Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Ja, I’m sprechen German at you. Why? Because I’m in Germany this week.
Why? Well, that’s a long story involving the day job and the need to learn things best learned from those who have the most experience. One impact of working for an international company is that occasionally you have to go international to do your job.
Fortunately I rather like to travel as anyone familiar with http://26tickets.miramontes.com/ can testify to. Hey, at least I have enough time to do laundry on this trip.
Mmmm, clean socks tomorrow…
Traveling from a writer’s perspective is a little different. Your schedule is thrown off so even doing random things like working on a blog entry can become a challenge. Making progress on a WIP can be difficult because you don’t have the notes you left in your office at home.
Besides you used all your energy up just driving to and from work, coping with strange traffic signs, unfamiliar roads, and communicating with the waitress in German to order dinner.
On the other hand when you are staying alone in a hotel room, there can be nothing better to do than write. Last year I wrote most of Pleasure Maid, my Ellora’s Caveman story in Dreams Of The Oasis III, during a similar three week trip to Germany. This year I just finished up edits on my Christmas quickie, Perfect Hero.
I’ve got another week here and long evenings to work on stuff. Who knows what I’ll accomplish?
In the meantime auf wiedersehen!
Monday, October 23, 2006
As I’m required to take 150 hours of instruction every five years to keep renewing my California teaching certificates (Rant # 47, which I’ll spare you), I’m currently taking a class in Beginning Italian at Foothill College. Since I know lots of French and a little Spanish, Italian is easy for me. The instructor, a native speaker, is quite good. The mix of students has come as a pleasant surprise. Other than difficulties parking, I find the experience very positive—especially having the chance to learn this very beautiful language and to have the mental shake-up that getting into a new language demands.
One of the features of Italian that really impresses me is the sense of style that imbues the pronunciation and the construction of the words. In addition to being euphonic, Italian is molto elegante.
The question and challenge is, how to get the feeling of the language, like the feeling of being in Rome, into a story?
Meeting old friends
For those of you who write series, do you connect with your characters as if they are real living, breathing people? I do. Baylor Quinn is at least as real to me as many of my friends in cyber-space, and almost as real as the ones I see every day in "real" space. I know his background, I've met his sisters and I sympathize with all of them for the dysfunctional upbringing they had. Most of all, I really like Bay. He's the kind of man I'd want to know--intelligent, warm-hearted and loving, yet with a streak of vulnerability, a sense of need about him that gives him an even greater appeal. I get to take all these bits and pieces of the man I've essentially created out of whole cloth and turn him loose. I've only written one scene with him so far. I can't wait to see what he's going to do next.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Bella ponders how to write the BIG ideas...
I've run several of my hooks by my agent and she loves them all. Okay, great. That means I can go ahead and write the proposal chapters, right? Well, sort of. I'm usually the kind of writer who just jumps right and works it out on the page. I love beginnings because anything seems possible. It's the end of the book where I tend to drag a bit. Very much a different process from many of my writer friends who slave over the beginning and then race to the end.
This time around, however, I feel like the hooks are so solid that I don't want to mess up and get it wrong. Of course, all this thinking does is mess with my brain, and I sit here worrying about the writing, rather than getting to the writing.
Yes, I understand that each book I write is supposed to stretch me as a writer (or are they really? can't we coast sometimes and still write good books? another digression...), but I wouldn't mind it if I get lucky and when I sit down to actually attack the first few chapters, they flow easily and beautifully.
I'd love your thoughts on being stretched as a writer and how you deal with ideas that seem too big to get down on paper.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Mystery in the Mountains (or what's going on with my former neighbor)
Well, now he’s been charged in a second rape case and his bail is $1.5 million, and his support is starting to wane. The first assault was against an acquaintance at the market where he worked (where the murdered checker worked, too). Only now it’s clear the woman he allegedly raped wasn’t just an acquaintance. Presumably, he’d been having an affair with her for 18 months. She didn’t go to the hospital after this violent sexual assault, so there isn’t any physical evidence that it took place. And the week after he violently sexually assaulted her, they went to Disneyland together. Okay, can you tell I’m reading the newspaper incessantly? Coincidentally, they broke up just about the time the murdered sales clerk got pregnant. Now, the DA says the reason his bail is so high is that this is considered a domestic violence case because of its longevity and the woman accusing him is afraid for her life. Which is the reason she didn’t say anything long before now.
The second charge against him results from a relationship he had 16 years ago. He allegedly raped his 17-year-old girlfriend repeatedly. He was 21 at the time, and thus she was a minor, which is why the statute of limitations for rape, which is 10 years (according to the newspaper article I read) doesn’t apply in this case. Additionally, it is considered a domestic violence case.
Interestingly, both women remained friends with him after they broke up. But now they are afraid for their lives. And he’s in jail on $1.5 million bail pending another hearing where the evidence against him will be reviewed to see if it is enough to take him to trial.
But let’s face it, everyone in my small town is thinking that he might be the father of the pregnant checkers baby, and that it looks more and more likely that he killed her. Because he seems to have had this double life. Because other women say he abused them. Because that bail is so darn high. I no longer have emotion about whether he did or he didn’t do these things. I guess that over time, one sort of divorces oneself from the emotion of it because it’s easier to deal with the situation that way. My husband and I disagree about why he hasn’t been charged with the murder yet. I say that it’s because once he’s charged, the DA’s office has to give all the evidence they’ve got to his attorney, and they don’t want to reveal their hand yet. My husband says it’s because they don’t have enough evidence to charge him, so they’re holding him on ice with the rape charges until they can find the evidence. But in there, notice I didn’t say that my husband and I disagree about whether he killed the woman or not. We’ve both come to accept that it’s highly likely he did.
Which is kind of sad. Whether he committed murder or he didn’t, whether he committed rape or he didn’t, his life is ruined. No one’s going to believe he didn’t do it, even if he’s never charged. And his wife’s life is ruined. I just hate to think of how it will affect his kids later in life.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
4 days left
I've sold my house and I'm moving to the beach!
Help me celebrate. Jump up from chair and dance around the room.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Okay, on the cusp of winning probably the highest award an unpublished author can win, the RWA Golden Heart, I’ve suddenly lost my muse. Yeppers, I’ve become so frustrated that my book won’t sell--for whatever silly reason the editor of the day has manufactured—(which pretty much says EVERYTHING THAT CAN BE WRONG WITH MY BOOKS IS, despite the fact it’s won this highest award)--that I’ve completely given up. Yes, even after preaching to people, "don’t give up, follow your dream, keep writing," I’ve fallen to the dark side… and given up, been defeated by this fickle industry.
Now, what does a writer do when her muse has run off and quit? I wish I had all sorts of eloquent advice to give you here; maybe use the Nora Roberts quote, plant butt in chair and just do it, or the Nike Slogan, JUST DO IT, and all sorts of profound things to share to motivate you… but I can’t. It’s not in me. I’m broken. You’re seeing the breakdown of a frustrated writer who has no desire to write. Will I pull out of it? Oh, probably, but it is my blog day, and since I’ve lost my muse to write, I just thought I’d ramble about why I’m so frustrated, and why this post isn’t full of inspiration. ;)
Now that I've completely depressed you with my whining, go get some chocolate! I give you permission! And give me some cheese to go with this post.
Monday, October 09, 2006
So now I've got to think about how in the world to find Ideg a lover, a, gasp, soul-mate for the soulless villain. Ideg does point out that his character has undergone an arc of development, that he's no longer the vicious, manipulative scum he was (or people thought he was!) when Val and Paul first got together. Ideg also points out all his accomplishments, including the development of the serum that enables him and other vampires to enjoy the sunlight. This serum makes it possible for him to voyage anywhere in the universe in search of Mr. Right.
Ugh. Does Ideg care that I have other projects penciled onto my calendar? That he is not, in fact, the center of the universe?
Advice is needed here. What do you, my fellow writers, do when a character just won't let go? Should I just let him down gently and tell him to divert his energy to Solitaire? Or do I need to devote my energy to Ideg Retkove's quest for love?
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Dream a Little Dream
But I digress, sorry. I just find dreams really interesting. Lately I’ve been trying to recall my dreams with more regularity. Sometimes I really have to work at it. Overall, though, I realize I have a lot of dreams about snakes. Hmm. Now, I know snakes are supposed to be phallic, but my dreams about snakes go like this, I’m in a very serene setting, doing dishes or watching a sunset or whatever, then someone throws a snake at me (or a lizard, lizards work, too, I think it’s the whole reptile thing), and it gets all tangled up in my hair (or down my blouse) and I’m screaming for someone to get it out. So. What does this mean? Really, I haven’t the foggiest. Except that I’m afraid of snakes. I have this weird feeling that they can jump and fly, but I think that’s because I’m always dreaming about someone throwing them at me, so in my mind, it’s as if they actually can jump and fly.
But I think I’m digressing again. My whole point in this topic was to ask how people use dreams in their writing. I do know that sometimes I dream something that will be so totally perfect for the book I’m writing. Maybe not the whole dream, but a kernel of it will work for the next day’s writing. It’s like the light bulb going on: oh man, she’s going to do this next. I’ve been told that my writing is outrageous sometimes, and I think that’s why, because I used something strange out of a dream I had. I also use my characters’ dreams to give them revelations, about themselves or someone else. The problem is, though, that in a book, you can’t really have a dream be like a real dream because real dreams are so disconnected, jumping from one seemingly unrelated thing to another. In a book, it simply wouldn’t make sense. Hmm, come to think of it, it doesn’t make sense in the dream, either.
So, here are the things I’m interested in hearing about from you. First, do you remember your dreams fairly clearly? Second, do you have any clue whatsoever as to their meaning (that’s providing that your answer to the first question is yes). And lastly, how, if at all, do you use dreams in your writing?
And if you want to share any dreams you have, especially recurring ones, that would be cool, too.
That is all! I’m off to dreamland!
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
The trials and tribulations of dialup
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
The twenty-four stories are selected by a group of EC editors without the editors knowing which author wrote the story. Having your story selected for Cavemen is akin to winning a contest.
I like the Cavemen selection process. Every writer, whether published or not, has a shot. The stories expose readers to a variety of writing styles and the genres include contemporary, historical, paranormal and futuristic. If you haven’t read a Cavemen anthology, you’re missing out.
The following Cavemen anthologies have stories by RedHotRomance authors:
Ellora’s Cavemen Tales of the Temple I: Kate Douglas and Doreen DeSalvo
Ellora’s Cavemen Legendary Tails I: BJ McCall and Cricket Starr
Legendary Tails III: Kate Douglas
Ellora’s Cavemen Dreams of the Oasis II: BJ McCall
Dreams of Oasis III: Cricket Starr
Did I leave anyone out?
If my story, a futuristic called Silk, is selected I'll be sure to blog about it.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
On my blog day I want to share an article I saved from 2004 because it inspired me. All in all, I consider Nora Roberts the best writer of our time. I remember meeting her at National this year. She was in line for coffee right in front of me, just a regular old person, but in my eyes, she was larger than life. I said to her, "your hosting of the awards ceremony made my night. You redeemed RWA with a wonderful ceremony and made winning the Golden Heart a dream come true for me." She graciously thanked me and went on to get her coffee, but I was in awe she talked to me, little old me, just like a regular person. She's an inspiring lady, no matter now much she says she's not. She's someone all writers can learn from.
Who Needs a Muse?
Friday October 29, 2004
By Thomas Kellner
Romance novelist Nora Roberts is the most prolific--and best-paid--writer in America.
Nora Roberts won't win the Nobel Prize in Literature--not unless they invent a new category for gross revenue. But for sheer output, few people can touch this 54-year-old novelist. In just over two decades she has written 157 books (7.9 million words added to the store of romance fiction), and 116 of them were bestsellers. Last year she sold 50 million copies, and stands to repeat that feat again this year. Jane Austen she isn't--and readily admits it. "I don't believe in inspiration," says Roberts in the husky voice of a chain smoker. "I was educated by the nuns. They are a lot tougher than any muse."
Such toughness has made her very rich. She grosses $60 million a year. That hardly puts her within broomstick-flying distance of J.K. Rowling ($147 million per annum). But it places Roberts, who owns the copyrights to all her books, well ahead of better-known scribes like John Grisham and Stephen King, who earn less than she does. "I've made a tremendous living," says Roberts, who has dwelled in the same house for 25 years. "I have the luxury to choose a simple life."
By the Numbers
Astonishingly, sales of romance fiction declined 13% last year.
$1.4 billion was spent on romance novels last year.
2,093 new titles of romance fiction were published in 2003.
34% of all popular fiction sales were romance tales.
25- to 44- year-old women are the sweet spot, representing 46% of all romance readers.
Source: Romance Writers of America.
Life wasn't always so luxuriously simple. Born Eleanor Marie Robertson, Roberts grew up in an Irish-American family in Silver Springs, Md. with four older brothers. After graduating from a parochial high school, she skipped college, married at 17 and moved to the hills of western Maryland. She had a job as a legal secretary, which she hated, but soon got pregnant and stayed home. During a particularly bad blizzard in 1979, after an endless round of games with her two small sons, Roberts reached for the pen. What emerged was a romance yarn she called Melodies of Love. It was sufficiently close to rubbish that Roberts doesn't want to discuss it even now. No one considered publishing it or the half-dozen or so other manuscripts that followed.
Yet Roberts kept writing. Her streak of bad luck ended in 1981, when romance publisher Silhouette accepted Irish Thoroughbred, the story of a girl from the Emerald Isle who comes to Maryland and meets a studly American horse farm owner, whose eyes soften at the birth of a foal. After a few intimate escapades, they wed. And so was born a formula that has been successfully replicated and varied time and again: Girl meets manly but sensitive boy; they have explosive physical adventures together but find real fulfillment in marriage.
Roberts didn't. She and her husband split up in 1983. She started writing more or less every weekday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Two years later Roberts married Bruce Wilder, a carpenter who came to her house one day to build bookshelves. They've lived happily ever since. And why not? He's one of those muscular types with a softer side: Wilder keeps adding rooms to their 5,000-square-foot house but also runs Turn the Page, a bookstore in nearby Boonsboro.
The rest of the 1980s Roberts spent cranking out dozens of romances for Silhouette and, later, for Bantam (now part of Bertelsmann). Her literary life changed in 1992, when she caught the eye of Phyllis Grann, then publisher of G.P. Putnam's Sons, and Leslie Gelbman, an editor there. "Her books were much more complex and textured than paperback romance," recalls Grann. Her protagonists--ranging from Ukrainian exiles and half-Apache drifters to Kansas farm girls and superstar Italian chefs--occasionally rose above the cardboard high enough to cast a shadow. Still, "She was very linear," says Gelbman, who has been editing Roberts ever since and is now president and publisher of the Berkley Publishing Group, which, along with Putnam, is owned by Penguin. "I wanted her to go out of the box."
More to the point, the Putnam pair cannily discerned that they could make a lot more money--as much, they thought, as client Tom Clancy--by marketing "bigger" books. Meaning: more fleshed-out plots, a deeper cast of supporting characters--even a push of Roberts' romance fiction into more unexpected genres like mystery and suspense. So they hired Roberts to write six books, three hardcovers and a paperback trilogy, for an undisclosed amount. Grann decided to keep the trilogy strictly romance to please core readers; the hardcover books, and their more intricate tales, were intended to expand that audience. Those retailed for $22 and up, compared with $7 for softbound sagas. The book covers underwent a metamorphosis, too. They dumped cheesy Fabio-like images in favor of more sedate jackets dominated by Roberts' name and a more discreet image (say, a cityscape or a close-up of jewelry). The idea was to appeal to college-educated urban women and make them more at ease when they took her books to the cash register or read them on the bus.
Not easy trying to repackage a romance writer. By the time her contract expired in 1995 the trilogy was a bestseller. But her hardbacks at first fell short of the necessary 100,000 copies to make the list. Grann stepped in again. "I told her, 'Don't leave us now,'" she remembers. "'The next hardcover is going to break.'" At the advice of her agent, Amy Berkower, Roberts set her next hardbound effort on a cattle ranch out West. Grann gave it a soaring title, Montana Sky, and launched a lavish promotion push in March 1996, including one of the first TV commercials plugging a book and an unusual full-court press by Putnam with booksellers. Within days the book, Roberts' 100th published volume, became a bestseller. It has sold 2 million copies.
Around the same time Roberts' handlers wrestled with a different problem--how to deal with the author's hypergraphic output. She was flooding her publisher with up to six book-length manuscripts a year. "We couldn't publish as fast as she could write," says Grann. Berkower suggested a brand-new category of romance novels under a nom de plume. At first Roberts resisted both suggestions. But Berkower explained that Grann would spin her into two brands, like Coke and diet Coke. "This lightbulb went off in my head, and I thought, 'Oh, it's marketing!'" says Roberts.
So was launched the In Death franchise, a series of 19 grisly murder mysteries (Naked in Death, Portrait in Death and so on) set in gritty New York City in the year 2059. The heroes are a cop, Eve Dallas, and Roarke, a self-made billionaire with a shady past, who team up to solve crimes and (of course) engage in steamy liaisons. With 17 million copies in print, In Death books are sold under the pseudonym J.D. Robb ("J" for Jason and "D" for Dan, Roberts' two sons).
Running a double game, Gelbman and Grann tried to create a little nonfictional intrigue, exploiting the public's ignorance that the two authors were really one. Posters went up in bookstore chains, asking, "J.D. Robb writes as what other bestselling romance novelist? Ask your bookseller." First released in paperback to snare the largest possible audience, In Death books shamelessly hooked readers on sequels by including an excerpt from the sequel in the back of the book--a rip-off of television's tried-and-true use of previews and coming attractions. Putnam hoped to tease the suspense as long as possible, "outing" J.D. Robb as Nora Roberts in 2001--with poster displays in bookstores--by which time the In Death books had become regular bestsellers. Mel Gibson's production company, Icon, has optioned the whole series for an undisclosed sum; no shooting has taken place yet.
That's fine by Roberts, who says she prefers to leave all the selling to her Manhattan spinmistresses. Roberts hates to fly and tours just once a year to promote her books. But when she's on the road, she's ubiquitous: Promoting her latest romance, Northern Lights, Roberts spent three weeks in October traveling to 16 cities in ten states.
The Internet is her preferred mode of transportation. While Roberts has never visited many of the places that serve as settings for her books--the Caribbean (The Reef), Mexico (Risky Business) and the wilds of Alaska (Northern Lights), for example--she gropes her way there by spending a lot of time online. It's through her PC that she stays in touch with fans. Every two months she e-mails a free newsletter to 50,000-plus subscribers. Her Web site, entirely self-financed, attracts 110,000 unique visitors a month and sells a modest number of books, blankets, T shirts and book bags.
Her output doesn't have the staying power of, say, Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, which has spent 82 weeks on the New York Times list. (Her works have spent a combined 79 weeks as queens of that heap.) So Roberts & Co. must devise new ways to keep goosing sales. One is to guide readers to her other books via The Official Nora Roberts Companion, a $16, 450-page guide to her oeuvre, updated annually. Another is to push overseas, where her novels have been translated into 25 languages, including Thai, Indonesian and Estonian. Then there are the reprints and reissues of titles already in print. To avoid confusion, this has necessitated putting stickers on new releases that designate them as such.
But mostly it depends on Nora Roberts herself, spinning her latest tales at the rate of three paperbacks and three hardbound books a year. That's 300,000 words, probably more than most Americans read.