Monday, April 30, 2007
Sweet Pea started horseback riding lessons yesterday. She's been begging for lessons for two years but no one would take her until she turned six. Well, six is only a few months away so one stable said they'd take her. She had an absolute blast! And found out that it isn't all fun and games. Taking care of the horse and learning how to ride properly takes hard work...if you want to do it right.
The same can be said for writing. I remember a time when it was easy. When I wrote the rough draft for my first book in 4 weeks with a one year old underfoot. It might have been easy but I wouldn't say the finished product was right.
Then I learned 'the rules'. And while I'll be the first to admit some of these are complete poppycock, they are based in the general idea that whatever you put down on the page can be better - with a little work.
I'm in the middle of revisions right now, the second round on this book. And it's difficult trying to decide what works and what doesn't, what stays and what goes. But there's no question in my mind that with each pass this book gets stronger. It may be hard work but in the end it will be worth it because the story will be better for the blood, sweat and tears.
So Sweet Pea and I are learning (or relearning) the same lesson at the moment. Sometimes you just gotta get through the tough stuff so you can enjoy the fun.
What do you think is worth the hard work?
Update: Remember that today is the last day to enter our Red Hot Reads contest. If you haven't already, be sure to email your name, address, email, and how you found the playground to email@example.com for a chance to win a great gift basket full of goodies.
Friday, April 27, 2007
I’ve just gotten off the phone with DB where we discussed what he would like for his birthday. Never mind that between now and then, I will move all my stuff into storage, sell a house, move into a furnished apartment, buy a house, move into a house, go to Scotland and Dallas and who knows what else. He likes to plan ahead, though and always knows exactly what he wants. Myself, I’ve got a birthday right around the corner and I have no idea what I want. As I’ve mentioned before, if I don’t tell him what I want, I’ll either get nothing – exactly what I asked for – or I’ll get something he likes.
Unfortunately, I’ve got the events above preying on my brain cells. What do I want? I want all this to be over. I want to be moved into my new house and happy. I want someone to catsit for two months so I can get a decent short term apartment instead of the creepy cheap one that takes pets. Or better yet, for my house to get finished early so I can just move into it and skip the apartment entirely. I want a 5000 calorie slice of carrot cake with raisins and walnuts and inch thick cream cheese filling that takes up a week's worth of WW points and yet still lose 2 lbs. I want the clothes in my closet to fit again. I want to finish this book that I’m struggling with so I can pitch it in Dallas with a clear conscience.
As I always tell my sister when she whines for something she can't have - "So...how's it feel to want?" (Again, another reason I think I shouldn't have kids.)
As far as DB is concerned, all those are unacceptable answers. He wants me to tell him I want the CD soundtrack of some chick flick he can order on Amazon or better yet, some power tool he can get me at Sears. I’m hesitant to tell him I want X book or DVD or whatever because it’s just something else to pack and put in storage for 2 months. Not that I won’t happily accept a gift that requires packing, I’m just struggling for choices. In the end, I’ll probably ask him for Peter Pan on DVD and dinner out.
Yes, I’m busting at the seams with things I want for the new house, but it’s too soon and everything I want is too expensive for a gift. I want a new couch and entertainment center with a 55 inch Sony Wega 1080i HD rear-projection television. I want new landscaping and paint. I want a fabulous area rug for my new hardwood floors. I want a new bed comforter for our bedroom and the guest room. I want a real computer desk, not a wobbily card table. I want a dining room table that seats more than 4 people. I want 20 yards of concrete poured into a nice patio for the new backyard - stamped and stained while we're at it so it looks like flagstone.
What do I want that’s less than $100? I don’t know. I need new towels for my master bath, but I don’t know what my color scheme is yet. I could use curtains and blinds, but same problem there.
Its just a quandry I go through each year, so I can't really blame it on my chaotic life. It just makes it that much harder. I wish I could switch and celebrate his birthday in May, cause I know what I’m getting him, then celebrate my birthday in July when I’m in the new house and can get all my goodies. Otherwise, I’m just no help.
Someone, tell me – what do I want for my birthday? (Yeah, I know, but I’m not getting an engagement ring. Let’s be a wee bit more practical here...) And while you're at it, tell me what you want. Maybe you'll inspire an idea for me to add to my gift list.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
I've been working on revisions for the last few weeks - in between eye infections, skin infections and trips to the doctor. Tonight my wonderful DH took both girls outside to play after dinner leaving me with a precious 45 minutes to immerse myself in my story. Except that they didn't want to stay out that long.
Of course they waited just long enough for me to really get into things before running in, yelling, fighting, whining, bringing general mayhem and pretty much pulling me out of the flow. I was not a happy camper. At the time I was working on a chapter that had been giving me fits for days and I'd finally figured out what changes I needed to make to pull things together. Interruptions not welcome. I yelled. And then felt bad.
This is why I normally write at night. In the bathtub. I get mean and nasty when something interrupts the creative zone. I don't write at work for the same reason. It never fails, as soon as I get into a scene my bosses decide they need something. The nerve :-)
I honestly feel terrible about getting angry. I hate feeling mean and guilty after yelling at my girls. As I was doing it I knew I shouldn't, but frustration takes over sometimes. I needed a few more minutes of quiet not five potty trips, referee requirements and complaints.
I wouldn't change being a mother for anything in the world. Most of the time my girls are the light of my life. Every once in a while though... When you're pregnant no one tells you there'll be days you want to give them back. That sure wasn't in any of the books I read :-)
What sparks off your temper?
P.S. Catslady is the winner from yesterday's blog. Please send your mailing address to the Playground Monitor to arrange for your prize.
Thanks for creating such a fun web site and blog and for inviting me to the Playground. You gals are the greatest! I’ll be at the Romance Readers Luncheon in Huntsville, on May 5th, and hope to see you there. Be sure and say hello!
April has been an exciting month with the release of my debut novel, NOWHERE TO HIDE. My first book signing in my local area was held on April 12th, and so many of my dear friends were there to support me. The proceeds benefited Tracy Russo, a young woman who has a brain tumor and lacks medical insurance. Tracy needs to raise money for her surgery, and if you’d like to help, visit her web site at www.supporttracy.com.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been invited to speak to a number of writers’ groups and women’s organizations. Everyone is always so nice and encouraging, and one of the first questions they ask is where I get ideas for my stories. Of course, anyone who writes knows that a newspaper headline, a feature on the nightly news or even a conversation with friends can inspire a story.
The idea for my first book came when my family and I moved into a home that had a security alarm. It wasn’t long before one of us punched in an incorrect code and tripped the silent alarm. The police responded immediately, and as I looked out the window and saw the officers hustling toward my house, guns drawn, I knew I had the opening for my novel.
In NOWHERE TO HIDE, Lydia Sloan’s husband has been murdered, and when the men who killed her husband try to kidnap her son, Lydia and six-year-old Tyler flee Atlanta to a secluded island community off the coast of Georgia and run headlong into the danger they were trying to escape. Seeking refuge, Lydia trips the security alarm on the upscale home owned by her vacationing aunt. Security Chief Matt Lawson answers the call, and when he finds the frightened woman with a little boy in tow, Matt’s not sure which side of the law Lydia’s on.
I just received the cover for my second book, SCARED TO DEATH, which will be out in August. I’m a medical technologist and the idea for SCARED TO DEATH came to me while I was researching liver transplants. Set in the fictional town of Mercy, GA, the plot revolves around a transplant tourist racket. Because of the shortage of donor organs, many US citizens travel to foreign countries for transplants where organs are more plentiful and the wait for surgery is not as long. While most foreign transplants are done by credentialed physicians in reputable medical facilities, there have been cases when less than ethical procedures have occurred.
In SCARED TO DEATH, Nolan Price tries to learn the real reason for his wife’s untimely death, while scientist Kate Murphy investigates a friend’s mysterious allergic reaction. Nolan and Kate’s lives become entwined as they search for answers to why bad things are happening to good people in Mercy, GA.
I had great news two weeks ago. Steeple Hill wants to publish my third book! MIA: MISSING IN ATLANTA is the story of returning war hero Jude Walker, who tries to find a girlfriend he met on R&R. Enlisting the help of Sarah Montgomery, a shelter worker who rescues homeless teens, Jude’s search leads him into a world of inner-city drugs and exploitation where he learns memories of the past are not always as they seem and authentic love is grounded in truth.
The idea for book three took hold when my son, a Captain in the US Army, was deployed to Iraq for a second tour with the 101st Airborne Division. I wanted to write a story dedicated to the brave men and women who defend our nation, and I also wanted a worthwhile cause to occupy my time while my son was deployed.
I pray everyday for all those who are in the Armed Forces. If your loved one is serving in the military, let me know so I can add you and your family to my prayers.
If you’re interested in the inspirational fiction market, read my article, “Christian Fiction—It’s Inspirational,” posted in School. Incorporating a faith element into my stories allows me to go more deeply into my characters and makes my stories come alive. While some may think writing inspirational fiction is inhibiting, I find it to be freeing. Write me, if you’d like more information about becoming an inspirational writer.
I’d love to hear what you’re working on and how you get ideas for your stories. Currently, I’m researching my next medical suspense. Be sure to include any bizarre—but true—medical tales you’d like to share that might trigger my creative muse.
Please visit my Web site, www.DebbyGiusti.com, sign my guest book and enter the Cross My Heart Contest. I’ll hold a drawing at the end of May.
Thanks for letting me have so much fun at the Playground. Wishing you all the best and hoping your writing dreams come true!
A late P.S. here: Debby is going to give away a copy of her book NOWHERE TO HIDE to the commenter with the best bizarre-but-true medical tale. So put on your thinking caps!
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Ninety percent of the spam in my mailbox involves “enhancing” the male-specific appendage. (What I truly love is the implication inherent in those emails that a larger appendage will have women lined up to sleep with the man. Yeah, that’s what’s keeping your love life sub-par, buddy. How is the average woman supposed to know your love muscle is now so much bigger than Joe-Next-Door? Are you going to whip it out in the bar and show it to her? What, we’ll just look at you across a crowded room and the unbridled hugeness of your silken sword will just draw us to you? “Hey, baby, you’ll never guess how big I am” has always been a fabulous pick-up line. Women just love that.) If I’m really lucky, the email will have pictures in it showing me the results of the powerful enhancing cream/pill.
The other ten percent wants to sell me drugs without a prescription, offers me a better rate on my mortgage, wants to introduce me to the weight loss wonders of hoodia, or offers the lowest prices on the newest software and hottest stocks. Hmmm, not one email about enhancing MY assets. Nothing about improving MY performance. No miracle drug promising to turn me into a sex goddess who will have him begging for more. (Remember the “all natural” product for women designed to enhance libido and increase pleasure? No? Don’t feel bad…I think it was only around for a couple of months. The only reason I remember it is because a friend of mine tried it and broke out in hives.)
If my spam folder is to be believed, the one thing bothering men more than anything else is the size and performance of their manhood. Yet folks claim women obsess over their bodies. Hey, at least we vary our obsessions instead of focusing on ONE thing at the expense of everything else.
So I have to wonder, is this really something men obsess over? Are they THAT worried about it? I can’t really picture men sitting around over poker and cigars discussing the new patch that increased girth by 20%. Or sharing the fear that their women just aren’t satisfied because of their size. Are they swapping “enhancement” pill recommendations like I swap Weight Watchers recipes?
It seems rather unfair to the gender as a whole to imply their entire identity and masculinity is tied to seven inches of their bodies (but try this new product and that could increase to nine or ten!).
Men are different, bless their hearts. I don’t understand the attraction of pornography. I don’t see the excitement of things going “BOOM.” The gas grill is just another appliance for the cooking of food—not an extension or representation of masculinity. I see no need to replace something just because a bigger, badder, louder, more powerful version has been released. I will never understand the need to preserve dead animals or have the delusion that hanging a dead animal on the wall counts as interior decoration.
But I refuse to believe that the entire male population is so shallow as to think all women want in a relationship is the biggest possible package. Real life isn’t a porn film.
Folks may want to denigrate Romance or Women’s Fiction for a multitude of possible sins, but at least it doesn’t portray men in the unflattering light spammers and TV commercials do. Personally, I like my heroes “larger than life” in other ways. I like to think men have a bit more depth to them. To play off Angel’s post from yesterday, I’d like to think they’re motivated by something more.
Maybe I’m wrong. But I don’t want to be. Thank goodness for the gmail spam filter than catches most of the crap before it hits my inbox and makes me despair over of the state of man as a whole.
So no male-bashing allowed today. Spammers are taking care of that Instead, tell me your favorite (and non-sexual) thing about men (or your man in particular). Me? I like it when DG does little things like open car doors or help me with my coat. I’m perfectly capable and liberated and all that jazz, but there’s something very nice about having someone help you in little ways for no reason and without being asked. Makes me feel all girly, you know.
*You may have noticed I’ve avoided the “p-word” throughout this entry. Not that there’s anything wrong with the word, it’s just I’m afraid that word in proximity to the word “enhancement” will bring every Blog Troll in cyberspace to the comment tail.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
I had the enviable chance to read a copy of Linda Howard's newest, a Silhouette Nocturne titled Raintree: Inferno. This is Book One of a trilogy that she's done with fellow Mavens Beverly Barton and Linda Winstead Jones. You might also notice from the side bar that all three will be blogging with us in the near future. :)
But what I wanted to talk about today was heroes. More specifically, their motivation. The hero in Inferno (his name is Dante, get it?) is most definitely an alpha male. There were quite a few times in the beginning of the story when I could literally feel the heroine's frustration at his high-handedness and her lack of understanding of his motives. But later, Linda gives us more and more of his motivation, showing us where he's coming from and his specific reasons for handling the heroine the way he does.
Lorna (the heroine) may not like it, but she understands it. And I come to understand it with her. I've been told that characters can do just about anything, as long as they are well motivated. Dante is a wonderful example of that. I love alpha heroes, but I don't want one that is arrogant just for the sake of it. I want him to have a reason, a good one, a deep one, that turns him from a jerk to a HERO.
Linda made sure that the reader saw Dante's heroic nature up front. I loved that, and it helped me fall in love with him. And I got to experience some much needed romance during a time when the rest of my world is going crazy. So I highly recommend this book, but be warned! The end stops in the middle of the action and leaves you hanging, which is driving me crazy because the next book won't be out for a month!!!! I don't think I can wait that long to find out what happens to.... Oops. Can't spill the beans!
So what characters stand out to you for their memorable motivation? How do you show that to the reader instead of tell them? Do you have a favorite hero? Don't we all? :)
P.S. I'll check back in this afternoon. My house appraisal is this morning. (What is it with them scheduling things on Monday mornings? My closing will be on a Monday too... two weeks from now if all goes well.)
Friday, April 20, 2007
So here we are. I spent my evening watching episodes of Ace of Cakes and packing up seldom worn shoes instead of writing my blog like a good girl. And now, on cue, I need to come up with something to talk about. Ok, here we go...wait for it...
Nothing. I think at this point, I'm lucky to remember to brush my teeth and wear matching socks. Wittiness? Not so much. Heck, I just remembered that I promised a prize for a blog poster two weeks ago. Just a little behind. Probably won't mail it until May even if I did give something away. Good thing I wasn't a big druggie in college or what little brain cells I have left would be kaput. And now I'm sleepy cause its late, so my problem is compounding as the minutes tick by. I need to end this post before I start babbling.
When your brain is completely overloaded, what do you do to upgrade the system so to speak? Any good memory tricks? I lose my keys on a good day. Lately...well...lets just say we could all use some good advice to recharge the old noggin.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Lost makes more sense when you're a little high on medication.
I'm not an American Idol fan. I'll occasionally catch a show here or there but I've been otherwise occupied for most of this season. However, I did tune in long enough to realize Sanjaya really can't sing. And I have to say I'm glad that the one show I caught was the episode he finally got voted off of.
If you haven't seen Deadliest Catch on the discovery channel, you really should! It's about fishermen in Alaska fishing for king crab. Men die. Often. Talk about tension! But despite that fact these men still enjoy the hunt, the adrenaline and manage to have a bit of fun on the side.
Children don't feel hot and cold like normal people do. Sweet Pea is supposed to dress as a letter this Friday - like a cat for C. She wants to be a swimmer for S (like her name) and wear her swim suit. She's been talking about it for literally a month. The whole time I've been telling her it depends entirely on the weather (when we started talking it was in the 80s since then it's been down in the 30s). She doesn't care. She has it in her head that she's wearing her swim suit no matter what the weather outside is like. Thank heaven it's supposed to be in the 70s at least. Now, I know that if it was really cold I wouldn't let her out of the house no matter how big a fit she pitched but my Friday morning is going to be so much calmer this way. And I'm going to insist she wear a beach cover-up. However, I still think she's going to be cold. We'll see whether mommy's right :-)
I think that's probably enough random thoughts for one night. Remember I'm still taking entries for the March/April contest so if you haven't entered email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
And if you haven't taken a look at the guest blogger list on the sidebar be sure to take a peek, we're really excited about our line-up over the next few months.
Have you ever heard an author say their characters talked to them? Said “Hey, my story needs to be told and would ya get yer fanny in the chair and write it?”
sigh Mine never do that.
Anyway, thanks to friends and family I received several gift cards for my birthday last week (along with a beautiful plush throw from the Playfriends). The one from a major bookstore is a no brainer. Linda Howard’s INFERNO comes out next Tuesday and since I learned last Saturday that my granddaughter is crazy over Elmo, there will probably be an Elmo book or DVD in my basket as well.
It’s the other gift card I’m angsting over. It’s from a home accessories store that I love. Usually I walk in there and see any number of things I want. I went in today and saw any number of things I want. But together they total way more than the gift card. I have to pick one item. O-N-E.
I’m sure the sales clerk thought I was casing the place because I covered every square inch of the store twice – or maybe three times – examining every shelf and display unit. They have their spring items out. And they have some great sales going on. But which should I buy? The large vase to sit on the floor in my office? The plant stand that would look great on my front porch with the Boston fern? A solar light for the back patio? A Vera Bradley-type purse? Cast iron bird feeder, art for my laundry room (hey… I want that room to look nice too), a wasp catcher?
I couldn’t decide anything except decide to come home and look around and see which item (or depending on which I get, I could get two items) I want most. Money talks, but sometimes it says too many things at one time and I can’t hear a thing.
When you don’t have a dime, you can think of a dozen things to buy. But when money’s burning a hole in your pocket, it’s hard to make a decision.
When a story comes to mind, it won’t always translate from the brain to the page.
When your heroine is too stupid to live, you can’t always make her change. Well, you can, but she might fight you all the way.
When your hero is an arrogant, uncaring a$$hole, he defies your efforts to turn him into a nice guy.
This is Sam.
This is Julianne.
They are on an eight-day motorcoach trip in Mexico and end up as seat mates on the bus. She's taking her first vacation in way too long and had her heart broken and her trust destroyed by her ex-husband. Sam's also taking a much-needed vacation and kinda fibs a little when Julianne asks him what he does for a living. He's not being deliberatly deceitful; he just doesn't want people asking for free advice 24/7.
These two people are supposed to be talking to me.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
I miss it.
I needed to pay bills on Sunday. I’m upstairs in my office; the checkbook is downstairs in my purse. I go downstairs to get it, and return to my desk a few minutes later with a drink and a snack. Realizing I still need the checkbook, I head back down the stairs, only to stand in the middle of the living room wondering what I’d come downstairs for. It doesn’t come to me, so I go back upstairs, see the bills, remember I need the checkbook, and head downstairs one more time. To be safe, I repeat “checkbook, checkbook, checkbook,” all the way down to the kitchen.
I guess I should be pleased I got a little exercise, right? All that stair climbing is good for me.
Y’all know I love a To Do list more than most, but my To Do list is now my lifeline. Without it, I’d never remember to call person A or drop off item B. My Immediate To Do list is on the front of my calendar, which houses the long-term To Do Forecast. If either of them go missing, I’m totally screwed.
Yes, it’s irritating as hell to search for my keys every day, but this brain defect is affecting my WIP now. I lose complete track of timelines—did that happen Tuesday or Wednesday? What day is it anyway in this book? Last week, I forgot my heroine’s name. Spellcheck kept telling me it was spelled wrong, when I knew for a fact I’d added her name to the dictionary. I was cussing hard (I can’t stand seeing the little squiggly red lines while I’m trying to type), when I realized THAT WASN’T HER NAME. Great. Find and Replace time. Sigh. .
Once upon a time, I was smart. Articulate even. People praised me for my organizational skills. These days I’ll forget why I called you in the time it takes for you to answer the phone.
I’m making do with my To Do list, but I’d love to get my brain working again. Anyone have any suggestions?
Meanwhile, I’m going to go see if DG happens to know my passwords so I can check my email…
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Just a little house update to make the rest of the blog understandable: Not only did I put my house on the market one week ago today, since then I have sold it and have less than a month to move out. I'll be gone this morning, as the inspection is happening today. Continue to pray for me. :)
We've spent this past week getting a few last minute things done before our house inspection tomorrow, because both my husband and I were going to be out-of-town this weekend. One thing that didn't get done because it was raining was painting this little bit of a chimney that sticks up from our roof that a certain someone kept putting off because he "didn't feel like it".
Sunday evening the weather cleared and the sun came out for several hours, so I thought, "Hmmm, I bet I could knock that out in no time." (Keep in mind that I'm home alone with 2 small children.) So I drag the huge ladder over to the right spot and struggle getting it upright, much less open and stable. I'm only 5 feet tall to its 12 feet, after all. I open the can of paint and head up the ladder.
Did I mention I'm afraid of heights? The higher I got I kept reminding myself that if I just got up there, I could get this over with quickly. But as I reached the top I noticed that the slant of the roof seemed a lot steeper than it did from the ground. Hmmm. But still I tried to get my keister up onto the shingles. As I did, the ladder shifted ever so slightly.
That's when I realized, Dummy, you are trying to get on your roof with your two small kids in the house and no adult in sight. What if you fell? Who would help you? No one! Because no one can see you lying broken on the pavement in the BACKYARD. I immediately retreated to the ground and meekly replaced all my supplies from whence I had gotten them.
Now, in this case I think this was a smart move. I don't know what possessed me in the first place, except a year's worth of frustration over a certain hubby who is more likely to give up on a job than finish it. But it reminded me of something I've been pondering for a bit now.
When I'm writing, I tend to stop or retreat at the first sign of fear, of anxiety, of uncertainty. Then I have to struggle to move forward after moving backward. The old "one step forward, three steps back" tango.
Why do I do this? I don't know. Some kind of habit that has formed out of my personality and the circumstances of my life. In this case I DON'T think it is a smart move. I have to work through my fears in order to ever achieve in this arena. Also, if I don't work through them, I'll be forever moving backwards, because the fears and uncertainties are never ending in this business.
How do I do that? Hmmm... that will take more than a pat answer, which I'm not sure that I have. Probably the first step is to breath, as Problem Child is constantly telling me to do. After that, where do I go?
Any suggestions? Notice any similar patterns in your life? What is your biggest fear as a writer?
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Friday, April 13, 2007
Give a big Playground welcome to Vicki and make her feel at home!
I learned at a creative writing seminar a few weeks ago that decision-making produces anxiety. That was a huge relief to me, because I’m a Libra, and I thought it was just me. Turns out it produces anxiety in everybody, even Leos.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Baby Girl also reached a major milestone (in my life) this past week and seems to be completely potty trained. Whew! My days of wiping rears and changing stinky pull-ups seem to be almost over. Let me tell you, I'm very excited. :-)
But it isn't just watching those achievements that has my attention lately, it's also the anticipation of milestones I know/hope are coming. Sweet Pea will start 1st grade in August. There's something about that leap from kindergarten to 1st that reinforces the idea that she's not my baby anymore. Baby Girl will start the 3K program at the same time and I won't be spending as much time with her. Her school career is just beginning but I know that for the next 15 years it will (hopefully) occupy her attention - and my time.
Right now I'm working on some requested revisions for a book I'm really hoping to sell. Everyone says this one is it. But it makes me anticipate that milestone of selling my first book. I've worked for years towards that goal and somehow now that it's staring me in the face it feels further away. I've learned so much during the process of working on this book. More in the past few months than I have in those years leading to this point. But it's a clear illustration of how much further I need to go.
And it's scary. I want this so much that I'm afraid to fail and make the chance disappear forever. I'm certain this is a natural human response, all things considered, but knowing that doesn't really help much. I do know one thing though, that fear isn't going to hold me back. I'm going to work my butt off to get it right.
Sometimes milestones are difficult to embrace. I never really thought about that until I watched my own girls tackle those experiences. It's one thing to be caught up in the action of your own moments, it's completely another to stand by and do nothing to help as someone you love reaches for their own.
What milestone do you remember most?
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
When I started writing fiction one of the first "rules" I heard was to "write what you know." I thought about it and it made sense. Why? Because "what you know" is familiar and when you write about something you have knowledge of, the story will be more believable.
But I soon ran into a problem. Why? Because in the global scheme of things, I don't know an awful lot. Once I've written about being a wife, about motherhood and carpools and life in suburbia, about being a customer service agent on a Space Shuttle support contract, about middle age and life as an empty nest, then what? Does writing come to an abrupt halt because I've run out of "what I know?"
"Write what you know" is a good place to start because it makes those first efforts a bit easier. You're at least working from within a certain comfort zone and there will be some things you don't have to worry about. That leaves you plenty of time to worry about verb tenses, passive voice, point of view, dialogue, show versus tell and all the other "rules" you hear about.
Then there comes the day when you've run out of "what you know." What do you do then?
It's easy. You use your imagination, you do research and you watch and listen to the world around you. Draw on the people you know, the people you meet, the places you've been and want to go to, the books you've read, the movies you've read and every other type of experience you can imagine. Ask the question "What if..." and see what the answer is.
Then sit down and write what you don't know. That's what I've done for the last year because I certainly don't know about:
- Owing back taxes and penalites to the IRS and having my husband commit suicide when he can't pay them
- Taking a honeymoon alone because I found my fiance with another man on my wedding day
- Working as the head of guest services at a ski lodge
- Finding my fiance with another woman just weeks before the wedding
- Single motherhood with a severly handicapped child
- Being a female soldier blinded by a car bomb in Iraq
- Donating eggs for an infertile Jewish couple
- Discovering the girl I suspect is my husband's mistress is in fact his illegitimate daughter
- Having cybersex with a much younger man and finding out he's my best friend's son
- Planning my daughter's wedding and having the plans hijacked by her social-climbing stepmother
I got them from people I knew, articles in newspapers and magazines, and online research liberally mixed with my own imagination. And how do I feed my imagination? I read a lot. I watch and listen a lot. Not all the ideas I jot down end up as stories. Some days I just can't quite weave a story around that juicy bit of gossip I overheard at the mall. But I never discard it because the day may come when the light bulb goes on and it all falls into place.
Keep writing what you know and when you run out of ideas, keep on writing because you actually know a lot more than you think.
P.S. As of Monday I could definitely write about a woman on a diet. While the rest of the Playfriends are on the Weight Watchers program, I'm doing the South Beach Diet. So far I've not killed anyone over sugar -- or more precisely, the lack of it.
P.P.S. Thank you all for the birthday wishes. It made the day even more special knowing you care. :-)
Monday, April 09, 2007
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 Amazon.com 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.
I'm way beyond tired this morning. Way, way beyond. I made a last ditch effort to get my house decluttered this weekend. Though I'm still not done with the garage, I'm as close as I can humanly get. After almost a year's worth of work, we sign the contracts to put our house on the market this morning.
As of 8pm last night, I earned 24 Weight Watcher's activity points. My WEEKLY goal is 11, though I rarely meet it. I worked on the garage, planted pansies just in time for the agent to take pictures of the front of the house, cleaned the kitchen, worked on the garage some more, then picked up and cleaned the entire house. I'm amazed I can walk this morning. Last night sitting (and getting up) was not fun. I desperately wish for a vacation.
I know I'm a wuss. I definitely need more exercise.
What does all this have to do with anything? Well, I guess I'm trying to explain why I'm brain dead this morning. :) Sorry. Maybe next week I can be a bit more inspiring.
So what is it that's consuming your thoughts this morning?
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
All work and no play can make you a basket case.
Walk softly and carry a big carrot.
Everyone needs a friend who is all ears.
There is no such thing as too much candy.
All work and no play can make you a basket case.
A cute little tail attracts lots of attention.
Everyone is entitled to a bad hare day.
Let happy thoughts multiply like rabbits.
Some body parts should be floppy.
Keep your paws off other people's jellybeans.
Good things come in small-sugarcoated packages.
The grass is greener in someone else's basket.
An Easter bonnet can cover the wildest hare.
To show your true colors, you have to come out of your shell.
The best things in life are still sweet and gooey.
Friday, April 06, 2007
This whole house thing has been one surprise after another – good surprises – which was a surprise in itself. Things have just flowed. I decided one day I wanted a new house and found one I liked rather quickly at a price I could afford. I got approved for the loan easily. I had to work hard to get my house in good shape, but it turned out nice and the first people that saw it agreed. I wasn’t ready to show the house really, but if I hadn’t, I would’ve missed them and they wouldn’t have gotten the house they really wanted. They wanted to close earlier than I wanted to, which means apartment living for a few months, and yet when I cruised by my previously vacant lot yesterday, there was a house on it! Framed, roofed, everything. It’s a long way to go still, but the 2 month estimate on completion will take me right to when I close on my current house so I may not need an apartment at all! The inspection was quick with only a few minor fixes. Its just like I was meant to do this.
This happens in my life a lot. I think I was meant to go to college where I did and meet the people I met there. I think I was meant to move to Alabama, which I did on a whim, because I met DB, the Playfriends and the Mavens. Without them, my writing might have stagnated and I might have given up by now when the work got lonely and hard. My life would be so different without having done that – as would my mother, who’s married and had Little Sister since we came here. Even horrible things, like car wrecks where no one was seriously hurt, somehow lead to things getting better – a newer, better car.
For the most part, I am aware of this force in my life and I do my best not to fight it because things turn out the way they should. The hardest part is to accept it with regard to my writing. Of course, I work hard to be published and I feel in my heart I will be someday. I try not to get too discouraged by a rejection telling myself – well, maybe that wasn’t the editor or publisher for me. Maybe the timing isn’t right – I’m not ready yet. Yeah, I tell myself that, and maybe twenty years from now I can look back at these struggles and say it all worked out fine. That it happened when it was meant to and I was ready for it to happen. But it doesn’t take the sting off of all the setbacks and detours.
I've had so many pleasant surprises that I'm going to offer one myself today to a lucky blog reader. Comment on the blog today and tell me about something you're waiting for fate to bring along. The big sale? A new house? A vacation? A wedding? A grandbaby? I may not be able to get you what you're hoping for, but maybe I can come up with something to help you pass the time waiting. And no, not a Sudoku book... :)
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
To make matters worse my desk sits smack dab in front of the office front door. I've spent the last three days staring out that glass, watching the wind rustle the bright green leaves in the trees, wanting nothing more than to get out there so I could enjoy the sunshine and warm weather.
The girls have worn shorts to school every day this week. Me? I've been in jeans and a sweater. I swear the cancer center next door keeps their air conditioning on 50 degrees all year round. I know, the cold air seeps through the connecting door at the back of my desk.
The weekend's almost here. Easter weekend at that. Bright colored dresses. Pretty hair bows and bonnets. Egg hunts in the backyard. It's been beautiful all week and freedom's almost here.
ALONG WITH 30 DEGREE WEATHER.
It's just not fair!
I suppose my girls will be wearing their winter coats over the cute, matching, sleeveless Easter dresses I just bought. Oh well, at least I know they're adorable underneath.
Do you have any special plans for the holiday weekend?
Some days a blog topic is as obvious as a big splat of bird dung on your windshield. Other days it's as elusive as the proverbial needle in a haystack. Lately, I've suffered from the latter and today is no exception.
Problem Child had an 80's quiz a while back so I thought it only fair to take you back to
"I'll tell you one thing, if things keep going the way they are, it's going to be impossible to buy a week's groceries for $20."
"Have you seen the new cars coming out next year? It won't be long before $2000 will only buy a used one."
"If cigarettes keep going up in price, I'm going to quit. A quarter a pack is ridiculous."
"Did you hear the post office is thinking about charging a dime just to mail a letter?"
"If they raise the minimum wage to $1, nobody will be able to hire outside help at the store."
"When I first started driving, who would have thought gas would someday cost 29 cents a gallon. Guess we'd be better off leaving the car in the garage."
"Kids today are impossible. Those duck tail hair cuts make it impossible to stay groomed. Next thing you know, boys will be wearing their hair as long as the girls."
"I'm afraid to send my kids to the movies any more. Ever since they let Clark Gable get by with saying 'damn' in 'Gone With The Wind,' it seems every new movie has either 'hell' or 'damn' in it."
"I read the other day where some scientist thinks it's possible to put a man on the moon by the end of the century. They even have some fellows they call astronauts preparing for it down in Texas. "
"Did you see where some baseball player just signed a contract for $75,000 a year just to play ball? It wouldn't surprise me if someday they'll be making more than the president."
"I never thought I'd see the day all our kitchen appliances would be electric. They are even making electric typewriters now."
"It's too bad things are so tough nowadays. I see where a few married women are having to work to make ends meet."
"It won't be long before young couples are going to have to hire someone to watch their kids so they can both work."
"Marriage doesn't mean a thing any more; those Hollywood stars seem to be getting divorced at the drop of a hat."
"I'm just afraid the Volkswagen car is going to open the door to a whole lot of foreign business."
"Thank goodness I won't live to see the day when the Government takes half our income in taxes. I sometimes wonder if we are electing the best people to congress."
"The drive-in restaurant is convenient in nice weather, but I seriously doubt they will ever catch on."
"There is no sense going to Lincoln or Omaha anymore for a weekend. It costs nearly $15 a night to stay in a hotel."
"No one can afford to be sick any more; $35 a day in the hospital is too rich for my blood."
"If they think I'll pay 50 cents for a hair cut, forget it."
With a few exceptions, those quotes could be from today. You'd just have to change the amounts. I'd love to pay $15 for a hotel room. Or 29 cents for a gallon of gas (that's actually about what gasoline cost when I started driving). And I wish the worst thing I heard in a movie was hell or damn. Of course the average income was only $4100 and a house cost $22,000. I suppose it's all relative.
I remember having a big "I Like Ike" button, and I remember the original Mickey Mouse Club, Howdy Doody and seeing Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show. And I remember learning to read in first grade from the 'Dick and Jane' books. I have to wonder what kind of childhood memories my little granddaughter will have.
What are YOUR memories from childhood?
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Here’s one of my favorite sayings: “Better to say nothing and be thought an idiot than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” I think we need to get to work spreading that thought around, because it seems half of the internet community doesn’t realize the truth inherent in that statement.
I’ve ranted before on the importance of evaluating any source you find—especially those on the internet. Anyone can post anything. Wanna hear my thoughts on how cell phones work? It involves trolls and long pieces of string. I could go post that on my web page and call myself a Cell Phone Scholar while I’m at it. I’d be completely full of crap, but I’m sure somebody would believe me.
Have you seen this website? It’s all about the dangers of Dihydrogen Monoxide. A quick glance at the page shows the stuff is obviously dangerous as hell. However, the only reason I even found this website was because someone on another page was railing at the government for not banning it. SAVE OUR CHILDREN!! WHY IS NOTHING BEING DONE?!?!?!
Umm, dihydrogen monoxide is H2O. This hysterical person had a whole webpage rant about the dangers of water and the need to ban it. Open mouth; hang up idiot sign.
The life of the English teacher (as if it wasn’t bad enough) took a horrible turn in 1995 when Alanis Morrissette released her song “Ironic.” I now spend inordinate amounts of class time explaining that no, a black fly in your Chardonnay is not ironic. Nor is rain on your wedding day. Or spoons when you need a knife. Yet classroom upon classroom of students wish to argue with me about it. Let’s see, whom shall we believe when it comes to literary terminology and its application? A rock star or our English teacher? Hmmm… Let me think about that… Sadly, I lose every single time. (Please, trust me on this—when Alanis asks, “Isn’t it ironic?” JUST SAY NO!)
Yet, it can be even worse.
Marilyn sent me a link the other day, probably just for the grins of watching my head explode. I read in horror an article all about avoiding the passive voice in your fiction. This poor child could not be any farther away from knowing what passive voice is or how to avoid it if I sent her to Pluto. (I say “child” because it only took me two clicks to find her bio and see that’s she’s 18. Not that an 18-year-old won’t know how to avoid the passive, but I wouldn’t take that advice as the be-all-end-all.) Yet, her article has received an astounding 4.5 out of 5 rating for its usefulness. Great; a whole lot of people, who upon reading the phrase,
“Well, it’s kindda hard to explain… read the Wikipedia article on it and you’ll be left scratching your head. So, instead of trying to describe what the passive voice is, instead I’m just going to explain what it does, why it’s bad, and how to avoid it,”still figured *this* person was a trustworthy source for information.
The Wikipedia article isn’t the best, but it’s Wikipedia (hel-lo, make my case for me, would you?). However, if you type “passive voice” into Google, the very first entry is for the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University. There, you’ll get a pretty good explanation about passive voice, and the Purdue English Department is pretty smart when it comes to all that grammar stuff. They just might be right.
Hmmm…18-year-old who admits she doesn’t have a clue, yet tells you what to do anyway OR an entire site full of information, explanations, and helpful hints designed by people whom you know have about 500 years of collective experience. (It even has little pictures with arrows and everything!)
(Then, just as my head starts to recuperate, Marilyn sends me to another article. This time, the person putting forth the information is a pretty well-known author. Yet, she’s 100% wrong. Five minutes with a grammar book or an English teacher and she’d have a clue. Sadly, because of who she is, many folks are going to believe what she has to say. And because she’s published and I’m not, I’m going to have a hard time convincing people that she’s wrong in her understanding of passive voice (and several other grammar items).
Yes, Marilyn is evil. And I’m an easy mark when it comes to this stuff.)
I don’t claim to be the sharpest knife in the drawer—not by a long shot. When DG and his friends want a good laugh, they’ll ask me to explain how my cell phone works or where electricity comes from. (I know exactly where electricity comes from. It comes from those holes in the wall and that switch over by the door. I know it exists because Huntsville Utilities sends me a bill for it every month. I’m not alone in this belief either.)
You know what? I don’t expect every person in the world to understand irony and passive voice and pronoun antecedents and subject compliments—if everyone did, I wouldn’t have a job. I went to school for a heck of a long time (and I have the student loans to show for it) just to learn all those fancy names for stuff. Therefore, I think I have a right to be a wee bit huffy when someone just sticks erroneous information out on the internet about it because they’re too lazy to actually go learn it. Just as I would expect the people who design cell phones to get huffy if I put up a web page entitled “How To Keep Your Cell Phone in Top Operating Condition.”
I think I’ll open with “I don’t know how they fit the trolls in there, but the ones in my phone do a pretty good job with that long piece of string. I don’t know where the string comes from either, but here’s how I keep it from getting tangled.”
Or, I could just keep my mouth shut about things I know nothing about. Novel idea, huh?
Monday, April 02, 2007
I happen to have an unusual goal to post this month... To Enjoy Writing.
Yes, I need to be cranking out the pages and getting this book moving along the path to completion. But it's all about the attitude, as Instigator has spent our friendship trying to teach me. Unfortunately, she has to remind me more often than I'd like.
Setting a goal in front of me turns my mind into a drill instructor. I learn everything I can get my hands on, then expect myself to live up to whatever standards I set down.
You know what? That can suck a lot of joy out of things. :) Shocking, I know. Plus this week will find me putting my house on the market, so I still have some last minute household responsibilities to declutter and spruce up the place.
How am I going about achieving this unusual goal? Well, I have to admit that drill instructor isn't going to disappear completely! I'll still require myself to put pen to page at least once per day. But I'm not working with a definitive page count in mind, just a vague one I'd like to meet if I can.
Instead, I'm going to gently correct my thinking. Look at my writing time as a "date" between me and my characters, a chance to explore who they are and more about their lives. Use writing time as a reward for a hard day of packing boxes and cleaning house.
Gently, but firmly, redirecting my thoughts away from worries over where I'll submit this book. I'll worry about that a little further down the road, once I see how it is shaping up. Who knows? Maybe I won't even get an appointment at Nationals this year... give myself a break. It would be the first time I went to Nationals without pitching.
I view this as a step in the right direction of loving my writing without pressuring myself to remember the "rules". Were you ever tempted to chuck the rules and do it your own way?