Thursday, December 27, 2012

Your 2013 Agenda?

Oh no!

It's that time of year again.

That time of year when you sit down and crack open a new calendar, or a new daily planner, and begin the process of planning out the new year.

I've never been good at "new year's resolutions." Probably because I always tend to think those resolutions need to be BIG and life changing. Maybe that doesn't have to be the case.

This year I'm going for small and consistent.  Saying I'm going to write at least one page every day is much less daunting on my daily schedule than writing in big bold numbers five thousand words a day...that's way too scary for me to see first thing in the morning!

I've got a few small goals I'd like to achieve, like walking a mile every day and taming some of my pack-rat ways by tossing out unnecessary papers.

I've also got some pretty big goals that I KNOW aren't going to happen if I don't pay attention to them every day, but I've made the decision to put them on my agenda in a way that I can work with. No big bold letters at the top that increase my stress and guilt - but more breaking them down into smaller bite-size chunks.

Rome wasn't built in a day, novels don't get written in a day either.

Over the next few days as I put up my new calendars and start writing my goals and my daily schedules for the coming months, I plan to keep a few things in mind:

(1) The most important things to me get on the calendar first - which means anything relating to my family takes top billing.

(2) I've figured out how long the books I've got planned for this year will be and I've broken them down into small (very achievable) chunks to be put on my agenda (if I do more, then I'm ahead of the game and that's a WIN!)

(3) At the bottom of every day on my agenda I've got two lists - a "must-do" task list and a "bonus" list - both these lists keep me accountable for the daily chores and the extra feel-good achievements that are personal to me.

Whether you do resolutions or goals for the coming year, I think at least having a plan of action is a good start. What's your plan of attack as we get ready to ring in 2013?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Year...

Taking this entire thought a step farther... I was listening to a youtube video made by a young group who questioned, "how do you know you're in love?" The video brought up a good point... it's not that feeling, but the choice TO love someone even when they aren't at their best. yadda, yadda, yadda.

All that aside...

It made me think, where is the Happily Ever After?

I love romance because of the HEA. That's what I want in a story. But really, I want all of it...I can't just read the last few pages and feel satisfied. I want all of the YUCK that comes before it. The fights, the anger, the uncertainty...

To me, that's the happily ever after. The HEA actually starts at the meeting of two people. Let's face it. We all know that there will be hundreds of HEAs in a lifetime, even between the same two people! Because we will always be thrown a loop or curveball. Life is full of ups and downs.

That's what I want to read. Everything that makes life interesting. :D

All THAT being said...

Writing is such an exciting adventure. I've had a great year. My writing has flourirshed [Oooh, how prosey of me]. It's had good moments and bad ones. But, I'm looking forward to the new year.

What about you? You excited about things to come? Or still looking back with regret?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Holidays Make Zombies

I'm certain of this. As we run around like mad men and women trying to get our hands on the gifts of the moment, we sometimes end up forgoing sleep. As I have lil zombies of my own, who were blessed enough to come into the world a week prior to Christmas, this creates a more harried and sleepless month. Add to that the fact that a bunch of us here in PC-land just plowed through NaNoWriMo and that we are nearing the end of the world (if you believe in all that stuff) and well... you can begin to see why zombie-ism is at an all time high. The pieces start to click and a peppermint martini becomes a necessity either hasten the zombie epidemic or to keep it at bay (really all in how you look at it).

Somewhere along the way, I think we've managed to lose the real spirit of the season. The holiday season was always about spending time with family and friends. It was about tradition. That was how we grew up. I'm thankful for those traditions because while the rest of the month may fly by with me feeling like I belong as an extra in the Walking Dead, things like my family's Christmas Eve Open House allow me the chance to breathe. To remember and appreciate what the holidays really mean. It's not the gifts (though finding that perfect gift that makes someone's eyes light up is quite thrilling). It's not the fat man in the red suit (though my Santa is a hot shirtless man in the red pants and boots). It's not the fight on Black Friday to beat out the little old lady for the last iPod on the shelf.

If I learned nothing over the years of my bah-humbug grinchiness, it is that zombie or not, the holidays should not be filled with stress. We need to focus on the more important aspects of the holiday. Spend some time with family and friends. Maybe forget the gifts and invite your best friend and husband over for dinner. It doesn't have to be fancy or over the top. It's the company, the togetherness, and the sense that we just aren't going through the motions that is important. That being said, I'm going to get busy doing just that (and I'm going to do it now before the apocalypse comes and we are fighting off hoards of the undead). Have a great holiday everyone!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dangerous December

With a title like that, you might think I hate Christmas or abhor Santa... I have my issues with what Christmas has become in the last fifty years, but no, this post is not about the holidays!!!

Today, I prepare myself to let go of the laptop for at least two weeks. This comes at an awful time. I'm editing a novella for a January release. I'm waiting to hear from a publisher in regards to two submissions. I have work to do! 

And now I must brace myself. Work at my desktop is terrifying. It's slow. It's unpredictable. It has no internet backup ability. It's a good ten years old and the usual methods--dropbox and google drive--will not download to the computer. IE will not update and has become obsolete. I have to use Mozilla or Chrome. Chrome does not like the archaic functions of my desktop and often refuses to do the normal tasks.

With the help of my PCer, Silke, I am tasking the computer to back up--automatically--to a flashdrive. I don't know how this is going to work. I hope it works. It should work. My fingers are crossed. 

Never again will I work without back up. So this is my plan. Set up task on computer, and every night, email work completed for that day to myself. It's either that, or wait.

Wish me luck...

Monday, November 5, 2012

When Pigs Fly...

That is when I will actually find time to just breathe. Or at least that is what it feels like at the moment. Life has been super crazy. Writing has been super crazy. The world...has gone crazy (Wait we knew this already). Here we are headed into what tends to be the busiest time of year, so I think it's safe to assume that we will all be headed to the the padded white cell and straight jackets before long right? We can all breathe in January.

So while we're waiting for those pigs to fly, let's dish on the upcoming shenanigans we know as the holidays. What is your favorite one? Halloween just passed (which is one of my favorites), Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah  Christmas, and New Years.

What about the obscure holidays, the odd ones, the truly bizarre that you can tap into if you are feeling the need to celebrate something? November has an interesting list, but I'm going to include some of the ones that caught my eye.

November 3rd - Cliche' Day (Fitting for romance writer's don't you think)
November 6th - National Young Reader's Day (Not bizarre. Definitely IMPORTANT)
November 7th - National Men Make Dinner Day (Men grab your aprons...other clothing optional)
November 9th - Chaos Never Dies Day
November 13th - World Kindness Day
November 15th - I Love to Write Day
November 18th - Occult Day
November 19th- Have a Bad Day Day (Why? This doesn't seem to reserve itself to just the 19th of November)
November 21st - False Confessions Day
November 22nd - Start Your Own Country Day (I'm starting the country of Moira and Kilted Men)
November 26th - You're Welcome Day
November 29th - Square Dance Day
November 30th - Stay at Home Because You're Well Day

There are a lot more that are on the list. However, these ones really kind of caught my eye and I thought they were fun. See, so there is no reason not to celebrate while we wait for pigs to fly. This post seriously veered off track, but it gave me a chance to entertain myself and a much needed distraction from the pressures of NaNoWriMo! Now I must get back to it. Tackle the month with enthusiasm and lets all look forward to surviving the next few months.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Drive and Discipline

Do I have the drive and discipline to be an author? a writer?
Nora Roberts says a writer doesn't find the time to write. A writer makes the time to write.
I am one of the least disciplined people I know...
It's why I don't homeschool my kids--they might get stupid.
It's why I haven't really subscribed to an exercise regime and succeeded.
It's why I sometimes look around and think to myself, "Do you have the drive to become a multipublished author?!"

I don't know the answer to that.
For me, there is a daily struggle to make it happen.
I want it enough to maintain the struggle.
But I wonder, will it ever get easier? Will the struggle become habit and the writing become second nature?

Sometimes the lack of discipline leads to swings. Like mood swings, I will often write for weeks at a time, driven by a muse. Then in the following weeks, will barely touch new works, instead putzing around with crits or edits. Is this natural?? I want to endure doing all of this, all the time.

What do you do? How do you stay disciplined?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Witches and Zombies and Weres...Oh My!

I will give you one guess what my favorite time of year is...

Did you guess? Huh? Huh? Did ya? If you said October you would be correct. I know I made it super tough for you. With the blog title and all, there was no hinting what so ever. There are many reasons to love this month. After all, we have the kickoff to the fall season, which seems to be a favorite for many people. One could also call it the warning bell. The month that alerts us that the stress of the holidays, the shopping, the large family gatherings, the travel, and tons of food and treats bound to do in any diet are all just around the corner. However, when October hits, I think of none of those things.

As a lover of urban fantasy and paranormal goodness, this is the month that is filled with monsters, frightful scares, tricks or treats, horror movies, costume parties, more scares, and creatures. Myth, magic, and mayhem prevail during the month of October. And anyone who knows even the tiniest bit of information about me, realizes that I am a lover of such things-ESPECIALLY if one can link it back to Celtic myth in some fashion. Guess what...I have!

Did you know that Halloween's beginnings can be tied back to the Celtic festival of the dead? Samhain, as the festival is called, is a time of year where the Celts believed the ghosts of the dead were able to mingle with living because the souls of those who had died throughout the year would travel on to the Otherworld on this night. There is also the belief that this time of year, the physical and supernatural worlds were closest  and therefore magic was more than possible. I like to think this is true. Because for this girl and all my fellow urban fantasy and paranormal authors, whose heads are often stuck in the clouds, dreaming of beings that exist in the supernatural world, magic and the possibilities that could result if such things were to walk among us...this is our time! When magic, myth, and mayhem collide into something amazing. Go forth my pretties, and make me proud!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy Birthday!

Today [Sunday] is my birthday and do you know what I'm going to do? Besides eat chocolate cake.

I'm going to attend a Writing Workshop. Whooot! I hope it's good, but could be worthless drivel as far as I'm concerned. I have not been away from my family for anything since... sometime in June. No alone time. No coffee time with friends.

Oh, I have to take that back. Once, since we got to Colorado, I got out for a couple of hours to write.

Anyway, I've forgotten how good it is to INVEST in the inspiration. Invest in face-to-face time with other writers. I'm excited to be in on the workshop, Writing Emotions.

It would be good to practice WRITING emotions, because it seems that lately all I can do is EXPERIENCE them. :( Yuck.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Drop and give me 15!

No - I'm not talking about push-ups!

I'm talking writing time. You know, those minutes that tick by while you're imagining just the right word or scene? The minutes that seem to disappear into cyber-space playing Facebook games or tweeting that you're going to start writing now, and then don't? Truth is, we don't get those moments back. And if you're too busy filling in your planner and to-do lists and never actually sitting you butt in the chair and placing your fingers on the keyboard, well, you're not making progress on your WIP - are you?

Over the past week, inside the Passionate Critters forum, we've been going over ways to be more productive. Ways to be more motivated to get those words on the page. And yes, ways to keep some of us (cough, cough) from procrastinating online.This is pretty much a September and January ritual with us!

So, this week I self-appointed myself as "keeper of the challenge whip" and I've challenged the girls to a "15x2" daily writing challenge. Surprisingly, there wasn't a whole lot of complaining or whining. I guess we were all due for a writing challenge.

Want to play along at home?

The rules are simple:

(1) Find 15 minutes in your daily schedule to write - twice. (Get up 15 minutes earlier and stay up 15 minutes later at night if you have too - really 15 minutes isn't too extreme!)

(2) No editing during that 15 minutes.

(3) No plotting during that 15 minutes.

(4) No spacing out - you MUST write for your 15 minutes!

Watch your word count go up, up, UP!

Of course, you're free to write at other times, your free to edit to your hearts content when that 15 minutes is up - but the idea is to let yourself go and write what's in your head for that uninterrupted 15 minutes - twice a day.

All it takes is a little commitment, a little dedication.

When you're done, if you think 15 push-ups is still called for - then please do 15 for me, because the thought of doing a push-up brings back High School nightmares that I'd rather NOT repeat anytime soon!

Happy writing!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A look in the mirror

When I saw a post in the forum about whining, I instantly worried that I was about to be called out.

STOP WHINING! They'd all be yelling at me...and with every right, too.

I've had to really stop and think because I've become one of the thousands of writers who has lost ALOT of data. ALOT. Way more than I should be willing to admit. I had no backup going on. I'd had it in the past, but I'd gotten lazy. And in that moment of weakness, I lost everything I've been working on this year.

Wow. That's humbling. It's frustrating...and it's eye-opening.

It also puts me in a position to question where I'm going and if I want to change direction. But mostly, it makes me want to look through Entangled's Wish List or Submission Call and actually START something new. Maybe something for their Flirt line or their Bliss line. I could get something going now...

Perhaps this is a good year to really DO National Novel Writing Month, not just play at it.

A revisit to my not-YA Time Travel....
I was really excited about that when I started it.
What happened there??? :P I guess I got distracted.

What I'm saying is... I've been whining.
I needed a look in the mirror.
The chance to question direction should happen everyday.
Sometimes, as writers, we get in a rut!
Pull out! Stop the horses...

That's what I'm trying to do now.
How about you? What do you do when you're stuck in a rut?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What sort of Series…

This week, Enchantment and Exiled, books 3 and 4 of my Laws of Segregation series come out. That’s the end of the series, and I’m feeling sort of sad—I’ve never actually finished a series before. What’s going to happen to my characters without me?
I love reading series—that wonderful feeling you get when you really enjoy a book and you know there are a whole load more to come. I love falling in love with characters and knowing I’m going to meet them again. And getting immersed in a world and knowing I’ll get to visit over and over and no doubt learn new little details each time.
I also love writing series. I never actually start out with the intention of writing more than one book, but somehow it often seems to happen that way. I fall in love with a secondary character and want to know their story. Or I can’t bear the thought of saying goodbye to my hero and heroine—I need to know what happens to them—I want proof they are actually living their happily ever after. I also tend to see individual books as a snapshot in time, and there are things going on either side of the beginning and the end that I just have to know about—I’m nosy!
So I have to write another book—it’s a compulsion.
There are many different types of series. Some follow one character through a number of adventures, like Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson series (one of my favorites). Others follow a group of characters through one big adventure like in The Lord of the Rings or Anne Bishop’s Black Jewel Trilogy (another of my favorites). Then there are the true romance books that feature the same world and the same cast of characters but each book focuses on one particular love story, for example J.R. Wards Black Dagger Brotherhood.
I like them all, depending on the mood I'm in. But I write romance, so each book within my series centers around a particular couple, and each one has a ‘happy ever after’ ending. Though my Laws of Segregation is a bit of a mix, the individual books have a different romance, but with a single underlying story running through the whole series.
So what type of series do you like the best? Or do you prefer stand-alone books? Leave a comment and let me know for a chance to win an ecopy of Chosen, book 1 in the Laws of Segregation.


Unlikely allies in a strange new world, Tallon and Shayla must work together to rediscover the bonds that once tied Witches and Warlocks as one.
"This story, to me, is what paranormal romance should be—high-stakes adventure, passion, imagination, danger and a snappy writing style that kept me busy turning pages..." ~ The Romance Reviews
Buy link

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Beginnings

This is my favorite time of year.  For is the promise of what's soon to follow.  The kiddo is back in school which gives me more free time for what I have on my to-do list, whether it's housework, family, personal, or writing.  The hint of fall is in the air as the evening and morning air begins to cool down enough for me to sit out on the porch without sweating through my clothes.  Oh, but us southern women don't sweat, we glisten. ;) 

The start of school signals a much anticipated college football season.  Go Sooners!  But even better...I break out the cool weather recipes.  It's still too hot here in Oklahoma for chili or hot soups, but last night I couldn't help myself and made the family one of their favorites, chicken and dumplings.  I admit I'm lazy and don't make the dumplings from scratch, just cut up a couple cans of jumbo butter biscuits.  But last night I loved when each one of my guys came in the house and smelled the chicken cooking.  Grins from ear-to-ear.  *sigh*  And it helps that I use the crock pot more when the weather cools down.  I can throw everything in the pot first thing in the morning and dinner is ready when the guys get home.  Which also gives us more family time together.

Things are a little different this year because I'd decided to go back to school and finish my bachelor's degree.  So homework is taking precedent over my writing time.  Grrrr.  But as I was writing a paper for a class, a storyline smacked me in the back of the head.  I opened a new file in Word and by the time I was finished I had a new series outlined.  Wow.  I'm excited with not only a new series plotting itself out in my head, but the promise of new beginnings.  My oldest man/child started college classes this fall and is working a real full-time job.  My baby is venturing out in the real world.  And we are looking at land to build a house.  We've had a few negatives hitting us hard lately, so new beginnings and positive promises for the future are very welcome.  Something I've always tried to teach my children is to brush yourself off after falling off the proverbial horse and cowboy up.  Keep searching for the positive and learn from the negative.

So how about you guys?  Any positives you can celebrate with me?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Location, Location, Location!

I can't help but need things to motivate me. It's a weakness, I think. As if success isn't enough to make me do the work.

Perhaps I'm delusional, but I like to think that if I have the perfect spot, then I will write the perfect manuscript. haha. Okay, that IS delusional. But I've been stuck in a very small [wonderful apartment] for a month and a half and I'm CRAVING a writing space. Lately, I've been fortunate enough to be able to snatch an hour or so on the deck after everyone is asleep. Unfortunately, I can't be inside with lights on after nine [yes, that's how small it is and how early my hubby goes to bed]...even the tapping of keys can be annoying to a person who is trying to get to sleep!!

As writers, I think we all imagine the perfect office, the ideal desk and chair...a window, looking out to the mountains where a stream makes it way through the large pine trees and wildflowers grow along the bank...a deer makes its way to the edge of the water and sips a few times. There goes a hiker, tall, dark... tight jeans, flannel shirt and a hat, low over his face to protect him from a long day under the sun. His dog trots along beside him, a German, it's a Labrador. They stand back to watch the deer a minute before continuing on...

*cough* Excuse me. My imagination, running from me. Still that would be nice, don't you think? No??

What's your dream window look out over? The ocean? The desert? A busy street in Manhattan?

Have a great weekend.
Find time to write.
With Love,

For Love or Duty
available at online book retailers for only $0.99!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Blood, Sweat, and Tears

Do you know what goes into every manuscript penned? Yes the title of this post is quite accurate. Each manuscript really demands a little tears, some sweat, and a crap load of blood in order for it to come to fruition. Paul Gallico once said, "It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader." There is truth in his words and I know from experience that blood must be sacrificed to the writing gods. When I wrote Blood and Moonlight, it was truly a labor of love from beginning to end. It went through many revisions, several beta readers, some changes were applied, edits were done. I pulled my hair, bit my nails, screamed at my computer, took a break, and came back to bleed some more. This truly was my five year manuscript. When it was all said and done, I had a story I was proud of. It was me. One hundred percent me. My characters, my story, my type of romance, my type of urban fantasy, my vision. So with that being said, I'm going to share with you a scene that truly took some blood, sweat, and tears to write. This scene gives my heroine, Kiara Morrigan O'Conaill, a chance to really embrace a part of herself she usually struggles to keep locked away.

"So, do you always drag women out to the woods?" Wow, could I let my mouth get me in any more trouble? The half-naked man behind me made it difficult for me to keep from peeking over my shoulder, but when I heard the tale-tell sound of a zipper, temptation won out. His eyes met mine and an inescapable heat burned inside me. I quickly turned and stared into trees.
He chuckled, low and masculine, making my insides flip. "No. You would be the first."
Think of something else. Anything. A beach in the middle of summer, white sand, blue ocean, Devlin’s well-toned body glistening...
Damn! It wasn’t working. Concentrate on the reason we were here. That is what I needed to do.
"You think this will get me in touch with my inner wolf." Right, that would be the day.
So what was I doing? Pack lands were the last place I should’ve been and yet I stood there, with a naked man just feet behind me. Every nerve fired from my toes all the way up my body.  The desire to have a weapon in my hand as I scanned the trees overwhelmed me. Having a sense of security quickly became a thing of the past and letting that control go didn't sit well.
The push of magic at my back, followed by a soft caress over my skin, and a spike in my own power as it recognized something familiar. Curiosity enticed me to turn around and look, but fear of what I would see kept me firmly in place with my eyes tightly shut. What if he reminded me of one of the shifters responsible for my mother’s death? Would I still trust him? Could I handle it? Doubt flooded through me, but eventually I swallowed my fears and turned around.
Time slowed down, each heartbeat hesitant. The usual flash of light I was used to seeing when in the presence of a changing shifter was merely a soft glow. My chest tightened at the sight of his body, rigid with tension. His hard gaze focused on me, and his expression was that of a man determined to be mentally stronger than the pain gripping him. Every muscle in his body shook and perspiration beaded on his skin.
Devlin’s body began to change. Power surged around me. His bones popped, and black fur rippled along his skin. There was something oddly appealing in watching what his body could do. Perhaps I was able to appreciate it because he wasn’t snarling at me, giving chase, or trying to rip my heart out. As painful as the process looked, envy still managed to take hold of me and I wondered what my wolf would look like if I could endure the change.
When it was complete, Devlin stood on four legs; as I'd imagined, his fur was as thick and black as his human hair and his eyes the same ice blue. He was a bit larger than a than a regular wolf. The musky scent I’d come to associate with Devlin still remained. A thrill of terror mixed with excitement as he slowly approached me. He stopped just far enough away that I could reach out and touch him if I wanted, but clearly the decision to close the distance was my decision to make. I swallowed.
"Don’t move, okay?" The timid and meek sound of my voice bothered me.
The wolf within me began to stir. Please, I begged, he is not a threat. Devlin sat there so still, staring at me with eyes that gleamed with humor.
"Glad you are enjoying this." Slowly, I reached out, but stopped short. He butted his head against my extended palm. "Ever the impatient one, aren’t we?"
He nodded and sat on his haunches. I moved closer, crouched beside him, and ran my fingers through the fur at his neck. "You’re soft."
A low growl sounded and I laughed. "I know, I know. After you."
He butted the crown of his head against my leg.
"No need to be pushy."
I walked over to where Devlin left his clothes so neatly folded and kicked off my shoes. Running barefoot always seemed more comfortable to me, even on uneven terrain. I stretched, which wasn’t really a necessity for me, but I was stalling. The threatening growl from Devlin told me he knew it too. "Oh, go find a rabbit to chase. I’m going."
I took off and he trotted next to me. The need to go faster built, as did my wolf’s desire to be free and relish the sensation of the air passing over us as we ran. I held back, afraid of what it would mean to relinquish control of that part of me. Devlin finally acquiesced to his need for speed and blew past me in a blur.
"When in Rome…" I said to myself and picked up my pace.
Run, that’s all I wanted to do. To simply connect with the earth in a way I never allowed myself to before. A primordial urge overtook me and I lunged through the trees, moving at speeds I didn’t know I was capable of. My bare feet pounding the earth, the smell of the forest, and the sensation of giving myself over to a power I could not control were all that mattered. Branches threatened to slow me down, but I ducked under them with ease. Fallen foliage cracked beneath me. A wolf ran parallel to me and matched my pace. I knew without a doubt, it was Devlin. Then noise opposite me drew my attention. A salt and pepper-colored wolf ran beside me, and judging by the aura surrounding him, I was guessing it was Alasdair. A small rich caramel color wolf stayed by my side and I knew based on size and color, it was Bran. He nipped at my heels in a playful gesture and sped up. I pushed myself harder than I ever have before. Acceptance. The excitement of the wolf inside me was euphoric and relief washed over me when I allowed myself to just be.
I hope you enjoyed the excerpt from Blood and Moonlight, available now through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Throw away your crutches!

Let's face it, we all have those little words we toss around our manuscripts like confetti. But (yup, that's one of mine) more often than not, those words do nothing to enhance the story, do nothing to tighten your prose and you MUST weed them out! In most cases, you don't need them at all and should be banished from the page.

If you're like me though, those words are your "crutch" words, they're words that fly effortlessly from your fingertips (and probably filter into your every day speech too) without you even thinking about them - and worse, they're invisible to your eye. Just (another of mine) like the reader doesn't register the dialogue tag "said" - as a writer, you probably don't see your crutch word either.

Even if you don't see those words, trust me, the reader will.

Of course, the only way to get rid of those pesky creatures is to be aware of them. No easy task. This is where a good critique partner comes in, a fresh pair of eyes that will notice your crutch words when they leap off the page for the fourth time on page one - and they'll call you on it by highlighting it every single time you use it! Wow, talk about an eye-opener...all those colorful splotches can definitely make a girl slap her forehead.

Don't have a critique partner or want to give that MS another round of impartial eyes to find those pesky offenders? Give this free program a try:

The important thing is to catch those words before you send it off to an agent, an editor or it gets self-published. We all want our readers to fall in love with our stories, not be counting how many times you used a particular word in the first three pages.

Some of the most common crutch words are:


Another crutch word is a word that is unique. A word that the author for whatever reason latches onto in a manuscript and uses it repeatedly.  It's that word that was intriguing the first time we see it on the page, but by the fifth time it's used, we're now counting and wondering when the author is going to find a different word. Yeah, we've all seen that and wondered why no editor flagged it.

Do you KNOW your crutch word? What's your technique for getting rid of them? Inquiring minds here at Passionate Critters want to know!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Post Olympic Reflections

The 2012 London Olympics are over -- and it's been a hell of a ride.
As someone who lives barely 10 miles outside London, it was all very up close and personal, although I didn't have any tickets.
In a way, it was even more personal for me than it was for many who did get to see the events. The main reason -- I was an "Olympic Widow".
My significant other, Paul, was well and truly in the thick of it for the past four weeks. I only got him back today.
There. That's Paul, in action. That man in the tracksuit? It's Ben Ainslie. Winner of the 2012 Gold Medal in the Finn class (Sailing).
Yep, Paul spent nearly four weeks in Weymouth, covering the Olympic sailing. (And causing havoc with a mobility scooter...allegedly.)
He brought back some images you didn't really see much on TV. (If at all) Like this: 


It's the cauldron in Weymouth -- and I've never once seen it on TV. If he hadn't taken a photograph (or three) of it, I wouldn't have known it was there.
Yes, that's the Olympic Flame -- right there.

Or the Olympic rings, out in the water.

Or how about the flags, lining the beach?

Then there are shots of his "Work Environment"
And of course... the sailing itself.

Those are just a few images I've seen, but I thought I'd share a few of them with you.

The Olympics were simply awe inspiring.
Not just because of all the medals won, the world records smashed to smithereens. Not just because of spectacular festivities and venues.
But because of the sheer number of people who came out to watch, support and cheer on every single athlete, regardless of nationality.
I've seen and heard people cheer for cyclists they'd never heard of. They waved at the leader as much as the last trailing rider. It didn't matter where they were from, or if they stood a chance to get anywhere near a medal. They took part -- and therefore the people got behind them and screamed encouragement as they pushed themselves to their absolute limit.
They braved everything from thunderstorms, hail, torrential rain and gale force winds -- just to be there, to cheer as loud as they could, wave flags and give their unfailing support to any athlete taking part. Especially in those conditions. Together they created an atmosphere many, many of those athletes later commented on with a sense of utter awe--and gratitude. 
When asked what they'll remember most, the first words out of almost every athlete's mouth were "The roar of the crowd as I went past. It felt amazing."
If you've watched the women's road cycling race -- you'll know what I'm talking about.
The weather was atrocious that day, and from one who braved the weather...let me tell you...if you set foot outside the door, it felt like standing in a cold shower cranked up full blast. You were soaked to the bone in seconds and there was no hope of getting dry. We had hail that day, and still the crowds lined over 100 miles of road, armed with rain coats, flasks of tea, soggy sandwiches, umbrellas -- and in fine spirits and even finer voice. They stood there for hours and yelled those cyclists along as they passed in mere seconds.
For me, it was an experience I'll never forget. To see a country go from utter apprehension (trust me, we weren't keen on all the disruption), apathy even, to a place gripped with Olympic was truly amazing.
Lord Coe said "London 2012 is the Olympics for the people." during his opening ceremony speech.
In the closing ceremony, he amended his statement. "London 2012 were the Olympics BY the people."
He's right.
There were smiles everywhere. Cheers and tears for winners and non-winners. (I refuse to call them losers, because they are not. Everyone gave their absolute best. Except those idiots who didn't try.)
When the Brazilians, who'd taken over Somerset House in London, were asked what they thought they'd have a hard time beating in Rio in 2016, they unanimously said "The atmosphere. The enthusiasm and boundless energy of the British people who came out in droves to support not just their own teams, but everyone's teams."
It was worth being cut off from my horse for 4 days because all the roads were closed. I moaned about it. I really wasn't happy that (had anything happened) they wouldn't let a vet through if needed.
They still need to address such things, but now that it's over, I don't mind so much.

I think when that cauldron was extinguished on Sunday night, there wasn't a single person who didn't have a lump in their throat. All of a sudden it was over. Just as we got really into the swing of things.
After all this time, after all the hassle to get to the point of it all being ready, after battling for tickets and missing out, after putting up with Olympic lanes and traffic disruption and nothing on the telly except sport -- I think we wouldn't have minded if the Olympics lasted four weeks instead of two.
I heard stories about what happened after those medals were won -- but I won't tell. ;)
If you saw an abruptly ended interview with one of the sailors...I know the reason why they couldn't continue. (And I'm still giggling...)

Let the Paralympics roll on. I guarantee it'll be cheered on as much as the games just past.
I'll be watching. I'll be cheering.

So, after all that...what did I get out of it?

The biggest fridge magnet you've EVER seen!
(Yes, that is really a magnet, and it won't fit on there sideways. LOL.)

I hope you enjoyed the Olympics as much as I did, and that you'll help us Brits (and almost Brits) cheer on the athletes taking part in the 2012 Paralympic Games on the 29th August. :)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Five - Summer Treats and Writing in the Heat

Photobucket Where I live, I can always count on a few things being a part of summer - the hazy, hot and humid days.

Sometimes the bright summer sunshine calls to my muse and I have no choice but to follow her out the door and away from the writing.

And you know what?  It's okay. Sometimes we need to refresh the muse, let her dance barefoot in the grass or go walking along a beach at sunset. (Just take some mental notes as she dragging you through the surf!)

The best way to write with your five senses is to actually use them now and again. Go out and smell the flowers, sit on a dock and smell the sea, watch the sway of the boats...just take a deep breath of what summer smells like wherever you are.

In the spirit of the summer, here's five of my favorite summer treats!

1. Ice cream. Specifically, Carvel ice cream and better, yet, Carvel on Wednesday when you can get sundaes buy one get one free. It's been "Wednesday is Sundae at Carvel" since I was a kid...and that's a long time to be running a promotion!

2. Being barefoot. Okay, I'll be honest. I hate shoes. I don't wear them if I don't have too. I never wear them in my house, which means if I'm outside in my yard chances are, I'm barefoot. (This is a little hard to do when it's 20 degrees outside. So, for that reason, I love summer!) Now, go outside barefoot and run through the grass, walk across the steaming hot asphalt or across some pine needles - remember those feelings when you need to add some senses to a scene!

3. Lounging in a swing. Or a hammock. This year after eyeing a three person swing for my yard for the last 4 years running, hubby finally surprised me with it! If you haven't spent a few hours swinging in the quiet shade, with a cool drink by your side - you don't know what you're missing. Talk about rejuvenating. And calming. It's stress relief and it's the perfect short break at the end of a stressful day. Swing on! (Tip: this is a great way to unblock the muse!)

4. Frozen drinks. This post would be sadly incomplete if I did not mention frozen drinks. My personal favorite this season is the Mango Margarita...the muse doesn't do well on tequila, so I try to limit myself to two of these on the weekends! (But hand me a Mango Margarita while I'm barefoot on my swing...I'm in heaven!)

5. Barbecues. Here we throw everything on hubby's grill. Corn on the cob - still in the husk (soak a few hours in a bucket of water first), chicken, steaks, vegetables and burgers...oh my! Summer and the smells of the barbecue just go hand in hand around our house (who wants to turn on the oven inside the house when it's 90 degrees? Not me!) My muse loves barbecued chicken and ribs and if she's happy, I'm happy.

Now, it's your turn! Name a favorite summer time treat that keeps you (and your muse!) happy!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

For Love or Duty

Growing up in the military is not always peaches and cream. Valerie knows it first hand. That's why she has spent an entire lifetime avoiding men in uniform. But meeting Captain Morgan is more than she counted on because he makes her laugh and shows her that sometimes love comes before duty.

So the question is, what do I do next?

I wait for the money to roll in. *wink* ...very slowly. :D

And then I get back to work, right?

Always the writer.
Always working.
Always finding inspiration and moving forward.

And keeping my fingers crossed for the submission I have out there...
For Love or Duty

Growing up the proverbial military brat, Valerie Standish has shed her old ways. Yet, she’s been around long enough to recognize that familiar arrogance when Kevin Morgan walks through the door. This time she is drawn to the persistent captain like she hasn’t been to any man before, making it harder to keep her promise—never get involved with an officer.

Kevin doesn’t have a problem with her unwillingness to commit long term. He isn’t quite ready to settle either. For years, he’s worked hard to earn a promotion to Major. He wants one last fling before tying himself to a wife for the rest of his life.

But time proves them both liars as they begin to fall for each other. Neither is prepared for the ache of betrayal as they come face to face with the truth about one another.

Will either of them be able to walk away unscathed or have the trenches of love already been dug?

BUY NOW at these online book retailers
Barnes and Noble

Saturday, June 2, 2012

It's a big week in the UK

Things in the UK are hotting up -- even while the weather is cooling down again.
Today was the Epsom Derby. A big event on the horse racing diary, and one attended by the Queen.
Unfortunately for those of us who happen to live's a day when we don't venture near the town center if we can avoid it. Tens of thousands of people descend on Epsom Downs, and only a complete lunatic ventures into that kind of traffic.
This year, the Derby also signals the beginning of the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.

Yep, 60 years on the throne. That's no mean feat. The Queen is 85 years old now, and still up and about all the time. You honestly wouldn't know it to look at her.
Heck, Prince Philip turned 90 last year, still supporting her the same as ever.

Tomorrow is the official start, marked by a river pageant along the Thames. I've seen some pictures of the boats moored up overnight...and it's going to be a corker. There were hundreds and hundreds of boats, ships, barges and whatnot. It should be pretty awesome.
Jubilee Beacon
River Pageant
Then on Monday it's the Jubilee Concert outside Buckingham Palace. People like Tom Jones, Elton John, Kylie Minogue, Shirley Bassey and lots of others performing. This is followed at 10:30pm  by the Queen lighting the first of thousands of beacons across Great Britain.
If you happen to fly over England on Monday night -- make SURE you look out of that window.
If you don't know why... take a look at this map here. Because
you'll only see this once in a lifetime.
Throughout the day, there will be entire communities who have a big Jubilee get together, referred to as the "Big Lunch" -- Street parties with all the neighbors. Local councils have received requests for over 9,500 road closures -- because it's a bit of a bother to have cars try to swerve around tables and bunting. ;)

On Tuesday morning, there is a service at St. Paul's Cathedral to finish things up. (My own neighborhood is having "The Big Lunch" on Tuesday instead of Monday.)

And yes -- everything is shut and people are on vacation until Wednesday.
And while I'm a little jealous of my better half because he is covering all those events this weekend, I also feel sorry for him -- because after the concert is finally done tomorrow...he'll get about 2 hours sleep before he has to go to St. Paul's.
I'll probably watch it on TV like millions of other people, join my neighbors for lunch, and generally try to have a good time. Yes, London is 30 minutes by train...but there will be millions of people on the streets and at the events. I might go, I'd love to see the beacons, but I don't fancy being crushed. :)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Two Weeks to RELEASE DAY!

Phew! I am two weeks to the release of my very first published ebook.
What a ride it's been and I'm so happy to have shared it with my Passionate Critters.
They have undoubtedly kept me going in my lowest moments, pushed me on in moments of doldrum, and celebrated with me in those few times of success. I am forever grateful to these women who have become my friends.

Funny thing, I was writing a dedication. First timer like me and I want to thank everyone I've ever known who has helped bring me to this place. Instead I kept it to the few top spots.

But the blog here is a great place for dedications! :D

And before this book comes out, I want to thank my family--aside from my husband [who does get thanked in the book]--my kids, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, even in-laws have all been encouraging and excited for me. I can't beat that.

There are so many people who have helped me become the writer I am right now...the few special people I first met at Charlotte Dillon's yahoo group years ago. I can't even recall their names, but they introduced me to a bigger world of writers and helped me understand "the rules" of writing. Following that, my time at Romance Divas, where I learned about the industry and started putting a puzzle together so I could see exactly how being an author works. There, I also found myself...and learned that I needed to limit feedback and rules were made to be broken. They brought me full circle.

Along with the help of my Passionate Critters [also thanked in the book], I have to give a shout out to Rhonda Helms, who went over the manuscript with a fine tooth comb and picked up [as much as she could find of] the mistakes we PCers missed.

Last, but definitely NOT least, Elaina Lee of For the Muse Designs created my cover and it is GORGEOUS!!! Thank you so much, Elaina.

Go on, read the blurb... :D then stop in and tell me who you thanked or would thank in the dedication of your first book. :)

Look for it on June 8th!


Growing up the proverbial military brat, Valerie Standish has shed her old ways. Yet, she’s been around long enough to recognize that familiar arrogance when Kevin Morgan walks through the door. This time she is drawn to the persistent captain like she hasn’t been to any man before, making it harder to keep her promise—never get involved with an officer.
Kevin doesn’t have a problem with her unwillingness to commit long term. He isn’t quite ready to settle either. For years, he’s worked hard to earn a promotion to Major. He wants one last fling before tying himself to a wife for the rest of his life.
But time proves them both liars as they begin to fall for each other. Neither is prepared for the ache of betrayal as they come face to face with the truth about one another.
Will either of them be able to walk away unscathed or have the trenches of love already been dug?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Group Power


Sometimes I wish my keyboard was electrified and could zap me before I did something stupid.

Then again, sometimes things happen for a reason.

The lovely ladies along the sidebar of this group blog - are more than just a group of bloggers... we're a small romance writing critique group that's been together for years.

We meet on a private forum to share our work and our lives. We critique, brainstorm, plot and share industry information. It's the place I call my home on the web and I'd be lost without all those talented ladies that share my writing journey.

Sounds great, right? Well, there's always a but...

But...I'm never happy in my cyber-world and constantly feel the need to tinker. The PC ladies will tell you I love to change fonts, colors and switch things on our forum without notice...

This past weekend, I went too far.

Somehow, I managed to delete my domain from the web-host and everything with it. I never thought I would grateful for Facebook, but when the panic set it - I had to take to Facebook to let my girls know the extent of the mess.

The funny thing is, while I was stressing and pretty much freaking out, everyone began posting things like,

"it's not the place we meet, it's the members that make the group strong!"

"maybe a change is good, a fresh start to kick us into gear"

Being away from the forum for two days (that felt like two months!) and then everyone slowly getting back into our brand new space, was refreshing and exciting - and yes, felt like coming home!

Sometimes you just don't know what you have until it's missing.

If you've new to our brand new blog, we hope you'll check out our individual websites and our brand new front page, The Passionate Critters - where you'll always find our latest publishing news and if we're accepting new members (sorry we're closed to new members right now.)

Today feels just a little like Thanksgiving - I'm so happy to be back where I belong.

Are you a techno-wizard or do you sometimes find yourself techno-challenged?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Feeling a few Pains

We're feeling a bit homeless, but thanks to FB, me and my PC ladies are hanging in there while our webpage gets fixed. If you usually visit us at, welcome to Blogger! :P

Sometimes life is unpredictable...
and sometimes, we get an unexpected excuse to ignore distractions and do a little extra writing! :D

Enjoy the week.