Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Learning to let go of a story

I posted this yesterday over at The Chatelaines blog.

I want to learn how to let go of a story.

The novella that is due, uh, like NOW, is still on my desk. I must mail it out. It's finished. But I can't let go. I keep editing and editing, worrying over it, trying to make it perfect. One last sentence deleted, another rewritten.

The 20,000 word story has taken me as long to write as the 70,000 word Nocturne. And I can't figure out why.

Oh, I really like the characters, the plot. But I find myself filled with doubts, those horrid creatures that easily kill creativity. Maybe THIS word will make it stronger, more emotional, more blah blah blah blah.

Enough. Already.

It always amuses me when people, after finding out I'm an author, casually remark, "Oh, I've always wanted to write a book in my spare time."

I feel like telling them, "Oh, I've always wanted to dig my brains out of my head with a dull fork in my spare time."

Maybe for some writers, it's easy. They can sit down, whip out a story like it's a delicate souffle, and everything is delicious, creamy, rich. People sigh over it and weep.

With me, it's more like baking a Thanksgiving turkey for a critical family dinner. I keep basting, checking, basting, worrying, basting, and then when it's done, I carve into it and POW!

It busts open like that dried, wrinkled mess Chevy Chase cut into on Christmas Vacation.

Or not. Sometimes it's a delicious golden brown and juicy, and melts in your mouth.

It's not easy letting go of the work. Whether it's to give to a friend to read, or an editor, or enter into a contest, or wait for a review, there's a part of you that dreads the reaction. Will they like it? Will they want to read more?

Or would they rather be coated in honey and staked to an anthill?

I can honestly say I don't know one writer, though I'd love to meet one! who hasn't experienced some kind of self-doubt. Years ago at my chapter's conference, the keynote speaker, a NY Times best-seller I admired, admitted she gets nervous when turning in a story to her editor. She too, worries about anyone liking it.


I have a lot of respect for those who can brave the waters of extreme criticism, and submit their work to be read by a panel in front of a crowded audience.

Last week my chapter, Florida Romance Writers, held our conference. I didn't go. I was on deadline, and this is a bad time of year for me as I usually travel for the day job. (Next week I'll be in Haiti.)

The conference was on a cruise, organized by the amazing Aleka Navis, and they hosted an event that's become popular at our conferences.

It's called Floridian Idol. You submit a few pages for a panel of agents and editors to read aloud and tell the audience exactly what they think of your writing.


Sarah from the Smart Bitches blog attended our conference, and participated in this. Here's her thoughts on what it was like:

"So having the product of those less--than-turgid muscles critiqued is like having the gym’s most sculpted personal trainer watching you work out. In a word: Eeeep. So mad props to the writers who participated – I know firsthand what you went through. The experience was supremely fidget-inducing."

That sums it up. Fidget-inducing. It was fidget-inducing for me two years ago when I attended Floridian Idol, and I didn't even submit my work. I cringed at some of the comments. The panel was bluntly honest, and their opinions priceless. Seldom can you get instant feedback from publishing professionals. But still... ouch.

And yet, not all of them agreed on everything. Which goes to show the one truism of publishing every writer should keep chanting to himself/herself.

Not everyone will love, or hate, what you write. Because writing is NOT a science.

For all the craft books you can read, all the workshops you can attend, all the techniques and skill you can employ in your story, in the end, what one person will dismiss, another may love.

One editor might gush over your story as if it's that rare, delicate souffle.

Another might look at it and say, "Eeeeww. Yuck."

So how can you tell if it's any good? How can you tell when it's time to let go, and send it off into the world like a child toddling off to the first day of school?

For me, it's when I realize I'm clinging, like a parent reluctant to release her child to the big, bad, and wonderful world. But deep in my heart, I know I've done all I can, and it's time.

So I print, I read again, slide it into an envelope and mail.

Good-byes are never easy for me. Even when it's a story.

Monday, January 26, 2009

It's hard to write a love scene when you can't breathe...

Last week I came down with a severe sinus infection. Nice timing...right on deadline. It's hard writing a love scene when all you can think about is trying to push air into your congested system.

For example...from the vampire novella I'm finishing...

He envisioned Sienna naked, her long legs open, her body sultry and inviting as she held out her arms to him. Flat on her back, the perfect position to sink his fangs, and his body, into her (cough cough wheeze wheeze choke choke).

So much for spoiling a romantic moment.

In other news, I signed up for RWA's national conference in DC. I have a hotel room, all set to go, but for my plane ticket. I'm pretty tanked about attending this convention, as I have never visited DC before and plan to play tourist.

Next week I'll be in Haiti for the day job. Providing I can kick this infection and can actually fly on an airplane.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Busy writing for the next two days

I'm all tied up right now, and can't get to the phone, but if you'll leave a message, I'll get back to you as soon as possible.


Saturday, January 17, 2009


Today's guest blogger, and former opera singer is author of VEXING THE VISCOUNT, EMILY BRYAN, who talks about scene stealers. Great photo, Em!

Thanks for having me here, Bonnie! Today, I’d like to talk about secondary characters, or as some of them turn out to be—SCENE STEALERS!

Back when I was singing professional opera, occasionally one of the supernumeraries (spear carriers, we used to call them) would do something to upstage the main characters. (Dare I confess to doing it myself sometimes when I was spear carrier?) It’s not always planned, but it happens.

It happens in fiction too. An unsuspecting writer creates a secondary character to fill a need in the hero or heroine’s life and all of a sudden, the bit part refuses to stand quietly holding the spear. It happened to me when I created my heroine’s mother for PLEASURING THE PIRATE. She’s also Daisy Drake’s great-aunt in VEXING THE VISCOUNT.

Meet Isabella Wren, better known as ‘La Belle Wren’ in demimonde circles. That’s right. She’s a courtesan and she’s good at it. She moves in the most exalted circles. As the 18th century counts celebrity, she’s a rock star. She’s bone-deep beautiful, wickedly sensual and calculatingly clever. She’s used to being the center of attention.

Why did I ever think she’d fade into the background until she was needed?

First in PLEASURING THE PIRATE, she began poking her way into the story through her daughter’s memory. Isabella sent Jacquelyn to the finest schools, but couldn’t leave her education totally to the headmistress and her minions. She sent her distant daughter detailed letters schooling her in the art of love.

“Ignorance is not always conducive to bliss,” Isabella says.

When I turned in the initial manuscript for PLEASURING THE PIRATE, my editor said, “I love Isabella! She’s outrageous, but she sucks all the air out of the room. You have to tone her down.” She was right. When ‘La Belle Wren’ made her entrance, the rest of the cast faded a bit. Isabella knows how to ‘take stage.’

But instead of toning her down, I opted for ratcheting my heroine up to meet her. I gave Jacquelyn an extra dollop of her mother’s spine, courage and wit. When the two of them join forces, my formidable pirate hero doesn’t stand a chance.

Isabella was too much fun to let go, so she makes an encore appearance in VEXING THE VISCOUNT, due out February 24th. In this story, Isabella has married an earl and is now Lady Wexford, but she’s still the same witty courtesan at heart. And when her niece Daisy, follows her advice, disaster and mayhem can’t be far behind.

If you’d like to read an excerpt of both stories, please visit . Remember, I will be giving away a copy of VEXING THE VISCOUNT to one person who comments here, so be sure to leave a note!

And check back tomorrow to see whose name my DH has drawn as the winner. Good luck!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Real life heroes, writing, Emily Bryan

A lot of subjects today!

First, how about that US Airways jet landing in the Hudson, and that amazing pilot? Three cheers for him! DH, who has his private pilot's license, bets that he'll just say he was doing his job, as he was a trained professional. He was, and much more. I get teary-eyed each time I watch that footage. We sure could use that kind of good news these days, with all the bad news in the media lately.

My story for the Nocturne novella is almost there! Almost! I have that kind of feeling I get when I really like a story, and I'm totally excited about it. Hope to finish soon. It feels great to be writing again! Yay!

The day job's been challenging this week, but life's a challenge. I'll be in Haiti soon, and that will be an interesting trip.

Tomorrow join me here when Emily Bryan, author of VEXING THE VISCOUNT, visits!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


What I'm looking forward to reading next month. My friend Renee Ryan's first inspirational historical, THE MARSHAL TAKES A BRIDE from Silhouette Love Inspired. Renee was the first New Historical Voice winner for Dorchester Publishing and wrote under the name of Renee Halverson.
She's now writing inspirational historicals, and she's a terrific writer who brings lots of emotion to her stories.
Here's the blurb, and isn't the cover lovely?
True Hero Never Leaves a Damsel in Distress--He Marries Her!

U.S. Marshal Trey Scott is fixin' to walk down the aisle just as soon as his stubborn bride-to-be agrees to say "I do." Katherine Taylor's five-year-old sister and an orphanage full of children are depending on her. So why won't the pretty schoolteacher marry him to save her tarnished reputation? Granted, Trey isn't willing to abandon his quest to avenge his first wife's murder. His name alone will protect Katherine until he returns, but she thinks he should leave vengeance to a higher power. Will the sacrifice demanded by the woman he loves be too great to bear...or will it be Trey's ultimate redemption?

Click here for an excerpt!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

reality contrasts

It's hard to explain how surreal the job is some days.

At the day job, I work as a writer for a large international charity, traveling to poor countries to document cases of extreme poverty and suffering. I travel with a photographer, get stories of the worst of the worst.

Starving children, for example. Kids who may not make it.

It's such a vast contrast to my job as an author, where I write romance, sometmes about werewolves, sometimes about Egypt's splendid past. I can lose myself in the worlds I create, and some days that's a welcome diversion.

Today is a day of sharp contrasts for me. I'm going to Haiti next month, and to prepare for the trip, I was researching hunger in Haiti among children. Since four storms basically wiped out roads, homes, and left Haitians even more miserable and hungry than before, the need has escalated.

I have on my computer screen an article about hunger in Gonaives, a city I visited in 2004 that was wiped out, again, during last year's storms. The malnutrition rate among children is 4%. Children have red hair, arms and legs thin and brittle as dry twigs, and skin conditions so severe their skin is cracked and bleeding.

Contrast this to what I found when I went on Yahoo and scanned the page. "A contestant on The Biggest Loser has been arrested for allegedly assaulting a housemate with a bag of flour."

It's just too bizarre. I'm reading about starving kids and then an overweight woman tossing a bag of flour (allegedly) at her housemate in an argument.

Nothing against overweight women. I'm one of them! But all I can think about is the flour. What a freaking waste of food, when I'm looking at kids who can't remember when their last meal was. Kids who might end up dead by the time I finish typing in this blog.

And then we found out that this little guy, only 3, who was starving, and had a very bad skin condition as a result, this kid one of the other writers found on a trip, died. We stood around for a minute, silent. What can you say? It's happening more and more. The kids we find, the kids we see, not all can be saved. Sometimes it's just too damn late.

You just have to go on and do the best you can, under the circumstances. Even as heartbreaking as it is.

Little boy dies of starvation.
Overweight woman tosses bag of flour in argument.

Life, some days at this job, is just too damn surreal.