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[2 Apr 2010 | 5 Comments | ] Uncategorized

An artist friend who is about to give birth to a huge one woman art exhibit emailed me with the following:

I am having a freaky couple of days. I am working on my large piece for the exhibition. Although it is going pretty well, I am having a stream of mini panic attacks, anxious moments and a strange restlessness. My confidence is seesawing beyond belief…is this what ‘suffering’ for your art means!!!! I am completely out of my comfort zone with it and it is driving me bonkers. I am totally aware of the causes, but cannot stop the effects!!! Hear a large scream.

Here is what I wrote back to her:

OK, all artists/authors experience this from time to time. Here’s my prescription for what you are going through.

Everything has its opposite. For day there is night, for black there is white. Did you know that insecurity is the opposite of creativity? Ah, no wonder you are flipping from one to the other. Here’s what to do: Stop trying to create for the moment. Sit down with a pen and paper and at the top of the page write the following words: Who, What, How, When, Where.  Now under the word ‘How’, write how you feel. Next, go through all five of these words. List under the word ‘What’…what would happen if you failed, succeeded, etc. Under ‘Who’, write down who is involved in your project (you may be amazed at who might be in the fringes you are afraid of letting down) and so on with each word.

When you are finished, let it sit. Have a cup of tea and go for a walk. Come back and on another piece of paper find the opposite of any negative you wrote on the other paper. Then form a positive affirmation (as though it has already happened) and start chanting the affirmation in your mind every time you start to feel insecure.

This works. I have used this method for years.

[19 Mar 2010 | 15 Comments | ] Uncategorized

With regard to men reading the Romance genre, let me share this: Among other things, my husband holds a double Ph.D. in political science and economics, speaks five languages, is a member of the (exceedingly boring to me) International Heraldry Society (he can interpret most any coat of arms at a glance), daily scans several international newspapers (in their language) and I consider him to be one of the most intelligent men I have ever met. The first time I went to his house he invited me to pick something off his (vast and varied) library shelf to read while he responded to a few phone calls. Hmmm. Seems I was on the wrong set of shelves or something because much to my horror (call me intimidated) there was nothing there in English! I looked around and finally spotted a single tome written in the only language I could understand.  The title? How to Understand the Japanese Mind. Darn, call me intimidated again.

My point? When we married and merged houses and books, I thought about keeping my romance novels in a box, but to heck with it, I thought, we were honest and open with one another, right? Well, suffice it to say, dear hubby reads every romance novel I bring home and agrees with me: this genre should be required reading for every male on the planet. He understands that it is our feeling nature that give us value and that we need to keep romance alive in our relationships. It is the “spark” that keeps a relationship from running cold. It is the “glue” that gives us strong bonds when the times are tough. But keeping romance alive requires work and attention to maintain it for the long haul. When someone comments to me that they admire the relationship my husband and I obviously enjoy together (14 years of it), I promptly lend the man in the relationship a book – and guess what? It ain’t How to Understand the Japanese Mind!

[13 Mar 2010 | 27 Comments | ] Uncategorized

Do you ever wonder where some terms come from? Recently, I read a novel where the hero was raised by his father to always “keep a stiff upper lip.” Consequently, he was out of touch with his feelings and nothing much moved him. So I decided to look into the background of this odd saying and here’s what I came up with:

In the early 1800’s a strange fashion arose among officers with regard to facial hair—they tarred their moustaches! These thick pelts over the upper lip became works of art. After an officer carefully groomed his moustache, he would then comb hot pitch through it and mold it into the desired shape. This had to be done quickly before the tar cooled and the moustache grew stiff.  Then came their dress uniform complete with ribbons, gold braid, epaulettes and voila! they were the height of fashion.

“Keep a stiff upper lip” whispered by one officer into the ear of another meant their jaunty moustache was in the process of drooping. It was a rare exception for a military officer to hail from anything other than nobility. Since these men conducted themselves in a codified and rigid manner, soon, the term “keep a stiff upper lip” spread beyond the military to the rest of nobility. Eventually, the term filtered down to the general population and came to mean a show of inner strength and fortitude. Unfortunately, it also meant a man never wept, never displayed a sign of weakness and became remote with his feelings.

[26 Feb 2010 | 20 Comments | ] Uncategorized

Quick, who wrote the novel Typee?

Oh, please leave a comment if you knew this right off.

Quickly, who wrote Omoo? Leave a comment if you knew this as well.

Now quickly, who wrote Moby Dick? Ah, sigh, Herman Melville.

Did you know he wrote the other two as well? Before he wrote Moby Dick, Melville was well known at the time for writing pop fiction (adventure stories to be exact). Moby Dick was completely different from anything he’d ever written before. When the book hit the public’s eye, there was outrage. Critics trashed it. One newspaper went so far as to print a headline that he’d gone mad. Family members urged him to have a doctor check him out for possible insanity!

Instead of caving in and writing what the public demanded, Melville refused. He wrote to his father-in-law during the creation of Moby Dick, telling him that everything else he had written in the past was tied to purse strings. He was finally at a place in life where he could write not for market success, but for the love of it, and so he wrote Moby Dick from his heart and soul.

Not until some thirty years after his death, and seventy years after Moby Dick was published was Melville’s brilliant novel regarded as a masterpiece.

I know you’ve heard similar stories, but I think it’s important to remind ourselves, in this day of “author branding” (a relatively new concept in the past ten years), that we need to write from the heart. In fact, I am writing this today, not for you, but for myself as a reminder that I must write what I love. If my words happen to strike a chord with you, then welcome to my world.

My “brand” would have to be “writer of sensuous Victorian Romance”. However, I still feel driven to one day write the WWII love story that prowls the interior of my soul. If branding rules it out, it will be written under a pen name, I don’t care, just as long as I can write to my heart’s content. Maybe I’ll name it Moby Dick. No? OK.

Have a great day.

[5 Feb 2010 | 4 Comments | ] Uncategorized

So, how did I go about choosing the two winners of Lori’s debut WILD HEART? Very scientifically. Hamish McDuff, my little Westie, hangs around my desk when I write (so he is there most of the time). He has the strange habit of laying on any paper that happens to find its way to the floor (which can be often, depending on my speed of thought on any given day). Drop more than one page I’m working on, or how about an entire chapter, and he suddenly becomes very selective about where he parks his round belly (he’s eleven, he earned his round belly). Aha! What would he do if I spread all the contestants names out? So I wrote them on pieces of paper and spread them on the floor. He sniffed. And then he sniffed again. He sniffed each paper and then plop, down he went on the first page.

 Drum roll, please…Lisa Santos!

 That was so cool! Let’s do it one more time. I gathered up all the papers, discarded Lisa’s (while Hamish looked on, slightly confused) and scattered the others about.

 “For me?” I could imagine him thinking. He made another sniffing trek around the sheets of paper and plopped down. Again, a drum roll, please…Tess!

 See, don’t you think that was professional and very scientific? Ladies, please email me with your mailing addresses so I can pass them on to Lori Brighton.

 Thank you, Lori, and thank you everyone for a fun contest.