I want to be Nora!

I have a lot of favorite authors who I would gladly trade places with.  Jayne Anne Krentz for her deft characterizations.  Elizabeth Lowell who uses words to weave wonder tapestries.  Marilyn Pappano for her warm, caring stories.  And maybe Iris Johansen for her exciting plots.  But most of all, I want to be Nora Roberts.

No, not for her great writing (though I’d kill to have Roarke…even if it meant Eve Dallas would take me down!), but for her output.  I’ve been struggling to get one particular book finished for over five years.  Nora puts out about four titles a year!  And they’re somewhere around 100,00 words books.  What I wouldn’t give to have that kind of dedication to my craft.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love writing and I love the writing I’m doing, but when I see authors who turn out so many books so fast, I begin to feel maybe I don’t have the dedication a professional author should have.  As a nurse, I’m constantly focusing my energies toward providing the best care for my patients I can.  If it means overtime, I do it, usually without whining too much.  Very little detracts me from my patients and I tend to get very aggravated with anything that diverts me from my patients.

But it doesn’t take much to sidetrack me from writing.  Email, TV, reading (especially when I get the latest book in a series and end up re-reading the ENTIRE series!), even doing laundry, for God’s sake.  Is it because I’m less of a professional writer than I am a professional nurse?  Yes and no.

Yes, because I NEED the security of a steady paycheck.  I haven’t the faith in myself to let go and risk all for my art.  Also, part of me resents “writing” to the market.  No doubt I got spoiled as a Star Trek fanfiction author; if one fan editor didn’t like my story, another would.  My story would get published somewhere if I had the patience to keep submitting.  Intellectually, I KNOW my books have to be saleable, but part of me just wants to write what I want to write.  And finally, I’m a terrible professional writer because I totally HATE the business part of writing.  Promoting, doing booksignings, networking, etc.

On the other hand, I am a professional writer because I constantly seek to improve my writing through technical books, conferences, and workshops.  I DO force myself to attend to the business side and I accept that if I want to sell, I have to write a marketable book.  And, praise be to God, I HAVE sold my stuff and have the royalty checks to prove it.  🙂  But what I wouldn’t give to be able to write at least two books a year.  *Sigh*

Any suggestions on how to speed up my writing?

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With A Song in My Heart, er, iPod

My daughter has made it her duty—a life mission—to enhance and improve my music education. I sincerely thank her for that. Some of the stuff she’s into is far too hard core—Head Banging–Gosh-How-Can-YOU-Stand-That!—can it even be called music? My age is showing here. Then she shares some local singers, Paco Estrada, Sarah Jaffe, Overscene, who are wonderful! Performing their own songs, I appreciate that they are writers just like I am.

While listening to the songs DD has put on my iPod and computer, I noticed some can be taken on another meaning—maybe it’s because I’m twisted. Before I get any hate comments/emails, I know these are love songs.
Here are two I call ‘stalker songs.’ Death Cab For Cutie’s—and by the way, I love this group—“I Will Possess Your Heart.” After you get through the 4:33 eerie intro music of an 8:31 song, the lyrics begin “How I wish you could see the potential, the potential of you and me. It’s like a book elegantly bound, But in a language you can’t read just yet.” The creepiest part is the 2nd verse “There are days when outside your window, I see my reflection as I slowly pass, And I long for this mirrored perspective, When we’ll be lovers, lovers at last.” Here’s the Youtube link if you are really interested. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uln8UxZz9Ys

The Police, “Every Breath You Take,” I can’t help but think ‘stalker.’ “Every breath you take, And every move you make, Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you. Every single day, And every word you say.” Seriously, this is icky. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnejNGprm3I

I have a playlist I listen to when I’m feeling not so generous—aka bitchy! “I Hate Everyone” by Get Set Go is my top favorite. DH knows when he hears that one blasting, he’d better tread lightly, especially when followed by “She Hates Me” by Puddle of Mud, “Horns & Tails” by Poison The Well. Let me not leave out Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch.” DD has that as my ringtone by my request!

Other out of the norm—is there a normal for me? No!—songs on my Must Listen To are: Death Cab for Cutie’s, “Your New Twin Size Bed” and “You Can Do Better Than Me (But I Can’t Do Better Than You);” Paco Estrada’s “The Game” both versions; “Bring Me To Life” by Evanescence; Thrice: “Night Diving” (no words), “The Artist & The Ambulance,” “Come All You Weary”; Nickelback (almost all of their songs) “Figured You Out.” I also have the traditional love songs, country, jazz, classical; zumba, bellydance and R & B.

Lyrics and notes are written by talented people expressing their thoughts, hopes, dreams and disappointments, just like I do with my own work. Those keeper songs, like my keeper books, are the ones that touch my soul.

What is on your favorite play list?

An Editor’s Thoughts on Rejection

I was surfing the Net this morning looking for some info I have elsewhere but can’t lay my hands on and it was just easier to look for it again, and came across this website called Rejection Collection. It’s exactly what it sounds like — rejection letters on all kinds of things creative. I read some of the agent/publisher rejections (submitted by the authors rejected) and found most of them to be of the whiny nature.

(I’m sorry. I know writing’s deeply personal. I know we put our hearts and souls into our work. I know it sucks pond water when someone else doesn’t love it as much as we do. And I also know that most of us are whiny about it.)

However, farther down the home page, there’s a header called “From the Other Side,” I think, and it’s responses from the folks doing the rejecting. Good reading there. I didn’t get to finish — too much else to do — but the comments I read were thoughtful and enlightening.

Especially THIS one. Check out what one intelligent, reasonable, well-spoken sci-fi editor has to say about rejections. Very good reading for a Sunday morning. Here’s the link.

You Want Me to Stick My WHAT WHERE?

Are you thinking dirty thoughts about now? Ooh, come sit beside me!

No, sorry, that was my inner slut speaking. What I’m talking about is expectations. We all have them – authors, editors, publishers, readers – but sometimes, just as the stars don’t always align in our favor, neither do others’ expectations. There are occasions where editors or readers hold our manuscripts/books with a befuddled look on their faces, going, “You want me to believe what?

{{Spoilers follow!!}}

If you’re a fan of Suz Brockmann’s and live in the Internet, you’ve probably heard the fuss about her latest book. For everyone who’s waited years for Sophia and Decker to get their HEA, the time is here. They both wind up in love and on the brink of happily-ever-after . . . just not with each other.

I admit, this is one of the few times where I can separate my writer self from my reader self. As a reader, I liked the Sophia/Decker coupling. I wanted to see them together. They were a couple in my mind, so I wanted them to be a couple in their book. I don’t want to see them fall in love with someone else instead. I totally relate to the disappointed readers who’ve been making their opinion known online.

But as an author, I totally relate to Suz’s need/desire/right to tell her story her way. Decker and Sophia exist only because she created them. All we can ask of an author is that the characters remain true to themselves, that the story be well told, and that the ending be satisfying. We don’t get to choose which man the heroine chooses or which woman the hero loves forever and ever, or what trials they have to go through to get their HEA. That’s the author’s prerogative.

In my Bethlehem series, there was a secondary couple who appeared in most, if not all, of the books. (Hey, it’s been a few years, there are nine books, and there was a whole town full of people.) Their greatest desire was to have a child, but she’d had numerous miscarriages.

Finally, she got pregnant. I was writing the book where the pregnancy was progressing well, not even really thinking about the baby beyond the fact that his/her due date was penciled into the story calendar. Then, in one scene, several months early, she went into labor. Despite the doctors’ best efforts, she gave birth prematurely to a beautiful little boy.

With Down syndrome.

I didn’t plan on that. I don’t do that kind of micro-plotting for my books. I’m lucky if I know the highlights of the main characters’ romance, and I trust that the rest will work itself out in my subconscious when I need it.

It didn’t seem fair. Melissa and Alex had tried so hard and prayed so long for a baby. They deserved a perfect-in-every-way angel for their efforts and heartaches.

But it felt right. This less-than-perfect baby was the perfect baby for this couple.

Some readers didn’t agree with me. In fact, some readers were downright irate with me. They couldn’t believe I would do that to such good people. They were convinced I knew nothing about Down syndrome, that I would never wish such heartbreak on anyone.

(On the other side, I got a letter from a woman whose little granddaughter had Down syndrome, and she was the light of her parents’ and grandparents’ lives. She was happy to see that I’d given Alex and Melissa such a blessing.)

It came down to expectations. Some of those readers expected me to reward Alex and Melissa’s struggle with perfection. But it was my story, my characters, my choice. I stand by it.

Did they have the right to be disappointed? Of course. They had expectations that I didn’t meet. In my opinion, those expectations were contrary to what was right for the book. In their opinions, their expectations were reasonable and, well, expected. And we’re both right.

The truth is, you can’t please everyone. You’d go nuts trying. All you can do is tell your story in the best way you can, without worrying what each individual out there is going to think. Sure, you want to make your readers happy, but first, you have to make yourself happy. Because if you’re not loving that book as you write it, odds are, no one else is going to love it, either.  

THE GUILTY ONE

OOPS! Yes, I’m guilty. I forgot to blog. What is embarrassing is that I kept reminding myself yesterday to be sure and post in it in the late evening. I fell asleep instead.

Falling asleep before 1:00 a.m. is out of the ordinary for me. I am a night person. My writing time is between 10:00 p.m. and 12:00 midnight. Falling asleep before 1:00 am has been going on for about a week and it has severely affected my writing schedule–I’ve gotten nothing done, though I have had some interesting dreams that Carl Jung would have a field day with.

Since I don’t know when this will stop, I will have to change my writing time. The problem is when I get home from work I don’t want to write. I seem to need a span of several hours to transition between work and writing. Several hours of transition is too long to wait to feel like writing. I’ll just have to do it even if it’s garbage at first. Thanks Susan for posting pictures.

Claude Mary

Growing the writer.

   I just finished critiquing a couple of our unpublished members.  One came to us, already somewhat knowledgeable in writing skills and, in my humble opinion, is within inches of getting published.  The other came to us as a baby.  Smart, talented, untrained but eager to learn.  And learn she has; every time I read her work, it gives me more joy to see her development.  She may not be quite ready now to publish, but I have no doubt that soon, everyone will be reading her books.

    That’s one of the best things about being a writer.  Not only do you get to learn from the best writers out there, but you get a chance to pass the knowledge along.  You get to see people who love words and books and tales as much as you grow into their powers as a storyteller.  You may not always read the kind of books they write, but you love to see how they become the gifted authors you knew they could be.

   When I first gave workshops, I tended to speak on only subjects I felt comfortable teaching.  History, medicine, children…all of these I felt I could deal with.  The first time I gave a workshop on writing skills, I worried that maybe I wasn’t experienced enough, not knowledgeable enough to be standing in the spotlight.  But afterwards, when some of the participants came up and told me that something I said clicked in their head, I realized I love teaching about writing almost as much as I like writing. 

   And that’s why I critique and judge unpublished contests.  Just as someone ahead of me taught me the things I needed to become a published author, so I get a chance to give it back.  I know there are many authors who feel that teaching others to become a published author is raising rivals, but I believe that if you’re a really good, disciplined author, there is no way you can’t sell.  I also believe you can never have too many books available.  And finally, I believe that the people of RWI are the greatest writers in the world…all deserving of being published.  How do I know?  Because it is their teaching me by critiquing that helps me grow as a writer.