Other Pages To See...

Friday, February 29, 2008

Colin Farrell's Son

Most people who know me are aware that my 30 yr. old daughter has Angelman's Syndrome. She still lives at home with me and is one of the joys of my life. Recently, Colin Farrell disclosed that his 4 yr. old son has Angelman's, so I'm posting an interview he did. Here's the link. Colin Farrell Interview.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Doing The Homework

Yesterday was a terrific writing day. I added just slightly more than 1,200 solid words to my manuscript. By solid, I mean they advanced the story. I didn't dash them out just to be putting words on the page and there's little chance that I will end up ripping them out later because they're crap. They're there to stay, therefore they're solid. So, it was a good day for me. I just wish I could write faster.

Today, I hope to add at least a few more words, but I'm mostly taking the day off to do some research. Today's mail brought the books I ordered, so I'm going to do some reading. These books are historicals from the line I plan to target with the story I'm working on now. This is called doing your homework. Getting a feel for the kind of book your targeted publishers are buying. I'm homing in on the market. Eww... I feel smarter already. LOL!

Hey, it's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it. Flirty Wink


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Let It Snow

It's snowing! We're supposed to get a couple of inches, and maybe as much as four! I was hoping we'd get at least one measurable snowfall before winter's end. I love the snow, but the climate has changed so much in the past few years, we only get dustings these days, rather than the big, scary blizzards we used to get just a few short years ago.

On the writing front, I'm counting this day as a loss. I only managed to write a few paragraphs this morning before hubby came home unexpectedly. He wasn't feeling well and left work early. I just can't understand why one little deviation in routine throws everyone around here for a loop. But that's exactly what it does to me.

I probably shouldn't count the day as a total loss. Even though I wasn't planted in front of my monitor today, my brain was busy clicking over scene possibilities. Two new scenes played out in my head while I washed dishes and cooked and tucked blankie around hubby when he fell asleep in his recliner. I can't wait to write them! It's times like this when I break away from the point of the story where I've left off and jump ahead. When a scene is screaming to be written, there's just no denying it. You have to go with the flow. So, I jump ahead and write those scenes, placing them in the order they'll appear when I catch up to them with the rest of the story. And I always write each story in one huge document so I can jump around and scroll back and forth if need be.

The one scene I'm most anxious to write is humorous. While I was thinking about it, I couldn't stop myself from tee-heeing. Hubby hates it when I do that. He always asks, "What's so funny?" And I always answer, "I was just thinking." And he always jumps to the conclusion that I've invented some private little joke about him. You'd think, after all these years, he'd know that I don't consider him to be that funny. Well, I have to admit, sometimes he is pretty funny, but not so much that I go around snickering several days later about his antics.

Sooo.... what gives you the laugh out loud giggles when you're alone in a room or have the entire house to yourself? Inquiring minds want to know.


Monday, February 25, 2008

It's Been A Good Day

For tonight's post, I have no certain topic in mind. I just felt the need to mark the day somehow because it's been a good one. I passed a mile marker today in my work in progress, and that's always reason to celebrate. I'm just thankful that my husband is understanding and tolerant of the peculiarities of "the writer's life." Otherwise, it might not have been such a good day. I sat here at my computer until 4:00 this afternoon in my flannel pj's. That's a new record with me for time of day and still not dressed. I noticed the time occasionally and would mutter, "Oh, God, I've got to get dressed!" A couple of times I made it as far as getting out of my comfy swivel armchair, and starting for the door. Then, I'd suddenly remember just one more line or snippet of dialogue I needed to do (before I forgot). So, each time I tried to tear myself away, I ended up back in the chair typing away again. I'm telling you, this is the life!

On an unrelated, and yet slightly related, topic... my numero uno crit partner, Jan Scarbrough, talked me into ordering a book by a new author that's--while still historical--outside my usual genre I turn to for reading material. I look forward to getting my hands on a good book, and she assures me, it is. Once I've read it, if it meets expectations, I'll post the cover and share my thoughts.

Hope you had a nice, relaxing, productive weekend. Until next time...


p.s.--if you haven't voted in my poll yet, go look in the sidebar and choose your favorite historical periods for romance novels. You can pick more than one. Thanks!
Thank You

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

The writing is going well and I've managed to add significantly to my word count nearly every day. Until today. Today, I actually ended up going backward when I cut an entire scene that had no real relevance. The only purpose it served was to beat the reader over the head with my hero's state of mind, which I'd already covered in the previous scene. So, out it went. Hey, it's part of the process. After a while, you learn that nothing we write is such absolute gold that it can't be changed or gotten rid of.

I think it's kind of funny, the way some of us have become so word count obsessed. It's the new method we use to measure progress. Not chapter by chapter anymore. Now, it's word by word. I know I find myself going up and clicking on my tools option way more than I should to see how many words I've written that day. I keep a log, you see, with each days word goal and totals, and record how many I wrote that day. It's just another small thing to try and stay motivated to produce. One. Word. At. A. Time.

Hey, whatever works.

Another little Word function I've gotten attached to is the readability statistics. Occasionally, (like after finishing each chapter) I run a grammar check so I can see my percentage of passive voice. Anthing over 2% and I go berserk. I start going back through what I've written and tracking down those lazy little devils.

Obsessive? You betcha. Wink

Do you have any quirks or pet peeves that you must pay attention to while writing? If so, tell me about them.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Voices in Our Heads

Tonight's post was inspired by a friend and fellow writer, in response to a couple of comments she made on her blog.

You ARE a writer. Repeat after me, then tell hubby to repeat the words, too. LOL! Honestly, I don't know what more you could do to prove "you are a writer!" You've finished five manuscripts! I've known aspiring authors (notice I said, aspiring) who've been at it for years and never even finished ONE. Heck, there are published authors out there in romance land who've never written five manuscripts. Trust me, you're a writer. To. The. Bone.

I know exactly what you mean, though. Even after having a book published, I'm still dealing with the same things you are. Still having the fact that I write swept under the rug, and not taken seriously. For what it's worth, here's what I've concluded. It's the same as all other aspects of life. Money talks. It's that simple. The day we started getting big, fat checks in the mail, then I bet you a lot of folks would change their tune. They'd be whistling and holding our hands while they walked us to the bank. I know that sounds cynical, but it's the truth. So long as our writing doesn't pay the bills or put food on the table, it's going to be a time-consuming hobby to the people around us.

The really sad part is, the people we love will never truly understand us. Even if they do make the effort to be encouraging and share our excitement over accomplishments, they still won't understand. Okay, here comes the really nutso part. The reason they'll never understand is because of the voices inside our heads. They don't have them. They don't see scenes playing out or hear character dialogue. What they DO hear and see, I have no clue. I've asked, and gotten no satisfactory answer. If it's true that our minds never stop, never sleep, etc., then what's going on inside THEIR heads all day long? It boggles me. I don't know how they get through the day. Since my earliest memories, I've had people talking to each other inside my head, and scenes playing out in vivid color.

Anyway, all they can do is love and encourage us, and more importantly, give us the freedom to follow our dreams. But they'll never really know the feeling of accomplishment we have when we finish a manuscript, or plot the "perfect" story. They don't understand the driving need we have to even do these things.

I have to tell you this; I think you'll appreciate it and know exactly what I mean. When I joined KYRW and started interacting with the other writers, I was shocked the first time I heard someone mention the "voices in their head," or some reference to "living up in my head." Until then, I honestly thought I was an odd duck, or a little bit crazy. It was such a relief to learn there were other people out there like me, who heard the voices and felt the need to write their stories. I remember coming home from a meeting, all excited, and telling my husband about it. Until I got acquainted with other writers, I think he was afraid I was a little bit crazy, too, and that's why he didn't want me to write. LOL!

Until twelve years ago, I hid my writing from everyone. Now, I wear my weirdness proudly. :o) I own it because it's who I am and I can't change it. I'm a writer. Nowadays, when I'm sitting around staring into space, my husband will ask me, "Where are you?" My usual answer is, "Damn, why did you interrupt me?" He knows there's something playing out in my head. He accepts it now and, between you and me, I think he kinda likes it--now that he's interacted with some of the women in KYRW and knows being drifty as hell is rather normal (for writers). He even sometimes (if he's in just the right mood) tells people, "My wife's a romance author."

Bless his heart. Wonder how he put up with me all those years, before he found out I wasn't really loony-tunes? LOL!


Skin Deep

When I was young, I thought Ursula Andress (pic at left) was the most beautiful woman on the planet. If she hadn't gotten old, she'd still be the most beautiful woman on the planet, in my opinion. But there's a new generation of beauties on the big screen. Jessica Alba, Charlize Theron, and Selma Hayek, just to name three. The list could go on for a long time.

I mention these ladies because I was thinking about beauty today, and how it's depicted in romance novels. The reason I was thinking about it? Some of the comments I see on reader forums and various blogs. Honestly, readers are funny sometimes.

It seems there's a contingent of readers out there who are sick and tired of the heroines in romances novels always being stunningly beautiful. On one forum, they even list their gripes and ask authors to please not write these types of heroines anymore. Here's just an example ---

  • No more blondes, please
  • No more redheads
  • No more blue eyes
  • No more green eyes, or amethyst eyes,, or violet eyes
  • No more unrealistic figures, such as melon-sized boobs, or impossibly small waists (you know, the ones a guy can span with his hands and have his fingers touch) LOL!

Get the picture? It appears this (very small, I would think) contingent of readers wants us to write heroines with bad hair, preferably brown. They'd also like brown eyes, I'm guessing because that's the only color they didn't ask us not to write. They'd also like the heroines to have average figures. By average I'm thinking anywhere from a rack of bones to a plus, plus size.

Hooo-kay. I guess these readers don't realize that romance heroines do actually come in all shades and shapes. They only seem to be paying attention to (and griping about) the ones who happen to be beautiful.

On the other hand, these same readers had no complaint whatsoever about the stud-muffin heroes we write. I guess they kinda like them tall, and with all those ripply muscles, not to mention certain other exaggerated (ahem) endowments. They definitely want a hero who's drool-worthy and will play into their fantasy. Go figure. Looks to me like there's a bit of a double standard going on out there. What else is new?


Monday, February 18, 2008

Indiana Jones Rides Again

Have you seen this yet? It's a promo shot for the new Indiana Jones movie. Yep, they've made another one. It's due out in theaters May 22nd, and the title is "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." There are trailers all over the internet already.

I luuvvve the Indiana Jones movies! Well, except maybe the second one, "The Temple of Doom." It was my least favorite of the three so far. I think the reason I didn't like it as well was because the story didn't follow a Biblical sort of theme with the artifacts. I mean, in the first movie they went after the Ark of the Covenant and in the third movie the Grail. Great stuff! Besides, having Kate Capshaw constantly blowing out the sound system with all that screaming didn't help matters. The woman really needed to just shut up.

I have to say, I was very surprised when I heard they were making yet another installment AND that Harrison Ford would still be playing the lead. There's no one else who should play the part of Indy, nor could they. Ford owns the character. BUT. The man is seriously getting some age on him. These movies are always very physical. How believable is it going to be when Harrison Ford does all those incredible stunts (and you know the movie will be full of them). And what about all those close-ups of the stunned or horrified expression on his face when he's confronted with imminent danger? I honestly didn't believe there would ever be another Indiana Jones movie because Harrison Ford's dashing, hot hero days are in the past (in my opinion).

Oh, well. I'm looking forward to the movie. I just hope it's not another Temple of Doom. The title says to me that it might be. There were no references to a Crystal Skull in the Bible that I'm aware of. Wonder if Sean Connery will be reprising his role as Indy's father in this one? Now there's a man who got better with age... up to a certain point, anyway. ;o)


Sunday, February 17, 2008

New Tricks

I put a picture of an old dog into my post because that's sometimes how I feel, like an old dog who can't learn any new tricks. I refuse to hop on the trend train and try to write a book that's the hot ticket at the moment. No, I keep plodding along with my chosen, favorite genre and hope it someday makes a comeback. And now I realize I'm straying from what I wanted to write about this evening.

Even if we don't pick up a new trick every so often, I do believe that most of us continue to learn, no matter how old we are. Me, for example. I'm still learning about life in general and human nature, and about writing. The day I stop learning, I think I'll probably grow bored with it.

My word output for the day has been pitiful, so far. Only about 150 words today, compared to yesterday's 2,200. But I hope to make up for lost time later tonight. It feels good to be writing again, and I'm slowly working past the "beginning a new manuscript" insanity and settling into my comfort zone.

Not many people know this but I'm just coming off a two year writing hiatus. There was just no way around it. With all the things I had going on in my personal life, writing had to take a back seat. Now I'm back at it and even though it took some doing to get all the rust out of all the cogs and gears, it was worth the pain and effort.

Back to the learning thing... After a distance of two years, I've discovered some amazing things. When I look at my past writing, I can see things I couldn't at the time. Now I know what that big-name editor meant when she told me, my narrative style was a little strange in certain paggages. At the time, I wondered what the heck she was talking about. Now, I see it! Probably the biggest reason I can see it is because my style has evolved, and so those "strange" passages jump out. And I think we all are constantly evolving. I just hope my next step in the learning process doesn't require a two-year hiatus. Winky

What about you? Do you look back on old manuscripts and say, "My, God, what was I thinking!"


Saturday, February 16, 2008

...By Any Other Name

I always knew I would use a pseudonym if I got published because I didn't think my real name sounded very romance writer-ish. Why sound like someone's grandmother or old maiden aunt if you have a choice in the matter? So, when I received my book contract, the decision had essentially already been made. I took the names of my daughter and son, Devon and Matthew. To this day, my son kids me about it and says I don't care as much about him because I put his name last. What's more, I added insult to injury by tacking an "S" onto the end of it.

Many of the elderly relatives didn't understand why I wouldn't use my own, perfectly good name. But just as many thought it was very cool. All in all, I think it's worked out pretty well. Not once have I goofed up while in author mode in the romance community and signed my real name to a message. Whenever someone calls me Devon, I always respond because the name is as familiar and dear to me as my own.

Within my local RWA chapter, I still go by my real name. Others in the group who have pseudonyms use them for all purposes, even when communicating on our private chapter loop. But not me, and that's what I've been thinking about lately. Maybe it's time. I know it must be confusing to new members who join our group. When I post messages, they don't make the connection between me and the person on the published author page. Why should they, unless I tell them?

Still, I'm resistant to crossing over totally and becoming the identity I've created. And I can't really put my finger on the reason why. I have no problem whatsoever with it out there in the cyber romance community. But the idea of asking people I've known for a lot of years to suddenly start calling me by an assumed name just feels silly somehow. I can't help wondering if anyone else felt this way.

I will tell you this. Taking a pseudonym put a degree of separation between me and my publishing experience. Here, and on my web site, and on the various forums out there in cyberspace, my real name is nowhere to be found. Yes, the photos are me and all the information is about me. But when I saw my book for the first time, it didn't have my name on it. I in no way expected this to have an impact, and I wasn't prepared for it. Until now, I've never even confessed it. Somehow, not having my real name on the cover of my book de-personalized it. It was almost as if I'd worked all those years for something and then ended up handing it over to someone else. I'm wondering if there are other authors out there who've experienced this feeling of separation by taking on an assumed name.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Vintage Valentine

Happy Valentine's Day!


Craft of Writing

I used to be a pantser. No, that doesn't mean I went around jerking down people's pants and exposing their hineys to embarrass them. It means, I wrote by the seat of my pants, just flew into the wind and wrote whatever came to mind for my characters and that's what happened next. Just so you know, pantsers are often known to paint themselves into a corner, even though they start off with what they think is a thoroughly great story idea. Hey, it happens.

Then... I learned about a marvelous, and hair-pulling, little thing called "craft of writing."

Now, I'm a plotter (and, yes, oft-times plodder). Now, my story must have an inciting event, a first turning point, a black moment, a happy and satisfying resolution, etc. etc. There also must be solid goals, motivation, and conflict (both internal and external) for both my primary characters, and sometimes even a couple of the secondary players. And all the goals (ideally) must somehow conflict. All of which sometimes makes me wonder if there are any sane people writing genre fiction.

Ahhhhh!!! (that was a scream, in case you're wondering.

Okay. Plotting aside, let's move on to craft itself. Now, when I begin a new manuscript, everything I've learned about the craft of writing a novel all leaps out at me and starts screaming to be heard. Sometimes the din is so loud and confusing, I can barely think, much less string together a coherent sentence. There are soooo many things to remember and constantly think about.

  • Have I started in the right place?
  • Am I bringing out the emotion?
  • Are my characters sympathetic, someone a reader would care about?
  • Am I showing, rather than telling? Which goes hand in hand with, is my writing immediate? Does it pull the reader into the scene?
  • Am I using all five senses to add detail and texture?
  • Am I using active verbs?
  • Am I upping the stakes? Must keep upping the stakes!
  • And what about sexual tension? Good Lord! I need to go back and layer in some more tension!

Arrrhhhhhhh!!! (yes, that was another acream -- more like a roar)

(taking a deep, relaxing breath) Ahh, the joys of writing. Sometimes I long for the good old days when I wrote simply for the fun of it, wrote from pillar to post, whatever popped into my head, and hoped it all worked out.

There is some good news in all of this. Yes, craft does drive me nuts sometimes, especially when I'm beginning a new manuscript. But once I get into it, and settle into my rhythm, it all turns into second nature and just falls into place as if by instinct. Lovely. And the best part is, I never paint myself into a corner anymore. I know where I'm going before I begin because I have a plan. So, it's all good.....

And in case you're wondering.... Yes, I've just started a new manuscript and I'm in that insane place where the craft is all screaming at me to pay attention, and I'm wondering if my narrative has started to sound choppy because I'm slipping in and out of deep pov within the same paragraph, and I'm sweating pulling off a heroine with a handicap without having her come across as an object of pity to a reader, and I'm wondering if my hero can get away with some of the things I have planned for him because the heroine is handicapped. And I'm wondering why I even chose to write a heroine with a disability, but, damn, it makes for some great conflict!

I love writing. I Love You


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Cover Calamities

See this cover? Kinda pretty, isn't it? If my book was a contemporary romantic suspense. But it's not, it's a western historical. This was supposed to be my cover--it's the one that didn't make it. Until now, I've only shared this image with a few close writer pals.

I think one of the biggest nail-biters an author has during the publishing process is waiting to see what her cover will look like. When I saw this, my heart sank down to the floor because it's neither western looking, nor does it look a bit historical. My first thought was, "Oh my God! How will I ever sell this to anyone as a western? It has absolutely nothing to do with my story. And what's up with the bald woman and the door!" Now, don't get me wrong. It's very nice cover and the artist did a great job, it just wasn't right for my book.

Fortunately, I didn't have to say a thing. My editor took even more exception to it than I did, and she went to bat to have it changed. You can see the final result over in the top sidebar.

Here's something to consider, if you're thinking of publishing with a small press. Your cover won't be the result of John DeSalvo and some gorgeous female model dressed in period clothing and posing amid the correct props to match your story. The cover artists at the small presses use stock photos and Photoshop them. The results are pretty amazing, considering they only have a limited selection of shots to work with.

Within just the past few months, I've had two writer friends contact me with panicky pleas for help. They'd gotten their covers and hated them. Even though I couldn't help, I did try to lend moral support. I'm happy to say the issues were resolved in both instances and they ended up with covers they're very happy with.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Jesse James Revisited... Again

While watching tv last night, I saw an ad for the newest Jesse James movie, "The Assassination of Jesse James," starring Brad Pitt. It was released on video already, which surprised me. I hadn't seen it advertised for the theaters that much back when it was first released.

Personally, I plan to give this one a pass. The Jesse James story has been done, and done. I don't see how one more take on it is going to give any more insight. Also, the commercial I saw had Brad Pitt handling snakes, so I'm wondering if they've wandered down some untapped (and strange) paths to try and find a new angle. No thanks.

In my opinion, the best rendering of the James/Younger saga was "The Long Riders," which was released back in 1980, if I'm not mistaken. This movie was the most historically accurate I've seen. They even got the exact number of wounds and placement of bullets right during that final, spectacular shootout on the street in Northfield, Minn. I know because the scene played out in slo-mo, so I counted and then compared the movie to the facts. They got it all exactly right.

One of the other great things about "The Long Riders" was the fact that all the brothers in the movie were portrayed by real brothers. The Jameses were James and Stacy Keach. The Youngers were played by David, Keith, and Robert Carradine. Ed and Clell Miller were Dennis and Randy Quaid. And those cowardly Fords were Christopher and Nicholas Guest. Very cool casting. It's terrific, and if you're interested in seeing a movie about the outlaws that's based mostly on fact, I highly recommend.