Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!


It’s the last day of 2015, and I’ve been virtually absent from my blog this year. Too much has happened, both good and…well, not so good. I hesitate to say anything was “bad,” because even when things didn’t work out as planned (or hoped for), I still learned something from the experience. That’s worth something, right?

A lot, actually. At least to me.

So…2016 is upon us, and I’m going to look forward to what I can accomplish in the whole of the new year. It’s not to say that I won’t reflect on 2015 from time to time; I still have some things unresolved from the year. But I’m not going to dwell on it, beat myself up over it or waste my time on regrets. I’m going to “stay in the solution,” as a friend in recovery says, and look back only when there’s something to be learned.

So what does that mean? Well, it means I’m going to stay focused on the “now.” On this moment, this time in my life. It means staying positive about my home, my job, my friendships and relationships with my family. It means taking care of myself and these amazing and wonderful beings—my Fritz and JJ—with whom the Universe has entrusted me. It means concentrating on my spiritual life and learning to follow the path upon which I have been set for the last 10 years. No more fighting it, no more trying to force myself back into a life I once knew—or choosing something new simply because it was different.

I’m a Libra, which means I'm all about balance. Those who know me are probably sick of hearing that, but the reality is, I haven’t had true balance in my life for many years. I’ve had some semblance of it from time to time, all I could manage sometimes and at others what I could achieve in order to get me to my next right place. But now, finally, I feel like I’m realizing a balance that’s meant to lead me into the next phase of my life. That’s not to say I won’t need to fine-tune, make mistakes—and adjustments—and still learn a lot as I find my way. It does mean, however, that I’ve discovered enough about the real me to have some confidence in the general direction.

So…what does this mean for my writing? Well, It’s taken me the whole year (and probably more) to admit to myself: as much as I have loved romance novels during most of my life, I can’t go back to writing them. The focus on the romance first and personal growth second just doesn’t work for me anymore. Oh, I still believe in Happily-Ever-After, and I’ll probably always include something of a romance in whatever I write, but it’s no longer the only topic of interest for me. It’s simply part of a complex circumstance that makes up a life, and I want to investigate more of that.

This may mean I never publish another thing; I really don’t know. I just know that I’ve struggled with finding the right project for a very long time, and none of them have been quite right.  At least not for the months of commitment required to write a manuscript of nearly 400 pages. I’ve followed good career or business decisions for selecting certain ideas, but they haven’t touched the depth of my creativity—or my soul. Without that, I’m simply a fraud stringing words and sentences together without the emotional content they deserve.

But 2016 is a new year, I’m learning and growing every day, and I’m really quite confident that I’ll find my way. To be honest, I’m pretty darned happy with the way things are. I no longer feel bad or sad or not good enough. I feel like, after a long time of going down blind alleys and getting lost in the forest, I’ve finally found the right fork in the road. I have no idea where it’s taking me, but I’m up for the adventure.

Here’s hoping you all are looking forward to the new year as much as I am!

~Wendy~


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pouting



I haven’t posted to my blog in a long time. Why, you ask? I’ve been pouting. Very adult, I know, but sometimes childish reactions just make me feel better.

Even so, eventually I got tired of my pout and decided to do something about my problem. It wasn’t a huge problem; I just couldn’t get in to update my website. It’s hosted through Yahoo, and every time I tried, Yahoo Business told me that I needed the most recent version of Internet Explorer in order to proceed. The problem was, I already had the most recent version of Internet Explorer and it still wouldn’t work.

IE had some other problems that became increasingly irritating, and so I recently decided to give Mozilla Firefox a chance. I’d heard good things and, personally, I’ve been quite happy with the experience. That got me thinking…what about the things I couldn’t do with IE? Feeling equal parts positive and brave, I went into Yahoo Business one more time—and it worked! In the space of an afternoon, I had my few changes made and published, and no more excuse to pout.

But it’s gotten me thinking. How many times do we pout about things that don’t work out and then just let it go? We don’t try other methods, we don’t do anything but complain and let ourselves get all upset…and in reality there’s a pretty simple explanation out there, if only we’d give a look!

Realizing this got me a little irritated. I’ve been learning to be proactive in my life, so why did I sabotage myself one more time when the answers were there—and not that difficult to find? Is it laziness? Apathy? Or just plain stupidity?

I’m not about calling myself names or beating myself up for my failures. At least not any longer. I’ve lived long enough to see the absolute non-productiveness of it, and if I don’t look out for myself, who will? And if I’m going to be true to myself and the advice that I give to others (sometimes a bit too freely), then I have to follow a very simple—and powerful—rule: it’s only a mistake if you don’t learn from it.

It’s funny, but sometimes I get the biggest and best lessons from the smallest and most insignificant things. What does that mean? Well, for me, it means that I don’t need to wait for the big explosion to make a change. I can often recognize what’s coming in that first little spark, and I can use that as my change point.

I can’t promise this is the last time I’ll pout. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’ll do it again, given the right circumstances. But for today I’m feeling positive and pretty darned satisfied with myself. I’m going to take that energy and channel it into something productive—and who knows what that means for the future?

Stay tuned…

~Wendy~


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Fall Back in Time


Today is November 1, or a day to Fall Back in Time.  That is, it’s a day to celebrate historical romance.  Not so coincidentally, we set back our clocks tonight—a fact of which a wise group of historical romance writers decided to take advantage.  So here we are, loving the fact that we read—and some of us write—historical romance.

I was newly married when I discovered Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Flame and The Flower.  I had just started a new job, found the book in my desk—and I was hooked.  When I went to the book store (I still miss The Book Cache), I discovered an entire section of romance novels!  Not a very large section, true, but there were more books to read!

I went through them fairly quickly and made up my own stories when I was between books.  I knew nothing about writing, but I played around with one particular story idea, even writing some opening chapters.  I discovered magazines such as The Writer and Writer’s Digest, found Romantic Times and ultimately was introduced to the Romance Writers of America (RWA).  I joined immediately and helped found the Alaska Chapter of RWA in Anchorage.  I began to attend regional and national conferences, and it was through workshops and RWA’s Romance Writers Report that I learned the nuts and bolts of writing.

I was also blessed; I had a book of the heart.  Those don’t come along very often, but they are special.  They are the stories that won’t leave you in peace, the stories that you know you have to write.  Mine took place in Texas just after the Civil War.  I called it Soiled Dove and was fortunate enough to win the Emerald City Opener contest with the first seven pages!  Even so, I was told by other writers and industry professionals not to write the book.  The time period, they said, was deadly.

I listened—for a while.  I’d learned by then that there was a balance to the creative side of writing and the business side of publishing.  It didn’t matter to Derek and Amber, the hero and heroine of Soiled Dove.  They wanted their story to be written…and finally I gave in.  I went against all advice and started to seriously write the book.  I even lost an agent over it.

About halfway through, I realized that Soiled Dove no longer fit the story, and I changed the title to Shades of Gray.  The book took me fourteen months to write (and rewrite), and then I attended the RWA national conference in Washington, D.C.  I signed up for an editor appointment and was lucky enough to get the Senior Editor at Harlequin Historicals.  I had seven minutes to pitch my book—and she asked to see the manuscript.

Yes, I was thrilled—but now I had go home and cut 65 pages out of the manuscript to fit it within Harlequin Historicals guidelines!  Three months later, cutting so carefully that no actual scene hit the chopping block, I sent it off for the wait of a lifetime.  Two months later, I got The Call!  Harlequin Historicals wanted to buy my book!

That was a long time ago.  I published Shades of Gray, and a couple of years later The Unlikely Groom.  A lot of other things have changed in my life, but one thing will always remain the same:  my love for historical romance.  It takes me out of the day-to-day hassles of life in the 21st century and gives me a chance to live some pretty extraordinary experiences whenever and wherever I want!  What could be better?

And speaking of that, I’ve got a couple of characters—Rafe and Etta—marooned on a deserted island in Prince William Sound in 1899.  They’ve been there waiting for rescue for a while now.  And then there are Ace and Sophie who are building a homestead in the wilderness outside of Anchorage in 1920.  They haven’t yet decided how much they're going to cooperate with my idea of how their lives are going to proceed.

Hmm…maybe I shouldn't leave them alone too long!  I guess I’d better get busy.

~Wendy~

 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Learning to Speak Out


I haven’t blogged in some time.  Why is that?  I’ve asked myself that question more than once.  I have the time, and it’s a nice break from fiction writing.  So what’s the problem?

I think I got an answer last night.  Kind of an epiphany, actually.  I’ve had a few of those over the years, enough to recognize them when they show up, because they come out of nowhere, and they carry a bit of a zing with them.  Something that says, “Hey, pay attention!  This is important!”  There’s also a feeling that I already knew it—whatever it is—and had just forgotten it.

So what was my big epiphany?  I had convinced myself that I didn’t have anything to say.  Whatever I wanted to share should be coming out in my fiction writing, and that was enough.  Except…that wasn’t true.  I have other things to say, and not all of them are confined to fiction—or at least the piece of fiction that I’m working on at any given time.

But realizing that begged a larger question:  why was I being so hard on myself?  Why was I trying to confine myself to one thing or the other?  As I considered that for a while, I finally decided that it’s because of the way I started my very slow-moving career.

My first dream was to write a romance novel that was published, so I could read it in book form like all the romances I’d come to love so well.  When I started, the romance genre was booming, and lots of information was becoming available for the unpublished writer.  Generous and well-meaning published writers shared their stories, their wisdom, their process, and the answers I was getting became how to conform to the genre.  How could I fit my stories and voice into what everyone else was doing?

As I look back, I see that the originality and individuality that created the wildfire that became the romance genre was now being edited out of stories, either by advice coming through writers’ groups, comments from critique groups or expectations of editors and publishers.  And so I learned to write within some very specific guidelines meant to appeal to the broadest number of readers.

Makes sense from a business standpoint, right?  But creatively, it’s a death knell.  As I’ve come to discover recently, that’s been happening with some regularity in the romance genre.  Writers are embracing their creativity and publishing those original stories independently.  Best of all, they’re having some success at it!  They’re breaking out of the conformity in the same way that Kathleen Woodiwiss and Rosemary Rogers blew out of obscurity to birth what became the romance genre.

How cool is that!?

So what’s wrong with me?  Why am I sitting here, thinking I don’t have anything to say?  I have more to say than I realized, and a good deal of it has no place in my current project.  There will never be a book that encompasses all I have to say, so why am I stifling any form of creativity that flows through me?

I don’t have all the answers yet, and I’m not sure they matter so much, anyway.  The important thing is that I’ve realized I don’t have to confine myself to any one thing.  Ever.  I can say what I want and in any way that I want.

So here I go…!

~Wendy~

 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Life as a Full-Time Writer


I have recently transitioned to being a full-time writer.  The reasons I made the change at this time don’t matter nearly as much as the fact that I’m now faced with a very different life.  I’m not sure how I feel about it—yet—other than to say that it’s scary!

I was a full-time writer once before.  At the very end of the time when I was finishing my second published book, through the preparation of that manuscript into its form as a real book, and up until the time I received an offer for a third book—proposed but not yet written—I was writing full-time.  My then-husband and I had sold our business for a healthy profit, I was writing and he was doing other things.  Then, just as things seemed to settling down in this new, much-desired life, my husband disappeared and filed for divorce.  I was devastated and lost my muse immediately.

I’ve spent the last nine years looking for it.

Amazingly, wonderfully, unexpectedly, I’ve resumed writing.  My muse has returned, I have made tremendous progress, and here I am, facing life as a full-time writer again.  Only this time I am alone.  I have no one who comes home at the end of the day to get me out of myself.  I have no one to prompt me to a) have a verbal conversation, b) live in a world that exists outside my head, or even c) get dressed in the morning.

I have never been on my own in quite the same way, and I am here to tell you, it’s not easy!

Do I regret it?  Absolutely not.  Do I like it?  I’m not sure…  Am I going to continue this way?  Definitely!

Many times, I’ve heard the saying, “Be careful what you wish for.”  I understand it in an entirely new way these days.  I’ve prayed for this life many times; I consider writing my sacred labor, the one thing I came to this life to do.  I now have the time, the mental capacity and the freedom in which to do it.  More than that, I have the story.

Even with all that, I find the whole proposition scary and difficult.

How many times am I going to say scary?

I’ve heard it said that, in order to grow in life, you have to take risks and do things that frighten you.  If that is the case, then I should be in the middle of the biggest growth spurt of my entire life.

I guess, when it comes down to it, that’s the whole point.  I’ve spent my complete adult life working, always for the good of the family, the checkbook, the mortgage, the car payment, or any number of reasons that provided a living for my now ex-husband and me.  I’m working now, too, only this time I’m writing my book for myself—and for any number of readers who might find comfort and value in my words, once the book is published.  It’s a bigger job, a more demanding job—and a job I felt like I’ve lived my whole life to perform.

I’d be crazy if I didn’t find it scary.  But I’d be even crazier if I didn’t do it—and with every bit of talent and guts and determination that I’ve got.  As someone recently reminded me, “If God gave you the desire and brought you this far, why would you think He’d abandon you now?”

Best advice I’ve ever had!  So maybe He didn’t promise it wouldn’t be scary, just that He’d be there with me all the way.  What better company?

So buckle up!  Maybe it is scary, but it’s going to be worth the trip.

~Wendy~


Sunday, June 29, 2014

INDEPENDENCE DAY


Independence Day.

I’d guess it means a lot of different things to different people.  To Will Smith, Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum, it meant a hit movie about aliens attacking the earth.  (And, I must admit, a real favorite of mine.)  To a lot of hard working people, it means a paid holiday away from their job.  To still others, it’s an American celebration of summer with all the trimmings.

It’s meant different things to me at different times in my life.  As a kid, it was about picnics, barbecues and fireworks.  Later, when I was old enough to understand the American Revolution, it was about my admiration for my Carpenter and Martin ancestors who fought with George Washington in the Revolutionary War.  And still later, when my interest (admittedly bordering on obsession) with the Civil War took precedence, it was about my fascination with Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and his amazing defense of Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg.

This year, it’s changed again.  This year, it’s about being independent from all things that do not support my passion and my divine purpose:  to write.  I was born to do this, although there have been many times in my life when I didn’t believe that.  I was young and didn’t know anyone who wrote books for a living.  If you wrote, it was because you were one of those quirky eccentrics who did it just because you were…well, odd.  Only special, unique people had their work published—and a girl like me from small-town USA was neither special nor unique.  In fact, I tried very hard to be ordinary and fit in, just like everyone else.

As I look back, I see I didn’t believe in myself.  Even once I became an adult and thought about how very cool it would be to write a book, I still didn’t take it seriously.  I toyed with the notion of being a writer for many years, tossing around a couple of different book ideas that I started and stopped, wrote and rewrote, and ultimately gave up on.  And yet, a spark of…something remained.  I couldn’t quite let it go completely.

I fanned that spark with writers’ organizations, conferences, magazines and how-to books.  Eventually, I met other writers—some of them published—and discovered…gasp!  They were ordinary people just like me!  I kept writing, rewriting, submitting, reading, attending workshops, and one very special day, I got The Call.  I was astounded.  I was going to be a published author!

But life has a way of surprising us—and not always for the better.  The really difficult time that I’ve already written far too much about sucked the creativity out of me.  My muse was gone.  I had neither the interest nor the focus to write.  And yet, that tiny flicker of hope remained.  Maybe someday I’d get it back.

Well, someday is here.  It’s been creeping back in, little by little, until I can claim a new Independence Day, just in time for America’s birthday.  For me, it feels more like a rebirth rather than a birthday, but in some ways, I guess they’re kind of the same thing.

To be honest, I don’t care and I’m not going to spend a lot of time understanding or explaining.  I only know that I came into this world to write.  Life got in my way—or, more aptly, I let life get in my way—but I don’t regret it, either.  I learned so much, grew so much, and became a person far different than I ever could have any other way.  I’m grateful for that.

So now, I’m claiming my independence for good.  I’m embracing the life I was meant to live, accepting all I was meant to give, releasing all that isn’t mine, and transforming myself from the person who says “I wish” into the one who says “I AM.”  And that means everything.

So, Happy Independence Day!

~Wendy~

 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

My Peach Pie Scene


If you read my first book, Shades of Gray, you might remember what I call the peach pie scene.  It was located near the middle of the book, and it was a scene in which Amber, my heroine, baked a special dessert for Derek, the hero.  She used the last of her canned peaches to surprise him with this pie—and his reaction was to take one look, one whiff of its unique scent, and race from the room.

This scene provided me with the opportunity to change the characters.  It opened up their pasts to each other and the reader, it allowed them to see each other in a new and different way, and it gave them a new intimacy that they wouldn’t have found any other way.  It was also a scene that I’d had in my head from very early on.  Researching the Battle of Shiloh, the first major conflict of the Civil War for Derek, I developed the initial idea, and writing the book itself took it from there.

My second book, The Unlikely Groom, had a pivotal scene, as well.  This one came later on in the book, when Lucas, the hero, found himself in the position of having to remove a bullet from the shoulder of Ashlynne, the book’s heroine.  Lucas had been a doctor in his backstory, but heartbreak had caused him to leave that life behind.  During the course of the book, he’d fallen in love with Ashlynne, and that love forced him to embrace the part of himself that could save her life.

Again, I had the idea early on.  I struggled to develop Lucas’ character.  I had a plan in mind, but he just wouldn’t cooperate.  Once I found out he’d been a doctor (which he kept a secret from me for a very long time), everything else fell into place.  I knew then that he’d have to be put in the position of saving Ashlynne’s life.  What else could possibly force him to embrace his gift of medicine?

So now, here I was, writing The Scent of Forgiveness, with no peach pie scene.  My process for writing this book has been quite different from when I wrote the first two, so had I moved beyond needing that?  I decided not to worry about it and just keep writing.  In fact, without an outline, I couldn’t do anything but keep writing.

Then, when I decided I was going to share something with my editor, I knew I’d need a synopsis.  Writers don’t call it the “dreaded synopsis” for nothing, but I sat down with pure determination and wrote the first draft.  Then I rewrote it and kept at it until I had a version I considered worthy of submission.  Surprisingly, through that process, I started to get an idea and then…I had my peach pie scene!

I’m not going to share it here.  I’ll just say that it will appear late in the book, and it will change everything for my heroine, Emerson.  So why does this matter enough to write about it here?  For one thing, it’s important because it makes for a highly emotional scene that moves the story and gives the reader an emotional payoff that the book’s been promising.  For another, it gives me something to write toward.

I’m a linear writer.  In other words, I write from beginning to end.  I have friends who write scenes completely out of order and then go back and connect them up whenever they’re ready to do that.  Sometimes, that seems like it would be really convenient, but I just can’t do it that way.  So, having a peach pie scene gives me something to anticipate.  It keeps me writing when I’m not sure that I’m happy with what I have on paper (or in the computer).  It keeps me moving forward when I’d rather go back and rewrite something that already exists (because nothing is worse than a blank page).  It keeps me interested even when I’m tired of this story that I’ve been living with for months at a time.

So here we go.  I’m off.  I know where I’m headed.  I’ve got my peach pie scene, so I know where the payoff is going to come.  As a writer, I couldn’t ask for anything more—and how lucky is that?

~Wendy~