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I figure today we're all going to be on a sugar rush, raiding the candy bowl and making merry with co-workers and friends. Or if you celebrate the Celtic traditions or practice the Wiccan religion this is a more traditional holiday for you and we minus the candy and sugar rushes and add in the festivals that start after the sun goes down. So let's not work too hard at this blog thing, okay?
Either we celebrate Halloween as the holiday we grew up loving for its ability to make us into a character for one whole day, or we celebrate All Hallow's Eve to recognize our beloved(s) who have passed on into the afterlife, and/or rejoice you've made it to the New Year by Celtic traditions, we're all celebrating. So grab some rum and settle in.
Two years in a row I've blogged on All Hallow's Eve. I figure the pirates think I'm spooky. Enough to put me on the spookiest day of the year. Today, October 31 is traditionally the day where the veil between our world and the spirit world is the thinnest. But as we found out on Wednesday with Aunty Cindy's blog (Loucinda McGary's book The Wild Sight is now on a bookshelf near you. Get thou off the ship and grab a copy before it's sold out!) we all have a few ghostly stories to tell even when it's not Halloween, and today is no exception.
So today, I bring you story time by Sin.
The wind whipped against the window. The branches on the old Oak tree in my friend's front yard tapped against the glass ever so gently. The noise didn't bother anyone else; but here I was wake in the middle of the night in someone else's home. After a night of some of the girls holding séances to call out to spirits wandering around nearby, they became frustrated when no one contacted them. With a conspirator’s laugh, one of the girls ran into Emily’s bedroom and came out with the Ouija board. I shuddered at the thought of the black board with its oppressive letters and FAREWELL blocked at the bottom and goosebumps shot down my arms. The shock the board gave me was enough to keep me up all night. I just wanted to forget that feeling racing over my skin. The way it made my blood run cold. It moved even as I took my fingers off the operator. The girls squealed in delight. I felt sick to my stomach. They continued to play with it even after I locked myself in the bathroom.
I couldn't go home. That was so uncool. I stood on the fringe of all cliques, not readily accepted by anyone running in a pack. I was scrawny and pale and sort of weird with pale blue eyes. Kids made fun of me because I was pale and called me a ghost. This was my last attempt to fit in with the "cool" kids and make my remaining school years a little bit easier.
My fringe friend, Emily, lived in an old farm house on thirty acres. Their back porch was screened in and on the hill. When you stepped outside you could see the fields in the valley and the old barn was just to your right. Her dad had a stockpile of big round hay bales lined up along the old barbed wire fence and they were the only ones around for miles. I wasn't great friends with this girl, but I just loved her house. There was something about this house that called out to me, and also compelled me to run away. I didn't know how to place the feeling I had when I walked inside. Almost like all the air had been sucked from my lungs- a sucker punch to the gut. I felt uneasy but I still refused to go home. I didn't want to be labeled a weirdo. A social outcast was not on my agenda for Junior High and High School.
At first, I just heard footsteps- a creak in the floorboards in the kitchen. I pulled the blanket down just enough so I could see into the living room and dining room. It was pitch dark. Quiet. The only sound I could hear was my heart beating in my throat. I listened without moving until I thought whoever got up had gone back to bed. I pulled the cover back up over my eyes and rolled over. I tried to relax but now I was wide awake.
Then I heard it again.
No lights were on in the house. Strange, I thought. But I could see in the dark pretty well, maybe I wasn't the only one. I figured I could sneak a peak at whoever was the culprit freaking me out.
So I got off the couch and padded quiet to the wall between the dining room and living room. I peeked around it, holding my breath to keep from giving myself away. But there was nothing.
My shoulders slumped. I was all freaked out over nothing. I was a big chicken.
I turned away from the wall and headed back over to the couch. I touched the armrest of the couch and went to fling myself on the cushions and I heard the faucet start to drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip. It was annoying enough that I went back over to the wall and peeked around it again.
That's when I saw her. An older teenager- in a white nightgown. One of those old style, floor length, long sleeved gowns. It was really pretty. She had long blonde hair that hung down her back and big eyes that were black. The moonlight hit her just enough to cast an eerily glow off her hair and her white gown. She wasn't pale. Her skin was a golden sun kissed color at her neck and hands. She had her hand on the faucet and she smiled to herself like she was playing in the water, amused at a faucet. Creepy.
She was slimmer than Emily’s older sister Abby. Her hair was a little lighter and longer, with a curl in the ends. But it had to be her. Who else could it be? Maybe the moonlight was just playing tricks with me.
"Abby," I whispered. "Abby! Shut off the water! You're driving me crazy!"
She obviously didn't hear me. She kept her eyes on the water dripping onto her fingers. It glistened like diamonds as it trickled through her fingers and splattered onto the sink.
I narrowed my eyes and tiptoed into the kitchen. I didn't want to wake their parents. She didn't look my way as I approached her and I leaned around the wall between the dining room and kitchen.
Maybe Abby was sleep-walking.
She was a frightened deer in the headlights. Her head swung around so fast, a normal person would've had whiplash. We stared at each other, wide-eyed for eternity, seconds stretched into decades. And suddenly the light bulb flickered on over my head.
“You- Uh- Um-,” Holy crap! This wasn't Abby!
She took a step closer to me and I stumbled backwards into the table. Her nightgown seemed to float in the air and it drifted closer and closer to me without her moving an inch.
I wanted to look away.
I tried to look away.
Looking at her was like looking at the sun. It was so beautiful in a destructive sort of way that you never realized it until you never saw her again.
Blankets rustled in the living room. One of the girls at the sleepover sighed and the spirit took one last look at me and turned towards the door. I wasn't scared enough that I was compelled to run away now that I could. I watched her go to the door and shut it behind her. As soon as I thought she'd cleared the back porch and I stepped silently over to the door.
She was gone.
Weird. Weird. Weird. I must be dreaming, I thought as I turned back around and Emily was standing in the kitchen doorway.
"What are you doing?" She whispered. She waved me over and I pursed my lips. I couldn't tell her the truth. She'd never believe me.
"Getting something to drink. Can't sleep."
She smiled and I smiled back. We got bottles of water and went back into the living room. I never stayed at her house again. I didn't want to tempt fate. You never ever know when a spirit is going to claim your body as their own. But I think Emily knew why I never accepted any invites over again.
Emily saw her too.
For two days, I got to hang out with a bunch of women (predominantly) who love writing and books as much as I do. It was awesome. I would love to throw out words that are more descriptive, more apropos, but I really have nothing else for you. Awesome covers it.
This week I’ll give you a run down on my initial impressions. In the next few weeks I'll delve into the different workshops and things I learned. Too much for one post.
First of all, I was amazed by the sheer number of writers at the conference. I’m not sure of the exact amount but there appeared to be at least a few hundred in attendance. The excitement, the collective enthusiasm for a common goal, shared amongst so many, was overwhelming.
These events make a person realize how incredibly familial the romance writing community is.
Frankly, at times it felt as if we had taken over the conference center. There were romance writers in the elevator, romance writers in the lobby at all hours, romance writers in the hallways, and especially romance writers in the bar.
It was awesome.
I got to meet JK Coi and Tiffany Kenzie and I must admit that they are just as gracious and generous in person as they are on the internet. I had such fun hanging out with them.
Pitching turned out to not be as daunting as I thought it would be. Amazingly, editors and agents are just people too. Who knew?
The keynote speakers, Eloisa James and Lisa Scottoline, were both wonderful.
The main idea behind their talks was the key to the entire conference, in my opinion. Both women focused on owning the story we tell, about pouring ourselves into our stories to make them really come alive.
Lisa Scottoline pointed out those times when people who know you write come to you and say, “I have the best idea; you should write this.” And she says she politely declines because that emotion has to be a personal experience. We can’t use other people’s emotion because readers will be able to tell if we’re faking it.
Eloisa said we need to take our fears, our joys, our pain, and put it on the page. Only that will feel authentic to others.
And I'd heard such wonderful things about Eloisa James, about how sweet and kind she is, and it was all true, every word. We had dinner with her on Saturday night and it was such a good time. It was really great to meet her.
So, tell me about what you have put of yourself on the page? What have you taken from yourself or your life to use in your story? Has someone ever thought you should write “this great idea” they have? What did you say?
Ahoy and BOO to ye, Mateys! We here on The Revenge are honored and excited to have Sourcebooks Casablanca debut author, Loucinda McGary (aka Aunty Cindy in the Bandita Lair), back for a post-launch, return visit. Loucinda is wrapping up a whirlwind October that has pretty much been a promotional marathon. For the skinny on her debut novel, The Wild Sight, the inside scoop on her first month as a published writer, and the low down on some paranormal activity – keep on reading! (And there's prizes so really, get to reading. What are you doing still reading this intro? Read the dang interview already…sheesh.)
Loucinda: Ah yes, the book of my heart! My "baby" that is at last on the shelves of bookstores… SOMEWHERE, though apparently not in Bo'sun's neck o the woods. PFFFT!
The Wild Sight: An Irish tale of deadly deeds and forbidden love is a romantic suspense with paranormal elements. It's the story of Donovan O'Shea, who is cursed with the clairvoyance the Irish call "The Sight." Donovan has spent fifteen years trying to deny his so-called gift, but when circumstances force him to return to Ireland, it all comes crashing back with a vengeance. He becomes embroiled in two murders, one recent and one not, and meets a beautiful woman who can't possibly be his half-sister.
Bo'sun: I'll find this book by hook or by crook! Now, has this first month of being a bonafide published author with a book on the shelves been what you expected? If not, how has it been different?
Loucinda: In some ways it has exceeded my expectations. In others, it has been frustrating and stressful. Getting wonderful reviews, including a star from Publishers Weekly, has been a dream come true!On the stressful side, there was a snafu at the Sourcebooks' warehouse, and The Wild Sight did not get shipped with the other October releases. I had an in-person launch party scheduled for Oct. 5th and the books were not available ANYWHERE! ACK! Luckily, I received my author copies the day before the party, and several people received their Amazon orders, so there were some actual books at the party. Not only that, but people I did not know and who didn't know me asked for my autograph. That was a real thrill!
For two weeks, I kept going into my local bookstores only to be told that "the books are on order" or "we had copies but they are already sold out." Now I know this latter situation is a GOOD thing, but I was still frustrated. Finally, on Oct. 18th I went into my local Barnes & Noble and found copies on the shelf! I was in new author heaven!
Bo'sun: Okay, that sold out bit is AWESOME! I know you've been on a Wonderwoman blog tour this month, did you ever guess how much promotional work you'd have to do when you decided to write Romance?
Loucinda: I dunno about Wonderwoman, more like Exhaustedwoman (Aunty reveals ginormous E on her chest). This is my 15th blog appearance in the past 30 days, not counting my regular postings on my two group blogs and my personal blog. I also gave one live presentation (on internet promotion no less!) to a writers group an hour's drive from my house.So in a word, "no" I didn't think about the amount of promotion involved in launching my debut novel way back when I first started writing it. However, everything I've heard and read says that the more times people see your name or book title, the more likely they are to remember. I wanted to do everything in my power to get the word out about The Wild Sight, plus so far, I've had a ton of fun doing it! Of course, I won't know for sure how well I've succeeded until I get some sales figures, but I gotta believe this has all helped build the buzz.
Bo'sun: Can I get one of those Big E shirts? I so need one. Being a member of the Romance Bandits means having access to some great published authors (and fantastic as-yet-unpubs too!). What's the best advice you received before the big release and what advice do you wish you'd gotten that you didn't?
Loucinda: First and most importantly, let me say what a thrill and a privilege it is to be associated with this fantastic group of women! They are all amazing and multi-talented and sometimes I feel like a slacker in comparison. But that's the best part… there is NO competition, only support! We are all on our very individual writing paths and yet we all share and support one another. I think the genuine caring and friendship amongst all of us is what makes our blog so successful.Plus, the Banditas KNOW how to party! I think that's the most valuable advice they've all given me. CELEBRATE! It's so easy to get caught up in the daily grind, or to focus on the negative at the expense of the positive things going on in your life. Let go of that negative and embrace the positives! Have faith and believe in yourself and your abilities – this is the advice I wish I'd paid more attention to when my Banditas and other supportive family and friends tried to drill it into my hard head. I still struggle sometimes to give myself proper credit, or even the benefit of the doubt, but I am getting better.
Bo'sun: If seeing your first book on the shelves doesn't make you pat yourself on the back, I may have to come over there and shake some sense into you! As Halloween is just a couple of days away, tell us a bit about the paranormal elements of your story. How did you come up with the idea? Do you believe in "the sight"? Have you experienced any paranormal activity in real life?
Have faith and believe in yourself and your abilities – this is the advice I wish I'd paid more attention to when my Banditas and other supportive family and friends tried to drill it into my hard head. I still struggle sometimes to give myself proper credit, or even the benefit of the doubt, but I am getting better.
Loucinda: I've always been intrigued with the notion of "second sight" or clairvoyance. Being of Irish heritage myself, I grew up with this notion, but I'd never heard of it being associated with a man and that idea is what led to me writing The Wild Sight.My hero, Donovan hears and sees things that other people do not, but in the course of writing the story, his "gift" evolved into more than that. Instead of simply having "visions," he actually moves into a shadowy world "between" this one and the past. This ability first manifested itself when he was a young child and he played with two other boys who happened to be Bronze Age Celts (and may or may not be his ancestors). Interestingly enough, this ability is stronger around the Celtic holy day of Samhain, which we currently celebrate as Halloween.
At one point in the story, my heroine, Rylie observes Donovan interacting in this alternate realm and says that he looked like her idea of a ghost, "…almost like you weren't quite there." In this other reality, Donovan's personal demons become all too real and he must literally do battle with them. I had lots of fun writing those scenes, even if they weren't exactly planned.
As for my personal paranormal experiences, they are pretty limited. I had an out-of-body experience once, and both anesthesia and jet-lag give me dreams that are way too vivid to be enjoyable. I know a couple of people who claim to have "the Sight" but I'm reserving final judgment until they win the lottery.
Bo'sun: If that lottery thing works out, I do hope you'll hook a pirate up. Think of how much rum we could buy with 10 million dollars! Time to turn it over to the crew and our loyal free-loaders…errr…..passengers? Do you have any good unexplainable stories to tell? What kinds of paranormal experiences have you had? The spookier the better. And one lucky commenter will win their very own copy of The Wild Sight so comment long and often. (If you just can't wait to get your hands on this awesome book, click the cover above and order it today!)
Halloween is my favorite time of year. I love playing dress up and being someone else, even if it’s only for a day. It's the whole freedom aspect, like wearing a mask to a masquerade ball. You’re not held accountable for whatever behavior you do while in costume because you’re somebody else.
When I was in high school and college, I didn’t make my own costumes, and I never bought any. In college, it wasn’t really about how inventive your costume was and more about “how much of my ass and cleavage is showing?” (Things have not changed.) Anyway, sewing wasn’t exactly what I’d term as one of my talents when I’d graduated with my BA. I had a semester of Home Ec in 8th grade where I sewed a duffle bag. The pattern was dyed on the material, which we then cut out. It was blue; and I had to put in a zipper. A damned ugly piece of work. I think my teacher generously gave me a B- on the thing; and that was the last time I touched a sewing machine for, oh, about 8 years.
My mom was the sewer of the family, not that she exactly sewed a whole lot of things. But I do recall a Christmas elf skirt she made me, designing the pattern herself. It was particularly humorous and noteworthy because she didn’t take into account my backside. The front of the skirt probably came to mid-thigh, and with my butt, it came up a couple more inches in the back. Keep in mind, this was before Britney Spears and the mini-pleated skirts that have become common place. I was undoubtedly the only deacon’s daughter in the music choir whose holiday costume could have doubled for a hooker’s ensemble.
In August 1997, three big things happened: my mom died; I’d graduated from college the May before; and I’d just started my first job and had some money to play with. I decided I wanted to dress up for Halloween. But I didn’t want to buy some sad, pathetic little costume at Wally-World. Oh, no. I was going to sew my costume. I who hadn’t so much as sewn a button since 8th grade. My arrogance occasionally astounds even me.
But I would not be deterred. I bought a sewing machine. That, my friends, is commitment. Then I went one better. I wasn’t happy with the selection of costumes Simplicity had out that year. I wanted to be a Scottish wench. I wanted a long skirt and a white blouse, a black corset, and a plaid length draped over one shoulder. (I’d read lots of Scottish romances that year. Was still wildly in love with Braveheart.) I would even dye my hair the reddest-red for the occasion. Now if you peruse Simplicity’s site, you can’t help but trip over a half-dozen patterns for Ren Faire wear, all of which include a corset. This was not the case in September 1997. I had to make up my own corset, but hey, that sort of innovative thinking ran in our family. Remember my slutty elf skirt. I’d figure something out. I had bigger worries, like threading the machine.
I bought the materials. I found a passable costume pattern that had most of the items I needed; and I would just wing the corset. It was going to be done. And it was. I had a Halloween costume that year. It looked exactly as I imagined it, though perhaps a more sloppy sewing job than I’d hoped. My hemming was hopeless. However, I didn’t use any sewing glue, so I counted myself a true seamstress. And the corset came out great, grommets and everything. Very fetching. My friends were all notably impressed.
Every year after that, I tried to outdo myself; and I’d pick more complicated costumes to create. After basically bruising my ribs one year with an “authentic Elizabethan corset” I made (vanity, thy name is Frannie), my friend Pam said I was not allowed to have a corset the next year. So I dressed as Eve. I sewed a sheer nearly-naked little dress, attached to a leopard print bra (because I had to have good cleavage, you know), then sewed fake leaves all over it. This brief outfit probably cost more money and man-hours than the Elizabethan one. It was also more insanely popular than the Elizabethan one had been.
One year I was Little Red Riding Hood (another popular year); and for three different years I’ve been some variant of pirate. (The pirate wedding dress was a particular sewing challenge that I was proud of. I’ve come a long way since my duffle bag.) But then there were the years I didn’t want to sew anything. Hell, I didn’t even really want to be anything. One year I dressed as the little girl from Monsters, Inc, and loved it because how often can you wear pjs to work? And another year, I dressed as Marilyn Monroe because it only required this cute little black dress from my closet and a wig. (I believe Marilyn was even more popular than Eve.) There was the year I was mistaken for Harry Potter by my own father and I decided to dress as Harry to “show him.” Innumerable man hours in which I sewed my costume and my friend’s, who went as Hermione, as well as crocheted our scarves. (Guess how long it had been since I’d learned to crochet! Longer than the duffle bag.) Dead ringers, though my father frowned at me and said, “That’s what he looks like?”
This year has come and gone. Normally I spend months preparing for the event. I pick out my costume months in advance. This year I couldn’t make up my mind. I thought about being Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney Todd—and making the worst pies in London. And I have the material and pattern to make a slutty Princess of Thieves costume. I also have material and a half-ass pattern to make a sailor’s sweetie outfit. (Going back to my Scottish wench roots, I suppose, of ad libbing.) Hell, I could have ordered something, but where is the fun in that? I’ve just not been in the Halloween spirit this year.
Our BodyPump instructor is even playing spooky music this week; and we’re to dress up for class on Wednesday. I bought some devil horns and a tail for the occasion because I couldn’t think of anything else—and I’m certainly not donning that Elizabethan corset. Friday, I’ll probably harken back to my college days, wear my sluttiest short black skirt and the cute little black top I bought a few weeks ago, then wear my devil horns and tail. People will say, “But you coming to work as the devil isn’t really dressing up, is it?” and I’ll undoubtedly poke them with my plastic pitchfork that I got for 50% off. I’m just not feeling the Halloween spirit this year. The Muse has left.
Normally I’d say the Muse is a bunch of hooey. You write by sitting down and writing. The Muse will show up when you get the first page, or first thirty pages down. But I’m beginning to see the other side of the case. The Muse is pretty important. In 1997, I could have bought a sewing machine, material, and a pattern, and never come up with a single outfit to wear come Halloween. How can I be sure? Because I have material, a sewing machine, and scads of time to devote to creating a costume--and it didn't happen this year. I've discovered it also doesn’t matter so much if you’ve ever sewn or not. If the spirit compels you, you can make things happen. (Funny how that works in writing a story, too. No amount of book learning can replace practical experience in doing something. Actually that works in sex too.)
So clearly my Halloween Muse has taken the year off. Unfortunately I think she took my Writing Muse with her. I think the tarts are off in Italy, drinking wine and eating carbs to their hearts’ content.
So…how important is the Muse in your life? Have you ever managed to accomplish something you were ill-trained to do? Are you dressing up for Halloween, and if so, as what? And perhaps most importantly, how do you get a Muse to return to you?
Irish and her Halloween Lovin' Hubby
Occassional Guest Pirate and one of the coolest ladies I know, Santa O'Byrne returns to the ship to bring us a little group participation.
There’s a house I pass on the way to the bank. It’s a square red brick house set back from the road a bit. It’s façade as non-sequential as its shape. Mirror image windows set on either side of a plain black door while above it a porch door opens onto nothingness.
Every day, like clockwork, a woman walks the perimeter of the yard to the left side of the house. Dressed in grey sweats that inexplicably blend into the background, she sets her pace along imaginary lines, her face hidden beneath the bill of a baseball cap pulled low over her eyes.
Then she disappears as quickly as she appears. Is it because the weather turns warmer, negating the need for such heavy armor? No sooner has my writer’s mind set about continuing the story she’s started in my head, the building begins. Truckloads of wood planks follow the delivery of tall metal posts set ten feet apart along the same perimeter she walked. Do the tread marks from her sneakers create a plum line for the builder?
More questions spring to mind. Deeper mysteries yet to unfold.
The planks went up next, taller than any man, rivaling the height of the house next to it. Curtains in the windows lifted on the left side seeming to chance a sidelong glance at what was being done right in its own backyard.
Does your writer’s mind work this way? Do you see the world around you unfold like a story waiting to be told? Why don’t you tell me how this story unfolds for you and I’ll tell you how it continues to unfold for me.
Yes, I’m serious. The Wizard of Oz, man. It can apply to any aspect of your life. Take writing even.
You’re Dorothy. You’re out in Unfinished Manuscript Hell (read: Oz) and all you want to do is get home (read: finish the damned book already); but you’re hounded by this Wicked Witch (read: Inner and Outer Critics who tell you you’ll never get published, be good enough, make a living at it) and flying monkeys (read: every day wear and tear of life, like family, job, school, time-management issues)—and it just seems to be impossible you’re ever going to get back to Kansas.
You’re going to do it—and you’ll do it just like Dorothy with the help of your friends, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion, and by the fact you already have seen the movie and know that getting home lies within you if you believe hard enough. See, you’re already ahead. You know the answer.
The Scarecrow=brains. The brains refers to a lot of things. It’s organization, knowledge, and resources.
Time management is key. Organize your calendar and try to scrape out at least twenty minutes a day to write something—because the book isn’t going to manifest itself without you near a keyboard. (I know, I’ve tried.) Like the gym, once you make it a habit, you’ll keep going, but if you stop, it’s hard to go back. Writing is exercise and the more you do it, the better you’ll get.
Read up on plot and structure and character development, and all those things you constantly worry about within your manuscript. Knowledge is Power, baby. One of two things will happen, I assure you: A) You’ll get inspired by something you just discovered and start implementing it immediately; or B) You’ll get so depressed or angry, you’ll stop reading it and start writing. (read: “Fuck it! I’m just going to write the scene how I like!”) Either way, you’re writing, so it’s a win-win.
Draw on your resources. Talk to your writing buddies; form a clan—pass around ideas. Maybe even start a support group to make each other accountable when it comes to writing. Pool your resources with other people; drawing on others; and everyone comes away winning.
Work smarter, not harder. Writing is hard enough as it is.
The Tin Man=heart. Love yourself. If your friend came up with her WIP and showed you the first couple chapters, you would not deride every nit-picky thing wrong with it, nor would you tell her that she has no business writing. Ever. You’d find something positive to say; you’d objectively pick out the things that need to be fixed; then you’d encourage her to keep going because you know it’ll get better. You know this. You do this.
So why let your Inner Critic (read: Wicked Witch) emotionally hijack you because she doesn’t think your love scene was steamy enough—and on top of it, it was utterly cliché? For one, the Wicked Witch has never gotten laid, so what does she know? Nothing. Secondly, she has no business talking to you that way, period. There have been worst things written than what you have down on the page. Some of them have been published. Hell, some of them are being taught in English Lit class. You are not the worst thing to have happened to writing. Don’t let the bastards (especially the fictional ones) grind you down.
But my mother doesn’t support me—and she’s my mother! Uh-huh, well, does she read romances? No. Is she a writer? No? Then really, don’t worry about it. If your mother is not in publishing, her opinion is not the one that matters in the end. And by the time an editor reads it, it’s going to be polished, wonderful, and full of promise.
Also, love what you write. Don’t try to write to some genre or sub-genre because “it’s really hot right now” and it’ll get picked up by a publisher right away. If you don’t like paranormals, don’t read paranormals, could care less about paranormals—then write something else. Paranormals aren’t the only thing being published. Or worse, don’t try to write something because “it’ll be easy.” None of it is “easy.” But it’s all doable. Have heart if you’re writing something that’s not popular right this minute. There are writers who wrote stories that weren’t picked up for years before they finally found a home. Sherrilyn Kenyon, anyone? Believe me, her stories found a home.
Also with love, comes forgiveness. Forgive yourself that your plots are the hokiest things the planet; that your hero is so perfect he must have come out of a factory; and your heroine has no life goals beyond capturing a husband. Whatever. Forgiveness always comes before making the step to fix the problem.
The Cowardly Lion=courage. Courage to begin. Courage to stick with it. Courage to ask for help from friends and family. Courage to show it to other writers—or eek! An editor! Courage to write even if you know in your heart of hearts it will be a shitty draft. (Of course it’s going to be a shitty draft!) Courage to believe you will succeed. If you have courage, if you believe, it will happen. (Self-fulfilling prophesies. If you believe it will happen, good or bad, it will. But that’s another blog.)
If you put these three friends to good use, you’ll find outwitting the Wicked Witch and flying monkeys gets easier—even if it never lets up. And eventually you’ll get out of Oz and back home.
Yep. I know I cheated and posted a blog from my Tavern postings, but I thought a REPLAY might be fitting since we seem to be traveling the same FUD circles and going nowhere fast. So here's your challenge: think of a movie (or book or song) and tell me how the theme/moral/whatever is the Secret of Writing and how it will improve our writing. Let us in on The Secret.
I leave tomorrow for the NJ RWA Conference. It’s close to me, just up the turnpike, so I’m not going until Friday morning and I’m coming home on Saturday night.
I’m pretty excited, to tell the truth. This is my first conference and I’m not exactly sure what to expect but it feels a little like I’m going to Disney World for the first time. I mean, there are workshops (like rides for writers), there’s food, and best of all, there are bunches of other folks just like me who love books and writing more than pretty much everything else.
Wait, not Disney World: heaven.
So, here’s my list of things I’m excited about:
1) I hear there are free giveaways. I love free stuff. (Who doesn’t love free stuff?)
2) I get to meet some of my favorite authors (I hope). Eloisa James will be there, Elizabeth Hoyt will be there, and JK Coi will be there signing books.
3) I get to meet some of you! Hooray!
4) On a personal note, I haven’t been away from my son for a full night since he was born nearly two years ago. This is a big step for me and probably a bigger step for my DH who is on solo daddy duty for two whole days.
5) I’m pitching for the first time ever…. Ok, moving on from that….
6) I get to find out what the judges thought of my contest entry. I am really excited about getting their feedback.
7) Oh, and I bought a jacket to wear during pitching that is incredibly cute. And, it was on sale! Double score.
What am I missing? Have you been to any writers’ conferences? If so, what did you like? What was not so great? What advice do you have for those of us busting our conference cherry?
Haven’t watched the show but I’ve always had a fondness for Christian Slater. Throwback to my ‘80’s era hair and early ‘90’s love of the surfer boy blonde looks. Long ago I got over the surfer boy blonde hair look (I don’t look good standing next to a blonde, I’m pale.) but I’ve always had that love for the guy who is tall, dark, dangerous and really someone you shouldn’t be standing in a dark corner with- even if he’s supposed to save your life.
Or living a double life.
I have a love of beating the odds. Double life livers are the risk taker extrodinares of beating the odds. Usually consists of the being the hero and the underdog- the most underrated person in the world. No one believes in them, not even themselves. It takes a very special person to get through to an underdog. A true underdog has weighed out all other options and no matter what the answer is always the same. If you do this, you will lose. There is no losing for an underdog. It’s a win-win situation. The whole purpose of an underdog is to show someone else it can be done against all the odds. You might not win the first time, but damnit if you don’t try and try again until you get it right.
Writing is an underdog sport. You know the odds it will take to get finished. To get noticed. To get published. To get famous. And to become a bestseller. It’s damn near impossible. But that doesn’t mean we all give up. No. It means we push ourselves harder. We become more determined and focused and hone our craft until it’s polished and as close to a perfect carat diamond as you’ll ever see.
The goal for me, in my writing, is underdog moments that will bring me in deeper into character. My characters thrive from dangerous situations that they have no control over, and just like myself, my characters like control. They live control. They breathe it. Nothing happens just to happen to them. It’s because they’re so hellbent on controlling every aspect of their lives that they can’t see the boulder racing down the hill towards them like a steamroller. In that instant they turn from hero to underdog and that’s what I love the most about writing and the underdog. I have the ability to make the underdog the hero and I’ve always wanted to be the hero, but remain the underdog.
My subconscious is my own worst enemy who keeps me at the underdog status (rightfully, I belong in the underdog status. It's easier to throw off the enemy that way, looking all innocent and sweet). I spend my days working for the underdog, just wanting everyone to have exactly what they want in a world where that doesn’t happen too often. There is always something standing in our way. In general, the world’s population as a whole are underdogs in life. We spend our days working against the odds to rise above it all and take control of our situations. Control is the very aspect of life that an underdog can’t control. So through writing, I take my own worst enemy and I flip it on its ear and give it a new meaning.
Today let’s talk about underdog moments in life and through writing. What is your most memorable underdog moment you’ve experienced or witnessed? How about your characters? Or character’s you’ve read.
In these troubling times and economy, I have no doubt you’re in the midst of the truest of all acronyms: FUD. Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. Nowadays, FUD is plaguing me for all things great and small, not just how stable my job is or if my haircut didn’t come out as stylish as everyone has been assuring me it is. Everything.
Its latest emotional hijacking has revolved around the revisions to Girl on a Grecian Urn. Whereas I haven’t been the least bit productive in revising or creating new material in my manuscripts, Grumpy Old Man (my internal editor) has been busier than a beaver with two tails, waving his FUD flag like that guy that stands there at NASCAR. He’s got a new color and complaint every thirty seconds. Everything I do is wrong. He also looks like Al Gore, harping at me that I’m murdering trees. “Tree killer!”
What’s doubly irritating is that the longer I’m gripped by this fictional asshole, the less motivated I am to bother with anything else. I keep my daily aims at an aspirable level, like, “Getting out of bed” and “Watching POTC only once a day.” And I don’t add new things I haven’t done, because, well, I know I’m not going to do them anyway, so why depress myself when I don’t. I have to-do lists so I can feel better when I do scratch things off the list. Small attainable goals. That’s the secret of a happy life.
Clearly being a writer is not the secret of having a happy life. It’s why so many of them stick their heads in ovens, don’t you think?
Step away from the oven. This is not the attitude to cultivate. Where would the Tampa Rays be if they’d let FUD take control of their game? What if they’d kept their aspirable goal to just winning 71 games this year (beating their last years’ scoring) rather than one of the spots in the World Series? Exactly. They’d have more of the same. If you let Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt to take foothold and squat in your territory, you’re just going to have more of the same. The only time you want to see more of the same is when your name is listed as #1 on the NYT’s bestselling lists. Aspire to that.
What did the Tampa Rays have to lose? Absolutely nothing. Nobody expected anything from them whatsoever. Sometimes it pays to be at the bottom of the dung heap because you have nowhere to go but up. Of course, the problem with no one expecting anything of you is that you have to expect something of yourself even if no one else does. Or especially when no one else does. Whatever.
So do your job, play the best game you’ve got in you, and tune out the FUDs hanging out in the stands. And Lord, stop baking, you’re only tempting fate. Plus you don’t need those damned brownies anyway.
Anyone else plagued by Elmer FUD of late? Anyone else cheering for the Tampa Rays? Anyone else got any tips for not letting your Grumpy Old Man emotionally hijack your writing?
Everyone who floats through this virtual writing community of ours recognizes the letters CP. And most everyone knows they stand for Critique Partner(s). But I'm giving them a new meaning – Collaborative Project.
Believe it or not, the inspiration from this blog came from watching the making of Music & Lyrics on HBO. During the episode, Drew Barrymore said something that sounded quite profound. To paraphrase, she commented that there are few things we do in our lives by ourselves. She was talking about how the actors and musicians collaborated on the film, but I realized the concept could be applied to writing.
My experience of meeting authors, hearing them speak, and reading their various blogs or online comments has taught me that few authors work totally alone. LaNora would be the one top level exception, but in her case it's more a matter of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
But most of us get input on our work from somewhere. Whether it be through our local RWA chapter, an official critiquing loop, or even just letting our mother read our work, we're getting input. And I realize that in many cases, these MSs of which we are so proud are not only ours, but they are theirs. They are a collaboration filled with pain, tears, laughs, stress and gray hairs.
I do not mean to imply that books should include the names of all those who contributed to their creation, but rather taking the opportunity to give credit where credit is due. Today is your chance to give credit to anyone who has helped you in the writing process. Think of this as your chance to write your RITA speech and your time is limitless.
For me, I thank my fellow pirates who inspire me, put up with me, and are always there with a flask of rum and a bawdy joke. The judges of my first and only contest entry who were nice enough to include the words "has potential" in their feedback. All the ladies of the OV group, most of which I was fortunate enough to finally meet in person in San Francisco. I have watched so many of them soar into success and I appreciate that they let this incurable slacker come along for the ride. To my sister and my best friend, neither of whom write but both of whom pressure me on a regular basis to write more. To all my friends from the Eloisa James/Julia Quinn Bulletin Board. Without that board, I would never have considered writing a book, never would have had the chance to sail the seas with these awesome pirate wenches, and would right now have a ton more time on my hands. And I can't possible not include our swarthy, English gentleman on this list. To Quantum, a class act if ever there was one.
To my most recent beta reader, Kelly Kristen, who sent me the sweetest and most encouraging email I've received in a while. The girl darn near brought me to tears. And to Loucinda McGary, one of the most generous and sweetest women I've had the pleasure of meeting on this trip. She gave me one of the best critiques I could ever imagine as well as feedback that I know will make my WIP 200% better than it would have been without her. (BONUS: Loucinda will be back with us on the ship at the end of the month and we'll all get to hear about how she just sold TWO MORE BOOKS!)
Add to this the pubbed and as yet unpubbed authors on the hundred and one blogs I visit daily. I'm still sure there are a million more (including Kim Killion and Megan Kelly who gave me the "vomit it out" advice), but we all know my memory sucks so if I forgot you, feel free to scold me in the comments.
Now it's your turn. To whom do you owe some much deserved credit? Who keeps you sane, helps you find that perfect word that just won't come to you, and tells you when you've written complete drivel and need to try again?
Every once in a while (sometimes twice a day), I like to take what I call “Poetic License” (where I take veritable truths, mix them with my veritable lies to achieve the Theory I want to present) and then I share it with you all. Occasionally it even comes out good.
This is especially dangerous when the veritable truth I pull from is scientific in nature. Namely, in this instance: Newton’s first law. You know, that one about something in motion stays in motion, and something not in motion remains not in motion—unless some outside force changes it up a bit.
I know this law must be an Absolute. You’d know it was true too if you’d ever seen me laying around on my couch on the weekends, eating cookies and reading books. Jack shit gets done all weekend under the Law of Inertia. Newton could use me as a proof.
I find the other place this Absolute really shines is at the gym. Believe you-me, after spending 9 hours at work and 1 ½ hours commuting, the prospect of spending more time exercising does not appeal. The thought of it makes me tired. However giving into that lazy feeling perpetuates the exhaustion because once I stop going to the gym, I’m only more tired, more cranky, more exhausted. Whereas if I go to the gym, I have more energy. Therefore: energy begets more energy.
Which to me sounds a lot like the Newton thing.
Now I find if I just go to the gym enough, I can keep up the energy thing to keep me from being a total vegetable—and a total cranky one at that—so that’s where the Law of Inertia comes in. It’s only when an outside force (i.e. laziness, sickness, family matters) interrupts that I stop going to the gym—and then all the fall out happens. I lose all the benefits I was getting from going to the gym. I gain weight; I lose muscle; I’m winded going up stairs. (Okay, I’m still winded going up stairs, but it’s worse, believe me.) I also find that the longer I allow outside forces to interrupt, the longer I'll let them interrupt. And the cycle only gets worse. Essentially: laziness begets laziness.
So if laziness begets more laziness, and energy begets more energy, then it only stands to reason that writing begets more writing. Again, a theory in which I could be pointed at as the proof. When I’m writing, I write every day, or at least during the scheduled times of the week I’ve carved out for myself and don’t interrupt on pain of death. And when I commit to writing, I write more. And more. But if I am out of practice, if all the outside forces have been allowed to supersede the benefits of writing, then my writing is painful. I don’t want to write because I’m not any good at it, I have no stamina, and I don’t see any results. But why would I have any of those things if I haven’t been committing to the routine and keeping myself in shape?
So if you care enough about your health to carve out some time to exercise a few times a week (and if you don’t, then you should), then the principle is the same for your writing. If you care about writing, you should carve out time for it and make yourself go. Only by writing will you write more. And better. And longer. Don't let the outside forces keep you out of the motion.
This blog was brought to you by my yoga instructor and my friend Pam who said: “God, I didn’t go to the gym at all last week and I felt like a slug even though I got more sleep. I’m not missing anymore gym time.” So what is your favorite exercise to do? And do you have a favorite yoga position? Our yoga instructor was showing us how to do inverted lotus—and it looked cool! What cool ways have you gotten back into writing (if you’ve been out of the habit)? What principles have you learned that makes you a more consistent writer?
I finished writing my story in ten minute intervals. With the kidlet nearby, that’s about all I get. I would just read the last line I wrote and full speed ahead until I ran out of time.
Revisions are taking longer. I have to sit, get my bearings, think about the direction I was going, and then the direction I want to go. Only then am I able to put words to paper.
But, it sometimes takes me longer than ten minutes to get my bearings. If I only have ten minutes and it takes me that long to get my bearings, well, as you can imagine, words have been slow going on paper these days.
This just means I spend a lot of my precious time in front of the computer just staring at my document, thinking.
And the thinking isn’t just “thinking.” It’s full of anticipation, of hope, and of nervousness for the words to come. It’s pregnant thinking.
All that anxiety in my thinking, with very little activity, leaves me feeling antsy, fidgety. And I’m a pretty antsy, fidgety person by nature, so all this additional antsiness and fidgetiness isn’t helping matters.
So what do I do to help alleviate antsiness and fidgetiness?
Well, usually I do the dishes.
Sorry if I let you down there. No spa treatments or manicures. In fact, all this dishwashing would make a manicurist gasp in distress, I’m sure.
This month alone I’ve scoured the bottom of my pots and pulled out the china from my wedding. I have the family here for Thanksgiving; it needed to be done anyway.
Why dishwashing you ask? Well, it seems to me that every time my mind is filled to the brim, I need to do something with my hands to expel all that energy. I used to crochet, but my kidlet can hardly spare me for 10 minutes at a time. I somehow doubt he’d be patient while I stitched my way through my thoughts. (“Of course, mother, I’ll play here quietly while you compose your ideas. You know I aim to be agreeable.”)
And well, there is no shortage of dishwashing to be done at my house.
Sometimes if I want a change of pace, I clean. Scrubbing floors, the bathtub, the toilet. Not so much vacuuming, just doesn’t feel as immediate. When I scrub things with my hands, I see the dirt being removed and that action is cathartic for me. When I vacuum, the vacuum gets the therapeutic experience and that hardly feels the same.
Earlier this week I wished that I exercised when I needed to get out the energy. Instead I become Molly Maid. My house should be spotless, but alas, no go. Just short fits of manic cleaning and back to whatever else is pressing on my time.
But boy, those moments of clarity, with my hands moving, they are priceless.
Now if I can just get some more facetime with the computer…. Or I just might take to scrubbing down the windows.
Do you do anything special to clear your mind? Anyone else have to do something with their hands when their brain feels full? Any great yoga mantras or relaxation techniques you can suggest? Have the number of great masseuse? Any ideas on how to deal with a small person jabbering nearby?
Warm light splashed across my face as I rolled to the middle of the bed and I groaned as I threw an arm over my eyes. The heat was unbearable even for the split second sunlight touched me, beads of sweat bubbled at my hairline as I pushed the blankets off my legs. Three days turned into eternity. Sleep eluded me. Sanity was a thing of the past. I was consumed with need. A need for the one thing I couldn’t have.
I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and covered my eyes with my hands.
I just needed something. Anything. Anything to get me past this… void. I felt empty inside. A leech bled me dry of any emotion and I just wanted to feel something. It wasn’t too much to ask, I told myself. I wouldn’t do it again. A little slip up was just to get me by and then I would handle it.
I looked in the mirror. Blank eyes stared back at me. No empathy. She wasn't lying to me. I wouldn’t. I wouldn't handle it. I couldn't handle it now. Always there ruling my life. I didn't function without thinking of it. It consumed me. This turned me into someone I didn’t recognize looking back at me. Wild eyes, filled with panic and circled in black. Lips pressed together painfully, dull of color and cracked and bleeding. The loud ringing in my ears. It wasn't me staring back. It was her. The girl who used to be me and she didn't care if I breathed another day. I didn't either.
I stumbled into the bathroom and turned the shower on cold. The water stung like a thousand needles pressing into my skin. I rested my head on the tile and wished the water could beat the sickness out from the inside. There were no tears to cry. I had no feeling left inside of myself. Numb. All there was in life was numb.
I pulled on my robe and avoided the mirror. A blanket thrown over the window took care of the sunlight. I didn’t want to feel it. The warmth reminded me of what I was missing and what never could be mine.
Hidden inside this room was my life. In neat little compartments, plastered in pictures glued to the wall. Happiness wrapped lies. Lips pressed upward in smiles, eyes terrified. It painted a pretty picture. It painted the sort of picture I wanted to see but the inside was black. Ink on ice and rolling carelessly outside the carefully constructed lines, I could see the deception running towards the edge.
The bed welcomed me back, enveloping me, surrounding me, holding me. I pulled a pillow into my arms and snuggled it. I felt pathetic. Lower than dirt. A parasite in the world. I closed my eyes and wished I could disappear. I would lay here until I turned to dust and fade away.
“Don’t do this.”
He slipped into my room, the door shut quietly behind him. I closed my eyes. I didn’t want to hear his voice. I hated him. I hated how compassionate he was. I hated how he looked at me. I hated how he spoke to me as though with one touch he would break me like fragile glass. And I hated how he made me feel.
My back was to him. I knew he leaned against the door, worried and afraid all at the same time. I had known him a lot longer than I’d known myself. I knew enough to stay away from him. I knew to keep my heart locked up and to keep my feelings in check. He intimidated everything I held dear in my little perfect constructed world. He pushed my buttons. He pushed my limits. And he pushed my ability to stay indifferent.
I was never indifferent when it came to him. It was a game of cat and mouse with him and I was good at games; but it was all a show and something I didn't want him to ever know.
“I’m not leaving until you at least look at me.”
I thought I would feel something to hear his voice. The way his soft baritone wrapped around a room like warm velvet on a cold day but his voice didn't reach me. I felt oddly displaced. I was laying in the middle of the bed, huddled in the darkness but I floated outside my body, watching him watch me. The look in his eyes made my heart beat a little harder, my blood flow a little faster. When I looked at him I remembered the pain I caused him. The stinging edge of pain came back in full force and I bit my cracked lower lip to keep from making a pathetic sound.
He scared me.
“I know you hear me.” His shoes made little noise on the carpet as he moved closer to the bed and the bed dipped with his weight as he sat on the edge. “Please talk to me. Please…” I felt his hand hover over my head, felt the heat that seeped from him fingertips. He wanted to touch me and I longed to press my head into his hand and take what he offered but I couldn’t. Never. Not even at the end of time.
I pressed harder into the soft mattress to delay the feeling of his touch, but his fingertips brushed through my hair lazily, brushing the matted strands away from my face. I was grateful for the darkness. It kept him from seeing my reaction. He had to go away. I couldn't afford to feel right now. Not like this.
"Go," I whispered. "Just go away."
His thumb grazed over my cheekbone and his hand settled on my shoulder turned me towards him. He left one hand on my shoulder to pin me down. Every fiber in my body screamed to push him away. To make his touch go away. To retreat into the corner and stare at him wide eyed until he went away. But I didn’t. I felt his thumb touch my tender cheekbone, brushing over the faded bruise lightly and over my eyelids, fanning my eyelashes tenderly.
“I want you to make me understand.” The pause was torture for both me and him. I was numb. Numb after years and years mentally going into a different place. He wasn’t. He couldn’t make sense or understand, even if I told him. There was no lying. There was no pleading. I wanted to be alone.
"There's nothing to say." I avoided looking in his eyes. I knew even in the darkness they would be blue fire pleading with me to talk to him as we used to before I was broken and shelved. I pushed him, crazier in my panic than I'd ever been before. My fingers wrapped around his wrists and pushed out. “You have to go.”
“No.” He tried to restrain me and as soon as his fingers clamped around my wrist he flicked a switch in my brain. I fought blindly, striking out and flailing around. I kicked and I punched and the words that spewed from my mouth weren't my own and still he handled me gently.
“Don’t. No. I'm not going to hurt you. You have to stop! Stop! Stop! Kid, listen to me! You have to stop!” He let go of my wrist and pulled me into his arms, pinning me against his chest. He was warm and solid and I just wanted something tangible to hold onto.
“I don't want you here!" I lashed out at him, the pain licking at me like blue flames in a fire. I could feel and it hurt. It hurt so bad. There was a chisel inside of my heart and pounding away in huge chunks. “Go. Leave. Please.” I licked my lips and my lungs hurt with the effort to breathe. "Please... just please."
He clutched me closer to him and whispered in my ear, “I'll never leave you.”
My fingers started to tremble first and I fisted my hands in his t-shirt to keep from showing weakness. Then my body shook with emotion I’d held back and I couldn’t hold on anymore. He broke something inside of me and my carefully constructed wall crumbled. He held me as I cried, whispering things I should never say aloud. He murmured reassuringly in my ear and smoothed my hair back away from my face as though this were any other day of the week. He held me as though his life depended on it. He held me like I was reassuring him I was still breathing.
When I quieted, he laid me back down in the center of the bed; his thumb brushing over my lips softly as he pressed a kiss to my forehead and pulled the blankets over me. He closed the door behind me as he left. The memory of the door shutting will forever be imprinted on my memory as one of the most significant moments in my life. It was the end of one chapter of my life and the auspicious beginning of anew.
Love comes in several different packages. Love starts as an obsession and then quickly turns into an addiction. If taken away suddenly, your body goes into withdrawal. Life turns colorless and without meaning. You can trick your mind into thinking anything is love if you believe it enough. Substitutes for love aren’t hard to find if you’re desperate enough. That is were the addiction comes in. You can’t live without a fix, then you can’t live looking for that next high. You have to learn to live life without it and love yourself. Love is about sacrifice until you can find the balance.
Life is filled with many different relationships, of love and being in love and love ever after. Writing is a love for many writers as we begin our relationships with our characters and conveying life through their actions. I love the ability to put emotion into life. I love the feeling inside when I touch upon something that I think readers can identify with. Scenes of real emotion are very draining and very satisfying. But love… love in all different shapes and sizes are what we all dream of achieving.
What sort of love do you like you characters to achieve in the story? I know we all dream of the HEA, but are you satisfied when the character achieves their version of the HEA? And what sort of HEA do you dream about?
My CD on repeat is: Coalescence by Desperate for Compromise
Why I love it: I love metal and I love lyrical prose that's beautifully haunting and painfully all at the same time and speaks to me on another level. I think Desperate for Compromise blends everything I like about music into one album.
Songs on repeat: For You, 1000 Pieces, Boy Toy.