Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Then, yesterday, we were talking about food for Thanksgiving when he announced he'd like to have some pumpkin bread NOW. Guess he'd been thinking about it since we were talking about it the other night. Since I always make it for Thanksgiving anyway, I went ahead and baked.
Here's the recipe, in case you'd like to try it. This stuff is moist and spicy, and it's great for giving to family and friends during the holidays.
Friday, November 20, 2009
This is very strange because I didn't even know I was on Twitter. So I pull up the site to investigate. The logon is staring me in the face and I don't know how to get in. It asks for an email or username, so I type in my email, then I hit the forgot? button beside the password box. They email instructions on how to change my password, and I'm in. Lo and behold, a page opens with my name on it. But that's all there is, a name, no profile info, no photo, nothing... except a list of eleven followers. Only one of the names was familiar. The rest, I don't know from Adam.
So now I'm left with the mystery of how I ended up on Twitter. I decided a long time ago I wasn't fooling with another online time suck. I took a look at it once. At least, I tried to, back when the infamous #queryfail thing was going on. I couldn't make heads or tails of anything and decided on the spot I wasn't going to waste time trying to figure it out. Facebook, same thing. I made myself a page but can't see any point to it. Geez. There are only so many hours in the day and with all the time everyone spends online, I don't see how any books at all get written. Another mystery.
On a more pleasant note, I've had a terrific day. My son had a couple days off from work so he came down to visit. This morning, he stayed here with his sister so hubby and I could go do a little Christmas shopping. We had a nice time. Then, this evening, I was so jazzed, I called a writer friend and we brainstormed over the phone for more than an hour. All in all, it was a productive day.
Hope everyone has a great weekend.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I'm not going over all the points of what's happened. It's already being talked to death on all the loops and the popular blogs. Speaking as an author who still has the dream of being published with one of the big, mass-market publishers, this is the last thing we needed. Romance writers already take enough hits. The literary world will have a field day with this latest drama. It's days like this that make me yearn for the days before the internet and all the yahoogroups and blogs came into being. There wasn't very much drama back then. Only us writers and our stories. It's days like this that make me think anyone must be out of her mind to want to be a published author.
The big media is already picking up on the story. Here's a link to a very demeaning little article in The New Yorker.
I hope tomorrow is a better day.
If you want to read more, or learn the particulars, it's all over the blogosphere. Or.. here's a link to the Harlequin Horizons site. That's what they're calling this new vanity imprint. Today has seen another giant leap toward the demise of the traditional publishing model. And Harlequin of all places! I'm still in shock.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
In the middle of all that, I started in on the inside, methodically repainting each room. I'm still not finished with the interior painting, but I figure I can finish up during the winter months. Meanwhile, I've been cleaning house in my office, too. I got rid of my massive dinosaur of a desk that took up too much space. Just yesterday, hubby brought home a smaller, just right computer desk that works so much better. So now I have my writing space back in order and I'm ready to get back to work.
Hope everyone is doing well and sorry I haven't been keeping up.
Before I go... I know author blogs are supposed to be geared toward shameless promotion, so you can file the following under that heading. To those of you out there (and there are many, many of you) who still don't have a print copy of Angel in the Rain because of the high cost of POD books, you're in luck. There are gently used copies over on Amazon starting at just $3.00. Yep, three bucks. Geez. That's half the price of a download.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
On Monday, July 20th, Mr. L'Amour's son, Beau, will be blogging about his father over on Petticoats and Pistols. If you're a fan, and even if you're not familiar with his work, I hope you'll drop by there and see what the son has to say about his legendary father.
Edit: it appears P&P has taken down the guest blog announcement. Don't know if that means it's off, but I'll find out and let you know.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
My last binge happened several years ago. I'd gone to Wal-mart and they had an entire end cap stacked up with spiral notebooks, and they were dirt cheap. So, I loaded up with like 30 of them. When I got home and was carrying my bags into the house, my sister pulled into the driveway. She helped me carry the bags inside...and she noticed all the spiral notebooks. I explained to her that I'd gotten a real bargain. She just shook her head and said, "You're the only person I know who would ever actually use this much paper in an entire lifetime." And I did. I used it all. But it certainly didn't take a lifetime. Ditto with pencils, the mechanical kind that you don't have to sharpen, and post-its, ink jet paper, printer ink, staples, paper clips, binder clips, index cards, and all those cute little notebooks that I have lying around for jotting down passwords, web addresses, and general notes to myself. The list could go on.
My paper and accessories obsession has long been a joke within my family. They tease me about it. The funny thing is, who do you think they come to when they need something? That's right. Whenever they need a yard sale sign, they know good ole sis always has a stash of poster paper and assorted markers. What I find strange is that most people aren't very well stocked with office supplies. I honestly don't know how they get along in life.
I actually don't feel bad about my paper obsession. I have one writer pal who's a confessed office supply junkie, too, so I'm not alone. Another writer friend is a binder clip freak. I'll bet some of you are paper hoarders, too. Remember, admitting the problem is the first step toward recovery. ;o)
Monday, July 13, 2009
Then we have the other kind of writer, the person with the calling, who is compelled to write stories from a very early age, the person who must write to satisfy the many voices clamoring inside her head. I'm one of those who was compelled to write from the moment I learned to put the alphabet down on paper and form words. Now that I'm getting up in years, I'm not sure whether this is a gift or an affliction.
I think it would be interesting to know the ratio of career choice writers vs. the ones who are simply compelled, when it comes to authors who have successfully "broken in."
Here's the question for today: which are you? Do you write by choice, or have you always felt compelled to write?
Saturday, July 11, 2009
I devoured her books. Then, ten years ago she suddenly disappeared from the radar. After doing a little digging, I discovered she'd quit writing.
I was really sad about that, so I held onto all her books and I've reread "Forbidden Desires" so many times the pages are coming loose from the binding.
Well, surprise, surprise. Last night, I logged onto MySpace and, suddenly, there she was. And she's got a new book titled "Murphy's Law" out from Kensington, her old publisher. I immediately popped over to Amazon and discovered the book is only available in Kindle edition. Bummer. I don't have a Kindle. So I went looking again. The e-book is available other places, but I'm leery of buying from them. The only successful downloads I've bought have been from the Harlequin site. Twice I've bought something from Fictionwise and they've taken my credit card number then sent the download zinging off into cyberspace and complete oblivion. I have no idea where they went. I only know they didn't end up in my computer.
I must have this book! This snowbound cabin cover looks so cozy and inviting. Here's the blurb I picked up over on Amazon:
Murphy's Law reigns supreme...
What else can explain how Murphy McKenna managed to get herself stuck in an unexpected, early-in-the-season Maine blizzard? In a very remote cabin. With dead phones. And impassable roads. Could there be a worse time for a desperate, badly wounded man to show up on her doorstep?
Instinct demands Murphy not trust Garrett Thayer. After all, the man refuses to give her a straight answer about anything. Even her precious Himalayan cat, Moonshine, is suspicious. Who wouldn't be? Not only is Garrett hurt, he's also apparently been out wandering in the storm with nothing more than a duffel bag stuffed with money, antique jewelry (a bottle of antihistamines?) -- and a gun.
Will Murphy's conscience allow her to turn her back on the handsome stranger who may be a thief, a bank robber, or worse ...?
This storyline appeals to me. I used a very similar plot device in "Maura's Outlaw," my historical romance set in late 19th century Missouri.
Just as an aside, I think it's interesting--in light of the current digital vs. print debate in romanceland--that Kensington has released this book in e-format only. Despite my bad luck with downloading e-books, I'll probably give it another try. Probably before the day is over. Maybe. Darn it. I wish they'd released this one in print.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Yesterday marked yet another reluctant step into the new millennium. We got our first cell phones. Yes, first time ever. Hubby and I both swore we'd never have one. Aside from being just plain old stick-in-the-mud fuddy-duddies, our main issue was the rudeness factor. Too many conversations interrupted by someone's cell phone ringing and them stepping away to talk. Too many people driving down the road with phones glued to their ears. Too many people walking through stores, itemizing the things on the shelves to an unseen person on the other end. Hubby complains often about customers holding up the line at his business because they're too busy talking on the phone to tell him what they've come to buy.
So, we hated that people are walking around, not paying attention to what they're doing because of the gizmos pressed to their ears. We swore we'd never be those people. Then, something happened. Our son got his driver's license and hit the road, alone. He went out into the big world with no way at all to communicate or call for help if something happened. That scared the daylights out of us.
So there we were last night, sitting at the kitchen table, trying to figure out how to turn the things on. (son wasn't here to show us) They'd been activated and charged, but we were clueless about how they worked. Hubby finally resorted to reading the user's manual and we were in business. We called each other, just to see if they worked. One was switched over to voice mail mode (which hadn't been set up yet) so it was back to the manual. Now we're good to go. We hope. These things have features we'll never use, though our son just might. But at least now we'll feel a little easier when one of us gets in the car and drives away. Help is just a phone call away. As far as hubby and I are concerned, these are reserved for emergencies only. The last thing I want is a phone ringing in the car while I'm driving to town and back. I do some of my best thinking while I'm driving. Yeah, I sometimes miss a turn because I'm all up in my head, but I eventually get where I'm going. ;o)
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Allison and I have never met, but our acquaintance goes back two years. Hers was the very first reader note I received after "Angel in the Rain" was released. I don't think any author can forget her very first "fan" mail and Allison is a very special lady. During the past two years, we've kept up with each other via email. She writes to ask how the writing is going and I write to ask about her progress as well. And now, as of this week, she's officially a published author, and I couldn't be happier!
Here's the blurb from the back cover (and isn't that cover positively yummy!):
After the deaths of everyone dear to her, Lara Miller has lost all hope of finding a love that lasts...until she meets the man who can literally love her forever. .
Lifetimes ago, Lord Lucien Saint was brought to the existence of eternal night by a vengeful, jealous female with fangs. For centuries, he has searched for the cure to his cursed reality and finds it in the one woman who can love only him.
Together, Lucien and Lara must fight the demons of his past that threaten to tear them apart for all eternity
Congratulations, Allison! I'm so happy for you and I can't wait to read the book!
Monday, July 6, 2009
Saturday, I got out of bed and went into the kitchen, only to discover that my refrigerator had stopped working. On the 4th of July, no less. Buying another one was no problem. All the stores were open, but getting it delivered immediately was another matter. So I called my uncle. Even though he had out of town company in for the holiday, he was kind enough to come straight over with his truck.
Anyway, just thought I'd report in since I haven't been around for a couple of days.
Friday, July 3, 2009
While I'm here, Happy 4th, everyone!
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
According to PubTrack™ Consumer, a service of R.R. Bowker, LLC.:
23% of books are purchased through online purchase/e-commerce 22% are sold through large chains (Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million) 10% are sold through book clubs 7% through independents 6% through mass merchandisers (Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart) 4% through warehouse clubs (Sam’s, Costco, BJs) 2% through supermarket/grocery stores 1% each through discount stores, drug stores, religious bookstores and book fairs 22% through a variety of "Other outlets" which includes author hand-to-hand sales, churches and other organizations, craft fairs, speakers selling from the back of the auditorium, etc
22% are sold through large chains (Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million)
10% are sold through book clubs
7% through independents
6% through mass merchandisers (Wal-Mart, Target, Kmart)
4% through warehouse clubs (Sam’s, Costco, BJs)
2% through supermarket/grocery stores
1% each through discount stores, drug stores, religious bookstores and book fairs
22% through a variety of "Other outlets" which includes author hand-to-hand sales, churches and other organizations, craft fairs, speakers selling from the back of the auditorium, etc.
I have no idea how this would translate to romance sales, but I'd be interested to know. I remember a few short years ago, the claim was that Amazon and other online retailers accounted for only 2% of romance sales. I think it's safe to say that number has probably drastically changed.
I have a gripe. (So what else is new?) Lately I've been trying desperately to find a romance I can lose myself in. I prefer historicals because I read for pure escapism, so the farther away from today's reality I can get, the better I like it. Within the past month I've bought three historical romances. The first book--a very popular and highly reviewed Regency Historical from Avon--was a wallbanger for me because the hero did something early on that made him so unsympathetic I couldn't bring myself to read any farther to find out if he redeemed himself or not. He was so repugnant, I did not care. The second and third books are an Avon and Harlequin, respectively. Another Regency-set and a Western. Both are so full of anachronisms, I'm constantly yanked out of the story. I have to wonder what's going on with editors these days. Most of all, why aren't these authors doing a better job of policing their own writing? I'm familiar with both these authors and they're both better than this. So I have to wonder what's going on with all the modern terminology and even slang being sprinkled through these historicals.
For anyone reading this who writes historicals, here's a link for the online Etymology Dictionary. Just click on the words and it will take you there. When in doubt, click over to the dictionary and it will tell you the definition(s) and year the word in question came into use. This is such a handy tool, I keep a shortcut right on my desktop. End of rant.
Okay. Getting back to the manuscript now. Hubby's working evenings this week, so the next several hours are mine, mine, ALL MINE!
Monday, June 29, 2009
I realize this isn't exactly earth shattering news, but I'm amazed and a little bit dumbfounded.
Back during the Stone Age, when I first ventured into the romance writing community--before YahooGroups even--every bit of contact with editors and agents was done via snail mail. It was a slow, torturous process. In fact, it took forever. I remember the turnaround time on the very first partial I submitted was one year. An entire year. For a partial. Can you imagine?
Anyway, it wasn't long before the internet got its hooks into everyone. YahooGroups came into existence, and all the loops and groups shortly followed. I remember when agents first started taking email queries. It was only a handful at first, then more and more. Now, it's unusual to run across an agent who doesn't take an email query. And it's great. Sometimes, you get a reply with a request or a "no, thank you" within an hour or two instead of a week or two.
During the anthrax scare right after 9/11, Avon went to email queries only. Now, other NY pubs have joined in and put their addresses online and invited queries, too. But today was the first time I've ever seen one of the major romance print publishers invite submissions of entire manuscripts via email attachment. And unsolicited, for Pete's sake! How great would it be if all publishers did this? (Yes, I know. Harlequin allows unsolicited email subs for their shorts that are aimed for digital publishing. This is a whole nother ballgame.) Just think of the postage that would be saved, not to mention not having to stand in line at the post office to mail those bulky Priority envelopes.
Anyway, I'm tempted to email something to Dorchester just to mark the occasion. I wonder if they send out that same crappy, faded, Xeroxed form rejection for email submissions. If I find out, I'll let you know. That thing is the pits. ;o)
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Everyone's familiar with that infamous first line penned by Bulwer-Lytton. But do you know why it's so famous? Here's the explanation from Wikipedia: "It was a dark and stormy night" is a phrase penned by Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton at the beginning of his 1830 novel Paul Clifford. The phrase itself is now understood as a signifier of a certain broad style of writing, characterized by a self-serious attempt at dramatic flair, the imitation of formulaic styles, an extravagantly florid style, redundancies, confusing syntax, and sentences—sometimes incorrectly dubbed run-on sentences—that are exceedingly lengthy. Bulwer-Lytton's original opening sentence serves as an example:
It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
Good grief. No wonder the line has gone down in history as an example of bad writing. Bulwer-Lytton should have quit while he was ahead and put a period after that first clause.
Opening or first lines are one of my pet peeves. The first line of the first paragraph on the first page of any manuscript is a matter of great concern. It has to sound right. It has to set the tone. If it does neither, nothing that follows seems to flow or fall into place. Not to me, anyway. I've completely rewritten pages so that I could work in a particular opening line that I thought sounded just right.
I also pay attention to opening lines written by other authors. Some are pure dynamite. Most seem just bleh. And some come close to rivaling Lord Lytton's infamous line in an attempt to pack a single sentence as full of information and description as possible. One particular best-selling author who's always guilty of this comes to mind.
Since I write historicals, an opening line in an omniscient point of view sometimes works very well to set the tone and achieve a catchy opener. Many authors use this little trick, even though you might never find another omniscient line in the entire book. It works, so why not.
Do you obsess over opening lines, or even first paragraphs? During the writing process, do you go back to the beginning time and again to tweak until you feel it's near perfection? What's the one opening line from any book that's stuck with you through the years? Mine is from K.M. Moning's The Dark Highlander, and it goes like this: "Dageus McKeltar walked like a man and talked like a man, but in bed he was pure animal." Don't ask me why that's stuck with me since 2002, it just has. Other than my own, it's the only opening line I can instantly recall word for word.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Speaking of food, I'm very put out with Little Man (the cat). For a while now he's been losing weight and I couldn't figure out why. I feed him very well, and when I check back, the food's all gone. Well, as it turns out, HE'S not the one eating the food. A strange cat has been lurking around and going into the garage and eating his food. I've caught him at it twice in as many days. When the cat comes into the garage, Little Man simply steps aside and lets the other cat have his food. I've tried to run the cat off, but he doesn't act a bit frightened by all my yelling. And he's no stray. He, evidently belongs somewhere in the neighborhood because he looks very well fed and cared for. It's just so strange that Little Man won't defend his territory and allows this cat to eat his food. And he keeps getting thinner. To add to the aggravation, he's gone on a killing binge lately. We've been finding ground squirrels (chipmunks) lying all around the outside of the house. I'm thinking he's hunting because he's hungry. The little idiot. I've thought about closing up the access to the garage so the big yellow strange cat can't get in, but then Little Man would be locked out, too.
Well, enough of this meaningless ramble. I hope everyone has a terrific weekend.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
The last thing I'm going to say about the RWA vs. the digital age issue is that I'm not offering any more opinions on the matter because my viewpoint changes depending on my mood. So that's that.
Taking a breath now and getting to the title topic of this post.
Yesterday was a huge turning point in my personal life, as well as my son's, who is pictured here. He finally got his driver's license. He's owned a car for nearly a year, paid for with his own money he earned from working, but he's never been able to get out on his own and drive it. Until yesterday. He took the test early yesterday morning and finally got his license. Immediately after, we went to the insurance company to get him on our policy, then came home. Within the hour of our arrival, he took off in his car and drove to Richmond to stay with friends until the weekend.
Eeeeek!!! That's me screaming at the top of my lungs. I've never really decided how one should spell a scream, but that's what the eek is supposed to be.
My baby boy pulled out of the driveway and left. On his own. For the first time ever, he was on the highway--the freeway, even--without me sitting in the passenger seat guiding his every move. Needless to say, I spent an evening I never want to repeat--I actually got physically ill and was up until 4:00 this morning, even though he called as soon as he got to Richmond and told me he'd made it okay. I know this scenario is going to be repeated over and over until I get past the fear of him killing himself on the highway.
Even though I'm scared to death, I'm really happy for him. Not having a license had put his life in a holding pattern. He couldn't come and go as he pleased and he even had to quit his job--at my request--because I was running back and forth to town twice a day to take him to work and then pick him up again, most of the time with my handicapped daughter in tow. So something had to give and, unfortunately, that something was his job.
Okay, so he's on the road. Now the next big thing is him moving out. I know it's coming. He's been talking about it and making plans for months. The friends he's visiting have an apartment and they're anxious to make him a roomie and split even more expenses. Even though I'll be heartbroken when it happens, I know this too must come to pass. He's 20 years old. It's time he experienced the world outside the sheltering wings of me and his father. I have a feeling this may happen when he returns from his little trip up north.
I know that many of you have already dealt with a child leaving home and striking out on his or her own. But this is all new to me and I'm a total mess.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
This is huge news! This means that at long last, POD books may find their way into bookstores across the country. And not only bookstores, but many other venues as well. Yippee!
Here's a quote from Lightning Source: "Lightning Source is pleased to announce the launch of the Espresso Book Machine (EBM) Channel officially at BookExpo America starting this Friday. The EBM, an ATM for books, is located in bookstores, libraries and other sites. The Espresso Book Machine is the latest pioneering distribution channel to join the Lightning Source family of publisher-to-market pathways. The Lightning Source Espresso Book Machine Channel will give publishers the option to make available the books they have stored in the Lightning Source digital library, and have those titles printed, bound, and delivered at point of sale, on demand, in minutes."
To learn more and see a video of the machine in action, go to http://www.lightningsource.com/ebm.aspx
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The first one is Wave Petunias. The second is some kind of multi-headed lily my mom brought up from Texas, but I don't know its actual name. The flower is huge. The third picture is of large red and white petunias. And the last picture is a close-up view of a tree-like bush that grows right outside my office window. Those white things all over it are flower buds. The way they look in the picture is about as pretty as they get. They don't really open up too much. I have no idea what it's called either. My Mandevilla and a few others are getting ready to burst into bloom. I'm hoping to get some more pictures when they do. I had no idea he was doing this or I would have told him to get a few shots of the Christmas cactus--yes, Christmas cactus--that sprouted flower buds all over when I put it outside for the summer. Never seen one bloom in summer before, so I thought it was rather odd. We have tons more of different types of blooming plants, so I'll try to get more pictures.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
And I do, he assured himself. I want solitude. Solitude and peace. I can’t deal with this now, Lannie thought as she stared at the car she'd hit.
The first line is from a newly released Avon romance. The other was published on a popular review site, where it was open to critique, but no one mentioned the mixed pov. To me, these two lines are incorrect. Why italicize a line to set it off as internal dialogue and then toss in a "she thought" or "he assured himself," which throws it into 3rd person? When you add the action tag, it indicates 3rd person. So, essentially these lines are mixing 3rd and 1st person points of view. Why not just write, "And he did, he assured himself. He wanted solitude. Solitude and peace."
Evidently, this type of mixed-up pov has become acceptable. Well, speaking as a member of the old school of writing, this bothers me. I'm equally bothered by the new trend of not putting a comma before "too." In fact, if I thought about it long enough, I could probably come up with a long list of writing issues that bother me.
Anyone care to enlighten me on the thinking about why this mixed pov is acceptable?
Before I go, I have to comment on "old school," since I used it in this post. Even this has been corrupted. Now the "in" spelling is "old skool," and it's intended as a derogatory term. This spelling appears in the online Urban Dictionary and it explains that "old school" started out to mean, "old is cool," which was shortened to "old's cool," and that's how we end up with "old skool." The definition is: anything that's out of date or behind the times. So I guess that's me, out of date and behind the times. But I can't for the life of me see the new method of doing things as an improvement. What do you think? Old or new "skool?"
Friday, June 12, 2009
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Yesterday, I mentioned to hubby that I'd like to have some of these. First thing this morning, he went to Lowe's and bought them for me. Wasn't that sweet? So today we planted them out back along the deck. There are several varieties and colors of Knockout roses, but the ones hubby chose are exactly like the ones pictured here. Of course, ours are a long way off from the beautiful hedge in the picture because they're still too small.
These roses are becoming very popular around here because they're so easy to care for and they bloom prolifically. I first saw them on Main Street in our town. Over the past couple of years, there's been some major renovation going on that covers several blocks in the vicinity of the courthouse square. The buildings have all been fronted to look vintage, along with the streetlights, which now look like antique lamp posts. Even the sidewalks have undergone a transformation and part of them are cobblestone. It's all very charming and I love driving along those several blocks now. The best part is, the place has become a living garden with blooming plants and shrubs growing from every available space. There are hanging baskets spilling a riot of colors. Some of the plants surprised me because they're so exotic--like purple sage. Yes, we have it on Main Street. Water-fed planters separate the street from the sidewalk. In the planters are solid hedges of glorious, blooming Knockout roses. These things bloom continuously all season.
Today was one of those weather-perfect days. Seems like they've gotten kind of rare. Hubby and I both love digging around in the dirt and coaxing things to grow and bloom. Which reminds me. My prickly pear have a lot of buds on them this year. They'll be opening soon, and when they do, I'll post pictures. Most people hate the cactus, but I love it. My mom brought it to me from Texas. She simply whacked off some of the flat pads and put them in a box and brought them with her. I was surprised that they would thrive here, but they do.
What kinds of beautiful or strange and unusual plants are in your home or garden?
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Writing a book is a long, hard, tedious, often frustrating and lonely process. So, when the going gets really tough, how do we keep going? I'd like to share a few tips that I hope will help.
Just Write. We've all heard this advice and it's sometimes easier said than done. Speaking for myself, I find it darn near impossible to force the words when they aren't flowing smoothly. Still, I write. If not on my manuscript, then I come here and type a blog post. In my opinion, anything is better than nothing, so long as we are putting words down on a page in some manner. If you keep the words flowing then inspiration will surely follow.
Don't Give In to the Negative. Instead of sitting at the keyboard, agonizing and telling yourself, "This is too hard. I can't do it," tell yourself, "I can do this!" It's up to you to psych yourself up because no one else can truly do it for you. So learn to be positive about yourself. Expect to succeed rather than fail. Remember why you started writing in the first place and try to recapture the magic that first pulled you to the keyboard.
Don't Hide in a Cave. I am expert on this one. ;o) When you do hit a low spot, don't crawl into a cave and hide from the rest of the writing world. The longer you seclude yourself, the harder it is to come back. We've all hit the rough stretches and we know how it feels. So please don't think you're the only one who's ever second-guessed yourself or felt like quitting. We've all been there and we understand.
Remember, You're Not Alone. In general, I've found the romance writing community to be one of the most accepting and friendly groups I've ever encountered. Don't try to walk the long, hard road alone. Find a mentor or a critique partner. If you need it, there's help out there. But before you dive in headfirst, test the water. Make sure the relationship is going to work. A critique partnership is like a marriage. It's built on trust. And just like marriage, if it goes bad, it will suck the creative life right out of you. But when you do find someone, or several someones, you connect and work well with, it's pure magic. I credit critique partners with saving my creative life many times over. Best of all, from the trust you develop with a crit partner often comes lasting friendship that will carry through the low times.
Set Goals. If you're writing a full-length manuscript, set up milestones along the way. When each milestone is reached, celebrate and reward yourself. Make the milestones something you can attain within a reasonable amount of time. If you go too long without reaching a goal of some kind, the work becomes tedium with no end in sight. So set shorter goals along the way that are easier to accomplish.
Let Yourself See It. This goes hand in hand with setting goals. I like to keep a record of daily word counts. That way, I can see my progress each day. Many writers have daily word count quotas. If you do this, be sure to keep your quota within a reasonable range of what you're capable of writing. There's nothing more discouraging than falling short of your goal on a daily basis. On the other hand, it's exhilarating to exceed your quota. So, keep it real and strive to accomplish it.
Write Every Day. For some of us, this is easier said than done. But do make an effort to write at least something, even if it's only a paragraph or one line, every day. If you have to skip a day--life happens--redouble your effort to write the next day. Don't go for several days at a stretch without writing. Once you skip, it gets easier to just let it slide. But if you write every day, it soon becomes habit.
Share Your Accomplishments. Most of the writers I know blog these days. So get on the old blog every now and then and toot your own horn, or talk about the process. There's nothing more uplifting than having writer pals comment with a few "Attagirls!"
Learn to Persevere. I put this one last, but it's probably the most important. If writing for publication is your dream, stick with it. Don't give up. Some people write a book and hit the jackpot the first time they query. But for most of us, the road is much longer and very curvy. Decide you're in it for the long haul and then strap yourself in for the ride of your life. Remember, the only sure road to failure is to quit. Don't ever give up on your dreams or yourself. Success is always out there somewhere. It's up to us to reach for it.
Monday, June 1, 2009
For a change, I spent the entire weekend doing non-writing things. It was hubby's birthday, so I made an effort to curtail my obsessions and spent some quality time with him. At least I hope he considered it quality. Yesterday, the weather was so beautiful, we spent most of the day outside. As a result, the yard, shrub and flower beds look really good. Not a weed in sight. I was down on the ground in the landscaping out front when my nosy neighbor walked by and told me I should just spray everything with weed killer. Where's the fun in that? And wouldn't that kill things I don't want killed? No thanks. I'd rather do it the old fashioned way, down on my knees with my hands in the dirt. It's a good excuse for quiet, thinking time, and I've always enjoyed weeding, as strange as that may be.
It's been an especially long, dismal winter and spring, but I think summer may finally be here. And we have plans which, as usual, involve work around here. Hubby wants to put a roof over the deck out back. That would be nice. We haven't been able to use the deck since the huge, native trees came down. Weather took out some of them, and we finished off what was left for safety reasons. Now, the sun blazes down all day out there. So a roof and some shade would be nice. Also, we finally decided on a color for the outside of the house. Funny thing is, it's almost the same as the color we have now, just fresher. Hubby had wanted to go with an entirely different color scheme because all the surrounding neighbors have ended up siding their houses with our color, which made us wonder what the hay they were thinking. But after much haggling and many samples, we decided not to make a drastic change. We had the color first, so they're all the copycats. And why does it matter anyway? But for some reason, whenever we do anything around here, the neighbors all soon follow suit. We were very tempted to paint the house some off-the-wall color just to see what they would do next. No, we don't get out much and so we take our entertainment where we can find it. ;o)
Happy June, everyone!
Sunday, May 31, 2009
In "Nate and Hayes," a still youngish Tommy Lee Jones played the part of Bully Hayes, the rascally buccaneer, and Michael O'Keefe was Nathaniel Williamson, a mild-mannered minister whose fiancée is kidnapped by a dastardly pirate named Ben Pease. Through a twist of events, Nathaniel and Bully Hayes partner up and hit the high seas to rescue the fiancée. There's lots of swashbuckling and action, and plenty of attempted humor. Nate (Michael O'Keefe) becomes transformed into the adventurous, dashing hero and what ensues is a bit of a love triangle once the fiancée, played by Jenny Seagrove, is rescued and the three begin swashbuckling together.
Does this sound familiar at all?
Tonight, for some reason, I thought of "Nate and Hayes" and it suddenly dawned on me that it was the precursor of "Pirates of the Caribbean." The characters are pretty much interchangeable. Bully Hayes was Jack Sparrow. Nate was Will Turner, and Jenny Seagrove was Keira Knightley, the love interest kidnapped by that odious Captain Barbosa and taken aboard the Black Pearl.
By no stretch of the imagination is "Nate and Hayes" on par with "Pirates of the Caribbean," and I'll take Captain Jack Sparrow over Bully Hayes any day. But back in its day, "Nate and Hayes" was a darned good little movie and I was struck by the similarities. And once I had them side by side, I was surprised to see that even the movie posters are eerily similar. In fact, they're so very nearly the same, I wouldn't be surprised if they were designed by the same artist.
Now, if I could just figure out how "The Terminator" (the original) has the same plot as "Titanic" I'd be a happy camper. Both were written by James Cameron and I've heard, more than once, that he used the same basic plot for both. Would someone who knows what the heck everyone is talking about please spell it out for me, because I don't see it.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Then something very strange happened. One day a story idea popped into my head that wasn't a western. In fact, the story was set in a time period and locale I've never before tried writing, even though I've read plenty of it over the years. So I started jotting down the basic story idea and my imagination took off! Suddenly, I felt excited about writing again. Genuinely excited and not just forced enthusiasm and wishful thinking. The idea was fresh, at least to me. It was something new. Not only was the genre completely different than my usual, so was the length. For the past week, I've been working on a novella. I know. Long-winded me is writing a shorter story, if you can believe it. And I'm loving it! Because of the shorter length, each day I can see measurable progress. Better yet, at the rate I'm currently writing, I should be finished within a couple of weeks.
I'm not quite ready yet to divulge all the details, but I'll let you know how it goes and what happens. I wasn't going to say anything at all for fear of jinxing myself, but I feel I'm far enough into it now and, hopefully, that won't happen. For several years, writing pals have advised me to try something different. But I'm stubborn. I had convinced myself I didn't want to write something different. Now that I have, my Muse has come out of a long sleep and she's clamoring in my ear constantly. My mood has improved. I have more energy. For the time being, all is right in my little world. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that nothing happens to dash my enthusiasm and I can keep it up. Wish me luck!
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
This was the time period when I developed a love affair with western novels. I zipped through all the Zane Grey and Louis Lamour at the Pt. Mugu library, then was forced to seek out other authors to fill my insatiable reading habit. About a year after this picture was taken, I started penning my first western novel. I actually finished it, plus a sequel, and still have the manuscripts stuck back in boxes in a cabinet here in my office. I've often thought about taking them out and looking at them, but I'm afraid to. So, thinking back, I guess I wrote my first full-blown novel around 1972. In what year did you write your first novel?
Monday, May 25, 2009
I found my first choice appeared in a Lisa Kleypas historical from several years ago. Even I had read the book, so I have to figure the name was stuck somewhere in my subconscious. So, I scrapped it. I immediately hit on a second choice and ran a search. Even worse, this one appears in a recent JR Ward novel—her famous BDB series—which I haven’t read. Go figure. I was under the impression that all her hero names are emotions—like rage and torment—with a superfluous “h” added to the spelling. I immediately scratched that one off my list, too. So now I find myself with a manuscript partially written and a hero with no name. The funny thing is, this never happens with heroines, only heroes. And it’s starting to be a real problem.
It’s the same with titles. When you come up with a title for your wonderfully unique novel, my advice to anyone would be to run a search. The easiest way is to go to Amazon and search there because if a book is for sell anywhere in the universe, it’s listed on Amazon. Type in your title and see how many books come up. If there are fifteen by various authors, I’d strongly suggest coming up with something else. While titles can’t be copyrighted, why would you want to compete with fifteen other romances out there by having yours coming up midway down, or even at the bottom of the list when someone does a search?
Read any good hero names lately? If so, don’t tell me about them or they might get stuck in my head. There are already too many great names floating around in there. Problem is, each of them already belongs to someone else’s character.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
I finally figured out that these things only happen on the blogs that have all the paid advertisements embedded in them. So it would seem that Google's AdSense and my Windows program do not co-exist peacefully. Just wanted to let you know. So if I've left you comments in the past and suddenly don't, it's nothing personal. It's just that I'd rather not have to restart my computer as the last resort of getting out of your blog.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Been absent for a few days, but only because I've been busy. I've been working on something but, for now, I'm holding the details close to my chest. Tonight, I was trying to play catch-up to see what everyone's been up to. I will read all your blog posts. I promise.
Anyway, I was on my own web site and, for some reason, I clicked on a link and discovered something new at the end of it. A site calling itself "How The West Was Loved." (edit: on further investigation, this appears to be an offshoot of BookStrand. Never heard of them either.) Here's a link, for the morbidly curious. Evidently, they've taken over sponsorship of the Western Authors Directory, whose link I have prominently on the front page of my web site. I gave it a quick look for now, but plan to keep tabs on this site. Simply because anything to do with western romance always catches my attention. Plus, it might be interesting to watch one of these places evolve from the ground up. At first I thought it was another resource for western authors, but it turned out to be a start-up e-pub. They've got a gi-normous list of series on the front page, plus a few other things, and it says, "Coming in Fall 2009." All I can say is, good luck to them.
Note to Mags: I read "The Unlacing of Miss Leigh" and enjoyed it very much. I've always been a sucker for a beauty and the beast story. Given the short length, it was surprisingly good. Thanks for the recommend!
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Simon said next week's finale may very well be a "ding dong," and he may be right. I think the judges are in for a big upset. Here's why. It goes back to that million votes separating Adam and Kris tonight. With Danny out of the picture, his fans are threatening to power vote for Kris next week. That would put Kris way over the top, which = major upset.
For the first time in several years, I don't really have a favorite. I think they're all talented and will do what they will with the opportunities they'll be given. Who rises to the top after it's over remains to be seen. Past seasons have sometimes proven, the winner doesn't always emerge the victor. Just look at Chris Daughtry, who left the show in fourth place. So, next week, I'm going to sit back and relax and enjoy the show. Both Adam and Kris will get record deals, so they're both winners. I'm sure Danny and Allison will emerge from this with recording contracts as well. It's a win-win situation for all concerned. The American Idol title has become a matter of bragging rights and publicity for the winner, but it doesn't always ensure success after the lights go down. I wish them all the very best of luck.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Anyway, I bought two titles, including the one from this cover pic, and it took me until just a few minutes ago to figure out how to get them into my computer. I really hate to admit that, but it's just the truth. I bought the books in PDF format and when I downloaded them, I got ACSM files, which are links to nowhere, according to my computer. I ended up having to download a newfangled Adobe reader and setting up an account with them. But the files still wouldn't download from the site. I still got the ACSM url links, and when I clicked on them, a window popped up to tell me they couldn't be opened because they were corrupted. Well, great. I finally tonight got the bright idea to manually drag the ASCM files into the newfangled Adobe reader file and, VOILA!, it worked. The things downloaded and now I have them. But, wow, what a bunch of crap. I've downloaded plenty of free ebooks in PDF format and never had a problem. I think this has something to do with the DRM versions of these files.
In other news, I've been having my annual month of May identity crisis. Last year was the worst. It was exactly one year ago yesterday when I swore off writing forever and dropped out of sight. That lasted a whole eight months and I nearly went insane in the meantime. On second thought, maybe I actually did go crazy and just don't realize it. I once told Mary, I thought I was losing my mind. She told me that crazy people don't know they're crazy, so that meant I must not be--crazy, that is. Personally, I think there's room for argument.
Speaking of identity crisis, I've gotten into a real muddle with my work in progress. Muddle really isn't accurate, it's more like I've come to a screeching halt. After thinking about it for a couple of days, I realized I've got two other plots trying to butt in. This is the result of writing an entire manuscript without knowing diddly about GMC and THEN going back and trying to fix it. I brainstormed so many different GMC scenarios, two of them were evidently pretty strong and got stuck in my head. Now they're trying to butt in on the action. So I've got a heroine with a three-way split personality. She should be all the feisty, can-do girl, but shades of the strong-willed, independent and the emotionally damaged heroines keep rearing their heads and trying to drag their baggage into the mix. The only solution I can see is to promise these two gals their own stories somewhere down the road and hope they'll behave themselves long enough for me to finish heroine number one's story. Sheesh.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Although... he did surprise me years ago with an antique copy of "The Cottage Physician." The print date in the front of it is 1895. All the pages are loose from the binding and I have to be careful when I take it down and look through it but, by some miracle, the pages are all still there. It's a wonderful resource for how ailments and injuries were treated back in the late 1800's and even has drawings of the medicinal plants that were used.
Like most writers, I have a large, very eclectic collection of reference and how-to books on my shelves. Everything from Medieval Arms and Armour, costume books, the Everyday Life books covering most time periods, to folklore of the British Isles during the Dark Ages, to the entire collection of Time-Life's Old West Series, and many, many things in between. I have several of the Writer's Digest writer's references, including Body Trauma and Armed and Dangerous, but the one I don't have and always meant to get was a reference on poisons and deadly potions. And that reminds me of something that happened years ago.
I was working on a western about feuding ranchers and came to the part where a watering hole is poisoned. I had no idea what they might have used to taint the water and turn it deadly, so I called my uncle, who's a farmer and he also owns a large number of cattle. I put the question to him this way--"If you were going to poison your neighbor's pond, what would you use?" Bear in mind that this was during the days when hardly anyone outside of my household knew I wrote. There was a very long stretch of silence at the other end of the line. Finally, he spoke up and asked, "Why do you want to know that?" I explained that I was working on a story. but he remained skeptical. I never did get an answer out of him. And later, I heard from another relative that my uncle had mentioned my interest in pond poisoning to a few people. I still have to laugh every time I think about it. Did my uncle truly think I meant to poison someone's pond? Good grief.
That isn't the only backlash I've experienced from asking weird (to normal folks) questions. Once, I had a lawyer follow me from his office nearly to my car because I'd given him a hypothetical situation and asked about having someone who owned a great deal of property and cash assets declared legally dead. I'm sure he was convinced I was the heir who needed to have this done to my long, lost mother. I tried to explain that it was just for a story I was writing, but he wasn't convinced. The last thing he said as I was getting into my car was, "If you decide to pursue this, I hope you'll come and see me. It sounds like an interesting case." Sheesh. After that, I learned not to toss out questions to just anyone who I thought might know the answer.
As usual, I got off track and on a tangent with my little stories. So, which references do you use most often? Have you ever gotten into a strange situation from asking questions only writers ask? If so, what happened?
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Looking at this picture now, it strikes me kinda funny. That old dining room is long gone, along with those horrible dark walls, and this room is now my office. It also strikes me funny that I have the same hair now as I did then. I don't remember having short hair back then.
Here's my little guy after he'd had his fill of cake. He's looking kind of sleepy. That's my dad sitting at the kitchen table behind him. He passed away nearly 17 years ago and Matt doesn't remember him. On that first birthday, Dad got Matt a big yellow dump truck and pushed him all around the house in it. It seems like yesterday and I can still hear his squeals of laughter. Today, we gave Matt accessories for his Toyota. I don't know where the time went. My baby is all grown up.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Skill and wits, I can live with. But what about brute strength? How can a romance heroine possibly stand toe to toe with a man and still retain her femininity? Therein lies my dilemma.
These women all are doing what was considered to be a man's job. Bounty hunter, secret service agent, and rancher. All these occupations require a certain amount of physical activity and strength. Would a woman capable of doing these activities still be considered feminine and desirable by the opposite sex?
Maggie Osborne wrote quite a few of these types of heroines. Not only were they tough as nails, they were downright gritty. Two that immediately come to mind are Jenny from "The Promise of Jenny Jones" and Low Down (yep, that really was her name) in "Silver Lining." I enjoyed both of these books immensely, but these two heroines had an image problem, in my opinion. They were so very tough and gritty, they came across as rather manly and unattractive much of the time. (again, this is this reader's opinion) While this worked for Ms. Osborne, I'd rather not have a Calamity Jane type as my heroine. It just doesn't seem to mesh when you have a hero who's handsome as sin--especially when you toss the two together for the love scenes.
Anyway, I've been giving a lot of thought to these heroines lately. These gals are the types of characters I love to write. But can I pull them off, make them as tough as they need to be, and still retain their feminine believability as a romance heroine?
Which brings me to another example. Remember Sharon Stone's character in "The Quick and the Dead?" She was tough, and she was out for blood and vengeance. Yet there wasn't a manly bone in her body. I think the secret to her characterization was that she was very vulnerable, on the inside and in private. In public, she showed no weakness. But when she was alone and behind closed doors, her fear, her softer emotions and even her physical pain came out of hiding. She was just a regular woman after all, attempting to do something extraordinary in the world of men.
Edited to add: I just happened to remember... Since I mentioned "The Quick and the Dead," I can't end this without adding that the plot twist at the end of the movie was a direct rip-off from "Once Upon a Time in the West." Sharon Stone's character was a female version of the harmonica playing Charles Bronson. Same exact goal, motivation, and plot twist.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Magdalena Scott has a very interesting thread of comments about independent bookstores going on over at Magdalenaville.
Angel in the Rain is on sale right now at Fictionwise for 50% off. I don't know if that applies to all their e-books, but it looks like all the Wild Rose Press books have been discounted.
The news out of romanceland is that book sales are on a big upswing. Some people are predicting that happy times are here again, but I'm a little more cautious than that. I have a feeling if/when the economy starts to recover, romance books sales will probably taper back down to their usual levels. In the meantime, though, this is very good news indeed!
Hope you all have a terrific week! I'm off to write now so I can try to get in on this upswing in the romance market. ;o)
Saturday, May 2, 2009
My husband's small business was robbed Wednesday night. Yes, just days after I wrote the Brinks Stinks post. I took that down, by the way, because I realized I had given potential thieves too much useful information about the store's security system. And yes, Mags, I also concluded that the false alarm the other night was probably just a dry run for the thieves to see what would happen.
Here's what did happen Wednesday night, without going into minute detail. The thieves disarmed the security system, then went to the back side of the building, where they couldn't be seen from the highway, and cut a hole through the back wall. They built a blind for themselves using discarded metal racks and old signs and they must have worked at the wall for quite a while, using tin snips and a pry bar. They peeled through two layers of metal and the material between and essentially opened the wall like a sardine can.
After all the panic and mess, we ended up lucky--this time. The thieves took only the Marlboros and a small number of other items. It amounted to 68 cartons of cigarettes. But it seems they were mainly interested in the Marlboros because they took those and left all the rest. How strange is that?
In the aftermath, hubby and others have worked feverishly to restore order. The builders came the same day and replaced the damaged sections of wall. The security people have corrected the flaw in the security system (we hope) and are in the process of doing an update with state of the art camera equipment. And let me tell you, this is setting us back a pretty penny. But how can we afford not to do it. Our income is dependent on this little business.
All of this, plus a number of other things, has left me in a state of mind that I can't really describe. I feel restless, insecure. I feel like I need to do something, but I don't know what it would be. I'm seriously considering taking classes and learning a skill I could do from home that would be relevant in today's workforce. This excites and scares me all at the same time. It's been thirty-some years since I was in school. Can an old dog actually learn a new trick and produce a bit of income? My personal circumstances force me to stay at home. I had always hoped I could earn money from writing. But the reality of that is, writing fiction for publication is like buying a lottery ticket and hoping it comes up a winner. And you're only allowed one ticket every few months or even years. So, realistically speaking, what are the odds?
I don't want to give up my writing dream. But at the same time, I feel I must do something more than what I've been doing. My husband carries the entire load. And he's a brave man. When he lost his good, long-time job three and a half years ago, we were forced to live off his retirement. We were essentially down to nothing when he made the decision to start his own business. It was an act of desperation, but he made it work. Now I feel I need to help him. Especially since Wednesday night. We were lucky this time, but the reality is, we could be wiped out financially next time around.
Sorry for the doom and gloom, but that's just reality sometimes and, just now, I'm standing right smack dab in the middle of it.