Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Roxanne St. Claire Guest Blog

Contest: One lucky Friend of the Playground wins an autographed copy of Roxanne's latest romantic suspense, Thrill Me to Death. Make comments and ask questions in the comments tail to be eligible.

I e-met Rocki via the Writing Round Robin at eHarlequin in 2004, which was timed to coincide with her first release from Silhouette Desire. Rocki was a frequent participant in the feedback thread on the eHQ message boards. She was fun and she was supportive of struggling writers. And she sent me two of her books to review. One was that first Desire and the other was one of her single title releases called French Twist. I read the Desire posthaste because I am a total Desire-aholic. The single title sat on my shelf for five months until I decided to take it on the plane with me to RWA in Dallas. I got halfway through on the trip out, attended Rocki's workshop, stalked... er... met her and spent a little one-on-one time with her, fell in love with her and read the remainder of French Twist on the plane ride home, literally turning the last page as the plane landed. Then I scrambled to find a copy of her first release, Tropical Getaway, and... My name is Marilyn and I'm a Rock-aholic.

She's an awesome romance writer who always delivers a good story whether it's category romance, chick lit or a single title romantic suspense. And she's a terrific friend, too.

Welcome Rocki! We're so excited to have you here...

The Toughest Question I’ve Ever Been Asked ….

Move over, players, Rocki’s here…and she loves this playground!!

Hi everybody! Thank you for letting me climb onto your swingset for the day. I am delighted to be here at the Writer’s Playground. My dear friend Marilyn invited me over and I truly hope that I can give you all a little push from behind and maybe some balance on the teeter-totter that is our business.

Marilyn asked me to write about anything of interest to aspiring authors, be it craft, writer’s life, industry or the secret handshake that will guarantee a short path to publication. All right, let’s do them all. Quickly. Craft: read and write. Writer’s life: spring for a massage whenever possible. Industry: constant state of flux. Secret handshake: yeah, right.

In truth, I decided that today I would take a shot and try to answer the toughest question I’ve ever been asked.

About six months ago, my local RWA chapter hosted an “Ask The Author” night, putting four of us in the hot seat to answer anything. I settled into my spot on the panel, looked out a sea of my dear friends and loving faces, certain that no one in this group could hit me with a question that could stump, embarrass or confuse me. One of my chaptermates, a woman I’ve watched work diligently into the PRO ranks – even after she suffered the sudden, unexpected loss of her husband and life transformed her into a single mother with no warning – looked directly at me and asked, “Rocki, have you lost the joy?”

Naturally, I handled that with a great deal of dignity and complete professionalism. I burst into tears.

I had lost the joy. And, worse, everyone could see it. How can this be, they asked. You’re published! You’re multi-published by multi-publishers, contracted for the foreseeable future, writing for a living, basking in the glow of a name that is bigger than a title on the cover of award nominated books. WHY AREN’T YOU HAPPY?

Because in every writer’s world, be they pubbed, unpubbed, epubbed, prepubbed, postpubbed or ├╝berpubbed, there are dark days. I’m not talking about museless afternoons where the words don’t come, or a week where life interrupts the flow of writing, or even the two week write-strike brought on by some nitwit judge who denied you a contest final because you used the word “eyes” instead of “gaze” and your margins were off a quarter inch . No, I’m talking about months (or worse) when the joy of writing is suddenly, inexplicably and totally sucked right out of you. It happens to all of us, no matter where we are on the publication path.

The hardest part about my winter of discontent was that I am not, in any way, shape or form, an unhappy person. Optimist is an understatement on my list of character traits. My glass isn’t half-full; it’s overflowing with the good stuff, bubbling with delight and must be shared with the entire table. I’ve been accused of being phony and I remember that indictment hurt: I’m not a phony. I really am a happy, enthusiastic, optimistic person. But happiness and enthusiasm and optimism suddenly disappeared from my work and it was scary.

This was not depression. This was not a moment of malcontent. I simply hated what I was doing for a living and couldn’t figure out why. There were lots of factors that started it: disenchantment with certain business partnerships, an inability to agree on a story with one of my publishers as the deadline grew closer, disappointing royalty statements, and, of course, a couple of characters who just couldn’t leap off the page like they were supposed to. I wrote a book that nearly killed me. Actually, “rewrote a book” is more accurate – for every page forward I produced, I had to go back and revise the six that came before. When I managed to finish and send that one in, I instantly started another. This one had an entirely different set of problems – ones that stemmed from the line, the publisher, and a third party who placed limitations and constraints that chafed. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t particularly profitable and it sure as hell wasn’t anyone’s dream job during those months.

My face must have shown the strain, my shoulders slumped, my frown lines deepened. Maybe I made one too many sarcastic comments in the chapter meeting, maybe I rolled my eyes when someone waxed poetically about the thrill of a good rejection. God, I hope not. But, my joylessness was obvious to all.

I couldn’t answer the question, except to acknowledge that it was a wake-up call. I realized that the loss of “enjoyment” in my career scared the life out of me. Being who I am – a woman of action, not reaction – I decided that I had to figure out where the joy was hiding, and how I might get it back where it belonged: in my heart.

First, I asked myself the hardest question of all: Do I still want to write? No matter how I cut it, no matter how I stacked the “cons” (the pile was high), the answer was YES. Then I looked at what was bothering me and how I could change it. I made some major changes in my career, none of which was easy, and all were a little scary. Then, I made some demands – created whitewater where there had never been any, asked for some things I’d never thought I could get. And finally, I dug to my deepest creative center and challenged myself to come up with my biggest and best idea for the next book.

Then some magic happened. I clicked with a new agent. The proposed idea was approved in 35 minutes. The story began to pour out of me. The publisher sent a cover so perfect it left me speechless (no mean feat, I assure you). In the meantime, the book that almost killed me was published to some lovely, strong reviews. (It’s Thrill Me To Death.) The other one that almost killed me sailed through with no revisions and ended up being one I love (Thunderstruck - not out yet). And best of all, I began to turn on my computer with anticipation and excitement each morning, not dread. With joy, not fear or boredom or discontentment.

I wrote and wrote, falling more deeply in love every day with my hero, my story, and my job. And I sent an email to my chaptermate and I thanked her for asking me the most difficult of personal questions, and forcing me to make some tough decisions.

Make no mistake – the dark days of a writing career will come. They will arrive with thunder and clouds and they are going to drench you with doubt and dismay. They may take the shape of a difficult book, a contentious relationship, a sickeningly bad cover, a shocking rejection, an inexplicable contest score, a lousy paycheck, a poorly motivated hero, a boring manuscript. They all might happen at the same time. No might about it: they WILL happen at the same time.

Your job is to go back to the basics: Ask yourself why you write. Conjure up that fresh, high-concept idea. Force yourself to finish the hard books. Change the things you can – even if it means ending a relationship, walking away from a critique partner, or saying no to a volunteer project that cuts into your writing time. Take control and take action and recognize that this happens to everyone. Chocolate, wine and friends are invaluable at this time, too. And, of course, a good book!

I believe that knowing how to coax a little bliss back into your work is far more valuable in the long run than craft tips, industry info or a even the secret handshake. I believe that the strong survive, but the joyous thrive.

I’m playing here all day, or longer, if you like. Shoot me questions, comments, vents, complaints, fashion tips and gossip. And THANK YOU so much for inviting me to the playground!


P.S. from the Playground Monitor

Thrill Me to Death was released in July of this year and is available at bookstores. The Intern Affair from Silhouette Desire is being released today. Rocki also has two upcoming holiday anthologies. I'll Be Home for Christmas from Pocket Books will be released on October 1 and A NASCAR Holiday will be available from HQN a month later.

Someone asked about Rocki's latest Bullet Catcher hero. Well, here's Johnny! Johnny Christiano, that is, the hero of TAKE ME TONIGHT. According to Rocki, he cooks. I agree. He makes my blood boil. *g*


Lis said...

Wow. I'm unpubbed but you just put into words what I've been feeling for most of the summer. The wip from h*ll that won't give me the black moment or ending, and every new idea just leaves me bored and stumped before I hit chapter 3 or what should be chapter 3.
Its funny how everyone but the writer feeling that way can see it. Thanks for putting it into words :) Off to think for a good long while!

Laurie said...

Iloved the McGrath brother's Desire trilogy..Mac(Quinn) and Nicole were my favorite couple!( Like a Hurricane).
It's interesting to read of your emotional "ups and downs" even with all of your SUCCESS!
I'm really glad that you're back on track. I'haven't read "Tropical Getaway" but I'm definitely going to.
Keep on writing!
How did you get the courage to start writing? Did someone.... husband, teacher, or just yourself encourage you to take the plunge?

CrystalG said...

Hi. Great advice for aspiring writers. I love your books.I am a big fan of Silhouette Desires and your single titles are wonderful.

lainey bancroft said...

Wow! I'm so glad I stopped into the playground today, even if it is drizzling. After working with a devoted cp and being generously mentored by an author I met in a WRR,(Erica Orloff) I finally worked up the nerve to query an agent, haven't been able to string together 3 sentences since. I keep trying to look at my stuff through another's eyes, eyes that haven't even given me feedback yet! What the heck, do I think I'm a mind reader? Writing for yourself is fun. Second guessing and over analyzing is a joy-sucker. Thank you for expressing that so eloquently Ms. St. Claire.
I've heard nothing but good things about Rocki from the gals in the 'hood' but (and I am slinking into a corner as I admit this) haven't read one of her books yet. I intend to. Right now. Today. What better way to put in a rain afternoon than finding a new fav author? So tell me, what's your favorite, Rocki? I'm sure they're all good, but I'll admit, I lean to single title/chick lit. Where should I start?

Roxanne St. Claire said...

Oooh -- comments! How fun. I shall procrastinate my "morning work" (can you tell I have a fourth grader?) and write back. I should have called that blog "Misery Loves Company" because there really is nothing better than finding out other people experience what you do.

Lis, I hope you find that black moment. (Well, you know what I mean. Not in real life.) Laurie & Crystalg, thanks for the props on those McGrath bros. Loved those boys. Good luck finding Tropical Getaway -- it's not technically out of print, but it's...not in print. I don't know how to explain it -- there are no more new ones at the publisher or any warehouses, yet my publisher says it's "just out of stock not out of print." File this under joy-suckers.

Laurie also asked about the "courage" to write. I LOVE that. I never really thought about the fact that it took courage -- just time and determination. But you are absolutely right. One of my brothers, a very successful lawyer, wrote a novel and sold it to Bantam for a sickening amount of hardcover money (called DEADSPIN, written by Gregory Michael MacGregor) and while he wrote that book, he sent me two or three chapters at a time to read. Just seeing and touching an actual manuscript written by a regular human was wildly eye-opening for me. My (not surprising) reaction: If he can do, I can do it. And mine will have more "love"!! I had always been a huge reader and I had always written love stories for my own enjoyment (and a few friends.) I just decided one day that I should try.

Like so many others, I had no idea I loved/read/wrote "romance." I didn't know RWA existed. I knew nothing. But I had a hot guy, a smart woman, a fun conflict, a bit idea, a few dead bodies and a great setting. It never sold. :-) But I became addicted to the process and the idea and dream by the time I was about halfway through the third chapter. No looking back at that point.

Lainey - yes! Read one today! I strongly support that idea!! If you are a chick lit fan, you might try to find HIT REPLY. If you are going to a store today, you're best chance of getting one of my books is THRILL ME TO DEATH or KILL ME TWICE -- the Bullet Catcher (hot bodyguards!) romantic suspense I'm writing for Pocket. As a fairly new author, I still don't have backlist shelfspace at most bookstores. It's frustrating to have so many books out from two humongous publishers and have them be almost impossible to find. Another joy-sucker!

Back to the fun part: I've got to write a major, honkin', juicy love scene today. Tough job, huh?


Maven Linda Howard said...

Hi, Rocki! You are so right on -- losing the joy is practically universal. The ducks keep nibbling and nibbling until you feel as if nothing is left of the original joy. My biggest problem is that I'm spread too thin, between family and work -- you know, that messy thing called "Life"? I need some time for me, and that time seems to be at the very bottom of the pile. When you reach that point, everything becomes a matter of endurance.

Some books just aren't as much fun as others. Sometimes life sucks.

Last Saturday at our chapter workshop Problem Child was talking about the difference between plotters and pantsters -- I'm a total seat-of-the-pants writer. If I had to plot out a book from beginning to end and THEN WRITE IT, that would be pure hell to me, because in my mind I would already have told the story. If someone is naturally a pantster and she's trying to completely plot the book before writing it, that would be a real joy-stealer, too. Talk about drudgery. I think some writers lose the joy because they're trying to write in a way that isn't their natural way - and having to turn in detailed synopses can be misery for a pantster.

I personally don't do synopses. For H/S, which is known for wanting detailed synopses, I once wrote a two-paragraph "synopsis" (I'll call it that though it probably wouldn't qualify) and at the end wrote: "The finished product may bear little or no resemblance to the above." As a matter of fact, I think that's the time anyone asked me to write a synopsis :-).

blueberri said...

Thanks for the candid post, Rocki. I love it when authors relate their true feelings and humanize the publishing world. Writing is an up-and-down adventure but there is nothing in the world like it, is there?

I loved THRILL ME TO DEATH and hold it close to my heart. I'm looking forward to many great reads from the author who puts a smile on my face just at hearing her name.

Your the best, Rocki!

Kathy said...

Thanks for coming out to play, Ms. St. Claire. Also, my thanks to you and Maven Linda Howard for letting us know that what we experience during the writing process is normal.

One of the things I find most difficult is juggling family and extracuricular activities, while at the same time battling frustration because all I want to do is sit and write. Life gets in the way, as they say, and I keep wondering when I'm going to get MY time. How do you find the time to be so prolific? And how do you juggle family and career without feeling guilt because you've opted to make time for your writing?


Roxanne St. Claire said...

You know I swirled around on that merry go thingy so fast on this playground, I started seeing STARS. And one was Linda Howard. Yikes. I'm such a fan of Linda's that I shudder to think we'd share blogspace. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Linda.

Good point about writing against your "style" being one of the biggest joy-suckers of all. In fact, I think each book sort of takes on a life of its own, and one of the keys is figuring it out early in a draft what kind of experience it's going to be. Some demand plotting in advance, others flow more freely. I used to think it was a matter of subgenre, but each book is like a kid. Some are free spirits, some thrive under constant control. Some you want to shoot, but you love them, so you don't.

As far as being prolific, Kathy, I could give you the whole "four calendars on my wall, page production, deadlines, focus, write through the blues, blah blah blah" speech that will do nothing but terrify you. But the truth is, I just want to make a living as a romance writer. I want it really, really, reallllllly bad. :-)

The first time I ever heard Debbie Macomber speak, she said, basically, if you *really* want this, you'll make time. There are two hours a day in your life. Find them. That was an empowering and life-changing message for me -- I was working about 60 hours a week at my PR job and raising two kids. I found those hours at 4:45 AM - 6:45 AM and wrote my second manuscript, my first book -- Tropical Getaway. I believe, I truly believe, that if you want this job enough, you'll make that time. You might be sleepy, but you'll make the time.


Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, Roxanne! I'm glad to have met you at RWA, after only having known you by email. You are a lovely person, very warm and genuine.

Your candor is much appreciated, and spoke to me, especially because many writers will talk about "block," but very few are frank enough to admit disenchantment.

I had lunch with a friend the other day, and I felt nearly faint to hear another writer admit that she "hated" writing. And I felt relieved, the same way I do when I read your post.

For me, writing weekly sometimes "gets in the way" of my career. It's almost become secondary to the parts of my job I also adore: the business of connecting readers with authors in a, hopefully, entertaining way.

As you suggest, I've been making changes to freshen things up a bit.

It feels good to share this with someone who understands, and others who are looking forward to becoming published and learning what happens afterward.


kim said...

that is great. Hi Roxanne. your covers are real hot. great to see you here

Kimberly Perry said...

Hi Roxanne ~

Thank you so much for sharing your "lost joy" experience. I cried all the way through it. -- Not only because it felt all-too familiar, but also because I was empathizing with your pain, too.

I’ve been out of the writing sync for quite awhile but am valiantly struggling to regain the joy and write again!!

Your heartfelt sharing is a great inspiration to me and everyone else. I'm honored to have been on the same blog-site with you!

~Kimberly Perry(who is impatiently waiting for Thrill Me To Death to be available up here in northern Minnesota . . . )


Lara Santiago said...

My dear Rocki,
I'm an e-pub, as you know, and when I grow up I want to be just like you...if I ever decide to grow up. :)
I remember that "Ask the Author" chapter meeting.
Was I sitting next to you?

Don't you know that all of us in the chapter think you're awesome? I remember you handling yourself very well that night. :)

I'm so glad to read this blog today because it also made me remember the thrill of winning chapter 3 of your Writing Round Robin called Heartstorm in 2004.

It makes me happy I'm on this often crazy writing journey.
Big Hugs,

Angel said...

Awesome post, Rocki! Thank you for your honesty.

There must be something in the air these days, because after receiving two requests at Nationals, I've dropped into a funk and can't seem to get the second one ready to go. Part of it is just life--I have a lot going on right now, stress and issues.

The other problem is that I dread sitting down to work on it. I'm a worrier and I think that is part of the problem. What if I can't write it good enough? What if I do my best and it still sucks?

But I think there might be something deeper going on, some combination of it all, because I've had an overwhelming craving lately to run away with my writing. Just go away somewhere and spend a few days just going over this manuscript and figuring out the problem. Without interruptions every 30 minutes.

Hmmm... sounds like I need to do some heavy thinking instead of just worrying, huh?

But enough about me... one thing I wondered after looking at the variety in your work, how do you juggle your single title and category work? Do you work on books one at a time or can you do the consecutive thing?

Thanks again for your post and I can't wait to hear more from you! We're always happy to have you come play with us.


Lee Morrison said...

Hi Rocki,

I'm so glad you can hang out today. Thanks for putting disenchantment into a perspective that is easy to understand and accept.

Was that Round Robin really two years ago already? Time flies!

You've been such an inspiration to so many people. I'm so glad you were able to fight through the darker moments of your writing career and pinpoint how to find the joy again. I'd hate to think of all the great reads I'd have missed out on.

There were many times I would have given up on my own writing efforts if it weren't for you. Always giving, always caring, and always sincere in your desire to respond and help anyone who approaches you with a question, you've been there for me and for others so many times.

Thanks for being you Rocki.

My question: Do you ever fear that your next project won't measure up to your last? And if so, what do you do about it?

Many hugs from a Hood friend,

Jill James said...

Rocki, I've heard so much about you from Karin and Allison I had to come over here when I saw you were the guest blogger.

Great post. Writing and its woes are truly universal. Thanks for sharing, going out today to get some St. Claire books. :)

Carol said...

I'm glad you got past that time and are still writing. Your books are great! What are you working on now?

Jennifer Y. said...

Thanks for sharing. Your books sound great. I must admit that I have not yet read any of your work, but I have definitely added some to my wishlist.

Playground Monitor said...

Dear Rocki,

Is it true that pink is the new black?

AKA the Playground Monitor

Roxanne St. Claire said...

Wow, what a turnout at the PG. Thanks for all those comments. I wrote a fabulous response, full of wit and heart, perfectly paced with nary an adverb in sight, hit "publish" and splat. It disappeared into the blogsphere. Then I said a very unladylike word.

I'll do my best to recreate, but the experience underscores the point I was trying to make, specifically to Angel. The word that jumped out at me in her post was "interruptions." Don't underestimate their horrific power to destroy joy and satisfaction. It takes me 15 minutes to get back in the zone after my dh says, "I'm going to the store, do we need toilet paper." More unladylike words spew. It *hurts* to be yanked by the hair out of that moment, that POV, that emotion. Angel, can you try going to the library with a laptop? It worked for me this summer with the kids home from school.

Lee, I don't know how I juggle, but I do. I only write one "fresh" wip at a time, but I do copyedits, draft proposals, review line edits on maybe 2 or 3 books at a time. I just try to compartmentalize and be in "that" book when it's in front of me.

Lara Santiago, you queen of hot writing, you were next to me in that meeting. You held my hand. I love you for that. (And everything else.)

Carol, I'm currently writing a Desire continuity that will be out next summer, doing copy edits on TAKE ME TONIGHT, my April 2007 Bullet Catcher (the book that made me fall in love with writing again, the one with the jawdroppingly perfect cover) and I just finished a proposal for more in the Bullet Catcher series.

Kimberly -- you can't find TMTD in Minnesota!? EGADS, I hope that's not true. Do you have chain stores near you? It should be in all, or in Sams. Might not be in Wal-Mart anymore. :-(

Did I miss anyone? I'm terrified to move the page around in case I have another tech breakdown.

Oh, I know. The Round Robin Hoods -- you guys are a testiment to the fact that the "teacher" often gets more out of those situations than the "students." I count that RR as one of the best experiences I've had as a writer. Talk about JOY. You guys gave (give) me oodles.

Will attempt to publish this comment....and will be back soon. Throw anything at me.

Oh, Marilyn. Pink is always the new anything, in my book.


Roxanne St. Claire said...

Obviously, I didn't spellcheck. Testament.


Rachel Hauck said...

Hi Rocki, great blog and wonderful encouragement. You're going to have to whisper those "demands" to me one day?

Blessings! Rachel

Dee Gatrell said...

Hi Rocki,
Good to see you here! I had no idea that you had that black moment in your writing life. Bless you--you have prevailed.

I wish you the best in your career--you are a great person who I always enjoy spending time with.

Writing is hard--I'm still waiting to get published--and it's so darned discouraging at times.

Dee Gatrell

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi, Rocki! I'm a new fan, having first found you when you guest blogged for Allison Brennan a couple of weeks ago. I promptly went out and bought TMTD (B&N, Honolulu) and read it in about a day. Loved it! Then I went back and found French Twist, which I haven't started yet but am looking forward to. :) They had a few other titles, can't remember which at the moment, but hubby was with me and I was being subtle. Ha! I'll go back soon and buy more. :)

Thanks so much for this post. I just asked myself yesterday, as I was trying to figure out why I was so resistant to working on my WIP when I just dropped in a dead body and know where I need to go next, if I was cut out to do this again and again and again. The stubborn part of me said hell yes. She didn't give the wimpy part a chance to answer. :)

But I have been there before, when I just couldn't write a thing, and I've wondered if I'd ever get the joy back. I have so far, but it is a frightening thing to think it might be easier to give up. I hate those moments.

I'd like to know how much research you do. Did you talk to bodyguards for the BC series? Do you have a favorite research book to recommend? Thanks for being here today. :)

Instigator said...

Thank you so much Rocki for visiting with us!
Your post is perfectly timed and as someone said earlier, a rare look at the truth about writing. Disenchantment is something I often struggle with. Usually in between books :-) I'm fairly certain it's my brain's way of telling me to take a break already but it doesn't make me feel too swift. The sad thing is I'm going through it right now - and even setting up a revision challenge hasn't helped. But your post really has. I'm going to give myself a day and then get back at it because the joy is there, somewhere, I know it is.


Heather Harper said...

I'm so VERY glad your joy is returning. You are one of the sweetest, generous, and talented women I know. Breaks my heart to know you were so sad. :(

Keep chasing your bliss. You rock!

Love ya!


blueberri said...

I have a burning question, Rocki. Can you tell me the color of your hero's eyes in the ms you're currently writing so I can start getting to know him? I would love a sneak peek!

Playground Monitor said...

Remember that one lucky commenter today will receive an autographed copy of Rocki's THRILL ME TO DEATH. You're going to love it. I read it in basically one sitting -- stayed up until 4:00AM to finish it.


Roxanne St. Claire said...

I have some time between the dog walk and the jazz dancing class pick up (my glam life!) to answer some questions. I think I'm noting them all, but I am blonde, so pester me if I've missed one....

Lynn, so glad you liked TMTD! Thank you. I do a ton of research before writing, and during the writing. Forget writing before PCs, how did anyone write before google??? I have talked to bodyguards and to the owner of a bg firm and use lots of books to get the terminology right. In Atlanta, I went to the KOD day long workshop on guns and fired my first weapon! I get most of my ideas in the act of doing research, and so much of the character development comes from learning about the "worlds" these people inhabit. Definitely fun for me.

Blue, my next favorite hero is Johnny Christiano. I've asked our monitor how to post a picture -- or if she can do it. If not, on my web site (www.roxannestclaire.com) go to "Meet the Bullet Catchers" and click on Johnny Christiano. He's the hero of TAKE ME TONIGHT (April, 2007, Pocket), a former mafia wiseguy rescued and rehabilitated by the head of the Bullet Catchers, Lucy Sharpe. Lucy gives Johnny one very tough undercover assignment -- protecting her estranged neice who is investigating a fantasy kidnapping website called www.takemetonite.com. He is first introduced in THRILL ME TO DEATH and he jumped off the page and stole my breath and imagination. Hope he does the same for you!

Rachel...what demands?

Thanks to all the other friendly faces stopping by. Heather! How was the move? Instigator -- I love the word "disenchantment." It perfectly captures the concept.

I'm really glad this subject rang true for so many writers.


Playground Monitor said...

I added a P.P.S. to the main blog post and it includes Johnny's picture. I'll tell you now that I have first dibs on him. Period.

Terry said...

Hi, Rocki!
What an eye opener, and so perfect for where I am now. I should be jumping for joy -- I finaled in 3 contests with my current MS, and signed with an e-publisher and finished the first rounds of edits, did the blurb, the dedication, gave input on cover art, picked an excerpt and started to feel like a "real" author -- and then it was done, and nothing happens with that for a couple of months, so I opened my WIP, eager to get poor h/h out of the lip-lock I'd left them in to work on the edits of the other book, and WHAM! Up against the wall.

No clue how to get them from that first, tentative 'this is all wrong' kiss to the next big turning point. And I wondered why I'm doing this at all. I can't plot. I can't find the right words. I've written maybe 500 words this entire week, and I know they're just marking time and I'll have to cut them.

OK - and a question -- have you ever created a very minor character just to get a plot point across, and all of a sudden she HAS to be in the book, so you have to figure out how to change things around so she comes back?

Whew! I got carried away. Sorry. I'm hitting publish; no spell checking - :-)


Angel said...

Oohh la la! I do believe I'll be printing a pic of Johnny... for research purposes only! Or so I'll assure my husband. :)


Lee Morrison said...

I copied this from above. I did kinda get carried away raving about you, lol. *Lee shrugs* I couldn't help it. :) Anyway, this was at the end so it was easy to miss. I pasted it below because I really am curious about how you personally handle moving on to molding new characters and plots.

"My question: Do you ever fear that your next project won't measure up to your last? And if so, what do you do about it?"

Instigator said...

Yum! Instigator wipes the drool from her parted lips.

Roxanne St. Claire said...

Lee wrote: My question: Do you ever fear that your next project won't measure up to your last? And if so, what do you do about it?"

Sorry -- I really thought I hit that one. Yes, a thousand times, Lee. This was most difficult with two books in particular. FRENCH TWIST and THRILL ME TO DEATH. Both were very, very tough to write. Both came after "gimme" books that were a breeze. I actually wrote FT after KILLER CURVES, even though Pocket reversed the order they were released. KC was a rollicking BLAST from beginning to end. (I wasn't published yet.) Then again, when I wrote TMTD, it was on the heels of KILL ME TWICE -- another fun, easy book to write. So I inevitably "compared" too much.

A little fear is good. It's like stage fright -- it gives you adrenaline. (Oh, boy, I need spell check for that word.) I wouldn't want to be complacent. But too much can be crippling and you have to stuff it away and refuse to let it take over.

We're having a ton of internet problems here, so I'm just going to post this one answer quickly and check for more missing questions in a sec...

PS. Johnny is my muse. I have him on my screen saver. Every AM I turn on the computer and just stare at his armpits. I'm sick, I know. I love him. :-)

Kathleen Irene Paterka said...


You are a true source of inspiration. Thank you for such an honest post, reminding us what this business we love is all about ... THE STORY.

I was lucky enough to attend Nationals in Atlanta this year. Know what being in the midst of so many RWA authors reminded me of? One huge recovery group. If you've ever gone to a 12-step meeting, you'll hear lots of talk about "like minded people" ... people who immediately understand what you're talking about, who cheer you on when you're feeling low; people who dare to ask the hard questions; people who challenge you, and love you when it's hard to love yourself.

I like to think of all of us as "like-minded people" when it comes to this craft we all love - this craft of writing. I know it's all about the story, and the characters taking on a life of their own. But as Ms. Howard said, sometimes that thing called LIFE rears its ugly head, and there's no escaping. And that's when it good to climb back inside this world of "like-minded people" who remind us that we ARE on the right course, we ARE doing what we're meant to do, that we ARE fulfilling our dreams, even if some of us (like me) are still unpubbed ... for how can you give up on your dreams? You might as well give up and die.

NEVER NEVER NEVER QUIT. That's what you've taught me, Rock. And for that, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Rock, your books are wonderful, (my favorite happens to be HIT REPLY) but the lady herself is even more cherished. God bless you, Rock, for sharing so honestly with all of this. Keep that smile on your face and the stories cooking in your head and onto the computer screen. We're waiting for your next one!

-Kathleen Irene Paterka

Lee Morrison said...

A little fear is good...

I like that. And so true.


Problem Child said...

I'm tardy and I'm tired, but I'm finally here.

Wow, Rocki is certianly more popular than I am...sniff, sniff...I *never* get this many comments on Tuesdays.

{smacks self--That's because *she's* Rocki St. Clair and *I'm* not. Silly me. --smacks self again)

I'm really hoping that once life settles down --unladylike snort--that I'll dive back in to this WIP with energy to spare. Let's all cross our fingers and hope. Your post does give that hope...I'm usually pretty chipper myself, and I'm hoping it all comes back soon.

Meanwhile, thanks again for being here, Rocki!! You can have my blog day anytime!

And a big howdy to all our new friends commenting today. We're glad you stopped by!

...going to print stuff for tomorrow and then going to bed...

Playground Monitor said...

I got to see Rocki's blog a few days ago when she sent me the first draft and I began formatting it. I sat in awe after reading it. It's not everyone who would bare her soul online like this. Those of us waiting in the wings rather believe that once you sign that contract, a veil of gold falls over you and life is just perfect from that moment on. We think even that dreaded deadline cave is manageable because you're published. Rocki's blog has been very eye-opening and makes me feel like a total slug because I don't have kids at home and I won't get up at 4:45 to write.

Linda and Rocki both talked about writing outside your "style." How do you decide what your style is? How do you know what's the right genre for you? I'm struggling (and feeling like quite the phony) because I've yet to complete a full-length manuscript. I have two started but just can't seem to pull them together and make them work. Friends have said I should just put them aside and start a new book. And therein lies the rub -- I don't have an idea for another book. I don't share the same creative excess others do. I enjoy putting words on paper yet struggle for every idea.

I'm babbling now so I'll stop while I'm ahead. *g*


catslady said...

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed French Twist :)

Roxanne St. Claire said...

PM asks: How do you decide what your style is? How do you know what's the right genre for you? I'm struggling (and feeling like quite the phony) because I've yet to complete a full-length manuscript. I have two started but just can't seem to pull them together and make them work. Friends have said I should just put them aside and start a new book. And therein lies the rub -- I don't have an idea for another book.

Interesting question, how do you know your style? I think you experiment with different techniques and if one resonates with you (read: you write good stuff) and if one makes you feel like someone pressed a hot iron to your chest, then you know which one is your style.

This is true for the other half of your question, too. If you sit down with a fairly clear outline of a story, full of GMC and a decent arc and you try to write it and it hurts, then maybe you should try picking two characters from the blue and seeing where they take you. Another technique is simply setting aside X hours per day for NOTHING but story writing. No *other stuff* (you know what I mean!).

And if all that hurts too much, then stick with the short stories. If you love the romance writing community, as you do, Marilyn, perhaps there are other creative outlets for your energies. You shouldn't be tough on yourself if the need/desire/joy for writing a book isn't deep inside of you.

Thank you, catslady, for your comments on FT. And PC, thank YOU for letting me have your Tuesday! I had a blast.

I promised Marilyn I'd check in today to answer any questions that might be lingering from yesterday. And you can always email me at roxannestc@cfl.rr.com (note new addy, although my aol is still running) and ASK ME ANYTHING. I don't always have the answers, but I love to make stuff up. Just kidding. I love to help other writers if I can.

My last lesson in joy....Anyone familiar with Derek Jeter? (Yankee shortstop; really cute, rich, talented, adorable and single.)Watch him work some time. That man, who grins when he strikes out, high fives the second basement who tags him out, or laughs when his line drive is caught, EXUDES joy. Whether he just turned a double play or struck out, he LOVES his game. He is my professional idol - a man who is remarkably talented and humble and understands exactly where is "game" fits in the world and what he can offer fans. He takes what he does very seriously, but never *too* seriously. (Hey, it's baseball, not brain surgery.) He clearly supports his teammates and respects his competitors. He knows failure is more common than success in his world, and handles them both with grace and humor. He knows how lucky he is to be playing pro ball with the one of the best organizations in the world (come on, even if you hate them, you have to give props to the Yankees) BUT he also knows he's worked very hard every day of his life to get there, so he's earned it. He's joyous in a slump; he's simply over the moon when he's on a hot streak. Watch him play some time -- you'll see what I mean. He's my inspiration.

Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to opine, commune and play with you. Thanks for all the warm compliments -- I glow from them! As always, I think I got more out of this online party than I gave out -- I had a blast blogging here.


Patricia W. said...


Thanks for sharing such personal feelings with us. Many aspiring writers, who hate their day jobs, believe that once they are published, their lives will become idyllic. I must admit I've had these dreams.

Writing has turned out to be harder than I ever expected yet also more rewarding. I feel as though I'm giving of myself in ways I never could to my corporate life and that I'm creating a legacy (let's hope it includes a long career and some big, fat checks!).

Yet, it is humbling to realize that even in this profession, the one that emanates from my lifelong passion for words, there are ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys.

May I recall your wise advice when I find myself in the valley.

Patricia W