Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Don't Forget the Mistletoe by Christy Carlyle

Continuing my author interviews with authors in The Gift of Christmas anthology. Today, I'm talking with Christy Carlyle about her short story "Don't Forget the Mistletoe." I loved this story about the difficult transition of friends to romance and all the expectations we set for that to happen.

Not only is Christy the author of this story, and the author of two wonderful historical romance novellas, but she is also the cover designer for the anthology.  A truly talented person who works way too many hours in many venues, I'm lucky she had a few moments to join us today.

Tell us about your inspiration for this story, Christy.

I’ve always loved stories set during wintertime and somehow linked to Christmas traditions. When I was a kid, there was an archway in the wall that joined our living and dining rooms, and sometimes we would hang a bundle of mistletoe in the center of that arch. It was glossy and green, and I knew the special tradition of giving or receiving a kiss when you stood under the mistletoe with someone. I’ve always wanted to incorporate that tradition into a romance story.

I grew up in the Midwest and most of my extended family lived nearby, so the holidays were always a grand event with lots of laughter, food, and fun. It was a chance to catch up and plan for the coming year. The backdrop of the holidays immediately evokes sentimental memories, yet it also makes me think about change. The advent of a new year is a time when anything is possible—resolutions are made, fortunes can change, new beginnings are just around the corner. The story of Ben and Amelia came to me wrapped up in this notion of a new possibility—a relationship that blossoms from friendship into love.

The friends-to-lovers story is one of my favorites. When I was younger and first read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, I was devastated that Jo March didn’t end up with her friend and neighbor Theodore “Laurie” Laurence. Mr. Knightley and Emma Woodhouse from Jane Austen’s Emma are my favorite example of literary longtime friends with the potential for more. Much like Ben and Amy in my short story, “Don’t Forget the Mistletoe,” they are the closest of friends, even confidantes, but one of them is driven to risk the comfort of their friendship for the chance of something more.

You can learn more about Christy and her other books in these places:
Christy's Website | Windtree Press Author Page | Facebook | Twitter | G+ | Tumbler | Pinterest

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas with You by Jane Killick

Back to the holiday anthology, The Gift of Christmas, author interviews.  As a reminder, I am continuing my posts for individual authors on what inspired them to write their particular story. Today I'm talking to Jane Killick, the author of the short story "Christmas with You" in the anthology. 

Jane lives in the UK and works for BBC radio.  Like myself, and many Windtree Press authors, Jane is a cross-genre writer in both fiction and non-fiction. For my SF fans you may know Jane's well-regarded books about the series Red Dwarf and Babylon 5.   For my romance fans, you may have laughed your way through her romantic comedy novels, If Wishes Were Husbands and Fairy Nuff. She's also written plenty of short stories for magazines, anthologies, and as stand-alone reads.

What I love most about Jane is her sense of humor. Many of her titles make me laugh out loud. This story made me smile and cry.  It is poignant and reflects so much of a young family's first Christmas together with a new baby and all that entails.

So, Jane, What Inspired You to Write "Christmas with  You."

Last Christmas, I was out having lunch with a friend when the restaurant owner got into conversation with the couple on the table next to us. The man was an airline pilot working out of London’s Heathrow and was talking about how he had to work over Christmas. The planes have to keep flying, he explained, because there isn’t enough room to keep them all on the ground. I found this really interesting and, when I was looking to write a Christmas story for The Gift of Christmas anthology, I remembered this conversation and used it as my starting point. But my story, Christmas with You, although it features an airline pilot, isn’t really about an airline pilot.
Some years ago, my brother-in-law started to come to our house for Christmas. In his family, opening Christmas presents is a solitary affair as everyone opens their gifts in their own little corner all at once. We thought this was boring and selfish, so we made him do it our way. He was amazed at how we opened each present, one by one in front of each other, so the rest of the family enjoys the excitement as each gift is revealed. This makes opening Christmas presents much more inclusive and fun, even if it is only watching Grandma tear off the wrapping paper from her new pair of slippers.
I used this annecdote in my story. But even though it features a family opening their Christmas presents, this isn’t what my story is about.
One year when I was a child, my parents bought a turkey for Christmas that was so large that it wouldn’t fit in the fridge. So my dad put it outside in the greenhouse to keep it cool and fresh. This seemed like a good idea until Christmas morning when he went to bring it in, only to discover it had frozen solid during the overnight frost. We had to wait for it to defrost before we could cook it. Christmas dinner was very late that year.
I remembered that incident when I was writing my story, which features a turkey too frozen to cook for Christmas dinner. But my story isn’t really about desfrosting turkeys.
My story is about a young couple desperate to spend their first Christmas together with their baby son. Fate, it seems, is on their side as circumstances fall into place to allow this to happen, despite the husband’s work schedule.
Except my story isn’t really about that either. The truth about my story is only revealed at the end, and to find that out, you’re just going to have to read it.

Readers, doesn't this peak your interest? I have read Jane's story and I promise you will remember it for a very long time. 

To learn more about Jane and her work visit her at these places:
Jane's website | Windtree Press author page | Facebook | Twitter |

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving has always been my most favorite holiday of the year. It's not the turkey, the pies, the variety of salads and veggies. It's not the cozy sleepiness afterward. I love Thanksgiving because of it's meaning, the whole concept of giving thanks for what we have, what we share, and taking an entire day--or weekend--to count blessings.

I love celebrating Thanksgiving because there is no expectations to give presents, go shopping, wear some kind of special outfit--unless you enjoy dressing as a pilgrim--or any of the things associated with most other holiday celebrations.

Here is my abbreviated list of things I am thankful for:
  • My family, both immediate family and extended family, who have always supported me, even when my decisions were questionable.
  • My friends, both those in the past and in the present. I have been blessed that people pass through my  life and always leave me something amazing for having been there. Some people were friends for short periods of time--a year or two, while a few have been friends with me for more than 40 years. That's a long time to still care about someone.
  • My church community. I am especially blessed to be with the community I am in now. Though I have always valued the churches that have been a part of my life, this one feels particularly like home.
  • The beautiful location where I live--Portland, Oregon. I have lived in many places over my 60+ years of life--east coast, west coast, the south, and the midwest. I have traveled to Europe, Australia, and the Middle East. Although everywhere I've been has something amazing to offer, for me Portland has it all--easy access to deserts, mountains, forests, rivers and the ocean. Mostly temperate weather, but the opportunity to get to snow or sunshine within a few hours.
  • Writers and Musicians who have brought me so much joy. I am fortunate to be part of both of these creative communities that feed my soul. No one understand the creative journey more than someone who is also pursuing that journey. No one else can understand the silence and often lonely act of creation, and the struggle to share it with others. It is a unique baring of the soul that most careers do not require and one that I do not take for granted in others. I am thankful to have so many creative people in my life.
I have been blessed a hundred times to be surrounded by people who are willing to share some of their life's journey with me. They share it with kindness, as well as compassionate kicks-in-the-butt when needed. They share a part of themselves with every conversation, every hug, and especially in the silences when we are together.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Black Friday Book Shopping

For me, the whole post Thanksgiving shopping season is way too crazy making. The combination of over-stimulated senses, colors, crowds in the mall all make it too much for my brain to process. That's why the best place to go on Black Friday is to a bookstore, talk to some authors, get recommendations from the owner, and purchase the gift of reading for everyone on your gift list.

I'm going to be participating with three other authors at just such an event at Jacobsen's Books in downtown Hillsboro, Oregon.  I'm really looking forward to it.

Jacobsen's is one of those places packed floor to ceiling with books--used books, new books, gift books, chidren's and adult books, bookmarks, holiday cards, and lots more gift ideas. And if they don't have it on the shelf they will order for you!

So, wherever you are, consider spending some of your shopping time at your local bookstore. What better gift to give to your children, your siblings, your parents, and best friends than a great story. Below is a wonderful idea for a toddler. We are giving it to our grandson this year. What books are you considering for your gift list?


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Author Ethics

I'm taking a slight turn from talking about fiction to talk about the people who write books. As the boom in independent publishing has accelerated over the past five years, so has the squishy ethical standards of some of those engaged in it. This is NOT the majority of authors. However, the minority are harming all of us: readers, publishers, and authors alike. In a media-frenzy world we often become inured to bad behavior that seems to be rewarded instead of penalized.

What are some of these behaviors? Plaigarism in whole or in part of a work. Claiming "bestseller" status because the author's title was a bestseller for one day on Amazon free reads. Claiming "award-winning" author on the book cover because the author entered the first three chapters in a writing contest and won first place. Using "sock puppet" reviewers--friends/colleagues who use aliases to provide lots of great reviews. Buying reviews, Facebook likes, Twitter followers or other "Fake" multimedia presence. Constantly harrassing readers/bloggers with multiple emails, tweets, posts every day saying "Buy My Book!" Worst of all is badmouthing a reader, blogger, or other individual for posting an honest review that was not liked by the author or for making any statement about the work that did not result in a five-star review.

I'm an Ethical AuthorThe Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) has worked in a positive way to combat this. Rather than supporting the public outing of each suspected unethical individual, ALLi has instead created a code of ethics and asked authors to state unequivocally that they will follow this code and to post the badge of this code on their website and/or blog.  You can read the code in its entirety here.

I support this movement and absolutely agree with the code. You will notice the badge on my website and this blog. I encourage other authors to also step up and be counted.

Will this stop all the bad behavior? Unfortunately not. But I believe that as more and more authors state they will follow this code, it will be more obvious what the expectations are of all authors. For those authors who  behave badly due to misinformation, this code will stand for the ethical expectations of all authors.

I hope that a large group of authors promising to follow the code and clearly making the badge visible will show the unity of the majority of authors who are professionals, whether independent or traditionally published. These professionals want to be judged on the quality of their work and who they are as ethical authors. These professionals will continue to grow their readership in an ethical manner and continue to treat readers, publishers, and other authors as peers and deserving of respect.

I have always believed that good triumphs over bad, and this is a case where I believe this campaign can make a difference in stopping unethical behavior. If you are an author, I hope you will join me in standing up for the code. If you are a reader, I hope you will join me in supporting ethical authors knowing that they will treat you and their work with respect.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cody Newton's short story Sonder

Continuing with the NIWA Underground Anthology, today I'm visiting with Cody Newton, author of the story "Sonder."

This story is a slice-of-life vignette that juxtaposes the protagonist's simultaneous distance and yet intimacy playing out with the girl at the food cart. I was first attracted to the way Cody describes his characters. The writing is gorgeous. Here is one sample.

"“Her toenails wore a too-perfect coat of deep purple polish—untouched by shoes. Her hair still clung to the fading memory of a recent curl, bouncy, unlike her face and attitude. ”

Writing like that always pulls me in. This is an interesting flash picture of our desire to connect, however briefly.

Tell us about your inspiration for this, Cody.

This was one of those stories that seemed to have been putting itself together, before I even started on it. The whole story is based off an experience I had that was similar to the food cart experience described in the story.

For weeks I couldn’t stop thinking about the woman I saw at the food carts. Not just her, but her story and what had been happening in her life that I knew nothing about. The thought of us as individuals being nothing more than side characters in another’s life isn’t an uncommon thought, but it’s a thought I’ve always enjoyed. And when I saw that woman I became interested in writing a story about her without her ever knowing it existed; or that it was inspired by a two minute interaction at a food cart. An interaction with a guy who played a much smaller role in her life than she ended up playing in his.

Learn more about Cody and his books at Website | Facebook | Twitter

Friday, November 14, 2014

Susan Lute's Holiday Story The Marine's Christmas Proposal

Back to the holiday anthology, The Gift of Christmas, author interviews.  As a reminder, I am continuing my posts for individual authors on what inspired them to write their particular story.  Susan Lute's story, "The Marine's Christmas Proposal," follows her themes of finding a way home and making home wherever you find it.  One thing I personally always love about Su's writing is that she adroitly manages a mainstream romance plot along with a character-driven emotional impact. Her heroes and heroines are never cookie-cutter. That means I love them all the more because of their blemishes, misfortunes, and often messy relationships.

What inspired you to write "A Marine's Christmas Proposal?"

Raised in a military family, and by a career Marine, some of my earliest memories are of living in that close knit community – Long Island, San Diego, Parris Island. It didn't matter where we lived, there was always a sense of being part of something bigger that sheltered my “real” family. It makes sense to me that I would eventually get around to writing about these sometimes flawed heroes, and the journeys they make to find their way home.

When a story starts bugging me to be written, as this one did, it always comes to me first by way of the characters, and because I write romance, that means a hero and heroine who stumble over each other. In the case of David Randal, a career Marine who leaves the Corps to take care of his orphaned nephew, and Charlee Banks, daughter of the hugely successful CEO of Banks Sportswear, I also wanted to write a boss and secretary story.

The politically correct label these days for secretary is administrative assistant, so how could I keep alive the old fashioned notion of a personal secretary, and at the same time turn this story on it's ear? Trying it in reverse did the trick. The roll of “boss” had to be played by Charlee, and David, forced to take whatever job he could in a depressed economy, took a job as her “secretary”. And because Christmas is my favorite holiday, when the sparks started fly, the story took on a life of it's own. It was anyone's guess how it would end.

Learn more about Susan and her other Windtree Press books.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Windtree Press has released my first-ever personal short story collection, Rhythms.


This collection of seven speculative fiction stories explores the rhythms of life both external and internal on our planet and in other places in the universe. From identifying a single individual’s challenges with identity to that of a supernatural being whose sole purpose is to embed its soul into the experiences of all people, each story asks you to question what you see, who you are, and how to think outside of your personal experience.

If you are able to adapt to a new rhythm, you will be given a chance to do more than survive. You will find a way to thrive.

Why A Short Story Collection?

I’ve been writing speculative fiction in short form for more than 30 years. I seriously began submitting stories to magazines and anthologies in the late 1980’s. I am a bit different from many of my friends and peers in that I fairly easily embrace change and am fascinated with how one's willingness to adapt makes space for new innovation, problem-solving, and sometimes creates more problems. My speculative fiction reflects that fascination of adaptation by questioning who we are and what we choose to do when faced with challenges that require some type of change to be resolved.

Though I love my work in romance, women's fiction, suspense, and fantasy, I have also missed thinking about and writing about futuristic worlds.  To keep my toe in the water of SF, I made a 2014 New Years resolution to write one short story per month. Most of them I manage to sell to a magazine or anthology, which means there is some period of waiting for publication (ranging from a few months to two years), and then again some period of waiting before I can resell or reprint them again. If I keep to this pace, I expect I may have a new collection every year.

In the Rhythms collection I've included two speculative fiction short stories written this year and one written in 2013. The other four stories are from my favorites in the past.

Question for You

Are you an adapter? When faced with change what is your M.O.? There is no right or wrong answer to this question. I believe the world needs people at both extremes and everywhere in between. Some quick adapters, like me, are successful in business ONLY because we have people on the team who are always questioning the rush, the impact, the timing. In that questioning, some potential landmines are averted.

So who are you? An eager adapter? A middle-ground adapter after some research time? Or a person who needs lots of time for research, preparation, questioning before making a move? What is your rhythm and how willing are you to change it?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Susie Slanina story Metro's Mountain Cabin

This continues the brief author interviews from the Windtree Press Christmas anthology, The Gift of Christmas.  Susie's story is a continuation of her popular middle-grade series about Metro the little dog.  Here Susie shares her inspiration for her Metro series and specifically for her Christmas short story, "Metro's Mountain Cabin."

As a child, I had been an avid reader and had always loved book series, but there was never enough in them about the characters' pets.

In 2009 I wrote a poem about a spider. A friend mentioned that I should write more about the spider, but I was happily retired, and besides, I didn't see a future in the spider. But it got me thinking. Maybe I could write a little something about Metro (1994-2008), a lovable dog who meant a whole lot to me.

"The little something about Metro" turned into a children's book series. In the last Metro book, Sherry decides she wants to buy a mountain cabin--a place to take her pets on vacations.

When Windtree Press invited me to write a story for their winter anthology, it was the perfect opportunity to continue the series where I left off--with the story of how Metro gets her cabin and experiences her first snowy winter. But Sherry is only eighteen years old, how can she afford a cabin? Mr. Shady of Corporate Fat Cats provides the answer.

Writing this brought back very fond memories of Metro's (real) mountain cabin.

Learn more about Susie Slanina and her series of books about Metro at her website.

Buy The Gift of Christmas in print or ebook from the retailer of your choice.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

On the Vine by Dale Ivan Smith

Continuing with the author interviews for the NIWA anthology UNDERGROUND, today we will hear from Dale Ivan Smith. Dale has always had a fascination for science fiction and fantasy. He has turned that fascination into creating short stories that have appeared in online zines and two are available as stand alone stories on Amazon.

When I began reading "On the Vine" I thought this would be an interesting story about gardening in prison. However, it is much more than that. It is a story of sacrifice, of making hard choices, and ultimately surviving. 

Dale, what inspired you to submit this particular story to the collection?

"I am working on a long-form story about a former super villain, Jolene Jacobs, who has been released from a prison for meta-humans and tries to choose her own destiny. Jo's meta-human 'power' is to control plant life.

On the Vine" came to me when I wondered what it would have been like for her to have done time in special corrections, unable to use her power, and desperately wanting to learn if her family was okay on the outside. As a new prisoner, she was forbidden any contact with the outside world. She earned access to the prison garden and transferred her concern for her family to her garden plot, struggling to keep her tomato plants alive in the face of torment by the prison authorities.

Learn more about Dale on his Amazon author page .

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Metro Blue by Jason LaPier

Continuing with the author interviews for the NIWA anthology UNDERGROUND, today we will hear from Jason LaPier. Jason has received several writing awards for his short fiction. In July 2015 his debut novel, a science fiction murder mystery called Unexpected Rain, is scheduled to be published by Harper Voyager.

When I read "Metro Blue" I was immediately taken into the point-of-view of an old woman riding the subway for the last time. The sights, sounds, and smells she encounters as the door opens at each stop simultaneously captures both the surreal experience of interactions and the small shared intimacies it forces, whether desired or not. If you have ever commuted on a subway system you will appreciate this story.

So, Jason, tell me what inspired you to submit this particular story to the collection?

"Generally, I write a lot of speculative fiction: a lot of sci-fi, a little horror, a touch of fantasy, that kind of thing. I thought for sure I'd come up with some sci-fi idea for what "underground" means, but sometimes when I write short fiction, I have to feed the part of me that wants to do a little literary work.

I used to live in Brooklyn, and one of the things I never thought I'd miss, but do, is the subway. There's such a variety of people that ride the train in New York, all if them with their own destinations, their own pasts, their own stories. I was there a relatively short time, but for some people, I imagine that the subway has been an undercurrent theme throughout their lives.

Instead of using New York, I based my story in a fictional city so that I could bend the train's route to my will. I found that this concept gave me something creative to play with while at the same time being a strong structural skeleton that holds the story together. Even though the train is on a fixed track, it travels uptown, downtown, east, west, to the center, and out to the edges, and I wanted this route to mimic the jumping way we visit the main character's memorable life moments; that even though it feels like we're on a set path sometimes in the day-to-day, when we look back over our lives, we can see how varied our travels have been."

Learn more about Jason and his work at his website http://jasonwlapier.com

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Anna Brentwood's holiday story The Mermaid's Treasure

This continues the brief author interviews from the Windtree Press Christmas anthology, The Gift of Christmas.  I've asked each author what inspired them to write their contribution to the anthology. Anna Brentwood's story focuses on a specific item, a brooch, from her debut novel The Songbird with Sapphire Eyes. Anna loves to write historical fiction and her short story for this anthology, "The Mermaid's Treasure" is a wonderful example of her vivid imagination and eye for historical detail.

What inspired me to write "The Mermaid's Treasure" was YOU and Windtree Press and the very idea of having yet another tale to tell related to The Songbird with Sapphire Eyes! I was already working on Anthony's Angel, the sequel to my debut novel,  which picks up on the life of my heroine’s son, but I left our Windtree Press meeting with my head spinning and thinking, what to write…can I write something….no...then it started percolating-- with me a process that the word obsessing describes perfectly!

I began with what holidays mean to me. I grew up in a mixed neighborhood on the East Coast between Christians and Jews. I am not a religious person, but I am a spiritual one who, as an adult strives to take the true essence out of each holiday. To me, Christmas is a spirit, a time to share and to show you care to family and friends. It is a time to do good things and give back no matter your beliefs.

Then I focused on the brooch from The Songbird with Sapphire Eyes that gangster Johnny Gallo gives to songbird Hannah that has significance later in their story. I focused on its history, jewels and treasures and well, history. Because my thing is to always weave in real history, people and situations in my stories, I started Googling sunken ships and voila— found the right one.

I am of Russian ancestry and have found, within my own family, gaps of info and lots of “secrets” not handed down. The Russalka, meaning mermaid, was a Russian War ship that sank in route to Finalnd in 1893. That particular ship inspired the statue of an angel to be erected 1902 in Kadriorg, Tallinn, Finland that still stands today. The “Angel” felt like a sign and I always trust signs when I am creating; so more ideas started to gell.

Ultimately, the story, "Mermaid’s Treasure" is based on two real historic events: 1) a Russian battleship that sunk off the coast of Finland and inspired a statue; and 2) The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York that led to worker’s rights being protected through the garment unions. For a story I didn’t think I had in me, it almost wrote itself and I am thrilled to be part of the anthology. Windtree Press not only pushed me as a writer, but writing "Mermaid's Treasure" is truly one of my favorite experiences (to date) and I am looking forward to more! 

Learn more about Anna Brentwood at her website.

Buy The Gift of Christmas in print or ebook from the retailer of your choice.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Beckoning

As promised, I am beginning the discussion of the stories in the Northwest Independent Writer's Association (NIWA) anthology, Underground. All proceeds from sales of this anthology go to NIWA to continue its work in supporting independent writers in the Pacific Northwest.

Available in Print and Ebook
Ebook: Kindle | Nook | Kobo | iBook coming soon
Print: Amazon

My short story is titled "The Beckoning." 

As with many authors, one doesn't always know all the themes of a story.  What is even more exciting to me is what other people see in the story.  I love the way editor, Jennifer Willis, described my story to a reviewer. "“The Beckoning,” is an ethereal tale of merged consciousness. It might just knock readers on their ear. "

As my stories, including my novels, tend to be psychological and character driven, I conceived of the theme “underground” as what lies below the consciousness of our minds. I believe that the unconscious holds our fears, joys, abilities, our learning center, and our souls. As a creative person, I really can't explain how exactly ideas are merged together in my mind to form a unique story. I know that my stories are a combination of my personal experiences and beliefs and those that I read or view vicariously. I know that I am always surprised at some of the themes that are revealed when I finish a story--themes that I did not intentionally plan to be included.

I am a writer who tends to begin with a question or an idea first. I then search for characters and lives to answer the question via a story. In "The Beckoning," I began by asking the question that many speculative fiction writers have asked: “Is there a force beyond this world and, if so, does it have shape and form? Does that force exert any control or pressure on our world, and does it communicate with us?”

In “The Beckoning” I imagined a being whose soul purpose is to give its knowledge to all living things on earth. The way in which this knowledge is acquired and dispersed, as well as its impact on humanity, is the central action of this story. I also play with the idea of how the human psyche deals with messages that seem to be coming from outside our consciousness.

My young adult to middle adult career path was in counseling individuals and families in a variety of situations. One part of that work was a year working with severely mentally ill individuals who had horrific personal experiences related to spiritual beliefs. Some of these people heard voices, others saw angels and demons,  others had suffered trauma at the hands of religious leaders or their followers. It led me to question what happens when we hear or see experiences that we deem as coming from a source (God or otherwise) outside of ourselves--a source that seems to be all powerful and where we have little control in terms of our response to it. How do we process that? Can we process that and remain sane?

This story does not posit whether there is a God or not, and does not try to suggest a spiritual path. But, for me, it does question what is real and what is not, and how the human psyche tries to deal with what it cannot explain.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Gift of Christmas

This year I have three anthologies releasing with my stories all within a couple weeks of each other. I've already talked about Underground and you will see more posts on that over the next few weeks. Today I want to talk about a holiday anthology, The Gift of Christmas, from Windtree Press.  It is a collection of twelve diverse and heartfelt stories exploring the love, messiness and miracles of Christmas.

Authors contribute to holiday anthologies in the beginning of summer in order to give editors , formatters, cover designers a chance to work on it and get it completed by an October or November release date. That is the case with this anthology as well. My story, "The Hogmanay Stranger," actually takes place after Christmas and culminates on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in Scotland. Hogmanay is the Scot's word for the last day of the year and is a big celebration day.

Like the Underground anthology I've been discussing recently, I will be having Windtree Press authors discussing their inspiration for these holiday stories. I don't know about you, but I can read holiday stories year round. I know they are going to be touching and have endings that will make me smile, cry, and generally reinforce the goodness of people. This anthology is no exception.

To kick off the author inspirations for stories, I will share mine for "The Hogmanay Stranger."

When the Windtree Press authors decided to do a Christmas Anthology I definitely wanted to be involved. Unlike anthologies that were single genre (e.g., romance or literary) this one would be cross genre to feature the diversity of talent and stories of Windtree Press authors. There is even a non-fiction essay and a children’s story featuring the favorite characters in the Metro the Little Dog series.  So, I was excited to be part of this group of authors.

As I was in the middle of finishing Sarah’s story, Heart Strings, in the Sweetwater Canyon series and starting the final book, Two Voices, which features both Theresa and Kat, I had these characters already in my head. It seemed like the perfect idea to write a story that would be a bridge between the end of Heart Strings and the beginning of Two Voices.  To make it even better, how could anyone not want to be in Scotland for Hogmanay?

Of course, I can’t write something straight and sweet with no drama, so I introduced an unlikely catalyst as the Hogmanay stranger. This young man, from the wrong side of town, plays a major part in helping everyone to realize what is most important in life – love and family – even when it seems that all is lost.

I hope you enjoy my story and the entire collection of stories. I am proud to be part of this anthology. Stay tuned over the next few weeks for additional insights from other Windtree authors about their stories in this collection.

Purple Stride and the Work to Cure Pancreatic Cancer

This past Saturday I attended the Purple Stride event in downtown Portland with my husband and one of the bands he plays in, Cat House. The female singer helped organize the event and asked Cat House to play. It was a special request for her, as her husband died of pancreatic cancer two years ago.

I have to admit, until this event, I really didn't know that pancreatic cancer research had a public fundraiser like this. We all know of the pink ribbons and walks/runs for breast cancer, but I'd never heard of the purple ribbons and fundraising for pancreatic cancer. Another surprise for me was that there were survivors at the event. I've always thought of pancreatic cancer as a death sentence.

If you want to learn more, check out their website and consider giving a donation. You can donate at any time. It doesn't have to be at a big event.  I'll also leave you with a pic from the band.

Friday, October 31, 2014

What Happens Underground?

Happy Halloween!!!

What is more spooky than what might happen underground?

Fourteen writers answered the call to think about the meaning of "underground"and write a story. for the annual the Northwest Independent Writers Association anthology. This one is titled Underground.

There were no genre limitations, though it seems that most people leaned toward SF and Fantasy. The always thoughtful Jennifer Willis was the editor.

underground anthology cover
Inside you will visit a murderer's hideout, walk the road to the afterlife, plunder a dragon's lair, uncover a mysterious archaeological artifact, glimpse human existence after an environmental apocalypse, and delve deep into dark secrets of crime syndicates, forbidden worlds, sacrifice, and the human psyche.

Really, with such an amazing selection, how can you not buy this?
Ebook: Kindle | Nook | Kobo | iBook coming soon
Print: Amazon

The contributing authors and their stories are:

"Down in a Hole" by Mike Chinakos
"When Drake Met Thalise" by Amber Michelle Cook
"Best Friends" by Pamela Cowan and Jake Elliot
"Following the Rules" by Jonathan Ems
"Zeke's Place" by T.L. Kleinberg
"Metro Blue" by Jason LaPier
"The Beckoning" by Maggie Lynch
"Soldier Boy" by Roslyn McFarland
"Sonder" by Cody Newton
"Incident in the Archives" by Dey Rivers
"All is Vanity" by Steven L. Shrewsbury
"On the Vineby" by Dale Ivan Smith
"Surface Tension" by Laurel Standley
"Pooka Polka" by Jennifer Willis

Over the next several weeks, I'll be asking contributing authors to talk about how they interpreted the meaning of "underground" when choosing to write their specific story. My own reflection will be in the next post here on the blog.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour

I've been tagged by the always interesting YA Urban Fantasy writer, Ripley Patton, in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Ripley is the author of the popular PSS Chronicles series pictured below. If you haven't read these books, get thee to a bookstore or online. Really, you won't be disappointed. Also, check out her answers to the writing process question. I think we have some things in common.

So, here are my answers in the Writing Process Blog Tour.

What are you working on now?

I just finished writing Heart Strings, the third book in my Sweetwater Canyon series.  I'm doing another editing pass, then it's off to the final editor before going to formatting and release this Fall.  Once that goes off to the editor, I'll get back to work on Chameleon: The Summoning. It is the third book in my YA Fantasy series. I have a lot of readers begging me for this, so I'm working hard to also get it out this fall.

In addition to getting these two novels out over the next three months, I also have several short stories coming out soon as well in anthologies and magazines. Two are SF short stories and one is a bridge story between Heart Strings and Two Voices, the final book in my Sweetwater Canyon series.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

My Sweetwater Canyon series is marketed as both romance and women's fiction. This is because I focus on the woman's journey to discovering who she is and how to be strong and assertive in spite of wounds in her past. However, the books also have a romance that is central to that discovery process.

My YA Fantasy series, The Forest People, leans on a combination of SF ideas and fantasy ideas based on myth and religion. The SF concepts relate to inter-dimensional travel through a unique transportation system. The fantasy world is based on the beliefs held across many indigenous cultures around the world.  The fantasy world in this series also supports the interconnectedness of all things from humans to plants and to the larger universe which is a commonality among most cultures. It is a large and complex world and, like our own, relies on both science and myth. The reader discovers the fantasy world through the eyes of a sixteen year old human chameleon and the challenges she faces to determine who she is, how and where to fit in, and what is the right path for her to take in life.

Why do you write what you do?

All of my work, no matter the genre, tends to focus on how to determine where we fit in life. I think this is a question that we ask ourselves over and over again at different stages of our life. Depending on what has happened to an individual, the answer will likely change as he or she learns and grows. I know that the directions I set for myself at age sixteen are different than they were at 25 and at 40 and at 60. Certainly, there is a foundation of belief that has not changed for me, but the specifics and my approach has often changed.

For me, it is endlessly fascinating and exciting to hear and learn the myriad of answers to the questions of "Who am I?" "How do I fit in the universe?" and "What is the right path for me?" Answering these questions through different characters and circumstances and worlds provides me with an unending source of ideas. As I learn about my characters, the places they live, and the decisions they make, it also provides insight to me (and I hope to others) about how to look at the world from a different perspective than the one that first comes to mind. Changing perspective often yields new, creative, problem-solving.

How does your writing process work?

As you have probably guessed from my answer to the question above, my process is very much one of letting my unconscious brain drive the story. I believe that our unconscious brain is where seemingly disparate things are mixed together in one big soup and as they bump into each other, connections are made that are not at all obvious to our conscious brain. The trick is then forcing my conscious brain to interpret it and put it into words, emotions, characters, and action that make sense to me and to my readers.

My process usually begins with a question and a potential answer. Then I go in search of a character who needs to find the answer to my question in order to live a fulfilling life. For example, my question for the Sweetwater Canyon series was "How does a woman's sexual experience (good, bad, or not at all) impact her ability to create long-lasting relationships?" My series explores this through four different women, and a teenager. Each having a different kind of experience in her past. In my YA series, I asked the question, "What would happen if a teenage girl was able to turn into anyone she saw?" For some teenagers this might seem like heaven, but for my teenager she has no control over when and how it happens and, needless to say, it is not fun. One of my SF story questions was "What happens if anyone can live 800 years or more by simply getting an immunization?"

In all of these examples, I search for a character who needs to know the answer even more than I do. It takes me about 50-75 pages of writing to allow the character I choose to search and discover what is most important about that question and why it matters to him or her. That process fleshes out the character's backstory, the world, and what the end goal needs to be. I call this "writing into the mist."  I enter a thick fog with my character and together we find our way at least to a patch where we can begin to see where we are and where we need to go. Others might call this "pantsing" which is writing by the seat of your pants, or writing without a plan.

Once I get through those first 50-75 pages, I then know where my story is going and have a fairly good idea of where it will end.  At that point, I go back and rework the first 50+ pages to match that more clear vision. This usually involves throwing out at least half of it. :)  I then sit down each day and write as much as I can toward the end.  I write linearly because I am on as much of a road of discovery as my character(s). Most of the time this works well and I get to the end of the book with a solid story that surprises me many times along the way.

Every once in a while I get stuck or simply lose my way in the story. This usually means that my conscious mind was not doing its job very well in analyzing and translating the story to me. The connections that my subconscious is making are not being brought to my conscious brain. When that happens, I go back and outline what has happened so far in order for me to see the structure, the direction, the characters' needs and desires more clearly. That usually removes the jam and I can start writing forward again.

At the end of the first draft, I put it aside for at least two weeks and let it settle in my conscious. Then I go back and edit the entire thing. After that self-edit process, I send it off to beta readers and my editor simultaneously. While they have it, I start the process of getting information about it out (cover reveals, book blurbs, blog posts). When I get back all the feedback, I make changes as necessary and send it to proofreading. (Someone has to catch all the new errors I've introduced in the editing process). Finally, the book goes into the final publishing process to be released into the world.

Though I've now written more than a dozen books, I'm still amazed every time I finish a book. I'm amazed at how the mind works to pull details from seemingly disparate parts and make a story that lives and breathes and works together. In many ways it is magic to me. I breathe it in and savor that magical and creative process. It renews me and prepares me to write the next book. I am the luckiest woman in the world.

I'm supposed to pass this on to two more author. Unfortunately, after checking with a dozen people I knew (all with way too busy schedules) I only found one. But she is a GREAT one, so I think she deserves double credit. Her name is Paty Jager.

Next Week check out Paty Jager. Paty has published over 25 titles, ranging from historical romance to romantic suspense and historical paranormals. She is now moving into mysteries. I know her post will be interesting and likely quite different from mine.  I'll be posting next week too to remind you to go to her blog.  In the meantime, you might want to check out her Spirit Trilogy which is fantastic and at a great price.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Audio and Video Podcasts

Recently, Windtree Press has undertaken the task of interviewing each of its authors. I am fortunate to be the first one in the queue.  The lovely Jane Killick is doing all the interviews, and I can tell you that she is truly a professional (must be all that BBC news reading).  In addition, she has a way of making me sound better than I imagined.

Both podcasts and videos are being presented. One each month.

To catch my podcast subscribe to the Windtree Press feed at http://windtreepress.libsyn.com/rss

Embedded here is the video complement to the podcast.  I absolutely love it.  It is also available on the Windtree Press YouTube channel and Vimeo Channel.

Maggie-Lynch-2014 from Windtree Press on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What Keeps You Going?

A good friend of mine, who is serving in the Peace Corps in Swaziland, sent me an interesting question asked by one of her students. It was "What keeps you going?" I can't begin to imagine awaking in a grass hut to face another day of hauling water, wondering if you will get a bath, and if you have to travel a few miles knowing it will take all day. She is still one of my heroes--someone who chose to join the Peace Corps instead of enjoying a potential retirement of leisure.

I'm not sure what the context was for her student's question, but it made me reflect on it particularly in light of the recent suicide of Robin Williams--a celebrity who is only two years older than me and has been a part of my adult life through movies and TV and many hours of laughter and reflection. This also followed on the heels of a suicide by someone in my area just a week ago. A young mother with small children who, by outside appearances, seemed to have a wonderful happy life.

In both cases, depression played the final role. I have never suffered from clinical depression, though I have friends who do. It is a disease that it is impossible to understand if you don't have it. It is a disease that, untreated, drives people to such despair that the pain overwhelms the desire to live. It is a disease that never goes away and requires medication and monitoring forever. I pray that if you, or anyone you know, suffers from this disease that you check on them regularly and help them to continue in treatment.

I say this because what keeps me going is choice. Because I am blessed not to suffer from clinical depression, I always believe I have a choice. Below is what I sent to my friend.

What keeps me going?

It is a good question and one that I think anyone who struggles in life (and don’t we all?) has to ask and answer all the time.

For me it is three things:
  1. I want to make a difference in the world. Though I will never be a celebrity or a politician or even a great community organizer, I believe that simple acts of kindness and listening make a difference. For every person who says “Thanks for being there.” or “Thanks for sharing that opinion.” I believe I have helped in some small way. I believe that all those small helps add up. We never know when some small act of kindness is the one that gives someone else courage to keep going, or gives someone else a resource to add to their bag of resources for when they are in need. Or gives someone else that little nudge of motivation to do something amazing—it is my nudge among hundreds or thousands of other people’s nudges that added together make a difference.
  2. I want to leave something tangible for others after I’m dead. I suppose that is partly why I write and create music and lyrics and poetry. Part of it is to give voice to those thoughts I don’t express aloud because it is too big and complex and no one would listen to me ramble on for years. :) But the other part is that in expressing those thoughts perhaps one person will also identify with them and say, “Yes. This is me too. I’m not alone.”  I know that is how I feel when I read a good book, hear a good song, or a poem captures a moment in time. Perhaps it is ego or hubris to think that my creations can help someone after I’m gone. But it is important for me to believe that. If it was solely for me, I doubt I could continue writing or creating on those days that it is difficult or I get no feedback from others.
  3. To prove I can. Every day that I get up and move my body and wake my mind and interact with others, even when I don’t feel like it, I prove that I am alive and still kicking. This is something that as a young person I would never have thought mattered, because I never questioned my ability to awake and go and do. But as an older person with aches and pains and days of cynicism, I value each morning that I wake and can still move and have the luxury of being cynical. And when I get past that first hour of pain and getting my legs to work, my feet to  walk, my back to uncurl from the fetal position, it is a moment of triumph. A moment when I think, “Yes! I can still go out and do".  I can still hope that I’ll be able to hike that trail, see that mountain, ride that boat, visit that person.

In the end, what keeps me going is Choice. Every day I make a conscious decision to get up and face the day no matter what comes. I choose to put aside aches and pains, cynicism, and all the bad I know about the world and move forward anyway. I choose to try to do something that will help someone else. Something that will make a difference. So far, I am able to make that choice. One day, I won't have that choice. My body will tell me it is too tired and I will not awake. Until then, it’s me making the choice, taking control, and simply getting out of bed.

How about you? What keeps you going?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Aging and Wisdom

This month I turn 60. It is a funny age to be. Even ten years ago it seemed to me that 60 was really old. However, here it is and I don't feel a lot different. Okay, maybe a little slower or a little more tired, but my mind isn't much different. In fact, in my mind I'm closer to 28 years old. I have no idea why that age is stuck in my mind but it is.

Everyone has heard that with age comes wisdom. I would modify that to say, for me, with age comes acceptance. Perhaps that is a kind of wisdom.  Here is my top five list of acceptances:

I accept that:
  1. I have significantly less control over what happens in the world than I thought I did at sixteen. In fact, I think control is not as cool as everyone makes it out to be.
  2. My weight will never again be 120 lbs and to stop setting that as a reasonable goal.
  3. I have run out of time to be a great dancer, actress, and/or musician/songwriter. These were all dreams of mine, as well as being a writer. Some time ago (probably around that magical age of 28) I decided that my pursuit of those things in my youth had to remain as youthful memories. In the end, I only had the energy and passion to pursue one consistently--writing.
  4. Life is all about embracing change. Things in my life have changed multiple times--homes, careers, love, combinations of friends and relatives.  It is hard to let go, but the changes always brought great blessings.
  5. I can always learn something new. Life is learning and I will continue to learn until I die, and maybe even after--who knows?

In celebration of my 60th birthday, I'm giving away a free fiction ebook of your choice. How do you get one? Look at the descriptions linked below, then fill out the form and click the SUBMIT button.  Your book in the right format will be sent within 24 hours. Please only one book per individual.

Healing Notes
Chameleon: The Awakening
Chameleon: The Choosing

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Tribute to My Father

I was blessed to be able to spend yesterday with my father and mother. Lately my gift to them on special days, and their gift to me, is me going to their house and bringing a meal to share. It's so much nicer than going out with all the other people in a noisy restaurant or competing with traffic. By going to their house and bringing a meal we can sit down together in a quiet environment and actually visit for several hours with each other. I can catch up with their lives and really feel like we took time to connect in a genuine way.

My father is in his 80's. Though his body doesn't do all the things it used to do, his mind is still sharp and that has always been the thing I loved about him most. He has been integral to my formation as a woman, a thinker, a philosopher, a political and religious being. It's been an interesting journey with me believing everything he believed as a child, then some separation of beliefs as a young adult, and then him coming around to agree with some of my beliefs as an adult. We don't always agree, but we mostly do.

Because my father is such a wonderful man, I believe it helped to form my good opinion of men in general. It made me feel comfortable around men as friends and helped me to be an equal in my career and in my marriage. I believe that girls and young women can really benefit from a consistent, loving male figure in their life--whether that is a father, brother, uncle or whoever. I'm just very glad I had a father through all of it. He and my mother were there at my birth, all birthdays, graduations, hospitals, good and bad dates, marriage, divorce, marriage again. With nine children, I'm still in awe that they had time for each of us--enough time so that we each knew we were loved for exactly who we are not some preconceived notion of who we should be.

Dad is not perfect, and the older we both get the more we realize how imperfect we both are. But that makes me love him all the more. I've learned so much about how to age even when the body is fighting; and how to act even when life isn't perfect. I've learned how to persevere in sadness and how to celebrate in good times. I've learned how to overcome my shortcomings and not beat myself up about them all the time. This is because he (and my mother) has modeled this.

Though I didn't always understand how or why he could forgive certain actions from each of my siblings, the fact that he could told me that my transgressions could be forgiven too. I know how rare it is to have a parent (and I have two of them) who loves you no matter what--who see the best in you--even when you do stupid things.

Thanks Dad!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou - You will be sorely missed

Though I often read poetry, it is not often I remember the poet so vividly. I DO remember Maya Angelou. Her poetry always spoke to me. She spoke of reality--of being poor, of standing on your own two feet, of moving forward through adversity, of survival and sometimes of triump--but mostly survival.

Perhaps it was because she was born Marguerite. My given name, Marguerita, was also based on on a Marguerite--my father's sister who died when he was young. Like a number of women, she changed her name later in life to reflect who she was and who she wanted to be. IN many ways authors do that when they take a pen name. Performers do that when they take on a professional name. Maya Angelou did the same.

Though she was black, and a civil rights activist, Maya Angelou often crossed the black-white boundaries in her life. I believe her poetry and her autobiographies often strive to show that we are more alike than different. I am fortunate that I grew up in an integrated neighborhood. I didn't realize there was prejudice in the world until we moved from that neighborhood into one where my high school had only one black family. It is amazing to me that someone who has survived the experiences of being poor and black, assaults, single motherhood, and prejudice could still have optimism and hope. Yet, when I read much of her poetry I think she did and made it her mission to let people know things could be different if they would try.

I distinctly remember her reading her poem “On the Pulse of Morning,” at the swearing-in of President Bill Clinton. Though she was black and he was white, they had both grown up poor in Arkansas. There was an affinity--an understanding--in how that shapes a person.

Please read the entire poem. It is still today a call for leadership, a call for understanding, a call for knowing where each of us fits in the wider web of life. 

My favorite stanza, however is this:

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.

"But seek no haven in my shadow." What a line. An offer to lift one up but recognize the next step--the flight--to choose what to do and how to do it is theirs to take.

As each of us steps forward and faces our destiny, tries to make the world a better place, rejects prejudice and champions diversity we give thanks to Maya Angelou and others like her.

Godspeed. I will miss you.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Anniversary Joys

This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated our anniversary at The Oregon Garden. The 80 acre garden is truly beautiful and we had a perfect day to walk, enjoy the blooms, and later have dinner in Silverton overlooking a peaceful, meandering creek.

I can truly say that the day we met was a blessing. Though we are not much alike in the way we approach our daily lives, we are very much alike in our overall philosophy of living and what is most important to us. It is that tension that keeps life interesting. :)

We Are Not Alike

He is a perfectionist and, in my opinion, a bit on the OCD side. Every picture hung in our house--and there are a lot--is perfectly aligned. When I dust, he comes back and makes sure all the tsotchkes are in their assigned place which means balanced (e.g., one in each corner of a square table). My style is more free form. Also I like things a bit off-balance. I think it's more interesting. For the most part, he gets his way because it drives him crazy to see things off-balance. I'm happy to let that happen, there are lots of things he gives in on for me too.

My husband is a cynic at best and a pessimist on his worst days. He would say he is a realist. I'm definitely an optimist and some would say even a Pollyanna type optimist. I do know that horrible things happen the world, and I even write about them sometimes, but I still believe that most people are good and that if we give people the chance they will do good things, right things, be helpful to each other. It's that belief that often keeps me going when it seems all is against me. Again, this is a good balance between us. He keeps me grounded when I need it, and I rely on him to be that way. For him, I insert determined hope into our relationship when things around us seem to be too crazy or difficult or overwhelming.

We Are Alike

Though we have differences of taste in movies and book choices, we have a good crossover of similarities as well. We can usually find a movie we both want to see. The same goes for vacation planning, entertaining, and choosing friends. We truly have great fun together when we go out or have people in.

We are very aligned on religion, politics, the place of family in our lives, and ultimately the power of love to make each of us the best person we can be both as separate people and as a couple. These elements are very important because we are both passionate about our beliefs in these areas and I don't think we would have a long marriage if there was substantial disagreement. It is the power of love that keeps us going in the hard times and makes the good times even better.

The beauty of the natural world reminds us that both diversity and similarities are important to keep the world in balance. Embracing differences is just as important as feeling comfortable with someone who likes and does all the same things. For me, embracing our differences provides new experiences and a way of looking at the world. As long as we can respect each other's opinions and not feel less than the other or better than the other, it works really well.

My books often explore that role of balance in our lives. It is an age-old journey that each person must make for herself and, if you plan to share your life with a partner, to also determine how the two of you together sustain and nurture that balance in each other and as partners.


Monday, May 12, 2014

New Series Reveal - Shadow Finders

Some of you may remember my Romantic Suspense novel, Expendable, released in 2011.  Recently I had the rights reverted to me by the publisher, and it is being republished under Windtree Press and will be the first of a new series about the former Marine buddies. Based on what happened in Expendable, the buddies decided to set up an agency to find those who are disappeared, forgotten, or presumed dead.  The first three books are: Expendable, Vanished, and Silenced. All three will be out this year. If all goes well, many more will follow.

With two macho sons--one a former Marine and the other a cop--and a husband with a specialty in military history and warfare, it seemed destined that I would do this series.  I first wrote Expendable when our oldest son was in Iraq on his second tour of duty, so all my angst and worries were worked out in that novel. Even though my protagonists are older than our son, they are retired military (early 40's), the experience and knowledge and fears and passions are all captured here.

If you didn't read Expendable the first time around, I hope you pick it up this time. I've made some minor changes and added some things to the ending to set up the series.  But here's the best part, the covers coming form the magnificent Christy Carlyle at Gilded Heart Design are to die for.  She does covers for several publishers, and I'm very pleased to be working with her. So, let me whet your appetite on the first two books.

Here's the blurb for Expendable, which will be available in ebook at the end of this month and in print by mid-June.  Still working on the final blurb for Vanished, but I'll share it soon.

Children with no birth records and a soldier with PTSD together must define the value of human life.

Jenna Mosier is on a mission to save her murdered sister’s child. Estranged for ten years after a bitter fight, the trail is as cold as her dead sibling. The only glimmer of hope is the place her sister’s body and a ten-year old boy were abandoned…the backyard of Reed Adler, retired Marine Special Ops.

Working together, Jenna and Reed piece together a mystery involving missing children and biogenetics research..and find they have more than justice and revenge in common. But the closer they get to answers, and each other, the more deadly the game becomes. With their hearts and lives on the line, they must decide what they are willing to risk to save one young boy.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tax Day Confessions

Once again, I managed to file my taxes before April 15th. Barely! They went electronically last night.  Yay! The feds and state confirmed acceptance of the electronic filings today. Yay!

I actually don't mind paying taxes. I don't always agree with everything the taxes are used for. But then I accept that we live in a democracy and I am not the center of the universe. (At least most of the time I accept that) I do believe that I and my community receives lots of benefit from taxes, and I am willing to pay something to help those who are less fortunate than me.

Though I am fairly happy to pay taxs, I hate doing my tax return. Though I've been doing my own returns for 40 years, it seems to get harder instead of easier. I suspect it's a combination of life being more complicated and me not being able to remember as much any more. All the nuances of the latest way to do deductions become mind-boggling. And it changes every year. It's at this time of year I always wonder whatever happened to the flat tax movement? Forget all the paperwork, just have everyone pay a flat percentage and be done with it.

Before I became a full-time writer, I always filed early in February to beat the rush.  That's because I always knew what my tax liability would be and I planned my withholding with the knowledge of that. I usually didn't pay or get a refund unless something major happened like losing a job or getting a bonus.

However, since becoming a full-time writer in early 2013, I've had no clue what to expect. Yes, I have a business plan with plenty of assumptions about income and expenses, but they were only assumptions and, though the expenses were true, the income was not. Add in insurance payments, retirement savings withdrawals, and a host of other stuff that is confusing to deal with and I admit that somewhere around September I went into overload and that always results in forget-about-it- I-don't-want-to-know mode.

That's when magical thinking replaces responsible watchfulness. My magical thinking says: "If you ignore it somehow, miraculously, everything will turn out okay." I didn't really expect that elves would show up in the middle of the night and make everything okay. I do write about magic, but I'm not good enough to wield it on tax day. Consequently, this type of thinking allowed me to stop doing my bookkeeping for the last three months of the year.

Of course, when the new year came around and I started receiving all those 1099-misc reports, I knew the elves had not shown up and I'd have to go back and catch up on the bookkeeping. I told myself that in February...and in March...and at the beginning of April. Instead of dealing with it like I should have, I put it off. Fear mostly. Fear of having to pay some extraordinary amount I didn't have.

Last week I faced up to my responsibility. The Keep Calm picture above was pasted to my computer screen. I took an entire week to reconstruct the last three months of 2013. And I gave up 3 more days of writing to work on the tax return and all of those lovely forms. Fortunately, Turbo Tax makes it a little easier. But still that was a full 10 days I could have been writing.

The end result wasn't nearly as bad as I feared. The guilt for falling behind in my bookkeeping was a lot worse. Getting behind in my word count was enough to make me consider self-flaggelation. So, I'm on the straight and narrow again. Dedicating an hour each day to bookkeeping. I'm also considering hiring an accountant for the 2014 tax year. That will probably keep me on task too. While I'm great at rationalizing, or ignoring, my commitment to myself, I rarely try providing the same irrational thinking to someone else. :)

So, if there is anyone who is still wrestling with their return, you have one more day to deal with it or file an extension. Take my word for it, magical thinking does not get it done.

Keep Calm and Have a Happy Tax Day.