Last Friday I received a UPS delivery. The box was heavy. I wasn’t expecting anything.

“What’s in there?” my 19-year old asked.

“What’d you order?” my savvy husband said.

“I don’t know. Or if I did I don’t remember.” That’s my usual answer, and a sadly truthful one :-).

I ripped it open and shook out the contents. Seven paperbacks tumbled onto the kitchen tabletop.

“There goes Ava,” Eric said, but he was smiling.

“You bought yourself more books?” Susanne was incredulous. She—and Eric—get tired of seeing my nose in a book, or hearing my audiobooks playing as I work around the house.

Truly, if I’m not playing with furry creatures or writing, I’m reading. I consider it part of my job. I’m not going to lie: I love to read. I love the escape of stories, the passage of time in another world. I love the perfection of a moment when I finish a book and shout, “Well done!” But I read very critically these days, and I’m just as likely to discuss with Eric in the hot tub my disappointment, my frustration, or downright irritation with a book that misses the mark by a whisker or a full beard. I read to learn how other writers sound, how they plot, how they structure their books, how they pace. Their dialog. Their setting. Their description and characterization. I do it for my own writing, and I do it as a paid manuscript consultant.

Yes, I buy a lot of books. Here’s what my Kindle and Audible screens look like right this second:

(See anything you like?)

But, to my delight, I hadn’t bought myself the books in my UPS package. These were assignments, entries for me to judge for the RITA award contest, the (IMHO) most prestigious US award for romance and romantic books. I don’t usually choose a straight-up romance when I read, because I’m studying thriller/suspense/mystery elements. But who doesn’t enjoy a good love story now and then? And seven of them for me to judge? Right when I need to get into the mind of my most sensual character, Ava?

Pinch me. It really is my job. On this rainy day, I have that to look forward to, after I spend a few hours cavorting in the sun with Ava on St. Marcos.

p.s. This week’s poem is called “Wyoming Horses.” For context, you should know it barely rains in Wyoming. It snows, but that’s a dry cold. Well, we moved our Wyoming horses to winter in Texas, and dang if we didn’t discover that rain, rain, is a different thang!!!!


Assault of raindrops on snow horses.

Spinning, jumping, skidding, snorting.

Wide-eyed, HELP US.

Led to shed.




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