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HAPPILY EVER AFTERS…


My boys are into Star Wars right now. Fine with me, I am not as savvy with superheroes as the Star Wars series. I have seen all the movies, know the characters, and actually adore Yoda for his spiritual perception.

Since I am now home, my little one stalks me and begs me to play. I enjoy playing with my kids, but must admit many times there are so many thoughts of things I have to do and things I want to do, I am a bit frustrated sitting in the room surrounded by stuffed animals and listening to his step by step instructions. In my effort to be more conscious of my moments here in life, especially amidst so many tragedies, I am trying to go with the flow and enjoy.

This morning we lined up all 10 stuffed animals and named each one of them from the Star Wars Bible: a list of heroes and villains and a description. Once we had our cast, I must follow my son’s instructions on what to say and the rules of the game. I’ve found him playing with his friends and brother and he’s not the pushy sort – he is very give and take but there is something about his mother that unveils his bossy side. I have to play by his rules.

Lately, I have found his rules much more enjoyable than mine.

Rule number 1: No one dies. He tells me this solemnly each time we begin playing. There are great battles of good versus evil and many get hurt. But they are never dead. They each get up after the injury completely heals, and are issued an apology from the bad guy who hurt them. This would make the world a better place.

Rule number 2: Every one gets to play. Each character has a part – even a one liner – and is involved as a group effort.

Rule number 3: Everyone must have fun.  There is singing, dancing, building of forts and swamps, and great creatures all around us. When my son senses my growing distress as time ticks on, he literally grabs my chin and makes me focus on his face, like I am the child and he is the parent. Then he says my name.  “Mommy.” And I am brought back.

Rule number 4: There is always a happy ending.

This morning’s play time sparked my creativity about life and writing. Why is it so bad to crave a happily ever after? We should be aware of the bad in the world, but we need to hold on to the belief that good will triumph.  Solid play time is needed in all of our lives and so easily dismissed with a wave of the hand and a sniff about “real life.” Play is real life.

Writing is a form of play that keeps me alive. It is also a reminder to make sure your characters play. If every section of dialogue is serious; if each plot twist is so fast we don’t have time to breathe; and if your characters don’t seem to be able to laugh, I don’t think you are doing your character justice. I love to create a quirk or a funny secret for each of my characters. In The Tantric Principle, my heroine curses like a truck driver; says anything on her mind; but will melt at the first sight of a furry animal, especially a dog. Interaction with animals and children always lighten things up and bring out a character’s playful side. Another way is giving a character a hobby he/she is passionate about – the quirkier the better.  In my novel, The Marriage Bargain, my heroine is a fanatic about baseball – particularly the NY Mets. This, of course, is a perfect contradiction to the hero’s love for the winning Yankees, and becomes a funny way to bring out their personalities.

Sometimes, a happily ever after can be a short chapter of afternoon playtime; a solitary cup of coffee; or the wonderful two words we type after a finished manuscript: The End.

I wish all of you a little play – for you, your children, and your characters.

TAKE IT BIRD BY BIRD WITH WRITING AND MOTHERHOOD


The fabulous, talented Anne Lamott wrote a book regarding the writing life, entitled Bird by Bird.  She shared a simple story about her brother, who had a huge report due and waited to the last minute (hmmm, sound familiar?). One Sunday evening, he sat at the kitchen table, surrounded by masses of books detailing every bird that had ever lived, and began to completely freak out. Lamott’s father sat down and patted him on the shoulder and gave him this advice: “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird. (19).”

This, at the moment, symbolizes my life. Not just in writing, where I am steeped deep into NANOWRIMO – which translates to November madness: write 50,000 new words in the month of November. This comes with all the other tasks crammed into a day and the burden of responsibilities I despise, such as house cleaning and cooking. To make matters worse, I now have two full days at home during the week, which is supposed to be used as time for the children, writing, and and getting a jump on the house.

 Yeah. Right.

 My little one clings to me most of the time, overjoyed at the idea his brother is banished for an entire day and he has his mommy slave all to himself. I got rid of my beloved cleaning person, who came every other week to make sure the court doesn’t take my children away. Of course, my husband logically said we don’t’ need a cleaning lady now that I am home TWO full days per week, I can clean. Especially since I took a large pay cut.

I rather get a root canal. And I am needle phobic.

Yesterday, I gave the kids a bath and noticed some stuff on the tub. Then I realized: I hadn’t scrubbed the tub since my cleaning person had gone. Which was how long ago? OK, never mind.

Why is there always so much STUFF to do? Just cleaning off the kitchen counter takes tons of time. That is where the bills, and coupons, and children’s notices from school pile up. I am the only one that dares to attack the pile – my husband is afraid of it – and it’s almost impossible to get rid of half of the papers. I literally get excited when I find a coupon had expired that I never used and I can throw it out. The junk drawer won’t close anymore. The coupons are escaping from their container in a frenzy. I can’t keep track of what to bring in on what day and what kid has what and I only have two, for God’s sakes.

And the holidays are coming. That means I will need to Christmas shop and cook more stuff and eventually do something so people can actually come over my house. But when? And why don’t I want to?

I want to write. And I want to read romance novels. And I want to cuddle underneath my Spiderman blanket and watch reality television.  And I want to order take out until I am sick of it and play with my kids only when I want to and not for hours on end because I feel guilty about consistently writing in every spare moment I can wring out.

Sigh.

Yeah, well, who doesn’t want all this? It’s the frikkin American Dream, isn’t it? So, we must march on and take it Bird by Bird. One task at a time, one day at a time, and enjoy what we can squeeze in during the day.

I was reminded of this late Sunday evening, when horrified; I noticed we were out of all the basics for breakfast and lunch for the week. I had to trudge to the supermarket – horror of horrors – on a cold, windy night. My older son begged to go with me no matter how I tried to discourage him. So, I let him accompany him and I literally found joy in my chore. How? First, he opened the door for me, bowed, and said, “After you, Mommy.” He sat in the cart the whole time and held the shopping list, sounding out the first letter of the words to try to figure it out. “SSSSSS, spaghetti,” he rolled off his tongue, his face proud as he looked up at me. My baby is learning how to read and this continuously amazes me. We had a wonderful bonding time in the supermarket. Yes, I had to get him a donut while he was there. Yes, he snuck in some extra snacks, and even begged for the SpongeBob DVD at the impulse checkout. Yes, I went slower than if I would have been alone. But on a cold evening, in the dregs of the supermarket, my son and I shared a moment. It took more time and was a bit more frustrating, but the reward was worth it.

Those are the moments we need to squeeze from. Because our journey here is not when the kids grow up and go off to school, or when the book is finally written, or when Christmas finally arrives. It is just today.  It is just the blank page in front of us. It is just your child’s sun breaking smile amidst the exhausting demands of the day.

Lamott, Anne. Bird. By. Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. New York: Pantheon Books, 1994.

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SECRETARIAT – SOME THOUGHTS ON THE WINNER’S CIRCLE


I LOVE horse racing.

I know – odd type of hobby. This came from my dad, who back in the day, drove a cab, drank heavily, and spent every Sunday betting the ponies. I only saw him on weekends since my parents were divorced, and I tagged along for some quality father/daughter time.

Our day usually consisted of chain smoking in OTB (yes, you were able to smoke INSIDE then!). Pencils tucked behind the ear, racing booklets underneath our arms, he taught me the basic principles of horse racing and horse betting. Glamorous, no. Fascinating, YES.

I learned about breeding, jockeys and trainers. I learned the differences between tracks, turf or dirt, and could narrow down the odds of who would win on a sloppy track in the rain. I learned to trust my gut if I saw a horse I liked, and if a family name came up on the list, I always bet it. Every August, we travelled to Saratoga Springs and immersed ourselves in the sport. As onlookers strode by dressed up with pretty hats, munching on the variety of food offered, my father and I sat on a hard bench by the rail in the hot sun and shared a pretzel and lemonade for our only meal. All of our concentration, time and energy was taken up by plotting and betting on the next race.

I learned many important things on those Sundays by listening to my father.  But the most valuable lesson was simple.

It’s all about heart.

Handicappers can plot a race by using a number of statistics – mostly from the breeding. But a horse with a heart and soul longing to win will always beat the numbers.

The story of Secretariat was inspiring on many different levels. First, the horse itself had the heart of a champion. He loved to run, needed to win, and this quality was bred deep into his soul. Second, his owner was a woman who had the same heart. A housewife with children, she stepped away from society’s expectations to follow her dream. She never apologized for it. She felt guilty, I know as a fellow mom how guilty she probably felt all the time, but she believed her horse was special and could win. She hoped her family would back her, but took the chance they wouldn’t. Every man told her it was impossible. With millions of dollars at stake, she went toe to toe with the elite circle of men who controlled the industry.

But they couldn’t control her.

And they couldn’t control Secretariat.

Is this a post about hear me roar, I am woman? No, not this time. This is simply the acknowledgement of our need to pursue our dreams and follow our gut, despite the odds. Despite hearing everyone say “You can’t do that!” To learn to dig deep within our souls and push for more – to pursue greatness.  Will we get there? The odds say no. But sometimes you beat the odds and you never know until you go for it.

Secretariat went on to win the Triple Crown and still holds the record for time in the Belmont.

We need to hold to this principle: as writers, as moms, as individuals.

Writers get rejected on a consistent basis. We are told the project we put our blood and guts into is not good enough. We keep writing and try again. And again. Always with the possibility of greatness.

Mothers grow an actual human being in their bodies, push them out and into the world, and are expected to do everything right with raising this child. We will make many mistakes. We will hurt our children, not meaning to. We will mess up and feel hopeless and struggle with our constant mantra: “Are we failures?” Yes, we get up every day and make them breakfast, and dry their tears, dress them and bathe them and tuck them in at night. We look for joy in the endless details of child rearing. The job will never end and we will rarely be told how good we are at it. But we persevere and go for the gold.  And sometimes we do it again. And again.

I rather regret the things I tried and failed at. I rather be like Secretariat and end up in the winner’s circle.

Wouldn’t you?

 animals,business,competitions,creatures,females,games,horses,leisure,metaphors,nature,people,persons,races,racing,sports,women

Inspiration…


I attended the RWA National Conference this year.

Inspiration comes in many ways.  There are so many things that can inspire on a daily basis but my favorites come in the forms of “lightbulb” events.  Those are the ones that make a difference.

On a writing scale, I was surrounded for 4 days by people who were both gracious and all talented. Our favorite icons took time away from their own writing to come and inspire others. I learned various information on craft and theme and dialogue. I learned about publicity and marketing. I met with editors, agents and writers. Throughout the whole conference though, there were certain nuggets of inspiration that has made a difference in my career and my life I’d like to share.

Writers inspire me. Writers who work hard. My icons such as Suzanne Brockmann, Jayne Ann Krentz, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Linda Howard and Nora Roberts are my American Idols in the romance industry. I heard all of them speak, and they each write different type of books and had different advice for both the published and aspiring author but one theme pushed through them all.

Writers write.

They seem to have a pretty glamorous life. NYTimes bestelling authors who have money and fame  and  public adoration. But once you get to the nitty gritty, you realize they do the same thing you are doing every day. They just write. Some for two hours. Some for 4 pages. Some more and some less. The writing is not marketing or revising or editing. Just writing.

Not very glamorous, huh?

More like the commoner such as me.

They all took precious time from their writing to go to the RWA conference. Most of them admitted they stopped attending conferences because it took up too much time. As does blogging. Sure, they pay for a publicist, but they always honored the integrity of the job and their work: they write first. Then everything else comes next.

Nora Roberts  says she is her own boss and mean as a pitbull. There are no sick days or whiney days allowed because this is a “real” job and it doesn’t have many sick days or vacation days. I think once we begin demystifying and realize the most important thing is writing and getting new work on the page, we even the playing field. Nora Roberts had one line to write for when she began. We have many – new markets are actually opened thanks to e-books. I came away with a positive energy from all the editors and lines looking for fresh voices. They want to buy if it’s good. If we write enough, it will be good enough.

 RWA members inspired me. I was lucky enough to hook up with some fabulous women who seemed like my writing soul sisters. We shared wine and laughs and plot and suddenly it didn’t feel so lonely.  Everyone had different stories to tell about the market, or their struggles or their sale. We all had butterflies in our stomach at our pitch – and high fived afterward. These are people from Texas and CA and Atlanta and the Black Hills (shout out to Amy!). They inspired me to keep the friendship going and meet them next year at National. I feel more comfortable reaching out to new authors I admired because they were so happy to talk to me and realize I love their work. Everyone was gracious and enthusiastic and my networking “net” expanded more in these four days than the past year. This inspires me.

Disneyworld inspires me. At the laser show in Epcot, I watched the countries light up one by one. Crowds merged together in awe over the showers of sprinkles dripping from the sky, set to haunting notes of music that made my heart swell in all of the clichés I have ever written. I felt as if we were one in this world, and not separate.

Walt Disney inspired me. My girlfriend was able to do the back tour of Magic Kingdom and told me a beautiful story I need to share. There is a sculpture in Magic Kingdom of Walt with Mickey Mouse. Mickey is pointing down the road at something. If you follow, you will find a bench where Roy, Walt’s brother, sits beside Minnie Mouse. There is a space on the bench that is empty.

Walt Disney knew he was dying and only had a short time left. The story goes like this:

Walt Disney: “Mickey, I’m not going to be here much longer, old buddy. I need to leave but you’re going to be ok.”

Mickey:  “Don’t leave. I want to go with you.”

Walt shakes his head sadly. “No, you can’t come where I’m going, Mickey. But when I leave, I want you to walk over there.”

Mickey turned his head to where Walt gestured and pointed his finger. “Over there?”

 “Yes. Roy is going to take care of you. There’s a spot for you next to him and Minnie on the bench. This will always be your home, Mickey so never be afraid.”

I teared up imagining that scene. Love inspires me.

Books inspire me. When I read something where words sing and romance is hot and plot moves and I go into a fugue state into another time and place – I am inspired.

My children inspire me. They are loving and open to every new thing thrown their way. They may react with fear or trepidation or enthusiasm but they are present for every part of life and it inspires me to create the same present tense type of day for myself. My children make me to look at the world differently and strive to be a better human being.

When Jake was graduating pre-k, the teachers listed what each child stated he/she wanted to be when grown up.  I proudly skimmed through the notes such as firefighter, superhero, astronaut and doctor. When I got to my son’s name it read: Chicken robot. Yep. Chicken robot. My son did not just want a career – he wanted a whole new species.  After the initial rush of laughter and embarrassment, I realized how awesome my son was. Nothing held him back – his imagination and vision was vast and held no boundaries.

Love inspires me. Sacrifices for family, friends or a spouse.  Decisions to give up money and fame to pursue a passionate dream. Being brave to risk your heart being broken. Again. and Again.

Here’s to writing and following our passions and doing the hard work so we can then enjoy the good stuff.

Here’s to good friends who cheer us on even though they have never met us.

Here’s to the endless capacity of the human heart which sometimes disappoints but mostly awes me.

Here’s to inspiration.

Drop me a line and let me know what inspired you.

The Little Things…


I am reading another wonderful book by Dean Koontz (Yes, I get in these phases where I practically steep myself in an author’s work). This is structured a bit different – it is a memoir about his dog. Now, being a dog person and having 2 rescue breeds myself – this is something close to my heart. What I enjoyed about the book is not only his revelations of what his dog  gave him in life, but his own life story. Successful authors are quite fascinating individuals (actually, non successful authors are just as unique, we just don’t get to read books about their lives as much). Koontz came from a very poor upbringing and grew up with no indoor plumbing. Then when he married his childhood sweetheart and moved to PA, they each worked a few jobs while he tried to get his writing started. His wife came to him one day and told him she would work all the jobs and give him exactly 5 years to get his writing career off the ground. After that – all bets were off.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Koontz’s story was quite intriguing, and I have been thinking about taking a hiatus or cutting back hours to see if I can be more flexible with work time and have more writing time. When I told my husband this story he immediately looked nervous.

“Well, I was thinking about doing something like that,” he offered. “ I can support us for a while and you try to get something going.”          

Surprise wasn’t even the word for my expression at the moment. “Are you kidding? You would do that?”

“Sure,” he said, looking quite pleased with his generous offer. “You can take 3 months.”

Gee, thanks.

I realized he didn’t get it – especially when he would probably add all the cleaning, shopping, caregiving and everything else to the deal thinking I was not “working.”

But this is not husband bashing – my husband is pretty fantastic – I just do not see this in my near future.

Back to the dog.

Dogs are like children and writing. They force you to be in the moment. They force you to deal with the little things in life. Food. Shelter. Warmth. Love. Writing brings you to the moment and into your character, you cannot write a scene well if you are anticipating writing the next scene. You must be intoxicated with a character’s thoughts and touch and taste and conversation. Each scene builds to the next to make a successful story. Like us.

Dogs remind us to take a breath and relax. While you are rushing around to get a million things done, and the dogs are demanding affection and welcome because God, you are home, and it is the BEST thing in the whole world that you are just close to them again. Usually, you are forced to pet them and stop what you are doing to be in the moment. It’s a great lesson I get from animals, children, and writing. Taking more of that into the world is my goal.

Koontz terms his dog’s life: “a big little life.” Name of his book, actually. Total brilliance. Isn’t that what most of us are? Not raging celebrities or politicians or people who put us up on Wonderwall the moment something occurs? Nope, we are quiet and ordinary and do these little things that make a big difference.

Cool.

Like a domino effect, what you don’t think is important usually is, and it trickles down to people in ways we don’t know. Animals remind us we are important and we are loved. So do children. So does our writing. It affirms we are here and who we are puts an indelible mark in this world.

Challenges…


Excerpt from “The Marriage Bargain.”

            “This means nothing.”

His body contradicted his words as he claimed her mouth in a fierce kiss.  With one quick thrust, his tongue pushed through the seam of her lips to travel beyond.  Her mind fogged, caught between the dull pain of his statement and the pleasure pounding through her in waves.  She gripped at his hands and hung on, reveling in the dark male taste of hunger and expensive Chardonnay; rocking her hips upward to meet the hard length of his body; rubbing her nipples against his chest…

“MOM”!!!!!

My own mind fogged as I tried to stay in the moment while my 5 year old screamed my title from behind me. “What!” I shouted back.

“Wipe my butt.”

Are you kidding me?  Are you kidding me!

I shook my head. “No. You’re five. You need to learn to wipe your own butt. Mommy’s busy.”

“Are you doing homework again?” he whined.

“Yes. Go back to the bathroom.”

I saw from the corner of my eye he rocked back and forth on his heels, pondering. “At school I wipe my own butt because they say I have to. But you do it for me at home. You do it better.”

Are you kidding me?

I knew then I would not get back to the scene unless I did the task.  I knew this was bad parenting 101 but I stormed into the bathroom, finished, and moved back to the computer chair. God, I loved my hero and heroine. God, I wanted this book to sell. God, I wanted ….

            “Mommy, I want you to read this to me.”

            I ignored him and swore I would not leave the scene. I had taken him to the park. Gotten him a movie at Redbox. Played Hungry Hungry hippos and already read books. I was officially done – retired from mommyhood for the night. “I read to you before. Mommy is working.”

            “Mom…..”

            The whine cut through me. Why did he have to inherit his father’s whine and not my Spartan ability to soldier through life without making noises? I huffed and spun around in my computer chair. “Listen up. Mommy has to do her homework tonight or mommy’s editor is going to get really, really mad and punish me.”

I swear – the kid’s eyes widened with excitement. “But I don’t get punished at school.”

            “Yes, but when you’re bigger, you get punished.”

            This seemed to worry him. “Then I don’t’ want to go to kindergarten.”

            Crap – wrong move. “No, kindergarten they don’t punish you. You just have fun.”

            Didn’t seem convinced and studied me with those big dark eyes. “I don’t think…”

            “MOM!!”

            My three year old came racing into the office in a testosterone, sugar rush that made him skid on the floors and crash into me. It was then I noticed he had no clothes on. “Look!  I’m naked!”

            I lost it and did the only thing I could.

            I screamed for my husband.

Of course, he was on the couch with the remote and just looked confused. I explained that if he respected me as a writer and as a woman, he would get the kids out of the office for one lousy hour so I can work and maybe make some money writing. He still looked confused, ushered them out and swore he’d find the pjs.

            Back to the book.

She lost control in those few moments, the ageless empty void for the past years temporarily filled with the taste and feel and smell of him.

MOM!  I want juice and dad said no, but just a little bit, please!”

They came rushing back, fighting over who got what juice and how much and what sippy cup. I looked at the time and realized I needed to be in bed soon and they were way past their bedtime, but they would not go to bed anymore without falling asleep next to me and then we transfer them to their own beds when they are out. (Please, no judgment here – I am doing the best I can.)

So, I turned off the computer, exhausted more mentally than physically and trudged to bed so they would get to sleep. My husband continued to look confused. “I thought you were going to get some work done tonight?”

I glared at him and shut the door behind me.

How do mothers have these great careers and spend time with their kids and still manage to do all the endless tasks that make up an ordinary life?  It amazes me, confuses me, and challenges me.  You know what I hate about the writing though? People think it’s a hobby. Oh, you write when you are inspired, right? Yeah, right, that would go over well. No books would get written. Or, oh you can put the kids to bed and write all night?  Yeah, with 3 hours of sleep and only if you have a newborn is that acceptable. I can’t even write my name without at least 7-8 hours clocked in.  Or how about, oh, you can get up early and write before work? Let’s pass on that one, too. Or, my all time favorite: when they begin to quote famous writers who managed this feat with even more challenges.  Like Toni Morrison, who penned her novels back and forth on the train to work in longhand!  I don’t want to do that. Anyway. I drive.

So, my bitch session is officially over and there is no easy answer. Except humor.

I write when I can. I write what I want so I am always interested. I like to write with a deadline because that makes me hustle and commit faster, so I try to put myself on my own deadlines to submit manuscripts or pen an article or short story. I blog. Anything to keep my relationship with the written word – my passion of all passions beyond my family.

Gotta go. I hear someone calling.

MOM!!!!