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Love

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?
2

Keep The Boats Afloat


I got the opportunity to visit Coronado Island and watch as SEAL class 288 was doing their boat crew exercises. Watching them learn to maneuver as a team, hauling those heavy boats up and over the rocks over and over again, I felt exhausted. At the end of their training, the ones that are left, would be a well-oiled machine, operating as one unit. But yesterday, it was obvious to all of us onlookers they were clearly not there yet.

The instructors will guide them with barks and threats of all night wet and sandys, force them through all the pain so they can become the best of the best. Those that can't keep up with it, will drop. And there isn't any shame in that. The rocks and rough surf and cold, sometimes oily water for their long swims, will sort those who can't from those who can.
It takes a lot of training, and cold critiques and edits to make a good writer. Great writers are made from good writers that push themselves to endure the pain. Every time we invest our emotions in a good story, we also have to face the cold reality that to be successful, you can't just be good enough. You have to be great.
There are lots of distractions that sometime get in the way of my productivity. I use self-imposed deadlines, and ask people to hold me accountable, declare myself and my intentions to “train” myself, since I don't have a hunky 200-pound hardbody screaming at me. My rocks and cold waves are the things of ordinary life that get in the way, my obstacles. I don't have to ring a bell to quit. Quitting would mean giving in to the “I don't feel like it” place I could go to. But I do write something each and every day, without fail, even then.
I've met Team Guys who graduated from one class that started at just under 200, only to graduate less than 10. That kind of determination is what I was reminded of, watching those wonderful young men, going for the brass ring.
And I vowed I would be one of those 10 writers who made it. How about you? In your chosen field, do you have what it takes? Are you willing to overcome the barriers to stand with the best of the best?

Josh: Writing the Bad Boys

I wrote my first book, Angel, which will be out on the e-formats in May, without a villain. I used the barrier of an angel wanting to be human as being the villain in the original story. But after I had finished it, realized I needed an honest-to-goodness actual villain.

So I made up a dark angel, Joshua Brandon. The more I wrote him, the more I fell in love with him. And what happened was, I knew by the time I had finished editing this book, Josh had to have his own book. So, the next one I wrote was Dark Angel, about Josh's conversion from dark to light.
I even think it is easier for me to write the bad boy character than the flawed good guy. I absolutely love how the flaws and scars get melted away by the true love of a good woman, especially if that woman is the opposite of anyone he has been interested in the past.
That spark that exists between the hero and the heroine, their initial and subsequent chemistry, I enjoy writing those parts even more than the sex scenes. And that's saying a lot. I love those too.
I decided to post an exerpt here, showing how he is trying to talk a beautiful young lady into ending her life and becoming a dark angel, thereby remaining young and beautiful forever. Hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think:
Revenge in a woman this talented is indeed a beautiful thing. He could see she was getting nervous. “Just listen to me a bit more, Audray, and then I’m going to make you a proposition this one time and this one time only. You don’t even have to tell me your decision tonight. You can take a day or two.” The waiter stopped by. Josh ordered two more Absinthes. “Do I have the option to say no? I mean, really no?” “Absolutely. But I won’t ask you again.” “But it will cost me either way, right?” “You’re safe with me. I’ll not let any harm come to you. If you say no, nothing changes, really.” He hesitated to add, “Scout’s honor.” He held up his palm. “Oh, that’s just wrong. You should be ashamed of yourself.” Josh smiled and shook his head. “You have a wonderful future with your surgeon. Well, I have another kind of surgery in mind, one of a more permanent nature. What if I were to offer you the chance to be young and look like you do now for the rest of your life? No surgeries, no boring workouts. Young forever. Making love forever in that gorgeous body of yours?” “How could you do that?” “Let’s not talk about how it is done. Let’s talk about if we can do it. If I could offer you that, would you take it?” “What would it cost?” “The cost is minimal, but free in terms of dollars and cents. We’ll discuss it. Would this be something you would want to do? Be young forever? Twenty-five years old and gorgeous forever? Unlimited sex. No sickness. No sagging. No surgeries to make you look like a freak at sixty? No breast cancer, cholesterol problems, hypertension, stroke…no diapers when you’re eighty-five? Any of this attractive to you, hmmmm?” The waiter delivered their second round of Absinthe. Josh poured water over the sugar cubes again in slow motion. Audray slipped in a second cube before he finished pouring. He gestured to her to drink up. Audray reached for her glass, downing it in one gulp. She didn’t flinch this time. Josh could see Audray was thinking about all of it, mulling over the pictures he painted. Her eyes fluttered to the sides and slightly upward, occasionally revealing a tiny line or two at the bridge of her nose. He was getting aroused watching her struggle to make sense of it. He breathed long, slow and deep, giving her a little help. He could smell her fear. He felt victory close at hand. “God, you’re beautiful.” He meant it. “Knowing you, there’s a catch.” “Yes. One teeny tiny one.” He held up his thumb and forefinger showing just how small. “And that would be?” “You have to kill yourself.”
4

I Write For The Next Generation

Whenever I look at this little guy (see the videos down below) I am reminded of why I write. His little innocent eyes will probably never read some of my racy love stories. I write so that part of me will be left behind for future generations, when they are old enough to understand them, of course.
The idea that one of my stories will be read by someone long after I'm gone kind of thrills me. I'm dying to know, since I write angels and other paranormal creatures, whether or not I will be notified somehow that someone is enjoying one of my books. Will I know when I have touched someone's heart? I mean, does some ringer go off in Heaven? A harp or a bell perhaps?
I write because it feels good to do it. It is a huge amount of work, and my hat goes off to those writers who have full time jobs, families to support. Having worked 12-14 hour days for many years, I'm now a full time writer, but that doesn't mean I can slack off or do it leisurely.
I recently discovered my statement of purpose:
I write sensual paranormal romance that inspires women to feel the rapture and power of true love.

Someone once told me that we always write the same theme every time, that every story has the same issues, with different characters and settings. In my case, it is always about forgiveness, finding redemption, about the healing power of love. Not just any love, but true love. My characters are transformed by the experience of being loved and loving another.
I like writing romance so I can contribute a little Happily Ever. I think the world needs a little more of it, don't you?
That's how little guys like this one get created, after all.
Let the healing begin.

2

Houses

Our house burned down in 2008 and in an instant, everything about our lives changed. I was reduced to only the clothes on my back at the time of the fire: a white nightie. Barefoot and cold, I couldn't believe I was actually watching the house burn, watched as memories and valuable things went up in smoke, taken away in less than twenty minutes.

We slowly began the painful process of arguing with the insurance carrier and negotiating our policy limits with our lender, who was also experiencing troubles of their own: they became insolvent shortly thereafter. We went from one fire to another.
In the meantime, I began cutting pictures out and looking at what I wanted the rest of my life to look like, what my next house would look like.
I stumbled upon a great book: Moving On, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. She talked about putting back together the pieces of her life after a painful and all too public divorce. I could relate. My life felt like one big ugly public divorce, even though my husband and I were still married.
She talks about how there is this special relationship between a woman and her house. She even suggests that some women don't really want a divorce, they just want a new house. How important it is to have a House of Belonging. A place where good things happen, a stage, a canvas, a blank page.

Soon after the fire, and during the creative endeavor of creating a new house, I began to write. And the writing healed me. Fed me. I stumbled, quite by accident, on my true calling.
I'm going to quote her because Sarah says it much more beautifully than I ever could. As a romance novelist, these words touch the seat of my soul:
“…meditating on the emotion women feel when they fall in love at first sight with men; I'm the one making the leap to house fever because I've succumbed to both. Suddenly, without warning (or so it seems) the trajectory of a woman's life changes, becoming “a vicarious route to some essential part of herself that she does not yet fully recognize or understand.” The Beloved becomes “the heroic territory she longs to occupy.”

She thinks she's found him–or home. Interestingly, the name of the greatest lover of all time, Casanova, means “new house.”


2

Gardens of the Heart


Gardening has always been an important part of my life for over forty years now. I actually discovered seed germination in biology class one summer school session in high school. We put corn and bean seeds in a competing lab team's soil bin during the 4th of July long weekend. And in that dark and warm place, they sprang to life. When the lid was removed, green shoots erupted. As everyone else in the class laughed, I looked at those shoots and knew I was hooked for life.

High school was filled with angst and pain for me, as I think it is almost universally. But I began to enjoy watching living things grow. I began to be the keeper of things that needed mending. A friend of mine had white rabbits he raised, and a jack rabbit got in one night and a few weeks later he had a bunch of halflings he was going to destroy. I took one, rescued it. His pellets of pooh made the corn I started to grow healthy, with ears of mouth-watering flavor we enjoyed for weeks. We had fresh lettuce, tomatoes, but drew the line at my father's favorite: brussels sprouts. Whomever invented those should be shot. No amount of cheese or mayonnaise or fancy French sauce makes them worth eating.
When I set up my own household, we gardened. It was great exercise, and as poor students, it was a great way to stay in shape and eat healthy on a dime.
I am overcome with the beauty of nature frequently as I walk through my gardens in the late spring and summer, when the blossoms are at their peak: full blooms of living color and lots of buds for later blooms. Nothing touches a gardener's soul than healthy plants giving back what they do so well. It is the essence of joy.
I took a collage class a couple of years ago at Book Passages in Marin County. They do for the public what only good independent bookstores can do: bring writers/authors and their books to life. The author was teaching us how to make something from scraps of pictures. She brought huge boxes of old calendars, magazines and scraps of things she'd saved, rescued, from things that would have been thrown away.

The two hours went by so fast I couldn't believe it. When finished, we were asked to stand up in front of the class and share our little works of art, give them a name. I had no idea what I was going to say and was in a panic, hearing all the clever titles other participants were coming up with, and how these pictures were mirroring what was deeply embedded in their soul. One woman had done a collage on how much she hated her husband. There was lots of pain and a few tears shed as each person told a slice of their life's story.
And then it was my turn. From somewhere inside me, I said, “Gardens of the Heart.” In the upper right you can see: or possibilities? I had also glued to the page, details. But as I told them this was the way my heart felt inside, I couldn't find the pasted word. And then, when I scratched my nose, there it was, on the end of my finger. Details.

What is a romance to a writer? A collection of details, the look, the smell, the touch of a lover, the way he makes you feel when he walks into the room. That look he gives you when he's been thinking about you when you look up. I can't paint or draw, but I can use words. Words that I hope will make people feel better. Find themselves in a world that causes misfits and strays. Come to the fantasy of my world.

Because, Love Heals in the Gardens of the Heart.

Fail Forward

Day 6 of A-Z Blog tour.

I love this concept of failing forward. Failure gets a bum rap. It isn't nearly as destructive as we think.
When you learned to walk, you fell down. In fact, I don't think you would ever learn to walk if you didn't. When I first learned to ride a two-wheeler, I had to have my Dad start me, and I would stop by crashing into someone's lawn. Just like flying an airplane, take off and landing is the most dangerous. Riding was the fun part, and probably the easy part, except when a car came along or someone's little brother decided to chase a ball directly in front of your trajectory. Then a quick decision was made, and it usually resulted in skinned knees and palms.
I learned to ski when I was 40. I figured if I didn't learn before I was too old to fall down, I would never do it. I took a week-long course in the Canadian Rockies, and after 5 days of lots of falling down, I learned how to ski. I could even ski the medium runs. I even fell on my ski instructor, who had barely missed an Olympic qualifier. But his great skill and speed didn't help him when it came to getting off the chairlift with me the first time. I sat on his knee, and he broke both bones in his lower leg. Oops.
I didn't decide not to ski, not to learn to ride a bike or to walk. I haven't even decided to behave myself all the time, and I'm always getting lessons about my mouth and my opinions, and sometimes I even listen.
Because I'm still out there, slugging away, writing and writing and getting rejected, writing and writing and writing and having someone like my work, and writing and writing and writing, and…well, you know the rest.
Or, like Babe Ruth is reported to have said, “You don't get 100% of the hits you don't take.” If there ever was a chance to make it as an author, and I don't mean writing for my own enjoyment but making some serious money, it is now. We have so many options out there. There are millions of discouraged writers who will throw in the towel just when they shouldn't. And we'll still be there.
I got an appointment with an editor I wanted to meet because I was sitting in a chair waiting for someone to not show up. And that's what happened. The other author didn't show up, so I got her spot, and got to pitch to my dream editor. That was a very solid at bat. And, although it didn't give me a home run, I created a base hit out of it by writing a story she didn't like, but someone else did.
If I hadn't sat there, having “failed” at getting an appointment with this editor previously, I wouldn't have gotten the base hit. It would have been fun to hang out in the bar with my friends. But my friends won't be giving me a contract.
No, I may not be the best writer I will be some day, and I certainly am not the most successful yet, but I'm going to outlast everyone.
That means I better be immortal.

ePublish It!

What a wonderful time we live in. Now as writers, we have choices, perhaps more choices than ever before. I think of all the writers who are gone and how they would salivate at the opportunities we have at present. And to clarify, the ePublishing I'm talking about is self-publishing.

With changes in the publishing industry, the big houses have been described as, “a gate in the desert with no fence attached to it.” You have thousands, if not millions, of aspiring writers, “wanting to get in” and millions of readers who wanted to read good books, manned by this narrow gate of publishers, who were struggling with their business profits (no blame attached here), keeping all but a trickle from passing through. Well, not a trickle, but they've been selective which authors they chose to print, and careful about anticipating what titles would sell. From contract to shelf the timing is at least twelve, if not eighteen months. A lot can change in that period of time. They can't afford duds.
So now writers are going around the gate.
Readers want things, and they buy on impulse with their online purchases, provided they aren't too expensive. So pricepoint is important. Someone asked me if all these ebooks being purchased are really being read. My answer was, “Who cares? They bought the book.” Have you ever bought a book you didn't read? This great self-pub engine works because readers want to read, and they don't want to wait to get the books they love. That was a problem that was never anticipated, in my opinion. As soon as readers discovered this, they jumped on the ebook bandwagon and you are seeing soaring sales. And every boat in the water was lifted.
Um….but there's still the competition for readership. Will more books be read now that there are ebooks? I'm not sure. Instead of the vetting being done at the publishing level, it will be done with readers.
And I'm okay with that. Some great books will be bought and read that would never otherwise see a reader. And some will fall like a stone. Some good books won't sell because of lack of promotion and legitimacy the publishing houses give.
Still, the bottom line is the same: a good book is a good book. With more available to readers, and more of them will be poor quality, I think a writer should get a professional editor to help them with the finished product. There's some cost to that, but the writer takes the gamble because they get the lion's share of the profits. At over 60%, if your books are priced correctly, it's only fair, in my opinion.
Now the writer has to not only tell the tale with skill and craft, but has to be a marketing genius, select a correct cover, and know all the ins and outs of blogging, connecting to other writers and readers, and be fully responsible for sales. Now the writer is in the Business of writing, not just being an author.
So there's competition. Just like there always was. And there will be the resultant cat fights and ego-driven spats between authors trying to grab the same readers. It's a good time to be a good person, and rise above all that. Some authors will do so well, it will blow everyone's mind. Others, who are really good, will languish.
Both paths have road kill. But what I like about the path that is emerging for authors now is I have more control of the outcome than I did before. I can never match what a great publishing house could do for me, but I can promote and get my name out there, and get the buzz started. Maybe it is the first step to picking up a big publisher. Or maybe the self-publish phenom will be here to stay.
And for all the mid-list authors who haven't had an outlet for their backlist, now they can be dusted off, and brought back to life. Who knew? Vampire backlists! Back from the dead…
One thing is for sure. Putting all your eggs in one basket probably is not a good idea. Pushing to be one of the trickle that gets print published, may be a worthy goal, but may not ultimately feed your family.
I like the idea of burning the candle at both ends.