Saturday, May 28, 2011

Thanks for the Gift of Your Today

I found this inspiring inscription at the Superior Court building in San Francisco. I was taking a tour, with a number of my writing friends. Employees there had created a wall to honor and thank the Vets who served in WWII.

It may be too small to read, but the inscription was credited as being carved by an unknown Marine on a rock outside a temporary graveyard on Iwo Jima.

I remember hearing a speech Colin Powell gave several years ago, when he said (and I paraphrase): "These brave men and women sacrifice much, sometimes all they have. All they ask is for a little patch of ground on which to be laid to rest."

Kristin Lamb had an inspiring blog yesterday, giving thanks for all the freedoms in her life she is able to enjoy, due to the sacrifice of a few. I think she says it better than I ever could, so I won't try. Memorial Day--To Those Who Give the Ultimate Sacrifice.

We do have a lot to be thankful for. Just being able to post something here and not worry about the boots coming to my door to take me away is huge, especially for a writer. There were times that wasn't always so. Some things are better, and much is still to be done.

Memorial Day is something special in our home because we have relatives in the military. I go to the services at Franklin Park Cemetary where the sounds of flags flying is louder than the din of traffic. There's a board with the picture of those who have fallen during the last 12 months, and a place of honor set aside for the family of that loved one in the front rows--a place I hope never to occupy. I look into the eyes of a grieving family: parents, children, husbands and wives, grandparents, friends. Maybe my being there somehow helps.

And then I vow never to let another day go by that I don't thank them for the freedom and blessings in my own life, paid for by their precious gift.

And go out and live my life to the fullest, which is the only way I can truly honor them. I'm not going to waste their gift.

What about you? Do you have a special someone you thank on Memorial Day?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Welcome Author Tina Folsom

I am pleased to welcome an incredible writer, and one of my best writing friends, Tina Folsom. You may have read recently in Forbes and the Washington Post how such talented writers as Bella Andrade and Carolyn Jewel have had huge financial success by releasing their backlists to the self-publishing craze. These are agented, writers with years of publishing background.

What makes Tina's story so compelling is that she has done it without an agent. And she has done this without a backlist of titles released previously. She is definitely one to watch, and a writer who not only shows talent, but commitment to her craft and her readers. No wonder she has exploded on the scene.

A Writer’s Life

By Tina Folsom, San Francisco, California

When I started out writing, I had a definite preconceived idea of what life as a writer was like: long stretches of sitting behind my computer, writing eagerly, would be interspersed with tea breaks and contemplating looks out through the window, then long lunches with my girlfriends, a little shopping in between. And by four p.m. my work for the day would be done, and I’d prepare a leisurely dinner for me and my husband or make a reservation at a nearby restaurant.

But becoming a writer was nothing like I’d imagined, yet everything I wanted.

My day starts early: I rise before 7 a.m. After a quick cup of coffee, I’m already at the computer, checking emails, sales statistics and sales rankings and make sure that all my books are still showing up at the various retailers. I’m a little paranoid that way, but after the things that have happened at various online retailers over the last few months (and I’m not naming names), I find it prudent to make sure my books are still for sale.

Once some of the admin work is out of the way, and I’ve replied to reader emails and guest blog requests, I start writing. I try to get about 4 - 5 hours of pure writing time in every day. On most days this translates to about 2000 - 3000 words or 8 - 12 pages double-spaced.

But if I thought that my day would then wind down, I was sadly mistaken. The rest of the afternoon and early evening is often spent with marketing tasks. Whenever I find a new retailer to upload my books to, a whole process of formatting and marketing starts.

Only recently, I started uploading my books to the Apple iBookstore and had to discover that even though my ePub looked perfectly formatted on my computer, when I bought a test copy for my iPad, most of the formatting was gone: no indents, no justified text, no italics, no centered headings. It was a disaster. That’s when my real work started: I had to find out why my perfect ePub was suddenly not so perfect anymore. Needless to say, I spend hours correcting things and re-uploading. I’m a perfectionist that way. Now, every time I upload a new book somewhere, I purchase a copy for the appropriate device and make sure it looks all right. Would a publisher do that for you? Not sure. But frankly, that’s why I’m self-published, so I can control every aspect of my books.

So, while other authors out there tell me that they don’t want to be both publisher and author, but would rather just concentrate on writing, I can’t let go of either. And even though it often is double the work, and many days I work 12 hours, I also reap all the rewards: I don’t have to share my royalties with an agent or a publisher.

But what’s even more rewarding is the knowledge that I was able to do it all myself. With the help of my faithful readers, of course, because without them, my books would be languishing on the digital shelf.

Thank you, Tina. I am sure you have inspired other writers to follow in your footsteps. What amazing opportunities we have now as writers in this dynamic, changing arena. As usual, the generous sharing of your success helps us all to reach for the stars. Brava!

Stop by, and if you leave a comment on Sharon's blog post, you'll be entered to win an autographed paperback of Venice Vampyr - The Beginning (Novellas 1 - 3).

All Tina's books are available from, and other onlineretailers.

Monday, May 23, 2011


My daughter and her husband gave me the registration to the Windsor Green Race as a birthday present. I walked the 5k and finished just under an hour, pushing our granddaughter.

There were ten thousand people here today. I watched a ten year old cross the finish line. Girls That Run had 238 girls from 17 different elementary schools, all wearing green tee shirts. I met the Kitchen Connection, a group of ladies who get together and cook at each other's houses.
There were about seven hot air balloons. People cheered us across the finish line, whether we were walking or running.

These lovely ladies from San Jose were out for a girls' weekend. Their shirts say Run Now, Wine Later. Hola!

Since it was the day after the
world was supposed to end, some came with an attitude. This lady's tee read: Twin Moms, Twice the Fun and Twice as Fast.

We were serenaded by a mariachi band half way through. This guy treated us to reggae.

Someone ran with a bridal veil. All very good fun, and for a good cause: raising money for the Windsor School District. Afterwards the local firemen dished up pancakes and scrambled eggs, and lots of smiles.

Well, I stayed away from the pancakes, but couldn't help myself. This guy came in first, and was nice enough to pose for me.

Boy, the things we gotta do to get our stories....

Monday, May 16, 2011

Two Pages A Day

I've been stressing about getting some edits done. Editing is not my favorite thing. I like the writing part. When I first began my writing career, I was so inspired by Diana Gabaldon that I emailed her and asked her about her process. The conversation went something like this:

Me: So how do you edit your story without eviscerating the characters, losing the love for the story while you pay attention to all the technical parts of the words, of the craft?

DG: O.M.G. I LOVE the editing process. That's how I polish it up, reveal the real jewels of the story, find the buried treasure. That's where my story comes to life.

Me: So, how many pages do you write a day? What's your schedule?

DG: I get up to fix breakfast for my husband and then go back to bed, or answer some work-related items, get up again around 11 and write until mid afternoon. Then family activities, shopping, getting ready for dinner. I have dinner with my husband and after everyone is in bed and asleep, I go back to writing until 2-3 AM. Then I go to bed. I'm lucky to get 1500 words a day in.

Ahem. Clearly, I am no Diana Gabaldon. Now, she may have changed her schedule a bit since that little email some years back, but it became clear to me the two of us approach things in completely different ways. I can write 5,000 words in a day, and have done it many times. I've written 92,000 words in 30 days and 50,000 words in a month many times. She writes slow and loves to edit. Hmmm. And she sold how many books?

I had the opportunity to attend a weekend workshop with Margie Lawson at Asilomar on the beautiful Monterey Coast this weekend. I asked her where to begin applying all her lessons to my WIP. By the end of the weekend, it was beginning to look like a piece of stinky laundry. I told her that the thought of going into deep edits clearly with six different highlighters gave me a visceral reaction sending my blood pooling around my ankles like pudding. That was a pink, for those of you in the know.

She said to start with the dialogue, blue. Then do the emotional/visceral reations, pink. But to do one at a time. While doing the blue, you could recognize the dialogue descriptors and plump them up, then look at the pink and look at the appropriate power words...and then....and then... In other words, do them one at a time. Print out the assignments one at a time.

This morning I was at a meeting and I heard someone say they read just two pages a day from a book that helps them. Two pages. They stop in the middle of the word or sentence or paragraph and only read two pages. Because eventually, the whole book will be read cover to cover, two pages at a time.

So how will I attempt to do the deep editing of my WIP? One chapter at a time. I will apply all the lessons, one at a time, each color one chapter at a time. And eventually, the whole book will be deep edited.

I'll get out my prospecting clothes and big glasses, and look for all those jewels lurking. I know they're there. And now I have a method to find them.

Thanks Margie. Thanks Diana.

How about you? How do you tackle the hard part of editing your work in process, or some other thing you find tedious, looking like Half Dome in your mind?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

No Flour, No Sugar, No Coffee?

I am so nervous to write this, but for today at least, I have given up flour, sugar. I can't give up coffee yet, but will by next week.

You know you have to do something when you don't like the pictures anyone takes of you, even though everyone else says they're great.

("Wings" sculpture:

I realize I'm been swimming around in a fog, a haze created by my addiction to these food items. It's frightening considering giving these things up for the rest of my life. But the truth is, I am allergic to them. I've just not been looking at it.

Someone once said, "The closer I get to reality, the better I do." Funny, coming from a romance writer, who specializes in fantasy. Driving down the road with a book on CD, or my favorite music so loud I can't hear a darn thing except the thumping of my heart is one version of reality I can live with. It's actually harmful to me to just turn on the radio and take whatever they want to give me. I like having the choice. I'm good with creating my own reality for a story, a mood, setting a stage at a party or entertaining.

But I've been thinking about reality in other terms lately. Like the reality of my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. The reality of looking at my words and being able to say: this stays, this goes, like pruning in the garden, dead-heading. I will never be able to trust my own instincts until I see the reality of how I write.

After four days now, I can see how these little vices have run my life. I think about the finality of not having those things. And I think about perhaps leaving this earth with too much unsaid, too many books not published, readers to thrill. The giving up of flour and sugar is nothing compared to checking out before my time.

I know that if I fertilize and prune, I'll have more flowers and fruit. If I cut and polish my words, I'll be a better writer. If I eat more healthy and give up some sacred cows, I'll live longer.

What about you? Have you struggled with things you have to give up to achieve a goal, or improve the quality of your life? What did you do to help you overcome the struggle?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Mother's Day Gift

You might ask why I would get a slingshot for Mother's Day. Living here in beautiful Northern California, we have acres of gardens and in the middle of our field, we have an abandoned pool from the years the kids were little. I have it filled with koi, and goldfish. It didn't start out that way, but, as things in my life have a way of doing, soon became the "big blue thing" I could see outside my kitchen window that got converted into something nicer. It's now one huge koi pond.

Life is indeed about taking lemons and making lemonade. The last thing I wanted to see was blue plastic in the middle of a meadow, but on the day we were going to remove it, it was filled with polliwogs--thousands of them. I knew that in time they would become little frogs. Over twenty years ago I brought 6 little green and yellow frogs from my garden in Sebastopol, let them loose near a natural pool and I've been serenaded by their ancestors all these years later. It just wasn't in my nature to destroy all these little lives. My husband had a different opinion about it all, but I won out.

But when summer came, and all the frogs had moved on and out of the pool, I got concerned about mosquito larvae. I bought some comets at a local fish store, and watched as they grew several inches that first year. I tried a couple tiny koi and the same thing happened. I put in water hyacinths and other water plants, added some minnows and then more koi.

Now they are having babies and I must have over 100.
My pond has defied all the odds. It is as green as moss. I don't clean it. I just put in bubblers, a little trickle of well water and feed the fish every other day in the summer. They eat about a Big Gulp's worth of pond sticks each feeding.

Their idyllic life started to change when we had a visitor. A great big Heron, almost five feet tall, decided this was his own private hunting ground. I watched in horror as he ate at least a dozen fish, some of them almost a foot long. I tried to get my dogs to notice, but the bird is smarter than they are.

But not smarter than my husband. So, for Mother's Day, I am armed and dangerous. And on a focused mission to protect the little eden I have created, by accident.

Happy Mother's Day from my garden to yours.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Do You Think I Can Fly?

I hired the talented Cindy Pavlinac to help me design some author shots. Her stunning photographs of sacred places has charmed me into a journey and has inspired some of the scenes in my stories. I also participated in a Labyrinth Walk in San Francisco's Grace Cathedral last November. It was the highlight of the holiday season for me.

Heavenly Lover is being readied for release, and every time I drive by this stunning sculpture by local artist, Bryan Tedric, I'm filled with emotion. It is a sacred space for me. You can visit his website here:

If you've been to Burning Man, this sculpture has been there too. These wings move back and forth in the breeze, catch light from all different angles at all times of the day.

When we shot this, the sky was initially gray, but as we continued shooting, the clouds parted, literally right there above my head, and we got wonderful striations and blue sky.

I've said before I'm a Christian with a bent antennae. I believe in good and evil and guardian angels everywhere, as well as much more. And so that's the story I was driven to write.

I don't dare to attempt to instruct anyone on anything religious, because it is to me something very personal. I'm not qualified to deliver a message. I'm creating a fantasy, something for entertainment. A movie in the mind. A world that might be, could be and is, in my mind only.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Warriors All

It isn't a stretch to imagine this little boy growing up to be a superhero in his chosen field. I think they are made inside the womb. Born of a different mold.

Of course, every child is born different, and special. No two are even remotely alike, even though they grow up in the same family. But those that choose a warrior's path, in the traditional sense of the word, are indeed, well, special.

That's why they call it Special Forces.

There's been a lot of talk recently in the media about the role of the SEALs and their job: doing things we sometimes don't want to talk about. Doing things no one else can or would want to do.

I'm a little uncomfortable about all the publicity, and know SEAL families feel the same. They quietly do, are completely dependable, don't boast and don't need the limelight. It isn't their way. Not what they are taught. Not what keeps them out of harm's way. Most of them won't tell you anything, even if you ask. Even if there are things worthy of praise. They don't need it.

We've seen some pretty incredible pictures recently. And we're going to see a lot more. Let's remember that some of these fine military men and women, don't come back. Not every mission is successful. It's easy to have a ticker tape parade when everything turns out great. Harder to be a fan when the mission isn't successful.

Jimmy's grill on Coronado has a wall for the fallen. I hope we never forget to say thank you. Even when things don't turn out so well.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Way To Go SEAL Team 6

Any wonder why these fine men are the true definition of hero? Quiet, unassuming, avoiding drawing attention to themselves.

I can't tell you how proud I am. I'm usually not speechless. But I am so grateful.

I lost the valedictorian of my graduating class in the 9/11 attack, Naomi Solomon. I lost another member in the U.N. bombing in Algeria, Chad Hamza. No one can bring them back, or all the others who have lost their lives all over the world, including the military men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

And we know there will be more.

But today, there is cause for celebration.