Best Thing To See On A Road Trip

Day Five: 2017 Novel Writing Road Trip Insights: June 2, 2017

What’s the best thing to see on your road trip?  Of course, we all know the answer.  The best thing to see on a road trip is friends!  (Note: this includes family members, especially if you have the kind of family like Mike’s and mine.)

So with that in mind, stifling any latent urges to veer off to Cawker, KS and take a look at the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, we kept zipping along east on I-70 yesterday (June 1st) and headed straight to our friends’ house in Overland Park, KS.

We’ve been friends with Carol and Gale since we first met them several years ago as they spent their winter at Newport Dunes RV Resort in Newport Beach, CA. Each season they visited, Carol and I would take walks around the Back Bay with my little dog Scooter, and Gale would play his banjo around our campfires. During one visit, we all went to see my daughter, Bethany Therese, performing in an Improv contest up in Hollywood.  (When friends support your children, it’s something more than special.)

A few summers ago, on a road trip similar to this one, we visited Carol and Gale in their home in Kansas when we still had our little Scooter. Scooter was always welcome at Carol and Gale’s because he and Carol had a very special bond.

As usual, this year’s visit at Carol and Gale’s place was like stopping at an oasis of homey-ness in the middle of a desert worth of stays at hotels and motels. Being in their home is like being in one of those gift shops where you want to stay all day. There is just so much to see – Carol’s own paintings on the walls, Gale’s instruments in the basement – his banjo, ukulele,  keyboard, and his brand new slide guitar – Carol’s garden with roses and hostas and hydrangeas and lilies, winding around stepping stones that Gale laid lovingly down. There’s the family room with tasteful collections perched on top of dark wooden ceiling beams – tiny green glass bottles, figurines each with special meaning to Carol and Gale – those kinds of homey things.  And then there’s my favorite room of the house, their sun room, a glass enclosed transition from the inside to outside with a lovely patio table and comfy patio chairs – wooden seagulls in the corner – perfect. Whenever we visit, we sit and talk like we’ve never had time apart.

There’s so much more to tell – the story of the orphan squirrel, Charlie, who adopted Gale, the mansions of Mission Hills, Carol’s insights to help me with my novel, how Gale in a blink of an eye, washed the front of our Prius before we started back on the road…but I’m typing this in the car and we have to get to Milwaukee by 1:00, so we’ll save some Carol and Gale stories for later.

Here’s wishing all of you the time to take a happy road trip and so many friends along the way that you’ll drive right past that old ball of twine in Cawker, KS.



Mars, Egypt, Motel 6…and Us

Day Four: 2017 Novel Writing Road Trip Insights
Imagine a game like this: A hat is filled with cards. Written on each card is a random proper noun. You are instructed to reach in and pull out 3 cards. You must then use your cards to write a story about the nouns you picked. Here are the words you pulled out: Mars, Egypt, and
Motel 6.

“What?” you say to yourself.  “I can’t make up a story with those three seemingly unconnected words!  It would sound like a preposterous piece of fiction.”  But sometimes truth truly is stranger than fiction as we found out yesterday, May 31, when checking out of Motel 6 in Green River, Utah
This is how universe decided to put these 3 words together. Just as I was emptying the previous night’s melted ice from our little red Coleman cooler onto the grass, I noticed a canopy under which stood a whole slew of handsome young men. When you’re 72 years old,  people don’t think badly of you if you approach a group of 20-somethings, any one of whom could theoretically be your grandchild.  (Age does have its privileges).  So that’s just what I did.  I walked up and asked this impressive group if they were having some kind of sale, knowing full well that this didn’t seem like a sale.
One by one, the smiley guys standing before me took turns explaining that the object I was looking at was a prototype of a Mars Rover they designed for the “University Rover Challenge”.sponsored by the Mars Society. The competition would be held the next day at the Mars Desert Research Station in Hanksville, Utah. Teams from all over the world will be attending from June 1-3, 2017.  Their team, the Pharaohs, composed of mechanical, electrical, design, and software engineering students, are from the Military Technical College in Cairo, Egypt.

As Mike approached, the talk shifted to the rover itself – the tire design, the strips of gym shoes that were glued on for better traction and so on. I continued asking more personal questions while being struck by clear eyes that shone with intelligence – perhaps brilliance, I surmised. But over and above any of that, there was a warmth that radiated from each of these young men – their excitement to show a stranger their project – their pride at being part of this group. Maybe it was the serendipity of it all – the unexpected confluence of unlikely circumstances – a Mars Rover in the parking lot outside a Motel 6 – respectful, generous, open-hearted young men across the world who took the time to talk to two lone strangers under unexpected circumstances. Maybe it was that serendipity that ignited an intuitive sense that I had just touched something of future greatness. It was an honor.

Click here for a list of participating world teams



The Myth of Focus

dog on road trip

Day Three: 2017 Novel Writing Road Trip Insights

Road trips are great contemplative times.  As I took over driving from Nevada to Utah, I turned off the radio and just thought!  My husband Mike slept peacefully up against the door of our Prius. (Our car is too packed to move the seat back.)
In the quiet of the car, I suddenly started to wonder which direction I was going.  I knew I was on I-15 North, but sometimes roads labeled east actually go south, so I couldn’t be sure at this precise moment what direction I was traveling. The sun was overhead, so that didn’t help. I didn’t want to fiddle with the dashboard to find the map with the compass on the screen, so I just kept driving not knowing if Denver was ahead or on my right (so to speak). It was all fine, of course, but when Mike woke up and told me we actually were going north, everything felt much better. Once I knew I was going north for sure, it put everything else in perspective. I could visualize the map. I could feel Denver to the east;I knew where home was; I could even estimate how many miles were left to reach our summer road trip goal. It was the label that helped!

Billie and Mike at the San Rafael’s, Utah

Let’s face it.  Our businesses, our projects, never have one focus, one direction. The plural of focus (foci) is an awkward word maybe because of the nature of focus itself. Sometimes we feel guilty about not focusing on one thing. But in life we have many “centers of attention.” What if we would put a label on each?  What if we visualize each of the important issues of our life as a direction we are going at one particular moment. If we give a label to each, we might not feel so scattered or pulled or guilty. It doesn’t matter the meaning of the label we use, it’s just a label. For example, if my unfinished novel is labeled north; the marketing of my children’s book, south; my short story ‘zines on Etsy, east; and this road trip blog “west,” I might not feel that I’m skimping on one aspect in favor of another. I’m just traveling one direction, however brief, until I turn in another.

There are those of us who never focus on one task at a time.  My mother was on e.  She’d start washing the dishes , suddenly stop and begin vacuuming. She’d stop vacuuming and comb her hair. This went on all day long.  You get the idea.  I don’t think my mother ever felt she needed to focus. She must just have liked taking the winding road through her day.

…Just a little thought along the road in Utah.

Do You Stop Short of Success?

Do you tend to stop just short of success

Boycott “Shortstops”

Do you stop short of success? Funny I should ask! Today is March 15th. I’ve been working for two weeks on a St. Patrick’s Day marketing idea that would bring people to my website to buy my little children’s book, “Lucky, the Left Pawed Puppy”. I have left myself a whopping two days for promotion.

This article won’t be long because I do realize I’m writing this instead of doing my other work. But this is what I always do. I stop just this short of success, and maybe you do too.  But I’m not going to do that today. screenshot Irish Memory Match Game for St. Patrick's Day

Your Past May Be Present 

So where did this new discipline of mine (if it kicks in soon) come from? Google, of course, is the answer. I simply searched and found two wonderful articles that might help you if you’re a “stopper” like me. The first piece, “The Fear of Success” was written by Dr. Susanne Babbel for Psychology Today, resonated with me the most. Dr. Babbel discusses the surprising link between Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and fear of success. She addresses, as well, the avoidance of situations that might “get our hopes up. Sound familiar?

The second article, “Fear of Success: Do You Have One Of These 6 Symptoms?” will be helpful in identifying whether or not you fall into this “un-merry” band of brothers (and sisters). There are also insightful questions at the end of the article which just might propel you towards the success you really do want.

I’ll be off now tweeting my promotion because a St. Patrick’s Day marketing scheme just can’t wait until Easter.




New App To Be Released Soon


Since we’ve had over 5900 downloads of “The Perfect Husband App”, we decided to go ahead and combine my audio essays, short story, and one-minute “dollop-a-day” features into an audio app.  I’m using ibuildapp again, and after reacquainting myself with the in’s and out’s of one of my favorite do-it-yourself online software programs, I am ready to launch “Live, From Milwaukee, It’s Tuesday Night”.  My husband, Mike, the software engineer and technical support for our company, Language Rocks, uses his developer’s certificate AND his expertise to help me upload the app to the Google Play store and to iTunes.  I’ve decided to charge a small fee for this app, so we’ll see how that goes. Wish us luck.


Ibuildapp is a bit glitch-y to use, but they do have a help desk with online chatting available during certain hours along with email support.  I have posted and will continue to post little hints I’ve found useful.  One hint, before I close tonight, is to be aware, when using ibuildapp that the widgets are tied to the “manage content” functionality.  You can turn off a widget that you don’t want by going all the way back up to the place you added your button images and then clicking on the “tab” button.  There you will see an “on-off” switch for your widget. 
More later and please don’t hesitate to add your comments or questions.  Cheers, Billie

How to Publish a Children’s Book

A presumptuous title, this one, but I needed to get important keywords in for the search engines, and “Billie’s Mistakes to Avoid,” didn’t seem like the way to go when I published this article on hubpages.com.  I really did try to cover many of the pitfalls I encountered when publishing “Lucky, the Left-Pawed Puppy,” and I think you’ll find at least a little something useful whether you’re publishing your ebook for children or a wider age range.  I did get a bit carried away in this article, but Hubpages was running a contest at the time, and I was trying to  win. I didn’t 🙁 
but I think it’s a nice little piece anyway.  Just click on the picture to get to the article. Hope you like it.