Savoring the Moment

This morning, my publisher put my debut novel up for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Nobel.

As an author, 2014 has been full of firsts. The sale of “Pairing Off” (Red Hot Russians #1) to Carina Press in Feb. The first cover, which will be revealed soon. My first editor revision letter. I haven’t been as diligent in chronicling these moments as I’d  intended, but this is one I want to enjoy just a bit, before the reality of freelance work and Red Hot Russians books 2 and 3, still in various stages of completion, diverts my attention.
As I savor the thrill of placing the first order of my book, I can’t help but think back a few years and remember how I once gave up.
Around 2002, I realized that my first novel wasn’t going to sell and my second was hopelessly stalled. I was a busy mom and freelance writer. Becoming a published romance author had been a dream, but one that wasn’t going to materialize. It was something that happened to other people, but not me.
Twelve years later, it is me.
It took a great story idea (which wasn’t the book I sold, by the way), the encouragement of my wonderful husband, family and friends, a few answered prayers, a hard working agent and a lot of butt-in-the-chair time to make it happen, but it did and it can happen for you too.
Whether you’re slogging through your National Novel Writing Month project, diligently practicing your sport or art, or just showing up everyday and doing your best, your dream is waiting to happen.
So I’m going to put Pharrell Willliams’ “Happy” on one more time, and dance around a little more. Then I’ll log off and get back to work, and look forward to the next dream that’s yet to happen.

You Get Knocked Down and You Get Up Again- Lessons from Skate America


SkateAm 012

bad photo of Jeremy Abbott taken by me

This weekend, I had the thrill of watching some of the top competitors in one of the world’s most difficult and dangerous sports at the top of their game.
Judging from Sunday afternoon’s half-empty arena, Skate America, held this past weekend in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, generated only a fraction of the interest that the Bears’ 28-point loss to the New England Patriots did. Because figure skating involves music, artistry and appeals to women more than men, many don’t consider it a sport at all. Much the way romance novels are sometimes unfavorably compared to “real” books, it’s dissed as cheesy camp, rather than the real thing.
But speaking as a beginning skater who’s been struggling six months to learn back crossovers, figure skating definitely is a sport and a damn hard one.
In the last ten years, it’s gotten even harder—as the number of falls and serious injuries prove. There were plenty of falls at Skate America, but every time, the skaters got up, kept going and finished what they set out to do. Though only a few received medals, their perseverance inspired me, and not only in my skating.
Picture setting a goal, working hard, and making enormous sacrifices to achieve it. You try once, fall short, and resolve to try again, but this time, suffer a catastrophic setback that knocks you completely out of contention.
Do you give up, or keep going?
That’s the story of Skate America pairs gold medalists Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov, who failed to medal at the Vancouver Olympics, and due to his catastrophic injury last season, missed the Sochi Olympics. But rather than give up, they came back and at the ages 32 and 30, skated the best programs of their career. “Inspiring” is the perfect word to describe it.

Look past the costumes, and you’ll see a boatload of grit from courageous and talented athletes, who fall down many times and persevere. The phrase “I get knocked down, but I get up again,” is more than the refrain of a catchy/annoying pop song. It’s wisdom to follow, whether we’re talking triple axels, novel writing, spreadsheets, or life.

Happy Monday, everyone.

Abundance vs. Scarcity

By Greenhouse17

By Greenhouse17

I read an article a few days ago about embracing abundance and it got me thinking. Lately I’ve been wrapped up in seeing things through the viewpoint of not having enough—not enough time, not enough money, not enough resources, etc.
In some ways, it’s true. Struggling to finish the second draft of my book has left me less time to do other things—including freelance work. Obviously, that means less money. My social media is flagging at the moment, as I’ve not been putting up much original content. The NaNoWriMo workshop is coming up and I still don’t have a single slide completed. My weekly to-do list still contains more items than are humanly possible to accomplish, short of sleeping two hours a night.
I know all of this. Dwelling on it however, is operating from a viewpoint of scarcity.
What if I look at the same challenges from a viewpoint of abundance?
I’ve now finished that second draft, so I can take on some more freelance projects until my next round of revisions start. Yes, I’m behind on putting together my NaNoWriMo workshop, but I still have time. Money? The bills are getting paid. There’s food in the house. Lights and water all work. How about the rest of that to-do list? Maybe I need to let a few things go, or ask for help. I have a husband who’s very willing to pitch in, boys that are…mostly willing. So are my mom and many friends. Social media? Twitter’s not going anywhere and the world won’t end if I’m not posting new stuff on the blog…oh wait, I am.
Shifting from scarcity to abundance thinking doesn’t make tasks disappear, or put money in my pocket, but it does make me a happier, less stressed person to be around. Some resources might be finite, but happiness and gratitude aren’t.

Pssst…Wanna Write A Novel?

By Leah Jones

By Leah Jones

Guess what? You can.
Ever read a book you loved and longed to create the same magic? Ever read a book you loathed, and knew you could write something so much better?
Of course you have. Get ready, your chance is coming up.
November is National Novel Writing Month, your opportunity to join thousands of other aspiring novelists in creating a 50,000-word first draft of the novel that’s kicking around inside you, dying to come out.
As with any project, it helps to have the right tools, and October is the perfect time to assemble your writer’s toolbox. Stuff like character ideas, plot outlines (or none), doing enough research to get you started, but not enough to bog you down.
On Wednesday, October 1, join me, Musa romantic suspense author Susan Rae, and independent mystery author Caryl Dierksen at the Crystal Lake Public Library for tips and strategies to develop your story and characters.
We start at 7 p.m., the program is free, but you must register in advance. Visit and select the Calendar tab.
You’ve thought about it. Make this the year you do it. See you there!

Off To Conference, #RWA2014

RWA2014logoA month ago, I would have simply called it by it’s regular name: RWA National in San Antonio, rather than the above Twitter-friendly handle. As I’m still getting the hang of social media (which I’ve shortened to “the socials” in an odd throwback to high school) I’m not sure what those hash-tags do, but Therese, my social media guru says they’re a good thing and that works for me.
So off I go to #RWA2014.
While this is actually my fourth RWA National, this one feels a little different. This time around, I’m celebrating that I reached a goal I’ve been working toward for a very long time. And I do mean a long time.
When I attended my first National, RWA 2000 in Chicago (no hash-tags yet), I had no idea just how long. I’d just finished my first novel, pitched it to a few editors and got rejected. Within a few years, I quit writing fiction altogether, though the dream of selling a book never went away.
When I plunged in again and attended RWA 2010 in Orlando (still hash-tag free), I came away with a manuscript request from my soon-to-be-agent Louise Fury. I was convinced publication was just around the corner. When RWA 2011 in NYC (maybe there were hash-tags, I don’t know) came and went, I began to doubt, just like I did after 2000.
But this time, two things were different. Number one, I had an agent, which to me, felt like a big accomplishment in itself. Number two, I kept writing and finished another book. That book was Falling Hard, which Louise sold this spring to Carina Press.
So three finished books, four conferences and four—or maybe fourteen years later, depending on how you count, I’m off to #RWA2014 San Antonio, to celebrate my first sale. Because of a rule change, I won’t have my First Sale ribbon this time, but that’s okay. I’ll know it’s coming and that’s pretty cool.
The point of my long-winded tale? To all the writers out there pounding away, remember that every manuscript is a chance to get better. Stretch yourself as a writer. Tell a great story. Yeah, it’s hard. Yeah, it can take forever, or at least seem that way. But don’t stop. #JustKeepSwimming. #YouNeverKnow

Life’s A Beach

summer beach chairsNoticing a trend here. Okay, maybe trend is stretching things a bit for a new blog with just a few posts, but of my three categories—writing, books, and life, most of the ideas I’m coming up with seem to fit best under “life.”
I think it’s a sign of the season
Yes, there’s work I need to be doing. There’s always work I need to be doing. But it’s also July. There’s a beach pass that has only been used once. Books in a pile on my floor waiting to be read. Bike rides yet to be taken.
With the Fourth of July now in the rearview, my son’s baseball season heading into it’s final weeks and the RWA conference approaching, I’m becoming aware that summer is marching along. Pretty soon, Target is going to be putting school supplies on sale.
In the Midwest, summer is a precious commodity. Though there’s still plenty left, but at the half-way point I want to make sure that my seasonal to-do list gets as much attention as the one in my black business planner.
So I’m not going to feel guilty about editing just three pages, rather than five today. Or that I haven’t come up with any great “writing” blog posts yet. That time will come. But for now, it’s a beautiful day. Time to get out and enjoy it.

Not Letting The Parade Pass By

July Fourth

When I was a kid, my family went to our city’s Fourth of July parade every year. I’d stand on the curb with my parents, sister and brother and wave to the people walking with the bands, floats and decked out convertibles. Sometimes, I’d see people I knew. But every year I came away wishing I’d been one of those walking, rather than one of those watching.
Maybe it’s a buried desire to be in the spotlight (note, clever blog theme tie-in here). Maybe it’s feeling part of the community. But as an adult, I’ve been in our town’s Fourth of July parade a few times. Know what? I love it.
Each time is a little different. There was the year of sweltering heat, walking with the Arctic Blast VBS float, which featured a Styrofoam igloo, a teenage boy in a chipmunk costume (I’m not making this up) and my unhappy five year old, who doesn’t share my love for center stage. Another year, the float featured our church praise band –which includes my husband, rocking through a set that included Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit In The Sky.”
What’s so great about walking three miles on a hot mid-day in July? Hearing the music. Watching kids scramble for candy. Seeing friends. Celebrating America on it’s big noisy birthday.
Really, what other kind would we have?
In a few hours, I’ll be at it again. This time, it’s with the youth praise band which includes my son. They’re playing a Southern-rock cover of “It Is Well With My Soul,” and I’ll be walking alongside, looking for friends in the crowd and hoping my left ankle cooperates.
Happy Fourth, everyone. It is well.