Archive for the ‘A Writer's Life’ Category

Last weekend I traveled up to New York for a reason that drew a few eyebrows when I mentioned it to people. It was the 40th reunion of my sixth grade class. Although, in my mind it was a reunion classmates I’d known since kindergarten or first grade, because our elementary school was organized in such a way that we pretty much were with the same kids every year, and we became like a family – a large one!

Before I went, I wondered if meeting these people, who I’d only known as children, would be awkward. Would we stand around inquiring politely about one another’s careers and families, after which an uncomfortable silence would descend crushingly upon the party because, after all, we really had nothing in common anymore and therefore nothing to say.

If I had worried about that – boy would I have been wrong! Last weekend was as close to perfect as a weekend could be. From the moment my best friend from those days picked me up at the airport, to the moment we hugged and said goodbye, the days passed in a thrilling headwind of excitement, discovery, affection, and well…just sheer joy. I discovered many of us really did still have things in common, and in each of my old schoolmates remained something of the child I had known. Being together again felt so natural, so easy. It was truly an experience of reconnection, but also of newly forged connections and friendships. Because let’s face it, weren’t there kids in grade school you hardly ever talked to? There were for me, but I came away from NY with new dear friends along with old dear friends. You really can go back, if you go with an open mind and an open heart and a smile on your face.

To kick off the reunion, A few of us met for a walking tour of our old neighborhood…
 

Our elementary school, P.S. 32 in Flushing

In front of my old house with two dear friends

Another view of the old house. Why did we ever move? It was a beautiful neighborhood.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A house away from mine, where another good friend lived. I loved playing here – she had the best dolls!

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Our class picture at the reunion party. I’m in turquoise, and the woman to my right was our 4th grade teacher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t wait for next time! I should add that the miracle of this reunion only happened because of facebook. We now have a way to keep track of each other and share whatever life throws at us from now on. I’m so happy to have my old family back!
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Never thought of myself as a butterfly before, but beyond a doubt for the last few months I’ve been inside my own special cocoon, reshaping and reinventing myself. Does that mean I was formally a caterpillar? Hmm…not one of my favorite creatures. Maybe I didn’t think this metaphor through properly. However….

Beyond a doubt, for the past several months, since the release of RECKLESSLY YOURS, I’ve undergone something of a transformation, or maybe an evolution. First I got word that my publisher had decided not to continue with my series, Her Majesty’s Secret Servants, meaning Willow would not be having her own story – which is why Recklessly Yours ended the way it did, rather than with Victoria asking her to embark on a mission. Now, before you feel sorry for me – and Willow – there are two things to remember: 1) this is a common theme in the publishing industry. It’s not the first time this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last. And 2) there are so many publishing options nowadays that when the mood strikes me, I will write Willow’s story and get it out to readers.

In the meantime, as part of my reinvent I’m trying my hand at writing an American-set historical mystery. Despite always calling myself a “closet mystery writer” (anyone who has read my books will get this), writing a pure mystery has not been easy! I had to learn so many new plotting techniques – in fact I’m still learning. The book isn’t finished yet, but I’ve been enjoying every step of the journey. We’ll see what happens….

But even more profound a change for me has been taking on the position of acquisitions editor for Silver Publishing. Silver is going on two years old now and I joined them after they’d been up and running only a few months. They’ve grown, and continue to grow by leaps and bounds, and I feel fortunate to be part of that. I have to say, I love my job – I love reading submissions, helping authors strengthen their work, and the fact that even when I have to say no (which is always so difficult!), I can still offer insight into what worked and what didn’t, and why.

And if all that weren’t enough, I’ve also taken on the board position of Member-At-Large for my writing chapter, the Florida Romance Writers.

So the temporary end of Her Majesty’s Secret Servants (oh, I doubt those ladies can be held down for long) has meant new beginnings and exciting challenges for me. I’m still very much a part of the publishing industry, still learning, still growing as an author and an editor, still looking forward to whatever surprises the future will bring.

Have you ever had to reinvent? Was it difficult, or did you spread those wings and let the wind carry you where it will? And did you reemerge better than before?

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The cranberry sauce is made and the girls are getting ready to put the pumpkin pies in the oven. The turkey has been defrosting in the fridge for days, and everything else is waiting to be peeled, mixed, etc. in the morning. We’re a small group for dinner tomorrow but it’ll still be a lot of work – but I don’t care. I love this holiday. Yes, even with all the family dysfunction. We just smile and move past it. OK, sometimes I have to send a few pointed glares around the dining table, especially if the talk turns political. But the point is, in the end we all appreciate being together.

Tomorrow I’m taking a break from worrying about anything I can’t control. I won’t turn on the news, so THOSE people won’t drive me crazy with doom and gloom. And I’m definitely not planning on getting on line at midnight for Black Friday bargains. Instead, I’m going to enjoy having the family together. I’m going to eat too much and enjoy every bite, and WILL NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT. Later I’ll put my feet up and relax, and hopefully watch some sappy holiday movie. Sounds good to me!

How will you celebrate the day?

Zesty Cranberry Sauce: one bag of cranberries, one cup of water, one cup of sugar, orange zest, orange juice. Boil water and sugar, add cranberries, and return to boil. Stir gently while cranberries pop and make the house smell amazing. As it thickens, grate in some orange zest and squeeze in some juice. When you’ve got a nice, thick consistency, remove from heat and let cool to room temperature before refrigerating.

Our Pumpkin Pie: we follow the recipe on the can of pumpkin except for one thing – we cut the cinnamon in half. We’d rather taste the pumpkin with only a hint of cinnamon. 🙂

The Secret of a Perfectly Cooked Turkey: Shh…come closer. Are you listening? OK. For a juicy and tender bird, you don’t have to buy the expensive brand. I never do. The secret is…those pop-up turkey timers that you can buy separately. Seriously. When that puppy pops, the turkey is ready. Works like a charm.

Have a wonderful day! Gobble gobble!

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What is it with adolescent girls and horses? If you don’t know what I mean, then maybe that particular bug didn’t bite you when you were younger, but when I was about 10 or so, I suddenly became all out horse-crazy. All I wanted to do was ride, be around horses, become a jockey like Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet.

My parents put up with it, but they hated the whole idea of me riding. It was dangerous. Horses are big, dumb animals that can’t be trusted, etc., etc. I guess I can’t blame them. Horse are big! But dumb? Not in my experience. They’re like any other domesticated animal. Establish a rapport with them, earn their trust, and you’ve got a loving, loyal friend. I was never lucky enough to own a horse, but I took lessons and rode as often as I could, and a couple even became my special friends through the years.

Even now, I can’t explain why so many girls turn horse-crazy. But I do know that during a time of such physical and emotional upheaval, riding is a fantastic confidence-builder. I was about 11 when I started riding. I was a tiny kid and not particularly athletic in the usual sense, but learning that even without muscles I had the ability to control this huge animal filled me with pride and a real sense of accomplishment.

It was also more fun than anything, exciting, and absolutely liberating, as close to flying as a human can come without actually leaving the ground. There’s nothing like galloping across a field with the ground blurring beneath you. Nothing like soaring over a jump (and realizing you’re still in the saddle, lol). Nothing like the focus and rhythm that takes over while your troubles and concerns melt away. And that’s something every girl needs.

I rarely ride anymore, but I remember the feeling, and I remember how much I loved it. And I’ve put all those treasured memories into Holly, the heroine of RECKLESSLY YOURS, whose vow to serve the queen sends her on a quest to recover a stolen Thoroughbred colt. Her love and affinity for horses makes her the perfect person to find the colt, until the question arises as to what’s best for this extraordinary animal. Then, suddenly, Holly’s love for horses…and her growing love for the very man who stole him…threaten to undermine her loyalty to queen and country.

In a very personal way, this is a book of my heart. I hope it becomes a book of the heart for every reader who ever fell head-over-heels in love with horses and riding. RECKLESSLY YOURS will be out on Dec. 6th!

That’s me at about 12 years old.

Were you/are you a horse lover? What else were you passionate about when you were growing up?

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A couple of weeks ago I had dinner at a friend’s house. She had invited her two cousins, both of whom have read my books and were excited at the idea of having “dinner with the author.” It was a really lovely “girls night” with fabulous food and good conversation. Of course, one of the questions they asked me was how did I get started writing. I mentioned my lifelong love of writing, how I’d always kept diaries, written poetry and stories, long letters to friends…you name it, I wrote it. I also cited my fascination with history, probably beginning with the fairy tales I’d heard/read as a young child. I talked about how when a friend published her first novel, it really inspired me to sit down and give it a try.  And then…

…my friend added, “Not to mention reading a lot of books and thinking ‘I could do this so much better.'”

Do you think I politely let this statement pass? My reaction went something like this:

Screech! Whiplash! WHAT?? No, no no!!!

If there is one thing I’ve learned in this journey of mine, it’s that those who make that claim, that they can do it better, generally CAN’T. Oh, it’s a common misconception held by avid readers and I couldn’t really fault her, but I immediately endeavored to set her straight.

Not every book an author writes is going to be fantastic. Sometimes life throws obstacles that affect one’s creativity, but with a deadline looming a writer does her best.

Until you walk in someone else’s shoes, you can’t judge their performance. If you say you can do it better, then try doing it under the exact same circumstances as the author, and see how it turns out.

It’s all so subjective. What you believe could have been done better, might be someone else’s idea of the most wonderful book ever.  

Writing is 100% harder than most people think. It isn’t simply sitting down and recording your daydreams. It’s more like working on a giant jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces look the same until you decide what part of the image will go on each one.

Oh, I could go on and on. It’s perfectly valid to say, “I didn’t care for that book, and here’s why.” But to say “I can do it better”? Watch out! Someone just might challenge you to do it.

And then you’ll see. Boy, will you ever! 🙂

 

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My husband and I enjoyed a lovely, relaxing weekend. But then, even without Father’s day or some other holiday to inspire us, we always make a point of getting the most out of our weekends – and we do it on a strict budget, because as is the case with so many American’s these days, money is tight. That means we haven’t been going away like we used to, eating out nearly as much, or going places where we have to pay admission. So how does one still manage to have fun and enjoy life?

It sounds cliché, but we’ve learned to find value in the simple things. By hitting the farmer’s markets for vegetables, finding sales on lean meats and fish, and using our own homegrown herbs and tomatoes, we can, for just a few dollars, whip up easy, gourmet meals that rival anything you’ll find at fancy restaurants. A reasonable but still good bottle of wine costs about the same as a single glass of wine out somewhere. We’ll usually have lunch al fresco (fancy for outside, lol) at our umbrella-covered table, enjoying the balmy Florida breeze as the palm trees rustle, butterflies hover around our flowers, and birds come and go from our feeder – all beautiful, relaxing, soul-renewing sights. Our day might have started with a several mile bike ride and, for me, a bit of yoga – keeping us fit without the expense of a gym membership. Dips in the pool under our beautiful, bright, expansive skies (luckily we put our pool in a number of years ago), are positively delightful and make us feel like guests at a five-star resort – minus the outrageous prices and all that tipping. By the end of the weekend, we typically feel as refreshed as if we had gone away. But maybe happier, because our “stay-cation” was fashioned entirely by our own preferences and we don’t experience any buyer’s remorse.

What we’ve learned to savor are experiences as opposed to acquiring new possessions – and really, we have enough of those anyway. People say there’s a reason for everything. I can’t help but reflect on the fact that, prior to our current economic woes, Americans were (are probably still are), the world’s biggest consumers – and ridiculously wasteful ones at that. So maybe karma decided to intervene and help us shift our priorities. To teach us to keep our money in our wallets and learn to value each other and our surroundings more, and to live life more in the moment, rather than anticipating the next item we believe will enhance our happiness.

What makes you relaxed and happy without having to spend money?

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I’m just going to admit this: I spent a good chuck of this weekend glued to the TV, watching the royal wedding, all the “after shows,” and any documentaries about the royal family I happened to stumble upon. But, dahling, is it any surprise that the author of  the Her Majesty’s Secret Servants series should be a royal watcher? I’m a confessed Anglophile, and when I think about the 1000 years of riveting history (drama) that comes along with these people, well, I can’t tear myself away.

Yet there’s another reason why I happen to feel an affinity for royal weddings. You see, I was married in July of 1981, just ten days before Diana and Charles tied the knot. As they planned their nuptials, we planned ours, and who knows but that Diana and I went for dress fittings on the same days, pondered the same types of flowers, or that we weren’t both biting our fingernails to the nub at the exact same time, praying for good weather and smooth sailing? (I was married outside, so you can imagine all the nervous chewing that went on in the days beforehand).

Charles and Diana’s Wedding Party

My Wedding Party

Our wedding might have been a tad scaled down from the St. Paul’s/Buckingham Palace variety, but it was still our “royal wedding” and a spectacular day, held at a restaurant that had once been an estate owned by J.P. Morgan, nestled on beautiful grounds overlooking the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. A couple of weeks later we honeymooned in London, where evidence of THAT royal wedding was still everywhere – glancing out from every shop window, even glaring up from the streets themselves, which hadn’t all been tidied up from the crowds yet. We bought a little Wedgwood plate featuring Charles’ and Di’s profiles and “July 1981” written across the bottom. We still have it because, after all, it does commemorate OUR wedding.  

Unlike Charles’ and Di’s marriage, mine has lasted. I really hope the same for Will and Kate! They’re a beautiful couple and seem like genuinely nice people, and I believe they’ll make a wonderful king and queen someday if they can manage to hang strong together and endure the paparazzi and the pressure. Plus, don’t you just love that Kate hails from a normal, middle class family? Yes, her parents are millionaires now, but they weren’t always and they built a succesful business together. I say hurray for them!

Did you notice that both Kate’s and my dresses had lace sleeves? But I had them first! 🙂

So, did you watch?

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