I did it. I’m finally here, in my new home in Denton, Texas. I’m all unpacked and settled. In my last blog post, So Moving Right Along, I talked about my decision to sell my New Mexico home and move to the Dallas Fort Worth area.
It was a long, hectic spring, to say the least. Buying a home, and selling a home, are quite time consuming. Especially in this crazy real estate market. First, I had to win a bidding war to get my new home. Then, when I returned to Las Cruces, I got to experience the other side when I put my home on the market.
It was, in a word, crazy. We were open for showings for three days, and seemed like hundreds of people were going through my house. I had sixteen offers in the end, with the winning bid coming in at sixty-thousand over my asking price. I kind you not. Sixty grand. Then came the fun of finding the right mover, packing, loading and unloading, and then unpacking. Unpacking definitely takes the longest.
I love my new home. lt has a much bigger kitchen than my last home. I love cooking. Finally, I have enough counter space and cupboard space. I also have an extra bedroom. It’s my new guest room. Visitors will no longer have to sleep in my office.
It took a few weeks to finish unpacking, and I’m still moving stuff around. However, my office is up and running, and I have a lovely view out the window. It sure beats my old office, where I had a nice view of the wall. I’ve also finished my newest contemporary romance novel, Aquamarine. I’m very happy with how it turned out. And, interesting enough, it too takes place in Denton, Texas.
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I certainly as if like the past two years have been like living in a real-life episode of The Twilight Zone.
Prior to the pandemic, I was living in Tucson, Arizona. I’d been there for twelve years and I was doing very well. It reminded me in many ways of my native town of Phoenix, before it became Los Angeles in the desert. I had a good circle of friends, a good social life, and I was absolutely thriving. Unfortunately, it all began changing in late 2019.
In November, 2019, a very controversial candidate was elected mayor of Tucson. Like many cities, Tucson had its share of problems. Unfortunately, this new mayor had her own radical agenda, none of which included improving the quality of life for Tucson citizens. It was time for me to sell my home and move someplace else.
I lived in Dallas many years ago. It was another happy time in my life, but circumstances were such that I had to return to Phoenix. So, I decided I would take a road trip to Texas. I planned on going all the way to Corpus Christi and back. However, we were getting into the holiday season, along with winter driving conditions. So, I decided I would take my road trip in March, 2020.
Well, we all know what happened in March of 2020, don’t we? I still planned on moving, but instead of going to Texas, I moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico instead. I already had a few friends there. It was also within a day’s drive of Tucson and Phoenix, where the rest of my family lives. If there were an emergency, I could easily get to where I needed to be.
I arrived in New Mexico with every intention of making it my permanent home. However, I soon became disillusioned. My family used to visit relatives in New Mexico when I was a kid. At the time it was a very nice state. Beautiful scenery, friendly people, and it wasn’t as brutally hot as it was in Arizona. Unfortunately, times have changed. It’s no longer the New Mexico I once knew. Long after other states had fully reopened, New Mexico still had mask mandates and other restrictions. Many small, locally own businesses, the places that gave the community its character, ended up shuttering for good. As a result, I was unable to go out and do the things I enjoyed doing, and I was living in total isolation.
We humans are hard-wired to be social creatures. Isolation isn’t good for our mental health and emotional well being. Two years of forced isolation had affected other health issues I had before the pandemic, and not in a good way. So, I could do one of two things. I could either keep living in isolation, and watch my health continue to deteriorate, or I could take matters into my own hands and get the hell out of New Mexico. I opted for the latter.
This past spring I finally took that road trip to the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex, looking for a new home. It was quite an experience. I got into bidding wars with other folks who, like me, are getting the hell out of “blue” states. I found a lovely home in Denton, north of Dallas, which I’ll be moving in a few weeks.
One of the high points of my visit was when my agent took me to Frisco, a town between Dallas and Denton, for her regular Tuesday night music bingo. It was the first time I’d felt anything close to normal in two years. I was sitting at a big table with unmasked people and I could actually see their faces. They were actually enjoying themselves and we all sang along with the music while we played the game.
In the meantime, I’ve sold my home in Las Cruces, and I’ll be moving in a few weeks. I can’t wait to start this new chapter in my life.
It’s the time of year for gathering with friends and family, so I invited my good friend and fellow author, David Lee Summers, and his wife, over for dinner. No, David doesn’t write contemporary romance. He writes steampunk, science fiction, and horror, so naturally the conversation turned to fiction writing, and famous fictional characters. We got to talking about Star Wars.
I love Star Wars. I saw the first one on the big screen a few weeks after it premiered, and it was amazing. To me, it was sort of like a sci-fi version of Camelot, complete with knights, a princess, and an evil wizard. What made the story work was the characters. We talked about how well all the characters were thought out and developed. Then came the prequels. (Not bad. Not great, but not bad.) After that came Disney. Ugh! Suffice to say the rest of the conversation was about the importance of character arcs and consistency in storytelling.
So, what can I say? Some people get together and discuss sports, current events, or politics. Get storytellers together, and we’ll sit around and analyze famous, iconic characters, and talk about what makes them work. Our inspiration often comes from other storytellers.
This article was originally posted in February, 2019 on another blog.
The other day I learned an old family friend had passed away. She and her husband were close friends with my parents, and she was the last one standing. To protect her identity, I’m calling her Jane.
My parents, along with Jane and her husband, were quite the foursome. Friendships like theirs are rare. Jane and her husband were frequent guests in our home while I was growing up. To me, they were sort of like extended family.
I rarely saw Jane once I became an adult, but she and my mother were the epitome of best friends for the remainder of my mother’s life. So when I heard she had finally passed away, I immediately looked up her obituary. It included a photo, taken decades ago. Jane wasn’t overly pretty, but she was nonetheless an attractive woman, and surprisingly photogenic.
Her obituary began the usual way. When and where she was born, her parents, grandparents, siblings, and her marriage. There was also a mention of her being a cub scout den mother. From there her story took an odd twist. Instead of saying she was a full time mom and homemaker, which she was, it listed all of the country clubs she and her husband had belonged to. It ended by stating she had spent her entire adult life playing bridge every day at the country club.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always had a great deal of respect for stay-at-home moms. I also believe we should make time to do the things we enjoy doing. It helps bring meaning and balance in our lives. However, I also think there’s a whole lot more to life than playing cards every day at the country club. Jane may have led a charmed life, but I can’t help but wonder if she was truly happy.
In my humble opinion, life isn’t about focusing entirely on oneself. It’s what we do for others that gives our lives purpose and meaning. For me, it’s writing romance novels for people to enjoy while taking break from their troubles. My biggest joy is visualizing people reading and enjoying my books as I write them. This is what gives my life purpose. For someone else it may be providing for their family, or serving their community.
We all have a purpose in life, regardless of our occupation or social status, and that purpose is serving others and doing what we can to help make someone else’s life a little better. How we go about doing this is entirely up to us, and in the end, I think most of us want to be remembered for doing something meaningful. I know I certainly do.
This past fall has been brutal. I lost a very dear friend, and one of my favorite people on the planet.
Bobby was a jazz musician in Tucson, who I first met in 2012. He was part of a band which had a regular Sunday night gig at venue called Monterey Court. Cynthia, my editor, was a tenant at Monterey Court at the time, so I was a regular there myself. Every Sunday night she and I hung out and listened to live jazz. It was a happy time.
As I got to know Bobby, and the other musicians he performed with, I began to realize there was something special about him. He was a good soul, and people like him are rare. I soon found out he enjoyed reading, so I gave him a copy of one of my Luke and Jenny books. (Which I wrote as Gayle Martin.) He loved it, so now we were more than friends. We were mutual fans.
I soon became a regular at his other gigs. I also got to know his family, and we even did a little traveling together. Bobby introduced me to some of his other friends, many of whom became some of my closest friends too.
Bobby may not have been into romance novels, but he was nonetheless very supportive of me as an author. He was always the first person to open my newsletters, and he always read my Facebook posts. In fact, he used to joke about stalking me on Facebook.
Unfortunately, Bobby was a smoker, and from what I understand, nicotine is a very difficult addiction to break. He was diagnosed with cancer after I moved to New Mexico, and he passed away in late August. I went back to Tucson to attend his funeral, and I couldn’t get over how many other people attended as well. He was well loved by many, and he will most certainly be missed by all who knew him.
It’s been almost a year since I moved to New Mexico, and I love it more than ever. However, I knew the kitchen would need an upgrade. The house was built in 2006. It still had the original stove and microwave. Then, somewhere along the line, someone had covered the countertops with floor tile.
Tile on the kitchen countertops is a big no-no. The grout is porous, and who wants salmonella on the dinner menu? It needed to taken care of, the sooner the better.
Remodeling comes with a certain amount of drama, and we certainly hit some big bumps along the way. The contractor was more like a used car salesman. He could talk the talk, but… I’ll have to write him into a future contemporary romance novel; as a con man. I finally had to bring in the people who did some minor upgrades for me last year.
Finally, it’s done!
Now that everything is complete I’m loving it. I have new appliances, and for the first time ever, I have granite countertops. Yippee! So now it’s time to enjoy a glass of wine. Then I’ll get back to the business of writing contemporary romance.
People sometimes ask novel writers questions which may seem condescending, although most of them don’t mean it in a negative way. They’ve simply never met an author before. A question I often hear is have I been published yet? The answer is yes, I’m published.
My publishing journey
The publishing industry changed dramatically in the late 20th century. The invention of the personal computer and the World Wide Web gave authors options they’d never had before, and the big publishing houses no longer dominated the industry.
I was a freelance graphic designer when this new technology came along. Most of my projects were designing magazines and catalogs. It was sort of fun, but it was never my passion. I loved creating fine art. I also loved writing, and I was ready for a career change.
In 2006 I wrote the first in a trilogy of historic novelettes for young readers. (Under a different name.) I also got lucky. I happened to meet a small press publisher who was very selective about who she published. Thankfully, she accepted my manuscript, and she soon became more than just a publisher. She was also my mentor. After publishing the third and final book in the Luke and Jenny series I was ready to start writing full length contemporary romance novels for adult readers. At the same time, however, my publisher was changing her business model to specialize in children’s books. We talked it over, and we both agreed that I was ready to start up my own publishing company. So I created Good Oak Press, LLC.
Why I choose to remain an independent author
With traditional publishing the author sells the rights to his or her work to the publisher. This means the author no longer owns their work. It now belongs to the publisher, and the publishing company can do whatever it pleases. Oftentimes this means the work is edited to the point where the author no longer recognizes it. Their name may still be attached to it, but it’s a far cry from what the author actually wrote. The other problem with traditional publishing is that it relies heavily on a premade formula. This limits the author’s creativity and forces him or her to work inside a small box.
A lot of thought goes into my contemporary romance novels. Each and every character has their own unique personality. Every bit of action and dialog is written for a reason. I also put a lot of thought into choosing my locations. If my story is set in Denver I don’t want someone changing it to Boston. If my character is a blonde named Erika I don’t want someone changing her into a brunette named Sarah. Each author has his or her own unique voice, and I don’t want anyone taking away my voice.
I take my work seriously. Not only is my name on the book, my publishing company’s name and logo is on it as well. I work with an amazing editor who understands me and doesn’t change my voice. A professional illustrator creates my cover art, and my graphic design skills sure come in handy. I know how to typeset and design a book. People often tell me my books look like they came from a big, New York publisher. This is the biggest and best compliment any reader can ever give me.
One of my Facebook friends recently posted something about Hollywood. She said, All I’m asking is that you give me good characters, not tokens, and good stories, not lectures.
Such is the sorry state of today’s entertainment industry. It’s no longer about entertaining. It’s about using entertainment to push a political agenda, and it’s not going over well with the general public. I think this is why television ratings are down, and why, prior to Covid, there were fewer butts in seats at movie theaters. People watch scripted TV shows, and go to the movies, because they want to be entertained. However, when you use entertainment to lecture people, they’ll walk away.
In my earlier post, No Politics Here, I talked about why I keep politics out of my contemporary romance novels. I write solely to entertain my readers, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I wanted to lecture people I would write nonfiction. However, I made the choice to write contemporary romance. It’s my favorite genre, and, like my readers, I simply want to be entertained. I stick to the outcomes readers want and expect. Good overcomes evil. The antagonist suffers the consequences of his or her actions. I’m a storyteller. My job is to entertain readers. Period. I’m neither a teacher or a preacher, nor do I want to be, and I leave the politics to the politicians.
I know I haven’t been around much lately, but I have a really good excuse. I’ve been busy moving. I recently sold my home in Tucson, Arizona, (as The Beatles once sing about someone leaving their home in Tucson, Arizona), and I’m now living in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
I’m a native Arizonan and have lived in Arizona for much of my life. I was born and raised in Phoenix, which is why many of my stories are set in Phoenix. I moved to Tucson twelve years ago. Tucson was much like Phoenix was when I was growing up, although Tucson had more of an arts community. Unfortunately, in recent years Tucson has been changing, and not for the better. By the end of 2019 I knew the time was quickly coming for me to look for a new place to live. So, long story short, I came to Las Cruces because I have friends here; a fellow novel writer named David Lee Summers and his family. I’ve known David and his family for nearly a decade, and it’s better to relocate to where you know someone.
They say art imitates life, but it this case it was the other way around. In my latest contemporary romance novel, The Scandal, my lead character, Lauren, moves to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I describe her new home as being out in the country, with a mini kitchen in her backyard, and she’d found the home online. So here I am, a year or so later, and my real estate agent in Las Cruces sends me a link to a home that, while in town, backs up to a big arroyo, (a dry wash), with a large open space, making it appear as if it were out in the country. It also has a mini kitchen in the backyard. So, what else can I say, other than like Lauren, I really love my new home.
I’m almost finished unpacking, and once I’m settled I’ll start working on my next book. More later.
A few years ago I came across a Facebook meme a musician friend had posted about the rules for dating a musician. It was an interesting read which made the point about a gig not being a date, and to not expect your significant other to give you their undivided attention as interacting with the public is part of their job.
Writers, like musicians, have unconventional jobs. We generally don’t work a normal 9 to 5 work week. Many of us have day jobs. We oftentimes have do our writing after hours, and sometimes we have deadlines. After all, our books won’t write themselves. And while we very much appreciate your love and support, chances are we’re not going to be your typical boyfriend or girlfriend. Like musicians, we too have our own set of dating rules, most of which will also apply if you have a family member who’s an author.
the rules for dating a writer
Writing is our passion. It is not a hobby.
Authors and writers are often introverts. Please don’t mistake our quietness for conceit or arrogance.
Writing is not a performance art. Please allow us the time and space to work on our craft.
Please don’t quiz us about our works in progress. If we want you to know what we’re working on we’ll be happy to tell you about it.
Never, ever look over our shoulders while we’re writing!
A missed deadline can be a career killer. If we tell you we’re on a deadline it doesn’t mean we’re trying to avoid you. It means we’re on a deadline.
Please don’t tell us about this great idea you have for a book unless you’re actually writing it.
If we want your feedback we’ll ask you for it. If we don’t, then please don’t tell us what you think we should be writing.
Please don’t ask us to make you into a character in one of our books.
A book signing is for engaging with fans and promoting our books. It’s not a place for you to hang out.
Please don’t brag to your families, friends and coworkers about how you’re dating an author. We’re not trophies.
Please don’t ask us for free copies of our books for your friends and coworkers.
Never ask us how much money we made on our last book, or how many books we’ve sold, unless you want us to quiz you about how much money you job pays you.
We work in an extremely competitive business and we can’t all be as famous Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Never confuse talent with fame.