Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Where is the Story?

There's a weird thing about writing a series--sometimes a character (or two) can get lost in the undergrowth. When I started preparing the Mystic Valley series for republishing, I planned to go through each book, checking for grammar/spelling/timeline/continuity issues. You know--things like someone being in two places at the same time.

Since this series is already at five books, plus the prequel, Everything Lovers Can Know, and since the majority of the stories all overlap, it was necessary to create a detailed timeline.  Once that was complete, I highlighted the actions/characters for the different books in individual colors.

An odd realization slowly crept over me. The hero/heroine for Traveller's Refuge didn't really have much of a story. At least, they were robbed by competing characters and didn't get a chance to tell their story. Instead, bits and pieces were just stuffed in willy-nilly so the reader doesn't ever have an opportunity to know what makes them tick and why they fall in love.

For that, I apologize to both Traveller and Wrenna, and the readers. I had tentatively scheduled the release of Traveller's Refuge on July 1st. But if I want to truly give Trav and Wrenna the chance to show who they are, then that's going to have to be postponed. For that, I hope I'll be forgiven.

The thing is, Traveller was always my favorite hero from this series and I don't want him or Wrenna, the love of his life, to be short-changed. So...it'll be a little longer before their release. And I promise to make the wait worthwhile.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Balance

When I was around five, my overwhelming ambition was to grow up to do all the stuff my mommy did. I had an actual electric toy iron that almost started a fire and my mommy decided I needed a few more years before I'd be ready for the next step. However, dollies were safe so I had a lot of them and since my mommy was an excellent seamstress, every dolly had several outfits. I was a good mother.

When I was ten, my mother died suddenly and I abruptly assumed some responsibility for my brothers. I confess real 'parenting' was not nearly as much fun as pretend parenting. At that point I decided being a mommy was overrated and it would be much better to be a nurse or teacher. Little did I know those two professions pretty much encompass the same territory as being a mother. When I found out that was the case, I decided I would be a writer.

At the same time as my mother's death, my family also moved several states away so in one fell swoop, I lost friends, home, and mother. I read. A LOT. I sneaked the flashlight out of the kitchen drawer and read under my covers in bed in the middle of the night. It seemed to me a writer must be the most wonderful job. I had a vivid imagination and longed to be 'old enough' to write a real book. It never occurred to me that I could start right then. I thought I had to wait until I finished college or something.

Through my teens, books continued to be my bulwark against the chaos and uncertainty of the 60s. The world was a scary place with friends going off to the Vietnam War, peace marches, rioting in the cities, airplane hijackings, integration in the schools, and the first of the famous killers--Richard Speck--right in the city where I lived. Reading gave me a safe place to learn out the world around me.

Then I met a young man. We married, had three children in rapid succession, and reading was...an occasional treat in between washing and folding an unending stream of diapers and baby clothes. Heck, I didn't even have time to watch soap operas. My friend and I took turns watching and reporting anything new that happened.

At our sixth year of marriage, the hunk called one day to say we'd been transferred to Houston. Twenty-eight days later we arrived in a strange city with no place to live, no family safety net, and no acquaintance there at all. We found an apartment. The hunk worked two jobs so we could break even and I spent a lot of time alone. And I rediscovered books. Romances. I devoured them like a starving, ravening beast, hauling bags of them home from the library in the baby's stroller. I sat up late at night, reading them in the bathroom so I didn't wake anyone. And I started to glimpse again that old dream of writing my own book.

The next year we moved into a house. Did I mention we moved a lot? My last move was #41. Anyway, the library was very far away and I didn't have any transportation so once my oldest child was in school, I started writing. First by hand. Then on a typewriter. I was somewhat of a perfectionist so I spent more time correcting, than actual writing, but the bug had truly bitten me so I spent a lot of time working on various bits and pieces. I don't recall ever finishing anything. And in a shocking turn of events, we had another baby.

During this period, I started writing letters to my favorite authors. And I discovered a second hand bookstore owned by a woman who was active in the fledgling Romance Writers of America. I met authors there. Many of the authors who wrote for the early Silhouette and Loveswept lines stopped by to talk to the owner. She would call me when they showed up and invite me down to meet them.

Once while I was there she received a phone call. It was from Sharon Curtis, one half of the husband/wife team who had won the Rita that year. I wandered around on cloud nine for days after talking to her.

I wrote to Jayne Ann Krentz, one of my favorite authos, and she wrote back. Twice. I still have her letters.

Looking back, I can't imagine what the various authors I met or spoke to, or wrote to thought, but they surely kept me going through some dark days. And their encouragement meant everything.

We moved again. To the Hudson Valley in New York. Money was always an issue so I took a job at a local Waldenbooks warehouse. And I took advantage of one of the employee perks. We could 'borrow' any book in the warehouse for two weeks for free. Oh, yeah. This was my place, in spite of sore feet, tired back, and working until midnight every night. And once again, I started writing in my 'spare' time.

I started working out a scenario about two families that intermarried in a strange valley. Step by step I worked out different issues. In between there, I lost my job when the warehouse closed, went back to school, found another job...and kept picking at my story.

And then we moved again. To Baltimore. Abruptly, I found myself childless, jobless, and with a lot of time on my hands. My son, and the hunk, pushed me into the back room with my brand new computer and said, "You've always wanted to write. Do it!" I was fifty-five years old.

After a few false starts, I sat down and wrote a 120K opus about the families I'd worked on for years. It occurred to me I should find out what the publisher guidelines might be, and when I did, I realized I was going to have to make some radical changes. So I chose one couple from my 'novel' and wrote their story. I fussed over it, editing, revising, until I couldn't think of anything else to do to it. And I sent it off to an online publisher on a dare from the Hunk.

Three weeks later I received an e-mail asking for the entire manuscript. And about four weeks later, they offered me a contract. My first book in the Mystic Valley series was a reality. Six months later, Dancer's Delight was released.

I suppose you're wondering what this rambling hot mess is all about. It's just this--life eventually balances out if you just keep plugging along. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Ups and Downs

Unlike the bear...my timing is not always 'on'. Such is life. I've been at the edge of the publishing curve, not quite where the readers are. Not quite with the pack.

I am slowly re-publishing my older books--the ones I've received my rights back on. And there's been an occasional sale. Last year in the doldrums of my life, I received six dollars from book sales. Our IRS lady didn't even list it as income. At that point, she said, it was a hobby.

Nevertheless, I persisted. I'm stubborn like that. Every year, the hunk and I each choose something to spend a small portion of our tax refund on. I chose to spend mine on excellent book covers for my re-pubbed books. I have to say, the enjoyment I received from choosing new covers was worth it, even without the spectacular sales I hoped for.

In the time since I started releasing the books on Amazon in February, I've made the princely sum of fifty-five dollars. Compared to last year, I'm practically a best-seller!

I confess, there are days I wonder about the feasibility of this whole writing gig. The number one way authors get feedback is sales. The second way is reviews, which are sadly lacking for my books. The few I had were lost when the books were taken down by my old publishers. Amazon doesn't seem to have any facility for transferring them to the new reissues.

But, the third way authors receive feedback is from direct contact through e-mails and instant messages. And there my timing seems to be spot on. Just when I decide it really isn't worth it, a reader will reach out with a note. I received one this morning. This reader is very excited about having my Mystic Valley books available again as she lost hers when she changed to a kindle.

What can I say? Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to type those few words to let me know someone out there stills loves the books. That's all I need. Just to know someone is reading the words I wrote. So...there's that UP note that keeps me going.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Talinea the Heartsinger


Then from the corner of her eye, Talinea caught a glimpse of the old man slowly approaching the fire. When he reached the rocky ground just past the circle of firelight she asked, “Are you hungry?”
He squatted on his bare heels and stared at her without replying. An errant wind plucked at wispy strands of white hair, blowing them across his craggy face and tangling them in his beard. He absently brushed them away.
“Perhaps you would like something to drink?”
“No. Thank you.” His voice was harsh from long disuse. “Who are you?”
“I am Talinea,” she replied calmly.
“What do you want?”
She shrugged. “In a vision I was shown this place. So. As you see, I am here.”
His body swayed to and fro as he considered her explanation. She noted the threadbare clothing and absence of shoes and marveled at his stoic toleration of the terrible cold.
“Tell me of the king,” he demanded abruptly.
“Romaden? No one knows if he lives or dies.” A rush of bitter wind howled through the small clearing, nearly extinguishing the tiny fire. She tugged her thick chintain closer about her shoulders. “As for his siblings, I have heard nothing. There are rumors he is raising an army, but I’ve seen no evidence of it. On the other hand, if he is, he would do well to keep it a secret.”
“You are a Heart.”
It was a statement of fact she was tempted to deny. At the last moment, she changed her mind, nodding instead. “Yes.”
“If he fights, will you guard his back?”
Her body froze as she pondered his disturbing question. The king’s guardian was usually a mighty warrior—unless he or she was also a Heart. In that case, because they were bound body and soul for life, the warrior’s skills were not required. The binding was less—and more—than a marriage, for the intimacy of the mind-to-mind bond was far stronger than any physical touch.
From the time her talents matured, her thoughts had centered exclusively on her own survival. She’d steadfastly denied her true calling. Yet here, with one penetrating challenge, the old man flung down the gauntlet of destiny. Fragmented visions and ideas coalesced into crystalline conclusion. Her breath caught, and her heart seemed to stop. She pondered the irrefutable call to commitment posed by the old man.
As the king’s Heart, her personal survival would always be secondary, her own dreams and wishes would always be deferred for her king. Then with a sigh, she surrendered to fate. Wherever he was, she must find Romaden. But before that happened, her first responsibility was to find a priest willing to take her oath of fealty to her king and the crown.
 
Meeting the old man’s eyes, she solemnly vowed, “I will guard his back.”

Friday, June 8, 2018

A NEW Book!

It's been a while since I've written a NEW book. Yes, I know, but life happened on multiple fronts and interfered. So...The Makepeace Sword will be released on June 15th. It's the first in a new series, set on a new world. The country of Baryna is partially sci-fi, partially medieval, so there's something there for everyone. Baryna is suffering under the rule of a terrible dictator who overthrew the monarchy and murdered the king.

The king's heir, Romaden, is grown now, but certainly not ready to take his rightful place as king. As a matter of fact, he doesn't even know he's the heir! But when his guardians urge him to overthrow the dictator and assume his rightful place, Romaden quickly finds there's more to it than just showing up. First he has to locate his Heartsinger, the one person in the kingdom who can keep him on the straight and narrow.

And then there's the missing Makepeace sword...

Friday, May 25, 2018

Getting Out Alive

When I was eighteen and could walk miles without really thinking about it, I never ever considered the day might come when it would take a major effort to walk down a partial flight of stairs. Oh, how the mighty are brought down.

A few weeks ago, the hunk went to the doctor for a stomach infection and ended up going for a bunch of tests because his EKG wasn't normal. This week, both of us went to see the doc for our six-month check-up. The hunk was sent to a cardiologist because he has significant blockage in a couple arteries.

Then the doc concentrated on me. My EKG was not normal. The doc shook his head several times and repeated that. "This EKG is not normal." Yeah, I got it. So in the near future, I'll be off to have a CT cardiology angiogram. Whatever that is.

I put out a feeler about getting rid of some of my meds because of the brain fuzzies I have. After some discussion, he added a brain MRI to my ongoing to-do list for the near future. Yeah...maybe a little mini-stroke or some such in there.

I asked him to look at a spot on my toe. Uh-huh. After more discussion, we added a trip to the skin doctor as little black spots on the toe are unusual enough to warrant more in depth study. And since I was going, why not have the doc check out a couple other spots?

By the way, it's time for my annual mammo which it so happens can be scheduled the same day as the MRI. See how convenient that is?

And wasn't it fortunate that I fasted before my appointment so the daytime vampires can take a hefty blood donation? Also...here's a cup. Please pee in it for us.

Stomach issues are lurking in the hinterlands...colonoscopy, endoscopy, whatever else they dream up. How about that liver? Is it still ticking along? Don't forget the bone density test that's overdue. On the up side, I lost another 1.6 pounds. That's something good, right?

So...I anticipate a busy week or two, what with one thing and another. They say getting old is not for sissies and that's the total truth. Of course, it's better than the alternative. Every single day.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The OTHER Day

Yep, it's that time again. Mother's Day...or as I like to call it, Other's Day. It's not a Hallmark Card moment, you know. For most of the women in this country, it's another day that just emphasizes how very unimportant we are.

I'm not mad at my kids. I'm not mad at the Hunk. I want to speak a truth most folks don't want to speak. Many, many years ago our family was in counseling. We'd been in counseling for quite some time. One afternoon, our counselor turned to me and said, "You don't seem very happy. What's on your mind?"

And for once, I told the unvarnished truth. "I feel like if I walked out the door today, none of my family would miss me until they ran out of food or clean clothes."

The counselor turned to my husband and children and asked, "What do you have to say about that?"

And they all agreed it was true.

That was a turning point for me. That was the day I finally realized other people--no, not even your husband or children--will not value you, if you don't value yourself. If you sit back and allow them to walk all over you, treat you like a rug (a tattered, filthy rug), then that's what you'll get. People like to say you have to earn respect, but my friends, you can't earn it by groveling.

I cannot tell you how many posts I've read on social media where women are moaning about not receiving cards or flowers or blah, blah, blah for Mother's Day. Their kids don't call. They don't write. Oh, woe is me.

I don't remember the last time I received a Mother's Day card. Sometimes they call. Sometimes they send me a nice posting on Facebook. And that's all okay. BECAUSE it's an artificial holiday. What I need from them isn't some big deal on one day a year. I want them to send me a quirky card for just because. I want them to call me because they want to talk to me. I want them to send me pictures or pages my grandkids have colored for me.

One day does not a relationship make. It's what happens on all the Other Days in our lives that counts.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Talitha Cumi

The first Talitha Cumi in our family married Andrew Martin in Arkansas in the early 1800s. Andrew and she had seven children before he died at the close of the Civil War from pneumonia. One of their daughters was also named Talitha.

Since then, in every generation, there has been a Talitha. My daughter and granddaughter are both named Talitha. My cousin is named Talitha, though she uses her first name. And my cousin's mother was named Talitha Cumi, just like her ancestor, though she mostly used Tye for her name.

This morning, very early, Aunt Tye died at age 92. She had a long, productive life. It wasn't easy, but like all good women, she persevered and kept on keeping on. In my family (both sides) the folks are long-lived. That's a blessing, mostly. But that extra long life means you have so many more memories and so much more to miss when they are gone.

So blessings and memories abound on this day when we all say goodbye. We loved you well, Aunt Tye.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Birth of Ideas

Adjusting to the vampire life can be difficult. Are you one of the new undead? You say your sire doesn't have time to teach you everything you need to know? Enroll in the Vampire Bootcamp course at the Others Lifeskills Institute. Our vampire instructor, Julian Taglio will teach you the important facets of the vampire lifestyle. Our new semester begins soon. Register at www.otherslifeskills.com

One of the questions writers receive more than any other is, "Where do you get your ideas?"

The idea for Alpheli Solution came from one of my occupations in a past life. I taught a course titled Computer Bootcamp for adults moving into the brave new world of computers in their workplaces. It was back when 3 1/2 inch floppy discs were brand new. And I had to explain the care and feeding of a mouse--one of those with a little ball inside.

One afternoon while sitting here in my office, I thought what if there was a bootcamp class for new vampires? What would they learn in the class? And...well, you can see how there would be a lot of directions you could go from there. Danamara, the new vampire in Alpheli Solution has all sorts of problems after her sire turns her, then abandons her in an empty parking lot. Miraculously, she survives the initial turning. And now she has questions. Lots and lots of questions.

That's how it works. You take a mundane idea and ask the question, what if? All of my books have been 'what if' books.

What if a hiker ends up in a valley with no way to get out? What if the inhabitants of the valley are all blue? Mystic Valley series.

What if King Arthur didn't really die? What if Merlin and the queen kidnapped him and returned him to the planet Avalon? What if...the story wasn't quite like we think it was? Flowers of Camelot series.

What if the Tuatha de Danann legends were real? What if an archeologist found the Lia Fail (stone that speaks)? What if Danaii wants her treasures back? Tuatha Treasures series.

The question isn't where the ideas come from. It's what happens after that? 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

BICHOK

When I was a newbie writer, BICHOK was a favored recommendation. For those who don't know, it stands for Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. It implies that simply staying there will somehow produce work. And it's wrong.

Writing isn't something you do because it's there. Especially, when you're just totally blank. I'm not talking about inspiration here. I'm talking about getting your brain in gear. And sitting won't do that. Staring at the computer screen opens you up to spending time on the mindlessness of social media. If you're not ready to write, if your brain is not engaged, then get up and find something else to do. Goodness knows, there's a limitless number of chores most of us have waiting.

Go do them. Vacuum, mop, clean the toilet, do the laundry, make dinner. Bake bread, go for a walk, pay the bills. Clean the closets. Purge your files. I guarantee by the time you do a few chores, you'll be more than ready to BICHOK. Drink a couple glasses of water. Clear your desk so there are no distractions. And finally, set a timer for thirty minutes (after the two glasses of water you may not need the timer, but it's better safe than sorry!)

Then sit down at the computer. Jot down some notes about what you want to accomplish. And begin. If you've accomplished nothing in that first thirty minutes, get up and go back to the chores. After a while, you'll have a clean house, clean clothes, a cooked dinner, and who knows? You might even have a chapter or two. For sure, you won't feel guilty about all that other stuff waiting for you.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Cabin Fever

Rain, cold, rain, snow, rain... After a while, you wonder if you're doomed to never see the sun. Well, the sun is shining today. Naturally, we have a slew of errands to take care of, starting with dental hygienist visits. Yuck. Then, there's grocery shopping. And possibly a haircut. We'll round out the day with weigh-in at Weight Watchers and dinner.

The interesting thing is I don't necessarily want to go OUTSIDE. I just like to see the sun through the window. Going outside requires getting dressed. Taking a shower. Brushing the teeth. Putting on the outside, walking around glasses so I can see where I'm going.

I'd rather stay inside where I'm comfy. Where I can wear my sports bra and shorts and slippers. Where I can read or write without feeling like I'm rude.

Cabin fever? What cabin fever?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Opinions

“People can tell you to keep your mouth shut, but that doesn't stop you from having your own opinion.”
Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl 
 
Social media is all about having an opinion. People post zillions of opinions everyday, mostly with no facts to back them up. That's the beauty of the internet. If you don't have your own opinion, you can always borrow someone else's.
 
Opinions now days are pretty interchangeable with beliefs. I think if we called them beliefs, fewer people would state their opinions because there's something about that word 'belief'. It implies a greater commitment than the word 'opinion'. Reality is most opinions are rock solid beliefs. And beliefs are much harder to change than a wimpy little opinion.
 
Maybe...maybe we should try a time-out for opinions and only have beliefs. I wonder how that would work out?