Monday, July 26, 2010

Past, present, future

The following entries were originally posted on another blog. I thank them for the opportunity to look at my own journey and wanted to share it with you.

What Comes First The Reader Or The Writer?
Whenever anyone discovers that I write one of the first questions they always ask is, “So how long have you been a writer?” I’m never really sure how to answer. I suspect they mean how long have I been published, which to me isn’t correct because I was a writer long before I was published though I probably wouldn’t have called myself that then. Back then I just loved to read and often would write when the story didn’t go the way I thought it should or just for my own amusement. I have very early memories of my grandparents visiting on a Monday night and being excited to show them what I had written that week. I also have a very funny story written by me (about a golden fish who deid) in a letter to my dad when I could barely spell let alone read. So does that make me a reader or a writer first? My mum encouraged my love of books taking me to the library regularly letting me wander for hours among the stacks. The smell of the library is still one of my favorite things, to me it represented people and adventures and possibilities. The air of hushed anticipation of all the experiences that waited between the pages complimenting in a strange way the quiet pursuit of knowledge. I was upset when the town library installed a coffee shop and the pungent scent of brewing coffee banished the smell of paper and ink. I devoured Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl and fell in love with Watership Down. Then my mum introduced me to Dick Francis, probably earlier than she should but I was already reading way past the levels of my peers. From Dick Francis I moved onto Patricia Cornwell and my own writing changed into mystery and suspense. By this time I had read almost everything I was interested in in my local library except for the romances. So I had a look and I found Tami Hoag and Jayne Ann Krentz and a new passion was born. Eventually I followed romance through to paranormal romance thanks to Jayne Ann Krentz’s A Gift of Gold, Anne Stuart’s A Dark and Stormy Night and Rebecca York’s Light Street series. The internet came to our house and my world expanded again. My next love was ebooks. I found an online community of writers and authors and joined several groups, one of which belonged to Angela Knight. One day we began discussing the question which started my journey; how many of us who read also wrote?

The Accidental Author
It took a long time for me to pluck up the courage to admit that I was one of the group who also liked to write. The discussion changed to what we wrote and I read the snippets that the others sent to the group with interest and trepidation because I knew they expected me to contribute. I was terrified. No one but my family had ever read any of my stories, how could I put myself out there in a public forum for people who were essentially strangers? But the others had done it and I didn’t want to be a coward when they had the courage to put themselves out there for me. So I did. I had been working on a story about a shapeshifter who needed to find his mate. I called it Jack and Megan because I couldn’t think of a title. I only had half of a chapter and had no idea where it was going or if it was going anywhere but I posted it anyway. I bit my nails and waited on tenterhooks for the rest of the day for responses. To my delight they were overwhelmingly positive. There were gentle and some not so gentle prods asking me for the rest of the story. Rest of the story? What rest? I wrote a little more and sent it too admitting that it wasn’t complete. Once again they loved it but this time I received the private email that changed everything. It seemed that one of the members of the group was an editor for a publisher called Ellora’s Cave. I had heard of them. I had even bought books from them. ‘When you finish it, send it to me.’ She said and sent me into a tailspin. I was entering my final year of University, how could I finish a book? I had no time. I had never written anything that long before. I never even contemplated trying to become published, I’m not good enough.
I’m not good enough.
Remember those words because they will come back to haunt me. It took me almost a year to finish Jack and Megan and that long to think of the title, Believe In The Magic. I dithered over sending it talking myself into and out of it too many times to count but eventually I did. Two days later I received an email offering me a contract. Seems someone thought I was good enough.

All The Firsts
When my first book came out I was flying high and when the first cheque arrived I kept my promise to myself and used it to travel across the Atlantic to the Romantic Times Convention. I had been living it vicariously through various email groups for a few years and had always wanted to go. I wanted to meet the people who had been so supportive of me in person and I really wanted to meet all the authors I had grown to love. When I put on the badge saying published author for the first time I felt like nothing could get better. I was wrong, the next day my publisher surprised me with a box of my books in print. I sat on the floor in a corner of the room with the chaos of other Ellora’s Cave authors stuffing promo in bags around me and I breathed in the scent of those books and I cried. It’s difficult to describe how much that meant to me. I love ebooks. I love the convenience of them, the instant gratification that comes from finding a book at buying it and reading even if it’s 2am, not to mention that they are usually cheaper and as an author I love that I get more royalties from them. But there is nothing like holding that paper copy in your hand. It brings so many memories of my childhood and all the time I spent wandering among the bookshelves. Ebooks are the future but they will never replace print.
There were a lot more firsts at the Convention that year. First time someone recognised me, first time someone asked me to sign something just for the pleasure of having my signature, first book signing, first time I saw my book on a bookshelf in a store. I met so many friends I had made online as well as many new ones. It was an experience that guaranteed my attendance at the Romantic Times Convention every year for as long as I could afford it.

The Great Depression
I came home from my first Romantic Times Convention inspired and ready to write the second book but my personal life had changed. I had been forced to move away from my friends and family to work and the job was far from perfect. We were short staffed and a job that is stressful at the best of times was made worse because I was inexperienced and the support I needed wasn’t there. I was travelling 400 miles every week and working full time. Eventually my days off weren’t enough, I was tired all the time and had to force myself to get out of bed every day. I lost a lot of weight. I caught every cold flu and minor ailment that came my way. All my emotions were close to the surface and I just never felt well. I was miserable my writing was one of the first things to suffer. I had no motivation to open up that document and when I did I would sit and stare at that blinking cursor and nothing would come to me. It took all my energy to keep going, I had none left to be creative. I felt isolated and alone. For almost a year things piled on top of me until I couldn’t see the light anymore and I was just going through the motions. I knew something was wrong I just didn’t know what so I went to my GP. At the end of the consultation my doctor said ‘Do you think you could be depressed?’
My first reaction was denial. Of course I wasn’t depressed. Even working in the medical field I had falling for the stereotypes and I didn’t fit them. I left the doctor’s office scoffing at the whole idea. Deep down I knew he was right but it was a label I didn’t want. Soon afterwards a series of awful experiences at work made me re-evaluate my life. I admitted to myself that my doctor might have been right. I couldn’t continue on the way I was going for very much longer, I needed my family, I needed to be home. Within 4 months I had found a new job, it meant a pay cut and a daily commute of 90 miles but it didn’t matter. I moved home, joined a gym and even went so far as cutting my waist length hair to my shoulders. It took a while but with the support of my friends and family I began to reclaim my life, pulled my creativity out of the black hole and started writing again.

The Only Way Is Up
I wish I could say that everything went smoothly after all of those changes but it’s seldom as simple as that. The second book was finished in my initial burst of renewed energy but it wasn’t long before life got in the way again. I was closer to home but I was still working full time twelve hour shifts, mixing days and nights. It was difficult to keep my motivation when all I wanted to do on my days off was relax. Some weeks I was writing nothing and some I was only managing a few hundred words. I spoke to other writers about how they managed to work full time and write as well and all had different strategies. The common theme was 'write something everyday' otherwise it’s harder to maintain your forward momentum. I eventually finished a novella and sent it off only for it to be rejected. It stung but I figured it was my turn and the book perhaps didn’t fit. I rewrote the novella submitted it again to two different publishers and was again turned down. Those horrible words I asked you to remember started creeping into my head.
I’m not good enough.
I decided to take a break from writing for a while, focusing on work and other things until eventually the stories and characters started niggling at me again. Write me, write me. I joined Twitter and far from being a distraction, I found that seeing other writers talk about their craft and posting when they were writing was making the urge to get back to it stronger. They encouraged each other and shared word counts and I found that I wasn’t all that different. That some did only manage a few hundred words a day and rejoiced in it. We won’t talk about the ones who write five to ten thousand. Eventually I joined in. Since their voices were the loudest I pulled out the much rejected novella and totally re-wrote it. In the process I fell in love with the characters even more, pouring my heart into the story and finding joy in creating it. I shared it with my proofreaders and they loved the story as much as I did. The confidence I had lost was restored, this time they would find their place.

The Big Rejection
I suppose the title of this entry kind of gives it away. The novella didn’t find its place. This time when I submitted it, it got a hard rejection. Not just a form letter or a ‘sorry not right for this project’ or ‘if you re-write this’. This time it was thanks but no thanks, I didn’t like it. Also included was a helpful breakdown of all the things they didn’t like and no positives. I was devastated. I felt like I had put everything I had into the story, had had such confidence in it and it wasn’t good enough. Yep. There are those words again. They just keep coming back to haunt me.
It was at this time that I had what I like to call the online meltdown. I was terrifically upset and I wasn’t in a place where I could hide it. I tried to be objective, to let it go over my head but every time I read that email all I heard was ‘you’re not good enough’. I was ready to quit. Why would I keep putting myself through the wringer like this?
Yeah, I hear you all shouting at your PC and trust me, if I had been on the outside I would have done the same. I had lost sight of the fact that I was in a better place than some in the same situation. I had two books published already. Everyone was supportive but there were quite a few offers to kick my ass for being so negative. So why would anyone keep going? The answer is obvious but I wasn’t in a place where I could see it yet.

Never Give Up
It took a week before I was able to pull myself together after the big rejection and answer my own question. I would keep going not because I might find someone to publish another book or because I had already had some measure of success already or even to prove that I could. Those are good reasons but not the best one. I would keep going because I’m a writer and I can’t do otherwise.
I’d love to say I don’t care whether I’m ever published again but it would be a lie. Of course I care. Even before I started this crazy journey part of the joy of creating new worlds and characters was sharing them with others, even if it was just my grandparents. However I’m going to try not to let the bumps in the road get in the way. It would be nice to finish with the news that I have had another book contracted but I am still working on that.
Every writer’s journey is different and we all have obstacles to overcome. My biggest is self doubt. I’m sure I’ll never get rid of that hateful voice that says I’m not good enough but I am learning to embrace it. I have to listen just enough to keep my work improving and not enough for it to steal my confidence again. This is the story so far of my writing life, thank you for letting me share it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

“Five hundred twenty-five thousand six-hundred minutes…”

My husband directs theatre in real life. For the past several weeks he’s been in rehearsals for RENT, one of Broadway’s longest-running musicals. He works with Geneva Theatre Guild in Geneva, NY and their performances are at the Smith Opera House, a nineteenth century structure that came alive in a very different way this past weekend.

Several things struck me as I watched, enjoyed and participated in the performances of truly gifted singers, musicians and technicians. One, I love live theatre even more than I love the movies. Two, the struggle of life – of love and friendships – is a timeless theme that never grows old. And three, I really, really, really want to write a play that speaks to an audience the way RENT spoke to me.

Caveat: I am not a RENThead. I saw it on Broadway with my husband about three months before it closed and the show was dated and tired. I saw the movie in the theatre and enjoyed it; we bought the DVD and its still in the plastic, unopened. So my comments are not based on a fanatical devotion to one musical but rather based on the ability of theatre to teach, to entertain and to broaden one’s philosophies.

As I sat in the audience last night (Saturday) and watched the “family” break apart, I found myself thinking about what makes one play better than the next one and realized it’s the same elusive, amorphous “thing” that sets one novel over others. Every one of us has a book that we read again and again, finding new “stuff” each time until we know every character, every word, every theme. I’m no closer to determining what that “thing” is now than I was before, but I can tell you RENT has it. So does ROMEO AND JULIET. And PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. And FRANKENSTEIN. And…you fill in the blank with the novel/play that spoke to you.

Several years ago I wrote a short scene between John Adams and Private White of Boston Massacre fame. A few months ago I dug it out and re-read it. Concept is great, execution? Not so much. Needs work. A LOT of work. This morning I started the scene that would need to precede that one and found myself digging into 1770 Boston and the men whose opinions helped to form our country. They had a lot to say and some of it bears repeating in these unsettled times.

So, I have the inspiration (thank you to my husband and his cast and crew of RENT), I have an outline (thanks to the work I started years ago) and I’m ready to give it a shot. A new medium and a new experiment…but isn’t that what makes life worth living?

And, if I’m being honest with myself, listening to Roger sing “One Song, Glory” struck a chord so deep inside me I don’t look very often. “One [book]. One [play] before I go…Find glory in a [book] that rings true, truth like a blazing fire, an eternal flame...”

Maybe its time I wrote from my heart again…

Play safe,


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Two Lovers for Molly

I have a new release from Ellora's Cave coming out this Friday, July 9th. Yay! Two Lovers for Molly is the third book in my Lavender Lace series, and wraps up the series with everyone getting their happily-ever-after.

I hope you enjoy this spicy excerpt.


* * * * *

She looked from Lane to Julian and back again. "Julian started to tell me about the morning after your night with Claire. I want to know about that."


Julian sat close to Molly and slipped his arm around her shoulders. She could feel him playing with her hair, yet she focused her attention on Lane's mouth as he spoke.

"I'd been dating Claire for about a month when Julian came over for dinner." He glanced at the other man. "Julian and his girlfriend had recently broken up and I figured it was my duty as his best friend to get him drunk."

Julian chuckled as he nuzzled behind her ear. "He did a damn good job of it too."

"Were you sloshed?"

"And then some."

Molly returned her attention to Lane when he slipped his hands beneath her skirt. He went no higher than her knees, but his touch on her skin quickened her breathing.

"Claire was a flirt and loved attention. When Julian went to the bathroom, I told her she should kiss him. Her eyes lit up like fireworks. One kiss led to another, and soon clothes started coming off."

Julian tugged her closer. She leaned against him, her back to his chest. His hand slipped down and released the first button on her blouse. Lane watched Julian's hand for a moment before continuing.

"The three of us spent a wild night together. I doubt if there was a position we didn't try."

Julian nipped the side of her neck while his fingers danced over the flesh spilling out of her bra.

Lane continued to watch Julian's fingers. He slid his hands beneath Molly's knees and pulled them far enough apart so he could slip his knees between hers.

The second button on her blouse came loose.

"Claire and I had a fight the next morning." Lane's warm hands caressed the backs of her knees, down her shins and up to the top of her thighs, still beneath her skirt. Molly's heart began a stuttering tattoo in her chest. "I don't remember what it was about. She left in a huff and I went back to the bedroom with Julian."

Julian unfastened the third button and pulled her blouse open. He groaned softly. "Damn, you're wearing a red bra."

"I bought it today." Her voice came out sounding soft and breathless. She gasped when Julian cradled her breasts.

Lane's hands crawled higher up her thighs. "Are you wearing panties to match?"

She nodded. "A thong."

"A thong?" Julian asked, the surprise evident in his question. He squeezed her breasts as he buried his face against her neck. "God, I have to see your ass in that."

Molly didn't respond. Her voice ceased to work when Lane's fingers brushed her pussy through the thong. He moved to the edge of the coffee table, using his knees to push her legs farther apart, and ran his thumbs back and forth over her clit.

Pleasure rippled through her body. She sat there, on the verge of a climax and they all still wore their clothes.

"Do you want to know what I did then?" Lane asked.

Molly didn't care, not as long as he kept caressing her clit and Julian kept tugging on her nipples. Without her realizing it, Julian had unhooked the front closure of her bra. "Wh-what did you do?"

"I sucked his cock."