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.

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!

 

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!

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.

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.

Two things have been on my mind lately: waiting and hope. They are integrally linked. Without one, you don’t have the other. If you’re not waiting, you’re not hoping. If you’re not hoping, you’re not waiting.  I can tell you that many times, I want to give up on both. But somehow, I hold on to hope and it keeps me waiting.

Currently, my daughter has been waiting and hoping to be accepted to medical school. A letter from one school came in the mail. My hands shook as I raced up the stairs to her room and waited for her to open it with bated breath. Good news! She’s been placed on the waiting list. Hope is still alive. Tears burst forth and I hugged her, the feeling of joy worth the wait.

I’m waiting to hear back from editors and agents, hoping for a publishing contract or offer of representation. It’s torture because I know from experience I may not get the response I want and it will be crushing. But, I’m hoping that my dream will come true. I visualize the cover of my book and how it will feel to hold it in my hand.

People say love or money make the world go ‘round, but I contend it is hope. It keeps us going, makes us work toward our goals and desires in the hope that today is the day the waiting will be over and joy will ensue.

How do we continue to hold onto hope? What keeps us waiting? What works for you?

 

Recently, I drove my daughter to her first medical school interview at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, VA.  I love history, so I took the opportunity to explore the historic districts the school is nestled between: the Ghent Historic District and the Freemason Historic District.

I was thrilled to tour the Moses Myer House, built in 1792 by the first Jewish family to settle in the Norfolk area after the Revolutionary War. The house is unique in that three quarters of the furnishings are original to the house. Five generations of the family resided there. Stunning!

After finishing my tour of the house, I walked around the corner to the oldest building in Norfolk, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. This church was the only building left standing after the British burned Norfolk to the ground in January of 1776 and sports a cannonball from Lord Dunmore in one of the exterior walls.  I took the opportunity to go inside and say a prayer for Leigh to do well in her interview, and she did.

Here’s where things get spooky…

While in the Moses Myer house, I “heard” the name Ellie or Ella called out. I felt it was a mother trying to comfort her baby. I experienced this while alone in the third story nursery. When I arrived at the church around the corner, I was drawn to a gravestone so old it was propped against one wall of the graveyard, having fallen over. The name on the stone was Eleanor Marsha Palmer, departed this life aged 9 months, Sept. 9, 1802. Did you get goosebumps? Let me tell you, I sure did.

While I know she was not a Moses or a Myer, it still gave me chills. Maybe she was the daughter of a family friend or relative. Who knows?  But it’s definitely fodder for a great story, correct writer friends?

 

2014 is here and it started off with the flu. First I had it, then my children. Thankfully, my husband has alien DNA and is immune. As you can imagine, all my wondrous plans for implementing new goals went by the wayside. To say I’ve been discouraged would be a vast understatement.

Yet despite all the obstacles in my path, the flu was one of many, the universe was sending me a message. I didn’t hear it at first, but it all came clear today.  FCRW chapter mate, Alesia Holiday shared a link to Sherrilyn Kenyon’s inspiring speech from the 2011 RWA® National Conference. Do yourself a favor and read it. It really spoke to me.

Previous to this, I saw the movie, Lone Survivor and read the book the movie is based on by Marcus Luttrell, the one Navy SEAL who survived Operation Redwing. The movie is awe inspiring, but the book broke my heart. I was literally crying for the loss of such wonderful men, but mostly for the bond they shared and their never say die spirit. They are always in the fight.  I thank God for men like Marcus and his brothers and they will never be forgotten by me.

I added this together, and while writers and warriors have very different jobs, our attitude needs to be the same. You can’t give up, you can’t quit, no matter how hard it gets, no matter how insurmountable the odds. And you need a support system. Like the brotherhood of the SEAL teams, writers need other writers to succeed. Every time you support another writer, you’re supporting yourself.

I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill

  1. Rejection letters – So you’re cruising along on your current WIP and you get the dreaded rejection letter.  I could write a whole blog post on the different kinds, but they all have the same effect, the writing stops. What to do? Call, email, or text all your writing friends. Whine, complain, rant, have a pity party. Give it a day or two before you get back in the saddle. And yes, I do mean SUBMIT your work elsewhere.  The only way to fail is to give up.
  2. Negative critique – You think your book is the best thing you’ve ever written and happily send it out to critique partners and contests. The results are not pretty. Why is it that we focus on the negative comments rather than the positive? Read the critique, set it aside, have a drink or some chocolate or both. Go back to it after it’s had time to settle. Look for the same complaints from more than one person. Make note of it. Take what speaks to you and will make your work better, let the rest go.
  3. Family drama – I don’t think this needs much explanation.  We all have it, and we all have to deal with it. The truth is your family comes first. Even if you can’t write, read. Stay in writing mode. Think about your work, look up pictures of your hero and heroine, or fill out GMC charts. This way, when the opportunity presents itself, you’re ready to rock!
  4. Health issues – You are literally so ill, or in so much pain, that the last thing you want to do is write. Again, do what you can, even if it’s just watching movies or shows on TV. You can pick apart the story structure and think how it applies to your own work.  And, you can people watch.  See someone who would be a great character? Write it down, figure out where they fit later.
  5. Fear – The most insidious and the hardest to combat.  This can stop you cold. If you don’t write, you don’t have to submit. If you don’t submit, you don’t have to face rejection or critique. The only way to defeat fear is to face it, head on.  Fear is never going away, but we can face it with courage.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” – Mark Twain

 

 

George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution – Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

Have you ever heard of the Culper Spy Ring? Were you aware that they were Patriots who provided key intelligence which enabled George Washington to defeat the British? If not, this book is for you. I love history and was both fascinated and inspired by this account of the original American spy ring.

Outside CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, you will see the statue of Nathan Hale who famously said, “I regret that I have but one life to lose for my country”. He was the first American spy to die for his country, executed by the British for espionage.  Inside Langley, new recruits are told about the Culper Spy Ring whose methods and practices are taught to trainees and utilized in spycraft today.

Washington recognized the value of intelligence. He realized it was the one tool that would even his odds against the British who at the time were the most feared fighting force on the planet. They had more men, weapons, and supplies than he could ever hope to match.  But the efforts of a small group of Patriots, unafraid to act with the courage of their convictions, turned the tide.

A young cavalry officer, Benjamin Tallmadge, was tasked with creating a homegrown group of spies capable of getting intelligence out of British held New York.  Five men and a woman made up this group: A farmer, Abraham Woodhull, a boat Captain, Caleb Brewster, a merchant, Robert Townsend, a tavern keeper, Austin Roe, a printer and coffeehouse owner, James Rivington, and an unidentified lady, Agent 355.

Invisible ink, aliases, dead drops, and true daring in the face of insurmountable odds make this story seem like a work of fiction rather than historical fact. Meticulously researched, I was amazed by how even to this day we know so little about this group of people. They were that good! There are no monuments to their achievements, no accolades, they lived and died in secret, content with the reward of the birth of a new nation founded on the cause of liberty.

Being a romantic, I have to think that the lady spy must have been involved with one of the other members who closely guarded her secret. It’s known that she was captured and likely died on one of the British prison ships, but no true account of her fate has been uncovered. Regardless, she did not betray her fellow operatives.  Her efforts, along with the other members of the ring, are the reason we live in a United States of America today.

Would you be willing to risk all you hold dear, even your own life, for a cause you believed in? These people answered yes, and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.