10

Understanding The Writing Business

When I first started writing, I began going to writers' group meetings, and discovered I liked happy endings. I was told I was a romance writer.

At one of my first RWA meetings, I met a new friend, Karin Tabke/Harlow, who gave me the definition of romance: “The woman always wins. There's always a Happily Ever After.” No wonder I liked writing love stories. I could create a world where everything turns out the way it's supposed to.

It's a simple concept, but not so simple to execute. People have told me, “Some day I'm just going to sit down and write a romance,” like it's learning a second language or something. I tell them I hope they do.
I've been learning the rules by making mistakes. A lot of them. Then I pick up a book that violates those rules. The fact is, when you're successful, you can do almost what you want. When you are trying to get published, you have to write something fresh, without breaking the rules.
Now with the self-pubbed revolution going on, there are several new ways an author can become successful. But it's trial and error as well. I've downloaded my WIP several times, had to delete it, reload it, and still not be able to get rid of certain formatting issues. I could hire those things away, I could hire artwork for the cover, hire an editor, and pretty soon I am doing a sort of quasi vanity published book I'm paying out of pocket for.
But I like one basic thing about it: the results are more in my control. True, I don't have a big marketing arm and thousands of printed copies shipped to bookstores, but that is becoming less of a factor as the ebooks become more and more popular. I can adjust my price up or down, change my cover multiple times, if I want. I can write under a pen name to try out a genre, find readers on my own, and be responsible for promoting the books, like most publishers expect authors to do anyway.
In an age when people are watching their pennies, it makes sense to come out with fiction that is cheaper, where sequels are delivered faster, and that have unique twists and turns perhaps not found in traditional-published works. I buy hard copies of books I really like in eformat. Good books are what readers buy. The readers get to decide.
No one knows where it all will shake out. But what I really like is the choice.
What about you? Do you read ebooks? What genre do you read and why?
2

TIME OUT. THINK BEFORE YOU HIT SEND.

Whoa Nellie. Stop clattering your sabers. Holster your sidearms. Turn off your engines. Click off the TV. Put down your beer. Freeze frame.

I'm floored with how many good writers (I put myself in both camps) can't send an email message without pissing off the whole world.
Yes, WRITERS. We are communicators. We should be the ones who write the pearls that make sense, not cause enemies. When someone said the pen is mightier than the sword, boy was that the understatement of our civilization!
Being a writer comes with it a set of rules. Be respectful, only make people cry if it is good for your story, get people mad at the characters, but not you, the writer, or anyone else. Push the envelope, okay, but don't push those other writers and readers off the cliff.
My first manager, when I was in sales, used to ask me not to send memos to the office staff, because I made them cry. I was blamed for one or two quitting. You can imagine how I felt, all 50 other people in the office looking at me like I had leprosy of the fingers. It isn't important whether or not–well, it is, darn it. I did make them quit. There, I've said it. Trying to be honest, here. (There's another rule).
So, as I said before, there are rules, but no hall monitor. No one to say, “Oh, this is this and that is that.” Everything is opinion. We judge our results with some numbers, like sales and numbers of readers, but the largest portion is through opinion, a much harder thing to judge.
I once complimented a new coach of my daughter's volleyball team after a “successful” tournament. We lost 50% of the games we played, but these were 12-year-olds, most of them looking like baby giraffes who had just been weaned, unsure of their bodies, and the enormous height they had at such a young age, towering over some of their teachers but certainly all the boys. He asked me:
“How so?”
I told him: “Because we won some games we shouldn't have, lost some we shouldn't have. Everyone got to play. You managed not to piss off any parents or send any girls to the bathroom crying.”
Now, can we talk? You've seen the emails, the crash and burns and long accusatory rantings by people who should have seriously thought about another job other than writing. The names are not important, but you've felt your flesh crawl like a good horror story, burst into tears when someone left an unkind, I mean out-of-the-way unkind, review of something you thought was half good. Not saying everyone has to like everything I write, but unkind is not just in the eyes of the beholder. You've seen the group dynamics of one dissenter being piled on. I thought we got over that in Jr. High. I never want to go back to those times. But some people haven't grown up.
Before you send that steaming email, think. There's another T word. Don't finish your sentence and end it with the send button. It should end with a sigh, about ten proofs and a little contemplation. And then send it if it still holds up.
Let's take a little time out and agree to be decent, people. There's a new thought: Try A Little Tenderness. Now those are a couple of great T words for today.
2

Stimulus Package


I loved the idea of the double meaning of this, so used it on an erotic short I wrote, called The Stimulus Package. An idea whose time has come, as Werner Erhard used to say. I liked that it was positioned in e-pub format right next to the Congressional Stimulus Program, and for a time, my short sold more copies.

But this isn't going to be about erotic writing. This isn't even going to be about my short, or my erotic pen name. Not about politics, either. It's about what stimulates me, as a writer.
So many great words begin with “S”. Or, maybe I notice it because of my first name: sensual, sexy, something special, sultry, satisfying–the list is endless. But then there's also stupid, stormy, selfish and self-serving. Seasick does it all with the double “S” sound. I get seasick every time I take a cruise, for the first day or so.
There's salesmanship, and I was one of the best. There's savings, and that one I should have had help with. Spending, shopping spree–all things I used to do and now don't. There was my beautiful S-class Mercedes I gave up. I now drive a pickup truck. I was just thinking as I came home from the feed store today, buying hen scratch, egg-maker pellets, sawdust and black oil sunflower seeds, how much I enjoy my old pickup. I can get it dirty and it seems to like me even better. All things pass. My cars are now passed down to people who want to pay to have a–you guessed it–another “S” word: STATUS SYMBOL.
There's Smith Magazine: http://www.smithmag.net.

They are the crew that do the 6-word Memoir books, with great quotes like: For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn. (Ernest Hemingway) or Long Walks. Fast Cars. Slow Kisses. (mine). I once had fun with some ladies thinking up a story where all the dialog was 6-word emails.
I won their 100-word Pregnancy contest with my true story, posted on pickle jars. And Rick's Picks are darned good pickles, too. He even told me he likes to read romance, and I'm impressed because he's Ivy League. I understand our President likes the People's Pickle best. But I'm just trying to make up for the Stimulus thing (notice he doesn't say it anymore on TV?). I'm dying to hear him say, “Stimulus Package” on air like he used to. I think he'll smile. Ohhh! That's another “S” word.
Okay, I like showers, too. A buddy like this to rub soap all over my skin.
My husband actually does a very nice job, and he is my real life buddy of choice, although we do a lot more laughing and spraying water in the shower than kissing these days. But I'm not complaining. I love him dearly.
I love Syrah. I love strawberries, squash, snapdragons, sushi, salmon and See's candies. I even like skydiving.
In short, I just think life is worth savoring. That's where I get my inspiration. Watching people, participating, showing up.
So, what do you have to share?
3

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?
2

QUEEN FOR A DAY


I'm probably dating myself. Do you remember that TV program? Some of you might think reality TV is tacky, that our standards have diminished from lofty heights. You never saw Queen For A Day, then.

Five contestants would tell their story. I forgot the announcer's name, but he later appeared in several Hitchcock TV movies. Each woman's story was sadder than the next one, until finally, they got someone who had truly been dealt a bad luck hand. It was usually the woman with 8 kids whose husband abandoned her after her boss fires her and the bank repossess her car. But all she really wanted was a new vacuum or something so she could at least keep a clean house. They would have some kind of audience voting system (way before internet and phone voting), and the sympathy factor was displayed on the screen with an arrow that looked like an old-fashioned scale.
The woman chosen would be whisked away by two beautiful bathing beauties, a crown placed on her head that always seemed to fall off. She was presented with a velvet robe lined in ermine. She had a staff, and was handed a bouquet of roses that usually fell too. She cried and cried, so grateful to be made Queen for A Day, sitting on her throne, with the announcer singing the theme song to organ music with lots of rips and trills. It was pure spectacle.
My grandmother liked to watch it when she came to visit. Being a minister's wife, I would have thought her tastes would have gone to some other sort of escapism. My grandparents heard stories like these every day at the parsonage.

When my little brother and I visited grandma and grandpa, we'd sometimes be moved to the living room couch in the middle of the night when a woman and perhaps a couple of children would need a place to stay, and usually it was to get away from an abusive husband. I learned at an early age about these kinds of stories. I considered myself lucky my family didn't look like any of that.
I also heard stories about traveling bands of homeless men during the depression always knowing whose house to stop by and ask for a meal at the back door. They used to leave a mark on my grandparent's front yard or fence, that told others there was a kind-hearted family that lived there.
I often wonder what became of those women who appeared on the TV show. Did their lives change because of the generous sponsors who gave them new furniture, a new wardrobe, toys for the kids and sometimes a new washer dryer? I always wanted to know the whole story, not just what was on the TV.
I was a budding novelist way back then. I've learned since that not everything is real on TV, just like I learned they can't see you when you're naked. Those were the days I used to think crosswalks were made so if you got hit by a car and you were in that crossing zone, the state would pay for your funeral.
I'm glad to say as I grew up, I never lost my compassion for the human condition, or failed to see the humor and wonder of it all.
What about you?

Peter: My first love at Age 6

Peter was my first love. His mother was a model, and a woman so beautiful, she took my breath away every time I looked at her. I felt like I should pay money to someone, she was that striking. My mom was beautiful too, but in a natural way. Peter's mom wore lots of makeup, and was the first woman I'd met who got her nails done. She also modeled with an apricot poodle named Bijou.

Okay, the poodle wasn't really apricot-colored. She had him dyed. He went to the groomer I think once a week. Had his toes painted pink too. Peter hated that dog, and so did his sister. So did my little brother. So did everyone on the block. So did Peter's father (we heard them arguing about it all the time).
Peter and I had a song, “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” We used to make up stories about how I'd be tied up by the bad guys in his tree house (before I was old enough to think up something really fun and erotic like now), and he'd come and rescue me. I didn't mind being rescued. He didn't mind being the hero. But my little brother and his little sister got tired of playing the bad guys. “Can't we rescue each other this time?” my brother would ask.
The answer was always the same: No. He had the unhappy fortune to be born younger. It would never change.
Shortly before we moved away, Peter and I had the brilliant idea we should put my brother, Peter's sister and Bijoux in Bijoux's dog house, close the latch on the door, and roll it across the yard. And so we did.
That woman used to love making me look like Marilyn Monroe with her makeup. Even my little brother got his makeup done too. But after that afternoon with the dog house, she never looked at me the same way. I was a demon child to her. A bad influence on her son.
I don't know what possessed me to do this. We even put our dog, Barney, in our clothes dryer and turned it on. He wasn't hurt, but luckily my Mom got there in one or two revolutions. Barney wobbled his way out to the backyard, looking much the same as Bijoux did when Peter's mother ran screeching and let him out of the doghouse. I noted how she was far more concerned for his safety, than Peter's little sister. Poor Bijoux.
I guess I was going through a phase of wanting to do adventurous things. I'm not a bad person. I was experimenting. Just shaking things up. I never considered it would be bad for them.
Peter and I vowed to write, but never got addresses. We vowed to marry when we were old enough, and never met again. I wonder what he thinks of me, that tomboy who was always getting us into trouble.
What about you? Do you have a first crush, a special childhood friend, either real or imaginary?
4

Oh The Places You Will Go


One of my friends retired and was leaving for a very long vacation, sailing around the world. He'd been planning this trip for his whole life. Part of it included some volunteer work in Thailand, I think.

We gave him the Dr. Seuss book, Oh, The Places You Will Go, and each of us took a page and signed a personal message to him. It was the perfect gift. I wish I had that book now to be able to quote from it, but all my children's books are still packed, having set them aside in storage during our house re-build. Since my children are all grown, I gave 13 boxes away to our local library. Now that I have grandkids, time to dust of the favorite ones I saved, start reading them all over again. Ah! That amazing cycle of life…
I love traveling, going places and being surprised. If I could afford it, I would travel every month to some exotic place. One of my writer friends, James Garcia, blogged yesterday about going to a Caribbean island or mountaintop resort for inspiration, like some famous musicians do. That would work for me.

In between my writing spurts, I could get a massage, be brought some fresh grilled seafood sprinkled with fresh lime and salsa, sip on fresh squeezed juices, and work on my tan.

The reality of this actually happening to me is practically nill, but I'm not dwelling on this. I'd have to become another Stephanie Meyer (I'm working on it, though). But the idea inspires me: traveling to fabulous places to write.
I copy pictures from online travel magazines and frequently look at them. I think about what story I could write there, let my mind wander. Nice thing about this is I go there without spending any money! I meet imaginary people, act out imaginary love scenes on horse-drawn sleighs, rustic cabins, or in the warm sand at midnight under the moonlight. Each picture tells an adventure I have in my own head, something perhaps I could bring to the page and let readers experience in their own way as well.
Reading a good book takes us not only to a place, but a time. It takes us away from our everyday lives, and for little money, takes us on a journey of the author's mind.
As wonderful as these photographs are, the journey of the written word is much more epic. Imagination has no limitation in time and space. All it takes is just a little time, and a good couch or chair to sit in. And enjoy.
2

Never Give Up, Never Surrender


I loved Galaxy Quest. The law of unintended consequences made this a funny twist on real vs. simulation. The “simulators” became real, actually accomplished in reality what they were acting in the show.

On day “F” I blogged about Failing Forward. Giving up and surrendering is not failing. Failing is trying to do something, and not succeeding. It is as much a part of our every day life as breathing or walking. But giving up and surrendering, well that's a horse of another color.
My first manager in Real Estate used to tell me he could tell when someone had given up. He said they would walk into his office with that imaginary spear through their middle, have the gait and the look in the eye that told him they were quitting. Just couldn't take it anymore. Someone had gotten to them. He used to tell me it made him angry that someone who shouldn't matter, caused a good person to give up.
My SEAL friends know that by the end of their training, just before they graduate, the instructors could ask them to do anything and they'd do it without considering the consequences to their own person, not consider the pain. At a certain point that line is crossed and that person would never quit. Never.
Unlike failure, quitting just ends the game. I think it was Robert Louis Stevenson who said the difference between a published author and an unpublished author is a published author writes until he's published. The unpublished author quits.

Some days it seems like it's hard to put one foot in front of the other, or there are two steps forward and one back. But if we keep moving, keep writing, keep working on our passion, we eventually get there.
Maybe it's just as easy as deciding there isn't anything out there that will make us quit.
So we won't.
What about you?

2

Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This


Spent all day today driving from San Diego to Santa Rosa. My husband and I finished a book on tape called Vanished, and it was wonderful. A real thriller. Highly recommend the unabridged version. I suddenly feel in awe of this author, doubting myself again. This happens sometimes when I read too much while I'm trying to create. But I wanted to hear the pacing of the tension, the way he chose his chapter hooks (and he did it very well), the complicated plot that was just difficult enough to make it unpredictable, but not too confusing. It was riveting. Testament to that was the number of wrong turns we took. We ignored the very polite woman on the GPS and found ourselves listening to her say, “recalculating” several times. Now, that's a good book, right?

Sometimes you want the reader to know where it's going to go. Like the woman walking down a dark alleyway. We are saying, just like we do when we watch a horror film on TV: “Get out of there right now. Are you nuts?” But no, the writer takes you there, and you just know what could happen, and we are thrilled when it does, but is even better than we had imagined. That is what I call the genius factor.
So, I was thinking about that today, as a big black cloud traveled over our car and seemed to follow us until dark. I knew when I checked on my chickens, cats and dogs, my garden, I'd discover everyone was still alive and in great shape. But I worried about them. Like I sometimes worry about my talent.
Then I remembered something I was told: Talent is Overrated. It's all about the hard work, the focus, singleness of purpose. Plants and animals live. They don't sabotage themselves or talk themselves out of being miraculous. Everything they do is consistent with their lifelong goals. We humans have way more choice, and there's good and bad with that.
The boats. I remembered watching the boats, the crunches, the wet and sandy. The sheer
determination and singleness of purpose.
A young SEAL told me he felt lucky to have found something he truly loved doing at such a young age. He felt fortunate to have the opportunity to push himself, to find out what his limits were.
Suddenly, when the sky turned dark and the stars came out, I followed the highway, and realized, the dark cloud was gone.
And now I'm excited to spend all day tomorrow doing a writing marathon, getting my little boat (my story) over the rocky boulders of doubt and back onto the beach for some editing crunches. And then I'll do it all over again.

Afterall, I don't want to miss this boat. There might not be a second chance at this great opportunity.
What about you? What do you do when you doubt yourself? Did your mama prepare you for days like this?

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.
2

Decide


de·cide verb di-ˈsīd, dē- de·cid·edde·cid·ing Definition of DECIDE transitive verb 1 a : to make a final choice or judgment about <decide what to do> b : to select as a course of action —used with an infinitive <decided to go> c : to infer on the basis of evidence : conclude decided that he was right> 2 : to bring to a definitive end decided the fight> 3 : to induce to come to a choice decided him to help>
The most important part of this word is the ending. Decide means to kill off your options. That means, to make a choice, so that there is no going back.That's why making a statement of purpose is so powerful, because when you declare it to the world, you are asking for the world to support you, you are making a stand. Saying, “I will do/believe this.“Ah, but the fun stuff happens when the universe talks back. Don't click me off here, I haven't begun to hear voices, well, more voices, I mean. Haven't you decided to go on a diet and the very first day get offered your favorite red label food? Haven't you told someone you were a writer, to have them ask you how many books you've written and where you are published?This universe is testing you. Making sure you really decided, not just giving lip service to something.Having goals is a way of deciding. They have to be measurable and a stretch to what you would normally achieve. They should have a stop and start time, and they are best when you show them to someone, not keep them in your drawer or under the cat food.Decide today one little change you're going to make to get something accomplished you will feel good about tonight. Do it for yourself, but tell someone else you're doing it to make it more real, so you risk more.And kill off your other options.

6

Cochins



COCHINS

These wonderful, big fluffy chickens are perfect brooders. I've taken eggs from other hens, and given them to these Cochin mamas, and they smother them with love until they hatch, and then are some of the most attentive mothers a baby chick could have, even doing battle with some of my randy roosters and other hens looking to damage their young.
Cochins were imported to England from China in about 1845. Queen Victoria was given a pair as a gift, and, until then, were only found in the orient. Raised by royalty, and, just like the Panda, they were rarely seen outside of the mainland.
Well, someone in England figured it out, and soon chicks were hatching and were presented to important persons by the Queen, who was said to be very pleased with her little brood. They were all the rage. Until they figured out what they would do to gardens. When Cochins go after things, like roses, peonies, lavender and even rosemary, well it's not a pretty sight. My chickens even ate all my asparagus roots, rhubarb, artichoke and yes, horseradish. One chicken can do a lot of damage to a well-tended garden, in spite of the fact that they eat almost their weight in snails, slugs, bugs per week.
I have one golden feathered one, like on the left, several black ones, and one blue Cochin, really a beautiful silvery grey color.
Now why would I bring up Cochins on my stop at C on the blog tour? Yesterday, as a matter of fact, one of my Cochins was beside herself, clucking, looking for an egg she probably thought got eaten or stolen by another hen. She was grumpily pecking all the other hens in the yard while she continued to search for it, having conducted a thorough review of the henhouse.
I only know this because of what happened next. Normally this very sweet hen is no problem, but I knew she was miffed about something.
When she turned around, I saw her egg had gotten stuck in her feathers, and she was wearing it, carrying it around the yard while she told everyone else about her distress. She couldn't feel it, couldn't see it, so it had disappeared.
I laughed when I thought how often I have been clucking around about something, you know the drill, the muttering under the breath, sure someone else had done something to cause me this distress, only to later find out I did it to myself all by myself!
And how many times did I not listen to advice or feedback, or pay attention in a craft class or workshop, and suffer for it later on?
When I removed the brown egg from her feathers, I showed Ms. Cochin her progeny. She looked at it, pecked it, and then went on and I never heard another cluck all afternoon. Even chickens can be enlightened with the right teacher.
Who knew?

Be Positive

Day two of the A-Z Blog Blitz. Be positive. One of the things I learned while being a business coach was that often people overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can accomplish in a year. Just seemed like people got tired of failing every day, not getting done everything they were “supposed” to. And they doubted they would achieve all their lofty goals, constantly put themselves down for even having them in the first place.

I remember reading a speech Nelson Mandela gave at his inauguration, (but was written by someone else), and I paraphrase: IF YOU MUST DOUBT SOMETHING, DON'T DOUBT THAT YOU WILL SUCCEED. DOUBT YOUR LIMITATIONS NOT YOUR ABILITY TO ACHIEVE INCREDIBLE GOALS.

Sort of like blogging in the dark, right? Blogging and they will come? Is that it? It holds hands with “Do the right thing even when no one is watching.” Putting one foot forward. Work as if you couldn't fail, instead of expecting to fail. Everybody is a failure, until we win. Then we are winners.
I read today a comment by Seth Godin (and again I paraphrase): When should you start hyping your book? The answer is 3 years before it comes out.
Brian Tracy would say act like a success and you will be one. Zig Ziglar would say fake it until you make it. It goes beyond positive thinking. Positive action, as Tony Robbins would say, be IN ACTION. Be consistent with your long term goals of success (like don't eat a cheeseburger right before you run a marathon).
You might laugh at this, but I once saw a world-famous natural-foodie speaker and diet planner, who actually had a Big Mac in his car and was about to take a bite. He even had sunglasses and a hat! And he was a phoney!
Everyone gets tired of being on the same treadmill day in and day out. Writing our hearts out and getting rejected. Having someone say, “I loved it, but didn't love it enough.” Excuse me, but would you ever say that to your kids?
So let's all be phonies together: whomever reads this post, I declare you a success! Let's fake it, and then make it together, shall we?
Sure beats being Chicken Little. Big time.