Cure for depression?
A thought struck me yesterday: I'm too busy to be depressed.
Not exactly the stuff of which great insights are made but it struck me like a bolt of lightning--or a bolt of sunlight.
See, I suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder). Every summer, I watch the changing of the light with trepidation. I crank up the antidepressants in August so that I don't suddenly find myself in October barely able to crawl out of bed and screaming at my nearest and dearest when I do.
This year, however, I have revisions on one book due in a couple of weeks, the full of another due in mid-December and a job which is just part-time enough for me to forgo benefits (it's the American way!) but full-time enough to occupy most of the day. Oh, and my brother is coming from England to visit in November and my daughter graduates from college in December.... But I'm actually taking less medication than I was a year months ago. Some of it is because I'm a pharmaceutical cheap date and the smaller dose helps me keep my edge, both in writing and in snarky blogging etc.
There's also something that may have inadvertently helped the SAD, which I believe, in layperson's terms, is the brain not getting enough light and throwing the body's chemistry out of whack. People who suffer from it generally invest in light tables; I used to have a lamp that turned on at 4 a.m. every morning to fool my body into thinking it was still summer. My commute consists of taking the Washington DC area Metro (subway) and then waiting outside the station for a shuttle bus to take me the mile or so to work (yeah, I know, if I got up earlier I could walk it which would be even better). And while I wait, I face due east--the sort of squint-at-the-sun due east that hits me right in the eyes. And on the way home I walk back, due west, toward the setting sun. So I'm actually getting quite a lot of sunlight, and have been for over a year.
I'm not sure whether it's being busy or the fortuitous juxtaposition of the sun and public transport, or maybe I'm in a better place than I was a year ago, but I'm not complaining.
Fountain of Youth?
By Maureen Hardegree
In the past year or so, the beauty industry has noticed that we Baby Boomer women have aged, and since we have deep pocket books, they have come out with new products to tempt us and new spokesmodels to show us the way to ageless beauty, women like Susan Sarandon and Christie Brinkley whom we can all agree are maturing beautifully. We even warrant our own special line of teeth bleaching products to rid ourselves of the stains that make us look older. I fully admit to owning a box of those strips. I use them; they work. Try as I might to ignore the message as I cart my way through Wal-Mart to purchase essentials like Lactaid and my daughter's Smucker’s sandwiches, I can’t resist the cosmetics aisle.
Cover Girl’s Advanced Radiance, Maybelline’s Age Rewind, Revlon’s Age Defying and Vital Radiance lines promise to rejuvenate and renew my skin, rewind and defy time with make-up, some of which, by the way, costs twice as much as similar foundation for the twenty-something set (Thank you very much). Must be all those “special” moisturizers and peptide complexes that will firm our facial skin. The cynic in me suspects the price has more to do with the fact that we Boomers can and will pay higher prices for anything that promises to bring back a dewy glow to our skin.
Some women go beyond make-up and hair dye and try to turn back time with plastic surgery, botox and collagen injections. Oh, I’ve thought about it. I’m particularly intrigued by this pulley system that lifts the face. Some women are also getting their hands and feet done to remove signs of aging. In a panic, I pinch the skin on my hands. It’s still elastic, and the veins aren’t prominent. I look at my sandled feet. Not beautiful, but I can live with them. In general, I don’t rate some procedures much higher on the scale than the anti-aging make-up. I’ve seen quite a few women walking around with unnaturally high eyebrows and botoxed foreheads that don’t crease or show expression, transforming their faces into masks, which disturbs me, perhaps more than breast enhancements gone bad. You know what I mean, the implants that protrude from just below a woman’s neck and are so big they look like they are going to rupture the skin.
Perhaps even more upsetting than overly enhanced breasts, if something can be, is labiaplasty. Yes, private part surgery. I’m not talking about the women who need reconstruction after having a ten pound baby tear their perineum all the way to their rectum; I’m talking about women who are having the surgery for cosmetic purposes only. Can THAT really make you look younger? Although I admit to comparing my chest to other women’s chests and bemoaning what gravity has done to my once perky breasts, I can honestly say I never contemplated how my private parts look compared to other women’s private parts. Nor have I ever bemoaned the shape of my labia or contemplated how time has taken its toll on that part of my body. Come to think of it, I have never heard another middle-aged woman say, “if only my labia were bigger, smaller, lighter, darker, perkier or rose-scented, Bill wouldn’t have left me for Angela.” Angsting over your labia gives the expression “contemplating your navel” some serious competition. Okay, that form of plastic surgery is definitely not on my consideration list.
So how can I look and feel younger without resorting to plastic surgery? Notice I’m not giving up on the make-up or the teeth bleaching strips. The secret is not what I want to hear. There is no magic pill to swallow or spring in the middle of Florida to sip. It’s diet and exercise, dadblame it! I happened to catch Oprah the other day and discovered that uniformed food choices not only make us fat, but they also age us. Yes, a steady diet of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, corn syrup, sugar, and enriched flour makes our bodies older. And if you don’t think these things are part of your diet, take a gander at the ingredients listed on the foods in your refrigerator or pantry. Besides removing the quad squad of artery-aging foods and drinking more water, Oprah’s doctor friends also suggest at least a half an hour of exercise a day. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Okay, so many of us have bought our anti-aging creams and make-ups guaranteed to turn back time. We’ve cleaned out our kitchens and are walking every day. Some of us have had our lips plumped with a little collagen and may be contemplating a breast lift—or at least a good expensive bra that makes us look like we’ve had the surgery. Isn’t there something more we can do?
And then it hits me. Perhaps the complete answer isn’t only in how we choose to spend the money in our wallets or in what we eat and whether we exercise. Perhaps the true fountain of youth is only a matter of manipulating numbers.
I’m not talking about the way many of us have manipulated our age in the past. I’m saying LIE that you’re TEN YEARS OLDER.
Ponder the possibilities. A lady in her early forties with an extra fifteen pounds on her frame and a dependence on anti-aging cream gains little from telling people she’s 35. Half of them may not believe her. If, however, she were to tell people she was ten years older, they would go out of their way to compliment her on how youthful she appeared.
If I claimed I was ten years older, not only would I fend off compliments, I’d be ten years older than my husband, which would make him my boy toy! I’d be robbing the cradle! We’d be hip and trendy, like Demi and Ashton, and Cameron and Justin.
Don’t take getting older “lying” down, ladies. Lie up.
The Dangers of Writerdom
by Ila Campbell
I can't even remember what I had planned to write about in this month's blog, because it all disappeared in the last few days when my computer decided to try and kill me.
That's right, it has either taken out a contract on me or has been hired to do so, because in the last few weeks it has determinedly been out to get me.
Now, I've done everything right, mind you. I've got the screen far enough away from my eyes. I've been doing yoga for a year to keep my neck and shoulder muscles from cramping from all my time at my desk. I have my mouse on a low pad to assist blood flow and reduce carpal tunnel. I had five, count 'em, FIVE session with a Rolfer this summer to straighten out my muscle and fascia problems (If you don't know about Rolfing, check out http://www.rolf.org/
-- trust me, is it ever worth it!!!!).
And yet, despite all these precautions, I've been attacked. Last Sunday I had to spend about 8 straight hours at the computer editing documents for my husband's company, for a total of 120 single-spaced pages. Okay, they weren't straight hours. I took 15 minute breaks occassionally to cover my eyes with a cold pack because they were crossing with greater and greater regularity. By the time I'd finished, my eyelids were covered with red and purple markings, and by morning were swollen. The muscles in my neck and shoulders got so tight, I pinched a nerve in my neck the next day by reaching for a door handle. The pinched nerve burst a few capillaries in one earlobe so it looks like it's been gnawed on (without the fun part of getting it), and I am fighting tension migraines while trying to grade 75 student essays by tomorrow.
And to top it all off, I had a blog due today!
But I gave my computer notice. I'm not quitting writing, no matter how hard it tries to stop me. In fact, if it doesn't ease up, I'm going to start writing digital serial killers and make it my first victim.
Die, IBM spawn, die.
Now watch, this is going to get deleted before I can...
Finding My Path in the Publishing World
by Delle Jacobs
This has been my year for re-evaluation and changing direction, finding new paths. I don't like the term "Re-Inventing Yourself" that some authors use, since it seems to imply an artificiality to begin with. But it does express my process.
In particular, I have been looking for new paths in my writing. Several years back, I saw a niche forming in the market and moved away from the hot and sensual Medieval historicals to write the Regency historical, and then traditional Regencies. But then, just as I was making my big splash, the trad Regency market came crashing to earth.
Looking at what I write, at what I feel I can write, or am willing to write, I've wondered, can I find my place in the commercial market? Can I adapt? I know I'm not all that young, but I'm no Plesiosaurus.
Or am I? My dilemma is, do I change myself and my writing to find my niche in the changing market? Or do I stay with what I have always loved to write and limit myself to small press and e-books? Sure, I do exceptionally well there, but is that all I want?
The market today calls for hot, hot, hot, contemporary, and very paranormal. Historicals are showing some come-back, but in a different form than what was being bought a few years ago. The traditional historical, one that is purely a historical romance and little else, is looking sadly wan.
So where does this put historicals?
Everything has to have its own gimmick now. High Concept, they call it. To me, it's like swiping a couple of concepts from other authors or movies and splicing them together. But it's not theft, even though sometimes it feels like it. Humor me for a moment, and allow me to call it Archetypal Stories with a Twist instead, because it makes more sense to me that way. I have trouble seeing what's "High" about something so simplistic that it has to be expressed in terms of other people's works. But there it is.
It's still the era of the "Very Very" story, as Jennifer Enderlin calls it. To sell, she says, a story needs to be "very very" something. Very sexy, very scary, or very something else. Ufortunately, historicals are set in a known and limited world, the past, and the past is conservative. Behavior is often severely limited by historical constraints. And that isn't very "very very" for today's market.
Imagine it. Romance Reader picks book off shelf. Clench cover, flowing gown hitched up her thigh in a way no woman would do, male chest bared in an historically inauthentic way. RR reads back cover blurb. She sighs. She's read this plot before. Hundreds of times. Where's the big threat in losing virginity? So her wicked uncle forces her to marry. Why didn't she just say no? Book goes back to the shelf, and RR searches for something with a blazing scarlet cover, with a dark and brooding male with extra long teeth.
Okay, I tried vampires. I guess I just can't find blood-suckers sexy. I even have trouble seeing them as dangerous when they're limited in so many ways. (Think about it-- There's hundreds of things they can't do, and not much they can. They can't even go out in the daytime. )
But I do love writing paranormal, and have put paranormal elements in most of my books. The thing is, I just don't want to give up the historical aspect. Modern life is fine for living, but I don't want it in my fantasies.
So after a full year of turning myself and my writing inside out, upside down and sideways, I think I'm finally finding my new niche. I've left the rigid Regency world behind and returned to my roots in the mysterious and dangerous Medieval times. Going heavily into the paranormal gives me the chance to write characters who don't live by the rules, who make their own rules in a world that is both enchanting and darkly dangerous.
I've borrowed heavily from British mythology to create characters who don't fit in either their human world or their Otherworld, and forced them to deal with both. I've thrown them into stories fraught with danger, reminiscent of Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, yet authentic to the dangerous world of the Eleventh Century and the enigmatic King William II, called Rufus.
My High Concept? "Faerie: Not your ordinary Tinker Bell." Lord of the Rings tangles with history-- Joan of Arc style, maybe. This faerie is no Peter Pan pet. No wings, no pert poses or magic wand. She is as dangerous as she is kind.
Her human hero, called The Peregrine, who is unaware of her faerie heritage, calls her Little Lioness because of her name, Leonie. Thus in his own words, he betrays his deeply held belief that she is dangerous to him and the vows of vengeance he has made.
"You should know, Peregrine, cats are not nice to birds." And even as she says it, she knows the hunting Peregrine Falcon also has claws, and his hatred of magic and all who practice it could bring her to the stake and a fiery death.
Okay, new path found. I have my own brand of Paranormal Historical. Will the fickle market allow it to be bought? I don't know. But truthfully, at the moment, I don't give a d@^^n about the market. This is my story, written for myself alone, and I'm loving it.
The Fairness In Writing
I remember when I was a Brownie Girl Scout we were discussing the use of the word "man" in our everyday language...like mankind, manhole, etc. Our leaders challenged us to come up with ways to express ourselves that weren't gender specific (Looking back, I guess I was in a pretty progressive troop at the time). I raised my hand and suggested instead of coming up with ways to take the word man out, we should just say womankind (huwoman??) until we used the word man and the word woman for the same amount of time. It seemed only fair.
I'm not sure if that showed I was a budding feminist, or as I probably preferred at 8 - womanist...whatever, but it did show that I had a strong sense of fairness.
I think that's one of the great things about being a writer. I ADORE poetic justice. In my books, and in most romance novels I read, the bad guy get what's coming to them. The bitchy, not playing for the team, women fail miserably. Darcy falls in love with Elizabeth because she's smart.
I was struck by the topic of fairness after last Saturday's football game. For those who know me well (heck, not even well) I am a HUGE fan of football, particularly of my Oklahoma Sooners. For those of you who are not familiar with what happened on Saturday's game, I'll let the picture speak for itself:
Yes, ref - WE had the ball. It's not in the pile.
And yet, the refs awarded the ball to someone else (who then went on to score and we lost). Normally, this would be something I would rail against on my own personal blog
. I haven't because I don't want to come off as a whiny, sour grapes Sooner fan. I read where the Sooner coach, Bob Stoops, talked to the team about how sure, this wasn't fair, but that in life it's not always fair. Being a former teacher, and yes, this is college, I can appreciate this teachable moment.
Maybe that's why I love to read romance. Like I said...it's usually fair.
But the writing of it always isn't. Authors spend hours and hours writing, learning the craft, editing. They enter contests and get bad (Reece) judges. Rejections. You name any kind of bad luck scenario, we can probably come up with an author who had this happen to her. Writing isn't fair. It can be frustrating and even heartbreaking.
But we can create our own poetic justice. Whenever I received a rejection, it spurred me on to write something even better. Even more determined to never give up.
Whatever your dream, don't let unfairness take it away from you.
Happy Grey's Day!
Tonight is the season premier of Grey’s Anatomy. I don’t think I’ll be thinking about anything else all day.
If you’re not a Grey’s fan, you may not understand the appeal, the navel-gazing heroine, the sexy doctors more interested in love than medicine. But what makes Grey’s special is the character interactions.
Most of the characters are involved in some kind of love triangle. The most famous is the McDreamy/Meredith/McVet triangle. The cliffhanger at the end was, who would Meredith choose, McDreamy, the attending physician who she fell hard for, who loves her despite her being scary and damaged, who is married, or McVet, who is perfect and earthy, but Not McDreamy, in her eyes. Both men worthy, maybe more worthy than Meredith deserves, though McDreamy has been a bit of an ass lately. I think she’ll pick McDreamy. I think they deserve each other.
Another triangle is McDreamy (Derek Shepard)/Addison Shepard/Mark Sloan. Derek and Mark were best friends. Can’t imagine those two men walking into a room – dear God, some fine specimens.
Only Addison got tired of being second place to Derek’s job and she had an affair with Mark. Derek walked in on them, thus sending him across the country, and into Meredith’s arms in the first place. But Addison wanted her husband back and followed him, breaking up Meredith and him at the end of the first season. Only Mark had fallen in love with her and followed her, as well (for one measly episode). He wanted her to come home with him. She wanted to work out her marriage.
She is an idiot if she thinks she deserves the crap Derek gives her. She deserves Mark, who loves her.
Then, my favorite, Alex/Denny/Izzy.
Alex is an ass, but the only person who sees the humanity in him is Izzy. He likes her, so he’s even more of an ass, to the point of sleeping with someone else to push her away. But she forgives him eventually and they become, um, you know, buddies. Until Denny Duquette, heart patient, checks into Seattle Grace.
Izzy is drawn to his charm, his sly humor, and Alex is jealous. Alex tells Denny he and Izzy are an item, Izzy gets mad and breaks it off with Alex. And oh, God, Denny loved her. The way he looked at her with those dark eyes, and told her those wonderful things – who can blame her for cutting his LVAD wire to save his life? But when he died, Alex was there to help her pick up the pieces (I hope that continues tonight, though I’m MOSTLY wondering how they’re going to explain the haircut he got, since tonight’s episode takes place where last season ends.
Then there’s the Preston/Cristina/surgery triangle and the past triangle of the Chief/Adele/Ellis Grey (Meredith’s mom) triangle that is mirrored a lot in the relationship with Derek/Meredith and Addison.
And if I had more time, I’d go into the whole George/Callie/Izzy thing, which isn’t a romance, but is pulling George in two anyway.
And then there’s Bailey, who comes across as such a hardass, but was by Cristina’s side when she miscarried.
SO what are you waiting for?? You gotta watch!
Speak Up by Diane Perkins
I’m a great advocate of speaking up, mostly because it sometimes works. (See my comment to Merrillee's blog of Sept 14.) Some of you are probably thinking, “Well, DUH!!!” but for a shy person like me, it is a revelation that one can actually speak one’s mind and make a difference.
I’ve fought my shyness all my life, always having to force myself to speak up. I did learn to raise my hand in school, to speak my mind at work. It is ironic that my first career was basically talking--I was a mental health social worker, making my money by talking.
I wanted to become a published romance author so much, I learned to speak up in RWA chapter meetings, to talk to editors and agents, to introduce myself to people I don’t know (Shudder). If you are shy, you know what I mean.
If you met me, you would have no idea about this shyness--unless it was at a party where I didn’t know anyone at all. I still can’t handle that situation with any level of comfort.
Let me tell you, though, of my hugest revelation to the advantages of speaking up.
You know the music they play in restaurants? The kind that is so loud you can’t hear the person across the table from you? I discovered one day that if you ASK, the music will be turned down.
(the picture above is an engraving of the Dining Room at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England.)
The first time I dared to ask a waitress, “Do you think the music could be turned down just a bit?” the music was actually turned down. I could have a pleasant conversation with my meal. This was exciting indeed. I decided to try it again the next time there was loud music in a restaurant. The music was turned down again! I tell you, it has been years now and almost always when I ask, the music is turned down!
I am certain this amazing skill of mine--speaking up--has served more important purposes. I know I used to speak up for my clients all the time, but every time I ask for the music to be turned down in a restaurant and they do it, I feel tickled!
Here I am with my friends Patty and Julie, Dining last year at the Royal Opera House in London. That evening the music was perfect!
I'd love to hear your successful (or unsuccessful) “Speaking Up” stories.
Furniture Deals Online -- Kiki Clark
Fall makes me feel all nesty, so it’s not surprising I spent yesterday shopping for furniture on the Internet. To those who don’t shop on the Net, I say, “Wha...?” I do 80% of my shopping online, buying pretty much everything but food and clothes. Accessories and supplements, yes. Food and clothes, no – although if one of my health-food stores doesn’t bring back the puffed-millet cereal, that may change. Hey, you don’t think they pack bags of puffed millet in any kind of packing material, do you? Because that would be really redundant.
The room that needs furnishing is the sunroom, which used to be called “the rabbit’s room.” The rabbit is no more, but the room remains. Temperature-wise, it's a tricky space. In the summer, we keep the blinds down all the time, because it gets hot in there (the rabbit could leave through a pet door). In the winter it’s a little better, because the cherry trees outside lose their leaves and the sun becomes a benefit instead of a detriment, but the leaky wood windows ensure that the room is never toasty in the cold months. So I pictured how I would be most likely to enjoy the room -- snuggled in some kind of throw, a cup of hot tea in my hand, watching the juncos scratch through the snow in search of…whatever it is they eat. Maybe they eat snow.
Anyway, this scenario did not conjure up images of white, wicker furniture and floral fabrics. The room has a tile floor in shades of rust and wine – colors that will come back in style after the current run of blues, greens and various light shades of taupe. Even if I were a cool-color gal, which I’m not, it’s better to work with colors that can’t be changed, as opposed to trying to overwhelm them. So I shopped for warm-color, wintery stuff.
And where did I look? My two favorite home-décor sites, Home Decorators Catalog and EBay. They did not let me down. First, I wanted a rug, to mitigate that cold tile floor. Specifically, I wanted this rug (in the green), but two things kept me from getting it. One, it would have broken the budget for a room that small, and two, I love that rug so much, I’d rather use it in the living room when we eventually get rid of the wall-to-wall carpet and put in a wood floor. So I went over to the Home Decorators Outlet site and found this rug instead. If you enlarge the photo, you'll see it has some color details, including a little bit of wine that will pick up the color of the chaise I'm going to buy. (If it's sold out on HDCO, this will probably be the only picture available.) Please note, this is a 5’ 3" x 8’ 3" wool rug for a hundred and forty bucks. For that price, I’m willing to forgive its fringe. Maybe I’ll be able to take it off.
Next, we needed something on which to sit. I wanted it to be long enough to accommodate two people, narrow enough not to fill the 54” wide room, and of course, it had to go with the rug. I was very fortunate to find a burgundy leather chaise. Joe is a big fan of leather furniture – it’s one of his few generically male characteristics. So I didn’t anticipate any argument from him, and I was right. He was all over the leather chaise (or will be), especially at that price -- $190 with the extra freight charge. Holy cow – I just looked for the picture, to send you the link, and we must have gotten the last one. Well, here’s a tiny picture from Google.
The room already has a ceiling fan with a light, but I wanted a soft pool of light. I could not get Joe excited about this lamp, which I love. He preferred a floor lamp, and the floor version didn't have such nice proportions. We've wanted a Tiffany-style lamp for a while, but Home Decorators Outlet didn't have one I was crazy about and the main store had them for more than I wanted to pay. So it was off to EBay. I found a nice dragonfly version for $109, including shipping. The base may not be as nice as the ones at Home Decorators. I'm prepared to paint it.
So there you are: $470.06 (including all shipping/handling charges) for a big ol’ wool rug, a leather chaise, and a pretty floor lamp. And I didn’t have to spend any money driving around. I love the Internet. The one thing I didn't see was a small table I liked for cheap. The room, in addition to being a repository for other junk, contains a metal-framed plant stand/table with a Crayola-green finish and an octagonal glass top – cracked all the way across. I think I’ll make a plywood top to fit, decoupage it with something fab, and paint the base another color, maybe put some metallic highlights on its metal leaves. Or I might find something I like for cheap at Ross for Less or Marshall's. I'll keep my eyes open for a nice throw at those places, as well.
My Story Angels
Some writers have muses. I have story angels. And they are tough as nails and stubborn to boot. I've had my new single title, BERRY'S LICK, rolling around in my head for nearly a year now. It had structural problems. It didn't follow any of the previous story structures I'd dealt with. It had this huge backstory that had a critical impact on the "now" of the story and I wasn't sure I could deliver it in bits and pieces and still make sense of the current story.
As much as I tried to hold it back, the story angels would have their say. Since I tell stories that deal with family relationships, Lola's story (my heroine's aunt) would have to be told before I could tell my heroine, Darcie's story, at least in the first draft. So I took notepad and pen to my grandmother's rocking chair, the place I usually go when the writing gets tricky. For a week, Lola spewed out her story in diary form while I took dictation. It felt good just to write again after being stuck with the story burning in my brain. Any direction was better than no direction. I figured the characters would tell me how the story needed to be told eventually. Trust the process. Right. How had I forgotten that bit of wisdom I'd learned several manuscripts ago?
Mark Twain says there is only one right form for a story. Until you find the right form, the story won't tell itself. I guess, until then, we writers just poke around in the dark. Some might say knowing the right form comes from experience. I'm not so sure that's true. Each story is different. When I felt a momentary urge to throw in the towel on my work-in-progress, my story angels were there tossing me crumbs--giving me one more piece to the puzzle. I honestly have begun to feel, I was chosen to tell this particular story. Until I get the whole thing down on paper, it's not going to leave me alone. So I'm giving myself up to the process while I search for the right form. Mr. Twain assures me that I may go down several wrong roads, but then he assures me that I won't get too far before the story will stop and decline to go any further, if I'm on the wrong path. I'm going to trust my story angels to lead me at least in the correct general direction since it's at their insistence that I write this story. Trust in the process. Right. Got it.
Lately I've been goofing off, playing Word Whomp on Pogo.com instead of writing. Why? I'm not sure. My brain has been foggy, keeping me from doing important things like my online class, making even reading emails difficult much less writing. But the GH is coming up and I'm determined to have a new book ready to enter.
Thank God for JoAnn (Finish the da*n book!) Ross and Alesia Holiday. JoAnn asked Alesia to come talk to her group this week, to answer questions. Since I'd been stuck on this book for a while, I asked Alesia about her process for starting a new WIP. One thing she said really made a difference. She said she always asks herself two things about her main characters. What do they want the most, and what do they fear the most. Bingo! I had no idea for these characters. I had to put my thinking cap on and get into those characters' heads to find out. Because, really, what motivates us more than our desires and our fears? How many decisions do we make based on those two things? Most of them, I'd bet.
And when you read, what do you identify most with in those characters? Their desires, and their fears. Right?
So far today I've made a deal with a friend to require 5 pages a day from me or kick my ass if I don't send them. I made revisions to the beginning of the book based on her great suggestions, and wrote 5 new, fresh pages. Now I can't wait to send those to her in the morning to get her feedback.
It's amazing how one little bit of help can open the floodgates. This is why I love romance writers. They come to the rescue with advice and help when an author is in distress.
The political season
Throughout the coming weeks there will be a mad scramble from politicians across the country trying to gain votes. I have some thoughts about the election process.
Recently we had primary elections in our county. They are over, and that is a relief until the next round starts. For some reason this year all the politicians decided that the way to get my vote is to call me every day and tell me how wonderful they are or how awful their opponent is. Of course, they aren't calling me personally. They are just sending me some recorded speech. I lost count of the times that I answered the phone over the past few weeks to find a canned politician on the other end. One day I came home from a trip to Jacksonville, and there were four messages on my answering machine. All of them were from politicians. So when I went to the polls, I voted for the candidates who didn't call me or the ones who called me the least.
We had about a 20 percent turnout for the primary elections in our county. So considering that only about 50 percent of the eligible population registers to vote that means 10 percent of those eligible to vote do so. So just over 5 percent of the population can choose someone in the primaries to be the candidate for the general election. That is truly deplorable. What can we do to make people know how important it is to exercise our right to vote? I think it's a right that too many people take for granted.
I consider myself to be somewhat of a political junky. I follow national politics quite closely. I pay attention to state politics during election times. But even though I try to follow local issues, I often find myself uninformed. Candidates for local office seem to come out of the woodwork at election time. It is often difficult to decide who to vote for because they tell you one thing, but when they get in office they do something else. Since we moved to this area 5 years ago, I have voted to put out the incumbent every time because the current crop of county and city officials are making a mess of things. In the beginning I didn't realize that even though the person wasn't the incumbent that more than likely they had at one time served as a commissioner. They are just recycling the same bad candidates over and over again. Now I pay close attention to whether the candidates are completely new or just of the recycled variety.
Now I'm going to talk about the voting process. I didn't live in Florida during the fiasco of the 2000 election, but after we moved here in 2001, they introduced computer voting machines. They are quite nice and very easy to use. Touch the screeen to make your choice, then review your choices and vote. The big problem for me in this past election was my polling place. I have always voted at the rec center which is about six and a half miles from our house. Now that might not seem like a lot to those who live in a big city, but it is twice as far as I drive to most places in town. During that last election, I noticed that they had opened a polling place about half that distance from our house, so I was delighted to see when I received my new voter registration card that I was supposed to vote at the closer place. Well, when I went to vote, I went to the new polling place, but when I put in my ID into the system, it said I should be voting at the rec center again. I was a little annoyed, but I went to the rec center and voted. But before the next election, I intend to find out why that happened, especially when there is a polling place much closer to my home. I heard that this happened to someone else, and they just decided not to vote.
Now that brings me to my last point. Despite the difficulties one might encounter while trying to vote or the lack of good candidates, I hope everyone will go out and vote in the next election. And if you aren't registered, register now, and exericise your right to vote. It's one of the most important things you can do.
The pursuit of happiness
I almost missed my blog day, again. Geez, I read everyone else's most of the time, then forget to post on my own day.
Wish I could say I live such a jet set lifestyle that I just run out of time to post. In reality, I'm a wife, mom, writer, part-time transistion specialist at a local community college, tennis player, volunteer, and so much more. My life is busy, but jet-setting? Not quite.
And yet, there are times when I feel like I'm the luckiest woman alive.
Case in point: Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to fly to Puerto Rico to meet up with my mom and dad for a family reunion with my mother's side of the family. My dear hubby stayed behind with our daughters and while I missed them all, I must admit, it was also wonderful to have some quality time with my parents.
We played in the surf at the beach, sat in a warm jacuzzi laughing, danced a little salsa and merengue, played some tennis, watched our beloved Florida Gators win, and poor Andy Roddick lose the US Open. More importantly, Sunday afternoon, we gathered together with over 40 relatives we hadn't seen in far too long. Some, I hadn't seen since I was a little girl.
We ate (don't ask how much,I haven't even stepped on the scale since I got back home), laughed, danced, sang, took tons of pictures and just had a great time touching base and getting reacquainted.
I lost my abuela several years ago, but we felt her presence with us. Two of my favorite great aunts, women who played a huge role in my childhood, are slowly starting to fade. I'm sad, yet also blessed that I had this past weekend to add to my precious memories of time spent with them. As usual, the day went by much too quickly.
Okay, so maybe I didn't fly first class. And our party wasn't catered or held at some fancy resort hotel. And yes, maybe I mostly lead a normal life. But that's okay because I have an incredible family, and we've created some incredible memories together. And that's what the good life is all about.
Wake me up when September ends
The old saying goes a picture is worth a thousand words, which makes me wonder what numbers are worth. There’s a lot I could say today and a lot many people out there will say. Instead of the rhetoric, the politics, the agendas, the conspiracy theories, and all the rest, consider one of the numbers below, take a minute, and simply remember.
Flight AA 11
Flight UA 175
Flight AA 77
Flight UA 93
On the road again
I'm sitting in a hotel room on this beautiful Sunday morning, energized by a breakfast I didn't have to cook for myself. Soon I'll head out to enjoy some big city shopping before hitting the highway for the long drive home. Ahhh...my favorite music in the CD player, miles of great views, and my own thoughts for company.
I love to travel. I was never one of those whiny kids in the back seat who are constantly asking, "Are we there yet?" Staring out the windows at a different part of the world kept me entertained for hours. Different scenery and architecture, different accents and languages, different scents and foods--anything different always seems a touch magical, exotic, tempting.
Do you like to travel? What aspects of your journeys do you enjoy the most? What are your favorite destinations? I'll have to check them out.
Filling the Well
submitted by Lee McKenzie
A week from now I’ll be on my way to Banff—in the breathtakingly beautiful Canadian Rockies—for a one-week writing program at The Banff Centre. Unlike conferences, which always have that go, go, go feeling, I expect this experience to be both restful and invigorating, challenging and affirming, creative and . . . well, creative.
For six days, students spend mornings in workshops, afternoons working on their works in progress, and evenings socializing and attending readings given by students and faculty. In the Rockies! The program is divided into four components—children’s writing, travel writing, science fiction/fantasy, and memoirs. I’ll be wearing my children’s writer hat, but I’m looking forward to being with such a diverse mix of writers.
The Rocky Mountains are one of my favourite places in the world and they’re especially beautiful when fancied up with a little fall colour. So of course I’ll pack my hiking boots and plan to do at least one half-day hike, because for me there’s nothing more spiritually rejuvenating than being in the mountains.
I’m calling this a working holiday—did I mention it was in the Rockies?—but when I contemplate the social, creative, intellectual, spiritual and physical aspects, I know it’ll be so much more. Not to mention that opportunities to fully immerse oneself in one’s writing never seem to come often enough. I intend to make the most of every delicious minute of it!
Till next month,
Celebrities: Passé? (Part 1 of 2)
by Jenna Ness
Blame Britney Spears.
A few years ago, the once-glamorous pop tart was photographed coming out of a gas station bathroom in bare feet and it was the “Ewwww” heard ‘round the world. Since then, paparazzi have had a revelation. Why fight to get gorgeous photos on the red carpet, when you can get paid just as well (or sometimes better) for catching stars shoving food in their mouths, filling their cars with gas, or buying toilet paper?
After all, if there’s anything readers enjoy more than pictures of our glamorous heroes, it’s seeing those same heroes taken down a peg or two. In print, on television, and on the internet, casual shots have become big business. One of Us Weekly’s most popular sections has become “Stars: they’re just like Us!”
The pictures and articles have worked too well. We know too much about these people. On some level, we have come to honestly believe that stars are not that different from us – okay, richer and skinnier, but so what? Didn’t I recently see Madonna looking heinous in a track suit and cap after working out? Wasn’t that Sarah Jessica Parker buying lettuce at the supermarket? Didn’t Nicole Kidman recently say that her favorite store is Linens n’ Things?
So when I see Madonna, SJP and Kidman hawking clothes or perfume (for Versace, the Gap, and Chanel No. 5 respectively), the “I can be like them if I buy the stuff” fantasy just doesn’t play like it used to. Especially since we know that nearly everything stars wear is given to them gratis by companies wanting free publicity.
“Ten years ago, having a celebrity in your ad would class it up,” Robert Thompson, founding director at Syracuse University’s Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture, said recently in the Wall Street Journal. “Now, there’s something cheesy about it. … There are so many celebrities on so many magazines all the time.”
Madonna’s Versace campaign bombed. SJP was fired by the Gap for falling numbers. Even the illustrious Angelina Jolie (whom I would have ranked as a sure thing for selling anything), has seen her multimillion-dollar campaign for St. John Knits this past summer crash and burn.
In response, luxury brands are starting to give up pricey stars and hire unknown models, or even names from the heady Supermodel days of the early ‘90s. Pregnant 41-year-old Linda Evangelista just appeared on Vogue last month after over a year of actresses on the cover. 37-year-old Christy Turlington has just been hired by Versace. Kate Moss, in spite of a cocaine scandal a few months ago, has recovered her modeling contracts, picked up a few more, and is on track to have her best year ever. And young Daria Werbowy, not yet a household name, is poised to become the first new Supermodel in over a decade.
The era of actress as Ultimate Glamous Goddess appears to be ending.
But that's just for clothing and luxury brands. What about companies that sell music, movies and books? With all the technological changes, they’ve been bleeding red ink, and their marketing departments have just started to realize that drastic change is in order.
To be continued next month in part 2, The New Celebrity: You.
Fun at the e-zine
There's good stuff over at the Wet Noodle Posse
site this month. Colleen's article referenced below, the beauty of Napa Valley, how to keep a happy cat, favorite self help books, an important article on Polycystic Ovarian Cancer by Janice, good advice by Dr. Debra, superheroine Kitty Timko, Sunday brunch recipes and an article on making a Cure (breast cancer) bracelet for yourself or your loved one. That last article was written by some strange girl, so beware. ;)
If there's something you'd like to see, or a favorite article from the present or past, feel free to let us know through the comments on this blog at any time. We'd love to hear from you. :)
I stand corrected.
by Colleen Gleason
So I did my best this month to write the Top Ten Grammar Mistakes Writers Make
, and although (as I confessed) I'm not a grammar goddess, I thought I made it through fairly unscathed. I used my trusty Strunk & White
to confirm what I thought I knew and blithely sent the article off to Trish, our extraordinary editor.
But I didn't take into account the Posse. You see, there are nearly forty of us in all, and there's pretty much an expert in our midst on anything you can think of.
Want to find out how to grow avocados? Ask Lorelle
Want to find out how to do your taxes? Ask Stef
Interested in skin care? Kiki
's a former aesthetician. (did I spell that right?)
Need to birth a calf or pour a patio? Tori'
s your gal.
Thinking about swimming with sharks? Talk to Anne
Doing research on the pearl trade in Australia? Contact Trish Morey
Want to know about that odd-looking rash on your...er...any body part? Janice
can tell you whether to worry or not.
Need to know the vital stats on Gerard Butler? Diane
...and the list goes on.
So I should have known that there was an English teacher in our midst, and if I'd been smart, I'd have sent my column to her first to "check over"--since Sister Mary deSales wasn't around any longer to do so for me.
But, alas, I didn't. And now there's egg on my face 'cause while the information in the 6th item on my list (affect/effect) is technically correct (thanks to Strunk & White), there's a whole lot more to the usage and spelling of those two words than I gave credit to.
So, Terry McLaughlin
, a former English teacher, contacted me to let me know that I left a teeny bit of information out. Well, actually quite a bit. In fact, she said if she'd been writing the article (and I'm now wondering why she wasn't...in a loving, is-my-face-red sort of way), she says she wouldn't have used affect/effect
as one of the items on the list anyway.
Because it's so confusing.
She kindly directed me to Professor Paul Brian's Common Errors in English
page at Washington State University, where he says this about affect
There are four distinct words here.
When "affect" is accented on the final syllable (a-FECT), it is a verb meaning "have an influence on": "The million-dollar donation from the industrialist did not affect my vote against the Clean Air Act."
A much rarer meaning is indicated when the word is accented on the first syllable (AFF-ect), meaning "emotion." In this case the word is used mostly by psychiatrists and social scientists- people who normally know how to spell it.
The real problem arises when people confuse the first spelling with the second: "effect." This too can be two different words. The more common one is a noun: "When I left the stove on, the effect was that the house filled with smoke." When you affect a situation, you have an effect on it.
The less common is a verb meaning "to create": "I'm trying to effect a change in the way we purchase widgets." No wonder people are confused. Note especially that the proper expression is not "take affect" but "take effect"-become effective.
Hey, nobody ever said English was logical: just memorize it and get on with your life.
The stuff in your purse? Your personal effects.
So there you have it. Thanks to Terry for the clarification...and next time I have a grammar question, I'm contacting her.
In fact, she may be hearing from me sooner rather than later....'cause I've got a very technical question about capitalization as relates to my latest book.
Last of the Summer Holidays
If you're anything like me, you spent at least a few minutes last evening waving good-bye to summer. Even though temperatures are still in the 90s in my little corner of the world, and hurricane season lasts until the first of November, I always think of September after Labor Day as fall.
When I was a kid in Kentucky we always started school on the Tuesday after Labor Day. By the end of the month we were kicking and scrambling our way through mounds of colorful leaves on the way to and from school. Mornings were misty, and we needed sweaters for the Friday night football games.
Now I'm a grown-up and the day after Labor Day is just another work day for me. I have an employee with a broken elbow and a budget workshop at 7:00 this evening, and the holidays coming up in October, November and December are looking like even more work to me.
I've decided to set my sights on some mini-holidays between now and then, wondering what I can do for a day, or half-day, if one presents itself. There's always that pedicure I've been promising myself. And how long has it been since I've gone to the zoo? At the first hint of a cool breeze I'll plant myself on the porch with my laptop and a diet soda and spend the day with some long-neglected characters. Shopping? Maybe. Yard work? Sure, I can find someone to do that. Try a new recipe, feed the birds, take a nap or two.
Sounds like a plan!
Readers Groups by Janice Lynn
With only one book beneath my belt, I'm still learning lots about the 'right' way to do things & am unfortunately learning the hard way on the 'wrong' way to do things. A comment on my blog (thanks Colleen!) got me to wondering what other folks do when going to a readers group meeting that's to discuss YOUR book.
I live in a small town and didn't even know there were any readers groups. The closest bookstore is a town over (although we do have a Wal-mart--what small southern town doesn't, right?) and I made some erroneous assumptions. There are readers groups. Small, informal ones that meet in members houses where they share dessert and their views on that month's chosen read. During October JANE MILLIONAIRE is being read by a local readers group & I've been asked to come share thoughts with them & to participate in their discussion.
So, what types of things do other authors do at small, informal readers group meetings? For that matter, what do other authors do for large gatherings?
I've done one large group via a library & that was fun. There were approximately 25 people there and I gave a talk & then we had an informal Q & A. The library provided drinks and snacks. In my talk, I covered basics like an intro to me & how I started writing, how I came up with the idea for JANE MILLIONAIRE (thanks Kimmi for hanging up on me to go watch reality television shows!), a bit about how I became published & the American Title contest, then a bit about the story itself. After that it opened up to questions. What kind of questions were asked? My favorite scene? The hardest scene to write.? How recieved locally? What did my kids think? Sequels? Anything else in the works? How did I get an agent? What would I do different? Is the story based on my life? (Yes, when no one was looking I was on that reality television show & the hunky producer fell madly in love with me & gave me the best sex of my life. Shhhhh, nobody tell my hubby. ;)
JANE MILLIONAIRE was also chosen as the read for several readers groups that were too far away for me to physically participate in, but I did *attend* one of the meetings via phone where I answered questions. For one of the groups I sent bonus material (you know, like on a DVD after you watch the movie & want to know/see more.). Deleted scenes. Alternate endings. A sneak peek to the sequel. How the story came about. A couple of articles on me & the American Title contest. Etc. I had lots of fun putting it together and my contact at the bookstore told me she'd never done anything like that before and the readers group loved it.
What about the rest of you who've done or gone to readers groups? Any particular one stand out in your mind? Anything different that really seemed to work well? Any that was particularly fun?
TV gets a bum rap
Idiot box. Boob tube. Time waster. How many times have you either heard or used one of those phrases to describe TV? Well, I'm here to say that I think television gets a bum rap. I don't subscribe to the line of thinking that watching TV will make your brain turn to mush. Keep in mind I'm not talking about plopping down on your couch and watching three straight hours of whatever garbage comes on. We all know there's a lot of drek on TV. What I'm a proponent of, especially for writers, is selective TV watching. I'm a firm believer in being able to glean useful writing tips from good TV programs while you're thoroughly enjoying them. For example:
Are you writing YA and want to capture the youthful feel? I've heard good things about Veronica Mars
and plan to catch up on that series. My personal favorite is Buffy the Vampire Slayer
. It's not on first-run TV anymore, but all seven seasons are on DVD and well worth watching. Joss Whedon is a master of combining the everyday "horrors" of high school (forgotten tests, bad hair days, getting a date to the prom) with deeper themes of friendship, first love, and fighting the good fight against evil in all its many forms.Cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 2
Need to improve your dialogue? Again, Buffy
is a great source as is its darker, more adult spinoff, Angel
. Another Joss Whedon program, Firefly
(which was cancelled before it could complete its first season -- GRR!), is a study in great dialogue. Currently, I think Bones
has some fantastic dialogue -- both meaningful conversations between characters that reveal important story elements as well as some truly funny one-liners.
Cast of Bones
is also a good program to watch if you want to see how to sustain sexual tension between characters until the viewer (or reader) is ready to scream. I want Booth and Brennan to get together, but then I don't because I know the tension and the show will be over. (Moonlighting
, anyone?) As long as network execs don't lose their collective brains and cancel it before viewers get a satisfactory resolution, I want them to keep up the "will they or won't they?" tension.
How about just plain ol' tension and nail-biting cliffhangers (i.e. chapter endings)? Look no farther than Prison Break
. OMG! I kid you not, I start getting tense before the show even comes on each week. I'm more tense with this show, but in a great way, than with LOST, and I didn't think that could happen. Both shows are great at surprises, twists and turns, and making the viewer fear for the characters. If you can do that in a book, you'll keep your reader turning the pages furiously until all hours of the morning.
Cast of Prison Break
Cast of LOST
What if you're not a writer and just a loyal Wet Noodle Posse blog reader? First, thanks! Second, you don't have to be a writer to enjoy these shows. They're all fabulous. Check them out. You won't be sorry.
So, what are some other TV programs with excellent writing?