Thursday, January 31, 2008
It got me thinking, suppose my books are as frustrating. Suppose some readers get so fed up they toss the book across the room, or worse, chuck it in the garbage. Of course that might happen but at least I can claim that my aim is to please. But how do I know if I am successful? Well I guess if folks buy a second book, then you are hitting a spot somewhere.
Why do writer's set out to please, who are they pleasing, is it themselves or their readers? Are we really the best judges of what is pleasing and what is not? Surely we all write about what we like, our attitudes come through, and if we have characters that don't match up, well aren't they usually the "bad" guys. I wonder if any writer has a character liking a particular thing that the writer loathes. I mean I hate a British vegetable called "swede" I could no more have my heroine waxing lyrical about finding that on her plate, than if it were a dead rat! I am not keen on belly button display either, so my heroine would never go around wearing her trousers well below the belly button. (I wonder who decided that a belly button was attractive?) but she would don a bikini, I would too if I were size 10 again!
Of course we might put our people in frightening situations but we know they are going to get out of it, we can frighten ourselves and we can cry along with them, but we don't really want them to come to harm and disappear from our pages, but I guess we are just living vicariously through them, and not really wanting to get in dangerous situations ourselves. Heaven forbid we ever would!
I realise I am rambling, having come a long way from being frustrated by internet price comparison sites and writing a novel, but hey it has really done me good. All that angst and frustration has now gone. So there you have it, writers when you get totally fed up with real life, go jump into your imagination. It is a great healer.
Ta ta for now,
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
I want to share with you a list of some of the familiar friends I've "visited" with this month. You see, January has been a rough month in our house, filled with lots of personal issues that seemed to pop up time and again. It would have been tough to endure had it not been for the solace offered by the comfortable, friendly faces of those I know and love...
First, Lizzie. You all know her, too. I'm sure of it. Or maybe you're more familiar with her beau, Mr. Darcy?
Anne. I just love the way Marilla and Matthew bring her to live with them at Green Gables.
A handsome, intelligent, old-world Count. Ah, Transylvania must be so lovely in the spring...
Last night I spent a few hours with a man called Ishmael. Don't worry, my husband is aware that I'm visiting with an old friend. He's got no worries that a sailor will sweep me away--in any more than mind and spirit, anyhow. Besides, he knows that deep down I'm a bit put off by Captain Ahab's gruffness. No, I'll visit the Pequod only from the safety of my armchair. But what a visit it is!
My husband fully endorses my desire to spend time with everyone on my January visitor's list. He knows me well, knows that one of the surest ways for me to get my footing back is to immerse myself in the written word, find the friendly in the familiar and give my mind and heart time to heal. It is working. I look forward to February with a lighter spirit.
My renewed lightness is due, in large measure, to the works I've mentioned here. It never matters how often I delve into the classics. I love them anew with each reading. I give thanks to my familiar friends for, once again, keeping me company...for being friends in good times as well as gloomy ones.
I wonder what Ebeneezer is doing in February? I know he's usually busy in December but I wonder if his schedule is looser during the rest of the month? I think I'll take a chance, look him up and see if he's open for a Valentine's Day visit...
Monday, January 28, 2008
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Friday, January 25, 2008
Still, there are snippets that reach me. Disjointed words and phrases. This morning's news focus? The economy. I hear snatches from the newscaster...broker to help you...benefits...mortgage...benefits...tax incentive...benefits... Benefits seem to be this morning's biggie.
The headlines remind me of one of the hidden benefits of writing. Outwardly, being a published author has lots of them. I think they vary from person to person and depend on what a particular writer holds dearest. For some the benefits of writing include recognition, satisfaction from seeing thoughts go from mind to paper, increased income and loads of others besides. All the ones I've mentioned I find personally satisfying but one of the biggest, best benefits I've found as a result of my writing career is a hidden one.
Writing is such a solitary occupation that I never expected to meet so many wonderful, interesting, supportive, knowledgeable people. For me, that has been one of the most important benefits of this career.
I love the people aspect of writing! Just love it! I've met readers, editors, publishers, fellow writers--so many people who enrich my life in countless ways. As a result of writing I've met those who have inspired and taught me, shared their thoughts, words and feelings, supported me and expanded my horizons. My life has been richer by far since I've stepped into the writing world. A lot of the credit for that goes to the surprising, "hidden" benefit...people.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
My list would include Tom Sawyer in Huckleberry Finn, I find his appearance completely ruins the end of this wonderful novel for me. I just love Huck, but Tom is just plain stupid and more trouble than he is worth! A friend like Tom, Huck does not need.
I would love to give Andrew Ryan, Kathy Reich's hero cop in her Temp Brennan novels, a wake up slap. He really needs a reality check, he should dump Temp who can be a pain in the rear where love life goes.
Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby, simply because he is so odious.
Amber in Forever Amber because she really ought to have got over the dreadful Bruce, who is a selfish, arrogant male. She pulls herself up by her boot straps and has many adventures but all the time her heart beats for this waste of space. Get over it, Amber! Same goes for Scarlet O'Hara GWTW, Rhett Butler is a dish, Scarlet, Ashley Wilkes is a drip.
Do post if you have anyone in literature that you feel deserves a slap.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Michael Connelly writes so authentically about crime because of his time as a reporter, Margaret Drabble reprises her familiarity with archaeology in every novel and where would Dick Francis be without his intimate knowledge of horse racing.
I guess the trick is to have a fascinating career and then retire young and write. I retired young because of fibromyalgia (a cousin to chronic fatigue) and did mine from my career in public relations for a few years. But now I must substitute research for the familiarity I once had with the daily world of work. I have found that most offices will let you hang out if you come with intelligent questions. But there is an artificality to your visit. Every one is on their best behavior while the writer is visiting. So sometimes eavesdropping is better -- just overhearing a conversation in the booth next to yours in a restaurant gives you a peek into a different career.
And the internet often saves the day for me. I'm amazed in Yahoo groups by the kindness of attorneys and police officers in answering my sometimes complicated questions. The bottom line is that accumulating all those layers of details that make a novel convincing is a lot of work. But the payoff is amazing. You've created a world from mere words.
My current heroine is in the gift basket and estate sale business so I've tried on her job amd attended lots of estate sales and made a few baskets as gifts. I'm not proficient in her world but it's been fun.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Since getting my first novel published in 2005 I've acquired two websites, two blogs, joined myspace, bebo, 31 yahoo groups and something else I can't remember the name of. I've spent hundreds of dollars on promotion from expensive magazine ads & contest prizes to designing my own post cards, magnets, labels and book marks. Not to mention the postage spent on mailing those promotional items out to various organizations. Oh yeah, and let's not forget the cost of materials and ink for printing out those great promotional items.
I've also acquired a pen name. A necessity when you work for a family oriented company and you get your first erotic novel published. I didn't want to put myself in the position where I have to explain how a nice, quiet grandmother like me can write such, ah, explicit books.
How does one keep up with it all AND work a full time job to boot? And this year I'm hoping to do a couple book signings...my first. Am I biting off more than I can chew? There's days when half of me just wants to focus on writing, something I love to do, submit when I'm done and then move on to the next book and not worry about anything else. But the other half of me realizes the importance of being out there, promoting and building a following for people who like my books. It's not that I don't want to do it, it's just there's not enough time in the day to do everything.
How naive I was in the beginning but how much I've learned! And I can't forget about all the author friends I've become acquainted with and their generous advice and assistance when I needed it. And the wonderful readers I've come to know.
Dues have to be paid and success doesn't happen over night. I only hope I'm still young enough to get it all accomplished by the time I retire from my real job. It would be nice having a hobby that pays off by that time:)
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Happy Sunday! I just happen to be off work today, so thought I'd share a few pictures. These were taken when we went to Santorini Island in Greece. It's a beautiful place and one of my favorite spots.
My girls and I went there in 2006. There was only one way to get to the top of the island and that was by bus. The only way back down was either the cable car, which my daughter and I did. Or you rode a donkey down, which my niece did.We could have walked down but you had to use the same trail as the donkeys and we were told it was, ah, kind of stinky:)
Friday, January 18, 2008
A silly infomercial caught my husband's attention a few nights ago. He had risen in the middle of the night to add firewood to the woodstove. While he was in the family room he clicked on the television, hoping to see the weather channel and the upcoming snowfall forecast. Instead, he got a gander at an infomercial for a ... well, let's just say it was a product of an exceedingly personal nature. He was shocked, but amused, and told me about it over breakfast the next morning. As I listened, a seed of inspiration took hold within me.
Now I have a synopsis and chapter-by-chapter outline for a new book. All from one silly infomercial. Yes, I'm easily inspired!
Yesterday I spent an hour searching for a pair of earrings I wore as a teenager. I have to find them. You see, last week I saw an old photo. The small gold peace symbols shone on my earlobes in the photo and now I've got a wisp of an idea. I'm fairly positive that by this afternoon I'll have the whole story. I can't find the earrings, but the photo was enough inspiration to begin my frantic search and make my fingers itch to write the story. See? Inspiration right at hand, without any real effort.
So what inspires you? Do you take a more steady, thoughtful approach than I do? Or are you a seat-of-the-pants, easily inspired person? Both types of personalities have their own quirks, and that intrigues me. You might even say it inspires me!
Now, if I could only find those earrings I know I'd have the whole story...
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, January 17, 2008
I have a collection of post cards that I treasure so imagine how excited I was to find even more pictures of Margaret's hikes at http://www.romancejunkies.com/spotlightsmargaretblake.html
A few months back there was an author spotlight done of her at Romance Junkies and it included photos of Margaret in her leather boots and some of the places where she hikes. There's also a photo of the town where she lives and of her Cat, Eddie. And if you read the interview his name is explained. You'll also find out about some of her other hobbies.
William Wordsworth was another Lake District rambler. So I suspect that beautiful terrain inspires and I bet parts of Margaret's novels are composed on those long walks.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Did you ever watch Tiger Woods play golf? He isn't given to self doubt nor is he worrying about anything but the play that is in motion. Time is suspended for him as it must be for the writer who goes the distance. You can't nick pick your novel to death when you are only on chapter two. You also can't give into self doubt. There are times when the whole manuscript feels like a feeble endeavor. Joan Didion says like an aeralist a writer must not look down. Nathaniel Minton takes it a step further, "You look down and that suspended period of non-judgment in which the novel is written is broken..."
Nathaniel Minton is a writer and cross-country skier. I've discovered that a lot of writers are athletes. John Irving was an award-winning wrestler at the University of Iowa, Joyce Carol Oates runs and our very own Margaret Blake is a hiker.
So what's a couch potato like me to do? I guess I'll take my dog for a walk and be kind of exuberant about it.
Monday, January 14, 2008
I'll make it up next week, I promise!
Friday, January 11, 2008
I have a definite and eclectic comfort zone in novels. I love the ladies of British literature -- A.S. Byatt, Anita Brookner, Diane Setterfield, Barbara Pym. A lot of my time is spent reading mysteries and there aren't many I don't like but I'm especially fond of Michael Connelly, Sara Peretsky, Elizabeth George and Dick Francis. To relax I read romantic comedy -- nothing syrupy I like two razor sharp wits engaging me. Mary Balogh's Slighly Dangerous had me chuckling for days.
But it's a new year so I was determined to read something different. Sarita mentioned Diana Gabaldon so I tried her Drums of Autumn. I've never read a time-travel novel but the author made you care about the characters so much that I was willing to follow them back to the 18th Century. Yesterday I read Chris Bohjalian's Before You Know Kindness. What an immensely talented author. His knowledge of ballistics, family dynamics and the nesting habits of crows left me awestruck. And finally I'm reading William Least Heat-Moon's Blue Highways. It's not a novel at all but a travel jounal with descriptions so terse and true ('a man whose cap told me what fertilizer he used') that I'm willing to hit the back roads with him.
So though I've enjoyed them all, I'm going back to my favorites real soon. Still I'm glad I made this detour because every reading experience helps me grow as a writer . And I'm open to suggestions for new authors.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Kathy writes: "writing is such an uphill climb that I wanted to share what keeps me going.
1) Getting up in the morning and knowing Margaret Blake is already hard at work on her novel and has been for several hours.
2) Knowing my friend Maggie is willing to read a first draft of whatever I'm working on and offer good advice
3) I also I have a few quotes which I find uplifting.
"You develop a style from writing a lot, " Kurt Vonnegut
"The first chapter sells the book. The last chapter sells the next book" Mickey Spillane
"There is no great writing only great rewriting," Louis Brandeis
"The best time to plan a book is while doing the dishes,"Agatha Christie.
"If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere, "Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Those are fantastic, I love the Spillane quote so much.
As for me, well I am looking for my muse to finish those 1000 words that just will not come - but I am in good company.
O for a muse of fire
that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention
Give me a spark of nature's fire
That's a' the learning I desire;
Then, tho' I trudge thro' dub an' mire
at plough or cart
My muse tho' hamely in attire
May touch my heart
I guess the latter is where I am right at this moment
Ta ta for now
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
It's not ideal to have these extended interruptions. Still, your work can survive them and still prosper. Planning helps if you have the luxury of knowing a break is coming. Don't leave your work too wrapped up. I stopped writing in the middle of a scene I was excited about. That's practically a guarantee I will get back to work on it.
Use the break for reflection. There are no absolutes. Could the real villain/hero/love interest be someone other than the person you planned? It was for me. I had an aha moment during that month when I wasn't writing that has my plot recharged.
Realize you've lost some fluidity. It's like not exercising for a month. You've got to start slow. Maybe edit a bit before you start writing and then write for short segments. It won't come as easily for awhile.
Your characters may be shy or cross with you. So give them time to share their secrets. It won't take too long. You are the author and they really need you.
Monday, January 7, 2008
Well, we were sitting there waiting for our breakfast. We always order the same thing, a half order of biscuits and sausage gravy and a side of potatoes. The tables and booths are pretty close and I couldn't help notice the people sitting at the booth beside our table. They got their food about the same time ours arrived.
Ever tried enjoying a hearty plate of biscuits and gravy when the woman next to you seems to be struggling to get down a single pancake thin enough to see through? Without syrup no less! Why did she even bother ordering breakfast? I felt so self-conscious I could barely finish my breakfast off. I think I actually left a fork or two on my plate just so she could see I wasn't a total pig:)
Friday, January 4, 2008
Calorie-rich food frozen, tossed in the pail or fed to the birds: check.
Trees and decorations returned to storage: check.
House cleaned: check.
Thank you cards written and mailed: check.
Hmm ... it seems as if the holidays are "officially" behind us in the Leone household. Bt now that everything's been squared away I've got to admit I'm not quite ready to jump into any big, new projects.
Oh, right ... this might be the lull after the storm. Now I remember. Kathy mentioned it on Wednesday, didn't she? I think she may have hit the nail right on the head. I know I'm ready to kick back and take it easy. For a few days, at least.
This might be the perfect time to catch up on my reading. I got a lot of great books for Christmas and since it's too cold to even venture outside... Yes, the perfect time for reading.
But then anytime is the perfect time for reading, isn't it? Oh, what am I reading? I've just finished The Golden Tulip by Rosalind Baker. I loved it! Now I think I'll read a Diana Gabaldon, the latest in the Lord John series. I can't think of the name of the book offhand, I'm sorry. It's the new one. My godmother sent it to me for Christmas and I've been itching to dive into it. I believe today's the day! Because really, anytime I ask myself Now what? the answer is only a few pages away!
What are you reading? I'm always on the lookout for recommendations to satisfy my reading curiousity.
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, January 3, 2008
I am sure you all reflect on the past at this time of year. I was thinking about how we used to celebrate the New Year and what great times we had. Now we don't even go outside, we do not even bother to wait for midnight.
I cannot recall how many times I have stood outside on a cold December night, waiting for the chimes, a basket over my arm that carried a cob of coal, a slice of bread and something to drink. On those chimes I would ring the bell and be let in, falling into the arms of friends and family and singing Auld Lang Syne. Latterly there has just been John and I, plus in the recent past, our lovely dog Nell and our pussy cat Foggie. Unfortunately both well loved animals are now in the land of "plenty of bones" and "lots of mice to chase." But I always think of them at New Year.
How our celebrations have changed. My Scottish Granny will be revolving in her grave at this sacrilege, for of course when she was with us, we had to celebrate Scottish style. That meant cleaning the house from top to toe on New Year's Even, all washing had to be done, ironing finished, and clothes put away. The house had to be spick and span ready for the celebrations. I still try to do that a little and I endeavour not to have any dirty laundry in the basket, failed this year, but only by a tea towel and unmentionables.
Ah well, it must be an age thing - we are no longer "party people" we are leading a quiet life but oh it was such fun. Often for me the happiest day of the year - all the family together, Grandpa singing his old first world war songs, even my shy dad giving a song.
Anyway, whatever you do this year, or wherever you go, do make the best of it.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
Also I'm hoping to reclaim my writing time. And just to make sure that happens, yesterday I pulled out a much-loved book of meditations called Simple Abundance. Sarah Ban Breathnach's pretty pink book doesn't look revolutionary but it is. The book is organized as a walk through the year, beginning on New Year's Day and it gets you to focus on and nurture someone very important -- yourself. If last year left you feeling a little ragged and exhausted (it did me), I'd recommend this book because through its gentle lessons of comfort and joy, it gets you back on track to leading an authentic life.
I've only read two days of meditations but already I've become more deliberate. My novel, I've decided, will be finished on my time frame and it will only be submitted when I'm completely happy with it. Today I'm not rushing through my chores either. After a month of marathoning I'm slowing down. We've all just been given a gift of a brand new year so there is time -- lots of time to do it our way. Hope you have a truly wonderful and fufilling year.