Monday, December 31, 2007

The Week Between Christmas and New Year's Day

I love this time of year. It’s a space of quiet between the hubbub of shopping and baking and decorating of the Christmas Season and the start of the New Year. It’s a time to remember all the wonderful things from the past year and to plan for what I would love to have come into my life in the next year. In short, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is a time of calm and reflection and planning for me.

Tonight I’ll go to a Burning Bowl ceremony where we release that which no longer serves us in our lives. Tomorrow I’ll begin polishing up the lessons for my online writing workshop.

I hope that for each of you, looking back at this past year, there were moments that make you smile. I hope that as you look ahead, you see exciting and wonderful new possibilities and you can’t wait for the New Year to begin!

Know that each of you who reads this blog is a blessing in my life.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Best Christmas Present

My daughter gave me a wonderful Christmas present yesterday. She got us tickets to see Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead at the City Theater Company here in Austin, Texas. It was a wonderful production! I’ve heard about the play since I was in high school and this was my first chance to see it. I was very impressed with the actors—especially the two who played Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday season! I know that some of you may not be. My own holidays are always tinged with sadness because my father died on Christmas Eve some ten years ago. If you are part of the group who got my cross country trip email before I started this blog and read about my visit to my parents’ gravesites (for the first time) then you know the intensity of emotion my relationship with my parents evokes in me. My father’s death was both a sorrow and a relief. Which means that my emotions are always in something of a turmoil on Christmas Eve. I share this so you know that I do understand about difficult emotions at this time of year.

For me, one of the things that has allowed me to still enjoy this time of year is to consciously choose to create new traditions that are exactly right for ME. Some years I go out to parties, some years I realize I can’t and without guilt stay home. Most years I’m lucky enough to have my daughter with me and that’s wonderful too because I’m able to look at her and know I broke the cycle and that she has grown into a fabulous young woman (who will probably help to change the world).

As a writer, all of this is a reminder to think carefully about how different people respond differently to the same situation. It is a reminder that it is never enough, in my writing, to say that something has happened and assume readers will know how my characters feel. I must show how my unique characters feel and why. It is not what happens that matters nearly so much as how my character (or an individual) responds to that event.

So at this holiday time, I hope that each of you is happy and warm and safe and feeling joyful. For those who are not or who have difficult emotions mixed in, I wish you peace and comfort. I hope that you are able to find a path that lets you find those things.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Good Reference Book for Writers

Today I’d like to recommend a good reference for writers and especially romance writers. It’s Love Smart by Dr. Phil McGraw.

Yup, Dr. Phil. Who isn’t always my cup of tea but in this book I think he shares a lot of useful information. I got it on sale thinking it would be useful for a romance writer (me) to have and I was right. Ostensibly it’s for women looking for a man or for a way to improve the relationship they have. In fact, it’s probably useful for a woman in terms of every relationship in her life—romantic, professional, or friendship.

For a romance author, Love Smart by Dr. Phil is a goldmine of information on how guys think and react and what moves a relationship forward—or doesn’t. For any writer in fact, I think it provides useful information on who to show male/female interactions in a way that will feel authentic to readers. And if it helps in one's personal life as well, isn't that a nice bonus?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Online Class

I’ll be teaching an online class in January. It runs 5 weeks because there was so much I wanted to cover. It incorporates Book in a Week, of course, but it’s much more than that. It’s about aspects of writing from the perspective of: What works?

As you know, if you’ve ever heard me speak, I believe there is one fundamental rule in writing: If it works, it works and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

The other piece of what I do is focus on how writing can be easier and more fun because I believe deeply that when we like what we’re doing, when we’re having fun, we do it better and faster and are far less likely to procrastinate.

There’s no wrong way to write a first draft. It will be whatever it is—for YOU. Later comes all the polishing and work to make it into a publishable final draft. Some writers manage it on their first draft, most of us don’t. They key is to find out what works for YOU and then go with it because you will write better and faster if you do. This class is designed to help each writer figure that out for himself or herself.

It’s an experiment for me, offering it this way, instead of through a website that provided online classes to community colleges. I hope this makes it affordable and accessible to many more people.

If you’re interested, here’s the official release on the course:

**Permission to Forward**

OUTREACH INTERNATIONAL is pleased to announce our CAMPUS online workshop for the month of January.

DATE: January 7 – February 8, 2008
TITLE: Book In A Week
INSTRUCTOR: April Kihlstrom
LEVEL: Beginner to Intermediate
COST: $20 Outreach Member/Others $30
Deadline to receive application and payment: January 4, 2008

Course Description:

In this 5 week class, multi-published author April Kihlstrom will show you how to write faster and better than you ever thought possible—and have fun doing so! As part of the online class, she will take you through the steps, from start to finish, of writing a book. She will talk about planning and plotting, practical writing issues, revisions and self-editing. She will share techniques she has found useful in getting past writer’s block and in crafting a novel that others want to read. There will also be one week of intensive writing where class members write as much as they can, as fast as they can, and try to complete the first draft of a book in one week. If that sounds overwhelming, April says not to worry—there is no way to fail at this experience!


To make writing more fun and more productive. To discover how, when, where, what one writes best and how to do more of that. To create the first draft of a book in a short span of time.

Topics covered include:

Weeks 1-3: Preparing to write the first draft of a book in one week
Creating compelling characters and/or how to write about real people in nonfiction
Planning plot elements or structure in a nonfiction book
Significance of names
Effective paragraph and sentence structure
Using imagery and sensory detail to add impact
Writing effective dialogue
Creating a productive writing environment
Enlisting the support of those around you
Mentally gearing yourself up to write faster (and better) than you thought you could

Week 4: Intensive Writing Week

Week 5: Evaluating the writing experience itself
Making revisions
Sending out material


Although her background is in mathematics, (including a masters degree in operations research), April Kihlstrom is an award winning author of 31 published romance novels. She believes Book in a Week is a way to recapture the joy of writing and write faster and more effectively at the same time.

Always a slow writer, April was lured into attempting Book In A Week by a group of writers on Genie. Much to her surprise, she discovered it was a technique that worked well for her and she really could write the first draft of a book in a week! Since she began using the book in a week method, Romantic Times has called her a “rising star” and a “diamond of the first water”.

April offers coaching to fellow writers as well as classes and workshops in writing to both romance and non-romance writers and has spoken at many conferences including: the RWA national conference (romance) and the East of Eden conference (non-romance).

CAMPUS workshops encompass the RESEARCH and CRAFT aspects of writing. The workshops are conducted via email only, no real-time or live chats, on a private list. Participants will be subbed to the list for the month of the workshop then unsubbed when it's over. Each workshop includes lectures and Q & A sessions. You don't have to be an RWA member to take these workshops; they are open to everyone with email capability who wishes to participate.

Check out the OUTREACH INTERNATIONAL website at Outreach International, you can find out more about becoming a member of OUTREACH INTERNATIONAL ROMANCE WRITERS Chapter and signing up for the course (online campus).

Please pass on this information to anyone you think might be interested.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


I traveled recently. It was a short trip back east to stay with my son for the weekend. I had very little free time though I did catch up with my friend who is recovering from breast cancer. It was a huge relief to see her looking as good as she is and know that every day she grows stronger and that she seems to have beaten the cancer. I would have liked to see more friends just wasn’t possible.

As I was flying back to Texas, I found myself thinking how different areas of the country have different patterns of interaction and what’s valued most. In some areas, plain speaking is valued over being polite. In other areas, politeness is the priority. Some airports have employees who go out of their way to smile and others have employees who focus on briskly doing their job. And so on. Each style has benefits and drawbacks. Someone raised to think everyone should behave in a given way might be taken aback to see people acting very differently somewhere else.

For writers, this means thinking about where our characters grew up and what impact that might have on how they interact with others. It means that merely by having our character travel to a different location we might be able to create some very interesting situations as the expectations of one character clashes with the expectations of another.

Fundamentally, of course, we’re all more alike than different. But to a writer like me, it’s interesting to watch for the differences and how people handle them.

Meanwhile, I’m glad to be back home and trying frantically to catch up on all the things I couldn’t get done while I was back east.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. Mine was quiet. My kids were with my ex at his family’s Thanksgiving and I’m glad. I want them to feel connected to their relatives and know they are part of an extended family.

It was strange hearing that it was warmer in New York City than here in Texas but that’s the kind of odd weather it’s been this year.

I found myself thinking how grateful I am for all the good things in my life. I found myself thinking how even on our worst days, most of us able to be online have it better than most people throughout most of history.

I found myself thinking how grateful I am that I will never again be as hungry as I was as a child when it was only on holidays such as Thanksgiving that I was allowed to eat until I was full.

I found myself thinking how grateful I am for friends and for the internet that allows me to stay in touch with friends even though I may live far away from them.

I hope each of you had a good Thanksgiving and that despite whatever challenges you may have in your life, you also had things to be grateful for.

If you're interested, there's a "Gratitude Project" going on at: 21 Days of Gratitude

Saturday, November 17, 2007

In Defense of Newspapers

The Writers League of Texas consistently has good speakers for their programs. This month was no exception. Fred Zipp, managing editor of the Austin American Statesman, talked about what’s been happening with newspapers and the impact of the internet. I kept thinking of the parallels with book publishing: consolidation of distributors, fewer buyers, rising costs, the issue of credibility when anyone with a computer can put content on the web.

As I listened, I found myself thinking how much I love newspapers. I love reading the different sections. I love reading about realities that are not my own. When I do, I feel a sense of connection with people I might otherwise never meet or know about. I am reminded that my vision of the world can only be as valid as the information on which it is based. If I do not expose myself to ideas and viewpoints different from my own, how can I possibly believe that I have anything even remotely approaching a clear picture of the world?

I’m fascinated, too, by information that lets me project ahead to changes that might be part of my life in a year or two. I feel empowered by information that lets me make decisions that prepare me for trouble ahead that I might not otherwise know about.

I adore newspapers. I love to read them when I travel because it’s one of the surest ways to get a sense of a community. I love to read odd stories about things I would never have thought to look into if it wasn’t in the paper in front of me.

I’m not sure there is a substitute for newspapers. We can get headlines and short videos on the internet. We can watch news on television. But those are visual and auditory mediums. And I believe we process information differently when we see it written than when we hear or see it instead. (Mind you, I also believe newspapers can’t entirely replace videos on the internet or news on television either.)

Newspapers, by their nature, present a lot of information because they have the space to do so. And seeing information in a variety of areas allows one to grasp the bigger picture emerging—one that is affected by technology and social interests and politics and economics. In today’s world, we can’t afford to just stick to information regarding our own niche. If we do, we’re likely to be blindsided in our lives and/or our careers.

It’s not always comfortable to read the newspaper. We may have to think about things we’d rather not or in new ways or about areas that aren’t easy for us to process. But that’s what lets us grow—as individuals and as a society. How can we build and maintain a society that works for ALL its citizens unless we are exposed to realities that are not our own?

I hope newspapers last forever. They are the watchdogs for our society. They bring us news in a unique way that enriches our lives—if we allow them to. They are one of our greatest resources—both capturing snapshots of our society and helping to shape it by showing us possibilities we might otherwise never think about.

Technology will continue to change newspapers as it changes everything else. Maybe in a few years I’ll be reading mine on an electronic device that looks like a sheet of paper. I don’t know. What I am sure of is that as long as there are newspapers, I’ll be reading them. How about you?

Friday, November 09, 2007

How We Communicate

For various reasons, communication has been on my mind this week. I’ve been looking at material that needed to be directed at very different audiences. I also attended a workshop that talked about NLP techniques and the ways people communicate.

Which of these do you find yourself saying:

I see what you mean.
That sounds about right to me.
That feels right to me.
That’s logical.

The interesting thing is that while people may have a distinct preference for one or two of these, they may tune out completely or not see or grasp the others at all.

Add to that the fact that some careers have distinct jargon of their own and it’s not surprising people often miscommunicate—the wonder is that we ever communicate effectively at all!

What it means if we’re writers is that we need to think about what our target audience, our readers prefer. What kinds of metaphors? What style grabs their interest best? With what kinds of characters will they be able to identify? What images will they see? What sounds do they want to hear? What will allow us to connect with them?

If we’re writers, we’re in the business of communication. We want our readers to see and hear and feel and make sense of what we’re writing.

Ultimately, communication is always about creating a connection with the other person and giving them a reason to care about what we’re saying. That’s true if we’re writing and it’s true in every day life as well.

As the workshop I attended pointed out, when it matters most to us, we’re least likely to instinctively connect with someone else because we’re likely to be using the approach that works best and feels, sounds or looks right to us. The key, in any situation that really matters, is to pay attention to how the other person communicates and go from there.

I'm curious to know what YOU think.

Friday, November 02, 2007


A friend sent me an article from the New York Times that got me thinking about censorship. Not other people censoring us as writers but a tendency we may have to censor ourselves.

When I thought about it, I realized how often I’ve heard authors worry about what others will think of their work. I know that when I first started writing I thought in terms of: What will so and so think if I write that? These days I’m more likely to think: I hope so and so isn’t too upset when he/she sees what I wrote!

In other words, I no longer let those fears stop me from writing what I think a given story needs but I am still conscious of the impact it may have.

This isn’t an issue that only applies to writers. One can easily extrapolate it to life itself. How often do we do or not do something because of what someone else might think? How often do we do something and hope so and so won’t be too upset when he/she finds out?

Whether in writing or life, it’s a kind of dance we go through: balancing our place in a community and/or family vs. what our hearts and souls call us to do. Too worried and we never truly write or live. Too unconcerned and we may alienate those we care about.

The key, I think, is to do what we must. To follow our hearts and souls and the path that is uniquely ours—whether in our writing or in our lives. And at the same time to be sure that we express our love to those we care about. We need to be certain we do not disconnect. We can also encourage those we love to do what matters most to them—even if it sometimes makes us uncomfortable. There are ways to say: This matters to me AND I care how you feel. What could we do to work this out? At least then there’s a chance we can all be happier than if we never try.

The longer I live the more I’ve come to believe that none of us can know what the right path is for someone else—not in their writing or in how they live their lives. For each of us, the greatest likelihood of success comes when we follow our dreams and our passions. The stories that come alive are the ones the writer cared about. The people who seem to have doors open for them in their careers are the ones who are doing what they love.

I see that clearly with my daughter. Every time she made an unorthodox choice, it ended up working to her advantage precisely because she made the choice based on what she truly cared about. It paid off getting into Stanford, it paid off with job interviews, and I expect it will continue to do so all her life.

I believe that one reason I was able to have 28 Regencies published is because it’s a genre I loved writing. I always had fun with the stories I created.

So...censorship. It’s a problem when it’s imposed from without; it’s even more devastating when we impose it on ourselves. If we’re writers, we need, at least in that first draft, to write from the deepest core of our own truth. We can go back later and look at it from a more impartial perspective and there may be times we choose to soften or take something out. But if we don’t risk putting it in, in the first place, we won’t have a chance to discover what it is we can truly say. And in our lives, if we don’t risk at least dreaming about the things that could truly make us happy we may never have a chance to find out if they would and perhaps discover a way to keep the people we care about in our lives AND do what matters most to us.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Weather, Lawn Mowers, etc.

The weather has finally turned cooler here in the Austin area. Lows are in the 50s at night and highs in the 70s during the day. It’s a lovely time of year.

My electric lawn mower burned out but so far I’ve managed to do what needs to be done with a string trimmer. In the spring I’ll have to replace the lawn mower but for now I think I’ll be okay.

It’s funny how one’s attitudes seem tied to the weather. When it’s beautiful and sunny like this I want to DO things. I want to get out and exercise and enjoy the sunshine. Just as on rainy days it’s harder for me to wake up and I ant to stay curled up inside.

If you’re a writer, these are the kinds of details that can make a story and the characters feel more real to the reader. Does your character love to go out in the rain or hate it? Does your character love to be out in sunshine or won’t because he or she is terrified of skin cancer?

My electric lawn mower burning out is a nuisance but if you’re a writer, how would YOUR character handle such a challenge? Try to fix it? Cuss and throw things? Borrow a mower? Hire a lawn service? Improvise? No right or wrong answers, just possibilities—to show who your character is and/or create a plot possibility. After all, if she hires a lawn service and the guy who comes out is a hunk.... If he’s frustrated and the cute neighbor knows how to fix the mower.... If when he takes it in to be fixed he overhears something relevant to a terrorist plot..... If it’s the breaking point and your heroine throws up her hands and decides to run away....

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably finished each of those sentences with a story beginning to unfold in your mind. And isn’t that the fun of being a writer? Everywhere you turn there are stories to be discovered.

For me, this is a lovely time of year. A time to celebrate what’s good in my life. It’s a time to reflect on how far I’ve come and how far I still have to go to where I want to be in my life. It’s a time to get outside, do things, and savor this ideal weather for the short time it will last.

Here’s hoping each of you has a wonderful week, too!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Writing Isn't for Cowards

Went to another meeting of the Writers League of Texas last night. The featured speaker was Amanda Eyre Ward who has written Sleep Toward Heaven, How to be Lost, and Forgive Me. She was an engaging speaker and cheerfully answered audience questions.

One of the things she talked about is something so important for new writers to understand: the importance of persistence. This is a woman who wrote a novel about women on death row in Texas. Her latest book involves violence in South Africa during apartheid. Not exactly prepossessing topics. She got turned down by all the major publishers for her first novel. She revised it and it got sent around again. Only one small publisher was interested. But it did get published. And the movie rights have been bought for both of her first two books. She’s a successful novelist.

The point is that she believed in the stories she had to tell. She was willing to do the hard work of revising those stories in profound ways to make them work better. She believed in herself and her stories and didn’t stop until they were right and they sold. She was willing to change agents when the first one gave up.

Being a writer isn’t for cowards. We have to have the courage to be honest with ourselves about our work and to persist despite apparently insurmountable obstacles. We have to throw our hearts into stories not knowing if anyone else will care. Because if we hold back our stories won’t be worth reading.

And if you’re interested in some powerfully emotional stories, check out Amanda Eyre Ward’s books.

Friday, October 12, 2007


It was just about a year ago that my friend was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. She went through surgeries, chemo, radiation, and a year of hell. She’s recovering from the last surgery but there’s no trace of the cancer.

This morning I had my annual mammogram. I don’t like them but I go. Because I know too many wonderful women who have had cancer and I know what a difference an early diagnosis can make.

I made my appointment yesterday. I had the mammogram today. That’s how it was last time, too. And I wonder then why my friend had to wait so many weeks to get hers, a year ago, after she found a large lump.

I know—different cities, different facilities. But it still seems a bitter irony.

Mind you, I still don’t know the cost, I just know that when the bill comes I'll be paying all of it. (I have the kind of insurance where I pay out of pocket a fairly large amount before the deductible kicks in.) I find myself wondering how many women don’t get mammograms because they can’t afford the cost and don’t have insurance that covers it or any insurance at all—either because they can’t afford it or because insurance companies are allowed to refuse to cover people they don’t want to cover.

Anyway, this is a reminder that if you're over 50 (there seems to be some controversy over the value and safety if you're younger) and you've been putting off getting a mammogram, please get one now. Your life and quality of life are worth the time and annoyance and expense.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Life, Emotions, and Writing

What are the predominant emotions in the relationships you have with the main people in your life? What are the conflicts? How are they based in hopes and dreams and fears—yours and the other person’s?

It’s not an idle question. If we understand those hopes and dreams and fears, we can resolve most conflicts—or sidestep them if we choose. Especially if we learn to step back from our own fears long enough to do so.

If we’re writers, well, it’s even more important to be aware of such things. Readers connect to our stories through emotion. That’s true of thrillers and mysteries as well as romance novels.

What do I mean by that? Well, with a thriller, maybe it’s connecting with the emotion of being terrified and the exhilaration of still going on to save the world. With science fiction, it’s often the identification with the sense of being a stranger in a strange land and perhaps rising above challenges as well. With romance, it’s discovering who we are and being loved (not rejected!) anyway. It’s about triumphing over challenges and being the best we are in our own unique way.

What this means is that the quicker the reader is drawn into the emotional lives of the characters and their situation, the more quickly the book becomes a compelling page turner.

This is why two people sitting and chatting usually isn’t helpful—unless whatever they are talking about draws the reader deeply into a compellingly emotional situation.

This is why having to choose between one’s child and another beloved person when there’s only room in the lifeboat for one more in the lifeboat is an instantly compelling situation.

What are the primary emotional tones in your story? How can you highlight them for the reader? What surprise perspective can you bring to a universal emotional challenge?

When I look at my keeper shelf, it’s the emotions I remember from each book even before I begin to remember the characters or the events in the story. I remember the emotions they evoked in me.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Fall Isn't Here Yet

I’m in Texas and fall isn’t here yet. We’re still hitting 90 plus degrees every day. And that seems odd to someone like me who grew up in snow country and has lived in places with snow most of my life. I’m not complaining—just noticing the difference.

It got me thinking that as writers, we can use the differences in climate in our stories. Do you have a character who is in a new place, one where the seasons are very different from what he or she is used to? How does your character react? Do they embrace the change or wish for what they know best?

Using details like this can reveal a great deal about the personality of your character(s) as well as ground the reader in the setting of your story. They also help to make your characters seem more 3 dimensional.

Suppose your character has always lived in this place. Is the weather unusual or is it the norm? Are you careful to let your readers (who might live in very different circumstances) know what the norm is—especially if it might be different than what many or most of your readers might be used to?

Weather isn’t always relevant and I’m definitely NOT suggesting putting in these kinds of details just because you think you should or to boost your word count but...having lived in and traveled to many places I’ve noticed that both weather and terrain can impact the attitudes and behavior patterns of the people who live there. Knowing and using this, where appropriate, can help make your story come more alive.

I love the diversity of weather in the different places I’ve lived. Mind you, I don’t think I want to go back to really cold, snowy winters, but I’m glad I had the experience at some point in my life.

Maybe it’s useful to you and maybe not but it’s worth considering whether weather has any impact on the characters in your stories.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


What patterns do your characters play out? Not just in relationships but in day to day lives? What do they deal with over and over again? And how can you use those patterns to show character growth?

I’ve been thinking about this for a number of reasons and one of them is fire ants. Yes, that’s right, I said fire ants. I live in Texas now and we have fire ants. Last year I successfully dealt with them mound by mound. This year, well, let’s just say I think what I did last year bred resistant strains and that’s what I’m dealing with this year.

I’ve tried what I used last year. They seem to like it and the mounds got bigger. I've tried Borax. They seem to find it tasty.

I went online to see what other people are trying. Got the name of something (Othlene? Amodoro?) several people said works well. We’ll see. I've already ruled out dousing mounds with gasoline and setting them on fire and not just because: a) it sounds like overkill and b) I don't know just where all those tunnels go (including possibly under my house?).

But since I’m reluctant to keep adding toxic chemicals to my lawn, next I’m going to try something else someone at the site suggested: boiling water. The first attempt didn’t go so well so I’m now trying hot SALT water. (Not in the middle of my lawn but where there are bricks and the fire ants are coming up between the bricks and I don’t want any grass growing there anyway...) And if that doesn't work, well, there is that suggestion of scooping a batch of fire ants from one hill and dumping them on a different hill and watching them battle it out...

The interesting thing is that this particular site also said that fire ants help keep down the population of ticks and termites! Well, heck, now I’ve got a real dilemma. I don’t want to be stepping on fire ant mounts in my yard. On the other hand, if I have to choose between fire ants in my yard and termites in my house....well....maybe I don’t want to be quite so aggressive after all.

So how does this relate to writing? Patterns. How do your characters react to situations that arise over and over again? Do they keep doing the same thing? Do they try to figure out different solutions? Does something cause them to change and grow so they naturally handle it differently?

The answers to these kinds of questions help clarify who your characters are and what their (believable) motivations might be. Rather than telling the readers, we as writers can show who our characters are by how they handle challenges in their lives.

I mean, heck, reading the above, you probably get a pretty clear sense that I don’t give up easily. You also probably can tell that I’m willing to reconsider my plan of action when I get new information and that I’m not so single-minded that I don’t consider several aspects of a situation before making decisions. I could have TOLD you all that but...I’m guessing you’re far more likely to believe it and have that clear picture of me by reading what I wrote above.

In the same way, showing how your characters deal with patterns in their lives can help your characters come alive for the readers.

April (off to see how the salt water is doing with those fire ants near the patio door....)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wrap Up of Book In A Week

I know I’ve gotten behind posting here. We’ve been doing Book in a Week on a Beau Monde loop and I try to write along with everyone else. As part of the philosophy of BIAW, the writing comes first! Which means little things like blogging gets pushed back a bit, if necessary.

Now that we’ve ended that challenge, I’ve asked people to think about their experience because Book in a Week isn’t just about writing as many pages as possible. It’s also a way to learn about ourselves as writers.

Some of the questions I usually ask are:

****What made a difference?

****What helped the writing and what got in the way?

****When did the words flow? (Time of day, place, method of writing, and material you were working on)

****When was it hard? (same list)

****How did setting expectations make a difference? (First week I told myself 30 pages a day and wrote over 20 most days. Second week I didn't set such a goal and when I wrote at all it was usual 10 pages or less.)

When we know how and when and where and what we write best, we can work with our natural writing strengths and not fight ourselves to do so in a way that isn’t natural to who we are.

Even if you never do a Book in a Week challenge, it can be useful to ask yourself the above questions and then create a structure and process for yourself that takes into account the answers.

Happy writing, everyone!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

9/11 and Writing

Like many people, yesterday hit me hard. That day is still vivid in my mind.

I know it’s been 6 years but I’m going to post something here I wrote when I was going to give a writing workshop the weekend right after it happened and I wanted to talk about why writing matters even in—maybe especially in—difficult times.



In the light of Tuesday’s tragedy, I have heard people say they do not feel like writing. And I understand that feeling—we are all numb with shock. But we are writers. When we do not write we cut ourselves off from something that is an essential part of who we are.

I know the impulse to say: It’s only writing—it’s not important. That’s often the reason our writing gets pushed aside and given the least priority in our lives. But I would suggest that writing may be one of the most important things we can do right now—not instead of donating blood or giving support or helping in other ways, if we can—but in addition.

We are writers. We can give voice to the pain and horror and fear and grief and courage and strength we are feeling and seeing. As hard as it is, I would suggest we all try to write about this time. I do not think it will be over quickly. And it will be important, later, to have a record of what went on. When children and grandchildren ask: What was it like when the towers came down? It may be the words we write that will provide the answer.

We are writers. When we put pain and grief into words, we help others understand their own pain and grief. When we write about fears, we give shape to what others may only hazily understand and when fear has a concrete shape, we can begin to take steps to guard against what it is we fear.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Life and Writing

A while back, Barbara Samuel (one of my favorite authors) talked about how life and writing are intertwined. I knew then that she was right (it was a fabulous speech!) and every now and then something happens to reinforce the message for me.

That happened this week. I’ve been doing a Book in a Week to try to write a completely new version of Pink Refrigerator. The heroine isn’t me, though she is making a cross country trip alone as I did, but as I’m writing her story and she’s having epiphanies about her life, I’m having epiphanies about mine. There are things I wish I’d been smart enough to realize on my trip the way she is on hers.

If we’re writers, we can’t entirely separate writing and life. And maybe that’s a good thing. It’s out of that profound connection I believe that we are able to write the stories that touch hearts and have a chance to change minds. It’s when that connection is powerful for us, I suspect, that we write the deepest emotion and create the stories that come alive for our readers.

In any event, I found myself thinking this week that even if no one else ever wants to read the Pink Refrigerator, I will be profoundly glad that I took the time to write it!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Book In A Week

Odds are if you’re reading here you know about BIAW. You may have heard me speak, you may have read an article I wrote about it. If you don’t, it’s the philosophy that one of the best gifts we can give ourselves as writers is to take a week and make writing a priority that week.

BIAW is about forgetting the rules and just writing from the heart as much as we can as fast as we can. Not to show off, not because there’s something inherently better about doing so but because by doing this for a week we’re likely to let ourselves take chances we otherwise wouldn’t, to rediscover—or discover—how much fun writing can be, and because we often write the best work of our lives this way—when we aren’t constantly second guessing ourselves. Even better, we can discover how and what and when and where we write best and who supports us—or doesn’t.

I’ve been hosting a BIAW this week for the Regency subchapter of RWA. It’s fascinating to me how the story I’m writing is unfolding. (And it’s not too shabby to see page totals of 30, 36, and 17 pages a day. (I had a dental appointment today and errands to run, too, in the middle of my writing day.)

It’s a great way to try a new project or delve into difficult material—because you know you’re only going to be deep in it for one week. If it doesn’t work out, so what? You’ve only lost a week. How many times, as writers, do we waste far more than that putting off writing because we’re afraid we won’t get it right?

Anyway, I hope that if you’ve heard me speak and haven’t tried BIAW that at some point you will. See it as a chance to play with the writing, a chance to affirm for yourself and everyone around you that the writing matters and is a priority in your life. Oh, and if you’re interested, I do have some information on it on my website with a couple of my handouts. Though if you’ve heard me speak, odds are you have them already.

Happy writing!

Saturday, September 01, 2007


I love that having my daughter in Austin means that I’m changing my routines. I’m doing some things I haven’t done before. I’m creating a new relationship with my daughter since we’ve never lived in the same city before and not been in the same house. I’m looking at what other changes I might want to make.

In a way, though on a much smaller scale, of course, it reminds me of when I drove across country not knowing where I would end up. Change brings new possibilities and that’s exciting.

It’s probably not a coincidence then that I find myself pulling out the idea again of writing about a woman and a pink refrigerator. Only I’m going to approach it in a new way. It may not amount to anything but that’s the great thing about Book in a Week. I’ll take a week (maybe two) and write as much as I can as fast as I can and see where it goes. Maybe now I’m ready to write my story about a woman’s emotional as well as physical journey.

Here’s hoping that each of you has something new and wonderful come into your life this week!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Every morning this week I’ve sat drinking my coffee and looking out at my garden and counted my blessings.

I have a tendency to worry. I have a tendency to see potential drawbacks to opportunities. Hey, I’m a writer—I have a good imagination! But this tendency used to limit me a great deal. Until I realized that if I stopped and reminded myself of all the things good in my life and all the successes I’ve had and all the times things have gone right then I was far more likely to find solutions to problems that did arise and to embrace new opportunities. Plus it just plain felt better.

The good thing about counting my blessings is that it reminds me how some of the scariest changes in my life have turned out for the best. I’m able to be happy for the successes and good fortunes of others and to let go of anger I’d be likely to hold onto if I could only see the challenges in my own life.

I hope that you are able to see the blessings in your life, especially when the challenges seem preeminent. My friend who had the breast cancer was back in surgery yet again yesterday. It’s been a frustrating and scary time for her. She’s holding onto the knowledge of all the people who care about her and all the times she’s beaten health challenges in the past. I’m holding onto that, too.

Wishing all of you lots of blessings and time to stop and count them.

Friday, August 24, 2007

My Daughter is Here

My daughter is here in Austin to start graduate school at the University of Texas. She chose UT over schools like MIT and Berkeley and Princeton and Stanford. Yes, I’m bragging and she won’t be happy about me doing it. The thing is, what I’m most proud of is how she made her choice. She took into account who she is and what she wants to do and how best to do that—regardless of what the rest of the world might think. She has a self-awareness that I wish I had had at her age.

So she’s here and it’s wonderful but it has put me a bit behind on a few things.

How does all of this tie to writing? First, that life happens to all writers and it can put us behind schedule. The more we allow for that as we plan ahead, the better. Second, my daughter has achieved so much success because she didn’t listen to conventional wisdom. Starting in high school, she has followed her heart and made choices based on what she passionately cares about AND used every bit of knowledge and research available to make sure that her choices fit with her long term goals. That’s a good strategy for all of us—including writers.

What we do has a better chance of standing out if we care deeply about what we’re writing. We have the best chance of successful careers as writers if we take into account our long term goals and our personalities as well as the specific nature of a given project when we choose which agents and editors to target with our work. And we’re likely to be happier as well.

When we care passionately about and believe in what we are doing, we will do the work necessary to make it succeed. We will persevere even when we run into roadblocks. We will be able to “sell” our work to others because our faith in it will be unmistakable to them. And we are far more likely to see possibilities that others might not.

So...I’m thrilled my daughter is in Austin. I hope to soon have her boxes out of my “classroom” room in my house and into her apartment. I look forward to spending time with her. And I know she will be a visible reminder to me of the power in going after our dreams.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Writing With Passion

Whenever I teach a workshop I talk about my belief that we need to write with passion. By that I mean we need to care, really care about what we have to say—whether it’s a book, a story, a newspaper article, an essay or anything else. Our best chance to connect with the reader is if we care. And let’s face it, writing can be a difficult career. If we don’t care about what we’re writing it’s a career that could drive us crazy. Somewhere, somehow in the core of everything we write, we need to find something we care passionately about. We need to share the emotions it evokes for us—and for readers, too, when we put into words what they’ve maybe felt but couldn’t articulate.

Last night, at the Writers League of Texas in Austin, Joe O’Connell spoke about his book Evacuation Plan: A Novel from the Hospice. When he accepted a grant to be writer in residence at the hospice, he was looking for research for a mystery he was writing, he told us. Instead he found the stories that make up Evacuation Plan. His emotion, his passion for this material came through in every word he said and afterwards there was a long line of us buying his book.

Now I have to say, I went knowing what he would talk about and not being able to imagine wanting to buy the book. Until he spoke and his passion grabbed me. I knew I would love the writing because of it. It was clear that he cared so much that he saw beyond the obvious and transformed the nuances of what was happening into what he wrote. It became fiction that captured the truth as opposed to the mere reality of his experience.

And that’s what we all can do, if we’re writers—find the passion within us for something in our work that will let us transcend the material to connect directly with our readers and help them feel the experiences about which we are writing. If we can do that, it will be a long time before our readers forget us—if they ever do.


Monday, August 13, 2007

It's Hot Here!

Well, yes, it’s August and I am in Texas so OF COURSE IT’S HOT HERE NOW!

Ahem, sorry about that. And don’t misunderstand: I’d much rather deal with this heat now than snow and ice in the middle of winter. I’m quite comfortable inside with air conditioning in a way that I’m not with heat when it’s cold outside. But....

It does mean I curtail activities outside and running errands, etc. On the other hand, it means I pretty much have to stay focused on the things I need to do inside. Like write. Make my coaching calls. Evaluate manuscripts. Plan for what I want to do next as I wait to hear on a manuscript I have out to an editor who asked to see it.

That’s the difficult part—to decide exactly what I want to do next and I suspect it’s something many writers face. How do you decide what’s right for you to do next?

Of course, in some cases, it’s a no brainer. There’s a book you really, really want to write or you’re at a level in your career where you pretty much can’t not keep doing what you’ve been doing.

But sometimes we’re in a position where we can make choices—about our writing and about our lives. If we write romance novels, that’s a fundamental tenet of our stories—that one can overcome challenges, make changes, grow as a person, be true to ourselves—and yes, find love and someone who will support our dreams.

Many of you know that a few years ago I set off across country not knowing where I would end up and finding a place with a pink refrigerator. If so, you also know that when the time came, I had no hesitation picking up and moving again, this time to Texas where I expect to be for a very long time.

I believe in stopping and asking ourselves, from time to time, if what we’re doing makes us happy and if there are changes we want to make in what we are doing, maybe finding an approach that works better for us, for our lives and for our writing. I believe that asking these questions makes us better writers. Even if we keep writing what we’ve written in the past, it’s good to look for new dimensions to what we’re writing or maybe target new, additional markets or find new ways to promote our work or....whatever it may be.

So as it gets hotter and hotter here, I’m staying inside in the air conditioning and planning out what I do next.

Friday, August 10, 2007

What We Can Learn From Eileen Dreyer's Books

I just finished reading Head Games by Eileen Dreyer. I’ve loved her work ever since I read A Rose For Maggie (written as Kathleen Korbel). A Rose for Maggie is one of the best (if not the best) book I’ve ever read about what it’s like to have a child with Down Syndrome.

What both books have in common are heroines who are very human. Heck, all the characters are human. They have flaws. They struggle with issues in their lives—as we all do. What makes them heroines is that they rise above those flaws. They do not see themselves as rising above their flaws and challenges, but they do. We, as readers, can identify with their fears, their hopes, their EMOTIONS.

Head Games is a tightly plotted book. Even if she had cardboard characters the story would be compelling. The action is nonstop and the stakes incredibly high. What makes it extraordinary, however, is that the characters feel so genuine that one forgets one is reading a story and begins to feel as if it’s all really happening. We want to know Molly Burke and Frank and Winnie and Sasha. Every character is absolutely true to who he or she is.

I believe that as writers we can learn a great deal by reading the best that’s out there. Eileen Dreyer is one of the best writers when it comes to characters. Whether you just want a great read or whether you want to learn how to write better, you can’t go wrong by picking up one of her books.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Fear and Safety

What lets your characters feel safe? What scares them?

These two questions can be the springboard for a credible plot for your book—no matter what you are writing because fear and the desire for safety are two of the most powerful driving forces for most people.

Think about recent political disputes, for example, and the degree of emotion they arouse. Essentially, the deep divide is about fear and the desire to be safe and the disagreement about what choices are most likely to keep us safe.

Safety and fear might revolve primarily around financial safety or physical safety or emotional safety—or al three. What keeps one person safe might cause another to feel distinctly unsafe. And then you have conflict. The deeper the fears, the greater the conflict—whether between individuals, nations, or any opposing groups.

If one understands this, then it becomes possible to create plots with believable conflict and readers will be able to empathize with the characters—even if the character’s fears are not precisely the same as the reader’s fears. In real life, understanding this concept means that one may have a chance of resolving conflicts and doing so in a way that is win-win for both parties.

Hopes and dreams matter, too, of course, but that’s a subject for another posting on another day.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Tips from RWA Dallas on Self-Promotion

I thought I would share with you some of the advice I heard in Dallas at the RWA conference about self-promotion for writers.

1) Whatever you do, do it well or don’t waste your money. Several people commented that book trailers on You Tube are effective—but only if they are well done, preferably with real people.

2) Build personal connections with booksellers and readers.

3) See yourself as part of a team with your publisher and work with them whenever possible.

4) Group blogs can be a way to ensure that there is something new up every day but it isn’t too draining for an individual author.

5) Brand yourself and use it in all promo material you create. Use consistent graphics, fonts, themes, etc.

These are, in a sense, self-evident. I’d go even farther. My own suggestions are:

1) Figure out what works for YOU. What can you imagine having fun doing to promote your work that would energize and not drain you? What are you good at that you enjoy? How much money are you comfortable investing in promotion?

2) No one can or should try to do everything—at least not alone. If you have a team doing much of the work for you, that’s different, but most writers are on a budget and both time and money are limited. Better to do one or two things that really stand out and are unique than to try to mimic everyone else.

3) Think clearly about who your target audience is. What works for booksellers might not be the same as what you want to do for readers. One author’s readers might love what another author’s readers might hate.

4) In the end, we each make choices. We each have our own goals, needs, and talents. I believe that in this as with everything we do, the more fun we’re having, the better we will do whatever it is we are trying to do—including promoting our work. If we absolutely hate it, then what’s the point? There is always another choice we could make that might work just as well that we would enjoy.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007


As you may have noticed, I’ve updated my photo. The one I used for years was taken by my friend, the one who has been fighting breast cancer. I’m hoping that one of these days she’ll be able to take another. Meanwhile, it really did seem way past time that I put up a photo that more accurately shows me as I am now.

Update on my friend. She had the reconstructive surgery on Friday. She’s doing well and will be home perhaps as early as tomorrow and I find myself thinking yet again what a difference a person’s personality makes at times like this.

When we create characters in our books, it isn’t just what happens to them that matters. It is how the characters choose to respond to what happens that matters. This is what readers will care about. This is what will draw the reader into the story and if we have done our jobs well as writers, keep them reading to know more.

I wish all of you the courage and determination to face whatever challenges you may have in your own lives and good friends with whom to share both the good and the difficult moments that come your way.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Views of Life

Another key characteristic for our characters—and for ourselves!—is how they/we view life. Do we assume everything happens for a reason? Do we assume that if one thing goes wrong everything will? Do we assume that everything will go right?

How we and/or our characters look at life determines how we act and react when something goes right or wrong. Knowing this for our characters means that we can add depth to our stories by using that knowledge to create a consistent pattern of behavior for them. And if that pattern changes, then it will signal to the reader that growth has happened. (Yes, we and/or our characters can grow and change our views on life.)

I’ve been thinking about that this week as I watched my friend’s roller coaster ride about her breast cancer reconstructive surgery. First it was scheduled for Tuesday, then they found something on her lung scan and cancelled it and said it was possible the cancer had returned, then they said no, it was just scarring and rescheduled the surgery. For today.

Thank you to those who privately emailed me prayers and good thoughts for my friend. She is a gutsy, determined woman who used to wear bright Hawaiian shirts to doctors visits in the middle of winter when she was fighting Hepatitis C. She will find a way to cope with this, too, and be grateful that it isn’t cancer returning after all—just reconstructive surgery to heal from. I hope you will keep her in your thoughts and prayers again today as she has the surgery.

It’s useful to remember that if our view of life doesn’t serve us well, we can change it and that it IS possible to believe that the best might happen. Useful, too, when creating our characters to think about what they might believe and whether it’s something we might want to help them learn to change—through the power of true love, of course, if we’re writing romance!


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Fear Again

When we write, usually, at some point, our characters must confront one or more of their fears. That is, after all, how someone grows—whether it’s us or our characters.

This week, my friend with breast cancer is having to confront her fears. Again. She was supposed to have reconstructive surgery today. Instead, they found a spot on her lungs when they did the body scan beforehand. It could be nothing. It could be a minor infection. It could be the return of cancer.

My friend has to confront her fears. She has to choose what she will focus on and the steps she will take—first to find out what the spot means and second how she will handle whatever the news may be.

It is by confronting their fears that our characters reveal who they are—and who they can become. It is in confronting fear in our own lives that we discover who we can become as well.

As writers, when we create these scenes in our stories, we have the chance to let others know they are not alone in how they feel and show the range of possibilities for how someone might cope. We can let those who have never faced such fears know what it feels like.

They say that to understand all is to forgive all. By writing our stories and letting readers into worlds they might otherwise not know, we have a chance to let readers understand what they otherwise might not.

I hope you will keep my friend Wanda in your thoughts and prayers. I hope that whatever fears you are confronting in your own lives will turn out better than you thought they could. And if you are a writer, I hope you always know that the stories we tell matter.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Joys of Cyberhood

It started out with an email. One that promised a smile—or at least a lovely ecard. Until I clicked and something started downloading and I turned off my computer because I hadn’t yet had that extra cup of coffee that would have allowed me to wake up enough to realize all I had to do was pull out the DSL plug.

That began the adventure. Turned my computer back on to discover the screen that said Unmountable__Boot__Volume and strings of code. It suggested trying to start in safe mode. 5 attempts later, I had to concede that no matter what I did, I was going to end up at that same appalling screen.

Called my favorite computer guru friend. Heard the scary news it was probably my hard drive. Thanked him and called Dell. Okay, I know people have complained lately about Dell service but I have to say I loved the guy I dealt with. He was patient. He took me through it step by step. He saved my computer! Yes, that’s right, he ran me through what needed to be done and it’s working again. Sort of. For the moment. But with the knowledge that odds are the hard drive is going to go REAL SOON. Seems that when your computer takes a looooong time (30 minutes) to boot up, it could be the hard drive and given today’s problem and a couple of other little things I've noticed....

But for the moment it’s working. I did have critical stuff backed up to a week ago Monday and you can be sure I’m backing up again today. And beginning the computer replacement hunt.

I love Dell computers. Had two in a row and they were wonderful and so was tech support on the rare occasions I needed them. But....Vista. What can I say? I think Microsoft made a big mistake with the way they rolled it out. Maybe in a year it will actually be ready and worth getting There’s Mac but....I dunno.

I’m probably going to regret this, but anyone want to weigh in with opinions on new laptops? (Or, to be more specific, has anyone ever switched to a Mac and then regretted it? Did you feel the extra cost was worth having fewer technical headaches? DID you have fewer technical headaches?)

Meanwhile, at least now you know—without having to go through it yourself—never turn off the computer while the hard drive is going, looooong boot ups could signal hard drive problems and ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR STUFF!

(Okay, so I actually learned that last rule years ago when I was frantically rewriting a manuscript to meet a deadline and at the last minute (two days before we were leaving on a trip to Hawaii) my computer scrambled the floppy that held the manuscript and I had to retype it from the most recent hardcopy!)

April (Thinking I really should have laid in that whiskey after my adventures in Demented Parenting but who knew I’d need it so soon?)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Top Ten Favorite Things About the RWA Conference in Dallas

Here are my ten favorite things about the RWA Conference in:

10) Getting to dress up—including wearing one of my Regency gowns for the Beau Monde soiree.
9) Great parties and a memorable dinner at the Cadillac Bar in Dallas.
8) Finding lots of wonderful books to bring home.
7) Seeing people I like win awards.
6) Making new friends.
5) Seeing old friends.
4) Getting information I know will be useful to my coaching clients.
3) Getting useful information for myself.
2) Hearing good news from booksellers and editors about the state of the market for romance novels.
1) Giving workshops (and doing some impromptu coaching)—and therefore being able to maybe make a difference in someone’s life and/or career.

Something else very special happened. We all got to see Vivian Stephens--the lovely, gracious woman who founded RWA. There wasn't a one of us, I think, who didn't tear up knowing that by founding RWA Vivian Stephens made all of our lives richer. I cannot imagine not having the friends I've met through RWA. I wrote for years before I met another author and I know how much better and easier my life as a writer got once I did. We owe Vivian Stephens--and the other founding members of RWA--a profound debt of gratitude.

I love RWA conferences. The energy there is always amazing and I always meet wonderful people. Thank you to everyone who was kind to me, forgave me when I was brain dead and forgot or mispoke a name, shared with me stories of their first sales, and let me be part of THEIR conference experience. And special thanks to Emily McKay--a very talented writer!--who moderated my workshop on Friday afternoon (Make Every Minute Count).

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Demented Parenting vs. Writing

How writing is like parenting—especially the kind I’ve just been dealing with:

1) Years of work (often with no pay) with no guarantee how it will turn out and even if we like the results, there’s no guarantee anyone else will.

2) Lots of time spent praying—for inspiration, patience, survival (ours or theirs), etc.

3) Need to be creative.

4) Just because we’ve given birth to them (child or characters in a story) doesn’t mean they will always do what we say.

5) A sense of humor is essential.

6) Occasions when just chucking it all looks like a good idea.

7) An ability to roll with the punches is essential.

8) Our creations (children or stories) can surprise us in unexpected ways—some of them truly wonderful.

9) Lots of sleepless nights.

10) Immense frustration at times and immense joy.

11) We need to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves about what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong.

12) We need to be open to learning new ways of doing things and to feedback.

13) We need to trust our instincts.

14) We’re all doing the best we can—hoping that we and our creations make it and are successful.

15) Sometimes feeling desperate for adult conversation instead of only interacting with our creations.

16) Did I mention there will be lots of prayers and sleepless nights?

Well, that should be the end of the Demented Parenting Monologues—at least for the moment.

Now to get ready for my workshops at the Beau Monde and RWA Conferences!


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Further Adventures in Demented Parenting

I have this tendency to laugh hysterically when someone who isn’t a writer speculates about how glamorous a writer’s life must be. (Terri Brisbin does a wonderful riff on this!) For those following such things, my saga of demented parenting continues this week with:

Discover there are not one but two phones that need to be hidden after 10 o’clock at night. Discover ex-husband (on a cruise in Alaska with girlfriend) forgot to tell me at least one callee is up in arms about late calls. Wonder what else ex-husband has forgotten to mention about this house and situation where I no longer live.

Continue morning tug of war and sitting on blankets in the morning to get son out of bed.

Someone mentions that Tylenol pm has knocked son out in the past so he slept. Run to store at 10pm to try to get some. Discover many stores closed by then. Cuss furiously as I race from store to store thinking it’s a good thing I haven’t been drinking just in case I get pulled over. Get to store and discover Tylenol pm contains same ingredient as Benadryl which hasn’t worked. Buy anyway hoping stuff at home is just too old and new stuff will work. Think desperately about stopping and buying that whiskey but manage to stay strong and just head home. Discover two hours later that nope, it doesn’t knock out son. Am tempted to take some so I can sleep.

Need to get research done. MUST get research done. Throw son in car when he misses bus by 5 minutes next morning. Vow it’s never happening again and only today because I MUST get to the library and it’s across the street from son’s program. Drop him off, do research, race to meet fellow writer, then race home to be there before son arrives and decides to do “experiments” or rearrange the house—again. Realize forgot to go to store to pick up something to fix for dinner. Decide maybe fast food isn’t a mortal sin once in a while especially if can thereby get son to eat by 7pm instead of 9 pm—or later.

We writers must cope with everything everyone else does. The good thing is, of course, that as writers we’re never alone even when we’re stuck home with our kids. There are all those pesky characters clamoring for their stories to be told. We can’t get bored, even if things are so crazy we can’t get a chance to read a book. (Hey, there’s a reason our TBR—to be read—piles sometimes hit the ceiling!) After all, even if we can’t read, we can make up stories in our heads.

We know how to create heroes and heroines, too. Odds are we know about danger and taking risks—even if it is just leaping tall piles of dirty laundry to dive and snatch something out of our children’s hands at the last possible moment. Or we’ve raced through streets to get someone we care about where they need to be in the nick of time (despite their best efforts to delay us). We know about the hard choices people sometimes have to make. We know that sometimes even when we love someone we have to walk away. We know that there aren’t always simple answers to things—no matter how much we wish there were.

Most people know these things. If we’re writers, the difference is that we have a compulsion to put things down on paper and share them with others. We write because we must. We write knowing that stories are what bind people to together. We write because we know what a difference it makes to open a book and read about someone facing the same kind of challenges we have in our own lives or who feels the same emotions so that we know we are not alone.

Whoops! Time to go leap some more tall piles of laundry!


Sunday, July 01, 2007

Adventures in Demented Parenting

Life happens. It even happens to us writers—much as we wish we could just focus on the words and stories we’re creating.

Not only does life happen, but kids (even adult ones) can really happen to us! Here are some brief snippets of what my week has been like:

Up at 5 am, getting to the airport and discovering all flights delayed, sweet talking a gate agent to rebook me on an earlier (still delayed) flight, sprinting through an airport so that I can make my connection with 2 minutes to spare, luggage arriving at midnight, sitting on a pile of blankets at 9 in the morning so my son (Down syndrome) can’t go back to bed and has to get ready for his program, thinking that maybe it’s a good thing there’s no whiskey in the house because drinking this early in the morning probably wouldn’t be a good idea.....

By the second day, whiskey at 9:30am isn’t looking like such a bad idea.

By Saturday I’m hiding the phone so that he can’t make phone calls to God only knows who at 1 o’clock in the morning!

Life happens. As writers, it can be difficult to find ways to carve out the time we need to write. And yet, if we don’t, we lose part of ourselves and our ability to cope with the challenges in our lives.

As writers, we’re lucky. I can put down in words my frustration. I can envision fanciful scenarios that get me laughing and able to rethink how to deal with my son. Heck, just the practice envisioning such scenarios means I’ve honed my creative muscles and just might think of a solution that will work—at least temporarily—with my son.

As writers, we’re also used to putting ourselves in our character’s skin. Which is useful for being able to imagine what might be motivating the person (in this case my son) giving us a hard time. Once we do that, we have a chance to begin to figure out solutions to difficult situations.

If all else fails, we sometimes get great material to some day work into a story!

Mind you, I still plan to hide the phone again tonight and I keep thinking about buying that bottle of whiskey.....


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Writer's League of Texas

I’d been hearing about the WLT even outside of Texas. People at the East of Eden conference in Salinas, CA last fall asked me if I belonged. I kept thinking I should join but never got around to it until last month.

I’ve been to two meetings now and listened to some very talented writers read from their work—contest winners and published authors. I talked to other writers sitting in the audience. One of them asked me why, if I have so many published books, I would need a writer’s organization at all.

Maybe it’s because I wrote my first 16 books in isolation. I didn’t know any other published authors. I sure as heck didn’t know anything about the business! I didn’t know anyone who would really understand when I talked about my characters arguing with me and refusing to do what they were told.

I learned so much when I joined Romance Writers of America in (I think) 1994. Got an agent for the very first time—the terrific Linda Kruger who retired a couple of years ago. (I have to admit I haven’t worked very hard to replace her yet but I know that I should.) I learned so much about the business that I had never known and I've made wonderful friends.

In the years since then, I’ve found myself speaking to non-romance writing groups as well—horror/sf writers, mystery writers, and general writing groups. What I’ve found is that each has its own distinctive feel. Each has a somewhat different perspective on the world of publishing. And yet ultimately we all share the same hopes and dreams and fears.

There are no magic short cuts. There are no secret handshakes. There are no 100% guarantees a given project will be bought by NY. I’ve heard it said that if we can stop writing we should. The problem is, of course, that we can’t. If we’re writers, we’re writers and we’ll write no matter what. If we’re writers, we have stories to tell, wisdom or ideas to share, a need to communicate through the written word. And the world needs those stories, that wisdom, those ideas.

All of which is my way of saying that I’m glad I finally joined the Writer’s League of Texas.


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day 2007

I just finished reading Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. It works on many levels—as all her books do. One aspect of it, though, struck me in light of this being Father’s Day.

One of the ideas in this book is that a family can love and believe in someone even if they act like jerks toward that person. I found myself thinking what a powerful idea that is.

Many of us had less than ideal families who treated us in less than ideal ways—including perhaps our fathers. And there is a part of each of us for whom that is true that wants to believe we are loved and that our families do believe in us—whatever the apparent evidence to the contrary.

And that’s what makes a book “work.” It’s the emotional points of connection, the moments when we feel as strong a tug to our heartstrings as the characters feel to theirs. It’s when we KNOW how the characters feel because a part of us feels the same.

This is true even of hard thrillers. The emotion may be less explicitly on the page but it’s there. It’s implicit in the: What if I could be the one who saves the world? What if my life was at stake? What if I had to choose between power and wealth and the principles I believe in?

When I read a book about a loving father, it always gets to me because I wish I’d had one. When I read about a father like mine, I find myself nodding with understanding over what the son or daughter feels. And it’s always a point of emotional connection for me.

One of the reasons I loved books growing up is that because in books I could see how fathers might be. And it let me believe that not all men would be like my father. I could find role models for how to love that I didn’t see at home. It’s why I think I became a writer—because I know how important the stories we tell might be to the right person who reads it. It’s why I celebrate the success of every writer—not just my own. All our stories matter.

Happy Father’s Day to everyone who has a reason to celebrate it today. A silent toast to those of us who do not.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Writer's Block

This is a topic I’m seeing on a couple of loops I’m on. And I think it’s important to talk about it.

Every writer I know worries, to some degree, with every book they write. We care about the stories we tell—sometimes too much. We worry that it won’t be good enough or that it won’t matter in the way that we want it to matter. If our last book didn’t have the numbers we want, we worry our books never will. If our books got great reviews or sales or nominated for an award, we may worry that we’ll never be able to do it again. If we worry enough, we get paralyzed and that’s writer’s block.

Writer’s block is one of the big things that can bring a writer to me for life coaching—that or the desire to have me evaluate a manuscript so they can know if they’re on target or not.

I give workshops on Book in a Week as a way to write better and faster, yes, but really as a way to out run the fear so many of us deal with at some point in our writing careers.

I believe that when we are having fun we do whatever we’re doing better and with less fear. Often when I coach someone I spend a fair amount of time on how to make writing more fun and how to build self-confidence. Some of the things I suggest for everyone:

1) Make a list of every success in your life. In a sense, this is your list of reasons to believe in yourself.
2) Make a list of things that make you smile and do at least three things from that list every day.
3) Make a list of why your writing matters to you—what you love about your work and what you value—so that you remember why you WANT to write.
4) Try writing in short burst where you don’t let yourself second guess what you write—that can come later when you’re doing revisions. Odds are your muse or subconscious knows things it isn’t telling you and it will be okay.
5) If you’re really stuck, stop and do something fun and creative. Odds are that will jump start your muse and you’ll see the solution to the problem or what to write next.
6) Play around with something you write just for yourself so that you can tap back into that joy that got you started writing in the first place.

And if all else fails, close your eyes and remember playing make believe as a child. That’s what we’re still doing as writers—we’re just putting it down on paper (or into the computer) too.


Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Fruit Tree

Some of you have been with me since I was sending email as I went across country. Some of you have been reading since I began this blog as I drove to Texas to my new home here. If so, you remember my uncertainty, my hopes, my adventures finding secondhand furniture. This week I learned something new about my home. There is a fruit tree in the back yard.

Now I can only assume it produces fruit every other year because it definitely did not do so last year. Nor do I know what kind of fruit tree it is though it looks as if it might be apricots or peaches.

I’ve always wanted a fruit tree in my back yard. Thought about planting one but the information said that two were required to actually produce fruit. So you can imagine my confusion when I saw the green fruit appearing on my one little tree. Then yesterday I noticed that there is a huge, extremely prolific (far more so than mine!) peach tree in a yard nearby. So maybe that’s where the cross pollination came from. If so, I’m grateful.

Discovering this week that I have a fruit tree in my back yard seemed one more indication that this is indeed the right house for me.

Here’s hoping that all of you are in the homes that are right for you.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day and Heroes

I’m a sucker for heroes, I always have been. I want to believe there are people who will right wrongs and protect those who can’t protect themselves. I want to believe in people who will fight for what’s right—even if it means putting their lives at stake.

This is Memorial Day weekend. A time to remember and honor people who have served in the military and perhaps even gave their lives for our country.

I wish we didn’t have wars. I wish every weapon on earth could be dismantled. My heart goes out to all whose lives are torn apart by war. And I wish that people could see beyond their own fears to talk and work things out another way. I even know there are flawed individuals who have done horrible deeds while wearing a uniform.

But that does not stop me from honoring those who serve hoping to help, wanting to protect, who may have to face their deepest fears each time they go out on duty, and who sacrifice so much for their country. These are the men and women I remember and salute on Memorial Day.

As I said, I’ve always been a sucker for heroes.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

My Friend is Cured!

Those of you reading my blog for a while now know that I have a friend who was diagnosed with very aggressive breast cancer last fall. Yesterday she was pronounced cured.

Oh, we know. She’ll need to be monitored closely for a while. And “cure” is a tricky word when it comes to cancer. Nonetheless, anyone who has ever battled cancer or had a loved one who did knows what a relief yesterday’s verdict was. And what a relief it is for my friend to be finishing up her treatment—radiation and chemotherapy. By the time I see her late in June she swears she’ll be her old self again—at least in terms of energy.

They say that attitude makes a huge difference with any illness. That’s something I deeply believe. And she’s a fighter. She fought Hepatitis C and won that battle, too. It’s been years since they could find any trace of it in her system. Now she’s won this battle as well.

I think part of it is that she’s got a lot to live for. She has good friends and children she loves and a husband who is loving and supportive. She wants to see what the future holds—for all of them and for herself.

And that’s the key for all of us, I think. To be fully engaged in life, to know how to laugh and find joy and care deeply about others around us. If we do these things then every moment matters and we are most likely to have the resilience we need to cope if something like cancer comes into our lives.

I know that I’ll be celebrating tonight and looking forward to seeing my friend and laughing with her again in a month or so. Thank you everyone who told me here or privately that they were praying for my friend. She has said more than once that she felt the power of all the prayers being said for her by so many wonderful people.


Saturday, May 19, 2007


I read something interesting yesterday. It was about a study that said it was better for a woman’s health to do housework than to work out at a gym.

Now my first reaction is to ask: What’s the gender AND the agenda of the person(s) doing the study?

I’m also somewhat skeptical. On the other hand, I can sort of see how it might be true. I’ve been making it a point to walk every day for some time now. And I thought I was doing pretty well in terms of keeping in shape. But then I climbed to the top of a hill with my daughter—and got way more winded than I liked. And I decided to start mowing my own lawn this year. (I’d hired a service last year because I didn’t think I could manage the heat.) Well, first time out I thought I’d about die. Took me an hour to mow the front and an hour to mow the back. Now it takes me half an hour for each. I still mow half one day and the other half a different day because otherwise I get too hot but....I can tell the difference and it’s in me not my lawn!

So I can sort of see that all the different actions one does with housework might be really good exercise—if one does enough of it! And that’s the kicker. The study cited 17 hours of housework a week. It does not say that women who went to the gym were spending 17 hours at the gym!

At any rate, it means there is one more option for staying fit.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mothers Day

Mothers Day is coming up—with all the attendant commercialism and praising of mothers. For those of us who have lost our mothers and/or whose mothers weren't the world’s best this can be a difficult holiday. It’s difficult also for mothers who have lost children (in any sense of the word).

For writers, the word mother is rich with possibility. We see all the ways mothers impact their children—and vice versa. We understand that without knowing the mother we cannot fully understand the child—and vice versa.

In writing as in life, this connection is one of the most powerful we will ever know. In life as in writing, there is power in learning to honor the good while blessing and releasing what is/was less than perfect—and in knowing that all relationships have the potential to change and grow—even that between mother and child.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

My Haunted Toilet

My Haunted Toilet

Okay, so I’m pretty handy around the house. I can fix a lot of things. I understand how to spot problems and deal with them. But now I’ve got this demon/haunted toilet....

It worked fine. Until it broke in the middle of a writing workshop I was giving at my house. Several days, some new tools and parts and it was fixed. I thought. Until yesterday. I had a friend over. She mentioned that it kept gurgling. (Did I mention this was my guest bathroom?) I kept removing the tank top and fiddling with things trying to spot the problem. Everything LOOKS fine but it isn’t. Suddenly, a tube pops free and starts spraying all over the bathroom AND ME. AND sprayed all over some things my friend had set on the counter top next to the toilet!

I managed to slap the tube back into place, fiddle with it so the toilet stopped running, but my friend and I decided that she would just use mine if she needed to until she left.

I swear the blasted thing is haunted! And I STILL don’t know what’s wrong with it. But I’m going to figure it out—I swear I will. Even if I have to conduct an exorcism over it!

April (warily eyeing the thing and wondering if I should put on a plastic raincoat before I tackle the darned thing again....)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Lights in the World

As I wrote after 9/11 (on my website), when horror happens, as it did last week at Virginia Tech, I believe that we as individuals and especially as writers can make a difference. We can be lights in the world.

As writers: We can help give voice to the deepest pain. We can help people feel connected. We can provide what may be deeply needed diversion in moments when life might otherwise feel overwhelming.

As writers: We can remind the world that in the midst of tragedy there is also heroism and kindness and love and a desire to help others. We can help to shine a spotlight on the depths of despair some people feel--and why.

Each day we get to choose who we will be—as people and as writers. Each day we get to choose: Do we sleepwalk through our lives or do we really go after the things that matter most to us? Do we reach out to others, do we live our lives with honor and integrity—or do we choose to focus only on ourselves?

May we each choose to add to the love in the world, to see the best in each person we meet and encourage them to live up to that best. May we recognize that we are all far more alike than we are different—no matter what the superficial differences may be. May we each choose to be a light in the world and by doing so help to shape, help to create the kind of world in which we want to live.


Monday, April 16, 2007


I love history. I love all the unexpected bits of information. I love discovering the patterns of centuries—how end of and beginning of centuries brings lots of new ideas and change. How the middle of a century people seem more likely to resist change. How even clothing silhouettes (Western world anyway) have a pattern—one based on century cycles (usually narrower around the turn of the century, wider near the middle).

I love coming across tidbits of information. Discovering that Cincinnati in the early 19th century had a law that one had to throw garbage in the middle of the street (not to the sides) so the pigs could come and carry it off—otherwise one could be fined. Or that tea on a riverboat might include hung beef chipped up raw. I love reading about historical figures who defied the conventions of their day and I love reading about those who found a place within those conventions.

I love discovering that ideas we think are new were often written and spoken about centuries ago.

As someone who heard people say, far too often, when I was growing up that women couldn’t do math (I didn’t listen of course!), I love discovering that a woman’s magazine in England in the early 19th century contained math puzzles.

Whenever I read about the past, I can’t help spinning in my mind stories of what it must have been like to live in that time period. Which is, of course, one reason why I’m a writer.

Anyone care to share some of their favorite historical tidbits?


Monday, April 09, 2007

Strange Weather and Perspective

It was a strange weekend almost everywhere in the US in terms of weather. There was sleet and even snow in places that normally are in the 70s and 80s at this time of year. The weather wiped out lots of outdoor activities and required adjustments in others.

It would be easy to see only the drawbacks of this weather here on Easter Sunday. Instead, I found myself thinking what a difference perspective makes. Had I still been living in New Jersey, I would have been moaning over the gray skies and rain and sleet and wondering if spring would ever come. Because I was here instead, where we’ve had a drought the past couple of years and because I remember so vividly last August when it was over 100 every day except the two when the high only hit 99, I found myself grateful for the rain, knowing how much it is needed. I found myself trusting that the sun would soon be back out and the warmth back in the air.

I mention all of this because writing is a crazy business and it’s easy to focus on all the things could or are going wrong. What if we, as writers, instead focused on what was right about being writers? What if we focused on the joy of creating our stories, the opportunity to reach hearts and minds, the chance to try new things when one line closes—the one that perhaps we had pinned our hopes upon?

What if we extended that to our every day lives? What if each day we looked for what was good and could make us smile and feel grateful? What if we allowed ourselves to find moments of joy even on days that seem bleak? What if we looked for the possibilities in each new challenge?

Spring is a time of rebirth. For ourselves, what if each spring we looked at this as a time to recreate our lives anew? What if we looked at it as a time to let go of old assumptions—about ourselves, the world, what is and isn’t possible, and the stories we can tell and how we can tell them?

It is useful, I believe, for each of us to have a list of our strengths and a list of all the past successes in our lives. These lists are reminders of the tools we have to draw upon to make changes, to reach for our goals, and reasons to believe we can succeed. And study after study proves that our expectations have the power to determine our future.

The rain and sleet and cold here this past weekend were a reminder to me that even when the weather seems fine, there can suddenly be a burst of uncomfortable days—but even that discomfort may serve a useful purpose. It also reminded me that when the weather is horrible it is an opportunity to creatively find new ways to do what I want to do or to find something else to do that I might enjoy just as much.

Writing and life—as Barbara Samuels said in a speech a few years ago—these are inextricably entwined for those of us who are writers. Wishing all of you faith in yourselves and moments of joy every day—both in life and (if you are writers) in your writing.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Writing/Not Writing Every Day

I’ve heard the saying: You’re not a real writer unless you write every day.

I laugh whenever I hear it. I’m not sure there has ever been a time in my life when I could count on writing every week much less every day. The thing is, I always met my deadlines. I always got the writing done on time—just not by writing every day.

I mention this because as you’ll notice there’s been a gap between my last post and this one. Life happened. A family crisis came up and that took precedence over posting here.

So what can we do when life happens? For me, a key is always to have a notebook handy. Even when I can’t get to the computer to write, I can brainstorm ideas, flesh out characters or plot, make notes about a project. Sometimes I can write bits and pieces in longhand. If I can’t concentrate to write, I may be able to read—and analyze what I’m reading for what works and what doesn’t.

I don’t stop being a writer when I can’t write—the process just changes for a bit. Often when I go back to the actual writing the time away means that I sit down and write with renewed energy and ideas. Key to the success of this is that I’ve learned to make notes for myself each day that I do write as to what I need to write next. That means that if a crisis of any kind arises unexpectedly, when I do get the chance to sit down and write, I can look at my notes and dive in—rather than needing to reread everything to figure out what comes next.

So...the ideal if one is a writer is to write every day. The reality is that we find ways to write if it matters to us but not necessarily every day and the process will be different for each of us. The key is to know what works for YOU.


PS I wanted to thank Gaelen Foley for mentioning me in the dedication to her latest book HER ONLY DESIRE. It's a fabulous book, of course, and she's a real sweetheart.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Dental Work ::SHUDDER::

I hate dental work. Well, who doesn’t? Can’t avoid it though. If you need a filling you need a filling. And I did. Was told I did a month ago--and that it would cost $258! Talk about adding insult to injury.

At the time, I blanched and then arranged an appointment for yesterday. That would give me time, I said, to check out dental discount cards. I knew, you see, that dental insurance wouldn’t work. The best rate I could get, even as a member of a writers group was around $80 a month, it would pay only half “accepted rates” and there was a waiting period for any major work.

I’d looked into dental discount cards before but wondered if they could really be worth it. My dentist’s office mentioned Ameriplan. I looked into it and it didn’t look bad at $12 or $13 a month but I looked a little more and settled on Aetna’s dental discount card at $6 a month plus a $15 sign up fee.

What did it save me? Well, the charge yesterday was $120 so I save $138 and there was no waiting period to use it! I’m thrilled—especially since it will also save me money when I get my teeth cleaned in six months.

As for the dental work itself, I was really nervous. I have sensitive teeth. I can’t tell you the number of times dentists couldn’t get a tooth numb no matter how many shots of Novocain they gave me! And since I hadn’t had work done by this dentist before I didn’t know what to expect. I have to say I was thrilled with Dr. Pham at Castle Dental. He was quick, he was nice, and I had very little discomfort.

All in all, it could have been sooooo much worse!

Anyway, if you don’t have dental insurance and want something that helps, you might want to look into dental discount cards. I like the Aetna card and I was lucky that my dentist participates. That's one thing to watch out for--make sure your dentist takes whichever card you want to get. There is a website, that offers lots of different cards. There the Aetna card would have been $100 for 15 months. Also be aware that it can take a week to two weeks to actually get the cards once you sign up online though seems to say you can use them sooner. (I signed up at Aetna's own site and it took about a week to get the card.)


Monday, March 12, 2007


What a great group at the Florida First Coast Writers are! I had a wonderful time presenting my Book in a Week all day workshop there on Saturday. Met wonderful women and felt as if I’d made wonderful new friends. I love giving workshops!

Mind you, the time change on Sunday did make traveling back to Texas....interesting. People who had missed earlier flights had to be rebooked onto flights later in the day so flights were pretty full. I did meet interesting people and had some lovely conversations, especially with a woman named Fran from Florida who was heading to Dallas and then Lake Tahoe.

The more I travel, the more I realize how we are all part of one human family. We all have hopes and dreams, we all have that which scares us. Details may differ, but we are all more alike than we are different and everywhere we go we will find potential friends.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Most Important Part of Writing

When I give workshops, I’m sometimes asked: What matters most in writing? What will help a writer sell?

It’s the emotional and/or intellectual pay-off that we offer writers. By that, I mean do we give readers a reason to care? Will they laugh or cry and feel a strong connection to the story? Do we give our readers something to think about? Do we offer some new idea or insight or way to approach a situation or challenge?

If we do none of these things, then it doesn’t matter how technically perfect our writing may be, the odds are we won’t sell or if we do that readers won’t keep looking for our books.

Think about the last book you read that you love. What is it you remember? What makes you want to read it all over again? Do you see what I mean about emotional and/or intellectual pay-off?

Don’t get me wrong. I love research. I love coming up with interesting plots. It’s how we put it all together that matters. And making our characters so real that readers feel an emotional resonance with them. Or maybe our book will focus on an idea so fascinating that it’s the star rather than the characters. We hit the jackpot if both are true.

If you have a manuscript and it's not selling, maybe ask yourself what the emotional and/or intellectual pay-off is for the reader. If there isn't one, that may be your problem. If there is a solid pay-off, then odds are you're targeting the wrong market or you may need to wait a bit for the market to want what you've written.

Isn’t writing a great career?

Until next time,

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Joe Vitale and the Secret

So there I was at a presentation being given by Joe Vitale on the missing part of the Secret. Now, most of the people there knew him because of his connection with the Secret. After all, this was a World Wellness event. But I had heard of him long before that in connection with marketing. I found myself trying to reconcile the two images—altruistic believer in infinite possibilities and wanting to help others manifest abundance in their own lives versus ultimate marketer.

The thing is maybe there isn’t a contradiction. The basis of his marketing advice, after all, is to offer a product people WANT. And then he talks about ways to get the message out that you have it. With the Secret, he talks about what we focus on coming into our lives. So...if all we care about is being greedy for money, we’ll bring selfish, greedy people into our lives who want to take from us. But if we focus on how we can provide something that will make others happier or wealthier or in some other way offer a true benefit, then we will draw into our lives wealth, happiness, etc.

How does this apply to us as writers? Well, if when we write we don’t think about what readers want from our books, we aren’t likely to be able to sell our manuscripts. If we only think about how we can make money from our writing, that’s likely to backfire, too. On the other hand, if we think about what would bring real pleasure, real value to our readers, then it’s a win/win situation.

Here's another point. If we focus on what we don’t like about the publishing world, well, that’s what we’ll see. If we focus instead on how we can bring value to the process and how we can use it to bring value to readers, well, again, it’s far more likely to bring us success. Where do we want to put our energy? On railing against what we don’t like or in getting to where we want to be?

The other thing about Joe Vitale’s talk is that he spoke about how our unconscious assumptions can get in the way of having what we want. What comes to mind when you think of great writers? Are there parts of that image that you don't like? Change/rewrite it! (Julia Cameron did a great workshop on this at RWA national one year.) If we clean out the crap we can get out of our own way and be far more likely to succeed.

It was a thought provoking talk. What if we do have the power to achieve the success we want and it’s in our hands? What if we can best achieve that success by focusing on bring value to our readers and letting go of expectations and assumptions that don’t serve us very well?

It wouldn’t hurt, either, I think to adopt one of the keys to Joe Vitale’s marketing strategies—working with others to achieve mutual success rather than seeing everyone as a competitor or an obstacle. What if instead of complaining when someone doesn’t do what we want, we were to ask ourselves what we could do that would make helping us something the other person WANTS to do? Brow beating people never works and neither does lecturing them. So...can we alter our attitude or our product or offer something the other person would genuinely value?

In other words, it always comes back to us—whether with the Law of Attraction in the Secret or in marketing. How can we change rather than (pointlessly!) trying to change other people?