A NICE Character?

If you’re reared to please others, you’ll always be kind, sweet, and that so-overused English word, nice. I avoid it like the plague in my writing, because of the images it creates–doormat-ish, stuffing feelings, avoiding conflict even at the cost of one’s own mental and emotional health.

No wonder I have lots of adjectives to describe this state–I lived it for many years. That’s why I laughed out loud when I saw this cartoon:

What is worth doing is worth overdoing. Anonymous

Both cartoon and quote appear in a textbook on the ancient medical practice of homeopathy. This holistic approach to physical, mental, and emotional well-being describes various human tendencies and remedies to aid our health. One supporter of homeopathy–the British Crown–made sure these physicians could pursue their healing goals.

It’s easy to see myself in more than one description, just as in modern personality tests. We’re a lot of this and a little of that, with a tad of this other mixed in. I’ve always enjoyed these tests, because human beings and the-way-we-are intrigues me.

Can any of you relate to this cartoon? Do you over-do, even over-do GOOD activities? Many people suffer from this downfall and become slaves to getting-through-that-tree. Sometimes our efforts are at the expense of those around us, or of our own peace of mind.

Every winter in the Arizona mountains, we witness woodpeckers literally working themselves to death–I’ve posted as many woodpecker photos as any other feathered friend.

Fictional characters like this challenge me. Whether it’s teaching, trimming a bush, doing laundry or overseeing a company, perfectionism controls each and every action. And perfectionism makes a harsh taskmaster.

Enjoy life? This personality type has to LEARN what these two words mean!

We’ve all known people like this…maybe we ARE or HAVE BEEN those types ourselves

So, if you happen to meet such a character in one of my books–or another author’s–you’ll be familiar with their moorings.


I love Erma Bombeck’s philosophy, and have a suspicion she qualified as a workaholic. Just sayin’, because for her to fulfill this quote, it stands to reason.

Are we using it all? I’m definitely giving it my best shot, to make up for lost time during those years when I knew writing was my vocation but wasn’t sure what to write. But we do the best we can at any given point in our lives, don’t we?

But all the way along, my novel fodder reserve kept rising higher and higher. And now, I’m working on another WWII story, this time a cozy mystery. Fun to concentrate on something entirely new, while rejoicing in a manuscript that has morphed into a published novel.

Land That I Love…career that I love, albeit late to the starting line!

Unexpected Writer

Some authors plan on writing as a career. Not so for Lisa Bell, our guest this week–here’s her story, and she’s offering a signed copy of THE INNER NEMESIS to one happy camper…I mean commenter. (:

Lisa and I contributed to a wonderful Christmas collection called CHRISTMAS THROUGH THE AGES, and she’s also offering one signed copy of this book plus a couple of others to form a Christmas anthology. We are celebrating this new release!

Take it away, Lisa! (Oh, and did I say I get to meet Lisa in person next week in Texas Hill Country?!?! Very excited here.)

I didn’t grow up dreaming of someday writing for a living, but I became an unexpected writer. In retrospect, I always enjoyed writing. People often told me I should write a book. Imagine my surprise when a corporate manager reviewed my first standard operating procedure and said, “Just because these are technical documents, they don’t have to be boring. Lose the passives.” Now, passives top my list of editor pet peeves, personally avoiding them as much as possible.

I don’t remember the exact moment of my paradigm shift or why it came, but one day, I knew. 

I am a writer. 

Saying that changed my perspective. At the time, I worked in the corporate world. After that day, instead of announcing my corporate position and timidly adding, “and sometimes I write,” when asked, I boldly said, “I am a writer. I daylight as a business analyst.” The mental shift, didn’t change me, but it altered my perspective. 

I left the corporate world intending to freelance write and edit books. God had other plans, and I became a magazine editor, which means writing and editing, plus a host of other responsibilities. Most of the time, I love my job. Having written hundreds of articles in my current position as an editor for NOW Magazines, LLC., my heart desires fiction writing. Recently returning to that passion, I find myself searching for time to work on a novel. 

My second desire, helping other writers, led to my side career as a freelance editor, but I love teaching writing skills and encouraging others in their writing. Somehow, I grew passionate about seeing others succeed. Which steered me to create two books designed for writers. Honestly, I designed the planner for myself because I couldn’t find one that fit my needs well.

What better way to help writers than with interactive tools? My Inner Nemesis offers a combination for journaling ideas, writing prompts and inspiration—perfect for use as morning pages exercises or when you need a break to get ideas flowing. 

A Day in a Writer’s World provides one-page per day for recording critical, important and pleasurable tasks. At the end of the day, assess your degree of success, and jot down notes you need to remember. 

Feel free to visit me on www.bylisabell.comor email lisabell@bylisabell.com

Cleaning Up

I’ve cleaned off my desk. Should have taken a before/after duo to show you what a mess it was–but I didn’t think of it.

Motivation for this sort of purge comes slowly, but finishing a major project helps. When we decided to entertain a group in a couple of weeks, my lazy “cleaning genes” ground into motion.

Once I start, satisfaction sets in with each handful of paper debris dashed into the recycling bin. But at first, the going is tough. You see, my writing process includes volumes of little notes I write to myself. The history behind the story must be clear, and that history, I jot down in a ridiculous amount of notes that end up on my desk.

Why not put it all in one notebook instead of using whatever scrap, envelope, napkin, etc happens to be handy when I make the discovery? I ask myself this, too, as yet another handful of notes meets its demise. The answer? I really don’t know. I’ve tried notebooks, and for some reason, always end up using whatever paper I can find instead. Perhaps it’s the image of Abraham Lincoln penning his Gettysburg Address…

A similar phase takes place in my mind during the weeks after completing a book. Now that Land That I Love has a cover (I just have to share it again!)

and a final edit, this is starting to occur. I’ve concentrated so intensely, it seems odd to be walking about like a normal person, and as I do, I notice how other things have piled up. In the past few days, I’ve cleaned out two closets–so unlike me.

We’re all unique–like this carrot that looks like two. But they wound around each other and were harvested and marketed as one.

Strange. Peculiar. Odd. Fascinating. Intriguing. Just the type of notes I write to myself–in my own simple way. But the growth and the goal are all that really matter.

Waiting and Watching

You’d think I was a kid at Christmas. Yesterday, the book cover options arrived and we made some decisions. Now, it’s time to REVEAL the COVER!

It’s like waiting and watching for growth in a cottage garden. One day you take a long look, and tada! Even with water pails in the picture, the effect is pleasing to the eye.

I am so grateful for my publisher’s expertise in many ways, but his cover creating ability sits right at the top of the list. And here’s the latest example, which captures the indelible bond between father and son so evident in Land That I Love.

Ahh…the desire accomplished is sweet to the soul. Soon, I’ll be able to share a purchase link, and then will travel to beautiful Texas Hill Country to launch this story.

Closer and closer

Phlox blossoms for weeks, needs only sun and rain, and comes in a colorful array. Next year, there’ll be tall hollyhocks against the fence, too. Cottage gardens are about enjoying the moment, yet looking forward with anticipation.

By the end of this week, Land That I Love should go to the printer. Like a garden, a manuscript requires thought, time and nurturing.

Do I love the characters who come to me? If love means embracing their joys and sorrows, accepting their foibles, and allowing them to be who they are, I would have to say yes.

Sure hope my readers love them, too!

The Stars in April

Welcome, Peggy Wirgau–and everyone, get ready for a treat! Peggy’s giving away a signed paperback copy of her very first book.

My debut novel, The Stars in April, is based on the true story of a twelve-year-old Titanic survivor, Ruth Becker. Released on March 30, 2021 by IlluminateYA, the book has been honored with a Starred Review from School Library Journal.

In 2012, during the hundredth anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking, I discovered among the survivors the name of a girlwhose parents were missionaries in India. Twelve-year-old Ruth Becker was separated from her family as the Titanic lifeboats were loaded, yet she managed to share her blankets with others and offer a handkerchief to a stoker who had injured his finger. 

What would make this young girl act so bravely when she must have been terrified? How did she feel about leaving her home in India, and what led to her decisions in a lifeboat full of strangers that cold, dark night? As I asked myself those questions, I began researching and realized I needed to tell Ruth’s story. 

An excerpt from the back cover:

The year is 1912. When doctors in India are unable to treat her baby brother’s illness, Ruth’s missionary parents decide there is one solution: move her mother and the children across the world—to Michigan. 

But India is the only home Ruth knows. In a matter of days, she must leave Papa and all she loves behind, abandon her dream of one day playing violin in the Calcutta Orchestra, and embark on a four-week journey to England, followed by the voyage to New York aboard the luxurious, ill-fated RMS Titanic

Ruth’s story is one of courage and self-sacrifice as she earns her sea legs and faces the unknown, culminating in a desperate, tragic night she will never forget.

One of the best parts of writing the book was getting acquainted with a member of the Titanic Historical Society, who knew Ruth in her later years. He graciously provided several tales she had shared with him about her life in India and aboard the Titanic, and I was able to weave them into the novel. One that took place in India involved a tea party that her mother hosted for other missionary wives, only to have it interrupted by wild monkeys who had decided to invade their veranda and eat the sandwiches!

You may contact Peggy here:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peggywirgauhistoricalfiction

A River For Gemma

Creativity can serve as an anchor in our lives, giving us hope for something beautiful to emerge from the emotional wreckage around us. That’s what I hope my readers will experience in my novels as they escape into another realm…”

~Debra Whiting Alexander

WELCOME, Debra Whiting Alexander! As an Emily Dickinson lover, I’m excited about your new release. Debra’s here to tell us more, and is offering a GIVEAWAY to a commenter: See details below.


(Releasing August 16, 2021 Available for preorder now!)

Three spirited women. One perilous past. And an unlikely heroine…

Pigeonholed as “intellectually disabled,” a young woman’s desire for motherhood collides with her grandmother’s hidden past, forcing her to muster the grit to save their lives. A sparkling tale of wild courage and unexpected miracles.

Sometimes a woman must take risks to learn to be brave…

When I was nine, I read the poem, “I heard a Fly buzz—when I died”, by Emily Dickinson. That little poem stirred something in me—a desire to capture on paper compelling moments of life in a simple way. When something touches my soul, I listen to it. Those moments often end up in my novels.

Raised in San Diego, I grew up on a steady diet of western movies and musicals and a love for the ocean, cowgirls, pianos, golden retrievers, and art. In Oregon my home backs up to lush green fields, horses, stunning sunsets, and hazelnut orchards. The beaches of southern California were the inspiration for my debut novel, Zetty, but it’s in the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest that I found inspiration for my second novel, A River for Gemma.

         Inspired by my grandmother who died in a psychiatric hospital at the age of 41, Zettyblends personal history with my professional background. The story shines a light on the stigma of mental illness and the shame that often accompanies it. A River for Gemmais the story of a young woman with an intellectual disability and challenges our ingrained perspectives on disability and capability. Writing an uplifting story about nature and the pure of heart gave me a wonderful escape from the difficult years our country has recently experienced.

My writing career began with seventeen published books of non-fiction related to post trauma recovery for children and families, including a project written for schools and parents following the 9/11 attacks. My passion today is to write stories about the humor, spirit, and strength of unconventional women. I relish the opportunity to write about friendship, motherhood, mental health, and to do it with spiritual substance —matters of the heart and soul. I’m hooked on Upmarket Women’s Fiction because it allows me to integrate all the things I love most. 

Comment and Like for a chance to WIN a signed copy of A RIVER FOR GEMMA! Winner to be announced Thursday evening.  Good luck!

Find out more at: https://www.debrawhitingalexander.com




Sunday Morning Snaps

When heat and oppressive humidity make it difficult to breathe, having a wind sweep in from the Northwest changes everything. Not just the weather, but our outlooks. Suddenly, we can enjoy being outdoors again, so I am.

Here’s a bit of “cottage garden” that meets the eye in our back yard.

I can only imagine how tough it was for Everett to arrive at this same effect back during World War II when he emigrated from England to Texas Hill Country. Hotter, dryer, rockier. But he used his tenacity and determination, just like the pioneers of the previous century as he grew to love his new home in Land That I Love.

Beside the fence, hollyhocks are growing. Next year, I hope, they’ll regale us as a backdrop to all of the other plantings. Tenacity, determination, and PATIENCE!