Finding Worlds through Words

Peopling worlds. That’s what we writers do, isn’t it?

I’m no longer sailing Mexican waters or dropping anchor in some exotic spot. Some mornings, I wake longing to feel that gentle roll under Sea Venture’s hull. Oh, we’ll be back on board for short trips north or south, but coming home to care for a loved one changes the cadence of life.

Finding ways to embrace these changes, I listen and watch.

As sailors, we visited exotic towns, met and played with folk from many countries.

Loreto, MX


In the Sea of Cortez, the language of conversation and of social interaction held a certain lilt, an often smiling delight in simple things.

Cruising friends jigging for trigger fish

Here, laughs from chance-met folk need more coaxing, more nurturing. Perhaps that’s because most land-based folk have worlds of their own already secured, friends already established, places they go to eat and chat, things they do that take their time. Perhaps the busyness of life forces them to hurry on past.

Cruisers are the odd folk in different worlds, the strangers who congregate to find a common ground, even if that commonality surrounds the places they’ve visited or the adventures lived and yet to live. Cruisers make fast friendships and hold to these from anchorage to anchorage, country to county, even when they return to life as a dirt dweller.


Peopling stories from the land-bound places I’ve been and folk I’ve imagined — or pieced from the chance-met and the almost-known — I enter into new worlds, new smells, new sounds. Shouts and cries that resonate because of place and circumstance, because of accents and histories and the soil in which each grew, become the fodder for a new universe.


Beaufort, NC



How do you find your worlds? What in your life pushes you toward the stories you write?  If you craft fantasy, suspense, romance, or horror, what propelled you in that direction? What made you want to create those worlds?

Please leave me a note. Let’s talk settings and worlds.



Sifting through Blog Land

An interesting blogger decided to follow Sea Venture’s Journey (my sailing blog). Being the curious sort, I wandered over to see what I could see and found a repost from Catherine, Caffeinated. I’m sorry that the linking blogger didn’t leave any way for me to contact her. Still, I submit Catherine’s two cents because she’s a young woman who writes with wit and wisdom. No, I don’t plan to self-publish. But that doesn’t mean I can’t glean a thing or two as a writer. As an editor and a reader, I hope authors take heed.

We can’t read everyone’s words, but this gal has pizzazz. You know what I mean.

It’s too bad, really. I come across blogs like this, and I wonder what else I’m missing. I bemoan the lack of time to wander the blogsphere: I imagine I could learn and laugh and have an absolutely grand time.

Perhaps I’ll stumble on yours next. And won’t that be fun?

Check out Catherine’s advice for self-publishers in the post below.

A Marketing Revelation

Fine, this won’t surprise the networking gurus, but as I commented this morning on a post over at Writer Unboxed called “Networking for the Cowardly and Terrified” (that would be moi), I saw it.

I rarely buy books when someone begs me to. I rarely buy based on advertising. But I do head over to Amazon when I read a thoughtful post or a comment by someone who intrigues me, some word that makes me want to know the writer better.

So, if that works for me as a buyer, perhaps it will work for me as a seller?

Oh, my, I can wrap my mind around that sort of marketing. The friendship thing.

And not because I want something from you or you want something from me: that will never work. I’m going to spot your insincerity after the first few conversations, and you’ll see mine just as clearly. No. I’ve got to want to know you—you, the person—before you’ll want to know me. And if you and I can interact on some real level, won’t that be fun?

I enjoy people. Yes, I’m basically shy, an introvert. But years ago, a voice whispered in my head that if I let my shyness impede my access to others, I was being self-centered, worrying more about me than about the other person. I’ve tried to hold on to that, to remember it when faced with a room full of folk. Not everyone is going to want to know me or talk to me. That’s fine. We’re all so wonderfully different, so uniquely made, and we come from such varied backgrounds and experiences. I enjoy richness in my relationships, and that’s not going to come if I surround myself only with clones. You don’t agree on some aspect of life? So what. You don’t share my faith? Fine, I’m used to that. You’re young? (I’m not, except at heart.) Then maybe you’ve some extra energy that you’ll share with me. You’ve a different perspective on things? Excellent—as long as you don’t expect me to agree and don’t get offended by our differences.

Right now, I’m a book buyer. (Hey, I’ll always be a book buyer!) And I’m going to follow interesting comments and interesting posts and anyone who reaches in my direction with some bit of compelling insight.

Connecting with Folk: That Tribe Thing

In my last post, I wondered about tribes and finding one. Perhaps that sense of isolation came from so many years as a gypsy cruiser on Sea Venture, connecting with boat people or via social media. Here, at home in NC, taking care of my mama, I’m miles from town, tethered to more than a few by that same Internet.

And then came a recent writers conference (OWFI). I’d been invited to sit on an editor/agent panel and asked to take appointments. They gave me a shepherd so see to my comfort. Oh, my, what luxury.

And, lookee there, so many lovely new faces. Scads of eager writers and a slew of editors and agents. Most wore friendly, eager expressions, those writers, hoping that someone would want them and their work.

This blog is not about Normandie the editor. Here, I’m a writer, hugging my own stories to my breast, waiting with eager eyes for someone to love my children as much as I do. I’ll just say that I’m glad I know that angst: it gave me compassion for those sitting on the other side of the table with their hopeful eyes and sometimes quavering voice.

I came away from that conference smiling. Fatigued, yes, but with the assurance that my tribe had enlarged. That lovely young shepherd, Robin Patchen, who brought me Starbucks every morning, probably had no idea that we’d bond so well or that her eager enthusiasm would cajole me into asking for a sample edit. Based on that sample, I offered Robin a place on the Wayside Press team. But the circle Robin and I formed moves beyond the publishing house, overlapping into friendship and the symbiosis of one writer helping another.

We make friends and enlarge our circles for any number of reasons, but friends should have each other’s back. That conference also allowed me to meet and enjoy another new friend, C Hope Clark, who hails from the state to the south of NC. I’m reading her first story now, Lowcountry Bribe, published by Bell Bridge Books. Her next will be set in Beaufort, SC. Hope and I decided we’d market books together: she, using the Beaufort (Bewfort) setting, and I, using my Beaufort (Bowfort) crew; she, telling about shrimp boats, and I, about sailboats. She’s a hoot, which is what Southern gals who write ought to be.

I made other friends and renewed acquaintances at the conference. Between them and a new Facebook clan at Writer Unboxed, I’m kicking up my heels.

Do you live in a city or someplace crowded with people? If so, do you connect with them, or do you feel isolated among the masses, an unseen face and an unheard voice? How do you reconcile your life with the need for connections?

If you live in a remote area, far from neighbors or in a small town with only a handful of friends, how do you reach out and enlarge your tribe?

I’d love to hear from you.

Tribes: Who Needs Them?


That fellow’s pointing at me. He’s a marketing guru (I’m sure), and he says that my next job is to make scads of social media friends. I must blog, tweet, speak, call, make myself heard somewhere, by someone. By enough someones that my book will sell. I’m supposed to have a tribe.

As an idea, a tribe sounds welcoming. But if your school years were anything like mine, tribes and posses meant exclusion for those on the outside looking in. Too bad the lonely couldn’t form their own clique, but outsiders are usually outside because they’re either too shy or too introverted, too tall or too fat, or, as I often felt, too bored by the trivia of it all.

Now, being on the outside isn’t always a bad thing. Isolation and loneliness often propel one to creativity.  It forced me into books and art and writing and made me the person I am today.

Who, frankly, would much rather write another story than try to sell anything.

Have I told you about my friend, Ray? Ray worked in another department back when I was editing in the DC area. Evenings, I’d return to my apartment and sculpt big bodies to hang on walls — big, life-sized bodies using friends as models. One night a week, I taught aspiring artists what I’d learned in school and in the doing of my art. When Ray and his family came into my life, I’d just finished a pair —  John and Sue — and moved on to the next sculpture, this time a torso only. Ray showed up at my office door and asked if I’d let him submit my work to a contest to be judged by none other than the sculpture curator of the National Gallery of Art. I shrugged, secretly delighted, especially when the pair won First Place. All because of Ray, who’d invited me into his tribe and done for me what I couldn’t do for myself.

I love people. I like to talk to people and make new friends, but I’m the one who’ll want to get to know you, not just your name or your place in the hierarchy. At the cocktail party, I don’t want to flit. I want conversation.

Here’s the deal. I don’t have a clue how to create a tribe or to beat my chest. But I’d like to know you. And if together we end up in a club together, it won’t be an exclusive one. You hear?


I’m in. How about you? Are you coming with me? I’ll help you up and you can help me?

(Perhaps there’s even a Ray out there for my writing who wants to show me how and pave the way.)

Oh, and, Ray, if you ever read this, I hope that you and your wife and your quiver full of children are doing well out there in Utah. Because you certainly showed this then-agnostic all about the love of God. Be blessed, my brother. Be blessed.

Becalmed No Longer

Tadie Longworth wouldn’t stop poking at me. She was tired of her quiet, monochromatic life and all those breezeless days. I could sympathize. After all, we’re both sailors.

I finally have good news for her and her Beaufort friends. My agent, Terry Burns, forwarded a contract yesterday that will let Tadie kick up her heels and see a little color in her life.

I’ve tweaked my stories, slashed and dashed, set one aside to write another. From keyboard to floppy discs and later onto one hard drive after another, characters have lived with me and begged for breathing room. Some only told me a bit about themselves, a paragraph or two, a chapter, and so they waited. Or I waited, until their clamoring forced me to people their world and let them into mine.

Now, the first of my Beaufort stories has found a home. Tadie, who loves to sail to Cape Lookout in a sharpie much like mine, will find her way into print at a fitting home: Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Can you imagine a more perfect name for a publisher of my sailing stories? Jilly must be doing a little happy dance, her bright orange pigtails bouncing as she peeks out from the companionway steps at the brilliant color of the sunrise. “Wake up, daddy! We’ve got things to do and people to meet!”

Becalmed is becalmed no longer. Keep a look out for more news of Tadie and the Beaufort crew as it becomes available.



Contests are great fun (although sales would be trump these)

Just a quick note to tell you that another of my stories is a semi-finalist in the Genesis contest. Can’t tell you which. Can’t mention its title. But….

I resurrected it from an old program (anyone remember AmiPro?) and converted it to Word, then had to bring it up to date. But I had fun with it when I wrote it way back when, and I’m having fun with it again.

New stories are a delightful challenge, but old stories make me smile.

Calling the Crew: Readers and Writers

I’m a sailor — temporarily land bound — and I write stories of women who sail. Some of them sail small boats, some large ones. Most love the water, though I’ve a WIP in which the protagonist is a wife who follows her husband’s dream. How’s that working out? Well, I’ve met a few wives who did the same thing. In my story? Check back with me as it evolves.

Puff is a sharpie, built for my auntie, given to me. Puff became my friend, the soother of my shattered soul, the one to whom I told my dreams. You’ll find her in various guises in many of my stories, as rescuer, as a setting for compounded messes, as an entree to love.  Here she is in Core Sound, running from those gathering clouds. It was a very wet sail.


Sailing Puff

When we took off to cruise on Sea Venture, I wanted a sailing dinghy to play around in various anchorages. Puff II came along with us, but she’s a bit hefty for deck work. Michael plans to leave her behind when we head out on our next adventures. Still, here I am, with my mother, exploring Ballandra. The dinghy may show up one day as an adjunct to the big boat, but she offers less scope for adventure. At least, so far.


Sea Venture’s dinghy

Sailing a big boat is a lot more comfortable. There’s shade, for one thing. And a seat for steering, though unless we’re headed up a channel or into an anchorage, we’ve toys that manage the helm. There are places to hide in a big boat. Places to escape. But you can’t tuck the big boat away in a barn when a storm brews. And if you’re at sea, the storm becomes your enemy, your endurance course. And a great setting for survival.

Sea Venture off Loreto, MX

Sea Venture rarely shows up as herself, but she’s the inspiration. Life on board her for those years can’t help but affect the way I write as it provides so many what-ifs.

Here’s the big boat on her way north. Such stories she holds. Secrets that she breathes as I write.


Anchored in Stillwater Cove, CA

Life on the water abounds in mystery and romance. One night, in that same peaceful anchorage pictured above under the sailing dinghy, we went on deck with a flashlight.  Suddenly, silvery fish zipped to the surface. They did not make me wish for a midnight swim. But imagine if the heroine fell off the boat (or were pushed) into water like that? What a different mood from the daytime’s turquoise shallows.

Bahia Ballandra at night

What about a glide across the water where you see the heron in the picture above?

A different mood. And here’s still another:


So many settings. So much fun.

What I’d like to know is this: Do you enjoy sailing stories? Oh, not stories about sailing so much as stories about people who sail, women who prefer wind-blown hair to high heels.

If you’re a sailor, do you write about the life in more than your blog posts? (I’ve those on Sea Venture’s Journey.)

And if you’re a writer, do you craft your stories about the world you inhabit or about ones that inhabit only your dreams?

On Writing and Fitting in

Someone in the know recently said that few publishers want stories set in foreign lands. To fit in, I must be careful of the truth, I must beware, take care, mince words, be thoughtful, keep it short, do it this way or that way, don’t be too literary, show lots of action, don’t get into too many heads, be gritty or not so, be this, be that.

How do all those with publishing contracts manage? Am I so odd, is my writing so far out or off or not quite there? I’d love to know.

Though perhaps it’s merely that my Lord has whispered, “Wait,” and I’ve been too impatient to hear.

And so, while I wait, I write. And rewrite, and follow my own advice, given so freely over at Wayside. Too bad I can’t publish me!