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.

C is for Clio (Looking for a muse?) #A to Z Challenge

Clio is the muse of history in the greek pantheon. Like all the muses, she is the daughter of Zeus and the Titan, Mnemosyne. In greek myth, the muses were seen as the best in their chosen discipline. No human were supposed to equal their prowess. If they did, bad things often happened. But we don’t look to myths for happy endings, but life lessons.

The name Clio means to make famous, which is an interesting foundation for our concept of history and historical record.  But maybe because only history decides true fame (for good or ill) and fame is not the fleeting moments attached to celebrity in modern culture.  What do you think?
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I used the muse Clio in my book Thirteen Nights. She runs a Boston pub called the Quill and Parchment, which caters to the human and supernatural set who like to sit around and discuss deep thoughts and solve philosophical conundrums. Maybe at the Quill and Parchment, everyone does know your name. 🙂

Happy A to Z Challenge. You can visit some of the other bloggers here.

 

B is for Bara, A Norse Wave Maiden #AtoZChallenge

The mythical goddess for the day is Bara, one of the nine wave maidens in Norse mythology.

The wave maidens are the daughters of Aegir and Ran, the Norse god and goddess of the seas.  Each of the nine wave maidens reflects a different moment in the life of a wave. Beautiful, no? You can see the whole family below preparing a vat of ale. Now that’s family time. 🙂

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I tripped over Bara and her sisters when I was plotting the story, In Search of Pink Coral, for a charity anthology last year. Her name means foam fleck, which is the moment the wave hits the shore,  the point where the sea meets the land. It is, in truth, a point of beauty and tension, because the constant pounding of the land by the seas tears away at the earth, little by little. Erosion.  Bara, as the navigator of this relationship, seemed a perfect goddess for a love story with a human.

Bara sometimes appears in myth as Drofn, but Bara rang prettier to my ears, especially for a romance heroine.

This summer, I’ll be revising and elongating Bara’s story, self-publishing it and offering it for 99 cents sometime over the summer. Its Book 1.5 of my Divine Temptation series, and Bara also shows up in Book 2, Life Reignited, which releases September 3 from Ellora’s Cave. Life Reignited centers on the Norse Pantheon, although the heroine, Phoebe is in Amazon.

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.

Guest #Author MJ Flournoy’s A Matter of Trust

A_Matter_Of_Trust_Final_BANNERI am so pleased to welcome guest author MJ Flournoy to my blog today to discuss her recent release, A Matter of Trust. Welcome MJ.

While watching a news account of the rescue of an abducted child, I became absorbed in the story. So much so, that I took that one event and built an entire plot around it. The person in the news story encountered a small child and her intuition told her something was wrong. Being a teacher, I have often encountered situations where that intuition kicked in to help a child. Often teachers have a sort of sixth sense where the well-being of students is concerned.

I took that grain of an idea and built it into the plot of A Matter of Trust. Jolie Wyngate is a teacher with a gift, or curse, depending on how she views it. She tries to keep knowledge of her ability undercover, but when the well being of a child is at risk, she has to use her ability, regardless of the personal cost.

What would you do in a similar situation? If you had a special gift, but sharing that gift could cause you to lose the career you’d worked hard to establish, would you do it? Would you do the right thing regardless of personal costs?

I like to think that I would rise to the occasion. That my innate sense of always “do what is right, regardless,” would be strong enough to help me do what my conscious insisted I do.

That is exactly the dilemma Jolie faces in A Matter of Trust. She has learned through many personal setbacks that sharing her gift with others usually came with a steep price for her personally. Now she faces the ultimate challenge.

Mac Carlson is a man on a mission. Ex-Navy SEAL and security expert, Carlson’s mission is to save a kidnapped child. Jolie shows up on his radar as his major suspect. With serious trust issues on both sides, it seems unlikely that these two will be able to work together to save the kidnapped child, let alone develop a serious relationship.

Add to that the presence of the Maniac, the disembodied voice that is the source of much of Jolie’s information and the plot becomes very complicated. A Matter of Trust, by MJ Flournoy, available now.

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Excerpt:

A Coke, a fat one, or an orange soda.

“Not gonna happen.” Jolie Wyngate shrugged, climbed from her car and hurried toward the convenience store to pick up a quick snack before continuing on her way south.

And why not?

“Because I have to drive another hundred and fifty miles, and I don’t intend to stop every half hour for potty breaks.”

You are so not any fun! It’s just a Coke, for Pete’s sake.

“And you, lady, are so predictable.”

Make it chocolate then.

Jolie smiled. Chocolate, a compromise with which she could live. “Right.”

And stop speaking out loud, people will think you’re crazy.

“Me crazy? Get real, Maniac, I’ve talked to you since childhood. If I haven’t landed in the

loony bin by now, I hardly think it’s going to happen.”

Humor me, then.

Jolie shrugged, continuing toward the store. She’d pick out a chocolate bar to keep her unseen companion happy.

Serve you right if I quit talking to you all together.

“Put it in writing.” Jolie reached for the door handle.

A giggle erupted within Jolie’s mind. Then, in the tone Jolie hated hearing: Shush, pay

attention. There’s something wrong in there.

Oh, hell. Jolie bit the soft flesh of her lower lip. Her hand tingled as if the door was

electrified. Shit, this was the real reason for the Maniac’s sudden thirst.

The cool, dry air of the convenience store surrounded her when she stepped through the open door. For a second, the young clerk behind the counter looked up from the newspaper spread in front of her. Nothing. Jolie expelled a breath of relief, exchanged a quick smile with the clerk, and then headed toward the candy isle.

Then she saw her. The little girl wandered listlessly down the candy isle, her small hand

trailing over the rows of candy, gently touching, but taking nothing. Jolie watched her for a moment, then scanned the store and saw no one in sight.

The child turned, her gaze lifting until it found Jolie. She tilted her head to the side, her eyes searching Jolie’s for an instant. Then she moved closer and stared up at her. The expression on the small face caused Jolie’s heart to turn over. She knelt to the child’s level and touched the riot of red curls. A jolt of emotion skittered along Jolie’s spine, but Jolie forced herself not to pull away.

“Hey, sweetie, does your mommy know you’re out here alone?”

The little girl looked about three. She continued to stare mutely. Jolie smiled at her. “That your mommy behind the counter?”

She lifted the child into her arms. Unprepared for the sudden shock of pain and despair that engulfed her, Jolie almost dropped her. Instead, she tightened her arms instinctively around the frail body.

Something’s not right.

Blurb:

Her paranormal abilities had always caused her grief. But can they save the life of a child who has been kidnapped and the life of the man she loves?

Jolie Wyngate is a middle school teacher with an extraordinary gift—or is it a curse? Throughout her life, she’s been never been sure. Now, when she is implicated in the disappearance of a child, the ultimate value of her powers will be put to the test.

Mac Carlson, former Navy SEAL and security expert, is tasked with rescuing the girl, Rachael Anne. From the moment he meets Jolie, his suspicious and protective nature sets its sights on her as a prime suspect. Can Jolie clear her name and gain this man’s hard-won trust?

More importantly, can she save the girl before time runs out? She won’t be able to do it without her psychic abilities—but Mac has a hard enough time trusting Jolie as it is, let alone trusting her powers to lead them to Rachael Anne.

As Mac and Jolie realize they have no choice but to work as a team—and as they slowly warm to each other in the process—they realize they have a new problem: the man they are after has set his sights on Jolie. Now Jolie will need all of her abilities, and all of Mac’s strength and skill, to stay out of the fiend’s hands and bring Rachael Anne back home.

MJ FlourneyBio for MJ Flournoy:

MJ Flournoy loves crafting stories of romance and suspense. Her interest in writing grew organically from her love of reading. A late bloomer, MJ attended college as a non-traditional student and earned a degree in history with an eye toward writing historical romance.

After graduation from college, MJ became a middle school teacher, which helps to keep her grounded in the real world while her plots take her away to the extraordinary worlds of imagination and creativity. MJ enjoys adding a twist of paranormal to her plots.

MJ makes her home in rural Georgia with her husband. She has two children and two

grandchildren. Her favourite activities are writing, reading, and travel.

Links:

Trailer for A Matter of Trust

http://youtu.be/dM5jJO9KZCY

Buy link for A Matter of Trust

http://amzn.com/B00FDWOL3C

MJ Flournoy

http://authormjflournoy.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/authormj.flournoy

http://twitter.com/authormjflourno

A Woman in Charge: How to Add Vulnerability to Strong Female Characters

I was cleaning my files and I found this blog post I had written as part of a collection of posts to market Next Move.  I had never used it with the way the marketing schedule played out, but I really like it.  Next Move looked at love and romance for characters caught in the morass of obligations most of us struggle with on a daily basis.  I’m sharing it now, as Thirteen Nights releases soon and starting this weekend, I’ll start sharing some of that. So enjoy. I still love this cover. 🙂

 

I adore strong heroine, especially those who carry as many scars as their heroes so that the love that blossoms between them has a healing touch for both of them.  The challenge to writing a strong heroine like Jocelyn Wade in Next Move, who leads in a male dominated environment, raises a child on her own, cares for her aging father and has the emotional fortitude to make it happen, is to figure out how to still make her soft and vulnerable when life does not let her be. But this is what Jared sees, and what he brings out in her.

Cover with cup2Here are a few of ways I did it. You let me know if you think they work or if I missed any.

1)      Changing the heroine’s usual style of dressing can help power down personality and alter the way she is seen.  Here’s a snippet

Jared hot-footed it to the restaurant after the hostess called. He scanned the dining room several times until he found a much softer Jocelyn. The auburn hair, no longer tied in a knot, spilled over her shoulders, teasing that elegant neck he’d earlier ached to taste. A heart-shaped locket dangled between full, shapely breasts showcased by a form-fitting v-necked t-shirt. The informal look washed some of the power out of her and made her look lighter, more vulnerable. Those full red lips promised wicked pleasures. She was ice and fire all packaged up, waiting to be opened. Good call, Wyatt. Peeling back some of the layers that made up Jocelyn Wade might prove a delightful evening.

2)      Having the hero see her when she does not think anyone is looking can offer an insight into the heroine’s vulnerability that she works hard to protect.

She was going to walk away from this. Why did he think she’d be different? Underneath the heat lurked a frozen core, just like Cara. Anger had him dressed and ready to run. At the door, he glanced back and stopped in his tracks. Pain had drawn dark circles under her eyes. Whatever demons lived in her memory spoke those words. Last night had touched her too. Her face revealed that truth even if her words denied it.

3)       Unexpected circumstances can create unique and interesting spaces for strong heroines to be rescued.  Even if they don’t want to be.

After the family left Jared helped her get the ruined jacket off. Big mistake. The juice molded the white blouse to her torso and revealed every thread of her beige lace push-up bra and her diamond-hard nipples to everyone in the bar.

Appreciation danced across Jared’s face followed by awareness. He threw his arm around her shoulder and yanked her against his chest to cover her breasts. “I was so right. You’re fire underneath the starch,” he whispered in her ear. She should hate him but was grateful for the cover and his look made her tingly. Grabbing her luggage, purse and phone and yelling a quick reminder to the bartender he’d be back for his suitcase, he shuttled her out of the bar to the ladies’ room to change. The man took control with panache.

4)       Show her depth through the eyes of others.  In the case of Jocelyn, I used her family members.  See what her older brother shares with Jared while they are sparring.  They are both former boxers.

Gideon nodded after moving far enough back to avoid Jared’s fists. “Most have been. That asshat of a first husband up and left after Kylie was born. She held the family together when Mom was sick. Now she shoulders Dad’s care, runs interference when I run too loose with the ladies, organizes Tommy days, when she forces all of us to make care packages to send to our brother. You want her? Fight by her side, no matter what. And take care of her. She pretends to not need it…but she does.”

Thanks for dropping by.  How do you like to see vulnerability in strong heroines displayed? What works and does not work for you?

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?

Parenting necessity: A teflon ego

“You’re really bad at that, Mom.”

How often do I hear that.  Here are a few others.

You look better in glasses, they cover your eye bags.”

“Ah mom, about that dress.”

“Mom, you can never, ever, wear a bikini.”

Or maybe she just sits down next to me and starts to count the grey hairs on the back of my head. The ones I can’t see so I don’t have to acknowledge that they exist.

I think you get the point.  Kids pull no punches. They say it like they see it and it can be painful.

There is no fooling yourself with kids around–the pounds you gain are real, grey hairs not a disturbance of the light. I’m not sure its a bad thing, but they need to learn to temper their language. That’s the parents’ job. But as we know, just telling them doesn’t always get you where you need to be. Its a long road before linguistic nuance and subtlety becomes habit.

Fortunately (or not) they get the whole white lie thing early. But H. won’t white lie to me (lie yes, but that’s for another lesson and thank goodness she’s a lousy liar), only pure, unvarnished truth. Lucky me. As an older parent, my ego’s pretty solid but even so, I can’t say I’ve not had a  few winces and hidden glimpses in the mirror.

How do your kids test your ego?

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.