Monday, June 30, 2008

Nice view Monday

Since I missed Hump Day Hunk last week... This is French actor St├ęphane Rideau. Gives whole new meaning to the phrase "getting horizontal." The male body is so nice to look at and it beats a cup of coffee in the morning...
Spent all weekend writing, wrote 9,000 words on The Lady & the Libertine, my May 2009 Egyptian historical. Coming down the home stretch on this book, which is due in, ah, four weeks. Gulp. I think I can, I think I can, I know I can, I had BETTER CAN... and I have typesets due on ENEMY LOVER, the November werewolf Nocturne and I have to turn in a cover art description for The Lady & the Libertine.
I'm thinking of a cover art description of the scene with the hero standing on the terrace at the hotel with the Great Pyramid in the background and the setting sun, and Karida is ripping off his shirt while he's dangling her ruby necklace from his fingers.
She's so busy getting him undressed she failed to notice he slipped it off her neck yet again, just like the first time he stole it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nurturing your creativity

"If I have a poem to write, I need to write that poem, whether it will sell or not. I need to create what needs to be created. I cannot plan a career to unfold in a sensible direction dictated by cash flow and marketing strategies. Those things are fine, but too much attention to them can stifle the child within, who gets scared and angered when continually put off...

Since my artist is a child, the natural child within, I must make some concessions to its sense of timing. Some concessions does not mean total irresponsibility. What it means is letting the artist have quality time, knowing that if I let it do what it wants to it will cooperate with me in doing what I need to do...

As an artist, I must be very careful to surround myself with people who nurture my artist, not people who try to overly domesticate it for my own good.... As an artist, I do not need to be rich, but I do need to be richly supported. I cannot allow my emotional and intellectual life to stagnate or the work will show it. My life will show it. My temperament will show it. If I don't create, I get crabby...

Creativity is oxygen for our souls. Cutting off our creativity makes us savage. We react like we are being choked.. Creativity is a spiritual practice. It is not something that can be perfected, finished, and set aside. It is my experience that we reach plateaus of creative attainment only to have a certain restlessness set in." Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way

Being an author can sometimes stifle your creativity after you become published. There is the temptation to write what sells and sacrifice the creative side. You can get so caught up with the quest to sell one book, market it so sales are good so you can get another contract, that you fail to nurture the creativity that urged you to first write.

It's important to nurture the creative spirit, the spark inside you that wants to express something that may not be practical in terms of the market or sales or in a goal to get published. Like Julia Cameron said, you don't do this to the extent of being irresponsible. But it IS a good idea to nurture your artist within, and write just for the sake of exercising creativity.

There are all manner of obstacles that can block creativity. I know some readers, and some authors, say that you can learn from a negative review. Yeah, well, maybe. But if you read a negative review of your book and start corraling your inner artist based on what the reviewer said, you end up hurting the work. You stifle your creativity, and that can be extremely damaging.

The trick is finding balance. Does this mean if you have a successful career as an author, you forgo what you're writing now that is selling to write only books that nurture your inner artist? No, of course not. But it does mean that if you are prompted to write something that you are dying to write, to create, you indulge your muse. Locking it all up damns the flow of creativity and can make you become frustrated.

This is why I say that everything you write shouldn't be targeted merely for publication. You need to give your creativity the oxygen it needs to breathe, and even if the result is something that won't advance your career or your chances of publication.

Nurture the artist within and you will rediscover the joy of creating again.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sniff, sniff

George Carlin is dead. Age 71, died of a heart attack. First Tim Russert, now George Carlin. Two greats in their own right, in their own field.

Carlin I will always remember for his famous "The Seven words you can't say on television" comedy routine, a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. In honor of Carlin, here's part of that routine. Edited for decency, lol.

"And words, you know the seven don't you? Sh*t, P*ss, F*ck, C**t, C*cks*cker, Motherf**ker, and Tits, huh? Those are the heavy seven. Those are the ones that will infect your soul, curve your spine and keep the country from winning the war.

Sh*t, P*ss, F*ck, C**t, C*cks*cker, Motherf**ker, and Tits, wow. Tits doesn't even belong on the list, you know. It's such a friendly sounding word. It sounds like a nickname. 'Hey, Tits, come here. Tits, meet Toots, Toots, Tits, Tits, Toots.' It sounds like a snack doesn't it? Yes, I know, it is, right. But I don't mean the sexist snack, I mean, New Nabisco Tits. The new Cheese Tits, and Corn Tits and Pizza Tits, Sesame Tits Onion Tits, Tater Tits, Yeah. Betcha can't eat just one."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hump Day Hunk

In honor of the upcoming Batman movie, here's the ever-so-wonderful CHRISTIAN BALE. Intense, brooding, a great, complex hero.

Wrote another 1,000 words on The Lady and the Libertine, the May '09 Egyptian historical. The hero is turning out to be very intense, complex and dark and keeps doing things that HE wants to do, but it's fascinating watching the twists and turns. He's almost an anti-hero, but for the reasons motivating his actions.

And the other actions he does to encourage the heroine to break free of the expectations she's placed on herself that have chained her.

I like this couple. He might turn out to be the hero I like most. We'll see.

Barbara Vey's blog for Publisher's Weekly, Beyond the Book, featured The Scorpion and the Seducer today in a book review by Joyce. Stop by to comment if you get a chance.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Meatloaf recipe

Except for the book I’m writing due in August, my attention has shifted lately from romance writing to other matters. I’m focused on things affecting a lot of people these days, such as rising gas and food prices.

But because I work for an international charity, I’m also ruminating over food shortages in countries like Haiti, where riots took place in April. I’m researching food co-ops and how countries can support their farmers by subsidizing the cost of fertilizer, and how rice-producing countries in Asia are growing hybrid rice.

On a personal level, I’ve changed my shopping behavior. Previously I never made much time to cut coupons or watch for sales. Too busy. Now I’m still too busy, but I cut coupons and watch prices and try to incorporate purchases into one shopping trip instead of running back and forth to the store. DH does this as well, stocking up on items on sale we use frequently.

Sunday we took the FIL out to dinner for Father’s Day. When we returned back to his home, an extra meal in tow because we used a coupon for a free dinner for him, he opened his freezer and showed me all his soup.

A neighbor made a huge pot of veggie soup and gave him some. The FIL had about 5 containers of frozen homemade veggie soup. He gave me one.

Our neighbors do the same. We've shared extras when we've had them, oranges, mangoes, whatever. It creates a nice sense of community, something I think that is needed now more than ever in these trying times of home foreclosures and recession.

Sharing was an economic way of life when I was growing up in NJ and the neighbors would all share with each other. Most of us had moms who didn’t work, so to make ends meet, they would do things like carpool to the store, or have a clothing chain or cut coupons and swap them back and forth.

Janet across the street had no sisters, and neither did I or my friend Ginny two doors up the street, so when Janet outgrew her clothing, she handed the clothing down to me, and then I handed them down to Ginny. My winter coat was a Randolph Rams marching band jacket, because even though I was never in the band, Janet was.

I didn’t mind hand-me-downs, they were fun. The only time I did have a regret was when my favorite lavender gingham dress didn’t fit anymore, and I had to let it go. I loved that dress.

Mom didn’t drive until I was in 5th grade and we had only one car, so we used to carpool with the neighbors to the grocery store (we lived in a rural area) and to the lake during summer.

Mom knew how to economize. She grew up in the Great Depression and nothing went to waste. It was a habit so ingrained with her that when she died right before Christmas, 1995, I found a drawer filled with rubber bands while cleaning up their house. Her purse was filled with coupons.

Mom knew how to make a dollar stretch. We never had store-bought cakes, but she made us birthday cakes and used margarine instead of butter. They tasted great, and I have many happy memories of birthdays because of those homemade cakes.

And mom knew how to stretch meat. One favorite of mine that I still make today is oatmeal meatloaf. Many cooks are familiar with this. You add volume to hamburger by mixing in uncooked oats. It’s still very tasty and very filling.

So below, in the spirit of economizing and sharing, is a recipe for Quaker Oats meatloaf. Enjoy.

Quaker Oats meatloaf recipe

1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 cup tomato juice (Want to spice it up? Use V8 with less sodium)
3/4 cup uncooked oats (I use Quaker)
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup chopped onion (I love Vidalia onions with this, nice and sweet)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Heat oven to 350°F. Combine all ingredients and mix. Put into a loaf pan. Bake for one hour.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Hoping to write at least 1,000 words today and that will make it 4,000 total for the weekend. I think I could have done more yesterday, but spent time rehashing the plot of the Egyptian book, now named The Lady and the Libertine.

Had a good writing day. DH had to work so I sat down with the laptop.

And then later, friends called, wanting me to join them for margaritas, so I couldn't say no. I have a tendency to become a hermit when I'm writing, and I'm determined to break free of that habit and find balance between writing and life.

Today we're taking the FIL out for dinner and maybe out and about, whatever he wants to do. I'm struggling to wake up as Tiger, the older Shih Tzu, woke us up at 3 a.m. Then at 4:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. He's been acting very wonky lately, afraid, restless. I think it's time for another vet visit... he may be losing his hearing and that may be freaking him out.

Dolce, on the other hand, is only 3, turning 4 soon, and he's like a teenager. Filled with energy and then zonks out at bedtime.

We call them Grandpa and Junior.

Ok, time to head to the Dunkin for an iced toasted almond so I can wake up and get cracking on this book, which I am really liking and the hero is turning out to be a real charming and very nasty guy, probably the darkest hero I've ever written.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A day in the life

I finished Baylor and Katia's story over the weekend, but something just wasn't right about it. So I edited Sunday night.And then last night, I stayed up until midnight, editing some more.

As I'm doing this, the scene flashes through my mind from SHE DEVIL, where Meryl Streep as Mary Fisher the famous romance author is writing on her hot pink laptop, musing over "love buttons" outside her multi-million dollar oceanside home.Ah, the glam life of an author. I'm an author.

And this was my day on Tuesday.

5 a.m.: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...RINGGGGGGGGGGG!! wha??? Oh. DH is up for the day.

5:30 a.m. Drag my butt out of bed and turn on the computer.

6 a.m.: Kiss DH good-bye. He turns off the light in the computer room, a natural reflex from turning off the lights when he leaves. I grumble.

7:30 a.m. Finally decide BROKEN SOULS is done, as much as it can be. Feel better about turning it in. Fire off email to my Nocturne editor, attach file. Feel sense of accomplishment. I am DONE, I think. For now.

7:40 a.m. Realize I'm running late, have to drop dog off at the vet.

8:15 a.m. Take Tiger with me in car to Dunkin Donuts. Clerk peers at Tiger as if the dog will drink the coffee. Drop off dog, rush to work.

8:35 a.m. Arrive at the day job. Drink coffee, check email.

8:50 a.m. Director wants to get together for a "short meeting." I glance at watch; have another meeting in an hour. Forget to bring coffee to "short" meeting.

10:10 a.m. Short meeting is over, now I have a project to write that is due, like, now. I catch the person I'm supposed to meet with at 10:15, postpone that meeting for another 20 minutes. Go back to desk, gulp down cold coffee.

11:10 a.m. Meeting over, another project to write.

11:15 a.m. Drink more cold coffee, start work on project due, like, now.

11:30 a.m. Vet calls, Tiger is ok, just severe dry eye. Need meds, treat 2x a day. Pick him up after 3 but before 5.

Noon: Lunch hour. Drive home to let out Dolce, the other dog, the Shih Tzu we adopted three months ago. Walk in house, greeted by lovely odor of... Walk into living room. Dolce greets me by wagging his tail furiously, toy in mouth. He's deposited several "gifts" in the living room.

12:15 p.m. Clean up gifts, clean rug.

12:25 p.m. Email from my Dorchester editor. He asks if I have a name for the new historical, a synopsis and can he have them ASAP and that book is scheduled for May 2009.

12:26 p.m. Realize I have an August 1 deadline and only 50,000 words and a day job. No book title, no synopsis.

12:27 p.m. Email back my editor with synopsis: "Boy meets girl, has sex, feels guilty, marries girl, girl divorces boy and runs away to Las Vegas to work as nude Elvis impersonator. Boy is heartbroken and shoots self. Title: The Naked and the Dead." I then add, "JK."

12:28 p.m. Editor emails back, "Sounds good to me." He adds, "JK."

12:34 p.m. Realize my lunch is still sitting in the microwave.

12:40 p.m. Gulp down lunch while Dolce gives me pleading look and tries to look as adorable as possible to beg a bite or two. I resist, grab Diet Coke and give him dog biscuit.

1 p.m. Back at work. Finish work project due, like, now, and turn it in.

2:10 p.m. Tackle next work project, newsletter article, Begin searching web for fascinating and disgusting facts about chagas disease.

2:20 p.m. Find interesting article, Print it out and gleefully read aloud to co-workers. "The disease is caused by blood-sucking insects who bite the victim and then defecate on the person's face, depositing the parasites that carry the disease. Death is possible if not treated."

2:30 p.m. Watch co-workers's faces turn green. Chortle.

4 p.m. Realize I have to pick up Tiger at the vet. Blood-sucking insect article will have to wait until tomorrow.

4:25 p.m. Pay bill at vet's and Tiger watches my face turn green as I sign charge slip.

4:45 p.m. Home, Dolce greets us at the door with a toy. Realize the dog needs to be walked before he deposits more "gifts." Looks like rain. Swap leashes on dogs. Walk dog to the accompaniment of thunder and distant lightning.

5 p.m. Take Dolce home. Tiger greets us at the door, looking scared. He hates thunder. Dolce decides since Tiger is scared, he is scared as well. Give both dogs biscuits to calm down.

5:05 .m. Put dinner on. Pork chops. Tiger and Dolce decide they are not scared and nose around my ankles as they realize DINNER is on.

5:15 p.m. Turn on TV for moment to see radar, see that CHRISTINE is on TV. Oh boy! Settle back to watch, just for a minute. Figure this is my reward for getting up at 5:30 a.m. for final editing on Nocturne Bite.

5:20 p.m. Dh arrives home; had to visit a friend's house. "It's pouring." He switches TV channel to see radar to confirm this. Sigh.

For the rest of the night, after dinner, I read over what I've written for THE NAKED AND THE DEAD, aka, unnamed Egyptian historical #7 and began coming up with a title and a synopsis.

Then it was start the process all over again the next day.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

My Draicon werewolves

Baylor and Katia's story is DONE! HURRAY!!!

What a relief... hope my editor likes it.

I really wanted to write their story after The Empath, and the Nocturne Bites line is a perfect way to slide in a short about their romance, because they do have one. Katia turned out to be a very interesting Draicon.

Now for Baylor... this pix is how I imagine him. He's got a curly head of hair, a leanly muscled body and he's all action... doesn't he look like he's ready to spring into a wolf?

Just a few edits and their story is ready to send off. Then I'm taking a short break and then switching gears back to the next Egyptian book, due in, gulp, seven weeks.

No rest for this writer...

I'm a guest toe at DUSTED

Over at Michele Hauf's blog. Check it out.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Toonces the driving cat

After hearing that MasterCard is bringing back "Mr. Bill" from SNL in a new commerical, I wistfully thought of old SNL classics.

I miss Toonces, the driving cat, who always drove the family car over the cliff. He started with Steve Martin.

I think Toonces retired to S. Florida. He seems to be everywhere on the freeway down here, talking in his cell phone, or like yesterday, STOPPED in the middle of the SunPass speed lane on the Sawgrass.


This person in front of me just ... STOPPED. They couldn't make up their mind which lane to use. Mind you, this is the speed lane in which drivers do NOT stop and simply go about 40 mph.

I laid on the horn and screamed all manner of lovely things at said person.

Yup, Toonces is alive and well and driving in S. Florida.

Oh nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Naked writing

I did some naked writing this weekend and it felt great.

Naked writing isn’t writing in the buff. It’s what I call writing without the covering of purpose; either a book contract or a plotted manuscript or any idea of where the hell it is going. Naked writing is a little bit stream of consciousness that erupts from your mind. You grab a pen or the alpha smart and just let go. It’s just you and the keyboard and nothing between you, like air and your naked skin.

Naked writing is freeing. It comes without the constraints of editor’s comments, revisions, criticism from a critique partner, or the doubts raised from a bad review or low contest scores, or even reader expectations. Naked writing is you and writing at its purest. It’s taking an idea and running with it, writing without worrying about following a path, and writing whatever inspires you.

The naked writing I did was after we’d visited a river I love. I got an idea for a new paranormal while we cruised the river. I saw danger lurking among the red mangroves, envisioned the hero with his sullen, embittered wariness, and the heroine filled with desperate hope. I saw a little blue heron fishing among the shallow, murky riverbank and it became not a bird, but a spy, an invader, a threat.

I just wrote and wrote for the pure pleasure. It was the first time in a long time I’ve done any naked writing. I have two looming deadlines and the writing wasn’t for those. I’m not contracted for any more Nocturnes, so there was no purpose in this writing. I probably will never sell it. I wasn’t thinking story ideas for a new proposal or to sell another book. I was writing for the sheer joy of creating, and letting my imagination fly.

I was getting naked with my writing.

Being a writer is great, but it does have its straitjacket moments. Susan Elizabeth Phillips says, “Protect the work.” One aspect I see of protecting the work is pushing aside all the layers that can come between you and the essential spark that is your creativity. Like too much clothing in a Florida summer, they can smother us. That’s when we need to toss everything off, and just get naked with our writing.

Try it next time. You might just find how fun and freeing running naked can be if you let your imagination fly as you write.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Life is too short

Someone else I know has died of cancer.

She died last night of pancreatic cancer, the same kind that took author Ronda Thompson. She was in horrid pain, was diagnosed only a few months ago, and she was only a few years older than me. She suffered terribly.

Cancer sucks, oh man, it sucks so much.

Life is too damn short. You just have to make the most of it, good or bad, because you never know what tomorrow brings. I have a sometimes morbid sense of humor. It comes from the work I do as a writer for a charity. I've seen some pretty disturbing stuff.... dying babies, children crying from malnutrition... the kids always get me the most because they are so young and never had a chance... There is a photo of a little girl I met who died of AIDs in Haiti on my desk and a little boy who died of starvation last year.

Like cops and firefighters, journalists and nurses and doctors, I developed a warped sense of humor as a defense mechanism. It helps when dealing with life's tragedies.

So I started thinking about what I would write in my obit. Morbid, yeah. Funny, I hope so. Like I said, humor is a defense mechanism for me.

Bonnie Vanak, age 101 on her Myspace page, died of an overdose of methane inhalation after a Shih Tzu “cluster fart” caused by too many bacon bits treats.

Bonnie was an author of both historical and paranormal romance novels for Dorchester and Harlequin. Though her work went largely unnoticed by the romance crowd, she enjoyed penning stories about sweaty Egyptian warriors and grunting werewolf warriors. “I like them hot and I like them hairy,” she was known to say.

Bonnie was also a writer for a large international charity. She raised millions of dollars to help the world’s poor and traveled extensively to developing countries, ate exotic food, and learned to map out the various WHO latrines in strategic locations in remote mountain villages.

Among her hobbies, she liked steam engine trains, both life-size and G-scale and was very much in admiration of her husband’s Climax, which she said “was amazing to see in real life, all that pumping and thrusting. I love machines.”

Bonnie is survived by her warped sense of humor, which she hopes will outlast the sale of her used mass market paperbacks on E-bay.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

It's five o'clock somewhere

Great day yesterday. I wrote in the a.m. and then DH and I drove to Jupiter. We went on a boat ride on the Loxahatchee, then for a walk, and then met a friend for drinks at a Tiki bar called The Square Grouper. It's the bar that inspired the song, "It's five o'clock somewhere," by Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett.

We sat by the water and watched the Space Shuttle go off. We toasted with our beer and rum punch and said, "Here's to the launch of the world's most expensive toilet!"

Fun times.

Today DH and I are supposed to bike ride in a local park. It's hot, and we'll get some good exercise. I'm not obsessing about writing this weekend, but instead, doing it in spurts and trying to enjoy the days off more instead of cramming in everything and ending the weekend feeling stressed. Yesterday I took the Alpha Smart with me while DH drove, and wrote in the car. Even though this is a story I'm revising, it still worked. I printed out the story and read it over and then wrote the section I wanted to revise.

It worked pretty good, too. Here's to more relaxation on the weekend!