Monday, October 31, 2011

Effing things up for yourself...

For the last few years I have been a head of my deadlines. And not just a little. But like, months ahead of deadline. I seemed to keep having these events that I wanted to get books completed by - biths of babies, American Thanksgiving, Conference, Drunk Writer Talk. So, I had real deadlines and then I had my own.

And let me tell you, this has been great. I am heroic in my editors eyes. I have so much good will built up in this department that if I could somehow transform good will into shoes I would be Maureen.

And I've liked it too, I feel on top of my game and focused. I was really diligent every day despite being ahead of the deadline.

But OH! Oh the times they have changed - my deadline is November 15 for my Harlequin Superromance (I thought it was Nov. 22, why? No idea). And it's doable if I stick to my word count goal every day and work on the weekends and in the evenings...really, it's not even that hard. But what have I been doing? SLACKING OFF. Watching TV - in the middle of the day. Eating cookies? (That's effing up this no cookie diet I was on for about ten minutes. The second I said "Molly, no more cookies, what did I want? Ten cookies.) Friday Maureen and I had a writing date and what did I convince her to do? HAVE A BEER!

I am so far away from my word count goal that it's actually funny. Like ludicrious. Like a Monty Python sketch. And it's not my children, or my husband, or fate conspiring against me, it's me. %100 me. Though Maureen could have been a bit more firm on that beer thing...

Do you do this? When the pressure is on, do you go to sleep? Because I've been doing that too.

Friday, October 28, 2011

How much attention should you pay to the market before you write?

I've been actively watching the YA market for a while now, but never as much as now. I've always been a firm believer in write the idea that grips you, makes you smile and excited to sit at the computer. And I still believe in that to a degree, but there was a point where I would have done so without being really aware of what else was out there.

Now, as I check author/agent/publisher blogs and learn what people in the industry are saying, I realize what a mistake that can be. In YA right now, according to most agents, trying to sell a vampire/werewolf/angel paranormal would be almost impossible. It would take an incredible book to break into that market. Similar with dystopian YA. Two years ago, a dystopian would have been requested by most agents out there, three years ago, vampires were still something publishers were excited about.

As a writer, locked in my writing cave, would I have known that I most likely couldn't sell a vampire book right now. I'm not sure and it is why most agents/publishers say don't write to trends, but be aware of them. I just don't feel as though I've ever been really good at that. Looking at the market and seeing what I shouldn't write. Because like most people who read the Hunger Games, I saw tremendous appeal and potential in a dystopian world, and the potential to create drama in that kind of setting.

So is the answer to be aware of the market? To be aware of what's selling in your genre and ensure that what you are writing is different, but with the elements that still remain true to the essential nature of the genre?

I go back and forth, especially now that I'm submitting, where if you'd asked me a year ago, I would have emphatically stated that the book is the only thing that's important. Now, I'm not entirely sure.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


In keeping with the theme of mindless entertainment is anyone watching this show? It was absolutely not something I thought I would be interested in. Soap opera level drama in the Hamptons (been there/done that) But here is the thing. The actress who plays the lead is really good.

She’s completely convincing when she’s pretending to play the innocent girlfriend. Then completely convincing when the audience sees her plotting her revenge against the people who did her father wrong.

It’s got it all. Emotional conflicts, sticky situations… murder. You can’t really figure out who likes who but there are all kinds of romantic connections. Each week the heroine (who we are sympathetic towards because of how she lost her father) sets up these elaborate cons to take down the people responsible for setting up her father as a patsy. The cons are sometimes silly. The drama is a bit over played. And I’m not really sure how this can go for more than one season.

If anyone remembers the summer murder mystery series Harper’s Island – this feels a lot like that. Over the top – but completely watchable. Kind of like a Sydney Sheldon novel.

It occurred to me how often this can be true in books as well. The plot can be done to death, there can be holes and gaps everywhere, the writing might be flawed but if the voice of the author is good, really good - it can still make the book enjoyable.

I recently read a book by an author and it was just like that. I kept telling myself this… this is bad… this isn’t good… this isn’t right… I must keep reading. Is there a book two? … I must by that as well.

Ever done that with a TV show or a book?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pure Entertainment

Eileen's post yesterday about Bridesmaids had me thinking about fun movies.

This fall, after all the dark and difficult movies at TIFF -- and some that weren't dark or difficult but didn't really inspire me all that much -- I went to a few movies just for the pure fun of it.

One was Our Idiot Brother which I found adorable if forgettable... But I've loved Paul Rudd ever since Clueless so I enjoy just about any movie he stars in, even if he's cast as an irresponsible and naive stoner.

But the film that inspired this post is Real Steel. It seems as if they were showing the trailers for this film for close to a year before it came out... Which often is not a good sign... And I have to admit, it did not seem like the kind of movie I'd like. More like one Molly's son would like. But writer-friend and movie-critic for Hard Core Nerdity,  Adrienne Kress saw the film at a press screening a week before it came out and she told me it was worth seeing so I thought I'd give it a shot.

And you know what? I was completely entertained. There are some completely corny cliche lines like, Son to Dad: "You can do this. I believe in you." (or something. I'm paraphrasing.) And while I might have rolled my eyes once or twice I had to do my eye rolling quickly, because mostly I was just too busy being entertained. :)

And if I have to watch boxing... there'd better be either a great story to offset the violence, or the boxers getting beat up had better be machines and not people. This movie delivers on the second for sure ;) and the first mostly. The story is simple, but I admired that simplicity...We know exactly who the protagonist is, how he has to change, what his external goals are... and we see him change and get what he wants and deserves.

I have a bit of a love-to-m'eh sliding continuum thing for Hugh Jackman (as opposed to Sinead who is fully in love). And this was a movie where I swung to the love side of my continuum. (As I did the night Sinead and I went to see him perform live this summer.) It's like Hugh can either be the most masculine and most feminine man on the planet -- and I heart the masculine Hugh. (Without facial hair and with his shirt on, ;) he comes off too pretty for me) But he was definitely masculine Hugh in this movie. Yowza.

The only thing that would have made it perfect for me was a tiny more emphasis on the romance, but then that would have turned off their key demographic -- twelve-year-old boys -- so I had to be satisfied with a few kisses and some clear chemistry. I'll say one thing about Evangeline Lilly -- she can look at a man and convince me she loves him. And she looked at Hugh like she looked at Sawyer.

I've read reviews that criticize Real Steel for morphing together movies from the past like Rocky and The Champ and Transformers... But I think the filmmakers were smart enough to take what worked from each of those movies: underdog triumphing, heart-breaking father-son relationship, big robots -- and combine them into pure entertainment.

I saw the movie in one of those enhanced theatres, with a bigger screen, better sound and comfy seats (with built in speakers...) and I was thoroughly entertained. And really, that's exactly what I wanted.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I just watched Bridesmaids with my darling and talented niece. I really really liked it. We laughed really really hard, but I also liked the fact that I felt a little verklempt more than a few times in the movie.

I really related to Annie. I know that awful feeling of not being able to afford to do what everyone else can and feeling like the least successful one in the room. I know the feeling of watching a friend leave me behind for greener pastures. As funny as the scene on the airplane was, I think the real reason people like this movie is that everyone has had that sinking feeling in their chest that those moments create.

Oh, we suck it up. We plaster smiles on our faces, but hasn't their been a moment when you wanted to splash the chocolate out of someone's fountain and wrestle their giant love cookie to the ground?

If the movie had been an endless parade of women having diarrhea in the middle of the street while wearing wedding gowns, I don't think it would have been that big of a hit. It was, as my brilliant niece said, how relatable it was. I know Annie. I've been Annie. I knew the other bridesmaids, too. I may also be a little bit of the blonde bridesmaid raising three boys. I am the same kind of drunk as the sweet newlywed bridesmaid. And I've run for a buffet just like Melissa McCarthy did.

So did you see it? Did you like it? Did you relate to Annie? Or anyone else?

Monday, October 24, 2011

What a Literary Agent Should Do For You

A few weekends ago a NYT bestseller came to speak at our local RWA group and she answered all of our questions with utter honesty. One of the questions was about her relationships with different agents. She's had some good ones and some bad ones but she said with the one she has now it was the first time she actually felt agented.

This got me to I feel agented? The answer quickly for me is a resounding yes.
But why do I feel agented? She sells my books - but is that enough? The answer quickly there was no. What are the elements besides selling my books that makes Pam Hopkins such a great agent for me?

1. She's not my friend. We're chatty. Sometimes we gossip, she's VERY friendly and warm and I like her a lot - but everything comes back around to business. I think this is important. Sometimes, after a glass of wine too many - I feel awkward, because I want secretly to be best friends with everyone, but it's business. Good business.

2. She subtly and not so subtly pushes me. I was having babies and writing Superromances and life was pretty good but after every book I turned in she'd send me an email saying - I know you're busy now, but you really need to think about single title. Every time. I never pushed her into thinking about my single title career, she was there all the time with the next steps in mind. An agent should see your worth and hopefully your trajectory. The NYT bestseller at the meeting had a conversation with an agent who had been selling a lot of her books but the writer wanted more and the agent said "not everyone can be a star." Your agent should think you can be a star...

3. She helped my work. Pam is not an editorial person and I didn't want an agent who was going to critique my stuff - I have lots of critique partners - I wanted an agent who would look at my stuff and critique it's salability. Her comments on my proposals were always things like "I don't think this works. This won't sell." She's the one having conversations with editors - she knows what they want and she helped me match my work to that need/want.

4. Respected in the business. Sometimes we don't know how our agent is viewed in the wider world - but considering the respectful and warm business relationship she has with me, I can guess she has the same relationship with editors. If your agent crosses a line in your mind with you or another author - red flags should go up. She hasn't burned any bridges. And as much as writers want to write for editors like Shauna Summers and Jennifer Enderlin, agents want to work with them too and should be building relationships with every editor despite being thorns in thier sides when it comes to contract negotiations.

5. As your career changes so should thier services. This is new to me. Moving into single title I am getting a whole different service from Pam. Wait...maybe that's not true. It's the same service but more of it. She's always been the middle man between me and my editors but now she is more so. In more ways. Tuesday she has a conversation with my editor about what the publisher is doing about promotion...that's never happened before. And I think it should. Promotion is a freaking big deal and a big freaking mystery. And almost no writer I know feels like they've gotten a great answer from thier publisher. Please, tell me if you have...

6. Despite how little money I made or make for Pam, I feel important. Writing catagory I wasn't making Pam much money - like almost none. But I always felt like I could call her. I might be uncomfortable doing it, but that was me, not her. We should feel like our agents - no matter if we're making NO money or ooodles of money - work with us. So many authors I know after a couple of manuscripts don't sell - the agents stop calling. Or returning emails. Wow. Really?

Now, sometimes questions in emails don't get answered. And sometimes it takes a day for an email to get answered. Sometimes I feel all alone in the world - but I'm a writer, I'm bat shit crazy on a good day.

Anyway - those are my thoughts. Do you feel supported by your agent? Why? What do you wish was different?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fringe - come for the crazy mysteries, stay for the family dramatics

So I tried watching Fringe Season 1 when it played on TV and gave up when it seemed a little repetitive and kind of an X-files rip off. But then we got our hands on Season 2 and Entertainment weekly had been singing the show's praises and so I started at Season 2. (spoiler alert - I'll try not to give anything away, but it's going to be hard, so if you're planning on watching, don't read this)

Which is SO much better. They still have the bizarre monster of the week, and the overarching plotline of what are those things from the other universe, but the dynamics between the players is so much better.

And everything is underplayed. but what I've enjoyed the most is the dynamic between Peter and Walter, son and father. The father is a brilliant scientist, who spent 17 years in a mental institution and is utterly incapable of living independently, and in season 1 the character was nothing but weird and in season 2 he has developed this relationship with his cynical, clever son that humanizes the son and keeps the Dad tethered to reality.

And that relationship, in particular, is underplayed by the actors, a clever choice, considering the drama of the weekly mysteries and the strangeness of the overarching plot.

But then the show introduces us to an alternate Walter, one far closer in personality to his son and we see what Peter could have become had he remained on the path he had been on, and we see what Walter would have been had he not had his mental breakdown and it's brilliant and a great choice by the writers.

It's show I would definitely recommend, because they never forget the characters and the writer's choices are always interesting and usually different from what I'm expecting.

And I just started The Night Circus and so far it's pretty amazing. Has anyone read it? Is it this good all the way to the end?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

So I'm doing it...

I’m actually starting to make decisions now about this book I want to self-publish. It really is kind of a crazy thing. Part of me likes it.

Most of me hates it.

I’m a worrier. When I write a book for another publisher all the worries other than - did I do a good job - lands on them. When you’re doing it yourself all the worry is with you.

Forget the obvious issues – are there any typos or inconsistencies that are going to make it seem like a “self published” book? Did the copyeditor catch everything? What about copyright infringement issues. What if I used a brand name I wasn’t supposed to?

I’m also dealing with cover art and title. I have ideas. I know what “I” like – but I’m no expert in this kind of stuff. What sells? Then of course there is the marketing. How much money should I put toward advertising? How many copies do I need to sell in order to cover the costs of the copy editor and advertising combined in order to make a profit?

Because as Maureen said so eloquently yesterday… it’s about the money. I’m not going to get rich – but I need to be compensated for the effort. Yes my love of writing and for whatever reason this story in particular carried me a long way but this a whole lot of work and worry to do this for free.

I’m still a couple of months away – but then I will use this Blog to shamelessly promote it and you can all go and look at the cover and read the title and tell me how you think I did as a publisher.

(And you know… while you’re there… maybe you could buy it... if you want to…)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stating the Obvious

Can we all just stipulate that pretty much everyone in the publishing industry wants to make money? (Stipulate is what the TV lawyers say. ;)

There are some very popular bloggers who've gained disciple-like followings by railing against agents and traditional publishers. Also, some of my writers' loops have been inundated with posts from authors complaining about how publishers or agents or retailers (especially Amazon) are just in it for the money, and how these various entities are behaving in ways that support their own interests.

To which I say, "DUH!"

What I don't get is why some--not all--of these posters seem to think that wanting to make money and caring about books/authors are mutually exclusive.

Sure, not every person in the world loves what they do for a living. Lots of people work in jobs or industries because they landed a job there and need to learn money; and so they plod along, caring little for the products or services their employers provide. I used to be one of those people.

BUT, I would assert that this is less true in the publishing industry than most other industries. Why? Because frankly there just isn't that much money in it. Or at best, the risk/reward balance is skewed such that more people earn a very small living than a great living. You don't go into a business like publishing unless you love books. You don't become an agent unless you love reading and writing and authors and books. I read a discussion recently about how it's almost impossible to become an agent or editor unless you have a trust fund or spouse backing you, because the money's so bad or non-existent for the first many years... (That discussion was about whether this "wealthy white New Yorker" preponderance in the industry biases "taste" and what gets published... but I digress.)

It is also true that the big publishers are now mostly all owned by huge multinationals whose CEOs and shareholders probably don't care about books all that much... but editors and publishers, from everything I've observed, are fighting the good fight for books within these huge corporations.

All that said, I think it's the railing against agents that bothers me the most.

I'm not meaning to suggest, for an instant, that agents' motives are altruistic, but I am sick, sick, sick of hearing authors make anti-agent arguments using, "They just want to earn more money."

Of COURSE they freaking do!!! What kind of fairy tale land are you people living in?

Given all the changes happening in the publishing world right now, I'm very interested in discussions about the pros and cons of some of the recent developments... agents being publishers, retailers being publishers, and everyone trying to figure out what's fair in terms of splitting the proceeds from selling a book in the digital age, and whether agents should earn their normal commission if authors self-publish a book the agent once sold (many years ago) or tried and failed to sell, and whether a publisher can consider a book "in print" paying an author a tiny royalty on a book they aren't promoting, but have up for sale on their website...

All important topics. All interesting. Lots of turmoil and new industry "norms" will undoubtedly be worked out over the next several years, and yes, we authors have to stand up for ourselves and our interests as this all works itself out...

But in these discussions, can't we all just stipulate that everyone involved is out to protect his or her interests and turf? That everyone wants to maximize their potential for earning a living? Including authors? Isn't that obvious?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Romance Writer Moments

I've had two in the past couple of weeks. The first happened in the grocery store. It was around 3 o'clock and I hadn't had lunch and I was starving. I figured it would be better to buy a little something healthy to eat and munch while I shopped rather devour a box of cookies in the car on the way home which was where I was headed.

So I'm eating my turkey wrap and steering the cart through the store with my elbows. There's mayonnaise dripping down my wrist that I'm considering licking off (did I mention that I was STARVING?) and this woman comes up to me in the meat department and says, "excuse me, are you Eileen Rendahl?" I said yes. And she starts clapping her hands and sort of squealing because she recognized me from the photo in the back of the book and calls her daughter over to meet me.

And I have mayonnaise dripping down my wrist and lettuce between my teeth. Very unglamorous. Not how I pictured that moment at all. I did, however, want to hug the woman, but refrained because I didn't want to pay her drycleaning bill.

The second one happened at our neighborhood block party. Andy and I were chatting with a new neighbor who lives sort of catty-corner from us when Felix who is our neighborhood Gladys Kravitz among other things came up. Felix has a VERY loud voice and a VERY thick Polish accent and is VERY nosy, but I don't care because he calls me Princess. I may forgive almost anything -- including, I suspect, some casual inspection of my recycling from time to time -- if you will just call me Princess on a regular basis.

Anyway, Felix comes up to us and says (really loudly), "You know, she write book! You can read! They have at bookstore! On shelf!"

New neighbor asks what I write and I tell him and he says, "Ha ha ha, I bet they all have Fabio on the cover."

New neighbor is now dead to me.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I found that so dismissive and denigrating. I wanted to punch him.

How do people react to you when you tell them what you do? Do you ever get recognized?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Credible Suprise and how much is too much?

So, I'm back at it. Rusty and antsy and unable to apply butt to chair for longer than an hour and half at a time. Maureen had to tie me to my seat to get to 46,000 words on Friday. But the time off has done all it should, the glaring problems are all right there, the big muddy mess I was in the middle of isn't really muddy at all - I was just going the wrong direction. So, fix fix fix.

But I had this thread I was pulling out and playing with in this Superromance I'm in the middle of. In my subplot I have a romance/friendship between an older couple. He has always loved her and is ashamed of it because she was his best friend's wife, he drank too much, he ignored things he should have stopped and basically was not a great man. He's working on that. However, in order for the romance to work and to get one of those gasp moments of credible suprise and to ramp up drama drama drama, I had her keeping a secret about her husband who died five years ago. She has no proof, they certainly didn't talk about it, but she suspects he might have been gay.

So, my question is this. How much is too much? Really. I think it would get a big gasp, and it's an interesting thing for her to have to deal with, having kept this secret and her anger and frustration with a marriage that wasn't at all what she'd wanted.

But is it more interesting to watch a recovering alcoholic and a devout catholic sort through thier stuff and feel honest things for each and just basically talk it out?

I think catagory romance lives for moments of credible suprise - in constant battles to stop predictability editors love these little suprises. I'm torn right down the middle. Securely on the fense, so I'm going to let you guys decide and I'm going to take a nap...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Everyone's a critic

Me included. When the drunk writers get together, we talk about books we've read, what we liked about them and what we didn't. We are critical, but I like to think we mostly focus on what we loved, rather than what didn't work. I read several review sites on a regular basis and most of the time the reviews are well thought out and lacking in personal bias.

And as writers, I think we all understand, that the decision to publish is partly putting your work into the world and getting that feedback, good and bad, and hopefully finding a way to mine the useful from the bad. I do honestly think it's part of the process of writing to publish.

But then sometimes I want to whine, why does no one understand how hard it is? I read a review today that basically said, book was OK, but not great. And my first thought was how does a writer absorb that? And I know it's not a reviewers job to tell us how to fix our books, but seriously, where do you go with that?

Writing is hard work, coupled with a ridiculous self-awareness of the words we put on the page, and throw in a little magic for good measure. It takes equal measure working everyday and being absorbed into the work, and finding other outlets to inspire creativity. As a critic I can easily see the great when I'm reading, but as a writer what takes the good to great feels magical.

And that's my whine for today. Great is really freakin' difficult and so for today, I'm celebrating the good books, because those authors are one little measure of magic away from great, and who knows, maybe it will happen in the next book.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Would you rather...

I was struggling for a topic today and we played this game at lunch yesterday so I thought I would bring it to the people.

The trick is you have to pick one or the other for the REST OF YOUR LIFE... So choose carefully.

Would you rather...

Be able to eat chocolate or cheese... for the rest of your life!

Ice cream or Cake - (this includes cupcakes as determined by the lunch table ruling)

Hot dogs or Hamburgers

Potatoes (any form) or Pasta

And since this is a writing blog...

Your favorite genre or all other books!

Classic novels or current bestsellers

Would you rather...

Write or read... (I'm still thinking about my answer to this one!)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Page Turner -- Compliment or Insult?

Before I started writing, I was a bit of a literary snob. Well, in truth, I think I was a wanna-be literary snob. (Maybe that's worse: a literary snob poser.)

While I was still in school (high school and university) I read mostly popular fiction for recreation--as opposed to the books I was required to read for class--many of which I enjoyed, too.

I read voraciously in high school but don't remember too many titles/authors, but I do remember Sidney Sheldon and Judith Krantz and Jackie Collins and Jaqueline Susanne... I think I read an article in which someone dubbed that genre/style of book from the 70s/80s as "glitz or glamor fiction". Precursors to romance, perhaps? Maybe. I think if there had been such a thing as single title romance when I was in high school, that's what I would have been reading, or would have been reading, too. I also remember reading multiple books by James Michener and Andrew Greeley...

So, while I was in school, my recreational reading tastes definitely skewed "popular" or "commercial" versus "literary". Then after I graduated, I read mostly what I considered to be more high-brow fiction than I'd read in my teens. This started when, on a beach vacation right after graduating, I was bored. Used to reading all day while I was studying I didn't know what to do with myself on a beach--one can only consume so many pina coladas, even at age 23--and I found Robertson Davies' Fifth Business in a used bookstore at the resort. I recognized the title, having seen it on shelves in my high school, and thought I'd give it a try. I was hooked and read through everything he ever wrote. Then I set out to read "more books like that" -- whatever "that" meant. I read a bunch of classics that I hadn't read (or barely read) at school... And also bought and read a lot of new at the time fiction...

But although I considered my reading tastes at the time to skew in the literary direction, looking back to the decade or so after school, I mostly bought and read books that got table placement in big chain bookstores -- so probably defacto the more commercial books in the literary genre.

As a Canadian living in the US at the time, I also made a point to read a lot of Canlit, and I suppose I also read books that other people were talking about -- award winners, great reviews in big magazines etc. And I have to say that the vast majority of those books were exceedingly readable. Some favorite authors from that period of my life include Anne Tyler, Robertson Davies, John Irving, Jane Urquart, Carol Shields, Tom Robbins, Margaret Atwood, Anne Rice... I sure I'm missing a lot; I'm doing this off the top of my head.

But because all these authors' books were incredibly readable and "page turners" for me, I get annoyed at some genre fiction writers/readers when they talk about literary fiction as if it's all boring, impenetrable and lacking in story. That was not my experience. I do agree that some literary writers could benefit from learning to plot... but not all literary books lack story. And some that lack story more than make up for it with voice and with tension/conflict. (Like Michael Chabon's first novel, Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Molly and I were talking about it on Sunday night...)

And so it never occurred to me that "page turner" might be ever levied as an insult. Even most of these so-called literary novels (at least the ones I finished--grin) kept me turning pages. I mean, isn't turning the pages what ANY author wants readers to do? Yes, some books are faster reads than others, but all great books, IMHO, are page turners by default. Even if each page takes slightly longer to read in some books... each page should still make you want to turn immediately to the next one.

Call me a slow learner, but only recently have I started to realize that some people consider the term page turner to be an insult (in the same ilk as "trash" or "bodice ripper" or "pulp".) It implies that if a book reads quickly it must also be bad or poorly written or not worthy of any kind of merit.

I do *not* like it when someone refers to my work as trash or fluff or pulp or formulaic... To me, words like that diminish all the hard work I put into writing a novel. But call it a beach read or a page turner or an airplane read and I'll kiss you. :) To me those terms reflect the hard work I put in, rather than negate it.

So why would anyone consider them insults? Color me confused.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jonathan Franzen

I went to hear Jonathan Franzen speak on Saturday night. I went with some buddies from the best ever bookclub (word to the BDBC!!!). Not everyone wanted to go because several people still hate The Corrections with a passion. I hadn't read that one, but had really liked a lot of things about Freedom. Not the super bad sex scene(s). Not the bazillion pages about mountain top removal. I loved the characters, particularly Patti. I wanted to jump into the book and be her friend when she needed one.

Franzen was way more charming than I expected and significantly more handsome, too. He had this fantastic grin. He'd get lost in something or digress down some little rabbit hole, realize it and then look up and flash this fantastic smile and I found myself forgiving that whole ugly Oprah thing.

I so wish I had brought a notebook with me, though. He'd say things and I really felt like I needed to really look at them and decide what I thought about them, but then he was already talking about something else and I didn't have time. Of course, it appears I might have a chance since I saw a deal in Pub Lunch today for a book of essays from him one of which has the same title as the talk he gave.

Anyway he had this list of things he considered his enemies when writing a book and I'm pretty sure he did at least two of the things on the list in Freedom and I thought, well, well, well, people in glass houses shouldn't introduce pots to kettles. Just as I was about to start to feel somewhat smug, though, I started to wonder how many things I hate in other people's books I might do in my own and opted to cancel the self-righteousness for the moment.

One thing I couldn't quite stop myself from laughing out loud about, though, was when he was talking about writing The Corrections. At one point, he said he'd been working on one character for about a year and at the end of the year had 30 pages written. THIRTY PAGES!!!!!!! Jumpin' Jehosophat! That's not even a page a week. Can you imagine an active romance writer producing 30 pages in a year! Thumb your nose at our mechanistic plotting (yes, he said that, but not just about romance writers. He said it about all genre fiction writers.), at least we get the words on the page.

Has there been an author you've heard speak that defied your expectations? Or met them? Who?

Monday, October 10, 2011

I'm HOME!!!!

After six weeks in a camper, six thousand miles up and down and back and forth across New Zealand, five days in Fiji, a lost book, and what had to be one of the worst ten hour flights of all time -- we are home.

It took us about a year to plan this trip, and it seemed to go by so fast every day was quite literally full of adventure and fun and melt downs and pinot noir and rain and gorgeous vistas, hikes and runs and octopus and amazing food and and now, home since tuesday, it feels like it happened a year ago. Maybe to another person. That's the nature of vacations, I guess, they don't linger.

I also love how different this vacation was from what I expected. I actually expected to WORK. Like I was going to sit in a camper and write a few thousand words. Hilarious. I also thought I was going to do a lot of reading. That was pretty much a no, too. Too tired to read, perhaps a bit too drunk. I made up for that in Fiji - The Autumn of Jacob De Zoet - AMAZING BOOK!

So, what I'm saying is that I didn't read and I didn't write for six weeks. This vacation was a like a vacation from who I usually am. I listened to sports radio - with interest. I watched a lot of Rugby. This is not me. After the initial excitement of the New Zealand RWA conference - wonderful conference. Wonderful group of woman, so warm and welcoming - there wasn't even any writing talk. Or movie talk. Or book talk.

But now, I am looking at Thursday (my first day back at the office with Maureen) with serious trepidation. I'm going to be rusty. it's going to be ugly. But I am so glad to be home, so glad to get back to work. I know it's going to be ugly and I can't wait.

Friday, October 07, 2011

My ideal vacation

Ever since I've read Stephanie's post, I've been fantasizing about a vacation of my own. And as it's all I've been able to think about, it's what I'm going to blog about.

So here it is, my ideal vacation.

1) Somewhere hot, a gorgeous hotel, a pool and a lounge chair for during the day.

2) the drunk writers, because we have books to plot and by the pool is the ideal location for plotting new books.

3) time to write, quiet computer time to actually put into words what we've been working on during plot group.

4) books. The perfect mix, two great YA reads, a historical romance, a great contemp and perhaps a mainstream fiction.

5) the first season of Friday Night Lights, because I've wanted to re-watch it for a year now.

6) drinks... goes without saying, I guess.

7) A great movie in there. I would love to see Moneyball, or 50/50.

8) Sleep... lots and lots of sleep

9) more drinks.

there you go, my perfect vacation in a nutshell. Anyone else want to escape, maybe to Vegas?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Best Vacation Ever!

I have been on vacation now for what will be four days today. I didn’t go anywhere. I didn’t have to catch a flight. I didn’t have to pack. I didn’t have to set up care for the kitties.

Instead, I planned to have a back room carpeted. I needed to add an electrical socket to a wall. I wanted to organize my shoes. I wanted to get rid of all my old T-shirts which no longer fit and have stains on them. And of course I found time for a pedicure.

I also wanted to write. I had a new book to start and this was the perfect week to just sit down and start cranking out pages. So far forty pages in four days. Right on track.

Every time I think I couldn’t do this full time I have one of these amazingly productive and relaxing weeks and wonder. Now my career being what it is, I have no choice but to work and write. But I used to think even if someday I hit it big I would still want to work in my office.

As a single person with no kids I always imagined the solitary lifestyle would get to me. But after four days, six if you count the weekend, with only the workers who’ve come to the house to chat with and my cats naturally, I am in bliss.

Maybe I’m part hermit. All I know that having the day to write and think about writing and organize things – which I compulsively love to do – it’s been heaven.

Now if the Phillies could win the World Series… well that’s just icing on the top.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Did you like it?

While I was at TIFF this year, I got asked this question a lot by people in lines (one tends to spend as much time in lines for movies as in actual movies at the festival) and I realized it's not an easy question to answer about some books and movies. For me, movies (perhaps more than books) can be really great, and I can even say that I loved them, but not really be able to say that I liked them...

There are certainly lots of movies I've been riveted by and/or felt like I really got something out of, but that I can't say I "liked". Some stories are simply too difficult to like depending on the subject matter or style or whatever.

Here are some examples of movies I've seen in the past year or two that I would recommend to others, or that really affected me in some way, but that I can't possibly apply the "like" word to:

Shame (talked about that one here)

Meek's Crossing (a very bleak and quiet film I saw at the 2010 festival, staring Michelle Williams about a group of pioneers in a wagon train totally lost in the desert on the way to California and running out of food and water fast)

Rabbit Hole (a really great film with Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckart playing parents mourning the loss of their four year old son)

Thirteen (not a film I saw at the festival, but one that will scare the crap out of any parent of a young girl, or basically anyone who knows or ever was a young girl.)

Hard Candy (just jumped to mind. First time I ever saw Ellen Page and she is no Juno in this movie...)

Beautiful Boy (a movie Molly and I saw together at the 2010 TIFF -- poor Molly, I picked her some tough films -- that was about an almost divorced couple coping with their son having done something horrific. Similar plot to this year's TIFF film We Need to Talk About Kevin, which I didn't see, but I'm sure I will when it comes out.)

Elles (A French film I saw this year, starring Juliette Binoche, about a journalist interviewing young student prostitutes for Elle magazine and then having a sexual awakening of sorts of her own)

Drive (The Ryan Gosling film about a stunt car driver who drives getaway cars for crimes on the side and gets caught up in some bad (and very violent) business because of a (married) girl. A lot to "like" about this film--Ryan Gosling for one--but ultimately too violent and bleak to apply the term "like" to, I think. But I was enthralled and would acutally see this one again.)

Irreversable (This one's not so recent, from 2002, but it immediately sprang to mind as I was thinking about "difficult" films I'm glad I saw but couldn't say I "liked".)

I'm sure I'll think of more movies from this year's TIFF tomorrow. Or moments after I press Publish on this post.

Interestingly, I can't think of any books to add to the list right now. Perhaps because I typically don't finish books I'm not "liking". Oh, maybe I could put Lolita on the list. Admired certain things about that book, but most definitely did not like it. Oh, and Sons and Lovers (I'm going back to high school English class now. Detested that book -- I'm convinced that D.H. Lawrence hated women), but kind of loved it, too.)

How about you? Any books or movies you kind of loved but really can't like?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


I turned it in on Friday. I am done. Yep. The book that has had me tearing my hair out, gnashing my teeth and chewing my tongue in my sleep is done. I feel like an enormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I've already cleaned my closet, signed my child up for SAT subject tests and gone for 40 mile bike ride. Tomorrow I'm paying bills and straightening up the laundry room. Wednesday it's sweeping the patio and coffee with friends.

This will be my tenth novel, which I realize is pretty small potatoes in the romance industry, but feels like a big deal to me. I'm trying to come up with a way to reward myself. One of my friends has a necklace with ISBN number of her novel engraved on it. Another has a necklace made of beads that were formed from her book cover (don't know quite how that works, but it seemed interesting). I can't figure out how to do something with 10 ISBns, though and I don't think I have cover flats from all the books so I'd have to strip some to make beads from each one and that feels painful.

Any suggestions?


Sinead, I'm on 218 (out of 844). I'm still a little confused about what's happening and who's in charge and who's actually a good guy and who's actually a bad guy, but I can not put it down. I'm carrying my Nook around with me at all times just in case there's a minute of down time when I might be reading. I'm afraid my sudoku skills are going straight down the toilet.
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