Needed: One Alligator’s skin

Today my guest is Geneva Cobb Iijima. Geneva Cobb Iijima is a recent widow who was married to Peter Iijima for 54 years. She has published well over 100 stories, articles and devotions and four books for children. She’s currently searching for stories of courageous people who rescued the innocent from the Nazi’s clutches during WWII. She lives in Oregon and has four children and eight grandchildren.

Geneva’s title for her post immediately caught my attention, so I had to read it right away. Here’s what she has to say about alligator skin and writing.

            Ever wonder what it feels like to wear an alligator’s skin? Most writers can tell you. We usually put one on before going to our critique group. You see, submitting our precious manuscript to others to discuss can be scary. What if they don’t like it? What if they think we should omit some of our choice phrases or illustrations? What if they don’t like our main character? Despite the hazards, a writer’s critique is a necessary part of writing. Because–surprise, surprise–our thoughts don’t roll out in perfect order and amazing clarity as fast as the printer can print them. We need fresh eyes to read them and other ears to listen to their sound. And when someone attacks our wonderful manuscript and rips it to shreds, we absolutely must have our alligator’s skin.

            When I first started writing seriously, my dream was to be invited to join a critique group. Stan Baldwin and Sally Stuart’s was the best of the best. At least, I thought so, but it was full at a maximum of about twelve. So, I waited. In time someone moved, and I joined. Whoopee! I was in. And though I was a newbie, they were kind.

            Years later, I’m more seasoned, and critiquers aren’t so kind. I’m in an online critique that has had members from So. Africa, Japan, Australia and the East Coast of the U. S. I hail from Oregon. Recently, the member from the East Coast returned her critique of a manuscript of mine with this comment. “I love your ideas, but does everyone in your part of the country talk like you do? I have a friend in Seattle, and she doesn’t.”

            “Ouch!” Where’s that alligator skin? She referred to some of my Geneva-isms, my “creative” word arrangements. Maybe I carried them a bit too far? Huh?

            The first rule of any critique group is to preface all remarks with something positive, as my East Coast friend had done. However, once a person in my group came down hard on another member. She ripped the other woman’s story apart, shred by shred. She found nothing positive to say. Some writers would have been in tears (I cried inwardly), but this woman handled the assault gracefully. She must have worn her alligator suit that night. Later, the leader reprimanded the critiquer, who eventually apologized, but it was awhile before critiquing returned to normalcy.

            Despite the fact we writers do have to develop a bit of an alligator’s skin sometimes, a good critique group is a treasure. We’re usually too close to our work to see it objectively. I’m sure most of my work looks better to me than it does to others. So, I smile (at least, I try to), and make the changes I think are valid. I hope my readers enjoy the finished product.

P.S. This was critiqued by my local critique group.

You can contact Geneva Cobb Iijima thru her website at

Check out Geneva Cobb Iijima’s books on Amazon:

The Way We Do It In Japan

Jesus Loves Us All, Published in eight languages (no link for Amazon, sorry)

The First Christmas in Origami, An Advent book

Object Lessons in Origami, Standard Publishing, (out of print).

Spring has finally Sprung!

If you are North America, you probably have felt one of the worst winters we’ve had for decades. Where I live, we had the most snow I can remember, and it was so cold! Even though it was above seasonal norms in temperature for the past few days, there are still a few small piles of snow not melted. Fortunately none of them are in my yard.

As a writer, thinking of all that snow and cold has to be good for something. I’ve written many Christmas books in the middle of summer, so in the middle of the cold, I should have been writing a book about going to Mexico or something. Actually I know people who were in Mexico when we had the coldest snowiest times. Yup, I’m jealous.

Maybe I should write a murder mystery, featuring those friends….


This entry was posted on March 21, 2019, in Gail's BLOG.

What Does a Writer Think About?

Today my guest is Johnnie Alexander, who takes in all around her when she’s writing.

Johnnie Alexander creates characters you want to meet and imagines stories you won’t forget. Her award-winning debut novel, Where Treasure Hides, is a CBA bestseller. She writes contemporaries, historicals, and cozy mysteries, serves on the executive boards of Serious Writer, Inc. and the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference, co-hosts an online show called Writers Chat, and interviews inspirational authors for Novelists Unwind. She also teaches at writers conferences and for Serious Writer Academy. Johnnie lives in Oklahoma with Griff, her happy-go-lucky collie, and Rugby, her raccoon-treeing papillon. Connect with her at and other social media sites via

Here’s what she has to say:

I used to dream of having one published book. When that happened six years ago, I dreamed of having multiple projects all at once. That’s happening now—and I’m finding the reality of that dream can be overwhelming.

But it’s also amazing fun!

In the past few months, I’ve imagined:

  • a postmaster’s daughter who writes anonymous pamphlets for the abolitionist movement,
  • business competitors who want to be treasure hunters vacationing on a tropical island,
  • a young Amish woman in Oklahoma who has a gift for treating animals,
  • an American actress acting as a spy in England during World War II, and
  • a young fashion designer visiting a bed-and-breakfast in South Carolina to retrieve a memory box.

Thanks to one of my newsletter readers, I recently had a real-life conversation with her and her father who grew up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee—often called Atomic City—after WWII. We had a great time talking about the secret wartime facility.

My heroine for that novella, “Blue Moon,” serves with WOOPS (Women Officers of Public Safety). It’s one of four novellas for the Hometown Heroines Collection which will be released by Barbour later this year.

Most of my adult life was spent in Florida, and I’m fascinated by the state’s rich history. Three other authors and I are working on a project set during the Gilded Age—from about the 1880s through the 1920s. So I’m researching the history of the Alcazar Hotel, built by Henry Flagler in St. Augustine. The hero may be a pilot. Aviation was still a burgeoning industry then and “flying aces” often performed as daredevils at exhibitions or entered aviation races.

This is the blessing of writing in multiple genres—I can delve into history then return to contemporary times then delve into history again. Sometimes I do feel overwhelmed. Even on the verge of panic with deadlines coming closer each day. But mostly I’m grateful. God gave me my dream, and while the contracts and opportunities continue, I’ll have amazing fun creating characters you’ll want to meet and imagining stories you won’t forget. (That’s my deepest dream.)

The first story I mentioned above is “Journey of the Heart,” one of seven novellas in The Erie Canal Brides Collection. Here’s more about the collection and my story.

Erie Canal Brides Collection

Seven romance stories take you back to the building of the Erie Canal and the opening of the Midwest to greater development.

Completed in 1825, the Erie Canal connected the Great Lakes to the Hudson River, and soon other states like Ohio created canals linking Lake Erie to the Ohio River. Suddenly the Midwest was open to migration, the harvesting of resources, and even tourism. Join seven couples who live through the rise of the canals and the problems the waterways brought to each community, including land grabs, disease, tourists, racism, and competition. Can these couples hang on to their faith and develop love during times of intense change?

“Journey of the Heart” 

Charity Sinclair secretly writes abolitionist pamphlets while thwarting architect Tavish Dunbar’s effort to redesign her father’s post office, a hidden stop on the Underground Railroad. When a slave-hunter captures a runaway, Charity vows to rescue the fugitive. But can she trust Tavish with her secret. . .and with her heart?

Here’s how to find Johnnie Alexander:

Social Media





Purchase Links


Barnes & Noble

Christian Book Distributors

This entry was posted on March 9, 2019, in Gail's BLOG.

Going to a writer’s conference

Another thing that us writers think about is, going to writer’s conference. I have been to many, some near, some far. These are a mixture of fun and learning and networking and just plain old seeing your writer buddies.

Some conferences I’ve been to, I’ve spent time with people I’ve come to know well online, and it’s great to see them once a year. Of course, these aren’t cheap, or for the squeamish. Not only is there the cost of travel, there is the cost of staying at a five-star hotel, as the hotel must be big enough to both house and feed all the conferees and staff – which usually numbers between 500 and 1000 pepole.  Also, the hotel needs to have meeting rooms to hold classes for all those people.

The next one of those conferences I’m going to is the same, but also different. Mostly, this one is so much more affordable, as most of the workshop teachers agreed to do it on a volunteer basis in order to make it affordable for people to attend who don’t have the money or don’t have enough money.  Such a conference is the Creative Ink Festival which is in Burnaby BC on March 29 – 31, 2019. They also have a page on Facebook if you want to check it out.

I’ll be teaching a workshop on Scene and Sequel at this one, if you just happen to be a writer and want to attend.  I’m really looking forward to the great workshops, as well as rubbing elbows with other writers who are there for the same reason.

I love to attend writers’ conferences, both for fun and learning, making it a working vacation. Oh, and also a tax deduction.

Setting aside time isn’t easy.

Today my guest is Erin Howard. Erin R. Howard is a developmental editor, fantasy author of The Kalila Chronicles, and has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing/English from Southern New Hampshire University. When she’s not writing, Erin enjoys spending time with her family, fueling her craft addictions, and teaching writing workshops. Erin is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the KenTen Writers Group. She resides in Western Kentucky with her husband and three children.

Erin is a very busy lady, and despite troubles, still manages to get some writing done, but often not as much as she wants to. But she’s still managed to get two books published, which is a major accomplishment.

Here’s what Erin has to say, a lady I admire greatly.

There are days when I can’t keep up with the words that flow during my writing sessions, and then there are days where I stare at the blank computer screen. I use to think that if I could stay home all day and write full time, I could write so much faster. I would have several books under my belt by now.

However, life can be messy, and sometimes doesn’t quite come out like you first imagine. I can write full time, but I’m a stay at home mom who home schools two of my kiddos and has a child with cancer. My day comes with its distractions and hurdles, but I’m learning that writing is not only a passion but also a choice. No matter if you work full time, stay at home, work from, etc., inevitably you will have outside distractions try to steal away your writing time.

I try to set aside time to write every day. I have a block of time marked off on my daily planner, but sometimes, other things work their way into my writing time. Sometimes, I get snippets of writing accomplished, or instead of sitting down and having a plotting session, I plot while I’m washing dishes.

My second novel released yesterday, and I’m currently writing book three and a prequel. What I’ve found is that distractions will also try to steal my attention, life will always be messy, and I won’t always feel inspired. But if I stay disciplined, the passion for my story, and the choice to make time for writing will win out over all the other things that pull at my attention.

What about you? Is it easy for you to set aside writing time? Or are you easily distracted? What do you do to block out the distractions and write? Leave me a comment. I would love to hear from you!

Here’s the info on Erin’s new book – The Soul Searcher (The Kalila Chronicles, #2)

Elnora’s parents gave her one rule:

Stay hidden away at all costs.

Elnora Scott is used to her survival depending on the decisions of others. Locked away in her safe house, it is easy to follow her parents’ dying wishes until an angel, demon, and seer show up on her doorstep. Now, waking up in a dirty cell, she wishes she would have gone with them when she had the chance, because the very ones who unknowingly ushered the kidnapper to her location may be the only ones who can save her.

When Thea learns that Elnora may be in danger, she doesn’t hesitate to go find her. Thea thought stepping through the portal would be her greatest obstacle, but it only reveals a more sinister threat.

Here’s links on how to find Erin Howard and her books:








Purchase/Pre-order link:

This entry was posted on February 20, 2019, in Gail's BLOG.

Saturday – what do writers think about on the weekend?

It’s Saturday. What do writers think about on the weekend? Well, lots of things.

First, it depends if the writer has a day job. Believe it or not, most do, because it’s getting harder and harder to make a living writing. Decades ago, a writer who was one of the chosen few could do this, but even then, most couldn’t. One sale with a royalty/advance publisher does not guarantee the next unless you one of the very very few who has made it into that reader favorite category. I do know a few who have made it like that, but not many. Most are like me, it’s a good side income, but not guaranteed enough to pay the mortgage or put food on the table every day.

That means, for most writers, not including spending time with friends and family, the weekends are the days the major amount of writing gets done. Unless you are one of the very few who gets up two hours before you have to leave for work, and that’s your writing time.

I’m not one of those.

Many writers only have the weekends to spend big blocks of time writing. In Steven King’s book – On Writing – (which is great, by the way) he says something that I truly believe in. In his section on what does a writer really need in order to write, he says, and this is not a direct quote, the only thing a writer really needs is a door that they can shut.

Writing is a solitary profession. We need blocks of time to get ideas, sort them in our heads, and write them down in an understandable and interesting way. I type over 100 wpm (I have no idea how many keystrokes that is in the other way of counting typing speed) but writing time is usually not speed typing type. We are not copy typing. We are thinking of every word as we write it, and there are times a writer can do a whole scene in a few minutes, sometime it takes an hour to just write one paragraph until it works. Sometimes I sit there and think, just looking at the blank screen, or looking at a few sentences that didn’t work, and I need to get them to work. The key to that is, no interruptions, and for the strong, no falling victim to distractions.

There is a saying I know the hard way is true. The easier a book is to read, the harder it was to write.

What do I think about on the weekend? For a lot of time it’s when can I get to that place where I can shut the door.

Happy Valentine’s Day! (what does a romance writer think about on Valentine’s day?)

Technically as I posted this on Wednesday, Valentine’s day is tomorrow, but it’s close enough.

As a romance writer, I think I have a slightly different take on Valentine’s Day than the average person. In order to write a book that comes out on Valentine’s day, chances are it was written in the summer time. No hearts and flowers around to set the mood, unless I do it myself.

I just saw the new episode of one of my favorite shows, The Rookie (insert big sigh here) which of course had a big focus on Valentine’s day. It said something that wasn’t at all surprising. It said, and I believe this is based on fact, that Valentine’s day is a hard day for the police force, as there are a lot of disappointed people who act out, a lot of heartbroken people, and a lot of people who fight over those limited prime things to buy and/or do on that one short day. One of the major characters took his wife out for dinner specifically the day before Valentine’s day to avoid the rush and especially to avoid the jacked up prices of Valentine’s Day specials and promos. Smart!!!

Last Saturday my band played at a Valentine’s Day Dessert and Dance, which was the weekend before Valentine’s Day, to do it on a Saturday.

If you choose to be alone, or find yourself alone on Valentine’s Day, though, I have a suggestion. Read a good Christmas book. Ho Ho Ho.

What if?

Today my guest is Regina Rudd Merrick. Regina Rudd Merrick is a writer, church musician, wife, mother, and former librarian. Having lived most of her life in Western Kentucky, she dreams of the sound of crashing waves and sandy beaches. Married to her husband of 35+ years, she is the mother of two grown daughters, and the keeper of a 100-year-old house where she lives in the small town of Marion, KY. She is the author of three books: Carolina Dream (Apr. 2017), Carolina Mercy (July 2018), and as of Feb. 5, 2019, Carolina Grace in the Southern Breeze Series.

I simply asked Regina, what goes on in her mind as a writer, and here’s what she has to say.

What DOES go on in the mind of a writer?

Frankly, often times it’s the same thing that goes on in anyone else’s mind, but with sparks and twists!

I am committed to writing a novella, releasing in September, for a collection with three other Mantle Rock Publishing authors. I knew the connection between the four stories, knew the genre, and knew the point of view we all agreed to, but I didn’t have a CLUE as to what to write about.

So, I chose the setting. It’s all I had. Hmmm . . . must think of more things. Okay, if the story is going to happen THERE, what if . . .

And I was off!

On the drive home from my writing group meeting, where I had announced that I didn’t have any ideas yet, the plot fell into place with one simple question – WHAT IF?

Most authors would tell you that this simple two-word question is the jumping off point for most stories. In my first book, Carolina Dream, I literally had a dream that I couldn’t shake. There was an antebellum mansion, deserted, and I was walking through it as if I had just acquired it in some way.

I wrote the dream down, and then started the “what if” process. What if I was a young woman from Kentucky who inherited a mansion from some unknown relative? What if my fiancé broke off my engagement, and then I received a wedding invitation from the new bride-to-be? What if I met someone who was hurting as badly as I was, who rightfully should have inherited this house?

And thus became a novel entitled Carolina Dream. From there, I “what-if-ed” through two more novels, Carolina Mercy, and most recently, Carolina Grace.

The novella coming out in September? It came about as the result of a “what if” that happens after Carolina Grace!

So, when you have an idea that won’t leave you alone? Ask that idea one simple question: WHAT IF?

You can check out more about Regina Rudd Merrick on:






Publisher Website:

Sales Links: My author page –

Brrrr Cold! (West coast version)

Okay, I know me complaining about the cold probably doesn’t mean that much. The temperature dips to -1C (30F) and we tend to seize up here in Vancouver BC, on the west coast.

Here’s a picture I took off Facebook to show what is happening.

This is a great time to be a writer, because when it’s cold like this I definitely stay indoors. But also, seeing what everyone posts, and looking at the pictures people send of being buried in snow also makes great research. While sitting here with a hot cup of coffee and my fuzzy bunny slippers.

Yeah. Research time.

Who are writers, anyway?

My guest today is Geni White.

Here’s what Geni has to say about the life of writing.


Writers are friends, siblings, parents, workers, students; they fill normal roles.

Writers think according to their role experiences, like everyone else. Writers have various emotions, like ordinary people. In my elementary school years neighborhood kids begged for me for stories. We’d sit on the grass under our huge oak trees and I’d create a tale. But I grew tired of telling spontaneous stories. I preferred to plan tales in advance.

Now I think like a nurse, a wife, mother, friend, child of God, as do others.

What is different when I think like a writer? Writers ask what if, how come, where, when, who, about people and events.  Some writers imagine new characters for their stories. I consider people I know. Then I combine characteristics of several real folks to design persons for my stories.        

Writers notice how their emotions affect their behavior. They learn to express emotions through the body language of story characters.  My brain listens to internal conversations between unknown people. However, I seldom write down these conversations; they feel like writing practice.   

During a story, I imagine dialogue between my characters, always with a purpose of showing who the characters are, or to move the story forward with information, conflicts and emotions. I first outline my story scenes, though not in detail. Details come as I compose the first draft. At least five or six editors evaluate my writing before I submit for publication.         

Find out more about Geni at

Check out some of Geni’s books:

Figleaf–  An Oregon Policeman Owes an Arab Sheik a Million Dollar Favor

The Turkish Rock Mystery – And the little old lady who lifted them from the Mafia

Anders Village Fictionalized Memoir –  Anders, maybe autistic influences his entire village. But do his dreams come true?

Ho, Ho, Merry Heart Medicine – Geni White with Enna Bushay  – 22 short humor tales. Emma writes from a grain of truth, but her imagination runs wild.

Ho, Ho Vol. 2 Short Stories to help you smile .

My Dog Gumbo (To Love or Not to Love?)