Morning Coffee: Past, Present, and Future Jane

Growing up, I most wanted to be an actress. I also considered teacher, nurse, and briefly, nun. (No doubt due to Sally Field and the “Flying Nun”.) Instead, I’m a writer. It’s not terribly different, really, from actress. Mainly, this way I get to play all the characters. What about Future Jane? Life is a learning process, a constant change. Hopefully it’s for the better, but sometimes our decisions are for the worse.

But I can’t fail unless I try. And if I try, I just might succeed.

So, going forward now that I’ve published a couple of books, it’s PR. The personal face-to-face kind. I need to learn how to be comfortable putting myself out there. At first it wasn’t a problem. It wasn’t my choice to stay hidden behind my closed office door, huddled alone at my computer. “Mary Bishop” came out just as the COVID-19 pandemic was locking down the country. I couldn’t go to events if I wanted to. It wasn’t allowed. They were all canceled. But I no longer have that excuse.

With that in mind, if you’re in the Des Moines, Iowa, area on September 25th, you can find me at Authors on the Artwalk. And really looking forward, on June 18, 2022, I’ll be at Wild Deadwood Reads in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Hope to see you there.

Morning Coffee: Are All Books Created Equal?

Do you finish reading every book you start? I don’t. Well, I do most of the time, but every now and then I start one where I just can’t justify my time. Life is short and there are too many good books calling my name. More than I can read in a lifetime.

It happened to me again recently. I’ve been trying to read it, hoping it would improve, but it just didn’t. I now have a better understanding of my own editor’s comments regarding passive versus active voice. This book is written almost entirely in passive voice. The author is merely telling the story rather than allowing the reader to experience it.

We did this…we did that…then time passed and we did something else… Very little dialogue and action mixing with the narrative. It keeps putting me to sleep.

This wouldn’t be the only reason I don’t finish a book. It has been several years, but the one before was confusing. It advertised as the first in a series, but it read like I was being dropped in the middle of whatever was happening to the heroine. The story’s premise was interesting, so I pushed on for a while hoping for a sudden clarification, but it never came so I deleted it from my kindle. Happy I had bought it on sale. The time before I quit early in a NYT best seller because I didn’t like the bad guys. I know, you’re not supposed to, but I REALLY didn’t like them.

Each time I moved on to something else and was glad for it. Last week I picked up an Eloisa James book I purchased at a book signing several years back. I’ve had it in my to-be-read pile ever since and am reminded what is truly good writing. This one is hard to put down. I even feel a little sorry for the bad guy.

As I said, life’s too short to waste on a boring, or just plain bad, read. When I pick up a book, I want to be thrown head first into another time and place filled with interesting people who will help me forget whatever’s going on in my own world.

It’s the same when I’m writing. I spend more time editing the first chapter than any other. I know if I don’t catch my readers right from the start, the rest of the book doesn’t matter.

Morning Coffee: I Need Your Vote!

If you read my book and enjoyed it. Or, if you didn’t but want to help out an author with her debut novel, I need your vote.

“Mary Bishop” received a 4.5 star review from In’Dtale Magazine last year. This means I’m eligible for this year’s Rone Award. First round voting is for readers. Top four in each category move on to final industry voting. My category, Historical Victorian-20th, is open for reader voting May 10th-16th. I’d love your vote. To do so, you will need to first register at www.indtale.com . Fast, easy, and free, you will receive their monthly e-magazine of articles and reviews of indie and small press published romances of all subgenres. When you register, you will receive a confirmation email. Once you confirm it was, indeed, you who registered, you will be able to vote. If you don’t care to get their emails, you can always unsubscribe after. Feel free to share this information with anyone you think may be interested. I need all the votes I can get.

Thanks!

Morning Coffee: A Busy Couple of Months

I realized today that it’s been two months since I last blogged!! I’ve been very busy. Where do I start?

Well…our daughter got married in North Carolina in April. A beautiful day despite the rain. Every bride deserves her happily-ever-after, her knight in shining armor, her prince, and Katy got that on April 10th when she married Jason. She also gained a lovely step-daughter, Jayda. The emotion is indescribable when a mother watches the father walk his daughter down the aisle; and then to return with her love and a big smile on her face.

The wedding also gave us the opportunity to spend more time with our five-month-old grandson who lives in Florida. He was an official groomsman-in-training. His mother even found him an outfit to match daddy’s when they preceded the bride down the aisle: blue jeans, a white shirt, and his own little lavender bow tie. He was a hit! Almost outshone the bride and groom…but not quite.

My most recent news is the publication of my second novel. The first in the Pine Lake Girls trilogy, “Alice: The Betrayal”, released this weekend and available in both paperback and ebook. Check out my “Publications” page for details. It was an interesting project as it takes place in 1918 with the Spanish Flu epidemic a big part of the plot. I actually finished the draft before COVID-19 was even a small seed of worry in anyone’s head, and I did all the editing during our pandemic. Much of the time while in shut-down. It definitely had a surreal aspect to it.

I’m currently working on two projects. Obviously, the Pine Lake Girls book two, Betty’s story, to be released in 2022. But also, a short piece for an anthology. I received my edits for that today. All proceeds will go to charity and I’ll have more details as the release date approaches.

So, that’s my excuse for not blogging in such a long time. I’ll try to do better, or at least have a good excuse for my absence. In the meantime, get yourself a copy of Alice’s story and let me know what you think. Writers live on reviews.

Morning Coffee: Editing

I’ve been deep in the pits of writer’s hell, otherwise known as editing, for some months now. Personally, I find edits easier than the rough draft, but that doesn’t make the process painless. Having to change, or even delete, my precious words can feel like no less than murder.

I recently received the second round of editor’s notes for my next novel. This after months of self-editing, followed by two months of going through her first round. A part of me wishes I could sit back and do anything but write for a while. But, in truth, the novel itself is not the only step toward publication. It’s certainly the biggest part, but it’s not all that needs to be done.

I need to get to work on the blurb for the back cover. Short but, in some ways, even more difficult to write than the body of the book. I also need to contact my cover artist to start working on that very important selling point. It’s the first thing to catch the reader’s attention, get that person to pick it up. Second most important would be that back cover blurb.

“Is this the type of story I like to read? If it’s not a genre I would normally read, is it one I find interesting enough to buy?”

Normally, once the process comes to a close on a book the writer can then turn to a completely new project. In this case, my current work-in-progress is the first in a trilogy. So, I’m not done with these characters. And they’re not done with me.

Watch for the first of the Pine Lake Girls, “Alice: The Betrayal” coming this spring.

Morning Coffee: A New Year

You probably noticed I’ve been a little absent since the end of 2020. I’ve been on an extended vacation in warm weather getting to know our new grandson. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t writing. I spent part of each day working on edits for my next novel.

I plan on having Alice’s story in The Pine Lake Girls trilogy out this spring. So stayed tuned.

In the meantime, I’ll be making more frequent trips south. As cold as it is here right now, those Gulf breezes are calling my name even louder than before. And let’s face it, I can write anywhere…except, apparently, in the same room with the grandson. He can be sound asleep and the minute he hears gently typing on my keyboard, he wakes right up and insists on Grandma paying more attention to him. And he already knows I can’t say no to him. His big blue eyes steal my soul, and his smile melts my heart. Never mind what his tears do to me.

And he knows it!

So, I’ll be rethinking how I can best use my writing time. After all, writing the first book in a trilogy means I have to write books 2 and 3, as well.

Morning Coffee: Finding Thanks

2020 has been a hard year for all of us. The holiday season is here and we still haven’t shaken this virus. Thanksgiving won’t be the same, and that will be easier for some people than others. Whether you’re spending Thanksgiving alone this year, or with fewer family and friends than usual, we can still give thanks.

Finding things to be thankful for, rather than dwelling on all the things that have gone wrong this year, will brighten the darker days. I’ll go first.

I’m most thankful for a little guy named Connor. Born 3 weeks early, and just shy of 5lbs, he is healthy. And he has stolen my heart. In case you haven’t guessed, Connor is our grandson . . . our first grandchild . . . and my greatest love since the births of my own children.

He lives far away and will be a month old before I get to see him in person, but that’s all right. Right now, he’s getting special one-on-one time with his parents and his other grandparents. When you combine his baptism, Christmas, and the one-month condo rental I have all lined-up in sunny south Florida, I’ll have six weeks of snuggles, kisses, and that wonderful new baby smell. The character of Frank Barone summed it up in Everyone Loves Raymond when he said, “Suckin’ in the youth!”

Then I’ll get to start planning my next visit.

Despite everything, we all have something to be thankful for this year. What’s yours?

Morning Coffee: Christmas is Coming

You read that right. I said, Christmas is coming. Now, before you get all riled up, I do realize it’s not even Halloween for another week. But, as I sit here watching our first measurable snowfall of the season, I am painfully aware that Christmas is truly just around the corner.

The holiday season won’t be quite the same for many of us this year. Thank you very much, COVID! Family celebrations are going to be smaller, with a more carefully selected group of people. Some will choose to limit gatherings to immediate family . . . which could mean only yourself, or you and your spouse.

Downsizing the holidays could be a very positive experience. The holidays are a stressful time. No matter how much you enjoy them, there’s all the pre-planning, and, often, a lot of last-minute scrambling. 2020 has already been a stressful year. I suggest everyone make a concerted effort to simplify so we might spend more time appreciating what the holidays truly mean.

You can still have your favorites for dinner, but do you really need three kinds of vegetables and five kinds of pie? A ten-pound turkey cooks faster than the twenty-pounder. With few, if any, houseguests, you don’t have to worry so much about the cleaning. Perhaps a smaller tree that takes half the time to set-up and take-down so you don’t resent it more than enjoy it. Put more decorations outside than inside. That way your neighbors can enjoy them, too. Especially those who are feeling the loneliness more acutely than others this year.

Leave yourself plenty of time to watch holiday movies and listen to your favorite holiday music. Curl up with your sweetie in front of the fire with a bottle of wine instead of fretting over all your half-done lists.

And read some of those books on your shelves instead of worrying about dusting them.

Speaking of books—they make great gifts. Easy to wrap. Easy to mail or fit into a suitcase, even if flying. And think of all the starving authors you’d be helping. This has been a tough year for the independently published who saw all their big author/reader events cancelled.

Here’s where I throw in a little shameless self-promotion. “Mary Bishop” is available both online and direct from the author (me). Check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

 books2read.com/u/3G2e18

Morning Coffee: The Hard-Won Fight

feetOn August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment, making it illegal to deny any citizen the right to vote based on their gender, was ratified. On August 26th, just over 100 years ago, it was certified by the US Secretary of State, officially enacting it as the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution. Another election is fast approaching and the women’s vote is still the much-coveted block of support sought by every candidate. It can make the difference between victory or loss.

But the battle for this right began long before then. The first generation of suffragettes met in the village of Seneca Falls, New York, on July 19th and 20th, 1848. Among their numerous demands: a woman’s right to own property, to keep the money she earned or inherited, court-awarded custody of her own children in the case of divorce, equal educational opportunities for girls, and dress reform. Attendance included such notables as Susan B Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Lucretia Mott. It was Elizabeth Cady Stanton who offered the most controversial demand, that of a woman’s “inalienable right to the elective franchise,” something not agreed upon by every woman in attendance. Lucretia Mott, a Quaker from Philadelphia, feared “thee will make us ridiculous.” Thus, began a seventy-year battle by women to win a voice in government.

On May 21, 1919, US Representative James R Mann, Republican from Illinois and Chair of the Suffrage Committee, proposed the House resolution to approve the Susan Anthony Amendment. It passed the House 304-89, 42 votes above the two-thirds required majority. On June 4th, the Senate passed what became known as the 19th Amendment 56-25, just 2 votes over the two-thirds required majority. It then went to the States for ratification. Thirty-six States would need to ratify for the 19th Amendment to become law, a three-quarters majority.

On June 10th, Wisconsin beat Illinois by only minutes for the honor of being the first State to ratify. The story goes that State Senator David G James from Richland Center hand-delivered the documents to Washington DC on June 13th. He was walking out of the office of the Secretary of State with the signed certification as the representative from Illinois was walking in. Eight states would vote to reject (Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Mississippi, Delaware and Louisiana) before Tennessee became the thirty-sixth and final State to ratify – by just one vote!

On August 18th, 1920, Tennessee met in special session in Nashville to consider the amendment. Those in favor wore yellow roses. Those opposed wore red. The State Senate had already voted to ratify. The final decision was up to the House. One red rose wearing member, Harry Burn, carried a letter from his mother in his pocket. In it, she wrote: “Dear Son… Hurry and vote for suffrage and don’t keep them in doubt…Don’t forget to be a good boy…” With his mother’s words echoing in his head, Harry Burn cast the tie-breaking vote to ratify.

Ladies, on November 3rd, remember the many who fought for our right to go to the polls and have our voices heard. Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter. Don’t let anyone deter you from voting your conscience. Be careful—wear a mask, keep a safe distance, follow all the pandemic safety rules put in place by your local poll workers—but cast your vote with pride, and without fear.

Susan B Anthony and Frederick Douglas

Susan B Anthony and Frederick Douglas, Rochester, New York