A Love Letter to Autumn

Halloween cat in leavesIt’s no secret: I love autumn. I know a lot of people who hate it, who get depressed by the shorter days, the creeping cold, the leaves changing color and falling to the ground, a metaphor for death.

Not me, though. I love it.

I love that first morning you wake up and there is no haze over the mountains, the air is as crisp as biting into a nice Macintosh apple. You have to put on a jacket to walk the dog, knowing that by the time you get back, you’ll be shedding layers.The leaves scritch across the sidewalk with the blustery wind and crackle underfoot as you swish through them. There’s  the smell of woodsmoke in the air, as well as the smell of dead leaves and rich, damp, earth. A fine layer of frost rimes the grass in the mornings, and etches crystals on your windshield.

Harvest MoonThe moon is a ghostly sickle in twilight sky, or a giant orange orb, or a shining silver globe that bathes everything in a clear, cold light so bright you could read by it, throwing the shadows into sharp-edged relief.

And the night sky. Oh, the night sky in autumn! The stars are so brilliant, and the skies so clear that you can see star fields beyond star fields, as though someone scattered handfuls of diamond of all sizes on a black velvet cloak. There is Cassiopeia, with the running “W” of her throne, and low in the autumn sky, the Big Dipper. There, too, is Venus in the early evening, and sometimes later on Saturn and Jupiter as well. By winter, the familiar sight of Orion’s Belt will greet you, but for now you stand huddled in your coat, watching the horse’s breath come out in plumes, and glance up at the starry sky, grateful for this moment in time. You can hear coyotes howling in the distance, sound traveling in the clear, cold air, and it makes you shiver.

waiting for dinnnerThe afternoons are tinted with a yellow light, so rich and warm as it shines through the nearly translucent leaves and lights them within like Halloween pumpkins. Everything is orange, and gold, and red, colors that do nothing for you at any other time of year but that you embrace come autumn. The horses have become furry; you can place your hand against their skin and have hair come up between your fingers. The dog races ahead on the trail, stopping alertly to listen to the forest, and you listen too. It calls to you, tells you to keep walking, that this day is yours and that you must enjoy it while you can. What other season can give you both leaves and snowflakes falling at the same time? You carry the camera with you wherever you go because you have this compulsion to capture the light, the color, the dog frisking among the leaves and immortalize it. It doesn’t matter that you’ve walked this same path a thousand times before. There is the hope that perhaps this time you will take that one photograph that utterly seizes the essence of the moment and stores it for all eternity. One day, you’ll want to look at these images again and remember how rich and blessed you were in this moment.

Autumn Dog Walk2It does seem to me that autumn is shorter every year. It’s not entirely my imagination–I read a report that stated due to climate change, our autumns are roughly two weeks shorter than they used to be. And I know, too, there is something about the change from October to November which spells the end of autumn for me. The light becomes harsher, slanting into the whiter spectrum of the season to come. The skies are pewter more often than not. The leaves are brown, what few remain on the trees. November comes in with a vengeance, stripping the trees of their glory and spitting sleet in your face. It reminds you that winter is coming. Now, I love winter almost as much as I love autumn. I spend almost as much time with the camera trying to collect images for my memory treasure chest. But I won’t lie, I don’t look forward to the deep cold. It was fifty-five degrees in my bedroom this afternoon. After I turned on the heat, I got it up to fifty-six. Give me another month or so, and I’ll be moaning about how miserable I am. 🙂

Fall roadBut I will always love autumn.

In less poetic news, Walk a Mile was listed as one of October’s Recommended Reads by Prism Book Alliance! It’s up there with some of the best stories from some of the brightest stars in the genre, so I am delighted and pleased (and surprised) to be among such a stellar crowd. If you follow the link and leave a comment at the post, you’ll  be entered into the giveaway for your choice of one of the recommended reads. What are you waiting for? Check it out!

The Apocalypse is coming–thank God! Now I don’t have to clean the house…

Golden HillsideI confess, I’ve been struggling a bit of late. As I’m coming to learn, it is a combination of things that sends me to a darker place. Work stress can definitely do it, and when I get snowed under by work is when I am the most likely to lie awake at three am and dwell on all my failures in life.

Not getting enough sleep will do it. So will feeling crappy, which is also something I struggle with, especially when I get tired and stressed.When I get pushed for time and energy, I find myself snarfing candy bars instead of snacking on the apple I brought in with me to work. I say ‘screw it’ when the staff brings in pizza (and that is the absolute *worst* thing I can eat–I’m supposed to be avoiding all dairy and wheat while I figure out what I’m allergic to) and I have a slice anyway. I recently commiserated with a friend about the constant battle to eat the kinds of foods our bodies now insist we must have, to get enough sleep, to pay the bills. The constant worry about making ends meet and what our futures hold for us.

That’s not what this post is about, however. Nope. Yesterday, I read an article in the Guardian, about a NASA-funded study that predicts the collapse of industrialized society in about 15 years. And the funny thing is, it took a lot of the pressure off me. No, seriously. It’s not that I don’t believe the article; as a matter of fact, I do, give or take a decade on the timeline there. It’s just that the level of fear-inducing news (Ebola, the war on civil rights, ISIS, terrorism in general, pandemics, zombies, etc) has reached an all-time high with the prediction of the end of life as we know it. I am officially off the hook. I can stop worrying about the house that is falling down around me and whether or not it will see me out. The future is no longer some scary place where I dine on pate-type cat food spread on gluten-free crackers. While I might conceivably grow my own food (stop laughing, I do have land), no one will be prying a gun out of my cold, dead hand because I won’t be holding a gun in the first place.

So I can stop worrying about the future.

I can live for today.

Fall Mountain ViewOf course, that doesn’t mean I’m calling work and telling them I’m not coming in today. Because part of living for today means you have to think about eating tomorrow. But what it does mean is that there are fewer long-term consequences. It means I’m going to color my hair and go to work tomorrow dressed in costume for Halloween. It means I’m going to write my stories because they make me happy and I have fun creating them. That I’m going to walk the dog to the top of the mountain and consider myself the richest person in the world because I own that view. I’m going to suck the marrow out of the bones of life because that’s all we get, people. This. Right here. Today.

I can live for today.

I can walk into a room like I own it. I will laugh and appreciate what I have and be present in the here and now with the people and animals I love most. I will give the electronics a rest. I don’t need mirrors to tell me I’m beautiful or ugly. I don’t need social media to tell me I’m a success or a failure. It could all end tomorrow. So while I might not go out fighting, I want to go out without regrets.

I had this one perfect day…

Fall PerspectivesAutumn is my absolute favorite time of year.

The nights are cooler, and the cat creeps onto the bed to purr beside your ear. The mornings are crisp and clean, and have a bite to them like a juicy Red Delicious. The humidity has lessened, and for the first time since summer began, you feel as though you can take a deep breath.

The light is changing, too. The sun that slants through the trees on your morning walk has a kind of golden tint as it illuminates the leaves. They are turning colors now, and falling to crunch underfoot, mingling their dry scent with the mulchy smell of the damp earth underneath. By the afternoon, the light is incandescent, and makes you want to blink sleepily in its beam like a lazy cat. The light spectrum will turn whiter as winter approaches. The trees will be naked and bare, the skies leaden with the promise of inclement weather. But for today, you have autumn.

PumpkinsAutumn is wood-smoke and pumpkin everything. It’s putting on a jacket in the morning and taking it off by noon. It’s buying hot chocolate for the first time since last winter and thinking about making sausage balls for Thanksgiving. It’s snuggling under a blanket beside the people and animals you love while reading a book. It’s the crackle and hiss of logs on the fire in the hearth. But it doesn’t last. This glorious time of year is so very brief. Before you know it, winter will be here.

WAMBadgeTemplateI have a lot to do this week, next month, and before the end of the year. I’m both excited and nervous to be launching the next story in The Sixth Sense series from Dreamspinner Press. Walk a Mile is now available for pre-order and will be released October 3rd, which is when the Book Tour with Pride Promotions will begin as well. I still have blog posts to write, and need to set up the guest bloggers for the month of October here. I haven’t written a word on the WIP in weeks because I’ve been so busy launching this story, and I know that I should be working on the new project now. That’s just the writing side of things. I have several major end-of-year deadlines coming up as part of my Day Job and I can’t neglect these things or put them off until the last minute. So I have a lot on my To Do list today.

But here’s the thing. I had a choice this morning. I could either have taken the dog for a short walk by the house, where we would have met the bare requirements for getting a little exercise (and blowing the stink off of him so I can get some work done), or I could have taken the extra time to run out to the national forest and take a walk we’d both enjoy. I looked down at his graying muzzle, noting the cataracts in his eyes, and thought, “He is autumn. He is only here for a little while. If tomorrow was his last day on Earth, would you regret not having taken him out to the forest?”

H and fall leavesAnd so we went to the woods.

I still have blog posts to write. I need to go to the grocery store or I will have nothing to eat this coming week and no time to go shopping for food. The list of things I need to do, the fears and concerns I have worrying me right now are a little like having rats in the walls of your house. You know you have a big problem and you know you need to deal with them, but you can’t get at them and that makes solving the rat problem tough. But that one decision made this morning opened the door to other thoughts, other considerations.

I have this one perfect day. This one ephemeral moment in time in which I can walk my dog. or ride my horse–or I can run errands and pound out blog posts that will hardly interest me, let alone someone else. This light won’t last forever. This glorious weather won’t last forever.  And after all, isn’t that why we live? To be in the moment, to live it to its fullest? To bite into that apple and feel the juices trickle down your chin, even as you savor the sweetness of it?

I can write blog posts well into the night. I can take the dog with me and go grocery shopping after dark. But today, I’m going to throw the saddle in the back of the car and head out to the barn. Because I have that one perfect day today. And I’m going to make the most of it.

Look of Eagles_resized

A short Halloween Scene with the boys from Crying for the Moon

jackolanternTalk about embarrassing! I’d completely forgotten that my post as part of Merissa McCain‘s Paranormal Month was up today until I got emails and tweets about it! *redface*

I’ve been swamped with obligations recently, definitely a case of biting off more than I could chew. It’s a problem I struggle with on a frequent basis. Right now, I’m gearing up for a major blog tour–I’ve written 8 blog posts and done 3 interviews for it, and I still have interviews and blog posts to host here. All while writing the sequel to Unspeakable Words, which is tentatively titled Walk A Mile. I broke the 50 K mark on it yesterday, and have at least 30 K to go. I’m hoping to get it done by the end of November as sort of an unofficial Nano project. 🙂

But it has made me very lax about joining in on conversations here and there, especially in cases like Paranormal Month, and in some of my friend’s blog tours. Susan MacNicol is touring with her newest bestselling M/M romance, Saving Alexander, and will be stopping by here later in November. I’m also hosting Draven St. James‘s new release Scent of a Wolf in early November. So, yeah, I probably shouldn’t have taken on something else on top of that! I love October, however, and Halloween. I love fall leaves and glowing pumpkins (and everything pumpkin, for that matter!). I love tall boots and leather coats and the hint of mystery in the air. It’s hard for me to refuse something like Paranormal Month! I’ve been terribly remiss about commenting on other people’s posts on Merissa’s blog, however, so I can’t expect people to turn out for mine. You’d be doing me a big favor if you’d go check them out, though!

CryingMoon_pr2And if you’d like to read a little short scene I wrote last year featuring Alex and Tate from Crying for the Moon, that’s posted here today. Crying for the Moon was a recommended read by jessewave reviews for August 2011, and a winner of a Recommend Read Award by Coffee Times Romance. It also was first runner-up in the Love Romances and More Golden Rose Awards for 2011 for best paranormal romance. Recently it was listed as one of the top 15 paranormal M/M romances written in the last three years by review Lasha for jessewave.There are two sequels planned, you know, in my copious free time. 😉

Which is why I plan to downscale my activity here and abroad until I can get some of these stories written!


October is Paranormal Month!

halloweencatroxiconWhat do you think of when you think of October? The scurry of dry leaves across the sidewalk, blown by autumn winds? That day when you reach for your leather jacket, or when you put away your sandals and pull out your boots? How about pumpkin bread, warm from the oven? Or maybe you think about things that go bump in the night? 🙂 That black cat slinking across the road that pauses to stare at you with grass-green eyes. The shivery sensation of being outside on a blustery evening, the scent of rain in the air. It is a time of magic, but magic can come with a price. It isn’t always a glass of wine by a crackling fire. Sometimes it is the way your heart pounds for no reason as you cross a dark field, the howling of coyotes nearby sending a little frisson of awareness up your spine. Whatever else you may feel about October, it makes you feel alive.

Author Merissa McCain is hosting Paranormal Month for the entire month of October over at her website! This is a blog run of paranormal romance of all kinds! Fantastic reads, featured authors, and some great discussions too! I’m late to the party, but here are the first three links:

Oct 1: Chris Redding

Oct 2: J. Rose Allister

Oct 3: Suzanne Perazinni

My post won’t go up until the end of the month, but I’ll be talking about my favorite vampire, Alexei, and his misfit werewolf friends from Crying for the Moon. You’ll find out what dastardly plans I have for the ‘Scooby Gang’ next! Do come and join the party–you might find some great new-to-you stories to curl up with on the couch on those spooky October evenings!


Rest, relaxation, and the power of positive thinking…

PuddleJumpers rescue resizedI’ve been thinking a lot about positive thinking lately. What it really means, why does it seem to have merit in some cases and not in others. Where are the lines drawn between thinking positively in that ‘pie in the sky’ manner and thinking ‘realistically’ but trapping yourself in a cycle of not-having because you can’t let go of being ‘practical’. There has to be some middle ground. I don’t believe in what I call quantum mysticism, like that of The Secret, but I do believe that we have the power to shape our lives through our thoughts–for good and bad.

But what do you do when you can’t make yourself believe in something you want very much? That has always been my big dilemma. Because all those sayings “fake it until you make it” or “act as if”, well, I’m a pretty good actress. I can do these things. But really believing them, enough to make them come true–not so much.

However I’ve had a few conversations lately that make me wonder. Recently I had a discussion with some online friends about the value of fandoms and what we get out of having fictional heroes. One of my friends mentioned that she had action figures from her favorite shows that acted like totems for her. One reminded her to take risks, another to be brave. Others were examples of following your moral compass as well as your heart. We talked about totems and how no matter how advanced we become, we as a people still seem to need totems of some sort. The magic doesn’t reside within them. It resides within us. The totem only reminds us that it is there.

Another thing that has me pondering thinky thoughts at the moment is this article I came across today on Positively Positive. It’s a site my friend, fellow author Cooper West, recommended to me. I don’t always agree with what the guest bloggers have to say (there was a recent article in which someone defended taking time out for themselves after a work trip instead of coming home and pitching in with helping with the kid–I’m sorry, but if I’d been left with a toddler for a week, I’d be the one needing the break!) but this one caught my eye. Amplify the Power of Your Thoughts suggests that writing very specific goals and dreams down on paper and carrying them with you in your wallet can increase your chances of having the desired outcome.

Well, I don’t know about that either. But hey, what can it hurt?

You’re probably asking yourself, what’s up with Lt. Colonel John Sheppard rescuing a colt from a raging river? 🙂 Well, one of my friends and I have been taking dramatic action shots of our toy figures and emailing them back and forth to each other. We’re having a ridiculous amount of fun doing it. But this action figure is one of my totems too. The one that says “never give up.” So I’m going to write down my dreams and goals. I’m going to give very specific instructions to the universe and see what happens. You should try it too. What have you got to lose?

Autumn GrainIn the meantime, I’ve been discovering the value in getting just a single hour more of sleep each night and taking the dog on regular walks. Autumn is here now, unexpectedly early. It may yet be a fickle thing, turn back into summer, but right now the leaves are turning, the geese are flying overhead, and the days are pleasantly cool. Spending some time outdoors each day is absolutely necessary for me to function normally–apparently the Japanese are embracing the concept of ‘forest bathing‘ and others speak of ‘earthing.’ I don’t know if these things are based in science or not, but I do know that there is something about walking outdoors with the dog on a fall afternoon that brings peace to my soul. There is something about it that grounds me in a very basic way. I’ve been trying to get out more, to balance my crazy work schedule with some breathing space. All I can say is that it is helping. My headspace is a little clearer and the writing is going better. All this time I’ve been beating myself up for not getting up at 4 am to write several hours before work, or for not churning out a new novel every month, and it turns out the answer was I needed to push less instead of more. Lesson learned.

I’m off for a few days of R&R with some friends this weekend. We’re going to talk about writing, watch a bunch of movies, stay up too late drinking wine and dishing about our lives, make far too much food, and in general enjoy ourselves without reservation. I’m looking forward to this. I need this. And when I come home, I will be ready to get to work on the sequel to Unspeakable Words again. 🙂


The Evolution of Halloween

Welcome to my Howloween Blog Hop post! Anyone leaving a comment here will be in the running to win a signed, print copy of Going For Gold, the M/M Olympic themed anthology from MLR Press, including my sport horse novella, Lightning in a Bottle (if you live in the continental US) or the reader’s choice from my backlist in e-book form (if you live outside the US). Comments for the contest will be considered up until Nov 1, then a winner will be selected randomly from among the commenters.

The contest is now closed and the winner is vitajex! I’ll be contacting you via email–thanks for playing along, guys!

When I was a child, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. I didn’t care for the Fourth of July with the fireworks and the cookouts. It took far too long to get to the park where we could see the fireworks display, and even longer getting out at the end of the evening. Ditto with New Year’s. A lot of noise and the making of resolutions no one ever keeps. Valentine’s Day was usually a bust for me too; with me complaining loudly to all who would listen that V-day was a commercial holiday orchestrated by society to force us into buying flowers and dinner out at a fancy restaurant. Thanksgiving seemed like a lot of work for an hour’s worth of good dining (though the days of leftovers helped make up for it!). Christmas Eve, in which everything was still a potential, (and nothing yet had disappointed) was always my favorite over Christmas Day.

But when I was growing up, Halloween had a special kind of magic all its own. For starters, there was the dressing up and going Trick or Treating. I don’t know about you guys, but Trick or Treating was a Big Deal when I was a kid. My grandmother had made me a tiger suit when I was very small–and being a sickly child who didn’t grow much, I was able to wear this outfit year after year. I loved my tiger suit. It fit over my entire body, compete with tail and a hoodie with ears.  My mom would draw whiskers on my face with her eyebrow pencil, and I would drape my tail over my arm as I headed out the door with my pumpkin basket to collect my candy.

Back then, Halloween was the culmination of my favorite time of the year.  I loved going back to school when I was a child. I loved that first day in September when the temperature dropped by 20 degrees and you had to take a sweater with you, ‘just in case’. I loved the crackle of dry leaves underfoot–the scratchy sound they made on the pavement as you walked through them. Even the air was different–smelling of wood smoke and damp earth, cool and crisp as a Red Delicious apple. October was all red and yellow leaves, gorgeous afternoons with bars of light that lay in heavy bands of gold across the path in the woods. November is different. By the time November arrives, the trees are bare, the afternoons are cold and rainy. Halloween is the last, best week of the most glorious time of year.

But on Halloween, everyone would pull out the stops.  People carved pumpkins and placed lighted candles within to indicate they were receptive to Trick or Treaters. We would wait, dressed in our costumes, until dusk, after which we would hit the streets. Back then, people knew their neighbors. My favorite house to visit belonged to Mrs. Hutchins–she made the most incredible gingerbread men–each individually decorated.  Not to be outdone, my mother made popcorn balls and created little airplanes out of Popsicle sticks and Lifesavers–the tube of Lifesavers making the body of the plane, and two Lifesavers were used as wheels.

Somewhere along the way, Halloween changed. Pixie stix were found to be laced with cyanide, and candy was showing up with razor blades inside. My father insisted that our candy be radiographed at the hospital where he worked before we ate it, and my parents refused to to let us eat anything that was homemade anymore. I outgrew my tiger suit, and trick or treating in the neighborhood was replaced by Halloween parties. My parents were not big party throwers, so Halloween became something to set aside, as another part of my childhood that I shelved on growing up.

I noticed the other night that in the upscale neighborhoods near my house, homes are decorated for Halloween now as seriously as some people take Christmas, with colored lights and inflatable displays that go up at the first of October and stay up until Thanksgiving (when the Christmas decorations come out). Some are gorgeously and tastefully decorated with little orange lights and garlands of brightly colored leaves winding around the railings. Some are a little more out there…

Great. One more thing that I can’t keep up with due to lack of time. As it is, I no longer decorate for Christmas. I just can’t do all that work when half the time, I’m not even there. Decorating your house for the holidays is so that you can pull up at night and see the lights glowing in the impending dusk. It sort of dampens the effect if you have to go inside and turn the lights on first, you know?

I never lost my love of dressing up in costume, however. My mother, freed from the pressure of keeping up with the likes of Mrs. Hutchins, refused to acknowledge the day. One year, I’d come home from college for the weekend, only to find my mother heading out to a movie, house darkened, no candy available.

Well, screw that, I thought. After she left, I went to the store and bought some candy. When I got back to the house, I scrounged around until I put together an outfit that could have passed for a woman in Colonial Williamsburg–a floor length skirt, a long sleeved, high-necked blouse.  I piled my hair on top of my head and picked up a camping lantern. I left the lights off in the house, and wandered through the rooms with the lantern, pausing in windows so I could be seen from the street.  I have to admit, more than one car screeched to a stop when passing the house!

I decided that if anyone rang the doorbell, I would liberally hand out candy without speaking.  I did get a few callers, though I suspect the lights being out discouraged most of them. I do remember one small child, leaning in with her basket to receive her candy, saying in a voice filled with awe, “You’re beautiful!”

I didn’t hear that a lot when I was young. It made an impression. 🙂

Somehow, I never let go of Halloween. Even with nowhere to go, I still wanted to dress for the day. There’s something about putting on a costume that is so liberating. I tend to dress as favorite characters from movies or stories, as opposed to the Sexy Witch, or the Sexy Vampire. Dressing as a favorite character imbues you with their strengths, and for a brief period of time, you are your hero.  I’ve written about Walking like Beckett and what I’ve learned from that, but over the years, I’ve been Athena from the original Battlestar Galactica series, and I’ve worn my Star Trek Next Gen (science blue) outfit for years. I’ve purchased the short dress uniform from the Star Trek Reboot, and Starbuck’s uniform from the new Battlestar Galactica, too.

But making my own costume makes me happier than any pre-made one. There’s something about the hunt for all the right components that’s akin to searching the used bookstores for an elusive out-of-print book. Sure, you could probably find it online–but the treasure hunt is part of the fun. This year, I’ve decided to go as Peggy Carter from Captain America. My word, I love the feisty heroine! Take a strong female character (strong, not bitchy!), dress her in a WW II uniform and put lipstick on her, and I am your devoted slave. Peggy Carter is everything I would like to be–tough but feminine, purpose-driven but believing in heroes, and one helluva shot!  I loved how–period not withstanding–Peggy was not simply the love interest in the movie, but out there in the thick of things fighting with everyone else.

So for months now, I’ve been putting together a costume. An authentic uniform (or as close as I can get). Olive military jacket and skirt (wool). A white shirt. An olive tie. Silver wings. Kick-ass shoes.

I mentioned to a friend that I needed to find just the right ‘wartime red’ lipstick to finish the outfit, and she surprised me with a package the other day. She discovered that the favorite lipstick of the day was Victory Red by Elizabeth Arden, and that they still make it! She sent me a tube, along with an era authentic compact (Stratton–what ALL the English women used), and the piece de la resistance, a pendant with the likeness of Captain Steve Rogers embedded in it!

Do you know how much fun it is when your friends get involved in your fandom loves?  It’s magical.  It’s what Halloween is all about.

Be sure to leave your email in your comments so that I can contact you if you are the winner!

Going for Gold is the M/M Olympic themed anthology from MLR Press! Ice skating, diving, equestrian eventing, competitive shooting and more! There’s something for everyone (especially if you like hot athletes in Speedos, or tight breeches and tall boots!)

Cooper West: Fall Changes

Cooper West, author of Dawn in the Orchard and Mixed Signals, among others, is my special guest blogger today! She’s written on one of my favorite subjects: autumn and the changes that it brings. I know many people aren’t fond of the season, but for me, it is personally my favorite time of year!

Do make Cooper welcome today, and share with us all what this time of year means for you!

Fall Changes by Cooper West

This is not actually a post about Halloween. I love Halloween, it’s probably my favorite holiday by far, but to be honest this year I don’t have much energy for it.

The thing is, 2012 has been a rough year so far. Not just for me; pretty much everyone I know has been hit by health problems, financial crises, family tragedies, pet calamities and relationship difficulties. So now it’s October and officially Fall/Autumn and I’m ready for the change in the weather.

There is a reason we have holidays set around the turning point of seasons, either their start or their deepest point, and that’s to mark the passage of time. To honor it. And so I’ll light some decorative candles to mark Halloween but what I’m really anxious for is the change that it represents.

Over at my own blog I talked a bit about how 2012 started out for me: with whooping cough. That illness is no joke, in fact it is catastrophic (get your booster!) and it forced me to make difficult decisions. The most difficult of them was to suspend my writing career almost completely: no writing, no editing, no marketing. But my priorities were to get well and get my master’s degree, and I could not do everything.

Nine months later I’ve graduated with my masters and I’m working on getting my health back, but it has been one hell of a slog. Those difficult choices were necessary, though, and I can’t live my life regretting them.

The good news is that I really do believe change is coming. It’s here, in fact – cooler evenings, drier afternoons (do not underestimate the power of high humidity to make you droop) and, for me, time to spend writing. Not a lot of time, but some. I’ve also managed to format and release my free ebook, Henri’s War, which is something I originally intended to do back in, oh, April. *sigh* As I wrote above, I knew what stopping would mean to my writing career, but it was a choice I had to make and I refuse to carry regrets about it.
Hard choices never end, though. I’m looking at a professional career field that is chock-a-block full of unemployed people looking for work. Even for experienced, highly credential people, job hunts are taking six months to three years. It is so discouraging.

But then I step outside into the beautiful, blue-skies 70F degree morning and I realize: life is too short to belabor these things. It’s too short and too precarious – the whooping cough and subsequent broken back (yes, I broke my back coughing so hard; get your booster!) made me realize: I am not here on Earth to check boxes of social expectations.

The hard choice being marked this month for me is the decision to cut back on job hunting. There is only one perfect job for me, and that is being a writer. It would be great to find a high-paying position in the field I went to graduate school for, don’t get me wrong, but my very valuable free time is so very limited. I can spend all my time looking for a job, any job, that might kind-of sort-of be okay…or I can spend most of that time writing and making my dreams come true.

And quite frankly, it hasn’t been a hard choice to make. It will be financially difficult for me for a while, but that was going to be true no matter what (barring winning the Florida Lottery). In the end, it was not a hard choice because of what I was choosing between but because of what I was having to acknowledge about myself: that checking a box saying “academically and professionally successful in my chosen field” is something that would require a higher price than I’m willing to pay in time and personal investment. It was a very profound moment when I let go of that goal.

Yet it was an easy choice because I have a vision in mind of what constitutes my perfect day, and that day has nothing to do with a respected, 9-5 job in a cubicle farm. It was a choice about what changes I want to see happen this fall, along with Halloween and cooler temperatures.

Maybe you are also in a position to make this kind of decision, and maybe you aren’t. But I encourage everyone to use the onset of autumn to examine what kind of changes, if any, you want to make. When the next holidays hit, those mid-winter ones full of busy chaos, gift giving, and piles of sugar, what changes will you have made happen? At what point along the path towards your goals will you be then?

My plan is that I’ll have a couple of books submitted to Dreamspinner, and another I’ll be self-publishing by January. I’ll be regularly writing 1000 words a day (right now I’m at about 300). I might have found a better job than the two low-paying ones I’m juggling right now, or not, but that’s not very important to me. I’ll keep job hunting just in case, but as I light my (bright orange!) holiday candles this month, I am focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel they represent. Join me!


Coming Soon from Sarah Madison…

Today is rainy and cold, as much of the US is experiencing a cold snap for the first time this fall. My thoughts turn to autumn and how this is my favorite time of the year. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I’ve been much busier than usual, which has really cut into my writing time. I have a little unexpected time off these next few days and I plan to spend it working on Hold the Reins, the expanded version of my novella Lightning in a Bottle, which is part of the Going for Gold Anthology from MLR Press.

I love these characters and the sport horse world, so writing this story should be a snap. right? Not really. I have to make sure I don’t duplicate or reveal too much of what happens in the already printed novella section, as well as try and fix some things that weren’t completely developed there (I re-wrote a huge bit of LIAB on the fly, with the blessing of MLR Press, so that writing this expanded version would even make sense). I am finding this much harder to do than I’d expected, and the demands of work tough as well. Since I’m an inveterate tinkerer when it comes to my WIPs, I simply don’t understand how anyone can post segments of an unfinished work online anywhere! I’m constantly revising. If I see a glimmer of gold on the stream bed, I’m going to sift through that scene until I can determine if it is a vein worth pursuing or not.

I’m over-extended in a serious way and looking gratefully toward the holiday season, when things normally slow down a bit for me. But autumn, that’s my Holy Season. The sunlight slants through the trees in the afternoon, the spectrum of color a rich yellow that lights up the falling leaves from within and highlights their shades of red and gold. In a few short weeks, the trees will be bare, and the now-crisp leaves underfoot will turn to wet mulch. The light will slide from yellow toward the clear, cold white of winter. Autumn is such a brief time of magic and wonder, when the heat and humidity have finally broken and you can see the mountains clearly for the first time since the spring. I have a few days planned off here and there, but nothing like the actual vacation I need to recharge my batteries and get my mind wrapped around writing again. So for now, it’s write when I can, and hope it doesn’t completely tank.

I’ve finished some other writing commitments while others still languish. When I have very little time to work on too many projects, too often I spin in circles when I do get some time, dashing from project to project, envisioning scenes for something I can’t work on right now, frittering away the morning in chats or on Twitter because I can’t seem to settle down to work. Well, I’m going to be a good girl after this post and shut the browser. I’m NOT joining in on a chat, I’m not heading over to Facebook. I’m going to pull out the WIP and see if I can figure out what the problem is with it and whether it is salvageable as written or if I need to scrap the 7 K written and start over.

In other news, I’ve got a blog post up at KMN Books, which is a short scene between Tate and Alex from Crying for the Moon, in which they discuss Halloween and why Alex doesn’t celebrate it. Crying for the Moon was recently awarded 1st runner up in the category of Best Paranormal of 2011 in the Golden Rose Awards. One of the judges stated, “Crying for the Moon is a wonderful paranormal story. Author Sarah
Madison has managed to refresh the vampire/werewolves stories that are
the current fad! Well done! I look forward to more from this author.”

I’m delighted and honored to be among such distinguished authors and their stories! Of course, now I feel guilty that I haven’t been working on those promised sequels…

Anyone who leaves a comment on the KMN post before Oct 10th is eligible to win a signed, print copy of Going for Gold (if you live in the continental US) or reader’s choice from my backlist as an e-book. Hurry before the contest ends!

Speaking of the need to hurry, you should also run over to Dreamspinner Press and check out all their specials this month of October. New discounts are available every few days in honor of specific events this month–so many DSP authors are traveling to conventions and almost every paranormal story will have a discount this month as well. But the days vary and the specials don’t last for long, so check them out before it’s too late!

Also coming up soon, guest blog posts from Cooper West, Nessa L. Warrin, and my dear writing pal, Claire Russett. I’m also doing a blog hop at the end of the month: The Howloween Blog Hop! (I don’t think that link is live yet, though)

Lest you think I’m not planning any fun at all for myself, I’ve almost put together the finishing touches on my Peggy Carter costume for Halloween (yes, I spent FAR too much money on this, but come on, Peggy Carter!! It had to be as close to perfect as possible!) and I’m going to a get-together of fandom friends too.

Or maybe I just like shoes… 🙂

So don’t be surprised if you don’t see much of me around–this means I’m working my tail off writing!