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.

Morning Coffee: Book Talk podcast

I’m in sunny SW Florida for the winter working on book 2 of the Pine Lake Girls (when I’m not playing with my adorable grandson). More to come on Alice, Betty, and Lizzie later. In the meantime, I’m going to be one of the guests on the Book Talk podcast this Sunday, “Romance Is In The Air”. You can listen in at 4pm EST using the link below.

Morning Coffee: New Year’s Wish

This is the time of year when everyone talks about resolutions. Those pesky things we promise ourselves but break faster than we make them. They carry a heavy load of pressure to uphold, and then guilt when they’re broken.

This year I’m not making any resolutions. Or, at least, I’m not calling it that. My “wish” for myself is to live without fear. Not to be reckless. Not to act without regard to my own, or someone else’s, safety, but to not worry about the things I have no control over. Will I lose a loved one this year? Possibly. Will I get COVID? I’ve been vaccinated, but we’re learning that isn’t a guarantee against sickness. Will I suffer some great disappointment? Probably, at some point. There are an uncounted number of things that might happen to me, or someone I love, today…tomorrow…next month…that I have no way of predicting or preventing.

So, I will take this year 2022 in stride. Live each day without fear. Put my trust in God to hold me up through whatever might happen. And pray for that strength when I am weakened.

That is my wish for all of you. To be happy, not afraid. May 2022 be a good year for each and every one of you.

Morning Coffee: Buy Local

I’m sure you’ve heard about our supply chain problems, along with warnings about anything you might be ordering for Christmas. There’s an easy solution—buy local. We’ve become so dependent on those online retailers like Amazon I fear we’ve forgotten about our local small businesses. Yes, Amazon and the like have more choices and lower prices, but at what cost to our communities? And at what cost to our friends and neighbors who work at or own those businesses? Not to mention, those are the businesses that suffered most due to COVID shut-downs.

So, think about giving a gift certificate to your favorite restaurant. Check out that dress shop, hardware or toy store. Many small towns have craft and consignment shops where local artists sell their creations. This time of year, you can find great gift ideas at holiday arts and crafts fairs.

Random House defines an artist as “a person who practices one of the fine arts, esp. a painter or sculptor”. I would argue an artist is anyone who creates, including authors. Do you have book lovers on your to-buy-for list? Consider buying from an independently-published author. We don’t have the benefit of brick-and-mortar bookstore sales. We don’t have big publisher advertising. We rely on author/reader events (many of them still being cancelled due to COVID) and word of mouth. Be our word of mouth by giving our books as gifts, talking them up among your friends, and, just as important, write an online review—Amazon, Facebook, Goodreads, wherever your social media presence exists. Wherever your voice can be heard. Word of mouth.

Morning Coffee: Books-To-Be-Read

Do you have a books-to-be-read pile? More than one? I do. I have multiple piles/shelves of books I want to read before I die, plus I recently brought home more from my father that he’d finished reading and knew I’d like, and yet I just bought two more. I had time to kill in Walmart while waiting to meet a friend for lunch and decided to peruse the books. I knew better, but I did it anyway.

And I’ll certainly do it again.

Two rules I try to live by that help: One, read two books (or more) from your pile for every one new one you add. This should slowly bring your pile down to a more reasonable size . . . one that won’t crush you should it fall over and lead to an embarrassing news story/documentary for your next of kin. Have you seen “Hoarders”? Two, read from the bottom up. Assuming you can safely move the ones on top. Granted, this won’t decrease the size of your to-be-read pile, but it will bring you some surprises. The books you find at the bottom of the pile are just like brand new because you have probably forgotten you had them. This might briefly satisfy that itch to go into the book store for more.

This recently happened to me. I was looking through one of my to-be-read piles to pick a book to take on vacation, setting aside one after another because I wasn’t feeling it. Then I got to the bottom and . . . what is this?! I had two books I purchased from a then new friend about five years ago, Virginia McCullough. I’d completely forgotten about them. Virginia writes romances about people finding love as they struggle to overcome great difficulties in their lives. First, I read “Amber Light”, about a girl who becomes pregnant after being date-raped, keeps the baby, and spends the next years of her life learning to trust men again. Now I’m reading her book “Island Healing”, book one of her St Anne’s Island Series. This one is about a man fighting to keep his sobriety when he meets a recently divorced woman. Both are trying to find a new path through life, and that path, of course, leads to each other. I highly recommend this author.

I was also reminded of another writer friend, Jennifer Trethewey. I have her four-book series, “Highlanders of Balforss”. Those I’ve only had for two years. They’ve been moved to the top of the pile to be read next. I love a good men in kilts story. (Don’t even get me started on Diana Gabaldon. Book 10 of Outlander comes out in November! I can hardly wait.)

So, more on them later.

Morning Coffee: “Hope Harbor”

This past spring I was given the opportunity to participate in an anthology, “Hope Harbor”, with proceeds going to Operation Underground Railroad. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity. While subgenre and time period were my choice, all stories had to include a magic ring, a pirate, and a lighthouse . . . and no sex scenes. From historical fiction, to paranormal, to contemporary, six authors came together with six stories to benefit a worthy organization that works to rescue stolen and exploited children.

Thus was born my story, “A Light In The Darkness”: An artist and lover of lighthouses, Annalise Hopewell O’Shay gave up on love when her fiancé was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg. When her beloved grandmother passed away seven years later, she inherited a legendary pirate’s ring and a train ticket to Hope Harbor, the town where the ring’s story is said to have begun. The ring is believed to bring untold wealth to anyone who possesses it. It brought the pirate Gideon O’Shay wealth in the form of a great love, Temperance Hopewell. Will it do the same for their many times great-granddaughter?

Connor Hunter moved to Hope Harbor with his ten-year-old son Andrew after his wife died, looking for a fresh start as the Hopewell Lighthouse keeper. When he meets Annalise, they both feel an instant attraction. Could it be the power of the ring?

I’m proud to be a part of this collaboration and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good read. It’s available in both paperback and ebook at Amazon.

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 . 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.