Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday's Inspirational Quote

Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness. ~ Seneca, Roman philosopher, mid 1st century AD

Today's entry is from another email I received. Snopes has nothing to say about it, so I am passing it on. Whether it's true or not, the sentiment is worth passing on. Enjoy...

There is a beautiful soul working in the dead letter office of the US postal service. Our 14 year old dog, Abbey, died last month. The day after she died, my 4 year old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her.

I told her that I thought we could so she dictated these words: Dear God, Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick. I hope you will play with her. She likes to play with balls and to swim. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her. You will know that she is my dog. I really miss her. Love, Meredith.

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her thatI thought He had.

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, 'To Meredith' in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, 'When a Pet Dies.' Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:

Dear Meredith, Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help. I recognized Abbey right away. Abbey isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets to keep your picture in, so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by. Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you. I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much. By the way, I'm easy to find, I am wherever there is love.

Love, God

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Guest Author, Kat Henry Doran -- Again!

No, you're not seeing double...I've added a new feature to my guest author days. At least once a month I'll be posting writing-related articles, and maybe later some interviews with editors. The first article was generously provided by last week's guest author, Kat Henry Doran. It's on Doing Your Research. With that, and our thanks, take it away Kat!

Just because I write what I know, to create interesting characters—and I firmly believe settings are an important secondary character—I still do my research. I love it, mainly because I learn something new.

For my first book, CAPTAIN MARVELOUS, I researched the Rom, or Gypsy, culture. Great fun and absolutely fascinating. Many myths as well as unwarranted prejudice abounds about this often maligned population. I also went to about sources for information on political and social unrest in Central America during the Reagan and Carter administrations. Eventually that led me into South America, particularly Argentina and Chile, doing research for upcoming books which will feature the role of the religious who organized protests against political and social injustice during the Pinochet and Allende reigns of terror.

For TRY JUST ONCE MORE, I spent an entire day making rounds with an equine veterinarian. She and her staff were very helpful when I needed suggestions about the mechanism of injury for a horse used on a mounted patrol unit. Also very helpful were the officers of the Mounted Patrol Unit for the Rochester Police Department. Some of the dialogue in the book came directly from the lips of the commanding officer. My deep thanks go to them.

For Maggie, the heroine in TJOM, I had to learn more about “top shelf” brands of liquor. This veteran beer drinker knew nothing about the hard stuff. The liquor store owner, and a couple customers, were very helpful. The phrase “top shelf” comes from the practice of placing the most expensive brands on the higher shelves. By the end of my jaunt I had a massive pain in my neck trying to read the brand names. And while we're on the topic of The Mag, I interviewed a local eye surgeon for help on a plot twist at the very end of the book. He explained the mechanism of facial fractures and their treatment, including the use of leeches to reduce swelling around the eyes. Very cool and a lot of fun. I like to have fun and doctors are like cops; they're all frustrated authors.

I have always loved Saranac Lake, so I made this small Adirondack town which is about five minutes down the road from the more well known [and wealthy] Lake Placid as the setting for TRY JUST ONCE MORE. I spent many family vacations walking the streets, taking pictures of the “cure cottages” and “cure porches”, exploring the shops and diners to add local color to the story. When I discovered they hold the oldest winter carnival in the Eastern United States, and includes teams playing softball on snowshoes and a women's fry pan toss, it was a done deal. In fact, the first scene takes place the day before Carnival opens.

One of the secondary characters in TJOM is a nun from the order of Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent dePaul. Long name, big habit. We called them the Sailboat Sisters when I was growing up. All it took was some time on the Internet, researching nun's habits to add a little color to the story. Another secondary character is the local parish priest. Here's where it got a little dicey because I knew I'd have to invade the sanctum sanctorum of the confessional booth. So, as I'd spent several winters in sunny Florida, caring for a group of retired priests, all I did was explain what I was after and one of them told me exactly How Not To Make a Grievous Error. That priest died a maybe six months before TJOM came out. Man, I miss him.

For some time, I've belonged to Kiss of Death, the on line mystery/suspense special interest chapter of Romance Writers of America. They have several active author loops; on one of them authors write in with a question, asking for help. It never fails that within 24-48 hours multiple responses will be there—if not from the members themselves then from their spouses, children, aunts, uncles, the family cat. KOD is a super example of writers helping writers.
It is my feeling that research is an essential part of any book. It helps you to create strong, memorable characters.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday's Inspirational Quote

To handle yourself, use your head. To handle others, use your heart.
A friend sent me this story in an email earlier this week. I had seen it before and it may or may not be true, but whether it is or not is irrelevant. What matters is the message:
Breakfast at McDonald's
I am a mother of three (ages 14, 12, 3) and have recently completed my college degree.
The last class I had to take was Sociology.
The teacher was absolutely inspiring with the qualities that I wish every human being had been graced with. Her last project of the term was called, 'Smile.'
The class was asked to go out and smile at three people and document their reactions.
I am a very friendly person and always smile at everyone and say hello anyway. So, I thought this would be a piece of cake, literally.
Soon after we were assigned the project, my husband, youngest son, and I went out to McDonald's one crisp March morning. It was just our way of sharing special playtime with our son. We were standing in line, waiting to be served, when all of a sudden everyone around us began to back away, and then even my husband did. I did not move an inch.... an overwhelming feeling of panic welled up inside of me as I turned to see why they had moved.
As I turned around I smelled a horrible 'dirty body' smell, and there standing behind me were two poor homeless men. As I looked down at the short gentleman, close to me, he was ‘smiling’. His beautiful sky blue eyes were full of God's Light as he searched for acceptance. He said, 'Good day' as he counted the few coins he had been clutching.
The second man fumbled with his hands as he stood behind his friend. I realized the second man was mentally challenged and the blue-eyed gentleman was his salvation. I held my tears as I stood there with them. The young lady at the counter asked him what they wanted. He said, 'Coffee is all Miss’ because that was all they could afford. (If they wanted to sit in the restaurant and warm up, they had to buy something. He just wanted to be warm).
Then I really felt it - the compulsion was so great I almost reached out and embraced the little man with the blue eyes. That is when I noticed all eyes in the restaurant were set on me, judging my every action.
I smiled and asked the young lady behind the counter to give me two more breakfast meals on a separate tray. I then walked around the corner to the table that the men had chosen as a resting spot. I put the tray on the table and laid my hand on the blue-eyed gentleman's cold hand.
He looked up at me, with tears in his eyes, and said, 'Thank you.' I leaned over, began to pat his hand and said, 'I did not do this for you. God is here working through me to give you hope.'
I started to cry as I walked away to join my husband and son. When I sat down my husband smiled at me and said, 'That is why God gave you to me, Honey, to give me hope.'
We held hands for a moment and at that time, we knew that only because of the Grace that we had been given were we able to give. We are not church goers, but we are believers.
That day showed me the pure Light of God's sweet love.
I returned to college, on the last evening of class, with this story in hand. I turned in 'my project' and the instructor read it. Then she looked up at me and said, 'Can I share this?' I slowly nodded as she got the attention of the class. She began to read and that is when I knew that we as human beings and being part of God share this need to heal people and to be healed.
In my own way I had touched the people at McDonald's, my son, the instructor, and every soul that shared the classroom on the last night I spent as a college student. I graduated with one of the biggest lessons I would ever learn: UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE.
Much love and compassion is sent to each and every person who may read this and learn how to LOVE PEOPLE AND USE THINGS - NOT LOVE THINGS AND USE PEOPLE.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Guest Author, Kat Henry Doran

Today's Guest is Kat Henry Doran, who writes Romance with a Bite, a warm, wonderful and full-of-life fellow Rose and personal injury and medical malpractice investigator I was blessed to meet at the New Jersey Romance Writers conference last year. Kat has also put on some powerful workshops regarding her nursing work as a victim's advocate, including, "They ain't all named Bundy, Dahmer and Gacey." We share the same reading tastes and the same enthusiasm for our publisher, The Wild Rose Press. Welcome, Kat!

Who are you?

I am Kat Henry Doran; I have been writing romance fiction for more than 20 years, first published in 2004 with Wings Press. I am also a wife to one, mother to three, grandmother to three [my most favorite job EVER], a nurse-paralegal specializing in medical malpractice and personal injury cases, and. . . I design and create tote bags and purses.

What type of stories do you like to write and why?

Even though I might not start out writing romantic suspense or romantic mysteries, my stories usually end up with elements of both. I am drawn to characters who practice in the areas of law enforcement/attorneys/medical-nursing professions who, in the course of their daily responsibilities, become involved with disenfranchised/disadvantaged populations. I enjoy researching these populations such as survivors of the political and social upheaval in Central and South America during the 1970-80's. I am fascinated by the culture of the Rom, also known as Gypsies. I tend to insert at least one Irishman [often more] into my books and almost always will have a nun or a priest running around somewhere.

What type of stories do you like to read and why?

I like to read legal and political thrillers. Currently my favorite authors are Vince Flynn, Lisa Scottoline, Eileen Dreyer, JD Robb and Jessica Anderson. I was “introduced” to Lesley Langtree who writes a series about a family of contract killers at RWA in San Francisco. I greatly appreciate authors [and the men in my private life] who make me laugh out loud.

When do you read?

In the evening, before bed.; while waiting at the dentist or physician's offices; while the grandchildren are napping. I used to read in bed. Forget that. If I'm horizontal, I am gone.

Where did you get the inspiration for your current WIP?

For my current WIP, during a critique group session, my partners and I started brainstorming and managed to invent 4 out of 5 “heroes” for an anthology set in Upstate New York, on the shores of Lake Ontario, Queen of the Great Lakes. It's been great fun seeking out locations for the scenes like the [once] grand estates in this area, the lighthouses and piers which extend out onto Lake Ontario, the local elite yacht club, all those wonderful things that add spice to a setting.

Where do you go to think? To a quiet place inside my heart.

How did you come up with your title and main characters’ names? For Captain Marvelous, my current release through Wild Rose Press, I knew from the start I wanted to have the heroine tease the hero about his Captain Marvel decoder ring, so I needed a name to play off that. I also wanted the name to be of Eastern European extraction which some characters in the book would have difficulty pronouncing. After playing around with spellings, Ronen Marvelic was born. I like the persona of Wolfman Jack, an LA disc jockey with a rusty voice; only, I wanted Wolfman to be the heroine. With respect to my fascination with the Rom, I found a Romanian name in a newspaper article: Iliana; that morphed into Annie "Wolfgirl" Wolfe.

How long did you write seriously before your first book was published?

20 years or more, which is not to infer any of what I created was good.

Why do you write?

I was born to tell stories.

Nurse, insurance investigator, forensic nurse examiner, professional workshop presenter, seamstress, author, wife and mother; Kat Henry Doran has been there and done all that--and more.

A native of Upstate New York, Kat uses the years she spent haunting police stations, Emergency Rooms, and criminal courtrooms advocating for victims of sexual violence as background for her writing, which has been described as brutally realistic and starkly honest.

Even though Kat has retired her speculum and no longer paces the corridors outside Grand Jury and police interrogation rooms, she continues to advocate for disenfranchised women, currently through Panties For Peace.

For excerpts of her books and information on the professional programs Kat presents, check out

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Guest Author, Bronwyn Storm

Today's guest author is Bronwyn Storm, fellow pet lover, picky reader, and author of five hilarious stories at The Wild Rose Press, including a free read, Love and the Leprechaun, just in time for St. Patrick's Day. Romantic comedy lovers will thrill to the escapades in her tales, both short and long, of love, laughter, and happily ever after. She's also written some invaluable articles on, among other things, how to get published and that dreaded query letter and how to get it right. Welcome, Bronwyn, and thank you for sharing your wit and wisdom with us.

Who are you?

Who am I…y’know, I’ve been asking myself that same question since I was small. Who am I? What do I want out of life? Why does canned food have expiry dates? My name is Bronwyn Storm and I’m a super-hero wannabe. As soon as the ability to injure yourself while blinking becomes a super-power, dude, I’m SO buying new leotards, a mask, and heading to the rooftops to watch over the city and protect it from ne’er do wells, ne’er did wells, and whomever decided that ne’er was a word. Until then, I’ll write about super heroes and heroines—everyday people who are also trying to figure out who they are, what they want, and why bottled water has expiry dates…

What type of stories do you like to write and why?

I love writing romantic comedy because I think life and love is fully of hilarity—especially when you’re trying your hardest NOT to be hilarious (Like the time I was rushing to catch the bus so I wouldn’t be late, ran up the bus steps, got my foot caught on the last riser and did a full face plant…right in front of my Crush of the Moment (luckily, as a 9th grader, he never realized 7th graders like me existed…painful (on so many levels), funny (on so many levels)). I think there’s a time and place for brooding heroes, but I love broody heroes who can also laugh at themselves.
What type of stories do you like to read and why?

I love all types of stories, from suspense, mystery, non-fiction…I’ll admit, though, that I am very picky about the romance books I read. Too often, I see dysfunction masquerading as conflict. Drives me crazy…ier…crazier…life’s too short and I’m too short (5’3) to read that kind of stuff…

When do you write?

I have four furry children who are in the midst of training, adolescence, and general kitten/puppyhood. So at this point, I write whenever they let go of the scribbler/give me back my pen/stop chewing on the wires/wake up from sleeping on my notes…

When do you read? Where?

I read everywhere. I carry books around in my bag/car, so whenever the opportunity presents itself, I read (FYI: driving down the highway at 80km is NOT the time to peruse a book…no, not me. The crazy lady reading some hardcover AND in another car (!!) the guy reading the paper.).

Where did you get the inspiration for Shoe-In for Love?

I rewrote The Elf and the Shoemaker because the title inspired the hero & heroine’s names (Vanessa Helph, and Leo Schumacher)…I was listening to 80s music, wanted to go back to that time, and suddenly, I could see it: Vanessa Helph, the woman with a plan for everything—except falling in love with her boss, and Leo Schumacher, a man who buys out a fashion house, and finds himself and his heart tossed into circumstances beyond his control and imaginings. I added in a mambo dancing sheltie (inspired by my own mambo dancing sheltie), an FBI agent (cause I thought that would be fun), and an HR guy who alliterates when he’s stressed out (Jack. Loved Jack).

Where do you go to think?

Bless you for thinking that I think.

How did you come up with your title and main characters’ names?

I like titles that give a nod to the characters: Ethan’s Chase, for example, is a play both on the hero & heroine’s names (Ethan and Chase, respectively), points to the goal of the story (Ethan chasing after Chase), as well as a statement about them both (she’s is soul mate, ergo, Ethan’s Chase—not exactly a possessive thing, she doesn’t belong to him, but she’s his and he is hers.)

How long did you write seriously before your first book was published?

I’ve always written seriously. I don’t think I’ve once cracked a smile when writing.

Why do you write?

Pfft. Because if you tell people you hear voices, they medicate or lock you up, BUT if you tell them you’re a writer and you hear voices, they think you’re artistic.

When I was little, there was only one thing I wanted to be when I grew up: a superhero. Sadly, this goal was made moot when I realized that being a klutz was not in fact, a super power, and my super-weakness for anything bright and shiny meant that a magpie with self-control could easily defeat me in a battle of wills. Hence, the turn to writing as an occupation. I don’t get to live on a secret space station orbiting the earth (and thank God, because I get motion sick on a merry-go-round), but I still get to wear leotards, a cape and say things like, “STAND ASIDE! THIS IS A JOB FOR WRITING-GIRL!”

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Balance With Liana - Meditation

It's Balance With Liana Day at The Bookspa. Today we're talking about meditation. Below is part of an article on the Mayo Clinic Website: I do all of the below, but the walking meditation has become my favorite. What's yours?

Everyday ways to practice meditation

Here are some ways you can practice meditation on your own, whenever you choose. Take a few minutes or as much time as you like.

Breathe deeply. This technique is good for beginners because breathing is a natural function. Focus all attention on your breathing. Concentrate on feeling and listening as you inhale and exhale through your nostrils. Breathe deeply and slowly. When you feel your attention wander, gently return your focus to your breathing.

Scan your body. When using this technique, focus attention on different parts of your body. Become aware of your body's various sensations, whether that's pain, tension, warmth or relaxation. Combine body scanning with breathing exercises and imagine breathing heat or relaxation into and out of different parts of your body.

Repeat a sacred name or phrase. A mantra is the name of a sacred deity or a sacred phrase that you repeat silently or aloud. You can create your own mantra. Mantras are the building blocks of transcendental meditation. Examples of religious mantras include a Jesus prayer in the Christian tradition, the holy name of God in Judaism, or the Om mantra of Hinduism, Buddhism and other Eastern religions.

Walking meditation. Combining a walk with meditation is an efficient and healthy way to relax. You can use this technique anywhere you're walking — in a tranquil forest, on a city sidewalk or at the mall. When you use this method, slow down the pace of walking so that you can focus on each movement of your legs or feet. Don't focus on a particular destination. Concentrate on your legs and feet, repeating action words in your mind such as lifting, moving and placing as you lift each foot, move your leg forward and place your foot on the ground.

Engage in prayer. Prayer is the best known and most widely practiced example of meditation. Spoken and written prayers are found in most faith traditions. You can pray using your own words or read prayers written by others. Check the self-help or 12-step-recovery section of your local bookstore for examples. Talk with your rabbi, priest, pastor or other spiritual leader about resources.

Read or listen and take time to reflect. Many people report that they benefit from reading poems or sacred texts silently or aloud, and taking a few moments to quietly reflect on the meaning that the words bring to mind. You can listen to sacred music, spoken words or any music you find relaxing or inspiring. You may want to write your reflections in a journal or discuss them with a friend or spiritual leader.

Focus your love and gratitude. In this type of meditation, you focus your attention on a sacred object or being, weaving feelings of love and gratitude into your thoughts. You can also close your eyes and use your imagination or gaze at representations of the object.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Pick Up Your Gift Cards

Don't accept that you can't make a difference. Because if you can't make a difference, you won't make a difference, and if you put a multiplier on that we will continue on an unsustainable pathway. ~Maurice Strong, Canadian Businessman and Environmentalist

Here’s Sunday’s Inspirational Quote, once again on Monday. I’m still caught up in the excitement of outlining a new book, so time passes without me even noticing, and things that need to get done don’t. For instance, the other day, I didn’t realize it, because my thoughts were pretty much elsewhere, as usual, but I was running around town on empty. Luckily, I managed to get all my errands done, and then it was time to go to the Y. I don’t usually take my purse to the Y, because it’s just down the street, and as I was coming home, the low fuel light came on in the car. Knowing I had just spent the morning driving across town and back, and belatedly remembering my gas gauge had been on empty the day before, I said a quick prayer of thanks for not running out of gas earlier, and immediately headed for the nearest gas station.

Unfortunately, when I got there, I remembered I didn’t have my purse, and had to do the car floor scramble for loose change to see what I could come up with. I managed to find 90 cents, which at less that $2 a gallon would at least get me home to my purse and back. I’m not sure that would have been the case had gas been $4 a gallon, so again I was grateful—this time for the lower price of gas.

As I stepped out of the car to gas up, I spotted a gas station gift card on the ground and thought—could it be? Is someone up there looking out for me?

Since I’d never used a gift card before, I decided I’d be better off using my 90 cents for now, so I tucked the gift card away, put in my 90 cents worth of gas, then went home to get my purse. Upon returning to the gas station, while I was waiting for my tank to fill up, I noticed more gift cards on the ground.

Suddenly I realized what was happening. People are discarding their gift cards after using them.

Slowly I turned around in a circle, and without moving from my pump, one of eight at the station, counted 27 gift cards on the ground. I’m sure if I’d walked around, I’d have found many more.

My question is: who picks up all these discarded cards? Somebody has to. I mean, at even 27 cards tossed aside a day, at the end of a year, that’s nearly 10,000 gift cards discarded in the gas station parking lot.

Trash cans are provided at all pumps. How hard can it be to toss your used card into one?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Balance With Liana Joins The Bookspa

"Feeling a little off-center? Struggling with the chunk of time writing and promotion takes away from your personal life? We've got just what you need. Award-winning author, Liana Laverentz, is on board for our Tuesday balance sessions. She explores aspects of Mind, Body, Heart, and Soul in her quest for balance. It is possible to stimulate your mind, exercise your body, indulge your heart, and expand your soul while exploring a writing career, but you have to work to achieve the right balance for you. Learn more about this fascinating topic from a lady who is passionate about the topic."

So goes the blurb over at The Bookspa, announcing my latest venture, taking Balance With Liana on the road and adopting a weekly format instead of a monthly general Q & A session (which I will continue to do over at Long and Short Reviews, the first Thursday of every month--which is two days from today--March 5--so stop by if you can). I'm going to be hosting Balance With Liana days over at the Spa on Tuesdays, with the idea of getting into the specifics of balancing your life. Like the blurb says, I'm breaking it down into four areas - Mind, Body, Heart and Soul. Each week we'll discuss specific ways to do something good for each of those areas.

Today, the very first day, however, we'll be discussing my overall plan for balance and how I stumbled upon it, then making lists of the priorities in our lives. To read how I developed my plan, please go to the Musings page on my website. (It's easier than repeating it all, here.) It's the second article, after Creating a Collage, called Finding Your Balance.

Readers, writers, even the just curious, all are welcome, so hope to see you at one place or the other. You can pop in and out throughout the day, stop by for just a few minutes, or stay as long as you like. We're very flexible over at the Spa, and at LASR, too.

Have a great week!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sunday's Inspirational Quote

"Man is not like other animals in the ways that are really significant: animals have instincts, we have taxes." ~Erving Goffman

Not really inspirational, but it explains why I didn't do my regular Sunday feature...I was busy doing my taxes.

And now I'm off cleaning my house, grocery shopping, and running errands...all things that need to be done, as well. Rough week last week...everything kind of came to a standstill. One of my cats became very ill and was out of it for two days, which threw everything off kilter. But she's fine, now, back to her sweet self, and it's time to get back on track.

Big news tomorrow regarding Balance With Liana.

Until then,