Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloweeeeeeen!

Yesterday, I shared a ghostly excerpt from Scandalous Spirits. Since readers, and Cyndi and I, were dying to know how it was going to end for the sibling Van Buren ghosts (and since we'd fallen in love with secondary character--the dreamy, but total horndog--Rufus Sinclair) we wrote the sequel, Kindred Spirits. KS later won a Romantic Times award for Best Paranormal.

Sidenote: In SS, Izzy-the-ghost had the hots for Rufus which really creeped him out. Imagine how he felt when it was up to him to find out what she did wrong, the mega blunder that landed her in limbo instead of heaven or ...hell. Imagine how he felt when he was blown back in time and... Well, read for yourself and enjoy!

***
Excerpt
Rufus opened his eyes and stared up into the clouds.

He'd always thought Isadora Van Buren would be the death of him.

He moved his eyes to the right, to the west tower framed against the blue sky.

Another victim of Laguna Vista's infamous roof.

He wiggled his fingers then his toes. Good sign.

He must've knocked himself out when he hit the ground. He wondered how long he'd been lying here. The day had grown warm. Too warm. He was baking in his leather jacket.

Where the hell was Bookman?

A breeze fluttered his hair, carrying the scents of ripe roses and freshly cut grass.

He bolted upright. Heart thundering against his ribs, he stared at the outer walls of Laguna Vista. White. Pristine white stucco. What happened to the smoker-stain-yellow that left the house so unattractive and easy to despise?

Frowning, he tightened his fists around tufts of soft, lush grass. Last he remembered he was gripping the west tower windowsill. Cement crumbling beneath his fingers. Roof tiles slipping beneath his shoes. Izzy's disturbing rage lashing him as he tried to climb through the window. Icy winds…

A whirlwind. Some sort of bizarre funnel cloud of bright colors, like an old, psychedelic Sixties cartoon. He’d felt himself falling... then...

No splat. Nothing.

He felt no pain as he prodded for head injuries, broken bones, blood. Nothing. He was one lucky sonuvabitch.

Tires screeched. A car hurtled into the driveway, racing straight for him.

He didn't have time to react as it squealed to a halt, the steel grill two inches from his nose. The radiator belched scalding hot air into his face.

His second near-death mishap of the day.

His heightened senses reeled. December. It was December. So why did it feel and smell like a mid-summer day?

A car door slammed. "No wonder Jonas never let's you drive."

Where the hell was Bookman?

A second door slammed. "I was distracted. Is it my fault Raul prunes the roses shirtless?"

Rufus leaned forward to peek around the car. A broad-shouldered gardener, naked to the waist, tended the giant rosebushes at the corner of the house. In December. An eighty degree day in December. Rufus swiped his hand across his sweating brow, stopping mid-gesture when a very familiar woman stepped into his line of vision.

Isadora Van Buren.

What was she doing out of the house?

He fell back on his elbows and blinked up at the skinny-as-a rail flapper. If she turned sideways she'd disappear. "Turn sideways."

Grinning, she whipped off her tortoise-shell sunglasses and gave him a lazy once over. "Anything for you, doll face." She pivoted and thrust out her non-existent breasts. She didn't disappear. "As it happens I'm free for dinner."

Rufus groaned.

"You nearly killed him, Izzy. Apologize before making eyes at him." The passenger stepped around and offered him a hand up. He squinted against the sun as he accepted the hand. A tingling sensation shot from his fingers to his shoulder. He hoped it wasn't an injury. Standing on shaky legs his eyes finally adjusted and he found himself face to face with Grace LaRue.

Or her twin. Everyone has a twin. So what?

A chill shivered down his spine.

She released his hand and shook out her own. Had his grip been too tight?

He stared at her in awe. Maybe he hadn't survived the fall. Maybe this was some crazy interlude of his last thoughts as life slipped from his body. Or some funky comatose dream as he lied fallow in a hospital bed, nothing but bumps and blips beneath a sheet.

She looked exactly as she had in the photograph. Compact body straining with energy. Wild black curls tamed only by a pair of giant flight goggles atop her head. Eyes that pierced skin, bone, and marrow--and how deliciously blue. He could see that now. Those eyes tearing him down. Prying behind the pupils. Peering into the dark corners.

He shivered again. She looked twenty-three. Not one-hundred-three.

Did he die? Was he in Heaven? No, Izzy wasn't in Heaven. That much he knew. Hell? It was hot enough. But he didn't think so.

Grace eyed him. "You look a little green, Ace."

"Let's get him inside," Izzy said. She hooked her arm through his.

Contact. Flesh and bone. Jesus.

"Why were you sitting on the lawn?" Grace asked, eyes sharp for an answer.

Izzy tugged him toward the portico. "Do you work with Raul?"

The front door swung open. A skinny, gray-haired man in formal attire stood ironing-board stiff in the threshold. His eyes remained blank with indifference. "May I be of assistance, Miss Van Buren?"

Izzy tightened her already possessive grip on Rufus. "Thank you, Lincoln. Please set out fresh soap and linens in the downstairs lavatory for our guest."

Lincoln stepped aside, allowing them access to the grand foyer. "Certainly, Miss."

"And tell Mrs. Potts to set another place for dinner."

"You don't waste time," Grace said.

Izzy smiled. "It's the least I can do for almost running him over."

Lincoln didn't raise an eyebrow. "I'll ask Mrs. Potts to make a special dessert." He strode ahead, disappeared around the corner.

Rufus's temples pulsed. Lincoln? Mrs. Potts? Who were these people and what were they doing in Marc's house? He allowed Izzy to tug him toward the living room. Bookman would be there, amidst Daisy's god-awful furniture. He'd clear this up. He'd perform some ghostbusting ritual. Exorcise Izzy and her ghost pal, Grace. Or at the least, Rufus thought, slap him out of this insane delusion.

But Bookman wasn't there. Neither was Daisy's mismatched collection of vintage furnishings. Rufus stood mesmerized in the archway of the spacious living room. The eclectic decor included a scarlet velvet chaise lounge, an indigo and scarlet tapestry armchair, mahogany end tables and bureau, and a huge round table draped with gold and scarlet silks. Vases of red and yellow roses accented the room along with Tiffany table lamps. An Austrian crystal chandelier dripped like melting ice from the vaulted ceiling. An intricate Oriental rug covered most of the marble floor. Decadent. Classy. Meticulously arranged.

Grace passed her hand in front of his eyes. "Helloooo?" She frowned. "I think he's in shock. Get a cool cloth, Izzy."

"I'll get something better." Izzy eased him onto the plush chaise then hurried to the double-door bureau. Grace sat in the chair next to him.

He stared at the spiral staircase. The staircase that led to the second floor. The floor that led to the west tower. Ghosts. Angels. Reincarnation. "I suspect you're connected. I think your relationship is rooted in the past." Bookman had filled his head with a bunch of mystical mumbo jumbo.

He'd fallen. He'd cracked his melon. End of story.

He pinched himself. Nothing happened.

Izzy returned with a silver flask. "Drink this."

He pinched her.

She giggled. "My kind of man."
Grace pinched Rufus. "Hands off."

His arm throbbed. Okay. Not dreaming. Think, man, think. He eyed the black rotary phone, the pre-deco furnishings, Izzy's shapeless dress, turban-like hat and rolled stockings. It was as if he'd wandered onto the set of The Great Gatsby. He didn't want to ask, cringed to voice the thought, but he had to know. "What year is this?"

Grace folded her arms, those blue eyes needling in. "You're kidding."

"1923," Izzy said. She felt his head, ran her fingers through his hair. "Did I wing you with the Ford? Do you have amnesia?" She giggled. "Wouldn't that be fun?"

"No," Grace said.

1923. Perfect.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Halloween Treat


In honor of Halloween, I thought I'd share a scene a paranormal romance that I wrote with my good friend Cynthia Valero. Scandalous Spirits was an RWA Golden Heart Finalist, and was soon after scooped up and published by ImaJinn Books. The story was inspired by a local 'haunted mansion' (I'll blog about that if I can find the pictures to scan!) and though it features a dynamite hero and heorine, I aways felt that the three sibling ghosts--stuck in limbo and, worse, that mansion--were the heart of the story. Enjoy!

* * *

Chapter Ten
"You're all wet, Jonas! It's better this way." Isadora paced the upper floor of the west tower, trying to blow off some steam. It was either that or sock her stubborn, opinionated, know-it-all brother in the snout. He'd always been bossy, but this preoccupation with crossing over had stretched her nerves to the breaking point. "We make our presence known and the sell won't go through. We scare them off. Then things will go back to normal. We'll be safe. Bored, but safe. No one wants a haunted house."

"We agreed to work on this together!" Jonas bellowed, fists on hips.

"I didn't agree to anything! It was Jimmy who jumped ship and sided with you!"

"Now just a minute," James said from the sheet-covered sofa.

"I asked you not to interfere," Jonas said, plowing right over him. "To let me handle this. But no! You couldn't listen to me. You couldn't show a little restraint. Though why I 'm surprised, I have no idea. Restraint was never one of your glowing attributes ."

Bulls-eye. An arrow to her heart. Isadora marched up to him and narrowed her eyes. "Don't mince words, Jonas. Spit it out. Say it. Say what you've been thinking for the last seventy years!"

Jonas stared at her.

"Cat got your tongue? All right, then. I'll say it for you. It's all my fault!"

"Izzy," James cautioned.

"Shut up, Jimmy!" Isadora never looked away from Jonas. Like two sworn enemies squaring off in the street, the showdown had come at last, the blazing orange sun in the distance sinking lower by the minute. "I talked you into going with Jimmy and me to the speak-easy. It was the night before the eve of my thirtieth birthday and I was horribly, wretchedly depressed. I begged, cajoled, and sulked until you finally agreed to forgo your silly dinner party with your wife for a night of debauchery with your sister ."

"Izzy. For God's sake," James said.

"You didn't seem to mind so much, Jonas. Not after a few shots of tarantula juice and a lusty toss in the backroom with Sally Langhorne ." She cocked a brow. "You always were a sucker for a vamp with long gams and big tits."

"Izzy," James pleaded. "She's just scared, Jonas. She's--"

"Shut up!" Jonas and Isadora ordered as one.

"But then it was three a.m. The band was packing it in and we were lit up like the store window. You suggested we call a cab. 'What for?' I asked. 'Jimmy's only half-screwed. Besides he could drive us home blind-folded.' Being the egotistical sap that he was, Jimmy agreed ."

James rose to his feet. "Now just a minute."

"So off we went in your Pierce-Arrow, stinko and zipping along in the fog as if guided by friggin' Rudolph-the-red-nose reindeer himself!" Isadora was screaming now. Tears scalded her eyes. She hadn't cried in seventy years. She wasn't even aware ghosts could cry. "The World Series. I don't remember how we got on the subject, only that I wanted to talk about anything other than my birthday, anything other than turning another year older. Thirty. God, it sounded so . . . final. So I picked a fight with you. I said the Dodgers would take the Yanks in '29. I so loved to tease you, Jonas. I knew it would gripe your cookies. And did it ever! Cheering for someone other than the Yankees? You were outraged. I laughed and egged you on.

"Jimmy was shouting at us to clam up, fending off a couple of playful slaps I sent his way, then . . . then . . . " She swiped away her tears, refusing to let them fall. God, she was angry with Jonas. Or was it with herself? "Then we were free floating over the bay, a pathetic ghostly trio." She waved a limp hand through the tension-filled air. " The rest is history. So go on, Jonas. Go on and say it. Get it out of your system. You'll feel better for it. We're dead, because of me. We're stuck here, because of me. This is all my fault!"

A pickaxe couldn't chip the ice in his eyes. When he spoke, his voice could've frozen the sun. "I don't know what you're whining about, Izzy. You should be happy. You got what you wanted. You're twenty-nine . . . forever ."

Isadora shivered from her brother's cold cruelty. She felt like a beaten dog left to freeze in the night. It was more painful than dying. She backed away from him as though he were the devil.

Jonas said nothing to stop her, nothing to soothe her.

"Izzy?" James ventured. "Jonas?" He threw off his fedora and jammed his hands through his hair. Desperate to mend frayed bridges, he said, "Come on, guys. All for one and one for all. Our childhood oath, remember? "

"Sorry, Jimmy," Isadora whispered as she drifted down through the marble floor. "I think we've finally grown up."

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Dose of Sunshine

Blustery, cold and rainy in Jersey today. Excellent day to stay in, read and write. Exactly what I plan to do, for the bulk of the day at least. However, this afternoon I'm going to brave the miserable weather for a dose of sunshine.

Years ago, gosh it's been over ten now I think, I worked fulltime at Tropicana Casino as a character actress. There was a rather large troop of strolling performers. We worked together for several years and became good friends. Most all, with the exception of me and a couple of the other gals who were trained dancers, had circus skills. Clowns, mimes, stilt-walkers, jugglers, magicians... A colorful, zany group to be sure.

Many of us are still in contact today (Brooks the Magician often commets here at this blog), the larger faction trying to get together at least once a year for a holiday party. An off shoot (the group pictured right) try to get together a little more often. Although it seems to get tougher each passing year. *sigh* We call ourselves The Shallow Girls, as we like like to talk about shallow things. You know, like make-up and clothes. But we talk about deeper stuff too, sometimes. We used to gripe about ageism in entertainment and the general lack of vision in Atlantic City. But we're over that now. Mostly.

Anyway, pictured above are five of the Shallow Girls. (Missing are Carmy and Patricia) A couple of years ago, we trecked to a PA Renn Faire and stayed overnight. It was around this time of year as you can see by the fall decorations. I love this picture.

Left to right starting at the top: Shelly the juggler/actress (currently a cirriculum big-wig for the state of Delaware.) Lin the stilt-walker/dancer (currently PR Director for an upscale department store), Wendy the dancer/actress (currently a Yoga instructor).

Left to right starting at the bottom: Gwen the dancer/actress (currently raising three beautiful little girls) and Me, Beth the singer/actress (currently writing novels and working as a Library Assistant)

Pictured to the left, me in the foreground and Gwen right behind -- back in the day. Unfortunately, Shelly and Lin aren't pictured here though they were there and costumed the same. (Yes, those are Victoria Secrets bras, but we decorated them with sequins and broaches--hence they became costumes. *g* Madonna has nothing on us) It was New Years Eve and we'd just performed a choreographed number at a high roller party (Mardi Gras theme).

Fast forward to now. Although we all still take the occasional entertainment gig, we've all pretty much moved on in our lives. (We no longer wear decorated bras. Not in public anyway.) I'm just glad we haven't moved out of each other's lives. Today Lin and I are are meeting up so that we can visit Gwen, who just had her third daughter, Katie, last Thursday. A darn good reason to break away from my writing and to brave the miserable weather. Motto for the day: Good friends are like a dose of sunshine. Always welcome.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Invasion of the Brain Snatcher

Let me tell you about the day an idiot invaded my body and gobbled up what there is of my brain. It was yesterday, actually. A good friend gave my name, along with several other NJ and NY authors, to a TV Producer who's doing a feature on romance writers. Out of all the amazing authors I assumed she had to choose from, I really didn't think she'd contact me. But she did. Via email. She introduced herself, explained their objective, and invited me to call or email her if I was interested. But, of course, I was interested! This was, my friends, an incredible promo opportunity.

I started to email back. I feel more comfortable with email. However, I thought a phone call would be the wiser choice. Not.

I wasn't nervous. I swear I wasn't nervous. I've been a professional performer for bukoo years. I talk over the microphone all the time. To lots of people. This was one person, over the phone. No big whoop. I thought she'd answer and we'd have a short conversation. I can do the conversation thing. I'm quite friendly, honest. But I didn't get her. I got her voice mail. And for some reason that caught me off guard. Suddenly, I felt self-conscious. Or maybe that was the sensation of an idiot worming its way into my body and gobbling up my brain, because the stilted, bumbled words that came out of my mouth couldn't have been coming from me.

I hung up the phone dazed. I'd sounded like an idiot. I didn't even leave my phone number. She's going to hear that message and think, "This person can't even form one coherent sentence. Interviewing her would be like interviewing Homer Simpson. Pass."

So I backed up my idiotic phone message, with a sane email. I haven't heard back from her yet. I'll be pleasantly surprised if I do. Meanwhile, this was a huge lesson learned. I should have thought out what I was going to say, before I dialed that number. I should have taken a second to prepare. Or at least a second or two to look over my shoulders and confirm no Brain Snatchers were in sight. *g*

So make me feel better, folks. When's the last you made an idiot of yourself on the phone?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Something In The Air

J.A. Konrath is Treading Water. In his 10/22 post he talks about how he is now receiving 50-100 emails per week pertaining to his writing. At the the start of his career his intention was to answer all emails and in a timely manner. Now because of his career, that's becoming a true difficulty. His question: "Can we, as authors, ever reach a point where we can relax a little bit? Or are we salmon who never get to spawn, no matter how far up the river we get?"

Katie MacAlister talks about The Beast in the Machine in a 10/23 post at Romancing the Blog. She mentions the 2000 emails in her in-box (some there since 2005) that she had/has every intention of answering. Again best intentions have been tripped up by her career. Her post is actually quite humorous. Treat yourself if you can.

Ken Levine riffs on Knowing When to Stop. In his 10/24 post he addresses something that plagues most writers and can potentially lead to burn out. When is enough enough? When is it time to leave off and relax? Regroup? Ken notes:"Writing is rewarding but never easy. We resist starting and constantly fight the temptation to stop."

Jordan Summers ponders Success or Failure in her 10/24 post. She talks about today's authors killing themselves to meet today's publishers expectations by writing multiple books a year, and how that can lead to burnout out. She also ponders two roads to success... "Either you have to turn on the speed and produce several manuscripts a year for several years in a row OR you have to write one outstanding book that could launch you into space." She ends by asking readers/writers to chime in with thoughts on which road they'd like to travel and why. Hop over to read the interesting feedback.

Hmm. Skipping around blogosphere, reading these posts, I thought, "Er, are they talking to me?" Or maybe there's just something in the air. In my own 10/19 and 10/23 posts, I talk about feeling overwhelmed, nearing burnout. Now I'm not dealing with the amount of emails as Konrath or MacAlister. Jeez, I'm lucky if I hear from readers twice a month. I've yet to acheive the level of success or the exposure of these two authors. On the one hand, that's a tad disappointing. On the other-ACK-that's what I have to look forward to? Bukoo emails and dealing with the guilt of not having time to answer them? And I thought I was overwhelmed now.

Then there's the issue of feeling frustrated because you're not writing fast enough, so you push too hard, and eventually hit the wall.

Okay. So it's not just me. It's the nature of the business. Of the artist. It's knowing your limits, setting boundries, and attainable goals. Check. Check. Check.

I felt better yesterday, but I feel even better today. (Hey. Ken Levine does some of his best thinking in the shower, too!) I am not neurotic. Okay. I am. But I'm not alone. We're all breathing the same air. In a profession where it can be easy to feel isolated, there's a comfort in that. Repeat after me. "I am not alone." It's vital to realize that. It makes you pull yourself up by the bootstraps, helps you not to wallow. This morning I said to myself, "Get over yourself and just do it. If you think you've got it bad, how'd you like 2000 emails in your in-box?"

Okay. Now you try it. Fill in the blank. "It could be worse. I could_________"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Publishing Low

Since this was reported by the National Enquirer, I can only hope this is not true. Just the thought of it makes me ill.

Author O.J. Simpson Gets $3.5 Mil For Confessional

Read the details at The Book Standard. Nod to Booksquare for the link.

UPDATE: In comments, HelenKay Dimon wrote: Happy to report it's not true. Yesterday's Publishers Lunch said this:O.J. Simpson's lawyer Yale Galanter denies the Enquirer's report about a confessional book. He tells the NYDN Simpson "is not writing a book. We haven't been paid 35 cents, much less $3.5 million."

Thanks for the info, HelenKay. Very glad that it's not true. Really, really glad.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I'm a creative spaz. If you know me or visit this blog regularly then this is not news to you. My wheels are always turning. A million ideas. Half a million goals. I'm not happy if I'm not doing something creative.

At the same time I occasionally suffer from feelings of being overwhelmed. I worry that I'm falling behind in goals. I worry that what I'm working on isn't good enough. I worry that I burned out and the creative well is dry. Worry, worry, worry until all I'm doing is worrying and doubting and not producing. Which takes me back to: I'm not happy if I'm not doing something creative.

A few days ago, when I was convinced I was nearing burn out, I thought the key was to relax. I still think that's true. What I've learned over the past few days, however, is that relaxing is different things to different people. You might be saying, "Well, duh." But for some reason that never occured to me until I tried do what I thought everyone did to relax: Not work.

I put in an eight hour day at the library Saturday. When I came home I gave myself permission not to write. "You will relax tonight." So I didn't write. I read a little, but I was disappointed in the story so I soon lost focus. I watched an episode of LOST. Loved it. Felt inspired. But I still didn't want to write because, just now that felt like work, and I was trying to relax. I thought about vegging out for another few hours in front of the TV, but honestly it held no appeal and actually made me feel tense. Counterproductive to my goal to relax, no?

Since I was sitting at my computer I opened the files to my new website. The one I'm creating. A bit of a challenge for a techno-goober like me, but I have solid reasons for tackling the job. Before you shake a finger at me and say that's not relaxing. Well, turns out it is. For me. Scott Oden plays fantasy video and role games. I diddle with new website and blog themes. I diddled for hours and was totally jazzed as I finally created a theme I liked. Now it's just a matter of transferring all of the information. I just might have it done and uploaded by my original target date of November 1. Maybe.

Yesterday, I had the entire day free. I started to blog, but I didn't know what to write. Instead of worrying about it and wasting an hour trying to come up with a topic, I gave myself permission not to blog. I opened up my WIP instead. And what do you know, the words flowed. I ended up writing eight pages yesterday. They were dialogue heavy. I knew I hadn't grounded the reader with apt descriptions. I knew I should delve more into emotion. I knew what I was writing wasn't perfect, but I gave myself permission not to get it right the first time. The characters were driving the story, moving it forward in a way that made sense. For now, this was good enough.

When I broke at one point to shower and run errands, the characters yakked in my head all the while. This made me deliriously happy. They're alive. Which makes me feel alive. And happy. I rewarded myself by shutting down at 8pm, even though the words were still flowing. I'd been writing for hours. Why push myself to the point of feeling drained? I watched a movie instead and went to bed inspired. And happy.

This morning, as you can see, I'm blogging. Easily. Happily. And I know I'm going to make progress on my WIP today because I didn't push myself to exhaustion last night and my characters are still yakking in my head.

Wondering if there's a point to all this babbling. Yes, there is. Sort of. I've come to the conclusion that the anxiety I felt wasn't because I was overworked. The anxiety was due to self-imposed expectations. I cut myself some slack. I lifted any deadline that wasn't contracted. I don't have to have my new website up and running by November 1. I don't have to have a new proposal written and turned into my agent by Novemeber 1. I don't have to blog every day.

Lifting non-contracted deadlines, lowering self-imposed expectations, eased my anxiety and bolstered my creativity. Don't get me wrong, I still think I'm a creative spaz. I'll continue to wrestle with a million ideas and half a million goals. I get this feeling I'll forever be seeking balance. But that's all okay. It's all managable. As long as I remember I'm not Super Woman. As long as I remember that I don't have to be perfect and accomplish all of my goals yesterday.

Slow and steady wins the race. Who am I to argue with Aesop?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Call Me Sheldon


Still here. Still Kickin! Appreciate everyone who chimed in with similar feelings or advice pertaining to potential burnout. I'm determined to dodge it. Serpentine! Ever see that movie The In-laws? There was a remake (of course) that I never saw. The original starring Alan Arkin and Peter Falk rocked. Hilarious! I keep imagining the scene where Vince (the undercover op) and Shelden (the dentist) come under fire. In order to run and dodge bullets, Vince advises Sheldon to, "Serpentine!" (Run in a squiggly pattern). That's me, Sheldon (the shell-shocked one). And I'm Serpenting. *g*

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Burnout

I don't think I'm there yet, but I'm smelling smoke. I'm not myself these days. That is to say I'm not the same bottomless pit of energy and focus that I've been for the past several years running. Twelve years to be exact. I've worked very hard to get to where I am in my writing career and I'm not even halfway to where I want to be. I don't want to admit that I'm tired, because I can't afford to be tired. I'm hoping this current lack of energy and focus is a temporary glitch. My creative side catching its breath. Maybe it's a wake up call. Readjust your mindset or you will burn out.

This morning, while googling my symptons in search of answers, I ran across an article by author, Barbara Bretton. She talks frankly about her own professional burnout and recovery. Like I said, I'm not there yet, but I saw a lot of me in her account.

"By identifying myself solely as a writer, I had effectively cut myself off from new experiences and old pleasures and as a result the creative well had run dry. For years I had done nothing but write, talk about writing, think about writing. I'd mastered the art of saying no to invitations from friends and after awhile those invitations stopped coming...and I never even noticed.

In the name of professional responsibility I'd narrowed my world down to the point where there was nothing but me and my computer and a never-ending banner of deadlines waving in the breeze
."

Oh, boy. I'm so close to that I can smell it. But even as I acknowledge the danger of drying up from lack of refilling the creative well, to ease back on my schedule, my expectations, smacks of 'not trying hard enough'. Of 'losing the grip on my dream.' Realistically, something inside of me isn't allowing me to cut me some slack. Being creative is draining. Even more so, being creative on demand. I don't think I ever thought of it in those terms. Ms. Bretton put it beautifully.

"Being creative on demand is tougher than digging ditches for a living and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. We're incredibly lucky to be able to earn a good living doing what we love most in this world but being creative on demand takes its toll.

What we're actually doing is imposing left brain restrictions on right brain activities, the psychological equivalent of patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. In an ideal world, the writing of a novel would determine its own schedule, the characters and plot would set their own pace.

Unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world. We live in a world of deadlines and due dates and expectations, and if we want to carve a place for ourselves in publishing, a place that will last, we have to learn to make the creative side of ourselves coexist with the professional. The secret to longevity as a writer is found in the balance between the two
."

For an inspiring and enlightening read, check out this entire article. Special thanks to Ms. Bretton on sharing her story. I'm bookmarking it in my effort to avoid burnout. If you don't see me here daily, as is my norm, it's because I'm off finding balance. *g*

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Behold the New Wonders

Vote for the new 7 world wonders
A few days ago while researching a new story idea, I reviewed the ancient seven wonders of the world. Fascinating. Today, I ran across an article saying that, except for the Pyramids of Giza of Cairo, all of the original 'wonders' are gone. The public has been invited to vote for seven new wonders. *Gasp* Really?!

"The vote is organized by a non-profit Swiss foundation called New7Wonders which specializes in the preservation, restoration and promotion of monuments, and the results will be announced on July 7, 2007, in Lisbon.

About 20 million votes have already been lodged, including many from India, for the Taj Mahal; China, for the Great Wall and from Peru for Machu Picchu, the fortress city of the Incas.

The only criteria for the new list is that the landmarks were built or discovered before 2000
."

The list has been narrowed to 21 historical landmarks. If you have any interest in history whatsoever, you must visit this amazing website. I was captivated. I'm torn as who/what to vote for. From what I'm reading they're all wonders. After you hop over, come back and let me know what fascinated you most.

So Sad, So Funny

Okay. You have to know me, or at least read this blog regularly, to know why this struck me as so--snort--funny. Yesterday author/blog buddy Jennifer Elbaum forwarded me an email that she received from Amazon. She thought I'd get a kick out of it. I did.

Dear Amazon.com Customer,

We've noticed that customers who have expressed interest in Seduced by Beth Ciotta have also ordered Women in Overdrive: Find Balance and Overcome Burnout at Any Age by Nora Isaacs.


Ha! *g* That's so bang on that it's freaking me out a little.

If someone expressed something that you created, what would Amazon suggest as a non-fiction companion read?

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Weekend Update


Yup. That's me--the kid, not the dog--celebrating my first birthday. I celebrated that day yesterday, too, except instead of a stuffed animal, I got some new clothes, a graphic novel I'd been wanting, and--drum roll--an MP3 player! Yes, techno-wonders and techno-goobers, I have dipped my toe into the modern gadget world. Now I just have to learn how to use it. LOL

I spent that last few days working (day jobs) and zoning (writing). My immediate goal was to have three chapters of my WIP completed by today. I've tackled two and I still have the rest of today to meet my goal. I'm determined. I also managed to hack away at a few of my other goals. Amazing what you can accomplish when you focus. It helped that I resisted blogland, although I must say, I really missed you guys! My reward for completing that third chapter will be to blog-surf and catch up on your lives. I best get cracking!

Oh! The furry guy in the pic is 'Buttons'. He was my first dog. :) And those legs belong to my mom or my grandma--I don't know which. But check out those pointy-toed stilletos! To think women used to wear those daily. Ouch!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Zoning

As much as I love blogging and blog hopping every day, I need to take a short break. This is a jammed packed work week--library today and tomorrow, emcee gigs Saturday and Sunday. I'm behind on answering emails and following up on a couple of promo mailings. I need to kick butt on my WIP. I'm also currently researching for a new series and redesigning my website. In the inspiration area, I am reading 'The Last Templer' by Raymond Khoury and a novelized version of Alan Moore's graphic novel 'V for Vendetta'. Oh, and I just checked out the second season of LOST. Due to library policy I have one week to view the entire season. Yikes!

You see my 'time' dilemma. In order to tackle many projects, I've set some goals.

*Three solid chapters of BEING EVIE (my WIP) completed by Monday.
*Synopsis and first three chapters of the first book in the new series idea completed and submitted to my agent by November 1.
*New website completed and running by November 1.

That is the must-do, I-will-do list. Closely followed by catching up on emails and promo mailings. I also desperately want to finish reading those two novels and watching LOST. United inspiration and relaxation.

In order to meet these goals I need to focus, get in the zone, and stay there. That means no distractions. That means no Internet other than for research purposes. Ouch. But I can do it. It's called discipline. Yuk. But I'll be a happier person for it. I'm determined to meet the above goals. I'll check in Monday to let you know where I stand. Until then, I'll be zoning!

"The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term is the indispensable pre-requisite for success" ~~Brian Tracy

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

No One Rains on Her Parade


After several years of retirement, Barbra is back and, according to this article (and after she warmed up a bit) is sounding as magnificent as ever. I have always loved her voice, her passion, her song selection. When I heard her tour would include Atlantic City, I looked into tickets. Although it would be a once-in-a-lifetime thrill, I couldn't afford or justify the astronomical ticket prices. A friend of mine who idolizes Streisand paid $700 for a 'decent' seat. That's far and above what I would/could pay, but after reading this article and thinking about hearing her sing songs like People, Somewhere, and Don't Rain on My Parade, I'm thinking it would be worth every penny.

As an aside, during a short (or maybe not so short) political sketch at her NYC concert, Ms. Streisand, after first saying, "Come on, be polite," told a persistant heckler to, "Shut the f*** up." Heh. Welcome back, Babs.

So what about you? Is there anyone that you'd be willing to pay an astronomical amount to hear speak or perform live?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Out of Step, Out of Time

Dear Abby, (or anyone else who will listen and comment)

Technology gives me a headache. Don't get me wrong. I'm ultra grateful for my laptop computer and the Internet. I'm also fond of DVD movies and cell phones are convenient. But ask me to comprehend and utilize anything beyond the most basic function of these things and I'm LOST.

Yes, I am one of those people who can't program a clock on the microwave or set the timer for a VCR. I have a new computer with all sorts of nifty programs but all I use it for is Microsoft Word and the Internet. I do fudge around in FrontPage for my website, but again, only with the most basic functions. We just got new cell phones. This one has a camera. Okay. I understand how to snap a shot, but how do I save it? How do I upload a pic to the computer? A friend recently told me it's Blue Tooth compatible and that I can text message too. I only very recently even heard those terms. And there are a gazillion other functions that I can't remember. *sigh* Really. All I want to be able to do is make a phone call and to retrieve messages.

I don't own a PDA. I'm quite possibly the only person left on the planet who does not own an I-Pod or some compact version of an MP3 player. I wouldn't mind having a PDA and MP3 player. They sound pretty nifty. But my temple throbs just thinking about dealing with anything beyond the 'on' button.

I recently learned that you can see and talk to friends through this web cam thingee. I remember when I was a kid and they hinted at future video-phones. Apparently, they have arrived. Blackberry. I still don't understand what that is exactly.

Is it just me? Or is technology advancing at lightning speed? It seems like there are new gadgets every day. Then the next week those new gadgets have even newer versions with more functions.

And another thing! Am I the only one left on the planet who does not have a space at My Space?? Blog-buddy/actor Bruno Amato just launched his 'Space'. A few weeks ago novelist/screenwriter Lee Goldberg launched one, too. Author J.A. Konrath has one. So does Alison Kent and many other novelists. Hey! Just saw Zach Braff has one, too!

Probably I should create a home at My Space. But it's one more thing to 'create'. One more thing to keep up with. Just now, I lack the motivation and energy. Just now I am overwhelmed with technology and yearning for simpler times. Is it just me?

Yours Truly,
Out of Step, Out of Time

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Rusty Chops -- The Solution

I'm currently at the very begining of a new story. So far, I've written five so-so pages. I haven't totally connected yet. I'm not in the zone. It's not coming easily so I allowed myself to be distracted by a new story idea and blamed a heavy work (day job) week on my lack of productivity. I have the next three days off. I need to dig in. I need to haul butt. And I will. ("I will," she said, shaking a defiant fist at the doubt gremlins.) I may not be particularly inspired just now, but I am motivated. This is a contracted book. I promised to deliver. Enough said.

This morning, I instantly pegged why I'm dragging my feet. It's because I feel rusty. I've been working on revisions for the last four weeks. Three weeks on a manuscipt One week on a synopsis. Yes, I was writing, but, for me, revising a completed work is not the same as creating a story from scratch. I haven't flexed those particular creative muscles in one month. I'm out of practice. Out of shape. Rusty. Getting this story off of the ground, getting back into a productive routine, is going to be a struggle.

Well, crud. That's not fun. How much easier it would be to keep researching that new story idea or allowing the day job to get in the way. Except for that pesky contract. And, oh yeah, my dream career. Writing.

This 'rusty' epiphany comes on the heels of a brush with my old dream career. Singing. I performed last night, my first singing gig since July. The first set was rough physically. Not on my body, but my voice. I guess singing in my car on the thirty-minute drive to the gig wasn't sufficient warm-up after not working that particular muscle for almost three months. Heh.

My limitations were apparent on the first song. I had no range. Anytime I tried to reach, I choked. Literally. What should have been a cake gig was now a challenge. Not only because it taxed my voice, but because it tapped my insecurities. I wasn't in peak condition. I was not going to sound my best. I was going to disappoint the audience, my band, and, because I am my own worst critic, myself. All of these thoughts went through my head in the first three minutes of this gig. I had 237 minutes to go. (Kind of like the first three pages of a 300 page book, no?)

Thing was, this was a contracted gig. I couldn't pack up and go home just because I had rusty chops. I had no one to blame, but myself. I wouldn't be so rusty if I sang, even if only in the shower, every day. But I didn't. Fact: I had to make it to to the end of the gig. I was out of shape. This was going to be a struggle. Not fun. Crud.

Iggy, my keyboardist, sang the next song, and within those four minutes I devised a solution. Note to self: Don't go for the high notes until you're more warmed up. Sing within a comfotable range until you hit 'the zone'. You don't have to dazzle right off the bat. Consider this a rehearsal. No one's paying attention anyway. They're either eating dinner or watching the baseball game on those TV's over the bar. Don't expect perfection. Relax, focus, and keep going.

The second set came easier. The third and fourth sets whizzed by. I wasn't in peak condition by the end of the night, but I wasn't rusty either. I had more range, more confidence. And because I worked within my immediate limitations, I didn't sound half bad. I made it to the end and no one pelted me with insults or drink garnishes. Success.

This morning I can't help but comparing last night's gig to my current story. My writing chops are rusty. Note to self: Don't strive for perfection. You don't have to dazzle right off the bat. Consider this a rehearsal. No one's paying attention anyway. Your editor's editing other stories. Your audience is reading other books. Relax, focus, and keep going.

Of course, that signed contract will keep me motivated, but what if I didn't have that professional deadline? Well then, I guess I'd rely on my dream for motivation. Though I may feel rusty now, if I keep at it, I'll soon be loose and in the zone. Less struggle, more fun.

On that note, I'm off to flex my creative muscles. Note to self: Relax, focus, and keep going.

Friday, October 6, 2006

It's No Last Supper

On his blog, actor/writer/director Zach Braff talks about how his new movie, The Last Kiss, didn't do as well at the box office as they'd hoped. Reviews from his blog readers were mixed and it seems Zach had read many of them. Pretty impressive considering one post gets upward of 500 comments. The man is all class, let me tell you. He thanked everyone for their support and welcomed all comments, good and bad. He addressed a few of the concerns of people who were disappointed in the movie. This particular passage really resonated with me.

"There were people who said things like; "It's no Garden State...". Well firstly, I didn't write and direct this movie, and secondly; not every film I set out to be a part of is going to take on as much as Garden State aspired to take on. I am so grateful that movie resonated with so many people, but I hope that you will come along with me as I try many different things. The next film I have coming out in the beginning of next year, "Fast Track" is a broad physical comedy with Jason Bateman and Amanda Peet. And the next film I'm thinking about directing, "Open Hearts" is so dark it'll make "The Last Kiss" feel like "Naked Gun". I always want to be trying new things; that's the fun of being creative. I'm sure you all can relate."

*Raising hand.* I can relate! My first solo novel, JINXED, received glowing feedback from reviewers as well as readers. It was even nominated for a Reviewers Choice Award. It was funny and sweet. My next book was funny too, but maybe a little less 'sweet'. My third book contained humor via secondary characters, but the featured hero and heroine were gritty as was their story. My fourth book wasn't even contemporary, but historical western! Though I do believe my 'voice' rang clear and consistent in all these books, none were a carbon copy of the one before. All received 'glowing' feedback from reviewers and mostly readers seemed pleased, but there is always that fear of current works being compared to past. And, fact is, it does happen. As I've stated before, a reader posted a negative comment to Amazon rearding SEDUCED, basically saying, it's no JINXED. Can't argue that. It certainly isn't. And I can't say I'm sorry.

It's human nature to compare. As an artist in any medium, I think you have to accept this as something that comes with the territory. That fear that niggles you when you're working on a new project, the fear that your audience might not like this creation as much as the one before. One must strive to ignore that fear or it will paralyze you. You will forever second guess your work. Artists change and grow and are often driven to try new things. ALL ABOUT EVIE is different for me. The majority of the story is written in first person. Like Zach, I hope that fans of my previous work will come along as I try new things.

After reading Zach's post, for some reason I flashed on someone viewing Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and saying, "It's no Last Supper." Well, no, it's not. It's something entirely different, but equally as beautiful. But wait. They do have something in common. Something very important. They're inspired creations from the artist's heart. Where there is passion, there is art.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Mish Mosh of News

Speaking of Abby, my HQN editor, on Monday she gave my synopsis for book two in The Chameleon Chronicles a thumbs up. I have officially started on Being Evie (working title). I am once again writing on a semi-tight deadline. At this point it just sort of feels normal *g*

Yesterday, I learned that the creative wonders at Medallion Press (waving to Adam and Jim) are getting ready to design my cover for Romancing the West. I can't wait to see what they come up with. Somehow, seeing the actual cover, always makes the book seem 'real'. The story itself is in the editing stage. I'll probably receive the revision notes in the next couple of months.

I'm in the process of totally redesigning my website. I've been working on it bit by bit, usually at night when I'm too tired to write. It's getting there. *g* Target launch date: Novemeber 1.

Last night Iggy called me and offered me a last minute singing gig on Saturday night. I haven't worked with him since July, no singing whatsoever, so I'm a little concerned about my chops. But what the hey, the gig is at a nearby club and it will be fun to see Iggy and the extra money will come in most handy. Jeez, I'm like Sinatra or Cher, one of those singers who says they're retiring, but never really does. LOL

To prove that I am a creative spaz, not that you need proof other than this blog, just as I was getting ready to type page one of Being Evie, a contracted book with an very real deadline, an idea for a new series popped into my head. It was amazingly vivid and blossomed throughout the day. In an effort to get it out of my brain so that I could concentate on Evie, I jotted notes and committed them to a file. Two days later and I'm still jotting notes. Not to worry, I have made progress on Evie as well--yay, me! Although this new series idea is a pain-in-the-butt distraction just now, the good news is that I have something to look forward to in the future. The creative well has not run dry!!

My last bit of news is about fellow author/friend Scott Oden, and it's a whopper! Here's the blurb from Publishers Marketplace: MEN OF BRONZE author Scott Oden's THE LION OF CAIRO, in which the ancient world's greatest empire -- the 12th century caliphate of Egypt -- begins to crumble and an assassin becomes the caliph's only hope of surviving, to Peter Wolverton at Thomas Dunne Books, in a four-book deal, by Bob Mecoy at Creative Book Services (World).

This is absolutely HUGE folks. And it couldn't happen to a nicer, more amazingly talented man. Please visit his blog for the full story and to wish Scott well!

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Adventures of a Very Cool Editor



I lucked out. I hooked up with an editor who shares similar interests. She has a soft heart for animals and keen interest in exotic locales. She also has an optimistic spirit and a quirky sense of humor. No wonder we click. No wonder she gets Evie, the heroine of my first novel for HQN (All About Evie) coming 5/07!

Say hello to my HQN editor, Abby Zidle. That's her. The one on the camel. The smiley one, wearing a hat and sitting behind her friend, Shannon. Abby's always wanted to see The Pyramids. Last month that dream came true. She joined her friend for a tour of Eygpt. I viewed her photo album and, trust me, it was a bona fide adventure!

If you had the chance to visit an exotic locale, to have an up close and personal experience with a wonder of the world, where would you be off to?

Sunday, October 1, 2006

The Adventures of Goober and Spaz



Cynthia Valero and I met at an New Jersey Romance Writers meeting in 1994. Or maybe it was '95. My concept of time is horrid. Anyway, we connected right away and became fast friends and critique partners. In 1996 we decided to co-write a book and CB Scott was born. In 2000 we finaled in RWA's Golden Heart, a contest for unpublished authors. Soon after we signed with ImaJinn Books, a small publisher of paranormal romance. To date we have published three paranormal romance novels with ImaJinn and one short story which appears in an anthology (Dream Quest) for LTD Books.

During this period, we had the opportunity to spread our collaborative wings. From 2000-2002 Cyndi and I wrote and directed the Mr. Romance Pageant (a production show in which models compete to win a cover shoot for a romance novel) for the Romantic Times Book Lovers Convention. Who will be the next Fabio? It was an amazing experience. As close we've come so far to our dream of being the female versions of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (Good Will Hunting). Someday we hope to co-write a screenplay. We want to experience standing side-by-side on the stage of the Academy Awards (like Ben and Matt) accepting our Oscar for best screenplay. Hey. We're allowed to dream. *g*

Along the way both Cyndi and I grew as writers and at one point we realized that we wanted to explore different worlds. Hence we parted professionally to pursue our solo work. I'm thrilled to say our friendship not only survived, but flourished. We support each other, brainstorm and critique each other's work. It's a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, we live several hours apart and due to schedules, can never hook up in person. Last year we set aside a weekend and met in Red Bank, NJ. A two-person writer's retreat. This year we did the same thing. That's where I've been all weekend. With Cyndi. Brainstorming our stories and talking about writing in general. It was a huge rush to spend that focused time with my amazingly talented friend!

Last year I had someone take a picture of Cyndi and I. This year... I forgot! Darn! She's the only person I know who changes hair colors as often as I do. LOL Above is the promo shot for CB Scott--taken many years and hair colors ago. *g* Cyndi's the tall blond. I'm the short brunette. Just now her hair is auburn, a sassy reddish brown. Mine is currently.... Hey! It's the same shade and style as pictured here! Today we noted our pulled back hairstyles, cargo pants and T-shirts. We looked like a couple of tomboys. So funny. Nothing like in the above pic. Anyway, we may be a few years older, wiser, and all that, but our friendship is as fresh and vibrant as ever. Even our nicknames, Goober and Spaz, still fit.

Advice for the day. If you ever enter into a collaboration with anyone, someone you consider friend, ALWAYS make the friendship your priority. Projects come and go. A good, loving friend is priceless.