Happy Veteran’s Day

Thank you


to all of our veterans who have served in the armed forces


to the men and women who continue to do so






May God bless each of you and keep you safe


Friday Favorites — I am devastated

Well, “devastated” might be too strong of a word, but I’m not happy!

For some unknown cyber reason, Wednesday’s post didn’t publish. (It wasn’t exactly unknown–it was user error.) So today, when I started to work on Friday Favorites, I discovered my last post was Monday. What the heck?

Wednesday’s post was there, pretty as you please, just waiting to be sent to the world. I’ve scheduled it for next Wednesday and I hope I’ve learned my lesson to double, triple and quadruple check.

Why does this upset me so? It’s that cute little calendar to the right. (If you’re getting this through e-mail or on a reader, double click “Kay Elam Writes” at the top and it will take you to the actual post. That’s where the calendar is and also how you leave comments (hint, hint).

Anyway, back to my calendar. Since I started blogging last summer, I’ve not missed a post. I’ve had two, maybe three, that were a day late, but I always met my goal of three posts a week. Even when I was so very sick earlier this year, I got something posted. One day it was simply “still sick, still on drugs,” but it got me a box around the date on my online calendar. Most months you can look at the calendar and it has nice neat rows of boxes showing that I posted every MWF. Now this month will be missing a box for the 25th. Certainly not a big problem with world-wise consequences. Heck, it doesn’t even have any consequences in my own home. But it chaps my hinny!

Like most writers, I set goals for myself–so many words a day, or work a certain number of hours (this is called butt in your seat time, by the way) or other such goals. What do you do when you don’t meet your goals?

I tend to react like I did today, angry at myself for making a mistake, feeling like a failure–real mood busters. I used to make lists and would put an impossible number of tasks on them, then beat my self up over not completing the list. A long-ago friend told me I was the only person he knew who make lists of her lists.

I think making and remaking lists was a form of procrastinating from actually performing the tasks on the lists. Now I have a stickie on my computer desktop that has a list of everything I need to do with no time time line unless it is a scheduled appointment or my blog. By not putting a time requirement, I save myself lots of angst.

Why am I this way? Lots of theories: oldest child, perfectionist, type A personality (I think I’m type B), just plain loony. Most likely I got in trouble as a child for being late with something or for not completing a task. What I know (but always forget) is these are my rules, my timelines, my, oh my, oh my. No one is standing over me saying I need to get edits in by a certain date. (I look forward to that day.) No one said I had to blog three times a week and most likely, no one cares. I make myself crazy over these self-imposed rules and deadlines when I could just as easily amend the tasks.

What about you? How do you feel when  you miss a deadline or don’t hit the “publish” button for your blog. Are you hard on yourself or do you just let it go? I’d love some more positive methods of coping if you’ll share.


Manic Monday: Pen Names–Are they for you?

When I took the giant step to pursue publication of my work, I debated whether or not to use a pseudonym, also known as a pen name. My biggest concern was what if the book flopped. But on the flip side, what if it didn’t? What if it was a huge success? Wouldn’t I want everyone who has ever known me to know I wrote it? Heck yes!

I use my legal name to write mysteries, but I haven’t ruled out using a pen name in the future (especially if my book flops). OR…if I started writing romance or science fiction or erotica, I might want a different name for a different genre. If my name is too highly identified with mysteries, would readers believe I could write science fiction? If I wrote steamy romances or even erotica, I’m positive I’d use a pen name. What if my first grade teacher saw it? Or my elderly Aunt Doris? I’d hate to be responsible for the heart attack that put her in her grave. Of course that begs the question why were they reading it in the first place.

So why do people use pen names?

Like me, poet Eric Blair wondered if his fiction was good enough to stand on its own and didn’t want to damage his credibility as a poet and essayist. Therefore he used the pen name George Orwell for most of his books. Can you say Animal Farm? Nineteen Eighty Four?  OK so it’s not like me, except for wondering if it was good enough. I still related.

If you have a name that is very common, a pseudonym could make you more identifiable. For example, my mother’s maiden name was Betty Smith. I think she would’ve used a pen name because how many Betty Smith’s are out there? My sister, on the other hand, has a name so unique I won’t even put it on my blog. If you Googled her, I guarantee you’d find exactly one.

My ex-father-in-law’s name was George Jones. He might have used a pen name because his name was so commonplace or because he didn’t want to be confused with the country music star George Jones. If you have the same name as a famous person (even one who is well-respected), using a pen name would probably be a good idea.

On the other hand, a prominent person might use a pen name so her book is not associated with her. What if a Supreme Court Justice decided to write a steamy romance? She’d most likely use a pen name to separate two very different personas and avoid harming her reputation. Would anyone take her opinions seriously if she also wrote fiction? I’m just saying…

Sometimes several people work on a book but instead of saying it was written by Nan Macomb, Loralee Anderson, and Emma (Kat) Morgan they would pick a pen name. It would certainly make the book easier to find in a bookstore or library, but knowing these three, it would be to solve the question of who got top billing. There are a lot of series books are out there written by multiple authors. The Nancy Drew series, for example, was ghostwritten by a number of authors and published under the collective pen name Carolyn Keene.

In times past, female authors have written under the name of a man to be taken seriously. I don’t think that’s done so much any more, but quite a few authors use initials: J.D. Robb, J.T. Ellison, J.K. Rowling to name a few. (I don’t think they have to start with a “J”, these are just the ones that popped in my head.) This is frequently done to keep the author’s identity gender neutral lest someone think a female can’t write suspense or a male can’t write chick lit.

An author might use a pen name to avoid prosecution or retaliation if he’s written an expose book about a real-life crime.  If you knew where Jimmy Hoffa was buried would you use a pseudonym? (I certainly would!) Remember Deep Throat?

There are lots of other reasons to use a pen name. I know of people who don’t want their employer to know they are also writers. Some people want to protect their privacy and  keep readers from knowing too much about them—like they have small children or they live alone.

The use of pseudonyms is not new. Musicians, actors and authors have used pen names (or stage names) for centuries. Do you have a pen name? If not, what are some pen names you have considered?




Friday Favorites: Oops! It’s Saturday

Today’s guest blogger is Loralee Anderson, a character from MURDER ON MUSIC ROW.

Hey y’all,

Well, I’ve done it again. You ever had one of those weeks where you just can’t remember where your keys and sunglasses are…or even what day it is? This has been one of those weeks for me. I won’t go into all the details–they ain’t important–the point is I forgot (again) to post on my assigned day. You know I’ll never hear the end of this.

I actually had a good day yesterday, with the exception of thinking it was Thursday all day long. Nan, Emma and I went to see the movie Bridesmaids and I laughed so hard I almost peed in my pants. I actually got up and ran to the bathroom (something I don’t never do in movies) but this time I knew if I didn’t there’d be a puddle at my seat when we left. There was one scene along those same lines in the movie that had me laughing so hard I done though I was gonna hurt myself.

Anyways, we’re sitting there passing the stale popcorn between us and all of a sudden it hit me like a wild pitch, right between the eyes. I was supposed to blog. We was at the late showing so there weren’t much I could about it then. I damn darn sure weren’t gonna write it on my I-Phone. Though I have to say I do love my phone.

Now I ain’t gonna blame this on nobody but myself, but one thing did throw me off, and this ain’t no excuse, it’s just fact. My momma showed up unexpected. This don’t happen often (thank God!) but when it does it usually means trouble. I’m 35 years old and I still break out in hives when i see her coning. Even though Nan and her momma is always bickering, Nan’s dad is there to referee.  Emma and her mom has the kind of relationship we all wish we had. My momma only shows up when she’s got man trouble and frankly I don’t want to listen about my momma’s love life. Whoever invented Match.Com saw my momma coming.

On the other hand, I love to see my daddy even if he did marry a girl not much older than me and they have a baby that could easily be my own kid. Ewww…how embarrassing.  My step-mom (I hate saying that) is a piece of work. She says she gets along with every body. That’s true, I reckon cause it’s easier to go along with whatever she wants than to spend the time or energy arguing with her. She jest wears you down til she gets her way.

I was major league pissed when they got married. I was living with Daddy in Texas at the time. I was singing in clubs and he’d come to listen to me. He met her at one of the dives I was working in and it was love (or probably lust) at first sight for him. When she found out Daddy was a successful business man and his family had money, she had her claws all over him. And of course he was flattered someone young enough to be his daughter would give him the time of day. His ego inflated to about the size of the Goodyear blimp and the next thing I knew they was married (and I weren’t invited). Of course she was done knocked up, but I didn’t know it at the time.

One of the reasons it’s so hard being around momma is she wants to talk about “Daddy and his floozy” all the time. Never mind momma’s been married three times since she and Daddy got themselves divorced. She still thinks he’s cheating on her. Anyways I had to deal with her all week which is enough to rattle anybody’s brain especially when  you’re caught in the middle like a piece of bologna on a day-old sandwich.

All that to say, I’m sorry I didn’t post yesterday. When momma left I went straight to bed (well after a couple of night caps) and slept fourteen straight hours. Does anybody else have mommie issue I’d like to know. You know what they say. “Misery loves company.” I’d like to have a cotton picking convention.

That’s enough bitching and moaning for one day. I’m fine now that she’s gone and I finally got my blog posted. It’s raining and a nap is calling my name. Have a good weekend.

See you next time,


Wildcard Wednesday: A Writer’s Face

ELI ASHPENCE is active on one of my favorite writing websites: AQ Connect. It is the home of my online writers’ group and lots and lots of great forums. One of Eli’s recent posts resonated with me and she gave me permission to share it with my readers. Enjoy. 

A Writer’s Face

I titled this post ‘A Writer’s Face’, but I really mean is the expression on a writer’s face while they’re writing.  I sometimes wonder what my hubby sees when I’m really in the zone.  I don’t move out of my chair, but I silently act out dialogue.  I grimace when my character is in pain and I cry with him when his heart is broken.  (Too bad I can’t imitate his artful way of creating perfect, sparkling teardrops–my face gets splotchy and my nose runs.) 

If you’re a writer, then you’re probably saying ‘so what?’ by this point.  It’s a daily occurrence.

If you’re not a writer, then you’re also probably saying ‘so what?’ by this point. The author’s process shouldn’t affect your reading experience.

To writers: This post is just a note to remind you of something:  don’t blame emotion for your writer’s block.  A lot of writers use this as an excuse to procrastinate:  “I’m just not feeling it.”  That’s baloney because you’re not the one who has to be in the right mood.  Your character does and you must symbiotically sympathize with them.  “I’m not feeling it” is an often-ignored signal that something isn’t working in your storyboard.  Maybe the motivation isn’t clear.  Maybe the description is flimsy.  Maybe you’ve forced something to move unnaturally.

“I’m just not feeling it.”  An author’s job includes the artificial creation of emotions.  Yes, I’ll admit–If you’re not feeling it when you write it, a reader won’t feel it when they read it.  But go beyond that and you have–If the character isn’t feeling it when they live it, then an author can’t feel it when they write it.  Whenever you hit this snag, there’s three things you can do to help overcome it:

1.  Go back and read. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of distance.  You, as a writer, took a day off to think about things, but your character is still stuck in the same situation. Rereading what’s been written can help put you back in the immediacy of the moment.

2.  Boost the cause.  When you can’t feel what your character is supposed to feel, the reason can often be a weak motivation.  Would an assassin cry over the same things as a teenage girl?  Of course not, but sometimes writers tend to leave a character’s tolerance out of the equation.  Inciting incidents (the cause for an emotion) must overwhelm the character’s inner strength.  If not, even with emotions like loneliness will feel meaningless and shallow.

3.  Account for free will.  In the beginning, an author has complete control.   Once your character’s personality is defined enough, you have to give up control and let the character tell the story.  But sometimes, an author tries to retain that control and continues to say “I command you to do this” instead of asking ‘How would my MC react if I did this?’  The same goes for emotion.  It can’t be “Feel this”.  It must be “How would he feel if I did this?”  If the answer you find puts you in front of a brick wall, then it must not have been the right answer.  Don’t be stubborn.  Go to the point where YOU, the author, made the decision that something should have happened or been felt and let the CHARACTER make the choice for yo

To non-writers:  It’s true…  An author’s writing process shouldn’t affect your reading experience.  At the same time, a reader’s life experience CAN.  For example, in the opening pages of a book, a grown man calls another man a ‘poopy head’.  One reader might expect the character to laugh.  Another reader might expect the character to feel upset over being treated like a child. But it’s never about what you expect because you’re not the character.  A reader is only a passenger.

I’ve noticed an increasing amount of readers who are incapable of suspending their disbelief.  Writers often blame themselves for this, thinking they weren’t clear on motivations or they screwed up the character profile.  That’s not always the case.  Sometimes, the reader stubbornly expects every character to act like they would.  ESPECIALLY when a reader is more experienced than a character.

For example, a girl falls in love for the first time, then gets refused during a confession.  She laughs it off.  For a reader who has gone through hard breakups, her reaction might seem unnatural.  She should feel disappointed or hurt or something–but that’s the reader talking, not the character.  For that character, her reaction is a look into her psyche and personality.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that readers should give authors a little more credit.  While there are authors who don’t treat their characters like living people, the bulk of us DO see through our character’s eyes.  We feel what they feel and go beyond ‘filling their shoes’.  We become them.

So, the next time you think “That’s stupid” or “Who would do that?”…. give the story a chance.  It should make sense once you have the whole picture.

Thanks again for sharing, Eli.
See you Friday.


Monday Madness

I can’t seem to wake up today. Between the overcast skies and an empty house, my body seems to think today is a rest day.

Thanks to everyone who sent condolences for the passing of my father-in-law last week. It was a sad thing, but his 80 year old body had been through a lot with a liver transplant twenty-five years ago and battling cancer for the past five years. The last six months have been the worst, but Hospice has been involved, making it much easier on the family and hopefully on him. We are happy he could die at home in a house he built himself.

On a brighter note, all three sons got to come home, including our Marine who is stationed in Hawaii. Many thanks to the Red Cross! It was great going to sleep to the sound of their voices and laughter. At 29, 26, and 24, they’re still young enough to manage those late night sessions, but Hubby and I were in bed each evening at the earliest possible time. The dishwasher, washer and dryer were constantly going, but all three sons (and Hubby) know how to operate them.

In the aftermath of the funeral (Thursday), we had a celebration on Saturday. The youngest son graduated from college. Now everyone will be off the payroll. A time to celebrate indeed.

Yesterday was filled with trips to the airport (one at an ungodly hour) and visits with my mother-in-law. She’s handling widowhood quite well and has already made plans to attend a Tuesday night widow’s group at her church.

Whew! Maybe there’s a reason my eyes won’t stay open today. Hopefully by Wednesday I’ll be wide-awake. Until then . . .


Wildcat Wednesday: Oh, Mama

Hi everyone,

In case you missed Monday’s post, my father-in-law passed away earlier this week.

Lauren E. Abramo of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management has graciously allowed me to use her Mother’s Day post today. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Oh, Mama!

I’ve been thinking about the best and worst mothers in literature.  I’ve got a pretty excellent mom if I do say so myself, but so many literary characters seem a bit lacking in that department.

By far the worst, in my estimation, is Beth Jarrett in Ordinary People.  Poor Conrad Jarrett—I still can’t look at Mary Tyler Moore the same way after seeing her spot-on depiction of Beth in the film adaptation.  You toss that hat in the air, Mary, like you’re a happy, warm-hearted person, but I know deep down inside you’re awful.  I’m not buying it for a second.

There are many runners up, though.  I think we can all agree that Flowers in the Attic’s Corinne is seriously failing her children.  The mom in Carrie isn’t winning any prizes.  And if we’re counting Christina Crawford’s Mommie Dearest, well, I think we all know about the wire hangers.

I’m hard pressed to come up with a best.  Marmee from Little Women is close, but she did produce Amy, so that’s some points off for her.  A recent entry into the canon might be Ma in Room—it’s hard to imagine better mothering under such circumstances.  Plenty of mothers are much worse without such dire constraints.  Caroline Ingalls is pretty great, as I recall, though I remember Pa better, frankly.

But I bet you all can come up with even better options.  There must be some reallllllly lovable mom out there in the world of books, right?  Who would you nominate for best and worst literary mom?!

Thanks everyone for your e-mails and comments offering condolences. He was a dear man and had fought a good fight against his cancer. He was 80.

I’ll be back soon,


Monday Madness: Something is wrong with my blog

Something is wrong with my blog and I can only get it to single space. I don’t have time to figure it out now. Sorry for it being so difficult to read.
I hope everyone had a happy Mother’s Day, mother or not. I had a busy one.
Pa Herb (my father-in-law) died early yesterday morning.
I spent the day at the farm with my mother-in-law who was diagnosed with stomach cancer about six weeks ago and had her stomach removed removed three weeks ago. (Yes, you can do that!)  There is no Internet connection at the farm, nor do cell phones work.
With all of this I experienced something I’d never done before. I called the Red Cross to try to get my step-son home from his Marine post in Hawaii. We don’t know yet if that will work out, but are keeping our fingers crossed. My oldest step-son works near Washington, D C. and will be in on Wednesday. The youngest graduates next Saturday from college (Finally!) so he’s finishing up exams.
My blog may be sporatic this week. I’m not even sure if I’ll able to post Wednesday and Friday. Thanks for understandingl”
~ Kay

Friday Favorites: Character Post

Guest blogger: Nan Macomb, a character from MURDER ON MUSIC ROW

Hi everybody,

Spring has sprung in Nashville and it is glorious. Last year pretty much everything had drowned in the flood. We’ve gotten lots of rain this year too, but not so much as to kill the plants. Everything is lush and beautiful. I guess I’ve officially got spring fever.

I have a pretty big fenced-in back yard with a few blooming trees and some azaleas. It’s important that my back yard be kept up because that’s the view from the salon. Mostly though I focus on my front yard because of street appeal and all. It’s no bigger than a minute which makes it easy to plant and maintain. I plant lots and lots of bulbs. I love bulbs because I never remember exactly where I planted them, so when they bloom it’s like the earth sent me flowers–and what girl doesn’t like getting flowers?

I cheated some this year and bought my hanging baskets instead of making them myself. You know that limited time thing. I placed two great big ferns on pedestals by the door and six hanging baskets around the outside of the porch. They’re all the same size and in those cool straw/moss baskets, but all the flowers are different. I get afternoon sun so I selected mostly geraniums, petunias,impatiens, geraniums, and pansies. Lots of color.  I can’t wait to sit in the swing in the afternoons after it’s cooled off a little and enjoy the view while I read or work my puzzles.

Besides the bulbs, which line the front path, are some holly bushes and evergreens. All I have to do is keep them trimmed. Next to the house, in front of the dull boxwoods, are some of the prettiest hostas I’ve seen anywhere and dark pink, almost purple, azaleas to add a pop of color.  I adore the annuals but I love perennials. It’s nice not to have to plant everything new every year. Low maintenance. I used to have that confounded monkey grass all over the place, It spread so fast it probably would’ve taken over the whole yard if I hadn’t gotten rid of it. It’s nice when it’s new but once it starts to grow, look out Moses!

The only other thing I’ve planted (so far) is my herb garden. I used wooden window boxes Mr. “I’ll do anything to get in your pants” put up for me several years ago. I knew I was cutting him lose after the first date, but he kept offering to do all these home projects and, I’m not proud to admit it, I let him–do the projects, not the other. He was kind of slimy.

I have wooden window boxes on the railing surrounding the back deck, which is a little smaller than the front porch.  I planted a good assortment of herbs: basil, spearmint and lemon mint, parsley, dill, and some oregano. I threw some marigolds in to add color.  That’s one of the things I love about summer. Herbs at my fingertips and with the right herbs (or sometimes even the wrong ones) you can make anything taste good. My grill is out there along with an eating table (though I seldom eat outside. It’s the gnats, you know.) I’ve also got two of the most comfortable glider chairs. I sit on the front porch when I’m feeling sociable and want to wave at the runners and walkers that go by. But when I want to get away from it all (or take a little nap) I head to the back deck. It’s shady in the afternoon so it’s real pleasant, even in mid-summer.

I can’t believe how fast a word count goes. I was going to tell you about some of my clients, but I guess that’ll have to wait. Loralee and Emma said hi and they’ll see you next time. I hope you have a good weekend. (Get out and plant some flowers. They have a great selection at the Farmers’ Market.)

~ Nan