The Magic of Mentoring: 3 weeks, 10 lessons

  • Iimages-2 hardly saw Meriam this last week, but it’s only because she’s been so busy. Here’s an update on her progress as an author and a report on my walk down memory lane. First, let’s look at what Meriam has accomplished:
  • 1) Revised dialogue making it less formal/creating distinctive voices.
  • 2) Completely revamped one main character and deleted another (the latter is being saved for another book).
  • 3) Rethought/reworked at least one full chapter in the book (many writers – including me – can’t bring themselves to delete or minimize large sections of their work. Kudos, Meriam.)
  • 4) Knocked chapter endings making them both compelling and strategic
  • 5) Policed herself on show/don’t tell

At 25,000 words and counting, this is a milestone draft for Meriam. A document that read like a character sketch of The Witches of New Moon Beach is now taking on the form and substance of a book. Continue Reading →

The Mentor Maze: 4 weeks, 2 authors, 1 book

images-2According to Costco Magazine, January is Mentoring Month.

I’m not sure it’s necessary to have an official month since most adults already mentor someone – parents to children, teachers to students, managers to staff – but this January that news meant something to me. I had just become a mentor to a newbie author.

This wasn’t my first time. Thirty years ago I mentored a woman  who had a wonderful story to tell. For three months I labored over her work giving it as much (if not more) attention as my own. One day she informed me that writing was too much work. I was bewildered. Of course writing is a lot of work. Continue Reading →

WARNING! THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS INSPIRATION

UnknownChristmas is almost packed away, tonight is New Years Eve, tomorrow  is 2016. I wasn’t going to write a blog. I mean, really. Who needs to hear about my resolutions (there aren’t any) or the things I’m happy to leave behind from 2015 (too few to mention), or how my husband and I will get all wild and crazy celebrating the holiday (dinner at six, asleep by 10:30)?

I changed my mind when I saw the message below. It came from a dear friend, the woman who wrote me my first fan letter over 25 years ago. I don’t know who wrote this piece. If I did I would happily give credit where it is due because this is the kind of thinking that gives me hope and attainable direction. It is written with words that make me smile. Whoever the author is, thank you. Your optimism is catching and this message cries out to be shared. So here it is, words from an unknown author, noticed by a friend, who sent them to me, so that I could send it to you. I couldn’t have said  this better.

DEAR ALL,

The Boarding on Flight 2016 has been announced. Hope you have checked in only the best souvenirs from 2015 in your luggage. The BAD and SAD moments if carried, must be thrown away in the garbage on arrival.  The flight will be for 12 months long. So, loosen your seat belts, jingle and mingle.

Continue Reading →

5 Essential Things to Bring to Thanksgiving Dinner

turkey-hidingIt’s that time again. Time to be thankful. Time to reflect. Time to fight over the drumstick. It’s also the time when we ask our Thanksgiving host or hostess:

“What can I bring?”

You know what’s on the list: salad, rolls, maybe a pie or two. But here are 5 essential things you should take with you that your hostess may not ask for.

1)Yourself. Seriously leave the entourage at home. Your boss, your kid’s teacher, your ex, and the guy who sideswiped your car last week have their own turkey dinners to gobble up. If they want to drag you along to their party let ’em, but take a tip from the turkey and stuff your baggage.

2) A camera. Do not bring a phone, a tablet, a computer or any multi-tasking electronic thing. Bring an old fashioned camera, point it at people and remember why you are taking their picture. Hint: it is because you love them and want to remember them. Make them smile, catch them in a kiss, or capture the cook in the kitchen. Upload. Share. Feel good. You might even want to frame a real, honest-to-goodness print.

3) A covered dish. Who can resist a covered dish? The first thing people do is lift the top to see what’s inside. Your dish doesn’t have to be filled with food. Put something fun inside: wax lips from the party store, crayons and paper, candy, or cards.

4) Curiosity. Don’t just nod to those friends and relatives you see once a year before making a beeline for the couch. Ask everyone at least one question. You’ll be amazed how interested they will be in you when they know that you are interested in them. Caution: trying this on teenagers can be tough but hang in there. They speak eventually.

5) Gratitude. Don’t  serve it up like lumpy gravy, just take a second and acknowledge your good fortune. Come on, there will be at least one thing to be grateful for and you’ll probably think of a baker’s dozen once you get started. I venture to say that someone around the table might just be putting you on their gratitude list too – especially if you take a nice picture of them.

Have an awesome Thanksgiving and let me know what you decide to put in that covered dish.

 

 

The Day Bailey Devlin Was Born (or the story of a long, painful, labor of love)

BD_Horoscope_Final_Digital By the time you read this, I will have published the Bailey Devlin Series. These three books were written over the course of six grueling months. It is a miracle that I am still married and that my children still speak to me. Pretty much, about three months into the process, I morphed into a walking nerve and stayed that way until I typed ‘the end’. Conversations around our house kind of went like this:

Husband: “What do you want for dinner?”

Me:             “I don’t think these books are funny. They’re supposed to be funny. I’m not sure

they are funny. People have to laugh. Or at least smile when they read them.”

Husband:   I’m sure they’re fine.”

Me:  “I want a taco.”

Husband:   “Sounds good. I’ll go to. . .”

Me:   “You don’t think it will be fine, do you? I can hear it in your voice. You’re just being nice. You don’t think they’re funny, I can tell. I don’t think I can eat.”

Husband:  “I’m sure they’re funny. You’re funny. . . (pause). . . you were funny. Before. . .”

He mumbles something as he goes upstairs and closes the bedroom door. No dinner.

I yell up the stairs: “What do you think? About the books, I mean? Being funny?”

I recall having conversations like this when I was pregnant – just substitute fat for funny. The only difference is that I got tacos when I was pregnant. To be exact, I got giant burritos. I ate a giant burrito and a waddled around the block the day I went into labor. At three in the morning I thought my labor pains were indigestion. Neither was pleasant.

I swore off burritos.

I had one more baby then I swore off babies.

Now that the Bailey Devlin series is launched, my literary hormones have settled, I am ready to tell you the truth. The truth is that being an indie author – one who has gone rogue and written outside her normal thriller genre – is just like childbirth and here’s why.

1) Conception: Fun, exciting, and takes place in a burst of extraordinary passion. That’s what it was like conceiving Bailey Devlin. My mother asked for some books-with-out-bodies. Not that she didn’t like my thrillers, it’s just that she wanted to see if I could actually put more than three sentences together without killing a character. I heard that wistful tone in her voice. It sounded like ‘will I ever be the grandmother to a book-baby that makes me smile?” Her 91st birthday was in September and Bailey Devlin was her present. It took a few tries, it took some restraint not to kill Bailey off, but eventually the seed was planted; Bailey Devlin was more than a twinkle in my eye.

2) Gestation: No morning sickness, no sleepless nights, no discomfort. The Day Bailey Devlin’s Horoscope Came True came trippingly off the keyboard. Piece of cake. The Day Bailey Devlin Picked Up a Penny took a little longer and by the time The Day Bailey Devlin’s Ship Came In, mine had sailed, leaving me adrift in a sea of doubt. Were these books as funny as I thought? Would anyone really care about Bailey? Was she ever going to pass the bar and find happiness? Who did she really love? Would she have my eyes but her father’s feet? Can’t they give me something for the pain? Oh, sorry, keep getting these two events confused. We’re talking books not childbirth.

3) Labor: It never goes as smoothly as you think it will. No matter how often you’re coached, you forget to breathe. I knew there would be the mind numbing pain but I didn’t realize I would be the one inflicting it. My very patient editor* was not fooled by the fake smiley faces at the end of each email asking, WELL? HAVE YOU READ IT? The poor cover designer* has probably decided that selling insurance would be more fulfilling than ever working with the nit-picking me again. And then there were the frantic emails in the middle of the night begging the formatter* to revise the files because I’d found yet another typo. Think breach birth on that one. I kept wondering if these files would ever turn around and come out the right way.

4) Delivery: I delivered triplets; three books published on the same day. By this point, I was goofy with getting them written, formatted, covered and published, so I did what any reasonable person would do: I went on vacation and left them with grandma.

Now readers are visiting my offspring. I hope they love the covers and adore Bailey Devlin and her crew. I hope they laugh and cry because the stories are sweet in a sexy world. They are inspired by people I know and love. Bailey Devlin is me and I think she is every woman. Like an anxious mom, I’m waiting for someone to chuck me under the chin, and tell me I did good, and that they really like my babies.

Happy Birthday Bailey Devlin. It was worth every minute.

Thanks to my birthing team:

*Jenny Jensen -editorial

*Paul Ziomek – covers

*Steff McDaid – formatting

*Robin Blakely – PR/marketing

*Tod Damotte – Bailey mini-movie

&. . .

In the back of the house, my office was a jumble of writing stuff, girl stuff, and stuff that I swear elves put in there while I was sleeping. This stuff included: a sewing machine, giant posters of my book covers from the days of bookstore signings, two sweaters my grandmother knitted, reams of paper in rainbow colors left over from my children’s grammar school/craft days (they are now 27 and 30 respectively), office supplies, pictures, the first dollar I ever made writing and, well, stuff.

We remodeled my ‘office’ because a pipe broke in the wall. If you have ever read When You Give a Mouse a Cookie you know what happened once we tore through that one wall. If you have never read When You Give a Mouse a Cookie, do so after you finish reading this.

The room now sports a large screen television and a new couch. My husband suggested that I move my office to a lovely small room in the front of the house (the better for him to nap in front of the television). It has bookshelves, a fireplace and lots of light. I love that room, but it is much smaller than my old office. It is the first room people see when they walk into my home. My new office would have to be neat and tidy at all times, and that meant I couldn’t take all that ‘stuff’ with me. I had to decide what was essential to my professional well-being. Surprisingly, there were only four things and they are also essential to the well-being of my heart and mind. They are. . . Continue Reading →

Albanian Diaries #5: Traveling Companions

2014-10-08 23.34.17I may have been sitting beside my husband on the 22 hours we were in transit to Albania but he is only one of the people I traveled with. I brought along a number of friends in the form of books. I never travel without a full Kindle. Yet, it wasn’t until I was standing in the small street outside my apartment at three in the morning, a cool mist swirling at the end of  the dark street, and a big, black car waiting to take me to the airport, that I realized I had come on this journey with more people than I knew. Those friends are authors who, like me, ply our craft alone in rooms, in a digital world but who are fascinated, intrigued and inspired by the real one.

So that morning, looking at that car and the waiting driver, I thought of Brian Drake author of the marvelous Steve Dane novels that are reminiscent of Ian Flemings work. I could almost hear Brian writing the dialogue for that moment:

“Don’t get in the car. You’ll never get out again.”

Me, picking up my bag, adjusting my fictional fur coat, and answering as Dane’s girlfriend, Nina, might:

“Don’t be ridiculous. I can take care of myself.”

“Pity,” Dane would say.

“Why?” Nina would ask.

“Because It’s more fun if I help.”

I love Steve Dane. I love that Brian Drake could make a whole book out of standing in a dark street in Tirana.

I did get in the car and the only thing that happened was that I made it to the airport in time to catch a flight to Rome for the weekend. (I know, how cool is it to be able to say that?) The Piazza Navona, one of my favorite places, was one of the first places I stopped. It was a bright sunny day and the piazza was busy: a woman played her acoustical violin, artists showed their wares, tourists sat for pictures on the beautiful, ancient fountains, restaurants lined each side of the huge square. People ate and drank and talked to one another. Children ran across the cobblestones and the blue-suited police wandered in front of me with their hands clasped behind their back. Now it was Rick Bard, action and adventure author, standing beside me, telling me that the next book in the Brainrush Series was going to be set right there. “Perfect place for a chase, don’t you think?” I would say, of course. In his hands the chase would be exciting and elegant and oh-so-much-fun in the Piazza Navona.

In Dubrovnik, I walked through the fabulous walled city and just before I went through the gate I heard the sound of two dogs snapping and growling. I turned in time to see two handsome young men restraining their big hounds. In that millisecond they were crouched in fighting position and frozen. A beautiful young woman with a little white dog walked between them in her tight jeans, her oversized sweater, and her long hair  pinned atop her head. She and her dog seemed uninterested in the two man and their pets. But if my romance writer friends had been there, everything would have changed. The woman would have chanced a glance. One or both of the men would have followed her. Something romantically magical would have happened. Mindy Neff, Sandra Paul, Angie Ray – what they could have done with that scene! I had the strange feeling that if I turned around they would be there, plotting the happy ending just before inviting me to lunch.

There are a hundred more authors who have come with me on this. The quirky and fascinating Conrad Johnson whose work Clean Kill is so reminiscent of John Fowles. He would love the broken down buildings, the legless man playing dance tunes, the blind man selling books by the river. Richard Bunning who pulls you into another dimension of time and space would be fascinated by the coffee shops where people speak in all he languages of the world. For me, the inspiration is Albania with its ancient laws and contemporary politics and energy and anxiety. It is the perfect place for Josie to confront her sense of justice and Hannah to paint and Archer to watch their backs.

Sometimes new authors say that they are afraid to talk about their ideas because someone might steal them. I say, those who write have no need to steal anything. A hundred different authors could stand in the Piazza Navona or on a deserted Tirana street at 3a.m., or in the walled city of Dubrovnik and the result would be a hundred different stories. That is the magic.  Authors will write, readers will read, and the traveler – at least this traveler –  will never be alone.

 

 

 

The Albanian Diaries: An Excellent Adventure (So Far)

images-3There are two movies everyone should see: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Even before I saw those films I longed for an excellent adventure. Whisk me into a spaceship in my bathrobe! Let me open the door to a phone booth and find myself in medieval England! Heck, just land a strange package on my doorstep and I’d probably be happy. None of those things have happened to me. In fact, for all the adventures I have had, none of them has reached the epic excellence meter – until now. Continue Reading →