Tuesday, July 12, 2022

When You Lose Your Muse... RIP Grandad Samuel George Johnston


I'm going to be totally honest. 

My Muse has always been my grandparents. 

We lost Nanny (half of my Muse) in 2013. I've been traveling to England to see my grandparents since (I could first afford a ticket) December of 1988. I know I could have asked them for tickets to come see them at any time, but that's not who I am...they taught me that.

From 2013-2019 my trips to see Grandad were to help him adjust to being a widower,  to clean house and to take care of him. I looked forward to going to help him every year. We would usually do something fun, but I was mostly there to help. Often times I was planting seeds in his mind (like buying a new mattress to replace his 40 year old one, to try new things [he learned he liked espresso, but not a double], getting a house keeper instead of waiting for me once a year, hiring a gardener to trim his 10-12 foot hedges and giving up the car) and cleaning. 

He and Nanny had the most beautiful hearts, so many adventures together and they shared their stories with me.  I would sit and take notes and even encouraged them to write their stories. I would come back to America full of new story ideas. I compiled all my notes, interviews with them, their friends and other family members and started writing. They (other than my husband) have been the biggest cheerleaders for my life.

Covid stole so much from so many of us. I tried to cope with my lack of power to get to Grandad by sending him chocolates, toilet paper and presents at least once a week. I could tell he was slipping. He was a very social person and the isolation took a tole, not only on him but on his niece who (I admire so much) has been his right hand man since Nanny got ill and died. I was desperate to go and help her help him.

When I was finally able to get the second covid jab, I was on a plane two weeks later. My cousin had been trying to get him in to a doctor for six months...yay national health. I spent ten days trying to get him an appointment. No luck! Thanks national health! I stocked his house up, and replaced things to make it easier on the 75 year old beautiful lady who cleaned for him. His niece, beautiful neighbors and friends from the Platinum Club continued and keep an eye on him trying to keep him out of the car, but something had definitely changed in his health. I had to come back to the States for a doctor appointment and for the booster shot. Meanwhile, his other English granddaughter was turning her life upside down to move closer to him ASAP.

When I left for England at the end of January my husband and daughter knew my return date was not clear. My first night back with Grandad was wonderful, but I talked him into us going to bed by 11 each night, rather than our normal 1 or 2 in the morning because we had all the time in the world. The second night he woke me up in the middle of the night having a heart attack. I ran up and down the stairs for almost 4 hours until an ambulance finally arrived. Thanks national health!!! I got a taxi and followed him to the hospital. The reception nurse wouldn't  let me go in with him. I stood outside pacing for an hour or so. When the staff changed at 7:30 I went to talk to the new nurse. She asked the doctors and they let me be with Grandad. They let me stay for about three hours. My cousins both came down that day and Grandad's English grandson came. We busied ourselves cleaning and organizing to make things better for when Grandad got to come home. My knees were damaged during the heart attack. Grandad's staircase was very steep. 

The one positive thing I can say about national health was the amazing caring people who work in the industry, there just aren't enough workers. I couldn't believe the entire hospital had one doctor on call for the entire hospital on the weekends! The nurses and doctors in Grandad's ward let me stay with him up to nine hours a day. Most days I arrived at two and stayed until 9 pm. I sent the staff a huge basket of flowers in appreciation of their forgiving and kind care they were giving Grandad. (He tried to escape a few times and was not compliant until they figured out he had an infection that caused the heart attack and the adverse attitude. My cousins, husband and daughter gave me so much emotional support. I ended up moving to a hotel near the hospital because I was exhausted. I saw Grandad 37 days out of the forty days on this trip. My family back in the States really needed me as we had been through some big life changes right before my first trip. We (my cousins and I) thought things were improving and had a care home organized so he could leave the hospital. I was sitting at the airport (after covid protocol) and one cousin called and said the transfer had been called off because the care home had covid cases. Thank goodness we had made arrangements for her to replace me as his person at the hospital two days before I left. Everyone there said I needed to go home. I was exhausted beyond belief. I knew I would never see him again. He almost made it to 101!

I began grieving before he passed. Everything has been a blur for me. For my health and for my family I needed to come back to America, but all I could think of was Grandad saying how much he needed me and now I wasn't there. I knew he had people he loved around him. I talked to my cousins almost daily. I'm so glad they were there when he left us.

I couldn't go back for the funeral, as I don't think I could have survived the service. I wanted to go back and help his niece and granddaughter take care of his estate, but my husband felt it would cause me more pain than I could cope with. I know he's right. The one of last things I did for Grandad was make sure there was food, drinks, notes and taxi money for his daughter when she arrived in England. I made a video with Grandad and eventually could watch it and send it to any of his people who wanted to see it. I do have one thing left I can do is keep my word...I have to copy his life story he wrote for a person we met at the hospital. 

Right now, I'm not sure when I'll be able to write again...but when I'm not so broken, I'll try and write a sequel to Keep Calm And Carry On, Children. I still have so many stories of his life I want to share...

I know the 50 days I spent in England were hard on me mentally and physically, but I'm so grateful Grandad chose me to be his person at the hospital and that he chose to spend so much time with me over my 56 years. I am blessed...

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

OMGoodness! My Book is going to be featured on BookBub! One Day Only: Free October 21, 2020


I am beside myself with excitement! My publisher, at Black Rose Writing, emailed me saying my book had been selected to be featured on BookBub. It will be featured on October 21st, 2020! He said (drum roll, please) 2.7 MILLION Historical Fiction readers.  The publisher was pretty excited about it. He said it could potentially pull in 25k new readers. Can you imagine that? Twenty-five thousand people reading my words.... 

If you have been waiting for a sale...this is a good one! Keep Calm And Carry On, Children will be  FREE on Kindle that day in all time zones across the world.  The Kindle App is FREE, too, for your devices. 

If you would like to read some reviews you can check GoodReads, Amazon, BookBub or NetGalley. I know author's say not to read your reviews, but I can't help myself. It's wonderful to know that people who don't personally (and some I do know) took the time to not only read my book, but also took time out their lives to share how they felt about it. I've even been blessed with some emails from readers who connected with Joyce and Gina.

Be Safe, Friends!

Wash Your Hands!

And Carry On...

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

So... How is your 2020 going?

Wow! It's almost August!
It's been quite a year so far...I'm
hopeful for a quiet, calmer, less germy
second half of the year.
What about you?

Have you been writing?
Perhaps, you've been creating
in some other way? Cleaning? Organizing?
Did your muse disappear?
Mine did.

Yesterday I started reading
and something magical happened while
waiting patiently at the service center. My brain flipped
and hints of my muse sprung from
my fingertips...

Sequel notes

-Ecton castle
-mines and discovering the industrial revolution mining machines and Roman remnants
-shelter building at the Roaches
-dog? cat?

I sincerely hope your muse did not abandon you...

Be Safe,
Wash your hands
Carry On!

Saturday, February 8, 2020

My Favorite Story...

My favorite story to tell today is how my story Keep Calm And Carry On, Children came to be...

It was inspired by my almost 99-year-old grandfather (April is coming up quickly) in England. About ten years ago he and Nanny started talking about their lives during Word War II. They captivated me. I couldn’t learn enough about the period and the hardships the civilians went through.
My grandfather’s parents took in two little girls during Operation Pied Piper, when over 800,000 children and women were evacuated from the cities and south coast of England because of the threat of an invasion.  Can you imagine putting your children on a train going north but knowing exactly where they were going to end up and when they did get to their destination, they would be taken off the train to be paraded down the streets for people to pick them. Imagine how scary that would be and what if you had a little sister? Would it be possible to stay together? The image of these two little girls was more than I could stand. I had to write a story for them.

Every trip,  Nanny  and Grandad would feed me more information…take me to museums and forts, introduce me to friends that were part of their generation (The Greatest Generation). I took notes, I studied everything. I ordered train maps from that period. I bought replica documents at museums. I took hundreds and hundreds of photographs. I road a train from the north of England to the South of England. I visited the town that Joyce and Gina and their friends up in, Leek. I connected with people in Leek. I did all the normal things you do for research.
I wrote down notes on everything. I did character sheets for each character. I made sure each character had his or her own voice and behaviors. There are five bulletin boards in my office and an easel. I covered them with word lists and British phrases. I created scene boards of everything the characters might have seen in each environment: London during the Blitz, the train ride to Leek, the countryside and village of Leek. Those were then broken down further for individual scenes. Yes, my office is very full! But as I finished with each section of the manuscript, I would put away that information. (I didn’t throw it away. It’s safely tucked away in boxes and an art portfolio.) Once I knew what would be in the scenes, I wrote down scene notes for the entire book. Then I fleshed out each scene until I had a complete first draft. A second draft... A third draft...
I had several trusted critique partners that helped me along the way! I joined online critique groups and in person critique groups. I took the opportunity to do paid critiques with industry professionals.  I went to workshops and conferences. I revised. I edited. I read out loud. I highlighted verbs, nouns, adjective, adverbs, "be" verbs, emotions and senses. I revised more. I queried often and widely. I got a bit with an agent and did an R and R, but it was a no, so I went back and did more editing and revising. Then I got an email from Black Rose Writing. In May or June I started the editorial process with them. And life became a great big blur for me until a box arrived a week before my trip to England...

(My happiest moment of 2019…giving Grandad a copy of the book he inspired.)

 Life is still a blur. There is so much to do after your book comes out. I had no idea what happened after your manuscript was accepted. I know there is still much to do. I love that my publisher reminds me this is a marathon not a sprint. Later this month I'm going to a workshop that deals with After The Publication. (Thanks SCBWI!)

I truly appreciate every single review or rating I've been blessed with.  My heart has been filled on several occasions by people who either were evacuees, married to evacuees or are from Leek, England.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

And The Winner is...

Sorry for the delay! We had several concurrent family emergencies...

And the winner is...Sue Bradford Edwards!


Monday, September 16, 2019

Celebrating My First Stand Alone Book...with a yummy giveaway!

I'd like to thank everyone who has shared posts or tweets about my book release and pre-orders. Having so much support has meant the world to me! So I'd like to give a yummy box of treats plus a signed copy of my book and a bookmark. My release day was September 5th, so I'm going to end the contest on October 5th.

To enter you must be a follower and leave a comment telling me if you tweeted my post or shared it on other social media. In the event that the winner is overseas, I will send you an amazon gift card, a signed bookplate and a bookmark. Then I would do another spin on the random.org page and give the photographed items to someone in the States.

Please tweet and post to spread the news.

Happy September!!!

Monday, July 8, 2019


A long time ago, November of 2007 to be exact, I began a journey. My workout was interrupted when a story idea came to me. I hopped off the treadmill and began writing COMFORT IN THE CLOUDS, my first manuscript. It still hasn't found a home, but it was the first step on my journey towards publication.

I joined SCBWI and attended The Highlight's Foundation Summer Workshop in Chautauqua, NY. The years that followed taught me many things. Patience. Determination. The value of studying the craft of writing. Finding critique partners and being open to their suggestions also moved me forward.  Perseverance probably is the most important thing I learned. Just like the characters in my upcoming middle grade novel, KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON, CHILDREN, I had to keep a good attitude and persevere until I had success.

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON, CHILDREN is a story about how British Children, during WWII, persevered and overcame their situations. It is now available for pre-order at Black Rose Writing (If you used the code PREORDER2019 you get a 15% discount. It can also be pre-ordered through Amazon, Amazon UK and Barnes and Noble. The release day is September 5th. I will be doing a signed book giveaway in September. I'm currently doing a Facebook  pre-order giveaway. Everyone who shares a link to my book will get their name in a drawing for a signed copy of KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON, CHILDREN.

If you can't tell, I'm super excited! My grandparents in England gave me the seed that grew into KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON, CHILDREN and in August I will be able to hand my 98 year old grandfather a copy of my first book.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Offer...

So... I have some exciting news. I'm guessing you can tell what it is based on the photo...

I signed a contract with Black Rose Writing for my Middle Grade novel, KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON, CHILDREN!

It's a small independent publisher out of Texas. I did a lot of research before signing with them. I asked them lots of questions and I asked several of their authors questions. They don't charge any fees to publish your book or to design your cover. They do give you the opportunity to partner with them for additional advertising opportunities. I don't quite understand all of this information yet, but I'm sure they will help me understand the process and terms.

For me, the biggest factor was that my story will be a book later this year...September 5th! I'll be able to give my almost 99 year old grandfather, the inspiration for the book, a copy this year. In fact, according to my conversations with the publisher, the book will be available in the USA, Canada and England. So I'll be able to send him a copy through Amazon.UK. This makes me really really really happy!

Hoping that you are finding moments of happiness so far in 2019!



Sunday, June 3, 2018

Can you go home again?

 People say you can't go home again... But I went back to Meppershall, England.

It'd been forty-four years and thanks to Facebook I reconnected with my childhood friend Sheree. It gave me the courage to go back.

This was the last house I truly remember living in. It was a two up two down house with no inside toilet or bath. We did have water in the kitchen. It had seriously steep stairs to the upstairs. My brilliant 97 year old grandad knocked on the door and asked if I could come in. He explained I lived there about 44 years ago. The gracious young man let me go up to my old bedroom. My heart was full of joy! My shelves in the wall were still there. The room and the view matched my memories (other than people having put up fences in the garden).

My heart was full rather than pained when I saw the shed attached to the side of the house that we had an outside portable toilet in that we could use at night. During the day we used a privy at the end of the garden. I survived my childhood and some uncomfortable situations and now have some good stories to tell.

This was in front of the house. There is a small stream in the overgrowth. Sheree and I used to play there. My grandad and the knowledge of having a visit with my friend allowed me to find joy in the memories.

When I went to school we went on an exciting field trip to a bakery and we each were able to make a loaf of braided bread. I wasn't sure if this was a real memory or an invented one. Turns out if was true and the school still goes to the bakery every Harvest Season and the kids still get to make a loaf of bread.

It was lovely to find this was a real memory.

Sheree and Grandad gave me a bigger gift than they will ever know...

The school secretary gave us a tour of the school. It felt very much the same.

I shared my gymnasium trauma with the secretary. And she healed me... When you forgot your gym kit you had to do PE in your britches and undershirt. It had always hurt me that I had been given such an awful punishment. The secretary said the same thing happened to her when she was in school. So, I wasn't the only one this happened to. It took a great weight off my shoulders.

The ride was long, but the benefits it gave to me were huge... I found peace.

We came home with a giant loaf of bread from the bakery and we had enough to share with Stanley. Grandad's adopted pet.

I dealt with some ghost from the past and overcame them. I am at peace.

I wish you peace, too.

Have a wonderful summer!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Life, Growth, and Change...

 Often my life feels like I'm moving at a turtles pace. Never getting too far ahead, but then having to remind myself that publishing is an industry that operates at a slow speed.

When things get too slow it's time to push yourself to the next level.

As a writer, I can tell you the more you practice your craft, the more you study, the better your writing will be. Investing in yourself is important. Whether it is doing an online class, going to a local workshop at the library, going to an SCBWI conference or attending a Highlight's Foundation workshop it will move your writing and your confidence forward.

 Pushing yourself to change the way you do something can be the turning point for your writing and your dreams.

What have you done so far this year to push yourself? 

I went to an SCBWI Agent day!