Hands-on help: Short & travel stories (So This is why Willa Cather lived in New York)


D.H. Lawrence:  “A writer needs a home.”

True words from one of the best. But there are gale-force winds and hellish adjustments that I must make, every minute, just to survive.

Online dictionaries , especially the city-wise ones, tell you more than Lawrence ever did about sex.  But you can learn how to write, to a large extent, by  following  authors like Lawrence.  Read his plays, travel stories and essays, too.

Lawrence makes language suit the story he’s writing.  The Man from San Francisco was written by Russian I B  Butin and edited or translated by several people, including Lawrence. (Also Virginia Woolfe.)  The best version I’ve unearthed is from a university library, Stories from The Dial (Dial Press, 1924).


I’m in Nebraska this month.  I came here to enjoy the winter, though my first thought was “So This is why Willa Cather lived in New York after she got famous!”
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Earth Day 2017: Feed a Homeless Person

Homelessness exists even on Earth Day. Homeless shelters are regularly full & they must turn people away.

Please remember to give to facilities that give meals to homeless people. Don’t shame these homeless people: just get some food to them. Counter any cut-backs in your area by giving food to homeless free cafes. That will directly help!

Go downtown & you’ll see plenty. Try not to be judgmental: just get them a meal, as outlined above. Thank you.


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Working Class Heroines -Heroes


I’m not much of a political person. But it was nice to hear a speaker at the DNC say, “How many of you are the first college graduates in your family?”

You really should think about this, if you did that, too.  It was major.  Emotionally as much as anything.

I don’t know about you: but I was completely unprepared for that world and a good deal of what’s followed.  To be real honest (today), almost every place is class conscious. When people get to know that I’m not from their suburb, they vanish. (And tomorrow I’ll once again act like I don’t see this when it happens.)

My friend Julia and I wrote fiction for over a year now.  Her last book was, by the way, about a working class man whose self-image was real sad.   This hero of hers was based on seeing a guy from the fields, talking in a motel. She was thrilled by how handsome he was, but also by how prosperous he’d become.   And he was working class. Not an engineer or a slant driller with a PhD.  Kind of unusual, even in the oil fields.

She says that she decided to write the novel when her family denigrated that part of society.  (Like their grand dad hadn’t done manual labor…)

(Today I’m being pretty up front:  I wonder what it’s like to be secure, to come from a background that’s just fine, for the work you’ve chosen?  To arrive at a college and understand that world, because your folks were there first.  And when your counselor tells you to take Honors Greek, you’ll know what you’re in for. ((A tiny group who’ve read the Greek classics in Classical Greek, since they were kids. They just need to brush up on a couple of sounds.))

If you’re from the working class, you know what I mean.  But I’ve decided that it would be boring. (I think I would’ve been  like Martha,  in Albee’s Virginia Woolfe. Or Mommy, in his American Dream.)

Well! Back to writing.

It’s time (for me, anyway) to do some non fiction writing.  I found two journals for specifically working class literature.  I’ve written to them both and will post their replies, when I know if they’re still in business.

I love hearing from you.  If you’re working class survivors/people, I wonder what you’re doing, writing, and where?

Mary Ann







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Hello,  the last post was all about visas & paperwork. This is about doing things nobody else does, or they miss the guts of these places.  Shopping is one way…

Today I’ll focus on 2 areas. 1. largest public market area in town. Sure, everybody knows about Wororod Market. But did you know the best deals on make-up are upstairs (you have to walk up the escalator. It hasn’t worked in years.)  These are normal Thai brands like Cute Press at 1/4 the price you’ll pay in a tourist shop. Make up base, eyebrow pencils, mascara, powder, shampoo, henna, all that stuff. The sales people have limited English but they know their products and it’s FUN. You may bargain, politely but firmly. Read labels etc.


There are good seamstresses (tailors) near the cosmetics area, too.  They usually speak no English but they know their jobs.  As in all other Asian countries, take a garment you want them to reproduce (sew a new one). Tool English:  ‘Key Met?’ (How many meters of fabric do I need to buy for you to make this dress/shorts/shirt/etc.)  I don’t know the Thai words for ‘wide?’ But I hold up my hands in about a 45 inch width and say that word. That usually is fine.

Point out any special features you want, like pockets.  Be flexible; if the tailor doesn’t want to make a side pocket or two for you consider a patch pocket or two in the front. Or be very nice/firm/polite/offer a bonus of 50 bhat or 100. Make sure they understand the neckline etc. or they might miss it.  Etc.  They’ll take measurements.  There is also a tailor downstairs in the inside front area near the floral shops.  (This is the flower place…trucks of flowers…)  The pretty Thai bags (glasses case size, passport size, purse size, USB size, change purses, you name it) are toward the back of the market building in the food court with English spoken (sort of). Very good prices. You can try out the bag to see if your glasses etc. fit These bags, by the way, are made by indigenous folks. The rarest tribal ones have disappeared. Take advantage of this experience!

Be bold and poke around this huge place.  Bargain, too.  The fruit sales people… well, I buy my fruit elsewhere because they’re huffy.  Scream at me for selecting what I want.  You might be OK with them & they won’t holler at you.


On both sides of the market itself are streets lined with ever cheaper places, some with better quality goods. Clothes, plastics, indigenous handicrafts.  There are fabric places where you can buy the material for your tailor, a Chinese medicinal herbal shop (only one in town). He also does consultations.

Another large market, the biggest in town for fresh fruit and vegetables (and they do not yell)is down the road that the American Embassy is on, before you get to Wororod Market.  By the way:  the local name for Wororot/Wororod market is ‘Kad Loo ong.’ Be brave and use that name. 3 syllables.

O2. A mall, but an old one with pokey little shops scattered around.   Kad SooCHIANG MAI. DON’T BE NORMAL un Cow (4 syllables), or Central Mall on Hoe Ee Gow Road (Huey Kaew Road). It’s better to say Kad Soo un Cow(Kad Suan Kaew) because there are now Central Department stores all over Thailand. A red truck is 20-30 bhat per person.

So the 3rd fl shops:  much cheaper than the shiny boring shops downstairs and the goods are fine.  Phones (not a lot of English spoken but a little), gadgets, clothes, piercing shops, make up (might have moved), packs, bags, imported sweaters and socks. You can bargain here too.  There are pokey shops to the right of Central Dept. store, too, with jackets at 150 B and glasses stores (spectacles). I have used all those places & still do.  As they say in Nepal, ‘cheapest and best.’

There is another sporting goods store, but not sure its prices or stock are what you want. Sleeping bags are sometimes cheaper. I go to the sporting goods shop in Central Dept. store on the 2nd floor. I get yoga mats at Watson’s, entrance level.


A good glasses shop that still does repairs (for me too) is on the 2nd/3rd floor just outside Central Dept. store, inside the mall.  Very small little stall, very good. Bargain and don’t hurry them.

Just a fast little reminder to get off the grid life lays out for us now.  I hope this helps you have fun and stay free.

Send me an emailfor a personal reply or leave a comment.on the site.  davis-426@hotmail.com. My well-traveled and steamy romance writer pal, Julie Bates, is Julie-Bates.com. She also has good info.


Cheers!  Mary Ann Davis






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You just thought  you had the goods on visas, everywhere.  Thailand’s added so many complicated new ‘procedures’ that even I fell afoul of the law.


First big change: only single entry tourist visas can be bought in Asia.  ‘Procedures’ might allow you to get a multiple entry tourist visa in, say, Germany; but they seem to say that there’s a new Multiple Entry Scheme and a tourist must get their multiple entry visas in their ‘home country.’ (I hate that phrase!)  I’m not being evasive; there really are a million little rules and upcoming rules, so do your homework!

If you were planning to hop in and out of Thailand for several months,  run down to Cambodia, take a jeep into Laos then a bus into Thailand again… take heed.  Read the government web site carefully.  Don’t rely on a blog, no matter how reliable they say they are.

I was refused a tourist visa at Nongkai (Friendship Bridge into Lao) for a perfectly valid reason: I didn’t have sufficient pages i my passport (though I thought I did). The official was very sweet, saying ‘Don’t worry!  Come back next month! No problem!’


When I returned in a month, the official said I owed them $400!  I’d overstayed a month.

Being a writer, that’s a lot of cash to lose, so I pleaded, even wept.  Told exactly what had happened and a supervisor was wary and it seemed provisional: but she let me  into Laos to get a proper tourist visa. (Need I mention that I missed my bus and had to fly home to Chiang Mai? Etc.)


Surprise #2 occurred in the capital of Laos/Lao, Vientiane, at the Thai Embassy.  The new ‘tourist multiple entry scheme’ had gone into effect and I received a single entry visa good for 60 days in Thailand (plus 30 days renewal at Thai Immigration in Chiang Mai, for 1900 Thai Baht).

Further, the photos I’d turned in to the Thai Immigration clerk at Vientiane, Lao show me in a sundress that was considered  ‘impolite’ and the officers demanded a new photo to use on my visa.  Since I’m 67 years old, this seemed a bit odd.  I frankly thought the clerk was joking, so I explained how wrong he was.

The sundress was very conservative, sewn for me in Kathmandu (by a Nepalese tailor who was careful not to make it at all revealing).  The photo they refused is the one in my US passport.  I think the bare shoulders was  what set them off.  The military government is determined to clean things up.  When I taught at Chiang Mai University 10 years ago, bare shoulders/sleeveless blouses were also forbidden.

Now this does not at all mean ‘Don’t come to Thailand.”  Perhaps one of my strongest beliefs for international travel is that revolutionary governments provide great entertainment we shouldn’t miss.

By the way: all kinds of visas in Thailand had been altered: retirement, student, etc. Read the website for the Thai government. Not a lawyer’s site, etc.


The writer Graham Greene wrote, ‘…the hotels are always full during a revolution.’ That’s more or less true, too.  When Nepal had its 11 year long civil war, I stayed until it was truly dangerous for Americans and I couldn’t make it to my tutoring engagements; Maoists were burning tires and stopping folks, so the roads were kind of dangerous.  I don’t think I’d have been so passionate if I’d been a Nepalese; but I adored the rolls of barbed wire and trucks of police…


But Thailand’s very safe and clean, especially in the north.  Expats and tourists routinely walk alone at 10 pm and later. I’m very sorry that I’ll have to leave in a few months.

Do read the government sites in Thailand.  I understand that the websites are different in every country.  Perhaps pay a visit to the Royal Thai Embassy where you live, too.  And do come over.  I’ve been quite happy here.  (An ex-pat’s life is the best… but that’s another story.)

You’ll need a visa on arrival/visa you got at home for Laos (if this is your choice for getting a single entry tourist visa, although there are other places. Read the web site for that country’s Royal Thai Embassy.).

The cost to get into Laos (their tourist visa, good for a month only) is $35-$36  US and available the day you want it, at the border between Thailand and Laos.  The Laotian Immigration officers also accept Thai bhat but the exchange rate is pretty bad.  I bought some US $ in Chiang Mai at SK Money Changers in the Night Bazaar (they have the best rates in town).


Laotian Kip is a dead currency outside of Lao. 100% nobody wants it.  So try to get just enough for your needs in Lao.  People other than taxi/bus/tuk tuk drivers there accept Thai bhat, but usually you get your change in KIP..  One $ US (for example) is eight thousand Laotian Kip (8,000)..

If you’re OK with a single entry tourist visa for 60-90 days max, by all means, have a little vacation in Laos.  I feel that it’s a bit like Nepal was 10-15 years ago: kind of primitive and a little shabby.


But it’s lovely.  Most Laotian women wear the Laotian native dress.  There are lots of French/European restaurants in Vientiane, possibly in other Laotian towns, too.  It really is a nice little vacation, this visa run.  Thailand’s Nok Air flies to Udon Thani, Thailand and you then take an air con van (known to locals as a ‘mini-bus’) from outside the Udon Thai airport to the check point at the Lao border. The cost is 200 Thai baht for the mini-bus.  By the way:  this flight is my favorite on earth, though flying into and out of Nepal is neck and neck (the view of the Himalayan mountains is incredible).


Once you hit the ground there are several little jumps involved in the Thai to Laos visa run, but it’s kind of fun.  The vehicles are cheap but clean enough (across the Friendship Brdige is 4,000 Kip/20 bhat = about 50 cents US.  Air con taxis are an expensive part of the visa run, but the locals driving them are quiet, sweet and efficient.


The Nok Air flight to and from Chiang Mai takes an hour or less and buying it on line was about 2,000 bhat. I bought my return, the Udon Thani airport for 2500 Thai bhat.  There’s an overnight bus which is luxurious compared to other Asian buses, but I guess I’ve just taken it so many times that I hate it deeply.  But it’s nice. Air con and comfortable.  It’s 560 B one way. Best to get the tickets well in advance. The best seats (I think) are downstairs in the very front. Upstairs is noisier and people have phones, games, computers…

Frankly, I seldom buy my return flight now until I have the new visa in my passport. I’ve missed many flights and buses because of bureaucratic stuff.  (Sometimes my fault, too.)  It seems to be more efficient to fly from the Udon Thani Airport. Te bus takes you to Central Dept. store plaza/mall in Udon Thani.  You can buy return tickets there/exchange them for a later date, etc.

I flew into Vientiane once on Lao air during a holiday and I had to stay through the holiday. Then when the visa office opened I got my new tourist visa; my plane ticket was not refundable. If you fly from Bangkok or another Thai city,  check on other airlines, perhaps Lion and even Thai.  But for the north of Thailand, Nok is ‘it.’


Lao’s a rather expensive country (compared to Thailand). There isn’t a big variety of prices for a guest house room (I think the cheapest rooms in Vientiane are about $15; there are a couple of hostels with dorms, but people say they got lice.  I fled from one, not long ago.  Perhaps Savanah Khet is cheaper, or another border town.  But I don’t think anyone gives double/triple entry tourist visas now.


The monsoon in Lao happens at night only and the early mornings now (late May, 2016) are cool. The sun starts getting fierce from 9 am on until about 5 pm.  I enjoyed meeting other ex-pats.  I had no idea there were such fun, creative people living overseas.  Living in their boats, for example.  The monsoon in northern Thailand is very light  this year.

I hope this helps you.  There are just too many details in travel.  But this is a fun little caper!  If you have questions about specific guest houses or other things you think I might know about, send me an email: davis-426@hotmail.com.


Mary Ann Davis







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Sexy Oil Field Lover: Author Interview

Julie Bates is pretty hot stuff and her books are dynamite. We’re in Asia at the same time, so seems right to send you one of our talks.

By the way: New Delhi’s better and one dollar is 68 rupees – that’s real strong. You can have a good trip for cheap. More on that in another post.

Sexy Oil Field Lover!

MDavisWrites: Julie, what’s your blog again?

Julia Bates: Julie-Bates.com.

MDW: In your first post you describe how you got the idea for this erotic romance novel. But what about why you wrote about a man from the Oklahoma oil fields?

Julie: You mean other than sex.

MDW: Well yes, though that’s interesting too. Writing about sex.

J: On a visit back to Oklahoma my family couldn’t put me up but they were real puritanical about what those guys were like. “You don’t want to stay where those oil field workers stay, do you?” Being a rebellious woman, I immediately prayed that I’d meet ‘em. And I did.

MDW: You didn’t miss much.

J: You should’ve been there. You wouldn’t either. But your blog’s about the art of writing, so like Titus says, let’s get down to it.

When a person writes fiction it’s important to be real clear with yourself how each character holds his/her body, how they move through space, what their habits are, the way they talk, all that stuff. After seeing some real handsome men from the fields, I wanted my characters to have that physical and mental power. I wrote them to move and stand with the quiet self-confidence and sweet loving power that they have. And Titus was a weight lifter, so I wrote descriptions of a weight lifter’s body. This sounds odd, but physically strong men – and women – have a real gracefulness and ease,

The author also must be consistent. Like Cody spends a lot of time being naturally hot-looking. When she and Titus go to their favorite hotel, she naturally goes straight to the bathtub, fills it with exoticlly perfumed water and stretches herself out for her lover’s next wish.

When they do have sex, both their characters act like you’d expect them to. Sure, the way they make love is a surprise to the readers. But what they say to each other and how they act out their deep love and romance is perfectly in keeping. No jarring of the nerves. Just hot reading, well done.

This and every sex scene keeps the eroticism and the romance going.

MDW: The way your characters spoke is so great. I was impressed with what they call ‘the local color.’ Titus Stone and Cody both spoke like they do in southern Oklahoma, and he did, especially. But it isn’t like reading Robert Burns when you’re in middle school or Beowulf in senior Lit. I think you did a good job.

J: Thank you. I was determined to write creatively and not sell out completely. I feel odd saying that I believe in this book artistically, but I do. It’s real sexy stuff, but that’s part of the honesty. But it’s first and foremost a romance. Easy to read, great escapism, great sexy stuff. It never lets you down.
As a writer, I wanted to let the characters do everything they wanted, and I felt that if I didn’t, I was walking out on myself. I never forgot my readers during this creative process, though. When I wrote, I never let my ego get in the way. Like if I found that a sentence was getting long and not real easy to follow, it would upset the flow of the book. So I shortened the sentence or cut it in two. I never let myself use long words. I talked to romance readers and followed their advice on this, by the way.
When the book was done, I did some testing on how easy it was to read.

MDW: You mean the vocabulary and all?

J: Yes, it’s a free tool on the internet. In these free online tests, you can also learn if your sentences are scrambled, convoluted, too long, unclear and why. They even tell you the average word count of each sentence and paragraphs, if your word choices are confusing.

I asked romance readers if they minded it when they had to stop and look up a word. hey did hate to do this.

The kind of people I’m writing for — normal romance readers. Over-worked women or just anybody who needs a rest. You can be happy reading my books if you finished 7th grade and are interested in romantic love. I’m also sure that a professional person with an MBA or an MFA would love this book. It’s authentic. It’s about a little-known area of the US. It would relax the most distraught customer Service rep. Or a BA in Anthro or Math. Or a Nurse’s Aid or a History Prof.

MDW: But you waited until the book was 100% finished before you ran those studies?

J: True. I don’t mean to be a bitch about it, but well, to me this is ‘art.’ Writing is ‘art.’ I don’t enjoy software writing my books for me. Then it doesn’t seem like I’m the artist. Anyway… not to judge another person’s way of writing. It’s a personal thing.

Use these free tools yourself.

Sexy Oil Field Lover rated as 85.5% readable. The sentences were easy to follow and didn’t confuse readers. The sentences weren’t choppy, they made the story flow easily.

MDW: I noticed Stunk & White’s influence a few times. Like ‘If you can say something with a five cent word, forget the twenty dollar word…’

J: That’s right.

MDW: Now can we talk about the sexy stuff?

J: Sure.

MDW: Contraception and AIDS.

J: Hey, this is a romance, a love story to ease the mind and the soul. Anything that got in the way of the romance didn’t belong in the story. Davis, we all think about condoms and IUD’s and implants, AIDS and pregnancy. Not here. These two just have good hot sex.

MDW: You do have your lovers doing some … and you have them talking about it, like lovers do, when they’re burning up and going deeper than they planned.

J: Well, it had to be that way. Like they say, it felt dramatically correct. No kidding. Cody and Titus had been having sex every five pages for 200 pages, so … if DH Lawrence could have his lovers doing this, why not my lovers? And the nasty talk: Cody loved to talk nasty, loved to hear her man saying sweet nasty things just for her.

MDW: They did talk a little during sex, and it was good to see ‘em talking that way other times.

J: Let’s continue this later, OK? I have to leave Delhi pretty soon and …
MDW: Thank you again, Julie Bates. And thank you for writing Sexy Oil Field Lover.


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  1. Distance yourself from your manuscript when you’re stuck.

For me, leaving my apartment completely for a couple of hours removes the disgust I face when I look at the mess I’ve created — and long to finish.  Once those couple of hours have elapsed, I’ve eaten the ice cream and taken a walk, the book (or whatever I’m writing) is manageable again. Even the big chunks of text that I decided to delete are good decisions, and not overwhelming mistakes.

For example, my characters had quite a few complications in their lives, and after a break, I saw that the dialogue I’d written was almost human-sounding, but not really.  It still had traces of woodenness. I decided to remove some of my characters’ distractions and see what happened.

What happened was that the dialogue was easier to write and people sounded ‘normal.’ Also, the flow of the composition was natural; my changes brought it back to the original outline.

The day following your mini-holiday is even better. I haven’t had very good results for picking up exactly where I’d left off if I take a big trip, though the decisions I make about the manuscript are often good ones.

Incidentally, Thomas Mann’s rather bleak story, “A Weary Hour,” reminded me of how valuable it is to simply take a walk. Take a little break.  The story’s main character is a writer who’s stuck and I followed his advice.

2. Remember what you’re all about.  Do what makes you ‘you’, other than write. If fitness is a big part of what you like about yourself, then put on your trainers and go outdoors.  If outdoors is out of the question, turn on YouTube and exercise. If YouTube isn’t an option, do what you’ve done in the past (e.g., jump rope in the parking lot, do lunges down the hall, do yoga at home, do barre work on the deck. Even remember bits of dance that you love and do them wherever you can. I once got my grip on writing again in the sunscreen aisle of Walmart. The music was great to dance to).

I like this site, and hope it helps you.  It’s the Library of Congress site, much of it for digitized dances by professionals and recorded music by important artists.  Spend a few minutes on the site for other things you’re interested in.  You can download and play the digital files at home.  One use I put them to is to learn ancient dances, so the time period makes more sense, for my historical novels.  For instance, Queen Elizabeth practiced ‘galliards’ every day, to keep fit.  In later times, the government banned dancing.


Or if you’ve neglected your friends for awhile, send them a fast text. Learn what they’re interested in and what they’re doing.  If you love to bake, get out the flour and go for it.  Make somebody (or youself) a cake.

If you like to gad, go see what’s happening around town. Whatever your interests are, pay attention and honor yourself.

3. Another idea, though it’s a mental, or ‘in your head’ one (and that’s similar to writing), is to look at how you’re doing. That is: re-think your plans for when you finish your manuscript. Cast a fast glance at your finances, too.

Don’t spend a lot of time on it, but gently notice what you’re up to.  Maybe the state of your manuscript reflects your own chaos.

4.  Get a good night’s rest.  Naps don’t seem to do the same thing. It’s good, solid sleep.  (This might not be the same for you, though.) Write down your decisions and enjoy your new life.

It’s time to get back to work — my deadline’s in six weeks!  Take care, and write me any questions.

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