Friday, April 29, 2016

Follow Your Bliss


I'm a lucky girl. I've had the opportunity to pursue numerous passions in my life. I’m happiest when I have a sense of purpose—a pursuit (or two or three) that embodies my values, beliefs, and abilities—that gives me a sense of meaning. 

A bliss. 

My background is a combination of pursuits with obvious interests in biology and psychology. I have a Masters degree in counseling. But I only used it “in the field” for a couple years before we moved and started a family.  

I can't help but wonder... Where would I be if I hadn’t gone that direction? What if I’d followed a different fork in the road at any of the numerous places where it, well, forked. ;)

I love being a writer. The flexibility, challenge, and adventure of it. But sometimes I wonder what I’d be doing if I wasn’t a stay-at-home mother of three and a writer. And if I didn’t have a husband who’s source of income was steady enough to allow me to follow my bliss.

When I look back, everything I pursued was to make other people happier and/or healthier. That was my goal. At one time, I wanted to be a physical therapist. But when I volunteered at a hospital, just to try it on for size, I didn’t think I had the forcefulness to push people past their limits as well as the energy to be a constant cheerleader. It just didn’t fit my personality. 

At another time, I wanted to be a doctor, but the hours and lack of sleep weren't appealing. And then there was the likelihood of incurring financial debt for several more years of school.

A profiler? That was a dream at one time. If I’m honest, it still is, though I know I’d most likely never want to go through that much schooling again. It's not that I feel I'm too old (okay, maybe a little bit), but it would take up a large chunk of time I currently devote to my other passions—family and writing.

A life coach? That’s my latest interest. Apparently there’s a certification process. It’s a career that involves helping people—helping them find their own bliss, in fact. And that sounds pretty awesome. 

But with the kids still at home, I’m thinking writer is still the best choice for me. Besides, in what other job can I explore all of these other careers vicariously, through my characters? Still, who knows what the future will bring? 


If you were to follow a new dream, what would it be and why?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

NATIONAL POETRY MONTH





Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May.
And summer’s lease hath all too short a day.


     It’s National Poetry Month and time to muse about poets who wrote plays and novels. First and foremost is William Shakespeare who is thought to have trod the boards in London and written for about five years before the theaters were closed in Southwark by the Privy Council in 1592. A ruthless epidemic of the dreaded plague had struck; the council feared mayhem would erupt amongst the citizens. The council’s order was extended and the theaters did not reopen until 1594. Shakespeare joined the Lord Chamberlain’s Men changed to the King’s Men in 1603.
     By 1592, Shakespeare was well-known as the author of dramatic plays but the esteem accorded the plays went to the theatrical company. His name first appeared on the title page of Richard II and Romeo and Juliet in 1597. When the theaters closed, Shakespeare turned to writing dramatic poems such as Venus and Adonis dedicated to Henry Wriothesley, the third Earl of Southampton who became his patron, there were fifteen editions before 1640. He penned thirty plays and more than one hundred sonnets. 


     The Bronte family had writing in their DNA. Sisters Emily, Charlotte, Anne and brother Branwell all told tales, read extensively, wrote, and during childhood created a fantasy kingdom and island motivated by Branwell’s toy soldiers. Emily Bronte is best-known for Wuthering Heights, published in 1847, but her first piece is a poem titled “No coward soul is mine.”  The poem, part of collection of three poems was privately published one year earlier and written by Currer, Ellis and Acton (the male pseudonyms of the three Bronte sisters). Emily began a second novel but in 1848, she died of tuberculosis and the manuscript was destroyed.


     Thomas Hardy’s mother was responsible for his education. She favored Latin poets and French romances. He began to write poems at the age of twenty-two, enjoyed Shakespeare, art and opera but worked for an architectural firm. He met Emma Lavinia Gifford who encouraged his work and he began to believe literature was his proper calling.
     Hardy, unable to find a readership for his poetry—his first collection was published in 1898—was advised to write a novel. His first, The Poor Man and the Lady, written in 1867, was rejected by so many publishers he destroyed it. He gained an audience with Far From the Madding Crowd in 1874 and realized he could now give himself a life as a writer.
     He wrote Tess of the D’Ubervilles in1891 and Jude the Obscure in 1895 and both books with their unconventional morality shocked critics and his public in that Victorian period. His marriage suffered and it was rumored he had affairs. Hardy said he would never write another novel and began to publish several collections of poems. His novels and poems were influenced by romanticism.
     Hardy won worldwide repute and many literary friends by the close of the 19th century, becoming president of the Society of Authors in 1909 and receiving the Order of Merit from King George V. Emma died in 1912 and Hardy, filled with regret, wrote many poems in her memory published as Poems of 1912-13. He passed on in 1928 and wanted his body interred in the same grave as Emma’s but his executor insisted he be place in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner. An agreement was reached—his heart was buried with Emma and his ashes in Poet’s Corner.


Monday, April 25, 2016

A Different Kind of Suspense


Hello, my name is Mia, and I’m not a procrastinator. I swear.

Yes, I know I’m writing this blog at the last possible minute, but that doesn’t mean I put it off.

Well, yeah, okay. I put it off. But only because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to say.

And because I’m elbows deep in the last chapters of a new book.

And promo for my new release.

And other blog posts.

See, while I may not exactly be a procrastinator, I may be something else I never thought I’d be. A (gasp) joiner. Anyone who knows me in person would think that was incredibly funny. Honestly, I’m a huge curmudgeon when it comes to anything requiring personal participation. Potlucks are from Satan, y’all.

But ask me to write a blog post, and I’m all in.

I also may be a promo junkie. Which is weird, because I hate talking about myself. If you’d asked me a year ago what scared me most about being published, it would have been promotion. But hello, Canva, Pic Monkey, Pixlr, graphics, fonts, witty excerpts, character interviews, following comments on posts ... It’s all so bright and shiny and fun. Again, anyone who knows me will tell you I love shiny things.

And I have a new shiny thing today. It’s my book birthday for Hard Silence, the second book in the Agents Undercover series. I’m celebrating my third birthday since January, and thank God that only one of them actually aged me.

But I’m also knee deep in – you guessed it – promotion.

And behind that is the ever-present distraction of a new plot, a new couple to get to their HEA.

What about you? What’s your favorite, or least favorite, part of your work day? The thing you hate to love or love to hate?


Oops, there goes my Twitter bell. I must go see what’s going on. Y’all have a great day.


Mia 

Find me at:

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Giving Back, Author Style

About two years ago I decided to start volunteering for a cause near and dear to many a writers -- adult literacy. I was familiar with my local organization, the Adult Literacy League as I'd been an organizer for several of my RWA chapter's big annual holiday signing events that benefited that group.


On the advice of two friends who were already tutors, I signed up for training and a few weeks later was matched with a woman a couple of years my senior, a lady who had a learning disability. I'll call her Rose. I figured that I'd help Rose improve her reading skills for an hour or two every week. She'd leave the office with a better skill set and I'd go home no different from when I'd arrived.

Little did I know that I'd get at least as much out of the experience as my student did. Opening someone's eyes to the world of reading is incredibly fulfilling. I'm not only my student's tutor, but in some ways I'm also her sounding board, and her window to a whole new world.

When the Chief Development Officer for the League asked me to sit on the planning committee for their biggest fundraising event of the year, I felt honored and immediately accepted. This past Wednesday evening, that event took place. Reading Between the Wines was a smashing success. The ALL hosted the gala that featured NY Times Bestselling Author Elizabeth Berg and included a silent auction, tastings from several local restaurants and wines from local distributors at our beautiful Science Center.

I'm a big believer in volunteering for one's community. As a writer, volunteering for literacy is a great way to give back to my community.

Literacy matters for everything from reading street signs to product labels to filling out job applications. For information on the Adult Literacy League, please click on the LINK.

Monday, April 18, 2016

A LITTLE PR GOES A LONG WAY



Recently, the Southwest Florida chapter of RWA sponsored their Hearts in the Sand Writing Conference.  This year, the program was conducted by dynamite Debra Dixon, author, lecturer, and publisher of Belle Books.


Deb’s topic at the conference was her well-known, and deservedly so, Book-in-a-Day Workshop.  If any of you have had the opportunity to hear her on this subject, you know she lays bare the necessity in fiction of GMC—Goal, Motivation, Conflict—and how to achieve all three in your own work.  That was in the morning.  After lunch, she explored Christopher Vogler’s The Hero’s Journey and how its 12 stages can help you effectively plot your WIP.

Please consider all of the above important backstory (I know, I know, I can hear you now!) for what happened during lunch.  It’s the terrific little promotional idea of one of SWFRW’s chapter members, Roseanne Vrugtman, Ph.D., (who as Abigail Dane has authored The Pirate and the Virgin Available at:  TransitionsUnlimited.biz). A while before the conference, Roseanne asked the pubbed chapter members to submit excerpts, 60 to75 words long, from recent releases, along with their name and book title.  She downloaded these excerpts on small, color-bordered cards and stood them in little decorative stands, three or four on each luncheon table.

They were so eye-catching, people were picking them up, reading them, enjoying the short peeks and, hopefully, becoming intrigued with the novels.  With apologies for the poor photography, here’s one below.  And beneath the snapshot are two sample passages from two books in my Murders by Design Series.      



Ah, the lights were on. Rossi was
back. Mr. Hottie with the penetrating
eyes and…“Hello, I’m home.”

“At last,” he said stepping out of
the bedroom.

“Actually I’m early tonight,” I said,
dropping my packages on a chair.

“There’s no such thing as early
where you’re concerned. I’ve been
waiting for ten full minutes. It’s been
hell."

“God, you say the most perfect things.”
“I know.” He laughed and began
kissing me.

Rooms To Die For
by Jean Harrington



                                                 

Rossi stuffed the money back in the oilskin packet and handed it to me.


“Is that wise?” Francesco asked, nodding at the oilskin.


“Yes,” Rossi said, “it is." Together, we lifted Chip off the floor and walked him out to the car.

 The espresso machine went next and then the bottle of Dom Perigean.


I rode shotgun, the oilskin bag clutched in my lap.

Ha!  I should have known—a bottle of Dom Perignon was always a good omen.



 Killer Kitchens
 by Jean Harrington





Jean Harrington is the author of the tongue-in-cheek, Naples-set Murders by Design Mystery Series.  She says her books can be downloaded from Amazon at killer prices.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Help! I Can't Get Organized!


We've all been there. Whether it's the kids, the day job (and in my case a 2nd job, too), the never-ending laundry, and the book deadline...there are too many things to do in the day and not enough time to get them all done. Yet, there were some people who seem to juggle all these things (and more!) and manage to be ten times more productive than me. So, how did they do it?

They got organized.

A few years ago I made a serious commitment to get myself organized. There were too many things on my plate and I felt overwhelmed. Despite my tendency to make lists (I love sticky notes), I couldn't make a decent dent in my daily lists, even when I broke tasks down. I was drowning. So, I needed a new approach. I studied the habits of successful people and made my own plan to get organized. This is what I did.

1.) I prioritized. I decided to have no more than 3 priorities on my list on any given day. So I had to make a decision. Could the laundry wait one more day? Would the kids be nutritiously deprived if we had breakfast for dinner one more time this week? Would the world end if we missed one soccer practice? Could I afford a maid service a couple times a month if it gave me several additional hours of time a week? Take a hard look at what is important to you and decide.

2.) Make a list of those priorities and be honest in assessing how long it's going to take you to do each task. I already made lists anyway, but when I prioritized, the list got smaller and more manageable. I also became more productive when I was aware of how much time I had to do what I needed to do to meet that day's priority.

3.) Learn to say NO to those things that are not a priority. If it doesn't fit into your new schedule, you can't do it. You just can't. It's not mathematically possible. Stay focused on what you have to get done and the hours you have to do it in. You can't operate on two hours of sleep. It's not healthy, and even more important, it's not safe.


4.)  Make a large family calendar and keep it in the kitchen. I actually have two. One in my office and one in the kitchen. Sometimes your priorities won't sync with your family. If there is a conflict of priorities, there must be a family discussion. Sometimes your priority will come first, sometimes it won't. But often when the family brainstorms to meet everyone's need, there are compromises that can be made that may salvage at least part of the time you need to accomplish your goal.

5.) Make sure your family is a priority. To ensure this was a daily priority, I actually scheduled it every day. We eat dinner together every night. For an hour after dinner, we have "family time." Each night we rotate who gets to choose the family activity. Sometimes its a movie, a bicycle ride, a board game, cards or an impromptu soccer game. There is no complaining or whining about the person's choice. When it's your turn to chose the activity, everyone has to do it, no complaints.

This doesn't mean my way is the right way. It's just the right way for me. Everyone has different ways of getting organized. The key is to get serious about it. 

So, how do you stay organized? 







Tuesday, April 12, 2016

If it's April, this must be Boston!

It's April and in our house that means it's time for the Boston Marathon!



This will be the sixth time my husband has run Boston, and I've been along every step of the way--well, almost every step, if you leave out the actual running of the marathon. If you've been lucky enough to experience the Boston Marathon, you've been lucky indeed.

Boston, the City on a Hill

At my first visit, I'd been excited about experiencing Boston, a city I'd wanted to see since childhood. I wasn't disappointed. The narrow cobbled streets conjured the past. Had John Adams and cousin Sam tramped along this very passage? 



Trudging over the North End, I thought of Lovecraft, whose short story Pickman’s Model took place here. Lovecraft had described the area as a confusing warren of twisting streets and  subterranean passageways.

At Copp's Hill Burying Ground, I found the Tomb of the Mathers and thought of those stiff-necked 
Puritans, who searched for God and found demons and witches instead.

Boston is a touchstone for American history and literature, and each year I return, I discover new points of contact.

A Little History

Like so many great things, the Boston Marathon came from humble beginnings. Inspired by the revival of the marathon at the Paris Olympics, the 1897 race had a handful of runners.

Boston Marathon, 1910
No surprise, the early races were an exclusive gig for white guys. Women didn't make an appearance until 1966 when the bandit runner Roberta "Bobbi" Gibb crashed the stag party. Not allowed to officially enter the race, Bobbi had hidden in the bushes, just past the officials. After the starting gun, she shot out and  joined the race, finishing with an unofficial time of 3:21:40

Next year Kathrine Switzer kicked it up a notch. Sly Kathrine registered as K. V. Switzer. All went well until halfway through the race when the officials became aware of Kathrine's presence. One enterprising official attempted to run Switzer down and forcibly remove her from the race. No problem, K. V. reached the finish line with a time of 4:20:00. This didn't impress the Boston Athletic Association director who groused:

"Women can't run in the Marathon because the rules forbid it. Unless we have rules, society will be in chaos. I don't make the rules, but I try to carry them out....If that girl were my daughter, I would spank her."

Women were formally invited to the party in 1972 and nowadays days the Marathon is an inclusive


event that welcomes people of all stripes, including some incredibly fast speedsters on wheels.

Which is as it should be--things always seem to work better when everyone's invited to the part.

The modern Marathon is a triumph of planning, logistics, and optimism.


In the predawn, 30,000 runners are transported to the start in Hopkinton where they wait in holding pens (sort of like cattle) until their appointed start. The route winds its way through several New England towns--from Scream Tunnel at Wellesley College to the heartbreaking hills of Newton.
Standing on Boylston Street, I learned that there's nothing like the constant roar of the crowd as the endless stream of runners poured into the finishing straight. There is something indescribably beautiful in the act of people coming together for a common purpose--runners ran, people cheered, and the world seemed like a pretty good place.

For every year save one, I was on Boylston, cheering home the runners, but in 2013 I had a publishing deadline. So rather than watch the race, I spent the day cooped up in my room, tapping away on my laptop. At around three-thirty, I  called it a day, expecting that my husband would be back soon.

We were staying in a small hotel that was within walking distance of the finish. The place billed itself as a hotel, but it had the feel of a boarding house, with four floors of creaky stairways and lots of dark corners. Lovecraft would have liked it, I think--I certainly did.

I went to the lobby for some coffee and was pouring a fresh cup when a couple rushed in through the front door. They were older and the woman had one hand clutched to her throat. The desk clerk and I stared at them--something was wrong.

"There's been an explosion," the woman gasped, hurrying inside. "People...people are running."

"A bomb?" I asked.

Both she and her husband answered at once--something about an explosion at the finish.

"The finish? But my husband's there," I said idiotically. "Are people hurt?"

No one answered. I turned away and climbed the stairs, two at a time. My mind was in a kind of freeway as thoughts fought for primacy. I knew that  my husband had brought his cell with his belongings. At least I'd be able to call.

Back in my room, I dialed my husband's cell--no answer. I told myself that he was probably still in the recovery tent and hadn't have picked up his stuff yet. Or maybe he'd had a bad race and was still on the course, though in the back of mind, I knew there might be another reason why he hadn't answered, but I pushed that thought aside.

I was dialing when there was a knock on the door. It was my husband, safe and sound. He'd been lumbering up the stairs when I'd called. He had been walking back to the hotel when the bombs exploded. The pieces of my world came back together--others weren't so lucky.

Later it occurred to me that if I hadn't been writing, I'd have been standing near the finish, as I'd done in years past. For some time, I've believed that writing saved my life, but not literally. Still, there's no point in dwelling on what might have been.

Life turns on a dime. We think the ground is stable, and most of the time it is. But there are plenty of slippery bananas peels around--one unlucky step and we fall. And sometimes we fall hard.


When we returned to Boston the following year. I was fearful that fear might have changed this glorious race. Although there was an increased police presence, the joyous mood remained. For me, the icing on the cake was when the great American runner Meb Keflizighi won the men's title.
Meb Keflizighi, 2014

Tonight I'll raise a glass of Sam Adams beer and toast the Boston Marathon--an American classic that brings out the best of us, the very best.