Morning Coffee: Another New Year

We’re almost a month into another new year and most of us have probably already broken all our resolutions. Mine might not be broken, but they have taken a bit of a beating. Why do we even make these promises to ourselves? Promises like losing weight, working out more, being an overall better person?

I’m as guilty as anyone. This year it was all the usual promises, plus the vow that I would write a minimum of 1000 words a day on my next novel. That’s roughly 4-5 pages. Doesn’t sound so hard, right? Well, that depends on the day and the scene/chapter. I recognized from the beginning there would be days this wouldn’t be feasible. Days like Christmas, or when I have the chance to spend an afternoon playing with my grandson. (He’s only little for a short time.) There was the weekend I had a stomach bug I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But there were also the days I decided to check out a new Netflix series over my morning coffee with the promise to only watch one episode, yet spent the entire day binging the first season. Then, I loved the show so much, I started right in binging season two the next morning.

Rather than looking at this as a failure, throwing up my hands and saying maybe next year. It just means I start over as if today was the first day of a new year. Every day is the first day of a new year. So, I’m back on the horse with a few stricter rules for myself (all those streaming services are for evening watching). If I fall off the wagon, or it’s a day where there are other more important things to do (i.e., playing with my grandson), I forgive myself and keep going the next day.

Every morning you wake up is a gift. Use it wisely and start all over. If it doesn’t work out, remember, tomorrow is another new day, and you can try again.

Morning Coffee: Winter is Here

For you folks in the frozen north, all you have to do is look out your window to know winter is here. I’ve been told there’s quite a bit of snow on the ground in NW Wisconsin. For me, I’m here in sunny SW Florida where the view from my window is anything but snowy. But my routine remains the same . . . minus the boots and heavy coat.

There are Christmas cards to make and mail. Gifts to purchase and wrap. Cookies and holiday meals to plan. Decorations. Books to read and write . . . sitting by the pool, of course.

Unless I’m playing with my grandson. He just turned two and is very verbal about his day. Although, I have to admit I only understand about half of what he’s saying.

Winter is also the time of year I break out the jigsaw puzzles. Back home it’s because I don’t spend a lot of time out in the cold and puzzles make for a great toasty indoor activity. Nonetheless, I find my thoughts turning to those colorful boxes stacked expectantly on my shelf.

Top of this year’s list is a puzzle called “Writer’s Desk”. Last year’s birthday gift from my sister-in-law. I planned this one specifically for Florida as I will glue and frame it to hang by my desk once it’s finished. Next in line is a puzzle called “Vintage Bookstore”. It was this year’s birthday gift from the same sister-in-law. I will also glue and frame it for hanging.

Here’s a couple of questions for you:

When you open a new puzzle box and find some of the pieces already together, do you leave them that way and consider them a bonus, or do you break them apart? Personally, I break them apart and mix the pieces around. It feels like cheating if I don’t get to find and put them together myself.

Do you presort them by color and subject, or do you leave them in a great pile in the box to sift through? In my younger days, I laid them all out on a large table around the puzzle. I might semi-sort them, but mostly I just laid them where there was room. Now, I mostly sort into cookie sheets by color groups. Something I learned from the same sister-in-law. But so far with this puzzle, I’ve done some sorting for the framing pieces and certain interior pictures, but mostly I’m sifting through the pile in the box. It’s been working well, but soon I’m going to sort into the above-mentioned cookie sheets.

I’ve been doing all this while binging my Netflix list. What do you do while working on a puzzle? Watch television, listen to music, or just work in silence? Do you prefer to make your puzzle by yourself, or with someone else? I’ve done both.

No matter how you do your puzzle making, may you have no missing pieces, and may they all fit snugly together.

Morning Coffee: The Writing Life

Despite popular belief, we can’t write a book in the same time it takes to read one . . . at least, not a good book. It can take months, sometimes even years, to get it right. It’s a painful process of trial and error, elation followed by spiraling self-doubt. We subject our friends and family—anyone who will listen or are too slow to get away—to every idea, good or bad, running in circles through our brain like rabbits in heat.

I was thinking my heroine should ____ instead of _________. Don’t you agree?

I finally figured out how to fill that plot hole. What do you think of ________? Genius, right?

And even after we finish our cherished, perfect-in-our-mind, draft and send it on to our editor expecting rave reviews, we face several rounds of edits to fix all the problems we thought we fixed in the first place. It’s a pain-staking and humbling experience fueled by late nights and gallons of coffee.

There’s formatting and cover art to decide on. The back cover blurb can be more difficult to get right than the book itself. Advertising is never ending. Even writers with a world-wide adoring fan base have to promote each book as if it’s their first because our readers are fickle. Every book has to be better than the last or we risk them moving on to someone else. There are many good books, many amazing authors, out there to choose from.

We have promotions. We submit our work to competitions in order to be read by the “right” people. Those people who know other people. We travel to book signings to meet with you in person and maybe have our picture taken. See, we’re real. If you cut us, we do bleed. We practically beg for reviews.

And at the end of the day, we fall into bed exhausted, only to get up the next morning and start all over again with the next book.

Morning Coffee: Reviews Worth More Than Gold

I can’t emphasize this enough. Reviews are worth more than gold to authors. Positive reviews equal sales. Especially for the self-published.

When you’re looking for a book to read on Amazon and it sounds good, but you don’t recognize the author, what do you do? You scroll down and check out the reviews. Keeping in mind that not everyone likes the same books, you’re more likely to buy if the majority are favorable.

So, if you’ve enjoyed that book you just finished, leave a review. It doesn’t have to be long. We might not here us say so, but we appreciate it more than you can imagine.

Thank you.

Morning Coffee: A New Release

It’s always exciting when a new release is announced. “Betty: The Rebel (The Pine Lake Girls Book Two)” is available in paperback from Amazon, and ebook from various online stores, including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple. See the full list at:

It’s 1919, and Betty Young has always loved Harry Barnes, but he was engaged to marry Alice Armstrong, her best friend. Bound and determined to have him for herself, Betty tricked him into marrying her instead. Now that she has the husband and big city society life she always wanted, is she living her dream, or a nightmare?

Prohibition is the law and women are fighting for the right to vote. Betty’s eyes are opened by the disparity between the lives of those around her and the immigrants living in the Minneapolis neighborhood known as Bohemian Flats. Exciting doors are opening for her out in the world away from her small hometown of Pine Lake, Wisconsin.

But at what cost?

Can Alice, Betty, and Lizzie’s friendship survive betrayal and a changing world? Watch for the third and final book, “Lizzie: The Secret”, in 2023.

Morning Coffee: Coming Soon

It’s a rush every time I finish a book. This will be my third, and the feeling is no less exciting than when I finished my first or my second. And I suspect it will be just as exciting when I finish my fourth, the third installment in my Pine Lake Girls trilogy. Tentatively titled “Lizzie: The Reckoning”, watch for it in 2023.

“Betty: The Rebel” is the second in the trilogy and will be released later this month. It’s currently going through a final proof read by a fresh pair of eyes. Set in 1919 Minneapolis/St Paul, Betty finds herself in the middle of suffragettes and prohibition.

If you haven’t yet read the first book, “Alice: The Betrayal”, it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook. You don’t have to read the first to enjoy the second, but it is double the fun.

Also available on Amazon, “Mary Bishop” takes the reader from pre-Civil War Virginia to1880 Wisconsin. It’s about a war that divided a nation, a woman fighting for her life, and the two men who promised to love her forever.

Morning Coffee: Suffragist vs Suffragette

I’m currently working on the edits for the second book in my Pine Lake Girls trilogy and it brought up an interesting research question. Suffragist or suffragette? What’s the difference?

The fact that the question crossed my mind doesn’t mean much because I’m always asking myself such things. I love any reason to do some historical research. In fact, it’s one of the number one reasons I give for why I’m not actually writing. I’m doing very important research. But when my editor calls to ask me that very same question, I know my readers are going to question it as well.

So, research I must . . . and happily.

This is what I found: A suffragist is peaceful and can be either male or female. The suffragist believes in the cause of women’s suffrage, the right to vote, but they voice their opinion by writing letters to politicians, by writing opinion pieces and newspaper/journal articles, speaking to groups. A suffragette, on the other hand, is a woman who believes her voice must be heard to make a difference. She marches, protests, and in some cases, is violent in the form of vandalism or arson. A suffragist may be mocked or looked down upon for their beliefs. A suffragette is willing to risk arrest.

Watch for “Betty: The Rebel” to be released later this summer.

Morning Coffee: Getting Back to Normal

It’s been a stressful two years, but things are finally getting back to normal. Mask mandates are lifting almost everywhere. Travel destinations are requiring fewer and fewer prerequisites for visiting. Events that have been closed to the public are reopening.

This month is a busy one for me, partially thanks to the lifting of additional pandemic rules. It’s always been the month of Mother’s Day, my brother’s birthday, and my birthday, but that’s been it for the past two years. This year we get to return to Canada for a week of fishing with family and friends. That’s one country that’s still heavy on the border crossing rules, but they are letting up enough that we will actually be able to go. This is a trip that takes a lot of planning ahead as we have to bring all our food and equipment. As well as getting all our required information to the proper authorities before the advance crossing deadline.

This year I also have my first reader/author book signing event in June . . . not long after we return from Canada. Being my first, I have to plan for my very important table set-up. So many of these events were canceled, or I didn’t hear about them until it was too late and all tables were booked. If you’re in the Deadwood, SD area the Saturday of June 18th, be sure and come by the Wild Deadwood Reads event at the Lodge. A part of the larger Wild Bill Days celebrating the life and times of Wild Bill Hickock. There will be lots of authors selling a wide variety of books, live music, and other great events. I’m so excited! I’ve been to Deadwood only once, and it’s a really fun place to visit. I can’t wait to go back.

And, I get to meet some new readers. Create new fans?

For those of you who are current fans of mine, Book 2 of the Pine Lake Girls trilogy should be out by the end of summer. It’s currently in the editing phase of creation. Watch for more news about “Betty: The Rebel” in the near future. And if you enjoyed the “Hope Harbor” anthology I was a part of last year, there’s a second volume coming out in November in time for Christmas. Proceeds for this one will go toward fighting hunger. I’m currently drafting my contribution, “A Christmas Kind of Love”.

It’s never too early to begin planning for your winter reading list. And who says you have to wait for winter? Books make a great poolside or beach companion.

Morning Coffee: Learn, Don’t Cancel

Everything we do in life, everything we experience, is a chance to learn and grow. When we automatically jump to the conclusion we must “cancel” that thing, that person, that idea, we miss out on a valuable opportunity. Picking and choosing what we want from history does not change the fact that something happened the way it did . . . good or bad. Refusing to listen to another viewpoint does not make that opinion go away. Refusing to showcase an actor’s or musician’s work because he or she voiced an opposing political opinion, or behaves personally in an unacceptable manner, deprives us of the chance to enjoy a true talent. Erasing the bad often erases the good, as well.

A little over a week ago we woke to the “slap heard round the world”. In a fit of anger, actor Will Smith slapped comedian Chris Rock in front of a live worldwide audience of millions. All due to a poorly delivered joke that offended him and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Those who didn’t see it live have been treated to the video replay numerous times on the television and social media. The world was shocked and horrified. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone defend him, although a select group of friends have been kind in their attempts to help him.

Assaulting Chris Rock was unacceptable. The police who came and spoke with the victim described it legally as “battery”. Chris Rock refused to prosecute. Will Smith apologized to the audience, and to the Academy, during his acceptance speech later. He apologized to the Academy separately. He apologized to Chris Rock. He apologized to his family and to all who were affected by his bad behavior. He resigned his membership in the Academy and has said he will accept whatever punishment they decide upon.

Apparently, for some, this is not enough. There are calls for his movies to be pulled from streaming services. Some people are speculating that his career is over. This, when not even an hour after the incident, he was announced the winner of an Oscar for best actor for his performance in “King Richard”. His standing ovation infuriated those who want his award revoked.

There’s the argument that our children saw this behavior and if we don’t act swiftly, they’ll come to the conclusion that bad behavior is all right if you’re a celebrity. I agree, but canceling someone’s life work is not the answer. Parents, use this opportunity to sit down and talk about what happened with your children. Explain to them that celebrities like Will Smith are just like the rest of us. They are not infallible. They are not gods. They are human beings who make mistakes, and it’s how they respond to their mistakes that define them. Will Smith acted on impulse and realized quickly after what a mistake that was. Haven’t we all been there at least once in our lives? I know I have been . . . many times more than once. Ask your children if this has ever happened to them? Were they forgiven? Or were they canceled, never allowed to make amends?

It’s time we start teaching our children what it means to forgive, how freeing it can be personally to not pass judgment on another and/or hold a grudge. I would guess that Will Smith has a very real personal problem he’s dealing with and I’d ask that we all give him the space to work his way through it.

Now, for those whose bad behavior led to success in their accomplishments, that’s a totally different discussion.

Morning Coffee: Through the Eyes of a Child

As adults, we tend to focus on the big picture. How everything is connected. While young children, on the other hand, are enthralled by the small everyday things around them, to the exclusion of everything else in that moment. I’ve been reminded of this more and more while spending time with my one-year-old grandson.

He’s captivated by the sound of dead leaves under his feet. An airplane passing over head, or a dog walking by on the other side of the road, elicits a quick response and point. Other children playing basketball or riding bikes are a true wonder to him.

I remember when my own children were little, placing a caterpillar in a jar with leaves, a stick, and of course, holes in the lid. Then checking every day to see if it had spun a cocoon yet, and wondering when it would emerge as a butterfly. Ants carrying a discarded crumb down the sidewalk could hold their attention for hours.

As a writer, I try to break down my setting into smaller parts, to pay attention to all the senses. Walking the trails behind our house, the forest is not only a lot of trees. It’s green leaves on the trees, as well as brown dead leaves under foot. The air is cool and smells so strong of wet earth you can almost taste it. Birds sing and squirrels chase each other up one tree and down another. Is that rustle behind me a bird, a squirrel, a deer, or God forbid, a bear? The buzz of insects fills the air. I quickly forget there are other people not very far away.

We could all learn from children. Don’t try to take in the whole world and its problems, its complexities, all at once. Instead, stop and notice the little things. Ask yourself how that big airplane can fly as easily as a small bird. Wonder at the ability of a little ant to carry a crumb many times its own size. Try to imagine what it was like the first time you placed your bare feet on grass, or sunk your toes into wet sand at the beach. Slow down and enjoy your dinner, its many flavors and textures. Don’t just wolf it down so you can move on to bigger things.

Our world is a truly amazing place. Don’t get so busy you can’t enjoy it. Your heart may even thank you for the healthy reduction in stress.