Archive for September, 2009
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by Rebecca York
When I talk about books in public, I try to stick to the ones I like. But I’ve just finished a “guy book” that upset me a lot. So I want to discuss it a little. I won’t tell you the name of the book. But it was about a woman lawyer whose husband was accused of murder. She loved him and defended him at his trial. During the course of the book, I got to know and like the heroine. Several times during the story, she questioned whether her husband was really innocent. But each time, she regained her faith in him. She won an acquittal, and they joyfully went home again. Then the author had the brilliant idea of having her find out that the guy was really guilty. Not just guilty, but a psychopath. When she confronted him, he tried to kill her. And she ended up shooting him in self-defense.
What fun! Not.
I’d gone through a deeply emotional experience with the heroine. I rooted for her to win the court case–in the face of a hostile judge and a lot of dirty tricks from the prosecution. Not only that, during the trial, she almost gets fired from her job. But she triumphed over all of that.
What was her reward? Her life was destroyed. Why? Because it was a neat twist for the end of the book?
As I read, I started suspecting that the author was going to pull a zinger at the end. But I kept hoping for the best and I kept going because I liked the heroine and wanted her to win–and walk away happy. I was involved with the story, but now I’m really upset with investing so much time and emotional energy in the plot–and the characters.
There is no way I’d ever write a story like that. I put my hero and heroine through terrible trials. I test their resolve and their character and their love for each other. But I end the story with them happy together. Because that’s what I want to read. And write. There’s enough bad stuff going on in the world without inventing more.
That’s why I love writing romantic suspense. My latest is DRAGON MOON, out from Berkley on October 6.
The heroine is Kenna, a slave from my alternate universe, sent here to help her ruthless dragon-shifter master invade our world. She meets werewolf Talon Marshall and desperately wants to tell him her frightening secret. But every time she tries to reveal her plight, excruciating pains stab into her head. Even as Kenna and Talon fall in love, he can’t trust her. And she struggles to break through the barriers that control her mind. It’s classic romantic suspense, with the paranormal twists I love.
It’s a very emotional story. I put my hero and heroine through a lot of grief. But there’s one thing you can count on in every book I write. The hero and heroine are going to live happily ever after.
So what do you think about endings? Do you hate being jerked around by an author who gets you hooked, then pulls the rug out from under you? Or do you love those nasty twists that only a guy would think of?
New York Times, USA Today best-selling novelist, Ruth Glick (aka Rebecca York) is the author of 125 books. She writes paranormal romantic thrillers for Berkley and romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue. Her many awards include a PRISM Award for “Second Chance” in MIDNIGHT MAGIC (Tor, May 2006). She has received two Career Achievement Awards from RT BOOK REVIEWS magazine. Her KILLING MOON was a launch book for Berkley’s Sensation Imprint. Her Berkley Moon series continues with DRAGON MOON (October 2009) Her latest Harlequin Intrigue, MORE THAN A MAN, was out in August. Also the author of 15 cookbooks, Ruth loves cooking, craft projects and watching defunct TV series on DVD. Her garden contains rocks she’s collected from around the world.
Please help me welcome multi-published, award-winning author Jo Ann Ferguson with some words of wisdom to help us as we come to the end of our month-long writing marathon.
Danielle Steel’s next release will probably be accompanied by a story and/or a photo of Ms Steel sitting in her laundry room and writing. Impressed? Not me. I’ve been writing in the laundry room since this obsession took hold of me. And I do it without a typewriter because my characters chat me up while I fold clothes!
Or perhaps you’ve read about the writer who does her best work while in a bubble bath. I believe the article even included a picture of said author – either a brave or crazy woman! I read it and shrugged. Bathtub? Big deal! I do my some of my best writing in the shower!
Not only do I find myself working in odd places, but an in-depth, scientific survey of 2 or 3 friends revealed that many writers write in eccentric places. Before you go rushing out to prove that we’re all wet for writing in a damp environment, look at the facts.
It’s easy to write all the time, and that’s not necessarily a good thing, especially for us workaholic, Type A personalities. Burn-out is a big hole that’s hard to crawl back out of, but it’s easy to slip into.
Writing may be a solitary occupation, but it’s not a lonely one. Those with families – especially with children – have discovered how many interruptions a single day can hold. So we grasp for every second we can and write. Even on the perfect day, when the kids are in school, the hubby at work, and the inbox empty, we’ve got characters and plots pulling at us from every direction. Should this scene be in Chapter Two or Three? Should it be in the book at all? When is the heroine going to stop being a dolt and realize this man is perfect for her? And where did that subplot go? Or the first draft is done…now what?
Staring at the screen does no good. The answers aren’t there. Some writers keep going and struggle down a bunch of dead end paths before chancing on the correct road. Not me. I like to pretend I’m too efficient – I dislike the word lazy – to do all that useless work.
So what do I do? I push the keys to save the document on the screen, get up, and do something totally radical.
I give myself a time-out from writing.
Not the time-out I used to give my kids. A real time-out that helps refill the creative well. It’s okay. Really. It’s okay to take some time off. If a writer spends all her time on the fast-track, she – and her imagination – are going to get exhausted. Other people take vacations. I don’t mean working vacations where you do research at the same time. I mean a real vacation. My favorite place to go for a real vacation is Disney World. That’s because, as one Imagineer put it, Disney provides all the imagination needed. I can give my creative neurons time off while I ride rides, look at a zillion different versions of a mouse on sweatshirts, and just relax.
I like to let a manuscript sit for a couple of weeks to age. Sort of like fine cheese. After a couple of weeks, I scrape off the mold and craft a final draft. During those two weeks, I read other people’s work. No, I devour it. Sometimes two or more books a day. I need to get my characters’ voices out of my head and enjoy someone else’s efforts. I watch movies – and try not to pick them apart for plot and character development. I indulge my hobbies. When was the last time I picked up my knitting or kneaded bread (although kneading bread is something I do in the midst of writing because it’s a good way to work different muscles and deal with writer’s frustration!)?
When I start getting testy with everything and everyone, I know it’s time to get back to writing, which centers me. But if the two weeks (or whatever my scheduled time-out is) hasn’t passed, I deny myself the pleasure of returning to my characters. I’m soon salivating to get back to work with ideas bursting from my skull like cerebral fireworks. My subconscious has been working even as I’ve been watching Galaxy Quest for the zillionth time. By the time I do sit down, the words flow again…and I’m energized with the excitement that brought me to writing in the first place – the need to tell a story.
That’s what works for me. Whatever you do, learn to recognize the signals you need to give yourself time out away from your writing. That’s the best way to avoid burn-out, and it may be the most important thing you can do as a writer.
Award-winning author Jo Ann Ferguson has a split writing personality. Jo Ann Ferguson launched the new Regency line at ImaJinn (where her traditional Regency Gentleman’s Master will be the next book in her popular Regency mysteries) and is also the author of best-selling historicals. J.A. Ferguson writes paranormals for ImaJinn. Jocelyn Kelley’s next book is Sea Wraith, coming late this fall. Jo Ann Brown novelized Thomas Kinkade’s The Christmas Cottage, a movie starring Peter O’Toole that was recently released on DVD, and now writes for Guideposts Books. Her 80+ titles are also published by Tudor, Ballantine, Zebra, Harper, Warner, and Thorndike. The books have been translated into almost a dozen languages and sold on every continent except Antarctica.
We’re entering the last week of Unleash Your Storywith a total raised to date of $4,268. Let’s see if we can’t hit $10,000. You can help by making a donation in honor of your favorite participant or team. Click on the list of teams, participating authors, readers and bloggers.
Congratulations to these winners from Week Two:
Top Writer—words written week 2 Maisy Yates 11573
Top Reader—words written week 2 Suzanne Gochenouer 4005
Donation leader week 2 ($25 Starbucks card and $25 BN Card) PJ Ausdenmore $245
Wk 2 donation leader (not cumulative) $25 BN card Mary O’Malley with $100 new dollars
Highest # donors wk 2 BN Gift card
$100 Books—Mary O’Malley
$25 books We’ve given out several. If you or one of your donors has made a donation of $25 or more, please let us know so that we can send you a book.
Welcome, multi-published author and long-time high school English teacher Paula Reed. Her upcoming book Hester will be published by St. Martin’s Press in February 2010. Support Paula’s Denver Writers team with a donation to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation by clicking here.
There is that classic question people ask writers: Where do you get your ideas? And the classic writers’ response: We don’t know. For my latest novel, Hester, which is being released in February 2010, I know exactly where I got my ideas: Nathaniel Hawthorne and my classroom.
You see, I’ve been an English teacher for over twenty years, and for over half of them, I have taught The Scarlet Letter. Ask any student who has had me as their sophomore English teacher in the last twenty years, and I guarantee that this is the novel they remember most in my class. I know this because last year a student bounced up to me on the first day of class and said, “Mrs. Reed, you taught my mother!” (Her mother? Am I really that old?) “She said she’ll never forget The Scarlet Letter. It’s one of her favorite books.”
Hands-down, my favorite class to teach is American Literature. My favorite unit? The Puritans. My favorite lecture? Calvinism. (How pathetic is that? I have a favorite lecture. And it’s on Calvinism.) My favorite book? Well, it’s not a part of the Puritan unit; it’s in the Romantics, but can you guess it? That’s right. I hand out copies of Hawthorne’s classic work and tell the kids that they must do their best to love it as much as I do. Barring that, they must pretend to. A colleague once told me that whenever she thought of Hester, she pictured me, and my dark-haired, dark-eyed daughter as the mischievous Pearl. (For the record, my daughter was always much better behaved.) Sooner or later, it had to happen. I had to write about this book.
As wonderful as the original work is, with its effusive, rich, and vivid prose, its compelling characters (specifically Hester and Roger), and its timeless moral (you should have been in my class the year I taught this and the Monica Lewinsky scandal hit), it is marked by Hawthorne’s great affliction. That is to say, it is a romance with a strong and vibrant heroine and a dud as a hero. (If you doubt that this is a pervasive Hawthornean flaw, read “The Minister’s Black Veil,” “The Birthmark,” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” Do I sound like your high school English teacher, yet?)
And my students have asked the same questions over the years. For pity’s sake, what did Hester Prynne ever see in Arthur Dimmesdale? After all, Roger is no peach, but he is a serious scholar who dabbles in black magic. That, at least, is interesting, but Arthur is a dishonest man who cares more for his image than his character, though he doesn’t have the strength to just accept that about himself. He isn’t even intellectually rigorous, Hawthorne tells us. His only virtues are his gifts for empathy and public speaking—not usually the sexiest traits (but don’t tell high school speech kids that). This is a relationship that needs further explanation if the reader is to believe that Hester has a modicum of self-respect.
There is also that big gap in the novel, those years between when Hester and Pearl depart from New England and when Hester returns alone. For a reader who has invested her heart in Hester, it is a gap that begs filling. She is such a magnificent creation, and she gets such a raw deal. Enter my affinity for a happy ending. Now, I would never dream of changing the destiny Hawthorne had given Hester. She is, after all, his creation, but it seemed to me that it was not exactly blasphemous to tweak the way that ending feels. And what about Pearl? After an entire novel in which this child is nothing but a symbol, Hawthorne breaks the spell and sets her free to be a real human being, then tells us nothing of her life. What sort of woman would Hester Prynne raise? How would Pearl look back on her one-dimensional, symbol-of-sin years? So many questions left unanswered…
So where did I get the idea for this book? In my classroom, of course. And where did the meat of it come from? Thousands of questions asked by thousands of teens, hence the dedication in the front of the book:
To all my students over the years who have read The Scarlet Letter with me and loved it…or pretended to love it…or at least resisted the lure of SparkNotes and read every word Hawthorne wrote. I love you.
By Lori Devoti
My very first appearance as an author was at the local library. I did my “this is how I got published spiel”. Afterwards, a woman came up to me to tell me how she had always wanted to write, but see…she had small kids, so it really couldn’t happen for quite a few years.
I smiled ’cause see…I wrote my first book with two kids under six at home with me. And those two kids both have cystic fibrosis. So, I not only had to deal with the fights, the many juice demands, and potty training, I also had to deal with chest physical therapy, a multitude of daily drugs to keep straight and way more doctor interaction than I recommend for anyone’s sanity.
But I did it and frankly so could this woman if she really wanted to.
Does that sound callous? I don’t mean it to, but the reality is that if you want something bad enough you will find time for it. We don’t live in a time where every waking hour has to be dedicated to cooking, cleaning, hunting, or farming for our very survival. (I mean I haven’t boiled my own soap for years!) No, the vast majority of us take time for things that aren’t absolutely necessary to our survival or our family’s survival all the time. We watch TV. We browse the Internet. We shop. We do stuff! And while doing stuff is important for our sanity and living a full life–each of those things is a choice and we could choose to be doing something else.
Simply enough, that’s what I did and to a degree still do.
Last Thursday we learned that a child in my son’s class had H1N1. This was a huge deal to us–my kids, both under 12 and both with CF, getting H1N1—-well it is a nightmare I don’t want to even consider happening. So, we, after a deep discussion, pulled them out of school. Since last Friday, I have been spending all day with them, home schooling them. And I am on deadline. And I was already behind where I wanted to be.
But you know what? I discovered I can get enough done to make my deadline–even with giving up hours to them every day.
I had to make adjustments. I watch a lot less TV. I spend a lot less time reading blogs. I ignore a lot more stuff – flame wars, entire conversations on loops, current events.
I adjusted my goal. I decided I could take an extra week to get the book done. It cuts into my revision time, but I know I can do that in the time that is left.
I adjusted my writing time from Monday thru Friday to every day of the week.
What I didn’t do is say “I can’t do this.” Because that is the one sure fired way to make sure you won’t.
Bottom line, I made my writing a priority again, and if you want to write with life and children you will probably have to do that too. But the good news is…You can!
Go forth and write. 🙂
Over the eight or so years I’ve been writing romance, I’ve met a few people who were readers and gave it up to become writers. No, I’m not kidding. They actually gave up reading.
One said she didn’t have time any more.
Another just abandoned a particular line she was aiming for. She’d loved reading those books before she tried to get published by that publisher. But she had to stop after she grew as she put it, “insanely jealous of published newbies I could write circles around.”
A reason that makes me nod with agreement — the fear of unintentional imitation. “I can’t read romance if I’m going to write it,” another writer explained. “I’m too afraid of unconsciously using someone else’s voice.”
In a conversation, I find myself adopting the cadences and phrases of the people I’m talking with. And I know that there are some writers who are particularly contagious. They pepper their writing with short sentences, maybe, or they have a particular sort of description they use at particular points in the story. I can see getting sucked into imitation.
But giving up reading? Oh, no. NO. Sometimes I’ll drop a genre. If I’m working on a historical, I probably won’t read other historicals for a while.
But the way I figure it, I have a list of things I’m willing to give up for writing: regular paychecks, ego (still getting those rejections, thanks), wrists, sanity.
Stories written by other people? Nope, not negotiable.