Growing Pains

This May I’ll celebrate the twenty-fourth anniversary of my first sale to Silhouette Books. From the beginning, I’ve written straight romance and romantic suspense, and I’ve loved every book. I was going to say “every minute of it,” but there were plenty of minutes where I would have cheerfully sent an editor or two, and more than a few copyeditors, on a long walk off a short pier given the chance.

I’ve been blessed with the chance to have a career doing something I’ve loved. It’s brought so much to my life — not just an income and the freedom to continue my career while my husband’s Navy transfers took us from state to state, but experiences that I treasure, friends I adore and stories that can make me laugh and cry. If storytelling was my first love, romance novels were my second, and I’ve found tremendous satisfaction in combining the two.

But lately, I’ve had the urge to do something else. Not seriously different — I can’t imagine spending hours at the computer writing something that doesn’t revolve around a love story. I just want to shift my focus a little bit, I think. Writing explicit love scenes wears me down. Yes, sex is a tremendous part of a relationship, but I find myself wanting to revert to the common practice before I published of “closing the bedroom door.” Back then, heroes and heroines could do it like bunnies and could be as tame or as kinky as they wanted, because the author got them to the starting point, then left them to do it off the page. I’d like to write a book where I don’t have to find a new, or at least less cliched way, of describing The Acts. I’m not talking about cutting out sexual tension; I like writing that part: the magic of a first touch, a first kiss; the awareness a couple can feel while carrying on the most mundane conversation; the attraction, the growing hunger and need. I’d just like to skip the sex for one book.

And while I’m discussing things I’d like to skip, it’s way past time for me to write a book where no one is in danger of losing anything but their hearts. I used to alternate straight romances with romantic suspenses, which was a great balance for me. For the last five or six years, I’ve written nothing but suspense, and I’m starting to look at it the same way as the sex scenes. Suspense is great; I’ve made best seller lists and won lots of awards writing it. But for my creative side, without that balance, it’s too much.

What I do want to write — what I love to write — is the relationships. I love taking two people from being strangers, friends or enemies to that forever-and-ever, happily-ever-after. I love developing their characters to the degree that readers recognize them down deep.

The thing that’s new for me is my interest in other relationships. If you’d told me five years ago that I’d be yearning to write women’s fiction, I would have laughed. I didn’t read women’s fiction; why in the world would I spend my time writing it?? But that’s exactly where I find myself now. I want to explore not only the whys and hows of a man and a woman falling in love, but also their relationships with their friends, children and parents. I want to write about a character’s life, not just her romance with Mr. Right.

What’s stopping me? Nothing, really, but time. I’ve got a romantic suspense in revisions, and a RS novella due March 1st (romance, suspense and Christmas — all in 80 pages or less — aacckk!!). And, honestly, a little fear of the unknown. Out of 70-some books, only one didn’t have a single full sex scene in it. (The heroine was 8 months pregnant as the result of a one-night stand with the hero; he came back to town, and they had a month to fall in love before the baby was born.) Can I really write an entire novel without one love scene? And will readers who expect romance and suspense from me be satisfied with women’s fiction instead?

Since I think I’m going to have to write what’s caught my interest, I guess I’ll fnd out sometime soon.

is it ever good enough?

My editor and I have been having a discussion lately about the release date for Demon Heart. I wrote her a few weeks back brimming with insecurity and wondering if we should still push for a May release. She wrote back and told me that she was fine with a delay, just to let her know ASAP what I wanted to do, so that Lyrical could arrange their ‘new release’ schedule, accordingly. (BTW…is that not the most accommodating thing you have ever heard of? Lyrical rocks!)

Anyway, I have spent most of the past two weeks wallowing in a pool of indecision. Demon Heart is my first release, and all of a sudden I am plagued by doubt. I still love the story…but I agonize over every turn of phrase, every questionable quotation mark. Is it good enough? Am I going to get ripped by the reviewers? Does the love scene sound silly instead of sexy? Can people even bend that way?

I have spent many, many nights lying awake, lately, lost in doubt. FINALLY, after much soul searching, I decided to trust in my publisher…they bought the story because they loved it. The rejection rate for e-pubbing is 97%. Demon Heart made the cut. It is worthy. PLUS my editor is fantastic. She has a keen eye and she is STRICT! If Camila thinks DH is good to go, then it is. Period. She would never put me out there unless she truly thinks I am ready. She would never risk her rep, nor Lyrical’s, if the story was not ‘ready for prime time’.

So, my major emotional crisis is over (for now), but what I would like to know is this…are other writers are plagued by similar insecurities? I am all the time hearing about writers who think their words are golden…am I the only one that scowls when I look at the screen after a hard day of writing? How big of a part does ego play in this game, and how sure of yourselves are you? Am I the only quaking rabbit in our midst…or are their more of me, out there? Just wondering. It is a hard, hard thing, I am discovering, to put yourself out there.

And to think…I used to believe that selling the book was the hardest part of the publishing gig. HA!

Tweet. Tweet.

The world’s a much smaller place now that we all blog, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Twitter.  The rise of social networking sites brings the world together in ways that are sometimes a little incomprehensible, even for those who’ve grown up in the age of the Internet.  The ability to reach out and “friend” a total stranger who shares a common interest on the opposite side of the country or the world really is pretty incredible when you stop to consider it.  Human beings are LinkedIn these days in ways that truly are the stuff of Science Fiction, or Non-Fiction, actually.

Social networking has its good points…and its not so good points. Honestly, there are times after I’ve read a few tweets, I feel as though my IQ dropped a hundred points!  Who really cares that the reality TV star with the big boobs just chewed some gum and lost a filling?  Will it change the world for the better to know the latest teen heart-throb ate a grilled tuna steak for dinner?  Probably not.  But I will confess that once upon a time I had a huge crush on Keith Hernandez when he played for the St. Louis Cardinals. If Twitter had been around back then, I probably would’ve “followed” him night and day.

The most awesome thing about social networking is the connections that can be made with people we might never have been able to “meet” any other way.  My daughter’s the bassist for a fledgling rock band.  Last summer she and one of her other band members went to Warped Tour.  They were able to meet several members of the bands that played the concert.  Now they “follow” each other on Twitter regularly.  What’s great is that several of these guys have taken her and her band mate under their wing. (pun intended) Through Twitter they offer technical advice on sound systems, amps, and recording software. They’ve even offered to put her demo in the hands of their record label as soon as she gets it recorded.   Before Twitter, making those kinds of key connections would’ve taken years. 

As writers the challenge for us is to stay current on all the ways we can use these sites to promote ourselves.  Editors and agents are looking at websites, reading blogs, and checking out Facebook to gauge a writer’s online presence.  In some ways, whether we write Erotica, Series Romance, Contemporary, Inspirational, or Dark Paranormal, we’re all going to have to learn how to write in this new Sci Fi world. 

 So just in case anybody out there cares…I had mac and cheese for dinner tonight.

Romance Is In Air

She was seventeen when he ask her to marry him.  The world was a scary place, so she said ‘yes’ not realizing that he would leave her in thirty days.  He went off to war again and she was left alone, still unsure if she was a girl still living with her parents, or a wife.  War changes people — those who went away to a foreign land to fight and those who were left behind.

And when he came back, this man who was still a stranger, demanded things forcing a girl to grow up fast. Like leaving the only home she’d ever known. Her hometown. Her security. To make a life and a home for them both wherever he landed a job. When she had done this, he would leave for the next job and expect her to follow obediently.  Was this how marriages were supposed to be, she thought?

She grieved for the girl lost and her dreams that had dissolved. Life changed again with the quick succession of her two sons, followed by a third she’d treasured so greatly. Add more years of travel, half way across the world during another war, then back again.

The world changed with the sons leaving–one gone to war, one to college, one killed–and her husband home-bound due to illness. No time to mourn,  no time for joy, no time for her.  Days turned to months to years. Grandchildren filled some of the void–thank God for phones and Greyhound.

Then the man she’d married when she was so young left her again. Now she had  to face a world so far different and just as scary without the optimism of youth.  How would she manage all alone?  Quite excellently once she quelled her fears. Things he’d never allowed her to do, she did. The places she went, the things she saw, the changes she made.

From a chance encounter at the grocery store, she met a gentleman from her generation with similar experiences. Just a friend to meet for coffee and pie in the afternoon. Just a friend to go to dinner with. To church. To travel.  Their friendship blossomed into love that neither had expected to happen. Romance never dies.

Don and I are proud to announce the engagement of his mother, JoAn (85) to Allen Gillespie (91).  BTW: They don’t look or act their age! I can’t wait to see her ring!

Spring is in the air. Sort of….

I hate winter. So much so that a long time ago I decided that for me, personally, January is the start of spring. The worst of the winter is over by then (I tell myself), and March is almost here….and March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, right? So surely, that means that January is the official start of spring. And I must be onto something here, because my mailbox is already crammed with nursery fliers, and only last week I swear I saw the salesgirl at Wal-mart putting swimsuits out.

These early signs of the summer are very exciting to me, as I sit woefully staring out at the frozen tundra that is my pasture, but the one thing sure to get my blood pumping is when the hatcheries start sending me their spring promo booklets. That’s right, folks, I am a chicken-lover. Not as in, Cordon Bleu, or even roasted with garlic butter. Nope. (although both of those options are yummy).

What I am talking about are the live birds. I am a hatchery addict, and will sit and gaze in stupefied wonder at the full-color glossy print ads that show all the bejeweled little birdies in their most glorious plumage. I will spend hours picking out which birds I plan to buy this spring, agonizing over whether or not to get a dozen Buff Orpingtons, or six Buffs and throw some Plymouth Barred Rocks in, too. I am particularly fond of heritage breeds, the birds that are directly descended from those that our ancestors raised, but I am also enraptured by the mere thought of all the wondrous, modern cross-breeds and their flamboyant feathers.

This hobby came upon me unexpectedly just a few short years ago, but after moving to Kansas and getting my first couple of hens, I became an addict. And I don’t limit myself to chickens. I fawn over ducks, turkeys, guineas and peacocks, too. If it has feathers, I am enraptured, although not to the extent that I am willing to invest thousands of dollars and hit the show route, lugging my birds from state to state in chase of an elusive purple ribbon (and yes, there are people who do that). Nope. I am perfectly content to raise, feed and love my little flock of misfits right here on my little piece of muddy heaven.

So, my question for you today is this… with summer so close at hand (I am a believer!) what are you most eagerly looking forward to? Long days at the pool, sipping iced tea and oogling hot lifeguards (not a bad idea at all, come to think of it). Or maybe you can’t wait to dig your fingers into the dirt and watch the fruit of your effort grow, literally? Or perhaps, like me, you just want to drop the tailgate down and sit in the shade and watch the chickens peck the ground (I do not get out much and am very easily entertained).

Either way, whatever it is you look forward to most this summer, have faith, folks! The worm has turned and spring is in the air…sort of.

What’s on Your Reading List?

Yesterday, Sandee asked, “What would you rather write?” So I wondered when you’re not reading or writing romance, what do you read? Books are the frugal frigate to wonderful worlds. Whenever I get the chance, and I’m not writing, I read.  Someday when I’m dead, they’ll take the books I have stored in my office and garage and create the Lynn Somerville Memorial Library. A plaque near the front door will read, “She loved rock music, books, her family, and chocolate. She lived and loved well.”

I keep a stack of books on my nightstand. That way I can always find something I’m in the mood to read. The list is a little eclectic. Tucked in with my stash of romance novels are such great reads as :

Save Me From Myself, the autobiography of Brian Head Welch

Ghosts by Noel Hynd

Among the Shadows by L.M. Montgomery. This is a collection of ghost stories written by the author of Anne Green Gables fame.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

The Witch of Goingsnake and Other Stories by Robert Conley

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

And finally… The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart. This is a wonderful collection of poems by and for men.

Care to share what’s on your reading list?

GMC

All good writers know about GMC.  It’s the foundation for every good book, not just romance, but every book.  And the stronger the GMC of your characters, the closer you come to bestselling lists, the Great American Novel, or making historical stature like Will Shakespeare…a book read by generations.

For the non-writers who read this blog, GMC stands for Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.  Simply put:  Goal–what does the character want most; Motivation–why does he/she want it so much; Conflict–what keeps him/her from getting his/her goal.  And in romance, there are two GMC.  One is internal or the relationship and the other is external or the story that is the plot that shows the relationship growth.

While I was trying to think of a good blog subject, it dawned on me that writer’s have their own personal GMC.  And this is constantly changing as the writer grows.  For instance, when I started writing romance, my goal was to sell my books.  Why?  Because at the time, I hated the changes nursing was going through and wanted to change careers.  Conflict?  Mortgage, child at home, bills…all of which I needed my salary to pay.

After I sold my first book and had trouble selling the second, my goal changed.  By then, I was working another type of nursing (teaching) so I lost the motivation that pressured me to sell.  My new goal was to build my brand by teaching and slowly building a readership.  But my conflict became my teaching.  I spent so much time grading that I couldn’t write fast enough to build my career the way I wanted.

Again, my goal changed when I went back to working at a hospital.  Nowadays, my goal is to become a consistently selling author…no matter whether it’s my romance novels, SF short stories, or whatever.  My motivation is I’m reaching an age where I will no longer be able to practice nursing and, thanks to the tanked out stock market, I will need a supplemental income for retirement.  My conflict is a changing market that sometimes is difficult to keep up with.  And let’s face it…I’m no longer young enough to spend the kind of energy I could when I was in my forties.  🙂

Now, again I’m changing my goals.  I’m actively researching ways to go into part-time nursing, giving me more time to write more consistently.  My motivation is so I can have a semi-retirement that lets me actively pursue my two loves…nursing children and writing.  My conflict is my self-doubt, fear of the future, and my need to be safe and secure.  But I have several strong tools for my task.  I have the support of my friends and family that I can succeed.  I’m confident in my writing skills.  And I have my happy pill which keeps me from worrying too much about what’s to come.

Besides, what would life ber like without GMC?