Zelda exists in a series of poems.  She has pummeled me through many a difficult night.  Sometimes she helps; sometimes she doesn't.

I've added a new one here and shall attempt to add one
at regular intervals. I have no justification other than need:


The Battle (11/07)

Zelda! No!

Don’t hurt him.

I love him.

Zelda turns tawny eyes

On me.

Her hand, almost raised, settles.

She waits, I wait,

While her breathing settles.

Her eyes burn, her voice is a husky bass.

“You do not.”

I remember my training:

They’re not afraid; why should you be?

“I do.”

Six minutes pass,

An impasse.

He stands waiting.

It is between me and Zelda after all.

“I love him.”

“You repeat yourself.”



I win.


Garbo (11/07)



zelda is not me.       


zelda is not me.

zelda is



no cover

no games

hide and seek ist verboten

we have put away childish things


zelda IS part Mame part Garbo part mad rabbit

beyond life

above faith

solely love.




Zelda sat on the bar stool

Cigar ($15 hand rolled from Ybor City)

In one hand

JD in the other

Jimmy did like the way she rolled his parts

But she had to put him down to pick up the whiskey.

“Emmy, you are a consummate ass.”

(She calls me Emmy when I’ve endeared myself to her.)

I twizzle silently.  There will be more.

“Ass.  Chump.  What else?”

“You tell me, Zelda.”

“That I will.”

She put down the cheroot & picked up Jimmy.

Hefting his private parts, she shouted,

“See these nuts?  Playthings.  And Jimmy likes that.

Now you, Princess, 

You think nuts are attached to something

A tree maybe

And you think that tree’s gonna shade you protect you

Keep you warm & safe.  Well missy,


“You mean nuts, right?”

“No, nuts you can count on for sustenance.

It’s the trees that are worthless.”


Fate however unlooked for     




Give it up.

Let it go.


Cast in melamine

Shouted from bullhorns.


You can’t love him

You care too much

It’s a game



I give up

I’ll  let go




I wait in the shallows

For the alligator

One quick bite to the throat

And my agony will be gone


An hour,

A day


No alligator.


Okay, I’ll walk into the sea

That will end it.

Low tide.

A mile into my demise I give up and trudge back.


I never saw the tripwire

Never felt the lasso

Saw his eyes

Saw his smile.


Doomed to joy.

Wooden head


In a mirror today

I saw

A wooden head

It wasn’t mine

I’m sure


My head is teeming with thoughts

And emotions and

Convoluted reasoning

That couldn’t happen in a wooden head

Unless my thoughts are termites.



         Zelda in the new millennium




This time is mine I said

She nodded, silent.

This is my time, Zelda.  Mine.


She made no comment.

She did not look at me but out to sea

Her shoulders hunched


Zelda, I want to be sure you accept it.

It is time.


Not silence, but quiet.  Nodding, solemn quiet.


A window breaks

The glass shatters, showering bits over us

The men at the bar cover their heads with newspapers

And drink on.


Zelda stubs her cigar out,  feeds the finch her last calamari ring and



I hold a palm out

Please don’t leave

She bobs her head, checks her pocket, finds a drachma

And drops it into my hand


You may need that.



I dunno you tell her (5/10)


The bug man backed out of the attic

Retrieved his bag

And bit into his sandwich.

He hitched up his sagging jeans

Chewed his lower lip

Tugged his cap

And pronounced.

 I dunno what it is ma’am

Niver seen anythin’ like it.

Zelda froze

Her fierce ebony eyes boring into the bug man’s opaque  ones

Until she broke down under his masterful  vacuity.

How much do I owe you?


Call 911 (9/08)



Zelda sits teetering on the edge of the pool

She has a mai tai in one hand

And Joe’s hand in the other

She is speaking earnestly into his eyes rocking

Back and forth her legs

Kicking the water to keep her from falling.


Well, Joe has that trick

A poker face

He listens to Zelda, allows her to hold his hand

But is not there.

I’ve never known Zelda to be frightened

I see her I watch her over the rim of my margarita until the salt gets in my eyes

I marvel

Zelda is—yes—she is frightened.  My god. 

She doesn’t want to lose Joe.

What will she do?

My model my heroine my rock my cold fish the one who never



Cares that much.

I see her face—scrunched, older, in pain.


I think,

Loves him.


So what the hell do I do now?




(May 07)


Doesn’t give you enough time

Age leaps at you like some poisonous jumping insect

And suddenly you’re on an IV

And your wrinkles are squeezing out your face.


I don’t want to be old yet.

Old is for satisfied people

Those at peace with themselves

Those who knew real love

If I could have love

I wouldn’t mind being old. 

6/09  The doldrums

If only

So here we are at the end


Uphill so much of the time


I remember so joyously the downhill slides

Whooshing, arms upraised, feet in the air, mouth wide


Knowing you’ll be safe but loving the instant where

You’re not sure

Loving the moment at the top of the cliff

When the world is spread out like peanut butter on toast

For you and only you

To taste


And now

We’ve come to the bottom

The end

Clouds and light and rainbows and lightning

Have moved out of the area.

Sails luff; wind dies; the doldrums.

It is over.


If only.



Birds (3/10)


Do they stay the winter?

Zelda clutched the binoculars staring

Out at the hordes of voracious starlings

Swarming my back yard.




Do you feed them all winter?






So that they’ll love me.


Zelda put down the binoculars

Grinned at me and said


I thought so.





Nuts (12/07)



Zelda was a baby


No one—not even her parents—

Talk about it



Her mother allows a secret smile

To touch her lips.

Her father purses

His lips.


Zelda looks heavenward

Not a direction she is comfortable with.


Love is for squirrels

She remarks pensively

They know how to bury their precious things

And retrieve them when the mood strikes.



(July 26, 2007)


Naked on the rocky beach

The cliffs overhang.

Zelda insists no one can see.

Three of us step gingerly

Into the glacier-blue water.

The waves smack unmercifully

Just below the navel.

A water spout spews its frigid water

Into the glacier-blue sky.

Her breasts shiny wet

Kicks off from gravity.

She laughs, her

Mouth wide open, perfect teeth

Abandoned to the joy

The perfect freedom

Of water on bare skin.

Two of us step backwards to the shore,

Retrieve towels and hide, fearing to be loose

In the world.

One of us moves  toward the deep.

But Otis Lives, 1/09


It was a very strange thing

Snow in Samos

Only Zelda liked it

And me

We rolled balls into snowmen

Labeled them

According to our opinions.

One was Otis

After my pet ceramic frog

He has a sly expression

If you turn him to the left

But his heart is alive

And he is capable of true love.

The other one we named Michael because he was so cold

And empty.

The villagers came out

To watch

Zelda held still in that way she has when she is about to alter viewpoints

Lifted the cement block high over Michael

And dropped it.

Sic semper tyrannis.




 Heat Lightning  (5/09)

She stood at my door drenched

Behind her the sky lit up showing off long grizzled hairs of lightning

We count together

One two three four


Four miles away.

Why are you wet?

Why are you?

Because I stood in my backyard and opened my mouth to the rain so I couldn’t scream

His name. 

Me? I ran barefoot and nearly naked on the beach, screaming the name

Of the archangel Michael.

Did he answer?


Did He answer?


Well then, we both wasted our time.

Not me, Zelda stoutly maintained.

I didn’t want him to answer.  I was happy to be wet.


Zelda redux



She had watched the men running

At Pamplona

She had pursed her lips at their

Palpable fear

Women frown at the sexual contradiction, the beast chasing the man

At least the ones who are tired of sex.


Those who still warm to a touch on a nipple


And accept both the beast and the man.


Zelda took a shower in the middle of the afternoon

She had dreamed of making love in the heat shades

Of a fan-driven hotel in Merida.

It was only a dream.

Even so, trickles of sweat formed between her thighs and at the small of her back as she

Remembered the dream


She ordered a martini and took it to the balcony

To watch the bulls.



Resurrection is just a metaphor

(Jan 2009)


Zelda’s bags are packed.

Don’t leave


She doesn’t look at me.

Babydoll, I have given up on him

I can’t stay.

Zelda, we all need you

Who will lead the Carmen sing-alongs

Who else has a voice to rival Elvis?

What will you say to your children?


She only hesitated a moment.

You’re all in the will.


Outside, a taxi’s horn blares.

Hobson’s Choice
He wants to stay

 He wants to go

 He does not want

 What he wants

 So much.


 He hates the needing

 The appealing

 From me

 From him.


 Why can’t it be simple

 He cries

 As he twists the emotional wires

 Into intricate knots


 This love will never happen

 Despite us.

 I do not love . . . no,

 Nor am I loved


 Please don’t go.

Love #5 million


(def., n, from the pig latin lupus, i.e. loopy, as in nuts)




This is not one of your New Yorker poems,

written by cold creatures waiting for high-rise elevators with

vacuumed thought.



Structured unfathomedly.


This, this, is a full blown love poem

Hold your nose

We’re going in.


Love with ties,

Ties that bind like

Tightly woven wire, thick cut

Can’t cut.


Love so viscous

Limbs and organs struggle in vain to breathe

Resistance is futile

Succumbing is fatal.


Not finished yet:


Love so strong that:

A double rainbow,

A far-off train whistle,

A gentle all-night rain,

A deep blue sky over a North Dakota slough

With sandhills rising from the mist,

A perfect puff of foie gras,

The high C in La Donna e Mobile,

Pulling in an eight-pound blue,

Flushing an eagle,

Walking an iceberg,

Saying hello to Suzanne alive,

Giving birth,


Don’t hold a candle to it.




  Throes (Sept. 2009):


in the final throes

as the dead river flows

I know

it's gone


You throw me over

the floes

MatSu breakup comes early this year



as far away as you can

the glow lasts forever you can't snuff it out

I bow to its force


the crows badger


not knowing when the hawk will turn and blow

the noxious wind toward them

reeking of




The blow came too slow, too gently

To know

the meaning


And so

Hello again

is not an option.


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June 24 My interview with Dawn Roberto at her site the Reading Nook:

Guest Author Day with M. S. Spencer

Can you tell us a little about how you started writing; was it something you have always wanted to do?

I have been writing since I could hold pencil to paper (incorrectly as it turned out, which is why I still have a callus on my right ring finger). As an adolescent I of course wrote interminable sappy poems, some of which were actually published. I turned to stories as a young adult, and even a couple of novels. But I suffered from “submission anxiety” and never got beyond sending queries. Then a few years ago I had the luxury of a six-month hiatus when I was laid up and finished, sent, and sold my first book, Lost in His Arms. Thank God for on-line submissions!

What do you consider to be the key elements of a great story?

First, characters must be believable—by which I mean characters who don’t act out of character and who have a modicum of intelligence so you don’t spend more time rolling your eyes than reading. Second, description must be fresh, rich, and integral to the action (i.e., no long-winded paragraphs as the sun sloooooowly sets while the characters sit inanimately). And third, an excess of dialogue over than narrative and action over introspection to maintain a fast pace and the reader’s rapt attention.

Could you tell us a little about how you develop your characters? Who has been your favorite character to write? The most challenging?

I usually start with the setting and the plot before the characters evolve as real people. By about the third chapter they are fully formed, at which point they acquire their proper names and leave my little brain nest to wend their independent way through the story. Some secondary characters may materialize on their own. I try to be as hospitable as possible, although my editors aren’t always so welcoming. As to physical description, I like each heroine to have a completely different one—it’s so much fun to dress them!

Favorite character? Michael Keller, hero of my first book, Lost in His Arms. He’s my perfect man—comfortable with himself, master of many skills, funny, and capable of deep, quiet love without a lot of slobbering.
Most challenging character? Probably Rose Culloden, heroine of my second book, Lost & Found. She’s so unsure of herself, so lacking in self-esteem that she suffers unnecessarily. And gets herself into pickles.

Have you ever found that you didn’t like your Hero or your Heroine? If so, what did you do to change that?

Maybe Rose, but there’s not much I could do to change her, any more than you can fix all the flaws in your friends. Her insecurity, which comes with growing up very privileged, is not one people often find sympathetic, so I had my work cut out showing my readers that she strives for perfection and wants to do the right thing as much as anyone else.

If you were to start again, with the knowledge you have now, what would be the first thing you do?

I would have submitted any and all pieces of writing I’d ever done. I would not feel guilty about writing during the day. I would have married someone rich so that I could afford to hire someone to do my publicity.

Can you tell me a bit about your most recent/upcoming release?

Losers Keepers, due out July 27 from Secret Cravings, is a full-length contemporary romantic suspense novel, M/F, 3 flames. Unfortunately we’re still in the editing stage and I can’t provide an excerpt here. But I can offer you the blurb:

Dagne Lonegan expected that spending a year in Chincoteague to write a novel would clear her sinuses, if not her heart, of any feelings for Jack Andrews, erstwhile lover and long-time jerk. It's just her luck that her first week on the island she's in the right place at the right time to be involved with a murder. Only she doesn't know it. Unfortunately, the murderer doesn't know she doesn't know. Strange and dangerous things begin happening to her, interfering with her new romance with Refuge Manager Tom Ellis. It gets even more complicated when her Jack arrives to take charge of the murder investigation.
Will Dagne stick with the tall, cool glass of a wildlife manager or fall back into the arms of her first tempestuous passion?

Is there a genre you haven’t done that you would like to explore in the future?

I have written several children’s stories, as yet unpublished. The adventures of Edward the Fly are Disney-like stories pitched to a late elementary/early middle school reader. Edward travels to places like the Wild West, Antarctica and Atlantis, where he uses his fly powers to rescue humans from peril. Other stories resemble parables or Aesop’s Fables—fantasies with a lesson that are wonderful for reading aloud. My favorite is called Lila’s Island, which relates the story of the dove who Noah sent to seek dry land. I would like to see them published and write more of both.

If you could throw a party with any five people (living or dead) who would you pick and why?

Jane Austen, Winston Churchill, Calvin Trillin, Douglas Adams, Dorothy Parker. I think all would contribute to the conversation in very different ways, but all with a sense of humor. They are/were all extremely articulate, imaginative, well-read, funny, and not too cynical (except for Ms. Parker, but I believe underneath that cynicism lay a kindness that matched Jane Austen’s).

Do you listen to music when writing? Do you feel like some stories write themselves a soundtrack with specific music? If so, what book and what kind of music influenced it?

No, I don’t listen to music when writing—I’m not very good at multitasking I suppose. If I were to listen to anything, it would have to be Mozart. Studies show his music actually makes you think better—plus he’s so cheering!

What are your thoughts on love scenes in romance novels, do you find them difficult to write?

Not really. The trick is to find new words to describe ancient feelings and behavior. When writing a scene I might close my eyes and try to feel what the heroine feels—how would she describe it? What words would she use to explain the sensation of a loved one’s lips on hers?

What are some of your favorite things or hobbies to do?

I love to swim, kayak and bird watch. I love to eat and drink. I love to stare out my study window at the wildlife in the meadow rather than settle down and work. I am a news junkie, absorbing everything C-Span has to offer, and then like to debate politics as reasonably gently as possible.

What do you have coming up next for you? Care to share any details with us?

Triptych, a novel set in Washington DC, has just been accepted by Secret Cravings. It’s a tale of three sisters and their lovers, of the famed Three Sisters Rocks in the Potomac River (the stuff of legend), and lost masterworks of art (the stuff of intrigue). Here is the blurb:

Miranda Cabot lost all interest in love after her husband Edward crashed into the rocky islets called the Three Sisters in the Potomac River. Her sister Honor likewise prefers her tower and her writing to romance. Not so their sister Sybil, who longs for a dashing Frenchman to sweep her off her feet. Being a modern woman, she advertises for him on Craig’s List and is rewarded with the Chevalier du Bon Arnaque, who comes to Washington from Alsace on mysterious business.

Believing the Chevalier is a crook, Miranda and Honor ask their neighbors Dieter Heiliger and his grandson Corey to act as chaperones. Three beautiful, strong-willed women living in a house with three handsome, virile men results inevitably in an intricate web of jealousy, sex, and intrigue. Add to that long-lost master artworks and stolen prototypes. Who will end up with whom, and will the Three Sisters take another life as the legend calls for?

In addition, I have just finished the draft of a fifth romance, a fun one set at the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. The heroine, Georgia Delaney, is an artist in love (reluctantly) with a lawyer whose goal is to transform the Torpedo Factory into a box store. Several murders and accusations later, all is resolved in a satisfyingly dramatic fashion. Here is a rough blurb:

Waiting out the rain, Georgia Delaney takes stock of her widowhood and the handsome man standing in the door to the bar. Little does she know she will meet that man again and again under both passionate and terrifying circumstances.

Hugh Brody waits for his date, too conscious of the beautiful woman sitting by the door. Little does he know that she will hate him for trying to destroy her beloved art center, and even suspect him of murder. Nor that she will be drawn inevitably into his arms.

Little do either of them suspect they will be embroiled in not one, but two murders, in which the fate of the Torpedo Factory, an art center housed in an old munitions factory on the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria, will be decided.

Who are some of your favorite authors, and if we were to visit your home, what books would we find on your bookshelf, end table, floor or e-reader?

I love British fiction, including the old murder mystery writers like Christie, Marsh and Allingham. Since I recently moved from my house of 25 years I have had to seriously downsize (from 3 floors of floor-to-ceiling books to 2 small bookscases). (Urp.) On the upside I now have a Kindle!

On my meager current shelves you’ll find some classic science fiction/fantasy (Tolkein, Adams, Azimov), piles of history and biography, and some hilarious novels of Christopher Buckley. And of course my collection of Wizard of Oz books. And cookbooks. Lots of cookbooks.

If you could be any character of any book or movie, who would you be?

I can’t decide between these two, both movie characters, but perhaps our readers can: (1) Shirley Valentine because she broke free and found herself again; or (2) Auntie Mame (the late great Rosalind Russell’s Mame) because she was willing to open her heart to any idea and embark on any adventure, wings unfurled.

June 5
Hey everyone,  Michele Zurlo  interviewed me on Sunday at her webiste The Steam Room. I talk about the upcoming release of my thriller Losers Keepers, a mystery romance set in Chincoteague,home of the ponies. I'll also talk about my fourth, just sold to Secret Cravings. Entitled Triptych, it's a tale of three sisters set in Washington, DC.  I hope you enjoy the interview. Anyone who stops by gets a free recipe for my Swedish mother-in-law's fantastic Swedish Coffeebread!
May 4
Hooray for the Navy Seals! Again they deliver (remember the ship captured by Somali pirates?).  As to releasing the pictures of Osama bin Laden having received his just reward--I'm not sure what the solution is, but the answers given by the President sure don't work. the first--the we wouldn't like it if they did it to us, is ALREADY moot (Daniel Pearl anyone? Black Hawk Down? others?). The second reason--that it would incite violence--is even sillier. Like, they need an excuse? And my favorite is the third--that being proud of doing something necessary and well and fully justified is "not who we are." Huh? I hear they gave Osama a gold star on his report card before kiilling him so "he wouldn't feel bad about losing the firefight
March 13
   Besides it being my sister's birthday, a blog was published under my name today at Angela Kay Austin's Romancing the Pen. Link is: 
You can read  her introduction at:

M.S. Spencer

Have you ever been writing happily along and suddenly found your characters in a setting you know nothing about but because it flowed logically from the story you are powerless to change it?

We all remember the old adage about writing what you know, but a writer also wants to be as accurate as possible in settings, if only to avoid those snarky letters from readers who insist that Washington DC is on the East coast. For my last three books I spent a lot of time driving around the “set” making sure physical descriptions reflected reality. But in my current work-in-progress, I was halfway through before I realized one of my main characters hails from a city I’ve never been to.

My WIP, Triptych, is a contemporary romance about three sisters and their lovers. Honor, the eldest, secretly loves a German family friend. Miranda mourns her dead husband and dismisses any overtures of romance. Sybil, the youngest, yearns for a dashing European aristocrat to sweep her off her feet.

In order to increase the dramatic tension and add layers to the story, I wanted to tie together not only the sisters’ stories, but those of the lovers. One hero is French; another is German. In a flash of brilliance (or so I thought), I made one of them come from Strasbourg, the capital of Alsace—an historic battleground between France and Germany. The two men will reflect the ancient rivalry. All right! The story line is working out well and I’m typing away when it hits me. I’ve never been there. I’ve lived in France and traveled in Germany, but I know diddly squat about Strasbourg.

What to do? Is it better to reconfigure the entire story, presuming that authentic flavor is paramount? Or utilize all the vast resources of the internet to build the set? Can I ever be sure I have captured the feel of the city?

I would love to hear how other writers deal with a situation like this. We’ve often discussed how characters can get away from us, taking on a personality of their own and doing things of which we totally disapprove, but what about a background that insists on staying?

February 18

Friday, February 18, 2011

Interview of Author M. S. Spencer

Today it's my pleasure to present an interview of romance author M. S. Spencer.

Latest Book: Lost and Found
Buy Link: http://www.redrosepublishing/books/product_info.php?manufacturers_id=282&products_id=654

Although M. S. Spencer has lived in Chicago, Boston, New York, France, Morocco, Turkey and England, the last 30 years have been spent mostly in Washington D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, kayaker, policy wonk, non-profit director and parent. Once she escaped academia, she worked for the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Department of the Interior, in several library systems, both public and academic, and at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. She holds a BA from Vassar College, a Diploma in Arabic Studies from the American University in Cairo, and Masters in Anthropology and in Library Science from the University of Chicago. She divides her time among Virginia, Maine and Florida. All of this tends to insinuate itself into her works.

Writing as M. S. Spencer, she has published two contemporary romance novels, Lost in His Arms and Lost and Found, both bestsellers at She has a third contemporary romantic suspense novel, due to be released by Secret Cravings Publishing, in July.

Ms. Spencer has two fabulous grown children, Spencer and Emma. She has only one cat (down from three, plus the dog, the snake and the hamster). It’s a quiet household now, but since her study window looks on a park and river there is plenty of wildlife to distract her from her writing.

Q: What’s the first thing you did when you received word you’d sold a book?
A: Squeal—I’d bet my life that’s what every writer does. That took about an hour. After that I emailed my true love, my two best friends, and my children. Then I ate a cookie. For the second book: another hour or so of squealing, then I emailed the usual suspects. Third book: I sat quietly and smiled warmly at my laptop.

Q: Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
A: By way of introduction here is the blurb:
What do you do when David, your husband of a year, ups and disappears? If you’re Rose Culloden, a beautiful, wealthy woman in her forties who had despaired of finding happiness, you do anything to find him. The trail takes you first to the North Woods of Maine, then to Florida and back again to western Maine. Along the way you meet James Stewart—a Maine guide—who vividly highlights the contrast between a real man and your delicate Harvard professor of a husband. Loyal to your marriage despite your powerful attraction to James, it takes the dramatic discovery that David is not just vicious and venal, but insane, to free your heart for true love.

I actually like the secondary characters—the ornithologist who never suspects that others don’t share his joy at finding the rare willow ptarmigan; the retired couple, so old-fashioned and still so much in love; the heroine’s boss, a typical bombastic Harvard professor… I like them because they are snapshots, sometimes reproduced whole, sometimes cropped, of people I’ve passed in my life. They provide an outlet for all those little image nuggets lodged in the attic of my memory, so I can make room for more.

I also like the baddies: the deliciously insane villain, the sullen, pock-marked hotel clerks, the sympathetic landlady who has a secret…

Q: What hobby do you enjoy when not writing?
A: Uh oh, the truth will out. I love watching birds…yes, my name is M. S. Spencer and I’m a birder. We are a strange lot, as I discovered when I excitedly blast-emailed my entire contacts list about the yellow-rumped warbler in my backyard. On the more conventional side, I love to eat, cook, drink wine, swim, needlepoint, kayak, read, write, walk the beach, listen to C-Span, yell at the newspaper and TV, stare out my window and procrastinate (2 different things), watch CSI, Star Trek and X Files…did I mention eat?

Q: What is your favorite romance book?
A: Pride & Prejudice! One of the purest, most delicious romances of all time, don’t you think? I also loved Wuthering Heights and most of Thomas Hardy—I admit a partiality to English romantic writers. I don’t have much time to read while I’m writing, so I’m glad I spent every waking moment of my childhood reading anything I could get my hands on.

Q: You’re on a remote island with a handsome man, a computer, and a “mysterious” source of electricity to power your computer. What do you do?
A: Ha, this is one of those inkblot questions, isn’t it? To probe whether I’m a hands-on romantic, a bathrobe & fuzzy slippers dream-world romantic, or just a techie, right? Okay—I’d jump the handsome man (I’ve recently had surgery and…well…it’s been WAY too long); then, while he’s off recuperating…I mean, fishing, I’d Google seafood recipes and how-to-make-your-own-coconut-liquor recipes. And then I’d take a moment to thank whoever was providing the power….

Q: Facebook, MySpace, Blogs, Chats, or Twitter. Which do you like best and why?
A: I like and use Facebook a lot—in fact, I’ve reconnected with many people from my past through Facebook, plus I keep up with several authors as well. I like the different means of communication available through it—private messages, wall, profile. I have never used MySpace. I soon tired of Twitter since, as a writer it’s too frustrating to limit my thought arbitrarily (although it’s good practice for editing!); plus very little of note ever seemed to appear on it. If you mean by “Chats” the all-day affairs featuring this or that publisher group, they always seem a bit forced, and I confess most of the time I can’t figure out how to get on them. I do enjoy discussions on the various yahoo author groups to which I belong. As to blogs: I love writing and reading them. They are more focused and can be very helpful for advice on the writing art and business. They also remind you that you are not alone.

January 30
Ooh, I forgot to mention: Secret Cravings wants to publish my third book, Losers Keepers!  I just signed the contract.  Release for ebook will be in July; for print in December.  Losers Keepers is set in Chincoteague, where Dagne Lonegan goes to forget Jack Andrews and find Tom Ellis.  There are birds, ponies, sex, lust and murder to look forward to.  I'll keep you posted!
January 30

I've actually been encouraged with news reports--I'd thought current Egyptians would be far different than they were in the 1970s when I lived there, but they really aren't.  Basically secular and freedom-loving, they were always very aware of individual rights and personal responsibility. I always thought their culture was the most like American culture of any place in the Middle East. They never struck me as repressed the way I'd seen in former USSR countries, or "entitled" as in Western Europe.  From the on-the-ground interviews, they appear not to have changed!  I'm proud of them--I just hope all goes well--I've heard reports that Muslim Brotherhood have been instigating some of the violence and freeing prisoners.  Reminds me so much of the Russian Revolution when the Bolsheviks waited for the power vacuum.

January 20
   Someone forwarded this quote to me--it seemed so apt I'm sharing it with you:
      "The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled,
public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be
tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should
be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to
work, instead of living on public assistance."
                                                   Cicero  in 55 BC


If only....

January 9
   Terrible news about the insane shooter in Arizona.  At least it appears his ravings didn't bend in any particular direction (his favorite books are the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf) and his victims were hardly wacko symbols of a world gone mad,  so the pundits, although they will surely try, won't be able to pin this on: (choose as many as is applicable): the gun lobby, the Huffington Post, Al Sharpton, Nancy Pelosi, the tea party movement, the drug cartels, fluoride in the water. Let us all praise the incredible medical system we have and pray for the families and victims.
January 2, 2011
   My I've been remiss in coming here!  I hope everyone's Christmas and New Years were as they hoped if not as they expected.  I am in writing mode and very peaceful, but that will change when my daughter leaves.  I loved being a mother but always had my own projects and interests.  I never realized how purely comforting it is to have someone who knows and loves you somewhere nearby.  Even if she refuses to talk politics...I've added two more Zelda poems to the left.  Not to worry--i've got millions of 'em. :)
November 21
   I blogged at Lisabet Sarai's blogspot Beyond Romance, on the war between writing & reading.  Herewith:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The War Between Reading and Writing

By M.S. Spencer (Guest Blogger)

“Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to be entertained as you watch two titans of the ring locked in an eternal struggle for your…er…time. In one corner feast your eyes on the Tome, masked in fancy vellum, costumed in elaborate prose, as big as the New York City Public Library. A fearsome foe indeed.” The emcee pointed toward the ropes, where a massive rectangle, his name in raised gold lettering across his chest, riffled his pages at the throng.

“And now I direct your attention to the other corner. Please give a cheer for Quill the mighty scribbler!” The audience turns to see a gangly welterweight stand up, his eyes streaming purple ink, his long thin fingers clenching and unclenching, clearly longing to wring the Tome’s neck.

Unfortunately, this kind of duel doesn’t draw in the big crowds (nor, sadly, the big bucks). It is usually fought alone, in a study, staring at the walls, out the window, at your fingernails…anything but at the page or the pad of paper. It is the conflict that has endured ever since one Cro-Magnon wanted to continue painting his wall epic while his companion pressed to go see what the neighbors put on their wall in case they could learn something from it. It is the abiding war between Reading and Writing.

Now you, Dear Reader, may not see it that way. I’ll bet you love to read (you’re reading this, aren’t you?). You spend hours of your day racing through paragraphs, flipping pages, humming as you go. You put off the book report or letter in order to get to that last page before supper. Then with a sigh you pick up pen and paper. Writing is the chore after the fun.

You, Dear Writer are another story. Perhaps you plod dutifully through the novel, always aware of the page you’re on, checking your watch, then closing the book with a happy sigh at the appointed time. You turn eagerly to the pad of paper. You prefer to create the sentences and the story, not have it thrust upon you.

Of course there are people who think both activities are equally enjoyable. But as a writer I often find myself torn between the two, unsure which should be the priority. Reading, as we all know, increases your vocabulary, your facility with language, your knowledge of the world and the human condition, in a way that writing in a cave will not (unless you’re a Cro-Magnon, but I think we’re beyond that, don’t you?). However, if you are a writer, putting words on paper is the immensely satisfying fulfillment of an internal necessity. I speak of the urge, on the one hand, to teach and to reach other human beings, and on the other, to create and to control the means to that end; in other words, the desire to produce something original that will affect the reader in a new and different way.

My fear is that too much reading interferes with this creative process. I know that sounds radical, even stupid, but hear me out. Every book, every author has a certain individual style. Every culture and era promotes a certain literary style. Shakespeare’s rhythmic prose is different from Jane Austen’s perfectly constructed sentences, in contrast to Anne Rice’s florid paragraphs-within-paragraphs. But if you are steeped in Shakespeare, how do you write a contemporary romance that doesn’t sound stilted? If your favorite author writes in two-word sentences and minimal dialogue, how do you write that lush erotic love scene? Do you adopt his style or ignore it?

Some might recommend using bits and pieces of other styles to perfect your own. It is natural, likely impossible, not to. Your writing is for better or for worse informed by the authors you’ve appreciated. But when you’re searching for your own voice you must be careful to keep those elements at arm’s length. So how do you train yourself to be aware when someone else’s voice starts creeping into your prose?

Simple. Stop reading while you’re writing. I hear you gulp, but think of it as a pause between lessons, a diet between the holidays if you will. A candy diet. You have to clear your mind of other writers’ styles in order to find your own. As long as the urge is strong to call your hero Mr. Darcy rather than “Fitzwilliam” (yes, that was his first name) or even Fitz, you can’t make your story your own. And readers are very sensitive to a style that isn’t owned. It is confusing and irritating. Besides, if you truly are a writer, you want to have your own voice. And I maintain that it is difficult for all but the most self-assured and seasoned of writers to find that voice if there are tenors singing in your head while you’re trying to pen music for a baritone.

When I was young I read voraciously. I loved biographies in particular, but I would pick up anything and read it, from Dostoievski to Joseph Conrad to Evelyn Waugh. Those years provided me with a voluminous internal library, making it easier to set the reading aside while I concentrate on my own skills. Writing is after all a profession like any other, to be practiced and honed separate from the words. A trial lawyer must have the precedents at his fingertips, but in the end he’ll have to fashion his own creative defense. A fullback studies the playbook, but at the snap he must go after the quarterback on his own. A mathematician could not create his own original theory without the multiplication tables he memorized earlier. Now that I’m writing professionally I have an obligation to do the same: to draw upon my internal library, yes, but ultimately to provide my own unique perspective on the world. Otherwise, why would any reader want to read me rather than Shakespeare

I’m sure other writers have their own means of balancing reading and writing as they work. For me, if I’ve been reading a lot, it takes a real leap to get back into my writing. I lose the thread of the story, the atmosphere I’ve worked hard to create. I have to clear my mind and focus on the characters, sometimes even reread a large portion of the story, before I can slip back into the world I was constructing before I dove into someone else’s. You can’t churn out those bestsellers if you have to keep stopping to regroup.

That’s my take on the war between the Tome and the Quill. I look forward very much to hearing thoughts from other readers and writers.

August 30: Although this blog is dedicated to my fiction writing, I wanted to share a little piece on tax cuts I just posted.  It was one of my Dear Editor moments when I got so sick of all the pundits on both sides talking about tax cuts "costing" the government, as though it was their money and not ours.
  Anyway, here it is:

                              “The Cost of Tax Cuts?”

It’s become a mantra, pundits on both sides of the debate saying tax cuts "cost" the government.  “How will the government “pay” for tax cuts?” says Chris Wallace of Fox News.  Paul Krugman claims the government can’t “afford” to keep Bush’s tax cuts. 

Since when does allowing a person to keep his own hard-earned money "cost" anything?  Hello, the government doesn't make money, it takes it.  Tax increases suck income out of the private sector; i.e., from those who might otherwise spend it on hiring, buying, research and development, or investment.

Why tax cuts for the rich are a good thing:

1)      Income tax cuts don’t affect lower income Americans because they don’t pay those taxes.  Forty percent of Americans pay no income tax at all.  However, tax increases to corporations and small businesses will be passed on to lower income Americans in higher costs for products, services, etc.  If businesses are forced to absorb the costs instead of passing them on, they won’t have the cash on hand to hire lower income Americans.

2)     It makes sense to lower taxes on higher income folks because if they have more disposable income they will be able to spend it on things that grow the economy.  Poorer people will, as we saw with the stimulus checks, pay off their debt.

3)     Despite the constant refrain, small businesses aren’t the only ones who hire, and in a high tax/high regulation environment such as we have now, they can’t afford to hire.  But large corporations can.  The idea that the only job-creating entities are small business is ludicrous, as though Goldman Sachs or BP don’t hire people.

Obama and his people think the key to a robust economy is government spending, but the government can only spend other people’s money.  In other words, it has to take from Peter in order to pay Paul.  There’s no increase in wealth in that transaction.   You can only have new consumer spending when both Peter and Paul have more money in their pockets.   And new money (barring the government printing more and we all know what happens then) can only come from private sector growth.

Why?  Why can’t hiring more government employees boost the economy?  Simple.  The government, remember, doesn’t produce anything.  It doesn’t sell anything.  It doesn’t make a profit (or it’s not supposed to).  Government pays its employees with taxpayer money.  Taxpayer money comes from people with jobs in the private sector. No private sector jobs, no taxpayer money to pay public employees (see California).  Of course, since public employees pay taxes, as a teacher friend points out, she is paying herself.  Robbing Peter to pay Peter? Unfortunately, that as we see again in California, is what you might call finite cycle, a slow inevitable contraction of the money available to the economy.  As Margaret Thatcher famously almost said, “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”*

*from Wikipedia: Update: Margaret Thatcher, in a TV interview for Thames TV This Week on Feb. 5, 1976, Prime Minister Thatcher said, "...and Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They [socialists] always run out of other people's money. It's quite a characteristic of them."

©2010 mssellsworth

All right, I'll shut up now.... :)

August 28:   Watched most of the Glenn Beck rally--interesting--it wasn't really about the troops as advertised, more a religious retreat a la Martin Luther King (giving due respect to MLK's great speech).  The thought occurred that it was a bit uppity for Beck to act like a preacher, but then I thought, why not? he is amazingly able to speak extemporaneously and very effectively about faith and patriotism. I wonder if even my normally very patriotic self shying away a bit isn't related to our general secular, anti-patriotism, anti-faith current culture?  If so, how sad. We've all gotten so worried about appearing to care about anything other than ourselves (meaning being"offended" about something) that we're actually embarrassed by it. 

August 27:  See Icy Snow's FOUR STAR review of my second book Lost & Found.  My heroine annoyed the bejesus out of her, but that's how I planned it.  I figure if the characters aren't  human enough to be irritating, they aren't human enough.  Thank you Icy Snow!
August 7: I blogged on about the bits & pieces of stories stored in your brain and how they pop up while you're writing.  Usually you think, wow it must be kismet or karma or something that that anecdote/image entered your brain just at that time.  But the funny part is sometimes it doesn't really work at all-it's as though a pixie pulled the story out of your head and pushes it at you insisting you use it.  Pixies are wicked.  Karma doesn't exist.  Kismet does.
 July 30  We had a wonderful memorial service for Gary on the 20th.  So many friends came; I went to bed feeling comforted.  Now comes the hard part.
July 16 Gary died peacefully today surrounded by his family.  It went so fast we're all zombies. 
July 15  TWO Wonderful reviews, 1 from Amazon reader and the other from Rebecca Rose.  Check out the link on my Review page.
   It almost helps me in these last few days of my rock's life: my ex husband and best friend Gary is in hospice with cancer.  I don't know what I'll do without him. 

July 2



It has been fun blogging with the Romance Room--interesting discussions about love at first sight for example.  I am still doing regular promo posting and am lucky enough to have a couple more reviews requested: from Melissa Imaginarium (will get link later) and I'll have spotlights with Jessica Chambers and the Steam Room. 

   Had minor surgery yesterday--it makes me depressed I think.  Does anyone out there like to listen to Pavarotti?  Nessun Dorma?  La Donna e Mobile?  Let me know!


More poetry--check it out.  This one is kind of odd--unfinished--what do you think?


June 25 An interesting day--I've had several positive comments from other writers--at least someone is reading my excerpts.  Rebecca Rose will review both my books.  I think this blogging stuff does have an effect--we'll see on sales.  I guess there's more I should be doing, but sheesh it takes all my day as it is.  I had a half an hour to work on my third book, Losers Keepers.  That will be my best so far I think--I'm very comfortable with the writing.  It's fun AND has the added benefit of allowing me to skewer a person who overturned my life in a very satisfying way. 


June 20 Father's Day.  I'm feeling guilty.  My kids finally made it & are taking my ex (really my friend) out, but it was so late I left them to it. My ex/friend has cancer & is undergoing major treatments--I'm sure he'll be okay but I know he wanted his whole family around him.


June 14

How horrible to hope  that no one bought my book between May 27 and June 10--it wasn't perfect.  I think (with no confirmation) that the real edition was posted June 10.  One thing I' ve guessed from this is that authors really are annoying pond scum to publishers.  I have yet to receive word of acknowledgement or apology for the mixup that put an unedited version of my book Lost & Found on the website forsale on May 27.  I apologize o my readers if they trusted me. 


On a lighter note, I'm in beautiful downtown Longboat Key gazing at the sickle moon and Polaris & wondering how to word my wish.  Contentment?  Peace?  Freedom from love?  Love is such a constant drag, keeping one from frivolous pursuits.  Not a chain so much as a kind of prickly hairshirt that distracts and bothers. Of course, I'm talking about unrequited love!


June 4

Life is sooo interesting, isn't it? I met an old lover of an old lover and we both agreed that it would be eminently satisfying to have that old lover buried under a mud slide with only his index finger left above the muck.  Except as a romance writer I'm committed to happy endings.  So I'm open to solutions....


June 2

Check out this blogspot by a great romantic suspense writer, Carol Preflatish:


Tell her I sent you!


May 28 Check out this great website:


May 28

I I need an outlet for my pithy comments--the Washington Post is only willing to publish so many of my diatribes & my neighbors are beginning to complain at my mumblings. Comments about, say, the article in the Sunday Post on how Sarah Palin is not really a feminist.  The cute part was where the author never defines what a "real" feminist is.  I kept waiting....

    Or the review of assorted post-modern "the Chinese are so much smarter than us" books by pseudo-economists.  The gist of one is that western capitalism is waning in popularity because we impose "onerous free market" requirements on a country before lending.  Isn't that an oxymoron?  Oh, wait, I guess it's "onerous" on the dictators who are asked to spread the power/wealth beyond immediate family.  the author made one good point: in a state-run economy there's only one entity to blame when things go south.  But then the state has all the guns, so what do they care?
    Point they all miss is that the popularity of freedom is only waning among the chiefs. And they apparently believe that socialism is working in Africa & S. America (Zimbabwe: poster child).



May 27






   A mere $5.99 will bring you hours of entertainment as you read about Rose Culloden, beautiful, wealthy scion of a Boston family, as she searches in the wilds of Maine for the husband who disappeared a year earlier.


May 15

Lost and Found is close to release--my fabulous editor has come up with a wonderful cover for it.  I'm excited, but like many writers I'm already itching to finish and submit the third book, a murder mystery romance based in Chincoteague.  And I've a fourth outlined which is keeping me up nights filling in the details--which I know from experience will fall by the wayside as I start writing it. 

    My greatest obstacle is promotion--not my schtick and so time-consuming.  But without it I don't sell books and if I don't sell books...well, there you are.


APRIL 28: AZ bill: I wonder if there is a court case, since the AZ law only enforces the Federal law?If there is, this could be the case of the century: 1) Is pre-emption in itself Constitutional?  2) Does the Federal duty to ensure national security really extend to protecting  a specific state's borders? 3) If yes, if the Fed is derelict in its Constitutional duty, what rights do the States have?


april 16:  I've sent off copy edits of Lost & Found today.  Sigh of relief; now I have a short respite--and can concentrate on political writing and letters to the editor.  Watch out!


april 14

I believe in Intelligent Design, but I believe even more in God.  Evolution only goes so far--it accounts for physical development (which of course could be part of God's plan), but how do strict Darwinians explain the development of civilizations? (confession: I'm a descendent of Darwin).  It all makes more sense if you posit a God, who has a Plan. First we develop physically to the point where we can begin using our brains to develop socially.  You say, well why doesn't He make us "in His own image"--i.e., perfect?  Well, what would be the fun in that?  He has set the scene & characters: it's up to us to make the script.  And no, I doubt that he'll save us from our mistakes--even if we annilihate ourselves.  after all, He can always make a new world!



April 3, 2010
Welcome to my blog! I regret to report that our Red Rose Virtual Blog novel is not to be.   But my villain will I hope live on.  There's always another story...
Please read about my books below and make a comment about anything that comes into your head. Click on the sidebar to go to my interviews and reviews. 
For more information on Red Rose Publishing, click on this link:
You can buy Lost in His Arms from,,, fictionwise, and mobipocket.  BUT:  if you make a comment you are eligible for a free download of my book.  So get started!
Lost in His Arms was released in September of 2009.  Check out the blurb (see my sidebar).


Lost and Found was released May 27, 2010 and can be found at  To whet your appetite, take this little quiz:

What do you do when David, your husband of a year, ups and disappears?  If you’re Rose Culloden, a beautiful, wealthy woman in her forties who had despaired of finding happiness, you do anything to find him.  The trail takes you first to the North Woods of Maine, then to Florida, and back again to western Maine.  Along the way you meet James Stewart—a Maine guide—who vividly highlights the contrast between a real man and your delicate Harvard professor of a husband.  Loyal to your marriage despite your powerful attraction to James, it takes the dramatic discovery that David is not just vicious and venal, but insane, to free your heart for true love.