Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, a day or so early, but that's to catch the people down under who will celebrate tonight. Also, in case I imbibe tomorrow night and forget to post. Just kidding.

I went to a "between the holidays" party last night and it was a fabulous gathering of friends and neighbors. About twenty or so of us, and I was the youngest and once again, the only single. I've got to do something about that. All of the couples talked about how they share the household duties now that the hubbies have retired. I never knew how many men do the vacuuming and don't mind the chore. One guy, Vic, not only vacuums, he cooks. So my challenge in 2009? Find myself a Vic.

The party hosts made a lovely spread, there were a variety of cheeses and dips and drinks on the patio (two lovely gas warmers kept us toasty) then we went inside where four tables were set, four big crockpots of what they call stoup, bubbled pleasantly and filled the house with an amazing aroma. I thought it was a cross between chili, stew, and minestrone soup. Anyway, whatever, it was delicious. First you put a few nachos on the bottom of the bowl then added the soupy mixture of meat, kidney beans, corn, tomato, etc. on top, then added a dollop of sour cream, grated cheese and finely chopped spring onion. Delish. Add in a nice hefty merlot, crisp field greens salad, warm bread rolls, and you have a little slice of heaven.

The conversation was fabulous and rowdy. I think I was talked into joining the once a month Bocce game. Bocce, red wine, camaraderie. Maybe I'll go. Dessert was mini chocolate eclairs and profiterole, along with coffee and a dessert wine if desired. I left at that point, one of each dessert in hand, and ate those on my short walk home. It's probably the only celebration I'll do for New Year's Eve. Knowing me, I'll snuggle down in front of the fire, hug the dog, have a glass of wine, and watch an old movie.

So, whatever you choose to do, may your New Year celebration be warm, fun, and shared with those you care most about. And may we all find 2009 to be a brighter spot in our lives than it's predecessor. Here's to hope and change!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Seasons Greetings!

Whatever you personally celebrate, Hannukah, Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Kwanzaa, or the Seinfeld holiday of Festivus, I truly hope your special time is warm and wonderful and shared with those you love. And if that isn't possible this year, at least celebrate with cherished memories of loved ones far away.

We have another storm coming into Southern California today. Here in the desert, we still have snow on the mountain tops from the two storms last week. Brrrr. Strange weather everywhere, and I'm wondering if this storm will give us a truly white Christmas. The kids are coming down at some point during the Christmas to New Year period. Not sure exactly when. We've become pretty relaxed with our plans in the last few years. That seems to suit all of us. No pressure. No commitments broken. No having to drive in awful weather conditions. And while I wait, I write. So it's all good.

Because it has turned so cold here, I've decided to re-enact an old family tradition. Years ago, we had a little place up in Park City, Utah. We got to use the place for two vacations a year and the kids and I always looked forward to our ski trip, or summer hiking trip, the rest of the time it was rented out. We always provided a few videos of favorite movies, music tapes, and video games, for our guests to use. One of the movies was Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, with Steve Martin and Michael Caine. Every time we'd go up there we'd watch that movie. Every single time, without fail. It still makes me smile.

An old writing buddy gave me a CD of the movie five years ago when I told her that story. It was a favorite of hers. So thank you Gina, I'm lighting a fire, pouring a nice glass of Aussie Shiraz and watching the movie tonight. I'll be thinking of you my friend, my kids, days when I could still ski, winters in Park City ... ah, the memories.

This morning I went marketing for all kinds of non-perishable young people treats. Things I never keep in the house because I'd eat them and regret it later ... so, hope the kids arrive soon.

Munch, munch.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Twinkle lights and twinkle toes!

Everyone in my neighborhood is doing their bit to increase the holiday fun. In years past I've decorated a little, never really going all out tacky. But twinkle lights were appearing everywhere around the lake in great numbers through this week and I grew increasingly envious for some of the good cheer. While my house isn't on the water and it only has a small frontage to decorate I figured I should not be such a grumpy-puss and get out the lights.

Just stringing the lights was fun and put me in a more joyful mood. I left the front door open, played Christmas Carols from a CD that Bank of America gave me years ago as a thank you gift (back in the day when I had some money saved and banks had money to give away on free gifts) and I had orange cranberry scones cooking in the kitchen. It was all warm and inviting. All I needed was a fire in the fireplace to set the scene, but it was a gorgeous day in the high seventies with blue skies and bright sunshine. A typical winter's day in the California desert.

I'd started to wonder when our seasons would change out here. We only have a short winter but so look forward to it after a long, hot, dry summer. Extra long and crispy this year. Anyway, this morning I woke up at six a.m. and it was freezing. Had to put the heat on before breakfast. That has put a huge smile on my face and my toes are tapping out a rythm to the music playing in the background.

Suddenly it feels like the holidays! Yay! I could go dancing. Or maybe I could go buy some more lights.

Hope your holiday season is warming up!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Counting my blessings!

Just got back from a weekend in Los Angeles, my old stomping ground. The drive up was quite an experience with huge mushroom clouds of multi-colored smoke to the left of me, trees swaying in the extremely high winds, the car being buffeted about like it was a weightless toy, and on the horizon a layer of smog over the city that looked like gray meringue. The day prior, the winds had reached 76 mph and it seemed they'd whip up and switch paths on a whim. So many fires, so much tragedy. I couldn't watch the evening news without tearing up. Today, when I returned to the desert I had to keep the headlights on as the smoke was so thick in places and the visibility was poor. There were at least four fires raging in Southern California.

I've no idea what it would be like to lose everything but came close after the Northridge earthquake when my house was damaged. The aftershocks continued for months, recreating the terror of yet another hideous event. It really was the most frightening thing I'd ever experienced. Such a loss of control. Such fear. It's been years, but I still recall those feelings as if it was yesterday.

So all of this makes me ask, "Why do I live here?" It can't really be just for the weather. In fact I'm sitting on top of the San Andreas fault and we are long overdue for a big earthquake in Southern California. You'd think I'd be smart enough to get my ass out of town. But no. I stay. Sometimes I think I'm no more mature than a teenager. I'm invincible. Hah! I'm not invincible, I'm trapped. I retired to the desert communities with the idea of going small. A modest house, small yard, less expenses, live out my old age in the heat. Then the bottom fell out of the market and left me with an overpriced house. I'd have to put money into it to sell it. How can that be possible? Where did I go wrong in my planning?

Then I pause and quit my moaning and groaning. I still have my home, my treasures, my family. I still have a roof over my head and my heart breaks for those who have lost theirs. I promise to give thanks for my blessings every day. To be grateful for what I have and to give back to those who are suffering in these hard times, times made even harder by Mother Nature.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The itchies!

I'm not sure if this is seasonal but I've had the itchies to take a writing course, go back to school, or learn something. Anything. Perhaps it's because I'm between stories, putting the polish on a couple of projects but haven't started anything new in a while. Hmmm?

Anyway I've been trolling college and writing websites looking at classes available. I missed the fall sign up for most but I found two that start in November. One is right here in the Coachella Valley, the other is online. One is with someone I've never heard of, the other is taught by a romance writer of fifty novels. One is super expensive, one not too bad. So, I've continued to procrastinate. Do I really NEED another course? Do I really NEED to spend the money? By the time I make up my mind registration will be closed. Ha ha.

In years past I've treated myself to a fall conference, or writer's retreat, and it has always jump-started my next book, or improved on the one I was currently writing. With the economy unstable I'm hesitant to commit to anything too expensive. Last week I had a brainwave, figured I could just take out all of the self help writing books that line my bookshelves and give myself a refresher course. There are many books I haven't re-read in four or five years.

I started writing in 2000 and gradually added books to my library, starting out with simple material and moving up to tougher subjects like those in Robert McKee's, Story. It's amazing what this refresher has done for me. I started out with Deb Dixon's, Goals, Motivation and Conflict, then, Writing the Fiction Synopsis, by Pam McCutcheon, then What Would Your Character Do? by Eric and Ann Maisel. Finally I read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King. Today I tinkered with my current story and it is enlightening how much my little at-home schooling has helped. Soon, very soon, I'll start a new project and think I'll be far better equipped for having taken this time out to refresh and refill the well.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My birthday weeks!

This year it seems my birthday celebrations lasted for two weeks. Many friends who knew my children were visiting this weekend, celebrated with me last week. And as we are all into being conservative and watching our budgets, we chose simple ways in which to celebrate. I had a wonderful time and it was, I think, more meaningful this year than in earlier years where I celebrated without a care in the world.

My Aussie family began their calls and emails a few days in advance of my special day. This was one of those big "O" birthdays (or is that big OH birthday?) so everyone but me thought of it as super special. I figure at my age it doesn't matter anymore. It's only a number. I have my health and energy, I have my kids, my family, my dog ... what else does a gal need? Well, maybe a healthy economy for starters, but that's another whole story.

The kids took me to lunch at The Mission Inn, in Riverside, yesterday and surprised me with a gorgeous necklace. It was tasteful and something I'll treasure for years to come. The meal was wonderful, the company worth more than anything, and the waiter took a photo of the three of us and presented it to me in a little folder. What a great thought. I have it on my computer desk and although I look like I've been spooked the kids are gorgeous. The Inn is fabulous, it reminds me of Europe. I love the sound of the mission bells pealing on the hour. Love the decorative black wrought iron balconies that open out to the patio dining. Love the stained glass windows, the beautiful antiques throughout the hotel.

My daughter had called me a few weeks ago and we had a conversation about surprise parties. I told her firmly how much I hate them. It was quite a discussion. Anyway she confessed yesterday, they'd thought of giving me one, and she'd started to look into how to connect me and my friends when many of us are separated by great distance. Whew! Thank heavens we'd had that discussion. I sure dodged a bullet. So for those of you who live far afield, thanks for your help in this matter. Grin. It is very much appreciated.

I've done no real writing since the beginning of October. I'll open a manuscript folder and do a little polish here and there, but that's all. I'm about to write a new story though, and had put off starting until after the birthday. Once I begin, I know I'll slip off the radar for a bit. I always do. It's cooler now in the desert, thank goodness as our summer was long this year. Within a week I'll take the laptop outside and do several hours of writing in the cool morning air, I can feel the itch. It's a good feeling.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

This Crazy World in Which We Live

Times are hard for all of us right now. With trouble on Wall Street, unhappiness on Main Street, confusion everywhere, I've decided to stay home, do yoga, write, and watch my new goldfish swim in their aquarium. I'm all for maintaining sanity.

I'm not advocating being an ostrich and sticking one's head in the sand, we all have to do our bit for the economy and the state of the world. But let's not go crazy and worry ourselves sick, okay? I figure if Bush, Obama, and McCain can keep their heads while all about them are losing theirs ... all I can say is, I'm glad that I'm me and not one of them. Yikes!

I figure stay home and use less gas in my car, read more, learn more about what is happening in the world, make wise choices. I don't have a lot of investments but what I do have are diversified. They'll rebound ... eventually. My house is worth less than what I paid for it three years ago. If I sit tight it will gradually rise in value. Meanwhile I'm paying down the mortgage and increasing my equity.

I've become a smarter shopper. Gone are the times of buying whatever I wanted whenever I wanted it. Now I weigh the pros and cons. The same goes for travel. The same goes for dining out and entertainment. Europe isn't going anywhere. I can wait five years. I'm enjoying trimming my budget of expenses that are not necessary to my overall happiness. It makes me proud whenever I cut something. And, I'm feeding the pig. A percentage of my money is saved every month. It's not huge but it's something.

On the plus side of our crazy world, I'm reading more. Every afternoon I finish my writing, grab a diet coke, and sit in the recliner. Two hours of reading takes me to a place I knew growing up in a big noisy family. Hey, living with six siblings is no picnic, and it fills the need for adventure, romance, excitement, suspense, whatever it is I'm craving. I've always been a reader, just haven't given it the dedication I now do. Just finished John Grisham's novel, Playing for Pizza. It transported me to a small town in Italy, walking those streets, eating those foods, hearing the local language. And, in addition, I learned more about American football than I'd ever known.

Check it out. It's highly entertaining.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Pool Buddy

Since my knee surgery I've been doing the exercises suggested by the physiotherapist every day, in the pool. Part of that is because it's still so awfully hot here, and part is because I'm convincing myself that I'm getting twice the workout for my effort.

Anyway, I walk the dog, come home, take a quick shower and put on my bathing suit and by eight thirty I'm in the pool. I usually swim a few laps to warm up first. Several of the exercises require different water levels. Like when I stretch out my hamstrings I need to be at about the four feet level. I grip the edge of the coping and stretch for fifteen seconds then alternate legs and repeat several times (who wants one toned skinny leg and one chubby one, eh?) By the time I'm doing this stretch it's close to nine.

In the last week I've noticed that I'm not alone. A little beige-colored spider with long golden legs comes to join me. The first day I met my pool buddy he/she was floating in the water but I could see the spider was still alive. I scooped it up and threw the handful of water (and spider) onto the deck. Spidey, as I've come to name it, got up on those lovely long legs and ran away toward the shrubs that surround the outside of the wrought iron fence. I felt quite good about that. I'd saved a life.

I decided Spidey was a girl because of the legs. Yesterday she came down the deck at almost nine o'clock and scooted over the coping and ran up and down the tile. I wondered if she was trying to get a drink of water, but before I could decide, and because I was making small waves, she was washed off the side and into the pool. I scooped her up and we went throught the same procedure as the day before. I did lecture her a bit about being more careful, however, today, at exactly the same time, she returned and again fell into the pool. I tossed her back out. She ran home in the same direction.

Only thing is, I'm not so sure anymore that Spidey is a girl. The actions are very masculine. Keep risking one's life to ride the waves? Yeah, gotta be a dude. I can't decide if I should leave Spidey to his adventures or keep on saving him from drowning, I figure if Spidey is indeed a guy, he goes back to the Spider Bar and tells his buddies:
"Yeah, so there I am riding the waves, and some human gets in and splashes around, nearly kills me. Then there's a tidal wave and I get washed onto the deck. It was thrilling I tell ya'. Same thing happened yesterday, and again today. I'm going to try it again tomorrow. Maybe I'll even go to the deep end."

If Spidey's a girl she goes to the nest and says, "Darn another day without a bath. That human has got to go. She keeps scooping me up and throwing me onto the deck. I'm going back tomorrow and if she tries it again, I swear, I'll bite her."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hard at work.

This has been a week or two of hard work. I gave myself a challenge with a completed manuscript. Trim it and use the exercise to learn how to write tight. This, as many of you know, means killing off your darlings. Jenny Crusie taught me that. But, I may have also killed a manuscript. Ha, ha. It was a risk, but one that energized me. I had this one line that I loved on the bottom of the second page and I kept trimming all around it until I realized it had to go. It ended up like a pimple right on the end of your nose. No amount of concealer could hide it. It just stuck out there, all red and throbbing, drawing all kinds of attention. But you know, when I finally cut it, it was okay. I felt a certain relief that it was gone. Yet, I'd loved that line for so many months. Strange, huh?

I'm going through another stage of thinking I should be more proactive. I'm such a wuss. I take little baby steps and research an agent or two then remain loyal while awaiting their rejection to my query or partial submission. It's so sad. I've decided to do what Bob Mayer told me years ago, get at least batches of five or ten queries out at a time. It's going to be difficult for me though. It's not my style. I feel like I'm cheating. However, I have two stories that I think are polished and ready to go. I had to withdraw my submission from an agent who I would have enjoyed feedback from. Maybe some time in the future she'll let me resubmit. That was the manuscript I'd trimmed, and I'm talking deep edits here. From 86,000 words to 62,000. I love the story. I've sent it off to Silhouette to see if it suits their Romantic Suspense line. Who knows? It might. It would be great if it did, because if not then it has nowhere to go. It would be too short for any other house.

My son came to visit last weekend. It was lovely to have company. The dog was thrilled. Summer months are hard in the desert because we go out early to walk, then walk in the late evening once it cools down. There's this huge long day in which I entertain myself by writing and the dog just moves around the house choosing different spots in which to nap. I think she was quite depressed to find out on Monday that life had returned to it's same slow pace.

If it hadn't been for the Summer Olympics I'd have died of boredom this year. Now I have the humor of politics for a while, that keeps me entertained. Plus reading. I usually read at least four books a week. Yesterday I picked up a book at the market. It was by an author I love and I didn't recognize the title or the cover, so didn't even read the back cover copy. I was pretty mad when I got home and discovered it was a re-release of one of her books from five years ago, they just slapped on a new cover. I hate that. When Nora Roberts' books are re-released it says so on the cover. I mean what avid reader can remember commercial fiction she read from four or five years ago?

Two of my writing buddies had excellent news this week. One got a request from Harlequin to hurry up and send the rest of her manuscript. Like they wanted it pronto! The other got her contract from the agent of her dreams. Way to go ladies. It's my turn next. Heh. Yay! It's nearly September. Two or three more weeks and we'll be back to gorgeous days and even more wonderful evenings. I can't wait. So now, back to the keyboard to write so I can have time to play once the cool weather arrives.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The creative mind.

The creative mind is a strange thing. I'm always in awe of it, even my own.

I had outlined a new story somewhere in the middle of writing my last one and I liked it although it would have been much darker than I'd ever attempted. I was positive I would write it next. After returning from RWA National I've put in six hour days polishing Unlock the Truth. I totally ditched the first chapter and think the pace is much faster, which makes the book stronger.

So, in the midst of all of this work and enjoying my current manuscript all over again, another story nudged me. When I allowed it to take shape I had a strong beginning and some interesting characters. I even had the title and that has not changed. It has become my next book. The thing is, the story is light in tone. It has, at the moment at least, glimpses of comedy. I don't write comedy. I'm not funny. Everyone who knows me knows I don't do funny. So what's up?

While I'm amused at the thought of writing a romantic comedy, I doubt I will. It has a mystery element though, so I might expand on that aspect and turn it into a suspense. Who knows? I'm figuring by the end of this month I'll have started it and will see where it takes me. The creative muse is certainly strange, we never know where or why our stories emerge like they do. For me, at first they're shadows or fleeting thoughts and I try to ignore them, especially if I'm working on something else. Gradually, over a few weeks, I find I dream or daydream full scenes. Before I know it I'm fleshing out the characters and the plot. Then a synopsis or outline forms in my mind and I begin any research.

Once I know the ending, that's usually it. I'm so excited I have to write the story. It's quite an adventure, really.

You should try it.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Taken down by a shrimp.

There was an unusual mood to this conference, one I have never experienced before at RWA. It seemed the energy in San Francisco was low. Both inside and outside of the hotel. I'd arrived early with the intention of combining the conference with a mini-vacation. The only one I'd allowed myself this year. Sadly to say I got no vacation and very little conference but I did pay a hefty price to sleep in a hotel bed.

Walking outside of the hotel was beyond depressing. Maybe it's a reflection of our current economic situation, or has SF gone downhill since my last visit? Side-stepping a scruffy man seated with his back pressed to the wall and spitting gobs of phlegm in my direction was beyond yuck on the yuck-o-meter. Side-stepping a pool of vomit in the street was disgusting. Watching people beg and panhandle and smelling the great unwashed was not pleasant. Gripping my purse to my side while walking the street was not pleasant. Viewing the high-priced items called memorabilia but that resembled the worst schlock I've ever seen, was disheartening. But the whole scenario also left me feeling saddened. This was once a city of great beauty, a place that on my first visit took my breath away. What happened?

Back in the hotel the prices were astronomical. I'm a world-wide traveller and don't mind paying for quality but resent being stiffed. I thought I was being stiffed. On everything.

Then I got sick. I guess I met a shrimp I didn't like, or that didn't like me. I went to the 39th level bar to meet a friend. Hadn't eaten so decided the way over-priced shrimp coktail was a good idea. The following day I came down with chills and took to my bed. When I awoke I couldn't make it to the bathroom to throw-up and grabbed the waste basket. Thank goodness the basket was metal and not a woven bamboo. Anyway, who knew someone could throw up as much as moi? I went to management to make a report convinced I had food poisoning as I never get ill like that. Management said there'd been no other complaints. After that I was determined to flush every remaining bad thing from my body. I drank so much water I squished when I walked. *grin*

So I missed two networking parties, many workshops, many get togethers with old friends. I considered cancelling the rest of the trip and going home but didn't feel strong enough to travel. I spent most of two days in my room. Fortunately I'd lugged my laptop along on the trip. On the plus side I put some polish on my manuscript and began brainstorming another story. Also, I felt a lot better by the night of the awards ceremony. Krissie (Anne Stuart) won a Rita in the romantic suspense category for Ice Storm. That was fabulous. Congratulations again, Krissie!

And I read Homecoming, a wonderful inspirational by Jill Marie Landis. I've never been big on inspirational stories. I was raised in the Christian faith, then converted to Judiasim for my husband and to raise my children Jewish. After divorcing I explored my own beliefs and took journey's into Eastern religions, spirituality, quantum physics, etc. I never thought I'd enjoy a story with a strong Bible influence. I was wrong. I guess it all goes back to the quality of the writing, to the storytelling. I love Jill's work, adore her voice, and that was why I was willing to give this book a chance. By the first page I was hooked. This is such a beautifully crafted story about finding the truth to who we are on a deep inner level, where we truly belong, and having and trusting the faith to find out. It touched my heart.

It's Wednesday today, one week after meeting the shrimp that took me down. I can finally say I'm feeling back to normal. Will I ever eat shrimp again? I don't think so. Will I re-visit San Francisco? I doubt it. Will I go to National in D.C. next year? You bet.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Metabolism and other energy related matters ...

I've been devouring Robert K. Cooper's book, Flip the Switch. It's all about fueling your metabolism and burning fat. I get on my spinner cycle and start pedaling and reading and before I realize it an hour has slipped by. Not bad, killing two birds so to speak, not that I like killing birds or anything. Heck, I even scoop up insects and set them free outdoors ... well some insects, the big scary ones that give me a shudder and a chill up the spine, they get whacked.

The knee is doing fine, but the leg tires when I stand for long periods, or walk around the shopping malls. I know, I know, stop shopping. *grin* But, hey somebody has to fuel our sagging economy. Also, it's almost conference time and I need a couple of new items of clothing. It's rather sad, this shopping thing. I had a bunch of $15 and $25 coupons to use at a major department store and could even use them for on sale items. Yippee! A couple of days ago I drove to the nearest mall, but no such luck. Who is designing these clothes and for whom? If you are a size two with no breasts you might be in luck. But puffed sleeves? Cut me a break. And the colors? Yikes!

I decided on a black pant suit thinking how could I go wrong. It looked perfect on the rack. Dainty little pintucks down the front of the jacket, interesting snap buttons, three quarter sleeves (perfect for summer) and a nice slimming line to the pant. It was awful! On the rack it was great, on me I looked pregnant. The jacket had a flare to it and fell straight from my breasts into something that looked suspiciously like a short maternity smock. Been there, done that, never want to go back.

And speaking of energy, I'd better read that book again. It's Saturday and I realized this morning there have been no business cards printed, must get to that today, because after all I'm going for the networking this year. I'm not doing any appointments with editors or agents. Speaking of which, I don't have a pitch for my latest work. Hmmm. Now I do have two partial manuscripts out with two different literary agencies, and I like and respect both agents and would be thrilled if either one signed me on. But as we all know, having someone "looking" at your work does not a guarantee make. Time to knuckle down and write an elevator pitch. For those non-writer friends and family, that's a short pitch you can do in sixty seconds while in the elevator (thus the name) or standing in a lunch line, or standing in the long, long, long line to use the restroom. It's handy to have when someone asks, "What do you write?" It helps tremendously if you don't answer, "Books." *grin*

Okay, so no shopping today. I'll stick to the tried and true clothes that I already have in the closet. They never get worn in the desert anyway. It's shorts and flip-flops if you go out in this heat, and barely nothing if you stay indoors. And it will be lucky to get to 75 degrees in the middle of the day in San Francisco, so maybe I should check my fall clothing. There's an idea.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fun weekend

So I went up to L.A. on Friday for a friend's book launch. What a lovely event. This was Trish Albright's debut book, Siren's Song. Trish is a Disney Imagineer and travels all over the world for her work. She is always having amazing adventures and when we were in a critique group together there was always an hour of laughter and rapid conversation as we "stay at homes" got swept up and into her latest happenings. It's logical that she would put that same fabulous energy into the written word, and Siren's Song does not disappoint. It's a great pirate adventure set in Morocco in 1787.

The event was held at Big Buddha Baba Productions in L.A. and Trish had a huge number of friends and family come out to support her. It was nice to catch up with a couple of my other writing buddies from LARA as I didn't make the last meeting and won't make the next one either. There was even a man in a pirate costume who read the first chapter of the novel and did a superb job. The food was excellent and plentiful and so was the generous bar. My daughter came with me and we had a fun time. Driving through Hollywood is always a fun time, but with my daughter at the wheel, believe me it's even funner.

We had dinner out, and got sick from eating too much. We had lunch out with my son and his girlfriend and got sick from eating too much. We watched way too much television. We ate way too much chocolate. We drank way too much Pinot Grigio. We laughed way too hard at so many things.

The good thing is my knee survived all of the ordeal, including the two and a bit hours of driving up and back to L.A. Plus I got to wear real clothes and shoes. None of this shorts and tank-tops and flip-flops attire that I live in in the desert during the summer months. It was a dry run for going to the RWA National conference. All I have to say on that topic is I have two weeks in which to (a) further strengthen the knee (b) take off a few pounds (c) buy a few more "real" clothes. The only problem is I have to take off the three pounds I put on with all of the "way too much stuff" before I can go shopping. Guess I'll be doing that the day before leaving. Or not. Do you think flip-flops and tank-tops would work for a national writers conference?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The week from hell...

All I can say is pleeeease, let this one be over soon. I'm tired just thinking about it. It seems everything I touched this week got messed up, and heck, Mercury isn't even retrograde.

The electrical in the wall for the microwave, gas range, and two power points blew a fuse. I of course tried the electrical panel, tripped the breakers several times ... nothing. I called numerous electricians, nobody answered. I kept my fingers crossed that the microwave hadn't gone pffft on me, 'cause I was using it at the time, along with my brand spanking new toaster. That baby must pull a lot of energy.

Finally a friend advised me to call the handyman from our development. I'm kind of funny about electrical stuff. Don't want someone tinkering where they shouldn't be tinkering. But, I was desperate. He came over and tripped those breakers in one second. Guess my wrists are not too strong these days. You'd think they would be with all the typing. Oh well, good news it only cost me the $20 I palmed him.

Then the dog started to yelp every time she scratched near her ear and she walked with a strange tilt to her head. She'd shake her head so violently her ears would flap and you could hear her from a different room in the house. I thought hmmm, is there a bug in her ear? I need all the spare dollars I can get for National conference this month and did not relish the idea of a vet bill. Out came the flashlight, on went the glasses. Couldn't see anything wrong in there but for some odd reason the dog thought I was making it better. Those big dog ear canals are very deep. She'd come and sit next to me and tilt her head all evening. I'd accommodate her by having another look. Still nothing.

Next day, and $208 later, she was diagnosed with an ear infection and I was given the job of instilling antibiotic drops twice a day, and every other day filling her ear with a wax removing liquid. Now, for me with recent knee surgery, getting to the floor is a hard job. But getting down to doggie level, while holding the 100 pound beast's head and trying to placate her, and positioning the bottle of liquid just so, and trying to get it into the ear and not all over me was nigh on impossible.

Last night I walked the dog at 8PM and almost fell over when the toe of my sneaker caught a raised edge of the pavement. I lurched forward, managed to prevent myself from falling and jarred my knee. Last night I didn't sleep. I took Tylenol and iced the knee down but couldn't shake off the pain. Got up and worked on my novel at 2AM for an hour or so. Drank milk. Went back to bed until 6 AM. Had to get up because in these temperatures you have to walk the dog by 7 AM or you're in trouble. So got back home without mishap and realized the dreaded wax treatment was due. I figured, sit in the computer chair and do the treatment, it was the perfect level. I succeeded in getting the oily wax treatment done and she immediately shook her head and sprayed oil over the keyboard, the computer screen, my favorite tank top. Oy!

Finally got out of the house around 10 AM, did all of the beginning of the month chores in 112 degree very humid heat, not at all like our normal dry desert conditions and came home feeling like a wrung out dishrag around noon. Found a gusher in my back yard, and I'm not talking overly chatty neighbor. The valve cap on the irrigation system had burst. Turned off the water, found the culprit, unscrewed it and started calling. Handyman had left for the Fourth of July holiday. Gardener had left for a quick trip to Mexico. It finally occurred to me that nobody would be around this long weekend until at least Monday. I figured okay, no problem, how hard could this be? I turned off the water, unscrewed the thing, figured I'd just go out buy another one and put it on myself.

Home Depot doesn't sell this type of valve. I go to Loews, they don't either. However, the guy at Loews tells me the valve company, Richdel, which is written across the top of the broken valve, has been out of business for years. He tells me his gardener could come over and replace the whole thing for me. I see dollars with wings flying out the window. By this time it's 2 PM, I'm drenched. I look like a mad woman, my knee is aching and swollen. I'm almost in tears. I come back home and think about kicking a few walls but remember the knee just in time. I curse, I walk around like a deranged person saying, "I hate this house. I hate this house."

I sit down and open the yellow pages and begin calling plumbing supply places. Almost everyone has a message machine. It's the eve of a four day weekend!!! I finally get a real live human on the phone. A woman. She keeps telling me she can give me a 2 inch valve. I keep telling her I need a 1 inch valve. Eventually I thank her and hang up. I call Ace Hardware. An elderly man answers. He assures me he has a universal cap that will be perfect. I drive to Palm Desert and sure enough, for less than $10 I have what I need. I rush home and do the repair, turn the water back on and all is fine. So, who needs guys and gardeners and electricians and handymen and ... ooops! better clamp the hand over the mouth, with my luck something else will give out tomorrow.

On the plus side, I've been doing a lot of reading on these hot afternoons. Read Anne Stuart's Fire and Ice for Jenny Crusie's book club. It was a fabulous read. Where Anne, or Krissie as we know her, gets her ideas is beyond me. This is part of a series and this one is set in Tokyo. Her characters are amazingly well-drawn and her hero is gorgeous. I loved him. The quintessential bad boy with the tender heart. The pace is incredible, the cultural aspects giving just enough flavor without bogging the story down. I enjoyed asking her questions and hearing her answers.

Then I read my prior critique partner's debut novel, Siren's Song, by Trish Albright. It's a historical romance, published through Dorchester. What a fast-paced, hang on to your seat swashbuckler adventure story that is. Trish does a great job with a tender family story, a fab romance, adventure on the high seas, and a memorable spunky heroine. I say move over Johnny Depp there's a new swashbuckler in town, and a girl no less.

After the pace of those two books I curled up yesterday with Susan Mallery's new book, Sweet Talk. What a superb story. It was such an easy flowing read, a beautiful narrative voice, nice even pacing and so many tender moments it left me wanting more. I loved all of her carefully crafted characters, and their individual story. It was perfect and a great HEA.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Good news.

The Doctor is thrilled with my rehabilitation. Yay! I only have to go to physio one more time, and I'm allowed to swim. I can gradually increase the walking distance but must not push myself too hard. I now have a new set of "at home" exercises to do, they take about forty-five minutes and I'm pooped afterward. Plus, I can use the spinner bike and gradually increase the tension. And this isn't even the three week marker.

So today I walked the dog for thirty minutes, came home and jumped in the pool. Then I showered and washed my hair, went to physio, came home an hour and a half later and took a nap. When was the last time you had a nap at 11:30 in the morning? Heh. It felt so bizarre but I'd turned on the computer scrolled down to the chapter I intended to work on and was hit by a huge wave of tiredness. By one o'clock I was typing away and doing great. Sometimes you just have to listen to your body.

The San Francisco National is looming on the horizon and I toyed with driving up, but with gas at $4.67 cents a gallon, and the parking fees at the hotels in the range of $45 to $50 per night it isn't worth it. I love to travel by car. Love the independence and the peace and quiet. It's great thinking time and my WIP will be completed by then so it would have been a good chance to brainstorm with myself over my next project.

I already have a story idea and setting, and two wonderful main characters but the plot needs to be fleshed out. What are the conflicts these two will have, what external adventures and catastrophies will they deal with, what internal emotions and barriers will come tumbling down? Hmmmm? I love this part it's very exciting. I actually got the idea for this story because of the hotel I stayed in at the Dallas National last year. It has been on the back burner ever since. It's another mystery/suspense. A little darker than I've written so far but I'm looking forward to tackling it. But first, I must finish up the last few chapters of Unlock the Truth, let it simmer for a couple of weeks while I put the final polish on Saving Sarah.

This is a great time for writing for me because it's too darn hot to go outside. We had a week of high teens temperatures. One day it reached 119 degrees but for the better part of the week it hovered between 114-116 degreees. The problem is it doesn't cool down at night, so you wake up at 6 AM and it's 90 degrees. At 8 PM it can still be 104 degrees. You have to be creative in finding dog walking time.

When I start the new story, my side project will be to revisit Gone Tropical and give it a major overhaul. I still love that story, it's very dear to me and I had such fun writing it. I didn't shop it around much but one agent I trust and one Editor I respect, did read the entire manuscript and gave me some much needed advice. I think it's worth revisiting.

So, I'm happy, life is pretty darn good at the moment. Hope it is for you, too.

Monday, June 16, 2008


No, I'm not talking twelve step programs. For those who have asked me questions about arthroscopy and the recovery process (it seems there are many out there with creaky knees) this is how it worked for me. Day one I was so high on Vicodan I didn't feel a thing. Day two I was a trouper and tried to cut back on medication and move around. Day three I collapsed and could barely walk. My glute had no strength. I could barely lift the leg, it felt like a giant dead fish. Ice was my best friend. Well, that and my recliner chair.

On the sixth day I had my first physiotherapy appointment (do not delay this, do it as soon as you possibly can) and they gave me exercises to do three times a day at home. I went to the appt. using one crutch ... as well ... a crutch. And I used the elevator to the second floor. While the exercises were boring range-of-motion exercises I soon learned that the leg felt better, less stiff, afterward. Plus, embarrasingly, I fell asleep will they did the ten minute electronic stimulus. That felt so goooood! Then ten minutes of ice and I almost floated out of the place.

Day ten I started to walk the dog short distances. It hurt but not in a bad way. Day twelve was my second physiotherapy. I didn't use a crutch or a cane. I walked up the two flights of stairs. They added gentle no tension bicycle today, and a few different stretches. The main thing though, they taught me how to walk through from heel to toe and not with a stiff leg, with flexion. It made the world of difference. Tonight I walked the dog and the difference in walking properly to walking like an old lady with a bad knee was incredible. Of course I stretched and iced down the knee before and after walking the dog, but tonight is the first night with no pain. So, there you have it. I've turned a major corner here. I'm excited and happy. By the end of the month my knee will be better than it ever was. And hey, did you see that Tiger Woods did enter the Masters after all, and he won. Yay!

It's 114 degrees here in the desert. I'd love to use the pool but have to wait for the steri-strips to fall off by themselves. Can't risk an infection if the incisions aren't sealed off. Two have fallen off, one left to go. But, I can wait. I'm getting good at waiting and giving things their time. I feel so improved, today I re-registered for the National conference. Now I have a goal. I always work better when I'm working toward a goal.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Second day syndrome

What is it with second day syndrome? If you go out dancing you're more tired the second day than the morning after, same thing as working out too hard at the gym, going hiking or skiing, and as I've just discovered getting over surgery. Now I can understand the second day syndrome with the activities that require excess energy, you coast along on the first day depleting your reserves, but surgery? Heck you lie on an operating table, then in a recovery room bed, then you come home and sit in your recliner and get waited on hand and foot.

I had an arthroscopy on the knee on Thursday and got home around noon. I was high on anaesthesia, morphine, and then Vicodan. I was happy, not feeling a thing. The next morning the pain crept in and I tried to give up the Vicodan which makes me feel sick. I figured ice and Aleve would see me through. By five p.m. I was begging for relief. This morning I woke up to a leg that felt like a huge dead fish. I had no muscle strength to lift the leg, the poor old quadriceps would twitch but not lift. I could even tolerate some weight bearing (of course with the crutches for support if need be) but could not lift the darn leg to even get in and out of the chair or to prop it on a pillow. We took off the outer bandage and the lower part of the thigh was so swollen you couldn't even see a knee cap. Whoever it was who claimed they went dancing on the third day after the same surgery (and it was a guy no less and we women all know what babies they are about pain) all I have to say is big fat liar.

My daughter has been fabulous. She has listened to me griping, jumped to attention with every movement I've made, even second guessed most of my needs. Today she cleaned the whole place before leaving, without being asked, and this is a girl who hates housework. My son is on his way down and he gets the job of taking me for my first Doctor's appointment. That should be fun. Other interesting thing, no shower until evening on Monday, can't wash my hair either unless I do it in the kitchen sink. I don't think so. Knowing me I'd spill water everywhere , slip and break my a$$.

On the plus side, we've watched the Stanley Cup finals, the first game of the Lakers/Celtics finals, the movies Moonstruck, Twenty-Seven Dresses, and Mad Money. Last night we pigged out on pizza which I haven't had in six months. All things I rarely bother doing when I'm on my own. Whenever there is spare time I use it to write, and I'm always trying to chase off the last ten pounds of whatever diet I'm kidding myself I'm on. I'm betting Sunday night we watch another Lakers game and eat more pizza. I see an additional five pound weight gain in my near future.

But, it's all good. This, without the annoyance of the flabby dead fish leg, is like a vacation. I love spending time with my kids, they're always entertaining. It's hard for me to accept help, I have no trouble aiding others, but recieving? My daughter said this must feel so strange to you Mom, you're always the doer. It's true but you know, this was kind of nice. I could get used to it. Can't you see me as the elderly lady in the pink feather boa reclining in a silk dressing gown on a fainting couch ringing a bell for attention? I think I would have been a great Southern damsel from an early era. "Forget about Rhett. There are plenty more fish in the sea. Bring me another mint julep, dear, and where are the bon-bons?"

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I saw the orthopod yesterday (that's medical language for an orthopedic physician) and got the post MRI news. I tore the medial meniscus and am tentatively scheduled for an Arthroscopy next Thursday. The orthopod had better be good at exorcism because I want that ghost out of my knee ASAP. I questioned doing physiotherapy vs. surgery but he thought I'd given the knee several months to heal on its own and it wasn't happening. I do trust him and I know several people who have had far worse situations that he has handled with expertise. Also, he thinks I'm young. Hah. Okay so he had me at, "We should do this now while you're young and in good shape." I looooove this guy.

I saw the news on Tiger Woods yesterday. He had similar surgery on April 15th and has just cancelled a big golf tournament because his knee is still swelling. Yikes! The orthopod told me I'd recover fairly quickly, a couple of weeks of physio and I'd be fine. I'm wondering if I should cancel RWA National for this year. Maybe I'll rethink everything in late June. Woods is about a quarter my age (just kidding) but heck he's a kid and an athlete, what hope do I have? I'm an old couch potato. Or at least a chip-eating massage-recliner person.

Anyway, on the positive side, while I'm recovering and spending half of my day at physio I'll also have a lot of time to write. I had a request on Sunday from an agent for a proposal of a manuscript that had finalled in a contest. Yay! So I put together the required package and dug out the biography from way back when. It was horrible. So stiff and formal. I decided on a narrative style bio and sent everything off today. Hope she doesn't think I'm a loony tune. I'm still working on the manuscript. It's shaping up nicely and by the time she makes her decision, of whether or not she'd like to see the complete manuscript, I feel confident it will be ready to ship out.

So who says the universe doesn't have a master plan, huh? Force me to stay home and quit playing and I'll finish a manuscript. Not that I'd advise anyone to smash up their knee to get time to finish a story. There are other more comfortable ways. Just sayin'.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Weird happenings.

Okay, so I've got ghosts in the plumbing of one toilet, a ghost in my computer, and a ghost in my right knee. They've all been rumbling and clanking around and causing all kinds of damage for weeks now. Remember, I'm a cheapskate and a Ms. Fix-it (it's the old nurse in me) so pay someone to come take care of the problems? Hell, no, that would be too easy, I'll just keep playing around until I totally wreck all three things.

I quizzed a neighbor who used to be a plumber. He gave some sensible advice. I tried it and for a few days the echo in the pipes everytime I flushed went away. THEY'RE BACK! So my answer, don't use it. Use another one instead, so how come I keep going into that one and not remember what I'd decided until the moment I flush? Sigh. I can see a plumber's fee in my future.

Couldn't figure out why I'd lost the wireless aspect to my laptop. Couldn't use it outside or in the living room. Desktop computer was slow. On Sunday I figured, being Mothers Day I'd send a reminder to my chapter mates about registering for the RWA National conference Agent and Editor appointments to be held Monday morning. At 0600 hours in California. Yikes! Those appointments go swiftly so I also gave pointers to the newbies on how to print up and highlight their wishlist of the top five people interested in the genre they write. I advised they keep it beside their computer because once they'd get to the RWA site they'd find some agent/editors would fill up fast and they might panic and end up with someone who didn't want what they wrote. Sound advice right?

Monday I overslept. Just reached out and turned off the offending alarm. I got to the computer around 0730 cup of coffee in hand, still feeling it would be okay. The RWA computer crashed. I was getting a "This site is not configured" report. Finally called to the office after wasting an hour of trying to refresh the page. They said it would be up again by the afternoon but to check back every hour or so. I did. Still the same message. Finally at almost closing time, I called again. They said maybe delete cookies. I did that, still nothing. I called back and found out the site had only crashed for half an hour around seven in the morning. Now I saw the humor in all of this. I'd been raised to be polite, to never push or be aggressive. But hell, I'm a grown woman now, you'd think I could get past those childish things. Old Ms. Polite here sat on her hands until almost five o'clock.

Today I paid for someone to come and look at both desktop and laptop. He was brilliant. We cleaned everything up and exorcized the ghosts. We found there is only one position my desk can be in to get that DSL/Wireless working properly. I had moved the office around about two months ago, reversing the position of the desk to where it faced the mountains. How weird is that? As soon as we put the desk back underneath the window everything worked. Ghosts I tell you.

The knee went out a couple of months ago. My dog ran into it at top speed. So, I was good and eventually saw an Orthopedic Doctor. He threatened me with an MRI and possible Arthroscopy. I hadn't met my deductible : ) so decided I could fix it myself. I began my own physiotherapy in the pool. Some days it's good other days it gets all hot and cranky. I've seen the Chiropractor and had ultrasound treatments. He's ordered a Cho-Strap to support the patella but, yeah, it's back ordered and won't be here for another week. I've iced the knee down after every time I walk the dog. I'm using the Spinner bike to strengthen the muscles and tendons. Yet still the knee ghost lives on. Now I know it's a ghost because it keeps moving. One day it's sore at the front, the next day the inner aspect. Sometimes it feels swollen behind the knee. Vaccuuming is out of the question. I'm living on Aleve.

Today, in the wake of one success, I decided I've had enough.
Tomorrow I call the plumber and the Ortho guy.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Work and Workshops.

This has been a very busy week for me.

I recieved an honorable mention for a blog contest. Yay! My entry was in the Romantic Suspense category, and I was thrilled. I've won and placed in other writing contests but for some reason this meant so much more. Maybe because it was being judged by agents who are well known in the industry for being straight shooters? Who knows? Anyway, I love those people, the SS's of the world. Why candy-coat something? This business is hard enough to break into without someone leading you on that your work is good when it totally sucks. I'm all for "just give me the facts, ma'am." I can deal with that. Tell me the truth and I'll learn how to correct, how to make it better.

Anyway, the very next day, after riding the crest of the wave that somebody "got" my work, I had a rejection from the editor in NY for another manuscript. Sigh. I was tossed back onto the hard sandy beach. I'd held out hopes for this one because they'd read the first 100 pages and then asked for the full manuscript. But, truth be told, I knew my chances were slim to none. After coming home from conference, I'd rushed the ending just in case they asked for the complete manuscript. Not a good idea. Never a good idea. The editor had liked my style saying it was easy-to-read, liked my characters, but thought overall, the writing just wasn't strong enough to make this a big book.

I scratched my head. Big book? Hell, I didn't want a big book, just give me a foot in the door with a little book and I'll work my way up. Grin. So I emailed a multi-pubbed author who I've met on several occasions (and won't name here because I don't think she wants to be flooded with critique requests) and asked her, "How does one go about making their writing stronger? What is it voice, word choice, changing the weird way I string my sentences together? Should I take college courses, go to a retreat?" She said, send me a chapter and I'll critique it.

I shook in my boots, literally, except I think I was in P.J.'s at the time and the boots were slippers. Anyway, she critiqued the chapter and wrote back something very interesting: I was strangling my voice. My characters were dying on the page. I wasn't letting them breathe and I wasn't letting my true voice shine through. She told me to stop manipulating the characters to do what I wanted them to do, and to trust myself, and to stay in the story now. Forget the past. Forget the history. Then she gave me examples and showed me how--by deleting sections where I'd info dumped or thought I was threading through valuable information that the reader needed to know--my story would become more interesting.

What I saw was an entirely different story. A vibrant story that made me want to turn the pages. Pages of my own story. Can you believe that? Ha ha. And she'd done this without harshness and without the sugar-coating. I got it. I understood her words and her directions immediately. I saw from her example what my work could become. This morning I got up and using my author friends editing advice, reworked the manuscript. Yay! I cannot believe the difference. I owe her at least seventy-five dinners, I think. But on the other hand I'm pissed because she kept talking about letting things breathe and I got this bug in my ear of the lyrics to Faith Hill's song, Breathe. Yeah, I picked up the CD, Faith Hill The Hits, at Circuit City and I played it all day. No wonder the dog stayed outside.

I went to the LARA annual workshop, in Los Angeles, yesterday. The guest speaker was multi-pubbed, NY times best seller of Regency novels, Julia Quinn. What a sweet and funny lady. Her humor is infectious and she doesn't take herself terribly seriously. She spoke about dialogue and quirky punctuation, but the best thing was she opened her entire day to questions. None of this saving until the end and then forgetting what it was you intended to ask. Of course that meant for an unwieldy format with many digressions, but it was the thing I personally liked best about the day. You have to be a really good writer, know your craft inside out and upside down to be able to be thrown off track like that and switch hats and come up with the right and meaningful answers. Anyone can stand in front of an audience and give a dry lecture. But to be open like that, and vulnerable to whatever is thrown your way, that takes an expert.

So all in all, a busy week, a rollercoaster of emotion, but I'm still here, kicking, fighting back and forging ahead. It's not all bad.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Historical Romance

Wow! I just finished a historical romance tonight that blew my socks off!

Bennett, TJ: The Legacy, Medallion Press, April 2008.

This is TJ Bennett's debut novel but I had the feeling I was reading a seasoned author's work. I know TJ personally, a few years ago we were in a critique group together, but honestly I'm not pushing her book here, this story is terrific and I'd be saying this even if I didn't know her.

TJ tackled an era in history that was dark to say the least, and one not many romance authors would think of as a backdrop to a passionate romance between a commoner and a noblewoman. Try 1525 Germany, the Early Reformation period. TJ did her research and it shows. The history is deftly woven throughout, no info dumps evident, yet the reader knows exactly where she is at all times. The characters are wonderful, larger than life. I want to be careful not to do a spoiler here because I know you'll want to let this lovestory of Sabina and Wolfgang, forced into a marriage neither wants and both convinced they will never consummate, unfold as you greedily turn the pages.

Suffice it to say that this sensual, action-packed story with its rising stakes refused to allow me to put the book down. There was a tenderness that brought tears to my eyes, heat that made me head for the cold shower, and action that had me on the edge of the seat. This author doesn't shy away from the brutality of the era, the romance contrasted against the reality of the time period is what made it a riveting story for me. And when you finish it, if you're at all like me, you'll be saddened at the loss of these friends as if they were loved ones leaving for distant shores and you aren't certain you'll ever meet again.

But fear not, there is a sequel, the story of Wolfgang's brother, Gunter, The Promise, will be available in May, 2009. I know I can't wait!

Check out this book at http://www.medallionpress.com/ or http://www.amazon.com/ or http://www.bn.com/
To read more about this fabulous new author, please visit her website: http://www.tjbennett.com/

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A gathering she did go ...

This has been a fabulous couple of weeks. I had information/research to gather before I could progress with my current manuscript. I could get a lot from websites and books, but what I'm talking about are the small but important details. The type of information that makes a scene spring to life. Whether that comes from talking to someone in the same business as my main character, or observing the person going about a normal day's activity, or getting the real skinny on their situation. There is nothing like taking your yellow legal pad and a nice sharp pencil and talking to real live people.

First, I needed to get information on horses. I've ridden them in the past, but it has been a long time. Plus, I needed some specifics that related to my heroine, petite little character that she is, and horsewoman that she isn't. I had made a comment on my prior post and Barbara Martin, another author and one who I've never met (except via Jenny Crusie's and Bob Mayer's blogs) immediately contacted me. She has a wealth of information. After telling her what I needed to know she went into great detail. Way and above the call of duty to a fellow blogger. I printed up her horse-related comments and had a blast creating a scene, I loved it so much I decided to do another, and then at the end of the book I'll write a final horse scene. It's one of Jenny's rules of three. And here I was only going to do one scene, now my horses, or at least one of them, becomes a character and has her own arc. Hah.

Two days later I got up the nerve to ask one of my Polo playing neighbors, Rick, (who I've only had casual nodding good morning type dialogue with) a few more horse questions, things I didn't want to bother Barbara with and learned even more. He was happy to help. I've gone back into the manuscript and threaded through all of the details. You wouldn't think that one or two words here and there would make a difference, but they do.

Today, when I thought things couldn't get any better, I visited the La Quinta P.D. to make sure I had my homicide investigation set up right. The deputy on the desk was Jeffrey Covington. What a nice man. He went over, in great detail, all of my questions related to unincorporated areas in the Coachella Valley. My questions on who would be first on scene, the Riverside County Sherrifs, the Deputy from the local P.D. Sub Station? Would there be a back-up officer? Where would he come from? Would they take the suspect in for questioning or interview him on the spot? Would they invite him to come down to the station? Would they handcuff him and take him in? Big difference and all things I want to get right.

I've learned, you can't watch television, like Cops, or NYPD, or CSI Miami, and think that that is how it's done. I discovered that from a Forensics class I took in San Diego. Anyway, by the time I left the station, Deputy Covington was helping me to write my story, much to the amusement of the other man on the desk. I wasn't too far off in my assumption of how the investigation would be carried out but after talking with the deputy I felt more confident when I went back to those scenes. They are more vivid now.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

New Awareness

I've found a really nice place with my writing, a new awareness that my stories are good. I like them. For a long time now I've been questioning my talent. It happens. Writing/reading is very subjective and when you are actively pursuing publication you get a lot of rejection. Rejection is bound to make you question your abilities.

I was on an agency blog last week that was running a competition where writers were invited to submit a portion of their work and one winner would be chosen. I'd missed my category otherwise I'd have given it a shot. Ah, well. Next time. Anyway, one person was very disappointed in the result of the Thriller/Suspense decision. I could hear the pain in the voice and I want to say I think it was a guy. He/she had said they might as well chuck the whole writing thing. I've been there and done that. I think I lasted three weeks then I starting turning up at the computer and playing. I finally figured if I was going to sit in that chair I might as well work. Rejection is very hard to take, even when it's a kind rejection, or one that offers you some good advice. Bottom line is, it's still a rejection. Everyone gave the writer all of the emotional support possible but I knew how he felt. Words wouldn't cut it. I wanted to reach through cyberspace and give him a big hug and take him out for a beer.

Anyway, with my new awareness I'm relaxing more, having fun again, playing around with ideas and really enjoying the process of outlining my current story. The setting is the Coachella Valley, so no travel required. I've written three chapters and am getting a good feel for my characters. I think this one is a winner. Well, it will be if I can just get myself down to the Police Station and get some questions answered. I need answers on horses, too. Have a couple of guys on the Polo circuit living across the street. Yesterday I asked one of them if I could pick his brain on horse stuff. He smiled. I think he felt quite pleased to be asked. Now I just have to make up my list of questions and go ring his doorbell.

Books read this month:
Blue Dahlia and Black Rose, Nora Roberts (now I have to find the third book in the trilogy, Red Lily. This is a great ghost story intertwined with fantastic gardens and a nursery business.)
Crazy in Love, Lani Diane Rich (A very sweet, smart, funny book. I like Lani's voice. Also, her setting was in some ways similar to my setting in Saving Sarah so I enjoyed that aspect.)
Fugitive Nights, Joseph Wambaugh (Can't believe I've never read him before. I love this guy's humor. It's great cop-speak, raucous, rough at times, but laugh-out-loud funny. I've ordered every book I can get hold of on his back list.)
Getting Rid of Bradley, Jennifer Crusie (adore everything she writes and this was a re-read and just as enjoyable the second time around. She has incredible turns of phrase and wit and I think I own everything on her back list. This one will be featured on Jenny's Cherry Forums bookclub this week. We get to discuss, answer questions, ask questions of the author. Yay!)
The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever, Julia Quinn (just started this one and am absolutely hooked. Ms. Quinn will be the guest speaker at LARA's workshop in May. Can't wait to learn everything she's willing to impart.)

Monday, March 17, 2008


Just got back from a trip to Los Angeles to see my kids and to attend the meeting of my romance writers chapter, LARA. It was great to be back in the city and this time it seems I didn't notice the grime, or the traffic, or the crowds. It was totally fun! Does that mean a hankering to go back there to live? Who knows. Maybe. At least it's now no longer a no way nohow situation. The desert is nice and I do enjoy it for eight months of the year. If I had a little more money I would live here and escape for the two hottest months during the summer and that would make it doable. But who can afford a two month vacation? Not this baby.

Anyway, the kids are both looking good and doing great and that always makes a mother happy. I stayed a few days with my daughter and on Saturday we decided to go to Nordstrom Rack and "take a look." Sometime later I was feeling a little tired and a lot hungry, took a look at my watch and realised we'd been shopping for three hours. I never do that, I hate shopping. But for some reason I hadn't noticed the time. We both ended up with wonderful purchases and saved a ton of money.

My daughter is losing weight and beginning a bootcamp today where they do six-mile sunrise hikes in Griffith Park and other intensive workouts that I can only think about with my wonky knees and fat ass. So she bought a ton of stuff that looked good on her but was a little tight. She then went home and took out a bunch of gift boxes, neatly folded these items and put them in the boxes, then labelled them as 5lbs, 10lbs, 15lbs and 20lbs. She stores them and when she reaches her goal she opens up her gift for that weight loss. She said it's always a terrific surprise as she can never remember what is in the boxes. What a great idea. I'm going to try it. Also she's making me weigh in when I go up in mid April. I'll lose 5lbs to her ten but that's okay. I'm older and everything is slower. I'd be thrilled with another 5lb loss.

Anyway, my daughter encouraged me to try on a jean skirt at Nordstrom Rack. I haven't worn one in years. I loved it and it made me look slimmer, so I bought it and wore it the next day to the LARA meeting. Who knew that when I sat down the slit in the front would open wide and end at "you know where?" Well, almost. Sheesh. Lucky for me I had a steno pad to take notes on and could cover the naked flesh of my chubby thighs with that.

My friend, Lynn Marshall, gave a great talk on Riveting Revisions. She's a very generous soul and shares her writing experiences to help new writers along the hard road to publication. Her sharing is deep and honest. Lynn has no qualms about exposing a faux pas or the struggles she had to get where she is today. She has six published Harlequin Mills and Boon medical romances, and just signed another contract with them. Her stories are emotionally driven and keep you turning the pages. You literally fall in love with her characters. She had a book signing after the meeting and I purchased her latest, Single Dad, Nurse Bride. I started it last night and am at chapter five. It's a feel good read. It was great to be back amongst a group of writers again, and nice to see many old friends.

I woke up to an email message from NY last Wednesday, a request to send my entire manuscript to an editor. I couldn't stop shaking. What did this mean? Oh, my! They'd read the first five chapters, liked it and requested the rest, it was as simple as that. But because I'd never been asked to submit a full manuscript by email (it's normally by regular mail) I went a little over the top on the excitement scale. I kept running around the house talking to my dog. Of course she sensed the excitement and kept cocking her head to one side as if asking, "What is it a walk? A drive in the car? Who is coming to stay? Did someone say cookie?" I finally calmed down and eventually sent off the manuscript around 1pm. Geez. I wonder what I'd do if I ever got "the call?"

Saturday, March 01, 2008

A Great Couple of Weeks!

Since I last posted I've been on a writing roll, no fooling around on blogs. It's amazing how much actual writing can be achieved in two weeks. Of course there are one or two blogs I still visit as a reward for having put in the hours, but no more trolling. Instead I'm using my extra time to work out. I've bought a Spinner (an indoor bicycle) and love using it. Once I lose 20 lbs I'm going back to swimming but for now, it's sweatin' away on the bike.

I hated being away from my writers group, so rejoined LARA. Even though it's a two and a half hour drive (when traffic flow is good) I want to stay connected. Also, I missed hearing everyone's latest news. Now I'm back up and running and on the LARA link, so all is good. Even if I only make four or five meetings a year it's better than none at all. My one writer friend in the desert moved to Arizona. I do have a friend who is about an hour's drive away and we often meet up for lunch and a chat and to commiserate on this crazy thing called writing that we both love. Without her I'd be totally out of the loop.

Life has been pretty good of late. Nothing much to report on, which is always good news.
For the newbie writer check out Bookends Literary Agency. The agents have been doing something I've quite enjoyed, several contests for the opening 100 words of your manuscript and the winner gets to submit a chapter or so for review. http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/
They've broken the contest into subgenres and I think have just completed the Paranormal and Erotica categories. Next up is Women's Fiction. I love reading these openings, and comparing mine. Beginnings are hard to do. Nailing all of the important elements to entice someone to continue to read (while making it make sense) is truly an art form.

Not sure what is up next, maybe enter a couple of contests. Maybe not. I'm mapping out my characters for my new story. It's going well. This will be another romantic suspense. Not 100% sure on the title yet but the outline is plumping up nicely. I love this stage of writing, it's very exciting seeing the characters come to life.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Out of the cave

I'm coming out of that deep dark place that writers often go to, not to hide or be deliberately anti-social, just a spot that is deep within that closes everything else out and enables the creativity to flow unhindered. It has become a nice place for me, a familiar place over the past couple of years. A place where if I'm undisturbed the night dreams of my story can merge with the waking thoughts to create something deeper and more meaningful. Much better than if my storytelling was left to the tiresome tapping of forced fingers to keyboard.

New acquaintances often don't quite understand and think of this as isolation. "Who do you think you are a starving artist hiding in the attic?" they'll ask in a joking voice with a hint of accusation. I look at my p.j. bottoms, slippers, and old tatty cardigan and think, yeah, I'm playing the role, but the key is, I like it! They figure you have to eat, so why not go to a restaurant? Or take in a movie, "it's only two hours" or go shopping, "everyone needs clothes and have you seen that cardigan lately?"

The problem is if you follow the advice and join them, the whole time you're either thinking about your imaginary friends, writing scenes in your head, looking at your watch every five minutes, or taking over the entire conversation with the telling of the story you're writing. Every writer or artist has their own process. What truly works for them. I think it's important to find it early in your career and honor it, not make excuses for it.

What works for me is intense stints of time, maybe three weeks, where I go to my cave and ignore the world. Fortunately my family and longtime friends understand me and leave me alone when I withdraw like that. They trust I'll come back happier for the journey. So, now I'm looking around ready to rejoin the rest of the world and wondering where the sun came from. Last time I recall thinking about weather I had on a heavy jacket, scarf, and gloves, but it's mid-February in the California desert, of course there's sun. Hmmm, now where are my shorts?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Have I quit writing yet?

Just got back on Sunday afternoon from a long weekend writers conference. I've attended the San Diego State University Conference four or five times since 2000. It's one of my favorites because it encompasses all genres. I find it invigorating to mix with short story writers, poets, authors of children's books, literary fiction, thrillers, SF, fantasy, and of course romance.

I'd booked this conference back in November and then lost my confidence in my writing abilities. It seemed nothing was going right in my life. I procrastinated about cancelling right up until a couple of days before, then I had to email Jenny Crusie about something else and mentioned my fragile state. She got the pom-poms out and gave me the Crusie blessing. Or did she say, "Quit bitching and get your ass to San Diego," either way it worked? Even though I'd had a bad sinus attack that had lasted ten days (and still lives on, darn it) I ended up having one of the best and most fruitful conferences ever.

One of the highlights was meeting and chatting for an hour or so with Susan Wiggs. It turns out we both have relatives who live in this tiny Northern Territory of Australia town that has a population of about 4,000. Small world, huh? Susan is one of my favorite authors. I love the emotional character arc of her protagonists. In fact I told her I'd nicknamed her novel, A Table For Five, the two hand sweep. I'd have to put the book down and sweep my cheeks with both hands because I was constantly crying. Not that boo-hoo sobbing kind of crying, more the type where you don't even realize you're doing it but your face is constantly wet. Never been there? Never mind. It must have hit an emotional chord with me. It's truly a lovely story and very well written.

I also got to quiz Bob Mayer on a couple of writing questions although I didn't take any of his classes this time as I'd just gone to his retreat. I met up with a lot of lovely ladies, had many memorable conversations and attended an evening critique session that started at 8:30pm and ended at 2:15 am. We each turned in the first three pages of our manuscript, the facilitator read the entry aloud and we all got to comment, then she gave her critique. It was extremely beneficial and pointed out to me that 75% of the problems newbie writers have is in the area of point of view violation and exposition. I remember those days well.

I received several invitations to submit my work and am beyond thrilled. Today I began an indepth polish of the manuscript and I'm liking it more than ever. I asked for three or four weeks before sending because I don't want to rush this. My norm is usually to run home, print up the manuscript and send it immediately. As I told some of my writing buddies, in the past if my work had been steak it would still have been mooing on the plate. By taking my time, this time around, I'm hoping the work won't be undercooked.

So by the looks of things, I'm back. All I needed was a little injection of confidence. My stint away from writing lasted less than a month. Not bad, huh?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Judge or Judge Not?

An issue in the world of romance writing raised it's ugly head this past week and caused many to sit back on their heels. Some chose to scrutinize their own work, some became indignant, others hurled insults, some tried to defend or reserve judgment, others enjoyed playing this out.

What happened? An author was publicly exposed for plagiarism on a blog site titled, Smart Bitches who Love Trashy Novels. Before we go any further, I am against plagiarism. But I am also against murder, rape, child abuse, stealing, lying, road rage, cheating, false accusations, flaming, public ridicule, assumptions, self-righteousness, judging others, and oh, yeah, kicking dead horses.

The thing that made me sick to my stomach this week was not the plagiarism (which I know is wrong, wrong, wrong, and when discovered the blog site owners had every right to disclose it) but the way the author was treated. Her treatment was as criminal as the charge made. The pack mentality ran rampant. I don't believe we have the right to judge anyone or to publicly berate and humiliate another person. We can make a statement of concern. We can raise issues. We can make a complaint. We can discuss and give an informed opinion. But I think that's about as far as any individual can go. Aren't we supposed to give everyone the benefit of doubt? Aren't they considered innocent until proven guilty, no matter how damaging evidence looks on first appraisal, or even second or third appraisal?

The author in question (who by the way, I do not know nor have I ever read her work) was interviewed and she made a public statement, Romance Writers of America made a statement, the publishers who published the novels made a statement. Each one used their right to remain silent, or reserve judgment, until a full examination of the claim of plagiarism is made.

Unfortunately, the commenters on the blog site mentioned continued to berate, and in my opinion, harrass the author to the extent that they would not accept any reference to a "let's wait and see" attitude or any opinion that disagreed with theirs. They gloated and congratulated each other with every new mention in a blog or newspaper article. It was a sad week for women, for romance authors, and for writers everywhere.

Plagiarism is a crime punishable by law. There are fair right usage laws, copyright laws, ways to attribute research. If the author did not follow the law she'll be punished by the law, not by fellow authors or blog owners or readers of romance novels. There is a common decency in treating another human being who is under scrutiny. Innocent until proven guilty is one of them. Compassion is another. We all make mistakes. Allowing a person to present their case, get a fair trial, accept a judgment, pay a penalty, serve time, apologise for any wrong doing, those are their rights as a human being in our society and I don't know about you, but I'm willing to take a non-judgmental attitude and wait and see how the author handles this awful situation.