperback with the other. T did show, late, and when he sat down it looked like he’d been in a boxing match. All of the small veins on his cheeks were purple and broken.

“Uh, what happened to you?”

“Oh, why?” He tried smiling.

I got a sick feeling in my stomach, and was thankful it was daylight and we were in public. “Why? Because your face is bruised and you look like you’ve been mugged.”

“Oh, that. I didn’t realize it was so noticeable, I guess.” He shrugged. “I was in Mexico this weekend. It was a rough weekend. You know how Mexico goes…”

Yes, I do remember Mexico, from early college years. Not from my mid-40s. I stared and him, waiting for more of a story. There would eventually be a long tale about mouthing off to the wrong police officer, having to pay a bribe and having his wallet stolen.

Obviously, this was the man of my dreams.

It was also apparent that he could not sit still. He was twitchy and nervous and nothing like the man I remembered dancing with. It was more than a bad weekend; I suspected he had, let’s say, a chemical dependence. An illegal one.

I cut lunch short and went back to my desk chalking the date up to yet another odd story. If nothing else, T made me feel good in a blue moment the first time we met. That was enough. My sails were full and I knew I did not want to see him again. As dating goes, as soon as I made this (wise) decision, he wouldn’t relent. He called asking me to see him again. Finally, I agreed to have him over to a brunch at my house — 100% sure he would not show up. I told him it would be a group of my friends, we were potluck brunching, he could come and to bring something to share.

He didn’t show up, but guess who did?

His head poked over the patio wall about an hour after we’d started eating. We were giggling and enjoying the warm spring sun on our legs when I heard a voice.



And there was the man who’d spent the evening talking to Meghann. Jason and the bright blue eyes.


We greeted awkwardly. I had not invited him, there was no sign of T, and I had zero interest in explaining what was happening to my guests. He smiled, grabbed a plate of food and sat down next to me. For the next three hours, the conversation and laughter continued. Eventually my guests started saying their goodbyes as we were in the kitchen washing dishes. Jason said his goodbyes too and we shook hands.

My friends Mike and Samantha were helping put food away. As soon as Jason was out of the house, Mike turned to me:

“What the hell is going on here? Why did that rando show up for brunch when he obviously doesn’t know you? Are you giving out your address to strangers?”

I sighed. And as I started to explain, Jason walked back into the house.

“I know it was T who was supposed to show and he didn’t, but I would never forgive myself if I didn’t get your number. Can I have your number?”

Mike and Sam both stood with their hands on their hips, staring with open jaws.

I blushed.


This was weird, for sure. But weirder than the previous 13 chapters? I was doubtful.

“Yes.” I smiled.


Chapter 13: The Circle Closes

Southern California

Don’t you hate it when old adages are true? When cliche applies to your life?

I do.

It was annoyingly humorous I’d meet Jason “when I wasn’t looking.” Speaking of cliches, if I had a dollar for every time someone said, “Just stop looking” when I’d complain about dating, I’d be Donald Trump. (Phew.)

It was a Sunday night. My friend Sue had come to visit from California and we’d spent the weekend lounging and catching up. My childhood friend Meghann was also in town. I took Monday off so I could drive out to Meg’s family’s house and have dinner with her, her mother and her sister in law.

Something worth noting about Meg’s family: the matriarch, Shanlee, is a force. She is a heart transplant recipient and is a generous, caring, passionate woman who loves me like I am actually her kid. As such, she does not spare in the advice department. Before we left for dinner, over our first glass of wine, she was giving me “the honest truth” about my previous relationship and how I needed to recognize my self worth or I’d never find happiness. I cried — because she was right, and I didn’t want to hear it.

She cuts to the chase. A heart transplant will do that to you. I love her for it.

We went to dinner at a local restaurant and staked out a table on the patio. I hadn’t seen Meg in months and we could talk the paint off walls. Before long, we’d been there for hours and were ordering another entree for us all to share because we still had more to say, and perhaps a bit of sobering up to do before we went back to the family house for a giant slumber party on the living room floor.  The sky had grown dark while a lone guitarist set up at one end of the patio, playing covers of songs everyone knew but no one wanted to sing along to. There were maybe a dozen people on the patio when we ordered a batch of sober fish and chips.

I’d just taken the first greasy bite of cod when Meg elbowed me with the grace and subtly of a drunk elephant.

“That dude is waving at you.” She hissed.

“What dude?” I wiped the grease from the corners of my mouth.

“THAT ONE.” She said it loud enough that he also heard her from the next table over. I looked over her shoulder to see three men, each sitting with a glass of wine. A good looking graying blond man named T waved a wave that said, “Yep. Hi. Your friend is drunk, right?”

I ducked back and looked at her hard. “There is no, no way that man is looking at me.” I laughed. I had no make up on. My hair was in a dirty pile on top of my head and I was wearing jeans and a tank. It was perfect for a night out with girlfriends but far from having any man approach me unless it was a dare. I also could not have been less interested in dating. I’d been in a horrible relationship for the year prior and really just wanted a break.


(In fairness, I was equally inebriated. We’d been there a long time and we were having a fun night out when I would not be driving.)

And then there he was, standing next to me, asking me to dance.

“Dance? But there is no one dancing…” I was awkwardly shaking his hand while saying this and hoping there wasn’t any ketchup on my face.

“That’s okay. We can start the trend.”

By the time we got back to the table, having slow danced in front of five retirees on a patio in east Mesa to a single guitarist who could not believe her groupie luck, the other two men had joined the table.

Meg was talking to good looking man with bright blue eyes. His name was Jason, and he thought she was single.





Chapter 12: Chocolate Cake


Mexican Cake

D and I met online. On our first date, we sat at a Starbucks in Scottsdale over a busy lunch hour chatting like gossipy high school girls about Rhianna. Her photos of being beaten by Chris Brown had just been released that morning and we had both seen them. I was sick to my stomach for her.

It was weird first date chit chat, but it is what I remember us discussing. He was blond, my height, handsome and built like an Irish boxer — albeit a retired one. He was many things: an attorney, a Yankees fan, a frat boy who went to school in Texas, a man who’d lived and worked internationally, a brother, and a lover of my chocolate cake. (That may or may not be a metaphor.)

We’d spend time together off and on during the next couple of years — more off than on. He was the one I couldn’t wash out of my hair. Even though I knew I loved him more, or maybe because I loved him more, we circled each other for far too long. (I was Alan.)

Let’s talk about that sickening feeling of loving someone more than they love you. It is the worst. THE WORST. There is no righting the ship. Once you realize you want more from the person than they want from you, you’re stuck. In my case, this always headed to heartache. And in my case, I always had some ridiculous fairy tale belief that it was going to turn around this time. It didn’t. Yet, that’s what makes finding the right balance of love that much more magical. When you can both be equally vulnerable, open and excited about the possibility of love, it blossoms.

At one point, D was seeing a woman in another state, but still keeping tabs on me. I finally wrote an extensive (and certainly embarrassing in hindsight) love letter telling him it was now or never. Pick me.

He picked her.

I moved on. Specifically, I moved to Colorado. The geographic distance helped my heart heal, and today — D has a family and a dog and is doing well, which makes me very happy.


About that chocolate cake, a recipe:

Hot Damn Chocolate Cake


  • One chocolate cake mix (I like Betty Crocker triple fudge)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 dash of nutmeg
  • 1 dash of cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup water


Mix thoroughly. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes in a well greased bundt pan. Cut yourself a slice, and be thankful for the way the crumbs have fallen.




Chapter 11: Bogie

Nice Up keep

I recently listened to Amy Poehler’s audio book, Yes, Please! As a huge fan, this didn’t disappoint. There was one section that keeps bouncing around my brain, months later: a director once asked her to confess her vulnerabilities, regrets, sorrows. The director wanted to know her biggest mistakes so they could be likely taken advantage of. Or maybe the director just wanted to flex the muscle of power and see how much information he could get.

While it may have been a temporary career setback, she told the director no. Absolutely not, no. She counseled listeners that anytime someone wants to exploit what makes your heart hurt, even for a quick laugh — or perhaps for a quick laugh — say no.

I’ve gone back and forth on whether to talk about the golfer in this memoir, namely because our story isn’t funny. It doesn’t softly poke at me and my clumsiness. Instead it smacks of heartache and disappointment. But to write about dating and to not include him would be like trying making a cake without the flour. Our relationship was pivotal. (Divotal?)

Here is what you need to know: we dated for about three years. He was a professional golfer on the small stage when we met, and on a much larger one when we broke up. During that time, we got to travel to some beautiful places — Ireland, the Bahamas, Hawaii, etc. We shared life milestones — weddings, births and deaths in our families. We walked through three fundamental years of our 20s together, holding hands and trying to do our best to manage conflicting schedules.

Life had him in Europe most of one year, and on the road most of the next. We’d go up to six weeks without seeing each other, but checking in as much as possible. While he was working furiously to create a career as a professional athlete, I was finishing my graduate degree and managing international health projects in a handful of countries. There were times we were on the same time zone on different continents.

It is likely if we had spent all of those three years in the same location, our relationship would have ended far sooner. I have nothing bad to say about this man. He was kind and generous and he loved me the best he could. He also was honest that his career was his first priority.

When someone says you will never be the priority — listen.

I didn’t want to listen. I was convinced this he was the one. So, I dug in and traveled as much as I could to be by his side. My insecurities flared. The little bit of time I spent with golfer wives and girlfriends was much like that ridiculous reality show, WAGS. Wives were at the top of the heap. Girlfriends were barely noticed. Mistresses and groupies abhorred. At thew few PGA events I attended, there were swarms of women who sadly decided their best chance at a good life was having a baby with a golfer.

Even in the best circumstance, being married to a top golfer is a tough life. Yes, financially you are set. But there is no off season for golf. Those 140 men are constantly fighting to keep their cards. So, you raise a family by yourself, watching your husband travel the world on television. And you never stop worrying about those swarms of (younger, perkier, more carefree) women who want any piece of your husband they can get.

One Christmas I came home from Mozambique to immediately fly to the Pacific Northwest to celebrate the holidays. It happened to be the same time of year he’d made it to the big leagues, and everyone wanted to celebrate. I couldn’t get my head on straight. There I was standing at dinner party after dinner party holding glasses of champagne toasting a man I loved, when a week prior I’d been holding abandoned toddlers at an orphanage. The juxtaposition left me a mess.

All that considered, when he called things off a few weeks before Christmas the following year, when the presents were already wrapped and under the tree, I was shocked. I thought we were headed toward marriage. It was a dark time that eventually led to a much healthier, happier place.

Somewhere on the back nine, crammed into designer jeans and halter tops, I’d forgotten who I was and what was important to me. Soon, Sundays meant time for church and family. I learned to cook and bake. I pulled out my dusty sewing machine and knitting needles. With less travel, I planted a garden I could tend. I finished my first novel and started the second.

It took a few more years of making questionable dating choices to return to a place of love, but I’m finally there — thankful he could see what I could not.




Chapter 10: Two Squirt Guns

tolars, 007

This is the experience that in hindsight made me want to write a dating memoir.

In 2007, I was play ultimate frisbee when a handsome ginger asked me out. S worked for the forest service and met all of my wild, hippie fantasies. He was soft spoken, a great athlete, smart and interesting. He’d traveled a bunch and it didn’t take long before we were regularly spending time together. Indoor rock climbing was his thing; I tried my best looking cute in stretchy pants on an early date.

My friend Mini was organizing a 30th birthday party for her husband, Jason. The party was themed “James Bond.” Men were to wear tuxedos and women to wear fancy gowns. We were going to enjoy martinis shaken not stirred (or whatever suited your fancy), play cards and have fun. I’d been spending a bit of time with S before I asked him if he wanted to come to the party. Mini’s father JT was the one who got me interested in ultimate frisbee, so S  would another man attending.

He didn’t hesitate. Yes, he wanted to go. He even had a tuxedo t-shirt that was perfect.

I was delighted.

The week of the party, we went to dinner at a local brewery. It was a Tuesday. We ate and chatted and at the end of the meal he looked at me, suddenly serious.

“I can’t do this.” He jabbed at his empty plate with his fork.

“Okay.” I felt my neck grow warm.

“I’m sorry. I really like you but I am newly out of a relationship and I am just not ready.”

“Okay.” Now, I felt resolute. And stupid. There was a girl on another team — a blonde — who regularly hung around our matches. I’d seen them speaking. The cards were falling into place. “That’s fine. This isn’t anything anyway.”

Silence. We sat there as the server came and left, water glasses were refilled and people wandered by wondering about the awkwardness happening at table 12.

Finally and impatiently I said, “Look. We don’t have to break up. There is nothing to break up. That’s fine. I’ll see you next week at ultimate and that is enough.” I started to grab my purse.

“But what about the party Saturday?” He looked at me with wide eyes.

“What? You can’t possibly still want…”

“No. I said I was going and I am going and that’s that. I am going. It will be fine. We can go as friends, right?”

“Uh… sure?”

FRIENDS? We are not friends! We are people who are just getting to know each other who have shared a couple awkward kisses in a Honda Civic. We do not have to do this. I was kidding about ultimate. I’m obviously going to be “sick!”

“Great. Okay. So, let’s meet at my house. Saturday at what time?”

“Well, the party starts at 7, so I guess I could come get you then…”

I just didn’t know what else to say. Fast forward to Friday when we email and he says he is still excited and has his outfit picked out, etc.

Saturday morning I wake up and decide I need an ice breaker. I need something silly to break the tension when I seem him. Also, I need a great dress. I spend the day shopping and show up at his door at bit after 7 pm in a Bond girl dress cut to my navel, my bits and pieces strategically hiked upward with abandon, and two squirt guns and a bottle of tequila. I am also wearing stilettos. I only make mention of this because I am terribly clumsy and tall, and more so in stupid shoes like stilettos.

So, there I am teetering toward his doorstep in a dress cut to here and shoes up to there, holding squirt guns and a bottle of tequila when he opens the door and looks at me from head to toe. It was in this moment of sizing each other up that I realized:

  1. He’d somehow forgotten this commitment in the last 24 hours. He was wearing dirty hiking clothes.
  2. The blonde from the ultimate league was standing in his living room, just behind him, also in hiking clothes.
  3. I looked like an idiotic prostitute.

He stumbled saying “Oh, I… um… am so sorry. I don’t feel well and…”

I looked him in the eye and said, “Never speak to me again.” I turned, very carefully, on one tiny toothpick of a shoe, and then ran as quickly as I could back to my car carrying the unexplained props. I’d thought we could fill the squirt guns with tequila and bring them as our props to the party — shooting people in the mouth when possible.

I went to the party. I came as Gullible Galore. You might remember her as the Bond Girl with two squirt guns, a few tears and a great story.



Chapter 9: Hiking

Not a bad place to take a break

We went on a long, overnight hike this weekend in the Superstitions. As we were marching along, in hour 3 or 4, I was thinking of the various times I’d gone into nature to find solace. Once, when trying to decide whether I wanted to stay in a relationship or not, I hiked several hours to a meadow nestled in the Rocky Mountain foothills between Golden and Evergreen. It was a special place I’d found the summer before, and I knew the exertion, thin air and silence would give me plenty of time to sort out my heart.

I’d been dating J for nearly a year. We’d met online and unexpectedly hit it off in person. He wasn’t who I typically date. He was more than ten years older, heavy set, atheist and had a young child. He was also kind, funny, smart and enjoyed taking me to sushi on the weekends. It worked, until it didn’t.

We were sitting in a crowded pizza restaurant at the bar for lunch one Sunday afternoon. I’d just ordered a glass of champagne. The restaurant was new and so full of people, there was a cacophony of forks and knives hitting plates, layered behind laughter and clinking glasses. We were likely discussing his ex-wife when he looked at me and said, perhaps without thinking, “There is no way I am going to get married again, or have more children.”

I let out a gasp, and tears sprung from my eyes. I too was so surprised by my reaction, I cried harder. I remember wiping furiously at my face with the cloth napkin and trying to drink my bubbly before storming out. The restaurant’s soundtrack had stopped, or perhaps that is just how the memory sits. Everyone was staring at the woman at the bar.

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. 

In truth, I didn’t want to marry J. We weren’t in love and I couldn’t for the life of me get him to exercise. We couldn’t hike together or do any of the fun outdoorsy things I love. It wasn’t going to work, for this and many, many other reasons.. But to hear that the opportunity was closed made me angry, irrationally.

I did finish the champagne and storm out. The next day I hiked to my meadow and sat thinking of what to do. Breakups are the worst, even when they should happen. Watching Nelson galavant through the tall grass, chasing woodland creatures, I prayed for a sign.

God, just tell me what to do. He is sweet to me…

After a few minutes of silence, I decided it was time to hike back. I stood up, and having shifted on the rock where I’d been sitting, I rammed my head into a large pine tree branch above me that I hadn’t seen. I hit my head so hard, I bled.

We broke up, and he was not happy.  He later called and suggested we should get married. He’d “be okay with it.” When his telephonic half-assed proposal wasn’t successful, he was even less happy.

Today, we remain friends and he is still a sweet, kind man. There is another chapter I could write on my poor timing in dating men; soon after our breakup, J went on to sell his tech company for gazillions. He didn’t have two extra pennies to rub together when we dated. (Sushi on credit is a thing.) He now sends the occasional text saying hello from Tokyo, London and Amsterdam.

Sometimes when you ask for a sign, you get one.



Chapter 8: Ranked

Fly fishing clear creek

When living in Colorado, I met a man through mutual friends. He was a bit younger, good looking, and from a great family. We would run into each other socially for a few months before he asked me out. We went for a dinner at a fancy spot downtown, got ice cream afterward and walked around, enjoying the last warmth of an Indian summer.

He was painfully shy.

We saw each other off and on for the next two years. What I’d soon learn was he had a long-time off-and-on girlfriend. She wanted to get married and he felt too pressured. They’d break up, he’d ask me out, and I’d foolishly get my hopes up again not yet knowing about the girlfriend. Then he would soon fall back into the shadows, incommunicado.

Our best date was fly fishing. Ridiculously early one summer morning before the sun was up, we met downtown to drive north of Fort Collins to a national park. I’d borrowed my brother’s fishing gear, including waders that were enormously too big. We spent the day walking the ice cold river and fishing. The wind through the trees, the sunlight bouncing off the water, the walls of the canyon — it was a picturesque day.

Of course, those waders and my utter lack of coordination would get me in trouble. I fell more times than I could count, the icy water rushing in the top of the bib. Eventually, with my shins and knees throbbing, I found a large rock in the center of the river and rested, watching the clouds come and go.

After I’d moved home to Arizona, he reached out. He wanted to know if he could share something with me, and if I wouldn’t judge him. Curiosity won, and I agreed too quickly. Soon, a spreadsheet arrived via email. It was a list of women along one axis and categories along the other. Categories such as “job, family, good in bed.”

Before your imagination jumps, I was not on the list. But there they were — a dozen women (who I didn’t know), ranked.

He wanted to know what I thought of the list and whether this made him a bad person. What I’d come to learn was he was debating proposing to the girlfriend. What I’d guess he was contemplating was if he’d sown all of his wild seeds. He said he confided in me because he knew I went to church. (As if church prepared me for this bullshit?)

I told him it didn’t make him a bad person, mental lists are likely common — although to write it down and attach a numeric value was gauche. Rankings. It struck me as immature and unkind. (I was also wondering how he had enough time to juggle a dozen women and a live-in.)

He’d be married sooner than later, which he informed me of the day after via text. Remind me to include in my vows one day, “Thou shall not text other women tomorrow.”

While I’ve never caught anything fly fishing, some fish you throw back.