Monday, April 30, 2007

Five Things That Make My Life Doable

When I am asked how I manage to have a toddler and write I always say my life is about compromise and discipline. I have to write - so I do. And because I write - LOTS of other things don't get done. In fact, as I sit in my office, my laundry is towering over my shoulder and the smell of dirty diapers from the full diaper pail wafting through my dirty house. But I have all the ingredients for dinner tonight and I've written five pages. That's my compromise.


1. Salad in a bag - particularly Asian Crunch. This is dinner most nights a week. You'd think I'd be skinnier.
2. Rachel Ray -- hate her talk show LOVE her cookbooks. I'm not kidding. It takes 30 minutes and it's good. She's not lying. She's annoying as all get out but she's not lying.
3. Lap top computer not hooked up to the Internet. For those of you who don't have this and lament about not getting any writing done - this is the key. This is actually number one on my list - I'd rearrange things but I'm running out of blogging time.
4. Coffee in massive amounts. I am not a coffee enthusiast. A recreational coffee drinker - nope. When my son was first born my husband asked if I thought maybe, just maybe I was drinking too much coffee and I told him (getting his drift and not taking kindly to it) - with sincere and utter heartfelt rage - that coffee was the only recognizable thing I had left from my old life. The coffee stays in the picture.
5. Deadlines. I'm not talking about editorial deadlines - though they are good but they are so far away. I could procrastinate forever. Nope. I have deadlines from my critique group. It's supposed to be at least a scene or a chapter every week but we've strayed from that - but if I go longer than two weeks without handing in a chunk of writing for them to critique I know I am falling behind. This is so invaluable because I know if I had a deadline just for myself I'd blow it every week. Like I do with dieting and working out.

So that's it - much like writing it's not glamorous. It's a little sad actually - but it's what I do in order to make this little dream of mine doable.

So, what are your tricks? How do you keep all your balls in the air?

Friday, April 27, 2007


I work with this woman, who is dedicated to her job, thorough, detail oriented and one of the rare people who really cares about what she does.
She’s also antagonistic, rude, aggressive, completely unwilling to see another point of view, or even consider another’s opinion and strongly believes she is the only person in a large organization who has a clue what they’re doing.
There is no question this woman is the villain of my little workgroup.

She is uniformly acknowledged to be extremely difficult to work with, and dealings with her are painful at best.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s become a well of inspiration to my little writer’s mind.

She has these two sides to her personality, one really commendable, and the other incredibly hard to deal with, but side by side they make her a difficult person to evaluate, or dislike outright.

I admire her passion and her attention to detail, but I’d happily never have another dealing with her.

But isn’t that the key to a really compelling villain. The dual nature of their personalities. Let’s face it, villains who are just plain evil are boring. But make a person straddle the line between good and evil, right and wrong, and their path becomes fascinating.

The best villains do this.

One of my favs is Balthar from Battlestar Galactica, who has at times through the show been insane, brilliant, attempted to do the right thing, but is hampered by a fatal weakness and cowardice. But watching him struggle has been incredibly entertaining.

Or take the movie The Departed. There are several villains in this movie, but the key antagonist is the Matt Damon character. A man undone by a loyalty given as a child and a need to be perceived as successful. We watch as his grasp on his situation grows increasingly tenuous every moment of the movie. He’s a character almost as compelling and sympathetic as the hero.

But aren’t the best villains flipsides of the hero. Losing to their fatal flaws instead of overcoming them, like the protagonist does.
A villain has to be a worthy adversary to the hero. But more than that. We give our heroes depths and flaws, and on the flipside we have to do the same thing for our villains, or they’ll fall flat in comparison.

Because the most interesting villains are mirror images of the hero. They reflect the hero’s strengths and weaknesses.
And sometimes they make the book/movie/tv show. Anyone who’s seen Silence of the Lambs would back me on this.

And sometimes the villain becomes the hero.
Take the Soprano’s, a show I need to see. But is Tony Soprano a hero, or villain, or both? Molly, could you chime in here.
Or, in Interview with the Vampire, where the Vampire Lestat became the hero of the second book.

Give me a compelling villain and I'm hooked. Give me a villain who's as complex as the hero and I'll sing the praises of the book/movie/Tv show till I'm hoarse.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

It's the little things and sex

When I was a little kid I was stuck in advanced beginner swim lessons for EONS because I couldn't keep my knees underwater during elementary backstroke - a stroke I only really appreciated once I was very pregnant. But summer after summer the whole time thinking that this session I would finally nail it - I'd be back with Kelly Soost on the shady side of the pool with the increasingly younger kids.

The same thing is happening in my writing.

I'm out of the baby pool - having figured out the basics of character, POV (not deep POV - just the head hopping) goals and conflict. But book after book I'm still on my back with my knees sticking out of the water on certain craft items. And this was supposed to get EASIER!

Now, that said - we drunkards have talked a lot about the McKee seminars so if you are feeling like you're at a hump you just can't get over I feel like McKee has really opened up the way I write. But I'm still having problems - two of which were hammered home this week.

1. Transition scenes. Ugh. Is there anything harder? You have to get your character from one perspective to another - you have to have them convince themselves of some course of action, you have to have them grieve, mourn, lust, whatever and then dust themselves off and head out to the next plot point. These scenes are so hard. In my current book I have a mother stroking her sleeping daughter's hair and the way I wrote it the first time around (which survived many draft changes and has stayed the same for over two months) she thinks about how tired they are. For like three paragraphs and then she stands up and confronts her ex-husband. It was awful - especially considering the relationship between mother and daughter and the mother and her own mother are a little tragic and sad and, why didn't I show that instead of tell the reader how tired they are. So the lesson I learned this week that I feel like I learned last week and will learn again next week - THERE ARE NO TRANSITION SCENES.

Every scene is a chance to show the reader something - character, conflict, motivation, backstory. Any one of those things that we're always throwing our hands up in the air about and screaming "where do I put this?" You put it in transition scenes.

2. Sex scenes. Finished Ice Blue last week, Anne Stuarts latest and reread it again tonight. Well, not the whole book - because as a whole the book is so disjointed and problematic that there is no point in rereading the whole thing. (scene after scene of the heroine going 'you're going to kill me?" and the hero going "yes." Heroine: "When?" Hero: "When you are no longer necessary to the assignment" and then the heroine falls in love with him - which would be ABSURD! if it weren't for the sex. Sex is not just sex in Anne Stuart novels - it is the best character and conflict reveal she makes. Her sex scenes are hot and moving and scary and romantic and fun. They show all the things she tells us in other parts of the book and they advance the plot. Amazing. Really really something.

My sex scenes - not so much. Gotta do something about that.

So, how about your elementary backstroke craft problems? What's got you stuck on the shady side of the pool?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Subplots and my endless appreciation for them..

I used to read a lot of historical romance. There were a steady stream in the nineties that all went in a similar fashion.
The first two hundred pages were completely focused on the hero and heroine, their first meeting, the back and forth of dialogue, the building of sexual tension, all delicious, culminating in the hero and heroine sleeping together sometime between pages 200 and 250.

Then the author realized, crap! I have another 200 pages to fill. Enter the suspense subplot, which sometimes kept the hero and heroine apart, sometimes just gave them something to do, but added another 100 -200 pages to a book that should have ended at page 200, which is usually the point where I stopped reading.

Because usually the suspense subplot had been tacked on, added nothing to the main plot, (the romance) and the resolution was obvious from the first page.

But when a subplot is weaved into a book properly, chosen so it will enhance the main plot and increase tension, the books moves at a faster pace, and keeps the reader interested.

Some books that are intensely enhanced by their subplots, Silent in the Grave. Really, by the end do you care who killed her husband? But the investigator. The questions surrounding him kept me reading till the end, Poison Study. A study in pacing and the value of subplots in keeping a book really interesting.

One of the things I assumed with romance when I first started writing, was that the romance was the main plot. But I’ve been re-examining some of my favourite romances and discovering that isn’t the case.

The Promise Of Jenny Jones - the romance is definitely a subplot. The main plot is Jenny keeping her promise to ensure the little girl gets home safely. That the romance is weaved in so intricately into all of this makes it a huge subplot, the main plot is right there in the title.
Same with the Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale. I love this book, but I’d argue that the main plot of this book is the hero rediscovering his passion for life, his character arc, rather than the romance, which again, is a huge subplot and so intricately weaved in, you almost can’t separate the two plots.
Take a look at most paranormal romances on the shelves, and again, I’d bet in more than half, the romance is a subplot.

Why does this matter? Because subplots when done really well, are woven so intricately into the fabric of the story that they are sometimes hard to distinguish from the main plot, and either add to the character’s growth, or alternatively contrast the main plot.

Being able to distinguish plot from subplot in my admittedly twisted novels, helps me write a pared down synopsis and it has changed the way I approach plotting a book.

And on a completely unrelated topic. Anyone watching Drive, the new Fox show. I’m a fan of Nathan Fillion, from the vastly underappreciated Firefly, and the exec producer of Drive is the same from that show as well.
Was unsure about the show through the 2 hr preview, until the third episode, where some lovely questions are raised about Nathan’s character that completely changed my view of him.
Right now I’m on board, for that reason, and the Father and Daughter team, and, the so far, great dialogue between them.

Anyone else seen it?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

High Concept or the lowest of lows?

I've had a lot of trouble this week trying to think of something to blog about. Usually I'm choosing between ideas. Hmmm... Maybe I should start writing those ideas down. LOL. (Actually, I'm just feeling too lazy to think about or research some of those topics.)

So let's talk about Grindhouse.

Has anyone else seen this? It's Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's ode to 1970's movie going experiences.

First, I grew up in the 1970's and I don't remember anything like this. I guess I was going to the wrong movies. But seriously. I don't even remember posters or ads and I certainly don't remember theatres where the film was so scratched and damaged it was distracting or entire reels (containing the sex scenes and lap dances) were missing. But I was laughing along, anyway. I found things like that, in particular, very funny. I mean, lets you create a whole back story around the movie theatre and the projectionist that those reels were missing.

If you've got a strong stomach and have 3 1/2 hours to devote to a silly fun time, I'd recommend seeing Grindhouse and seeing in the theatre. I can't imagine how annoying the digitally "scratched" film stock will look on a smaller screen. The first movie's gore makes zombie movies look like the Teletubbies and the second has some pretty amazing car chases and stunts, not to mention Tarantino's patented great dialogue amongst friends who work together in interesting job we get a peek into. Short aside. Zoe Bell, stunt woman extraordinaire, plays herself in the Tarantino movie. She's great. and the stunts she does in this movie are quite mind blowing. If you get a chance, rent Double Dare, a great documentary I saw at the 2004 film festival which featured an aging stunt woman, Jeannie Epper, who broke ground for women in that industry (and was Wonder Woman's stunt double, actually having to land from high jumps in high heels and slide across pavement in those ridiculously short shorts) and Zoe, who as a gymnast not really trained as a stunt woman, was Xena's stunt double in New Zealand, and then moved to the US after Xena ended, hoping to break into the Hollywood stunt world. She actually gets "the call" during the documentary from Tarantino, offering her the job to be Uma Thurman in the Kill Bill movies and you get to see the day she first meets Tarantino and starts to audition for the role. It really changed how I watched those movies the second time, knowing most of those action scenes were played by Zoe, not Uma.

But all this is not what I was planning to blog about. I was planning to blog about high concept. And I really don't have time (or the inclination) to do the topic justice today... But what got me thinking about it, was these fake movie trailers featured before and during Grindhouse.

Hobo with a Shot Gun (wish I could remember the tagline for this one... but really, the title says it all)

Machete -- If you're going to hire Machete to kill the bad guys, make sure you're not one of them. (Genius)

Werewolf Women of the SS -- (Okay the tagline for this one was funny too... Something about Hitler's diabolical plan to change unsuspecting young women into werewolf fighting machines. But I didn't have any paper and obvioiusly am having short term memory issues.)

Not sure if these are high concept, or about as low as you can get. But you understand exactly what these concepts are (low brow though they may be) in just a few words. To me, that encapsulates the idea of high concept.

Monday, April 16, 2007

What is in a name? Or a cover? Or a title? Or back cover copy?

I have offered myself up totally to the marketing machine at Harlequin.

My name was constructed by a group of editors at a meeting. Molly is my name, but my last name is Fader and when starting out writing romantic comedy they didn't think "Fader" sounded romantic or funny. The asked me for a list of alternatives, all of which they poo pooed and in the end they came up with O'Keefe. And I agreed - totally fine with that.

Every book I have written I submit with a working title and it gets changed. This happens for just about everyone. But my book out in July which I called Jigsaw Hearts - will be called Undercover Protector. My husband upon hearing this said - "like a jock strap?" My mom said "like a condom?"

Neither connotation is very promising in terms of sales - but again - I've got to think Harlequin knows what it is doing. They've sold trillions of books - They know better than I that a book I called "Always Kiss Me Goodnight," will sell tons more as "His Best Friend's Baby." Or that "Things Best Remembered" will fly off the shelves much faster as "Baby Makes Three."

I hope.

For every book Harlequin asks it's writers to fill out Art Fact Sheets. A very long questionnaire about our characters, their ages, appearance, back ground, thematic qualities and occupations. These questionnaires are all on line and consist of drop down menus that are hilarious. I look forward to maybe writing a book with a character whose occupation is "billionaire" or "Prince".

Another part of these forms requires the author to come up with a bunch of scenes that she thinks would make a great cover. We are supposed to describe the mood, location, time of day and weather. Apparently we can even download pictures to help the artists better create our covers - I've never done this - because, again, I have totally given myself up to the marketing machine. They know, right? Covers with toothy smiley kids sell. Covers with creepy men who don't look old enough to to be the father of the preteen age girl they are standing with - sell.

For whatever reasons - laziness. Stupidity. Not wanting to rock the boat. Being just too damn busy to pester anyone or get involved - I have not protested any titles or covers and I think I've done okay with what I've been given. Though the cover of Family At Stake really does look creepy to me. And I've just gotten the cover for my July book - and it's the best yet. I think they've finally figured out a mix that will work with the new tone of Superromance. The covers are very romantic, less iconic or symbolic (which the authors loved, but readers didn't buy) but they are different, in a good way. BUT - compared with some of the other covers for that month namely Darlene Gardener and Tara Taylor Quinn - I've seriously been hosed. There are covers and there are COVERS.

Now, it's been a long time since I've picked up a book based on anything besides the name of the author or the rave reviews someone gives it. But take a look at some of the covers coming up and let me know which books you'd pick up based on covers alone.

Be honest.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Let’s talk about sex… or at least sexy men.

Lots of things on my mind these days. Plots, subplots(definitely the topic of an upcoming post) and structure. But as I watch Casino Royale, top most on my mind is how some men come across as innately sexy and others just don’t.

You know I’m talking about Daniel Craig. Who, in my opinion, is incredibly sexy in Casino Royale, in a way no other Bond man has ever been. Part of it is the wonderful interchange between him and Vesper Lynd. Sharp sexy dialogue and a woman who can match him.
But a larger part of it is that he’s a dangerous, dangerous man. Capable of almost anything. He has that buff body, and those incredible blue eyes, and let’s not forget how he looks in a tux, but we’re not talking about a traditionally good looking man here.
Same with many of the characters played by Clive Owen, and Gerard Butler, two more intensely sexy men.
The common denominator is they seem to give the impression of barely restrained control, a sense of wildness just below the surface and a strong confidence.

Would I want to marry a man like this? Hell, no.

But a one night stand. Absolutely.

So how do we take these men and make them romance heroes, but showing their metamorphosis from a dangerous man, to one controlled by the heroine, or his feelings for her.
Maybe it’s that sense of leashing a wild animal that creates the fantasy. I’m not sure, but personally, I like heroes with baggage, darkness and edge.

Nothing is more boring to me than a white bread, straight up hero. Always hated Superman. Found him boring. I like a hero with harsh edges, darkness, Batman, is more my comic book character. It also explains how Tony Soprano became a strange sort of sex symbol.

It’s the fantasy of danger.

Who are the best romance heroes? Laura Kinsale’s heroes come to mind. She creates these damaged, dark, sexy men. Who else?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Women and Fiction

I've read a couple of interesting articles/essays lately about fiction and the differences between what women like to read and what men like to read. I'm still mulling about one of them, but the other one, well, I just wish I'd written it.

Erica Jong (whose Fear of Flying I read as a pre-teen searching for the "dirty bits" and probably not really understanding what the book was about) wrote a great opinion piece in Publishers Weekly about the ghettoization of fiction written by women.

A couple of things stood out for me. One is the fact (yes a fact, not opinion, (in my opinon LOL)) that if men write about subjects like love or family or interpersonal relationships they are lauded for doing so, but when women do this (all the freakin' time) it's dismissed as slight or simplistic or not deep enough to be taken seriously or considered literature or even worthy of being reviewed.

The other was that Ms. Jong puts responsibility for "fixing" this on the heads of today's female writers. She contends, if I took her point correctly, that unlike her generation, which was politicized with women's liberation and stood up for themselves, today's female writers are simply rolling over and playing dead when their books are trivialized, or when silly pink cartoon covers or pastel beach chairs are slapped onto their work.

I don't think I have enough experience to credibly contest Ms. Jong on this point. But it seems to me like she's blaming the victims just a bit.

Have you read Ms. Jong's article? What do you think? Is fiction written by women ghettoized? Do you think we as writers can do anything to change this?

I guess her thoughts about Canada treating female writers better was also interesting to me. (Since I'm Canadian.) Whenever I try to argue this women's fiction ghetto point with my well-read sister, she says, "What about Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Carol Shields, Ann-Marie Macdonald, Margaret Laurence, Barbara Gowdy, Jane Urquhart or even Lucy Maude Montgomery". It's hard to argue against that. But I wonder, with the exception of Ms. Atwood, and of course Mrs. Montgomery, how well known any of these women are outside Canada and the Canadian market is so small. And still, even within Canada, the writers who have done well in the more commercial US market, say, Mary Balogh, get no respect within Canadian writers circles.)

Monday, April 09, 2007

All Hail The Sopranos! Or why this week is the best week of television EVER!!!

A few years ago I was living in a vegetarian nudist house in California (oh! I wish I was kidding) and I didn't have a TV. I was a little smug about it too -- so much so that when friends gave my husband and I a very nice TV for our wedding I was sort of a superior pain in the ass about it. I thought we'd never talk. Never drink wine and play big games of Scrabble. And if I could go back in time and tell myself one thing (besides to put all of our money on that Boston Red Sox World Championship a few years ago) it would be to shut up about the TV - because all those games of Scrabble we didn't play are a worthy worthy sacrifice to the TV Gods for this one week of Television.

Last night was the return of the best Sociopath to ever grace the small screen - Tony Soprano and the even more delightful return of the obsessive ecumenical spazz - Ari Gold from Entourage. And if that wasn't enough - and it is frankly - it's enough - this week is the season finale of...Friday Night Lights. Oh! The bliss.

Last nights return of Soprano's was the best reminder of what makes that show great. The violence, the delicious nearly torturous tension, the crazy juxtaposition of what this man is and what he wants and how he lives.

What I love about this show and what is coming to fruition this year is that they take their time. This is a character driven show in which a raised eyebrow and a sideways look at a noisy bird is just as much a plot point as a bullet in that poor ex-husband's brain and the ripped shirt the killer leaves behind!

Long conversations take place - and the dialogue doesn't really matter. I'm talking about that scene between Tony and his brother in law, Bobby in the boat - it doesn't matter what's being said - the pacing of the scene, the so telling non verbals - put it all out there. This is a monster at rest, fishing with a good man who would love to not be in the business. But the writers aren't just showing us a quiet moment in this man's life - it's also ratcheting up the tension because anything can happen in this show. Tony could lose it on his brother in law, another boat could come by and kill them all. Tony could have a heart attack. Anything. And we know because the writers of this show reward it's watchers that no moment of peace for this guy goes unpunished - either by his own hand or someone elses. So - it's this nice scene - two guys fishing and my husband and I were biting our nails from the torment.

So when the next scene of relaxation - Tony, Carmela, Janice (Tony's sister) and Bobby are sitting around drinking playing cards - we know, we just know it's a powder keg. And they lay the foundation for the scene so beautifully. So, tellingly. Bobby gets mad at the Sopranos. Carmela gets mad at Tony. Janice gets mad at her brother. And then...Tony starts getting mad.

Now, I love Friday Night Lights but I realized watching this show why Network Television will NEVER get close to the unbelievable storytelling that cable shows do. The writers (maybe the producers not sure how it works) are scared to trust the viewer to follow a character driven (to this magnitude) show. Sure, House is a character driven show - but good god it's running off the rails. And frankly - what does it compare to Dexter? Lost was totally in that first season a delicious character driven show. But now it's all plot. It's all explosions and secrets and we've stopped caring because we don't care about who is getting hurt. Friday Night Lights is falling into this trap too - turning the story around and around with more and bigger events. But I'm still in.

Thank God we've got a TV.

Friday, April 06, 2007


If there’s a theme for the week here at Drunk Writers, it has to be there’s little you can control in this business except the writing, your own promotional efforts and your knowledge about the business.

But that’s actually not true. As unpublished authors, we have all the control.
(stop snickering in the wings, it’s true)

Picture this. I finish the best book I’ve ever written. I think it’s fantastic… (this is very hypothetical)

So I draw a short list of agents to send it to. I have the control initially in choosing which agent I would like to represent me and my work and in a wonderful, perfect world, more than one wants to represent the work, then I get to choose which one.

Secondly, the writer does have a significant say over where our agents send the book. Hopefully we have the right person representing us, so we trust their judgment, but again, this is ultimately our choice.

And we can say yes or no to offers.. (again, stop snickering… I know this is stupidly hypothetical), but I have heard of authors having a choice between publishers if the project is really hot.

Once the publisher takes over, we definitely lose control, over covers, back cover blurbs and the promotion the publisher chooses to do, but if we chose well, then there should be trust in our editors.

Now I know what I’ve just described is highly unlikely.. and when the rejections start coming in, hard not to leap at the first offer that comes along. Hell, did it myself, and came to regret it. Leaping at the first agent cost me time, too much time.

But I did learn to take back some control. I don’t have to sell the first book I write, or even the second, or third, but I do want to feel like I have control. I have a short list of agents, it changes, but it’s not huge. They are all well established and well regarded. If I don’t snag one of the short list with my current project, then I’ll try with the next book.

It might sound foolish to some, but I firmly believe no agent is better than a bad agent.

What’s harder for me is keeping confidence when getting rejections. But here what we all need is an unshakeable faith in our writing and what we choose to write. Not to the point where I don’t listen to criticism, but just a belief that my flawed heros and heroines are interesting to more than just me, and my stories are worthy of publication on my terms.

And if I don’t get there with the current book, then I’ll get there with the next one.

Because it starts and ends with the writing.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Concentrate on What You Can Control

This seems like such an obvious thing, but for me it's one of the hardest things to remember.

I attended the NEC conference last weekend and the breakfast keynote speaker was Lisa Gardner. I've heard Lisa speak a few times before and she's always amazing, but a few things she said this weekend really resonated for me.

The main thing that hit me in the gut was that publishing and writing are two different things, and as writers the only part we can control is the writing. (Okay, I guess if you self-publish you can control the publishing part, too... but you can't control whether or not anyone will buy, enjoy or review your books in that scenario either.)

The tricky part of this for me is that, well, I'm beginning to realize I'm a bit of a control freak. At my age you'd think I'd have discovered this about myself before now, but no -- a recent revelation. And second, while we can't control the publishing part, I do think it behooves us as writers to be knowledgeable about publishing and to be in control of our careers. Sure we entrust agents to sell our work and publicists to make sure readers find out about it. We hire web designers to create a face-to-the-public look. We sell our publishing rights to publishers entrusting editing, book design, cover art and a myriad of other things to them. But as much as we need to be educated about the industry, to know what we want for our careers and to stand up for it to increase the odds that the other players understand and buy into and support our career vision... Ultimately the only thing we can control is the writing. The stories we choose to tell and how we tell them.

We can't control market trends. We can't control exactly which editor(s) our agent chooses to send our projects to. We can't control what those editors saw immediately before our work or what biases they may bring to the table. We can't control if they offer a contract or how big an advance. We can't control the cover art chosen or the print runs or how many copies the booksellers will buy or how well (or even if) we'll be reviewed. We can't make Oprah choose our books for her bookclub.

So. We write.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Ten years in and no closer to the key....

I've been in this business for ten years - and by being in the business I mean I've been submitting proposals to editors who know who I am and seem to like me and my writing.

And still, I have amassed far more rejections than I have paychecks. And, worse I still don't know what's going on. I was originally going to write this blog about how, while I don't understand the business any better than I did ten years ago (when I thought that my first book - like all harlequin novels - would earn me a paycheck of $15,000 - HAH!), I do understand writing better than I did. But then I thought about my current WIP and my last book and what I THOUGHT I had figured out and what I'm screwing up right now and - stupid me - I haven't gotten anything figured out. At all.

The business aspect of writing mainstream genre fiction is like one of those puzzles that if you stare at it the right way or for a long period of time you think you might see...yep...there it is...a cat in sunglasses. But then you look away to tell your friends and critique partners what you've seen and when you look back at the puzzle --- it's just a bunch of green and red pixels again. No cat. No sunglasses. No sense.

Maureen's story about getting a rejection from a proposal she sent a year ago to a house that she'd been TALKING to a few months ago about a different version of the same book -- literally boggles my mind. As I wrote that sentence I had to drink vodka right from the bottle - that's how painful that is. The countless good books that don't get bought because they aren't marketable or don't have vampires or werewolves or time travelling elfs doing nasty things to each other on every other page - can really - when thought about - piss me off. Especially when half the time I'm starving for a good book. (not this week though-- dear God the reading pleasures I've had). The strange and mysterious etiquette involved when hiring an agent who - WILL BE WORKING FOR YOU! It just doesn't make sense. Our publishers want to sell loads and loads of our books and then give us terrible covers. People get paid money to create covers - just like they are paid to hit home runs every single time they are at bat - so why do we stand for crappy non-descript covers that look nothing like our characters and take place no where near our setting and involve explosions when we've written a nice little book about knitting! KNITTING BOOKS - good gravy don't get me started....

But - you all know that -- you're swimming upstream in the same raging river I am. The writing thing though - man, just when you think you've figured something out....something else falls apart. What is happening to me right now at page 86 (same page I've been for oh....three weeks) is like I'm a world champion plate spinner on David Letterman (Drew Barrymore couldn't make it so they called me in...) and I've got the plates spinning off the chair I'm balancing on my nose (character, conflict and pacing ) I've got the plates spinning off the candelabras in my hand (pacing, dialogue and POV) but the plates I just had spinning, just figured out on the very last book, the plates I just looked at and spun - reader expectation and reversals - have crashed to the floor.

I understand that every book is different - characters plot blah blah blah - but I am the same. Me. The writer. Why doesn't this stuff stick like it's supposed to - like "30 days has September, April, June and November" or all those Celine Dion songs I - for whatever satanic reason - know by heart.

Maybe the next ten years will bring me the answer and that $15, 000.
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