Monday, December 14, 2009

Other Places

I posted at two different blogs. I'm discusssing the blend of magic and history over at Ainsley Park the "Traitor to the Crown" series by C. C. Finlay. I also started a new blog which is more of a "mommy" blog. I like to share things about my kids, but I don't like sharing about them on this blog because, well, its mine and its about me and my writing. So I started Confessions of a Deranged Soccer Mom to discuss my kids and life as a parent.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Oh, How I Miss It!

My WIP languishes on my hard drive, ignored in favor of the business of the holidays. I yearn to lose myself in the world I created, to once again involve myself into the lives of the characters I've created. It seems odd in some ways because the book I'm working on is not full of cheer. I'm not writing a passionate love story or a screwball comedy. The world I created in my book is dark and full of challenges, where the characters are constantly put through trials which should sink any mortal. I miss it.

It really doesn't matter what the subject material is, only that I've created it. No one makes a move unless I say so. I am in command. This time of year, I am carried away by the tide of reality, hanging on as best I can. The holidays are a frenzied time of year and it isn't necessarily a bad situation. It does remind me of what is really important. As much as I am a writer, my role as mother takes precedence. I enjoy it, but it keeps me in a constant spin. Even if I had the block of time to write, my head is buzzing with so many other things, I'm not going to get much done.

Being a writer isn't a static condition. We constantly evolve, learning more about ourselves and our writing behaviors as we go along. I think we often fear we possess only a finite well of creativity which will fade away if we don't nurture it. Last year I think I would be gnashing my teeth, terrified the desire, will and ability to write would disappear because I chose to bake cookies instead of doing a set number of pages. As I discovered, it doesn't. This year, I realize there are so many other joys to experience which I believe will help my writing in the end. I'm enjoying the thrill of watching my daughter play soccer and basketball. I'm enjoying the fun of dragging my son out at 4 a.m. to go Christmas shopping. I'm enjoying the delight of helping my other daughter bake gingerbread cookies. Not all of it is fun, I will say. The obligations I have with regards to my kids activities can be aggravating, but they are important, just as important as my writing is at this point. I'm under enough tension as it is, adding the guilt of not writing is one I don't need to indulge in. My book will be there after the holidays and I won't be under nearly so much stress. I will enjoy the moment when I can sit down and truly write again. It gives me something to look forwards to.

Monday, November 23, 2009

NaNoWriMo: Down the Drain....

Last week ended my dreams of a NaNo win. Disheartening, but stuff happens.

The problem with being a writer, a mother and a wife is that the priorities are constantly changing. It is something I accept and unfortunately writing often falls into third place. It doesn't depress me, I'm realistic. When I married and had children, I was joining into something else, into a unit which takes precedence over my individual wants and needs. Writing is a personal thing for me, it is something I do for myself. No one else in the family understands what it means although they try to support me where they can. But not at the expense of the family.

I know it sounds bad, I find writers very protective of their writing and believe it should take priority over other things. I think that works for some people. It never has for me. My own personality contributes to this. I can't write in chaos thus my house has to be clean. I have children in too many activities and I insist in participating in them. If I'm going to commit myself to such, then I have to be prepared to put my writing aside.

And yet, I still see plenty of opportunities I had to write. I still need to be more productive with my time. I get distracted. There were plenty of moments where I could have pounded out a few hundred words. But I just didn't want to. With two birthdays to celebrate, three soccer practices, a baseball practice, laying sod in the yard, Cotillion, soccer games, baseball games, a baseball party and a birthday party to organize all in one week, I found it hard to concentrate.

But that wasn't the kicker. Losing power for 24 hours was what finally did me in. Tuesday night I had plans. I'd spent all day running errands and preparing for the week. My husband had a meeting that night so I knew I'd get two solid hours of writing time. Things were smooth. Until the lights flared in my house then went out completely. A transformer blew on the poll outside my house leaving me and two other houses without power. The electric company was out all night getting it fixed. The surge screwed up the main switch to my house so I had to get that repaired before the power would come back on. It put me so far behind and I couldn't write (no, I don't hand write, I'm too slow). So I give. I'm going to keep writing this week and see how much I can get, but Thanksgiving is this week and I'm hosting so I'm going to have to work on that.

Anyway, I wish the best to the other NaNos and hope they all get their 50K in. Its quite the accomplishment and I'm cheering you all on.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Tough Going

Ugh...I didn't think it would be this hard.

My word counts aren't what I'd like them to be. It isn't my WIP's fault, I'm in a meaty part of the story where the words should flow easily. It isn't a lack of time. I've had plenty of time to get writing done. I have made the mistake of saving some of it for evening and have been too tired to pick it back up.

Mostly its focus. My daughter has been sick and spent the first four days of the week at home. She finally went to school today. She isn't a bad kid, but she was restless. And knowing she was in the house interfered with my plan as it were. I'm not sure why, but just having another presence in the house was distracting.

In truth, I'm a little slow out of the gate anyway. My big word weeks are usually the last two of the month. But still, I had a plan and I'm unhappy that my plan is going the way I want.

But we adapt and I haven't given up. Just wish something would kick me and get me going.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Happy November!!

Today begins the madness that is National Novel Writing Month. Writers everywhere are feverishly pounding out words as fast as they can in an attempt to write 50,000 words before the end of the month. It averages to about 1667 words per day. I've set a goal of 1800 words a day. My plan is to do three sessions a day at 600 words per session. As I've said previously, my life is too hectic to sit and write in one sitting. Plus, I get antsy.

Every NaNo participant has their own game plan. They all have their own motivations they call upon to help them through. I've done this a couple of times although I've only won once. And each time is different. There are a couple of things I've found which help me succeed.

For me, I cannot start a new project. I have to be knee deep in a project in order to get the acceleration it is going to take to get the writing done. Too often, those first 5000 words are slow and difficult. I've started a book from the beginning for NaNo before and I ended up stopping midway through the month. The MS I've chosen to work on was at the 40K mark on October 31st, I'm hoping this month will get me to the end.

I think that's another thing which works for me. I don't want a mere 50K words, I want the end of the book. If I finish this book at the end of November, I have the holidays to clean it up and have it ready to submit. It's a great movitator.

I also plan rewards. If I get my 1800 words done, I have the freedom to do whatever else I want. Usually that is mindnumbing video games. I'm lucky that most of my shows are on hiatus for the first couple of weeks of the month so I'm not so tempted watch t.v.

Reading is a big part of my NaNo regimen. I need to find time to read. I'm not sure why. Perhaps reading reminds me of the final product. It reminds me why I have joined the madness.

Mostly I strive to make this month about the joy of writing. I'm trying to make writing an integrated part of my life rather than a seperate situation. I want to give it the same importance I give everything else.

Those of you who do NaNo or any other time of challenge-based writing project, what do you hope to gain from the exercise?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Crazy November

Next month is probably the craziest month of my year. There's Thanksgiving, both of my daughters' birthdays, the end of soccer season for one girl (which means a party), the end of baseball season (which doesn't really have a party but we tend to do something informal) and the beginning of basketball season for my older daughter. Plus there are a couple of big school functions and the usual things like homework and projects to go along with it. And then there's NaNo. National Novel Writing Month is an event which runs the entire month of November where writers try to write 50,000 words in thirty days. It gets insane. All levels of writers participate and I know a bunch of you are religious about the experience. I've done it a couple of times, I won in '06. It was the only time I have won and I think I understand why.

So I'm sure some of you are wondering why and how I'm going to do this. As to the why, I have several reasons and not all of them are writing related. First, I want to get this book done. My prediction is that I will hit at least 40K by the end of October on my WIP. If I'm focused, I should be able to finish it in November. Second, I give myself permission to put my writing top in my attention. And third, because of how hectic my November is, I need the escape of my writing. I'm not one to relax in a bathtub or take a "me" day. My novel is where I find my vacation. But NaNo requires a commitment of about 1500 words a day which is less than relaxing. So I have to plan it.

I created a November binder. I printed out calendar pages for each day of the month and put them in my binder. I've got a pad of sticky notes and a pencil ready to jot down any notes I need. Next week I'll go through and write in the times I have obligations and work around there for everything else. It means I need to schedule my writing. I need to be able to look at a day and find the time I'm going to write and make that a commitment.

I also decided I need to make time for exercise. Honestly, I don't like working out. I'll do it because I find my brain works better if I've got my blood pumping. Also, I'll have a boatload of Halloween candy around me so I'll need to work it off.

I have the advantage in that I'm a stay-at-home. Its also a disadvantage because I have a hard time saying the word "no" when asked to help. Did I mention I'm also the chairman of the food committee for the 8th grade party this year?

Are any of you planning on doing NaNo? If you are, have you mapped out any strategies to help you succeed in your goal? I'm organizing a small group of fellow mom-writers who want to do NaNo so I'm hoping that will help keep me motivated. I'm thinking of finding a reward for myself. I think I bought myself a video game when I won last year. Any thoughts? Oh, and my NaNo handle is Renered1 if you want to buddy me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Darker the Better

I’m not a cruel person although I’m sure my children would disagree.  But I adore nothing more than torturing my characters.  I kick them when they are down.  My heroine in my current WIP has been through hell.  Her life is in shambles.  So now its time to kick her in the ribs.  And I smile as I do it.

Am I sadistic?  Not really.  But tough situations show off the mettle of a character.  If your character can live through the difficulties you throw at them, then they are well-drawn. 

Its a good test of your characterization.  If you can put your character in an impossible situation and write them back out, the character is solid.  I find writers tend to back off when the going is really bad and let off the suffering.  I think it relates to a fear of what the character might do and how much it will change them.  I just finished a book this morning where nothing really bad happened.  At the end the heroine was kidnapped and nearly raped.  Well, not really, because the hero’s brother was right there to rescue her.  Would this situation do anything to disrupt the relationship? Nope.  And at this point, the hero and heroine were already engaged.  Would the heroine  be so traumatized by her experience it would cause her to withdraw from her lover?  Nah.  Would the hero be so disheartened because he was unable to protect the heroine he would pull away?  Of course not.  After a lovey dovey scene, things were alright.  How boring. 

I like my characters to pull themselves out, to find wells of strength they never knew they had.  Black moments are the best way to do it.  These horrendous situations strengthen characters, add dimension and give the writer more to work with, making the story more compelling.  I think sometimes writers don’t want to go down the path of cruelty for fear of what they may find within themselves.  How can a person create such vicious and cruel situations and not be unscathed themselves?  Or maybe the situation will make the character do something sinister to survive.  I think sometimes writers shy away from scenes that may require their hero or heroine to do something wicked. 

I finished another book where the hero is constantly thrown into horrible situations with no foreseeable way out.  And yes, he does end up doing things which are not nice.  And yes, it does change his character, but it makes him more compelling and more sympathetic.

Black moments both physical and emotional are chances for a writer to shine.  They are tough, require focus but are, in the end, rewarding and add depth.  Embrace the darkness.  You’ll be happy you did.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Body Image

Once a year or so the media gets onto an images kick. Usually it is from some event. This time around it was Glamour's use of a plus-sized models. On top of that was the Ralph Lauren debacle. Everyone is demanding regular sized women should be featured. Girl's self-images are being distorted by the pictures they see in magazines.


If a young woman is basing her self-esteem on an image of a model in a magazine, there is a lot more going on.

When I was first in college, Jean Kilbourne lectured about the images of women in the media. Not just weight but also the need for perfection in every way. I took it to heart. She made some brilliant points and I think there was a lot of truth to what she said. That was over twenty years ago and honestly, I haven't seen any change.

I'm not saying that the images of women in magazines are okay, I'm saying that these images only hold the power we give them. Women have been seduced by fashion since the beginning of time. We love pretty clothes, awesome shoes and glittering jewelry. We like to be attractive. Its natural. But our exteriors are the least of our personas. They can change with our choices. They change with age. True beauty really is what is inside of us.

Yeah, a platitude which seems empty. But I'm not talking about sweetness and light. I'm not saying we need to be Mother Theresa's inside. But I do thing we need to encourage our daughters to develop themselves in as many ways possible. Sports, art, music, academics, all of these areas are based on our own abilities, our own efforts. Models are born models. They are the result of genetics. For the most part, they've had very little to do with their own persona. And with airbrushing and photoshopping, the women who pose in those pictures are not the women displayed in the magazine.

Truly, I don't think it is Vogue's or Glamour's or any of the other magazines job to build up self-esteem. They are in the business of selling ad space. I don't think most readers of the fashion magazines have any pretentions of wearing the clothes they see. Even if we were all a size 0, how many of us are willing to spend $500 on a pair of jeans?

The photos aren't going to change. Despite the protestations, women are still buying magazines. Women are still buying the items advertised. It doesn't mean they are obsessed with the images they see. It doesn't mean they want to be just like the girls in the magazine. They like the pretty clothes, the awesome shoes and the glittery jewelry. And if they can't have them, they like to look at them.

Yes, there women who are influenced by the images. There are women who suffer with dieting so they can fit in those clothes. And I'm not confusing this with eating disorders. Girls I knew who had eating disorders had much bigger problems than pictures in magazines. But I do think we have a society which does tell us to focus on ourselves. Women who can afford the designer clothes which are being shown in these magazines need to find a hobby which takes them out of themselves. They focus on their image because (I say this cynically)they have nothing else to worry about.

My point is we should worry less about what the media says we should be worrying about. Your body image is only going to be what you let it. No one can tell you what to think about yourself. Looking to a magazine for negative and positive images is a pointless exercise. So what? Glamour is showing "real" girls. Still, they have little impact on me. My self-image is what I see in the mirror. I'm not looking for a Vogue model, I'm only looking for a person I am comfortable living with.

OHHH...I almost forgot!

I have a new post on my other blog. Check out my book review for Soulless at Ainsley Park.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Character Assasination

The other day I was trying to find information about a person whose name was in the news. Who it was isn't important but what was interesting was what I found out. Or rather what I didn't find out.

Everything I read either demonized or lionized the person. They were either a minion sent from Hell to drag down the pillars of society or they were a beacon of goodness, a lighthouse of virtue illuminating the word in warm wisdom. Nothing in the middle. After awhile I grew bored.

Extremes are boring. I know, in our high concept, punchy entertainment world, we are flooded with extremes. But nothing is ever pure evil or pure good. The world is imperfect. That doesn't stop us from making categorizing things as either good or evil, our news media, which should be objective, is pandering to public excitement. Its dangerous and does nothing to help situations. And its boring.

Fiction is riddled with extremes. Too often writers think if their hero or heroine isn't all good, the readers will dislike them. I find the opposite to be true. If they have no moral conflicts, they are two dimensional. I have no interest. And not just a moment of rudeness, it needs to be something more. And a reader may not like it, but they will keep reading to see what happens. Same goes for villains. A villain who is evil for evil's sake is dull and not particularly frightening. Its like one of those rubber Halloween decorations which moves if you walk by it. Startling the first moment but quickly grows boring then annoying. Psychotic behavior is fine for a 90 minute slasher movie but stales in a novel.

It isn't an easy line to tread for a writer. Right now I'm in the midst of a scene between a villain and the heroine. I want my readers to hate the guy, but I also want them to understand why he is the way he is and that he does have a reason behind his actions. I want the reader to like my heroine, but I also want them to realize the reason she is in this situation is due in part to her short-sightedness and an arrogant dismissal of the truth of her world.

Dialogue has been my best friend in this situation. While there has been some physical violence, my villain's words are what are the most chilling, particularly since they make sense. Inner dialogue on my heroine's part has helped as well. She processes what he says and it terrifies her. He has ripped away her illusions and shown her just how ugly things will get. She is broken and hopeless now, almost to the acme of the black moment. Part of the darkness of that moment is that she put herself in the situation, giving the villain all the ammo he needed without his having to do a whole lot.

I think this ambiguity with villains and heroes is why urban fantasy is so big. Vampires, the scourge of folklore, are given new dimensions by writers, showing them in unorthodox lights, giving them shreds of humanity. Heroines who make their living killing things and yet are still the good guys. Lots of moral conflict.

Pay attention to the light and dark in your stories. Its easy to make everything good and evil, but its dull. Moral complications are far more interesting.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Has it Been That Long?

I didn't plan on taking a hiatus from ye olde blog, it just kind of happened. I won't bore anyone with details, nothing of any import happened in the last month. But the beginning of fall is a crazy time around my house. With both of my girls in sports, I find mos of my day tied up in trying to get stuff done before practice. My hubby coaches my daughter's soccer team and her baseball team. I am the team mom for both of my girls' soccer teams. Our weekends are spent out on the fields. And while I enjoy the activities, it also sucks the life out of me. I'm tired. Those of you with young children who think the hard part is when they are babies, hate to break the news.... My life is so much busier now that the kids are older.

Anyway, boring, boring, boring. I have found out something intersting, however. If I'm not blogging, I'm probably not writing either. I went a month without working on my WIP. Not good considering how fast I came blazing out of the gate. So October 1 I joined into a Novel Push Initiative. Its simple, I shoot for 250 words a day. If I know that's all I have to do, it makes it easier to accomplish. Most of the time I manage more although the weekends I'm lucky to get anything done at all. But it is a start. I'm full of plans to participate in NaNoWriMo this year so I want to get my writing muscles in shape.

Hopefully I will be back to daily blogging. My brain is finally starting to function again and I'm able to put thoughts down on the computer.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Come Take a Trip on my Airship

I woke up one morning and saw in my mind's eye a young woman standing before a massive pair of ornately carved doors. She was nervous, smoothing down the fabric of her new walking dress, intimidated by the sheer size of the home she was about to enter. The skies above her head are a dun with soot, smoke and steam. All around her are tall buildings, each with an airship port and the streets are crowded with steam-powered trolleys and bicycle-based taxi cabs. Neither she nor I knew why she was there, but I did know it has something to do with the world which had exploded so brilliantly in my head. As soon as the door opened and she saw the massive clock in the middle of the room with its shiny bronze gears I knew what was going on.

It was a steampunk story.

Couldn't be an 18th century romp or an urban fantasy tale, two areas I am exceedingly familiar with. It couldn't be filled with fae and magic or highwaymen and aristocratic ladies. It had to be a whole new world I needed to create.

I like world building although I find it tricky. As a writer, it is essential to get in enough info to imagine your world to your reader without boring them with an infodump. It doesn't matter what your setting is, you have to make it vivid for your reader. Its doubly tough if the world you building doesn't exist.

I have that strike on me. Next, steampunk is its own full fledged subculture. It has conventions. It has shops. It has websites galore, all with people who do more than dabble. I have to admit, I feel like the new kid at school, worried that my shoes are wrong or that I've done the unpardonable faux pas that will never make me any friends. I'm not ignorant of the movement but I'm certainly not a practitioner. My subculture now is the soccer/baseball mom crowd.

But I'm a writer so I must follow my story where it goes. And if it is steampunk, then I need to make myself familiar with those elements. What I don't want is a story which is based on buzz words. I ask a lot of whys. I want logic in my story and I want the plot to include the elements of steampunk rather than be window dressing for dirigibles, goggles and steamworks. My world has a Victorian flavor, I like the structure of the Victorian view, I like the attention to manners and behavior, a beautiful, fragile society ripe for destruction by a subversive element. Or at least a serious disruption.

I'm having a lot of fun with it. I'm a writer because I enjoy it. I love delving into another world and immersing myself into a place so different from my own. And while I have been researching, I've discovered some great music, a new author I'm eager to read and jewelry I could go broke on. So its all good.

Have you ever been struck by a story but been intimidated by the setting? Did you pursue it or did you decide it was too much to handle?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

September Goals

Oh my goodness, it is already September. Here in the L.A. environs, it is hot and smoky, a most unpleasant end to summer. Remember this post? Well, this is where the big Acton fire is. Anyway, while we are in no danger of fire here, we are definitely feeling its affects with poor air quality. My cars are covered with soot and ash. Soccer practices are cancelled until further notice. Fire is a part of life here in SoCal and I've been through worse.

Anyway, no matter what the circumstances are that surround me, I can't use them as excuses not to get some priorities going. National Novel Writing Month is looming and I'd really like to participate. But I'm well into another WIP and I don't want to use it as my November project. So I need to get it done. I'm 20K+ on it with a projected word count of 85K. I have two months to get it done so I can focus on something else. Therefore I'm going to have to kick up my word production. My goal is...3K words a day. That's a a lot, that's more than my goals for NaNoWriMo. But I also know that is going to be tough. In fact, until next week, it is going to be real tough. But I'm hoping once my kids are back in school (let me pause for a moment and savor those words...) I can build up some steam and really go for it.

September really is my goal setting month for the year but I am a little too fractured mentally to focus on it. The giddiness of knowing next week at this time I will have my house back to myself has infected my focus.

So, any plans for NaNoWriMo? Have you thought about it?

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Mad" Woman

I am new to the world of Sterling Cooper. I'd meant to watch the show from the outset, but I don't get AMC in HD, so I didn't try too hard. Then it came on demand and I watched a couple of episodes and I was hooked. The VOD quality was horrible so I bought the first two seasons on DVD and I've been watching it with the spouse.

What makes this show addicting? I think its the characters. They are all so complex. None of them are pure evil or pure good. I adore character driven dramas. I loved "thirtysomething" back when I was a twentysomething because I loved the characters. I couldn't tell you a single plot, but I sure remember the people. I think it is why I still watch "Desperate Housewives" although I don't think its very good. I like the characters. Or it could be because I'm waiting for a bus to come by and plow Susan Meyer over. I despise her. She hasn't evolved at all over the course of the shows run. Anyway, back to "Mad Men." I also love the setting, the early 60's certainly looks fun. Growing up, it was always the late 60's that got the press. Hip huggers and love beads seemed to fascinate the world more so than skinny ties and old fashions. And the show seems exotic because they smoke and drink constantly. This kind of behavior is, well, scandalous in our politically correct world. And how they speak to women and how they treat them is jaw-dropping to a post-ERA baby like myself.

Shouldn't this be off-putting? No, I find it enthralling. And most of the credit goes to the Don Draper, the scrumptious hero/anti-hero of the show. He has a home outside the city with a pretty blond wife and wonderful children, one of whom can mix a wicked bloody mary. In the city he is an unapologetic philanderer living with a dead man's identity. He is a brilliant ad man who must navigate through the treacherous shoals of the corporate world. He's good at what he does and tries to live by his own moral code. Okay, its nothing like mine or yours, but the audience gets to see his struggles with what he thinks is wrong and write. Fascinating stuff wrapped up in a suave and debonair package.

The rest of the ensemble is interesting as well. All of them have an angle they use to try and get ahead, all of them have personal anchors which threaten to drag them down. The great writing in the series really capitalizes on the power of these characters. As a writer, it draws me in. It makes me think about my own characters. I can tell you, my whole perspective on characterization changed profoundly after watching Alan Ball's "Six Feet Under." He never pulled punches with his characters. I remember one scene where two main characters are arguing and they are holding nothing back. It was raw and beautiful, making me cringe while being enraptured. It gave me courage to force my characters into emotional areas I would generally back away from. "Mad Men" isn't quite so intense but the dialog is crisp and the actors are wonderful at body language. I watch the show with a writer's eye, studying the complexities of these characters.

Do you have certain shows which influenced you as a writer?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

And Now...the Deluge...

As I said in my last post I love Fall. Despite our non-chilly weather, I enjoy the activities and the food. I like the holidays and the fact the kids are in school. But it also means the return of obligations. I try to keep my summer free because of this. Soccer is in full swing and baseball starts next week. It wouldn't be so bad if we weren't involved. If it meant simply dropping the kids off or sitting in a chair reading while they practiced, it wouldn't be bad. But such is not the case.

For soccer my husband is the head coach of our older daughter's team and will be reffing. I am the temporary team mom. For our younger daughter's team, husband will be reffing and assitant coaching if they need it and I will be the team mom. For baseball, husband will be taking a winterball team and will be serving the organization in other capacities. I end up being the default team mom for this as well. And of course school starts and I try to keep myself involved there. November brings two birthdays, an anniversary and Thanksgiving. It also brings NaNoWriMo.

How can I think about writing with everything that is going on? Oddly enough, I tend to get more productive. It forces me to budget my time and make the best use of the free minutes I have. I think disorganization is a writer's worst enemy. It breeds procastination and excuses. We think we have no time, but really we haven't planned for it. Some people are naturally organized and don't have to work on it. I'm not in that group. It is a struggle for me. So being forced by other obligations works in my favor. Like a two year old, I need structure. Right now, I'm a leave in the breeze, writing because I'm at the computer anyway playing on the Internet. I've managed to accomplish some word counts, but I know its not going to last.

I'm going to get my organizer out and start planning my days, penciling in the "must do's" and scheduling my writing around it. I want to be good and motivated for NaNoWriMo. If I'm already in a pattern, I should be able to win this year.

Do you have any plans to do NaNoWriMo this year and do you have any strategies planned to accomplish it?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Anticipating Fall

There's a lot to be said for Fall. The color changes, the cooler tempratures, Halloween, Thanksgiving, the food, get the idea. Our Autumn really doesn't hit until November and sometimes December. Sometimes we go straight from summer into winter. But it doesn't mean I don't appreciate the accoutrements of the season. Yesterday I saw my pomagranite bushes covered with fruit. Fall decorations are filling the stores. Costco had Halloween decorations in stock and I saw a Halloween store open already. And of course there is that whole return to school thing.

Lots of books are coming out too. I think my most anticipated is Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I've wanted this book from the minute I finished Hunger Games . This woman can write and her dark YA is riveting. I've got another YA on my list and that is Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld . Its a steampunk fantasy with pictures. I love alternate histories and this looks interesting.

Keeping on the steampunk theme is Soulless by Gail Carriger. It looks like a fun book and a refreshing change from so many other books I've been reading. Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs are also represented in the fall. On The Edge by Andrews is a new series and Briggs' Hunting Grounds comes out tomorrow.

What about you? Any authors you love coming out with a new book this fall?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sharp Turns Ahead

I don't like riding on mountain roads. They make me queasy. I do, however, like driving mountain roads. When I'm in control of the car, I enjoy the feeling and the challenge of the twists and turns.

When I'm driving, I generally know where I'm going. I know approximately how long it is going to take me to get there. Most of us are pretty conscious of where we are going and how to get there. We know the routes, we know the short cuts, we know the detours. But when you drive a mountain road, things are different.

It's how I see my writing sometimes. Most of the time, the things I write follow a set path. I'm not saying they are stale and all the same, but I have a certain way of writing which guides me. I have certain themes I am comfortable with which direct my path. I can see the end of my story quite clearly, even with the turns in the road.

But the WIP I'm working on now is different. It is full of twists and turns I can't see. I know where I will end up, I have no concerns there. But I can't see it. There are too many bends in my road. It doesn't frighten me, I'm in control. When I'm driving on those roads, I enjoy the feel of pushing through a hard turn. The forces at work which allow me to maintain an certain speed and pull through the turn smoothly are exhilirating and I feel the same way when I write.

There's risk involved, of course, but I'm prepared. When I drive mountain roads I take the appropriate car. Instead of my SUV I take my Mustang. It is built low to the ground with a stiff suspension designed for handling. I'm the same way with writing. I use the tools and skills most appropriate for the story. The story I'm working on is full of adventure. Pacing is vital. It is moody in setting so I'm focusing a lot on description. It's dark, I've had to supress the one liners I tend to inject.

The idea is to always remain in control. Sharp curves are daunting and I certainly wouldn't recommend them to a new writer anymore than I would expect a newly licensed teenager to drive in the mountains. But if you pay attention and keep your focus on the road, it can be exciting. If you are confident you can find your way to the end of the journey, you can enjoy the adventure of the drive.

Monday, August 17, 2009

How Was Your Weekend?

I don't usually go into monologues about my weekend, but this one was crazy.

I had it planned, Saturday was going to be golden. I was going to write like the wind, crank up my word count and generally bury myself at my keyboard. My older daughter had soccer clinic in the morning and my husband had a car rally. My daughter wanted to go so I said I would go ahead and meet the rally at their first stopping point and drop her off. Saturday night was also my nephews' birthday party and their mom asked if my other two kids could come over early. Even better.

Soccer clinic coach said clinic would be over an hour earlier than planned so I went ahead and went to pick up my daughter an hour early. Nope, they weren't done. I could have writing for that hour. I didn't bother bringing anything to read so it was frustrating. But hey, I was going to have the afternoon. Got my daughter home and ready and told my other kids to get ready as well because after I dropped of their sister it would be close to time to drop them off.

Off we go in the convertible. Beautiful weather for a quick jaunt into the mountains. Of course there is an accident on the freeway so we were stuck for awhile. But it was okay, once we got passed the accident we had plenty of time. We get off the freeway and head up the mountain road. And we keep going...and going...and going.... I had thought the restaurant the car club was meeting at was about 14 miles in. But we were still climbing. Son asks "how much gas do we have?"

Oh, crap.

Yeah, I was at about an 1/8th of a tank and still hadn't reached our destination. Oh, and there was no cell service. I'm about to turn around when we spy a ranger station. I ask the ranger where this restaurant is and he tells me I could walk to it from where we are. Anyway, we head to the restaurant and of course beat the car club by a half hour. Finally they show. My kids are hungry, it is well past lunch but they are too irritated to stay. I hand over my kid to my husband we take off. And I find out we have gone 28 miles. We have to go back another 28 miles to reach the gas station. So with many prayers, we head back down the mountain. Luckily, it is down hill. My son is scared of mountain roads while his sister loves them so it was an interesting drive. I'm trying not to use gas so I'm using physics to keep this car going. Anyway, we did make with probably a lot more gas to spare, but I don't like that feeling. We fill up and I head back to my in laws' house with the kids. And of course we hit traffic.

By the way, did you know you can get sunburned in a convertible?

I got the kids dropped off, got home and it was after 4:30. I had to be back at my SIL's at 6. My golden day was toast. Don't you hate when that happens? Yesterday was a little easier and I got some writing done. My daughter had a planned sleepover with a friend. Another friend called and she got invited over as well, so I have three 5th grade girls over right now. I'm taking them to an amusement park, so I guess writing is on hold today.

So how was your weekend?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Joie De Vivre

I am shamelessly stealing this post topic from Melissa. I think about the concept a lot these days because I forget to look for the joy. While Melissa is focusing on the joy she receives from writing, I want to take it a step further.

Summer is a tough time for me. I'm a loner by nature and I enjoy peace and quiet, not only for writing but for everything else. But summer brings home the children and those days of quiet are gone. Instead, I am surrounded by the chaos three children can bring. Its grating, I will admit. But I get frustrated by my negativity. This is the reality of my life and it is up to me to see the good and find the joy.

Now I only have a month left but better late than never. Instead of harping on what I haven't done or how the kids' fighting is driving me crazy, I should have been focusing on how to find things to do with them which incorporates the joy in life. I should have been focusing on how to incorporate them into my world rather than how to keep them out.

I think as writers we tend to tunnelvision our world onto the computer screen. If our writing isn't going right, then nothing else is either. But I honestly think negativity breeds more negativity. If the writing isn't going write, maybe I need to stop and find something else to do, burn out that negative energy and find joy in something else. Sometimes its just a little thing like cooking dinner with my son or playing ball with my girls. Maybe its a book you found at the bookstore. Or it could be something big like a vacation. My point is, the joy in life doesn't just happen. It isn't some sparkly mist which floats upon us from above. Being happy is hard work. Being depressed is pretty easy.

So tell me one thing you are going to do this week to give yourself a little joy.

By the way...I posted over at Ainsley Park about the blend of historical and the paranormal.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Stumbling Blocks

August has proven to be a problem already. I feel like this hummingbird, beating my wings and flitting from feeder to feeder slurping down sugar water in humongous quantities. Well, actually, I drink Diet Coke. And not as much as these little birds. I'm going through 98 oz. of nectar every other day.

Dearest husband took on the responsibility of coaching Diva's soccer team. My problem is that when he coaches, I get dragged into it more than I like. Baseball took up so much of my time last season that I looked forward to soccer season because we aren't as participitory, at least I'm not. We both get to sit on the sidelines and cheer our daughter on together. But such is life, we'll get through it. However, things have changed thanks to a mishap with a gardening tool.

Dearest husband dropped a tool with spikes on his foot. It broke his foot and he will be out of action per se for six weeks. So who has been drafted to be special executive assistant soccer coach? Yeah, you guessed it. Yesterday I went to a coaches' clinic. Oh boy, I showed why I am a writer and not a professional athlete. I have the coordination of an inebriated three legged dog. Sigh.... I've coached soccer before on a lower level but not much was required of me. This time, however I have to try and teach these girls trick and drills without falling on my face.

We have one month before school starts and I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to it. But I also know it means a whole new wave of activity. Finding time to write is going to be harder and yet more essential than ever. Amid the fiascos that have occurred over the last couple of weeks, I've been pretty steady on the writing front. I've managed to crank out 8K words in the last week. Cheaper than therapy and less calories than margaritas I guess.

As I said in my last post, I'm working on something I haven't tried before. Perhaps this has made me focus harder when I write. Certainly the world I'm in with this WIP is completely foreign to me, an exotic locale my mind can wander it. No husbands with broken feet who need lots of attention. No children calling for me. No obligations really. Truly, I find it unbelievable I've been able to write so much in so little time. Particularly since I'm so unsure on this story. Ah well...I guess I should go with it.

Monday, August 03, 2009

To Conquer New Worlds

I've always thought of myself as a fearless writer. I enter a new project with a certain level of confidence. I definitely slide into a comfort level pretty quickly when it comes to a story. I have tried and true settings and worlds I work with whether it be modern day Los Angeles or 18th century England. I'm pretty well versed in both and what I don't know, I can google.

But the WIP I just started which has captivated me so much is in its own world. It won't fit in anything in this world. So I have to create my own. Oh, there plenty of elements to this world which others have created. But I still have to craft it into the image I need. I have created new worlds before, but they were only part of a bigger picture. This time around it all relies on how well I can make this world real to the reader.

In some respects it is quite exciting. Fantastic buildings, unusual modes of transportation, all the cool stuff you can think of. But they must have logic. While things can be incredible, I have to make it clear to my readers how they work and why. I like the fact that I am able to create a society which fits with my story instead of the other way around, but it is so much more work. And I find it intimidating.

I'm not easily intimidated and I know I am taking a huge gamble with this. But I think it is important to branch out and make writing a challenge. I firmly believe every piece of writing we do develops us as writers. Yes, this WIP could end up a giant flop. It could end up a space waster on my hard drive. But I also hope I will gain some new knowledge which will help me with my more conventional writing. If anything I hope it feeds my enthusiasm for writing.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Over at the other Blog

I posted today over at Ainsley Park discussing history versus perceived history. How stringent does a writer need to be? Can a writer be too focused on the details and not enough on the story?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lightning Strikes

I think, as a writer, we live for the moments when inspiration hits us like a bolt of lightening. We rejoice when a new world bursts forth from our brains, lighting the fire of creativity. Our struggles are rewarded by this sudden explosion and we are euphoric. This happened to me the other day. A story popped into my head. The characters, the settings, the beginning, middle and end all laid themselves out in the proper order, begging me to start writing. Isn't marvelous when that happens?

However, there are downsides. Lightning strikes have their adverse affects. For me, it means forgetting the other books I'm working on. WIP's that deserve my attention are ignored for the shiny shiny of the my new lightning strike. Another problem is that the energy I fell at the beginning of this new work of brilliance fizzles out. Once the first jolt of electricity drains out, it is hard to replace. While I'm not a plotter, I am a muller. Most of my stories are mulled in my head for awhile before I start writing. Or they start out with a scene and no particular place to go, which makes the writing process fresh for me. But believe it or not, it is hard for me if everything is in place before I start writing, particularly if it is so solid. I lose interest quickly. The saving grace is that this is a new setting for me and a new subgenre. Hopefully it will keep me on my toes and excited.

How do you feel about lightning strikes? And how come I have the darndest time spelling "lightning?"

ALSO Melissa has written a wonderful review over at Ainsley Park for a new historical romance so please check it out. I also did a new background for the blog and it is awfully nice.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Market Meltdown

I quit writing this weekend. I swore I would never write another word. I'd convinced myself that no one was going to be interested in my books. My stories are all flawed. My hero in my historical isn't alpha enough. The heroine in my urban fantasy doesn't wear leather and carries a PhD rather than a gun. And my other WIP...well, I hadn't started picking it apart yet.

While most of this is internal, I can see the influence of the publishing news in my thought process. After hearing the news out of the RWA conference and the gloomy reports about the economy, it is easy to see why it would prey on my mind. I look at the books being released and realize my stories are nothing like them. What editor is going to look twice at them?

By Sunday I was over it. There are two things to keep in mind and I had forgotten. I joined RWA in 2001 I guess and the news was the same then as it is now. Book sales are down. Publishers aren't buying, etc. etc. But books are still being sold, new authors are still debuting. Yes, it is hard road to navigate. Yes, it is very difficult to get published. Which leads to my other thought. So? If the only reason I write is to publish, I am in for a world of disappointment. If I decide to write a book featuring a heroine dressed in leather who slays demons/vampires/people who text while driving, by the time I get it submitted, the agents and editors are going to pass because they have enough of those already. It does no good to follow the market trends. Write what you love, write what you want to read. I may never sell, not something I like to ponder, but I'm realistic enough to know that could be the case, particularly on the path I'm on. But I enjoy writing. I enjoy the stories I create. I like my characters. If you can make your love of your own writing apparent in your manuscript, you will get attention.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Don't Blame it on the Muse

One of my least favorite writing excuses is blaming the muse for not cooperating. As if some mythical figure has influence over your writing. I know, it is the personification of the writer within you, but it also a way of avoiding responsibility.
"I can't write today because my muse is silent." But is it really true? I haven't been writing much this summer. I'd like to blame it on some nebulous internal muse, but the flat truth is that I'm lazy. Writing takes effort and I'm tired. It's hot, I'm cranky and I'd rather play Bejeweled than focus on any of my WIPS.

And the muse isn't the only one getting the blame. Lack of time, family commitments, jobs, all of these become excuses for our inability to get words on the page. But really we need to look in ourselves to find the answer. Sometimes we just don't feel like writing. That's okay. Unless you've got a contract, you don't have to kill yourself to meet a deadline. You can slack. But don't blame a muse. If day after day you feel like this, still, don't blame the muse. Take your WIP out and see if it something in the actual story which is pushing you away. Maybe you are out of the habit of writing. Like exercise and dieting, writing takes focus and work. The rewards are slow in coming.

For me, I've just had to put my butt in the chair and write. Sometimes I can only do it for 10 minutes or so. Some days those words flow easily, some days, not so much. On Tuesday I managed to get 600 words written for the entire day. Yesterday, I got 450 written in less than an hour. Accept the fact that your creativity needs to be forced and do what you can.

You are in control. You are the creator, not some mythical entity in your head. If you wait for the muse, you will be surrendering the fact you are the one in charge. You may have to change the way you approach your writing, look for new tools to get you on your way, but ultimately you will be more productive.

Monday, July 20, 2009

We Can Put a Man on Moon

Forty years ago a momentous event happened. Mankind walked on the moon. It was an amazing event I find hard to comprehend. I don't remember the event, I was only two. I don't think I appreciate it as much as I should. In a world of wonders, its hard to keep sight at how truly a wonderful occurrence it was.

In a world where companies like Industrial Light and Magic make it all look so real on the screen, the moon landing seems so unglamorous, so simple in comparison. But I think it was the key to unlocking our imaginations about space. It has ingrained itself in our consciousness, an assumption that we can do anything. It's good that we can think that way, but I fear the younger generations won't appreciate the supreme accomplishment of the Apollo 11. Eventually we are going to land on Mars. How incredible will it seem to a generation who has been to Tatooine? How incredible will it be to kids who have traveled at light speed?

I think it is important to make our children understand how important the moon landing was in the big picture. The thought that we could actually leave earth and land on someplace else should seem much bigger than going to the grocery store. We are jaded by the bad things we see. Why should we be spending money on space when there are so many terrestrial issues which need our attention? How can we be worried about worlds beyond ours when we have so much to worry about on our own? Valid questions. We are explorers, we quest for new knowledge. We seek new places and look for new answers. It feeds our imagination. It empowers us. And if we can put a man on the moon, we can, eventually, do anything.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Another Blog

Today I posted on another blog I have but had forgotten. I'm working on a historical romance and this blog is dedicated to historical fiction and romance.

Even if you are not into historicals, go check out Ainsley Park for the totally sweet background I found for it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wouldn't it Be Nice?

Sorry for the long absence. I wish I could say this was a snapshot from my vacation, but alas, it is only a photo pilfered from the Internet.

We will not be going away this summer. Lots of factors are in play, most prominently is money. And those of you who are contemplating a third child, remember that five people require two hotel rooms. My husband is self-employed so there is no vacation pay and since he's not there working, no money is being generated. Kind of sucks, really. Anyway I'm not here to whine. Oh wait, yes I am, thus the title of my blog.

I am a little discombobulated these days. I think it relates to the fact I won't be taking vacation. And while my husband would argue that everyday is a vacation for me since I'm a stay-at-home mom, I could use some time away from the homestead. But it isn't going to happen anytime soon, so I need to deal with it.

Writing usually works. Heck, I take my writing with me on vacation, it can really relax me. But not the last week or so. I've been agitated and unable to focus. If it weren't for twitter, I probably wouldn't get any writing done at all. Funny, my attention span lasts about 140 characters. However, I have been turning the restless energy into use and cleaned up the house. I dusted and mopped the girls' room and their toy room, threatening them with slow painful death if they mess it up.

Something else that's got me down is that my dryer died on me. It has created a hole in my heart. Laundry is the one constant in my life. I do have a stackable set upstairs, so I'm not totally without a dryer, but it is small and only does about half a load. Hubby and I have been doing serious shopping. We've decided to replace both the washer and dryer. I've done more research on appliances than I've done for pretty much anything. We actually settled on a set of Electrolux, but it is going to take two weeks to get them in. Yikes. The Best Buy manager practically tackled us as we were leaving offering to give us a deal on another brand if we wanted. Thus, been back at the Internet reading reviews. Talk about a life decision!

All in all, however, these have served as convenient excuses for not writing. There is no reason I shouldn't be spending time on word count. Even now, writing this, I'm thinking about how I should sweep the kitchen floor. Grrr...not sure why this is becoming a problem. Its not writer's block, I can easily keep writing. Maybe I need to bungie cord myself to my chair.

Any ideas?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Let Freedom Ring!

I'm not a particularly political person. I have my political beliefs that I hold somewhat dear. My allegiance to the Los Angeles Dodgers is stronger than any loyalty I feel to a political party. I'm also not a cheerleader for my country. My degree is in U.S. History so I'm more than aware of the atrocities committed by this country. But I'm also aware of our great triumphs and the perseverance of our citizens.

I'm reading 1776 by David McCullough right now, apropos considering the time of year. It is truly a marvel to read about how ill-prepared and the disadvantage this country had in its fight for freedom from Great Britain. England at the time was probably the most powerful nation on earth with a massive navy and an army of well-trained troop. George Washington, on the other hand, had generals who received their military training from books they read in their spare time from their other professions. He had an army of men who had never had a day of training in their life. They had only their passion and their belief in what the country should be. They sacrificed more than their lives. They sacrificed their livelihoods, their families and the security of being part of a powerful nation.

If you read the text of the Declaration of Independence, you can see how it encourages rebellion when the government is not doing as it should. As Americans, we are expected to complain about our government when we see an injustice. We are expected to take to the streets and show our displeasure, it is encouraged. To maintain liberty, we must be vigilant and outspoken. It is our responsibilities as citizens to protect the freedom and rights of all individuals, whether we agree with them or not.

I suppose this concept has hit home hard with the Iranian election. Reading about the horrors perpetrated against people for exercising their opinions is mind blowing. In American, bitching about the government is a national sport. It doesn't matter who is in office, there is going to be pages of written word published complaining about them. And if you've ever been to D.C., you can see a protest everyday. We can do this with impunity. You can go out and rally a crowd, screaming to the hills about how vile your government is, how they are responsible for everything bad in the world and not worry about being tried for it. It has been tried, the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 tried to silence protests of the government. It only lasted a couple of years and is considered a black mark on our history. As you can imagine, it was wildly unpopular and it led to a change in government at the next election.

Aung San Suu Kyi also brings to mind the freedoms we take for granted in this country. The Burmese politician has sacrificed so much for her country. When she was elected prime minister, instead of taking her rightful position, the military junta nullified the results and arrested her. Can you imagine if we did that in this country? While the circumstances of her situation is horrifying, her sacrifice is what hits home with me. She has been separated from her family for years. Her husband died and she was unable to see him. She could leave Burma, the government would be thrilled to see her go. But if she left, she could never return. Her love of her people and her dedication to democracy in Burma overrides everything else. Would you be able to do that? Fortunately, you don't have to because it was done 223 years ago by the original citizens of this country already did. By declaring independence, they were risking their lives and their livelihoods. They lost family and the security of being part of an empire.

I hope you enjoy today. Enjoy the fireworks, the hot dogs, the parades. But keep in mind how hard fought our freedom was and how so many others in the world are still fighting.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Larger Than Life

First, let me say HAPPY CANADA DAY to my friends up north. Hope its a good one and full of fun and food and frolic and fireworks.

My 9 year old is obsessed with the Titanic. She has read about it and made it the focus of school projects. She's been fascinated with the wreck for a long time. I don't know why it intrigues her so, but she is captivated. I don't think she can wrap her mind around it, it is larger than life for her.

Unless you've been living in the outer reaches of the universe for the last week or so, you couldn't happen to miss the recent deaths of certain celebrities. I have no desire to rehash their lives, accomplishments, etc. but to make a point. Some people simply see them as famous people who died. But they were more than that, they were larger than life icons. In the late '70's, I don't think there was a girl who didn't try to get their hair to feather just like Farrah's. And in the early '80's, I didn't know a person who didn't own "Thriller." These two people wormed their way into our culture, becoming something more than human. They were never truly mortal to me, obviously they were, but the persona's they created went far beyond what I had in normal life. Its funny, we read about celebrities who try and convince us how "normal" they are. Do we really want that?

For most of us, life has a routine. We get up, go to work, participate in a few activities, watch t.v. and go to bed. No, it isn't exciting, but ultimately, it makes us happy. But we love the exposure to those beings who are larger than life. It takes us away from our daily routines and lets us experience life on another plane while never leaving the safety of our own.

As writers, we have it even better. We don't have to wait for TMZ to bring us news. We don't have to watch the news to find something scandalous or extraordinary to spark our interest. We can create it. No matter what genre you write in, the point it to create a story most people will never experience. Our characters are plunged into danger, into heartbreak, into inescapable situations which require us to pull them out in the most fascinating way possible. The reader joins us on a larger than life adventure which gives them another view of life they don't ordinarily see. It doesn't have to be a tense spy adventure or an epic romance. It doesn't have to be a story populated by monsters and magic, knights and ladies, it can be an ordinary world with ordinary people with an extraordinary situation. As long as it evokes emotions which we don't get to experience everyday and takes us out of our humdrum routine.

As a reader, what does a story need to make it larger than life? As a writer, what part of your current project is larger than life?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I Need A Man!

Sorry, I was listening to the Eurythmics yesterday and "I Need a Man" came on. I really love the aggressive feel of that song. It came out in 1988, a time of glitz and gloss for both genders and the song feels like a rejection of that over-stylized male and a need for something rougher and tougher. Anyway, it got me thinking about heroes, particularly alpha heroes.

I've never been a big alpha hero writer. My heroes tend to be smart, cooperative, looking for the best solution to the problem. They aren't automatically ruthless. The ask first before shooting. They worked well for me, but lately, I yearn for something else.

I want to write someone who solves problems with the least amount of trouble. Meaning, he doesn't negotiate. He talks in sharp one liners, can fell a tree with a flash of his cold, steely glare. His sense of justice is iron clad: you are either a good guy or a bad guy in his view, there is nothing in between. He may frighten you at first, but in the end he makes you feel safe.

To me, Dirty Harry epitomized the alpha hero. In truth, if we had to live with this guy...well, we wouldn't. Handsome, chilling, determined, he brought a sense of order to a world in chaos. And that's why I think my interest in such a tough guy has emerged.

Dirty Harry came on the scene during a tumultuous time. We were still in the midst of a war. Culture was changing. Society was going through rapid changes. People felt unsure. We are going through similar changes now. Our economy is in tatters. I know people who only two years ago were going on lavish vacations and buying expensive cars that are now struggling to keep their houses. I see shops and business disappearing, hear stories about friends losing their jobs. The situation abroad is no better. The Middle East is still explosive. Europe is suffering its own economic woes. And hell, to top things off, Jon and Kate are getting divorced. Could it get any more turbulent?

An alpha hero cuts through the uncertainty, provides a solid answer and stable pillar to cling to. He radiates confidence and security, a beacon in the ocean of the unknown we feel cast adrift in. No, he isn't reality. That would be a bad thing. But in fiction, particularly genre fiction, we want that escape. We want to see a microcosm of our own world, see situations which seem impossible resolved in the most expedient way possible. We want to feel safe, feel rescued.

Hence my alphanazation of my heroes. They're still smart. They dress well. They're handsome. But they are more willing to shoot first and ask questions later. They are less interested in hearing the heroine's side of the story and more interested in seeing her safe. Its going to add some additional conflict because my heroines tend to be a little overbearing, but I think the result could be interesting.

Have you found your heroes becoming a bit more alpha these days?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Story ideas are exploding in my head like fireworks. Brilliant, loud and spectacular, they light up the night sky of my mind with flashes of breathtaking color and flare, and they fade just as fast. They fizzle out, frail pieces of ash that are lost amongst the other debris in my head.
I don't see it as my muse has gone wild. I see it as a lack of effort on my part. Rather than focusing on something tangible, I let my mind wander, attracted by the shiny things like a two year old in a candy store. Words are my playthings of choice, my Legos as it were, but I'm not using them to build anything constructive. I'm spewing little bits of scenes with no purpose.

No, there really isn't anything wrong with letting lose, but it feeds itself, taking me further and further from my goal. My mind buzzes with little flashes of brilliance, but that is all they are. I've done this before and it leads to a path of procrastination and a creative null. I'm too experienced to let this get a grip on me. The solution is simple. Finish the book I'm halfway through. It would seem to be an easy fix, but it is hard to focus. I'm not in a flashy, shiny section of the book. I will be soon, but it lacks luster right now. Or at least it does for me. I think we all get that way when we are writing a book and it is so easy to get distracted. I'm going to put blinders on and ignore the 4th of July display in my head, at least for awhile.

Do you get distracted mentally by other story ideas? Are they bona fide or just sparklers?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Location, Location, Location

When I start contemplating a book, the first thing that comes to mind is the setting. The location is as much of a character as the hero or heroine. Or perhaps I should say it is an extension of the characters. The yin to their yangs as it were.

My contemporaries are usually set in L.A., mainly because I live here and don't have the research issues. But also because I love the concept of gloss of Southern California and revealing a dark underbelly hidden from everyone's eyes. Okay, so the dark underbelly I'm revealing is imaginary, but I like the juxtaposition of a bright, sunny world unaware of an ominous shadow below the surface, waiting to erupt and tear the hell out of everything.

I also like putting a character into a setting they are familiar with, a place well within their comfort zone and twisting it, throwing the character off balance and watching what they do when confronted with the bizarre. I find very few of us are truly adventurous. We like our homes, we like the comfort of knowing our surroundings. How disturbing is it when they've got a street closed and we have to take an unfamiliar detour to get home? Or you realize your favorite checker at the grocery store has left? Heck, I get antsy if I have to park in an area of the parking lot I've never parked in before. While all of these are small and hardly worthy of Prozac, I like to blow them up. Maybe the heroine finds out her favorite checker is really a demon from Hell bent on sucking out the souls of all the baggers and she is the only one who can stop her. Or the road home has been blocked by the arrival of a 300 foot fire breathing banana slug. I like to take the expected and shred it.

In historicals I love to take a beautiful, pastoral landscape and fill it with beautiful people then throw in something so evil it reveals the rottenness underneath. It puts my characters in a tailspin and unravels all they ever believed in. The exterior remains gorgeous and pristine but underneath the elegance is dark world where the lovely people are truly ugly.

Do you use settings and locations in a similar manner or are they a more of a backdrop for your story?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Marble Palaces

There is more pleasure to building castles in the air than on the ground.
~~~~~Edward Gibbon

When I was a kid I loved my Barbies. For hours I'd play in my room with them, enacting dramas of my own creation, building imaginary marble palaces for them out of plastic desks and shoe box furniture. Scraps of fabric from my mom's sewing collection became sweeping gowns of the most precious silks and velvets, perfect for those ballroom scenes. As I got older, the worlds became more elaborate, the plots more involved. I had good Barbies and bad Barbies and only one Ken. Yeah, things got complicated, making "Dynasty" look like a "Dora the Explorer" cartoon. I didn't realize at the time I was sowing the seeds of a writer. Those hours of solitude with just my dolls for company were molding my brain for writing.
My purpose is to entertain myself first and other people secondly.
~~~~John D. MacDonald

My first ventures into writing were little short stories I wrote about the places I saw on road trips. I didn't intend to share them but occassionally I would read them to my folks. They thought they were funny and I recall them encouraging me to write more. I moved on to stories heavily influenced by what I was reading. Those I didn't share at all. But they entertained me, just like my Barbies had years earlier.
The only reason for being a professional writer is that you just can't help it.
~~~~Leo Rosten

In college I finally got the urge to write as a profession. To be honest, I couldn't have picked a worse time to make such a decision. I took a creative writing class my freshman year. While my classmates were writing angsty stories about alienation and the darkness of their childhoods, I was writing about dating, about being jealous of a roommate, about a man whose office chair explodes and sends him hurtling out the window. I felt self-conscious about my writing and denigrated my own choice of words. My teacher thought my writing had merit, but as a student, I felt the lack of importance of my work. I should have been writing mighty protest novels or feminist essays. I should have been trying to change the world through words. Sigh...we do tend to get bloated with hot air as college students.
There are many reasons why novelists write – but they all have one thing in common: a need to create an alternative world.
~~~John Fowles

I didn't start writing again seriously until I was 32 and my second child had been born. I wish I could say why it happened. I picked up a WIP I'd started ten years previously and devoted myself to it. It wasn't good but it was a marvelous teacher. But I finished it, edited it and started submitting. I didn't have any success, but it drove me to keep writing. Those years were the golden years. I loved writing, loved the worlds I created. And I kept submitting, with a bit more success on my one manuscript.
Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.
~~~~Cyril Connolly

I landed an agent. She shopped my book. It didn't sell. I didn't quit writing, but my focus had changed. I worried about marketablility, I tied myself up in knots wondering what exactly it was that editors wanted. I quit writing for myself and tried to think on another level, a level that doesn't exist. Everything I wrote pretty much sucked. I'm a good writer, I have good pacing, great dialog, etc., so nothing I produced was bad per se, but it lacked the soul and the heart which makes a book great. It was obvious I writing without passion.
Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself and celebrate writing.
~~~~Melinda Haynes

It's summer and I watch my kids play. They don't have Barbies right now since they got cleaned up and put in storage. But the six year old can pick up a stick and immediately be in outer space fighting some monster or the nine year old can put on an old tie and carry a big tote bag and pretend to be a trial lawyer. Their minds are ripe with images only they can see, worlds they have created with only their imaginations. They remind me of those years I spent with my own toys, creating worlds out of almost nothing. And they remind me why I am a writer and how I too can create marble palaces out of thing air.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Reader Fatigue

Do you ever get reader fatigue? I've been reading a lot lately, nothing new there, but I've really poured it on since I got the Kindle. Now I usually have one paperback and one digital book going at all times. Problem is I've been a one-trick pony when it comes to genre.

I read urban fantasy and if you are familiar with the genre, you know it isn't always the most uplifting and the steady amount of action can be exhausting. I can feel myself burning out and I need to give it a rest. But I don't want to stop reading. So here's your chance.

Give me some book recommendations. Fiction, non-fiction, no matter what the genre, give me the title of a book you have read recently that you liked and want to share. Triple points if its available on Kindle.

Its going to be a long summer and I plan on spending much of it with a book in hand.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"The color of the sky as far as i can see is coal grey"

I was a big 10,000 Maniacs fan back in the day and "Like the Weather" was big favorite. It always plays through my head on unseasonably gray days.

It is the middle of June in Southern California and our views of the sun have been limited. All of the great events which hail the coming of summer have occurred under dreary skies and damp conditions. Its taken the luster from the days, sapping the sparkle from a time which should be exciting and filled with anticipation.

One of my small pleasures is the drive to pick up my kids from school. I pass down a street with old Craftsman houses. Large trees line each side of street and stretch out to form a canopy for cars to drive under. The leaves are vivid, so green and glossy they don't seem real. But without sun, they are pallid, the branches sinister rather than joyous.

We love color here in the Southland. We've the good fortune of mild temperatures so we can grow so many things. But they are dependent on the sun. Oh, the flowers get enough to grow, but their colors are faded. The pinks and yellows have no depth, the violets and reds are cold and passionless.

Obviously it affects my mood. I'm not the only one. I was discussing it with others today. We are discombobulated. We are tired and listless. We suffer from a malaise which has no set symptoms or diagnosis. It isn't that we hate cold weather, trust me, by August I will be whining in the entirely opposite direction. We expect bad weather in the winter and enjoy wearing our winter coats and sweaters, sipping mugs of hot chocolate. But those times have passed and now it is time to be outside amongst the greenery.

We've always had something called "June Gloom" which brought in a severe marine layer to the area in the morning but burned off by noon. We don't like it, but we accept it because we know our afternoons will be sunny. This is something different. We've had it before and to be honest, I predicted we would have it again this year because of how cold our winter was.

I am going some place with this besides incessant complaining. As I get older I've noticed my moods are affected more and more by the weather. I don't know why. And when my moods are involved, my writing is thrown into upheaval. I'm motivated, but my thoughts are cloudy. It's like my mind has gone gray like the weather. Ironically, the WIP I'm working on takes place in the middle of December and the skies are gray and cloudy with constant storms. But I can't get myself into it. Over the last couple of days, I've had time to write and I can't get myself going. Blogging has been difficult because I can't seem to form sentences. Maybe just spewing my weather-themed diatribe will be enough to shake me lose. Or hopefully the sun will come out and I can feel normal again.

Does the weather affect your writing? Has it always or do you find the weather having more of an impact as you get older?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Winding Down

Sorry, it looked as though I had disappeared from the face of the earth. But the end of school seems to kick everything into overdrive. I don't remember the end of the school year being like this when I was a kid. It's like Christmas around here. We have a constant stream of events at the school which all require participation. Last week I attended two end of the year plays and a school fair. I baked and cooked for two major functions. I attended one team party. Started organizing another. On top of this are the other activities beyond. Baseball has been all consuming this year and it came to an end on Saturday.

My daughter's team played a 3 1/2 hour game. It went to 8 innings. In normal game play, the drop dead time is 2 hours, no matter what the score, but because this was tournament, it could not end in a tie. So we played until the tie was broken. It was exhausting, particularly for the kids. Anyway, it was a disappointing loss, but part of me can't help being relieved. Now I'm working on the team party which is a whole other job.

I wonder why I do this and how I got into this position. I certainly didn't plan it. My life's blueprint did not involve this level of immersion into kid activities. And now I find it is pretty much what I do, it is the center of my life. Of course writing has taken a backseat, I haven't written anything in at least a week, probably longer. Do my children appreciate it? Of course not, kids aren't wired that way. They believe they deserve it. Do I enjoy it? Yeah, I suppose. My nature is to be reclusive and anti-social, but being involved forces me to interact with others.

There are times I'd really like to chuck it. I'd like to spend my time writing and not get involved. But I'm also aware of how difficult it is to get published, how easy it is to get sucked into the emotional roller coaster of rejection and triumph which is a writing career. It can become too important. In thirty years' time, no one is going to remember my writing. But I do think my kids will look back in thirty years and remember how much it meant to them to have me there.

Of course, if they end up being a bunch of axe murderers, I'm going to be all kinds of ticked.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Maybe its Spring

I started out a romance writer. Its all I ever wanted to be, a spinner of tales featuring heroes and heroines who were larger than life. I wanted to plunge myself into the conflicts between a man and a woman which make a reader cry or sigh, all with the aim of a happily ever after.

But along the way I changed. My stories changed, my characters seemed more interested in blasting away bad guys than escaping to a romantic castle. I still have romantic threads in my books, but they are complimentary and not the main focus of the plot. It wasn't a decisive break from my roots, its just what has come out of my keyboard.

But oh, how I miss it. I miss those sweeping stories which knock a gal off her feet. I miss writing about those men who are twisted into knots over the love of a woman. My fingers long to pound out a story focused on the unique conflicts of a love story. I'm not sure why now. I'm happy with the book I'm writing but there is no romance. There's tension and the hint of a future love story, but that's it.

Maybe its Spring. Birds and bees fill the air. Flowers bloom, the promise of life is everywhere. And of course I can't go anywere without seeing a poster for some bridal fair. Or maybe I'm like so many other readers who are searching for an escape from the world as it is. A romance is a good place to go. Even for writers.

Whether I will fall into the temptation and write one I don't know. I'm halfway through my current WIP and owe my allegiance to getting it done and submitted.

How about you? Any urges to try something different? If so, why? Do the seasons influence you? Or is it something else in your environment?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Movie Just For Me

Some film makers really know how to get to me. They seem to be able to craft a film which stabs straight to my heart, gives me hope and courage, wrangles a tear from my eyes. Whoever made the following movie seems to have looked into my heart and created this film just for me.

Can you believe this went straight to DVD?

Mega shark, a giant octopus, Lorenzo Lamas and Deborah (don't you dare call her Debbie)Gibson? What more could I ask for?

Is there a movie so outlandish or so bad, it has wormed its way into your heart?

Thursday, May 21, 2009


Today is my birthday and once again I am thirty-nine. I plan on being thirty-nine until it is time to turn forty-nine. So my math skills are lacking, I'm a writer, not an accountant.

Anyway, I've been on the fence about what I wanted for my birthday for awhile. I was leaning towards a netbook. I love the concept of having a mini-laptop for writing. But I don't really need one. I have an AlphaSmart I hardly ever use. It is a pain in the butt to use since they do not have software which works with Vista. But it isn't impossible to use. Takes a little extra planning is all. I need to get into the habit of using it.

The other thing I was looking at was the Kindle 2. I hadn't really considered it seriously because I like paper books. I like the feel, I like the smell, I just like them plus I have problems reading from a computer screen. However, I loved the size of the Kindle 2. Much easier to carry than even a paperback. Also, because I'm thirty-nine, I have problems reading text because of its size unless I have help. Doesn't help me when I'm exercising. Plus, the thickness of books makes them tough to read on the eliptical machine. The Kindle 2 is thin enough to fit on the machine and I can adjust the text size. While I don't expect it to replace my bound books, I imagine I will have an increase in book purchases. The books are cheaper digitally and I like the option of being able to buy and receive quickly. Another advantage is I can eat a Popsicle and read at the same time.

I'm not doing much for my birthday. Hubby and I are going out to lunch since we have a baseball game tonight and I've got things going the rest of the weekend. Ooh, he just called me and said we were going to Costco after we ate to get some motor oil. Hey, he took me to Wal Mart on Mother's Day, the man certainly knows how to show a girl a good time.

Do any of you have a Kindle 2 or any other kind of ereader? Do you have plans to get one or is it something you don't see yourself using?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wipe Out

I did a little wipe out on my computer this weekend. I took a bunch of games off my computer. I'm a big patsy for city building games and I can easily waste an entire morning playing them. I came to the decision that they had to go. Sniff....

I like them for the same reason I like to write. They transport me into a world far from my own and where I have ultimate control. The cities I create are my own worlds where things pretty much go as I plan. But it only takes a little brain power and they are a monumental waste of time. They aren't gone forever, I have the cd's. But if they aren't an easy option, I'm a lot less likely to indulge in them.

I have a sad lack of control with these games. I used to be the same way with reading and I only lose control with books for stories. And once the book's over, I can move on. Games aren't so easy to end. They are endless, they are meant to be such. Pointless as well. I allow myself to be lured into the mind-numbing place these games take me and I can feel the triggers. Summer is around the corner. The kids' activities are going through their final extreme wind up before collapsing into nothingness. There are lots of family gatherings this time of year. It all becomes too much and I follow the path of least resistance.

But that is not the person I want to be. Hiding from the real world in a cyber one is nonproductive. I've looked back at the lost day and wanted to kick myself. Those precious hours are gone, never to be retrieved. And all I have to show for it is a city peaking at a population of 1 million with a thriving high density residential area complimented by wealthy commercial center. Great if it was real life and I was Donald Trump, bad if its on the computer screen and I'm a frustrated writer stuck in the suburbs.

Oh, I'll play them again, maybe when my latest WIP is done or I've gotten a couple major household projects done. I enjoy them, they are fun. Like everything else, moderation is key. But right now, they suck the time away and that is something I can't afford.

Is there some activity you have to avoid because it drains your time?