Thursday, January 19

Life By The Pants

Sorry for the late post, but planning is not my forte as you will soon learn.

Like Liz, I am a total pantser. Although I must admit to a little bit of self-satisfaction glee when I learned she goes into the book with no idea of plot. I generally--save for Bix--come up with a general plot or idea before characters.

What if someone collected suitcases but never went anywhere?

What if outcast teenagers formed a club based on Dickenson's poem, "I'm a Nobody" ?

"What happens under the mistletoe, stays under the mistletoe." What if it didn't?

After these initial thoughts, I basically wing it. For better or worse.

And that's generally how I live my life--except, you know, working. That is planned, scheduled. But, only because it has to be.

January has not been kind to this life pantser. 

Birthdays galore. It starts on the first with my brother-in-law and continues until mine on the 31st.

Then there was the whole washing machine is leaking or more appropriately, water is pouring out of the wall debacle. It's fixable, but our handy man/father-in-law came down with the flu.

And then it snowed. Big time. Shut-the-town-down big time. And then the snow iced over. 

I don't know how much you know about the Portland Metro area, but we are not built for snow. They cancel school for an inch. And I'm not exaggerating. At this point, my nephews will be in school until the end of June.

And all of these things take careful planning (plotting). My car doesn't do snow or ice. So, I had to work around KB's schedule as to when I got to work and left work. Usually earlier or later than my schedule.

Today I had to take the first of a week's laundry to the laundry mat. Tomorrow I'll finish it up before I go to work. 

And writing? Well, I did manage to get this blog out today. I think as soon as I'm done, I'll type what I wrote two weeks ago before life got crazy.

The good news is all that snow you see in the pictures is now gone. The plus about living in the PNW is rain and how quickly it melts snow. 

Now, let the spontaneity begin!

Wednesday, January 18

A New Bundle for this #writerwednesday

It's release week, WordWrangler readers! Not for a new book from moi, but from one of my faves - and 9 others that may be new to you. My publisher, Crimson Romance, chose my very first book, What a Texas Girl Wants, to be part of the new Texas Temptation bundle - 10 Texas themed romances that you'll love!

And is that cover yummy or what? Here's a taste of what you'll find between the covers:

Can't get enough of sexy cowboys? Check out these ten tales of bold, funny, take-charge couples who team up to wrangle a love as big as the Texas sky! 

I'll include the blurbs below...but first, here's a little taste of my book:

The earth was moving.  And not in a good way.

Kathleen Witte reached out, trying to grab on to something.  Anything.  But her hands met only with air.

She shifted, and her shoulder dug into damp sand.  Where was she?  Her eyes flew open, and she winced at the bright sunlight.

The beach?  What happened to the villa?  And her. . .Sweet Mary, Mother of God, what happened to her clothes?  Quickly, Kathleen flipped over so she was laying stomach-down on the sand.  She shivered as a splash of water reached her feet. Looking left and then right, Kathleen scanned the area.  No white dress.  No strappy sandals.  Had they been washed out with the tide?  Had she come to the beach naked?  No.  She wouldn’t have.

She took a deep breath.  Her clothes had to be here somewhere.  Maybe she had decided to go skinny-dipping.  She was in Mexico, after all.  What better way to blow off a little steam than with some late night skinny-dipping?  The villa included a private beach, it wasn’t as if she’d run into anyone. The old Kathleen would have balked.  Said no with a quiet smile and watched as her sisters had all the fun.  The new and improved Kathleen wasn’t leaving life to her sisters, and God knew she had plenty of steam to blow off. So maybe that was all this was. Blowing off a little steam with a naked swim in the warm Pacific. Colorful lights and a heavy bass rhythm filled her heard before everything went dark. The feel of a man’s hands are her waist, leading her around the dance floor echoed in her memory.

With sudden certainty she knew she hadn’t spent the night alone and that she’d not been innocently skinny dipping last night. Oh, God.

And now for those's a peek into all 10 of the bundled books: 

The Texas Takedown: Berry Challoner arrives in Houston determined to go undercover as a secretary to solve her brother's murder. Surely Tyler Reid, his best friend and a certified public accountant, can help her follow the money to the killer. But Tyler's not a fan of this crazy, spontaneous plan, even if he is mesmerized by Berry. When it looks like she's next on the killer's list, he'll have to go all in to save the girl who's beginning to capture his heart.

What a Texas Girl Wants: The last thing Jackson Taylor wants in his life is a down-to-earth girl like Kathleen Witte, so why did he just wake up next to her on a Mexican beach with a ring on his finger? Once they're back in Texas though, this all-business marriage might just turn into an all-consuming love.

Delicious Deception: Artist Emily Kate Boudreaux spends her days running a restaurant on a Texas bayou because it's what her family expects. Then sexy chef Connor Rikeland walks into her life and turns her business - and her bed - into one hot adventure. But his story is a sham, and Cajun cooking isn't his ticket to fame after all. Emily Kate must decide what's real, what's a lie, and what's worth risking her heart over.

Sweet Texas Fire: Gage Cooper has always wanted the family cabin. Instead, his business nemesis, environmental analyst Charlotte Wilkinson, inherits this valuable property with its oil-rich land and secrets. He'll do anything to reverse this fortune, including eloping to Vegas for a sham marriage. But as they discover a surprising chemistry together, suddenly Gage must decide what's worth more: the land he's always coveted or a future with Charlotte.

A Love Beyond: Convinced that her sister's abusive marriage drove her to kill herself, A.J. Owens travels to her brother-in-law's Texas ranch determined to unearth his secrets and rescue the champion racehorse he stole - even if it means pretending to seduce the man. Chance Landin, the ranch's head of security, knows there's something fishy about this gorgeous blonde seductress, but the former marine is more than happy to help expose the madman's deadly secrets. With a romance beginning to spark between them, can love triumph over revenge?

The Election Connection: War widow Lily Ashton's heart is closed to love, so she's the perfect choice to play fiancée to help secure a re-election for her pal, Texas congressman Ford Richardson. But as they work together, their not-quite engagement starts to feel much more real than either is ready to admit.

In the Shadow of Pride: When Lexie Trevena's matchmaking friends accidentally place her smack in the path of a terrorist in Austin who intends to use her as his pawn, the only person who can help her is Special Agent-in-Charge Luke "Mac" McNeil - the man she holds responsible for her husband's death.

One Last Letter: At sixteen, Evelyn Lancaster rejected ranch hand Jesse Greenwood to save her father's struggling ranch. Now a newly wealthy Jesse has returned home, and he's drawn to the land he swore to never step foot on again. As long-held emotions rekindle, he can only admit his true feelings via unsigned letters left on Evelyn's porch . . . until another man comes forward to claim the correspondence as his own. Will one final note give them the courage to say yes to love on the wild Texas plains?

Relentless: Battling his partner, his attraction to cowgirl Cody, and the demons of his past, Dallas detective Remy LeBeau must take the ultimate risk to catch a serial killer. But it could cost him everything - including Cody's life.

Broken Wings, Soaring Hearts: Hailey Holman is determined to keep her dad's dream of reopening their small-town Texas base station alive. Jack Stinson wants to escape the pressures of his own family's airplane manufacturing business. But asking for each other's help is anything but blue skies. Can...

Buy the Bundle: Amazon  B&N  KOBO  iBooks

Tuesday, January 17

What Do They Want From Us?

Yesterday, Liz celebrated writing “The End” on her current manuscript (back to the little town of Lake Miniagua!), and I can promise you, it’s another great one! I just did a beta read on it, and man, oh, man, I want to write like Liz when I grow up. 

Oh, wait . . . I’m supposed to be all grown-up already, aren’t I? Well, sometimes I don’t feel very grown-up, which is ironic because in most people’s view, at 63, I’m well into my senior years. But isn’t it funny how, no matter how old we are, we let other people’s opinions affect how we feel about ourselves and our accomplishments? 

This past week, I got a rejection letter. I finally heard from an editor who’d had my Women of Willow Bay series in her hands for over nine months. She read the first book, Once More From the Top, and although she was very complimentary about my story and my abilities as a storyteller, she said that my mature characters’ “ability to say what is on their minds almost all the time feels a bit unrealistic.” Seriously? My characters were able to communicate like adults. That’s what you don't like about my story? I wanted to scream and write a very, very immature response, but I didn’t go there . . . okay, so maybe I did rant a little bit--to Liz, not the editor.

But here’s the thing. One of the comments we hear all the time about romance is that conflict is false conflict if it can be resolved by the two characters simply having conversation. Liam and Carrie in Once More From the Top are two adults, who’ve both lived a lot of life in their forty-plus years. Of course they can say what’s on their minds—it’s called maturity. Being able to have grown-up conversations doesn’t negate the seriousness of these two characters’ conflict. There are dark moments and issues that didn’t get resolved until the end of the story. The difference is that instead of pouting or tearing one another apart with pseudo-sophisticated verbal one-upsmanship, they talked to each other. They shared their fears, their hopes, and their dreams, and in the end, they found a compromise that worked for both of them. 
The rejection made me feel like a complete hack as a writer, like I don’t have a clue what editors want even though I work with all four of the big romance publishers. Worst of all, I was defeated, thinking that I’ll never, ever find a publisher and I want to be traditionally pubbed—I really do. But, as I was pouting about that letter, thinking maybe I’m not meant to be a writer and I should just stick to editing, I remembered a blog I wrote not long after my sister Kate died, a time when I was stuck in grief and despair. In it I quoted actress Camryn Manheim. She said, “I’m standing at the corner of Life and You Better Get Going. I stepped off the curb and I never looked back.” 

That quote just smacked me right between the eyes. It is life changing . . . I need to claim it in regard to my writing life because I am standing on that corner right now. I’ve never imagined not being a writer and maybe that’s the place I need to get back to. Writing because it’s who I am, why I breathe. Writing because I can’t not write even when I don’t feel the inspiration or the motivation. Even when I’m laid low by a rejection. 

Once again, I have to step off that curb. let the stories flow, and simply write, because life isn't going to wait around while I pout about a rejection. It's time to get going . . .


Monday, January 16

These are the days @Liz Flaherty

A repeat of my writers' group assignment, with additions. :-)

On Wednesday night, after I wrote and discarded three epilogues, I finally typed “The End” on the book manuscript that is due to the publisher on February 1.

It’s the second-best day in a writer’s life. This writer, anyway. It means I get to wade back into the story and do the first round of fixes on it. I get to go through and make sure the heroine’s eyes that were gray in Chapter One are still gray in Chapter Seventeen. I get to stare at an entire scene in disbelief and look around to make sure no one else has seen it because it is…oh, man, words escape me, but it is so bad I can’t imagine it came from these acrylic fingertips. I get to send it off to beta readers with pleas to be constructive but kind. I get to go through it again to act on or ignore the suggestions of the readers. I get to obsess over whether I should act on or ignore suggestions. I get to wake in the middle of the night and obsess over the previous obsession. I have heard other writers say they follow their own instincts. I’m fairly certain if I found mine and followed them, I would soon be hopelessly lost. Far better to obsess.

And then I get to take a week off. Sometimes I take more than that, but I have a proposal due April 1 and need to write a novella this year, too, so I’m just taking a week. My writing has slowed exponentially with each birthday, so I worry about being able to get things done in time--I love having that to worry about. My husband has suggested it would behoove me to have my driving slow a bit with those birthdays, too, but there are times I just ignore him and go on. Quickly.

I love the week off. I get a lot of sewing done. I occasionally plan to clean a room and might get one drawer done. I clear the top of the desk—well, part of it. I work on taxes—no, I don’t; didn’t I just say this was a week off?

I have lunch with friends, dinner out with Duane. I work on promotion, obsess over the title (working title is It Was Written in the Stars--what do you think?) and cover of the upcoming book and know in my heart of hearts that the editor will hate it and, more importantly, so will the readers. Actually, what I know is that no one will read it, ever, so they won’t know if they hate it or not. But I’ll know. I’ll know.

I should quit writing right now. I'm a terrible writer anyway. I should just give it up and use my computer strictly for playing Solitaire and screaming at Facebook—which is even more stressful on a large, flat screen than it is on an iPhone.

Sometimes during my time off I write generic blog posts that I can use if my mind goes blank when I need to have a post ready in the next fifteen minutes. 

Occasionally during this time, if the company is right and I’m not driving, I will drink. I will wonder why I ever stopped smoking. I might even watch television. But probably not.

At some point midweek, I’ll sit at my computer. I’ll delete files. Pictures of people I don’t know. Downloads I don’t know why I have. Sometimes I delete the wrong things. I’ll play more games. I'll think about newsletters and wonder why I’m the only writer in the free world who doesn’t have one. About bookmarks and promo pens and what I could do this year that was new. This is my time off. My time to relax. I can’t write…not now.

The hell I can’t. I make sure the tea is hot, settle into the chair until it stops squeaking, and open a new file. I type CHAPTER ONE.

It’s the first-best day of a writer’s life.

Have a great week.


Saturday, January 14

Always Learning

A few weeks ago, one of my publishers, The Wild Rose Press, gave a little primer on comma use during one our regularly scheduled chats. Very informative and helpful, since I often struggle with where to put commas. (Note to self: refer to notes to make sure I’ve got them right in this post.)

This past fall I took Angela James’ self-editing course called “Before you Hit Send”. Unfortunately, I was really busy during this time and I didn’t get to participate as much as I would have liked. But I read and reread all the posts, soaking up all I could. There was a ton of information, from the proper use of colons and semi-colons, to the best ways to format dialogue that happens in text messages or even telepathically. All kinds of minutia that writers need to know. 

One of the things that surprised me most was learning that Angela James, who is executive editor at Carina Press, is okay with multiple (or at least two) points of view in the same scene, or even the same paragraph, as long it’s clear who’s head we’re in. This blew me away because ever since I started writing, the one-point-of-view-per-scene rule was drilled into my head. I’m pretty entrenched in writing that way now, but the idea of trying something new, taking a bit of a risk, is exciting. According to Angela, there are no rules in writing, other than whatever you do has to work.

Of course, not everyone likes multiple points of view in a scene. When I took in a workshop from mystery writer Halle Ephron at the Surrey International Writers Conference in October, she mentioned that even though multiple or double POV per scene has become popular, she doesn’t care for it. Attending SIWC was a huge inspiration boost. It also gave me an opportunity to learn from interesting and knowledgeable presenters, not to mention practicing my pitching skills. 

Writing is an occupation where you learn new things all the time. Every time I research a location, an occupation, or a time period, I learn something new. The learning also extends to craft of writing. I just bought a new book on plotting and outlining called “The Story Toolkit” by Susan Bischoff. I can’t wait to plot a new story using the information from this book. 

My day job is in the veterinary industry. As part of their licensing requirements, veterinarians and veterinary technicians are required to participate in continuing education workshops each year to keep up with the newest developments in their profession. Writers need to keep up with changes, too. There’s always something new to learn about writing and marketing.

What have you learned this year? 

P.S. If you’re interested in taking Angela James’ workshop on self-editing called “Before You Hit Send”, she is currently offering a new session in February 2017 (next one Fall 2017). For more information follow Angela on twitter at @angelajames or go to