Failure, Writing & Haiku

Failure“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill.

I’ve set new writing goals for myself. 30 minutes a day every day. Three days a week on poetry, four days a week on prose — the current work in progress. No matter what, without fail, and other writing doesn’t count for those thirty minutes.

Yesterday, or by the time of this post, the day before I wrote this post, which is not one and the same because I work on scheduling posts rather than waiting until I am under the gun. I don’t deal well with that pressure although a good deadline is great.


Yesterday was focused on poetry. I’ve been working on a poem for a while and it’s not coming together. The lack of progress, my failure to successfully finish the piece so I could edit it, started to work on my internal chatter. “You’re not good enough.” “You’re a joke.” “You can’t do this.” I refer to this crap as, “Bridge Troll Dialogue.” (My childhood story is the Norwegian tale. See the link.) The negativity interferes with my goals.

One way for me to combat the poison is through various mantras. Your mileage may vary with this, and it all may be too woo-woo for you. Find what works and use it ruthlessly. My current mantra calms my emotional seas every time I read it.

“Just getting the words down on paper, opens me up to everything else.” ~ Maria Powers

The other way for me to beat back at the chatter and the fear is Haiku.

Tiny poems, three lines, 5/7/5 syllabic pattern. There’s more to them than just that, but for my purpose, I focus only on the basics of the form. The very essence of this form is what stops the blocks. Poetry may not work for you, but perhaps a short-short story will, or writing a scene that’s been playing in your head, or whatever gets you writing again.

The items below are the five Haiku that unfolded from being stymied on the other piece.

It’s all good.

Tree swept highways run
endless. Shore to shore — burnt tar
perfumes summer suns.

Oranges and cloves hint
at holiday spice filled dreams.
Heat slaps you awake.

Habits force your life
to open expectations.
Endlessly freeing.

Inspiration stabs
against the black cavern light.
Practice slams genius.

Clouds scuttle across
the ocean colored skyline.
Love blinds each of us.

What I know for sure is that each of us creates our own lives through what we see, what we do, what we act upon. We do this intentionally or accidentally. We decide if failure stops us or is just a curve on the road to success.

I choose success. Now back to my goals. Today is thirty minutes on the current work in progress.

“Enthusiasm is the electricity of life. How do you get it? You act enthusiastic until you make it a habit.”
Gordon Parks

PoetM.L. Seager is my poet alter-ego. I’ve been writing poetry since I was eleven. It’s my gateway drug into writing, and it’s where I feel the most at home. For me, poetry is the snapshot, the shot of a moment in time, a captured fleeting second of life that speaks eternally across the universe. It is where I go to be renewed again.


Peanut Butter & Jelly

“Peanut butter and jelly just go together,”
I said, “or at least they do for Americans-”

“Unless they’re allergic and have to carry an epi pen in case they even smell a peanut,”
He interrupted.

He always interrupted, interjected, and colored
my thoughts with his opinion to make me more him,
my thoughts more his, to claim me as him,

Or so I thought.

One day he was no longer the peanut butter to my jelly.
He left to become the meat in a different sandwich,
but I’d never known he was meat.
I thought he was the nuts to my fruit.

I thought he was my nuts.
His nuts mine, and my fruit his.
Together forever, love incarnate as a couple
separate, equal, interdependent,
better for each other.


His opinion no longer colored mine or covered my thoughts
with the debris of his mental gyrations.
He no longer twirled his influence reining me into his orbit
to control, to end my wanderings and flights of fantasy
across universes unknown, created by me for me.

One day I was no longer the jelly to his peanut butter,
no longer his fruit, no longer ours, no longer his,

No longer.

Born again from the ashes of my grief
I twirled alone, stronger, changed from the us
and the me before the us.

New worlds loomed, blossomed, bloomed
in the ashes of my grief that had uprooted
the flower of his lying, dying love.

“Grief and love are like peanut butter and jelly,”
I said, “they just go together.”

And there was no one to interrupt me.

By M.L. Seager

PoetM.L. Seager is my poet alter-ego. I’ve been writing poetry since I was eleven. It’s my gateway drug into writing, and it’s where I feel the most at home. For me, poetry is the snapshot, the shot of a moment in time, a captured fleeting second of life that speaks eternally across the universe. It is where I go to be renewed again.

things I know

Love Alone Is Not Enough

I am a reader and writer of romance.

I love, love
in all it’s pretty colors of pinks and reds, passion and flowers.

Love alone is not enough
to tell or make a story.
It’s the pretty part.

It’s the part that makes you sigh, that touches your heart, that allows the exhale.
It’s the part that makes you wet and wild, moist and hard,
nipples and clitoris turgid with desire for the newest, latest lover
inside or out of a book and my bed.

I love, love.

Love alone is not enough
because it doesn’t clean up the cat vomit or the shit inside or out of the kitty litter box.
Love alone doesn’t take out the trash,
but it does make trash removal easier.

Between the sheets of paper, and on my bed, love makes the world-go-round;
fireworks explode because of love, even if it is just the lie of love.
Love helps clean up the ugly and paint over the betrayal of life.


Love alone cannot make whole cloth from rags, rope and string
even when I sweat and bleed to weave it all together, love alone is not enough.

I love, love and its power to redeem the unredeemable,
to make the horrible understandable,
even if it will never be acceptable.

I am a reader and writer of romance.
I love, love.

Love alone is not enough
to end the shadows, to wipe away the pain,
the loneliness and the sorrow,
but love will dress all of that up.

And make the unbearable,

Bearable again.

By M.L. Seager

PoetM.L. Seager is my poet alter-ego. I’ve been writing poetry since I was eleven. It’s my gateway drug into writing, and it’s where I feel the most at home. For me, poetry is the snapshot, the shot of a moment in time, a captured fleeting second of life that speaks eternally across the universe. It is where I go to be renewed again.


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.