Friday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Rocks, Pebbles and Sand

Some of you may have heard of this, but there’s an illustration that was used recently at our church for a children’s moment. The woman talking to the kids held up a large, plastic, empty jar. She asked the kids what would happen if she tried to put a container of rocks, another of pebbles, and a third of sand, in the jar.

She put all the sand in first, covering the bottom. Next she poured in the pebbles, making a second layer. Third, she started layering the rocks on top of that. Know what happened? It wouldn’t all fit. She took out the rocks, scooped out the pebbles, and poured out the sand, all back into their original containers.

But when she put the large rocks in first, then poured in the pebbles, the pebbles filtered down in between the spaces of the larger rocks. The sand was then poured in. It filled in around the rock and the pebbles.

Sometimes we have all the tools for writing books, yet we feel unorganized and at loose ends. Maybe it’s just a matter of looking at things from a different perspective. There are times when I’m writing a scene and it’s not flowing the way I’d like. But I’m right in the middle of my story, so what do I do? I can’t just stop writing that scene and go to something else, can I? Well, why not? I’ve found my creativity sometimes gets a jumpstart if I back away from something that’s not working at the moment. I can start on a different scene in a new blank document. I format the page with the same font, paragraph spacing, etc., so that when I cut and paste, I can set it right in the original document.

Something not working with your story? Rearrange your rocks, pebbles and sand.

Thursday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Better Fill the Feeder

Right now, I’m watching two hummingbirds fight over the sugar-water in their feeder. The thing is, it’s empty. It’s on my list of things to do today, but I haven’t gotten around to yet. Nevertheless, they flit, fight, twitter and chirp. It’s amazing how territorial these tiny birds can be. And how much they can eat! I read once where a single hummingbird can eat more than his body weight in one hour, depending on the sugar content of the food. Yikes! I don’t even want to think about what I’d look like if I did that.

Sometimes, though, writers need energy. Nourishment. The food that comes from taking a break from their own writing and recharging. Read a book. Take a walk. Attend a writer’s conference. I recently attended the Lori Foster Readers and Writers’ Event in West Chester, Ohio. It was amazing! Not only did I learn valuable information, I met fellow writers who I’d previously only e-mailed, and even had an appointment with a very nice agent. All of this helped me to get back on my writing track. Showed me what was important in my writing and what wasn’t.

My favorite part of the conference was sitting in my publisher’s hotel room with several other writers, just talking about the writing industry in general. E-mailing back and forth is great, but sitting there, listening to others’ ideas, their laughter, watching their facial expressions as they described something that happened to them, was priceless.

If you feel like you’re running on empty in your writing life, better fill the feeder.

Wednesday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Let’s Go Outside

“Let’s go outside.”

That’s something my mom used to always say to me when I was a kid. Actually, she wanted to stay inside while I went out to play. It’s funny that I never quite figured that out until I grew up.

These days, I love going outside. Not only does it get me a little sunshine splashed on my face, I get to hear the birds chatter and watch the butterflies dance around our flowers. And if I want a change of scenery, I get out my bike.

Just last fall, a new bike trail was completed a mile from our house. We live out in the country, so I can ride my bike to the trail, and just continue my ride once I’m there. I don’t have to load my bike in the back of my Jeep and drive there first.

Last week on my ride, I was treated to sights and sounds I don’t get to experience in my own yard, even though it’s not that far away. A bluebird’s brilliant blue and orange feathers flashed in the sunlight, dipping up and down in the air as it flew past me. A Baltimore oriole twittered and chirped at me as I rode by the branch it was perched on. A pesky mocking bird serenaded me with several melodies while I pedaling and steered.

While I loved every minute of this special treat of different sights and sounds, it also recharged my writing mind. Sometimes I need to get outside, experience something different to get myself in gear. I need that spark, that different outlook to pull my imagination out of the mud. And into the sunlight. So the next time you feel sluggish in your writing, try going outside!

Tuesday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Doesn’t Everyone Love Their Dentist?

Raise your hand if you like going to the dentist. Oh, come on. There must be someone. Anyone? Maybe just a little bit? All right, I can see we have a tough room here.

The dentist I work for is a very nice man. He’s fair, honest, and hardworking. I wish I could say that about other employers I’ve had. But I can’t. Some of them have been, well, slugs. The reason I’m bringing all this up is that several of the books I’ve written revolve around dentistry. There’s been a tooth fairy, a hygienist, and now with Grin and Barrett I have one about two dentists.

The main characters, Remmie Grin and Victor Barrett, are as different as teeth and gums. They argue at every turn, while trying to convince themselves they don’t feel a mutual attraction. It doesn’t work. They finally cave in to their feelings for each other. But not before they both do everything they can to compete for all the new patients in their small town.

The story I’d written before this one was returned to me for editing. I was told there wasn’t enough conflict. That the characters were too nice, and needed to conflict more. Maybe even argue! This time around, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. The strange situations Remmie and Victor get into while trying to convince people to pick them for their dentist will have you wondering just what goes on with your local dental professional.

Now doesn’t that make you want to learn more about your dentist? Hmmm. Thought so.

Monday Spotlight: Ruth J Hartman

Writers: Never Stop Writing or Reading

Like it or not, writers often write what they know. It’s something we’ve all heard, starting from the time we had to write our first dreaded term paper. For me, what I know is dentistry and cats. Odd combination, I know. But aside from my husband, that’s what I know best. I’ve been a licensed dental hygienist for over twenty-five years. And the cat thing? Let’s just say I’ve always had them. And will always have them, as long as I’m able.

I bet if we polled all the writers right now, we’d get some pretty amazing responses to write what they know. And, the responses would be as varied as the people.

That’s what makes writing, and reading, for that matter, so enjoyable. Every writer of every ilk has something unique to say. A different perspective on life taken from where they live, how they were raised, their age, and a whole wide range of other factors.

I’m always fascinated by reading what other writers have to say about different cultures and vocations. Like a big sponge, I soak up facts about others’ lifestyles and jobs. There are some pretty unusual folks out there, doing equally unusual things. Reading is never boring for me. There’s always something to learn.

I had the privilege, just today, to send a letter to a third grade student, encouraging her to read, and keep reading. It’s a wonderful program to inspire this love in kids. I told her about some of my favorite books growing up, and why I still love to read. I hope the fact that I added that one of my jobs is being an author will inspire her, too.

So writers, write what you know. And readers, read what you love!


The Floods of Spring
Ruth J. Hartman

Last week was wet. Outside and inside. We’d had several feet of snow melt, causing muddy yards and swollen rivers. Then, it started to rain. Pour, in fact. I was home that day, since I was off from working at the dental office. Our furnace, which hadn’t run as often since the temperature warmed, still should have bumped itself on at a certain point. Oh-oh. Never good. I fiddled with the controls, thinking maybe I’d hit a wrong button previously. I hoped that was all, anyway. But no. It wasn’t.

I e-mailed my husband at work. I told him what was going on. He e-mailed back.

“Have you looked in the basement lately?”

“Hmmm. Well, no.” I try to avoid it at all costs. It’s a damp, smelly, spider haven on the best of days. It’s not what some people would call a family room or rec room. It’s more of a dungeon.

And this time the dungeon was surrounded by a mote. A big one.

Our plumber, while ankle deep in water down there, informed me that everything was wet.

“Well, duh.”

“No, everything. Your furnace. Your water heater. Your water softener. Even the dehumidifier that’s supposed to keep things dry.”

Well wasn’t that an extra kick in the head while I was already down?

Trying to get ready for work the next day was interesting. The temperature outside had dropped again, so we were huddled in blankets while we drew straws to see who had to endure a not-so-hot shower first. I left for work early just so I could sit in my Jeep with the heater on. But I was halfway to work before it thawed me out.

So I wasn’t looking forward to the following day much. Yes, I would be off work, but I’d be cold at home. My days off were when I got most of my writing done. But I knew I wouldn’t be inclined to sit in front of my computer wrapped in a blanket while attempting to type with numb fingers. And typing with mittens is just plain silly.

But it didn’t come to that. I watched our outdoor thermometer steadily rise. Once it hit 55, I had the windows open. It was warmer out there than in here! And with the open windows came the sounds of early spring. The shrill cry of the blue jays. The twitter of chipping sparrows. And the chatter of yellow and purple finches. My two cats sat in the open windows and avidly spied on the unsuspecting birds. I stuck my head out the door. Crocuses popped their heads above the ground, checking to see if it was time to get up yet. Ah, spring. As my body thawed, so did my mind. Creative juices flowing, I dove into my current work in progress with a silly grin on my face.

If the rains hadn’t come causing my furnace to malfunction, I would never have opened my windows. I would have missed the exhilarating signs of early spring.

Who says a dungeon with a mote can’t bring happiness?

Bio: Ruth J. Hartman is a published author as well as a licensed dental hygienist. She lives in rural Indiana with her husband and two extremely spoiled cats. More information about her published works can be found at

Buy Link for “Purrfect Voyage” (e-book) (print)

Friday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Social Media: Try it, You’ll Like it!

I had just started checking out Twitter when I was writing Pillow Talk. The ins and outs of it took me a little while to get used to. Just when I was ready to bag the whole thing, it started to make sense to me.

I’d recently had a second romance novel accepted by a one of the many publishers where I’d sent submissions. An editor, from one of the other publishers who looked at my manuscript, and I had connected on Twitter. To my surprise and delight, she commented that she’d read my romance novel and liked it. That was a great big much-needed pat on the back for me. And it gave me the incentive to submit my next romance novel to them again. They quickly accepted.

I’d heard about things happening through connections on Twitter, Facebook and other sites, but that was my first experience with it. I know it wasn’t huge, like someone who ends up with a TV series from it, but it was enormous for me! My writing and publishing journey has been mainly small steps. But each one gives me the boost I need to keep going. To keep writing, and submitting. It seems just when I’m feeling stagnant and stale, something or someone in the writing world gives me a lift.

We’ve all read about social media sites and the importance of being active with them. I’m a firm believer of that now. You just never know who might be reading your posts on social media sites. It could turn out to be a wonderful break for you!

Thursday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Haven’t We Met Before?

The characters in my romance novels have similar attributes. They’re not carbon copies of each other, but there do seem to be similarities. While the ages vary from twenties to thirties to forties, physically, they have a lot in common.

Sometimes you’ll hear of an author whose hero or heroine resembles him or her. When I start a book and read the physical description of a main character, sometimes just for fun, I’ll jump to the back of the book to see if there is an author photo. It’s amazing how often I’ll see something of the author in the character, whether it’s bright blue eyes, long blond hair, or a slim build.

I’m no exception. My heroines resemble me in one form or another. Most of them have short dark hair, large brown eyes, and are often klutzy. And they are always quirky. My heroes more often than not are tall with dark hair and eyes. You could look at my husband’s picture for that.

However, there have been times when I’ve checked the author’s photo inside the back cover and saw nothing of the characters in them, at least physically. It’s entirely possible, though, their personalities could be alike.

For some authors, writing is an escape from everything they are in real life. Their characters are polar opposites from themselves. They strive to put as much distance between themselves and the hero or heroine as they can. And if that works for them, that’s great!

But I’m like a homing pigeon. I gravitate toward the familiar in my writing and my life. Don’t get me wrong; all of my stories are unique. Each one has it’s own background, struggles and emotion. But I love to read funny, warm stories with happy endings. And that’s what I write.

Wednesday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Don’t Give Up Your Day Job

A lot of writers have other jobs. Probably most of them do. I’m no exception. I’m a licensed dental hygienist two to three days a week. Yeah, I’m the one who scrapes the gunk off your teeth. So my writing time, obviously, has to be worked in around that. My day job starts when I leave my house at 7:30 a.m., and ends when I get home around 6:00. Some might think I could write when I get home at night. Not usually. My job can be taxing mentally and physically. Especially if I end up with several tough cases where patients haven’t had a cleaning in more than ten years (physical) or I have a whole line-up of three to four year olds who’ve never been to the dentist before (mental). So when I get home from the dental office, I’m wiped out.

That leaves weekends and the other weekdays when I’m not working (or doing laundry, cleaning, etc). You all know what I’m talking about. Even though we’d like to be writing all of the time, or at least most of it, there are still other things we have to deal with. Like life.

But I do find myself thinking up story ideas as I’m cleaning teeth. (Now you’ll all wonder just what your hygienist is thinking the next time you see her or him. :-)) I’ve actually used experiences I’ve had with patients in my books. Not their names, of course, or even the exact details, but something closely resembling what happened. One character I used in a romance novel about a hygienist was a surly, impatient patient. I’d morphed three actual patients into the one character. And it’s funny, now when I see the patient who most of the character was based on, he doesn’t seem to get under my skin quite as bad. It’s as if, when I wrote about him and typed the words into my computer, I’d let out some of my frustration with having to deal with him.

I’m guessing I’ll probably always have to work at least part-time at something besides writing. Because I’m not getting rich right now from my books. I’m learning that very few authors do. But that’s okay. I love writing. I love it as an outlet for my imagination, humor, and emotions. So I’ll gladly keep my day job. As long as I can still write!

Tuesday Spotlight: Ruth J. Hartman

Don’t Be Afraid to Change

When I started out in my fledgling writing career, I’d made up my mind that I would write children’s books. I had so many ideas. I had a list of character names neatly printed on index cards. I studied children’s books already written. I talked to my young dental patients about what they liked to read. Then I was accepted into, and completed, a course on Writing for Children and Teenagers from the Institute of Children’s Literature. I wrote stories and submitted. Then I’d wait, and wait some more. Most of the publishers failed to even respond. The few I did hear from were all in the negative. I’ll admit, I was dejected. Maybe I had no talent for writing after all. Maybe I’d deluded myself.

But one of the publishers I’d sent a young adult story to offered something different. My story centered on a high school girl with OCD. They rejected it, but said they would be interested in my personal story with the disorder. At first, I discounted the idea. Me? Write down the horrible stuff I’d gone through, and tell the world about it? It took a little while for me to warm up to the idea. Although I have to admit, writing my memoir never got easier. But I wrote down, in detail, my painful memories of my past experiences, and sent it off to the publisher.

They accepted! That’s how My Life in Mental Chains came to be. But after the excitement of being published, a book signing, and comments from family and friends, I still wondered if I could really write. Sure, people told me I’d written in a descriptive, easy-to-read style, but that was my own personal history. Non-fiction. Would fiction from my imagination come across as well?

I gave it a try. Sticking to write what you know, I delved into a story about a dental hygienist. As my story evolved, the heroine met and fell in love with one of her patients. I now had a romance on my hands. You need to understand, that was never my intent. When I started writing, I never planned on writing romances.

But here we are. I now have one published, and two more due out the beginning of 2011. And now I can’t imagine writing anything besides romance. I still have one special children’s story stuck in my head, which just may surprise me one of these days and beg for a submission to a publisher. But writing romance, for me, just clicks. Who knew? So don’t be afraid, or even surprised if your writing career ends up miles away from where you headed. That’s okay! Enjoy the ride.