Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I've been tagged

Blogging is one thing that is tough to remember to do when under a deadline and dealing with the holidays, both at the same time. I keep thinking I'm a week from the end of this book (the 3rd Rose book), and every week, I'm still a week from the end. You will see great jubilation going up here when I finally do reach that end.

And then there's the holidays. When I finish the writing time, I have Christmas stuff to do--boxed up eight packages (EIGHT!) to go in the mail last Friday--had to take the large-son-with-muscles with me just to have someone to carry them in the building. Plus the cards and getting everything wrapped. I haven't cooked anything Christmas-y at all yet--I'm afraid I'll eat it all myself and I do NOT need to do that. So I'll wait till the grandboys get here (with their daddy this time), earlier than we thought they'd be able to come--and I'll let them help. (Oh boy!)

Anyway, my friend Robin Owens, an award-winning fellow Luna author, tagged me with a thing, and it nudged me into getting myself over here to blog a blog (before those little boys come). So, here it is.

7 items for 7 questions:

7 things to do before I die:

Sing The Messiah in some community group thing
Visit Scotland
Write all the books in my head, plus whatever new ones I come up with
Write a book somebody wants to make into a movie
Visit Australia & New Zealand
Read all the books in my TBR list
Finish one of the $5 quilt project quilts

7 things I cannot do:

Sing soprano
Serve a tennis ball (or anything else requiring eye-hand coordination)
Walk out of a bookstore with fewer than 2 books (and more often I've got 4 or 5)
Wear a size 6
Eat liver
Hammer nails without hammering fingers

7 things that attract me to Men:

Sense of humor and play
Great hands
The ability to listen
Interesting things to say
Knowing when to be silent

7 things I say most often:

You know...
Hey, good lookin'.
Bad word.
It's against the rules to tickle your wife in church. (Still haven't cured him of that. sigh)

7 Books or Series I love:

My own Rose books. (Hey, if I didn't love them, I wouldn't write them.)
Both of Laurell K. Hamilton's series
Lois McMaster Bujold's Miles series, and her Quintarian series
Laura Kinsale's books (especially Flowers from the Storm and Shadow Heart)
The Sholan series by Lisanne Norman
Suzanne Brockmann's books
Kim Harrison's Witch books

7 movies I can watch over and over:

X-Men (1 and 2)
13th Warrior
Dear Frankie

7 people I want to join in (tag, you're it):

April Galyardt
Nalini Singh
Bronwyn Jameson
Belinda Barnes
Diana Loftin
Alisa Dollar
Emilie Rose

Okay, there it is. I know some of you I've tagged don't have blogs. I don't care. Send me an e-mail. Post it here, in the comments. Something.

Monday, December 05, 2005

To Blog, or Not to Blog

Actually, that isn't the question, because the answer is, invariably--Blog!

I mean, why set up a blog if I don't blog on it occasionally? No! I must Blog!

The problem is, I have trouble thinking of things to say. My life is excruciatingly boring. All I do is write, read books, drive to "the big city" once a week to paint and run errands and maybe, if I'm lucky, see a movie, and occasionally bake a pie. Admittedly, this has led to blogs about pies, but boring is that?

I have friends who blog about imaginary people. Their blog is a story about someone or something they'd like to write about. I could do that. Except that most of the time, my brain is already too busy with trying to write the stories I actually get paid to write, and I'm not one of those people who is very good at shifting gears in the old brain. I even stink at the role-playing game things people like to do on the Luna boards. I just can't be that clever on demand. Or something. I admire those who can, and wonder why I can't.

So what you get here are the "Welp, I finished up two more quilt blocks last night, and this morning, I relocated a love scene and taught my characters how to dream-walk and tomorrow, we're going to have a big bad lover's quarrel and then..." type of blogs, interspersed with the occasional paean to pies and inspired bit of writer's talk. Usually inspired by somebody else.

Hope I don't bore you too much. :)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Paean to Pecan Pie

I hope everyone who celebrates it had a Happy Thanksgiving. I had an excellent, semi-lazy day myself, thank you. And during the preparations and the celebration thereof, I came to the realization that I have definite purist tendencies when it comes to food.

I am a Southerner, which means food has meaning beyond mere nourishment. And that there are certain things that food Should be. Mashed potatoes, for instance, should involve actual potatoes, the kind you have to peel, cut up, boil and then mash. Sweet potatoes are vegetables. And they are perfectly delicious just as they are--maybe with some butter once they're baked. They're better with a little texture and substance, not obliterated into some baby food puree. If you want to gussy them up some, a nice glaze over thick slices is good--honey and lime juice makes a great glaze. They don't need to be turned into candy with brown sugar and marshmallows. Yeah, we had sweet potatoes with that glaze for Thanksgiving.

The food that tends to bring out my purist tendencies the most, however, is pecan pie. (The correct pronunciation of which is pe-CAN. The other way refers to cans of peas, not the perfect nut.)

Pecan pie is the quintessential Southern dessert, as far as I am concerned. Yes, banana pudding and coconut cake with lemon filling and buttermilk pie (which I am inordinately fond of as well) are all genuine Southern desserts, but there's just something about a pecan pie...

And people just keep messing with it, when the original is already perfection. A pecan pie needs a plain, short pastry crust, and a filling with corn syrup, butter, sugar (brown or white, either one), eggs and pecans. Nothing else. Well, okay, a little rum or bourbon for flavor is acceptable. But no chocolate. No pumpkin. No coconut or cream cheese or other adulterants.

Pecan pie should be gooey, not gummy-sticky (like those disgusting things they sell at convenience stores, with their ground pecans and doughey crust). The filling below the pecans should be translucent, almost transparent, and the pecans should preferably be halves. I know sometimes it's hard to get those big pieces out of the shells whole, but the pieces should as big as possible. The crust should be brown and flaky. Storebought pie crusts that you unroll and lay in the pan are perfectly acceptable. Lord knows, the Pillsbury Doughboy makes better pie crust than I do.

This year's pie turned out absolutely perfect. Which is why I only make one per year. Because by this time next week, I will doubtless have eaten the whole thing by myself, alas. It's all I can do to limit myself to one piece per day.

Hmm. Maybe I should wax this poetic about my writing, ya think?

What brings out your purist tendencies?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Writing Moods

C.E. Murphy, of Urban Shaman fame, noted that when she looked at her TBR shelf (you only have ONE, Catie?), she usually just shrugs and toddles off to write on her own story which is what she was in the mood for really. And sometimes I can do that. But sometimes, that doesn't work either.

When I'm sitting at my work table (I'm one of those throwback freaks who works in longhand, remember), looking out the window hoping for squirrels or Mrs. Chamberlain's dog to wander by so I have something to look at other than the Bermuda grass growing in my flower bed, thinking I'm not really in the mood to write, it helps to figure out why I don't want to put pen to paper and write something down.

The why dictates what I do. Sometimes I'm just being a whiny baby who would rather goof off than write. And sometimes I'm having an actual mini-writer's block because I'm not sure which direction the story needs to go. For the whiny-baby thing, I make myself Do It Anyway. Write Anyway.

Sometimes, I get into it, the story starts to flow and the whiny-baby mood goes away. Other times, I get a page or two written and everything just sort of poops out, or I start falling asleep over my papers or I keep thinking about the silly characters in the TV series on DVD I just got instead of my Own characters and the stupid brain won't settle down. In those instances, I'm usually better off to give myself a break.

Two pages is better than none, I say. It's okay to stop now. I go take a nap if I'm falling asleep. Or I go watch the rest of the episodes (I really hate that I didn't discover Firefly until after it was canceled.) to get them out of my system and locked into the brain. Or I take the stuff that is happening in the story and I get out my current "blank book" and free-write about it till I figure out what went wrong, if anything, and what needs to happen next. Naps followed by the freewriting help a lot.

Last week, I didn't write as much as I wanted to. 23 pages, as opposed to the 30 I had for my goal. Of course 23 is much better than the Zero pages I wrote the week before, so it's all relative. Anyway, I wasn't sure I could get untracked today, so before I started writing (after I started the dishwasher and put on a load of laundry), I hauled out my big pink-and-green blank book with the Carmen Miranda lady on the front and wrote a bunch of stuff. And when I got to the work table, it clicked. I didn't even get to the part I worked out in the journal. So I still have that waiting for tomorrow. Whoopee.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


This has been a rather bizarre week for me. While I read less when I'm working really hard on the story, I still read a lot. Last week, I read a total of two books. (Star Doc by S.L. Viehl and Marriage, Interrupted (Silhouette Special Edition) by Karen Templeton--both very good.) I bought nine or ten books (good thing the spouse doesn't read this blog--not sure the spouse even knows I have a blog) this past week (among them the two I read), and most of them still sit on the TBR pile.

And isn't that thought depressing? I have a TBR PILE. I have a whole bookcase--I'm talking three shelves on an entire piece of furniture--that is for my as-yet-unread books, and the books have metastasized to the floor and even the giant large bookcase that is supposed to be only for keepers and reference books. And every time (after I read the two books I read) I went to pick up a book to read, I'd look at it--even though I might have read the opening pages in the bookstore, which influenced me to buy the dang thing--and I'd put it down again. I just wasn't in the mood to read it. I wasn't in the mood, apparently, to read anything. Because I haven't. Not since Wednesday. And for me that's a really long time.

I have a wide variety of stuff on my TBR shelves (and pile), from historical mysteries to romantic suspense to series romance to romantic fantasy to "pure" fantasy to alternate histories to... well, to a history of the Black Death in the Middle Ages. And Nothing struck my moody self as desirable to read.

Moods can be problematic in writing as well. Sometimes you're just not in the mood to write. Or to write fantasy, or to write that stupid love scene, or... And when there is a deadline looming over you, too bad, so sad, sit your butt down in that chair and write it anyway. Get yourself in the mood.

How do you do that? Get past that--"I want to read, but I don't know what/I need to write but I'm not in the mood"--kind of feeling?

I'll do my best to be back here before the week is out and post a follow-up to this about what I do. (Reading...nothing. It'll pass, and till it does, well, there are always crossword puzzles to be worked...) Hopefully, I'll remember to show up soon. Maybe even tomorrow.

Then again, maybe not. (Yeah, I know. Sloppy blogger. I admit it.)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Yep, it's been a while

I've been away. Some of the time I was away, I was actually here--well, not here here, you understand, since I'm not pixilated, but at home. However, I was taking care of two of my grandboys--aged 4 years old and 18 months. Do I need to mention how wiped out that left me? Especially since they brought me presents in the form of germs.

We had a great time. We went to the park two days in a row--the local park doesn't compare with big city parks, but there is a slide and swings, and a stone bridge over a dry creek (if it hasn't rained lately, and it's been a while) and these are little kids. Doesn't take much to impress them. We also had a large appliance box and room for it in the living room. It was a popular attraction. Of course, the little one still needs a nap, while big brother doesn't. And big brother crashes about 9 p.m. while baby brother has to be coerced into sleeping by 11, which didn't leave me much time for sleeping, but hey...who needs sleep? Needless to say, there was no time for writing, and not much time on the computer, which had to be turned completely off when I left it for fear of things happening to it.

They've all gone home now, and I miss them, but I'm glad I got to give them back. Then I took a week to get over all the stuff they gave me. And now I'm hard back at work. Relatively speaking. Only got four pages written today. I like to get six done in a day's work, minimum. But I give myself allowances for when I'm just getting started back. That said, I want to tell you that I have an interview up on a friend's blog. Nalini Singh is a fabulous author. She asked a lot of ... interesting questions. Go by and take a look. The story of the origins of The One Rose trilogy is there.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Random thoughts

Random thoughts are pretty much all you get on this blog, so the title could be re-used forever.

So, what should I write about on this post? I've spent the past week with my head in storyland, in between trips to the airport (it's 60 miles away in the local "hub city" so I go early and run errands, and then wind up having to fool around waiting anyway because the plane's late). Which means my life is even more boring than ever. And it's really boring at the best of times.

And the writing didn't go that well. I'm aiming for 30 pages (handwritten) a week. Up to this last week, I'd been getting 39 pages, 37 pages, 33 pages--always over my goal. And this last week, I only managed 29 pages. Yeah, one page off, I could have pushed a little harder and added that one page, but sometimes it's like that dead-horse beating thing. I don't care how hard you push/beat/ whatever, it just ain't gonna move. It helps to know where one is going with the writing, I think. At least one day, I spent most of the morning staring out the window (I have some lovely windows by my work table, and an orchid that's almost through blooming) trying to figure out what needed to happen next. Or whose POV I needed to be in.

There are days when it seems to be an awfully long hard slog to get from the beginning of a book to the end of it. Especially when it's a big fat book like these fantasies always seem to be.

Hmmm. I have one more week before we go pick up our older son's little boys to keep for a week. The break may be good for me.

I'll try to post before they come, 'cause heaven knows, I may not be able to get to the computer while they're here. I may have to keep it turned off...they just loooove keyboards. And mouses. And remote controls. And...

Okay, off to baby-proof.

Monday, October 03, 2005

And the Writing Goes On

My deadline for this new Luna book isn't till next year, but I'm writing madly away, focused on getting the book done.

This is strange, because I'm one of those people whose picture you will see in the dictionary next to the definition of "procrastination." I am a grand champion procrastinator. I have a little spiral notebook that I keep handy where I list my "To Dos" for the day. (Those fancy dayplanner books and Blackberries are too complicated for me. The spiral works just fine.) And I move jobs from day to day to day for weeks on end. It takes an average of two weeks for me to get round to calling for an appointment to get a haircut, for example.

But I don't do this with the writing. Part of it is the priority thing. I'm fortunate enough that I am able to write full time. It's my dayjob, so it's a priority for me. It doesn't come behind anything but family (and the old dayjob came behind family too.) However, I also think it's something I learned when I was back in college and in the early years afterward.

First, I learned to write research papers. I had an instructor who broke things up into reasonable bites. I learned to pace myself and do a little bit at a time so that I wasn't frantically trying to do 3 months worth of work in one week.

And second, which sounds almost contradictory, I learned how to crank the material out. I majored in journalism, and worked on the college newspaper. I'm much happier making stuff up these days, thank you, but I enjoyed gathering the news and writing it up. I'd spend the afternoon running around talking to people, calling them on the phone, or maybe head off to a concert they wanted me to review, then before deadline, I'd rush up to the newsroom, sit down at a typewriter (yeah, I'm that old. We still used typewriters--though we did the copyedits on computer) and bang out the story.

Several years later, I worked on various small-town weekly newspapers. Most weeks, I would have spent two or three days running around town getting the stories, taking notes, and on Wednesday afternoon, I would dash into the newsroom, sit down at the typewriter (and we're talking REALLY OLD, sucky typewriters) and bang out five or six stories in a row. Some of them would be no more than four or five graphs, but some would be half-page, five-column things.

Applying these things together to the novels I'm writing these days, I know that I can get more than one page in a day, and I know that I have to start early enough that I won't be frantically rushing to get it done at the last minute. I have friends who can't seem to do anything else. They've tried and tried, and they just work better when they're on a frantic, last-minute writing binge. This doesn't work real well for me, though I have come right down to the wire on at least one occasion. Which is why I'm starting so early on my hard push this time. I don't like that panicky "will I make it?" feeling.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Of Chuckwagons and Surprises

Well, I'd link to the Chuckwagon Cookoff information on the web, but Roger doesn't have it up yet. It's only Tuesday. Things like the Saint's Roost Museum Chuckwagon Cookoff are one of the joys of small town living. This past Saturday, the local museum brought in 14 authentic ranch chuckwagons to compete in preparing a semi-typical meal. (I say "semi" because there wasn't always beef on the trail...)

They were authentic in everything but the actual mules for pulling the wagons--but they did have to have harness. The competitors have to cook over mesquite wood fires (at least all the wood laying out at the museum looked like mesquite--some of it might have been cedar--that's what the ranchers around here want to get rid of) using authentic methods--cast iron skillets and dutch ovens, no aluminium, no spray-on anything--just cowboy cooking.

And then the folks who've bought tickets get to come out and have dinner. Fried steak, potatoes, pinto beans, bread and cobbler. (Yes, the chuckwagons had canned peaches, so they could do dessert for the cowboys.) The tickets have the name of a chuckwagon competitor written on the back and you have to go to that chuckwagon to get your food. We ate at the CW wagon--they won a well deserved prize for their meat, but didn't place in anything else--and I had an awfully good meal, so those other folks must have been Really Good. Yeah, it was carb universe, but I was playing cowboy (snort!) for the weekend.

I also bought me a new pocket knife at the little craft/stuff fair they had before they rang the triangle thingie, so now I can sharpen my weirdly shaped drawing pencils. Don't quite know how to use them yet, but I can at least get to the insides.

Surprises. I had one today while I was writing. I thought I was writing a love scene, and all of a sudden, the characters took me someplace completely different--someplace I didn't even think they could get to. Blew my mind. It's a three-Puffs-tissue (What can I say? I like them better than Kleenex) week so far. Nobody died. Today. But it got really emotional.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Procrastination and The Historian

Procrastination, thy name is mine. I've been intending to post a blog every blessed day since I got back to town on last Sunday night, and you see just how many posts I've done. I'm a genius at procrastination. But there are so many of us in the club.

But I am here now! And I have about five minutes to bore you all with something before I have to run put on my shoes (I write so I don't have to wear them) and pick up some friends to go to the Mexican Pile-on down at the school cafeteria (there's only one school in town) before the Homecoming Game. Seems like Homecoming comes earlier and earlier every year. But I suppose they think the local boys can beat up on whoever we're playing this year, so... When the school is so small you only have 35 kids in each grade (I almost said class, but we're talking the entire grade), it's hard to have a powerhouse football team.

Anyway, I've put off blogging because I've been busy writing. It's time. I basically have four months to finish, polish and send in this third book in the Rose trilogy. And the writing has been going well. I've been pleased with my progress.

I also have put it off because I've been trying to get the old website updated. I got the cover for The Barbed Rose this week. And it's beautiful. But you're going to have to follow this link to my website to see it. Because, apparently, the blogsite isn't going to let me put the image here. There's also an excerpt that you can reach from that page. It's good. :)

It's difficult to know what to blog about when one's life is so very dull. What else have I done? Besides writing a very traumatic scene for The Eternal Rose, I've been reading The Historian, the hot new-ish novel by Elizabeth Kostova.

I picked it up because I want to write a "straight" historical novel, one that doesn't fit the expectations of the romance novel, so I thought it would probably behoove ($45 word there, at least) me to read a bit of what is out there. Besides, this concept intrigued me. I bought the book on Monday, and I finished it today. This is a long time for me to take in reading a book. Usually, I finish a book in a day--except sometimes when I'm writing really hard. But I like to finish books all in one gulp, preferably. I liked The Historian, but I didn't love it.

First off, it is a mainstream book, but its ancestry is rooted in horror novels. Most mainstream novels grow out of one genre or another, according to my friend, mainstream author Britta Coleman, (Potter Springs). Some are Westerns at heart, some are romances, some are mysteries. Many of them are a bit of a mish-mash. So, The Historian is part mystery, part travelogue, mostly horror. And horror is emphatically not a preferred genre of mine. I do like mystery. I like travelogues. So that part I enjoyed. The descriptions of the various landscapes and the people were lovely, but...

I sort of felt that she deliberately set the reader at a distance from her characters. She glossed over the ickier elements of the story--the horror was "told" rather than "shown." And the pace of the story was more leisurely than I prefer. It seemed almost like an intellectual exercise, which was interesting, but it wasn't riveting. I want to be riveted. (Gee, that sounds painful.)

Which makes me more determined to rivet my readers through the heart when they read my things. I hope I succeed.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Sunburn and ... stuff

Okay, I really suck at coming up with titles for my blog stuff. This is not surprising, because I am not the best in the world at coming up with titles for my books. I am rather in a state of shock, actually, because Luna kept the titles I came up with for my first two books in The One Rose trilogy. The third one was going to be The One Rose but they wanted it for the trilogy title, so I have had to come up with a new title for the third book. At the moment, I'm calling it The Eternal Rose, but we shall see if that sticks.

And I've gotten totally off the topic that I thought I was going to write about. (I'm very good at that, actually.) Sunburn.

I acquired my first "real" sunburn of the season this past weekend. A real sunburn is when you burn somewhere besides your face, arms or feet and it's bad enough you're still painfully pink the next day, enough that a purse strap over the burn hurts. I'd been so good all summer, but mostly because I rarely ventured outside in the heat of the day, and never in a swimsuit. Then the brothers-in-law invited the son and spouse waterskiing on the lake near where we used to live. And when I jumped blithely into the lake to cool off and float around in the wonderfully warm water (I do not swim in lakes collected from snow melt. I am a Texan. I want WARM lake water.) I forgot that my shoulders were still their natural pasty white and forgot to slather on the sunscreen.

Yes, I know I should have known better. Fortunately, I only stayed in the water about thirty minutes, and so only my shoulders roasted, and then not overly much. They shouldn't peel, but they might get a little flaky. Then again, there are those who say I'm flaky all the time, so...

Let's see. I have entered serious writing mode. The editor sent me revision notes. We have come to agreement on how to handle them. So now it's time to hunker down and get the rest of this book written. Although I'm trying to cram five days worth of writing into three this week, I feel good about what I've managed to accomplish.

Now it's time to go finish the quilt I promised my son for his college bedspread this weekend...

Y'all have a good week! And maybe I'll manage to post more often in the next one.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Hot Salsa!

This is a salsa post. I'm talking the kind with tomatoes and onions and jalapenos and cilantro and all that good stuff. I currently have a great big pot of the stuff simmering on the stove, and I have to stay up till it sludgifies so I can stick it in containers and freeze it. (I'm to lazy to go the canning route.) And while I'm waiting for it to cook down, I thought I'd come blog. (I told you my life was boring.)

I've been waiting a while for tomatoes to get cheap enough to buy a bunch of them, and finally they did. At this price, I can make a buttload of salsa for a lot less than what it costs to buy the good stuff, and the homemade is LOTS better than the storebought. And I only cut myself once, right at the very end of the chopping portion of the job--cutting oneself while making salsa is Really Bad, because the acid in the tomatoes burns like crazy, and the jalapeno juice isn't that great either. And I don't know how anybody can make it without cutting themselves at all...they're more coordinated than I am.

So, besides the salsa bubbling away in the kitchen, it's been a good day otherwise. The editor liked my answers to her questions in the revision letter. She liked my idea for the option book, and she liked the thought I had about future books set in Adara. Which means that when it comes time to start the next proposal for Luna, I'll be writing sexy Victorian steam-punk...

But first I have to finish The Eternal Rose. Which means sitting down tomorrow to do it. Work, work, work.

Friday, August 26, 2005

A visit from Gena Showalter!

Here's a good read-- Take a look!

Heart of the Dragon
by Gena Showalter

HQN books, 037377057X

He is a Dragon, a rare breed of warriors able to transform into the legendary creature at will. Though the mighty warlord breathes fear into the minds of his enemies and fire into the blood of his women, no one has ever stirred his heart -- until he encounters Grace Carlyle of modern day Earth. He burns to possess this proud, alluring beauty . . . but he has sworn to kill her.

Set in the mythological world of Atlantis, where the gods’ hid their greatest mistakes – the vampires, demons, minotaurs, dragons and too many others to name – Darius en Kragin is the fiercest creature of all. But this immortal warrior is unprepared for Grace and soon finds himself caught between sizzling white-hot passion and duty.


Sexy, funny, and downright magical!” New York Times bestselling author Katie MacAlister

Sexy and sparkling, Award winning author Robin D. Owens

Bold and witty, sexy and provocative, Gena Showalter's star is rising fast! Carly Phillips, New York Times Bestselling Author.

Gena's website


Buy from Barnes and Noble or Amazon

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Poetry at College

We took the youngest to college last week. It was an experience. Fortunately, I didn't have to do too much of the climbing up and down stairs. I'm a GREAT door-holder. We left the boy heading to marching band practice and returned home. The house isn't really any quieter during the day, when I'm there by myself. But it feels quieter.

Classes started Monday. And Monday afternoon, when I checked my e-mail, I discovered that the boy has WAY too much time on his hands. He wrote us a poem. At midnight.

The Night Before Classes

Twas the night before classes,
And all through the dorms,
Not a student was stirring,
No parties, no porn.
The books were all bought,
And the kids were all ready.
Not one dreamed of sleep,
But all dreaded study.
The money ran thick
In the deep freshman pockets,
The wise parents knew
That this would not stick.
Scrounge the students would
For every nickel and dime
And find the deals that only kids could.
The girls staked their claim,
On the unwary young men.
The boys ran for cover
From these apt, prowling dames.
Horomones ran free,
And the competition: Fierce;
Those who weren't there
Must have had to pee.
So the students relished
Their last night of freedom
The classes would start,
The work would begin,
That which was, is never again.

- Rob Shelton, Penland 305

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Protect The Work

> I have listened to too many other
> writers and changed the beginning and ending so many times the story
> was not the story I started out with.
(Someone posted this to a loop I belong to, and I just had to respond.)

I think we have all done this. I know I have, and I remember fussing at critique partners in the early days when they couldn't tell me what kind of story they wanted to tell ("one that will sell" is NOT the right answer) and kept changing it according to whatever the last person to crit the ms might have said. In fact, I have one (now published) crit partner I STILL have to fuss at for that.

You need--we all need to hold that vision in our heads, that heart-deep need to tell THIS story, not that one or the other. We need to figure out the tone and the feel we want the story to have, the kind of person we want our characters to be, and then hold on to it. Characters can have all sorts of jobs and still hold true to who they are. I changed a character from a patrol cop to a night-club owner, but he still had the same personality (I did add a stint in the Marines when he left the police force). That was the second book I sold. (Her Convenient Millionaire, Silhouette Desire, May 2003)

Figure out the things that are important to you, the things that make the story the story, and hold on TIGHT to those. That's what you need to protect. The other stuff can change, but protect those essentials, the things about the story that you love.

I don't care what your critique partner says. The only person who really matters is you. Yes, the editor matters, but you're the only one who can decide whether you can stomach the changes, or how to make those changes, and it's usually a long way to go before you get the editor's input. But if you change the story so much that you don't love it any more, how can you write it?

Now, if your cp doesn't get what you're trying to say, or if the hero you love seems like a brute to her, yes, listen. Add motivation (that usually helps in the brute thing) or explain a bit more. But hang on to the important stuff.

Sometimes, it's just easier to start over and write a new book. If you learned from that story, even if it's just one single thing, then the story was worth writing, even if it slides under your bed and is never heard from again. (And I have several of those...) The main thing is: Keep writing, and Protect the Work.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Death in Books

I've recently read a number of books in which a secondary, or a secondary/almost-main character is killed. And the impact of that death is different in each one. In some of them, it's almost an "oh well, they're dead, too bad, so sad." And in others, the death has much more of a horrific impact.

And it got me to wondering why there was such a difference in impact, and what created it.

Most of it, I think was a difference in staging. In what events were "on stage" when the death occurred. In the ones where the death seemed to hit me less, the main focus of the scene at that moment was not on the death. Other things were going on, and if the death didn't occur off stage, it was in the background. Then the main character discovered--Oh my goodness! George is dead! (or whoever it was that died). And while there is an aftermath of sadness and shock and such, it still doesn't seem to have quite the kick that other deaths in other books have.

But in the books where the death was a huge kick in the teeth, the dying was center stage with the hero/heroine fighting desperately to prevent it, or somehow horribly prevented from stopping it. There was anticipation--fear that it would happen, hope that somehow the hero/heroine will be able to stop it--lots of build-up. And when it happens, in a way, you're prepared for it, even though you were hoping it wouldn't happen, so it's still a shock, but you can feel the full impact of the death because its coming was threatened.

Do y'all agree? Disagree? Let me know. One of my main-ish characters is facing death in the next Rose book...and I want everybody to feel every last pang of the dying...

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Drive-by Posting

Haven't had much time to post here for a while. Last week, I went out of town with the spouse to the "garden spot" of Midland, Texas. And we had a good time. He had a conference there so I spent a fair bit of time doing absolutely nothing. Though we went to the Midland Civic Theater "Summer Mummers" performance of their melodrama. Locally written, it was a traditional melodrama merged with a 60s "Beach Blanket" movie: Beach Blanket Buckaroos. Lots of fun and silliness. And popcorn.

The Summer Mummers have been around a long time, apparently. Long enough to have traditions. And rules. Throwing popcorn at the villain has morphed into Giant Popcorn Wars amongst the audience.

Popcorn doesn't throw very far--sorta like throwing autumn leaves--so it's hard to get it to reach the villain up on stage. (The piano player wore one of those hat-umbrellas to keep it off him down in the orchestra pit.) So, to do something with the popcorn, people throw it at each other. Barkers go into the audience selling whole trays full of popcorn and the audience buys it 20 bags at a time. There were popcorn drifts around our ankles 3 inches deep. I got popcorn in my pants pockets, down my shirt (and bra), all in my hair... I had a blast! All those community college presidents throwing popcorn--everybody played, except the high school freshman son of one of the presidents who was too cool to participate... They tend to be at that age.

And I got to have lunch with Eileen Wilks who writes for Silhouette Desire and Intimate Moments, and writes very good werewolf books for Berkley. In fact, she had finished her second werewolf book at 5:30 a.m. before coming to pick me up downtown for lunch. I offered to let her go home and sleep, but she said she was too wired. So we had lunch and talked a lot--it was fun.

And next week, it's time for Romance Writers of America's annual conference, this year in Reno, and the fella's going with me to my conference. I think he's looking forward to doing as little as I did at his conference. (Though mine is longer, and there's a lot more planned activities.)

I've been trying to write--but mostly I've been trying to get things ready for Reno, and for next March's book. I finished up with the copyedits before heading for Midland, so that's not hanging over me. Next thing, the galleys. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to see the cover for The Barbed Rose at the meeting.

Other than that, it's hot and dry. The dirt is like concrete, which makes it hard to pull weeds in the rose beds--but they're blooming...

Friday, July 08, 2005

Whittling down the TBR pile some more

Except I think I bought most of these new rather than taking them off the pile...

Seducing Mr. Heywood by Jo Manning
Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
The Good, The Bad and The Undead by Kim Harrison
Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye by Victoria Laurie
The Misted Cliffs by Catherine Asaro
Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich
Crystal Soldier by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Liked all of these. I was going to say, especially the Harrisons, but then I'd have to say--oh, and the Laurie book too. And Evanovich's, and the Lee and Miller book! and ... well, by the time I got done, I'd have mentioned all of them.

If anybody would like to see more of the mini-review things, post a comment here that you would. I've got them anyway--just trying to decide whether I want to post them more places than I already do.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

"Oh Crap" Mode

I'm there again, in "Oh Crap" mode. I realized yesterday (July 5th) that I had a bunch of stuff I needed to turn in to my editor by July 1st to go with the book coming out next March. And I hadn't done it. Oh crap.

I did send the Dedication, and the "pronunciation guide", but I haven't updated the map, or the glossary, or the List of Characters, and I didn't have a blessed thing to go on the eHarlequin/Luna website for a "web extra."

I only had to turn in One extra, instead of two, like last year. (I wonder if they want a "Writing Fantasy" article again...) And pictures aren't allowed. Strictly text. They suggested deleted scenes or excerpts from the next book or--anything related to the book. And I had this idea for a short story, about the first meeting between Kallista and her bodyguard. I looked all through the letter about the extras, and found nothing about a word limit, so I sat down this afternoon (after another morning battling Bermuda grass and collapsing afterward) and wrote the story.

It came out to 1487 words--not bad for someone who has serious trouble writing short. Then I got an e-mail from the editor. I only get 800 words for the story. Ack! I have to cut over 600 words from the poor thing.

Then I got another e-mail. I only get Six Hundred (600) words! How in the world can I shorten by over half???

Well, I got yet another e-mail. The editor wants the short story really bad. Maybe we can put it on my personal website, and something really short--like the Adaran calendar and the stuff that goes with it--on the e-Harlequin website. I sent her the story. Now I have to figure out how to present the calendar, and actually do it.

Plus update the map. Plus check the ms. to make sure I have all the important characters in the list. Plus look for strange words for the glossary... And copyedits should be arriving sometime the end of this week.

Busy? Who me?

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Book Binge

I'm not really one of these "steady as she goes" type people. I try to be, try to write every day, crank out a certain amount of work, but I still have a tendency to do things in surges. The writing is usually steadier, but I am very definitely a binge reader.

I binged last week. Here's what I read.

Survival: Species Imperative #1
by Julie Czerneda;

Straight SF book—heroine is an Earth-centric scientist studying species survival—salmon, specifically—who gets called on to investigate a series of disappearances in space. Stranger than the disappearances is the path they follow—straight from a region called the Chasm where planets that should have been life-bearing have apparently been stripped of all life. And the people are not the only things missing—so is every living thing in a specific area. An alien and his human “escort” come to ask for the heroine’s help. Other aliens seem to want to stop her, and matters escalate. This is a Very Scientific book of science fiction with interesting biological/evolutional plot twists. There’s a faint hint of romance, but mostly, it’s about the scientific mystery. I probably shouldn’t have read it as late at night as I did...

Zinnia by Jayne Ann Krentz;

Picked this up at a UBS, because I thought I hadn’t read it—and I was wrong, but I didn’t remember much of it, until I got to the climax part and remembered where it had taken place because it was a very distinctive location. Anyway, this is one of the SF locale books where most people have a synergistic psychic power. Some have the power, some have the ability to create a psychic prism that allows the other people to focus that power. The power doesn’t work well without the prism. In this, the hero has a Pattern-sensing power—one that tends to drive its possessors insane. And of course, the heroine is the only prism who can deal with his powerful talent. It’s a nice, enjoyable story.

The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie;

This was a marvelous book with lovely, lovely dialog. It slips between drama and comedy so deftly there’s no sense of dislocation one often gets in books that have both. The heroine and her sisters have been living with a diabolical grandfather who beats them regularly. When the grandfather falls and breaks an ankle chasing the heroine down the stairs, she concocts a plot to get them all out from under his cruel rule. They will go stay with their great-uncle, one of them will marry, and they will be able to access their inheritance from their mother. Except Great-Uncle Oswald won’t allow the beautiful younger sisters to enter society for fear they’ll ruin the eldest’s (the heroine) chances. So she claims she’s engaged to a youthful Scottish Duke who never comes to London. Only he just happens to have come, this season, looking for a wife. So the heroine scurries off to his home to explain things, and mistakes his cousin, a Lord Carradice, for the duke—which is where all the delightful, witty conversations begin—and things go from there. I just loved this book—and wish I’d read it earlier in the day as well.

by Sharon Shinn;

I finally decided I hadn’t already read this one after all, and picked it up. It’s a romantic science fiction story, but the romance is slow to develop and the parties to the two romances don’t spend much time together. It’s mostly about how the lives of women in various Samarran societies and how these women develop a sense of self-worth. Elizabeth is a cook on her cousin’s farm after her parents die—an unpaid servant—and decides to leave the farm for a better life in a new Angel town. Maybe even have an angel baby. She finds a job in the angel dormitory laundry, and a place to live in a local boarding house, and even an angel who might give her that angel baby. Then she’s asked to help with a medical emergency and eventually becomes an apprentice healer. The parallel story is about a young Jansai woman, Rebekah, who finds a wounded angel beside a desert water hole. If not for this chance, she’d never have met anyone outside her family for Jansai women don’t leave their homes without escort and veils, and mostly, don’t leave at all. It’s a good story, with a satisfying ending.

Heart Choice by Robin D. Owens;

I had to try two stores before I found this, a couple of days before July started. It’s the 4th book in Robin’s Heart series set on Celta. In this one, the hero is the last of a family with a defective gene that leaves them vulnerable to a common illness. He’s been hunting a cure without luck, but has decided it’s time to restore the family home and find his Heartmate. As soon as he gets through with his fling with his interior designer (the heroine). Heroine was left sterile after a childhood illness, so she knows no one intending to re-establish his family’s line will be interested in marrying her. She doesn’t want a fling either, but someone seems to be after her. This is a very good, well-written story with multiple, interlocking mysteries, and it’s all about choices (hence the title). A definite keeper, and look to see this one raking in the awards on the contest circuit when the time comes.

Skintight by Susan Anderson;

Hero, a professional gambler who usually wins, has lost an heirloom baseball in a poker game. Except he’s not in possession of the ball—his “step-mother” has it. She’s a gold-digging Las Vegas chorus girl, so he figures he’ll have no trouble seducing his way into her house, grabbing the ball and saving his thumbs and other fingers from breakage. But she’s not anything like what he expects her to be. This is a fun story about expectations and illusions and finding love. It’s just a good read.

Enigma by Dee Davis;

Heroine is a federal bomb disposal expert. Hero is a black ops CIA kind of guy who comes out to work for a private/public coalition-type group when needed. And three Senators just got blown up in a San Antonio hotel, so the government and media are in hysterics wanting to know what happened. The heroine is called in to find out who. The hero is called in to help and to protect her. And of course there’s this attraction between them... Great characters, great story, very satisfying read.

311 Pelican Court by Debbie Macomber;

Another one of those Cedar Cove books. In this one, a divorced couple learns to cooperate again to deal with their rebellious daughter, a single mother allows herself to love the father of her child, despite his secrets, and a lady judge works through her feelings for her ex and her new beau and both judge and beau learn to fight for what they want. Women’s fiction full of nice people struggling with life.

44 Cranberry Point by Macomber;

A couple of books ago, this stranger died—seemingly spontaneously—in a Cedar Cove B&B, but he seemed familiar to the B&B’s owner, a Vietnam vet. So in this book, Macomber finally gets around to solving the mystery. (If it were me writing it, it would have taken me this long to figure out who had done it and why, but I bet Macomber had the solution all along. She strikes me as that sort.) Anyway, there’s stuff going on with all the other town characters—the judge’s mom falls in love. Her best friend tries to win back the beau she alienated. The best friend’s daughter tries to patch up her new husband with his estranged parents. Stuff like that. I think the only real romance in this book is the grandma’s, but it’s a nice, sweet read.

Navy Husband by Macomber;

I still don’t care much for Macomber’s romances. They’re just...not very romantic. In this one, a widowed Navy nurse has to leave her daughter with her single sister while she’s deployed at sea. “Uncle Adam”—the dead husband’s best friend (also Navy)—is living in the area and when the little girl accepts that he won’t marry her mom, she goes to work fixing him up with her aunt. Meanwhile, Mom is attracted to a commander on the carrier where she’s working, and winds up taking care of him after an emergency appendectomy. He never says one nice word to her, but she still falls in love with him. (!) And sis and the best friend are having some nice dates too. I couldn’t figure out when the falling in love happened, and I had trouble believing they really did fall in love. I like her women’s fiction, but I’ve never much liked her romances, and apparently still don’t. It was an okay read. Just not very romantic.

Total Package by Cait London;

Heroine is a photojournalist slumming at a swimsuit calendar shoot because she doesn’t want to run across the boyfriend who just dumped her to marry a fluffy blonde. She and boyfriend used to bond on the battlefield or the slopes of erupting volcanoes. Hero is the son of a Russian immigrant who’s moved to the NE coast to stay near family—his brother runs a resort there. He’s on a sea cliff making life decisions when the heroine comes up to commune with nature and ask the sky why the bf dumped her. He decides to pretend he’s just coming up to the cliff, and the minute she sees him, the heroine decides he’s climbed the hill intending to jump. I found her wild conclusion a bit hard to swallow, but they were an interesting couple of characters, so I enjoyed the story. She’s a very different sort of personality—a bit schizo, but interesting.

A Good Yarn by Macomber;

A women’s fiction story, revisiting the yarn shop of A SHOP ON BLOSSOM STREET. (A Good Yarn is the name of the shop.) A whole new set of ladies come to the yarn shop for classes to learn to make socks: a recent divorcee who can’t pick herself up again, a teenager spending her senior year in high school with her grandmother while her father works in Brazil, and a retired librarian who’s lost her retirement money to a bankrupt developer. It’s just a nice novel about some nice-ish people who get nicer by the end of the story. A nice read. (And sometimes nice-ness is just what a body needs.)

Metro Girl by Janet Evanovich

I finally found Metro Girl in the local library. Don’t know if it’s because I had to wait till people left it long enough for me to check out, or it just took them this long to get a copy, but... I liked it. Barney isn’t Stephanie, exactly. The story was different—I got a real kick out of NASCAR Guy—but it had the same Evanovich voice—which makes sense, since Evanovich wrote it. Barney’s brother vanishes while he’s on the phone with her. She heads to Florida to find him. He’s stolen—er, borrowed—the boat belonging to Sam Hooker, a NASCAR driver, and Sam decides to stick with Barney in case she figures out where his boat is. And then things get really complicated. Fun story with a number of LOL moments. (The bakery thing was good for several.)

and It's In His Kiss by Julia Quinn

The last Bridgerton girl has her book. There’s still a boy left before we have to start on the next generation. Anyway, Hyacinth hasn’t acquired too many proposals. She’s a little intimidating. The lady she admires and tries to model herself after is Lady Danbury, a scary dowager with a cane she likes to whack people with. Lady Danbury’s grandson has a reputation as a rake, is estranged from his father (because he’s not his father’s child, which is revealed very early on), and is now the heir since his older brother’s death. But since Hyacinth and Gareth St. Clair are the only two people in the ton who actually like Lady Danbury, they become acquainted. And then, when Gareth acquires his other grandmother’s diary, written in Italian, Hyacinth undertakes to translate it for him. And the plot thickens. Thickly. There’s lots of fun, witty dialog and all the hallmarks of a Quinn novel. I liked it a lot.

What have you been reading?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Tension of various sorts

This is my second attempt to post something this week. I had a really great post all typed in and everything on Tuesday, and then it vanished somewhere in the internet/computorial ether. And it made me so mad, I didn't even want to bother to try to recreate it. So I didn't. And by today (Friday) I don't remember a thing I wrote. Probably about my busy week last week. (The one before the one that's ending now, in which I sat in a hospital waiting room while the M-I-L got her knees replaced, then rushed down to get the last-son-at-home registered and indoctrinated for college, then rushed back to check on the M-I-L (and babysit the grandboys) before rushing home again...)

So. Now I need to come up with a new blog post. Preferably not having to do with the Fourth of July doings here in town this weekend, though I'm sure you'll find them eminently fascinating--turtle race, stick-horse rodeo, Depression dinner and all.

Read a thing this afternoon (or maybe it was still morning) claiming that much of what prevents a romance from being a compelling read is a lack of sexual tension, and I'm still trying to decide whether I agree with that. Sexual tension is important, I agree, but I think there are things that are more important.

Before I go farther, let's define sexual tension--it's "wanting to have sex, while not actually getting to have it."

That done, I have to say that I have read a number of very successful romances without any sexual tension at all, because they are having sex all over everywhere, like little bunnies. (Well, maybe not everywhere, but you get the idea.) I have written some books that I thought were rather successful, without any sexual tension. I'm sort of in the middle of one right now. (I say sort of, because it has gone on hiatus for the next little while.)

For instance, in Linda Howard's To Die For, the heroine is completely incapable of resisting the hero. She melts every time he nibbles on her neck (or something like that) and falls into bed with him. (Or onto the floor, or the sofa, or...wherever.) And yet, the book is successful. (I know some people don't like the heroine--maybe this is why--or the tone of the book, but you have to admit the book has sold well.)

I think the reason is Emotional Tension. If you don't have sexual tenstion of the "want to but can't" variety, you have to have something else. It's part of the conflict, yes, but much of the time, if there is no sexual tension, you'll find a lot of emotional tension. As in "I want to love him/her, but I can't."

Much of the time, when the characters fall into sex with each other early on, you wind up with a lot of conflict/tension of the "I didn't mean to, and I shouldn't have, but I did" variety. Because, after all, these are novels and we have to have conflict.

Anyway, I guess my point is that you don't always have to have sexual tension. But you DO have to have Some Kind of tension of some sort.

Okay, dh is home, and promised to take me to some movie or other tonight. Now we just have to negotiate for which one...

Hopefully, the next time I try to blog, it won't lose my post.

Don't forget my contest. Lots of prizes to win!

Monday, June 20, 2005

The "Already Been Read" Pile

Many authors and readers have commented about their "TBR" or to-be-read shelves/stacks/shopping bags. I have one of those. It's in the vicinity of about 50 books, on the actual bookshelf itself. Then there are the books still in their sacks on the floor, the ones in the box from the mail-order folks (not Amazon), and the books on the big "keeper" bookshelf stacked in front of the actual keepers. Probably another 50 there. It's that small because I read fast and can read several books in a day...if I don't do much of anything else...and sometimes if I do.

However, I'm not sure many readers have an "ABR" stack.

About three or four years ago, I picked up a little blank booklet at our local library titled Personal Reading Log. Or something to that effect. It had one page for each book read with spaces for Date Read, Title, Author, Publisher & Date, Comments and Disposition. I filled up one book (which wound up needing a rubber band around it when the pages started falling out) and decided it actually might turn out to be a good way to keep track of what I'd read in hopes of helping me keep from buying the same books twice (hasn't helped that much--just accidentally bought a second copy of Hawken's Way by Brockmann--donating it to the library...) and a way of tracking what the various publishers were buying and publishing. So I started keeping the log on the computer.

Last fall, I was on deadline, trying to write--well, I had about 60 pages of partial for The Barbed Rose, but my editor wanted me to start the story on page 50. So I wound up writing 567 pages (or however many it turned out to be) in about 4 months. I still read, but I didn't do much other computer work. So I just started stacking up the books under my worktable next to the computer desk. And they stacked. And stacked. And stacked. Because I didn't stop reading.

Sometime in April of this year (the month after Compass Rose came out) I gave up trying to catch up with last year's log and just started over. I decided I was going to post comments on every book I read and NOT let them stack up so bad--the books would sit on my desk till I got them listed. And every time I posted comments on a new read, I would pick up at least ONE book from the ABR pile and post it too.

Slowly, slowly, slowly the stack is being whittled down. Very slowly. Some of the books I read so long ago I basically have to re-read them to remember what they were about. And when I go on a reading binge--which I frequently do--they tend to stack up on the desk. (Or the end tables in the den or the kitchen counter...) (I have four stacked right now--no, five. (One is hidden under the photo paper box))

I have GOT to get these into the computer today, because this next week is going to involve a lot of travel (not that I can read in the car, I'm one of those who gets headaches (after a childhood spent getting carsick) if I try to do anything but stare out the window or sleep or talk...) and sitting around in hospital waiting rooms, which means lots and lots of books. Because, remember, I read fast. And it's impossible to write in a waiting room, because there's always another relative who wants to talk to you. Not that I mind. But I just know better than to attempt it. So...let's see which books I want to take with me...

Remember the contest at my website. I'm going to put the spaghetti recipe in my newsletter, if you want to sign up. And if you want to see my short-and-sweet book comments (not long enough for reviews, really), let me know. Maybe I'll post them here as well as to the Romance Readers Anonymous loop... I might get by here more than once a week...

16 Lighthouse Road by Debbie Macomber
211 Rosewood Lane by Macomber
One Way Out by Michele Albert
He Loves Lucy by Susan Donovan
To The Edge by Cindy Gerard
The Color of Death by Elizabeth Lowell
Regrets Only by Nancy Geary
Scandalous Passion by Emilie Rose

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Life Outside of Writing

I read somewhere that one ought to blog (is that a verb? I know it's a noun now, but is it a verb? I guess it is...)--anyway, one ought to blog about things other than just "I'm writing a book, and I did X number of pages today." (I did two pages today--which is very disappointing, because I wrote almost 30 pages in longhand last week, which will probably come out to around 35 pages once I type them in--about six pages a day. Two is not going to give me thirty pages by Friday, and I have to head to DFW on Friday, so I doubt I'll get any writing done then...)

One ought to blog about things in the larger world, the "blog experts" say. (What made them experts anyway? And just who are these experts? I read it somewhere, but names fall out the holes in my brain faster than anything else.) The problem is that I'd really rather not, thank you.
Yes, I have my opinions on public events and politics, and while I realize that I have the right to have opinions and I can even share them with other people if I want to--inevitably, they seem to stir up arguments and ugliness (and as a Southerner, I'm a firm believer in the fact that Ugly is Behavior, not appearance. I grew up being told to "Stop acting ugly to your brother", so I'm here to tell you that the reason ugly goes clear to the bone is because it's all in how you act.) and people insulting each other, and I don't want to listen to it. I won't listen to it from people I know, so why would I want to listen to it from people I don't?

I don't mind blogging about issues regarding the writing and publishing business. I just can't think of any I feel strongly about right now. Well, except for the tendency of people to run around yelling "The sky is falling!" at the first raindrop, before they know whether it's a little shower or a thunderstorm with grapefruit-sized hailstones and tornados.

Apparently the book-reading public is shrinking. Or at least they're buying fewer books. Publishers are caught in the catch-22 of having to print enough books to make a bestseller list, but still allow returns from the booksellers, which puts the authors in a bind too. But there's not a whole lot I can do about that. All I can do is write the very best book I can and hope an editor will buy it, and then--if they do--hope the public will buy it and love it as much as I do.

However, I'm not loving this book right now. It's not loving me either. Frankly, I think it's thumbing its nose at me, daring me to figure out why it's not getting out onto the paper. It forgets that I'm the boss, and if I don't write it, it won't get written. I'm the boss. Maybe if I repeat it enough times, it will feel real. As for the rest of it--you think if I ignore it, it will go away? Me neither. Unfortunately.

Books read since last post:
Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy (really good)
The Love Affair of an English Lord by Jillian Hunter (pretty good)
The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber (pretty good--what I was in the mood for)

Monday, June 06, 2005


Someone asked about my roast beef spaghetti recipe. It is a family recipe, but only since, oh 1970 or so, and Mama got it from a dear, dear friend, Sue Reich (pronounced Rich). Sue died a couple of years ago, in her 70s, from ALS and we miss her a lot. It calls for a chuck roast and a buttload of spices, but once you measure out all the spices, you just stick it in the oven (or crockpot) and let it cook. And cook and cook. It's really good, though quite spicy. (Which is probably why I love it. Though I don't eat plain jalapenos for snacks, I am enough of a Texan to put chili powder in my meatloaf...) I will try to get it up on my website in the next week. If I don't, and you really want it, nag me.

I have The Eternal Rose off to the agent. Friday, I put Uncurse My Heart, the curse book with a ghost in it, in the mail to the agent. Now I can concentrate on just writing for a while. Once I clean up my worktable (I junked my workspot all up hunting something on the junky table so I have to clear that out again.) I can sit down and write the Desire proposal.

I like to have a "writing plan"--in terms of what to do next--laid out in my head, even if nowhere else. (And I should have it laid out on the calendar or something) That way, I waste less time dithering around trying to decide what to work on next. (Believe me, I'm really, really good at dithering. I can dither for days on end.) Once I finish the Desire proposal, I'll go back to an older story and work on revising that till I hear about the Rose book. Then it will probably be "pedal to the metal" to get that puppy finished. And that should finish out the year. ;)

I did update the website this week, so go by and check it out. It's got some new hunks for the "Hunt the Hunk" game and some fun pictures and a Contest! The contest doesn't officially begin until June 15, though, so don't get too excited about it. Still, some cool books and lots of stuff to go with them, cause there are 6 or 7 of us hosting the contest (hey, I do words, not so good with numbers).

Books Read since I last posted:
Thursday: Bait by Karen Robards and Superstition by Karen Robards (both very good)
Friday: The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold (fantabulous!)
Saturday: Area 51 by Robert Doherty (quite good--better than expected, which sounds like "damning with faint praise", but really, it was quite good. It's a straight adventure/near future SF story--I tend to prefer more romance of which this had None--but I liked it anyway. Fast paced, lots going on, and it made sense.)

Thursday, June 02, 2005

You Don't Have "It"

I'm a big fan of The Gilmore Girls, which is unfortunate, since I usually have a class on Tuesday night when it airs and have to remember to record it and often don't find time to watch it when I do. Anyway, the other night I saw (finally) the episode where Rory is told that she "doesn't have what it takes" to be a journalist, and it crushes her.

Old as I am (and I'm not tellin') I identified with her because 1) she apparently didn't have "it" because she was behaving like a "good girl"--trying to do everything that was asked of her, but nothing more because she didn't want to get in trouble, and 2) I was once told something very similar when I was just a bit older than she. It didn't have anything to do with being a journalist (which is what I got my undergrad degree in) but it was for similar reasons. I was too quiet, not out-going, not agressive enough. And that much was true. I am quiet and reserved. At least I was when I was 21. I've been living for almost 30 years with a man who knows how to mingle, so I've improved a bit since then.

And I got to thinking about peoples' reactions to that sort of news. I wanted Rory to get mad and decide to show him he was wrong, rather than giving up her dream, rather than accepting his rather facile assessment. It made me think of that old story that's told about dancers and violinists, about the maestro who tells a student they don't have "it" and the student gives up and becomes a teacher of dance or violin instead. Years later the maestro and student now teacher meet again, and the maestro says he had no idea back when whether the student had "it" or not, but obviously he/she didn't because if she did have "it", she wouldn't have given up. A large part of "It" is determination and the refusal to give up.

On the other hand, thinking back to my own degree in journalism and my rather checkered career in the field, it's pretty obvious that although I got my degree, I really didn't have "it" myself. Not for a heavy-duty career in the news business. What I really wanted, and what I refused to give up on was writing novels. The two are not exactly compatible.

For one thing, in journalism, making stuff up is frowned upon. I love to make stuff up. I make it up every day of the world--people, places, events, even whole universes and cultures. And other people give me money for doing it, instead of reprimanding me and firing me from a job.

For another, novelists get to hide from the world. Journalists have to be out there in the middle of it, willing to harass people for the information they want and need, or at least call them up and ask them questions. I don't like doing that. I can do it, if I have to. But I don't like to. I'm perfectly happy sitting in my office (now that I have one) staring out the window, or staring at the computer screen or the paper on my work table. I'd rather not talk to people all the time, thank you.

But I was lucky enough to know that this was what I truly, madly, deeply wanted and needed to do from a fairly early age. Everything else was material. Subject matter. Life.

So what is "It" and where does it come from? I think a lot of it is indeed that persistence and determination not to let the bastards get you down, if it's something you truly, deeply want to do. What do you think "It" is? Isn't it different things for different people? Different jobs?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

After a Break

It's been a while since I posted. We've had visitors. Our son graduated from high school last Friday and a horde of relatives descended on our little town, increasing its population--up over 1850, anyway. I served grilled margarita pork chops and potato salad to nine, roast beef spaghetti and green salad to sixteen and leftovers to eleven for lunch before everybody headed home again.

On top of all that, our daughter and her 2-year-old spent the week before graduation with us. I love the grandboy dearly, but he's a big two, and he wanted to play on the computer. Or with the CDs in the rack on the desk. He would take two or three out of the cases and carry them around, look through the holes, lick them, scrape them together, carry them with his sticks, which he also loves... And he didn't want the old CDs I gave him. Nooooo, he wanted MY CDs. The Important CDs. Sigh. And because he's so big, (this is the boy who weighed over 10 pounds when he was born) he's strong and heavy and hard to drag off the desk chair when he goes limp or fights to stay. Of course, he did fall asleep on the computer chair with his face on the seat and his knees tucked up under him. He'd had a hard day that day.

But we had fun sharing oranges and jumping off the arm of the couch onto Gigi (me) and Granddaddy. When cousin Ben (3 years old) came for a short visit, they chased each other and had a great time. The house has several circles a little guy can run, sorta like a track. Of course, once everybody went home, I collapsed and pretty much slept all day Sunday.

And now it's time to go back to work. And I have to figure out how to get the brain back into gear. This isn't an unusual occurence. "Breaks" happen all the time in a writer's life. We may be writing one story and have to leave it to write another, or deliberately leave it, as often happens when we send in a proposal and stop to wait and see what its reception is. Then, when the editor or agent wants to see the rest of the story, or even buys the story on proposal and we have a deadline to meet to write the rest of it--we have to get our head back into the story.

There aren't actually many ways that writers do this. Mostly, we get out what's been written already and read over it again. If there's a synopsis, we might read over that. Some can hop right back in at that point. I usually have to think a little more, depending on what I have to get back into. If it's just an edit or revision--depending on how extensive the revision is, I might be able to start in at that point. But often, I have to "think out loud."

I have to write stuff down, usually in the "blank book" I keep for my version of the Artist's Way morning pages. It's not as big as Julia Cameron says you need to write in, and I don't always write in the morning and I don't always write every day, but I do write in the thing on a semi-regular basis--especially when I'm actively creating. I've found that it's a good place to brainstorm with myself, to work out plot problems, develop character and conflict. (I write the title in the margin so I can find it again, or the character's names if the story has no title yet.) Somehow, thinking in ink like this is more creative to me and easier to remember what happened.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

General Musing

I want to do some things here with the blog that will require republishing the whole thing, and it just seems silly to republish (whatever that is) without doing a new post. So here I sit, trying to think of whatever it was that I wanted to talk about when I thought I might do a new post the other day and the mind is TOTALLY BLANK!!

Probably because it's got so much stuff rumbling around in it. The daughter is coming tomorrow with the middle grandboy for a visit. I was supposed to be at the library fifteen minutes ago for a meeting about Summer Reading and totally forgot until this minute. (Oh hell. Oh well.) I have a workshop I'm doing for the North Texas RWA chapter in -- I think they meet in Grapevine, but it's down there on the Fort Worth side of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metromess...on Saturday. Need to go through the workshop and update some of the exercises. Then we're trying to figure out whether the daughter is going with me to DFW to visit her brother while I'm doing the workshop, or if he's going to make it to the youngest boy's high school graduation--which is next week with multiple other relatives coming in to town--so that she can just visit him here, without having to travel 300-plus miles immediately after traveling several hundred more miles from Colorado.

I'm trying to decide if I have enough conflict for the Desire proposal I'm trying to put together--actually, right now, I'm just trying to do a contest entry. I like my chapter, but it's the overall story I'm wondering about. I'm also waiting on a critique on the third Rose book for LUNA before I send it off, but with all the visits in the next week or so, there's no hurry on that.

And I talked to my agent today. She had a conversation with an editor who remembered a book of mine she'd read over a year ago--they'd really liked it, except the middle seemed a bit claustrophobic (the setting doesn't move much), and if that could be opened up... A more-or-less straight contemporary romance, with elements of suspense. So now the mind is buzzing with "how can I open up the middle without changing the good stuff about the story?"

We also talked about another story I sent her--the paranormal/curse/ghost story--and it needs a bit of tweaking--which actually will require less thinking than the others, because it's mostly tweaking. I need to send all these things down to the swamp and let them ferment a while, since I have time to do it.

And hey, look! I've written a whole blog entry!

Okay, now I have to get that package ready to mail for the contest starting next month on my website (it's a multiple author/multiple website contest--information is going up around June 15), and the bookplate sticker I promised, and that other thing I have to mail that I can't remember right off hand--

If y'all want a bookplate for The Compass Rose or one of my other books (Hide-and-Sheikh or Her Convenient Millionaire), send an SASE (that's self-addressed, stamped envelope, for those few of you who might not know) to POBox 176, Clarendon, TX 79226, and I'll send you one.

And then I have to trim up that bush the guys moved Saturday so it doesn't die, and think about baby-proofing the house and...

Geez, it never ends, does it?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Contests--good or bad?

Lori Devoti, in a comment at Romancing the Blog, claims that what's wrong with Romance Novels just now is all the contests for the unpublished that currently clog RWA chapters. She says:
The problem, as I see it, is the rules. Too many rules. I don’t want to read a book written by the rules, but when I am asked to judge for a contest I am handed a little check sheet telling me what makes a good romance - no head hopping; no back story; hero and heroine appear in first chapter; goal, motive, and conflict apparent; and my personal favorite - properly formatted
She goes on to say that following these little check-sheet forms often winds up with the judge scoring down on the better entries, those with a unique voice. I'm not sure I agree. I did post a comment there, but I have more to say, and I might as well say it here.

First off, I never did all that well in contests. I finaled in a lot of them. But never won any. Best I ever did was 2nd place, which I seemed to do on a regular basis, but never 1st. And I never ever finaled in the Golden Heart. But I still sold a book. In fact, I've sold five. Which is not saying a whole lot, since it was 5 books over 5 years, and I know people who've sold 5 books in 5 months. But my point is, I probably don't know everything about contests.

I do judge a fair number of them, and I've found that if an author has written enough that she has a distinctive voice and can write a good story, it's good all round. The voice leaks over into all those check-boxes. If the voice is there, the characterization is there. The motivation is usually there. Most of those other points are there. Really, it comes down to the judges--and that is where it gets tricky. I've found--in my previous unpublished career and since--that the unpublished are harsher judges than the published, generally speaking. Because they are so caught up in The Rules.

At the same time, most contest entries are mediocre. There's nothing really wrong with them--but there's nothing really good either. The voice is stilted. There's no real connection with who the characters are or where they are or why they're doing what they're doing...there's usually a lot of potential--the story idea is good, but the execution isn't quite there. Frankly, if a story has a unique voice and it's "Good"--it stands above the other entries--I'm going to give it the points it needs to rank high.

As far as I'm concerned, there are Two Cardinal Rules to writing fiction.
1: Thou Shalt Not BORE the Reader; and
2: Thou Shalt Not CONFUSE the Reader.

The "boring" rule is the more important. You must keep them engaged. And then you must make sure they can follow what's going on. The "confusion" rule tends to be the more difficult rule to follow, because this is where all the grammar and structure stuff comes into play. Grammar was invented to foil confusion.

But if you can follow these two rules, the rest of them don't really matter.

Starting Anew

So I'm sitting here, trying to think what I can blog about, and thinking what I've done in the last week, and one of the main things that I've done is: I have started a new book.

This makes the third one I've started since the end of January, when I turned in the completed manuscript for The Barbed Rose. And I got to thinking about the process of finding new stories, and how I did it.

And they're all different. Which is good, I suppose. There's always a tiny, tiny little seed that starts everything off. Sometimes it's a concept, something really intellectual. Like the Conquest of the Americas--technology overtaking the primitive--but what if the "primitives" had magic rather than technology? And thus was born the One Rose trilogy.

Sometimes, I start with what I don't want to write. I want to do a paranormal, but I don't want to do vampires and I don't want to do werewolves and I don't think I want to do ghosts. What else is there? So I wrote a hero who's cursed--only he's not dark and dramatic looking. He's blond and lanky. He's against type. (We shall see if this book finds a home.) I wound up with a ghost in this story, even though I'm not real fond of ghost books, because the ghost kept coming back. Couldn't get rid off her, so...there she is.

Sometimes, I start with a character. And yes, sometimes, the character starts nagging me after I've been to see a movie and seen someone very inspirational on the big screen. However, it's rarely the lead actor/actress in the movie that inspires. Usually, it's one of the "bit" players-- the guy who drowns in the shipwreck or gets burned up by the evil arsonist. But it's never the character in the movie whose story I want to tell. It's somebody else. Somebody who pops up from the swamp in the back edges of my brain and glowers at me. Or nags me. Or starts telling me a story.

I recently made a trip to the college where my son will be going next year so he could try out for the theater department to see whether they would admit him as a performance major. And of course, after driving all day Friday to get there and going to see Kingdom of Heaven, I woke up in the stinkin' middle of the night and couldn't go back to sleep. Stress, I guess. So I'm lying there in the bed, going "Okay brain, here's this character--big guy, hard, cold, aggressive-warrior type--I want a story to go with him. A contemporary. A romance. Okay? Ready? I'm going to go to sleep now, and you're going to come up with the story while I sleep. Ready? I'm going to sleep............ Okay, I'm not sleeping. So who else could be in this book?"

I would much rather have turned it over to the brain while I slept, but the sleeping wasn't happening. Till about 5: 30 a.m. (The son woke up too, but got back to sleep first, after many pushups and situps--oh, and he aced his tryout and got admitted.) But I came home with another story idea (talked it over with my critique partner who lives there).

Of course, once I have the idea, I do a lot of other stuff to get it to the point where it's ready to start writing, but how much of that I have to do depends on what kind of story it is and how much world building I have to do. Fantasy in a different universe obviously requires a lot more than a contemporary romance set in a city I know. And it's all good.

Friday, May 13, 2005

What's Reality

My browser has gone beserk, so I can only hope that this is the proper place to type in my blog entry for today. (For this month?)

I intend to post blog stuff more often, but somehow, just don't get by to do it. Even when I have something to blog about.

For instance, this time, I want to comment about Reality Television. I don't watch it. At least not if I can help it. Well, except for the house-building/remodeling/decorating type shows. And "What Not To Wear."I have to confess I have a pretty good Jones for the HGTV channel, and TLC. But most reality television leaves me cold. Because really--think about it--just how real can it be?

Face it, Not ONE of us is going to reveal all to our significant others, much less a zillion strangers out in televisionland. We're just NOT. There's some secret, vulnerable part of each one of us that we're going to keep hidden and secret simply because it IS so vulnerable, and who knows what somebody would do with that information if they got their little hands on it? Oh, we might tell part of the truth. But we're not going to tell ALL. Nobody would.

Which is why I think scripted television/drama is more real than reality TV. Because the actors in scripted (fictional) TV aren't giving away their own secrets. They're opening up somebody else's vulnerable underbelly. It's not them--it's like them, but it isn't them.

Actors use their own experiences and emotions to portray the characters, but the experiences are disguised. Perhaps more extreme--but maybe not. But because it's not them in the story, they can cut loose and give it all up. So, even though the stories may not be "true", they're more "real." Or at least that's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Hamilton V. Laurens

I've written (um, wait--I have to count and math is just NOT my thing) 18 pages so far this week, but I did not write a lick or a promise yesterday. This is because the brand new Laurell K. Hamilton book in the Meredith Gentry series, Stroke of Midnight, came out on Tuesday, my day in Amarillo, and I was able to go by Barnes & Noble and buy it.

I took it with me to my doctor's appointment to read in the waiting and exam room during all that waiting one always winds up doing, and to Dairy Queen for a reward after, and made myself leave it in the car while I went to art class, then came home and finished it. Wednesday (yesterday), I picked the book up and read it all over again. I gobbled it down so fast on Tuesday, I had to read it again just to be sure I got all the good stuff.

I realize that there are a lot of readers out there who do not like Hamilton's sidhe series and don't much like the direction the Anita Blake series has taken, the last few books, but I'm not one of them. I love the books. Every single, blessed one of them. And I too (like Hamilton in her essay) find it funny that more people get all squidgy over the sex than the extreme violence.

Anyway, I got to thinking about these books which are just floating away on sex, and I got to thinking about another author, Stephanie Laurens, whose historical romances are also heavily laden with sex (though somewhat less kinky, she said in great understatement) which--well, leave me flat. I've read a number of them, and always wind up skipping huge chunks of the love scenes. So why do I love Hamilton's books and not Laurens's?

And after a fair amount of thought, I have decided that the difference is what those love scenes do, the purpose behind them. In Laurens's books, they seem to be part of a layering process to show the hero seducing the heroine love scene by love scene into doing what he wants. The problem for me is that after the first one or two, it becomes overkill. "Oh geez, are they doing it again?" The love scenes stop adding to the story, or at least that's how it feels to me. I'm sure there are plenty of others who disagree with me.

But in the Hamilton books, every love scene does something. It may create metaphysical bonds between vampire, human and shapeshifter, or awaken new magic in a sidhe lord whose magic is long dormant, or even "merely" deepen the relationship between two characters. In the latter case, Hamilton usually just gives us the one love scene and doesn't repeat it again and again and again. At least not in the same book. Then again, it could be that each love scene lately seems to be with somebody different and that's what I love about them. It is one of the things I like--but I don't think it's the main one. Again, lots of you will probably disagree with me, which is fine. Nobody has to like the same things I like. But I really do like Stroke of Midnight, and I'm glad Ms. Hamilton will have lots more coming. (And I've read it a third time since yesterday. I know, I know. But I did.)

Monday, April 11, 2005

Excitement, and thoughts on blogging

I'm all excited because my friend got a call from an editor she'd pitched to at a conference in San Antonio--at the appointment, the editor wouldn't even let her run ideas by her because of a protocol matter--but the editor thought about her all weekend, went back to the office, looked up her previous proposal, looked at her sales numbers (she sold 3 books to Silhouette Romance, then didn't sell anything else for over three years), cleared up the protocol issue, and now she wants her to submit something to a different line that we've all thought my friend was a better fit for than Sil. Romance. After so long feeling like she was butting her head against a brick wall, she's so excited, she's practically hyperventilating.

So, see? Even if you've been published once, or twice or three times, that's no guarantee that you'll get published again. Depressing thought, isn't it?

I've been reading a lot of other blogs, and it seems that so many of them involve outrageous opinions that result in a lot of insults getting thrown around--or a lot of people agreeing with the outrageous opinion. So I thought I might try to make my blog more exciting, outrageous, or at least interesting. (My life is so BORING) The problem is, I'm not sure any of my opinions are outrageous, nor am I fond of arguments.

I can do conflict in my books. I HATE it in real life. I go far, far, FAR out of my way to avoid conflict. It's the "peacemaker" in me. I'm an Enneagram 9. (I use the enneagram in character development, and of course, knowing oneself always helps in that--more about that another time.) Anyway, we shall see how things progress. I do have opinions. I'm just not sure how outrageous they are.

My books? Yes. They're pretty outrageous. At least some might think so. The Compass Rose did get a mention on someone's blog. I'm still not sure whether this is a good thing or bad. But at least one person did mention picking up a Luna. 'Twould be nice if she picked up MY Luna...

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Trips to Dallas, Starting Books and Other Sundry Stuff

So last weekend (not the one that today is part of), I went to Dallas for the Dallas Area Romance Authors and the North Texas RWA's Dreamin' in Dallas conference. This has been a very good conference every time I've gone (met my agent at an appointment there) and this year was no different.

I left home extra early so I could slither into Dallas a) ahead of Friday Afternoon rush hour traffic and b) in time to see a movie that probably won't be playing in Amarillo, which is the closest place I can go see movies even if it's still 60 miles away. Dear Frankie is a wonderful, non-sentimental but very sweet and tender movie about a deaf boy who writes letters to his father sailing the world on a merchant ship. Except that his mother made up this sailor father because Frankie's real father is abusive, and now the "dad's" ship is docking in town, and she can't bring herself to confess her deception, so she hires someone to play the father. It's just a fabulous movie. If you can't see it, rent it when it comes out on video.

So, after I went to the movie, I wound up having to drive in bad traffic anyway, but at least this time I didn't have to go over a nosebleed-high highway ramp. I do not like those things. I met up with the roommates and scarfed down some free appetizers during happy hour, cause I didn't think I'd have time to go anywhere else and eat before the book signing. I of course dropped something on my T-shirt, but was smart enough not to change into my signing clothes before I ate.

The book signing was very good--I was rather intimidated to begin with, because the stacks of my books on the center table (for convenience in shopping) were VERY high. But by the end of everything, there were only seven (7) copies of The Compass Rose left. Quite a few people came by to tell me things like "I don't usually read fantasy, but I want to read your book." Hope that extends to a larger audience.

And Saturday night, after the conference was over, we did our brainstorming thing. I got some good ideas, figured out how to make the ideas I had work and fit together--probably ought to check with the editor and make sure she approves before I get too much farther into it.

So, instead of starting the writing immediately, Monday morning, I wrote down the plotline as I thought it ought to go, stuck in whatever seemed needful. I did some character work, mostly involving Tarot readings for the characters. A "horoscope" layout can bring a lot of insight. And I did a plot arc reading. And on Thursday, I finally actually began the writing. I wrote one page. Then I wrote it again.

I kept the opening line, and the 2nd paragraph was all right. After that, it needed some work, though I changed less than I thought I would have to. Still, one page, twice, isn't going to get me far if that pace keeps up. Fortunately, on Friday, things came unstuck, and I got six pages. Whether they're good or not remains to be seen, but they're down on paper. So...

On to greater things (hopefully) next week. I have a full week of not much but writing to do. The next week, the son's one-act play will go to regional competition. Last hurdle before going to State, so of course, we're going to go watch. But that's a few days away.