Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rest In Peace, Kate Duffy

Today's blog is a eulogy of sorts, an ode to Kate Duffy, Editorial Director with Kensington Publishing, who passed away this weekend.

Those of you who read and commented on my post entitled "Never, Ever Give Up" know that Kate Duffy purchased my first book - A Precious Gem titled Friends & Lovers. What I didn't realize at the time is how fate smiled on me with enough good fortune that I was able to work with a legend in the business of romantic fiction.

Kate launched the Precious Gem line of contemporary romances, wanting a place where new authors could find a home. I found her to be one of the most visionary, warm-hearted and loyal editors in the business. She not only knew how to think outside the box, but she executed her ideas into actions - and the kind of success most only dream of. Gems was a perfect example of that fact and it launched many careers. Beyond that, though, and just as importantly, she treated her authors incredibly well.

I owe her my start, but she earned my respect. To this day, rejections come, rejections go. Working through the roller coaster ride of publishing can leave a writer feeling crushed at times, and sorely lacking in the confidence department.

Now, however, I'll keep one very important fact in mind: Kate Duffy - a legendary editor in the business - saw fit to purchase and publish a book of mine under Kensington's banner. If I succeeded in winning her interest, my writing can't be all bad.

I'll wear that truth like a badge of honor now, and I won't let any degree of negativity knock it away.

Thanks, Kate, from a grateful author who only wishes she could have worked with you time and time again. Rest in peace with angels at your side and "Brilliant Work" aplenty to read and enjoy. You were, as you often said, a fan before you were an editor. Thank you for being our champion.

Kensington, and writers/lovers of romance have lost a legend.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Never, Ever Give Up

Today's blog is about a life lesson I learned.

Back when the earth was still being formed, I sold my first book, a category contemporary romance, to Kensington Publishing. Wonderful, yes, but let's back up a step or two to the months preceding that glorious milestone.

I had done fairly well in a series of writing contests sponsored by RWA. In addition, I had secured the support of an agent who was new to the market, but energetic and positive with just the right combination of aggressiveness and charm. Best of all? She loved my work. Her name was Kelly St. Clair – a lawyer who moved from private practice to literary representation because she loved romance.

I kept writing and Kelly began a full court press, submitting my manuscripts everywhere. We came close. Over and over and over again I kept hearing wonderful feedback...but never the magic five words: 'We want to buy it.'

After nearly a year, with an ever growing stack of 'no thank you' notes from publishing houses far and wide, I lost confidence. In fact, I went into writer's remission, uninspired and incredibly sad that a dream I'd held for decades was doomed to go unfulfilled. I needed to go to work full time because college money needed to be raised for our kids. Writing time was easy to push aside, since to my mind, it wasn't taking me anywhere. I began to think that perhaps God was trying to send me a message about my writing and I was refusing to receive it.

Meanwhile, as I stopped writing and stepped up my outside work life, Kelly kept on top of the market and new developments. And I received yet another rejection. I was ready to call it quits - and told Kelly as much in a very heartfelt, almost apologetic letter. She had been a such a tremendous advocate, and by that point, I felt like I was wasting her time.

She wrote back promptly – and with an equally heartfelt reply urged me to keep going, affirming a talent she saw, but I no longer believed in. She concluded by saying how much she was looking forward to seeing me at the upcoming RWA national conference.

I had nearly canceled my registration, but her note had me deciding to stick with it. It would be my swan song – and at least I'd get a chance to thank her directly for all she had done.

Enter the blessing of timing.

At the conference I checked in at the registration desk and who did I find standing two people away from me? My agent. Kelly had heard me give my name and came up to me immediately and gave me a hug. That was our first face to face communication. She was bubbling with excitement.

She pulled me to a seating area of the hotel lobby, not far from one of the dozen or so conference rooms lining the hallway. She told me Kensington was looking for publication ready manuscripts for their new “Precious Gem” line of contemporary romances, and she'd been keeping an eye out for Senior Editor Kate Duffy to get further information about the line...and tell her about me.

We couldn't get over the timing of our lobby meeting.

But that's not the end of the story. We chatted, and she continued to encourage me – and told me not to give up, and that she was determined on my behalf. What a gift. When I had given up, without my even really knowing about it, she had continued to push forward. Her confidence ran deep, and was authenticated by her actions.

A few minutes into our chat, Kelly stopped talking abruptly and started to smile, looking at a spot behind me. Kate Duffy was leaving one of the conference rooms, headed right for us.

We introduced ourselves, and Kelly mentioned I had written a book that might fit the Gem guidelines. Kate was delighted to hear about it – and we chatted a bit further, then Kate left. A short, sweet, perfect meeting.

Less than a month later I sold book number one. A month after that? Book number two.

Moral of the story? Timing and perseverance.

I've always told my kids: Never, ever give up. If the call is on your heart, follow it, and overcome the obstacles. Surround yourself with people who will support, encourage and uplift you. I'm thankful every day they've seen that axiom vindicated.

A growing, young family sent Kelly back to part-time private law practice a year or so later so she's no longer an agent – but I owe her so much more than her 15% cut will ever reward. I've gone on to sell two more books and have high hopes for two more.

My wish and prayer is for just such benefits for you, no matter what your dream. What have you faced? What have you overcome to get where you are? I'd love to hear your story!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Long Live God & Long Live His Son

This is going to be a long, though I hope cohesive, and absolutely from the heart blog.

I'm curled up on the couch, my laptop humming after a Thursday night and bulk of my Friday spent celebrating what I feel is life's most precious gift. The overwhelming grace and beauty of my salvation through Jesus Christ. I'm Catholic, so the end of Lent is now just hours away and so many feelings and images swirl through my mind right now.

Humble service (our Lord washing his apostle's feet), accepting the will and mission of God (“Your will, not mine, be done...”) a heartbreaking, physically debilitating journey, laden by a cross beam, down Jerusalem's Via Delarosa, a sinner's death, on a cross, hanging in shame for the sole purpose of redeeming mankind...

I bring this up not just because it's Easter weekend, and the holiest three days of the calendar. I bring this up because I have tremendous call on my heart right now to fight back against what the current President of the United States and the popular media has to say about Christianity and its waning influence on Americas and, thereby, America culture during this sacred time in our year.

According to Obama, the United States of America should no longer be referred to as a Christian nation.

Then there’s Newsweek, publishing an article this Holy Week citing declining church attendance and a Western European style secularism to highlight its point that we are at "The End of Christian America"

According to Newsweek, churches are suffering. Why, the article states at one point, in such tough economic times, aren't people turning to God? The article also sites trends toward a more “enlightened” pattern of embracing “spirituality” - and the idea of “all Gods.”
Please don’t tell the people coming to our church doors at Guardian Angles in Suburban Detroit, that they don’t need God, or that they aren’t turning to God when they receive warm clothing, food, and most importantly, the loving embrace of our faith community! I doubt they’ll pay you an ounce of attention.

I’m tired of seeing that which I hold most honored and holy being trashed. So, I’m taking a stand, here and now, and I’m speaking up, refusing to be rolled over in silence because of faith and beliefs I hold sacred. There is no such thing as “all gods” or a cop-out expression of saying you’re “spiritual” versus being “religious” – what that translates to as far as I’m concerned is a lazy form of faith living with a lack of commitment to standing by what you truly believe.

Here’s what I believe, and will stand by forever: Jesus Christ is my Lord, Savior and Redeemer. I am a Christian, I am a sinner who keeps on sinning, but also keeps on trying, and keeps on looking to Christ for forgiveness and the strength to continue on. I’m a humble servant of my home, my community, and my world because that’s the pattern of living my faith in Christ has shown me to be most authentic and satisfying.

I don’t preach, or serve, in order to ‘earn’ heaven, either, so none of that nonsense. I couldn’t earn heaven with a million lifetimes. Heaven was gifted to me through one thing: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. He did that. For ME. For YOU. For the WORLD – and he’ll always take you in, no matter what you’ve said, what you’ve done, or what you’ve believed prior to discovering the truth of his grace, mercy and all encompassing, unconditional love.
He is God’s Son. He’s pure and faultless – and he belongs to us all – if we accept him and invite him in.

Christ lived, ministered and died. He did this in fulfillment of God’s will. He endured crucifixion in order to bring a bring a flawed (and I suppose I'll now also say malleable) humanity back to His fold of love, comfort and peace.

Christ's life is on-going (remember that – on-going!). His mission continues on through to this very moment in time in the living, breathing echo of a life and death that took place nearly two thousand years ago. This authenticity and truth cannot be faked. Look at the mission work, the benefits provided, by those who work in His name.

I watched a PBS documentary years ago about the topic of Christ’s life and death wherein a learned professor and theologian made a comment that has stayed with me every since: “Believe, or don't believe. That's everyone's individual choice. But something happened that day. If not, Christianity would have died out perhaps just a few hundred years after His death.”
Almost two thousand years later, it has not. Believers remain, live, work, minister, and have faith. And they will continue to do so for thousands of years to come.

Obama is trying, almost desperately it seems to me, to create as many avenues away from the heart of what founded our nation as possible. I’d like to ask him: What is wrong with Christianity? Why is he so frightened by a group of people working for the betterment of their lives and the communities in which they live – the world they inhabit?

Additionally I would have to ask: Does tolerance and this call for politically correct, offend no one, ever, unity only include those who believe what he says we should believe? It seems that way to me. After all, Christian beliefs and views don’t have any degree of acceptance and respect from Obama and his terrifyingly extreme left-wing administration.

Obviously Obama’s comments and the Newsweek article upset me tremendously at first. They are the embodiment of all that I would most stridently fight against. For a while I felt hurt, and I railed about the topic with a good number of my Christian friends who made comments like:

'I'm sick of being marginalized.'

'Too many people are afraid to speak up for their faith and beliefs.'

'Christians who live and speak their beliefs are labeled as bigoted, racist, homophobic anti-woman, anti-choice zealots. I believe it's part of an agenda to try to make Christians the fringe. Not acceptable.'

All of this, sadly, is so true!

But then came this observation from my husband:

‘Back in the 60's, the media came up with the same kinds of stories. “God is Dead” was actually a headline. And he's not dead yet.’

Thanks, honey. That’s so true. And spending quality time in within the embrace of my faith community at Guardian Angels Church helped sooth and assure me, and it affirmed my goal to keep fighting the good fight. If I may, here are a few things I’d like to share after our services this weekend:

Holy Thursday Service:
We participated in a beautiful mass emphasizing humility. Humility and service to one another, our communities, and those most in need. Emphasizing action with words, close to one hundred people came forward with their Lenten alms and offerings such as clothing and food basket items (these kinds of donations – badly needed here in Metro Detroit – take place every week during mass, and are deeply needed). This generosity also takes place despite a wickedly difficult Depression that has settled over the state of Michigan. Depression – not Recession. Michigan passed that yard-marker years ago. Parishioners remain self-sacrificing enough, however, to bring about a greater good – not in order to be seen as holy, or proud – but simply to help our fellow man. It’s what Jesus would do.

Stations of the Cross & Good Friday Service:
Members of our parish spent almost a half hour streaming forward to venerate the cross of Christ and receive communion. Several moments stick with me about the service:

  • An usher, who gently led forward a very ill woman with a walker who was in such pain she was in tears – but she needed to give of herself to Jesus in this reverent moment. He rubbed her back and encouraged her while she struggled, and tenderly re-seated her afterward. He was the face of Christ to her. And the peace on her face afterward? It was an amazing thing to behold.
  • The youth of our parish who performed the Passion. It was moving, and engaging to all who watched, and I felt so proud of their efforts and genuine love of the Lord. And that’s our YOUTH. God bless them!
  • A story from the recent Italy earthquakes told to us by our Pastor. A woman was trapped beneath a pile of rubble. Rescue workers offered her water to tide her over while they worked at digging her out (apparently there was enough of a hole to be able to communicate and pass things through). They kindly asked if there was anything else she needed to aide her comfort. Her reply? It was prompt: “Yes – there is. I would like the Eucharist.” The body of our Lord. The rescue workers saw to her request, and, yes, she was rescued. Praise God!

But what brought me to tears during Good Friday mass? The conclusion of the passion play. As our youth group carried “Jesus” from the cross they sang a combination of “Prepare ye the Way of the Lord” and “Long Live God.” It was affirmation to me, and a call to arms.

Long. Live. God.

God is real. God touches people. Faith in the redemption of his son accomplishes miracles every day.

Long. Live. God.

In the end, after enduring the foul taste of that derogatory article, I found myself more than able to walk that pathway to Calvary and celebrate my Christian faith with a solemn, grateful, and humble heart.

Evil won’t win, and God cannot and will not die. His battle against darkness has already been won.

Long. Live. God.

To that, I can only add a simple, and heartfelt: “Amen.”

Happy, blessed Easter, everyone. He is Risen!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sense & Sensuality

I experienced a revelation recently - an “ah-ha” moment so powerful it changed my whole perception on writing romance. My epiphany? The fact that putting emphasis on sense and sensuality, when well blended into the context of a love story, is just as fulfilling and evocative as open door love making.

Those who know me well realize what a deep impact Stephenie Meyer's writing has had on me as an author. I consider her Twilight saga a masterstroke – not just because of its romantic elements – but because it opened my eyes to the beauty of a love story that engages the senses, and tender, expressive sensuality, without, shall we say, opening the door.

In other words, I'm learning the practice, not just the theory, of putting yourself in the world, not just on it. There's beauty in the ache, and wanting – in the anticipation – and, yes, even in saying no. Explore. Capture. When you write it, actually feel it: The texture and glide of satin on skin, the sweet kiss of a caressing breeze, the scent and warmth of the neck that you nuzzle, the lips that you kiss... how about the spice of an orange slice bursting on your tongue, fed to you by the one you love...?

The possibilities are endless. It's all right there. And it's powerful.

I've written fully explored love making – and in fact I have enjoyed exploring ways to express the most intimate, rich connection we can share. But in some ways I'm changing, and hopefully evolving, as a writer. I'm developing several Christian themed romances – which is something I've always wanted to do – but I needed an idea (or two, or three, or...) to pull me by the heart strongly enough to be deemed worthy.

The ideas finally came, and the love stories are rich with conflict, romance, and, yes, they explore the world of the senses versus strictly the physical. The process has opened up all new doors for me.

But I'm curious. What do you think? What's your take on the topic? I'd love to know and hear your input!

The other step in my evolution has been writing first person. That's the subject of next week's blog...and I'd absolutely love to hear what you think about first person story telling. Do you like it? Hate it? Indifferent to it? Let me know, and let's discuss!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Well...I need to go to my "Zen" place...

Because being a newbie to Blogs, and finding them, participating in them, figuring out how to touch base with people who share my same interests and passions...well, it's a bit overwhelming! :-)

Welcome to the blog I'm referencing as "A Minute With Mariane" - although, anyone who knows me well will laugh uproareously at the idea. A minute? Seriously? Nah. Gonna be more like hours. I get chatty like that.

Anyway, to introduce myself, I'm a writer who is eager for her new book to be released as a Champagne Rosebud for The Wild Rose Press! I'm so excited to be joining TWRP. Check out their website:

Enjoy exploring their stellar family of authors. I'm new to the group, but the writers will blow you away! Exceptional talent.

My debut with Wild Rose Press is called With This Kiss. How to describe it. Lord. Feels so much like a synopsis, and I do just adore writing a synopsis....NOT!

But...since I suffer for my "art" (::cue the dramatic sigh::) here goes:

‘So Bella, do you still like the way snowflakes feel when they touch your skin?’

Many Christmas’ ago, a stolen kiss beneath a snowy sky sealed their fate. Now, will love be enough?

Jonathan Santini heads a preeminent labor law practice in New York. He’s driven by passion – unrelenting in his pursuit of two things: A better life through labor law, and Isabella Alfano.
But the Santini’s possess a somewhat checkered family history - one that puts Jonathan on the outside of Isabella’s branch of the Alfano clan.

Bella’s tangled emotions can’t stop what she feels for the bad-boy turned good. Taking over her grandma’s deli brings them together again, and the chemistry is electric.
The obstacle of family honor isn’t the only thing in their way though. A jealous colleague at Jonathan’s firm is bent on revenge - revenge that puts Isabella’s store into legal peril…

For an excerpt - head on over to my website and pay a visit - I love hosting company -- coffee's on and the light is on! Happy reading!