This Is A Blog About Health, Wealth, Happiness, and Sex

My nana, Mary Kathleen, was orphaned at the age of four in Texas.

Her mother died a few weeks after my nana’s brother was born, of what they then called “blood poisoning.”

My nana’s father decided it would be best if he took off into the wild blue yonder after his wife’s death, rarely to be seen again by his abandoned children.

Mary Kathleen and her brother were shuttled from relative to relative and never felt, according to my mother, wanted. Her brother, tragically, ended up an alcoholic.

My nana met my grandpa, Thomas Cecil, one of eleven kids, a poor farm boy from Arkansas, fell in love, and got married. They had a lot in common, not all of it happy. My grandpa also lost his mother when he was about four years old. His father, a farmer and sheriff, married three times and outlived all of his wives. The eleven kids were his, hers, and theirs. There was love in that house but not much money.

In his early twenties, my grandpa, who had an eighth grade farm education, left Arkansas and headed to Los Angeles with a few brothers to build homes. They needed work, they did not want to eke out a living on a farm like their father, yanking up crops from an unforgiving earth, and they heard there was money to be made in LA. My nana left with him and the trek began.

My grandpa loved his wife and his daughter, my mother, Bette Jean, and he loved his grandkids. But, as I understand it from my mother, Grandpa had mellowed out considerably by the time his grandkids came along.

When he was a home builder in California, he was a tough, rough man who was not afraid of a full blown fight and letting his temper run around and amok when someone pushed the wrong button, or when the lumber he needed or the electrical wiring that had to be installed had not arrived on his building site.

My mother remembers my grandpa sitting down for dinner with her and her mother, white lace tablecloth ironed, silverware shiny, a properly laid table, and then getting up to take, or make, phone calls for work. “Excuse me please, Mary Kathleen,” he would say to my nana, quite calmly, as he refolded and placed his white napkin on the table.

My grandpa would then yell into the phone, swear, threaten to knock heads together, then slam the phone back into its cradle when he was done. He would sit back down at the table, place his white napkin over his lap, look at my nana across her fine, white, lace tablecloth, and say, “Mary Kathleen, this dinner is delicious,” as polite as could be.

My nana would then continue the conversation as if her husband had not just gotten up and set the phone lines on fire with his temper.

Nana might have grown up poor, but she had gentle southern manners that never failed, no matter what the situation, even when her husband got up and cursed like the devil during dinner after they had said grace and thanked God for their bounty, through Christ our Lord, amen.

Nana was a polite steel magnolia.

But the steel magnolia had a favorite saying when it was someone’s birthday that might have been outside of that polite realm. She would happily add candles to the birthday cake, counting them off as they were squished into the icing: One candle for health, one for wealth, one for happiness, and one for sex.

As most of you know, the original birthday candle saying is “one for health, wealth, happiness, and success.”

Somehow my sweet nana had missed that part and thought the wish was not for success but for sex.

When I was a teenager I remember her counting off my birthday candles as she dropped them into my cake, “Here, dear. One for health, wealth, happiness, and sex.”

This wish for sex, especially coming from my gracious nana, was pretty darn funny. As a gawky teenager with looks only a mother could love, I could only hope that one day I would have sex with a handsome man but it seemed like a remote impossibility at the time.

That my Nana wished for it for me seemed like a good omen. Maybe it would happen one day!

When I light candles on birthday cakes, I often laugh and think of my nana. It was a difficult life she led in so many ways, but she always kept her elegance, her manners, her integrity, and truly wished everyone only the best – health, wealth, happiness, and sex.

Wishing you the same.

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Journaling My Very Best Friend

I use at least four or five journals per novel.

Within the white pages I write and scribble, daydream and draw, make lists and plans and tell myself to quit whining and start writing.

I’ll write down random, jumpy thoughts and things that make me laugh.

I’ll sketch out characters and plots and subplots and the most ridiculous things.

The more problems I’m having with a book, the more journals there are.

When I’m stuck in my writing and don’t know where to go, I journal.

When I’m grinding through a twisty scene that makes my cranium crazy or I don’t know how to make it funnier, sharper, more poignant or tearful, I journal.

When I don’t know who an elusive character is or if I should kill him off because he baffles me, I journal.

I’ll let my brain go and hope that something creative falls out of it that I can use in my book.

One thing I love doing is cutting out magazine/newspaper pictures that inspire me or relate to the plot I’m working on or are just flat out interesting.

These are a few photos from my first, of many, journals for my novel, My Very Best Friend. All the photos and pictures were inspiring in some way. Some ended up, in some form, in the book, others never did.

Happy reading, happy writing, happy day to you. And if you don’t journal, try it. You might like it.


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Come Join Us On Saturday, April 16th

Writing a book? Do you like listening to authors talk and laugh about writing?

Come and join Karen Karbo, Ellen Urbani, Rene Denfeld and me as we talk about strong, flawed, wild, adorable, rebellious, opinionated, quiet, angry, smart, imperfect female characters at the book store, “Another Read Through,” in Portland, Oregon, this Saturday from 1:30 to 3:00. (Free, of course!)

Strong Female Characters

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After Each Draft, A Writer’s Voice Speaks Meanly

I edit all of my books 12 times total.

I edit each book AT LEAST eight times before I even dare to send it to my editor and agent.

By the time I’m done I’m mostly out of my own mind, muttering to myself, wandering around aimlessly, the house a wreck.

I thought you might be interested in the things I say to myself after my first draft and succeeding edits.

It’s not pretty.

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Like I said, it’s not pretty.

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A Writer’s Garden

Can you relate to all these recently bought flowers?

Do you have this problem?

The sun comes out and you don’t think about buying pretty new sandals or summer dresses, you think, “YES!!! I can’t wait to buy flowers and dig in the dirt!”

My addiction to gardening begins again….sigh….

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Last Day. My Very Best Friend. $2.99 Kindle

Last day for a steal of a deal. $2.99 on Kindle. My Very Best Friend.

Here are a few hints about the story: Two best friends. One is a time travel romance writer living like a hermit on an island off the coast of Washington. She has no romance in her life. She gets the irony of that. The other best friend is missing. Set in Scotland. Mysterious disappearance of a priest. Man in a kilt. A special garden. A stone cottage. Crazy activities with a new group of friends including lingerie bike riding. Love.


My Very Best Friend

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The Last Time I Was Me: Her Condom Revenge

I am often asked how I get my ideas for my books.

Let me tell you about a marital spat that helped to launch my second novel, The Last Time I Was Me.

I have been married for 23 years to Innocent Husband. We have had many beautiful times, and many hard times, like all other couples on the planet Earth.

Many years ago we had a tiny fight. In bed. At night. Innocent Husband had the audacity to fall asleep.

I sat up, steaming.

When I was semi – done steaming, I started thinking about the book I was supposed to be writing. I was stuck. Stuck in a rut.

I started to scheme and plan as I glared at Innocent Husband, snoozing away.

And then…aha!  I had it! I had a whopping, bopping idea.

I would have my main character, Jeanne Stewart, take creative revenge on her boyfriend when she finds out he’s cheating on her.

Jeanne’s revenge would involve a condom, an exacto knife, a hot glue gun, and peanut oil.

(Let me be clear: Innocent Husband was not cheating on me. That was not why we were having a spat. I have no idea what the spat was about now.

We have always had a known and firm rule in our marriage: If you cheat on me, Innocent Husband, you will be castrated. Now how would you like that? Always good to be upfront and honest in your marriage, me thinks.)

How did I get the part about the peanut oil for the story?

My husband is highly allergic to nuts.

When my husband later read that part in the The Last Time I Was Me about the nuts and condom did he pale slightly? Yes, I believe he did.

Poor man. That’ll teach him not to fall asleep after a spat.

Sometimes things work out in odd ways for strange writers…























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Mrs. Wilson And A Daydreaming Student

There are some teachers you don’t forget. Dee Wilson was one of those for me.

She was my eighth grade English teacher. (Highland Park friends!!) Mrs. Wilson had us writing five part essays every week. I had no idea what a five part essay was. I hardly had five independent thoughts. I probably had less than five working brain cells. I know my attention span often didn’t get to five minutes.

But there I was, every week, writing that five part essay well into the night before it was due on Friday. I chewed the tops of many pencils trying to figure out what on Earth to do.

Mrs. Wilson taught us how to write those introductory statements, she taught us how to organize a paper, make a point, write a conclusion, stick to the topic, and not blather on and on. I often had a lot of red ink on my paper when she was done with it, and I did not always get A’s. But I read the suggestions and learned from them.

You can imagine how happy I was when Mrs. Wilson came to one of my panels at the Tucson Book Festival this last weekend as I talked about my books and writing. As she was also a very, very close friend of my late mother, Bette Straight, who was an English teacher alongside Dee for years, this was an extra special visit for me.

Mrs. Wilson, you were one hell of a teacher. And yes, I know you would have told me not to use the word ‘hell’ in any of my essays, but you really were. You were a gifted teacher and helped me enormously on my road to becoming a writer. Thank you, truly. It was wonderful to see you.

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This Is A Yes

I definitely need one of these today.

Sometimes ya just need a special treat to get you going again.

And, for me, to get me writing again…


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Chatting With Author Marin Thomas About Junk And Rubies


I am handing my blog over today to author Marin Thomas.  I just read her book “The Promise of Forgiveness,” and I loved it. You need a book for a snowy day? This is it. You need a book for a vacation? Try it. You need a book because your life is stressed out and you need a break? This will be perfect. Trust me.

Now read below and find out why Marin loves JUNK and how a ruby inspired her.

MARIN THOMAS: My thanks to Cathy Lamb for sharing her blog with me today so I can talk about my favorite subject—JUNK!

One of the first questions I’m asked by readers is “Where do the ideas for your books come from?”

The answer is easy….junk.  I LOVE junk hunting. All it takes to spark my imagination is a stroll through an antique store or estate sale. Here’s the thing–I know nothing about antiques.

I just like looking at old stuff. The first thing I do when I step inside a junk shop is stand off to the side and take a deep breath. Go ahead and laugh, but the scent of dust, moldy fabric and musty books makes my heart race.

In my novel, The Promise Of Forgiveness, the heroine wears a ruby necklace which had been given to her by her adoptive parents on her sixteenth birthday. Not until years later does she learn that the piece of jewelry had been left in her hospital bassinet by her birth mother before she ran off and left Ruby behind.

The idea to incorporate a ruby necklace into this novel came from a memory. Years ago I stumbled across a beautiful ruby necklace at an antique store. It was so lovely and I went back to the display case more than once to stare at the necklace before leaving the shop.

As I studied the gemstone my mind filled with questions. Who did this necklace once belonged to? Did the woman inherit it the ruby or did her lover or husband buy it for her? And how had the piece of jewelry ended up in the display case?

Years later when I brainstormed this novel, I remembered the necklace in the antique store. I decided it was time to figure out the mystery of the ruby necklace, so I name my heroine Ruby—a woman as hard as the gemstone itself. And just like the necklace in the display case waiting to be called back to its original owner… Ruby was called home by her birth father—a man she had no idea even existed.

Sometimes all you need is a piece of junk, a bauble, an object that at first glance appears insignificant but if you look deeper and ask a few questions its story will unravel one sentence at a time.

My husband and I currently live in Houston and one of my favorite places to browse is the Texas Junk Company. The one object in the store that always draws my attention is the claw foot bathtub. When I look at the tub I imagine a single mom washing three rambunctious little boys, wondering how her life got so far off track. Or maybe the deep scratch in the side of the tub was left behind by a woman, who’d fought to save herself when her lover held her head beneath the water or maybe the chip in the porcelain happened when the tub was removed from the home of a famous…. Well, you get the idea.

Have you ever come across something unique or interesting and wondered about its past?

The Promise of Forgiveness

A novel of love, forgiveness, and the unbreakable bonds of family from award-nominated author Marin Thomas . . .

When it comes to family, Ruby Baxter hasn’t had much luck. The important men in her early life abandoned her, and any time a decent boyfriend came along, she ran away. But now Ruby is thirty and convinced she is failing her teenage daughter. Mia is the one good thing in her life, and Ruby hopes a move to Kansas will fix what’s broken between them.

But the road to redemption takes a detour. Hank McArthur, the biological father Ruby never knew existed, would like her to claim her inheritance: a dusty oil ranch just outside of Unforgiven, Oklahoma.

As far as first impressions go, the gruff, emotionally distant rancher isn’t what Ruby has hoped for in a father. Yet Hank seems to have a gift for rehabilitating abused horses—and for reaching Mia. And if Ruby wants to entertain the possibility of a relationship with Joe Dawson, the ranch foreman, she must find a way to open her heart to the very first man who left her behind.

Praise for Promise

“There’s a big promise in this book: love, redemption, and a story so gripping I couldn’t put it down.” D​ebbie Macomber, ​#1 New York Times author of S​ilver Linings

“I loved the ranch in Unforgiven, Oklahoma, the mysteries no one wants to talk about, and Ruby Baxter, who flew right off the page, fists swinging, boots tapping. She was one of those true as life characters you don’t forget.” C​athy Lamb,​ author of M​y Very Best Friend

“The Promise of Forgiveness takes a heartfelt look at the complexities inherent in familial relationships. It’s authentic, poignant, and will have you turning pages well past bedtime.” ­­E​mily Liebert,​ author of T​hose Secrets We Keep
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Cathy Lamb
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