Sunken Meadow Beach at Sunset

 

Photo Credit:  Jen Gracen

Photo Credit: Jen Gracen

I attended a book launch party for a dear friend at Sunken Meadow Beach, Long Island this past weekend. When I caught a glimpse of this incredible sunset, I was heartsick that I’d left my Nikon at home. Luckily, my romance writer pal saved the night with her iphone camera. Beautiful, huh? Thanks, Jen.

Then I discovered the sunset in Jen’s wine glass, and I asked her to take a shot of it so you could enjoy it too.

Photo Credit: Jen Gracen

Photo Credit: Jen Gracen

What did you do this past weekend? Any special accomplishments or simple pleasures?

If These Shoes Could Talk

I click on the closet light and yank a sweater off the shelf to pull it over my head. That makes three layers. I lean down to slide my hand along the chilly wood floor, pushing aside wool skirts and cordoroy slacks as I search for my fuzzy slippers. No luck. I do find a colony of dust bunnies and a pair of sandals, however. The shoes must have accidentally been left behind in the Columbus Day transition.

Our Seaplane Adventure - That cute flip-flop and his twin followed us everywhere

Our Seaplane Adventure – That cute flip-flop and his twin followed us everywhere

I glance down at the girly-girl heels in my hands. I miss summer. I bet they do, too. If my sandals could talk, what would they say about our years together? I sit on my bed, hugging them close as ideas float through my head.

We biked through Old Town, Key West and sunned ourselves at South Beach. The sand was quite hot!

We treated ourselves to pedicures. Our favorite color was Powerful Pink, a stunning combination with my metallic blue leather, if I do say so myself.

We attended a July wedding and my comfy soles allowed you to keep up with your Dad and son on the dance floor.

We explored Jefferson Fort at Dry Tortugas National Park and climbed to the top for a breathtaking view of the Atlantic. You appreciated my sturdy heels.

One of many incredible views at Fort Jefferson

One of many incredible views at Fort Jefferson

We splashed through rain puddles (and we didn’t complain) while you played at Universal Islands of Adventure with the family.

We lounged in the backyard with girl friends and you drank strawberry margaritas and listened to island music. Thank you for being careful and not spilling sticky drinks on me.

The margarita reference reminds me of the task I still have to finish, the one I was in the middle of when I became too cold in my den to concentrate. I shake my head and laugh. Yes, I’m caught, guilty as charged–Number One Procrastinator. I have a post to write, and here I am, reminiscing about summer with inanimate objects. I shiver under my three layers of tops. Darn, it’s cold in here. Maybe I’ll grab a blanket out of the linen closet on my way downstairs, make a cup of hot chocolate, and sit by the fireplace while I brainstorm more ideas.

I set my pretty blue flowered sandals on the tippy-top closet shelf. That way they won’t have to fight off the dust bunnies while they wait for summer to return.

If an item of yours could talk, what would it say?

Top Three Lists For 2012

Forgive the me, me, me format of this final post of 2012 as I reflect on the year. I wish you and yours a healthy, happy, prosperous New Year, and I look forward to entertaining you with this blog of mini-escapes (and occasional venting) and getting to know each of you more through our conversations in 2013. May it be a year of good luck for each of us!

My Top Three Gifts this Christmas:

  1. A heartfelt sentiment from my husband on Christmas morning, a gift of his undying love. I cried.
  2. A wallet from my son, who knows how disorganized I can be with pesky things like cash and credit cards. Even better was learning he “bought” the wallet with points earned at his school for excellent behavior. He could have purchased something for himself, but he didn’t. Yes, I cried.
  3. A red wine glass from my sister-in-law and niece etched with my name. I didn’t cry, but I really appreciated it, and made quick use of it. I needed to test it, right?

My Top Three Quotes for Margarita Moments:

2012-12-30 19.19.421.  The finest amusements are the most pointless ones.

Jacques Chardonne

2.  I would not exchange my leisure hours for all the wealth in the world.

Anonymous

3.  The happiest people are those who decide to use leisure as a means of mental development, who love good music, good books, good pictures, good company, and good conversation. They are not only happy themselves, they are the cause of happiness in others.

William Lyon Phelps

Top Three Margarita Moment Posts:

1.  A Love Story

2.  The Roller Coaster or Merry-Go-Round

3.  On A Serious Note

I’m proud of these little pieces of writing, but what made them successful was your participation through your views, likes, and comments. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit Margarita Moments each week.

My Three Life (Writing) Lessons:

1. Follow your passion. If you aren’t passionate about writing the story, your readers won’t be passionate about reading it. The caveat to this lesson–write from your soul, not from a marketing standpoint or what you think others expect you to write.

2. Be consistent. I’m good about this one as a parent and at my day job, but when life became overwhelming in other areas this past fall I didn’t post blogs consistently. I may have lost some readers because of this and that makes me sad, for a writer’s joy is sharing her world with others. For 2013, I promise to post on Mondays without fail, even if only to submit an apology or announce a change of plans.

3.  Don’t give up, unless it’s to do something you feel even more strongly about.  This was a difficult lesson to learn. I’m very loyal. However, I wasted spent almost six months toughing it through a story that wasn’t panning out the way I’d expected. I began to lose interest in writing each night. Thankfully, I let go of that story (for now) and this year is ending on a high note as I complete a romantic suspense.

Please share your “My Top Three _____ for 2012” with us!

Ideas for your Top Threes of 2012:

  • proudest moments
  • books
  • movies
  • songs

Quote

What on Earth Are You Here For?

The following post is adapted from my article, “The Purposeful Writer” published September 2012 in SHORELINES, the Long Island Romance Writers newsletter. Although the original was written for fellow writers, I believe it’s easily adapted to any life pursuit. Let me know what you think!

What On Earth Are You Here For?

By Jolyse Barnett

One of the most influential non-fiction books I’ve read as an adult was The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren. As I began my quest as a new writer, quotes from this bestselling book would pop into my head, and I soon realized many applied to my life as a writer. They easily apply to whatever your passion or life pursuit entails. Here are three of my favorites:

“Relationships take time and effort, and the best way to spell love is “T-I-M-E.”

If we are passionate about something, we take the time and effort to learn it. We don’t try to cut corners. Learning your craft well takes time. For writers, that means write, write, and write some more. Read about writing, read a variety of genres, and consider story elements in the various dramatic forms. Accept the ebb and flow of writing. Think about writing, keep a journal, talk to your characters, and people-watch for character and dialogue ideas—whatever inspires creativity.

One of the greatest lessons I learned in my first two years as a serious writer was the importance of thinking like a writer, not a reader. A reader enjoys the well-crafted novel, but the writer understands the purpose of each part of a story, and how they interconnect to convey a particular mood and move the story forward. Time spent writing allows the writer to develop her voice as well.

 “Why is this happening to me? Why am I having such a difficult time? One answer is that life is supposed to be difficult! It’s what enables us to grow. Remember, Earth is not heaven!”

People at all stages of their career likely experience setbacks or at least little roadblocks during the learning process. Yet-to-be-published writers like me may fret about getting an agent or selling that first book. Debut authors may worry about sales and getting the contract for their next story. Multi-published authors may be concerned with meeting deadlines, juggling the business aspect of writing, and maintaining their love for the art of writing. Remember, follow your dream career not because it’s easy, but because it’s your passion.

“Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain.” 

You invest yourself and your time into making your dream a reality, and it’s painful to fail. Your hard work is rejected. This experience may cause some people to give up, hide from judging eyes, and move onto less frustrating, wound-inducing pursuits. When I received my first rejections as a writer, I was very disappointed, but I determined to use that experience to improve my first novel and future work. Learning from your failures in life, and persevering despite failures will lead to ultimate success. I’m not a quitter, and neither are you.

What on Earth are you here for?

Where Are You From?

A few days ago, I came across a beautifully written article by blogger extraordinaire, Jenny Hansen, and I had to give it a try myself. Turns out, she discovered this nostalgic writing exercise after reading “Where I’m From” by Sharla Lovelace, which includes a template. Apparently, that template has been bouncing around the internet for a decade or more. Perhaps it’s so popular because you don’t have to be a professional writer to try it, not even close. The next time you’re trying to figure out what to give a parent (or your child) who already has everything, or doesn’t need another whatchamacallit, perhaps consider writing your story and gifting it to them. Just a thought.

With that said, here’s a little bit of me.

Where I’m From

I’m from wollastonite, Big Wheels, Tinker Toys, and a backyard sandbox. From a sunny kitchen where my mom lined up Velveeta and mustard sandwiches and Kool-Aid for us kids to grab before running outside to play some more.

I’m from a white clapboard house perched at the edge of a hay field, a second-story Holly Hobbie-themed bedroom with white, flowing curtains, and a paneled den large enough for a family of seven. From a kitchen with daily homemade meals, a fridge with a pitcher of unsweetened iced tea, and the occasional rhubarb pie.

I am from evergreens, Lady Slippers, pussy willows, and hummingbirds, oak trees, pink clover, and dairy cows. From a mining town with a K-12 central school and graduating class of forty, one grocery store, one blinking light, and a river that we’d skate come winter.

I’m from Sunday summer picnics with grandma’s potato salad and grandpa’s sons–large, tobacco-chewing men grilling hot dogs and burgers. From a backyard where we played horseshoes, croquet, and H-O-R-S-E until it was too dark to do more than roast marshmellows around a cinder block fireplace.

Adirondack Evergreens

I’m from a no-nonsense, hardworking father and graceful, classy mother and too many aunts, uncles, and cousins to count. I am from the frugal and independent, the pinocle players, the shift workers, and the practical jokers. From “If you make a mess, clean it up” and “You can be anything you want to be if you work hard enough.”

I’m from a Catholic home, from where we love others as God has loved us, turn the other cheek, and believe the meek shall inherit the earth.

I’m from where the Adirondack foothills meet the crystal blue waters of Lake Champlain, a home with veggies grown in the backyard and canned in the kitchen, laundry drying in the breeze, and Sunday breakfasts of fried eggs and bacon.

I am from shelves of photo albums next to the stairs, to be pulled out and pored over whenever we visit my childhood home. From boxes of art and school work in the attic, to skis and boots in the cellar. Never touched, but there just the same.

A Few More Thoughts

This exercise stirs up a myriad of memories as you write. I’ve worked on this piece for a few days, but I continue to remember more–and I want to include it all. Next weekend my family will travel upstate to my childhood home, and I imagine that will inspire me further. Writing, like life, is very often a work in progress.

My mind is on my mother this week, even more than usual. She would have been seventy-five this year. I love and miss you, Mom, but here’s a little gift to you, to let you know I meant it when I said I’d love you for always.

And to my readers, here’s your gift. My husband made up this little summer concoction early in the season and I adore it. As Nicole Basaraba  pointed out to me recently, every cocktail needs a good name. Let me know if you like it! Here it is…

Pink Flamingo Cocktail

Fill a 15 oz. cocktail glass with ice, pour in a shot-and-a-half of your favorite Scotch (I prefer single malt), add pink lemonade, stir, and top with a lemon. Enjoy!

Where are you from? Did this exercise stir any memories for you? What summer drink did you savor?

Waxing Poetic

April is one of my favorite months. Spring is in full bloom, Long Island days seem slightly sunnier…and it’s poetry month. To put you in the poem frame of mind, here’s a haiku I wrote, just for you.

Poetry

Sensory snapshot in words

Lines, rhymes, alliteration, stanzas

Rhythm rolling off my tongue

When I’m in the mood for a little poetry pick-me-up but don’t have the energy left to write my own, I surf on poetry websites. The next poem is courtesy of www.OnlyPoems.com.:

Tropical Island

Palm trees sway

To the beat of the drums

As my plane lands

My Caribbean escape awaits

 

I dip my feet

Into the refreshing warm water

The ocean sweeps me away

To my personal paradise

 

Flashes of color

Shimmering scales

Crystal blue water

A blissful sight

 

The burning red sun

Battles the soft ocean breeze

My toes dig deeper into the sand

I don’t want to leave

 

The reef is a playground

To all curious creatures

And the seaweed rocks back and forth

To the rhythm of the water

 

But sunset comes

In shades of orange, yellow, and pink

As it settles to rest

Sinking beneath the ocean waves

by Peyton Alexis

Do you like poetry? Why or why not? If you like poetry, do you have any favorite poets or related websites you’d recommend?

P.S. – If you’re not into poetry, no worries. Next week’s post will be written in prose. 🙂

 

The Romance Writer’s Handbook

Happy Romance Writer’s Wednesday. Today’s post is about the first book I ever read about crafting a romance story, Rebecca Vinyard’s THE ROMANCE WRITER’S HANDBOOK. This how-to book took my vague dream of becoming a serious writer to a set of achievable skills and goals.

Here are my Top Ten Nuggets of Writing Gold mined from Ms. Vinyard’s book:

10. Study the market as you consider which premise holds the most promise. But write with love in mind, not dollar signs.

9. Formatting matters.

8. Use strong verbs to make your writing active.

6. There are sixteen master archetypes to use when creating characters.

5. Using POV correctly, you can keep characters guessing about the other characters’ feelings–increasing tension and conflict.

4. Romance plots have a difficult-to-solve problem keeping our hero and heroine apart. The internal conflict heightens emotion.

3. Create a colorful, rich sense of place using descriptive language–short and sweet–and show it through a character’s POV.

2. Write what you know you are ready to write. Research is the backbone to every story.

1. Write, write, write…to find your voice. Be confident–only you sound like you. Then keep writing for those who love your voice.

Romance Writers:   What nugget of writing gold you have mined from writing experts? Romance Readers: What do you feel makes a good romance?

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