Wednesday, April 30, 2014

From my Pinterest Recipe Board: Tried It & Liked It

I made this for the Physicist a few weeks ago and it will become a regular in our house.

Greek Chicken


1 cup plain yogurt
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp. dried oregano
Juice of 1 medium Lemon
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (optional)
1/4 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
3 1/2-4 lbs. chicken (I used chicken breasts, 2 lbs, thinly sliced through the center)

Combine all ingredients except the chicken, mix thoroughly and pour into large gallon bag or other container. Add chicken to bag, making sure to cover all pieces well. Refrigerate for up to half a day, then remove from fridge and bring to room temperature.

You can grill them which is awesome! Or bake them in a 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes. Serve hot, with minced parsley, or green onions on top.

Super yummy. Definitely a do-over. And I know the College Kid will love it!

Come see what my favorite heroes look like on my Pinterest board here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Time Out for Travel

I'm off to see my CP Pam Mantovani today. We're writing, brainstorming new books, and attending our Georgia Romance Writers of America's Margie Lawson Workshop on the 26th of April. Pam and I have worked together for almost 4 years, but we met 6 years ago when she was the Overall Coordinator of the Unpublished Maggie Awards. I called her to ask a "I'm form challenged" question and we immediately hit it off. Then I finaled in the Maggie that summer and I went to the Moonlight & Magnolias Conference along with my dear friend and Critique Partner Sharon Wray.

I didn't win the Maggie that year, but I did win the jackpot in a bigger way. Though I was working with Sharon Wray and Karen Johnston via long distance critiquing, and they certainly made me a stronger writer as a result of our collaboration, neither of them wrote in my genre. I was in the market for a contemporary category series romance critique partner and it turned out that Pam was targeting the same publishing houses as me.

Over the next two years, we developed a strong rapport as writers and as people. I'd read some of her manuscripts and I knew this Maggie winning writer would make an excellent critique partner: if she'd generate more pages and be willing to take a chance on working with me. In January 2011 I drove out to Georgia to ask her to work with me.

She said yes.

And I hit the jackpot.

Through the days and months that have followed we've worked on multiple manuscripts together via long distance brainstorming on the phone, emailing documents back and forth for critiquing, and driving to and from each others' houses to work together. There's something special about the synergy that is created when creative minds share the same space.

We've grown as writers, pushed ourselves beyond our self-imposed limitations, and we've supported each other through the many ups and downs of being unpublished writers. Imagine how cool it was for both of us to sell within 6 weeks of each other.

It was very cool.

I believe Pam is a very gifted story teller. A master at pointing out the Picky Alerts. And I'm the lucky girl who gets to work with this Belle Books Debut Author.

Writing is often a solo enterprise, but if you open yourself up to the possibilities, you might just find wonderful companions along the way. I didn't walk away from my other CPs. Karen Johnston and I continued to exchange quick critiques and talked often about the industry and getting our product out to the market.

Sadly, Karen passed away from an inoperable brain stem tumor in March 2014. But I still feel her fierce and encouraging presence with me whenever I start getting scared. She was bold,  beyond strong, and she always made us believe we could do anything we put our minds to accomplishing.

Sharon and I also continue to  work together as friends and writing partners, but in a different way. We encourage each other with daily texts, we exchange information about the craft of writing, and we have exchanged manuscripts or partials for quick read throughs. We cheer each other on, and I'm blessed to know this sensitive, talented and dedicated woman both as a writer and as a dear friend.

So choose your writing companions carefully. Each one brings a different strength to your writing world. Karen taught me to be brave, Sharon teaches me to keep learning and growing as a writer, and Pam keeps me tethered to reality with her sage advice, wisdom, and empathy. I would not be the writer I am today without any of them.

So now I'm heading off to Georgia in my trusty little Ford Escape with my laptop in hand and my writing journals and brainstorming supplies tucked into my briefcase. I can't wait to get there!

See you all next week!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Quotes that Keep Me Going Strong

I love motivational quotes. They help me regain my focus and my drive whenever I grow weary or worry about the tasks at hand.

When I was struggling to get through the publishing door, I read a Donald Maas book HOW TO WRITE THE BREAKOUT NOVEL. He made me think a lot about my goals and my motivation for writing. This quote is on my inspirational wall:

I hope that your measure of success will be not be the gratification of getting an agent or seeing your name on the cover, but putting together a novel of real depth--of having something to say and saying it in a story with lasting power. Donald Maas

When I was feeling negative and getting caught up in the noise that rattles in the publishing world's cave from time to time, I read James Scott Bell's book THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS. He wrote:

Every moment spent whining about your writing career is a moment of creative energy lost... turn grousing into energy by writing. James Scott Bell.

He's a smart man. There's always noise. There will always be complainers and whiners and mean girls and more, but I just keep my head down and write. That's what I do best. And it keeps me out of trouble :)

I love Delle Jacobs quote:

The object of goals is getting there... the object of dreams is the journey. 

Delle Jacobs reminds me daily to focus on the journey. And I would add this to it, don't ever put obstacles in another person's path as a means of achieving your end goal. There is room on this road for everyone. Be kind, generous, and encouraging to others. That will make the journey all the better.

And a few years ago, a friend sent me this quote because it reminded her of me.

The master at the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly  knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he's always doing both. Author James A. Michener

That she thought of me in this light truly humbles me. I don't know that I always succeed in mastering the art of living, but I do try to find joy every day. And I'm blessed to have this desire to write planted in my soul. I love writing. It's like breathing to me. The process of crafting the stories, unraveling the difficulties within the plots and understanding the characters' deeper motivations and conflicts is exciting.

So maybe the master at the art of living is a person who has found his or her passion and is actively pursuing it every day.

What's your passion? What do you want to do every day and what brings you joy?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Retro Blog: Busy-ness Can Lead to Dizzy-ness First Aired June 9, 2010

I wrote this blog June 9, 2010. As my writing career begins to transform into one that includes lots more writing, revision passes, marketing and promotion of THE MAVERICK'S RED HOT REUNION, and my ongoing volunteer activities, I needed this reminder to slow down every once in a while and just breathe.

People's lives are busy. Some people actually define their lives by saying, "I'm so busy, or too busy or these are busy days." They revel in the busy-ness of their lives. They revel in the going out and about to do a zillion errands, or projects, or luncheons. They revel in being seen as "busy." Busy-ness defines their lives.

But sometimes I wonder if these people who are so "busy" are actually just avoiding themselves. Avoiding personal introspection. Avoiding examining who they are, or where they need to go. Other times I wonder if these busy people are busy because it makes them feel important. The busy-ness defines them.

Ever met somebody like that? I've met a few. I may have actually been guilty of committing the act of "busy-ness" myself. Heck, I was young once. I did my fair share and plus of extra work when I was employed outside the home and afterward. I remember an incredibly intense time after I became a Mom where I spent about 6 or 7 years volunteering in the school, the church, the neighborhood--basically did it all. For free. But then I think part of my motivation was the free babysitting *grin*.

Yup. I was a "busy" person. And I knew a lot of "busy people." It wasn't until I was forced to sit down and take stock that I truly began my inner journey. I admit that I was a self-help book addict for years. Heck, with the crazy dysfunctional background I came from, who wouldn't be? But I never really examined who I wanted to be until I couldn't be out in the world being, well, you know, "busy."

Yup. I couldn't be busy because I got this weirdo bug in my ear that made me dizzy. Beyond dizzy. I had a serious cases of perpetual vertigo. It was the kind of vertigo that made me sick, caused blackouts, and had accompanying bouts of tremenous heat and frightening moments of disorientation. The only way to beat it back was to STOP BEING SO BUSY.

I was felled by a tiny bug in my inner ear for 6 MONTHS.

At first I was so sick, I didn't have much energy. I napped. This was unheard of in my house. I am a "get up and go" kinda girl. Naturally, after I had a few months of serious downtime, I got bored. You know boredom is not always a bad thing. Boredom means you're healing. Boredom means your mind is getting ready for the next creative adventure.

Now if a "get up and go" girl can't really, uh, go anywhere in the real world, what is she going to do? Oh, hmmm, any good guesses out there? Oh, yeah. Write. And experiencing that illness is how I rediscovered what I know I was always meant to do. Write. I started to write my first novel. It was an escape, a joyful experience, and I fell in love with my childhood dreams all over again.

That was a wonderful year. The said book was finished, queried and requested by Silhouette Desire BEFORE I even knew about Romance Writers of America, writing craft, Goals/Motivation/Conflict, plots, revising, and more.

Fast forward almost five years. I'm still focused on the writing. I love it. I have four books under my belt (though I call them 8 given all the recent plot revisions), and I am submitting, being requested, and happily involved in all my RWA/PRO/Chapter organizations. I am also blogging, FaceBook connecting (imagine if they'd had Facebook back when I first got DIZZY? I might not be writing because I'd be "busy" connecting with my social network), TWEETING, helping with an online workshop, volunteering to help with the PRO Retreat, judging contests, entering contests.... YIKES! I am afraid I might get dizzy again.

And yes, before you ask, I am blonde. Let the jokes begin now.

But I won't get DIZZY. You know why I believe in my heart I won't get dizzy? Because all my "busy" stuff is what I want to do for my career (and my family--which comes FIRST). I have learned the fine art of saying "no." Or better, "let me get back to you about that request after I think about it." Or better yet, "I would like some help with this please."

Most of all, I've given myself permission to walk away from my commitments and take a deep breath. When dinner starts, if the phone rings, I don't answer it. Period. I keep my commitments to a set amount and I don't feel obligated to be perfect (losing perfectionism is a great way to give up the "busy" life). I don't say "yes" to make someone think better of me. And I don't say "yes" to gain approval or puff up my ego. Frankly, I don't consider saying "yes" to anything that does not reflect my Top 5 Priority List.

Ah, the Top 5 Priority List. I shared this list with you in January. I learned about this method of establishing boundaries from a LIFE MAKEOVER book I read when I was dizzy. I reevaluate it every quarter. Usually it stays the same, at least the top 2 items stay the same. The bottom 3 vary depending on season, where I am in my life, and how the rest of the family is faring.

But what is a priority? What does this word mean to you? Here is a brief dictionary explanation:

Priority Defined:


*A thing that is regarded as more important than another.
The housework didn't figure high on her list of priorities.
Seriously? It never does figure high on my list of priorities. Sure I want to prevent my toilets from being deemed toxic & hazardous, but if my house is dirty and you want to come over because you're down or need a friendly face, I'm your girl!

*The fact or condition of being regarded or treated as important.
The safety of the country takes priority over every other matter.
Or in my world the health and welfare of my family, and myself, is regarded or treated as important. If I am trying to do too much everyone suffers, including me. 

*The right to take precedence or proceed before others.
Priority is given to those with press passes.
Now I love this. The items/things/people who take precedence or proceed before others in my life are my family first, my writing (actual writing, not blogging or stuff of that nature), my health, my dearest friends, my spirit and my soul. Everybody and everything else must wait in line. Period.

This getting your priorities straight isn't a perfect process. Sometimes I revert and nibble off a bit more than I can chew. Usually the first thing that suffers is my health. So I get a pretty quick reminder to get my priorities sorted.

Ironically, my weirdest time to keep my priorities straight is through the summer months. I've got these writing goals, but I scale them back a bit, or make room for flexible writing time, during this time of year. Darling Daughter is underfoot, we've got summer travel plans, and I want to enjoy my family during these lazy days. I don't stop writing, but I do break it up differently. And my priority is to work on my MS or WIP in Revision. If I'm not on Facebook or I miss a blog post, well that means I'm focusing on my first priority: the health and happiness of my family. We're probably at the pool, or shopping, or visiting some museum. And that's okay.

That's the key to maintaining your priorities and boundaries: telling yourself it's okay to let something slide or go slack every once in a while. REALLY!

Here I am 4 years later with even more books written, a publishing contract, the Darling Daughter off to university, and still writing as much as I can every day. I'm involved in the Heart of Dixie's 2014 Readers' Luncheon as the Raffle Basket coordinator and my debut novel releases in June. My priorities are still the same: take care of my health and my family's welfare, write another book, prepare for my career to launch, and then I will work on my volunteer duties. And that means asking for help because I will need extra hands to get this job done.

I will also say "no" to any other requests for my help until I have cleared my plate of the tasks currently at hand.

How do you prioritize your life? Do you say "yes" before thinking it through? Do you say "no" without guilt? 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My New Wall Art: Puzzles, Books, & Friends

I love putting together puzzles every Christmas. It's become a tradition in our family. Recently, someone I met through the Southern Magic Readers Luncheon and online wanted to meet me in person. She had a present for me that she thought I'd appreciate.

I couldn't meet Carol empty handed, so I brought her a gift as well.

I put together an author tote bag with a personalized author post it note pad. She'll be getting a copy of THE MAVERICK'S RED HOT REUNION when it debuts in June 2014 from Entangled Publishing.
Carol Bibb sent me a little picture of her gift. A puzzle that she'd glued together and framed. It has all kinds of cool titles on it. More about that later. The Physicist and I drove down to Birmingham a couple of weeks ago so I could attend the meeting and visit with my chapter mates. We stopped just outside of Birmingham to meet Carol and her husband at a McDonald's parking lot.
Carol Bibb and me at the McDonald's parking lot. Isn't that picture super cool?

We had such a lovely meeting. I smiled all day. Carol is a wonderful, beautiful person. I'm glad we got to visit .

Sometimes people do special things and they don't even realize how much they impact other people's lives. I lost a dear friend on March 4th and I was heartbroken. But meeting Carol and her husband just outside of Birmingham brought me such joy. I truly appreciated this gift, not just the puzzle picture, but the person who took the time to think of me and give my spirits a lift. 

I put the puzzle picture smack dab in the center of my Happy Wall. Every morning when I sit down to write, I look at this and smile all over again.

Acts of kindness and generosity can make a difference in people's lives. This one sure did make one on me and reminded me about what is important in life. Bring joy to others and you will be given the same in turn.

How do you bring joy to other people? Did anyone ever surprise you with a random act of kindness on a day that you really needed to be reminded about what is good in this world?