Thursday, 28 November 2019

Hidden Diamond: Julie K. Cohen's Shifters

There are so many books out there that it can be hard for readers to find the books they would love to read.  Every month, I feature a fellow romance author who writes paranormal romance, romantic suspense, or amazing heroines.

This month's Hidden Diamond has got an exciting series to share about three wolf-shifter packs near Devil's Peak, Colorado.  They share a fragile alliance in their efforts to survive the anti-shifter groups bent on destroying them. Very few rules are universal between the packs, except the laws of nature. . . and these shifters love to defy nature.  Please give a warm welcome to fellow Star Trek nerd Julie K. Cohen as she shares her awesome wolf shifters, how she delves into a character's mindset, and her answers to the Hidden Diamond author questionnaire.

Damien’s Dilemma: Damien needs to blood-bond a shifter to keep from going feral. He would blood-bond Tess in a second, except his enemies have destroyed her ability to shift. And they’re not done with her...

Blade’s Battle: Blade falls for the woman responsible for the deadly Shifter Virus.  Hundreds have died because of her.  Except she may not be guilty.  Will he surrender or mate her?

Callen’s Captive: Callen’s an enforcer who does whatever it takes to protect his pack. Whatever. It. Takes.  Kate is a human who can’t shake him; he’s determined to protect her from the anti-shifters trying to kill her. He can’t protect his pack and Kate both. Will he choose his pack or the woman he’s falling for?

Hayden’s Haven: Traitor. Outcast. Predator.  That’s what they call him from the shadows. And they’re right. He’s all of those… and much more.  Hayden will do anything to protect Mila, even challenge his former alpha, the brother who cast him out years ago.

Frank’s Felon: Delilah’s tainted, targeted, far from tamed. And Frank wants her, badly. She’s his future, though she won’t admit it. He won’t let her enemies take her, even if it means starting a war with the humans.

Delving Into A Character's Mindset

From the moment I wake up each morning, I can’t wait to sit at my computer and write—I need to find out what will happen in the latest novel I’m writing. You might think as the author I know what’s going to happen.  To some extent, I do; I know a few facts about my characters and the overall plot of a story, but the road to their HEA (happily-ever-after) has yet to unfold.

The moment I start writing, I’m no longer Julie. I’m a character in my book, sometimes female, sometimes male, sometimes alien or wolf. To understand a character, I need to be that character, think like her, have her mindset—whether she’s irrational, cold, logical, scared, hopeful, weary, or feels beat up by life. Once I slip into the character’s mindset, I react to what is happening to her—from her perspective. This is why I don’t truly know my characters and what they will do in a given situation until I start writing.

How does one think like another person? For me, stepping into a character’s mindset stems from my childhood. I was an avid tv viewer, watching everything from sci-fi and westerns to sitcoms and crime drama. I absorbed it all, the dialogue, the body language, the play between characters—all while re-writing scenes, dialogue, and characters in my head for the shows I watched.

Unlike many authors, I hated, and I mean hated reading.  Unless I had to read a book for school (yes, I was a nerdy straight-A student in school), I didn’t read. . . not until I discovered Star Trek books in the tenth grade.  Immediately, I was hooked. I suddenly had access to an endless stream of stories from one of my favorite shows.

Even with the discovery of Star Trek books, I needed to write my own book, to see the plot and characters swimming around in my imagination come to life. Yes, I confess, my first novel was a Star Trek novel... Didn’t I say I was a nerd earlier? My best friend and I co-wrote a Star Trek novel, completely unaware that the Star Trek franchise had their stable of writers, and they weren’t going to accept a manuscript from two teens.  I never gave up, though. I continued writing (Science Fiction at first, and later Sci-Fi Romance), honing my craft over the years.

Today, my favorite genres to read and write are Sci-Fi / Fantasy Romance and Paranormal Romance.  I love the ability to create worlds, social and political systems, and plots that are not confined by reality but abide by a set of rules I create.

Reading and writing fiction, especially romance, is about enjoying oneself, escaping into a world where love is attainable, even though the road to achieving and holding onto love is often fraught with danger, deception, and death (sorry, I felt the need for an alliteration there).

As a reader, I enjoy watching characters come together, bond, and fight for one another—and win, against the odds.  As a writer. . . I have the fun of making that happen.

- Julie K. Cohen

Hidden Diamond Author Questionnaire

What's the wildest thing you've done to research a book?

Maybe this isn’t ‘wild’ but trying to envision a hand-to-hand fight scene can be difficult so I often ‘practice’ on my daughter, in slow motion, to see how a character can escape a certain hold/situation.  This might not sound dangerous, but my daughter is a black belt in karate and I’m, well. . . not.

What's your writing process?

I love writing characters with deep/complex emotions and I especially love a plot that has many threads, twists, and turns.  I will envision a basic premise (i.e. What happens when a wolf shifter can no longer shift and she’s no longer accepted in her ‘world’ but doesn’t quite fit in the world of humans?).  This became the premise of Damien’s Dilemma, my first wolf shifter romance novel. Tess, my heroine, is a Broken Shifter (hence the name of the series).  Except she doesn’t allow her lack of shifter abilities to keep her from going after what she wants.

Once I know my basic premise, I have to create and understand my character.  Who is she, how does she deal with this tremendous blow? Next, I create a fairly detailed outline.  That’s the plotter in me.  I then turn into a pantster (writing by the seat of my pants), creating as I go.  I still use my outline, but as a guide to ensure I hit certain plot points I need to reach the ending I have in mind.  As I write, anything can change along the way, including the ending.  Ultimately, my characters drive my story.  Just like many readers can’t wait to pick up a book to see what happens next, I can’t wait to sit down to write, to see how the story unfolds.

What is your favourite thing to do to relax?

I love to read, watch tv, but the most relaxing has to be baking. Unfortunately, what one bakes, one tends to eat, so... I try not to bake too often. If you check out my Instagram account, you’ll see 90% of my photos are of my cooking/baking... food porn, as my husband calls it. I’m good with that, at least no one’s calling my writing porn (despite all the steamy sex)!

Who is your favourite fictional crush?

This a tough question!!!  It’s a tie between  a not-as-widely-known character, Val Con yos’Phelium in Sharon Lee’s & Steve Miller’s Liaden Universe novels and Miles Vorkosigan in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan saga. Val Con is tall, wicked clever, hopelessly in love with his wife, and has just the right amount of arrogance (and skills) to make him a joy to read. Miles meanwhile is probably the smartest character you’ll ever encounter, but he’s not arrogant in the least; he’s funny and smart in a way that leaves his enemies stumbling all over themselves, wondering what the hell happened when he outmaneuvers them.

And in the spirit of the ongoing Joss Whedon debate, who would win: astronauts or cavemen?

Cavemen. In every book you read and movie you watch, inevitably the modern day protagonists (astronauts in this case) drop their fancy guns or suffer from technological ‘glitches’. When that happens, the protagonists are left with just their wit, which is great if they have the time, materials, and know-how to construct what they need (think MacGyver here).  The cavemen, meanwhile, won’t stop to think the situation through. Their animal instincts to survive will probably kick in faster that the astronauts’ ability to think their way out of a fight.  And guess what?  If they do end up in a hand-to-hand combat situation, those cavemen are probably in better shape than the astronauts. Survival of the fittest.

Thank you, Julie, for being one of my Hidden Diamonds!  For those looking to find out more about Julie or to pick up her books for yourself, you can find those here!

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Join me next month for a new Hidden Diamond!  Or check out last month's gem: Jeanine Englert's Gothic Victorian Paranormal Romance.  

Monday, 25 November 2019

Weekly Update: November 17 to 23

Weekly word count: 4009
Editing countdown: 31 chapters edited

This week was a challenge.  I set some boundaries on two difficult personal situations that have been causing me a lot of stress.  As expected, there was some pushback on that, but I'm holding firm.  Now I'll just have to wait and see what ends up happening.

However, I made some good progress.  I was hoping to have Division edited for December 1st so that I could have some time to review it before it goes to the editor, but it looks like it will take a little longer.  I'll still have it done in plenty of good time though.

Last week's Tarot spread was Temperance reversed (obsession), 2 of Wands (prepare for change) and the Page of Wands (daring action).  Overall, I took it as a time to make my stand and I think that was still the right interpretation.

This week's spread is not encouraging.  The 10 of Coins reversed, restructuring and re-examining, the 9 of Cups reversed, which encourages review and reconsideration, and the 4 of Wands, which warns of unexpected complications.  Time to hunker down.  Which should let me get my work done.

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Alphas Vs Cinnamon Rolls: Finding Heroes

If you follow my blog, you know that I am addicted to awesome heroines.  But I also enjoy a great hero.

There has been a raging debate over the last few years on Romance Twitter and it involves a debate over which type of hero people prefer: alphas or cinnamon rolls.  (Spoiler: I'm a fan of both and what I prefer depends on the day, my mood, and the character.)  So I thought I'd share some of my favourite of each type.

For those not familiar with the terms, alpha refers to a hero of the laconic, take-charge, punch your way through problems kind of guy.  He's usually damaged, fighting for redemption, and struggling with his self-esteem.  A true alpha is always a protector with a heart of gold, one who will do anything to save the people he cares about.

A cinnamon roll is a hero who is emotionally available, openly supportive, and just plain sweet.  He can be physically strong and capable, but doesn't have the harshness of an alpha.  He builds teams, gives rousing pep-talks, and will sacrifice himself to help others.  A cinnamon roll wears his heart on his sleeve, always has a ready joke, and can make the world seem less scary and intimidating.

Let's start with one of my favourite cinnamon rolls, the Captain himself.  I've used him frequently as an example when people insist that cinnamon rolls are weak.  He's strong but also kind.  There's a reason he's the one who gives the "we can do this" speeches to the rest of the team, not to mention being the one who sits down for heart-to-hearts.  One of the sweetest things about him is how much he believes that everyone around him can be a better version of themselves than they imagined.

He has a great love, Peggy Carter.  He's proud of her strength and never expects her to pretend to be less than she is.  He wants her to be happy and he strives to be worthy of her.  He made the difficult decision to sacrifice himself to save her (and everyone else) by crashing his plane into the ice.  And he still gets his happily ever after.

For me, the appeal of Steve Rogers is the combination of strength and kindness.  It makes him an appealing romantic partner.  A hero who will support his chosen partner and who sees them as an amazing person in their own right is definitely worth a little crushing.

On the other side of the hero spectrum is another favourite of mine: Wolverine.  He has no faith in humanity or himself.  He only finds meaning in his immortal life when he defending others.   He's never met a situation he couldn't carve his way through and he doesn't hesitate to throw himself into combat against impossible odds if it means there's a chance he can save someone else.

Damaged bad boys might not be fun in real life, but in fiction there's always that little thrill of being the one he opens up to, of being special.  Not to mention the reassurance of knowing that your boyfriend could slice and dice his way through any number of evil henchmen to rescue you, should the occasion arise.  While I recognize the problems of fridging as plot device, I still love the idea of a powerful hero ready to tear through the universe to save the one he loves.

Next up is a new cinnamon roll sweetie for me, Aram from The Blacklist.  He's incredibly smart and skilled and absolutely dedicated to the woman he loves, willing to do whatever she needs.  (Don't talk to me about what happens in Season 6, I'm still not over it.)  He might not be able to rip a log apart with his bare hands, but he is the guy who would change diapers at 2 a.m. or bring you coffee exactly the way you like it, because he pays attention.  He's willing to give up his entire life to be with the woman he loves.

Sometimes a girl doesn't need a superhero.  Sometimes she just needs a sweetheart with a great job and a willingness to watch nerd movies all weekend.

Speaking of nerds... let's talk about the Jaqobis brothers from Killjoys.

With D'Avin and Johnny, there's one of each (and both with a sense of humor, which I adore).  An alpha who can shoot a long distance target and who is always willing to strip off his shirt in the name of science, and a cinnamon roll who can sweet-talk any computer, fly any space ship, and is always there to support his friends.

Both of them are adorably hot and heart-meltingly loyal.  Though there's plenty of entertaining petty bickering between them, in the end they always have each other's backs.

One thing that none of these heroes would do is be controlling.  That would be an automatic deal-breaker for me.  Even when it causes them heartbreak, they respect other people's wishes.

These guys are all about being protectors and a protector will always be sexy for me.  The line between cinnamon roll and alpha is a thin one, when it comes down to it.  The point is that they are the type of guys that we all deserve for our own happily ever afters.  Or at least some happy daydreams.

Previous blogpost:  Heroine Fix: Ocean's 8 Awesome Girl Gang

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Monday, 18 November 2019

Weekly Update: November 10 to 16

Weekly word count: 4975
Editing countdown: 22 chapters edited

It's been a productive week writing-wise, especially considering that I didn't do any writing or editing on Friday.  (I knew it was going to be a creatively dead day since I had a lunchtime meeting that I knew would be emotionally draining and require some time to process after, so I pushed a little harder Monday through Thursday and then took my time to relax on Friday.)

I've really been enjoying the new seasons of New Amsterdam and 9-1-1.  For new shows, Prodigal Son and Dickinson are my current favourites.  I find it very relaxing to explore new stories (even if a large proportion of them end up being variations on police procedurals).  It's fascinating to watch different characters interact and see variations on the plots unfold.

Last week's Tarot reading was The Wheel, reversed, the 3 of Cups and the King of Swords, which I interpreted as good news coming from a person in a position of authority.  I did get some helpful legal advice from a lawyer about a family challenge I've been dealing with, but I wouldn't exactly call it celebratory news.  Still, it will hopefully allow me to move forward and with luck, this emotionally draining situation will be resolved.

This week's reading is Temperance, reversed (obsession), the 2 of Wands (preparing for change) and the Page of Wands (taking daring action).  There are certainly a number of situations in my life which require a significant amount of time and attention (though I'm not sure any of them would count as obsession).  I am working on establishing better boundaries for these situations, so that I can be less stressed about them, so maybe that's the preparing for change part.  We'll see about the daring action.

Meanwhile, it's going to be working hard on getting the edits for Division done as well as moving forward on writing Until Proven Guilty.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Heroine Fix: Ocean's 8's Awesome Girl Gang

Each month I focus on a well-written heroine who inspires and influences my own writing.  What can I say?  I'm addicted to awesome heroines!  You can check out all of my Heroine Fixes to see some amazing characters.  Warning: this post will contain spoilers.

This month I asked myself a question: why do I love movies about thieves so much?  There's only so much blame I can place on Kevin Costner and Christian Slater in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  I think there's a certain level of admiration for the audacity and skill it takes for a successful non-violent heist.  We admire people who defy the rules successfully.

I think that's the reason I love the Ocean's series.  A complicated scheme full of misdirection and false leads, it's like a magic trick that ends up with people getting rich.  But as much as I enjoy the Brad Pitt and George Clooney versions, it's the Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett movie that I've watched dozens of times over.

If you follow my blog, you know I love awesome heroines.  This movie has an amazing set of heroines and it's how they interact and play off one another that makes this one of my favourites.  All female ensemble movies are still rare and seen as a risk.  This one takes eight unique and interesting characters and puts them all together in the heist of a lifetime.

First up is Debbie, sister to George Clooney's character and played by Sandra Bullock.  She's the brains and balls behind the whole operation.  She's not content with petty cons and day to day theft.  Fresh out of jail, she wants to be one of the big names in crime.  Her first recruit is her best friend, Lou (Cate Blanchett), a more practical individual who manages people and logistics well.  The dynamic between the two of them is brilliant.  The film captures the easy combination of support and challenge that happens between two women who can trust one another and have a long history of having each other's backs.

The rest of the team is equally fascinating.  Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter) is a washed up fashion designer with a pressing tax issue.  Easily distracted with an impulse control issue, she is the key to the team gaining access to their target, a $150 million dollar diamond necklace.  A jewel heist needs a great jewelry expert and in steps Amita (Mindy Kaling), who is more than ready to move out from under her mother's thumb and the skills to transform the necklace into something less... recognizable.  Rose and Amita make a great team.  Amita is able to improvise around Rose's blatherings and Rose is capable of some impressive last-minute bullshitting.  The two of them convince Cartier to loan out the necklace for the Met Gala.

Every heist needs a hacker and a pickpocket.  Nine Ball (Rihanna) and Constance (Awkwafina) fill those roles.  Nine Ball is arrogant and confident.  She and Debbie butt heads, as two proud alphas are wont to do.

Constance is quirky and not easily impressed, competent but not inclined to fuss over a job.  The final team member is Tammy (Sarah Paulson), the team's fence and procurer.  I think she's my favourite, because I always love a suburban mom with a secret life.  There are hints of a past between her and Debbie, one that hasn't always been smooth.

Those counting will realize there are only seven team members so far.  The final member of the team is their mark, the celebrity Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway).  She will be the unwitting mule for the necklace and the main distraction.

Since plenty of ensemble movies only have one female main character, we often get deprived of the fun of women interacting with one another.  There's a whole language of shared sisterhood, amusement over the foibles and challenges of the world, and the pleasure of mutual delight over pretty clothes and jewels.  We can be smart, competent and glamorous, all at the same time.  And as much as women can tear each other down, we can also build each other up in a way that men simply don't experience.  Women know the truth of Debbie Ocean's statement that "a him gets noticed, a her gets ignored."  And we cheer when the ignored manage to turn the tables on the society that overlooks our accomplishments.

Maybe that's why women bond more easily and more often than men.  Life as a woman is too big of a challenge to manage completely on one's own.  We need our friends, the ones who become like sisters.  Our friendship support networks can be incredible resources.  And when we work together, we really can do amazing things.  (Legal disclaimer: please stick to amazing legal things, no matter how cool a jewel heist seems.)

Ocean's 8 inspired me to want to write about my own little girl gang.  Not jewel thieves but friends running a cosplay business together.

Every woman should get to experience the combined thrill of achievement and looking amazing that the Ocean's 8 gang gets, walking out of the Met Gala in stunning dresses with millions of dollars in diamonds.  That's moment I watch this movie for.  They're all confident and beautiful, and together they've done what should have been impossible.

Just before the heist, Debbie thanks her crew.  "I just wanna say: thank you.  The last three weeks have been amazing for me... whatever happens tonight, I want you to remember one thing.  You are not doing this for me, you are not doing this for you.  Somewhere out there is an eight year old girl, lying in bed, dreaming of being a criminal.  Let's do this for her."

Every girl should believe she can achieve her dreams, no matter what they are.  Stories about strong and interesting women help us to remember that.  Stories that end in a happily ever after are even better.  The women of Ocean's 8 don't find romance, but they do get the necklace, along with the other crown jewels, and they pin the whole thing on the man who broke Debbie's trust and sent her to jail.  

With a take of $38.3 million each, each woman gets a shot at her dreams.  Amita finds love and freedom in Paris.  Rose opens her own shop in London.  Tammy's garage business moves to a proper warehouse.  Nine Ball opens a pool hall and bar.  Constance gets an amazing loft apartment.  Daphne moves from the front of the camera to directing.  Lou gets her motorcycle and a cross country trip.  And Debbie gets the satisfaction of proving herself.

Maybe that's why I love these kinds of movies.  The idea of a big win, one that frees from the daily worries about money, one that makes all the "I wish"es possible, that's satisfying, no matter how it comes about.

Even without a romance plot, I call that a darn happy ending.

Previous Heroine Fix: Making a Better World With Delenn from Babylon 5

Previous Post: Reclaiming My HEA: Reigniting the Romantic Spark

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Monday, 11 November 2019

Weekly Update: Nov 3 to Nov 9

Weekly word count: 22 752

A very productive writers' retreat.  I even spent a day sightseeing in Charleston.  I'll have pictures in my newsletter for anyone interested.  It's always a good time hanging out with the other authors at the retreat.  They are a great group of women.

The big announcement: the project I was working on is done.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that the editor I was working on it for is no longer accepting new authors and projects.  So the home I was planning for it is no longer an option.

However, the publisher is still accepting new books, so I can still submit it generally.  And Carina Press is accepting pitches from ORWA authors in February, so I can pitch it to them as well.  Or even self-publish if that's the route I want to go.

It's disappointing, but I'm wondering if it was predicted by my cards for last week.  I had the Ace of Swords, the 3 of Coins, and the 10 of Wands.  I interpreted it as the start of a project, recognition of talents, and recognition of limits.  However, the 10 of Wands can also be interpreted as taking a pause before success.  So the path I thought was laid out is not there any more, but there are other paths available to me.

For the week starting November 10th, my cards are The Wheel Reversed (disappointment), the 3 of Cups (celebration), and the King of Swords (professional support, authority).  That certainly sounds promising for good news this week.  The Court cards (Page, Knight, Queen, and King) often refer to specific people, so it suggests that I can look forward to some help from someone at the top of their professional field this week.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Reclaiming My HEA: Reigniting Romantic Hope

Reclaiming My HEA is a regular feature about my separation and divorce.  I'm learning a lot of lessons about myself and finding the balance between romantic hope and practical reality.

As I write this, I'm sitting on a beach with the warm sunshine in my face and my toes curled in the soft sand.  For any Canadian in November, this is already an unexpected and welcome treat, but what's drawing my attention are the other people on the beach.  Particularly the couples.

There are all kinds to watch here.  Young teenagers playfully navigating their first romantic relationships.  Parents working together to corral their children.  And the sweetest of all, an elderly couple walking hand in hand, where he keeps pausing to present her with the prettiest shells on the beach and she's saving every one in her handbag.

Some of these couples are obviously deeply in love with one another.  Others are caught up in the thrill of holiday freedom and enjoying a little commitment-free flirting.  Some seem to have settled into a comfortable partnership but still take a moment for a shared glance or passing touch.

I'm sure there are unhappy couples here as well.  Ones where it seems impossible for them to remember what drew them together in the first place or where the day-to-day grind has extinguished their connection.  I've been half of one of those couples.  I would look around and see people in love all around me and I would wonder what I was doing wrong and why my relationship had become so empty.

Now I find myself in the position of being entirely outside the romantic circle, looking in as an observer.  Dating in your forties is a daunting prospect and there are legions of toads out there which no amount of kissing will transform into a prince.  I've had to take stock of myself and ask myself the question: what is it that I really want?

Then as I was people-watching, I saw something which clarified it for me.  A younger couple (I would guess late twenties or early thirties) standing in a close embrace.  I couldn't see her face, but I could see his.  The expression on his face would be hard to describe, but as a romance author, I will give it my best shot.

His hand was cradling her face as if she were something unbelievably precious and rare.  He had a tender smile, as if this moment was making him happier than he'd ever believed would be possible.  And his eyes were smoldering with full-blazing passion.  Anyone whose partner was looking at them like that couldn't help but feel like the most beautiful, special, and loved person in the world.

Being a non-voyeuristic sort of person, I snuck away before they realized I had seen their private moment.  But the image lingered with me.

That's what I want.  I want to experience being on the receiving end of a look like that.  Because I find it impossible to believe that anyone could fake such a potent combination of affection, attraction, and passion.

There have been times when I've cynically wondered if those kinds of feelings ever occur outside the carefully scripted world of movies and books.  But now I've had a reminder that they do.  And that has given my little flame of hope a fresh spark.

Romance is all about tiny sparks in the darkness.  Because in our stories, no matter how black the night is, those sparks are just waiting to find the right circumstances to create the fires that will warm a heart forever.

Previous Reclaiming My HEA (And My Intellectual Property Rights)

Previous Blogpost: Hidden Diamond Jeanine Englert and her Gothic Victorian Romantic Suspense

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Monday, 4 November 2019

Weekly Update: October 27 to Nov 2

Weekly word count: 3376 and chapter 17 of edits

Last week was hectic for me.  Monday to Wednesday was about trying to squeeze in an entire week's worth of work for my day job.  And for Thursday and Friday, I was driving from Ottawa to Charleston with some other lovely ORWA folk for the annual writers' retreat.

This beach retreat is one of the things I look forward to each year.  Not only is it a great chance to get a big leap forward on my writing projects, but it is also a chance to enjoy some extra sun and warmth.  Not to mention, I love being on the beach and being able to sit and write and listen to the waves.  And the ladies there are pretty awesome.  We have a great time, laughing and sharing our favourite new discoveries for books, movies and shows.  (This year, I've been introduced to a Turkish TV show with a main character who could give Jason Momoa a run for his money.)

For this year's retreat, I'm putting my edits on hold and focusing on finishing up a project that's been languishing for too long.  After this last year, I can safely say that I do not do well with split attention between projects.  I need to do one project, then move on to the next.  Or pause a longer project to complete a smaller one.  I can't do two at once, no matter how much I adjust my time and schedule.  So, lesson learned.

I've also decided to start sharing something else in these weekly updates.  I read Tarot cards.  I find it's a useful tool that helps me to consider events and challenges in my life from different perspectives.  Once a week, I draw three cards, one each for past, present, and future.

For the week of October 27 to November 2, I drew The Hermit (patience and isolation), the 6 of Swords (travel), and the 3 of Cups (celebration).  That's a fair representation.  I have been feeling socially and physically isolated, I had a trip planned, and I know it's going to be a fun time once I arrive.

For the week starting on November 3, I drew the Ace of Swords (the beginning of an intellectual project), the 3 of Coins (recognition of talent), and the 10 of Wands (recognizing my limits).  That's a pretty good draw for a professional trip.  My first impression is to remind myself that despite my fears, I am actually pretty good at this writing thing.  But I also can't let myself live in the fantasy land of constant smooth sailing for the writing process.  As much as I would like to believe that I can handle editing, promotion, and all the other details without having my writing speed suffer, that's not going to happen.  And that's okay.

So the key message that I'm taking away is to take advantage of opportunities like the writer's retreat, as well as being on the lookout to create such opportunities in my everyday life.