Shopping?

This can be the most fun or the most frustrating thing ever.

Right now, it’s in-between. Mainly because I’m mostly talking about furniture shopping. We’ve been out looking for a few weeks, off and on, trying to get an idea of what we want in our living room. Sounds easy at the outset…one couch, one recliner, couple of chairs.

WRONG.

I’ve looked at so many couches I don’t know which one is better. They are all starting to feel the same to me. Then, there are fabric choices. I can’t decide between leather or microfiber. All I know is I need something pet and kid freindly. Have no clue really which one would be better suited.  And God forbid I pick the wrong one. The furniture I have now is almost 10 years old, and I’m sure it will be another 10 years before I can replace the new furniture. UGH. And don’t even get me started on prices. Sheesh!! Let’s just say they’re not giving the stuff away.

The only thing I can say is I like furniture shopping WAY better than clothes shopping. Did I mention I saw swimming suits at the store already??

 *runs away screaming  and hides* 😮

Absence of Writer’s Cramp, or Why I Hate Book Signings

It’s an ugly part of the writing biz. People stare at you while keeping their distance. They sometimes approach you, noses wrinkled as if they can hardly bear the smell, then dismiss you as unworthy.  Sometimes they insult you to your face, and you sit there and smile politely while muttering curses under your breath.

I’m talking about book signings. Some authors, I’m told, actually enjoy them. They usually fall into one of two categories: they’re either newly published and haven’t yet experienced the worst book signings have to offer, or they’re best-sellers who have people lined up out the door.

My first book signings took place at national conferences for Romance Writers of America, where the books were freebies. No-shows were no problems; everyone loves freebies. My first paying-customer signing was at a Romantic Times convention. I sold nearly a hundred books in a few hours and thought this was too cool! I couldn’t wait to do it again.

So I did. It was much smaller than RT’s convention signing, with far fewer authors taking part, and far, far fewer sales. But it still wasn’t too bad. After that, I did a few signings at my hometown book store, and those were great. (Anyone I’m not related to, my mom knows or my husband has arrested, and people have a tendency to not hold their arrests against him.) Then one day the publicist at my then-publisher called. They wanted me to do a signing in Kansas, at their expense.

You betcha, I said. She gave me the date and time, along with the store info. It was set for a fall Saturday afternoon. DH and I would drive up to the town in Kansas – don’t recall the name now, but it’s the home of Kansas State University – and we’d spend the night, then do the signing and return home. A nice little weekend getaway, right?

I knew something was wrong when DH started trying to make hotel reservations. There was nothing in town. Nothing anywhere within sixty miles of the town. “There’s a football game that weekend,” he told me when he finally found a room an hour away.

A football game. Huh. I’m not a fan, but I remembered how everything in Stillwater came to a stop on OSU’s home game days. My stomach started to hurt.

The weekend came. We got up that Saturday morning in our distant motel and drove into town, where traffic was heavy and restaurants were crowded and everyone was sporting school colors. The ache rose into my chest.

The bookstore was one of the few places in town that wasn’t busy. A table was set up inside the main entrance, stacked with piles of my book. “Sorry about the timing,” the slightly-anxious manager said as he got me settled.

“Timing?” I echoed through gritted teeth.

“Well, yeah. Kansas State is playing Kansas today just a couple miles away. In fact, kickoff is in five minutes.”

Oh, great. KState is not just playing; they’re playing Kansas.

In two hours, I told three people where the bathroom was, directed two people to the music section and sold two books – one to the manager, one to the assistant manager.

That’s when I started hating book signings. I’m not an outgoing person, I’m not a sales person, and I find it really hard to sell myself. I’d rather stay home and scrub toilets than do a signing these days. Maybe that’s why I’ve convinced myself that signings aren’t really great sales tools, even though I know they can make a difference. Just not always a good one.

I went to a signing once with an NYT author who was snippy and rude (then went back to her hotel and whined online about being stuck in Oklahoma for the night). Soon after, NYT author Robert B. Parker did a signing in Tulsa, and he couldn’t have been nicer. I still buy his books. I don’t buy hers.

How do book signings rate for you? Better than cleaning a toilet, worse than a root canal, or do you actually enjoy them?

They just don’t get it!

Today, I was telling my dad how lately life had been stressing me out…enough that I talked it over with my doctor and got prescribed a “happy pill”.  (Okay, those of you who thought I was slipping into dementia, blahhh!!!)  Anyway,  I also warned him that I was on deadline for a writing contest next week and would be available only for emergencies…please.  His response was that maybe I should give up the stuff that came with deadlines.  After I freaked out a little, I tried to explain to him that as a selling author, I would have to get used to deadlines, and probably very short ones at times.

On the way home, I got to thinking…those closest to us usually just don’t get it.  They don’t understand that writing is more than putting the story to paper, mailing it out, and getting a check.  To them, it can be done in your spare time…in between the “important” stuff like day job, housekeeping, washing the car.  I know my family didn’t understand why I had to do sooo much more travelling to promote my eBooks than I did with my Silhouette Desire.  The difference between a well-known name publisher and a new publisher (not counting a new medium!), totally escaped them.

Other missed understandings–I actually had an acquaintance (not a friend, thank God!) who felt sure that if I wrote her life story, it would be a best seller.  She survived an abusive marriage by killing her husband in self defense to protect her unborn child while the old man was beating on her… again.  When I explained that while her story of survival was inspiring, I wrote romance, about love.  Her response?  “But I still loved him when I pulled the trigger.”  Somehow, she couldn’t understand that because her relationship story didn’t have a happy ever after, it wasn’t a romance.

Then there is this gal at work who tells one and all that “Jackie writes smutty books!”, giggling all the while.  Time and time again I explain that I write sensual romance, not smut.  Of course in my defense, it didn’t help when one of our female doctors announced to one and all that after she finished reading my Desire, she woke her husband up at three in the morning for some action.  Flattering, but not conducive to convincing people I’m a serious writer who creates stories about healthy, loving relationships.

But I think the most frustrating misunderstanding is from my friends who have read all my Star Trek/Science Fiction stories, but don’t read my romances.  Oh, they’re proud of me for selling, but they’re waiting for me to write a “real” book.  The kind that is eligible for a Hugo nomination!  Though my sister did read, love, and re-read WARRIOR’S HEART, but I have to wonder…is it because the hardcover made it a real book?  🙂

MY DIRTY LITTLE SECRET

I’m a junk store junkie! A thrift shop maniac. A fun day for me is hitting the local stores. I never know what I’ll find, but the bargains are just waiting. It’s the thrill of the hunt, the excitement of the find, the anticipation of making this treasure my own. I can see potential in almost any object, especially if the price is rightmeaning really low. 

 

The desire to work with my hands comes from my father. He could build or fix anything, which was good since I broke lots of stuff. Just yesterday I finished a 3 X 5 mirrorcirca 1970s that is going to hang in my bathroomthe same one with the malfunctioning sink that hasn’t hit critical stage yet. Total cost $15. I’ve redone frames, given furniture new life, built metal art, even sold some of my creations.

 

These days, my dirty little secret is gaining in popularity, even becoming chic. Or so I overheard from a group of teenage girls trying on clothes. Their outfits were awesome! Thrift storesI’m a bit of a snob here as I choose to support shops whose proceeds go to worthy causesneed  both buyers and donations. A win-win situation. A great way to recycle in our disposable society.

 

So, I’ll shout it loudly and proudly…I’m an addictan eccentric in my own twisted way.

 

 

The Things We Lose For Love

Sandee brought up the topic of reading and writing a day or two ago, and Ashley mentioned the trouble she has finding authors she really likes. It’s ironic that every writer I know came to the business for two reasons: their love of reading and their desire to tell their own stories. And yet a great many of us find it so much harder to indulge our love of reading. In various ways, the writing takes it away from us.

Before I sold my first book, when it came to reading, I went way beyond avid. It was my favorite pastime, my hobby. I’d take my son to the park and read while he played. I’d sit outside on the steps and read while he played. We’d go to the tide pools, and I’d read . . . well, you get the idea. I read, easily, twenty to twenty-five books a month.

Then I sold my own book. I had contracts, deadlines, line-edits, copy-edits and on and on. I went from being a stay-at-home mom with a small writing habit and a huge reading habit to a professional. And to keep on top of everything, I had to cut back on that twenty-to-twenty-five-books-a-month reading habit.

But that was okay in the beginning. I developed a routine of writing like mad for two to three weeks, turning in a manuscript, then taking a month or so off and reading like mad. It took a while for the real problem to develop: not the limited time, but my growing knowledge of fiction writing.

Before I published, I was oblivious to things like POV, goals, motivation, conflict, passive voice, voice in general, character development, pacing, etc, etc. I knew two things about the books I read: either I liked them or I didn’t. Either way, I finished them. Yep, I finished every single book I ever started back in the day.

But the more I wrote and the more my fabulous editor Leslie Wainger taught me about writing, the less I enjoyed reading. Once I found out what point of view was and how to handle it, it drove me nuts to see it done badly. When I finally got my pacing just right, I couldn’t stand to read a book whose pacing was off. When the prose turned purple on the pages, I wanted to grab a pen and start editing.

One of my earliest writing friends told me, “Say goodbye to your unconditional love of books and your ability to watch movies without annoying everyone around you.” And she was right. Like any reader, when I plunk down my five or eight or ten bucks for a book (or a movie), I expect a good story. But as an author/reader, I expect a good story with no/few goober mistakes. I expect an author who’s made the New York Times best-seller list to put together a plot that stands up to scrutiny. I expect an author who’s published more than five books to nail the characters’ goals, motivations and conflicts. I expect their characters to be three-dimensional, consistent to who they are, and distinguishable from one another in thought, dialogue and deeds. I expect their research to be accurate, and I darn well expect to not figure out whodunit or howtheydunit within the first chapter.

It’s not easy to find books that meet all those requirements.

I still read a lot, though nowhere near the twenty/twenty-five books a month of the past. But I don’t finish every book I start, and my critiques have expanded far beyond “I do/don’t like this.” Take the New York Times best-seller I just finished (no names or titles to protect the guilty): the plot was contrived and full of holes; much of the major action was based on coincidence; the characters — of different nationalities and upbringings — used the same odd descriptive phrases and have the same thought processes; the info concerning the character’s Army background was inaccurate; the pacing was off; I figured out every major plot point chapters ahead of the super-hotshot investigators; AND at the very end, it turns out that the ENTIRE story was set into action by one bonehead move that no half-way decent villain would EVER deliberately make.

It’s one of the hazards of being a writer, that you become a harsher critic of the very thing that helped draw you into your new career. Not that there aren’t still great books out there. It’s just that once you know enough to spot the problems, they’re harder to find.

WIP Workout

Last fall Cherokee Nation opened a fitness center on the site of the Male Seminary for its citizens, employees and their families. Like many other Native American populations, we have a skyrocketing rate of diabetes and associated medical problems. The center is free to citizens, employees and family members. The Tahlequah community is also welcome for a reasonable monthly fee.

This morning my husband and I went to sign him up as a family member. While he was shooting baskets I used the treadmill.

While I was treading away at a moderately slow 3.8 mph, in my new tight and thigh hugging Lucy Tech pants that my sister talked me into buying, it occurred to me how much alike my body and my WIP are. We’re both pear shapes–which is supposed to be good except that pear shapes can be prone to circulation system problems.

Like my body, my WIP is bottom heavy, bottom heavy with back story and suspected information dumps. And like my body whose main form of exercise has been walking from the parking lot into the grocery store once a week, my WIP could also use more motion, more action.

One of my new year’s resolutions was to exercise my body more–yoga and using the treadmill–cardio machines, I believe is what treamills are called now. One of my 2009 commercial writing goals was to finish the first draft of my WIP by May 2009. That’s about four months away. To meet this deadline I’m going to have to give my WIP a workout, which means making a schedule, just like I’ll have to schedule my body’s workout times. I need the structure that a schedule gives otherwise I’ll just think about writing or exercising. Even if I don’t strictly adhere to my schedule, at least it will be in place to focus my energy toward May 2009, the END of May 2009.

Claude Mary