Oh, The Tide is High

But we’re holding on. I was going to do a wonderful cover reveal post today. But Mother Nature decided to drop 20 or so inches of rain upon Charleston, SC. And since I live on a tidal creek, we have about oh, about three feet of water surrounding our house.

untitled (4)This was my backyard Saturday morning when I got home from working the night shift. No big deal. Creek has gotten up in the yard a couple of times since I’ve lived here.

untitled (5)This was my backyard Saturday afternoon when I woke up from my nap.

untitled (6)Yikes!!!

But then, the tide came in.

untitledSunday morning, the creek was playing with the second porch step. Our AC unit was underwater. But the water was still a few inches below the crawlspace vents.

Then the tide came back.

untitled (5)Now the water is all up in my grill and under the house. So far, no water is in house. We still have electricity. Low tide is coming. Next high tide is expected to crest a foot lower than this morning’s.

So. That’s where we are. Tomorrow if the water is down enough to drive the truck out, I will go to the hospital for my next three night shifts and just stay there until road is passable. Or I’ll wade out to the highway and have someone pick me up.

Stay dry my friends! Stay dry.

 

When Air Feels like Molasses

Last year at RWA, I attended a session on writing through depression. I was with one of the panelists before the session began and she was worried not many people would show up.

I laughed and told her it would be a packed room. “We’re writers,” I said, “We’re all fucked up somehow.”

I was right. It was a packed room. It was a great discussion. It was nice just to be able to say, “yeah, me too”. Because all too often the admission of depression (which is hard enough) is met with “Why?” or “What do you have to be depressed about?”

That question is what brought me to the edge of suicide several years ago. Because I had nothing to be depressed about. I had a good job, making good money. I had (and still have) an awesome man with whom I think I’ve had three arguments in the 10 + years we been together. I had no financial problems. No health problems. At that time, my mother and brother’s health problems were nothing more than a minor blip.

So, why was I faking my way through every day? Why did I stay in bed, doing nothing but staring at the ceiling until the alarm I set for three p.m. went off. I set that alarm so I would get up, get showered and make the fella think I’d been doing stuff all day. My life narrowed down to preserving and funneling all my energy into just being able to function at my job.

I was so ashamed of how I felt. (I mean, look at so&so, her life is WAY worse than mine). When I finally made the appointment to see my doctor, I lied. Told the receptionist my elbow was hurting again. Then when my doctor came in, I just broke down. I told her I didn’t know why I was feeling like this.

“Other than the fact that  you just came off birth control, you’re in the beginning stages of menopause and your hormones are completely out of control, you mean?”

Yeah, other than that.

I was lucky, the first medication we tried worked very well at a low dose with few side effects.

But it never really goes away, this disease. It slinks around in the dark corners of our minds, waiting. Waiting for illness or a stressor to trip us up. Waiting for the opportunity to start whispering in our ears again.

And anyone one who has struggled with this knows the feeling. You know what you need to do to get through those moments, those days, those weeks. But you are walking through molasses. The very air around you holds you back, holds you down while you struggle to just take one more step forward. Knowing you can’t stop. No, stopping is exactly what the monster wants you to do.

I’ll get there. I’m just walking slow this week.

Release Date

We have a release date. January 1, 2016. And as I found out completely by accident, you can pre-order a Kindle version on Amazon.

I was being silly a few months ago and did an Amazon search for Spying on the Boss, knowing nothing was there.

Then, Friday evening, I was checking on an Amazon order and the search history popped up. So I clicked it. And, uh, there it was.

I scared Jason a little because I yelled at him to come here RIGHT NOW! But, you see, I’d worked the night before and not slept well that day, so it was entirely possible that I was hallucinating the entire thing.

But no. It’s there. I guess it’s really, really real now. Harlequin isn’t going to change their mind.

Next up, I’ll get the cover art. And we’ll have to think of something fun for that milestone.

Wandering in Strange Places

I am fortunate to be able to travel. Not grand adventures to far away, exotic locations, but I manage to get around the U.S. of A. I highly recommend it. Even if it’s just exploring your own town or a nearby city.

Recently, The Fella attended a convention in Washington, DC. DC is one of my favorite places, but the two other times I’d been there were very short, overnight stays. This time, I had three entire days to wander.

Walking the streets, riding public transportation is dialogue heaven for a writer. Like this little bit of perfection The Fella overhead. A homeless man was trying to return something in a store and the clerk was having trouble explaining to the man why he couldn’t. The homeless man was arguing with her.

“I tell you something. You need to get some kind of life. Pretty girl like you? Miss Cutie on Duty?” Pure gold. The rhythm of the words. The turn of a phrase. Writers need to be constant eavesdroppers.

First, I wandered to the museums, because FREE. There I remembered our past. Learned of the struggles of others. Was amazed. And amused.

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I was also humbled. Moved to tears. Reminded of our responsibilities.

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But it wasn’t all learning and remembrance. There was fun. Spent a sunny, cool morning at the National Zoo. FREE!

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Went by the people’s House. *note: don’t joke with the Secret Service, they have their senses of humor surgically removed as part of their training*

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And, well, I *am* a romance writer, so…hot DC cops.

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Where is your favorite place to wander?

I’m So Conflicted!

Conflict! We all hate it, but our characters need it. Some writers are really good at torturing their characters. Me, not so much.

I relied on a few source books for Spying on the Boss and I recently had a fourth recommended to me that I’m finding very helpful as I write the second Cleaning Crew novel.

The first three are all by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi:

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression

The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes

The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws

The Emotion Thesaurus is great for giving you tips on how to “show” not “tell” what your character is feeling.

The Negative and Positive Trait Thesauruses are invaluable in building your character’s personality. Plus, it guides you through exactly what will trigger conflict and why for specific traits.

The recently recommended book is by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders:

The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines.

It covers 16 master archetypes and also pairs each of them up to show the conflict inherent to each of the couples.

What books do you use to help build your story and/or characters?

Art and Avondale

Avondale has a special little bit of my heart. It’s a small oasis of art and nostalgia and good food where Magnolia Road meets Savannah Highway. In the 1970s, if I couldn’t find my grandfather, I only had to go a few more blocks to the Krispy Kreme donut shop where he’d be gathered with friends, playing checkers and drinking coffee.

The donut shop is gone now but the Avondale area has blossomed over the years.

11037551_1457080314588792_1107795633620779091_nIt’s also the epicenter of an amazing collection of ever changing art, thanks to the ChART Initiative.

When choosing a location for Sadie, Spying on the Boss’s heroine, I chose the Avondale area. Several scenes take place in the restaurants there: Triangle Char & Bar, Mellow Mushroom, Gene’s Haufbrau.

11692742_1457080294588794_2735947071223672130_nBut the main draw for me is behind the funky shops and restaurants. You need to slip down one of the alleys to find the real gems of Avondale.

11709562_1457080481255442_1572314909547945550_nThe artists range from well known to anonymous graffiti taggers. The ChART initiative gets these budding artists involved and mentors them in developing their skills.

11666134_1457087524588071_8941300095957764352_nIf you are ever in Charleston, take a short drive west of the mighty Ashley River. Have lunch at one of the restaurants and take a walk for some amazing, free art.

 

So You Think You Can Write?

If you are a romance writer, you’ve been seeing #SYTYCW hashtag everywhere on social media.

For my non-writer readers, it is the yearly contest held by Harlequin/Mills Boon in search of new talent. Unpublished romance writers submit their work in the hopes of winning a coveted book contract with Harlequin.

I’ve entered twice. In 2012, I made the top ten, but went no further. In 2014, I entered again, made the top ten again, and did not win. But, I did catch the interest of Harlequin and was offered a book contract.

I want to urge any aspiring romance writers out there to enter this contest. I know, it’s scary. Many of us scribble away in the wee hours, just us and the dim glow of our monitors. To send your baby out into the harsh glare of the internet?

Terrifying.

But.

Once your baby is out there, something magical happens. People read your chapters. They like them. Little by little you get to know your fellow competitors.

Except.

They don’t feel like competitors. You are picking up new followers on Twitter, on Facebook. Interacting on the Wattpad site. Everyone is so…. friendly. And supportive.

And you are getting feedback. Compliments on what you did right. Suggestions for how to improve. You begin to sharpen your writing skills. You learn, yes, indeed, you can write!

Whether you win or not, whether you grab an editor’s attention or not, what you gain in friendship and knowledge is where the true prize is at. In that sense, everyone who enters wins.

I was so excited to meet with fellow SYTYCW alumni and current participants at RWA in NYC. Here’s a link with a cool video. Watch close and you may spot me wandering around.

 

On Giving Up

When do I give up? When do I become the crazy old lady making a fool of herself?”

This was the question I put to Jackie Asheden in San Antonio almost a year ago. It was my third Romance Writers of America national convention and I was very discouraged about my writing. I had been through three “revise and resubmit” rounds with various publishing houses, couldn’t get much more than a form letter rejection from agents, I had missed being nominated for a Golden Heart award (that’s the award the RWA gives out for unpublished manuscripts) by one point. One. Only two books in my category were nominated.

“Never!” is what Jackie told me. Emphatically. Without hesitation.

I also had won a charity auction for Zoe Archer to read the first three chapters of my manuscript and to have lunch with her for a critique. The talk seemed to wander away from a critique of my chapters to my frustration. Zoe encouraged me to continue. Said she loved my chapters. To have such talented writer praise my work was comforting. Maybe I wasn’t crazy after all. Maybe I could do this.

Later, I was walking from one workshop to another when Audra North grabbed me and gave me a hug. This was the first time we’d met in person. Audra had volunteered to read my entire manuscript at a point where I was struggling with a suggested revision to a plot line. She not only gave me excellent feedback and some really good ideas, she gave me a bit more hope. Another successful writer thought my writing didn’t suck.

I was starting to get my confidence back. Starting to get my energy back for this marathon we call “getting published”. Then, Sarah Lyons told me, while chatting before a workshop that I had a look about me. “The look of someone about to break through.”

I left that conference with renewed hope and determination. This is what I love about the romance community. We support each other. We are there for each other. We lift each other up. Sometimes, we haul people up and give them a quick kick in the arse and tell them to get on with it.

I know I’m leaving out a TON of people who helped me, but I wanted to publicly thank these particular people who picked me up, dusted me off and threw me back in the game.

Thank you.

 

 

A Battered Heart

Sunday, May 18, 2014 Jason and I were walking around the fence at Jackson Square in New Orleans. He was looking at art. I was tired and hot and grumpy. A little hung over from my birthday celebrations at the RT Booklover’s Convention the night before and a lot sunburned from sightseeing the day before when I saw this. And stopped. Mesmerized. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

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Immediately, a line from my novel came to mind. “…if you could get past the razor wire she had strung around her heart.”

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My poor little novel, then Man Maid, now Spying on the Boss (Harlequin Superromance, January 2016), was having a hard time that year. No one wanted it. But I loved it. I loved my heroine with all her prickly ways.

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The artist, Rick Fox, began telling me about the piece. All materials were items found after the wreckage of Hurricane Katrina. Now repurposed into a thing of beauty.

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I was falling in love with this. It was my heroine’s entire story in one work of art.

Jason encouraged me to walk away for a while. To think it through. A good idea but even as we walked away, I turned back to the artist with a wink. “I’ll be back for it,” I mouthed. He smiled and nodded.

As I walked around the French Quarter, my love only grew stronger. Sadie, my heroine, had survived the Katrina of her chaotic childhood spent in foster home after foster home.

She’d salvaged what she could and was rebuilding a family of choice but still she kept her heart locked away.

But I bought this work of art because I knew this story had the potential to touch the hearts of those who read it. I bought this because I believed in Sadie and her razor wire heart. For an entire year, I could see this art from where I wrote.

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It had seen me through hope, doubt, despair and finally the joy of acceptance. It represents so much more than Sadie to me now. It represents the strong heart it takes to keep trying. To keep reaching for your dreams.

Welcome!

Welcome to my bright and shiny new author page. Many thanks to my wonderful and talented friend, Heather Solos of Feed Blitz for her assistance (okay, she did everything. I only plugged in my credit card number when she told me to).

Since I am freshly psyched up after the amazing Romance Writers of America’s national conference in New York City, I thought I’d share some of my favorite moments with you.

First, I got to meet my amazing team at Harlequin Superromance. Everyone was so helpful, from the marketing team to the editorial staff to the talented writers. They made me feel welcome and answered all my questions, no matter how silly.

This year was a long line of firsts for me. My first time in New York City. My first conference as a contracted author. My first time getting to attend the legendary Harlequin Ball. And yes, it *IS* everything you dreamed it to be and more.

But my favorite memory has to be after the Ball, my date Amanda Cinelli (the 2014 SYTYCW winner) and I….don’t we look marvelous, darling?

11760228_1467896326840524_951381810843404734_nWe had such an amazing time. And Harlequin is so generous with the libations. I’m sure we were an amazing sight to see at 1 a.m. crossing Broadway in our ball gowns and Harlequin socks. It’s all a bit hazy, lost in laughter and chicken tenders. Our waiter and I bonded over our fur babies and we shared pictures. Amanda had her first taste of good old fashioned greasy fried chicken and “chips”.

It was the perfect ending to a perfect night and I’m so glad I got to share it with my new Irish friend.

What about you? What was your favorite RWA15 moment?