Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Silver Dollar

I was raised in the church. My grandfather started off as an evangelist, but he was one of the good guys. I learned early on what the meaning of love and sacrifice meant. My brother and I would visit him, stay in their guest bedroom (Grandpa never lived in anything but a 2-bedroom house the church provided him). Sometimes a battered woman would come in the middle of the night, usually bringing one or two kids. We would be moved to the living room couch so this poor woman could spend the night in the pastor's home, in a bed with her children, away from an abusive husband.

We also learned that homeless people, we called them hobos in those days, knew his house would offer food. They'd come to the back door, and be served. Sometimes they'd sit in the kitchen, huddled over a bowl of soup and bread. I was told not to talk to them. Although I knew my grandparents didn't have much money, they had enough to give a bowl of soup to someone who needed it, and never asked for a thing in return. We learned later that somehow a mark had been left on the fencepost, or the name or address had been communicated by some invisible trail of whispers, so people knew a decent person lived there.

On Sundays, Grandpa would stop between the 4th and 5th stanzas of the closing hymn, and ask people to come forward to pray with him. It used to bother me so much, that, if no one else came forward, I would. I had to be gently reminded that I didn't need to do that any longer, but it didn't stop me from feeling compelled to walk toward this kind, handsome man who had enough love in his heart for the whole world. And I was just a speck in it.

I think a lot about those days now. So much economic uncertainty in our world these days. It has affected all of us. With this as a humbling backdrop, the clanging of egos and harshness of hucksters has me wincing a lot. I seek the decent people who are nice to their fellow man. Isn't sexy, exciting and might not contribute to book sales, but seems like the right place for me. I'm having trust and faith in a plan laid down for me if I will just stop and listen to the words.

When I was about 6 or 7, my father brought home a silver dollar from Reno. My parents were the college advisors at our church, and they had taken their group skiing. I loved that silver dollar, and felt rich carrying it in my purse.

One Sunday, someone did a mission presentation in the sanctuary. There were pictures of brown children with dirty legs and distended bellies flashed up on the screen. They talked about the power of just one dollar and what it could do. When the offering plate came in front of me, I went into my purse and pulled out my silver dollar, and laid it proudly in the plate.

Someone had seen me do this, and after the service, my dad said, "Wonderful that you gave that dollar. But it didn't have to be THAT dollar." He had replaced it with one of his own, and handed me back mine, and gave me a kiss.

If I could remember more things like that every day, I'd be a stronger person, better wife and mother, better writer.

I do enough, I have enough, I am enough.

What about you? What kinds of things do you think about that help fill you with gratitude for what you have so generously been given?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sometimes it Rains on Mondays

We watched the football game yesterday and it was sad to see the season end for the '49ers. They were the better team, IMHO. But then, I've been a fan ever since 1968 when I worked for them one summer between college years. I'd sit at a big oak desk, typing plays and assorted memos. All of a sudden, a football would hit the huge picture window right in front of the desk. The first time it happened, I jumped in my seat so high, I almost fell off the chair. And I looked out through the window at a pack of huge men, laughing, with their hands on their hips. Muddly, sweatty huge men. I was regretting I'd signed a "non-compete" clause in my employment contract, barring me from dating a single one of them. Right about that time my boyfriend became suddenly more attentive, even offering to drop me off and take me home at night.

How nice.

The '49ers had a good season. I'm sure hindsight will make them a better team next year. But the truth is, they did pretty darned good. It wasn't a rout, they stayed strong, and like every army, they had a weakness or two that another team capitalized on. Heck, the opportunity was so huge almost everyone in the division could have capitalized on it.

I remember sitting endlessly on benches watching my two daughters play volleyball in high school and college. Watched my son play soccer all over the country. Truth is, when you play a good opponent, they make you work hard. You get better by playing tough teams. And good opponents also do something else: they make you look bad. That is just what a good team does.

So, the '49ers made it almost to the end. Only game they didn't make was the last one. They came in the top 4 of some pretty awesome teams, all with hopes and aspirations, and talent abundant. They have a rich, winning legacy to be proud of.

But yesterday wasn't their day. It belonged to someone else.

I think about this when I think of my writing. Oh yes, I check my Amazon and Barnes and Noble standings daily. I have several close friends doing very well, and I check theirs too. I notice there's a gap. And then I get out of those sites and write my story. My words.

Not everyone can write a best-selling novel. Not everyone gets discovered right away. Not everyone is a success right out of the chute. But thank God some are. I've begun to learn about long tails in sales, that it isn't as important to be #1 or #200, except that it means you are making some serious money. You must be easy to start and hard to stop.

There are the one hit wonders. The authors who got a big contract and then froze on the 2nd book, or couldn't sell the 2nd book. And there are those that think that everything good has already been written and why bother.

Playing the game is about winning and losing. We can't all win, but we all want to. When you try, you put yourself and your work out there with the chance it will be rejected. Just like the '49ers. No road to the Superbowl without risking losing. That's the beauty of the game. Vince Lombardi said he never lost a game, just ran out of time. Had there been a different set of rules for the overtime, perhaps it would have turned out a different way. Had there been a true 5th quarter, who knows?

But they had a good run. And it will make it all the sweeter when they do get there. Because some day, they will. Just like writing. If we keep writing, we keep getting better and better. If we quit, we lose 100%.

I choose to take the chance. What about you?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Meet Author Hannah Jayne

I've been fortunate to live in California, where I get to belong to three RWA chapters. One of my sisters from the Silicon Valley RWA Chapter is Hannah Jayne, author of Urban Fantasy/Romantic Suspense.

In Under Wraps, she had me chuckling on the first page (a dragon with nail polish?) and didn't let me go until the end.

I've excerpted an answer to an interview question I recently asked her.

SH:  Hannah, tell us about the world building you do. Where the heck do you get all your great characters and ideas?

HJ:  Well, I don't feel like I have to do a lot of world building -- my backyard is San Francisco, California -- one of the most paranormal places on Earth! I remember looking out the window one day and seeing a leather-clad dominatrix walking a leashed Santa Claus into the library. In July. So, I don't think a handful of tattooed pixies, blue cheese smelling trolls, or fashionista vampires rolling down Market Street is all that far fetched. As for my ideas? Thankfully, I rarely have to go "get" them -- they're always coming to me! I'm naturally inquisitive (or maybe it's paranoid?) and I'm completely fascinated by why things happen or better yet, how those happenings affect people. I've always been a big "what if"-er, and that helps. And keeps me up at night...

Here's the blurb on her latest book, Under Attack:

Sophie Lawson is a human immune to magic, which comes in handy for helping paranormal beings transition into everyday life. But fallen angel Alex Grace and his search for the Vessel of Souls is one curse she never saw coming. Suddenly an unexplainable string of killings and destruction has even San Francisco's demons fearing for their immortal lives. And Sophie isn't about to trust Alex's all-too-vulnerable charm or his secret agenda. Now their hunt is revealing dangerous secrets about Sophie's past, and malevolent power hellishly close to turning one irreverent human into the ultimate supernatural weapon.

Do I have your attention now? Come join me today over at Ravencraft Romance Realm for the whole interview, and a chance to win Hannah's book, Under Wraps.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Interview this Friday: Hannah Jayne

Join me this Friday with stunning Urban Fantasy author, Hannah Jayne. Come learn about her Underworld Detection Agency and her fabulous characters. Who says a hunky man's chest has to be on the cover of a best-seller? People who want kick-ass heroines will be thrilled with her books. Hannah breaks the mold! I will also be posting an exclusive author interview on Ravencraft Romance Realm the same day. Looking forward to seeing you at both sites.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday the 13th

What do you do on Friday the 13th? Avoid ladders, black cats? Do you curl up with a good vampire book or watch a vintage movie on TV? Do any of you remember Creature Feature?

Vampires have become the new alpha male dangerous super hero, replacing the rebel motorcycle gang types of Marlon Brando fame. Yes, those guys were dangerous, and weren't the ones your mama wanted you to date, but you couldn't help but love them anyway. Because they had a heart underneath that rough exterior.

Same for vampires. Except now with the vampiric characters, they are not only sexy and dangerous, but they hold the power of life after death. Authors have written them dozens of ways, from brooding and melancholy, to overly confident and reckless. We love how they have to be careful of their human mates, when they have them. We enjoy reading how they are tamed by mortals, out of love, honor, obligation to do the right thing. How they fight against their animalistic vampiric abilities to adjust to humans. How they pretend to be human.

What do you love about vampires this Friday the 13th? Do you have a particular one you'd like to cuddle up with? One lucky commenter who joins this site will receive a Kindle or Nook version of my new novel, Honeymoon Bite. Learn about my breed of Golden Vampires of Tuscany. Be sure to leave your email address and ebook preference when you make your comment.

And to complete the blog hop stop for a chance to win a free Kindle, please proceed with caution to:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Welcome to 2012

2011 Has been a good year.

But then, I say that every year. We either get lessons, or we are blessed with abundance. Or we get both. I think 2011 was one of those.

One of the things I want to do more this year is just accept what is. I've been the director all my life, raising children, running two successful businesses, now my venturing into writing. Funny how I have to do the same things to be successful in each world.

Kristen Lamb once blogged that sharp pointy people are like diamonds that polish us into the jewels we all are. That post gave me clarity, and hope, that I could see some of the circumstances that may or may not have been in my full control, had turned out to be priceless in the end. Almost like I developed a Teflon exterior. If it hurts, it will make me better. Some day.

I've been fortunate to run across some fans and readers who love my words. Can't tell you what a joy that is. They aren't in the thousands, yet. But they are growing. And the emails I've gotten have helped sustain me during the darkest of the nights of my year.

I've met new friends. I've disassociated with people who made me feel bad. Good friends have shown me their worth, their value. False friends have fallen off my radar. I feel relieved of the burden of having to hold my tongue, or wondering if I was doing the right thing. I've learned that I am enough, I have enough, I do enough, just the way I am. With a little help from my friends, I have healed some of the turmoil in my gut, and come to accept that the world is really a pretty darned nice place, and I'm lucky enough to live in a tiny slice of Heaven.

My first words were wonderful, giving me a depth of emotions I'd never worked before, but they were an escape to a world of my own making. Now that I have written almost 6 books, in 2011 the characters began to speak to me as old friends, coming back over and over again, inspiring me. The stories have taken on a life of their own. Now when I read them, I learn things I didn't know I'd written. Amazing. Just simply amazing. Yesterday I was looking for something in one of my Guardian books, and actually got sucked into it. Had been about 4 months, and I actually almost couldn't put it down. It was a pleasant surprise.

In 2011 I've gotten over some sensitivity toward the steamy books I write. I do believe sex is good for people, and should be enjoyed a lot and often. One of my beta readers said she was going to read with her husband, taking turns. I thought that was a superb idea. Could one of my love stories actually help a couple become more close? Trained in psychology and wanting to be a marriage and family therapist at one time, I used these techniques in dealing with clients during my successful real estate career. Now can I do the same with my author platform?

This past year, there are lots of people who make me laugh, who are fun to play with and have given me advice I shall cherish and use every day. Tina Folsom has helped me get over myself (well, not always) and get stuff posted, though I have a fear of these computer things. Bella Andre has helped my confidence as a writer. Same for Virna DePaul. Early on, my first meetings with the San Francisco chapter of RWA, and meeting its president, Sophie Littlefield, I knew I had joined the right group. Rachel Herron and her writing journey has inspired me. Darynda Jones, so free with her kind and careful advice. Hannah Schwartz, Marina Chappie, Margie Lawson, Brenda Novak--all these people are like little guardian angels, coming along at just the right time. The first time Veronica Wolff said, "this is hot stuff and you can take that to the bank," made me write day and night for about a month straight. And who can deny the inspiration Jimmy Thomas brings wearing anything, or even in his birthday suit.

My critique buddies: Shane, Arletta, Kent, Robin and Ronn, as well as Pam, have been gentle, but firm. When I hear, "you can do better" I know to trust that comment. I thank Tina and Grace and Virna for some early reads of my very rough stuff and not throwing up. To Julia Rachel Barrett for making me laugh and being there at a particularly challenging time last year. My goals group, going on about 2 years now: Delilah, Carly, Myla, Riley, Sidney and Susan have been important in questioning what I did and why, and helping me make it specific and measurable. My fellow bloggers at Ravencraft Romance: Danielle Ravencraft, Kay Dee Royal, Charlene Wilson, Deanna Jewel, Marsha Moore, and Bri Clark have helped me grow as a writer, and push me to keep my butt in the chair and churn out the words every week!

There are others.

With so much talent and wind behind my sails, how can I not have a great 2012. Because, I am truly not alone in this journey.