In a nutshell


“In a nutshell,” as I’m sure you know, means “in a few words,” or “very briefly explained.” Nutshells, being the “hard exterior within which the kernel of a nut is enclosed” (to quote the Oxford English Dictionary) don’t get very big, since nuts themselves are generally fairly small. There probably was a Jurassic Walnut or something way back when that could easily squish Des Moines, but that screenplay is yet to be written. Nutshells themselves were first used as metaphors for something very small back in 1602, when Shakespeare had Hamlet declare, “O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count my selfe a King of infinite space.” Anything that could fit “in a nutshell” would have to be pretty darn small, and by the 18th century all the major writers were cramming things into nutshells.

With a metaphor being as popular as “in a nutshell” has been, can a verb “to nutshell” (meaning to briefly summarize) be far behind? Well, before we all start groaning about “rampant verbification” and the decline of our language, some news: “to nutshell” has been around since 1883, first found in Mark Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi.”

Thus, with that explanation out of the way, I will attempt to “nutshell” myself for the benefit of my faithful (and unfaithful) readers. The short answer to the question “Who am I?” is: I am a nut in a shell. I am the original square peg in the round hole, whose middle brother once said, “Bonnie, you’re my sister and I love you. But I will never understand you.”

Not since I slipped into this world one cold, rainy Halloween night have I felt truly at home on this planet. My birth town is Independence, Missouri. I’ve also lived in Arkansas, California, Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, and I currently reside in Wisconsin. I’m a peanut-size (4’ 11”) free spirit with an oddball mind that seems to operate on two levels at once: spiritual and physical; right brain and left (or at times, no functioning brain). It certainly makes interesting story fodder for my poor old muse.

I’ve always been a reader, a writer, a thinker, a what-have-you from early childhood. My dad’s family were poets and painters, and I inherited some of that talent. A great-great-grandfather in Wales was known as the “Bard of Horeb,” and by some stretch of my imagination, I can picture myself actually sitting down with him to discuss life’s oddities, one of which is myself. My writing activity began in elementary school and continued through high school. I wrote what I now know was therapeutic poetry, and probably should christen myself the “Bard of Horrid.”

Like many children seeking to understand themselves, I spewed out this dreadful verse on a daily basis. Looking back, I see how ugly most of it was. But it was a start. If my ancestors could use their creative minds, so could I. In fact, I also had a bit of talent for drawing pictures.

It was difficult to choose which course to pursue—art or writing. Feeling that I should choose one or the other, in order to become halfway proficient, I decided to write. That way I would enjoy the best of both, because “a writer is an artist who paints pictures with words.” Finally, I discarded the paintbrushes and took up my pen in pursuit of profound words to share with humanity.

Writers write. Their muses are on call at all times of the day or night (and sometimes those lazy muses don’t even come when called, but that’s another story). Even while inside a nutshell, writers attempt to write. For imaginative people, writing is the easy part; finding a publishing professional who digs the work is a crazy circus.

In a nutshell, I am a writer. I’ve always been one. Someday I’ll write “The End” and go join my ancestor, the “Bard of Horeb,” to discuss what each of us has written before the nutshell cracked open and spewed our inflated egos into the ether.

In the meantime, my interests are many and varied: yoga, meditation, metaphysics, astronomy, astrology (Scorpio—what did you expect?), graphology, geology, all the other “ologies,” history, science, the environment, global warming, and any other subject that hits me on the spur of the moment. I am a Jill-of-all-Trades, a Mensa-almost, a Green-Bay Packers football fan.

I also love carpentry (my dad was a carpenter), and have a knack for working with machines (but not cars). I love sculpturing, and someday hope to sit down and whittle some useless artifact my kids can fight over when I’m no longer around to tape their mouths shut. My dad was a whittler, so I’ll be “Whittler’s Daughter.”

I’m the mother of five grown children, a handful of grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. I am a young-looking, young-thinking senior who refuses to act her age—I prefer not to reveal that age, nor the wrinkles I’ve accumulated. I have hazel-eyes and medium ash-blonde hair with a few streaks of silver—highlights some women pay their stylist good money to fake. I’m not your typical rocking-chair senior of previous generations, and I am also an incurable romantic.

I love music with a passion, especially classical, opera, and jazz. My favorite jazz musician is Al Di Meola, guitarist & composer of some of the best music this side of heaven, whose expertise spans more than thirty years as of this writing. I believe I am his #1 fan, and if I am not, I should be—hey Al, I hope you are reading this!

My favorite authors include: Mark Twain, James A. Michener, poets Robert Service and Edgar A. Guest, and many more too numerous to recall offhand. Some of my favorite books: Giants in the Earth (O.E. Rolvaag), Steamboat Gothic (Frances Parkinson Keyes), Chesapeake (Michener), the epic poem, The Odyssey of Homer, and Harvest Home (Thomas Tryon). Favorite genres: historical, young-adult, literary, humor, Americana, mainstream/commercial—almost anything except violent, gory tales. No vampires, please! No monkey-brain-eating ghouls!

Stay tuned for more stories from nut inside the shell, and if you should ever need an honest, highly qualified, and affordable copyeditor or proofreader, check out my link here at WordPress.

walnuts inside-outside



Calling Brilliant Internet Technicians

. . . . especially those familiar with MS Word 2003. 

A weird thing happens when I use my mouse wheel to scroll. This is something I’ve noticed before, but never thought much about it. 

You know how when you click the middle mouse wheel and hold it down, it will allow you to scroll either up, down, or sideways? Mine’s acting stupid. I don’t know if there’s a virus or other bug in my mouse, my keyboard, or in Word itself.

When I click the middle wheel, I get the normal little up/down arrow cursors (in this instance, they’re “cursers”), but I also get tiny squares of about 1/4″ and sometimes there are images inside them! 

I’m seeing fonts, numerals, the temperature (not my local temperature), partial words (even these: Twit & Trum). I don’t know where they’re coming from. I’ve tried to get a screen capture, but the moment I move my mouse, they disappear.

What really freaks me out is that some of these little squares are colored and consist of various face parts. The thing that bugs me the most is an EYE – a blue eye – looking at me! WHAT THE HELL!? I thought I was seeing things, until I checked with a magnifying glass.

Since then, these body parts have been ears, an eyebrow with half an eye under it, half a face with just an eye, nose, and mouth. There was even a face with the bottom half gone, just thick eyebrows, a brow, and the whole top part of a man’s head (which appeared to be bald or gray).

My son thought I was imagining these things, so he also checked with the magnifying glass, and we spent an hour or so googling MS Word & mouse problems. But we couldn’t figure it out. It’s unnerving to start a scroll and these things pop up occasionally. Only the face images are flesh colored; the letters and numbers are white on a black or dark blue background.

I feel like I’m being spied on, but how is it possible? I’ve even been able to get more than one of these things to stay a few moments so I could take a picture with my cell camera, but the images are too small and I’m unable to see what’s in them. I know a couple are just the one eye, and it appears to be the same eye each time.

For what it’s worth, here are the pictures, but they don’t tell much because they’re very small. You can see the mouse cursor arrows along with the little square thingees. 

0801171400 0801171404 0801171414 0801171413

Any ideas? I’m going nuts trying to figure this out. It’s like I have a ghost. Every one of these pictures had either letters, numerals, or face parts. Too bad they’re hard to see.



Celebrating my art

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post, and tonight’s may be shorter than usual. I just wanted to share a new book cover I created for the eBook edition of my Great Depression novel, Face the Winter Naked.

Although the book has been out a number of years, in both print and digital, and has been my bestseller all along, I was never satisfied with the cover art that I paid for. Yes, that cover fits the story, especially with the sepia coloring for the time  period. But it doesn’t tell what the story is about, just that it takes place in the Great Depression. To learn who the characters are, to experience with them their sadness, their fear, and their hopelessness, one must read the blurb and the book’s description.

There’s nothing in the old cover about some of the most colorful characters, specifically, the old hobo I call “the banjo man.” I missed him on the original cover. But the artist surprised me by putting my dad’s picture on that cover, and it made me jump for joy. My dad fit the setting, and, although this isn’t his story, I have to admit I gave my main character, Daniel Tomelin, some of Dad’s characteristics.

Daddy died when I was three, and my only memory of him was of Mini-Me sitting on his lap in a rocking chair while he sang and made up stories. So it was important for me to use his hillbilly mannerisms and speech, his musical and artistic talents—a cabinet maker by trade and a whittler for something to keep his fingers busy when he wasn’t strumming this or that musical instrument. I used what little I’d learned about Dad while growing up; but for my character Daniel, I took artistic license and stretched it a bit for the sake of a good story.

But through all these years, I could not get the image of George, the banjo man, out of my mind and my heart. I don’t know who he was. He just came from nowhere, or from deep in my subconscious, this sad human who represented all the tragedies of the Great Depression rolled into one man. The banjo man played a major role in Face the Winter Naked—I hope he survived, but doubt he did. During the writing, old George became real enough to me to outlast my original plot.

Last week, I designed a new cover for the Face the Winter Naked eBook—the original stays on the paperback edition—and I placed that old hobo in a prominent spot beside a railroad track with his banjo and a pack on his back.

As mentioned in my bio, I was born at the height of the Depression. My family was poor, but we survived. My eldest brother always said we were poor but we didn’t know we were poor. I suppose there’s a certain acceptance among children from that era. We received commodities from the county and charity baskets from church at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We ate beans, cornbread, and canned milk, and bathed once a week in a round galvanized wash tub—one tub of water to last through four dirty kids and two adults. That’s unimaginable now….

Today I celebrate a new book cover for Face the Winter Naked. I hope you like it, and also hope you’ll take the time to read about Daniel Tomelin, the banjo man, and the rest of the characters in the story. It is not a true story, yet in many respects, it is as true as I could make it.

Best FTWN-cover



(The new cover will update soon at B&N, Apple, Kobo.)

Peace and love,






Do angels have feathers?


Do angels have feathered wings? Do they even have wings? Common sense tells me they do not, and here’s why:

All matter vibrates. Everything in nature vibrates, even a stone. And the slower the rate of vibration, the more dense an object becomes. For example, a stone is dense due to it’s much slower vibration.  But in fact, a stone vibrates so slowly that it’s undetectable by the human eye. Remember the pet rocks that were so popular a number of years ago? Well, that’s because the word got out that rocks are alive because they vibrate.

But spirits are different. A spirit body vibrates at a very fast rate of speed, and the faster it vibrates, the lighter and finer that spiritual body becomes. It’s like a fan blade that spins so fast all you see is a blur. Or a hummingbird’s wings beating the air so fast you barely noticed what zipped past your eyes—was that a bumblebee? A leaf? Surely not a bird. Perhaps an angel?

I do not believe angels have wings, because as spirits, they are composed of much finer matter. Why would they need physical bird wings to travel through space and time? I think that at one time—after being visited by human-like figures—certain individuals thought  those human forms surely could not fly through space, so they gave them bird wings. Back then, in the history of our planet, humans had simple explanations for things they didn’t understand; simple ideas for simple minds. I seriously doubt there was any knowledge of physics as we know it today.

But spirits do not need wings to travel. The wings were added because humans would absolutely deny the ability of a spirit body moving through space. (And that space can be billions of miles away but the travel would seem simultaneous. As with thought transference—there is no distance through the ether.)

Meditation raises the rate of vibration in humans. Spirits abound in the physical world—but the average person can’t see them due to their higher vibrations.  Well, some folks actually do see them, but they call them ghosts. In my opinion, those so-called ghosts may actually be living beings who’ve managed to escape their material bodies temporarily through meditation, illness, or extreme fear. The faster our spirits vibrate, the easier it is for them to contact and visit the spiritual and Earth realms.

Conversely, a stone—which may once have been a finer body (or object); I don’t know—does nothing to raise its vibrations on this planet, so with its much slower vibratory rate, it simply sits and appears dead. For all practical purposes, that stone IS dead.

In the bible, the trinity is called the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (ghost). But in yoga, the trinity is Body, Mind, and Spirit. Three bodies in one; the physical body, mental body, and the spiritual body. Three bodies that work together to create a whole. The mental and spiritual bodies (which are normally invisible to most people) may, under certain conditions, leave the physical body, travel to a distant location, then return to the physical, often with information not found in this world. Lucid dreams are often out-of-body experiences.

There, now, I’ve probably confused you enough. But think about it.




The Haunted Igloo
I launched my first book—a middle-grade novel titled The Haunted Igloo—at Butterfly Books, a local children’s bookstore in De Pere, Wisconsin. The event took place on a cold, blustery Sunday afternoon in November, and considering the title of my book, it was an appropriate birthday gift for this Halloween-born witch.
My youngest son and I had helped decorate the store windows with a hand-crafted igloo covered with cotton “snow” and sparkles, and a homemade dogsled driven by a life-sized Eskimo (Inuit) boy I had created from a moth-eaten fur coat from Goodwill, scraps of fake leather for mukluks, and a pantyhose head stuffed with old rags. With his torso, legs, and arms full of crumpled newspapers and his face drawn with a black marker, everyone said he looked like a real Eskimo boy.
The night before the Butterfly Books affair, I had participated in the St. Norbert College homecoming parade over the Fox River, through west and east De Pere, then back again. Fortunately, I got to ride inside the van with my hosts from the bookstore, but the poor little Eskimo boy—whom I had named “Chinook,” for the Eskimo boy in my novel—rode propped up beside my little cotton-covered igloo on the end of a trailer towed by the van. The wind tried to blow him over, and I thought he might tumble off the trailer a few times, but the next day, he was back in the store window standing behind his sled.
Newspapers had been notified that a local children’s author would be signing her first novel at Butterfly Books. The store had sent invitations and ordered a couple of cases of The Haunted Igloo. I don’t remember how many books I signed that day, but recall the long lines of autograph-seekers. Even the lady mayor of De Pere stopped by with her young son to get his book signed. Unfortunately, my wonderful editor from Houghton Mifflin, Mary Lee Donovan, declined the invitation due to a previous engagement. (I later met her in person at a children’s writers’ conference.)
In all, that was a fun afternoon, with treats at the front of the store—and a television set tuned to a Green Bay Packers football game! People milled around, eating cookies, drinking punch, watching the game, and wandering back to my table for questions and signatures. I recall a continuous line at the cash register.
Butterfly Books went out of business a few years ago. It was a sad day for many De Pere residents, but I’ll never forget that I was their very first author to sign books when they opened their new store.
My next book-signing for The Haunted Igloo also went well. The Waldenbooks’ manager at Bay Park Square parked me with a stack of my books at a table in the front of the busy store on a Sunday afternoon in December. I was lucky the book had hit the shelves in late fall, because the Christmas holiday drove sales that landed it on Waldenbooks’ list of Top Twenty Books in the Region. My first two book-signings, plus publisher sales to libraries, helped the book earn back my advance against royalties in less than three months.
During that signing, an employee from the microfilm company where I worked came up to me and said, “This is big time for us!” I couldn’t have been happier, for I had seriously doubted if any of my colleagues had believed me when I’d told them I wrote books when not running a microfilm camera.
After that, I sent out fifty letters of introduction to area schools and began traveling around to lecture students about reading and writing, and signing their copies of The Haunted Igloo. Teachers had read the book to their classes before my visits  and the kids were prepared with questions and cute drawings of their version of haunted igloos, Eskimos, and sled dogs.
The book turned out to be a lesson about the Arctic and, apparently, some children  had not yet studied that cold northern area of our planet where parka-clad people lived in snow houses, traveled by dogsleds, and trapped animals for food. Indeed, one talented child drew a picture of an igloo surrounded by telephone poles and electric lines. At one school, I was greeted with a display of miniature igloos built from sugar cubes, so I knew some classes were introducing that area to their students.
My setting for The Haunted Igloo was the Northwest Territories of Canada, but although I mentioned the location in the story, some people missed that and thought the book was set in Alaska. So my young readers not only enjoyed the book, but they also learned some geography and were introduced to the Inuit culture.
I carried my homemade Eskimo—Chinook—wherever I went, along with an armload of stuffed polar bears. On one occasion, my Siberian husky, Tokka, went to school with me and was a big hit with students and teachers. After I signed their books, the kids lined up for polar-bear hugs from a “real, live author.”
Although I lacked professional speaking skills, those were fun days, and those kids were a captive audience who couldn’t simply walk away and ignore my book. I truly enjoyed my school visits.
But alas, there were a few signings where nobody came at all, even after notices in the newspaper. How embarrassing it was to sit for an hour or more waiting for people to stop and visit (and buy a book, of course).
One of my favorite local bookstores was the Little Professor Book Center, whose manager generously provided books to take with me on consignment, and who was always willing to let me sign books in his store. Unfortunately, a couple of those visits were failures.
On one occasion at a Barnes & Noble store, my table had been set up a few feet away from a large television screen showing the movie Jurassic Park. When potential customers came toward me, their eyes were already focused on the show. The only visitor I had that day was a toddler who sat on the floor next to my Eskimo boy and tried to undress him while her mom watched the movie. What does one say or do in a case like that? I could only smile on the outside while feeling bad inside and thinking: sixty miles round trip, wasted gas, and not one book signed. But I kept a smile on my face and shrugged off my disappointment. I was a new author who lacked experience dealing with crowds, but I realized how lucky I was to be there at all.
But that’s often the way book-signings go. We win some and we lose some. Most of the time, I did sign books. But there’s one other time I’ll never forget.
I was at a small bookstore where a table had been set up in a small alcove near the front door. On the table was a stack of new books, my personally designed and printed business cards, brochures, and bookmarks, plus extra pens. But few people came through the door that day, and the ones who did weren’t interested in author-signings. Feeling a little stupid, I asked the store manager what I should do. I could not simply sit and twiddle my thumbs, smile, and nod while people walked right past me. The manager suggested I stand up and begin talking about my book and writing, about things authors do. So I tried that, and felt even more stupid standing there talking to myself. After a few minutes of that, I sat down again. And after another few minutes of inaction, I gathered my supplies, thanked the manager (who was really wonderful) and left the store.
That one was a real bummer, but all-in-all, most of my autograph sessions had turned out to be fun and profitable. The downers never kept me down for long, because I knew that, in the long run, this was what I had to do, win or lose.
(The Haunted Igloo and its sequel, Spirit Lights, are available as ebooks at most online retailers.)
Peace and Love.



Into the sun. . .


A great novel may be fiction, but it is based on universal truth and feelings: Everyone has felt sadness, pain, hopelessness, love, fear, and many other human emotions, but a great writer knows how to reach into your soul and bring these emotions to life.


My favorite novel, Giants in the Earth, by O. E. Rölvaag, has been called the greatest and most important pioneer story ever written. This classic novel was required reading in one of my high school English classes, and I’ve never forgotten it. So far, I have read this novel four times, and my emotions are stirred anew each time I turn a page .

covered wagon

I crossed the vast prairies of the Great Plains with Norwegian immigrants as they traveled into the sun by covered wagon; I lived with them and shared their loneliness and heartache as they struggled to build a life in a new country hundreds of miles from their homeland. I lived with them and got to know them, and love them. The emotions were true; the writing honest. At some point in the future, I’ll probably read Giants in the Earth again. I’ve already read the two sequels: Peder Victorious and Their Fathers’ God.

Peace and love.







Do all organisms have the right to reproduce and grow, and if so, do humans have the right to destroy them?

The term “all organisms” includes viruses, bacteria, cancer cells, and whatnot, all of which may be part of the ecosystem. I saw a headline recently that said scientists are trying to find a way to prevent cancer cells from reproducing. That got me thinking: If God created these various life forms for a reason—and God doesn’t make mistakes, right?—surely they were meant to reproduce. If they find a host body in which to reproduce, does that body have a means by which they can learn to tolerate one another?

Humans have learned to live with wild creatures by taming the gentle ones and using caution with dangerous ones. Dogs, wolves, and coyotes in the wild can live with fleas and lice—they may not like them, but where would they buy flea powder or dips in the forests? Then, of course, monkeys will eat the fleas they pick off their friends and relatives. So apparently, even fleas are useful.

I am wondering if the “fight or flight” response has anything to do with controlling the various disease-causing pathogens that attack our bodies: When fear and other strong, negative emotions overwhelm us, immunity often walks out the door, leaving it wide open for disease to enter.

Primitive humans used the fight or flight response to save their own lives. When confronted with danger, their bodies released large amounts of the stress hormone, Adrenalin, which provided extra energy to either stay and fight or flee to safety. If that was true thousands of years ago, chances are it’s still true.

But when harm appears today, either real or imagined, the average person feels sorry for himself and flees to his sofa to soak up more negativity from television programs or the evening news. But the extra dose of Adrenalin remains in his body and begins creating this or that ailment or disease, because its nature is to create. If one does not fight or flee from the danger, the Adrenalin creates something else in its host body.

The human body can often heal itself if we get our conscious minds out of the way … and use up that extra Adrenalin by becoming more active. In my opinion, these dangerous pathogens didn’t suddenly appear to wreck our bodies; they’ve been with us for thousands of years. Why does one person catch a certain disease and the next person does not?  Perhaps it’s because one worries and frets while his friend fights off the threat with activity, controlled breathing, and a positive attitude.

The following article explains how the fight or flight response works in our bodies, with ideas and instructions for protecting ourselves from disease. I hope you find this article helpful. Please share your comments.

Peace and Love,