Monthly Archives: November 2012

I Am A NaNo Failure

While my fellow writers were plowing their way to that 50,000 word goal by writing every day, I was doing what I pretty much always do…huge bursts of writing, then nothing for several days.  Which, yes, does bring the numbers up but does not make for a “real” NaNo win.  The purpose of NaNo (in my mind at least) is to reset our writing habits, to put our bottom ends in our chair every day until we’ve put enough words on the page for that day’s goal.  Not to continue our long time habit of procrastination to the last possible second, then pounding away to get works on the page.

This method does work for some people, and did work for me for a long time.  Until the gaps between those huge bursts of writing got longer and longer. A housekeeping analogy would be how much easier it is to wash dishes every day instead of plowing through the stack when one can no longer see the counter. Yeah, I carry that feast/famine habit through a lot of my life.

At 30,000 plus words and one week left, I quit NaNo.  Yes I could have made up the missing words and been a “success” but it would have been the same hollow victory as in the past.  This was brought home to me by another of Kristen Lamb’s wonderful  Blogs, this one about retraining our bad habits.  I can’t really say I saw the light but I did see a light, probably from mentally pounding my head on the desk.  And I realized, yet again, how we sabotage ourselves, as writers and as humans.

So, it starts today, and continues on.  Would you like to join me in this quest to retrain (**) years of bad habits?  The first step seems to be acknowledging those habits.  Done.  Next step is taking that next step.

Here we go…..

[I can’t sign off without acknowledging the writers who have helped encourage me to this point. If you have a chance, check out their blogs. There’s Kristen, of course.  And Terry O’Dell is always good for time management tips.  Instead of loading you down with more links, I’ll share them out. You’ll be hearing a lot more from me, one small step at a time]


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Mona’s Next Big Thing

I’ve been tagged in The Next Big Thing by Sci Fi writer Greta Van Der Rol. I met Greta through an on line workshop and being fond of good space opera was an immediate fan. Plus she lives in Australia, a place I really want to return to one day. I’m instructed to tell you all about my next book by answering these questions and then to tag five other authors about their Next Big Thing. So here I go!
What is the working title of your next book? A Question of Honor. WORKING title, I know it’s been used a lot!
Where did the idea come from for the book? I was lucky enough to be a member of OCC when Ann Maxwell was still in Southern California. She was incredibly generous with her time and did several talks along with signings. I pulled together my courage and asked her when she was going to write Utah’s story. She gave me a charming three cornered smile and said she probably wouldn’t “Why don’t you write it?” Well, I drove home thinking how I wouldn’t actually write Utah’s story but I would write… And out come Devin and Sydney.
What genre does your book fall under? Romantic Suspense
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? This is always my most difficult question since I don’t go to movies much any more, and my favorite actors just don’t work for Devin. He’s a not handsome sort of guy like Ty Randolph. So, maybe Russell Crowe? For Sydney, that’s a rough one. There was a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel who looked exactly like Sydney, which doesn’t much help does it? Maybe Gillian Anderson.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? The daughter of a mercenary risks her security, her life and her heart to rectify her sister’s dishonor. Now for the series, the synopsis would be Warriors wounded in body and spirit find hope for their future at a New Mexico ranch.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I have a request from a digital publisher
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? Around three months…I was a lot younger then!
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I’m sure there must be some but I’m drawing a blank. Sydney isn’t a gorgeous tall bosomy bombshell with legs that go on forever.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?  Certainly Ann Maxwell/Elizabeth Lowell gave me that final nudge to get serious about writing this series of my heart.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? There are depths to the people around us we never discover unless we stop to get to know them.  I try to show this with Devin and Sydney
Here are some exciting authors I’ve tagged to tell you about their Next Big Thing!

Lex Valentine who did my wonderful trailers

Zrinka Jelic also published by Black Opal Books

Cassandra Shaw another fabulous Australian writer

Paula Millhouse who galvanized a bunch of writers into this promotion

Hope you enjoy their next big things…and keep an eye out on the bookshelves for these great stories.

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Sopapillas for the End of Eternity

We have Amber Norris here this fine Wednesday, sharing one of the treasures of Mexican cooking, those yummy flaky fried bits of dough known as Sopapilla. In some restaurants these are served with your meal and you have the choice of eating them with your savory spicy food, or slathered with honey for dessert.  Either way, they are sublime. And doesn’t that recipe book look oh so tempting?  Let’s welcome Amber and see what’s cooking.

“Heavenly Pillows” Sopapillas

What’s more hot than a flaky dessert, dipped in honey and shared with the one you love? Yeah, it takes a bit of prep and build up, but so does the art of romance, does it not?

Sopapillas are a sentimental recipe for me. My grandfather brought the recipe over from Central Mexico when he moved to America. I used to love watching him sit in the kitchen and toss flirtatious comments to my grandma as she dropped the dough in the deep fryer. And then later, they’d cuddle against the counter and share one (or two) together.

The moments were so romantic, that when All Romance asked for romantic recipes I knew I had to share this one. Click HERE to download the free e-cookbook and see all the other fantastically romantic recipes.


4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons shortening

Yummmmm Sopapilla

1 1/2 cups warm water

2 quarts oil for frying

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon


  1. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and shortening. Stir in water a little at a time until dough is smooth texture. Cover and let stand for 15-20 minutes.
  2. Roll out on floured surface until ⅛-inch thick. Cut into 4 to 5-inch squares or triangles. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in deep fryer to 375 degrees F and fry until golden brown, flipping with tongs to ensure both sides are evenly tanned.
  4. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle powdered sugar to desired amount and serve hot. As an alternative to the powdered sugar, you can sprinkle cinnamon sugar. To do this, mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon sugar, blend well and sprinkle to desired amount.
  5. Serve with honey for dipping and enjoy! Makes about 2 dozen.

The Hispanic culture has always held a rich romantic element to me. When Damani Wassack, the main male character to my last installment of the Telomere Trilogy, popped into my mental life I knew he was from a Hispanic heritage. In End of Eternity, he tries not to be romantic or sentimental, but can’t stop his nature… especially against the Dokkaebi warrior Luna Dokkaebi. He knows that her hostile and contrary personality is only used to hide her fear of a world and an attraction to him she doesn’t understand. 

Book Blurb

Luna thought her journey away from her people’s world was over. Now, she’s forced to join the lost daughter in her journey with Captain Noah Bonney’s crew to learn why these women coexist with men. Something unbelievable to the all woman race. Adding to the confusing change in Dokkaebi directive and teachings, is the presence of the gold-eyed man that stirred something in her heart. A forbidden attraction that goes against all her teachings and her people’s ways.

Damani Wassack isn’t happy with the situation either. Telomere Watchers lead secluded and separate lives. Yet now, he and the other watchers must come to the surface, show all their secrets and work with outsiders. If that weren’t enough, he can’t get that sneer from the man-hating warrior woman out of his mind. Or her fierce dedication, strong spirit, and sense of duty and honor. The package is appealing, and completely impossible.

Purchase Links for End of Eternity

All Romance Books, Amazon, B&N, and Books on Board


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Triberr is in some ways the final stop on our journey to better self promotion.  It’s also one of the niftiest ways to help ourselves and each other build our platforms. The real beauty of Triberr is the ease of operation. Once you’re set up, it’s mostly a matter of stopping by to help your fellow tribe mates into the Twitter stream.

Step one is your blog which you’ve written to be not too long, of general interest, and interesting enough to grab people’s attention.  Step two is your participation in Twitter , which you can use as a route to Triberr and also as a networking aid all on its own.  Step three is Triberr, where your blog, which has been linked to Twitter, will now be forwarded by as many people who know people who know people on Triberr.


Which means what, you’re no doubt wondering.  Well, I have today 1,357 Twitter users following me, or at least they have me in their “follow” section. A fair number of people but not really enough to help much with sales or promotion. Through Triberr, and my nine tribes and 128 tribe mates, my “reach” is now 289,399 potential readers.  Kind of impressive, don’t you think? Especially considering four of those tribes have the same six people (which happens as you’re building your tribes.)

So now, instead of having to publish all over Facebook and my discussion groups “Hey, look, I did a BLOG,” all I have to do is let my blog publish into Twitter, and through Twitter to my Triberr stream, where if I want I can spiffy up the title a bit more, and it will be moved “upstream” through the efforts of my tribe mates, whose blogs I push upstream when I visit once or twice a day.

Winter’s coming, time to hunker down and write

To be a good tribe mate, you do need to visit at least once every couple days and once a day is better.  You sign in, then go to “Tribal Stream” and approve blogs from your tribe mates.  You have the option not to approve if for some reason you don’t agree with the subject matter, but in general the bloggers who have made the effort to link to Triberr through Twitter write well enough you generally don’t have to worry.

Through Triberr I’ve found blogs I would never normally have found and it seems others have the same experience since I’m getting new followers every week, many of whose names are totally new to me.  The best tribes have rules about what you should write, how you should format your titles, and how often you should help promote. For example, once this blog shows up in “my posts” I’ll be changing the title to ‘Mona Reveals Triberr Secrets’ then I’ll add some hashtags like #writing #Triberr and maybe #romance, since that is what Mona writes.

To the question of, is Triberr worth setting up, then following arbitrary rules? I’d have to say absolutely yes, Triberr is more than worth the time and effort to get set up, and to spend a little time every day helping others who are helping you.

On future Mondays I’ll be sharing some of the great blogs I come across or maybe information I’ve picked up along the way. And I’ll be fleshing out some of the information I’ve shared so far as I learn more.  If anyone has any blogs they’d like to reference please do.  Even though I spend far more time than I should reading blogs I never find all the good ones.  With Winter coming up awfully fast we’re all going to be needing more to read.

I’d hoped to have a link here to the Black Opal Books Author Blog, where I reveal how I ended up with a writing alter ego but it’s not up yet so I’ll do that another time.


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Liv Rancourt is Getting Ready for the Season

And not so much the Christmas season, though she has a wonderful Christmas story out.  Liv Rancourt writes paranormal and romance, often at the same time. She lives with her husband, two teenagers, two cats and one wayward puppy. She likes to create stories that have happy endings, and finds it is a good way to balance her other job in the neonatal intensive care unit. Liv can be found on-line at her website & blog (, on Facebook (, or on Twitter ( Right now she needs to talk about dealing with time changes.

Thanks so much for the chance to be a guest on your blog, Mona. I really appreciate the chance to connect with your readers

This is the weekend where it really hits me. For those of us who live in the Northwest, the shift to standard time means the sun sets by about 4:30 in the afternoon.  By the Solstice, sunset will be closer to 4pm.

That’s a lot of darkness.

People say that winter in Seattle is hard because of the rain. I’d argue it’s the dark, the weeks where you go to work before sunrise and come home after sunset and maybe, just maybe, get a little bit of light on your lunch break. It can feel like a big long tunnel, and it’s always such a relief when February rolls around and the days get longer.

Now, I’ve lived in Seattle since about 1973, so this annual Marathon-of-Night is no big surprise. It may in part be responsible for my interest in vampires, but that’s another blog post.  My  trick is to surround myself with light whenever and wherever I can, to offset the chronic darkness.

This year, I’m turning to Pinterest for help. I have a board titled Stuff I Won’t Have Time To Do, which is a collection of all kinds of neat crafty projects that I’d love to do. Someday. Actually, the title is pretty self-explanatory, but I can always dream.

If you visit my board, you’ll see that about a quarter of the projects there involve candles, either making them or creating cool candle holders. It’s all about turning up the light during these cold dark months. If hunting through Pinterest is too much work, you can always do a Google search for ideas. Here’s a link to a cool DIY site with instructions for making decoupage votive holders. I can imagine a rainbow row of candle holders on the fireplace mantle, brightening up my living room.

Now if you’re not crafty – or if you’re as time-challenged as I am – I’m going to throw you a bone. Mona, I know you like recipes with your posts, so I’m going to share my favorite wintertime recipe. It’s super easy, and a very different way of coping with the cold and dark. Here it is:

Hot Chocolate with Peppermint Schnapps

What? You don’t need a recipe for this? Well, here’s MY way of making it.

One package Instant Cocoa (I know, I can hear Martha Stewart freaking out from here because I’m not using the finest organic hand-farmed chocolate or whatever. Welcome to my life.)

One slug Peppermint Schnapps (I leave the actual measuring to you.)

A healthy squirt of whipped cream from a can. (Hush, Martha, you’re making me feel bad.)

Mix the cocoa according to the package directions, add your slug of schnapps, and top with the whipped cream. Couldn’t be easier. It’s not instant sunshine, but it sure is tasty, and you can’t really justify drinking it in July, right?

Cheers, mate!

And for yet another reason to smile, you can check out my newest release, The Santa Drag.

Things aren’t always what they seem, and this shopping mall Santa has secrets only her true love can reveal.



* * *

On a particularly busy Saturday, I was tired and thinking more about a double shot of espresso than I was about the pile of kids who wanted to sit in my lap. The weak winter sun was making its circle over the atrium where the Christmas Village was set up, and my roommate Shauna was buzzing by every so often to giggle at me from the sidelines. She was trying to get all of her Christmas shopping done in one day, which was a good trick for someone with as many fertile brothers and sisters as she had.

“Come sit on Santa’s lap.” Maya, the photographer and kid-wrangler, invited the next kid in line approach my golden throne. Well, it was fake gold, but the kids didn’t know that.

“No,” said a little girl with a stubborn crease between her brows. She was dressed in Seattle’s version of Christmas formal, a stiff, red velvet dress, likely made from organic fabric dyed with beets and rose hips. On her feet were two-toned leather MaryJanes that probably cost sixty-five dollars. At least the green corkscrew ribbons tied around her blond pigtails looked like they belonged on a child. I made myself as approachable as possible, getting down to her level and producing a big smile.

“Come on, Thula,” her mother said, tapping one French manicured nail on her cell phone. “Go sit up there with Santa so we can take your picture.” She sounded as if this was just one more thing to knock off the list.

“It’s okay, sweetie.” Maya put on her encouraging smile. Maya was a tiny thing, barely bigger than most of the kids we saw, with long dark hair, a tiny gold hoop pierced through one nostril, and bugged-out eyes that looked like they’d been molded out of chocolate. She was non-threatening as an adult could possibly be. The kid stared at her and bit down on her bottom lip. At least she wasn’t crying. Yet.

“You want to come tell Santa what to bring you for Christmas?” I kept my voice pitched down somewhere under my sternum. It helped that I had one of those raspy lady voices that earned me a permanent spot in the tenor section whenever I sang in choir.


Sometimes less is more when you’re dealing with preschoolers. We went back and forth for several minutes until  the kid went from biting her bottom lip to letting it pooch out and tremble. Never a good sign. Finally, after a ton of coaxing, she was more-or-less close to me,  squatting down on the other side of one of the big pretend presents that ringed my throne. That was good enough for her mom, and Maya snapped a picture.

When she was done, the little girl glared at me from behind the big, glossy red ribbon that topped the present. “Bring me a baby brother,” she bellowed and took off running..

Mom’s glare was meaner than the kid’s had been. Hey, it’s not like I made any promises.

The kid ran full tilt past the pseudo-Tyrolean houses that made the Village, and out through the crowds of shoppers. She stopped in the middle of an open space and cut loose, her sobs echoing around the smoky glass dome that covered us. We could hear her carrying on until she and her mom got swallowed up by the Ross store at the end of the north hallway. The whole place fell into a bit of a hush when she was gone, as  everyone exhaled in relief. This close to Christmas, none of us needed a crying child to ratchet up the stress level.

A young mother was next in line. She came into the Christmas Village and positioned a slightly damp baby on my lap, moving as if something hurt. The baby was so young that Mom still looked a little pregnant under her loose denim-blue shirt. Or maybe she was already pregnant with number two. I’m not so good with the principles of baby production. Well, I understand the basic concepts, but haven’t had that many opportunities to put them into practice.

The brief quiet was interrupted by a yodeling squeal that I recognized. I stared into the crowd until I caught Maya looking at me funny. I stuck on a smile as close to my normal, jolly-Santa shtick as I could get, and she settled back down behind her camera. The reason for my roommate Shauna’s squeal had me completely rattled. In the two or three beats I’d looked out from behind my wire-rimmed glasses as Mack-the-girl, I’d seen Shauna giving someone a big hug. A really handsome someone. Joe McBride. Joseph Timothy McBride. The actor. The real-life, got a soap opera gig and several commercials and you saw him in Scream 2 actor. The only guy I ever really loved.

Ooh, now she’s got a problem! Will Mack turn all Creepy-Kringle? Will Joe recognize her? What’s a Santa to do?  😉

The Santa Drag is available from Still Moments Publishing, Smashwords, and Amazon.


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