Being Professional

Being Professional

My husband called me a professional last night, and no, we weren’t having the smexy times, lol.

EDITED: Okay, I decided after much stomach churning to delete most of the post because it wasn’t – ahem – professional. It was me, whining. And no one likes to listen to someone whine, do they?

Whee, I’m still learning!

But I do want to hear about what you consider being a professional means. Is it how you act? Is it what you do, how you dress? Does it make a difference WHAT you do as to how “professional” you are? Do you equate a college degree with a certain amount of professionalism?

For me, being a professional as a writer means more than just how many plays/books I’ve published or how much money I’ve made. It also means I need to be willing to listen to opinions on my work and to take what is helpful, and think hard about the rest before discarding anything. It means being open to learning.

This is also a philosophy I try my hardest to use in my Day Job, too. Because no one is perfect. (Which is why I finally edited the heck out of this post.)

What is your definition of a professional? I’d love to know, so please share, would you?


Until next time, be good to each other!

Of Theater Widows and Broken Legs

Of Theater Widows and Broken Legs

Sorry for my lack of posting. It’s been a bit of hell around here this week. Both good and bad, and don’t they always seem to go hand in hand?

Me and the Boot on vacation in Mammoth Lakes, California. August, 2011.

First off, I’m back in The Boot. Yes, that lovely fashion statement is once again a staple of my wardrobe. On Monday, I managed to step wrong and cause a hairline fracture just slightly off from the place I broke my fibula 18 months ago. When the pain didn’t go away immediately, I made an appointment with my bone doc – and back in the boot am I. For a minimum of two weeks, then we take another x-ray to see what’s what.

At least it’s not the four months like the last time.

Theater Widow

And in other good/bad news, my hubby has been hired in a theater production down in San Diego, starting early next week and running until the beginning of June. He’s excited (when I have more detail, I’ll share) and I’m so happy for him. But right now, past midnight, I’m miserable. I mean, I’m used to being the kind of Theater Widow where the hubby is gone for hours, not days. The type where I go to sleep by myself, but wake up next to him in the morning. So this is different.

Plus, right now, he’s off auditioning for other jobs that don’t even start until this one is

From L to R, Tim, Tom and Chet Ashworth. Mammoth, 2011

over; and they aren’t here in the L.A. area. Which means more being apart. Which totally sucks. Since I turned fifty – since my warranty broke, lol – we’ve grown so much closer. He’s been there with me through all the worry and adversity and we’ve come out the other side a lot stronger, together.

I’m not good at being alone, I find. I don’t eat well. I drink a little too much. I don’t write, which is a damned shame and something that I must fix. I feel very alone, which is silly since my two grown sons are just down the hall. But a part of me is missing, and I’m not at all happy about that. And he’s only been gone since Tuesday!

In the grand scheme of things, I’m slightly ashamed at my weakness. I mean, my husband isn’t serving in the military, half way around the world. He’s not in mortal danger every day. I know a lot of military wives, and I am in awe of how resilient they are. I suppose, if my husband had traveled a lot throughout our marriage, I too would be much more resilient and self-reliant and stiff-upper-lippy about it. But I’m not. Inside, I’m whiny and mopey and feeling very sorry for myself.

I probably need to make a plan for these long nights. First off, eat extremely healthy and have only one glass of wine. Second, write. Third, figure out Face Time. (I have skype but the hubby’s iPad has Face Time.) Otherwise, I will waste my time in front of the TV set, watching Project Runway or NCIS reruns or something like that, when I should be doing something much more productive, like getting this book finished. And the next one. (Because I can’t sell them if they’re not finished!)

So, deep breath. I will survive. (Not too sure about the garden, though – hubby was my main garden hand. Will need to press the boys into servitude.) I’ve got RWA Chapter meetings to go to this weekend, and I’ll actually see the hubs for a few hours. Plus writing will get done. I swear it.

How’s your week been? What’s been Good? What’s been Bad?

~ Until the next time, cheers! ~


Demon Soul and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle and Kobo! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?


Writer Beware

Writer Beware

Traps Abound

It’s been years since I’ve played this game…

Remembering to be aware of traps and leeches is something that I have to remind myself of every so often, especially after going through last years’ receipts. Every writer should beware of the traps set for the unwary. Unfortunately, every trap is different, too, depending on the person and where they are in their career. So I decided to share with you the stuff that’s tripped me up over the past few years.

In no particular order, here are the things I have learned to be wary of as I go about building my career.

1. People Who Make Money Off of Writers. Every art form has them, the people who are like leeches, bleeding those who can least afford to spend the money because we’re desperate for guidance. (These are the people who get actors and dancers to perform for free, because every actor and dancer isn’t quite who they think they are when they aren’t performing. I’ve been both, and I get it.) Who are these people making money off you? They are those who profess to know what you need to learn because they have done it, and now are willing to teach you. I’m not saying all teachers are in it just for the money; in many instances, you can find good teachers at reasonable rates (especially online) who will teach you what you need to know/want to learn.

Plus many teachers are very good at it, and they do it because they see a need and they know they can fulfill that need. But when those rates go sky-high? (Tip: Just because it’s expensive doesn’t mean it’s a good class.) When the class is less than satisfactory? Yeah, then you have a problem. YOU ARE BETTER OFF WRITING YOUR NEXT BOOK than take a class you really can’t afford and might not get much out of. That said, classes can be vital to our growth. Budget your class money, and be very careful how you spend it or you’ll be like me. I’ve got several classes that I’ve spent over a hundred dollars each on last year, and you know what? Few of those classes were memorable and made a difference in my work. And now money is tight. If I’d saved that money, I could have gone to National Conference this year. Lesson learned.

2. Beware Of Other Writers’ “How To Do (whatever)”. This one is similar, and yet a little different from the one above. If you are like me, and you go to conferences and writer’s meetings, you have all these people sharing their way (or “a” way) to do things. Like, plot. How many different plotting structures are there? Without thinking too hard about it, I can think of 4. The problem for me is, none of these work AS I’M WRITING.  Now, that may just be me, but still – I’ve had workshops totally mess me up and paralyze my writing. Not pretty.

I came to this epiphany at the SoCal RWA Conference last month. I was lucky enough to continue a dialog I had started with the fantastic Brenda Chin back at Desert Dreams last year. (My other posts about Brenda are here and here.) So, we’d talked about a book I’d sent to her and she said the plot needed work. We talked, I revised the plot and sent in the synopsis to her, and we met up at the SoCal RWA Conference where she said, yeah – there’s too much plot.

But but but – I had used the Latest and Greatest Plotting Device in my Toolbox – The Blake Snyder Save The Cat way to plot! (Blinks eyelashes, widens eyes innocently.) How can it possibly be too much? (Trust me, it was. Too much. Way. WAY. Too much. Maybe not for a single title, but DEFINITELY too much for a category romance.) Just another instance of how a great new “tool” can totally derail you. (Or maybe that’s just me.) Yes, be a sponge. Absorb all you can. Then let it all go, and just write.

(BTW – Brenda sat with me and explained the nuances of a catagory romance plot. Book is in progress. I’m a happy girl!) (Also BTW – you’d think, after reading the books for so many years, it would be ingrained. It wasn’t. Sigh.)

3. Jealousy This one hurts. Mainly because it hurts all ways around. There are some people I know who have marvelous careers that started writing at about the same time I did. I’ve learned to be happy for them and only mildly envious, instead of wildly jealous. Jealousy does no one any good. I have come to learn that, had I had early success with my writing, I most likely would have burned out because I wasn’t that good. No, seriously. I had a lot to learn. I STILL have a lot to learn, and I’m looking forward to that journey. I am content with my path because, frankly, everyone’s path to success will look different. Kick jealousy to the curb, you won’t regret it.

4. Anyone Who Promises You A Fast Solution is lying. There are none. There is no magical way to lose weight except through hard work. There is no magical way to become a brilliant writer except through hard work. There is no magical way to become a better person/good mother/loving spouse/best friend/critique partner except through hard work. No one will hand you a career. You have to work hard for it. Anyone who promises a fast solution is talking about moving money from your pocket to theirs. They win, you lose.

5. Anyone Who Says “You Must” or “Must Not” With Regards To Your Career. Be REALLY wary about these people, because often (but not always – see #1) they are people in power. At my very first conference (2002), I had an editor tell me that paranormal was dead on arrival, and try something else. Three years later, Ms. Meyer set the ball rolling with Twilight. Do take whatever your agent/editor says seriously, take it and live with it and make it your own – but if your gut rebels, then look at the relationship. Open that dialog again, and work it out with the person who gave it to you. Don’t take their position on an issue at face value. If after discussion it still doesn’t sit right, then their advice isn’t for you. This may change your career, but hell – IT’S YOUR CAREER. Not theirs.

6. Be Careful on Social Media. This should also be called the “don’t bash anyone” point. You may have been dismissed by every publisher in the business; but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to Indie pub your book and then trash talk about all publishing houses everywhere on social media. All that does is make you look childish and, perhaps, a wee bit unstable. Instead, use the trite but true “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all” when it comes to social media. Because honey, what goes on the internet never dies.

I am a soft touch. I’m easily convinced the next wonderpill will make me look like a 20 y/o Victoria’s Secret model (after airbrushing) in real life. That the next skin cream will have people looking at me with delight and wonder at my glowing vitality.  That a stranger will come up to me on the street and tell me I’m beautiful. (Oh, wait – that really did happen. Twenty years ago.) I’ve learned the hard way, and I no longer have the money to toss away on a class that won’t get me anything but a handful of followers (or whatever).

So I’m passing on my hard-won knowledge (for free, lol!). Please, all you wonderful writers and actors and dancers and photographers and artists and game designers out there just trying out your wings – please be careful. Search out the traps. Spend your money wisely. Keep working at your craft and keep your eyes open for new opportunities, and beware of those selling promise-covered snake oil. There are no short cuts.

We Need More Writers and Poets, Dreamers and Lovers in the World.

Without them, the world is a poorer place.  Do you have a lesson to share? Please do!

~ Until the next time…Cheers! ~


Demon Soul and Demon Hunt are available for the Kindle and Kobo! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?

Dad’s Words, No. 1 – On Writing

Dad’s Words, No. 1 – On Writing

Chet Cunningham

Okay, so. On Sunday, as my last post here said, Tom (the hubs) and I went to see my Daddy and to work in his garden. Well, Tom worked in the garden. I interviewed my dad. See, there’s a lot I never knew/don’t remember/mom never told me. And now mom is gone (6 years in April), so she can’t talk to me.

So I’m interviewing my Dad, Chet Cunningham, every time I go down to see him now. About everything I can think of/dare to ask (and there are some areas I haven’t even considered broaching yet, but I’ll get there). Here it is (and here’s a picture).

Chet Cunningham, June 2011

Interview No. 1.

Me: So, Daddy. How did you become a writer?

Chet Cunningham: The stock answer is in high school, I had an essay test in English on a book I don’t remember now. I wasn’t too sure of the answer, so I wrote down everything I could remember. Got an A on the paper, and an A in the class. And I said, hey, this writing thing is easy.

Me: I had to laugh at this, because I learned in the 8th grade (history I think) that I could ACE essay tests. Who knew that’s where I got it from?

Me: What happened next?

CC: I signed up as a journalist major with Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. But I didn’t pass the English test, so I got put into bonehead English. And the professor in charge of Journalism said, you can’t be a journalism major if you’re in bonehead English.  I said to him, by the way, I’ve sold a couple of articles to the Portland Journal. He said to me, selling a couple articles doesn’t make you a journalist.

Now, the emphasis in the classes I was taking was toward working on a newspaper, but I wanted to write for magazines.

Me: What was your first writing job?

CC: A buddy of mine, Hans Running and I, had a photography business during college. A way to make some extra money. He saw that the Central Oregonian was looking for a reporter, I applied, and I got the job. I graduated, then two months later, I got drafted.

Me: That would be for the Korean War, right?

CC: Right. After I came home, I applied to Columbia University to the Master’s Program in Journalism.

Me: Wow. What was Columbia like?

CC: Fast and furious. One of my professors told all us new kids to be sure go do the tourist stuff. Go to the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the museums, see a play or two or three on Broadway, walk in Central Park. Do it while you’re here, because you  may never get back. So Rosie and I did all the touristy things.

It wasn’t until later that I found out the college was reaching out to as many states as possible for students, and I was the only student who applied from Oregon. Columbia is also where I learned to never, never, never use the word “very”. It’s the weakest word in the English language.

Me: I remember you telling me that years ago. Okay, let’s skip ahead. You wanted to be a writer, and you wrote. What kind of writers’ books did you read? Any craft books?

CC: No.

Me: *totally shocked* No?

CC: No. I wasn’t brought up to read. That wasn’t how I learned the best. So I just wrote.

Me: But you wrote westerns. Your first western – you sold Bushwhackers in the Circle K in 1968.

CC: I got a grand total of $300 for it, too. I decided to learn how to write westerns – my dad by that time was reading lots of Louis L’Amour. So I read all I could, and marked them up, and wrote the book. And sold it. The editor, he said, “Well, it’s not the best book I’ve read, but I’ll buy it.”

Me Again.

So there you have it. My dad, Chet Cunningham, who’s had over 300 novels published not to mention all his non-fiction books, has never read a writing craft book. This was so illuminating to me. Why?

I’ve read many books on writing. The best ones, in my opinion, don’t tell you what to do, but just keep encouraging you to do it. The War of Art by Pressfield, for instance, or On Writing by Stephen King.

I’ve read books, taken how-to classes, learned different story structures, and all of them seem to tie me up into over-writing paralysis. For instance, I can’t even begin to use Donald Maas’ “Writing The Breakout Novel” way to write. It tangles me up in knots and I can’t do it. It’s not for me. It might work well for you, and that’s terrific.

I wrote a synopsis based on Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat, and guess what? TOO MUCH PLOT. Okay, maybe that one will work for a single title, but not a shorter novel. And then I remembered something else my dad taught me, years ago when I had just begun to write. I asked him how he structured his synopses.

He said, just tell the story in first person, present tense on the page. Don’t use too many pages, don’t tell too many little details.

Brilliant advice, Daddy.

The hands that wrote the books.

Did I mention he’s got arthritis?


Do you have any books on writing that really worked for you? How about ways of plotting? Please share!

~ Until the next time, cheers! ~


Demon Soul and Demon Hunt are all available for the Kindle and Kobo! Have you fallen into the Caine Brothers’ world yet?



Writer Wednesday ~ Toni de Palma

Writer Wednesday ~ Toni de Palma

Today I have the lovely and talented Toni de Palma on my blog, and we’re celebrating her upcoming release, The Devil’s Triangle, which goes live on February 15, 2013. So without further ado, let’s jump into the interview, shall we?

CA: What made you decide to write a novel?
TdP: Cooper, my main character, was too hard to ignore. He’s a teenage boy with a heart of gold, who isn’t bad on the eyes either. Cooper struggles with doing the right thing and his inner bad boy.

CA: Why paranormal?
TdP: Cooper not only has to deal with his inner Devil, but the real Lucifer too.

CA: How many books/short stories do you have planned for this series?
TdP: Three. I’m putting the finishing touches on the second book, The Devil’s Temptation, now.

CA: Where would you live, if you could live anywhere in the world?
TdP: That’s tough. I love Paris, but I also love the Italian island of Ischia where my dad is from. A little bungalow in Key West isn’t a bad idea either.

CA: Name 3 simple joys in your life.
TdP: According to my husband, I am anything but simple, but I’ll try. I love my bike, my dog and family dinners.

CA: If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead or fictional, who would it be and where would you go to eat?
TdP: I feel like I did this this past summer when my husband, son and I had many wonderful dinners in Italy.

CA: If you could give just one piece of advice to a writer starting out, what would it be?
TdP: Find a wonderfully supportive writers group that will also keep you accountable. I would be nowhere without my group.

CA: What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have a Day Job?
TdP: I teach creative writing at a local college and am planning a writers retreat in Ischia, Italy. You can find out more about the retreat at

CA: Ooh, a writer’s retreat in Italy! I’ll have to save for it, that sounds divine! And at least, when you’re teaching creative writing, you are also immersing yourself in writing. That’s soo cool!  Name one thing your fans would be surprised to learn about you.
TdP: Don’t tell anyone, but my grammar stinks. Thank goodness for editors!

CA: Oh, I know! I LOVE my editors. They are the BEST people in the world! Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
TdP: Nope, I think that’s it. Thanks!

CA: Thank YOU, Toni, for coming to Writer Wednesday!

The Cover:

The Blurb:

When 17 year old Cooper dies in an attempt to burn down his school, he finds himself in the afterlife. Lucy, the Devil’s sister who has crossed party lines, decides to give Cooper another shot at heaven. The deal? Cooper returns to Earth and has to find a girl named Grace. The rest is up to him.

     While Cooper figures out his mission, he’s thrown into the life he’s always wanted. Great parents, a spot on the Varsity football team and a real future are all within reach. But what he really wants is Grace, a feisty girl with an abusive boyfriend who can pound Cooper into pulp if he doesn’t watch out.

     While Lucy plays demonic-puppeteer, clues to an unknown past between Cooper and Grace start to unravel. Cooper discovers that what’s keeping him and Grace apart is far more sinister than anything this bad boy could have ever imagined.

Where to Find Toni:

Goodreads book page:

Goodreads Author Page:



Facebook Author Page:!/WriterToniDePalma?fref=ts



Thanks for stopping by – please give Toni some comment love!