Saturday, October 29, 2005

MY LIFE IS AN OPEN BOOK...OR WILL BE FOR A COUPLE OF MONTHS

On October 1, I turned in the manuscript for Love is in the Heir, my June 2006 Regency-set romance for Warner. I am waiting for revisions, which should show up anytime.

My next book is due March 1st (How to Seduce a Duke, December 2006) , and since I haven't started yet, I thought I would try something different this time. I would plot out my book before beginning to write.

This is a big deal for me because, you see, I am what is known as a 'pantser'--meaning that I write by the seat of my pants and what happens, well...happens. The story unfolds in my head and I write it down. But not this time. This time I would plot out the book first. Really.

On November 1st, I will begin. This gives me 4 months to write an 80,000-100,000 word Regency-set romance. Plenty of time. (Insert loud, audible gulp here).

Or it would have been.

The other day, I received an email from the publisher that changed my plans. It seems there is an opening in the October 2006 schedule and if I can deliver my manuscript early (okay, we are talking January, or February 1 at the latest) my book can be slipped into that spot.

Well, we authors know that romance novels sell much better in October, than December. Much better, because in December every spare dollar goes for holiday gifts. No brainer. I have to deliver my manuscript early. That's all there is to it.

No time to meticulously plot the way I had planned. But, because the deadline is so tight, no time either to let the story percolate in my head for a while. I will have to both plot and write by the seat of my pants. Something new for this author. Yikes.

So, on November 1, I am beginning the book. I am also going to begin a blog of sorts on my site (
www.kathryncaskie.com) --How to Write a Romance. Each day, or when the muse is willing, I am going to record, step by step, my progress in writing the book.

Will she crash and burn?


Will she fling herself over the finish line in the nick of time?

Watch and see. Worth a chuckle at any rate, no?

(Oh, please send your prayers.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Writers just wanna have fun

I was telling someone the other day about the chaos that is my life. I have three jobs (writing books for Warner, copyediting for a publisher, and agency work for Silicon Valley corporations). I volunteer for a couple of organizations, RWA among them. I take dance lessons with my husband (because this is the only exercise we get. With the three jobs, you're not going to see me down at Curves, ever.) I do my own publicity, including setting up booksignings and writing blog entries and ordering bookmarks and all that stuff that comes along with writing the books. I do not have kids, which would take all the hours above and square them, turning me into something that is not quite human. Superhuman, maybe, like some of the moms I know.

But anyway . . . this person asked me, "So, what do you do for fun?"

Fun. Hmm. Just let me check my Day-Timer and I'll tell you where I've got that scheduled. Hey, look! Here it is . . .

I have chickens. If you've read my August book, Pocketful of Pearls, you'll know how critical chickens can be to a plot. Well, they're critical to me, too. When I start to hyperventilate because the book is due Monday and there's 70 pages to go (oh, Lori W., I so related to your entry!) and the galleys just arrived for my next release and the chapter newsletter has to go out and my mom is coming to stay for a week . . . I go let the chickens out and just play with them for an hour. A waste of time? Not when you can sit on the grass and have your littlest hen jump on your shoulder just to say hello, and have another one hop into your lap for a cuddle. I go back to my office afterward feeling refreshed.

What else do I do for fun? I'm a costumer. I've made an 1812 Regency day dress and matching spencer, an 1810 ballgown, an 1892 evening gown, and a 1910 walking dress and lingerie blouse with pinwheel hat to match. And you know what? There are a surprising number of places to wear these. The Bay Area English Regency Society hosts a ball once a month. The Victorian evening ensemble debuted at the RITA ceremony in Reno in July. Hallowe'en is Monday. See? My next project is an
18th-century men's coat (brocade with deep velvet cuffs), a 1920s evening dress that will somehow involve Fortuny pleats and a peacock, and an elven dress along the lines of what Arwen wears in Rivendell.

I play Celtic harp and piano. I dance. I create. And when the work gets to be too much . . . I remember to have fun.

Q&A with MEGAN CRANE


Can you tell us about your new book?

In EVERYONE ELSE'S GIRL (Warner 5 Spot, October 2005) Meredith McKay has gone to a lot of trouble to create the picture-perfect life for herself -- far away from her troublesome family, thank you. When her father's car accident forces her back to her hometown, however, she soon discovers that there's no running away from family issues -- there's only delaying the inevitable. Can anyone sort out a lifetime of drama in one hot summer? Throw in a hot guy from back in high school with an ax to grind, a best friend turned enemy turned soon-to-be-sister-in-law, and of course, the sometimes irritating, sometimes delightful members of her own family, and Meredith is on her way to figuring out that a trip through the past is the best way to move forward. With one revelation after another coming to light, Meredith must reexamine all the things she's ever believed, including the truth about herself. Could it be that she isn't the picture-perfect good girl she always thought she was?

What was your favorite part about writing this book?

Finishing it! I'm serious. Meredith McKay moved into my head, set up shop there, and refused to leave me alone until her story was told. If that sounds uncomfortable, it was. She's sweet, but tenacious. I realize this makes me sound like a lunatic.

If this book was made into a movie, who would you pick to star in it?

I envision Meredith as Reese Witherspoon. That sweet smile and tough chin are all Meredith!

What are you working on right now?

RIGHT AT THIS MOMENT I am working on this Q & A. I am also finishing up an essay, and preparing to start a work-for-hire project.

Where do you get your ideas?

I wish I knew! I don't really get ideas-- I sort of write my way into them. This is a major benefit of not plotting. Often, the book I end up with bears no resemblance whatsoever to the book I had planned.

What is the best advice you could give an aspiring writer?

Just to write. And not to listen to any advice that you think doesn't apply to you. It probably doesn't. (And even if it does, I think we should all cultivate that inner voice that thinks otherwise!)

What is your favorite movie of all time?

I think I used to have favorite movies before you could get TV shows on DVD. Now that you can spend ENTIRE SEASONS with your favorite characters, movies seem small and confined. Or maybe that's just me?

Favorite book?

I don't have one, because I have way too many.

Favorite television show?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Amen.

Favorite author?

Again, I can't pick a favorite. I have a lot of favorites!

If you were stranded on a deserted island with one person, living or dead, who would you like it to be?

Preferably someone who was handy and possibly magical, so we could get OFF the island.

If on that island you could only listen to 2 CDs, what would they be?

I would have to have my iPod with MANY more songs than that. And since I don't plan to remain on the island too long (see above, re: handy person to get us back to safety), battery life would obviously not be a problem.

If you weren't a writer, what would you like to do for a living?

I would like to be an international star of stage and screen. Or royalty.

What are a few of your favorite websites?

www.chicklitbooks.com is the best!




Visit Megan's website | Reach Megan by email | Purchase Everyone Else's Girl

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

At Risk of Being a Bore...


I'm late posting today because I've only just returned from a very fast trip to St. Louis.
I flew out Sunday night to attend a Waldenbooks regional bookseller meeting as a guest author and caught a plane back early early this morning. There were probably twenty authors attending the after dinner book signing, a mixed group of genres from romance, sci fi and fantasy, mystery, Christian market, and women's fiction. There aren't many opportunities for an author to meet 120 booksellers so this was a fabulous opportunity and red eye flights and sleepy cab rides are a small price to pay for such excellent exposure. I know this. However, and this is where I sound crabby, I'm struggling lately with the publishing industry small talk.

Maybe it's fatigue, maybe it's just being away from my kids too much, but I am finding it increasingly difficult to talk about "being a writer." I don't know what being a writer means. I don't feel like anything but a mom lately and as such, Halloween costumes and being invited to so-and-so's birthday party is far more pressing than well, sharing with taxi drivers at 3:30 in the morning on how I became a published author.

Lots of people assume once you sell your first book, you've got your foot in the door and now have it made. Unfortunately, writing--even for multi-published authors--is often difficult and demanding and I don't think there's an easy way to sell. Not the first time, and not the twentieth time. Why? Because quite frankly, I don't think there's an easy way to write. There is just the sit down and do it until you scream--I mean, succeed--method, which is how most of my friends eventually sold. And continue to sell. People ask me all the time. "How did you sell?" Well, you write, and edit, and rewrite and edit again until you're ready to submit, only to be rejected and left to your own devices to figure out what's wrong and how to improve. And then you write and edit some more and this goes on and on and on, sometimes for years. In my case, fifteen years.

But telling this to a taxi driver at 3:30 in the morning when I've only had 3 hours sleep and no coffee is nothing short of painful this morning. But the driver keeps asking questions and I keep (reluctantly) answering when all I want to do is close my eyes and get another twenty minutes of sleep. But I do not sleep. I talk to him. I answer his questions. After all, I am a guest in the back of his car. And I'd very much like to get to the airport to catch my flight home. So I try my best to explain the intricacies of the publishing world, and how one submits a manuscript, and how one gets an agent, and what makes an agent good, and finally, after much painful sharing, I ask him, "so what do you write?"

"Oh, no, I don't write," my good taxi driver answers. "It's been a long night. I'm just bored."

He's just bored? I'm just exhausted. And all I can think is, where is Starbucks? Where is my bottle of advil? Where is the airport?

Please God, get me on my plane. I just want to go home.

Monday, October 24, 2005

One of the best times for a writer . . .


Is when she gets her new cover and loves it!

The new Warner cover is here and I'm so excited. I love the look.

There are a lot of times in a writer's life when writing is just not fun. For instance I have a Nov.1 deadline for one book with 70 pages left to write and another book due Nov 22 with 200 pages left to write. Not that I'm complaining about having a lot of work. But for the next month, I'll have my head in the computer 24/7 and be doubting my competency and creativity at every turn.

What helps make it doable are great covers and wonderful ad copy and terrific editors who understand when you're a neurotic mess.


I also received the galley's for YOU ONLY LOVE TWICE last week and diligently trying to squeeze it in with my other work. The cool thing about galleys is that you finally get to see how the book turned out. I have to say I'm really happy.

See, I based this book on my mother. It's about a conspiracy theory comic book artist who runs afoul of a sexy ex-Navy SEAL. Not that my mom is a comic book artist, nor did she run afoul of a Navy SEAL, but she is a conspiracy theoriest extraordinaire. She can tell you things that will curl your hair. Most of it is farfetched and pretty outlandish, but darn if there isn't a bit of truth in those theories. That's what makes them so compelling. If nothing else, it's great fodder for fiction.

I didn't have much of a point here. Just admiring my cover and procrastinating about getting back to work. Anybody else out there know any conspiracy theorists? What's the wildest theory you've ever heard?

Sunday, October 23, 2005

When Is Sunday Ever Fun?

You would think that since I don't have to be in an office tomorrow, the hideousness of Monday wouldn't apply to me at all.

You would think wrong.

As I believe I mentioned before, I'm easily led astray. Each Monday I start anew: new Weight Watchers flex points, new week in which to exceed expectations re: the gym, my writing, my commitment to housework.

Each week goes something like this:

Monday: IT IS ON. I will get up at 5:30, have a brisk jog, tend to various chores, write 2,000 words, and reply to all outstanding email. At 8:30am, I will go to the gym. Midday: I will eat VERY LOW FAT/CALORIE meal, continue writing, WRITE ALL DAY. Around 5:30pm I will stop working and clean the entire house, including behind the toilet, which does not clean itself no matter how I ignore it. A long walk after a lovely salad for dinner and it's off to a blissful, restful sleep!

Tuesday: Okay. So I got to the gym yesterday. But today! Today I will forget about all those blogs I have to catch up on, to say nothing of celebrity gossip. Straight to work! And it's too bad about the pizza, but no one's perfect, it's not a DIET it's a LIFESTYLE CHANGE, and CHANGE TAKES TIME.

Wednesday: Don't they call this hump day? And, tragically, not for naughty and/or fun reasons? ...I suppose I should write SOMETHING... Just as soon as I finish this email. And that blog entry. And maybe I should Google myself... (again.)

Thursday: Must write something-- anything-- hey, is that a new show on TiVo? Did I miss Veronica Mars? Who put those M&M's in the kitchen? And yes, I would LOVE to go out tonight and consume my body weight in Mexican food, thanks!

Friday: THANK GOD IT'S FRIDAY! Woot! I'm going OUT because I am TIRED and it's the WEEKEND, baby!!!

Saturday: (Well. There's always next week.)

Sunday: Tomorrow. Definitely. Tomorrow this is BOOT CAMP, people. TOMORROW.

Which is why I hate Sundays. Don't you?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Shara Lily Martini Lee Jean Epstein Quinn

I love to write about characters who are somewhat untamed, a bit menacing. Usually, this description pertains to my heroes, but today I'd like to tell you about a girl as feral as any of my most hardened warriors.

She struts arrogantly down the street, chest out, haughty chin tilted, a wild gleam in her tawny eyes that asks even the biggest, hairiest bully who passes, "You want a piece 'a me?"

She is a killer who stalks her hapless prey with the diligence and stealth of a lioness, pouncing with chilling accuracy. A merciless beast, she prefers to toy with her victims before killing them, taking great joy in tossing their stunned bodies into the air, and then kicking them across the floor. I've personally witnessed her ripping the wings from an innocent fly and then traipsing away happily, tongue dangling from her lips.

But even Frankenstein's monster had a gentle side, and this particular monster is no different. She has the tenderest touch, and has been known to seduce the hearts of many men with just one kiss, which usually involves a good amount of tongue. Her best friend, a hot, shaggy blonde guy with the patience of an angel, has often been the recipient of her most loving kisses. But the second his back is turned she steals his possessions and hides them with a cunning deliberation that would make Blackbeard proud.
WARNING: If you ever happen upon this hellion, guard your ankles at all costs!


Her name is Shara Lily Martini Lee Jean Epstein Quinn, and she is two pounds of fierce, primitive, fearless Chihuahua. I bought her as a gift to my daughter with my first advance, but she is truly a gift to us all. Our tiny beast-ette protects us with her life from such threatening terrors as bicycles, other peoples’ shoes, fireworks, shadows, and of course, other dogs. It is of utmost importance that she greet us with her fangs clamped down on her favored toy (a trait I have yet to figure out.) She’s our joy, our love, our little monster.


Angel? or...... Devil?














Seductress
The hot, shaggy guy. Our precious, patient boy, Snowball, who often suffers the indignity of being dressed up by my daughters.

It's on the shelves!

This is the month my second Warner book, THE MARRIAGE BARGAIN, is out on bookshelves,
and I have to say, having your second "child" is almost as exciting as the first!
I happened to be in New York City on Oct 1, the release date. My high school friend Barbara and I met for a NY weekend, because she wanted to see Michael Ball (British musical theatre star of the original Phantom of the Opera) who was performing in Gilbert & Sullivan's Patience. 'Wanting to see' puts it too mildly. HAD to see. Would mow people down to see. So besides enjoying the performance--Michael Ball really lights up the stage--we also HAD to hang around the stage door for him to come out. The really mind boggling thing about this is, a *long* time ago, Barbara and I did much the same thing when we went to see the Beatles! We were luckier this time. Here's Barbara with Michael Ball.


All that has nothing to do with the release of my book except that it puts me in New York! We saw Michael Ball on a Friday and on Saturday we walked around looking for a bookstore in order to see if my book was on the shelves. We found a Barnes & Noble nearby and searched for my book in the Romance section. It was not there,but that was because it was in the new books section where it was nicely facing out! Here's the proof--me with THE MARRIAGE BARGAIN!


Barbara bought the book and I signed what they had in stock--22 copies!!
But that is not the end of our adventure. We decided over breakfast that we didn't like our hotel because it was too far away from all the NY action and we discovered the Marriot Marquis right in Times Square. So we went in and talked to Tamika at the Reservation desk who helped us get out of our other hotel and found us a nice deal on a room there. In gratitude, I pulled my book out of Barbara's bag and gave it to Tamika! She was lovely enough to be excited about receiving a romance novel from a real romance author. I signed it for her, and we hurried back to the other hotel to make the switch. We went on to see The Producers and have drinks at Sardis and sit at an outdoor cafe and talk and talk and talk, just like high school days.
What could be better? Seeing THE MARRIAGE BARGAIN on the shelves, with its yummy hero on the cover. Being with my oldest friend (or, I should say, my friend for the most number of years, because we are definitely NOT old!). And in New York City!
It was a great time and a great memory!
All the best,
Diane

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

To Write - Or Not To Write?

At the end of every deadline, I have a serious discussion with myself.

"Candy, you idiot!" I say. "Is writing really worth what you put yourself through to get the #$@& book finished and turned in on time?"

Every time I always answer, "No, it isn't worth it. I'm never writing another book as long as I live."

Now, this is the part where I hope to evoke at least a little sympathy from dear readers who are taking time to read my post on this wonderful Warner Women's blog that my fabulous fellow Warner authors have so graciously allowed me to join.

Let me assure you, sympathy was NOT the reaction I received from those terrified people I ran off the road last Friday (the last day of my most recent deadline) on my race to the Post Net place before 6:00pm so I could mail my manuscript on time. Trust me. The shout-outs I received were not praise for finishing my manuscript. And if memory serves me correctly, you're supposed to use ALL of your fingers when you send someone a friendly wave.

Nor, I might add, was the little old lady on a walker crossing in front of me as I roared into the Post Net parking lot, the least bit sympathetic with my plight. She stopped dead still in the middle of the road and politely decided to look through her big-as-a-house purse. NOT what I needed when it was already 5:45pm. But being a compassionate soul, and I truly am, I took a deep breath and slowly counted to ten.  Then to fifteen. Twenty. Twenty-two. Twenty-five long seconds is what I counted. "Granny!" I finally yelled. "I've got to mail this manuscript! Could you please move your slow butt out of my way!" Ahem. The name she called me turned the air as blue as her tightly-permed hair.

It was exactly 5:50pm when I finally made it into the Post Net store, but the UPS guy definitely wasn't sympathetic. Cute, yes. But NOT sympathetic. He was on his way out the door (having already picked up what he thought were all of the last-minute packages) when I flew into the Post Net place, wild-eyed from no sleep in a week, wearing the same pajamas I'd had on for days, and with my hair standing straight out on end. I yelled "Catch" to the Post Net guy and threw him my manuscript, and I had no choice but to tackle Mr. What Can Brown Do For You? right in the middle of the store. The poor guy hit the floor with a nasty thud, and I did apologize, truly I did. But just to be on the safe side, I sat on top of him until the Post Net guy placed my manuscript on top of the neat stack of packages already secured to his dolly.

Before the cops arrived, I hurriedly left the Post Net store, fully convinced that the headlines in my local paper the next morning would read: SEARCH CONTINUES FOR CRAZED ROMANCE AUTHOR IN HER PAJAMAS WHO ATTACKED LOCAL UPS MAN AT THE POST NET STORE. And that's when I again had that same serious discussion I always have with myself after a deadline.

This time, however, I made myself a promise. Before I changed my mind (as I always do) I would go home and e-mail my editor with the news that I never intended to write another book as long as I lived.  Amen!

As so, when I got back home, I went straight to my office, turned on the computer, and got on-line to write my editor a nice farewell note. But when my e-mail thingy popped up, the first subject line I saw was from a fellow author that read: Check out your terrific Publisher's Weekly review for MR. DESTINY (my upcoming November 2005 release) on Amazon.com.

I honed in on the word "terrific."

And yes, like a big dummy, I couldn't resist going to Amazon to check it out.

"Candy, you idiot," I told myself, a huge grin spreading across my face as I read the PW review.  "Maybe you should nix that farewell note to your editor."

And so I did.

At least until my next deadline.

Candy Halliday

Write what you know

All the fun rules of writing.

"Show don't tell." Gotcha.

"Be specific." Yup.

"Write what you know." Uh, wait a minute...

So how does "write what you know" apply if you want to write a paranormal? Or a fantasy? Vampires don't really exist (at least, I'm pretty sure they don't). Dragons? Were-chipmunks? Other dimensions?

Or even if you're not writing a fantasy at all. Say you're just writing a book from the opposite sex's POV. Or about a murderer and horrible crimes when your life has just been butterflies and pancakes.

"We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves."
- James Joyce, ULYSSES

Forgive me for quoting Ulysses (a quote I got from Jonathan Carroll's blog. I have tried, and failed, several times to read Ulysses)

But it sums it up. At the essence of any novel, be it set in space or at the bottom of the ocean, is to discover something about ourselves. About mankind. We all share the same experiences to a certain level. To learn something about ourselves, to see our struggle in someone else's struggle.

We are all Frodo on our difficult journey to find meaning in our lives.

Atlantis is only a city. It's the people that make it legendary.

Through love, failure, hope, joy, despair. Emotions. We've all felt them. If you can make your dragon hero "human", then you know enough to write about dragons.

If you live in a small farming town in the middle of nowhere, you can write about an outpost in the far reaches of space.

Use what you know. You know more than you think you do. Apply the everyday to the extraordinary.

And for the rest of it, just fake it. ;-)

Michelle

www.MichelleRowen.com

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Time Out - Not just for kids

Every parent I know has given a child a Time Out, usually when that child has reached the parent’s tolerance level for unacceptable behavior. Sending a child to sit on a couch for a few minutes gives both the parent and child time to calm down and deal with the situation with less yelling and fewer tears. I’ve never viewed Time Out as a punishment, just a break so everyone can regroup and come back to the problem in better frame of mind.

My husband and I gave each other a Time Out this past weekend. He’s been working long hours for too many days in a row, and I’ve reached a point in the current book where the characters don’t want to cooperate and the writing is going too slow for my peace of mind and I’m stressing over whether or not I’ll find a way to tell this story in a satisfactory manner. Our only rules were that we couldn’t talk about work and we’d get out of the house. So we asked another couple to Time Out with us and took off in the car for three days.

What a joy! The days were warm and the nights cool. We drove out to the Mississippi River to take in the fall colors decorating the bluffs, and managed to spot several eagles. There are several casinos in both Wisconsin and Minnesota that were delighted to have us stop in. Good food. Nice hotels. Great friends to spend time with.

Okay, so you’re thinking this was a mini-vacation, and you might be right because that’s what it turned out to be. The thing was, we didn’t plan anything other than to get in the car and go wherever the whim took us. Since we didn’t have anything planned, we were never late, or needed to put on so many miles every day. A no-schedule weekend with nothing to do but enjoy ourselves.

I’ll find out later this afternoon if the Time Out worked for my husband as well as it did for me. I’ve written several pages today without grinding my teeth or cursing at the computer screen. My subconscious must have been working on my plot problem because that smoothed out about page three without me beating my head against the proverbial wall.

Need a Time Out? Where would you go?

Shari Anton

www.sharianton.com

MIDNIGHT MAGIC, December 2005

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The dreaded to-do list ...

I'm a scientist, actually.  Really.  I have an engineering diploma and two U.S. patents to prove it :-)  One of the fundamental laws of nature is that stuff expands. Energy spreads out.  It's kind of like a teenager's bedroom.  Their stuff expands until the bedroom walls can't hold it in anymore.  This I know as I have a teenager of my own.  Unfortunately, I can't chide her too much for her room because mine looks just as bad.  Oops, now you know I'm a bad housekeeper.  Just don't tell anyone...
 
The problem is, it's not just the energy of the universe and teenagers' bedroom mess that expands.  No, I'm not even going to start on expanding waistlines.  That would be the painful subject of another blog, and I have my head stuck in the sand over that one anyway.  I like carbs and if I don't eat chocolate, my characters won't get romantic for me.  It's extortion by fictional people, really.  But I digress, which I tend to do a lot.  Usually I can find my way back without breadcrumbs.
 
Today I'm thinking about the stuff I do all day long.  My to-do list.  Responsibilities...  Have you ever wished for more hours in the day?  I have.  Problem is, I know if I had more hours I'd just fill them up with more stuff.  As a full-time writer, a part-time high school teacher, a full-time mom and wife ... my to-do list expands to fit the amount of time I have.  I've come to accept that as one of the laws of my nature :-)
 
I guess the trick is to make all the things on the to-do list correspond with the things that are most important.  Sometimes that's the hardest thing on the list to do - so many things vying for time.  "Finish me!  Finish me!".  Then something happens to make me step back and look at the list again.  A hurricane or an earthquake.  I think I'll take another look at my list.  But first I'm going to kiss my kids and my husband. 
 
Take care,
Karen Rose
 
I'M WATCHING YOU, Winner of the RWA RITA for BEST ROMANTIC SUSPENSE, 2005
 
NOTHING TO FEAR, Romantic Times TOP PICK!  Available Now!
HOT PURSUIT, A Suspense Anthology, NAL, December, '05
YOU CAN'T HIDE, Warner Books, April '06
www.karenrosebooks.com

On my hands and knees: Julie's dirty thoughts about the writing process

            Some authors proceed through the writing of their books sequentially; they know what’s going to happen when and to whom and in which chapter right from the very beginning. I know authors who actually use Excel spreadsheets and bubble charts (::cough:: Michelle ::cough:: ) and index cards to plan their stories.

            I’ve tried to be one of those authors. Honest to God, I’ve tried. It seems so elegant, so mature, so very accomplished, this way of doing things.  I’ve tried index cards (Pink ones! Too pretty to write on, in fact); I’ve tried following the synopsis (this was dull, since given an option, I’m a “dessert first” sort of person, which means I always write the "love" scenes right away. And by that I mean sex scenes.). I even drew a bubble once and wrote something in it, but then I got distracted and drew a flower and a little horsie and a big eye (pretty much the only things I knew how to doodle), and that was the end of that.

            And the irony is: I’m a person of lists. I love to sort and analyze; I, in fact, spent years at one job making Excel-driven pie charts and bar charts of mind-boggling variety. But my writing process defies all attempts to impose this sort of structure upon it.

            No: I basically have to…unearth my stories. It’s like an archaeological dig, where I stumble across something shiny poking up out of the dirt, and I kneel and delicately brush the dust off it, and by God—

Alert the press! It’s the shard of a story!

Which means the rest of that story must be scattered around there somewhere, right?

That's how it begins. I set up metaphorical camp, and get down on my metaphorical hands and knees in the metaphorical dirt with a metaphorical little brush, and I delicately dig up and brush off the story one piece at a time. I do always go into it knowing what my pivotal scenes will be, and I often write those first. But then I have to find the rest of the pieces of the story, and it’s a sweaty, inelegant, hair-tearing, teeth-gnashing, ceiling-staring process, requiring its own sort of precision, I suppose, bringing with it endless surprises and ending, usually, with satisfaction (more or less) and a met deadline.

But I will have flow chart envy until the day I write my last story.

Any other writers out there want to reveal their own dirty little writing secrets?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

From Sarah McKerrigan...

From Sarah McKerrigan...
 
    Writing is a lonely business.  After spending hours staring at a computer screen, inventing characters and imaginary worlds, it’s revitalizing to mingle with real characters in the real world.  That’s why I enjoy booksignings.
    About once a month, I sign books for Tea & Sympathy, a bookstore that travels to Scottish festivals all over the West.  There I meet interesting folk who refresh my spirit and feed my muse.
    Attending the fairs is a cross-section of humanity: distinguished old gentlemen in tartan ties, goth chicks in torn fishnets, redheaded toddlers with plastic swords, brawny lads sporting kilts and boots, Hispanic men in Guinness t-shirts, Scottish dancers--stick-thin and parchment pale, black women in the Purple Hat Society, tattooed bikers with clan badges, Queen Mary’s in full regalia, bored teenagers, tipsy bagpipers, little old British ladies with twinkling eyes...
    All of them have a story if you care to listen.  One proud woman can trace her ancestry back to Robert the Bruce.  Another wishes she had time to write a book of her own.  A bleary-eyed man wants to tell me all about his time in the war.  A giggling newlywed wants to share photos of her honeymoon in Scotland.  Some of them I’ve spoken with before.  Some of them are strangers.  But there’s something about meeting an author that brings out the storyteller in them.
    And honestly, I enjoy listening.  A writer never knows where inspiration will turn up (though to my chagrin, it’s often in the shower or while driving a car).  I find that the more I immerse myself in the real world, mingling with real people who relate real experiences, the more real I can make my own stories.

Sarah McKerrigan...
Stories to keep you up all night.
LADY DANGER
Riding to the rescue April 2006

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Random Thoughts of the Sleep Deprived


To blog or not to blog, that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to pierce
The endless writer’s block and pen some mindless scribble,
Or to take arms against literary lassitude,
And through conscious effort, be meaningful? To bed, to sleep;
No more; and by caffeinating say we embrace
The hypertension and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ‘tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To bed, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of total exhaustion what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off all conscious thought
Must give us pause: relentless pending deadlines
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the stress and sacrifice,
The reviewers’ wrong, the editor’s one last change,
The pangs of unrequited love in too short a page count,
When the author might her quietus make
By laying down her pen and scribe no more…
Never more, never more,
Quoth the author, never more.

My apologies to Shakespeare and Poe – two of my favorites. An author, such as myself, who is a hardcore plotter, should not also be a hardcore procrastinator. It is a true test of one’s creative ability to be smashed up against a deadline, brain-locked and needing to deliver something of literary (or at least of entertainment) value. Uh – I’m talking strictly about my blog deadline, you know? Yeah! Yeah, that’s right, just the BLOG deadline, not my book deadline. I’ve got THAT well under control. You bet. Nooooo worries…

And no, I didn’t consume too many drugs in the ‘70’s, I’m merely suffering from too little sleep in the ‘00’s! Too many nights of going to bed after 11 pm and waking up at 4:30 am.

What’s up with me lately? I’m diligently working on my book – you know, the one that’s well under control???? – and we’re approaching the holidays which means that my free time is about to be subjugated to family holiday obligations. My stress level has just ratcheted up a couple of notches, but that’s okay because – what’s the drill?? You all know it and preach it yourselves…. “I work best under pressure.”

One thing I did get off my list of “To do’s” is my website. For the last several years, I’ve been doing my own website – not well, mind you, but at least getting stuff out there. Well, no more. I’ve hired someone who knows what they’re doing. Donna Grant (donna@donnagrant.com) did my website and I’m thrilled with it. If you get a chance, please drop by and check it out.

And now – I must go write.

Robin T. Popp
www.robintpopp.com

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

It's All in the Name

When I wrote my first story, I named the heroine Stephanie. Yes, creative, eh? (hint: that's my own name). I couldn't think of any other names, so why not? And I named the hero Dave because, well, it was a good solid male name, right? Life was good. Life was simple.

Then I went to write my next book, I realized I had to think of more names. No problem. I had lots of family and friends.

My next several books were stocked with characters I was related to, and various derivations of their names. My brother's name is Benjamin Oliver Davis. I had a Ben, a Benji, an Ollie. It's amazing how much you can do with one name!

Then I had my friend Lori read one of my books. Let's just say, she wasn't too fond of the character I'd named after her. "Why do I have to be the stuck-up, idiot, b*tch roommate? Is that what you think of me?" Then someone told me that an author had recently been sued by a friend for using their name in a book without permission (I'm over-simplying the lawsuit, but suffice to say, it got me thinking).

Um... perhaps it was time to rethink my strategy.

Off to the bookstore for a baby name book. Do you have any idea how many baby name books there are? I decided I didn't need one with etymology or one-of-a-kind illustrations by famous authors, so I bought the cheapest one with the most names and got to work.

Brilliant! Life was easy again.

Until I realized that I kept picking the same names over and over again. They rolled nicely off my tongue. Why not?

Because if I ever sold all my unpublished manuscripts, the readers would think I was writing one long series with the same characters and that might get a wee bit confusing--"Why is this woman now a lawyer in Boston, when she used to be a blacksmith in Maine? That's quite the rapid career change." Hmm... time to regroup again.

So I created an excel spreadsheet into which I entered every manuscript I'd ever written. I had a column for the hero's first name, the heroine's first name, both their last names, and then first and last names of prominent secondary characters. Each time I started a new story, I checked my spreadsheet and updated it. Excellent. Name issues: over.

Until one day, I couldn't find my baby name book. (Translation: I could not reach it without hauling my butt out of my desk chair and standing up). So I did a google search and came up with some sweet baby naming websites. The only problem was that I couldn't simply browse the entire database. I had to do a search of some sort.

And this is when everything changed for me. I started doing searches by meaning, and a whole new world was opened to me. I used to roll my eyes at people who said they spent hours laboring over the right name for their heroine; not anymore. I have fallen in love with the naming process. I don't pick names until I have my characters fleshed out, and then I have to find the right name for them. I search by meaning, by how it sounds, by country of origin, how strong it is (I hate wimpy names for my women!) For the names of the otherworld entities in my paranormals, I do a lot of playing around on a latin translation site and searching by meaning on the name sites. It's a total blast, and once I settle on a name for my characters, I can't change it. The name becomes who they are as much as their personality and their past.

My name is Stephanie Rowe, and I am a name junkie.


Visit Stephanie on the web or read her blog.
Email Stephanie
Buy Stephanie's latest release

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Q&A with DIANE PERKINS


Can you tell us about your new book?

THE MARRIAGE BARGAIN (Warner Forever, October 2005) is the first of what I call my Ternion books, Regency Historicals like my first Warner Forever book, The Improper Wife. The Ternion are three boyhood friends who adopted this name, because it means "one plus one plus one." They discovered that they are stronger together than apart. Spence, Blake and Wolfe remained together through school, bought commissions in the army together and fought Napoleon together. The Marriage Bargain tells Spence's story. Spence married timid country girl Emma Chambers, in name only, years before, rescuing her from his uncle’s unwanted suit and providing her the home she desperately desired. He did not know that after he returned to war, Emma’s idyllic life would be transformed into worry and toil and his estate would crumble around her. Blake and Wolfe bring Spence back to Emma in a coffin, struck down in a duel. Emma's youthful romantic fantasy that he would return to make their marriage real is painfully dispelled. Needing to look upon his face one last time, Emma narrowly saves him from being buried alive. In return she seeks a new marriage bargain from Spence – to give her a child. While Spence battles haunting memories and unknown treachery, the one thing he doesn't bargain for is falling deeply in love with his now valiant and captivating wife

What was your favorite part about writing this book?

I have to admit, my favorite part was burying my hero alive (almost)!

If this book was made into a movie, who would you pick to star in it?

When I plan a book, I search through photographs for the right "image" of my hero and heroine. For Spence, I picked Wes Bentley, an actor who was in American Beauty. Emma was Michelle Williams from "Dawson's Creek" but as she appeared in a British film, Me Without You.

What are you working on right now?

I'm working on Blake's story! Blake is a charmer, always trying to be cheerful and to keep the peace. I'm going to give him a heroine to really shake him up!

Where do you get your ideas?

From Macy's? On sale?

Seriously, my books usually start with a glimmer of an idea. For The Improper Wife it was the idea that the heroine would go into labor in the first chapter and the hero would have to deliver her baby. Then I had to figure out the rest of the story. For The Marriage Bargain, it was the "buried alive" idea. I found the book "Buried Alive" by Jan Bondeson, about this primal fear. That started me out and I had to make up a story that fit that beginning of the book.

What is the best advice you could give an aspiring writer?

Join a writers organization, like Romance Writers of America, and then take advantage of all the seminars, meetings, conferences that you can. Find others who love to write like you do and support each other in your aspirations. Write. The most important thing is to write. Finish the book. Crafting a story from beginning to end is invaluable. Finally, in the words of Winston Churchill, "Never Never Never Give Up."

What is your favorite movie of all time?

My favorite movie lately is Jane Austen's Persuasion with Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds, a beautiful depiction of Regency England.

Favorite book?

My favorite book lately is Waterloo: Day of Battle by David Howarth, a depiction of the battle through the eyes of the soldiers who fought it.

Favorite television show?

I am a total LOST fan. Never miss an episode. I started out a big fan of Jack's but he's been pushed aside at the moment for Sawyer, who is a terrific "bad boy" hero.

Favorite author?

This is like asking me to pick my favorite child! I can't do it! I will say that I love to read Regencies. I'm so sorry that the traditional regency is disappearing because these books are like a delicious treat, a pleasant quick read!

If you were stranded on a deserted island with one person, living or dead, who would you like it to be?

My husband. We'd probably argue half the time but who else could put up with me?

If on that island you could only listen to 2 CDs, what would they be?

Gee, probably something classical and something from the big band era. (are you seeing a pattern here? I'm sure you are saying, "This woman is stuck in the past!" It is true. I think I must have been reincarnated . )

If you weren't a writer, what would you like to do for a living?

When I was a county mental health social worker, we used to ask ourselves what we'd like to do for a living if we weren't working in mental health. I always said I'd like to sit in a turret and write romance novels. I don't have a turret, but the rest is pretty much a dream come true. Other than that, I'd like to be a torch singer in an upscale piano bar.

What are a few of your favorite websites?

eBay for just about everything. abebooks.com for research books, most of which are out of print, and amazon.com for new books. (I may live in the past but I'm a great consumer!)

Thanks, Everyone! Happy Reading!



Visit Diane's website | Reach Diane by email | Purchase The Marriage Bargain