Writing

I’ve been watching a lot of movies recently. I love getting lost in them. All genres … save for horror. I can’t wrap my head around blood and mayhem. Besides they give me terrible nightmares, but I digress…

As I’ve been watching, my writer’s brain has been translating the images into the written word. Dissecting what makes the movies work … or not. Figuring out why I’m laughing or crying or sitting on the edge of my seat in breathless anticipation.

And one of the conclusions I’ve drawn is that in many ways movie makers have it so much easier than writers. First, you have the music. Running in the background, the tone of the melody creates the mood. It can be quick and happy or dark and scary. It can be used to build tension, slowly gathering to a crescendo and *wham* there’s that first kiss you’ve eagerly anticipated. And you release that breath you’ve been holding in a satisfying sigh of contentment.

And then of course there are the visual cues. The confused look when a hand is grasped. The dark lighting of a haunted house. The panoramic vista of a emerald mountain that underscores the epic journey about to be undertaken. There is no point-of-view character describing the scene. No one’s internal thoughts to engage the viewer. Just the images to carry the viewer into the story.

On the other hand a screen writer has only the dialogue of the characters to tell their story. There are no paragraphs of exposition to bring in the tragic backstory of the hero. No opportunities for the heroine to be in her head and share her innermost secrets. That all has to come naturally through conversations between characters. Maybe not the easiest job. But then of course, tears and smiles help do some of the work.

That isn’t to say I could ever write a screenplay. Writing dialogue just about kills me. But I don’t know, I still think movie makers have it easier than authors. What do you think? Am I off base on this one? And if you’ve seen any really good movies this summer let me know, I’m always looking for some good entertainment.

It’s been six years this summer since I had to give up my teaching job. That first summer I was so excited about this new writing gig I’d decided to embark upon. I got up early every morning, the romance story of two teachers living in northern Maine, churning in my head. (Hey, they say write what you know.)

I loved that summer. There was no internet for me. No emails begging for my attention. I hadn’t started my blog. Facebook and Twitter were just in their infant stages and definitely not on my radar. It was me, a computer and two characters looking to find love.

Of course that book is buried deep under the couch because, as much as I loved the story and the characters, I just don’t think I can save that manuscript from itself. I was too ignorant of writing rules (I’m a scientist remember) and story structure to worry about doing it “right”. I just let my imagination run wild and typed. Writing it was fun. Working my way from “once upon a time” to “riding off into the sunset” was a huge learning journey for me. Enough so that I could go on and write another romantic suspense thriller that will hopefully find it’s way to publication within the year. I was thrilled with my progress and the stories I discovered in my imagination just waiting to get written.

But the last couple of years, I worry more about cliches and character growth and act structure. The joy of writing the story is gone and I don’t know where it’s disappeared.

I think part of my issue is watching authors who started writing when I did, running away with accolades and big contracts. Now, please don’t misunderstand, I wish all my friends well and hope for only the best for all of them. It’s just that … it’s hard for me to not want what they have or to compare myself to their successes. I know. I know. Every writer is different. Every journey unique. I have been blessed with some wonderful contracts and I’m grateful. Really I am. But I want to find that story that sets my muse on fire. The one I just have to write because it’s keeping me awake at night and filling my mind with images and … enthusiasm. I want the passion back.

I know I’m not the only writer who’s gone through this. Others have survived and come out better on the other side of their personal crisis. I will too. I’m just a tad bit impatient at the moment and want it all to work out now. Anyway, I’m throwing this out there. Have you ever run into a personal wall that you needed to get over? Did something you love lose it’s luster? I’d love to know how you got through it. How did you rediscover the joy. Walking away from writing isn’t an option at this point in time. This is my job. I’d just like to figure out how to get out of bed again with a smile on my face happy to face the keyboard.

I’m a creature of habit. I don’t pretend otherwise. I mean there are times I can be spontaneous, but mostly I’m happy plodding along with some semblance of a routine. Yeah, it’s sort of boring, but it works for me.

Which means when something screws with things the way I like them, it makes me all prickly. Like this blog for instance. For years … years I happily typed up my posts and posted them to the Internet. Yeah, there were always these big strips of yellow on the top of my dashboard proclaiming how behind the times I was and wouldn’t I please update the WordPress software. But I refused. Because I knew their new fangled up-to-date version wasn’t going to look or act like the old version that was as comfy as the jammies I was working in.

But then I had the wonderful idea of doing an overhaul and Tracy Cooper-Posey just did a slow eyeroll when she realized how outdated the platform was that I was using. After we revamped the Block, giving it a sexy new look that fit better with my website, she made me promise, promise to faithfully do the updates when they appear. And I have. I close my eyes and go through the steps, knowing when I open them again, nothing will be the same.

URRRRRRRR!

It’s not fair. There should be an option to update the backend (that’s all the stuff I can’t work anyway) but keep what I see exactly the same. But nooooooo, they have to screw with something that’s already working.

Oh, and WordPress isn’t alone. Goodreads changed where they put things in their drop down menus. Followed by photobucket. And then Twitter wanted me to upgrade and add all their new bells and whistles. (Of course that only turned me off and kept me from going over there for the longest time.) And don’t even get me started on Facebook … the update, new fangled app, change-your-settings-every-other-day KING!

And even Google changed how I view images! Why?

Don’t they understand there are techno-idiots like me barely hanging on by a cyber thread pulled so taut that one more new-fangled-who-dinger may be just the thing that drops us into the deep pool of 404 error … page not found!

What about you? Are you one of those tech-savvy people who love everything new and sparkly or is the cyber-verse a territory best left to the professionals? Because you know me … I need to know if I’m alone in all of this!

Why? Why do they want to cause the

When life conspires against you, there’s only one thing to do … make it allllll go away.

And I’ve decided it’s time! i’ve shut down my Yahoo loops where I chat with my friends (boo). I’ve promised myself no twitter or facebook where I chat with my friends (double boo). And it’s time I buckled down and finish the book that’s been percolating for some time.

I’m happy you’ve come to visit. And please come back again. It will be just this week … I promise!

Okay, I’ve got just a little rant. Walk away now if you don’t want to hear it, but it’s just gotta come out or I’m going to burst!

Here’s the skinny. For those of you who visit here regularly you know I’m a contest whore. Really. As soon as my first manuscript was finished, I entered contests. Everyone says … decide why you’re entering. Pshaw I wanted to WIN and get the coveted contract. Yeeeeeah, so didn’t happen, but I did learn a lot about writing from judges who were willing to lay it on the line and say WTH?. They didn’t sugarcoat what was on the page. Because my writing at the time was ba-a-a-a-ad! It wasn’t even salvagable.

(Now, I must also admit at this point, I have the self-confidence of 10 people. Seriously. If I could bottle it and sell it, I’d retire a rich woman. I’m not saying it’s deserved, it’s just a cocky arrogance that makes me believe I can do or be anything I want. That being said … obviously I wasn’t deterred from my plan to write and publish. Anywho…)

Now I want to return the favor. I’m judging contests of unpublished writers. I know where they’re at. I know what they’re hoping for. But here’s the thing, I refuse to pretend their writing is wonderful if indeed … it isn’t. Nope, I won’t do it. I honestly believe not everyone who wants to write books has the talent to do it. That doesn’t mean they can’t learn if they are driven to do it. Because I also believe if you want it bad enough then keep pushing and you can make it happen.

I don’t fall in the camp of giving nothing less than a three when judging. No. Nope. Won’t do it! Because there are 2’s and 1’s in the scale because it is possible for a new writer not to have developed a skill and warrent the low score. Of course when I give that score I explain in detail why that skill didn’t come through in the writer’s piece. The true writer, the one whose characters scream at them in the night and whose stories have to be told, aren’t going to be deterred. They’re going to cry and scream and hate that nasty judge for a couple of days and then they’re going to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, look at the comments objectively and learn their craft.

I’m not mean by any stretch of the imagination, but I state my honest opinion as tactfully as possible. It’s what I want. If my book isn’t up to snuff I want my critique partners to tell me.

If I send something to an agent or editor it’s their job to tell the truth. If the story sucks … it sucks. There’s no nice way to say “really Nina, this isn’t ready to be published. I think you need to step back and hone your craft.” Their job is not to coddle my tender ego. They don’t have to be nice, they have to be honest.

Publishing is a tough business. It hurts and it exhilirates. Every high comes with some really crappy lows. It’s a wild roller coaster ride. It’s not meant for the faint of heart or people not willing to learn their craft. Get over it. Honesty may hurt, but sugarcoating the truth doesn’t get a person anywhere.

There you have it. Don’t ask me if you don’t want the truth.

So, while my head was buried in packing paper and boxes the world of publishing sort of imploded. (But I guess in reality, this is nothing new. 😉 )

It took me a couple of days to get my work computer unpacked and put together. But when I did I found all sorts of crazy things had happened in my absence. Like a link to a blog about an author who self destructed over a two star review that in reality … wasn’t that bad. I’m not going to give you a link to the blog because the author had an unprofessional meltdown.

Really, it wasn’t pretty. The whole blog went viral and the author kept shouting inappropriate things in the comments and it became a lesson on what not to do when you get a review that bums you out.

The truth is, sometimes reviews hurt. I’ve gotten 5 star reviews where the reviewer had nothing nice to say and 3 star reviews with glowing quotes. But regardless of how the review makes me feel, it’s not my opinion. Of course I love my stories, I wouldn’t release them out into the world if I didn’t, but not everyone is going to think my baby is beautiful. But my job is to thank them for taking time to read my book and move on. If I’m bummed then it’s my closest friends who hear about it, not the world via some reviewers blog. But hey, bad behavior isn’t limited to authors … so sometimes it happens. We’re all human.

And then there’s the conversation that happened between BARRY EISLER, and AMANDA HOCKING about self-publishing and traditional publishing. Amanda made the news when she made over 1.5 MILLION in 2010 direct selling her books on Kindle. She has authors like me wondering if there’s any chance of duplicating her results.

The truth is, I’ve been in the business less than 6 years. When I first published e-books received little respect. There was nothing like the Nook or Kindle and now, now authors realize that self-publishing is no longer a four letter word and that perhaps there is real money to be made if we skip the middle man (the publisher).

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love both publishers I’ve worked with. They have offered me amazing covers and VERY talented editors. I would never put a book out to the public without an editor giving it the very hard eye that I don’t even sort of have. But when backlist books become available again then an author would be foolish to let the edited manuscript sit on her desktop without at least trying the self-publishing route.

Very soon I will be dipping my toes into that pool and I eagerly wait for the results. Of course I can only hope that a fraction of the readers who own Kindles find my books. An author can only hope to get a fraction of the readers Amanda worked so hard to garner.

So what else did I miss in the last week? Any chance everything is fine in Libya and gas prices went down?

As any of you who have visited here before know, I’m VERY visual. When I’m writing I have pictures of my hero and heroine open in a document. I’ve done searches for scenes whether it’s an alley or a beautiful hotel suite. I need to see it to describe it.

Okay, so I’m writing a sequel to Maid for Master, that’s taking me back to XTC Resorts and the world of hedonistic clubs and BDSM. This means I’m often searching the internet for pieces of equipment or sexy toys or … ya know … whatever. I have my Google safe search set to “off” which means things could get a little dicey on my computer when I hit the search button.

Since the daughter that’s currently living with me is off at college classes or work, I’m left on my own to do these searches without worrying what’s going to pop up on the screen. But there have been times when she walks into my office at inopportune moments. Now, it’s not like my children don’t know what I write. Still, no one wants to know their mother looks at stuff like that. It’s sort of like hearing your parents in the throws of passion. You know it happens … you just don’t want it confirmed.

I’ve become very adept at shutting windows on my computer at lightening speed when the door opens. But I know evidence of my naughty explorations is written in the guilt on my face. I’m a grown woman. I love what I write. But I still feel funny when sexy pictures are open on my computer, even though I use them to create sensual scenes in my stories. It’s an odd juxtaposition.

So what about you? Do you have a guilty pleasure you keep hidden? Something you know isn’t really wrong, but would make you blush if you got caught?

Well an interesting thing happened during my New Year’s celebration this year. (Yes, it’s true I had a birthday and no, I’m not going to tell you how many candles were on the cake. 😉 ) There were lots of munchies and a glass of champagne or two or three or a bottle, and more than a few games of cards, but I’m not talking about any of that. I was surprised when somewhere around 4 am (yep, I was still up then) one of my extended family members started talking about my books.

Now, I’ll admit, it gets a little foggy as to how the conversation actually began. I remember feeling pretty smug that the attention was on me and my writing. But pride quickly turned to surprise. I can tell you, I had no idea the whole discussion would wind down a very precarious path. Well, not for me or Mr. Nina, but for a couple of people still hanging around the cribbage board.

You see, I was asked how I managed to reconcile what I write with the Big Guy Upstairs. Whoa. What??? (Hear the needle scrape across the record.) I’ve been asked a lot of things about writing erotica, but this was the first time someone wondered how I could write porn and exploit women and not feel like I’d thrown all my morals out the window.

Now, I LOVE a good debate. (Mr. NIna calls them arguments, but I prefer the term “heated discussion”. And I’m very good at them.) You see, I grew up in a family where not only were we encouraged to express an opposing opinion we were expected to debate our feelings on it. So I mentally rubbed my hands together and jumped into the fray with both feet. Both my writing and my faith are part of me. I don’t feel a need to defend either one. But educating? Ah, that’s where I went with this. It was the whole EROTIC ROMANCE vs. PORN discussion we smut peddlers seem to fall into every now and again. (Like every time my mother-in-law visits, but this isn’t about her … really.)

So I patiently explained why I write romance with the door open and not Hustler Forum letters. But then it got into the multiple partner situation and how wrong it is to encourage infidelity. Well no, it just so happens every one of my stories ends with a “Happy Ever After” and a commitment from all parties. Relationships are consensual regardless of the number of partners. And it’s about the fantasy of the story. Even Mr. Nina jumped into the discussion at this point. (I think mostly because he reaps the rewards of a long day of me writing erotic romance stories … if you follow me. 😉 ) Interestingly this person (who is my age) could not see any of it. He held fast to the notion that it was all porn and fantasies only lead to affairs. Huh. Not my experience, but okay.

After an hour or so we weren’t circling anything but the same points … so of course there was no resolution. I wasn’t going to feel guilty and he wasn’t going to change his mind. Though I am hoping he has a better understanding of how I feel about my writing and my stories. I figure a little education never hurt anyone even if it happens close to sunrise after more than a few beers. Nothing like a little alcohol to help someone truly express how embarassed they are by what I write. LOL!

So now I throw it out to you. Have you ever had to defend your reading/writing habits? Is there a moral disconnect between erotic romance and your faith? Cuz you know me … I’m dying of curiousity here.

Yeah, yeah the jolly man’s coming, you’ve got shopping and baking to do and gifts to wrap. I understand. But that’s not the season I’m talking about.

It’s contest season!

And for this self-proclaimed contest-slut it means counting my money and budgeting … and deciding where I’d like to put my babies for judging. Yep, I’m one of those authors. I have been since I first put fingers to keyboard. It’s not my fault really. I blame my hardwiring. I have always wanted to be the best at anything I’ve done. Grades. Sports. School projects. Writing reports (my classmates hated my brown-nosed 10 page papers when the teacher only asked for 3). Anything and everything. I want to be the best.

I’m a terrible speller. Seriously bad. But I studied those spelling words every week and got 100’s on the test. The only problem was the monthly spelling bee. I worked so hard, but it was all for naught. Inevitably I was out in the first round. Then came the day I came home beaming in 5th grade and announced I’d finally been second in the spelling bee. My parents were so proud of my hard work … until I informed them I was the second one OUT instead of the first.

But I never gave up.

My drive got me straight A’s in middle school, high honors in high school and valedictorian of my college class. It’s won me awards in school and work. I just don’t know how to run half throttle. Lord knows there are times I wish I could. But I’ve come to accept this about myself.

So now I’m writing. This means entering my writing in contests to be judged against other amazingly talented writers. I never finalled in a contest for unpublished writers. And trust me when I say … I entered A LOT of them! But now I have my first print book. HEALER’S GARDEN is now in a format that many contests for published authors require. And I’m going in!

I love this book. I want others to love it too. Yes, it’s gotten rave reviews, but it hasn’t won anything … yet. I’m pleased it’s finalled in the Eppies. Over-the-moon happy about it. It’s just not enough. I want it to be. But I can’t stop myself.

There are many authors/readers who don’t really pay attention to contest finals and/or wins. I know this, but I justify the contests as a marketing tool for my books as well. My name and title are flying through the internet with the list of finalists. It’s really pretty cool.

So this week, before the holiday mail gets too crazy (because most contests have a January deadline) I’m packing up books, contest forms and checks, getting everything in the mail and crossing my fingers. I just can’t help myself.

What about you? As a reader do you pay more attention to books that finalled in contests? And writers how do you feel about this whole contest thing? Because you know me … I’m dying to know how you feel.

And don’t forget to stop at this POST and leave a comment for a chance to win a box full of anniversary gifts including a print copy of “Healer’s Garden”.

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