If I’d won a Golden Heart

This is my acceptance speech. I would have read this up at the podium if I’d have won. I didn’t win and that’s okay, but there are people to thank. This is my chance and this is my place.

feather02 gritty film landscape

Thank you. It’s been a blessed year. I was cleaning out the kitty litter box when I got the call that I’d finaled in this year’s Golden Heart®.

Just like that, I went from riding the carousel to getting in line for the roller coaster. I love roller coasters. The thing is that to get onto the roller coaster, you have to do your time on the carousel and so you better enjoy that ride too. What makes the carousel so great is the people on it with you. I’ve got the best people on it with me and I wouldn’t be here without them.

Family St Paul MN 2014I’ll start from the beginning – mom, Nora, Joe and Aunt Sally, thank you for being the people I love to spend time with and for showing me how to live by doing what you do. Dad, I know you’re watching wherever you are – thanks for all the feathers. Angelica, thank you for the birthday present. It is perfect. My friends who’ve been on this adventure with me for a long time. The ones who fill my well, share their lives, their loves, their kids, their joys and their challenges with me. You make this adventure more fun and lift me up when I need you the most. Here’s to more good times.


My writing friends, I love you all. Toni, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you. Kate, you read it all and push me on. The best roommates a woman can have, Christine, Debbie and Maggie – OH MY! I love my chapters from the first one I joined, Los Angeles Romance Authors, to the smallest, East Valley Authors, to the last, Orange County Chapter-RWA®. Thank you Beth for helping me move on with the writing. And my Golden Heart class, the Dragonflies – you made this journey more than I’d imagined it could be – thank you.


Cropped Toni & Me 2015

Finally, to all of you sitting out there in the audience. Keep writing. Keep entering contests. Keep sending the work out into the world. You will get the call. It may not be this one. It may be another one – your dream agent, your book being made into a movie, you hit a list, or the list. It will happen.

I believe in happily-ever-afters and happily-for-nows and happily-for-these-moments.

I write romances.

If you are a member of Romance Writers of America® and are interested in entering the Golden Heart Contest for unpublished writers, please go to the RWA site here for more information. The 2016 Golden Heart Contest opens for entries at 9:00 AM Central Time on December 10, 2015. If you write Romance and want more information on RWA, please go to the home page here.



I was tagged by the fabulous and talented Sarah Vance-Tompkins on the Writing Process Blog Tour.

Sarah Vance Tompkins 1st Place in 2014 ImaJinn Fiction Contest
Sarah Vance Tompkins 1st Place in 2014 ImaJinn Fiction Contest

Sarah and I met at the wonderful Los Angeles Chapter of Romance Writers of America, Los Angeles Romance Authors (LARA). Sarah is a bright and shining personality who always makes me laugh and just being around always makes me feel better. She recently placed first in the ImaJinn-a-Romance Contest with her New Adult Paranormal Romance for more on it go on over to Sarah’s blog post here. I love her blog. I love her writing. I love her voice. And now the questions.

1) What am I working on?

I am working on a Contemporary Romance. It’s set in Los Angeles and is about finding love in spite of yourself. My heroine is twenty-seven years old and knows exactly what she needs to have a perfect life. The hero has other ideas about who should be her dream man, him. There is of course the other guy and all of her friends plus a fabulous pair of vintage shoes with a reputation for leading women to their true hearts’ desires.

2) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I’d have to say it’s my voice that makes my stories different. Contemporary Romance by definition is about finding your happily-ever-after, the one person who sees you for who you really are and loves you. My characters are all strong men and women who are sure that they know what they need to be happy and complete only to find out that they are wrong or at least not completely right.

3) Why do I write what I write?

I love telling the stories that are in my head. I want to read about characters that are like my friends and me, women who are more than just pretty young things and men who complete the women they love. I want to read the kind of stories that I write.

4) How does my writing process work?

Oy! Process? What Process?

Okay, first characters or a situation comes to me. I then play with a story outline by using a technique called, “Meet-in-the-middle.” It’s similar to a beat sheet, but different because there are fifteen “scenes.” You start with the first and the last and then you work forward and backward, second and fourteenth, and so on, until you meet in the middle. This acts as a road map for me. I don’t necessarily stay on the mapped out route, but when I go off-road with my characters it makes it easier to get back on track or re-route the map when necessary. I also need to know the Goal, Motivation and Conflict for my heroine, hero and “villain.” I need to know that the map I’ve got moves forward the goals, etc… for each character.

I write new words, and I mean to do this every day, but that is a practice that I am still creating because I’ve got this thing called a day job, family and friends, and a life. My goal for this year is to write at least five hundred words a day no matter what. I am getting better at that, but I’m not quite where I want to be with it.

About the middle of the book, I realize that I am completely fooling myself and I can’t write at all. I cry and then convince myself to keep writing and finish the book. I tell myself to, “Just Finish It” which becomes my mantra around the thirty-five thousand word mark. If I’ve been away from the book for a day or two, I re-read the last scene and/or chapter, edit a little and then dive back in. I set a timer for twenty minutes and write because I can do almost anything for twenty minutes. Once I finish the book, I wait a week and then go through it to catch the glaring grammar and spelling errors. (I hate dialogue and action tags – hate, hate, hate.) I then send it to my critique partner. She gets it back to me. I cry, I put aside her suggestions for a day or so, get back to it and polish the book. I send it out into the world and then start the next one because as strange as it may seem, I am a much nicer person when I write.

Now I am passing along the torch to Kate McKinley, my critique partner and a fabulous author. You can find her blog here. I can’t wait to read about her writing process and what she’s currently working on.

Kate McKinley April 2014 Release
Kate McKinley April 2014 Release

Traffic, the Bane of my Existence

I live in Southern California and the only place that I’ve ever been where the traffic actually made me fear for my life more frequently was Santo Domingo. Otherwise, I’ve traveled places where people apologize to me for the traffic and I laughingly ask them, “What traffic?”


First, let me be clear, I love L.A. The song, the city and the general lifestyle of LA-LA land. It is home. There are other places that I love to visit; I think New York and Chicago are fabulous. I love Yosemite, Yellowstone and Big Sur. I had a great time when I visited a friend in New Bremen, OH for Bremenfest and one of my favorite towns is Las Vegas, NM. All of those places are wonderful and I will visit them again and hopefully visit more besides, but Southern California is home.


Except tMorguefile Picturehat I hate the traffic.


I am not a patient person by any stretch of the imagination and Los Angeles traffic puts to test all of my “new age” beliefs, “What you put out into the world is what you get back.” “You are exactly where you need to be.” And “All things happen for a reason.”


Really? What would be the reason that jerk in the black Mercedes just cut me off? Why did he have to speed up and not let me into his lane when all he wanted was to get into mine? What bleepin’ reason was there for that?


Okay, okay, deep breath. Breathe in, Maria, breathe out. Count to three breathing in. Count to five breathing out. “You are exactly where you need to be.”


WHAT THE FORK! Stop texting you twit. It’s against the law and you just made me miss the light. Argh! Cancel, cancel. Bless her and protect her so that she doesn’t cause a terrible accident and die in a fiery single car accident. Ooops! I mean bless her and protect her and the rest of us who are on the road with her.


Sigh. “You get back what you put out into the world.” Clearly, my road rage and frustration doesn’t helping my car karma in any way.


Yep, when I go to other places and the people apologize for their traffic all I can do is laugh. There are very few places outside of Los Angeles that put my lack of patience to the test in the same way as the freeways and drivers here do.


And still I love L.A.