Adding Je Ne Sais Quoi to Your Writing

A single mosquito turns a man into a eunuch.

Sometimes, when I’m listening to other’s conversations, which I do quite frequently because I love to use people’s unique expressions or cadence in my writing, I hear something that really makes me stop and think.

This often happens when I’m lucky enough to be sitting close to people of other cultures who either speak English perfectly or who speak it well enough to get their point across. I also love when they intersperse their English with wonderful words or sayings from their own cultures.

I grew up with a grandmother who used Yiddish as a way to really explain what she wanted to say because, in her mind, the word was more expressive than the English term she knew. She grew up in a Yiddish-speaking home but spoke English during school and throughout adulthood. The cultural words she used were branded into my psyche as well, and if I can’t come up with the right term for something, especially around friends who also had Yiddish-speaking grandparents or parents, I’ll find myself using the Yiddish term. More often than not, the person I’m trying to explain something to will have a “lightbulb” moment and go, “Oh! Of course!”

For example, sometimes saying, “He’s a great guy,” just doesn’t cut it. But, to certain friends, and to me anyway, “What a mensch” tells an entire story all on its own. The word conveys that you’re speaking about a person of integrity and honor and that the person is someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character.

My German-speaking grandfather once admonished me by saying, “Don’t be a schadenfreude.” I know I had a blank look because he thought a moment and then explained, “It literally means ‘shadow joy.’ Don’t take joy from someone else’s misfortune.” Shadow Joy. How wonderfully descriptive is that?

What got me onto this topic was a recent chance overheard conversation where one man said to another, “A single mosquito turns a man into a eunuch.” Since I absolutely couldn’t fathom what the heck that meant, I leaned across the gap between our tables, confessed to eavesdropping, and asked if he would explain to me what that meant.

Both men laughed, and the one explained that in their culture, eunuchs are social outcasts, but their blessings and curses are powerful things. People ask for their blessings and will pay for them. When a eunuch wants money in return for giving a blessing, he spreads his fingers and claps his hand. Therefore, when a mosquito flies in a man’s face, and that man claps to kill it, he is acting like a Eunuch. Apparently, there is a deeper meaning to the saying, but I’d have to do some research to be able to fully understand it.


When your characters explain things to other people, invent a backstory that allows them to use interesting and descriptive colloquialisms. I’m going to use those two men as a fun aside in my latest Alex Wolfe mystery and give their explanation as to what that phrase means. It won’t be a huge part of the book, but it will add a little je ne se quoi to the overall understanding of the Alex Wolfe character. Have fun with your writing, and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box whenever you possibly can. Readers enjoy little surprises, and I always try to accommodate them. If you don’t already, give it a try.

“A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.” Ernest Hemingway

“A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.” Ernest Hemingway

ink pen writing on paper

“A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.”

― Ernest Hemingway


Ernest Hemingway provided us with so many wonderful quotes. But the quote above is one of my favorites. The words are simple, but they speak to me because they are me.


When I’m in a room full of people or talking to someone one-on-one, I struggle with the spoken word. I stumble over my tongue, and at times my mind is frantically searching for something to say. I open my mouth, only to close it again because what I was about to say sounded inane. I often complete the conversation in my mind hours or even days after meeting with the person.


Not so when I write. My daughter will often tell me something that I want to comment on or give advice about, but I can’t seem to form the right words to tell her what I want to say. So, I get off the phone, open an email to her, and I write. And usually, what I write is exactly the advice I knew I wanted to give her but couldn’t figure out the best way to say it.


I think that’s true of most writers. We think in writing even when we’re supposed to be speaking. As though writing is a language unto itself, like Spanish, or Hindi, or Greek. I wish it were. I wish I could sit at a dinner table with my tablet open, and when someone speaks to me, I could quickly write out my response and then either read it to them or pass the tablet across the table and have them read it. I’m kidding, of course, but you writers out there know what I mean.


But, alas, life doesn’t work that way. So, I’ll just accept my gift for what it is and not disparage myself for what I’m not. I can’t sing. I’m not the life of the party or the chatty one at a dinner table.


But, I am a writer, and if I ever hand you a pad with a message scrawled across its pages, realize you’re important enough to me that I’ve taken the time to express myself in the best way I know how.

Prayers and Legitimate Charities to Support the Ukrainian People

Ukrainian flagMy heart and prayers go out to the Ukrainian people. If you feel powerless to help such brave, strong people and have even a few dollars to send, there are several charities I like because you can specify where your money goes and they are rated highly with Charity Navigator, a group that monitors and rates charities.

Alison and her 95-year-old dad


On a personal note, yesterday I went hiking in the desert with my 95-year-old Dad and my stepmother. I hope I’m so lucky to have his strength and stamina at 95 and her positive and caring attitude. We had a great time photographing flowers. The desert is beautiful at this time of year and we brought along my horse, Loki, who thoroughly enjoyed my Dad and nuzzled him whenever he got the chance. Spring in Arizona is full of cool weather and if it rained enough over the winter we get an enormous amount of wildflowers dotting the desert in the foothills where we ride and hike. P.S. If you’re wondering, Loki is carrying my Dad’s jacket for him.

It’s also time for me to take my writing outdoors. Some people prefer writing in a single spot, at a desk in their office, or wherever they have their preferred writing space. I prefer to be outside, whether I’m sitting in a stream cooling my toes in the water or on the bank of a lake, or even just outside in my front yard listening to the water rushing over the rocks of my fountain.

I’ve been enjoying writing a short story every week and I’ve found it’s a very freeing experience. I get to explore new genres and meet new characters, many of whom will eventually have their own novels because I enjoy their company so much.

Anyway, I’d love to hear from you. Is it spring where you are yet? What have you been doing with your time? How have you weathered the pandemic? Drop me a line ‘cuz I’d love to know!


I’m finally on Instagram!

I’m finally on Instagram!

In addition to the usual social media sites, I’m also on Bookbub and Pinterest. All of them offer insights into my twisted mind and writing, so if you’re so inclined, follow me!



As far as writing goes, I’m currently writing Credo’s Run, the latest book in the Alex Wolfe Mysteries. Alex hunts for a monster who is drugging children as young as eight-years-old. Lucky for her, she has some help from some four-footed friends who discover that police work can be a ton of fun.

I’ve also started a fun challenge of writing a short story each week. So far, they’ve mostly been stories set in the Ar’rothi series. I’m sending them off to various magazines. After they’ve been published in one or more magazines, I intend to put them into a collection so everyone who loves the Ar’rothi characters can meet some interesting people they’ve never met before.


Traveling and visiting with my readers

Alison and Oriana

I’ve been traveling cross-country with my dog, Maggie. It’s always wonderful to meet new friends and spend time with my readers. One night in Texas, I pulled my camper into a lot behind a barn at a beautiful alpaca/lavender farm north of Dallas. I found Tx-Ture Farms through Harvest Hosts and if you’re ever up that way, I highly recommend stopping by to say hello to the owners and their alpacas. Oriana was a camera hog. but I managed to get into the picture too.

And I had a TON of fun with one of my favorite fans, Larry, and his wife, Janet, who met me at Tx-Ture farms and hung out. He’s been a loyal fan for many years, and we’ve discovered we have the same warped sense of humor. As you can see by the grins, good times were had by all.

My newest book, Spyder’s Kiss, is available for Pre-order now
cover of book Spyder's Web

Revenge, insanity, romance. This book has it all.

A master of swordplay, military tactics, and stealth movement, Liris can do everything except listen to what her heart is whispering to her.

Sent on a mission by Aurelia “Bree” Makena, the Duchess of Danforth, Liris stumbles on three bodies hanging in a peaceful glade. The mission suddenly becomes one where she needs all her skills to investigate the murders and stay alive.

When love is added to the mix, she’s pulled in two different directions. She was born and bred to be a warrior princess. Is she willing to give that up to follow her heart?

Christmas Gift Ideas for a Writer’s Family and Friends

Christmas WreathGift Ideas for Writers

I absolutely love this time of year. The idea of dressing up my house with beautiful lights and wonderful smells is something I’ve looked forward to ever since I was a small child. I remember my dad pulling down box after box of tree decorations while my brothers, cousins and I worked to shove the tree stand onto the trunk of our newly cut Christmas tree. Our decorations certainly never looked like the designer trees you see in stores today. We were happy if the red puff-ball nose we’d glued onto our cardboard toilet paper roll reindeer stayed on and the strings on the handmade popcorn garlands didn’t break.
Fast forward to our busy hustle and bustle lives of today. So many people don’t have the time to make homemade decorations or to bake gooey double chip chocolate chip cookies. Heck, as writers, we’re lucky if we even have time to go gift shopping let alone do all the little extras that make Christmas so special for your family.
I know I sit at my computer eight hours a day, sometimes more, where I live in whatever fantasy world I happen to be creating that day. When people ask me “What do you want Santa to bring you?” my response is usually a blank stare and a mumbled “Can I get back to you on that?” Which brings me to the reason for this post. I thought I’d give my writer friends a list that they can print out and give to their friends and family of various items that might be appreciated by a writer. Some are whimsical, some are practical, but I hope something here might tickle your fancy. I’ll try to add three or four ideas to each new blog post I put up before Christmas.
1.  The first item on the list is this wonderful clock that doesn’t let us procrastinate, get distracted, file our nails, walk the dog or any of one hundred other excuses we find to get ourselves out of putting words to the page. I personally love this clock
2. One of my personal favorites are these coasters that make my imaginary friends legitimate.

3. And here’s one for the more practical minded. I have learned an incredible amount from reading Dean Wesley Smith’s blog over the years. He is considered one of the most prolific writers working in modern fiction. If you really, really want a gift that your loved one can consider a great investment in your life’s passion, ask them to buy you one of the many available lectures in his WMG Publishing Lecture Series. You won’t be disappointed.

4. How about some help with your writing? Here’s one that I found especially helpful whenever I write about a character’s emotions. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression  Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have done an excellent job of illustrating the importance writers taking their innate skills of observation and transferring them to their characters in ways that are compelling to read.

I know holidays can be stressful, but try to look at the positive rather than the negative and most importantly, keep on writing!

Coming Out Of Hibernation

Front of House in winter snow


One truism I’ve found as a writer is it’s easier to let life get in the way of writing than to let writing get in the way of life. I’ve decided to turn that trend around and get back to the business of writing. Five years ago, I was easily writing up to 3000 words/day. My writing business was thriving, life was fantastic and I didn’t have a care in the world. Then, insanity struck. I bought a 100+ year old house intending to do a quick 1 year renovation while continuing to write. Five years later, I own a beautiful turn of the century home, but where in the time prior to my madness I wrote three novels in two years, I have only written one novel in five years.

Right now, right here, I am publicly declaring that my writing hiatus is over. I intend to write more now than I ever wrote before. The madness, the insanity that has been my life for the past five years is over. I’m a writer, damn it. I’ve known I was a writer from the time I was a child. The written word is my chosen form of communication and I WILL write.

So, anyway, if anyone is still out there….  I’m Baaaack!!!!

Amazon Asks Site Owner To Remove Kindle From Domain Name By Steven Lewis | Book Marketing Strategies and Tips For Authors

Today’s post is an important one for you to read on many levels. It goes to the heart of what this blog is about. As you build your brand, the lessons you learn in this post are priceless and will set you ahead of the curve with most authors and others with a web presence.

Recently, a friend and colleague of mine, Steven Lewis, was contacted by Amazon and asked to change his domain by removing their trademarked “Kindle” from his domain name. Can you imagine having to change months, or years of posts and link relationships? When you read this, you’ll realize just what a daunting task this can be.

I approached Steven about sharing his story with us for a couple of reasons. First, I believe that Steven’s site is such a great resource for authors that I genuinely wanted to do what I could to help spread the word of his domain change. But second, this is a rare opportunity for me and my readers to learn, first hand, the “whys” and “hows” of a move like this. You truly have a unique seat at the feet of someone willing to open up and share this amazing experience with you.

To read more of this blog post, go to:

via Amazon Asks Site Owner To Remove Kindle From Domain Name By Steven Lewis | Book Marketing Strategies and Tips For Authors.

The Slow Death of the American Author –

The Slow Death of the American Author


LAST month, the Supreme Court decided to allow the importation and resale of foreign editions of American works, which are often cheaper than domestic editions. Until now, courts have forbidden such activity as a violation of copyright. Not only does this ruling open the gates to a surge in cheap imports, but since they will be sold in a secondary market, authors won’t get royalties.

via The Slow Death of the American Author –

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

As part of  “The Next Big Thing Blog Hop” I was tagged by wonderful fellow writer  Alexandra Wolfe. The purpose of this hop is to expose you to writers and their work that you might not have heard of before.

According to the rules of the hop, I’ve answered some questions below about my latest WIP, which are the same questions each Blog Hopper is answering. Other authors will be doing the same thing on successive Wednesday’s on their blogs. So watch out for more.


What is the working title of the book you are currently working on?

Credo’s Fire. It is the third in the Alex Wolfe Mystery Series.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

In all of my books I take a little bit from different cases I worked as an officer, and I combine that with a wicked imagination and a rollicking sense of the perverse to create a slightly realistic and slightly improbable fiction.

What genre does the book fall under?

Murder Mystery

 Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?

I had to ask my daughter because she knows more actresses in the age range for my protagonist, Alex Wolfe. Of all the actresses she suggested, I like Melissa Peregrym the best.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your work?

Alexandra Wolfe is a fresh, funny, tough cop who skates on the edge of the law in her quest for justice.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I self-publish all of my books. In this day and age, unless a major publisher promises me the moon, I feel it is foolish to turn over the rights to my work only to get a fraction of the selling price.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your MS?

I haven’t finished the first draft, but it usually takes me about three months to get the first draft out, and then another month to get it to the editor and then to do the re-write.

Who or what inspired you to write this book.

That’s easy. I keep getting requests from people who read the first two books in the series to write the third. I’ve been busy starting a fantasy fiction series, The Seven Realms of Ar’rothi, and since I published the first in that series, The Spirit Child, I’m now ready to continue with Credo’s Fire.

What else about your work might pique the reader’s interest?

I always create strong female characters in my books who are multi-dimensional and who play well with others. Very often, readers comment that they’d like to be friends with my characters in real life, because they are honest, caring, loving, kick-ass women.  I also write in several different genre’s and it is easy for readers to find action, adventure, angst or just plain entertainment .

Next in line:

The next author I’ve tagged is the incomparable Harvey Stanbrough. Harvey is an editor, teacher, guest speaker, seminar leader and a pulitzer nominated poet. To read his answers to these questions on December 26th, go to


Seven Excellent Safety Tips For Women


Alison and BearI’m going to take a minute and step back into my cop persona.

A friend emailed these tips to me and they were so good I thought I’d pass them along to my friends. I don’t know who originally wrote them, but the email said they were written by a female cop. I’m not writing these as gospel, and I KNOW a lot of people will have differing opinions. However, if a woman finds herself in any of these situations, maybe, just maybe, remembering one of these suggestions will save her life.

1. Tip from Tae Kwon Do :

The elbow is the strongest point on your body. If you are close enough to use it, do!

2. Learned this from a tourist guide.

If a robber asks for your wallet and/or purse, DO NOT HAND IT TO HIM.
Toss it away from you…. Chances are that he is more interested in your wallet and/or purse than you, and he will go for the wallet/purse. RUN LIKE MAD IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!

3. If you are ever thrown into the trunk of a car, kick out the back tail lights and stick your arm out the hole and start waving like crazy.

The driver won’t see you, but everybody else will. This has saved lives.

4. Women have a tendency to get into their cars after shopping, eating, working, etc., and just sit (doing their checkbook, or making a list, etc.) DON’T DO THIS!

The predator will be watching you, and this is the perfect opportunity for him to get in on the passenger side, put a gun to your head, and tell you where to go.

If someone is in the car with a gun to your head DO NOT DRIVE OFF, Repeat: DO NOT DRIVE OFF! Instead gun the engine and speed into anything,wrecking the car. Your Air Bag will save you. If the person is in the back seat they will get the worst of it. As soon as the car crashes bail out and run. It is better than having them find your body in a remote location.

5. A few notes about getting into your car in a parking lot, or   parking garage:

  • Be aware: look around you, look into your car, at the passenger side floor , and in the back seat.
  • If you are parked next to a big van, enter your car from the passenger door. Most serial killers attack their victims by pulling them into their vans while the women are attempting to get into their cars.
  • Look at the car parked on the driver’s side of your vehicle, and the passenger side. If a male is sitting alone in the seat nearest your car, you may want to walk back into the mall, or work, and get a guard/policeman to walk you back out. IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO BE SAFE THAN SORRY. (And better paranoid than dead.)
  • ALWAYS take the elevator instead of the stairs. Stairwells are horrible places to be alone and the perfect crime spot. This is especially true at NIGHT!)
  • If the predator has a gun and you are not under his control, ALWAYS RUN! The predator will only hit you (a running target) 4 in 100 times; and even then, it most likely WILL NOT be a vital organ. RUN, Preferably in a zig -zag pattern!
  •  As women, we are always trying to be sympathetic: STOP It may get you raped, or killed. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, was a good-looking, well educated man, who ALWAYS played on the sympathies of unsuspecting women. He walked with a cane, or a limp, and often asked ‘for help’ into his vehicle or with his vehicle, which is when he abducted his next victim.

6. Crying Baby Scam

Another Safety Point: Someone just told me that her friend heard a crying baby on her porch the night before last, and she called the police because it was late and she thought it was weird. The police told her ‘Whatever you do, DO NOT open the door.’ The lady then said that it sounded like the baby had crawled near a window, and she was worried that it would crawl to the street and get run over. The dispatcher said, ‘We already have a unit on the way, whatever you do, DO NOT open the door.’ He told her that they think a serial killer has a baby’s cry recorded and uses it to coax women out of their homes thinking that someone dropped off a baby. He said they have not verified it, but have had several calls by women saying that they hear baby’s cries outside their doors when they’re home alone at night.

7. Water scam

If you wake up in the middle of the night to hear all your taps outside running or what you think is a burst pipe, DO NOT GO OUT TO INVESTIGATE! These people turn on all your outside taps full blast so that you will go out to investigate and then attack.

Please feel free to copy this to your blogs or email it to your family and friends. One of these tips just might save the life of someone you love.

Let’s All Try A New Holiday Tradition

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods — merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor. This year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes there is!

It’s time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper?
Everyone — yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local American hair salon or barber?

Gym membership? It’s appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some health improvement.

Who wouldn’t appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the Benjamines on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.

There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants — all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn’t the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this isn’t about big National chains — this is about supporting your home town Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn’t use an oil change for their car, truck or motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.

My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is struggling to get his repair business up and running.

OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre.

Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.

Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of light, about fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.

You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about US, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow their dreams. And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn’t imagine. THIS is the new American Christmas tradition.