Nutcrackers, Mooses, and Bears Deck the Halls

Nutcrackers, Mooses, and Bears Deck the Halls

It’s A Crazy Time…that’s why we have nutcrackers, trees, mooses, and bears in wreaths on our mantel.

the holiday mantel

The holidays are upon us. The year is rushing to an end, and our thoughts are on the right present for the right person, yummy food (overeating at parties), dieting (next year), exercise (please God let there be time AND no injuries), and all those projects we didn’t get to this year, along with the guilt for not getting them done.

And then there’s the writing schedule, as well. I’ve been looking at my year, and trying to plan my writing/publishing schedule. I mean, down to the word count per day. I’m ambitious, I admit it; but for the first time, I’m convinced that I can do this writing gig. I just took a class by Delilah Devlin and Elle James titled Writing 50 Books A Year (yeah, it’s a tongue in cheek title) and they gave me SO MANY DETAILED spreadsheets, I’m in geek heaven.

Those spreadsheets have given me permission to plan. Permission to plunk down big chunks of time (conferences, vacations) and littler chunks of time (see Dad) and all the projects I want to complete next year, and figure out just how I’m going to do it all.

I’ve decided I’m not going to share my desires for next year’s publishing schedule; I know people who publish a heck of a lot more than I do, and some who don’t publish as much as I do, so there’s really no point in sharing those details until next New Year’s Eve Retrospective on the year.

For the first time, I’ll be planning – really planning – my writing year. With months up on the wall, and inputting my daily word count, and everything. Life is exciting, and my dreams are within my grasp. It’s just a matter of pushing aside fear, that little voice that says “you’re going for too much,” and forging on anyway.

In other news, I’m over at Linda Carroll-Bradd’s blog, where she interviewed me. Go on and take a look – I’m still popping in every now and then, though the blog was last week. (My friend Mary Beth Bass wrote the most awesomest comment ever!)

I’ll try to get some wine picks in for you for the holidays, and a garden post. I know I’m behind on those here, but I was on a deadline, you see.  Right now, I’m deadline free (but that doesn’t mean I’m not writing!), and I’ll be back on deadline at the first of the year, so I’ll try to stockpile some blog posts.

One last thought to leave you with…even though it’s the holidays, and even though there are a million and one things to do and things that can (and do) go wrong, and even though there’s never enough time or money or energy to go around, do yourself a big, huge favor. Let go of the guilt, whatever kind you’re carrying.  Live in the moment. Grab hold of and hug those you love. Express that love whenever possible, because you never know when it’s all just gonna go wrong.

Sending love and big, tight, shoulder-to-knee, rocking side-to-side hugs. And here’s our tree…

The Tree, 2014

The Tree, 2014 And yes, there’s a bear on that tree. Do you see the snowflake fairy? Tom and I got her in Seattle in 1980…so long ago!


Have you read Christmas Star yet? If not, grab it…”A modern day, sweet as hot chocolate fairy tale…” And if you have, would you please leave me a review? Thanks! And my thanks to those who already have reviewed…you know who you are! xo

Life Heats Up

Life Heats Up

Hi there! Yeah, it’s me. Sorry I’ve been absent. There’s been SO much going on that it’s going to take me a while to get everything organized in my brain. But first off, my dad was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for everything he’s done for the San Diego Book Awards and Read-4-Fun programs (both groups live on donations, by the way). He started those two groups twenty years ago, and they’re still going strong. My husband and I, as well as my brother Greg and his lovely wife Tina, were all there to cheer him on.

Chet Cunningham, passing on his wisdom at the San Diego Book Awards night.

Chet Cunningham, passing on his wisdom at the San Diego Book Awards night. Photo by Greg Cunningham.

Yeah, so everyone stood in front of the projector – but that didn’t lessen his savoire faire.

A couple more photos from that night…

Mark A. Clements presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to Chet Cunningham, San Diego, June 21, 2014.

Mark A. Clements presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to Chet Cunningham, San Diego, June 21, 2014.  Photo by Greg Cunningham.

Mark A. Clements is SO TALL (about 6’6″ or 6’7″…) and my dad so short, lol! Below, Daddy rocking his Cunningham tartan hat and beard.

Dad with the plaque, and rocking his beard! June 21, 2014 Photo by Greg Cunningham

Dad with the plaque, and rocking his beard! June 21, 2014 Photo by Greg Cunningham

The San Diego Book Awards ceremony was held about four weeks after he was flooded out of his house. (You can read the first installment and see the photos of that here).  On June 21, 2014 I wandered through the house I’d been born in, and it seemed so small. Bare of everything. Stripped down to the cement foundation, the house looked awkward, old. It felt chilly despite the warmth of the day, as if everything I’ve grown up with and known is gone forever. But I had to face it. Seeing it that way, while my dad is alive, was sad, yes; but not devastating.

dad's bare living room

(The above photo is also by Greg Cunningham.)

As of this writing, Dad’s still not back in his house, but the carpet is in and all the painting is done. (We thought we’d be moving him back in last weekend but it didn’t happen.) As he keeps saying, he’s writing 2K a day because there’s nothing else to do at the residence hotel he’s been staying at (for almost two months now).  He’s discombobulated and just wants to get back to his garden, and who can blame him?

(I’ll have another post later about the 4th of July in Tehachapi – wonderful day!)

As for me, I’ve got lots on my plate. Finishing up a Fairy Tale on spec, editing my ballet novel, working on book 2 of the StarTide Talent Agency series, plus coming out with new editions of my Demon series books (plus book 3, finally!). Busy, but that’s the way I like it.

OH! And I’m working on a 48-hour Film project at the beginning of August, writing with Mona Deutsch Miller and Cailin Maureen Harrison. It’s Mona’s project – I’m just along for the ride, lol!

Plus there are some short plays I’m working on. Busy, it seems, doesn’t begin to describe my life…please add in there the Day Job and family. Whee!

Next week, if you’re in San Antonio, come see me…

RWA national conference 2014

I’ll be at the Romance Writers of America Annual National Conference. There’s a HUGE book signing that’s open to the public on Wednesday, July 23rd, from 5:30pm to 8pm – I’m not signing, but I’ll be there helping the authors who are. I’d love to see you! So grab me and tell me how you know me, because I’m terrible with both names and faces, and I promise you a big squishy hug.

Here we are, in the middle of summer. Hope yours is going swimmingly! Hug your loved ones and keep positive. Life just keeps on getting better.

Write Hard!


When the Words Get Demanding

When the Words Get Demanding

I know, I’ve been sporadic on my blogging again, so sorry. But something in me (or the universe) has shifted, and the words are getting demanding again. Projects are piling up, and I’m carving more time out of my downtime to getting the words done.

This time around, I’m hitting up coffee shops after work to grab an hour (or two, or more). It’s strange to come home after a session and be high on caffeine when I should be winding down for the night.

Cafe au lait at the JumpCut Cafe!

Cafe au lait at the JumpCut Cafe

Here’s the skinny. I’ve got two more books in a brand new contemporary romance series that I need to write this year. I’ve got two shorter, short novella-length stories I need to finish because they’re just cool – those are more along the paranormal lines. Plus, I have two more pieces – one novella and one novel – to finish to complete the first Caine Brothers series.

Hence, hiding in coffee shops. The JumpCut Cafe is in Studio City and is one of my favorite places to write, because I’ve been going there to write or talk about writing for over ten years, back when it was Lulu’s Beehive. The only bad thing? It closes at seven.

So for now, I’m haunting various Starbucks and Coffee Beans, looking for a non-chain cafe that stays open past nine.

In other news, I really need to start a Street Team…anyone interested out there? If so, let me know. And sooner or later I need to start a newsletter, too…there is just so much to do beyond the writing it’s scary, somewhat.

So if I miss posting here, you know why. Words. I’m getting them down as fast as I can.


Street Team! Interested? Let me know in the comments below. And if you’re not interested, that’s fine too – I know how busy we all are. Squishy hugs to you all!


Creative Dry Spell? Suck it Up, Buttercup.

Creative Dry Spell? Suck it Up, Buttercup.

Causes of procrastination - laziness, fear of failure, and perfectionism

Thanks to for the graphic.

Have you been ignoring your work in progress for the last few weeks for any number of really good reasons?  I’m here to tell you that you are not alone; but it’s time to suck it up, buttercup, and get the work done. And while I’m focusing on writers here, this is also true for anyone in the arts who has a dream.

It’s the end of April, and the first quarter of the year is over. Hey, writer. Yeah, you. How are you doing on that latest book of yours? Are you writing at all, or have you burned out? Where are you in your goals that you set up in January? In other words (here’s that dreaded question), how’s the writing going? Or is it going at all?

You are what you consistently do. If you want to call yourself a writer, then look to what you do every day. If writing isn’t on that list, then maybe you aren’t a writer.

Before you get mad or defensive, take a good hard look at your schedule. If you say you don’t have time to write, then take note of how much TV you watch, how many hours you tend to family members by doing things they can do themselves, or how many hours of Candy Crush Saga or Farmville or Bejeweled that you play in a single day. If you turn even half that time into writing time, then not only can you call yourself a writer, but you may actually finish that book that’s been lurking on your hard drive, taunting you. Once you finish it, you can edit it. Once it’s edited, you can submit it (or begin the self-publishing process). Rinse and repeat.

The truth is, those who want to write, write. There is no other answer. So if you aren’t writing, the only person you have to look to for answers is yourself. Why? What’s holding you back?

For many people, it’s doubt. Doubt that you can be any good as a writer. Doubt that anyone will want to read what you write. Doubt that success on any scale is possible for you. But you know what? If you don’t write, then success as a writer ISN’T possible because you don’t have a product for people to read. SLAY THE DOUBT DRAGON. He’s not your friend. The only way to do that? Sit your ass down and write. Every day. No matter what, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes.

For others, it’s stress. You’re worried that your next book won’t measure up to your last book. Or that your editor won’t give you the next three-book contract. Or maybe, it’s been ten years and you haven’t made your first sale yet and you don’t know how much more energy you can put into a career that doesn’t seem to be paying you back either emotionally or monetarily. What then?

Take a break.

Sometimes, a break from writing is just as important as a break from your Day Job.12420082139_KayakingInHalongBay Instead of feeling guilty that you aren’t writing, which can make you resentful, give yourself a day or two off each week. If you haven’t set writing goals (okay, I’ll write for the next fifteen minutes or, I just need a hundred words today), then try that, too. But most of all, be good to yourself.

The writing life is one of discipline. Without it, your books won’t get written and therefore, your words can’t inspire others. If you have the guts to be disciplined about your writing, then you’ll get the work done.

The writing life is one of bravery. You’ve finished the book, edited it, and now comes the time to send it out into the world. Whether it’s a publisher or a contest or putting it up Amazon by yourself, getting your book out there for others to read and judge is an act of bravery, no matter which way you look at it.

The writing life is yours to claim. There’s no secret handshake, no formula, no Blue Light Special at K-Mart that will show you the way. The only thing you need in order to be a writer is to write. Write consistently. Write diligently. Write bravely.

So. What’s your TODAY goal for your writing/creative endeavor? I’d love to know! (Mine is getting 500 words done before my head hits the pillow tonight.)


This article was first published in the Los Angeles Romance Authors monthly newsletter, the LARA CONFIDENTIAL, in August of 2013.

Woo Your Own Heart

Woo Your Own Heart

I wrote this for the January, 2014 LARA Confidential Newsletter, and I liked it so much, I decided to put it up here with a few changes because I always change my work.

So, It’s 2014. January.

A brand new year.  Here we all are, still full of hope that THIS year, we’ll do everything we failed to do LAST year.  All that burden on January. It doesn’t seem fair, does it? So I’m taking this time to point out that maybe it’s not just a once-a-year thing to do – take stock of our lives – but that maybe it should be a daily thing. You know, slow and steady.

My feet haven't changed.

My form of physical health. It’s working for me.

I am resolved to have a healthier year this year, but I’m also very aware that “health” means more than “physical health”.  Mental and emotional health is important, too. Physical, mental, and emotional health are the three legs of our life that we rest on – they are what give us energy to do everything we want and need to do in our life.

When we start from a place of wholeness, we know who and what we are and what, exactly, we want out of our life. When one of the three legs is lacking – say, you’re ill, or you have emotional stresses – it is very hard to compensate for that missing leg. Our work ends up lacking something, and often it can’t be fixed even in rewrites.

Some people can and do write through all the storms of their lives. It is part of what fuels them; it is part of their process.  But I can’t believe that’s healthy, and many of those successful writers often flag as they get older, as the stresses multiply, as their issues (be they mental, physical, or emotional) get so big the issues drown out their writer’s voice.

Writing from a place of wholeness in mind, body and spirit is one of the greatest gifts I’ve decided to give myself this year.  Here is my three-legged approach to a healthy and balanced life.

Physical Health This one, believe it or not, is easy. Eat in moderation. Drink in moderation (if you’re a drinker, that is). Get some regular exercise, even if it’s just parking far from the door of the grocery store. Move the body every 20 minutes if stuck behind a desk. Drink Water!!!

Pay attention to your body. Write down any aches and pains that stick with you for more than a day or so.  Slather your body with lotion after every shower or bath. Smile at your reflection in the mirror, and appreciate the fact that you can walk, talk, think, see, hear, laugh, cry, hold your loved ones. Enjoy your age, because none of us are getting any younger.

Our camp kitchen, and the back end of the pop-up trailer.

Sometimes, mental health calls for getting away from all the electronics in our lives.

Mental Health  Keep optimistic about everything, as much as possible. (If this means ignoring the news, by all means ignore!) Focus on the good in your life. Flush gossip out of your brain.  If troubled about those you love, talk to them and say those worries out loud. In doing so, many of them fade.  Don’t let worries get big by hiding from them. Instead, tackle big issues head-on, such as: pay bills on time (less stress); discuss that difficult issue with your boss; ask your agent for a contract change. Know how much money is in the account so you don’t overspend.  Schedule doctor and eye doctor and dentist appointments ahead of time whenever possible.  Keep a calendar and note important dates on it.

Revel in your accomplishments, and never, ever, talk bad about yourself. Give yourself your BEST self, every day. Then don’t let yourself down. Hell, I know we’re all human.  So forgive yourself for mistakes, for everyone makes mistakes. When you can, put your focus on other people. Smile at strangers, laugh with friends, hug your pets. Never take those in your life for granted.

Emotional Health  Refill the well. Be silent with yourself; or call it meditation. Spend even

A painting of one of the costumes/dancers of The Rite of Spring

A painting of one of the costumes/dancers of The Rite of Spring, shown at the Music Center in Los Angeles February, 2013

ten breaths in quietness, once or twice a day, and allow yourself to fill with love. Read everything, from the philosophers to pulp fiction to the daily news, for everything is fodder for the muse. Visit museums, walk along the beach at sunrise, breathe in the mountain air. Paint, draw, make music even if you’re not an expert at painting or drawing or making music. See live theater or music or go to comedy clubs, for seeing work live brings something to you that a movie or a recording just can’t.  Visit with friends.

Take vacations, even if they’re short. Go places you’ve never been. Go alone. Go with a friend or a significant other.  Forgive anyone you hold a grudge against. Woo your own heart. Let me say that again. Woo Your Own Heart. For you are worthy of wooing. Always.

The truth of the matter is, we can’t go back and relive our youth. We can only move through this life at the age we’re at, and accept and love the person we’ve become.  If you put time into your own physical, mental and emotional health every day, your relationships will blossom. Your heart will fill. And your writing will come from the Passionate You that started writing, and that Passionate You will enjoy it again as much as you did the first time, when you wrote that manuscript and you didn’t have a clue as to what you were doing, and your heart overflowed and your soul expanded and you knew you had just Done Something Wonderful.

I don’t believe in writing “the book of your heart”. I actually loathe that saying. But I do believe that if you’re not passionate about what you write, it won’t strike the chord in your reader that you want it to strike. If you’re not passionate about your work, how can you expect others to be? And if you’re not passionate about your work, then why are you writing?

So this year, take it slow. Focus on all three parts of your health – physical, mental, and emotional, and get as centered as you can. Yes, life will throw you curve balls. No, those curve balls aren’t always pleasant (some find their way to your gut, stealing your breath). But if you keep what matters first and foremost in your heart and your mind, if you remember to be gentle with your body and soul, then you’ll weather the storms Fate has in store for you.  And if you need help, know that there are hands and hearts out there, just waiting to help when asked. But you have to ask.

The daffodils under my apple tree. A happy surprise every Spring!

The daffodils under my apple tree. A happy surprise every Spring!

I truly believe that if you expect the best, or the worst, you’ll get it. So why not expect the best?

May your 2014 be bright with blessings, good friends, and love, always.