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.

Change is growth. I heard Sharon Sala say this during her talk at the recent ACRA Conference. She said a lot of things that stuck with me, but this one, I am struggling to implement. I’ve been a stay at home mom since my son was born in 1988. In 1997, I joined RWA and started seriously pursuing a career in publishing. In 2003, I began working part-time at the YMCA as a fitness instructor. What am I trying to say? For the last twenty five years, there haven’t been many changes in my life.

Now, my children are adults. I don’t need to stay home and take care of them. I am still with the YMCA and RWA. I am stagnant. While the people around me are changing, I am stuck and unsure of how to move forward. I’m sure many moms have faced this and I’d love to hear what worked for you. At present, I feel lost. When the main job in your life has been motherhood, how do you decide what’s next?

I want to be a successful published author traveling around the country, attending conferences, meeting other writers, and connecting with readers. That’s the dream. But I am still waiting for the call. How do I change and grow in the meantime?

Avast, Mateys! This past weekend I attended the Ancient City Romance Authors Conference in historic St. Augustine, Florida complete with Captain Jack Sparrow and a Pirate Museum Tour. The conference was well run and featured speakers who imparted a wealth of knowledge, but the highlight had to be the exceptional Sharon Sala.

We started off Friday morning after pictures with Captain Jack and a dip into a treasure chest full of chocolate. Our first speaker, editing specialist Nancy Quatrano started us off with a bang, followed by the tag team of comedy, Dolores Wilson and Kathyrn Bain. Marge Smith AKA Elizabeth Sinclair capped off the morning session with her talk on The Dreaded Synopsis and then it was off to lunch followed by a tour at the Pirate Museum led by Captain Mayhem himself.

But that’s not all. No, the day was not over. We returned to the hotel for a scrumptious bounty of food laid out by Dolores Wilson who is certainly a culinary genius. And then it was pitch time. I had the pleasure of spending time with Agent Amie Flanagan of the Sullivan Maxx Agency.  And yes, it ended with a request!

Saturday morning, we met for breakfast and then it was the Sharon Sala show. I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed listening to Sharon. I can tell why she’s such a good writer. Even when she just talks to you, she evokes so much emotion and knows just how to reach in and twist your heart strings. I was enthralled. Sharon spoke on a range of topics from self publishing to the things she wished she’d known before she became published. However, the one thing she said that I will not forget: The power to succeed is to believe in yourself.  This is so true and something every writer struggles to do. The gremlins of self doubt must be crushed!

I roomed with Captain Connie Mann and Quartermaster, Carla Mueller. We were having so much fun that Carla and I decided to stay an extra night and go on the Halloween Express Ghost Tour. What a scream! Sunday, we visited with chapter mate, Gloria Ferguson in her new St. Augustine home. We had lunch at the South Side Grill in Crescent Beach. Good food, view, and got to see a gopher turtle chowing down on some leaves.

We capped off the day back at Gloria’s where we encountered the resident ghost and did a little ghostbusting…Yes, you read that right. Do you believe in ghosts? Tell me your stories. I’d love to hear them.

 

 

Lately, I’ve been asked one question a lot by editors and agents, “How long have you been writing?” I hate this question because I don’t want to answer. I’m embarrassed to say, “Oh, I started seriously writing in 1997 and I’m still not published.” And while a true statement, it leaves out a lot of details.

I joined RWA in 1997 and attended my first National Conference in Orlando that same year. I didn’t have a clue. Through the years, I’ve been active. I joined my local chapter, found a critique group, volunteered and served my chapter at the board level, and yes, became a professional writer.

As the years went on, I finaled and won contests, attended workshops and conferences, and came very close to selling, but no cigar. I’ve had the “good” rejection letters, had full requests, garnered the interest of some big name editors and agents, but I still have not sold a book. Why? I’m still trying to figure that out, but I am not giving up.

So, how do I answer this particular question? I put some thought into it and here’s what I came up with: My first book, bound and covered, was titled, “The Adventures of Roland the Pig”. I was in the third grade and the cover art was my own. Unfortunately, this epic tale has been lost to the ages, misplaced during one of my many moves.

Another true statement, but this time, it’s positive and funny. What do you think? How would you answer this question?

Yesterday, I attended the VCRW/CFRW sponsored Super Saturday featuring Roxanne St. Claire, Lucienne Diver, and Lorena Streeter. It was a smashing success. It had it all: Excellent Speakers, Cold Reads and Agent Appointments, Basket and Critique Raffles, and finally, an author booksigning. Yes, VCRW is my home chapter, so I am a bit biased. However, it was much more than that.

Here’s my takeaway from yesterday. Writers need other writers. My best friends are writers, and being at an event filled with them nurtures my soul. When our President came down with the flu, members stepped in to help without even being asked. We all worked together, overcame every obstacle, and made sure our Super Saturday was one of the best ever. I came home feeling uplifted, renewed, and ready to kick butt!

My point? Don’t sit home in your writing cave. Join a writers group, attend writing events, connect and share. The winner will be you!

Spoiler Alert

From the movie trailer, you’d expect Pacific Rim to be a combo of Transformers, Power Rangers, Mech Warrior, and maybe even a little Star Wars, as the suits the Jaeger pilots wear remind me a little bit of Storm Troopers. So when my family wanted to go see it, I didn’t expect much other than cheesy fun. Was I surprised? Yes!

Pacific Rim at its core, is a love story. Let me break it down for you….

Raleigh Becket never wants to pilot a jaeger again, because the last time he did his brother died horrifically, but if he doesn’t millions will die.

Mako Mori’s dream is to pilot a jaeger, because her family was killed by the kaiju and she wants vengeance, but her only chance is emotionally scarred Raleigh.

And like in any good romance, they must heal each other by drifting together to pilot the jaeger. Drifting is a mental connection to share the neural load necessary to control the giant machines. The black moment comes when Raleigh flashes back to his brother’s death during their drift and sends Mako chasing her own dark memories. Their drift almost ends in catastrophe and they are ordered to stand down.

But some things are worth fighting for. And when the moment comes, Raleigh and Mako know their connection is strong enough to overcome all obstacles and they are the only hope of defeating the Kaiju.

Despite the obvious cliches, abundance of cheese, and my urge to yell, “It’s morphin’ time!” at the screen, I wanted to jump to my feet and applaud at the end when (spoiler ahead), a seemingly dead Raleigh said, “You’re squeezin’ me too tight.” So they didn’t kiss. Oh well, they hugged, and I know there are kisses in their future. Can’t wait for Pacific Rim TWO!

 

Ever have a day when you just want to pull the covers over your head and stay in bed? This has been happening to me a lot lately. Middle age is not for the faint of heart.  I am looking at my 47th birthday in a few days and I feel every single year.  

On Friday morning, I unhappily woke up and climbed out of bed. My allergies are kicking my butt, and I was stuffy and cranky. I did not feel at all like going to teach Body Combat where all eyes would be on me and I would need to be perky and motivational. But, I forced myself into my workout gear and out the door. I’m so glad I did.

Unknown to me, one of my students has been fighting breast cancer, quietly and courageously. She arrived in class with a completely bald head and started her workout. I was in awe. And do you know, she rocked that bald head. She looked mad sexy, like some warrior goddess. I was humbled by her beauty and strength.

We all have struggles in our lives, but it’s our choice how we deal with them. We can stay under the covers and feel sorry for ourselves, or we can stay in the fight! I’m in, are you?

FAITH, NOT FEAR. This is my new motto. For too long I’ve allowed my own lack of confidence in my writing abilities to hold me back. Fear, and I will call it by its name, has caused me to miss opportunities and drop a lot of balls. Maybe I would be published by now if I had not allowed fear to rule my decision making.

At the 2013 RWA ® National Conference in Atlanta, Cathy Maxwell shared a story about a young artist who never signed his paintings because he didn’t think they were good enough. This spoke to me.  How many times have I hesitated to submit my work because I doubted myself? How many times did I fail to follow up on a ‘good’ rejection letter or a call for submissions because I was afraid to fail? No more.

It’s time to be fearless, to put myself out there, confident that I am a good writer and that my work is good enough. I’m taking chances without fear. Rejection will not stop me. I will continue to submit, revise, and repeat until my dream comes true. What about you?

Now Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1

James Bond vs. Mitch Rapp
Recently, the stars aligned and I was gifted with a new James Bond movie, SKYFALL, as well as a new Vince Flynn novel featuring my favorite CIA Assassin, Mitch Rapp. This got me to thinking, how do these two heroes matchup?
Both work for their respective governments in the clandestine service. Bond, or 007, is an MI6 covert agent who carries a Walther 9mm short and whatever cool gadgets Q may have sent along. He’s a classy dresser and ladies man, but not afraid to get his hands dirty in a brawl. Bond has demonstrated his ability to operate multiple types of machinery, although they usually end up destroyed. He answers only to M, his female boss.
Rapp is the type of agent the CIA doesn’t even acknowledge exists. While 007 may work in the shadows, Rapp is completely in the dark. His targets never see him coming and there’s no evidence he’s ever been there, other than the bodies. He also answers to a female boss, CIA Director Irene Kennedy. But while M tries to rein Bond in, Kennedy generally lets Rapp work with autonomy as long as he gets results. Dress and weapons are very different as Rapp is a master at blending in and going unnoticed, and always packing more than adequate firepower.
From the romance standpoint, both men are driven by painful loss. Bond’s love died trying to protect him, but he cannot forget her lies or betrayal. Rapp joined up after his fiancée was killed by terrorists. Both fear growing close to anyone as it usually results in a death sentence. While Bond has yet to do so, Rapp tried love again, but she and his unborn child died in a blast meant for him.
While there are many similarities between the two men, who would I want at my back in a fight? To be fair, I am using only the Daniel Craig incarnation of Bond to compare. And it is three movies vs. many books. Although if all goes well, there will soon be Mitch Rapp movies. If I had to choose, I have a soft spot for Mitch. And, I feel he’s better prepared and more knowledgeable than Bond who often seems to be led around by his latest leading lady and falls into trouble rather than having a plan. Plans often go awry, but Rapp always has a contingency to fall back on and I think I’d have a better chance of getting out alive.

Note: Sadly, my favorite author, Vince Flynn, tragically died before his time this past June. His publishing journey from dyslexia to self publishing his first book, to the New York Times list, and now a movie deal is inspiring. Vince, you will be missed. RIP.