Category Archives: Musings

Returning from Hoth and the Mother of All Rejections

 

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It had been five months since the too-big-and-cold-for-me RWA conference. I’d recuperated slowly and had settled into a pretty good writing routine. Within a month after the conference, most of the agents and editors had responded to my pitch. All were passes. At the time, it was a common occurrence that a no response after three months was simply a rejection. Not a big deal. This is the business of writing.

The day after Thanksgiving, I was eager to make my sandwich with a heaping pile of leftover turkey and real cranberry sauce. I scanned my messages and received an e-mail from an unknown person.

I wasn’t familiar with anyone with this name and truly…a picture of my favorite backyard nester popped in my head. Due to my exaggerated fear of computer viruses, I almost deleted the message but something caught my attention. So like a little bird, I read it.

I recognized the publisher, but the editor’s name was completely unknown to me. I assumed it was a rejection letter from the one pitch in New York left unanswered.

RANT BREAK

I had saved up for my trip to RWA for a long time. It was a career opportunity that came with a big price tag, but it was worth it. With one book published and another one on the way, I was seasoned. The manuscript that I pitched was another series opener and one that had been thoroughly vetted. My expectations were realistic. I wanted to get this project out there and hoped to nab some attention. With the monies I put out for the conference, I was sure that I was pitching a complete and polished manuscript.

END RANT

What the editor sent to me during the holiday weekend was a long personalized rejection letter accusing me of writing a rape joke. What? A rape joke? I didn’t even know how to define a rape joke, much less write one. I was utterly confused and shattered.

The manuscript that I had pitched in New York is a caper that bounces around the world of contemporary art. It’s a romantic adventure with an uptight curator and a reclusive sculptor. There’s not a whole lot of time for sex. So how anyone could read a rape joke in it was beyond me. I was shocked.

When I asked the editor about the location of the alleged “rape joke” to alleviate my confusion and fix it, the response was quick. Within twenty minutes the editor responded. The “rape joke” turned into a “rapey feel.” I was also coached. The editor added that I shouldn’t take this comment personally. I later learned that this New York editor had not bothered to read my manuscript.

On that day, the writing business and the business of writing broke me. I lost my appetite for my turkey sandwich and returned to Hoth. My writing mojo froze.

The despair lingered. My words haven’t been so free-flowing since last Thanksgiving.

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Thankfully, spring came along and the Chicago North RWA held the Spring Fling Conference. Pictured is a group of spectacular women that have fed and nurtured me as a romance writer from the get-go. They are members of the Wisconsin RWA—WisRWA.

These spectacular ladies inspired me to get up, put my shoes back on and start dancing. The conference reminded me why I write. That it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a soul-searching journey that takes time. That romance is the good stuff that people need in tough times and there is truly power in romance.

I’m relieved to be back near the warm glow around my keyboard again.

 

XO

 

 

 

 

Romancing the Conferences with RWA

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New York RWA 2015

A year ago at this time I was prepping to go to the big gig in NYC. As I’m scanning the Twitter feed it’s full of writers packing up and heading to San Diego for this year’s conference. I’m so relieved I’m not one of them. The view from my room in Times Square was incredible, but the national RWA conference nearly broke me. It was tough and I needed to gain some distance. Finally a whole 365 days later, I feel ready and am able to share some words about the greatest, yet worst experience in my writing career.

A year ago my writing mojo was strong and eager.

For the conference, I had packed and was ready with my A-game. My pitch was superb. My book was complete at 80,000 words. It was and still is a great story. My attire was professional. My excitement was contained with my mantra of goals:

1.} Meet a few writers…OM…

2.} Talk writing…OOMMM…

3.} Get an agent. OMMM…

4.} See as much of New York City as possible. OOOMMM!

I had a plan. What the heck could go wrong? I was traveling to thee greatest city in the world and hanging with romance writers for a week.

But it was too big.

It was too big. Not the city. Yes, it’s big but I was prepared for the size and raucous energy. But the conference was vast and cold. It felt like I’d traveled to Hoth. As I waited to check in at the Marriot Marquis, my mojo started to shiver. The marble-topped tables were surrounded by women staring at their tablets and phones. The hotel was glorious, but it took four hours to get into my room. I ventured into a workshop designed for newbies.

I sat so far back I could barely hear the speakers. Some of them were authors I adored. I wanted to meet them, but we might as well have been on two different planets. The crowd of women was thick. Instead, I tried to chat with those around me, but only received curt hellos, a few business cards and lots of muted looks that appeared to say, “Please buy my book.”

My mojo was set straight as reality set in. This wasn’t a great big craft-loving-romance-writing conference. It was a parade of stressed-out writers, wannabe authors, and authors with big egos who wanted to sell and expound with one-ups-man-ship.  I was underwhelmed with my gender kin. The vast majority of women were cool and standoffish. They stayed close to their cliques.

It was an element in life I had forgotten about, but quickly remembered it and how I had despised it: exclusion.

The conference reminded me of those days of being disqualified from the popular table in high school. The feeling was intense and sharp. It hadn’t dulled after so many years and still was able to slice into my soul. The divisions between published and unpublished were crystal clear. All the published authors were invited to the balls and galas. The unpublished were left on their own to search for warmth on the planet Hoth.

I ran to #4 on my mantra list. I got on the kick-ass elevator, shouted hello to New York, and said good-bye to the conference. It wasn’t for me.

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Mariott Marquis Elevator

I write. I like talking really loud about the beauty of romance stories. Happily-ever-afters are planted deep in my crazy soul. But this conference dwarfed my voice. I felt lost, so I explored NYC and found a piece of solid footing.

 

Patsy's in New York

Patsy’s (A picture for my mom-Patsy)

In May my mojo appeared long enough to attend the Chicago North RWA’s Spring Fling.

This conference picked me up, dusted me off and repaired me after last year’s RWA Nationals in New York.

My colleague Karen Miller is a Golden Heart finalist for her historical romance, Saving Columbine Ranch. So the gals in WisRWA gathered at the Spring Fling to celebrate. We couldn’t be more proud of our writing-sister.

On Saturday night, I’ll put on my soft pants, grab a glass of wine and watch the live stream of the Golden Heart Ceremony on my computer. I’m crossing my legs for comfort and my fingers for Karen.

It’s taken a year, but I’m almost all defrosted from my Hoth experience at the New York conference. I hope Karen has a wonderful time in San Diego. Thanks to the conference in Chicago, I found my voice again. It’s the power of romance that set me on track and its positivity pulled me back into my writing chair.

I’m diving in and will be finishing book #2 in the Just Desserts series.

XO

 

Romance is Rosy as Candy is Dandy!

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Naturally as a romance writer my favorite candy for Valentine’s Day is Sweethearts, but there are some days that I have to have my coping candy…Twizzlers. After thinking about Twizzlers, I recalled that Red Vines have been a long time summer choice  Then the light bulb went on and I realized that I’m a uber candy fan. I loved going to the penny candy store when I was kid…Bear’s Pharmacy. We’d grab the lunch bag and begin to fill it up with the rainbow of small-sized sweet treats. Tootsie Rolls, Bottle Caps, Laughy-Taffy, Mary Janes, Jawbreakers, and Dots to name a few.

I love reading each Sweetheart and popping it into my mouth.

What’s your fave candy?

 

Romance Reads in August

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These last weeks of summer are are moving surprising slow. In the past, it seemed that all the prep time devoted to the start of school made time fly. Not this year. August 1st became perfect reading weather. Seventy degrees without a cloud in the sky.

Since August is Read-A-Romance month, this shouldn’t come as a shocker. I’m digging into my TBR pile of contemporary romance reads and making my way through it.

Up first:

THE ART FORGER by B.A. Shapiro

Can wait to get to:

A BOLLYWOOD AFFAIR by Sonali Dev

COVERT EVIDENCE by Rachel Grant

THE VIRGIN by Tiffany Reisz

SCRATCH by Rhonda Helms

All of these books will be great company as the summer comes to an end. I know it’s cliche but when school starts and my kids are back–after driving me nuts for three months solid–I get sort of sad. Romance reads keep me company and help to make the back-to-school-blues fade away.

xo

 

 

 

 

Contemporary Romance: Just Desserts

 

 

In Just Desserts, Sadie and Quinn struggle to find one another, they, like so many couples in the real world, find out that falling in love can be a rocky road.

But in the end they discover that the “process” of falling in love is worth just as much as the “product” of love and happiness.

 

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Life is short. It’s the “fluff” that sticks. I believe that reading a good romance is great for the soul!

 

 

 

A Classic Romance — Sally and Steve

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It’s no secret that I love romance. The books I read have to have a happily-ever-after. I love dating stories. I’m a strong shoulder to cry on when hearts break and need a pep talk…because love is so darn tricky. It hits you when you least expect it, so it’s best to move on and be prepared for when Mr. or Mrs Truelove shows up.

When people share how they met and married, I’m paying close attention and when I’m fortunate to meet a couple who have been together for 50 years, I want to hug and congratulate them. Heck, I want to hug everyone who will let me. I’m truly inspired. Which is why I write romances.

I was lucky enough to interview Sally and Steve Stevens. I tend to turn into mush around celebrities of any sort and had to keep it together for Sally and Steve.

Steve Stevens is the designer of the most incredible car, the Excalibur. Sally is a corporate art collector/designer.  Steve’s father Brooks is the iconic industrial designer. In my head instead of rainbows, unicorns and puppies, I see cars, art, and kitchens…The Stevens family is the trifecta for my imagination.

I managed to stay strong and not turn to my “celebrity”mush, but the romantic in me slipped out when Sally and Steve told me that they have been together for more than 50 years. They met when they were in middle school and have been together since. “Sigh”

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Last summer, Sally and Steve celebrated 50 years of marriage in storybook fashion and  a romantic way — a surprise party hosted by their daughter.

They have always lived in Wisconsin and built their house on a winding road beside the Milwaukee River in 1969. They raised their three kids in the house and still reside there today. Their daughter Lindsay, with own family, lives in the neighborhood.

Unbeknownst to Sally and Steve, Lindsay had planned a surprise anniversary party for them right in the neighborhood.

Steve and Sally shared how they were truly surprised…

“For our anniversary we had managed to take off and spend the weekend together in Kohler, Wisconsin. We stayed at the American Club, and played golf at Black Wolf Run and then at Whistling Straits. It was the first time I played at Whistling Straits. For the three previous PGA tournaments, I had been the Hole Captain.” Steve said.

He recalled, “After we returned from Kohler, we had been invited to Lindsay’s neighbors for dinner. When we arrived at the neighbor’s home, nobody answered the door bell. We were 15 minutes late, no one was around and we wondered if we had arrived on the wrong day!”

“In fact,” Sally recalled, “I half-wondered about the cars down the street near Lindsay’s house as we pulled into our  friends’ driveway that evening.”

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“We decided to drive to Lindsay’s house and saw tables outside. All of a the sudden the garage doors opened.”

Sally and Steve laughed.

When the garage doors opened–over eighty friends and family members appeared. They were all there with well wishes to help Sally and Steve celebrate.

“It was an absolute and true surprise,” Sally said. “I was speechless. Oh. I still question…Did I talk to anyone?”

Steve added, “Lindsay had pictures everywhere. Our son Tyler came in from Connecticut and Brooks flew in from London. We all had a great time!”

“Needless to say it was a real surprise! Lindsay pulled it off in a major way!” Sally and Steve said together.

Sally and Steve have been married for fifty years, but the romance began long before as they met when they were both teenagers. When they were married back in 1964, it was a double wedding. Sally and her sister were married on the same day. Steve said, “Sally was dating my good friend, but when I asked her out, she chose me. We’ve been together since. And that friend she’d been dating…we’re still friends!”

Thank you to Lindsay and Liz D. for sharing these spectacular photos. xo

 

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The Stevens family also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Excalibur in Paris. More on that later.

 

 

Do you know or have any favorite romantic couples to brag about? Let me know.

 

 

 

The 70’s Elephant Bells and David Cassidy

Throw Back Thursdays always makes me think of my favorite pair of pants, a pair of corduroy plaid elephant bells. The bells rang out around my ankles. My fashion “flare” had begun. As much as I relished my 70’s fashion, it was the music that got my groove.

 

David Cassidy singing “I think I love you,” is deep in my head. It’s still there. After more than 30 years, I have mornings that I sing it to my teen sons to make them blush. They run away in embarrassment. Mom’s just can’t sing or dance.

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But I’ve danced and sang into my fist-microphone from forever. I can remember the songs, the albums and the Tiger Beat heartthrobs as clear as the soft feel of my white Naugahyde Go-Go boots against my calves.

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My first album. Of course a milestone. The Partridge Family. It was clear. David Cassidy was a babe, and he took over for my favorite Monkee, Davy Jones. In the early years–the pop music–phase–one cute lead singer was shoved away fast and furiously replaced by another.

David Cassidy replaced Davy Jones, but then I was drawn to Mickey Dolenz. (Though I still want Susan Day’s hair).

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KC and the Sunshine Band “That’s the Way” unhuh unhuh “I like it.”

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In 8th grade we drove to North Carolina. In the back seat of the Ford Thunderbird I sang along to 10cc.

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I wasn’t in love, until the 80’s and Bruce came along. I went from Pop to Rock and haven’t looked back.

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Next week’s #tbt–The Eighties.

I love album covers. I totally miss vinyl. Feel free to share some of your favorite LP’s here…

The Best of the New Year–Auntie Mame

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This New Year will be all about storytelling for me. There’s structure in the beginning the middle and the end, but the story comes to life with characters. Mame is an example of a character that puts me into storytelling nirvana. It’s a story that’s happy, sad,  and humorous. It declares a message about humanity and goodness without pounding it into the viewers’ heads.

Mame triumphs over Peter’s elitist uncle, turns an unwed mother from a stigma in society into a celebration of independence and mocks exclusivity while denigrating prejudice  All the while finding romance and hope and keeping her tiny family afloat during the depression.

It’s a musical with flare and fabulous fashion. Mame is a story that each time I watch it I fall in love with Rosalind Russell and the story that she so elegantly shares through Mame…life is too short to waste. Relish it.

If you’re a fan – what’s your favorite scene?

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mame with chairs

xo

 

Boxing Day!

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In England Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated the day following Christmas Day. As tradition is known, the holiday originated from the time when servants and workers would receive gifts from their bosses. The gifts given in boxes or lunch boxes became known as Christmas boxes.

Boxing Day extends the Christmas festivities another day. The celebrations continue. Here in Milwaukee, Boxing Day calls for a nice fresh Bloody Mary–Milwaukee style–with a beer chaser.

Happy Boxing Day!