Friday, September 28, 2012

The P Word

When I was a kid, two subjects were off limits for polite conversation: politics and religion. All these years later, I don't see many people talking about religion in social settings, but man, the no-politics idea has been smashed all to hell.

There are so many things I hate about politics that it's hard to know where to start, but today I'm sticking to social media.

Stating your political beliefs on Facebook and Twitter is fine.

A good-spirited debate is less fine, in my never-humble opinion, but still okay.

Assuming that everyone who friends/follows you shares your beliefs is naive and harmful to a friendship.

Ranting that if your friends/followers don't believe exactly as you do, they are responsible for the destruction of the universe and should die a slow painful death crosses the line.

My opinions are very strong, and they're mine. I don't try to ram them down someone else's throats. I don't automatically assume that if you're a Democrat, you must believe this, or if you're a Republican, you must believe that. I don't insult people publically for daring to disagree with me, and I don't take kindly to people who try to deny me that same right.

(Except for people who vote straight-party tickets. It amazed me back when I was in grade school and found out there were people who actually voted for someone for no other reason than he was a Republican or a Democrat, and it absolutely astounds me today. Vote the issues. Vote the candidate's track record, for God's sake. All Democrats are not created equal, and neither are all Republicans.)

Campaign for your candidates. Give money to your party. Nurture your beliefs.

And please grant everyone else the right to do the same.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What Shall I Talk About?

Subtitled: What would you like to read?

Until this week, I've made a point of writing here about writing. I love talking about writing. But sometimes I get tired of it, and since a lot of my readers are among the ever-shrinking group of people who aren't actively writing a book, thinking about writing a book, are waiting to get bored so they can write a book (and make a million dollars), I thought maybe I could limit the writing talk to specific stuff. The rest of the time I could blog about my other passions: reading, my grandson, my family, dogs, food, power tools, etc.

What do you think? If I keep writing about writing, are you going to go away and never come back? If I stop writing about writing, are you going to do the same? Or am I just so darn entertaining that you don't care what I'm writing about?

(Pardon me while I snort.)

Anyway, dolls, it's up to you. Comment here, let me know on Facebook or let me know by the numbers when I check in after a week or two and you've kept visiting or have slowly trickled away.
One of the crape myrtles next to my driveway this week. I love this time of year! At least, during the odd moments when I'm able to breathe.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lessons About Parfaits

Do you remember the scene in Shrek where Shrek is trying to explain to Donkey that ogres are like layers? Donkey comments that not everyone likes onions, but how about parfaits? Everyone likes parfaits.

[If you haven't seen the movie, you're either A) lacking young children or B) lacking young grandchildren and C) are missing out on some great lines.]

Anyway, not just being perverse as I sometimes I am, I'm sticking up my hand here. I don't like parfaits. Don't like eating them and sure don't like making them.

Every Friday Cam and I "make" something sweet. It's usually chocolate chip cookies, though we've also done brownies, fudge, no-bake oatmeal cookies, red velvet cookies and Rice Krispies treats. (They were really good! I think I've had them about twice in my life and never liked them until this time around.)

Last Friday we made parfaits from a kit.

Lesson 1 - don't spend $5 on a kit when all you need is chocolate cookies, butter, pudding mix, milk and Cool Whip. And that way you get as much of the chocolate cookie crumbs as you want.

Lesson 2 - Cam, who can outdo a squadron of fighter jets for sheer decibels, thinks the mixer is too loud and so can't do that part.

Lesson 3 - real honest-to-God parfait glasses are wide at the top for a reason, which is . . .

Lesson 4 - it's darn hard getting layers of chocolate pudding and whipped cream into a non-parfait glass without smearing both on the sides, unless . . .

Lesson 5 - you use a margarita glass, when it works just fine!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Perfectionism or Nitpicking?

How do you tell the difference?

I'm actually not sure there's much of one, if any at all. I like things done right. I especially like words spelled right, sentences structured right and paragraphs punctuated right. (Okay, it should probably be "properly" instead of "right" those last three times, but I'm going for an echo of the first "right.")

Yes, I review text messages and emails before I send them to catch typos. I don't rely on spell check in my manuscripts because I don't entirely trust it. I do, however, trust the spelling ability that got me in more spelling bees than I ever wanted to be in as a kid.

I've actually copy-edited magazines, newspapers and published books -- not because I'm getting paid for it, but because it drives me nuts to see mistakes go uncorrected.I spent hours last week removing a stupid formatting error that showed up in my manuscript. I tried to leave it there and continue writing. I just couldn't do it. I hate it when I make a typo or leave out a word on Facebook or Twitter.

I don't consider myself a perfectionist, though. (If you could see my house . . .) I don't like to think of myself as a nitpicker, either.

I just like to think I'm a writer.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

High Maintenance

A common piece of advice writers get -- one I agree with only in the broadest of senses -- is to write what you know. Some people take it too literally, thinking they can only use occupations/locations/experiences personally familiar to them. Not so.

An author who's never been shot at can realistically write how it feels. A mother who's never lost a child can write a mother who has realistically. A woman married to a chubby, balding accountant can easily relate what it feels like to fall in love with a tall, dark, mysterious and dangerous spy. All it takes is imagination.

None of my characters are like me. Sure, we have things in common, but the sad fact is, my life is boring (just read my bio; you'll see), and the really sad fact is, I'm high-maintenance. I'm an emotional mess. I'm a klutz of the first degree. I'm allergic to everything. I require great amounts of attention and care (thank You, God, for a husband who can handle it). I'm not the sort of heroine I want to read about, and I think the sort of hero that heroine would require would stretch the limits of believability.

But I don't have to be a heroine.

I just have to be able to relate to one.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why I Love Writers

Not long ago I was talking with a group of writers. Once we finished the usual writerly discussions -- plotting, creating characters, self-editing, dialogue, etc. -- the conversation turned to other things we find of interest, such as dishes we like to cook, adventures we've been on and our personal preferences in handguns.

Yes, in a group of romance writers ranging in age from college age to grandmotherly, more than a few of us know what we like when it comes to pistols. (Mostly semi-automatics, mostly compacts.)

Writers are the most diverse people I know. In my own close circle of friends, there's a scuba dive master, a bomber car driver, a veterinarian, a Harley rider, a couple of guitarists, some incredible singers, an airplane mechanic, several computer experts, runners, yoga enthusiasts, gourment cooks, bakers, master gardeners, world travelers, teachers, nurses, dog lovers, cat lovers, people lovers.

You can get an answer to just about any question from a group of writers. If no one knows, they will automatically do what my son's tae kwon do instructor taught his students in that situation: find out. Our heads are stuffed with an incredible amount of information, and we love sharing it. We'll support you, make you laugh, encourage you, make you cry, cry with you and always be there for you.

We are a pretty damn good bunch of people.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Prince -- A Good Thing?

I'm a huge fan of Once Upon a Time and can't wait for the new season to start. I have only one complaint about the show.

Prince Charming is a real prince. And not in a good way.

Come to think of it, he's not too charming, either.

In a romance novel, the prince (in the past), David (in the present) would definitely not rate hero status. He's not evil enough to be a villain. He's not evil at all, in fact. He's just bland, mopey and spineless.

Even Pinnochio and Mr. Gold (Rumplestiltskin) are both way more hero material (okay, anti-hero in Gold's case) than David could ever be. Granted, David and Mary Margaret (Snow White) aren't the primary characters, but their relationship is still such a disappointment. Every time she moons over him, I just want to shake her and say, "Wake up! Go find Pinnochio or Grumpy or Jiminy Cricket. They're all twice the hero material David is!"

Man, when a wooden boy, a dwarf, and a cricket are sexier and stronger than the prince, that's one sorry prince.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sock Puppet Masters

If you're even on the fringes of the book world, you've heard the fuss the last few weeks about sock puppet reviews. There was a guy in Bixby, OK -- home to my favorite chiropractor and one of my favorite hamburger places -- who made darn good money selling phony 5-star reviews to authors. The phony reviewers would post their phony reviews on Amazon, and readers would get suckered into buying the books.

I rarely pay attention to reviews, for anyone else's books or mine. A good review is great, a so-so one can take the shininess off your day, and a bad one sticks around forever. Best to avoid them, in my opinion.

I always wondered about those hundreds of 5-star reviews for books I'd never heard of from authors I'd never heard of. Not that I claim to know every writer out there, but when people are raving deliriously about a book on Amazon and there's no buzz anywhere else, I have to wonder. Especially when the gist of the reviews was pretty much the same.

Now writers feel the need to announce, "I've never paid for reviews," and Amazon reviewers are prefacing their comments with, "I didn't receive payment for this review." It's a sad thing when it comes to that, but I'm not surprised. The publishing market has shrunk over the past ten years, and with the advent of indie publishing, where anyone who wants to publish anything can, there's a huge drive to take every advantage possible, even resorting to fraudulent reviews and fake praise.

I understand the guy in Bixby has gone out of business. A good thing, in my opinion. Readers deserve so much better.

Monday, September 10, 2012

New Computer -- Yea! Oh, No!

My two poor old computers, a desk top and a laptop, have been on life support the last few months, so this weekend I bit the bullet and bought a new one. It's another HP -- I think that's all I've ever owned besides a couple of Gateways back in the day -- only it has a honkin' big screen and a numeric keypad.

Now I get the fun of transferring everything over from not just one computer to another, but from two. Pictures, manuscripts, files, etc. -- oh, boy.

The last time I did this, I bought a program guaranteed to make the data transfer for you. I worked and worked. It didn't. It copied everything two or three times. It just stored the info in a place where I couldn't find it for the transfer. Waste of money.

This time I'm going one of two routes: emailing everything to myself, or using the external hard drive. We'll see how it goes . . . and whether I'll have any hair left when I get done.

First, though, I have to get used to the keyboard. I'm not flexible when it comes to keyboards. I can use two without problem: my old desk top and my old laptop. I can't even use Bob's without having to redo everything. Kind of weird considering that keyboards are basically same . . . but so not the same for me. Sigh.

I'm an uncommon person.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Waiting for Inspiration

I've known a lot of people over the years who call themselves writers, who love to talk about writing and all its aspects and who are thrilled to discuss their books in particular with you if you ask. But there's one problem: they don't write.

Oh, they do, but they wait for inspiration.

Unfortunately, contracted deadlines don't wait for inspiration.

Writing is a lot like anything else: the more you do, the more natural it feels. (I was going to say "the easier it gets," but that's a lie. It's rarely easy. It's constantly learning, practicing, working, improving.) If you write on a regular schedule, odds are that your story is going to flow regularly, too. Writing's an art, but it's also a job, and unless you're luckier than me, you have to do a job whether you feel inspired or not.

I read a quote -- wish I knew who said it: "I only write when I'm inspired, so I make a point of being inspired every morning at 9 a.m."

When wanting to tell the characters' stories isn't enough to get me to the computer, the inspiration of a deadline does the trick.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

When the Voices Shut Up

I've been writing professionally for 26+ years, and I've never had writer's block. I believe it exists; it just hasn't dropped in for a visit with me yet. I hope it never does.

There are times, though, in every book where I cannot make forward progress no matter how hard I try. It's as if the characters have just shut up, folded their arms over their chests and turned their backs to me. I write, delete, write, delete, walk, fuss, bang my head on the desk . . . then remember: the fact that the story won't move means that I've gone wrong somewhere. This was something I experienced in the first book I sold on a partial, so you'd think all these years later, I would remember it, maybe even expect it, and immediately know what to do about it.

The solution is simple: I go back thirty or forty pages and start reading, and when I see that the story's gone off on a tangent, that's where I start rewriting.

But I can't just say, "Oh, okay, this scene isn't working so I need to flip back a few chapters." It's like I have to go through the writing/deleting/writing/deleting/head-banging. It's all part of the process.

Since I'm fortunate enough to have a process that I actually (at least partly) understand, couldn't it be a simpler one?

Monday, September 3, 2012

What's Inside Your Head?

One of the most common questions I've gotten as an author is where do I get my ideas. (Along with "How much money do you make?" and "Do you personally research all those sex scenes?") (Answers: "None of your business" and "Yeah, and I practice the murders, too. Want to help?")

I told a friend the other day that in the beginning, the question of where I got ideas really baffled me. I thought everyone had people and plots living in their heads. I thought the only difference was that I wrote mine down and others didn't.

Which makes me wonder . . . What does go on inside the head of a non-writing person? Do they ever fantasize about romance, mystery, suspense, adventures? Do they really not have other people in there with them, or do they just refuse to recognize them? Are they too logical to acknowledge the voices hiding in their frontal or temporal lobe? Are they unwilling to be labeled different or weird?

(Upon the sale of my very first book, someone I was very close to said, "Oh, you're not weird, after all. You're creative." Like it was a huge surprise.)

And the big question: don't they get loney or bored? My brain has always been filled with lives and emotions and voices other than my own. I would feel so lost without them. But if that's all I had ever known, I guess it would seem normal.

Given a choice, I'll take weird any time.