I’m watching the Olympics, so I don’t have a lot of time to do housework. Here are some habits I’ve trained myself to use over the years. Because I do these most of the time, my space is neat and uncluttered. Try it for yourself.

  1. Put stuff away after use. Most things need to be behind closed doors or in drawers. Have a designated place for everything.
  2. Put everything away after a shopping trip. And if your space is really cluttered, throw away two or three items you no longer need while you’re putting things away.
  3. Handle paper as little as possible—take care of it (answer it, call someone about it, mark it on your calendar, etc.), file or toss it. Open mail next to a wastebasket. Don’t even open something you know is junk, just toss it.
  4. Deal with dirty clothes properly—put in hamper or basket, wash when you have a load. Put away as soon as dry.
  5. Don’t leave the kitchen with dishes in the sink or unwiped countertops, food left out, or any other kind of mess. Immediately after finishing a meal, deal with the cleanup.
  6. Don’t leave any room without picking up everything that needs picking up.

Once all of this becomes habitual, your space will look fantastic, ready for company, and you will have saved yourself a lot of time. Win-win!


The Writing Life

This should have been the first post about writing. Somehow it got moved from there to here. I wanted to give you a little background about my writing life.

I been writing since the early 1990s. I got published within a year or so by winning a short story contest put on by the Fort Worth Star Telegram newspaper. My prize was having the story published in the newspaper and a luncheon with panel discussion about writing at a posh Fort Worth restaurant. This was sponsored yearly by the public library and the newspaper. I don’t remember how much the tickets cost, but I received two, so dragged my husband along. The story had to be no more than one thousand words, and I took one I’d already written and squeezed the excess words out of it and got it just under that mark. Even now, I know I could improve it by adding a few words. Thus I gave myself a writing hat.

But that’s not how it usually goes. Usually a story improves by deleting about 10% from your first draft. (But if I remember right, I had to squeeze out even more than 10% from that story.) This lesson, and many others I’ve learned along the way, I hope to share with you here. Since that first short story acceptance, I’ve had more than fifty others accepted and published. I’ve also had a novel published by a now-defunct small, independent publisher, and  I’m getting several more self-published in the next year or two.

I don’t think this makes me a fabulous expert, but I do know some things that are definitely true and helpful about getting published. So, if that’s your goal, stick around and join in the discussions by commenting. Argue with me—I won’t mind. Agree with me, tell me how you do things—I’ll love that.

If you have any questions you’d like to ask me about my writing life, ask away. I’ll be checking in every so often to comment on all the comments. I hope you’ll enjoy reading here as much as I know I will writing here.


If you start your day by being organized, having a list of habits you perform to get you going, and end the day with a routine that clears the decks for the next day, you will be on your way to an organized, happy life.

If you begin your day harried and rushed, it will set the tone for much of the day. If you go to bed knowing that when you get up in the morning you will find your space in disarray, you will be uneasy and might even have trouble getting to sleep.

If your life is totally unorganized and chaotic, just begin with two steps, one for morning and one for nighttime. In the morning, do not leave your bedroom until the bed is made. And in the evening before going to bed, do not leave the living area without having the kitchen cleaned up and the kitchen sink clean, dishwasher emptied.

Do these two things for two weeks, then begin adding more small chores to your mornings and evenings. For example, in the morning, hang up or put away your nightclothes, and in the evening, clear off the area where you sit to read or watch TV. Do those chores along with the bed making and kitchen clean-up for two more weeks, then look around and find out what you can add. Maybe wiping down the bathroom sink area in the morning with a handy sponge, and before bed, setting up what you need to make and serve breakfast.

Someone said habit is destiny. The more chores you make into habits, the more time you have to think about other things and worry less about a mess.

What chores do you like to do in the morning and in the evening that make you feel good about yourself and your environment? I, for example, simply cannot go to bed without emptying the dishwasher, or leave the bedroom in the morning without making the bed. These have become habits for me, mindless activities. When doing them, I can think about other stuff. Maybe even what to write for my next blog post.


All the writing advice I’ve seen over the years warns against using coincidences in your stories. I’ve seen this recommendation over and over, both in the advice given, and stated by characters in novels and short stories (usually mysteries, usually police officers): “There is no such thing as a coincidence.”

Really? What kind of world are the people saying this living in? How about the time we ran into an old neighbor in a store when we were back visiting in a city? In a city of almost 400,000 people?

I’m sure everyone can remember one astonishing coincidence that happened in their lives.

So, we have established that coincidences do happen.

In writing, though, the thing is you don’t want a coincidence to occur that helps your characters. You want one to happen that causes them difficulty. That old neighbor we met in the store? We were delighted to see her. In a story, it should be a huge inconvenience, maybe even a dangerous one.

If you don’t believe me, read some old Agatha Christi novels. Almost every one of her books has a coincidence in it. And she’s the best-selling author on the planet. Even today.

Last night I was reading N OR M? by Dame Agatha. Put it down right after a big coincidence happened. It was set up properly ahead of time. Totally believable, although totally improbable. Then this morning I read that old advice about never, ever using a coincidence in a story.

If you’d prefer not to, that’s fine. But if your story leads you to a wonderful coincidence, take a chance and use it. After all, coincidences really do happen. There’s even a word for it.

(Aside—I wrote this post over a week ago—before the surprising coincidence of the Fed Ex package I wrote about on Wednesday occurred. Amazing coincidence, no?)

My advice—as always, take it or leave it. What’s your opinion about this? Have you seen coincidences done well, or badly in stories? What’s the one that happened to you that you remember best? I’d love to hear from you.


***Today is WEIRD WEDNESDAY in which I talk about unusual stuff as it happens, if it happens within the week***

Believe in the paranormal? No? How about coincidences? Don’t believe in those either? I’m very skeptical about paranormal happenings, but I’m a big, no a huge, believer in coincidences because I’ve experienced some that are absolutely extraordinary.

Monday my belief grew.

Several months ago I bought a nice photo scanner and had a lot of fun scanning old photos, sending some off to my kids, printing some out of old friends we were going to visit so they could have copies, and just enjoying the whole process. Here’s one of my grandmother and aunt.  Isn’t that neat? How about those dresses?

Yes, loads of fun until the scanner broke. Totally quit working. Light wouldn’t go on. There was no way to open it up and change the light bulb. I thought that was odd. So, I emailed the company and quickly received a response. Things progressed to where I was given directions about how to send it off for repair or replacement. It cost me over $30 to buy a box and get it packed and sent via UPS with tracking. All on me. I figured I might have just thrown away over $30.

The email said it could take up to six weeks from the time they received the scanner until I got it back. Seemed like a long time, but I kept busy with other things. Two months went by, and no scanner. I waited another couple of weeks, then called them. Hate making such calls. Not only that, I had to leave a message, which I did. Detailed everything about it—my special number, when it was sent, when it was delivered to them, who signed for it and so on.

A man called back within fifteen minutes. That was the first surprise. He told me the scanner had been sent out on the 10th of this month, and it was due to arrive the day I called or the next day by Fed Ed. I figured since the guy had a chance to check up on the status of my scanner because I left such a detailed message, he had realized it hadn’t been sent, and he was going to Fed Ex it right away, so I should receive it the next day. Until he gave me a tracking number. Hmm.

I thanked him and hung up. Went on-line. Indeed the package had been sent on the 10th and was in my city, on the truck to be delivered to my house. Astonished, I looked out the window, and there was the Fed Ed truck pulling up in front.

And yes, my scanner was inside the box. Looks to be a replacement.

Now do you believe in coincidences? Paranormal happenings? Voodoo, maybe? Sure seemed like it to me.

When I say weird, I mean weird. And it is so improbable, I could never use it in a fictional story. The reader simply would not believe it. Do you have a wonderful story about a coincidence that happened to you? Please tell us about it in the comments.


Organization takes planning. To plan, you need a few tools. For me, the most basic are a calendar/planner, some small, legal-sized notebooks and a pen.

When buying a planner, I’d look for a binder that holds both a yearly calendar with blocks on each day to write in, plus a few pockets for miscellaneous pieces of paper and some of your business cards, and, very important, a place for a small legal pad. If you can’t find anything like that, you’ll have to stick with a separate calendar/planner and some small legal size pads.

The calendar part of planning is obvious. Put down appointments and other important things you have to do each day. Another trick is, at the end of the day, write one line about the most significant thing you did. You can keep these as a kind of quick and dirty diary to look back at, if needed, or if interested, later on.

The notepads can have a cover or not. Have one for each project. Right now I have:

  • One for daily stuff—to-do lists, to-buy lists, notes about anything I find important, miscellaneous stuff. This one is with my calendar.
  • I also have one about writing. I jot down ideas for this blog, other ideas about writing, anything I need to remember about writing in general.
  • Another one is full of notes about organization; many of those ideas from that notebook will probably be expanded on for this blog.
  • Yet another one now is for plans being made for an upcoming road trip. To pack, ideas for sight-seeing, towns to stop in along the way and so on.
  • I write short stories, so I keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas for those.
  • Suggestions for others are: hobbies, reading, genealogy.

You’d think I’d have one for my novels. But I make all my notes about my current work-in-progress right in a document (saving it as: <Title> Notes.doc) in my word processor.

A single, large or small notebook can also serve the same purpose. With tabs for each individual project, you can keep it all together and quickly find what you need. Since I am on my laptop a good part of the day, I find the smaller, individual notebooks easier to handle.

Have you found a different system that works for you to keep the areas of your life separate? Please share them here in the comments section. I’d love to hear them.

  1. You have to put in the time. I believe in at least an hour a day of new writing.
  2. Finish what you start. Nothing unfinished will ever get published. You want to be published, right?
  3. You have to read. A lot. Read the type of stories you want to write (short, novels, mystery, romance, western, etc.). Read all the advice you have time for in books, magazines, on-line, especially in areas you feel are your weakest.
  4. Learn to edit your own writing. It’s good, especially in the beginning, to join a writing group, have critique partners, on-line or in person, and after you’ve done all you can to polish your manuscript, have a professional editor go over it for you.
  5. Then submit! Submit what you’ve finished drafting and editing. Submit until you run out of places to submit.
  6. Keep your eye on the goals of writing, finishing the first draft, learning, editing and submitting. Those who follow this process almost always get published eventually. Maybe not with the first story, or the second. But sooner or later, it will happen.

Next comes the hard part. Really the hardest part for a lot of writers. Marketing. We’ll talk about that another time.

I’d love to hear from other writers who have been published. Do these steps seem right to you? Did I leave something important out?