Tag: romance (Page 2 of 3)

What If Your Greatest Frustration Powered Your Next Big Idea?

A writer’s life is filled with some highs, lots of lows and even more waiting around in between. The glacial movement of the publication process can be frustrating, especially for doers like me.

When I began the writing journey two years ago, the only thought in my head was whether or not it was possible for me to finish a novel and have the story make sense. I gave little consideration to what comes after.

I didn’t know I would spend a year querying agents and editors, attending meetings, reading and learning about the craft of writing and rethinking the work until I could barely look at it again without feeling a dead weight in the pit of my stomach.

But that is, indeed, what happened.

Big Idea Rocket

Frustration spurs creativity
The greatest source of my frustration during this period was how difficult it was to be heard and seen in such a crowded marketplace. Ironically, this led to renewed inspiration. I wondered: What could I write that would make me stand out from the crowd? What is the hardest story to tell?

My brain fired back–one that contains humor and is told mostly in dialogue. I happened to be watching Gilmore Girls with my daughter at the time, which contains a lot of face-paced, witty scenes. I’d also just read, Bet Me, by Jennifer Cruise, and the idea for Charmed By Charlie was born.

A star is born
It would be an office romance with several colorful side characters. Charlie, the hero, would be a flirt and a creative genius. Val, the heroine, would be a math whiz, who is wary of charmers due to a bad experience. There would be a mystery to solve–someone is embezzling money from the firm–which can only be resolved by the hero and heroine joining forces. Val would have to confront and adjust her prejudices about Charlie. Charlie would need to give up his freedom-loving ways for Val.

The first chapter wrote itself, and every chapter since has rolled fluidly from my keyboard onto my iPad. I began sharing chapter installments with several beta readers who were enthusiastic about the work. Write faster, they told me.

I, too, want to write faster. I, too, want to know what will happen next.

Last week, I flew into Phoenix for the Desert Dreams conference, where I met with two agents. I had intended to pitch my paranormal romantic suspense series, Mind Hackers. But a few weeks ago, I signed a contract with The Wild Rose Press for Mind Waves, the first book in the series, and as a result, neither of the agents were interested in that world. So, I pitched Charmed By Charlie instead, and both agents I spoke with asked for sample chapters.

One of my critique partners suggested I enter the first few chapters into the long contemporary category of the 2016 Cleveland Rocks Romance Writers Contest. On Monday, I learned that Charmed By Charlie was a finalist in that category. Winners will be announced on May 21. I couldn’t be more excited.

When the going gets tough
Sometimes, when we feel like giving up, we just have to keep going. We have to ignore the naysayers (we all have them) and the little voices in our head that keeps us from going after what we love. We have to use the roadblocks in our way as fuel to take a different stance, look at the world a bit differently, and try something new.

It could be our greatest hurdle will produce our next big idea.

You Can Get More Than Mashed Potatoes at Thanksgiving

Ah, the holiday season. Time to kick back, relax and enjoy family time, right?

Only in fantasy land folks, as this recent Saturday Night Live episode with Adele illustrates. But there is a silver lining to Aunt Mabel’s fear of refugees, Cousin Dan’s loud condemnation of Republicans or your brother-in-law’s liquor-filled expositions on life. At least, if you’re a romance writer.

Romance writers are keen observers of the world around them. Although many of them dread interaction with other humans, relationships compose the core of their work.

Thanksgiving leftovers
When I began writing my first manuscript, I thought the developing characters were pure fantasy–whipped up from some hidden part of my psyche with no basis in reality. But a funny thing happened when I read the story in its entirety for the first time. The heroine, Grace’s personality was strangely like my own, complete with all my quirky insecurities and inner fears. Although exaggerated, Grace’s mother, Elaine’s anxieties mirrored my mother-in-law’s, who frets over her children and grandchildren. And certain aspects of the needy sister, Claire, in the story, are drawn straight from my relationship with my own dear sister (sorry sis). Even my father-in-law, who couldn’t imagine he would ever end up in a romance novel, pointed out that he wants royalties since I gave the hero, David, his crooked finger.

These authentic personality traits, although unintentional on my part, made the story come alive. Contest judges reviewing the entry remarked, “I understand Grace’s worries. I have felt the same way” and “The sister is believable.”

Once I understood the importance of real-life situations and personalities to literary character development, I became much more conscientious about my own powers of observation. Everything…and I mean everything…has become fertilizer for the next crop of words. Yes, family and friends, beware!

Stuffing for the brain

This year's Thanksgiving turkey.

This year’s Thanksgiving turkey.

Besides the obvious writing inspiration, there’s an emotional payoff as well. It’s easier to ignore your cousin Cheryl’s barbed comments when you are analyzing their cause and effect. Instead of taking the words to heart, your mind is occupied with the words unspoken. What are Cheryl’s goals, motivations and conflict? Has she just lost her job and the fact that you landed a brilliant, new position hard to stomach? Perhaps she doesn’t feel loved by her husband and her bitter words reveal her pain and disillusionment. Or maybe she has never shared the close relationship you have with your mother, with her own?

Art doesn’t just reflect life, it mirrors it back at you in exaggerated form. The core of character development has its roots in reality. When I take the time to listen and observe the dynamics of the conversations taking place around the dinner table, I gain in perspective. Not just a greater openness and sense of wonder to explore my own life’s journey, but a wealth of material for my next great masterpiece.

So, thank you dear Aunt Mabel. Now would you please pass the mashed potatoes?

How a Whispered Prayer Wrought An Umbrella and My Future Husband

I once prayed for a good man. I didn’t really believe the prayer would be answered. But I was a bit lonely my freshman year in college, so it felt good to tell someone who would listen and not ask a lot of questions.

The thing about prayer, though, is that God always answers. Sometimes his answers are immediate, but more often, at least for me, they take time to come to fruition.

The umbrella
Shortly after I said that prayer, I met my future husband in a theatre class. Of course, I didn’t know he was my future husband. I paid more attention to his umbrella.

“Excuse me,” I asked him. “Can you move your umbrella?” It was one of those long, skinny, masculine ones with a large, black handle, and it was in my way nearly every day as I tried to slip past him in the auditorium style classroom.

“Sorry. No problem.” He would reach out to nab the offending object and quickly pull it under his seat, allowing me to slide into my seat next to him. Once when I did this, I noticed an open notebook on his lap where he had scribbled some words. I tried to read what he had written but was unsuccessful.

Fundamentals of Theatre
“Are you a theatre major?” He spoke, his tone friendly.

“Yes, what about you?”

“Oh no. I’m a telecommunications major. I just took this class as an elective.”

I noticed his clothing; artsy for a guy. He looked like a theatre major. Later, I would learn that his mother, a hairdresser, bought all of his clothing, but in the moment, I just noticed it as a casual observation. I was not interested in talking, so I settled in, opening my book.

“Welcome to Fundamentals of Theatre I.” The professor began his monologue. “Attendance sheets are being passed along.”

As he spoke, the girl seated to my left handed me a white notebook. I scribbled my name and passed it along to the young man with the umbrella.

Years later, he would confess that he had memorized my name on the attendance sheet, writing it in his notebook. But he was too shy to ask me on a date. Good thing he didn’t, because I’m not sure I would have accepted. I didn’t handle attention from the opposite sex well, and I didn’t go on a lot of dates. Plus, I had just met another boy at a party, and I was a bit infatuated.

And truthfully? If God had whispered in my ear that day, saying, “I’m answering your prayer. See that boy? He’s the one,” I wouldn’t have believed it.

Just like I wouldn’t have believed if the voice said, “You will be struck by lightening. Or you will win the lottery.”

I never forgot the boy or his umbrella, though. Long after we completed the class, I would see him on campus. Each time we’d run into one another, I’d ask, “Are you taking any theatre classes?”

And he would answer, “No, Amanda, I’m not a theatre major.”

There were no umbrellas on our wedding day. Although it did rain that morning, the sun came out before we said "I do."

There were no umbrellas on our wedding day. 

First comes love
And then, one day, the stars aligned. We ran into each other on campus and as he tells it, “It was now or never.” He finally screwed up his courage to ask for my telephone number. (This was before the days of cell phones and texting.)

And I, who had sworn off dating, but wasn’t above going out as friends, gave him my number.

We went on a few dates, which led to a few more. My future husband, I learned, had a great sense of humor and was universally liked by everyone he came in contact with. We complemented each other well. He was outgoing; I was introverted. He taught me not to take everything so seriously. I taught him how to take everything more seriously.

A few weeks later, we had a major “Back to the Future” moment. You know, the one where Marty’s parents finally kiss and his future comes to be? Yeah, it was that kind of moment.

Then comes marriage

Our three beautiful children.

Our three beautiful children.

Some twenty-three anniversaries later, we have three kids, a dwindling mortgage, and a jet ski.

Times have not always been easy. There was a period, shortly after college when we both lost our jobs and couldn’t afford a wedding. We called ourselves “the trash couple,” because it seemed like we never slept or had money to buy anything nice.

There was another time, shortly after our second child was born, when I had a raging temperature for days, while our jaundice son lay in an incubator next to me.

We survived frequent job changes, loss of loved ones, health emergencies. When I lost my two front teeth in an accident, he took me to the dentist and held my hand. When my daughter lost hers after jumping and missing an obstacle course at school, he held my hand as we watched the dentist reinsert them.

Through all of lives’ joys and disappointments, we’ve held on tight and cherished one another.

I can’t imagine going through life without him by my side.

I can’t imagine a life without him.

To those who say God doesn’t exist, I say, try praying for something that really matters. You just might get what you asked for.

And be sure to look out for the umbrella.

Fourteen and Me: Growing Up in a Super-sized Family

imageMy husband doesn’t understand why I don’t write more about growing up in a family of 15. “It’s so unusual. Everyone will be interested,” he tells me.

Maybe he’s right. In fact, maybe that’s precisely why I have trouble writing about it. It marks me as unusual…different…odd. It makes me uncomfortable. I have spent a lifetime struggling to fit in — to go unnoticed for peculiarities like having an outlandish number of siblings. Why bring this fact to light now?

When I think of my childhood, I think of a rich vein of yellow gold surrounded by dark soil. There are treasures there, but I have to dig for them. Sometimes my shovel glitters, and sometimes, I get nothing but dirt. Usually, there’s a mixture of both.

The dirt
My sister and I have embarrassing memories of being called down to the office at our grade school to try on donated clothing. We were considered “poor,” I guess. Although I certainly never felt poor and indeed was wealthy in the things that really mattered — good home cooked food, a loving family, a brain that helped me succeed in school and plenty of God-given talents.

The glitter
By the time she and I came along, there were no more children. We were the last of the litter. We were the lucky ones. The older siblings doted on us, and we were given attention that the middle siblings never received.

Growing up on a semi-farm with 14 siblings meant that we didn’t spend a lot of company with other children outside our family. There was no need. We had a built-in baseball and football team and someone to play with whenever we felt the desire. For a while, it seemed like family gatherings happened every weekend, and there was always a new face around the dinner table.

I remember bonfires and volleyball games that seemed to last all night. I remember singing around the campfire, while my older sister and brother played guitar. I remember sleep-overs at my Godmother’s house every summer. I remember peanut butter milk shakes made in the old blender with broken buttons and coming home from school to see my dad shaking out the strands of homemade pasta so they would dry, and we could sell them at auction. He was proud of the fact that the pasta he made and my mother’s apple pies and Italian bread would always sell for a good price.

The Dirt

Just a small portion of the family garden, neatly laid out and ready to produce a bumper crop.

Just a small portion of the family garden, neatly laid out and ready to produce a bumper crop.

I never knew where that “auction” took place. It is only in later years that I realized how much they depended on getting a good price at auction for our livelihood.

My mother was a practical sort. Her days were spent baking bread, canning vegetables, spanking our bottoms and keeping my dad happy. I think the only time I caught her reading a romance was when she was recovering from flu and read the novel excerpt in her Good Housekeeping magazine. She recounted the entire story to me the next day, until I was so curious that I found the same magazine and read it, too.

I never remember her reading to me. She was far too busy for that luxury. When I started school, I could not read well. It would take some encouraging teachers and hard work on my part before reading became a pleasure and not a chore. But somehow I learned and when I graduated from eighth grade, I was given the language arts award.

And that really is how I remember most of my childhood. Few handouts, lots of hard work, eventual rewards.

The glitter
I remember sitting around giant metal tubs filled with carrots, usually with another sibling or two. Our job? Scrape each carrot clean, cut off the ends, and add to another giant metal tub. It was canning time.

To mask the drudgery, we would play games like charades or tell one another riddles. There was always something to talk about and someone to talk about it with.

When the chores were done, my mother would call us in around the piano. We were each asked to sing a part. I was soprano, my sister, alto, and the boys would be tenor and base. One of the frequent songs was called, “Tavern on the Green.” If you ask, I can still hum the soprano melody today.

I don’t remember how I learned to play piano. There was no money for lessons. Like most things in my life, playing the piano just kind of happened. One day, I looked at the music, and I recognized the notes.

The dirt
A few years ago, my father, who is now 90, decided he would learn to play the piano, too. He began to practice daily and soon he was picking out small melodies. While I was visiting one weekend, I sat and played a little of the open songbook he had been working on. He turned to my mother and said, “Why she’s quite good. I didn’t know she could play piano. How did she learn to play like that?”

In a family of 15, the accomplishments of any one child went largely unnoticed. My younger sister was in 7th grade before anyone noticed she could draw. My oldest brother broke his leg and had to be homeschooled before anyone recognized his high IQ. Under the extra attention from my mother, he blossomed, eventually earning a Ph.D. in Chemistry.

Attention is something you longed for but never quite got. In a family our size, you learned early not to expect a lot of fanfare for accomplishments. You had to be your own cheerleader, your own life coach, your own dreamer.

The glitter
I guess you could say being raised in a big family builds character. It certainly built mine. People have labeled me a work-horse, determined and persistent. If I am any of these things, I am grateful. I will need them to succeed in my writing journey.

One thing is for certain, I don’t spend a lot of time looking for or expecting handouts.

And that, dear reader, is the sweet sound of my shovel striking gold.

That time a ghost followed me home from school

imageGhosts and romance are unlikely bedfellows. Ebenezer Scrooge had the ghosts but not the romance. Jane Eyre had the romance but not the ghost. The movie, “Ghost,” had both. Of course, the ghost, played by Patrick Swayze, could no longer kiss and hold his love, Demi Moore. Therein lies the crux of the problem.

Swayze needed an emissary — a middle man so to speak — or in this case a middle woman, so delightfully played by Whoopie Goldberg.

I have thought a lot about the role of mediums since I saw that movie. You might think this odd, since I write paranormal romance and talk about my own experiences with ghosts frequently on this blog, but I often wonder if mediums are authentic. Oh, I know there are people like the Long Island medium who claim to be for real, but are they actually having conversations with dead people during the day when they are awake? It seems unlikely. After all, if that were the case, wouldn’t murders be solved daily because ghosts would be pointing mediums to their killers?

Most of my ghostly experiences have come in dreams, without any act of will or desire on my part. There are the odd exceptions, though.

Ghost in the classroom
I stand in a line facing the chalkboard with six other little girls in our fourth grade class. Our mission? To see a ghost, any ghost, but preferably one that is friendly.

Ghosts have been the subject of conversation during recess. We tell each other scary stories of family or friends that claim to see spirits. We wonder if it might be possible for us to see a ghost, too.

We have pulled the blinds down low. The only light that penetrates the room is from the small crack at the bottom of the line of windows behind us.

I lead the conversation. In our little circle of friends, I am always the one in charge when it comes to the supernatural. At ten, I have an innate instinct for how to speak to the dead. “Is there a ghost in this room? If so, show yourself,” I command in my squeaky, prepubescent voice.

We watch and wait. Nothing. We can hear the sounds of other children on the playground outside the classroom walls. A car passes slowly on the street that runs by the school. The sound of its revved up engine blares through the windows. Still nothing.

“If there is a ghost in this room, show yourself,” I call out again. This time I brilliantly add, “Give us a sign. Tell us who you want to go home with.”

A shadow morphs on the opposite wall near the door. I watch, stunned as it speeds around the classroom, casts a breeze on my cheek, slides to the door opposite, and disappears.

“What was that?” one of the others pipe up.

“A ghost,” we all say, our voices overlapping in our excitement.

“Did anyone feel anything?” I question.

“I think I did,” my best friend, who is standing next to me, admits.

“I did, too,” I acknowledge. “Who do you think it wants to go home with?”

“You,” she unhesitatingly replies.

Later that night, I shiver under the blankets.
From the glow of the hallway light in our century home, I can see what appear to be faces in the Victorian wallpaper. Their unsightly mouths yawn wide, screaming silently. While I watch, the big oak door to my brother’s room opens. My eyes peer into the space beyond, waiting patiently for someone to come out. No one does. Instead, the door slams shut. The hallway light flicks on, off, and on again. Downstairs I hear the sound of muted laughter as my parents and older siblings watch T.V.

“Who is that?” my sister calls from her side of the double bed we share.

“I…don’t know,” I say, some part of me not willing to acknowledge what I have just witnessed.

“Will you sing me a song?” she asks, her voice small and scared.

As the big sister, it is my job to comfort her. I take the role seriously. My voice wobbles, but I manage to crank out Twinkle, Twinkle and then move on to Christmas carols, although it is the middle of the summer. The sound of my voice singing Away In A Manger in the dark room strengthens and calms me. I feel the Lord’s arms around me, telling me gently that it will be okay. Beside me, my sister snores softly. I pull the covers over my head and fall asleep.

Does God hear the prayers of writers?

imageI think so.

I’m not one of those people who like to run. But I do it. Twice a week, as long as it’s above 50 degrees, my iPhone and I are jogging around my neighborhood. I find that listening to a podcast or a little music helps to make the time pass more quickly.

During one of my recent jaunts, it started to rain a light mist (something it has been doing a lot these days in Cleveland), which made my run a bit harder. I was especially annoyed when the podcast stopped working. I called on Siri to play some music instead, but she claimed that she couldn’t get a signal. Over and over I tried to get something to play on my phone but without success. Eventually, I did something I haven’t done in a while. I called out to the Lord.

Now I know what you’re thinking.
There are many more important situations going on in the world than my desire for some music during my run, right? I thought about that, too. But you have to understand that it has been a while since I have felt the Lord in my life. My days are so hectic trying to maintain a somewhat stressful day job, launch a career as a romance writer, and take care of my husband and three kids, that I barely have time to say a brief prayer before I fall asleep at night. It has been a leap of faith to build a website and share my life in blog posts. There is so much noise in this world. Do I have anything of importance to say that can reach beyond it? Is anyone listening? Does anyone really care?

Although I believe in God and have a strong faith in him, I sometimes doubt his presence in my life. And there seem to be more people surrounding me that don’t have any belief in God that it wears on me. So it was in that frame of mind that I called out to him.

“Lord,” I prayed. “I know you have many more important prayers to answer. There are people sick and dying who are desperate for you. But I also know that you have it in your power to send me a song if you want to. My faith is strong enough that I’m certain you can do it. It’s also been a long time since you have answered any of my prayers directly. And I would really like to hear from you. So Lord, if it’s your will, please send me a song.”

And maybe I was just being fanciful, but I swear I felt him smile.

Still, my iPhone was silent.
So I sighed and put my finger out to press the button for Siri. But I never quite made it. Just before my fingered touched the button, a song began to play on my phone. The words startled me.

“And when you feel the rain, call his name. He’ll find you in a hurricane.”

Now the big man and I know each other well. He came to my rescue some years ago and has been my best friend ever since. I shouldn’t ever doubt his love for me. But I often do.

This little song reminded me that he is with me every step of the day. He hears me when I call, and he answers prayers. He keeps me sheltered within his arms during the worst storms, even a little Cleveland rain. He created the world. If he’s on my side, nothing is impossible.

“There’s a place, there’s a place you can run when you fall, and it’s all come undone, you’ll be safe in the raging storm, so just let go, ’cause you are held in his arms. Step out on the edge don’t be afraid of it. And when you feel the rain, call his name, he’ll find you in a hurricane.”

And with God’s perfect grace, the last words of the lyrics faded away the moment I reached my garage doors.

“And when you feel the rain, call his name. He’ll find you in a hurricane.”

P.S. I looked up the lyrics to this song when I got home — “Hurricane” by Natalie Grant.

Why the best ideas are the ones we share

imageIt always begins the same way…a blank page, a blinking cursor and my fingers hovering over a gray keyboard. Since I began this journey to be a published author (was it only a little more than three months ago?), I try to write something every day. Some days its nothing more than a Facebook post, but that counts, right? At least, on those dry days I tell myself it does.

As I have mentioned in previous entries, writing is work and a labor of love. It’s a continual process of self-expression and self-improvement with the elusive goal of perfectionism. Will I ever be fully satisfied with the final, written product? It’s uncertain.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the many questions I’m asked when I say I’ve written a yet unpublished book. Some have easy answers:

When did you find the time? Late at night, when everyone is sleeping and on the weekends at my kid’s swim meets.
What kind of book is it? A paranormal romance.
There is such a thing as paranormal romance? Yes, there is. It’s quite a popular genre. The Twilight series is a famous example.

Others are not so easy. Their answers surprised me and may surprise you, too. Take this one:

You have the first couple of chapters of your books published on your website — what if someone steals your ideas? Well, I have been told by many in the publishing industry that the moment you put pen to paper, you are protected under United States copyright laws. This means there is no need to worry about copyrighting a book before it has been published. In fact, I was specifically warned NOT to query agents with this question, as it will only reveal my inexperience and lack of professionalism.

But aren’t you worried about someone taking your idea and publishing their own book? Nah..not really. I mean I’m no copyright attorney. But we are in the age of information and social media. Everywhere you look there are good ideas for the taking. The trick of the artist is to select an idea and make it uniquely their own. This is a skill and talent that no one else can copy.

Writers routinely draw from the world around them — nature, art, music, the news media — and then put their own spin on an idea to say something new. The saying, “It’s all been done before,” is true. It has all been done before. Every new idea has its basis in the past. But there is always room for the writer to build off a previous idea and place it in a new light. My own work is inspired by other authors I have read and enjoyed.

No, I do not live in fear of someone stealing my ideas. Rather, I welcome it. It may seem contrary, but sharing my ideas with the world has stimulated my creativity. Reader comments have provided me with valuable insights that I have used to improve my manuscripts. When I give my ideas away, I am forced to dig deeper and peer a little harder at my own writing. It’s how I make my work better.

So bring on those blank pages and blinking cursors! My fingers are hovering, itching to capture the next great idea, and send it out to the digital world, hoping it comes back around with a little more shape, a bit more polish and a whole lot of sparkle.


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When grandma comes to visit

imageThe year is 1979. I am twelve.

In the backyard of my home, there is a black telephone attached to a pole. It looks like the kind you might find in an old phone booth. It rings nonstop. I look around hopefully, waiting for someone to answer it. No one does.

I think: Maybe, if I wait long enough it might stop ringing?

It does not. Instead the ringing persists, growing louder. After staring at the telephone a moment, I pick it up cautiously.

“Hello,” I say.

“Hi! Tell me about yourself,” an older woman speaks with enthusiasm.

“Who are you?” I ask.

“Never mind that. Just tell me all about yourself. What do you like to do for fun?”

“Who are you?” I say again, feeling stubborn. Why does this lady think I’ll answer her questions if I don’t even know her name.

“Hurry. I don’t have much time. Do you like school? Do you have a boyfriend? I want to know all about you.”

“Listen, lady,” I say,” annoyed. “I’m not answering any of your questions unless you tell me who you are.”

“It’s…it’s….,” she struggles, clearly torn. Eventually, she realizes that she has no other option if she wants to continue the conversation. “It’s grandma,” she finally sputters in my ear.

I stare at the phone dumbfounded. Both my grandmothers have been dead for years. I never knew them.

I hear a click, and the telephone is disconnected. I awaken to the sound of a dial tone in my ear.

When dreams speak
This is obviously a dream, but I can’t shake it. It was nothing like the nightmare I’d had the week before, which featured Bigfoot on a white horse. (It was the late 1970’s, remember. Bigfoot was all the rage:)

Could I have been speaking to the spirit of my long-dead grandmother? And if I was, what did she mean when she told me she didn’t have much time? Why would there be a time limit to our conversation? Wouldn’t a ghost have all the time in the world? And couldn’t she spy on me from the other side to know if I had a boyfriend or not?

So many questions, but for me, the dream remains elusive — staying just out of reach of my logical and enquiring mind. As much as I want to ignore it, I can’t. It disturbs me, forcing me to deal with questions that lack satisfying answers.

Despite all of our scientific advances, little is really known about our dreams. It is believed that most of us dream every night, although many people don’t recall or pay attention to them. That’s a shame because psychologists say that dreams can reveal many aspects of our lives. They can bring to light and offer solutions to our problems. They can help us understand and accept deep emotions — the kind that are so painful to contemplate, we bury them deep within our subconscious.

Maybe, this is why I find myself exploring dreams in the Mind Hackers series. Although the heroines would prefer to ignore them, like the ghost of my grandmother, their dreams haunt them — engaging them in compelling conversations and hinting at clues to mysteries that must be resolved along the way. Clues that cannot be unearthed in any other fashion.

Getting back to grandma
When I recount the strange dream to my parents the next morning at the breakfast table, they find it oddly entertaining.

“Now doesn’t that sound just like your mom,” my mother tells my father, giving him a strange look. She turns to me and adds, “Your grandma was always asking her granddaughters if they had a boyfriend. She loved soap operas and romance. If she were here right now, that’s exactly what she would ask you.”

Their acceptance lends validity to the visit.

Many years pass, and I dream of grandma again. This time, she hands me an antique movie camera and has me peer through the lens to see still photos strung together of other long-dead relatives. She has a message, too.

But that’s a story for another day…nothing like a good cliff hanger, right?

I’d like to think grandma with her love of soap operas would approve.


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Stop and smell the lemons

imageSunshine, porch swings, peonies, lemonade, tea parties, beach glass, sundresses, gospel music, lazy days, hammocks, a good book, warm summer nights, drive-in movies, scenic bike rides, campfires, festivals, massages, vanilla custard, Edgewater Beach, guacamole, romance…these are a few of my favorite things.

But today is Father’s Day. So my favorite things must give way to my husband’s, which are antique cars and airplanes. Plus, its cloudy and raining right now. So there’s no sun to be had for someone who kicked off this post with sunshine.

When life sends you lemons…
Speaking of rain, no one is immune from a little drizzle, not even a romance author. I have been working hard to get MIND WAVES into the hands of editors and agents — professionals willing to read the manuscript and provide constructive feedback. So it was with no small measure of excitement last week that I clicked on an email message from an editor who indicated that she had read the first part of the story.

And didn’t like it. Not one bit.

The message described several major issues with the writing — from shifting points of view to a lack of clear focus and not enough dialogue that moves the action along. It is clear from her message that if I hope to have a chance of publishing the story, I’ll need to go back to the drawing board and do some rewriting. Probably, a lot of rewriting. Maybe the whole thing. I have some work ahead.

At first I felt deflated, like one of those saggy helium balloons left over from a party. And then, I started to think about it, and I began to see her email in a more positive light. True, I have a lot of work ahead. But she wasn’t trying to tear the story apart. No. She was offering constructive criticism — feedback that I can use to get better.

So, I wrote her back.
I thanked her for reading the manuscript and told her that I was going to follow it. I mentioned that I have been working hard to improve my writing and am seeing the results of this in the second story, CROSS WAVES, which I would love to share with her when ready.

And guess what? She wrote me back and told me to send the second manuscript to her, too.

…make lemonade.
Yes, I still have work ahead. But somehow, I feel like I made progress. Because now I have some advice to use to get better. And I have a editor willing to take a look and work with me. Really, for a first-time author, this cup of lemonade sure tastes sweet.


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Let your little light shine

image“This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine.”

Sing with me now.

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.”

Great little gospel tune, isn’t it? It was written by composer and teacher Harry Dixon Loes around 1920. Most claim it takes its source from the bible when Jesus tells his listeners, “You are the light of the world.”

I heard it often as a child and always thought of it as a metaphor for our spirit or soul — a nice idea or sentiment but not meant for listeners to take literally.

BUT (and there’s always a big BUT when it comes to the paranormal), what if there is a light that shines forth from each of us, unseen by the naked eye, but real, nonetheless? And what if YOU were one of the few that could see it?

That’s the difficulty facing the heroine in my current work in progress, CROSS WAVES. Not only does she see lights around everyone she meets, but each person’s light gives off a different color that helps her make sense of what they are thinking and feeling. And she is so talented at this particular skill, that she can track missing persons by drawing their light to herself. Sound intriguing?

Of course, every good fantasy novel has some basis in reality. In the real world, proponents of the little light call it an “aura,” and they claim that certain gifted individuals can see it. Others say the lights are caused by a medical issue, such as a migraine or neural disorder, and are not magical or mystical.

I would call it all hogwash, accept (gulp, out with it Amanda), I have seen them frequently myself. When I first noticed the strange lights hovering around my teachers and classmates in grade school, I referred to them as my “bad eyes.” I figured I would stop seeing them when I received my first pair of glasses and contacts in high school.

BUT… the lights didn’t stop
Rather, they grew in intensity, and as I got older, I saw them more frequently and in strange venues — conference rooms, restaurants, rock concerts, etc.

To me, the lights appear to correspond to an individual’s energy level, which is why I think I tend to see them around public speakers, who typically are energized. Often, they are colorless or white, but I have seen the lights as blue, green, orange and black.

Is it the shape or construction of my eyes that cause the lights? Do I have a medical problem? Or am I being fanciful in imagining there is something more?

Maybe, it’s a little of each. Whatever the cause, I hope I’m fanciful enough to produce a novel that will keep your interest and stay with you long after the final pages have been turned.

So, let your little light shine. But remember, someone could be watching.


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