Thank you!

On June 16th, the Many Shades blog will be closed.
The authors thank you for your readership and hope you will come visit them at their personal sites via the links to the left.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Keep Holiday Stress at Bay

With the holiday season just beginning and all the stress that it can bring, over the next few weeks I’ll be posting articles on how to keep the stress to a minimum and stay healthy. Happy Holidays!

Easing Holiday Angst ~ Five Stress Busters for a Joyous Season

You enter the holiday season with the best of intentions -- looking forward to time spent with family and friends, decorating, shopping, baking. But as soon as you pile holiday activities on top of an already busy life, you're likely to find yourself relating more to Ebineezer Scrooge than Martha Stewart.
Consider these five suggestions to keep holiday stress at bay:
1. Determine a Shopping Budget
For many, gift giving is an important part of the holidays, serving as a way to express love and appreciation for friends and family. But when the credit card bills arrive in January, you may discover you've extended your holiday stress well into the New Year. Plan your budget in advance, determine what you can spend, and stick to the plan.
2. Create a Time Budget
Many will make a shopping budget, but what about making a time budget? Before accepting every invitation this year, decide ahead how many parties you can and want to attend while maintaining your sanity. Make choices about your time commitments based on what you'd really like to do this year, rather than what you think you should do or what you've always done. Don't forget to leave time for yourself.
3. Set Food-Intake Boundaries
You'll likely be tempted to eat in excess, and don't be too hard on yourself if you don't stick to your pre-holiday eating standards. But do decide ahead of time just how much you'll deviate from your eating routine.
4. Stick to Your Exercise Regimen
Regular exercise is a powerful stress buster. You'll feel better, sleep better, avoid weight gain, boost your immune system, and maintain a positive outlook about yourself. While it may seem like an easy time concession to make, don't give in to the idea. Stick to exercise, and you'll thank yourself for it.
5. Take Time to Rest
Take time from your schedule to honor the cycles of the season. The holidays fall during winter solstice -- the shortest day of the year. Learn from nature, and get plenty of rest.

This article is for entertainment purposes only and is not intended to diagnose and/or treat any conditions. Please check with your physician to make sure it’s all right to use new products and/or change your regimen.
Newsletter article courtesy of Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tax Break for Pet Owners

This morning I read a piece in the Michigan Oakland Press Parade Magazine that Michigan Representative Thaddeus McCotter (R.Mich) is proposing a bill that will use the federal tax code to help pet owners. The Humanity and Pets Partnered Through the Years (stands for HAPPY) Act would allow pet owners to deduct the cost, up to $3500.00 per year for pet food, vet care, and other pet-related expenses from their income tax. Rep McCotter says the bill was created to assist pet owners with tax relief while also strengthening the "human-animal bond."

Animal rights activists are for the bill, as this gives some 60% of American who own pets the chance to keep them in their home and not have to relinquish them to shelters and other places when the going gets tough. A director for the Tax Foundation opposed the bill saying this should not be put out there to make people happy. It's only being put out there for congressmen to gain popularity among the voters.

I know that there are tons of animals out there at shelters, on the roadside, in people's homes that need assistance. And as I have often told my daughter, "You can't save everyone of them." Our local shelter has put out reports saying people often leave animals on leashes tied to the door knob of the building over night. They find these animals when they come in the morning. People do this to avoid having to be accountable for their actions and to avoid having to offer any type of monetary donation for the care of their animal.

To me, this is a good bill. It does help people in need, as long as the people in need are using it correctly. Pet food is expensive, veterinary care is even more expensive and it is heartbreaking, gut-wrenching when you have to give up an animal. I have a friend who takes in strays the way we change our underwear (I know, weird way of putting it but she does.) She works tirelessly caring for her own animals and never hesitates when a friend in need asks for her assistance. And one of those foster babies I'm hoping to take home myself sometime next year. (Long story there)
I have a senior dog with many health issues as well as a cat who can only eat one kind of cat food without getting sick. These two are my four legged children, now that my human children are grown and on their own. They have given me hours of love, attention and affection and I will do everything in my power to do the same for them so they live out a happy, healthy life.

Have a wonderful Sunday everyone!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

87 and so Thankful

I posted this yesterday on another blog and thought it so wonderful that I wanted to share it with all of you as well:

I was honored to spend Thanksgiving with a very energetic just turned 87 year old woman. She was so full of life and energy, so thankful it made me feel ashamed at how blase I had been feeling about the holiday. What right do I have to not be thankful for all the wonderful things I have in my life? Here is this woman who is 87-legally blind, widowed twice, child of the Holocaust, she moved to Seattle from Berlin in 1933 when she was 16 years old-she was more upbeat than me, more in tune with what this holiday is supposed to represent.

She is an amazing woman. She is tiny, maybe 95 pounds and she was bouncing around with my girls having a good time. She was nowhere near what I would expect. She is small and a bit frail looking but she doesn't present herself in a frail or inhibited manner at all. She is so capable, so much more capable than many who are years younger.

I don't know what her secret is, she certainly is in excellent health aside from her eyesight which has been bad all her life, quickly deteriorating to legally blind when she was a young adult. She is active though, and perhaps that is something that helps.

She was an actress as a young woman and now as a retired woman she performs a one woman show about her experiences growing up in Berlin and coming to the United States. She performs it in schools around Seattle as a part of Holocaust education. She doesn't rely on others to do everything for her in her day to day life either. She takes the bus, walks, shops and takes care of her apartment without the assistance of another, beyond the occasional assistance of reading fine print perhaps. She could very easily sit back with every valid excuse to not do anything other than watch television and let others do everything for her. She could get away with having others doing all the things that are, most likely, the very things that keep her living such a high quality of life.

This year she is particularly thankful, we have made her a Great-grandmother. She is the mother of my stepfather and although we have been sort of related for quite a few years now this is the first time we have actually met. She is a wonderful addition to my and my children's lives, I am thankful for her and the enlightenment she has brought to my life.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Love, Life & Bubblebath

By A.J. Llewellyn

I have so much to be thankful for this year and I am kinda excited it's my turn at the wheel here at The Many Shades of Life and Love on this special day because it is my favorite holiday.
I never celebrated it until I moved here in 1984. I was a student then and living with a family who fell on severely hard times almost as soon as my dad organized for me to stay with them.
The mom, who was a district rep, lost her job at Avon and in short order, she lost her car and a bunch of other stuff.
It was the first time I realized how many people here live "one paycheck away from disaster."
I could have called my dad back in Australia and said, "Get me out of here" but I felt a sense of loyalty when she was trying so hard to make things good and fun for her family and for me. I remember that Thanksgiving looked kinda lean. She bought turkey parts because they were cheaper than the whole bird and a ton of vegetables.
Since I am a vegetarian I got to enjoy tasty sides and confess that candied yams became one of my many food obsessions.
Dessert was - and we still make jokes about this - a packet of M and Ms which we all shared. I think I got three.
The best surprise was that the next day we went out and bought a Christmas tree. I'd never had a live, fresh tree in my life since Christmas in Australia is summer and at that time, they didn't exist.
In hindsight, it was an extravagance, but it was one I will never forget.
I buried my face in that tree and I think my enthusiasm transmitted itself to everyone in the family.
I love Christmas because it was the last time I saw my mom laughing and happy and able to sit up before colon cancer claimed her.
But Thanksgiving is the time I also love because her dear friend who has also since succumbed to the Big C wanted so badly to give me a chance at having a mom and a loving family here in the US.
And she did. I am still close to her kids and I still make egg salad sandwiches the way she taught me. I think of her often and I cannot smell any kind of bubble bath without thinking of all the bottles of it she had in her massive bathroom.
She was a generous soul who gave everybody samples of Avon and who was a fantastic saleswoman but this current economic climate isn't the only time people have lost jobs.
I learned from her that there are valuable, treasured moments each and every day and to gather them, much like you would shells on the sand. And I do.
I am grateful to have good health (in spite of my sweet tooth and a tendency toward high stress) and I am thankful my animals are in good health.
I am grateful for my friends and family - scattered all over the world.
I am most especially grateful to my lovely friend CR Moss who approached me to be a contributing member of this blog. She is an awesome lady and an incredible writer. I will never forget that she once emailed me, a total stranger then with articles on Hawaii that she thought would inspire a book or two.
They did.
I am grateful to know all the other authors I also share this blog with. Lynn Crain is another awesome author and a sweet woman who really is one of the first I got to know through our publisher at eXtasy Books and of course my writing partner Stephani Hecht, the lovely, lavish Erin Sinclair and I often chat and Jambrea Jo Jones I've seen emerge from M/M fan to full-fledged author. Patti Shenberger, Celia Jade, Courtney Breazile and the adorable Annie Alvarez are also terrific, talented people.
We have some newbies on board I don't know yet but I look forward to doing so.
Most of all, I wish all our readers a wonderful day, whether you eat turkey or you don't, think fondly of your loved ones whether you always get along with them - or you don't.
I wish you a happy, peaceful, beautiful day.

Aloha oe,


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Day To Be Thankful

As everyone knows, tomorrow is turkey day here in the US. Thanksgiving commemorates a special time in early US history when Pilgrims were down on their luck the Wampanoag Indians came to their aide and taught them the ways of the land. It was 1620 and almost half of the colonists of Plymouth, Massachusetts had died that winter the Wampanoag came. It was a tough time for all made better by the presence of friends and family.

During the early years, many states had a day of thanksgiving but few were on the same day and all were declared by the state governor. Three weeks after Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln finally consolidated all those days down to the last Thursday in November. In the mid-19th century, Sarah Josepha Hale, writer of Mary Had A Little Lamb, went on a campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Her wish was granted when in 1941, Congress made our day of thanks, a national holiday for all to enjoy.

This year, I have a lot to be thankful for in my life. I have a great local writers group, a wonderful critique group, fantastic readers who tell me I’m great. I have a fantastic family and this year I’ll be traveling to California to spend time with my husband’s family for a traditional holiday with tons of his family I haven't seen for almost a year. I also found out about five months ago that this time next year I’ll be a grandmother of twin boys. I have a lot to be thankful for and believe me, I am.

But as I’m offering thanks for what I have, I will be expressing my sorrow over so many unfortunate families where someone has lost a job, a home and the things that matter most. I know that if my in-laws go to feed the homeless, I will go with them this year. My wish is that next year it will be better for the millions who are down and out. And I'll be helping out at home as well with some of the programs in my hometown this year.

I am also thankful for RWA, MWA and SFWA who so diligently looked after their authors in the recent Harlequin debacle. As of this writing, RWA had officially kicked Harlequin out of their acceptable publishers ranks and while I may not agree with how it was done, I certainly agree that it HAD to be done. RWA had no other course of action and while that sucks for many of our well loved authors the rules apply to everyone. Nora Roberts, the best known romance author ever, threw her towel in with RWA and the romance world cheered her on. As a romance writer I’ll have to see just how this all is going to pan out before I decide if I’m ever going to submit to them.

Yes, I am very thankful for many things.

Now for the fun things...this week the winner of my new book, The Haunting of Maggie Tracy D (booklover0226). Email me at to get your prize. Next week, I’ll be giving away The Thing About Elves.

Have a great week and a great Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

To everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving, I hope you all have a great one. So, what are you thankful for? We did a list over on the Heat Wave Yahoo group the other day, and it's really a subjective topic.

I'm thankful for the usual things, family, health, a job, but what about all those other things in life that you love? Books? Hell yes! The Internet? Oh yeah. I can't live without it. Your favorite wine (or drink of your choice)? Aaaahhh... nothing better than a nice glass of wine.

Does anyone have any special traditions they do for Thanksgiving? We really don't. We take it easy each year. Some years we travel, but for the most part this week is a 'staycation'. And I love it. It's nice to sit and just relax. Maybe catch up on errands, but mostly just hang out. And we like to have fun. We have game night, we play Phase Ten. I love that game.

Have a great day everyone!

PS Come see us at International Heat, we're having a Thanksgiving Scavenger Hunt contest.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Howdy and Happy Thanksgiving Week

Wow! My first real post to the blog. I need to add a disclaimer up front. If you ever visit my website ( you'll see a reference to my chainsaw. What does a chainsaw have to do with romance writing? Especially non-romantic suspense? Well, not a whole heck of a lot. However, Chauncy the Chainsaw became my sidekick about two years ago, as an inspirational devise to my crit buddies to keep them motivate to write and not submit before writing was complete. But I grew so fond of Chauncy he just stuck around. And, yes, I am insane and should be committed to a padded room. But I'm sure you've already figured that out. If you haven't... you will shortly.


This week is Thanksgiving (as if you couldn't tell by all the poor, defenseless, FROZEN turkeys in the grocery stores). While I was anticipating a quiet day at home with Hubby and the in-laws, we've now added 4 other people. Thankfully the table can accommodate so many. This is my third Thanksgiving where I've been "allowed" to take care of the entire meal. Before this, my mom-in-law would cook. So I enjoying the upgrade to adult.

Holidays are bittersweet for me because I don't have my dad or older brother around anymore, and even after 8 years it just seems strange to not see them sitting at the table or sleeping after lunch. Still I can't complain, because I have a roof over my head, a wonderful family and great friends, and my child is an antisocial, neurotic cat named Susie. I am truly blessed.

So, while I slave away in the kitchen this week, I have a lot to be thankful for, and I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to a long weekend of non-day job work, and spending quality time with my husband and best friend.

I hope you all have a safe and lovely holiday, and I sincerely look forward to getting to know each and every one of you through the blog.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's too soon!

This past weekend I was the unfortunate victim of mutiny. It was a viscous and hard fought battle too. One full of tears and angry words. Who were the villains that overthrew my rule? My very own family.
On the way home from dance my daughter happened upon a radio station that was already playing Christmas music. Since she is only eight-years old, that immediately put her into the Christmas spirit. She demanded that we get the decorations and start getting our house ready for the holidays. Even though we had to step over piles of autumn leaves to get to the shed and I had just put away all the Halloween stuff.

I foolishly thought that the son and husband would be on my side when I refused. Instead, I was horrified to see the same Christmas spirit dancing in their eyes. Need I remind all of you that it’s not even Thanksgiving yet?

I shook my head. I refused to be swayed. I put my foot down. I lost the battle. As I am writing this, I am looking at a fully decorated tree and my head is still pounding from the incessant Christmas music that has been playing for the past few days.

I posed this question on the eXtasy reader loop and now I’m going to ask it here. Is it too soon to be putting up the tree? Maybe I’m the only Scrooge and the family was in the right with this. Am I the only one who gets annoyed that stores are putting out holiday candy before I can even get my Halloween sweets? It’s not just the stores either, the television stations are already airing Christmas specials.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. I just don’t know if I’m prepared to celebrate it six months out of the year.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

My turkey misgiving

Every year my partner and I, end up going to her families for Thanksgiving Dinner. Set out in the country, they have an elaborate buffet that everyone contributes to for the 100 or so family members that stagger in for this joyous event.

Year after year, we show up with one of Jen’s wonderful pumpkin pies and this time, I had the bright idea of contributing a turkey for the buffet style occasion. Since I’ve never cooked a turkey, I thought that a test run would be beneficial.

I set out, as usual, doing research to find that one, knock-your-socks-off recipe. I had spent days on research and buried under a plethora of recipes when I heard it. Can you imagine how thrilled I was to hear a fabulous recipe broadcasted on the radio? Finally, a recipe that wasn’t too difficult but sounded delicious! Rosemary, brown, paper bag turkey.

I bought all the ingredients, bird included and planted myself in the kitchen. I had been careful to follow the recipe to the letter. If I could pull this off once, I could surely duplicate it.
I cleaned the bird, no big deal. It reminded me of an overstuffed chicken. What I wasn’t prepared for was the large package containing the bird’s insides, which had conveniently been stuffed back inside the animal. Now, I had begun to feel sorry for the poor thing, but I carried on with the task at hand.

I washed it, patted it dry, rubbed spices all over it and as per the instructions, placed it in a brown paper bag. Turned on the oven, waited for it to holler at me that it had reached its predefined temperature of 400 degrees and put the bird in for the long haul.

Confidant in my abilities, I laid on the couch and fell asleep watching a movie. To my horror, I was suddenly awakened by the unmistakable sound of the smoke alarm beeping in red alert mode. I fell off the couch, staggered to my feet and ran to the kitchen.

Smoke billowed out of my oven and the distinct smell of burnt food settled in my nose. I grabbed our trusted fire extinguisher, opened the oven door and pulled out the rack. Was it possible that the bird was really on fire? I don’t know, but honestly folks, I didn’t wait to see if it was shooting flames out of its behind. I took aim and pulled the trigger.

I’ve learned a few things from this experience.

If you’re going to use a radio recipe, please make sure, you’ve written it down correctly.
Don’t walk away and don’t fall asleep when you’ve got something cooking or baking.
Know that the stuff that comes out of a fire extinguisher, even the little extinguishers is cold and messy! It took me hours to clean it all up.

And finally, no matter how clean you get the kitchen, the smell stays behind for days.
As for me, this year, I hope that they have room for another pie on their desert table.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Published Author

By A.J. Llewellyn

I've had a few emails recently from readers who want to be authors, or who are struggling to write, juggling their many family and day job commitments. They've said how envious they are that I get to stay at home all day and churn out lovely, best-selling novels, whilst they deal with the realities of life.
I deal with the same realities and can only encourage them to do what I do. WRITE. NO MATTER WHAT.
With this point in mind, I present to you my day yesterday. No, not typical. But, true. And still, I managed to write 5,000 words.

6.22 AM alarm goes off. My kitten Henry, asleep on my feet, is an instant furball of action. He jumps on my head, my chest, my arm...anything to get me to feed him. The house is cold, I can feel it. I refuse to get out of bed until 6.40AM. I am a devoted listner, nay, a crazed fan of Bill Handel and I must listen to him and the news before facing the day.
6.32 AM Not that my animals control me or anything, but I rise and stagger, oops, I shine...into the kitchen to feed and water my dog, cats and a house full of plants. I make coffee, waiting for the water to boil as I do this.
Having had a nasty bout of flu for two weeks, I am enthralled with my good health. I can see, hear and smell again.
My plan is to chant for half an hour before I do any writing. Once I have done this, I will come back to the kitchen and investigate the funky odor in it.
For now, I will not do nothing but focus on my goal, which is to change my karma this lifetime. Yes, we Buddhists believe we get our rewards THIS lifetime, not the next. No celestial virgins for me.
I have written out my goals and I will work with my gohonzon on achieving each and every one of them.
6.50 AM I am in front of the gohonzon with my coffee, a glass of water and determination to do deadly serious daimoku.
6.52 AM I am chanting when the phone rings. Assuming it is my best friend Tony, who is visiting and never came home last night, I go downstairs to answer it. Too late. Ten seconds later, there's a knock at the door. I open it. It's the guy from the Gas Company. He'd just called me, but saw my car in the garage and knew I was home. He's here to disconnect my service for non-payment. he knows it's my car because he's been here before and my car is noticeable. It's the one with all the surfing stickers on it.
How embarrassing! I tell him I was sick last week with flu. He says he'll wait for my check. I feel my determination to succeed is already working, because he could have cut me off and left me without gas. I stare at the bill. $74. Had he cut my service, it would have involved extra fees and a gigantic deposit. I thank him profusely.
He says, "The guy in your car looks like a weirdo."
I say, "What guy in my car?" and I go to the garage and sure enough, he's a weirdo and he's sleeping...IN MY CAR!
He tells me his name is Eddie and he refuses to leave "his crib."
He's a young guy from the midwest with a red and white bandana on his head. I have no idea if he has gang ties and if this color will get him shot, since I don't follow this stuff anymore.
The police are mentioned and he reluctantly vacates my car. I lock the doors and he gives me the finger.
I give him directions to the front door.
7.10 AM My phone rings again and I ignore it. I am now fearful other services will be cut off and I immediately make calls checking on my own well-being.
7.39 AM My dog, Venus, pitches a fit and pees on the carpet. She wanted to meet Eddie the weirdo. I take her for a walk. It's a gorgeous Cali day and Eddie's outside my building with his belongings strapped to his back. He mutters something as I walk past and Venus jumps up and licks his face.
On her way back down again, my geriatric companion twists her right front paw and I am stricken when she needs to be carried home. I give Venus an Aspirin and she contemplates her misery. I give her a cookie, which she accepts with grudging reluctance. Nothing is broken, so I'm getting back to work. She's going to be okay.
8.30 AM Okay, I've lost valuable time and I must start writing. I'll chant in the evening. I have three book deadlines looming and I am halfway through writing Blue Moon, my December 15 release. I have struggled with this book not because I'm stuck or anything...I just can't bear to put my protagonists through the anguish they are suffering. I am a method writier. What my characters go through, I go through. I re-read what I wrote last night and immediately pick up the threads of my tale.
8.45 AM My mate Tony comes home and asks me what I did to my dog. I tell him Venus twisted her paw. It's the same paw she had problems with before. He wants to hang out, but I have to work so he goes downstairs to talk to her and I can tell they decide I am a complete, uncaring bastard.
So do my book characters.
9.04 AM My phone rings and Tony answers it. It's a pal of mine from Universal Pictures. She picked up some script-reading work for me and I must be at the studio at 10AM to collect the material. I'm jazzed. Woo-hoo me!
9.55 AM I am outside Universal. Nobody left a drive-on pass for me and the woman I am to meet with is not answering her phone. I'm forced to park in the studio lot like a tourist and walk over to the office. I chant Nam myoho renge kyo. I feel better, even though I'm going to be late.
10.20 AM the only thing security didn't probe as I cross the barricade into studio business territory was my ass. And I'm sure it was only because others were waiting. I arrive at the office and they're pissed because I'm late. I explain about the drive-on and the seven executive assistants all turn on each other pointing fingers.
11 AM Having been duly punished by being forced to wait, I'm ushered into the executive's office. She asks me for my resume. I blink and blank out. I tell her I was referred by our mutual friend. She checks her computer beside her, tip-tapping with a large, fake fingernail.
"I thought you were here for the assistant's position," she barks. "I'm interviewing people to replace Anna [not her real name]. You don't need to see me."
She points to the door. One of the flunkies out front hands me a batch of screenplays.
"Would you prefer me to email them in future?" she asks me. I see her nameplate on her desk.
Hello Anna, and goodbye.
11.32 AM Having lost valuable writing time and $12 to parking, I dash home and coax my dog down the stairs to my front door. I open it and my loony next door neighbor is standing there, naked.
"The voices in my head told me to jump in the pool, except the pool is empty."
"Yes," I said. "We had to drain it to re-tile it."
"The voices in my head want me to die."
She starts dancing around in the courtyard and the old Russian man who just moved in opposite me is doing exercises in his bedroom with the blinds and windows open. He's wearing big daddy underpants and black socks. I'm not sure which sight is more gruesome. Him or the mad dancer.
Tony comes out of my apartment. He takes my neighbor back to her house. Upstairs, I have her ex-husband's phone number so I will call him after I walk the dog.
Poor Tony is given a tough time by my neighbor. We swap duties. I take her home and I'm devasted by the condition of her townhouse as she tells me garbled nonsense about people spying on her and how we're all CIA or Nazis, I couldn't follow which. I'm even more horrified that she hasn't been looking after her dog. The dog, an old Bichon, is lying on the floor in her own feces. I call 911 when I realize the neighbor has gone mad.
An emergency mobile unit of therapists comes out. The guy who comes to the door is a huge black man. He asks me to meet him outside the building.
Poor Tony rushes Venus back to my place to come and help me. Apparently this unit knows my neighbor well and tells us how the whole thing will go down.
They send big guys like him out because they never know what to expect. He tells us he will ask her some questions and based on her responses, he may or may not recommend a 72-hour hold.
All three of us return to her unit. Tony and I hunt on the table for her insurance card. She is not responding to generic questions and keeps shrieking, "You know it's hot on Saturn."
The therapist orders an ambulance and helps the woman dress. I walk downstairs with her and she is the picture of mental and verbal decorum until they try to get her inside. The neighbors all come out to watch her go nuts when they put her in a strait jacket.
12.40 PM Tony takes the Bichon to the vet. I go to my neighbor's apartment after the mental hospital calls to tell me that her insurance card is old. I find a current one. I find her ex-husband's phone number. Disconnected. I spy a goldfish in a filthy aquarium. I have a neighbor who loves fish. I carry the disgusting-smelling container to her unit. She takes it from me.
"I can't promise you I can save the fish, but I'll try," she says.
1.00 PM I read through the screenplay deemed urgent by the studio and it's a pile of bat shit. Tony has good news from the vet. The dog's getting fluids but she can't stay with me because she and my dog hate each other. We ponder the problem of what to do about the Bichon.
I call my go-to guy, my wonderful friend Tracy who says he will take her.
I call the president of my HOA to check this is okay and leave a message.
I get back to work. I must report on the horrible screenplay by 6PM. I am due to go to a district meeting, the last one for our Buddhist group for the year and I need to be there by 7. I will make it. I will!
2.00 PM I'm working on my ten-page report when the phone rings. As usual, I ignore it. There's a knock on the door a few minutes later. Lord, help me. I open it and it's a geriatric couple. The cutest little Japanese people I ever saw in my life.
HOLY CRAP! I forgot. These are pioneer members of my division and they booked a home visit. I have no recollection of doing this, but smart peope that they are, they know I never answer my phone and apparently emailed me. They show me the email. I must have been in high fever when I scheduled the visit. Of course, I welcome them inside.
I make tea and discover the bad smell is vegetables I left in a cooking pot last week. They play with my dog and ask me what's wrong with her.
I've never had a home visit before but I am blessed that in spite of everything, they came to see me. Their stories and their courage inspired me. They come upstairs to chant with me. They love my altar and are encouraging about my chanting. They feel the love I put into my life they tell me. They enlighten me and I still feel quite...high from their benevolence.
Tony arrives with the Bichon, with whom they fall in love.
The homeowners in my building meet in the courtyard. We all have felt for a longtime that our kooky neighbor did not look after her dog. She now has a new home with my elders, so I can always check on her.
I finish my report, send it in by email, take my dog for a short walk. Her limp has improved.
Tony and I go to our meeting and come home. I write.
Today, it all starts all over again. Another day in the life of a published, working author.
Aloha oe,


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

When Things Go Awry

Earlier in the week I lamented the fact that I was having a horrible few days.

The current book I’m working on will be my fourth release in as many months. This I do not mind but since I have been selling on spec, it can make for a hard couple of months as far as writing goes. Then I found out that I hadn’t finaled in a contest I really had hope for. Sigh. Rejected again.

What is it about contests that make or break an author’s day? Don’t get me wrong. I know how lucky I am. I know I write well but sometimes you want complete strangers telling you the same thing and when they don’t, your emotions can go awry. Then when things weren’t going right on my latest book and my publisher accidentally forgot me in a promotion, I let the moment get the best of me.

Maybe I was in the wrong profession, maybe I should be doing something else. It was enough that I finally pulled out A.J. Llwellyn’s blog from last week to get the name of her guest speaker who had a wonderful article on how we cause our own self-doubts. Rhona Berens had some wonderful suggestions on what to do and what not to do. I read it with pleasure as I realized, it was just a moment in time and one bad day did not make a whole career.

Then yesterday, I get the newsletter of one of my favorite authors and I could put it all in perspective. She talked about the horrible review she had just received regarding her Wolf Tales 9. When you read it, it will make you cringe. Very little positive in that article regarding her ongoing stor. She goes on to say while she’s disappointed with the review, she thinks it’s her best Wolf Tales ever. How’s that for positive reinforcement?  First, believe in yourself!

Even the great ones have bad days and I realize I’m not alone in this boat. Venting to other writers and critique partners always helps. And I have to thank from the bottom of my heart C.R., Diane, Elizabeth, Erin, Ginger, Johanna,both Rebeccas and Sherry. You all mean the world to me and I know I am very blessed to be working with each and every one of you.

Now for some wonderful and interesting news. I hope all of you have heard about Carina Press (  by now. This is Harlequin’s foray into the ePublishing world. And today I found about their leap into the self-publishing world as well with their Harlequin Horizons ( This is definitely interesting times.

And now for this week’s winner of an eBook...Tamsyn...come on down! You’ve won a copy of The View From Santa’s Sleigh! Next week, I’ll give away a copy of my new book, The Haunting of Maggie Grey...great cover...huh?

Thanks everyone for participating! See you all next week!


Monday, November 16, 2009

Welcome Johanna Riley!

This week we take a look at Johanna Riley, our newest Many Shades blogger. I asked her some quirky questions and got plenty of interesting answers!
Welcome Johanna!
Johanna Riley writes for the following publisher: The Wild Rose Press (
Her favorite colors are blue and or green, depending on her mood. In regard to her favorite ice cream flavor, Johanna says, “Ooh, chocolate marshmallow that I haven’t yet found in Las Vegas.” When asked if she’s a cat, dog or both kind of person and if she’d ever own(ed) a snake or some other exotic pet her answers were ~ “I like both cats and dogs and hubby would divorce me if I brought a snake into the house.” Concerning her preference for rain or shine and warm weather or cold she stated, “Thunderstorms!” As for where she’d live if she could live anywhere in the universe, Johanna said, “That is so difficult for me to answer. Some days I want to be in a cottage on the beach so I can sit out on the porch, watching the waves and writing. Other times I want to live in a huge plantation mansion ghost hunting. Then there are times when I have had enough of humanity and want to be secluded in a cabin in the woods with my cat, hubby and laptop.” In regard to what time of day she prefers, she says, “My DNA is set at night person, but the day job dictates I be a morning person.” Her favorite day of the week is Saturday (first day of weekend, but still get one more day to sleep in) and when asked about her favorite number she said, “8.” When asked if athletic shoes are sneakers or tennies and if a soft drink is called soda or pop, she responded: tennies & soda, adding, “Used to be pop, but I’ve adapted to the Westernized version of soda, if only to avoid the weird looks when I order pop.”
When asked if she’d like to talk about one of her stories and something interesting concerning it, she shared the following:
“I think my favorite story is Christmas Angel, my first Johanna Riley story. I fell in love with Zach, and could completely relate to Kate’s loss. The first bit of idea I got was from a dream. I clearly saw a man I was in love with (not me, me, but dream me) and I found out he was an angel and I couldn’t keep him. I was devastated. When I woke I started thinking about what I could possibly do with that idea. And Christmas Angel was born. This is the blurb for the story – When Jonathan Leary requests him to play Christmas Cupid, Zacharius wants nothing to do with it—until he looks into Katelyn's big brown eyes. Is it possible the Elders have more in store for him beyond the Guardianship?” Christmas Angel is available at The Wild Rose Press (

You can visit Johanna Riley at her website: and here at The Many Shades on the second and fourth Mondays of every month.
~ Feel free to comment and share if you have something in common with her ~

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Interview with Debut Author Cheryl Ann Smith

Today I’m chatting with brand new historical author Cheryl Ann Smith. Cheryl sold her first (and second) historical this summer to Berkley. Please welcome Cheryl…

First off, tell us a little about yourself? Family, hobbies, likes, dislikes?

I am married with three kids who, though they squabble a lot, are awesome. My hobbies are riding snowmobiles, swimming, and watching crime shows. Any crime shows. I’m fascinated by how crimes are solved. I love Mexican food, and nature, and laughing with my family over silly stuff. I dislike rude people and when drivers drive five or more miles under the speed limit during perfect weather. Unless they’re elderly, then they get a pass!

Do you have an agent? If so, how did you acquire them?

I do have an agent. In March, I received a request for a full manuscript from an editor, then a week later, got a very nice rejection from an agent for another project. She asked to see future works so I sent her a partial of the editor requested book. 7 hours later she signed me, and about 4 months after that, I sold to Berkley.

What's your writing day like? Do you follow a set schedule?

I get up at about 4:30 am and work for 3-4 hours Mon-Fri. Or until my brain freezes up and my eyeballs pop out of their sockets!

Any secret vices readers would love to know about?

I can eat an entire tub of Dean’s French Onion Dip in one sitting so I don’t buy it anymore!

What do you read in your spare time? Favorite authors? Favorite book?

Not only do I love crime shows but crime novels also. I adore historical romance, and contemporary novels that make me laugh out loud. Some favorites are Janet Evanovich, Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, and the late Kathleen Woodiwiss.

What genre would you love to write in, but haven't attempted?

I sold in historical romance but also write quirky contemporary-light mysteries. I’d like to dust off and sell them some day. Otherwise, I’m happy with the genre I’m in.

Tell us about your current and upcoming releases.

My first contracted book will come out in early 2011. I just finished the second. We hope they will be released in consecutive months.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
I see myself writing 2 historical books a year with maybe a contemporary single title thrown in. I’d love to travel to England every couple years, for research purposes of course, and to make a decent living doing what I love. Okay, it would also be cool to have fans show up at my book signings that aren’t related to me or I had to pay!

What's your favorite movie? Music? Drink? Food?

Gosh. I have lots of movies I enjoy. Dirty Dancing, Emma (with G. Paltrow), The Phantom of the Opera (with Gerard Butler). Really, anything romantic that engages my emotions. I drink water almost exclusively and some milk. Not too exciting, I know! I really like all food. That’s why I have to exercise like a crazy person!

Tough question, what's your favorite book you've ever read?

I’d have to say it’s a tie between two. The Flame and the Flower and Shanna, both by Kathleen Woodiwiss. She got me started on a lifelong love of historical romance.

If you were stranded on a desert island, and could only take along one thing, what would it be? Choices are chocolate, a hunky guy, or a book?

Can I choose a hunky guy, covered in chocolate, holding a great book?

Where can readers contact you? Do you have a website? Blog? Email they can use?

My website is and my blog and e-mail are built into the site.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

If I Have To

I live in the cold white north, and I am not a fan of the snow. I don't like being cold, I don't like having to wear shoes that won't get your feet wet in the snow, and I don't like having to worry about slipping and sliding all over the road. I am not a snowboarder or a snowmobiler, i don't snow shoe and I don't enjoy sledding.

So why do I live in the snow infested north? I have to.

And so I am determined to not hate it so much this year. I don't want to waste my energy resenting something that is inevitable. I will focus on what I DO enjoy about the snow and this cold time of year.

I love the cozy feeling of being inside and warm and looking out at the snow covered world. Drinking a cup of coffee by a fire while snow swirls around outside is a very pleasant thing. It makes me want to cook comfort food and bake soul warming deserts.

If I can stay inside and enjoy being warm and comfortable I am happy with the snow, as soon as I have to go outside its difficult not to curse it. But this year I will try and not waste my energy on that negativity. I will embrace the snow a little more, until I have to spend an entire day shoveling three feet of it out of my driveway.

Since I have to live here I will deal with it, and I will even try and be okay with that. I will wear extra layers of clothing and cover every part of exposed skin, and I will keep my house warm and cozy for my kids and hubby to warm up in. I will enjoy having time in the snow with them, because for them this is a wonderful thing.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Self-Limiting Beliefs and Writing

Hi Everyone,
I have something special to share with you all today - a wonderful blog by the amazing and inspirational Rhona Berens who is a Hollywood movie industry Life Coach here in Los Angeles. I love her work and have learned so much from her. I asked Rhona to guest blog today and in this post, she addresses self-limiting beliefs that affect our lives and specifically, how this works against novelists - so read on and enjoy! Love, A.J.

Self-Limiting Beliefs & Writing by Rhona Berens, PhD, CPCC

As a Life Coach, and writer, I’m always looking for ways to navigate creative roadblocks. I recently read some advice for screenwriters that went something like this: one way to get in the game is to throw your hat in the ring. If a writer announces—to colleagues, professional contacts—that she’s polishing a script for an agent, or [fill in the blank with a time-constrained goal and someone to whom you pledge completing that goal], the deed will be done. If we create accountability structures—actions for which we’re accountable to others—we’ll propel ourselves forward and “just do it.”

That’s sound advice. Solid advice. Inspiring advice, even. Except if you’re a writer for whom self-doubt (and its pal, Paralysis) is a more familiar comfort-zone than confidence (and its buddy, Action). If you’re that kind of writer, it’s often hard to get into the game and, harder still, to stay in it. So what’s that fiction writer to do?

I want to introduce a technique to help you step more consistently away from self-doubt and toward self-confidence. In other words, I’m going to encourage you to expand yourself as a writer by expanding yourself as, well, you. (Groan.) I heard that; I also saw the dismissive wave some of you just gave. Bear with me. What does any of this have to do with staying in the game? First of all, it’s pretty hard to tease apart you from the writer, the writer from you. Second, shifting how you do things (including how you view yourself) is an opportunity to befriend those, sometimes, elusive comrades: Confidence, Accountability, and Action. The idea is for you to hone a new skill that helps you generate sustained energy and passion to get your work read… and bought … and published. Who knows? Maybe you’ll also find some golden nuggets along the way to improve your writing, too.

The story of your reality
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ways in which people—not just writers—storify pretty much everything. I stumbled on the word “storify” a few weeks ago when I considered turning the noun, story, into a verb (e.g., to story my experiences), just like businesspeople have morphed the word “grow” so that now they can grow a company. Turns out, storify does what I was looking for: “To form or tell stories of; to narrate or describe in a story;” or, most succinctly, “to make up.”

To state the obvious: Fiction writing is, at its core, the ability to storify scenarios and characters. To state the not so obvious: Autobiography—including our self-focused thoughts and beliefs that we never write down—is how we storify ourselves. What I mean is, we believe a lot of the stuff we make up about ourselves (or others); we often believe what others make up about us; and, sometimes, we believe what we think they make up about us. In short, humans storify all the time; writers take that skill and parlay it into art.

Let’s take a closer look at one common “storifying” tool that’s an entrĂ©e into growing ourselves (and a boon to character development): Self-Limiting Beliefs. Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker and author, defines a Self-Limiting Belief (a.k.a. SLB) as: “An idea you have that you are limited in some way, in terms of time, talent, intelligence, money, ability, or opportunity.” I’d add a few other items to his list, like the belief you’re limited by how well or poorly (you think) others love, respect, or treat you. Plus, there are limitations you might ascribe to yourself based on appearance, cultural or ethnic background, gender, age... you get the picture.

The bottom line is: SLBs constrain how (far) we take action in our lives. If we’re in the territory of our SLBs, we might take some action, maybe the first or second or third step toward a goal. Then an SLB will intervene, either in the form of discouraging words articulated by our own Inner Critic or by rejection/criticism from people in our daily lives, whose opinions matter to us (even when we say they don’t). What’s the impact? We stop sprinting full-tilt boogie toward the finish line for the things we really want to do, the person we believe we can be, the dreams we yearn to fulfill. In other words, when it comes to our own lives, SLBs suck the momentum right out of us.

Want to find out how you can overcome your SLBs and use SLBs as a tool to develop fictional characters? Click Rhona Berens - Self-Limiting Beliefs & Novelists at to download a free copy of Rhona’s complete article. If you’re interested, you can also sign up for a complimentary coaching session.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Puppy and the World of Weirdness

Good morning everyone!

How are you all doing? I'm sitting here listening to my puppy barking which is such a relief after last Thursday. I had to take him to the vet because I stepped on him hard enough to break his foot. His foot was good but I managed to dislodge a B-B he had been shot with before we got him. This made me very sad and angry because who would do that to a young dog?

Then my 17 yo told me about these tattoo artists who put foreign objects under the skin for effect. His take was that since it was done so well and none of us noticed it, a tattoo artist must have used the dog for practice. That made it worse! I was so angered yet intrigued by this prospect I had to see if what he said were true. Now I knew about tongue piercings and nose piercings. Hindus had done the nose for years with diamonds and rubies and since I knew quite a few Hindu women over my life I could verify this easily. I started to think about all the things he said and remembered the TLC and History channels who have tons of shows on just this thing. There was a man who wanted his horns to look real so had them implanted under the skin on his head. There's the man who wanted to be a man-cat and therefore had whiskers implanted on his new face so it would like he had them. But those were big things, would someone go so far to put B-Bs under the skin for effect?

Much to my surprise, my son was absolutely right. If it can be safely put into the skin, tattoo artists will use it. Heck, I even saw in one country where they were doing eye art and embedding jewels in the eye's sclera which is incredibly dangerous for one's eye sight. And while I might have known this deep down, it was really brought home to me because my 17 yo had a point. This thing had been embedded in my puppy's skin for at least the two months we had him and was totally healed when we got him. We, meaning vet and us, thought was a bursa bulging. Until I dislodged the thing from what the body encapsulated it in, it would have remained there for who knows how long. My son's thought was that something so well established in the dog's body must have been put there on purpose.

All I can say is...eeewww...and I thought I was weird. Will there be no end to the weird things people do? And I'm not talking about other societies because they have reasons...well...I supposed these people do to but to practice on a puppy? I shudder to think.

Now, if you all have any stories about people's weirdness, I would just love to hear them! Comment and you could be a winner of FREE eBooks!

Last week’s winners of the FREE eBook giveaways of The View From Santa’s Sleigh are all of you! Email me if you left a comment! Next week, I’ll be giving away a copy of The Thing About Elves as we gear up for the Christmas holiday bash!

See you all then...


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Count Down Begins

Over the Moon Anthology
Seeds of Dawn Book One
Dreams by Jambrea Jo Jones

June 2008 I worked up the nerve to pitch a story at the Lori Foster event. I was VERY nervous. It was the first story that I actually finished. After my pitch I was told to send in the full. And the wait began. I hit the check mail button a dozen times a day. Until finally I got that email. A rejection. I was sad, but got some GREAT feed back. I put the story aside and didn't think anything about it.

One fateful day I was minding my own business when a received an email saying Total E-Bound had a call out for a shifter anthology. I'm like, hey, I have a shifter story. I opened up the document and took a look and immediately saw why the story was rejected. lol It wasn't pretty, but I knew I could fix it. So I set about making my story better. I used the information from the rejection and some tips I'd learned from another editor and polished it up. Next thing I know, I'm getting my acceptance letter. talk about jumping for joy. My first story is being released, November 16, 2009.

Here is the blub. I hope you enjoy it.

Anabella's dreams bring her to David, but is he the salvation she's looking for?

Anabella Pouge is plagued with powers she can't control, making her life far from normal when all she wants is ordinary. Change is coming her way when she must flee with a man straight out of her dreams.

David Sanders is sent to find Anabella. Without her, the future of his wolf pack is in danger. Forced to travel to the middle of nowhere, David finds Anabella might mean more than just his pack's survival.Will the two make it back to the pack in time? Can Anabella and David accept each other and the coming changes to their lives?

Monday, November 9, 2009

In the midst of chaos…

Going Zen ~ Breathe deep
Stress is not fun and when in the throes of worrying and a run-a-way-mind sometimes it’s hard to step back from the trouble and strife. But it’s when you’re deep in the mire that you do need to stop, close your eyes, breathe and just be. In Lao-tse’s book Tao Te Ching it says
Tao never does;
Yet through it
All things are done.
Basically you can’t force issues. According to Lao-tse the more one interferes with the natural balance of life and universal laws the further away harmony retreats. In a troubled time one needs to become like the uncarved block ~ return to a simple state because one’s natural power and state of being is easily lost when the simplicity of a matter is changed. One needs to become simpleminded. No not stupid but still, calm, reflecting. The uncarved block just is.

So take a deep breath, become like the block and enjoy the simple and the quiet and you may be surprised how the kinks get worked out.
It is only by means of being
that non-being may be found.
When society changes
from its natural state of flux,
to that which seems like chaos,
the inner world of the superior man
remains uncluttered and at peace.
By remaining still, his self detatched,
he aids society in its return
to the way of nature and of peace.
The value of his insight may be clearly seen
when chaos ceases.
-Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Now to remember this and put it into practice…

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Interview with Starr Ambrose

Hey everyone, today I am chatting with author and very dear friend Starr Ambrose. If you haven’t picked up a book by Starr, now’s the time! She is awesome.

Hey Starr, thanks for being here and thanks for the opportunity to interview you. Let’s start off with an easy question. Tell us a little about yourself? Family, hobbies, likes, dislikes?
I'm married with two grown daughters. I live in the country with a couple horses, some chickens, two dogs, and 10 cats. That pretty much tells you what I like - animals! Between them and my writing, I'm always busy. Dislike - people who drop off their animals in the country, hoping they'll find a good home. I can't tell you how many don't make it that far.

So many authors out there today have an agent. Do you have an agent? If so, how did you acquire them?
My agent, whom I adore, is Kevan Lyon of the Marsallyon Lit. Agency. She's smart, savvy, and always available. I acquired her in a backwards fashion - I sold my novel to Simon & Schuster's Pocket Books through a contest, and then went in search of an agent. Several were interested, but Kevan impressed me the most with her concentration on building my career rather than selling one or two books.

What's your writing day like? Do you follow a set schedule?
I try to write every day, and that's as much of a schedule as I'll agree to. If I want to go to lunch with friends, I write at night. Time of day doesn't matter, as long as it's not too early. I have no idea how some writers can get up at 4 AM and whip off ten pages; my muse sleeps in. (My muse is actually a rebellious little bitch with many bad habits; it's a love-hate relationship.)

Now, how about a tougher question. Any secret vices readers would love to know about?
But then they wouldn't be secret, would they? Oh, okay, I'll give you one - I probably spend more time reading than I do writing. If you don't think that's a problem, then you haven't had to deal with editorial deadlines. It's a wicked, wicked indulgence, and I don't intend to give it up.

What do you read in your spare time? Favorite authors? Favorite book?
Mostly romantic suspense authors and several contemporary. A few favorites: Tami Hoag, Laura Griffin, Suzanne Brockman, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Sandra Brown, Nora Roberts. I also read a lot of straight mysteries, plus some non-fiction that mostly deals with politics or natural science.

What genre would you love to write in, but haven't attempted?
Science fiction - but I'm not very good at it, so I'll stick to reading it.

Please tell us about your current and upcoming releases.
Love to! On Nov. 24th my second romantic suspense for Pocket hits the shelves - OUR LITTLE SECRET. It's an action-packed romp through Washington, D.C. Proper, responsible Lauren Sutherland and laid-back Drew Creighton are polar opposites who agree on only one thing - her sister's marriage to his father, a powerful senator, was a huge mistake. They'd love to talk them into an annulment, but the newlyweds have disappeared, and even the Secret Service can't find them. Lauren and Drew uncover explicit photos and an elaborate blackmail scheme while evading kidnappers and government agents. And of course their personality clash turns out to be fueled by an attraction that grows stronger each day. This gets sexy, people!
Currently, I'm doing edits on my third book, THIEVES LIKE US, which will come out in the fall of 2010. I absolutely love this book! It's a continuation of two secondary characters from LIE TO ME and re-visits most of the same people and places. It involves stolen jewels and the Russian mafia, mixed with a charming ex-jewel thief and a woman who's understandably leery of romance after her first husband turned out to be a psychopathic criminal. Jewelry, thieves, murder, and a sexy hero - what's not to love?

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
A. Writing novels
B. Writing novels while my husband enjoys his retirement

What's your favorite movie? Music? Drink? Food?
Evil questions! I wouldn't even be satisfied naming ten favorite movies or music. Drink - iced tea. Food - depends on the day. Fresh bread and pasta dishes are always way up there.

Tough question again, what's your favorite book that you've ever read?
Shame on you, Patti - this is the most evil question of all! So I'll play it safe and say, LIE TO ME by that clever new author, Starr Ambrose.

If you were stranded on a desert island, and could only take along one thing, what would it be? Choices are chocolate, a hunky guy, or a book?
The chocolate - I can write my own book with a hunky guy in it. (Good answer Starr)

Where can readers contact you? Do you have a website? Blog? Email they can use?
I absolutely love hearing from readers! Contact me through my web site, , or at Thanks for reading!

I want to say a very big thank you to Starr for answering my questions and I hope you all will check out Our Little Secret as well as Lie To Me.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

My Curious Observations

I've been in a strange mood lately, noticing things that I normally wouldn't--or at least not pay much attention to. Below is a list of things that have struck me as either quite odd or curiously interesting.

1. Since when do I find it normal that people push dogs in strollers?

2. Men really like to look at themselves in the gym mirror.

3. The Bluetooth headset is one of the ugliest inventions, albeit practical.

4. Men seem to have stopped asking women out on dates. Well, in Montreal anyway.

5. They're still making horror movies. I guess, with the endless violence and awful things that happen in real life, these movies are an inspiration to us all.

6. There's not enough cotton in clothing. Hello designers! Don't you know that many people are allergic to wool and acrylic? (Actually, this is more of a complaint.)

7. Most people don't look good in cigarette jeans, but wear them anyway. (By the way, I'm still waiting for the return of the normal rise jeans. Kinda tired of tugging them up when I sit so my panties don't show.)

8. Jon and Kate (of J & K Plus 8) make yahoo headline news more often than the likes of Brangelina.

9. The convenience of automatic flushing toilets: Either they flush before you're done, forcing you to jump clear of the bacteria-infested water. Or, they don't flush at all, and you can wiggle in front of that red thing all you ain't gonna happen.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Found Writing

By A.J. Llewellyn

You hear about Found Art all the time, but I rarely, well in fact I never read about the literary equivalent, Found Writing.
This is the story of how a #1 best-selling E book almost wasn't...and how some stories finally find their homes...
Back in the day when I went to pitch meetings at film studios, my house was filled with story synopses (four pages) and treatments (ten pages) all of them ready at a moment's notice to be sent via fax to some development executive's office.
I had an agent and she loved my work. I practiced all my pitches on her and went off to meetings, but in spite of some great responses and near-calls with actual deals, I remained empty-handed.
I had a dream after watching a particularly odious athlete mouthing off about love and women and wondered how he would react if he woke up as a woman one morning?
Well, it was an idea but I took it even further and ran to my agent's office the next morning and pitched her the idea for Tall, Mean and Darkly, a play on the 'tall, dark and handsome' stereotype.
My idea was this: A guy's wife dies. They had a pretty good marriage, not perfect, but he loved her. She comes back. As another man. How will he cope with not only having her back from the dead but with a dick?
The agent stared at me. "And?" she said.
Was she kidding me? I thought this was a great idea. I could see it as a movie. Right there and then she burst my bubble. I put aside the four-page synopsis I'd pounded out.
A couple of months ago when I was in a rare mood to clean up the place, I found it again.
Tall, Mean and Darkly, was I think a little too adventurous back then even though Ghost was a big hit...I realized my agent at the time didn't like the gay element in the story because for the husband to accept the wife as a man he'd have to
In my newish career as an author of gay erotic fiction, I didn't have to worry about upsetting any executive's sensibilities. I pitched the idea to my co-author Stephani Hecht and I think the book is not only one of my best and certainly our best collaboration to date, but its stellar sales have been a redemption for all those shutdown ideas I ever had.
It was a reminder that agents and those in The Biz who should know a good idea from a bad one, don't.
It was a reminder not to listen to negative thought. Not to stop the creative process. No doesn't mean no in the writing world. It just means its time to get it to somebody who'll say yes.
I owe a lot to Stephani who jumped in with both feet and contributed her own wonderful ideas to our collaboration.
I have to also thank our publisher, for running with it - and to our fantastic cover artist Martine Jardin for turning out such a wonderful cover.
Yesterday I sent my former agent a note letting her know about Tall, Mean and Darkly. She wrote back that she often wondered what I did with it. She said she'd followed my career and had this to say, "I think of all the commissions I could have been earning from your book deals. Let me know if you need help in that area."
Yeah, right!
If you have an idea, however remote or weird, don't listen to No. Find your lost writing and Just Do It.
In the meantime, Stephani and I are doing the sequel to our book. Taller, Meaner, Darker comes out February 1. I can't wait!

Aloha oe,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

This and That

Here I sit at my desk. It’s 7:05 am in the morning and I find myself wondering just what I’m going to write today. I almost never get up this early but knew I needed to do so today since it was my blogging day. It didn’t help that I went to bed last night with this very issue on my mind. What surprised me the most, is I don’t really have much to say this week. And for the woman who always has something to say about most things, this is pretty new.

It maybe because I have a book coming out in just eleven days, count them, and I’m still putting on the final touches. The eBook world is amazing in this because there are such fast turnaround times. But this one is a small book and will be very, very clean when it gets there. I’m not only going to go over it with a fine tooth comb, I’m going to have my critique group trounce on it as well. It will be so squeaky clean once it gets to the editor, there won’t be much left to fix.

Now back to my lack of subjects. It maybe that I’m also in NaNoWriMo which is National Novel Writing Month. It’s where you write a book in a month. The book I’ve chosen is my Christmas book, An Elf’s Love which zooms in on Merna Locklin and her would be kidnapper, Trevor Haines. What better way to spur me on except to get a chance for winning lots of prizes for doing something I had to do anyway. The word count we have to aspire to is a mere 50k which breaks down to a mere 1700 per day. A drop in the bucket when I look at the scheme of things.

I could talk about just how depressing the economics is as I have just had another friend impacted by another unexpected layoff. My heart clutches everyday for people I know and my own son who works for the construction industry in the worst place in the world to work right now. And with twins on the way, my oldest and I have discussed what he would do and how I could help if it happened. For those of you in this situation, things have to get better. They just have to and I know I’m trying to do my share by being a good consumer when I can.

I could talk about how my youngest gets up, watches TV for at least a half an hour before hopping into the shower. After about twenty minutes in, I go tell him because he’s almost made himself late for school. Then he gets out, takes his time to get dressed, putzs around a little more and asks me to write him a note for being late. I get a wicked glee when I look at him and ask him whose fault it is for him being late. He stomps out the front door cussing and yelling because I’m being so unfair. He knows I’ll only write him a note when he has a diabetic episode. Everything else, he has to deal with and he has only himself to blame as he wanted to be treated more like an adult. Welcome to the real world, kid! LOL!

I could talk about how my new puppy has forced me to be more active and by being more active, I’m beginning to lose weight. I even started to keep a diet diary because that’s the only thing which keeps me honest during the whole process. Or I could tell you about how when I popped out the batteries of my scale, I sent one of them flying behind my stove. It had been years since I had actually moved the stove, and I had to because I didn’t know what the battery size really was. The dust bunnies back there nearly killed me. But I got the battery, evil little flat thing that it was. LOL!

I could talk about just how beautiful it is today out my front window. For those of you who don’t know, my office is in the front of my house and I have one of three picture windows. It has a lovely bamboo shade over it which allows me to watch the world in the day without anyone seeing me. Now, night is a different thing as everyone sees me which is one of the reasons that I don’t write in this room very much after dark. I have my little travel computer for that. Today so far, I’ve watched the kids walk to school, seen people walking their dogs, the humming birds drink from the hollyhocks and the sparrows take up residence on my front lawn for whatever reason. The wind is calm, the sky is blue and the temperature is perfect.

Naaa....I don’t have anything at all to talk about today!

The winner of this week’s FREE eBook giveaway of Subtle Invasion is booklover0226, Tracy D! Next week, I’ll be giving away a copy of The View From Santa’s Sleigh as we gear up for the Christmas holiday bash! See you all then...


Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I know that not everyone likes reality shows, but I LOVE dance shows. SYTYCD or So You Think You Can Dane, rocks. Maybe it is because I can't dance. lol But watching these people take a dance makes me happy.

Some of the dances can make you smile, some can make you cry. I bring the show up because they just danced to At Last by Etta James and that was my wedding song. It is so beautiful.

Here are two of my favorite dances on SYTYCD. Addiction and The Bench They are SO beautiful.

Any dancers out there?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Welcome Guest Blogger Ellen Ashe

Ellen Ashe is visiting us today and sharing her 'true-ish' story...

The Visitor

It’s odd sometimes how a seemingly normal incident, in hindsight, can leave a chill. So it was, one pleasant May evening, many years ago. During the week between the dirty slush and the arrival of black flies, it was delight to be outside, cleaning up a yard littered with leaves and twigs. The old apple trees had withstood another year of winter’s abusive wind and I marveled at the strength of an aged orchard. So busy picking up the scattered sticks I didn’t hear the car drive up.

“Spring at last,” the visitor said, announcing himself. So startled at the sound of his voice I dropped my small bundle and turned.

“Yes, spring at last,” I repeated, not knowing what else to say as my shock was sudden.

The elderly gentleman smiled warmly, dispelling my wariness, and handed me a photograph. Small, torn around the edges, the black and white photo was of a dapper young man standing beside a car- obviously his pride and joy- a Model-T Ford. “Is this you?”

“Yes,” he answered, hinting sadness behind his smile. The freshness of youth was long past. “And that picture was taken right there.” He pointed to the driveway, and I hastily glanced between the two, comparing the scenes. The garage, built forty years ago, was not in the photograph. Nor were the shrubs, and the Maple Tress at the yard’s edge were merely spindly sprouts.

“This wasn’t yesterday.”

“No,” he said with a soft chuckle. “It was taken in 1923.”

I was flushed with thoughts of history. Many a time I had listened to stories of families who had lived in the house before my own, but the kind gentleman before me brought those stories to life.
“I was born here,” he went on, a touch a melancholy in his voice. Watery blue eyes drifted to an upstairs window. “After my parents died I moved away.”

“When was that?”

“1951.” And he went on to tell me the names of families who lived along the road, many of whom I too, remembered from when I was a child.

“Would you like to go inside, have a look around?” I imagined much would be the same and that he might enjoy meeting my family.

“Oh, no,” he said, as though his being there would be an inconvenience. “I just wanted to take a little walk around. If it’s no trouble,” he added hastily.

“Certainly not.”

He tipped his hat and thanked me for permission granted.

As he meandered towards the back field I was overcome with emotion. I wondered where the years might take me, and if some day I also, might return to visit the old house where I was raised, with a photograph in hand and a heart filled with memory.

Then, proud to be privy to the information he had given me, I dashed inside to show my mother the picture he had left with me. “We have a visitor,” I said, grinning broadly to mystery about to be revealed. Yet it suddenly occurred to me I hadn’t even asked the gentleman’s name.

“Really? Who?” She glanced to the door, expecting me to be followed.

I presented her with the picture and grew troubled when her brow furrowed and her cheeks paled. “What’s wrong?”

She didn’t answer. Instead she rushed outside and I quickly followed, wondering what had gone amiss.

He was no where to be found, which confused me, seeing he had only since began his stroll. The car I hadn’t heard arrive had vanished as well. “He said he lived here but I forgot to ask his name,” I confessed.

She handed the picture back to me. “Someone has played a trick on you.”

Incensed, I demanded to know why she had come to such a conclusion.

“It’s true, this man lived here but he died ten years ago.”

No trick, of this I was convinced. But I kept such privy to myself, despite the chill of an incident far from normal.

I never forgot the warm spring evening in May, under the apple trees, and I had hoped with each following season he might return, once more, to a place as dear to his heart as mine. But he never did.

Except for the photograph, the visitor, as the years, is gone.

Visit Ellen Ashe at &

Sunday, November 1, 2009

What's Right for Writing?

Hello again and Happy Sunday after Halloween. Hope you all had a blast last night with the trick or treaters. I know I did, though this year we only had 22 kids come to the door. Which means, more candy left over for me! Watch out Snickers, here I come!

Today's topic is one that's near and dear to my heart. I would like to talk about writing books. You know, all those lovely soft pastel colored novels that offer to teach you how to write a romance. Come on, you know you've looked at them in the bookstore. Maybe even bought one and took it home and probably learned something from it. I know i have.

My personal home library contains quite a few books on writing, research and also books for purely reading enjoyment. So let's see if you and I share any of the same books, shall we? How about The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting your Romance Published. I really like that book as it gives you a great basis for how to get started, and it's written by Julie Beard. Or what about Novelist's Book Camp: 101 Ways To Take Your Book From Boring to Bestseller by Todd Stone. Another one is On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels. This one I really have enjoyed reading. How about Writing the Romance Novel for Dummies by Harlequin/Silhouette editor Leslie Wainger, or First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Wiesner. Karen has some awesome tips in her books on how to do just that. My current favorite is Break Into Fiction, by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love.

I did find two more at my local library last week that I decided to bring home and check out, They are Writing the Great American Romance Novel by Catherine Lanigan and The Everything Guide To Writing A Romance Novel by Faye Hughes.

I believe you are never too smart to stop learning. There is always something new and exciting to be had from each book you read, whether you pick up a thousand new ideas and tips or you only pick up one. Even one tip can be the difference between increasing your page count from 4 pages a day to 7 pages a day. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that, now is there.

Well I'm off to read and write some more for today. Hope you all have had a wonderful weekend and welcome to November!!!
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