Summer doldrums

I love summer. I love to garden, and I love going hiking and camping, and I love to sit outside and read. I love it so much that I never get as much writing done as I want/plan. I should know this by now because every summer it’s the same, and yet still I face the fading sunlight with annual trepidation as I realize the year is wrapping up and I still got a TON of words left to write to make my goals.

Cue freak out.

So to get myself back on track, my fall plan is as follows:

1. Reflow the calendar.

I keep a running list of what I’m working on and when I plan to be done. Since summer always destroys my calendar, now’s a good time to bring it up to date. Usually that means all my daily word counts are higher and my slack days are fewer, but that’s the price I pay for slacking off all summer. I write at night so it’s a good thing the nights are getting longer…

2. Get butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.

That’s always part of my plan, of course, but it’s time to rededicate. Working around the day job, I can do 2-3k every night if I don’t dick around. That means disconnecting from the internet, no distracting books sitting on my desk, and no stopping until I’m done. Knowing how I get derailed is half the battle for staying focused. The other half is knowing what I’m going to write, so making sure my pre-writing plot work is done is crucial.

3. Always be moving — and looking — forward.

I get a little sad to see the end of summer, so I try to make sure I have something to energize me even though the sun is lower in the sky. This year, I’m attending a get-together of indie authors, and I recently joined a group of working writers. All these smart, focused, and driven people inspire me by their example. Here’s hoping I can live up to my own expectations.

Meanwhile, here’s a picture of the Oregon coast to remind me why I didn’t make my August writing goals…

Jessa Slade beach

Sigh. I love summer…

How hard are you going to be pushing to meet your year-end goals? Share in comments so we can commiserate together.


Blue Balls in the Bookstore

One of my good friends – I’ll call him Roger, since that’s his name — is a visual artist and musician. We met when we worked in the same bookstore, back in the day when I was in the process of getting my B.A. in theater.

So a musician/artist and an actor-in-training in a store full of books. What do we talk about?

Blue balls.

No, not that kind. Let me explain.

blue_ball We were having a discussion**cough**argument**cough** one day about how we visualized things. Roger contended that if he said something like “blue ball” that I would form a mental image of a round blue object – a blue ball.

I said no. I got the image of the words “blue ball.”blue_ball_words

He insisted that I must visualize the ball itself.

I countered that I did not.

“Yes you do.”

“No I don’t.”

“Yes you do”

“NO. I DON’T.”

Did I mention he was a close friend?

Years later, I took at class on learning styles for writers, and lo and behold, I discovered that we were both right.

The class was based around the work of Dr. Dawna Markova, particularly her books How Your Child is Smart and Open Mind.

states-of-consciousnessIn her theories of learning and intelligence patterns, she references the three primary symbolic languages of the brain (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic), which trigger one of three different “thinking states” – conscious, subconscious/subliminal, and unconscious. Each of us is comfortable with one particular pattern of visual (V), auditory (A), and kinesthetic (K) as they naturally align in our three states of consciousness.

For instance, if you’ve got a K in your “conscious” channel – your “input” channel — you learn most easily by doing; if A, by listening; if V, by reading or watching. Your “unconscious” channel is how ideas are generated: for a K, by movement; for A, by sound; for V, by visions. Your “subconscious” channel is the bridge between the two: for K, movement bridges the outer world and the inner; for A, words are the bridge, and for V, it’s vision.

learning_stylesFor Roger and me, the way our brains related external input (“blue ball”) to our inner world (what was triggered in our minds by the input) was completely different. I suspect my subconscious channel is A – words are my bridge. For Roger, obviously it’s V.

(Odd that we never actually killed each other, despite the prevalence of box knives in the back room of the bookstore.)

As writers, knowing our learning style can be useful because it can give us insight on why certain writing processes work for us and others don’t. For instance, many writers listen to music while they write, even develop playlists for their current WIP. For me, this way lies madness. I can’t listen to anything other than crickets while I’m writing because it disrupts my train of thought – it burns my subconscious “A” bridge, if you will. This doesn’t mean that playlists aren’t a perfectly reasonable and necessary method for some writers, but it doesn’t mean that my desire for quiet is invalid either.

It’s not only how we write that’s affected by our learning style, but likely what we write – or at least what we write most easily — as well. Here, Patricia C. Wrede (author of two of my favorite fantasy books, The Raven Ring and Sorcery and Cecilia) talks about how one writer might prefer crafting a sentence that sounds perfect in her head, another might get lost in evoking feelings or sensations, while a third might be all about directing a “mental movie” on the page. She takes the paradigm a step further and urges us to consider our readers’ learning styles as well, and be certain we’re delivering something that appeals to all three styles.

So come on. Blue ball. What springs to your mind?

Dreams and Sacrifices

I just returned from the RWA national conference in San Antonio. As a Golden Heart finalist and signer of my very first publishing contract, I felt like Cinderella at the ball.

Literally like Cinderella! Check out the pumpkin carriage I rode home in from my very first publisher author dinner!


RWA 2014 will always have a special place in my heart because I will never, ever, be in this sweet spot again. I have just signed with an agent and completed my first book deal, so I didn’t do any pitching. The  thing that stresses most PRO attendees during the conference. And because it’s going to be a while before my book comes out, I didn’t have to do any outright promotion. The thing that occupies many PAN attendees’ time at the event.

I spent my time enjoying the many amazing workshops, mingling with my favorite authors at the special reception for the Golden Heart and RITA finalists, and meeting my editor for the first time. Oh, and I may have spent some time meeting old friends and making new friends in the bar and at the many evening parties that happen during RWA.

Now, I’m back home and real life is making its usual demands of laundry, cooking, and cleaning. The day job wants me to come back to earth and actually be productive. These are all familiar elements, but now humdrum reality is slightly altered.

I’ve achieved my dream, but this dream comes with demands and sacrifices. In other words, I have serious deadlines.

The only way I can live the dream without screwing up is by sticking to a rigorous writing schedule. The only way I can meet that schedule is by saying no to friends and family. Most of them take this well. They know how much being a published writer means to me. They know how hard I’ve worked to get here.

Some of them want to be supportive, but feel rejected when I say I can’t participate in an event or spend time with them. I understand.

All writers understand rejection. It sucks.

We blogged on that theme all last month and every post included how much rejection hurts and how much it sucks. We also discussed how much it’s part of being a writer. I understand being rejected.

I definitely didn’t understand how stressful it is to be considered a rejector.

There’s been some harsh words. There’s been some crying. Hopefully I, and my family and friends, will figure out a way to navigate this new adventure in my writing career.

Until then, I take comfort in my favorite list 25 Badass Ways to Say No by Justine Musk and her excellent TED Talk on The Art of the Deep Yes.

How do you deal with sacrificing for your dream?

Middle Age Snuck Up on Me!


Middle age snuck up on me. Surprise! It was like one day I was youthful, and the next I realized my boobs were supposed to sit two inches higher.

I wasn’t disappointed, just surprised.

I suppose, eventually, old age will spring upon my consciousness in much the same way.  Though the other day, in a calm state of semi- meditation, I flashed upon a mental image of myself as an elderly woman.  This is not something new.  Coming out of meditation, I’ve glimpsed my future self before.

This time I was much older.  I wasn’t alarmed though. My green eyes still sparked with curiousity. A touch of athleticism graced my frail arms and legs, like a faded memo of strength.  And my hair was long and tangly.  This bothered me. So many years gone by and I am still not at peace with my hair?

But my hands were still my hands.  I’m not sure they’ve ever felt youthful.  As a child growing up on the Canadian prairies, the winters were particularly brutal.  I had eczema so bad I’d soak in a doctor-prescribed tar solution daily.  At night I lathered my hands in Vaseline and wore thick cotton gloves to bed.  Still, my knuckles cracked and bled constantly. The shame and embarrassment of being the girl with the bloody hands was a lonely existence, broken only by spring (as in JULY because snow in June wasn’t unheard of), and finally, a move to a warmer climate.

My hands went through hell all those years, and ever since their weathered texture has been a badge of survival.  As I sit here writing this I realize I truly love my hands.


I would walk 500 miles; Lenora flew 7,000 miles for the Golden Heart

The RWA Golden Heart contest is the award that all new authors covet and daydream about winning when they should actually be writing. Some of us might have even bought a dress that they would wear for the day they win the award (It’s a gold floor length gown and it will go fabulous with my Golden Heart). Our own Mary Oldham was nominated in 2012 and Asa Maria Bradley was a finalist this year for her novel, Valhalla’s King. But my friend, Lenora Bell, traveled all the way from Bolivia to accept her 2014 Golden Heart award. To join in her celebration, let me share her story.

Lenora Bell writes fun, sensual Regency-set romance novels that feature strong, sexy heroes who can only be reformed by the most extraordinary heroines.LenoraBellAuthorPhoto Past careers include sultry lounge singer, vintage store owner, and, far less romantically, salmon cannery grunt. Lenora has lived and worked on five continents and currently shares a home in Bolivia with her carpenter husband, cranky twenty-one-year-old cat, and precarious piles of books.

What story did you submit to the Golden Heart?

My Regency-set historical romance manuscript CHARLENE AND THE DUCHESS FACTORY. It’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets The Bachelor. It’s part of a three book series and the next two books are inspired by Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz.

When did you complete this story and has it been submitted/won any other contests?

I thought of the title for CHARLENE AND THE DUCHESS FACTORY before I started writing. It just popped into my head one day in a used bookstore that had no romance section (I know, WTF!). I was thumbing through Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and I thought, hmm…this is kind of like a romance novel plot–a rich, successful, powerful guy who needs an heir to his empire.

I started the book then set it aside to write a different project. I came back to it a few months before the Golden Heart entries were due, polished the first fifty pages, and whipped the rest into a semblance of order. I’ve never entered it in any other contests, and this was the first time I entered the Golden Heart.

What were you doing when you found out that you were a finalist?

I don’t think anyone ever forgets exactly what they were doing when they received the Golden Heart call. I live overseas in Bolivia, so I knew the stateside phone number I submitted wouldn’t work. I kept obsessively refreshing my email to see if there was anything from RWA. I was also lurking on the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood site because they were blogging about the Golden Heart finalists all day. I heart the Rubies!

When I received the email from RWA asking for an alternate phone number because they couldn’t get in touch with me, my pulse started racing. I’m pretty sure at some point my boss asked me to track down a document and all I did was grunt. Nothing, and no one, was going to separate me from my landline phone. Because it was going to ring. Any moment.

It rang. The RWA angels sang. And life hasn’t been the same since.

How far did you travel from to attend the ceremony? Why was it important to you to attend in person?

I actually traveled all the way from Bolivia to attend the RWA Conference. But I was lucky because one of my best friends planned her wedding in Alaska the week before the conference. So I could justify the writing conference because of the wedding. Romance all around!

I really wanted to be there in person because I had a Golden Heart nominated manuscript to pitch, and I wanted to catch up with all of my amazing writer friends. I met Tessa Dare and Courtney Milan back in 2006 during the Avon Fan Lit contest, and we became friends and critique partners. They are my inspiration!

How are the Golden Heart finalists treated at the RWA Conference?

Being a Golden Heart finalist has lots of perks, including a pretty golden heart pin and silk ribbon to place on your conference badge, the chance to attend The Golden Network’s retreat the day before the conference starts (totally worth it!), and VIP seating for the awards ceremony. You also have the exciting opportunity to mingle with all the fantastic RITA finalists. There’s one more huge perk and that’s the built in community you find with the other finalists. This year’s group, The Dream Weavers, is full of such talent and passion.

Tell us about the Awards Ceremony?

Lenora with Tessa Dare and Courtney Milan at the 2014 Golden Heart Awards

Lenora with Tessa Dare and Courtney Milan at the 2014 Golden Heart Awards

The Awards Ceremony is very glamorous. I really felt like I should have found a dress with more sequins because everyone was so sparkly. YA author Simone Elkeles was the emcee and she did a fabulous job making us all laugh, cry, and sing along to Journey.

They announce the winners of the Golden Heart first, and then the RITAs. When my photo showed up on screen, I sat there, stunned, for fully five seconds. I never lost that dazed, is-this-really-happening-to-me expression the entire night. I just couldn’t believe it.

In my acceptance speech I gave Eloisa James a shout-out for being my gateway drug into mainstream romance. After my speech, she came up and had her photo taken with me and said it was a thrill for her. For her? Oh my sweet lord. That entire evening was the craziest, most exciting joy ride of my life.

What is it about the Golden Heart that is so special?

RWA’s Golden Heart contest is an unparalleled opportunity for unpublished romance writers. There are no guarantees of success in this business, but having that Golden Heart final at the beginning of your pitch ensures that your submission will at least float to the top of the slush heap. And winning the contest is a big part of the reason I found my amazing agent, Alexandra Machinist with ICM Partners.

Wait, what? I have an agent? I still can’t believe that this is my life right now. Thank you, RWA!

What are your plans for the future?

Finish revisions on CHARLENE AND THE DUCHESS FACTORY, send to my agent, and cross my fingers, eyes, toes that an editor falls in love with Liam and Charlene’s story!



Thank you for allowing me to share Lenora’s story with you. Do you feel like you know her well enough to play Two truths and a lie? Take a guess and the answer will be revealed tomorrow.

  1. Lenora got married in Bangkok.
  2. Lenora has never read Fifty Shades of Gray.
  3. Ethan Hawke came backstage to say hi to Lenora after she was the lead in her high school musical.




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