…there are things I’d like to avoid in life. One being prison. Another, snakes in my garden–most particularly, venomous ones.

As for the prison thing, I’m claustrophobic. And have you seen the size of some of the cells? California’s San Quentin Prison opened in 1852, and inmates are still housed in some of the old cells.Visualize a bunk bed along one wall and so close to the opposite wall that one man can’t pass the other to get to the meal pass-through or the toilet. Think about the inmate unjustly convicted of murder who won his freedom years later only to discover he’d lost his distance vision because he hadn’t seen the outside world in all those years. He even exercised in an indoor cage.

I can’t imagine life without being outdoors. Of seeing a stormy sky or a dark velvet one winking with stars, of dancing in the rain, watching the sea froth over my wading toes or feeling them go numb tromping through deep snow, or fighting the hot and damaging Santana winds in southern California.

My college choir once sang in San Quentin, and it was a big deal. The prisoners we were allowed to sing for clapped wildly after each song, but they cheered, pumped fists in the air and stomped their feet when we sang Freedom. The goosebumps part of the visit, however, was the visit to the empty green room–the death chamber–because this prison houses all of California’s male death row inmates. Our tour guide explained the procedure, and none of us spoke a word until we were safely back on our bus and the prison gates had clanked shut behind us.

Later, as a graduate married to my college sweetheart, I sang in a state mental hospital with a madrigal group.”You must remain with  your group. If you wander off it may take time to find you and prove you don’t belong here.” If I was ill and needed to be there that would be one thing, but I guess I need to add “sane and lost in a mental hospital” to my list of things to avoid at all cost.

My list contains things very appropriate for mysteries and suspenses, but have I used any in my romances? The joyous, sensual things, of course, but so far venomous snakes, murderous rogue vampires, attacking knights and lethal, marauding Indians are the major menaces.

Romance touches all the senses. Using the things we want to avoid at all cost are as valid in our stories as the things that bring us pleasure.

Come back the week of November 26 for The Next Best Thing Blog Hop! Read about my writing process and why I wrote Tears Of The Dragon and its sequel, Time To Be King.


A knight’s flaming passion for the dragoness woman he loves…


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