December…at the beach!

Ah the boardwalk…the sand, the surf, the salt water taffy! Recently, I visited the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk while researching for a new mystery series. Sure there were rides and fried foods and cheapie souvenirs, but what struck me was the history of the place. There are glimpses of bygone years in the antique carousel where riders can still toss the original metal rings as they gallop by, and view the old photos of the giant indoor poor and the beachfront concerts. I enjoyed that sense of nostalgia for the old days when licorice whips were a treat and folks would ride the Big Dipper , a giant wooden roller coaster, with their families.

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk used to house a lovely indoor saltwater swimming pool. This “Coney Island of the West” actually started out as a public bathhouse in 1865 which would later morph into the boardwalk.  Can you picture all those ladies in their “bathing costumes” parading around? I can see it so clearly in my wee little writer’s mind. It’s the best, most glorious element of the writing process…picking a world to set your story!

What fictional worlds have you most enjoyed? (For me right now, it’s England in the days of Charles Dickens. So vivid!)

Christmas In July Reader Giveaway!

Happy Christmas in July! Welcome to the 16th blog in this Christmas in July Reader Giveaway, which runs July 12-23, 2021. At the bottom of each author’s blog post, you will find the secret words. Write them all down and provide the provide the entire answer on this Google form.

Note: You must grab all the secret words from every author in the Christmas in July Reader Giveaway to be eligible to win a $400 Amazon gift card. At the end of this blog post is a link to the next blog, and so on, to the final blog post (20 in all). At each blog stop, the author will also give away copy or copies of their featured Christmas book.

There’s so much to love about Christmas, isn’t there? The family, the faith, the fun and frolic. This year, though, I feel like Christmas will be especially meaningful. Last year I was reminded by the virus-that-shall-not-be-named, how very precious time is. My parents live only five minutes away, my sisters no more than twenty, and we were separated by teeny virus thingys that landed us in isolation. Even my own children had to be “managed” since they were coming and going from work and apartments. I resented it, honestly, the not being able to hug. That was the thing I missed the most. Zoom was helpful and phonecalls were nice, but they just can’t come close to that physical presence of a loved one. Even though things are slowly transitioning back to “normal” here in Northern, CA, I find myself tearing up when I can administer a good, tight hug to those I haven’t seen for a while. Would I have appreciated it as much if we hadn’t had a “pause” year? Honestly, probably not. So this year I will hug those people, and eat those cookies, and laugh as long and as loud as I possibly can, relishing the life that God has restored. How about you? Will your Christmas feel different in this “post pandemic” season?

Now, it’s time to for the secret words: unto others

Save the secret words, and when you reach the final blog, enter all the secret words on this form for a chance to win a $400 Amazon gift card!

Thank you so much for visiting! The next author on the tour is Hallee Bridgeman and her Christmas book Blizzard in the Bluegrass. You can find it at this link. Remember, this Christmas in July Reader Giveaway will end on July 23 at 8 PM EST!

How could it cost an arm and a leg?

Why yes, yes, I am a word geek. I guess that means I’m in the correct profession as a fiction writer. There is nothing more satisfying than rustling up that perfect string of words (even if it will later wind up on the cutting room floor! Gasp!) For many years I was also a third grade teacher and the topic I am about to explore is equally as interesting to newly minted word geeks like my thirdies.

Idioms, my friends! Oh they are the most colorful additions to the English language and the most hilarious. Idioms are phrases that generally have a non literal meaning. I don’t think it’s letting the cat out of the bag to tell you they can easily become the apple of a writer’s eye. “But what do they meeeaannnnnn?” my thirdies used to wail. It was especially frustrating to folks trying to learn English. Phrases like “Pull out all the stops” or “give someone the cold shoulder” can be perplexing for sure. I find it fascinating to root out where these unusual phrases came from. Let’s take a look at the origins of four amazing idioms.

Under the weather: This is one from the sailors. When a sailor was feeling ill, he would go beneath the bow, (the front part of the boat) where the vessel is theoretically steadier to protect him from adverse conditions. See? That sailor was literally under the bad weather. (Note, as someone who gets seasick, bus sick, car sick, and elevator sick, I have not found this to be a good maritime solution. One word…dramamine!)

The whole nine yards: I was surprised about this idiom, because I always thought it had something to do with golf, but it’s actually war reference. Fighter pilots during World War II had nine yards’ worth of ammunition to feed into their weapons. Giving it their all meant they would use up the entire nine yards of ammunition.

The writing is on the wall: Here’s one from the Bible. In the Book of Daniel, God punishes King Belshazzar for disrespecting holy objects in the temple and his hedonistic ways. God sends a hand to write the words ‘mene mene tekel upharsin’ on the palace wall. Frightened and confused, Belshazzar’s sends for Daniel to interpret the strange words. Belshazzar couldn’t see what was obvious to others.

Costs an arm and a leg: All right! This one was my favorite! Back in the 18th century it cost a bundle to have a portrait painted and believe it or not, the artists would charge by the limb! The cheapest option was to have only your head and shoulders painted. You want arms? That will cost you? But if you want arms AND legs, well, get your checkbook ready!

I know idioms can be a dime a dozen, and we could be burning the midnight oil in order to list them all. Do you have a few favorite idioms? I won’t steal your thunder. Go ahead and shout them out!

Here’s the new series launch! Sweet, huh?

A new year’s “would you rather” quiz!

Would you rather…January style!

Woot! I hear those snowflakes whizzing, don’t you? Actually, I’m here in Northern, CA, so we don’t get snow, but hey, I’m a fiction writer. I can dream up any setting in an eye blink. At the moment, it is in the low sixties during the day and dropping into the frost zone at night. This means my aged box turtle has dug a nice hole and buried herself until spring. With the way 2020 is going, that sounds like a grand idea to me.

I loved the season and all things Christmas, but this year, well it was different for sure. I have a whole new appreciation for the word “gather.” The truth is, I took it for granted that I could see my family, and gather with friends, whenever I chose. That is the one lesson I have learned thoroughly through this virus thing. When the world opens up again, I will not take gatherings for granted ever again! I will resist the urge to run up to everyone and start dispensing hugs, since people may be a bit gun shy, but dinner parties, here I come! But enough about sad topics. Let us celebrate the new year with a fun little “would you rather” game.

  1. Would you rather eat ONLY fruitcake or ONLY gingerbread for a whole day?

(Are you kidding? My answer is FRUITCAKE! I LOVE the stuff!)

  1. Would you rather only receive gifts for a day or give them?

(I’m a giver. If only I had the funds to actually do this on a grand scale. I’ve got caviar dreams on a bologna and cheese budget.)

  1. Would you rather be twice as fast as you were last year or twice as strong?

(Easy….faster! I have WAY more ideas to write about than time. Unless I suddenly turn into James Patterson, those books are just NOT going to get written!)

  1. Would you rather run out of toilet paper or laundry detergent?

(Detergent. I figure I could wash clothes with dish soap if compelled to do so.)

  1. Would you rather ring in the New Year at home, or in Disneyland (World)?

(Home. No contest. After a couple hours in Disney, I’m ready to pack myself up and get out of Mickeyland! And since Disneyland in California is closed for the foreseeable future, that one was a no brainer. I have heard that Disney World is open, which boggles my mind.)

I can’t wait to hear your answers! 

I’ve heard this question a zillion times…

I could NEVER write a book.” People tell me this all the time. My answer? Well of course you could! It’s not rocket science. Anybody can sit in front of a computer keyboard or a notebook and whip up a story. The question isn’t whether you can or can’t…the question is what exactly do you want to do? Do you want to write a book, or do you want to be a writer?

If you want to simply compose a story that’s in your heart, you can totally do that! And if you want to see it in book format, you can do that, too. There are plenty of people whom you can hire to design you a cover, format your work into an ebook, or print it for you. That’s just takes time and a small investment.

If you want to become a writer, now that’s a different animal. Professional writers are running their own small businesses, so you are going to need to devote yourself completely to that endeavor if you want to build a readership. There will be many things to learn, and the hardest is probably the production schedule you’ll need to maintain. One book a year is great, but it’s going to be tough to maintain your reader’s attention with that frequency. I write a book a year for my mystery series (which debuts with Poisoned Pen Press this May), but I also write three books a year for Love Inspired Suspense. How do I do it? Like anyone else who runs a small business, I commit most of my time to it. I work at it six days a week for as many hours as I can. We’ll talk more about that in the weeks to come, but for now, consider what your goal is.

I’ll say it again…anyone can write a book. If that is the passion that burns inside you, do it! Even a paragraph a day will get you towards that goal. If you want to be a professional writer…that’s a horse of a different color!

Author reads an excerpt!

I just love hearing an author read their own words, don’t you? I have an old recording of Dylan Thomas reading A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Nothing better! Along those lines, I figured I’d do a little excerpt from a Christmas book I wrote. Hope you enjoy it!

We’re having lots of holiday fun in my private Facebook group! Would love to have you join in the festivities!

An unexpected research reboot!

It was supposed to be a nifty twenty-fifth wedding anniversary trip…with a wee little research itinerary woven in. Since Papa Bear is a huge Alaska fan, and I happen to be writing a book for the Love Inspired Suspense Alaska K-9 continuity series, what would be more perfect than a trip to visit, among other things, a reindeer ranch in Palmer, Alaska! We’d been to Alaska before and fell in love with the wide open spaces, the independent spirit of the locals and the gorgeous landscapes. This time we’d see reindeer in Palmer, and enjoy a riverboat cruise and visit a mining operation in Fairbanks. But then…well, you already know the rest of the story. The virus, whose name I refuse to type, put the kibosh on that whole adventure. 

Deadlines, however, do not wait for anything, including viruses, so I had to go to plan B…armchair research. Thank goodness for the internet! I am now typing away about this fictional adventure and Katie’s reindeer ranch in Palmer Alaska is taking shape on the page. I thought it would be fun to share some of the zany facts I’ve learned about reindeer through my armchair travels. So here we go! The top five facts about reindeer! 

  1. Reindeer and caribou are the same animal.
  1.  Their hooves actually make a “clicking” noise (hence the old song, up on the housetop click, click, click…”) I have read that this adaptation makes it easier for them to stay together in a blizzard, not just on rooftops! Ha!
  1. Reindeer are excellent swimmers, thanks to their hollow fur which traps air to help with buoyancy. 
  1. Reindeer are not designed to eat carrots. They have no incisor teeth on their upper jaws which makes it hard for them to tackle carrots. They eat lichen in the winter which they dig up with their antlers and various leaves and other plant materials. 
  1.  Reindeer are the only species of deer where both the males and females grow antlers!

The virus, whose name I refuse to type, put the kibosh on that whole adventure. 

My unpatented approach to a wimpy attention span!

What’s to be done with a flabby attention span?

I have a problem. I have trouble keeping my thought train on the track until it reaches the station, if you understand what I mean. You know what? It’s not getting better as I age, unfortunately. So how does a gal who is distracted by literally everything manage to write more than forty books? I have developed a system that works for me. When I outline it for you, you’ll probably think it’s completely ridiculous, but all I can say is it works for me. I call it…the mini goal method. Basically, I break my life into mini tasks instead of mighty ones. Allow me to illustrate. Below is a typical writing day for me.

Up and at ‘em! I am an early riser. Bible study, prayer time, walk the dog, feed the turtle. A quick check in with my Private FB group and I’m ready to brew some coffee and get started.

Write 1000 words in my armchair. No getting up. No checking the phone. Tushy in the chair and here we go!

My mind is wandering and I am antsy to move. Time for a snack. Put the laundry in. Take Junie the Wonder Dog for another walk. Drink some water. Plan out the next scene while you’re zooming around.

Write 1000 words in the garden. That text can wait. The phone will survive without attention. Stop looking at those birds. Okay, maybe a tiny peek at the wee little lizard because…I mean…he’s adorable!

Lunch! Woo hoo! Papa Bear is waiting. The porch will be perfect if it’s not too beastly hot. Listen to those hummingbirds.

Go for a walk without Junie. Ignore those sad terrier eyes. Walk fast. You’ll solve all your plot problems and get that poor woman out of the trunk you’ve placed her.

Write 1000 words now that you know how to get the heroine out of the trunk. Move the laundry to the dryer, post some afternoon social media content.

It’s 4:00 and time to “quit.” Look up and notice there are dishes to be done, laundry to be folded, and a dog to be snuggled. Return the box turtle to her night accommodations. Remember that you forgot to drink water all day. Start in on dinner preparations and think about how you’ll save the hero from that nasty bullet wound he incurred this afternoon.

The day’s almost done and I met my word count. Woo hoo! Mini tasks met and work count complete. Ready to get started tomorrow!

So you see? As my father always told me, “You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time!”…especially if you have a flabby attention span!

(You can find more of these pithy articles at Because Fiction Magazine.)

Find out more about Dana at

Exclamation Points! Be careful! They can be dangerous!

Yes, I love them too! Exclamation points are so wonderful! As young writers we learn how to use them to convey excitement and big emotion! But, you know what? They can also weaken your writing and take the emotional punch out of an otherwise great book. So take a look at the video, and see what you think.

An insider look…from the Barney Fife of the fiction world!

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so click the link. Trust me, this fiction writing world is GLAM!