Reaching for a Star


Many years ago, more than I care to acknowledge, I dreamed of publishing a novel. I wasn’t hoping for fame or fortune, merely a desire to entertain some readers, bring a little joy to a stressful day, and know that I made just a smidgen of a positive influence in this often worrisome world.

My dream felt as distant as the stars in the sky. I’ve heard many writers share the same feeling, but the more I became involved in the world of writing, I watched others succeed and I decided I wanted it too.

First, I joined a writers Guild, http://www.saturdaywriters.org, and then a small critique group, Pen to Paper. Soon I belonged to a second critique group, The Round Table Writers, some of the most powerful and supportive friends and writers in Missouri. My vocabulary increased, I began to understand point of view, and soon, I was writing short stories and poetry that won contests and were published in anthologies.

Still, I held onto my dream of completing a novel. I was introduced to National Novel Writing Month, NANOWRIMO, https://nanowrimo.org, which challenges writers to compose a fifty-thousand word novel during the thirty days of November.

I dove in head first and succeeded the first year I tried. I fell short the second time, but I learned I could do it if I put my mind to it. My first two attempts are still works in progress. About two years ago, I began a third novel and fell in love with the characters and story plot. I finally gained the confidence to believe it should reach the shelves of a bookstore. With the help of many fellow writers, especially Jeanne Felfe, https://jeannefelfe.com/, , author of the heartfelt novel, Bridge to Us, I’ve stretched a little closer to that star.

I am pleased to announce The Dahlonega Sisters, The Gold Miner Ring, is available for preorder on Amazon with a scheduled release date of November 5, 2019. It will also be available in paperback. https://www.amazon.com/author/dianemhow

To all the bloggers, dreamers and hesitant writers, I say go for it. Read, listen, join, and learn. Then make a goal and keep plugging away until that star becomes so close you can almost touch it. You can do it! I believe in you.

The Essence of Commications


I’ve always believed that the lack of communication creates most of the problems in the world. Today’s use of abbreviated texts, character-limited tweets, and instantly reported news challenges my aging brain and supports my theory. It’s like trying to read hieroglyphics without learning the symbols.

I think one of the reasons is the tendency to half-listen. Someone begins a conversation and the listener’s mind fast-forwards to finish the rest of the story or sentence using the person’s own experiences, certainties, and beliefs.

The same thing happens when a news article or even a post on social media is published. Often, the writer presents one version of an issue or event which may or may not be support by facts. Even if both sides of the story are presented, the receiver reads and applies principles, opinions, and prejudices that influence and sometimes distort the message. This can create conflict, disagreements and misunderstandings.

It happens to everyone. I’ll be the first to admit, I sometimes half-listen, or skim articles, and I misinterpret messages from friends and family. I venture to say everyone does it. I’m pretty sure no one is infallible, nor has anyone ever mastered all of the elements of perfect communications. Is there such a thing?

I offer an example of an event that occurred many years ago when my daughter, who had started junior high at a new school, left a message for me at work. I had gone to lunch and when I returned, I found a brief note on my desk that read, “Pick your daughter up at school.”

Before I left for work, she’d told me she didn’t feel well, but she’d insisted on going to school. I immediately assumed her cold had worsened and she needed to go home. My work schedule did not offer me the opportunity to take off on short notice, so I called my husband and asked if he could pick her up, reminding him of her new location and trying to give him directions.

“I’ll find it,” he reassured me. After nearly an hour of searching, he located the school and went directly to the nurse’s office expecting our daughter to be there. She wasn’t. The nurse directed him to the main office and they paged her on the intercom.

Meanwhile, the woman at the desk said, “I’m glad you’re here.” She presented a piece of to him. I can only imagine his puzzled expression as he looked at the blank personal check.

“We can’t accept this,” the woman folder her arms and frowned.

My husband, who does not write checks, advised her that he’d have me write out a new one. Meanwhile, my daughter arrived, surprised to see her father. When she asked where I was, he explained that I couldn’t get off to pick her up. Without communicating any further, they left, but on the drive home, my daughter inquired as to why she was being taken home. His reply, “Because you’re sick.”

“No I’m not,” she adamantly denied, and asked to be taken back, noting that she had an after school meeting with the Honor Society she didn’t want to miss. “Well, you are now. We’re going home.”

Embarrassed about the blank check and upset that I sent him to the school unnecessarily, he refused to take her back. Eventually, she convinced him and she made her meeting.

By the time I got home from work, I received an earful from both of them. I had failed to ask for details regarding the short note. He refused to listen to my directions for getting to the school, and she could have clarified why he was taking her out of school.

The check was another disaster for which I accepted full responsibility. It turned out that in my haste to take care of business before I hurried off to work, I had grabbed a felt marker and had written a check to the school to pay for my daughter’s weekly lunch ticket. When she turned it into the school, it had all the proper information. Unfortunately, all that had disappeared by the time they were processing the check into their system, making it useless. I had used a sewing marker with disappearing ink. It’s a great invention for marking material, but not very good for writing checks.

We all laugh about it now, but it truly taught me a great lesson about asking questions, confirming suspicions, and only using ballpoint pens for check writing. It saves a lot of time for enjoying the finer things in life.

I work hard on my communication skills even today. It takes practice to listen, ask questions, and clarify the messages received, but wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone worked a little harder at it?

In my soon-to-be released novel, The Dahlonega Sisters, superstitions, fear, and miscommunications create conflicts and test the bond between three aging sisters. Until then, I have a few questions for you.

Has someone misinterpreted a text or email you sent?

Did it result in a conflict or broken friendship?

What could you have done differently?

Power of Touch


Some time ago, a friend and fellow author, Amanda Bretz (https://amandabretz.wordpress.com), described a tender moment between herself and her father. No words were uttered. A simple squeeze of the hand spoke as loud as a pastor from the pulpit. The power of touch amazes and encourages me, especially when words are not enough.

As a writer, I draw upon an infinite source of words to fill the pages of a book, yet there are times when words are not enough to convey the intensity of the moment. A gentle kiss, a stroke of a hand on one’s cheek, a strong embrace conveys emotions unreached by mere speech.

Perhaps that was why I wrote the following poem some years ago as my mother suffered the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Although she could not verbalize her thoughts, we spent many hours just holding hands and sharing gentle squeezes, along with heartfelt smiles. I think if she could have expressed her thoughts, she would have said these words.

      Timeless Treasure

The memories of yesterday
Will become distorted over time
The written word will lose its strength
A verse will lose its rhyme

The laughs we shared will pass by me
My words will make no sense
Such simple things we once enjoyed
Will now seem rather dense

Old photographs will fade away
Your face may lose its name
You’ll think I’ve traveled far away
But my heart will know you came

No need for words, no bouquets bright
No trinkets made of gold
No promise for a miracle
Just your hand for me to hold

Your love’s the only treasure
It will endure through all the pain
Just speak to me in silence
You’ll be my sunshine in all the rain

Have you been struggling to find the right words? Could the answer be in the power of touch?

Tell me your story. I’d love to hear it.

Finding Inspiration


Writing often is a solitary calling, especially in winter months. You’d think I’d flourish when confined indoors with plenty of free time to devote to my passion. Instead, my mind hibernates, shuts down, and refuses to unveil any hint of creativity. Even the ink in my pen coagulates when cold winds blow.

During the other seasons, I have a fantastic (monthly) writing club, Saturday Writers, (saturdaywriters.org) to encourage me with contests, open mic nights, and amazing guest speakers, but they cease meeting for a couple of months, just when I need them the most.

Unfortunately, weather, health issues, and holiday commitments tend to cancel many of the biweekly critique group meetings, leaving a void in my face-to-face writing support system. Thank goodness for email and Facebook, but it’s not the same. I want and need to see the person’s face light up when a particular phrase I’ve written hits the mark or pay attention when a frown appears letting me know I need to rework a story.

My husband and daughter tend to tolerate my obsession for storytelling, and on rare occasions they provide a nod of approval after being urged to read something I’ve scripted. I get it. Writing doesn’t excite everyone. I try not to take it personally, but it would be refreshing to have one of them ask “What are you working on?” or even better, “I’d like to read that when you’re ready.”

Of course, showing interests goes both ways. Hubby likes sports, especially wrestling, and the weather and gardening. He spends many hours on-line reading about upcoming matches, baseball trades, and the daily forecast. I try not to half-listen when he shares his recent finds, but there are times when my attention fades.

My daughter loves cooking, basket weaving and shopping on-line, especially for shoes and purses. My purse selection is limited to two at any given time, one that’s worn and tattered and the one I bought to replace it. We do share the hobby of basket weaving. She’s an experienced weaver with a basement full of reeds, handles and patterns. She made this amazing basket one Saturday while I piddled with two simple ones.


I’m still an advance beginner. All of my supplies fit in a duffle bag.

My daughter’s also a speed reader and while she will read whatever I send her, her comments are normally limited to pointing out my mistakes.

I’ve found a rather simple, possibly sneaky, way of gaining their attention and giving them a reason to care. We do share some common interests such as nature, humor and a loveable dog named Hammie.

Personal anecdotes and yarns often become part of my short stories. Before I publish anything that involves my family, I make them read it and give their approval. Sometimes they provide a different version based on their memory of the event or they might remind me of another humorous tale.

Now that spring has arrived, my inspiration blossoms like the lovely ornamental cherry tree in my side yard.

 I’ve still not identified its exact variety, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s twisted, gnarled trunk and snowy white canopy bring me joy and signal a fresh start. The ink in my pen flows again.

Connecting with the Lighter Side


I start each morning with an essential cup of coffee and the daily newspaper. I feel the need to keep current on issues of importance, but all the crime and political craziness that fill the dozen pages I read do nothing to put me in a positive mood for the rest of the day.

I believe writing is a reflection of who we are and how we process the experiences we’ve had. Being an insufferable optomist is hard. I need a positive kick in the rear to balance out the negative effect of the disheatening news and keep things in perspective.

Fortunately, many blogs have a foot up ready to give me a push. One of them, Stories by Shivangi, reminds me to maintain a balance of realism and positivity. The writer focuses on a wide range of topics, yet she leaves me with a peaceful sense that influences my keyboard. Take a look at the joyful face of the baby on this post https://adivir.wordpress.com/2019/01/11/just-a-thought-humor/.

My spirits lift when I see that giggling bundle of innocence and it sets my sails in a better direction. Even when I’m attacking difficult rewrites, a simple glance at that photo brings a smile to my face . So does my granddog Hammie

How about you? Is there a blogger that brightens your day?

What do you do to find balance and perspective in your day?

Interview by Tammy Lough, Word Nerds Unite



I had the exciting opportunity to be interviewed by Tammy Lough – Word Nerds Unite. Welcome to my world!

What inspired you to write your first book?

While taking a few creative writing classes, I wrote what I knew, short stories based on life experiences. After taking a memoir class, I thought about the stories I’d written. Most were reflective of how I deal with challenges, looking for the lesson learned, adding a dash of humor and finding a positive outcome.

I realized that I’d avoided writing anything that drew upon my deeper emotions. So I spent months spilling my guts on paper and drying my tears. The therapeutic process brought me peace and healing of wounds long buried beneath the surface.

My first book (and only one published to date), Peaks and Valley, became a reality with the help of my dear friends and authors, Amanda Bretz and the late, Jerome L. Pionk.

How did you come up with the title? 

Life is a series of rollercoaster rides. While trying to decide on an appropriate cover, I found a picture I’d taken that represented the beauty of nature, uncontrolled and unsymmetrical, much like my life. Peaks and Valleys represented the memories that made me laugh and those that brought me tears.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

There have been many writers who have influenced my writing. To pick just one is difficult, I could name a dozen. In reality, Jeanne Felfe, a devoted writing and critique partner, has taught me the most. Her ability to show me how to add depth to my characters and stories with examples, references and explanations puts her at the top of my long list.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

Saturday Writers, a chapter of Missouri Writers Guild, has been the foundation of my support since I joined some years ago. The Round Table Writers Novel Critique Group, formed within that organization, provides me with a daily support team.

Can you share a little of your current work with us? 

Currently, I have three novels in progress. Burning Embers is a romantic suspense for which I am seeking a agent/publisher. Brittany Harbor never anticipated her childhood retreat, a primitive Colorado cabin, could become a death trap. Orphaned by death and deception, she flees New York paparazzi in an attempt to heal her broken heart.

Misjudged is another contemporary romantic suspense that continues in Colorado with many of the same characters as Burning Embers. Detective Bernard Kratz thought no one could penetrate the wall he built around his heart, yet. Brittany Harbor did. With a crack in the foundation, he faces his painful past and ventures into unchartered territories.

The Gold Miner Ring is a woman’s fiction about the journey of three elderly sisters and the negative effects of keeping secrets.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I believe every writer needs to be actively involved with a critique group. The benefits of having more than one perspective is essential. As a writer who want to be her best, I must be open to change and occasional harsh feedback. I learn from everyone who writes, accepting what fits and leaving what doesn’t. Most importantly, I try to be honest with the process, even when it hurts.

What is the first book that made you cry?

I’m sure I’ve cried over many books, but the one that sticks in my mind is The Bridges of Madison County by Robert J. Waller. It makes me cry every time I read it, which I’ve done year after year. The raw passion tugs at my heart. If you’ve only seen the movie, you’ve done Mr. Waller and yourself a disservice.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotion strongly?

There are millions of books written and published. I’m sure many are void of emotions. However, for books that draw my attention, emotions are essential. I want to experience laughing, crying, fear and anger. It helps me relate to the characters.

If you could tell your younger writing-self anything, what would it be?

Write. Write anything, every day, and keep it. I’ve found pieces of stories that I started and didn’t finish until years later. I wish I had kept everything I’ve written. Much of it wasn’t my best, but seeing how I could improve it with what I’ve learned would be fun. If it’s important, back it up on the cloud.

Read. Get some books that show you how to be better. Writing with Stardust by Laim O’Flynn is great for beginners. The Thesaurus books by Angela Ackerman are amazing. When I need a new way of expressing an emotion, I pull out her book and find exactly what I need. Put it on your Birthday or Christmas wish list or treat yourself to them now.

Read more of what you enjoy and make yourself read something you’d usually avoid. Pay attention to what keeps you interested and what makes you want to close the book and toss it in a pile.

Not everything I write will be my best, but it could be with a little more work. I’ve learned to enjoy the journey and celebrate my small successes.

Ready, Set, Whoa!


I remember the first time I attended a meeting with Saturday Writers, a charter member of the Missouri Writer’s Guild. Most people smiled or greeted me upon arrival and I sensed a contagious energy in the room. General introductions and door prizes were given out, generous amounts of food filled a few tables and coffee, an essential for any good meeting, was available at no cost.

When the President handed out certificates to the winners of a writing contest, the crowd exploded in applause. How fun. Immediately, I knew that giving up a Saturday, once a month, was going to be worth it. At last I’d found a group with whom I could connect, maybe even share my poetry and prose efforts, something I seldom did for fear of being rejected.

When they announced the theme for an upcoming contest, it struck a chord. By the end of the meeting, I couldn’t wait to get home and write. And I did. The next few weeks, I wrote, edited and printed out my story. Pleased with my efforts, I tucked it in my notebook, knowing the chance of my sharing it with anyone was minimal. I lacked confidence, but I was pleased that I made the effort.

At the next meeting, as I waited in line to check in, I watched dozens of people submit their paperwork at the registration table. Excitement and naivety surpassed my shyness. When I got to the table, I pulled out the story, paid my small fee and turned in my entry. Shocked and embarrassed by my impulsiveness, I hurried to find a seat, already regretting my foolishness.

And foolish I was. I skipped an essential part of any contest: Research the rules and guidelines before submitting. I’m pretty sure my entry went straight to the trash can. If it didn’t, it should have.

Who knows what font I used. It wasn’t double-spaced. Didn’t have a cover sheet or bio. Probably had my name typed at the top of my story. I sabotaged myself, but it was a helpful lesson, one I remember each time I enter any kind of contest.

As I attended more meetings, I became familiar with the requirements. They are clearly identified on the SW website https://www.saturdaywriters.org. I didn’t find the courage to submit again until a year later, but when I did, I received an honorable mention. With the help of two critique groups and persistent effort, I’ve entered and won seventeen more contests.

Bottom line, the opportunities are out there for all writers to be recognized for their talents. Just be sure to do your homework and read the rules and guidelines (and the fine print) for whatever contest you enter.