Thursday, June 30, 2005
Eloisa Thinks about Creating Character
The only thing better than beginning a book is ending one. In the beginning, because I'm not a synopsis-writer, it's all panic, excitement and pleasure. Anything could happen. All sorts of things do. I had a vague idea of where I was going with Josie's story, but a bunch of new characters popped up in the last few days.
So I was thinking how hard it is to create an image of a character that will stick in the reader's mind. Of course, we can lovingly describe every muscle the hero has to his name, or the heroine's silky lashes, silky hair, silky breasts...all of it. There's a great poem by Marvell telling his lover that he would praise her breasts for two hundred years: sometimes it feels like that when you're writing romance. A hundred years for each breast, and two hundred more for all the rest.
Well, given our strict publishing schedules (grin), all that chest description doesn't leave too much time to describe secondary characters. So it has to happen fast. I was looking around for help the other day and came across Mary McCarthy's Memories of a Catholic Girlhood. She does it brilliantly.
Here's a priest:
"a wrinkled, elderly man with a hairless face and brown, dead curly hair that looked like a wig."
"Ruth Bent had red-dish-brown frizzy hair...her voice was deep, like a man's; her skin was swarthy and freckled...she had a good figure, small, with a sort of shimmying movement to it."
And here's a hero. She's talking about her father's family (and expect a rendition of this to show up in some future hero of mine!):
"Nevertheless, there was a wild strain in the family. The men were extraordinarily good-looking, dark and black-browed as pirates, with very fair skin and queer lit-up gray-green eyes, fringed by the 'McCarthy eyelashes,' long, black, and thick."
So here's a challenge:
Pick a public figure. any public figure, but not one with the plastic beauty of a movie star, because that's hard to describe. Give us One Good Sentence. And then tell us who is, so we can all revel in your description.
Christina Dodd scores with the firefighters
Okay, not really, but yesterday was a marvelous experience and after our recent complaints by romance writers who disapprove of photos of hunky guys, I must share.
My neighbor in the small dark hovel is a firefighter and his sixteen-year-old son is on a soccer team. In January, they had an auction to send the team on a trip to Ireland and one of the things auctioned off is a gourmet dinner served to six lucky women by five of our best — our firefighters. AND IT WAS ON MY NEIGHBOR'S DECK!! When Lynn (the wife of said firefighter and the cook) told me about it yesterday morning, I asked if I could take photos for the blog.
Never say, bloggers, that I don’t constantly think of you and your happiness!
Lynn graciously said yes, told me to come at seven, and promised the firefighters would be serving in their suspenders and boots.
So at seven I trotted over with my camera and met the incredibly nice guests. I introduced myself and gave them autographed books as a bribe to let me horn in on their dinner. They invited me to sit down and eat because one of their group had had to cancel at the last minute and they had an extra meal. I had to refuse — I’d just had dinner.
Pizza! I’d eaten pizza! And I could have had a seven course meal! Served by firefighters! (Christina makes small, snuffling noises of heartbreak.)
(from left to right, the firefighters are Matt Flemming, Scott Hall, Todd Fisher, Ryan Provenger and Dave Parker. The women are ... um ... well, I didn't catch their names. But they were great!)
They insisted I have a drink — a pink panty-dropper. Okay, yes, ma’am, I’ll have one of those (that’s Ryan Provenger — Mr. June, Washington State Firefighter calendar which benefits the Burn Foundation — serving me while Todd Fisher looks on.) The guys didn't serve in their fireman outfits … they claimed it was too warm. Which led the women to a discussion of whether the guys would be sweaty and how we would cope with that. The dinner was seven courses, the guys eventually did put on their firefighter outfits, and as a party favor, the ladies each received a copy of the Washington State Firefighters Calendar. And it was all to help a teen soccer team go on the trip of their dreams.
Is this a great country or what?
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
CONNIE ATTACKED BY CUTLERY: SWEARS VENGEANCE
Okay, there's a good reason I don't live south of the poisonous animal line, the major one being the situation Geralyn just described. I *like* being able to go barefoot in the grass without worrying about killer bugs, snakes, fire ants, scorpions et al. Granted, there's only about five months of grass and then you're going barefoot in the snow but these things are a trade-off.
HOWEVER, lest anyone think that Minnesota summers don't have their own unique dangers, here's my story...
Late last night, I ventured into the dark backyard, to collect the dirty dishes my family had abandoned there when they had fled the arrival of the Dire Dusk Mosquitoes. I was not afraid even though the little blood suckers were out in force and yet, my bravado was misplaced for soon I was cursing and swatting, reeling around, a tray of sullied and ketchup encrusted utensils and implements sliding about as I attempted to evade the Hordes of Horrendous Hellions. And then...
agony, pain! I was attacked by a falling Dansk Moderna Fork! I fell, screaming to the ground, impaled on the vicious tines, blood rushing down my foot...
Luckily I managed to pull myself back into the house and latch the door after for had I not, I have no doubt the Big Ones would have arrived to carry my writhing body back into the woods for their Queen! (Mosquitoes have Queens...did you know that?)
Here's a picture....
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Ssssss....Geralyn Dawson is ba-ack!
I have another story to tell, so Christina invited me back to blog it here on SR. Now, it's hard to follow up a swimsuit story (check the May archives, y'all) but I have one that's kinda ssssssssscary.
Last night around ten p.m. the phone rings. My 21 year old son is calling from College Station where he's attending summer school, three hours away from home. His voice is shaking with fear as he says, " Mom? Oh, God, Mom."
My first thought was that he'd been in a wreck and killed someone. I've never heard him so scared.
Then he continues, "Mom, I've been bitten by a snake."
He was leaving his apartment (to go drink beer with his friends at 10:00 p.m. the night before a major exam, but that's another story.) As he stepped onto the front porch, he felt the bite, looked down, and saw that a 2 1/2 to 3 foot long snake had hold of his toe. He shouted a loud obscenity, shook off the snake, went back into his apartment, and called good old mom.
His voice is quaking. The bite starts burning. He describes two puncture wounds. Definitely fangs. I tell him to call 911. Macho man decides to drive himself to the ER, about ten minutes away. I tell him to keep me on the line, he hangs up to call his roommate. I call him back, he stays on the line until he gets to the hospital. I'm on the net looking up first aid for snake bites. He's breathing like a race horse. The ER waiting room has forty people in it. My husband gets on the extension, and using rather salty language instructs our son to explain to the nurse that he needs to see a doctor immediately (visions of the recent four hour ER wait with my mom dancing in our heads.)
They actually take him right in--a good thing or we'd have been calling 911 for a heart attack at our house. The nurse makes him hang up the phone. We wait and wait and wait. I go to my research book shelves and find my copy of Texas Snakes and learn that based on the bite marks, yes, it probably was poisonous.
So then I start reading about antivenom on the internet and get scared all over again.
The kid finally calls. The doctor calling in a snake specialist since John didn't get a good look at the snake in the dark. The doctor thinks it's a copperhead bite, maybe a cottonmouth. A rattlesnake would have him made him much sicker by now.
Specialist comes in says yes, definitely a viper bite, but then tells my son that only twenty percent of bites on humans by a venomous snake actually include the release of venom. The boy shows no sign of venom in his system. Apparently, snakes have a limited amount so they're careful with it. The first strike is actually often a warning. When they recognize their prey is too big to kill, they withdraw without releasing the venom. Or, they strike again and shoot the stuff.
Nice thing to know, isn't it?
Anyway, the snake doctor then spent ten minutes telling him about all the nasty infections snakes carry. Often, the problems humans get from venomous snake bites aren't from the venom, but from infections that develop from the bite. The doc scared my son and gave him a strong antibiotic--the same one, it turns out, that once sent his sister to the hospital with an allergic reaction. (I'm just waiting for another call about that.)
I talked to him a few minutes ago and asked him if he was scared going back to his apartment last night. "No," he said. "My roommates (the ones who'd been out drinking) got flashlights, a pistol, and a golf club and went snake hunting before I got home. (at two a.m.) Didn't see a single snake."
One roommate is in med school. The other is majoring in aerospace engineering.
Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about the future, doesn't it.
You guys were so creative in the poll, Connie though you might like to Create A Caption
Okay-- get your originality hats ! It's Tuesday, hot as hell in Minnesota and I can't stand seeing Donny trying to do a "brood" so HAVE FUN and CAPTION THIS PIC!
Teresa Finally Wins Her Dream Date
Do I have the coolest husband in the world or what? To reward me for all of MY suffering since he had his bicycle accident, he just surprised me with tickets to see...DONNY OSMOND!!!!!!!!!!!!
(Picture me running all over the house, clutching the envelope and screaming like a teenage banshee!) I know some of you swooned over Bobby Sherman, David Cassidy, Shaun Cassidy or even Orlando Bloom, but my first real love was Donny. I fell in love with him when I was 11 and he held my heart for 5 years. He was my first imaginary boy next door, my first imaginary date, my first imaginary kiss, my first imaginary...well...never mind... He was also the inspiration for my very first historical romance, which I started when I was 12. It was called THE PIRATES OF ROCKLON HILL and those pirates were captained by none other than Sir Donald Osmond, a dashing desperado who came to abduct the ravishing yet spunky governor's daughter in a scene eerily reminiscent of the one in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.
I once had a major NYC editor (who had a huge poster of Richard Dean Anderson from "MacGyver" on her office wall) tell me that one of the primary requirements for a romance author was the ability to still get a good crush. After all, no matter how blissfully wed we are, isn't one of the perks of our jobs the fact that we get to fall in love with a wonderful new man with each story we write? How can we make our readers believe that our heroine is falling in love with him if he doesn't make our own hearts beat a little bit faster every time he saunters into the room?
So tell me, guys. Who was your first imaginary love? Who was the celebrity who fueled your fantasies before you even realized what those fantasies were?
Monday, June 27, 2005
a mini poll
Oh, dear, according to this link, I must never again post another picture of a hunky guy on Squawk Radio or I won't be taken seriously as a writer and I'll be betraying my entire genre. Sniff...sniff...
Christina has eye-popping cabinets, a great new floor and a fabulous refrigerator24 comments
Eloisa Discovers John Updike!
"To complain of thrillers, or romances, that they are less than real is to invite several counter-charges...it could be argued that all fiction is escapist: by its means we escape our own heads and lives and enter into other heads and lives. Whether the head belongs to a Hobbit in Tolkien or to one of Virginia Woolf's sensitive, externally unadventurous women does not change the nature of the escape: what gives relief and pleasure in fiction is its otherness." [The New Yorker, June 13 & 20, 2005]
Apparently Updike spent his youth lying on a red cane-back sofa in Pennsylvania, eating peanut-butter-and-raisin sandwiches, and reading "one mystery novel after another." I always feel that implicit in criticism of romance is the idea that young people "should" be reading more serious books: Virginia Woolf's suicidal heroines will hew the next generation into great writers, make them imaginative, sensitive and better people all around. John Updike is a brilliant example of the fallacy of this assumption. He remembers looking into Orwell's 1984 and being "badly shaken by the unmistakable impression that these suffocating, inescapable worlds were the same one I lived in."
Perhaps future authors need to read books that have nothing to do with the reader's own domestic situation. I know that my eleven-year-old son, Luca, is riveted by fantasy at the moment. He lies on a white couch here in Florence, eating plums and reading genre novels for hours. And he's writing just such a novel in his spare time.
When he's not reading or writing, he likes to talk about books. Luca and I have decided who will be "offed" in the next Harry Potter book (as promised by J.K. Rawlings. Any Harry fans out there? What do you think of this: Percy goes to the dark side, and one of his parents sacrifices himself to save his life?
I suspect that the Great American Novelist, John Updike, would approve of the hours Luca and I spend discussing books that rarely touch on real life...genre novels, in other words.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Teresa Gets LOST in Those Eyes...
Okay, I have to confess that I've never even seen an episode of LOST. (I plan to get caught up when the show comes out on DVD in September.) But every time a TV GUIDE with Josh Holloway's face on the front pops up on my doorstep, my heart starts to race and my breath comes a little bit shorter (just like one of my heroine's). The first time I laid eyes on him, my first thought was, "My, wouldn't he make a fine Billy Darling from my book NOBODY'S DARLING!" My second thought was, "Yummy!" And just in case you guys think I'm breaking a pattern here because he's not holding a lethal weapon, I want you to take a closer look at those dimples. Gilligan, move over! I SO want to be stranded on a deserted island with this man!!!
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Elizabeth Interrupts a Truly Lovely Blog Conversation with a Perfectly Nice Author to Say, AAAAAUUUUUGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!
Anyway, here’s a rough list of what’s been going on here: Home improvement that’s left my kitchen in a shambles. Meetings at school because I’m one of the parents helping interview prospective candidates to fill the empty director’s position. Home invasions by insects the likes of which I haven’t seen since a 1950s post-atomic-apocalypse movie. Cable problems that were fixed by the cable guy severing our phone line, thereby leaving us without phone service for three days (which meant no getting on-line during that time since we’re stuck in the Stone Age here with our dial-up connection).
AND more surprise visits from more out-of-town relatives. Except that, this time, they’re from MY side of the family, so it’s okay. I think. I mean, I’m PRETTY sure my cousin Hal was only kidding when he said he and his wife were evicted from their Brooklyn apartment and are now moving in with us. (I’ll ask him when he’s finished putting his laundry away in what used to be my husband’s dresser.)
On the up side... Well, hell. There is no up side. I hate when that happens.
Oh, wait, there is an up side now that I’m on line again. (Note to self: Write scene in next book where a cable guy is murdered in a suitably grisly fashion like being eaten by post-atomic-apocalypse insects.) I see that Debbie Macomber is visiting Squawk Radio. Hi, Debbie!
I’ve loved Debbie’s books for approximately two decades. She was one of my first auto-buys for Silhouette. And when I met her at my first RWA conference back in 1990, timidly approaching her to introduce myself and telling her I’d just recently sold to Silhouette Special Editions, she was the epitome of nice and was genuinely enthusiastic when she wished me well with my career. I was sooooooo dazzled.
And I continue to be so, having read her blogs for the week here. But I have one more question to ask Debbie, if she’ll be so patient as to field another. (And maybe the other Squawkers will chime in, too.) I have no idea what makes me ask this, but, Debbie (and Squawkers), how do you deal with the outside intrusions into your writing? The real-life stuff that we’d all rather just ignore in favor of living in the fictional worlds we build and control? Things, like, oh...I don’t know. Home improvement that leaves your kitchen in a shambles, for instance. Or maybe home invasions by insects the size of the Seattle Space Needle? Or cable guys who deserve to be strung up by their, um, toes and prodded with live cable wires, say. Or relatives who use up all the hot water and eat the last bag of M&Ms, even though you thought you hid it really well beneath the cushion of the futon in your office...?
Eloisa in Exotic Paris!
The truth is...I was only in Paris for six hours, five of which were spent sitting on a stalled airplane in the runway. We had to run for our connection and at some point we found ourselves barrelling down a long tunnel in the Charles de Gaulle airport (yes, precisely the kind of tunnel that fell down last year), and we were stopped. By an armed guard who had his finger on the trigger! I surreptitiously took a picture. My husband said that it must be terrorist action, a bomb, a piece of left-luggage, something Very Very Important.
We all waited. And waited. The guard smiled at us but wouldn't let anyone go.
Finally a guy in a pair of blue overalls ambles up and bends over the moving walkway. He flicks a switch and the walkway starts moving.
The adorable French guard waves his machine gun and lets us all go to our airplanes...
Do I need to say that when our Air France flight was then delayed for five hours, we were served wine but no food? Or that the stewards just stood around comfortably chatting while the Americans in the plane went slowly (loudly) insane?
Now we're in Florence for the summer, which is as beautiful, hot and mosquito-infested as ever. I'll try to post some pictures from here, but I'm on a phone modem upload, and having trouble...
Friday, June 24, 2005
Christina, I was so moved by your post! You are an amazing woman and I'm honored to be your friend.
You asked about goal setting. I didn't come up with this idea all on my own. I read mountains of books every year, but I also make sure to read several on business and marketing. Early on one of the first to have a profound influence on me was "The Power of Positive Thinking" by Norman Vincent Peale. I've also listened to countless tapes by inspirational people, among them Zig Ziglar. One of the strategies I learned was about goal setting. Thinking about goals, and then taking it to the next step and writing them down, has had a profound influence in my life.
In 1992 I was published in category romance, but I had lofty dreams and ambitions. I wanted to be published in, and known for, my single title books. I wanted my books to have consistent New York Times list placement, with each successive book showing improvement in my writing and in my personal growth. I wanted author tours and movie deals; I wanted to tour book distribution centers, and appear at major book association events. And while I was at it, why not audio editions? Isn’t it fun to day dream? Just for good measure, I jotted down all these dreams and at the top I wrote down “Five-Year Goals.” After that, I tossed the list in a drawer and forgot about it.
I came upon that same list again some years ago. Chills ran up and down my spine as I reread my dreams/goals. Those unimaginable and unattainable goals that I wrote down in 1992—you guessed it—all came true. Let me tell you there is something very powerful about goals that are written down. Your mind (even though you don’t have the list in front of you) helps you focus your energies into making them come true.
This year I had a book on the New York Times bestseller hardcover fiction list and mass market paperback fiction list--at the same time! I’ve been on author tours (and boy have I learned from those!). THIS MATTER OF MARRIAGE was produced as a made-for-TV movie, and I have movie goals for other titles. I’ve been to Book Expo America several times and have enjoyed it tremendously. I always come away with new insights when I talk to booksellers. Audio tape editions of my books are now available. Wow.
I continue to write down my goals each year. In fact, I’ve expanded them to include not only career goals, but also personal, financial, recreational, family, physical and spiritual goals. My family gets together every year at Christmas time and we write down our goals for the new year, after rereading the goals we wrote down the previous year. It's become a tradition.
I think you should make up your own list and see where it takes you!
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Christina sits at Debbie's feet and asks for guidance
Ten years ago, my husband and I had to come to Seattle from Houston because my brother-in-law had lymphoma, needed a bone marrow transplant and Scott was the donor. In the hospital, Scott went into the operating room and was put under while the surgical team removed a quart of bone marrow from his hips. It was an all-day affair and I was worried about him and my brother-in-law and didn't know what to do in a strange city by myself. Debbie and I knew each other, but not well, yet when I told her about it, she invited me to meet her. She took the day off and drove me to the bookstores in the area, introduced me to the managers and we signed books. This at a time when she was writing SIX books a year and every day counted! But I've never forgotten how kind she was and I'm sure that her prayers, as well as my husband's bone marrow, helped my brother-in-law completely recover from his cancer.
How does Debbie do everything -- write, manage her office and staff, handle her publicity, be a mother, grandmother and wife, and be a friend to so many people? Down the page, Teresa asked Debbie to talk about how she uses motivation and goals to chart her course successfully in publishing (and in life!) and that's because we Squawkers know Debbie is the living proof that positive thinking works. That's what we all want to hear, Debbie, and you promised us you would blog about how career planning and goal setting has worked for you. Talk to us!
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Terri's post below (okay-- her FARSCAPE eye-candy) inspired me to find my old Farscape tapes and play some of my favorite episodes. In the comment section I said something about how John and Aeryn had a "doomed romance" and a couple people, and rightfully so, pointed out that the miniseries finished with a grand HEA. While that was true, it was the "doomed" ( as in "there is no way we can pull off a happily ever after, too many obstacles in the way--like I'm nuts) part of their relationship and their inability to stay away from one another even after they BOTH recognized that the relationship was doomed that kept me coming back season after season.
I've been waiting for another television series to take Farscape's place but without any luck. I've tried Battlestar and :shrug: it just doesn't work for me. Don't know why.
HOUSE has potential but the thing about space opera, and FARSCAPE in particular, is that its format allows the author(s) to pit the hero and heroine against insurmountable odds, forcing them into situations where they need to make incredible sacrifices for THE GOOD OF THE UNIVERSE but at the expense of their own happiness. IOW, a hero does what a hero has to do (or heroine). In fact, when John tried to deny his heroic path and opt for the "I'll just take care of my corner of the universe" path, it blew up in his face. Literally.
HOUSE isn't ever going to sacrifice Cameron to save the world.
Does putting a hero in a situation that forces him to do something ... well, epic make the paranormal or fantasy romance so appealing? i.e. the greater the stakes, the greater the sacrifice, the greater the romance? And can that willingness to "march into hell for a heavenly cause" work in a straight contemporary or historical romance? Is the canvas big enough to allow the reader to appreciate what is being asked of the hero and heroine when they are forced to choose between personal happiness and the Fate of the Universe? I mean, Farscape had four seasons to establish its parameters? WE get 365 pages. So what makles a GREAT romance great? I offered my idea-- what's yours?
And finally, when are they going to make another FARSCAPE movie?
Dale's mom writes romance!
Our kids . . . well, that’s a different story. I can remember the time my youngest came home from school and threw down his books. With a look of pure disgust he announced, “Mr. Smith announced in class that Dale’s mom writes romance.” This was said in the same tone of voice as one would say she does heavy-duty drugs. Might I remind you this is the same child who wanted a pair of $250.00 running shoes, and when I protested, he said, “Just write another book.”
Our mother’s will always love our books. They thought we were brilliant when we brought home our finger-painted pictures from pre-school. Our families sort of ignore the fact we’re writers—at least mine certainly did when the kids were at home—so who else is there to tell us how good we really are? Our editors? I love mine, she walks on water, but the highest praise I’ve ever gotten from her is. “This will do nicely.”
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Eloisa on How To Talk to an Author...if you must
"There's only one thing authors want to hear when they send their manuscripts to their agents or editors: 'Oh my God, this is brilliant. The best thing I've ever read. Here's a million dollars -- no, wait, let's make it 10 million.'" Pamela is brilliant. She must be old and withered to have grown to such a position of wisdom.
For all of you who have or will in the future meet an author whose book didn't quite make the grade for you (tossed into the bathroom trash after two minutes, but let's not quibble with details), here's a primer of what to say to that author. Pamela is in red; I'm following her.
* Truth. The first page stopped me dead.
What to say instead: I can't wait to really dive in.
Eloisa's version: It reminded me of James Joyce's Ulysses. Really.
*The truth: I couldn't get past the first ten pages.
What to say instead: I'm saving it for my next vacation.
Eloisa's version: This is real literature --not like that trashy romance stuff.
Instead: It was so well-written.
Eloisa's version: Thank goodness someone is holding up literary standards -- otherwise, there'd be nothing but romance published. And that's nothing more than porn for women, you know.
*Truth: Managed to make it halfway through.
Instead: Reading and loving it!
Eloisa's version: I had to stop constantly and just think...that's how deep it was for me.
*Truth: The main character is awful.
Instead: Love the story!
Eloisa's version: It takes a real artist to make us love a chainsaw murderer.
*Truth: There's no story.
Instead: Love the characters!
Eloisa's version: Narrative is so worn, you know? Punctuation too.
*Truth: I can't possibly be the only one who thinks this is so bad.
Instead: How have the reviews been?
Eloisa's version: I bet you'll be on Oprah as soon as she reads this.
*Truth: Please don't write another book.
Instead: You deserve a long break.
Eloisa's version: Honey, it's so unfair the way everyone reads that trashy stuff...if they knew how to judge a real book, you'd be so rich, you wouldn't have to think about writing another book.
Debbie chimes in about letters from readers--the good, the bad, and . . .
There certainly have been times in my career when I’ve danced a little jig over some goal attained. While those career highs are absolutely thrilling, and I don’t mean to dismiss them in any way, it’s the feedback I get from my readers that excites me.
I remember Theresa sharing a letter she’d received from a paraplegic (forgive me if I have this wrong) who wrote to tell her that reading her books was what helped him deal with his disability; what got him through the nights. Now that’s a reason to feel proud. That’s a reason to feel like you’ve accomplished something good in this life.
I don’t write books that are going to change the world—I leave that up to those with a larger vocabulary than mine. But I was moved to tears by a letter from a woman who was left a widow after 9/11. She wrote to tell me my books helped her deal with the death of her husband. It’s our books that are making a difference in someone’s reality. I frown when some so-called critic calls our books candy. They’re wrong. In some cases they’re the very best medicine available.
Okay, fellow Squawkers, I’ll admit not all my letters leave me grateful that I’m a writer. There’s the occasional one from the guy in prison who’s convinced he can’t live without me. Perhaps my favorite is the man who wrote to tell me. “You can be my woman and I don’t even care that you’re fat.” Oh darn . . . why couldn’t I have met him before Wayne!
Christina rips her bodice
Why has the term “bodice ripper” managed to survive for more than twenty years so successfully?
Well, think about it. “Romance novel” is boring. “Bodice-ripper” is a visual, action term.
So here’s your assignment. Think up another term for “romance novel”, one that won’t offend so many readers (you’re always going to offend someone, so don’t try to please everybody), one that’s funny, descriptive, visual and makes the press want to use it. Then we’ll take it and spread it across the Internet, it will catch on and change the world as we know it!!! Bwahahahaha!
::cough:: Sorry, I lost my head for a minute. Anyway, remember — romance novel = funny, descriptive, visual term. Go for it!
Teresa Shares An Out-of-This World Romance
While we're waiting for Debbie to pop on today, I thought I'd share one of my favorite sci-fi couples--John Crichton and Aeryn Sun from FARSCAPE. Those two did things for leather that should have been illegal!
Monday, June 20, 2005
Now that you're here, Debbie, I can't wait to pick your brain! Just from some things I've read, I know that you're big into Motivation and Goal Setting and Planning Your Success and essentially Being Responsible for Your Own Professional Destiny. For those of us who tend to believe that every good thing that happens in this business is the result of our own genius and every bad thing is the result of a gypsy curse, I'd love to hear about some specific tips in those areas that have worked for you.
You've had such extraordinary longevity in an industry that's been known to use authors up like old Kleenex. I'd also like to know if you can pinpoint any specific turning points in your career where you could just feel yourself climbing to that next professional plateau such as 1) the Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy books 2) when you'd written your 100th category title 3) your first hardcover 4) your first NYT bestseller 5) your first hardcover NYT bestseller, etc. I know you've never been one to rest on your laurels, but I'd love to know exactly what moments in your career made you toss your hat in the air and sing, "You're gonna make it after all!"
Hello from Debbie
I want everyone to know I think Richard Simmons is adorable. I did an autographing with him once and he wore, I kid you not, his exercise clothes. He was a hoot. I’ve hopped along to his tapes myself a time or two when I wasn’t able to swim.
Yes, I swim. Early in the morning before most of the world is awake, I climb into an Olympic size pool with other chlorine lovers . . . now that’s an idea. I’ll bring photographs of the guys I swim with. There’s Jesse, he’s 80 and hot! (I’m hot, too, but that’s mostly due to menopause!) There’s Greg and Mike and Pere and, I swear to you, not a one of them weighs over 120 pounds. They’re the ones who inspired me. In my foolishness I assumed that if I frolicked around in a swimming pool four mornings a week that it would be like magic and viola—I, too, would soon weigh 120 pounds. Are you laughing yet? Suffice it to say I don’t. It could be that Krispy Crème donut stop on the way home.
But alas, I’ve gotten sidetracked. I’ll supply pictures.
TERESA AND GERARD WISH EVERYONE A HAPPY MONDAY!
Here's the sultry and sexy Gerard Butler voguing for PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Coming soon--Hugh Jackman, Brendan Fraser, Clive Owen, Ben Browder, Orlando Bloom and a host of others!!!
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Eloisa makes a foray into the world of Pop Culture!
I was poking around in a bookstore yesterday and came across this book. Since I never managed to see the program (except for two episodes on DVD with Connie), but my books are constantly compared to the show, I decided to buy a primer.
I flipped through it last night and learned all kinds of important things, some of which may show up in my future books (although most of the words used by Samantha cannot be used in Regencies!):
from Charlotte: "If you don't have sex for a year, you can actually become revirginized." Who knew? And who liked virginity enough to want to repeat it annually?
from Miranda: "Reasonable doubt in a courtroom gets you off for murder. In an engagement, it makes you feel like a bad person."
from Samantha: on premarital sex: "Before you buy the car, you should take it for a test drive." I like the contrast to my grandmother's "milk for free" analogy!
And finally, from Carrie, an important question: "What if Prince Charming had never showed up? Would Snow White have slept in that glass coffin forever? Or would she have eventually woken up, spit out the apple, gotten a job, a health-care package, and a baby from her local neighborhood sperm bank?" Answer from Eloisa: Yes!
Anybody remember any great lines or moments from the show you want to share?
Saturday, June 18, 2005
Christina Dodd Finds a Great New Author
Geralyn Dawson told me about WARPRIZE by Elizabeth Vaughan, saying it was the best book she’d read for a long time, that it was the author’s first book and that she was fiercely envious over Elizabeth Vaughan’s talent. Of course, I couldn’t wait for the chance to be fiercely envious, too, so I rushed right down to Barnes and Noble to get the book. I couldn’t find it in romance. They’d shelved it under science fiction because it’s published by Tor who always does science fiction. But it says romance on the spine and it is definitely romance, very intense, the first of a trilogy, and as I read I had the sense of being carried into the beginnings of a myth. It’s supposedly set in a different world, but it feels like earth to me, maybe a Germanic country during the Mongolian conquests. Our heroine, Lara, is a princess and a healer, a woman who grew up in a walled city in a castle, and Lara is given to the conqueror, Keir, as a Warprize. Keir is a nomad, and Lara’s thrown into a world of tents, barbarians and women warriors. The story is told in first person (I know! What’s with all the first person books lately?) but it works so well. What better way to show the culture shock than by letting us see it through Lara’s eyes? How she deals with the change and Keir — and how they deal with her — makes fascinating, completely romantic reading.
I’ve been trying to compare WARPRIZE to other books I’ve liked, trying to figure out why it struck such chords with me, and I have to say the story is very much a sheik fantasy with a heroine who could have been written by Julie Garwood. I can’t wait for the next two books … and the next one isn’t coming out until 2006. Argh! So now, like Geralyn, I’m fiercely envious, too. Elizabeth Vaughan is an author to watch.
Friday, June 17, 2005
MEET THE GUY TERESA DOES NEARLY EVERY DAY
No, this isn't one of Eloisa's heroes. If we're going to be honest with each other around Squawk Radio, I thought it was time to introduce you to the guy who REALLY has my heart. That's right--Richard Simmons! Richard first saved my life about 15 years ago when I suffered a severe back injury after being body-slammed across the footboard of a hospital bed by a psychotic patient. I was too afraid to move to go back to the free dancing that I loved and it was Richard's SWEATIN' TO THE OLDIES that got me moving again and re-built my confidence.
I now own seven of his workout tapes and have been fairly consistent over the years in doing them at least 3 times a week. I'm not a big believer in doing anything I don't enjoy. I hate treadmills. I hate ellipticals. I hate indoor bikes. But I love to dance! And since Richard's workouts are essentially dancing to some really cool music, I do enjoy them. (Plus he uses real people in the videos instead of buffed-out size zero freaks so you feel like, "Hey, if that 300-pound man can do that, so can I!")
I'd been struggling with my weight recently as women of a certain age tend to do. (I only know because I asked Connie.) I couldn't figure out why my bras were getting tighter in all of the wrong places. Then suddenly the missing ingredient of my exercise plan came to me! It was Richard! I'd quit doing the workouts when I was on deadline in February and had never gotten back to them. And all of the biking and weight lifting in the world wasn't going to loosen up those bras. So I dragged out SWEATIN' TO THE OLDIES on Monday afternoon. By Tuesday morning (I kid you not), I had lost 4 pounds.
As I was dancing that afternoon, a couple of other miraculous things began to happen--my PMS-induced depression began to lift and I started having new ideas for my book. I also had a really corny thought--When I do this, I feel like the person I'm supposed to be.
I know. It's hard to believe a fey little fellow like Richard, whose voice sends my cats (and my husband) careening madly toward the screen door, could have such a profound effect on a life. But when I'm sweating to the oldies and Richard shouts, "You were born to be a star!", I almost believe him.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
from ELOISA'S Much Ado About You...
Just like Teresa, I find pictures of people in magazines and use them to visualize my heros. To be honest, I didn't do this in the beginning. My first hero was called Alexander (hint: my husband's name is Alessandro). He had silver-shot hair (so does dh). He lived in Italy (dh is Italian). He had quite a temper (so does dh). But after I wrote his story, and that of his identical twin brother, I started to look around for interesting faces.
For those writers among you, I've discovered that pictures of models don't really work (although Teresa's below is an exception--because it's so atmospheric!). Models tend to have too bland faces, so I can't describe them well.
Now here's a male face from my most recent book, Much Ado About You. It's not the hero.
Those of you who've read the book, who do you think it is? And those of you who haven't read the book, what qualities does this face bring to mind for you? What kind of character do you think this man has?
This is a medieval walled city, the wall completely encircling the entire town (whose streets, btw, are paved in marble). David, Rachel and I walked in under the gate took one look up—700 feet up-- and decided that we needed to experience the romance of "walking the wall." So we climbed a five thousand step staircase where, by the time we reached the top, my ass muscles had seized up so badly you couldn’t have dinted the cellulite with a jackhammer. No problem. The initial assault behind us, we sallied forth, breezing pasty laggards and pathetic red-faced tourists like the stalwart Minnesotans we knew ourselves to be.
“There are more steps,” a few of them gasped as we shot by them, doling out sympathetic if condescending smiles.
Steps? pfft. What are steps to the heirs of lumberjacks?
%^%#$8ng hard work, that’s what!
It took us an hour to make it around and ever fifth of a mile or so was punctuated by more steps and they all went UP. It was freakish! Every bloody step went up! And there was no shade, none, miles of blistering white marble and pale granite, baking atop a cliff. There were only a few wider spots on the path where grinning Croatians (who I assume hadn't seen the bottom of all those bloody steps since birth) sold bottled water and Figs on a Rope. We bought five gallons. We found out later that they average six emergency episodes a week during tourist season.
It was well worth it, though. The views overlooking the Dalmatian Islands (populated by packs of indigenous spotted dog ?) were breathtaking. Here's one. Those ants climbing? People. One is probably me.
Still, by the time we finished and started down, I was snagging every fresh- faced passer-by trotting up and, using my best sybil voice, rasping out, “Pace yourself. There are a lot more steps. Alot. I mean this. There are a ^&%$ing million steps ahead of you.”
They shook off my sweaty hand and smiled. Kindly.
TERESA REVEALS WHAT'S HANGING OVER HER COMPUTER
One of the questions I get most often is "Do you have a specific actor in mind to portray your hero when you're writing?" I have to say that I frequently do start out with a specific actor in mind, but the more I write, the more that hero seems to take on his OWN appearance and identity. Having a special pic (like the one with Adrian Paul in a kilt for CHARMING THE PRINCE) puts me in the "right" mood to write about the "right" man. But I never like to impose those images on my readers because I feel like each reader should picture the hero exactly as SHE wants to picture him.
I had just started work on the sequel to AFTER MIDNIGHT when I went to the beauty shop and found this pic in a magazine. Needless to say, there was a magazine missing a page after I left ;) He was the perfect model for Julian Kane, the dark and dangerous younger brother of my hero in AFTER MIDNIGHT. I can't tell you too much about Julian right now because it might spoil some of the "secrets" in MIDNIGHT but I can tell you that a picture is worth a thousand words!
more teasers coming. Sign up on the alert newsletter for advance warnings of "things to come"
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
So there's this really cute young guy standing out in front of the Little Ceasar's pizza place--think rippling forearms glistening with sweat, wearing dark sunglasses that hide his eyes. (I think he was legal, but I can't swear to it.) And he's holding a huge orange sign that says, "Hot and Ready. All the Time."
Chat tonight with Christina Dodd and Elizabeth Boyle
Connie posts a Picture of Ephesus for J Stone Perry
Teresa Asks About Me, Me, Me...All the Time
Some of the posts about BLUE MOON mentioned the first person viewpoint in novels or romances, which always generates a fascinating array of opinions. I've always loved the first person viewpoint. I think it comes from reading so many Victoria Holt novels as a kid. But I also think it has to be done very well and you have to really like the character. There's nothing worse than being trapped in the head of someone you can't stand. My recent first person find (which just happens to be a paranormal) was Charlaine Harris's first Sookie Stackhouse book, DEAD UNTIL DARK. I thought Sookie was as winning and three-dimensional a female character as I've seen on the page in a long time.
So how about you guys? Do you have strong feelings one way or the other about first person narration or does it depend upon the specific book and author???
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Here's a great romance test!
ATTEMPTS TO MAKE HER NAME LARGER THAN ELOISA'S TO NO AVAIL!!!
Connie asks: "Well, um, I mean, you know, what's the like best, but like not necessarily most real, just, you know, greatest dialogue out there?"
I know that there is tons and tons of highly objectionable language in DEADWOOD (every other word is &^%$ or %$#@ or &%%*&*-*&^%^% though personally, I don't give a ^%$@) but making the association between it and ancient Greek plays actually got me wondering about the original vernacular of those plays. It stands to reason that as they are handed down through hundreds of years each succeeding generation would get its shot at bowdlerizing it to some degree, omitting a few nastier swear words or vulgarities from the text in the interest of mainstreaming it and making it more palatable to a general population.
In books...? I just finished Lorna Landvik's latest, OH MY STARS and thought it was excellent.
ALERT--COMMENTS MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS! Connie asks for input about MILLION DOLLAR BABY
Eloisa on Werewolves
It's in paranormals, oddly enough, that I'm currently finding the most realistic dialogue and characters. The heroine of Blue Moon doesn't have a perfect body. She's not all that terrific looking. Here, she's about to have sex with Cadotte: "I was tempted to turn on the light so I could see him, but then he could see me, and that didn't tempt me at all. I was a big girl—everywhere. I swear that naked, I looked even bigger." This novel is about people shifting skins: OK, some of those people are turning into werewolves. But others are just learning to live with the skins they were given, if that makes sense. Cadotte is gorgeous, and it is wonderful, touching and hysterically funny to see Jessie grapple with the idea of being with him long-term. Cadotte asks her why she's humiliated to be seen with him, and Jessie answers with a moment of blinding truth:
"Because everyone will wonder what you're doing with me," I blurted. "You're hot, Cadotte. I'm not. For a guy like you to be with a woman like me…" I shrugged. "I must give great head. I must f-k like a rabbit. I must—"
He put his hand over my mouth. "Shh," he whispered. "You do. So what?"
God I love reading realistic dialogue. And if it's showing up in tandem with wolves sprouting from humans in the north woods, I'll take it! Has anyone else seen this kind of really truthful dialogue lately?
Monday, June 13, 2005
Elizabeth Goes Woo Woo
BLUE MOON by Lori Handeland, which is about a pack of werewolves descending on a small Wisconsin town, was easily the best of the bunch I read, and I was delighted to discover it's the first of a series. I have since bought the second book, HUNTER'S MOON and am looking forward to it, as soon as I finish with galleys for my October book and a couple of manuscript critiques I promised to do.
What I loved most about the book is that the heroine is real kickass without being obnoxious, and she's funny as hell. There is suitable mystery and intrigue shrouding the hero, truly un-cliched secondary characters, especially a police dispatcher, and, to put it mildly, extreme heat.
If memory serves, Handeland started off writing historicals, but you'd never know it from her wholly contemporary voice. And it's a strong, unique voice, the heroine's first-person point of view. Normally, I'm not too crazy about first person POV in romance (though I like it very much in mystery), because I always want to know what the hero is thinking. Somehow, though, not knowing what this hero was thinking just made him that much more attractive.
Anyway, why is it, do you all think, that paranormal is growing so much lately? When I first started writing romance, there was virtually none of this stuff being published, and what little there was tended to be easily dismissed by, oh...everybody. Then they gave us OUTLANDER at the RWA National conference one year, and boom. Suddenly everyone was loving this stuff.
Even at that, though, it took a LONG time for paranormal to really catch on. As recently as a few years ago, editors just weren't interested at most houses. Now they can't seem to buy it fast enough. Paranormal is where new authors are breaking out, where veterans are breaking through the glass ceiling, and where readers are finding new books and authors to read.
Me, I see it being a viable subgenre from here on out, though I think, like everything, it's going to peak soon and then fall off. This always happens with the latest hot trend. Publishers put out a plethora of it, good books as well as bad, and eventually readers get tired of being burned by the bad books and become more careful about their purchases. When the sales start dropping off, so will many of the books. The big names, and the writers with real talent will be set for life. But like everything else in this business, the chaff will ultimately go to seed.
Still, it's very exciting when new things come along in romance. And I love seeing so many new author names on the shelves just waiting to be discovered. For now, I'm going to be plucking the grain and the chaff both. Because you never know when you'll find a rose among the thorns.
And now I better get back to work, before I start ODing on harvest metaphors. Especially since I'm almost certainly using them incorrectly. (Hey, just 'cause I love corn on the cob doesn't mean I know where it comes from. Besides the produce section of my local grocery store, I mean.)
Eloisa Does Lunch and Talks Men...
We ended up talking quite a bit about romance (naturally) and where it's going. Kathe pointed out that some of the newest really great authors are breaking out in the paranormal category, and that's one of the reasons why that category is doing so well (sales up 35% in 2004, according to a speech giving at the RT conference).
Kathe writes many of RT's historical reviews, averaging between 28-35 a month. Can you imagine? She also has a full-time job teaching in elementary school. She's been doing this for over twenty years, so before she retires, she'll probably have read a million books. What a resource! She remembers plots, characters and authors I've never even heard of.
She just finished reading an absolutely wonderful ARC, or advance review copy, of a pirate book by Cathy Maxwell called The Price of Indiscretion. We ended up talking about hero's professions that we adore and don't see enough of. Kathe loves pirates. My former editor adored handymen. I have to say, I love a car mechanic. For instance, Nick in Jennifer Crusie's Tell Me Lies: what I wouldn't give to have him wandering around the place in his overalls!
What about the rest of you? What should heros be doing, in historicals or contemps? Do we want firemen, gentlemen thieves, ungentlemanly thieves, pirates, professors, artists, strippers (remember that great Laura London book?)...
Teresa Aims to Please (Santa)
He can capture me any day!
When I posted the pic of Sean Bean last week, Santa requested a pic of David Wenham as Faramir from LOTR so here he is! (And it's really not Freudian that in most of the pics I post, the men seem to be carrying large weapons. Sometimes an oversized bow really is JUST an oversized bow! ;))
Sunday, June 12, 2005
"I be back" Connie returns from the Great Beyond (beyond Minnesota)
Venice is bizarre. An M.C Escher meets Pieter Bruegel meets Prada. It’s a city of humping, slanting narrows, sudden archways dissolving into dark tunnels, brilliant highlighter strips of sapphire blue sky and green topaz canals. I kept looking over my shoulder, expecting to see a lurking dwarf in a red riding hood cape or at least, Donald Sutherland, but the only one lurking was me and it was the tiny stores selling Murano glass at not so tiny prices. I bought eight beads. I know. Diva.
AND DOGS. Everywhere, mutts trotting along with businesslike certitude through throngs of Venetians and far greater throngs of tourists. We surmised that all the dogs in Venice were males except for one saucy female who lived on the third floor of an abandoned palace and received her callers by appointment only.
We took the requisite gondola ride and it was magical. A completely different look at the city.
The only disappointment was the food which was mediocre (and anyone who knows me knows how I hate mediocre food!) but the setting made up for it. Except for Harry’s, where we tipped glass of Campari to the memory of Hemmingway and paid TWENTY BUCKS A GLASS for the privilege.
So, that was Venice and here’s my Venetian picture.
Teresa Gives Thanks for a Lazy Sunday Afternoon
We made a couple of jokes about our "boring" day. Around noon, since it wasn't raining at home, we decided to take a "consolation" bike ride. We'd barely gotten a half mile from the house when we went around a corner we'd taken a thousand times. The next thing I knew, my husband was lying on the pavement, writhing in agony. His bike had simply slipped out from under him on the turn. That quickly, in the blink of an eye, everything changed.
Instead of enjoying a "boring" afternoon curled up on the couch with some wonderful book, we spent the afternoon at the emergency room. My husband was admitted to the hospital with possible knee ligament damage and another internal injury. I kept thinking, "Oh, why didn't I get out of bed? Why didn't we just go on to Metropolis and risk the rain!" All I could think was that I'd give anything for the two of us to be at home with him watching baseball and me lying in the sunroom reading a book, enjoying a spectacularly normal afternoon together before ordering a pizza for dinner. Suddenly every small, ridiculous detail of our mundane lives seemed infinitely precious--a gift to be cherished, not taken for granted or dismissed as dull.
The doctors sent Mike home today on crutches with instructions to schedule a follow-up if the knee doesn't show signs of appropriate healing. We're so grateful he didn't suffer even more devastating injuries, but we still don't know exactly what we're facing. He's a very athletic person and we don't know how long it will be before he can do his regular exercises, or ride his bike, or help with the volleyball clinics he had scheduled with a friend.
The whole thing just reminded me of how quickly life can change and that every time we drive past a hospital and someone we love isn't there, we are infinitely blessed. There are so many days when I spend more time mourning what I've lost then being thankful for what I have.
This isn't one of those days.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
THAT EBULLIENT AND DECREPIT MEDEIROS WOMAN
And speaking of age-related issues as Liz did so brilliantly below, I just had a write-up done in the June 2005 issue of KENTUCKY MONTHLY magazine by reporter Steve Flairty. The article was absolutely fabulous, but I was horrified when Steve referred to me as "the ebullient **-year old" (age removed to protect the illusion that I'm younger than I actually am). Can you demand a retraction if they print your real age? Fortunately "ebullient" did mean what I thought it did--lively, enthusiastic, sparkling, bubbling. So I'm guessing that means I'm incredibly perky for my advanced age. The next time a reporter asks me my age, I'm going to try Christina's favorite tactic--lie.
You'll be glad to know the reporter redeemed himself a few paragraphs later when he called me "slim and athletic." (So who needs bifocals now?)
One of the best parts of this well-written and well-researched article were these quotes from our very own Squawker, Elizabeth Bevarly:
Liz Bevarly, another successful romance writer from Kentucky, truly respects Medeiros' work. "Where a lot of historical writers stick with one time period or country, Terri's taken her stories to several different places and several different times. She follows her heart instead of marketing trends, letting her characters and story dictate the setting of a book." Bevarly also likes the light-hearted, hopeful message Medeiros gives her readers. "Terri is wicked funny, and I think that shows up in her writing. And no matter how rough the job get sometimes, she preseveres, and she stays the course. Her readers would probably agree with Bevarly's summation. "When you read a book by Teresa Medeiros, you find warmth, you find depth, you find humor, you find hope. And you always close the book with a smile and a sigh."
Um, Liz--I have two questions for you???
1) Can I use that last part as an official Elizabeth Bevarly quote?
2) Where do I send your check?
Friday, June 10, 2005
Elizabeth Hallucinates Some Decent Reality
Last night, my hubby fixed me my usual dinner (for this week) of saltines, two teaspoons of ginger ale and a tumbler of cough medicine--oops, I mean two teaspoons of cough medicine and a tumbler of ginger ale, of course--and then I lay down on the couch to wait for the psychedelic images to appear. But what came was even more bizarre than the usual stuff I'd experienced this week. Because there, on my TV, was The Knack performing "My Sharona," only they were all old and wrinkly and flabby. And then Tommy Tutone was doing "867-5309," only they were old and wrinkly and flabby, too, and Tommy Heath had even less hair than he did in the 80s, and it was all white.
Whoa. Cut back the dosage on the cough syrup.
So I told my husband what I was seeing, and he said, "Um, that's not a hallucination. It's a summer replacement on TV called 'Hit Me, Baby 1 More Time' where old, flabby, wrinkly bands come on and sing a medley of their hit and then do a new number by some other band. Only the original versions are cut short to appease the new short-attention-span generation."
What the !@#$%?
Normally, I would love this, because, as some of you may know, I'm The Keeper of the New Wave. I have roughly eighty billion New Wave albums from the 80s, many of which are imports by bands no normal human being has heard of. But this? Parading bands we haven't seen for decades in front of a camera to horrify us by how old and wrinkly and flabby they've become? That's just wrong. Because it makes us realize we're not exactly young and firm and slender anymore, either.
But the audience was. And they had lots and lots of hair. And they were dancing and singing along. All I could think was, "How do those kids know the words when they weren't even born when the songs were on the radio?" My husband, of course, knew. "Open bar out in the lobby, the promise of money, and somewhere up above the stage where the TV viewers can't see, they have a big karaoke sign full of lyrics."
Why didn't they ask some old, wrinkly, flabby people to be in the audience? Hell, I woulda broke out my leg-warmers and Candies to be there. Then, toward the end of the show, the camera finally pans out PAST the dancing crowd to a part of the studio where people are sitting, waaaaaaaaay back in the back, and it's--YES!--the old, wrinkly, flabby people! Of COURSE they won't give them close-ups. Hell, they won't even close in on the singers for any length of time.
That said, by the end of the show, I was loving seeing these guys again, even old and wrinkly and flabby. Because they were still rockin' after all these years, even when the music industry hadn't exactly been good to them. And they still sounded GOOD. Music is still obviously their passion, and they're not gonna give it up just because they can't perform anymore. And they still seize an opportunity to get up in front of a crowd, even though they know they're not exactly kids anymore.
It reminded me of us writers. (Clever, how I turned this into a writing blog, huh?) If you combine the years of writing-to-get-published of the six of us on this blog, it would probably come to close to a hundred years. And I think I speak for all of us when I say we didn't start because we were envisioning getting in front of an audience to perform. Yeah, we all had our eye on publication, but that's not the original reason we put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard). We did it because we had a story to tell, something inside us that needed to get out, and we were passionate about doing it.
Even if I couldn't make a living from my writing, I'd still do it. Just like Doug Fieger and Tommy Heath and Martha Davis and all those other 80s one-or-two-hit-wonders. Because I love writing as much as they obviously love music. It's a part of me. When all is said and done, I don't do it because I want to be read. I do it because I want to perform. Because I have something inside me I need to get out. And because I love it.
Thursday, June 09, 2005
TERESA DESPERATELY SEEKING ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY!!!
Christina gives a quick commode update
Of course, we could have gone somewhere and picked out different toilets ... but they wouldn't arrive on time.
Who was it that said, "This too shall pass?"
Eloisa on Book PR...
Squawk Reality Check!
PR is more and more important to writers. One of the fascinating thing about the lunch today (as I've experienced it, most important work in NYC gets done while eating), is that an author's website is growing in importance to the publisher. It's always been important to the reader. But my sense is that the website is becoming the number one promotional tool that can influence readers. Advertisements in magazines such as People or Redbook have been shown to make little difference in sales. There isn't much clear evidence that a publisher sending little gifts out to booksellers makes much difference. But the website does make a difference: and yet it stands in an odd position in relation to the publisher (the entity presumably responsible for promotion). Websites belong to authors, are created and paid for by authors.
See the problem? Publishers are now vitally interested in a promotional tool that is pretty much outside their control. I happen to love my website, and pour money into it (quiet sob). It works for me. I feel as if it's a great way to give some extra value to my readers, sort of a present for reading, if that makes sense. But many authors have little interest in paying a website company, or writing up monthly updates, or running a contest, or answering fan email from a site. After all, these are business-oriented things to be doing, and have little to do with my romantic idea of the lonely writer in the garret. What's a publisher to do then?
My guess is that they take the author out to lunch and try to talk him or her into ratcheting up their website, or getting one in the first place. I can just see the conversation:
"Yes, Mr. Hemingway, we know you've been having a bad year. One could even say, depressing, but we truly think that your Bookscan numbers would be so increased by a website that you would feel so much happier.. Why, it's practically suicidal not to have a website these days. What? What did you say? No, sir, we're not suggesting anything, sir!"
What do all of you writers and readers out there think? How do you feel when you google an author and she or he doesn't have a website? And what are the best author websites out there (skip the Squawkers! We are justly proud of ours, but we'd love to know about other terrific websites).
Teresa Brings You Sean Bean on a Slow Thursday Morning
Is that a rifle or are you just glad to see me???
I can't tell you how stressful it is to be the Squawker who has to scour the internet for pictures of gorgeous men for you to enjoy. It's a dirty job but someone's got to do it! Here's Sean Bean, a man equally at home in the role or hero or villain. We saw the preview for Jodie Foster's new thriller FLIGHTPLAN the other night when we went to see CINDERELLA MAN and I heard somebody in the audience say, "I wasn't really worried until I saw Sean Bean was the pilot on the plane." Whether pursuing Nicholas Cage or being torn between stroking or choking poor little Frodo, Sean is truly an actor for all seasons!
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
We interrupt this intelligent discussion of reading and writing habits for a tantrum by Christina Dodd
It started innocently enough. We were living in Houston and wanted to get a little closer to our parents in Idaho without actually living in Idaho. Two years ago, in Washington state, we found a beautiful spot to build and bought our ground the day before our anniversary, thus making the appropriate gift, “real estate.” My husband designed our dream home (he ran a design department for a structural engineer and we’ve been married for two million years making him the expert on both Home Design and What I Want.) We got ready to move, a grueling process since we a) loved Houston and b) we’d lived there long enough to accrue a lot of things and a lot of friends. We packed the things and bid tearful goodbyes to the friends and by June 1, 2004 we were living in a small, very small, rental in Washington.
BY JUNE 1!
GUESS WHERE WE’RE STILL LIVING??!? You bet. In the small, very small rental with two dogs and not enough room to snap a towel without rattling the blinds.
The house was supposed to be finished by June 1. In fact, I invited friends to visit in June. Susan Sizemore, author of I THIRST FOR YOU and a dear friend, will be here this weekend. She’s staying in the B&B down the road. Jerry and Donna, friends we’ve known forever, are going to be here the weekend of June 25 & 26. They’re staying at the B&B down the road, too, BECAUSE WE DON’T KNOW WHEN THE HOUSE WILL BE DONE!!!
Today was the final straw. Four months ago — FOUR MONTHS AGO! — we went and picked out our plumbing fixtures. Sinks, faucets, toilets … mind you, we did NOT pick out the $5,000 toilet, the one that has a bidet, an auto-flush, and recognizes the gender of the person who walks in and raises and lowers the seat accordingly. No, we got a plain ordinary toilet that requires hand- flushing, lifting and lowering. I did choose the one that looked as if it was easy to clean (easy to clean has been the #1 requirement for everything in the house.) Today, FOUR MONTHS LATER, we were told we had to go pick out new toilets because the manufacturer doesn’t make the ones I picked out anymore.
Most of our things are in storage, a storage we’re losing on July 1. That means whether or not the house is ready, we’re moving out of the small, very small rental and into our beautiful new house on July 1 (see photos on my website at http://www.christinadodd.com/ritter.htm .) But how long will it take to ship the toilets we’re picking out tomorrow? One week? Two weeks? Four weeks? When we move in, will we have toilets at all?
In the end (ha!), that leaves only one question to be answered — what kind of seat do we want in the outhouse? Pine or cedar?
What Teresa Is Reading On Her Summer Vacation
One of Teresa's Wonderful Recent Reads
Great topic from Christina and one of our brilliant Commenters about our reading habits and maintaining that delicate balance between being Writers and Readers. You can probably tell from some of our posts on this and other boards that we love books just as much as you guys do. Books have been my friends, my escape, and my lifeline from the time I was a very small child. Out of curiosity, I went back and took a look at the last ten books I've read:
THE ICE QUEEN by Alice Hoffman (mainstream novel)
BLACK ICE by Anne Stuart (romantic suspense)
MY PLEASURE by Connie Brockway (historical romance)
DEAD UNTIL DARK by Charlaine Harris (vampire suspense with romance)
FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER by E.L. Konisburg (a favorite from childhood that I frequently re-read)
PLAN B: FURTHER THOUGHTS ON FAITH by Anne Lamotte (Non-fiction)
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen (classic literature)
CLOSE TO YOU by Christina Dodd (romantic suspense)
ALONE by Lisa Gardner (suspense)
JUST LIKE A MAN by Elizabeth Bevarly (romantic comedy)
Although you'll probably notice a few Squawkers on this list, we do have an unofficial agreement amongst ourselves. We appreciate it if we buy each other's books, but we're under no obligation to read them. We're all well aware that if we're not careful, we could spend all of our time reading our "friend's" books and never try anything new. (Of course this gets to be a problem when you have such freaking talented friends and you genuinely WANT to read their books.)
Like Christina, I read very little historical romance. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE historical romance but when I'm in the middle of writing one, there are three reasons I don't read them.
1) Reading what I'm writing feels like work. If they're wonderful, I feel despairing about my own work. If they're not wonderful, I catch myself editing them in my head.
2) If I read nothing but historicals, then after awhile everything starts feeling tired to me. As long as I maintain the "illusion" that I'm writing something fresh, then it feels fresh and exciting to me and there's a better chance that I can make it fresh and exciting for the reader. One of the most startling things I've ever heard in a workshop is when Julie Garwood confessed that she'd never read another historical romance. Ever. In her life. Shocking, but who knows? Maybe that's what gave her books such a brash, exciting feel when she first broke into the historical market. (For examples of this, I highly recommend HONOR'S SPLENDOR, THE BRIDE, and LYON'S LADY.)
3) I honestly believe that if romance writers read nothing but romance, then eventually we'll all start cannibalizing each other and nobody will be bringing anything fresh to the genre. I probably wouldn't have ever written my award-winning western, NOBODY'S DARLING, if I hadn't read Larry McMurtry's LONESOME DOVE. The children's novel THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND (which I read REPEATEDLY as a child) definitely informed my own "witch" book, BREATH OF MAGIC. If we keep pouring those outside influences into the genre, then I believe it helps to keep the pool fresh and sparkling.
I DO read historicals when I'm between books or on vacation. The first books I reached for when I finished AFTER MIDNIGHT were SECRETS OF A SUMMER NIGHT, MUCH ADO ABOUT YOU and SOME ENCHANTED EVENING. This may sound like a Squawk commercial, but by that point, I was STARVED for a good historical. And the best historicals always send me running for my notepad to jot down ideas. (I said "jot", not "steal", Christina!)
Barbara Samuels just did a wonderful article in my Novelists Ink newsletter about how easy it is for our reading habits to become "corrupted" after we become writers. We spend WAY too much time reading books we feel we "should" be reading instead of "discovering" books the way we did before we became writers. I'm using her article as permission to read a book that's been languishing on my shelf for way too long--LIFE IS JUST WHAT YOU MAKE IT: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF DONNY OSMOND!
Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Christina talks about what she reads while writing
In grade school, I was one of those snot-nosed kids who learned to read quickly and never stopped once I started. I read indiscriminately all the way through high school — classics, Harlequin romances, plays, the Little House books, you name it, I would steal the time. Eventually, like everyone in the world, life interfered (work, husband, children) and I had to pare down the time I could spend reading, so I concentrated on what I loved best, which was romance. I always, always read both contemporary and historical. As long as it was a romance plot line that appealed to me, I didn’t care if when it was set, I’d read it.
I started writing because I loved to read so much and I thought, Hey, I can do this! This proving I had two of the attributes of a writer — a large ego and very little sense of reality.
Actually what all that reading did was give me a natural sense of how plot, characterization and motivation worked together to create a story. I wrote for ten years before I got published and reading got to be guilty pleasure. It was tough to justify reading when I should be working on a book in the hopes of someday grabbing the gold ring — or at least the signed check. But I found that putting words in fed the flow of words out. It seemed that reading while I worked fed the creative well and if I didn’t read, I’d find myself staring at a blank page with no idea how to fill it. Sometimes, if the author had a strong voice, I’d find myself mimicking it. I was telling my story, but I sounded like her. If I read a lot of an author I think her rhythm and style became part of my voice (Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick, anyone?)
Then I got published. Between writing and publicity and email and blogging and touring, time really has become precious. That’s good, because that means I’m in demand. I’m thrilled about that. But my reading time has been seriously compromised. Worse, as I’ve progressed, things have happened to my reading habits I never imagined. For instance, I don’t want to read historical romances anymore. I still love to write them. I enjoy the research. But I have no desire to read a historical. It breaks my heart because they immersed me in exotic worlds and different sensibilities and I loved that.
I still love to read contemporary romances, but you can bet I’m worried about losing my pleasure in that, too, because it still holds true that I need to read to write. If I’m going to be a writer, I need to watch movies, I need to go to museums, I need to travel and visit new places, I need to revisit the places I’ve been, I need to go to malls.
Yes, malls. How else am I going to get to a bookstore and buy books?
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
What about the rest of you?