Writing

That phrase conjurs a certain image … but it amazes me how in just a short time that image has changed.

I love technology. The devolopement of the Internet has been nothing short of amazing. I’m just awed at how quickly my story can go from a nugget of an idea to a full blown ebook novel that people can buy from all kinds of retailers. What used to take years can now take only as long as it takes me to write the book (if I’m self-publishing).

When I first began writing, I submitted manuscripts and contest entries through the mail, printing and collating them, packaging them and running them to the post office. But emailing them is so much easier. And editing? I never had to go through the process of mailing a full manuscript and receiving it back with red marks I was supposed to fix. To be honest, I can’t even imagine how it used to be done without the ease of computers sending them through cyberspace in the matter of seconds.

That being said I think this wonderful technology has robbed my children and their whole generation of the thrill of letter writing. They don’t know the fun of receiving a handwritten envelope in the mail only to open it up and find pages of words lovingly written, bringing news of home or a loved one far away. And remember when you used to go on vacation and write out postcards and actually mail them? Now it’s wireless internet and digital pictures posted on facebook that are shared with family left at home. It’s just not the same thing.

My love affair for the written word began at an early age. I moved from my very best friend when I was in second grade and for years we wrote to each other. I missed her terribly. When I was a kid I wrote stories and plays that my friends would help me perform. Late in elementary school I got my first diary. I filled that one and started another. I kept this going into early high school. I have no idea what I wrote in them because I wisely destroyed them decades ago. (No, really… it was a good decision. I was a wild child. I didn’t want anyone to know the “real” me. ūüėČ ) In middle school I found a penpal in Japan and wrote to her for over a year. We exchanged currency because they were so different. We sent each other pictures of ourselves, our homes and our families, allowing each other glimpses of our daily lives.

It was wonderful.

Children can do that today more easily over the internet or sheesh, on their phones. Communication is not only instanteous, it also seems to be continuously streaming. Heck, let’s face it, we can now have live interactions with anyone anywhere through Skype. But they can’t take that conversation and glue it into scrapbook like I did with the letters from my friend. I saved all of them. My children will be able to read the words of a little girl from Japan, penned by her own hand about her life in a foreign land. That’s hands-on history.

My husband and I began dating when I was a freshman in high school. When I was a junior he went to college 11 hours from home. I didn’t see him for months at a time. But during our separation we wrote. A couple of letters a week. Phone calls were so expensive we agreed to call each other only once a month. The only connection I had with him was our letters. Nothing like today where cellphones and internet keep us a moment away from each other.

But I love those letters. We both saved every single one we wrote to each other. Letters of love that speak of innocent youthful cravings and tiny drawings, some marred with tears I shed while looking at them. We wrote for the two full years he was so far away. He eventually decided to go to school closer to home so our letter writing stopped. But what lovely memories we have saved in those shoeboxes in the top of my closet. I’m not sure how appropriate some of them are, but someday I will sit and pore through them and save those fit for our children to read without blushing. Our words, scripted in our own hand (or hen scratch in the case of Mr. Nina) will remind them how much their parents loved each other.

When I went to college my mother wrote to me once a week. It was my lifeline to home. Every Friday without fail her letter arrived in my mailbox. It became a tradition for me to read it outloud to my roommate and several close friends. It was like having home right there in the dorm and sharing it with those around me. My mother had an incredible talent for painting pictures with words. So my family history is recorded in those letters I saved.

As my children came along I began keeping diaries again. I wrote letters to them on the pages before they were even born. I also kept calendars for them and recorded daily activities. I journaled in baby books (written in first person as if they made the entries), tucking in little mementos like napkins from birthday parties and locks of hair.

It’s all a wonderful written history of who we were and how we got to this point. My children love reading their baby books and the antecdotes I recorded. But in the early 90’s I got a computer. I continued to write letters to my mom, but now they were printed off rather than in my own handwriting. Eventually we got the internet and my emails and phone calls took the place of the letter writing. When my children were in college, I rarely sent them mail, but spoke to them a couple of times a week and texted them nearly every day.

But it’s not the same and I know it.

It makes me sad to lose this wonderful tradition. My children won’t have the words of love and concern we shared through their college years, because let’s face it, I don’t print out their emails and I know they don’t print out mine.

It’s such a sad thing. I guess every new technology comes with its downside.

I can say that I have passed on one tradition to my children. Without fail they sit and write thank you notes for gifts they receive at birthday, Christmas, or graduation. We started it when all they could write was their name. It’s something Beautiful Girl and Baby Girl continue to do and Little Boy Blue does when I niggle him. So they’re not long newsy letters, but at least they’re handwritten.

I’d like to tell you this has inspired me to write a letter, but I’m afraid my own letter writing days are over. I have the ability to type, but writing for any length of time is nearly impossible with my MS. I do however manage to type a letter or two now and again. But every once in awhile, like now, I pine for the days when a letter I sent in the mail meant that in another few days I’d get one back.

So what about you? Do you write letters? How do you feel when you receive a letter (even if it’s just a thank you note or a card)? You know me, I’m curious about stuff like that.

That’s the¬†sound of a truck backing up. (Can you hear it?) Anyway, this week has been very frustrating. A virus wormed it’s way into my computer and infected EVERYTHING! Tentacles wound themselves so tight around my stuff that the tech guy couldn’t find the heart of the beast.

I was amazingly calm for someone who lives on her computer. I’m not exaggerating. I turn the thing on around 8 am and shut it down as late as 10 or 11 (if I’m writing–even later than that.) Besides my books, my budgets, both business and personal are electronic.

But when I called PCWebDoc.com (yep, that’s a shameless plug for an amazing business out of Pennsylvania) I was very calm as I told them my computer was being held hostage and I wasn’t sure I could get the ransom before … oh, sorry, that’s one of my books. Anyway, things looked very bleak for my dear electronic friend as I handed my very sick computer¬†off to the¬†PCWeb doctor at their¬†ER. Well, I’ve already shared the story. (Scroll down two posts to “It’s Alive”.)¬†Dan (whom I will always secretly love) remotely took over my computer and the news was baaaaaaaad!

But I was not panicked.

I have a handy-dandy flash or jump drive that holds every single one of my books. EVERY one of them. (Even the ones that are merely a page or two and just notes.) My finshed books along with all my author copies are tucked safely into it’s folds.

Plus …

My finished books AND author copies are burned on to CDs. I even have my book trailers and website/blog info stored on both flashdrives and CDs. Overkill? You betcha. But guess what? When Dan said it may wipe out everything. I didn’t shed a tear. Groaned loudly, but truly didn’t panic. All of my gems are right here next to me. I knew my babies were safe.

There are now online ways to backup your files though I’ve never been able to get one set up.

In the end, it didn’t come to that. Everything worked just fine and I didn’t lose even one day’s worth of writing. If you live on your computer and depend on it whether you’re a writer or not … BACK UP! BACK UP! BACK UP! and back up again. Because Dan mentioned this new virus smooth-talked its way around my firewalls and there’s a high probability, now that it has my number, it may very well come back a third time.

So, did I mention you need to be dilegent about backing up your stuff? You never know when some virus will come wandering into your sanctuary and steal away everything near and dear to you.

It’s an awful place to be. Stuck.

I got nothing.

Nothing going down on the blank page. Nothing running through my brain for blogs… I’m out of words. And that is such a bad place to be. It leads to …

Panic!

Which I am working very hard to push away. Obviously if the words aren’t coming, the stories aren’t unfolding, the work isn’t getting done and the books aren’t heading out the door to be published. Without new books there aren’t new readers finding my writing. It’s such a bad place. I’d like to think it’s the time of year … but it’s been “that time of year” for nearly a year. Of course being in limbo since the spring of 2011, with no place to settle and now no job for Mr. Nina. (Fingers crossed that situation is changing soon.)

I’m floating around to other writer blogs and they’re announcing their new releases… I’m happy for them… or they’re talking about¬†the book they just finished… you go author… or how their¬†book was a huge sell this month… yay… or how another indie-pubbed author just bought a new house … see me enthusiastically celebrating with them… NOT!

Now don’t get me wrong. I truly don’t begrudge them their successes, a part of me is happy for them, but a bigger part of me wonders why I can’t have that? Ideas and words falling onto the page and success just banging down the door.

I’m impatient.

I know this. It’s one of the really bad things in my personality that I work hard on. I see it. I want it. And hell and be damned if I have to wait for it.

*Sigh*

But that’s the name of the game in publishing. Patience.

It’s an awful cycle. The block, the panic, the depression. Okay, so I’m not depressed… but the situation makes me mopey. Since it seems to be the topic on several panels, I suspect I’m not the only one in this situation. Little Boy Blue thinks I need some time away from my computer and maybe he’s right (pretty smart for 21). A little time to decompress and regroup. A change of scenery. Perhaps I’ll take the boy’s advice and choose some books from my HUGE TBR pile and just veg in the sun. A good read is always good for the soul.

So how’s you’re September going? This week is the official beginning of autumn … and it’s beginning to feel and look just like that outside my window! Let’s hope the change of seasons brings a change in my mindset!

Question of the day … is your laundry basket overflowing?

I’m traveling again this week. (After Beautiful Girl’s wedding this past weekend, I’m exhausted, but we’re hoping one of these trips nets Mr. Nina a new job … so it’s totally worth pushing through!)

Anyway …

I was working with a new writer recently and I kept saying show me … don’t tell me. And she looked up and burst out “What the heck are you talking about? I’m telling the story, not showing you pictures.”

The lightbulb went on for me. I wasn’t explaining myself well. And then I wondered how many authors out there keep hearing “show don’t tell”, but really can’t wrap their head around it. (If this isn’t you, then you’ll probably want to just skip this post and come back Wednesday for a little more blog fun. ūüėÄ )

Telling is saying things like:
1. She was tired.
2. He was angry.
3. The weather was bad.

You’ve simply stated the facts. You didn’t “draw” a picture with words.

If you want to engage your reader and pull them into your scene, then paint a picture with your words. Throw out adjectives and emotions and some deep point of view and let them form an image in your reader’s mind and let them draw the conclusion you stated above.

1. Bethany dragged into the house, her legs wobbling with the effort, even hefting her satchel onto the end table seemed like a Herculean task. Flopping on the couch, she let the stress of the day drain from her muscles.

See how that shows the reader so much more? Jees, I feel like I should take a nap after reading that.¬†Bethany’s not just tired … she’s exhausted!

2. Ryan didn’t bother to knock. He pushed through the door and stalked into the livingroom. Bethany lay sprawled on the couch, her hand covering her eyes. He didn’t care. What she’d done to him at lunch was unconscionable and needed to be dealt with now.

Ummm … as a reader I’m thinking poor Bethany doesn’t want to deal with Ryan at the moment. The man is coming unglued. (But it certainly sounds like she deserves it. (Hee hee) If this scene were from her point of view she might notice his furrowed brow or red face.¬†Showing me, the reader,¬†his anger.

3. The wind lashed through the tree tops, rattling the windows and throwing its fury against the glass. The storm brewing outside was nothing compared to the pain and anger radiating off Ryan in waves.

And now you have the whole thing. Her tiredness, his anger and the terrible weather. But showing your reader has made things just a little more interesting. Hmm … maybe next week I’ll talk about getting them into bed … maybe. LOL!

And just to engage my visitors … boxers, briefs, or commando for your guy?

Wai … what? You didn’t know Mondays are set aside for everything sexy and sensual? I mean, don’t you put on your sexy lingerie on Mondays to do the vacuuming and dusting? No? … you’ve been missing out. LOL!

Actually, I’m talking to you writers who swing by my blog. Today I’m over at Savvy Authors sharing my secrets of how to write a sensual love scene between your characters.

Whether it’s a sweet seduction or a rip-your-clothes-off-in-the-kitchen love scene there are certain elements that draw your readers closer to your characters and others that throw them out of the scene. I hope you’ll stop over and share your tricks and secrets of writing the perfect love scene.

I’m visual. My memories are in pictures, usually very detailed. I can tell you what someone was wearing at the family get-together last year.

So in my writing I have to “see” the scene before I can write about it. I don’t have to draw out the house plan, but it has to be in my head so I can visualize how characters move through their surroundings.

I enjoy the same thing when I’m reading. I don’t want the author to gloss over the details. (And I’m not talking about character description… which isn’t really that important to me… but that’s a subject for another blog.) Unfortunately purple prose¬†are out these days.¬†Most readers don’t enjoy reading¬†one or two paragraphs of scene description. So writers are left adding strong adjectives to give clues to the surroundings without¬†resorting to long descriptions.

I love adjectives. They’re a great part of the English language. But just as they can make writing stronger, they can also tear it apart. Look at this piece of writing.

His capable hand found her silken thigh and slid up to the soft curve of her hip. His powerful knee pushed between her smooth inner thighs, opening them wide. Willingly, she gave way to his powerful leg and heard him moan quietly as his thick fingers found the velvet softness between her trembling legs.

Oh, I had all I could do not to scream as I read the above paragraph. Where I got it doesn’t matter, but the point I’m trying to make¬†does.

Obviously, this is a love scene. This is the point in the book where I should have been swept away into the moment and been right there with this couple. After all, I’d been waiting and hoping these two would stop being so blind to their own sexual attraction and actually do something about it.

And there’s my reward.

Only, the author threw me out of the scene. The overuse of adjectives stuck out more than the action. Instead of being swept away I became more annoyed with each word. *sigh*

What I learned (and continue to learn)… is go sparingly with the adjectives. Give enough to the reader to make them “feel” and “see” the action, but don’t kill them with unnecessary words.

Books flying against the wall just aren’t¬†pretty.

The first mistake the author made is that the scene is¬†in her point of view. She’s not going to think of her skin as smooth or silken. And¬†when you use the word “heard” or “felt”, you’re¬†separating the character from¬†themselves and in turn, distancing the reader. ¬†I also think if we could get a sense of the heroine’s emotion it would pull the reader deeper into the seduction.¬†And what about other senses? How does he taste or smell? Most of these adjectives have to do with the sense of touch. What if the scene added a few other layers?

His capable hand found her silken thigh, and sliding up to the soft curve of her hip, trailing goose flesh in the heat of his touch. His powerful knee pushed between her smooth inner trembling thighs, opening them wide.¬†She wanted this–wanted him.¬†Her breath caught when he¬†found the velvet softness brushed her most sensitive flesh. The scent of her arousal wrapped them in a sensual cocoon that seemed to drive his passion. He deepened the kiss, his tongue seeking and possessing, pushing away any coherent thought.¬†When he pressed his thick fingers into her core, the moan of pleasure filling the air could have come from either of them.

The italicized words are mine. So what do you think? Did it read better with a few less adjectivesor am I all wet?

When you read do you find things like that jarring or have I become hypersensitive?¬†Am I finding problems where¬†none truly exist? I’d love to hear your opinion. Because you know me, I’m curious about stuff like this.

Okay, for those of you tripping on this hoping the erotic romance writer is talking about some sexually fun topic … forget about it. Just get your minds out of the gutter. I’m just rambling today about writing. Because what I’m discovering about this writing gig is the longer I’m doing it, the harder it’s getting. (Seriously, quit giggling and get your mind out of the bedroom.)

Now stay with me here.

When I first started writing I could sit at the computer for hours typing pages and pages. I didn’t worry so much where the plot was taking me or how the characters were behaving … I just wrote. Blissfully. Stupidly. My stories meandered here and there until I reached an end. It was so easy. Then I got published. Not once, but several times.

Okay, now I had an editor and a series going and wait … there are readers out there looking for my next book. Yay! What a thrill. It is, it really is, but now when I sit down to write I have this niggling anti-muse looking over my shoulder saying things like “the reader’s going to see that twist, don’t bother” “oh, he would say that?” “that’s not a good plot it’s been overused” “they’re not going to like this as much as the last book” “they’re going to slaughter you on Goodreads for that”.

Yeah, you get the idea. The whole nasty negativity stealing away my creative juices. So here are a couple ways I’ve learned to combat it.

1. Turn the music up louder. That’s right drown out the negativity.
2. Keep typing, everything can be fixed in edits
3. Type without looking back. Don’t allow yourself to turn around and second guess the day’s writing.
4. Even if you’re a pantser, take 5 minutes before you write and jot down the important points of the scene/chapter you’re working on. You’ll be surprised how much that will increase your productivity.
5. And if all that fails … gag the bitch and tell her to shut the f%*&@# up!

Whew I feel better. I hope those tips help. As for me, it’s time to find that gag and write out a couple of scene points and finish up the book I’m working on. I know readers are waiting on this one.

Oh, and just so you have something to discuss … what’s for dinner? (I’m always looking for ideas.)

When I was in high school I was very active in drama. (I know … such a surprise right? LOL!) When I was on stage I got to become anyone. A fat Russian spy. A traveling dancer entertaining a MASH unit. A woman married to a murderer. I loved it!

Being an author is a lot like acting on stage. When I write a scene I crawl into the skin of that character. Burrow into their heads and think like them. And I really enjoy writing from the man’s point of view (POV). Many female authors I read are very good at creating flawed male characters who rise above their pain and backgrounds to save the world and fall in love.

And I started thinking about this. Why are women so good at this? I think it’s because we’ve spent so much of our lives studying the opposite sex. It starts at a young age with our dads. When I wanted something–to borrow the car or stay out past curfew–I knew when to ask my dad and when not to broach the subject. I also grew up with three brothers. There’s a lot you learn with three male siblings as they go about their days just doing guy things.

I realize not every writer grew up with their dad or male siblings. But it doesn’t matter your home life, every day we interact with others. From the playground to the classroom to the office, we connect with both sexes. And since most women are intuitive, we pick up on little nuances of behavior that most men don’t see or recognize. Writers simply learn how to extrapolate that information and turn it into a believable hero readers fall in love with.

Here are a few guidelines in writing a male POV:
Men aren’t complicated
– They don’t say one thing and mean another
– They don’t mask their thoughts
– They are what you see

Men are Visual
– They have better light detection and depth perception
– Conversations often stem from visual cues
– Sexual attraction starts with what he’s seeing

Men are Problem Solvers
– They are “doers” not “thinkers”
– They like being in charge (or think they are)
– They rarely admit being wrong (and it’s even more rare they apologize)
– They aren’t detail oriented. They prefer the big picture
– They rarely ask for opinions

Men are conservative in communication
– They speak around 7,000 words per day (Women are more around 20,000)
– Connect to the physical rather than the emotional
– Don’t use euphemisms
– They rarely listen without giving advice
– Don’t use adjectives
– Don’t enjoy small talk
– Rarely use agreeing noises (uh huh, oh yeah)

(Any major characteristics I missed?) So what about you? Do you think female writers create believable heroes who act like real men OR do they create men who act and talk the way a romance reader would want a man to act? What do you think? I’m always curious about stuff like that.

Have I ever mentioned how hard it is to write a book? I mean getting from Once upon a time to They rode off into the sunset is not only a difficult process … doing it well takes a lot of brain energy! (Well, for me anyway.)

There are all kinds of people who believe they have a book in them. Very few sit down to actually give it a try. A smaller number of those who try ever get to the end. A small portion of those that finish actually edit their story and send it out or publish it themselves. That’s an itty bitty bit of the population who actually have books available to readers.

And there are hundreds of thousands of readers out there looking for their next book to read. When they’re surfing Amazon or B&N do you think they care if it was published through a big NY publisher, a small press or if it was self-published? Okay, yeah so some of them do, but there’s a huge majority of readers with kindles and nooks and iPhones (and a whole bunch of devices I know nothing about) who are downloading books onto these devices and all they really want is to be entertained for a few hours.

And if the readers don’t care how the¬†book they’re reading¬†got to be published … why would another¬†author?

I’ve only been in this publishing world for 7 years. In the grand scheme of things I’m just a toddler. I’ve never written a manuscript long hand. I’ve never typed my manuscript on a typewriter and piled the accumulated pages. I’ve never worried if the print on my computer was set so there was exactly 250 words a page (because a publisher wanted to know how many pages a book would be in the print version). I’ve never gotten my edits through the mail with red editing marks on my printed manuscript. My “call” came in the form of an email. I even signed my first contract electronically.

But even in the short time period since I began this journey, publishing has changed.

When I published my first full novel with a digital only publisher, many writers (and Romance Writers of America) felt I wasn’t really published. I can’t tell you how many people looked down their nose at me even as I cranked out eight books in two years. It took years for many people to realize e-books were here to stay. I think it began right about the day that Oprah announced on her television show that she’d discovered a Kindle. Oh, well if Oprah said …

Yeeeeah, I’ve already been through an “us vs them” attitude.

And you know what? It’s starting all over again. Only this time it’s “traditional” publishing (meaning NY authors who have chosen to sign a contract with an advance and a print book) throwing stones at the self-published (also called indie-published) faction. Oh, and don’t get me wrong, the name calling, hair pulling and clawing is going both ways. There are some big name authors who have blog posts claiming all self-published authors put out unedited drivel with no entertainment value. There are indie authors claiming all traditionally published authors are literary snobs.

Really? All?

Let’s face it, with so many people reading, everyone feels there is crap on both sides of the publishing aisle. And the fact is … what one person sees as crap another sends to the top seller list. (50 Shades? Twilight? Hunger Games? Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?) There are authors that are auto-buys for me, but a friend would never pick up.

This whole thing is really dividing the author community and I just want to scream WHY? On the one hand authors are some of the most giving people I know. There have been many who have helped me when I didn’t understand the publishing process. Many who critiqued and taught and took time to point me in the right direction. But they can also be some of the most stubborn, judgmental people I know.

Just this week I put out a long post about all the roads to publishing a book. Do I care how someone gets their book published? No. Do I feel they’re only valid if their agent got them a six figure advance? No. (Though I will be just a taaaad envious for a little while.) Do I care if an author’s success came from books they self-published? No.(Though again with a short pause to entertain my envy that they just bought a new BMW with their last royalties.)

I’m really sick of people pointing fingers and being angry and screaming that one way is more right than another and saying mean things about other authors. Really? What right does someone have to tell another author what’s right for their writing career. They don’t. And I’m not even sure why they would want to spend the time trying.

I’m a scientist in my soul and a teacher at heart. I research and I share. I don’t judge. I answer questions when asked and support when needed. I’m not interested in taking sides. And I’m getting really tired of people who do.

***NOTE I guess I’m not alone. Check out this post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch and this post by Dean Wesley Smith and an open letter by Anna Elliot. Guess LOTS of authors are tired of this finger pointing and name calling.

I’ve been bouncing around the internet checking on writer blogs, publishing blogs and just general frivolity blogs. I’ve been reading posts on everything from the digital age writer to writer integrity to the pressures writers are feeling in this new age of publishing. *sigh* It’s so much to take in.

There is just so much to do. I like blogging. I like hanging out on twitter and facebook. Heck, I’ve even become enanmored with pinterest. But man, do they become a time suck. And you know, half the time when I’m¬†visiting those sites I feel like I’m marketing even when I’m trying not to. I’ve lost the ability to just hang out, have a margarita and talk about nothing. Nothing. I don’t mean in real life, I mean on the internet.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve become one of those writers who walk into a social media room and no one makes virtual eye contact because even an innocuous conversation about soda consumption in the US evolves into eating sweets which of course I can segue right into a pitch about the kinky sex scene involving whipped cream and ginger root (yeah, google that one) in my newest release. Okay, no, I’m not that bad, but you get the idea.

It’s all so overwhelming. And oh yeah, I actually have readers (bless all three of you) clamoring for another new book which means I need to sit down and write. A scene. A chapter. A new story. But there’s so much to do! So many places to be and so much to do when I get there. (I won’t even tell you what fun I’ve been having with Amazon this week which has sapped all my energy–you’ll get that story next week when it’s resolved.)

I don’t like it. I want to sit down at the computer and not feel like I have ADD … Author Data Deluge

I had the pleasure of meeting a woman this week who has become a major player in the world of publishing. And you know how she did it? By not marketing. Not always trying to sell something. She did it just by being her sweet, quirky, effervescent self. Now big name authors, large review sites and heck yeah, television personalities are clamoring to meet her. (And small time authors want to be her.) In this case it wasn’t luck that skyrocketed her, but just a sincerity that showed through even the flat screen of the internet.

I think she’s got something there. It made me sit back and think. I just need to let the books out there percolate and move forward with something new. Stop worrying about selling and take time, focus on one of the stories sitting partially done and just write. Something. Anything. I’ve got to stop feeling so panicked about sales of already published books and find the joy of creating something new.

How about you? How goes it? How are you defining your success these days?

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