Monday Musings – Failure or Success – 2 Sides of the Same Coin?


There’s a New York Times article making the rounds in the writing world right now. Entitled, Failure, Writing’s Constant Companion by Rachel Shteir, the article focuses on the things that challenge writers in the day-to-day pursuit of their careers. Inability to reach goals, writer’s block, poor sales and bad reviews are some of the reasons the author cites as examples of writing failures. Not many of us in the trenches would argue that those things are definitely negatives. The article quotes author Philip Roth as saying, “I no longer have the stamina to endure the frustration. Writing is frustration — it’s daily frustration, not to mention humiliation. It’s just like baseball: you fail two-thirds of the time.”

Wow. That’s depressing.

In fact, that’s exactly the kind of negativity that keeps many authors from writing. Personally, I don’t like to focus on failure. How depressing it would be to live like that. And negativity drains creativity. Besides, you could say the same about any task you set for yourself:

I failed today because I didn’t get the cleaning done I’d planned.
I failed because I burned the chicken for dinner.

Or you could instead celebrate the fact that you spent the time you would have used for cleaning visiting with a friend you haven’t talked to in years. Or understanding that the chicken got burned because you were outside planting a tree that you hope will give you fruit in a couple of years. Every failure lays the groundwork for a future success. I’d much rather look at life through that lens, because that’s the kind of thinking that gives my muse energy.

Happy reading (and writing) everybody!

10 Ways You Can Improve Your Life


Things don’t always go smoothly in life. Lord knows some days I just want to get back into bed and cover my head. But there are ways to make things better…coping mechanisms if you will…and if you use these 10 tricks I promise your life will improve!

10. Spend at least 30 minutes doing something that gives you pleasure every day. Nothing can be harder when you’re struggling to fix or complete something than stopping and walking away. But it will usually make you a bunch more effective when you return and it’ll definitely improve your overall outlook.

09. View your goals from 30,000 feet rather than six inches. This is a big one for me. There are days when I feel like I’m not getting anywhere with my career. Sales are light…I get a couple of bad reviews…somebody yells at me… Sigh… Those are the days I’m tempted to walk away and do something different. But if I step back and examine the bigger picture of where I am today versus where I was when I started this wonderful journey, I realize I really am on track to reach my goals.

08. Avoid negativity. We all encounter people from day to day who are negative and even downright nasty. You don’t need those people in your life. Purge them immediately!

07. Regularly take stock of what you really want out of your life or your job. It’s easy to just get pulled along in the ebb and flow of everyday life and, before you know it you’re doing a bunch of things that don’t fit your goals or your lifestyle. Identify those things and expunge them from your schedule.

06. Don’t use other people as an excuse not to do something you know you should do.

05. Kind of in the same vein as number 6 — Take responsibility for your own actions and inaction.

04. Own your mistakes. You can’t learn from them if you deny you’re at fault.

03. Indulge in love. Don’t forget the people who are most important to you. Don’t take them for granted. Carve out time for them. Tell them you love them. Give them a hug. It will expand your happiness exponentially.

02. Help someone with something, no matter how small, every day.

01. Laugh…often…whole-heartedly. This is no small thing. Laughter releases endorphins that make you feel better. It’s a natural and fun way to lift your spirits.

 

That’s it. No barn burners here, just common sense, but sometimes it helps to be reminded. Life truly is what you make it.

Happy Monday, Everybody!

 

Monday Musings – Perception vs Reality or God’s a Dude


I consider myself an intelligent person. I guess that doesn’t mean much because most people, if you ask them, will tell you they’re pretty smart. That’s their perception of themselves…like the perception that they’re taller than they are, better looking than they are, more popular than they are…etc.  Aging is a perfect example of perception having it all over reality. Even when you hit middle age and your figure starts to resemble an apple with four stems, or your hair starts getting less blond, brown, black or red and becomes…well kind of the opposite of all those colors. Even when those things happen you still manage to tell yourself you’re young. The mind doesn’t perceive age like the mirror does. It lies to you out of kindness.

In fact, perception is generally kinder than reality, though there are exceptions. Take for example the teenage girl, or really women of all ages. Generally women perceive themselves to be flawed beyond redemption…physically, emotionally, intellectually…flawed.  We focus so hard on those flaws that we start to forget everything that makes us unique and wonderful.

Men are the total opposite. They think they’re gods…all of them. A guy will look in the mirror and he won’t see the reality of a short, balding guy with a big nose and floppy ears. What he sees is Brad Pitt or The Rock. That’s why guys will saunter up to a woman who is so far out of their league that it’s laughable, and talk to her like she has no choice but to be with him. Problem is, that beautiful woman is probably so focused on her own flaws that she might believe the short, floppy-eared guy standing before her is all she can attract. It kind of works out in a weird sort of way. At least for hetro couples.

Gay couples have it all over the rest of us. Both members of the couple think they’re god’s gift, so everybody’s happy. No stress. No mess. No harsh reality checks. Lesbian couples? All I can say is, sorry ladies. But look at the bright side, your partner is probably so busy beating herself up she has no time or energy to notice the flaws you probably don’t have but think you do.  Right?

The whole situation is just more proof that god is a dude.

Ya feelin’ me?

 

Monday Musings – How do You Address a Crisis?


This winter has been hard on everybody. In my little neck of the woods we’ve been hit with massive amounts of snow and ice, power outages, and broken water pipes. We have a really big hill on our driveway so ice and snow are a problem, making it difficult to get in and out of our property. We’ve spent a lot of time walking up and down that hill this winter, spreading salt so we could use the drive without sliding down hill.

It’s been a challenge.

Then we went right from winter to spring, temporarily, and a huge thunder storm came through, knocking out our power for 12 hours. Yeah, I’m giving Mama Nature the middle finger salute right now.

What a bitch.

So when we got a call from the water company the other day, telling us that our water usage had spiked and that we most likely had a leak somewhere, we were thrilled.

What else could go wrong?

Wait, scratch that! I didn’t say that. No I did not! You’re hearing things.

Anywho… We’ve had some challenges this winter, for sure. But have they been show stoppers? Or just breaks in the action? I guess the answer depends on how you handle them. Any one of them could be a major problem, dragging on for weeks and causing no end of angst. Or it could be a minor hitch, quickly fixed and easily put in the rear view mirror.

In my house, we’re the type of people who look a problem in the eyes and dare it to take us down. We might cringe at first, maybe even do a little “woe is me” shtick, but then we close down the pity party and look for solutions. By contrast, people like our neighbors will go for days, even weeks without solving the problem. They’re currently on about day 10 without water, and no end in sight. They greet each new day hobbled by the effects of their inaction but still seem unable to address the crippling issue.

I’m just not built that way.  To me, a problem is just a solution in disguise. It’s like a game of Clue, wherein my search for the murderer ends not only in his discovery and arrest, but also in the knowledge of how it was done that I can file away for later use.

Every challenge becomes a learning experience. Each success increases my determination not to be defeated in the future.

So bring on the challenges. Don’t expect me to thank you for them. #:0) But in the end I’ll be glad for the chance to beat them back. Because it makes me stronger as a person…keeps me growing. And isn’t that what life is all about?

 

 

Monday Musings – What Makes a Character Too Stupid to Live?


What makes a character too stupid to live? I’m sure everybody has a unique list of traits that make them root for the bad buy to succeed in taking out the hero/heroine. Since I write adventurous paranormal and romantic suspense/mystery, I tend to couch my TSTL descriptions in thriller/horror movie terms. Here are the traits that might make me pick up a chainsaw and join the killer in the hunt:

  1. A total disregard for the intelligence of walking into that dark, spooky house alone and unarmed…or out of the house into the shadow-drenched yard where a guy holding a chainsaw and wearing a hockey goalie’s mask awaits. Yeah, nice guys always lurk around holding chainsaws and wearing masks. Yeesh!
  2. The proclivity to do the same things over and over and yet be surprised by the result. Let’s see, I’ll just go down these basement stairs and see what’s making that thumping noise. Yikes! A horrifying killer…ack…he sliced off my arm! Retreat…Oh, I wonder what’s making that scraping noise in the attic? I’ll just climb the attic stairs and… Argh! A terrifying slasher…ugh…he sliced off my leg! Retreat… Is it really too much to ask for the hero to figure out it’s not a great idea to pursue the cause of the latest scary noise before he looks like the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. ‘Tis but a scratch.
  3. The oh-so-obvious ploy for attention—such as wearing a sleeveless black dress with half her boobs hanging out to go ice skating. Mm hmm. Or four-inch, spiked heels in a chase scene. Really? Actually I blame producers for this. Please stop insulting my intelligence!
  4. Then there’s the whiny, emotionally weak character. All that angst and whining puts my teeth on edge. Give me Vampire Pam in True Blood any day. At least she does something about what hacks her off, rather than just sitting around her apartment, whining about how horrible her life is, and eating Ben and Jerry’s in her bathrobe. Ugh!
  5. The judgmental yet hypocritical character. I’m all for expecting the people we care about to be the best they can be, but let’s not expect perfection. I can’t stand the character who is continually judging her love interest for real or perceived flaws while amping up her own flaw tally with abandon. “I can’t believe you forgot to put the cap back on the toothpaste…it’s over between us.” “But honey, you slept with the grocery delivery guy yesterday.” “Don’t deflect, we’re talking about you right now.”
  6. The clueless lover. Have you ever read a book with this character? Everybody in the story knows that the guy who lives down the street adores her. Everybody but her. Somehow she misses the constant, love-sick vibes he sends her way…or the way he’s always there almost before she needs him and will do anything for her—anything—including losing his job/health/mind to keep her safe. Don’t you just want to smack this clueless wonder upside the head? Gack!

I could probably go on and on and on…but you get the idea. Characters like these are enough to turn me off a book/movie and the author who created them for a long, long time. What characteristic(s) make a character TSTL for you?

Monday Musings – Blockbuster Bust


A couple of times a year you can expect Hollywood to release a slew of movies they expect to be blockbusters. Summer is one of those times. With some movies they hit the mark and with others…not so much.

One of the most anticipated movies of the year was The Lone Ranger. I have one word for this movie…ugh. I was REALLY looking forward to the  movie. Johnny Depp is always entertaining and the trailer for the film made it look hysterical. But, alas, the mish-mash that survived the cutting room floor was more than bad. It was painful to watch. The story line (if you can call it that) was dark, weird, and illogical. The characters were pretty much unlikeable. The obvious political message was irritating. It’s really too bad. The movie had so much potential. But the only bright spot in the film was the horse. I really liked the horse.

The rest of the mess you can keep. Sorry Johnny, bad business decision on this one. Your career’s just been scalped.

Monday Musings – What’s in a Name?


A comment from a new reader on Goodreads gave me the idea for this week’s post. (Hey, Ulysses! ..waving) Having a unique (and wonderful) name himself, Ulysses was curious about my name choice for Adam Hoale of my Hoale Construction Series. Responding to this question forced me to put into words what I’d instinctively believed as I’ve penned my stories. To me at least, names are important. Character names are a huge part of the character’s makeup and identity. When a reader begins reading my book, he or she has no idea who my characters are. It’s my job to introduce them on level deep enough to make them friends. No easy task within the space of a few hundred pages. This is especially difficult in a novella, which is what I write exclusively for one of my publishers. So every detail about a character is important. Every detail gives away a little bit of your character’s personality, his background, and what makes him tick.

I’ve always liked names. I enjoy finding names that roll off the tongue in a fun way, names that reflect genealogy (or species), and names that give clues. I’ve been known to flip words around and use them backwards as names and clues. In general, I wring the most I can from the names I pin to characters and locations in my books. I use names in several ways. First, the name I give my character forms a picture in the reader’s mind. Sometimes that picture is false, because the fun in the name is showing just how different my character is from the name I gave him. For example, in my Honeybun series (written as Sam Cheever) all of the Honeybun brothers have strange names. When you add first names like Heathcliffe or Edric to the last name, Honeybun, you picture some pale-skinned, snooty aristocrat who lives in a castle with servants. But what if your guy is exactly the opposite? What if he’s tall and sexy and strong enough to save a damsel in distress but secure enough to treat his mother like a (bossy) princess? At the very least you have a fun detail that creates challenges which your character can overcome and an interesting backstory to go along. As an illustration, here’s a snippet from one of my Honeybun books:

Angie asked, “Clovis?”

Alastair swung his gaze to her, a smile in his sexy blue eyes, “Third oldest brother, drill instructor, Marines.”

Angie made an oh with her mouth and nodded, then favored him with a mischievous grin. “With a name like Clovis Honeybun, I’ll bet he’s kicked a few Privates over the years huh? Pun intended.”

Alastair just shook his head.  “You have no idea.”

In my case, eight Honeybun brothers might just be suffering from the agony of a mother who only wanted one daughter, but who just kept having sons. #:0) Or it just might be that she liked old English names. The reader can decide which story makes more sense or creates more magic for them.

In my Hoale Construction mystery series, Adam Hoale has to suffer insensitive jokes from people who refer to him as A. Hoale. Adam handles the burden of his strange name with grace and good humor and that’s a point in his favor and a window into the strength of his personality. It’s one small detail that, mixed with all of the other things we learn about Adam in the course of these books, makes the reader understand him a bit better. And hopefully encourages them to see him as someone they want to spend more time with.

So, what’s in a name? Actually, just about everything!

Happy Reading everybody!

 

Book 1: Hoale Construction Mysteries

Book 1: Hoale Construction Mysteries

Sexy gay construction company owner, Adam Hoale, sometimes gets more than he bargained for when he flips a house!

Adam Hoale owns a construction company called, predictably, Hoale Construction. When he finds an eye opening surprise in the walls of a house he’s flipping, and a libido flaring surprise standing on the lawn, he’s willing to do the right thing with the surprise in the wall while entertaining dirty thoughts about the surprise on the lawn.

But as the world finds out what he discovered, and his new boy toy seems to be keeping too many secrets to make a relationship a reality, Adam soon realizes he may just get flipped himself if he’s not careful.

 

5 Stars from The Romance Studio: “This is a very good story from beginning to end and I thoroughly enjoyed the read. The author has written this one so well I could have sworn I was part of the story as the characters felt like old friends. They are well drawn in a clever, solid plot that is very inviting. The romantic aspect is charming and realistically written with some mysterious elements also. I really loved this book. The author took a simple theme and made it into something grand. A Hoale Lot of Trouble is the first in a new mystery series. I can’t wait to read what’s coming next.”

ARe Recommended Read! “I wholeheartedly recommend this delightful story. This one will leave you smiling.”