My Fair Lacey is released!

This sounds like she’s been held captive somewhere, doesn’t it? Not so. Well, unless you count my computer as a place of captivity. Although if we’re speaking metaphorically, I’m the only one that my computer really holds captive because I will not be truly free until I finish Slayers 4. But we’re not talking about that right now. (Janette looks around for chocolate.) Because we’re celebrating a charming romance novella (It’s 125 pages, so it’s half a book.) that’s part of a romance anthology with romance veterans Rachel J Christensen, Cami Checketts, Heather Tullis, and Lucy McConnell.

If you’ve ever sung one of the My Fair Lady songs or wished Professor Higgens was younger, hotter, and nicer, you’ll love this story.

 

Click here to buy the book

Lacey Johnson has dreamed of opening a restaurant for years. All she needs is one little loan to make it happen. But with the way Lacey talks and dresses, she looks more like someone who would hold up a bank than someone who’d ever get a loan from one. When Garrett Halifax, her roommate’s Harvard-educated brother, volunteers to change her image and teach her to speak correctly, she jumps at the chance. But she quickly finds she’s in over her head. Pretending to fit in with the town’s elite is harder than she thought, and despite her best efforts, she’s falling for Garrett. Could someone who is handsome, rich, and educated ever consider her as more than just a project?

Romantic happiness is waiting for you when you click here to buy the book!

When I met Richard Hatch

When I was thirteen I was a huge fan of Battlestar Gallactica. I didn’t just dream of growing up to marry Richard Hatch, I dreamed of marrying Apollo. In my mind there wasn’t a difference between the two.

A reader once mentioned that she knew Tori would end up with Jesse because all of my heroes had dark hair. (In my defense, the tally in books at the time was something like ten brunet guys to three blond ones. After that, I purposely wrote the next two heroes with blond hair, but yeah, I’m still way behind.) Richard Hatch–or rather, Apollo, is the reason why so many of my heroes have dark hair. Now, before you get defensive in my husband’s behalf, (he’s blond) I tried to put my husband in a romance novel once. I had to fire him after the first day. My husband is such a laid-back peacemaker that he just wouldn’t fight with the heroine. (Which is great in real life but not good in novels which need conflict.)

When I found out that Richard Hatch passed away yesterday, well, it’s been a sad day for me.

Jesse in the Slayers series is based on a younger version of Richard. What teenage girl wouldn’t fall for this guy? Or here’s another picture. Today, I kept thinking How can I imagine Jesse doing things in the Slayers series when Richard Hatch died? It seems like his likeness should have vanished from my mind or something. Which of course is ridiculous. Imagination doesn’t work that way.  But still, everything has felt a little off and wrong today. My own mortality has been standing on my porch, looking in through the windows.

I’ve also been thinking about the time I met Richard sixteen years ago. He was doing a day-long seminar on embracing your fear, and this was taking place in Sedona not far from where I lived. I couldn’t pass up a chance to meet my childhood idol.

It was a memorable meeting, to say the least. I was so nervous. I was afraid he would look at me and then look over me like I wasn’t enough. I mean, isn’t that what celebrities do?

Instead, he was so kind to everyone. (And he told me I looked like one of his old girlfriends, so you know, validation…) He asked to see pictures of my kids and told me they were beautiful. He said my husband was lucky to have me. He hugged everyone in the group (and made us hug everyone in the group) and kissed me on the cheek. I don’t remember what I paid for that seminar. But it was worth every dollar and then some in self-esteem points.

I had brought a copy of Masquerade to the seminar because he was in the dedication, and I wanted to give him the book. (I’ll quote my journal from that time here)

Towards the end of breakfast, Richard looked over at me and said, “I recognize you. You’ve been to my seminars before.”

“No, we’ve never met,” I said.

“Really?” he asked. “You look so familiar. I could’ve sworn I’d seen you before.”

“It must’ve been that poster I had of you in junior high. I knew you could really hear me when I was talking to you.”

So much for portraying an air of sophistication. Oh well, I suppose he was bound to discover the truth about me sooner or later. I mean, how do you remain sophisticated while telling a stranger you put them in the dedication of your romance novel?

I was a little worried about how I was going to work that detail into casual conversation. He was there to give a seminar. How was I going to give him my book? (“I’m not sure if you like reading romance novels, Mr. Hatch. But I thought I’d give you this one…”)

As it turned out, I couldn’t have scripted the conversation better if I’d written it myself. At lunch (yes, he sat next to me then too,) I asked him about how he wrote his books and mentioned that I was a writer too.

“Have you ever sent anything out?” he asked. Why do people always assume I’m unpublished?

“Yes, my fifth book is coming out next July.”

“Really? Did you bring any with you?” (An odd question. I mean, how many authors travel with copies of their books?)

“As a matter of fact, I did. I brought one to give to you because you’re in the dedication.”

He didn’t even seem surprised. Maybe movie stars are used to frequenting book dedications.

Anyway, after lunch, I gave him a copy of my book. He read the entire dedication out loud and said, “That’s beautiful. You’re a poet.”

My best review ever.

He was not Apollo, and yet he was deeper than I expect most Hollywood stars are. The things he said about overcoming obstacles were profound. The theme of his seminar was embracing your fear instead of avoiding it. This was a new thought for me, but I understood the philosophy behind it. If you avoid doing things that make you afraid, you’ll never leave your comfort zone. You’ll never accomplish all the things you’re capable of. If we fear failure or we give up once we’ve failed, we stop living.

He talked about this for awhile and told us that we needed to let ourselves feel fear, embrace it for what it does for us (gives us energy.) We should take that energy and use it instead of trying to push fear away.

As part of the seminar, we were to climb a thirty-five-foot pole, do a rope course, and then jump off a platform and zipline to the ground.(More quoting from my journal here.)

While we went to the course, Richard asked us to talk about our fears. I said, “If I told you  my biggest fear was that I was going to break off all of my fingernails, would you think I’m shallow?”

He didn’t answer. One of the other women laughed and said, “That’s not shallow; that’s protecting your investment.”

Richard told us the story of the first time he did a ropes course. He went up as fast as he could then immediately did the macho thing. He did a kamikaze dive off the top. He said when he got to the ground he felt pumped up and exhilarated until his instructor started asking him about the experience. Things like “Why didn’t you look around while you were up there? Why didn’t you take your time to enjoy the experience?”

Richard realized he hadn’t been exhilarated; he’d been scared to death and so he’d done what he’d always done in life. He clenched his fists, shut his eyes, and dove in. He suddenly saw the ropes course as a metaphor for his own life, for how he dealt with problems. He’d been scared, so he done a dive instead of completing the exercise. He’d covered his emotions up with machismo. He said the experience haunted him for three years until he did the ropes course again at another seminar. This time he did it the right way. He embraced his fear.

As I watched everybody else do the ropes course, I began to get a little nervous. I knew the harness would keep me from splattering to the ground, but I worried that I might fall and swing into one of the poles and thus break all of my teeth out. I really didn’t want to look foolish. Perhaps it was pride. Perhaps pride can conjure up worse fears than walking on a shaking log high above the ground.

As I was waiting for my turn, Richard came up and stood beside me. “Are you afraid?”

“Well, I wasn’t until I saw Lorraine screaming up there.”

He smiled at me in a teasing way. “You just came to the seminar to say hello to me and now I’m making you do stuff.”

“Yeah. I had to hug people and now this.”

He gave me his glasses to hold while he went up. He did the course quickly, confidently.

I wasn’t going to do less on my turn. I went up without hesitation and walked pretty smoothly across the swaying log. The only problem came when the rope on the harness got stuck and I couldn’t move forward for the last foot. I was supposed to reach over and touch the far pole with my hand but the rope wouldn’t let me move forward. I figured if I lunged forward I might get the rope unstuck but in all probability I’d also lose my balance and perhaps some of my teeth too. So instead of touching the pole with my hand, I lifted my foot and touched it that way.

Now that I think about it, that’s kind of scary thing to do–stand on one leg on a suspended log, but at the time I didn’t even think about it. Then I walked to the middle of the log and as we were required, put my arms up, my head back, and leaned backwards. Next, I walked to the end of the log and climbed up on the platform. I sat and looked around while I waited for the staff guy to change ropes on my harness so I could jump off the platform and slide down the wire. I was the most nervous then because I’d seen the group before me sort of fall and then jerk back up as they slid. I don’t like falling and I was afraid the jerk would hurt my back. I called down, “I can’t believe I paid for this.”

Richard called up to me, “How do you feel?”

“I want something to embrace besides my fear,” I yelled back and then I jumped. The surprising part was that it was fun. It felt just like sliding through the air. If I could have done it again, I would have. As I returned to the ground, Richard walked up to me.  

“That was fun,” I said.

He laughed and told me he’d known all along I was spunky. Then as we strolled back to the others he said, “I can tell you have a way with words.”

“Well I am a writer,” I said. “But so are you.”

“Yeah, I know, that’s how I can tell you have a way with words.”

Could I have planned out things for him to tell me to validate me more?

When we watched the video of ourselves on the ropes, someone pointed out that I had a smile on my face during the whole time. I could tell it was a nervous smile while I was crossing the log, but nevertheless, it was a smile.

That got me thinking about the whole ropes-as-a-metaphor-for-life thought. During my time up on the course, I was joking around, shooting off clever one-liners instead of doing something sensible like screaming. Why do I do that? Do I use joking as a defense mechanism? Do I joke around to keep people at a distance, to keep them from knowing what is serious and important to me? Perhaps I just see life differently than other people. I don’t know. Richard wanted us to do soul-searching, and I guess it worked.

It’s been sixteen years since I did that rope course, and I still think about it sometimes. To tell you the truth, I still don’t know the answers to those questions.

Richard, you made me think, you made me dream, and for one short day, you made me feel really good about myself. More than a million people have lived part of my teenage crush on you as they’ve read my books. You will be missed.

 

If you want to read about my version of Richard Hatch (and Dirk Benedict)

see the first book in the series here

Should you publish with a small publisher?

Every once in a while I give writing advice on my blog. Someone asked me if they should publish with a certain publisher. Here are my thoughts on the subject.

Smaller publishers come and go every year, and some stick around for decades (and some go out of business quickly and don’t ever pay their authors royalties.) The questions you need to ask before choosing any publisher are:

1) How much do they pay in advances? Specifically, how much will they pay you? If they don’t pay anything, avoid them. If they pay under 10k, consider them carefully. Generally, if a publisher doesn’t pay much of an advance, they won’t do a lot to market your book. If they don’t market it, it won’t sell well and bookstores might not even carry it.

If you’re unsure about a publisher or agent, you can get a trial subscription to Publishers Weekly and check to see their recent deals.

(The exception to this rule may be Kindle Scout. They pay 1,500 advances but you have Amazon’s expertise helping to sell your book, so the lower advance may be worth it.)

2) What is their marketing plan? Are they well connected to bookstores? Do their reps go to conferences and give out ARCs? How many ARCS will they be distributing?

3) What is their contract like? Make sure you have either an agent or a literary lawyer look over it and see if the publisher is grabbing rights they shouldn’t. Some contracts are so bad that they will literally enslave an author’s career. You want to make sure you can get your rights back after a few years when the print book is no longer selling. (Ebooks and print-on-demand copies shouldn’t constitute the book being in print.) The publisher shouldn’t ask for more than first rights of refusal on your next book in the same genre. You also want to make sure you can self-publish anything you want. There’s a lot more to look for in contracts, which again is why you need a professional to read it over.

4) Look at the list of books they’ve published and contact some of the authors. Ask them about their experience and if they’re happy with the publisher. I published one book with a small publisher and it was a disaster, but that doesn’t mean all small publishers are bad.

Good luck!

Back to work on Slayers 4 (Into the Firestorm)

Perhaps by the time I’m finished with the book, I will remember that firestorm is one word. Although you probably shouldn’t hold your breath. I’ve written multiple books that involve either the Renaissance or renaissance festivals and I still spell the word wrong. Every. Single. Time.

Thank goodness for spellcheck.

Anyway, I am working on Slayers 4 again. I’m having a hard time getting excited about the book because I want to be already done with this series and it still needs so much work, and oh yeah, the climax and ending. It still needs that.

And–this is why I shouldn’t write series–I know at some point soon, I’m going to have to go back and reread all three books to make sure I’m not inadvertently changing facts and details.

I’ve said since book two that I was going to write two endings, one where she ends up with Jesse and one where she ends up with Dirk so that both camps will be happy. Oddly, even though the (super) rough draft is written up until the climax, I’m still not sure which version I’m writing now. I guess we’ll all be surprised…

 

Podcast launch–book giveaways!

Hey, I’ve started podcasting with writer friends Randy Lindsay, Brock Booher (and eventually  Aaron Blaylock) about all things writing. I’ve got one podcast playing right now as I write this and I’m cringing at my voice. I know, I know, most people don’t like the way their voice sounds, but… sigh… Ok, here’s the thing: as some of you know, my mother got cancer when I was two, was sick for four years, and died when I was six. My Dad remarried when I was ten. But during my formative years, instead of hearing my mother’s lovely soprano voice, I mostly heard my father’s deep voice. I had a music teacher explain to me once that when this happens to girls they very often speak in a lower tone than they normally would.

I don’t think about this fact until I hear my voice on a recording and then I always think, why do I sound like that? Ahh! So, in future podcasts, I’m going to try and remember to sound lilting and not like I’m trying to impersonate a man.

But enough about my voice.

There are four 15-minute podcasts. I’m giving away a book per podcast to one of the commenters. (Chosen by Random.org) Also Randy Lindsay will be also giving away copies of one of his books as well as Ryan Hancock’s Uncommon Blue. (Ryan is also our friend, and some of you may know him as Darth Beta because he rips my stuff apart when he beta reads it.)

Here’s the link: Ready, Set, Write!

Books you can choose from are: My  Fair Godmother, My Unfair Godmother, How to Take the Ex Out of Ex-boyfriend, My Double Life, It’s a Mall World After All, Just One Wish, Slayers, Slayers: Friends and Traitors, Erasing Time, Revenge of the Cheerleaders, Life, Love and the Pursuit of Free Throws, or Fame, Glory, and Other Things On My To-do List (Or Echo in Time if you’re willing to wait. I have it on order but don’t have it yet.

 

Preventing Hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness)

This post has nothing to do with books. I’m writing it just in case there are women out there googling information on hyperemesis gravidarum–which is literally killer morning sickness. Back before the invention of IVs, women died from this. I nearly died from it, and I had a feeding tube implanted in my arm for months. If you throw up several times an hour for months on end you can rupture your esophagus and die. When I started throwing up blood, it always became a concern.

Hyperemesis gravidarum was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life. Throwing up that much was awful. At first I judged what I ate by how it would feel when I threw it up. Milk was the worst because it curdles in your stomach. For the first month or so of morning sickness, I would try to eat because I knew it was necessary to keep me and the baby alive, but my attempts to put food in my stomach didn’t matter. Nothing stayed down. Then I gave up on eating. You have no appetite when you’re extremely nauseous. This didn’t keep me from throwing up, by the way. Even with no food in my stomach, I still threw up stomach bile.

Once while I was throwing up my lungs stopped working. (The doctor said it was probably my diaphragm.) Those were some scary moments. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak, and had no way to tell my husband who was sleeping in the other room that I was in trouble. (It was in the middle of the night, because yes, I would even wake up in the middle of the night and throw up.) I banged on the toilet to try and wake him up and alert him that I was having a problem. He slept through my banging, though. He can sleep through anything.

Luckily my lungs started working again and I was able to stagger back to the bed.

When my morning sickness got really bad I would pass out when I sat up. I was hospitalized, but they couldn’t really do anything except for IV’s to keep me alive. The anti nausea drugs didn’t work. (Although vicodin shots did help somewhat. I couldn’t keep pills down, but vicodin shots probably kept me alive.) And with my first three pregnancies, the morning sickness lasted longer each time. When I was pregnant with the twins it lasted for five months.

And the worst part of it was the pain. Severe nausea causes pain, constant pain. The only time I wasn’t in pain was for a couple of seconds when I was transitioning from sleep to wakefulness. I always hoped for those seconds that the pain wouldn’t come back, but it always did–full force.

Part of the problem with having extreme morning sickness is that very few people understand what you’re going through. A lot of women have a little morning sickness and then think you’re a really big wimp because you don’t just tough it out and get on with your life like they did. This is like thinking diabetics are wimps for not being able to eat sugar. Our bodies are different.

I blame Freud in part for this attitude about morning sickness. He was the one who decided that it was all in women’s heads. Somehow that belief lingers in the public conscious. This is why I personally hate Freud and hope that God reincarnates him as a pregnant woman with hyperemesis gravidarum.

Freud did say one interesting thing about severe morning sickness, though. His belief was partially based on research that indicated women had less morning sickness in times of war or famine. I suppose it never occurred to him that a woman’s diet is different during times of war or famine.

Which brings me to the point of this article–Preventing hyperemesis gravidarum. For my first three pregnancies, the internet wasn’t around and my research in the library turned up nothing on the subject. Before my fourth pregnancy, I researched on the internet and bingo, I found some useful information. (You are probably wondering why in the world I would put myself through this four times, but that is the subject for a different blog.)

I found a website that midwives used to discuss pregnancy issues and one talked about a diet that helped prevent hyperemesis gravidarum. Basically, for three months before pregnancy women were put on a diet where they ate no meat, fat, sugar, preservatives or additives of any kind. (I can’t remember whether dairy was allowed. I had a little  skim milk for calcium but didn’t eat cheese.) If I remember right, the idea behind this diet was that it improved your liver’s ability to function.

I had never been able to give up sugar/chocolate before (or since.) But I did it back then because the thought of throwing up during pregnancy was enough to motivate me. Finding things I could eat was a struggle. I ate lots of fruit and vegetables. Those aren’t all that filling. I also made waffles from flour I’d ground myself and ate them plain. I ate a lot of potatoes. I couldn’t put butter on them so I made salsa from scratch just so they would have some flavor.  I ended up losing weight even though I was eating more than I usually did. I mean, I felt like I was eating all of the time because the stuff I ate wasn’t that filling.

(For pregnancies two and three I actually tried to gain weight before I got pregnant because I knew as soon as I was pregnant I would lose weight. I needed the reserve.)

The diet worked. I wish I could say that for that fourth pregnancy I had absolutely no morning sickness, but I still did. It just wasn’t nearly as extreme. I didn’t get sick until later in the pregnancy and it wasn’t as bad. I didn’t have to be hospitalized once. I was well enough that I could eat in the morning. As the day progressed I got sicker and sicker. Around noon I had to take to my bed and stay there, hoping that resting would help me keep down my food. But I was still able to eat a little . This probably sounds bad as far as normal pregnancies go, but it was a huge improvement. The pain was much much less and throwing up actually relieved the nausea, whereas before it wouldn’t.

I always tried to go to sleep at nine because I knew if I was up later the nausea would get bad. But I didn’t want to die. And with the other pregnancies, I really did. I remember my husband leaving in the morning and he would ask me if I needed anything. I would tell him, “Yeah, get me some arsenic.” I was only half joking.

Anyway, I should have put this article up long ago. I hope it can help some other women. If you are already pregnant and have hyperemesis gravidarum. I’m so sorry. I feel your pain. Or at least I did. Hang in there. Life gets better and holding that baby makes it all worth it.

But on the bright side, I’ll have some novellas coming out soon

Sometimes when I tell my husband about something in my schedule, he starts singing the song, “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No.”

This is actually true about me in many regards. For example, I never say no to chocolate. Or for that matter to anything that tastes like gingerbread. True story: for the last two years I’ve stocked up on the gingerbread spice herbal tea that Celestial Seasonings makes at Christmas time. Sprouts has always been my supplier but after going to three different Sprouts that didn’t have it yet, I panicked and called Celestial Seasonings to see if it was discontinued. Turns out it wasn’t and I could order it directly from them.And shipping was free on orders that were over 49 dollars; so yes, I did buy 49 dollars worth of gingerbread spice herbal tea. I have no regrets about that decision.

Anyway, Rachel Christianson, one of the authors of the Echo Ridge (romance) anthologies told me that an author had dropped out of their group and asked if I wanted to write a 25-35k novella.

Yep. Sure I did. I aimed for 25K and instead wrote one that was almost 36K.

And then Heather from the Timeless Romance anthology told me that one of their writers had dropped out (What is happening to all of these authors and should I be worried?) and asked me if I wanted to write a 15K novella for them.

Of course I did. Novellas are fun and they seem like they’ll be fast to write since they’re not full length.

It just occurred to me today that with those two word-counts together, I would almost have another novel written. Which I don’t. But I’ll have two fun novellas that will come out next year. So there’s that…  And I’ll finish Slayers 4. Really I will…

Thinking about WIFYR (Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers)

I’m going to be teaching at a week-long writers conference in June. This is a special writers conference to me for a lot of reasons. Link to WIFYR homepage

  1. It was the first writing conference I went to as a hopeful writer. It was held in Hawaii. (The amazing Chris Crowe set it up.) Orson Scott Card was my teacher and I learned a ton from him, even though I didn’t always agree with him. That’s where I first met members of the writing tribe. Also of note–at the time I was in no position financially to fly off to Hawaii for a vacation let alone a conference. I saw the announcement for the conference, and with a wistful sigh, thought what a shame it was that I couldn’t go. My husband saw the announcement and told me I should go. I’ve been lucky that he’s always been so supportive.
  2. I’ve taught some amazing writers there. I hate to start mentioning people who’ve taken my class because I will forget some, but ones who have published are Ally Condie, Erin Summerill, Julie Ann Donaldson, Sarah Larsen, and of course there are many more who were great writers and I’m still waiting for them to finish their books and send them out. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Kristi Bevan Stevens.) I’ve made friendships that will last for my entire life there.
  3. I recently went to Boston for a family reunion. I lived there when I was three but don’t remember much about it. My oldest sister remembers more. She said being in Boston reminded her of our mother, who passed away when I was six. I had known my mother wanted to be a writer. I remember seeing her sitting at the typewriter typing. (I was forbidden to touch the typewriter because I couldn’t refrain from pounding on the keys and thus tangling them into a mess.) I had even read some of her short stories, but I hadn’t known until two months ago that she went to a week-long writers conference while she lived in Boston. My sister told me how she would come home every day, excited about the things she’d learned.

I have been thinking about that ever since. Decades ago, writers who I’ll never know helped my mother. She came home energized and happy because of the things she’d learned. Thank you, whoever you were. I hope I can do the same for others.