Writer's Life

There’s a Hole in My Bucket List

Bucket lists seem to be a big thing these days. While I never thought of it as a bucket list there were some things I wanted to accomplish before I am too old to enjoy them. Maybe my ambitions were small. Maybe I was lucky because my goals have been fulfilled for the most part. Or maybe my bucket had a leak. The things I haven't done were set aside mostly because I grew up and decided I didn’t want to do those things after all. For instance, for a long time I was enamored with celebrating New Year’s Eve in Times Square. The outing quickly lost its appeal when i learned about the lack of bathrooms. I am both too old and too young to wear a diaper.

After realizing that I don’t have a bucket list, I decide to research them. I perused the internet to look at other peoples’ bucket lists. Many were filled with exotic places or, strangely, related to heights. I couldn’t really relate to those but I suspect I could add traveling if I gave it some thought.

It was fun to see some of the things I have done on other people’s list. It might be even more fun to look at lists and compile one of things I have done. It makes me smile just thinking about some of my adventures.

I have seen Prince live nearly 100 times. I met him and got his autograph. I stood beside him and realized he is shorter than I am. I went to his concerts on two continents. When I was in MPLS, I was nearly involved in a traffic accident with him.

But is that 5 items on just one?

I’ve met Jason Momoa three times—and he remembered me. That probably makes two.

Hmm. Maybe I could borrow some that I found on other peoples’ lists for the other 3. Let’s see. I’ve done a ride along in a police car. I’ve stood in two different states at the same time. In the same vein, I’ve stood atop two mountains that allowed me to see multiple other states. I’ve ridden in a hot air balloon. And I have driven a limousine.(No, neither Prince or Jason were involved.)

I think I’ll start keeping a list of all the things I HAVE done. My life is full. I don’t need to focus on what I haven’t done—yet. Which reminds me:

I need to meet Roman Reigns!

If I Could Just Talk to Them #MFRWAuthor #book #authors

The list of writers I would like to meet and talk with is long. I’ve always been an avid reader and was lucky enough to discover Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, Anne MCCaffery, and Ursula LeGuin as relatively new writers. But before them, I had fallen under the spell of Andre Norton. Born Alice Mary Norton, she wrote at a time when publishers believed only boys read science fiction, and obviously only males could write it. She wrote other books under pen names Allen Norton or Allen Weston. Her juvenile fiction usually featured an outsider who survives challenges and becomes the hero figure, saving the day. This “rites of passage” theme appealed a broad audience making her a best seller to adults also. My love of “underdog heroes” can be attributed to her.

A little later, I discovered Barbara Michaels who I suppose would be classified as Gothic romance. Again the outsider, usually considered the “bad boy” in the beginning of the book would turn out to be the hero in the end.

I would love to talk to these women about how they withstood the prejudices against female authors (and readers) and flourished and became the leaders in their genre.

Some time between Norton and Micheals I discovered H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. Both these authors wrote in the 30’s but had a resurgence of popularity. I can almost understand my attraction for Conan who was born a slave but became a king. He does loosely fit my character preferences. But my attraction to the cult of Cthulhu confused me until I remembered The Dunwich Horror in which the truly bad guy was my favorite character. He became a bad guy because the townspeople hated his family and shunned him.

So my third author would be H.P. Lovecraft. I would love to understand the working of his imagination. And I would like him to know that while he was never recognized during his lifetime, 80 years later he and his creatures are an integral part of the horror genre.

My 4th and 5th authors are still living. I would love to talk to Tanya Huff and Poppy Z Brite and ask why they stopped writing my favorite books. Tanya moved from main characters who were gay males to write female main characters in the military. And Poppy went from anguished gay males to books that seem to be about food in New Orleans. If I could just talk to them, for even a moment, I'd also beg them to write just one more book in their old style.

 

My Choices Brought Me Here #MFRWAuthor

Life is filled with roads untraveled. Decisions I’ve made to go left instead of right, north instead of south, have brought me to where I am—who I am—today. What if I’d made different choices? Would I be a different person? Maybe. Maybe not. There are too many “what if” questions to know for sure. That being said, the answer to the question, “What would I do if I didn’t write?” isn't a stretch when one considers I still have a “day job”. Two, in fact. In my work life,I always find myself in some type of social service. Whether it was as a social worker, a professor, or CEO of a non-profit, the emphasis has always been on working closely with people, helping them to acquire the skills, information and resources needed to live their best lives possible.

My human service work isn’t as disconnected from writing as one might assume. I’ve learned to patiently get to know people, to see their lives from varying points of view instead of making easy snap judgements about them due to their circumstances. This probably explains my tendency to write about and cheer for the underdog, as well as create rich, three- dimensional characters.

None of this means, however, that I don’t dream a myriad of what-if scenarios. An exercise in The Artist Way by Julia Cameron asks the reader to write down 5 occupations he or she would like to have. Here’s my list: Rock star, dancer, rock star’s wife, rock star manager, or rich man’s kept woman. I guess I zigged when I should have zagged.

What’s your what-if list?

It's a Little Like Giving Birth #MFRWauthor

People ask me all the time if I write myself into my books. Yes and no. Most of my characters are male so I don’t particularly identify with them other than finding them attractive and, for my heroes, likeable. My ego may show up in a female character at some point, probably more as someone I'd like to be rather than who I am. That being said, I’m not sure that it is possible to create without having myself in my writing to a significant amount. Getting a book to print is a little like giving birth: Your DNA is in the mix with your blood, sweat and tears. And it's all fun and games until you have to painstakingly squeeze out actual words that you  hope other people will find as wonderful as you do.

More to the point, like DNA is passed onto one's children, my interests and choices are infused in my stories. For example, on a simple level my characters—or at least my heroes—will look and behave in a manner I find appealing. My heroes are either significantly short or exceptionally tall. None of those average height guys for me. They'll all have long hair because I like long hair. Their clothing may change to conform to the story but it will still be something I find attractive. So my preferences and desires will always be present.

In terms of personality and behavior, the protagonists in my books are unlikely heroes who have to go the extra mile to prove they are worthy. I’m not sure that means anything more than their struggle is huge (and therefore more interesting to me). I would have a difficult time writing about a gorgeous billionaire who has to fight to get ahead. Kudos to those who can.

Because it's so important in my life, music will usually play a role in my stories. If nothing else, a minor character will be a musician but most often it will be a significant element in the setting or in the life of a main character. I frequently get ideas for stories from music. I am sure that the mood of the music I play while writing affects the words on the page. Emotional music makes for an emotional story. Sexy music…well, you know.

There is also the aspect of the time and effort that goes into writing these stories. If I'm tired and pressed for time, my writing echoes a negative feel and drags on. In revisions, I can effectively moderate this tone. On the other hand, if I'm excited about the story or something else in my life, my writing takes on a lighter, happier, or more optimistic tone.

I dare say people die when I am feeling angry about something. #writerprivilege

Recollections #MFRWAuthors

I have heard people claim to remember events from their childhoods, some clearly as far back as their toddler years. Maybe they do. I don’t.

What I have are flashes, pictures that come to me. Sometimes I know their context, sometimes I don’t even know that.

My earliest memory is of me as a preschooler sitting at window at the front of our apartment, waiting for my grandmother to come home because she always brought me a treat of some kind. I turned and watched her walk up the stairs and down the hall and wondered why she didn’t speak to me. Then I heard the door open and her walk up the stairs and greet me.

Weird, right?

The apartment was across from a grand hospital that had once been someone’s home. I remember my sister and me crawling under the fence to play on the grounds of the hospital. I loved that park with its soft grass and towering oak trees. Eventually the hospital was turned into apartments and the land leveled for parking.

We didn't live in that apartment long because strange things kept happening to people in the family. I remember a dream I had there when I was four or five, and it still gives me the creeps.

I’m currently working through the book, “It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again” by Julia Cameron. Thanks to some of the exercises, I have discovered that if I set aside the time to think about and explore the fragment of a memory, one image leads to another and more of my childhood is revealed, or perhaps imagined. Unfortunately ,still nothing from my toddler years.

How far back do your memories take you?

The First is Always Special #MFRWAuthor

I have been writing most of my life. Although every story has a permanent place in my heart, House of the Rising Son is my favorite work. The obvious reason could be that it was my first traditionally published novel. Firsts always have a special place in your heart. But that isn’t the only reason it’s my favorite. It’s special to me because of Cheyenne. The original story was born in 1993. Cheyenne, the hero of the story, has changed over the years, and his family has had many incarnations. Some variations worked better than others. For example, Chey has always been a rockstar— the talent is in his blood—but being human didn’t seem to suit him.

Another aspect that has remained constant has been that this unlikely and totally unprepared rock star became a parent. His children’s ages, names, and even the number of his offspring have varied as Cheyenne’s world evolved. Only his reactions and judgments have changed. Consequently, some of Chey’s stories were adventures, others were love stories, most were funny and all were outrageous. He was not a hero to anyone or savior of anything in any of his previous lives.

When I decided to submit his story for publication and introduce him to the world, Cheyenne changed more than he ever had before. In House of the Rising Son I expanded the number of people in his life and focused less on his primary role as parent, instead focusing more on his role in the world as an important member of the Incubi Nation. Of course, he remained a rock star.

The sequel to House of the Rising Son is scheduled for publication later this year, with more books and short stories planned. It’s time for the rest of his story to be told. Then who know? Maybe his children’s stories will make their way into published works. I imagine it will be fun watching their stories unfold, too.

Book Quotes I Love

My weekend was not what I hoped. I missed the deadline to join the 52 Week Chalkenge Blog Hop, but I thought I’d share my thoughts anyway. I still prefer paper books to ebooks. One reasis the ability to underline and write in a physical book. For awhile I kept a 3x5 file box of favorite quotes but it was lost in a move and I never quite got back into the habit.

The quotes I love are rarely found in a collection of famous or inspirational quotes. But for whatever reason they resonate with me. Sometimes I read them later and can’t remember why I marked them. Some have even been paraphrased in my memory. For example my memory of this quote is “children are born knowing magic and the world takes it away.” But here is the actual quote from Robert McCannon’s Boys Life.

“ See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls.”

During emotionally rough periods, these quotes came to mind. “The night is the hardest time to be alive and 4am knows all my secrets.” (From Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite.)Or-

“Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto.”

Stephen King’s Delores Clairborne.

As a human services worker this one has often been in my mind, but honestly, I disagree with it.

Once you let yourself feel pain, really feel it, you can’t make someone else suffer very long.”

Keith Ablow, Denial.

Most of the time I prefer humorous quotes. Tanya Huff is my favorite author for that reason. Some of her series I’ve read multiple times and still chuckle. Most wouldn’t make sense without being read in context but this one gives an example.

But I am a knight of the Round Table," he protested, weakly. "I am a protector of the realm, a slayer of evil, I defeat all those who raise their swords in opposition to Arthur, King of all Britain." "Trust me, kid, women prefer a man who can cook.”

Tanya Huff, Nights of the Round Table and Other Stories of Heroic Fantasy

I suppose this is yet another peek into my psyche. Your turn. What book quotes resonate with you?

 

These Words #MFRWAuthor

When I hear the phrase “words to live by” I think of Facebook memes and quotes at the end of writing exercises. But they are more than that. Often they’re a shorthand for someone’s philosophy toward a particular thing or life in general (Don’t sweat the small stuff), or an emotion. Speaking of which, I am not sure where “Bless her heart” became a “fuck you”. That is not how it’s used in the South, rumors to the contrary.

I can think of three phrases I use often and the reasons behind all of them. I fall back on “everything happens for a reason” to help cope with minor disappointment. An example would be the events of one evening when we had tickets for a concert two hours away. First my partner had an appointment she had to keep so I was to meet her. Being pathologically early, I left home in plenty of time. Along the way I realized I had forgotten the tickets and had to return home. I’d never taken this exit before, ended up wandering around the back streets of a city and being totally lost. (This was before GPS). When I did finally get back on the road I ran into traffic that was literally stopped. Basically I was in a parking lot for nearly an hour. When I picked up my partner we decided that something was telling us not to make this trip so we went home, convinced that we would have been in an accident or something had we continued.

“I can do anything for 15 minutes” is another I use often to make myself start something I don't want to do. It isn’t always true of course, but it does usually urge me to action. I try to use it when scheduling big tasks, and setting goals I am resistant to, even though I know I must (for instance, physical therapy exercises).

One I remind myself of (although sometimes don’t listen to myself), is “don’t love anything that doesn’t love your back”. This includes jobs, possessions, and toxic people. Sometimes that even includes a story that won’t let itself be written and causes too much stress.

My favorite is “life is short”. Sometimes I’m so busy working on one thing to another that I forget to stop and enjoy my life. Then I remember another favorite,  “Life isn’t a rehearsal”. These words to live by remind me how to live.

'Tis Always the Season

I have friends who say they would like nothing better than to have static seasons, preferably in a warm climate. I can't imagine being happy with that. There are things I don't like about each season but why deprive myself of the good parts? It will be difficult to limit myself to the best part of each season as there are so many. As we head into Autumn I'm excited to be able to go outside again. The temperature is cool and nature is putting on a show of amazing colors. The beach is deserted, and the amusements, while on a shorter schedule, are still operating. And the holiday season of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas gives us something to celebrate.

Then there is winter. I love snow. I love watching it snow. I love playing in the snow with my partner and our dogs. I even like shoveling snow unless it is the 3 footers we sometimes get. The earth is beautiful, quiet, and serene.

My favorite part of Spring are the colors on the mountains of home. The tender greens mix with redbuds and dogwoods painting a picture no mere human could create.

And finally, summer. The best part of summer is that my partner works less so is home more. We manage to take the occasional vacation and day trips if we watch the weather carefully. Too hot? Too humid? Too much. We use those sweaty days to go to the movies or the bookstore.

I used to be the type of person who complains about the weather constantly. One day I realized I was missing out on a lot of great stuff being so grumpy. In every season there's a reason to smile.

The Way to My Heart is--Hold on, I'm Not That Easy #MFRWAuthor

I admit it. In some regards I'm a tough nut to crack. I don't impress easily and I surely do not trust easily. However, there are a few traits that I find appealing, characteristics that will touch my heart immediately and lower my guard. Probably the easiest way to my heart is showing gentleness and compassion for animals. Watching a man romp with his pit bull is nice, but there is something about big men with little dogs that makes me smile. A photo of Seth Rollins, a WWE Superstar, playing with his Pomeranian simply melts me. Roman Reigns (WWE Superstar and #manofmydreams) surrounded by chihuahua’s in Santa garb make me swoon.

The internet is full of videos of ordinary men who who take extraordinary risk to their safety and sometimes their lives to rescue trapped or abused animals, or, as we've seen recently, rescue abandoned animals in hurricanes.These are true alpha males, in my opinion.

Which I suppose leads into another trait—competence.  Men who excel at what they do and have confidence in their abilities are sexy as hell. Sometimes, these men come across as arrogant, but a bit of arrogance can be forgiven when the expertise is indisputable. Case in point: #theartistforeverknownasPrince

On the other hand, taking everything, including oneself, too seriously is a total turn off. I'm drawn to folks with a sense of humor.  Like the Rock. He's smart, gorgeous, and has the body of a god. If anyone would have a right to be over the top arrogant, it's him. But he doesn't come across that way. Didn't he once play the tooth fairy, tutu and all? 

Finally, I'm drawn to those who are adventurous. No one wants to do the same thing all the time, no matter how much you might like that thing. The world is too large and too varied. That being said, I never tire of music and going to concerts. Give me an talented musician with a sense of humor and a love for animals and I'm a happy, happy girl. 

 

 

The Only Love There Is

As a writer of Urban Fantasy,  I live to tell stories that transport you to a super- natural world, one that intrigues you, touches your heart, and entices you to return over and over again. I also hope to give you something to think about.  The characters you meet are a motley bunch of beings: humans, Weres, vampires, incubis and wraiths. More than that, they’re diverse in terms of race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, and power bases. Conflict in these worlds  occurs due to differing goals. Or crazy family drama. What they come to understand is that the path to peace is intention. You have to want it, and commit to creating it.

As for real life, we live in a challenging time- if one can define challenging as racist, sexist, homophobic, and divisive. Conflict, often violent,  occurs simply because we’re different (apparently too different to coexist as equals). Fortunately, the resolution is the same. The road out of this horror begins with wanting out, and committing  to change the conditions that created it.

And then we must take action. Create peace by being peaceful. Sow the seeds of acceptance by being accepting. Foster love by being loving.

The Beatles told us love is all you need. Prince told us the only love there is, is the love we make.

Let’s intend to love each other.