Sunday, August 31, 2008

In a race to finish

I feel like my writing clock is ticking. My husband is pushing me to get a "real" job, and I am pushing myself to finish my novel before I have even less time than I do right now. With the prospect of a 9-5 job looming, I have been staying up late trying to finish my book. My only time to write in the last two years has been when my children are asleep or at mother's day out. I set a goal of one week for myself one week ago, but I think I am still 70-100 pages out. This book is my favorite out of anything I have written and each time I sit down to write I find the character taking unexpected, but lovely, turns.

Now I am asking myself what kind of deadline I need to establish. I do need to establish one because if I end up going back to work full time it will become a lot harder to finish this book. I have decided to give myself two weeks. I know exactly where I want to go, and I have each scene in my head. I also understand how I want the character to change, progress and develop their love. My hesitation is this: I know writers must constantly work under deadlines but when is it constructive and when is it harmful?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Escape The Written Word

Okay, I admit it. The title of this blog is a tease. To be more accurate, it should read: "Writing and Blogging to Escape."

That is what I have been doing since I came back from my nephew's funeral. While there, I was the support system for my little sister. Although it was a sad occasion, we bonded like never before. I was able to see her new home so I can now picture her there when we talk. That makes it easier to picture her over the phone lines.

I was exhausted both mentally and physically when I came back home. My normal escape is to read. That didn't work this time. I ambled around the house, trying to get back in a routine that I really didn't care too much about. Nothing seemed to work. No amount of sleep, reading or talk was able to snap me out of the doldrums. Then, I looked at the calendar and realized that it was only a little over six weeks until I am going to be attending a writer's conference. Panic set in. I went back to my work in progress out of sheer desperation, not expecting any great miracles.

Boy, was I wrong. Within the first few minutes I found that I was transported to another setting and a different life and time. It was wonderful! Needless to say, I head back there often. I have written more this week than in the last two months. Even this blog was a nice diversion. Usually I agonize about what I am going to say. Today I just say "thanks". Thank you for making a schedule, Carla. I felt I had to fulfill my responsibilities. Thank you to all of you other bloggers who inspire, amuse and make me realize that we all have the same likes, insecurities and goals. Most of all, thank you for the power of the written word. It can transport the writer, as well as the reader, to a better place.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thirty is the New Twenty...Puh-lease!!

What the heck is going on??

New Kids on the Block (New Men on the Block by now!) are reuniting, "Dirty Dancing" celebrates its 20th anniversary and I have grey hairs in places hair dye should never venture. Yeah, so by now you've probably guessed where I'm going with this...

I'm getting old!

Now you may look at my long, luxurious locks, sparkling brown eyes and sinfully curvaceous figure (hee! hee! hee!) and think, No way! But, yes way! The awful truth is the locks are greying, the eyes need contacts and the figure...well, a girdle's a girl's best friend...

But, there are other signs of my advanced aging. For instance...

...I watch New Kids on the Block's new video and still argue with friends over who's the cutest (It's Donnie and that's final!).

...The JC Penny commercial based on "The Breakfast Club" just makes me mad every time I see it because not one of those kids even know who Judd Nelson or Ally Sheedy are!

...I'm positively ecstatic that Robert Downey, Jr. had a hit with "Iron Man" so it finally replaces that image from "Less Than Zero". **shudder**

...I remember the Simpsons on the "Tracey Ullman Show"...I remember the "Tracey Ullman Show".

...Someone calls me "ma'am" and I crane my head over my shoulder asking, "Mom?"

...I can list all of Madonna's transformations and have personally experienced at least 3 of them (I plead the fifth on the cone-shaped bra!).

...Easy Bake oven is labelled a "classic" and I remember when it was all the rage!

...My feelings are hurt because I'm NOT carded!

...I snatch up a new release by Johanna Lindsey, but quickly realize it's not new, it just has a new cover...but I remember the original one with Fabio.

...I know the dance routine to Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield".

Fair warning, if anyone identified with at least three of these, just throw your cane in the air and wave it like you just don't care...Okay, somebody please, stop me...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Travel writing

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Guess I should just knock on the door to hades then.

It was my intention to write as I rode in a car for ten hours on Friday, and 12 hours on Sunday. It was a whirlwind trip to Illinois to visit my grandmother. To make it easier I brought my lap top with a plug in for the car so I had power and I could work away.

I did not take into consideration a few things:
  1. I was in a car with my husband, and two children. It was a Toyota Corolla, do you know how SMALL they are?
  2. That a 7 & 10 yr old are easily bored.
  3. That books on tape, even if you are not interested, ARE still distracting. (so is music)
  4. The sun does shine on the screen and its impossible to write.
  5. At night, when the kids should be asleep, the plaintive "The light from the screen is bothering me...." will cause me to have to shut it down (its that or the wrestle off of "she's got more room then me! because they can't sleep).
  6. Just sitting in a car is exhausting!
  7. Oh, and GPS on the laptop is addicting.
  8. Bathroom breaks and food breaks are necessary.
  9. There is such a thing as too much caffeine that makes it hard to write (darn jittery nerves!)
  10. I should have NEVER kept Spider solitaire on the computer.

So, did I write? Yes, I did, but not as much as I thought I would. I foolishly felt I'd have twenty pages easy each day.

How many did I end up with? Well that's relative. I think I've rewritten the beginning of chapter 4 to my WIP five times. I have 4 workable pages and 11 not so good.

I learned something about travel writing--never assume you'll do as much as you think you will and have the time you want.

I have a family vacation coming up in October, this time for a week. What am I going to do? I'll write with more realistic expectations.

Do you write when you travel? In the car or in the hotel? What works and what doesn't?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Showing Emotion


First I want to mention, I saw NO RESERVATIONS for the first time last weekend and loved it! A true romantic movie without any of the usual sappy crap I’ve seen in other so-called romantic movies. Plus, it actually had a happy ending. And best of all, the guy was gorgeous, not geeky looking.

Now let’s get to what the blog is really about, writing emotions. I’ve been working on ways to improve my manuscript by showing my characters' emotions. You know, it’s hard. Quit laughing. I know you probably already knew that, but each time I work on this, it slaps me in the face.

Okay, what I decided to do is go ahead and write the blasted book. Then I’ll go back and add emotion in the places it appears to disappear. Considering this book has the deadly seven sins in it and my couple is cursed with experiencing them, it has to be heavy on the emotions. To help me, I’m using CREATING CHARACTER EMOTIONS by Ann Hood.

She describes 36 emotions in each of their own chapters. I won’t list them all here. One in particular I’ve had problems with, mainly because I use it so much. No, not that one. Geez! Get your mind of the gutter. It’ll surprise you – pun intended as it is SURPRISE. You know in anything with suspense, you have a surprise in it. Of course, you can have a pure romance and still have surprise in it. For examples: (suspense) The heroine is surprised when her best friend is found lying dead in the bathtub. (traditional) The hero is surprised when the heroine admits she loves him at first sight.

As you can imagine, using the word surprise doesn’t actually convey the emotion. Thus my dilemma.

So I show the dead body fell out of the closet and landed at the heroine’s feet. Lisa's eyes widen and face paled.

Did you know if your heroine’s eyes continue to widen and face continue to pale, it will freeze that way by the end of the book?

Well, Ms. Hood said an example like above anyone can do, but you have to write it in a way that matters to the reader. Oddly, all the examples she gave had the word surprise in them but all gave motion to the word. Let me see if I can give you an example. from my current WIP.

“Enough of your games, cousin.” Thorn wanted to shake Sinon like a child’s broken rattler. “We’re trying to track down the demon who kidnapped my sister.”
Sinon sat up. “Bianca’s been taken?”
Was he a great actor or really surprised by the news? Thorn's instints told him the warlock
couldn't be trusted.

I’m not sure if I did it the way Ms. Hood suggested, but hey, I’m trying to improve. I want people to feel the emotions my characters are feeling. So I keep reading and studying.

How about you? Do you have a problem with describing a certain emotion?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

LET’S TALK MONEY

This is my first blog and I thought I would start it with one of those questions most writers don’t like to consider, much less talk about or put in writing.

I started writing twenty years ago for numerous reasons. Like most writers, I’m compelled to write. I have to get those characters and their stories on paper before my head explodes. I want to share something of myself with other avid readers. I want to make them laugh, cry, and to care about my characters as much as I do. Obvious reasons, right? What about money?

Ok, I’ll be honest. I avoided this issue for years because it’s just not something we’re supposed to talk about, right? But recently something grabbed my attention and I want to know what other writers think. I’ve seen one or two interesting lists circulating among the loops that show average advances, royalties, and earn-outs from various publishers based on reports from few or many authors.

Some of the earn-out figures surprised me and immediately brought a question to mind. How important is/was money in your first sale? Personally, I would like to move to PAN status when I make that first sale. This step is very important to me. However, some average earn-outs wouldn’t even put me on the map for PAN, which requires an advance and/or royalties of $1,000 or more.

So I thought about that. Imagine you get that wonderful, long-awaited call, the editor is very excited about your work, and he/she is easily the nicest person you’ve met in the last ten years, yet there’s one, tiny glitch. You won’t be receiving an advance and your average earn-out will be less (possibly much less) than enough to make PAN. What would you do in this situation? Is money important to you or is getting your work out there for others to read and enjoy the most important highlight for you in this writing thing we do?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What's a Blog To Do?

I'm in the midst of a website redesign and one of the things I'm adding is a blog. I vacillated on whether or not I should have one. For those of you who blog, you know it's not always easy coming up with ideas. And, for me at least, not easy coming up with blogs that people want to read, much less comment on. But it seems that everyone is blogging and I'm going to give it a try.

What's your take on blogs...excluding this one, of course! Do you visit many blogs? What are your favorite ones? Why are they your favorites? What do you like to read about on a blog? Do you think it's a good idea for authors to have blogs? What are some ways your favorite blogs get people to read and post?

Any and all suggestions are appreciated!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

No distractions, please!

Day after tomorrow, I leave for a ten-day visit to one of the most fascinating places on earth -- Ireland. My only two goals for the trip? To see my daughter dance and to write. I'm hoping that because I will be alone during the day while she's working, I can go exploring and "fill my well." She lives in Cashel, a small town in County Tipperary overflowing with history. The centerpiece of the town is a spectacular group of ruins known as the Rock of Cashel. Parts of it date back to the 5th Century. I've never been inclined to write historical, but I'm thinking that's about to change.

My biggest fear for this trip? That I'll waste it. That I'll get home with lovely memories of time with my daughter, but nothing to write about. How can that even be possible? I've posted a few photos of the Rock of Cashel. I've been looking at them over and over, trying to prepare myself. But I know distractions can happen. How can I avoid them, stay focussed, and get the most out of this trip? I would love to hear your suggestions!




Friday, August 15, 2008

Why Do Synopsis Make Me Crazy?

Why is it I can write a four hundred page novel with a modest degree of ease, but writing the accompanying synopsis causes me enormous pain? It keeps me up at night. Each word is excruciating, and I have yet to be thrilled with the finished product. I know it's not just me. I have seen countless sights titled "Conquering the Dreaded Synopsis", "Why Writer's Hate Synopsis", etc. You get the picture.

I decided to try something different before completing my current book. I wrote the query before I was done and then started working on the synopsis. The query came to me much easier this time around, but that darn synopsis is still causing me major grief. I have been working on it for two weeks now. I wrote two paragraphs on the plane today, but do I don't love them the way I love my stories when I'm finished. Why can't I seem to wrap my mind around the synopsis? What's the best synopsis you have ever written or read and what made you love it?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Right Words

I am leaving later this week to attend my nephew's funeral. He was 24 years old. People in my family are looking to me to say a few positive words about his life.
How do you address a life cut short by self-destructive behavior? He was a troubled young man who had become increasingly irrational in the last couple of years. He visited us at Christmas and his ten day stay was aborted after two days. I was angry at him when we took him to the airport, 50 miles away. Thankfully, I spoke to him later when he called and apologized for his behavior. I accepted his apology but I was pretty cool when doing so.
As a young teen he excelled at motocross. I think that these were the happiest years of his life. He loved the thrill of riding his motor bike off impossibly high hills, jumping 20 to 25 feet in the air, before landing precariously on one wheel, while racing his fellow contestants down the course. His performances on the track in those days were inspired and so very different from his track record in recent years.
My sister is wracked with pain and guilt. His passing has changed her life and the lives of her husband and daughter forever. So, when she asked me to say a few words, I readily agreed. I could do no less. Now, I am looking for a way to memorialize him that will bring comfort to my baby sister and overlook his recent actions. I fear that this will be the hardest writing assignment of my life but I will do it lovingly, carefully and respectfully for the sake of my sis.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Forging Ahead

I heard a word yesterday that just resonated so loudly in me that I had to write it down.

Forge.

A forge is a place where metal or iron is worked by heating and hammering. Or, "to forge" means to move steadily ahead as well as to create by beating and working iron or steel by fire and intense heat. In Greek mythology, Hephaestus--Birmingham natives may know him best as Vulcan--was the god of blacksmithing or metalworking.

Writers--true writers, whether published or not--are forged, created by the intense heat of rejection, fear, seemingly insurmountable odds and self-doubt. The fire is sometimes so hot, you want to break under the pressure, but instead you're molded, made stronger. And like a shapeless mass of metal that enters the fire, when you emerge on the other side, you're a new creature. A new work that isn't easily cracked or bent. But, it's only by moving steadily forward--or forging ahead--can you emerge.

It's interesting to me that Hephaestus, the god of blacksmithing was the only ugly god in Greek mythology. I may be going a little too deep here, but forging is an ugly process. It's sweaty, laborious, often dark and sometimes painful. Drawing--sometimes dragging--something out of yourself, shaping and perfecting it...it's not pretty, but the reward is worth every bead of sweat, every curse, every tear.

There was one more definition the dictionary didn't list under "forge"...

Victory. There's victory in moving forward and not retreating or even standing still. There's victory in just going through the fire when others are too scared to even enter it. Every writer who refuses to give up after the rejection notices or presses through writer's block or continues to write, not settling for that first, second or third sale is victorious.

We're forged.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Complaining

I complain too much.

Really.

What do I complain about? Things like...
  • My job-that I spend 90% of my waking life there and is very stressful and prevents me from writing
  • That I don't have enough time to write--because of dishes, laundry, etc.
  • When I do write I feel like I can't seem to string a sentence together.
  • Drivers that cut me off.
  • That I can't write fast enough....

Do you see a theme here? Most of it is about writing, its about what I feel is my inability or interference with my writing.

Guess what.... I have to suck it up.

I read once where you have to take the circumstances of your life and work them. There will ALWAYS be people who do better than me, write faster, more beautifully, better plots, more gripping stories, make more money writing etc...I have to work with what I have. That's all I've got.

Bottom line, I want to write, I have to write, I will write.

So, here's my promise to myself: NO MORE COMPLAINING (sarcastic quips are accepted, but not this "whoa is me" junk). I am going to move FORWARD not backward, irregardless of what I encounter.

What do you wrestle with? What are you willing to change?

I am going to check in in a week or two and tell you if it works, let me know how it works for you.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Too-doo-doo...(Insert Clueless Whistle Here)

For the first time since beginning to blog, I am--gasp!--dare I say it? Stumped. I have no clue what to write about. I didn't go to Nationals in San Francisco--the closest I came to the Golden Gate Bridge was the Golden Arches of McDonald's. And well, let's face it...that's just not the same. Although, I did attend the plot party at my chapter meeting and discovered that when you put 10 writers together in a room, they can come up with some pretty...umm...interesting ideas. Murder, cowpies and every word imaginable that rhymes with "gritty". And all this without the benefit of even one glass of Merlot!

Fun, definitely. But, it still doesn't solve my dilemma.

I could write about the gi-normous spider that fell out the file I was working on at work. And how after I stomped the little eight-legged freak into the hereafter, I nearly knocked myself unconscious by spraying a whole can of Raid in my itty-bitty cubicle. But after six hits of the 'ol asthma inhaler and two hours of inhaling bug spray, it's all kinda hazy...

So...still searching...

Oh, right! I could share how my husband completely surprised me with Sherrilyn Kenyon's new release "Acheron". And, later, when we got home I thanked him by...Whoa! Okay, deep-six that one. My Daddy might read this!!

So, I still have zilch to write about.

And, yet, I am amazed at myself. I'm a writer...and I wrote about absolutely nothing! I made NOTHING interesting!!

Now, THAT takes talent!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Good, the Bad and the Downright Ugly

I approached my first national conference after my sale with great enthusiasm and a small amount of trepidation. In most cases, it exceeded my expectations. In a few, well, let’s just say I didn’t anticipate or plan for unexpected events. Here’s a breakdown:

The Good (actually wonderful):

Met my editor for the first time and had a wonderful visit. She’s lovely, bright and talented and I’m thrilled to have her as my editor.

Met with my incredible agent again. I’m so fortunate to have her on my side.

Went to my first industry party and met some incredible authors who were also incredibly nice too.

Went to my first publisher party and met several Ballantine professionals. This publishing giant continues to amaze me with their kindness and professionalism.

At the publisher’s party, I met some of my all time favorite authors and some new favorites. Yes, I was star-struck.

Went to some interesting and informative workshops. My personal favorite, presented by Save the Cat author Blake Snyder, was funny and informative. Bought his book and can’t wait to read it.

Got to see several old friends I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. Met many new ones I hope to see again next year.

A dear friend of mine who lives in the San Francisco area took a day off from work and took us to Napa Valley. It was gorgeous and the wine tasting delightful. And I ate a piece of chocolate in a little town called St. Helena that had to be the most divine thing I’ve ever tasted.

The day after nationals, we jumped on a cable car and toured Fisherman’s Wharf. Had some yummy crab and a hot fudge sundae. Got to see the sea lions and took lots of great pictures.

The Bad (renamed aggravating):

On the way to my first publisher’s party, our taxi had a wreck. Got bruised up a bit. Positive spin…I was sharing the taxi with another author I’d just met. She was so kind and sweet, hailed us another cab and we were on our way.

Going home, our flight to Chicago got canceled. After standing in five different lines at two separate airlines, we ended up spending twelve hours in the San Francisco airport before flying the red-eye to Charlotte and then back to Birmingham. Positive spin…I got home safely.

We got pulled out of security at the airport for secondary screening. Since it was the beginning of my trip home and I wasn’t too exhausted, it was an interesting procedure and gives me information for a future book. However, I have to admit the screener’s politeness left much to be desired. Positive spin…they let me go!

The Ugly (renamed excruciating):

The heels I bought last year have suddenly become too big. After plugging them with all sorts of stuff to keep them on my feet, they still hurt! I have decided these are demon shoes and need to be burned! Positive spin…I’m waiting until I get very angry about something and then I’m burning the torture devices!

I’ve been back two days and have some sort of nasty cold. Yuck! Positive spin…it’s just a cold.

As you can see, the good far outweighs the bad and ugly. All in all, it was a wonderful conference and I’m already looking forward to next year!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

My Cousin Vinny

While on vacation a couple weeks ago, I watched MY COUSIN VINNY twice, the beginning one day and the ending on the next. I’ve watched it so many times over the years, watching it again gave me the chance to break down different aspects of the story.

Most everyone has seen it at least once. So I won’t go into too many details. I saw a lot of the Hero’s Journey in it. When Vinny and his fiancée, Lisa, show up in town, you see them arguing (their “normal” world and certainly a good trait for any trial lawyer) about their Cadillac’s wheels probably have mud in them (Alabama’s red clay causes problems for Vinny again later plus gives Lisa a chance to show she knows cars), and coming to terms with grits (a different world and Vinny decides he likes them).
One of my favorite scenes is when they argue over the drip in the faucet. After hearing Lisa give a long account of how sure she was she’d turned off the faucet, Vinny asks, “Dead on balls accurate?”

“It’s an industry term,” Lisa stares him down.

“I guess the F-----g thing is broken.” And then they kiss.

You didn’t know MY COUSIN VINNY was a romance, did ya?

Think about it, Lisa wants to get married. Vinny has told her not until he’s won his first case, but he wants to win it on his own and she wants to help. Of course, we all know he finally accepts her help after she's forced into being treated as a hostile witness.

Vinny asks, “Your Honor, may I have permission to treat Ms. Vito as a hostile witness?”

“You think I’m hostile now, wait ‘til you see me tonight.” Lisa glares at Vinnie and then turns away.

The judge asks, “Do you two know each other?”

“Yeah, she’s my fiancée,” Vinny said in frustration.

“Well, that would certainly explain the hostility,” the judge in understanding.

The dialogue (as you see in the examples above) was wonderful, but watching Marisa Tomei’s expressions as she played a knowledgeable mechanic/out-of-work hairdresser explained why she won an Oscar for the part.

I could go on and on about the different plot points, the dark moments and how nice they were tied together at the end, but the blog is long enough.

So tell me your favorite part of the movie. For more of the dialogue, click here.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Magnificent Obsession

A couple of weeks ago, I hit yet another self-imposed stumbling block on my WIP. It was a sublime moment of self-pity brought on by own doubts, which rise up when I least expect them. I was too ashamed to whine to my critique partners, because I knew what they would say (which was what they said the last time I got whiny!). So I yanked myself up by my own boot straps (not a pleasant experience) and got over it. I’m back to editing and revising. Forward ho.

I was surprised -- and somewhat comforted -- to be reminded again that even multi-published authors experience that sense of self-defeat. From an article about Janette Turner Hospital in the September 2008 issue of The Writer:

“During the writing of her books, she reaches a stage where she believes she can’t continue and the project is not possible after all. ‘But it’s though it has its claws in me and won’t be released,’ she says. ‘It refuses to let me disengage and start on a another project.” She finds herself obsessed with ‘this nondoable thing’ for a few weeks to two months, yet even when she’s in agony about it, there’s nothing else she’d rather be obsessing about.”

Obsession. That about sums it up, doesn’t it?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Keeps Me Coming Back for More

I just returned from a ten day vacation with four children under the age of six. I took three books on this trip to read. I had HIGH hopes! Two of the books were brand new and one book I have read at least fifteen times. Which one do you think I squeezed in the time to read on my vacation? Yep, you guessed it. I made time to read the book I have already read over and over again. This is the book which got me reading romances in the first place. The title is Ransom and the author is Julie Garwood. I love this book and I adore Julie Garwood. I think she is just about one of the best romance authors around. As I was reading this book I began to wonder if most authors got into their particular genre because of some fabulous author they once read. Can any of you think of a particular author or book that got you reading romances? My fondest wish is to be the kind of writer who someone will think about years later and say I love her. I have read her books a thousand times, and she is why I am a romance writer. Here's to big wishes. May they come true!