Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Writing Wednesday- Why I Wrote a Mystery Novel

"Nothing was more shocking than murder, yet the traditional structure of crime fiction provided a way of examining the subject with distance and grace." 
                             from "The Glass Room: A Vera Stanhope Mystery" by Ann Cleeves

   I look for meaning. Not everyone needs to search for why things happen but I am attracted to asking why and then finding meaning for the event. How did a life event change people? What did it bring to light? I believe that is why I read murder mysteries and watch them on television. Right now I'm reading The Glass Room by Ann Cleeves. Her storyline fits perfectly into what I've been doing lately, not committing murder, of course. Set in Northumberland, England, Vera Stanhope is looking for her neighbor who's gone missing and finds her at a writers seminar in a remote rural area, not far from home. She walks into a crime scene. One of the visiting tutors, a published author, has just been found murdered. 

    With this plot, Ann Cleeves can make commentary about writers through the eyes of detectives, who perhaps hardly read fiction, and she can make commentary through the eyes of writers about themselves. It is just a wonderful story. 
  I chose to write a murder mystery to explore the inner lives of musicians. By having one of my detectives trained as a classical pianist and her partner unfamiliar with that world, I get to muck about exposing biases about a elite world. 
  The quote below really made me chuckle. Cleeves is talking about the expensive and exclusive seminar where the murder took place.

"Maybe it had occurred to prospective visitors that they could stay at home and write and it would cost them nothing."

Of course writing period, is the goal, but if you can write alongside other writers and stroke each other's back the motivation is greatly increased. And so it is with musicians. Hanging out with talented musicians fires up the desire to practice and improve. How bad is that?


There is still time to read my novel about a pianist and teacher who finds a Liszt autograph manuscript and ends up dead. Who killed her to get the treasure? The mysterious student who comes from out of town to study with her? The colleague from Hungary who wants the manuscript more than anything? 

My novel Rubato

A story of a woman's longing for beauty and her struggle to keep the beautiful even when it didn't belong to her.

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Picture From the Past (Umkehr)

Some memories are unforgettable, remaining ever vivid and heartwarming! 
Joseph B. Wirthlin

I love returning (Umkehr) to old pictures and being drawn to fashions from the past. Let's take the apron, as an example. Wearing an apron was common place in the 1950's. My mother used a wringer washer and we hung our clothes out on the clothesline. The next day we ironed the stiff dried clothing. It took two full days to get the weekly wash done.
Consequently wearing outfits more than once was essential. 

   Bring on the apron. Covering your blouse or dress with a pretty apron cut down on the ever growing laundry. I purchased a hand made, seer-sucker apron from Portland Apron Company to match the ones my aunt used to sew and I love it. It takes me back to times long gone. I loved spending my summers at the farm where my aunt and uncle raised goats and chickens. She always did her work with an apron over her clothing. She hid a treat or two in the deep pockets of her apron for the many children who loved her. I loved her smell, essence of goat and peppermint. She was round and squishy to hug, and she did love to give hugs. The picture above, shows her holding, not one, but two babies. With no children of her own all babies and children, in general, were cherished and valued. She modeled that love to me every time I was with her and I believe I am affectionate with children because of what she showed me.

   My One Little Word Umkehr inspires me to return often to pictures and memories of the past. A memory can bring umkehr and focus your decisions and aspirations.


Click here to see a table of contents of how this word has become a focus in my life this year.

Friday, May 25, 2018


He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed. 
Albert Einstein

I was traveling home with a friend after a stressful medical test. My body was relaxing and I looked out of the car. Alongside the road orange poppies waved in clusters. It took my breath away and I suggested to my friend that we pause and park.

Who planted these? Thank you!

Consider the poppies of the field. How they grow, how they grow willingly along railroad tracks, sidewalks, and roads. 

There is always time to pause and appreciate how a seed produces it's measure of creation. It is within it's DNA to become a thing of delight. It doesn't toil or earn, it just blooms.

There is still time to read my novel about a pianist and teacher who finds a Liszt autograph manuscript and ends up dead. Who killed her to get the treasure? The mysterious student who comes from out of town to study with her? The colleague from Hungary who wants the manuscript more than anything? 

My novel Rubato

A story of a woman's longing for beauty and her struggle to keep the beautiful even when it didn't belong to her.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Writing Wednesday- Reading Your Writing Aloud To Others

“So it is that a writer writes many books. In each book, he intended several urgent and vivid points, many of which he sacrificed as the book's form hardened.” 

This has been an intense week. Our writing group met last night to read our work to each other and tonight I get to read my chapter aloud again in my formal writing class. 
After editing over and over the class will likely see more awkward language, pacing problems, and less than stellar descriptions. I'm sure I'm ready and then I hear myself aloud. 

  They have the text in front of them so I can't edit as I read. "That sounded weird. Why am I using that word? My character sounded so lame." All these things cross my mind as I read to these fellow writers. They are kind but pointed. They want me to improve. I want to improve. It is a painful process. It is a glorious process. Six people are taking me serious enough to read and listen to my work. How great is that?

My novel Rubato

A story of a woman's longing for beauty and her struggle to keep the beautiful even when it didn't belong to her.

Friday, May 18, 2018


                     Sacred Not Secret

    Our modern world is revealing everything with social media these days. Yesterday I was at the doctor's office checking out a muscle injury and my daughter jokingly asked if I wanted to talk about what was happening on an Insta-story. Why would I want to share my anxiety with others over a health issue which may be nothing serious? 

  Some things just need to be private, secret, or hidden, from the glaring eyes of the world. There are also some events in life that are not secret, but sacred. As the media floods us with tidbits of the preparations for the Royal Wedding I think back onto that sacred day I was married. At the actual ceremony only my closest family members attended. Many sacred and spiritual words were uttered and shared. The party after was for more extended friends and family. The promises I made are still fresh in my mind. They guide my actions and decisions everyday. Holding them sacred creates a space within my soul for growth with my husband and children.

“The secret and the sacred are sisters. When the secret is not respected, the sacred vanishes. Consequently, reflection should not shine too severe or aggressive a light on the world of the soul.” 


My novel Rubato

A story of a woman's longing for beauty and her struggle to keep the beautiful even when it didn't belong to her.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Writing Wednesday- Editing, Editing, Editing

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” 

Dr. Seuss

**Spoiler Alert**
If you haven't read my book Rubato you might want to stop and jump into it before reading my comments about editing. Link to the whole book is below.

Editing is a daily occurrence in my writing life. Do I like it? Sometimes. It can be most helpful as events become clearer and characters more rounded. But, it can also become confusing as I add details which then cause me to alter and add details in other related chapters.

Here are some questions I ask myself as I edit.

1. What is this scene about? Why is it here? What is it contributing?

The scene I'm working on currently is the climax. Within this chapter I want to show that there is enough probable cause to arrest the suspect for murder. It takes place in an interrogation room which has very little visual appeal. How can I make the room seem interesting?

2. Are the characters telling the story or is the author?

 Definitely my characters are telling this story. This chapter is in the point of view of Detective Watts and has mostly dialog. I'm looking to insert more details about what he is feeling as he pushes for a confession.

3. Is there forward momentum?

My antagonist is being pressured. On one side he has his attorney holding him back from speaking and on the other side there are two detectives accusing him with facts that are very damning. I want to show that his fear is rising and his ability to remain calm is crumbling. 

4. Are my characters interesting enough to sustain the story?

My antagonist is a desperate man who has no moral compass. He justifies his actions as necessary to meet his end which is always self preservation. In opposition are two detectives who doggedly acquire the facts to make a clear picture of an event that is catastrophic to the victim. They wade through a constant sea of lies looking for a thread of motivation that might lead to a strong enough reason to kill. I find them interesting but there is the catch. Can I see them clearly enough to edit the superfluous and keep only what makes them alive to my reader?

More editing................


My novel Rubato

A story of a woman's longing for beauty and her struggle to keep the beautiful even when it didn't belong to her.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Returning To My Ancestors In Pictures

   To understand and reconnect with our stories, the stories of the ancestors, is to build our identities. 
Frank Delaney

Pictures that communicate my word or help me connect to my word are often pictures of my parents and beloved ancestors. To make a return to them, or to the ways they supported me, is very reassuring. 

I recently made a book about my mother's life. She left a personal history and I reproduced that along with pictures and commentary from me, about my recollections. When my children and grandchildren get caught up in the fast paced menagerie called "life" I want them to seek out the example and advice from ancestors who made tough decisions and opened paths for us to progress and reach our potential.

  I have a grandson who loved the book about his great-grandmother. When I see his picture holding the book I feel the word Umkehr resonating clearly. 

Return to the past 
to find your future
Remember what was 
sacrificed for you
by those who wanted 
better and found
the best.

Click here to see how I use my One Little Word Umker
differently every month.

My novel Rubato

A story of a woman's longing for beauty and her struggle to keep the beautiful even when it didn't belong to her.

Friday, May 11, 2018


           What Was Included In This Package?

   I teach music to every grandchild that is willing. Consequently nine grandchildren see me weekly for some kind of music lesson. In the fall I volunteered to teach a pre-school music class at my son's house once a week for his 3 year old twins. I asked him to find a couple of other kids who might chip in to pay a small tuition fee. In this project I would need to pull out my old class lesson plans, I taught Music and Movement to toddlers for ten years, my musical props and instruments, and remember songs and finger plays I once had memorized.

Included in this project package would be remembering the energy I once had when this was a part-time job. 

   What I didn't quite remember from classes in the past was a special ingredient which was included every week. I remembered all that I would give to them but forgot how much they would give to me. These three little people really know how to love. Their love lifted and nurtured me more than I can say. 
I love you.


We used this song as a lullaby last week.

My novel Rubato

A story of a woman's longing for beauty and her struggle to keep the beautiful even when it didn't belong to her.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Writing Wednesday- Setting A Scene in a Real Place

"You cannot open a book without learning something."


When you read my book Rubato you will learn about a real place in Seattle called Jack's BBQ. It is my husband's favorite BBQ restaurant and we go there frequently. The owner is a warm hearted man, named Jack, who visits with all his customers. His take on excellent BBQ comes from visiting many Texas establishments and learning from the best PitMasters.

    When I wanted to bring my book's detectives to a restaurant to meet with two music professors I thought it would be unique to have them come to Jack's. I hoped to nudge at the stereotype of classical musicians being a bit uppity. The types of people who come to Jack's are always interesting to me. Manual labor working men and women, business associates, families with little kids, you'll see them all there eating ribs with their fingers, with big grins on their faces.

Come on in and meet Reggie Watts and Stevie Dangerfield At Jack's BBQ

    Reggie drove while Stevie gave him directions to the restaurant. They were in an industrial section of Seattle. Businesses with drab corrugated steel buildings lined each side of the road. The area was attracting newer entrepreneurs. Renovated old factories were turning into offices, providing smaller rent prices than in the middle of the city. Stevie directed him to turn left into a parking lot next to an outdoor eating area with twinkle lights hanging from wooden posts. As they pulled in at Jack’s Barbecue, Reggie smiled a large, wide grin. Jack’s was one of his favorite restaurants. He never would have guessed that two music professors would do lunch here. Stevie and her mother were breaking all the stereotypical images he had of music academics. Maybe if they had barbecue sauce on their hands he would feel less intimidated by their talk of Liszt and music fragments. 
    “Jack’s has the best brisket I’ve ever tasted.” Reggie felt his mouth watering at the prospect of a really excellent lunch.
     “You have been here then?” Stevie asked.
     “More than once.” 
     They looked around for Angelika. She was not there yet. They settled to wait on a large brown couch in the front area. 
     “I am a little surprised at the choice of restaurant.” Reggie said, wondering what Stevie thought.
     “So am I. A vegetarian place seemed more my mother’s liking. But, don’t pre-judge Sydney. She could be a down home southern gal.”
      “Your mother is a vegetarian?”
      “Not really, but she likes to eat light so I hope she finds something here on the menu.” 
       Two middle aged women entered, Reggie recognized Angelika. The other woman taller, had silver hair cut short and on a slant. She looked very stylish as she greeted a thin, bespectacled man at the door.  
    “Jack! How lovely to see you.” She was gushing with enthusiasm. 
    “That is Sydney Cabine,” whispered Stevie.
    “And the man greeting her is the owner.” Reggie whispered back. 
   “You are always welcome here and let me find you the best table.”
   Angelika motioned to Reggie and Stevie to follow them. They were seated in the back, along a wall of brightly painted doors. The doors, going nowhere, were hung side by side. Each door was unique and painted in different, bright colors, adding a flamboyant flair to the restaurant. Reggie particularly liked the quirkiness of the doors. 
  “Jack,” Sydney said, “this is my colleague Angelika Hanson, her daughter, a homicide detective, and her daughter’s partner. Are you a policeman to0, honey?” 
  Reggie winced and nodded. 
 “I welcome all public servants. Well, you have a lovely meal. Our breakfast burritos are the best in the Northwest.” Jack smiled at each of them and left to greet new arrivals.

My novel Rubato

A story of a woman's longing for beauty and her struggle to keep the beautiful even when it didn't belong to her.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Using My One Little Word On Pictures

"One of the things that continues to stand out for me as I do this prompt is the reminder that photos are such an excellent way to give thanks for life."
Ali Edwards

For many years now I have painted a picture which then carries my word for the year. These paintings vary in size and have a place in my house. 

   They hold experiences that I've tried to capture on canvas. As I look around I notice that I am most affected by the sun rising, I am so grateful to have a place close to my home on the water where I can see the complete rising. Every time I am there I feel more mindful of God, nurtured by his artwork, and ready to turn back to Him. These paintings hold space for that live experience when I can't go.  

Truly these words have infiltrated my thoughts and actions. 

          They are like chapter headings to my life.


My novel Rubato

A story of a woman's longing for beauty and her struggle to keep the beautiful even when it doesn't belong to her.

Friday, May 4, 2018


Adapt yourself to the things among which your lot has been cast and love sincerely the fellow creatures with whom destiny has ordained that you shall live.
 Marcus Aurelius

The pilings jutting out of the water are skeletons of a lost enterprise. A bustling dock welcomed little boats in the past but when other points of entry onto this island became more convenient the dock fell apart and the pilings remained behind.

The logs have adapted to become artistic sketches on the shore. I come to my looking place along this beach and photograph the pilings, draw them, and imagine how they looked when when a boat came alongside and anchored. 
I brought my children to this beach twenty-five years ago. We  walked along the shore and looked under rocks to find little crabs. Once we dammed up the tiny stream that ran into water and made replicas of rivers and deltas. I made my children empty their shoes, pockets, and seams of sand so that we didn't bring the beach home with us. Now my children are grown and I've adapted to taking grandchildren here or more often I come by myself. The pilings remind me to love the life that is mine today.

My novel Rubato

A murder mystery about a morally compromised woman’s resolve to protect her musical discovery. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Writing Wednesday- Writing A Scene For Book 2

“If he saw three balls, he had to juggle. If he saw two towers, he had to walk! That’s how he was.”
Mordicai Gerstein
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

The story of Phillipe Petit really fascinates me.

Before his Twin Towers walk, Petit was known to New Yorkers for his frequent tightrope-walking performances and magic shows in the parks of New York, especially Washington Square Park. Petit's most famous performance was in August 1974, conducted on a wire between the roofs of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, a quarter mile above the ground. He performed for 45 minutes, making eight passes along the wire, during which he walked, danced, lay down on the wire, and saluted watchers from a kneeling position. Office workers, construction crews and policemen cheered him on.

In my sequel to Rubato I introduce Miquel Ruiz who dreams of walking the wire to the music of Erik Satie. He is a modern day Gymnopodist.

Miquel relaxed his cramped foot under the covers. He flexed and pointed his toes. He was dreaming that his mother had locked him into his room. She was angry that he skipped school; she would have been angrier to know he had skipped school to walk a wire at the park. He could hear her voice, tight, restrained, but full of warning. Another voice returned the heat with an equal strained tone. Who was the second voice? Miquel brushed his eyes with the back of his hand. This wasn’t a dream, this was his mother fighting with Pablo downstairs. He heard the cupboard slam shut and water running. She must be making breakfast. He turned over in his bed and saw the clock. It was evening and why was he in his bed?
“Don’t you dare get him involved in your gang, Pablo!” Her sentence was punctuated by the clanging of pots and pans.
“Why? Are you worried that your precious younger son will finally become a man and leave you?”
 Miquel heard the slap but he felt it as if she had used her hand on his own face. He imagined the heat rising on Pablo’s cheek. Miquel moved to the edge of his bed and reached for his shoes. 
“He has other gifts and I won’t have you ruin his chances to become someone besides a gangster.”
The laughter exploded from his brother and Miquel felt the shame of what his brother thought of his meager talent. It wasn’t like Pablo knew much of his piano lessons or about his rapid progress with Mrs. Hanson. He was never home. But Pablo knew that Miquel’s  Boys Club acrobatic activities had become mostly wire walking. His mother would be appalled at the height of his newest installation. He bounded down the stairs to constrain any new revelations from reaching his mother’s ears.


My novel Rubato

A riveting murder mystery about a morally compromised woman’s resolve to protect her musical discovery. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Umkehr in Pictures

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
 Walt Disney

Below is a recent picture posted on my daughter's account. She is teaching me to knit. I'm looking pretty pleased with myself. 

   Eight hours later I get my first reality check. "Why can't you tell the difference between knit and purl? And, what are all these yarn overs?" 
   I could have been offended and then tempted to quit but I'm far enough down this road to grit my teeth and say, "Shall I turn around? Shall I umkehr?"

   The road back has little short cuts that bring you back on track but don't necessarily make you go all the way to the beginning. 

I'm seeing more and understanding better. That is the joy of Umkehr.

More About The Word Umkehr


My novel Rubato

A riveting murder mystery about a morally compromised woman’s resolve to protect her musical discovery.