Revisions, Miss Pitty Pat style

Miss Pitty Pat

I'm revising my latest book for Harlequin. I have help. Here, she's sitting on my lap while I'm at the computer, looking up at me. Makes it hard to type, but I wouldn't have it any other way. We almost lost her this past summer, and her days are numbered because she has chronic heart failure, so I'm all about enjoying her while I have her. Isn't she cute? 😉

End of Summer?

It can't really be the end of summer, can it? I can hardly believe it's nearly September. Though it doesn't get cold here for quite some time (thankfully!), September is Fall to me. That means I have to go buy potted mums, get the Fall wreath out, and start thinking about what I want for my birthday. Mr. Harris is not fond of my propensity to want a new handbag or shoes. If I wanted a gizmo that plugs into a socket, accesses the internet, and plays music and movies, he'd be all over it no matter the cost. But I have all the gizmos I need. (Sorry, honey.)

After the birthday comes the anniversary. I cannot say how many years it's been, because it makes me sound ancient when I'm not, but it's a lot. Last year, he bought me a silver heart Tiffany lock on a chain. I really, really love it! (You did awesome, sweetie!)

So, it's the end of summer. I feel whiny about that. I lived in Germany for several years, and I got used to cold weather. But then I moved to Hawaii, and I've never been the same. In Hawaii, you put your Christmas decorations out while wearing shorts. You go to the beach on Christmas day. Santa wears a very lightweight red suit at the mall (no velvet and fur there!) for the kiddies. The palm trees in Waikiki are decorated in lights. *sigh* I miss that. You'd think it'd be an abomination in some ways, since Christmas and snow go together like peas and carrots, but no, you get real used to it real fast.

Instead, I'll be in Alabama where the grass is brown and the trees are brown and gray and the leaves are all gone. On Christmas day here, you might need a coat. Or you might just need a jacket. You can never tell. It's been in the 60s and it's been snowy since I've lived here, so it's pretty much a mystery what you'll get.

Nevertheless, I look forward to the holiday season, though I'm usually never prepared the way I want to be. Some years I get the tree up, some years I don't. Some years I get the cards out on time, some years I don't. See, I'm already thinking about it and it's not even September yet! It truly is the end of the summer, and I'm sad to see it go.

Here's a pic of me enjoying the warm weather while holding up a giant column. Or maybe it's holding me up. Got any end of summer rituals?

Changes coming!

There are changes coming to this website in the next few days, so bear with my glorious web designer while she updates everything. I've had this design since the beginning, though we did have a different color scheme and different header for a while. But as my writing grows and my books in print grow, I need more space and a friendlier design. Something you can navigate easier as you look for information on my books!

I'm excited about this new phase in my writing life! For years, I had a website I'd designed. When I sold, I knew I wanted a professional to design my site for me. I loved what she did, and I was very happy with it for a long time. But when she first built this site, I had one book that wasn't even available yet. And then there were two. Then three. And so on.

Now, I want something a bit more organized. I'm excited about what's coming. I hope you'll like it too!

In other news, I am returned from RWA in Anaheim, fired up and ready to get some work done. If you're a writer, and you weren't there, you need to read Stephanie Laurens's keynote speech. I was in the room, and the response was incredible. Talk about change!

Over all, I'd say the atmosphere of this conference was incredibly hopeful. In the past, it's been various shades of angsty and fearful for the future. Now, not so much. As authors, we have options. Options we must think through very carefully, but options nonetheless. Self-publishing is an incredible tool available to us now. But I caution you to treat it exactly like you would traditional publishing. You still need a professional editor (not a friend or family member), a cover designer, and maybe even someone to help you get the formatting done right.

You have ONE chance to engage a reader, and if she can't get past your cover or your typos or grammar mistakes to engage with your story, you've probably lost her for good. Just yesterday, I was talking with my eye doctor, who is a voracious reader. She told me that at first, she used to download the freebie and cheap Kindle books — but that she'd stopped because they were so bad. She said she'd read a couple of good ones, but most of them were awful. And yes, she mentioned grammar as a factor.

So don't do that to yourself. Do it right, not quick. And of course there are still plenty of options if you want a publisher too! Especially these days with the start up of several online houses and online imprints of traditional houses. Options, friends. They are before you.

I leave you with a couple of pictures from RWA before I sign off to work on the latest book that's due soon!

Historical author Michelle Willingham, me, and Romance author Donna Alward.

Before the Harlequin party with Jennie Lucas, Fiona Harper, Donna Alward, and Janette Kenny.

The Life

If you follow me on Twitter, you may think I tweet a lot of cat photos. And it's true, I do. My furry children are adorable. And they do adorable things. And I must share them.

This is Nimitz at his best. At his best means when he's sleeping. When he's awake, all bets are off. He is the most destructive cat I've ever had in my life. He once knocked an oil painting off the wall. A big one. He stood on the piano and pulled it until the (admittedly old) wire broke. Crazy cat.

I've discovered the most fabulous product, thanks to him. Quake Putty. If you live in an earthquake zone, you know what I'm talking about. This is not something we need here in the South. Unless you have a Nimitz, that is. Quake Putty looks like silly putty. Except that it holds things (like vases of flowers, for example) down on the furniture so your fuzzy wrecking ball can't destroy them. It doesn't harm wood, either, which is great. I have two packs of the stuff. Came in really handy at Christmas with the extra decorations I set out, I can tell you.

Am I the only person with a destructive pet?

Letting Go

Hope your holiday was grand! We had a great time with the in-laws and my parents. It was, without doubt, the least stressful Thanksgiving week I've spent in recent memory. I wasn't worried about turkey and gravy and all the trimmings. Oh, I was fixing them, but I wasn't worried. If it all turned out terrible (and it didn't), we'd have piled into the car and gone to a restaurant.

I've learned over the past year that you sometimes just have to let go of all the expectations and pressure. That doesn't mean I'm great at it, or that I always take my own advice, but this time, for once, I did. And everything turned out fabulously.

It's really easy as a writer to get wound up over things you can't control. Selling your book, getting an agent, discovering the secret to success. And once you've sold a book and have a career going, it's easy to obsess about things like sales, list placement, and whether or not you think your next idea is any good. You can drive yourself crazy if you let those thoughts swirl around unchecked.

So let go. Focus on what you can control, which is nothing more than the writing. Focus on the writing and the story and let the rest take care of itself. I know the holidays can be crazy, and I know the demands on your time will be heavier than ever. But take time for yourself somewhere in there. Take time to just be still and quiet, to know that you're doing everything you can and that you'll get there so long as you don't quit.

I had a great Thanksgiving, and I hope you did too. One other thing I got done this weekend — with the help of my husband and in-laws — was decorating the Christmas tree. There are some years where I'm running so late, due to deadlines and other commitments, that I don't even get the tree up. And other years where I get it done at the last minute. But not this time. This time it's done, and I'm feeling accomplished. I'm sure there will be things in the next few weeks that make me feel less accomplished, but for now I'm going to enjoy it.

Let go. Focus on what you can do and not on what you can't. Breathe. January will be here before you know it. 😉

Stop all the clocks

I didn't want to write this post today. I didn't want to write it at all. But I have to write it because there is a hole where a friend used to be.

On Thursday, April 21, 2011, we lost a great writer and a wonderful lady. Beverly Barton was everything that everyone has been saying on their blogs, memorials, and tribute pages. She was warm, witty, funny, sweet, kind — I could keep going, but I won't. Just know that she was a true Southern lady with a load of class and sass.

I first met Beverly when I joined Heart of Dixie a few years ago. Might be 4, might be 5 — can't quite remember. She was one of the first people to welcome me to the group. She was a star, yet she took time to come over and talk to me for several minutes and welcome me. She seemed truly excited that I was there, and I have never forgotten how good that made me feel. I knew right away that I was going to love HOD.

In the years since, I've come to know Beverly as a friend. There are others who were closer, but it was Beverly's gift to make everyone feel as if they were special to her. Therefore, we all hurt with her loss.

Beverly was a true diva, but only in the good sense of the word. She was larger than life. She was classy. She loved her family above anything else. She doted on her grandchildren. She wrote the scariest damn books in the world. She believed in graciousness. She used cloth napkins and real china because to use paper plates and napkins would be an abomination. She was an amazing storyteller, whether the story was written or just told as you sat around and listened to her.

She did not like to be called Bev. Not ever. Her friends knew better. She was Beverly. She had the most amazing and infectious laugh. She loved sparkly jewelry and always wore the most gorgeous pieces that were color coordinated with her outfit.

I never, ever saw Beverly looking anything other than fabulous. And I have spent weekends with her at our chapter retreat where it would have been entirely understandable to see her less than put together. While I stumbled to the breakfast table with bedhead and no makeup, Beverly at least had makeup on and her hair done.

In digging through my photos, I found this one of Beverly and me at our chapter Christmas party a couple of years ago. We were both highly amused by the fact that she'd worn green and I'd worn red — and our shoes matched our sweaters.

When I sold my first book, Beverly was thrilled for me. I never expected her to read it. But she did. And when she told me how much she loved it, I was in shock. I know she wasn't just telling me that to make me feel good. Beverly would have never done such a thing. I was and still am honored by her belief in me.

There is a scene in the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral where one of the characters, Gareth, has died. At his funeral, his partner, Matthew, reads a poem by W.H. Auden called “Funeral Blues.” It's a sad moment, but the reading of the poem is so beautiful. When I heard that Beverly had passed, I immediately thought of Auden's mournful tribute.

I can't say it better, so I'll leave you with the poem. Rest in peace, Beverly. You are missed by so many.

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.