Finding the Muse

Today Writing Wranglers and Warriors
welcomes a new blogger, 
David Ciambrone

 Posted by Dave Ciambrone

You will hear writers sometime say, “I can’t write right now, the muse hasn’t been with me.” They wait for the muse or the inspiration to hit in order to write. You can wait forever. Writers have also said that once they start, sometimes they will get “into the groove” and things really come, it seems to flow. Why does this happen? Is there a muse? What is the groove and how does it work?

Well, after studying hypnosis I think I have the answer. It is called self-hypnosis. There are those who don’t believe in hypnosis or think it is evil, but it isn’t. It is just an altered state of mind. Have you ever been listening to a replay of an old time radio show or listened to a book on tape in the car and you are transported into the story and you can “see” the action in your mind like a movie. Later you wonder how you got to the place you were headed and don’t remember driving? You were hypnotized. You did it yourself.

When you start to write something you are interested in, your mind gets into a state where the physical aspect of writing (the typing) is “mechanical” and your conscious mind lulls itself into a pattern activity. This means it “doesn’t have to think” and “goes to sleep” or relaxes. Your subconscious mind is the creative part of your brain, and because your conscious mind is “asleep,” the subconscious takes over and the story and characters and plots get to come to the surface and start to flow. You visualize things and see the story before your eyes and the writing is nothing more than documenting what you are seeing. You are “in the groove” or “the Muse is working.” It is your subconscious mind at work. You’ve been thinking about a plot problem but couldn’t figure it out. While you were doing your normal daily activities and your conscious mind was working on life, your subconscious mind was hard at work on your plot problem. When you “got into the groove” the problem was solved. That’s when your subconscious mind got to surface and told you the answer. Time becomes irrelevant, you are in the world of your story and the plot and characters become alive. You are under self-hypnosis.  People self hypnotize themselves without knowing it all the time.

You can get into this altered mind state by sitting down in a comfortable chair with your computer or word processor in a room or place that you like to write in, and relaxing. Take a few deep breaths and slowly let them out.  Now, start writing. Start on your story and just write what comes to you. Before long you’re “in the groove.” You can go back and edit later, just create. Let your mind go and just write. The results will surprise you.


“Brain Connections” by Jack Moreh is licensed under Equalicense 1.0 via Freerange.


Dr. David Ciambrone is a retired executive, scientist, professor of engineering, and a forensics consultant, and now a best selling, award winning author living in Georgetown, Texas with his wife Kathy.  He has published 20 books, four (4) non-fiction and fourteen fiction, and has news mysteries in work. He has also published two (2) textbooks for a California university. Dave has been a speaker at writers groups, schools, colleges and conferences and business conferences internationally.

He is past vice president of Sisters-in-Crime Orange County, CA, and past President of the Austin chapter of Sisters-in Crime; a member of Mystery Writers of America; past Member of the Board of Directors of the Writer’s League of Texas; Past President of the San Gabriel’s Writer’s League in Georgetown, TX; and a member of the Williamson County Coroners and the International Thriller Writers. Dave has also been on the Georgetown Library Advisory Board and the board of a local theater. He was Chairman on the Williamson County Appraisal Review Board and was on the board of directors of a Texas special utility district. He was also Chairman of the Williamson County, Texas Historical Commission.

Dr. Ciambrone has written three newspaper columns and a column for a business journal.

He is a fellow of the International Oceanographic Foundation and has a Bronze Trowel Award from the Archaeological Institute of America. He is also a member of the Order of Merlin of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.

The Deep Dive

Today Writing Wranglers and Warriors
welcomes a new blogger,
Helen Currie Foster

Posted by Helen Currie Foster

I’m so used to the pressure of fast-moving fiction. “Does this scene advance the action?” “Should I pare down this description?” Now and then I’m reminded, though, of the need to take a dive. A deep, deep dive.

Interconnectedness is not something we always grasp. But in writing, we’re struggling to understand, to make sense of, the interconnections of people, events, timelines. A deep dive into nature can give new vocabulary. The Brits, never slouches at nature-writing, offer some virtuoso examples. One is Robert MacFarlane (The Old Ways, The Wild Places, Landmarks). My copy of The Wild Places is tattered at the back from mad attempts to scribble down just a few of his phrases. For instance, he quotes a friend’s description of the rare moment we’ve each sometimes felt while hiking, climbing, walking: the moment when “the great door, that does not look like a door, opens.” He reminds us that we must remember that “our minds are shaped by our physical experience of being in the world.” He urges exploration of “the undiscovered country of the nearby.”

And he can nail a description. Sleeping out one night in the moonlight he wakes to “millions of lunar photons pelting” onto his face, giving him “an eyeful of silver.” His description places humans right where we belong, on our planet and in the cosmos. A vivid, exact, resonant phrase.

Another deep diver is Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie. In Findings, fascinated one spring in the Orkneys by a pair of nesting peregrines, the male and female sitting separated by a dozen feet on their separate rock ledges, she describes the male: “when the sunlight glanced [on] his undersides they were pale and banded like rippled sycamore.” Yes, the mottled sycamore, silver, tan, gray. How did she seize that phrase, a tree for a bird? It is exact though. I see what she meant.

Salutary, a deep dive into worlds we can’t see. Behavior-changing, even. Never again will I plant a lone tree after reading The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. He calls trees “social beings,” where most individuals in the same species may share nutrients through their connected root systems. So J.R.R. Tolkien was prescient in describing the slow speech of his Ents at their Ent-moots:  apparently tree roots signal each other not only by chemical compounds sent through the fungal networks around their root tips, but by electrical impulses that travel at very slow tree speed: one/third of an inch per second, instead of the milliseconds humans would register. Beeches, spruce and oaks signal neighbors when bitten. So if an oak is chewed by insects, all oaks in the area begin to pump bitter tannin through their veins.

The Wildlife Management Plan we signed onto out here in northwest Hays County, where live oaks abound, requires planting native trees and oaks other than live oaks. The goal: reduce the risk of oak wilt. So, filled with virtue, we’ve planted one-offs of the chinquapin oak, eve’s lace, osage orange, etc., carefully fenced to prevent the deer from over-browsing. Now we know those trees have been pining (heh) from loneliness. Grab the shovel, sink the fenceposts, stretch the wire! Now the lonesome redbud has a new friend, not too far up the hill, and the lonesome chinquapin is sharing its little fenced enclosure with another chinquapin. Another deep dive into secret worlds. Trees have their own plans, their own slow conversations, their own social policies.

I’m seventeen, standing at the end of the diving board at Barton Springs, staring down at the bluegreen water. Yes, so clear, but also opaque. A brilliantly bluegreen surface, reflecting live oaks, bird flight, the endless blue sky of summer. Just a few feet out, the water shivers and shimmers, the only clue that from the door twelve feet down, opening the limestone floor of the springs, millions of gallons of water surge up to feed this pool.  A stray cumulus cloud passes over the sun as, one jump, two jumps, I dive, as deep as I can, until my face hits the uprush of water power, bubble power, shooting up from the door in the floor.

It’s a secret world, the water below the surface. The feel of that water opens the door to thinking about the depth of limestone with its chutes and ladders, cracks and fractures, caves and crannies, beneath Austin. This karst world holds such surprise that I could only blink when a matter-of-fact City of Austin employee—charged with spelunking and mapping the water channels—announced that though we’re in the Colorado River watershed, sinkholes in the bottom of the Blanco send water out of the Guadalupe watershed and all the way to Barton Springs.

At my back I always hear the reader’s impatience hovering near. But I long for the deep dive, the sitting still to watch and listen and wonder, and for a resultant precise resonant description that might connect a character with this minute and also cosmic star-time. Even, or especially, in a murder mystery.


Helen Currie Foster is the author of the Alice MacDonald Greer mystery series: GHOST CAVE, GHOST DOG, GHOST LETTER, and GHOST DAGGER. She earned a BA from Wellesley College, an MA from the University of Texas, and a JD from the University of Michigan.

Having grown up in Texas surrounded by books and storytelling, she taught high school English and later became a prize-winning feature writer for a small Michigan weekly. Following a career of more than thirty years as an environmental lawyer, the character Alice and her stories suddenly appeared in Foster’s life. In her writing, Foster explores the interaction between history and the present and the reasons we tell the stories we do.

Married with two children, she lives north of Dripping Springs, Texas, supervised by three burros. She works in Austin, and she’s active with the Hays County Master Naturalists and the board of Austin Shakespeare.


Photo of rock climbing via Good Free Photos, CC0 10, public domain.
Photo of peregrine falcon via Good Free Photos, CC0 1.0, public domain.
Photo of Barton Springs, Austin, TX courtesy of M. K. Waller, 

Math, Science, and Fiction: 3 Novels That Blend Prose and Numbers

Math, Science, Fiction


Cole Smith

Post by Cole Smith


Have you ever read a book that was so good, it made you forget that you kinda-sorta hate math? I mean, I don’t hate math anymore. In fact, I like it. But that little turn-around was years of tears, dread, and self-loathing in the making.


So imagine how I felt yesterday when the proof copy of my novel, Waiting for Jacob, came in the mail. My main character, an algebra-loving private investigator, would have appreciated that the book arrived on Pi Day! And I guess the countdown to my book release, the Pi Day celebration at school, and the news of Stephen Hawking’s passing have been swirling around in my head like some sort of literary thunderstorm with flashes of math and science.

I’ve read some incredible novels that have woven math and science into the story so skillfully, they made me feel like more than an intermediate mathematician. I find the contrast between analytical thinking and expressive language as enticing as a well-played plot twist. Here are three books with an irresistible story and a math or science hook:



For young adults: A Wrinkle in Time

I was a little in awe of Meg Murray. She was many things I wasn’t—a math whiz, and bold enough to get in trouble for a good cause. (I was only in trouble once at school, and it freaked me out. I don’t have the nerves for that!) But we were both tomboys so I rooted for her as she and her gifted brother traveled the universe to rescue their dad. This is a wonderful book to pass along to girls navigating the uncertainties of middle school. I reread it every few years and you know what? I’m still a little in awe of Meg Murray.



The Beautiful Miscellaneous

A protagonist with synesthesia, a father with high expectations, and an institute full of fascinating secondary characters make this book difficult to put down! Author Dominic Smith keeps the story moving, and the plot never gets bogged down in overly-technical details.



Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Confession: I once had a crush on Dirk. And I don’t know what that says about me. But Douglas Adams’ legendary lead character has had two recent television runs, so I know I’m not the only one who finds the disheveled con-artist appealing. Throw in a little quantum tomfoolery and a reference to Samuel Taylor Coleridge (that I had to Google), and you’ve got an unhinged mess of a mystery that only Dirk can solve.



Even if it gives you the heebie-jeebies in real life, you can immerse yourself in math in the safety of a novel. Rub shoulders with algebra, have a coffee with biochemistry, even make prolonged eye contact with physics. In the chapters of a well-written work, numbers and prose can share the pages in sublime harmony. What’s your favorite math mash-up novel? Leave the title in the comments!




Cole Smith is a writer, teacher, and mountain biker in West Virginia. She enjoys good coffee and great stories. She shares inspiration, encouragement, and free resources for creative overwhelm at


Let’s get social! Find me on Facebook and Pinterest



I Started Writing…

Today Writing Wranglers and Warriors
welcomes a new blogger,
novelist and consultant Keri De Deo.


 Posted by Keri De Deo

I started writing Nothing but a Song at the age of 14. I played violin and sang in the choir, and my mom, a musician and music teacher, told me about Ludwig van Beethoven, who had gone deaf in his early 20s. Horrified, I wondered how anyone could survive such a tragedy. How did Beethoven continue making music? I couldn’t imagine being deaf and still being able to sing and play violin. I couldn’t imagine how life could continue.

With that in mind, I started writing the story of a fictitious girl named Rebecca Kendall, who would lose her hearing at the young age of 19. She was a musician, same as me, but she wanted to be a singer. “Not a rock star, but someone special,” she reveals to her friend Stefan.

I think at some point in all of our lives, we dream of being a rock star. We bring that brush or comb up to our mouths and sing along to our favorite song. We imagine the cheering crowd and the fame of being on stage. I wasn’t any different, so I gave a similar dream to the protagonist in my story.

She wrote her own songs, played piano and guitar, and sang in her church choir for as long as she could remember. I described how she struggled to come to terms with losing her hearing, and I showed her anger and depression as best as I could. I gave her technology to help her sing—to help her know whether she was in key or in rhythm. At the time, those tools didn’t exist—well, not like I had imagined them. So, I put the story away, figuring it would never see the light of day.

At 17, I picked up the story again and made changes to the character, the storyline, the ending. I played with the descriptions and the character. I crossed out lines and rewrote some of the songs. I read it to my friends who liked the story, but didn’t think a handheld computer that could listen to tones and keep a person on key was very realistic. Again, I put it away.

For over 30 years, I carried that story with me through countless moves across the country: Arizona, Nebraska, Sweden, Wyoming. Despite the fact that it was buried in a 50-gallon tub full of my notebooks and writing, the story stuck with me. In 2016, I dug it out again after mentioning it to a publisher.

“I need good stories,” she had lamented to me as we discussed the latest book I was editing for her. She hadn’t met her publishing goal, and she was looking for stories to publish. Hesitantly, I mentioned my story. “I love it!” She said. “Send it to me.” I did. I warned her it was in bad shape—that it was handwritten in the scrawl of a teenager. She didn’t care. She loved the concept, so I dug my story out of that box, scanned it into the computer, and sent it on its way.

I waited with increasing anxiety. I worried about it being good enough. Eventually I received an email with my manuscript typed up in rough form. The excitement began. But it needed a lot of work before it would be ready. There were plot holes, inconsistencies, misspelled words, and old clichés. I read it, made changes, updated the technology, and read it again. Now, a handheld computer wasn’t impossible. I gave my character a smartphone and researched apps that she could use. I added characters and more modern descriptions, and when I felt satisfied, I sent it back to the publisher. It took nearly a year, several edits, two galley proofs, and several Skype conversations, but I had a book. I never thought a story I wrote at 14 would be published.

I’m glad I didn’t throw it away. I’m glad I didn’t listen to my friends who said technology like I described in my story would never exist. I’m glad I didn’t listen to the negative voice in my head and the naysayers who said I would never get published.

I look at that 50-gallon tub in the garage and wonder what else is in there.


Keri De Deo, owner of Witty Owl Consulting, lives in northern Arizona and works as a writer, editor, researcher, and instructional designer. She is author of the young adult novel NOTHING BUT A SONG, released December 5, 2017. She loves technology and finding innovative tools for a happy, healthy life. Keri spends her free time with her husband kayaking, hiking, and walking her two beautiful dogs: Maiya and Lilla. To learn more about Keri, visit her website!

My Life: Humdrum but Useful

 Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeupThis post is by M. K. Waller

Where do writers get their ideas?

More to the point, where do I get my ideas?

When I blog, most of them are drawn from my life–things I’ve done, seen, heard, read about, or been told by trusted sources. It may take a while to choose one from the chaos that is my brain–my topic changed four times while I was composing this post.

But experts say, “Write what you know.”

So I do.

I’ve blogged about

a pebble changing the universe

extremism and the cat under the bed

pajamas and the Google fiber men 

Pajamas © Kathy Waller

no-cow branding

the life of an artist, parts I and II

hansel, gretel, cuthbert, and me

a parboiled goose

IMG_2679 (3)
Biting cat © Kathy Waller

a cat bite

eye of tot and toe of tad

feral chickens

my weird husband

Weird husband. © Kathy Waller

petting zoos and Methodists

girdles and teeth

going to Paris

starving in Paris

squirrels and seduction

W. F. Ward

a kiss

Everything on the list comes directly from my life. Humdrum as it is, it supplies little anecdotes I can share–even the errors, falls, parboiling, and girdles.

But my fictional characters are different.

They lurk in trees, find Mama cooking with ground glass, set fire to buildings…

I have never done any of those things, thank goodness.

Where did those ideas come from?

I don’t know. I’ll deal with that in a future post.

As soon as I’ve found the answer.


M. K. Waller aka Kathy Waller, writes short stories. Her latest, “When Cheese Is Love”, appears in Austin Mystery Writers’ second crime fiction anthology, LONE STAR LAWLESS. She blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly.

Dream Closet (Fiction) by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Abbie J. Taylor 010Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

Monique let herself into David’s apartment with the key she still had, although they broke up the week before. She patted her stomach, as a wave of doubt hit her. Yes, she was doing the right thing, she told herself. David was the father of her child, but he was too down to earth. An accountant who made a lot of money, he would probably expect her to be a stay at home wife and mother.

On the other hand, Mike was cool, a singer/songwriter with a band who hoped to reach the top of the bestseller list one day. If she married him, he wouldn’t care what she did as long as she made him happy in bed. If he recorded an album and went on tour, she could travel with him, and that would be fun for her and the baby. Now, all she needed to do was collect the picture David refused to return and leave the key, and she would be done with him.

The photo still sat on the mantle. It was taken several months earlier while David and Monique were on the beach. Monique gave her cell phone to a passing tourist who agreed to snap the shot. As a surprise for David’s birthday, she had it printed and framed.

She picked it up and studied it one last time, her in her purple bikini with long dark hair cascading in waves down her back, and him in his black swimming trunks, as they embraced on the sand. She was about to put it in her purse and replace it with the key when she was startled to hear David’s voice in the hall outside the apartment followed by a woman’s voice she thought she recognized. She set the photo back on the mantle, made a mad dash for the living room closet, and stepped inside, closing the door behind her just as the key turned in the lock on the apartment door.

Enveloped by coats in the closet’s dark interior, she heard the unmistakable voice of her best friend Lynne. “I can’t believe I’m doing this. All I wanted was to tell you the truth about Monique and the baby.”

Monique couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Lynne was supportive the week before when Monique told her what she planned to do. “Oh, that’s so hard for you,” Lynne said. That was what she always said when Monique was going through tough times.

“Don’t think about that now,” said David. “Sit down. Take a load off. I’ll fix you a drink. What would you like?”

“Oh, just a Scotch and soda is fine, and don’t mind if I do take off these shoes. My feet are killing me.”

Monique heard ice clinking in glasses and other sounds that told her David was making drinks in the kitchen. “You really ought to get rid of that picture,” said Lynne.

“You mean the one on the mantle of me and Monique? I think I’ll hold onto it for a while.”

“David, she lied to you about your child. I don’t know why I’ve been friends with her for so long. All she wants to do is have a good time. She has no sense of responsibility whatsoever.”

Monique strained in an attempt to see more through the keyhole and barely made out David coming into the living room with two glasses. “You’re right,” he said, as he set them on the coffee table. “Now, come here, you silly goofball.”

“Not with her smiling down on us from your mantle,” said Lynne. Monique heard a resounding crash.

“Oh well, I didn’t like that picture, anyway,” said David.

Tears filled Monique’s eyes, as she heard the sound of the frame’s pieces being swept into a dust pan. “How about some music?” he said a minute later.

“Great idea,” said Lynne.

The strains of “Only Time” by Enya soon filled the room. It was playing on the stereo the night David proposed to Monique a month earlier. David knew that and so did Lynne. She couldn’t see them through the keyhole and assumed they were snuggled on the couch with their drinks.

“So how did such a sensible woman like you end up being friends with a worldly girl like Monique?” asked David.

“I’m not that unworldly,” said Lynne with a laugh. “I like to go to clubs once in a while. Remember? Monique introduced us at The Jaybird where Mike Evans and his band were playing.”

“That’s right,” said David with a chuckle. “What was I thinking?”

“Monique and I have been friends since childhood. She’s changed over the years, and I didn’t see that until last week when she told me she wanted to marry Mike even though you’re her baby’s father. She says you’re too conservative, and Mike’s in the moment. I guess I can’t blame her. She had a rough childhood. Her dad left without a word when she was about five or six, and her mother’s an alcoholic.”

“Monique told me all that. You’d think she would want her kid to have a more stable family. What kind of life is this kid going to have with neither parent holding a steady job, waiting for that big recording contract that might never come?”

“I don’t know,” said Lynne with a sigh.

“Well, I’m not about to stand by and let that happen, especially if the kid is mine. I have an appointment with a lawyer tomorrow morning. I don’t know what I can do legally, but I’m sure as hell gonna find out.”

Monique gasped, then clamped a hand over her mouth, hoping she hadn’t been heard. ”There should be a way you can force her to have a blood test to determine if the baby is yours,” said Lynne. “Who knows? It could be Mike’s. Perish the thought.”

“Let’s not talk about it anymore,” said David. “Dance with me.”

The couple came into view through the keyhole. Monique gazed in fascination, as their bodies swayed to the music. Lynne said, “Oh David, I’ve always loved you since the night Monique introduced us. I didn’t want to steal you away from her until now.”

“I love you, too, but I’m probably on the rebound from Monique.”

“That doesn’t matter now. Ummmm!” Monique felt sick, as she heard David and Lynne kissing just inches from the closet door.

“Good morning,” said the radio announcer. “It’s thirty-one minutes after six on a sunny Monday, fifty-five degrees, looking for a high near eighty.”

Monique leaped out of bed and dashed to the bathroom where she hung over the toilet and let it all out. “Damn this morning sickness.”

David was there, placing a cool hand on her forehead. “Hey babe, I’m sorry,” he said.

“I’ll be okay,” she said, leaning into him, feeling the reassuring warmth of his body and pressing her face against his. “I wish we didn’t have to go to work today.”

“You have a good reason to stay home,” he said, kissing her. “and I don’t have anything at the office that can’t wait till tomorrow.”

“You mean that?”

“Sure,” said David. “Come on, let’s go back to bed.”


The above story appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders.


Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems



Equal Pay, Equal Lines



Travis Richardson_5x7_300dpi (1) by Travis Richardson


Happy Equal Pay Day! Today is equal pay day in America. That means that from April 12 going forward, women will make the same amount as men for the rest of the year. The previous four months and 11 days women have been essentially working for free compared to their male counterparts. For every dollar a man makes, a woman on average makes 79¢ doing the same work. There is even more disparity when race comes into the equation.

Since I employ nobody in the world, there isn’t much I can do except bring awareness to this issue. I should also note that as a dude, I have awful negotiating skills for my own self interest and have probably been underpaid for work many times. Equal pay for equal work is a no-brainer. It’s good for everybody: you, me, her and him.  

In similar news, yesterday I saw an amazing body of research that confirms what everybody knows about movies, that they skew towards men’s roles. But I had no idea how lopsided it was until Hanah Anderson and Matt Daniels analyzed 2000 screenplays and came up with this amazing and shocking data set:

In today’s world it seems that facts don’t matter to a lot of people, just spout of an opinion with conviction and people might believe it’s true. Research takes time and effort. Anderson and Daniels sifted through those scripts tagging male and female lines and getting a word count for everybody. While they admit that movies change on the set with improvisation and last minute changes or scenes are cut in the editing room, scripts still represent most of what goes on the screen. Here is the breakdown.“>

I knew the numbers would be skewed towards men, especially with war and prison movies in the mix, but not 1500+ out of 2000. I could go on, but seriously look at the site:

So this leads me to my point above where I said I can’t do anything about women’s equality in pay. I don’t write or direct major motion pictures, but what I do in my not-day job is write fiction. Crime fiction primarily. Although I haven’t analyzed my works very deeply, it’s safe to safe say most of my work is male centric. Not all, but a majority.  (Over the past couple of years I’ve been more inclusive including a story coming out on April 15 in Yellow Mama and another later this winter with female protagonists.)

So I asked myself why. It’s too easy to say I’m a male and I know men better. That might have been the case, but I write fictional characters, so they can be who I want them to be. It could be that most of my stories have violence in them. Perhaps I don’t want to hurt a woman on the page or I think women are smarter than men and wouldn’t let situations escalate to guns or fists or whatever implement of destruction are used in the plot. Regardless, it is something for me think about as I continue to write.

Anything that you think is missing your works?


smaller Lost in Clover for webthuglit13Girl-Trouble-225x300ADR #4 V3Scoundrels_final_coverdarkcornersvol.1issue2Keeping_The_Record-final_1024x1024shotgun honeyjewishnoircoverthuglit 21




Post copyright 2015 by Doris McCraw

hhj spc 3

I think two-year olds are on to something. Why? Why! Why.  Why is why so important? For someone like me, when I ask the why I am able to focus on the stories. I also share some of the whys that create the content on this blog.

Why do I not always post my photo? Sometimes my words are more important than someone seeing what I look like. I want the words, the topic, to be the focus, not my cute blond face. As an actor, my face has been plastered all over, it’s not that important. Secondly, after spending twenty years working with the criminal element, I like to keep my identity my own.

Why do I write mainly about women and history? The stories are too important to be lost. We tend as a society to focus on what the men did in creating this country. I’m not saying they didn’t do wonderful things, but you know what, so did the women. I also would prefer that history treat women based on the time they lived in and not try to put our concepts on their lives and lifestyle. Instead of saying Ann Bassett was a wild woman, it might be better to say she wasn’t going to fit the norm of what ‘Victorian’ women were. She lived on a ranch for heaven’s sake. (If you want to know more : )

12-31-2012 new years eve 325

Why do I use a pen name for my fiction? As a writer, I don’t care if people know my pen name is Angela Raines. I do care about my non-fiction and want my readers to know what they are getting when they purchase one of my works. To me the way to keep the Historic Romance Fiction separate from the True History, is to have two names. For my latest fiction work, you can pre-order at Amazon –

Why do I write haiku? It started as a writing practice to put the seat in the chair and get the creative vibe going. What I found was, I love the practice of putting a concept into a structured form, and adding my photography. What started as a practice has become a deep fondness for the process. I would say it has to be, I about one hundred short of a thousand. To read a few and take a glance at some of the photos –

Now you know why the word why is a big part of my life. For someone who is in the public eye almost all the time, I am a private person and like it that way. Why? Maybe for another time.

Take some time to answer your own whys. You may be surprised and what you find.

home for his heart angela raines

also available as an ebook on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

Doris Gardner-McCraw/Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History

Author Page:

Photo and Poem:

L is for Laughter


This post by Craig Snider.

When I think back on all the best books, movies, and stories I’ve ever been exposed to, there is one thing that stands out no matter what the genre may have been. Since you’ve already read the title, you know what that thing is.

Why is it that laughter has such an impact on us? Simple. Our brains are hardwired to reward certain behaviors, like food, sex, laughter, and anything that releases endorphins. Because, when we get right down to it, our brains are like a spoiled little three year old on sugar-crack that throws a tantrum until it gets what it wants. And, when it gets what it wants, it gives you a treat to

“Oh, banana. You so funny.”

keep those things coming. Okay, so it is more like a drug dealer that will hurt you unless you try their stuff, then you get addicted and have to come back for more.  Activating the reward center of the brain is a great way to quickly engage someone. That is why most women say they appreciate a man’s sense of humor and will overlook my, I mean “his,” lesser qualities, like–you know, his face, or spindly arms, or his somewhat feminine overall physique… Be right back. I need to get a tub of Haggen-Dasz.

Okay. What was I saying? Oh yes, laughter. Humor is absolutely essential in modern culture. While humor may not necessarily be universal, it is present in nearly every society on the planet, and presmuably elsewhere. Though, I’m sure the fact that the insect-like Zeebldorx of RX-243 love to peel the soft flesh from other animals might not seem so funny to us, they think it is downright side-splitting.

Some of my favorite horror movies are either outright hilarious (Evil Dead, Dead Alive, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil), or have very dark humor (Re-Animator, Slither, Cabin in the Woods). Even “The Shining” had some very humorous scenes. And really, who didn’t want to beat Wendy’s head in with a bat? tumblr_nm7hcmDVI51r745vdo7_500

Adding humor to your work, no matter the genre, takes it to another level for the reader. Some authors take themselves and their work way, WAY too seriously. Don’t be that guy, or girl, or Zeebldorxian. No one likes them. They are pretentious, annoying, and their work reeks of it.

When you make your reader laugh, you will activate those pleasure centers in their brain, creating a strong memory link that will keep you and your story in their minds for a long time. I’ve read a lot of good books. But, the ones I remember are really well written, and often humorous.

The problem then, is how do you inject humor into your writing? Well, the first thing is not to force it. There is nothing worse than someone TRYING to be funny. Believe me, I know. Have you read my posts before? It takes lots of practice. The first step is don’t take yourself too seriously. Writing is hard work, and if you don’t approach it with some levity you’ll end up as that guy who corners people at a party, forcing them to listen to his terrible novel’s synopsis, all the while oblivious to the fact they have already slit their wrists and written a suicide note to their children in their own blood. Poor Jimmy. He’ll never get a chance to disappoint his parents…

As you are writing, you will often find places where a joke or scene comes to mind that makes you laugh. Don’t resist it. Put it in, especially if it is a rough draft. You can always edit, tweak, or remove it later. Let it breathe for a bit first. Of course, this greatly depends on the style of your writing. If you are a “serious” writer, shoot yourself. Sorry, I mean–no, shoot yoursef. If your writing style is “heavy,” that’s fine. Be subtle with your humor, and make it come from the characters and the scenes, not, I REPEAT, not from the narrator. That is a terrible mistake unless you are a writer whose work is intended to be satirical.

It is a fine balance to maintain for serious genres, but it can be done, and the benefits will be immense. The best part is, that when done correctly the reader may not even realize that is why they remember you story so well. Instead, they’ll say something like, “that was really well written,” or “I just loved the characters,” or “please don’t Facebook stalk me anymore. It is just weird when you like a picture from seven years ago…”

Try it. Start small, say for example, in a series of blog posts, or an article, or just in your Facebook statuses. Force yourself to be funny. As a writer, you already see the world differently. Now all you have to do is teach yourself to see the funny in the world around you. Believe me, it is there. If you’re having trouble seeing something funny, do what I do every morning. Look in the mirror.

Down Memory Lane

propic11_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

I don’t outline my books. I guess you’d call me a spontaneous writer. But I do write out a few notes for reference. The following is how I would write the notes for an autobiography. I could write for years on the memories these facts evoke.

I am the eldest of four children. Two sisters, two years apart, followed me. We got a brother when I was eight and we were all thrilled.

One of my first memories is of sitting on my mother’s lap listening to a book she read to me. She always had time to sit down with any of us to do something we liked.readingbaby

Another memory is music, falling in love with it when, at the age of two my father put me on a picnic table at our family reunion, picked up his guitar, and said, “Sing for everybody Linda.” And sing I did. I loved it.

My Father was a day run truck driver when I was born. When I turned one, he bought me a teddy bear, came home and told my mom he had quit the trucking job. He couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing me grow up. He got another job the following day that mybearallowed him to be home evenings and weekends. I still have my bear, and although his fur is worn and he has embroidered eyes (because I ate the beaded ones) he still sits on my nightstand to this day, a memory of simpler times and childhood.

When I was five my mother taught me to sew – simple things by hand. It wasn’t long before I moved on to the sewing machine, winning several ribbons in 4-H during my teen years. A friend taught me embroidery, another taught me knitting, and still another taught me to crochet. I feel as if I’ve sewn my whole life and I enjoy each and every project.  If you’re interested in learning more about 4-H here is a link:



Until I was six we lived across from an apple-canning factory. I can still smell the odor of the fresh apples and the decay when the season was done. For my sixth birthday I got a baby buggy and was I excited! So excited, in fact, that I plunked my baby into the buggy buggyand took off for Grandma’s house to show it to her. Grandma lived across a busy highway and when I got to her house she brought me straight home. Like a dog with a bone, I spent the next month staring at our hall closet, where the buggy had been put on a top shelf so that I would learn a lesson. That incident was harder than getting a spanking.

We moved when I was six and again when I was nine.   My memories of the first house are great, because there was a lake at the end of our road and even though my Mother couldn’t swim a lick, she took us there every lifeguardsummer day and allowed us to play in the water. I’m sure I got my love of swimming and later, my Certified Red Cross Life Guard badge because of those magical afternoons. When we moved to the next house (a renovated funeral parlor) we spent our summers at Red Cross Swimming lessons, bused back and forth the three miles to the lake. What sunny days those were! Here is a link to the official Red Cross swimming site (although I don’t see the Lifeguard class listed any more.

My sisters and I loved to play dress-up and walk around the block.

dressup Mom took us every once in a while to a thrift store to get things, and one of my aunts regularly gave us clothes, hats, shoes and jewelry to play in. My favorite costume was an evening dress with long gloves to match. It was chartreuse and made of satin. I felt very beautiful (like a princess) every time I wore it.

In the sixth grade I became a cheerleader, something I tried but didn’t like. I’d rather be on the sidelines sneaking a look at whichever book I was reading at the time.  Here is a link to some interesting benefits of kids reading books:;_ylt=A0LEVylvrLRUe4kAr85XNyoA?p=benefits+of+reading+for+children&.sep=&fr=yfp-t-472

That sixth grade year I also began school music classes. Until that time we had chorus in our classroom for half an hour each morning, belting out such classics as “Oh My Darling Clementine”. I cherished those times. I got a part in a musical put on by our class. It was heady stuff!

trophyIn the seventh grade I won the County Spelling Bee. My parents were very proud, and so was I, because I won a book and a trophy to display in my school. Since I inhaled books, as much as the air I breathed, the prize couldn’t have thrilled me more.

When I started band, we didn’t have a lot of money so a friend offered me a clarinet. I played it until I was about 15. We movedbandagain that year and because I had to give the clarinet back I decided to take drums. The school provided them and I could use a practice board at home. My Dad’s boss offered me an Alto Sax that his sons didn’t want to play, so my band teacher got me started on that, and all through high school I played the drums if we marched in a parade (my sister played drums too), and altosaxthe Alto Sax when we did concerts. In addition, I played in a 5-piece Recorder ensemble. Our little school band placed top in the Northern Michigan region my senior year and we were elated. My band teacher always made me feel like I could play anything.

I never loved sports, but did well in softball, track, and basketball. Books and music were so much more important.

My best friend was a preacher’s daughter and her family had horses. We had many good times together riding through the fields and ridingwoods near her home. Once we even saw a black bear! Lucky for me I was a pretty good rider by then because my horse got spooked and headed off to no man’s land with me hanging on like a cocklebur.

I watched stars on summer nights, played in the leaves in the fall and tobogganed and ice skated in the winter with my siblings. My favorite season was spring, because I leavescould get my bike out of the garage and ride all over, inhaling the sweet scent of apple blossoms and lilacs and the sharp tang of pine trees. There was still a chill in the air and wild geese honked overhead as they came back to the pond where they summered. I loved watching the trees bud and the thought that the end of school was near (even though I loved school).

There is so much more I could tell you about my childhood but I’ll stop here. As I write this and remember, I realize what a fairy-tale childhood I had. A mom and dad, three siblings, Freckles, the dog, and a cat. But most of all we were blessed with love.threegirls

Do you take time to remember your past? What are some of your favorite childhood memories? Do you use them in your writing? I do.

Books by L.Leander:

INZARED, Queen of the Elephant Riders





INZARED, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)





Video Trailer for INZARED, Queen of the Elephant Riders:


Video Trailer for INZARED, The Fortune Teller


13 Extreme Tips to Self Publishing




13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an eBook





L.Leander’s Website:


L.Leander’s Reviews and Interviews:


Amazon Author Page:


Facebook Page: