Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March 27, 2013

In just a few short weeks, my beloved and I will be heading to the first—and this year, the only—conference of the season. Our last year was jam-packed with travel as we attended the three different author-related events that were on our schedule. For someone like me who really does not like the traveling part, that was just too much. I felt as if I completely missed my summer here at home.

This year, there is only one conference in our plans, and it’s at the end of April.

I’m looking forward to attending the Romantic Times Booklovers’ Convention, as I always do. This year it’s being held in Kansas City, Missouri. RT is my one major “promotional” event of the year. It’s where I go to put my “gregarious extrovert” cap on, and put my best foot forward.

I do genuinely enjoy meeting new people, be they readers or fellow authors. I am, however, by nature an introvert. I do not need to socialize or be with other people on a regular basis in order to be happy. In other words, I could blissfully spend most of my life (and I do, actually) in my writing cave, with my computer keyboard at my fingertips and a coffee pot, bathroom and bed nearby.

This year, as he did last year, my husband will be going with me to RT. He really enjoyed himself at the convention last year in Chicago. This year, he’s going to “officially” attend all the festivities. Of course, his main role will continue, as he coined it last year, to be my “stand by and stand here” guy. I really appreciated having his assistance, because it is very difficult for me to manage at such an event all on my own.

It’s neither fair nor is it right for me to depend upon my acquaintances—the people I used to room with at these things—to be there to help me get around, or get where I need to be on time. I had been doing that up until last year, but really, that didn’t work out very well for any one. So last year David made the decision that he should go with me and do what he could to help.

In more than one way, Chicago’s conference was a watershed event for me. My life took one of those turns that can only be considered a complete shake-up. At first, I thought that what happened was the worst thing ever, but I have since changed my mind about it all, for I came away from the Windy City with two brand new best friends. I was blessed to meet for the first time, face to face, with my fellow Siren authors Heather Rainier and Peyton Elizabeth. Mr. Rainer accompanied his wife, and our two husbands seemed to hit it off very well. I have no doubt that being practically the only two men in the room had at least something to do with that.

A few months after that initial meeting, near the end of summer, we spent time with Ms. Peyton and the Rainiers at a conference in Dallas where we also met another Siren author, Corrine Davies and her husband. While I huddled with the women and discussed all things writing it was gratifying for me to see my beloved spending time with the men, all of whom appeared to enjoy themselves immensely.

At RT, we will not only have the pleasure of the company, once again, of the Rainiers and the Davies, and Peyton Elizabeth, we will also be meeting and spending time with Peyton’s new fiancĂ©. Yes, there will be eight of us, all told, chumming around, wreaking havoc. While we ladies host our publisher’s table in Club RT, who knows what shenanigans those men might get up to?

Since all the men are attending all the dinners and the parties, too, there really is no telling what kind of mayhem may ensue when the eight of us are together. My beloved and I don’t get out much, so we tend to store up a lot of mischief and energy, just waiting for the best time and place to let it all loose.

The way I see it, that’s just one more thing to look forward to.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March 20, 2013

Today is the first day of spring!

Of course, you wouldn’t know that from looking out my window here in Southern Ontario. The weather forecast calls for a high of 27 degrees Fahrenheit, but with the wind chill it will feel more like 18. Brrr. Have I ever mentioned that I hate the cold?

Yet, despite the cold temperatures that were slow in coming this winter and now apparently loath to depart, it is the first day of the new season. I hear the birds early in the morning, and that is one of only two real signs I’ve seen that it is indeed nearly time for the cold and the snow to retreat. The other sign are the green shoots poking up through the snow and ice as my daffodils and tulip bulbs have come awake and are preparing to bloom for another year.

If they survive this last bit of winter, that is.

I cherish the cycle of nature that finds us going from season to season each year. I guess part of the reason for that is despite the changes we’ve all witnessed in climate, and even though the characteristics of each season seem to no longer be as consistent as once they were, the seasons nonetheless do change. They occur each year, forming a rhythm to life that is at once comforting and exciting.

Spring has always been my favorite time of year. I love it not only because the temperatures slowly climb from the cold of winter toward the heat of summer. I love it because it is the season of renewal and rebirth. It is, if you will, the season of second chances.

I am a great believer in redemption and second chances.

When I think back to the days of my youth, I remember Saturday morning, awakening to the sound of birdsong. I would sleep with my window open as soon as it was mild enough to do so, and my favorite days were the ones when the breeze coming through my window was that wonderful aroma we used to call fresh air.

I’m not trying to be facetious, but there really was a quality to the air that was different forty years ago, than it is today—although still, every once in a great while I step outside and do inhale that treasured, remembered scent.

The trees would be enveloped in an aura of green—that point when the buds are there, but haven’t yet burst into leaves. The sun would shine in the vibrant blue sky of springtime—a different blue than the pale of winter—and for those moments, those precious moments, it felt as if anything, anything at all was possible.

As a young wife and mother, springtime always made me itchy to get my hands in the soil, to work up flower beds and plant my vegetable garden. It seemed a long wait from those first stirrings of the new season until our traditional planting time—the May 24th weekend. We waited that long to ensure the danger of frost was past.

I’m no longer young, and playing in the soil is different for me now. I have window boxes that fit on my porch railing, so if I want to plant, I can do that. I was finally successful in getting my beloved to plant a few flowers in my yard, and those I am hoping, as I see their tiny green shoots above the snow, will survive and bloom.

Most people think of change, of starting fresh and making resolutions on New Year’s Day. I’d much rather—if I was going to do such a thing—perform that ritual when the breezes of springtime first caress the land.

It seems more fitting a time to make vows of self-improvement, and the spirit of renewal in me would have a resounding echo in the world that surrounds me.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

March 13, 2013

I don’t often do this, but this essay is directed toward my fellow wordsmiths, those hard working colleagues of mine who put (metaphorically) pen to paper in order to create stories with a view to entertaining readers, and whose work is digitally produced.

When I first got published in 2007 this medium of “e-books” hadn’t been around for very long. It was a brand new way of producing books for readers to read. And like most brand new ways of doing something that had been done basically the same way for a very, very long time, [since the production of the Guttenberg Bible back in the 1400s], as a medium, as a form of fiction, it was derided.

Suddenly, they said, anyone could be an author! And those of us who suddenly were authors, were subjected to an attitude of exclusion and yes, disdain by print publishers, professional authors’ associations, and by some print authors, themselves.

We weren’t professional, they said. We were less.

As a reaction to that, e-published authors griped and complained about being treated as the red-headed step-children of the writing world.

Do y’all remember that?

At that time, I suggested that if we wanted to be treated as professionals in this brave new world and stand shoulder to shoulder with those writers who were published by “New York publishers” then we needed to start out that way—that we needed to behave as professionals.

The times have changed, but not a whole lot. They have changed financially for the e-published author, that’s for certain. Here is a tiny bit of information from my publisher’s “About Us” page: “Over three dozen Siren-BookStrand authors consistently receive a 5-figure royalty payment quarterly, with about a dozen of these authors earning between $100K to $350K annually.”

If one is an author who hopes to find readers, I would suggest to you that you can consider yourself a success—and a professional—if you have sufficient readers to earn that kind of an income. That should be the end of the debate.

And yet.

And yet there are those who continue to cling to the belief that those authors who are “e-published” are not as good as, and not as professional as, the traditionally published writer. And there are, unfortunately, some e-published authors who are more than happy to demonstrate that point.

How do we combat that sort of intransigent attitude on both sides of the equation?

I don’t think the strategy has changed, really. If I want to be treated as a professional, then I first have to behave like a professional. I need to adhere to professional standards. What are these standards? Well, let’s pull our old, retired friend, Common Sense, out of the closet, dust him off, and with him, think about that little thing for a moment.

If I want to behave as a professional, then first I have to guard my words. I’m a writer, remember, and if I want to be known for my words, I want to be known for the ones in my essays and my novels—and no others.

I have to be kind and courteous, and treat everyone with respect—especially those people who are in “my sphere of influence”. That would be my publisher, my readers, my editors, and fellow authors—especially those authors who are published by the same house as I. When do I do this? Always!

If I want to have a rant, or a temper tantrum, I need to be careful. I do not want to earn the reputation of being a “diva”, or a “whiner” or worse. Therefore, when I feel like having a rant, a temper tantrum or just “getting it all off my chest and out there”…I go into my bathroom, shut the door, and scream. When do I do this? Always!

I say nothing, I write nothing that at any time insults or slaps at the people in my sphere: not in a blog, or in a Yahoo! loop, not in a book review, or on Face Book, or Twitter…not anywhere. When do I behave according to this standard? Always!

I take care that every time I communicate with my readers that I do so in a kind, compassionate and grammatically correct way. If I offer a prize, I award it; if I make a mistake, or if it is perceived that I have made a mistake, I apologize for it. And I conduct myself at all times as if God Himself was watching every move I make—because, well, He is, and always!

I take to heart the saying, “words of edification will never come back to bite me in the butt.”

And I do what I can to support, promote and cheer on my fellow digitally produced wordsmiths—just like a real professional would do.

Because I aim to be one—always.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March 6, 2013

There was a time, when, “if you read it in the (New York) Sun” or if you heard it from the mouths of Huntley, Brinkley or Cronkite, then it was so.

There was a time when you could count on the integrity of the reporters and the veracity of the news they were reporting.

Sadly, that time is not now.

The Internet is full of blogs, which anyone can create. You don’t need a degree in journalism. Integrity and veracity are not requirements. You don’t have to prove you are not an idiot. All you really need is that undocumented, very biased opinion, a computer, and an Internet connection.

I do believe that everyone ought to be able to express their opinion. However, that does not mean that their opinions should in any event, be taken as Gospel. And while expressing one’s opinion is a government-bestowed right through the first ammendment, you have to be careful not to overstep a God-given commandment when you do so.

What people should not be allowed to do, is lie.

Of course they do lie, and they have always lied and were it not so, there would be no need for those wise old chestnuts like, “caveat emptor” – let the buyer beware. I just wish we would all take that principle to heart and take as much care about “buying” someone’s words as truthful as we do buying a dishwasher—or a computer.

There were several instances in the last year when blog opinions, or outright lies were repeated as factual stories. They were repeated as such on national news networks as part of their election cycle coverage, until finally there were hundreds if not thousands of people swearing the stories reported were true.

Who do we blame for this profanity [for surely that’s what it is]? The opinionated or biased ones who vent their opinions and tell their lies? The media, who repeat these opinions and lies as if they are fact? Or the end user, the reader, the viewer or listener who seems in this day and age strangely willing to believe, well, pig swill?

Why do we lately seem so willing to believe the words we find on the Internet, or inn the news without benefit of thought? They say that “trust” is at an all time low. You’ve heard others say, “you can’t trust anyone anymore”, parents warn their children, “you can’t trust strangers!”But apparently there is no distrust when it comes to outrageous opinions, lies and inflammatory stories written or reported on line.

It bothers me that a piece written on a blog as either opinion, or as an obvious attempt at sarcasm can be repeated by a television news station as “fact” without that station even bothering to verify the piece. It bothers me when people are willing to believe the most ludicrous things, because it suits their need to vent, or to hate, or to smear.

It bothers me that many of those same people proclaim in loud and boasting voices that they believe in God, and then act in decidedly ungodly ways.

I don’t like liars or cheaters, but somehow, in today’s world, it seems the liars and the cheaters are the only ones thriving, the only ones getting ahead, and the only ones being believed.

Yes, I do believe that the truly righteous will receive their reward in Heaven. But I also know that they should be receiving a bit more of the goodies here on earth, too.

And they probably would be—if there weren’t an overabundance of liars, cheaters and idiots gobbling them all up.