Scott Cunningham – 20 Years Passing

Scott Cunningham – 20 Years Passing

It’s been twenty years since my brother Scott died. Twenty years. Which means my youngest son will be twenty this year. How did this happen? (For I am still a mere seventeen myself.)

My brother Scott Cunningham

I remember the day. It was a Saturday; my husband had two shows that day in Hollywood, and I had just been lazing around the house, being pregnant and happy and playing with my two year old. Until that afternoon, when my parents called.

I couldn’t believe it and yet it was utterly believable. The last time I had seen Scott, my heart had broken, and I will spare you the details. The time before that was in January, and we’d gone to lunch. Our conversation ranged over many topics and lunch, as I remember, took hours. I wish now I had recorded our conversation.

Anyway, the phone rang and my world shifted. It had happened to me before; the year I turned twenty, both my cousin Lori and a dear friend named Mark had died. Two separate, tragic instances separated my months and geography; both of which my parents had called to tell me about.

But those paled in comparison.

As Rosamund Pilcher said in her novel Coming Home, and I’m paraphrasing; Until you were told a loved one had died, they were there, living their lives, going about their business. It was the telling that killed. That last sentence has stayed with me. Haunted me, because it is true.

We knew his death was coming; it had been a long haul, three years of decline. Three years of giving our love, doing our best to banter the way we always did while hiding our shock at how thin he grew. Three years of feeling him slipping away. So by March we were taking it a day at a time.

Then I got the call.

In 1993, we had pagers. So in my grief, I paged my husband, who had to go on stage just then (in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream), so he thrust the pager at his friend Paul, and said call her. Paul called me and I told him about Scott; Paul had been at our wedding, and he had met my brother. Paul was on one side of the stage when Tom looked at him – and from Paul’s expression, Tom knew.

I cannot do justice to Scott, for I am only a sister, one he fought with, laughed with, at times protected, and loved. But here are some places you can go to hear from people who knew him, probably better than I.

Donald Michael Kraig wrote this article on Scott.  The Llewellyn Worldwide Publications site has his books listed, and they’re all on Amazon as well. And someone put up this video that Scott did on YouTube and while I normally wouldn’t do this, here’s a link. Because this is so totally Scott, lol.

And we can’t forget the Wikipedia site.

Two of the books I love:

The Magical Household by Scott Cunningham and David Harrington

and Whispers of the Moon by David Harrington and deTraci Regula,

which is the biography they did of him.






Though, seriously, all of his books show a side of Scott I only barely grazed as we were growing up. We shared an apartment for a little while; but through our childhood, we shared a bond that I feel will never be broken.

My older brother Greg and I miss him, and we cling perhaps tighter to each other with one of us gone, so long ago now.

The moon is full, Spring is here, and it’s been twenty years since Scott’s passing. But I like to think he’d still recognize me, even with my thinning hair and thickening body, for my smile is still as bright and my arms still hug tight. I shall go outside into the moonlight tonight, and pour some wine into the soil for him.

Hug those you love, for our time is short in this world. A last note: I know I’m not the only one who has lost a sibling/spouse/parent/friend/cousin. As Gregor Caine says, “We all have our dead.” May we honor those who have gone before us, and love and cherish those who are still with us.

~ Until the next time. ~


Demon Soul and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle and Kobo! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

Dad’s Words, No. 1 – On Writing

Dad’s Words, No. 1 – On Writing

Chet Cunningham

Okay, so. On Sunday, as my last post here said, Tom (the hubs) and I went to see my Daddy and to work in his garden. Well, Tom worked in the garden. I interviewed my dad. See, there’s a lot I never knew/don’t remember/mom never told me. And now mom is gone (6 years in April), so she can’t talk to me.

So I’m interviewing my Dad, Chet Cunningham, every time I go down to see him now. About everything I can think of/dare to ask (and there are some areas I haven’t even considered broaching yet, but I’ll get there). Here it is (and here’s a picture).

Chet Cunningham, June 2011

Interview No. 1.

Me: So, Daddy. How did you become a writer?

Chet Cunningham: The stock answer is in high school, I had an essay test in English on a book I don’t remember now. I wasn’t too sure of the answer, so I wrote down everything I could remember. Got an A on the paper, and an A in the class. And I said, hey, this writing thing is easy.

Me: I had to laugh at this, because I learned in the 8th grade (history I think) that I could ACE essay tests. Who knew that’s where I got it from?

Me: What happened next?

CC: I signed up as a journalist major with Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. But I didn’t pass the English test, so I got put into bonehead English. And the professor in charge of Journalism said, you can’t be a journalism major if you’re in bonehead English.  I said to him, by the way, I’ve sold a couple of articles to the Portland Journal. He said to me, selling a couple articles doesn’t make you a journalist.

Now, the emphasis in the classes I was taking was toward working on a newspaper, but I wanted to write for magazines.

Me: What was your first writing job?

CC: A buddy of mine, Hans Running and I, had a photography business during college. A way to make some extra money. He saw that the Central Oregonian was looking for a reporter, I applied, and I got the job. I graduated, then two months later, I got drafted.

Me: That would be for the Korean War, right?

CC: Right. After I came home, I applied to Columbia University to the Master’s Program in Journalism.

Me: Wow. What was Columbia like?

CC: Fast and furious. One of my professors told all us new kids to be sure go do the tourist stuff. Go to the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the museums, see a play or two or three on Broadway, walk in Central Park. Do it while you’re here, because you  may never get back. So Rosie and I did all the touristy things.

It wasn’t until later that I found out the college was reaching out to as many states as possible for students, and I was the only student who applied from Oregon. Columbia is also where I learned to never, never, never use the word “very”. It’s the weakest word in the English language.

Me: I remember you telling me that years ago. Okay, let’s skip ahead. You wanted to be a writer, and you wrote. What kind of writers’ books did you read? Any craft books?

CC: No.

Me: *totally shocked* No?

CC: No. I wasn’t brought up to read. That wasn’t how I learned the best. So I just wrote.

Me: But you wrote westerns. Your first western – you sold Bushwhackers in the Circle K in 1968.

CC: I got a grand total of $300 for it, too. I decided to learn how to write westerns – my dad by that time was reading lots of Louis L’Amour. So I read all I could, and marked them up, and wrote the book. And sold it. The editor, he said, “Well, it’s not the best book I’ve read, but I’ll buy it.”

Me Again.

So there you have it. My dad, Chet Cunningham, who’s had over 300 novels published not to mention all his non-fiction books, has never read a writing craft book. This was so illuminating to me. Why?

I’ve read many books on writing. The best ones, in my opinion, don’t tell you what to do, but just keep encouraging you to do it. The War of Art by Pressfield, for instance, or On Writing by Stephen King.

I’ve read books, taken how-to classes, learned different story structures, and all of them seem to tie me up into over-writing paralysis. For instance, I can’t even begin to use Donald Maas’ “Writing The Breakout Novel” way to write. It tangles me up in knots and I can’t do it. It’s not for me. It might work well for you, and that’s terrific.

I wrote a synopsis based on Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat, and guess what? TOO MUCH PLOT. Okay, maybe that one will work for a single title, but not a shorter novel. And then I remembered something else my dad taught me, years ago when I had just begun to write. I asked him how he structured his synopses.

He said, just tell the story in first person, present tense on the page. Don’t use too many pages, don’t tell too many little details.

Brilliant advice, Daddy.

The hands that wrote the books.

Did I mention he’s got arthritis?


Do you have any books on writing that really worked for you? How about ways of plotting? Please share!

~ Until the next time, cheers! ~


Demon Soul and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle and Kobo! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?



Rest Stops – The Pause that Refreshes

Rest Stops – The Pause that Refreshes

We took advantage of Tom not having any other commitments yesterday and drove down to see my Dad. Dad, as Dads do, is getting older and his garden had been overgrown with grasses and weeds during the winter. Which made him sad, so we decided to go down with picks and gloves and turn the soil for him, so he could plant.

My Dad, Chet Cunningham, with a fence post pick, in his back yard. March 24, 2013.

A small thing to do for a man who loves to garden.

The road from my house to my dad’s is a long one, though. And there’s only one rest stop between the two, on the 5 Freeway southbound (and one Northbound) near Aliso Creek. After being under construction for years, it’s all open and pretty and – amazing – a pause in the trip that truly refreshes.

I’ve seen this rest stop under construction, with thirty port-a-pottys lined up (wish I’d gotten a picture!) and lines of people waiting to use them. That was on an Easter Sunday a few years ago, I believe.

But now? Gorgeous. Lots of trees, picnic tables, THREE buildings housing both men’s and women’s restrooms, LOTS of updated features (auto flush, auto water and soap at the sink, air dryers). The grounds are clean, there’s a building that houses every possible vending machine you can think of (from gourmet coffee to condoms, chips to cheese crackers) and the breeze is straight off the ocean. Go up the rise behind the trees and on the other side, blue sea and waves.

Every time I’ve been there, I’ve seen a family picnicking. It wouldn’t surprise me if local families go there just to enjoy the breeze and the sun and the wildlife. Because every time we’ve gone, there’s been wildlife in the migrating birds. Yesterday, we saw red-wing blackbirds, gorgeous birds with a circle of red on their wings that show when they fly, as well as the more typical seagulls.

We also saw the cutest – and I do mean cutest – 8 week old Springer Spaniel puppy. White with chocolate markings, he was a sturdy little fellow, with big feet and floppy ears, and (after asking the owner’s permission) had the softest fur and sweetest puppy breath I’ve smelled in a while, which always just fills me with joy. Of course, I think ALL puppies have sweet puppy breath, but that’s just me. The owner said he thought the puppy’s breath smelled like skunk.

I almost kidnapped the puppy right then and there. I would have punched the guy in the nose, kicked him in the groin, snatched the pup and run, without ever making it to the bathroom. But he put a friendly hand out, wanting his dog back, and reluctantly I let it go, thus keeping me out of the slammer.

Tom and I talked about getting another dog. When the kids are grown (uh…) and gone (oh yeah).  And when we don’t garden so much, because any kind of digger will dig up our veggies in a heartbeat. And when we have time to train and love and pay attention to a dog. That will be a good time to get another one.

In the meantime, we’ll let Zaphod, our polydactyl cat, rule our universe indoors while we work hard in our garden.

As far as my dad’s garden goes, Tom dug most of the bed while I interviewed my dad, staying cool inside the house. Tom got exercise, I got precious time spent with Dad and more memories, and my dad can plant his tomatoes now.

3 hours of hard work, revealed.

A round, lemon cucumber from dad’s garden last year, July 2012.

This is what was in that bed last year – an amazing amount of yummy tomatoes! July 2012.

(Had to show a couple photos of the bounty from Dad’s garden last year. You can see why we wanted to help.)

All in all, a great day – plus I got a good dose of puppy breath yesterday. Life is filled with simple joys that fill the heart.

What have you done lately that has lifted your heart with joy?

~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~


Demon Soul and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle and Kobo! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

SoCal RWA Conference – A Quick Update

SoCal RWA Conference – A Quick Update


I am having the very devil of a time getting this post together today – so sorry! It’s been a madhouse here – I’m behind on everything at work, and I need to get at least 2k words written before I go to sleep tonight. So – a bit frantic, but in a very good way.

Conference was WONDERFUL.  I had my best booksigning ever, and my workshop was well-attended. Plus I received a thank you note from one of the conference attendees who came to my workshop! Staggered and flabbergasted, and very pleased.

Photo of Christine Ashworth at the booksigning.

Having a grand old time signing books at the SoCal RWA Conference, March 17, 2013.

I promise to do a proper recap later. In the meantime, my thanks to Christine Leo for snapping the photo. I shall float on the remembered high of hugging friends, getting writing support, and learning for the past three days. My Roomie Dayle and I had the best time, despite both of us being on the ill side. Well, walking 4.5 miles round trip to get Chinese food for dinner that first night didn’t end up being the smartest decision we made…but now it’s a story, lol!

And I won’t go into our last minute decision to hit the bar before it closed…

Cheers – and have a great day!

SoCal RWA Conference Weekend!

SoCal RWA Conference Weekend!

Today is the beginning of the SoCal RWA Conference in Santa Ana, California. Which means I get to spend the better part of three days with writers and agents and editors while I learn and laugh…what’s not to like about that?

On Sunday, I’ll be participating in a large public book signing, where I’ll be signing copies of DEMON HUNT and DEMON SOUL. I sure hope there are a lot of So Cal peeps down there who like paranormal romance!

So you might be asking yourself, what wine goes with a conference? Well, since I’m not too sure about the  hotel prices, I always say bring your own. And since my go-to wine is Smoking Loon Pinot Noir, that’s what I’ll be bringing.

I’m doing a Book Camp this afternoon, then going to a cocktail/reception party tonight. Tomorrow morning I’m doing some volunteer work, then diving into workshops all day. Dinner with friends tomorrow night, woot!

Sunday is my big day – I’m giving a workshop at 9am (against some incredible speakers). It will be interesting to see how many people show up for my workshop! Maybe I’ll bring chocolate…

Then there’s a luncheon, and finally – from 1pm to 2:30pm – the book signing. So – lots to do! And as I’m leaving here at 9:30am to pick up the faboo Dayle Dermatis, my roommate for this venture, I’d better get packed, don’t you think?

Here’s hoping YOUR weekend will be jam-packed with friends, laughter, good food and good wine.



~ Until the next time, cheers – and remember to drink responsibly! ~


Demon Soul and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle and Kobo! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?