Monday, December 15, 2014


Fear not, Gentle Writer, Mrs. Grammar Person will not abandon you, despite the fact that it is the busiest time of year and she hasn't finished making her cookies. Nay, Mrs. G.P. knows that if grammarians don't remain vigilant and make every effort to ensure clear communication, then civilization will surely fall. And, while many civilized people prefer to use the word insure instead of ensure, Mrs. G.P. assures us that ensure is preferable, unless, of course, you sell insurance.
As it is the season for childlike wonder, Mrs. G.P. stops to wonder why childlike connotes a return to happier times, while childish is an insult used for adults who embody the worst aspects of childhood, such as whining, tattling, or tantrums. This is indeed a mystery, one that we don't have the capability to solve, although we surely have the ability to use both words correctly. The words ability and capability are often used interchangeably, but are not the same. Capability usually means extremes of ability or potential ability, while ability refers to a current level of achievement or skill. Likewise, the word capacity may refer to a talent one was born with, while ability is a skill one must learn. Isn't it addictive to learn the nuances of grammar and word usage? Some would say it's addicting, and although Mrs. G.P. would applaud the sentiment, she would disagree with the word choice.
Not wanting to start an argument, our favorite grammarian would defuse the situation by offering the person one of her addictive home-baked delicacies. Her only wish is for good grammar to be diffused across the land, but, if she cannot have good grammar, she will settle for good cheer, especially during holiday time.
Speaking of time, Mrs. Grammar Person always spends some time answering e-mails from her devoted fans, as well as those from sometime grammarians, whom she refers to as dabblers. It has been some time since Mrs. G.P. received such an e-mail, but it did happen again sometime yesterday. This particular dabbler proclaimed there to be no difference between the words, everyday and every day and challenged Mrs. G.P. to prove otherwise. Always up to a challenge, our favorite phonetic fanatic rolled up her metaphorical sleeves and wrote:
            My Dear Sir,  

            It is not an everyday (ordinary, daily) occurrence for me to receive a

            request such as yours. If it happened every day, then I would have no

            time for my baking. Everyday is an adjective, while every day is an

            adjective followed by a noun. Whenever you are unsure as to which

            form to use, may I suggest that you substitute each day and, if that

            makes sense, then every day is the correct choice.  

            All the best,

            Mrs. Grammar Person 

As you might imagine, Mrs. G.P. has heard nothing further from him, not even a thank-you, but, no matter, she has much to prepare and her mind wanders farther from the rules of grammar than she would care to admit. She must choose between baking and wrapping gifts, but since decisiveness is among her many talents, she bustles off to wrap gifts.  To her consternation, she notes that the pajamas she bought for her niece are marked inflammable but that the incense she bought for her yogi is marked flammable. What unnecessary confusion! To clarify, Mrs. G.P. writes identical cards to attach to the packages. The cards make it clear that each gift will catch fire quite easily. 

Exhausted from so much activity, Mrs. Grammar Person sinks into an overstuffed chaise lounge in her drawing room. Her furniture is a soothing rose color because chintz makes her dizzy. She is startled to hear the doorbell ring and, flustered, she rushes to answer it. Who is it, but her new friend, Mr. Syntax, holding a bottle of champagne wrapped with a bow. With a broad smile and a happy glow, our favorite grammarian invites him in.

"I hope you'll pardon the intrusion," the gentleman says, shyly. "But I was in the neighborhood and wanted to bring you a holiday gift. Something as bubbly as you are."

Mrs. G.P. notices that this is no ordinary champagne, but, in fact, the most expensive French variety.  She hesitates to take the bottle.

"But, Mr. Syntax, I cannot accept something so valuable. It's too much…"

Looking crestfallen, Mr. Syntax replies, "Mrs. G.P., I consider your friendship invaluable and this is but a token of my appreciation." He looks so sad that even his moustache droops.
Our favorite grammarian has an idea. "I cannot accept this expensive gift, but I am happy to drink it with you."

"Brilliant!" he replies, bouncing back to his old self. He pops the cork while she fetches the champagne flutes.

They sit next to each other in front of the fire crackling on the hearth.

"To a beautiful friendship!" says Mr. Syntax, raising his glass.

"To a wonderful new friend!" says Mrs. Grammar Person. Glasses clink and delicate champagne bubbles float away, right into the new year.



Saturday, December 13, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Holiday Cheer

I'd like to say thank-you to all my readers. Your love and support--for both me and Jamie Quinn--has been amazing! I wish you a wonderful holiday season filled with warmth and happiness. Oh, and Duke Broussard raises his glass to your good health!

I just reduced the price of Jamie's 3rd mystery, "Peril in the Park", to only 99 cents-sale ends 12/15!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Expert Advice From A Voiceover Actor

Please welcome Carrie Lee Martz, acclaimed actress, voiceover artist extraordinaire, and one of my favorite people! She is here today with advice on how to get started in the voiceover business. Enjoy!

Monday, December 8, 2014


Fear not, Gentle Writer, Mrs. Grammar Person is out of the doldrums and no longer feels dull, listless, or in low spirits. The word "doldrums", from the Old English word dol, means foolish or dull, but you may rest assured that Mrs. G.P. would never think you were foolish for feeling dull. No, she would try to raise your spirits in the same way she raises her own--with the most delightfully entertaining words imaginable.

Mrs. G.P. is sensing a scintilla of sympathy and an iota of interest from you, her devoted admirers, so she will explain her method lickety-split. She will not shillyshally (procrastinate) or dilly-dally (delay) or lollygag (dawdle) another minute, although she doesn't wish to proceed in a way that's willy-nilly (disorganized) or pell mell (in a recklessly hurried manner). Nor does she wish to start a brouhaha (an uproar) or, worse, a hullaballoo (condition of noisy confusion). Mrs. G.P. fears that all of this jibber jabber (talk in a rapid and excited way that is difficult to understand) could give you a case of tintinnabulation (the sound of ringing), or worse, a headache. She would not want to leave you befuddled (confused) or flummoxed (bewildered) because of too much gobbledygook (meaningless or nonsensical language). On the other hand, Mrs. Grammar Person does not believe in mollycoddling anyone; she believes that would be feckless (irresponsible) of her and cause some scuttlebutt (gossip, rumors) among her fellow grammarians, some of whom (Mrs. G.P. hates to say it) tend to bloviate (speak pompously or brag).

Far be it from Mrs. Grammar Person to pull any shenanigans (foolish behavior) or engage in any form of skullduggery (deception or trickery). Au contraire! She simply wants you to enjoy the same mellifluous (sweet-sounding) words she does, laughing at how silly some of them sound.

As Mrs. Grammar Person sits by her pond pondering the pollywogs (which she refuses to call tadpoles), her mind drifts and she wonders whether a rose by any other name would really smell as sweet. She leaves that to you to decide, for it is late and Mrs. G.P. must skedaddle (hurry off) as she has a dinner engagement with her new friend, Mr. Syntax. Until the next time, Mrs. Grammar Person bids you adieu!

Check out my guest blog post!

Check out my guest post on, "Acting Up", a blog about life and lessons learned through the eyes of an actress. Carrie Lee Martz is a very talented actress and the narrator of my Jamie Quinn mysteries. Thanks, Carrie!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Check out this great review of my audiobooks by Mason Canyon!

What a beautiful blog! Check it out:

Thoughts in Progress-A place for my mind to gather its images

Thanks, Donna, at "The Girl Who Reads" :-)

Check out my guest blog post at"Your Online Source for Book Reviews and Author News". Thanks for the hospitality, Donna, love your blog!


Fear not, Gentle Writer, Mrs. Grammar Person will not fill your head with verbs today for she is filled with melancholy. Having heard dreadful news of a dear friend's illness, Mrs. G.P. feels despondent. Not even a pot of tea and a visit from her favorite cat, Mr. Malaprop, has served to lift her from the doldrums. And so she turns to you, her admirers and, dare we say, friends, in her hour of need because chatting with you always makes her smile.

Why, yes, Mrs. G.P. would be glad to explain the origin of her cat's name--and she thanks you for the distraction. A malapropism is a funny thing, indeed, and is defined as a misused word or a verbal slip. An example is, "he put out the flames with a fire distinguisher". Mrs. G.P. recalls an amusing malapropism from a young child who, after seeing a commercial about lactose intolerance, declared that he, too, was "black toast intolerant". Another interesting word ending in -ism is solipsism, which means egotistical self-absorption. Mrs. Grammar Person shudders to think that this term would ever be used to describe her.

To lighten the mood and banish dark thoughts, our favorite grammarian would like to tell you about spoonerisms, words in which some of the parts are switched, either through error or wordplay, with humorous results. Named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner, who was famous for these gaffes, an example of a spoonerism can be found in this question he once posed, "Is it kisstomary to cuss the bride?" Unlike other men of the cloth who focused on proselytism (converting others to your religion or way of thinking), this good reverend could not be taken seriously.

On the subject of being taken seriously, a true grammarian would do well to avoid anachronisms in his writing. From the Greek root word, khrono, an anachronism is something or someone that is out of chronological order. Thus, were you to write about Colonial times, you would not include a reference to television--unless, of course, your story involved time travel.

Another serious topic is plagiarism. When Mrs. G.P. was a girl, her mother warned her to never lie for she would always be caught. The same can be said about plagiarism. But do not despair, your beloved grammarian is sympathetic and understands that with so many ideas whirling about your brain, it is difficult to distinguish which are original and which are borrowed. Enter the internet, a 'place' where any phrase may be tested for originality. By using this safeguard, you may rest assured that your witticisms, symbolism, epigrammatism, and lyricism will always be your own creation and that you will never be accused of charlatanism. To express that in simpler terms, don't be a Luddite.

With a sense of absurdism, Mrs. G.P. reports that there are 887 words that end with -ism, including the word ism. But, unlike Don Quixote, your beloved grammarian will not fall prey to quixotism (being caught up in the romance of noble deeds and the pursuit of unreachable goals), and attempt to discuss all 887. That would be a terrible example of didacticism on her part! Instead, Mrs. Grammar Person will dispense with her defeatism and pessimism, at least for today, and focus on the spiritualism and humanism of her followers and friends, and thank them for their altruism in lifting her spirits. Until the next time, your favorite grammarian sends you gratitude and affection.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Fear not, Gentle Writer, Mrs. Grammar Person has heard your pleas and is happy to be of assistance--just as soon as she finishes her cup of tea. Ah, much better! Of course, Mrs. G.P. would not be able to hear your plaintive cry nor assist you in any way were it not for the existence of verbs, yes, those versatile words that allow us to take action. Without them, we couldn't budge at all.

Helping out is something Mrs. G.P. adores, which is why she holds a special place in her heart for the helping verbs. Helping verbs can stand on their own, certainly, but they are also kind enough to help out the other verbs. Below is a list of the helping verbs and, should you choose to memorize these verbs as Mrs. G.P. has done, you will never forget them. Even if you cannot for the life of you remember something extremely important, you will always remember the helping verbs. You may wish to take heed of this friendly advice from your favorite grammarian. Now that you have been warned, here is a complete list of the helping verbs:

am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been, have, has, had, do, does, did, can, could, shall, should, will, would, may, might, must.

Whew! Mrs. Grammar Person loves to recite this list as fast as she can; it is one of her daily grammar exercises. An example of a helping verb can be found in the short sentence: "I am going."  How silly of Mrs. G.P. not to notice another example of a helping verb in the previous phrase "can be found"! She can't wait to tell that story at the annual Grammar convention.

Now that you have mastered the helping verbs (and Mrs. G.P. has refilled her teapot), it is time to discuss the trickier verbs, the ones that defy logic, the ones that follow their own rules. Yes, as unpleasant as it may be, we must examine the irregular verbs. To ease you into this topic, our beloved grammarian starts with the easy ones. These verbs are irregular in that they stay the same, no matter what happens. In an ever-changing world, you can always count on these verbs to hold their course. Thus, if Mrs. G.P. were to let you down (which she hopes will never happen), then let remains the same whether she let you down today, she let you down yesterday, or she has let you down in the past (past participle). These verbs are your constant friends and include the words: bet, bid, cost, hit, hurt, let, cut, broadcast, put, and shut. Another verb in this category is the word read, which keeps the same spelling, but changes pronunciation from present to past tense.

The next group of verbs is only a little tricky in that they change form from present to past, but remain the same for past participle. An example is: "Mrs. G.P. holds your friendship dear; she held it dear yesterday, as she has held it dear always.

The verbs that follow this rule are: beat/beat/beaten; bring/brought/brought; build/built/built; burn/burned/burned; buy/bought/bought; catch/caught/caught; dream/dreamed/dreamed; feel/felt/felt; fight/fought/fought; find/found/found; get/got/got; hang/hung/hung; hear/heard/heard; hold/held/held; keep/kept/kept; lay/laid/laid; lead/led/led; learn/learned/learned; leave/left/left; lend/lent/lent; lose/lost/lost; make/made/made; mean/meant/meant; pay/paid/paid; say/said/said; sell/sold/sold; send/sent/sent; sit/sat/sat; show/showed/showed; sleep/slept/slept; spend/spent/spent; stand/stood/stood; teach/taught/taught; think/thought/thought; tell/told/told; understand/understood/understood; wear/worn/worn; and  win/won/won.

Finally, Mrs. G.P. hopes that you have remained true in your devotion to grammar and are prepared to tackle the most irregular of irregular verbs. As she cannot explain their oddness away, Mrs. Grammar Person will simply list them for your future reference:

Awake/awoke/awoken (This verb causes a lot of confusion, indeed!)
Be/was/been ("To be or not to be" was the question that had been on Hamlet's mind)
Become/became/become (That's a strange one)
Begin/began/begun (I begin to see why you began the war you should never have begun)
Bite/bit/bitten (I bite the boy who bit me first and now we have bitten each other)
Blow/blew/blown (The wind blows as much as it blew yesterday, but not as much as it has blown in the past)
Break/broke/broken (I break a different toe than I broke yesterday, but the same one I have broken before)
And here are the rest of them for your edification and enlightenment:
chose/chose/chosen, come/came/come,
do/did/done, draw/drew/drawn, drive/drove/drive, drink/drank/drunk
fall/fell/fallen, fly/flew/flown, forget/forgot/forgotten, forgive/forgave/forgiven, freeze/froze/frozen
give/gave/given, go/went/gone, grow/grew/grown
ride/rode/ridden, ring/rang/rung, rise/rose/risen, run/ran/run
see/saw/seen, sing/sang/sung, speak/spoke/spoken, swim/swam/swum
take/took/taken, tear/tore/torn, throw/threw/thrown
wake/woke/woken (just like awake/awoke/awoken), write/wrote/written.
As much as she lives for the rules of grammar, Mrs. G.P. must admit that she is a tad weary after her foray into the land of irregular verbs. She wishes to take a nap and, being a creature of habit, will lie down in the same place she lay yesterday and has lain whenever she feels the need for respite--the Queen Anne sofa in her drawing room. After all of your hard work, Gentle Writer, you should rest as well. Mrs. G.P. bids you a fond farewell until the next time you meet.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Fear not, Gentle Writer, Mrs. Grammar Person would not abandon you to your own devices simply because the holidays are upon us. To the contrary, it is at this time of year that Mrs. G.P. frets the most about her devoted fans. During this, the gift-giving season, you must remember that, try as you might, you will never find the most unique gift for that special someone. Unique means one-of-a-kind; therefore, one gift cannot be more or less unique than any other. But, whichever gift you choose, Mrs. G.P. is sure that you will delight the recipient!

In addition to gifts, the holidays provide us with bountiful treats. Everybody loves these treats and nobody can pass them up. Mrs. G. P. finds it curious that the word everybody is followed by a singular verb despite that it refers to many people. Nevertheless, she diligently follows all of the rules of grammar, even the silly ones. Likewise, it is correct to say: all of them enjoyed their cookies, but each boy enjoyed his cookie. Our favorite grammarian is proud of her ability to home in on these grammatical mishaps, but she cannot hone in on them, since that makes no sense at all.

To clarify, Mrs. Grammar Person would not imply that you make such egregious errors and prays that you have not inferred as much from her writings. She is confident that you would never confuse the meanings of imply and infer. Mrs. G.P. knows that you follow her musings out of a mutual love for perfect grammar and that you lend her your attention willingly. Of course, you couldn't loan her your attention because loan is a noun and lend is a verb. But you already knew that. Like Mrs. Grammar Person, you are an expert grammarian who advises others of the logic (and sometimes illogic) of proper English. Whether they choose to take your advice is up to them.

Isn't it a marvel how one letter can change the meaning of a word? An airplane hangar transforms into a simple clothes hanger, an apple peel becomes the peal of a bell, and the act of being stationary in one place becomes stationery for letter-writing. Mrs. G.P. cannot discuss the difference between naval and navel because it always gives her a fit of the giggles to compare the Navy to a belly button.

Once the holidays are over, we strengthen our resolve to eat properly and exercise after the over-indulgence we have all succumbed to. Mrs. G.P reminds us that we should also endeavor to strengthen our writing and eliminate the passive tense whenever possible. Thus, instead of saying, "The cookies were eaten by the boys" you should say, "The boys ate the cookies."  Whose cookies are we discussing? The boys' cookies, of course.  The apostrophe indicates the possessive (the cookies belong to the boys) and the apostrophe follows the 's' because the cookies belong to all of the them. Were Mrs. G.P. to speak of a single boy and his cookies, she would write, "the boy's cookies".

This leads Mrs. Grammar Person to answer a final question that she has been asked recently, to wit, "what gift would she like to receive?"  Feeling humbled, our beloved grammarian hesitates, deep in thought. Finally, she responds that she would like a "grammar-repair kit", a toolbox filled with apostrophes, hyphens and an endless supply of white-out so that she may fix the mistakes she encounters daily. But the gift she wants most of all, she adds with a smile, is the gift of your continued friendship throughout next year and beyond. A happy holiday to all of you, my dear grammarians! 

Friday, November 28, 2014


Fear not, Gentle Writer, Mrs. Grammar Person would not abandon you in your hour of need--not when you face potential pitfalls at every turn: an avalanche of apostrophes, a mountain of misplaced modifiers, and a desert of dangling participles. The horror! In truth, Mrs. G. P. gets it, but fervently hopes that "get" is a word you choose to forget. Excellent writing, (the only kind that merits discussion) has no place for such a silly word, a word tossed about hither and yon, a word which is the first and last resort of a lazy lay-about. When Mrs. G.P. reads that it's time to "get going", or for people to "get to know each other", she feels quite faint. Once she has recovered (with the help of a strong pot of tea and some lovely biscuits), she firmly replaces the offending word with a proper verb.

While our favorite grammarian is deciding which topic to embark upon next (there are so many, after all), she hears a knock at the door. Delighted by the thought of an unexpected guest, Mrs. G.P. perks up and answers the door. An older gentleman looking very dapper in a morning coat and top hat greets Mrs. G.P. with a shy smile.

"Please pardon the intrusion, dear lady, but having read your blog posts, I feel that you are a kindred spirit and wish to make your acquaintance."

Although accustomed to the admiration of her devotees, Mrs. G.P. is nonetheless humbled and flattered by the attention.

"Do, tell," she replies, giving him an arch look before inviting him into her office. "Clearly, only an Englishman, such as yourself, could appreciate the beauty of our shared language."

With a flourish, the gentleman tips his hat to Mrs. Grammar Person before removing it. "I hope you don't think it impolite that I've come to take a peek at you, but your writing has piqued my interest. In fact, I am at the peak of my curiosity."

Mrs. G.P. claps her hands with amusement. "Bravo! Well done! How clever of you. That someone so discreet can comprehend such discrete possibilities; it's wonderful."

Beaming at her, the guest nods in agreement. "And how fascinating that both words derive from the same Latin word, discretus, which means separated. Don't you agree?"

Of course Mrs. Grammar Person agrees--how could she not, when she carefully analyzes the origin of each word she encounters? For example, continuously means continuing uninterrupted while continually means continuing over a long period of time with interruption. So interesting!

"May I beg your indulgence?" asks the esteemed gentleman, lightly kissing the hand of the startled Mrs. G.P. "Although I fear I might've gone too far already…"

Our favorite grammarian quickly recovers her composure and makes a confession to her befuddled guest. "One prays to hear high praise, yet it preys upon one's mind to desire it too much."

The gentleman chuckles. "At the risk of exaggerating to the point of hyperbole, I must say, Mrs. Grammar Person, you are the jewel in the crown. I feel I have overstayed my welcome and will take my leave now. I hope to visit you again soon. I would consider it the highest honor." He tips his hat and turns to go.

Mrs. G.P. sees him to the door. "But I never asked you your name, sir, how terribly rude of me."

The gentleman replies, cheerfully, "My name is Mr. Syntax, and it was a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

With a knowing smile, Mrs. GP nods. "I sense that we will become fast friends, indeed!"

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Fear not, Gentle Writer, Mrs. Grammar Person, heeding your cry for help, has returned, delighted to be of service once again. Like you, Mrs. G.P revels in the knowledge that, while fashions may come and go (both the tasteful and the tacky), exceptional grammar never goes out of style. It is her fervent hope that her words of wisdom serve to complement your knowledge so that you receive nothing but compliments in your writing.

Mrs. G.P. marvels at the difference a single letter can make! She knows that the effect of her words deeply affect you. Especially once you come to realize that effect is a noun and affect is a verb.

She brings you these tidbits so that you may take them with you, safely ensconced in your heart, along with your affection for your favorite grammarian. Coyly, Mrs. Grammar Person reminds you that you bring things toward you, but take things away from you.

Mrs. G. P. wants you to know that you can always count on her. And speaking of counting, here is a handy rule: when using "fewer" or "less" in a sentence, if you can count it, use the word "fewer", if you cannot, use the word "less".  Another excellent rule to live by is this one:  Less is more. Nobody likes to hear anything twice, so it's best to avoid being repetitious, redundant, reiterative, and duplicative in your writing, dear ones. As Shakespeare taught us, brevity is the soul of wit!

When Mrs. Grammar Person hears of the mistakes her writers frequently make, she feels an attack of the vapors coming on and must immediately lie down. She lays her head on the pillow and waits for her devotees to understand the difference between lie and lay. Lay must always have an object. Thus, you lay the book on the counter, but lie down. One way to remember this is to tell yourself that people lie, but Mrs. G. P. disagrees, believing that most people are honest and good.

Mrs. Grammar Person has enjoyed chatting with you today and hopes that you follow her advice, not out of admiration for her, but because of its own intrinsic worth. Mrs. G. P. will sleep well tonight knowing that you understand "it's" is a contraction of it and is, while "its"is the possessive form and requires no apostrophe. Ever.

Mrs. Grammar Person fondly bids you adieu, Gentle Writers, comforted by the thought that your paths will cross again.  

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Fear not, Gentle Writer, for help has arrived.  Rest assured that your grimaces and groans, your grinding of teeth have not gone unnoticed. And because Mrs. Grammar Person abhors the grinding of perfectly good teeth, she has agreed to impart her timely wisdom to those afflicted with self-doubt.

In a stage whisper, Mrs. Grammar Person explains that although she is your true friend, spell-check is not. Spell-check is fickle and delights in trickery. He will make you believe that it's morning when, in fact, you're in mourning, or that you should waver when you are seeking a waiver. He doesn't care if your simple please turns into multiple pleas, and he will most likely desert you if you ask for dessert.  

Mrs. G.P. wishes to remind you for whom the bell tolls (if you must ask, it tolls for thee). When in doubt as to whether to use who or whom, simply substitute the word him. If him will do nicely, then the word you want is whom. Mrs. G.P. shudders to think that you would even consider writing "For he the bell tolls." She keeps her smelling salts handy, just in case.

Being an agreeable person, herself, Mrs. G.P. insists that all her nouns and verbs also agree; therefore, a swarm of bees searches for honey, but the two straggler bees search on their own. How sweet the sound of proper grammar!

While Mrs. G.P. has nothing but admiration for writers who seek perfection, she cautions that nobody is perfect (except for her, of course). To that end, she cautions you about using the pronoun "I" when the word you seek is "me". To write that "the teacher allows Joe and I to go to the playground" is tantamount to writing, "the teacher allows "I" to go to the playground." Whenever she sees this transgression, Mrs. G.P. slams the offending book shut, never to be opened again.

Now, it is time to bid farewell to Mrs. Grammar Person, but, before she takes her leave, she asks you to remember that: it is always darkest before the dawn, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, you should keep your chin up and, if you don't stop using clichés, Mrs. Grammar Person will march back here and rap your knuckles with a ruler!

Once she is satisfied that you have learned your lesson, Mrs. G.P. gently pats you on the head and heads off to the library, casually tossing out her final words of wisdom , words that shake your very foundation: "Remember, my dears, you can end a sentence with a preposition and you can split an infinitive!"


Friday, November 21, 2014

My Imaginary Friends

As far as life experiences go, mine are not that exciting. I've never climbed Mount Everest or learned to scuba dive; I've never hiked the Appalachian Trail or stared down a tiger. I've never had my heart broken or made an enemy (that I know of); I've never been in a fistfight or a screaming match; I can't even hold a grudge (I've tried, but I'm so easily distracted...) 

Um, where was I? Oh, yeah, leading an ordinary, unexciting life. So, what makes me think that I have something to write about? How can I possibly write a novel about someone else's adventures when I've had so few of my own? This is where an imagination would come in handy--and I wish I knew where to buy one. The truth is that we writers spend a lot of time working alone, trying to fend off our inner critics; is it any wonder we’re plagued with self-doubt? But, we all share the same fear: Can I pull this off? Can I speak in the voice of a ten year old child, or a nuclear scientist, or an alien from another dimension, and not be laughed out of town? 

Being a writer takes a leap of faith and the support of your inner circle. It takes a thick skin to withstand the barbs of the impossible-to-please crowd. And, more than anything, it takes a love of the craft, the joy you find in your characters who are very real to you.  When Charles Dickens was writing "The Old Curiosity Shop," a friend stopped by to find him sobbing at his desk with an inkpot smashed against the wall. The friend hurried over to ask what was wrong. Brokenhearted, Dickens replied, "Little Nell died!" I admit it, I cried for Little Nell, too.

It is the flawed and broken characters in literature, like Anna Karenina, or Madame Bovary, or the obsessive Captain Ahab, and the doomed Othello, who help us define our world-view. Their struggles become our struggles and we love them because of their flaws, not despite them.

Which brings me to my characters. Writing the Jamie Quinn mystery series has been challenging, but fun, because I truly love my characters: the reluctant attorney, Jamie Quinn, who keeps finding herself in the middle of murder investigations; her best friend, Grace, who is both smart and funny; her eco-hero boyfriend; Kip, and the drunk but well-meaning P.I., Duke Broussard. Although my characters insist on talking to me at the most inconvenient times (usually in the middle of the night), and not always coherently, I have no trouble forgiving them. And on those days when I am struggling with self-doubt, I just think about Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson, two women who rarely traveled, had no adventures, no mortal enemies, and only a small circle of friends, yet they found plenty to write about. Then I smile and get back to work. 
(reprinted from my guest post on

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Me, Myself & Jamie Quinn

It’s not that I’m jealous, how could I be? That would be petty and immature of me, I’m sure you'd agree, especially when you consider how close she and I have become. We think so much alike now that we’re practically the same person! I must confess, though, it does irk me that Jamie has so many admirers and well-wishers. Everyone’s always clamoring to know: What is Jamie going to do next? How is Jamie feeling? Where has Jamie been? I know that I’m boring by comparison (Lord knows, I’m not the one having adventures!), but still, I’m standing right here, and I’m doing fine, if anyone is interested. I know they’re not, and I’m okay with that. The truth is I also want to know what Jamie’s been up to. She can be so secretive, especially when she knows that I’m desperate to know what she’s planning. And, when she finally decides to talk to me, it will surely be at the most inconvenient time, like while I’m grocery shopping, or at three o’clock in the morning. She doesn’t realize that I hang on her every word, that I rush to write it all down, sometimes texting it back to myself as I wait in line to pick up a burrito for dinner.  

Well, I have secrets, too. For example, Jamie has no idea that I have a little crush on her boyfriend, Kip–even though he’s twenty years younger than I am–and I’d like to keep that between us, if you don’t mind.  

I think what bothers me the most is how quickly everyone flocked to her. After all, Jamie’s only been around for a couple of years and I’ve lived here all my life. And even though we’re both family law attorneys and mediators, I’m quite certain that I’m the better lawyer. But no one cares about that. They just want to know if Jamie will ever get to see her dad, or if Kip will come back from Australia, or if Jamie and Grace’s friendship can survive the crisis coming up in Book 4, “Engaged in Danger”. All I can say is–you’ll have to ask Jamie Quinn, yourself, because she hasn’t told me a thing. I have a funny feeling I’ll be seeing her soon, though, probably around three in the morning. Maybe I should put a pot of coffee on, just in case. Don’t worry; I know exactly how she takes it–with lots of milk and three sugars, same as me. Like I said, we’re practically the same person.

This blog post originally appeared on the wonderful blog, Stop by for a great cup of coffee or tea!




Saturday, November 15, 2014

Just want to say thanks!

Woo hoo! I just hit 100 reviews on Amazon for my book, "Death by Didgeridoo"! Thanks to all my readers and a special thanks to my reviewers! xoxo

Friday, November 14, 2014

Chasing the Muse

I wish I could tell you how to capture that vixen, the muse, the mythical creature who bestows inspiration--but it's simply not possible. She (mine is a she) is a shape-shifter who delights in dancing just out of reach, teasing me with fantastic tales sung in perfect pitch and enviable prose. When she does appear (and I never know when that will be), I must pretend that I can't see her for fear she'll leave me.

After countless attempts to conjure her, I've discovered that she finds water soothing and will whisper ideas in my ear when I'm swimming, or soaking in a fragrant bath. More importantly, I've learned what her favorite drink is. Sometimes, after a strong brew of energizing (and sleep-depriving) coffee, she will magically appear. Then, with a wink and a laugh, she will sit next to me, an ephemeral creature, her gossamer robes tickling my arm, and pluck ideas from my mind as if plucking a lute. Although the music isn't always beautiful, or even original, it is mine and it flows like the water my muse loves so much.

Barbara Venkataraman, chasing the muse, inspiration,

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Check out "The New Book Review" Blog

Check out Carolyn Howard-Johnson's blog, "The New Book Review":  

The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning How To Do It Frugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read.

And thanks again, for the great review, Brad Teare!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dab of Darkness

Check out my guest post in the beautiful blog, "Dab of Darkness":

Also, there's a great review of my Jamie Quinn mystery, "The Case of the Killer Divorce".

Thanks, Susan!

Friday, October 10, 2014

For the first time ever, Jamie Quinn mystery collection free through 10/14/14!

"Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection: Box Set Books 1-3" free today through 10/14/14!

This set includes:

"Death by Didgeridoo"-Winner of the Indie Book of the Day award. Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It's up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it's too late. It doesn't help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn't commit.

"The Case of the Killer Divorce"-Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, has returned to her family law practice after a hiatus due to the death of her mother. It's business as usual until a bitter divorce case turns into a murder investigation, and Jamie's client becomes the prime suspect. When she can't untangle truth from lies, Jamie enlists the help of Duke Broussard, her favorite private investigator, to try to clear her client's name. And she’s hoping that, in his spare time, he can help her find her long-lost father.

"Peril in the Park"-There's big trouble in the park system. Someone is making life difficult for Jamie Quinn's boyfriend, Kip Simons, the new director of Broward County parks. Was it the angry supervisor passed over for promotion? The disgruntled employee Kip recently fired? Or someone with a bigger ax to grind? If Jamie can't figure it out soon, she may be looking for a new boyfriend because there’s a dead guy in the park and Kip has gone missing! With the help of her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie must race the clock to find Kip before it’s too late.

As an added bonus, a preview of the next Jamie Quinn Mystery, "Engaged in Danger," can be found at the end of the book.

Why am I doing this? You may be asking yourself. Well, I'll tell you. This book could use some reviews and, if you're so inclined to write one, I'd be so appreciative. :-)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Free book promotion through September 30th!

Hurry, hurry, my second Jamie Quinn Mystery, "The Case of the Killer Divorce", is free on Amazon Kindle, but only until September 30th. Check it out!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Only left-handed people will understand...

So, I'm looking at my grocery list wondering why I wrote "Zeus lives" on there. After ten minutes, I finally figure out it says "2 cans olives"...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Free book promotion through 9/21!

My third Jamie Quinn Mystery, "Peril in the Park," is free now on Amazon Kindle through 9/21, hurry or you'll miss it!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Free book promotion through September 9th!

My first Jamie Quinn Mystery, "Death by Didgeridoo", is on free promotion today through September 9th on Kindle. Here is the description:

Winner of the Indie Book of the Day award.

Reluctant lawyer, Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the death of her mother, is pulled into a game of deception, jealousy, and vengeance when her cousin, Adam, is wrongfully accused of murder. It's up to Jamie to find the real murderer before it's too late. It doesn't help that the victim is a former rock star with more enemies than friends, or that Adam confessed to a murder he didn't commit.

Also, check out the listing on this excellent blog: Kindle Books and Tips. It's a great place to find free and discounted Kindle books.

Please feel free to "Like" the post and share it on Facebook. :-)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Readers' Favorite Contest Award Winner!

Excited to learn that my book, "A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities" is a 2014 Readers' Favorite Honorable Mention in the Non-Fiction - Humor category!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Finalist in the Readers' Favorite Competition!

I was thrilled to learn that my book, "A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities" yhas chosen as a finalist in the Readers' Favorite Competition in the category of Non-Fiction Humor! The winners will be announced September 1st. So cool!

Monday, July 14, 2014

My 2nd Jamie Quinn mystery, "The Case of the Killer Divorce" is free on Amazon Kindle through July 18th!

My 2nd Jamie Quinn mystery, "The Case of the Killer Divorce" is free on Amazon Kindle through July 18th! Check it out!

50,000 downloads of my books! Thank-you!

What an exciting milestone for me! My e-books have been downloaded 50,000 times!! What I find even more rewarding and also humbling is that the majority of the reviews are favorable. I'm glad we connected, my readers and I! Thank-you to all of you for your support and encouragement, I so appreciate it.

And in case you were wondering, the next Jamie Quinn mystery, "Engaged in Danger", will be out in September.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Indie authors are helping to change the publishing industry. Just as net neutrality levels the playing field so that everyone may participate, self-publishing platforms like Amazon allow the same. There's no down side to it. Amateur writers can publish their works at no cost and, if anyone buys those works, both the author and Amazon benefit, not to mention the readers who enjoy it. Unlike traditional publishing where the process from acceptance to distribution can take years, self-publishing is instant and immediate, in keeping with the speed of the world today. Most importantly, self-publishing brings opportunity for new voices, voices that might not otherwise be heard.

I'm not saying that the next J.K. Rowling will emerge from the rank of indie authors, but when you consider just how many publishers rejected her work (12), it wouldn't surprise me. Had Rowling been writing today instead of 20 years ago, she might have considered going the indie route out of sheer frustration with a publishing industry that had so much trouble recognizing a masterpiece. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Nowhere to Hide

It started with an ad for Depends that was popping up everywhere and following me all over the internet. Personally, I rarely notice advertising, whether it dances on the edge of my news articles, or wedges itself boldly between the paragraphs, or even when it hijacks the entire page and forces me to click on the 'x' to close it, but this one caught my eye. I couldn't decide if I was annoyed or amused, but I was definitely curious.

What kind of demented algorithm had determined I was a candidate for Depends?

While I was pondering that question, ads for single men in their 50's started popping up. Yes, I am in my fifties (which isn't hard to figure out, since my state sells my voting information and my birthdate is right out there in plain sight), but I'm happily married and have never given anyone cause to suspect otherwise. It made me wonder if my husband was being bombarded with ads for single women in their fifties or worse yet, given society's double standards, single women in their thirties. But when the ads for 'plus-size flirty dresses' came along, I got mad. Look, I could stand to lose ten or twelve pounds but, seriously, this was too much.

Still, I knew it wasn't personal--how could it be? After I'd researched boarding schools for a story I was writing, I was bombarded with ads asking, "Do you have a troubled teen?", and offering suggestions for where to send my problem child. And when I visited the website of a pool builder, let's call it 'Joe's Pools', ads began to pop up so frequently that I finally called them and begged them to stop hounding me. The owner was quite apologetic and explained that he had paid someone a lot of money to 'get his name out there', but that it wasn't his intention to "haunt people's dreams" as I’d put it.

I know that everyone has overhead and that advertising pays the bills, but let's get one thing straight; my biggest purchases involve buying books and dining out. In other words, you guys are wasting your valuable advertising dollars on the likes of me. I remember reading George Orwell's "1984" in middle school and cringing at the idea of advertising so ubiquitous that there was no escaping it—even your pillowcase would flash toothpaste ads. Well, I'm ready for that pillowcase now. And once I post this essay online, I'm sure ads will pop up for pillowcases, linens, comforters and mattresses, in every size, color, and price range imaginable. I can hardly wait.

Since I can’t do anything to stop the deluge, I will do my best to ignore it. I am still optimistic that one day an ad will pop up for a product or service I actually need; I don’t want to be a freeloader, getting my news for free and not buying a damn thing. When that happens, I promise you I will order whatever it is immediately and without hesitation. But honestly, I hope it's not Depends…

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Thought for the day...

A reviewer said that one of my books made for good bathroom reading. While I didn’t plan to write bathroom books, now I’m determined to write the best bathroom book ever. And if I can’t be number one, I’ll settle for number two.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"Peril in the Park" is on free promotion through June 21st!

My new e-book, "Peril in the Park," the third in the Jamie Quinn mystery series, is on free promotion on Amazon through June 21st! Check it out. :-)


There's big trouble in the park system. Someone is making life difficult for Jamie Quinn's boyfriend, Kip Simons, the new director of Broward County parks. Was it the angry supervisor passed over for promotion? The disgruntled employee Kip recently fired? Or someone with a bigger ax to grind? If Jamie can't figure it out soon, she may be looking for a new boyfriend because there’s a dead guy in the park and Kip has gone missing! With the help of her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie must race the clock to find Kip before it’s too late.

Coming in July "The Case of the Killer Divorce" (A Jamie Quinn Mystery) on audiobook!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Indie Book of the Day!

I'm very happy to say that my book, "I'm Not Talking About You, Of Course" won the "Indie Book of the Day" award for June 7, 2014. How cool is that?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The New Jamie Quinn Mystery is out! Check out "Peril in the Park"

Available on Amazon now for 99 cents introductory price, the 3rd book in the Jamie Quinn series, "Peril in the Park"

There's big trouble in the park system. Someone is making life difficult for Jamie Quinn's boyfriend, Kip Simons, the new director of Broward County parks. Was it the angry supervisor passed over for promotion? The disgruntled employee Kip recently fired? Or someone with a bigger ax to grind? If Jamie can't figure it out soon, she may be looking for a new boyfriend because there’s a dead guy in the park and Kip has gone missing! With the help of her favorite P.I., Duke Broussard, Jamie must race the clock to find Kip before it’s too late.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A quick writing challenge for you!

I saw this idea and thought it would be fun. Try to write a story using exactly 50 words. It's harder than you think!

Here's my story:

Fire! She tried not to panic as acrid fumes filled her nostrils, burning the very air. Her one desire, save her loved one sleeping beside her. Her strength, her willpower, her fierceness, she used them all to rouse him. Awake--finally!--he carried her to safety, exclaiming, "Good dog, Rosie!"

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I have free audiobooks! "Death by Didgeridoo" is now available!

I'm excited that my first Jamie Quinn Mystery, "Death by Didgeridoo," is now an audiobook, narrated by the talented voiceover actress, Carrie Lee Martz.

It's available on Amazon, Audible and iTunes, but I have some free ones to give away!  

Message me if you'd like one, either for you or a friend.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How I Did It--The Confession of a Mystery Writer

What inspired you to write “Death by Didgeridoo”?

A reluctant lawyer myself, I was trying to teach myself to play the didgeridoo to help me sleep better, which sounds odd, I know, but I was desperate. A didgeridoo is a large, primitive wind instrument invented by Australian Aborigines and it’s tricky to play. It sounds awful if you do it wrong and only a little less awful if you do it right.
One day, I dropped it on a table and broke the glass which led me to think about it as a possible dangerous weapon. The story came to me over time and, luckily, I didn’t have to master the didgeridoo to write it!

How is writing in the mystery genre different from other genres?
“Death by Didgeridoo” is my first mystery, but not my first work of fiction. Writing a mystery is like figuring out a puzzle while watching characters performing in a play--in your head! I started writing this book with one character in mind as the killer. To my surprise, the story changed direction as I got to know my characters and it turned out to be someone else.

What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Write every day for a set amount of time. Don’t let your self-doubt overwhelm you.
Don’t judge what you write, just keep going.
Write because you love to write. If you get stuck, start asking questions about your story that still need to be answered. As you ask them, you will start to think of the answers. Another trick when you get stuck is to write down all the possible ways your story could go and follow each one to its conclusion in a sentence or two.
Take your favorite books by your favorite authors and try to imitate their styles for practice. That way, you can analyze how they do what they do. Also, read some terrible books and analyze what went wrong.

What inspired you to write “A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities”?
I wanted to make people smile and even-dare I hope?–laugh, as they read my book. We are all so busy with our lives and our laundry and our to-do lists that we forget to have fun. If you watch kids playing, they laugh and smile non-stop, but us, not so much.
So, either sign up for laugh yoga or read my books, people. Or be grouchy, it’s your choice…
How is writing in the humor genre different from other genres?
I try to keep my writing light and full of surprises, even for myself. If I’m not surprised and delighted as I write, you won’t be either, is my thinking. I try to write about topics that everyone can relate to, including funny issues that come up with family, friendships, and marriage. One of my essays deals with planning a dinner party for a group of friends and trying to please everyone, with disastrous results! It was an imaginary dinner party with my very real friends and they all enjoyed being included, even though they didn’t actually get a meal out of it….

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

8,300 downloads of "The Case of the Killer Divorce"-Just wow!

When I ran a five day free promotion of "The Case of the Killer Divorce" on Amazon, I never expected such a huge response! Not only was the book downloaded 8,300 times from all over the world, but the reviews were very positive and the book was featured on numerous blogs.  And now, after it's over, people have been buying both Jamie Quinn books, which, to me, is the highest compliment. I want to thank everyone for all the feedback and support, you guys are the best! :-)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


            I decided to call my friend Melanie (not her real name) last week because I hadn't heard from her in a while.
            "Hey," I said when she picked up, "How have you been?"
            "Good, you?"
            "Doing great," I said, "What's new?"
            "Oh, not much."
            "How's your family?"
            "Everyone's good, thanks," she said.
            I wondered why I wasn't getting much of a response from her as she was usually quite chatty. In fact, she seemed rather cool towards me. I racked my brain trying to think of what I might've done to deserve that. Finally, I just asked.
            "Are you mad at me for some reason?"
            "No, not mad."
            "Okay…then, why do you sound mad?"
            "Well, to be honest with you, I'm trying to be careful about what I say. I'm afraid you might write about me in one of your essays."
            "What are you talking about?" I asked.
            She sighed. "I know you were referring to me when you wrote about people who dote on their pets too much."
            "No, I wasn't!" I protested.
            "And," she went on, "You were definitely talking about me when you wrote about your friends with annoying food allergies."
            "I swear that wasn't about you!"
            "And when you wrote about people's phobias? Me, again."
            "No, wrong," I interjected, "Did I even mention your phobias?"
            "And the worst one was when you made an example out of my procrastinating. I'll never live that one down."
            "But, Melanie, I wasn't writing about you at all, I was writing about me, my procrastinating!"
            There was a long pause.
            "I see," she said quietly.
            "So, are we good?"
            "Not really," she said stiffly.
            "What's the problem now? I asked.
            "Isn't it obvious? You think I'm too boring to write about."