Broken Places

View From A Scout #2

Somewhere in the middle of the country in 1977. Photo by Joe McBride

My earliest memories are of camping. Camping, as you may well know, is not really my cuppa. I think it skipped a generation as my oldest child enjoys it just fine. Camping is actually the only memory I have of my parents when they were still married that doesn’t include arguing. My dad loved to travel and he loved not spending a ton of money so, to him, camping made sense. I don’t think he went camping again after he married my stepmom and certainly not after he started having so many health issues but it was a large part of his young adult years.

My memories were of a different campground than the one pictured and we were there because my dad was working for a trophy company at the time and he was bringing the trophies for the BMX style races. I cannot tell you how surprised I am that I haven’t found pictures of that yet and I can’t help but wonder if those are maybe in my mother’s things in my grandmother’s house. Maybe someday I’ll find them. I remember that they were cool and fast and scary but not much else. I was too busy playing with the plastic squirrels in a fabric log.



A broken and abandoned house somewhere. Photo by Joe McBride

My dad loved history. He devoured every book he could get on Winston Churchill and Benjamin Franklin. He loved living out west with its pioneer spirit and history. We spent a lot of time in museums and gardens and going off in search of the history of places. Part of history is examining all we leave behind. In some ways, that’s what I’m doing with these posts, examining the history I didn’t know, didn’t see for myself. I’m learning a lot. I’m learning that I am maybe more like my dad than I knew. Broken places have always interested me too. I like to tell the story and he liked to capture the image of their brokenness. Two ways of finding reason and beauty where there is chaos and ruin.

There is great beauty to be found in the places we’ve left behind. Fading siding, jagged ridges of the glass that clings to its glazing in otherwise empty frames, and places where you can see the fingers of nature as it asserts its claim on the space. There is poetry everywhere. My dad was never one for written poetry, except cowboy poetry, but his poetry was visual. I wish I’d appreciated it sooner. I wish he had too for that matter. He just enjoyed taking pictures of the things that interested him and he was good at it. I don’t have a lot of pictures that my mom took but I’m finding a couple as I go through my dad’s slides. Someone had to take the pictures of the Scout as he maneuvered through the mud and, given the dates on the slides, that job belonged to my mom.  Bonus.


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Writer Wednesday: Interview: Savannah Cross

Savannah Cross Skydiving

Author Savannah Cross has been lovely enough to let me ask her my questions!

Sarah: What book made you want to be a writer and why?
Savannah: Wow! There were so many. I fell in love with romance writing with Emily Loring books. She wrote from the 1930s to 1960s and I loved how she wove romance and suspense together. Another favorite is Johanna Lindsey, and believe it or not Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway isn’t romance but I adore his stories.
Sarah: What does your process look like? Do you work from an outline or not? Do you have a favored writing implement? How long does it take you to write a book?
Savannah: Every book begins with an idea, right? I usually get my ideas from the places I visit and researching about those places. I always begin with an outline; this makes the writing process much easier for me because I know where the characters are headed and what trials and challenges they must overcome to end up in each other’s arms. Writing implement? My brain! I’ve dictated into a tape recorder (or cell), written with pencil and paper, and typed on laptop and PC. Everyone has a favorite method, I say to use what works for you. My first book took 5 years to write! Wow! That’s because so many other things got in the way – like something called ‘mortgage”. I read Stephen King’s book “On Writing” and no way I write 2,000 words a day. I have one of those things called a “job” so I don’t write full-time. And, I’m not a fast writer. I write and edit as I go so this means that I think about my words and sentences and flow as I go along.
Sarah: What is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite part?
Savannah: My favorite part of my writing process is when I have that great idea and the words flow through my fingers onto the page! My least favorite is getting my energy up to begin the writing process. Staring at that blank page is scary.
Sarah:  Out of all the characters you’ve created, is there one who stands out as a personal favorite and why?
Savannah: We always remember our first, right? My first book “Desert Dreams” is about a woman moving to Arizona to follow her dreams of being a ceramic potter. Okay, I’m not a potter but I followed my dream of moving to Arizona and writing. Always follow your dreams!
Sarah: Does your location influence your stories or characters?
Savannah: Absolutely! I set my stories in places I visited or lived. The location can influence the characters or behaviors of the characters. In “Desert Dreams”, the Arizona desert is a vital part of the plot because one of the characters is lost in the desert. In “On Fire” the characters live in an Arizona resort town where seasonal tourism is important.
Sarah: What are three things you need to write?
Savannah: I need to write what has happened around me. I’m writing a romance/suspense about a virus in a hospital in Flint, Michigan. I currently living in Michigan and a Flint hospital recently had a virus outbreak. I am also writing a thriller about an arson investigator in Arizona. And, I absolutely have to write about my experiences working in a substance abuse facility in Detroit. Lots of personal stories there!
Sarah: What question would you most like to be asked but have never been asked?
Savannah: I would love to be asked what I would do with the money if I had a best-selling book. The answer is that I would give money to various animal shelters and to protect our wildlife.
Sarah: What made you want to write your most recent story?
Savannah: I began “On Fire” after visiting Lake Havasu City, a resort town in Arizona. Also, I know a chef. I tied these two elements together.
Sarah: All-time favorite movie?
Savannah: Absolutely, “Alien” with Sigourney Weaver. She’s a powerful woman role model.
Sarah:  Best advice for new writers.
Savannah: Write! Don’t be afraid of people not liking your writing. Write what you want, then get feedback from your writer’s circle.
Sarah: Describe your ideal outing.
Savannah: Poolside sipping a Margarita while listening to Jimmy Buffet!
Sarah: One moment. Give us one moment that defined who you are, not just as a writer, but as a human being.
Savannah: You ask really tough question! Can I have two moments? Please!? Here is one: One of my dogs was hit by a car and died after she got out of the yard. Ever since then, I have wanted to help lost animals. At one time, my husband and I had 13 dogs but we are now down to 10. Another time is the feeling when one of my online college students and I had a real-time chat. A few months later she emailed me to tell me how talking to me inspired her to continue her studies. That was awesome! To think that my words could inspire others.
Sarah: Favorite author dead and living.
Savannah: Can I have two writers? Please? Ernest Hemingway and Geraldine Brooks.
Sarah: If you had a theme song, what would it be?
Savannah: “Funkytown” by Lipps, Inc. “Take me to Funkytown”! I want to be swept away reading an awesome book.


Thanks so much for letting me pick your brain, Ms. Cross!

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Book Review: On Fire

On Fire by Savannah Cross. 

Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group

Ryan and Maddy’s restaurants share a parking lot and little else; their competition is heating up along with their desire, and the danger surrounding their businesses is nothing compared to the risk of losing their hearts.


Maddy Sawyer’s dream was to be the chef-owner of a restaurant. She’d studied and worked for renowned chefs in notable kitchens for years before returning to her hometown of Lake Havasu, Arizona, to open The Haven. In tough economic times, she mortgaged her home to make payroll, and now that she’s beginning to enjoy the success the restaurant deserves, an interloper opens a – yech – bar and grill across the parking from The Haven. She doesn’t know whether to strangle Ryan Flannery or kiss him senseless.

Ryan Flannery was a decorated Lake Havasu firefighter who chased his dream of opening a restaurant all types of diners could enjoy. After opening Flannery’s, he meets Maddy Sawyer, owner of the fancy schmancy Haven, and wants nothing more than to learn all about the woman beneath her chef’s jacket. But Ms. Sawyer is a tough nut to crack who throws down a cook-off challenge that gains national attention. But their sparring is overshadowed by a series of restaurant fires that are more than suspicious, and when Ryan finally breaks through with Maddy, he worries they’ll lose more than their hearts before the cook-off is over.


This is the first book I’ve read by this author and it’s a solid mystery romp. My biggest problem with mysteries is that I have yet to find one that I haven’t figured out well before the reveal, not because there’s anything in the story but because I’ve watched and read more mysteries (fiction and true crime) than any other genre, and the fact of the matter is, in books, unlike real life, the answer has to make sense.

The writing is solid, the premise is solid, the research is solid, and it’s a fun, quick read. If you’re on a diet and not so good on the willpower thing, it might make you hungry (it certainly did me!). The location is very interesting and I even learned something new! I never gave much thought to the London Bridge before but it does make for a nice historical touchstone for a backdrop. Maddy was a little bit flighty but personable and likable and, most importantly, relatable. Ryan was dreamy and sweet and also quite likable (not just eyecandy, maybe imagination-candy as he’s a book character).

If I come across another mystery or thriller by Ms. Cross, I’ll likely pick it up. A solid 4.5/5 for romantic suspense.








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A Little Happy

This year has started off pretty well. I’ve sent two books, a chapbook, a novelette, and two short stories out into the submission cycle. I’ve made some really neat things and had a really interesting thing happen and we’re only 13 days in!

In 2017, about at the same time that my body decided to betray me and bust out the rheumatoid arthritis, I started doing craft fairs and vendor events with my crafty, artsy, repurposed sorts of things. It was fun to get to make things and even more fun to see them go to homes that would appreciate them. The trouble is that I struggle to do the events on my own, set up and tear down is a LOT for me, especially at the end of the day when all I want to do is curl up in a nice ice pack. I didn’t manage to do any of them in 2018, though I did think about it more than a few times and this year, I want to plan to be there again maybe.

In any case, I did open my etsy shop up (see the pretty picture to the left!) and that’s awesome but now, in the most awesome turn of events, I got the opportunity to put some of my artsy things in a local shop – Moe’s on Main in Follansbee, WV.

I’m so excited about the whole thing – I’ll still have things in my Etsy shop but not the things that are available at Moe’s. I can’t wait to see how this all works out! Check the gallery of the things available at Moe’s!


The funny thing is that I decided on New Year’s day that this is my year for forward motion, for taking the opportunities that come my way and being brave. I made myself a necklace too. It’s a pretty blue and purple with Wayward stamped on it. Wayward meaning stubborn, willful, difficult, and disobedient. To me, those have always been my best qualities after all and it’s about time I figure out how to make that work for me. This year is my brave year. I can’t wait to see how all those irons in all those fires turn out.


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Writing Wednesday: Review Sites

Reviews are one of the most important things to a writer, especially early in their career. They can also be one of the hardest things to get. Most readers have no clue how important reviews actually are, especially in this time when certain large companies factor those reviews into their search algorithms. Reviews can help a writer get noticed. Reviews from certain sites can get a writer’s book in front of the people who comprise their target market. I’ve struggled a lot with finding places where I can send my books for review without fees, where I don’t need 3 months lead time, and who work in my genres.

When I first started looking for places to review my books, I was a bit surprised to find so many roadblocks. I can understand some of them. It may be an unpopular opinion but I do understand why some of the big sites don’t do self-published books as there has been no vetting process at all. You aren’t guaranteed to like a book published by any publisher but at least there’s been a process to pick the book up out of slush, polish it up, and present it in a readable fashion. I get it. This is not my complaint. There are other companies that require the publisher to send the book themselves, which is also understandable but a bit annoying. And then there are the big review companies who charge ridiculous fees for reviews. What’s a new or indie or climbing writer to do?



Places that review books from authors:

SFReader – Hard copy only. Ecopy, query first.
The Romance Reviews – Must be a site member.
Smexy Books –  Fairly straightforward review request form.
Coffee Time Romance – Fairly straightforward review request form.
Book Page – Hard copy only. 3 month lead time. Will not review post publication date.
Foreward/Clarion – Foreward requires 4 month lead time. Clairon charges $499 per review.
Library Journal – 3 month lead time.
Midwest Book Review – Hard copy only, 2 copies. $50 Fee for arc/ecopy.
Kirkus Reviews – Charges $425 for a review.


Other useful sites for authors:

Library Thing

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m still looking for additional places myself so, please, if you have more, let me know!


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Irons and Fires

This year has been off to an amazing start. There are some potential opportunities that cropped up and, since I’ve decided to be braver this year, I’ve opened the door to see where the paths go. I’m sure I’ll talk about it more as things become more clear and set in stone.

I’ve always done better when I’ve got too many things going on. I write more, I create more, and, bonus, I eat less. Busy is a good place for me to be, even if sometimes it’s SO easy to sit back and binge something on Netflix. I am slightly between major projects and sort of at odd ends figuring out what I’d like to work on now. This week is going to be ridiculously busy so I’ll likely stick to fiddling with a short story I’m writing for a contest coming up that I haven’t entered in well over 10 years. I think I’ve grown enough as a writer to give literary fiction another go about now. I’m interested to see what will happen as it isn’t a genre I have dabbled in much.

This week I have a doctor’s appointment, a writer’s group meeting (yay!), a sit down with a newer writer to talk shop (double yay!), and a meeting about some of my artsy craftsy stuff. I just need the weather to cooperate with me. We’ve gone this long without snow – it can wait until Friday to show up dang it.  I am really hoping for some medicine tweaking at the doctor’s appointment – I’m in a place that’s certainly livable and manageable but in the long term, where there is still pain and inflammation, there is the potential for joint damage that can make my future a lesson in agony and I don’t remember ever playing with any lament configuration.

This is shaping up to be a very exciting year for me and I can only hope it continues.

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The View from a Scout

International Scout (photo by Joe McBride)

My dad was an interesting man. Over the years, he did a little bit of everything: he was a census taker, a trophy maker, a teacher, a speaker, a traveler, and a salesman. Everyone who knew him for long knew all of those things. What they probably didn’t know was that he was an artist too. His medium was photography. Everywhere he went, his Nikon went too.

Before I came along, he spent a lot of time in the mountains of the middle of the United States: Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. He’d pack up his International Scout with his camping gear and take pictures. In some of them, you can tell his taking the picture from his Scout, pulled off on the side of the road to catch a rainbow or a bird.

Mountains taken sometime in 1977 (photo by Joe McBride) I believe this is the Tetons but I could be wrong.

I don’t know how many people he actually showed his pictures to, but I didn’t realize until after his death just how amazing his photographs really were. I had one of them in a frame in my room that my mother had kept in their divorce (see the pretty mountains) and I’d seen a few others, especially the one of Denver on New Year’s Eve that may have won a small contest in 1977/8, but I honestly thought there were just a handful of awesome images among the family pictures and touristy things. I was wrong. The touristy stuff and even the family pics are in the definite minority. I inherited all of his gear, slides, and negatives when he died and my stepmom told me I was welcome to do whatever I liked with his pictures so I am. I think, if he’d had a little nudge, a little support, he could well have made a career of photography. I know he would have thoroughly enjoyed it. I wish I’d known in time to be the sort of support for him that he’d always been for me.

I feel the need to share his view of the world. I think more people than me deserve to see and appreciate his art, like sweeping snowscapes, great expanses of prairie, and flowers – so many flowers. So, I’m going to use this blog to do exactly that sometimes. Some of the better ones I’ll probably make available for purchase and maybe someday, down the road, I’ll turn them into a book. I did set up a Zazzle shop and, when I put up pictures as posters or cards, that’s where they will be.

Decades of storage takes a toll on a slide or a negative, even if they’ve been stored in slide carousels, closed boxes, or the little paper bags they came in. Not all of the slides have been gunky but a fair few have. I’m using a swab with 99% isopropyl alcohol to ungunk them and the difference is amazing. This picture was taken when I was about 4 (1983), if I’ve identified the haircut properly, in Spokane, Washington’s Riverfront Park. You can see the difference in the sky especially after cleaning. At first, I thought the debris was on my screen but it definitely wasn’t.

Riverfront Park Pavilion sometime around 1983/4 (photo by Joe McBride)

The little girl running toward the camera is me a very long time ago. I really did love Spokane (especially the carousel and the trash eating goat). It’s been 30 years since I was last there and I’m sure a lot has changed since then but I’ll continue to love my memories of it.

I have a lot of slides to go through and a lot of stories to tell, some of them in his words if I can find the right notebooks and tapes. I don’t know how many of those stories are true but they speak to a broader true nonetheless and I think a fair few of them deserve an audience beyond the conventions and events he spoke to. Plus, someday when my kids are older and curious, maybe they’ll stumble across this and learn a thing or two about their granddaddy in his words and his images.

I have at least glanced through at least 1000 slides so far and I’m finding such interesting things! Most of the people in the pictures of parties and gatherings are faces I don’t know, people I never met. I may have heard stories but I don’t know well enough to put names to those faces. In some ways, going through his life in pictures is like getting told one last story.


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Writing Wednesday: Goals and Accountability

A lot of people approach a new year with lofty goals and a list of things they want to do but many times, those lists and goals have floundered by week three or been completely forgotten by week 8. It’s most obvious in places like gyms where the sudden influx of people thins out observably. I have zero experience with that but my husband does the gym thing very regularly and he’s always a little annoyed the first few weeks of the year when his gym has too many people even at 5am.

I have the daily goal of 1500 words per day but there’s no one who will know, notice, or care if I flub it for three weeks straight (as I have through all of December). Sometimes I have a very hard time keeping myself accountable when there’s no real consequence for not keeping to my goals. When I have accountability in the form of deadlines, I do better (at least as long as I can actually type). Even posting here to the blog isn’t really any sort of accountability. I do miss my Dad a lot at times like these as he would often text me and ask me how many words I’d written that day.
When you’re setting goals, it is all too easy to set these big lofty goals – write five books, publish 80 short stories, lose 50 pounds – but if you do that often enough, you’re going to get discouraged. Even if you KNOW you’re setting an improbable goal, not reaching it is a blow. I did this exact thing for years and my confidence suffered greatly for it. Hell, I’m still suffering the effects of it.

Sarah’s Rules for Goals:

  1. Make them attainable. Many small goals can be better for the psyche than a few lofty, hard to reach ones.
  2. Do not make goals of things you can’t control. If attaining your goal is dependant on the actions or opinions of someone else, it’s more of a wish than a goal.
  3. Make your goals measurable. It’s a lovely thing to want to write more but what exactly is more? Give yourself an actual number or page count or even by chapter but make it something you can track and measure and not a whispy idea of a goal.
  4. Celebrate each small goal when you’ve achieved it. Every long journey is made up of small steps. Sometimes we get so lost in the big picture that we forget how awesome it is that we’ve made it this far (I am especially guilty of this!). This is especially effective if you have no accountability except to yourself.

Tips on Accountability:

  1. Find an accountability partner who understands your goals and whose goals you understand so you can help each other better and touch base frequently.
  2. Reward yourself for reaching goals. I find that negative reinforcement doesn’t work nearly as well for me as positive reinforcement so, treat yourself to that cake or that prize when you’ve reached your goal and you’ll be more likely to hold yourself to a greater standard.

I’d love to hear your opinions and ideas on this too!

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Happy New Year!

Happy 2019!

I can’t wait to see what stories this year has to tell! I hope they’re amazing and full of wonderful things. I know I tend to be overly prepared for the worst but that doesn’t mean I’m not an optimist at heart – silver linings and making the best of things are my jam. I hope this year fulfills its incredible potential.

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Looking Forward to 2019

I’m planning on keeping 2019 all about one thing – Forward Motion. It might take all I can muster somedays but so long as I manage a few words, a few steps, whatever forward motion I can find on a day, I’m going to call it a success. I know me well enough to know that I’m going to fail a few days and that’s ok so long as I don’t have too many of them in a row. There are so many things I would like to do this year, like every year.

Writing Goals: 2 new books, 12 short stories, 24 poems. One passion project that should run here on this blog every other Friday I think and I’m really hoping you all enjoy it too! If things go well, maybe this year will see a bit more of Leilani’s story. That’s my hope in any case. I’m not going to do the word counting this year though last year I did a really great job of it for 10 and a half months, it didn’t turn out to be quite the spur I needed. Certainly, I’m hoping for a good acceptance rate for my submissions but I don’t really control that part so much so that doesn’t really make for a good goal.

Health Goals: Find a medicine that works so I’m not hurting as often. Lose some weight. It would be better if I could force myself to stop worrying so much about the shape of me but some things are just ingrained at this point but, finding a way to not eat my feelings would be a good start.

Life Goals: The hard part about goals is the accountability thing – I’m not really accountable to anyone. I don’t have a 9-5 where I’m held accountable by an employer. I’m horrible at keeping myself accountable and that’s something I need to get better at. I think keeping myself accountable will be a big goal of mine this year. I’d like to really be more productive in general – with the etsy shop, the writing, and most definitely the promoting (I’m not always great at that part!).

I’m hoping that 2019 will bring good things in greater volume than 2018 did and certainly everything has been a step up from 2017 so there is that!

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