The Original, Historical Tinder

In homage to Valentine’s Day (and that oh-so-hard pick-up line), check out this cheeky video from Great Big Story…about the original Tinder. Perhaps you’ll write this (or some variation thereof) into your next historical (or even contemporary) romance!

Reconnecting with Writing

artsy handwritingIf you follow the blog regularly, you know that since RWA last summer, I haven’t done much work on Three Proposals, despite back-to-back Immersions in November and January. I’ve been spending a lot of time at my kids’ school since August as the Parent Service Organization (PSO) Vice President, having run a very successful Read-a-Thon last fall and having helped with a well-attended Daddy-Daughter Dance this past weekend. I’ve told the school that there’s no way I’m going to serve on the board next year. It’s time-consuming and while I love doing stuff for my kids, I do surprisingly little in my childs’ classrooms. Frankly, that’s where I’d rather be.

As a part of future planning with the PSO, I’ve been thinking about the trajectory of my career (or lack thereof). I’m not reading blogs as much as I used to, I’m not digging into aspects of craft, and I’m certainly not putting words on the page. I’ve had requests for fulls from agents and editors who judged the few contests I’ve won. And I have this book, Three Proposals, hanging around my neck like a pigeon (it’s not albatross-worthy, but it’s still annoying and I feel like I keep getting shit on).

My conclusion? It’s time for that to change.

I’ve started prioritizing writing into my life again. Hard to go cold turkey and clear my entire schedule for nothing but writing, but a key thing I’ve done is made a regular meeting time with my CPs and commit to giving them something of mine every week (in addition to reading their stuff) — even if it’s just work on my outline for the new contemporary story I started. It’s making me keep my head in my story (and in theirs).

I also started the James Patterson Master Class (I’ve seen the link on FB quite a bit and I was intrigued). The one thing James mentions in his first lesson is that he woke at 5 a.m. to make time for writing. He had a day job and I don’t, so I’m not waking at 5 a.m. (I’m really not a morning person, anyway). But I have started putting my foot down as to what I will and won’t work on each day.

For example, today was a story day. I did have a few “housekeeping” things to take care of after I got the kiddos off to school, but once that was accomplished, I spent the better part of the morning working on my outline, brainstorming over the phone with one of my CPs, and catching up on a few blogs. The amazing part? It felt so GOOD to get back into writing again.

My son asked me today why I quit taking tae kwon do lessons. I told him it was because I discovered writing and I liked writing more than I did TKD. What I’ve forgotten over the last 7 months was how MUCH I like writing. Discovering new stories, new characters, and new ways to make their lives difficult (but their stories interesting).

My goals for February are to keep providing feedback for my CPs, finish the course with James Patterson, and have a good, strong outline of my contemporary story completed.

How have you prioritized writing in your life lately?

My Messy First Drafts

(Originally posted on

skier2I’ve been playing around with a contemporary story (inspired by a ski trip to Utah over the holidays) tentatively called The Lesson. I don’t have much to it yet…just two chapters, one of which I hammered out while on the plane flying home. I thought it’d be fun to throw it out there for the world to see, and also to get your comments (critical or otherwise — I can take the heat, so long as you’re polite).

I’m also putting it out in the internet-ether to demonstrate what first drafts can look like…sorta clunky, not-much-making-sense kind of things. There are a few good lines, but as my CPs have pointed out, there’s plenty of stuff that needs work, a few things that are confusing, and some useless stuff.

However, as Nora Roberts once said, “The only page I can’t fix is a blank one.”

So happy reading and do give me your feedback in the comments section. Seriously!


I’m going to make this mountain mine.

Jennifer Pringle played with the edge of her napkin. She sat at a small table inside the restaurant overlooking the pool and courts at the five-star hotel in Beaver Mountain, Utah. Her bosses’ words rang in her ears and an uneasy feeling quivered through Jennifer’s body.

For the first time, she wondered whether she should move on. Twenty years ago, the job of reporting to Geoff Standish seemed like a dream come true right out of law school. She’d been his aide, then his sole counsel, doing all the legal work for The Standish Group as he took over Southern California one multi-million dollar home, strip mall, and tract of land at a time.

For a reason she couldn’t quite explain, his proclamation of owning the ski resort outside Beaver Mountain felt wrong, like a tag that rubbed against your neck or a rock in your shoe.

Maybe it was because Beaver Mountain was in Utah? Geoff hadn’t ventured into Utah…yet. He was quickly making his way east, though, having just bought up some broken-down retirement communities outside Phoenix and a few small hotels on the wrong end of the strip in Las Vegas. His intention, of course, was to revamp them, stamp them with the Standish name, and charge exorbitant prices that would more than make up for his initial investment. It had worked like a charm for years and Jennifer had been the sole legal representation for Geoff during most of it.

But a ski resort?

Jennifer’s initial concerns — that it wasn’t a buy/rehab/sell, that he’d have to manage employees and customers, that establishing a casino at the resort was impossible — were all shot down like tin targets at a BB gun arcade. It will work, he’d said. You’ll see.

Geoff’s loud baritone wafted from the front of the restaurant and Jennifer steeled herself. Why was she so nervous, anyway? She’d never had a problem telling Geoff that one of his ideas was off base. He usually took her advice, too. So was she anxious because he wasn’t taking it this time?

She watched him walk from the reception area past the bar and rose as he drew near. “Good morning, Geoff. How are you today?”

Geoff nodded and held out her seat. “Splendid. Just splendid. How about that snowfall, eh?” He gestured outside with nod of his head at the six-plus inches that had fallen overnight, then took the seat to Jennifer’s right.

A server came up immediately. “Coffee, sir?”

Geoff turned his coffee cup upright. “Yes, please. Black and hot.”

“Right away. Please feel free to help yourself to the breakfast buffet or perhaps you’d prefer to select something from the menu.” He pointed to the cardboard list of à la carte offerings laying on the table.

“Thank you.”

The server nodded and left to fetch the coffee. Geoff turned his attention to Jennifer.

She mentally steeled herself. For what? “So, you’re still interested in pursuing an opportunity here.” It was a statement more than a question.

Geoff nodded. “Absolutely. However, I’ve been thinking about your concerns and there may be some merit to them. Particularly the one about employees. Never really had to deal with that, except for the peons we have in the office.” He chuckled and took a sip of the fresh-squeezed orange juice on the table.

Jennifer offered up a wan smile. “I hope I don’t fall into that category.” Jennifer gingerly sipped her coffee.

Geoff scoffed, making a pooh-pooh motion with his hand. “Of course not. You know how invaluable you are to me. The fresh pair of eyes I need.”

Jennifer’s coffee cup clanked as she set it down. May as well be direct. “This fresh pair of eyes is telling you that taking on Beaver Mountain may be more than you bargained for. It’s not a strip-and-flip.”

The server returned with a silver carafe and poured Geoff a steaming cup.

“Leave the carafe, please.” Geoff tapped the left side of the table. The server placed the carafe where Geoff indicated, then left. Geoff leaned in towards Jennifer. “I know it’s not a strip-and-flip. But I want this mountain. And the ones in Idaho and Wyoming. Snowflake Resorts has already bought up most of Colorado and California. Hell, they bought up California right under my nose. That’s my state. There isn’t much else left in the way of independent resorts, unless you go east, and I’m not doing that.”

Jennifer rolled her eyes. “But skiing? Since when do you even care about skiing? You’ve never been skiing a day before in your life.”

Geoff’s eyes drilled into hers. “Marla skis.”

Jennifer’s eyebrows shot up and she gave a punctuated laugh. “Marla skis? You’re doing this because Marla skis?” Marla was Geoff’s current mistress. Not girlfriend. Mistress. Calling her a girlfriend would imply that there was some sort of reciprocity, that Marla would give something — anything — to the relationship besides sex. But sex was all she gave, and she took plenty for it. Clothing. Jewelry. Cars. A stunning beachfront home in Malibu. Cash.

“Girlfriend” would also imply that she might someday be “fiancée” or “wife.” But Geoff had no intention of marrying her. He couldn’t, with his estranged-but-not-yet-divorced wife of 25 years still living in the first house Geoff had owned in Beverly Hills. Apparently, keeping his wife and paying her bills was cheaper than a divorce, or so his divorce lawyer had advised him.

“Marla skis, and so will you.”

Jennifer had taken another sip of coffee, but at this remark, she choked, nearly spitting it all out. “Me?”

“Yes, you.” Geoff pushed his plate aside and leaned on his elbow, his head close to Jennifer’s. “I want this mountain and I need your help getting it. I need you to be able to wine and dine the locals on the slopes. I need you to get a feel for the folks who work here, who run the place. I need you to understand what it takes to manage a ski resort, and the first place to do all that is with private lessons.”

Jennifer stared at him. He had to be kidding, right? She wasn’t the sort of girl who did physical activity — at all — which probably explained why she was a five-foot-five size 14. And it wasn’t like she was young and agile. She’d spent her entire career with The Standish Group and was on the downhill slide to 50. It was a little late for this bitch to learn new tricks. “Geoff. I understand your goal here. But to be quite frank, I don’t ski.”

He shrugged. “Neither do I, but I’m going to learn. And so are you.”


Her boss raised his hand to silence her. “No. You’re going to do this.”

Her shoulders popped up imploringly. “But I don’t even have ski clothes.” Okay, so that was kind of stupid, but she was kind of desperate.

“You have your corporate Amex. Use it.” He stood. “Your first lesson is today at 10 a.m. I suggest you high-tail it to the ski shop and get yourself outfitted.”

Jennifer stared open-mouthed while he finished off his cup of coffee. “Geoff, I have several important calls and a meeting with a potential client this morning.”

He shrugged. “Reschedule. Now, if there’s nothing else, I am supposed to meet Marla for a spin class.” He turned and strode out of the restaurant.

Unbelievable. She had to take a fucking ski lesson to help her boss buy a mountain he shouldn’t even be on.

Jennifer looked at her empty plate. She intended to survive on coffee alone this morning. She’d done it plenty of times before, but always when she was busy on the phone. Interacting with people. Distracted. But now she had to ski. In the cold. She hated the cold.

She hated feeling hungry even more.

Fuck this. If she had to ski, then she would damn well do it on a full belly. She spun around in her chair. “Waiter?”

The young man came to her table immediately. “Yes, ma’am. What can I get for you.”

Jennifer looked down at the menu and smiled. “I’ll have eggs Benedict, please, atop the fried chicken.”

Things I Like: “Mastering Showing and Telling In Your Fiction” by Marcy Kennedy

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 8.57.01 AMIt must be “Things I Like” month. I just finished reading this short and to-the-point HOW-TO guide to improve the showing-not-telling in your writing. I emphasize the “how to” part, because I’ve read a few books on show-don’t-tell and they rarely come with lists (yes, lists!) of words, phrases, etc. that you can search for in your work to identify where you’re telling instead of showing. Continue reading

Things I Like: Scapple

Another nod to the folks at Literature and Latte (creators of Scrivener, which I’ve already raved about)…this time, for Scapple, a brainstorming, white-boarding, mind-organizing free-form tool that uses boxes, lines, and arrows to help you organize your thoughts. Or, in the case of my book, to help me organize my character’s actions and reactions.

What I like about Scapple (aside from the 30 days-of-use — not 30 consecutive days — free trial) is that Continue reading

Losing My Mind?

Just a quick apology for the (likely) cryptic post yesterday (if you’re looking for it, I already deleted it, sorry). The Eight Ladies communicate off-line through a private WordPress blog, and that’s where I thought I was posting last night. In my defense:

  • I screwed up the delivery of my Eight Lady post and was reeling from that
  • I’m a little over-tired
  • I’ve been traveling since last Wednesday with my two (small) rambunctious boys — and am still traveling!
  • I’m on a different time zone
  • I can’t remember which day it is
  • I’m freaking out because my Royal Ascot contest entry is due in less than a week and I have an entire scene to write (okay, this is the REAL reason I’m so out of it!)

Hardly good excuses, but it’s the best I’ve got. I promise it won’t happen again (at least this week).

Beta Reader Back-and-Forth

Today, my post on Eight Ladies Writing was about cultivating a good writer/beta reader relationship. It occurred to me that showing an example of some of the points I made might be in order.

What’s below is the email exchange between me and one of my beta readers, fellow Eight Lady Jilly Wood. Jilly has read two versions of my planned submission for the Royal Ascot contest; her comments are based on the second revision. The email trail is in chronological order from top to bottom. I hope you find it useful! Continue reading

Stuff I Like: Scrivener

showcase-scrivener_headerOkay, writing people, I’m going to make a very brash and likely controversial statement: If you’re not using Scrivener to write your book, you’re crazy. Downright loopy-in-the-head. It is by far the biggest time and sanity saver I’ve ever encountered and you MUST make it part of your writing toolkit. I’d put it up there with ‘ol Strunk and White. It’s THAT good.

Before you go and tell me to jump in a lake, know that I’ve been a writer my entire adult life…a technical writer, but a writer just the same. I’ve used everything including Continue reading

A Picture Says a Thousand Words…Now How to Get Them on Paper?!?

My good friend Jilly Wood, who lives in London, recently visited Kenwood, an historic estate near Hampstead Heath. In fact, if you’ve seen the movie Notting Hill, you’d recognize the back of Kenwood as the estate where character Anna Scott was filming the Henry James period piece.

The back of Kenwood House. Photo (c) English Heritage.

The back of Kenwood House. Photo (c) English Heritage.

The library in Kenwood was recently restored to its original state — paint colors, flooring, decor, etc. — and it’s gorgeous. Jilly wrote a bit about it on our group blog site Eight Ladies Writing and I made a mad dash for Google Images to find more about this fantastic national landmark.

What resulted from my search was this picture of the music room. Continue reading

Visual Imagery with Playlists

justine covington, book playlist, romance writingIn the McDaniel Romance Writing program, we had two assignments to help us visualize our book. One was a collage (hated it; hard to do using modern magazines to represent a story that takes place 200 years ago; I’m so not showing you what I did); the other was a playlist. I didn’t mind the playlist too much, because much of the music I like was actually “modern” for Regency England. Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach were all well-regarded composers at the time and ladies would perform their work at musicales.

It’s been over a year now since I visited my playlist for Three Proposals, but I played it yesterday and was surprised by how well my musical selections still stand up to my story, despite the massive changes I’ve made since then. In truth, about the only thing that’s the same story-wise are the character’s names! Continue reading