Hello, it’s me.

Wow, I can’t believe I’ve let so much time pass. So much time and so many important milestones in my life and I haven’t talked about a single one of them. Well, okay, I have sporadically. On Facebook and Instagram and occasionally on Twitter. But I’ll be honest, I’ve taken a huge break from social media in general the last year. For personal reasons, really. There’s just too much going on in the world. Too much arguing and hate and not enough happiness and peace for me. I’m not downing one side or the other. Everyone has a right to their opinion. I’m just saying for my own piece of mind and sanity, I have to close my eyes and ears and block it out and the only way I know how to do that is to quit looking at Facebook (I completely signed out for six months and didn’t miss it a bit), quit trolling Twitter and turn off the TV. I guess I could also throw in that I quit updating my blog, but then it’s been more than a year for that.

I know there’s a lot of important things going on right now and just about everyone of them are more important than anything that’s happen to me, but just in case anyone is curious, I thought I might catch you up real quick.

Almost a year ago, I made the decision to leave my employer of 19 years for a change. I’d been burnt out for a while, a long while actually, and I hadn’t kept it a secret from my boss. Luckily, he’s a pretty cool guy and I was comfortable enough to let him know those kinds of things. Then an opportunity to advance in my field came up and after much agonizing thought and going back and forth, I made the hard decision to take the position. It was pretty emotional for both of us. I’d been with this employer for almost as long as I’ve been married to my husband (we celebrated 20 years this month) and he and his family had become like family to me and my family. In the end, he wished me well, he teared up, I cried, we hugged and well, we still talk pretty much weekly, have taken a few vacations together and, yeah, we’re still like family. It was a good move for me. I love my job. I mean, I really, really love my job. I’ve learned more than I imagined and truly feel like I’m making a difference and contributing to the program. I’m challenged daily and was blessed to be taken in and surrounding by not only a darn good staff, but others who I never would have gotten to know and befriend if I hadn’t taken the chance.

Speaking of those vacations I mentioned a moment ago, well, I’ve done a lot of travelling. Travel is my passion. I would probably starve if it meant I could sneak away somewhere and yes I’m well aware of how immature and irresponsible that viewpoint is, but I’m being honest here and if it came down to saving a dollar or taking a trip, I’m packing my bags.

Unfortunately the worlds current circumstances have stalled my travel plans and as much as I hate to admit it, it’s probably for the best. Last July after travelling to Alabama to vacation with my cousin and her family, I developed a DVT (Blood Clot) in my right leg. Luckily, my cousin is a nurse and recognized the signs. After a healthy dose of blood thinners, I thought I would be on the mend, but for whatever reason, I just didn’t seem to bounce back very quickly. Maybe it was coincidence, but it seemed every time I turned around I was sick or ill and not feeling well and then in mid February I got more bad news. I woke up one morning with extreme pain in my left side, shortness of breath and coughing up small amounts of blood. I won’t go into all the dramatic details (although, the story of how I made my rounds to three different hospitals that day is pretty good), but it turned out that I got myself a week long hospital stay for bilateral pulmonary embolisms. In plain words, that means I had blood clots in both lungs. It was pretty scary, especially when one of the doctors said that if I hadn’t gotten to the hospital when I did that my day probably would have ended a lot differently. It turned out that not only did I have the blood clots, but I also had some right ventricle heart strain and permanent damage to the right lung. But, hey, the good news? You can live with one lung! All joking aside, it’s really opened my eyes. About my health, about life and about many other things. I’m no where near back to where I was. I still can’t seem to get over what I call a “hump.” I tire easy and get frequent short of breath. Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m still doing testing with my heart. So what caused the last blood clots? We have no clue. I’ve had more blood drawn and more test done in the last four months than I’ve ever had. It’s just one of those things I guess I’ll never know.

As if major health issues wasn’t enough to deal with, my oldest son turned eighteen and graduated high school during quarantine. I guess the powers that be just couldn’t see fit to have a little mercy on me. First let me say, my kid was perfectly fine with skipping prom and not having a normal graduation ceremony. His momma, though, yep, I cried. I mean, his girlfriend finally talked him into going to prom and wearing a tux and it get’s cancelled. How fair is that? I’ll probably never see that kid all dressed up, but I guess it is what it is. Which brings me to my next topic.

COVID19. I know most people have an opinion, but I don’t even know what to say anymore, so I’ll just say aside from the inconveniences and limitations that everyone is dealing with, my husband and I have been absolutely, one hundred percent, truly blessed that it hasn’t affected our family so far. I have been working from home since mid-march with no date of return in site and while my husband hasn’t been quite as lucky, neither of us have lost wages or a job. If I’m being real honest here, when I took my new job last year, I also took on a two and a half hour round trip commute each day, so working from home is ideal for me.

I made that two and a half hour commute today for the first time since mid-march. I woke up at 4:45 and was there by 7:00 am. Why? Well, I have one staff member in the office (by choice) and they needed to be out today, so I went in to cover things like retrieving mail and printing and faxing for those working remotely. Plus, I needed to pick up a few things I had left behind. I enjoyed my day. It was nice being back in my “space.” The office was quiet, but it was also nice to see the (very) few that remain in the building. I’d forgotten how fast the internet is compared to what I have at home and how much more exercise I get walking up and down the stairs and back and forth to the copier room. It was also nice to actually dress up and put makeup on, fix my hair and wear shoes that weren’t a flip flop or tennis shoe. I got to swing by The UPS store on my way home and I ordered groceries from Kroger last night to be picked up today because I don’t have those conveniences in my small town. It made me realize how much I miss my staff, though. We talk regularly and have weekly calls, but it’s not the same. Does this mean I’m ready to go back to the office? I can’t say that I am. I really like working from home. It has it’s perks and hey, that two hour commute is saving gas, wear and tear on my car and time. But do I wish I could work from home under different circumstances? More than anything.

Being home more has given me the opportunity to do more writing. I’ve kept pretty quiet about it, but I have three different storylines I’ve been working on. A series I’ve been planning and working through in my head for a long time and I finally decided to get serious about it again. I have about seventy-five thousand words between the three and I’m happy with that for now. I thought about the stories during my commute today. It’s something I do when I’m driving. Actually, I thought about writing in general and how much peace it brings me. That lead me to thinking about my blog and well, here I am now. I’m certain I may have a touch of adult ADHD. Regardless, it has prompted my first update in … I don’t even want to guess how long.

I know this has been random and not at all filled with anything promising or exciting, but that’s okay. I’m writing and I’m at peace even after a very long day. For your enjoyment, check out the surprise I found at the office today. My lone staff member has a sense of humor.

I hope you all stay safe, healthy and strong. Don’t forget to do the things that make you happy. ^ Dena

FORGET HOW TO WRITE

12208015-illustration-depicting-a-green-chalk-board-with-the-words

They say writing your second novel is easier.  After all, you have the experience of a full manuscript behind you, which should make you a pro.  And I don’t mean pro in the sense of style, because I think as writers we are continually mastering our craft, but as far as the basics go, we should have them down, especially if we’ve already gone through the process of editing and publishing.  Well, I’m here to tell you that “they” lied.

Writing that second novel is not easy.  At least it hasn’t been for me.

We all want our follow-up to be better than our debut.  We want it to shine and for our readers to be wowed by how much our writing has matured.  That in itself adds pressure as we sit with our fingers posed and our heads blankly staring at the screen.   I’ve gone through a myriad  of emotions with this second book.  From self-doubt to being ready to kick its ass. But even when I finally got into the grove, I found that words didn’t come easy.

I had a full manuscript at one time.  Completely done from start to finish and then I started editing.  I cut this, added that, and then decided my characters needed to wait on having sex.  My heroine liked this friend and then decided she didn’t.  My hero loved his coaching job, but then decided he had higher aspirations.  There was a baby and then none and then someone else got pregnant.  A death.  More sex, less sex, no sex.  Should they be scorned from past struggles or be bold and decide that those things don’t matter?  My characters might seem fickle, but really they aren’t. In the end, they know what they want, I just have to work through the process of getting to know them better.  I don’t mind this part of writing.  I actually love visualizing a scene over and over in my head and talking with my characters until it all comes together.  But, none of that has come very easily with this second book.

Writers block?  Not exactly.

I never gave much thought to the rules of writing, before.  I wrote what and how I wanted and somehow it just all came together. Now, though, I find myself lost in everything I’ve learned and the pressure to incorporate it as I’m writing, gets very distracting.  Every time the word, “was,” pops up in a sentence, it’s an immediate joykill.  I stop and think.  And think and think some more about how can I eliminate it, because “was” is a dead ringer for passive voice, right?  Right.  Punctuation also trips me up.  Not periods, exclamation points and question marks, but whether to use an ellipsis or an em-dash?  And don’t even get me started on commas.  Be careful about using adverbs, too.  I have all these rules running through my head and I try to apply them as I’m going along, but the stopping and starting zaps my creativity and before I know it, I’ve spent an hour on a paragraph trying to make it perfect and that scene that a moment ago, was fresh in my head, shrivels up and evaporates.  I’ve determined, I was a much better writer when I had no clue what I was doing.

It’s been hard, but I’ve been trying to ignore all the rules and just write.  It’s been about three weeks and you know what?  I’ve finally made progress.  Good progress.  Like two more chapters to rewrite progress.  Sometimes having no clue what you’re doing works to your advantage and sometimes it helps to pretend that you’re clueless even when your not.  Maybe some day I’ll learn how to balance this out, but in the meantime, I ‘m forgetting the rules and letting the words pour out.

I’m forgetting how to write.

12208063-illustration-depicting-a-green-chalk-board-with-the-words

WHY I READ AND WRITE ROMANCE PART II

untitled

“I’d like to bite that lip.” ― E.L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey

I’ve been thinking about this post all week even before Part I of this story happened yesterday.  I’ve been biting my tongue as I read articles littered with both praise and criticism for 50 Shades of Grey. First, let me say, yes, I read the books.  But going into them, I had no idea what they were about other than being filled with sex.  At times, I tend to get wrapped up in my own world and forget to follow what the masses are doing.  And while a few people had mentioned them to me, no one fully explained what kind of story it was.  So when a colleague loaned them to me and I opened up that first page, I was completely clueless about what I was about to read.

Boy was I surprised!  My first experience with any kind of erotica novel, I became enthralled.  Now, before we go any further, I’d like to acknowledge the books issues.  Yes, there are some problems, but I’m not going to address them here, because that’s not what this post is about.  But, what irritates me with this whole situation, is those that blast the books/movie without reading them.  I’ve seen one author in particular who’s posted something negative more than once a day for the past week.  Really?  It bothers you that much, that you’d spend your time finding these articles to post?  And then she made a comment that she hadn’t read them and wouldn’t because they degrade woman and promote abuse.  Sorry, but that’s been a little over stated.  My advise, maybe she should read them so she can come up with a more original reason for her dislike.  It’s not only this author making these kinds of statements.  There are many …. MANY and almost every one of them have said they hadn’t and wouldn’t read the books.  Hmm … yes, I believe that gives them all the reason in the world to judge them.  Because judging something you haven’t experienced makes all kinds of sense to me?

Now you’re probably scratching your heads asking how 50 Shades of Grey and my story about Hatchet Man from yesterday have anything to do with why I like to read and write romance.  For those that say 50 Shades isn’t realistic, I say you’ve lived a sheltered life.  If you don’t believe there are people that f@#ked up in this world, then maybe you should come sit in my office for a day.

Now, I don’t typically talk about my day job.  Number one reason- I’ve signed so many confidentially agreements I’m sure I’ve agreed to all kinds of bodily torture if I did so, and secondly, eight hours of it a day is enough.  No, I’m not slipping up and telling you where I work.  But I will tell you that it’s not nearly as interesting as you’re probably thinking.  It’s a job, it pays the bills, but I’d like to think what I do, does help people.  With that being said, I will say that I work directly with the public from all walks of life.  And a few of them have walked some interesting journeys. I’ve heard a lot.  A lot!  And every time I think I’ve heard it all … nope!  Someone still surprises me.  Sexual escapades, devious acts, the low down on criminal activity – people like to talk. Sometimes I sit at my desk and think “why on earth would you tell someone this?”   Which brings me back to my story about Hatchet Man.  Ninety nine percent of the folks who land in my office aren’t there because everything is rosy in their life.  Somewhere along the line things went askew or didn’t pan out.  To say the environment can get hostile- um, yeah!  Not everyday, but we’ve had some instances that caused concern.  So, my apprehension with Hatchet Man was somewhat valid.

This past week, I was waiting on a meeting when a gentleman came into the room and sat down.  He immediately began telling me about his reasons for being there- none of which interested me, but since it was just the two of us, I couldn’t avert my attention elsewhere.  He talked and rambled. I shook my head, smiled and added the occasional “I see.”  Unhappy with someone, he explained a long story of a disagreement they’d had.  He then went on to apologize for his rambling and said he hadn’t been sleeping well because of this disruption in his life and that the only thing that brought him comfort was the image of beating the other mans head in with a baseball bat.  I got vivid details of exactly how this might go down.  I’m sure my eyes must have betrayed my horror, because he immediately added that he would never actually do something like that.  I know you’re thinking, he was upset and letting off steam and yeah, you’re probably right.  But it was at that exact moment that it hit me -this is why I read and write romance.  At the end of the day all I want is something to feel good.  A happily ever after, even if I have to make it up.

Back to Fifty Shades.  I’ve probably totally confused everyone with my post, because Fifty Shades has a lot of darkness in it and for the most part, there isn’t anything feel good about it.  So why would I enjoy reading about something so bleak?  And is Fifty Shades really a romance?  I’m glad you asked, because I believe it is.  If you look beyond the BDSM, there is a love story.  Like all relationships, it’s one that’s intense and difficult.  And one that requires give and take from both.  Sure, most of us have never been asked to be flogged by our partners, but that’s what makes this story unique.  The fact that the author took a circumstance not recognized as normal and turned it into a love story.  All romances deal with various shades of darkness.  It’s called conflict.  Some aren’t as black as others, but they all have it.  For me, what makes them enjoyable is the outcome.  The ending. The finding of love beyond all that yucky stuff.  I don’t mind ugliness, but ultimately I want love to conquer all. And that my friends is why I write and read romance.

Off to see the movie with my mom and sister tomorrow, but until then,

Laters, baby.

WHY I READ AND WRITE ROMANCE PART I

In honor of it being the weekend for all things red, pink, and lovie dovie, I thought I’d talk about for many, what Valentines Day symbolizes and why I enjoy reading and writing about it-Romance.

If you  haven’t realized by now, today is Friday.  It also happens to be the 13th.  I’m not a superstitious person.  It’s never bothered me that nearly every cat I’ve owned has been black, a broken mirror simply means you need to sweep, and today, well … it’s just another day on the calendar.  Except I had one of those “Oh God” moments this morning.  The kind where you think this may be the day it all comes to an end.  Okay, so now I might be mildly making more of the situation than what it really was, but for a moment I did think “things are about to get real ugly around here.”

th

As I’m dropping my youngest off at school this morning, we’re going through the ritual: a hug, kiss, another hug, I love you, have a good day, see ya later buddy, and then I watch him until he walks through the door.  Just as he’s cleared the stairs, I hear a tap, tap, tap on my window. I crane my neck to the side and see a man standing there holding a hatchet with an evil grin on his face.  It took me a moment to register what was  happening and then reality sunk in- I know this man.  Oh God!  I know this man!  In case you’re wondering that wasn’t an excited “Oh God!”  At this point, I’m stunned with stupor.  I don’t know what I should do.  I can’t gun it because there are kids crossing in front of me. I can’t back up, because I’m holding up a line of cars.  All I can think about is that I’ve really pissed him off.  You see, Hatchet Man is someone whom I come in contact with through my day job.  He’s quite the colorful character and we don’t always see eye-to-eye. Okay, we rarely, if ever agree, but he’s not one I’ve ever considered dangerous.   Not knowing what to do, I do nothing.  I sit there looking at him like WTH?  He nudges the hatchet toward me as if to say “see this?”  I look back like “Yeah, I do.”  And then vaguely I hear my oldest son say “Dad told me to put that up.”  My head swivels to the right.  My oldest son sits there quietly.  “What?” I ask.  “Dad told me to put it up last night and I forgot,” he says again.  Things start becoming a little clearer, so I face Hatchet Man again.  This time his evil grin doesn’t look so scary.  He’s actually kind of smiling humorously. I roll my window down and he sort of thrusts the hatchet forward.  “Hey, this was on the back of your car.”  He laughs like it’s funny.  I suppose it is now.  But, at the time, I was still trying to make head or tails of it all.  “Thanks,” I say, grabbing the hatchet and putting it in the back seat.  He goes on his way, I roll up the window, and we pull forward.  My oldest explains that one of them laid it on the car last night. They didn’t put it away like their dad asked, it apparently froze to the trunk and made the trip with us to school this morning.  So, it turns out, Hatchet Man wasn’t out to chop my body into a hundred pieces.  He was being nice-oops, my bad!

At this point, I would like to request that no one ask me what my children were doing with a hatchet.  Honestly, I can’t think of one responsible answer to that question, so I’d likely plead the fifth.  I would love to say, they were cleaning up a mess of their Dad’s and got sidetracked or that someone had borrowed it and they were being nice and had intentions of putting it back for them, but the truth would likely be  that they were attempting something they saw on the show Ax Men.  No, I’m not kidding.  My driveway was once turned into a wash station so that they could mine gold like the men on Gold Rush.

So what does any of this have to do with why I read and write romance?  Ahh, yes, that was the reason I was writing this wasn’t it? Unfortunately, my lunch hour is up, so you’ll have to find out on Part II tomorrow.

Until then, Happy Friday the 13th!

WORKSPACE OR NOT … THAT IS THE QUESTION!

It’s a sad day …  A sad day indeed, when one must make up their “workspace” for a blog post to showcase where they do their best work.  Rachel Carrera tagged me in this blog hop and since I’ve got nothing better to talk about these days, I thought I’d take the opportunity to gripe about my lack of space.  I’m also hoping the hubby, who I know reads these from time to time, takes the hint and gets on the ball of creating a space for me 🙂

writing-alcove2Something like this would suit my personality perfectly.  Small and simple, I can imagine all kinds of creativity happening here.

All joking aside, we know not having a desk for me is a problem, but there is a bigger problem than the lack of a desk.  It’s called space!  Space:  a continuous area or expanse that is free, available, or unoccupied.  Continuous area- the woods behind my house might fit this definition, but I’m fairly certain I’d freeze my arse off if I attempted writing outdoors right now.  Free- there isn’t even a free wall in my house.  Unoccupied- I have two boys in the house and I can promise you, there is nothing that they don’t get into or that isn’t occupied by them at some point.  Okay, so you get it, my house is small.  I look at it as less to clean!  But I do need a desk and yes me and the hubby have discuss remedies to this situation, but they all require another thing that isn’t just lying around MONEY!

At some point we plan to add on and an office for me will be included in that project, but for now, I roam from place to place, wherever my laptop takes me. Mostly this would be sitting in bed as I’m doing right now.  Sometimes I’ll venture to the couch in the living room, but between the boys fighting, the TV, game systems, and everything else going on, it’s hard to concentrate there.  occasionally, I’ll find a happy medium and sit at the kitchen table where I can oversee the commotion and yet still be distanced from it, but that usually doesn’t work out all that well either.

2-Chiang-Mai-JungleUnfortunately, my tabletop view is nothing like this, but I’m dreaming here right? Okay, so if I’m dreaming, right now I’d like to be some place warm- like the beach!

01-Koh-Phi-Phi-Long-Beach

No matter where I am, I usually have a few things by my side. Yes, two Kindles and my little green notebook complete with coffee stain on the outside.  If you’re brave, click on the picture to enlarge it, look over the mess, but check out the name of the candle!  I found that little gem at a truck stop and believe it or not, it smells really good 🙂

IMG_9983[1]As for any other must haves: a bottle of water or cup of coffee nearby. IMG_0010[1]I love the sayings under the SoBe Lifewater lids!

IMG_0011[1]

Again, I’m dreaming!  No Starbucks anywhere near me!

As you can see my workspace or err um, workspaces aren’t exactly ideal.  But I’m a big believer in not letting what you don’t have stop you from doing what you want.   When I get that lovely addition added on, I’ll be sure to update this post 🙂  And thanks Rachel.  If you are not following her blog, you should.  I’m amazed by her strength and the many talented things she does.

Now for the big announcement of who I’m tagging!  These are no-brainers. They are the only people I ever tag, because I hate putting anyone on the spot and they know there won’t be any hard feelings if they don’t participate.  We are all busy people.  I get that!  So, W.C. Cunningham, E.L. Wicker and Aetherhouse– feel free to share your creative spaces with us or NOT!

DRAWING FROM THE DARKNESS

Life can be so unfair at times …

I don’t typically write blog post during the week.  My schedule is just too chaotic to allow time for that, but today has been quite a little rollercoaster of emotions and I find that I need an outlet.  This might get a little gray, but hang with me, I promise I’m not just wallowing in hole.

I sat for eight hours by myself in my office today.  Yep, the whole place was empty aside from me.  Maybe I should add that there are just two of us that work there- small town remember?  Manning the place alone isn’t really all that uncommon since we both take vacations, sick days, etc.  We’re used to it and although it always creates a little bit more work, we manage.

Today, I was already in a funk by the time I got to work and yes, it was because my friend and co-worker wouldn’t be there, but it had nothing to do with anything extra that might come my way.  Over the weekend our little town was dealt some unsettling news.  A marine, who served in Iraq,  and who had recently returned home from the service, was killed in a car accident.  Although, I didn’t know him personally, it was easily seen from the mass of Facebook post in my feed, that he was loved by many.  He was my friend/co-worker’s nephew.  His grandmother taught both of my boys in preschool.  Both of these woman are dear to me.  So, yes, I sat there thinking of them today.  Their family has already suffered so much in the last few years.  The death of their father, then a husband who died suddenly, a son in-law who lost a battle to pancreatic cancer, their mother’s diagnosis of dementia, and now a young  boy who still had his whole life ahead of him.  How much can one family take?  I thought about his mother who, from my own experience of losing a child, I know will never be the same.  How will his sister, who isn’t much older than my eldest son, cope?  How will his father endure the death of his only son?

As if this wasn’t enough on my mind, I came across a few blog post that furthered my funky mood. Mary Rowen wrote a post about her struggle with Bulimia and how it changed her life.  And after reading her friend, Ami’s, story about depression, Kathy Palm was inspired to write about a time that was painfully difficult for her.  Each of these post, although sad and emotional, were also inspirational and left me in tears.

Life can be so unfair at times …

Yes I know this, but don’t we all?  We’ve all had some not so sunny times.  In 1998, I lost my first-born son and spent the next couple of years learning how to be me again while missing a piece of me. In May of 2011, my sister, after returning unharmed from a tour in Iraq, was given a death sentence when she was diagnosed with ALS.  Two months later I lost an aunt to colon cancer.  In October of that year, both of my grandparents died within two weeks of each other.  By November, my entire family was embattled in a nasty court battle for their estate.  An action that with missing trust paperwork and not one, but two disbarred attorney’s involved, turned so crazy it almost became comical.  Trust me, I couldn’t make this shit up if I had to!   19744406215b9eed6b5edec98a41ad00We all have dark times, but it’s what you do with those experiences that matter.  For me, I think in some aspects, dealing with so much in such a short span, made me stronger, but in some sense it also made me more vulnerable.  I’m okay with both.  And like most writers, I find writing to be therapeutic and healing, which made me question, as an author, how much of our darkness and life experiences do we throw into our writing?

The first question I usually get, when someone who knows my sister reads Drive Me Sane, is if Sera was based on her.  I’ve always answered no, because I never considered my sister inspiration when I was writing it.  If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you know my inspiration came from a Tyler Farr song.  But after thinking about this for quite some time now, I think I’m wrong.  Both female soldiers, who served overseas, my sister and Sera do share a lot of the same personality traits.  Feisty, outspoken and quick-tempered, I think I unknowingly cast my sister in my book 🙂 – to a degree. Because, although they have things in common, they are also very different (I’m pretty sure my sister would have run Tyler over with his own truck and there wouldn’t have been a happy ending there.)  And just in case you’re wondering, no my sister does not suffer from PTSD associated from her time in Iraq.

But with this realization, I began taking stock at some of my other writing to determine if I could personally associate with any of it and boy was I surprised.  I won’t make you suffer through the list of the dramatics of my life, because whether we want to admit it or not, we all have them, but yes, I do interject my own experiences into my writing.  A tad here or a bit there, I see myself, family and friends in pieces of my books.  Maybe that’s how I keep my sanity through all the craziness or maybe it’s just my way of sharing stories that I feel have merit.

So my question to my fellow authors is: How much of your own experiences do you draw from and use in your writing?

In closing, Mary, Kathy, and Ami- thanks for sharing your stories.  Although, it spun my day out of whack more than it already was, I think I needed to hear them today.  To the Brewer family, my thoughts are with you as Tyler is laid to rest and Apie- love ya!

And on a lighter note …

Congrats to my good friend, W.C. Cunningham, on the publication of his short story, The Right Words.  You can enjoy his humorous tale of a father talking to his kids about drugs, as well as, several other short stories for just 99¢! bill

And while I’m telling you about deals, E.L. Wicker’s debut novel, Fractured Immortal is FREE today.  That’s right, FREE!!!  Onlyfour hours left (US only) to get this amazing story!

goodreads1

HAVE YOU BEEN BRANDED

brands

I’m alive.  Still here and kicking, well not exactly, I don’t think I’ll be kicking anything anytime soon.  But, I’m up, moving and feeling a lot better than I have for the past few weeks.  In fact this is the first time my laptop has been open for more than an hour since before New Years.  My year started off in a slump.  First a battle with the flu and then a bout with pneumonia, but I’m finally on the mend and ready to jump into all my projects that have been swept to the side.

With little to do these past few weeks, I’ve read a lot, trolled through some Facebook groups that I rarely visit, scanned through some blogs and just sort of hung out on social media without really interacting much.  Not feeling up to imputing, I was the quiet observer and I noticed one topic that came up more than once.  Branding.  No, I’m not talking about those for cattle as you see in the picture above. I’m talking about branding your writing and limiting yourself to a certain genre or type of work

When I initially revamped my blog to be more author friendly, I used the tagline of small-town contemporary romance.  Since, Drive Me Sane was set in a fictional small town in Eastern Kentucky, I thought that most of my other work would predominantly aspire to something similar.  However when I scanned back through some of my other WIP, I realized that I hadn’t exactly stuck to that brand.  I have a project that takes place in Nashville, one that actually covers an array of cities across the United States, and then the bulk of my current work doesn’t even take place in the US.  Set in Cancun, it has no small town feeling about it.  Needless to say, I did away with the original tagline and decided that I write happily ever afters.

So does that mean I’ve now branded myself as only writing contemporary stories of happy endings?  I hadn’t actually given any of this much thought until I came across the conversations of other authors talking about their struggles with branding themselves and if it was necessary.  Many were happy to be bundled in with a certain genre and had no intentions of writing outside of their comfort zone, while others enjoyed writing a variation of stories.   In all, most of the concerns I came across were if readers would accept them as author of broad topics or if, when they found their niche, they should remain loyal to it.

I think it’s safe to say that I’ll be sticking with contemporary romance.  Although I enjoy an occasional historical, I have no interest in writing one nor do I have the creative mind to write paranormal or fantasy.  But I also don’t want to limit myself to only writing a certain theme.

So, thoughts on this matter.  I’d love to know, authors, have you branded your writing.  Do you think it’s a necessity to accumulate a following or are you open to the wind to whatever story fills your head?

WHAT ARE YOU READING?

WeHammersmithBookClub002lcome back!  It’s December- Yay!  Everyone getting settled in and ready for winter?  I love Fall, but Winter is actually my favorite time to read and write (post to come on that later).  Speaking of reading, I made a comment to fellow blogger Carrie Rubin a few weeks ago that I was devoting all of December to indie authors.  That’s right, any review request from traditionally published authors will be put off until after the first of the year.  Sorry … but I’ve been neglecting my indies for a while and my Kindle is still in need of more storage, so I’m diving in.  But before I do, I just have to say, ladies … don’t be jealous, but I’m off to see these hotties tonight:)

IMG_9777[1]Yes, I totally stalk Mr. Farr on his Instagram 🙂 Okay, back to the stuff I’m supposed to be talking about!

WHICH NOVEL ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING & WHO IS THE AUTHOR?

The Fog by Shelby Nolan

WHAT IS THE OPENING LINE OF THE BOOK?

“Mom? Can I ride my bike? Seven-year-old Rusty came running into the kitchen where Rocky was placing bacon strips onto a microwave rack.

WHAT ARE THE HERO & HEROINES NAMES OR MAIN CHARACTERS NAMES?

Rocky & John

WHAT IS THE 1ST SENTENCE  OF THE SECOND PARAGRAPH OF CHAPTER 9?

“Let me see it first,” Arizona commanded as she moved quickly from one side of the attic storage room to the other.

WHAT IS NEXT ON YOUR TBR LIST?- Not only are these all Indie Authors, they are all Kentucky Authors!

Exposed Secrets by April Nichols Baker

Me and Jasper and the Summer of 86 (a preview of Adventures in Terror with Jasper Bohanon) by Aaron Saylor

Beautiful Strangers by Glenna Maynard

My Beautiful Suicide by Atty Eve

So what are you reading?  I’d love to know …

 

 

HELLO DECEMBER

Hello DecemberI did it!  I made it through and “won” NaNoWriMo.  I’ll admit the idea of writing an entire novel within a month was a little scary, but exciting at the same time.  Having never participated before, I wasn’t sure what to expect and hadn’t given it much consideration, but I’d been dwaddling around in a couple of projects with nothing really keeping my attention and then this new story kept screaming at me.  Determined not to start anything new until I finished one of the other’s up, I kept putting it off and then everyone kept talking about NaNo and I said, what the heck.  I jumped on the idea at the last moment.  Literally, I signed up on October 31st.  NaNo began November 1.  But even then I ended up a few days behind.  I didn’t write anything the first two days.  I can’t now remember what was going on, but I knew going into it that writing every day wasn’t going to be an option. Like everyone else, I have work and family obligations that keep me from it, but I was hopeful that I could do it.  Okay, I was determined!

Starting off, things went very well.  I made a few contacts and my word count was always more than needed.  I was excited and thought, man this is easy.  Then week three rolled around and my oldest child got sick.  And not with a twenty-four hour bug or a little cold.  He had a terrible case of bronchitis.  In fact, today was his first day back to school in more than two weeks.  I’m not sure if that’s what threw me off or if it was a combination of missing  and playing catch up at work, running to doctors visits, and planning the Thanksgiving Holiday.  Whatever it was, my writing suffered.  I don’t think I made my word count any of those days and what I did tapd out, was pretty rough.  Basically I was throwing out lines just to meet a count and it wasn’t very good.  As week four rolled around, I wasn’t all that hopeful.  I hosted Thanksgiving this year, so I knew I’d need to spend Wednesday evening baking and Thursday was gone.  But again, I was willing to give it my all.

There are things I both love and loathed about NaNo.  I love the community and support you receive.  Frustrated? Tweet it, tagging #NaNoWriMo and you’re sure to get a little support or advice (some followers too). Make it to a certain goal, shout that out.  You’ll have all sorts of congrats coming your way.  Those little things help, they do, and they were very much appreciated.  The awesome E.L. Wicker, who also participated and won, was very supportive (Her debut novel, Fractured Immortal releases December 21st and can be pre-ordered now, by the way :).  Our good friend Bill, checked in regularly with words of encouragement.  Julie Stock, gave us a little push at the end, and when I was really having a bad day, DJPM was there cheering me on.  These are just a few of the wonderful people who kept me motivated and made my first NaNo experience something to remember.  I also met Laurajay.  Who I’ve had the pleasure of reading some of her work.  She didn’t quite make her goal, but she’s close and let me tell you, the girl is talented.  I’ll seriously cry if she bums out on me and doesn’t finish her story.  She’s a copy editor, mostly non-fiction, and has generously offered to take a peek at my current work, even if it’s for proofreading purposes.  Hello!  Um, have I ever mentioned that I think comma’s are the anti-Christ?  I know that’s where my weakness lies and her offer is truly invaluable. Besides, I’m already in love with her post-apocalyptic romance.

But with the good, also comes the bad.  I pretty much ignored most forms of social media for the month of November.  I skipped reading blogs and didn’t scan my twitter feed except for checking in with those listed above.  I stopped reading and quit listening to music.  I didn’t even catch a full Kentucky basketball game the entire month.  When I wasn’t tending to family stuff, I was writing, even when it wasn’t always easy.  By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, my body let me know that it wasn’t very happy with me.  My back, shoulders, legs, elbows, hands, basically everything hurt.  I was tired and antsy and yet I trooped on.  Honestly, had I not had those few days surrounding Thanksgiving off from work it probably wouldn’t have happened and had I not hosted Thanksgiving and had all those leftovers, I probably would have been more stressed with the idea of having to cook for the family. While my guys lounged around and watched movies Friday and Saturday, I camped out on the couch and typed my fingers off.  I gave up with about fifteen hundred words to go around midnight on Saturday.  To the point of exhaustion, I just couldn’t do it anymore.  Four o’clock Sunday morning, I apparently felt differently, because I was up in full force, with renewed energy and ideas.  Those fifteen hundred words flew out effortlessly and with my word count validated, I shut my laptop and said that I was taking a break.  A week, maybe two.  No writing or editing, just some time to refocus for the edits and catch up on things I’ve neglected.

Yesterday, I laid on the couch and watched TV.  I didn’t go to my sisters like I normally do.  I helped my big guy start working on some of his make-up work.  I caught a basketball game, listened to music while I took a walk, I took a nap and I read.  Not one, but two books (okay, they were very short novellas) and by the end of the day, my fingers were itching to open my laptop back up.  Yep, I’m all ready to dive back in.  I haven’t-yet anyways. I’m still holding out and hoping that a few days away will jump start my gusto when I do begin.  I’ve been promising two friends that I was going to read their books and I still have some feedback that I’d like to send Laurajay.  So, yeah, I’m trying to give it at least a week.  We’ll see 🙂

Overall, NaNoWriMo was good for me.  I needed the little push and drive to make me maintain focus and finish up my second novel.  It’s still rough in places and needs some thorough editing, but I have something to work with.  Will I do it again?  Maybe, but I’m not going to commit just yet.  It takes a lot to write an entire novel within thirty days, so I will have to see where I am next year before I decide.

Congratulations to everyone who participated and thank you NaNo, I now have another completed manuscript ready for editing.

Winner-2014-Web-Banner

DO YOU DRAGON?

dragonI’ll be the first to admit that I’m not all that tech savvy.  I’d like to think that once upon a time I was pretty up to date on things, but more often than not, I’m asking my nine year old for help in using my phone, Kindle or computer. I could probably turn on one of their game systems if I had to, but how to actually work one- clueless!  Same way with the TV.  I don’t even attempt to use the remote, because it’s a little more than my pea brain can handle.  It’s much easier to walk over and hit the button and much faster in my book.

My laptop is tenish years old and I can’t say that I really desire a new one.  I’m kind of partial to it.  We work well together and honestly, I’ll probably cry when it finally goes down.  I know it’s a computer and easily replaceable, but it was also a gift that still means a whole lot to me.  I had wanted to get back into writing, but at the time, the only computer my husband and I had, was a desktop.  On top of it being old and slow, we also had to share it, which wasn’t all that handy when I had the urge to write and he was online playing a game or surfing the net.  Unfortunately, buying another computer wasn’t in the budget with a new baby in the house.  In conversation one day, I mentioned  my dream of writing to my mom and told her that I was even considering going back to school to take some creative writing classes.  My mom is one of those people that no matter how far fetched mine or my sisters ideas are, she always encourages them.  I’m sure when I told her I wanted to write, she never thought it would produce anything more than a girls ramblings, but that didn’t stop her from going out and buying me a laptop so that I could give it a try.  Top of the line for it’s time, I’m sure she could have put the money she spent to good use on something else.  But that’s just how my mom is- she’s always put what my sister and I wanted before her own needs and it was her gift of a laptop that made my dream of becoming a writer happen.  So, yeah, I love that thing, even though, it’s dated and the battery no longer charges and must be plugged in to work.

But getting back to my less than being up to date on technology. I’m slightly embarrassed- okay maybe I’m really not- to say that I didn’t have an up to date Word program on my laptop until recently.  My laptop came with Microsoft Works, which is a discontinued, smaller, and less expensive program that offered fewer features than Microsoft Office.  It had all the basics, which was fine with me because all I needed it to do was type words.  I didn’t need all that fancy smancy stuff.  Or did I?  Actually I didn’t, at least not yet.  All of my writing up until this year was done on Microsoft Works.  That’s right, I used the basic of basics to write my debut book.  There was no track changes, or find and replace.  I didn’t have that nifty number down at the bottom to tell me how many words I’d written and I won’t even get into the file formats.  When I took an editing workshop, I had to do most of the lessons during my lunch break or after work, so that I could use my work PC because it had the most updated Word program.  Yeah, I was using it at work, but not at home and while I did see how much easier it made writing, I guess I’m too much like my momma at times.  I just couldn’t break down and buy myself a new program when there seemed to be something else that could always use that bit of money.

However, when I recieved that elated email from Crimson Romance saying they wanted to acquire Drive Me Sane, I knew I was going to have to break down and drop some dough.  How I ever did without a decent word program, I don’t know.  Okay, there is no way I could have done without it, because track changes was a necessity in working with an editor during the editing process.

Book complete and ready to launch , I began transversing the world of marketing and realized that my less than stellar knowledge of technology went much further than electronics.  When I started this blog, I had no clue what I was doing, but being a no-name and knowing that I wasn’t going to make much off my royalties, I was determined not to fork out money to have someone design a page for me.  I’ve learned the basics, but there are some things that I haven’t yet mastered and would like to do.  I’m considering a facelift if/when I do publish another book and will probably look into hiring a service to help me with that.

Thanks to Whitney, at Shooting Star’s Reviews, who encouraged me to learn how to make those nifty banners and teasers for a promotional spot on her page.  And then when I joined a virtual book party, I was introduced to Hootsuite, which allows you to set up tweets and messages that are automatically sent out at predetermined times.  So, I’ve learned a few things and while I still find myself Googling stuff that I see other’s talking about, I’m becoming more comfortable with all the different resources that make being a writer, marketer, etc, easier.

I mentioned my birthday a couple weeks ago.  My hubby and boys got me concert tickets to see Tyler Farrdragon2 and Brantley Gilbert.  We celebrated with my mom and sister a few days later.  They went in together and got me a box full of Bath and Body Works goodies along with Dragon.  No, not that beautiful mythological creature you see above, but the speech recognition software.  I had mentioned to my sister that I’d like to have it.  I’ve heard other authors say they use it, so I had already checked it out.  Mostly I wanted it for the text to speech capabilities.  I use a free version I downloaded for proofreading purposes, but the computer generated voices are a bit annoying and don’t flow like a humans.  It also doesn’t have a dictation function, which I thought might come in handy.

I honestly haven’t had time to use it much.  I took the online tutorial, but with NaNoWriMo going on, I’ve been slaving away each night on that and don’t want to waste time with a new program that I have no idea how to use.  It’s definitely going to take some time getting acquainted.  I’ve always been on the receiving end of dictations and can transcribe, but actually being the one to dictate is a whole new ballgame.   I doubt I will ever use the social medial, email and web surfing functions, but who knows.  I’m learning new things every day.

So, do any of you Dragon?  Do you like or dislike it?  Have any tips or tricks that might be beneficial?