Monday, July 29, 2013



I finished a book in July. I know, big deal, huh? But it occurred to me after I said it to a friend last week that, when I used to say, “I finished a book,” I’d mean I’d finished reading one. The one I finished in July was one I wrote (Thanksgiving Angels, book #5 in my Mercy Allcutt series, to be published God knows when). Until I began writing books in 1993 or thereabouts, I’d finished tons and tons of books, but they weren’t books I’d written. They were books I’d read.

Also, until I began writing and publishing books, I’d only ever met one or two people who’d had books published. Now it seems that everyone I know is a writer to one degree or another. For some reason, perhaps because I’m old and lazy, I decided to write this month’s blog about how one’s life can change at the drop of a hat. Or, in my case, the death of my feet.

Okay, my feet aren’t really dead. But back when I was young(ish), I danced. And danced. And danced. Heck, I was even a professional dancer in the nineteen-eighties. Granted, I was in two professional folk-dance ensembles, and that’s kind of akin to being a professional basket-weaver, but, dang it, I was a professional dancer. I used to love doing high-impact aerobics, too. I tell you, I was in great shape back then.

Then my feet began to hurt. A lot. All the time. So I went to a doctor, he took X-rays, and he told me I’d managed, what with all my floor-banging exercise and dance, to batter most of the cartilage out of my toe joints. I got a second opinion, and it was the same as the first. Both doctors said they’d be glad to replace my toe joints with artificial ones, which I guess was nice of them, but they also told me the replacements parts only lasted five to ten years. As I was forty-two when this pronouncement was told unto me, I didn’t take either kind man up on his offer. I mean, I’m now sixty-seven. How the heck often can one’s toe joints be replaced anyway? I didn’t know, but it didn’t sound like a chance I was willing to take.

The diagnosis was a blow, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. The damage was done. At first I decided to scoff at pain and continue dancing, but my feet hurt too much, so I stopped. Boy, talk about a gigantic, gaping hole! Dancing was what I did. It was where my friends were. It took up all my spare time.

At first I cooked. I love to cook even now. But back then, in the late eighties, early nineties, I cooked feasts. Gigantic meals to share with my family. I became a compulsive baker and took goodies to my job at JPL every day. But cooking didn’t really fill the gap. Neither did eating. Trust me, I know.

So, what to do?

The only thing I’d ever truly wanted to do in my life was write books. When I was a little kid and someone asked me what I wanted to “be” when I grew up (stupid question), I’d say, “An author.” But I didn’t have a clue how to go about writing books, for Pete’s sake! Perhaps because I’m a Sagittarius, I tend to get from one point to another without meandering. If you start with a murder and the cop catches the villain in the next paragraph, you don’t have much of a book, do you?

Then one day, when my daughter Robin and I were visiting my folks in Roswell, New Mexico, we drove from Roswell to Fort Sumner where, no matter who tells you myths about somewhere in Texas, Billy the Kid was killed and buried (apologies to Earl Staggs here). Robin drove, and I looked at the scenery. There wasn’t a whole lot of it, southeastern New Mexico being desert and all, but boy, do we get skies. So I took a little notebook out of my purse and wrote a description of the southeastern New Mexico sky. I didn’t tell Robin. I just tucked my notebook back into my purse.

When we got back home to Pasadena, I began to write down little snippets of cool description and kept them in my computer at work. I didn’t have a computer at home yet. Then, one day, greatly daring, I decided what the heck, and began writing a book. I finished the thing, too, what’s more, and three or four more after that until I kind of got the hang of writing books, which isn’t as easy as one might think. Stringing together 400-500 coherent pages of one story takes a bit of planning, you know? Finally I enrolled in “Writing for Publication”, a class taught by a wonderful woman named Meredith Brucker at San Marino High School. It was Meredith who persuaded me to join Romance Writers of America, and it was Meredith who read my fledgling efforts, told me I was good, and made me feel more or less competent about my writing abilities. And her class taught us all precisely how to go about querying editors and agents.

So, by God, I did query agents and editors, and I sold my first book to HarperCollins in January 1994. And in July, 2013, I finished writing my fifty-first publishable book. And all because I couldn’t dance any longer. Amazing how things happen, isn’t it?

Please visit my web site at and my Facebook page at . Also, please enter my contest for August, during which I’ll be giving away copies of Sierra Ransom, a pretty darned good historical romance novel, which is now an audiobook, too. All you need to do to enter is send me an email with your name and address thereon to . Thanks!



Tuesday, July 16, 2013

ONE BRIGHT MORNING, the audiobook! 

(but not until after you read the blog)

I’m so happy that my very first book, ONE BRIGHT MORNING, is now available as an audiobook through Audible and Amazon. And I’d really like to thank Denice Stradling for narrating the book. She’s wonderful, and she makes the book sound good. Not that it isn’t or anything, but if I’d had the time to do it over, I’d edit the heck out of it and probably eliminate about 10,000 words. But that’s neither here nor there.
One of the main reasons I wrote ONE BRIGHT MORNING is that I used to suffer terribly from migraine headaches. That probably sounds odd, but it’s true. Anyway, I got to thinking about headaches one day. Headaches aren’t a modern problem. They’ve been around for millennia. People in ancient Egypt got headaches. People in ancient Roma got headaches. So that probably means that people living in what we fondly call the Old West also got headaches.
So . . . what might happen if a poor (and I do mean poor) widow woman with a daughter to rear, in a cabin, in the middle of the Sacramento Mountains near Lincoln (that’s where Billy the Kid did his thing), in the middle of the wild and woolly New Mexico Territory, in the late 1800s, woke up one morning with a migraine headache. No Excedrin Migraine for her. No doctor-prescribed medicaments available. She’s stuck. With a headache that makes it difficult for her to stand up, much less function in an environment that has absolutely NO conveniences, modern or otherwise. Heck, the woman had to chop her own wood and pump her own water, you know? And wash her baby’s diapers. By hand. On a scrubbing board. In water either freezing cold or that she had to heat in a cast-iron kettle over a fire. Heck, she even had to make her own soap. And milk her own cow.
And then, just for fun, what might happen if a gunshot stranger showed up at her door and she had to rescue him? And then, why not? what would she do if a Mescalero Apache Indian showed up in her kitchen. This was in the late 1800s, and relations between Native Americans and white folks weren’t exactly warm and fuzzy.
Yes, I burdened poor Maggie Bright with all of those problems. And those were only the physical hazards of her life. I also saddled her with the results of a miserable childhood during which she learned that she was stupid and couldn’t do anything right.
          I’m not usually a mean person, but . . . well, poor Maggie. And then, when I read the first line of my book to the folks gathered at the South Pasadena Public Library (having been invited to do so by Meredith Brucker, my very favorite teacher in the world at the time), everybody laughed. What’s up with that?
            But never mind. That’s how ONE BRIGHT MORNING hit the light of print. And now I’d like to ask Denice Stradling her thoughts about the book, since she had to read the thing, bless her heart.
Oh, Alice. how you make ME laugh . . . and (ahem) . . . I think I laughed, too, when I first read ONE BRIGHT MORNING to get ready to narrate it. C'mon . . . that first line is funny! And if you who are reading this blog want to know why, well, you'll just have to read—or listen to—the book!
A little history is in order here, I think. I first met Alice quite a while back, when she still lived in Southern California, and I was writing then. I still do, but have been focusing most recently on audiobook narration—I have such a passion for it, and find it the perfect way to blend my love of reading with my 25+ year acting background. She was a featured speaker at a Romance Writers of America meeting. Fast forward to now, when I saw that she was auditioning for some of her books on Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX). I jumped at the chance . . . what could be better than telling the story of a good-hearted, loving, yet strong-willed and strong-backed heroine and her handsome, sexy, and—okay, I'll admit—stubborn, willful, and sometimes clueless—hero! She selected me to narrate ONE BRIGHT MORNING, and as Rick communicates to Louis at the end of “Casablanca”—it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship!
          There are many strengths in Alice's story-telling, but one of the things I love in ONE BRIGHT MORNING is the Native American/cowboy relationship. No typical stereotypical characters here. Whatever the political/social climate of the times, the relationship between Jubal and his “brothers”, Four Toes and Dan Blue Gully, was one of love, devotion, and support. They were all men of honor, and I loved how that was communicated in this story.
Another thing: this is truly a lesson in how our past sometimes just doesn't let go, but we CAN move on from it, if we choose. It was only when Jubal brought Maggie up short about her strengths and the lies that she had been fed about herself, which fueled her image of herself, that she was able to move forward and accept that she was a good person, a smart person, a loving person. (Another reason that I'm still harboring a secret crush on Jubal!)
Do you know how sometimes when you're in the middle of reading a really good book, it just stays with you? You go about your day, running your errands, taking care of business, just being in the busy-ness of the day, and then the great book you're reading will just kinda come filtering through into your thoughts? The characters, story arcs, and ambiance of the book will sort of meander through your mind, and for a few seconds, you're with it again, your world drops away, and you can't wait to get back to it? That's how narrating this book was for me. I loved the characters, the story line, the history. Maggie's tiny farm was a reality to me, as was Jubal's beautiful Texas spread. I just love when that happens!
Oh—and did I mention that this is a real tear jerker? There were times when I was recording, when I would just have to stop and grab some tissue, or drink some water to “clear the tears” out of my throat.  Not necessarily good for a narrator, but it sure makes for a yummy story!
Thanks, Alice for this great opportunity—I SO look forward to our next journey together!
Thanks, Denice! The nice folks at ACX have made five FREE COPIES of ONE BRIGHT MORNING available, so if anyone wants a free audio copy of my very first book, narrated by the multi-talented Denice Stradling, send me an e-mail ( and I’ll stick your name in a jar from which Bam-Bam, my winner-picking wiener dog, will choose winners.
Thank you!