Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Hmm, I had written a blog post for today, and it was scheduled, and it disappeared! Just vanished. I wondered why it wasn't posted already today. *sigh*
I wonder where I put it. :) I don't have time to rewrite my brilliant post because I've got to go to work soon so I'll just wing it! It was about being impulsive.
I don't see myself that way--I'm definitely not an impulse buyer. But on the other hand--I've made some major changes in my life that were matters of necessity, that show another side of me. That impulsive side! And here I wonder where my heroines get it from!!!
When I was a kid and later as a teen, we were always having to move. First with my dad being in the AF, then with him being with the space industry, then with him being laid off with tons of others in the space industry. Whenever he'd ask me if I wanted to move, I'd ask when I needed to pack. :)
In part, I'd say I loved adventure--a new place to explore, new things to do. And so I have a chance to go to Scotland to see five castles and though I'll probably have to use more leave than I have accumulated at work, and more money than I have--it's the opportunity of a lifetime. My critique partner is going with two other friends and they're renting a car and driving on the wrong side of the road and seeing 5 castles and I whined that I wanted to go too, expecting her to smile and says she wished I could too. But instead she said I could! I've been through so much stress with moving the library, and all, and jumping into a Highland trip is stressful too. But I'm ready for it! Kind of!
And that's when I realized I might just have a couple of impulsive bones in my body.
Now, all good heroines must have a good motivation for wanting to be impulsive. Right? So here's my reason--I have a lot of ancestors from Scotland: MacNeill (the commoner), Campbell (the daughter of the Duke of Argyle), Playfair (the famous--craters named on the moon and mars after him, and another was famous for his architecture, another for creating bar and chart graphs--and also known for trying to blackmail a duke...), Hawthorn (although they started out in Ireland, and one was born on the Irish Sea while moving to Scotland)--so lots of Scottish connections! Plus, I'm writing a Scottish historical medieval series and a Highland werewolf urban fantasy romance series...so yes, I have to do research. Although my critique partner is going to check out if Highlanders go commando under their kilts, while I sedately take pictures of all the glorious castles. IF I get to go.
What about you? Are you way more cautious? Have to plan everything out? Or are you impulsive? Want to go to Scotland too? Not sure the Highlanders could handle a bunch of wild Casababes and our fans! :) But my library co-workers all said they'd go and help with my research too. :)
Okay, this little wolf pup is trying to howl, but he's not able to yet. :)
So I'm going to have to do the howling! :)
I'm here for my 2nd to last day of the blog tour at A Journey of Books!
And I'm at Night Owl Romance for my last day of the tour talking about Creating Fantasy from Reality!!
Do I have any fans from Australia? On my blog tour, the book shipments are limited to Canada or the US because it's so expensive to ship. And with Australia being down under...it's the highest, I'm sure. I had sold Celtic Clan bears to two different families in Australia and the shipping was almost the price of the bear. I LOVE the Aussie accents, and I love watching programs that show visits to Australia. So if I have enough of a response--at least 10 comments from Australians who are interested in an autographed book on any of the sites I've posted, I'll ship the winner a book of choice. :)
A super review from Books 4 Moms!!
And some of my books ended up in the Wormy Hole! Thanks to Beverly for trying out my books!
I'm off to a day of work. If anyone finds my original post, please let me know, all right? I think it's the move. I kept thinking Monday was Friday because I had to go into work on both Sat and Sun. The weekend won't come soon enough!!!
"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."
Monday, August 30, 2010
I'm a transplant. I moved here for a job over five years ago. I don't regret it (nice, nice people live here and I have a great, secure job), but let's just say the "scenery" leaves a lot to be desired.
This is typical scenery in my area. F. L. A. T. Corn. Corn. More corn. The occasional soybean. A cow or two. If you like sky, we've got plenty of that. If you like hail, thunderstorms and tornadoes, come on over. Wind? 35 MPH is the norm. Doesn't that mean snow drifts? Oh yeah, baby. All winter long.
Speaking of winter, here's my typical snowy view. Isn't it pretty? Maybe for the first few days. Or weeks. But after three straight months of nothing but the snow-covered, flat ground (meaning drifts sometimes get up to the top of my porch railing there), no, it's not. It's not pretty. It's trecherous. They don't clean snow off our residential streets, which means they are so ice-packed by the end of winter from folks trying to drive on them that the NHL could hold practice sessions out there.
So what's a girl who loves mountains and beaches, but who lives in Nebraska (land of corn), to do with herself? That's right. ROAD TRIP!
Year before last, we went here. I'm sure everyone recognizes this place in western South Dakota. The Black Hills are quite lovely.
While on this trip, we discovered this place in northern Nebraska. HOLY TOLEDO, is that a waterfall? Who'd've thunk? Of course, once you've seen a "real" waterfall in someplace like the Cascades of Washington state, this little thing will make you yawwwwwn. But it beats the heck out of staring at corn!
Last year we took a trip through Wyoming (including Yellowstone), Idaho, Utah, and Colorado. Here are a few of my favorite shots from that trip.
An alpine lake in July. Ooooooooo!
Old Faithful. Heck, yeah! (No, I do NOT know that Keepin' the Peace guy. He was in my shot!)
A REAL waterfall? SQUEEEEE! (See that log across the middle? Those little specks on the log are people!)
Rocky Mountain National Park. So high above sea level. Can't. Breathe. But I do so love mountains! Oh my! How gorgeous!
I love the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas!
Look! Palm trees and freakin' sand and the Pacific ocean waves crashing behind me. Woo hoo!
Sunday, August 29, 2010
I love the beginning of autumn. I know we’re not quite there yet, but yesterday when I took a walk in the beautiful sunshine there was a certain snap to the cold breeze that told me cooler weather is on the way.
I believe autumn is the most beautiful season of them all. Here in the Northwest the trees light up with blazing colors of yellow, orange, gold, and red. Of course we always have the steady evergreen trees mixed in for added color. We are not there yet, but it’s coming, and I love it!
I always get excited this time of year. Maybe it is because I went to school for sooooo long I’ve been trained to consider the fall as the beginning of the year. The few days before school starts are ripe with possibility. These are the glory days before I’ve made my first mistake or gotten so far behind I crackle with anxiety. The beginning of school is always an adventure, a fresh start, a new beginning.
Even when I (finally) stopped going to school, I went back and taught classes at a local university. I just couldn’t quite pull myself away. In a fun way, the excitement of the beginning of school was still there (before I made my first mistake or fell behind). Interestingly, I also still got anxious during exams—even when I was the one giving them! There’s something for therapy…
So what is your favorite time of year?
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Have ya’ll noticed I have been absent lately? Well, I do hope so! What a crush to the ego to not be missed! I feel truly awful about my distance, though, since visiting here with my friends and our followers has been an important part of my life for over 2 years now. This is where those concepts we call “change” and “abundance” come in to play. For me these past 2+weeks have been all about our chosen themes and even though it was of my instigation and even though I am thrilled about what has been going on, I have had moments of questioning my sanity!
“What is she babbling about?” you ask. Well, like many of our momentous developments in life, this one started with a simple conversation. My good friend and fellow Sourcebooks published Austen-fiction writer Abigail Reynolds and I threw out this crazy idea to start a group blog of our own for Austen genre authors. That was at last year’s RWA Nationals. Time passed and the idea was shoved into the back of our brains. Then, at this year’s RWA Nationals, we started talking about it again. Halfheartedly at first, kind of like when you say to someone, “Let’s do lunch!” when you have no plan to actually call them!
Yet as we hung out together over those 4 days the topic kept exerting itself. We vowed that this time we would follow through on it, and miracle of miracles, we did! Deb and Danielle were 100% in favor of the idea even with our wish to open the blog to all Austen authors regardless of their publishing house. Aren’t they fabulous? I will pause to tell you all right now that without their support, advice, forwarded emails, donations for giveaways, and publicity assistance, I know we would not have succeeded as easily as we have.
That hint pretty much reveals that our wild idea has taken hold. Within a week of returning home we had a list of names and invitations sent. A week later we had 20 authors committed to be regular contributors and Amanda Grange lined up as our Spotlight Guest for our big launch! Can you believe it? I am still in a state of awe. I shouldn’t be, of course, since my relationship here on Casablanca and with other romance novelist has shown me how wonderful we are as a whole.
With authors flocking to the idea, it was then a mad race to get everything organized. Let me tell you, getting a blog started from zero is a humongous undertaking! It doesn’t help that I am slightly – cough, cough – Type A and a teeny tiny bit of a perfectionist. Who let loose that sarcastic guffaw? Okay then, I am a serious perfectionist. Nevertheless, in this case it paid off. Or I may be hallucinating from lack of sleep. You be the judge. Pause here and pop over to our amazing blog and let me know if it is as amazing as I imagine it to be~~~
Yes? Am I right? Not insane? And did you see who we have on our lineup? And what about those prizes!?!
As of today, August 28, it is 9 days until our go-live day. Starting on Monday, September 6 the Austen Authors will host a massive, month-long launch extravaganza. Every day we will be blogging. Every day there will be entertainments. We have 3 of our authors with novels launching in September so they will be celebrating. We have close to 70 prizes to give away throughout the month. It promises, in every way, to be EPIC ~ LEGENDARY ~ FUN!!
Everyone is invited. Please share the news. Tweet it. Facebook it. Blog it. Email it. Post on Loops. Take our cool badge and paste it on your site!
I, in the mean time, along with the other 19 authors will be diligently attending to the abundant tasks that must be accomplished to successfully bring about this change in our lives. You knew I would get back to that, right? Yes, change is good and I am pleased at the abundance added to my life through new adventures and new friends. I know I will revel and delight in the joy of it all, once I get some sleep.
Friday, August 27, 2010
And all the while, he tries to keep the ‘change’ a secret from those around him, usually including the woman he loves.
I suppose I could also describe this aspect of our Lycans’ personalities as them being insecure in their own skin. They’re not certain if their friends knew the truth about them, if it would change how they were viewed and accepted.
My son started back to school this week. Middle school, I should clarify. I know half of you reading this just groaned aloud. It certainly made me groan. Is there a more anxiety-filled three year period in anyone’s life? If you could go back to middle school and do it over, would you? I know I wouldn’t. The idea makes my stomach turn, especially as I see him make the transition from child to teen. It’s a difficult time and in a lot of cases, a painful one too.
What I remember most of my middle school years is my peers trying desperately to blend in, to hide what made them unique, and their overall desire to be accepted by the masses. It’s not until much later when people are secure in their own skin, when they feel comfortable being who they are, that they can find happiness and acceptance in their own lives.
I’ve often heard people say – “Wow, he/she has changed a lot since school.” But I don’t necessarily believe that is true. I think most people are the same they’ve always been inside. What has really changed is their desire to keep that part hidden from the rest of us. And that is the best sort of change there is.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
This time, I'm asking for ONLY the pitch for your HOOK.
Pitches should look like this:
Example: historical/paranormal romance trilogy
[2-4 sentence hook]
Example: Regency England is the glittering backdrop for the noble and the undead, where the gentlemen vampires are high sticklers. They would never bite a young lady to whom they had not been properly introduced! The first book features battle-born Scottish witch Blaire whose fearsome powers don't help her at all when she falls in love with charming vampire Lord James Kettering, until the pair discover the power of love to re-awaken even the deadest of hearts...
Example: Lydia Dare is a bestselling writing team with 4 paranormal historical romances being published.
Another example: X is a debut author with 5 unpublished manuscripts written.
Another example: Y is a multi-published author of 9 books and 3 novellas with top e-book publishers.
Private pitches (to my email address firstname.lastname@example.org) will only get a "yea" or "nay" response--only public pitches will get any form of critique.
All critiques will be done by Friday, September 3.
BRING THEM ON!!! I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE WHAT Y'ALL ARE UP TO!
PS You may also send full submissions to me directly at email@example.com
Please send full synopsis and full manuscript.
I am looking for:
*single title romance in all subgenres
*about 90,000 words
*series and trilogies: please give me a paragraph or two on each of the next few books
*a heroine the reader can relate to
*a hero she can fall in love with
*a world gets created
*a hook I can sell with in 2-3 sentences
*the author has a career arc (in other words, if the readers love this book, what do we sell them next, and next, and next?)
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
I have been running around non-stop for what seems like the entire summer. I think I’ve driven at least 5,000 miles in the last three weeks through 11 states
and stayed with four different family members and in four different hotels. I arrived home late Sunday night and I swear it’s going to take an act of God to get me to leave the house again!
I want my nice boring life back. Okay, my life was never boring, but at least it was slower. I want to spend a whole day thinking of nothing more than my work in progress. I want to get so involved in my character’s lives that I’m surprised when my husband comes home and asks what I’m planning for dinner. I want to be able to get out of my car without having to drag my luggage behind me. I want to put my kids on the school bus and not have to talk to anyone but my sweet dog for six hours.
I’m counting the days until school starts (six) and I’m already planning the soup I’m going to make on the first chilly day. I want to make stew and homemade bread and spend the day writing and listening to my stomach growl because the scent of it will keep me feeling as if I’m on the verge of starvation until dinner.
I want the days to get shorter, to have to pull on my favorite Mickey Mouse sweatshirt I bought at Disney World when it was 110 degrees. I want to have to finish knitting the wool, cable and seed-stitch hoodie so I can wear it and stay warm. I want to nest. I want to keep my family close to me and enjoy my kids. I long for the afternoons when my kids stop by my office after school and tell me about their day. I long for the 9:30 bedtime when my husband and I have a half hour of peace and quiet before our bedtime.
So, am I the only one who is dog tired of conferences, vacations, family reunions, and children complaining about being bored?
Are you tired of change or looking forward to it? Or are you like me…eternally confused?
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
By Mary Margret Daughtridge
We’ve been examining change, our likes and dislikes, our fears and hopes, our strategies for avoiding or managing it.
One of the things we have not discussed is things that are impervious to change.
Right now, I’m finishing up revisions of SEALed Forever—Garth and Bronwyn’s story. You won’t do much research on SEALs before stumbling across quotes from Sun Tzu’s Art of War, written in the sixth century BC. I found several of them so applicable to my story, I've used them as introductions to chapters.
Here are a few quotes:
All war is based on deception.
For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.
He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.
Though Sun Tzu wouldn’t recognize a gun or plane, a piece of Kevlar or a radio, the principles he laid down are as fresh and applicable today as when he wrote them.
Here’s a quote most people will recognize even if they’ve never heard of Sun Tzu.
Opportunities multiply as they are seized.
So what are some things you’ve discovered which do not change?
Monday, August 23, 2010
Wait for it. . . .
Hold on. . . .
No peeking now. . . . .
There! That ought to do it!
*sigh* I feel much better now!
I'm heading to Dale Hollow Lake today with my buddies from the hospital, and the only place I can get internet is at the dock or at the Dairy Queen, so I may not be commenting much this week. We've made this trip plenty of times before, but there's been way too much change going on at our hospital lately, (most of it NOT GOOD AT ALL!!!!) and we need some new scenery very badly! A little down time watching movies and drifting on the lake will help some, but the readjustment when we get back will be even tougher than usual.
Speaking of going back to school, we got my son, Mike, moved into the dorm at Purdue on Saturday, which much was easier than it was the first time, (he's starting graduate school, so this is the sixth time we've done this) but I'll still miss him, and not just because he does the mowing while he's home. I'll miss the way he and my husband banter back and forth. I'll miss his friends coming over to play video games all night. I'll miss fixing his favorite dinners and hearing him say "I love you, Mom" when he takes that first bite. But as always, I will adjust--and he forgot enough things that he'll be home again over Labor Day.
Dorchester authors are facing a change that we all may be seeing in the not too distant future, and if you've been paying attention at all to the publishing world, you know exactly what I'm talking about. There probably will come a time when all books will be primarily e-pubbed, but I really hope the paperback doesn't go the way of the dodo bird--particularly as an author. There's something very special about opening up that box of author's copies and seeing how beautiful they are, and then signing them for your friends and family. I just don't think signing a postcard with the cover printed on it would be the same.
Books printed on paper have survived for centuries, but what happens when the current electronic formats are replaced? Will those books survive or will they be lost? Will every e-published book be carried over into some massive database, or will someone pick and choose which should be saved and which should be discarded? Will someone a hundred years from now be going through an attic and blowing the dust off of a Nook or a Kindle and even know what it is? The batteries will be long dead and there will be no way to read what's on it. But a dusty old book is usually still readable if you understand the language.
It's like photographs going digital. Anyone can pick up an album of old pictures and leaf through it, wondering who those people were and where they came from, what their lives were like and what they were thinking when that photo was taken. Yes, we can put digital files on a CD and they will supposedly last forever, but without something to read it, it's just a round, flat piece of plastic with a hole in the middle.
Something to think about, isn't it?
Sunday, August 22, 2010
It’s not often people write about their worst teacher. Who wants to remember him or her? Everyone writes about their favorite teacher. I’ve even written blogs about my favorite teacher (my 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Fannett).
But my worst teacher was my seventh grade math teacher. She was so bad I don’t even remember her name. Let me just say, first off, that I was a bad math student. I never understood probabilities or percentages or parabolas. I didn’t like math, but that didn’t mean I didn’t like my math teachers. Many of them were very nice, and though they shook their head in frustration with my continual state of confusion, we got along okay.
But that seventh grade teacher was a different story. She didn’t have anything against me, she had something against all of us. Her first problem was she couldn’t control her class. I’ve been in a lot of English and history classrooms where the teachers had trouble with classroom management. But mostly the math and science teachers didn’t struggle in this area. Math classrooms were always silent as the grave.
But the kids in my 7th grade class talked. A lot. And our teacher would yell at us (I say us because I’m sure I was talking along with everyone else). She would threaten to stuff a rag down our throat, which kind of horrified me. I’d never heard a teacher threaten to do something like that before.
And then one day she threw an overhead marker at a student. Not me, but it definitely got my attention. It shut me up. After all, I didn’t need anyone throwing pens at me.
I don’t remember learning anything in that class. I just remember the day she threw that pen and that I hated that class.
Who was your worst teacher? Why?
Saturday, August 21, 2010
All good love stories are about change. After all, if the hero and the heroine know from the get-go that they're made for each other, what's the point in telling their story? You might as well get right to the good stuff!
But good stuff that comes without a struggle just isn't that good. Heroes and heroines have to fight to reach their goals - and they need a bigger goal than just finding love. They have to want something else: a rewarding career, or maybe peace of mind. Something that a relationship with each other would make even more unattainable.
But sometimes they learn that the goal they're so set on isn't what they really need.
That's what happens to heroine Charlie Banks in my September release, One Fine Cowboy. As the story begins, Charlie has a very definite goal - a plan with a capital "P." She's going to finish school, get her Ph.D. in psychology, and move on to some kind of rewarding work, probably in her home state of New Jersey.
When her advisor signs her up to attend a horse training clinic in Wyoming as part of a study on interspecies non-verbal communication, Charlie isn't sure how it fits in with The Plan. She loves animals, but she hates cowboys. As far as she's concerned, cowboys are ignorant rednecks who torture animals for their own amusement.
When she arrives at Latigo Ranch, the prospect dims even more. The quaint outpost shown in the clinic's glossy brochure turns out to be a tumbledown wreck scattered with sun-parched outbuildings. The place doesn't look anything like the advertisement.
That's because the brochure was a hoax perpetrated by the rancher's ambitious girlfriend. Hoping to share in the profits, she secretly sent out the brochure to force her reclusive horse-savvy honey into fame as a "horse whisperer." Now she's given up on him and gone, and horse lovers from all over the country are arriving at the ranch expecting a three-week workshop.
Horse trainer Nate Shawcross has no interest in teaching a bunch of greenhorns about his methods, but family issues forced him to mortgage the ranch and his girlfriend emptied his bank account. He's willing to do just about anything to save his home, but when he suffers an accident with a stack of hay bales and a renegade two-by-four, he's forced to rely on city girl Charlie for help.
The two of them couldn't be more different. Charlie faces the world with fists clenched and feet planted, ready for a fight; Nate confronts it with a clenched jaw and an unshakable determination to keep his emotions under control. But they have one thing in common: when it comes time to recover from their battles, they both gravitate toward the company of animals - and eventually, each other.
A lot of books are inspired by a premise, a theme, or a first line, but One Fine Cowboy was inspired by the characters. I don't know who Charlie and Nate are or where they come from. They aren't based even remotely on anyone I know, but they're as real to me as my best friends and it wouldn't surprise me a bit to run into them at the local feed store or a downtown diner. I love them both, but they have a lot to learn, and it was a challenge to bring them together!
How have you had to change to make a relationship work - and what do you refuse to change?
Friday, August 20, 2010
So what changed?
Pirates stole my paychecks and I could no longer justify the time I was putting into writing, attending conferences, advertising...all the stuff an author must do to sell their books. Working for twenty or thirty cents an hour? Holy poverty! I don't live in India where I might be able to survive. I live in NH where it gets cold in winter.
Circumstances demanded I change to a publisher that paid advances...that way I knew I'd be getting paid for my work. Royalties on top of that would be gravy. In epublishing, royalties are all you get, period. It's a gamble and in the past it paid off. It rarely does anymore.
Well, I did it. I just wrote 'the end' on my third and final novel in the Strange Neighbors series. I feel a mixture of happiness and sadness. I love the ending. Everyone gets an HEA (happily ever after.) But I'm going to miss my characters. I've come to know them so well. I've watched them grow and, yes, change. Each and every one of them.
Fortunately, I'm already thinking about two other series. Not one...two! One would have 4 stories in it and the other would have 3. So, was this a fluke or can I do it again? Happily, I think I can. I also have a 3/4 finished novella and a promising short story another publisher asked me to write for them.
So, what's next? I wish I knew. Right now they're all calling to me, demanding I tell their stories. I think I need a day off to think about it. But, seriously, I mean one day. I feel like something's off if I don't write every morning.
Does anyone else feel like that or am I the only obsessed writer out there?
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Some of you know, I used to work in the custom home building industry and, well, with the economy (and my words, "used to") you can guess what happened. I had loved that job, working on-site in those construction trailers with the guys. I got to watch the homes being built, wear shorts and t-shirts to work, make my own hours, and it's really fun being the only woman on a construction site. Like having 20 older brothers who looked out for me and treated me with a lot of respect (except that I was older than most of them). It was a fun place to work and the pay was great. Plus, they didn't mind the writing thing. I never thought I'd find as perfect a job again.
Well thanks to that job and one of the guys I'd worked with, I now have a comparable one. In the construction business again, but this time for solar power installation. An up-and-coming company and they need someone to get their processes and office organized. There's a lot of paperwork involved with this new business and I've been hired to help them streamline the process. Luckily, from having worked with the guy before, we know each others' strengths and how we work together, so that's a huge plus. Definitely beats going into a new situation cold where no one knows what you can do, so that part is a non-issue. But there's still the whole learning curve of the industry and who the players are, and what, exactly, the steps are for getting panels installed and rebates for the homeowners. Plus setting up a company's processes.
It's actually something that I wouldn't mind doing full time, but, luckily, they're willing to let me do it part time. Considering that, on the 2 days I've been in so far, I've solved some major issues, I think they're getting enough of my expertise to justify it. I'm enjoying the challenge and, yes, even getting dressed up. The 40 minute drive in the mornings? Notsomuch. Luckily, b/c I'm leaving before rush hour to go home, it's only 20 minutes, but that's 60 minutes of non-writing time.
Thank goodness for the voice recorder app on my iPhone; I'll be talking to myself a lot on the drive.
In other change news, I got a copy of the ARC of I Dream of Genies, so I have to re-arrange my bookshelf to accommodate it. :)
Here's my question for the day: what job would you do if you could, given that all pay would be equal for all jobs (and it would be enough to not only live on, but also take a few vacations, and have a retirement plan).
Oh, and I'll probably check in after lunch sometime, since I'll be at the new job this morning. Happy Hump Day!
Monday, August 16, 2010
Change makes most uncomfortable. Moving to a new home, changing jobs, even taking a vacation. The worry about what to take, and what not to take. The concern that what we take gets there. That we get there.
Even the simplest of changes can throw us into a tizzy. Ever go to the grocery store and the bread aisle is no longer where it's supposed to be? Or your favorite department store, and lingerie has replaced the section you always bought your casual wear? Or someone is sitting in YOUR seat at church or at school or in the lunch room at work??? This reminds me of Goldilocks & the Three Bears. :)
When we're writing, change can be good. It helps to increase the conflict. See? Change, any kind, can make for conflict.
Day to night brings change. We relax, or get busier, or go to work, or go to sleep.
Weather brings change. From sunny and hot to cold and rainy. From snowy to sleet to the perfect day.
Change is inevitable. From birth to maturity to death.
Change can be good. Better jobs, better living conditions, more book sales! But with all change--even with better jobs and such, change creates new conflict. Learning the new job, higher taxes with better living conditions, more writing with more book sales!
Have you ever planned out your whole day, your whole week, months in advance to have all of your terrific plans changed at the last minute? I think of Nationals at Nashville, and all the work everyone had to do to change their plans to go to Orlando instead. Some couldn't attend Nationals then. Some could.
I was thrown for a loop when I was told I had jury duty, and no one to do my job. Then I was told I wasn't needed, and we're back to the normal schedule. But in that short time, I had to make arrangements for my absence in the event I was absent. Since so many were on vacation, it was a major deal.
Change can be an inspiration. In writing, changing where we write, what we listen to, whose point of view we're telling the story in, the time of day, the weather conditions, any of these things can help us to break through our self-imposed writer's block.
Here is a little known fact about me: I used to be the world's pickiest eater. I'm still really bad about trying new foods. My mother used to call me a stick-in-the-mud. But sometimes I surprise even myself and try something new and voila! I have a new favorite food to eat. Change can be getting out of the rut we place ourselves in.
Normally, the idea of eating a blackberry would not appeal. But in Oregon, we picked wild blackberries and made them into the most delicious blackberry jam. Hmmm-hmm. My wolves love them too. :)
Change can be conflictive, but it can be good too. :)
What about you? Have you made any changes lately that ended up turning out well?
Also, I'm here today at Star-Crossed Romance with Lynda Scott. Thanks, Lynda, for having me!
And I'm talking about Making the PARANormal seem Normal. :)
And thanks to Robin for getting my post up that I forgot to Publish Post with a time and instead it's sitting there in draft mode this morning! :) Have a safe trip!
"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."
Sunday, August 15, 2010
As a reader, my favorite books feature highly developed characters who somehow evolve or change through the course of the novel. Coming of age stories? Love them! That is why, when I exchange my reader’s hat for my writer’s one, I believe developing my character arcs is of utmost importance. Don’t get me wrong, the plot is important, too—some highly successful authors focus solely on plot and their heroine in book one is the exact same heroine in book seventy-three (yawn!)—but if a main character does not change in some way, she doesn’t feel real to me. I want to read about characters who are so real, I feel like I could give them a call and ask, “What’s up? Did you ever get those bullet holes in your refrigerator door patched?”
Let’s face it, when shitake happens in real life, people change. If someone breaks into your house and shoots up your refrigerator, you are going to change. Probably permanently. You might fear leftover meatloaf for the rest of your life. Ever see what an AK-47 assault rifle can do to a meatloaf? Eh, me neither. You might feel the strange need to put a refrigerator in every room of your house. It was a good place to hide in the last shoot out, why wouldn’t it be in the next one? You could change in an infinite number of ways—big or small, incredible or mundane. The only outcome I’m not buying is that the experience didn’t change you at all.
Authors put their characters through more shitake (…I do like mushrooms…) in three hundred pages than most real people see in their entire lifetime. So I strongly believe that characters should respond to all that shitake we authors call “plot” and come out the other side a changed person—for better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in…(sorry, lost my train of thought). In order for me to be a happy reader, the main characters need to change in a realistic way, otherwise, I feel cheated and I won’t be reading book seventy-three in the series, or even book two. Now let’s make it clear that this is my personal opinion. Others obviously disagree as they will read all 73 titles of "Heroine Never Changes, Ages, or Pees" a minimum of seven times and will preorder book 74 two years in advance.
So now I finally get around to the title of this blog—change of heart. (Digress much, Olivia? Why yes, yes, I do.) I just “finished” writing the third book in the Sinners on Tour series. Editor extraordinaire, Deb Werksman, hasn’t read it yet, so I know it’s not really finished. I’m starting to see a theme emerge in the series. A theme I didn’t plan. In every book so far, either the heroine, or the hero, or both have a change of heart. They weren’t seeking love at the beginning. In fact, they didn’t want anything to do with love. Somehow they have to get beyond their “love is for suckers” mentality and find their happily ever after, which every romance writer knows is an absolute must.
A change of heart is especially true in the case of my first heroine, Human Sexuality Professor Myrna Evans. Her ex-husband was so verbally and emotionally abusive that she can’t stand to hear the word “love”. It makes her all PTSD, freaked out, don’t-you-dare-say-that-word, heeby jeebied. Through the course of Backstage Pass (release date October 1, 2010), Myrna changes. She mostly changes because her hero—lead guitarist, be-still-my-palpating-heart, Brian Sinclair—is the most caring, understanding, patient, loving, romantic, and giving rock legend who ever wrote a guitar solo on his lover’s naked body. And it doesn’t hurt that he’s hotter than habanero and really, really good in bed. Somewhere along the way, Myrna had a change of heart. She had to. She’s one of my favorite characters, I put her through a lot of shitake, and she deserves her happily ever after.
Do you think it’s essential for main characters to evolve/change in a novel or are there cases where characters should remain entirely unchanged from start to finish? What are some of your favorite characters and why do you like them?
And while we’re talking about "Change of Heart", look how much Cyndi Lauper has changed. I remember when this song was popular.
Nostalgic-type stuff of the same song for comparison.
Isn’t change great?
Saturday, August 14, 2010
So there I was in the middle of June, I blinked, there was a strange rushing noise and a blur, and now it’s the middle of August. I don’t want to alarm anyone, but I have a strong suspicion it was a temporal anomaly, possibly hallmarking the end of the world as we know it. No worries though, I don’t want to freak anyone out. Besides, it could also be that I was abducted by aliens, which would only freak me out.
Ok, so the point? Yes, yes I have a point, I’ll get there don’t rush me; I’m still recovering from the after effects of the alien probe. Ok, the point –
ONLY TWO MORE WEEKS BEFORE SCHOOL STARTS!!!!!
My babies, my daring little pumpkins, are starting “big” school! Yes, my precious little angels will be starting elementary school. WAAAH! I’m not ready! How did this happen? I remember them being born, I think there was something about diapers, and then… strange rushing sound, blur, and now they are off to school! More temporal anomalies? Honestly, I hope NASA is looking into this!
I do remember when my babies were young and time seemed to be suspended in the abyss. I had two babies 14 months apart (can I get an “oh, you poor dear!”), and I feared I would be stuck wiping stinky bottoms for all of eternity. Yet now running across the old diaper pail in the garage makes me misty… or maybe it’s the smell making my eyes water. Whatever the reason, I sometimes long for a day with my little babies again, cuddling, napping, and playing peek-a-boo. You know, before I taught them to walk and they started running away from me.
It occurs to me that writing a book is like raising a baby. You work and work and work harder than you’ve ever done before. You fear they will NEVER grow up and be on their own, wearing shiny new covers, sitting proudly on the new release rack of Borders. And then, when you least expect it (even if you’ve been waiting 18 months for its release, it still comes as a surprise –don’t ask me why, I wager it’s more temporal anomaly stuff), you are holding your manuscript all grown up as a real live book! And as great as it is, there are always the “what ifs”. What if nobody likes my book? What if no one sits by her at lunchtime or plays with her at recess?
Ok, I’m a mess and mixing my metaphors. I did have my worries with my first book, but it went better than I expected. She made lots of friends and it was an amazing experience. Now if only I can say the same for sending my little babies out into the big world!
Any advice for a neurotic mom on how to let go? I could use some therapy here!
Friday, August 13, 2010
My dad hated it. Probably one of the main reasons they divorced! I sort of liked it. My mom was a fabulous artist who made a living painting signs for the small town we lived in. It is a fact that by the time we moved away after I finished college, at least 80% of the business signs in town was a Marge Shelly original. When she painted the house, or a sign, it was a work of art. Murals on the wall, unusual colors and paint techniques, multiple designs. And she somehow found the money in our tight budget to coordinate the bed coverings and curtains. It always looked beautiful and I think she instinctively comprehended feng shui before the Chinese did!
When I finally had a house of my own I knew I did not want to physically move as often as I did when a child. But I did like the idea of creatively painting, wallpapering, and redecorating. You know what I quickly discovered? Doing all that stuff is really hard work! Painting is backbreaking labor, wallpaper never hangs right, and moving heavy sofas alone will sprain several muscles!
How did my mom do it? I have no idea, but I now respect her strength more than I did before. Then I just thought she was a bit daft. Dad thought she was purposely trying to drive him insane, which maybe she was, come to think of it! Or perhaps there was a strain of gypsy blood in her. Who knows? At least life was never boring living with my mom.
My kids have to live with the same furniture, the same bedroom motif, and the same house. I will buy new curtains from time to time and their comforters have been updated, but that is as far as it goes. I have decided I do NOT like change after all. I guess the gypsy blood dwindled out. Recently I got a wild hair – to quote my aghast husband – and semi-rearranged the living room. I got rid of an old stereo that took up too much space, moved the DVD pantry about three feet over (with the help of my 6’3” son), and redistributed the knick-knacks. It took me two whole days. I wanted to move the sofa and chairs, but my OCD husband nearly suffered a stroke at the idea and the kids protested, so they remain as is. Fine by me since those suckers are heavy! And I can guarantee you that unless we win the lottery and buy a mansion on the coast, they will stay this way for another 10 years.
So, as you can see, when it comes to my household at least: Me + change = as little as possible!
How about you? Like me or do you have a wee spot of gypsy in your soul?
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Our very own RITA nominee, LAURIE BROWN at the Literacy Signing.
Laurie Brown, Carolyn Brown and Cheryl Brooks all in a row at the literacy signing--how fun! Here they are with Deb.
(Our sign, with my rudimentary hanging technique)
and of course, the three D's (who were joined by an L this year, but she wasn't in any of the photos!)...
There were many more photos, which might make appearances in future blogs :) What were your favorite parts about Nationals this year?
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Do you remember that stuff that used to clink in your pocket back before it was all replaced by debit cards and checks? You probably coveted it, and stuffed it into your piggy bank, saving it up for some special treat or another.
I can remember when I was in my teens and I would count change to have enough gas to get from one place to another. And when I was even younger and I picked up change I found on the sidewalk. I’m curious to know how many people pick it up, now. “Find a penny, pick it up. All day long, you’ll have good luck.” Of course, that only works if the penny is on heads, for some reason. I never did understand that part.
At some point, the coins in your pocket become inconsequential. I don’t know when it happens. Maybe it’s when you get that first paycheck from your first job and you open a bank account. Instead of having the change clinking in your pocket, you have a debit card you swipe everywhere you go. Let’s face it -- it’s just easier to swipe a card than it is to use cash and coins.
But, I’ve recently had an opportunity to go back to change. My boys are fifteen and six. My oldest has a bank account and he’s very much in love with the debit card. He earns money and puts it in his account and spends it when he wants something. But then the six-year-old started taking notice. He decided that he wants to earn some money, too. So, change jar, here we come.
He’s one of those kids that says “I want that,” to every commercial. He recently saw pillow pets on TV. When he said “I want that,” I asked “How much money do you have?” He looked at me, quite befuddled for a few minutes, and then my oldest said “Come and help me unload the dishwasher and I’ll give you a dime.” Yes, you can probably see the upcoming pattern. Dishes were my fifteen-year-old’s job. Now they take turns. And it all started with that dime. My youngest very quickly learned that he could walk the dogs, feed the cats or the chickens, help put the laundry away, and he could virtually do any job my fifteen-year-old was saddled with, and he could earn a dime each time.
Within about a month, he had enough change saved up for that pillow pet. And he takes it everywhere. When he wakes up, that ladybug comes downstairs with him. And he takes great pride in the fact that he earned that thing all by himself.
By the way, my youngest just told me he wants a quarter for doing the dishes. It’s extortion, I tell you.
Do you save your change? For something big like that pillow pet was to my six-year-old? Or for drinks in a drink machine at work like my husband does? Do you toss it in a jar and roll it up every few years, when the jar overflows?
(Someone once told me that the only constant in life is change. My oldest will be in college soon. My youngest is going into first grade. I think that person was right.)
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
For the first time all summer, I have all three of my kids home and I’m having a hard time setting limits. I haven’t seen my Boy Scout for 8 weeks and look forward to our late night talks, Twinkle Toes gets so little Mom time during the year, I need to take advantage of the 31 days she’ll be home before school and dance pull her away again. And my youngest is walking that tight wire between childhood and becoming a young adult—a precarious time at best, so for the next month, I’m busy being mom 24/7.
My husband and I like to take advantage of having the whole family together, and this summer, I’ve seen the kids enjoy it too. I guess all the years of family dinners (no TV, no toys at the table, no excuses to cut out early) have really paid off. When I talked to the kids about what they want to do while we’re all home together, the one thing everyone has mentioned was to have as many family dinners together as they possible. I’m so glad they treasure family time. It’s important to all of us, and it’s something that my husband and I have worked hard to instill in our children. Still, no matter how much I love having my kids around, part of me looks forward to the first day of school.
To me, the first day of school is like the first day of the New Year. It’s a great time for making resolutions. It’s the time when the family gets into some sort of routine, which is great for making new habits and improving old ones.
Once the kids go back to school, I’ll have my office to myself. I look forward to getting on the Wii and beginning my workout routine afresh. I will no longer feel guilty about letting it go. I’m just going to concentrate on the things I can improve.
I went to a great workshop at Nationals put on by Michelle Butler, Tawny Webber, and Trish Milburn. They have a wonderful blog called The Healthy Writer Blog and I’ve decided to take a page out of Michelle Butler’s book and give myself a year. I’m going to do things to keep myself healthy and if it ends up with me losing weight—that would be great. If it just makes me happier and healthier—that works too.
I will have six and one half hours a day to devote to my writing and myself. Every day I will start fresh.
My goals are to:
• Work out on my Wii
• Walk on my treadmill desk while I work
• Take my dog for a walk
• Keep track of what I eat on a great website and iPhone app called
My Fitness Pal.
• Keep track of my workout.
There is nothing earth shattering in my plan, it’s clean, it’s simple and by starting fresh every day, I have a great chance for success. My husband put together a spreadsheet to help me keep track of my writing progress and he’s going to add a page for my workout progress. I’m going to work hard to keep track of my success but not let the lack of success equal failure.
I’m looking forward to making changes in my life at a time of new beginnings for the whole family. I’m going to celebrate all my successes, and the new habits I’m forming. Sometimes change is a good thing!
So, for all of you who have kids going back to school, do you look at it as a new beginning? If you had a School Year’s Resolution, what would it be?
Monday, August 9, 2010
Actually, I really enjoyed all subjects…except for math. I never quite ‘got’ mathematics. Oh, I managed to get good grades, and the lower math made sense to me. But once I got into quantitative theory and algebraic equations, I felt lost. I sensed the concepts, but I never truly had that complete understanding of the principles.
English, on the other hand, was intuitive. I didn’t even need to know all my prepositional phrases or adverbs. I just ‘got’ it, deep down in my gut. Whereas I had to work at math, I barely had to try in English to get a good grade. And I loved it. Which makes me wonder: do we love something because we’re good at it, or are we good at it because we love it?
I did a lot of creative writing in grade school, but not so much in high school or college (I majored in business—there were just too many practical applications for that degree not to pursue it). But in almost every class I had to do book reports…and I loved them, no matter the subject. I loved structuring them, writing about a subject to make it fun (I actually had to do one for math, and illustrated the word problems). I even loved creating covers for them (I did one for science where I used aluminum foil with cutouts for the cover. The teacher loved it, the kids all looked at me like I was weird.)
I guess I should have known then that I would one day become a writer. The rest of the students would groan whenever the professor mentioned a book report. And I would secretly sigh with delight.
And now, I’m writing books of my very own.
So I guess you are good at what you love…or maybe you love it cause you’re good at it.
Oh, heck, I don’t think it truly matters, just as long as you find it. Is there something you loved in school that you wound up pursuing in your career? I’d love to hear about it!
My Magical Best,
Sunday, August 8, 2010
First off, I'm starting book eight in The Cat Star Chronicles, and for the first time ever, I actually have a synopsis to go by. This doesn't necessarily mean that I will follow it to the letter, but I do have some idea of where it's going. I also came up with a title and a premise for book nine, but the plot remains a mystery. All I have is this image of a Zetithian with long black hair on a big, black horse. . . and nothing else. No clothes, no bridle, no saddle--you get the idea. I don't know about you, but just watching him ride in and then ride off into the sunset would be enough for me. Not enough for our dear editor, of course, but it's a place to start.
Major changes have also been happening at the hospital where I have worked for the past twenty years. We were bought by one of the biggest health care systems in the country, but things have not gone smoothly. The best I can say about it is that I've been off for about two weeks, and ignorance, at least in this case, is truly bliss.
On the home front, my eldest son, Mike, is heading back to Purdue to start graduate school next weekend. Just when I get used to having him around, he's gone again.
I could go on, but why bother? The real challenge is to figure out how to deal with it. I'm the first to admit that I haven't always handled it well, but lately I've reached a somewhat fatalistic stage where I realize that change will occur whether I like it or not, and there's not a whole helluva lot I can do about it.
Perhaps the change in me has occurred as a result of all the changes in the world around me. I've reached a point where the only thing I can do is accept it. I don't have to like it--though it would be nice if I did--but I'm not going to waste energy trying to fight it. I still put in my two cents worth, so I can't say I just rolled over and played dead, but the mental stress doesn't do me or anyone else any good, so why succumb to it?
There are those who love having drama in their lives and feel lost without it. I'm not one of those people. I only want things to flow smoothly and don't go looking for trouble. I leave that to my characters!
But, of course, there are some times when change is a VERY good thing!
Saturday, August 7, 2010
When I was a teenager, the best part about going back to school was definitely the shopping. By the time I was thirteen or fourteen, my mom would just give me an envelope with cash and tell me that was all I had for the whole year, so I’d better spend it wisely. She’d drop me off at the mall, and I’d do my best to budget that money and get the most for my dollar.
I vividly remember the year I was in eighth grade. It might have been the first year my mom gave me the envelope o’ cash. That was the year Guess came out with overalls. I wanted them so badly, but they were $80. I think my budget for the whole school year was only $200. So $80 was a pretty sizable chunk. Plus, I had to buy a shirt to go with them. The stores were showing them with this white blouse with ruffles at the neck. I needed that blouse too.
So I bought the overalls and blouse and spent about half of my money on that one outfit. I have no idea what else I bought for that year, probably something pink. My nickname that year was “Pinky” because I wore a lot of pink.
The next year I went all Goth and didn’t buy anything pink for another 15 years.
I watch the ads for back-to-school shopping now and think, “Those clothes are so ugly!” Why would the kids buy those? Of course, they’re mostly eighties inspired, so how can I talk? Plus, I spent $80 on overalls! I'm no fashion icon.
What about you? Do you have fond memories of back-to-school shopping, or was it (is it) a nightmare?
Friday, August 6, 2010
Twenty years ago, I lived on a farm in Pennsylvania. My roots ran so deep I couldn't imagine ever leaving. Then I moved to Wyoming.
This week, I went back and visited my family and my old stomping grounds. It was a great visit, but today, on the last leg of the long trek back to my adopted state, I realized how much Wyoming has become my home.
The East is beautiful, with its rolling hills and leafy forests. While I was there, I noticed a lot of things we don't have in Wyoming - old stone farmhouses, black and white dairy cows, fountains of flowers growing in naturally rich, dark soil. We don't have a big selection of fancy restaurants, either, and we definitely don't have anything like Wegman's gourmet grocery stores.
But Wyoming has so many things I missed, even after a week. We have mountains - mountains with snow on top, even in August. We have sagebrush and antelope, and even buffalo dotting the hills along the interstate. (Yeah, they're at a buffalo farm, but they used to live wild in Wyoming by the thousands!) As I drove, the sky darkened with a storm but the late afternoon sun kept shining, highlighting the golden summer grass and the rock outcroppings, casting deep purple shadows that made everything stand out sharp and clear.
Just as I passed the buffalo farm, a rainbow shimmered into view, arching over the scattered houses on the outskirts of Cheyenne, and I know it's corny, but I got a lump in my throat and my eyes stung a little.
I love it here. This is home now, and I've become a devoted Westerner.
A lot of people picture scenic Yellowstone when they think of Wyoming, but that' only a small part of the state. The landscape around Cheyenne is rocky and dry, with fewer trees and more cattle. The wind blows hard and the living's not easy, but you have to respect the ranchers and cowboys (and cowgirls) who manage to tame it. That's the landscape I write about in Cowboy Trouble, and in One Fine Cowboy, my new book that comes out in September.
Nate, the hero of the new book, is struggling to make his grandfather's ramshackle ranch into a horse operation. He's quiet and determined, and to me, he represents the best qualities of Wyoming's cowboys. His collision with Jersey girl Charlie Banks - and her discovery that Wyoming just might be the home she's been looking for - make up the heart of the book.
Like me, Charlie is changed by Wyoming - and Nate is changed by Charlie. The book will be out in just one month - and that will be a change for me, too. Instead of being a debut author, I'm now officially multi-published!
Are you a native who's stayed in one place all your life, or a transplant like me? And if you've adopted a new home, how has it changed you?