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Tina Gayle: FITTING IN

March 28, 2006 by in category Archives

By Tina Gayle

This may sound like a strange topic for a person over forty, but if you think about it, we all want to fit in one way or another.

Some of us go to a job outside our homes where we have to get along with a grumpy receptionist, or deal with a nit-picking boss. We shares our woes of our imperfect job with a friend, someone who makes us feel that we’re not alone on those days when we feel out of sync with our co-workers.

In that respect, I don’t have to worry. You see I write. There’s no one around when I write. It’s a solitary endeavor, which would make one think I’m home free, in paradise, away from the annoying people of the outside world.

Wrong! I get lonely. I have this insatiable desire to talk, and talk, and talk some more. It’s a terrible habit I can’t seem to break.

And what do I want to talk about?

Writing, it’s kind of a passion for me.

Yeah? Well, what about your family? They’re interested, right?

Not when you are a romance writer and a mother of two teenage boys. World of War Craft and video games, karate and fencing moves; these are the topics of choice in my house.

So where are my comrades, the people to whom I can connect?

Lost, I thought, in a world of their own design, stuck behind their desk, in their office, on a street far, far away in another galaxy.

So I prepared myself for the journey and scouted out my local library. A critique group was forming of local writers. I joined right in, ready to share my heart. My enthusiasm dimmed quickly when I discovered that the other writers didn’t exactly share my passion for romantic novels.

Still I went; searching for other places my compatriots might be hiding. A local community class was an alternative I looked into. And it worked for a short time but again, with a wide range of interests and different genres, I didn’t feel at home. But I was lucky enough to be given a name of a group that seemed to be what I wanted.

Romance Writers of America had a local chapter not far from my house, and they met once a month. They didn’t require a secret handshake to join, but I must say when I walked into that first meeting, I was leery.

Would this be the right place for me? Would I be accepted?

The lady that took my money at the door, smiled at me, was even friendly. But then again, that was her job, she wanted my money. She suggested I attend the ask-an-author session being held across the hall.

The published author would answer any question I had, she said.

Right, I thought, like they’re going to talk to me, an unpublished nobody.

To my surprise, they did.

Then they walked into the RWA meeting with me, sat down in the same room with me, and treated me like an equal. To my happy surprise, no one called me out for being a wanna-be, a bad pretender, a no name author.

Well, as you can guess, I found my home. The ladies and men in the group welcomed me each time I attended a meeting. They didn’t scoff at my stupid questions, but instead told me things I needed to know. They supported my passion with cheers of encouragement.

I made friends. I became involved.

Now, after two years, I’m the lady you’ll see if you attend an Orange County Chapter meeting. I’m the Membership Director of a group that has given me more than I will ever be able to repay.

They’re my friends, my colleagues, my family. And they even let me talk about my romance novel.

Finally, I’ve found a place were I fit in.

Tina Gayle
OCC/RWA Membership Director

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March 24, 2006 by in category Going to The Chapel tagged as

By Gillian Doyle

As I am writing this blog, I’m listening to the wonderful voice of Jina Bacarr reading my written words on our OCC/RWA Podcast, still amazed and grateful for all that has happened since I sat down to write that blog for the Twenty-five Days of Romance.

First, the day the blog posted, I had my hair cut short and restyled. When my dear sweet husband came home from work, he had the biggest smile on his face. For a guy who loves long hair, I thought this was a great compliment of my short sassy cut. I kept catching him watching me with that big ol’ silly grin.

I finally said, “You really like my hair, huh?”

His grin grew bigger. “Actually, I keep thinking of that blog. Brought back a lot of memories.”

Gee, had I only known that my writing, not my haircut, could get such a reaction, I could’ve saved myself a wad of dough!!

Then my daughter emailed from another state, saying she’d never heard this story before and was wondering if it was true or just one of my great fiction pieces! I assured her it was true. Then I asked Don for his side. He told me he’d dropped by the mail room to see me, not always to help Rubye.

I guess she knew that.

A few weeks later, between planes in the Seattle airport on Tuesday, March 7, I heard the surprising news over my cellphone from Co-President Mindy Neff that my blog had won! Call me a romantic, but I can’t help thinking Rubye is up there somewhere, still working her fairy godmother magic. With her so much on my mind lately, I went in search of that packet of letters and photos stored in my antique humpback “Treasure Chest.” Nestled inside her daughter’s letter was a forgotten newspaper clipping of her passing with her photo. As I read Don came into my office and looked over my shoulder.

“It’s Rubye,” I said, turning my head to look up at him. He smiled. He had known her so much better than I had. Her photo brought back more memories of a sweet, sweet lady.

I found names of her five children, including her daughter Virginia Sears, who lives in Spokane now. Wouldn’t it be nice if she and her siblings could find their way to our OCC website, to know how their mother lives on in my family…and now with all of you?

Thanks to this real-life fairy tale, I have been motivated to enter the Orange Rose contest. It has been eight years since my last sale, and the contest is now open to writers who have not published in the last five years. (DEADLINE for entry is APRIL 8, for any of you who might be interested! ( )

I was also asked for a PR photo, which prompted me to get on the ball and have a new one taken. I contacted our Orange Blossom co-editor Michele Cwiertny for advice on PR photos, and, serendipitously, she had just finished the April cover article on this exact topic. I was granted a sneak peak, and let me tell you right here and now that it’s terrific! Great pointers! (Hint: Think THEME!) Then her wonderful husband Eric offered to help me out by taking some pix. Eric is a graphic artist by trade, and a photographer by hobby. Thanks to him, my new favorite word is “Aaammmaaaazing!” He is a magician with photo shop. ‘Nuff said. Or maybe it’s just Rubye hovering over his shoulder?

Thanks to Marianne Donley’s recommendation, I’m taking a Web Building Class that is going to help me put those photos into a brand new website for when I’m finished. If any of you are interested in this excellent class,

Although I have sent my note of appreciation to Silhouette Executive Editor Mary-Theresa Hussey for taking the time to judge our Twenty-five Days of Romance Blog contest and for choosing “Fairy Tales Do Come True”, I can’t write the finale without expressing my thankfulness once more. Mary-Theresa, you are a gem among gems!

Finally, a special added thank-you to the publicity/marketing genius of Louise Ahern, our Orange Blossom Co-Editor, who brought up the idea of the Twenty-Five Days of Romance blogs and contest. Louise has brought a ton of fabulous ideas to the table for OCC to offer Opportunity, Creativity and Community to our members. I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity to write for the Slice of Orange blog. I hope more OCC members will grab this chance to stir your creative juices!

Is this the Finale? I don’t know. It seems more like just the beginning!

What about you? Do you have a Fairy-Tale-Come-True story in you? If not, be your very own fairy godmother — wave your magic wand and make your writing dreams come true!

Gillian Doyle
Author of Paranormal Suspense

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Susan Squires—Harry and I go to the Oscars

March 21, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

By Susan Squires

It happened again. We got invited to attend the Oscar awards ceremony this year. We have friends who work for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. We’d been once before in 2002, so the panic about what to wear wasn’t a problem this time. I now know that 1) no one is going to look at you with Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Lopez in the room and 2) there are lots of ordinary people there who will look just like you, or even make you feel good about your wardrobe choices.

That may sound like I was bored by the whole experience. FAR from it! No matter how cynical you may be about the awards, the stars or the people watching from home, the minute you step on to that red carpet, it’s a truly special experience. As a matter of fact, it starts when you get special treatment from uniformed traffic police on the streets around the Kodak Theater just because you are displaying that magic parking emblem on your dash. We were directed onto barricaded streets lined with cheering fans peering into our car to see if we were “anybody” and waving madly. A bevy of attendants help you alight, take your car, and usher you to the head of the red carpet, where you go through a metal detector, show I.D. and open your teeny purse. No cameras or cell phones are allowed. It doesn’t feel like the airport, though. The airport doesn’t usually have ten foot flower displays.

Then it’s out onto the runway. Last time, we strolled down the red carpet with Paul McCarteny and his wife. This time it was Dolly Parton (she is so tiny! Except for… well you know.) I must say, George Clooney sure fills out a tux, as do Russell Crowe and Keanu Reeves. Jake Gyllenhall and Heath Ledger still look a little young to me. But then there are the dresses! Among my personal favorites this year were those that belonged on Sandra Bullock, Salma Hayek, Zhi Zhang, Reece Witherspoon, and Meryl Streep. Meryl gets my vote as best preserved and most graceful woman “of a certain age,” and I’m always looking for those, for obvious reasons. Sharon Stone was my pick for 2002. They give me hope. Or maybe not, since I never looked as good as they did in the first place!

We actually made it on to the ABC pre-show this year. We only realized that when we went home and watched the tape we’d made. We made a screen cap of us walking by behind an interviewer to put on our website. So, free drinks (there is a bar on every floor) and appetizers from Wolfgang while you watch the monitors for late arrivals on the red carpet, and then into a THREE hour and 30 minute production. Of course I am going to have to visit the restroom (see above—ladies of a certain age) and you can only go out during commercials. If you miss the end of the break, you have to stay out until the next one. Of course, I picked a short break. It wasn’t bad, though. I drank at the bar, and watched the monitors with several producers’ wives who were in the same boat.

The show itself is entirely professional and bigger than life. Cameras are zooming around on pulleys and booms. The stage hands (and there are about 50 of them) all wear tuxedos to change the huge set pieces, and the audience doesn’t have to watch the commercials! There is music, and lots of stars milling around talking and hugging to entertain you. I personally loved George Clooney’s acceptance speech where he talked about the fact that art shouldn’t just reflect popular opinion, but should be out in front pointing the way to tolerance and illuminating social problems. Bravo, George! You’re really the heir to Cary Grant in my mind. Harry is a big fan of Jon Stewart’s low key humor, (that and Salma Hayek’s dress) so he found the show especially satisfying.

It was a good night, no matter which movie you wanted to win. We had our own after-party at an Italian restaurant that’s a Hollywood legend and called it a (late) night. It was a celebration of the local industry which was watched by the world. Way more exciting than the insurance industry meetings I go to on occasion!

Susan Squires
THE COMPANION, May, 2005–St. Martin’s Press
THE HUNGER, October, 2005–St. Martin’s Press
THE BURNING, April, 2006–St. Martin’s Press

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March 16, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

By Jill Marie Landis

Writers create characters and worlds in which everyone does our bidding. Our creations speak the words we put into their mouths, think the thoughts we give them, act and react exactly the way we want them to. We control their every thought, word and deed.

So what happens when we, as creators of a written universe, face life in the real world? What happens when situations involving family or careers spiral out of control?

How can writers keep from getting the blues when the real world won’t co-operate as nicely as our plots and characters on the written page? How can we keep the dream going in the face of rejection, family crises, health challenges, or endless demands on our time?

After almost twenty novels and twenty years in the business, I’ve had plenty of experience with the mercurial ups and downs of a writer’s life. Here are some of the thoughts I fall back on to snap myself out of a funk when my world spins out of control.

1. Give up some control and delegate. Maybe your characters can do everything at once, but you physically can’t. Delegate whenever and whatever you can. Things might not get done exactly the way you want, but in the long run, who cares? Ask for help when you need it.

2. Take time for yourself. Find a quiet corner in the house, the garden, at a park–or in drastic situations—get in the car and escape. Set up a retreat area for yourself. Include a scented candle, incense, soft music, whatever you like. Take a deep breath, quiet your mind, close your eyes, and tell yourself that things never stay the same. Life is in constant flux. Whatever is overwhelming you shall pass. Let it go. Meditate or pray. Visualize the outcome you desire.

3. Exercise. Get moving. Go outside if weather permits. Fifteen minutes sitting in a puddle of sunshine in a corner of the yard or porch works wonders to lift your spirit. Take a walk. Drive to a different neighborhood if you’re bored walking around your own.

4. Know your limitations. When you are down, don’t overload yourself with more obligations, appointments, and deadlines. If a full calendar starts to make you anxious, start saying no. Know how long it will realistically take you to meet your deadlines and leave time for the unexpected things that are sure to come up.

5. Stay in touch. While you are guarding your time, don’t go overboard and isolate yourself when you need people the most. Call an old friend. Talk to those you trust about what’s bugging you. Get good advice. Help someone else. Volunteer your time in a new and different way. Go out and refill the creative well.

6. Eat right. Notice I didn’t say eat healthy, because you know what works for you. Just remember that caffeine, sugar, alcohol and chocolate might give you a quick lift, but you can bet it won’t last. You may end up feeling worse than you did before you over indulged.

7. Take action. Decide how you can help yourself and start to take action. Try writing your way out of the blues. Call a friend and talk things through. Come up with as many new ideas for all areas of your life as you can and then start working on the one you like best. Figure out what’s not working anymore and make changes.

8. Stay positive. With practice it can be done, even if that means saying “Stop it!” to yourself when a negative thought pops up. Don’t dwell upon the past. Set realistic goals. Applaud your achievements. Avoid people who are critical of you and of your goals. If they are family, limit your time with them. If they are your immediate family, speak up and tell them you need their support.

9. Count your blessings. List the people and things in your life that make it worthwhile. Make lists of what makes you happy. List all the positive things you’ve accomplished, list your favorite things, (ice cream, orchids, whatever). List your friends and family and what you love about them.

10. Act instead of reacting: See #7 above again and remember: Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. When you feel as if you’re at the end of your rope, tie another knot and hang on.

Hopefully one or more of these thoughts will help if you ever get down. Remember that life is full of endless possibilities. You truly are the master of your own universe.

Jill Marie Landis is the best selling author of twenty novels. Not only is she listed on the RWA Honor Roll, but six of her books have been Rita Finalists. She is a Golden Heart, Golden Medallion, and Rita Winner. Heartbreak Hotel, named one of the Top 5 Romances of 2005 by the Library Journal, will be released in paperback in August 2006. To keep up with her adventures in paradise, read her blog at

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Dana’s Reasons Why Not…

March 14, 2006 by in category Archives tagged as

By Dana Diamond

Excuses are like…well, you know…everybody has one and they all stink. Need I say more?

I have many, in fact…excuses, that is.

I’ll list them, not to make excuses, but, rather, to show you that I have them should I choose to use them…and so you know I’m not some “princess” with a housekeeper eating bon bons, lunching with ladies who…lunch, lounging by the pool, exercising when I feel like it and writing when inspiration strikes.

In addition to my day job (that’s really a 24/7 job) and family obligations, this year, I’m taking on a lot of new challenges:

– Secretary of Orange County’s chapter of RWA
– Writing a monthly article for Orange Blossom
– Weekly blog articles (for your viewing pleasure)
– Contributor to The Writer’s Vibe

And those are just the new professional challenges. I’m also killin’ myself on the treadmill every night after a full day of work, trying to rid myself of the muffin-top I acquired this holiday season. (I’m not vain, well, okay, I’m a little vain. But it’s also for health reasons and, frankly, I like being able to buy my clothes in the kids section. It’s cheaper.)

Anyway, on top of those new challenges I’ve added another book a year to my schedule. So…every single thing I listed keeps me from my goal of writing two books this year (instead of the one I wrote last year).

Still, I write. And I’m on track to finish.

So, I challenge you to stop making excuses. I’ll even help. Here’s a list of excuses and ways to combat them. I give you Dana’s Reasons Why Not…

1. My back hurts – Take an aspirin and get a heating pad.

2. My wrists hurt – Get iVoice or Dragon Naturally Speaking

3. My eyes hurt – Get some glasses or the above mentioned voice programs

4. I have to work – Write at lunch

5. I have kids – Write during naps and/or school.

6. I have to clean my house – Boring women keep clean houses.

7. School, kids, and work – Write one page a day. (Anybody can do that!)

8. Aliens abducted me – Surely they have a recording device you can speak into!

9. Stuck in traffic – Get a digital voice recorder and transcribe your work on weekends

10. I have stomach flu – This one may fly, but I admit, I once actually considered dragging my laptop onto the bathroom floor with me so I could write in between retch sessions.

11. I have a computer job and am too tired of looking at a computer in the evenings and on weekends. – Write longhand.

12. I have ten kids and a husband who doesn’t support me. – Divorce him and put your older kids to work for you. (Okay, for the record, I’m not in that position and that does seem harsh…even to my heartless soul.)

13. I’m exhausted – Leave you’re laptop on all night and write until you fall asleep and resume when you wake up at 4 a.m. (What? You don’t do that already?)

14. I’m training for the Olympics – An hour a day, that’s all I ask.

15. But I’m Michelle Kwan – You’re going to win anyway!

Now I ask you, what are your Reasons Why Not? If you post them, I’ll help you beat them.

Warmest Regards,

Dana Diamond

PS I wrote this last night. Today, I was chatting with my mentor about when I was going to get back to my YA that she’s been reading along as I write and was left dangling for a few weeks now. (Oh, the shame.) The story’s suspenseful and I’m leaving her on cliff-hangers, so she’s, understandably, a little ticked.

So, I give you a few new excuses…and how my mentor shot them down for me. (Oh, the hypocrisy!)

Mentor – “When am I going to see that next chapter?”

Me – “I have to finish the final copy of the interview I just did, and then I need to transcribe the minutes from the board meeting this weekend, and then I have a critique project, but I’ll probably finish that by the end of this week and then I’ll—”

Mentor – “Dana, you can do one page a day.”

(Dude, I hate it when she’s right! Love you, Mentor!)

PPS I am still on track, damnit!

Dana Diamond is the OCC/RWA Secretary, contributor to the Orange Blossom Newsletter and The Writer’s Vibe Blog.

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