Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Read A Romance Month

NOTE: I'm running this same blog on my personal site today, but figured it never hurts to cover more ground. 

August is Read A Romance Month and I was fortunate enough to be asked to take part in telling readers, or anyone interested, why romance matters. Where do I begin?

I can't remember how I got my hands on my first romance. No one in my house was a reader outside of the Reader's Digest and the newspaper. My mother didn't have them hanging around the house, but I managed to find one somewhere. I was 13 (or thereabouts) and life wasn't exactly wonderful. There were three adults, three kids, a dog, and probably a parakeet at the time, all living in a two bedroom, one bath, one level home.

Lack of privacy or even sanity is not conducive to a young girl smacking headlong into puberty. But when I had my nose in a book, I wasn't cooped up in that house. I wasn't bored in the suburbs, lamenting my crooked teeth, baby fat, and ugly clothes. Oh no. In the pages of a romance, I traveled the world. The Wild West, the antebellum South, the English countryside and ballrooms. I stood against the wind in the Highlands, and danced uninhibited through Versailles.

There was a world out there, with space and beauty and people falling in love. Those books became my life lines. Flash forward to senior year of high school. Life had turned topsy-turvy. My living situation had changed, but I was still a social outcast in school. Every ounce of determination in my body was focused on getting out of that town and taking life into my own hands.

The waiting might have done me in until I found a romance novel by Judith McNaught. I know some of her earlier work is controversial these days, but epics like Kingdom of Dreams, Whitney My Love, and all her other books got me through high school alive. (I read them as they were released, so that tells you how long ago this was.)

I'm not really a drama queen, and I've never been prone to depression, but I remember how miserable and unhappy I was. Those books kept me going. They helped me believe it was worth holding on until I could break free. They made me laugh and cry and sigh with longing and satisfaction. They saved my life.

I've leaned on romance novels quite often since those rough teenage years. When the baby wouldn't sleep. When the marriage fell apart. When it seemed like the whole world was against me. Or even just when I was really happy. And now, writing my own novels has saved me again in more ways than I could ever explain here.

If my books could do for even one person what romance novels have done for me over the years, then I will have done something truly important in this life. I want to thank Julia London for sharing my name for this wonderful appreciation event. And Ms. McNaught, whom I hope to one day thank in person.

Romance novels matter, because they showed me that I matter.

Now to lighten things up with some fun questions:
What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?
Unfortunately, my house is the ugliest thing in my house right now. 2012 is what I refer to as the water curse year. The water heater flooded the living room in January, then in late summer, both a pipe under the house and the drain on the AC system clogged. In less than nine months, I lost all flooring in the bottom floor and have been living on concrete ever since. Not pretty. But I have big plans, and by this time next year, my house is going to look amazing.

If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?) Excellent question! For the title, I'll go with something a friend asked me recently. "How Are You Not On Prozac?" Now, who would play me? I'd like to say some gorgeous and tall like Charlize Theron, but could never type that with a straight face. I'll go with Melanie Lynskey, best known for playing Rose on Two And A Half Men.

What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?
When I was about twenty years old, my first ever boss, who was an amazing woman, gave me a glass card. It's very simple, with flowers painted on the clear glass, and says "If you look far enough... You'll find what you seek." I have always treasured this gift. Twenty years and three states later, I found my calling in romance novels. I guess the card was right.

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)
This one is easy, since I only have one book available. As to other novels, it's a tough choice between Bet Me and Welcome To Temptation by Jennifer Crusie. In my opinion, these two titles are perfectly written. I'd also have to give an honorable mention to Ain't She Sweet from Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Over the years, I've forget full plots of books I've loved, but Ain't She Sweet stays with me.

Now, how would you answer that last question? If you've never read a romance, are you willing to try one? And don't forget to follow along on the Read A Romance Month website. There are 93 authors participating throughout the month, talking about what romance novels mean to them.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tuesday Review: Please Forgive Me

It was one of those things that the things I read this week didn't blow my skirt up enough to write about it, you know? BUT I am reading a book now that I'm really enjoying and plan to talk about next week.

In the meantime, what are you reading?
Monday, July 29, 2013

The Creative Itch

My friend Pam and I like to do something special in the summer. Usually we get together and go to plays that the local University produces, or maybe find a new place to eat or both. We make it an event. Last year we didn’t do this and we felt the effects; so this year we signed up for some art classes at the local pottery place. It’s about tapping into the creative.

So the project we did was a “leaf bowl or vase”. We were each given about a pound or so clay that was to be rolled out like pie dough, then we’d roll real tree leaves (that the art place provided) into the clay, cut out around the leaves and then sort of clay-glue them together and make a bowl. Once we got the gist, we went to town. I myself was having a great time and felt twenty years younger back in high school, in art class, doing pottery again.

Then Monday came. Not only did I have to go back to work, but my hand was kinda itchy. I scratched. It got worse. By Wednesday, I had something on my face about the size of my hand, like I had been slapped. Lovely. And there was a rash spreading up my arms and my hand? Oh, it still itched like wildfire. Where had I gotten this rash?

I rolled back through the activities of the weekend and deduced it could have either been this leaf class or the activity in the garden on Sunday, except I’ve gardened before and it hadn’t done this. I emailed my friend Pam to see if she had a rash. She said no. I was confused, but I went home from work Wednesday and slept in hopes of taming it a bit. I took off Thursday as well and went to the doctor who told me I had contact dermatitis. We surmised it was probably the pottery class after I told him my theories.

Thursday, Pam wrote back and said she’d gotten some rash on the back of her hand. By Sunday she was texting me to ask where I had gone to the doctor and what I had gotten to treat it. I told her to have them give her a shot because I had cream and though it helped, I still itched like a mo-fo.

Long story short (too late): we had run-ins with poison ivy via the class. So has the teacher, incidentally, which I thought was only fair since SHE provided the leaves. Mind you the leaves I used were maple leaves…and Pam had some elm, but clearly poison ivy had spread its joy somehow on the leaves and we were all affected.

Point being, we now hated our vases. We couldn’t look at them with any degree of appreciation especially while we were itching. Now it’s been about six weeks, about two weeks or so after the itching finally cleared up, and only now am I thinking remotely fondly of my artwork. Where I might be willing to finish it with some glaze and fire it again.

I think my writing goes a bit like this. In the beginning I’m struck by the need for creativity and fun, and I’m all enthused with my masterpiece and have shaped out a nifty beginning-middle-and-end, but then I get something that’s akin to poison ivy. Something that pretty much happens with every book. I get itchy. I want to get away from it. I want to pretend I never fucking heard of this book to begin with. And no matter how much I invested in it, I don’t want to go into the shop, bring it home, and display it anywhere because all I can think is: this stupid thing is godawful and I never ever want to speak of it again.

Then some time passes and you’re away from the book. You stop itching. Maybe you work on another project and that takes your mind off how awful the last one was. Anyway, enough time has passed you think it might not be bad to revise the thing. Someone tells you the project actually came out really good during the firing. It just needs its other stuff, you know? Revision and polish.

Poison ivy during a project is very normal, I’ve decided, though technically speaking I never want to make another leaf bowl. Ever, ever. It’s okay to itch though and hate your work for a while. But it’s important to come back to it when the pain has past and you’re no longer close to the pain so you can see the beauty in it again.

Scratch on, my friends, scratch on.


So how are you feeling about your writing lately? Still on good terms or like you’re in the midst of a batch of poison ivy?
Friday, July 26, 2013

Snuff The Magic Dragon...Lived By The Sea...

As you all know by now, due to my incessant pestering this week, SNUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON is out. In fact, I know some of you have read it already - which is awesome but not too hard to believe because it's only 123 pages.

Anyhoo - it got me thinking. I had some other plans for other Non-Bombay projects, but I've decided to put them on hold and do one more collection before the year is out.

I had a LOT of fun writing this book. I'll admit that I was nervous because short stories aren't really my thing.  But I've been assured in the last five days that fans like this idea and want more. So that's what I'm gonna give them.

The only thing is trying to come up with six more stories. I have a few ideas:

- Something set in the wild American West - there were lots of baddies with weird names like 'Crazy Legs Pete' (Okay, I made that up but I'll bet there's someone out there somewhere that fits that description;

- Something where the first Bombay went rogue and had to be hunted down - creating that rule. Someone said on FB that they wanted to know more about how the (ironically) Draconian rules of the Bombay Family came from. I think this is a good way to showcase that, maybe;

- Something maybe a little supernatural - I always wanted to try that.  Not sure what that would be yet, but I'm working on it.

I'm open to ideas. What in the Bombay's history would you want to see?

The Assassin

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Past Influences

Influence: “Atonement” Epic Score (Epic Action & Adventure Vol. 9, 2011)

The day was muggy, I remember that much. The sun was partially hidden behind the clouds and the humidity spiked so high the summer stole your breath away if you stepped foot outside. MTV played in the background as I doled out the cards for a new game of Uno. My sister whined, bored, sick of losing and hot because even the A/C wasn’t enough to cool a body down. 

It was mid afternoon, not quite three. Two hours before open gym started for my freshman year of high school. Excitement fluttered in my stomach all day. My cousin and I had been practicing for this day for years. This was my first tryout for high school ball. The first time I’d step on the court in the raging summer and prove my worth to make the team. All the quiet time I’d spent practicing my dribbling and the relentless amount of developing a free throw technique (catch, deep-breath-ball-on-hip-eye-the-orange-rim-from-under-bangs, spin, bounce, bounce, spin, bounce, bounce, set, eye, shoot). All the times when I’d been knocked down by the older kids and helped back up. The bruises and blistered and triumph and heartache- I was going to pour it into this first open gym. My practice jersey was laid out. I’d washed my practice shorts yesterday. Number 40 gleamed even in the dim light of our tiny shared bedroom. 

I’d show the coach I belonged on the varsity squad. I deserved to play. I wanted the feeling of pride even through the sweat and tears and triumph and heartache. The pulled muscles and bruised skin. The sprains and breaks and dislocations- fight with the will to win and never give up even when you’re down thirty points in the second quarter. Because even when you’re down and you feel like giving up- there is someone who believes in you. Knows you’re not a superhero, you’re just a little girl who loves to play games. And for me, when I was a little girl, I grew up knowing that my grandpa would be in the front row, mid court, eating popcorn and cheering so loud not even the proudest parents could drown out. I grew up knowing even though I was a girl that wouldn’t stop me from doing something I wanted to do or stop me from achieving goals I set for myself. My cousin was a senior. For three years my grandpa sat on the bleachers every home game in the middle of the court, eating popcorn and cheering for my cousin. And every time she stepped to the free throw line she looked back at grandpa and he would beam as if the sun rose and sat on my cousin standing on the free throw line. Then he’d say to me without taking his eyes off the court, “That will be you. Just keep practicing.”

That will be you. Just keep practicing.

But when the phone rang and it was the hospital those are not the words I remembered. And when they asked for my mother and said it was an emergency those were not the words that stuck with me. My hands trembled violently as I turned my back to the living room where my sister turned the TV volume up for a song she liked on MTV’s countdown. Time seemed to slow, my weight seemed unbearable to the bowing of my bones against the partition. No longer was my day about the number 40 and how much playing time would coach actually give me, a freshman. 

“My mother isn’t here. She left for the hospital a half hour ago.”

Because my mother had gone into town to pick up my grandpa from the hospital. He had surgery to remove cancer and they thought he was going to be fine. 

I’ll be at your game. I won’t miss it.

He died before my mother got there. 

As a little girl I couldn’t imagine life without grandpa. I spent a lot of time at his house. And when you’re a child, you feel like staple adult in your life are always going to be there. But you don’t realize that life is not that way because you’re not old enough to understand loss and how it affects you not only in the present but in the future too. These losses shape you and mold you and teach you, but that lesson doesn’t lessen the loss in the moment. He promised he’d be there and then he wasn’t. You float around in this world fixated on a promise, focused solely on these words that hold no meaning now that he was gone. 

Still to this day I think about that; but it’s not so much the promise of his words that taught me the biggest lesson, it was his confidence in those words spoken like a fact: That will be you. Just keep practicing.

I skipped open gym all summer- the kiss of death for a ball player. I broke my foot just a month after grandpa passed and missed all of softball season. And when October rolled around and practices started, my cousin didn’t try out for the basketball team- a devastating blow to the coach. My foot wasn’t up to snuff and practice left me hobbling, limping, crying in the locker room after two brutal hours of drills and running. But when I wanted to give up I looked at the bleachers, the floor level at half court. The sun always beamed in through the ceiling high windows in the gym and on the weekend when we practiced early, the sun bounced off old hardwood and faded lacquer on the bottom bleacher at half court. And I kept going. I put on number 40 and shouldered responsibility as captain all season long. It was the worst season coach had suffered in years. It was the worst season of my life. But if I’d given up, if I’d quit what would that have proved? My cousin couldn’t bear to be on the court knowing when she looked at half court there was no grandpa; at least I’d been spared that memory. 

And I think writing is like that. You strain and strive to create characters that are human with quirks and flaws and so real. All the little moments that build up the background and backstory of your characters, it’s just bundled up inside your character shaping them into who they turned out to be. Sparing yourself the memories by pouring them out onto the page and tweaking a few details to fit the purpose. Teaching lessons others have learned and we have learned along the way. We, as writers, are constantly telling ourselves "someday that will be me" and we keep striving towards that goal and practicing on paper until our character is unique and flawed and full of memories so that they are shaped by their past.

Practice and a writer's appreciation to detail are what makes characters real. Adding in those memories give those experiences that leave us at a loss. And we as people are the same way. We are just the main characters of our own lives. Something that happens today shapes us for how we react in the future.

How do you shape your characters past and how does that influence how they act and behave in the future? What is your favorite past influence to read in a character? For me I think reading about character’s loss is easily identifiable to me as a reader. I can relate to that influence the most. But without being too personal (or you can get personal if you want) what do you relate to the most when you’re thinking up a background and past for a character?
Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What Day Is It Again?

If you visit this blog, then you know I spent last week at the Romance Writers of America National Conference. For those of you who have never been, the whole experience can be summed up in one word — exhausting.

But this isn't a bad thing. 

I hear writers say they go home from conference charged up and ready to write. This is never the case for me. I return home in a barely functioning coma from brain overload and lack of sleep. Though as the event progresses, I sleep in later and later each morning. No idea why they schedule 8:30 sessions, but I've never attended one.

Of course, saying this means if ever the day comes that I am on a panel, it will be scheduled at 8:30a.

Image courtesy of PJ Ausdenmore
This was my fifth go-round at Nationals, but my first time attending as a published author. Boy does that change things. First off, the pressure to pitch is off. Let me pause to do a happy dance here. Put me on a stage in front ten thousand people to MC a show and I'm good. Put me at a table talking one-on-one with an agent or editor and I'm a mess. 

I'm weird. We know this. Let's move on.

I also got to say things like "I'm attending my publisher's party this evening" and "I'm meeting with my editor this morning." And we mustn't forget "I'm having lunch with my agent." As a newbie in San Fran in 2008, I never thought I'd get to utter any of these statements. Still feels surreal.

Oh yeah. And there was this little thing about hitting #1 on the Amazon Best Seller list (for all genres), #5 on Digital Book World, and #10 on the Wall Street Journal list. That made life pretty sparkly last week, too. (Is that a tooting horn I hear?)

But above all this, it's still about the community. Laughing in the bar with friends. Laughing in the room with friends. Crying at the luncheons with friends. (The speeches were doozies this year!) Whether talking shop, shoes, or royal babies, this conference is about being amongst your tribe. Breathing them in, holding them close, and knowing you are not alone on this crazy and challenging journey.

I know this conference can be expensive. I know it's a tough time of year for some. I know many writers think they shouldn't attend without a finished MS or even until they're published. I've said it before and I'll say it again. 


Thank you to every person I met, walked past, or missed completely last week. You make being a romance writer the greatest job in the world. And thanks to Samhain Publishing for a rocking after party. 

Now share some conference experiences. Whether for your day job, a movie or TV show, it all counts. And if you could attend any conference in the world, which would it be and who would you want to see? (My daughter is desperate to get to the one with the Supernatural dudes.)
Monday, July 22, 2013

Living on the Fringe

I was recently on FB and commented on something on my newsfeed. Another author was venting, pissed at finding herself dissed from a conversation within a group. I wasn’t sure what she meant, so I asked for a bit of specificity. She said it was a group discussion, where someone walks up and inserts self, then takes over, dismissing who she doesn’t consider important within the group.
Ah! I knew what she was talking about. I call it being fringed.

This happens to me. Sometimes it is because of a specific person who deliberately eliminates those they don’t know or consider unimportant. Sometimes, I truly believe people do it without realizing they are doing it. Their energy is so intense or overwhelming, they intimidate and or take over without meaning to. It happens.

Sometimes a group just grows too large and naturally splits.
And people are just shuffled to the outside.

Why do we stay there? On the edge?  Well, we are easily shuffled and don’t really know how to re-establish our position. We might just shrug and leave, it isn’t worth risking giving the impression of pushiness.
Yup, I’m one of those.

It happens within social groups. It happens within so many avenues. If we complain, we are told to be more assertive. That we need to speak up for ourselves. And undoubtedly we do.
Ah, but I am so tired of being told if I were more…assertive, pushy, confrontational, loud, secure…then I’d be more successful, more part of, more everything.

The thing is, I’m not a shy person. I am not terribly reserved. I am sensitive to offending. (Despite the impression I give sometimes when I blog.) I am sensitive to being rude. I was taught to be polite, to a fault. If you are dismissed, you go. You don’t impose. You don’t insert.
Yet, I know there are better words for what I should do…and most of it is my perception of how to define the right thing to do. The right way to act.

Now, when I put a pirate hat on at convention, I change. Same convention, I wander without the hat and I’m once more living on the fringe.
Every situation of being fringed calls for a separate evaluation. And living on the fringe can be a choice. In fact, it likely is a choice. I know I’d like to be aware of making that choice.

I’d like to start a movement. The fringed movement. We count, we are there and we aren’t invisible. We aren’t mice, we aren’t timid. We are aware, sensitive and polite. We are everywhere. We inhabit the borderlands. We write stuff that doesn’t quite fit in, (like romantic adventure featuring pirates.) We are the lady writers of scifi/fantasy, who are dissed by the great white men. We are the self-pubbed who aren’t best sellers. We are here. Always have been. And despite my FB manifesto last week, we aren’t invisible. It just feel that way sometimes.
I think everyone feels fringed now and then. I need to design some buttons… Any suggestions for our slogan? Ever felt that way yourself?
(Yes, it was Terri’s turn to blog today, but she begged off…speaking to me on Saturday of an oncoming coma she intended to be in come Monday.)
Friday, July 19, 2013

Re-Reads and the Desert Island Scenario

I know a lot of people reread their favorites. The crew here has chatted about that, which got me thinking about what I read again and again. And I realized, for the most part, I don’t reread anything. My sis reads the Lord of the Rings Trilogy every year, like a gift she gives herself. I have read those multiple times, but not with any regularity.

I think, when I was younger, I would reread books. But the last ten/twenty years? Nope.

Just don’t have time and there are so many new books out there waiting for me.

There is only one thing I do reread. My own writings. That is a pretty constant thing. I read something from beginning to end, or think about a scene I wrote in that alien one or the DBSM (that will never see the light of day) and I’ll go find it and read it.


Well, sometimes it’s just about reassuring myself that I can write.

(Are writers the most insecure people on the planet, or what?)

Sometimes it’s because I’ve learned something new so I dive in and edit as I read. (Honestly, I always edit when I read.)

And sometimes? Well, I just want to read the story I wrote for entertainment value. (Did I say we were insecure? Or was that egotistical?)

Because of my insecurity, there are reams of books I won’t read, even for the first time. I fear corruption. I fear finding out what I hack I am. I fear the green eyed monster soaring into the sky and blocking out my light. And that can be true from books I’ve heard are really good, to books I’ve heard are really bad and still made the author a fortune.

I’m an equal opportunity non-reader sometimes. I don’t even reread the books I really enjoyed! Well, mostly. I have gone back and reread some mystery series. When I’m on a real terror. So, I’ll read all 14 volumes of the George Chesbro books. Or the 50+ Nero Wolfe books, or the Miles Vorkosigan scifi saga. I think about reading Asimov’s Foundation series again, or Dune one of these days… For a geek, those two are bedrock books, especially Foundation. Also read 2001, A Space Odyssey and a few of the real golden age authors. Clifford D. Simak and A. E. VanVogt.

And yes, I am a scifi geek. But really only the older authors, who aren’t around anymore. It’s sorta odd.

For mystery? Well, a bunch I don’t read…because they are golden era mystery. Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe) and Agatha Christie is probably the closest I come to those.  And Holmes, course.

Fantasy? Tolkien – yup, read him. C.S. Lewis I imagine, nope, never read him. Marion Zimmer Bradley – some of her. Anne McCaffrey, read. (But not all.)

I know most of ye pirates are romance readers from a very early age. I’m not. And I’m not sure I’d want to read the golden age, because the genre has changed so much, writing style. (Same with the other genres, trust me.)

You’ve hooked my on Eloisa James. I’ve read a Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Kristin Higgins, Jill Shalvis and others. Nora, Cherry… But honestly, nothing I’d reread, as much as I enjoyed them the first time through.

It’s a bit sad, I know. But when you stand in front of a section at a bookstore, the titles are overwhelming! So many new things! Reread? I barely have time to read the first time through! Now, I can watch the same movies over and over again…but it’s more of partial attention. Books really do require full attention. (Shut up, Terri!) (Yes, I know, I miss things when I read…) (I know!) (I get the gist of things!) (Oh, that’s right, she isn’t here today…) (Nevermind.)

Anyway! I could ask what books you’ll never read again, but I know we don’t like to stir up things like that on the Revenge. Now, if I was stranded on a desert island and could only take one book with me… I’d take Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. But I find poetry can be reread and will constantly mean something different according to the mood. What ONE book would you take with you?
Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Making the difficult decisions

I'm not a fan of making decisions. I'm one of those indecisive people who never knows what restaurant they want to go to, or which movie they want to see. I tend to make sweeping changes to my life on whims, rather than based on any reasonable decision-making.

But there are times when I need to make a firm decision instead of just following a whim, and in those moments, I'm never quite sure how to go about it.

I've been revising the same book for four years now. I've had an agent waiting on it for over two years. So far she hasn't dropped me from her client list for a complete lack of ability to produce anything, but I wait daily for the announcement. And I am SICK of this book. I'm drowning in the details.

And worse, I don't have the time to finish it. It still needs tons and tons of work, and I have maybe 20 minutes a day to write. On a good day.  Let's say I manage to finally

So there's a part of me that says I should just let this book go. Pull the trigger with my agent myself, and take the pressure off myself. Start a new book fresh and use those 20 minutes I have each morning to enjoy writing a story again, instead of banging my head against the wallw ith revisions. Wait until I have a few books ready and then start over with the agent/publisher search in a few years when I'm not chasing a toddler.

The other part of me says that I cannot possibly give up now. This book is good, or would be good, if I could just finish it. And writing is a skill that develops over time--I can't just stop and expect to pick it up later without consequences. Giving up sounds very, very dangerous.

What do you do when faced with a bid decision? Are you naturally good at making sound decisions, or do you waffle like me? Do you fear giving up? How do you motivate yourself when giving up starts to look tempting?