Friday, December 29, 2006

New Year Wishes

It's that time of year again, when talk of "New Year's resolutions" fills the air.

Instead of resolutions, I'm going to offer some sage words of advice:

"Write your hurts in the sand, carve your blessings in stone."

I don't know who said this first, and I did google to try to find out, to no avail. Whoever came up with this lovely thought to get through the rough spots of life, I thank him or her. It's not easy to overlook hurtful comments or actions, but this reminds me to get over it and focus on what's truly important.

Happy New Year, everyone, and I truly hope your blessings outnumber your hurts.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Casino Royale at last!

We finally got to see the new James Bond film, and yep, it got the thumbs up from us, too. Very entertaining and exciting, despite a few quibbles. Our friend tells me the book ends a little differently, and I think I would have preferred the book's ending, because most of our problems with the story concerned the ending.

It might also have helped if I knew more than the very basics of poker. Big blind, little blind, what the...? It reminded me of the Dr. Seuss A-B-C book: "Big B, little B, what begins with B?" Also, for such a sophisticated place, what was with that dealer's vest? It seemed a little...tacky?

However, Daniel Craig's certainly believable as a death-dealing secret agent, I must say! And there was an unexpected surprise with M. that was brief, but definitely fun and interesting.

In other news, I'm starting to get back into the swing of things, work-wise, in a non-writing-a-book way. Sorting through emails that have piled up, doing some work for our local RWA chapter, and starting to check handouts and prepare for a two-part, full-day workshop I'm doing in January. The morning part is Romance 101 -- the basics about romance writing, including terms we tend to bandy about that can be confusing for new writers. In the afternoon, I'm doing a little something called "Goose your Muse", on motivation and inspiration. That should be fun, and I hope people come away excited and hopeful about writing in general.

Because as jobs go? And despite all the complaining and whining? It's one heck of a great gig!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

The cookies are baked, the napkins have all been found (one went missing), the presents are wrapped...

I wish everyone the very best of holidays -- full of good cheer, good company, fun, family and friends.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Night at the zzzzz......

So, having finished my revisions (kaloo kalay!!!), we went to the movies yesterday. Specifically, Night at the Museum. Now, I was originally skeptical about this one, because I sometimes enjoy Robin Williams' movies, but he can be kinda over the top. I was still on the fence about Ben Stiller -- is it him or is it the movies he's in I don't particularly enjoy? We read two local papers. One gave the movie a good review, the other not so good. I should have realized that the reviewer who liked it doesn't generally share my taste, because while the second half of the movie had a couple of laughs, the first half was one of the most boring film experiences of my life.

So I got to thinking about the whys and wherefors, because when you write stories for a living, you tend to think about these things.

I think the biggest problem was that they had a concept, but no story to go with it. They had "what if the exhibits in the museum come to life at night?" Okay, kinda cool, if not unique (shades of Toy Story, to name but one). And they came up with a couple of cute set pieces (the tiny Roman army) but otherwise? They seemed to flounder when it came to developing a story from that concept. The set-up was completely mundane -- divorced dad needs job. Sadly, they didn't make divorced dad particularly admirable. He's never had a job (it seems) and came up with some invention that was essentially a rip-off of something else (so he's not even a creative failure) and subsequently, he keeps having to move. There's no mention of child support, and although it seems obvious the mom doesn't need the money, it's clear he couldn't provide it even if she did. It apparently takes Dad 10 years (his son is 10 in the movie) and his wife's threat of terminating visitation for Dad to figure out he ought to get a "real" job with a "real" paycheck.

Okaaaaay. So far, not so good. This is not a guy I'm prone to root for, because it sounds like immaturity is his middle name.

Then he finally gets a job, and the first night, the exhibits come to life. Okaaaay. He's shocked. Well, duh. He wants to quit. Well, duh. The museum director is played by Ricky Gervais of The Office. I suspect the reviewer who liked the movie thinks anything Ricky Gervais does is hilarious, because this part? Wasn't the least bit amusing to me. It was also actually painful to see Mickey Rooney in this film.

Oh, the love interest in the film, such as she is, is doing a theses/writing a book about Sacagawea, who helped guide the Lewis and Clark expedition. There's a secondary love story between Sacagawea and Robin Williams' character which conveniently overlooks the fact that Sacagawea was married. So, let me get this straight. A movie that's also supposed to be championing history? Plays fast and loose with historical facts.


Anyhoo, History Babe, after spending six years on this work, decides to abandon it because Sacagawea is just not "coming alive" for her (or something along those lines). Now, it seems to me that a person who enjoys researching and writing about history is going to realize that the person she's writing about is, you know, dead, and it's sort of up to her to make the person "come alive" via her writing. But maybe that's just me.

The movie finally comes to life when something is stolen (and don't get me started on that) and it's up to the museum exhibits (and Ben Stiller and son) to get it back. That's conventional also, but at least there's some interesting activity and motion.

Basically, a gimmick alone is simply not enough to make a good movie. We also need a story and some characters to care about. To use another example of a comedy that did work that was also based on a gimmick: Galaxy Quest. In that movie, the gimmick was that aliens have been watching our TV, and they think everything they see is real, or "historical documents," even Gilligan's Island.

However, there were also characters who had problems and issues and through the course of the movie, changed. Tim Allen's character is forced to realize he's a loser to many people, and finds redemption by becoming the real "commander." Alan Rickman's character, the Spock of the show, has a moment that brought tears to my eyes (although yes, I laughed out loud many times) when he repeats the "catch phrase" that has plagued him for years in the most sincere, tender, determined way (and honestly, could anybody have done that better than Alan Rickman?). Sigourney Weaver's character gets to sound off about her character's "role" in the show, and there are more.

There was also a clear, admirable goal: to help the aliens defeat a Very Bad Bad Guy.

In other words, there was a gimmick plus a good story and interesting characters -- much more than the simple "hook" of the aliens believing TV shows were real life.

In the writing business, we hear a lot about "high concept," as if that alone is going to make you a successful writer. And sometimes, if the concept is unique and fascinating, that alone might be enough. However, more often than not, the real talent is coming up with a good idea, and -- and this is the big thing -- turning that idea into an entertaining story populated by interesting characters whom the readers come to care about. That's the real talent, and where the real hard work comes in. It's not just about getting an idea; it's about what you do with the idea once you've got it.

That's another thing that separates the people who only talk about writing, or dreaming about being a writer, from the ones who become writers.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Reading the Runes....

One of the biggest downsides of being a freelance writer is that I work in isolation. I get together with fellow writers with some frequency, but these aren't the folks who make the big decisions that could have a real impact on my career. What I'd really like to do is sit in on a marketing or editorial meeting. Since that is never going to happen, I find myself doing what I call "reading the runes," looking for indirect information. And then I drive myself bonkers trying to figure out if it has any bearing on my career.

The latest example:

Once upon a time, Nora Roberts wrote a historical romance for what was then the fledgling Harlequin Historical line.
was HH #4 and came out in 1988.

Recently, REBELLION has been reissued. Last week, it was #11 on the New Yorks Times paperback bestseller list.

I understand why a publisher would reissue a Nora Roberts book. Frankly, I believe somebody could publish a compilation of her grocery lists and have a bestseller. What does such a prolific, talented author eat? Is her secret to success in her diet??? (For the record, I don't think so!)

But here's where I start a-puzzlin' -- why a historical and why now?

Rumor has it that historicals are about to experience an "upswing." Why? No idea. Will it happen? No idea. I just do my thing and hope for the best. But does this say something about what my publisher (encompassing editorial and marketing folks) thinks about historicals? Do they think they're on the upswing? Is REBELLION a case of trying to catch the wave? Or is it a sign that the wave is already surging? Or is it an attempt to kick-start a wave?

Again, no idea. Will I ever find out? Highly, highly unlikely.

But now you know why authors sometimes walk around muttering to themselves.....

Monday, December 18, 2006


Last night, despite the revisions, I had to watch the Survivor finale. I enjoyed it a lot. I was so sure Ozzie was going to take it, but was quite happy that Yul did. I knew Becky had no hope, but she gave it a decent shot. The fire-making? Hilarious! I had some major quibbles -- the jury antics were particularly annoying, when they were supposed to be silent -- but all in all, one of the best Survivor seasons in a long time, and a satisfying conclusion.

Now if only somebody will get Ozzie and Yul on The Amazing Race...

In other revision-related news, after losing 51 manuscript pages, I've added 18 and I'm on Chapter Ten of Revision Draft II: Electric Boogaloo. Yeah!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Another Unusual Holiday Tradition

There are lots of holiday traditions that many people share. We have our unique tree decorating rituals, as mentioned previously. We also have a little something extra called "Cine-mass." This involves dinner (out) and a movie, usually celebrated on Dec. 23.

How did this start? One year, when my kids were little, we were driving to a multiplex on the 23rd, to see a movie after eating out. The cineplex had a bright neon sign saying "Cinemas."

"Look!" said my son. "Cine-mass!"

Thus, a new tradition was born.

One that does not involve me cooking, shopping or cleaning the house. Whoo hooo!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Taking a break from snark

So Blogger has this new thing. I think it's SuperBlogger, or something. I've signed up, but it's kinda confusing.

Anyhoo, I've also realized it's time for me to take my annual Break From Negativity. I did this at the start of last year. Basically, I quit going to sites that have a tone that's more negative than positive, at least as far as I'm concerned. Review sites, blogs, what have you. I like to know what's going on in the world o' publishing, but I think that over time, all that snark kinda gets to me and makes me grumpy.

Now, some snark is amusing, that I will grant, so if I laugh far more than frown, I'm still visiting (Television without Pity, I'm looking at you.)

But otherwise? There comes a time, at least for this writer, when it all gets to be too, too much. It seems like everybody hates every single historical romance being published. They all stink. Too many terrible books are being published (although who gets to decide what's good and what's bad is, curiously enough, left out of the debate). Publishers are all evil ogres hell bent on forcing this multitude of stinky books down the throats of readers.

Everybody's entitled to their opinion, of course, but I don't have to read 'em. So, for my own peace of mind and creativity, I take a break. I think the holiday season is a good time to focus on the positive, don't you?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A-revisin' I will go!

Ay yi yi. My life would be so much easier right now if I'd gotten the book right the first time! But alas, I did not, so I've....

Totally rearranged about two-thirds of the book. Chapter Eleven is now Chapter Four, that sort of thing. I've "roughed in" the new transitions, and written one new scene. I've moved some small bits around. I've emailed the first two revised chapters to my editor and got the thumbs up that I'm on the right track. I've also lost 51 pages. Gone. Vamoosed.

Sound like a lot of work? It is, but now comes the real heavy lifting, because I have to make sure the new romantic arc works. I have to smooth the transitions, and fix/expand the "roughed in" parts. I have to make sure I've addressed my editor's concerns. Piece o' cake, right?


But it's my own dang fault. See, in attempting to increase one element of the story (plot activity), I skimped on a little thing known as "the romance."

Ooops. Really. Not. Good. When you're writing a romance.

So I'm moving, rewriting, inserting and deleting to get that romance front and center, as it should be, while also keeping lots of that plot activity. Because it's not that I shouldn't have both; it's that I didn't have the balance right, and that's what I've got to fix.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stop the Blog!

Or "stop the presses!" I have apparently been living under a rock (or working too hard plus getting ready for Christmas) BUT it is really true that next season's Amazing Race will be an "all star" edition. The teams are not confirmed...well, except it looks pretty certain that Rob and Amber of Survivor/TAR fame will be in it. Which, frankly, saddens me a little. I enjoyed them on Survivor and didn't mind them on TAR too much, but enough already.
However!!!! The speculation for teams has me giddy with excitement, because (a) they are some of my most favorite teams and (b) I've met some of them! If these teams are on, oh, baby, I am so there! Here they are, in no particular order, and I repeat that this is based solely on speculation.

Kevin and Drew, aka The Frats. Oh, how much I want to see them do the race again! They crack me up!

Danny and Oswald, who have forever changed our travel habits. Now, if we start getting stressed, we say "Be zen. Be like Danny and Ossy..."

Team Guido! (That little dog? Is Guido.)

Mirna and Charla. That's Mirna. Charla? That girl was tough!

The clowns! It seems doubtful, but I continue to hope!

Uchenna and Joyce. Also not on a lot of lists, but again, I'm hopin'!

Rumor also has it David and Mary from the most recent season will be returning. I like 'em! So that would be great.

Now off to more rearranging of the ol' manuscript. But there's a little spring in my step this morning thinking I could be seeing a great new season of TAR come February.

Monday, December 11, 2006

"Reality" Romance

Since last night was the finale of The Amazing Race, I'm poking my head up from renovating my manuscript (envision me in safety goggles, hard hat and plaster dust) to talk about the reality shows I watch, and one I don't.

First up, the best of the bunch, IMHO: The Amazing Race. After a very exciting season, including clues that were clues and not just directions, the finale was a bit of a let-down. No real suspense, no tough tasks (although you'd never get me jumping out of a plane). And Rob? Could you please stop whining about the sky-diving? It's not like that was your one and only chance.

Next, Survivor. Again, this season has been an improvement over several previous ones. If only they could unite a strong theme like they had with the whole pirate thing, and such an interesting batch of contestants, it'd be even better. But I've certainly been on the edge of my seat this season!

America's Next Top Model and Project Runway: My daughter got me watching both of these. Believe me, anybody looking at me? Would know fashion is not uppermost in my mind.

So what's the appeal? For one thing, that's as close to office politics as I get. And wondering about people and their motivations is a huge part of my job, so it's kinda fun to watch people put in stressful situations and seeing how they react (even if it's an edited version). My daughter and I have had many a conversation about choices people made, and why.

And there's been another bonus with the Amazing Race. Now, if I'm trying to get somewhere, and I'm having problems? I tell myself, "It's just like the Amazing Race! It's just like the Amazing Race!" Doesn't always calm me down, but it helps.

There's one "reality" show I never watch, though, and that would be The Bachelor. I suppose this surprises some people, given what I write, but to me, that show, like Valentine's, celebrates what I call the "props" of romance, not love itself. It's all about the exotic locales, the fancy dates, the candles, the flowers, the jewelry. None of those things has anything to do with love, as far as I'm concerned. Love is not about what gift you get, or how many candles and rose petals are cluttering up your place. Those are just set decoration. Love is about trust and affection and laughter and being together through the tough times, not just the good times. It's no surprise to me that none of those "reality" relationships last, because you can't manufacture real, lasting love, no matter how hard you try, especially on such a shaky foundation.

Now, speaking of shaky foundations, I must go back to fixing my book....

Saturday, December 09, 2006


I've looked at my manuscript again, with my editor's comments in mind, and yep, I got me some rebuilding to do. It's as if I built a charming ranch-style bungalow with a deck, and I was supposed to do a two-story Georgian with terrace.

Oops. But I can use some of the same bricks. And maybe some of the shingles. I think part of the garden is okay.

Nevertheless, I've got a lot of work to do. First scene, gone. Another scene, gone. At least two more to add. Chapter Eleven's going to wind up approximately Chapter Three. And that's only the beginning.

However, once I'm over the shock of the less-than-completely-delighted editorial call and have figured out what to do? I'm good. Well, let me be honest. I wish my editor had called me, wildly enthused, and said, "It's great! Don't change a thing!"

Instead, poor woman got... dead air. Silence. I was trying to be professional when I really felt like curling up in a little ball and moaning piteously.

However, after I got off the phone and before two hours had passed, I had a long list of changes I could make to address her issues. I have a new blueprint.

Let the demo and rebuilding begin!

Friday, December 08, 2006

What? It's not perfect?????

So yesterday my editor called. Yep, I have revisions to do. Sigh. Sometimes, you try something new and/or different for you, and it doesn't work. Another sigh. Sometimes, you try something and you lose something else. Sigh again. So I've got some work to do.

This is when I'm glad I'm a big reviser of my own work. Because once I got over the shock (and it's always a shock to discover something you thought worked really doesn't), I began figuring out how I could fix it. And then all was well again. Well, except for actually having to do the fixing. But it could be worse. I have almost all next week "clear", so I can get a really good start on the work before the holiday gets well and truly underway.

In other news, there's an interview of me posted at Maureen McGowan's blog. It's a little dated (it was done last March), but some things, such as how/why I started writing, haven't changed.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Holiday Traditions

I have nearly finished my Christmas shopping, and thank goodness. That's probably my least favorite thing about the season.

One of the things I love most about Christmas, and probably my favorite tradition, is decorating the tree.

We have a lot of ornaments, in part because my mother gives us all a new one every year, and also because she saved the ornaments I made in nursery school and kindergarten (!), and I've saved ornaments my own kids have made. Some years, my mother was clearly a desperate woman when it came to selecting ornaments. How else to explain the Seven of Nine ornament? Our own family's choice of ornaments (because we buy them, too) tends toward the Three Stooges. Yes, I'm serious. My husband also really likes his Gordie Howe ornament.

We put on many lights, including the traditional bubble lights. Those are narrow ornaments with fluid inside that bubbles when it gets hot. My folks had their original string for, I swear, at least forty years. When I found one in a store? Oh, happy, glorious day!

We have many homemade ornaments. Before I sold my first book, or even considered being a writer, my younger sister and I had a craft show every November in my home. Since this is the sister I couldn't go shopping with without coming home in a snit, my parents were very concerned about us working together. Fortunately, it was fine, because she made her ornaments, I made mine and we only got together to sell them.

I'm glad we have several cloth ornaments, because with three cats? It could get messy.

The other thing we do that I'm sure has caused our neighbors to wonder if we're performing some kind of barbaric ritual in our living room involves dancing. When we're doing the tree, we put on the Bing Crosby Christmas album. When it gets to Jingle Bells, we do a sort of modified jive, until there's a pause in the music. Then we "freeze" until the music starts again. From the outside? Must look really weird. But we don't care. It's our "thing" and we're sticking with it.

To me, one of the great things about Christmas is the chance to make up your own fun, family traditions.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Keeping Burnout At Bay

Every so often I'll read a blog or hear about a "new" (as in previously unpublished author) who's made a rash of sales for books not yet written. They sound excited, and who wouldn't be? After being unpublished, submitting and collecting probably a few rejections, this is confirmation that they weren't wasting their time. It's also true that for a self-employed writer, the more you write, the more you earn. And there's always pressure to build a backlist, and develop name recognition.

Yet although I understand why new authors accept the contracts, I always have a moment where I think, "That way lies burn-out." I've been there, or perilously close to, and believe you me, it was devastating.

I wonder if these new authors realize that you have more to do than simply write the books, which is not so simple and plenty of work right there. There are the various stages of revising and editing and proofreading after you finish a book, and proposals and consultations on titles and art before you start the next one. So you'll be working away on Book II, to be interrupted by more work on Book I and then a question about Book III. There can be some mighty fancy footwork keeping to all the deadlines, especially if you're writing for more than one house. House A isn't necessarily going to care what you've got to do for House B. You signed the contract; you've got the obligations. And we won't even discuss publicizing each book.

Life also has a habit of ruining plans. In my busiest year, my mother got seriously ill. Fortunately, after some tense times, she recovered completely. But clearly, I hadn't planned for that, and if she'd passed away? I would have been completely useless for awhile, regardless of contracts.

That said, I do think that not everybody who has a lot on their plate is doomed to burn out. Exhibit A - Nora Roberts. However, I think there are some things that make it easier to avoid burnout.

First and foremost is positive feedback. If you're getting lots of in-house support, great reviews and winning awards, it's a lot easier to buckle down and work twelve hour days, if that's what's required at some points. If you're not? It's very, very difficult to justify that hard work and time. You feel like a hamster on a wheel, running and running and getting nowhere.

Family support is also crucial. If somebody in the family doesn't "get it," you've got trouble. Fortunately, most of my family members do. The ones that didn't? The less said about that, perhaps, the better.

You have to be really, really self-disciplined, and that doesn't just mean able to work every day. You have to be willing to sacrifice time from other things, including rest and relaxation. I made the mistake of thinking that since my kids were getting older, I could do more, not realizing that I really need downtime. I can't keep going at top speed without the imagination engine running out of fuel.

I also thinks it makes a difference where you are in your career. I suspect that in some ways, it's easier to start off at a faster pace because of all those ideas you've had simmering for a long time. Finally you get to write them and because you're now getting paid, nobody can say you're wasting your time (except for those who thinking writing genre fiction is itself a waste of time).

Which new writers will be like a falling star, bright and vivid for a little while, then burn out? Which ones will not just survive, but thrive?

Like so much in the writing life, it depends on the writer, her priorities, her needs, the market and a host of other circumstances that nobody can foresee or control. And sometimes, it takes nearly burning out to realize that not everybody can, or should, produce several books a year.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Better than a pony!

Whenever anybody asks my husband what he wants for his birthday or Christmas, he often says, "A pony."

This year for Christmas, I got him a donkey.

Sort of. It's not going to be living in a shed in our backyard or anything. (I'm pretty sure there's a by-law prohibiting that.) It will be going to a farmer in a Third World country, courtesy of Oxfam. To quote from their site,

"When you buy a gift from Oxfam Unwrapped your donation will be used to fund projects that involve the very item you buy. And this makes sure that your donation has the biggest possible impact on the lives of people living in poverty."

So my husband gets a donkey, my son gets a goat and my daughter four chickens. And I get to feel really, really good.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Seven Suggestions for Synopsis Success

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you'll know I'm not big on the whole "rules" aspect of writing. I firmly believe you should write what you want to write the way you want to write it, then worry about editing and marketing later.

However, I also know people who want to be writers have an insatiable longing for guides/rules/how-to's along the way. Since I happen to actually enjoy writing synopses, I decided to offer some suggestions that will, hopefully, make writing synopses less intimidating, more enjoyable and ultimately more successful.

1. For the first draft, just sit down and tell your story. Don't worry about making it perfect. Don't worry about language (I use slang all the time in first drafts). Don't worry about length. Just tell your story. I think this is the best way to convey a sense of your author's voice in a synopsis, and this is something you want to do. You don't want your synopsis to read like a dry laundry list of events.

2. When you edit, take out the obviously unnecessary first. Like adverbs. Make sure your verbs are doing a lot of work -- you don't have those adverbs anymore, after all.

3. Keep descriptions to a minimum. Unless a physical attribute of your characters is different enough to have an impact on your story (like, say, your hero has one eye), I wouldn't bother. Ditto the setting. I just say "castle," for instance, unless it's particularly large or small. If, however, the castle's on a cliff and somebody's going to fall off that cliff? I'd note that.

4. If you're writing a romance, the key thing to have in the synopsis is the development of the romance. Everything else is secondary -- your wonderful villain, your clever plot twists and, if you're writing historicals, the history. If you have to write a really bare-bones synopsis, this is especially important.

Be very clear about how the relationship develops. I've read far too many synopses where it just seems that suddenly, they're in love! Like Cupid's arrow got 'em. Unless you're writing a paranormal featuring Cupid? Not a good idea. I want to see the steps in that developing relationship, because that's going to determine whether or not I think the relationship will last.

5. Whatever you do, try not to water down/edit out your voice! This could be the only thing completely unique about your story. But that's not bad. Editors aren't thinking of one book; they're hoping to find somebody who'll write many books for the house, hopefully with growing sales, so it's your voice, not necessarily one particular book, that they're interested in.

So if you have some line or bit that you really like, keep it if you can, even if you might have to sacrifice elsewhere. In the synopsis I'm working on now, I mention a subplot romance thusly: "Cyne (the hero of the book) thinks they'll marry. Lizette (the heroine) thinks he's nuts."

Now, this doesn't sound particularly medieval-y, does it? But I like it because it implies conflict, the heroine's the cynic, not the hero (a bit different) and it also hints that this part might be a bit fun. I'm not particularly known, I don't think, for rollicking humor in my books (in real life? I wish I had a buck for everybody who suggested I become a stand-up comedienne). However, I do like to leaven the serious with some lighter moments, and if all goes as planned, this will be one of those lighter times. So I'm keeping it.

This also helps me avoid that "dry laundry list of events" feeling. It gives the synopsis some energy, in no small part because of the short nature of the sentences, in contrast to some longer ones that have gone before. I've had one word paragraphs in a synopsis when I wanted some dramatic impact.

6. Similarly, if I come up with a line of dialogue I think really works, in it goes. I know, I know -- most people say you shouldn't have dialogue in a synopsis. But I'm not talking a discussion. I'm saying, one, maybe two, lines, won't have an editor throwing up her hands in horror and declaring you Unfit To Be Published!

7. Have fun and let yourself get excited again by the idea that prompted you to consider writing that story in the first place.

Instead of thinking of writing a synopsis as some intimidating, horrible, yet necessary, chore, think of it as simply telling a story. Writers are storytellers, after all, so tell me your story -- which is surely a very exciting, fascinating story about a couple you really like, who met like this, who went on to have this really interesting, passionate relationship and you aren't gonna believe what happened ....

It's not so painful if you think of it like that. I hope.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

And so it begins....

Last night I dreamt my editor phoned me to discuss THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT. She didn't sound happy. She sounded as if I needed to get lots of paper to write many notes. So I said, "Just a minute. Let me get some paper." And then the phone went dead.


In other news, I woke up to snow on the ground. It's beginning to look somewhat like Christmas! Last year at this time, I did what I always do: take a day to hit the mall and finish the shopping in one fell swoop. I made at least two trips to the car before my final pass through a big department store. I bought at least ten big candles -- and lemme tell ya, that was one heavy bag! I'd also bought a deep fryer that was too big to fit into a bag, so I had to carry it under one arm. And a rug, which fit on top of the deep fryer under my arm. I had to exit the store through the jewelry department, trying valiantly not to knock anything over. By the time I got to the door, I was really sweating.

Then I stepped out into a blizzard that had started while I was in the store.

So I get into my car and drive to the mall exit. To discover the traffic lights aren't working.

I finally negotiate my way out and turn onto the next major street on the route home. Construction. It's down to one lane. In a blizzard. I shake my head.

At last I arrive home. It's about four in the afternoon. I'm tired, disheveled, feel like something the cat done dragged in on a rough day.

To find a message from agent. About a new contract. And voila, I am not tired anymore.

This year, as I'm under contract, that won't happen. But it sure would be nice to get a call from my editor saying, "It's great. You don't have to change a thing."

Maybe I should write Santa about it....

Friday, December 01, 2006

Write what you know

This has been a rough week for me, with the one bright spot of finishing my book and sending it off to New York. Because the same day I finished it, the wife of a friend I went to high school with passed away, leaving my friend and two school-age children.

At the visitation, I embraced my friend and whispered something about epiphanies, because we used to joke about that all the time in high school. Then I stepped back and found myself completely overwhelmed with grief, so much so, I couldn't speak. The words would not come. My throat was tight, my body numb.

Yesterday, after a nearly sleepless night and then the funeral, when I was home and wrapped up in an afghan in my living room, I found myself trying to remember exactly how I felt when I was overcome by emotion. And then I realized this is probably something that separates writers from non-writers. I suspect non-writers want to try to forget those feelings. Or at least not dwell. But writers want to remember, not out of some ghoulish delight, but so the next time we have a character in a similar situation, we'll be better able to describe that feeling. To make it more real.

I know some writers like to think writers are more sensitive, more emotional and/or more passionate. That we feel things more deeply. I disagree, because I think that implies that other people don't feel things as deeply, or aren't as passionate. I'm sure they do, and are.

However, at its core, a writer's work is about emotions, whatever one writes. So part of our job is to try to figure out how to describe and relate emotions. How to show them, not tell them. How to make them sound true and real without being melodramatic.

As another writer friend of mine once put it, it's not that we feel more or more deeply, we just articulate it better.

Or we try to. I'll probably never be able to fully express what I felt standing before my friend that night.