Dreams

I didn’t always know I wanted to be a writer. It wasn’t until I was 23 years old and my new husband asked me what I wanted to do with my life that I realized my dream. “I think . . . I’d like to try to write.” And despite people telling me I was crazy, despite my being dyslectic, despite receiving a trunk full of rejection letters, I hung in there. I pursued my dream. But success didn’t fall in my lap. I worked hard for it. I still do!

When I couldn’t seem to get a book accepted by a publisher, I started writing articles for magazines—lots of them! If an editor suggested I learn something that would make me a better writer, then I made sure I found a class that taught whatever it was I needed to learn. And I wrote, wrote, and wrote some more. Because the old adage about practicing making perfect is true. The more you practice your craft, be it writing, painting, or whatever, the better you will get. As it turns out, “they” knew what they were talking about.

I also read many, many books. Who better to learn from than successful authors? As I read, I dissected their books. I took note of their sentence structure, scene development, and yes, even their punctuation. The authors I love were some of the best teachers I ever had. They all helped me become a better writer.

Because when an editor sits down to read your work, they want it to already be good, even better–great. So after I had polished, and polished a manuscript, I still didn’t rush to put it in a envelope and send it out to a publisher. I then got my writer friends to read my work and give me an honest critique. Now . . . you have to be careful who you hand your manuscript over to. If this person is someone who loves you, you will have to wonder if they will just tell you that they loved the book even when they really saw that it had some weak spots. And if you hand it over to someone who just doesn’t understand what you are trying to write, they might tell you to change things that shouldn’t be changed. If you hand it over to someone who just doesn’t care about you at all, their comments might hurt so much that they stop you from wanting to try. So you see, you need to pick the right person to read your book and give you feed back. I suggest finding other writers and after you feel as if you can trust them, then swap your stories and offer each other constructive criticism. But remember even if you get feedback from another person, only you can be certain what you feel is right for your story. Through my career climb, I have made lots of writing friends, and I know we have helped each other become better writers.

My advice to the budding writers out there? Read great authors and learn from them, take creative writing classes or workshops to help you develop your talent, and write—a lot. And don’t just spend all your time rewriting the same book. Finish a book and maybe do some revisions, but then start writing a new book. Every time you write a new book you learn something new that you wouldn’t have learned just rewriting the old one. Then get with other writers to form a critique group to help each other. Your strength might be in sentence structure while your friend’s talent is with writing great plots. By working together you both can offer insight and wisdom to help the other person grow as a writer. And if being a writer is truly your dream, then never give up!

So, tell me, are there any writers out there? If so, what do you like to write? While I hate not being able to offer critiques (my publisher doesn’t allow it), I love hearing about your writing dreams. And maybe even through my blog you might find another writer that you can team up with to help each other.

Murder By The Book Signing

Last Saturday I signed books at Murder By The Book in Houston, Texas. I was there with Jordan Danes, Tracy Deebs (aka Ivy Adams), and Ellie James, and I have to say, I had a blast. Chatting with my readers is one my favorite things about being an author.  I have some very interesting and supportive readers! So a big thank you to all those that came out to meet me and hear me speak.

 

D. J. Librarian was even kind enough to bring me some homemade wolf shaped cookies. (Guess we know which team she is on!) I wanted to keep them forever, but they were just too delicious! I wolfed them down for breakfast. (Pun intended!) And did you notice the cover of Taken at Dusk in the photo? The release date is getting closer and I can’t wait!

 

Differences

February is almost upon us. And always about this time of year, I start thinking about romance. Thinking about love—all those wonderful, warm and mushy feelings. And about the difficulties of those warm mushy feelings. Yes, difficulties. Let’s face it, there are times that guys are impossible to understand. But maybe it’s not all their faults.

According to Masters of Healthcare, “experts have discovered that there are actually differences in the way women’s and men’s brains are structured and in the way they react to events and stimuli.” DUH! If they’d only have asked me, I could have told them that. Every time my hubby scratches his head and looks at me as if I’ve lost my mind, I am reminded of just how different we are. Even if it makes perfect sense to me, he just doesn’t understand my logic. And frankly, I don’t understand his. And yes, we’ ve been married so long we shouldn’t have this communication problem, but it still exist.

Not long ago, people liked to believe that the differences between men and women were due to the way boys and girls are raised. Boys and girls are often raised differently, but behavioral scientists have discovered that baby girls possess social skills from birth. Studies on day-old babies show that girls stare longer at human faces than mechanical objects, but boys do just the opposite. Well, that’s no surprise either! My hubby still stares at mechanical objects (cars). So is it any wonder that women tend to communicate more effectively? We talk through issues and are more tuned into non-verbal cues like tone, emotion and empathy. Men, however, are task oriented, less talkative and have a harder time understanding those subtle emotional cues.

Take a moment and think about Kylie, Lucas and Derek. Who is the one sharing her problems with her buddies? Kylie, of course! She talks to Miranda, Della and Holiday. Meanwhile, Kylie tries to figure out what Derek and Lucas are thinking and how she should deal with them. Heck, if those two weren’t being so typically male, they’d just tell her how they feel and she wouldn’t have to guess. But that’s not how guys are wired. Instead, Lucas takes off leaving Kylie wondering and Derek gets all distant and polite, and then he takes off. What’s a girl to do?

Another prime example of a guy just being a guy is Perry. In Taken at Dusk, Miranda is going a little crazy. Does the shape shifter like her or not? And is she willing to throw caution to the wind and trust him again? And let’s not forget about the romantic conflict happening with Holiday. She’s determined to keep Burnett at a distance. Not so much for what’s he done, but for what some other guy did. Nevertheless, Burnett doesn’t understand Holiday and she certainly doesn’t understand him.

If only boys weren’t so much of a mystery. Ahh, but darn it, we love mysteries, don’t we? We love guys. And yes, we love those warm mushy feelings that come with love.

So, how is your communication with boys? Do you have trouble getting guys to talk and share their feelings? Do they roll their eyes at you when you start talking?

Titles

 

I am so excited to reveal the cover and title of the fourth book in my Shadow Falls series! (Drum roll, please.) Whispers at Moonrise! I love the title and I can’t wait for the release date. I think the title fits the series and the book. But what if it didn’t?

In Shakespeare’s famous play Romeo and Juliette, Juliette says, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Of course she is referring to Romeo and his family name, but is that always true? Does it matter what we call things? If we call something by another name does it change what it is? And does that hold true with titles? What if Shakespeare had called his play Beauford and Gertrude? Would it have been as popular? Well, in Shakespeare’s case, probably, but then things were a lot different back then. Today when you walk into a book store or surf through an online book source, there is a lot of competition. Myself, I love rambling through a book store checking out the covers and titles on display. Some call to me, others not so much. Why?

Like most authors, when I write I usually have a few ideas for the title of the book. Some authors get very attached to their titles. Me? Not so much. I’ve learned that once I send a book to my editor, and she sends it to the marketing team, they’ll have their own ideas. After all, they are supposed to be the experts; they know what sort of books are selling and what sort of title will help sell my book. So, usually we kick ideas around and come up with the title. Incidentally, I love all the titles of my Shadow Falls series. There is a theme, a consistency there that connects all the books. Born at Midnight, Awake at Dawn, Taken at Dusk and Whispers at Moonrise all reference times of day.

I have to admit, when I’m strolling through the book store, a good title and cover can stop me in my tracks. It compels me to pick up that book and read the back cover, maybe take a peek inside. If everything else sounds good, I’ll probably buy it. But I’m sure I pass by a lot of wonderful books that for some reason just didn’t lure me in.

So, what is it about a book title? Do you find certain titles and covers call to you? Is it the art work? Certain buzz words? What makes you stop and pick up a book in a store?

 

A Free, 500-Dollar Junkyard Dog

Recently, my son and hubby went to a junkyard to look at an old car, a Falcon Ranchero, they wanted to restore. I got the call about an hour later.

“We bought the car,” Hubby said.

“Good,” I lied. I mean, they really don’t need another car to work on. Isn’t two fixer-uppers enough?

“There’s something else I want to bring home,” Hubby said.

“Not another car, baby. We don’t have enough room.”

“Not a car,” he told me. “A dog.”

“You’re joking, right.” Really, I thought he was joking.

“No,” he answered in his dead serious tone.

“Aren’t you at a junkyard?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

The absurdity of this rolled over me like a dump truck. “You want to bring home a junkyard dog?”

“Yes.”

“No,” I counter, in my blunt voice.

“She’s a sweet junkyard dog,” he said.

Junkyard dog and sweet don’t belong in the same sentence. “No,” I repeated.

“She’s young.”

“No.”

“She’s pretty.”

“No.”

“She needs a home.” I could almost hear his heart breaking over the line and when I didn’t say anything, he added, “She needs someone to save her.”

Dang, that man always knows how to pull on my heartstrings, but a junkyard dog?

“Do you really want this dog?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he said

“Is she housebroken?” I asked.

“I don’t think she’s ever been inside a house.”

“Does she have fleas and ticks?”

“Of course, she does. She’s a junkyard dog.”

“Are you really serious?” I asked.

“She’s free,” he said.

I reminded him what they say about nothing being free. “She could cost as much as a couple of hundred dollars to take her to the vet.” I thought that would change his mind.

I was wrong, both about how much it would cost and about it changing his mind. So I threw in the towel. I mean, seriously, what were my choices?

A couple of hours later, son and hubby pulled up with this free junkyard dog. Of course, that was after they stopped at Whataburger and got three meal deals. One for the dog.

“You get to name her,” hubby said. And believe me in this household that’s an honor. They never let me name an animal.

I petted her, cautiously. She accepted my hand guardedly. She was covered in fleas and ticks. But he was right. She was sweet and soft as silk. And unlike any junkyard dog I’ve ever known, she’s completely meek and docile. I took one look at her and named her Lady.

Hubby and son bathed her and took her to the vet. An hour later, we had good news and bad news. She’s only seven to eight months old and doesn’t have mange or heartworms. That’s it for the good news. On the other hand, she was severely anemic, severely malnourished, has all sorts of worms, and had kennel cough.

And oh yeah, she’s no lady.  I don’t mean she’s a boy. I mean, she’d been playing with the boys. Yup, she was pregnant. However, the vet didn’t think she was healthy enough to carry the babies. As a matter of fact, the vet said she didn’t think she would have survived much longer. So after another few swipes of our American Express, we had ourselves a free, $500, spayed junkyard dog.

She’s adapting to her new lifestyle. At first, she ate food whole, chewing was optional—I mean what if someone decided to take it away from her? She now chews her food, enjoys her memory foam bed at night, and thinks sofas are much more comfortable that my hardwood floors. She much prefers gnawing on shoes or a pair of jeans to the sticks that she used to find outside. She finds it much more productive to steal the family pack of 96% ground round set out on the counter than to raid garbage-cans. (I still don’t know how she got on the counter, or how she ate all of it so quickly.) She decided the leftover grilled chicken on the table must have been hers. Why else would we have left it unattended for ONE minute? She’s certain that the cat food set out on the windowsill is hers, and not the kitties’. After one week, Lady has gained five pounds and hasn’t had one potty accident inside.

And the kitties? Well, she must have a little pointer dog in her, because she sees a feline, goes completely still, quietly raises and folds up one paw. Her tail goes straight and she stares at the varmint.

When we don’t do anything, she then looks at us as if to say. “I found it, now you shoot it. Hey, I did my job. You do yours.” Yeah, she’s still adapting, with a few scratches on her nose, to living with the felines.

But as she hangs out at her rescuer’s side, keeping him company as he works on his car, I have to admit, she’s the best five-hundred dollars my hubby has ever spent. She needed us; but in truth, we needed her, too.

So what about you guys? Have you ever taken in a stray?

Setting Yourself Up for Success

Last week I talked about New Year’s resolutions, goals and quests. By now we’ve all had a chance to think about our resolutions. I talked to my friends and read your comments. Losing weight and exercising seems to be high on everyone’s list (including mine!). But other popular goals are to spend more time with family, plan a budget, get out of debt, or learn something new. Sounds reasonable doesn’t it? But how do we achieve these goals?

According to Wikipedia, research shows that while 52% of us are confident in our success, but only 12% actually achieve their goals. Not an encouraging statistic. In fact, 78% of those who set resolutions fail miserably. But some do stick to their guns and succeed and you can, too! How? It seems the key is to set specific goals with deadlines. Instead of saying I will lose weight, be specific, commit to losing a pound a week. That’s not unlike writing. Successful writers set goals all the time. They commit to write a certain number of words or pages each day or week.

I try to write ten pages a day. No, I don’t always achieve it, and I’m usually happy with seven. However, more important than my output is that I always show up to work. If I’m at my desk, I give myself credit for working. I guess the reason is because a writer’s job includes a lot of brainstorming time. While I stare at my computer, I might not be typing, but I’m listening to what my characters are telling me. I hear bits and pieces of dialogue that I know will come out in the story. Or I sometimes suddenly think of new twist to add to a scene I just wrote.

So this year, to help me stay on top of those resolutions, I’ll be spending a lot of time in my office. Another thing I’m going to do is create a plan and write it down. A resolution without a plan is just wishful thinking. Having the support of others helps, too. Kylie couldn’t possibly continue on her quest to discover what she is without the support of her best buds, Miranda and Della. Perhaps a friend of yours has the same resolution, and you can encourage each other. I have several writing friends that I can call who will help inspire me. Do you have a friend who you can call for support?

As we all strive to meet our goals, let’s remember that we can’t make big changes in a day. We have to think long term. Create a series of small steps we can achieve throughout the year to finally reach our goals. I know you can do it, and I’ll be right here cheering you on!

So do you have a goal you’d like to share here today? Come on, share a little.

Good luck!