Monday, January 30, 2012

Break Out the Bubbly and the Dark Chocolate: Celebrating Cathy Perkin's Debut Novel THE PROFESSOR

Author Cathy Perkins

I'm delighted to welcome author Cathy Perkins to the Veranda to celebrate her debut novel THE PROFESSOR published by Carina Press. Cathy and I have an interesting history and I can't wait for you to learn how and where we met. She's not just a wonderful writer, I consider her one of my first out of the area writing friends. I wish her every success and I can't wait for you to read all about her journey to publication!! So let's pop the cork and pour some champagne and enjoy the story.


Hi Cathy, welcome to the Veranda. I know we've talked about this before, but tell my readers about your writing journey. How did you decide to be a writer? 

While I’ve had a life-long love affair with reading, I didn’t start writing until about five years ago. This probably isn’t how most people start, but I had a lengthy consulting job in a city about 90 miles away. I’d listen to music and daydream during the commute. Pretty soon the day dream had dialogue and I thought, hmm, this is turning into a good story. That particular book lives in a box under the bed, but I was hooked on writing, creating worlds and characters. Christine and I met right after I finished The Professor – we both had to count backward on our fingers, with moves and when the kids graduated high school as touchstones – at the fall 2007 writing retreat sponsored by the Lowcountry RWA.I learned so much at that Masterclass, I came home and joined a critique group, hoping to learn more. These writers encouraged me to join RWA and enter a few contests, including the Golden Heart. The Professor won those contests and was a Golden Heart finalist, but I kept hearing ‘romantic suspense is dead’ so I really didn’t try to sell the book. Instead, I put the story away and kept writing. About this time last year, I pulled the story out and thought, I love these characters and I want to share them with a wider audience. Carina Press made an offer and I’m thrilled to say the novel released last week, on January 23.
I remember all our long walks along the beach, Cathy. We had lovely long chats about writing. What is your favorite genre to write?
I’ve always loved mysteries and suspense—figuring out the who-dun-it puzzle, delighting when the author keeps me guessing or on the edge of my seat, wondering what will happen next. When I started writing, my stories and characters had secrets, obstacles and a race to uncover the villain. I’m going to slide a second “favorite” part in here—bringing the characters to life, figuring out what makes them tick and throwing the challenges of the plot and relationship at them, is so much fun. It’s probably the best part of writing.
While my book is listed as romantic suspense, it’s really more suspense than romance. Just like thrillers can be anything from an action adventure to an intensely psychological nail-biter, the romantic suspense spectrum covers everything from steamy relationship-focused stories to ones like The Professor, where the relationship is a subplot rather than the focus of the story.  
I know of many Romantic Suspense authors who are moving into the mystery/thriller genres and are doing quite well as their readers follow them. I think it's a great fit for your story. When you write your stories are you a plotter or do you follow the muse?
My stories grow out of day dreams, the snippet of an idea, a what-if. For example, my husband and I were hiking in a game refuge near our house. While pushing through dense undergrowth beside the Snake River, I glanced over my shoulder and said, “Wouldn’t this be a great place to find a body?” The amateur sleuth story grew from that What-if.
Once an idea takes hold, the plot and character evolve together. But I’m a plotter, so the first thing I do when I think the idea has possibilities is sketch an outline of the plot. That outline grows and evolves as my characters’ personalities and motivations flesh out. Things that of course they’d do, add layers or subplots as the story unfolds.
 I wish I was a true plotter. It would make life so much easier at the computer. After you're finished plotting and writing, how do you relax? 
Most weekends we head up to the mountains – I’ve shared a few stories about the wild life, er wildlife, at the Blame It On The Muse blog. Depending on the weather, we may work on the property or head out for hiking or skiing, but 5 PM usually finds us kicked back with a glass of terrific Washington wine.
I bet the mountains are reenergizing and inspiring. What a great way to refresh yourself after working so hard. What are you working on now?  
I'm working on two very different manuscripts right now. One is a dark, financial mystery with the premise: how far will you go for those you love? The mystery revolves around the heroine's father - did he kill to save the company he loves or is he really trying to protect both his family and employees? It's currently out under consideration; think positive thoughts!
We will! Crossing all appendages!!
I'm polishing a light amateur sleuth mystery about a small town CPA—houses, handbags or companies, she knows how to make a deal. When a friend's body turns up beside the Snake River, she has to dodge a vengeful detective - her ex-fiancĂ© - while staying one step ahead of a murderer.  It was a blast to write and fun relief after the intensity of the darker ones. I might publish this series under the pen name Cathy Ann Stewart Hamilton, because when a woman’s initials are CASH, how can she not get involved in finance?At this stage, I feel blessed to have so many opportunities. Ultimately I want to write a story that readers enjoy.
Your projects sound so interesting. I love the way your mind works. CASH is a great way to think about your future pseudonym!! How did you celebrate the “call?”
I missed The Call! I was working out of town with my day job, came home and found Angela James’ voice mail, saying she’d read The Professor and wanted to talk to me about it. I met my critique partner for lunch – I’m not sure that cafĂ© will welcome us back – and we decided she wouldn’t call to turn me down. Later that afternoon, I got an email extending the offer and setting up a time to talk.
Fabulous Cover!!
I'm so glad she called and you received a contract. What a fun story!! It's been a few years since we walked along the beach, but look where you are now! What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Never give up! The road to publication can take all sorts of twists and turns. Whether an agent or editor will want your story can involve timing and other project they’re working on, as much as the merits of your story. Add in individual likes and hot-buttons and you just have to keep working and submitting. If it’s rejected, remember it’s business, not personal.
The second piece of advice is, keep learning. I’ve sat next to multi-published, NY Times best-selling authors and watched them take notes in a conference class. Sometimes it’s a new concept and sometimes a speaker hits me between the eyes with exactly the question or idea that I needed to pull a scene together!
There are so many new avenues for authors – traditional and small presses, digital first, and self-publishing. I’ll leave you with some advice Angela James offered at the Emerald City Conference – just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Her point was, make sure whatever you send out is ready, polished and your best work.
Cathy, that is excellent advice. I shall take it to heart. And I love it when I see top selling authors taking notes during the workshops that I attend. James Scott Bell says one should never stop learning the craft. Thanks so much for visiting the Veranda and sharing your writing journey.

Cathy Perkins can be reached via the following ways:

You can order THE PROFESSOR from these sites:
Barnes & Noble -- here
Carina Press -- here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Retro Blog While I Remain BICHOK--Remembering Why I Started

I wrote this blog November 17, 2008--it was my Dad's birthday. I wonder what he'd say to me if he knew how far I've come as a writer and person as I pursue this career. 

Today is my dad's birthday. He would have turned 81 today had he not passed away 6 years ago. Losing dad was tough as he was the only parent I had who truly loved me. And he influenced me tremendously. From him I developed a love of reading--he was my library connection. When I exhausted all the books at our small town's library, I raided his bookshelves and found The Hobbit (4th grade), John Steinback and more. From him I learned to be curious and creative and focused on the task at hand.

When I was a child I wanted to be many things: a vet, a movie star (what self respecting girl wouldn't want fame???), and a journalist. I always wrote. Journals, poems, fantasy stories and more. I was fated to write. Yet, due to the "other parent" my life took many strange turns. As one fellow writer said to me, "life hijacked me."

Big time.

I was on my own at 16, working as a waitress, and a highschool drop out. Writing for a living was not an option although I never stopped dreaming.

Fast forward to 2002. Married, college educated, a mother, a friend, and still a dreamer. Dad was very ill. My husband, daughter and I traveled North to see him one more time. During that visit, he needed closure. A way to say goodbye and a way to say he was sorry. Part of that regret was due to his failure to protect me from an abusive parent. A parent who didn't want me to succeed, who wanted me to lose my zest for life, who wanted to derail every dream I had as impossible.

I'll never forget when he turned to me, regret in his eyes, and said it was "too late for me to be a writer." At the time, I believed him. I had laid my dream to rest and was pursuing the idea of becoming a personal life coach. Heck, I am an enthusiastic person and I've encouraged so many people in achieving their dreams, I figured why not get paid for it? I absolved him of his own guilt and said it was okay. I was okay. And I really was doing great.

But the dream that had been dormant resurrected on that day. And a few months later, I trotted out an old half started manuscript, and I finished it! I sent it off in a query and fantastically, got a request. No. The story doesn't end with a published novel. No. The first book I wrote is not that great and will never be published. However, it will never be forgotten. It is the first book I wrote. I proved to myself it was not too late for me to write. And since that first book churned out of me, I have written two other books.

On Dad's birthday, I wish I could say to him that it's not too late. That I am a writer. And I will, with a lot of luck and hard work, be published one day.

And here I am working hard and still pushing for the dream to become a reality. It's not too late. Ever.

Never give up. Never surrender!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tonks is In the House

Please play with me. Or pet me. Or cuddle me.
While I feverishly prepare my entries for the Linda Howard Award of Excellence FINAL judges, Tonks has graciously offered to takeover and write some tips for leading a mini life of kitten crime and getting away with it. Take it away Tonks.

Meow, chirrup, purr... she doesn't know it, but I'm sitting on Christine's dining room table. I have put my pitty pat paw prints all over it, but... oh crap... here she comes. Quick, I am putting on my cutest kitten face. 

Purrhup... rubbing my soft head against her hand... yup... Christine is a sucker for the cute I-want-to-cuddle pose. Ah, she's so easy to train. Right, she's picked me up and put me on the floor. She admonishes me in that sing-song voice which only makes me want to bounce right up on the table... and yup, do it again....

Timer beeped! Timer beeped! Timer beeped!!! Here comes Christine--she looks tired. She's getting tea... I jump up. Meow? Want some love? Purr  purr purr. How can she possibly resist me? 

If I keep searching I will find the treats.
Treat? Want a treat? Treat Tonks? She asks. I am on the counter but she's still giving me a treat. Life is good!! Man did I hit the jackpot when I got adopted by this family.

I bounce over, act cute, and not just one treat, but FOUR!! Yes, I am gifted like everyone else in this family (even the Teen's cat Mischief is too smart for her own good). Yummy. 

Oh man, timer beeped and she's... she's... going back into her office to write. Maybe if I sneak in and attack the printer she'll toss me some rolled up paper and play with me....


Monday, January 23, 2012

Break Out the Bubbly & Dark Chocolate--Celebrating New Release: THE EDGER

Author Marilyn Baron
Hi Everyone: 

I have a special treat today. Former Petit Fours & Hot Tamales sister Marilyn Baron has released her first full length novel, THE EDGER. Marilyn first visited the Veranda when she debuted her her first novel. You can read her interview here. Marilyn is a wonderful writer and I had the privilege of reading the first 25 pages of this novel when we were in an author critique group at the Georgia Romance Writers of America meeting. I am thrilled to see this novel debut. 
What is really cool about this novel is Marilyn Baron and her sister Sharon Goldman wrote THE EDGER together. Talent flows through this family's arteries!!! 
Marilyn is taking over my blog today and answering all your questions about the book, her creative process and what it is like to write as part of a team with one's sister. I hope Sharon pops in as well. 
While Marilyn and Sharon host my blog, I'll be writing my tushie off because I have a Triple set of contest finals to prep for the Linda Howard Award of Excellence Contemporary Series Long and Short final judges (yikes!!). I am SO GRATEFUL Marilyn offered to host a mini takeover!! 

Author Sharon Goldman

THE EDGER is set in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Here's the blurb:

THE EDGER is a humorous women’s fiction about landscape artist Alexandra Newborn’s shocking reunion with her college art professor, Nick Anselmo—once a celebrated Italian artist, now a homeless lawn man—which sows the seeds for murder, mystery and romance.

In gratitude for food, art materials and company, Nick, or The Edger, as Alex comes to think of him, drops off a new sketch in front of Alex’s house every week when he comes to do her lawn. Nick’s provocative artwork is the key to revealing a dangerous liaison between Alex’s husband, Mark, and Bitsy Diamond, owner of the gallery where Alex dreams of having a one-woman show. When a deadly hurricane takes a dangerous turn the night of the show opening, Mark’s body washes up behind Bitsy’s beach house, leaving readers to wonder whodunit? 

Marilyn Baron is the Georgia author of the humorous supernatural angel trilogy, A Choir of Angels, Follow an Angel and The Stand-in Bridegroom Sharon Goldman is an award-winning artist who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Visit Sharon at
THE EDGER ISBN 978-1- 4659-7621-5 is available at                                                                                  Amazon Kindle

Friday, January 20, 2012

Who I Was Is Part of Who I Am and Who I Will Become

I have a saying to get through the bad days and moments which was "It is what it is." And that's all well and good because it means I accept the circumstances for what they are and quit fighting. But that's not enough for me. I realized this week that I'm better off saying "It will become what it will become--I will become who I become."

Then I realized that the past, mine in particular, has uniquely shaped me for the career I want to claim. My writing career is largely shaped by what I've overcome, learned, and will continue to learn. I used to think if only I had not been sent on wild and crazy detours due to life, the circumstances I had to escape, and the education I had to delay.

Not anymore. I may not have an advanced university degree with all sorts of letters behind it, but I have something of equal or even greater value. I have a PhD in overcoming obstacles. Big ones for me, not so big for others.

And I'm so grateful for the lessons and emotions and experiences I've had because they shape the characters of my stories. And for kicks and giggles I've included my three favorite shots from eons ago. I feel they show all my sides and I just love the dress.

Here is a quick rundown:

*born in the Netherlands to two people who survived Japanese Concentration camps in the 1940s. Neither of them were equipped to parent but they did the best they could.
*Canadian National Science Fair 3rd Place at 13 with project about Pattern Recognition
*figure skater for 8 years, alto sax player/second chair
*grew up in Northern mining town & experienced daily bouts of bullying because I "used big words"
*semi-photographic memory, advanced reader, IQ high but never revealed to me by parents due their own feelings of inadequacy
*"bad girl" in high school long before I did anything "bad"
*smoker, back of the bleachers party girl, skipped school and forged my teachers' signatures on attendance sheets
*ran a mini-crime ring in forging teacher's names for other "bad" kids--got caught
*spent 10th grade English in VPs office due to arguing a test question with teacher and winning my point
*on my own at 16 due to difficult home life
*high school dropout
*worked in daycare, arena concession stand to make ends meet
*worked in diner
*waitress, gas jockey, maid
*drove without a license
*ice fished, snowmobiled, cross country skied
*got my GED, learned how to sign for deaf/blind people in hope of going to college for free as interpreter
*lived in Northern Manitoba, Winnipeg, Vancouver
Taken at the top of the Sears Tower in Vancouver. So serious. 
*dated dangerous men, nice men, French men, Russian men, firemen, policemen, concert promoters, musicians and poets
*wrote poetry, loads and loads of it
*once wanted to be a foreign journalist
*once wanted to marry the Man from Atlantis--wrote an entire series about it long before fan fiction existed on the Internet
*read John Steinback, the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings when I was in the 4th grade, reread them all later
*read Ginsberg, Kerouac and wished I'd been born in time to be a Beatnik
*kissed a French boy along the banks of the Seine when I was 13
*kissed a Physicist along the banks of the Seine when I was 30
*married young, grew up with the Physicist, made a beautiful baby
*traveled to Europe, ridden the Fast Train, been weighed on a witch's scale and deemed not a witch
*the Teen and the Physicist believe I am strangely psychic--my dreams are often prophetic
*I fly in my dreams. I want to fly in reality.
*I'm terrified of fire, drowning, death
*I almost drowned on my first anniversary--the Physicist saved me
*I was threatened by a bully with a lighter in the 9th grade. She wanted to burn my hair off my head. She had accomplices. I kicked her and ran away. She grew up and had a terrible life. I grew up and have a great life. Bad Karma is a bitch.
*I almost died 3 times due to anaphylaxis
*I never wear a watch, but I have an uncanny awareness of time.
*the Physicist married me before I had a college degree. He didn't know I could cook, but I can and I do it well.
I love this shot. Very dreamy/
*I graduated with a 4.0 Summa Cum Laude Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education at the top of the Dean's list.
*I never taught.
*I've worked in radio and television
*I was a part-time model--I was the Sunshine Girl of West Vancouver
*I have camped in the Redwood forest and in the Dordogne
*when I make up my mind to do something, I just do it. If it becomes boring or routine I stop.
*writing is the only thing that doesn't bore me
*my paternal grandfather was a biologist for the World Health Organization as well as a practicing doctor
*I got an A in pre-med genetics. Only 2 people got As
*I have an uncanny ability to diagnose diseases and illnesses
*I'm more serious than people think I am
*I'm more playful than people think I am
*I don't trust easily, but I am very trustworthy. If you tell me to keep a secret, I will. There are secrets I will die keeping
*I believe in many truths. My main belief is do unto others as you would have done unto you. I have broken this rule as a young woman. And I've seen others break it now. I wait for karma to act.
*I know what it is like to lose someone you love
*I live here in the now, but I am not afraid to sift through the past for there is where real emotion, raw gritty emotion exists, the kind that can strengthen my stories and my characters
*I play to win. Failure is NOT an option.
I like how playful and free I look here. It's how I feel today.
*If someone tries to stop me from winning out of spite, I will draw back, coil in my den, and wait to strike
*never mistake my desire to be kind as a weakness--never
*I was once a dreamy, intellectual little girl who read big books and said big words because the mind was valued in our home
*I was almost drowned in snow banks for being that little intellectual girl. I know what it is like to feel cold snow melting on your skin while you're desperately gasping for air and there is no one, no one to help you.
*A boy in the second grade used to chase me and punch me in the stomach daily. I put my book underneath my jacket and he punched me and broke his hand.
*I learned to be a "dumb blonde"
*When I was in university, if you came up to me after a test, I could give you all the questions on the test verbatim as well as my answers.
*I worked as a night aide for a lady with Parkinsons disease. She told me her love story every time I came to sit with her. When I got engaged, she gave me her silver gravy boat which she had received for her wedding over 50 years earlier. I still have that gravy boat.
*I'm a dreamer, but I'm practical and serious. I believe in myself, but I also believe only hard work and tenacity will get me to where I want to go. But I WILL BECOME WHAT I WILL BECOME!!

If I, a person who started with so little could come so far and find such joy and a wealth of opportunities, then I'm proof that anyone with a little luck, some tenacity and brains, can succeed.

Follow your hearts, mine your pasts, become who you will become.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Celebrating Life and All it Brings

It's officially my birthday!! Woohoo. I'm glad to be here. To be able to walk through another day and celebrate all it has to offer me. It's a gift. It's truly a gift to be healthy, active, energized and renewed. Last year was a bit of a struggle. Health was iffy, tornadoes whirled through my current state and area, my darling Dowager Feline Clancy left us, I got bad news about a dear friend, and I struggled with my creative joy and my desire to write. But then it was also a great year in that we were spared major tornado damage, my health improved due to diet and exercise and a great doctor, my daughter and her drama troupe conspired to bring me a new fur baby and now we are owned by Catadora Tonks, and I fought the demons of despair and doubt and won the battles daily, weekly, monthly.

So much to celebrate.

During the last few days I've been in reflection and review and realignment of my life and my priorities. I've rediscovered old poems written by a young woman with no true sense of self but with creative courage. I've reawakened my spirituality and my heart to so much more than clamoring for publication. I want to grow in my craft, become a stronger and more refined writer. I want so much more to flow through my writing and into the world.

Now I want to share my reflection or tribute to myself today. Not out of pride, but out of hope. Hope for more of myself and hope for all of my friends and writing colleagues. I hope we all find a way to live life fully and in the moment and receive true joy, harmony, happiness.


Mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, writer, dreamer, motivated, wildly impatient, driven, loyal, curious, student, traveler, explorer, spiritual, emotional, romantic, seeker, comedian, creative, gourmet cook, winery lover, hostess, cat lover, expressive, temperamental, volatile, survivor, generous, loving, believer, social butterfly, fiercely independent.

I am all these things and more. On Friday I'll share bits and pieces of why I am who I am.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Decorating Diva on a Roll

I spent a lot of time shopping and planning my changes for the media room. There are still things that need to be added so stay tuned, but I'd like to share the changes. First of all, the room just sort of was plunked together when we moved here 3.5 years ago. I had junk and fake plants in the first dormer window. There was no purpose to the area.

After I tore down Christmas, I also went into the first dormer window and hauled out everything I'd stuck there just "because." Then I evaluated the space. It's too small to put a chair, but it's too big to ignore. The room is used primarily by my Teen's drama group and friends to relax, sleepover, be chill. We use it as a family to watch movies and play games on the Wii. Darling Tonks likes to fly through the air and I'm terrified she'll fly over the knee wall so there is no furniture there. And because the room is used for large group sleepovers, I like to keep the back area modular.

What to do? I decided to get tons of pillows, floor pillows and fun pillows with new colors to cheer up the room and provide teens and grown ups alike (I see writers retreating there *grin*) where they can relax, move freely and enjoy the space.

Phase 1 of the plan was to hang framed record albums in dormer 1, rearrange other artwork, and order the quotes which will be applied next week. Phase 2 of the plan is to get some cool metal artwork that reflects movies and music and decorate the rest of dormer 1 and dormer 2 and round out the room. I'm also getting 4 folding black metal chairs which can be used with the decoupaged black table when the teens/us need to use it for a table but they can be hidden in the attic storage space when not needed.

Here's some pictures of Phase 1:
Big floor pillows to pull and use around the room

The Physicist's framed record albums on the wall.

Another view of the dormer area. We might add storage ottoman cubes to the area later.

New fun decorator pills on the couches. Can be used/mixed and matched with the floor pillows. Cubes are from target and very flexible. 

More detail We took our Disney hand drawn pictures and lined up. They were originally separated into different areas.

We celebrated 25 years at Disney World.

Album details.

More album details.

I hope you enjoyed the tour of the media room's first phase of redecorating. The only thing I won't do is paint it. Too time consuming and expensive if I pay someone else to do it. So I'm using artwork and wall quotes to break up the monotony of the builder tan special color--is that khaki or mushroom?

Have you got any decorating stories you'd like to share with me? I'd love to hear about your highs and lows in decorating. And don't forget to tune in tomorrow for my special birthday celebration. I can't wait!! 

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Universe Speaks

Last weekend I had an icky kind of a Saturday/Sunday. Afterward I gave myself permission to "rebel" against my writing and just decorate the house, read other people's books and manuscripts, judge a contest, and hang out with friends. 

The household and my non-writing friends benefitted from my mini-rebellion. I managed to get all kinds of fun things done for my media room and the living room. I got inspired by looking at baubles and trinkets and artwork. I read cool quotes which I ordered as vinyl applications for my media room. By Saturday my well was full again. 

I could feel myself easing back to the office, to my writing, to my daily grinding out of words and thoughts and emotions and actions. I was in a strange kind of a re-organization mood. First up? I had to get a new weight/measurement diary going. My old one was full and the last several weigh-ins/measurements had been done on sticky index post-its. 

Never one to waste paper, I scrounged my writing office for a small journal to keep track of these measurements. I came across one which I had started as a 1000 things to be grateful for (stopped at 125, but I will add more) which also had quotes in it, randomly written jottings from the ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS by James Scott Bell.

"Every moment spent whining about your writing career is a moment of creative energy lost... turn grousing into energy by writing!" 

A clear reminder that whining about my writing and how slow the business side churns won't accomplish anything but valuable time wasted which could be used to be creative. Last week I couldn't face the computer. I channeled my energy into decorating the house because I could see a a tangible result. I got one. Now I know what the universe expects of me. Quit worrying about the end game, just play it. 

After that epiphany, I went into my office with a dust rag and furniture polish. I dusted all my pretty bookshelves from top-to-bottom till they gleamed. I threw away old papers and contemplated my writing. I looked at one shelf and opened my prayer jar--a small gift with scripture on it--in it was one slip of paper with "That my books will one day be published" written in 2005. Yup, 2005. That slip of paper has been there for 7 years. 

I refolded the paper, put it back inside the jar. Then in a frenzy of faith, I wrote out other prayers about my writing and my friends' writing and their dreams. Now the jar is full. Full of hope, faith, belief. Belief that one day my little slip of paper will be drawn out of that jar and a little hallelujah dance will occur because the prayer is answered.

When I looked at the order of books on the shelves, I discovered that I'd not put the writing books FRONT AND CENTER. They were on lower shelves, parenting books were on the top shelf, fiction books in the middle. The few writing craft and inspiration books I had were hidden behind pictures and doodads. Was I really taking my writing seriously? Really? Down deep at the gut level, at the subconscious emotional level where the mind works in wild and mysterious ways, I had not put the writing first. 

I was clinging to old jobs or ways of thinking. I had how to parent and raise an optimistic child books front and center, but that job--while not finished--is clearly transitioning. I had my fun reading books in the center--yes they are pivotal to becoming a better writer, but they aren't about the business or craft per say. 

I rearranged the shelves to reflect the changes and transitions in my life. The writing and craft books are front and center. I can see them and reach them easily. 

The gorgeous picture of my daughter when she was 5 years old and precocious has moved to the top shelf because she is inspiration. That I--someone who had no strong foundation in life for parenthood--could raise a smart and beautiful and talented child to become a dreamer, an optimist, and an adventuring young woman is a rare gift. 

She's proof that if I try hard enough, keep working on the weak and gray areas of this muddy mothering job, and persist in becoming as good an example of how to live and treat others that I can succeed. (Not that I did this alone--the Physicist has had a hand in all this but I like to think I was smart in choosing the best man for the future fathering job I had planned for him LOL). 

As I rearranged books, I came across a tiny blue gem that my dear CP and friend Sharon Wray sent to me last year as a gift. I think it was for my birthday so it's fitting that I come across it during my "birthday week." As always, I had put it into my shelf with the good intention of reading it when I had time and promptly forgot. But the Universe leads me to find things when I need them most. I picked up this tiny book GIFT FROM THE SEA by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (50th addition) and turned the pages to read.

Here's a quote that stirred my soul:

"The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach--waiting for a gift from the sea."

Now that needed to be read yesterday. Not sooner, not later. But yesterday. Because today I am moving forward with a new direction. A new plan. A new spirit. I will probably never be the most patient person in the world (ask my CPs, the Physicist, the Teen--they'll readily concur), but I can always remind myself that I can't make it happen any faster by being anxious. 

And this leads me to my final quotes. Quotes which will go into the media room after they arrive. 

“Around here, we don’t look backwards for very long… we keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”  

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Walt Disney

I'm back. I'm ready to surge ahead. I'm moving forward with gusto and curiosity and faith. The universe has spoken to me and the message is loud and clear. Has the universe been speaking to you? Do you listen? What has it said?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Smile and the World Smiles with You

I've had an admittedly weird and tough week. I tend to go through these every 3-4 months. January is pretty much a guaranteed month of mehness. It's cold. It's dark. It's gloomy. All the hype of Christmas is put up and the expectations of the new year become insurmountable mountains to climb. How can I possibly get all these goals met? Why have I set the bar so high? Why do I continue to do this to myself?

It's like university all over again. I'd see the syllabus at the beginning of the semester and panic. How could I knock an A out of the park with this load of work? I'd procrastinate in fear of not being perfect. Then the fire would light in the form of a due date and I'd manage to squeak out the assignments.

I finished the degree with a 4.0 Summa Cum Laude and top of the Dean's List. Guess my technique worked for me.

So here I am in a mood, unable to concentrate on my writing goals other than judging and reading other people's writing or reading about writing knowing I have a lot of writing to do to keep the momentum going. And what am I doing? I'm redecorating my media room, shopping for pretty baubles, avoiding my writing. Pretty typical mid-January for me!

So today I'm shopping and having fun with a friend. I'm waiting for information that could help me with my queries, and I'm thinking about my writing. I've decided to surrender to this weird state of inertia and share what makes me smile during this lunar phase of my life.


1. Tonks. That kitten has woven her way into my heart and is a joy. She makes us laugh with her antics and her naughty kittenish manners. She's sweet and cuddly or she's wild and crazy. 

2. My writing friends. We laugh. We bring each other up and we manage to make light of this zany writing world. I could not survive being an unpubbed writer if it weren't for them. 

3. My non-writing friends. They show me there is more to the world than writing and help me find a happy heart by doing other non-writerly things like shopping and cooking and gossiping and just being.

4. Walt Disney. I love him. I love his story. I love his vision. I am putting Disney quotes in my media room. He's an amazing and inspirational man who understood that adults are just children all grown up. We still want to play and laugh and sing.

5. Bright colors. I don't have many in the house right now. Taking down Christmas evaporated the cheer. I have a really cool ottoman with fabulous bright stripes. I am shopping for stuff that will pull those colors out of the ottoman and pop them in the rest of the family room which is a tan shade and I thought I loved it when I bought the house, but I don't--too cheap to redo so shopping I go.

6. Reading. I love to read fiction and non-fiction. I go to books and magazines when I am blue. I'm reading a lot this week!!

7. Zumba and Pilates. I know exercise isn't always supposed to make one smile, but the ladies in my classes are fun and I always leave the class in a better frame of mind than when I entered it. I love my classes.

8. Long walks and talks with good friends. I miss my friend in VA. She and I would go for long "jabber walks" and solve all the world's problems in an hour and a half. We'd laugh, we'd vent, we'd laugh again. I need another friend who loves to take long walks and is able to take them with me!

9. Cooking. Cooking wonderful food and being in the kitchen is a creative and soulful outlet for me. 

10. Entertaining. I love sitting around the dining room table with fun people and interesting people. The food is less important than the conversation. 

So I'm doing the things that make me smile this week because I can't move past my inertia. It's okay. By Saturday/Sunday I'll be ready to hit the ground running again. But for this week and really during this gloomy month, I need to bring sunny events into my life or I won't be able to write well. 

What makes you smile? Are you having a blue month? Is January a tough month for you?

By the way, my birthday is in January. The 19th. I'll be celebrating my birthday all week (it's a family tradition). I can't wait to break out the champagne and the dark chocolate and have some fun. You're all invited to share my birthday week starting January 16th. I'll post an extra blog on the 19th to celebrate.

Happy writing and happy living. Smile!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Scrapbook Mistake? Just Put a Sticker on It!

I just had a lovely surprise visit from one of the Teen's friends and her mother this week. It was totally spontaneous and fun and surreal. The Teen and her friend had a blast reconnecting and talking about college options. The mom and I had a great time revisiting our days as school volunteers and fellow scrapbookers.

I used to be a big time scrapbooker before I became a full time writer. It was a wonderful creative outlet  and I enjoyed designing the pages and documenting our family's history. I have LOADS of scrapbooks. Are they perfect? Nope. But when people look through them they love the way I've pulled the pages together. I do, too. They are fun to look at and read.

My friend and I laughed about how different we were in our scrapbooking world compared to our day-to-day world. She's a spontaneous and by-the-seat-of-her-pants roll with it woman whereas I am an organized, everything-must-be-in-its-place and in order kind of woman. Yet when sat down to scrapbook together we were the polar opposite personalities.

And we were so surprised! She carefully planned her pages, measured everything twice, made sure all the pictures were aligned just so and very meticulously plotted her pages. By the end of a 3 hour scrapbooking session she might come away with 1, maybe 2, completed pages.

Me? I'd have 5 or 6 pages done. Why? Because I would go into the work with a basic plan, then happily select my beautiful accent papers and stickers and notions and go, go, go. She was so surprised by my complete lack of desire for perfection. I just cut pictures and paper, placed the sticky tape on, threw in the photos and notions with joyful abandon. I'd blithely say to her if it was little off center I'd just throw a sticker on it or add another notion to embellish the page and "hide" the imperfection.

Her visit this week reminded me that I'm pretty much that way in all my creative endeavors. When I don't worry about being perfect, I have fun and I end up with a fairly decent product that is pleasing to the eye, mind, spirit.

Hmmm, can you guess what my writing process is like? Wonder what my friend's would be like? Yup, I'm a planner, pantser, fixer. She'd be an outliner, plotter, editor on the go.

What is the worst thing I can do to my writing process? Try to be perfect. I need to go with the flow knowing that as long as I have a basic plan about what I need to do and where I need to go I will get there. And I'll actually enjoy the process because I know that if something isn't quite right I can always go back and add a sticker.

Have you ever scrapbooked? What's your creative process? Do you have any other hobbies that mirror the way you write?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Resolved to Battle the Demons of Fear & Doubt

Usually when I say I will embrace positivity and all things light and wonderful a serious case of doubt, fear and anxiety follows. Despite knowing that the universe will challenge my resolve, I continue to state my desire to be positive and conquer the beast.

Why? Why do I risk this battle? This battle which will call into question my belief in myself and my drive and my hopes and my dreams?

I wish I had the answer, but I don't. I just know that I do enter into these battles almost as right of passage. It's as if I must call into question my resolve to succeed in order to prove to myself that I will not let the dark days kill my passion for writing and crafting books.

The Physicist has wisely learned to nod and say nothing when I wage these wars. I will be honest here: I'm not quiet about it. My CPs have learned to let me rant a bit and nod their heads then say it is the nature of the beast. My beast, my achilles heel is my impatience.

I am not patient. I like answers, results, follow through information in a timely manner. That being said, the flip side of this is that I provide all the above in a timely manner. I am fast, efficient, organized, driven, reliable, committed to giving my best. So if you hire me, you'll get a great worker. Or writer (hello? publishing world? can you hear me now?). Give me a deadline and I will meet it barring death or major catastrophe.

Trust me on this. I won't let you down.

But the writing world doesn't operate on Christine Time. It operates on a time wheel which I have yet to understand. I don't like this time wheel. It's maddening to me. And waiting. Oh, the endless waiting and waiting and waiting drives me insane.

Over the weekend--after embracing positivity--I had a huge meltdown over it. By Sunday I was ready to QUIT. Yes. QUIT. Seven plus years--four of them extremely high paced--of shooting for the stars, the moon, the sun. Countless dollars spent on conferences, contests, classes, workshops, membership dues, travel, proper clothing, paper, pens, office equipment, gas, hotels, postage. Hours upon hours slaving over stories that might never be read.

It all seemed like a grand waste of my time on Sunday. I ranted about my frustration. My beasts of fear and doubt raging through me and out of me in great bursts. I rebelled. I began shopping on-line. I went to stores and looked at pillows. I did anything BUT the writing.

The Physicist just nodded. He didn't try to fix it (good man that Physicist). The CPs just texted me with little one liners and LOLs and gentle reminders about how I can't control anything but the writing and submitting. And then I came to meet myself in the mirror of all my angst and anger and anxiety.

And I said to myself, OK, you've hit the lowest point. Now what? Well, there's nothing else for me folks.

I have to write. I can't not write. I want to win. I will find a new way to achieve my goals while continuing to work on the manuscripts. I will surround myself with positive, loving, understanding people who GET ME and MY DREAMS. I will not give up despite my weaknesses as a person and a writer.

I do embrace positivity. I also embrace the fact that sometimes I will need more than my own will to get through the dark days. I will need my friends and my support system in place.

Surround yourself with people who support you. Don't just embrace positivity. Embrace people who can be positive FOR YOU.

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 Professional Goals & Top 5 Priority List

At last I am posting my new goals for the 2012 year. Yes, I put in "get an agent" and "get a publishing contract" which might create a bit of controversy because I have no control over these goals other than trying to get them. But I know it will happen and I want the satisfaction of being able to write DONE after each of these goals.

First up, my Top 5 Professional Priority List. This list helps me say YES to the areas of work that will forward my career and they remind me to say NO to the areas of work which will not forward my career. I review this list every quarter and recharge it as necessary. I also have a Personal Top 5 Priority List which I abide by as well.

Top 5 Career Priority List for 2012/1st Quarter (January through March)

1. Write every day with emphasis my revisions.
2. Build a website and have it up by March 31st.
3. Professional development through querying, submitting materials, entering contests, learning technology, building brand name, ongoing craft classes.
4. Coordinate and execute a critique partner meeting in February with Pam and Sia in Atlanta.
5. Attend chapter meetings which further my professional writing career and give me the tools to succeed as a PUBLISHED writer. 

My personal affirmation to guide me throughout the year as I reach for the stars is:

I enjoy being organized, positive and determined to succeed as I focus on pursuing my professional writing career, personal, and family life goals. 

Writing Goals for 2012

*clean and organize office to get ready for the new year
*brainstorm 3 new category books with CPs in February
*write 2 new category books
*revise 4th, 5th, 6th books
*send requested materials to agents by February 1st
*query Mills & Boon with 4th and 5th books
*get head out of sand and ask Mills & Boon about the R&R’s status by January 31st
*Build web site by end of first quarter of the year/March 31st
*Continue revising 1st book for fun
*Enter 4 contests at a minimum with at least 3 manuscripts at all done including the Golden Heart with at least 2 manuscripts
*Attend the RWA National Conference in Anaheim
*Attend Moonlight & Magnolias
*Pitch at both conferences
*build name bible of all names I've used in my books
*maintain personal blog
*continue building my brand name via social media, web page, professional presence in writing world
*get an Agent
*get a publishing contract
*continue building professional mentor relationships
*continue to streamline writing and business of writing with proper schedule
*Review digital and e-publishers for submissions
*take at least two master classes in craft
*judge at least two writing contests
*set Top 5 Priority List and review every quarter
*read for fun
*continue to analyze published books in my genre
*continue learning and growing in my craft with online courses and craft books
*attend chapter meetings which aid in my professional development and in my goal for achieving publication
*build my new critique partnerships
*be courageous, strong, and focused in pursuing my dreams and goals

I'm so excited about the goals and the direction of my writing. I can't wait to start checking them off as DONE!