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A is for Angel

Welcome to my first post in the 2012 A-Z Blog Challenge. I've decided to do a month of Gratitude, starting with the letter A.

Angels. I am sure there have been Guardian Angels watching over me for much of my life. That's not to say things have been perfect. But whenever things were darkest, I had the feeling there was something other than a father figure watching over me. Something special, with intention. Something spiritual and magical all in one.

I started dreaming about Guardian Angels after our house burned down in 2008. Each night I would go to bed with the story and in the morning a vivid scene was just right there, waiting for me to write down. I began what would be the first of three Guardian Angel romances, two of which are now uploaded to Kindle and Nook.

I began wondering what it would be like for a Guardian to fall in love with a human. What would happen if this angelic being discovered she would rather be human, and battle the forces of good and evil in the human world, rather than in the vanilla world of Heaven? That her higher calling was, in fact, amongst the human population, and not the angelic realm.

And of course, what would it feel like for an angel to fall in love?

After our house was destroyed, my husband and I spent about 8 months in temporary quarters, first in a motel, and later in a small one bedroom apartment. Everything about my life changed after the fire. Almost everything I valued materially was destroyed.

But what came in their place were the angels and the angel stories. And though my possessions are gone forever, these stories will live long after I'm no longer here. They were a gift. And for that, I am eternally grateful.


Heavenly Lover is Here

I found out the hard way that the title of your Indie-pubbed book does make a difference. I loved the title of my paranormal romance, Angel. It finaled in contests under that name. I liked the simplicity of the one word title. But, I was ignorant.

I've talked with several other author friends of mine. Tina Folsom has been a good friend, crit partner, and my tech guru for the past three years. If you haven't read Tina”s books, you are missing a great author. You can see her interview on my  5/26/11 blog:

Welcome Author Tina Folsom

More important than her obvious writing talent is the fact that she is about the hardest working writer I know.

I explained that Angel wasn't coming up on the Amazon and B&N sites. People had to remember my name, and search by that. Okay for my friends and family, not so good for new readers. No one had ever told me this.

My erotic short The Stimulus Package sells because of where it comes up on the searches: right next to a book on why men cheat in Washington DC, the Presidential Stimulus Package, and a stimulus package for church organizations. I am clueless why they chose this title. I think the title for an erotic short is catchy. Nobody knows who Angela Love is, or is searching by her name (yet, she says as she winces).
Kindle: The Stimulus Package
Nook: The Stimulus Package

So, now we will see. Tina helped me get the book up and loaded. It takes a few days to populate, but hopefully next week it will be more prominent.

The other myth that I've wondered about is the .99 myth. Head to head, even though Angel is right around 100k words, the Stimulus Package still outsells it 3 to 1. I've just stopped that .99 pricing. I mean, it's 100k words. It didn't feel right and honest to undercut traditionally published authors who are required to sell their books, even their Kindle books, much higher. I just paid $8.99 for a Kindle version of an author I really wanted to read. I'm supporting the industry.

At the higher price, the rankings have dropped like a stone. But I'm going to leave it that way, for now. It just feels right, somehow. Compared to my other sister and brother writers, it is still cheap. I worked hard on that book. Rewrote it some 50+ times. I've vetted it just about every way I can, and now it's the public's turn.

At the end of the day it isn't about rankings, but visibility. I'm just looking for a chance to break in the door with something I'm proud of. Everyone says you can't have a blockbuster first book. I now understand there will not be an exception made in my case.

Kindle:  Heavenly Lover (A Guardian Angel Romance)
Nook:  Heavenly Lover (Paranormal Romance / A Guardian Angel Romance)

What about you? When you buy, how do you search? How do you find the authors you read? If you are a writer, have you experimented with book covers or titles? I'd like to hear it.


It All Started In A Garden

My love of gardening has spanned over 40 years. I love the seasons, every single one of them. In Northern California we get to garden year round. I find it relaxing, soothing, and something I just must do every day.

There was a time we thought perhaps we would have to move, and honestly, leaving behind my garden was harder than leaving the house or the privacy we have here. No neighbors. I can water my garden in my nightie. Or worse! It is the only place I can be seen in a bathing suit. I like to get dirty, to dig and prune and support new life.
I don't even mind that our sprinkler system hasn't been repaired since the house fire that destroyed most of our dwelling and surrounding trees. And it was headed up the hill, and could have easily taken acres. We border a great Merlot vineyard owned by Jess Jackson. My hope was for some day to have a few vines of our own.
Gardening has taught me two things: patience, and serenity. Some things grow with lots of sunlight, and other things need shade and low temperatures. I learn what grows well where the more I work the garden. I try new things, new varieties. I dead-head and work with the old plants that send babies back as volunteers year after year. It's been several years since I've planted a calendula, or a hollyhock, or Shasta daisy. They just keep sending their offspring back to me to grow and delight everyone.
I have over 40 rose bushes. My favorite? Chrysler Imperial. I dare you to find a more sweet rose-smelling red rose. Mr. Lincoln comes a close second. Perfumed Delight, Peace and Chicago Peace are also favorites. And for yellow: Gold Medal. For a climbing rose? Joseph's Coat.
I enjoy my seasons in the garden just like I enjoy my seasons with writing. New stuff that has to be pruned. Old stuff that has to be dead-headed and revived, or cut completely. Training plants so they grow strong and give longevity, like writing that is strong, but could be made stronger. Fixing a story line so it holds up and supports a great bloom of a plot twist or character surprise.
And patience. Everyone wants to be an overnight success. To write every day and have people begging for more. To have your agent say “this is the best thing I have ever read!”
And in between those times (which exist in my dreams and daydreams, while I'm sitting in the garden enjoying the color) I just write. I write about my Guardian Angels and my SEALs and my vampires. And love blooms in the gardens of the heart.
Because, after all is said and done. That is really what I do best, and what I enjoy most of all.
What about you? Do you garden? What do you love about pruning your prose?

From Where I Sit

There's lots of future in my future. And I'm so grateful I get to write, that I live on a beautiful piece of property, and get to garden, tend my chickens, be close to family and the community of writers.

Today, I'm filled with gratitude for all I have. Nothing is certain. Things change. We live in challenging times filled with pitfalls and dark caverns. Some people are dangerous. What I have to remember is to forgive them. The quote I love is “Forgive them. Change me.”
On the Naked Hero blog yesterday http://thenakedhero.com/blogging-therapy-or-vice-versa, Misa was talking about being true to herself. I liked what she said. And it got me thinking. The only thing I can change is my thoughts. My thoughts change my attitude. Change my attitude, it will change my behavior. Change my behavior and it changes the results. But it starts with my thoughts.
So today, I see years and years of prosperity, and a future “so bright I need shades,” to quote Steely Dan. And opportunity. And time to do it all.
This is Day 36 without flour or sugar. Yes, I've missed not tasting some items. But I'd rather feel like I do today. Grateful. Grateful for everyone around me.
I want to thank my writer friend Julia Barrett, who I feel will be a friend for the rest of my life, and my sounding/grounding board, for Tina Folsom and Bella Andrade, for believing in me, for helping me stumble through all the ups and downs of self publishing. For Virna DePaul for first inviting me to a RWA Chapter meeting and making me feel welcomed, and offering to review one of my early WIPs (ugh!). For Lee Lopez and Jill James, for Karin Tabke (Black Diamonds all), Brenda Novak. Sophie Littlefield at all the crew at SF RWA who again made me feel like a sister. Veronica Wolff for critiquing, and being the first person to say, “This is hot. You can take that to the bank!” For Catherine Bramcamp who watched as I began my writing process, and, when I asked her, “Is it normal to write 92,000 words in 30 days?” she nicely answered, “If you can do that, you can do anything.” Darynda Jones who was gracious to share her great story with me. My Tuesday “Jack London” crit group, all the teachers and coaches I've had: Marlene, Ana, Margie Lawson, Deb Dixon, Donald Maas. I'm grateful for my new friends at WG2E (Misa, DD, Tonya) and Ravencraft Romance Realm, Hannah and Marina, Esther and Janet and all the crazy ladies at SV RWA, my old friends at Wicked Writers, and for my agent, Jill Marsal.
When I say I am a writer, it is only because these and many more others have helped me in the past. I write this because, without them, I might have given up on the dream of becoming a best-selling author. And because of them and their stories, I won't quit until I get there.
Angel is out now in all eformats. I'm proud of that book. And I'm revising Book 2 in the series, Josh's story, the dark angel who switches sides. It was hard not to fall in love with Josh while writing his character, so I knew his book would come next. All the major characters have their own stories. I'm intrigued with the angelic realm and the space between Heaven and Earth, where all the drama is. Heaven isn't 100% perfect by design, the Underworld isn't 100% evil by accident.
Tomorrow, and for the next three days, we're going to hear some great ideas on creating a Story Bible, from talented author Ana Pergakis. You won't want to miss it.

So, who do you thank? Has there been a special mentor or friend in the business who helped you? Is there someone you are grateful for? What do you do to keep gratitude a part of your daily life? One lucky commenter will get a free download of Angel and my thanks for showing up.

Angel is Out Today!

So happy Angel is out today. Available on all eformats. I know it's up on Amazon. We're waiting for B&N and Smashwords.

Claire, an unconventional Guardian angel sent to save a sexy Brazilian-born painter from killing himself, discovers Daniel has been preyed upon by a powerful dark angel posing as his best friend and agent. Although successful in saving Daniel’s life, Claire is in danger of losing her own when attraction to her handsome charge blooms into a forbidden love. The dark angel offers her what she’s only dared to dream about—an eternity with Daniel. Will she sacrifice her soul, or sacrifice a lifetime with a man she knows she was created to love?Here's an excerpt: Daniel hesitated a second, then lumbered to the stairway, mumbling something not in English. Claire willed herself up to the top landing, near the entrance to what she assumed was Daniel’s master bedroom suite. As he passed through her, she smelled the wine, the sweat, and trace elements of his aftershave. Telling herself she was concerned he wouldn’t try to injure himself further, she followed him into the bathroom, leaned herself against the door for support, and watched as he slipped the tight black slacks with paint smudges down over his briefs. In one smooth move, he bent over and slipped off the gray briefs, exposing the tanned and muscled cheeks of his ass. She blushed at this intimate view of him from behind. The smooth, tanned flesh made her quiver. He was healthier than the charges she usually got. Lean and well toned, this one didn’t resemble the usual cadre of suicidals who had done years of damage to themselves, usually through drug and alcohol use. Simply put, Daniel was perfect in every way, from his broad smooth shoulders to the smallness of his rear and tightness of his thighs that were dusted with just a little dark hair. She watched the muscles move under his skin as he pulled aside the shower curtain and stepped in. When the water began to run she waited, giving him privacy. Truth was, she usually liked to shower with her charges, but it was not the recommended way. She would give him a little more distance tonight; let him show her his dreams and the true source of his torment. Her instincts told her to be cautious. Something in her internal radar was bleeping off the charts. She inched her way closer so she could smell the shower gel he used. She leaned against the wall, letting the lemony steam cover her invisible but sensitive angel flesh. She closed her eyes and listened to him reprimanding himself in Portuguese. It wasn’t important to have a word-for-word translation; she understood perfectly what he was saying. The way the sounds rolled off his tongue and the deep resonance of his voice was soothing. She knew in that instant that she could save him. He didn’t want to die. He wanted to live. He was fighting with himself, and right now that was a good thing. She was still daydreaming when the water stopped and he reached for the towel located on the wall Claire was leaning against. His hands went through her shoulders to grip the blue terrycloth hanging there. She didn’t move as he pulled the fluffy cotton to him, buryied his face in it, and then reached behind him to towel-dry his hair with one muscled arm as he arched backwards and gave her a first class view of his chiseled abs, and more. The place where he had touched her was warm. The full length of this slick, wet Adonis who smelled of fresh lemons was no more than four or five inches from the edges of her gown, but her body underneath began to glow and she was suddenly shy, and blushed. This had never happened to her before. When his hands again went through her body to replace the towel, and he exhaled a release, filling her nostrils with his mortal breath, she knew she had to get out of the room. Willing herself into his bedroom, she rubbed her upper arms until the sensation of his palms was gone, and took a deep breath. Daniel dressed while she stepped out onto the upper landing and occupied herself watching Joshua tinker around in the kitchen below. In a crisp white shirt that smelled freshly laundered, and a pair of blue jeans with sandals, Daniel brushed by her angel gown, not knowing he barely grazed her back. She followed the trail of his scent as he danced down the stairs, fingers of his long dark hair trailing behind him. Close one. Other Guardians had told her if some kind of attraction occurred between the angel and the charge, her invisibility could be compromised. And if she appeared to him in the flesh at any time, it might mean a quick trip home to Heaven. She would have to be extra careful to make sure that didn’t happen.

Do You Think I Can Fly?

I hired the talented Cindy Pavlinac http://www.CAPavlinac.com to help me design some author shots. Her stunning photographs of sacred places has charmed me into a journey and has inspired some of the scenes in my stories. I also participated in a Labyrinth Walk in San Francisco's Grace Cathedral last November. It was the highlight of the holiday season for me.

Heavenly Lover is being readied for release, and every time I drive by this stunning sculpture by local artist, Bryan Tedric, I'm filled with emotion. It is a sacred space for me. You can visit his website here: bryantedrick.com.

If you've been to Burning Man, this sculpture has been there too. These wings move back and forth in the breeze, catch light from all different angles at all times of the day.
When we shot this, the sky was initially gray, but as we continued shooting, the clouds parted, literally right there above my head, and we got wonderful striations and blue sky.
I've said before I'm a Christian with a bent antennae. I believe in good and evil and guardian angels everywhere, as well as much more. And so that's the story I was driven to write.
I don't dare to attempt to instruct anyone on anything religious, because it is to me something very personal. I'm not qualified to deliver a message. I'm creating a fantasy, something for entertainment. A movie in the mind. A world that might be, could be and is, in my mind only.

Rodrigo Santoro

I have to admit to having a crush on Rodrigo Santoro. Yes, I'm happily married, but if this man came to my front door, it would break my heart to say no. And because there's no danger this will ever happen, I don't have to think about it very much.

When I began writing Angel, there was a character I'd seen somewhere who matched the vision I kept having. I dreamed this blonde Guardian angel fell in love with a handsome, Latin man, who was soft spoken, with a smooth exotic accent. My character was striking, but almost embarrassed at how women fell into his arms so easily. I like writing Alpha males. This one was/is a painter, and I decided he should be from Brazil, and be fearless the way he loves.
I began writing the story December 15th. On Christmas Eve, I was watching one of my favorite movies, Love Actually, which has become somewhat of a tradition in our family, and, sitting next to my grown children and husband, there he was. My hero. Karl, Laura Linney's love interest. The actor was Rodrigo Santoro. When I searched his background, I found he was from Brazil.
I collected a series of Brazilian love songs (I don't speak Spanish or Portuguese) and jazz, watched exerpts of his almost-love scene, where they undress, after I'd stretched the three minute segment using super slow mo on my computer, to a whopping fifteen minutes. I could see every ripple of his gorgeous washboard chest, the way he smiled, the twinkle in his eye when her dress got caught, how he carefully but commandingly kissed her. Laura Linney either did a really great job of acting, or she was into it. Big time. Slow motion doesn't lie…
And then I found this ad he made with Nicole Kidman for Chanel No. 5. My story has a happy ending, a true romance ending, but other than that, this was my story, with different characters. My female is Claire, a Guardian angel, fair and angelic, but a rebel, bored in her station of life, looking for a little adventure, not knowing she was missing true love.
Did you notice the Director begins his narrative with an angel in the lower left corner of the screen? In my version of Heaven, not all angels have wings. On weekends they have a golden playhouse that only plays the same piece each week, with different actors: a musical version of Peter Pan. And Tinkerbelle is the lead in Heaven's version, a much coveted role.
How amazing when I heard a translation of an interview with this actor, telling the audience he'd love to bring a children's Peter Pan production to Brazil.
There are several other circumstances that make this magical story one I am preparing to launch. But the purpose of this post isn't really to self-promote. It is to share just a kernel of where all the passion and desire to tell this story came from.
Because as a writer, we sometimes do fall in love with our characters. I certainly did. How about you?


Would you expect me to write about anything else?

There are many kinds of love. I was talking about writing romance last night over dinner. The love relationship in my stories is usually hero/heroine. But yesterday I was writing a scene where an older man was thinking about his wife of almost 30 years, who had passed on, and how he missed her, and how he'd wished they'd had children so some part of her remained in his life.
He was talking with another man of about the same age, who had children, but not the devoted love relationship of the first man. And yet, there was a deep committed love in his life as well, and from that common space between them, they could cooperate and focus on a common goal. These are secondary characters, allies of the Hero.
Have you noticed the pure love a baby gives when he smiles at you? I see my grandson light up when my son walks into the room. It is almost a religious experience for me. And I say that with all due respect to every religion.
Love heals. I believe in this with every fibre of my being. Take something flawed, something broken or damaged, and add a loving relationship, and you have something that can mend, become greater than it was before. This transformational love is what I write about.
I'm sitting in a restaurant now, and there is an old woman who is in some pain, with a bandana on, indicating to me she is undergoing some radiation or chemotherapy treatments. She is sitting next to a son who appears to be devoted to her. She leans against his shoulder and he lets her rest her head. She smiles and mumbles things, and he is attentive. Her husband looks stressed. He frowns, is preoccupied. I understand his pain. At least I think I understand his pain.
My Angel will be released sometime in May. I write about how a Guardian Angel loves her work, and her charge so much, she will give up immortality to be with the man she was created to love. I can't wait for you to read it.
What do you think about love? What inspires you when you hear that word? Or when you hear the name of the person who is your true love?