Friday, January 27, 2012

When the Soul Sings

Lately I've noticed a lot of writers moaning and whining because they aren't happy with their writing. Some complain of writer's block. Others don't have any motivation. Apathy, drudgery, a lack of interest in their characters have all been mentioned. It's not fun or exciting any more. Their joy in writing is gone. It's a job.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I hear ya.

The truth is out there.

Here's what I think. I think most writers--regardless of genre--went from writing the books of their souls to writing market books. In the back of their minds is the overriding question, will it sell? 

When I look back at my earliest work, I see a different writer. I see a writer involved in telling the story. Yes, my technical stuff was a bit shakier. I see the mistakes I made if I'm looking for them. But I have to look hard because the stories involve me. Me, the author. When I'm reading, I keep stopping and marveling that I wrote this book!

And then...I made the mistake of worrying about whether or not the book would sell. When the author is truly involved with the story and characters, each day is a new adventure. We're not worried about whether we have enough or too much sex because it isn't our story. We can't wait to get up in the morning to see where their story will take us. Our soul sings as we pound the keyboard. Every interruption is nearly unbearable because we can't bear to be parted from our hero/heroine. Sounds like love?

Yeah, it does. If our writing doesn't make our soul sing then we're writing the wrong stuff.

A dear friend sent me a short piece she'd written. It was very different from her usual writing. This piece was written from her soul. The difference in the emotion and depth of feeling was striking. Her fascination with the characters was obvious.

When we lose that never-ending fascination, we lose some part of the soul of the story. Oh, it may be technically sound. We may have the POV down and most of the adverbs weeded out. We might have even followed every damn rule in the White and Strunk's. But underneath, niggling away at us is the certainty that the story has no soul.

When it does, it enthralls even when the technical aspects are less than perfect. When the soul sings so does the story.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Winter Grayscale

Remember when grayscale was a choice on your printer you used because color was so expensive to print? It was supposed to be a little jazzier than plain black and white.

This is the time of year we live in grayscale. Emotionally, financially, spiritually we drag through January, surviving in a colorless world, faking it out and trying to convince ourselves it isn't so bad. The days are dreary and rainy or snowy. The nights are cold and bitter.

We draw inward, closing the curtains or blinds to block out the early darkness, and gather around the hearth with our loved ones. It used to be a true fire the family would huddle next to while someone read a book or told a story. Now for most people it's a television's bright flickering lights and noise that fills the room.

Some may choose to hunch next to their individual hearths, playing computer games or living the virtual visitation with virtual friends they've never met (and likely never will).

Winter is a natural time of rest. It's a downtime--a time to complete the small chores that pile up through the year, those things we never have time to do because we so busy going and doing. It used to be winter was the time for planning and preparation for spring.

Somewhere along the line, we've lost the rhythm of the seasons. I believe that's why we're so tired. We're supposed to be resting along with all of nature. That's why it's dark so early. Instead we're rushing around, trying to fit twice as much in our day.

Maybe we should take a breather. Watch the snow or rain. Curl up on the couch with a book. Drink hot chocolate. Contemplate the future. Be prepared.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

To Bra or Not to Bra...

The house hunk and I went out gallivanting yesterday just to get out of the house. We had lunch, went shopping for the two things on our list, and generally enjoyed the sunshine.

I don't usually go bra shopping intentionally, but each time I'm in the store I check to see if they have any sports bras in my "size" and that's a relative term at best. Anyway, yesterday I found two and was quite pleased. In the car, going home, the hunk asked me what I would do if I had not found the new bras.

Now these were two that fastened in the front. I wanted them for after my swimming. Any woman who has tried to wrestle on a bra while she's still damp will understand my predicament. Usually, I put on a tee-shirt and jacket and go bra-less until I get home. I explained all of this to the hunk.

And he said, "I like it better when you don't wear one."

Um, did I mention I'm built on the generous side? Unless I'm at home in the privacy of my own surroundings, going bra-less is not an option. I explained that viewpoint to the detail.

He wanted to know why not?

So that started me wondering. Why do women wear bras? Is it personal choice? Cultural mandate? Fashion? Do we wear them for ourselves or for the men in our lives?

And men...what say you? To bra or not? Or does it make a difference if the woman is...losing her pneumatic uplift. Would you rather see some sway and movement or upholstered support?


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fear of Failure

No one gets up in the morning and thinks, "Today looks like a good day to fail." No one plans to fail. If failure was part of a plan, then it would be a success in the end because it was part of the agenda. So in the end, failure is an unplanned consequence of some action.

From the very beginning of our lives, we learn by failing. Crawling, standing, walking...all of those skills are learned by failing repeatedly until we've mastered them. Parents expect their little ones to fail. No one rushes forward to rescue the kid. It's a normal part of life.

When they're older, they learn other skills with the same fail/succeed ratio. Riding a bike. Dribbling a ball. Making a grilled cheese sandwich. Spelling separate (it has "a rat" in it). Learning to write cursive. Adding and subtracting. But I've noticed that parental willingness to allow children to learn by consequences sharply diminishes as the kid reaches their teens.

I don't advocate allowing them free rein. Our culture and society is based on rules. We're expected to obey basic laws. Don't steal. Don't kill. It's the parents' job to rear their kids with respect for the law.

Some of life issues are a bit more abstract. Working for what you want. Delayed gratification. Getting back up when we fail and trying again. If you give a kid everything they ask for, why would they work for it? If they never have to wait for something, how will they learn to wait?

I propose failure and dealing with the consequences is the way we learn how the world works. The rush to protect children from failure prevents their development of coping mechanisms. Look at it this way--suppose we play checkers with our child and we always let him win. Why would he learn the strategy he needs to know to win on his own?

Instead of being ashamed of failure, we should celebrate every time we get back up and try again. That is the essence of success.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Written into the Corner

One of the problems writers face is that terrible moment when they write their story into an impossible predicament. The story stops right on the edge of a cliff with nowhere to go. This happened to me over the weekend. I needed a conflict, a confrontation, and had no way to engineer it because I'd snowed my characters in. No way to escape, either. Hmmmm.

Disgusted and irritated, I backtracked to see where I was going to have to make changes, only to discover the solution was already there. A small, insignificant detail I'd tossed into the story several chapters earlier saved the day. In fact, it provided the vehicle for the confrontation and the possibility of escape.

I'm a pantster--a writer who sits down and writes without elaborate plotting ahead of time. I have a vague notion of the general outlines of the story, but no written notes. I keep a notepad next to the computer so I can jot down the odd detail for my story bible. You know--things like eye color, hair color, secondary character names, made-up words for animals/plants/stuff in my imaginary worlds.

In my Mystic Valley books, the men wear their long hair in many small braids tipped by special beads called chinkas. That was a detail set up in Dancer's Delight, book one. Where did the name come from? I have no idea. It was just there.

It wasn't until late in book two, Traveller's Refuge, that I found out why the beads were called chinkas. The scene flowed effortlessly as I wrote it:

The light breeze spread the scent of rain and quoltania bushes through the open window. Dancer enjoyed the light cinnamony scent and breathed in appreciatively before shifting to cuddle closer with Eppie. He spread his hand across her belly and rubbed their baby gently, careful not to wake Eppie. He froze when a tiny out-of-place sound wafted through the open window. A few seconds later, he caught the slight brush of fabric and silently he slipped from the bed, moving across the room to the window.
Peeking from behind the soft curtains, he saw a man stalking down the path to the back gate. Grabbing his sharda, he shinnied over the windowsill and soundlessly followed him as far as the river. Within a few feet, he knew he was trailing Merlyn but he was intensely curious about what could possibly bring his bond-father out in the rain in the middle of the night.
When Merlyn crossed the bridge and headed out into the open field past the training halls, Dancer waited until the buildings were between them and followed. He sank down in the deepest shadow in a dark corner and waited for a few moments, in case Merlyn returned. Just as he was satisfied that Merlyn wasn’t coming back his way, he heard a soft footstep on the bridge and barely made out the figure of Llyon coming his way.
Breathing shallowly, he squatted motionless in the dark while Llyon softly passed him in the rain. Slipping around the end of the building so that it was between him and the bridge, he crept to the corner until he could see the field clearly. The fine hairs along his spine tightened as he watched the small group of men in astonishment. There on the field he saw why the hair ornaments were called chinkas.
While all of the men stood in a semicircle watching intently, Llyon spun rapidly toward a practice dummy, his braids whipping out around him from the centrifugal force. When he came within reach of the dummy, the chinkas struck it with deadly force, making a very distinctive sound. Chinka, chinka, chinka. Dancer shuddered as he watched Llyon’s lethal dance shred the dummy.

That is an example of my subconscious working independently. If happens often when I'm writing. I could fill a book with examples of small details that take on a life of their own elsewhere in the story. The thing is, I can't plan this. I have tried. It would be so much more convenient, you know?

Instead, when I've painted myself into that clichéd corner, I know it's time to ponder the details, time to pinpoint that small bit that's going to fix my problem. How about you? Do you have a writing quirk that no one else seems to have?


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wrong Side of Life

Some people get up on the wrong side of bed. Others seem to get up on the wrong side of life. Did you ever know someone who can't seem to catch a single positive break? Ever? I have. You want to hug them and tell them everything is going to be all right, but all right never happens for them.

They're the ones with the car that breaks down on the way to the job interview. They're the ones who don't just have Lyme disease, but mono with it. They're the ones who aren't just coping with broken pipes, but also the electricity has gone out.

What do you do? How do you help them? might not be able to.

That sounds mighty harsh. I've been one of those never-catch-a-break people. Lived that down-to-the-bone life. We know more people now living that barely subsistence life than ever before.

On the one hand, I know how fast life can go from an abundance to freefalling famine. The closer you are to the edge, the less it takes to push you over. A lot of folks who thought they were safe behind their wall of income and savings have discovered that's just not so.

On the other hand...that subsistence living is isolating. Instead of moving out, we tend to huddle inwards, ashamed because we aren't doing well. We don't want anyone to know we need a helping hand. We don't want anyone to know we need food or the electric bill paid or gas in the car. Because if our neighbors and friends know that, they might think we're a failure. And goodness knows, we're not allowed to fail.

It's the same reasoning people use for hiding illness. Or non-existent royalties. Or dozens of other things the world uses to gauge success or failure. No one wants to admit things might not be quite as rosy as they've been portraying. No one.

That very attitude sometimes bars us from assistance. And I'm not talking about welfare or public assistance or a handout from a church. I'm talking about the folks around us who might want to pitch in a helping hand here or there. That neighbor who would gladly fix the pipes. That friend who would take us to that job interview. The ladies group at church who would be pleased to buy some groceries.

There's a rarely perceived opposite side of the coin in the get vs. giving dynamic. People need to participate on both sides during their lives. Giving isn't better than receiving. That old cliché is wrong. But giving does allow for a balance as long as people can do both. That's what that paying it forward business is about.

At sometime during our lives we will need. Perhaps we will need more than we can possibly imagine. Consider those who lost homes, families, every possession they owned in tornadoes or tsunamis. Can you envision the total loss? Yet, even in those circumstances there were people who hesitated to ask for help. We have to get past this shame factor and reach out. Why?

Because at sometime during our lives we will be exactly where we need to be to help someone. That old saw about what goes around, comes around is true. The problem is we think we always have to compare apples to apples or oranges to oranges, when we really should just toss all the fruit and veggies in one pot. Just because someone fixed our pipes doesn't mean we have to fix someone else's pipes to "pay them back". Nope. What the next fellow might really be desperate for is a job reference or a new pair of shoes.

Do you know someone really wallowing in the slough of depression and despair? Have you asked what you can do? Remember, no one gets up on the wrong side of life on purpose. No one.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Because I Can

Why do I get up in the morning? Because I can. Not everyone has that privilege, but I do. So when I'm feeling grumpy and stiff and angsty, I remind myself of days when I couldn't make it out of bed...and I shut up.

Why do I climb the stairs? Because I can. I admit there are some days it takes longer. Some days I have to stop midway up and take a little breather. But there you are. Life is what it is.

Why do I read so much? Because I can. There are places in this world where reading is impossible. I have the right to read and a library full of books. Someday the government may come in and confiscate them, but they can't erase the things I've learned, the ideas I've thought, no they can't erase those.

Why do I protest bad decisions by my representatives? BECAUSE I CAN. Of course, pretty soon that might not be so. At least, I might have to pay a price for that privilege because not enough people understood what we had to lose.

Why do I lift my voice against injustice? Because I can. Many across the world pay the ultimate price. Many have died already. Who will cry out, if not me?

Why do I vote? Because I can.

For now.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Know Your Target!

I received an e-mail from one of my publishers this morning informing me the first book in my series would be "selling" in early February for free. This is a marketing tactic that's proved successful in the past, apparently, especially for older series. There is a constant turnover in the reader arena and many just might not be aware of a particular series so offering the first book as a freebie encourages the reader to try something new-to-them.

It will be interesting to see if it works. With so many books available, it's harder and harder to stand out, let alone sell. It's not enough to declare in ringing tones that your books receive FIVE stars from reviewers. There's a perception that ALL books receive five stars...probably because nobody brags about receiving two stars. After a while the five star declaration loses some of it's power and punch.

This particular series is about blue people in a closed valley. At one time, that idea was highly unusual and mysterious. Then AVATAR burst on the movie screen and now when I talk about my Mystic Valley series, I receive sly knowing looks and comments like, "'s like Avatar."

Well, no. It's the other way around. Avatar is like the Mystic Valley books. A friend called me up when Avatar came out. "Did you know they stole your blue people?" she yelled. "They look exactly how you described them in your books!"

No idea is unique. No character description. No plot. And while I admit the blue people in Avatar bear a striking likeness to my blue people, that's where the resemblance ends. I believe my own stories have value and merit and a certain uniqueness of character.

When the free Mystic Valley book is offered, check it out. Blue people are cool. Mine are definitely cool. And they don't die...


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Trash or Treasure?

Since I'm at a stand-still on my current works in progress, I decided to do an "audit" of my other wips in the hopes I would find a previously unperceived treasure. After the first five or six, it was obvious I would need a list. The list consists of title, current length, and possible target publisher. I ended up with twenty two works ranging from a mere jumpstart of 1K to a twelve chapter story of 40K. That last one is book two of the series I'm currently working on and I estimate it will top out at 65K.

I have three others that are over 20k. And the rest are a middling bunch of story starts between 5K and 10K. As part of the audit, I read every wip (except for the 40K jobby). My intent was to scrap some of them. Unfortunately, that's not what happened.

Instead, I grabbed a notepad and started scribbling ideas and notes for each story. Seems I'm not quite ready to give them up after all. By the time the house hunk interupted me for the eighty-seventh time, I had several sheets of possibilities. Clearly, I can't work on them all at the same time. So the real problem is picking an alternate wip to work on when I'm stalled on Sinister Spear.

Which one will it be? Something short I can market as a quick little read? Or something longer? I don't know. Likely I'll sleep on it tonight and choose in the morning when one of them bubbles to the top of the pot.

What about you? Do you have more than one work in progress in your trunk? How do you decide which one you'll work on next?


Monday, January 16, 2012

Win or Fail?

Win. Fail. It all depends on how you look at it. How often has something gone wrong that actually turned out for the better? Isn't it all a matter of perspective?

Humans tend to remain in their same stodgy path of least resistance until some incident demands change. We take the same route to work. Eat the same foods. Carry out our boring routines until pushed in a new direction. A bridge that is out forces us to take a new route. The doctor tells us we can no longer have caffeine or sugar. Our job schedule changes and we discover the joys of a dawn or sunset.

Every year millions of people contemplate changes in their lives as the new year rolls around. Some actually carry out those changes, but most fail to fight the entropy of human life for one simple reason. We don't have a compelling reason.

Oh, in our minds, the reason is valid or reasonable. For instance, I know I need to lose several pounds. Everyone agrees this would be a good thing. My doctor, my friends, my family all agree. But until I have a compelling reason, it won't happen. That's the true reason most people aren't successful in their weight loss programs. They're not on board with the changes required. The commitment isn't there.

It's easier to maintain the status quo. 

I read a line once in a romance..."he's like an aircraft carrier--hard to turn around". Yeah. That's us. Changing direction is difficult. Unless we take a lesson from that ship and change direction bit by bit. So today (and maybe for several days until it's part of my new routine) I'll spend more time on my feet. That's all I will require of my new routine. 

It seems simple enough, but I expect it won't work out that way. Probably I'll have to set a timer to remind me. Get up! Walk around. Bend over and stretch. How long do you suppose I should commit to my new routine? Ten minutes per hour? Yeah, ten minutes. So. This is my new commitment for the rest of January. Let's see if I can manage this small change for the next two weeks. Who knows? I may find I like it. 

It might just turn out to be a win!


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Potty Manners

What is it with people? Were they all raised in barns? Today's pet peeves...

Women who "sprinkle" on the toilet seat--and don't clean up after themselves. Ladies, (and I use that term very loosely) if you can't wipe the seat, wait until you go home where you're free to pee on your own seat! But I bet you don't do that.

Men who leave the toilet seat up. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it that you're half the world's population and you get to stand up to pee. Nice for you. The rest of us don't have that advantage. And there is NOTHING as cruddy as stumbling into the bathroom in the middle of the night and dunking your ass in a cold water bath because the last jerk didn't put the seat down. Drop it!

Men--or women--who use the last bit of toilet paper and don't replace the roll! How tough can that be? I especially get annoyed at people who don't take the time to notify management when a public restroom needs attention. It takes a few seconds to stop someone and say, "Your restroom needs attention." That's it. Five seconds.

Whiskers in the sink. Come on, guys. A quick whisk and rinse is all that's required. Same for everyone who leaves gobs of toothpaste in the sink. People! You're not the only ones who have to use the porcelain bowl. Clean up, I say!

That will be all. Y'all have a nice day!


Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Snippet

His hand dived in the pocket, curling around in dangerously tight space before reappearing with the key ring dangling from his meaty fist. Moments later we were standing in the cabin’s tiny kitchen/living room. “Nice place,” he observed before pushing me down on the lumpy couch.
“How did you find me?” I really needed to know what mistake I’d made that allowed him to track me down.
“Just a hunch.”
“A hunch?” I stared at him in appalled disbelief. “How could you find someone with a hunch?”
He opened the old-fashioned icebox and helped himself to one of my sodas. Twisting the cap off, he took a hefty swallow before turning to face me. “I studied your file. You seem to alternate the types of locations you choose. Your last one was urban so the next would be rural. Then I drew a circle that covered the territory you could travel in two days. After that, I eliminated places that were too similar to other locations you’ve chosen in the past.” He took another long drink. “You were too well prepared to run so I reasoned you probably had somewhere to run to.”
“Nope. Everyone in the world has a pattern to their lives. Even the ones who deliberately try to eliminate patterns. It was just a matter of figuring out what your pattern was.” He squatted in front of me, caught my chin in his hand and stared deep in my eyes. “I found you once. I can find you again. So you might as well tell me what the hell this is all about. No one spends their life scrambling from one place to another without good reason.”
Impatience and irritation rose up within me. “I told you. There are people after me. They want me dead.”
“Yeah. According to you they want your blood first, though. What are they? Vampires?” I didn’t like the way he was looking at me.
“They’re one of those neo-supremist groups,” I snarled. “And they no doubt followed you here. Now I’ll have to leave my gardening stuff behind and all my plants will die. Thanks a lot!”
“That’s what you’re worried about? A few plants?”
“When you don’t have much, every little bit counts.”
Something—a shift in light, a change in the insect humming outside—something tipped me off and I dove off the couch taking him to the floor as the window exploded. The whine of shots whistled overhead. “Stay down,” I yelled as I rolled across the floor toward the tiny bedroom, steadily cursing under my breath at the hand cuffs. In the doorway I paused long enough to wriggle and hunch until I wrenched my arms over my feet so they were at least in front of me. Then I was up and running bent over for my bugout bag.
The cop was right behind me as more shots and the sound of tinkling glass filled the air.
“You don’t follow directions very well.” I jerked my shotgun from the bag, as the front door slammed against the wall. “Down!”
He dropped to the floor as I pulled the trigger.   

©Anny Cook 2012

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Good Old Days

In the last few days, there have been a rash of "the good old days" posts on various Facebook walls. You know the ones about playing outside until the street lights came on and so forth. Like all things we view through the nostalgic prism of time, we choose to remember the good and forget the bad.

I don't think that's selective memory. It's just a yearning for a time when things were simpler. At least that's our perception. But if you take a man or woman out of their familiar surroundings and place them back...oh about fifty years, most wouldn't have a clue how to accomplish some of the most basic tasks.

Then food preparation took place in the kitchen--on a stove. The proliferation of kitchen appliances was barely beginning. A few kitchens had mixers, big heavy machines you used to make cake and cookie batters. The overall machine was durable enough for my two year old daughter to use it when she need a stepping stone from the kitchen counter to the top of the refrigerator. You don't want to know the rest of that story...

Other than the mixer, there were no other appliances. No microwave. No George Foreman grill. Nothing. We (the hunk and I) acquired our first microwave when our oldest child was ten. He's forty-one now. You do the math. It was a tiny little box we didn't really use much for another five years. And dishes? Dishes were washed by hand.

Laundry...laundry was an all day process--usually performed on Monday. We had a wringer washer. The process went something like this: Fill the washer with the hottest water you could get. Add bluing. Wash the "white" clothes. Run them through the wringer. Soak in a big washtub/sink to rinse. Run them through the wringer again one piece at a time. Hang on the line outside to dry. Wash the sheets. Repeat the wringer/rinse process. Wash the "colored" clothes. Repeat. Wash the towels. Wash the "dark" clothes. Wash the "dirty/muddy" clothes. Empty washer and sink. Clean any residue from washer. Repeat next week.

Notice. You used the same water for the entire washing process. By the time you reached the last load, the water was cool and...dirty.

Tuesday. Ironing day. Some of you probably don't know what an iron is, but when I was growing up, everything was ironed. Everything, including the sheets and pillowcases. You got a free pass on the underwear and bras, but not slips. (That's probably another item most women don't remember.) All the clothes were sprinkled with starch water, rolled up in little logs to keep them damp, and if you didn't plan to iron them immediately, they were kept in the vegetable drawer in the refrigerator.

Ironing was an art. A woman (or man) who ironed well could actually make a living at it. It was also hot (no air conditioners back then), rough on your back and legs, and if you were careless, you could end up with singed fingers.

In the summer, you prayed for a cool rainy day when you had to iron. There were no air conditioners. If you were fortunate your family owned a couple "box" fans. They were set in the window (blowing out) on the sunny side of the house/apartment to draw in the supposedly cool breezes from the shady side of the house. Sometimes it even worked.

Cars didn't have seat belts or door locks. I know. I opened the back door the Easter I was about five and rolled my oldest brother (who was around two) out the back door. While we were moving. He ended up in an irrigation ditch by the side of the road.

When I brought my first baby home from the hospital, I held him in my arms--in the front seat. We didn't have car seats until my third child was born. Try traveling anywhere with a bunch of little kids riding unrestrained in the back seat.

Of course we weren't distracted by telephones or texting. When I was small, we had a "wind-up" box on the wall. First you cranked the box. Then you asked the operator to connect you to the person you wanted. It was a party-line (which just means more that one family shared the line). Any one could listen in to the conversation at anytime--and did so frequently. The operator knew everybody's business in the entire town.

By the time I was around ten, you could pay extra to have a private line. It was easy for others to determine your financial state simply by knowing whether or not you had a party-line.

The phone was generally on the wall in the kitchen. When I was engaged I was permitted to speak to the hunk for twenty minutes twice a week. While my parents listened to the conversation.

Yep. Those were the good old days.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Indecisions, Indecisions...

One of the questions I'm asked frequently is, "Where do you get your ideas?" The better query might be, "How do you decide which idea to work on?"

It's hard settling on a story idea. I have a proliferation of plot bunnies. But most of them--the vast majority--don't go anywhere. They just huddle in the corners, twitching their noses and wiggling their ears. Unfortunately, I might have to write as much as three or four chapters before I concede that particular rabbit is just not gonna run.

Then it's back to the corner to pick out a new bunny.

Once in a while, I'm seized with a terrific idea that leads to more than one story. Once in a while. Usually, there's an intriguing world attached and that is what makes the ideas come alive.

I've noticed that fewer and fewer books I read really have well developed worlds. They're wallpaper worlds so all the action takes place in a room or two (mostly the bedroom!) so the author really doesn't have to answer simple questions like "What kind of clothes do they wear?" or "What do they eat?"

I digress.

At this moment, I have ten or twelve stories started. One of the difficulties is sex. The market is changing. Publishing is changing. And what publishers wanted six months ago--or a year ago--is not what they apparently want now. Some of the stories were originally aimed at the erotic romance market. Now I need to "scale them back" before I can finish them for a more restrained romance market. And that's just fine. I'm tired of gratuitous sex.

I want a romance. I want commitment. And then I want sex. Love? Yeah, that would be nice, too. But I've also noticed that in many stories the h/h fall in love and suddenly everything is wonderful. All problems are solved. They walk hand in hand into the sunset. Except love doesn't necessarily solve all problems. It might make it more pleasurable to be together. But give me an iron clad commitment that will last through thick or thin and will be a firm foundation to build on. Then we'll talk about love.

Anyway. I'm currently working on book two of the Tuatha Treasures series. Yesterday I edited the first eleven chapters and intended to start chapter twelve today. But in the night, some changes came to me so I suspect I'll delve back into those first eleven chapters. And maybe...maybe I'll end up with enough extra words to make a couple more chapters.



Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Faith and Hope

Hope is the only thing that keeps us going when chaos swirls all around us. But what about when hope is gone? In the past year or so, there has been a disheartening rash of family murder-suicides. At some point in each case one member of each family has reached that point of no hope.

Now I certainly don't advocate killing your family! I don't advocate suicide. My point here is the increasing number of people who feel there is no other solution. What is the final tipping point?

I wonder why so many people choose this solution? Do they really believe their family is better off dead? Really? It seems to me we are not as resilient as we once were. There is less cushion against our inevitable stumbles. We have less hope in the future.

I think...we have less faith. People pray less. Whatever concept people have of God or a Higher Power, they've shoved him/her/it to the side.

Most humans need something to worship. In the absence of organized religion they worship celebrities or sports figures or political figures. Because the new gods are human they inevitably fail. Each new failure of the worship object leads to a new cycle of depression. And less hope.

So. Perhaps its time to go back to worshiping a deity. I'm not talking about religion. On the whole, organized religion is less than satisfactory. Religion is simply another place for people to go when they don't want to think for themselves.

This is about faith. Faith in a higher power, a creator, a plan for the universe. 

In our insistence on an either/or explanation for the universe, we've discarded the creator in favor of a random development of life. Why must it be either/or? Why do we limit our vision of God? And why do we rush to blame our higher power when things go wrong?

If we have the self-autonomy to choose our actions, why do we then blame God when we--or our fellow man makes bad choices? We can't have it both ways.

Prayer--communication with the creator--was never meant to be a group activity. From the beginning it was a one-on-one conversation. For me, it is continual speech with someone I respect and believe in. I have a feeling most people don't really have anyone they respect or believe in at a bone deep level. Most people expect everyone around them to fail.
Ultimately, it is that expectation that breeds despair. 


Monday, January 9, 2012

He has my vote...

It's scary when you find voting for a dog a viable option. What has our country come to?

In the last few months our congress has passed laws that have effectively stripped the constitution of all our rights. The President signed the latest into law last week. The voting for the latest law took place in the middle of the night--during the month of December. And no one noticed.

No media reported it. No journalist stood up in protest. And few citizen's voices were heard over the clamor of football, Christmas/New Years, the Kardashians, and whatever else was on TV to distract the sleeping public.

Did you know the House of Representatives are considering a bill that would allow the government to strip your citizenship? Does that concern you?

Have you listened closely to any of the candidates and the nonsense they are proposing? Has anyone really considered what our country would be like if any of them become President?

There are no viable choices. Perhaps by design?

Think about this. Why aren't more people asking questions?


Thursday, January 5, 2012


Moving furniture around, rearranging my living space used to be one of the ways I gave myself a new environment to live in. Add in painting and the occasional bit of wallpaper and I was a happy camper for a while. That was back then. Back when I was younger and had more energy.

Now? Leave me alone.

Last week, early one morning, I woke to an incessant beeping. Beep, beep, beep. After a while, I rolled out of bed and set out to hunt down the source. It was my UPS (uninterrupted power supply) for my computer. A little red light flickered. With a sigh I turned it off. And then back on. The light was green and there was no beeping. With a sigh of relief, I concluded some electrical surge had tripped the switch and went about my business.

About an hour later, again the beeping started...first it was spaced out, but soon picked up speed. At that point I summoned the house hunk and inquired what he thought the problem might be.

He noted another red light on the other end of the device that indicated a ground fault in the building wiring. Fabulous. Our apartment building is well over forty years old. And it's for sure the owners are not going to start tearing out walls to redo the wiring.

After some discussion and investigation of the other electrical outlets in the room, we located one that was "good". Unfortunately, using it for my computer would necessitate moving all the furniture in the room. And thus began my week of rearranging. Actually, I'm still putting stuff away.

Prior to moving in the current office, my desk was out in the living room and my granddaughters slept in the room. In an effort to provide a quiet place where I could write while the family watched television in the living room, we swapped places. At the time, it was going to be a temporary solution.

Over time my office also became the place to stash Nanna's stuff that didn't have a home--temporarily. In other words, it became a room-sized closet. That was three years ago.

Now rectifying the situation was on my schedule as a spring project--not a beginning-of-the-year project. But since I had to move everything anyway...

As I said, I'm still organizing and putting stuff away. And in the midst of that, I'm also organizing and putting stuff away in the spare room because my son is coming for a week-long visit at the end of this week.

I freely admit I have a lot of stuff. Yarn, fabric, paint (acrylics, craft and watercolors) brushes, canvases, huge sheets of vellum and other calligraphy supplies, ink, pens, light boxes, clay, beads, frames, and so on. That's not even considering the musical instruments, craft and calligraphy reference books and the drafting table. I'm selfish enough to want to keep my stuff. That's an unlovely admission, but there you are. After rearing four children, I like having stuff. My stuff.

All I have to do is figure out where to put my stuff for the next week or so. Once my son goes home, I'll have time to rearrange the spare room back to it's original craft/art room purpose. And my office can finally return to being an office.

So that's what I've been up to for the first week of 2012. What about you?


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Story of Love

Last night I had my monthly chat. We discussed what readers might have on their wishlist for 2012. Are they tired of the paranormal? Do they want less kinky? Do they want fewer participants and longer stories?

It's impossible to gauge reader desires. For one thing, the most vocal are not necessarily the ones plunking down their hard-earned money for books (whatever form they take!) One group will clamor for less sex, more romance, and a standard male/female relationship. But when royalty time rolls around the books that meet that criteria have abysmal sales.

So what do readers want?

Personally, I think the time has finally arrived for a hybrid. No, not a new genre. Erotic romance has always been a wicked step-sister to all the other romances. And it was an either/or situation. Either it was an erotic romance. Or it wasn't. Erotic romances moved closer and closer to erotica. Standard romances inched closer to the erotic. I propose a romance that edges back from the most explicit of the erotic romances with fewer sex scenes, more plot and stronger characters. Genre would not be the defining point for the book. Instead, romance and emotional bonds would set the standard.

Would anyone buy it? I have no idea. Readers say they want just such a book. In my experience, though, they aren't eager to put their money behind their request.

So what do you think? What do you want in your romances in 2012? Less sex? More romance? Or do you want something we haven't even thought of?


Monday, January 2, 2012

Day by Day

I suspect my kids really don't believe the hunk and I were ever young. The picture was taken when I was seventeen and he was just twenty-one. When I look at it, I can't imagine how I thought I was old enough to get married. I had already graduated from high school and was working full-time as an accounts payable clerk. That doesn't seem possible.

Within two years we had a baby. A year later, we had another. And six years after this picture was taken we lived two thousand miles from our families, alone and on our own with three small children.

Time has passed oh so quickly. As I read through the postings on my Facebook account so many people were writing about how anxious they were to move on to the new year--and how bad the last year was. I wanted to tell them don't wish away your life. One day you'll turn around and discover you're not only not young anymore. You'll discover you're not even middle aged!

Oh, no! You're heading into senior citizen territory! Your children are all approaching middle age. Crawling out of bed in the morning is a feat of courage and bravery. The act of tying your shoes is accompanied by groans and whimpers.

Nope. Live each day to the fullest. That might mean you vacuumed the living room. Or possibly you've run a marathon. But whatever you're capable of doing on that day, make it count. When the picture above was taken, I was in my mid-forties, had just graduated from college and was climbing a mountain every weekend. I'm glad I did those things while I was able to.

Now, in my retirement, I write stories that other people pay to read! Who would have thought my life would take such a detour?

Live, I say. Whatever comes in 2012, make each day count.