Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ten Things To Do Before I Die

Dreams Come True"A dream is a wish your heart makes / Whatever you wish for, you keep / Have faith in your dreams and someday / Your rainbow will come smiling through / If you keep on believing / The dream that you wish will come true."

Taking Cinderella's words to heart, at the beginning of the year, I set my dreams on paper. Some of the items took me by complete surprise, while others have been voiced over and over again through the years, but I never formalized my hopes. Here are the notable mentions from the Life List.

Win the Golden HeartRITAMulti-published AuthorWin the Golden Heart, the Royal Ascot, the Laurie, and the Maggie. (Why not dream big?) Be a published author of more than twenty-five well-received novels. Win a RITA, that golden statuette of the academy award for romance authors.

Choral SingingSing in a professional choir. I have sung in college and community choirs on and off. Lately, I had to quit due to the migraines. I hope to some day be pain-free and return to the music of my heart.

Aurora BorealisWatch the Northern Lights from Alaska, Finland, Greendland, and Iceland. The picture on the right is by Judith James and taken in Yellowknife, Canada. Not only do the aurora borealis feature unearthly colors and sounds, they are rumored to be subject to singing by humans.

Hug a BearHold Hands with GorillaHold hands with a mountain gorilla in the Virunga forests in Rwanda. I have supported the Dian Fossey center at Karisoke for years. My first baby was Bikereri. The human girl child came later. On my list is also a desire to hug a brown bear. (A grizzly will do in a pinch._ Perhaps I should leave this as the last thing I do from my list. At least, I'll die with a smile.

Lake Nan Tso TibetPotala Palace TibetVisit Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim, Assam, and Ladakh, the last few of the Himalayan kingdoms that have retained some of their culture. But the outside world is eroding the societal and cultural norms at warp speed.

Giant Tortoise of GalapagosYellow Warbler of GalapagosVisit the Galapagos Islands off the Ecuadoran coast. It was the last bastion of the perfect ecosystem, according to Darwin. Like ever other natural resource, it, too, is being corrupted at a blinding rate.

HawaiiHawaiiOwn a cottage on the beach in Hawaii with an English garden (and no lawn!!). Isn't this on everyone's dream list?

Do share: What are your dreams? What are your innermost desires? What hopes are you holding out for in your life?

Brenda Novak's Online Auction for Diabetes Research

Brenda Novak Diabetes Auction

This year will be the fourth year that romantic suspense author Brenda Novak will be hosting her Online Auction for Diabetes Research. The auction runs from May 1 to May 31.

There are 1,300 items up for bid this year, including Once in a Lifetime Experiences, Anna DeStefano's Designer Purses & Wallets, Autographed Sports/Celebrity Items, Deborah Smith's Blue Willow China, Dianne Drake's Antique Jewelry, African Safari, Hawaiian vacation, Lunch with JR Ward, over 400 items for Readers, and Mentoring/Networking Opportunities for Writers. Go here for the auction website.

In Brenda's words, here's how it all works: "Just like eBay. You shop the entire month of May (there are also one-day auctions going on each day so be sure to check the schedule), bid on whatever you like and pay for what you win via Paypal, credit card, or personal check/money order after the auction ends. The person who places the highest number of bids over all, even if that person doesn't win a single item, will be awarded an amazing prize package that includes a brand new Camcorder (retail value of at least $1,000), Your Name in Brenda Novak's Next Book, an autographed copy of TRUST ME (out May 27th), and lots of yummy chocolate!"

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Life in Books

Mother ReadingStarting from when I was a crawling infant, books have fascinated me. In those early days, books about animals, particularly dogs, were my pleasure. Grandmother ReadingI was content to sit on the floor—next to all the books I'd dropped and scattered in my search for the tops favorite doggy book—and turn the pages of that book backwards and forwards for a long time. My mother had to replace that book thrice, because my toddler hands weren't particularly friendly to it. Nonfiction children's books were my schtik then, not storybooks. "Animals don't wear clothes," my two-year self scoffed.

Little Girl with a BookHowever, right around the time, I entered into my memory, i.e., I became aware of myself and could recall myself doing things, I was always be found listening to my mother or my grandmother read me stories. Whenever my grandmother came to visit, every afternoon after lunch and right before her siesta, she would tell me one of her stories. On some trips, she brought fiction magazines along with her. Sometimes, she would tell me a story she'd memorized just for me, and sometimes, she would simply make one up. Sunday afternoon storytimes were saved for my mother and the tales in the Sunday newspaper.

Older Girl ReadingMousie, mousie was the first story I learned to read. Reading to FatherOnce I discovered I could do it all by myself (and didn't have to wait hours until lunch was over), I wanted to learn to read as fast as I could. I pestered my dad, my cousins, visitors, anyone who knew how to read and didn't mind my stumbling over the most basic words. I was a diligent student then, because I realized the freedom there was to be had in being able to read. However, I was also surprised to discover that my interest in being told stories did not wane.

Studying the ClassicsAround the summer I turned eight, my mother felt that she needed to give me a jump-start onto the road to reading the classics, the masters. So she took me to a professor of English at the university, who might be able to recommend a few books to me. When we visited the professor at home, to my horror, she had a pile of twenty thick, dusty hardcovers minus their jackets sitting on a table next to her chair. Deliberate ReadingThese she told me were the most classic of the classics. Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Little Women were part that set, but I was in too much shock to care. I saw my entire vacation wasted in a dreary bookish fashion. I also knew protesting was futile, so I picked those books up and returned home, with a coerced promise that not only would I read them all, but that I would recite a précis of each book on the day I returned them. Pouf! Two months down the drain.

Reading is Fascinating Ah, but Genteel Readers, this was not the case at all. It was a seminal period in my reading history. I had discovered The Romance Novel. Reading by FlashlightThe Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Scarlet Pimpernel were in that lot, too, and they were all romantic tales with swashbuckling heroes performing heroic deeds of honor and deviltry. I was hooked. When I surfaced from my required reading, I started noticing my friends giggling over certain books, reading some passages aloud amongst them and sniggering, stealthily exchanging said books, and making sure that those books did not land in curious tween hands, like mine. The more they hid and carried on in hushed giggles, the curiouser and curiouser I became and all the more determined to lay hands on them.

Reading is Guilty PleasureI bided my time, and one day a Mills and Boon book fell in my sticky hands en route from one friend to the other. I spirited it home and accompanied by blushes, glgggles, a flashlight, and a dictionary: I. Read .It. Then I discovered the source of their stash. I joined a circulation library, ponied up all my allowance for the privilege of brazenly borrowing the naughty Barbara Cartlands, Anne Mathers, and Betty Neels. I also discovered Enid Blyton, Francine Pascal, and Nancy Drew. Since I openly read the latter set, those were the ones my parents came to dislike. (Thank goodness they never discovered the romances.) "That blighted Blyton" was my dad's oft-voiced exasperation over the sight of me still in my school uniform on the yellow couch in front of the balcony doors, when he returned home from work an hour and a half after my return from school. In defiance of the blight, I penciled a short book Enid-Blyton-style on farm life in rural England. It was much pooh-poohed by the family. I gave up writing.

Serious ReadingI moved away from the categories when I discovered Georgette Heyer at fourteen. I was now into big books with bigger stories.Serious Reading requires Comfy CouchThis rejeuvenated my interest in the romantic classics, and some of them like The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers, I read in every format it was published in, including the unabridged 1300-page doorstoppers. I continued to read the Enid Blytons though. (Er, I still do.)

Pen and PaperHigh school was when I discovered that not only what I wrote was good, but that people wanted to read it. At that time, it was literary criticism pieces and essays, but my two English teachers were full of praise and support of my writing, and that gave me more and more confidence to put words on paper. TBR PileReading took a backseat as I took the time to write, but the writing was solely to impress the teachers. I wrote because they were convinced I could write, not because of an inner urge or a belief that I could write even without the encouraging words. So, you can guess what happened next, Genteel Readers.

Young Woman ReadingI went to engineering school, and I stopped writing. Then it was onto to graduate school, then a move to the west coast, a software engineering job, marriage, and childbirth. This was life, and it was super busy, but I returned to my first love: reading. I also took year-long certificate courses in fiction writing, nonfiction writing, and editing, and followed those up with internships with a book publisher and a magazine. Being home a lot with an infant gave me a lot of time to think. That led to a freelance career in fits and starts: book reviews, magazine articles, proofreading, and book doctoring.

Lady WritingThen came the seminal moment in June 2006 when I discovered romance author blogs Squawk Radio and Risky Regencies on an aimless web-surfing night. I was so completely taken in and made to feel at home, there was no question of not returning every day to read and later on to comment. And hope unfurled within me: I, too, would like to write a romance novel. Not some day, but starting right then. So, I did. Two medieval novels, one set in Scotland in the 1100s and another in England during the time of King Alfred the Great. Then I spent months wallowing in despair that I would never be a published author.

Woman Writing in PersuasionThen there was another seminal moment: three change coaches came into my life with the new year of 2008. They came bearing gifts: a safety net, a supporting cushion, a bottom kicker, and a hard nose. Their self-imposed goal was to make me want to be all that I can be (quoting Joan Kayse), and then to make me do it.

So, Genteel Readers, tell me how books have played a part in your lives.
Did you always want to be a writer? When did you pen your first novel?
When did you first openly admit to a stranger in a coffee shop that you write romance novels?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Blame it on Gerry -- Guest Blog chez the Riskies

It is my distinct honor and pleasure to be a guest blogger here. The Risky Regencies are the blog of my heart, the blog that along with Squawk Radio introduced me to the romance community and fired up my desire to write.

The blog is continued here at the Riskies' site.

Blogging at the Riskies on Sun, Apr 13

I'm guest blogging at the Risky Regencies on Sunday, April 13 about my history with the Riskies starting all the way back from summer of 2006. Do come and join me there.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


I apologize for the delay in the Monday Blog, which should be up later this week, or two for next week. I was nursing Le Migraine and communing with The Porcelain God. Bleh.