Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Still a few copies available!

There are still some copies of HERS TO COMMAND available! If you haven't already received a free blog giveaway book from me and would like to receive a free, autographed copy of HERS TO COMMAND, please email me at with HERS TO COMMAND in the subject line.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Official Release Date!

This is the official release date of my new book, MY LORD'S DESIRE. I know it's already been out in several places, but this is the official day. If you'd like to read an excerpt, go here.

Here's a little inside info on this book -- the two kittens are based on our own two young gentlemen of the cat persuasion, Luis and The Count. Luis apparently thinks he's part parrot, because he likes to get up on our shoulders. And then the back of our necks. And then he doesn't like to let go.

Here's a picture of the two little fellas as kittens. The Count is on the left, Luis is on the right.

And since this is Launch Day, I'm having another blog giveaway! The first ten people who haven't received a free book from a previous blog giveaway and who email me at with "HERS TO COMMAND" in the subject line, will receive a free, autographed copy of

Brimming with fantastic characters, passionate romance and page-turning intrigue, Hers To Command is a historical romance which I highly recommend!"
-- Julie Bonello, Single

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Romance 101: Conflict

Because I'm going out to see Dreamgirls later and didn't get as much done on the wip as I'd hoped yesterday so should write more today, I'm simply going to provide a link to the notes/handout I've posted on my site based on part of my Romance 101 presentation. I've titled it Conflict: The Engine That Drives Your Novel.

You can find it here.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Beginning Battle

Sometimes, I know exactly how a book's going to start -- the exact scene, the exact moment, the exact dialogue and activity. That's wonderful.

Alas, sometimes, I don't. Take the book I'm starting now, for instance. There's particular information I want the reader to learn near the start, but I'm still not precisely sure in what order to divulge that information, or in what order to introduce my characters.

Add to that uncertainty the fact that, with my last editorially suggested revisions, I wound up losing the entire first scene of a book, and the story was none the worse for wear, so perhaps it's no surprise I'm a little anxious about the beginning of this book.

However, since I don't have a lot of time to wallow around in uncertainty and I'm a write/rewrite/revise-type author, I started to write the book anyway. Almost immediately, I decided the first scene I had written was too far back in terms of story time and events. Also, I was worried that if I started with those particular characters in that particular situation, I would be implying that a certain character was going to be the hero. He's not. Don't want that.

I'm also (always) concerned about giving a good first impression of my heroine. This is something I tend to struggle with because, while I know her backstory and so why she might be rather snippy at the start of a book, if readers don't know the backstory, the heroine can come across as a brat. It can be very, very difficult to overcome that first impression.

So I started again, jumping ahead in terms of time and activity, to a more dramatic moment, and in the hero's POV (as I like to do anyway). However, I've still got to get certain information into the story and now I've given myself fewer words in which to do it.

I also think I've wound up with too many small scenes. The information is there, but it's scattered and unfocused. So, too, are the characters.

So what's an author to do? After mulling it over, I've decided to keep writing and not go back and revise until I've got my hero and heroine where they need to be (geographically) for the rest of the book. I have to take a break from writing next week, so if I can get to that point by Monday, that would be a good place to pause and re-evaluate. I know things will definitely need to be tightened, and some scenes will likely be combined. Some things will get cut. But the book will be on a firmer foundation when I'm done and I'll (hopefully) be more confident moving ahead.

Sigh. Forty-two novels and novellas, nearly twenty years being a writer, and there are still times when I feel like I don't know what the heck I'm doing....

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Okay, so I'm a 24 fan, right? Came late to the party (missed Season One, now own the DVD), yet have loved it since Season Two. But this week? Oh. My. Word.

I do not like the plot development with Brother of Bauer. Not at all. It's bad enough Young Palmer is President. That's stretching the ol' suspension of disbelief a lot. I'm not enjoying Sister of President either.

But most of all, where is Aaron???? If he doesn't come back, I will be a very disappointed fan!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Jane Eyre, divorce and the needs of the author

I've been watching the most recent BBC adaptation of JANE EYRE. I love that book, so it could be the worst adaptation in the world, and I'd still watch. Fortunately, it's pretty good, although I think Toby Stephens is too young for Rochester. Plus, too good-looking. When he says, "Do you think I'm good-looking?" and Jane says, "No, sir," I'm thinking, "Are you nuts???"

Most of all, though, I wish they'd shown more of Jane's childhood. We should see where she gets the grit and determination not just to survive, but to survive with dignity enough to stand up to Rochester.

But there's something else about the story as Charlotte Bronte wrote it that I've been wondering about: why, if Rochester is so miserable, does he not seek a divorce from his (insane) wife?

I have always assumed it's because getting a divorce in Victorian times wasn't an easy thing to do and it would have led to a lot of (unwelcome) publicity. However, I was curious enough to do some research on the subject of divorce and annullment.

In the text of Jane Eyre, when Mr. Rochester is telling Jane about his marriage, he says, "And I could not rid myself of it (the marriage) by any legal proceedings: for the doctors now discovered that my wife was mad...." (Italics in original text)

But according to my research, there seems to be enough evidence in the text to support the notion that Rochester could have had the marriage annulled on two grounds: that his wife was not mentally competent to give true consent and that he'd been the victim of a fraud.

Even if his wife hadn't exhibited all the signs of madness that she does later in the book, Rochester tells us "I seldom saw her alone, and had very little private conversation with her." Also, "My bride's mother I had never seen: I understood she was dead. The honeymoon over, I learned my mistake; she was only mad and shut up in a lunatic asylum. There was a younger brother, too -- a complete dumb idiot."

He's kept away from her and also kept ignorant of the family history of mental illness. I think one could argue that, as Ms. Bronte wrote it, Mrs. R's family knew she was mentally ill and therefore unable to give true consent in the legal sense. Since in those days, madness was thought to be hereditary, keeping the family history a secret is also a major deceit on the part of her family. Rochester also notes that "her family and her father had lied to me even in the particular of her age."

So we have a lot of deception here, and a suggestion that her condition was advanced enough that they felt they had to limit their meetings lest Rochester suspect; in other words, I think a good attorney (and presumably Rochester could afford the best) could likely make a case that Rochester had been seriously deceived to the point of fraud, and that the bride was mentally ill enough that she couldn't give true consent.

But there's more. Rochester also says his wife was "unchaste," which implies she committed adultery. Even if he couldn't get the marriage annulled, the possibility of divorce existed.

Charlotte Bronte was the daughter of a clergyman; presumably, she would be somewhat familiar with the canon law as regards annulment, at least. If Rochester had obtained a divorce, I don't think they would have been allowed to remarry in the Anglican church. However, they could have been married in a civil court. There may be something I'm missing, but it seems it might very well have been possible for Rochester to find some legal means to be free to remarry - if the author had wished it.

If Rochester were free or able to annul the marriage or divorce his wife, though, we wouldn't have her raving in the attic and sneaking around at night. We wouldn't have all those Gothic elements to entertain us.

But there's more to it than that, I think. By not having Rochester free of his wife, we get to see more of his character, both good and bad.

The good: He feels compassion for his wife and doesn't attach any blame to her for the deception. He doesn't send her to a mental institution (and anybody familiar with the "treatments" of the time will appreciate what a kindness that is); instead, he has her looked after at Thornfield. Grace Poole doesn't come across as an Angel of Mercy, and goodness knows Mrs. Rochester isn't getting any treatment, but it could be much, much worse. He also seems to be adhering to the vow of "in sickness and in health."

The bad: He's still selfish enough that he tries to deceive Jane, to make a bigamous, illegal marriage with her -- to trick her, in effect, in an even worse way than he was tricked. He admits he lusted after his wife, and married in haste, that he was partly responsible for the unhappy union in which he found himself. Yet he's willing to deceive a completely innocent woman.

What about his vows to her?

There's also the very real chance that his deception would have been discovered (Mrs. R's brother is still living, and so, presumably, are others in the West Indies who know of the marriage.) He doesn't seem to think about what will happen to Jane, how she'll be treated, and especially how she'll react if she discovers the truth after they're married.

At that point, he's still too selfish and self-absorbed to be worthy of Jane, and one could perhaps even question how much of his feelings for her are love, or self-interest masquerading as love. She makes him feel happy, she brings him comfort, he desires her. But how much weight does he attach to her feelings and desires and possible fate? Not a lot. This is readily apparent in the scene where he makes his desire known and asks her to marry him. Teasing doesn't begin to describe it. He torments her with the notion he's going to marry Blanche and Jane has to move to Ireland before he reveals that he loves Jane and wants to marry her. This isn't loving; it doesn't even seem kind. He's enjoying himself without, apparently, any real concern for Jane's tumultuous feelings.

Later, when the truth of his first marriage is revealed, he doesn't seem to understand, or care, that if they marry, Jane will have to lose her honor and her self-respect, the two things she can truly call her own, and that are at least as important to her as love.

Jane's running away finally forces Rochester to realize the magnitude of the deception he was about to perpetrate and how selfish he's been. Only then is he humbled enough to change, and to be truly worthy of Jane's love -- he finally "passes judgment." In fact, in medieval times, an "eyre" was a traveling law court.

Is it possible Charlotte Bronte made a choice between what could really, legally happen and what would make for a more exciting story?

Why not? I think it's quite possible, because this is something all authors of fiction do, some more, some less -- we pick and choose what we use in our stories, and where the line between "could be" and "must be" is.

I know where my line is, and what my tolerance is for another author's choices, but because we're talking fiction, it's really just a matter of opinion, taste and personal preference. As with so much of writing, there's no hard and fast rule. I personally feel strongly about keeping within the legalities, which is why I wound up totally rethinking part of the new trilogy I'm working on. However, I had more than one person wonder why I'd do that -- after all, how many people would really know that I had that particular point wrong?

Well, I would know, so I had to change it.

That's one reason I can't help wondering if Charlotte Bronte knew the legalities, and if she choose instead to overlook them for the sake of drama.

Whether she did or not, JANE EYRE is still one heck of a great read.

Monday, January 22, 2007


I suddenly realized this morning that I had yet to post an excerpt for MY LORD'S DESIRE, which is scheduled for release next week, and so is likely already out in some stores.

The situation has now been corrected, but d'oh! I guess I was distracted by Christmas and my deadline and revisions.

How do I decide what part of the book I'm going to use for an excerpt?

I don't generally go for the opening of the book. Somebody once suggested (and alas, I forget who) that if you use the opening, a reader might read the excerpt and then, several days later, pick up the book, think the first page sounds familiar and believe they've already read the book. I don't want that to happen, so I generally avoid Chapter One, scene one.

I like to pick a part of the book with the hero and heroine in a situation that suggests the larger conflicts in the book, both internal and external.

This time, I chose a scene that does that, and was the first scene I actually envisioned when I began to think about this story. Changes occurred from my first notion of the situation to the actual way it's presented in the book, but the gist of the scene is essentially the same. I don't want to say too much, so I'll just say that scene is key to the plot, and to the developing relationship between the hero and heroine.

When I add an excerpt to my site, it means I have to change several other pages on my website as well. And since I'm keen to get going on the new book, that meant fixing Chapter One of KNAVE'S HONOR first thing this morning, then going back to MY LORD'S DESIRE, finding the excerpt, uploading it and changing several other pages of my website, too.

It's been quite the busy morning for yours truly!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

MySpace - not yet

I've been hearing that a lot of authors are getting MySpace pages. I gather they're getting lots more hits on their blogs and sites.

So the other day, I went to MySpace and... Oh. My. Word.

I am not ready for that. It's all just too much -- too much information, too much noise and too many graphics.

I (now fondly) recall the olden days, when I was first published. Then, there were basically two ways to promote yourself and your work: print and personal appearances. You could take out ads in Romantic Times and Affaire de Coeur and the Romance Writers Report. You could get free PR by writing articles for newsletters.

In terms of personal appearances, you could go to conferences and do workshops, and you could do booksignings. Those also involved getting some PR materials made, like flyers or bookmarks.

If you really wanted to go to town, you could do a mailing.

The thing was, PR was something that you could do weekly, monthly or bi-annually, or just when your book was about to come out.

Now, with blogs and MySpace, PR is becoming a daily

Not that this is all bad. It's good to be able to keep your name out there during the time between books. And it's fun to hear from readers.

However, this can also seem another burden, and if you're strapped for time as it is... Well, decisions must be made. I don't take on every PR opportunity that comes my way. I base my decisions on two main factors: time and stress vs. enjoyment factor. Right now, that means updating my website (fast and enjoyable), blogging (more time-consuming, but still more fun than stressful), and a few personal appearances a year. That's a system that works for me in terms of allowing me to get my work done, and to feel that I'm promoting my books without taking too much time away from the writing.

I think that if I were to take on a MySpace page now, the balance would go too far from writing the books I'm contracted to write, to writing to promote myself. Which is kinda backwards. If I don't concentrate on the books I'm contracted to write, I've got no reason to promote myself on the web, or anywhere else.

So MySpace will just have to wait.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Shout out!

So there we were, watching My Name is Earl last night, and there's a major shout out to Television Without Pity, where my daughter and I regularly lurk and occasionally post. Heeee!

And then, on The Office, Jim 'fesses up to Karen that he still has feelings for Pam! And Dwight returns, and ya know, love Dwight or hate him, if you want to see two people looking at each other and feeling the love even though they're not saying anything or doing anything other than shake hands? There ya go. That's some fine acting there. Also, I'm loving the subdued Michael Scott, although I'm sure that won't last.

Also loving the twist endings of Ugly Betty. I swear my jaw drops every time!

And in the Oh-Wow-I-Can-Hardly-Wait school of TV viewing, Masterpiece Theater is showing a new BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre.

I have a little theory about "the Janes" (Jane Eyre and Jane Austen) and historical romance writers. I think you could divide us into roughly two camps, the ones who like their stories a little darker a la Jane Eyre, and the ones who prefer sweetness and light (and comedy), a la Jane Austen. I'm in the Jane Eyre camp. I don't have madwomen in the attic, but I like my conflicts serious and deep. I like my heroes strong and reticent, too, or at least most of the time.

I suspect I was heavily influenced by the version of Jane Eyre that starred George C. Scott. I believe I saw that, and read Jane Eyre, before I read Pride and Prejudice, or saw the Laurence Olivier version of P & P. And if I hadn't had such a thing for Errol Flynn and those old swashbucklers? Who knows what I'd be writing now?

I wonder how many future historical romance writers have had their careers sparked by the latest BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice? Or this adaptation of Jane Eyre? Or the BBC's North and South? More than one, I'd wager!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Amazing Race All-Stars!

There was much excitement in the House of Moore yesterday, for CBS has posted the cast of The Amazing Race All-Stars. It was as we hoped, although we would have loved to see Momily (Emily and Mom from Season One) as well. You can find them here, along with videos.

The teams are:

Keven and Drew - LOVE them! (met them) So funny!

Danny and Oswald -- LOVE Them! (met Oswald) So calm and charming!

Jon Vito and Jill - LOVE them! (met very briefly) Jill is one tough cookie!

Uchenna and Joyce -- LOVE them! (met them) I'm delighted she's kept her hair short.

David and Mary -- LOVE them! Haven't met them, but really enjoyed Mary's enthusiasm for new places and experiences. "It's just like on TV!"

Mirna and Charla -- Like 'em. (met Mirna). I really admire Charla's tough attitude. And heeee for the heelies! Go, Charla!

Rob and Amber -- liked Rob on Survivor, meh on Amber. But seriously, enough already.

Teri and Ian -- on the fence. Admire their grit and determination, but can live without some of Ian's attitude.

Eric and Danielle -- meh.

Joe and Bill - Team Guido. Like 'em. (met them, and their little dog, too). Did you know they lived in Paris for two years????

Dustin and Kandice - The Beauty Queens. Tend not to enjoy them, because of Dustin's ignorance of other countries/cultures. Also not impressed with their treatment of service people. Can see where the admiration for their "competitive spirit" may apply, but I can't admire it because of the aforesaid treatment of service people. If I've learned anything from them, it's that you really have to be tough and extremely competitive to be in pageants. I'd much rather hang out with Mary.

And now, since I have the house to myself all day, it's off to write! My heroine's on stage, and I'm anxious to get to my hero!!!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"How much research do you do?"

This is a question I get asked a lot when people find out I write historical romances. I've already blogged about it once, but there's another point I feel I should make, one that follows hard on the heels of a comment that usually follows such a question: "I love historical romances but the thought of doing all that research....!" The ending is often left unsaid, but I think it's fairly obvious. The thought of doing research is not appealing.

And that, my friends, is what separates the folks who should write historical romances from the folks who shouldn't.

I think it would be safe to say that for most writers of historical romance, research isn't some dull chore grudgingly undertaken, some boring place we have to drive through to get to our destination. We research because we like it. For us, research is a scenic journey through vistas we may or may not use in our work. Heck, we even love the detours, because sometimes they can be the most rewarding of all, whether they allow us to better understand the time period and the people who lived in it, or provide a "telling detail" for a description, or the basis of a new character, perhaps even a new book.

We write historicals not in spite of the research, but because of the research. For us, spending hours reading about, say, Elizabethan medical practices, is fascinating, interesting and exciting, even if we only get to use a fraction of what we learn, or maybe none of it at all.

But if the thought of spending time on such an endeavor sounds beyond boring? Then no, you probably shouldn't consider writing historical romances, even if you like reading them. Enjoy the finished book and leave the research to us.

Monday, January 15, 2007

It's okay to write junk

I always discover new things about my own writing or the writing process when I'm preparing a workshop. Sometimes that means simply finding ways to articulate what I feel or do anyway. Sometimes it makes me think about something I've never considered before. Thus it was with the workshops I did on Saturday.

I was talking about writers' block, specifically why I think that can happen and what to do when the muse seems to have gone AWOL. I was thinking about the adage that we're told so often, that in those circumstances you just let yourself write junk. What you write doesn't have to be perfect, or even good. You can fix it later.

But I also appreciate that there are some people who simply can't do this, especially among unpublished writers. I suspect some of the reasons they can't stem from their childhoods, but I think there are some that are shared.

I think there's a fear that, if a writer allows herself to write "junk," when she goes back, she won't recognize what's good and what's bad -- that the junk will be left in the manuscript, that an editor will see it as junk, and the work will be rejected.

However, I also believe most people who want to write do so because they love to read.

Every single book a writer has ever read has been part of the process of learning to be a writer. If you liked the book, you've learned what appeals to you as a writer, too. If you hated a book, you've learned what you don't want to write. All of those books have been teaching you what's junk and what's not, in your opinion. And when it comes to writing, we all write based on our own opinion of what's good and what's not, what works and what doesn't. Your instincts, honed by years of reading, are just as valid.

But what if an editor doesn't share the same likes and dislikes?

Welcome to the wonderful world of being a writer. We ALL face that hurdle. It will never go away. Your work will be accepted by an editor who (generally) shares the same likes and dislikes when it comes to writing. It will be rejected by an editor who doesn't.

Also, you have to be able to ignore the idea that "anything worth doing is worth doing well," which carries the implication that otherwise, you've been wasting your time. Sometimes that's true, but I don't believe it holds true for writing. Every single time you work on your manuscript, whether you write a paragraph, or a page, or a chapter or two or three, and even if that material gets cut from the book, you're learning. You're getting an even better idea of what works and doesn't work for you as an author. You're learning what you write well, and what you need to work on. You're always learning how to write better.

By allowing yourself the freedom to write and discard, you're also learning to let go of the idea that your words are all wondrous jewels that are too precious to waste. There is no finite number of words allotted to every writer. You can waste a few million and there will still be more.

There are people who excuse the endless tinkering by saying they're perfectionists. I often get the feeling that they think that makes them better human beings than me, too but I'd argue it pretty much just ensures they're more stressed out than me. However, since we're speaking of writing, I'll confine myself to that, and ask, "Is there ever such a thing as a "perfect" book?" Is that a realistic goal? Because it seems far more likely to me that if you think you've written a perfect book? Just wait until a reviewer reads it. Or some of the folks who post on Amazon. The experience of reading is too subjective for any book to ever be "perfect." Every reader has likes and dislikes based on their experiences and beliefs, so no book will satisfy every single reader.

Am I saying you should just write any ol' thing and call it a day? Heck, no. That's why you go back and revise the junk. But whether you're published or not, trust in your instincts honed by hours and hours of reading, and have faith in your own judgment.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

John Krasinski

I am a late arrival at the good time that is The Office, North American version. My daughter got the DVDs for Christmas, and we spent many a fun hour watching the shows, including commentary. And I have come to a conclusion:

John Krasinski, who plays Jim, is one cute, clever guy. I mean, he's the very definition of "cute guy" to me, including the smarts.

So I said to my daughter, "There must be a gazillion fan sites for him."

"Uh, no," says she. (Clearly, she had checked. )

What? There are only a couple of sites dedicated to John/Jim, who happens to be a very good actor (and reactor) and whose character is in one of the most fascinating, exciting TV romances EVER?

I was shocked.

So I asked my daughter why she thought he was flying under the radar. "Teenagers don't watch The Office," was her reply.

I've never been so tempted to start a fan site myself. If I didn't have a book to write, I'd be even more tempted.

In the meantime, I will watch and enjoy.

More on the Author's Bliss

I was talking yesterday about a writer finding their "bliss" -- what they enjoy writing. And that I think that's what they should write, regardless of what's currently "hot" in the publishing world.

In another incident of co-incidence, there's a blog at Romancing the Blog by Lori Devoti about whether or not a writer should write "for the market." In other words, write not what they love the most, but what will make money, assuming the two are mutually exclusive.

Lori Devoti uses an example of a writer who's already had some success, and whose sales are slipping or stagnant. That's a little bit different from what I was talking about yesterday. I had an unpublished author in mind.

However, her example is a good one. It's not that the writer is a bad writer, or doesn't have an audience. It's just that the sales aren't climbing. Her editor has suggested she try a new, "hotter" sub-genre, a suggestion her agent is keen for her to follow. What's an author to do?

I've been in a similar situation. Fortunately, I had some other options that made it possible for me to keep writing what I loved, and my family isn't dependent on my writing income (this is a huge luxury for a writer). So what do I think the author in the example should do? Write for love and no money, or write for money and lose some of the joy?

I agree with those posters over at Romancing the Blog who suggest the writer should look on the suggestions as an opportunity (the editor is still keen to see work from her -- that's nothing to sneeze at!), and try to tweak the suggested setting into something more in line with what she enjoys writing.

What will I do if I'm told my publisher doesn't want more historicals from me? You can bet your booties I've considered that. I consider that quite often, actually -- any time I hear of an author being let go by any publishing house, any time I hear of editorial changes at my publishers, and especially when it's time for a new contract. So I have Plan B. I also have Plan C. In fact, I have many plans, and the last resort would be to quit writing and renovate and redecorate the house.

Writing is all about choices, whether they're choices you make for your story, or for your career. That's why it's such a mentally taxing, stressful occupation. But that's also what makes it interesting and exciting. And when your choices pan out? Wonderful!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Finding Your Authorly Bliss

So I heard from my editor and lo and behold, I must make some changes to my synopsis, including a new, more easily pronounceable name for my hero. Ah well, that's the nature of this business, and I have learned that it pays to listen to my editor.

This is one of those times, though, that I really appreciate having a flexible mind. I came up with suggestions on how to make those changes quite quickly. More difficulties crept in as I incorporated them into the story as a whole, but that's par for the course. As any writer will tell you, one plot or character change can set off a chain reaction that cascades through the rest of the story.

However, I also appreciate that this is one reason I write historical, and not contemporary, romance. It is much, much easier for me to come up with ideas for a historical. When it comes to a contemporary romance, it's well nigh impossible, although I have tried.

Like most aspiring authors, when I was just starting out, I experimented and, thinking it would be easier to write a short contemporary than a long historical even though my first attempt was a historical, I decided to try to write some. Big mistake.

Those efforts were rejected, and justly so. However, I also came to appreciate how much easier it was for me to think of historical characters and plots, and how much more fun I had working on the historical. I realized that whatever the market is doing, however popular contemporary romances may be in their various forms, they aren't for me.

I think that for aspiring writers, finding out what they ought to be writing independent of what other people are saying or doing, is vitally important. Writing is fraught with enough angst that to try to force yourself to write what you don't really enjoy,and what you're not creatively suited for, is a mistake that will only make the process more painful and, I think, the success harder to come by.

How does a writer find out what they enjoy writing? First, they should look at what they enjoy reading. And then, they should write. For good or ill, and like much of writing, finding out where your heart as a writer lies is one of those things you can best learn by doing.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Thrill of Procrastination

As so often happens, by coincidence (unless Michelle Slatalla at the New York Times is attuned to my brainwaves), there was an article in the Sunday NYTimes about procrastination. Since I plan to talk about this in my workshop on Saturday, I read it with interest.

The article, "The Big Dilly-Dally," makes some points about procrastination and how to deal with it that I'd heard before, including that when people say they do their best work under pressure? It's usually the only time they actually do the work.

But Ms. Slatalla touched on something else I found interesting, and that is, that there is a certain thrill that comes with procrastination and the pressure to reach a long-avoided deadline. It's a rush to the finish, in more ways than one.

I've heard a lot of writers complaining about their deadlines and often, there does seem to be a little thrill of excitement about it. I've always understood that on some level, because even if I'm worrying about my deadlines, at least I have them to worry about, and that's a good thing.

But now I get why some authors seem to live for the looming deadline. After all, we writers aim to create drama in our work, so why not in our real lives, too?

In my case, though, I find an impending deadline more stressful than exciting. Yet getting up in front of an auditorium full of people and making a speech that I've been given one minute to prepare? Not a problem. I used to win awards for impromptu public speaking. However, I realize that for many people, making a speech under those circumstances would bring on the equivalent of a full-blown panic attack.

As with so much, it's a case of different people with different needs addressing them in different ways. We all just happen to write, too.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Serial Killer? Cool! Romance? Yuck!

I recently finished reading two books about a serial killer named Dexter, Darkly Dreaming Dexter and Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. (There's something to be said for having to spend an afternoon waiting for your car handle to be repaired.)

I note both are helpfully additionally titled "A Novel." Apparently somebody thinks readers aren't going to realize they're in the fiction section. However, given how real Jeff Lindsay makes Dexter, this isn't perhaps quite as patronizing as it seems. Or maybe the idea was to give the book more "class." To indicate it was a "cut above" (oh, bad pun!) the usual thriller.

Whatever they were thinking, Jeff Lindsay has certainly created a fascinating, very realistic character. Whoever thought a serial killer could be a "good guy?" But Mr. Lindsay has pulled it off.

I have to say, I preferred the first book, though, because the details of the killings were left somewhat vague. In the second book, not so much. I was uncomfortably reminded of a movie I sincerely wish I'd never seen, Seven.

However, it also occurred to me that if I were to tell people, especially post Hannibal Lector, that I was writing about a serial killer, the reaction, especially from men, would be, "Cool!" But tell people, and again, especially the male of our species, that I'm writing a romance? Revulsion and a look as if they'd just bitten into something really loathsome. Serial killer? Great! Love? Oh, no....

Why is that, I wonder?

And why does it seem that when it comes to other media, romance is only considered worth the effort if it's done for laffs, as in what passes for romantic comedy movies these days, or tragedy -- somebody has to die. There doesn't seem to be a place for a serious romance where the hero and heroine get to live happily ever after.

On the other hand, maybe I should be happy Hollywood hasn't figured out how to do romance. Otherwise, people might not be reading so much of it and I'd be out of a job.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

It's the little things...

Since I'm still waiting to hear if my next book is good to go, I'm doing more work preparing my workshop. Yesterday, I was at the office supply store getting the handouts copied. While I was there, I bought myself some colored markers to use when I prepare my own notes.

I bought a package of 50 colored markers. In an incredible array of colors. A girl can really go to town with 50 markers. And I will. Oh, believe me, I will! I was, I confess, totally tickled by purchase.

Likewise, I was home alone one afternoon this week at dusk. The house was silent, and the sky was darkly beautiful, with a few clouds to reflect the last rays of the sun. I just sat there and watched. And as I sat and looked at the sky, I appreciated how lucky I was that I could take the time and simply do that.

It's so easy to get caught up in work and other things that it's hard to take the time to admire a sunset, or savor a cup of tea, or enjoy a good book. Sometimes, there simply is no time to do that. But when I have a little extra time, I try to remember to take some for myself, to savor the little joys and pleasures that make me truly appreciate my life. Grand accomplishments are wonderful, but they can be few and far between. The child-like thrill of new markers, the delight in the beauty of a lovely sunset, a hot cup of cocoa on a cold day...these are the things I can enjoy daily. And be content.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I'm not sorry.

Over the years, I've noticed a lot of people who watch TV feel the need to apologize for it.

I've also noticed that a lot of people refer to reading for entertainment, especially romance reading, as a "guilty pleasure."

But why should I feel guilty for doing something I enjoy, as long as I'm not hurting anybody? Why should anybody? I don't get the allure of chess, but I don't expect people to apologize for playing it. I don't understand the entertainment in watching huge men tackle each other, but I don't advocate the end of football.

(Speaking of football, and for everybody who thinks romance novels contain over-the-top, purple prose, have you ever listened to some of those commentators? They sound like they're describing the Second Coming. )

And is it just me, or does it seem to be primarily women who feel the need to justify how they spend their leisure time? When was the last time you heard a guy apologize for spending an afternoon watching sports? It's as if women aren't even supposed to have leisure time, let alone do something simply for the fun of it.

So I'll read whatever the heck I want, thank you very much and I'll watch TV without guilt. If somebody doesn't agree, that's their privilege. But I'm not stopping just because somebody else might not approve. I'm a grown-up capable of making my own decisions about how I spend my leisure time.

Without guilt and without apology.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My Hard Work Paid Off!

I heard from my long-suffering, most patient of editors today and yippee! My revisions aren't just done, they are "well done."

Let me say that again. YIPPEEEEEEE!!! So THE NOTORIOUS KNIGHT can now take his notorious self to the copy editor.

To celebrate, while out running necessary errands (the car handle broke off -- how weird is that?), I decided to splurge on some slip covers (buy one, get the second for half price...I succumbed). I won't be getting them on the chairs, loveseat and sofa until later, as I've got several handouts for my workshops on January 13 to finish, but I did get one on during my lunchbreak and it's basically HUGE, so now I'm torn about whether to keep them or take them back. I'll have to get a second opinion. Possibly a third.

Once I've done the handouts and the slipcovers and yet again tackled Mount Laundry (this is, you see, a theme in my life...the never-ending laundry), it will be Friday and I should hear from my editor about the next book (specifically, if I'm good to go).

Now, I've written a lot of books -- forty-two novels and novellas, to be precise -- so you might think that by now, I have no worries when it comes to starting another one.

That is where you would be wrong.

It's like starting to climb another mountain, clutching a rather flimsy, possibly unreliable map, accompanied by a guide of dubious repute. He took me astray last time -- I could have fallen to my doom!

On the other hand, I've met this hero before. And he's Irish, which is new and fun for me. I've been gossiping about the heroine through two books already, so it's time I quite spreading rumors and actually let the poor woman speak - although she'd chew me out if I referred to her as a "poor woman" in her self-confident presence. I've also encountered the villain, reptile that he is, before, and he's gonna be interesting. So there's that to lighten the load.

But I've still got to write 400 pages based on a fifteen page synopsis. That's never a walk in the park, although I certainly hope there will be some good times along the way.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

So let me ask you

I'm going to be doing a workshop for my local RWA chapter on January 13. Well, actually, I'm doing two. The morning session is Romance 101: People, Places, Plots, focusing on the basics of romance writing with an emphasis on characters, plots and setting. In the afternoon, I'm doing Goose Your Muse: Inspiration, Motivation and Imagination, which is aimed at looking at your writing/story in progress with "fresh eyes," to discover new avenues, to shake loose the cobwebs; the latter half is aimed at remembering the roots and reasons we wanted to write stories in the first place, to silence doubts, to examine fears, and to re-discover the joy of writing.

But I've got a bit of a dilemma. Which should go first when it comes to talking about inspiration and motivation -- the part dealing with the writing/work-in-progress itself, or the writer?

At this point, I'm leaning toward having the more general motivation/inspirational material at the end, so the session ends on an upbeat note, regardless of whatever troubles people are having with their individual stories.

But let me ask you: If you were attending a session about inspiration and motivation, would you like to focus on the actual writing/story you're telling first, and then finding inspiration and motivation for yourself, as a writer (as I'm thinking), or vice versa? Would you rather start with the general, then focus more on the story/writing in progress?

For more info about the workshops, go here.