Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I've suffered some personal losses over the past month and things have pitched out of control at work, so I'm going to focus, for the next few weeks, on my family.  

If I've learned nothing else, I know what's important--the people we love and those who love us.  So as we look back on this year, rather than focusing on things that have given us fits and sorrow, we should double our efforts to appreciate the gifts we've been given.  I know I will be doing just that.

I hope you all have a Joyous Christmas and a Happy New Year.  


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Counting Your Blessings

Every once in a while, life hands you a personal epiphany.  You know what that is, right?  It’s a moment when you’re able to get your head around something you’ve been struggling with, or you understand something clearly.  There are epiphanies that come on gradually and the realization is like an alarm going off in your head.  It’s the “ah-ha” moment.  There’s another type, though.  The type you don’t see coming and the clarity hits you like a Louisville Slugger to the gut. 

This is not a gentle “ah-ha.”  This is a full-fledged assault on your current reality.

I had an epiphany last night.  And it wasn’t the gentle kind.

I've been in education for twenty-five years.  I'm proud of being a teacher even though, for the time being, we're perceived as a scourge on society.  I do good work, and my students are important to me.  Before I was a librarian, I taught English for ten years and the last four of those years I spent at St. Dominic High School on Long Island.  I taught seniors almost exclusively and developed some wonderful relationships with many of the students.  My last class graduated fifteen years ago in 1996.  They were a remarkable bunch--becoming lawyers, artists, social workers, Marines, teachers, moms and dads, executives, business owners, college get the idea.  They are successful people who are contributing to society and I'm very proud of them.

However, one of them just died.  She was thirty-three.  

I probably wouldn't have known if it hadn't been for the marvel that is social networking.  Because in reality, I lost touch with my students.   It happens, but Facebook has brought a number of them back into my life.  A year ago, Jennifer friended me on Facebook.  I remembered her well. She was a quiet young lady who was as gentle as a breeze.  She had good friends, a kind heart and a unspoken passion for everything she did.      

She had this passion, I believe, because she knew time was precious.  Jenn had Cystic Fibrosis.

It was a quiet battle.  She'd miss school, but she never complained.  She moved through her life finding a way to complete her education, making a large network of friends, loving her family and suffering the loss of her sister from the same disease.

I didn't have a lot of contact with her over the past year, but it was hard to avoid seeing all she'd accomplished.  I learned she'd had a double lung transplant which offered hope and trials at the same time. She worked for others with CF and always carried herself with a mantle of hope. Two days before her death, she posted a status on Facebook that thanked her father for his military service and thanked the family of her lung donor for the gift she'd received.

And then the people who loved her, lost her.

I cried when I saw the post on her wall, made by one of her friends, saying good-bye.  I cried and then I had my epiphany. It happened as I was about to whine to someone about my rejected manuscript.  As I was about to complain about having too few bathrooms in my house.  As I was about to work myself into a frenzy about some petty little thing.

Yeah.  I felt really stupid and this is where counting my blessings comes in.  This loss has has put things in perspective, and I hate that it often takes something tragic for people, like me, to have a wake-up call.

So here goes...My children are healthy and successful.  My husband is a kind and gentle man who adores me, although sometimes I don't know why.  I have a career that allows me to make a real difference in the lives of children and I have some wonderful friends.  My novels may never be published, but because of my writing, I've come in contact with talented and generous people and I've challenged myself in ways I never thought possible.  I have a lot to be thankful for and very little to complain about and Jennifer reminded me of this fact.

Jennifer was one soul who touched many lives.  I can't say I knew her the way others did, but she was courageous and she will be missed.  She is also just one of a handful of my former students who left this world too soon.  All left behind people who loved them and lives full of potential.  

I thank God I knew them, just as I thank all of the kids who've crossed my path for the things they've taught me.

With luck, we'll all keep learning from each other.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

50,000 words. 30 days. No problem.

As I look at the title of this post  I feel like screaming, "Liar, liar, pants on fire!"  Because I do have a problem.

Tomorrow I, along with tens of thousands of other writers, will embark on the month long writing sprint called NaNoWriMo, which stands for National Novel Writing Month.  Now that this particular brand of insanity has been named, let me tell you my plan for the month.

Here goes...

I have no plan.  Nope.  No plan.  Nothing.
Okay, I have a character list.  And I have character sketches.  And I have backstory.  However, the plot structure is weak, at best, and I have no doubt I will write myself into several corners over the course of the month.

So why am I doing this?  That is easy.  Even if I'm not writing my best work for the entire month, if I come out of it with 50,000 words, I have 50,000 words I can work with.   Additionally, there is the community, the bond, the knowledge that I'm doing something hard and that other people are struggling and fighting for every word the same way I am. I did Nano last year and reached my 50K word goal.  The book is pretty much done and would have been finished sooner, but my big revision threw off my time table.  I'm editing last year's Nano novel now and I'm ready to start another.
So, while I may not have a real plot going into tomorrow, I do have a loose plan.

1. Stock up on coffee.

2. Plan to write at lunch.  That's 40 minutes every day to write.

3. I'm giving myself permission to write crap.

4. I'm going to seek out encouragement from others.

The last one is big for me and exciting.  I wrote on my own last year.  This year, I have buddies.  People who will encourage me when I'm procrastinating or doubting myself.  The writing network I often blog about is heading to Nano in November.

We're in this together and that's pretty awe inspiring.  So how about you?  Are you jumping into the Nano pool?  Ready to write 1700 words a day? Come on in; there are a lot of us here and we'll keep you from going under.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Book Review: Hamlet's BlackBerry

It’s a rare person these days who can keep the digital world at bay.  As I write this post, there are three applications on my computer that demand my attention.  There’s a message on Facebook, there are a dozen tweets I could answer and I’m sure there’s something in my inbox.  I heard the chime on my smartphone signaling that I have a text message.  We tweet; we e-mail; we instant message, text or BBM.  There’s Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn.  Everywhere we turn our attention is drawn to someone who needs us and is letting us know through technology. For most of us, the draw of a smartphone and the ability to stay in touch with everyone at all times is hard to control.  We are in personal information overload and the book, Hamlet's BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age, by William Powers gives us a look at how we are becoming hyper-dependent on the digital feed and how all this dependence could be a result of us being hard-wired to respond to new stimuli.

Powers, a former staff writer for the Washington Post, delves into several areas. He looks at past technological revolutions as far back as Guttenberg and the printing press and how all technological advances were criticized for pushing forth too much change.  Just as we are being warned about the all-consuming addiction of social media, Powers reminds us of the warnings that came with the development of radio and TV and how with each new thing, humans adapted.  He also looks at how this new wave of change is taking so much more out of our day and intruding on time that we used to spend with ourselves. 

However, we may not be able to help it.  Research done recently supports the theory that the new stimuli cause a reaction in our brain that produces a little high.  So if you remember how excited Meg Ryan’s character got when she heard those little words “You’ve got mail,” her response may be grounded in fact.  Scientists have discovered that we get a little shot of dopamine every time one of our technological tethers tells us someone wants our attention. 

But, hard-wired or not, the revolution is cutting into time we would normally take to think and recharge.  Powers is sometimes redundant in his warnings, repeating over and over how the over-connectedness needs to be managed. Fortunately, he does present strategies we can use to combat the “techno bind” we find ourselves in today. 

Hamlet’s Blackberry is an interesting read.  The book puts this new frontier in proper historical context and gives those who are interested ideas on how to manage the constant demand the new technologies place on our time.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Words to Live By

I'll write more for my weekly post, but this quote is perfect today:

"Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat. " 

~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Everyone have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

Too Much Information?

Image from The Digerati Life
It's no secret that I have a book on submission.  Maybe it should be.  Perhaps I should have guarded it like a state secret, but I couldn't.  The reason I'm wondering if I did the right thing is because now my failure will be as public as my triumph.  Do I want the whole world to know if my book doesn't make it?

The point is, it's tempting to tell all when you are hooked into social networking.  It's a necessity in this day and age to show you have a web presence and that you are conscious of publishing as a business that will require you to do your fair share of book promotion.  But with all this connectedness, we risk a lot of ourselves out there in cyberspace and I wonder if this is a good thing.  

My previous post was about how writers supported other writers.  Most of the people who were telling me to keep going after that last rejection were people I met online--other writers who were looking to connect with their own kind, who were looking for support.  I've had friends jump in and offer encouragement and people I never would have expected are rooting for my success.

So, should I have put myself on the line like I did?  Is is okay that anyone linked to me by a mouse click knows my writing fate?  Maybe not, but if the trade off for that means I get to know more people like me who are working toward perfecting that book and getting "the call," or I get to see the positive, generous side of so many others, then it's all worth it.

So what do you think?  Too much, too little or just right?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Writers Helping Writers

As I hinted at in a previous post, I got hit with a rejection not too long ago that stung.  When a full manuscript gets rejected it always hurts more than the partial.  With a partial you can always say the reader didn't get to the good parts, but with a full, it's final and no matter how kind the agent's words, there's no way to avoid the burn.

The thing about this business is it turns on a dime, and after sending out  a new batch of queries just one night after getting the rejection, I received a positive response early the next morning.  Yes, less than twelve hours after sending the query, a full was speeding through cyberspace.  I don't want to jinx anything, but my reality this week is very different than my reality last week.  And it is good.

However, what I want to write about is what got me through the initial burst of disappointment. This writing business is brutal on the ego.  Tougher people than me have packed it in.  But I find I can keep going as long as I don't feel alone.

That's really the key.

Through different online outlets like blogs, Facebook and Twitter, I've met some amazing writers.  I'm also a member of two local writing groups that offer tremendous support and camaraderie.  Whether online or in person, these are people who are going through the same battles I am.  We're writing and submitting and dealing with rejections. Or maybe we're doubting whether what we write is good enough to be seen. When the rejection came, I reached out for a hand, for some sympathy, for some advice and it came back in droves. I was able to put the rejection in perspective and move on, but I was only able to do it because of some women with very big hearts.

I've always found the writing community to be a pay-it-forward kind of place. I was on the receiving end of that last week.  I can only hope that I have to opportunity to do the same for someone when they need the help or encouragement to keep going.  Because when we stick together and weather the storms with others, reaching that finish line is not only easier, there are more people to celebrate the success.

How do you feel less alone?  Has someone reached out and helped or encouraged you?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Roller coaster ride

Writing has it's ups and downs, and to borrow on a tired cliche, that whole "one door closing and another one opening" thing is totally true.  I'm not in the position to be more specific than that, but I will say that if the events of the past few days keep moving in the direction they have, I will indeed believe that perseverance and timing have made all the difference for me in the publishing business.  Keep your fingers crossed.

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” John Qunicy Adams

Saturday, September 11, 2010


On September 11th, 2001 I was a librarian in an elementary school and ironically, that morning, the faculty was walking the evacuation route should we ever have to get the kids away from the school. When we got back from our drill, we heard about the first plane going into the tower.  Everyone was stunned.  I turned on the TV in the library and we watched the second plane hit.  That's when we knew it was no accident.

Then there was The Pentagon.  And the flight that went down in Pennsylvania.  Buildings collapsed. Thousands of lives were lost. Everything changed.  Living just an hour away from Ground Zero, fighter jets flew patrols over my area for a few days.  Transportation was disrupted and everyone was walking around in a daze.  Driving by train station parking lots was chilling.  There were hundreds of cars, sitting for days, waiting for owners who who would never come to claim them.

I knew people who died.  I know people who were in NYC when it all happened.  I heard stories of people running for their lives, thanking God for making a train late so they weren't at their desks, and of people who walked out of the city over bridges and through tunnels like refugees. People were at their strongest, their kindest, their most resilient that day because they had to be.  There was no choice.

There's a lot of talk about making 9/11 a holiday and I don't know if that's appropriate.  What I do think we should do is remember all who were lost, all who continue to suffer, and then we should go on with our lives.  We shouldn't let the twisted people who masterminded that plan win by making us afraid, making us intolerant or keeping us from enjoying the lives we've built.

So in memory of 9/11 do something positive--make a donation, help a friend, find time to call someone you haven't talked to in a while, learn something new.  Be a force for good.  Because then the people who try to bring us down will never win.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Letting the Work Speak for Itself.

In my case, being a parent has helped me with my writing.  Not everyone can say that, but I can.  I especially feel that having children who are nearly adults has given me great preparation.  You see, slowly but surely I've had to let my kids go.  They've gone to school, on dates, they've driven cars and two of the three have gone away to college while number three waits on deck.

So sending off a book should be no problem, right?  I mean I've sent my flesh and blood children into the world, so the book should be easy.  It's just a book, right?  Wrong.

Over the past two days, as I sent my work into the void, I was a nervous wreck, and I knew I had to calm down. The book I recently finished revising is not only back with the publisher who gave me such incredible input, but it was requested by an amazing agent in NYC. (Did you all hear me squeal from coast to coast?) If I should be signed by this woman, I would consider myself incredibly lucky and I'd know my career would be in good hands.  So why was I having a meltdown?

Simple. I had to let go.

Just like parenting, I have to let my work stand on it's own and accept the loss of control.  The book is really good, but there are no more training wheels, no more safety nets--the book, my literary baby, is going to succeed or fail on its own.  And it's hard to face that.  However, just like my children, I need to believe in what I've done and have faith that I've crafted a good story.

Of course, I'm scared to death, because I've been down this road before and the possibility of rejection is very real.

But it's also rewarding to know I took the step, that I made the attempt and that I was brave enough to let go.

It's the only way to move forward and as writers that's what we need to do.  What are you doing to move forward?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ack! I won something? Really?

I received a Bloggy Award!  I’m tickled because it means that someone appreciated my silly, and often erratic, musings.  Thanks a bunch to Michele Shaw for the honor!  I love these kinds of things because it shows the incredible support in the blogging community.  We are each other's cheerleaders and I appreciate Michele listing me with so many other great bloggers.  It's flattering.

So, I’m supposed to pass these on to other bloggers whom I think deserve recognition.  There are a few rules attached so pay attention so you can pay it forward. 

The Rules for The Versatile Blogger Award:
1. Thank and link back to the person that gave you the award.
2. Share seven things about yourself.
3. Pass the award to fifteen bloggers that you think deserve it.
4. Lastly, contact all the bloggers that you’ve picked for the award.

One Lovely Blog Award Rules:
1.      1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and link back to her.
2.      2. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
3.      3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Seven little known things about me:
1.       1.   I know the difference between boarding, roughing and cross-checking.

2.       2.  I got a tattoo when I turned forty. It’s awesome, but I wouldn’t do it again.

3.       3.  Sleeping annoys me. I fight it and do it as little as possible.

4.       4.  My favorite guilty pleasure is chocolate frosting right from the can.

5.       5.  I’m a bag whore.  I love totes, purses, clutches.  You name it; I love bags.

6.       6.  I really like ABBA.

7.       7.  I’ve been in more than one professional sports locker room.

So here are the bloggers I’ve chosen to recognize because their blogs make you laugh, cry, think or all of the above:

Blog Like You Mean It- Kelly Breakey

Romance Puppy-Dawn Berkoski

Are You Ready? -Helen Sayers

Muse Ink-Ami Hendrikson

Fiction Groupie-Roni Griffin

Builder of Worlds-Claire LeGrande

Hot Diggity-Jenna Glatzer

Lost in the View-Heather Faesy

The 7th Woman-Dee Karl

The Write One-Valerie Haight

Saturday, August 28, 2010


I've parked a website.

I always felt a little funny about having a website to promote my writing when I'm not yet published.  It's not going to lead an editor or agent to my door and I honestly feel if I don't have something to promote, why put myself out there.

It seems this is my old "don't notice me" self coming back to haunt my life.  However, in the present, information-rich climate it's more important than ever to be visible.  So, even though I'm still tweaking it a little, here is my website.  It links to my Twitter, my blog, and my Facebook page (which you can also find here) and I hope to add more content as time goes on.

Please visit and please tell me what you think.

Back to the revision.  I think this may end soon.  I hope.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On hold

I've been neglectful in my blogging the past two weeks because I have been plowing through my rewrite.  I've always been a bit sporadic with posts, but I am just about done with the rewrite and then I plan on making posts twice a week.

Until then, I will be slaving away to finish and then resubmit my manuscript.  Fingers crossed that the ending goes smoothly.

A couple of teasers...
One upcoming post will have to do with taking risks and will include the story of how I came to have at tattoo at age 40.

Another will be about my use of bubble gum pop music as a writing tool.  Atomic Kitten anyone?  No?  A-Teens?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Writing From Real Life

So, the joke goes something like this: “Be careful, or I’ll put you in my novel.”  People laugh when I say it, but I have to admit, there is a smidgen of truth to the joke.  Oh, don’t worry; when I finally break into publishing, no one is going to have to worry about me turning them into some dreadful villain in a novel, fully recognizable to all.  That would be wrong on a lot of levels, but the reality is our lives and our personalities seep into what we write.  Every experience, every person, is part of who we are, and inevitably these things wind up on the page.

We collect experiences.  That’s what life is. Our bodies and minds become vessels that catch laughter, tears, frustration, and joy.  Our parents, our siblings, our teachers and our friends are in there, along with the mean girls, the bullies, and the negativity they bring with them.  They bad stuff fights for control and sometimes, it wins.  That happens to me.  I let the bad overshadow the good; it’s one of my biggest faults and what usually happens is it takes something or someone to give me a good kick to get my mind, and my attitude, on the right track.

I wrote a short post at the beginning of the week about my recently-held class reunion.  A couple of things that happened over the course of the weekend really upset me.  I tend to be oversensitive, I know that, but usually some time and space allow my feelings to settle.  When I had time to process, I was able to put the weekend in perspective and while there is no doubt there are a couple of people I would be happy never to see again, the vast majority of it was really great.  I went to school with some unbelievably nice people. The work the organizers of the reunion did was truly appreciated and when I look back at the pictures, the smiles tell me we did a really good job.  And even though I didn't have as much fun as I could have had, the pictures don’t lie.  I did enjoy myself, and I was really glad to see my friends.  It had been too long, but it will not be that long again.

So the question is--who’s going in a book?  What experiences have I collected this time?  For those of you who thought I had too many cosmos to remember, you’re wrong. (HA!) Here’s what I have so far:

The high-school sweethearts:  I can relate to them as I have been with my husband since we were seventeen-years-old, but I think this couple has been together even longer.  She’s still beautiful, he’s still handsome and even though there were no overt displays, you can tell they are totally devoted to each other.  There were little things--mentions of what they’ve done together, their obvious pride in their children, the mutual respect they share and then there’s the way they look at each other.  I don’t know if anyone else noticed, but I did and it warmed me to see a love story still going strong after all these years.

The long-time friends:  These women have known each other since middle school, in many cases, and they’ve been through everything together--love and heartbreak; marriage and divorce; birth and death.  Their relationships aren’t perfect, but they have a deep bond that has developed over time.   There were several groups that fit into this category.  I got to know one bunch a little better as we were planning the party and the dynamic is amazing.  I’m a little envious because this isn’t my experience, and I know I’m not going to be a part of it, but it’s nice to know friendships like this are out there.

The happy guy:  He’s still happy.  Everyone still loves him and with good reason.  He sees the best in everyone.  He’s kind, has a big heart and drives a really cool truck.  When he tells you you’re awesome,  he means it.  He’s definitely going in a book. 

The really brilliant guy:  He sat near me in AP European History class all those years ago and we laughed together as our teacher talked about his dog, Tiger.  This guy has an Ivy League education, but he doesn’t have a pretentious bone in his body—he never did and he never will; he’s still friendly, still enthusiastic about everything and I hope I don’t lose touch with him again.

People I wish I'd known better in high school:  There was a woman I spent some time with whom I've been in touch with through the planning process.  We had breakfast together when she got into town and two hours flew by like it was nothing.  She's sweet, witty and has had an interesting life. New friendships are always good. (Honestly, there are a number of people who fall into this category.)

The cool gay guys:  I don’t think I have to say anything else.  What’s better than being happy with who you are?

Finally, the mean girls:  Believe it or not, the mean girls are easy. (Noooo, not that kind of easy. Well maybe they were, but that's not what I meant.)  They’ve always been vapid caricatures, and that’s what they’ll remain.  Thanks for the material ladies…you make writing a bitch a no-brainer.

I guess, when you think about it, it's not about what's going to go in a book, but instead I should be asking the question--what isn't?  There is no way I can detach myself from my life experiences.  Why would I want to?  I need the people and the emotions to keep my writing interesting.  The words on the page are just black and white, but my experiences, and the people I've known over the years, give the stories color.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sorting It All Out

So, the reunion has come and gone, and I'm not sure how I feel about it yet.  People were perfectly nice and very appreciative of all the work the people on the organizing committee put forth.  And I mean GENUINELY appreciative.  I was thanked constantly all night and I was happy people had a good time.  I wouldn't say I had a great time, mostly because I'm a control freak and I didn't really relax until the last hour.  I was a little tipsy, too, and fear I made a bit of a fool out of myself.

Friday night, when the group hit town and spent the night drinking in a local bar, was much more fun for me than the official catered party which was last night.  It was relaxed, informal and there weren't any little details to worry about. But I also know I'm not being fair.  I'm a little hormonal, I'm experiencing the let down from two constant weeks of stress and I know my vision about the main event is clouded.  I'm sure I will feel differently in a week or two when everything calms down and I'm not so tired.  Maybe I'll be able to focus on the people who deserve the effort.  People like the ones who were my friends thirty years ago and the new friends I've made because I worked on making the reunion happen.  There were classmates I was truly happy to see after such a long time, men and women who are fun and interesting and I hope we won't lose touch again.

The bad points?  I will say that two people from last night will appear in my next book and it may not be pretty.

That's one way to dump the baggage, eh?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Looking Back, Looking Forward: High School Reunions

A few months ago I wrote about how I'd gotten myself  involved in the planning of my high school reunion.  In the post I talked about wrinkles and weight and face creams and I touched on my insecurities.  I vowed to get to the gym and lose some weight.  I didn't lose much, the reunion is two weeks away and I find that my outlook has changed quite a bit.  It's not so much about how I look anymore, but more about all I missed.

When I wrote that post, I had no idea the kind of flashback it would trigger.  To say I was insecure during my teen years would be an understatement.  I had a small group of friends, didn't go out much and participated in very few activities.  Granted, my friends are great people and we had some fun times, but I was always guarded and I didn't take any risks.  I didn't get involved in many aspects of high school because I was afraid of being rejected.  Parties, I didn't go.  Talk to the 'popular' girls?  Why would they want to be friends with me?  Flirt with the boy I'd had a crush on forever?  Never.  I could go into why I felt this way, frankly it had a lot to do with how I grew up, but the bottom line was, I had no faith in myself; I was afraid.  I felt invisible and life went on around me.

Jump forward thirty years.  I carry more than the twenty extra pounds I had in high school, but I have a lot to be proud of...I have a wonderful family and a fulfilling career, for starters.  You see, when I went to college I reinvented myself.  I explored my talents, found my place in space, took risks, and was burned on more than one occasion.  In other words, I grew up.  Yet when the reunion planning picked up speed, and I thought about how invisible I felt in high school, all my old insecurities flooded back.  I kept thinking that I should forget about being a part of the planning and fade back into the woodwork.  Outside my small circle, very few people even remembered me, right?  Wrong.

I love learning new things, but I'm even happier when I learn more about myself.  Because I've gotten involved in this event, I've discovered something...I could have felt much more connected to my high school years if I'd let more people get to know me.  If I'd found my niche, been a part of something consistently rather than haphazardly, I'd have changed my story.  I didn't have to feel invisible.  Working on the reunion has brought me a lot of satisfaction and has connected me to people I never would have gotten to know otherwise.  I'm looking forward to seeing my old friends that weekend and getting to know some new friends a little better.

People malign their high school years and I often think it's more about regrets than anything else.  Maybe I'm romanticizing this more than I should, but if you could change something about your years in high school, what would it be?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Where the Magic Happens

I’ve been spending a lot of time in my office lately.  As many people know, I was lucky enough to receive a letter from an editor that outlines some areas and changes that she feels would make the plot of my book stronger.  I was invited to resubmit if I chose to make the changes.  I thought about the letter for a few days and decided to work with her suggestions.  There would be little disruption to the core of the story, I would have to rewrite the last chapter, but again, the outcome for my main characters remains unchanged, even if I tweak the plot. I had nothing to lose and a sale to gain.  

So, since I’ve been pretty much living in my writing space, I thought I’d share some pictures.  I’m a firm believer in having a space to work.  If you don’t have the luxury of a room like I have (albeit a tiny 10 x 10 converted bedroom) lay claim to some space so people in your house know that when you are there, with a computer, you are writing.  It's good for you as a writer and it's good for your family.  For the record, I rarely close the office door.  My family has full access to me most of the time, my kids are in and out of the office all day long, but they know how important this project is to me, so they respect my space.  

With my DH’s help, I have quite a pretty little office.  We painted the room this deep teal two years ago.  I wasn't sure about it for a long while, but it's grown on me and now I find it quite soothing.

This is my desk.  Yes, there are two computers.  Originally, my husband and I were going to share the space. He gave up, the dear man,  and either gets all his paperwork done at the office or uses his laptop.

Coffee is required.  I love the mug I bought from Cafe Press.

This is the comfy chair I just added to the space.  The binder you see open on the ottoman contains my manuscript.  There are hundreds of Post-its marking the parts to be revised.  I'm not done yet.  The little table has my Kindle, my notebooks, a glass of water, some copies of RWR and a basket of necessities.

The basket: it contains Post-its, colored pens and highlighters, my iPod, binder clips and a spare pair of glasses.  Usually there are a few pieces of chocolate, too.

I suppose the point I'm trying to make with this post is that no matter what you do, whatever your passion, make a space for yourself and give yourself time to pursue it.  You don't have to cut out the ones you love, or ignore the world, you don't even need a separate room, but try to find a space that allows you to enter your creative zone and visit it every day.  You deserve it.

Tell me about your creative space.  Is it working?  Is it not working?  What would you change if you could?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Rogues and Scoundrels (Or this is not your mama's bodice ripper.)

It’s not a secret that I read romance.  I write it and I’ve loved the genre for years.  Even as a child, I was drawn to love stories and the happily ever after. My favorite book growing up was a version of Cinderella, from the original fairy tale by Perrault, that was translated and illustrated by Marcia Brown.  It was a beautiful book, but more than the award winning illustrations, I was drawn to the story.  I believed in finding Prince Charming.  So years later—me and romance—it was a perfect fit.

I fancied myself a contemporary romance reader, especially when I really started devouring the books in the late 1990’s.  Sometimes I threw in romantic suspense, but I never read historical.  I’d tried.  I wasn’t drawn in by Kathleen Woodwiss or Victoria Holt.  I knew what they meant to the genre, but the books weren’t for me.  I was pushed away by the stereotype.  You know the one--the book with a long-haired, shirtless rogue staring hungrily at a maiden in a low-cut gown.  I never felt like I could be the cowering maiden in the picture, so I didn't read about her.  Instead, I learned to love the genre reading Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Barbara Delinsky.  Modern women, modern sensibilities.  Historical and regency romances were not for me…until now.

I’d been seeing these names pop up—Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan and Victoria Dahl.  I heard their books were fabulous with great writing, heroes to die for and heroines that knew their own minds.   I was not disappointed.  I started my new secret love affair with One Dance with a Duke, by Tessa Dare. Plain Amelia is blessed with a great mind, but she’s a spinster who one night is swept off her feet at a ball and ultimately has to marry to save her reputation and her family.  It may seem like Spencer, the aforementioned Duke, has all the power in the relationship, but don’t be fooled.  Amelia is smart and knows what she wants and she wants Spencer.  (Hold onto your wonder bras, these books will have you running for a cold shower!) There are the usual complications…the lack of faith in each other, the inability to completely commit, the lies and misunderstandings, but in the end I got my sweeping love story and a happily ever after.

So what was different about these books? I think what I found in all the books was a commitment to the heroine.  The stories belonged to them and ultimately they had control over their fate.  Oh, there may have been a marriage of convenience or the saving of one’s honor, but unlike the romances of the past, the women in these historicals had choice and it was this modern twist that converted me.

There are the requisite heaving bosoms, bare chested men on horseback and in one the hero had been a privateer, which means he was, kind of, a pirate.  (Don’t laugh; the book was awesome!) There are gowns and governesses, breeches and boots, waistcoats and afternoon tea.  The settings are sumptuous, meticulously researched and fun.

I have four still unread books in my Kindle and I’m saving them for an afternoon when I need a break from reality.  Because honestly, is there anything better than a gorgeous rogue on horseback to take your mind off the everyday? I think not.

Of course, I have some recommendations.  Give these books a try; you won’t be sorry:
Tessa Dare
Stud Club Trilogy
One Dance with a Duke
Twice Tempted by a Rogue
Three Nights with a Scoundrel (available next month)

First Trilogy
Goddess of the Hunt
Surrender of a Siren
A Lady of Pursuasion

Courtney Milan
Proof by Seduction

Victoria Dahl has a number of good books, check her out at:

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Endings and Beginnings

The last day of school is a call to celebrate for me.  Not because I have two months off, but because now I can work on my books.  Summer is my writing time.  Yes, I will go to the beach, spend time with family and friends, read my fill and sleep a little later, but more than anything I will write.

I'm still waiting for my revision letter; I have a book to finish and I have another book that may have some rewrite potential.  I have a fourth book cooking in the back of my mind and I need to start researching that one very soon.  The stories are all in there and I can't wait to get things on the page.

How do you spend your summer?  Do things change for you?  Does the pace slow?  Do you have something special that you like to do?

The way I see it, the school year is ending, but the work is just beginning.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Facing your dream

I write because I have stories to tell.  I want to be published because I have stories to share.

I'm facing the dream today.  No I didn't get "the call."  But I did get something almost as valuable to an aspiring author--a revision letter.  Revision letters from editors indicate interest; they indicate opportunity; they indicate that your book doesn't totally suck.  The editor loved my voice and characters, but has a few issues with the plot in the second half.  Plot?  Plot I can fix.  Squee!!!

So, now I get back to work on a book I had wanted to put to bed.  One I wanted to sell, but I didn't want to work on it until it had publishing deadlines attached. Life is funny like that. Things never go as planned, but I am more than willing to adapt if I get one step closer to my dream.

This is scary, but I truly think any thing worthwhile has an element of fear attached to it.

Ah well, here's to being afraid.

What about any of you?  Have you stumbled, stuttered or crumbled when you are faced with a dream?  Something you thought you would never have?  Tell me about it.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Time passes

My role in my children’s lives has changed drastically over the last several years.  They are all young adults now and I find that I’m no longer refereeing fights, but I’m helping the three of them figure out who is taking which car where.  With each passing day they are becoming more independent, more self assured and more responsible.  It’s what I always wanted for them, yet it breaks my heart.

I’m coming to the point in my life where I am no longer as needed as I used to be.  I have more freedom. I am able to pursue my own interests. I can spend time with my husband…my possibilities are endless.  And like I said, this is what I wanted, until I had time to think about it.

Yesterday, I knew my husband was meeting with some colleagues for dinner, which meant I would be alone with my son.  Both girls are taking summer classes, so it was me and the boy for dinner.  I thought we could go out, get a burger or some pizza and talk.  He does talk when he’s alone with me and  I was looking forward to it.  It was not to be.  He had to be back at school for a student government meeting, but the oldest girl was home—her class was cancelled.  I'd take her to dinner instead.  Nope.  She had plans with friends.    Middle girl?  She had lab along with her class and would be out for hours.  I was alone.  Just me and the dogs.  Heaven you think? 

Nah. I lost it.

I’d had a bad day at school, and I’m stuck in my manuscript, and I wanted company, but no one was around.  Now, I’m a dedicated mom.  It’s one of the things that I’ve never had a problem with.  I’ve made good decisions with the kids; I've spoiled them when appropriate, but none of them are afraid of a good day’s work.  They’re good students, they volunteer and I’ve encouraged them to be independent.  And it was last night that I discovered I’d done a really good job because while I needed them, they didn’t need me.  They were out dealing with their own lives. 

I guess this post is about recognizing that sometimes doing a good job, and getting what you want, can hurt.  I miss my little children.  I miss reading them stories and cuddling with them in front of the TV.  However, I am very proud of the adults they have grown to be.  This parenting thing is a double-edged sword and while I know that every step they take is a step away from me, I also know this is the right thing. Because as sad as I am that I will never have them little again, I have a wonderful relationship with my adult children. 

So for all you parents out there, I know you hear this over and over, but enjoy your little ones. The time does fly, but understand that the loneliness that comes when you can no longer tuck them in at night is a sign you’ve done a good job.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Making the most of my time.

I’m busy.

Does that sound familiar?  I can also procrastinate with the best without much effort, which is why I try to keep myself on a schedule.  Routines are comforting for me and I am slowly building myself a new routine after spending years in chaos.

The only part of my day that’s scripted is my work day.  I know I have to be at work at seven in the morning and I can leave around two.  On Wednesdays I have meetings after school so that means I could be home as late as five o’clock.  Even though my kids are older and I’m not driving the carpools anymore, I still find there are tons of things that demand my time, so after winging it for a long time, I’ve decided to take control.  I make time to do what's important to me and slowly I add more to my routine.  

Writing was one of those things that I often found myself fighting to find time to do.  My biggest problem is I’m a nocturnal writer.  I do my best work between eleven at night and three in the morning; this is a problem when the alarm goes off at 5:15 AM.  However, I did find there was another stretch of time I had almost every day when the writing flowed.  I had about forty minutes in the middle of my work day when I was knocking out a couple of pages at a time.  I could write when I was on hall duty.

I've written about hall duty before.  I don’t like the way it breaks up my day and being in the library I feel like there are some days I’m on duty for nine periods, but I was assigned, so I go.  I discovered I could write productively by accident. 

I brought my netbook with me one day because I wanted to read something a friend had sent me.  I read her piece and then, with about twenty minutes left, I opened up my work in progress (WIP).  I wrote a page and a half.  It wasn’t that the hall was quiet, it wasn’t, but for some reason, even with an interruption here or there, I was able to write.  Since then, I almost look forward to my duty period.  I’ve been able to add about 3000 words to my book during my hall duty.  I know that’s not a lot, but it gets me going.  What I write while sitting in the cruddy old student desk is churning in my head the rest of the day, so by the time I get home, I’m ready to get back to work.  I’ll come home, take care of the dogs, have a cup of coffee while having a conversation with whomever is home, and then I open up what I did on my hall duty and work for a couple of hours.  Sometimes, I write a lot…sometimes not so much, but I am always moving the book forward.  That I’m doing all this while it’s still daylight is a big plus.

So what’s my point?  Use the time you have in the best way possible.  If you can wait at a lacrosse practice with a netbook or an Alphasmart and knock out a couple of pages, do it.  If that’s your social networking time, great, then it won’t be a time sink when you sit yourself down to work on your WIP.  If you can’t write while you're waiting at the doctor's office, bring a notebook to jot ideas for your next blog post or bring pages to edit, but use your time well.

My writing productivity hasn’t gone through the roof, but it’s been steady and my new book is now over two-thirds done.  I can see the words “The End” on the horizon. My next task is to get the daily exercise in the routine.  I don’t know if that one will be as easy.