Monday, August 27, 2012

Mom Tales - 30 essays that show motherhood isn't for the weak

Coming soon to virtual bookstores ... my newest book:  Mom Tales: Stories of Parenting, Potties and Post-Partum Panic.

It's a collection of 30 essays that show motherhood isn't just about the coos and smiles. In fact, in my humble opinion, being a mommy is not for the weak - of stomach, heart or resolve.

Here's an excerpt from one of my favorite essays ...

I ushered my supervisor into the little office and eased myself into a chair. I could barely keep the grin off my face. I took a deep breath.

“I’m pregnant!” I announced.

She looked at me without saying anything. The silence stretched out between us. Finally, a tiny smile forced her lips apart.

“What?” I said, somewhat startled at her lack of enthusiasm. Yes, she was my supervisor, but she also was my friend. I’d worked for her as a reporter at this newspaper for several years. We knew each other fairly well; I thought she’d at least be a little excited for me. “What?”

She recovered her composure quickly. “Oh, it’s nothing,” she said, waving an arm gracefully. “It’s just …” she hesitated again.

My mouth fell open. “WHAT?!” I almost shouted.

She shrugged. “Diane,” she said finally. “It’s just that you don’t seem very … ‘family-friendly.’”

I stared at her, dumbstruck. Of course, I would have been more insulted if I hadn’t been getting similar messages – from friends – ever since I announced that I was with child.

Let me explain. This was my first child, yes. And I was perhaps a little older, in my mid-thirties, to be exact, so I could be a little set in my ways, but I didn’t think I was that bad. I wasn’t an alcoholic, a workaholic or a raging drug addict. In fact, I had a good job, a nice house and a great husband.

Sure, I had a few too many cats, but we could deal with that later, I figured.

But the way my friends were talking, I was falling far short in the mom department.

In fact, when I’d assembled a few of my good friends together a few days earlier, my fantastic news had been met with desultory congratulations – and more than a few words of caution.

Now, no one knows more about the troubles and travails of babies, of course, than a group of stylish, childless career women. Especially the women in my circle.

“Babies smell,” one friend warned me. “And remember when I made that Reuben sandwich and you said the smell of sauerkraut almost made you throw up? Baby poop smells worse than sauerkraut.”

I frowned. “I doubt that very much.”

My other friend shook her head. “And you like to sleep,” she said. “Babies don’t sleep.”

I stared at her, open-mouthed. “Are you saying I’m lazy?” I asked
She raised her perfectly groomed eyebrows. “No,” she said. “I’m just telling you; my sister had a baby and after three months with hardly any sleep she started acting completely crazy.”

I shrugged. “Your sister was kind of crazy anyway,” I informed her crisply. “Remember when she gave us a ride home from the mall in her POS car, and she wanted everyone to think it had air conditioning so she made us keep the windows rolled up?” I frowned. “We almost all died from heat prostration.”

She had the grace to look away, but she didn’t look terribly chagrined.

But then my best friend from work put a hand on my arm. “Diane, what do you keep in your crisper?” she asked gently.

I was confused. “Chardonnay, of course,” I answered. What the hell else would you keep in a crisper?

What was wrong with these people? And what did refrigerated items have to do with being a good mom?

My friend just sighed. “Honey, crispers are actually for vegetables,” she said. “I was going to tell you when we were alone, but you might as well know now."

I sat back in my chair “Seriously?” I said. “That’s so gross.” ...

From: 'Excuse me ...Are you 'family friendly?' (From 'Mom Tales,' coming soon to Amazon and Barnes & Noble).

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Oh, dear! Miss Charlotte's Pie is missing!

I'm a sucker for church cookbooks.

You know the ones; they're brimming with down-home recipes organized by congregation members and put together into books that are sold as fund-raisers for the church.

I just love them. They have the most interesting recipes and the most fun little stories inside.

Now, I need more books like we need more hot weather, but sometimes, I just can't resist. And so when I was at the library used bookstore the other day (just looking - really!) and I saw a cute little church cookbook, I had to check it out.

It was called "Collard Greens, Watermelons and Miss Charlotte's Pie," and it had been put together by the ladies of the Swansboro United Methodist Church in Swansboro, North Carolina, which, incidentally, is nowhere near where I live.

I couldn't help myself. I was intrigued. The recipes sounded yummy and besides, I really wanted to know about Miss Charlotte and her pie. So I bought it.

It was great. I loved reading all the delicious recipes in it, from Ruth's Chili to Susan's Mushroom Chicken to Southern Peanut Butter Pie. I enjoyed reading about Miss Charlotte, the  lovely and talented town matriarch.

But when I went to find the recipe for Miss Charlotte's Pie, I got a rude surprise. It's not there. Nope, it's gone. Page 52 has been neatly removed.

No pie for me.

Apparently I'm not the only one who was intrigued by the wonderful Miss Charlotte.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Returning to normal: Feeling better and getting ready to stomp those snakes

I once had an editor who always made fun of the way I walked.

He was from the south, and he spoke with a slow drawl; I'm from the Midwest, and I talk fast and walk fast - usually with a strong sense of purpose.

"Robinson," he'd say, laughing, using my maiden name. "Look at you. You're walkin' like you're off to stomp a snake."

It cracked me up. I just assumed he was crazy.

Until recently; until I got sick. I wasn't stomping any snakes. I walked slowly and deliberately, rattled by abdominal pain caused by fibroids and dulled by painkillers.

I slept a lot, too. And rumor has it I might have been a bit cranky.

Then I had surgery a few weeks ago. I didn't really want it; I was terrified. But I didn't feel like I had a choice. So I shut my eyes, crossed my fingers and said a few prayers before I went under.

That was about four weeks ago. Recovery hasn't been as bad as I thought it would be, but I was still walking on proverbial eggshells, afraid I'd pull a stitch or strain ... something.

But yesterday, I noticed it. I was in the grocery store, and I was walking fast. I was myself again. I wasn't stooped over and sweating; I wasn't in pain. It was such a relief.

It was kind of like how you feel when you've had a cold for weeks and weeks and then one day, you realize - it's gone. You can breathe again.

I got tired quickly; but it felt great while it lasted.

I think I'm getting back to business - ready to stomp those snakes.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Trust me: You're just not funny on Vicodin

So I had surgery the other week, and I have to admit, recovery hasn't been what I had in mind. Although I told everyone that I fully expected to just lie around and take it easy, that isn't really what I thought would happen.

I kind of saw myself as Carol Brady, you know, the mom of the Brady bunch, in that episode where she was sick and had a little bell beside her bed and the kids had to wait on her hand and foot while she watched TV and recovered from her half-hour illness.

Then, I figured, after I ate enough bon-bons and watched enough Food Network, I'd scurry down to the computer and do a little writing. After all,, I'm THISCLOSE to finishing "Mom Tales," I really want to finish the sequel to Death on Deadline this summer and I have a really fun new idea for a murder mystery. Well, "fun" except for the murder part - you know what I mean.

Except it isn't working out that way. Because:

1. Outpatient surgery is a misnomer. I don't feel like Carol Brady. I feel more like Tom, as in Tom and Jerry, when Tom has been run over by a truck several times. To handle some significant pain, the nice doctor gave me painkillers and they're pretty strong - similar to Vicodin, she said.

2. "Mom Tales," is a humorous collection of essays on parenting. And trust me - you're just not funny on Vicodin. You might think you have a humorous idea for an essay, but .... really, it's Not. Funny. At. All. So there hasn't been much writing. There's been a lot of sleeping, though.

Luckily, time heals all, they say, and I'm tapering off on the meds. But before I get too healthy, I still need those bon-bons and the little bell.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Nervous? Hungry? Need a little distraction? Join the club - I think books are the key

I'm reading today. I'm reading for entertainment. I'm reading for distraction. I'm reading so I won't panic, and I'm reading so I won't eat.

I'm having surgery tomorrow (don't ask - being a girl isn't always pretty) and so today I can't eat. At all. Which is a shame, because as a hearty Midwesterner, I enjoy not only cooking and baking, but eating. In fact, one of my favorite channels on TV is the Food Network, which today feels a little like watching porn.

I'm hungry. I'm nervous. So I did what any logical person would do: I went to the library.

Miss Julia will help distract me. So will Sookie Stackhouse. So will Devereaux Sinclair, the protagonist in Little Shop of Homicide, the first book in a new series by Denise Swanson, and so will Sophie Mae Reynolds, the lead in a new-to-me home crafting series by Cricket McRae.

Also, the memoirs of Jen Lancaster, author of Bitter is the New Black, are making me laugh out loud, and that is helping immensely.

So here's my plan: take deep breaths, keep my nose in a book and think of the Queen. I'll be right as rain before you know it.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Trust technology - but not too much: My Goodreads cautionary tale

When I was a reporter and I conducted interviews by phone, I always took notes by hand. Sometimes, I recorded them, too, but I always had those handwritten notes.

The new reporters would shake their heads. "Just type the interview into your file," they'd say. "You're wasting time." Then our archaic computer system would crash and all their notes would be lost. So next time they'd write it down.

But I got lazy. My computer system got more reliable. Technology became more advanced, and I started relying on more complex databases.

Recently, I learned my lesson.

When I started promoting Death on Deadline, I went on to the popular Goodreads site and made lots of friends. I started a blog. I got a decent number of reviews - I even had fans - quite a coup for me. But I never thought about saving any of the information. After all, it was a high-tech database, right? What could happen??

But one day, I logged on, and it was all gone. Everything. My blog, my fan base, my reviews: gone. I was in shock. Teary, even. And I hadn't kept a list of anyone's names to see who followed me. I hadn't kept a backup.

I frantically contacted their help desk, and they were very nice. There was a glitch, they said. It happens. They were very sorry. They managed to get some of my reviews back, but all my blog followers and fans were gone.

So I started over. I have two.

Live and learn.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

'Literary karaoke?' I'm not entirely sure I understand - and I'm not sure it matters

So I've had a few friends e-mailing me that Huffington Post article - you know, the one about indie publishing with the now-infamous phrase "literary karaoke."

Yeah, it puzzled me, too, for a bit. But that's apparently the term that some as-yet-named traditionally published author gave to indie publishing. I had to think about it for awhile to figure out exactly what he/she was saying. I mean, I got that it was unflattering, sure. But was the author simply saying the writing was bad? Or was it that we were just imitating real authors because we weren't backed by big houses?

I was a little confused. But it didn't matter. The point was that this author felt that indie authors were upsetting the apple cart. And we are, no doubt, But so are e-books - the Post article eloquently points this out, as well. In fact, there's lots of blame to go around if you want to point fingers about the uncertainties of publishing.

And it's a tempting game to play, believe me. Hey, I know about uncertainties, about change. I have my own thoughts on versions of karaoke. I used to be a newspaper reporter. Newspapers - remember them? I studied hard to become a journalist, but soon, everything was online, and everyone could be a "citizen journalist." Screw formal training and solid ethics. Everybody could be a reporter.

So if you want to shake your fist at the sky, I know what you're going through. .

But I think I get the point. There are plenty of crappy indie books out there, and that's frustrating. But there are plenty of really good ones, too. Just like there are plenty of really good - and awfully bad - traditonally published novels.

And here's the thing - in karaoke, only the best singers get the applause. I think in publishing, it'll be the same way. Readers want good storytelling, solid writing. The good authors will stay the course, and the others will just fade away.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Beloved children's books are like good friends - guaranteed to make you feel better

The other night I was stressed and not feeling well - and I couldn't seem to shake the blues. As I sat on the couch, wondering how I could make myself feel better, I realized the answer was right in  front of me.

I was, in fact, surrounded by old friends. Hesitating only a minute, I walked over to my bookshelves and began searching for a few favorites, some that I haven't touched in years.

There was "Misty of Chincoteague," one of several selections by Marguerite Henry collected during my horse-loving phase, and "Little Women" and "A Garland for Girls," both by Louisa May Alcott, purchased when I fell in love with Alcott's gentle stories sprinkled with altruism and romance.

I couldn't resist leafing through my battered copy of  "Understood Betsy," the story of a sickly city girl who finds a new life in the country, and I read Rumer Godden's "The Story of Holly and Ivy," all the way through before I knew it. I found my stash of Laura Ingalls Wilder books and remembered how I used to read them in my room while pretending my bed was my own covered wagon.

The time flew by. My bad mood vanished. But that's what good friends will do for you.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Latest conversation about writing might call my sanity into question

I have the cover of my newest Work-in-Progress posted on my cubicle wall at work. It's there to motivate me, to remind me to go home and finish it, not relax and eat Pringles on the couch.

Some days it works, some days it doesn't.

It's a fun, colorful cover for a book of non-fiction essays called "Mom Tales," and it was designed by Chuck Todd, a very talented artist friend of mine. You can see more of Chuck's work by clicking here.

Chuck's cover is eye-catching, and it caught the eye of a co-worker, who stopped to ask me about it, and about writing in general.

It had been a frustrating morning at work - nothing horrible, just a lot of petty annoyances. My co-worker and I were both in need of distraction.

So we ended up talking a lot about writing. And not just about "Mom Tales" - about lots of things. He talked about screenplays.

I talked about murder mysteries: about plotting them, creating them, thinking of ways to kill off characters.

It only dawned on me later that I didn't know that particular colleague very well, and it was quite possible that I sounded like a homicidal maniac.

But hopefully, a creative one.

Friday, April 27, 2012

For me, social media is just one more way to chat about writing and books - and keep in touch

I was reading a few funny blog posts the other day from writers who were getting a little frustrated with social media.

They didn't want to blog or tweet or Skype or sell - they just wanted to write. And while their comments were funny, they were serious.

I could relate. While most of the time, I'm very enthusiastic about blogging and tweeting, sometimes my inspiration just flags. And I'm an extrovert - I can't imagine how difficult it is for an introvert.

So I try not to think of it as a chore. I just think of it as chatting. To me, it's all about meeting people. Maybe new readers. Or other authors. Or even other moms, or friends I've lost touch with over the years.

I've met some great people since I've gone online, and I know if I keep plugging away, I'll likely meet more.

Writing can be a lonely business. It's good to know you have friends out there.

That's what keeps me going. One post, one tweet, one page at a time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Author Tonya Kappes shares the secrets of her success (and all that energy, too)

I'm a big fan of Tonya Kappes. This prolific self-published author is a high-energy dynamo; her novels regularly hit the Amazon bestsellers' list within the first eight hours of being published. And she's got a lot of them:  Carpe Bead 'Em, Bead of Doubt,, Happy New Life and Never Tell Your Dreams are just a few.

She's funny and whip-smart, so I thought it would be fun to do a little 5-question interview with her: Did I mention she's a good sport?

1. Have you been a writer all your life?

I was a writing late bloomer and didn't start writing until my late 30s. I've always been a reader but it wasn't until my husband picked up a book I was reading, read the first couple of pages and told me that I could write that I became a writer. That was all it took. Someone else believing in me.  I still have a day job. I graduated from the University of Kentucky with an elementary education degree with a minor in family therapy. I went back to get my master's from Northern Kentucky University. Every day I work with children birth to three as an early intervention therapist.

2. You're known for your energy and enthusiasm. What motivates you?

Living and helping people. In my day job, I help children and their families. I believe in everyone. Sometimes, one person needs a cheerleader to get them motivated to write that next word or finish off the book. It only takes a positive word.

3. Where do you get your ideas?

Everywhere and anywhere! I love to read crazy headlines and put a mystery spin on them. Once I get an idea, I walk around and talk out loud to see what story will pop out of my mouth.

4. There's a lot of discussion today on traditonal vs. indie publishing. Your thoughts?

I'm a hybrid writer. I'm self-published, small press published, and I have an agent who is about to start shopping a mystery series. I believe writers can travel every road to publication. Try everything - and I mean everything - and then decide what's right for you. (p.s. Tonya has more thoughts on this topic - and they're worthy of a blog post all their own. So they'll get one).

5. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Writing and enjoying my family with a smile on my face.

For more information on Tonya, check out

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ripped from the headlines: Find a few story ideas from your local newspaper

Reporters often get a bad rap. They're nosy, after all. They ask a lot of questions, many of which folks don't necessarily want to answer.

But I'm a big fan of reporters. And even though I'm not a journalist anymore, I'm still addicted to reading the paper and watching the news. Now, I know, I know - not a lot of people pay attention to the news or read a paper anymore. That's a damn shame for a variety of reasons. But simply for the discussion of fiction writing, it's interesting to note there are tons of story ideas there.

See, lately, I've been trying to think of a good idea for a new series - something fresh, something fun, something completely different with a brand-new protagonist.

Well, I found my answer - in the local newspaper. I don't live in a particularly glamorous city, and there tends to be plenty of crime and corruption reported in my local paper. A local school board member was indicted for a scam that the local reporters uncovered. I started thinking ... what if ... what if ... what if ....

I couldn't stop thinking about it. Pretty soon, I was scribbling enthusiastically in a notebook on my lunch hour with my local investigative team to thank.

After all, the truth might be stranger than fiction, but that doesn't mean I can't take a few cues from it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Riddle me this: How is indie publishing like Weight Watchers?

After I had my first baby, I joined Weight Watchers. And it's a perfectly good weight-loss program. But like any other program, you tend to look at your numbers.

That's what made me think of it the other morning, when I sleepily logged on to, just like I do every morning to check on my book sales. But this morning, I stopped myself.

Again, I thought, I was becoming obsessed by my numbers. Again, I thought, I was missing the point.

When I was at Weight Watchers, I wasn't concerned about making friends or learning smart nutrition or doing any of the good things they teach you to do. No, I wasn't exactly a poster child. I just wanted to weigh in. I only wanted the gratification of seeing the numbers on the scale. I wasn't really learning anything - I knew I'd likely pig out at Taco Bell after weigh-in. And then I'd start all over. But only because of the numbers.

It took me awhile to figure out what I was doing wrong - and to finally not let that scale rule my life.

And I wondered the other morning if I was doing the exact thing again - only this time with my publishing numbers. Was I even having fun with my writing anymore? Or was I letting those numbers get the upper hand?

Sure, I want to make sales - what published author doesn't? But first and foremost, I write to write. That's what I need to focus on, and that, I told myself, is what I will. I'll check my numbers, of course. But I'll try not to obsess.

I'll write.

And afterwards, maybe I'll head out for a little treat - just a little one, mind you -  at Taco Bell.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

E-books vs. traditional: Can't we all just get along?

I had thoroughly enjoyed reading the article on Yahoo that offered up images and descriptions of some of the best bookstores in America. I had even taken notes on a few I wanted to visit - Tattered Covers in Denver and Baldwin's Book Barn in West Chester, Penn.

I just wasn't prepared for one of the reader comments posted underneath it.

"I look at the photos of these beautiful bookstores," someone posted anonymously. "And then I look at all these people on their Kindles. I think, "What a bunch of a$#holes."

Oh, dear. I have a Kindle. I like my Kindle.  Was I just a big  ...well, you know?

But, you know,  I love bookstores, too. In fact, I can’t resist books – I have hundreds of them in my house.

Then I thought of my brother. He's a smart guy, but he's not normally a recreational reader. However, since he got an iPad for Christmas, he's been devouring books while he's away on travel. So, e-books have their benefits, too.

They’re wonderful for their convenience and their price. And they’re drawing in new readers.

But I can't savor the beauty of Tasha Tudor's illustrations on an e-book. And there's something satisfying, something solid, about holding a book in my hand.

I sell my own book in e-format because it's affordable and it just makes sense.  But when I can afford it, I'd like to publish a paperback companion.

So does anybody have to be the a$#hole here? Can't we all just get along?

Friday, March 16, 2012

When life imitates art - and brings a funnel cloud too close for comfort

Yesterday morning, I was a few minutes late for work. I couldn't help it - Linnette McAfee was trying to outrun a tornado and it was bearing down on her, fast and furious. I couldn't just leave her there by the side of the road ... she was scared to death.

I was, of course, sitting in my car, engrossed in an audio book. This time, it was 74 Seaside Avenue, a book from the series by Debbie Macomber that follows the daily lives of the citizens of the fictional town of Cedar Cove, Wash.

But by yesterday afternoon, I was looking nervously out my window at the all-too-real dark clouds in the sky of southeastern Michigan. They were thick, gray and forboding, and I drove home with a lead foot, trying to beat the oncoming storm.

I couldn't help thinking of Linnette.

I made it home safe and sound - just about the time the storm hit and the radio announcer informed me those clouds had twisted into a tornado that was wreaking havoc in a tiny town about 30 miles away from my house.

Sometimes life imitates art ... and it's a little too close for comfort.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Story idea? Check. Laptop? Check. Self-Confidence? Um . . .

I remember back in the day, when I worked at a newspaper, sitting at my desk and grumbling to a fellow reporter.

I had this idea for a book, I told her, but I wasn't sure I would write it. It probably wouldn't ever get published, I said. I didn't have any big-shot connections; I didn't have any money. I didn't know anybody in publishing.  And really, what else could I do?

It was a solid idea - a newsroom murder mystery - but the odds were stacked against me. I wasn't sure I'd even try.

My colleague - her name was Kathleen - looked at me intently with her big blue eyes. She had amazing eyes, beautiful eyes, the kind of eyes described in romance novels. I wondered often if her sources were taken in by the guileless look of those eyes. Kathleen was actually sharp as a tack; her reporting tactics were fearless.

"Oh, I don't know," she told me then. "I think if you've written something of quality, there's always a way to get the word out. You just have to believe."

This was years ago - before e-readers, before Amazon, even before blogs. But she was right. Writers were still crafting queries, still creating chapbooks, still selling poetry from the trunks of their cars. If they believed in what they wrote, they were absolutely relentless about spreading their words.

That's the key, isn't it? To believe, to keep the faith? But that's so hard sometimes. It's much easier to sit, to grumble about the other guy getting all the breaks and wait for that sweet publishing deal to simply land in your lap.

It won't. You have to make it happen. Kathleen knew that, way back then. Me? I'm just a slow learner.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cleaning house ... and starting a writing blog

Welcome to my new website!!

I'm doing a little online spring housecleaning - way overdue - and I've decided to reorganize my blogs just a bit. 

Right now, you're on my main site - you can  get to the other blogs from here, and feel free to click around! But here is where I'll be posting more general topics on reading, writing and publishing.

My other blog,, will still focus on kids and family life, and I'll use my book blog,, to talk about the Death on Deadline series - particularly since I'm working feverishly on a sequel, tentatively titled Paper Cut.

Many thanks to my friend Erin Scheffler for helping me put this together.  Without my techie friends to help me, I hate to think where'd I'd be.

Anyway,  if you're a writer or avid reader, I hope you'll give me a follow, or just check in from time to time.  After all, any friend to books is a friend of mine.