For any author who has wondered why we write, or felt like sometimes it's just too daunting to struggle on, you need to listen to the moving story by best-selling Fantasy author, Tracy Hickman, that he presented at the Superstars Writing Seminar. (The audio clip is in the middle of the page).

This story particularly resonated with me.

DragonLance is where the magic of writing really hit me. Like so many others, I followed those chronicles, I collected them, I devoured each and every word put on the page.

And I loved Sturm Brightblade. Loved him. I could not continue reading the series after this book.

Not because I was angry at the turn of events or the authors, but because I had such an emotional connection to the story that what happened next didn't matter anymore. My heart had broken. I couldn't go back to that fantsy world.

But Sturm, as he inspired the soldier, inspired me. I had written prior to this. But it was this series that made me put my heart into my writing. I wanted to affect readers the same way I had been affected.

If I have... If I've made you laugh, if I've made you cry, this is the biggest compliment a reader could ever give me. It's the biggest reward any fan could give his/her favorite author.

Our stories are fun for us to compose, but they are otherwise meaningless. It is for you, the reader, we write.



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I've been working with editors for a while now, and have really been blessed with wonderful experiences. But I must confess, despite having been through the wringer a few times, I was a little worried about what might happen with a new publishing house.

There's always the questions -- what standards are they adhering to? How intensive is this? How exactly does the process work? And even better -- how different is this going to be?

Well, I received my first editorial letter, and I'm happy to say, all that nail biting was for naught. It was, quite frankly, the nicest letter I could have imagined. But still, when I heard the words, "I'm sending my editorial letter," I found myself stumped. What was this new thing, and why did it sound so formal?

In contrast to sending a manuscript full of comments and inserts, it's a bullet point document containing my editors thoughts, suggestions, and questions. Not so frightening after all.

And, to top it all off, when I had questions of my own, my editor was super-friendly and approachable. Course, I had to pace the kitchen for a half an hour, nibble down a few fingernails, and call my agent to gain courage to call my editor. I attribute this to what I call "Editor-fear". For those fantasy buffs, or those gamers out there, consider this a modified "Dragon-fear."

For the rest of you -- it's being enchanted, impressed, but the mere presence strikes fear into hearts. It freezes you in place. Not because there's any danger, necessarily, just the status, the magnificence.

So yes. I was suffering from Editor-Fear. And it required a successful role to overcome it enough to pick up the phone and consider my editor as a normal person, not a big scary being a thousand miles away who possesses an all-seeing eye.

I'm glad I did. I'm so much more at ease with both the project, and my editor. We laughed. We had a brief conversation about our ordinary lives, we shared a couple similiar experiences. And overall, it was an extremely pleasant experience.

I'm sure, as time goes on, that editor-fear will diminish. I'm also sure, for the short duration, I'm still going to lose a few fingernails before I'm comfortable totally just picking up the phone. But, I can say without hesitation, I am absolutely looking forward to the coming months now.

And on that note, back to edits I go. Strangely, they are kinda fun.



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This post is the first in what I hope to be a series, about the adventures of my new cat, Stitch, who joined my family on January 20, 2011. Stitch is a grey tabby, part manx, tom cat, aged approximately a year.

Two days ago, when I crawled out of my warm outdoor den and wandered down to find my owner -- and subsequently torment her by winding around, and around, and around her legs -- I had no idea how my life was about to change. I watched my caretaker leave quite pleased with the bits of scratching I'd managed on her ankles, and knowing I'd suitably driven her batty once more. For a few hours I observed the chickens, inspected the goat about to kid, and generally surveyed my territory.

And then they arrived. The blonde lady who I can always bank on for a few good pets, and the little blonde boy who giggles at me. I made them follow me to my den, and then I decided they could indulge and pet me. Ahh! She even picked me up. Scratched me under the jaw -- heaven, I tell you.

Only then, we were walking beyond my normal territory, into the unknown, over where the dogs bark and I know going there is risking certain death. But she's got the back of my neck, and she's no longer petting, she's holding on tight. I can't move! And why is there a rooster with us too? Am I going to that place where the chickens go to and don't come back. Maybe this isn't such a good idea after all...

Within moments I find myself sitting in a vehicle on the lady's lap. Not so bad after all. It's warm here, and purr, I'm getting the scratching of my life.

Then, we're moving... and the world is spinning, and... holy Bast! I have to get out of here now! I tried, valiantly, to escape through the floorboards, and even managed to wedge myself between the door and the seat so she had to pull over and move me. I thought for certain she'd open that damn door. But no. She's oblivious to my attempts and determined to keep me here. I finally give up and bury my head under her elbow, resigned to the fact we're going somewhere. The chicken doesn't seem overly distressed. Maybe that's because his carrier has been turned upside down and by the two boys sitting beside him, and he's more concerned about losing tail feathers than our destination. He's a chicken after all.

And I really don't give a damn about chickens. What matters is that we get out of this steel box.

At long last we stop. The door opens. I see a moment of freedom -- only to have it taken away by being scruffed once more. She means business. She's not letting go, no matter how I try to claw my way to freedom in the brief instant where she opens the gate to the drive and loosens her hold on my neck a little.

Despite my protests, I find myself back in the truck and moving again. A few short yards later, we're stopped and now it's snowing on me. I recognize the scents of farm, my ears perk as I sight the barn. Again, however, my hopes are dashed when she mutters, "No, Stitch (who's Stitch? Last I knew my name was Damn Cat.), you can't go there, the dogs will eat you."

Sound advice, in my opinion. Inside the house we go. And whoo-boy, this is exciting! I've never been inside before. There's all kinds of scents. Something yummy, a few more of my superior species, an underlying aroma that suspiciously resembles dogs, and there's a whole lot of space in here.

She sets me down in a room full of toys, but it's a bit more intimdating than I want to let on. In search of a few minutes quiet time I seek solitude in the bathroom, where I'm planning on regrouping and finding my courage to investigate. The house falls quiet. I can't hear dogs, and I don't see the little blonde boys.

Wonder what's going on with the chicken?

A little while later, I hear voices. "Stitch? Stitchy-kitty (c'mon, really?) where are you?"

"Mrrph." It's the best I can manage. The finger waggling indicated she must be talking to me, and those scratches are too darn tempting to ignore. Back we go to the kitchen and we're sitting on the floor, when four other felines come up to investigate. I'm much more comfortable with my back against the wall, and crawl out of her lap to tuck into the corner.

There, I meet the psycho twins. These two cats -- Merlin and Razputin I've now realized -- would like me to believe my life is in danger for being here. Their ferocious growls might carry weight if they weren't three-legged and lacking claws. I turn my nose up. They aren't worth my time.

The Elmer character shows merit. He at least is polite in his sniffing, and hasn't raised his voice to me.

Then... the dogs come. In an effort to make myself as small as possible, I remain where I am currently hiding, under the kitchen chair. If the damned twins would shut up, I might actually succeed. Crap! That big monster has noticed me. And blech! she licked me. Tatum, she's called, obviously doesn't understand the cat-dog relationship -- a lesson Elmer is happy to teach her when she repeats the same process to him.

I think I could like this Elmer chap.

My night passes rather smoothly. Save for the lady with the soft hands and even softer voice, I'm left pretty much alone to establish myself. I found the food -- admittedly with her aid -- and mowed down half the bowl. Interesting enough, she leaves food out all day long. I'm going to gain ten pounds here, I know it. But if the twins are the only threats I have to worry about, I'm not to terribly worried about weight gain.

Morning, however, is a whole new venture. The children are up. The taller one is searching for me. It's simply a glorious moment when he runs upstairs to tell the lady I'm gone. She doesn't seem to buy into this theory, however, and he returns to look some more. It's her who finds me later, and her, "Good morning, Stitch", at least deserves a polite, "Mrr."

She'll figure out what it means, I'm sure.

I'd just settled into the impression this place wasn't quite so bad and dismissed my initial introduction to the toybox, by being locked inside it, as just bad luck. I have nine lives. So now I have eight. And the woman seems to be some sort of guardian angel.

Only, she left to tend to "the filly". I know what this is from my former place. A horse evidently lost its marbles -- though they don't possess many anyway -- and needs medical attention. I'm back in the bathroom, dozing, when two giggling monsters arrive to wash their hands. Pretty dull and boring, though it's rather cute how the oldest one helps the youngest. Brotherly love.

Then all hell breaks loose. I'm not entirely certain what I did that Bast felt it necessary to punish me, but before I could blink, one of those monsters scoops a bowl full of water out of the toilet and douses me on the head! What the hell? I gave myself a bath. I'm fairly certain I don't stink -- and that's cold stuff! I can't run away -- the door's shut.

I hear the nice lady talking in the other room about a leaky roof. I'm praying, but she doesn't seem to know I'm in immient danger of drowning. With no options left to me, I tuck my head between my paws, and play dead. It works for possums, I'm out of options...

When I think I can't possibly get any more wet, the door bursts open. The monsters stop, stock-still, terror written on their faces. The lady erupts. Hauls them out of the bathroom, and puts them in separate chairs. I'm still too dumbstruck to make an escape, and am sitting in the same place, soaked to the bone, when she comes in to mop up the mess. Evidently she had no idea I was in here. "Oh, Stitch! Poor, kitty."

The softest warmest towel I've ever known descends on me. Poised on the closed toilet seat, she rubs and rubs, and rubs. Matted hair begins to separate and fluff. Grateful beyond all imagining, I purr in thanks. My eyes round out to their normal state of curious observation, and it is one immensely satisfying moment for all cat-kind when she sets me down on another dry towel and storms into the kitchen to give the monsters what for about being mean to the cat.

It's now night. I haven't seen the monsters since. I'm holed up for another day. The twins won't talk to me, that Tatum creature is absent, and Elmer is asleep on the chair. Raistlin, has decided I'm not worth his time. I can respect that. He's the senior around here.

I've been assured, however, through Raistlin's actions, that this place can't be all that bad. All of my feline friends flock to the lady. Merlin seems to have some sick obsession with dogs -- that's where Tatum must have gotten the impression she can lick what she wants. (I told you they were psychotic!)

We'll see how the rest of this week pans out. That corner behind the television is looking more and more interesting, but for now, I'll stay here in the kitchen, well away from the bathroom, and wait it out.


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Several years ago I learned that there are certain imprints, certain publishing houses in entirety, that solicit authors to write for them (or authors volunteer) and the author is then given a Canon or Bible for the series, often a trilogy. He--the author--has set parameters he must stay between, certain character traits, for that matter a list of characters, and so forth. This is commonly done with series fantasy where you see a lot of authors writing for the same on-going series. Harlequin, I've been told, also utilizes a bible for some projects.

At first, my gut reaction was, "How terrible." About five minutes later, when I finished digesting the information, I decided that wasn't so bad. In fact, it sounded rather exciting. Challenging too.

I got to give collaborating a shot with the Three Kings series, and A Christmas To Believe In. Dyann Love Barr, Alicia Dean, and I weren't given parameters, but we sat down and established them together. The resulting books had to fit those parameters. And, oddly enough, all the authors had to be equally comfortable with all the other authors' characters.

Sometimes we wanted to bang our heads. Sometimes we didn't have a choice to do anything but groan and erase words we labored over. Sometimes we came up with something really cool that the others' leaped to incorporate it. All in all though, it was extremely challenging. But it was an experience that was very rewarding as well.

So much so, that this year I've decided to do it again. I'm collaborating with my critique partners, Dyann Love Barr and Kimberly Kennedy, on another Christmas trilogy. This time, it's going a little more smoothly because two of us have been there before. But we're still in the initial phases and all of us know the true work is yet to come -- the part where we have chunks of our own stories and now we have to make sure we haven't run down the wrong path.

It really is an experience I'd encourage all of you to try at least once. Pick a writing partner you're comfortable with. Someone you can be honest with and can listen to with just as much honesty. Sit down and brainstorm an idea together and see if you can pull off two or more books in parallel. It will absolutely teach you to write within constraints. While most authors might shudder at the idea of being confined at all, really, it's not so bad.

It can also be a great way to practice writing to a deadline, because, you'll find that you almost have to set time frames to pull a collaborative effort off. You'll end up either waiting on someone, or someone waiting on you, if not.

But the best part for an author who's struggling to make a name for herself, is that once the books are out there, the promotions get a whole lot easier. You can split advertising costs and buy space for the project, not just one book. Every blog post that your writing partners do is one for you as well. Vice versa. Someone is almost always shouting out about their book, and all collaborators see a benefit in this. For instance, right now in this post, I've promo'd Dyann and Alicia. And since we don't all frequent the same stomping grounds, that's a broader base we're covering.

So, writers, band together. Give it a try. If nothing else, you'll have a phenomenal learning experience.



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I have a friend who was talking with me about critique groups. She said something that made it impossible to make today's blog about anything other than this topic:

I'm summarizing but, in short, she felt she was too new to writing to be of use in a critique group. And now I'm concerned. How many other writers are out there feeling the same way?

Briefly -- my first critique group: We were all pretty much novice writers. A couple had been writing longer than I had, but this was our first attempt at critiquing in any kind of formal setting. On paper, when asked what we had to "offer" to the group, we had answers, but I don't think in hindsight any of us had any real idea exactly how to answer that question. Regardless, we worked together. We taught each other. We learned together. And we made it work. Writing schedules and life pulled the group apart eventually, but the group was strong.

Then I joined another critique group where I was the baby writer and yeah, that was a bit intimidating, but wowee, I learned a lot. And the gals never minded inputting. We were all shooting for the same goal, and dedicated to helping each other reach it. That one also broke apart due to scheduling.

Which brought me to my current critique group. It comprises writers from all over the spectrum. Two of us are agented and published, another is published, one writes YA, one writes more mainstream fiction, one writes women's fiction, and another two members are still learning the very basics of craft. And you know what? Everyone in the group has something to offer to the group and to each individual member.

So do you critique, or don't you?

But, Claire, what about how intimidating that is?

You know, you're absolutely right. Offering up your work to a group of strangers is scary. They are going to dissect it. They might tear it into shreds and blow holes in your wonderful story you're so proud of. But if you're afraid to have a group of your peers analyze your work and guide you, submitting a work to an editor or an agent is even more terrifying. And if you sell, now your work is going to be reviewed by the real critics -- readers. Readers aren't going to reject work with a form letter. If they don't like it, they are going to say why. And if you haven't taken a beating from a group of people you can depend on, a group of people who you know support you, a negative review is going to be crushing.

There really is no "right time" to join a critique group. The benefits are too many to name, but here's a few:

1. You get an opportunity to read and study craft with people possibly more experienced than yourself. You get to hear critiques on *their* work and learn from more or less observation.

2. If your critique partners are more experienced than yourself, the feedback you receive is likely going to be invaluable.

3. You now also have a support network that is trained to help you succeed.

4. If you and your partners are on equal experience levels, now you have folks sharing messages like, "Hey look what I read on this link!"

5. If you happen to be the more experienced individual in your critique group, teaching craft is a phenomenal way to learn craft.

I want to repeat number three -- You now have a support network.

We all have friends and family that cheer us on. How many of them have any idea what the genre you're writing in requires? How many of them honestly know how it feels to have your guts ripped out when you get a rejection letter from your dream agent/editor? How many loved ones can relate to the voices in your head that won't shut up, and the frustration of suddenly hitting a block while knowing you have to write?

When you succeed or suffer a set back, your loved ones are going to celebrate with you because they understand how important it is to you. But, unless they are writers, they don't share the same connection to those setbacks or successes.

Sometimes we all need someone to pick us up. Sometimes we need to rant about how Agentxyz is too stupid to live. Sometimes we need someone to kick our butt and make us write. Sometimes we need someone who understands GMC to help us brainstorm a plot issue.

All these and more serve as benefits for critique groups. It is a group of people who share the same dream you do, who are working with you to achieve those dreams, and who can *feel* those dreams on the same level you do.

It isn't a competition. I met my best friend in my first critique group. In my second critique group I met my other best friend. These are women who've moved beyond the conversation of "Hey, I'm having trouble with my hero's motivation" and have now become "Wanna go to a movie? I'm bored." Sure, we still talk craft a heck of a lot but after two years of exposing our most intimate creations (our stories written from our hearts) we have inseverable bonds.

So... any writer who thinks you have nothing to offer a critique group, or that it's too intimidating to join one, get over it. Get out there, ask around, find a group of folks you're comfortable working with. Muddle through the rough spots. You do have something to offer -- maybe it's just that you know when to use affect versus effect but you still have something to offer. And the more you are exposed to the feedback, the more you will have to give back.

Everyone starts somewhere. Start now. When you go to submit, you'll need it. Be that to share a bottle of champagne with, or a shoulder to cry on.



I'm so excited to share my new book trailer for Waiting for Yes! Thanks to the ladies over at Long and Short Reviews, this was put together faster than my usual procrastinating approach on it. (By the way, great set of folks to work with for advertising opportunities, fellow writers!)

But before I show it off, I want to talk about creating this particular trailer. With my other ones, I've been able to go into stock photo sites and find what I needed. But when I'm trying to promote a book about the Straight Egyptian Arabian, going into a generic site isn't exactly helpful. Yes, there are beautiful stock photos there... and of Arabians... but there's a "distance" that I didn't particularly want -- in so much as these horses are strangers to me, and this book is very intimate to me.

I did use a few of my own horses in it, and am excited to have a chance to show them off, but that still left me with a lot of holes to fill. And I'd much rather give credit to people I know in the industry as opposed to total strangers/unknown equines.

So, I reached out to some fellow breeders I know, and asked for some help. In the resulting trailer, 3/4 of the horses exhibited here are horses I "know" -- they aren't just models. These people are folks who have a passion for the breed, and spend their time in the trenches doing everything they can to share their passion with others. They are some of the best horsepeople I've had the pleasure of meeting, and some of them are good friends.

I'm proud to have the opportunity to promote their special equine friends.

So, with much ado --

If you'd like a closer look at the horses within, please check out the Meet The Horses page on my website, where you can see who's who. For those of you who are active in the world of Arabians, or horses period, if you want further information on any of the showcased horses, website information is available here, and if not, I'm happy to network you appropriately.

Waiting For Yes will be available April 20, 2011.


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"Victorians used the term 'limbs' as a euphenism for legs, which were thought to be so sexually exciting to a man, even a glimpse of a table leg could incite him to sexual frenzy. Table skirts were invented to prevent any unnatural unions between men and furniture."
(History Channel International)



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