In a series of recent conversations with friends and family, this subject kept coming up. It made me think about things I learned as a young child that stay with me today. Things I do that I never thought about why, until I took the time to reflect.

For example, I never leave my gas tank on empty, and it gets me super aggravated if someone else drives my car and does it. Why? I thought about it, and realized this is something I learned from my grandfather. He was religious about it. He always kept his gas tank full. He lived through a time when gas was rationed. My Aunt Mary told me there was an emergency situation when my grandpa didn’t have gas. He had to gather ration slips from friends and neighbors. I know he wanted to make sure this never happened again. Without my realizing it, he passed this little quirk down to me. So, if there’s an emergency, my tank is full, people!

Children are like little sponges. Whether we realize it or not, they absorb everything. It’s important we share our history with the younger generation. I’m saddened when I realize that so many of our youth can tell you all about the latest reality show, but have no idea what country we won our independence from or who fought in the Civil War. They don’t know what happened on the Beaches of Normandy or at Pearl Harbor. It’s a national tragedy that they don’t.

Make it your mission to educate the young minds in your life, especially on this Veteran’s Day. Remind them why we live in a free country and must be ever vigilant to keep it that way.

Sincere and heartfelt thanks to our veterans and active duty service members. May God bless and keep you safe. Happy Veteran’s Day!

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I attended the Georgia Romance Writers Moonlight and Magnolia’s conference October 10-12 with Volusia County Romance Writers chapter mates and friends, Carla Mueller and Diane Burke. The very first night at the bar, I ordered the hotel restaurant’s signature drink called The Cherokee Rose. It would not be the last time….

The next morning, I was happy to find First Coast Romance Writers chapter mate, Marie Long at breakfast as well as new friend, Kim Castle. And then it was time for my pitch workshop hosted by Maggie Finalist, and ultimate Maggie winner, Jennifer Delemare. Did I luck out or what?

Immediately after, it was time to put my pitches to work. I met with literary agent, Nalini Akolekar, who requested partials of both my romantic suspense and paranormal work. Way to start the day. After many excellent workshops, I ventured off to my second agent meeting of the day. Stefanie Lieberman requested I send her a sample of my romantic suspense.

I finished out the day at Mambo Italiano joined by friends, Marie Long, Carla Mueller, Diane Burke, and Kim Castle. The servers wore T-shirts that said, “The taste that makes you want to mambo!” Much laughter and good food, combined with live music, sent me to bed happy.

The next day, I met with Sourcebooks editor, Mary Altman. I had so much fun pitching to her and she requested both manuscripts as well. Three appointments, five requests =Yay me! To celebrate, you guessed it, another Cherokee Rose. I think I deserved it.

I know the next question, what’s hot? At the agent/editor panel, I heard they are looking for M/M Military Romance, ménage, and Civil War Romance. Vampires are dead. LOL! Still open to werewolves, but paranormal is currently a soft sell. Sue Grimshaw predicted historicals are starting to make a comeback and will be hot again within the next two years. They are currently looking for Western historical, highlanders, and modern day cowboys.

The last day of the conference was all about writing love scenes your readers won’t skip. During Roni Loren’s workshop, we were asked to share the most memorable love scenes from books or movies. Pretty much any movie with Patrick Swayze qualified. Who can forget the scene from Ghost, making clay? And Dirty Dancing? Did someone turn on the heat? Thank God for that paddle fan included in the goodie bags. Whew!

We finished off the day with a trip to the local movie theater and Dracula Untold. Great job of mixing traditional mythology with actual history. I loved it and hope there will be a sequel. To top it all off, I came home to some unexpected news. After judging my contest entry, Cheryl Yeko of Soul Mate Publishing requested my full manuscript. I hit send on all my submissions this afternoon and now feel in need of a stiff drink! Oh Cherokee Rose, wherefore art thou?

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I’m a goal oriented person. I believe in making small, realistic goals I can easily achieve. However, I also have bigger, long term goals that are increasingly elusive.  Recently, I shared this frustration with a friend who made an interesting observation. She suggested that I focus on the process rather than the result.  The idea intrigued me.

My two big, long term goals are losing weight and selling books. I’ve had these goals for many years with varying levels of success. I’m a lapsed Weight Watchers Lifetime Member. That means I did achieve this big goal, but have since regained the weight.  I have yet to receive a publishing contract. But, I do have a body of work that has done well in contests, been requested by editors and agents, and come super close to selling.

So let’s break this down. If I make better food choices, watch portion sizes, and increase my water intake, I will feel better even if I don’t reach a magic number on the scale. And, if I continue putting words on the page, learning my craft, and submitting, I will be closer to success than if I did nothing! More so, I will be better prepared to hit the ground running when the time comes.

Instead of zeroing in on the fact that I have yet to achieve these two goals, and feeling like a huge failure, it’s beneficial to realize that I am doing the things necessary to get the results I want. If I stay focused on the process and the fact that I’m doing the work, I’ll be less likely to feel discouraged. And in the end, the results will be exactly what I hoped and dreamed.  I’m going to give it a shot.

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Do you ever feel like you’re merely going through the motions of life? Does your “to do” list look the same day in and day out? It’s far too easy to become complacent, fall into routines, and forget the excitement we felt as children. Those days before the daily grind of jobs, bills, and adult obligations erased our innate curiosity and wonder.

If I reach far back into the recesses of my mind, I can remember those early childhood dreams. Always an avid reader, I gobbled up everything I could get my hands on. From biographies to comic books, I wanted to have adventures like the people in the stories I read. I wanted superpowers, and trips to faraway places.

While I’m still waiting for my superpowers to kick in after that spider bite a couple of years ago, I have traveled a little, to Spain and Mexico, and several states here in the USA. But there are many more places I’d like to visit. My thirst to learn and explore has not dissipated, yet most days, it goes unfulfilled.

I have a passion for history. In fact, the first novel I wrote was a post Civil War Romance. I would love nothing more than to travel to historic sites and explore them.  I do it as often as I possibly can. Any time I go on a trip, I research the area and plan an extra day for sightseeing.  Traipsing about old musty mansions is a thrill for me.

What is my point? Each day, find one thing you enjoy, and do it. Whether it’s reading a book or eating a candy bar, do something for the pure pleasure of it. When you place your head on the pillow at night, close your eyes and think, “I can’t wait until tomorrow when I’m going to __________”. You fill in the blank.  Make sure you live each day with passion, doing something you love.

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I was a kid back in the 1970’s in Florida. I spent a lot of time at my Grandmother’s house in the summertime. She had no central air, only a ceiling fan, and a wall unit she used when company came over. Yet, I don’t remember the heat bothering me. I remember the excitement.

Every morning I couldn’t wait to get up and go outdoors. We rode bikes, climbed trees, played “Cowboys and Indians” with our cap guns, and dug trenches in the orange grove for warfare. Our ammo was rotten oranges, bulbs fallen from the giant magnolia tree, berries from the mulberry trees, kumquats, and good old fashioned balls of mud. Let me tell you, rotten oranges stink, the smell has to wear off, mulberries stain your skin purple, kumquats and magnolia bulbs sting, and I had a mud facial for free!

Some days we’d range so far from home, my granny would come outside and honk the car horn like a dinner bell. We’d hose off in the outdoor shower she had in the old fern shed before going inside to eat. My granny made the best food: fried chicken, potato salad and apple pie, yum.  I loved spending time with her in the kitchen. I remember frying my first egg in a tiny little pan wearing an oversized apron. I spent a lot of time in that kitchen cooking with my granny. She loved it and so did I.

My granny had a big freezer in the fern shed behind her house. The shed was ancient and creepy, but usable. One night, I went out well after midnight, to grab something out of the freezer for her.  I ran in, turned on the bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling, went into the room with the freezer, took out the necessary item, and headed to the door. Just as I was about to reach the door, I remembered I needed to turn off the light. I reached out to grab the dangling cord.  Before I could, an icy cold hand touched mine and the light went off. I was too scared to scream, I ran!  I guess someone was trying to be helpful. LOL!

I still dream about my granny and her house. It was a magical place. We had a TV with rabbit ears and three channels, make that four if you went outside to turn the antenna pole! No DVD player, no game console, no computer, no cell phone, and still, we had a blast. When we were indoors, we’d play board games, make believe with Barbie and GI Joe, or watch a movie on TV. No DVR, no pause, only run to the bathroom and rush back during the commercial. It was a simpler time which I miss. Time moved much slower, summer lasted forever, and I fell asleep listening to the sounds of nature, rather than electronics.

Do you remember those lazy days of summer? Savor your memories, share them, and make new ones with the loved ones in your life. Make your house a magical place for the children in your life by going retro!

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A little spoilery here…
Let me get this out of the way first. LOL! Yes, Hugh Jackman is bare assed naked in the movie. If that’s your reason for going, you will not be disappointed. =) Beyond that, I believe this is the best X-Men movie so far.

Why? Besides my new favorite character, Quicksilver, it’s thought provoking.

Again, spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned. No turning back…

I’m sure we’ve all thought, if only I knew then what I know now. In the world of X-Men, the wish becomes reality. In a last ditch effort to avert complete disaster, Wolverine’s “consiousness” is transferred fifty years back in time to his younger self. It’s 1973.

His mission: Contact Magneto and Professor Xavier, convince them to team up, and oh yeah, stop Raven/Mystique from committing the act that will lead to the ultimate destruction of mutants. Not hard, right?

Now, I’m not going to spoil anymore. But like Terminator, where the mission was to kill Sarah Connor before she could give birth to the man who would save humanity, it raises a lot of questions. Makes you think.

If you could go back in time to your younger self, what would you say or do? Is there one event you would change. And if so, how would it impact not only your own future, but the future of the world?

Finally, I think this was a brilliant move by the writers. They rebooted the franchise and made it fresh. The last fifty years of X-Men as we knew it has been eradicated and they can tell new stories. Well done.

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So, I’ve been tagged. Fellow writer and friend, Debra Jess, wants answers to some questions. Read her post here:

Now you can check out my answers:

What am I working on?

I usually have more than one project in the pipe. Here’s a sample:

Soledad, paranormal romance-

How do you stop a hurricane? One woman has the power, but she can only harness it with the help of the man she loves, and if she does, it may cost him his life.

Navy Seal, Zander Travis wants to find out the truth about his father’s death. His investigation leads him to Soledad, but her memory loss, freakish powers, and the merc team on her butt, have to be dealt with first.

Soledad fears her power and never wants to hurt anyone again. Lured into a trap, she escapes with Zander’s help, but if she allows herself to trust him, she must face the pain of a past she prefers not to remember.

Criminal Heat, romantic suspense -

Heroine is the daughter of a crime family and criminal defense attorney. When she’s the only survivor of a shooting, the hero (US Marshall) must try to keep them alive while he figures out if she’s the victim or the perp.

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

My heroines are not in need of protection. They are more than a match for the hero. Everything I write has the element of suspense. Expect an extreme thrill ride.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what I’d like to read. I started writing to entertain myself. If it doesn’t hold my interest, it won’t hold the reader’s.

How does my writing process work?

Much of my work has come from dreams. The characters will get into my head and keep banging my doors down until I’m compelled to write about them.

And the burning question, plotter or pantser? I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I like to have a general outline of where I’m going, but it always changes. My characters lead me down some twisted trails.

I’ve tried a lot of different methods, but good ole Goal, Motivation, & Conflict (GMC) ala Deb Dixon is a must. As an avid reader, serial critiquer, and contest judge, it’s my observation that character motivation is where most stories need help. Characters are in need of compelling and believable motivation for their goals. Without it, there is not sufficient conflict to keep the reader turning the pages.

Now, who’s next? Who wants a tag? I’m counting. Better hide!

 

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My daughter, Leigh Jackson, inspires me.  I know, I’m her mother, but I think she will inspire you as well. In September of 2007, my daughter was a competitive cheerleader, doing back-flips and gymnastics. She dreamed of college cheer and one day becoming a doctor. Then everything changed.

I’ll never forget driving to the Daytona Beach Municipal Stadium on LPGA Blvd for a high school football game. Dark clouds gathered in the sky and I made sure I had my umbrella. Leigh was far ahead of me with her cheer squad on a school bus.

During the game, I watched from the stands as my daughter performed a basket toss. I could tell something went wrong as it didn’t go straight and Leigh was the only base to catch the flyer. For anyone who doesn’t know, in a basket toss the flyer can go up to fifteen feet in the air. There are two side bases, a front and a back spot to catch her when she descends, four people.

My daughter had a reputation for NEVER letting a flyer hit the ground. She didn’t this time. Somehow, she caught her all by herself. She squatted, the flyer landed mostly on her left shoulder, her body twisting to take a force equivalent to a car wreck.  If not for Leigh, the flyer would have landed on her head. Yes, Leigh is a hero!

Immediately after placing her flyer safely back onto the ground, Leigh grabbed her back, but then continued to try and cheer. I thought she was okay at first, but I was so wrong, it was the beginning of a nightmare.

I’m not going to type here about the eight months of horror that followed. Suffice it to say that my daughter missed her entire junior year of high school, unable to sit, stand, or walk without assistance.  A parade of doctors had no idea what was wrong with her. The best spine specialists in Florida looked at her and could not figure it out.

Finally, my chiropractor, Dr. Buckley, looked personally at a CT scan of Leigh’s spine and saw the crushed facet joint in her back. A facet block injection from a pain specialist and Leigh was able to walk for the first time in almost a year!

I wish I could tell you that all was well after that, but it has not been.  Leigh has suffered with chronic pain ever since. The injections stopped working, we went on to other procedures, but the end result is that Leigh still struggles with mobility and pain related to her back.

And what about her dream of becoming a doctor? Leigh needed two credits to graduate high school at the time she injured her back. She could have taken the easy road. Done them online and graduated, but not my girl. She went back to school her senior year, took FIVE AP classes and graduated Salutatorian of her class. She went on to graduate with honors from Stetson University and has been accepted to the University of South Florida’s Morsani School of Medicine. She achieved all this while fighting through back pain that at times makes even sitting impossible to bear. I am in awe of her.

Do you have a dream? Do you sometimes feel as though the odds are stacked against you and there’s no way it will ever come true? Don’t give up. No matter what life throws your way, if you want something bad enough, be like my daughter and stay in the fight. The only way to fail is to quit!

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To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven….
-Ecclesiastes 3:1

This verse resonates with me. I’ve reached a point in my life where children are growing up, moving out, and creating their own lives and families. It’s bittersweet. On one hand, I’m happy and excited to see this occur, and on the other, I miss those little hands in mine.

My main job and identity has been mother. And under the title of “mom” there are many roles to fill. I used to tease my husband by telling him that if I died, he’d go broke trying to hire enough people to replace me.

I remember attending a workshop that still speaks to me. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the presenter’s name, but her words stuck with me. She said, “If I’d published my first book at the time I first submitted it, I’d have been a one book wonder.” I’m paraphrasing because I don’t have the exact words. But that’s very close.

She went on to discuss how at that time, her life would not have permitted her to give the attention to a writing career necessary to be successful. Looking back, she was thankful for the way things turned out. When her writing contract finally arrived, it was at a time she could devote herself to her craft.

I’ve consoled myself with this on multiple occasions and I’ve heard this sentiment repeated by at least two other authors I know. But, I have to admit to wondering when my time will come. It feels as though I’ve been waiting forever. Some things truly are out of our control. I trust that someone with much more infinite wisdom than I will choose the right time.

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My husband says worry is wasted energy, but I can’t help myself. I submit my case in point. I drove my brother to Shands Hospital in Gainesville for surgery on his leg. Everything went well. I finally got into my hotel room close to midnight. Once there, I called the hospital for one last check in. Dennis told me he was being moved to another room, but that he was okay.

After I got into bed and comfortable, my mind went crazy. I started wondering if I should call Dennis back and make sure they got his things out of the closet when they moved him. I chewed on this for a bit, but decided against it since there was nothing irreplaceable and I didn’t want to wake him if he’d managed to get to sleep. Whew, sleep now.

But no, wait a minute! They gave me two keys when I checked into the hotel and I could only find one after I got settled for bed. I never did find that other key despite searching all over the room. But it’s no big deal because there’s no room number on the key, it’s okay….

Oh no! The key I lost was inside that holder that has the room number on it and someone could find it and see the number and try to get in my room. Maybe I should get up and look for it again. Naw, I have the bolt and crossbar on the door, they can’t get in, I will look for it in the morning. It has to be here somewhere. Exhaustion sets in, fitful sleep ensues.

3:00 AM – I wake from a horrible nightmare where I’m fighting for my life. Where do I wake? I’m on the floor in a crouch, searching the room for intruders. After the adrenaline rush fades, I come to my senses and realize it was only a dream. No one is in the room. That’s also when I begin to feel the pain from where I hit my big toe on the chair near my bed when I flipped out of it liked a crazed ninja! Watch out people!

Finally, morning comes. I find the key in the console of my car. Mystery solved. Nothing to worry about, right? Au contraire, I will find something, never fear. I can’t seem to help myself. What about you? Do you worry? Do you lay in bed at night unable to sleep? Tossing and turning? Do share.

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