Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Made it!

A first -- a double blog day! Because I made my fifteen page quota and may even write some more before TAR! Ah, it feels good -- and thank you, oh smarmy villain guy, for making it possible by getting my hero and heroine good and angry and making my hero announce, to the heroine's shock and mine, that she's his wife.

Well, not really -- but as good as, so get yer stinkin' mitts off! Heheheheee. And now my boy Armand has to make sure the king agrees to the betrothal and the heroine is totally PO'd by his high-handed announcement (she wasn't terribly enamored of him before that, despite a certain intimate encounter in the garden) and... dang! There are days I totally LOVE my job.

What I've learned along the way...

I've been writing a series of columns for my local RWA chapter newsletter, under the general heading of "what I've learned along the way." I've been at this writing gig a while (coming up to the fifteenth anniversary of "the call," actually), and I've learned a few things -- some easy, some hard. A member of the chapter noted that I didn't have these posted on my site or blog, to which I thought, "DUH! She's RIGHT! I should." So, guess what I did yesterday???

Here's a link to my What I've Learned Along the Way columns, and a big "thank you!" to Kim for the suggestion.

Also, tonight, The Amazing Race returns! I have set a goal of writing at least fifteen pages for today so I can watch with a complete absence of guilt.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The show must go on

I have officially declared my latest head cold as The Worst Cold I Have Ever Experienced. Sheesh. It lingers on, and the worst part of the worst cold? Watery, scratchy eyes and lack of energy. I thought I was okay until just before dinner yesterday, when suddenly, my energy simply deserted me. I snoozed through Smallville after dinner. I woke for Bleak House, then tottered off to bed.

Yet is in spite of the sniffling, sneezy, watery eyes, I wrote. Not great stuff. Probably not even good stuff. But at this point, I simply have to get something down on paper or I'm going to be totally stressed out and, as I've learned the hard way, that is Death to creativity.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Getting from A to B

In between sniffling, sneezing, wiping watery eyes and coughing, I'm trying to work on my first draft. And as always, I have come to one of those "synopsis dilemmas", as I think of them. You see, in a synopsis, you can have things like "Some time later..." something happens. But when you write the book, you can't always just leap from point A to point B the way you can in the synopsis. You've got to have a bit of a bridge, a bridge you haven't exactly planned in detail.

That was the point where I stopped last night. I was ready to leave my hero's point of view and end a chapter. I'm gearing up for a Major Plot Point scene, but I had to show what had happened with the heroine, who'd been left in a bit of a sticky wicket. I needed a bridge. What to do? Well, there was something about the heroine I could "show not tell," so I did that. I made her position at court a little clearer. I hinted at her "master plan" that I'm now not going to reveal until after the Major Plot Point scene, because I need to keep up the tension.

At this stage of the process, it often feels like I'm blindfolded and trying to "feel" my way forward. Should I have this here, or will I wind up cutting it because I should just "cut to the chase" and get to the plot point? Or will the plot point "fall flat" if I haven't given the readers enough information about my characters and their motivations? I probably won't really have an answer to that until I do later drafts. In the meantime, I'm going to carry on. I've got my bridge, so I feel better, and right now, that's what important.

I hope to feel better in other ways soon. I've finally decided to get some medication. Because trying to write with the watery eyes and the sneezing? Not good.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Writing with a head cold

This is one of those times I wish I had a "regular" job -- you know, the kind where you can phone in sick and take a couple of days off and your co-workers would cover for you? Because I have got a humdinger of a head cold that seems to be traveling around various areas of my body (chest, throat, sinuses, nose) rather than, you know, going away. Unfortunately, I'm self-employed. There's nobody to "pick up the slack." It's all me, baby.

So that means I have to work today. As you'll know if you've been following this blog, I've had some distraction/procrastination issues. Alas, I have no more time left to let myself be distracted, or to lollygag, so sniffling, sneezing, watering eyes and coughing notwithstanding, today I will write. It might not be the most delightful work I've ever produced (in fact, I know it won't be), but I can and will fix it later.

I do plan to have an "every man for himself" dinner night, though. Not only do I lack the energy and will to cook, it could be a side helping of germs for all if I did.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Spartans, loin cloths and spears, oh my!

One of my fellow historical romance writers alerted me to a movie that'll be out in 2007, staring Gerard Butler (who, quite frankly, could be on any cover of any of my books any time -- he's all that). It's called simply "300" and it's about the Spartans who held the pass at Thermopylae. Also in it is David Wenham, who played Faramir in Lord of the Rings and Vincent Regan who played Eudorus in Troy (one of the best things about that movie, I thought!). A little net surfing yielded some interesting pictures. I gather (and seem to recall hearing before) that the Spartans didn't wear a whole lot when they fought. Looks like in the movie, it's going to be cloaks, loin cloths and something on their feet and that's about it. Take a look:

Should be, ahem, interesting! Whatever they're wearing, is it just me, or are there slightly more historical films being made these days? If so, yeah!

Now, after a pleasant interlude contemplating historical films starting GB, I must take my still-ailing bod back to work.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The boys in my bathtub...

The latest additions to our family, aka "the boys," have apparently decided there's no better place to be than a wet bathtub after somebody's had a shower. Why this should be, I don't know. What I do know is, I can know wander into the bathroom at any time in the morning and find two pairs of wide, innocent kitty eyes gazing up at me as if to say, "Not doing nuthin'. Really. Just sittin' here minding our own business."

Unfortunately, they've also discovered the head board of our bed is wide enough for them to sit on. From that perch, they can look down on our slumbering heads. Like vultures. Guess how I wake up in the morning these days? We also had to wrap the bedposts and a decorative bit in the center because we discovered Luis (aka the whiter of the two kitties) liked to gnaw on the wood.

I would have preferred sleeping later today because I'm fighting off a cold. Thankfully the kids are old enough that should I want to go to bed and nap, I can. Believe you me, there were times when they were babies, toddlers and small children I would have given a great deal to be able to just lie down when I was feeling under the weather. Now I really appreciate that seemingly simple thing.

Here's hoping that if I do go back to bed, the Count and Luis let me sleep in peace, without either perching or wrestling over my poor sick body.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

La...la...la...WHAT THE --?

Okay, this also happens with discouraging frequency. I'm at the "start the new book " stage. My deadline seems, oh, months away. I have plenty of time. I need to rest, refill the well, restore my creativity...

Ah, who am I kidding? I'm messing around doing anything but writing because...(and I'm sure this is no newsflash to other writers), writing is hard. If it were easy, anybody who said, "I'd love to write a book someday" would, you know, write one. For me, the first draft is the most difficult part, so it's oh, so very tempting to delay.

Not that I don't need to take a break. Oh, baby, I do -- and I found that out the wrong way, by working myself too hard for too long, until the well, she was empty. I was stressed out, drained, miserable. And if starting a first draft is difficult to begin with, starting one under those conditions? Is a nightmare.

But then, also as always, comes the moment like the squeal of tires on rubber, and I realize that while yes, I have months before the book is due, that deadline is a lot closer than it appears in the mirror. YIKES!

So today, it's to work with me! NO EXCUSES!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Oh, baby!

I'm delighted to report that my friend who went into labor at my booksigning was safely delivered of a bouncing baby boy yesterday morning.

In other news, it's Valentine's, which means I have chocolate. Well, I often have chocolate. Here's my dirty little food secret: I snack on Chipits, the chocolate chips that go into cookies. Not a lot (about a tablespoon once, twice, possible three times a day), but enough to give me a little choco-fix. After all, I tell myself, they're only semi sweet.

Today, though, I have the real deal courtesy of the cutie I married many years ago, and who can still make me laugh so hard, I can hardly breathe. He's also a very calming influence at other times, able to "talk me down" when my vivid imagination goes into overdrive and I get into full blown Worry Mode. Plus, he has wonderfully broad shoulders and is still quite athletic -- he plays ultimate frisbee, and for a guy over forty to be doing that...well, let's just say his teammates are flabbergasted when he tells them how old he is. One of my daughter's co-workers recently pronounced him "hot." She was flabbergasted (as in, "My DAD?"), he was tickled, and my son and I got to enjoy their reactions.

But here's the thing: he is hot. Any guy with those eyes, those lips and those shoulders, who can still make me laugh and feel like a teenager, who loves me just as I am, who's so patient, kind and loyal and a wonderful father, is totally, utterly hot and always will be. I am one lucky woman, and believe me, I know it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A signing to remember....

And it had nothing to do with the books. Tired of sitting in her house, a pregnant, due-any-time friend came down. She went into labor at the signing. Yep, right there in the bookstore. She didn't have the baby there (I'm still waiting to hear about that and hoping all went well) but whew, doggies! That was a new one. Plus, for those of us not going into labor, there was cake. And I sold some books. All in all, a memorable (to put it mildly!), fun day on Sunday.

I also realized over the weekend I should probably never start a book in January. I mean, seriously, is it the cold? The gray skies? What I have now is too dern grim! So I wrote a new opening to Chapter One today. It's not a laff riot, but what I did was get the hero's backstory out of the way before he meets the heroine. just as I show hers in the prologue.

Why do that? Because now that I've established (relatively quickly) that they've suffered, I can show a different, lighter side of their personalities when they meet. I think that makes it more likely that affection would blossom between them, as well as desire. It should (hopefully) make them more likeable, too.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Booksigning hopes

I've got two booksignings this weekend. Here are my hopes, in order of precident:

1. I hope I don't have to sit in a draft.

2. I hope nobody asks me for relationship advice. I hate that! When that happens, I really want to say, a la Bones in Star Trek, "I'm a writer, not a licenced therapist!" And please, have you looked at my books? I write historicals. Unless you live in the 13th century, I'm probably not your gal.

3. I hope people buy a few books, so I don't feel totally like Oliver Twist: "Please ma'am, won't you buy a book?" It can be pretty uncomfortable to be sitting a table and smiling and have people just walk by and perhaps give a quizzical look, or -- worst of all! -- a scornful glance, as if you're trying to sell broken toys.

4. I hope nobody actually says something to the effect that I'm a purveyor of trash or otherwise Disgusting Material. This makes me want to scream, "THEN DON'T BUY IT." And also, move along. And other things that aren't polite.

What I won't do in that case is defend my genre. Anybody who's that rude won't be receptive, so why bother? What they will get is a look that says, "You, sir or madam, are not only wrong, you're rude and arrogant and therefore, dead to me." If I'm really strong, that will be it. I won't huff or splutter or say a word. I will just give them that look and wait for them to move on.

Fortunately, I don't have to worry that the bookstore staff will be dismissive or otherwise uncooperative. I've done at signing there before, and everything was done as well as could be on the part of the store. Believe me, that's a huge weight off my mind.

So, I'm hopeful the experience will be pleasant rather than otherwise.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

February is flying by....

Okay, what happened to the extra week that was supposed to be at the beginning of February?

I swear this happens to me every year -- I always seem to forget February is a short month and assume that there's an extra week there somewhere.

I realized that yesterday and dang if it wasn't a day I had a lot of running around to do (ie not writing). For one thing, I got a much needed haircut. My hair is short (see picture) and has been for all of my life except for a couple of months when I was about ten. I've been needing a cut for weeks, but there were revisions and other things that kept pushing that to the back burner. I finally got there yesterday and discovered I hadn't had a haircut since NOVEMBER. Trust me, this was way, way too long to go between cuts (no pun intended).

Then I got home and discovered that the vacuum cleaner needed a new belt, and since my dearest Darling Darla (aka the cleaning lady) was waiting to finish the vacuuming, it was off to the store to get a new one. Fortunately, the store was close and I was able to do another errand on the same janut.

But by now, the day was pretty much shot and I'd written...nothing. And I had suddenly twigged to the fact that February was rushing by and the tension began and then I realized everybody else was going to be out for the evening -- hubby and son to a basketball game, daughter to work. I would have the house to myself. It would be quiet.

So now you know how I spent my evening. I finished Chapter one, and then I did something I should have done last week -- I went through my synopsis and did an outline of sorts on file cards. But more about that system another day, because I've got to get to Chapter Two. Next thing I know, it'll be March!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

And as always, writus interruptus....

I should be used to this by now -- that when I think I'm going to have an uninterrupted chunk of time to write, I get interrupted. Could be I've forgotten to do something, or there's a minor family crisis, or an email arrives that requires a response ASAP.

However, I also blame my difficulties getting to the computer yesterday on the fact that it's really tough to "switch gears" from one book to the next. It's kind of like starting your car on a cold winter's day -- it can take awhile to "warm up."

Nevertheless, I'm hopeful I'll have some good writing time this morning, meaning a lack of other activities to distract me, and quiet. I've thought about the new scene, and how I want it to start; I know what has to happen, and where it ought to end. I've even got the last sentence of the scene in my noggin. No doubt the scene will require quite a bit of revision later (my first chapters always do), but at this point, I don't worry about that. It's more important to get something down on paper, or on the screen. Lady, start your engine....

Saturday, February 04, 2006

A Place for Prologues

Back in the day, I used to be anti-prologue. I thought whatever was in a prologue should be worked in the body of the text. I was quite certain, as only youth can be, about this.

However, I've gotten over it, because I've discovered that sometimes, a prologue can save a writer a lot of grief. I tend to write heroes especially who are the strong, silent type. They all have issues and problems in their past that have made them this way, and that means they aren't about to "open up" any time soon about those pasts. Eventually, of course, they do, and to the heroine. Unfortunately, it seemed a lot of critics had already passed judgement on the poor boys before they got to that part, and by the time the hero explained or described his past, it was too late. They were already toast in the critic's eye and apparently beyond redemption. I don't fault those readers for making too hasty a judgement. I failed by not making my characters sympathetic enough before the Big Revelation. Since I knew their past, I already saw them as heroic, so didn't realize the need to make it clear for people who didn't know the character as well as I did.


This type of hero really benefits from a prologue. By showing a scene from his past, the reader is much more inclined to feel sympathetic toward him, or at least understand why he might not be too keen to reveal certain elements of his past that explain his actions in the present. Instead of coming across as simply stubborn or arrogant, the reader has a clue as to why he's behaving that way, and is more willing to cut him some slack.

With the new book, MY LORD'S DESIRE, I'm doing something a little bit different -- the prologue is about the heroine and her sisters. I want to show the reader why she doesn't want to get married, to have them understand what in her past has made her so determined not to. I feared she would come across as too cold, too "ice queen", too unsympathetic to the reader, if I didn't.

I wrote the prologue this morning. I didn't intend to -- I was supposed to be writing a "dear reader" letter for HERS TO DESIRE. But I had the ideas bubbling and decided, what the heck. Write it. I'll do the "dear reader" letter later. And that's what I'm off to do right now.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Downtown, where all the lights are bright...

Today I had an expedition downtown. I live in the 'burbs, so I don't get there very often. I was delivering posters for a signing I'm doing in February -- and good golly, Miss Molly, I was pleasantly surprised by the efforts the event planner's already gone to. They had a HUGE sign out front. It wasn't just publicizing the signing -- they're having other "romance-oriented" events next weekend as well -- but I was still tremendously impressed. Then, inside the store, they had two more gigantic signs. Since I've gone to quite a bit of effort arranging the signing, it was wonderful to see the store planner making a major effort, too.

Naturally, since I was in a bookstore, I had to buy some books -- one about life in a medieval town and another about King John. The latter might be a little dry, but I'm hopeful I'll find the kind of telling detail that gives me a thrill and I love to use -- some tidbit about medieval life that's interesting and not well known.

Then I went to a big department store and, in the space of half an hour, purchased a new watch with big numbers so I can see what time it is without my reading glasses, hand towels and a jacket. The jacket was the big score, because it's kinda trendy, so not something I'd normally gravitate to. I don't have the opportunity to wear business clothes much, so it makes sense to me to stay with the classics. However, it was such a bargain, it won't matter if it's out of style next year. If I get to wear it three times, I'll consider it worth the price. Since I'm planning to wear it to next week's signing, I'm nearly a third of the way there already!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Approaching Mount Doom

And no, I'm not referring to the aforementioned Mount Laundry.

I'm referring to the start of the long, arduous mountain trek otherwise known as "the first draft." Now, it's not that I foresee disaster. I don't. Or that I don't want to write. I do. I would rather write than do many another thing. And it's not that I'm not excited about the new story and the new characters and the new-to-me setting -- I am! I've faced this particular mountain before, too, many times. This will be my fortieth manuscript (36 books and 4 novellas). I know I can write a full length historical romance manuscript.

But it's still daunting, going from Chapter One, Page One (or Prologue, Page One) to the final page, approximately 400. First drafts are mentally exhausting -- every sentence can mean a decision, a slight shift that can change the direction of my story. I tend to take a lot of breaks, and longer ones, with first drafts. I need them.

This is one of the times when it really helps to have friends who write. Who else can understand the frustrations when things aren't going well -- when you're "stuck" with a scene, or you've had a great idea, but it means things will be radically different from your original plan and you're not sure if the first idea was really better all along. Non-writers tend to get a baffled expression when you start talking about things like this. After all, you're the one who's got the ideas...how can you be "stuck"? What's wrong with changing or, conversely, why would you bother?

The worst thing of all is being "stuck" (aka writers' block). I've had that happen once, with the books that's on the shelves now, HERS TO COMMAND. And let me tell ya, that was NOT pleasant! I think the book turned out quite well (finally), and the critical reception has been generally excellent, but the process? Oh, baby, spare me!

So I have doubts and worries whenever I start a new project. The deadline looms in the back of my mind. At this point, it's far, far back, so not a source of stress, but it's there. I know there will be good days, and bad days.

So what do I do? Well, I still have some "secretarial" things to finish, and I need to go over my synopsis and notes, and then I'll open a file on my computer. Chapter One, Page One. England. 1203...