Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Welcome Author Leanna Sain!

Leanna-Sain-NC-Author-SquareHelp me welcome award-winning and accomplished  author Leanna Sain to my blog today. Leanna was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Feel free to add your comments below.

Leanna, which authors have influenced your writing and how?

I love the quirky humor of Mary Kay Andrews, the magical realism of Sarah Addison Allen, Nicholas Sparks’ sappy love stories (although I really think he needs to work on some happily-ever-after endings), and the queen of mysteries, Sue Grafton. I try to incorporate all the things I love in my writing.

What do you want readers to experience while reading your books?

I want to evoke every emotion from my readers, from laughing until their stomachs ache, to boiling with fury, to crying-their-eyes out.

HushTell us a little bit about your latest book, the title in two to three sentences. Is it part of a series?

My latest book’s title is Hush.

Someone is killing young women and using the lullaby “Hush, Little Baby” as a blueprint. Lacey Campbell dreams the murders in bits and pieces before they happen, but there aren’t enough clues to stop the killer. When she realizes all the victims look remarkably like her, she’s afraid to go to sleep … afraid the next face she sees in her dreams will be her own.

Are any of your characters based on people you know?

In all of my books, I often include bits of characteristics of people I know, but with Hush, the main character’s mother—who has Alzheimer’s—is patterned directly after my own mother. I wrote this book while watching Mama struggle through the final phases of that terrible disease. It was actually a sort of therapy for me; a way to release the sadness, anger, and frustration that came with it.

Which part of the writing process do you find most enjoyable? Most challenging? Most rewarding?

I love it when the characters take over and I’m just hanging on for the ride, when it’s all I can do to keep my fingers typing fast enough to keep up with the story my brain is telling. When I get to the end of the scene, I lean back in my chair and say, “Whew! Didn’t see that coming!”

The most challenging is when I paint myself into a corner. The answer generally comes when I’m in the shower. Something about that hot water beating on my head seems to jar things loose.

The most rewarding is when I surprise my husband with the ending. He knows me so well, how my mind works, I feel like I’ve “arrived” if I can keep him hanging in suspense until the very end.

Do you have a critique partner or belong to a critique group? If so, how has that helped you?

It is SO important to get other eyes on your work. As a writer, I tend to get too close to the story and can’t see the mistakes when they’re staring me in the face. I’m in two writing groups, and I get input on everything I write. And my husband is my number one book critic. He always brings out things I never even thought about. He has a good eye, and I rely on that.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m hard at work on the second book of the Amelia Island series. It’s title will be, Hoax. And I’m enjoying it even more than I did Hush. The third book is shaping up in my mind already. I really love this series.   

Leanna’s Bio:

Award-winning author, Leanna Sain, earned her BA from the University of South Carolina, before heading back to the mountains of western NC. Her Southern suspense or “GRIT-lit,” showcases her plot-driven writing that successfully rolls the styles of Mary Kay Andrews, Nicholas Sparks, and Jan Karon into her own delightfully hybrid technique. She loves leading discussion groups and book clubs. For more information or to contact her, visit: www.LeannaSain.com.

Connect with Leanna and her books:

Awards

  • Book of the Year Award from Foreword Magazine
  • Clark Cox Historical Fiction Award from the NC Society of Historians
  • Nominated for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award
  • Nominated for the Global Ebook Award


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Hey, Wanna Trade?

Many of the people in the lives of us fiction writers would make excellent characters in our stories. The thing is, inserting real people into our novels can be tricky.

First, they might recognize themselves and not like how we see them. Second, there’s the whole invasion of privacy issue. Third, alienating our whole families and all our friends isn’t too good for book sales.

DON’T WORRY, I HAVE A SOLUTION — CHARACTER TRADING CARDS!

Character Trading Cards would work like Baseball Trading Cards. Each card would include the character’s photo, a carefully chosen alias, physical and personality traits, and accomplishments or lack thereof. If one author had a character another author needed, they’d make a trade. My readers wouldn’t know your characters and your readers wouldn’t know mine. Pretty smart, huh?

baseball card DRUSILLAFor example, I may need a bombastic, Bible Belt-preacher, one who throws amens and halleluiahs around as much as he does drops of sweat. However, what I have is a PhD pastor, cautious and well-read (never fiction), a shepherd who doesn’t yell but watches over his flock with an eagle eye. I trade you my conservative Evangelical FOR your wild Pentecostal, and no one suspects a thing.

And for group trading, authors can hold meet-ups or conference calls. The negotiating might go something like this …

CLARICE: “I’m lookin’ to trade a loud-talker with a bone to pick for a close-talker, bad breath optional.”

JEREMIAH: “I don’t have a close-talker, but I have a soft-talker who gossips.”

DAVID: “Hey, I’ll take your soft-talker in exchange for my non-stop talker/traffic  cone enthusiast.”

JEREMIAH: “I can do that.”

CLARICE: “Anyone have a fast-talker with hammer toes?”

DAVID: “No, but I’ve got one who mumbles and has bloodshot eyes.”

CLARICE: “I’ve been looking for a mumbler. I can always put sunglasses on him. “baseball card NORBERT (1)

DAVID: “Changing the subject, I’ve got an accountant on special this week.”

CLARICE: “What’s so special about an accountant?”

JEREMIAH: “I’ll trade you one apprentice carpenter for that accountant.”

DAVID: “Not this accountant, you won’t. My guy has social skills and a sense of humor.”

JEREMIAH: “A bean counter with a sense of humor? If you tell me he has a tan, I’ll know you’re lyin’. Tell you what, I’ll throw in a proctologist and a hockey player.”

CLARICE: “I can beat that. I’ll up you one church elder and make that hockey player Canadian.”

DAVID:  “Deal!”

MORE POSSIBLE TRADES

Would you take one spoiled brat with delusions of entitlement FOR one former military man with his WWII uniform festooned with medals? … Maybe I could swap you one retired teacher, still re-gifting a closet full of cheap, apple-themed gifts from her former students, FOR one thoughtful person with a creative mind and a generous heart.

I’ll give you my lovers of people FOR all your haters (who, by the way, would come to an early demise in my stories). … I could trade you three women who’ve never had children but know everything about raising them FOR one mother who puts reading to her kids ahead of folding laundry. … And, how about I take one of your family felons FOR one of my ancestral heroes?

baseball card GLADYSWanna trade one naïve woman who finds the good in everyone FOR a big fat judgmental complainer? (Yeah, I know I could probably use myself here, but God’s working on me, and I don’t want to interrupt him.)

Finally, I’d be glad to shed three believers looking for biblical loopholes and cheap grace FOR one humble follower of Jesus.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast. ~ Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

 


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Writers: Have You Annoyed Anyone Lately?

A writer’s characters cannot all be perfect, because if they were it would be quite annoying.

We need to create conflict to keep our stories and our characters real and interesting. Conflict doesn’t happen when everyone is nice to each other all the time. Boredom happens. Conflict creates drama and tension. Boredom creates naps. And then you get nightmares starring Mike Lindell from My Pillow.

When I first began to look more closely at my stories, I saw that many of my main characters were nice, maybe a little too nice. Perhaps, because I find a lot of annoying people in my real life, I subconsciously didn’t want them to show up in my books. Powerless to change them in real life, maybe “editing” their  personalities made me feel powerful in fiction.

Upon further study of my work, I realized I did indeed have one very annoying person in my novels. It was the protagonist. This discovery excited me. I felt vindicated.

Annoying FloHowever, I noticed something else. Since my novels are written from a first person point-of-view, often my protagonists are a lot, well, like me.

Ergo, I am annoying. Often, I want to slap my protagonist (ergo, me) for being so stubborn, so angry, so impatient,  so prideful, so petty, so slow to get it (ergo, me).

Like right now. How annoying is it to use the word “ergo” three times in one paragraph?  Sheesh.

I’m asking my readers, “What do you find annoying in an author or a story?” Let me know . . . please . . . so I will stop doing it.


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My Sources of Good Material

Not resting–people watching.

Collecting good material is all part of the writing process. Here are a few of the ways I gather mine.

First, I’m always on the lookout for new words (new to me, that is) to use in my writing someday. Yesterday I added “flumped” and “clots” to my list just because they made me smile.

I also collect phrases–mostly from listening to my quick-witted husband. I keep a small spiral pad with me at all times. When he speaks, I take notes. (It’s not really stealing if it’s common property; we are ONE after all.)

Unfortunately, he does not provide this service on demand. He  says, “I have no idea when something useful will float to the surface of the muck and mire. You have to take what you get.”  Watching his mind work is pure genius . . .  and a little bit scary.

I also eavesdrop on conversations–in restaurants, at church, while shopping, at meetings. Some might accuse me of being nosy; without hesitation, I admit I’m guilty.

People-watching is kin to eavesdropping, but you can do that from afar.  My husband calls it “rubbernecking;” I call it research. Many of my characters have been dressed in the get-ups I’ve seen while walking through a public place.

Then there are my co-workers, friends and family. In my latest book, Party of One,  some of my friends and family may recognize a few of their own quirks and characteristics. (I do hope they will forgive me.)

And I’m certain they will recognize mine.


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Breakfast at Epiphany’s 

Congenial conversation—what a pleasure! The right word at the right time—beautiful! ~ Proverbs 15:23 (MSG)

The breakfast conversations between my husband and me often sound like this.

ME, cheerful as always in the morning: “Do you want banana-pecan pancakes or your usual oatmeal?”

DAVID, laughing: “I take it a banana’s gone bad?”

ME, hiding the brown banana: “Maybe. I can throw it away or make you the pancakes—your choice.”

DAVID, making a snap decision: “Pancakes.”

ME, smiling sweetly: “Wise man.”

[THE PANCAKES ARE ON THE TABLE AND GRACE HAS BEEN SAID.]

ME, resting my chin in my hand: “Do you know how to bail someone out of jail?”

DAVID, looking at his stack of pancakes: “Does this have anything to do with my getting pancakes on a Tuesday?”

ME, befuddled: “What? No. Dee’s son Zach got arrested for drug possession. I don’t know how to post bail.”

DAVID, even more befuddled: “Why do you need to know? He’s Dee’s son.”

ME, sighing loudly: “Yeah, but I want to know how to do it first.”

DAVID, scrunching up his face: “What are you talking about?”

ME, holding my hands up to emphasize my point: “She doesn’t know how to begin to find out about bail. And she’s just not the type of person who’d leave her son in jail for any length of time.”

DAVID, taking a bite of pancake: “Okay …”

ME, narrowing my eyes at him: “What’s that supposed to mean? Would you leave one of our kids is jail?”

DAVID, thinking: “Depends on the charge—and the kid.”

ME, ignoring his wise remark: “Oh, and another thing, I’ve changed my mind on the white cabinets for the kitchen.”

DAVID, turning to look in the kitchen: Our kitchen?”

ME, giving him a duh look: “Who else’s kitchen would I be talking about?”

DAVID, trying hard to get a grip: “Oh, I don’t know, maybe Dee’s.”

ME, waving his comment away like a pesky mosquito: “Anyway, I wanted all white, but now I decided maybe a light grayish-brown wood would look nice with the stainless steel appliances.”

DAVID, again looking in the kitchen: “What stainless steel appliances?”

ME, dreaming about how it will look: “The ones we’ll be getting with the new cabinets.”

DAVID, rolling his eyes: “And how do you plan to pay for all this?”

ME, rolling my eyes back at him: “I already told you. Out of my $7,000 a-week-for-life winnings from Publishers Clearing House.”

DAVID, nodding: “Good to know you’ve got a solid plan in place.”

ME, pushing my dream aside to get back to reality: “Now, about Zach. How do you think Sergeant O’Neil knew he had drugs in his car?”

DAVID, one eyebrow raised: “Who’s Sergeant O’Neil?”

ME, surprised he doesn’t remember: “She’s the cop who works with Kyle.”

DAVID, both eyebrows raised: “Who’s Kyle?”

ME, wondering what he was doing when he wasn’t listening to me: “You know, Charlie’s friend, Sarah’s husband? Remember, I told you about Sarah being Juliette’s best friend?”

DAVID, sighing loudly: “You did? Juliette? Sheesh, I can’t keep track of all the people you know.”

ME, crossing my arms: “They’re not people I know, silly, they’re people I’ve made up.”

DAVID, kneading his face with his hand: “Are any of the things you talk about real?”

ME, astonished he would even ask: “Duh, yeah. You’re eating pancakes, aren’t you?”

DAVID, poking the stack with his fork: “Am I? Then I think I’ve earned some sausage to go with them.”

ME, taking a long slow sip of my coffee: “I’ll get right on that. As soon as my new kitchen is in.”

And oh, my dear Timothy, guard the treasure you were given! Guard it with your life. Avoid the talk-show religion and the practiced confusion of the so-called experts. People caught up in a lot of talk can miss the whole point of faith.Overwhelming grace keep you! ~ 1Timothy 6:20-21 (MSG)

 


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Linda Brooks Davis: An Inspiration

Ella McFarlandFor all you wannabe writers out there who think your AUTHOR date of expiration has come and gone, Linda Brooks Davis is the inspiration you need to see that your dream is not dead, just waiting on God’s timing.

ME:  Linda, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

LINDA: In high school I learned there was a spot inside me, somewhere around the heart, that came to life when I wrote. Later, at a local college, a quirky English professor asked me if I’d ever considered creative writing for a career. I was astounded. 

Expose my inner self to the world? Horrors!

It wasn’t until I went away to college that I discovered letter writing brought that spot to life. I wrote copious letters home. I remember hurrying back to the dorm between classes to start a letter or add to one, imagining my loved ones’ faces as they read and laughed and cried—experiencing college vicariously. (Think “The Waltons.”) Believe it or not, my mother saved every single letter. When she died in 1995, I discovered reams of them. I’ve organized them as a history for my offspring.

After college, life got in the way, and my writing pen remained in a drawer.

Fast forward to 2004. My daughter called me at work with news: Our first grandchild would arrive—in triplicate form. Not only was the news astounding, but so was my reaction. People in offices on the first floor came up to see what all the racket on second floor was all about.

My daughter’s at-risk pregnancy, mainly in the hospital, was indeed something to write home about. Her physician urged her to abort one baby, painting a landscape of dire predictions, but she refused.

When the babies were born at 28 weeks at just over 2 pounds each—and survived and thrived—you can bet that spot around my heart that comes to life when I write shifted into overdrive.

That’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I would leave a legacy of faith in writing. Pow!

ME: You mentioned your work place, what did you do before you became a writer?

LINDA: In 1968, I began a 40-year career working with individuals with special needs. I was a speech pathologist in public schools and in clinical settings. The last ten years were as an administrator of special programs. I retired in 2008.

When not writing, my husband and I dote on our six grandchildren.

ME: How did you get involved in writing for publication? 

LINDA:  Ready for another story? Remember my dream of leaving a legacy of faith in writing? That 2005 goal took me to the internet where I stumbled across an essay contest sponsored by the host of a local talk show. (One of the program sponsors was Jerry Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.) For fun, I wrote an essay entitled “Why I Should Attend the Writing for the Soul Conference.” I didn’t know what the conference was, but it sounded like a grand event. It was at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, after all.

I didn’t tell anyone I entered. Actually, I forgot all about it.

Weeks later, I received a call at work. I recognized the voice … the host of the radio show … calling me … I’m one of three finalists … and I’m to read my essay on air … in forty-five minutes.

What? I didn’t remember where I put the essay. Was it still on my computer? Could I even find it?  Yikes.

Whew! Found it. Printed it. And caught my breath. I read, and with the clock ticking down to the last seconds of the show, the announcement was finally made. The host had made his decision . . . What? I won?

That’s how it happened. My husband and I were treated to the Broadmoor and the conference and all that went with it. I was open-mouthed and uninformed and naive. But I soldiered on.

Ten years later came the Operation First Novel win and publication of THE CALLING OF ELLA McFARLAND, a novel based in my family’s stories about hardship and faith and grit—a legacy of faith in writing.

God is so faithful, even to a ditzy woman like me who prayed for something and then was astounded when it happened. Will I ever learn?

My advice: Get the story down, no matter the form or quality. Keep learning. And don’t quit.

 

Linda-Brooks-DavisLinda Brooks Davis, first-place winner of the 2014 Jerry B. Jenkins Operation First Novel award, has lived in multiple states and outside the U.S, but she speaks Texan. 

Set in 1905 pre-statehood Oklahoma, THE CALLING OF ELLA McFARLAND, an inspirational historical with a strong romantic thread, debuted on December 1, 2015.

When not writing, Linda enjoys teaching 4-year-olds at church, reading, and researching genealogy. She and her husband dote on six grandchildren.

 


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Soup, Pitiful Soup

After a full day in Boston visiting my husband at Brigham & Women’s hospital, followed by an hour and a half sleepy ride home, I stopped at my local grocery store to get something for supper. It’s hard to cook for one—especially when you’re tired, hungry, and decision-challenged.

Sweet Potato Soup with Quinoa & Coconut Milk by A Veggie Venture 2010-400

Soup, glorious soup!

As I entered the store, I had a soup flashback. A few months prior, I’d taken a chance on a concoction I’d never had before from the store’s soup and salad bar. It was quite tasty. I’d enjoyed it a few times since.

That night, driven by the memory of its flavor, my taste buds tingled and my stomach growled. Gripping the cart, I plowed through Produce and past Bakery, the thrill of the hunt spurring me on.

On the way, I questioned my fervor. At what point had soup become exciting to me? How long had this craving been simmering? Was it a by-product of age, maybe a post-post-menopausal thing? I still had all my teeth, so that couldn’t be it. Was I excited about all soup or just this particular soup?  (Research for another day, perhaps.)

Ooh, maybe it was a spiritual metaphor of some sort–but what sort?

Arriving at the soup bar, I skidded to a stop. A man about my age was checking things over, making it impossible for me to read the labels on the pots. I pushed my carriage closer. (I barely  bumped him, really.) “Oops, so sorry.”

He looked up. “No problem.”

When he lifted a full ladle to his nose, I recognized the soup and said under my breath, “That’s it! My soup!” I had to stop this interloper before he sniffed-up all the aroma with his sizable schnoz.

nose man

The nose knows.

I inched forward. “Take my word, it’s delicious.”

“Oh.” He reached for an empty pint container.

“Actually, that soup’s the very reason I’m here.” I held fast to my cart and didn’t budge, blocking his view of the quart containers. “They don’t make it often, and when they do, they don’t make enough.” I stared him down. “Like tonight.” Despite my subtlety, I hoped he got the hint and wouldn’t deplete the supply.

He half-filled his pint container, which made it easier for me to be pleasant. “Usually, I buy a full pint and eat half one day, then half the next, you know, never sure when they’ll have it again. Makes cooking for one easier. Have you tried their angus beef chili? That’s pretty good too.”

Despite our riveting, albeit one-sided, conversation, I needed him to hurry it up. I was so hungry, for the first time I could sympathize with Esau’s poor decision.

The man placed a top on his container. “My wife will enjoy it. Yeah, my wife likes soup. I’m bringing some home to my wife right now.” [Emphasis on wifehis.]

Now, I’d been single before, so I knew what he was thinking. And this wasn’t it.

I had a parallel retort in mind: “My husband would enjoy it. Yeah, my husband likes soup. I’d bring some home to my husband right now if my husband wasn’t in the hospital for a stem cell transplant!  How about that Mr. I’m-Married-So-Stop-Hitting-On-Me-Lady?”

But I didn’t say any of that. It would’ve resulted in pity soup–which shrivels the taste buds, constricts the throat, and hurts going down. Besides, eating pity soup would do nothing to expedite my husband’s discharge from the hospital.

Instead I smiled. “Hope your wife enjoys it.” (But not that much.)

By now many of you may be asking, “What kind of soup is it?” and “Where can I find this delightful ambrosia?”

My answer, of course, is, “No way. I’m not telling. NO SOUP FOR YOU!” (Sorry, I’m tired, it’s late, and that was way too easy.*)

soupnazi

“No soup for you!”

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished.  He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” 

Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright. ~ Genesis 25:29-34 (NIV)

*Sweet Potato, Quinoa, & Black Bean from Hannaford Supermarket. Enjoy!


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Through a Glass Darkly: The Quilter

As an author, here’s how I see things vs. how they really are. Sort of.

The way I imagined it . . .   

Jeff ConwayRecently, while walking through the Mall of New Hampshire, I noticed a man, probably in his mid-forties, with his hair rolled into a slick pompadour like Jeff Conaway as Kenickie in Grease. He wore a royal purple  satin jacket with knit collar and cuffs. Embroidered in gold on the back were the words “Perth Amboy Foreign Autos.”

A short, sandy-haired woman dressed in a flowered turtleneck and denim jumper held his arm and clogged along loudly beside him. She looked nothing like Stockard Channing as Rizzo.

While the happy couple admired the display of miniature hand-blown glass animals at a kiosk, I “found” them a family.

A trio of tittering pre-teens, windowshopping outside Claire’s, seemed perfect for the role of their daughters. I named them Sephira, Solara, and Sienna.

A 15-ish square-built boy, looking bored near the escalator, became their son. The crotch of his jeans was almost level with his kneecaps. Crippled by this ill-advised design, I dubbed him Yugo.Yugo

They’d traveled all the way up from Perth Amboy, New Jersey for the “Happy to be Scrappy” Ladies of the Lakes Quilters Triennial Quilt Show. It had been held over the weekend at Kingswood High School in Wolfeboro, where “Mrs. Kenickie” had taken first place.blue-ribbon

The family planned to return home directly after the judges’ decision in time to phone friends and family before the news got old. They would’ve, too, but for the nuisance of a dragging muffler on their 1992 Chrysler Town & Country mini van.

Rather than pay for an extra night at Motel 6, they hiked to the mall about a mile from the mechanic’s garage. Before they entered, their kids watched as their proud dad pinned the blue ribbon to their mom’s jumper.

The family whiled away the hours, not bothered by their car trouble, just pleased to be together to celebrate this milestone occasion.

The way it was . . .   

John Travolta hairThe couple, Hank and Betty Dutra, hailed from Raymond, NH. Hank combed his hair this way because twenty-seven years ago Betty told him he kinda looked like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

Hank bought the royal purple satin jacket (practically brand new) with the Perth Amboy logo for $5.00 at Goodwill because he’d never owned anything from Australia before. Betty hated it. He wore it today mainly because she’d made him come to the Mall.

Despite Hank’s jacket and hard-headedness, Betty wanted this day to feel special. That’s why she’d exchanged her comfy sweats for a proper jumper. After all, it was Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester, not Dollar Tree in Raymond.

Used to her everyday sneakers, she clung to Hank’s arm, unsteady in her dress clogs.clogs

As they passed by the kiosk filled with miniature hand-blown glass animals, Betty  whispered to Hank, “Who on earth would pay these prices?”

Hank answered, “Who knows? Maybe the kind of people who live in Hollis and Bedford and Exeter.”

They listened to a trio of girls cackling outside Claire’s and witnessed a teen boy’s jeans slip down to his knees.

Hank shook his head. “Aren’t you glad we have dogs?”

“Don’t forget the chickens,” Betty said. “They might cackle but at least they keep us in eggs.”

flex-seal-liquid_1000After a few hours of browsing, they bought some Flex Seal Liquid Rubber (as seen on TV) so they could repair the used truck bed liner they purchased for their 2016 double cab Ford 2500.

The blue ribbon on Betty’s jumper? It was there when they left the house. She’d taken first place in the “Happy to be Scrappy” Ladies of the Lakes Quilters Triennial Quilt Show held at Kingswood High School in Wolfeboro that weekend.

And Hank made sure everyone in the Mall of New Hampshire knew it.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)


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Why I Stalked a Shopper in Hannaford

old-womanwigIt’s near impossible for a writer to go out in public without imagining characters for their next novels.

Once, while waiting at a bank’s drive-up window, I wondered about my teller’s hair–which was really a bad wig. Why would she pick a style from the ’60s? Was she threatened by the aging process? Or had she spurned the whims of fashion?

The drawer slid open with my receipt. I reached over my half-opened, stuck-off-its track window to retrieve it. My arm wasn’t long enough. While I tried not to stare at the woman, character names for her ran through my head: Paula? Nancy? Frances? 

I soon realized I’d have to open my door and half-step out to get my hand inside the drawer. I had one foot in and one foot out. Unfortunately the car was in drive, and the foot that was in was not on the brake.

I grabbed the receipt and hopped alongside my rolling car to the end of building. It came to a stop after it withdrew the bank’s downspout.

 All because of that woman’s hair.

Recently, I was developing a female character. It was important for this character to be recognized by her perfume, which meant researching fragrances. I tested a multitude of brands in department stores. All I came away with was a bunch of stinky samples and a whopping headache.

None of them were right for my character. I needed to simplify my method. I would sniff it out in a more natural habitat.

It worked. I was standing at the deli counter in Hannaford when I smelled the perfect scent: Clementine and cactus flower, bergamot, Hawaiian tuberose, spring honeysuckle, frangipani, musk, exotic woods, and nectarine. [Research, people research!]

I looked around and tried to figure out which woman owned it. The one in the Nike jogging suit? The lady with the kerchief and polyester pants? The one in the beige top and funky straw hat who looked a lot like Minnie Driver?

Minnie DriverI wove my cart in and around them, sniffing as subtly as I could, pretending to check out cheese. I quickly eliminated the kerchiefed woman, who smelled more like salami than the salami she was buying. I tucked her away for another day.

I tailed the other two women until I reached a fork between two aisles. It called for a quick decision. I chose the Minnie lookalike. I tried to get as near to her as I could without drawing attention to myself. I dropped a few items in my cart to throw her off. Each time I got close, I sniffed, surer than ever I was on the right scent.

Even when she skipped aisles and pushed her cart faster, I kept up. I had to have the name of that perfume!

At one point, she gave me a weird look. I wasn’t sure if I’d blown my cover or if she’d looked in my cart. I’d been in the store for forty-five minutes and all I had to show for it was a jar of Gerber strained peas, a box of matches, and a toilet plunger.

Before she called security, I gave up the hunt. I retraced my steps and found the makings for dinner. Rather despondent, I checked out.  All my research had been for nought.

Pushing my cart through the lot, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Loading groceries into the car parked right next to mine was my perfumed lady!

I sprinted toward her, then slowed to a stroll, blocking her only way of escape. I said, “Excuse me, you may have noticed me in the grocery store?”

“Ye-es.” She quickened her pace and scanned the area.

Before I could finish my explanation, she gave up the name of her perfume and took off faster than I could say Tommy Bahama.

Nice woman. Haven’t seen her since.

TB Perfume

 

Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. ~ 2 Corinthians 2:15 (MSG)

 


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Dating and the Half-Blood Prince

Nine years ago, I remarried after being widowed for eight years. I found a great guy who understands meyet, amazingly, has never tried to run off.

That I know of.

Because I found happiness again, single women often ask me how I met my husband. As if how I met David would work the same way for them.

My advice to them is to pray and wait. Do things you enjoy, learn something new, help someone less fortunate, and spend time with your family and friends. If God has someone for you, He is more than able to bring you two together—without your help.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lordbe strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. ~ Proverbs 27-13-14 (NIV)

Why am I qualified to give this advice? Because I did everything wrong.

Most of my seeking was on faith-based, online dating sites. Though I found a number of men in my age-bracket, our other brackets didn’t line up. I know “wacko” isn’t a nice word, but let’s just say, I had family and friends who would’ve chased these men off with a stick.hoFleischmannRapidRiseYeast (2)

  • The man who took turns doing jail time with his fourth wife on domestic abuse charges. He told me, “Don’t worry, we’re getting a divorce.”
  • The man who refused to date a woman who had ever had a yeast infection.
  • The man who lived in the woods while waiting on the Lord to give him a trailer.
  • The man who lived in a trailer while waiting on the Lord for the right time to downsize.

To be clear, I didn’t date many men at all during those years. Sometimes just reading their profiles was enough (or should have been). However, I did communicate with a number of them via the websites, email, or phone.

I often asked myself why. Why did I respond to every inquiry? Why did I continue after the initial exchange? Why did I agree to speak by phone?

The answer is complicated. Since I was lonely, bored, and insecure, empathy played a big part. I felt bad for them. I didn’t want to be mean or rude and make them feel worse. Sometimes it was the writer in me, rubbernecking from a safe distance. Their lives were so different from mine; I wanted to get up close, but not too personal.

I knew my curiosity wasn’t healthy. It got the best of me the night I agreed to meet one of the online bachelors at a Borders bookstore. I knew we weren’t a good fit the moment I saw him. Yet fascination drew me in. And there was the whole not wanting to be mean thing.

We ordered coffee and found a table. He sat facing the window; I sat facing him and the store. Since my interest had peaked prior to the date, when he told me that he and his older brother lived with their mother [Did I mention they were in their fifties?], what little interest that remained waned.

Trying to salvage the conversation, I asked, “So what do you do for a living?”

His face lit up. “I mow lawns. My brother has a paper route.” [Did I mention they were in their fifties?]

tumblr_kzb0vfjtHR1qbrupjo1_400 (2)Pretending to pay attention is a lot like lying. And I’m not good at it; I felt guilty. So when an eerie pale-faced, bald man dressed in black slithered through my peripheral vision, I thought I was being chastised.

I recovered my composure and changed the subject. Since his profile had been on a Christian website, I asked, “So what church do you attend?”

“We attended a great church in New Jersey, but we haven’t found one we like here yet.”

“Oh. How long have you lived here?”

“Eighteen years.”

I tried to morph my “you’re kidding me” face into a calm “I see” expression. My disingenuous reaction only stirred up an even more ominous-looking apparition, which skulked back and forth behind my date’s chair.

I remember thinking, “If I keep my eyes straight ahead and try to be kind and truthful, maybe the hallucinations will go away.”half-blood

It didn’t work. I started seeing witch hats and broomsticks between the books shelves. And it was June.

But when Harry Potter himself sat down nearby for a chai latte with Professor Dumbledore, I had to ask my date if he saw them, too.

“Sure. J.K. Rowling’s latest book. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out today. Most of the staff and customers are in costume.”

I scanned my date for the umpteenth time. Was he dressed up, too? Did I dare ask?  I considered his two possible answers. Neither would brighten our future.        

The very next day I surrendered my will and my search and deleted all my online dating accounts. As I was doing one final click-through, Yahoo Personals popped up–a site I had not joined. Or had I? I did a quick look to be sure.

And—yahoo!—I found David.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. ~ Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)