Hidden Treasures

It always amazes me when I discover parts of Houston that I never even knew existed. There is so much happening in this city and I feel like most of us live secluded in tiny corners unaware of the breadth and depth of opportunities.

Take downtown for instance. How often do most of us go there?

For me the answer is nearly never. In the past, when my dad used to work downtown at the federal courts, I would go have lunch with him occasionally. Most of the time, I drove up to the building and picked him up. Then we headed over to a nearby hotel, usually the Double Tree since they validated your parking, and we would valet for lunch.

A few times, I was called in for jury duty and of course I experienced the area of downtown around the state courthouses. I even got selected for Grand Jury one time and that was fun. But, again the excursions were simply to attend the courthouse in question and, for lunch, I mostly brought my own or bought something at a nearby coffee shop or deli.

I was aware, vaguely, that there was a downtown tunnel system, but I never had occasion to venture there.

Now, my brother works at the federal courthouse. We decided to have lunch together. Instead of driving up and going to some eatery, he told me to park in the garage and we would get food at the tunnel. This peaked my interest.

I arrived and met him downstairs so I wouldn’t have to go through security. We then set out across the street to the building over one block which had the access to the tunnels. This made sense that the courthouse would not have an way to enter the tunnel system. It could be a dangerous access point for the building.

Once in the tunnel we walked a ways. I felt a slight concern being aware of the fact we were walking under ground and all. The tunnel is wide enough for many people to walk in both directions, but it still felt a little tight for me. Then we arrived at a juncture.

Before us lay a wide expanse of tables and chairs around which an array of eateries had storefronts. It reminded me of the mall food courts of my childhood years. There are maps posted at certain intervals. Sadly, I didn’t take a picture of them since I, at that moment, hadn’t thought to write up the excursion for the blog.

We walked further and found an area with loungers and sofas, ping pong and corn hole, and even a table shuffleboard option. Sadly, they had no wax, so we couldn’t throw any weights. Plus, it is a short version and not the 22 foot long that is the official length for serious shufflers.

As we passed this area, my brother pointed out a wide white wall and explained that during the World Cup Soccer, they projected the games there so people could come and watch while sitting in the comfy loungers and sofas. Eventually, we selected a food choice and took it to go. We went back to his office and ate there. If you go to a courthouse, by the way, don’t take scissors or lighters. They confiscate them and store them for you until you leave. Yes. I know from first hand experience.

Anyway, if you are curious and want to enjoy a fun adventure, head over to downtown, park, and do lunch in the tunnels. Buzz me and we can make a day of it. I’m not sure which building uses these Star Wars inspired elevators, but I plan to find out on my next outing.

Oh, PS. this is a picture of me and my brother. Isn’t he cute?


It has been a while since this RoadBroad took off on an adventure. Recently, my friend, Sharon Gilmore, offered me the opportunity to take a cruise. I’d always wanted to go on one, but my family is not fond of the idea of being out in the open water. So, when Sharon said she could use a cabin mate, I jumped on the opportunity.

The Adventure of the Sea is a Royal Caribbean cruise ship and it is huge. Truthfully, I was amazed at the immensity of it, and how cozy it actually felt. In spite of having 14 decks and an expansive array of shops, food halls, show spaces, and assorted activities, the ship felt homy.

So what does one do on a cruise. Well, the center of the ship is taken up by the casino which seems like the place where most people hang out. There are great activities and sections for children of all ages to pass the time. But for the single adult travelers, the key activities revolve around eating, shopping, and watching shows. There’s also great spaces for taking in the sun and enjoying the sound of the water as the ship moves through it.

As a writer, I hung out a lot on the smoking deck with a cigar and my computer. I also enjoyed the wonderful food each evening. The chef prepares a thematic menu and on the final evening the kitchen staff come out and perform a dance. Coming back to our cabin was always exciting. You never could tell what towel animal was going to be waiting for you. We found a monkey hanging from a hanger and then there was this fellow lounging on my bed.

My ship stopped at Costa Maya and Cozumel. We enjoyed the beautiful beach, and did some major shopping. We had lunch at a local restaurant and indulged in a margarita at Margaritaville. Needless to say we took photos with locals dressed up for the tourists as indigenous Mayans.

The water in this part of the world is so beautiful. Crystal clear and blue the sound of it is so soothing. It felt so good to get out there and travel again. I am really looking forward to doing it again soon. For now, here are a few awesome pictures I took on the trip.

On Deadlines

As you all know by now, I’m very intense about scheduling. I balance a lot of things and so time management is key for me. This year, my main goal is to keep my writing front and center. To make it a priority and not let other things push it over to a back burner. After all, United Vidden — which is book 1 of Thyrein’s Galactic Wall series — released way back in 2020. Book 2, Gortive Offensive, is now late!

One of the things that I have done to work on this goal is set up times in my schedule for writing. But since I have used this strategy in the past and then re-assigned the allotted times, I knew I needed additional things to keep me on track.


Continent of Vidden
Planet Jorn

So I reached out to my illustrators. With Araceli Casas, I have arranged for her to make two maps for this novel. Because the book is about the Gortive Offensive, I felt that giving readers a couple maps that show the movement of troops and where key battles take place would be a good idea. In order for her to have them done in time for the production of the novel, I have to have the rough drafts of the maps by February 15. Which means, I have to finish the book before then. This pressure helps me focus on getting the book finished.

Another way to push myself is by working with Arthur Doweyko, who made the beautiful illustrations of the Gortive for my book’s cover. I arranged with him to have illustrations of a jorse and a jippo in the book. A lot of readers like the idea of the AI horse and wish they could have a picture of what I imagine it looks like. Again, by arranging this with my team, I am pushing myself to get the book done.

Royal Crown of Auldivia
Planet Jorn

Editors & Readers:

Of course, the most important people on my team are my editors and beta readers. Max Regan is my primary developmental editor and writing coach, and he is ready to get his hands on the book. The subtle and yet persistent pressure of “When is that coming to me, Fern?” from him is a good motivator.

As is the gentle push from Rachel Connelly. Her input on the book as my second editor is super important to me, especially as she has helped me compile a cheat sheet of my universe as set forth in book one, United Vidden. This has been an invaluable assistance, because it helped me realize I had already given some characters names in that book so changing them in book two was a big no-no. Plus, it will be a great resource to offer my readers either in the book or as a separate giveaway piece that helps them keep track of the world with greater ease… it certainly is helping me do so.

Chief Lorgarn of the Pathos Gortive Leader; Planet Jorn

I also have some hard core fans who are awaiting the opportunity to read the pre-published draft and give me their opinions. These help me a lot to see how readers are experiencing the novel’s events. It is also great inspiration to me as I try to make my super fans love the work even more.

This Blog:

So, basically, what I am saying is, I have to finish Gortive Offensive by February 15th.

There. Now this blog is another tool to push me to get it done. I’ve declared it here and I am committed to meeting that deadline. You all now, dear blog followers, have become a part of the pressure campaign to keep me on track to make this DEADLINE!

Wish me luck!

I am a Writer

Before I was a writer, I was a writer. I wrote as a child, making up all kinds of stories and performing plays for my family. I even charged my mom 10 cents for the popcorn she prepared for us.

Later, I became a journalist, and worked in public relations. I wrote news articles about the cultural events in Houston. I provided a calendar for the Daily Bulletin of what was playing in the theaters, exhibited in the museums, and festivals that were coming up. Because I needed a job that paid enough to cover my bills, I became a teacher of reading and writing. Wrote with my students and modeled writing for them.

But I never thought of myself as a writer. It was something I did as part of being a kid playing, a journalist reporting, a person promoting some event, or a teacher guiding learning. It was never something I consider an essential element of who I was.

The day I realized that being a writer was my core identity was when I met and connected with the people of the Houston Writers Guild. I began the journey of discovering and connecting to who I’ve always been. I went to conferences and networked with people who were passionate about writing. I learned about the industry and about the varied paths a person might take to getting work published.

And then, one day, I understood that I was not only a writer at the very core of my identity — that my voice and the stories that sought to come forth from me were in fact who I am — but that I wanted to be a working writer.

You see, a working writer is a writer that is actively engaged with writing, seeking to bring forth into the world the projects that need birthing. So, I stepped out of teaching and focused on writing as a profession. Got side tracked with publishing other authors, but that was a critical part to understand the journey for my own publication process, and it is a very rewarding part of my life in many ways.

This year, it’s time to put my writing front and center; to prioritize working on my projects and getting my books out into the world. Today, I can, with the full confidence of knowing what I was born to do and the security of understanding who I am, move my life in a balanced way towards fulfilling my purpose as a working writer.

Towards that goal, I have spent the first two weekends in January doing an intensive retreat to kick off my writing year. I’m also ready to enjoy and learn at the Houston Writers Guild’s Love Your Writing Seminar. It will take place on Saturday, February 18. Check it out if you are a writer. It’s a great place to get started on the 2023 road to birthing a legacy in words. www.houstonwritersguild.org 

New Beginnings

As 2023 crests the horizon, it is a time to reflect on what has been working and what has not in our lives. For me, this week has been a time of recalibration. That is the word for the new year: RECALIBRATION.

Life has changed. The pandemic has brought with it new realities. We seem, as a society, to try to return to the way things used to be; to hold on to how things were. But they can’t be the same anymore. The pandemic changed the landscape of life, in business and in personal ways, and it cannot be ignored.

One of the most important recalibrations for me is in how I spend my time. Last year, for my January blog, I shared how I was adjusting my space to make it more useful, and how I budget my time, creating an effective schedule. This year the recalibration is at a much broader scale. I still have my ideal week programmed, but now MY WRITING has taken on a more prominent space.

My work with WITS and with Inklings Publishing will continue, but it has to take a back seat to my writing. Someone very dear to me asked a critical question: What do I really want to be — a publisher or a writer?

As the publishing house has grown, the amount of time and commitment it requires has increased. The pandemic’s economic setback, however, has made the company’s move toward a revenue stream which would allow me to pay salaried employees to run it unattainable for at least another two years. So, as we enter into the celebration of our 10th anniversary, Inklings Publishing will have a gear shift that will allow it to continue growing, but not eat up as much of my time as it had been taking up this year.

Instead, it’s time to focus on my books. United Vidden, which recently won the silver medal in the Global Book Awards, released in July of 2020. That is two years ago now. Getting Gortive Offensive, book two of the series, completed has been an uphill battle with all that has transpired. But it’s almost there. By mid-January, the draft of the book will head to my developmental editors — Max Regan and Rachel Connelly.

By April, it should be back on my desk for the final revision pass. The goal will be to send it off to copy editing in June for a release date of December 2023. At last book two of Thyrein’s Galactic Wall series will come out, and fans will see what has been happening with Verena and Amiel.

In the meantime, Love’s Call is ready to launch. February will be the release date for book one of The Dragon and His Kitten series. This story is part of Thyerin’s Galactic Wall and the Intergalactic Alliance but it is happening before the events of United Vidden on a different planet: Gelderant. There, Nichamir Vlanespor Linput struggles to gain the trust and love of the woman fated to be his mate. The events of this romance story will have a major impact on the final outcome of Verena and Amiel’s story.

So, as 2023 opens, I will be working on Love’s Flame, book two of The Dragon and his Kitten series. And in 2024, Nichamir and Denipia’s fate will be fulfilled, with Love’s Flame releasing in early Spring of 2024 and Love’s Legacy in December of 2024. And then, we’ll be ready to see the culmination of Verena and Amiel’s struggle in 2025.

This here then is my declaration of intention for the new year: to put my writing front and center while juggling everything else life is no doubt going to throw at me. Wish me luck!

Holiday Decor

It’s Christmas time! For many this time of year encompasses a different celebration. For me, being a christian, I celebrate Christmas. Needless to say, there’s much that can be written about that. We could discuss many deep and highly sensitive topics about this holiday. BUT… it’s not that kind of blog.

So today, I want to just focus on the fun of deciding how to decorate. There are so many cool options these days for festive Christmas time decorations. The Christmas tree is of course the number one focal point. That’s usually placed somewhere very visible in the house and all the presents sit there for however long waiting to be opened.

There’s some very elegant decorating options. I’ve always favored the idea of choosing a single color and then using white and silver to brighten it up. We’ve had red and white trees and some blue and white trees. I’ve always wanted to do a pure pink and white but we still don’t have sufficient ornaments in pink to fill up the whole tree.

Of course, ornaments are only the beginning. People can add ribbons as well. If I had the skill set to make ribbons on a tree look good, I would so do it. But my ribbons always look just awful. If you ever get a present from me, you better believe it will have just a pre-made store bough bow. There’s no way I can make nice bows. My mother has that skill, but it didn’t get passed down.

Now, there are some very fun versions of Christmas trees. I love this crazy idea of making the tree look like a woman’s dress. I’m not sure how to even begin to try to create something as cool as this, but if I could I so would. And, come to think of it, that might be the best option for my pink and white tree. I’ll have to devote some thought and planning to it for next year. Too late now to try to get all creative like this.

Garlands are another wonderful decorating option. Also, candle and statuary displays. We don’t have that many surfaces that we can decorate with such elements at our house. When you have tall, big dogs, you do need to consider the tail effect. Will the items survive a husky fluff tail swipe? Of course, cat owners might have to consider their pet’s penance for tossing things off surfaces. Hmm.… We’ll have to discuss that with Ellen.

Wreathes are yet another stylistic piece to add to the holiday decor. Outdoor and indoor varieties abound. I still like the idea of color coordination more than mixing up all the colors. But that’s probably because I am more OCD than I’d like to let on.

Well, here’s what we needed up with this year for our decorations. Not as cool or elaborate as the nice pictures we found on Pinterest huh? Well, it’s been such a busy year, frankly, it was a miracle we decorated at all. 

World Cup Fever

I’m not a sports fan. I don’t follow sports nor watch sports. The only sport I actually play is table shuffleboard (some might say that’s not even a real sport). Yet, every four years, I turn into the biggest soccer fan ever.

The World Cup tournament is the one time in which I go crazy for sports. The best of the best compete on behalf of their countries for the coveted FIFA cup. Americans seem to lack the deep appreciation for soccer that is true for the rest of the world. Many argue that it is random and just luck. Yet out of the many years of tournaments and the 34 countries that participate each time only 8 countries have ever won the cup, many of them several times over.

Soccer is a sport that requires incredible skill to control the ball and get it into the goal. When you watch the World Cup, you are seeing the world’s best players. Some amazing stars rise, but the teams that are real winners are those who work as a team.

The whole world plays soccer. The whole world participates in the cup. Unlike other “world” championship titles Americans like to proclaim as theirs, this one tournament is the only one that truly encompasses the world. Perhaps it is time the US take the plunge and really try for a true “World Champion” title.

Unlike other sports, soccer requires endurance plus foot control. It is a beautiful dance taking the ball across the field. Precision in passing as well as laser targeting to get it past the goalie are required skills. The human body is honed to a physical perfection unattainable in other sports.

The US ladies team has won the women’s tournament repeatedly. Yet, it is the men’s tournament that is still the focal point for the world. The women’s championship is still not as popular nor well attended by all the countries of our planet. This, hopefully, will change as the tournament grows.

As I watch the Qatar 2022 World Cup, I have my favorite teams. France, Germany, Spain, Argentina, and England are top of my list. The teams of Japan and S. Korea have joined these as well. But USA and Mexico are the games that become gut wrenching. If the other teams lose, well it’s sad, but not a tragedy. BUT when USA or Mexico lose, I’m in tears. These are MY teams.

The real star of the show is the ball. Watching it make its way down the field is a pleasure, but seeing goals, that’s the glory. Goals are beautiful. Each and everyone a majestic display of skill. And the goalies are the most important players. They have to guard their nets with amazing reflexes. At the level of the world championship, these men are the very best. Watching the ball pass through into the net is a satisfactory feeling when it’s your team scoring. When it isn’t, the pain is almost physical.

I suppose those who love and follow other sports feel the same tension, joy, and pain when they watch their teams. My biggest hope is that soccer can become a significant part of the American experience, just as it is in the rest of the world. One day, the US men’s team will hold up the cup and that will be the best day of my life — as a sports fan anyway.

Maybe that will be on the next four years round. The World Cup will be played here at home and with Mexico and Canada as well as US co-hosting. Houston will be a city where some games will be played. So don’t be surprised if you see me at the stadium in 2026!

On Table Shuffleboard

In October of 2019, I joined the Fun Hangers Shuffleboard League. I had just divorced and my dear friend, Neil Rodrigue, harangued me about sitting around mopping. He said I had to get out there and do something fun and different. He’s the president of the league and he introduced me to the game of table shuffleboard.

I will always be grateful to him for the huge gift. Table shuffleboard has been an amazing experience. Yes, it’s played in a bar setting. Yes, there are those who get drunk and stupid. But, it is overwhelmingly the coolest game I’ve ever played. And the camaraderie of the league, the team members, is just wonderful. Neil often says it’s like a family and I think that’s an accurate description.

The game itself is awesome. At first blush it may seem to be easy. Just throw the weight down the table. How hard can it be? Well, let me tell you, there’s a significant amount of skill required to get that weight to a good scoring position, and then to keep your opponent from knocking it out and scoring on you.

The table may seem flat, but it isn’t. It is actually concave. And so you have to learn how to use the inertia of the board and the physics of the table, the speed of the weight, and your body position to get your weight to the right spot. You need to concentrate on your breathing, your hand position, the position of your body relative to the shot you are trying to make, and all these factors create a uniquely zen feeling when you are playing. It’s almost mediative. You can’t worry about anything else, just focus on the board, your weight, and your body.

Some people who see no value in the game just get up and throw the weight nilly willy. But when you begin to really see the beauty, the mathematical and physics elegance, of it, you take note of the various kinds of shots. There’s several ways to send your weight down the board. The primary is the Jersey shot, but there’s the span, the free hand, and several others. When you are standing there, preparing to shoot, there’s a focusing of all your energy.

Besides the game itself, the camaraderie is phenomenal. It’s competitive, but there’s no put downs if you miss. The players all encourage you to keep trying. They give you feedback on your technique. Some players go out of their way to meet up and help you practice, like the amazing John Hayes who taught me so much in my first seasons and continues to be a great sensei for the sport.

And, there’s a feeling of safety here. Sure, it’s a bar sport, but the community of shuffleboards won’t let one of their own get hurt. They step up when some idiot is trying to get stupid with one of the ladies. They walk you to your car. As I’ve engaged in some first dates with only matches, this is were I like to meet them. Because here, amongst my shuffleboard tribe, I’m going to be safe no matter who the guy turns out to be.

The Grand Championship match for the season that is closing will be this coming Wednesday at the Ashford Pub off Eldridge near Westheimer. If you want to check out what Fern is gushing about, come out and join me there. Who knows, maybe I’ll make a shuffler out of you?

Road to Health

I was diagnosed with diabetes just over ten years ago. Up to that time, I was very haphazard with my doctor visits. I did not do regular check ups nor worry about my health. But right before my wedding, I went to get my eyes checked so I could buy new contacts for the honeymoon.

During the visit, I found that I was unable to see out of my left eye. It was as if someone has smeared Vaseline on the lens. Upon closer inspection, it was discovered that my retinas were bleeding in both eyes, but the bleed in the left was affecting the main area for vision. I underwent laser intervention and, after a time, the sight has healed, though not entirely. I still have slight blind spot right in the middle of my left eye’s field of vision.

When this happened, I realized I had to start taking better care of myself, and that meant better eating habits. The road to a more balanced way of life is a long and hard one, and, I must admit, I’m not there yet. However, I have made good strides towards a healthier lifestyle.

For one thing, I cut out most of the soda intake. Prior to that moment, I drank regular Coke as if it was the recommended servings of water — eight or nine a day of the 20oz bottles. Yup, a diabetes nightmare waiting to happen… which it did. It was hard to move toward drinking water. I honestly hated the taste of it at the time. However, I made myself drink it, and with the help of coffee, I managed to change my palette. Now, I really enjoy the refreshing taste of water… and of course, coffee.

I also added exercise to my life. Having dogs was a great motivator for this purpose. I enjoy a good half hour minimum walk with Arya, and, on the days when it’s possible, we extend it to a full hour. In addition, I have discovered the wonderful effects of yoga. The suppleness it leaves on your muscles, the way it helps build strength, and the relaxation of the mind as you mindfully focus on your breath and the position of your limbs have all been a great boon to my life. I even occasionally add in a Zumba class, or a bit of weight training. The latter, according to my doctor, I should do more of as building muscle helps burn sugar.

In spite of this, the main struggle remains — food. Unlike drugs, you can’t stop eating. You have to eat everyday, so the battle for what you choose to eat and how much is a continuous daily war in your mind. Balanced meals with vegetables are important, but sweets call to me like drug dealers peddling their wares. Stress makes the war harder to win. Some people don’t eat when they are under stress. I, on the other hand, feel a need to eat all the time.

Working with my doctor and my therapist has helped me build in new ways of looking at food as well as strategies for healthier stress management. But the battle continues to rage, and I don’t think it will ever be fully over. The road to being a healthy, balanced person is, in my opinion, the road of life; one which we must all traverse until our time to depart this mortal realm arrives.

** I hope you enjoy the pictures of artist Diane Gelman’s work. You can visit her studio at the Sawyer Yards in Houston, TX.

Haunted Holidays

As we begin this new month, I’m so happy to be working as head of the Houston Writers Guild with the leadership of Brazos Bookstore and Women in the Visual and Literary Arts (WIVLA) to bring to Houston a fun event connecting readers and writers.

On November 5 from 6:30pm to 8:00pm at the Brazos Bookstore locale authors will be reading out loud from original work. The theme is Haunted Holidays. The stories will be set during a holiday of the author’s choice but with a haunted element in the telling.

Last year, the collaboration resulted in a wonderful event via zoom. I enjoyed writing and reading my short story about a Witchy Christmas. This year, I’m working on a story about A Very Dragony Halloween. Some of the pictures that have inspired the tale are posted here for your enjoyment.

Having built a rich world with multiple planets to play with, I’ve decided to highlight the one which the dragons across Thyrein’s Galactic Wall have chosen for their home world. Driven out of planet after planet, hunted to extinction on many, the sentient dragons and the dragon born offspring have banded together to create a safe place for their kind.

The planet is not acknowledge by the intergalactic alliance. Many in the alliance are opposed to allowing dragon born to go unmonitored. Fear of the power that these beings hold makes gaining equal rights and protection for them difficult.

I’m still working out the details for what my story will be about, but it will feature dragons and set during the time of Halloween. What will this time of year look like for that world? What will be similar to our own? What will be different? These questions keep my mind churning with possibilities.

Do dragon children trick or treat? Do they dress up in costume? If a dragon child were to choose a costume, what would it dress up as? Would it choose to dress up as a human? If they carve pumpkins, what kinds of pictures will they carve into the fruit? Most important of all, do dragons enjoy pumpkin pie and pumpkin spice lattes?

The fun part of being a writer is getting to explore questions that probe and push the creativity of our imagination. We’ll see what I come up with.

Sign up either to read a story you wrote OR to come and just enjoy the stories of local authors. Here’s the information on the event. Go to the store’s page to learn more and to sign up.