March 7th, 2014
I’ve missed blogging. Many times when I have something I want to say on Twitter, it requires a string of tweets to get it all in, and who knows if anyone ever sees the entire thought. I realize blogging has lost its luster, but I’m going to revive mine. It feels like home. I thought today I’d mention that I have not been 100% true to my vow to give up social media. I still haven’t read my Twitter tweet stream or my Facebook news feed, but I have checked for mentions. I keep up with my kids and other family goings-on on FB, so I do check my “family” tab once a day. And if I have responses or tags there, I’ll take a look. That’s my personal profile, but I do the same with my author page, and it’s easy to check Twitter mentions.
But having been gone for most of two days now, I have finished a complicated synopsis that I’d been dallying with for weeks, and sent it off to my agent for input. It doesn’t matter that I have 50+ books under my belt, I still get a little thrill when I send something off. My career has bounced between so many publishing houses over the years, that I don’t have a long-time home, so no guarantee what I’ll be writing next, or for whom! I do have ideas for two more Hope Springs books.
But, honestly, whether I write those depends on how Luna and Indiana sell. Like I said 50+ books under my belt, and the industry shifting so quickly… Sometimes it seems like it’s hard to find a solid foundation. And I like writing so many different things. Right now, I’m working on a HUGE project with my husband, and having a ton of fun with it. We’ll eventually have a website, and we do have a Twitter account already. We’re just determined to focus on the writing, and to not talk about the specifics of the writing until we have the bulk of the story drafted. And it is SO AMAZINGLY COOL I can’t WAIT to talk about it!
But what’s equally cool is the co-writing process. I don’t know how other author teams work together, but it took us some fits and starts to get into a routine that still has flaws. Like someone deleting someone else’s words ::SOB:: without making a copy for future reference. (I’m over that now. Almost.) I stopped writing in Word a couple of years ago. I now write solely in Scrivener. The license allows for use on more than one machine, so we started out there. It quickly got too hard to manage because there was no easy way to work at the same time. So I kept using Scrivener, while the husband began working in Google Docs. Soon, I joined him.
What’s so amazing about Google Docs is we can both be writing on the same scene at the same time. We can delete or rewrite each others words, and we can both see it. We rarely do this. We’re usually writing in two different spots in the story, having already worked out what happens in each of the three acts. We’re deep into act two at the moment, and every day we figure out more and more things that we can add down the road.
The coolest thing of all, though, is how much reality is going into this work of fiction. Reality SHOULD be in fiction, I hear you saying, and I agree. But this is different, and I can’t explain without…explaining. The husband susses out the most amazing news and science articles, medicine, technology and the facts are dovetailing so perfectly with our make-believe world. And there ya go. I’ve told you the big truth. This is all made up. ;) Which is why he’s taking the storytelling lead, and I’m following behind with my editorial whip.
I’m writing, too. And he’s also editing. But the closest I’ve come to working with another writer was when sharing worlds for various mini-series. Men To Do. For A Good Time Call. From 0-60. Red Letter Nights. Do Not Disturb. In those cases, however, my story was mine. And I wasn’t in the next room from the other authors. This marital co-authoring venture is a true collaboration. And if we survive the year and the 225K or so words we have planned, I’ll probably say it was the most fun writing I’ve ever had!
March 6th, 2014
You want to hear some hard truth? Do you promise not to get mad at me? Promise?
Okay then. Here it is. Your social networking habit? It’s hurting you.
The above quote is from this thought-provoking post by JT Ellison. So much of it echoes conversations I’ve been having recently with a couple of writer friends. It’s such a conundrum writers find ourselves in with this social media thing. I can’t even put into words how much I love Twitter. I LOVE TWITTER. There. I said it. I’m less a fan of Facebook. I just don’t like the interface, while I love the way Twitter invites conversation. Not to mention ALL the LINKS to so many amazing and inspiring articles! It is truly the best place I’ve found to keep up with the publishing industry. And yet …
Because here’s the heart of the matter. Writers? Our job is to write. And I don’t mean pithy status updates and 140 character gems that astonish the world. I mean create. I mean writing stories. I mean taking all that energy and time you’re spending online playing and refocusing it into your work.
Yes social media and other publicity vehicles have become integral to our jobs, but if we don’t write, we have no job, nothing to promote, and being social is just about the fun. Twitter tells me I’ve made over 33K tweets since joining in 2007. I know that typing out 140 characters unrelated to other sets of 140 characters isn’t comparable to writing a book, but those 140 characters 33K times means distraction. In other words, my brain was elsewhere being thoughtful and witty instead of putting that creativity into my book. Of course the very fact that I’ve made over 33K tweets proves that I have a bit of an addiction to the service. But I think that’s what makes it most effective as a promotional tool. I get to know readers and other writers. I don’t just broadcast out my book information, but I engage and share all manner of things that have nothing to do with the work. That’s why it’s called being social. And why us hermit types find it so addictive.
At the end of the six weeks, I added things up. I wrote 60,000 words during my enforced social media vacation. That was enough of an indicator to me that it was taking time away from my job, which is to write.
Of course on day one of my hiatus, I didn’t count my words. I was working between projects, snipping and nipping here and there, moving text from Google Docs (where the husband and I are writing together) into Scrivener for better formatting and editing. But imagine 60,000 extra words in 6 weeks just by typing story instead of posts and tweets. I don’t plan to hit that number. Ten thousand a week is beyond me most of the time anyway. But if I could use my social internet hiatus to write a 25,000 word novella for my readers, well… I could be wrong, but I’m thinking you guys might like reading that more than my tweets?
March 4th, 2014
Beneath the Patchwork Moon
It occurs to me today as BENEATH THE PATCHWORK MOON
releases, that I have been writing for 25 years. I am 55 years old. I started when I was 30. I know exactly when because I moved from Dallas to Houston in 1989 and began working at the oil company where I spent almost 17 years on May 1, 1989. Earlier that year, I had rented an electric typewriter. This after throwing a Harlequin Temptation novel against the wall and saying, “I can do better than that.” Yes. I’m one of those people. But I will never reveal the book or its successful author. :)
Back in the day, we wrote uphill both ways through rain and snow and sleet and hail. We did not have social media. Romantic Times was a newspaper. There were no online communities because the Internet had not yet reached every man. I exchanged snail mail letters, cassettes, and manuscript pages with my earliest mentors: Dee Holmes and Sandra Canfield. Dee wrote the fabulous Silhouette Intimate Moments BLACK HORSE ISLAND, and Sandra, writing as Karen Keast, my favorite Silhouette Special Edition ever, A TENDER SILENCE. I learned about RWA through Nikki Benjamin. And I learned about Nikki Benjamin through a newspaper article hanging up in the first new/used bookstore I found after our move. Without that new/used bookstore, and Nikki Benjamin, and RWA, I might never have continued to write. I did not journal as a child, or tell stories. I was a mother of three elementary school aged children before I ever thought I might have a book in me. No, I was a reader.
There is so much about those days I never want to see again, but there is a lot I miss. I can’t remember an RWA meeting that wasn’t focused on craft. Critique group meetings were focused on craft. No one talked promo or publicity. Bookmarks had only just become a thing. (Anyone remember Brenda Joyce’s scandalous bare-chested men?) Writers talked writing: how to deepen conflict, how to best use point of view, how to build sexual tension through subtext. How to write dialogue that sounded like real people talking. How to show through action, not tell through narrative. How to know when telling was needed. How not to info dump backstory.
You should’ve seen the first chapter of my first effort and the monstrous backstory dump. I didn’t understand how the reader was supposed to know what was happening – or why – without me spelling it out right up front. I was not and have never been a natural storyteller. I am a writer, a wordsmith. I love words. I spend way too much time looking for the only one that will work. Then I need there to be a rhythm to the sentences when they’re read, and a balance, a flow, a purpose. All the things that make up voice.
Twenty-five years of writing and 50+ published novels/novellas/short stories and I still struggle with all that makes up voice. Sometimes I find voice a hindrance; I sound out beats of a sentence as I’m writing, and I can’t read a book that doesn’t make me love the words on the page as much as the characters and their journey. Because I started writing so late in life, I know it was always this way for me as a reader. I remember talking books with a co-worker years ago, figuring out between us why the viewpoint wasn’t working, where the author’s choices had gone wrong for the reading experience. So when I see remarks like this one below from the comment section of this post it makes the creative part of me very sad.
What’s really noticeable on KBoards is how little discussion there is about writing. It’s all marketing, pricing, and discoverability. Product quality is only discussed in terms of cover design, formatting and proof-reading. Editing is thought to be synonymous with grammar and spell checking. The main obstacle to becoming a successful author is always assumed to be some problem in the business plan.
Don’t get me wrong. I love that authors have so many choices these days for getting their work in front of readers. But when did the craft of writing become an afterthought, and promotion take center stage? This is where I’m struck with nostalgia for the early days, and where I love the close writer friends I have with whom I can talk about theme and viewpoint choices and what a character most wants in life.
I hope you enjoy Luna and Angelo’s story in BENEATH THE PATCHWORK MOON. Book three in the Hope Springs series, THE SWEETNESS OF HONEY, is set to release October 14, and will wrap up the current trilogy with Indiana Keller’s story. I do have ideas for more books, so we’ll see what happens!
February 14th, 2014
When I was around twelve years old, 1970 or so, a family in our church gave us an upright piano. Their youngest son played, and they were buying a new one for him. I knew how to read music; back in the day, they taught these things in school. Also, we had music lessons at church with one of our song leaders.
I learned early to peck out Eleanor Rigby, This Land Is Mine (from the movie Exodus), Chopsticks, and Heart and Soul (of course), and Baby Elephant Walk (from the movie Hatari). My parents moved from Texas to Oregon when I was 21, and left the piano with me. Until recently, we knew next to nothing about it, but research tells us it’s at least seventy years old. The Bogart Piano Company ceased operation during WWII.
Over the next 34 years, we moved the piano at least a half dozen times. Here’s a picture I took last July while we were moving (again) to our current home. We talked seriously then about finally getting rid of it.
My sister had teethed off many of the ivories when she was two.
There were dead keys on the high-end. The thing was terribly out of tune, the wood terribly scarred, and it was terribly dirty inside. Outside, too, a lot of the time. We’d left it on a dolly in the corner of our living room for years, and the only playing it saw was from the grandkids banging, or the occasional strolling cat.
About this same time, my husband saw this post on Reddit, which linked to this post describing the conversion of a similarly old piano to a desk, and this photo below of the completed project. I emailed the women who owned the piano, wanting to find out more about the process, but never heard back.
Still, I was all MUST HAVE MUST HAVE MUST HAVE MUST HAVE MUST HAVE MUST HAVE MUST HAVE!
I posted an ad on Craigslist for a woodworker, and had several responses, and got quotes, though none of the responders had ever done such a conversion. I talked with one guy seriously during July before we moved. He showed me some portfolio work, but then I Googled him and found some not so complimentary reviews. About that same time, he fell off the face of the earth, which I now count as a blessing.
Then one day, my husband stopped by a furniture store that does a lot of custom work to look at some sofas donated to my daughter’s dog rescue group. While there, he asked the owner if she knew of anyone who could do such a conversion, and she sent him to The Tinderbox. Which was closed that day.
I pulled up the website and emailed, and the contact there put me in touch with Greenwood Bay. Bob, the owner, and his colleague Jeff came out to see the piano which was now in the garage at our new house. We discussed ideas, and cost, and a couple of weeks later, they sent a truck to pick it up.
Yesterday, they brought it back from the shop.
And this is my new piano desk, worth all the months and all the flails!!!
Click through for more pics!
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January 5th, 2014
A clean slate. I like it.