May 27, 2018

The Seduction of Noise: Advice From the 5th Century

The seduction of noise. Do an online search and you can see a 21st century way of conceptualizing our addiction to distraction: noise pollution. Researchers have studied the effects of noise pollution and discovered its surprisingly broad impact upon adults and children. But the subject of this piece is even more insidious. Truthfully, is there any sound more inviting or words more seductive than that of your own voice or reading our own words? The young man from Norsia, doesn’t kid himself or us with convenient excuses. He knows the real danger is within each of us, not external at all but […]
May 20, 2018

The Real Reason We Work: It’s the Awe We’re After

The real reason we work isn’t what we think, it’s the awe we’re after, not the money. If you are asked what your primary motivation to work would be, your first reply would be money… “I work for money.” Are you sure that’s it? Money is good, right, of course. We expect that the fruits of our labor- regardless of whether the work is physical or mental, menial or rocket science, result in some type of compensation, usually money. That is reasonable and logical but now since you’ve thought about it, you know that money is the easy answer but […]
May 13, 2018

Why Do You Pray?

“Why do you pray?” “Because it is the only way I can figure out who I am.” My surprising response to my friend’s rhetorical question was heartfelt-perhaps too weighty to be understood by one who had not, like me, chosen to spend a large segment of their life without God. Being a lifelong Christian provides a uniquely different foundation from that of us who wander around believing that the world around us is a result of random and mechanistic forces. Boundaries, meaning, moral consequences that are mostly absent without God. Having decided to walk away from religion and decide that […]
May 6, 2018

Perfect Timing: Are You Lark, Owl or Third Bird?

Perfect timing. Does such a thing exist outside of Tom Brady’s perfectly thrown and received football passes? Or Steph Curry’s three point basketball shots? Or does such a thing  as perfect timing really exist? Perhaps, or if not perfect, nearly so. But of even of more interest to you and me is that the timing for decision making and for creativity can vary considerably. One important predictor is whether you are what Pink’s researcher’s call, a ‘lark’ -early morning, ‘owl’ -night owl or third bird- a combination of both. Dan Pink’s most recent book deals with timing; more precisely, the […]
April 22, 2018

No More Lindsey McCall Medical Mysteries?

Will there be no more Lindsey McCall medical mystery novels? Why have you switched from writing mystery fiction to historical fiction? Will this help your sales? I’ve been asked these questions of late by a few folks kind enough to write and tell me how much they enjoy Lindsey, her husband Rich and their adventures. Or are merely curious about writers, why we write what we do and what is the source of our inspiration. So I wrote an article for Serious Reading last week. Perhaps you’ll find it interesting. I called it Changing Genres in the Middle of a […]
April 15, 2018

Three Seconds: Time for Worlds to End

Three seconds, the time it takes to blink, yawn or for our whole world to end. I’ve been thinking, once again, about time. About how slippery it is, about how we tend, naturally, to think we have all the time in the world, preferring not to ponder the reality of mortality. About how easy it is to waste this most precious gift of our lives: Time. On resentment, anger, impatience or trivial pursuits. There are a few reasons for this: After a two- week vacation on the central coast, we returned home at two AM Monday morning. It’s spring in […]
April 8, 2018

I, Claudia-Newest Book

I, Claudia. For the last six weeks or so, I have been immersed in ancient Greece, Rome and Israel as I work to get a feel for Claudia- that insubstantial shadow behind a 2000-year-old curtain- and her infamous husband, Pontius Pilate. After reading four or five novels about this woman, I told a friend yesterday, “I know who she’s not.” A rather inauspicious start? Perhaps. Most of the I, Claudia books have been sitting in a pile since last March- when I became aware that the next book would not be the fifth in the Lindsey McCall medical mystery series, […]
April 1, 2018

Evil Can Only Be Overcome With Love: Paul the Apostle Movie

Photo It’s sixty-seven A.D. Nero is burning Rome to the ground and blaming Paul the apostle of Tarsas for the destruction. And yet the new movie, Paul the Apostle, has the feel of the 21st century from the very first scene. Although imprisoned in his dungeon, the man called Paul inspires terror in the heart of the Emperor of the Roman Empire. Enough to create ‘roman candles’- Christians being tied to a pole, drenched with a first century version of accelerant that explodes in flames when ignited, along the main streets. And Nero’s ‘circus games’, sport only to  viewers […]
March 18, 2018

Finding Joy: Pure Luck or Intention?

Finding joy: Joy not happiness. They are different, aren’t they? Joy is personified by this running, grinning dog. Maybe he is running toward his favorite human or perhaps she is racing after a ball. Regardless of what the dog is going for, it’s evident that joy isn’t something he has to find. But us humans? Far more complicated, isn’t it? Or is it? Could our happiness be under our control? Willed…intended? Take a couple of minutes to reflect on three things, people, beings that bring you joy. And I mean that panting, passionate sloppily joy-filled grin on that dog. Not […]
March 11, 2018

Stanley McChrystal: 9/11 and Leadership

Leadership. Thousands-maybe hundreds of thousands, of books and articles have been written about it. Still the questions abound. Is the leader different from the rest of us? More courageous and selfless? Are leaders more intuitive and creative than most? What are the characteristics that forge trust in those willing to place themselves in harm’s way? Are leaders born or do they emerge during times that beg for persons with quirks and eccentricities only tolerated for the duration of the crisis? Like Lincoln, Churchill and countless others. Despite the conflicting opinions about the genesis of the leader or whether leadership behaviors […]
March 4, 2018

Know Thyself: Updating Ancient Wisdom

Know thyself: gnōthi seauton: These two words were inscribed in the vestibule of the Temple of Apollo in Delphi. They were the reason that Socrates disputed the declaration of the Oracle when she had named him as the wisest person on earth. When told what the Oracle had said, Socrates demurred, insisting that since he did not know himself, he could not be wise, never mind be the wisest on earth. Sound like sophistry? Before you answer that, think about the last time you did or said something that did not fit with the image you have of yourself- or want […]
February 25, 2018

The Four Stumbling Blocks to Truth

The four stumbling blocks to truth: The influence of fragile or unworthy authority Custom The imperfection of undisciplined senses Concealment of ignorance by ostentation of seeming wisdom. For more years than I can count, these beautifully calligraphed four stumbling blocks to truth have been displayed prominently in a simple bronze frame, protected by glass. My friend Kathy and I memorized this list, making use of one or more during our frequent philosophic discussions. Laughing at the one who nailed the problem and pointed out the flaw in reasoning. Stunned at the universality with which one or more of the stumbling […]
February 18, 2018

The 15:17 to Paris: 3 Reasons to See It Despite the Bad Reviews

Despite the bad reviews, the 15:17 to Paris is worth your time. Before you head out to see it however, you should know the reviewers were right in more than a few of their critical comments. None of the three young men playing himself is in danger of a nomination for Best Actor. The beginning of the movie feels like a retro back to the future. But this time a more schmaltzy one. The dialogue is halting, even awkward, at times. When a teacher patiently, albeit condescendingly, explains the meaning and prognosis of ADHD to the mothers of teen-aged Spencer […]
February 11, 2018

Seize the Day, Paradox of Hollywood and How Dogs Inspire

  ‘Seize the day’, ‘the paradox of Hollywood’ and ‘how dogs inspire’: Do those three phrases even relate to one another? No, of course they don’t. But every once in a while a newsletter format works because it permits thoughts on a few unrelated subjects. Like these. First up, Seize the Day: While driving home from a two- day trip to Ventura, California yesterday, my husband John turned to Catholic Radio where we encountered the host for Seize the Day, a man named Gus Lloyd. Each Friday, Lloyd opens his show by asking for prayer requests. Once he opened up the […]
February 4, 2018

Eric Barker’s Tips for Managing Anger

Tips for managing anger- a timely subject? Occasionally, I get stuck when considering what to write for tomorrow. Fortunately, there are other good writers in abundance on line. Eric Barker’s material is always excellent. He provides extensive research material on subjects that intrigue. Because these tips on managing anger are so relevant to this culture where politics appears to be increasingly divisive, his weekly post of a week ago has been copied and pasted below. Hope you enjoy Eric’s 5 tips for managing anger!   Welcome to the Barking Up The Wrong Tree weekly update for January 22nd, 2018. This […]
January 28, 2018

One Moment, Two Different Entities, Suddenly They Merge

Two different entities, that is how fiction and non-fiction have seemed to me. Ever since I began to write fiction, I have spoken and written frequently about how wholly different is that process from non-fiction. Until this week when suddenly I realized how wrong I’ve been. Maybe you’ve never spent much time pondering this subject. But I’ll bet you’ve had experiences where something you perceived as one thing revealed itself as something else entirely. Like maybe thinking President Trump was an inane idiot and then realizing he’s the best President we’ve ever had. Well, maybe not quite that momentous a […]
January 21, 2018

Darkest Hour-Movie, Author Interview

  Author interviews, why do them? I read they are an excellent marketing tool for authors who sell less than hundreds of thousands of their books. Like me. This latest one had some unusual questions, consequently, replying to them was an intriguing exercise for me. More on that in a few minutes. First, the latest WW ll movie: The Darkest Hour. It’s even better than the reviews- most of them anyway. Gary Oldman is brilliant. The screenplay riveting and enough details of those desperate days to make us awestruck as we view and hear just how close Great Britain came […]
January 14, 2018

Princess Cruise, Being Home and Another Character Interview

  This post is more like a newsletter: three brief pieces on our princess cruise, the joy of being back home and another character interview. Our last stop on the cruise was Lahaina, Maui is quaint, quiet, beautiful. At least until the tourists on the cruise ships wake up and crowd the small town. Since John and I arrived on the 1st tender at 8:30 in the morning, we got a chance to get a sense of the peace of the place. We bought a cup of splendid cup of Kona coffee at a local store and wandered through Banyan […]
January 7, 2018

The Wise Men

  The wise men. Each year I think of them. These unnamed men who somehow journeyed to a manger in Bethlehem perhaps many thousands of miles from their homes. Where an infant lay amidst straw. Accompanied by, we are told, a number of animals. Maybe donkeys, a lamb or two, some cattle and shepherds. In those days there were few countries that knew astrology well enough to use the heavens as a guide for a journey of close to 3000 miles. But in India there were magi who had the knowledge to make the trek. Inconceivable. Tradition tells us there […]
December 31, 2017

Solitude: As Critical As Food

Solitude. To some, the word means loneliness, a desperate and solitary state. To others, withdrawing from crowds, conversation and activity can feel as necessary as food. While searching for an image that conveys my current understanding of the concept of solitude, it seemed  the majority of them depicted miserably lonely men and women. While just a few revealed joyous lone individuals amidst a forest or beach. Which is it? Is the solitary state something to dread or embrace? There have been times in my life that my new solitude broke my heart as I learned and relearned the art of […]
December 17, 2017

Malthus Revisited

Here is the final teaser for Malthus Revisited, now available for purchase at Amazon and edited by Laura, my new editor and writing partner: Eighteen-year-old Morgan Gardner did not seem like someone who could save the world—unless you took the time to notice her eyes. And most people didn’t. Morgan’s exceptional gifts were known only to her and to the animals she could understand better than people. For a long time, she told no one about her nightmares. Embarrassed and afraid that no one would believe her, Morgan waited until it was almost too late. Then she confided in her […]
May 20, 2018

The Real Reason We Work: It’s the Awe We’re After

The real reason we work isn’t what we think, it’s the awe we’re after, not the money. If you are asked what your primary motivation to work would be, your first reply would be money… “I work for money.” Are you sure that’s it? Money is good, right, of course. We expect that the fruits of our labor- regardless of whether the work is physical or mental, menial or rocket science, result in some type of compensation, usually money. That is reasonable and logical but now since you’ve thought about it, you know that money is the easy answer but […]
June 10, 2018

My Writer Friend on Why We Write

Despite the fact that it sometimes feels as if everyone has written, or plans to write, a book, I have just one writer friend. She also writes fiction. Had my friend Rachel not put Rebecca and me together, I doubt we’d ever have met. Even in our small valley each of us tends to stick with routines that limit the people we run into. “You’ve both written novels- you need to get to know one another.”  Thanks to Rachel, we did meet and did indeed enjoy getting to know one another. I was new to the world of fiction, agents, […]
June 17, 2018

Wisdom from One of the Dead White Guys

Dead white guy… huh? A question to one of the ancients Greeks known for his pursuit and love of wisdom, circa 518 BC: “Why do you call yourself a philosopher rather than an expert in one of the classical arts?” Life… may well be compared with these public Games for in the vast crowd assembled here some are attracted by the acquisition of gain, others are led on by the hopes and ambitions of fame and glory. But among them there are a few who have come to observe and to understand all that passes here. It is the same […]
June 24, 2018

Us Versus Them: The Deliciousness of Moral Outrage

Moral Outrage: Is there anything more satisfying? More captivating…even delicious? “Can you believe what he said?” “Did you see what he wrote?” “Can you believe what she is wearing?” It’s endless, isn’t it? Even before the advent of social media- if any of us can recall back that far, that is, men and women of all races, creeds, and ages have and continue to feel delight in expressing outrage. And when it’s moral outrage, well, the gloves come off, don’t they? I recall vividly knocking, more accurately pounding, on the door of my good friend Almita, before she and Reuben moved […]