Thursday, February 22


I am (slowly) rebooting my life. Well. My artistic life. My personal life went and rebooted itself last fall when my daughter was diagnosed with mental illness (she's doing much better now; once she got on the meds, she realized she needed them, which is a HUGE step!) -- and right after THAT settled down, my mother in law fell ill (cancer; still dealing with all of it, but fingers and toes crossed, Mom isn't going anywhere, any time soon!)

Oh and let's not even TALK about LAST November. Oy. I was gearing up to get things together (with, like, actual progress and everything) and...well.... I'm working very hard right now to step away from Social Media except for the purposes of marketing and promotion. 

And, speaking of marketing and promotion....

I'll be there primarily promoting my Artwork, but always love talking to readers (besides, it looks like a LOT of fun -- May 17, St. Andrew's Hall, 7pm.

Friday, June 17

I haven't said anything....

I haven’t said anything about the tragedy that took place in Orlando last week because I don’t understand.

I don’t understand a world that can produce someone who is filled with so much hate that he thinks the only release is to take an assault rifle into a crowded room and open fire the clear intent of raining down maximum damage—maximum terror—to a room full of strangers who surely have never even crossed paths with the shooter.

I don’t understand the horror that boy’s parents must be feeling. They seem like decent people.

I don’t understand a world where religious officials and everyday people would condone the horror this man brought down, or the atrocities he committed all in the name of hate.

In the name of fear.

I don’t understand a world where people are so afraid of what is different, what is other, that they feel the only action left is to end the lives of people they’ve never met—to shatter the lives of other families.

I don’t understand a world without empathy, but apparently, that is the world in which I live.

I live in a country where one of the leading presidential candidates gets up on a podium and spouts hatred and separatism and anger and fear. He incites violence and is REWARDED for it. He advocates anger and fuels people’s fears and people flock to hear more.

I live in a world where religious leaders, so many of them hypocrites, stand before their congregations and preach separatism even though the Book in front of them tells a very different story—and yet no one in the congregation speaks out against them.

I live in a world that at times seems devoid of empathy.

So I haven’t said much about Orlando, because I don’t understand. I don’t understand the hatred. I don’t understand the fear. I don’t understand the violence.

I am sad.

I am tired.

I mourn.

I mourn for the dead.

I mourn for the wounded.

I mourn for those neither wounded nor killed because they will no doubt have nightmares for the rest of their lives.

I mourn for the families of the victims.

I mourn for the community, because we have to find a way to cope, I surely don't know how.

I mourn for those who had to clean up the dead, those who had to silence the cell phones. Those who had to remove the bodies.

I mourn for the man who did this terrible thing because what must his life—his head and heart—have been filled with?

But mostly I mourn for us humans, because we created this world. We made this. It’s ours. Now we have to live in it.

I only hope we change it, I hope we learn empathy, I hope we learn to listen—to hear each other. I hope we stop preaching violence and begin embracing love. I hope we stop screaming separatism and start whispering beauty.

I hope that someday no one ever has to wake up to the call all those mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and loved ones had to wake up to last week.

I hope that someday the world is different and our children or our children’s children can look back and not understand either.

Saturday, May 21

Hello Blog!

Clearly, it has been a very long time since I've posted anything. Even longer since I've finished a novel.

Today's post started out as a journal entry (or rather, it started out as the idea of a journal entry as I was soaking in the tub, reading a book, thinking deep thoughts and realizing "I should write this down"--then I realized I should write it HERE, not only to explain my long absence from the blog-sphere, but to...I don't know, maybe inspire someone else or something profound like that  ;-)  )

I've spoken a few times about my on-again-off-again bouts of depression. I don't want to over-sell it; it's not (usually) crippling, it just sort of sneaks up on me when I realize I was too emotionally and mentally deflated to do much more than binge watch The Good Wife (yeah, there's a real picker-upper! *not*) or surf Facebook all day. Usually by then, it's two in the afternoon and my husband is coming home from work and snuggling on the bed while he watches Stupid YouTube videos sounds SOOOOO much better than doing anything productive. A day or two later and I'm kicking myself for "wasting" a whole week which of course sets off a downward spiral.

So here I am, a living room full of laundry that needs to be put away, stuff that needs to be done, feeling sorry and ashamed (I'm not actually currently, but a month or so ago it wasn't pretty), wondering what am I doing with my life, as I bleakly stare down the big 5-0. (I'm 47 and turning 50 has been weighing heavy for a while--the fact that today is the memorial service for a guy who was just a couple of years older than me isn't help much. There have been a few funerals the past year that have really made me start to feel my mortality).

A month or so ago, I finally had enough wallowing. Therapy isn't quite within the budget (and seriously, I know how hard it can be to find the *right* therapist) so I decided to start with baby steps. There was a self-help book (for the record, I LOATHE self-help books) that I'd had my eye on for a while and I got it. It's not *great* but it's got me thinking and journaling, which *is* great. It also led to the purchase of a second book which is actually pretty awesome. Granted, it's geared for "girls" half my age--it's about "finding your passion" and "loving yourself", stuff that's pretty old hat to an old lady like me   :)

But. Here's where it got interesting this afternoon, soaking in the tub, listening to They Might Be Giants (always good therapy!) Until quite recently, I'd lost track of my passion. I mean, I knew what I loved, but I wasn't *doing* it. I was quite sure why. A few ( No. Let's see, my kid is 20, and the *stuff* happened in....sixth grade? So that's what, she was 12 or so? That sounds about right.) So 8 years ago, my darling daughter made some less-than-stellar choices. (Nobody worry, she's FINE--and that's actually part of the problem!)

The short version is that my tween-daughter made some bad choices because she was a tween and that's what they do! Nobody died, nobody was seriously injured, nobody went to jail, nobody got pregnant, but it was a *very* rough few years and that had a lasting affect on both of us. I spent a LOT of time wondering where in the world I'd failed as a mother. And like a good mother, I got HER into therapy (which led to it's own bout of drama), but never thought to see a councilor myself.

Eventually things got better, my daughter grew up, she has an *amazing* man in her life and is generally on track to do awesome things--I am genuinely proud of her (even though we still sometimes fight and definitely don't see eye-to-eye on everything!)

In those intervening years, I did some pretty cool things too. I wrote a book. I wrote a few. I started painting again. I thought I was happy.

Then some Life Stuff happened (as Life Stuff does) and I found myself emotionally derailed. AGAIN. Couldn't I manage to get ANYTHING right? How hard it is to just STAY HAPPY?! It's not rocket science. It's just being grateful for the things you've got, right?

Well, yeah. But it's brain chemistry too! And it's learning to be gentle with yourself (which is a LOT harder than rocket science for some people!)

So, here we are with laundry that needs to be folded and a floor that hasn't been mopped in longer than I care to admit to in public, and worst of all no new books and a seriously blown-deadline from last year that I am so ashamed of I refused to even CONSIDER going to my publisher's author-conference because I didn't want to look Elizabeth in the eye (nix that, I *couldn't* look her in the eye, even though she is a wonderful, understanding woman)--even though in previous years, I've come back from that particular conference feeling energized and full of creativity.

And there I was in the bathtub thinking about the work I've been doing the last month or so on myself and it hit me.

Yes. That Stuff with my daughter 8 years ago DID affect me. Moving the way we did 3 years ago had an impact. The fact that the house is...well, it's a fixer upper and I love it most days, but other days, I would give anything for walls that weren't crumbling plaster! (I was entirely too optimistic about the amount of time it would take to turn this place around). I'm disheartened by the amount of money it takes to heat this beast of a house and by the cost of auto insurance in Detroit. But I'm also dealing the fact that I'm not....I'll always be a mother. I'll always be my daughter's mother. But she moved out. I'm not really empty-nesting; I was happy to see her go (because she's safe and happy and I adore her fella). But...I have to re-define myself for the first time as something *other* than my daughter's mother because she's an adult now. I did it. She's out of the nest and flying on her own what?

I wasn't sitting still the last twenty years; I did stuff. But the whole time I was still first and foremost a mother. Now being a mother gets to take the backburner and I'm reading a book on "finding your passion" geared for someone half my age totally identifying with it because while I know what my passion is (writing books and creating art work) that hasn't been my *primary focus* for so long, I think I forgot what it felt like to be a creator first and all these other things second.

It's a little scary.

It's a lot exciting.

And life has thrown us a couple of unpleasant curve-balls, too, but we'll muddle through like we always do. The important part is that I've figured out that I *need* (desperately need) to DO STUFF, to do something that would make me feel accomplished again, between now and turning 50. I still expect 50 to be hard, but if I can look back on the years between 47 and 50 and go "wow, lady, you did it! You did SOMETHING and it was GOOD!" I'll be okay.  And now I have a better understanding of why. My big accomplishment--my daughter--is...well, she's "accomplished". She made it to adulthood with only a few bumps in the road. Now I have to figure out "what next?"

The good part is that I know my "passion."

I'm a writer.

I'm an artist.

Over the next couple of months, I'm going to be working very hard to finish a non-fiction project that's eaten up great big chunks of my life for the past two years. It's probably not something most of y'all would be into (and that's okay!) I'm anticipating publishing it (self-pubbing) right around the end of October--just in time to get back to writing about wonderful sexy boys falling love for this year's NaNo  :)

I have several stories kicking around in my head. I'm not making any promises on when they'll be done; I don't really do well with deadlines (at least not on the initial draft of anything), but I do know that next year will see a number of books from me.

I'm also getting back into ceramics. Mostly small stuff, jewelry, candle holders--whatever will fit in the largest kiln I could afford (and would run on a household circuit without needing special wiring). I'm not sure where it will take me, but I intend to find out. 

So please stay tuned, stay patient, I know I've been away for a while, but I'm coming back. I have to. My passion is writing. It's telling stories and creating things for other people.

Tuesday, November 3

NaNoWriMo 2015

Yep, it's official, I'm doing NaNo this year, hoping a little "forced deadline" (and a fun little PWP story) will help jar the clogged creativity loose (just in case y'all hadn't noticed a distinct lack of activity! Yikes, it's been bad. But I had a lot of fun when I was writing Tentacles and Chain, so maybe--hopefully--writing something else that's not really plot heavy, just sexy fun, will turn out to be what I need right now.)
The last couple of months have simply been draining, emotionally and mentally. Going back to work has both helped (money is good!) and hindered (except when it's not so good.) Ironically, I actually end up getting more writing done on days when I have to go in--having that external pressure seems to kick things into gear for me.
But....the wonderful Sarah Madison posted this on her Facebook page, and I think I'm going to try employing some of this writing strategies, not just this month, but every month and see if I can't get things back into gear, because there is something supremely frustrating about having three almost-done books, but nothing actually complete.
So...what is my NaNo novel about? It's a story I've had kicking around for a while, about bird-shifters. One is a white raven, the other a black swan. Sadly, I lack the photoshop skills to tweak this guy, but other than not having the white-blond hair and odd eyes (one green, the other blue) *this* guy is the perfect Ollie (my lost little white raven who was essentially sold by his parents to a rat-shifter pimp when he was 13 and has been turning tricks on the street since he was too young to legally write about.)

from 123 RF; ID # 20572817
And this guy is the picture perfect Lawrence "Kit" Vescovi, a black swan who owns/operates a horse ranch in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
from 123 RF; ID #33322071
Kit has a soft spot for lost souls, but the only way to rescue Ollie is to buy his contract, which in effect makes Ollie his, body and soul, to do with as he pleases. He doesn't intend to use Ollie, but it's hard to resist the beautiful young man's charms, especially when Ollie shares some of Kit's more...exotic sexual interests... (hint: BDSM ahead!)

All I need to do *now* is come up with a working title....and of course finish the darned thing!

Friday, August 28

I give up

No, not really   ;-)  Read on. 
First, apologies for not getting to "Calling Bullshit" pt. two. That will come out in a day or two, but I've had something needling around my brain for a while--but this has been a very rough summer for me with the heat and the mosquitoes, so I haven't quite felt like writing, much less blogging, for a while. (For those who don't know, this year, I developed the most obnoxious sensitivity to mosquito bites. I've always been a little sensitive, and of course the little blood suckers LOVE me, but this year has been really bad. Not life-threatening bad, but still pretty dang bad, especially since they seem to keep finding their way inside the house. Finally, armed with military-grade bug spray, nettle tea--a natural anti-histamine that doesn't leave me feeling like a zombie--and the most amazing stuff in the world for post-bite treatment, I feel like a human again.)
Okay, so what is it I'm giving up on?
My weight.
Well, sort of.
What I'm really doing, after a month of serious "hard dieting" (no cheese, no butter, an average of 1500 calories a day), the scale *still* wouldn't budge off of 170. I didn't exercise as much as I would have liked (mostly owing to being doped up on drug store anti-histamines), but even if I did nothing but sleep all day (which is all I did do for a couple of really bad days), my body should still burn about 1700 calories just going about the business of living. Add in trips up and down the stairs to the privy...and well, that's at least a hundred calories burned as exercise! When I finally felt better, I spent some time in the garden, went walking, and generally tried to enjoy the outside as much as the heat would allow.
But nope. Not a pound came off.
But you know what? I went shopping for clothes this week for a job interview (I didn't get the job) and I bought, for the first time in 20+ years, jeans. Okay, they're super stretchy and honestly fit more like leggings, but there is denim in there. I bought a denim-looking pair that I love and a black pair that I'm luke warm on, but here's the thing. Size 16. And maybe if they weren't so stretchy, they'd be 18, but still. When I went up to the rack (a different rack, I started out looking at trousers), I reached for my usual 22 wide and short. A quick look at them against my body confirmed that no, these were going to be too big. Okay 20's. Well, maybe better look at the 18.
In the fitting room, I discovered two things. The 18's were still a little roomy and the pants made me look frumpy and dumpy. Even though I was getting these for a job (that I didn't have, so I didn't want to spend *too* much), I still wanted to like them. So I bit the bullet and tried on the jeans. And I gotta say, I think I look good in them! (I actually like the denimy pair better than the black pair and may go back for a couple more).
Of course in a perfect world, I'd still love to be 130lbs (although at least one friend looked at me askance when I said that and said "I think that's still too heavy" in a hushed and horrified sort of tone). But in the real world, I am 170lbs. I'm eating  lots of fresh or frozen fruits and veggies, 100 or so grams of good protein daily, 25+ grams of fiber  appropriate portions of whole grains. I try to keep my sugar to 100 grams or less (yes, that's high, no will not give up sugar in my coffee or honey in my tea.) Fat makes up 25% to 30% of my daily intake--and I'm still only eating an average of 1900 calories a day, even on days when I splurge a little.
But I'm no longer avoiding things I love. Like cheese. Moderation is important, but avoidance just leads to a grumpy me.
So I give up.
I give up on buying into this notion that a woman can't be curvy and beautiful.
I give up the guilt over my weight, guilt that has built up over the years starting with family members who would whisper behind one another's back, "have you seen _____? She's sure gained some weight, hasn't she?" (And funny that it was always she and never he.)
I give up the notion that "fat girls" can't wear this or that. Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was told by my hair stylist (not the wonderful young man I've been seeing for the last year and a half) that "heavier girls really don't look good in short hair, here, let me do something like this for you instead...."  And "this" was perfectly cute, but it wasn't what I went in wanting. (And when I told that story to my current stylist, he was suitably gobsmacked that a stylist would say that to a client. There are certainly some things my hair *won't* do--that's just genetics, but I could have hair down to my ankles and I still wouldn't look like a Victoria Secrets model!)
I didn't get my bikini this year, but that was mostly due to not getting out to the stores in time to go shopping for one. The ones I found online were either ugly as sin or didn't look like they would make *anyone* feel good about themselves--or had so many straps they hardly looked practical. So maybe next year.
In the meantime, I'm going to keep eating well and getting in more exercise because I enjoy it. I'm going to be me and I'm going to be happy, which I think are far healthier goals than "skinny" any day of the week.
It really gets across the idea that "flattering" is almost painfully subjective--and I will never, EVER let anyone else dress me. Nearly all the personal shoppers made this beautiful young woman look frumpy and dumpy and at least 15 years older. 
Find your style. Be yourself.
Love yourself.

Saturday, August 8

Calling Bull Shit

On myself.
Let me explain:
This week, two things came to my attention, the first a book, the second a movie. Both have received quite a bit of backlash and my reaction to that backlash is potentially hypocritical, so before anyone else calls bullshit on me, let me call it on myself.
Unless you've been living under the same rock I do most of the time, you've heard about Kate Breslin's double RITA nominations for her debut novel, For Such a Time. (Just in case you're really living under a rock, a RITA is to the romance world what an Oscar or an Emmy is to the movie world. I'm not sure I aspire to one myself--I'm pretty aware that I usually write books that are niches within a niche market, but I would dearly love to see one of my fellow M/M authors win one for "the team"). 
(For the record, I'm not condemning anyone for "living under a rock"; sometimes mainstream media is flipping depressing! I swear as soon as we've got it better sorted out, I really am going to build a blanket fort in my office.)
But (as usual), I digress.
Earlier in the week Ms. Breslin's book crossed my radar, thanks to something a friend posted on their Facebook. The "something" was a link a post on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, which does a good job of breaking down (and raking over the coals) the plot of For Such a Time as well as outlining why some people might maybe just be a wee bit offended
Okay, a lot offended.

Of course, there have been some great rebuttals, too. And certainly, the cry of censorship is one we should all heed. Censorship is never a good thing.


Here's my take on it.

I don't think it's censorship to ask "who thought setting a romance between a Nazi war criminal (because that's what a camp commander is) and one of his prisoners was a Good Idea?!"  Who thought it was a Good Idea to have a woman whose freedom and possibly life are in genuine peril because of her deeply held religious beliefs (not an accidental turn of phrase) in the end be saved by in the end converting to a different religion? (Namely the religion of the author).

Obviously Ms. Breslin and her publishers. And the thousands of people who loved the book.

I also don't think it's censorship for someone to say, "I don't think this thing should have been nominated for a RITA because....." And honestly, I'm not certain how I feel about this particular book's inclusion in the nominations. What I do think is that the author and publisher have an awful lot of hubris for brining this thing to life in the first place. (Please read that carefully; I'm not saying it should be banned, I'm just wondering about the minds that dreampt it up). I don't honestly think it makes a lick of difference what group of people we're talking about or what religion anybody converts to in the end. It's still hubris.

I'm also more than a little queasy about this idea of falling in love with a man who is responsible for killing tens of thousands of people in some of the most horrific ways imaginable. I have no trouble figuring out why concentration camp survivors and their families might take umbrage to that particular plot point. (And frankly, I'm hard pressed to think of any rational, compassionate human being who wouldn't be not only offended, but outraged by the atrocities of Nazi Germany).

Does that mean I don't think it should have been written...on a human level, yes. I don't understand the mind that thought this was a Good Idea. Do I think that my morals and ideals should reign supreme? Hell no. Just don't ask me to condone the book or its central premise. If I happened to actually have a job in field (i.e. library science) would I allow it on my shelves? You bet your ass I would. Once it's written, the horse is out of the barn and the world has the right to free access to it.

And maybe the bottom line is that I don't understand how inspirational novels are supposed to work, because I thought an inspirational novel was a book in which a character without religion finds solace in one faith or another, or someone struggling with their faith finds renewed vigor in it after some trial or because they meet someone who is a shining example of that faith. I didn't think it was about someone who already has faith abandoning it in favor of some other religion (namely that of the author).

I did mention hubris, right?

So at the beginning, I mentioned there were two things that crossed my radar this week and my reactions to those things were very different. The second one is the film Stonewall, which is catching flack before it's even hit the theatres.

I'll be back on Tuesday to report on my feelings about that....

Tuesday, August 4

Must-Read Books

Recently, a friend shared a link on Facebook, entitled 200 Books Everyone Should Read. I'm not writing this to specifically knock that list. I've seen lots of lists of X-number of Books Everyone Should Read. Sometimes it's Science Fiction books; sometimes it's Classics. Sometimes it's a list of female authors or authors of color. Those interest me slightly more, because if nothing else, we should all make a point of being aware of female authors and authors of color, because neither demographic gets a lot of press.
But back to the 200 Books Everyone should read.
Who says? Why should anyone who isn't interested the topic, the characters, or the time period slog through 400,000 words just because someone, somewhere decided that "everyone" should read Gone With the Wind? Why should anyone who isn't interested in child-wizards read Harry Potter? How did those two books end up on the same must-read list, anyway? What do these books have in common with each other and the other 198 books on the list? (Because this list in particular casts a pretty wide "must-read" net).
My time is precious. So is yours. Read the books that speak to your soul, that take you somewhere magical. Broaden your horizons, yes--pick up something you might not have picked up otherwise because it's a freebie on Amazon (a classic whose copyright has expired) or go to a different section of the library.
Heck, just go to the library. Poke around. See what's out there that you might have missed by staying in your comfort zone.
Read a book you wouldn't normally pick up because you want to study the writer's style, learn something from the way they present their craft, or learn something new.
But don't rush out and buy War and Peace because someone said you should or because it's some kind of competition.

It isn't.
I read eight of the books on that list; most were assignments for school. Of the eight books I read, I only have fond memories of two.
There have been other books that profoundly affected my life and my worldview that aren't on that list, or other lists like it. (I was genuinely surprised not to find Anne McCaffery on the list of "must-reed" female science fiction authors.)  Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones, the Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishiop. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip. These are stories that more than entertained, but affected me. They aren't the only ones, but they're the ones that spring easily to mind. They're books I remember, books I cherish. Books I periodically revisit.
I'm never going to voluntarily pick up Dickens ever again.
What about you? What are your personal "must-reads" -- the books you loved and have shared with your friends, because "everyone has to read this!" ?

Wednesday, July 22

The best laid plans....

So here I am again.

Another huge gap between posts.

Another "honest, I meant to do better than this."
At this point all of my reasons feel like excuses even though at least a few of them *are* reasons.
And would you believe, I'd honestly planned to post from RainbowCon, which happened last weekend in Tampa, FL?
I had great intentions.
But I'm learning things about intentions and expectations (the ones I place on myself more so than the ones placed on us by the World). The more I "intend" to do, the less I actually get done. When I'm simply working at my own pace, relaxing, but making an effort, Stuff seems to happen.
I came home from Rainbow feeling...not exactly energized (introvert here; I had fun and loved meeting people, but being "on" like that is a little draining, even if I'm loving it in the moment), but...eager. Eager to get my butt back into gear and get these books finished. Eager to reconnect with you guys. Eager to say "hey, I'm alive, really!"
Eager to say "Thank You" for still being here.
I know the only reason these books aren't finished is because I haven't finished them. It's really just that simple. I know I sometimes let myself get distracted. Facebook. The Sims (3). TV. Books. And Life has been a bit nut-ball. But those are excuses. I also know that I let myself get caught up in fear. The fear that I'll never make a living at this. Well, hello, unless I actually get writing, I won't. Duh, huh? But it's easy to feel like you missed the boat on publishing, on romance, on anything.
On everything.
But you know what? There will always be another boat. The industry is ever-changing and the model that worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. The rules of the game are being written and re-written and I may never be playing the most current version, but I'm eager to keep going, not because I think I'm going to make "a living" at this, but because this--writing, telling stories--makes me happy. I truly hope reading my stories makes other people happy too, but at the end of the day, artists do what we do because there's a passion driving us forward, forcing us to create. Getting bogged down in sales and marketing and what other people are doing is the surest way to kill the passion.
It's time to take it back. To stop worrying and just write.