Wednesday, May 30, 2018


This past week we launched my latest book, Dr. Jane Carswell: Family Physician, Humanitarian, Friend and had a wonderful time doing it during a meet, greet and eat social sponsored by the ladies of Fairview Presbyterian Church here in Lenoir. I had fun keeping the cover hidden under a cloth until the big reveal (that met with cheers and applause, by the way).
 I filled the crowd in on the purpose of the book (to share the life story of a beloved physician) and the format I chose to include quotes and nature photographs at the beginning of each chapter. We talked with people about their memories of Jane and how she impacted the community. Her husband Kenneth also spoke.
I met several people I had only spoken with on the phone during our interview time. I also met a character from chapter seven, Rufus the puppet. He was the feature of the Happy Hands Puppet Ministry.
Isn't he a cutie? Dr. Carswell wrote the scripts for the puppet shows and made sure Rufus was the bumbling doofus who was wise beyond what people imagined.

So now the book is out and about and doing its own thing. I'm thrilled, but also a little nervous. Did I do Jane's story justice? Did I offend anyone in the process? Did I correct all the typos? Did I leave anyone out in the acknowledgements? And the list goes on, mostly in the wee hours of the morning.

One thing I do know, this book needed to be written. Her life was too exceptional not be shared and her accomplishments too great not to be spotlighted.

Catch of the day,


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Dr. Jane Carswell: Family Physician, Humanitarian, Friend

It's finally here, the day I can say to you, THE BOOK IS OUT!!!

Before I show you the cover, I want to talk you through the wonderful portrait of Jane that we chose to feature on the front.
The minute I saw this photograph I fell in love with it. I knew it would make a great cover, I just didn't know how it could be used. Before I turned it over to my book designer, Books That Matter, I needed to get the proper permissions. First I contacted the photographer, Spencer Ainsley, and he so graciously granted his permission. Then I contacted the Lenoir News-Topic, where the photograph appeared in 1984, and they so graciously also granted permission, along with several other photographs I used in the text.

Next I turned to my go-to person, Bill Tate, who restored the ancient, faded, cracked newspaper picture, doctored it up a bit, and colorized it. Isn't it perfect??? There Jane sits, in her office, at the desk that once belonged to her minister father.

Cover designer Kim tried several different approaches that I hemmed and hawed over, and oohed and aahed over. But when she coupled the above portrait with this photograph of a rose that Jane had taken herself, I knew we had struck gold.

Isn't this a beauty of a rose! Merge the two together and TA-DA!!! May I present the cover:

Now available on Amazon and at odds and ends of places here in Lenoir.

Catch of the day,


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Carswell Book, Part Three


In her left over time from being a physician and a humanitarian with numerous causes, Dr. Jane Carswell managed to develop many long lasting friendships. From what I figured out, a friendship with her meant going on a journey, whether hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, or searching for a rare flower she hadn't photographed, or seeking answers to life's questions during a spiritual conversation. 
Here she is with friends identifying a rare Gray's Lily
along the Tanawha Trail in the Blue Ridge. This picture is in the book.
This picture of Jane hiking at the twin poplar trees is not in the book
since she was too hard to identify, but there she is in a local landmark.
After a brutal war between two Native American tribes, the elders twisted poplar trees together.
Generations later, the trees stand joined together as  a symbol of their peace treaty.
By the way, the three sections of the book are separated from each other with a title page sporting this rose, one of Jane's photographs. It's on the back cover, the inside title page, and all three section title pages. 

Part three of the book (Friend) is the shortest, three chapters long, or reworded, three long chapters, each packed full of life and love. 

Chapter 13, Friendship. This chapter tells about her love of roses and photography and travel and all things sport, and the friends who journeyed with her.

Chapter 14, Joy. I chose this chapter title because this is where she meets her true love and marries age sixty-eight. It is a love story that will capture the reader's heart. 

Chapter 15, Retirement. What she accomplished in her retirement, as throughout her entire life, went beyond the norm, but this time, she had a partner. Their love story continued. Writing about her death sapped my energy. Reading about it will be uplifting.

So that's it, the entire book in three parts. I conclude with a nod to the many sources who helped me in this project and with a list of organizations that Jane was connected to, in case anyone feels led to step up and help out. It's what she would have wanted.

Catch of the day,


Monday, May 21, 2018

The Carswell Book, Part Two


Being a humanitarian wasn't exactly what Dr. Jane Carswell set out to be when she attended medical school. That just came naturally...because of her strong faith, and her belief that with faith comes action.

And act she did! Over and over during the interviewing stage of my research I heard people say, using their own variations of the concept, "If you look deeply enough, Jane's fingerprints will be on just about every cause in the area." I often felt like I was peeling an onion, there were so many layers. I said that to one man I was interviewing and he stopped me. "No. An onion is not a good analogy. She's more like a diamond with many, many facets." I checked online for diamond facets and found they are the surfaces that refract the light within the diamond and give off the spectrum of colors. Yep. That's Jane in her humanitarian causes. Not an onion. A diamond. She saw a need and she didn't just complain or tsk her tongue. She acted, and that action refracted all kinds of light here in Lenoir, North Carolina.

Chapter 7, Interracial Relations. She had experienced discrimination, and as it reared its ugly head in her community, she stepped out of her comfort zone and stood up to it. She drew people together in a common good.

Chapter 8, Shelter Home. "He really hit her hard, right in front of me. But she wouldn't press charges. She said she had to go home and live with him, that she didn't have any place else to go," said by Jane after her experience in the maternity ward as she visited with a new mother. An enraged Jane set out to create a place for her, and the many others like her, a shelter from the abuse she witnessed in many women seeking medical attention.
This portrait of Dr. Carswell hanging in the shelter home didn't make the cut in the book. The wooden carving that gives the name of the building, "The Jane Carswell House," didn't come out clear enough in the printing process, so we eliminated it.
The shelter home started a sign campaign to change from a culture of violence.
Chapter 9, Caldwell House. A halfway house for former drug and alcohol addicts that Jane worked with. After she retired from its board, she began writing the newsletter. She interviewed clients and wrote their stories as inspiration for the others. 

Chapter 10, Caldwell Friends. A big brother/big sister style organization for early teens where Jane volunteered much of her time.
Jane drew this picture of Caldwell Friends mascot Raydell.

Chapter 11, International Missions. Jane's experiences in the mission field could be a book in themselves, especially the robbery incident. 

Chapter 12, Helping Hands. In response to seeing the un-and-under-insured citizens in the county go without proper medical care, she worked with several other concerned physicians and nurses to create this program.

Chapter 13, Cradle-to-Grave. End of life issues were important to Jane. Her church sponsored a residential complex for seniors, Koinonia, where Jane visited clients on her "apartment" calls. A major end of life project, Caldwell County Hospice began with a group of people sitting in Jane's house and brainstorming what could be possible. 
I took this picture of the Hospice Angel in the lawn of the Caldwell Hospice.
It's not in the book, but I think it is a good example of what hospice means to so many people.
Another picture that didn't make the book was this one from the inside front of the hospice facility.
The building overlooks downtown Lenoir.
Another view from the upstairs windows of Hospice
with local landmark,
 Hibriten Mountain, in the distance.
If you need the definition of humanitarian, look no further than the life of this distinguished physician. Dr. Jane Carswell equals humanitarian.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Carswell Book, Part One

Family Physician

A book has to start somewhere, so why not at the beginning, unless the author takes a little liberty and does a bit of finagling. That would be me. I start this biography at the peak of Dr. Jane Carswell's career, after she has been acclaimed as the "1984 National Family Physician of the Year," and when she is speaking to the classes at the medical school she once attended. "Family medicine keeps one humble," she said. "Often you as a physician can do very little to help the patients, but they still give you their trust and share their joys and sorrows with you." She said it, and she believed it.

That belief came not only from her upbringing by two parents who devoted their lives to serving God, but also from her heritage and the long line of steadfast family members who helped make Jane Carswell who she was. So there. Chapter One, Heritage. Her mother's family called Williamsburg, Virginia home. Actually, they called the Peyton Randolph House home, where her great uncle, the mayor of Williamsburg, along with her aunt raised Madeline, Jane's mother, after her own mother was killed in a farm accident. It is now one of the restored houses open to the public for viewing. As her mother walked through the house on tour with Jane years later, she talked about living there before the village became the remarkable institution it now is. That alone is a book in itself.

Chapter Two, Childhood. Here's where the family values were instilled in Jane. She was born in 1932, so that put her square into the Great Depression as a baby, and into the homefront of World War II as a growing child. This chapter is mostly Jane's own recollections of growing up in the sandhills of North Carolina, written in speeches she gave at various church homecomings. 

Chapter Three, College. This is the only place in the entire book (beyond the preface) that I inserted something personal as a homage to being a fourth grade teacher. I'll let you seek out that on your own, but I will say that Jane attended Flora Macdonald College and wow, the stories from her experiences there! Strict Presbyterian Women's College. Dress code. Decorum code. Korean War era near the Fort Bragg military base. Add those together and there's a story. One of her required physical education classes was the Highland Fling, and that's part of the story.
No, Jane's not part of this 1946 picture, but she did have a kilt and the plaid.
When she was over seventy years old, she performed the fling for an astonished crowd of friends.
Chapter Four, University. She was female. She could not enroll in UNC Chapel Hill until her junior year, and even then she was in the minority, as at the Medical College of Virginia where she was one of five females in her class of a hundred. She learned what discrimination was all about.

Chapter Five, Kentucky. Her first job, that lasted only a year, but that's a different story. Bloody Harlan, Kentucky. As I wrote this chapter I couldn't help but sing Tennessee Ernie Ford's song that I grew up with, "Sixteen Tons." She didn't live in the community where that song originated, but the circumstances were the same where she did live.

Chapter Six, The Practice. She found her way to Lenoir, North Carolina and established herself as a physician of the highest degree. 

I can't wait for you to read these chapters to get to know the good doctor.

Catch of the day,


Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Carswell Book, Timeline

Early on we came up with a working title of the biography of Dr. Jane Carswell that we've kept without any variation because it says it all:
This is a portion of the front cover. I can't wait for you to see the rest of it! That's one of Jane's photographs of her roses in the background, by the way. But what I want you to notice is the subtitle, "Family Physician, Humanitarian, Friend." She was a complicated individual who's life can be narrowed to those three simple words.

When I began structuring the book, I realized I could not do it in chronological order. Things overlapped. Things got muddled in a timeline. A day by day chronicle just wouldn't work for this book, so I did the book in parts, chunks of time that are independent of every other chunk of time.

Part One does follow a linear timeline, sort of, although I freely vacillate from one period of time in her life to another and then back to another. In the end, it  makes sense. For instance I wanted to include photographs of her parents and I put them in chapter two, her growing up chapter. But some of the photographs show her parents in their later years, and I mention them retiring and then list their death dates. But the next chapter picks up when Jane goes away to  Flora Macdonald College when her parents were very much alive and vibrant and getting her ready for college.

But it's in Part Two (Humanitarian) that the timeline loses its mind. It wanders back and forth and up and around. Each chapter starts with when Jane became involved with a particular cause and continues through that narrative, usually to the end of her life. Each following chapter does the same, goes back in time and picks up at the beginning and goes throughout the time she was involved in that project. Some chapters even go back into history and give the backstory of the situation so the reader can understand what Jane was facing.

Talk about a structure nightmare!!

Don't worry! Part Three (Friend) ties it altogether in a grand love story that will give purpose to all the wanderings in the wilderness.

Catch of the day,


Monday, May 14, 2018

The Carswell Book, Quotations

As I was researching the book about Dr. Jane Carswell, I was fortunate enough to have abundant resources available. Her husband, Kenneth Roberts, handed me a two inch thick folder crammed with newspaper clippings about her. Believe me, I read every single one. I spent hours in the archives of several organizations, poring over long forgotten pages in scrapbooks. I used my cell phone camera to photograph articles so I could have them at my disposal during the writing process. Like this one, from the shelter home, chapter eight in the book:

That picture shows the shelter for abused women (that Dr. Carswell was instrumental in creating) before the security fence was installed. The reason for the fence is a compelling story I included in the chapter. I didn't write much about the white house to the right of the shelter. It was used as a halfway house for women who no longer needed the intensive care offered in the shelter, but had no place to live. It gave them a chance to restore their lives before they moved on. That building was cleared away in a controlled burn when a small apartment complex was added on the grounds.

As I read the articles I found so many of Jane's quotes the reporters included in their writing about her that showed her personality or her thinking. I knew I wanted to incorporate them somehow into the book, to make them stand out from the text. I came up with a way. For instance, in the chapter on the shelter home, here's a quote from the Charlotte Observer, December 9, 1984:
"He really hit her hard, right in front of me. But she wouldn't press charges. She said she had to go home and live with him, that she didn't have any place else to go." 
The quote is the first thing the reader sees in the chapter, right under the title, and right before the photograph. Here's the picture I selected to start the shelter chapter:
Jane took this photo I have labeled "butterfly on iron weed" for future reference. To me, butterflies represent new life, just as what was offered the women who came through the shelter.

The quote from Jane that I fit into the beginning of another chapter, chapter six, the one about her practice of medicine, sums up her philosophy of how she conducted her medical practice:
"Family medicine keeps one humble. Often you as a physician can do very little to help the patients, but they still give you their trust and share their joys and sorrows with you." from Family Practice Hi-Lights, Medical College of Virginia Student Family Practice Association, Winter, 1984.
I can't wait for you to see the quote at the beginning of chapter fifteen, the chapter I titled "Joy." It is from a poem Jane wrote about her happiness at being married to the love of her life.

Catch of the day,


Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Carswell Book, Photographs

One of the early decisions I made in structuring this Dr. Jane Carswell book was to do it in full color. I tried to stay in black and white to keep the consumer cost down, but when I switched Jane's unbelievably beautiful nature photographs from vivid to drab, I knew I would regret it. I could see myself apologizing to people as I handed them the book, "I'm sorry, you should see it in color, but..."

See the difference? While there is a certain beauty in black and white, to be sure, in this specific book, color is everything.

Since I made that choice, then I had to use every nook and cranny on the interior to fill it with splashes of color. The printing cost is the same regardless of how many color photographs are included. It's page count that increases costs. But then the challenge became on how I could incorporate a selection from her thousands of pictures into the narrative that is her story. There are just so many ways a writer can talk about a flower or a hillside in a story about a humanitarian.

Then I had a light bulb moment. In the art of the bookmaking, the first letter or word of each chapter is usually highlighted in some way. Different font. Increased size. Fancy flairs. Anything to set a reader's mind into the newness of a fresh chapter.

What if, instead of that, I used a postage stamp sized photograph that started each chapter with beauty!!! Those daisies start chapter two. This mountain laurel starts chapter fifteen. I chose that flower because it was what she used with roses for decoration at the wedding, and that was the wedding chapter.

The majority of the sixteen chapter opening photographs are flowers, except for chapter ten. For that one I chose a photograph Jane took of a bird at Fontana Dam. When you read the book, you'll understand why.

Because of choosing color, I tripled my per book wholesale cost and will need to charge twenty dollars for each book when I'm selling out and about. The listed price on Amazon will be $22.50. 
But still, it will be so worth the difference to the reader.

I can't wait for you to see the rest of the pictures I selected. Your eyes are in for a treat.

Catch of the day,


Thursday, May 10, 2018


In case you haven't noticed, I've been off the blog radar for a few long months working to finish my newest project. And TA-DA, it's so close to being finished, I can now announce a launch date: May 24!! In the next days I'll give details as to time and place, but for now, let me start introducing my book.

About a year ago a man in our community, Kenneth Roberts, the retired superintendent of schools and my former boss, came to me and asked if I would help him write a book about his wife, Dr. Jane Carswell, who died in 2015. My first question to him - "Would she have been okay with this?"

He replied, "Probably not, but it needs to be done."

As I've worked on her biography this past year, I became more and more aware that he was so correct on both counts. She was a very private person who preferred to work in the background and give the credit to others. Yet this is a story that needed to be told. Her life was an inspiration.

We had a working title from day one:

Dr. Jane Carswell: Family Physician, Humanitarian, Friend

In the past my books have been in the memoir genre, but this time I've crossed over a slight bit to do a biography, although the genre line between memoir and biography is not all that distinct. I used several memoir techniques in constructing this book...interviewing people who knew my subject...researching what they told me to add more or to fact check...making phone calls...sending emails...knocking on doors.

That's all behind me. I'm in the final proof stage and assuming all is as it should be, pushing the publish button is imminent. Almost.

I'll start with the back cover, created by my go-to book cover designer, Books That Matter.

The rose is significant. First off, it is a photograph taken by Dr. Carswell herself, one of thousands we had to choose from. Second, Jane Carswell grew roses. She didn't just grow them, she nurtured them, doctored them, and basked in their beauty. This rose earned its place on the back cover.

I did not know her before I wrote this book, except that she was the doctor who covered for my own physician whenever he was absent. Invariably my children took sick on his day off, and we ended up in her office. But about the Jane Carswell as humanitarian or friend, I knew nothing.

As I became acquainted with her, I grew more and more protective of her story. I had to tell it right. I couldn't misrepresent anything about her, nor could I insert my own awe into the narrative. There was plenty enough without my side comments.

I can't wait to introduce her to you.

Catch of the day,