GENREALITY

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Thursday, June 2nd, 2011 by Candace Havens
Truth and Dare

I am in deadline HELL on several projects. SO I present you with this lovely excerpt from my latest book, Truth and Dare.

“Your father is dead.”

It took a few seconds for the Phosphor County sheriff’s cautious words to register. Cade Randall’s chest tightened with pain, but he pushed the emotion away.

Figures the old man would show up today, of all days. Even dead he still caused trouble.

Cade didn’t want to care about the man who abandoned his family twenty years ago. He glanced around the offices of Stonegate Investigative Agency wondering why the sheriff brought him here to tell him the news when a simple phone call would have sufficed.

The woman behind the desk watched him carefully. He struggled to remember her name—Patience something. He didn’t know who she was, exactly. She was beautiful. A professor type, with long blond hair that framed a perfect face featuring high cheekbones and nearly translucent green eyes. She wore a suit jacket over a miniskirt, he recalled her legs were the kind men dreamed about. And she smelled like honeysuckle, which for some reason was the most distracting thing about her. His father was dead.

Judging from the looks on the sheriff’s face and Patience’s, they were waiting for him to respond.

“Sheriff, I appreciate you letting me know.”

He checked his phone. There were six messages from his executive assistant. “I’m sorry, but I need to go.” The merger was happening today, and he couldn’t be late for his next meeting. Cade rose to leave.

“Wait.” Patience held out a hand as she stood. “Don’t you want to know what happened to your father?” Her eyes narrowed with recrimination. To her, Cade probably looked like a heartless bastard.

“Ma’am, he left our family many years ago without so much as a goodbye. He just didn’t come home one night. So, no, I don’t care how he died, or where he was when you found him.” He paused reflecting for a moment. There was someone who would care. “Though I’m certain my grandmother would like to give her son a proper burial.”

“Please, hear me out.” Her voice was firm. “I promise you I won’t take more than two more minutes to explain.”

Stubborn woman.

Cade didn’t have time for any of this. He had to get back to the office. Though something in her eyes compelled him to stand still. “Fine. You have my attention.” He crossed his arms over his chest.

She didn’t bother sitting down. “As the sheriff said, I’m Dr. Patience Clark, Stonegate’s forensic anthropologist. Your father’s remains were brought to Austin by the sheriff for identification.”

Cade inclined his head slightly to let her know he understood.

“I’ll cut to the chase, since you have no interest in what happened to him. I felt you should know your father was murdered about twenty years ago on some land just outside of your hometown.”

Murdered? In Phosphor?

The knot in Cade’s chest tightened even more. That meant…No, she had to be wrong. Why was this happening now? His phone vibrated again and Cade took it out and glanced at it as the sheriff and Patience watched him.

His father didn’t leave the family, after all. Cade rubbed his forehead and tried to process the information, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t deal with this today.

Cade shoved what Patience told him on a mental shelf. He’d deal with it after the merger. His employees were depending on him making this deal work.

“I apologize for my behavior and I appreciate you bringing this to my attention. Unfortunately, I have to go.” He started to back out the door.

Patience gave him a wary glance. “One more minute, please.” She pulled out a two-page document. “If you’ll sign this, it’ll give me permission to pursue your father’s murder on your behalf, then I’ll get out of your hair. You may not care who killed him, but my company, Stonegate Investigative Agency, has a one hundred percent close rate when consulting on cases. I need to find your father’s murderer. The sheriff will be supervising the investigation.”

Cade’s gut burned with anxiety and he ran his fingers through his hair. He had to get out of there. “I’ll sign anything you want, but I’m not sure what you think you’re going to find after twenty years. Seems like a waste of time to me.”

She pushed the documents toward him on the desk and pointed where she needed his signature. “My guess is you’ve never been on an archeological dig. You’d be surprised what can be found even after thousands of years. The sheriff told me the bones were discovered by hikers in a shallow grave that had been wasted away by erosion in a remote area, so if it’s been untouched there’s a good chance I’ll find something.”

“It’s your time.” He shoved the papers toward her.

“Thank you.” She pulled the signed papers to her chest.

The lifted eyebrow told him she didn’t approve of his attitude, but he couldn’t worry about that. The merger about to take place meant big things for his company. The value of his employees’ stocks would rise through the roof, and he could start the new research division for their microchip and have an entirely new brand of supercomputers out next year.

He shook the sheriff’s hand and took Patience’s hand in his. It was soft, and he had a feeling her scent would linger on his skin. “Thank you, again.”

His phone buzzed, and he answered it.

“Sir, Greg is here and he says he has to talk to you now.” His assistant was excited, which meant something had happened.

“Give me thirty seconds and then put him on.”

Cade tried to smile at the sheriff and at Patience but was sure that it came off more as a grimace.

“Again, I appreciate your efforts.” He turned to leave.

“Here,” she said. “This is my information, in case you have any questions.”

He stuffed the folded piece of paper into his pocket and hurried for the door, the phone at his ear.

As Greg spoke, he tried to listen, but his mind was on his father and the woman who had given him the news. While Cade usually didn’t care what people believed of him, it bothered him that she might consider him a coldhearted jerk. Well, he could be when it came to business, but that was different.

“Cade, did you hear me? The meeting has been moved up to ten. You have to get here now,” Greg yelled through the phone. Normally, Cade wouldn’t take such insubordination from an employee, but Greg was also one of his best friends.

Cade slipped into the limo waiting for him and the driver shut the door.

“Greg, calm down. I’m on my way. I’ll be there in five. We have plenty of time to go over any last-minute issues.”

The other man went on to tell Cade some of the details, but he only half listened. He pulled the folded sheet from his jacket pocket. Her business card slipped out, the scent of honeysuckle filled his senses. He opened the piece of paper to find a brief note.

“I dare you to help me find your father’s killer.” She’d met him less than ten minutes ago and she knew exactly how to get to him.

Cade wasn’t sure how he felt about that.

Patience sat in the basement of Phosphor’s County Courthouse, staring at six giant boxes of records. Her job usually involved identifying bones, some of which were centuries old. This was her first time to do any real detective work, something she normally left to others at the agency.

The seasoned professionals at Stonegate knew exactly how to tackle cold murder cases. With so many colleagues busy with other projects and a burning desire to get out of the lab, Patience couldn’t let this case rest. She couldn’t stand the idea of this poor man being murdered and no one caring enough to do something about it.

Her mind flashed to the sexy Cade Randall. The instant their eyes met, her body reacted with a heated blush. That sort of thing never happened to her and she’d been worried she might be coming down with a cold. But when those steely gray eyes of his had narrowed in on her, she could tell he was just as attracted to her as she was to him. Anthropologically speaking the reaction was an interesting phenomenon, one she wouldn’t mind pursuing.

Too bad he’s a jerk.

Shoving her hair up into a ponytail, she moved toward the boxes, grateful experienced agency detectives Shannon and Katie had given her advice on where to start. No one seemed to know who owned the land where the bones were discovered. Finding the answer was her first assignment on the well-ordered plan she’d devised.

“More than likely, no one wants to lay claim because they are worried about the consequences,” Katie had informed her. “Some of the records may be really old, and property lines shift all the time. When land is inherited or sold and the surveyors don’t know what they’re doing, anything can happen. There have been cases where fifty years later a farmer discovers part of the land he’s been working on most of his life, isn’t his. Disputes over land, especially in Texas, are a big deal. It’s a good place to start.”

Lifting the lid on the first box, dust assaulted Patience. She sneezed, and reached for a tissue in her bag. Evidently, people didn’t hang out in the Phosphor records room very often. The whole place could use a vacuum and about a hundred dust rags. Patience had a slight case of OCD and preferred her spaces neat and tidy. She kept her labs pristine, and she wasn’t a fan of moldy smelling dustbins like the basement.

Pulling out an armful of files she sat down at the long table and began to peruse them. For three hours she sat searching for one mention of the property in question. She didn’t find a thing.

Her first day in town, and she was doing not so great. Frustrated, Patience returned everything to its proper place and put the lids back on the boxes.

Way to go, detective.

Her friends made it look so easy.

Glancing at her watch she realized it had been several hours since she’d eaten.

Guess it’s time to check out the Bluebonnet Cafe.

She’d seen the establishment across the street when she parked in front of the courthouse. It was almost one and when she entered the cafe she could tell it had been a busy afternoon. Dishes were stacked high in a big tub behind the counter, and the waitresses were wiping down all the tables and refilling salt and pepper shakers.

“Hey, darlin’, why don’t you take that booth in the corner, we’ve got that one cleaned up for you,” said the waitress with a long brunette ponytail, jeans and a pink T-shirt that read “Shut up and eat.”

Patience nodded her thanks and walked toward the back. A group of older gentlemen sat at a center table. They looked like regulars, and she wondered if maybe she should try to talk to them to see if they knew who owned the property. But food was her first priority.

The menu was on the table, and from the delicious smells in the kitchen she had a feeling the selections were comfort food greatness. She ordered a cheeseburger, fries and lemonade. She thought seriously about a piece of coconut cake, before deciding the burger and fries would do enough damage.

She didn’t mind her curves, unless they made her jeans too tight, which was why she usually stuck to meat, vegetables and fruit.

The waitress delivered her lunch, and Patience gasped. The hamburger was almost as big as the plate. Even with her appetite she would barely make a dent in the food.

A shadow crossed in front of her table. Patience glanced up to see three of the men from the other table standing over her.

“Hello.” Patience was curious as to why they were there.

“Heard ya was over at the courthouse digging into property records,” the oldest man said. He wore a dark gray hat, jeans and his skin was so leathery it didn’t look real. His nearly black eyes were downright hostile, as was his tone.

“I might have been,” Patience ventured. She didn’t know what they were up to, but she refused to be intimidated. “I’m not sure how it concerns you, one way or the other.” Her right eyebrow rose. She’d dealt with bullies all of her life, she could handle a couple of rednecks in a Podunk town.

“Quite a mouth you got there,” said the youngest of the three, who was probably somewhere around fifty, though it was hard to tell with his black hat pulled down over his face so low she couldn’t see his eyes. He leaned forward.

Patience refused to move, holding her chin even higher.

“Reckon you should keep to your own business and leave our town alone,” the man threatened.

“I reckon you should leave my friend Patience there alone,” said a voice from the doorway of the cafe. There was a silhouette of a man who wore a cowboy hat, white shirt, boots and jeans, but she couldn’t see his face.

“Her business is my business,” he continued, “and I don’t appreciate you making threats to my friends.”

The older man held his hands up in surrender.

“Just looking after the town, Cade. We don’t like nosey folk in our business.”

Cade walked to the table and Patience had to forcibly shut her mouth with her hand. The man had been sexy in his suit, but in these jeans, he was nothing less than smokin’ hot, as her boss, Mariska, the owner of Stonegate, would say.

He leaned down and kissed her cheek. “Hey, there. Everything okay?”

His lips scorched her skin, and she couldn’t breathe.

She nodded.

Cade slid into the other side of the booth. “I see you ordered enough for the both of us.” He gave her a dazzling smile.

She willed her mouth to work, but it didn’t. Though her heartbeat did double-time.

Cade glanced at the men. “Moses, Jim, Ralph, I’m sure you have better things to do than watch us eat.” He smiled but his tone implied they should leave quickly.

Up until six weeks ago when he came to town to check on his land at his grandmother’s request, it had been two years since Cade had been in Phosphor to visit his family. Not much had changed. For the most part the townspeople were friendly, but these old characters were the exception.

The men stared at him, but eventually backed away, mumbling as they left the cafe.

Cade jumped up to grab an empty plate from the waitress, and ordered a sweet tea.

Patience remembered the last time she’d seen him. He was like some kind of Jekyll and Hyde—a mind-bendingly sexy Jekyll and Hyde.

Thursday, May 26th, 2011 by Candace Havens
Creativity

I’m in grad school this summer and one of my classes is Creativity and its Development. We’re studying several philosophies behind creativity from Freud, who always relates to sex somehow, to the humanist who have more of a whole person approach. One of the first assignments was to talk about what creativity was to us.

I had to think on that one a bit. It’s easy to confuse inspiration with creativity or to apply it only to the arts. When I talked about what it meant to me, I mentioned my cousin and Math Goddess Laura and how creative she was with her dissertation on a statistical problem. Scientists who move their various disciplines forward are also creative. They have to think out of the box and become mavericks. They can’t always use the tools others before them did.

Think about DaVinci, Galileo and even Franklin. All of these guys were about trial and error. They went beyond the expected.

I believe whatever our creative endeavors, we should always strive to go beyond the expected. If we’re writing a story about a cowboy with amnesia, who adopts a child and falls in love with the nanny, then we need to have twists and turns that make it unlike all the other cowboy amnesia books. We should always strive for more with our writing and to take the path that hasn’t been charted.

That’s one of the things I enjoy about being a pantser. I never know what is going to happen next. In a conversation with my editor last week she said, “I never knew where you were going next with this book and it was a good thing.”

So I’d like to know a couple of things this week. What is creativity to you? What is your creative outlet? Where do you look for inspiration?

Thursday, May 19th, 2011 by Candace Havens
Investing in You

I still take writing classes all the time. I had a friend say she didn’t need any more people telling her how to write a book, she just needed to write it. I understood what she meant, but I have to say I disagree. I’ve done okay with the writing biz, but there is always a need for improvement. I can’t tell you how many classes I’ve taken in the past year that have helped me improve my writing. And going to grad school has really opened up my world.

So why am I telling you this? I see conferences and workshops as a way for writers to invest in themselves. But you have to be careful where you spend your money. Often it’s easiest to go to ones that are near you. It cuts down on travel expenses and you can sleep in your own bed. This isn’t a bad thing, as long as you are getting your money’s worth out of the convention. In the Dallas area alone there are tons of great events where writer’s can learn their craft and network like crazy.

As writers we need to be aware of where every penny goes, and we need to invest in our careers wisely. I had someone on my Write Workshop loop ask if I thought it was a good idea to go to a very expensive pitch conference in New York. My answer to him, if you think you’ll get something out of it that will move your career/writing along, and you can afford it go for it. But I also cautioned him to look at who was going to be there, what besides pitching did they offer, and was this something he felt he really needed at this point in his career.

What conventions/workshops you go to, may also depend on what you need at the time. If you aren’t finished with your book, or you have but you’re struggling with certain elements, then a more educational centered workshop may be what you need. If your book is polished to perfection and you’re ready to sell, then you need to be talking to agents and editors.

But the most important thing you can do at these workshops and conventions is network with other writers. I can’t tell you how invaluable this is. You need people who are going through the same things as you, and you should build a strong support group so that you and your writer friends can help each other through the rough times. And so that you have someone there for the exciting times. No one gets success in the publishing business like another writer. They know what you’ve gone through, and you need those people in your life.

I had a friend I met at a writer’s retreat. I was teaching the two-day workshop for them, and she picked me up from the airport. She was incredibly shy, but I’ve been a journalist for 22 years and I can always get people to talk. :) She told me she’d gone to RWA the year before and was so intimidated that she would go to the classes and then run back to her room. She ate all of her meals in her room, and didn’t meet a single soul, even though there were 2000 writers there, during her five-day stay.

I told her she missed out on the best part of RWA (it’s a great convention even if you don’t write romance, tons of classes on craft and business related topics) – the people. She said, “I don’t know what to say to people.” That made me laugh. I told her any writer you meet you say the following, “So what do you write?” We can’t shut up about it once we start talking about our work. I’d told her to call me at the next convention after she had her agent/publisher appointments. She promised she would. At that convention she not only aced her agent/publisher meetings, I introduced to her friends of mine. She also attended the lunches and used the question to meet folks, and now she has tons of writer friends. Oh, and her first book comes out this year.

A couple more stories about workshops/conventions. My friend and mentor Jodi Thomas was teaching at a conference down in Austin. It was my first conference to attend, and I was wildly nervous. Jodi saved me. She kept me down off the ledge, and she introduced me to the woman who would eventually become my first agent. Two months later she introduced my agent to the woman who would become my first editor  at Berkley (four months later). Yes, these events can be incredible networking tools for writers.

A few years later, I was at that writer’s retreat I mentioned before. I shared a lakeside villa with an agent I didn’t know. She was on the bottom floor and I was on the top. We chatted over the weekend and ended up becoming friends. I had an agent, who I was happy with at the time, and didn’t even think about making a switch. We kept in contact, and she even helped with some classes I was teaching. A year later, after a series of unfortunate events with the other agent I happened to chat with Elaine again. She had come into to the DFW Writer’s Workshop to do agent appointments. Through some funny circumstances, which makes too long of a story here, she became my agent a month later. And I couldn’t be happier.

If you can’t afford the travel expenses then invest in GOOD online classes. I have a free workshop you can get to through my website, where you can network with tons of writers who are in the same boat as you. I bring in authors, agents and editors to teach and it’s all free. I also have a paid workshop that takes you through the entire creative process of writing a book. You can get to those through my website www.candacehavens.com

I encourage you to invest in yourself. There’s no other business you can go into, where you don’t have to put a little money forward. This is your career. Your life. Treat it like a real business and give yourself the best tools possible.

Thursday, May 12th, 2011 by Candace Havens
The Roller Coaster Ride

I visited a book club, Books that Bite, on Tuesday night. I love talking to book clubs. First of all, they love to read. Second, they’re usually cool peeps. I had a great time with the gang. But there was a big surprise toward the end of the visit. I was signing books and there happened to be some copies of “The Demon King and I” on the table. Someone noticed that the covers were slightly different. One was shiny and the other wasn’t.

I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Then I opened the book. It was a second printing. I had no idea the book had gone into a second printing. I mean, this is a great thing, but it was just a surprise. I don’t know when it happened. I’m still in a bit of shock. But like I said, this is a good thing.

And that leads me to what I wanted to talk about. The publishing business is a roller coaster ride. Like any business there are ups and downs. But the difference, I think, for anyone who is in the arts, is it is personal. I don’t care who you are, those are your words on the page, your paint on the canvas, your creation in that sculpture. Your heart is in the work, so it’s difficult when people say you shouldn’t take it personal.

There’s that, and then the insecurities that come with being an artist. I think I know two authors who are 100 percent confident in their work. They are difficult people to be around. ;) I know probably close to a 1000 authors and every one of them is insecure. From Nora Roberts and Jodi Thomas, women who have made the NYT list multiple times to me. Every time we begin a book we wonder if this is the one where people will discover that we really can’t write. There are days when we put words on a page and we think, “Okay, that’s not so bad.” And other days when we think, “I suck.” Even when we win awards we might think, “Well, I fooled them this time.”

I had some good news last week that I can’t share because stuff isn’t finalized. But basically someone in the publishing biz asked me to do something I’ve always wanted to do. A dream come true kind of thing. For about an hour I was super excited. Then the insecurities seeped in. What if they don’t like what I do? What if I screw the whole thing up? I’ll probably be fine, but those insecurities are always there.

I tell you all of this to let you know that you are not alone. That insecurities plague all of us. What I will tell you is there is a way to get through it all.

Move forward.

If you’re constantly moving forward with your work, it’s tougher for the insecurities to keep up with you. If a rejection comes, you’re already working on the next thing which is going to be even better.

Friends.

It’s important to have a great support system. I have that with my family and my friends. I have people surrounding me, who really believe in me and my talent. When those icky days come, they are there to scrape me off the floor. Get rid of the negative ninnies in your life and surround yourself with people who genuinely care about your well being. You deserve them.

Tell me how you keep going when the going gets tough.

Thursday, May 5th, 2011 by Candace Havens
Big Announcement!

Hello people of the world! I have some big announcements for you today. First, you may have heard I have a new book out, Truth and Dare. It’s my ode to the show Bones. Only Booth is a hot cowboy and it’s very, very sexy. You should check it out.

But the really big news is… (drum roll please) I’m beginning work on two new projects. One is the next Caruther’s sisters book featuring Mira (the one who deals with Fae). This book is going to have a lot of humor, but it will also be darker than the other books. And wait until you get to know Graves a little better. Who knew Death could be so hot? :) Just thinking about him makes my cheeks flush. I’m still working on a title, but welcome your suggestions.

I’m also working on the next Bronwyn book from the Charmed & Dangerous series. This one is called Charmed & Wicked. I’m not giving away any spoilers with this one, but those of you who have the hots for Sheik Azir, well, just you wait.

Now to answer the question I get every single day in my inbox. What took you so long? Honestly, I’ve been under contract with a book due about every four months. It didn’t leave me a lot of time to work on anything else. I promise, I’ve wanted to write these stories for a long time.

So that’s it. The big announcement. I’ll have more details on publications dates soon, but we’re hoping for some time in 2012.

Feel free to ask questions, or let me know if there’s anything you hope to see in the upcoming books. :) And feel free to share title ideas for Mira’s book.

And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Truth and Dare. It’s only in stores in May.

Thursday, April 28th, 2011 by Candace Havens
The Voices

Writing is the one occupation/activity where you can have voices in your head and people don’t think you are crazy. Well, people who aren’t writers might. As my career has progressed the voices have grown louder. They began with the first book I ever wrote, which eventually became my fifth book to be published, The Demon King and I. A friend had challenged me to write the book, and I’d never done anything like that. I remember staring at my computer and that blank page for a moment, and all of the sudden people began a conversation in my head. I didn’t really understand what was going on, but I wrote it down. I could see where they were, their gestures and I was transported into their world. The voices were so strong, that I sat down and wrote that book in two weeks, while working two full-time jobs.

The next book, the voices were even louder. That book was Charmed & Dangerous. The day before I was to meet my very first big editor from a publishing house, my friend Britta Coleman (Potter Springs) and I did some role play where she pretended to an editor. She had been through it before, but I had not. I’m a person who interviews Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise without even thinking about it, but the idea of speaking with an editor gave me hives. For real. One of the questions my friend asked me during that mock pitch, was what did I have next? I stared at her dumbfounded. I’d written an entire book, wasn’t that enough? She explained that editors and agents wanted to know that you had future potential beyond what you had already done.

I left her house in a panic. I had to come up with a new idea for another book before my meeting at 9 a.m. the morning. I sat on my bed with notebook, and all of the sudden this voice said, “I’m Bronwyn.” I kid you not, that voice was so loud that I jumped up because I thought someone was in my room. Then I worried I really was going crazy. (I’d been worried about that for years. :) Now I don’t care.) The next thing she said, was something that changed my life forever. “I’m a witch, think bad Willow on ‘Buffy,’ but I’m a good guy. I don’t take any crap, and I can seriously kick some ass.” I wrote down everything she said. Then she told me about this crazy job she had about protecting the British Prime Minister, and falling in love with a doctor and a powerful sheik. And that is how Charmed & Dangerous was born. That next day the editor liked the pages I’d sent before the meeting and asked me to send those to another editor at the publishing house. Sure enough she asked what I was working on next, and I told her about Bronwyn. She asked me to send it to her. Of course then I had to go home and write it. :)

Sometimes those voices are strong from the beginning, other times, like with Dragons Prefer Blondes I get to know them better as we go along. Alex in Dragons was strong and cut throat, but very different from her sister Gillian. By the time I finished the book she was my favorite sister, and her voice still won’t shut up in my head. If a miracle happens and I get to finish that series, I have a feeling she’ll have her way in the remaining books.

For my latest book, Take Me If You Dare, it was a man talking in my head. That was a little different for me. I was expecting to write this story about a recent college grad who was stuck running her mom’s investigative firm, and she was in over her head. But when I sat down to write a proposal for the editor, Jackson popped in. He said, “Where am I?” Instantly my mind flashed to this filthy hotel room in Thailand. “I can move my legs,” he said, “at least there is that.” (That honestly freaked me out a little.) Then he let me know he’d been beat to a pulp and left in this room without any idea how he’d arrived. He told the story so fast that almost couldn’t keep up with the typing. That book is written in third person, all the rest I’d done were in first person. So it was kind of weird to have two voices, sometimes going at the same time.

You’ve read this far and you’re thinking, “Okay, chick, you really are insane.” But I promise this is how I do what I do. People always ask how I come up with these wild and inventive stories, and the truth is I cheat. My characters tell me everything. And I quite frankly hope that never stops. I will say that they can keep me up nights, and drive me crazy throughout the day. It’s funny, because the voices are almost always there when I need them. When I start a new book, they show up for work.

If you’re a writer, do you have voices in your head? I know a lot of great writers who don’t work the way I do, so how do you do it?

And if you aren’t a writer, how does your creative process work for whatever it is you do?

Thursday, April 21st, 2011 by Candace Havens
Motivation

About a minimum of three times a week I’m asked this question, “How do you do everything you do?” I always say, some days I do it better than others. But the truth is, I’m self motivated. I don’t like dark clouds hanging over my head and to me that is what deadlines are. I’d rather get everything done so I can relax and do what I want – without guilt.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t run up against deadlines or feel overwhelmed. I feel overwhelmed all the time but I like being busy. I like the thrill of seeing what I’m capable of accomplishing. Right now, I’m not so thrilled. I don’t know how it happened, but I have two research papers (15 pages) due for school, a novel due to my editor and I’m in the middle of promoting SHE WHO DARES, WINS (April) and TRUTH AND DARE (May). This was obviously bad planning on my part. But I don’t always have control over my deadlines when it comes to books and I certainly don’t have control over when they are released.

I could ask for leeway from a professor or my editor, but I would never do that. Last December I ended up having two surprise surgeries in two weeks. At the same time I had two research papers and revisions on a book due. (I know, I’m working on the bad planning ahead stuff. But I didn’t think the revisions would have such a fast turn around.) I did have my agent send a note to my editor about what was happening, but that was in case I didn’t come out of surgery or something. I lived through that awful two weeks and met my deadlines. Every time I say I’m overwhelmed now my friend Curtis says, “Yes, but you lived through December.” And he’s right. When you successfully meet those deadlines, it gives you a renewed strength and a kind of power to know that you’ve got what it takes when the going gets rough.

As for juggling my crazy life as a tv/film critic, author, radio personality and motivational speaker, I’m lucky that I get bored easily and I can shift from project to project somewhat effortlessly. I’ve been working from my home and a journalist and radio personality for 17 years, and being able to switch hats quickly is something you learn fast when you work at home. As a journalist, I’ve also learned to live with self-imposed deadlines and how to meet them. I play games with myself. I have an hour before an interview, how many edits can I get done? I have 30 mins before a movie starts, how many words can I write in my note book. Yesterday I was at Starbucks waiting for a friend, and I decided to see how much I could get done before she arrived. In an hour I wrote two film reviews, edited two cover stories and made notes on one of my research projects.

USE YOUR TIME WISELY

MAKE GOALS

If you want to stay motivated you have to have goals. Right now, my goal is to meet all of these insane deadlines and then I get to do whatever I want for four days. I can sleep late. Watch TV. Get a massage. Whatever. That is strong motivation for me to hurry up and meet these deadlines. I want to meet my deadline for the book because I want to work on some new creative projects. I want to finish the research papers and do a great job because I want A’s and I want to keep my 4.0 in grad school (hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life).

It also helps if you make those goals and tell people about them. I do that with my other writer friends on books. But lately I’ve been going on Facebook and Twitter and posting my daily goals. It helps keep me honest and motivated. I also have a group of four authors who email each other once a week or goals to talk about where we are on our various manuscripts. I don’t want to disappoint them, so I like to make my goals.

But the truth is… You need to grow up if you’re having trouble meeting your deadlines. Work first. Play later. We’re all busy and you have to learn to prioritize. When you get your work done first, you get to play without guilt. For me, that’s the biggest motivation. No dark clouds.

So tell me what motivates you to get through the day. Do you have any tricks you use?