Losing a piece of Paris

This past March, I lost a bit of Paris, the pashmina I bought from a vendor on the Champs-Elysees, on my first and only trip to Paris nine years ago.

I’m wearing it in this head shot. I muscled my way into this trip when a good friend and colleague, Linda, told me she and her best friend were going to take a girl’s trip to Paris. I asked to tag along, and said I’d sleep on a pull out. Linda’s friend decided not to go, so it was just the two of us.

I got Rosetta language tapes from my local library to learn some Francais, and learned how to ask where the women’s bathroom was, although I had to ask how to flush the toilet, and purchased three tickets for the first level of La Tour Eiffel, rather than one ticket for the third level. (They were very nice about refunding my money and getting me the ticket I wanted).

We saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, toured the Musee d’Orsay and got stranded on a Metro train near Notre Dame that stopped its runs for that day.

I’ll never forget the man who saw me and Linda sitting there, in an empty train, waiting for it to start up again.

He said, in English, “Train is done.”

We got off, went shopping, and drank the best brandy I’ve sipped in my life.

This week Harlequin discontinued a number of their lines, leaving many wonderful authors and editors stranded.

Those lines are done.

I hope they went shopping and sipped brandy.

I can buy another pashmina (although it will never be quite the same).

The Harlequin editors and authors will hopefully find new homes and places for their work to shine.

But Harlequin will never be quite the same, either. Pieces of it are gone.

But I have the images on film (digitally, and hard copies) of both Paris and me wearing my pashmina and we have the stories these Harlequin authors and editors worked on to make them the best they could be, in print and digitally.

I’m not sure I will get back to the Champs-Elysees (although I would return tomorrow if I could) or if Harlequin will bring new lines in to replace the ones they’ve cut,  or bring those authors and editors back onto the train.

Sometimes we lose things.

And it just plain sucks.

 

The greatest love story never sold

In my day job, I had the privilege of coming across one of the best love stories I’ve ever heard or read.

And as a romance reader and writer, I’ve heard and read a lot.

But it would never sell.

It’s a December/December romance with no back story, which makes it so amazing.

Think of  “The Notebook” without the back story, but the couple are in good health – such good health they roller skate nearly every day.

At ages 74 and 89, Carole and Russell skated at the same roller rink. Carole was reeling from the sudden death of her husband and although her balance was bad, she always wanted to take up roller skating, so she did.

And she got good at it.

Her locker at the roller rink was next to Russell’s. She found him easy to talk to, but she had no interest in dating anyone.

They worked together to serve coffee and donuts to the “skating family,” and went out after skating sessions with the group for lunch.

Carole enjoyed spending time with Russell so much, she asked him out.

Russell hesitated. He liked her –  a lot – but he knew she suffered a terrific loss with her husband, was aware of their age difference, meaning he would likely die before she did, and wanted to spare her another round of grief.

But he took her out for a hamburger, and let her know that he had no intentions of getting married again. He’d lost his first wife in the early ’80s after 30 years of marriage and his second marriage failed.

Carole told him she didn’t have any plans to marry again either.

So they dated and skated.

And on the wheels of love, they grew inseparable.

Russell wanted Carole to go with him to a reunion of the World War II veterans who served aboard his ship. He joined up when he was only 17 in 1945.

Carole told him she would go with him, but not as his mistress.

“She made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” he said.

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So they got hitched, moved in together and skate together four times a week.

And they are in love. She calls him “honey” with a twinkle in her eye, touches him often, and really laughs at his jokes.

It’s the real deal.

And it would never sell.

And that’s just a damn shame.

 

 

 

 

Facing fear

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Matisse said creativity takes courage. He was speaking of placing colors, but this is more than true of placing words on a page or screen.

I belonged to a critique group a few years back. We met in a local Borders book store, that’s how long ago it was, and one night one of our casual members, Mitch, brought his friend, a lovely older woman who was losing her sight to the group.

Mitch gave us some of her work to read, which were written in an essay form from the point of view of Violet, a fictional, delightful, eccentric older woman. She had written these, a great number of them, when she was younger.

They were wonderful.

And she had never submitted them for publication.

She was afraid – not of rejection, but that someone would steal the character. She said someone in the advertising business had told her years ago to be very careful with Violet.

And she was. I don’t think she ever sent it anywhere.

Another member of our group thought she would self-publish her children’s books because she didn’t want to face rejection.

Rejection simply sucks.

Whether you are pitching to agent face-to-face, getting e-rejections, or never receiving anything back at all from an agent or editor you’ve submitted to, it’s disheartening, to say the least. And it can make you scared to keep trying, or simply want to give up.

I nearly did.

I asked a member of the local chapter of my Romance Writers of America group, who writes as Anne Lawson, “When do you decide that it’s just not working?”

She begged me not to give up and to submit to her publisher.

I did and I have eight novellas under contract with them.

Still, I face rejection. And it sucks.

Another member of my RWA chapter, who has ten books published (or soon to be) with Harlequin, and praise for her one of her books in her suspense series from author R.L. Stine, said she got over 100 rejections before she got published.

There’s hope.

But only if you let your work see the light of day.

And with that may come rejection.

But I think of Violet who languished in file cabinets for years. I so hope that lovely lady got past the fear of someone stealing the delightful character she created and submitted it for publication, or published it herself to great acclaim, as it deserved.

And quirky Violet gives me courage to keep writing and sending things out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I read and write romance

I had the privilege to interview Sara after she turned 104, as a staff writer for a local newspaper.

Sara’s brother taught her to dance the Charleston when he returned home from World War I, much to the chagrin of her very strict Italian immigrant parents. She never dated her husband Vito unchaperoned until she married him when she was 17, in what she hinted at was an arranged marriage.

And she spends her days reading romances.

In the days before e-readers, everyone knew what you were reading.

I really started to devour romances when my children were babies. I got disdainful looks from people at the beach, my daughter’s dance class and on airplanes after they glanced at the cover. I wrote a couple, had an agent for one year, but no success.

I finished college with my journalism major and got a job as staff writer where I’ve been for 17 years.

I got serious about writing romance again as our nest emptied. I joined my local chapter of Romance Writers of America, and got some real help, guidance and encouragement, and have eight books under contract with Black Opal Books. Four are out, “Under the Riptides,” “Reclaiming Lexi,” “Double Dare, and “In the Depths,” (just released) “Maybe your next one will be a mystery,” my  83-year-old mother has said more than once. And my father, also 83, says, “It’s not that I wouldn’t read a book with that content…it’s that my daughter wrote it.”

I get it.

I guess.

Then I think of Sara.

She lives on her own in an apartment (not assisted living) throughout the week and her family takes her out on the weekends. I asked her how she spent her time, and what her favorite things were, did she watch TV?

“I don’t watch TV,” she said. “I read.”

“What?” I asked.

“Romances.”

She held up the current one she was reading and pointed to a neat stack she had on a table in her tidy apartment.

Rosie-the-Riveter

She raised two daughters with Vito. When her daughters were teenagers, Sara worked for the war effort during World War II in a plant in Detroit that made airplanes.

“They call me Rosie the Riveter,” she said. “If you don’t put the rivets on the right place, the planes might have blown up. When the war was over, they fired everybody to call the former workers back, but they kept me. It was nice. I had a lot of friends there,” she said.

The company wanted her to work the night shift, but her husband didn’t want her to work nights, so she quit.

She was married to Vito for 56 years until he passed away in the 1985. She didn’t remarry.

And now she gets in lost love stories, as I do, reading them and writing them.

I don’t know that Sara will read my stories, or if she is still with us.

But she is still with me, with every word I write.

 

 

Cover reveal for “In the Depths”

Release date is April 8.

Becca Paxton spends her days trying to cover news and write stories for a newspaper on Hawaii’s Garden Island to please her bitchy editor. She spends her nights asleep in the arms of a dream lover with sandy brown hair, turquoise eyes, and a toned surfer’s body who takes her to sexual heights she never knew existed. Problem is Ethan is a merman who knows Becca’s destiny lies with him under the sea, and she’s afraid of vast expanses of water. He’s wanted her and waited for her since he first glimpsed her in the crystals many earth years ago. Can he convince her she really is a sea form, as he is, and he is really the man of her dreams? And can she leave her life on land and the parents she loves to be with him in a strange world?

front cover

I read it in the want ads

I worked for a large daily newspaper in the days before Craigslist and match.com taking classified ads which included Companion Connection ads. We had to read all the ads back to the customers and we could hear one another reading them back. 3501A19D-C605-48E9-B83D-55384B846CF3There were strict guidelines to what we could and could not accept. One guy wanted to say no VD ever. Not allowed. Weight in proportion to height was allowed. It was mostly young people who placed those ads. One guy wanted the first sentence to say “Let’s go to Vegas.” Not allowed.

Talking with each other on breaks, the general consensus was it was better for the woman to place the ad and pick from those who responded rather than answer an ad a guy placed and wait to be chosen, duh?

In those days before spellcheck, you had to pass a tough spelling test to get a job on what they called the adboard. Spelling came easy for me, a gift from God, a misspelled word literally jumped off the page for me, likely because I always had my nose in a book.

You also had to pass a typing test, which I passed because I had started writing a romance book and devoured Harlequins and Silhouettes voraciously when I wasn’t being mommy to my two children, a wife and part-time college student. So I learned to type fast during nap times.

I submitted romance queries and sample chapters through the U.S. mail and got enough rejections to paper one of my children’s bedrooms. I actually landed an agent, who submitted my 50K contemporary romance but got no offers. She dumped me after a year and I gave up writing romances for years. I finished my degree and quit the classifieds to cover local news as a staff writer for a weekly newspaper chain.

I covered a few murder trials, learned a lot about police work, politics and schools and watched as my daughter and son dated then married great people, in short, got some real life lessons.

Romance still called to me. I still remember the hope mixed with fear from those people putting themselves out there in the Companion Connection ads. It’s still about connections – to characters and to readers – and hopes for happily ever after.

So I tried again, joined my local chapter of Romance Writers of America, and have fun writing books with happy endings, what all those Companion Connection people were hoping for.

Finished edits for another merman story

Here is a short excerpt of “In the Depths”:

He tugged on her necklace. “I would have searched all across your land for you, swimming through the seas for the rest of my existence.” He lifted her face. “You are mine, Becca. You hold my heart. Mina is like sibling to me. She is joining with my fin mate. I wish her only well.” He kissed her gently, stroking her soft lips until she moaned and opened her mouth to deepen the kiss.

This guy (the dolphin) is a character in this story.

dolphin

How I write

I am a panster, and don’t work with a dreaded outline. I fly through the mist and let the characters and story unfold. I love when things happen that surprise me. I write my first drafts on legal pads in large letters, then type it up for my second draft. The idea is that you won’t type the bad stuff – the chaff falls away.

I learned this method from Heather Sellers at the Far Field Writer’s Conference held at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, many years ago. I recycle the legal pads and drive my understanding husband crazy because I do this for at least a half hour every morning, usually in my bathrobe in my home library before I start my work day but also on vacations.

The idea is that you need to use your writing muscle every day, (use it or lose it). I know I would get distracted if  I tried to do my first draft on the computer with social media or computer updates. Pen and paper are easy to grab. I do keep my iPad or cell phone handy to do quick research, or simply make an X and fill it in for the second draft. Sometimes I can’t remember a secondary character’s name and I don’t want to break my flow by going into the document in the computer.

I eat breakfast first, and read a romance or other novel while I eat my grapes and sip my coffee to inspire me. I love Lynda Chance, Tessa Bailey, Sierra Cartwright, Kresley Cole, Maya Banks, Louise Erdrich, Alice Munro, Diana Palmer, Samantha Young and Katee Robert, to name a very few. I’m also hooked on Joanna Wylde’s MC books. I also loved loved loved Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief” and Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See.”

For books on craft of writing, I love “The Writing Life,” by Annie Dillard, “Goal, Motivation & Conflict” by Debra Dixon, and “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott.

And Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” was invaluable when I was blocked after a health setback. You have to do the work and write pages in a journal every day, but it worked for me.

Well that’s how I do it. I’ve got eight romance novellas under contract with Black Opal Books, three of them are in print and e-books so far. But I wouldn’t be published if I hadn’t joined the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America. Without their support, informational and inspirational speakers, it wouldn’t have happened. Fellow member and awesome writer Becca Johnson urged me to submit to her publisher when I was about to give the whole thing up.

My parents have signed copies of my books. I asked them to read the dedications but not the book, which Becca says are “sexy,” not “erotic.” My dad says that it’s not that he wouldn’t read a book with a sex scene in it, but it’s that his daughter wrote it.

 

 

 

Cover story

Photographer Julie Snyder, Photography by Julie, juliestevensprophoto.com, is the “Under the Riptides” cover model for “Under the Riptides.” She’s my co-worker, a wonderful photographer and gorgeous so I asked her to help me with the cover for my paranormal novella, and she said yes. Little did she know she would face the same sort of peril as my main character in the story does.

The photo was taken by Snyder’s sister when visiting family at Lake Patagonia in Patagonia, Arizona, in August 2015. She and family members, including her daughter, went out on a boat in search of a mermaid feel for the book. However, it proved a bit challenging because of the lake’s depth.

“The first spot we found I really liked because there was a huge gray crane just standing on this large rock wall. I got in the water there thinking it was shallow and I sunk like a stone,” Snyder said in an email. “They circled around in the boat to get me while I clung to the large, slippery rock wall. The crane had flown away at this point.”

The group then found a small beach. Snyder and her sister slowly got in the water and found it was shallow enough. Snyder pointed the camera to a spot where the sun was perfectly positioned and then found the spot to stand while her sister clicked away. Many shots were taken. The entire process took about two hours, and then a final picture was eventually chosen.

“Under the Riptides” brings readers into the life of Adrian, a merman and heir to the throne of Crystal City, who lives deep under the ocean riptides. He’s waited a lifetime for Mara, his destined mate. The only problem is Mara thinks she’s human and afraid of the water.front cover(1)-riptides

If you like sexy, fast reads, check it out and let me know what you think.

We considered this photo of Julie, wearing a bridal veil, for another novella, “Reclaiming Lexi,” but the formatting didn’t quite work.

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In “Reclaiming Lexi,” Lexi McCardle still dreams about her high school crush Luke Kettering. On her wedding day, preparing to say “I do” to another man, McCardle’s fiancé calls it off just as she’s kidnapped by Kettering, taking her to a remote cabin in northern Michigan.

This is another quick, sexy read.

Happy reading!