Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lent, Faith, & Prayer

A lot of people are walking through the Lenten season. 40 days and 40 nights of reflection and review, of sacrifice and sacrament, of prayer and more prayer. I am not formally following the Lent season. I don't think I've ever done so. I've never looked at this season as a time to stop doing something. I look at Lent as a season to start excavating my spirit.

This season I'm mining the depths of my soul and pouring the results onto the pages I am writing.

The only way I know how to go into the caverns is through prayer and meditation. My prayers are focused in the morning, but they're also wrenched from the pit of despair within my heart during odd times of the day.

I believe in the power of prayer, but not because I think praying is a way to get answers to questions and riddles we can't ever solve. I don't believe I guide my prayers. I believe God guides my prayers. And when I listen to God, the direction often goes into territory I hadn't expected, nor wanted. Often times I go there kicking and screaming and fighting. But in the end I yield to His leading and I bow down in acceptance.

I I continue to pray even when the woods become dark and scary and frightening. I continue to pray even when my faith is faltering. I continue to pray even when I know deep, deep, deep down the answer isn't what I wanted to hear.

Why? Why do I kneel and pray even when I know I won't like the answer? Because I have to believe that in praying I am coming closer to God and that He will guide me through the darkest hours. He will pull me out of the depths of despair. He will give me comfort.

My prayers aren't necessary for God. They are necessary for me. Prayer is His gift to me. Prayer is His way of drawing me near, covering my shoulders with his love, sheltering me from the storms, and bringing me peace if only for that moment.

And for that I give thanks. And for that I go back to my knees and pray again.

All faiths have their rituals and prayers. What are your rituals? Did you give something up for Lent? Do you believe in the power of prayer? If so where do your prayers lead you?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Top Ten Lessons for Living in Tornado Ville

We're anticipating tornadoes overnight. I'm writing this today because who knows? Maybe I won't be here tomorrow? Or maybe I'll be here, but the house will be in Oz or some other fantasy world. I never thought I'd live in a place where I'd be hiding from tornadoes many months out of the year, but here I am. Don't have to like the situation, but I have accepted the reality.

Here's what really makes me scared about tonight. All the tornado events that occurred on April 27th. We were slammed hard. We lost power and lives and homes. And we were forgotten. Yup. Out of all the massive weather events that required FEMA to help, Alabama got the least amount of the moola. I don't care for myself. I have insurance and I have the financial means to crawl out of a disaster, but many do not.

Now I'm also lucky because we could afford to build a tornado shelter. I love that it is above ground, weighs a ton and will protect me, the fur babies, the Teen and the Physicist. I wish I could protect more people in my 4x6x6, but I can't.

Which leads to the valuable conclusion that I am not all-powerful and important and special. I am human. This one is up to the Universe and God. I ask WHY NOT ME more often than Why Me so I have been very fortunate and blessed and spared from lots of things for reasons that go beyond my understanding.

So having said all this--here goes my take on surviving these events.

Top Ten Lessons for Living in Tornado Ville for the Non-Survivalists (people who stock up food for 6 months-have bomb shelters-think we'll be taken captive by mutant aliens to name a few)  in Northern AL

1. Have all cars' gas tanks full.
2. Make sure you have cash--at least $100 if not more.
3. Gather all your important papers and put into a file that is easy to carry to a safe place. For us it is a shelter. For you it might be an interior closet or bathroom.
4. Have all computers and phones and purses and wallets and chargers loaded in a bag ready to go to your shelter or safe room.
5. Be sure you have closed toe shoes and comfortable clothing in the shelter and/or near the door/or on your body.
6. Have blankets and pillows loaded in shelter or near safe room.
7. If you have a shelter, stock it with water and basic supplies but really? It won't hold 6 months food supplies so don't go too crazy. Assume you'll only be there for about 20  minutes.
8. Get emergency radio and so forth locked and loaded.
9. Keep TV on for weather alerts--I have the station call me with weather alerts on my cell phone and home phone for a small fee.
10. Don't bother cleaning the house--just chill and be aware.

Oh, and on your way out to the storm shelter or to the interior bathroom, grab a corkscrew and a bottle of wine. If you're going to lose everything, you may as well get a bit tipsy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cats, Cookies & Characters

I've been a taking a break from blogging for three reasons:

Tonks loves the hutch but she loves to make trouble as well!
1. Character Rebellion: I have two strong characters. I know my heroine. She's fantabulous. My hero is amazing and sexy and wonderful, but NOT TALKING. I was floundering in the 4th Chapter because my hero and heroine felt like marionettes and not people. I know what happens at the end. I know what she and he must go through so they can have each other, but my hero has NOT been cooperating with his story. And after a day of reading and chilling and thinking, I finally figured him out. Well, poor guy just is scared witless. Now I know why. And I can't wait to reveal his secrets to my readers.

I made 4 plus dozen cookies. Yum!
Tons to repackage and sell.
2. Cookies: In addition to being a writerly momma, I am also a DRAMA MAMA. I have banded with three other Drama Mamas to help bring folks into our teenagers' benefit play. They're trying to raise money to get to the South Eastern Theater Conference in Chattanooga where they'll represent Alabama. Pretty cool beans. Which means I am baking lots of cookies and other sundries as part of their fundraising efforts. What is so wonderful about all this is that the moola they raise helps ALL the kids. This is a group who takes care of each other. Kind of intense because my current characters are involved in fundraising as well. But their fundraising is to raise research money to search for an understanding and a cure of a yucky disease which is killing their best friend. Love my teen and her crew. Love my characters, too.

Tonks is so relaxed!
 3. Writerly Cats: The household felines have been taking over the new writing space. When I opened up the office, Tonks found all kinds of new caves to be cavelike inside. And she is chasing the paper, the paper clips and more. She is up to mischief. And speaking of mischief, the Teen's cat MISCHIEF has also returned to the office. A tentative truce is set up. Missy and Tonks are trying to get along for the most part. Much like my characters, it is an uneasy alliance, but they do it out of love for me.

Mischief has returned to visit the office.
She and Tonks are reluctant allies.

And so that is the way of the world in my corner of the universe. 

What's in your world today?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Getting the Writerly World in Order

This week I have rebooted my goals for the year and prioritized them. I've also figured out the obstacles. Most of them are centered around the household duties and errands I have to perform. I can't do this alone. The Physicist offered to hire a housekeeper, but that's money taken out of the writer pile and we should get this done together. As a team. We'll revisit that one after I get a contract and we see how much the college fees amount to for the Teen.

And speaking of the Teen, she got quite a wake up call after she was Miss Independence Day about her life and me trying to control her. Man, did she pick the wrong day to play the "It's My Life" card. Cause I want a life as well. And you know what, she's right. She should understand the cost of being Independent. She's going to college in August. She needs to learn how to manage things for herself. Therefore, she is officially in charge of her stuff and I will only clean it for a fee. And that's an automatic fee clean. Cause I can't stand smelly clothes and a smelly teen wing with lord knows what kind of crud growing under her bed.

She tried to get things back to the "way they were" but I held my ground. I had my own little Independence Day. I am officially liberated from being the Evil Harping Nag Queen. Why? Cause her fee goes to me and I am motivated to see her not perform so I get $$$ for the RWA National Conference in Anaheim.

I should have thought of this MONTHS AGO.

Any rate, the Physicist is already helpful and he pays the bills with the money he earns so I can't complain about his efforts. I do want a little more help with laundry, but that'll come as I have decided to start laundry when they come home. That way they will at least have to fold and put away for me.

I also realized I have to back down on some of my social media stuff. But that's been in the works for a while. I control the media, it doesn't control me. Amazing what a little time with a James Scott Bell book can do to get my priorities straight. I am stoked about the freedom I've gained by realizing what a drain the household is on me.

So celebrate with me!! I'm have a Writing Revolution! What do you need to let go of in order to liberate your writing time?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Buzz Buzz Busy Bee Needs to Get More Energy

As I progress further down the road toward my ultimate goal of publication, I have discovered that my energy needs a boost. This writing thing takes a lot of creative energy. There are certain drains to my creative energy. These are my current creative energy drains:

1. Anything Tech--last week I had to go over building my web pages with Florina Craven of THINK FLOW DESIGN. I'm so glad I am NOT trying to build  one myself. This requires way too much energy and stops the creative flow.

Lesson: Delegate stuff you hate doing to people who love to do it!!

2. Anything Family: My family is super important to me. I like spending time with the Physicist and the Teen. And the Teen is graduating so there are a lot of holes to plug and t's to cross and i's to dot. This is HIGH PRIORITY. But it is energy draining. My solution? Write when they're not around or go away to write. They can't drain me if they can't find me. It's not selfish. It's self-care. But when I am with them I am fully with them. I'm not disengaged.

Lesson: Schedule writing time to fit your lifestyle demands.

3. Emails/phone calls/social media/blogging all drain my creative energy. I'm easily sucked into the social media world. It is my "water cooler." But I have to put into place rules to maximize the benefit over the energy lost. This means setting a timer, only tweeting and doing status updates during writing breaks, and blogging less. I also don't answer the phone unless it is the school calling. I make phone calls after I'm done working FOR THE DAY. Not during breaks. It is too easy to get sucked into a conversation that lasts too long. The only calls I make during the day are calls which are required by the office hours of medical offices and insurance companies and I schedule them for Mondays. I call them "MEDICAL MONDAYS." Fortunately, haven't had too many of them lately. I am also blogging less. Stay tuned for less of me on the blog and more of me writing books.

Lesson: Use a timer and set a schedule which puts you in charge of social media and phone calls.

4. People. I love people and I have a lot of energy, but I can get drained as well. So I have to pick and choose who I am with and when I am with them. I give myself mini breaks and hang out with non-writing friends between projects and on the weekends. This is a better way of recharging my life.

Lesson: Say no when people want to take up your writing time. Say yes when you have time to socialize. Be in charge of your time and own it.

5. Health. If I'm not exercising and eating right I become grumpy and surly. I need to do both to be a better writer.

Lesson: Take care of yourself or you won't be able to write. Make time for your health. Schedule workouts and plan healthy meals.

It's not rocket science. It's called making your life and your body and your writing a priority for you. And yes, life happens. It does. This morning I had to set aside my goals because the Teen needed help with a printing issue. That's okay. I immediately rescheduled my writing time and will still put in the hours I need to put into the writing later.

Final Lesson: Be flexible and learn to go with the flow and rhythm of the day.

What drains you? What do you do to combat the drains?

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Tangled Web to Weave

I am in "business" mode this week. What does that mean? I am thinking about marketing and web design and "brand" and head shots and more.

Why? I think it is important to have the bones of my marketing world in place before I get "the call." And here's why. I know it will happen one day and when it does, I don't want to get bogged down in all of this heavy thinking when I need to concentrate on what is important: THE WRITING. I have a bit of time now. I have some wiggle room to work in all of these other elements. And it's okay if my brain isn't fully focused on the development of my stories 100% of the time.

When I get "the call" I won't have that luxury. And believe me this time and wiggle room is a luxury. I've been slowly building my base, not in a crass way, but in my usual way: be friendly and kind and the world will return the favor. I don't push hard for followers or facebook friends or twitter peeps. I think I just  need to be myself and eventually my base will grow as a result.

I don't want to be that hamster on a wheel running and running and running in circles singing "look at me and look at what I can do!" when I get "the call." I believe my books will speak for themselves and my readers will love them. I want to have time to connect with them in an authentic and real way. That's why I am "branding" myself now. That's why I am building my network and my web pages now.

Yesterday I spent about two hours talking with a wonderful person who runs THINK FLOW DESIGN. Florina Craven knows how to design pages. She knows how to connect all these marketing dots. This is what she breathes for air. Me? Uh, not so much. But I don't have to know everything. I just have to know enough to get her started and she'll run with my brand and my ideas and my story themes and build me a beautiful and spicy website with 4 pages to start.

And for a fee I can have her design a logo which I can use for all my future marketing needs. Wow. Really? That's awesome. That beats me taking the time to do it because if I spend all my time trying to make something half way pretty for a design guess what I won't be doing? Right. The writing.

I love to write stories. I love to get to know my characters and build their worlds. I love cutting out pictures from magazines and storyboarding. I love revising and reshaping my stories. I love the craft of writing. I love learning about it and talking about it. It energizes me.

Talking about passwords and overlaying codes and widgets is something I have to do now so I won't have to do it much later. And I am so glad I found Florina and her company. It helps that she knows me and we have connected at conferences on a personal level. She understands me and knows my personality. In fact she knows my personality so well that when she suggested the colors for my website I was floored. They're all over my house!!

I am embarking on a journey. One that will be fun and a bit scary for me. But I am not embarking on this journey alone. I have a professional with me. One who has my best interests at heart. One who understands writers. One who will bring my worlds to the web far better than I could possibly imagine.

As I embark on this journey I want to know what kind of questions or experiences you have had in marketing. Do you have web pages? Are you intimidated by trying to "brand" yourself? Do you know where to start looking for designers, photographers, marketing tools?

Post your questions here. I plan to interview Florina and would love to incorporate your ideas and questions.

And for one lucky commentator, I have a fun prize. A book called WE ARE NOT ALONE by Kristen Lamb. If you haven't got this book and you're dedicated to building a writing career, this is the book for you. It gives you a great place to start building your career one step at a time!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Top Five Gadgets in My World

My Top Five Gadgets

1. The iPhone. It connects me to the world via Tweetdeck, phone, messaging, Facebook, apps like the Weight Watchers Mobile APP and more. I love my iPhone. I can't leave home without it. But then I've always been a phone girl. Love to chat.

2. The Nook Tablet. Man is it nice. The color is outstanding, the ability to access books and the Internet makes being a writer and a reader so much easier. I can change my workshop notes into PDF files and save them to my Nook and read them while I am working out on a treadmill. Perfect gadget.

3. My new Fitbit. This little USB device has made me accountable in fun ways as I workout and continue to work toward my fitness and weight loss goals. I snap it to my bra strap and it calculates every step I take, all the stairs I climb (hills are stairs), all my calories burned, and my fitness level. I love my Fitbit. You can find one here.

4. My laptop. I have a MacBook. Right now it serves as my main computer. Darling Physicist has given me a wireless mouse and keypad to use when I am at home so I can work more efficiently. It is small, travels easily, and best of all it has the amazing Scrivener program for writers on it. This program was made for quilter writers like me. I have my own novel template in it and I love love love utilizing it as I piece together my stories.

5. The MINT floor sweeper/mopper. OMG. This tiny little robot has LIBERATED me. I asked for one for Christmas. It goes places no housekeeper can go. I just turn it on and it happily sweeps and mops my entire house's hardwood and tile floors. If it could dust and clean toilets, I'd marry it! Tonks and Mischief are blown away by the MINT. My floors are cleaned almost daily. They look really good. They make me look like a fantastic housekeeper. I'm not. But why spoil the illusion. If you're curious about the MINT check it out here.

So those are my Top Five Gadgets. What makes your world spin a little better?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Writerly Wisdom and Critique Partner Bonding

I've had a lovely and busy weekend punctuated with a burst of wonderful news. I'm filled to the brim with new stories and ideas. I've made a new connection with a wonderful person, Sia Huff, who is a Petit Fours & Hot Tamales member. I'm so glad I participated in the PF&HT because I met a her. She is now a part of my little category romance critique circle with Pam Montovani.

And we three had a fabulous time cranking out plots, names, MIDDLE names (don't ask but it was fun and funny), dreaming about going to NYC and telling funny stories about how we all met and our adventures whilst sitting around a table during a Golden Heart/Rita ceremony. Of course, our editors and agents would laugh, right? And then we'd turn to the other wonderful circles of writerly friends we have, the GOOD GIRLS of WRITING Sharon Wray, Karen Johnston and M.V. Freeman and tell even more anecdotes.

And our writer friends, already published when we met them and so helpful to helping us attain our dream of publication would laugh and say you are such a funny and diverse group of women and yet you belong to each other in wise and mysterious and wondrous ways.

So that's what a writerly weekend with writers is like. It's laughing, working, shopping for wine at Trader Joes, celebrating, plotting, dreaming, and playing. Our minds are full. Our well is overflowing. Our lives are going in the direction planned.

And now this week I must execute the plans. For potential without perseverance is potential wasted. And I'm not the type to waste potential. Onward and upward I must go. This means face time with my pal the computer, following up on opportunities, making the most of my time, never surrendering.

The rest of this week's blogs might be a bit short. For I have writerly things to do that will lead me down a busy and happy trail.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Atlanta & All Things Writerly

I am in Atlanta--well technically I am in Alabama writing this blog but by the time it posts, I'll be in Atlanta. Any rate, I will be doing all things writerly with my two CPs. One of them is a Linda Howard finalist with me this year, a Linda Howard 2010 winner, and a four time Maggie finalist and one time Maggie winner. The other is a Golden Heart finalist and a Maggie finalist and winner!! I am in very good company!

We'll be brainstorming new book ideas, talking about craft, listening to a Harlequin podcast (if you are writing category romances this is a great resource and it's free!!), eating, drinking, digesting information. My contribution mentally is my ideas and my knowledge of social media. Although I'm not a techno geek, I am further along the Internet Highway than they are. They are contributing ideas, knowledge, experience. We're all storytellers with different approaches to wrangling our WIPS. That's Works In Progress for my non-writer readers :-)

Which brings me to this question. If you are a reader, a genuine romance fan, and you like category series books like Harlequin Presents, Harlequin Riva, Harlequin Desire, and Harlequin American what kind of stories are you looking for and what are you missing? What kind of heroine and hero are you interested in meeting? Is there a story of your heart that you wish a writer would write so YOU could feel even more connected to the story?

In other words, what do YOU want to see on the bookshelves when you shop for a good Romance Novel?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Blog Party: Celebrating Wendy Marcus's U.S. E-Book Release of ONCE A GOOD GIRL

I've got a special guest visiting the Veranda and she's running an experiment. She and the Physicist need to chat!! But even tho' she's experimenting, Wendy S. Marcus is still pretty gosh darn cool. I love this one!!

Welcome Wendy!!

Hi Christine! Happy February 1st

And right back at you!! Wow, I am so glad you are here to celebrate the release of your e-book here in the U.S.A. Your Number 2 book looks amazing!!

Thank you so much for hosting this impromptu blog party to kick off the release of the U.S. e-book edition of my second Harlequin Medical Romance, Once a Good Girl… And since we’re partying, a hoot and a holler to you in celebration of your triple final in the 2012 Linda Howard Award of Excellence Contest!

Thank you, Wendy. I'm still floored by the Triple Final. :-)

Although you can’t see me, I am holding up one of my finest crystal glasses – which happens to contain a mimosa (heavy on the champagne) - in your honor. And now I’m taking a sip! Yum! (Any excuse to justify a cocktail before noon!)

This is why we are such good friends :-) Sipping with you :-)

Where were we? Oh, right. The e-book release of Once a Good Girl… and my experiment. You see, even though I write for Harlequin, their Medical Romance line is not slated for retail sale here in the U.S. which means you won’t find my book on store shelves or in Harlequin’s print advertising in the U.S. 

That makes me feel very sad, Wendy. The Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Line is wonderful. I've read Melanie Milburne's THE MAN WITH THE LOCKED AWAY HEART and Sharon Archer's THE MAN BEHIND THE BADGE and your debut book WHEN ONE NIGHT ISN'T ENOUGH. And they are all wonderful, diverse stories. I wish more of our U.S.A. Readers could find them on them shelves!!!

Exactly! Therefore, promotion is up to me. With my first book I did a thirty stop blog tour – which almost did me in – to bring myself and my new book to the attention of readers. With my second book I wanted to try something different.
Here’s where you and your wonderful blog visitors come in! Today, February 1st, with everyone who reads this post’s help, I hope to spread the word for an all-out Purchase Push for Once a Good Girl… for Nook and Kindle. If someone plans to buy it, or is considering buying it, would they please make their purchase today? February 1st.

I'm first in the line!! Why are you running this experiment?

Why? Because I’d like to test my theory that if I can get one day of heavier than usual sales it will push my book onto one of the Amazon or Barnes and Noble bestseller lists, thus bringing it to the attention of readers who may not have considered reading a Harlequin Medical Romance before, thus creating increased awareness and, hopefully, increased sales.

What a fabulous idea!!

Now this may not work at all. But if it does, wouldn’t that be great? And for all you new and aspiring authors out there, wouldn’t this be good information for you to know when it comes time to market and promote your books? So what do you say? Will you help spread the word? Will you give Once a Good Girl… a try? Today? February 1st? You can read an excerpt here:

You can purchase the U.S. edition of Once a Good Girl… here:

Links for the UK and Aus/NZ editions can be found on my website: where, if you visit at the end of the week, I’ll have the results of this experiment posted on my personal blog. 
Thank you so much for your help! It is very much appreciated! 

One of today’s visitors who shares where they’ve linked to this post in the comments section, will win a $10.00 (U.S. currency) U.S. Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card.

Wow, thanks for the giveaway and I hope you get lots of sales. Can anyone say GRAY'S ANATOMY?