Healthy Writers Make Better Lovers

This post is dedicated to the memory of Phillip Motta, husband and father, writer of songs and stories, and beloved of my family.

That title may be true, but I haven’t finished my research yet. I do know that a positive outlook and mind set will make for a healthier person. On Thanksgiving, I posted about an Attitude of Gratitude, and how that one focus in life can improve your health and your writing. Not everyone believes what the Huffington Post writes, but these five points make sense and uses your own hand to remind you how to be proactive for gratitude.

In my own writing, I was putting off writing a scene because it didn’t want to go where I envisioned it. I thought I’d need to do a really unwieldy bit of exposition to make it work. Then, while reviewing the previous paragraphs, I had An Idea. Not your usual, just go with it idea, but a capital Idea. Now the scene is going to work much better.

As soon as I stopped thinking I needed the idea before I could write it, I was in the right place at the right time for the idea. I am more grateful than I can express for the joy of writing and creating that I allow in my life.

I’m grateful for the friends I have made through my weight loss support group. Believe it or not, I am a rather shy person. I can speak in front of crowds without the least trepidation. I will get up and sing and dance for just about any group. I cha-cha down the aisles in the supermarket. But one on one, I tend to have issues. However, it’s absolutely true that in order to stay committed to exercise or healthy eating, you must be accountable to someone. I have started so many times to walk every day, or every other day, or every evening, or whatever. I bought DVDs on Yoga and Tai Chi, but after one play of each, just haven’t had the time to go through them again.

Luckily for me, a new friend in the support group, Cathy, wanted a partner to walk with at least once per week. So we meet one morning and walk for half an hour. It’s so much fun to walk with someone. She worried she was going to hold me back, but we walk at about the same pace.

When I get home from that walk, I am exhausted. I get chores done and nap, pretty much the rest of the day. But the next day, I am energized, thinking clearly, and getting Ideas. My writing is going much better now that I am taking a day to take care of me. I hope to expand to two days of walking, followed by three through six. It could happen.

I continue to be grateful for my life as a writer, for friends who hold me accountable, and for things that serve the purpose of pointing out just how well off I am. An on-line friend lost his long-term girlfriend suddenly, and unexpectedly. A friend who has had unbelievable pain in her back for years was diagnosed with cancer. The leader of my support group is going in for surgery this week due to cancer. And my niece lost her husband the day after Thanksgiving, suddenly and unexpectedly. I am so blessed to know these people, to support them in positive thought and an attitude of gratitude. I will keep looking for the magic wand to cure and heal all of this planet’s woes, and will never stop believing that it can be done.

And do healthy writers make better lovers? With an attitude of gratitude, sources say yes! I’ll be back on Thursday.


An Attitude of Gratitude

Did you ever wonder why US Citizens needed an official day to remind them to give thanks? Yes, I know other countries also have Thanksgiving days. Canada mainly has a very similar celebration, and as our neighbors to the north, I think they are mostly thankful their ancestors didn’t settle farther south. But they are too polite to say so. Most of the other celebrations either predate our Thanksgiving or were brought there by roving Americans looking to have a free meal.

Gratitude is good for your health. Being thankful can help you live longer. Gratitude is linked to prayer in the minds of many people. This is nice, but for me too close to giving away my power. Yes, all things are done through Spirit, but I have to be open and aware of that force in my life. I’m grateful for the openness of my heart and mind.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
– Melody Beattie

I’m very grateful for the love I found in my husband, the family we have together, our son who will be with us today, our daughter who is always in our hearts, the birds that entertain us and love us in their own way, our cat, our home, our choices to eat well today and have a gift of fellowship instead of overindulgence, and the affluence that seems to build every year.

What has this to do with writing? Well, I’ll tell you. I’m more grateful than I can say for my gift of spinning stories, enjoying romance in many forms, and learning to put those stories on paper. I’m grateful I learned to touch type, not that I am perfect at it, but it certainly helps my speed in writing so many things every week. I am grateful to those who read my stories and give me feedback. I am so grateful that my love supports me in this endeavor.

But wait! There’s more. Life is never all smooth going. I am grateful for the tests and hurdles that have come up, not that I would complain if they were all behind me now. These struggles make creating conflict in my work easier, because I have been there. And my characters would never be interesting if they were always happy and positive. Picture this:

Heroine: I can’t let myself fall in love with you because you’re too perfect. Sorry.

Hero: Oh, that’s okay. I can be less perfect. How about if I take up smoking or gambling?

Heroine: Darling! That would be perfect!

They kiss and we yawn. I put them back in the idea box, and instead take out a British soldier in 1804, held prisoner in a Belgian farmhouse, and being tortured by the presence of a beautiful young woman. She’s not perfect, he’s in chains, and they both hope I will get on with the writing.

Happy Thanksgiving! I’ll be back on Sunday.

Don’t Confuse Me with Facts!

As you read each of the names in the following list, let an image come to your mind.

Mr. Darcy. Bond. Holmes. Thor. Loki. Batman. Superman. Gomez Addams. Jamie Fraser.

Some of these characters have been portrayed in movies or TV shows by more than one actor. Some have only been on screen once, but have been read by millions. And many readers are annoyed when their favorite characters are cast for film. They have a vision of this character, and they don’t want anyone else’s ideas.

When Jane Austen introduces Mr. Darcy, she gives very general information: [He] soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien; and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year. The gentlemen pronounced him to be a fine figure of a man, the ladies declared he was much handsomer than Mr. Bingley, and he was looked at with great admiration for about half the evening, till his manners gave a disgust which turned the tide of his popularity; for he was discovered to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased; and not all his large estate in Derbyshire could then save him from having a most forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy to be compared with his friend.

There’s little to go on, no hair color, no eye color or shape, not even a sensuous mouth to fix on. This is the conundrum faced by Romance authors. A certain portion of the readers want to imagine their own heros. They aren’t attracted to blond men, so don’t want to know if he has Thor-like tresses. They abhor beards on men, so must have a clean-shaven image.

But another group of readers who must know exactly what the author had in mind when writing the hero and heroine. Frustration abounds when critics say add more description, the writer adds it, then critics say too much detail. This whole writing thing would be vastly improved if the pictures in the author’s brain could be forced into the readers’ brains.

My “classic” Regency Romance, The Viscount’s Mouse, with any luck will be self published in the first part of 2015. Miles, my hero, in my head looks exactly like Brad Pitt. But I can’t say that anywhere, except here and later in the blogs about the book. If someone buys the book and doesn’t read any of the blogs, then they are going to picture their own favorite blond eye candy. And Cassie is anyone’s guess, I don’t really have a set image for her. That might change as we go on. It’s so hard to find photos of plain women. I did find an excellent Ms. Farnham, but no Cassie yet.

I’d love to hear from you on who you picture for any of the characters mentioned above. I’d also love for you to subscribe to my newsletter that is just getting started! Click here to be added to the group. I’ll be back on Thursday.

Happy Birthday and Thanks for All the Fish!

No, it’s not Douglas Adams’ birthday. But Monday was the natal anniversary for my beloved husband, and his meal of choice is fish! And we had a wonderful meal at our favorite fish restaurant on Sunday because it would be too crazy to go Monday.

Today is actually the natal anniversary of my son, who is all grown up and independent, but still gives hugs and also likes fish. And good beer. What more could a mom ask for?

I Googled Famous People Born in November. The page I looked at had mostly modern times personalities, half of which I had never heard of, and the other half would pinpoint my age far too closely. Did you know Future was born on November 20th? The rapper, not the floor polish.

I really wanted to know just which writers were born in November, and so found a site called The Famous People. I had to look through the whole month, day by day. They don’t make this easy.

The list included Will Rogers, George Elliot, St. Francis of Assisi, John Gardner, Jon Stewart, C. S. Lewis, Louisa May Alcott, Abbie Hoffman, Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, and Lucy Maude Montgomery. I have read most of their works, at least a touch of each. But other than Ms. Alcott, Ms. Montgomery, Mr. Stewart, and Mr. Twain, they aren’t high on my list of authors I love. (Every time I reread the list, I rethink this, and have added a name. Sheesh. Prevaricate much?)

So when was Jane Austen born? December 16th! Lois McMaster Bujold is a November birthday, but wasn’t famous enough for the list! Robert Heinlein, July. Mary Balogh, March.  Diana Gabaldon, January. I tried looking up the birthdays of some of my RWA friends, but they don’t seem willing to part with that information. I can find it in the chapter directory, but that would be cheating. If the author didn’t make it public, I won’t do that.

But here’s my final Ah-ha moment out of this exercise. Just as creative people don’t think any differently than non-”creative” people, they just work harder at it, then you don’t have to be born in a special month to achieve greatness. You don’t have to come from a rich family, you don’t have to pay any dues other than working really hard at every aspect of your craft.

And once I get this posted, I’ll get back to my NaNo novel. At the rate I am going, I can finish by March 4th! But I work better under pressure. I have my anthology story finished, working on a newsletter, and I am going to push hard in December to get the second Regency Banquet story, Main Course: Pure Captivation published.

Have a great week, and I’ll be back on Sunday.

I’m Conflicted About Conflict

I have to tell you that Brenda Novak is an amazing speaker and a great writer. She is very willing to share her knowledge and experience with writers who are just starting out on their path to publication. She is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and credits the organization with support through some tough years.

She also has a very special reason for being involved in Diabetes Research, and holds an on-line auction fund raiser every year. Her youngest son has Type 1 Diabetes, and unlike me, can’t really be blamed for his physical condition. I have Type 2, and can improve my health by being more active, eating fresh, healthy food, and losing weight. But for people with Type 1, it all happened without their doing anything. Brenda’s son is a grown man now, and has moved out of the house. And she is somewhat conflicted about that.

One point she covered in her talks at my local chapter of RWA meeting is that a story needs conflict. The conflict can change and grow over time as the story progresses. An example Brenda gave involved a woman and man whose grandparents had a major disagreement and ended a long friendship on bad terms. But once the man and woman get to know each other, and realize there is no reason to still feel the animosity, you would not like either of them if they still carried the grudge. There has to be new conflict, new reasons to show that getting what they each want will cause stress for each other.

My NaNo project, The Way She Moves, has conflict. And I struggle to keep it strong, because I want everyone to just get along! The main conflict is, as a shape shifter, Ash knows that Romela is his mate. But she is married to someone else. Romela knows her marriage was a mistake, and is taking steps to end it and get her son back.

Ash jumps at the chance to help her, and plans the assault on the enemy. Romela lets him make the plans, but will go her own way if she thinks it’s the best way to accomplish her goals. Ash doesn’t care to dance, he’s tall and muscular and doesn’t think he’s very graceful. But when one of his foster brothers takes Romela out on the floor for some hot salsa, he can either try to prevent her from dancing, or ask her to teach him how it’s done.

I also believe Ash would never have sex with a married woman. But as they are shape shifters, their jaguars can do a little mating, and that’s going to have to hold them until the end of the book. Wow, I might get to publish this under D.L. Hungerford, and not my erotica pen name, Roxanna Haley! And I’ll be back on Thursday.

How Does Alpha Happen?

For my NaNoWriMo project, I am writing an Alpha male who feels a bond to the heroine but she has her own agenda. When he tries to treat her like a “girl,” he damages the relationship that is barely starting between them. Of course he will have to change and let her fight her own battles to some extent. But how did he get to be that way?

I have trouble writing Alphas, I think. I like nice guys, and I don’t think they finish last. Okay, I started to write an innuendo here, and changed my mind, so just pretend I did. But back to how I am going to make Ash Leander a tough guy when he’s really a pussy cat. See what I did there? He’s a jaguar shape shifter. I crack myself up!

Here’s a list of the 25 traits of an Alpha Male: Ash scores high in 1 and 2, comfortable with himself, and passionate about life. Also 6, high morale code. Finding out his life mate married someone else is devastating to him, but he still won’t leave her side. Even if there’s no way he can be, you know, with her. Sigh.

I don’t think 9 or 10 really apply to Ash. He dresses well, but in the business of covert ops, he usually ends up in ripped shirts and shorts. Ahem. Give me a minute. Here’s the male model whose gorgeous body is my muse for Ash: Not much to go on, sartorially. And growth is something he leaves up to The Family. They run the business, he just does his job.

But the rest are very much spot on. This list narrows it down to five traits: These are the ones that make an Alpha irresistible to women. Confidence, composed, not afraid to take a risk, not given to bragging or worrying what other people thing, and not lacking in leadership skills. Okay. That’s good.

Now that we know what an Alpha is all about, HOW did he get that way? Or did he? Is Alpha vs. Beta personality a myth? So maybe in real life they do not exist, but in Romance Novels, to quote my Amazon parrot, “Heck, yeah!”

I found this list of Alpha males, and found an interesting fact about each of them. Each of these examples started out with a lack of things going for them. Either from poor backgrounds, or considered a freak, or pretty much not worth noticing. Fighting back and making it to the top is the resonating life goal for Alphas.

And that’s pretty much where Ash got his Alpha traits. He was orphaned about the time his jaguar started shifting. Chances are the people in his village would have killed him if he had not been found by the Fidel family. With the help of his foster parents, he learned to take care of himself, to rely on his own skills, and to assist the people around him to make the best of their own skills. He wants everyone to come through their various missions as winners.

I should figure out why Romela isn’t very interested in his skills. Maybe, as this last link quotes at the end of the article, “Alpha Males are jerks. I can’t stand how attracted I am to them.” I’ll be back on Sunday.

November Potpourri

Really looking forward to the chapter meeting this month. Not only is Brenda Novak the featured speaker for both sessions, but there will be the annual baskets drawing for lots and lots of great stuff. I love putting together things for the event, too. I have a cappuccino basket in the works, a tea time basket, and a couple of my potscapes. I mix some figurines with plants, sometimes do a whole scene, but more often just a bit of succulents around a cute dog or squirrel. Creativity, I has it.

Winter Blahs
I thought retiring right before the holidays was a great plan. No need to get out on cold mornings and shiver until the car heater warmed up. (Give me a break, I’m a California native and 65 degrees F seems freezing to me. Let alone when we actually have frost in February or March) But I’m thinking it’s likely I’ll start hibernating any day now. Luckily our daytime temps are in the low 90s. If I start early, I can get some work done before the day gets too hot, and then an hour or so in the afternoon before it gets too cold and dark. I wonder now why weather and temperatures don’t figure more often in my stories. I guess after you mention everyone sweated through their Regency gowns or naval uniforms, you get back to the interesting stuff.

Waiting Room of the Mind
I mentioned before that I have a mental image of a waiting room in my head. There, all the characters from stories and ideas that ever dawned in my brain are waiting for their turn. There’s the alien warrior and her POW love interest, there’s the contemporary romance homeless man and the woman whose life he saves, there’s the rescued dog who tells the story of his owner and her love interest, there’s my Captain Kit Dash and the farm girl who sells supplies to his ship, there’s the hydroponics farmer who falls in love with a basalt harvester – okay, I’ll stop. But it’s really, really crowded. At least I got my shape shifter jaguars out for NaNo.

If it’s not BROKE!
I mention Scribophile frequently, because it’s the place where I talk to other writers and hang out with fun people. Sometimes I post a work or a chapter, and wait anxiously for critiques. Right now there’s a change going on that makes me nervous. It impacts those who post more works for critiques than I do. To put it simply, prior to the change, you had to pay 5 Karma points to post anything. A poem, short story, novella, chapter, etc. Some people thought that unfair. And I understand, if you post a poem, and then are expected to read your first critiquer’s 5,000 word novella in exchange, AND it cost you both the same amount of Karma to post them, you might feel miffed. Squeaky wheels just got oiled. Now it cost 5 Karma points for the first 3,000 words, and a pretty stiff increase for every 500 over that. For those who write longer pieces, Scribophile may have just jumped the shark in terms of usefulness to us. And it’s not a democracy, it’s the place where one person makes the rules because, hey, he invented the thing. Stay tuned for more, because reactions are just starting to boil to the top.

Inspirational Music
I’m out of touch with current music hits in any genre, so when thinking of a good song for one of my two shape shifters, I seem to come up with Peter Gabriel or James Taylor or even the Beatles. I guess it’s not a big deal, since no one will be hearing the music except me and my characters. The female is from Panama. So I really need to look into some salsa and Latino trends. Who knew NaNo would require so much research?

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back on Thursday.