Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mountain or Molehill?

In the news this week, best-selling author John Grisham is under fire from Duquense University for using their name in his latest book. Because the reference to a fictional event was not flattering, the university is decidedly unhappy.

The story made me think once again about an author's responsiblity to the public, to readers, etc. I'm aware that many publishers will strip out references to 'brand' names et al in manuscripts in order to protect themselves from liability. Some simply require credit to be given to trademark holders etc and yet others seem to make no distinction at all.

I can understand as an author, if you're using a sentence like: "My car is a piece of junk," said Mary. "It's a Ford and they're all crap," you might draw some criticism. On the other hand if the sentence were: "I love my car," said Mary. "I'll never buy anything but a Ford," would you need to take the same precautions?

Are authors to be held accountable for writing something [fictional] that could be construed as insulting to a particular product or institution? Does it infringe upon the right of free speech to make an author change a reference in a novel so that no aspersions are cast on a certain type of cola, or a brand of toothpaste, or a particular ivy league school?

I'm all for fictionalizing everything. I like fictional towns, fictional stores, fictional types of beer etc, but when you're shooting for realism, shouldn't you be able to invent a fictional incident and have it take place in a real location? Would it be the same if Mr. Grisham's crime took place in New York City and the Mayor of New York called him up to complain that such a thing made the city look bad?

Does an author deserve complaints if they describe a robbery at Wal*Mart or a murder at MacDonald's? Should publishers make every effort to strip out any adverse references to real places or products so that no one is offended, or should everyone just take a chill pill and get over themselves?

What do you think? Does John Grisham deserve a raspberry or should Duquense put on it's big girl panties and build a bridge?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

4.5 and 4.5 equals 9!

That's 9 RIBBONS all together for my latest Amber Quill releases.

Romance Junkies has given A Rogue's Reward and A Rogue's Redemption 4.5 blue ribbons each!

Read the reviews HERE and HERE.

Ms. Colgan more than fulfilled my expectations... - Chrissy Dionne, Romance Junkies

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cow puppy and other things lost in translation

I've recently noticed that my kids don't speak the same language I do.

Communication in my house has always been a tricky thing - my son has been telepathic since a very young age, and by that I mean when we ask him questions, he answers them in his head, assuming we can read his mind.

My daughter was born with a Boston accent and sometimes used French words instead of English ones when she was a toddler. [Past lives, anyone?? Seriously.]

They both speak fluent Pokemon.

I've learned over the years when it's okay just to nod and smile and when it's not. I also usually insist that they look directly at me when speaking so I can read their lips. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn't. Tonight was one of those instances when the nod and smile wasn't good enough.

My daughter just waltzed into my office and said, "Cow puppy?"

At first I thought she was talking to the dog. But the dog didn't answer, so rather than agreeing with her, I asked, "WHAT??"

"CAN. I. PLAY. WII?" she repeated slowly, in that 'I'm speaking to an elderly, deaf foreigner' way.

"Oh. THAT's what you said?"


Sheesh. "No. Sorry. I'm going to be watching Fringe in a little while and I want the TV. Cow puppy? What the heck is a cow puppy anyway?"

Apparently they do exist.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The state of being constant

Okay, let me see if I can express this concept in a way that will make sense since I haven't really thought it all through yet...

I've been thinking a lot about the writing life and the drive to constantly produce. The old addage goes: Writers write. And I certainly agree with that and believe it can get lost in the laundry list of 'other stuff' writers are supposed to do.

However - in order to be considered a 'writer' does one have to write consistently? We talk a lot about writing every day and treating it like a career, having specific times to write, places to write, ways to write in order to get the job done, writing a job or a calling? Can one still be a writer if one writes one great book, then doesn't write at all for years?

Writing is an art after all, and art can't be rushed. It comes from the moment, the circumstance, the inspiration that hits the writer at any given time. It doesn't come from punching a clock; it doesn't start at 9:00 AM, knock off for lunch at noon and then work straight on until 5:00 with weekends and holidays off. Writing is whenever, wherever and however.

I'm wondering if the true key to success as a writer lies not in creating a workaday schedule that allows one to turn out three novels a year or one novella a month etc, etc, but in really just following the muse, creating the best, most inspired work you can when the muse moves you and being, doing, living something else the rest of the time.

Yes, writers write, but when they're not writing, when they're just living, aren't they still writers?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hits and Misses for the week

I'm in the mood to be semi-controversial today, so I'm going to blog political. Agh! Dare I? Yeah.

So let me start with a big MISS for the week.

The headline: The President lifts ban on Overseas Abortion Funding

Okay, so this is part HIT, part MISS

While I am unabashedly pro-Choice and I believe the ban was to begin with, I have to wonder why any time would be wasted lifting a ban on funding NOW? Don't we have more pressing problems? Aren't we in a terrible recession? So how does lifting a ban on funding to overseas groups of any kind benefit US? Because you know the first thing those overseas groups are going to do, now that the ban on their funding has been lifted, is stick their hands out for, guess what? FUNDING! Which we can't afford at the moment because we're too busy pumping money into the failing banking system so financial CEOs can buy new cororate jets. So the new administration gets 1 point for lifting a ban. Minus 1 point for doing it at a bad time.

On the other side of the coin, I give a big HIT to our First Lady for giving the thumbs down to Ty, Inc for fashioning dolls with the names and likenesses of her daughters. The Beanie Baby company now conveniently denies that their new dolls, susiciously bearing the same names as the First Children, were patterned after them. [Iguess it must be a big owie when the First Lady calls you on your stupidity and insensitivity, huh?]

And a huge HIT for the week: M&M Premium Chocolate Raspberry Almond

Not only are the M&M Premium candies gorgeous [I wish they made beads that looked like this!], they're really tasty too. M&Ms have arrived in the 21st Century.

So in all it was HIT week. What are your HITs and MISSes for the week?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Need friends? Make some!

I added two sock dolls to my growing army of minions this weekend. Hoppy Valentine Bunny and Jeremiah Was [A Bullfrog]. You can see them here hanging out with the Contessa on my dresser.
Don't get the wrong idea and think all I do these days is craft. I did also write 9000 words on my WIP AND today I got the release date for my next Ellora's Cave book - Going Deep will be available on March 6th! {More about this later}.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Icy fingers of death

Ever have a day where you just knew something was not going to work out right, but you couldn't stop it from happening?

Today was a bit like one of those days. Nothing catastrophic, just monumentally annoying. The frigid cold doesn't help matter any, either.

Maybe these icicles hanmging off my front awning will grow long enough that they will form an impenetrable barrier and make it impossible for me to leave the house tomorrow so I can stay home and relax.

Or maybe they'll just melt.

Monday, January 19, 2009

From the project file...

My latest quilt project is finally finished. Now I just need to finish a manuscript. Too bad I can't make one of those on the sewing machine.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Yes, it’s true. I’m a fan-video addict.

I can’t help myself. They’re so darn cute. Not to mention a great way to kill a few hours when I should be writing about romance instead of watching it on TV.

I’m not sure how to actually post the videos to my blog so here’s links to some of my favorites.

Jack Harkness and Gwen Cooper [Torchwood]

Jack O’Neill and Sam Carter [Stargate SG-1]

Jim Halpert and Pam Beasely [The Office]

Robin Sherbotsky and Barney Stinson [How I Met Your Mother]

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The casting couch...

Sometimes all it takes to make a story take off is to change a character.

I've been kicking around an idea for a full length paranormal for a while now and I just couldn't seem to get it started. I had the setting, the plot, the first half of the story mapped out. I had the hero fixed in my mind, along with the heroine, their names, their backstories and I could see the scene where they first meet.

And it just wasn't working. It had everything I look for in a story, but it just wouldn't start - like when you put on a DVD and hit pause - you can see the scene and all the details but nothing moves.

The other day, it hit me that I had miscast the hero. I realized he needed to be someone different. He was too much like all the other dark, mysterious, powerful, slightly dangerous paranormal heroes out there. He needed something I hadn't given him.

Then it hit me who he needed to be and suddenly I can hear his voice and I can see movement in those frozen scenes.

I'm sending my old hero packing and letting the new one run around in my head for a while. The heroine is a bit flummoxed by him, since she wasn't expecting his type either. He sort of makes her jaw drop...which is exactly what I was hopping would happen.

Now, off to start writing and get those scenes moving.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Differences between 'crafting' and 'craft'

I write this blog post with a nod to my good friend, Jen Baum, who gave me the idea with her recent blog post: Similarities between crocheting and writing.

In Jen’s post she compared her occasional frustration with her craft [writing] to frustration with her crafting [crocheting]. I found it interesting because though I do both activities and I do find my approach to the creative process in each to be similar, I don’t experience the same level of frustration when a crafting project doesn’t turn out perfectly as I do when I write.

I find I’m much more fluid and forgiving of the ‘crafting’ process. I have no problem diving in to fix a misplaced block in quilting or ripping out rows of crocheting. I can, with little remorse, throw away a half finished project that has taken a turn for the worst, reasoning that it’s only an opportunity to go back to the craft store and buy more ‘stuff’ to work with. For some reason, though, deleting writing [which may exist as no more than some binary code in the guts of my computer] is far more painful and upsetting for me. A page of writing represents so much cerebral work for me that parting with it, or even making a major overhaul, hurts. Yet I can spend all day on a quilt project and happily relegate the finished project to a drawer or bin in the basement where it will stay for years until I either decide what to do with it or throw it away. I don’t regret the projects I’ve made and tossed, but I do regret the stories I’ve never finished.

I wonder why that is. Why am I not intimidated by a blank canvas or a virgin skein of yarn or an uncut fat quarter, but a blank page, a poorly executed chapter or a dull paragraph frustrates the utter crap out of me? Why don’t I beat myself up when I accidentally short a stitch on a row of crocheting, or when I have to rip out a seam or repaint a piece of pottery, but I’ll feel like a complete poser when I write a clunky line of dialogue?

Maybe it’s because for me the stakes are higher with the writing? This is my ‘career’ whereas the crafting is merely a hobby – something I do ONLY for my own enjoyment and specifically to unwind when I’m tired of using my brain. Maybe it’s because I still see the charm in a lopsided pillow or an uneven scarf, but, probably thanks to my editing experiences, I can’t see the charm in an awkward sentence or a boring scene. In a poorly executed piece of knitting or sewing, I can see the opportunity to improve, but in writing that doesn’t dazzle, I can only see future rejections.

Well, there I’m waxing rhapsodic, so before I get too philosophical I’ll stop. I imagine it sums up this way: When my good friend Robin and I were in high school, my favorite subject was Art. Robin used to dread the class because she said, “I’m afraid I’m going to screw something up. I can’t draw, I can’t paint, I can’t make anything out of clay. Don’t you get nervous when you have to make something?” I remember having a hard time understanding Robin’s sentiments because the paper, the paint and the clay didn’t intimidate me. I wasn’t afraid of screwing up because I felt like whatever I made would be art whether it was perfect or not. I couldn’t screw up.

Now, how can I make myself feel that way about writing?

*Speaking of crafting: here's a set of pillows I just finished. I wonder how many words they represent?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Anchors Away!

I'm over at Starcrossed Romance today talking about letting go of anchors. Bring your swim suit and a towel and join me on the Lido deck.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Drop and give me twenty...

'Tis the season once again for those pesky start of the year diets. Yes, even though I don't make resolutions, I do tend to have visions of grandeur this time of year when it comes to the art and science of losing weight, eating better and exercising more.
This year I have set what I believe is a modest and achievable goal which centers mostly around not eating so much sugar. I'm a cookie monster - I can't help it and my plan this year is to learn how to cut down. If I can substitute unsweetened green tea with lemon as my beverage of choice for soda and manage to survive, then I can drop the cookie and brownie habit. Wish me luck.
That, however, is not really the subject of today's blog. My topic today is really a mini-rant about weight-losing celebrities who are so on my nerves I can't tell you. I'm so tired of hearing about celebrities going on diets, losing weight then crying when they gain it all back. [cough, cough Oprah, cough cough, et al].
First of all, these famous faces all go on the typical fad diets - why? Because they need to lose weight fast to make it look miraculous. If they drop 40 pounds in 6 months on the 'Flab buster*' system [for which they sign a contract and get paid to be the spokesperson] they look like superheroes - not to mention super models. How do they do this? Well, it's easy when you have a personal trainer, someone to help prepare your meals and shop for you...and it's actually part of your job to lose weight. Let's face it - when they're posing for a spread in national magazines touting their weight loss regime - do they really want us to believe no money has changed hands? If someone paid me to do a diet, I'd probably stick to it better myself.
Now, it's not so much the fact that these celebrities sign contracts and get money and publicity as an incentive to lose weight and look fabulous that bothers me. It's the language they use that really ticks me off. I'm tired of hearing celebrities [whom we are all supposed to look up to as inspirations] saying things like how 'ashamed' they were of being fat, or asking 'how did I let this happen?' Seriously - it's insulting to those of us who live in the real world for a celebrity to come along and express her utter mortification at waking up weighing 180 or 200 pounds one day. What they're saying, essentially, is the rest of us should be ashamed to be alive and that stinks.
I would have great respect for a weight-losing celebrity who could have the guts [no pun intended] to stand up and say, "I gained weight like every other American woman does, by being too busy attending to every other aspect of my life to pay constant attention to my diet, not by being a lazy, good for nothing layabout." Overweight celebrities need to stop with the 'I'm so ashamed of myself' BS and really be inspirations to the rest of us instead of just trying to make us all feel even worse about 'tipping the scales.'
And don't even get me started on the media. That will a rant for another day.
My point is, everyone out there who has decided the New Year is a good time to start a diet, hold your head up and be proud of yourself, no mater what you weigh. The only shame in all this is being a celebrity who thinks we will be inspired by their 'shame.'

* not an actual weight loss program