Writers & Writing & Weekend Retreats: A Match Made in Happy Town

Denny (PortRoyale)This past weekend, I had a fabulous time in Boonsboro, MD, hanging with a bunch of writers I know from the Washington Romance Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America (RWA) serving the Washington, DC area.

First, you may not know about Boonsboro (Nora Roberts hangs out there a lot, but not this weekend:). Three years ago, I didn’t know it from any other small town in Maryland. But each year since first attending this gathering I’ve had a tremendous time, but this year, I don’t know, this year was a really, really, good time. Why? What made it different? Well, this year, here’s what happened:

I learned about writing romance and how characters can fall in love – thank you Kathleen Gilles Seidel. I also learned I will do almost anything to receive the ARC for Lavinia Kent’s next book. Actually, I’ll do anything. I learned that with a gentle nudge Read the Rest…

Mermaids & Friends: Leah Cypess

Good morning, everyone — Alethea Mermaid here, wishing a happy book release week to fellow author Leah Cypess! Her young adult fantasy DEATH SWORN released this Tuesday, March 4th. It’s a gorgeous book…congrats, Leah!

I asked Leah to join us in the lagoon today to talk about three favorite reads. And not just any reads…her favorite WRITING reads. Take it away, Leah!


Leah Cypess, AuthorI’m going to combine the “three favorite reads” with “three things every writer should know” and give you a list of “three favorite writing advice books.” Is that cheating? As I’m writing this, I don’t know, but if the post is up, I guess it’s not. Either that, or I bribed someone to put it up anyhow.

I read lots of writing books, and most of them have nuggets of wisdom, inspiration, or thoughts to ponder; there are few that aren’t worth reading. But these are my favorites – the ones that, after reading…
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In Memory of Karen E. M. Johnston

“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for awhile, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never ever the same.” – Flavia Weedn

“Don’t cry,” Karen said to me, after she told me her doctor had given her two months to live. “I’m not afraid. I want to see my dad again.”

Funny that in this scenario, she should be the one comforting me. But it shouldn’t surprise me. Throughout the duration of her illness, this has been her refrain. “Don’t cry.” “Don’t cry.” “Don’t cry.”

And so I didn’t. For Karen’s sake, I swallowed my tears and I talked of my writing, about which she never failed to ask. I told her (and Stephanie and Sharon, with whom I often visited) how my kids…
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All I need to know about writing I learned from a cartoon cow!

Mermaid CarleneWell, maybe not everything, but what I did learn was HUGE!

It was Sunday morning and ahem, I was watching Nick Toons. :) Back at the Barnyard was on with an episode called “Cowdyshack”. For the record, I did not plan to come away with this writing nugget but I’m pretty much convinced that I was meant to receive it. And share with you.

So, Otis (the main character, a boy cow) is out with his posse of barnyard buddies and wrangles them a day on a golf course from his friend, a human named Crazy Louie, who sneaks them in. Once they’re all on the golf course, Crazy Louie bids them adieu. Otis and his buddies are practicing their swings when Pig takes a whack. He lets it rip and the golf club goes flying. It travels through the air and lands smack in Crazy Louie’s back, knocking him to the ground! Otis and friends run to his side….
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The Harsh Light of Day

I seem to be having a problem with reality.

Mom and I just finished watching Austenland, an exceptionally cute romantic comedy that is Every Austenite’s Wish-Fulfillment Fantasy. Not surprisingly, one of the major themes of this flick is wondering just how thin that line is between fantasy and reality.

I read fantasy. I write fantasy. I’ve been a princess and a pirate and a pig-keep and a lady knight. I’ve been a sorceress and a scullery maid. I live the adventure, revel in the romance…and then I finish the chapter and either shut the laptop or close the book. I feel like I have a fairly good handle on What Fantasy Is.

Reality is a bit of a puzzle for me, though.

And don’t even get me started on “Reality” television.

What is reality? Is it paying bills and mowing the lawn and collecting receipts for taxes? Is it the stubbed toes and the tears and the extra fifty pounds? Does “reality” always have…
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Do You Love Half-Naked Men?


The girls here in the lagoon know I’m a bit more conservative than most of them.  Gorgeous guys on book covers are not what make me personally tick.  Still, this gorgeous cover for Gwen Hernandez’s newly released Blind Fury, really has me thinking.  Do I really need to be that shy about my heroes best physical assets?

For Valentines Day a year ago, we were asked to contribute a photo of a hot hunky guy that was half-dressed.  We needed to reveal why this “character” was a hero and put the photo we felt matched that hero the best up on the blog.  This is what I posted:



“What may you ask is my husband’s feet doing in the midst of all these jaw-droppingly gorgeous guys.  Well, the call to action was a half-dressed man, wasn’t it?  My DH is my hero for so many reasons, but…
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But It’s Pretty, Right?

pintipYesterday morning, I was annoyed. The snow had started too late for school to be delayed. When I opened my car doors, flurries of snow rushed inside, only to melt on the floor mats. My neighborhood roads were a mess, and I slipped and slid out of my driveway. There was so much traffic on 495, it took me THREE times as long to drive my kiddo to school. So, even though we left early, we arrived late. (Although: not really. We got to school after the bell, but *everybody* was late, so no tardy slips were given). Needless to say, I was not happy with the white flakes fluttering from the sky.

But then, I passed another mom dropping her student off. She smiled at me and said, “But it’s pretty, right?” These four little words made all the difference in the world.

Let’s unpack this sentence a little bit. She didn’t say, “It’s pretty!” with so much Pollyanna cheer…
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My Lying Eyes

Because it’s 4am and because I can’t think of anything witty, interesting or half decent to write, I will force upon all of you, what will soon be forced upon me:  to talk about myself.  Blech, ech and barf.  And, to make matters worse, I have to do it in front of a large crowd of work people.  String me up by my toenails and hang me in a car wash.   The only saving grace is I have completely lost my voice.  Hand puppets, here I come.  However, in the spirit of giving, I will make this a fun game.  Give five fun facts about yourself, with one of them, being a lie.  The rest of us have to guess the untruth.


1.  I was selected for the Russian Olympic gymnastic team 2. I speak 4 languages 3. One of my previous jobs was as a dental assistant:  I helped yank out tooth gunk during root canals. 4. I once pretended to be a stripper 5. I ate an…
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Writing through the Fog

Caution Heavy Fog pic

This past weekend I attended the SCBWI conference in NYC, and while we were waiting for the next great speaker, random quotes would appear on the mega screens to keep us patient.

One quote by E.L. Doctorow kept with me during the weekend, and I wrote it down in my handy-dandy composition notebook. It was this: “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Wow. That’s it exactly! Each scene, each chapter leads you to the end of the book. That made me think about WIPs and the obstacles that get in our way while we’re writing. I started to see all these similarities between driving in the fog and writing a book.

Then I did what some writers do best. I distracted myself and started Googling. I found a bunch of warnings for…
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Still Sparkling

Last month I introduced you to my completely made-up diet called The Sparkle Plan. Check it out here. The Sparkle Plan consists of big and small goals. The big goals are to keep you motivated throughout the year and the small goals are your monthly objectives. Here are mine:

Big Goals

I would like to lose 25 pounds by the end of 2014. Run a 5K.

Small Goals – Month 1

Since my back is still getting better I can’t do too much in terms of exercise (which is killing me!). But once I get the green light from the doctor, I’m going to start small. I would like to do 30 minutes of exercise 6 days a week. It doesn’t even have to be 30 straight minutes. Just purposeful movement for 30 minutes. Dog walks not included. No eating after 9pm. We are on M&M overload in my office. I don’t want to deny myself completely. So I will allow myself one day to have some M&Ms….
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