Wild Fertility

A writing blog today…..

camille pissarro

I’m in the midst of an enormously fertile period. I’m writing in several genres, including a non-fiction project. This morning I awakened to write the next scene in a book that will eventually become a Barbara O’Neal book. There is soup and a lost child and dogs, but the underpinnings of this work have been very dark and hard to digest.  It suddenly seems ready, however, so that was where I poured my energies this morning.

I’m also working on a non-fiction book for a British publisher (to be distributed through MacMillan in the US) on writing romantic fiction.  The offer came out of the blue, but as I’d been in teaching mode through the spring, it was exactly the right project for me to write on the side, coalescing some of my ideas into a form that can be digested more easily than my exuberant but scattered blogs here.

There is also the matter of Lark, who keeps coming up with new ideas and concepts for her ongoing work in two arenas, The Otherlands and Going the Distance.  Look for more on both of those series in the near future (the 1st installment of The Otherlands will be published sometime in January, an exact date to be determined when I clear the decks and finally finish the line edits.)

All this work! You would think I’d be going crazy, feeling overworked and overwhelmed, but quite the opposite is true.  I have not been so in love with work in many years, and as I was sitting in my chair yesterday, watching it snow and doing some research reading into foster children, I did pause for a moment to realize I feel like I moved to a new land.  I’d been chiseling work out of the hard granite, chipping away a nugget at a time, and it took a lot of hard work and time to do it.

Suddenly, and I do mean suddenly—at the very end of May—I have moved to a completely different place. This is delta bottom farmland, rich with silt and sunlight and the perfect conditions for growing hearty fields of crops.  My mind feels utterly engaged, my heart excited.  I get up and go to work every morning at 4:30 without complaint, even with eager intention. My daily production rates have tripled and show signs of quadrupling.  I’m back to the younger me who wanted the world to go away and leave her alone so she could write more, more, more.

It’s glorious.

And I don’t really know why it happened. Was it the switch to getting up early? I think that has helped.  I am enormously productive during that 90-120 minute block.  It’s as if I’m giving myself an extra work day, every work day.   My evenings were never, are never particularly productive.  I watch television. I might read, but am often too tired to do any serious reading. I putter around after dinner, and for ages I’ve been ready to go to bed around 8, but would hang on for whatever reason. For about a year, I’ve been practicing the early work, but it really took root when CR decided he wanted to try swimming in the early morning.  Now we both want to be asleep early and get up early together, and on days we decide not to get up so early, we get those extra zzz’s. Healthy.

The other thing that I’ve done is give myself permission to totally play in my work, take chances, see what happens. I’ve done some novellas, purely for me, playing with the form, seeing what I like.  I’ve made a big return to romance in the new adult and young adult series, but the books are very different from each other.  The young adult is soft science fiction, highly romantic and with epic adventure undertones.  The new adult is very sexy and lots of fun, but has a serious undertone, too: Jess has to find out who she is—and that means making mistakes, discovering her history and deciding what things matter most to her.  It’s also set in part in New Zealand, which you all know I’ve fallen in love with.   The Otherlands is deeply rooted in my love for the sff genre and I carried it around with me for ages before I realized that I could just….go ahead and write it.  I also have an entire 5 (6?) book series planned as a tie-in/continuation of the St. Ives historicals, all growing out of our travels to England and New Zealand.

And don’t forget the women’s fiction. I love it a lot.  My new book, The All You Can Dream Buffet, is one of my favorites so far. I  love the characters and the setting of a lavender farm, and these women who have all had life challenges.  It was engrossing and required a huge amount of research and recipe testing, and it went back and for the between my editor and I several times, but the end result is one I am very pleased with. I hope you will be, too.

I believe this fertile, wild productivity is the result of me giving myself permission to do that play.  I can do it because of indie publishing, and I don’t have to worry that I’ll starve or that I’ll flop at a new publishing house.  I can take big chances, play in a lot of different arenas. Because I’m the one taking the risks, and I don’t need to sell 50,000 books to break even. Because I am more in charge of everything, I don’t feel that creeping anxiety that plagues all working writers over how many books are selling here and there and everywhere.  I am much freer to write the books arriving today.  I am very deeply enjoying the balance between my work for traditional publishing and my own publishing, a luxury that I couldn’t have imagined even five years ago.

This is not everyone’s ideal scene, I get that.  I have friends who need and like to focus on one book for a couple of years at a time. I also have others who like writing lots of books, but mostly in the same arena. That’s fine.  My brain has always loved variety and mix-ups and new challenges.  Sometimes I’ll fall on my face, but that’s fine, too.  So far, the fields are growing very well, producing a good many crops. I hope I will be wise enough to recognize when/if winter arrives and asks me to rest.

Do you like to write in many arenas or focus on one?  Do you find there are wildly productive periods in your life, and less productive ones?  

PS I’m pulling away from blogging so much elsewhere and will be spending more time here.  Hope you’ll join in the conversation.

Ta da! A surprise and a revelation….

If you follow me on Facebook, you already know about this, but here’s a little background.

You may have noticed that I’ve been scarce this summer. So much has been happening behind the scenes!  It all started when I went to Breckenridge with Christopher Robin in late May to have a long weekend for my birthday. It snowed. A lot. Which meant we didn’t do any hiking or kayaking as we’d planned, but read and napped and ate and rested. Also good.

On the second morning, the Girls woke me up at 4 am with a book idea. I told them to go away and turned over. They insisted I need to get up and write this down. Like, now. So I got up and made a cup of tea, and by the time CR woke up, I had an entire book outline. Characters, plot, story, romance.  All of it.

Every now and then, I get a gift book. I don’t remember one coming to me so fully fleshed. Bemused, I set it aside and hung out with CR for breakfast. By afternoon, the book was bothering me again. I decided to take my notebook to the local Starbucks (which is so adorable and has amazing views).  I realized halfway down the hill that I’d forgotten a pen. It’s not that easy to find something like that in Breckenridge and I really didn’t want to walk all the way back to the hotel.  I was about to give up when the Girls said, “Oh, no you don’t. Go ask that boarder in the t-shirt shop if he has one you can borrow.” So I did. And he was like, “Sure, dude.”  I said, “I’ll bring it back.” He waved me away. “No worries.”

I went to Starbucks. I ordered a coffee. An hour later, I had 67 scenes, in order. Basically, uh, the whole book.

I’m no idiot. A book shows up like that, I’m going to show up, too, and write.  So write I did. The entire book over the summer. My fingers couldn’t keep up.  I had no interest in doing anything but showing up for the book. It was like living in a movie for the summer. It is the most fun I’ve had writing in about 100 years, and you know me, I love writing!

The thing is, this is not my usual realm. It’s not even Young Adult, which I’ve been writing on the side for awhile.  (More on that in a few weeks…yes, the OtherLands are finally going to be published.)  This attack book is New Adult, a genre I’ve been reading but really had had no plans to write until this 19-year-old girl showed up. To keep the branding straight for those of you who want my women’s fiction–that’s still Barbara O’Neal.  If you like the romances, that’s Barbara Samuel.  If you want New Adult and Young Adult, come see me as Lark O’Neal.

Here is her first book.  It will be out November 12, with book #2 to follow in the spring, 2014 and #3 in the summer, 2014.  You can pre-order now at Amazon and Apple.  Subscribe to Lark’s newsletter. Follow her on Facebook  and Twitter. Check out the website.

Ta-da! Here is the cover and back cover blurb:


Life is random…


19-year-old Jess Donovan knows better than most that life is random. Her mom is dead, and she’s on her own, patching together a living as a waitress when a car crashes through the restaurant where she works. In two seconds, she loses her job, watches her best friend hauled away in an ambulance…and meets Tyler Smith, one of the hottest, most fascinating—and mysterious guys she’s ever met.


Both for the good and the bad…


Within days, Jess is swept up into the mesmerizing force that is Tyler. Their every touch sizzles, every kiss dissolves them both, and the sex is…fierce. But there’s more to Tyler than his hypnotic eyes. He’s adrift, too, and his body—and his soul—are covered with scars. How can she find herself with a guy who is lost himself?


Until you take charge….


Jess is determined to find her way, and make a life that is better than the one she was given. But how?







Pretty excited, I think you can tell. 🙂

Also, for those who are pursuing NaNoWriMo this year, come make me your buddy.  I’m awriterafoot.

South Island, New Zealand Trip Report, #1

January 10, 2013


(Having trouble adding images….will try to add more later today….)

It’s raining this morning, a very agreeable weather considering how many days in a row we’ve been moving, moving, moving. I was delighted at the moody weather when we drove in last night, heavy clouds in dark puffs around the startlingly high, steep mountains and the enormous, long lake.

There is a reason a tourist town becomes a tourist town.

And the rain gives me time to collect a few thoughts about the trip so far. Everyone else has gone swimming, so I am left in the silence of the apartment to gather the sea- and sun- and delight-drenched moments to see what we have here. It goes so fast when you’re in the middle of it, and I have rarely been anywhere I felt so very much at home, but of course, we are outdoors, doing outdoor things, and when we are not, we are drinking tea and or ginger beer or choosing a little cake from a glass case.

How to gather a thousand moments into something coherent for you? I don’t have time to condense it all, so just follow along as you will.

Three words: color, animals, the sea.

I knew NZ was beautiful. I’d seen bits of it ten years ago, on a whirlwind trip to the North Island. The sea and trees and mountains are a winning combination.

But when we came South, I was not expecting it to be so mouth-gapingly beautiful, so lavishly painted with color. How many times have I stood still to grapple with ways to describe the layers and layers and layers of color here? Not all colors, but two of my favorites–blue and green. The bays, perhaps because they are relatively shallow, are startling shades of aquamarine, turquoise. The mountains are green close in, blue and bluer and bluest against the horizon of blue sky. The Abel Tasman park has to be one of the most gorgeous spots I’ve ever seen, with that stunning colored sea and the islands covered with heavy bush, and little caves coyly placed nearby gold sand beaches.

In Marlborough, were the Sauvignon Blanc grapes have become the countries largest fruit export (at 68% of the total), the rolling hills are planted endlessly with green vines, that familiar striped pattern undulating for miles and miles and miles, all of it quilted against soft brown hills that look as velvety as antlers.

And everything remarkably uncrowded, even at one of the busy times of year. We have encountered crowds, of course, at the main sites, but nothing like they would be in any busy tourist center in the US or Europe at the corresponding high season.

I thought Abel Tasman was as beautiful as it could get, but then we arrived in Kaikoura, where the mountains are taller, and then we drove further down to Dunedin’s little town on the sea, and now we’ve arrived in Queenstown, which is even more startling.

A lot of it looks like Scotland to me, the lochs and the hills, the sudden sweep of a turn that reveals a bay or an expanse of ocean.


It feels in a way that my education this time is all about the ocean. What lives there, how it looks, how it smells, how it feels. Just how very salty it is on my face by the end of a day of kayaking. Just how tangled my hair can be (and full! and wavy!) I grew up in Colorado, so there was no sea, but I remember clearly the first time I saw the ocean, the Pacific in Southern California. It was a windy day and the steel gray waves were high and choppy, and then it died down and we wandered on the beach picking up shells. I have no idea where we were exactly–somewhere near San Diego, I’m guessing. Ever after, I had the sense that the ocean would make me happy. I struggled to get back to California, and almost joined the Navy (but they would have made me cut my waist length hair). I landed there again a couple more times before my children were born, on a long wander down the coast at nineteen, and a couple of months living in San Diego a year or so later.

But then I settled in to go to college, and then raise my boys, and we traveled to the interior of the country more often than not. Sometimes, RWA conferences were held by the sea, and I could visit. A few times, I visited friends who had access, and they would take pity on my yearning and we’d go to peer in tide pools or walk along the sand so I could get my feet wet. My family and I took a ferry across the Irish Sea and I learned I can be terribly seasick. CR and I took a ferry from Vancouver to Victoria, British Columbia, which was astonishingly beautiful. When I started teaching at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference (which I will be doing again this summer–please come!), I had the most beach access of my life–that vast beach in the early morning, deserted except for me and my yoga mat, the boats bouncing gently under the June gloom.

The ocean itself, its vast, deep depths still were a mystery to me. I don’t really eat fish. I don’t know how they live and grow. I know it’s deep. I know things live in the water. I have no desire to swim in it. (Okay, maybe I’d swim by the Great Barrier Reef. That was very clear water. You can see what’s coming.)

This trip seems all about Things That Live In And Around The Ocean. Whales, seals, dolphins, sea birds, fish. The gigantic Royal Albatross, with it’s six foot wing span, wings that fold in threes, neatly, like origami, over its gigantic back. It can fly 1000 km in a day. It knows how to get back to the place it was born so that it can mate. Sometimes mated pairs arrive at the mating ground within hours of each other. Hours, after flying alone, thousands of miles, for months on end. How do they DO that?

How delicious is it that there are varieties of squid for every level of feeder along the currents where squids live? Seals it one variety, whales and penguins each another type.

I have learned to recognize three kids of sea gulls, all of them big and bossy and brash. I don’t like them since being mugged by one in Santa Barbara, but this time, I sat and watched a trio bathing at the edge of the water, fluttering wings and dipping heads, and it was peaceful and kindly, a ritual of conversation, coos and clicks. It isn’t their fault that they are the tourist scavenger birds from hell.

The whale was impressive, but nowhere close to as thrilling for me as the pod of little dolphins we saw, frolicking and dancing, or the baby seal pups diving and swirling in a small pool ringed with adults sunning themselves with one eye open.

This afternoon is more rain and a quiet dinner alone with CR. In between, my sister and law and I are going to indulge at the spa, which is a holiday sort of thing to do, as well.

More as I am able.

Oh, PS: KAYAKING ROCKS! How is it possible I never indulged this pursuit until three years ago??

All My Bags Are Packed

And we’re ready to go. The cats have been camping on my suitcase, and Jack is following me around everywhere. The long, long list of Get Ready for Christmas, Have Christmas, Go to New Zealand Two Days Later List is pretty much all checked off.   Despite the sad fact that my eldest was felled by food poisoning over the weekend, we had a great visit, and I especially loved Christmas breakfast, which involved orange-frosted cinnamon rolls, both vegan and Pillsbury, and bacon, both regular and tempeh.

This is Ian’s recipe for tempeh bacon, which is so good that I had to scold CR–who is a bacon fanatic— and make him stop eating it.  (You might also remember Ian’s One Ingredient Ice Cream.)

Easy Tempeh Bacon

1 pckg tempeh, sliced very, very thinly
1/4 to 1/2 cup Maple syrup , depending on how much maple flavor you want
Soy sauce to cover

Place the tempeh in a glass dish and pour the maple syrup over it. Add soy sauce to cover.  Cover and marinate in the fridge for one hour to overnight.

Heat canola oil or other high heat oil over medium heat and add the tempeh slices carefully, turning often. They burn quickly! It takes a little practice to get just the right caramelization on the slices, but it just takes tending.  Serve.

Next post will be from NZ….stay tuned.

The Age of Aquarius–a time of balance

Happily, the end of the world has not yet arrived, and we’re all here to begin the long awaited Age of Aquarius, which some say begins this year.  It is meant to be a time of spiritual growth for society, and to me, it  does feel like the dawn of a new age.  I’d like to think so.

I’m thinking about change and balance myself, and a few things have come together to insist that I begin to consider exactly what I want each day to contain, how I want to live, what changes I’d like to make.  In October and November, I was pulling my usual deadline marathon, finishing the new book, Flavor of a Blue Moon, which will be out in early 2014.  (Sorry, I know that will be a disappointment to some of you, but the truth is, it just took more time to research and write than some other books.  I think you’re going to fall in love with Lavender and Ginny and all the adventures they have.  In the meantime, I promise to have some novellas up this year, just for you.)

Back to the deadline marathon.  It was exhausting.  Way more exhausting than it ever has been.  By the time I emailed it to my editor and agent, I felt like a zombie, and looked like one, too: my eyes were bloodshot constantly, and my skin was the color of wax, to compliment the smeared-cinders look of the circles under my eyes.  The last week of the deadline, I realized that I had a sinus infection and dashed over to the local urgent care to get some antibiotics.

There I discovered that one reason I felt so crappy was that my  blood pressure, which I’d been trying to control with diet and exercise, had gone way too high, and my heart was murmuring and all sorts of alarms went off and I was hustled to this doctor and that and had tests and Serious Conversations and–well, the bottom line is,

Upcoming New Zealand

I haven’t been on a long journey since the splendiferous trip to England and Spain in 2010, when I walked a part of the Camino de Santiago (which showed up emphatically in The Garden of Happy Endings).  In a couple of weeks, Christopher Robin and I are headed off to New Zealand for a month, to visit family and wander and recharge the batteries and celebrate a certain important birthday for CR.  I’ll be blogging and posting photos, of course, and I know some of you like these journeys a lot.

We leave Dec 27.  On the schedule are penguins and the earthquake-savaged Christchurch, Mitford Sound and Queenstown. I can’t wait to see those savagely beautiful mountains.  I hope we’ll be able to sea kayak (even if I’ll be nervous).  Everyone has insisted glow worms are really a treat.   I once visited the 90-mile beach in the far northlands and saw a wild horse laughing on a hill, and picked up a purple shell and held my breath over such long stretches of beach so unpopulated, so I want to take CR there.

The rest…who knows?  Bookshops and grocery stores.  Cookies and nephews.  That crazy accent and calla lilies and greenery.  Also, long long flights, which I admit I sort of love.  Time to read, to think, to be away from ordinary life.

Any tips? Anything you’ve seen I must not miss?  What are the best trips you’ve made?