Saturday, October 29, 2005

Leavin' on a jet plane...

My long-awaited vacation starts tomorrow. Hopefully a change of venue will jump start the creative process and I’ll be raring to go when I get back and settle into my new routine as an almost-full-time writer.

It’s funny how all I can think about is how things will be when I get back. I’m not a good traveler. I don’t appreciate airplanes or airports or packing everything I might possibly need during the course of a week into a vinyl box and handing it to some stranger whose job it is to make sure my stuff meets me in some distant city. Most people think I’m nuts – of course anyone about to go on vacation should be walking on air and I’m a snapping turtle wishing I could just retreat into my shell until the ‘getting there’ part is over. That’s not half the fun, as far as I’m concerned.

Ah, well. Adversity, real or imagined, makes us stronger. I’m sure my colorful friend here would agree. Catch you in a week. Here's hoping my luggage doesn't have a better time than I do.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Why YA?

In a way it’s funny and in a way it’s strange. I’m a very private person which I’m finding is a disadvantage in the writing world, because you have to be willing to toot your own horn in this business and talk about your books and your achievements all the time.

That’s hard for me. I’m background. I’ve always been the silent observer, which I guess is why I like to write – but that’s a topic for another blog. Today’s topic actually is, why is it when people find out I write, they immediately assume it’s children’s books?

All right, I admit I don’t fit the stereotype of a steamy romance writer. I’m not dripping with jewels and feather boas, especially while I’m at my office…but I just find it peculiar that so many people who have recently found out about my writing career have come up to me and said, “What is it that you write? Children’s books?”

I sigh inwardly. I have nothing against children’s books or young adult books at all. I have children and I encourage them to read and I would be desperately unhappy if there were suddenly no books being written for them. But that’s not what I write. Now I don’t expect people to be clairvoyant, and I suppose I might find it equally disconcerting if they all took a gander at me said with a knowing wink, “You must write smut, right? You look like an erotic romance author.” That would definitely freak me out, but it’s still weird to have everyone’s first question be – “Do you write children’s books?” Why would they assume that? Because I’m a mother? Therefore my only interest must be in motherly, or childrenly topics? They look mildly surprised when I say, “No, actually, I write ADULT books. Steamy adult romances.”

There’s that pregnant pause, and then, “Oh…kewl.” Which of course makes it all worthwhile, but in that one quiet minute, I can almost see the wheels turning. Quiet little YOU writes WHAT? Yeah. Quiet little me. It might be ya-ya-ya, but it ain’t YA.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Can't get no satisfaction

Someday I will make enough money as a novelist to be able to pay a cleaning service. But until then, I have to do it myself and I have to confess, I’m no good at it. I can’t clean very well.

I’ve been in other people’s houses, people with children, people with pets as well as people without, and their homes always seem so much more spotless than mine. It’s depressing. So now and then I go on cleaning binges, where I really break out the elbow grease. Sadly, it never seems to make a difference. It’s an uphill battle and I always lose.

I have an extensive collection of cleaning products and a few handy gadgets like a steam cleaner [which I think I wore out – it doesn’t work so well anymore]. I bought that thing on a stick for cleaning windows [it doesn’t work]. I’ve bought dusters and polishers and all those presoaked cleaning pads that you stick on the end of a plastic mop [they smell nice and they pick up a lot of dirt, but they leave a lot of dirt behind too.] The one newfangled cleaning product I swear by is Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser. By golly, those foamy little rectangular sponges are amazing! I’ve run around my whole house with one of those, cleaning smudges, fingerprints, and crayon marks with it. Love ‘em.

But despite my supply of Magic Erasers and other modern chemical wonderthings, I still look around and think, sheesh, what a mess. It just never looks clean in here. Maybe I’m too hard on myself. Maybe I look too closely at things at home that I don’t look at when I’m at someone else’s house. Maybe they have dog hair in the corners and smudges on the handle of the fridge and dust on the leaves of their houseplants and I just can’t see it. Hopefully when other people come to my house, they can’t see the dirt either.

Just another incentive to put away my dust cloth and write, write, write so one day I can sign my royalty checks over to a team of professionals who actually know how to clean.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Northern LIghts

I just finished Northern Lights and found it, as most of the books I’ve read by Ms. Roberts, to be full of compelling characters and fascinating places. She has the ability to make a fictional place seem real – and make you long to visit. She draws her characters richly and gives them all enough quirks to make them larger than life without being unrealistic.

What I take from Northern Lights is a desire to create my characters the same way – with vivid emotional scars and a drive to overcome their personal demons. I would like my readers to feel as I felt when reading this book, that I had to know what happened to the characters and why. The only distraction I would mention is the ending is abrupt, considering the pace of the book. At 470 pages in hard cover, there’s plenty of room for all the important events and the conclusion certainly doesn’t need to crammed into the last ten or so pages. Also this book is standalone, not part of a trilogy as many of Ms. Roberts’ books are, so there’s no follow on for these characters. Lunacy, Alaska is a place I’d like to visit again.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Crowded Mind

My alter ego discussed the trials and tribulations of idea flow recently at the Romance Divas blog. Sometimes it’s a floodgate and sometimes it’s just a meager trickle.

Of course, the floodgate tends to open when I have a project I SHOULD be working on. Like now. The story I pitched to Dorchester is languishing in a dark corner of my brain, brooding like the hero it’s supposed to be about. Meanwhile, other characters and plot ideas are bombarding me to the point of distraction.

As I’ve managed successfully in the past, I think the best thing to do is go with my muse. I’m a pantser – see the post below about pantsing. Forcing myself to work on one story when another is forming in my head is like trying not to breath or to think about pink elephants. It just can’t be done.

So, also as I’ve done in the past, I’m going to give myself permission to take a break from the hard ‘work’ of writing and see how far my insistent idea takes me. I’ve been known to put aside a story in the middle and write another completed story before getting back to where I left off on the first one. It’s frustrating at times, but it works. I caution you, though. Don’t try this at home. The most responsible way to write is to plot. I do believe that. Stick to your plan and work your way systematically through your story. ROTFL. It’s a lot like sticking to a diet. I can’t do that either.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Rat Race

It seems like everyone is super busy these days. No one has any free time anymore. People work as many hours as they can, they cart their kids from after school activity to after school activity, dinners are pushed back to right before bed time and weekends are jam packed with chores and other obligations.

That's a lifestyle I'm trying desperately to avoid, but it seems to be the norm, especially here in the Metropolitan area. I just spent 90-minutes at soccer practice listening to other moms talking about doing homework and dinner simultaneously in order to get to practice on time, about never having the time to cook a meal so they always eat out [hmm, that actually doesn't sounds so bad], couples who never see each other during the week due to conflicting work schedules.

One of the many reasons I've always wanted to be a writer is because I hoped it would allow me to have a more relaxed lifestyle. I didn't want to spend my evening on the train commuting home from a 9to5 job and find myself scrubbing the bathroom at midnight because there was no other time to do it.

I always pictured an unhurried life, where there's time to bake cookies, and decorate for Halloween, make Christmas crafts and enjoy the sunset [and still make a cartload of cash once in a while.] You can't have it all. I learned that as everyone else does, the hard way.

But if I had to choose between having it all, and having enough - I'd take just enough so that there would be some time left over to enjoy it.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Art of Procrastination

I know I’m not the only one who does this. We writers have a keen ability to avoid writing even though it’s something we love.

Today I practiced procrastinating in order to avoid working on one of my many WIPs, any of which I’d be happy to make some progress on. I started with household chores, which technically can’t be considered professional procrastination because they do need to get done anyway. Food shopping will not do itself and neither will the laundry. Once those tasks were done, I got sucked into cleaning up some of the basement. Again, a necessary evil. When I got tired, I came upstairs and balanced my checkbook. There’s a masterpiece of procrastination for you. Who would choose balancing the checkbook over writing? Only someone who doesn’t want to face a blank page.

After all my obligatory paperwork was finished, I decided it was too late in the day to get any serious work done before dinner so I went back to the basement and made a few bookmarks. Then it was dinner time. Then there was laundry to fold and, oh, yes, a blog entry to write. That’s where procrastination is elevated from just wasting time to performance art. First I read a couple of other blogs, then I gaze at my lovely sunset picture for a while and wait for inspiration to strike. Then I start writing – with a break to pet the dog for a few minutes. [That's him in the picture. He's working hard at inspiring me to ponder what dogs dream about.]

Now it’s 7:30 and I’ve run out of excuses. A hard day of procrastination is over and it’s time to get to work. Maybe after a nice cuppa…

Saturday, October 22, 2005

By Any Other Name

Naming characters can be as difficult as naming children. I’ve only named two children and I think I did a pretty good job. I had some editorial input from my husband and of course a last name to work with.

I’ve named maybe a hundred characters and it gets harder all the time. Abby, Allie, Adam [I like A-names], Jake, Max, Gideon, Chance, Jordan, Lucas, Bren, Renna…they all needed last names too. Well, Renna doesn’t have a last name, but the others do. The same rules apply to naming characters as naming children. You want something noble, a little unique but not so far out there that people will make fun of them. With children, you don’t want initials that spell bad words, names that rhyme with body parts or names that no one can pronounce properly, even with lessons.

With characters, you want names that readers won’t stumble over or worse, laugh at. A serious romance hero should not be named Lance or Rod. [Oh God, not Rod! LOL, sorry.] You want names that can hold up in a love scene or a fight scene. Names with substance, names that flow.

Another problem I have, and maybe other writers don’t so much, is the fear of naming a character after someone I know and having everyone think the book is now about that person. If I call my heroine Steven – will my neighbor think I’m writing about her husband? Maybe it’s silly, but stuff like that bothers me. So, I’m always searching for good names that stand the snork test [do I go *snork* when I see them in print?] and that don’t already belong to someone I know well enough that they might wonder if I modeled a character after them.

Then again, maybe I worry too much about what other people think.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Sisterhood of Traveling Pantsers

Having to write a synopsis before the story is torture. It’s even worse than writing one afterward. The ‘after’ synopsis is a lot like writing a book report, which reminds me of being in school [hence bad] but I was always good at book reports so I manage to sweat it out and produce something useful [hence not so bad]. I don’t know what my publishers do with the synopses I’ve written – probably just snicker gleefully as they run them through a shredder before mailing me my contracts. At least I find them useful for mining blurbage.

Blurbs are hard, too. But they’re nothing like the ‘before’ synopsis. That’s what I did today. I broke down my ‘to be written’ story chapter by chapter which made for some pretty lame stuff.

I’ve noticed a number of my fellow pantsers lately being forced to become plotters and I can only sympathize with their struggles. There’s something so exciting about sitting down with nothing more than a kernel of an idea and letting your imagination run with it. I’ve surprised myself a number of times, and those are the moments I truly love being a writer. I suspect that’s what entices other pantsers as well, and why there are so many of us.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Make Progress Every Day

That's my motto up there. Make Progress Every Day. It's tacked up to my bulletin board above my desk and as far as inspiration goes, I have to say it works. It's easier to 'make progress' than to fulfill a quota of pages or chapters or word counts. I usually always feel like I've accomplished something each day - made a little bit of progress - and that keeps me going.

Today's progress: I edited my final draft for the last of the four anthology stories I volunteered to write during a fit of insanity several months ago. The stories total over 87,000 words. Now if only I could write one 87,000-word novel. LOL. Short is easy.

But, they constitute progress. Today's editing is complete. I also worked on a synopsis for the story I pitched to Dorchester at the NJRW conference. Now where can I come up with another 87,000 words? Ah well. Tomorrow I'll make a little more progress.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

test post

This test post has been edited.

Profile picture Posted by Picasa

Welcome to my blog

Okay, I finally jumped in and decided to make a blog. I have no idea what I'm doing so bear with me, at some point I do hope to have something profound to say. That won't be today, but it will be at some point. I can't upload a profile picture yet so I'm including my fall themed picture just to see if it works.

Next I'll try uploading some of my covers.