Sunday, January 31, 2010

Preparing for the dash

As per my last blog post, I'm going to try getting the first draft of my next (currently untitled) book written in the month of February.

Well, let me be more precise. I know I probably won't get the whole first draft finished, but I do want to get a major portion of the job done.

As before embarking on any major project, I've already done some preparation. I've:

1. Written an outline. I have the synopsis, which I wrote to sell the book. A year ago. However, since then, I've also written a more complete outline on file cards.

2. Cleaned out my email inbox.

3. Organized my information for my income tax.

4. Finished/organized various other administrative/secretarial tasks.

5. Done as much laundry as I could (still some to be finished up today). I've done a little cooking and freezing, so meal prep will be shorter.

Today, I'll be rereading the synopsis and outline and thinking about the first scene - something I'll do before going on my walk, which is not just a good way to get some exercise and fresh air, but gives me a chance to just think.

There are a few other things that enable me to take a "dash" approach to the first draft:

Necessity. I need to get going on this book. The deadline is far enough away that I'm certainly not panicking, but I have to start soon, or I will be.

I have a cleaning lady who comes every two weeks and is worth every penny.

I have a relatively light social calendar this month, in part because I knew I had to get going on this book, so declined to take part in a few things that would take time and mental energy (the latter being even more valuable than time).

Now off to put in another load of laundry, reread the material I have and get out for a walk while the sun is shining.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Miscellany

I'm planning to do another FeNoWriMo - aka February Novel Writing Month, modeled on National Novel Writing Month, which is always November. Basically, the idea is to write as much as possible without taking time to edit - to get a first draft of a novel accomplished in one month. However, I'm also expecting edits to proof and I have no intention of stressing myself out when the book isn't due for a few months, so I'm setting the daily bar low. I can do eight pages a day easily, fifteen is mentally taxing and doesn't leave time for much else, so I'm going to try for ten. That means I'll be pushing a bit, but not so much that I'm drained by the end of the writing day. After all, there are new seasons of Survivor and The Amazing Race starting, too.

Weight Loss Challenge - After staring at a dismaying 144 on the scales (did you hear me yelp?) two weeks ago, I'm happy to report that the combination of consistent exercise and lack of cola has whittled the gain down to 141.6 today. I have a new goal - 130 by June 30. Actually, I'll be happy with 132, but I'm aiming for more.

Speaking of reality TV, I'm watching The Colony on the Discovery Channel. Basically, ten people are living as if there's been a global catastrophe. Their digs are an old factory, and things have been left there that they can use. The "survivors" are a mix, although heavy on the engineer/contractor/medical side. As much as I'm liking it, I think I would have enjoyed it even more if one or two of the survivors had been a stay-at-home mom or receptionist or an artist. But what's really making it interesting is the "marauders" - think Mad Max mayhem. Basically their job is to harass and steal from the survivors. That gives the survivors a whole different kind of stress. (Imagine the other Survivor with hostile natives who may attack at any time.)

I have three craft projects on the go. One is an afghan requiring 90 squares. I think I've done about 40. (Gosh, probably should check that, eh?) The others are hats. One is an experiment, using leftover wool and the other is...well, I wasn't sure how to do the stitches they asked for, so I'm kinda winging that one, as well. We'll see how they turn out.

I also want to refinish a chair and a small table, but not until spring, when I can do it in the garage.

Wondering about that picture? That's the north shore of Lake Ontario and somewhere I go when I walk.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The fear of shame and disgrace

I watched a documentary the other night about a couple who had a child out of wedlock in the 60's. The woman, a teenager at the time, was sent far from her home to an institution for young women in that situation. It was terrible to hear how these girls (and they were girls) were treated, especially while in labor - as if they were sluts of the worse sort. Despite that, the woman and her then-boyfriend wanted to keep the baby. Unfortunately, their families were not supportive of that at all and the baby was given up for adoption. Then the couple was basically forced asunder and parted ways. Years later, at a high school reunion, they met, reconnected and married a short time afterward. They then went searching for their daughter and eventually found her.

One thing was made very clear throughout the documentary: how shame and disgrace, and the fear of shame and disgrace and social ostracism, motivated the families and the girls (although in the girls' cases, it was often the fear of what their children would face than concern for themselves).

I'm old enough to remember that yes, that's how it often was then. For a girl to bear a child out of wedlock was terrible. Absolutely disgraceful. She would be a sort of social leper. And this was before we had any notion about "date rape," so even if the girl had been forced, it was still her fault. Yes, hers. The guy was often excused because, well, boys will be boys.

I'm not saying this is right or as it should be in any way. I'm simply saying, that's how it often was.

And that's why I have a real problem when it comes to many historical romances being written today. Even though the heroines are supposedly living in a time before easy access to birth control, and when a woman bearing a child out of wedlock was treated with scorn, derision, and outright cruelty - and her child would face a similar social stigma - they seem to have no worries at all about the possible consequences if their pre-marital sexual activity is discovered and even if they don't get pregnant.

Now, I know that pre-marital sex has been happening forever. That's why they had homes for unwed mothers, as they were called, although it doesn't sound as if there was anything very home-y about them. So I'm not saying historical romance heroines shouldn't have pre-marital sex. After all, I've written heroines who have. However, I do expect the author to at least have the heroine give it a moment's thought, as in, "If I do this and someone else finds out, there could be some very serious and unpleasant social consequences for me."

If not? Well, I don't think it means the book's terrible or the author's a dope. It does mean I don't quite buy the character, though - it's as if she's an actress playing a part. She may be doing a heck of a job, but she's not as real to me as she could be, either.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What lies ahead

Most people blog about their plans for the upcoming year much closer to Jan. 1. I didn't have time, which is actually pertinent to the subject of today's blog.

Last year, and indeed the past couple of years, have been a real roller coaster ride for me, with some great times, good times and, frankly, awful times. There have been family problems, a health scare that (mercifully) turned out to be nothing, major social events and some deadline changes that were not of my making, to name a few that created stress. Big-time stress.

So lately I've been thinking about my priorities and what I can do to reduce the stress. I still have obligations. I still have family issues. There are, in other words, things beyond my control that are going to be stressful.

However, there are things within my control that I'm reconsidering, including the time I spend blogging.

While I generally enjoy writing the blog, is it worth the time and the effort? Considering I also have a newsletter and Twitter, is it necessary to blog, too?

To answer that, I need to think about my reasons for blogging. The most obvious is to connect with my readers in an informal, personal way, while also promoting my books.

Is this blog doing that? Or is it just another deadline-type job I've given myself because I've been told a writer ought to have a blog?

If my blog isn't doing that enough (ie little traffic), do I want to do what would be necessary to change that?

What would that entail? Being more focused on publishing, writing more about research, visiting other blogs and commenting more, doing guest blogs elsewhere, writing newsletter articles, maybe even taking out ads and doing banners, going to more conferences....

In other words, change the focus of this blog to something more publishing-specific and do a lot more promotion.

I'm still evaluating, so no decisions have been made, but don't be surprised if I wind up blogging less in the short term as I try to decide what I'll do about/with/for my blog.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A pain in the neck

My computer time is going to have to be limited for the next few days, because I have - literally - a pain in my neck. Well, to be precise, I have muscle pain in my neck and shoulder, I suspect from sleeping in a very awkward position on the plane home. Not only are airplane seats not the most comfortable, I couldn't recline mine at all because we were right in front of the emergency exit - something we didn't realize when we checked in.

This sort of pain isn't new, and one thing that aggravates that pain is time at the computer.

Therefore, I'm bidding my blog adieu until next week.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I'm back, in body anyway....

I recently returned from a week's vacation in the beautiful Dominican Republic. I was there when the horrific quake struck Haiti. However, we didn't feel a thing at our lovely resort, and I was glad we could send an email right away to reassure family and friends that we were all safe.

The weather was great when we arrived (first picture), not so great by the time we left (video below). But hey, anywhere you can wear t-shirts in January and walk on a beach is fine by me!

(I have no idea why the sand is bright pink in this video. It wasn't in real life.)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

So long for a little while....

I thought I was going to be able to write a few blog posts before I head to the Dominican Republic on Saturday, but I I have work to finish by Friday and because of said work and the holidays, I've let other things slip that need to be done/finished/accomplished before I leave, posts will have to wait until I return and have had a family party (one of the things I need to work on besides my book before I fly away).

See you later!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

New Year, New Look, New Title

As you can see, I've changed the design of my blog yet again, to herald the start of another year.

I've also got a new title for my next release, a Regency-set historical that will be out from Harlequin Historicals in the summer. It's now HIGHLAND ROGUE, LONDON MISS, which was one of my suggestions. My original title was THE HIGHLANDER'S KISS, but I was happy to change it because I feared people might think it was a sequel to my other recent Regencies, and it's not.

I like HIGHLAND ROGUE, LONDON MISS because I think it conveys something about the characters right away. Yes, my hero is in the rogue category - or so the heroine thinks. And I like LONDON MISS because it rhymes with "priss" and yep, she's a little prissy at the start of the story. So you've got a prissy miss and a rogue who have to work together and of course Miss Priss (aka Esme) secretly has a thing for our rogue (Quinn MacLachlann) and he can't help but try to get a reaction from Esme and heheheee. Let the games begin!

But that wasn't the only title suggestion I had. I also liked SCANDAL IN SCOTLAND, because scandal is one thing our Esme wants to avoid like the proverbial plague. And since I was watching ABOUT A BOY while trying to come up with titles, I also suggested ABOUT A HIGHLANDER. Cute, but I agree it's not quite right for my book.

I didn't submit Daughter's suggestion, because while it made me smile, I was, quite frankly, afraid they'd use it, even though it suggested a much more sexy story than I write.

What was it?


Sometimes coming up with a title is easy. Sometimes it's not. I've never had a title I hated or of which I was ashamed. I've been fortunate to either suggest titles my editors liked, or being able to work with an editor to come up with one that worked for both of us. So HIGHLAND ROGUE, LONDON MISS it is.