Friday, August 31, 2007
I'm a little freaked out by the whole thing. Yeah, I'm sure I jumped right on it when the suggestion came up. Yes, I'm super competitive and know that the pain of losing will be much worse than the pain of pulling 140 pages out of my hind end. I know I cocked an eyebrow at her and raised the stakes so high, there was no way to blame the peach bellini and back down. But still, I worry. I worry like I do with every book, but this one is worse than the others.
I really like this book. I like the characters. I think what I've got so far is great. Yeah, there are issues, but...what if I screw it up? 140 pages, whether written in 6 months or 6 weeks can be screwed up. What if I ruin this story? This great story. This could be THE story. Makes it that much harder. And what if I don't screw it up? What if its great and it sells and they want the other three books that go with it? What if they can never be as good as the first? Darned if I do, darned if I don't, although I'd be stupid to complain about having the latter problem.
This will probably come as a shocker (hush, y'all) but my list of fears does not have spiders or snakes on the top. I'm pyrophobic, but that's an irrational fear and doesn't really count. My personality type is the mastermind. The problem solver. The perfectionist. What I'm afraid of, really afraid of, is failure. Followed up by a close second of rejection. Guess I got in the wrong business, eh? I mean, I think most people don't want to fail and they pray not to get an R in the mail, but I'm actually afraid of it. Occasionally paralyzed by it. Got that whole "if I'm perfect maybe my daddy will see and love me" or some psycho-babble crap thing going. Not as exciting as spiders or those people with odd ones like fear of hairballs or mayonnaise.
Well, I've shaken hands and gotten myself into this challenge, no matter what. We'll see how it goes. Hopefully we'll both break through our barriers and get some good work out of this. In the meantime, what are you afraid of? Share your neurosis with the group, please, so I'll feel better about this. :)
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
When I first heard that Harlequin had teamed up with NASCAR to cover romances, I thought it was a very savvy business move – I just didn’t realize I’d be one of the writers involved. I was invited to write one of the books and while I was still on the phone with the editor, the characters and the storyline popped into my head – a pampered daddy’s girl who’s always had everything handed to her on the sponsorship side and a down-to-earth rookie driver who’s fought his way up the ranks. It’s always a good thing when characters show up wanting their shot at happiness.
Now color me strange (please hold all cheeky comments on that), but the other appealing factor was it had to have a romance and sexual tension, but it also had to be written at a PG-rating level. No on-page sex. No “earthy” language. Uh, both of those things are a given in all of my books. Plus this was a longer word count than I’d ever written. This was an opportunity and a challenge for me to write outside my norm, to tell a story that would appeal to NASCAR fans who’d perhaps never read romance before, and likewise to interest romance readers who weren’t necessarily NASCAR enthusiasts.
I hopped on-board.
And I quickly learned an important thing. You can like NASCAR racing and you can watch it but there’s a whole lot to know beyond that to write about people who live in that world because it is a world unto itself. It very quickly slapped me upside the head that I needed to do some major research. I do actually research pretty much every book that I write whether it’s location or jobs or professions, but this was way beyond and above any kind of research I’d had to do before.
I bought lots of non-fiction books about NASCAR and read. The fam and I went to a race at Talladega and sat in the nosebleed section and when it got rained out on Sunday, we won the Bad Parent Award by keeping our kid out of school and going back to the Monday make-up race. It was very cool to “experience” a race at the track, although I could have definitely lived without the horrendous traffic. There’s a reason they fly the crew members in and out.
In May 2006, a group of us met in Charlotte for a tour of Roush Racing headquarters and the Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Here we are, all assembled for dinner the night before:
Front, L to R: Carrie Weaver, editor Marsha Zinberg, Ken Casper, (Back) Gina Wilkins, Wendy Etherington, Yours Truly.
What an amazing experience to go through the garages where these cars are being built and fine-tuned, to see the assembly crews at work, to realize the depth, scope and sophistication behind those Saturday and Sunday races. We also got to tour one of the haulers – those big transport vehicles that take the cars to the track. It was kinda mind-boggling when the tour guy told us that when that hauler pulls out heading for a race, fully loaded down, you’re watching one million bucks pull out of the parking lot.
When you think garage area, grease and oil and well…dirty immediately comes to mind. Uh, no. People, we are talking pristine. You couldn’t buy a spec of dirt or oil. It was cleaner than my kitchen floor. Actually, it was probably cleaner than my kitchen table.
And here’s the inside of Carl Edward’s hauler at Roush.
And outside the hauler…
Then it was over to Lowe’s Motor Speedway where the Busch Series cars were practicing. It didn’t matter that we were there with NASCAR personnel. No one’s going in the in-field without registering and picking up a band at the Credentials office. Here we are sporting our wrist bands:
And who could resist the opportunity to stand in Victory Lane when the other guys have to fight it out on the track for this opportunity? Not us.
My other research trip was to Atlanta Motor Speedway in October. Fellow writer Wendy Etherington and I were lucky enough to get “cold passes” which granted us entry to the garage area and pit road until an hour before the race began and a pass to the NASCAR skybox which overlooks the start/finish line.
Here’s a pic of the crews setting up the pit boxes early in the morning:
Inside the NASCAR Nextel Cup Garage trackside:
and a crew waiting to take the car though to have it checked out by tech:
I’ll have to say the research was incredibly interesting and brought a nice authenticity to many of the scenes. When the hero or heroine is in the hauler, it’s authentic. Skybox? Check. Plus my husband and daughter were green with envy.
No. I did not meet any of the drivers and that suited me just fine. Tucker Macray, the hero who is a rookie driver, is totally a person I built in my own head. He’s not based on or inspired by any driver out there. Tucker was so firmly in my head, I didn’t want to muck that up. Plus, I’m actually kind of shy -- no snorting from any of the playfriends -- yes, I will talk your ear off once I know you, but otherwise…. Other than “Hi, nice to meet you” I doubt I would’ve managed to say much more. And third, the kind of things I’d want to ask any of the drivers, they wouldn’t want to answer because it’s the kind of “crawl into your head” stuff a writer wants to know.
Despite the research when all is said and done, it’s a love story set against a NASCAR backdrop. For two people with such different backgrounds, a stock car driver who attributes racing with literally saving his life and a pampered heiress, I really felt as if this hero and heroine were meant for each other, which at the end of the day is what it’s all about.
When I say I grew writing this book, I mean it literally. By the time I finished the revisions, I’d packed on ten pounds and I hit Harlequin’s deadline but I was nearly a month past mine. Of course, you’ve got to factor in that in the middle of revisions my mother fell and shattered her arm and had to have surgery and I figure ten pounds was a better deal than a nervous breakdown.
The book is done and I’m on to the next one and I get this cover:
I wasn’t sure whether to cry or laugh hysterically. I decided on both. Surely, the cover gods couldn’t have deserted me so horribly on a book I’d worked so hard on and sacrificed ten horrid pounds for.
Voila, a month later, I learned that the cover had been scrapped in lieu of this one!
Woohoo!! Thank you, cover gods, thank you!!!
Okay, so I’ve blathered on enough. I’d love to answer any questions you might have except I AM NOT telling how much I weigh.
P.S. You can learn more about Jennifer and her books at her website and be sure to visit The Soapbox Queens, her group blog.
This just in! "I'd like to share the Harlequin NASCAR love...and read...by giving away a free copy of The Rookie to two visitors today."
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Heck, if you got a Mix Tape, you were practically engaged. This was L-U-V.
Of course, the quality of the Mix Tape was very important. You couldn’t just slap together a few songs and call it done. Each song had to be hand-picked —meanings and possible associations were very important. And of course, the tape had to include “our song.” (And, to really date myself, I’ll tell you the choice of “our song” was usually either “Never Say Goodbye,” “Sweet Child of Mine,” or “Need You Tonight.”)
I thought the ability to download songs off the internet would revolutionize the Mix Tape. MUCH easier than trying to get LPs in just the right place and remembering to take the tape player off PAUSE without either leaving a huge gap or cutting off the opening bars of the song. Download, burn, give. Voila! Your affection is proven.
But the invention of the iPod has me worried about the future of the Mix Tape (or I guess it would be the Mix CD. It just doesn’t sound as good). Why go to all the trouble to gather all the favorite songs into one place when your beloved most likely has them all on the iPod already? Plus, if it’s on Shuffle, then you lose the wonderousness of knowing that “Two Princes” always follows “Listen to Your Heart.” You also lose the importance of that particular song combo. How do you tell a story in song when the songs are all out of order?
Do kids today even give each other Mix Tapes any more?
I’m truly afraid the age of the Mix Tape has passed. Sigh.
So, I want to make a Mix Tape today. What songs come to mind when you think of the Playground and the Playfriends? Y’all know us well enough now to make some associations. I’d put Cher’s “Just Like Jesse James” on the tape because when Kira and I drink, we like to sing it very loud and off-key. (The other Playfriends find this annoyingly amusing.) If I was feeling sappy and squishy, I’d put something like “That’s What Friends Are For.” I might even put “Mickey” on there to remind us of healthier knees.
Let me know what songs you’d pick for a Playground Mix Tape and why. I want to come up with a really awesome mix. (Shh, don’t tell the others, but if I can get a good play list and find all the songs, I’m going to make everyone a copy for a present for our 2nd birthday. If it’s a good mix, I’ll be making extra copies to give away to our Honorary Playfriends as well.)
And, yes, I’ll burn it to CD.
PS: I’m feeling much better now. I’m off the crutches, but still limping a bit (and stairs are still a pain). It wasn’t half as bad as I’d expected (or braced myself for). Thanks to everyone for your emails and good thoughts. I’ll be shakin’ my groove thang again in no time!
Sunday, August 26, 2007
This past week was a doozie! I was sick twice (or maybe once, with a brief respite in the middle) and had a sick child for part of the week. There were the usual hassles to deal with, plus school fundraising and extensive discipline problems brought on by lack of sleep and illness. There was more than one day that I wanted to pull the covers over my head and just pretend the rest of the world didn't exist. In fact, I indulged in that desire a time or two, which simply put me even further behind, which started the cycle all over again. (But at least I didn't have to have surgery like PC, although the drugs would have been nice!)
In the midst of it all, my poor husband worked all week at his very physical job in over 100 degree weather. I know he must have been exhausted himself. Yet he still came home and helped me out. The first night I ran a fever, he walked in the door, sent me to my room, and put the kids to bed all by himself. He got a sitter (this is almost unheard of) and asked me out to dinner one night. He didn't complain when I fell asleep on the couch before 10pm, but woke me up and helped me to bed. Plus his attitude in general was helpful and conscientious, which meant more to me because of the week I knew he was having.
Growing up in church, we always called this "a blessing". My husband was a big blessing to me. Or should I say, he blessed me over and over again this week. Actually, that sounds a little dirty, but there was certainly not much of that going on around here with the way I was feeling. I know, TMI. :)
I've actually been blessed throughout my 11 years of marriage by my husband of choice, the man I know God meant for me to be with. I could make a whole blog out of that topic alone. But I guess my point is that, despite the way my life went this past week, and the fact that I probably wasn't the prettiest sight or personality to deal with after a long day, he went out of his way to do some nice, thoughtful, helpful things for me. I appreciate that.
So let's start the week off right by counting our blessings. Who has blessed your life this week?
Thursday, August 23, 2007
While I do, I've been watching TV. I have done quite well catching up on my Tivo over the last week. I watched all the episodes of House, only to find we moved and had no satellite service to record the finale. Ugh. I'm also catching up on the 4400 - only two episodes until I'm caught up. That show, if you haven't watched it, is riveting. It simply pulls you into the storyline and won't let go.
For those of you that don't know, the premise is that 4400 people that were abducted over the last 100 or so years are suddenly returned to earth one day in a giant ball of light with no memory of where they've been or what happened to them. What they do come back with is a special power - an ability that is unique to them. One can heal with his touch. One can see the future. One can levitate objects. One can ask you any question and you tell the truth, no matter what. 4400 possibilities for cool shows. Of course, there's drama, discrimination, government interference, etc. Later, when they find the substance in their body that gives them their powers, they learn to harvest it and regular people have the opportunity to give themselves an injection that would potentially let them develop an ability too.
Of course there's a catch - first, it's illegal to do it. Second, there's a 50/50 chance of developing an ability...otherwise you end up dying. One or the other. At the point in the series I'm in, they haven't figured out a way to tell who will die and who won't. (Don't tell me if you're caught up and they've solved the problem.) So lots of folk are taking the chance, some are dying, some are developing really cool and unique abilities.
So it makes me wonder...What would it take for you to take the shot with a 50/50 chance of developing a super-hero like ability? If your odds were better and you knew for sure you wouldn't die from it, would you do it? What kind of special powers would you like to develop?
You can also go online and take a personality quiz that will tell you what kind of ability you would develop. Try it and let us know what you end up with! I'm a MIND CONTROL MASTER! Woo hoo!
Don't worry. This will not affect MOANday :-) This month you get a double dose of yum.
P.S. PC's knee surgery went very well. She is now home and resting as comfortably as can be expected.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Any editor can tell you that there are some books they’ll never forget and will always be proud to be associated with, and the Raintree trilogy is definitely one—well, three—of those for me. From the moment several years ago (I forget how many, but two or three, I’d guesstimate) when Linda, Linda and Beverly (who are nothing like the Larry, Darrell and Darrell yahoos I just got a flashback of) told me the bare-bones outline of the trilogy, I was hooked.
Even at that early stage, the set-up and the characters were so well thought out and so compelling that I couldn’t help wondering how everything was going to play out, and what surprises were going to show themselves along the way. Since the point of my being here is to talk about the editorial end, though, not simply to gush, I’ll just say for now that the books didn’t disappoint (I win the Understatement of the Year Award for that line, just in case you were wondering) and move on to how I fit in.
In many ways, an editor is a facilitator, and that was a big part of my job when it came to Raintree. Because all three authors had to fit the trilogy in around their other writing projects, it was a long time ’til I got the OK from them to let the Powers That Be at Silhouette even know the books existed, and then we had to think about where and when to publish them. The “where” was easy, because we were in the planning stages for Silhouette Nocturne. The “when” was tougher, because we had to schedule the Raintree books so they wouldn’t compete with the authors’ mainstream pub dates, but we managed to solve that one, too.
And then the craziness began.
Publishers run on schedules, not just publication schedules, but schedules for writing copy, creating cover art and, most relevant of all in this case, handing in line edits, going over copy edits and galleys, and getting books on press. Suffice it to say that all those most relevant dates were not only ignored but pretty much blown to smithereens in the course of getting the trilogy to readers. In fact, we skipped the deflag (copy edit) and AA (Author Alteration aka galley) stages, something I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing with most books and authors. But this project had been so long in the making, and was coming from three authors I felt so comfortable trusting, that I was willing to go with my line edit—luckily, as a line editor I’m also a good copy editor—and a quick in-house proofread, and head to press.
Ideally, any trilogy gets edited in order, and that’s especially true when the three books take place simultaneously. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible, so I edited the second book first, then the first, then the third. Hey, at least one was in order, right? Every one of them was late to Production, but it was Linda Howard’s INFERNO that was nearly the death of both of us. Now I can laugh, but at the time, editing it chapter by chapter as she e-mailed it, and e-mailing the final chapter to the office with literally two minutes to spare before I had to catch a train to meet a friend who was in town for a single night, was pretty much the dictionary definition of nerve-wracking.
It would have been less so, though, if I’d only had the editing part to worry about. But here’s where the facilitator part really came into play. We were so far beyond every production date known to man that I suspect heads were almost literally exploding in Toronto. I was doing a lot of soothing, a lot of reassuring and a lot of promising, even while I was frequently not entirely sure myself it was all going to come together before Drop Dead Date #142 passed. But I guess some things are meant to be, and Linda, Linda and Beverly were as committed to getting these books to readers as I was, and it did, in the end, come together.
Three of the most exciting books I’ve worked on—recipients of three gorgeous covers (and we all did some sweating over that, too, as we waited to see what the art department came up with)—made it out into the world and onto all three major bestseller lists. My hair stopped standing on end, all four of us started breathing again, and—sort of like what they say about childbirth—I forgot all the pain in the face of all the pleasure. And if Linda, Linda and Beverly ask me to do another trilogy, even if it means waiting a few more years and losing more sleep and fielding more frantic phone calls from the Keepers of the Schedules, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
L to R: Leslie Wainger, Linda Howard, Linda Winstead Jones and Beverly Barton
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Wednesday is knee-day at Casa PC. After a nice long wait, the docs will finally fix my knee tomorrow. Thank goodness. Wearing a neoprene knee brace in 107-degree weather is getting old, fast. I’m getting a heat rash under there.
Of course, it’s now starting to feel a little better…just in time for the doc to put me in large amounts of pain. (When the doc told me the pain can be “rather intense” for a few days, I panicked. Usually, they say “Oh, it won’t be too bad.” Cross your fingers for good drugs.) And, to top it all off, my GOOD knee has started hurting…sigh.
I’ve been operated on before—seven times in fact. Three times on my feet to fix dancing damage, once on my hand when I sliced the tendon and nerve in my pinky while waiting tables, laparoscopic surgery in my teens, the C-section to deliver AC when she decided to come out butt first, and LASIK on my eyes.
The worst were my feet. That hurt like a bitch and I was on crutches forever each time. The LASIK was the easiest. Very quick surgery and rapid recovery time. The C-section wasn’t fun, but at least I got AC out of it.
I’m not looking forward to this one. I’m thinking it may end up under the “hurts like a bitch” category too. Not sure why I think that…
But I’m in good hands. Not just with the surgery (although the doc did come recommended), but also with my recovery. Mom and DG are on duty a lot, but then so are the Playfriends. PM will be babysitting me on Thursday to be sure I don’t try to do something silly like climb stairs while on crutches and narcotics. SP has volunteered to bring lunch to us. Angel has offered what little “Little Man free” time she has on Friday, if my mom needs to go into work. I’m sure if there’s a need over the weekend, all I have to do is call one of them and they’ll rally ‘round the gimpy one.
They’re great that way.
Meanwhile, I’m in planning mode. I’ve been to the library to pick up some movies. I’ve built a nest downstairs on the couch with pillows, the phone, my laptop, and some books. I have snacks and drinks in the fridge so PM can find them easily. Because of the stairs, I’ve brought my toothbrush and such to the downstairs bath. There’s frozen dinners and take out menus in easily located places. AC care is under control. I’ve tried to cover all the bases possible so life can go on—even if I’m drooling on the couch. The famous anal-retentive PC To-Do list rides again.
So, what have I forgotten? If you were limited to the couch for the next 3 or so days, what would you need to see in place so life could continue with out you in charge?
And while I may be out of contact for a couple of days, I’m sure PM will post an update on Thurs.
PS: Get ready everyone! Tomorrow we finish off our series on the Raintree books with a visit from Leslie Waigner of Harlequin books! Hear what the editor of all three of these fabulous books has to say…
Monday, August 20, 2007
I spent the weekend running hither and yon, time racing by so fast I can't believe it is Monday again. Smarty Pants got an extra dose of me, since we rode twice to different places. Once to Instigator's for a Playfriend get-together. The second time to a stamping party at my sister's house.
For those of you who aren't familiar, rubber stamping is used in card making and scrapbooking, among other things. I don't do it often, because I like to do my pages quick, but it is fun on occasion.
I've always been a crafter, and have been known to give crafted gifts on occasion. There's just something about creating a pretty memory that appeals me. And since my kids are young, creating something that actually lasts is nice too. And scrapbooking can be quick and easy, unlike writing. No pressure. I'm not being judged or trying to sell it. It just is. It's another side of creativity, but one for which I have no goals or finish lines.
I read once that Nora Roberts went from craft to craft to craft, until she started writing. She considered that a sign of someone searching for that thing that they really needed to express themselves. I did the same, and scrapbooking is the only one I stick with consistently now.
But I'm already making out lists for Christmas gifts I need to craft this year. What about you? What's your hobby? If you're crafty, like me, what do you find so appealing about it?
Friday, August 17, 2007
I have half a season of House waiting for me to catch up before the fall season kicks off. I haven’t seen a single episode of this season’s 4400. Or Monk. Or Psych. I recorded a couple movies from a free Showtime weekend that I haven’t watched. Come September there will be new episodes of Nip/Tuck. And Rescue Me. And CSI. And for some reason, I joined Netflicks, so there's a red envelope sitting on the coffeetable for me to ignore too.
Then of course, my reality shows stack up. I came in late on a couple of them, so even though there’s no new shows running at the moment, I missed seasons 1 & 2 of ANTM, so its like a brand new round that I’ve never seen. Add to it that it’s played back to back on MTV and I’m just in heaven - no stress waiting to see what happens next week! I’m not sure when the next new season starts, although the last one only ended a few months ago, I think.
My minor (ahem) obsession with weddings glues me to the TV every time Platinum Weddings come on WE. I’m amazed by people who spend $600,000+ on their wedding. I could never do it, even if I had the money, but it’s interesting to see the kind of things people with that much money and that little sense do. Then I try to figure out how to adapt the high dollar elegance to a smaller budget. Maybe one day I can stun everyone with the most fabulous $5k wedding ever thrown. We'll see. I also watch shows on Disney weddings and others that aren't quite that high $$, but I refuse to watch Bridezillas because those women are insane and I can’t imagine the men who actually want to marry them. I feel ashamed just watching the commercials for it.
Now I’m nervously awaiting season 4 of Project Runway. I LOVE Tim Gunn. I’m paralyzed every Wednesday night waiting to see who gets “Auf’d.” I can't sew a hem, much less a dress, but I just love seeing what they come up with.
All this while my WIP rots of my flash drive and Harry Potter sits, half read, on my nightstand. No wonder I need a writing challenge to get motivated! What TV shows are you obsessed with right now? Looking forward to any starting up in the fall?
Thursday, August 16, 2007
There's also a sense of loss of control. My three year old angel has decided she is perfectly capable of dressing herself...panties completely optional. In fact, she prefers to go without. When I mentioned this to the other playfriends their comment was that she was my child. I'm sure I don't know what they mean.
On the other hand, Sweet Pea is a 6 year old going on 16. If that child tells me whatever one more time I think I'm going to scream. She and I butt heads constantly - probably because we're soooo much a like. This week she experienced her first grounding (after putting a hole through our hallway wall. It was an accident but...) She wants to act and be treated like an older child so we decided it was time to give her an older punishment. She dissolved into tears when we told her.
It did do the trick though because while her sister went outside with DH to ride on the 4 wheeler and play in the pool she had to stay inside, do her homework and not watch TV. She did not like that at all. However, it hasn't stopped her from saying whatever. I can't figure out how to stop that. I'm open to suggestions.
Watching my girls grow has brought me some of the most delightful and heartbreaking moments of my life. There are times when I see them as distinct and completely different personalities with none of myself or DH inside. And there are times when they seem to be complete replicas. It's amazing to see the mesh of new and old, familiar and unique.
Even so, I would prefer that unique not include my 3 yr old going commando. Anyone have suggestions on how I can get Baby Girl to wear panties (without resorting to a knock-down drag out fight? It just isn't worth that...)?
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I had a blog all planned on the topic of il bel far niente -- the beauty of doing nothing. I heard the term on a talk radio show as I was driving home from a family reunion in North Carolina weekend before last. I'd planned to practice a little far niente this week and catch up on some reading.
Ha. Ha. Ha!
First, I had a perfectly wonderful adoption story idea pop into my head for the November issue of True Romance. The deadline for that issue is today. I had to do some in-depth research and then figure out my characters and write the story. "I can do this by Wednesday," I thought.
Then I was asked to teach a lesson about writing for the confessions magazine. Our RWA chapter is hosting an online workshop on writing for the confessions and romance markets, and since I've had some success with this, the instructor asked if I minded helping so she could concentrate on the folks who wanted to write short erotica.
I was beyond flattered and stayed up til 2:30 Monday morning writing two lessons. I had to spend time Monday finetuning them but got them uploaded on Monday afternoon. I also set up a contest for the confessions writers and recruited a second judge. (Hi, Angel!)
After getting that done and having dinner with the DH, I disappeared back into my office, my "Concentration" CD playing in the background to block out DH's piano music from upstairs. Then he wanted me to come up to his office so he could show me all the marvelous features of his new Yamaha digital piano. I was already contemplating enrolling in an engineering class so I could figure out the new cell phone he got me over the weekend; learning that piano would require an advanced degree.
Honestly, all I wanted to do was write.
I completed the first draft yesterday morning but had to interrupt my day to make a grocery store run and call the cell phone people because I couldn't access their online server to download my contact list. I finally got back to the computer and I had about half of the story typed into Word when the DH got home from work. I figured I'd throw the burgers on the grill, heat up the baked beans I'd made earlier in the day and get back to the computer by 7:00.
Ha. Ha. Ha!
He decided we needed to install the ceiling fan in my office. It's not that I don't appreciate the fan because this room tends to be a little warmer than the rest of the house and my small oscillating fan died last week. But that fan (and the matching one for the other bedroom) have sat in the garage for at least a month. What was so special about last night?
My Red Hat ladies are having our annual birthday lunch today so that's going to cut into writing time. But I enjoy getting together with them and there's one member who depends on me for a ride since she's blind.
Now I'm wondering if I should plan on installing the other fan tonight. Hopefully I'll finish typing the story into Word after I get home from lunch and I'll have at least the first edit done by dinner time. I already know we're having one of those rotisserie chickens and a salad so I don't have to heat up the house cooking.
This is the fastest I've ever written a story. I was either very inspired or highly motivated or both. But I'm still past the deadline, and I'm hoping the story is different enough and has enough of an impact that the editor will forgive me for submitting it late and still consider it for the November issue.
I'll be absent for the next two weeks while Harlequin editor Leslie Wainger and Blaze author Jennifer LaBrecque blog in my stead. I am SO looking forward to what they have to say.
Maybe in September I'll get around to il bel far niente and we can talk about some serious relaxing.
What do you do to relax?
Photo copyright City of London
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
But the homework was for ME. Not a joint Mommy and AC project. An assignment for me.
Seriously, it’s the second week of school and I have homework. Due by Friday, but she’ll let me turn it in late if things are just too crazy this week. Very nice of her.
Except I don’t want to do homework. Been there, done that, got the diploma to show for it. Besides, I’m a teacher. I assign homework; I don’t actually do it.
Whining aside, let’s just say I don’t think I can do this assignment properly. I’m supposed to write a letter to AC’s teacher describing my child’s character, her strengths, what I hope for her to gain this year.
Is she serious? She wants me to describe AC’s character? Her strengths? She’s the Amazing Child, for goodness’ sake. What more does she need to know?
But I’ll give it a shot. Let’s see. AC is an absolute genius. She’s bright, caring, kind, intelligent, creative, artistically inclined, independent, happy, and all around Amazing. There are many things I’d like her to learn this year. If AC is going to be the first Olympic gold medalist astronaut who uses her Nobel Prize money to fund her ground-breaking cure for cancer while serving as the President responsible for ending poverty and crime and brokering World Peace, then we need to get some basic spelling and math skills under her belt PDQ. And can you convince her to tie her own shoes?
Hmm, I think I lack the emotional distance necessary to do this properly.
Is this some kind of weird test sent home by the teacher? Am I being judged here? If I don’t sing my child’s praises, the teacher will think I’m unsupportive and uncaring. If I tell her how utterly brilliant AC is, then I’m an unrealistic, possibly hovering stage Mom who is raising a self-centered brat. There’s just no way to win here. (And there’s no way I’m going to tell her teacher the annoying thing my child is doing right now that makes me want to scream and possibly snatch her bald-headed…)
Sheesh, my thesis didn’t give me this much trouble. My WIP is a piece of cake in comparison.
So I’m going to go choose my words carefully. Meanwhile, feel free to tell us how amazing your child (or dog, or niece, or whomever you’re proud of) is.
Monday, August 13, 2007
It isn't where you begin, but where you end that matters.
I saw this little tidbit posted on a church sign this past week. This is the Bible Belt, so there are churches everywhere. This particular one I have to pass every morning to take Drama Queen to school, and every afternoon to pick her up.
This saying encouraged me immediately. I've been struggling with my current wip, which isn't cooperating as neatly as I'd hoped. Instead of revealing itself in a neat and chronological manner, I write, only to hit a wall. Then I have to go back and figure out what I missed. It hasn't been pretty, and certainly not easy.
But I will get there. Where is there? A completed manuscript ready to submit to publishers. I may be struggling a little at the moment, but what matters is that I persevere to the end (and slow down to listen to my story a bit more).
I just want to offer this same bit of encouragement to all of you out there today. It may be fast, maybe slow. You may be struggling where once you whipped pages out without blinking. You may be a plotter, a panster, or some mixture of both. But the destination is what matters.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Baby Girl wasn't actually supposed to start school today. She goes three days a week while her cousin goes five. But since today was the first day and Cousin has trouble with change we thought Baby Girl might help ease the transition for him - make things easier on the teacher (who's a friend of Grandma's and was Sweet Pea's teacher). It turns out Baby Girl had a complete and total meltdown while Cousin ran right in and asked where the trains were. I felt horrible.
But things settled down and before I left everyone was happy and playing. However, it didn't stay that way. At 11 this morning I got a phone call that Sweet Pea had thrown up. She'd said her tummy hurt this morning but I thought it was just nerves. Turns out it wasn't. She's now running a 102 fever. So the first week of school is shaping up to be a disaster. Here's hoping next week is better.
They're both going to learn so much this year. I remember Sweet Pea's 3K year. She was an absolutely different child from the first to the last day. They grow and change so quickly at this age. Baby Girl is in for a treat because her cousin is going to be in class with her. They're so cute together. Cousin is an older brother and used to giving orders while Baby Girl is used to ignoring those same orders from her own big sister. It'll be interesting to see how they do together.
Sweet Pea starts 1st grade this year. It's real school now. No more naps. No more playing. It's homework and learning to read, add and tell time. She's so excited to take this step (we'll see how long that enthusiasm lasts after she gets her first homework assignment). She's such a smart and independent child. I'm so proud of her. Her class is very small this year, one of the benefits of going to a private school (although it can be a problem if there's a conflict with a child in the class. They spend 3K through 8th with virtually the same kids so there's no getting away).
I'm off to double check backpacks and lunches. And probably shed a little tear in the car leaving the school. My babies aren't babies anymore.
Anyone else dealing with the start of school? If not, what was your favorite school moment growing up?
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
But I digress. The book she showed me was Unmasqued: An Erotic Novel of the Phantom of the Opera by Colette Gale. Colette's good friend Colleen Gleason guest blogged with us last December. We called a meeting here at Playground HQ and invited Colette to blog about her very unusual take on an old story.
Please make room in the Playground wading pool (we're having a heat wave here folks, and we're tying to stay cool) for today's guest blogger, Colette Gale. No splashing, please.
I have been having a love affair with Andrew Lloyd Webber's glorious Phantom of the Opera since I first saw it, seventeen years ago. I'd never read the book by Gaston Leroux, and so my only point of reference for many years was ALW's version.
I adored everything about it~~the costumes, the set, the music!~~except the ending.
Why, oh why, couldn't Christine have followed her heart and stayed with the man who really loved her? I mean, you could feel the tension, the passion, the love between them onstage! What was she thinking????
And so when the film version of ALW's play was released, with the up and coming Gerard Butler cast (to much fanfare and disappointment from the Crawford Crowd) as Erik, the Phantom, I hoped...hoped...that perhaps the movie would end, well, differently.
I mean, when Christine plants that kiss on Gerard~~er, I mean, the Phantom~~she doesn't just kiss him. She goes back for more! So how could she leave him and go with that milquetoast Raoul? (Although I must admit, he was more heroic in the movie than the play.)
But, alas, I was bound to be disappointed~~and I daresay, I'm not the only one.
So a few months later, in the summer of 2005, I was between writing projects (Colette Gale is a pen name for another author who's guested on the Playground before), and I decided that I wanted to try my hand at an erotic novel~~and I thought that exploring what really happened in the Phantom's lair would be just the place to start.
Not only is ALW's play/film rife with sexual tension and understated passion, but so does Leroux's original story beg the question: what happened when Christine was with Erik in his lair for that week??
Don't try and tell me it was all innocence and music scales. I won't buy it.
And so, I wrote a story that was, originally, just for me. I love to read erotica (The Story of O, Anne Rice's Sleeping Beauty series, Bertrice Small's Skye O'Malley books...), and this was my chance to try it out myself.
I even included the scene at the end in the Phantom's lair when Christine has that life or death choice to make~~only this time, in my book, she's choosing between her freedom and Erik's life. Not Raoul's. And she leaves with the wrong man (Raoul), just as she does in the play/film.
(But, I fix that later.)
And then my agent found out about the manuscript and wanted to see it, and the next thing I knew, my editor wanted to buy it. I was, of course, delighted...yet a little nervous. After all, it is an erotic novel--make no mistake.
But at the end of the day, the book is the love story between Christine and Erik, and how I imagined that it could have played out.
So that's why the dedication page on Unmasqued: An Erotic Novel of the Phantom of the Opera reads: For all the women who thought Christine should have stayed with the Phantom.
Unmasqued was released yesterday, and can be found in bookstores everywhere. But I'd like to give away a copy of the book to one of the commenters--so please, ask a question, or make a relevant comment and you'll be entered in a drawing to win!
And big fat thanks to the Playground for squeezing me in as a guest blogger this week, at such short notice! You gals rock the house!!
P.S. You can read more about Colette at her website.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Well, there are two flaws to the average writing challenge:1) If you don’t make your goal for the day, there’s no real penalty.
2.) The pages don’t have to be any good. You can write garbage and still get credit for meeting your page goal.So, while they're a good idea, the shame factor is relatively low and you're not really competing against anyone but yourself.
Smarty Pants and I are obviously having some motivation problems. WIP issues we don’t know how to fix, life issues that need to be dealt with, and confidence issues of feeling we suck have all worked together to stall out our manuscripts. Something must be done or else these books will languish forever.Saturday night, we hit on something that should kick our butts in to gear. A competition. Well, more than a competition or a writing challenge. More like a bet. A down and dirty bet.
We have the same goal—140 pages. (That’s not an arbitrary number—we have reasons for that page count). However, they must be 140 GOOD pages. Not pages of “blah, blah, blah, I’ll fix that later.” Not pages of crap that must be massively edited to be presentable. The goal is 140 pages of good, “ready-for-prime-time” stuff. That may mean rewriting. That may mean going back to page 13 to change something and having to deal with the ripple effect though all the pages that follow. (Critique Partners, brace yourselves.) We’re going for Quality as well as Quantity.There’s no set time limit, other than First One to 140 Wins. But it is a race. No dawdling and fiddling around.
And there will be a prize. In addition to gaining bragging rights and avoiding public shame, we decided there needs to be a tangible prize. Something we want. Something we wouldn’t want to lose. Shame and competitiveness will only go so far. We’re going for the baser motivations like greed as well.That’s where we’re stuck. We need y’all to help us come up with a prize. Remember, it needs to be tangible and it needs to be good. We’re avoiding cold hard cash or really expensive things (partly because I’m a kept woman these days and feel bad about betting too much money I don’t actually earn). Manual labor can be involved—the painting of each other’s offices did come up in negotiations. We’re not into public humiliation beyond having to admit on the blog that we lost. Nudity is also out. Y’all know us pretty well by now; what do you think a good prize would be? What would you want if you were in our shoes?
Give us your ideas for the Grand Prize (If it’s what we chose—or leads us to the final choice, I’ll send you an awesome prize pack of your own.)The start date has been set for August 13, so we have less than a week to come up with final terms. Help us out, then be ready for a ring-side seat as PC and SP go keyboard to keyboard in a no-holds-barred race to 140.
Knowing us, this should be interesting...
PS: Our first MOANday winner is Ellie! Email Angel for your prize.
PPS: In a late-breaking addition, erotica writer Colette Gale will be here tomorrow!
Sunday, August 05, 2007
A picture of Alan Rickman. Now, this didn't have anything to do with writing, but she was illustrating the fact that you never know how people will show up to your site. She had a large number of visitors that day who had simply googled Alan Rickman and this picture put her in the links.
Well, the Playfriends were all joking about how authors would come home from Nationals and post all these pictures of Alan Rickman on their sites. Then we talked about posting hunky pics on our blog, kind of like our friend Michelle Buonfiglio blesses us with over on Romance by the Blog. Those Bellas love them some hot guys, let me tell ya!
Well I said we needed to start posting on a regular basis, that I'd sacrifice one of my days for us to do it (yeah, what a hardship!). As we were discussing this, Problem Child burst out, "Hey, that would make it MOANdays."
And thus, MOANdays were born. From here until the distant future when we can no longer scrape up pictures of tall, built, sexy guys, the first Monday of every month will be a day when you can come to the blog and check out the eye candy.
We'll start off with my current hero, actor Aiden Turner. Love those abs.
And here's a favorite that I believe I picked up from over at Michelle's site some time ago. Rauol.
Remember, ladies, this is all in the name of research for our books. No gawking! (smirk)
So today, tell me who you'd like to see here on MOANdays. And tell me your favorite sites for finding hero pics. One lucky commenter will receive, you guessed it, a prize.
PS. Hmmm, this reminds me that we need to change our hunks in the Locker Room...
I thought you'd like an update, as I saw the doctor Thursday for the MRI results.
I have a laundry list of knee issues, but the highlights include a fractured tibia and torn cartilage. There's fluid under the patella, and I've aggravated some problems left over from my dancing days.
The good news is that the docs can fix it. The bad news is not until August 22. Y'all just may have to listen to me whine for a while.
But thanks for caring :-)
Friday, August 03, 2007
After this, I’m hoping to focus on my new office. I've never had one before, so this is exciting. I've ordered a bunch of my favorite movie posters to frame for inspiration (yes, there's one of Captain Jack although I restrained myself and did not order the life-size cardboard cutout they had for only $35!). Now I'm trying to figure out the right color to paint the walls, but I have no clue. I can't figure out Feng Shui. The room is on the 2nd floor with windows facing south, but the door is in the northwest corner. Where is my wealth and success section? What color should the walls be? Beige is not an option and blue and brown have been overdone in other rooms. I'm looking at green, purple, even yellow if I like the shade. It's also important that the color match my existing furniture. Right now, I have a tall cherry bookshelf and a short black bookshelf, a tall cherry file cabinet. I’m lacking a desk, but I’m also having trouble finding one that isn’t priced as though it’s carved with ivory and gold. That or it just looks cheap. Finding one that matches the existing furniture isn't much fun either.
Here's the forerunners. What do you all think?
Option 1: $199 (staples.com) No drawer for pens, etc., but it does have that nifty bookshelf built into the side there.
Option 2: $279 (staples.com) Has a drawer and plenty of nooks and crannies, however the keyboard tray seems short and I wonder where my mouse would sit.
Option 3: $199 (staples.com) This one doesn't have a drawer either, but it does have a black desktop, so it would match both my bookshelves.
Option 4 : $429 (officedepot.com) Lots of drawers and cabinets and whatnot, plus I think out of all 4, it matches my existing cherry furniture the best, even the drawer pulls are similar. I'm not sure its $200 nicer than the other ones, though.
What do you guys think? I’m leaning towards number 2. Maybe with a hunter green wall color? Or would that be too dark? Play interior decorator for the day and help me out! I know some of you have taken workshops on creating the ideal workspace and I need some assistance here.
Are you having trouble making decisions lately? Toss any quandries into the blogosphere and see if we can help you decide, too.
SPPS. Angel’s winner from Monday’s Blog with Barbara Vey is MaryKate. Anne is the runner up. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to claim your prizes!
To my past winners – Joye (Harry Potter prize) and Robynl (Scotland prize) please email me ASAP at email@example.com so I can send you your nifty gifts. Otherwise, we’ll have to schedule a trivia shootout to see who gets your stuff.
And finally, a special birthday shoutout to Maven Linda! Happy Birthday!!