What’s really holding you back, ability or opportunity?

“Ability is of little account without opportunity.”

– Lucille Ball

I have a dear friend who has of late repeatedly bemoaned the fact there is no one in the market willing to purchase her latest novel.  She is a fabulous writer, clear, concise and emotive in her writing.  She is able to engage a reader’s interest and maintain it over the course of a full length novel.  Her problem?  She writes westerns.

If you’re sitting there scratching your head thinking, “what’s the problem?”, well. . . I’m with you.

I’ve been writing for more years than I care to recount and sadly, I have yet to make my first big sale.  Do I think I lack talent?  Certainly not.  There are many writers who have more talent, but there are those who have been blessed with less.   I don’t believe you live or die by any one thing in publishing.  It’s about a lot of things and usually, none of those things are personal.  And sometimes, it is simply your turn to succeed.  Or maybe it’s not.

If you have enough talent to win, let’s say the prestigious Golden Heart, alleged to be the Cadillac of Romance Writers of Americas writing contests, then it would seem to me, you have enough talent to switch genres.

I’ll be the first to admit we all have a genre that speaks a special language when it whispers sweet nothings in our ears and begs us to tell the story, just this one.  I’ve done that, caved in to the unpopular story of my heart in the belief that someday, the genre will be back in favor and the story will sell.

But do I limit myself by sticking to a genre with a low sell through potential where a first sale would be difficult if not impossible?  No, I do not.

I’m a firm believer in following some basic rules.

1.  Write every day, and you will hone your craft.

2.  Learn the craft, and pay attention to the rules.  You have to know them before you can break them.

3.  Most important, if you want to be successful, don’t give up.

That bears repeating, Don’t give up.

There are many NYT best-selling authors who can regale you with stories of changed pseudonyms, agents and publishers.  The reason they’re around to tell those stories is simple.  They did not give up.  I don’t believe they “chased trends”; the behavior is foolish and tiring.  But they did pursue opportunities, working hard to achieve the success they wanted.  They waited and watched for opportunities to promote themselves and their work and so they were successful.

If all you have is ability, you will not shine above your peers, or rise to the top of your profession.  Ability is good, but the person who goes the distance and makes a name for themselves, with enduring perseverance is the writer who pursues every opportunity even if it isn’t their exact dream.

During this Holiday season, while you have dreams of sugarplums in your head, try my friend Anna’s  Oreo Truffles and Have a Merry Christmas!

One package of Oreo cookies, crushed.

8 oz. cream cheese, softened and mixed with the crushed cookies.

Bakers semi-sweet chocolate melted.

Dip the balls in the melted chocolate until covered.  Allow to set and serve.

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Is is simple or is it easy?

“All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small.”

– Lao Tzu

Most people believe that simple and easy are interchangeable terms.  I know these two words are worlds apart and because it’s almost Christmas, I’m going to share the story which taught me a very valuable life lesson; what’s simple is almost never easy.

Back in the days of my single parenthood when I believed it was still possible for me to be all things to all people I refused the advice of the older wiser people around me, refusing to “slow down”  take it “slow and easy” to be kinder to myself and to the child I was raising alone.  I wanted to show all the people who warned me not to marry young or get too involved with someone who was inconsistent or self-centered and only wanted what was good for them alone.

So many Christmas’s at our house were spare and lean, while I finished graduate school and tried working full-time while raising a child without the support of a second parent.  Times were often hard, money was always tight, and I saw much of the trouble that came our way as rudely unavoidable.  Once the TV set broke and we had no money in the budget for a repair or replacement, so we started the nightly tradition of reading a book together.  It was a wonderful choice.  We dove in, the two of us, with trips to the library and to the second-hand book store, and advanced the adventures in our heads with many classics, Robinson Crusoe, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and my personal favorites, The Hobbit, followed by the Ring Trilogy.  We read each and every night, curled up next to each other on the sofa, and no interruptions.  We never answered the phone while reading, unless I was on call at the hospital.

This simple substitution gave rise to even better traditions for us, books were always on the gift list for the following Christmases and to this very day we are both avid readers across all genres.

One specific holiday, I simply didn’t have any money for gifts or treats of any kind.  There was no extras for the holidays.  There would, of course be a huge holiday feast spent with my large and loving family.  My child would receive gifts, albeit small remembrances from all my grown siblings.  But I didn’t have any money for gifts.  It had been a tough year.  My ex wasn’t paying child support, and we’d had more than our share of growth spurts and unforeseen draws on our meager resources.  Fortunately the year before I’d bought an artificial tree, which was housed in the attic.  Sadly the attic leaked, (did I mention tough year?) and the decorations were moldy when we brought them down to see if a little decorating might improve the mood.

Now I am the child of depression parents, so I keep my own expectations fairly low (so I’m not often disappointed), but that year I knew I needed to come up with something special to get us both through the holidays.  I sat down in my kitchen on the verge of tears, angry at the situation, angry at the ex, angry with working so hard and so long so often that my creativity was all but gone.  I wanted to be able to go out and buy my child whatever it was he wanted for Christmas without worrying over the bill coming due in January.  I wanted him to have all the things his school friends had, skiing trips, time with grandparents, new ice skates, and toys galore.  I wanted to buy him every book he’d ever asked for instead of constantly schlepping back to the library to return the books he wanted to keep on the shelves  in his room.

Of course, the worst thing happened.  My son caught me crying in the kitchen.  I know it made him feel worse about the Christmas we were having but I couldn’t help myself.  The more I tried to stop the harder I cried.  He hugged me and tried to comfort me, and asked if making some cookies might make me feel better.

So I got up, dried my eyes and started a new tradition with my son.  We made gingerbread men, caramel corn balls, sugar cookies and candy.  We wrapped our wonderful homemade goodies in cellophane and tinfoil.  We used the bits of ribbon we salvaged from our moldy, damaged decorations box in our leaky attic.  These wonderful homemade goodies became the decorations for our pathetic artificial tree.

My son knew his school friends would be exchanging small gifts, and because I didn’t want to see his excitement spoiled by having nothing to share, I began to write short four line verses on plain white cards, which he decorated with hand drawn holly. I added the childrens names, and writing the annual Christmas story became a favorite tradition.  His friends came to our house to see how we were celebrating our holiday.  They were so excited to find their gifts were part of our tree decorations!  But the real treat came when they cards were all put together and the Christmas poem had each and every name in it.

The following year, we fared much better financially and found ourselves less stressed by the approaching holidays.  But also, that year starting at Halloween, each child stopped by the house to remind us they’d been part of the “Christmas Story” and wanted to remembered again this year.  For the next several years each child came during the holidays looking for their own special gingerbread man or popcorn ball.  They all wanted to be with us for story time during the holidays.

For many years afterward his friends would recall the special times they’d spent with us, our tiny artificial tree laden with homemade goodies.

So that’s how I learned that sometimes the simple things which make life special are not easy.  I’m sure sometimes life is meant to be hard so that we remember, simple although not easy, is always better.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays

from my home to yours!

Thanksgiving Blessings

It’s the busiest time of the year. Thanksgiving, Christmas. Family, presents, running around, putting up decorations. But no matter how stressed out I feel, I realize how extremely blessed I am. My children are all growing up into fine adults (although they struggle now and then, don’t we all?). My husband and I have both have our day jobs. I have self pubbed all my backlist and even put out a novella. I have a new paranormal romance coming out in December. (Here’s the quote J.E. Hopkins, author of We Shall Rise, gave me “Immortal Death is a unique and passionate tale of destined love with a suspenseful plot that captures your attention from page one and continues to intrigue until the very end.” Thanks JE!)

I am truly blessed. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving! Enjoy the time you spend with your family and friends.

I’d like to share this recipe which is one of my favorites. I love deserts! Cookies are my favorite.

Butterscotch Granola Cookies

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup honey
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup milk
12 ounce package butterscotch flavored morsels
1 cup quick oats, uncooked
¾ cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350. In small bowl combine flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and baking soda; set aside. In large bowl combine butter, honey and brown sugar; beat until creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract. Blend in flour mixture alternately with milk. Stir in butterscotch morsels, oats and raisins. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 8 – 10 minutes. Allow to stand 2 minutes; remove.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

Oh my Pie and a Seal of My Dreams

“True heroes who will win your heart.  Honor, duty, courage, passion . . . the men of the Navy SEALs are a special breed of hero, and in these stories by eighteen top romance authors the SEALs are celebrated not only as symbols of devoted service to their country but as the kind of man every woman wants to love. They’ll rescue a damsel in distress and her lap dog, too. They’ll battle hometown dramas and international bad guys. When it comes to giving away their hearts, they’ll risk everything. All proceeds from sales of SEAL of My Dreams goes to the Veterans Research Corporation, a non-profit fundraiser for veterans’ medical research. Among them, the authors of SEAL of My Dreams have won dozens of writing awards including multiple RITAs from Romance Writers of America. Their nearly 600 published novels have sold at least 25 million copies worldwide. The SEAL of My Dreams roster includes many of the best-known authors in modern romance fiction. In addition, many have strong family connections to the servicemen and women of our nation’s military, and many specialize in novels featuring heroes and heroines from all branches of service. Visit the authors at www.sealofmydreams.com.” Quoted from Amazon Book description.

Table of Contents: (Taken from Sealofmydreams.com)

Foreword by Robyn Carr
Coming Home by Jami Alden
Baby, I’m Back by Stephanie Bond
SEALed Fates by Kylie Brant
Going Dark by Helen Brenna
Finding Home by HelenKay Dimon
SEALed With A Kiss (A Black Ops., Inc. story) by Cindy Gerard
Panama Jack by Tara Janzen
Wrapped and SEALed by Leslie Kelly
Worth the Risk by Elle Kennedy
Twenty-One Hours by Alison Kent
Not Waving But Drowning by Jo Leigh
Her Secret Pirate by Gennita Low
SEALed By Fate by Marliss Melton
Signed, SEALed, Delivered…I’m Yours by Christie Ridgway
Dog Heart by Barbara Samuel
Whirlwind by Roxanne St. Claire
Holding On by Stephanie Tyler
Letters To Ellie by Loreth Anne White

I learned about this book at RomCon this year and have been eagerly awaiting its release.  Although I have to wait for payday to actually get my copy, I wanted to share this with you today.  This is not one of those books where the proceeds go to a charity, after the publisher, agent, and authors are paid.  All proceeds from this book are going to support Veteran’s research.  The authors are donating their gift and their royalties, as did editors and publishers.  This is a worthwhile cause and I encourage all HerStoryCallers to please get a Seal of your dreams on your Kindle, Nook, etc, or get a hard copy and feel the glory of a Seal in the palm of your hands.  Or, if you are like me, what is better than receiving or giving a gift of a navy seal, romance, and charity, all in one.  This should be your #1 stocking stuffer for the season.

Okay now I teased ya’ll with Pie I need to follow-up my lead here.  I’m going to talk Pie.  This year for the holiday, I’m charged with creating pies.  I already know that I’m making a sweet potato pie because it’s so different then what I’ve had before.  I actually made it earlier this month for a potluck and I loved it.  Since my next post will be after Thanksgiving – on Turkey Recovery Day, I’m going to share the recipe today to start off our week of sharing.

SWEET POTATO PIE

1/4 c. butter
3/4 c. sugar
5 oz. evaporated milk
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. cornstarch
2 (16 oz.) cans yams, drained and mashed
1 tsp. vanilla
1 unbaked 9 inch pie shell

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs and stir. Add sweet potatoes (yams) and mix well. Stir in milk, vanilla, cornstarch, and salt and cinnamon, making sure all ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Pour into pie shell and bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Lower heat to 350 degrees. Cook until knife comes out clean, 20-30 minutes. (I actually went about 40 minutes but that might be the high altitude.)

I hope that this holiday season you’ll be snuggled up on your couch with a piece of pie and a Navy Seal to keep you warm.

Michelle