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 but....now? 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.....