The Beast Inside

I’m screaming inside right now.

That’s what happens when you hear news you don’t want. As a reasonable human being with manners, you know you should never scare the people around you. You should grin and bear it. Never let people see you cry or be upset. Otherwise, you’ll have to explain what happened. When you explain, you relive the devastating reality. Then people give you platitudes you can live without. Usually, they say those things because they believe it’s the proper thing to do. So in other words, they say the words to make themselves feel better.

All you can tolerant is someone who will talk about the nice weather. So you keep your mouth shut and manage a faint grin.

Most people do not understand how I feel, so I rather not hear their opinion or receive their sympathy. I keep the screaming inside until I’m numb and can come to terms with the person I am, not the one who I thought I was.

Yet I move on.

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What Did You Say?

Beautiful Woman Enjoys CoffeeSo you’re planning to speak to a group of writers. Most guest speakers will give a little spiel about themselves.  All good. Be sure to tell the things that have relevance to what you’re going to talk about. Sure, you can include a short little story about that time you climbed a mountain, but make sure it’s funny or interesting. Otherwise, drop it.

So you want to enlighten your audience on how your company or organization came to be? Or how the industry changed over the last few years. Be sure to keep it short. Chances are you’re telling your audience what they already know.

I have found that I rarely hear a speech that inspires me. When I do, it is usually because they have told me something I didn’t know, and/or I find it to be of use.

If I can read your slide(s), and they follow along with what you’re saying without adding anything, then they are defeating the purpose. You’ll bore your audience.

You’re probably asking, what should I do?  Of course, follow the major key points on the slides, but colored in between the areas with more information or explanations in your speech. In other words, be sure to explain (in an interesting way) publicwhy those key points are important.

Include “real life” points. That’s when I love hearing about the speaker’s life and their experiences. Or maybe their friend’s or information about a stranger’s experience that’s been verified. Or a funny or emotional, fictional the-moral-to-the-story point. If you’re not funny (personally, I’m sarcastic, not funny), place unexpected pictures or comics in the middle of your slides. It will wake your audience up. Be sure to keep it relevant, borderline relevant is okay.

Be sure to keep your pace steady, but take a couple seconds in between points. Breathe. Do not over explain. Modulate your voice. NO!  Not into a monotone. More into a good rhythm. Stopping and going in a middle of a sentence will make the audience wonder if you know what you’re talking about. UNLESS, you’re using it to make a point or draw attention. Do be sure to practice the presentation. And it’s okay to be excited at times about what you’re talking about. Try to smile though most of the speech. It will come through in your tone.

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(Don’t be a dinosaur)

Do you stand behind the podium? Do you stay in a chair? NO! Get up. Move around. Use your hands. Wave them around on occasion. Like everything in life, do not overdo. Spread the love in various ways.

The most important thing to remember is DO NOT READ YOUR SPEECH.  🙂  Print out an outline of the key points you want to tell the audience. If you’re near to being blind like me, blow up the print. And again, practice your speech.

Love My Shirt

img_1260For those who don’t know, I love hockey. See the jersey my husband’s cousin and his wife got me? I LOVE IT! I promise, Dan, I’ll get hubby to take my picture when I wear it. I’ve worn it at home a couple times already.

I have three favorite hockey players on the Nashville Predator’s team: Forsberg, Johansen, and Arvidisson. So I cherish my Forsberg jersey. It’s fantastic! I have tickets for a game this month and will be wearing it proudly.

If you don’t know, my love of hockey blossomed only a little over a year ago. Hey, I am a southern girl and most people in the South do not watch it, but I have to point out it’s becoming more popular each year down here. What with the Nashville Predators (Go Preds!) and the two teams in Florida. But people ask me all the time, why?

Think about it, college football is king in the South, but football has never caught my interest. I swear I’ve tried.

I love NASCAR (I haven’t turned in my Southern Belle card yet) and 48 Jimmie Johnson (yum), but the fast cars no longer hold my attention like when Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was alive.

Truthfully, I could tell you all the things that led me to it, but mainly, I’ve found that I enjoy it for many reasons.

The fast pace:  The NHL players hit speeds of 20 to 30 miles an hour during 60 minutes of play, broken up in 20 minute periods. Each player will be on the ice for spurts of one to two minutes. Usually adding up to 15 to 20 minutes of play during the whole game. That doesn’t sound like much? Let me see you run with anywhere 15 to 25 pounds of equipment for that long. And that’s with someone chasing and slamming into you.

The strategy:  Think of it, they have to figure out how to get that little puck around that huge goalie and into the net while everyone else is wanting to take it from you. Teamwork is a major part of winning. Of course, that’s all true of any team sport.

The athletic stamina:  Re-read what I said in “fast pace” above.  OMG! Those big men on thin blades, falling or being pushed down or into the boards (the sides of the rink) and then jumping up as if nothing happened. They freaking amaze me.

The fights: Of course, I do get a little excited — no matter how sick it sounds — when a good fight breaks out, even if they are only shoving at each other. Men will be men, and I love celebrating that, especially since it is in a controlled environment. (Though I don’t care for boxing if you’re wondering.) Besides, next year, those same men could be traded to the same team and be best buds. I swear, that’s one of the things I love about men. They know how to prioritize.

And I’m not a violent woman, though I write about violent men all the time in my books. Maybe there’s something deep inside I’ve never been aware of until I got older. Neither here or there.

Graceful, healthy men:   Yes, all things come down to men in my interests. I’ve come to terms with my hang up, so everyone needs to get over it.  *smirk*

Let me enjoy my sport. I’m proud that I finally picked one, and I personally think it’s the best.

Letter to Realtors

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Picture of our house years ago

In the next six months, hubby and I plan to sell our house of 23 years and move closer to the grandkids and our moms.  Presently, we’re around an hour away and the traffic between the families are getting worse each year.

 
So we’re moving into the country on the other side of the city, and we’re a little excited about it. And if you’re wondering, NO, WE ARE NOT DOWNSIZING. Why do people keep asking that? If we lived in a huge house, I could understand it, but we don’t. I had to tell people, if we move into a smaller home, I will have to strangle my hubby.

 
We have already started looking at homes in the areas we’re interested in. I have to say some people have poor taste when it comes to decorating their homes, while others are borderline hoarders. With that being said, hubby and I plan to donate the majority of our attic to the Good Will. We are presently forcing our daughters to take their childhood stuff that was stored in said attic into their homes. Now they are donating all of their precious memories they asked us to keep. HA! I knew it.

Anyway, we’ve already learned a lot about what we can expect for our money. And wow, there is a lot for the realtors to learn about taking pictures of those homes. So here’s my letter to the ladies and gentlemen selling homes (same goes to the “for sale by owner” sellers).

Realtors, when taking pictures of the houses you have for sale, remember the following.

1. Invest in a good digital camera. Heck, even some (expensive) phones have pretty good cameras in them now. Please have your children, niece, nephew, grandchildren show you how to use it correctly. Then the picture won’t be blurred or too dark.

2. I don’t care what the shower curtain looks like, or the beautiful foyer table. Close ups of those will not sale the house. Those items will be going with the original owners, unless the house comes furnished. Then I will throw away the curtain (yuck, germs), and sell most or all of the furnishings.

3. Similar to number two, but reference house fixtures staying there. Don’t take up-close pictures of the commode (double yuck), sink, dishwasher, or light fixtures. It’s amazing how I can tell what they are by looking at a picture of the whole room.

4. Speaking of dark, take the pictures during the day and not a cloudy day or late evening. Open the curtains. Dark rooms are depressing and I don’t want a depressing house. Or invest in a photographer’s light. Check Ebay or Craig’s list. Photographers are selling them all the time to upgrade or get out of the business.

5. Why are you showing pictures of trees and bushes? Be sure the outside of the house is in the picture if you do. One picture will do for that area. Not ten of the same spot from different angles.

6. Diplomatically, ask the owner to take down family pictures. We must imagine living there with our family pictures. This includes their favorite team’s memorabilia to make it look less obsessed. Of course, the same goes for their turtle collection.

7. Two pictures of the same room from different angles are fine, if you must. But please, I don’t need individual pictures of the window, closet, built-in shelves, and overhead light (see #3 above). I’ll come and visit the house if I’m interested and check them out.

What would you add?

Out of My Control

There are times I have to say it over and over again. Oddly, I think about John Malkovich’s character saying “It’s beyond my control.” He was using it as a manipulation to drive another woman nuts. I use it to keep myself from going crazy worrying about things I have no true control over. I keep moving. I keep trying to look at the brighter side.

On my dad’s death in 2014, I’m sure he thought he left his affairs in order. He had a will and divided all his possessions between his three children. Easy-peasy.

Uh, no.

Dad had/has a loan on his house and market (flea market type building and land). The market has a buyer for it, but will take years to clear up. Long story. Today, we finally received a couple offers on the house. Another long story.

See, in 2007, my dad had a stroke. He owned a trucking company (he sold afterwards), and he and his co-driver had stopped at a rest stop in Virginia when it happened. If he had cooperated with the EMTs that were called in and gone to the local hospital, he probably would have recovered at least 80% to 90%. Heck, who knows, maybe in 100%. But he refused and waited until he arrived in Alabama before going to a hospital. NEVER DO THAT. Go immediately to the hospital. Have someone drive you or call 911 and tell them you’re having a stroke. Don’t worry if you’re wrong. Just do it.

So because of the stroke, he had numbness on his right side, and in turn, problems with falling and not being able to get up. And he had difficulties with speaking. He could talk, but every few words or so wouldn’t come out. He’d get so frustrated.

All of this was very hard for him. He loved working and talking, and suddenly he found he couldn’t do those two things.

I have to mention. My dad walked with a cane (his right side remained numb). Since his mouth wouldn’t work correctly (as he liked to say), he talked slower and with a stutter. I can’t tell you how upset I became with service people in restaurants and stores. They would talk to him as if he was a child or dumb. He wasn’t. People have to remember, just because a person has a problem talking, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re mentally deficient.

He continued to have physical problems. I believe toward the end, his depression grew until his being unable to work, unable to communicate, and unable to replenish his funds pushed him to do the only thing he thought would make everything better for everyone. He walked out of his home into the side yard and shot himself in the head.

In the year and seven months since then, I’ve worried about so much. I guess my biggest worry is that other people I love will begin to believe this is a solution to all their troubles. To me, it appears suicide can be contagious. Over the last thirty years, I have had three relatives on the same side of the family to commit suicide.

Please believe me. Your troubles might end, but you have created many, many problems for those left behind. For those who love you. For those who care about you. There will be a hole in their lives that can never be filled. They’ll wonder over and over again,”if only I did something different.” Tell them what’s happening. They would want to know. I swear.

Anyway, if you ever think of ending your life, be sure to call 800-273-8255. One of the great things about the Internet is how you can search out ways to move you from such dark thoughts. But why not talk to a live person who is trained to help you?

If you had a love one to have a stroke, be sure to click here and read the number one killer. Depression.

If you had a family member or love one who committed suicide, be sure to read this.

It’s a horrible thing, but you don’t have to be alone. Find the right people to talk about it, especially if the rest of the family or friends try to ignore it or say stupid things like, it was for the best. No. It wasn’t.

Anyway, I felt it was time for me to talk about it. I have a couple friends I told after it happened. Otherwise, only my family and I have talked about it and very little. I just hope and pray others will never have to go through it.

Why did I pick today to tell you about it? Because it’s my dad’s birthday. He would have been 85. I rather celebrate his birth. And if I can help one person, it will be worth typing the extremely personal details above.

Happy birthday, Dad. I love and miss you.

Head Explodes

Angry, Frustrated WomanYep. Some days I feel my head will explode from all that I have to do and remember. I’m sure you’re the same way. So much information is thrown our way each day. Heck! Each second! I think all the information we receive in some ways makes us aware but not really smarter. So we have to decide what is important and what isn’t. So over the years I’ve narrowed down what I watch and read.

I’m looking forward to retiring from my day job. Then I can empty my head of all the useless (will be after I leave) information and make room for what I love. Reading and writing romance. Improving my craft, learning new ways to promote my books (if you don’t know they exist, how would you know to read them?), and so many interesting facets to being a published author.

One of my big drawbacks is my self-confidence. I believe a lot of authors have that problem. So something I read today I have to share with you. It got me to thinking. (HA!)

From Wizard of Oz
Wizard: Not having fear isn’t brave, it’s foolhardy. Any real hero knows fear.
Cowardly Lion: I’ll tell you one thing though, so does a real coward.
Wizard: The difference is a hero masters his fear.

So here’s to mastering my fears.

~~

On January 15, I will be at the Romance Magicians’ blog.  Come by and see me!

What Model Of Alpha Do You Want?

tumblr_myfffeXLM61srko8to1_r1_500Reviews are a double edge sword. Authors want and need them to get the word out about their books, but reviews with low ratings and pure hate for a book are not helpful in my opinion. The reason I say it that way is that I had a well-known blogger tell me even horrible reviews can help sell a book. You know, everyone wanting to see if a book is really as terrible as everyone is saying. Heaven forbid, if that ever happens to me. I’m all for the positive hook.

Anyway, reviews per se is not what this post is about.

Occasionally, I read reviews from some of my favorite authors. Why you ask? Whenever I’m feeling down about my writing (what the fuck am I doing?) and need to see even my favorite NYT bestselling authors have a handful of disparagers among their hundreds of five star reviews. Yesterday, I was looking at an author whose publisher had released her backlist in ebook. So thrilling because now I can get copies for my iPad and the paperbacks can stay on my shelves in good condition.

On one hand, I was surprised by the many one stars (and anger) for books I love of hers. As I read the reviews, the main theme appeared to be the way the heroes treated the heroines.

See, from 1970s to 1990s, it had been popular for the heroes to be what I call supreme alphas. It started with the bodice rippers (literally, and by the way, I freaking hate that term for current day romance in general). Yes. Historical romances were queen in the beginning and the heroes thought nothing of ripping the bodice off the heroines. It was so different from what women had been reading before then. I can get into the dynamics of the sexual revolution and birth control and woman finding out they loved sex when there was little fear of pregnancy (only 2% to 9% fear as pills are 91% to 98% effective), but that is still not what this post is about.

In my dear favorite author’s earlier books, the heroes bossed and took over the heroines’ lives as if the women had no sense at all. At the time, and to a point nowadays, I love reading books with those types of heroes. But from what I’ve read in other articles, reviews and in general conversations with twenty- to thirty-something readers, they do not want a hero to act that way. In real life, I wouldn’t either, but, folks, this is fantasy. Anyway, onward and upward…

I thought that was interesting considering how many readers love kinky doms (BDSM), demanding billionaires, and dangerous bikers (MCs). So I compared the differences and realized in most cases, the older romances with dominating males, the heroes came across as cold and unfeeling at least until the end. While the new wave alphas show tenderness and often sweet talk their heroines, they are the same type of heroes, but they have smoother edges.

Both have pluses and minuses. I have found that sometimes when I’m reading a new author’s male point of view, the guys sound a little girlish. More of how the author wished a male would be. From what I know of most men, they are straightforward in speech and action and rarely think about how so-and-so feels about something. They believe they do what must be done and not worry overmuch about it. They have gut feelings and realizations. Not all of that touchy, feely, (I’m not talking about sex) I-have-to-talk-it-out stuff. Of course, there are the exceptions, but they are usually the villains.  HA!

Oh, if you’re reading an old romance, be sure to keep all of this mind. Hopefully the publisher (or author, if self-published) will show the original published date. It would be best in the end. Fewer rants by readers. Geez!

My Thoughts on Self-Publishing

Hidden Heat_SwaffordYep. My thoughts. Doesn’t mean they’re written in stone or scientifically correct, this is mostly just what I read and heard from others, and personal experience.

Sadly, I believe that the majority of the people who self-publish are like the thousands of people who went to California or Alaska to strike it rich. No. The gold wasn’t spread across the ground in nuggets. No. You couldn’t sit there and expect things to happen. Yes. There are people waiting to take your money and give little in return.

First a fact, I asked my editor and agent a simple question. Since the self-publishing boom, have you seen a decline, same amount, or increase in submissions? My agent said it was the same amount, while my editor said it had increased.*tumblr_myfffeXLM61srko8to1_r1_500

I truly thought it would be less. So often I hear from those who are self-published that they will never go through a traditional publisher. God bless America! I think it’s great they have the choice.

But from the information my agent and editor kindly provided me, I understand that to mean writers still prefer the traditional route. No surprise there.

I know I prefer going with a traditional publishing house. Yes, I do have two novellas (short books) I self-published, and will probably do it again in the future for the heck of it. Overall, I rather have a publishing house handling/paying for the editing, cover, and distribution.

To me, self-publishing took too much time away from what I prefer to do: to be with my family and write. (I have a full time day job.) Plus to self-publish a book correctly, it takes money. I spent $500 per novella to prepare them for publication.

I’m sure there are dozens of stories out there about a person who didn’t pay for editing, did their own art work and published it only on Amazon and made thousands of dollars. Yet, at the same time those dozens have to be compared to the thousands upon thousands of people who self-published with little to no success.

Woman Reading a DiaryThink of it this way, in 2013, there were 11 MILLION books for sale on Amazon (includes nonfiction). Presently, there are over 900,000 Kindle books. I like the playing field to be stacked in my favor, and personally, being published traditionally does that. Another way to do that is to improve my writing. It takes constant work.

Nothing is perfect. Nothing is easy. As Ray Bradbury said, “–hard work pays off. If you want to be good, you have to practice, practice, practice.”

And goodness, I do practice.

If you’re interested in checking out my books, click on a link below.

Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Kobo Books
All Romance Ebooks

*Random House use to be an agent only publishing house until they started Loveswept back up (2011) as an e-book imprint. Now you can submit to Loveswept without an agent.

Three Types of Alphas

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Release date 2/24/2015 Amazon.

Over the years, I’ve heard debates on the plus and minuses of Alpha and beta heroes. Personally, I prefer Alpha heroes, and strangely, as unchanging Alphas appear to be, they have been changing with the times. Maybe it has to do with women liberation and the younger generation.

Geez, that last part makes me sound so old.

I guess it’s because I don’t have a problem with a man being a man. For a man to beat his chest and open my doors never bothered me. But at the same time, why are women still referred to as Mrs. in the business world or if I’m purchasing something? Hell, I’m proud of being married to my hubby (love him dearly), but what does my marital status have to do with my work? Men are Mr., no matter if they’re married or not. Never understood it. Equal rights and all.

Sorry, got off track. Back to the three type of Alphas.

1.  The Tarzan Alpha.  Loved watching Tarzan movies on TV when I was a kid (they were re-runs of re-runs), but as an adult in the present PC environment, the movies from the 1930s for sure show a hero Tarzan11who’s not really very nice to Jane. Even in one film, he tears her clothes off. Of course, he’s just curious about the clothing. Yeah. Right. It was the same movie (Tarzan and His Mate) along with a few others that helped bring about censoring movies in Hollywood during that period. The Johnny Weissmuller ones were my favorites. By the way, Tarzan’s English name was John Clayton. Thought I would throw that in.

Now on to this Alpha. At times, he can come across as being not the smartest cookie in the pack. Maybe because he’s raised by apes/wolves/lions/etc., from a different planet or time. Isn’t that a great excuse to do whatever he wants? But when he’s in his environment, watch out! You’ll look a fool if you underestimate him.

The other side of the same coin, this Alpha can also be super-smart, and you’ll know it from the start. Often he’s that way because he’s lived a horrible life. Cruel biological or foster parents/guardians, bad choices or friends, etc. So he grows up thinking women are nothing but sex toys for him to play with. That is, when he’s not busy taking care of business. He often plays a brutish hero, steam rolling over the heroine, forcing her to do what he says. “For her own good.” Hey, I enjoy reading this type, but no way do I want to be around one in real life.

What authors write this type? Lori Leigh, Anne Stuart (she has some scary, delicious ones), Beth Kery, and Nalini Singh (some I’m told).

2. The James Bond Alpha. This is the category where most Alphas fall. They’re self-James Bondsufficient and don’t believe they need a woman until they meet The One. Sometimes they have a hard time recognizing her. That’s the part we find so much fun: watching him come to terms, that he can’t live without her. Oh, yeah. The mighty falls hard.

And don’t be hating my favorite James Bond. Even today, wrinkles and all, Pierce Brosnan is so sexy.

The authors for his type? Linda Howard, Maisey Yates, Debra Webb, Anne Stuart (her Ice series has this, mixed with the Tarzan) and Carla Swafford (of course, I had to add mine).

3. The Jamie Alpha.  Yes. Simply stated. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, you haven’t read, watched or listened (audio) to any of the OUTLANDER books. The author has created a new alpha. He’s strong, gentle, and reasonable. Expects his woman to be as honest as he is and to stand by her man. But he’s willing to sacrifice his life or even give her up to protect her. Jamie

The authors with this type of Alpha? Diana Gabaldon (duh!), Betty Bolte, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Victoria Dahl (some), and my next book will have a lot of this Alpha in the hero. The book is due out February 2016 and should be titled BURNOUT [update: title has been changed. More about that later.] More info to come in the next few months.

As you noticed, the authors I mentioned have a mixture of Alpha heroes (including mine), but they appear to gravitate to the types I mentioned.

Something I noticed when I finished writing this post, all three Alphas are named after characters from the U.K., and all have “J” names.  Funny. HA!

Anyway, comment and let me know what authors you believe match up to the Alphas above. Chances are I’ll love to read them.