Everyone Needs A Duck

Good news! The charming young lady has scheduled her Master’s thesis defense. And the date is a mere three and a half months away. Imagine that. Imagine the anxiety, the nervous days and sleepless nights as she frantically checks and rechecks her data, writes and rewrites, revises her PowerPoint presentation. Oh the stress of it all!

But luckily the charming young lady has Sergio the Duck, her trusty thesis mascot, at her side.

Sergio is a small bright yellow float-in-the-bathtub duck with piercing black eyes and a wide, well-shaped orange beak. Sergio came into the charming young lady’s life last fall, after the installers of a Burke Museum exhibit on the impact of plastics on life in our world, discovered they had a few extra ducks and gifted her with one. This was a cosmic event for the young lady, indeed, the universe had her back, since her thesis project is, in fact, to develop and execute a grand evaluation plan for that very same exhibit, tally and analyze the results, and produce a meaningful thought-provoking summary complete with suggestions.

Sergio sometimes wears a jaunty ranger hat. He attends museum meetings and class demonstrations, he sang the blues on a road trip to Tacoma, and, he has even mediated spats between the charming young lady and Miss L, her attitude-prone, feline roommate. Most importantly, Sergio is a friendly presence in the charming young lady’s life as she finishes her final months in graduate school. He’s a calming little yellow piece of plastic peace.

Sergio makes occasional appearances on Twitter: @SergioTheDuck.

Do You Judge?

I think it’s human nature. We all make judgments. We see or hear or read something, and we naturally jump to conclusions. Positive or negative, we make judgments.

What does poor grammar tell you about the person using it? A fingernail on a chalkboard off-key rendition of a favorite song? An article about a political candidate? What about an unkempt yard? Bright red nail polish? A sleek black Mercedes Benz?

Society indoctrinates us, our parents teach us, we tell ourselves–don’t judge others. But we do judge others. Maybe not all the time, and maybe not about everything, but we do. Maybe we tell ourselves we measure, assess, conclude, speculate, assume, weigh, value. Or maybe we admit that we judge. After all, if we keep it to ourselves, what’s the harm?

I’m quick to judge a receding hairline paired with a thin little pony tail. Excuse me sir, what were you thinking? I’m also quick to judge others by the shoes they wear. I make inferences based upon the condition and the type of shoe, and whether or not I think the shoe goes with the outfit.

So, judging… bad habit, or just a tool writers can use? When writing, we strive to show, not tell. The same applies to building characters, show don’t tell. Consciously choose details that will lead readers to form opinions about characters. Help readers jump to guided conclusions.

Throw in a pair of pearl earrings or a dragon tattoo. Or an egg yolk orange Volkswagen Vanagon. What do these details add to a character? Hmmm…

Writers go ahead and judge. You want your readers too, right?

Should She Have Said That?

The charming young lady I’ve mentioned in a previous post feels good about her decision to share her feelings for her charming young man with him, and relieved that this charming young man has feelings for her as well, but she finds herself facing a new dilemma.

Since she boldly expressed her feelings for her charming young man, things between them have changed, ever so slightly, in ways she had not anticipated. She’s getting more text messages from him and feeling compelled to answer them all. She’s getting longer emails from her young man as well.And more phone calls. Communication between them has a heavier feel, as if the future needs to be decided immediately.  These are not exactly bad changes, just unexpected.

The charming young lady is also getting surprising feedback from her circle of close friends. Overwhelmingly, they all have the same feel: That’s great, so you’ll be moving soon? Moving? Moving right now when she is in the middle of so much? When she’s in the middle of her life? Advanced planning really is one of her strong suites, and she is currently working through a five year plan. She wonders if her friends even really know her?

And so, what to do? What to do?  Not unexpectedly, the charming young lady has an exceptionally good head on her shoulders and realizes she has only to live up to her own expectations, not the expectations of others. She will explore and enjoy this new relationship at her own speed, and she will live in the moment, not the future. With regard to romance, that is. In other aspects of her life she plans to move forward with her five year plan for now.

Jim Brickman, Branding, And Me

Earlier this month I saw Jim Brickman at the gorgeous new Smith Center for the Performing Arts in my hometown, Las Vegas. I just love his hopeful, upbeat melodies. Listening to his songs always makes me smile. Some of my favorites are The Promise, Serenade, Night Rain, and Waiting For You.

In between songs filled mostly with white piano keys, and duets with his touring partners, Jim interacted with the audience, talking about his career, which began as a high school student with a one person band, and about his ongoing quest to become America’s Romantic Piano Sensation. Standard concert chit chat, I’m sure, but it got me thinking about branding. I know branding is important in all business, but I believe it is especially so for an artist, musician, performer, politician or writer, because the individual, not a product becomes the brand.

For example, I can listen to any Jim Brickman or Bruce Springsteen song with the expectation that I’ll like it. I can open any book by a favorite author, say Janet Evanovich or Helen Fielding, and be reasonably sure I’ll enjoy it. But these individuals are all established entities. What about someone like me, just starting out as a writer? Pre-published. Classes I’ve taken and articles I’ve read suggest it’s never too early for a wannabe like me to develop a brand.

So what do you think? How can I build my brand? What can I do to attract fans and followers?

Please leave a comment if you have any advice to share. Thanks!

Go Ahead And Say It

Not long ago, a charming young lady I know got her bold on and decided to tell an equally charming young man she knows how she feels about him. Oh the agony and excitement leading up to the conversation! Were there signals he liked her? Missed her? Or was she misreading things? What did it mean when he spoke of spending time together over spring break if he didn’t have feelings for her?

She consulted with friends, wrote out what she wanted to say, thought about timing. Plotted out how it might go. But what if… She prepared herself for two possible outcomes—good or bad. Talked at length with various people on how best to react to both. Listed  the options available to her with either outcome. Advanced planning is one of her strong suites.

On the day in question, she tried to calm herself, read her horoscope and decided to ignore it, took deep breaths, filled her inner dialog with encouraging thoughts and self-affirmations, opened her heart to the universe for guidance, consulted her notes a final time, and then, she said it.  Well, the charming young man in question, encouraged by the charming young lady, got his bold on too, and confirmed he has romantic feelings for her. He told her he had been trying to work up the courage to broach the subject with her.

The moral of the story?

In life, as in love stories, charming young men are often shy, and charming young ladies should not be afraid to embrace their bravery.

She Shivered

Fall usually comes softly to the desert.  One day the temperature drops, but not too low.  Mornings and evenings are just a little bit cool. A handful of trees put on a show of fall color. Rose bushes bloom with renewed energy, welcoming the relief from the heat of summer.

This year, the seasons tricked us.  Spring was brief, with summer showing up a full month earlier than usual.  I had to start using my pet acronym, TDHTL (too darn hot to live,) in May instead of June, along with my air conditioner.  And as if out of spite, summer clung on well past the typical late October cool down.  We were only a few days into fall, that magical time of year when windows are left open to the fresh air and you reach for a light blanket in the early hours of the morning, when the climate dramatically changed.

We had temperatures hovering around 90 degrees last week, and then suddenly, on Friday, winter was here.  It was cold.  I went from using the air conditioner in my car on my drive home from work to using the heater.  There was wind and rain, and then snow flurries (yes, snow flurries) in the west end of the valley.  Newscasters talked about a freeze and gave advice on wrapping delicate plants and pipes.

Of course winter in the desert has its own charms, but since we were cheated on our sweet spring and gentle fall, I find myself wondering what the next few months will bring to my little town in the desert.

Diva Daze: Interview with Elke Feuer

Q. Congratulations Elke! Your book, For the Love of Jazz,   debuts December 24, 2012. What’s your favorite line from this story?

A. Thanks, Kathleen! Oh boy, there are a few, but I’d have to say He’d stood close enough to hear her heart race and to check her bra size.” You’ll have to read the book to get the rest. Here’s the blurb:

Restoration architect, Josie, takes on a project with lawyer and senator’s son, Patrick. It’s the perfect match. She needs his endorsement to save her business and he wants to restore his ancestral Chicago home. Neither planned on falling in love, being haunted by ghosts, or discovering she has a claim to his home. When she finds out his family may be responsible for her aunt’s disappearance fifty years ago, it’s a race to unearth the truth before she loses not only her business, and her heart, but her life.

Q. You have a new baby, a young son, a husband and a full-time job. How do you stay motivated and find time to write with everything else you’ve got going on?

A. Time to write, what’s that. LOL. Promoting For the Love of Jazz is keeping me busy right now, but I usually write at lunchtime, in the evenings after everyone has gone to bed, and on the weekend. I want to be a full-time writer and I can only do that if I write and sell stories. That keeps me motivated.

Q. What is your favorite genre to write and why?

A. The first stories I wrote were contemporary and historical, but a couple of years ago I was bitten by the romantic suspense bug, and found I really enjoyed it. I think it’s because I love mysteries and trying to find out who the bad guy is. I’m fascinated by people who kill, and why, especially serial killers.

Q. What led you to your publisher, Crimson Romance?

A. I got an email notice from Writer’s Digest about a new publishing company, Crimson Romance. I kept the email with the intention of submitting, but was hesitant because my husband and I were expecting our second child. Thankfully my best friend, Katie, convinced me to go for it and the rest, shall we say, is history.

Q. Which of your characters would you most like to meet for coffee and a chat? Why?

A. Patrick, to hear his deep voice, and stare into those sexy green eyes. Just kidding… a little. I’d really like to sit and talk with Lola, the character who is killed the first page of the book, and find out more about her and William’s story. They lived in a time when being a mixed couple wasn’t the norm and I’m curious to know what their everyday lives were like.

Q. What was your favorite book as a kid? How many times did you read it?

A. That’s a tough one, like someone asking who’s my favorite child. I honestly couldn’t say. If I do like a book, however, I won’t hesitate to read it again and again.

Q. Do you have a favorite place to write? What’s special about it?

A. I have a favorite coffee shop and restaurant. I like that the people there know me. The places aren’t quiet, but I can work in peace without being disturbed. Not an easy task with a husband and two kids.

Q. Can you give us a sneak peek of your work-in-progress, Deadly Bloodlines?

A. Oh, yes! I’m SO excited about this book. Mostly because it’s based in Cayman where I live, and is about serial killers. Here’s a little unedited clip.

          Sweat covered his palms when she stepped out her front door and into his view. His heartbeat reverberated against his chest until it was thunder in his ears. Only she had that power over him. A power she held the moment he saw her.

          After locking the door of her apartment, she headed down the stairs to the ground floor of the building. Her hair was pulled into a ponytail, making him wonder why she never let it down. She had beautiful long dark hair he knew would be soft beneath his fingertips, and smell like the sea she loved to swim in at night. It was the reason she chose to live by the ocean: to hear the waves crashing against the shore, the scent of salt air and seeing the sun rise and set over the horizon. Many nights he watched her swim, her lean body moving through the dark water that was sometimes kissed by the reflection of moonlight. Those were the nights he looked forward to, longed for. He could see her face, its serious expression, and that slight smile when she finished swimming.

          Smiles rarely touched her lips, but she always had one for him. He didn’t judge her or her past like the others. It’s what he liked most about her and what drew him to her. They were alike. Murder and death were as much a part of his family as it was hers. They belonged together. Her mother approved of him, had said so with her wild eyes when he promised to take care of her daughter. Their lives were locked in a way that couldn’t come undone, only move forward.

          She got into her car and drove away without seeing him. It didn’t matter; he planned it that way, this time. He started his car and let his fingertips stroke the smooth leather of the steering wheel from one side to the other imagining it was her skin before gripping it tightly. Soon. Soon she’d be his. But first she needed to know he was out here, that he wanted her, cared about her. He’d prove he was worthy.

Q. Do you have any advice for pre-published writers?

A. The best advice I ever got was don’t give up! No matter the number of rejection letters, and keep writing. You’ll need another book to sell after the first one is published.

Q. What is the one thing about you that people would never guess?

A. I’ve always wanted to sing jazz music. I’m too scared, so I’m living vicariously through my characters.

Thanks Elke!

To find out more about Elke Feuer or her stories, connect with her at: her website, Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

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Elke Feuer Is On Her Way

Diva Daze! I’m so very excited that I’ll soon be posting my first author interview!

Elke Feuer is a wonderful writer I met (albeit virtually) about two years ago, in a Gotham Writer’s Workshop course on Romance Writing. Her very first published book, For the Love of Jazz, is coming out on December 24, 2012 (Crimson Romance). Yay!

Elke lives on and writes from the beautiful Caribbean island of Grand Cayman.  She’s married, raising two adorable young children, has a job, and still finds time to follow her dream and write. By the way, she also finds time to blog, facebook and tweet! That energy level should inspire us all, especially wanna be writers like me.

I so enjoyed reading about Josie and Patrick, the heroine and hero of For the Love of Jazz, in our Gotham class. Josie, a gorgeous young restoration architect, and Patrick, a well-connected attorney, are brought together when Patrick hires Josie to help him restore his mid-century home in Chicago, Illinois. And then, as so often happens in books and life, Josie and Patrick discover they have a growing  attraction to each other. But of course, there are obstacles (aren’t there always?) standing between the fledgling couple and a happy ending…  Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to cheering Josie and Patrick on, and reading the whole story, in December.

Please stop by my blog on Tuesday, November 6th, to meet Elke Feuer learn more about her soon to be released book, For the Love of Jazz.

You can connect with Elke  at her websiteher fan page, and on Twitter.

The Eyes Have It

Is eye color linked to personality traits? Maybe. Every person’s eye color is unique and falls into one of three main categories.

Blue eyes, from dark blue to violet, cornflower, and light grey, are associated with the following characteristics: adorableness, sensitivity, kindness, politeness, calmness, peacefulness, spirituality, smartness, fertility, innocence, assertiveness, directness, and youthfulness. In this category, grey eyes are a soft form of blue linked to gentleness, wisdom, sensitivity, inner strength and analytical thinking. Blue eyed individuals are carefree, take romance very seriously and long for permanent, long lasting love.

The largest eye color group, brown includes very dark eyes, amber eyes, and every shade of   brown in between. Brown eyes are associated with trustworthiness, stability, responsibility, cautiousness, practicality, confidence, independence, and sensibility. Black eyes are linked to secretiveness, passion, and sensuality. Individuals with hazel   eyes, a mixture of brown and green, are typically spontaneous, unpredictable, and elegant. Brown eyed individuals care very deeply about family.

Green eyes are a much smaller eye color group, associated with mystery, intelligence, vibrancy, creativity, magic, compassion, creative, and yes, jealousy. These individuals have an energetic sex drive and tend to do well in relationships.

Is your heroine looking for the love of her life? She may be blue eyed. Is your hero a reluctant vamp? He probably has black eyes. Links between eye color and personality may not apply to all individuals in each color group, but it is fun to consider these traits when choosing eye colors for characters.

Jilted

Is there an art to accepting rejection? An easy way to live with a broken heart? Some secret to getting on with life after a setback?

Yes, yes and yes. It turns out there is.

Earlier this month I attended Making Cent$ of Freelance Writing, a conference hosted by the Writers of Southern Nevada (nevadawriters.org). Las Vegas author Rick Lax (ricklax.com) presented Kicking Rejection’s Butt, reframing everything I thought I knew about rejection letters, not just intellectually, but emotionally.

Intellectually, I know that a rejection letter from an editor, while disappointing, is not a negative judgment of all my creative work. But emotionally, ah emotionally, rejection makes me doubt not only my writing, but all the life choices I hold most dear. Emotionally, rejection scares my writer-wannabe self to near death and makes me want to give up my dream of becoming an author. In short, rejection is heartbreaking.

According to Rick Lax, it’s a writer’s job to get rejected. Rejection is one part of one third of the writing, submitting and publishing equation. Every piece of finished work should be submitted. Every submission will result in either an acceptance or a rejection. Neither should keep you from writing and submitting. Eventually a submission will result in a sale.

I can take away the power I give rejection by viewing it as no more than a single step in a longer journey.  When rejection is a just a neutral element in a work cycle, I can nurture confidence in my work and myself.

And so, time to get writing.

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