Saturday, May 27, 2006
How about those pictures of white sand beaches from the RT convention, huh? I couldn't go, but that's only because Warner is sending me on a BOOK TOUR (can you believe that--I can't, and I'm packing already) to Florida in June, and I had to save my pennies for shopping :)
Four of us inspirational authors from the Warner Faith side of the house (Tracey Bateman, me, Deborah Bedford, and Lyn Cote) will be in the Pensacola area from June 18-24, signing our new releases at Books-A-Million stores. Here's the schedule:
Mobile, AL June 19
Destin, FL June 20
Pensacola, FL June 22
Fort Walton, FL June 23
I believe all the signings are at 7:00 p.m. If you're in the neighborhood, please stop by--we'd love to see you!
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Here is a photo from the hotel
RT is mainly for fans and I love that. It is a treat to meet the people who enjoy reading your books and who make a special effort to tell you so. I met several such folks, including several reviewers who have been enthusiastic about my books.
But RT is something more. I think it is an opportunity to live the fantasy for a few days. At night there is always a party with a theme and attendees dress up according to the theme. There was a fairy ball this year and the fairy costumes were just terrific! This chance to be someone else for a little while is part of the appeal, part of why we read in the first place. I also love the fact that RT is somewhere you can dance, sometimes even with a handsome, shirtless man! How often in our ordinary lives does such an opportunity come about?
Another thing I like is the Awards ceremony. It is always way too long, but RT's Reviewers Choice Awards cover all the variety of Romance and other novels that are out there. For example, my The Marriage Bargain was nominated for Best Regency set Historical (it did not win, alas!) but Kathryn Caskie's Lady in Waiting won for Best Historical Love & Laughter. It is like a celebration of all the wonderful books that are written. You can see all the variety here: http://www.romantictimes.com/books_awards.php?type=book&level=1&year=2005
The booksigning is on Saturday, filling a huge room with authors signing their books. Here is Kathy Caskie signing, giving you an idea of what the signing is like.
This "Book Fair" is open to the public and what particularly touched me were those readers who brought in copies of my book to sign. This meant they had read the book and enjoyed it enough to come looking for me. I had the pleasure to sit next to Liza Palmer, author of Conversations with the Fat Girl, the book that launched the 5 Spot line at Warner.
Here we are:
Just one more photo, a display that Warner provided, showing off the recent and upcoming books.
Thanks, Readers, and Thanks, Romantic Times!
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
My Favorite Couples
Darcy and Elizabeth, naturally:
and latest movie version:
To say nothing of Anne and Captain Wentworth from Persuasion:
Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano from My So-Called Life:
Buffy and Angel, who are destined to eat cookies together, I just know it:
Sydney and Vaughn from Alias, who I can't believe I have to say goodbye to, after five years and all that Rambaldi:
My current couple of choice, despite serious issues on both sides, Veronica Mars and Logan Echolls from the newly-renewed-for-its-third-season Veronica Mars:
and last but not least,
Michelle and Travis from the Romantic Times Convention:
And this isn't even getting into books! And all those movies not taken from Jane Austen novels!
What about you?
Saturday, May 20, 2006
But it doesn't seem to matter what I personally like. In romance, Alphas rule the world. Look at all the guys who populate the real world who'd never make it into our novels. No short guys need apply. If you've got red hair, you're out of here. Bald? Ha! Overweight? Fuggidaboutit. And heaven forbid if a romance hero isn't hung like Trigger.
In an earlier post, Candy asked the question about why romance heroines couldn't be as flawed as television heroines. I content the road is just as hard for heros, maybe even harder. He's got to be tough and sensitive. Gorgeous and rugged. Have washboard abs and be a minimum of six foot tall and listen attentively while slaying dragons. The bar is set pretty darned high.
Do we want out heros as total fantasies? Is it possible to ever have a hero who needs to drop a few pounds and has male pattern baldness and a flat butt? Or must he forever have a lush head of hair and a 32 inch waist? I don't know. Maybe it's just me. I've written 35 books and I'm just a tad tired of unrealistic guys. How much reality are you willing to accept in the romances you read? Should we keep our heroes on a pedastal? Or is it okay to guys who are just a little more real?
Thursday, May 18, 2006
It has to make you wonder why the women we like to read about are so different from the women we like to watch on TV.
Take GREY'S ANATOMY for an example (anyone but me a huge fan)? I shamefully admit Derek couldn't get Meredith's panties down fast enough for me in the season finale this week - yet I'd never have allowed one of my heroines to have sex with a married man, and especially not with his wife and her date right outside the door! Nor would I have allowed Izzy to risk her career, forget her ethical medical obligations and basically steal a donor heart, even in the name of love for Denny. And Christine would have been at Burke's side from the get-go after he was shot, telling him how much she loved him regardless of whether he could ever pick up another scalpel again.
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES has me just as confused. Susan is such a flake - yet I adore her completely. I've watched Bree hide the fact that her son killed someone in a hit-and-run accident, silently sit by her ex-lover's side and let him die of an overdose rather than call for help, refuse to admit she has an alcohol or an OCD problem - yet I care about her anyway. I was shocked when Lynette went behind her husband's back and ruined his chances of the big promotion he wanted - yet now I'm enraged on her behalf because he might have gone behind her back and is cheating on her. And don't get me started on Gabby - sleeping with a teenage boy really has a big ewww factor for me - yet she's one of the most interesting characters on the show. Can you imagine me turning in a manuscript to my editor with any of these women as heroines - I don't think so.
BIG LOVE - anyone else addicted to this new HBO series? I truly don't even know where to begin here. Polygamy - are you kidding me? I'm a romance writer devoted to preserving that special one-on-one man and woman relationship, yet I'm totally hooked on this new show and find myself sympathizing with all three wives and their predicaments. Go figure.
So help me out here with your enlightening opinions. Why do you think we expect our romance heroines to walk a finer line than those women we like to watch on TV?
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
I had my day all planned out. Murphy’s Law has taken hold and won’t go away.
Oh, this morning started out fine. Besides doing this blog, there is nothing on my calendar. This should be a good writing day. After two cups of coffee, getting dressed (I always get dressed. If I don’t, it’s like an open invitation for someone to ring my doorbell.), and checking my email, I’m ready to blog.
The phone rings. Caller ID says the contractor who will be doing remodeling work for us this summer is calling. I’d better answer that. They want to send someone out late this afternoon to double check some measurements. Okay, no problem. I should be able to get pages written by then. Again, I’m ready to blog.
The doorbell rings. What??? I’m dressed!! I peek out the window and the FedEx guy is standing there with a package. Okay, this won’t take long. It’s probably a research book I ordered. Not. He’s delivering the copyedits for TWILIGHT MAGIC. Naturally, I have to open the envelope to see what the copyeditor wants me to check on. Uh, oh. She says there’s no
The phone rings. It’s the local hospital. This can’t be good. I’m sure you can all imagine the horrors that sped through my mind in the millisecond it took for my hand to grab the receiver and put it to my ear. It’s amazing how many loved ones you can think of, and how many terrifying scenarios you can envision, in a millisecond. Turns out (thank you, Lord) that the insurance company has denied payment on a charge for a routine test that they’ve been paying for without question for several years. A call to the insurance company reveals they somehow got the idea that I have medical insurance separate from my husband’s. No, I say. We’ll pay the bill, she says. Thank you.
Four hours have now passed since I turned off the alarm clock.
I have already transferred a barely begun chapter of SUNSET MAGIC to my flash drive and the charger on my laptop reads 82%. When the battery level gets to 100%, I’ll put on shoes (Getting dressed doesn’t necessarily mean putting on shoes. Slippers work.), then I’m leaving home. After a stop at the coffee shop for a huge, caffeine-rich Mocha Latte, I’ll head for one of the study rooms at the library where no one can get to me. I figure this will be good practice for later this summer when the workmen are in here ripping things up and nailing things down, and it will be absolutely impossible to work at home.
MIDNIGHT MAGIC, Available Now!
TWILIGHT MAGIC, December 2006 – which MIGHT include a scene on
SUNSET MAGIC, in progress, one chapter at a time
Friday, May 12, 2006
Stories to keep you up all night!
Riding to the rescue April 2006
Thursday, May 11, 2006
I wanted to write about characterization, or plotting, or about any of the hundred other things a writer has to worry about. I wanted to talk about voice, and pacing, and POV (I have a story about one of my students and a second-person draft that usually makes writers laugh 'til they cry.) But I am in a sorry mood this morning, my fellow Warner authors. So I have decided to write about something a little different: what writers have to deal with to get to the page.
Writing is hard bloody work. It's made no easier by the persistent perception that anyone can do it. Every idiot has an idea for a book. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard someone say, "I've got this idea! You write it, and we'll split it fifty-fifty!" I would own my own publishing house by now. (Or maybe I'd invest in livestock. Not much money in books.)
Let's look at the sheer physical work of it. A novel is between seventy and a hundred thousand words. Each of those words must be typed by hand--carpal-tunnel style. Typing is hard on the back, it's hard on the wrists, it's bad for the digestion and it's sedentary work, so it makes my hips spread like butter. Short stories? You still type several drafts to get a submittable story. Poetry? Might be easier on the back, but it rips you open emotionally. What fun.
Then there's the research that has to be done if you're serious at all, and the printing-out of manuscripts. Which adds pure expense to the physical toil. Not to mention SASEs and shipping, and writing starts to look more like a hobby for the rich than an art form.
I write sitting in a papasan chair with my laptop on the ottoman in front of me. I've finished twenty-two novels that way (most of them lumps of coal, I am sorry to say.) I do get up every twenty minutes or so to stretch or minister to the little people in my household (more about that in a minute) But if a book's hot or the revisions are going well, I can be hunched there for hours. Which gives me raging heartburn as well as an aching back and a headache the size of Godzilla. Even someone in an ergonomic chair with a good keyboard can get hurt doing this sort of thing.
Writing is hard work. Don't let anyone tell you different. For someone to want fifty percent of anything you earn with a novel they just had an "idea" for is ridiculous.
The hardest thing, however, is not the physical work. It's time.
Yup, time. For some reason, the world seems to think one is eminently interruptable while writing. After all, it's just typing, right? So the phone begs for your attention. And the door. If one is a stay-at-home mum, the little people do require a spot of work during the day, and the housework can utilize guilt to call you away from a manuscript. God help you if you're at work--employers take a dim view of one polishing one's prose while on the clock. I can't really blame them, but I can't really blame the writer either. After all, writing is more satisfying than cubicle-work, and writers do have a powerful need to eat.
I write at home, so I can only complain about what I know. People assume they can drop in on me at a moment's notice, because I'm "home all day." I'm not "working." People complain because I don't answer the bloody phone all day, forgetting that my "work" is eight to ten hours of writing a day, period. "You're hard to get a hold of!" some wail.
Damn right. I'm too busy writing. But why is my time so less precious, and so prone to be thieved, because I'm writing?
Granted, there are a few friends who can and do stop by anytime. But I expect them to know that if I'm hunched over the keyboard and only grunt when addressed, they are more than welcome to the contents of the liquor cabinet, the snack drawer, or my coffee machine. They can settle down in the room with me and read a book, or listen to music. They do not expect me to drop in the middle of a scene and cater to them. That's why they're allowed in the door at any time.
My friend Jess Hartley tells the story of being at a signing and hearing, over and over again, "Oh, I have a book I'm going to write. When I have the time." It irritated her to no end, and irritates me too. Hey, I've always wanted to be a brain surgeon or a dentist. Someday when I have time I'll walk into a dentist's office or an operating theatre and pick up a drill or a scalpel. Because, you know, I've always wanted to. What? You mean there's more involved than poking a drill in someone's mouth? More involved than cracking a skull and slicing?
You don't say.
The first piece of advice I give aspiring writers remains, Never ever give up. I am thinking of adding a second piece. Value your writing time. It can so easily be eaten away. In order to write one must carve out a chunk of one's day, and defend that chunk with tooth and claw if necessary. Shut the phone off, don't answer the email, let the doorbell ring.
Because to us, it's not just writing. It's living, and one must never be too busy to live.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Thus, what I refer to on my personal blog as The Diet To End All Diets™.
And it’s pretty good so far. In just over a month I’ve shed 17 pounds.
However, I am in the midst of writing the first draft of my next book. My typical ritual for getting the words flowing is to drink regular Gingerale, and have a bag of chips available at all times. Hershey’s Kisses are also within arm’s reach. Because Kisses = kisses. There is a method to the madness.
When I’m searching for the right words, I’d reach for a goodie. And the happy, euphoric yum-yum feeling sweeps over me, helping the prose to flow.
Well, that ain’t happening this time.
The largest snack I’m allowed on this diet is 10 Cheese Nips. Ten. Cheese. Nips.
I’ve also discovered Black Cherry Vanilla Diet Coke, which is quite good, but doesn’t hold a candle to sugar-filled Gingerale.
To compliment Kelley’s great recipe from yesterday (and discussion of things that made my stomach grumble with envy)… here is my typical breakfast recipe. Enjoy!
Michelle’s breakfast for the past month:
1 bread stick
But am I complaining? Well, of course I am. That’s what I do. But this is self-imposed, and it’s for a very good reason. Because as a writer, we develop what is known as Writer’s Ass. And I’m sick of mine.
This means that while I’m writing my first draft I can’t indulge myself any way I want to. When I’m feeling stressed about my storyline or characters, I can’t reach for that chocolate. I can’t bribe writer’s block away with a Cheeto.
And I’ve managed to get to page 212 without any of that. Who knew it was possible?
Although, I must admit, my main character is acting a little cranky.
So what about you? Got any diet hints? Any success stories? Please share; I could use a little inspiration.
BITTEN & SMITTEN - Available Now!
ANGEL WITH ATTITUDE - July '06
FANGED & FABULOUS - Spring '07
Friday, May 05, 2006
But then, eleven weeks ago, my life changed forever with the appearance of a darling little baby girl... and suddenly I became Stephanie the Guilty.
If I'm writing, I feel guilty I'm not being a mom.
If I'm with my daughter, I feel guilty that I'm not writing...and my 7/1 deadline isn't going away on its own.
If I'm writing or doing the mom thing, I feel guilty that I'm not exercising.
If I'm exercising, I feel guilty about not writing or doing the mom thing or anything else.
I constantly feel guilty that the house is a mess (because I'm *never* working on that).
I have become Guilt Woman. No matter what I do, it's not enough. It's awful! I am SO grateful to be able to work from home and to be there for my daughter all the time, but with work omnipresent and my daughter omnipresent, suddenly I'm feeling so overwhelmed!
I've been working so hard on giving myself the freedom to be human. To not write as many hours as I used to. To not feel bad writing while my dh is bonding with the baby in the other room. To force myself to take time to exercise or go to lunch with my friends (bringing along my daughter of course!). To relish the time I get to spend with my daughter, even if the cursor is blinking at me on the screen, calling for me.
I've talked to other working moms, and they all tell me the guilt never goes away. Ugh! I want it to go away! I want to feel great no matter what I'm doing, knowing I'm doing the best I can!
So that's my resolution. To admit I'm human. to embrace whatever I'm doing at the moment, and to not feel bad! And, of course, I vow never to clean my house again. Some things simply can't make it on the priority list!
So as of now, I hereby declare that I am Good Enough.
DATE ME BABY, ONE MORE TIME (Available now!), read an excerpt!
MUST LOVE DRAGONS, 11/06 (new cover has just been posted!)
HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME HOT, Spring 07
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
It’s too crazy to think about. Such a tiny boy. Such a cutie.
Oh, woe is me.
Anyway, this brings me to something I’ve been thinking a lot about: the boy can read now. He comes up behind me as I type and slowly reads, “Jasmine took off her shirt while Josh watched, his eyes hungry...” Then he squints at me and asks, “Why is Jasmine taking off her shirt?”
Do I hide my writing from him? Do I explain it’s Jasmine’s bedtime and she’s putting on her jammies? Do I run and hide? What do you all do about the books you write? About the books that are lying around the house?
Little boys are not supposed to read romance novels. Heck, big boys aren’t even really supposed to read them. They’re supposed to be out shooting deer and fixing cars and drinking beer and such.
My husband, for instance, has never read any of my books. He looks over my shoulder and says, “They had sex HOW many times in a row? Um…I better go out and shoot some deer and fix the car…”
Maybe my son will take the same strategy: denial.
After all, he’s seven, but he’s no dummy…
Have a great spring day!
Monday, May 01, 2006
Okay, where was I?
Bedside tables. Right. So I was thinking that we could all learn interesting things about each other’s personalities by looking at our bedside tables. Like, do you have rose-scented hand cream or Bag Balm? A photo of your father in a silver frame or a snap shot of an ex lover? Things like that.
But then I actually went and looked at my bedside table and swear to God this is what I found:
- Digital clock missing its clear plastic face
- Blue stuffed bunny (not mine)
- Pink beaded necklace (not mine)
- Susan Crandall’s PROMISES TO KEEP looking warped because a glass of water got spilled on it (NOBODY TELL SUSAN!)
- Lamp with stained lamp shade
- Cough drop wrapper
- Hardback Nancy Drew: THE DOUBLE JINX MYSTERY (not mine)
- Nail clippers
- Calvin and Hobbes comics collection book (not mine)
Huh. Am I a slob or what?
But, really, there are extenuating circumstances here. Namely, dogs and children. For instance, Susie’s warped book (NOBODY TELL SUSAN!) got that way because I have a small rat terrier dog who distains her water dish in the kitchen. Instead, she prefers the glass of water I usually have on my bedside table at night. If I forget to bring it down in the morning, sometime during the day she will climb on the bed, jump to the bedside table, and drink out of the glass, usually knocking it over in the process. (And I don’t want to hear from all you non-dog people who think dogs drinking out of people glasses is totally disgusting. It is. Deal with it.) And when the dog is on my nightstand, apparently she knocks everything else off, too. For a while there I was coming home to my house in central Illinois and thinking an earthquake had hit every day. Anyway, this also explains the clock being broken.
Similarly, some of the things on my bedside table belong to my Youngest. We have discussed the concept of personal space—or rather MY personal space—but we’re still working on the idea and it appears to be a hard one. I’m resigned to that fact that I’ll have pink beaded necklaces and the like on my bedside table until she leaves for college.
So. Tell me what’s on YOUR bedside table. Or, yanno, if you’re not interested in that topic, tell me what you think of Kiefer’s voice. Look! Here he is again!