Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Burlesque Wednesday Returns!

Alas, I have been slacking in my duties as Burlesque Wednesday moderator.  Let me make it up to you...

Burlesque Dancer

Friday, December 14, 2012

World On Fire: Thoughts On A Tragedy

Today, a mass shooting at an elementary school in Conneticut claimed the lives of children, teachers, and a profoundly troubled gunman.  Old and young.  Innocent and guilty.  Too many lives cut short, too few answers as to "why".

We live in a world that can sometimes seem very dark.  A quick look at the news of the week, even prior to this tragedy, reflects this all too well.  The violence in Syria seems without end.  Protests continue in Egypt.  North Korea conducted a successful missile test, quite possibly with the help of Iran.

But on a day when our collective shortcomings are all too real to us, it's important to pause.  Reflect.  And remember: we are not defined by the actions of the worst of us, but by the courage and compassion of the best of us.  The people who devote themselves to service of the poor.  The members of our military who put their lives on the line to defend those they've never met, and likely never will.

We must also decide just how we want to live our lives.  How we want our children to live theirs.  Do we want to be consumed by our anger and bitterness, dart from our houses to our cars, live our lives in fear?  I don't.  And I don't want my son to, either.

We need more goodness in the world, not less.  More kindness, more bravery, more hope.  We can't let madmen rob us of everything that makes us different from them.

Even those of us who don't pray as a matter of course, are praying today.  Including me.  I am praying for the people who were affected by this terrible crime, a circle that includes all of us.  Praying for our civic leaders to find a way to address events like this.  Praying for peace.

Mostly, though, I'm praying for the strength to teach my son to walk through a frightening world with his head held high.  Children are our future, the best of what we have to offer the world.  We must prepare them to face it with dignity and even- especially- today, with hope.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Things I Learned From My First Novel

Muhammad Ali once said that a man who views the world the same way at fifty as he did at twenty, has wasted thirty years of his life.  The same premise holds for writing.  The author who writes the same at 70,000 words as she did at the first, has wasted 69,999 words.

It's the mantra of creative writing teachers everywhere: you learn to write by writing.  In this spirit, I'd like to share some of the things writing my first book has taught me, both about writing, and about myself.

1) Follow-through.  I've stated it elsewhere on this blog: I've never finished a book before.  Never even come close.  Come to think of it, I've had trouble finishing lots of things in my life.  I had gotten to the point where I questioned my ability to follow-through on anything

It is perhaps the most important lesson I've learned from this process: I can finish something.  I can plant my butt in a chair, day after day, with a toddler pulling on my clothes and spit-up on my shoes, and finish a book.  That's pretty powerful, and it's something I'm proud of.

2) It's okay for first drafts to be shitty... 

3) ... as long as you fix themSee my post The Value of Feedback

4) When editing, don't cut so much your readers get lost.  One of my beta-readers pointed out to me that at the beginning of the book, there is a distinct lack of essential information: the heroine doesn't really make sense, the setting doesn't come through, not to mention she couldn't figure out just what the hell they were doing in between make-out sessions.  I immediately knew the problem. 

One of the things you always hear when you're editing is that it's better to cut words/ phrases/ descriptions, than to add them.  By and large, this is true.  We writers can be blustery, long-winded bitches (or sons of them).  During the creative process, it's easy to get lost in our own prosaic genius (see?  Like that.).  Editing is when you bite the belt and amputate whatever it is that doesn't serve your story. . 

However, such revisions require a scalpel, not a chainsaw.  During my editing, in an effort to avoid sounding like I was lecturing readers, I cut out a lot of information that was actually necessary to the book.  Good news: these are pretty painless fixes.  Bad news: if not for my beta-reader, I might not have seen this.  Another good argument in favor of beta-readers!

5) Capture a place.  Setting is important to a story.  Duh, right?  But somehow, I had overlooked this.  In a romance, the focus is supposed to be on the characters, the love story, the emotions involved.  Setting, while it plays a small role, takes a back seat.


If setting is supposed to take a back seat, my setting wasn't even in the car.  As I mentioned in my previous post, a lot of writers get tripped up by the basics.  Setting is about as basic as it gets.  Where are your characters?  Paris?  Madrid?  The moon?  Figure it out.  Then remember to inform the reader.

6) Build a story.  I learned a lot about story structure that I didn't know.  A well-written book has its own flow, and believe me, that flow does not come naturally.  Many people who read books think they are relatively simple to write.  Not super simple, but relatively.  Anyone who's actually sat down and tried to write a book knows there is nothing further from the truth.  Pacing.  Plotting.  Characterization.  All these things are crucial to a good book.  With few exceptions, no one is born with these skills.

This is only a smattering of all the things this process has taught me so far.  There is an indefinite multitude of threads that go into weaving a good story.  I'm still learning to work the loom, but I already know vastly more than I did a year ago.  I'll say it again, you learn to write by writing.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Value Of Feedback

So, the feedback from my beta-readers has been trickling in.

It's been mostly what I expected: I have the bones of a very good story, but it needs some tinkering and fleshing out yet.  What needs work?  The same things that usually do: the basics.

I think a lot of writers who have pulled off the feat of finishing a book sometimes forget: it's often the basics that will trip you up.  Grammar, punctuation, characterization, setting the scene.  The scary part?  Often we, the writers, are the last to see those mistakes.

Success in the indie world goes beyond just talent.  This is true whether you are an indie musician, filmmaker, or author.  Talent will get your foot in the door.  The thing that gets you a seat at the table is professionalism.  Producing professional-grade work is the difference between writing on your 10-minute break at WalMart, and writing for a living.

Cue the lecture on the importance- no, necessity- of beta readers.  There is no way you as the author will catch all the little mistakes/weird sentences/plot holes in your manuscript.  Trust me on this.  Need proof of how important outside feedback is?  Just read some of the indie published works out there.  I guarantee, you will be able to tell who went the extra mile and who didn't. 

So, for the love of god and all things literary, find some people you trust to give you an honest opinion, and give them your baby.  No conditions, no restraint.  Then, once they've read it, listen to what they have to say.  And remember: critiques are not a referendum on you personally.  They are the genuine attempts of people to help you reach your goal, which (I assume) is to be a successful, sought-after author.

When I sent off my revised first draft to my volunteer readers (whom I love and appreciate), I knew it wasn't Shakespeare, but I definitely didn't realize I had so much to fix.  It's okay, my ego can take it.

And I would much rather hear it now than in an Amazon review.   

That Time Of The Week...

Hey folks!  You didn't think I forgot about Burlesque Wednesday, did you?  Really?  Well, I did last week (I know, shame, shame).  So for your viewing pleasure, I'm making up for it with TWO awesome pictures this week.

Can you ever forgive me?

Even for GiGi LaFemme...?

GiGi La Femme

Monday, November 19, 2012

Editing Reading List For Romance Writers

There was quite a bit of research that went into my Editing Checklists.  In case you want to do your own research, here is the list of books I poured through (intensively).  Maybe you'll find other things in there that speak to you.  If so, let me know!

1) Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (2nd edition), by Renni Browne & Dave King- by far the most helpful book I went through.  Doesn't cover any genre in particular; the book is more about refining your writing style so that it both sounds professional and reflects your distinctive voice.  Highly recommend!

2) Writing Romance, by Leigh Michaels- excellent advice on creating realistic settings, and a very helpful "Characters" section, which includes advice on writing secondary characters that come off the page.

3) Writing A Romance Novel for Dummies, by Leslie Wainger- the first romance writing book I ever bought.  I still find useful information every time I read it.

4) The Everything Guide to Writing a Romance Novel, by Christie Craig & Faye Hughes- great starter manual for romance writers.  

5) The Romance Writer's Handbook, by Rebecca Vinyard- brilliant sections on dialogue and the different speech patterns of men and women.  Plenty of other good stuff, too, but those sections alone make the entire book worth it!

I have many other books that I refer to before and during the writing process, but that's another post.  Stay tuned!  I promise I'll share!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Editing Checklist, #15: The Final Touch

Ready for our final installment here?  Good.  Because this might just be the most important one.

The two most important lines in the book are the first line and the last line.  A wise author has pointed out: the first line sells your book.  The last line sells your next book.

Let's sell your next book.

- Does it end on Goldilocks Time (remember: not too early, not too late)?
- Does it match the tone of the rest of the book?
- Does it leave the reader feeling happy/satisfied/bummed the book is over?

Congrats!  You've finished with the Editing Checklists!  I hope they've helped you as much as they helped me.  My manuscript was total shit when I started this.  Now, I think I've got something I can be proud of.

Good luck!  See you on the shelves!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Some Domination With Your Tea?

"I will have you right here, on this desk, until you beg for mercy.  Twice." -Irene Adler (Sherlock, "A Scandal In Belgravia")

I couldn't help it: this was too fun.

# Irene Adler Motivational Poster
Dramatis-Echo will now have you right here, on this desk, until you beg for mercy twice.

Editing Checklist, #14: Endings, Part 5

I can already hear you: "Jeez, is the book freaking over yet?"

Almost, Clarice.

Ah, the Resolution.  So clean, so simple.  It is exactly what it sounds like it is. 

Or is it?  Check this list to make sure your Resolution actually, you know, resolves your book.

- Are all the important issues resolved fairly and satisfyingly?
- Do both the h/h sacrifice something/change something for the sake of their love?
- Does the ending come about because of the h/h's actions, not through outside interference?
- Are heroic secondary characters fittingly repaid?
- Are villains punished proportionate to their crimes?
- Do the h/h confront any remaining emotional tension?
- Is the reader left convinced the h/h will still love each other in 5, 10, 50 years?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Editing Checklist, #13: Endings, Part 4

Whew!  See how many parts there are to an ending?  And we're not even done yet! 

The following component is specific to romance novels, so if you're writing something else, it might not apply to you.

The Declaration of Love.  This is kind of like the mini-climax in romance novels (heheh, that sounds like a bad pun).  It is crucial for the success of the hero/heroine's relationship that they both confess their feelings to each other.

- Do they say it on "Goldilocks Time" (not too early,  not to late)?
- Has this moment been built up to throughout the course of the novel?
- Do both the h/h actually verbalize their feelings?
- Does how they verbalize their feelings fit their characters (aka: someone who's been rough and ready throughout the book isn't going to suddenly write a Shakespearean sonnet at the end- unless you've already shown they are really the type of person to write Shakespearean sonnets.  But that's another matter.)?
- Is this moment sufficiently acknowledged as a milestone (no, "I love you.  How 'bout those Knicks?")?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Editing Checklist, #12: Endings, Part 3

So you've written your Black Moment.  All is bleak in your storyworld, your characters are doomed, and you have (perhaps) realized you need therapy.

Now comes the Switch, alternately known as the Climax.

By this point, emotions should be at fever-pitch.  Everything comes to a head.  This is where the hero/heroine resolve the main conflicts and share how they've grown/changed.

- Does this come off as the emotional high point of the book?
- Is the sharing sufficiently honest (and painful) to convince the reader the h/h take the relationship seriously?

Happy Burlesque Wednesday!

I started this on Twitter because, come on, who doesn't need a little jolt to wake up that libido in the middle of the week?  Enjoy!

smoke break

See you next Wednesday! (Or, if you don't want to wait, check out my Pinterest page)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Editing Checklist, #11: Endings, Part 2

Okay, so you've got the Build-Up (see Endings, Part 1) covered.  What comes next?  

The Black Moment is the point in the story where it appears "all is lost".  The situation is hopeless.  The guy won't get the girl.  The virus will spread and turn the entire human race into zombies.  You get the point.

The checklist here is pretty basic:

- Does all genuinely appear lost?
- Has the hero or heroine turned to walk away?

Answer "yes" to both of these?  Congratulations!  Your Black Moment is sufficiently bleak (incidentally, you might also want to seek therapy. Just saying.).  Stay tuned!

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Writer's Desk

"If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is the significance of a clean desk?" -Laurence J. Peter

I would describe my desk as "whimsically messy". With cheese. And port.

Editing Checklist, #10: Endings, Part 1

As anyone who's taken creative writing or literature classes already knows, books don't just end.  There are several components that make up the "ending" of a book, each a crucial element of bringing a story to a satisfying conclusion.

The first of those is the Build-Up.  This is the "beginning of the end"; it sets up the other components that come after it, and is an important part in making sure the ending makes sense and "feels" right.

- By now, do the readers believe in the characters?
- Do they identify with the heroine? (remember, I'm talking specifically about romances here; in other books, substitute the main protagonist)
- Is the two-step-forward, one-step-back process at a point where the hero/heroine are out of options?
- Does the pacing speed up?
   > short, inter-cut scenes
   > mini-cliffhangers
   > active prose (important throughout the book, especially important here)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Editing Checklist, #9: Love Scenes

So.  Sex.  There's a lot to cover here, so let's just dive right in, shall we?

- Does the sexual tension begin the moment the hero/heroine (h/h) meet?
- Is the scene foreshadowed?
- Does the scene occur at the right point in the story?
- Is there enough foreplay for the scene, the characters, and the story?
- Does the foreplay reveal as much about the h/h as the rest of the scene?

- Does the scene heighten tension/conflict?
- Are the characters (and readers) kept on edge?
- Do the h/h get too comfortable?
- Does the scene change the interaction between the h/h?
- Does that change show in the next scene?

- Do the h/h make love in character?
- Do the h/h make love with all five senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, sound)?
- Is there "deep POV"?
- Did you write the whole experience (sensory details, emotions, actions, thoughts)?
- Does the scene have rhythm?
- Do the words/sentences create the mood you want?

Possible Pitfalls To Avoid:
- Unintended repetition
- Anything about the writing (sentence structure, punctuation, vocabulary, etc.) that pulls you out of the scene
- The scene reads like an instruction manual
- The movements aren't physically plausible

Note: Love scenes= any expression of physical affection between the h/h

Make it hot!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Editing Checklist, #8: Conflict, Part 2

While emotional conflict is important, it needs to occur within a framework.  The external conflict- also known as "plot"- is that framework.  The plot moves the story along, while giving the emotional journey context.

- Is the timeline accurate and believable?
- Is the conflict introduced early in the book?
- Is it caused by forces outside the hero/heroine's control?
- Is it a single even that can be solved in one step (bad)?
- Do the hero/heroine have a good reason to stick around?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Editing Checklist, #7: Conflict, Part 1

The writing world used to give short shrift to emotional conflict, relying on plot to drive a story forward and keep readers interested.  That doesn't fly anymore.  Books that pay no attention to the emotional lives of its characters read as stilted and dry.  And in genres like romance (my soup du jour), the emotional conflict makes up the backbone of the story.

We'll get to external conflict later.  For now, here are some things to pay attention to when reviewing your story's internal conflict:

- Is it believable?
- Is it complicated enough to span the book, but not so complicated it can't be realistically solved?

- Does the characters' emotional journey follow a two-step-forward, one-step-back approach?l
- Does the tension increase with each emotional step?
- Does it get progressively harder for them to stay stuck?

- Is the turning point clear?
- Is the turning point realistic?
- Is the resolution realistic?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Editing Checklist, #6: Chapters & Scenes

This is more about structure, but structure is very, very important.  Are your chapters and scenes giving you the most bang for your ballpoint?


- Does it start with something interesting?
- Does it have a clear point?
- Does the action drag out too long?
- Does it end with something intriguing?


- Does it grab the reader's attention right away?
- Are there any long descriptive/introspective passages (that don't raise important questions)?
- Does it end with a cliffhanger?

First Chapter Specifics:
- Does it introduce the main characters?
- Are the h/h introduced in a humanizing way?
- Is there enough of the right kind of info for readers to form emotional attachments to the h/h (esp. the heroine)?
- Is there too much info (aka "info dump")?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Burlesque Wednesday

We all know what burlesque is, right?  Right.  If you're underage or offended by nudity, don't watch this.

Everyone else, enjoy.

Dita Von Teese- "Guy What Takes His Time"


Editing Checklist, #5: The Setting

No story occurs in a void.  Here are a few things to make sure your setting does your story proud!

- Does it provide context for the romance?
- Does it move the story forward?
- Does it convey emotion?
- Is it described sufficiently to give the reader a clear view of where they are?
- Is it described accurately?
- Do the descriptions enhance the story?
- Does it help reveal information about the characters?
   - demonstrate strengths
   - reveal weaknesses
   - allow them to grow
- Do the descriptions relate to the characters' experiences and POVs?
- Is it over-described?
- Is there "scenic overload"- is there too much emotional investment in the setting?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Editing Checklist, #4: The Beginning

Now that your characters are dealt with, it's time for mechanics.  Buckle up, people!

- Does the story have a hook?
- Does the opening line capture your style/tone and introduce the reader to your fictional world?
- Does your story start in the middle of the action?
- Does your story start with one of the two main characters?
- Do you give enough info about the main characters (especially the heroine) to make the reader care about them?
- Are a few positive traits introduced early on?
- Do the characters do something- ideally within the first chapter- that "characterizes" them?
- Do the hero/heroine (h/h) initially experience extra awareness, not overwhelming attraction?
- Does their first interaction effectively set the tone for the rest of the book?
- Is there info-dump (BADBADBADBAD- ahem. Sorry)?
- Can the reader empathize with the heroine?
- Does the beginning action showcase the characters and their situation?
Does the action start inside a character's point of view (to draw the reader in)?

Monday, November 5, 2012

Editing Checklist, #3: Secondary Characters

Because even if they're secondary, they're still important...

- Do they provide a sense of place and reality?
- Do they give context to the hero/heroine (h/h), and the story?
- Do they help move the plot forward?
- Do they provide crucial information?
- Do their physical descriptions paint a brief, accurate picture of who they are?
- Do they come across as real, individual people?
- Are there any secondary characters who steal too much attention away from the h/h?
- Are there any unnecessary secondary characters?
- If so, can they be combined with another character, or cut out entirely?

Editing Checklist, #2: The Hero

First let me apologize for not being as regular with this as I probably should be.  I'm trying to get better- really, I am!

That said, the first job of a writer is writing, or in my current case, editing.  So cut me a little slack.

Right!  I promised editing checklists, and I aim to deliver!  I compiled these from a wide variety of sources, and they've been hugely helpful for me as I ripped my novel to the bones, then rebuilt it into something (hopefully) respectable.  I hope someone else will find them equally useful.

I'm also curious: what does your editing process look like?  Do you ship your work out to a professional?  Do you do it yourself, and if so, are you as anal retentive about it as I am?  What has worked best for you?  What have you learned along the way?

Okay, enough stalling.

The Hero

- Does his name stand out?
- Are some of his strengths introduced before his weaknesses?
- Does he have quirks, contradictions, and layers?
- Does he have distinctive mannerisms?
- Does he make love in character?
- Does he talk like a real person?
- Does he talk like a man?
- Does he talk like an individual?
- Does he have internal issues that drive him?
- Is he strong- morally, intellectually, emotionally?
- Is he gorgeous?
- Is he driven to succeed in his work?

- Is his inner soft side visible to the heroine?
- Is he the heroine's equal?
- Do his strengths correspond to the heroine's weaknesses?
- Do his weaknesses correspond to her strengths?
- How vulnerable is he (can he cry)?
- Is he so sensitive he comes off as wimpy?
- Is he so strong he comes across as abusive?

- Does he have a complete background story?
- Does he react to current situations based on his experiences?
- Do his reactions stay consistent?
- Do his reactions make sense given his personality/ past?
- Does he grow throughout the story?
- Does he confront his issues/ beliefs at the end?
- Does he change enough to make a happy ending believable?

- What does the heroine see in him that makes her fall in love with him?
- Could you fall in love with him?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Editing Checklist #1: The Heroine

Note: these were written with a romance heroine in mind.  If you write other genres, I hope it will still be helpful, but you might not need all the questions.

- Does her name stand out?
- Is she attractive?
- Does the reader get a good/accurate physical picture of her (without going overkill)?
- Does she have a complete background story (even if not all of it makes it into the book)?
- Is she someone you can identify with ('cause if you can't, the reader probably won't be able to)?
- Does she talk like a real person?
- Does she talk like a woman?
- Does she talk like an individual?
- Does she make love in character?

- Is she complex (quirks, contradictions, layers)?
- Does her past inform everything she says, does, and decides?
- Does she have relate-able personality traits?
- Are those personality traits effectively shown?
- Are some of her strengths introduced before her weaknesses?
- Are the qualities that would make someone want to be friends with her shown (esp. important if, like me, your heroines tend to come off overly bitchy)?
- Are her emotional reactions consistent, except for when she's confronting her fears & beliefs?

- Do her strengths correspond to the hero's weaknesses?
- Do her weaknesses correspond to the hero's strengths?
- Is she convincingly attractive to the hero?
- As the book progresses, does she grow into a woman who can have a relationship with the hero?


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Editing: Just Relax And Embrace The Process


I always knew editing was important, and I wrote my first draft assuming that when I was done, the editing would be just as much of a process as the initial writing itself.

I had no idea.

If anything, it's more of a process.

Throughout the actual writing, I came up against my own inexperience again and again.  But I pushed through it,  holding onto the eventual editing phase as my salvation.  When I finished that first draft, and went back and read over it again, I realized something disconcerting: I was way out of my depth.

Having invested far too much time and energy into completing my first book, there was, of course, no way I was going to let it go easily.  And the bones were there for it to be a very good story.  It just lacked polish, cohesiveness, that sophistication that "professional" writers have.  The very thing that makes people willing to pay money for something you've written.

I had some work to do.  Okay, I had a lot of work to do.

I realized even before I whipped out my blue pencil that if I was going to effectively edit my manuscript, I needed to learn more about just what it is that makes a professionally-written romance novel.  Perhaps more importantly, I needed to learn why mine wasn't.  So I started reading.

And I kept reading.  I read through every book on writing romance novels I owned, and bought more, and read those.  And I took notes.  I began compiling checklists to refer to as I went through my manuscript.  Checklists for the hero.  Checklists for the heroine.  Love scene checklists, dialogue checklists, beginning checklists, ending checklists.  I have a serious compilation of checklists now, people.

But you know what?  In spite of their anal-retentive undertones, they're really helpful, especially to a newbie like myself who, prior to all that reading and note-taking, was really incapable of recognizing the huge, glaring problems in my writing. 

So I'm going to share those checklists.  They've really helped me out a lot, and I'm convinced at least a few other people could find them helpful, too.  I've done all the work (and it was a lot of work!), now I hope others can benefit.

Happy shredding- er, editing!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Veni, Vidi, Vici

Okay, so maybe Julius Caesar's "I came, I saw, I conquered is a tad melodramatic for a blog title, but it's how I'm feeling right now.

I finished my book!

I mean, technically it's only the first draft, and technically I still have a lot of work to do before it's ready to see the light of day, and technically there's no real guarantee it'll ever go anywhere, but...

I finished my book!

Way huge, folks.  I mean, way huge.  This is the first book I've ever started that I've finished, which considering the number of books I've started, represents a major milestone for me.

Come to think of it, I've had trouble finishing most things I've started in my life.  I'd always convinced myself it was because I was such a "free spirit".  While that's probably partially true, I don't think it's the whole story.

I think what it really comes down to is direction.

Specifically, the fact that I never really had any.

I've kind of floated through my life for as long as I can remember.  I always knew that "conventional" jobs and education and relationships weren't really for me; unfortunately, that left me with a lot of "maybe"'s, but nothing really to work for.  I mean, it's easy to figure out what you don't want.  What's harder is finding what you do.

That's not to say there aren't constants in my life.  I have a wonderfully kind, blessedly patient husband who is my absolute rock.  I have an ever-expanding circle of friends who are way cooler than I probably deserve.  And I have a sweet, supernaturally gorgeous baby son.

It was actually when I found out I was pregnant that I realized my approach to life had to change.  My then-current approach had been working all right, but it was incredibly unstable.  And I couldn't afford to just bounce from job to job anymore; I had to start thinking about an actual career that could work for us as a  family.

No pressure.

Fortunately, Nature gives us nine months to get our shit together, so by the time our son was born, I had more or less cobbled together a plan.  Basically, to write like hell, finish a book, and see what happened.

I realize that doesn't sound even remotely like a plan.  But it was as much of a plan as I've ever had.

Along the way, I've fleshed it out a little.  Now my plan isn't to just finish the one book, it's to finish lots of them.  And sell them.  And create my own brand, and market that to people who might be interested, and reach out and find as many of those people as possible, and... and...

Basically, instead of my plan being a nuclear bomb, it now resembles more of a shotgun blast.  Still a bit out-of-focus, bordering on haphazard, but growing clearer and more precise by the day.

And I finished my book, which means it's already working.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Creating A Writer's Life

“And what, you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.” -Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

I've always been somewhat enamored of the idea of a life centered around writing.  It strikes me as rather romantic: wake up in the morning, have breakfast, make myself a big, strong cup of coffee, sit down at the keyboard, type out a few pages, crack my knuckles, go for a walk or a swim, make dinner, enjoy a leisurely evening with the family.  Go to sleep, dream productive dreams, wake up the next morning, and do it all over again.

Of course, my life during the writing of my current novel has not even remotely resembled that ideal.

For my first novel, I've had to claw time out of my day whenever I can, most often writing with a baby either screaming in my ear or, if I'm lucky, sleeping on my lap.  I have no schedule to speak of, and so things like laundry and dinner and grocery shopping invariably get short shrift when I'm on a role.

I have no illusions about the difficulties of working at home, alone, with a boy approaching toddler age.  The very idea of a schedule right now is laughable.  So I make do with what I have, and quietly plan for the day when my writer's life will look the way I've always dreamed.

The Work

In a recent article on the Writer's Digest website, writer Erik Larson bemoaned the "binge writing" so many writers engage in: "They write for 10 hours straight, riding the perfect wave of inspiration. The problem is, you still need to wake up the next day and do it again."

Touche, sir.

Someday, when I have the luxury of being able to stick to a schedule, I plan to stick to a schedule.  In the article, Larson goes on to say that he sets aside three hours a day, seven days a week, to devote to nothing but writing.  Then, he disengages.  Does something else.  He cites his dog, tennis, and cooking as his favorite ways to remove himself from his writing.

Which brings up an important point: if you're going to write realistically about life- any aspect of it- it is essential that you get your butt out of the desk chair and live some of it.


The idea of not going on writing marathons on a regular basis is one I can really get behind.  I can remember when I was younger, I would go on hours-long streaks of creativity, which would inevitably lead to burnout, not to mention the shirking of other responsibilities.

Now, with the roles of "wife" and "mom" added to my dossier, keeping writing in a set time frame has become doubly important.  Now, even if I wanted to lose myself in my work for hours on end, it's just not possible.

Like Larson, I've found that cooking keeps me grounded.  Writing is a very cerebral activity, and doesn't offer much in the way of instant gratification.  There's something about the inherent earthiness and immediacy of cooking that brings me back from the outer rim.  It's just as creative a pursuit as writing, but offers something else that writing doesn't: community.

Reaching Out

I have high hopes of attending the Romance Writers of America's conference in Atlanta next summer, but I'm not waiting that long to start building my writing community.  My Luddite-days behind me, I now have a definite- albeit modest- presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and the RWA website.  Twitter, especially, has become a delightful way to connect with other writers and readers whom I would otherwise never have met.

No one succeeds in a vacuum, and even though writing is an inherently solitary pursuit, in the end it's no exception.

I have other goals, and plans, and dreams, but as any writer can tell you, sometimes sharing everything costs you a little magic.  After all, the best cards need to be held closest to the chest. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Where It Glitters, There's Whiskey

The heroine of my novel is a woman of many layers.  Ava Faraday.  Blues musician.  Amateur gold dredger.  Half-Inupiaq, half-white, and fully badass.  But one of the things I happen to like most about her is that she prefers my drink of choice.  Whiskey.  Preferably bourbon.  And preferably neat.

What are the odds?

Because you really don't need a recipe or a tutorial to drink whiskey neat (although I found one here), I've found some of my favorite whiskey cocktail recipes and posted them here, for your drinking enjoyment.

Enjoy, and know that Ava would be proud of you.

Highball (from AMERICANcocktails)
  Highball glass, ice
  Build in glass:
1 1/4 oz. Bourbon
Fill with Ginger Ale

Boulevard Manhattan (from AMERICANcocktails)
  Cocktail glass, chilled
  Pour into an iced mixing glass:
2 1/2 oz. Bourbon
1/2 oz. Dry Vermouth
1/2 oz. Grand Marnier
2-3 dashes Orange Bitters
  Stir and strain
  Orange slice & Cherry garnish

Old-Fashioned (from AMERICANcocktails)
  Old-fashioned glass, chilled
  Build in glass:
3 dashed Angostura bitters
1/2 oz. Simple syrup
1 Orange slice
1 Cherry
  Muddle contents & add ice
2 1/2 oz. Bourbon
splash Club Soda
Orange slice garnish

Sazerac (my personal version of the classic)
  Old-fashioned glass
  Pour into a mixing glass with ice:
2 oz. Bourbon
1 tsp. fine granulated sugar
2-3 dashes Blood Orange (my preference) bitters
  Coat inside of old-fashioned glass with Absinthe (or Pernod, if you're a wuss)
  Strain in previously mixed ingredients

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Writer's Block: Thoughts From The Trenches

“The best cure for a sluggish mind is to disturb its routine." -William H. Danforth

Writer's block sucks.  Plain and simple.

Theories abound as to what causes this phenomenon.  People who don't write might tell you it's just a figment of your imagination.  Your shrink might suggest it's the manifestation of your fear of success stemming from issues of abandonment rooted in your childhood.  All these people may be right, but that shouldn't stop you from punching them right in their smug face.

I mean, come on!  You don't need someone to enlighten you about whatever psychological block is obfuscating your progress; you need ideas on how to snap the hell out of it!

So what do you do?  Your mind has suddenly gone dark, that spark of imaginative fire that fuels you has abruptly extinguished.  Or, maybe you're like me.  You've no shortage of ideas, but suddenly have forgotten how to write English (or whatever your preferred language happens to be).

Either way, suddenly you feel... pointless.  After all, didn't someone once say that the job of a writer is to write?  If you're a writer, and you're not writing, you're not doing your job.  If you're not doing your job, you're not being productive, or contributing to your family.  And if you're not being productive or contributing to your family, your babies (the real ones, not your characters) will starve!

Oh, black day!  What a waste you are!  You might as well just give up this whole writing shtick- your mother always told you it was crazy anyway- and get a job at WalMart!

Slow down there, Hemmingway.  There's no need to drink yourself into an early grave just yet.  You have options.

You need only look at the volumes of writing quotes out there to figure out that you're not the first writer to experience this problem.  Most of those quotes are by people who have gone down in history for their literary talent and way with words.  So cheer up!  If they've been through it, and still managed to come out the other side, you can too.

For your reading pleasure (or your grasping desperation, you pick), here are some tricks I've picked up to help get the juices flowing again:

1) Give yourself some space.  Cut yourself some slack.  Take a little break.  Especially if you're in it to get published, remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.  Go dark for a couple days.  Maybe a couple weeks.  Hell, take a two-month sabbatical if you need to.  Because you will go back to it.  Your brain just needs a chance to reboot, recharge, and regroup.

2) Do some more research.  You'll hear from very knowledgeable people that hitting the books when you're *supposed* to be writing is tantamount to having a marital affair.  In theory, this may be true.  But like so many theories, what looks good on paper doesn't necessarily jive with real life.

For example, when I've hit a wall in my current project, it's been very helpful to go back over my outline, look at photos of where my novel takes place, check out character descriptions again- basically, to do anything that refreshes the story in my brain.  Because sometimes you forget how awesome your characters are, how your setting has a personality and a voice, and just where it is you were trying to end up when you started this whole crazy journey.  So stop, and get that back.

3) Act like a writer.  On it's head, that might sound kind of sad.  Act like a writer?  Isn't that what wannabes do once they realize they've run aground?  Well, yes.  And no.  Another very smart person once said that you need to act like the person you want to become.  That means acting like you're already the successful writer you want to be.  Sure, you might look a little crazy first.  But when you realize one day that you've actually become that person, you'll see that you were crazy... like a fox!

So go ahead!  What does successful-writer-you look like?  What does s/he wear?  How does s/he talk?  Relate to people?  What can you do to publicize yourself (like, I dunno, creating a writing blog)?  What can you eat, drink, do, say, to crystallize that image?  Once you start doing those things, not only will you have a blast, but that dream-person will seem just a little more real.

And at the end of all that, you'll write, because that's what successful-writer-you would do.

4) Just do it.  Okay, okay.  Before you start throwing old shoes and broken bottles at me, here me out.  Usually when I find myself stuck, I realize later that I was really only stuck in one particular place.  If I can just grit my teeth, bite the bullet, and write through it, I quickly find myself in smoother waters.  Of course, I go back and fix that one section later, because odds are what I wrote there was pure shit, but that's besides the point.  That's the lovely thing about finishing a first draft.  There's a second draft after it.

5) Fill out an idea list.  This is where I'm going to shamelessly plug two of my earlier blog posts, "What Does 'Romance' Mean To You" and "Bringing Sexy Back".  I came up with both of those lists as a way of getting my creative juices flowing.  Especially if you're writing romance (like I am), it can be very helpful to have clear ideas of the things you find romantic, and the things you find sexy.  It helps you evoke those feelings in ways that feel real to you.  If you do happen to go through those questions, feel free to let me know what you think on any of them.  Call it the writer's curse; I'm always curious...

I hope this proves useful to someone.  If it does, let me know!  Or feel free to drop a line on block-busting tricks you've resorted to in the past...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Getting To "The End"

There seems to be a lot of hype centered around the "blank first page".  It is a thing many writers seem to be deathly afraid of, like the authorial equivalent of the giant squid or Medusa.  Every writing adviser has advice for the just-beginning writer.  "Just start writing!" they trumpet.  "Just get something down!"

Well, guess what?  Starting has never been my problem (excuse me while I duck the rotten fruit being hurled at me). 

I can't even count the number of books and stories I've started throughout my writing career- even before it was a career, per se.  There have been tons of them.  Literally, tons.  I can even remember a few of them.  I can remember the jubilant feeling of "Hey, I think I've really got something here" as I soared through the first twenty, thirty, even forty pages.  Once, I even reached page fifty!

But then something would happen.  Jitters, self-doubt, boredom, I don't know how quite to describe it.  Maybe it was a combination of all those things.  But whatever it was, all of a sudden my writing would slow to a trickle, then a drop, then finally, would fizzle out altogether.  This happened time after time after time.

Hence why- as I said in a previous post- reaching page 200 of my current novel was so exciting to me.  It represented a milestone I had never reached before.  That milestone now pages behind me, my first draft is in its final pages.  Which brings me to a hurdle I have never faced before.

How the hell do I finish?

Lest I sound like some stereotypical, anxiety-written, "afraid to say goodbye" writer, let me clarify.  I know how I want my novel to end.  Hell, I've outlined the shit out of the thing.  And I like my characters, and want to see them end up happy together.  But Jesus, the getting there is just straight painful!

I've come up with several things that I think could be responsible for this odd problem.  And in fashionable list form, here they are:

1) This is virgin territory.   Like I said, I've never made it this far before.  Over the years, I've honed just about every aspect of writing: my dialogue sparkles, my scenic descriptions would make you want to buy a plane ticket to the middle of nowhere (which is where my novel is set), my characterization is so realistic you'd think I was a shrink (close: I've just seen a lot of them... ahem.).  The ending is the one area that up to now I've never had the opportunity to practice.

2) The ending I planned was poorly set-up.  That's right, for all the authorial wizardry I claimed to possess in the previous paragraph, apparently I'm still not perfect (I know; it came as a shock to me, too).  As I mentioned, I know how I want my novel to end.  Not to spoil things, but it's big, epic, emotional... in short, it's bloody perfect.  Unfortunately, I didn't give it the foundation a flashy ending requires.  This is something I will definitely fix in the rewrite (thank god for rewrites!).

3) Everything was happening too quickly.  That big, epic, emotional ending I have planned?  As it turns out, it wasn't nearly as effective when I ended up crushing it into three bone-dry pages.  I think a lot of people run into this problem.  You get so excited about something that your words start going a million miles a minutes, and before you know it, your audience is either hopelessly lost or (worse!) hopelessly bored.  On some level, I knew this, and have been painfully, deliberately dragging out my final chapters to avoid falling into that trap.  I mean, I'll fix it all later, but still...

So this is where I am, folks.  Almost (kind of) done.  Don't give up on me, yet! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

200-Page Party!

This is big for me.  Today, my manuscript reached 200 pages!  Even though I still have a few chapters to go, already this is the longest, most complete piece of work I have ever done.  All my previous writings usually fizzled out at around page 50.

So to celebrate, I decided I'd post my synopsis of the book, as well as the customized playlist I've been writing to.  This is about as much as anyone's going to get out of me until the book's finished, so enjoy!

The Synopsis

It's taken him five long years, but Ethan Calhoun has finally paid off his gold dredge.  In a tough town like Nome, Alaska, dredging is one of the toughest ways to make a living, but Ethan's a tough man.  With plenty of hard work and a little luck, this summer is looking to be his most profitable season yet.

The arrival of Ava Faraday catches him right between the eyes.  Ava is tough, beautiful... and the last thing he needs.  Ethan has worked hard to put his difficult past behind him, but when he's around Ava, he's forced to face a side of himself he'd tried to forget.

Ava has long convinced herself she's better off on her own.  Exiled from what was once her home after the traumatic death of her mother, she's learned the hard way that people can only be relied on to do one thing: let you down.  She's spent most of her life adrift, doing what she can to survive, but lately it's become increasingly clear that all she's doing is spinning her wheels.

An unexpected cry for help gives her the excuse she needs to return to the only place she ever really belonged.  But what is supposed to be a fresh start is complicated by her inescapable attraction to the charming Ethan Calhoun.  He's gorgeous enough to be tempting- and just kind enough to be dangerous.  Wary of her overwhelming desire to trust him, and unwilling to risk her fragile heart, Ava knows the best thing to do is put as much distance between them as possible.

But a storm is brewing.  The son of Nome's most successful dredging family has been watching Ethan, and he doesn't like what he sees.  How dare an out-of-towner start scooping up gold on his turf?  With the help of someone on Ethan's own crew, he has a plan to get rid of Ethan- and Ava- for good.

The Playlist

You can tell a lot about the storyline of a movie based on it's soundtrack.  What does this playlist reveal about the book?

1) "Flower", Moby
2) "Gold In These Hills", Brandon Michael Kinder
3) "Cold Hard Bitch", Jet
4) "Witchy Woman", The Eagles
5) "Black Magic Woman", Santana
6) "Stormy Blues", Billie Holiday
7) "Tumblin' Down", Jenna Andrews (Quick Note: if you want to know what Ava Faraday looks like, find a picture of Jenna Andrews; I based Ava's appearance off of her!)
8) "One Of These Nights", The Eagles
9) "Black Cat Bone", Lee Rocker
10) "Heartache Tonight" The Eagles
11) "Runaway", Bonnie Raitt
12) "Luck Of The Draw", Bonnie Raitt
13) "Mystery", Indigo Girls
14) "Wonder", Megan McCauley
15) "Trouble", Pink
16) "Fuel", Metallica
17) "Reindeer Herding Song", Pamyua
18) "All That We Let In", Indigo Girls

Monday, July 16, 2012

Everything Old Is New Again (Sort Of)

I've noticed something (no, no, not that; the doctor said it was benign...).
I've noticed that in my writing, and in the flashes of inspiration I occasionally get, certain... "themes", for lack of a better word... keep cropping up.  Certain types of characters, certain situations, certain things I think just rage sexy.  This is probably not all that uncommon, and is probably not even all that interesting, but just for giggles, I thought I'd share what those things are.

Recurring "Themes" That Ramble Around In My Head

1) Tough main characters.  I don't know why.  I just think tough is hot.  Especially in women.  I don't think I could write about a heroine who is nice and sweet and just trying to find someone to appreciate how nice and sweet she is.  No offense to anyone who writes about heroines like that; I just couldn't do it.  I would hate her.
And of course, if the heroine is going to be tough, the hero had better be just as tough, if not tougher.  My ladies need a man who can keep up (feel free to read as much into that as your dirty little mind wants).

2) Blue collar professions.  By this, I mean my characters don't work in no stinking office.  The hero of my current novel is a gold-dredger.  The heroine of my next novel is a construction forewoman.  I guess it ties in with my "tough-is-hot" complex.  No offense to all you office workers out there- I'm sure you can be just as *bad* as anyone else- but working with your hands is tough.
And therefore, hot.

3) Music.  I have a soundtrack for my current book (maybe I'll share someday).  I have one for my next book.  The heroine of my current novel is a self-made blues singer (I'm just giving all kinds of stuff away, aren't I?).
Music just catches me right in the solar plexus, I don't know what else to say.  The right music puts me in the right frame of mind for what I'm writing about.  And if my characters aren't musical themselves, you better believe they know good music when they hear it.

4) Alcohol.  Wow, I hope my mother never reads this.  But my characters, much like I myself, like to drink.  Some of them like to drink a lot.  And no fru-fru girly drinks either; my heroines take whiskey, thank you.  Neat.  Maybe over ice, if it's really hot out.

5) Violence.  Before you ask, I had a lovely childhood.  But let's face it, folks, sex and violence usually go hand-in-hand (that, and sex and politics, but that's another show).   
That does not, repeat, not mean my heroes are ever violent with my heroines (or other female characters, either).  A man being violent with a woman isn't sexy; it's weak.  And my heroes are definitely not weak.
That said, my heroes do know how to handle themselves in a fight, and fight they will, usually to protect my heroines.
Not that they need the help, mind you, because my heroines can all kick some pretty wild tail on their own. 

6) An Obsession With "Place".  I love traveling.  I love getting lost and winding up somewhere new.  I love "forgetting" my GPS smartphone at home and having to navigate by wits alone.  And I have incurably itchy feet (isn't there a powder for that...?).
All of those things find their way into my writing.  Maybe it's just me, but when I read a book where the setting isn't explored at least a little bit, I feel like there's something missing.  I go to great lengths to pick a setting that I find interesting and compelling, and I'm almost neurotic about making sure I flesh it out as effectively as possible. 

I find this all mildly amusing to think about.  I hope you found it at least as mildly amusing to read.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Just Do It, Already!

"Oh Lord, give me chastity, but do not give it yet."
-St Augustine

I sit hunched over my keyboard, a glass of whiskey on the table next to me.  It's the third night in a row I've found myself here, and to no avail.  My poor characters!  All they want to do is, well, do it, and I've been stringing them along for the better part of a week.  They've been so patient- especially my hero!- and have done everything I asked of them, from fistfights to making out in a yurt.  A yurt!  Don't they deserve just five measly pages to knock off a chunk and blow off some steam?  Why is this so damn difficult?

Love scenes (largely a euphemism for "sex scenes") are hard to write.  Wicked hard, as a matter of fact.  They are one of the most intimate tasks a writer takes on.  Think about it: in order to write a love scene that's going to make your reader hot (which- hello?- is the whole point), you first have to write something that's going to make you hot.

That means exposing yourself in a big way, and it's a little scary.  After it's written down and published (hopefully), everyone from your neighbor down the street to your fifth grade teacher to your mother (or worse, your father- ack!) will have black-and-white proof of your deviant, kinky mind.

Put that way, it's enough to ice any budding romance novelist right out of the bedroom.

That's why you can't think about it.

I have found, for my part, that it helps to be a little tipsy.  Not flaming drunk, but pleasantly buzzed, enough that your inhibitions loosen just a little bit.  Put all the voices of the moral police out of your head.  You can feel guilty over what a dirty, dirty person you are later (or not).  Put on some music in the background, if it helps, just make sure it's not too loud.  Then let your imagination run away with you.

Once you get going, it's really not that difficult.  You already have your building blocks.  Everyone has fantasies.  Most people put theirs in a little box somewhere in a dark corner of their minds.  When you're writing a love scene, you have to take yours out, comb through them for details that will work for the characters you've created, and put them out into the world.

Depending on what they are, this can be either incredibly fun or slightly disturbing.

In retrospect, once I really got into it (and promised myself to NEVER let my parents read my book), it ended up being relatively painless.  Relatively.  I'm still going to edit the hell out of it, of course, just to make sure there aren't any floating body parts and whatnot, but it's down on paper.  My hero and heroine finally got a taste of how great they are together, which is good.  They'll need it to fortify themselves for the torturous road my devious little mind has constructed for them.

Yeah, to be a romance writer, you also have to have a slight sadistic streak.

And Mom and Dad, I hope you're looking forward to the "redacted" version of my novel.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bringing Sexy Back

That's right.  We're bringing sexy back.  If the concept of what is romantic is personal for people, "sexy" is something a lot us won't touch with a ten-foot-pole (if you thought that was a pun, you have a dirty, dirty mind... and we seriously need to hang out more).

But why is this, I ask?  "Sexy" does not always equal "dirty" (although it's super fun when it does).  In fact, I think if more people got in touch with their inner "sexy beast", the world would be a far better- or at least more interesting- place.

So, go ahead!  Live a little, and no, not by wearing your favorite bustier to work (I expect pictures if you do).  Fill out the list!  What does "sexy" mean to you? (I'm serious about those pictures...)

The Laura Oliva "Sexiest Ever" List:

In General
Sexiest Flower:
Sexiest Color:
Sexiest Instrument:
Sexiest Artist:
Sexiest Author (don't worry; you don't have to say it's me!):

At The Table
Sexiest Place To Eat:
Sexiest Alcoholic Drink:
Sexiest Nonalcoholic Drink:
Sexiest Dinner:
Sexiest Dessert:

On Site
Sexiest Architectural Style:
Sexiest City:
Sexiest Country:
Sexiest Locale:
Sexiest Time of Day:
Sexiest Landscape:

In The Closet
Sexiest Type Of Clothing:
Sexiest Shoe Style:
Sexiest Material:
Sexiest Lipstick Color:
Sexiest Hairstyle:
Sexiest Jewel/Stone:
Sexiest Type of Jewelry (necklace, bracelet, earrings, etc.):

Keeping Busy
Sexiest Sport:
Sexiest Dance:
Sexiest Position (don't pretend like you have to think about it):
Sexiest Hobby:
Sexiest Car:

My Answers

In General
Sexiest Flower:  orchid
Sexiest Color:  black
Sexiest Instrument:  tenor saxaphone
Sexiest Artist: Tamara de Lempicka
Sexiest Author (don't worry; you don't have to say it's me!):  Sherrilyn Kenyon 

At The Table
Sexiest Place To Eat:  bed
Sexiest Alcoholic Drink:  good bourbon
Sexiest Nonalcoholic Drink:  Lapsang Suchong
Sexiest Dinner:  steak (hey, if you're a carnivore, you're a carnivore)
Sexiest Dessert:  dark chocolate mousse

On Site
Sexiest Architectural Style:  art deco (seriously; just look it up)
Sexiest City:  Rio de Janiero (sorry, Paris)
Sexiest Country:  Brazil
Sexiest Locale:  city
Sexiest Time of Day:  nighttime
Sexiest Landscape:  the desert (just think of what you could do with all that nothing around!)

In The Closet
Sexiest Type Of Clothing:  tuxedo (sexy on a man, sexier on a woman)
Sexiest Shoe Style:  classic stiletto heels (not those weird versions they put out now)
Sexiest Material:  leather
Sexiest Lipstick Color:  red
Sexiest Hairstyle:  whatever a woman knows looks good on her; "generic" hairstyles aren't sexy!
Sexiest Jewel/Stone:  black pearls
Sexiest Type of Jewelry (necklace, bracelet, earrings, etc.):  low-hanging pendant

Keeping Busy
Sexiest Sport:  fencing
Sexiest Dance:  tough, since dancing is inherently sexy, but... salsa
Sexiest Position (don't pretend like you have to think about it):  cowgirl
Sexiest Hobby: fine cigars (note: hobby, not addiction)
Sexiest Car:  any of the classic muscle cars (vavaVOOM, baby!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Isn't It Romantic...

This just started as one of the many lists I tend to make when I'm bored, but then I realized I could use it as a romance-writing exercise.  Bonus!

"Romance" means different things to different people, and whether you're writing about it, or just trying to get more in touch with romance in your own life, it can be helpful to flesh it out a bit.  So pour yourself a champagne cocktail (or whatever floats your boat), and fill in the blanks: what does "romance" mean to you?

The Laura Oliva "Most Romantic" List:

In General
Most Romantic Flower:
Most Romantic Color:
Most Romantic Instrument:
Most Romantic Music:
Most Romantic Artist:
Most Romantic Author (don't worry; you don't have to say it's me!):

At The Table
Most Romantic Place To Eat:
Most Romantic Alcoholic Drink:
Most Romantic Nonalcoholic Drink:
Most Romantic Dinner:
Most Romantic Dessert:

On Site
Most Romantic Architectural Style:
Most Romantic City:
Most Romantic Country:
Most Romantic Locale:
Most Romantic Time of Day:
Most Romantic Landscape:

In The Closet
Most Romantic Type Of Clothing:
Most Romantic Shoe Style:
Most Romantic Material:
Most Romantic Lipstick Color:
Most Romantic Jewel/Stone:
Most Romantic Type of Jewelry (necklace, bracelet, earrings, etc.):

Keeping Busy
Most Romantic Sport:
Most Romantic Dance:
Most Romantic Position (don't pretend like you don't know what that means):
Most Romantic Hobby:
Most Romantic Car:

My Answers

In General

Most Romantic Flower:  tuberoses (seriously, have you ever smelled one?!)
Most Romantic Color:  pale apricot
Most Romantic Instrument:  cello
Most Romantic Music:  classic jazz
Most Romantic Artist:  Gustav Klimt (I love his painting "The Kiss")
Most Romantic Author (don't worry; you don't have to say it's me!):  William Shakespeare

At The Table
Most Romantic Place To Eat:  outside, on a beach or in a garden
Most Romantic Alcoholic Drink:  champagne with St. Germaine liqueur (elderflower liqueur)
Most Romantic Nonalcoholic Drink:  white tea
Most Romantic Dinner:  fresh crab with drawn butter (must be eaten with the fingers)
Most Romantic Dessert:  chocolate fondue with orange slices

On Site
Most Romantic Architectural Style:  Tudor
Most Romantic City:  San Francisco (so far!)
Most Romantic Country:  Spain (don't we all give France a little too much credit?)
Most Romantic Locale (city, country, suburb, etc.):  the country 
Most Romantic Time of Day:  dusk (that time between evening and nighttime)
Most Romantic Landscape:  a long, wide, empty field with foothills and mountains behind it

In The Closet
Most Romantic Type Of Clothing:  knee-length summer dress
Most Romantic Shoe Style:  plain ballet flats (have to trust Audrey on this one...)
Most Romantic Material:  silk
Most Romantic Lipstick Color:  nude
Most Romantic Jewel/Stone:  rose-white pearls or turquoise (I have trouble choosing)
Most Romantic Type of Jewelry (necklace, bracelet, earrings, etc.):  long, dripping earrings

Keeping Busy
Most Romantic Sport:  horseback-riding
Most Romantic Dance:  country two-step, done slooowly
Most Romantic Position (don't pretend like you don't know what that means):  missionary (don't judge)
Most Romantic Hobby:  painting
Most Romantic Car:  classic Mercedes-Benz, dove gray

Monday, April 16, 2012

Once Upon A Time...

This is the story of my first romance novel.

I've enjoyed telling stories ever since I was little, when my dolls had more interesting, realistic lives than most of the people I knew.  I don't even remember when I got the idea to put those stories down on paper.  I've been doing it so long it seems writing has always been part of my life.  I've always loved it, and have gotten progressively better at it over the years, but it was always something I did in my spare time, in between all the other things you're "supposed" to do as a responsible adult.  I never thought of making a career out of it.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I realized that life moves quickly, and often we end up in places we didn't expect.  I'd spent a lot of time in school without figuring out what to do with the rest of my life, and suddenly whatever vague ideas I'd had about my future were turned upside-down.

Through the hormonal haze I lived in for nine months, I realized that nothing I'd been pursuing was really meaningful to me.  When I went on maternity leave, there was nothing I was sad to leave behind.  I found that itself to be a little sad.  I was also starting to think about what kind of work I could do from home, not wanting to have a baby and then promptly go back to... whatever it was I had been doing before.

It was then I heard the siren-song of my writing again.  In the past few years, I hadn't had much time for it, but like an old pair of jeans, it just waited for me in the back of my closet, never quite going away.  So after my son was born, I sat down on my bed, dusted off my laptop, cracked my knuckles, and started my first novel.

Well, kind of.  It always sounds so easy whenever people talk about it: "Oh, yeah, you just have to make a schedule and stick to it."  Sure.  Has any sane person ever actually tried to stick to any kind of schedule with a baby?  It's laughable.  I found a system that works, though.  My boy nurses, so in the afternoon when we're at home (we go out in the morning so I have motivation to shower and get dressed), I stick him on the boob and let him nurse himself to sleep while I type away.

It ain't glamorous, but I'm already nearly halfway done with the first draft.

Writing is a strange mistress.  There are some days when I sit at my computer for hours and barely manage to scratch out three pages, which wind up being such shit that later I either completely re-write them or ditch them entirely.  Then there are other days when I curse myself for not being a better type-er, because my fingers aren't nearly fast enough to capture the cinematic scenes playing in my head.

On the former days, I skulk out into the kitchen afterwards to try to make dinner, convinced that "kitchen bitch" is the only job I will ever be good enough for, and then I burn the steak.

On the latter days, however, I stumble out of the room, bleary-eyed and triumphant, glowing with that glow that comes from being high on words.

And then I burn the steak.