Transitions: Where Do I Go From Here?

 In writing we call transitions turning points. The turning point of all turning points is known as, ta da, the black moment. Did you hear the drum roll and sotto voice that accompanied those infamous two words? Black moment. You know, when the lights go out and everyone screams in the dark.

Transition means: the passage from one place or state to another; change.

In writing, transitions turn the plot a different direction. They are specific bursts of energy to breathe life and renewed interest into your story. A car wreck, an unwelcome discovery, or an unexpected kiss can all be turning points.

The black moment comes when your characters face the ultimate test of their love. Can they overcome this obstacle? Will their love prevail? Can their relationship survive? Well, of course it can. We are romance writers! The only kind of endings we have are Happily Ever Afters.

In life transitions aren't always so neat and clean. They often come with unresolved messes that hang around forever. Sometimes they may be resolved, but no one is happy about it. I think that’s one of the main reasons people read and write. Life often goes tilt with no HEA in sight. Reading lets us enjoy a nice neat ending where all the problems work out well. We get the satisfaction of going, “Ahh!” instead of, “Not again!”

My life has recently made another transition. Not one I was looking forward to. Have all the loose ends been tied up? Is everyone okay with what happened? Is life all happy, happy, joy, joy? Nope, but that’s okay. I’m getting used to messes. Throw in a little chaos and let’s see what happens. In other words, bring it on!

When it all gets to be too much, I’ll go lose myself in a good book. Or better yet, go write the next scene in my latest WIP. Chaos, pain, loss and angst are what make for good emotional fodder. If life was all love, peace and harmony, what would we have to write about? Why would we want to? I don’t know about you, but perpetually optimistic, everything has a sunny side stories often make me want to gag. I’m too realistic.

So, the next time life throws you a curve ball and you feel a little off balance, put that emotion into your latest creation. Take that mess and milk it for all it’s worth. Or plop your hiney onto the nearest couch and reach for the comfort of an old friend. No, not chocolate! Okay, you can have both, but I meant a favorite book. One that satisfies your soul when it’s in a tizzy and makes you go, ahhh! If you’re really on a roll, eat that chocolate and read while soaking in a hot tub :)

One author that does that for me is Elizabeth Peters. I can read Crocodile On The Sandbank every year. It never grows old, even though I knew who the bad guy was before I finished it the first time. Her writing brings action, adventure, romance, spunk and portrays a truly liberated female. She loves her man, but she does what she thinks is right. Not to spite him, but because she is her own person.

I like that. It makes me feel more able to cope. Plus, it gives me hope that there’s an Emerson out there somewhere waiting for me. Someone who can take a little spunk and spitfire.

Are you what you are by the books you read? (Melissa Robbins)

What am I reading right now?  Perhaps it has something to do with the middle grade book I’m working on, but you can’t see my nightstand with the books on it. 


Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan – No surprise, I love this series like everyone else on the planet.  I was a HUGE mythology fan in the sixth grade and would have loved Riordan’s Greek series.  His Egyptian one rocks too.  They both have history, humor, and adventure.  I have seen firsthand how it inspires kids to use their imaginations.  Recently, I was at the park with my son and some of his friends and one boy, who would make a great Percy, acted out scenes from the book. 

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare – I want to be Clare when I grow up.  This is the final book in her Infernal Devices trilogy.  The characters are demon hunters in Victorian England.  The way she writes settings are unbelievable.  Even if you are not a fan of vampires, demons, or werewolves, you would still enjoy this book.  I would love to know how she plots or if she is a pantser.  It has great humor and romance and the main hero is devilishly handsome, naughty, but also has a soft side that few see. 


Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole – Kole gives tips and advice for writing young adult and middle grade stories.  Very helpful.  Just after reading the first few chapters, I realized I already have to redo my chapter one. 

Do magazines count?  Just today, I picked up the latest issue of Britain at War.  It’s filled with articles on RAF pilots including one of my favorites, Willie Rhodes-Moorhouse, who I know from flying alongside Billy Fiske, an American who flew for the RAF. 

On my To Be Read pile:

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare – Clare is a pretty hot YA author right now.  This is the fifth book of Clare’s other demon hunter series that takes places in NYC.  The first book of the series will soon be released as a movie later this summer.  I hope the movie does the book justice.    

Inferno by Dan Brown – I love codes, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I like Robert Langdon books.  I hope this one is as clever as the rest.

The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen – the latest book in the Lady Georgie mysteries about a penniless royal in 1930’s England who solves crimes. 

Are you what you are by the books you read?

Between the Pages of a Book (Penny Rader)

This month our topic is What Do You Read?

My answer: a bit of everything

I love reading.  Have since I was a kid. I read for escape and the emotional punch and I read for knowledge and inspiration. I'd be so lost without books.  Just being in a room with them gives me a sense of, well, comfort and well-being.  If I was told I had only a year to live, I'd read as many books as I possibly could, in between visits with family and friends, maybe even with family and friends. (Reading to and with kiddoes and grandkiddoes is great fun.  Seeing kids read makes my heart happy.)

My reading kind of came to a standstill the first few months of this year.  Tax season was pretty brutal and I've been struggling with some health issues.  I'm know I'm sick and/or tired when I look at the books on the table beside me but lack the energy to pick them up. Fortunately, I'm starting to feel a bit better and sneaking in reading time whenever I can.  

Here's what I'm reading now:

Paper books (my favorite way to read):


  • Perfect Timing by Catherine Anderson


  • You've Got a Book in You: A Stress-free Guide to Writing the book of Your Dreams by Elizabeth Sims
  • Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide for Novels and Novellas by Karen S Wiesner

On my Nook:

  • Writing Love: Screenwriting Tips for Authors II by Alexandra Sokoloff (Thanks to our own Melissa Robbins for this recommendation during an awesome plotting program she presented to WARA.)
  • Don't Know Much about Mythology by Kenneth C Davis

I have so many books I want to read. Does anyone else need to know what you're going to read next?  I like to know what I'm going to read next and after that and after that.  It actually kind of freaks me out if I don't have something lined up.

I also try to always have a book with me because I never know if unexpected reading time will open up: doctor's office or hospital, car breaks down, long line at the bank or DMV.  When my kiddoes were little, I'd read for the 10 minutes or so while waiting to pick them up from school or whatever activity I was picking them up from.  I haven't mastered the art of writing in those 10-15 minutes spurts (except for snatches of scenes that randomly pop into my head...usually when I driving), but I can read several pages in 10-15 minutes.

These are some of the books waiting at the top of my TBR piles:

Paper Books


  • Celebrity in Death by J D Robb
  • Delusion in Death by J D Robb
  • Calculated in Death by J D Robb  (I guess it's obvious that J D Robb's In Death series is my absolute favorite series; I just got a little behind in reading the series)
  • Caught by Harlan Coben  (I adore his suspense/thriller novels.  Great voice.  Never really know what's going to happen.)
  • The Wanderer by Robyn Carr (Her Virgin River series was another favorite.  Hoping her new Thunder Point series is just as good.)
  • The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison
  • The Half-Stitched Amish Quilting Club by Wanda Brunstetter  (Recommended by mom. The blurb makes it sound like a fun read.)
  • The Wedding Party by Robyn Carr


  • The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue & Vice for Box Office Success by Stanley D Williams
  • The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story by Amy Deardon
  • Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias
  • Romancing the Ordinary: A Year of Simple Splendor by Sarah Ban Breathnach
  • The Dreaded Synopsis by Elizabeth Sinclair
  • The Anatomy of Motive by John Douglas
  • Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern
  • A Voice of Her Own: Women and the Journal-Writing Journey by Marlene A Schiwy

On my Nook:


  • If the Shoe Fits: A Contemporary Fairy Tale by Sandra D Bricker
  • Legacy of the Witch by Maggie Shayne
  • Reckless Magic by Rachel Higginson
  • To Kill a Warlock by H.P. Mallory
  • Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson


  • Break into Fiction: 11 Steps to Building a Story That Sells by Mary Buckham
  • 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters by Karl Iglesias
  • Crafting Novels & Short Stories: The Complete Guide to Writing Great Fiction from the Editors of Writer's Digest
  • What Your Childhood Memories Say about You by Kevin Leman
  • Kiss Me Like You Mean It: Solomon's Crazy in Love How-To Manual by Dr David Clarke
  • People Can't Drive You Crazy If You Don't Give Them the Keys by Micke Bechtle
  • Making Sense of People: Decoding the Mysteries of Personality by Samuel Barondes

As you can see from the lists above, I have lots of favorite types of books: romance, suspense, thrillers, y/a, paranormal, craft of writing, what makes people tick, self-improvement.

How about you?  What are you reading now?

What's waiting on your To Be Read list/pile?

I have a To Be Purchased and/or Borrowed list, too. (Kristin Hannah, Sharon Sala/Dinah McCall, Lisa Gardner, Catherine Anderson, Harlan  Coben, Marilyn Pappano) How about you?

Taming the Project

Recently I have written of my housekeeping lessons squeezed out of my sister.

Quick Recap: Do something about what bugs YOU! Then, as you keep doing that, you'll get to the stuff that would normally be a higher priority according to conventional wisdom. Sister's method is not and does not resemble conventional wisdom.  However, it does work on the accumulative principal of synergy. (My research finds this out). And here's the most important part--it works. Reminder: Money matters first, bugs you second.  Result: Peace of mind and calm

Here's a lesson on projects that is really helping me.

When I started to clear my desk--picture two-foot stacks with six inches of desk space showing--I was following instructions to label each project. Uh, well, that would have taken a decade, putting each project in a file folder would have taken a half a millennium!

1. I had some card stock close to hand and just tore some in four pieces and used a box of paperclips to paperclip each torn card label to each new piece of paper that was a project.
2. I used a marker to write the project name on the label.
3. I wrote the name of the project on a list as I worked down the piles.
Yes, I created new piles, but as I went I kinda sorted by project label. As I came across items for a previously labeled project I put them together. I used the written list to determine how far down the new pile the project had to be.

I had some old file folders labeled Jan-Dec. I scattered the projects through the year. The written list has the month I put each in.  I keep the written list on the desk to see what I have and to remind me not to add to the future burden.

At the beginning of each month,  I make a sticky note for each project name in that month and put it on my calendar. As I start work on each project I put the very next possible thing to do on each. As that next possible thing is done, I put a little date there and figure out the very next action that can be done on it.

Example: Project is New Back Door
   Next Action: Measure current door and door hole.
   Next Action: Place measurements in organizer in purse
   Next Action: Plan on shopping for door so put possible locations on next town
                        day list as places to go
   Next Action: Purchase door
   Next Action: Arrange for installation

Yay me. Managed to get new door installed this last Saturday as well as four new hallway ceiling lights. Two projects off list. It may have seemed simplistic for me to have to write and do each of the Next Action things, but when I didn't a couple of more weeks passed before I got to them. The torn-edged label also had the telephone number and e-mail address of the installer so that I could send him pictures of the old door, communicate where he had to pick up the door, etc. I also dated each action on completion so that I could remember when I last talked to the installer.

I expect this is good training for all of those writerly projects that will hit me if I ever go under contract. I encourage myself by thinking that. Best part? The projects are actually getting done instead of stacking up.  This I like.

The Landscape of My Reading

Like everyone, I have a life to live. The love of reading and inquiry are the twin beams that hold my wagon together as I trundle through this impossible landscape of life.

I used to dream of that special place to read. Depending upon what I was reading at the time, that special place may have been a forest glen, a lounger on a ship's deck, near a window in a tower, or a cozy couch near a cabin's fireplace. I yearned for that special place. I finally told my closest compatriots that my idea of a perfect vacation is to read in exotic places.

Earlier this year, I cried over plans for a three week trip, some of which time to be spent with a daughter and her husband because I could see three weeks of vacation all looking at things and places--vacationy stuff. Then, I took my life in hand and informed my traveling companions of my wish to read in exotic locations. I even asked for and received my condo with a fireplace and a balcony with a view of the Atlantic. Ha! I forgot something quite simple. I have a love of driving too and have the most experience driving in huge cities among all of us. So, I drove the others to all of their vacationy things and places. The exotic locations I read in were: Parking lot in front of Barnes and Noble in Houston, Texas, Home Depot parking lot on Galveston Island, Texas, Live Bait Shop, Mobile Bay, Alabama, half a day at daughter's condo while waiting for wash, Parking lot at St. Augustine's Fort, Florida, Parking lot Outlet mall, north of St. Augustine, Florida and many other similar locations as well as those precious two hours on condo balcony and one hour in front of fireplace.

And what was I reading? My own first novel written eleven years ago. That was an eye-opener. (I recommend you do the same and appreciate your progress! Change in our writing abilities is so incremental that sometimes we don't realize how far we've come.) Research on marketing strategies, techniques, and principals for our businesses came next with a development of strategy to oust the illegal vendors of illegal wheat seed using marketing strategy. Technical inquiry on different types of information transfer from point to point with resulting decision to use i-pads with Facetalk to communicate between guy in field with broken equipment to guy sent for parts at parts houses. Now, if I can only get the head mechanic to turn on an i-pad.... I read some more novels--science fiction romance, contemporary, as well as historical, and regency.

I came back to the farm and other responsibilities relaxed--it took into the end of the second week to feel the last knot unwind. Luckily, I had that third week to make plans for the future. I had renewed the beams of my wagon in life--reading and inquiry. I had found enthusiasm again.

As I write this article, I realize the dissatisfaction I have always felt in being unable to find those exotic places and stay there and read is a silly place in my head because I never achieved this perfect place as my special place.  Flashbacks are sparking in my head of reading in the Rockies by a cold stream, sitting in a dining room next to a window view filled with green and growing trees, reading in a downtown restaurant next to a wall of windows watching it snow all afternoon while a waitress renewed my coffee, reading stretched on a towel on the bank next to the swimming hole, reading while enjoying the sprinkle of rain while looking out at the mountains in Kentucky. I guess I have achieved those perfect reading moments and never realized it. Now that I know, I shall treasure each one, no matter where it is.

As for that perfect place to write. That too has been elusive. However, a large bit of writing work has been done in the front seat of my husband's pickup as I wait for him to examine everything in another farm equipment or heavy machinery lot. Perhaps, I need to stop dreaming of the perfect writing bower and begin to appreciate the ones I do use. They too have their charm.

Update on the cleaning: The house, storage, desk, life and all projects are prospering. As my sister said and it appears to be true--if you do the tiny things that bug you, the rest of everything eventually gets its turn at getting done. The to-do list is much shorter. The projects are getting worked off. (SEE next blog for tips on that.)

My Favorite Things: Books

Time to read doesn't come easy.  I wish it did.  That doesn't mean I don't read.  I'd never give up finding a comfy spot and settling in with a good book.  In fact, my idea of Heaven is an eternity of reading with no interruptions, going from one book to another, one story to the next.  No need to stop to eat or bathe or do laundry or cook so someone else can eat.  Time for nothing to do but read.

Whether I make it to Heaven is debatable, but when I'm so invested in a story and its characters that I don't notice where I am, it is a little bit of Heaven.

What do I read?  Anything.  Okay, not the back of boxes of cereal or even the newspaper.  Magazines no longer tempt me.  But when it comes to books, I'll read almost anything.

I had to stop and think what I've read recently, because reading time is now usually done in bits and spurts, when there's time.  Sometimes it's at the end of the day for an hour or so, before I can no longer keep my eyes open, and I've read the same paragraph three or four times.  I'm trying to read more, and having an eReader (Kindle) has made that easier for two reasons.  First, I can stuff my entire digital library in my purse when I leave the house and have instant access to hundreds--yes, hundreds--of books.  Picking up the grandkids at school?  Twenty minutes of reading time.  Sitting at the rink, while my oldest granddaughter is at ice skating lessons?  Another thirty minutes.  The second reason is that I've found some good books for free or discounted.  Hey, bargains are on my list of favorite things, too!

So here is this year's list of the books I've read.

  • Christmas on Mimosa Lane - Anna DeStefano  Not your usual Christmas story, but a deep look into characters who are struggling through the season and wish it would go away.  Yes, there's an HEA, but the main characters had to go through a lot to get there.  Years ago, I judged one of Anna's contest entries, and it was superb.  I knew she would soon be among the published (and was!) and I was delighted with this book.  I'm eagerly looking forward to reading the next book in this Seasons of the Heart series.
  • Ain't She Sweet - Susan Elizabeth Phillips  I've read this book and my other two favorite SEP books (It Had to Be You and Natural Born Charmer) multiple times. Yes, I re-read my favorites often.  I love her strong and sassy heroine's that hide their weaknesses, until they finally capitulate, fall into the heroes' arms and accept themselves, warts and all.  SEP makes me laugh and cry.  I once fell off the bed, while laughing too hard.  Cereal killer?  Really?!
  • 11/22/63 - Stephen King  While I own the first 25 or so of King's books (in hardcover!), it had been   a couple of decades since I'd read any of the newer ones.  This one called to me.  Let's face it.  I clearly remember the day JFK was assassinated and wondered what King would do with it.  I wasn't disappointed.  But those 880 pages did take more than an evening to read.  The time spent was worth it.
  • The Ladies Room - Carolyn Brown  Yes, I was the one who suggested this book to Reese.  I'd suggest it to anyone who likes to laugh and cheer on characters, who are dealing with what life throws at them.  I laughed out loud, several times, but the humor comes from within, not slapstick funny.  Throw in the fact that these characters were not twenty-somethings, and it made it even better.
What else do I read?  Dan Brown for the excitement, YA books by a variety of authors--both older and newer, some non-fiction, Jane Austen classics, Women's Fiction.  Oh, and romance, although I lean toward single title.  Do I ever start a book I don't finish?  Yes, and recently there have been two or three.  They weren't bad books, but either the story didn't grab me or progress, there was too much repeated detail, or the writing itself didn't pull me in.

What do you read?  What type of heroines keep you turning the pages?  What kind of heroes?  Do you like light or dark stories?  And, especially, what books and types of books would you suggest to friends?

This blog will self-destruct in . . . by J Vincent

sixty seconds. You have to be an old Mission Impossible (tv series that is) fan to appreciate this title.The “Mission Impossible” frame of mind almost took hold of me lately when it came to writing time.

I attended the RT Book Lover’s Convention the first week in May and returned home with a refreshed writing spirit and full of enthusiasm.  I was certain my goal of completing the fifth book in the Honour series would finally be met.  Mission Possible!

Then my husband and I finalized our decision that it was time to downsize and move into a more handicapped friendly home.  That meant packing up, throwing out, giving away --repeat, repeat, and repeat several more times as I tried to compact over four decades of accumulated stuff.  We aren’t completely ready to put our home on the market but getting close.  We’re now the “proud” renters of two storage units but amidst this whirlwind writing time has all but disappeared.  When I’m not packing I’m resting since I still haven’t fully recovered from the consequences of last fall’s infection.  Add in my morning and evening lung regime, cataract surgeries, and physical therapy and there is even less time.  My brain feels like the graphic I’ve used with this blog, except not quite so colorful, unlike my language or thoughts at times through this process.

Then I received this review for Honour’s Choice: Needing a book for summertime reading, I downloaded this book and settled in for a light diversion from everyday life, figuring
It would take me a month to read it during leisure time. It didn' took me three days of jamming in every spare minute to find out what happened next In this intricately woven plot. The characters, the settings, the period attire and furnishings all came to life.
The verbiage of the era was of special interest, and author Joan Vincent obviously researched extensively for accuracy. It was An engaging plot, intertwined with romance and mystery, and of course a happy ending. I will be definitely be reading more of this author's books.

Nothing like a little encouragement to fire up the mind.  After mulling over what to do about the dearth of writing time my brain went to “when you  have lemons make lemonade.”  I decided that since I have to rest often I could use that time to write.  In fact that is how I’ve managed to get this blog written.  Not the best for cohesive writing but better than getting nothing on the page.  Better than not making any progress and drowning in guilt.  Next on the list is a chapter of the new book. 

Wish me luck with this.  And then we could use luck with the sale of the house.  Does burying a St. Joseph in the yard really work?  If it does perhaps I should include one of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers.

So Many Books So Little Time

We’re blogging this month about the books we like to read or have read. More than anything else, I love a book I can laugh and cry with. Over the years my tastes have changed from straight romances to Women’s Fiction or Mainstream novels. Of course it helps if they contain a romance too, but I gravitate more to the complex relationships between women. I love my husband and sons, but we all know that the mothers, daughters, sisters and our girl friends are the glue that holds their families together.

I recently finished, and loved, Nowhere but Home by Liza Palmer. Loved it so much I ordered another one of hers. The core of the story revolves around two sisters who struggle to survive in a small Texas town where their trampy mother was murdered for sleeping with her best friend’s husband. It has a romantic subplot, but the sisters’ battle to overcome the prejudices and forge out their own lives in this judgmental town are the crux of the story. The heart-wrenching decision the main character has to make at the ending will stay with you for a long, long time.

Roxann recently recommended The Ladies Room by Carolyn Brown. It’s more romance than female relationship story, but the main character has issues with her female family members. The hero is one of the nicest men you’ll ever read about. It was also filled with humor and touching moments and I loved it cover to cover.

As for a favorite author, it would have to be LaVyrle Spencer. She’s retired now but I still re-read some of her books. She had a lyrical way with words and plot lines that were simple but so complex you couldn’t help but fall in love with her characters. Two that I would recommend are Morning Glory and Then Came Heaven.  I've read each of these at least three times.

Who is your go-to author and why do you like him/her?