Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for Zest

It’s the last day of 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge! It’s been great fun to bring Rayne Forrest to the challenge, and I come to this last day quite pleased I’ve completed it as both Rayne and KC, every day on time. But I will admit I'm also looking forward to a bit of a blogging break. 

While I had this entry up at a different blog a few years ago, it's still appropriate for today and for a new audience. 

I appreciate meeting so many new people through both blogs. Each person brings something to my life even if it’s just a fleeting comment on the blog. It’s still a connection to someone else’s world and that’s the point of all. 

Now on to ZEST.

Zest: a noun
1. lively excitement : a feeling of enjoyment and enthusiasm
2. a lively quality that increases enjoyment, excitement, or energy
3. small pieces of the skin of a lemon, orange, or lime that are used to flavor food

A new acquaintance once asked me if my apparent zest for life was for real. A deeper friendship with this person never developed, which is a shame. When we encounter each other we always speak, but her world has too many gray corners for us to be bosom buddies. I fear she’d suck the zest out of me if I let her in too far.

I do have a certain amount of zest for life. The small things around me are a source of enjoyment, and often wonder. Every year I eagerly await the first green tips of the bulbs breaking ground. It’s a ‘wow’ moment when I realize the mountain has taken on a reddish blush as the maples prepare to bring forth their leaves. I feel the energy of the changing seasons on a molecular level. It’s who I am.

My late grandfather lived every day until a month prior to his death with a zest for life. He was born on the cusp of WWI and lived through WWII and the Great Depression. He buried his wife, his parents and all his younger siblings. And yet, until his eyesight failed, this man lived every day and looked forward to tomorrow. This was my shining example of having a zest for life. I hope I learned well the lessons he so lovingly taught. 

I wish for all of you reading this that you also may have a zest for life. I wish that you experience joy, no matter how small, no matter from what source, in every day of your life.

Thanks for being a part of my world in the 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for You, the Critical Ingredient

I have a very brief post for this next to the last day of the 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge.  It’s for every writer out there, published or not. 

YOU are the critical ingredient.

Without you, the writer, there is no publishing industry. There are no books, be they print or digital. Without the writer we begin to lose knowledge. If we lose knowledge, the whole human experiment begins to unravel. 

Never forget that you, the writer, has the power to change the world.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for X Marks the Spot

What do you want to accomplish as a writer? What mark, if any, do you want to leave on the publishing world? There are as many responses to the questions as writers. It doesn’t matter if no one else is privy to your reply. This question is just for you. For a lot of people, myself included, one easy answer won’t suffice, and I can only speak for me.

I think it’s important for people to understand what motivates them to do something. I constantly examine the ‘whys’ of my actions but I rarely share them. I don’t have to. My reasons are specific to my own path.

The first novel I wrote has never been published. No, it’s not that bad. I wanted to prove to myself I could write a story and so I wrote it just for me. But that experience led to questions, namely could I do it again? So I wrote a second novel, just for me, which lead to another question - is there a possibility I could get published?

I’ve passed the half-century mark and I know that writing fame isn’t what I want. I had the good fortune to have a world famous author move to my little hometown back in the early 1970s. The poor woman can’t make a move without someone spotting her. I really don’t want to live like that.

“Journey” is an overused buzzword. So is “path.” I get tired of hearing them - and using them. Ditto for “life experience.” The problem is I can’t come up with anything better.

All that happened a lot of years ago and it’s been a fun ride to get to today. But somewhere along the line I realized that whatever mark I make on the publishing world (or not) isn’t anywhere near as important as the mark I make on myself.

That’s the one that counts. 


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for Work

 Work is a four-letter word. I’ve been working for someone else since I was sixteen. It’s not always fun, but I’ve decided it’s not all that difficult to get out of bed and go to work when I get paid to show up. 

My idea of fun is writing full time. That day is coming but, until then, I work. According to my retirement countdown counter, I still have one thousand days to go until I can tap my heels together and proclaim, "there's no place like home!"

Working outside the home is a good thing on many levels. It gets me out of the house. Time out in the world is something I’ll have to plan for once I become a full time writer. Working in general keeps the mind engaged and sharp whereas as being idle allows everything to atrophy.

I’m enjoying the idea of working for myself. Whether or not it will actually be as sweet as I imagine is yet to be proven. But for now I can envision myself working in the garden in the morning when it’s cooler and working on a story inside on hot afternoon.

What I can’t imagine is not working at all.

Strange, isn’t it?


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V is for Variety

 Someone once said, and has now been quoted endlessly, that “variety is the spice of life.” That may be true, but sometimes one can have a bit too much spice in the dish and muddle the flavors. Variety, to the writer, can be a double-edged sword.

Most writers excel at a particular type of story but that doesn’t mean they don’t yearn to expand into other genres. As Rayne Forrest, I write contemporary romance, romance set in the near future, and sci-fi romance. Yes, I touched the fringes of the paranormal with A Hidden Heaven, but I don’t go there often. At least not yet. I think I’d like to visit the genre. My alter ego did quite well with the Sundown saga.

So here’s a question I ponder. How much variety is just enough? How much variety is too much? One of the accepted rules of writing is if you want to write in a variety of genres, you need more than one pen name.

I certainly agree with this IF you want to write traditional heterosexual romance AND gay romance AND something like inspirational stories. Some things don’t mix well. That could be just a wee bit too much variety. And since I write both het and m/m, it's under different names using something we writers call "branding." 

It's enough variety to keep the creative needs of this writer happy.

Monday, April 25, 2016

U is for Unique

 When I first started to write, newbies were told to celebrate their unique voice. I wasn’t sure what that meant. After being in the publishing industry for thirteen years, I still don’t know what it means.

Back in the day, and it's still heard today, that publisher want “unique new voices.” Only thing is, no, they don't. They want what and who will sell and sell BIG.

If the rise in indie publishing proves one thing, it’s that the unique voice is determined to survive. I remember in 2005 pitching an idea for a sci-fi story where on some distant planet the males had multiple wives. That got an immediate NO from a publisher.

Enter the era of the ménage in 2006. (I called that one right and I should have persisted.)

Don’t be afraid to be a unique voice. Write your story. I wrote mine and the time is upon me to tighten it up. I can apply all my years of experience to the story and set it free to be as unique as it wants to be.

It’s a wonderful time to be a [unique] writer.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

T is for To Bed A Spy

2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge

T is for To Bed a Spy

Writing Rules

April 23

Today is a Saturday, so it’s time to do some double duty here at Twenty-six Keys. Being Saturday, it’s time for the My Sexy Saturday blog hop as well as “T” in the A to Z Challenge. Luckily, I have a “T” book - To Bed a Spy. So today you get pure book promo. Enjoy!


Friday, April 22, 2016

S is for Sticking With It

Nothing I have ever done in my entire life has called for more determination and dedication than writing.

I have never worked so hard and put in so many hours for a purely personal satisfaction.

Every day I wonder why I’m doing this to myself because writing romance can make the soul bleed.

Each new release opens the author up to unimaginable levels of criticism from jealous friends all the way to jealous reviewers.

And yet I keep writing, and I’ll keep on writing, under one name or another, until I can no longer sit at a keyboard or speak into a headset.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

R is for Renewal

 When my alter ego shanghaied me into the A-Z Blogging Challenge this year, I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. Then again, I’ve been busy getting some of my stories back out into the world so this is a good way to get the Rayne Forrest brand more visible. So here I am, and it’s turning out to be a very good thing. 

Writing under two names means, unfortunately, that one brand gets shortchanged. That’s generally the Rayne Forrest brand. I confess I wish I’d not used one of the family names. It has lead to “discussions” over the years. The last time I was involved in one of those “discussions” I told no one in my family and disappeared into the alter ego. I tend to remove myself from situations and people rather than argue.

I’ve been thinking, and wishing, I could find the right time to be Rayne again. Like love, the moment I stopped looking for it, it found me.

Getting my completed title out is the beginning of a renewal. Finishing a few projects for release is the next step. I have no set timeframe for this renewal. My sense of it is this renewal is something that cannot be forced, or rush. For it to happen, I must be content and let it proceed knowing it will come to fruition in its own time.

I’m good with that. 


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Q is for Question

Happy Birthday to my Mom!

Most days I have more questions than answers. It used to bug the heck out of me that I didn’t have all the answers. As I’ve gotten, ehem, more mature, I find I don’t like the answers so I’ve stopped asking some of the questions.

Some, but not all.

I believe it’s my constitutional duty to question those in authority over me. I believe I should question what doctors tell me. I believe I have the right to question any and all companies that manufacture food, drugs, drinks, and anything that touches my person and the world I live in if its products are safe.

That doesn’t mean the questions should be asked with disrespect. Questions are how we learn. They help us assimilate information. Questions tend to keep people from thinking they can harm us, or use us.

Don’t be afraid to ask a legitimate question. The answer might be just what you need to know.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P is for Pride - have some

This past autumn, there was an article in the Romance Writer’s Digest about “taking back our writing.” I’m not going to lie and say I read the RWR from cover to cover, because I don’t, but I did pause to read this article.

In this article, the author admits to being caught in the vicious cycle of meeting deadlines. Publishing is a dog-eat-dog world and a lot of small press pubs rely on volume. Too many live and die by the short story. The art of writing a full-length novel is dying, choked out by the need to produce, produce, produce. The writer of the article acknowledged this. And then she impressed me. She said it’s time to step off the treadmill.

I agree with her. I want to write a story I’m proud of. I decided quite a while back I could no longer churn out story after story to meet the needs of a publisher. My alter ego did that for a bit and it’s too exhausting to sustain. My library has a few books that suffered because I met the deadline. Those stories got short-changed, both by the writer and more so the editor. I think there are more writers besides myself putting out indie-published books for that very reason. If an editor doesn't have time to do justice to your book, you need to take another path. 

Take the time to write a story you can be proud of. Check for typos, passive voice, missed words and continuity errors. Will you find all of them? Probably not. And trust me - neither does an editor. You may be a novice but your work doesn’t have to look like a newbie wrote it. When it comes to finishing your story, speed is not your friend.

It’s YOUR name on the cover of your book. This is one instance where being prideful is a good thing.


Monday, April 18, 2016

O is for OOPS!

“Oh, oops….”

That’s a favorite saying of mine. It’s a lot more ladylike than some expressions that fall out of my mouth. Really.

I’ve made of a lot of “oops” in my life. I look at my earliest manuscripts and I see “oops” all over the pages. Instead of being embarrassed, well, overly embarrassed, I generally use the moment to remind myself of how far I’ve come.

There is no escaping the “oops.” You can live in denial if you want to, but if you live you’ve got a few “oops” in your closet. (Like the proverbial skeleton in the closet.) Instead of beating yourself up over them, use them as opportunities to learn. Remain positive about the learning experience. Fix it, if it can be fixed, and move forward. If it can’t be fixed, tender what apologies are necessary and move forward.

Trust me. It’s highly unlikely you’re the only person to ever do that particular “oops.”  Don’t let it define your writing career. 



Saturday, April 16, 2016

N is for NO

Saying no. Toddlers are good at this, but somewhere along the line we lose the ability to say “no” and stick to our guns. I’m not sure why this happens except no one wants to be labeled as a difficult-to-get-along-with-bitch.

The thing is, saying no is a useful tool which can promote sanity. By saying “no” we lay down our boundaries. When a person respects this, we can gauge his or her level of regard for us and give it back to them.

Too many people equate saying “no” in a purely negative light and that’s not always the case. If someone tells you “no,” you may want to politely ask for clarification. The answer to gently asking if it’s “no right now or no not ever,” is a helpful thing to know. It can avoid confusion in the future. And if it’s “no, not right now,” give the person time. They may broach to topic to you at a better time for them. 

 So don’t be afraid or offended by “no.” Take the time to figure it out what it really means. Take the time to use it wisely.


Friday, April 15, 2016

M is for Must

The MUST day. The day when we MUST have our tax returns filed for the previous year.

It's not my favorite day of the year for many reasons, mostly because I'm a little rebel at heart and when someone says I MUST do [fill in the blank], I don't react well. 

April 15. Why not say we must remember the sinking of the Titanic? That was on this day in 1912. It's a little before my time, but I've seen pictures. 

Here's a better must remember for today. In 1964, the first Ford Mustang rolled off the assembly line. I must remember that the next time I see an old Mustang on the road. 

I must remember to mix brevity with seriousness in my blog. 

I must. M is for Must. 


Thursday, April 14, 2016

L is for Little by Little

Little by little, the time goes
Little by little, the days pass by
Little by little, the air clears
Little by little, I can breathe again
I can breathe again --

Little by Little - Robert Plant

Most days I feel I’m living that verse. Little by little the minutes and days go by. I start the work day looking down a long, dark tunnel and the closer I get to quitting time, the cleaner the air becomes. I get in my car and take a deep breath. I drive home to begin my real life, which is very different from the forty hours I spend at my job. I suspect I’m not alone in this.

The closer I get to being able to retire, and the clock stands at a little over three and a half years, the worse the days become. But I have no choice except to ride it out.

But little by little, time moves forward in deliberate increments to that magic day in 2019.
Little by little, be they good or bad, the days full of obligation pass.
Little by little, the days spent breathing city air are fewer in number.

Little by little, I dare to believe I’ll be able to fulfill my dream of writing full time.

Little by little it’s going to be a reality. All I need is a patience, little by little.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

K is for K-cup Koffee

We’ve made it to the halfway point of the A to Z Blogging Challenge! And we’ll need more K-cups to make it to the end.

It’s only in the last decade or so I’ve become a coffee devotee. Sure, I’d have a cup now and then. I’d occasionally stop at the local convenience store in the mornings, but I rarely brewed a pot at home even though I only had a 4-cup brewer. All that changed when I was introduced to the K-cup.

A perfect individual cup of coffee or tea on demand? What’s not to like? It’s not the motor oil my parent’s generation drank, that’s for sure. Having each and every cup brewed fresh is a modern day miracle.

Now I know those individual cups can get expensive so I reuse them. I hear you saying not possible, but oh yes you can. Just peel the top off, fill it, and put the whole thing inside the auxiliary pod. I can get four or five brews from one k-cup before the filter gives out.

So K is for K-cups. Everyone needs at least one vice. The K-cup is mine.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

J is for Jerks

 When I was shanghaied by my alter ego into decided to participate in the 2016 A to Z Challenge, I filled out a calendar page with topics. That was a while ago and now I’m staring at J is for Jerk and wondering what the heck my original thought was.

Maybe I was thinking about those published authors who believe they are God’s gift to the written word. Could be. I’ve come across a few. They don’t think they have to abide by any form of etiquette. They beg promo spots and then refuse to follow the rules. 

They’re published. They don’t have play nice. They’re full of themselves and full of an annoying attitude. I could refer to some of them as bitches but jerk is a bit milder so we’ll go with that.

To the aspiring writers out there - THIS is not a moniker anyone wants to earn. Be fair in your dealings with others, even online. If someone offers you a promo spot, on a blog, for example, follow their rules. Thank them. Return the favor, if you can. Pass it on.

Cyberspace has a long memory. The memory of other authors is even longer. Don't be a jerk.



Monday, April 11, 2016

I is for Invest in Yourself

Any writer who’s gone out on the Internet searching for advice has likely found this: invest in yourself.

Without the writer, we have no stories. We lose shared experiences and insights. We lose access to the dreams of others. Publishers and critics will come and go, but writers and readers will remain constant.

These days, a writer needs a good computer. Invest in one. Who cares if it’s a desktop or a laptop? It has to please you. If you like techie toys, get them. I love having a wireless keyboard that I can use with both a desktop and a laptop.

If you want to go indie and want to make your own covers, invest in good photo editing software. If you feel you need to improve your basic language skills, take a class. The better your skillset, the faster the words hit the page.

It sounds simple and I know sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s baby steps all the way, but take them. The goal is a better you, and a better you means a better story.

Invest in yourself.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

H is for Hello/Goodbye (2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge)

Today marks the completion of one-third of the 2016 A to Z Challenge. I wasn’t sure how “Rayne” would do in the challenge, but so far so good. Plan the work and work the plan, or some such saying.

One of the things I find most odd about authors online is the “hello/goodbye” relationships that are formed. With no hard feelings, I must firmly stress. Whenever our paths cross, stranger or not, there’s the shared experience of being a writer. We blunder into each other, chat like good friends, and then move on without animosity. It’s fascinating and I love it.

Hello, goodbye. Thanks for stepping into my world today.


Friday, April 8, 2016

G is for Good Grief! ( 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge)

It’s a little strange that the familiar saying “good grief” is a censored form of “good God.” I suppose it dates back to when 1) saying “good God” could get you staked for blasphemy and 2) the times when folks believed God punished us with grief. 

And then there’s poor Charlie Brown. I like Charlie. He’s one of the good guys. On the surface nothing seems to go his way, yet in the end, he makes it through. When Charlie gets annoyed over the stupidity of his friends, he declares, “good grief” and he keeps chugging onward.

That became one of my writing rules. When annoyed by my own stupidity, or that of others, I simply say “good grief” and keep moving on. 

And on. And on…..


Thursday, April 7, 2016

F is for Freeze Frame (2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge)

Back in 1981, there was a song out by the J.Geiles Band called Freeze Frame. The focus of the song was a split second in time when a man sees a woman’s red lips and is so turned on by it the image freezes in his psyche. He thinks he’ll lose his mind if he can’t have her. The song is funky, upbeat, funny and reflects the human condition.

I get freeze frame moments all the time. The old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is very true. A single image can inspire a sixty-thousand-word book.

I’m always on the lookout for the freeze frame. I never know where they’ll lead me, but as long as they lead, I’ll follow. 
Getting there is just too much fun to quit.


I suppose now would be a good time to say F is also for friends who let you piggyback on their website.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

E is for Evermore

Thanks for stopping by Twenty-six Keys. Today’s blog is doing double duty with both the 2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge and the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

Poe’s Raven was a miserable creature and the greatest nay-sayer of all time. The wretched bird knew but one word - “nevermore!”

What a serious downer.

Writers tend to be an introverted and insecure sect. We need positive reinforcement on a daily basis. The word "never" should not be a part of our vocabulary. 

So to all the insecure writers out there, with apologies to the Poe devotees, I think it’s time for the raven to quote another word - EVERMORE.

Evermore is faithful and being a writer means being faithful to your craft. There’s no halfway measure to being a happy writer. As the writer’s knowledge and abilities increase, they’re evermore willing to put in the time. And little by little writing will overtake the writer’s life. This is really not a bad thing. It's helpful to be immersed in the creation of the story. 

So, yes, I have a new watchword. Quotes this old writer, “evermore.”


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

D is for Doubt (2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge)

There are different ways to look at doubt. The word itself means both “hesitation” and “misgivings.”

Hesitation can stall you, and misgivings can save you. Neither is necessarily a bad thing.

Trusting the voice of doubt is not only a writing rule, for me, it’s a life rule. Many times my instincts have made me doubt, and hesitate, and never once did it turn out badly that I did. The good things always remained a viable option while the not-so-good for me things faded away, untouched.

If you’re an aspiring writing, not every option available to you is good for you. Remember, in the writing world, good for you is good for your career, and bad for you is bad for your career. You may try and fool yourself the two are separate, but they are not.

So listen to your instincts when you have doubts. In this business, it can save you a lot of heartache.


Monday, April 4, 2016

C is for Cat (2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge)

2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge

C is for Cat. Is that a groan I hear? Is that zero stars for originality you’ve given me as part of your review? Cut me some slack. It’s freakin’ Monday, okay?

What does “cat” have to do with writing? Every author needs a familiar. How better to be aware of the world around us than to mimic the cat? Cats know everything around them, even when sleeping. They observe more keenly than we writers. We should watch them and learn.

We could trade stories about our felines every day and you’d be right there with me. And being a cat lover I’ve discovered the Internet is full to overflowing with cute cat/kitten pictures and videos. So for my entry today, I thought I’d share a few of the pictures that made me laugh on this otherwise dull Monday. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

B is for Because you can (2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge)

2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge
* * *

Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
      Listen to the DON'TS
      Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
      Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me-
      Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

Shel Silverstein

What wonderful words to have whispered in your ear! Yes, you should listen to everyone and hear what they say, then listen to the truer words of “anything can be.”

“Because you can” is implicit in those words. Because you can do it, anything is possible. Even a woman from a backwater town, a scant two generations from the Apple Jack operation, can become anyone she wants to be, even a published writer.

I’m sure I’m not alone in that I used to hate hearing my elders say “because I say so” without explanation. Those words sink long talons into memory. Unawares, they hold you back. They lurk in the dark recesses and cause doubt. You don’t even know it’s happening because it’s so ingrained.

Cast off the bonds of  “because I say so” and try this:

“Yes, I will. Because I can.”


Friday, April 1, 2016

A is for Always be true to yourself (2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge)

Day 1
2016 A to Z Blogging Challenge

The A to Z Blogging Challenge. Twenty-six posts in thirty days. It's doable! 

So here we go with A is for Always be true to yourself.

*  *  *  *  *  *

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

Hamlet Act 1, scene 3

“To thine own self be true” is an often-repeated bit of advice. Polonius, who has an overblown sense of his own importance, nonetheless gives his son this very good advice. If you’re true to yourself, that is loyal to your own interests, it’s far easier to be happy and play well with others.

It took me a long time to understand the implications of those words. I struggled to be woman, daughter, wife, friend because I was afraid to be me. I lived to the expectations of others and it simply didn’t work out well.

I was thirty when I slipped the collar of my upbringing and set out, truly on my own for the first time in my life. Yes, I floundered some, but once “to thine own self be true” became my mantra, life got better. I learned to set boundaries that were true to who I am and I learned to enforce them.

Being true to yourself is a path to happiness. If your true self is caring for animals - go for it. If your true self is a gardener and sharing your produce - go for it. If your true self is being a teacher - go for it.

It’s been over a decade since I admitted to myself how important words are to me. Some people think words are merely communication tools, but to me, words are like lovers. I’m a writer, and I’ll always be true to that part of me.

Always be true to yourself.