Monday, April 09, 2007

Scoo-be-de-do...I wanna be like you, Ms. Quinn

An author I’d heard of but never read before sent me a book last week as a thank you for the work I am doing with the luncheon. It’s always nice to get an unexpected giftie in the mail, and on Saturday morning I cracked the spine.

I finished it that evening.

It was THAT good. I read in between customers at my garage sale. I read while DG and AC dyed Easter eggs. I read while I cooked dinner (without burning myself or the food, thank goodness). I read while AC was in the tub. And I was sad when the book ended.

There were places where I laughed out loud. When the hero kissed the heroine for the first time, I felt it—I tingled with as much anticipation as she did as his hands slid… ahem. Sorry. At the black moment, as the hero faced his worst fear without seeing a way out, my chest hurt. When they reconciled and all the truths came out, I felt a shiver go across my skin. When I read the epilogue and realized there’d be another book starring one of the heroine’s siblings, I was the one sighing in anticipation and I headed straight to to find out when I’d get to see these fabulous characters again.

Yeah, it really was that good.

Of course, that made it hard to face my book Monday morning. Why? As I read over my stuff, my skin didn’t tingle, my chest didn’t hurt. Instead, I worried I’d probably never write that well. Who was I kidding—even if I could create characters as wonderful and memorable as the ones I’d just added to my keeper pile, I’d never be able to breathe life and emotion into them as well as this author had. It’s a realization that’s almost enough to make a girl hang up her keyboard.

I’ve heard of authors who wrote their first book because they read a not-so-great book and said “I can write something better than that.” I’m not one of those writers—that’s not why I started writing, nor is it the reason I want to write romance. I’m indebted to the talented authors who wrote such wonderful stories that I’d stay up late at night to finish them and then dream of my own hero. There are characters who feel like friends—I’ll reread the book just for the chance to “visit” and connected books make me happy because I feel like I’m getting an update on these old friends.

THOSE are the books I want to write. Sometimes, though, I wonder if I’ve got the goods, and, if so, will I ever be able to deliver?

Now, before everyone goes into Support Mode to bolster my sagging ego, let me say there’s no need. Yeah, my self-confidence is a bit shaky at the moment, but I don’t think I’m alone in the Unpublished Self Doubt Department. (It's actually kinda crowded over here.) It’s one thing to realize you don’t suck; it’s another to realize how far you still have to go. I’m going to think positively, though, and assume I’ll get there eventually.

So I’m off to write a gushing fan letter to Julia Quinn—thanking her for sending me the book, but more importantly, thanking her for WRITING the book. (And encouraging her to get busy on more books starring that family so I can read them!)

Which characters do you consider friends you could visit over and over again? Which family saga is your favorite? For me, Jamie and Claire (Outlander) will always be a favorite, as will the entire Mallory clan created by Johanna Lindsey. Willa and Ben (Nora Roberts' Montanta Sky) are always fun. Bertrice Small’s Skye O’Malley and family gets an honorable mention as well, even if she does send all of them off into harems.


PS: Happy Birthday, Marilyn! You're the best Monitor a Playground could ever have! We love you!


Jen said...

PC, I'm not saying this to shore up your self-confidence, I'm just throwing it out as an "I know where you're coming from, girl" missive. I was pretty darn near ready to quit writing, in fact I hadn't written anything in a while, had quit attending chapter meetings and when my RWR came, I threw it away without looking at it because it was simply a painful reminder of something I couldn't do. day I'm browsing the library shelves and I see Blue Willow by Deborah Smith. Hey, I know that name, she's in my chapter, so I grabbed it and checked it out. I WAS BLOWN AWAY! The writing was rich, eloquent, funny at times, wryly insighful. I knew in a moment that was oddly liberating that I could NEVER, if I practiced the craft of writing until I drew my last breath, write that beautifully. What was so liberating about that, brainiac, you might be asking. Well, not only could I not write like that, most other writers couldn't either. And if everyone who couldn't write as well as Deb, didn't write, well we'd have damn few books to read. I started writing again and the rest is...well, history.

And yes, sister, I'm giving you a big AMEN on reading my own stuff sometimes and going...hmmm. I have some very close wrting friends who are intimidatingly good. I'm not jealous, mostly intimidated. But I swallow it and reassure myself they can't write all the books out there and keep going.

BTW, I need the name of Julia Quinn's book -- I'm always up for a good read. ;-)

Rhonda said...

Happy Birthday, Marilyn!!! Treat yourself today. :-)

PC, I *love* Julia Quinn! She's an auto-buy for me. (And she's got a sizable back-list, you lucky dog, so go knock yourself out. You won't be disappointed. :-)

As for other authors--Loretta Chase LORD OF SCOUNDRELS. Still my favorite book ever. I can go back and read Dain and Jessica's story over and over again, and have. Also love her THE LAST HELLION as well. Susan Carroll's Dark Queen trilogy rocked. Paranormal historical--very cool. :-)

Playground Monitor said...

fans face World peace. World peace.

Thanks for remembering. What a better way to spend my coughfifty-somethingcough birthday than with all my online friends.

I haven't read many family sagas but I've halfway through with the Quinns by Nora Roberts and read one of the Essex sisters books by Eloisa James. I'm eager to finish both those series.

I get that feeling monthly and it's not PMS. It's the realization that I'm just not that good -- yet. I'd like to think I'll get that good some day but I can't do it if I quit. So I keep plugging away.

I think I'm going to treat myself today by shopping for my granddaughter. I'm going to visit her after the meeting on Saturday since I'll be halfway there. I want to get her something for outdoor play because I'm very optimistic that spring will return.


Instigator said...

Happy Birthday, PM! We love you.

Claire and Jaimie from Outlander are my favorites. I'm rereading the series right now because I thought it fitting considering we're going to Scotland in 2 months :-)

I'm also very excited about the Banning Sisters trilogy from Karen Robards. I can't wait for the third one!

I must admit that I absolutely love connected stories. Nora handles those family sagas very well and I always find myself waiting impatiently for the next story in the series to come out.

And, PC, you're so not alone in that cave of doubt. I think we all find ourselves there from time to time. The trick is getting back out again.


Smarty Pants said...

Happy Birthday PM! I've been stuck in a systems engineering class for two days. Woo hoo!

Anyway...Skye O'Malley, definitely. Outlander, for sure. I don't read a lot of family sagas, so that's about it for me. But I do get the whole "I can never write like that" thing. I feel that way when I read anyone's stuff (aside from the occasional bad contest entry). Just doing critiquing, I'm jealous and intimidated by one person or another's ability to build sexual tension, develop characters, make me laugh and construct a perfectly poetic sentence. We're our own worst critic.

Well, y'all have fun. I'm back to System Verification and Validation....


catslady said...

Happy Birthday, Marilyn.

I have the outlander series in my tbr pile but something keeps interfering. I also have Juilia Quinn in that pile but I wanted to get all the series before starting.
My daughter lent me some Jodi Picoult books and I liked them so much I went out and bought more and so did she lol.

Carol said...

Happy Birthday, Marilyn!

I really like Nora's Eve Dallas and Roarke from her J.D. Robb in Death series.

Angel said...

Happy Birthday, PM!!!! Hope it was a good shopping day.

The only family connected stories that I've read (that I can remember at the moment, its been a long day) is Karen Robard's Banning sisters' books. Like Instigator, I want the third one!

About that cave of doubt... I have a theory. I think we can never fully see how good our writing is ourselves. We are too caught up in the mechanics. This past week I was listening to someone describe my voice and thinking, "Really? Cool!". I have some ideas, like my voice is emotional and sensual, I think, but I think I'll never be able to fully grasp how I impact a reader. I can't get "lost" in my own story completely, though it may happen for small parts of it.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Playground Monitor!

Anonymous said...

I got through! Yeah!!! Okay, I'm experimenting because I'm having problems posting.

I'll say it again, Happy Birthday, Playground Monitor!!