Before I get to the topic of the moment, I have to say, “HAPPY CANADA DAY!” It was one year ago today that I became a Canadian citizen, a fact that still gives me a little thrill. There was a Mountie (a lovely lady I think my step-son wanted to chat up but was too scared to!), the MPP for the area and many excited people in attendance. It was made that much more special for taking place on Canada Day, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. Even my dog, Sable, who was just a little pup at the time, had to be brought into the celebration. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_-XaWNZbOg Yes, that dorky voice is mine…LOL!
Now, back to the subject at hand!
I wish I could tell you I have an awesome writing space that is just my own, beautifully decorated and serene, which fires my creativity every time I enter it. More’s the pity, I just can’t! Every writing space I’ve had has been carved out of somewhere else—our bedroom, the basement rec-room, the living room or dining room—depending on where we’ve lived at the time.
The closest I came to an office was after our daughter moved out, when I (briefly) took over her old room, moving my drafting table/desk in there. I had planned to move all my reference books in there too but, before that could happen, our youngest “moved out” and my husband and I decided to downsize again. If you notice the quotation marks above, and you have grown kids of your own, you might realize there is a catch. Yes, the youngest removed his person. He just omitted to move a lot of his stuff! Our second bedroom isn’t the empty palette I’d like as an office, but eventually, once I figure out how to fit everything—my desk, reference books, craft stuff, plus the son’s leftovers—in there, along with keeping it a spare bedroom, I’ll probably be calling in my ‘office’.
Luckily, my writing habits have changed a lot over the years, so it doesn’t really matter whether I have a designated space or not. When I first started I was working on a desktop PC, which I shared with both my husband and the kids. Eventually I got a PC of my own, and then a laptop (“Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” I chortled in my joy!). As part of the evolution I also went from needing music when I was writing (to block out the noise), then to wanting silence (I was sequestered in the basement then), to not really caring what was going on around me. Now, sometimes I want music and sometimes not. Sometimes I can write with the TV on, and at others I prefer it off.
So, when you get right down to it, although my desk is set up in a corner of our dining room (that’s it in the picture), you’re more likely to find the cat using it as a sun deck than to find me sitting at it. I’ll lounge on the loveseat, the dog using my feet as a pillow, and have at it. If I want a bit more solitude, I’ll write in bed. Sometimes, on the bus, heading for the EDJ, I’ll write longhand in one of my umpteen notebooks (I have a stationary fetish LOL!). And I’ve found it’s useful, really, to be a low-maintenance author. All I really need to be able to write is my trusty laptop or notebook, a cup of tea if I can get it and some inspiration.
Maybe one day I’ll have a lovely office—which I’ll probably hardly use!
So I’m supposed to be all erudite and wise on our blog this week and lay out some tips for writers. Huh…okay. Although I’ve had a (I think) respectable number of pieces published—seventeen to date, with two more due out this year so far—I still think of myself as learning how to be a successful professional author.
And it doesn’t help when the landscape of publishing seems to change every time we look at it.
So, bearing all that in mind, here are my general tips for writers, and I’m afraid there probably won’t be any you haven’t heard before. And yes, as the title suggests, it’s all up to you.
1) Read. Figure out what you like and, more importantly, why you like it. This will help you decide where you want to concentrate your efforts, because if you don’t love the genre you’re writing in, it’ll show.
2) Study your craft. I really wanted to do ‘control+b’, ‘control+u’, ‘ALL CAPS’ when I wrote that, but I know that’s the editor in me. Oh, what the hell… STUDY YOUR CRAFT. There, I feel better. Here’s the thing…we can get away with a lot of stuff as authors when it comes to the quality of our books. This is not a new phenomenon, no matter what anyone says. There have been many very successful hack writers over the centuries, so let’s not pretend the publishing of mediocre books is caused by the internet or the new publishing culture. We often sacrifice quality for speed, or to be able to seize an opportunity we fear won’t wait or come again. That’s fine, but is no excuse for stopping learning and growing, so as to improve your writing. When your editor (be it at a publishing company or the freelancer you’ve hired) points out something you consistently do incorrectly, take it as a lesson and take it to heart. Having pride in your work doesn’t only mean being able to say you’re published, but also in being able to know you’re getting better and better.
3) Determine for yourself what success looks like. Don’t let what others are doing or saying make you lose focus. Figure out what it is you want and work toward that goal. Now, there are many ways to measure success, and there is nothing wrong with any of them, as long as it’s what you want. Some people want a traditional publishing contract, others just want to be able to say they’re published, however that’s achieved. Some are in it to say they make art, others want to make money, or any combination of the previous. Whatever will make you feel successful, go for it.
4) Accept the fact we can’t all be superstars. No, I mean that, and say it with all due respect. BUT…this ties in to what I was saying above…we don’t all have to be superstars to be successful. Again, it all depends on your definition of success. If there was some way for me to make a good living without anyone knowing my name, I’d be quite happy to go that route. Hmmm…maybe I should take up ghost writing…
5) Finally, take your writing career seriously but yourself not so much. This is very important for your sanity and that of the people around you. Believe me. Please. Keep the drama for your plots.
Now, I’m off to research ghost writing 🙂
So, this month we’re talking about what shifter we’d be if we could shape-shift and I had a revelation. Thinking about it reminded me of the episode of Star Trek TNG, when everyone on the ship starts to devolve. Who knew Troy would be a fish-thing, or Picard would turn into a weasel? The only one who seemed true to type was Worf, who was extremely scary and inclined to eat all the rest of the crew. No one ever said whether he had eaten anyone or not when not trying to mate with Troy… surely not everyone got away from him?
Anyway, so I approached this question first from a “What would I like to be?” perspective. That was easy! Something sleek and powerful—a cheetah or a dragon, maybe even a wolf or a lioness. Top of the food chain bay-bee. All flash and glory and snarly teeth. Sounded awesome, until I started considering what being one of those would entail. Things like running, hunting, fighting knights and guarding treasure.
That’s when I had to have a nap.
I’m just not cut out for those kind of energetic activities.
On a basic level I’m lazy, have a ‘soon-come’ kind of mentality and don’t like doing more than absolutely necessary. I do like to eat though and will exert myself to cook or search out food, as long as it isn’t running away, forcing me to chase it. So, surfing the internet for a new restaurant is within the realm of my abilities in the hunting department. Not much more than that. I was, I think, born to be in a harem with nothing to do but eat, be bathed and wait around for the sultan to want nookies. Yeah, I could be down with that kind of life…
While I’ve been known to lose my temper, I’m generally easy-going and mostly prefer to let trouble pass me by if I can hunker down and just watch it fly over my head. I’m a lover, not a fighter. I’m also a dreamer, lost in thought half the time, eyes glazed over, no doubt forcing people to check to see if I’m breathing. Oh, and there’s that crazy hair too.
So, eventually, thinking it through carefully, I came to the conclusion I’d probably be happiest as… a sloth! And, I’d finally have long fingernails to boot! BONUS!!
Imagine from dobrador.com
Sorry for the late post today. Frankly, the weather’s been so nice, after being crappy for so long, my head is full of gardening and birdsong LOL! Thank goodness for auto-reminders, although I only just saw that too, having already been out with the dog and having drank a cup of tea sitting on the patio. Here’s just a little of what I did yesterday, after a trip to the plant store. So lovely to be in an apartment with good light again, and have plants indoors!
So, to get to the question of which author I’d like to be, well, that’s an interesting one. There are so many authors whose work I love and admire, some of whom have already been mentioned by others here, but there really isn’t any one I’d truly want to be, because then I couldn’t be me, and I’ve grown quite fond of my strange, quirky self (and it’s about damn time too, after all these years!). What I’d really love, though, are some of the attributes of other authors, kind of smooshed to fit my personality and voice.
I want the imaginations of Stephen King and Charles de Lint (to name just two of many!), the prolific abilities and business acumen of Nora Roberts or Maya Banks, the opportunity to write books that become classics, like JRR Tolkien–you know, stuff like that. But really, what I secretly dream of–although it won’t be a secret anymore after this–is the ability to create and sustain a character people come to love, like John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport in the Prey series. I love how Sandford makes the setting and people come alive, how Lucas has remained recognizable throughout the series but has also grown and changed, just like people really do. If you read the first book in the series and then read the last, it would be like seeing someone you haven’t seen in years but instantly recognize because they were memorable and, although time has brought changes, they’re still the same person. Another character like that is Harry Bosch, created by Michael Connolly, and yet another is Jack Reacher, in Lee Child’s immensely popular series.
Of course, characters like that are generally more suited for genres other than romance, but Nora Roberts did the same thing with her In Death stories, embraced wholeheartedly by romance readers, so there’s still hope for me! I’ll just keep plugging along here, hoping for the day a character rises up and says, “You know, I could be a series…” *nudge, nudge, wink, wink*
What are your favorite characters that have stood the test of time, and what is it you love about them?
So, the question is posed: why do I like writing in my particular genre(s)? And, thinking about it, I realized it’s a really good indication of two distinct sides of my character. On one hand, I love to research. I mean, REALLY love it. I could spend hours searching out and absorbing information about just about anything–time periods, occupations, what people wore, ate, thought about different topics. For the most part that type of info goes into my historical novels, hopefully giving them a certain depth and flavor.
Then there is the other side of me… the one that gets up and shouts, “Don’t need no stinking rules. Don’t wanna follow any but my own!”
That side is in charge of the paranormal/fantasy writing, gleefully making shit up as she goes along, often throwing physics, normality and even on occasion sanity out the window.
Damn, I love that chick!
So now you know why I write what I write… It’s authorial schizophrenia! And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I love the story of Snow White. It has a little of everything… magic, betrayal, jealousy, the fight between good and evil, all that fun stuff. Now, even the Disney version has those things, but the original story is much darker, as is true with most fairy tales, which have been sanitized for modern children—who apparently are hardy enough to play Grand Theft Auto, but too delicate for dark literature!
Of course, like many heroines of the early Middle Ages, Snow White is pretty daft (they don’t call that period the Dark Ages for nothing!) and the queen gets not one but three chances to kill her, once she realizes the huntsman didn’t do the job the first time around. But, despite that, it’s still my favorite, because each time I think I’ve seen or read the very last interpretation I can of it, some wonderful author comes up with another. I’ve read Sapphic, vampiric, erotic and adventure interpretations, even a BDSM one, and each retelling highlights a different facet of the story, sometimes even introduces me to one I hadn’t considered.
Maybe that’s why it remains my favorite. It’s a story in and of itself, yet has enough nuances and levels that it lends itself to true longevity. After all, there’s no higher compliment than imitation and I think Snow White, its themes and sub-plots, will continue to spawn new stories as long as humans still exist.
Okay, so I get it. I’m being asked to delve into the darkest heart of my psyche and reveal to you the one thing that gets my engine revving, no matter what…
It doesn’t exist.
Come on…that’s like asking a foodie what’s the one dish he or she’d eat no matter the circumstances. I bet that no matter how much you love lobster, spaghetti marinara or whatever, if it’s burnt, bastardized in some weird way or just plain unpalatable You. Will. Not. Finish. It.
The reality is, I like sex. I like reading about sex. I like writing about people having hot, smexy encounters. I enjoy reading about all KINDS of sex, as long as it’s written well. No matter what the scenario, if it’s done with grace, finesse and a heaping helping of jalapeno-hot hotness, I’m in.
If I’m picking at the editing (or lack thereof), wondering how the freakin’ freaky-deak the woman’s leg is in that position without her snapping in two, or flipping back to figure out if the hero was wearing two pairs of pants…you’ve lost me. And I don’t care if it’s a threesome on a tightrope over the Grand Canyon, if I yawn, even once, it’s all over.
Okay, so maybe I’m just crabby, but it would be easier for me to tell you what I DON’T like to read than pick one favorite act or arc I find bulletproof. So make it hot. Make it sexy. Make me wanna push the heroine (or one of the heroes) off the hood of that car and get it on with the other participant, and I’m all in. Suck me in (no pun intended!) and I’m as happy as a woman with two hung husbands.
I’m all yours…
Truth is, I’m not a huge movie person. I’m the one who says, “I want to see that!” but somehow never actually goes. I also learned a long time ago that, generally speaking, if the critics love a movie, I very likely won’t. Doesn’t leave a lot of room for a blog on my favorite Oscar winning movie, does it?
Anyway, in the spirit of the occasion, I put on one of my red-carpet outfits (sweats and slippers) and found myself a list of movies that had won an Academy Award for Best Picture. Honestly, I wasn’t very hopeful about actually finding one I’d seen and loved, but I did better than that…I found two. One I no longer love the way I used to but, once-upon-a-time, adored with all the girlish fervor of my teenage heart. The other I saw not that long ago and fell in love with—Gigi (Best Picture 1958) and The King’s Speech (Best Picture 2010).
Hmmm…I just realized both are period pieces and, while I didn’t see that before, it’s really no strange thing for a history fanatic like me.
So, Gigi, set in turn of the century (1800s-1900s) Paris is billed as a romantic comedy about the conquest of love over cynicism and is really a coming of age story. The title character is a young woman (played by Leslie Carron), born into a family of courtesans, being groomed to eventually join the “family business”. Along the way she is sent to her great-aunt to learn the tricks of the trade, including how to move in the best circles without embarrassing herself. In the end, the ‘hero’, a free-wheeling playboy and much older than her, who has known Gigi since she was a child, realizes he’s grown to love her, and offers her ‘carte blanche’. She in turn tells him basically to eat shit and die, because she doesn’t want her life to be a constant round of looking for the next protector when the one she has grows tired of her. Yeah, liberation!… except… she’s in love with him and changes her mind, deciding she’d rather be miserable with him than without him. Anyway, in the end, he realizes he’s in love with her too and asks for her hand in marriage.
It’s a beautifully lush movie, in the same vein as My Fair Lady, but from a Humanist point of view, there are so many things wrong with it, I can’t even begin to tell you. All I will say is, keep it away from your impressionable tweens and young teenage daughters, unless you’re giving them an object lesson in how life shouldn’t be lived. Why did I love it back then? Because for a young girl without an ounce of self-confidence or sense, it seemed like a fairy tale romance—the kind of thing I’d want to happen to me when I got older. I grew out of it and now, when I think of Gigi going from playing hopscotch in the street with her friends to being dressed up and paraded into Maxim’s as a tart, it makes my teeth clench. I know I shouldn’t judge a generation on the messages in one movie, but if that was acceptable in 1958, I’m glad I wasn’t around.
If you want a movie night with your daughters, rent The King’s Speech instead. Teach them about perseverance, dedication, the power of honor and standing up to your responsibilities, even when taking on the job is the last thing you want to do.
A much better choice.
Would I survive a Zombie Apocalypse? The short answer is, “No.”
From the first news reports, the first pictures on the TV, I would have a heart attack and die in self-defense.
It would be the same if I were swimming and saw a shark coming toward me. If I’m going to die, I’m doing it on my own terms, dammit!
If, however, that didn’t happen, I just might survive because of a couple of my other personality traits and some life experiences.
Firstly, I’m cautious. If the zombies haven’t reached town yet, I’m the first one taking off. Why wait? Also, if they’re already shuffling down the street I’m not the person who, like in the movies, wants to go outside and “see what’s going on,” or the scoffer who says, “nothing’s going to happen,” or the idjit who just has to have a _____________ (fill in the blank with diet pop, pack of cigarettes, whatever). Nopers. I’m the one who, after barricading herself into the house, is standing in the kitchen wondering how long she can last on the food she has. Starvation, I think, is better than feeding the f**kers my brains! And who knows? Maybe someone will find a cure before the food runs out.
The second trait on my side? I’m wily and quick to move when the effluvium hits the oscillating blades. I’m making decisions and doing stuff, not waiting around to “see how things go.” Is there a handy gun shop or army base? I’m busting in and arming myself (hopefully my dear hubby hasn’t been turned yet and will show me which ammo goes with that AK47, because I just may have to take it all and sort it out after I hole up somewhere). I’m finding a bolt hole, securing it, getting some gasoline and whatever else I think I’ll need, which leads to the life experience that will be helpful…
I grew up in a (as they’re euphemistically called) “Developing Country.” Even better, it’s one that quite often gets threatened and hit by hurricanes. I know what a true essential is and what’s just a silly flight of fancy you’re probably not going to need. I’m also low maintenance. I won’t be the woman lugging a makeup case while tottering around in high heels. Uh-uh. I’m the one in the hiking boots with the knapsack, carrying a big-ass gun, bandoliers over her shoulders, running as fast as a short, no-longer-young woman can move. And, believe me, when I have to, that’s pretty damn fast.
Lastly, I might make it because, deep down inside, I believe in humanity and our ability to survive if we just band together and be smart. I’m finding the winning team and joining it, or forming it if I have to. Band with me, and we’ll try to get through it together.
Just don’t get stupid, because I’m not saving you. That’s not in the survival plan!