Magic Moments`

Diabolical Baron--Larger ORIGINALby Mary Jo

I'm getting into Deep Writing Mode to try to finish the current book, which is waaaay behind.  So instead of writing a new blog, I decided to exercise Wench privilege by pulling out an old blog and buffing it up.

This blog dates back to the earliest days of the Word Wenches and was inspired by a regular reader who asked me when I knew I was meant to be a writer and suggested that it was a question worth blogging.  I agreed that the question is an intriguing one, but I’ll bet that others have a much more interesting answer than I do.

The bald fact is that I knew I was a writer when I was offered a contract for my first book.  Boringly mundane, no?  Yet it’s the truth.  I was always a daydreamer, spinning stories in my head when sitting bored in classes.  (And I was bored a lot.)  I even thought that being a writer would be Totally Cool, but it never occurred to me that I could ever occupy one of those pedestals in the sky where writers live.  (Feel free to laugh. <g>)

But with my horrid handwriting and rather dysgraphic typing, becoming a writer never Dearly Belovedseemed even remotely possible.  I just couldn’t get the words down in a clean, clear fashion.  Writing was in the vague dream category, along with being tall, thin, or fashionably dressed.

All that changed when I got my first computer to do copywriting and invoicing for my graphic design business.  (Ah, my darling Leading Edge!  We remember our first computers much as Regency fans remember their first Georgette Heyer.)  Once I learned the basics of word processing, it occurred to me that I’d always wanted to write a book, so let’s give it a try.

I charged into that first book with no expectations at all—I just wanted to see what I could do.  I marked the floppy disk (5 ¼” yet!) with RR for Regency Romance, since I wasn’t ready to admit what I was doing even to myself.

One scene flowed into another, the story seemed to be working, I joined RWA, got the name of an agent from the friend of a friend, the agent marked up my 88 pages and sent them back with suggestions, and a few weeks later, I was offered a three book contract.

Yes, Virginia, that is the moment that I knew I was a writer.  Having no expectations made the process easy in a lot of ways.  I didn’t fear rejection since I didn’t expect acceptance.

DownloadOf course, selling my first book changed everything.  I went from no expectations to behaving like a crazed lemming determined to learn everything I could about writing and publishing.  I also developed my first and most determined writing goal: to support myself as a writer. It took a few years, but I made it.  (The book covers illustrating this blog were the first books when I undertook a new subgenre.)

I think the process is much harder for someone who early develops a passionate desire to be a writer.  Though actually, the problem is not so much writing, which can be a great creative high, but getting published, which is hard.  Usually very hard indeed.

So maybe the real answer to the original question is that one knows one is a writer when one begins to write.  I have a little Post-It note on my monitor that says, “Writers write.”  Sometimes, when publishing is making me nuts, I need to remind myself of that.  I became a writer on the Saturday I sat down and started The Diabolical Baron.  I realized that I was a writer on the day someone offered actual money for my daydreams.

You are a writer when you are sitting down and producing words.  (I once heard a writer say that one can be a writer in one’s mind.  Sorry, I don’t agree.  That’s daydreaming.  Real writing is not only imagination, it’s making the serious effort of getting words down in a form that can communicate to others even if you never show your work to anyone.

The publishing paradigm has changed dramatically since I first wrote this blog.  With indie Dark Mirrorpublishing, anyone can be published if they're willing to put in the work, though finding an audience is still challenging. There are some writers who write only for their own creative satisfaction, and perhaps they are the happiest of us all. 

But there are other kinds of magic moments–those times when we have a sudden realization of a talent, a passion, a dream.

Was there a time when you decided, "I want to grow up and be a doctor?  Or a teacher. Or a rodeo barrel racer?"  

Or did you see a picture of a Celtic High Cross and think "I really, really want tol go to Ireland?"  

Or "I like growing things and must create a garden."  

Please share with us some of your magic moments!

Mary Jo, who always, always knew that I wanted to travel.

Live Your Dream

First Pat Rice here, wishing a happy new year to one and all! Here's hoping 2014 is a year to create dreams and achieve them.

I started the new year by achieving the childhood dream of seeing the Rose Parade. My early years were spent in New York. I never dreamed of attending the Macy's Parade. I could wear heavy coats and see snow and play with balloons right at home. My dream was the sunshine and flowers and warmth of the Rose Parade.

The Rose Parade was the only one I ever bothered watching on TV throughout my life, even though the announcers made me crazy and I'd shout at them to get out of my way so I could see the real parade.

So actually being there, seeing every single float, hearing all the wonderful bands, made my dream come true. What dreams are you working on this year?  Hawaii dancers


Christmas Dreams

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

I’m going out on a limb here to say I don’t think the world is going to end today, Mayan Apocalypse notwithstanding. <G>  Instead, it’s the winter solstice, the first day of Capricorn, and the heart of holiday madness.  People are shopping, wrapping, cooking, collapsing.  So I decided to ask the Wenches just for fun what they might choose for a Dream Christmas.  As always, the replies are as varied and amusing as the Wenches. <G> 


I've always wanted to see the Northern Lights.  So maybe my dream Christmas is a fancy ski resort somewhere in the far north.  Norway perhaps.  Good food in the lodge.  Big roaring fire in the lounge.  Cheerful skiers hanging about.  (No — I don't want to ski myself, thank you.) 

And then, along about midnight, I'd go out on the deck and look up.  There'd be curtains of blue and red and green waving and shimmering across the sky.
Merry Christmas. 

Red_and_green_aurorasinnorwayNicola commented: 

Joanna, we went to see the Northern Lights in Norway a few years ago, staying in a very cosy log cabin we had rented. When the locals heard we were there to see the Northern Lights they said "They come out at 8pm." We thought this was weird – how could they be so predictable? But bless me, at 8pm for three nights in a row the Northern Lights came out right on cue and we lay in the snow and watched them shimmer overhead. (The island we were on also had a hidden military base in the centre of a mountain just like in James Bond, but that's another story.)

Pat: Hawaii--Pat

I'm California dreaming. I've had enough snow and ho-ho-ho in my life, and while I appreciate the joy of those Christmases, life has moved on. I need sun and warmth and my family, and they're all in California right now. Although I spent a delightful Christmas in Hawaii with family one year, and that worked beautifully too!


There's a definite appeal about going somewhere hot for Christmas but I am so steeped in tradition that I'm not sure it would feel quite right. Wonderful but not Christmas. So I think my dream would be a little house in a big wood, the snow deep outside but with a warm log fire inside and lots of delicious food. When I've eaten too much I'll roll out of the front door and take the dog for a walk in the snow. Definitely the fairytale option! (And ok, the photo isn't exactly a "little" house but it would do fine!)

Christmas lights at nightJo:

Funnily enough, the Christmas setting that twangs my heart strings is dark and wet. Yes, truly. I realized this when we moved to Victoria, British Columbia, in 1996. It's the part of Canada that has mild winters. By then, we'd been in Canada for twenty years, living in places where a white Christmas was a given, and to be honest the appeal of that was long gone. I went downtown to shop, and the short day meant that darkness fell. It was raining lightly — not enough to be uncomfortable for a Lancashire lass — and the Christmas lights were gleaming on the wet roads and pavements. Instant nostalgic bliss. Christmas as it ought to be!

Nicola commented:  Jo, I love this and as a Yorkshire girl I can identify with dark, wet Christmases too!


My mother was Swiss, so I grew up hearing St. Nicholas stories of fairytale Alpine WinterinDavospostersettings with timeless traditions. So my Dream Christmas is to go to Davos, where her family spent the winter holidays. (We went there together in summer, but never in winter.) 

It’s a famous ski village, with world-class slopes and miles of cross-country skiing over frozen lakes and scenic trails. So I’d enjoy the snow sports all day, then savor mulled wine and “biberli” (a traditional Swiss confection made of gingerbread and almond paste) as the setting sun painted the mountains in a rosy alpenglow. At Andrea at Davosnight, I would walk through the streets to enjoy the festive Christmas lights, the smell of fresh cut pine, the glitter of real candles on the trees—and to stuff myself with more wonderful Swiss pastries! (Hey, I skied all day! There I am on the left.)


A Bondi Beach ChristmasChristmas in Australia is a little bit weird — with a large part of our culture transplanted from Europe, and still fairly British by tradition, we're raised with the secret  belief that A Proper Christmas is a white one — a belief reinforced by American Christmas movies and songs.  So all the shop windows are decorated with fake snow, and Santas sweat under thick red costumes and fake beards. And  on Christmas day we sit in our light cotton clothes, in roasting  temperatures, eating roast turkey or pork or ham with baked vegetables and gravy, followed by steaming hot plum pudding . . and then we go to the beach!

It's slowly changing, and we're increasingly adapting traditional Christmas dishes to be more suitable for a hot climate (plum pudding ice-cream, anyone?) but when I was a kid, even families who were camping over the summer holidays would slave over a hot camp oven to produce a delicious roast dinner followed by hot plum pudding.  Because that's what Christmas is.

So having only experienced one cold Christmas in my life, and that a drizzly London one when I was eight, my fantasy is the Christmas of all those gorgeous Christmas stories that we all enjoy so much. I've built a snowman, but never around Christmas, I've cut down a pine tree for Christmas but always in roasting temperatures.

So I'd like Christmas in a gorgeous old English country house, with delicious things cooking up in the aga, a big blazing fireplace in the sitting room and a bunch of good friends, drinking and sharing stories and delicious nibbles. It must, of course, be a white Christmas, so I want to wake up on Christmas morning to see big fat flakes of snow drifting down to coat the world in a blanket of white — no blizzards in my fantasy, thank you. Then in the daytime I'd want to play in the snow doing all the things I've written about and never done — tramping through snow to gather holly and mistletoe to decorate the house, making snow angels, skating on a frozen pond, taking a ride on a horse-drawn sleigh (with bells on) through a hushed white landscape, and coming home to a blazing fire, roasting chestnuts and hot mulled wine. 

(Now excuse me while I turn on the air-conditioner.)

Ashford Castle in the snow
Mary Jo:

I love my home and burrowing in with the cats and Mayhem Consultant, with plenty of food and entertainment and NO responsibilities!  But for a dream Christmas?  I’d join several of the other Wenches in dreaming of a beautiful house in a beautiful place. In fact, why not Ashford Castle, where we had a wonderful visit in September?  There would be room for all the Wenches and significant others and our pets, because what’s a holiday without our fur friends???  The rooms are large and gracious, with beautiful views of the grounds or the lake, and the food is marvelous.  So we could have chatting or privacy or roaring fires, and maybe go out to watch the trained falcons fly. 

We’d love if you stopped by to join us for tea as well.  There’s space by the fire and plenty of delicious tea and cakes for all!

So what would your Dream Christmas be?  Have you had one already?  What would you choose for another?

Happy holiday dreaming!

Mary Jo