Writing

Reemerging from the Shadows

shadow-womanI’ve been absent from here, from all social media, for awhile. Life changed, as it does.  Here’s what happened. And why I can start to emerge from the shadows, and rejoin the virtual world. With differences.

What Changed?

My daughter started middle school and was diagnosed with ADHD. My life morphed into doctor’s appointments, school appointments, research,  tapping friends, colleagues and strangers with similar situations, long hours of homework oversight and working through a spectrum of emotions that exploded through the house without a moment’s notice.

There was no time and little left of me at the end of the day.

My writing screeched to a halt, so did the daily yoga I use to manage a back condition. I missed deadlines and obligations–something I’ve never done. And given my overblown sense of responsibility, it all felt terrible.  My stomach turned to acid, my pants tightened, I couldn’t get out of bed,papers piled up in all corners of my house, I ran out of dishes because I didn’t wash them and I noticed more wine bottles in the recycle bin.

So I scaled back. I dropped social media, resigned from all volunteer activities, took out everything from my life that took time from my family.  I didn’t have it to give. My attention centered on my daughter and work. Nothing else. Needless to say, I got lost somewhere in there.

Healing: It started with a table and chairs

Sometimes an unexpected gift gets dropped on your doorstep. Its not necessarily anything important, just changes something. Like fixing a slanted picture, and the room looks somehow right again. In this case, neighbors I didn’t know very well, moved and left me their dining room table. I needed a new one and this did the trick. One small change compelled me to make another. I added a new sofa, since the puppy tore through the old one, and the cat usurped it as his hiding place.

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Two changes and my home no longer felt like a burden, another set of lines on my never ending to-do list. It became a place to nest and to heal. A place of refuge and renewal.

My daughter continues to adjust to middle school and we’ve come up with tricks and strategies to get the homework done by a decent hour and manage some of the ADHD. Life advances one day at a time, no matter how much it feels like its racing past us.  Things are still not easy nor reliably routine.  Perhaps they never were–that’s just an illusion we create to keep ourselves sane. But I’ve come home to myself.

 

I’ve started writing again, doing yoga, and journaling. Not at the same level of productivity and not every day. My schedule has changed. I’m not taking on new responsibilities for the moment but have started adding the basics back. I’ll aim to blog more often–aiming for weekly–and show up on twitter and FB at that same level. I miss you all.

Coming Next

I’ve slowed down and may have back tracked by I’m still writing.  Hope Restored, Book 3 of Divine Temptation is with critique partners and beta readers. If anyone wants to beta read it, there’s still time and I’d love to get feedback from a few others. But that should be out later this year, if everything goes well.

After that, I may reinvent myself. Watch this space. As my life changes, my writing and writing life will change too.

 

 

Writing: Its One Word at a Time

The wonderful Sandra Danby, my fellow contributor to The Milk of Female Kindenss: An Anthology of Honest Motherhood, nominated me for the writing process blog tour. She is currently working on the second novel in the Rose Haldane identity detective series (how cool an idea is that?). Here goes.

 

How do you start your writing projects?

I’m never without ideas, as a general rule. But it often starts as a small concept that evolves and shifts over time. I also do well with broad writing prompts, such as in anthologies. Here’s an example of how that works. thirteennights_msr

About two years ago, some writer peeps and I were toying with the idea of doing an anthology. The common thread-a club run by a siren-had to show up somewhere in the story. I knew I wanted to write a love story about an Amazon warrior finding love, as I have a thing for strong, kick-ass women as heroines.   A little research on Greek mythology revealed that Amazons probably procreated by heading over to their neighbors, the Gargareans, once a year—a sort of hit and run baby production ritual. Digging deeper, I found that there was a preference to spend 13 nights together as that was believed to increase the chance of conceiving. Given the standard ovulation cycle, there is truth there. From those various pieces, Thirteen Nights emerged. I made the club called Neutral Ground, based in DC where I live, the location for an annual speed dating ritual between the Amazons and Gargareans in modern day. From a germ of an idea, I built the foundation for the story.

I loved the world so much, I turned it into a series, Divine Temptation. All the heroines are Amazons. LifeReignitedBook 2, Life Reignited, launches on September 3.

So often, once a project starts, it’s easy to spin off additional stories. Once I’ve started to create a world populated with characters I’ve grown to love, I want them all to have their HEA.

 

How do you continue your writing projects?

I do a broad outline of the main story and try to summarize each chapter into a sentence. Then I just sit down and write. I’m pretty much a pantser with an outline.

How do you finish your project?

One word at a time. Once I complete a full draft, I put it aside. Then I re-read, revise and repeat the process. The third draft I send out for critique and feedback. Then I revise based on the feedback. Put aside, then do a last final edit before sending it off.

Include one challenge or additional tip that our collective communities could help with or benefit from.

Don’t get caught up with what other people are doing. We each have our own style, pace, life demands, etc… Its too easy to feel the pressure to do more (write more words, market more, publish more).  We each bring our own unique voice that we develop and nurture in our own unique way. Be proud of how you do it. Of course experiment with different approaches, but you and only you should be the final judge of what works for you.

Passing the Pen

I am passing the pen to Misa Buckley, an awesome author of science fiction romance, a genre I aspire to write in.  Misa has a slew of books you must check out.

My Writing Process Blog Tour Meme: What’s Yours? #amwriting

My awesome critique partner Lisa Carlisle tagged me for the writing process blog tour. I am required to answer four questions onMOFK my writing process. On Monday, April 7, please visit my fellow writers, Cheri Roman, Sandra Danby and Angelique Jamail. I am proud to call them my co-authors on The Milk of Female Kindness, An Anthology about Honest Motherhood. They are fabulous writers, so make sure to visit.

1. What am I working on at the moment?

I am writing Hope Restored, Book 3 in my paranormal romance series Divine Temptation, published by Ellora’s Cave.  The three stories trace the integration of the pantheon gods into the modern human world, one love story at a time. The heroines are all Amazon warriors, sworn to serve the Greek pantheon but fighting to live their own lives on their own terms. All three are love stories, they are sexy, but they are also about being true to yourself.  Book 1, Thirteen Nights released in December, 2013. Book 2, Life Reignited, releases on September 3 and I hope to finish Hope Restored in time for release this year.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I love strong heroines, women who fight for their own identities and mold the world to their needs.  I also like to take some risks with writing, and try to flesh out unique characters. Life Reignited is a love story for the baby boomer set, which is not usually found in romance novels.  The themes of making personal choice in the face of wider forces that seem to constrain our control and learning to being your best self in the chaos underpin all the stories I wrote.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I’ve always found my own heroines in books, so I write women I’d like to emulate, those who struggle with the problems we all deal with, but keep going.   I like to see strong independent women find their happy ending that includes both love and self-articulation.

4. How does my writing process work?

I write every day. The alarm rings around five o’clock and I drag myself out of bed, make a cup of coffee, do some yoga stretches to manage a bad back, then sit myself down at the computer and write until 7:00.  I also have a Microsoft tablet with Word on it. I write some more on the metro to work, tablet on my lap.  On the weekends, I do some more, in between life and errands and trying to sneak some fun time in my life.  My goal is to write 3,000 words a week–more if possible, less if I must.  For me, the key is to come to the page everyday.  I also write in silence.

 

Next Monday, click over to the these three truly special writers to read about their writing processes.

 

Cheri Roman is a writer, editor, teacher, wife, mother, grandmother and friend, in whatever order works best in the moment. Her debut novel, Descent, launched recently and she is currently working on the sequel. Most days you can find her on her blog, The Brass Rag, or working on the next novel in her fantasy series, Rephaim. Cheri lives with her husband and two Chihuahuas in St. Johns, Florida.

Since she can first remember, Sandra Danby has loved reading. She grew up on a small dairy farm at the bleak edge of East Yorkshire where England meets the North Sea. At the age of four she was making magazines full of her own stories. When missed by her mother, she was usually found in a corner with her nose in a book. She devoured everything from the Famous Five and Secret Seven to Swallows and Amazons, from ‘Little Women’ to George Orwell and Mary Stewart. All this reading led her first to a degree in English Literature in London, then to journalism. Now she writes novels. Her book ‘Ignoring Gravity’  was published on March 28, 2014.

Angelique Jamail is a writer, artist, and teacher living in the Houston area. Her writing (poetry, fiction, and non-fiction) has appeared in two dozen publications, including anthologies and journals.  Her previous books of poems are GYPSIES (1st printing 1998) and BAREFOOT ON MARBLE: TWENTY POEMS, 1995-2001 (1st printing 2003). Her current projects include a new collection of poems, PLAYING HOUSE, and a novel, FOREST OF DIAMONDS.

Blog Action Day 2013: Wielding a Pen

“The pen is mightier than then the sword.” Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Rights rely on voice—the ability to share a narrative, an opinion, a need—in a free and open forum.  For those denied a voice, or are unable to articulate their own story, writers often step in to fill the void. Not just journalists and observers, but novelists and fiction writers also have a role to play. Because human rights are trodden in two main ways: 1)  through legal, government-approved rules and regulations; and 2) through cultural norms and expectations. The latter at times can be more insidious, because these often serve to convince people to choose voicelessness, to inhibit their own expression.

It is here where fiction writers can help to peal back those layers to expose the contradictions through narrative, using the power of stories. Through stories, readers tousle with the emotions and contradiction themselves. Fiction can provide a guide to navigate their own inner maze. It not simply a reporting of what’s out there and why its bad but also an aid to each individual to work through the challenge in their hearts and minds. Writers also transfer the story to those outside world, by showing others (not just telling them) about the daily challenges that people live and feel who have been denied core human rights.

So this post is to say thank you to the writers and artists who use their creativity to give voice to the voiceless. And a reminder that artists are often the first voices silenced, because the pen gives cause to the sword.

I am proud to participate in this global conversation. I am even prouder to be blogging with some other awesome writers on the power of stories as a means of creating and maintain a juster, fairer world. So please visit in alphabetical order:

Tonya Cannariato

Kasia James

What’s in a Name?

Rose

I’ve been thinking about names lately. In many of my works in progress (Thirteen Nights coming soon), my characters juggle names. They either move between worlds and use a different name for each or have to go incognito or in hiding so they have to live their hidden life with another name. Integral to human stories is the power of naming. Think Rumpelstilskin.

In Race to Redemption, my sci fi romance, the heroine, Elaina, finds herself in a new life with the name Lainie.  Clearly a diminutive, the new name comes with a separate reality and changing view of the world. Elaina was a celebrity, a champion race pilot; Lainie a medical transport driver in a destitute, desert world.  When she reveals this to the hero, who is none to happy to have been shammed, what does he call her moving forward? When he finally declares his love, which happens much, much later in the book, which name does he use? For Elaina/Lainie, the names have different meanings. Which does she choose, and how does she fuse the elements of the other back into a whole.  Or should she choose a third name–Ella, Elle, Ellie, Anna–to mark a new chapter in her journey and a significant break from the past?

Thoughts?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Empty Bed

Shades of Pink Charity Anthology

As you may know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For this occasion, 33 authors have allied for 1 cause:  fundraising for research. Their gift to everyone who makes a donation? A romance anthology (ebook) titled Shades of Pink, totaling over 200.000 words / about 500 pages as a PDF.

The suggested donation is $5. Funds are raised via Stayclassy.org and all proceeds go directly to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Readers can also donate to the charity organization of their choice (with a focus on breast cancer) and email their receipt to receive their copy of the anthology in either PDF, ePub or mobi (kindle).

Who: Kate Baum, Brei Betzold, Jean Booth, Catherine Bowman, Perci T. Brooks, Rose Caraway, Bethan Cooper, Sarah Daltry, Vivien Dean, JJ Ellis, Rachel Firasek, Sabrina Garie, Amber Green, T. Hammond, Lisa M. Harley, Susan Harris, K. R. Haynes, Ellie Heller, Laura Hunsaker, Jennifer James, Torie James, Kallysten, K.A. Linde, C. Deanne Rowe, DJ Shaw, Madeline Sheehan, Eden Summers, Gill Taber, J Annas Walker, Matthew Welch, Kristin L. Wilson, Zoe York, Angela Yseult

When: October 1 through November 15th.

What: 33 short stories, including…

  • 30 M/F, 1.5 M/M, 1.5 M/F/M
  • 4 paranormal, 2 sci-fi, 19 contemporary, 3 historical, 1 BDSM, 9 fantasy, 3 YA (some stories have more than one genre)
  • 4 spicy (ménage or kink), 15 sexy (explicit sex scenes), 14 sweet (no sex)
  • A handful of vampires, about four dozen humans including fighters, cursed humans, reincarnated souls, footballers, time travelers, bosses, secretaries, writers, rock stars, teens, witches, soldiers, wives, husbands and fiancés, 1 succubus, 1 genie, 1 extra-terrestrial princess, a few gods and goddesses, a pack of werewolves.
  • Pink, pink and more pink, including cherry blossoms, jewelry,  flamingoes, silk, a leather collar, assorted flowers, hair, a car, lip gloss, champagne, a hair ribbon, a hippo, various clothing items, lemonade and a toy.

Where: Kallysten’s blog

Here you’ll find teasers for all the stories, interviews of the authors posted during all of October, and of course the link where you can donate and help this worthy cause.

Raising Money for Breast Cancer Research

Empty Bed

Shades of Pink Charity Anthology

As you may know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For this occasion, 33 authors have allied for 1 cause: fundraising for research. Their gift to everyone who makes a donation? A romance anthology (ebook) titled Shades of Pink, totaling over 200.000 words / about 500 pages as a PDF.

The suggested donation is $5. Funds are raised via Stayclassy.org and all proceeds go directly to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Readers can also donate to the charity organization of their choice (with a focus on breast cancer) and email their receipt to receive their copy of the anthology in either PDF, ePub or mobi (kindle).

Who: Kate Baum, Brei Betzold, Jean Booth, Catherine Bowman, Perci T. Brooks, Rose Caraway, Bethan Cooper, Sarah Daltry, Vivien Dean, JJ Ellis, Rachel Firasek, Sabrina Garie, Amber Green, T. Hammond, Lisa M. Harley, Susan Harris, K. R. Haynes, Ellie Heller, Laura Hunsaker, Jennifer James, Torie James, Kallysten, K.A. Linde, C. Deanne Rowe, DJ Shaw, Madeline Sheehan, Eden Summers, Gill Taber, J Annas Walker, Matthew Welch, Kristin L. Wilson, Zoe York, Angela Yseult

When: October through November 15th.  Preorders start on September 15, 2013.

What: 33 short stories, including…

  • 30 M/F, 1.5 M/M, 1.5 M/F/M
  • 4 paranormal, 2 sci-fi, 19 contemporary, 3 historical, 1 BDSM, 9 fantasy, 3 YA (some stories have more than one genre)
  • 4 spicy (ménage or kink), 15 sexy (explicit sex scenes), 14 sweet (no sex)
  • A handful of vampires, about four dozen humans including fighters, cursed humans, reincarnated souls, footballers, time travelers, bosses, secretaries, writers, rock stars, teens, witches, soldiers, wives, husbands and fiancés, 1 succubus, 1 genie, 1 extra-terrestrial princess, a few gods and goddesses, a pack of werewolves.
  • Pink, pink and more pink, including cherry blossoms, jewelry,  flamingoes, silk, a leather collar, assorted flowers, hair, a car, lip gloss, champagne, a hair ribbon, a hippo, various clothing items, lemonade and a toy.

Where: Kallysten’s blog

Here you’ll find teasers for all the stories, interviews of the authors posted during all of October, and of course the link where you can donate and help this worthy cause.

Parent-Child Relationship Milestones: Which Matter Most to You?

As parents, our external culture gives us a series of milestones for our children–a combination of an early warning system, reachingemotional steam valve, development indicators and budget busters.  You know them–first words, first time they say mommy or daddy, first steps, potty training, first day of school, religious markers such as communions or bar-mitvahs, school graduations, marriage, their first child and many others.  The cycle of life with the all the notches as you move through it.

Now that my baby’s 10, I’ve got to admit, those are cultural milestones–the ones the outside world handed to me and I have go out and do something to mark them.  There a whole lot of others no one told me about, that are as dramatic, as meaningful and usually a lot less expensive. They often go unnoticed because there is usually no party, photo or bill attached.  These are those moments in time when the relationship between parent and child undergoes a subtle shift. They highlight a glimmer of personality, a blurring of formerly understood roles and rules, the opening of a whole new door.  And as a result of these milestones, I found myself forced to let go of something (e.g. a perception, a fear, a responsibility).  Here are some.  The first time she:

  1. held a bottle by herself and started to feed herself.
  2. slammed her bedroom door because she was angry with me.
  3. had a sleepover at a friend’s house.
  4. lied to me.
  5. asked about sex and the first time I answered her. (They were not the same time. The question came much earlier than I expected and I was not prepared.)
  6. made me laugh when I was being grumpy and took the initiative to make the environment friendlier.112
  7. cleaned up without me asking.
  8. planned her entire birthday party. I used to like the creative outlet of it.
  9. swatted me away because I was embarrassing her. (Actually that can be quite a lot of fun.~evil mom laugh~)
  10. stayed by herself. .

How about you?  What are the milestones or moments no one told you about that had you recalibrating the parent-child relationship?  Any of mine, you don’t agree with?  I’d love to hear from you.

The Mom Project

tuck - Copy

Kasia James, who’ve I’ve mentioned many times, has set a wonderful project in motion–an anthology about motherhood in its wonderful and terrible complexity. I’m proud to be a part of that effort. The anthology is a push back to the popular media that tends to represent motherhood as a a shallow retail-driven experience. Real life, as you all know, is like the photo of my little darling above. Children flip your world upside down and toss it around in unexpected ways every damn day.  I’m writing an essay tentatively titled  “My Kid Wears Hats and Other surprises No One Told Me about Motherhood.”  Each week, I’ll be sharing one to two of those surprises as a trial run for the final essay and hopefully tapping into the brilliant and insightful minds out there to help me shape my thoughts and get this essay in shape.

I must confess, the anthology is not the only reason I’ve jumpstarted this mom project of mine.  I am also in the process of editing my next book, Next Move.  It is a contemporary romance, high on the hot scale,  in which the main character is a single mother.  For all the single parents out there, you know how hard it is to try to figure out how to date and have a sexual relationship under those conditions.  Talk about surprises!  I thought we needed a story that honored those needs and the difficulty of achieving them.

Given the confluence of forces in my life, I’m all about parenting on this blog.  Its going to be an interesting month of tears and laughter. Come join me. I’d welcome company along for the ride.

Sucked into the consumer spiral: How do you handle the craziness of consumerism?

consumer

I have no extra time so why is it that shopping has become increasingly more cumbersome, complex and time consuming? I can’t seem to ever get everything I need from a single store.  With a single shopping list that includes organic and non-organic foods, household products, pet needs among other needs, I hop from organic markets to Trader Joes to traditional supermarkets, checking off items as I go.

Part of its money (organics can get expensive so I have two stores for that alone), part of it is that they all have subtly different options–and as a spoiled denizen of the U.S. consumer culture for way too long–I want what I want.  Even Target, my go-to, back up store for everything, only caters to an increasingly smaller proportion of my needs even as it offers a wider range of products (e.g. mine just added a whole grocery section).

Ah, the internet you say is the answer, buying on line cuts through all of that.  Kind of, sort of, but not really.  I use that too but once I start tapping on delivery fees, the time to evaluate the sites if its not Amazon or the local supermarket, and do cost comparisons, its only really advantage is it saves on gas costs and lets me order at strange times of the day. But I don’t necessarily save time. So instead of replacing physical retail, it just heaps on more options–all of which I use. Nothing gets cut out, just used differently.

If that’s not enough, I have another consumer pathology that creates some pretty crazy buying patterns.  Price versus waste makes me insane. I just bought a $3.99 bottle of brand name aspirin with 50 tablets rather than 200 for $1.99 because there is no way I’d use even 75 by the best buy date.  Is it better to pay a little more and not waste, or save a dollar and throw a lot out? And that waste gets in our water, our food, our green space.

Mixed Nuts

Nuts, shopping in the 21st century, its just nuts.

What are you’re pet peeves for shopping and consumer culture in 2013?

Thanks for dropping by,

Sabrina