Happy Hanukkah & Merry Christmas Eve

I’ve always loved when these two holidays fall at the same time. They don’t always since Hanukkah shifts around during the months of November and December. But there’s something magical (or especially spiritual) when they fall the way they have in 2019.

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Hanukkah began Sunday and runs through Saturday. Today is Christmas Eve followed by Christmas Wednesday. When I was in third grade in El Paso, we had neighbors who were Jewish, and I was fascinated by the kids getting a gift every day of the week. Over the years, I’ve had numerous Jewish friends and feel a connection to their faith. We have so much in common. Love the candles and the music.

We don’t have to travel since both daughters live in town about fifteen minutes away. Sorry, not bragging, just stating a fact. We know how fortunate we are. Our older daughter hosts Christmas at her house. (I do Thanksgiving and our younger daughter does Easter.) This will be the first time in their new big house. They moved in the first of this year, and we’re all excited about being there to celebrate for the first Christmas.IMG_2323

Just like Thanksgiving and Easter, the rest of the family brings food. My daughter asked me to bring ice cream and cranberries. I don’t think they are to go together, and we’re not having turkey, so I’m not sure why she asked for that, but of course I’ll make them. 😊

Each family does its own thing in the morning, and then we join up in the middle of the day. It’s nice that way.

Whichever you’re celebrating, are you ready? What are your favorite foods, songs, gifts? Are you traveling? Happy Holidays to my sisters here and to all of our readers.

Christmas features prominently in my second published book, TRUTH BE TOLD. The cover is a likeness of a house I used to drive by several times a week and fell in love with. Who lived there? What was their life like? I had to write about them.

Truth Be Told 300dpi

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Spring Time

Well, maybe not where you live, but spring has arrived in North Central Texas. Even before the green stuff sprang from the ground and tree branches, the birds declared it spring. In the morning walking Charley, it’s like hearing a symphony orchestra with all the different birds singing a separate part. And the birds have been carrying on this way for weeks now.

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Our temps still drop occasionally at night into the 40s, but days are routinely hitting the 70s and yes even the low 80s. I almost hesitate to share this with those of you packed under multiple feet of snow from multiple nor-easters. I hope your power is back on. However, you will be the ones smiling this summer when you’re enjoying mid 70s and 80s while we will be sweltering in 105 plus and for as many as 40 days or more in a row at that!

29196692_10210728339155537_7864813871846916096_nD'Ann Burrow Snow Pic from D’Ann Burrow from the 3rd Nor’easter.

It recently came to my attention when I was looking through my books for the word “spring” for one of our Sisterhood of Suspense Sunday Hot Lines that I don’t set novels in the spring time. The stories in my books take place in the fall mostly or the winter or summer. Well, my second published book, TRUTH BE TOLD ends during the spring, but only because I couldn’t tie up the story. Spring wasn’t a main part of the book. Winter was. The majority of the story takes place during the two weeks of the Christmas/New Year’s holiday.

Truth Be Told 300dpi

Then I began to wonder, why don’t I set a story in the spring. I really hate summer, and yet I’ve had several books set in the summer. What is it about a Texas spring that makes me steer away?

I don’t know the answer to that exactly. I suspect it has something to do with tornadoes and severe weather that attacks our part of the country during the spring. It seems to me I need to take that fear, because it really is a fear, of those storms and put it into the next book I write. Well, the next one after Book 4 of The Second Chances Series, which I’m working on now and should come out late fall. That’s a plan. 🙂

I’m curious, is the time of year an important piece of your books? Is there one season you favor over others? Many, many years ago, I read a romantic suspense book (Sadly, I don’t remember title or author.), and the winter weather was an actual character in this book. The author did a superb job making the reader experience the cold temperatures, and the biting wind. I’ve always remembered that book. And yes, I should turn our spring storms into a character in a book.  Love to hear from you.

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Word Search 2

Last month I posted on my own blog about Overused Words, finding those buzzards, and whacking them out.  I think it was Kathryn Jane who suggested perhaps this would make a good topic for our SOS blog. So, here we go with some repetition, but also new material.

As I worked on the last parts of editing for ACT OF BETRAYAL, Book 3 The Second Chances Series (which will be my 6th published book has now gone to my editor. WhooHoo!), I bore down on searching out overused words.

My original list of 45 words came from Margie Lawson, an awesome writing teacher. She’s the first person who suggested to me perhaps we overuse certain words in our writing. My list has grown to approximately 75 words and phrases. As I used Margie’s list, I stumbled on new words I overused in different books.

I don’t remember which book, but, Sounds good… or Sounds like…became my favorites and I used those words 150 times. In my recent search of ACT OF BETRAYAL, I didn’t use the phrase at all. 0 Times. Rewarding, I’m telling you.

img_4901There is, There are, There’s are commonly over used phrases. I had a total of 25 combined and reduced them to 5. Why don’t we want to use those words? Because this phrasing “There are sweet smelling flowers in the garden.” isn’t as active as saying “Flowers fill the garden with their sweet scent.”

Here are other commonly overused words:

well, somewhat, mused, a bit/a little, in order to, by means of, for the most part, as a matter of fact, and so on and so forth, watch, see, gave, although, almost, some, however, and somewhat.

I didn’t use any of these words in ACT OF BETRAYAL, though I used to generously sprinkle them throughout my books. After checking the word search, I take great pride in writing a zero by the word on my list. Do you wonder why I leave them on the list if I’ve stopped using them? Partly because of the good feeling I get when the zero pops up and partly because I don’t want to fall back into bad habits.

What about words while I’m writing get by me?

So went from 180 to 37

That went from 340 to 69. In previous books, I had improved on the overuse of this word but for some reason, I went back to using the word in grammatically correct phrases, but where the word isn’t needed. Here’s an example from the third paragraph above: She’s the first person who suggested perhaps we overuse certain words in our writing. I originally wrote the sentence this way:  She’s the first person who suggested that perhaps we overuse certain words in our writing. As I typed, I backed up and removed “that.” One of those grammatically correct usages, but not necessary for a reader to get the content.

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I’ve improved on many overused words.

Really only showed up 27 times. I got it down to 9. I wrote very 27 times and got it to 1. My most favorite word is just. I think, breath and speak this word. Even consciously working to keep it out, it showed up 155 times. I reduced just to 9 times. “Sometimes” you “just” “really” need to use “just.” LOL

Headed and pushed were both 27 and went to 5 & 4. I’ve cut back significantly on these words. I use “headed” for a car or a person moving.

How do I do the switch. I delete the word, but more often I find a substitute or a totally different way of saying what I mean.  Here are examples from ACT OF BETRAYAL:

Do you want to come by?” Would you like to come by?

So, what is it you don’t want me to know, Mom?” What are you afraid for me to find out, Mom? (I’d used want 154 times in the ms! Got it down to 53.)

She told Liz to hold all her calls, set the fifty-page document on her desk, and slid on her reading glasses. She told Liz to hold all her calls, set the fifty-page document on her desk, and popped on her reading glasses. Slid went from 32 to 6.

A tear slipped out of one eye and slid down her cheek. A tear slipped out of one eye and trickled down her cheek. (Slid and slipped are almost interchangeable. One of the issues to watch for is changing one overused word for another.)

We’ll be eating in a few minutes. We’ll be eating in less than five minutes. Few went from 32 to 11.

She grabbed her purse… She slung her purse over her shoulder.

She grabbed hold of the back of the nearest chair… She reached for the back of the nearest chair, missed…

Devon let go of Brett’s arm, making an attempt to stand on her own, but the room tilted and she grabbed hold again. Devon let go of Brett’s arm, attempting to stand on her own, but the room tilted and she clutched his arm again.

I’m getting my ID. I’m reaching for my ID.

Are we getting close? How close are we?

No getting out of this. No avoiding this.

I love the word “getting.”! LOL

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00008]

Why do we fall into the habit of using these words? When we begin, we’re writing the story, “getting” it on the screen. Then we rewrite and fix story line issues. Using, just, very, few…these are all ways we talk in everyday life, but reading these words slow down the story. As writers, it’s important to keep readers turning those pages.

Do you have favorite words you use a lot? Have any of you used, “you know,” the great filler from the 70s. If you’re an author do you do a word search like this? As a reader, are these things you notice when reading? If you’d like a copy of my 75 words and phrases, let me know and I’ll send you one. Love to hear from you.

4 Years ago on July 29 my first book released. In honor of that anniversary, I’m running a 99 Cent Sale for both VERMONT ESCAPE and TRUTH BE TOLD. Appreciate your sharing the news. 

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