Chocolates For Life And Advice On Writing


This article is not actually all about chocolate, although it looks delicious, and I definitely need more in my diet for nutritional purposes ONLY.

No, this article is about writing.

I had to go to some really smart people to get advice on how to write.

Thanks to these really smart people. I hope you have a box of chocolates today: Amy Guertin Reichert, Amy Nathan, Susan Gloss Parsons, Kaira Sturdivant Rouda, Weina Dai Randel, Eileen Goudge, Ellen Urbani, Lisa Barr, Sally Koslow Nicole Lynn Baart, Kerstin Carlson March, Brandi Megan Granett, Katie Rose Sandra Block and Sonja Yoerg.

Chocolates For Life And Advice On Writing

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Golfing and Writing And Throwing Clubs In A Lake

(Printed in Writers In the Storm: http://writersinthestormblog.com/)

I recently started golfing. My husband (nicknamed “Innocent Husband” because the poor man can never be held responsible for what his wife says or writes), made me.

He has been hoping I would golf with him for over two decades.

I have resisted. Even thinking about trying to put a tiny white ball into a tiny hole hundreds of yards off made my brain want to bust open and shriek.

But Innocent Husband recently bought me clubs, smiled endearingly, and I caved.

I am a terrible golfer. No one told me that golf balls have evil brains. No one told me that the golf ball will do whatever it wants to do no matter how I swing the club. I have hit trees and almost Innocent Husband. I have hit my ball into grass so deep, and so far off course, it took ten minutes to find it.

But I love it. Unbelievably. Miraculously. I love it. As I love writing.

So let me link golfing and writing if I can. I think they have some things in common besides swear words.

1) Practice Swinging and Scribbling . Golfing takes practice. It’s going to take a lot of practice for me to get the ball to go straight instead of heading straight towards the sand pit. Writing does, too. It takes practice for beginners and for people who have won The National Book Award. You must write. Write and edit your manuscript, but write an article or a blog, too. If you like poetry, write a poem. Write a letter. Write on your computer, write by hand in a beautiful journal. Write in a whole new genre. Write.

2) Analyze and Dissect. You need to analyze your golf swing so you don’t keep swinging and swinging…and the golf ball is still sitting there cackling meanly up at you from the tee.

You need to analyze your own work. Don’t tell yourself you’re terrible, but take a hard, deep, honest look at your plot. Will it find an audience? Who is your audience? Is the plot, truly, interesting? What about the characters? Are they unique, compelling, funny, maddening or diabolical? If they need to be likable, are they likable? What about the pacing of your book? Slow pacing kills a plot. I have seen this a hundred times. Is your plot moving right along?

What about the dialogue? Is it realistic? Is it flat out amusing or threatening or thought provoking or utterly sincere? Does it tell the reader about the personality of the characters? Are you using the setting and weather to enhance the plot? Are there character arcs? Will your story evoke emotion in the reader? Will it make them laugh or cry or think or all three? It should.

3) Get Outside and Groove. You need to get outside to golf unless you want to break a window and you need to get outside to write. On nice days I set my computer up on my table in my back yard. Hiking helps. Walking helps. Going to the lake or the beach or the mountain helps. (Don’t golf in the mountains.) You need to get a different perspective and being outside will help you think through your work.

4) Learn from others, like I learn from Innocent Husband when he’s coaching me on the golf course and telling me not to treat the golf ball as the enemy. Read your favorite authors and take their work apart. Why do you like their books? How can you put those elements in your own work? I have learned from Geraldine Brooks, Alice Walker, James McBride, Bailey White, Kaye Gibbons, etc. If you read a book you didn’t like, why? What can you do to make sure you don’t repeat that author’s mistake?

5) Never throw your golf clubs in the lake. Too expensive. Never quit writing if it’s something you love to do. Never.

Good luck. I mean that, I do.

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A Teeny, Tiny Lie About Golfing

For years I told Innocent Husband, an avid golfer, that I would golf with him when I retired.

That was deceptive.

I have no plans to retire from writing. I like daydreaming while slugging down coffee and translating daydreams into stories.

I told him that teeny, tiny marital lie because I didn’t want to golf.

For me, a person who is not very patient, trying to put a tiny white ball into a tiny hole in the ground from hundreds of yards away is my idea of mental mayhem and emotional chaos.

I pictured myself hurdling my club into the sky in frustration and accidentally hitting a sweet duck flying overhead.

I pictured myself as one of those crazy people who heaves their clubs into a pond and then stumbles in after them.

But then Innocent Husband, who so wants me to golf with him, broke the agreement about retirement/golfing.

He got a sweetheart of a deal on golf clubs, secretly signed me up for lessons with two of my girlfriends, and voila. I’m out on the driving range.

Susan and Debbie and I looked at each other in disbelief that first day. How did we get here? What the heck happened? They are also non-golfers and were tricked into this game by their husbands.

I was terrible. What was this stick thing I was gripping? Why did the ball go sailing off to the right instead of straight? I actually managed to hit one ball almost straight up into the air. Another three feet and I would have had a black eye or no nose.

Innocent Husband, delighted at my attempts, took me out on the golf course.  I swung and missed hitting that bad ball, sitting on the tee, mocking me, laughing at me, numerous times.

I sent one ball careening into someone’s backyard. I hit three trees, as if the trees were my enemy. I darn near smacked Innocent Husband with a golf ball and did not yell, “Fore!” because I didn’t know I was supposed to.

In addition, putting is a mystery. I seem to have to whack every ball as far as I can, as if speed is of the essence.

But a funny thing happened: I loved it.

Yes, I love golf. I don’t have the cute, spiffy golf clothes that women wear. I am wearing an old orange golf shirt of my husband’s and green shorts I’ve had for at least five years. So no cutesy skort for me with a matching collared shirt.

But I’ve learned something:  I really need to try more new things. I have been swamped with writing, raising kids, a house and garden, and a whole bunch of other stressful “life stuff” that unfortunately comes down the pike for all of us.

Which led me to this question, especially since I am now an empty-nester: What else should I try? What else would be interesting or entertaining or just flat out new?

What  hobbies or interests do you want to try? What adventures do you want to have? What countries or states do you want to visit?

I’m makin’ my list and checkin’ it twice.

Have a wonderful summer.

















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Short, Sweet, Happy Beach Reads

If you like short stories, that I PROMISE will end happy, try these. I have a story in each anthology.

I tried to put a lot of humor in because I think we women all need to laugh. I LOVED writing these modern-day, real women, real men romances.

I think I’m a romantic at heart. My husband might disagree, but I do TRY. And trying counts, right?




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On Writing With Passion

My latest column on writing in Ms. Career Girl…


There is a very boring piece of advice for not-yet published writers that floats around the writing community and it is this: Write what you know.

To that I ask: Why?

If you want to write about what you know, do so. If you don’t, don’t.

Do not limit yourself. Do not fence your ideas for your book into you and your life.

Do not clip your own literary imagination.

Do not require of yourself all knowledge before embarking upon writing a book you are desperate to write. That’s what research is for. That’s what interviewing people is for. That’s what reading is for. That’s what letting your imagination go stark wild and crazy is for.


On Writing With Passion

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Using Scissors On My New Novel

Just another Monday, cutting up a new novel…

Is it strange to cackle while wielding scissors?

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Pearl Was The Miracle My Mother Needed

Pearl was a miracle.

The miracle arrived in 1983 with a smile and a wave when she was desperately needed. I am convinced she was a gift from the angels to my mother.

My grandpa, Thomas Cecil, who had a hole in his nose from cancer, was dying.

The man who was born a poor Arkansas farm boy with ten siblings who ended up building homes all over Los Angeles with his brothers, was refusing to go to the doctors. He didn’t like, or trust, doctors and their newfangled medicines.

He was also refusing to allow my mother to put him in a care home because he didn’t trust that, either, and he was refusing to leave his condo to live with us.

Thomas Cecil was a stubborn, hard-charging man who had soft spots for his wife, his daughter, and his grandchildren, but he was dying and he would do it the way he wanted to do it, at home, dang it all to hell, stop bothering me, leave me alone.

But my grandpa’s stubbornness took a toll on my mother, his devoted daughter. Bette Jean could not be his full time care giver, in his home, and that’s what he needed – full time care.

My mother’s challenges in life at that time were huge.

She was not only a full time English teacher, she had four teenagers, in various states of rebellion, and a father who was critically ill whom she saw many times a week in his condo – making that 40 minute drive both ways.

My mother told me that before she went to teach school at my junior high, she would often cry in the shower for her dying father. As soon as she walked into school, though, that bright smile went on because her students needed her.

She was doing right by everyone as a mother, wife, and daughter, and as a teacher, and she was utterly exhausted.

(You may well relate to my mother’s exhaustion.)

But things deteriorated rapidly for my grandpa. He was forced into the hospital, the doctors told him and my mother there was nothing they could do, the cancer was all over, and it was about palliative care only.

He could not go home to his condo, that was now an impossibility, and he had to have full time care. My mother and father started looking for places for him to go, but none was right, none was caring enough, all were too far.

And then Pearl came into our lives.

She moved in right next door to us with that smile and a wave.
Pearl was about sixty five. White hair, built a little like a Mack truck, full make up, a steel magnolia from the south with a huge heart.

And, here’s the miracle: She ran a private care home for the elderly.

Exactly when my mother was exhausted and drained, Pearl and her clean, safe care home arrived. You could almost hear those angels’ wings swooshing through the air between our houses.

My mother immediately moved my protesting grandpa from the hospital into the private care home twenty feet from our front door.

We visited that first day, my sister and me, and my Grandpa was rather rude to Pearl, if I do say so myself. It was way out of character. I had never heard him speak rudely to a woman, that just wasn’t done in his Southern gentleman side of the world. But he was terminally ill and in a ton of pain from the cancer that was eating him.

The next day, well, all I can say is that Pearl The Steel Magnolia had shaped my Grandpa up. Pearl took no lip from anyone, including older men who were dying, and she let Thomas Cecil know that.

I think she drugged him up pretty good, too, bless her southern heart, so he was feeling no pain, and therefore his better nature came back.

She took charge of that stubborn man, told him what was what, and from then on out they got along like bees and honey.

My grandpa, a widower, later asked Pearl to marry him. I don’t know if he meant it or if it was the pain killers talking. She did cheerfully decline.

My grandpa wasn’t in the care home for very long. Weeks maybe? A few months? But for my mother, Pearl was a gift. Instead of teaching all day, handling four teenagers, then driving to see her ill father in a care home he would have hated, and complained about extensively, or the dreaded hospital he avoided all his life, she walked next door.

I could feel my Grandpa dying as I sat in my bedroom late one night. I walked over to Pearl’s and joined my tearful mother, and he was gone. We all cried. We loved our Grandpa.

What was interesting, yet again, was that it wasn’t long after my grandpa died that Pearl disappeared. She just moved out. The angel flew off.

Pearl was there when my Grandpa and mother desperately needed her, and then she was gone.

Yes, I do believe in miracles. They come in different forms, I think. Sometimes it’s a miraculous event. Sometimes it’s a cure. Sometimes it’s a person.

It is always a mystery.

Wishing you all the beauty of miracles when you need them.

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Mrs. Insomnia and I

This is what Mrs. Insomnia does to me.

I quit writing at two in the morning last night and couldn’t sleep until 7:30. My mind is a fuzzy, clanging, grumpy mess when I finally drag myself back to my computer.

I say only one long, very bad word when I look at what I’ve written and believe it to be, currently, total trash.

I begin to contemplate a new career as an orchid grower in central America. This reminds me that I need to garden.

Surely I can find some peace near the pink rhododendrons and magnolia tree? At the very least I can procrastinate before throwing my computer through a window.

My feet feel a bit odd, but hey, there are weeds to be pulled! Then I realize what I’ve done.

I think I need to sleep.

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$2.99, on Kindle, What I Remember Most

$2.99 on kindle, on sale for a little bit of time.

This is a book about a woman named Grenadine Scotch Wild. She wished she knew why her parents gave her that name…


Chapter One

I hear his voice, then hers. I can’t find them in the darkness. I can’t see them through the trees. I don’t understand what’s going on, but their horror, their panic, reaches me, throttles me. They scream the same thing, “Run, Grenadine, run!”

It’s them.

Chapter Two

I needed to hide for awhile. To do that, I had to change my appearance.

I went to a cheap hair salon and had them cut six inches off, to the middle of my shoulder blades, then I had them cut a fringe of bangs. I went home and dyed my hair back to its original auburn color, from the blond it had been the last ten years. I washed it, then dried it with my back to the mirror.

I turned around and studied myself. Yep. That would work.

For the last year I had been Dina Hamilton, collage artist, painter, and blond wife of Covey Hamilton, successful investor. Before that, for almost twenty years, I was Dina Wild. Now I would be Grenady, short for Grenadine Scotch Wild, my real name, with auburn hair, thick and straight.

Yes, I was named after ingredients in drinks.

It has been a curse my whole life. There have been many curses. I am cursed now, and I am packing up and getting the hell out of town.

Central Oregon was a good place for me to disappear from my old life and start a new one. I drove south, then east, the fall leaves blowing off the trees, magenta, scarlet, gold, yellow, and orange. It would be winter soon. Too soon.

I stopped at the first small town. There were a few shops, restaurants, and bars. It had the feel of a Main Street that was barely holding on. There were several storefronts that had been papered over, there were not a lot of people, and it was too quiet.

Still, my goals were clear, at least to me. Eat first, then find a job. I had $520.46 total. It would not last long. My credit and debit cards, and my checking, savings, and retirement accounts for my business and personal use, had been frozen.

I had the $500 hidden in my jewelry box and $20 in my wallet. The change came from under the seat of my car. To say I was in a bad place would be true. Still. I have been in far, far worse places than this. At least I am not in a cage. Sometimes one must be grateful for what is not going wrong.

I tried not to make any pathetic self – pitying noises in my throat, because then I would have pissed my own self off. I went to a park to eat some of the non perishable food I’d brought with me. I ate a can of chili, then a can of pineapple.

When I was done, I brushed my hair. I pulled a few strands down to hide one of the scars on my hairline. I put on makeup so I didn’t look so ghastly. I put extra foundation on the purple and blue bruising over my left eye, brushed my teeth out the car door, and smoothed over my shirt. I was presentable.

I took a deep breath.

This would be the first job I had applied for in many years. I started selling collages and paintings when I was seventeen, and I had not required myself to fill out an application and resume.

I looked into the rearview mirror. My car was packed full of boxes, bedding, bags, and art supplies. My skin resembled dead oatmeal.

“You can do it, Grenady.” My green eyes, which I’ve always thought were abnormally and oddly bright, were sad, tired, and beat, as if they were sinking into themselves.

“Come on, Grenady,” I snapped at my own reflection. “You got a moose up your butt? Get it out and get moving.”

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The Glamour In My Life Continues


I just finished correcting the proofs for No Place I’d Rather Be, which is out in September.

That was my eleventh edit, hear me scream. I am now truly done with that book, hear me cackle in a crazy sort of way.

To celebrate I went outside to garden and whacked off a huge branch on a rose bush that was more like a tree.

The branch swung back and bashed me in the forehead and made me bleed all over the place. The glamour in my life continues unabated…

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/No-Place-Id-Rather-Be-ebook/dp/B01N2Q59G8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1494313399&sr=1-1&keywords=no+place+i%27d+rather+be+cathy+lamb


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Cathy Lamb
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