Friday, July 30, 2010

I spit on the birthday curse

I looked at the calendar yesterday, and was horrified to realize my 36th birthday is in two weeks.

I know what you’re thinking – don’t worry, Tawna, you don’t look a day over 35. With a good skincare regimen and a supportive bra, you’ll stay youthful and vigorous for at least another two months.

But it’s really not aging I’m worried about. It’s the fact that my birthday is cursed.

You heard me right. My birthday is cursed, and I am deeply superstitious about this.

Don’t believe me? Consider the evidence.

Here’s how my 32nd birthday unfolded:
  1. My cat died.
  2. My editor at Harlequin/Silhouette called to tell me the Bombshell line – which was scheduled to publish my debut novel in February 2007 – was being cancelled a month before said debut.
  3. My longtime employer threatened to fire me if I refused to comply with the company’s hosiery policy (I did. They didn’t. Long story).
A few years passed, and I began to forget my birthday curse. When my 35th birthday rolled by without incident, I thought I was home free.

But the birthday demons were just toying with me. Exactly one week after my birthday, the following things occurred in a single day:

  1. A doctor’s appointment revealed that a nerve surgery in my elbow had failed.
  2. Our elderly dog was incapacitated by a severe vestibular disorder and couldn’t walk.
  3. Our younger dog collapsed suddenly from an undetected, bleeding tumor and had to be put to sleep.
  4. My agent called to tell me a book deal we thought was an absolute certainty was not going to happen.
So now you see why I’m only half kidding when I talk about the birthday curse.

I’m not saying all writing-related superstitions are bad. Back when I was querying agents, there was a funny little “blessing” Pythagoras would perform over every snail-mail query I sent. It was a sweet way to involve him in a challenging process, and it lent a teamwork vibe to an otherwise solitary pursuit.

But my fear of the birthday curse – well, there’s nothing fun about that.

Which is why I’m determined not to let it worry me this year. Deep down, the intelligent part of me knows that good things and bad things happen every single day. Much as I might occasionally believe the world revolves around me, I know the date of my birth does not control the flow of luck in the universe. Assigning so much significance to a single date just ensures I’ll spend the next few weeks braced for bad things to happen, and is that really a healthy way to write?

So this year, I spit on the birthday curse. I kick it in the nuts and give it a wedgie before ducking behind Pythagoras and cackling like a fiend.

Are you superstitious when it comes to writing? Do you have rituals you perform when sending queries or contest entries? Please share in the comments (unless it involves human sacrifice, in which case you should probably share with the police).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why there’s purple underwear drying on my porch

I died last night.

Wait – I mean I dyed last night.

If you’re female and you’re in possession of boobies, you’re aware that white bras get dingy fast. Even before the elastic is shot and the underwire is stabbing you between the ribs, white bras can take on the hue of a dishrag that’s been tied to the ankle of a mule for three days.

If you’re the sort of person who doesn’t care about such things, I envy you. Really, I do.

Alas, I’ve been neurotic about my undergarments for as long as I’ve been wearing them. Not only must they be pretty and presentable, but bras and underwear must match. Always. You know that moment when you’re changing from one bra to another, and for the briefest moment, you’re wearing red panties and a black bra?

I hate that moment. I hate it more than fingernails on a chalkboard.

My friend Larie believes this is a form of mental illness, and she’s probably right. Nevertheless, I recently reached a point where – despite my most gentle laundering efforts – several beloved white unmentionables had turned an unfortunate shade of pale gray.

This was not acceptable.

I went out and bought a packet of purple dye, rounded up the assortment of grayish underthings, and got to work.

Pythagoras found me on the front porch using a kitchen spoon to stir a bucket of hot purple water.

“Do I want to know what you’re doing?” he asked.

“Probably not,” I admitted, “but I’m hoping you’ll appreciate the end result.”

All this effort to turn something old into something with a little more pizzazz – it’s a bit like what writers do every day.

Though I like to think my romantic comedies are quirky and unique, I’m pretty much just telling the same story every romance author tells – boy meets girl, they encounter some obstacles, they fall in love, and live happily ever after. Having my characters play strip-Battleship on a dysfunctional pirate ship doesn’t change the fact that the story itself has been told before.

I’m OK with that. There’s a lot of pressure on authors these days to come up with something “high concept,” something new and special that’s never been done before. But there really are no new stories. There are just unique ways of telling the old ones. Mastering the ability to do that is a big part of honing your craft as a writer.

Do you do anything special to transform your dingy gray story ideas into sassy purple panties? Or if you aren’t a writer, do you know where I might be able to get help for my hang-up with the matching underwear?

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the purple underthings turned out lovely. There are a few funny spots where the elastic turned a different shade than the rest of the fabric, but the overall effect is quite fetching.

I emerged from the closet this morning to find Pythagoras trying to use X-ray vision to see through my clothes.

“Are you wearing the purple stuff?” he asked.

I gave him a coy smile. “A lady never tells.”

“Right. So are you wearing the purple stuff?”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I am NUMB with desire

When author pals release new books, I am delighted.

When author pals hold creative blog contests to support the aforementioned author pals releasing new books, I am downright orgasmic.

Thank you to Sean Ferrell and Harley May for making me all sweaty and breathless before breakfast this morning.

Sean's debut novel, NUMB, will be released by Harper Perennial next week.

In celebration of that, the foxy terrifying delightful Harley May is holding a contest in which one lucky winner will receive a signed copy of NUMB.

Harley May (the wench) has already had the pleasure of reading the book. In addition to gloating about it posting her review of it on her blog today, she's challenging readers to recreate scenes from NUMB.

Obviously I haven't yet read NUMB, and I'm declaring myself ineligible to win the contest since I was the victor in another recent contest held by Harley May.

Nevertheless, I couldn't resist the urge to play.

Behold, I give you my version of three scenes from NUMB:
Locked in a cage with a vicious lion.
Pythagoras volunteers to have a nail driven through his hand.
Who's that handsome man on fire?
(hint: his name starts with "Sean" and ends with "Ferrell")
Want to take a shot at the contest? Head over to Harley May's blog and learn all about it.

Or if you just can't wait to win it, go pre-order NUMB. Do it now.

Then go drive a nail through your hand and light yourself on fire.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Are you calling my name?

I know this will come as a shock, but Pythagoras is not my husband’s real name.

In fact, his first name is a fairly common one. At least once a week, we’ll be out somewhere and a stranger will call his name.

Somehow, Pythagoras always seems to know when he’s truly being summoned and when the stranger is shouting for someone else with the same name.

“Doesn’t that drive you nuts?” I asked once. “Having so many other people with your name?”

“Not really," he said. "It’s more like we’re all in a club.”

Personally, that would drive me batty. I’ve always liked the fact that I don’t have to share my name with many people. My mom came up with it by blending her best friend’s name (Tanna) and my grandmother’s name (Donna).

Though I’ve met the occasional “Tona” or “Tana” who pronounce their names the same way I do, I’ve only met one other “Tawna." She was working the cash register at a local bed and bath store, and I was inexplicably annoyed when I saw her nametag.

“Your name is Tawna?” I asked.

“That’s right.”

“That’s unfortunate,” I told her. “You’ll have to move. There’s only room for one of us in this town.”

I swear she knew I was joking, but when I returned to the store a month later and asked if Tawna was working, the clerk gave me a funny look. “She moved away.”

Like many authors, I use Google Alerts to notify me when my name is mentioned online. Any use of “Tawna Fenske” is me 100% of the time, which is a relief.

I always feel for authors like agency sistah Linda Grimes (who recently blogged about sharing a first and last name with a Justin Bieber fan) or author Sean Ferrell (who, it must be noted, uses the Twitter handle @byseanferrell and NOT @seanferrell – a handle claimed by an Episcopalian priest who’s probably making all kinds of interesting new friends in light of the amazing buzz surrounding author Sean Ferrell’s upcoming debut, NUMB).

When it comes to my first name, Google Alerts is seldom talking about me when it notifies me that “Tawna” has been mentioned online.

Apparently, there’s a Tawna who is a character in a video game, and another Tawna who is…well…I’m actually sure what she does, though she describes herself as working in the “entertainment business”

Does anyone else find this name thing fascinating? Is yours a common or uncommon name? How do you feel about that? If you’re an author, do you have any plans to use a pseudonym with your books?

Please share in the comments. I’ll be busy shouting “Pythagoras” at my husband to see if I can get him to turn around.

Monday, July 26, 2010

I am the mistress of discipline & moldy toast

Attempting to be a full-time writer requires a fair amount of discipline, and I don’t mean that in the fun handcuffs-and-blackcurrant-jelly way.

I need routine. This is usually how mine goes:

Wake around 6:15, write a blog post, shower, dress, feed pets, prepare and consume a breakfast consisting of two poached eggs, one piece of toast, and one hashbrown patty. Then I spend some time responding to email and making the rounds to other blogs before opening my manuscript and diving in.

You’ll understand then, why my entire day of writing was jeopardized recently when I woke to find no bread.

I knew I still had half a loaf of pumpernickel. Where was it?

I soon had my answer. The bread was in the garbage can, with several spots of mold revealing the reason Pythagoras had unceremoniously dumped it.

I began to panic.

Without toast, how would I sop up my eggs? And without toast, wouldn’t I be starving right when I hit my stride with the morning writing? Instead of dashing off witty dialogue at 10 a.m., I would be forced to flee to the kitchen and eat pie crust straight from the freezer.

I had no choice.

I carefully pulled the bread from the trash, wiping off a few bits of carrot peel and the nozzle from an empty tube of bike tire glue. I used my fingernail to flick away some of the bigger spots of mold before popping a piece of in the toaster.

When Pythagoras returned from his morning run, he found me in my usual spot on the front porch with a newspaper and a breakfast plate in front of me.

He stared at me a moment. “What are you eating?”

“Same thing I always eat,” I replied.

“Right. Um, where’d you get the bread?”

“Garbage. Hey, did you see this article about the parking fees downtown?”

He stared at me for a few more moments, then shook his head and wandered in the house. “Remind me not to kiss you until you’ve gargled with bleach.”

Personally, I don’t see the big deal. The bread was in a bag, and I did toast it. Generally speaking, I think most Americans are too uptight about expiration dates and food preparation. Pythagoras claims he has a more refined palate while I have the gut of a billy goat, but guess which of us can eat unidentifiable street vendor food in third world countries and never get sick? Hint: it’s not him.

But I digress.

Since the toast incident, I’ve stockpiled my freezer with three loaves of my favorite bread, and I’ll be keeping close tabs on it. This is serious business. My whole day of writing depends on it.

Do you have routines when it comes to your writing? Are you prone to rash behavior if something threatens your routine? Please share in the comments.

I’ll be over here trying to figure out where Pythagoras stashed the blackcurrant jelly. What? It’s for the toast.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The fine art of feeding yourself

My recent posts about my recipe cupboard have generated some interesting emails, tweets, and blog comments about my cookbooks.

In case you’re wondering – yes, my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook is indeed disintegrating from overuse, and yes, the Intercourses aphrodisiac cookbook really will make your spouse lie down naked on the dinner table (so maybe don’t use it when your mom visits).

A couple comments reminded me of a conversation that took place when I first purchased one of the books:

Clerk (eyeing the book, then eyeing me): A Weight Watchers cookbook?

Me: Um, yes. And also this shower brush shaped like a penis.

Clerk (eyeing me some more): That’s not a penis, it’s a leg. And why do you need a Weight Watchers cookbook? You’re thin.

It was one of those moments I wish I were quick with clever retorts. My first instinct was to wonder if the clerk also chided overweight customers purchasing dessert cookbooks. Then I imagined the inappropriate conversation I could spark by returning to the counter with a sex manual.

But I suppose I can’t fault the clerk’s observation. Yes, I’m a relatively thin person who just happens to like healthy cooking. My intense love affair with my Reader’s Digest How To Book of Healthy Cooking doesn’t mean I’m on an anorexic quest to drop 50 pounds, but it does probably mean I’m interested in keeping the figure I have.

It’s funny this subject should come up the same week I’ve been contemplating taking an online course on revisions from author Lani Diane Rich (aka Lucy March).

I mentioned it to an acquaintance the other day, and she looked at me like I’d just announced my intent to try sword swallowing.

“But you’ve already got a book deal,” she said. “Why do you need a writing class?”

I’m intrigued by this idea that an author could reach some I have arrived pinnacle and suddenly kick back with a glass of Sangiovese and the smug certainty she knows everything there is to know about writing.

If there is such a pinnacle, I don’t want to reach it.

Isn’t that the thrill of this business? The fact that no matter what stage you’re at in your career, you can always learn and grow and fine-tune your writing? There are a million ways for an author to refill her bag of tricks, and that’s part of what keeps this process fresh and fun. I don’t care if you’re a brand new author or Stephen King – smart writers are always working to hone their talents and sharpen their skills.

How about you? What do you do to maintain or improve your writing abilities?

Please share in the comments.

I'll be busy enjoying my healthy cookbooks and my online writing class and especially my penis-shaped shower brush.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Betcha thought I forgot...

Last week I showed you my disgusting recipe cupboard and lamented the fact that I have the supplies required to organize it, but never seem to make the time.

In case you've forgotten what the hellhole looked like, here's a refresher:

You may also recall that some of you accepted my challenge to pick a task you've been procrastinating and tackle it in the coming week.

Betcha thought I forgot.

Well, I didn't. True, I was distracted by my parents' visit and Pythagoras' triathlon and our impromptu trip to the Oregon Coast. But I uphold my commitments.

So here's what I did last night:
Getting organized at the dining room table.
Finishing up in the living room (much later, as you can tell by the lack of light, the dog's yawn, and the level of the wine remaining in the bottle)
The finished product. A well-organized recipe cupboard. Hooray!
And here's the funny thing: one of my excuses for procrastinating this task is that I've had too damn much to do. I'm finishing up the first draft of LET IT BREATHE (the third book in my contract) while also completing edits on MAKING WAVES and BELIEVE IT OR NOT (the first and second books, which are due on my editor’s desk August 1).

But taking those few hours to tackle and complete an unrelated project gave me a sense of accomplishment. As I finished tidying the cupboard this morning, I realized I was already itching to get started on the edits.

A far cry from the foot-dragging I’ve been doing lately.

So I guess the lesson here is that it’s not such a bad thing to take a little time away from writing to tackle some menial task that gives you a sense of accomplishment. As an added bonus, I uncovered some terrific recipes I’d forgotten about. Mustard Crusted Salmon, anyone?

Did the rest of you tackle an undesirable task this week? How did you fare? Tell us all about it in the comments!

On an unrelated note, I’d like to urge you all to check out a couple other sites today.

First up, Candyland (aka Candace Ganger) is doing an awesome fundraiser for the non-profit group Joy 2 the World, which generates micro-credit loans for the women of Ghana to encourage independence and empowerment.

It is a fabulous cause, and Candyland is giving away some truly incredible prizes for supporters. You could snag a 30-minute phone call with my amazing agent, Michelle Wolfson, some highly desirable books from authors like Sean Ferrell and Bill Cameron, or even a tag-team critique of your partial manuscript from yours truly and my critique partner, Cynthia Reese.

There are tons of other great prizes for writers and non-writers alike, so go now! NOW!

Secondly, Elizabeth Ryann (the lucky wench) got to attend RomCon recently, and brought back a huge stack of books she’s giving away on her blog. There are even a few in there from my own wonderful publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc. Want to win them? You’ll have to visit Elizabeth’s blog to get yourself entered.

Er, I didn’t mean it like that.

So that’s it for today – two great contests, one clean cupboard, and a whole lot of editing ahead of me today.

Life’s good.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

By the seat of your pants

Monday afternoon, I had an unexpected urge to visit the Oregon Coast.

Since we live 4 hours away and it’s the middle of tourist season, you might think the trip would involve some advance planning.

You’d be wrong.

Within an hour, Pythagoras and I were in the car with one haphazardly-packed bag and one confused dog. We didn’t make hotel reservations. We didn’t know which towns we’d visit. We didn’t even remember to pack dog food or deodorant.
Bindi enjoys the ride.

But the trip was incredible. 36 hours of beautiful scenery, unexpected adventures, and good conversation.
On the beach in Florence, OR

This is pretty much how I write. Authors call this being a “pantster” (short for "seat of your pants") as opposed to “plotter” (those amazing souls who don’t regard outlines as tools of Satan).

There are advantages to both methods, and trust me – I’ve had moments I wished I could try the other method as both as a writer or a traveler. People who plan ahead probably don’t spend nights sleeping in a skirt on the floor of an airport delirious with fever from a bacterial infection contracted in Morocco.

Are you a pantster as well? Or maybe a plotter who’d like to let your hair down and try being a pantster? Here are three tips for both writing & traveling by the seat of your pants:

Don’t panic. There will be moments you realize you’ve backed yourself into a corner with your story or your journey. It’s all part of the experience.

While traveling in Europe, we hopped a bus to Slovenia without considering what we’d do if the bus dropped in the middle of nowhere without access to a telephone, computer, or ATM. For a few minutes, Pythagoras and I assessed one another while considering which of us would fetch a higher price on the black market. Fortunately, we kept our heads, shouldered our packs, and hoofed it a couple miles to a post office that kindly swapped our Euros for Tolars and pointed us to a pay phone. Slovenia ended up being one of the highlights of that trip.

It’s been the same with writing for me. When I set out to write MAKING WAVES (my debut novel) I knew I wanted to write a sort of pirate parody. I didn’t stop to consider the difficulty in setting an entire novel in the confines of a 45-foot ship. That challenge forced me to develop some twists in the final third of the book that are now my favorite parts of the story.

Choose travel companions wisely.
I packed for Monday’s beach trip in about 30 seconds, so I may have neglected a few essentials. Like a toothbrush. Or a razor. Or deodorant. Since Pythagoras also forgot the latter, he ran to the store for the deodorant while I helped myself to his razor and brushed my teeth with a cotton ball stolen from his bag. (Incidentally, nothing says true love like sharing deodorant).

It’s the same thing with writing. Plotting is not my forte, so I made sure to nab two critique partners who are masters at it. When I get stuck, I can email either one and whine, “my heroine got drunk at the hero’s male strip club – now what?”

Take the scenic route.
My favorite thing about writing and traveling as a pantster is the chance to discover new things. Our trip home from the beach yesterday involved a meandering drive through several small towns. Along the way, we saw a gorgeous covered bridge in Sweet Home and a pair of large mammals copulating at Sea Lion Caves.
Nookie at Sea Lion Caves.
Weddle Covered Bridge in Sweet Home.

Same deal on the writing front. I had no idea when I started writing LET IT BREATHE (the third in my contract) that the story would include pink-haired biker grandma or an alpaca who head-butts men in the gonads, but those are now among my favorite features of the manuscript. Use your pantster experience to try new things. You might be surprised at what your brain comes up with.

Are you a plotter or a panster when it comes to writing or travel? What tips can you share for making your method work? Have you ever tried the other method just for fun? Please share in the comments.

I’ll be over here shaking sand out of my shoes.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Should I pick up my undies for you?

Sunday evening, we had friends over for dinner.

I didn’t tidy the kitchen. I didn’t spend hours cooking. I didn’t even check between the sofa cushions for underwear.

We’ve known these two couples for 12 years, so I no longer feel the need to pretend I’m a respectable housekeeper who doesn’t allow the dogs to lick the plates after meals.

I thought about this midway through dinner when it occurred to me I hadn’t even made sure there was toilet paper in the guest bath.

Part of me felt bad about that.

And part of me felt grateful to have friends who are comfortable enough in my home to march out of the bathroom muttering, “Tawna, you disgusting slob, where’s your butt buffer?”

It’s something that’s been on my mind a lot lately with this blog, too. I’ve been delighted to see a recent uptick in brand new visitors journeying over from other blogs with enviously high traffic. Agent Janet Reid has kindly linked to me a couple times on her blog, and Lucy March (a.k.a. New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lani Diane Rich) has generously included a link to my blog in the sidebar of hers.

Each time someone new shows up, I have a moment of panic. Did I post something entertaining today? Was I funny enough to keep them coming back?

Then I feel like a jerk, because shouldn’t I care just as much about being funny and entertaining for those of you who’ve been showing up all along?

This is me being neurotic, I suppose. Deep down, I know I care every bit as much for old friends as I do new ones. It’s just a different dynamic. I’ve already had the chance to make a first impression on blog visitors who’ve been coming around awhile. You know about my dirty jokes and my dirty house, and you keep showing up anyway.

For that, I am insanely grateful.

And the new visitors? Well, all I can do is what I’ve been doing, and hope that’s enough to keep you showing up, too. If not, hey – I’m just glad you stopped by.

Those of you who have blogs of your own – do you do this, too? Do you get nervous when new visitors arrive? Do you re-read your own posts thinking, “crap, I wish she’d dropped by on a day I wasn’t posting pictures of how I eat bananas with my feet?”

I’d love to hear from you in the comments – both old friends and new. All of you make me do happy dances in my underwear.

Underwear I’ll try not to leave in the sofa cushions if you happen to stop by.

Monday, July 19, 2010

If only...

On Saturday, Pythagoras competed in his first Olympic-distance triathlon with surprisingly little drama.

There were no Swedish supermodels throwing confetti and bikini tops as he crossed the finish line, but there was also no need for him to crawl weakly to the end while peeing down his leg and insisting his name is Rebecca.

He finished fifth in his age group, which qualifies him for Nationals should we wish to journey to Tuscaloosa, Alabama in September.

But despite his solid finish, Pythagoras was trotting down the if only path mere seconds after he’d crossed the finish line.

If only he hadn’t been sick all week…
If only he’d slept better the previous night…
If only he’d eaten a different breakfast…

I finally had to demand he stop lest he reach the conclusion that he would have won the whole race if only his pre-competition ritual had included a hand job from Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Annoying though his if only game may be, I’ve gotta admit I’ve been doing it too – particularly with this book.

If only I’d started writing in mid-March…
If only I hadn’t given myself so many days off…
If only I’d gotten up earlier this morning…

And I have to stop myself and say then what, idiot?

Sure, I’d be done by now. Usually I take about three months to finish a book, and this one will come in a little over three-and-a-half by the time I type “the end” in the next few days.

Is that really the end of the world?

Probably not. This is the third book in my contract and it isn’t even due on my editor’s desk until February. February, but I’m beating myself up now for dawdling.

In truth, the biggest reason for the delay is that I’ve had the chance to spend some extra quality time with Pythagoras these last six weeks. Unsurprisingly, I’ve grabbed that chance like I'd grab a firm butt cheek.

Do you play the if only game? Do you have an effective way of stopping yourself that doesn’t involve medieval torture devices? Please share, I could use better strategies.

I would like to sneak in just one more if only, if I may.

If only that beyotch beside me hadn’t stuck her hand out, I’d have a lovely photo of Pythagoras crossing the finish line in Saturday’s race.

Friday, July 16, 2010

On talent, success, & bra throwing

Wednesday night, we saw Colin Hay in concert.

You may recall he was the front-man for ‘80s band Men at Work. They won a Grammy in 1983 for best new artist and had a few chart-topping hits including “Down Under.”

Now, Colin Hay plays solo acoustic shows in small towns where many audience members would be hard pressed to name any of his solo tunes.

The second he took the stage, I was dumbstruck. He’s one of the most talented performers I’ve ever seen – and I’m a concert whore, so I don’t say this lightly. His voice was breathtaking, his guitar playing flawless, his showmanship hysterically entertaining. If I hadn’t been reluctant to part with my favorite bra, I might’ve thrown it.
Colin Hay on Wednesday night.

From his jokes, it’s clear he’s aware of the irony in going from sold-out stadium shows to a tiny stage in Central Oregon.

But though his position on the charts has changed, his talent hasn’t. Regardless of how many tickets he sells, he’s an amazing musician.

I can’t help but see a tie to writing. Deep down, don’t we all hope for superstardom? Don’t we all want our books to sell at auction for ridiculous figures, to ascend the bestseller lists and have Oprah and Letterman bitch-slapping each other over the first interview?

But the reality is that it happens for very few artists – musicians or writers. For every performer like Sting or Bono or Steven Tyler whose superstar status spans 30 or 40 years, there are guys like Colin Hay. No less talented, but with careers that have gone a decidedly different direction.

Part of me wants to feel sad about this.

Part of me says Are you kidding? A talented artist making a living doing what he loves? What’s sad about that?

I’ll admit I wouldn’t mind seeing my name on a bestseller list someday. Though I’ll do everything in my power to make it happen, I have very little control. I can work hard and hone my talent, but the odds are slim I’ll ever be driven to book signings in a limousine with throngs of fans beating on the windows and throwing Pop Tarts.

I’m OK with that.

Because talent and success can’t be measured by book sales or the number of concert seats filled. I know that for every blockbuster book atop the lists, there are dozens more that are every bit as good – maybe better – that just don’t have the magic marketing formula to fly off the shelves.

It’s enough for me to know I’m damn lucky. I’m getting to do what I love – to slap words on a page and make a few people smile, to even make a little money doing it.

Though my dreams of grandeur might entertain me, it’s the lure of just doing what I love that keeps me going.

That, and the fantasy of giving Oprah a wedgie if I ever make it on her show.

How about you? If you never write a runaway bestseller, are you OK with that? Is it enough just to know you’re a writer, that you’re talented enough to create a book in the first place?

I’ll leave you with this song from Colin Hay. If you like it, go buy it on iTunes. Do it now.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

3 critique partner myths

With just a few days and a few thousand words to go before I finish the first draft of LET IT BREATHE, I’m starting to look ahead.

No, I don’t mean the wine I plan to celebrate with (Van Duzer’s 2007 Estate Pinot Noir, in case you’re wondering).

I mean the stage where I hand it off to critique partners and beta readers and give them the opportunity to devise creative new ways to say, “what the @#$% were you thinking?”

In all seriousness, I couldn’t do this without these guys. I’ve worked with the same two critique partners and three beta readers since the early years of my writing journey, and we’ve fine-tuned the process a lot.

While I won’t claim to be an expert, I can tell you I cringe each time I see someone state a “fact” about the critiquing relationship that goes against what I’ve experienced. Though we’ve all got our own systems, there are some ideas that seem like a load of aardvark poo to me:

MYTH #1: You should only heed advice from a critique partner who’s published. When I started critiquing with my two current partners over six years ago, none of us had a book deal. Though two of the three now do, I can honestly say it doesn’t make a bit of difference.

One misconception about the critiquing relationship is that suggestions are either “right” or “wrong,” and a published author has more “right” ones. Not true. Good critique partners tell you how your story impacts them and how they – as writers – might improve things. It doesn’t mean you have to take their advice. Plenty of times I ignore it, or use it as a springboard to generate an idea of my own. Other times, I’ll make a mental note of something one critique partner stumbled over. If a beta reader has the same reaction later, I’ll take a closer look.

The idea here is to gather feedback from people with different life experiences and perspectives. A good critique partner doesn’t need a book deal, she just needs a brain. And maybe some good Riedel wine glasses.

MYTH #2: I must have critique partners who write in my genre. I agree with this in part. Cynthia Reese (critique partner #1) writes romance, so she knows the ins and outs of the genre. But Linda Brundage (critique partner #2) writes literary fiction, and could probably count on one hand the number of romance novels she’s read.

This is a good mix for me. I rely on Cynthia to remind me of the “rules,” and Linda to encourage me to break them. Cynthia makes sure my story has enough conflict, and Linda points out when I’ve confused “conflict” with “being a bitch.” Cynthia keeps an eye on my characters' budding romance, and Linda questions whether my hero could really get my heroine’s bra off that fast.

The balance of the two perspectives is invaluable. As an added romance safety net, one of my three beta readers is a lifelong devotee of the romance genre. If I miss the boat, she beats me until I get back on it.

MYTH #3: I need a critique partner in my town so we can have coffee and pillow fights when we swap manuscripts. Once upon a time, I traded hard copy manuscripts with a critique partner. This ended after I had the brilliant idea to critique Linda’s manuscript on a boat in the middle of a lake on a windy afternoon.

These days, everything is electronic. Each critique partner or beta reader gets the manuscript in a Word doc, re-titles it using her initials, and plugs comments directly into the manuscript using a different color of text. It’s easy to spot them and simple to delete or ignore. Though critiques are often followed by lengthy email exchanges and phone calls, there’s no need to meet. In fact, Cynthia Reese and I have never met in person – not once in six years. But I’d sooner cut off my left nipple than do without her perspective.

So there you have it. The three biggest myths (in my humble opinion) about working with critique partners. Do you have any to add? Do disagree with any of my points? How does your system work?

Or if you’re new to the world of critique partners and beta readers, do you have questions for those who’ve run the gauntlet before?

Please discuss in the comments.

I’ll be over here gazing lovingly at that bottle of Pinot. Just a few more days, and it will be mine.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The fine art of undressing

Lately, Pythagoras has spent a lot of time practicing taking his clothes off.

No, he’s not training to be a stripper. He is training for his first triathlon, and I’m amazed to discover there’s an art to shucking wet, sweaty clothing in public places.

An Olympic-distance triathlon starts with a 1.5 km (1500-yard) open-water swim, followed by a 40 km (24.1-mile) bike ride, finished with a 10 km (6.2 mile) run. Each stage requires different gear, and since races are won and lost by a couple seconds, how you strip is important.

Yesterday afternoon, he finally got the wetsuit he'll wear for the swimming leg on Saturday.

He promptly stripped in my office and tried it on. I promptly forgot the scene I was writing and stopped to enjoy the view.

“I need to practice taking it off now,” he said.

“Great!” I agreed, powering off the computer.

“What if I filled up the bathtub, got in with the wetsuit on, and then jumped out and practiced taking it off fast?”

I frowned. “Not my first choice, but as long as I get to watch.”
I can help zip up,
but not take off.

I do not, however, get to assist. That’s the rule in competition. Athletes must wriggle out of their sopping wetsuits – necessary for buoyancy and warmth in a frigid river – and strip down to the damp cycling shorts underneath. Then they cram their bare feet into the cycling shoes they’ve pre-clipped to their pedals, and away they go.

It’s a complicated endeavor, but not a whole lot trickier than getting the characters naked in a novel.

I spent last night making some tweaks to the final love scene in LET IT BREATHE, paying special attention to how the characters undressed.

Removing shirts and undergarments can be sexy.

Removing socks and work boots, not so much.

The way the clothes come off says a lot about the characters and the scene they’re in. The final love scene in MAKING WAVES is playful and fun, while the one in BELIEVE IT OR NOT involves some irreparable damage to a silk blouse.

This scene in LET IT BREATHE is an odd mix of both, and I’ve gotta admit, I devoted ten minutes last night to fine-tuning the way the hero removes the heroine's bra.

What sort of undressing do you prefer as a reader? As a writer? Do you like to know about each article of clothing as it’s cast aside, or would you rather skip those details? Do you want to see buttons flying across the room, or is slow seduction more your style?

For this scene, I know what I need. I’m about 99% there now.

For the triathlon, though – well, Pythagoras is on his own.

Too bad. That wetsuit is kind of hot.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Just freakin' do it (+special announcment)

First, a special announcement:
Head over to Candyland’s blog to hear how she's raising money for the women of Ghana, West Africa. You can get your mitts on some terrific prizes, including autographed books, agent consultations, and author critiques. The money goes to a great cause, and participants include my amazing agent Michelle Wolfson (who’s offering up a 30-minute phone consultation) as well as my wonderful critique partner Cynthia Reese (who is joining forces with yours truly to offer a tag-team critique of a partial manuscript…something she explains beautifully on her blog today).

Go click the links, and GET INVOLVED!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post…

So you know how I love to cook, right?

And you know how I’ve bragged about the number of cookbooks I own and recipe sites I frequent?

Now I’m going to show you my dirty little secret. You ready?

This is the cupboard that holds it:

Scary, isn’t it?

It’s a mess on many levels, but the worst of it is the mountain of recipes clipped from newspapers or printed from online sites. Each time I open that cupboard, I risk death by avalanche. Sometimes I go hunting for a recipe and get so tired of looking for it that I change my mind and eat tater tots. I’ve got at least a dozen more cookbooks scattered in rooms where no cooking can take place.

I need to get organized.

Funny thing is, I bought all the supplies to do that almost seven months ago. I’ve got a binder for the loose recipes, and little plastic sheets to keep them sorted. I know where most of the missing cookbooks are and could easily round them up.

So why haven’t I done it?

I could come up with a million excuses, some of which might be pretty creative. But the fact is, I’ve been procrastinating because I don’t want to do it.

I’ll admit, I’ve been known to do this in my writing, too. Even though I’m nearing the end of LET IT BREATHE, there’s still some research I need to do to round out one of the subplots. There are still a couple scenes I’m dragging my feet on writing. There’s no compelling reason I haven’t done these things, except I don’t wanna (which isn’t a very compelling reason, not even if I whine it).

Do you do this to? Do you have tasks that really wouldn’t take much effort, but you put them off a ridiculously long time? If so, join me in making a pledge to just freakin’ do it already. Clean that cupboard, organize that junk drawer, or tackle that annoying scene in your manuscript.

Tell me what you’re procrastinating and then pledge to get it done in the coming week. We’ll all report back here next week to brag about what we've accomplished and pat each other on the back for our progress. Deal?

Unless I’m killed by a paper avalanche.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Some lesser-known iPhone features

I spent a couple days camping last Thursday and Friday. Though I suspected our remote locale would render my iPhone useless, I was pleased to find that wasn’t the case.

On the contrary, I discovered a host of special features Apple never mentioned in my user manual.

Whether you’ve got an iPhone of your own, or simply want to test the capabilities your existing cell phone, here are a few special features worth sharing:
  • Crush mosquitoes against the wall of the tent. The little bastards love the way the screen lights up, much to their detriment.
  • Instantly tweet photos of important moments. For me, this was a picture of Pythagoras reeling in a fish, though sadly, he got away. The fish, not my husband. Pythagoras only made it to the parking lot before I hit him in the head with the phone and dragged him unconscious back to the campsite.
  • Jot notes to yourself from the middle of a lake. I neglected to bring a pen or notepad on our camping adventure (some writer I am). Fortunately, I was able to make a quick note on my iPhone when an important idea struck. OK, so it wasn’t a plot point, it was the name of the aromatherapy oil my yoga instructor shared last week. I’d forgotten, and it was nice to have a place to jot the word “neroli”when it suddenly appeared in my brain.
  • Utilize iPhone as emergency light source at 2 a.m. when dog barfs in tent. Gripping the phone between my teeth and a baggie in one hand, I was able to clean up the result of a motion-sick dog having spent the day on a boat. I blame neither the iPhone nor the dog for the fact that the baggie turned out to have a hole.
So how about you? Have you ever used your phone for something other than its intended purpose? Please share, I’m always on the lookout for undiscovered phone features.

Oh, I did take advantage of one of the phone’s intended uses. Check out the sunset over Diamond Lake:

Friday, July 9, 2010

On writer guilt

Several days ago, I saw something on Twitter that broke my heart. It was from an author whose book deal had recently fallen through, and here’s what it said:

I feel like I owe an apology to everyone who congratulated me, like the engagement fell through and I got all these gifts I didn't deserve.

You can read the whole story on her blog.

I know it doesn’t help much to say I’ve been there before, but I have. I sold my first book in May 2006 to Harelquin/Silhouette’s Bombshell line of women’s action-adventure novels. Fifteen months later, I got the “un-call” from my editor saying they were canceling the line a month before my scheduled debut. Though I got to keep my advance, I was out on my butt with one formerly contracted novel, two follow-ups that never made it to contract, and a whole lot of guilt.

The guilt was the worst part.

Even now – after three years and a new three-book deal – it still hits me sometimes.

All those people you told, the voice in my head whispers. They thought you’d have a book out by now. They’re wondering if you lied. They’re wondering if you suck. They’re wondering if you slept with all the editors and weren’t particularly good at it.

When people say writing is a solitary profession, I always laugh. I don’t know any writers who work without an army of people behind them – spouses, partners, children, friends, family, agents, editors, bikini waxers, and hoards of acquaintances who cheer your successes and mourn your failures.

When things go wrong, it doesn’t matter what stage you’re at in your writing career – you can’t help but feel you’ve disappointed them all.

I’ve blogged before about deciding who to tell about your writing.

But that’s really only half the equation. Unless you write in a bubble (which tends to get your keyboard sudsy) there will be others riding along in your writing journey. How do you not feel responsible for letting them down if things don’t go the way you hope?

I don’t have an answer.

Writing is emotionally draining whether you write gut-wrenching literary fiction or nut-busting thrillers. Not just the writing process, but the expectations we pile on ourselves. There’s no way to alleviate that – though I suppose sex, drugs, and insanity sufficed for Hunter S. Thompson.

But wouldn’t it be easier if we all learned to be a bit more forgiving of ourselves? To accept that no matter how hard you work at it, there’s only so much you can do to control your own writing success. The rest is just dumb luck and the very subjective opinions in an ever-shifting publishing world.

I can’t promise not to care what people think. No author pursuing publication can promise that, or we’d all be content to scribble our thoughts on the back of a tampon box and stuff it in the medicine cabinet.

What I can promise – what we all should promise – is to cut ourselves some slack. To recognize that there will be ups and downs and times where you want to kick someone in the nuts and run away laughing. No amount of guilt we pile on ourselves will change that.

But if we all make a conscious effort to give ourselves a break, it’ll go a long way toward reducing the number of authors feeling lousy over things they can’t control.

So how about it? Are you a guilt-ridden writer? Want to join me in throwing off the hair shirt?

Leave it over there by the bar, and pull up a stool. I’m buying.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The dirty lies writers tell themselves

We’ve somehow gone from freezing temperatures to scorching ones within a week, so Pythagoras and I are heading into the mountains for a camping trip.

I apologize in advance for not replying to blog comments right away, but I do have another post set to go up Friday, so come back tomorrow.

In preparing for this camping adventure, I’m reminded of the first time Pythagoras and I went fishing.

We both grew up in outdoorsy families, so camping and hiking and fishing were regular occurrences. Though we’d camped together many times, it wasn’t until we’d been together a couple years that we embarked on a fishing trip.

We rented a boat at Diamond Lake and headed out. I had a good book, Pythagoras had a fishing pole, and all was right with the world.

Suddenly, his line began to jerk.

“Quick, grab the net,” he ordered.

I stared, baffled, as he reeled the fish in. The second it came flopping into the boat, I burst into tears.

Pythagoras looked at me. “What’s wrong?”

“The fish,” I sobbed. “I don’t want it to die.”

“I’ll throw it back, no problem.”

“No! I want to eat it,” I whimpered. “I just don’t like seeing it die.”

He was baffled by this. “I thought you grew up fishing all the time.”

“I did!” I cried. “We just never caught anything.”

Being raised in a family of terrible fishermen had not prepared me for this spectacle. There was some more discussion, a bit more sobbing, and a quick, solemn death for the fish.

As soon as dinner was stashed safely in the cooler, Pythagoras turned to me.

“The fish was probably really old,” Pythagoras said. “On death’s doorstep. We saved all the other fish from having to watch him die slowly of old age or liver cancer.”

I thought about that for a minute, then nodded. “He was also a pedophile.”

“Absolutely,” Pythagoras agreed. “For years, he’s been terrorizing the other fish.”

“And he’s a compulsive liar.”

“And a car thief,” he added.

“Did you hear how he voted in the last presidential election?”

By the time we’d finished assassinating the fish’s character, I felt almost glad about removing him from the gene pool. We caught several more evil fish that afternoon, and they were all delicious stuffed with lemon slices and cooked over a campfire.

OK, so I know it’s unlikely each fish we catch is a tawdry character preying on children and passing out KKK literature. But believing it for a few hours assuages my conscience and makes me feel less guilty about something that’s a bit uncomfortable for me.

Am I the only one to use my overactive writer’s imagination like this? Do you regularly lie to yourself so you feel better about something? Tell me in the comments.

I’ve got some granddaddy pedophile fish to catch.

Pythagoras shows off our first evil fish, may he rest in peace.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Let's get it on: overcoming performance anxiety

There are some authors who dread writing love scenes. I am not one of them.

Big shocker, I know.

I seldom give them much thought beforehand, and when I do, I regard them like a good crème brûlée – something to anticipate near the end of a meal.

From the start of LET IT BREATHE, I knew I’d do something a bit different. I don’t mean that in the handcuffs-and-tub-of-mayonnaise way. Without giving too much away, I’ll say these characters have a history, and the final love scene isn’t their first. There’s some significance in how things unfold, a little more to it than, “we’ve overcome obstacles, and speaking of coming…”

That said, I don’t like assigning too much deep meaning to a love scene. It’s a pet peeve of mine as a reader. At the top of my list of things I could never write is a heroine who’s sexually naïve until the big, manly hero arrives and brings meaning to her life by showing her how to batter-dip the corndog. While many authors use that device and many readers enjoy it, it makes me want to scrub my brain with steel wool.

So now that I’ve yammered on for five paragraphs about the final love scene in LET IT BREATHE, I’ve illustrated the problem I had yesterday when I sat down to write it:

It’s been built up too much.

That’s a line from a well-known movie (can anyone name it?) and one Pythagoras and I quote whenever we’ve discussed something to the point that we no longer wish to do it.

I can’t be the first writer who’s stalled out on the brink of a climactic (snicker) scene, so maybe these tips will prove handy for others who’ll come (snicker) after me:

Set the mood.
It’s crucial for all scenes, but for love scenes especially. I got lucky yesterday when kindly hit me over the head with a song that was the perfect vibe for the scene. I promptly downloaded it and set it to repeat.

Give yourself a deadline. Some writers don’t work as well under pressure, but I had to force myself into action yesterday. I saw a couple authors kicking off a #1k1hr on Twitter, and invited myself to join. At the end of my hour, I had 1,500 words and the motivation I needed to keep going for another hour.

Get lubed up.
Though I’ve touted the benefits of occasionally sipping an adult beverage to get creative juices flowing, I don’t drink when I’m writing a love scene. I like to stay sharp so I don’t miss the little nuances and gestures important in a scene like that, but I made an exception yesterday and poured a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Like magic, I loosened right up.

I know when I open the document later this morning, it won’t be perfect. I have a sneaking suspicion I gave my hero three hands and the ability to lick the heroine’s neck from three feet away, but I did get words on the page. Editing is a lot easier than staring at a blank screen two days in a row.

So that’s how I got over the hump (snicker). What do you do? Have you encountered a situation where a scene has been built up too much? What do you do?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Downward dog never looked so good

As I hit the home stretch in this manuscript and my brain loses the ability to tell time, I keep missing my regular yoga class and ending up in a more intense one.

It’s one of those classes – the kind where the instructor has to stop frequently to mop sweat off the floor, and I have to stop frequently to see if she’s kidding when she suggests I stand on one leg and put an ankle behind my head.

But there’s a key advantage to this class – it draws a lot of men.

A lot of shirtless men.

A lot of shirtless men with toned bodies who – if I’m very lucky – might park their yoga mat in front of mine and provide enough visual stimulation to distract me from the fact that I’m contorting myself into positions a Barbie doll couldn’t manage without removing a limb.

I was pleased to have one of these shirtless specimens in front of me yesterday, and I’ve gotta say – I’d never miss another class if someone could assure me he’d always be there.

Since he showed up late when we were all face down contemplating our spleen chakras, I didn’t see his face. All I could see for the entire hour of class was that dark, rumpled hair, those muscular legs, that broad expanse of naked back.

I silently thanked the instructor every time she ordered us into crescent lunge because I got to watch those shoulders flex.

I said some additional silent thank yous I couldn’t see his face.

I know that might seem odd, but it’s something I consider each time I write a love interest in one of my novels.

One reason I love reading so much more than movies or television is that I get to use my imagination to decide what people look like. I usually get a starting point like hair and eye color, but it’s up to me to fill in the blanks.

And I do love filling in those blanks.

It’s something I’m aware of in my own writing as well. How much physical description should I provide about my characters? How much should I leave to the imagination?

I’ll admit I’ve straddled the fence on this. The hero in LET IT BREATHE – the third book in my contract – has brown hair and eyes, with broad shoulders, great hands, and a mysterious tattoo.

Beyond that, I’m not providing a ton of detail.

This differs from the second book in my contract – BELIEVE IT OR NOT – in which the hero bears a strong resemblance to John Cusack.

Which do you prefer as a reader? As a writer? Do you like knowing exactly what a character looks like, or do you prefer having it left to the imagination?

Please share in the comments.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, I did see hot yoga guy’s face at the end of class. I was disappointed. Not that he was unattractive – that wasn’t the case at all – but just because he looked nothing like what I’d imagined.

He’s still welcome to park his yoga mat in front of me anytime. I’ll even save the spot.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Too weird to be true

When I critique with other writers, we often jot the following note in each other’s manuscripts:

Unrealistic. This could never happen.

Maybe it’s a scene with too many coincidences or strange happenings. Whatever the case, we’re conscious of the fact there are a limited number of times readers will suspend disbelief while we hit them over the head with the baseball bat of bizarre.

This was on my mind Saturday when the weirdness quota in my real life hit overload before we even got in the car to drive the dogs to the river.

It started when I checked with Pythagoras to make sure he’d packed something for the dogs to fetch.

“Do you have balls?”

“Just one,” he replied. “Would three be better?”

“Definitely. That way they can each have one in their mouth while we’re throwing the other.”
Pythagoras and his three balls.
We continued snickering over ball jokes on the drive there, but stopped snickering when we realized we’d forgotten the dogs’ leashes. Since the fine for leash law infringement is $300, it was no laughing matter.

I looked at the new purse I’d just bought at a friend’s upscale handbag boutique. “The strap detaches,” I said. “Here’s one leash. Are you wearing a belt?”

Pythagoras shook his head. “Swim trunks. You’re wearing one, aren’t you?”

“Yes, but these shorts are so big I can pull them over my hips without unbuttoning them.”

No matter, we were already there, and the dogs were getting restless. I pulled off my belt and purse strap and harnessed the beasts.

On the hike down to the river, we had to stop every 10 seconds so I could hike up my shorts, which were even more inclined to slide off due to the fact that I’d shoved my iPhone in one pocket.

“Maybe if you got rid of the phone,” Pythagoras suggested.

“But what if I need to take pictures?”
Can you tell my shorts are about to fall off?
We got to the river and began tossing balls for Ozzy the 14-year-old Australian Shepherd mix. In spite of the fact that Oz is deaf, mostly blind, suffers from arthritis, a torn ligament in one knee, and a vestibular disorder that requires him to wear a doggie life jacket, he’s still a pretty good fetcher.

But doggie dementia has set in.

While he still understood the need to swim out and return with a ball, the details got fuzzy beyond that.

Pythagoras would toss a ball. Ozzy would swim out with a different ball in his mouth. He’d lunge at the floating ball, realize he already had one, and then swim back to shore without having retrieved anything at all.

Since our younger dog hasn’t mastered swimming quite yet, this left Pythagoras as our backup retriever in a river so icy he’ll be wearing a wetsuit when he swims it for a triathlon in a couple weeks.

But there was no wetsuit on Saturday. Just a pair of swim trunks and a lot of shivering.
Pythagoras retrieves a tennis ball in the icy river while Ozzy supervises.
“Good boy!” I cheered from the riverbank. “Want a cookie?”

He handed me the ball. “I don’t need a cookie, but I do have a walnut.” He nodded at my shorts. “Your underwear’s showing again.”

I hiked up my shorts, then began searching for my iPhone as the quacking of my ring-tone signaled an incoming call.

“That’s weird,” I said, frowning at it. “The phone was quacking, but there’s no missed call.”

“Just a guess, but it might be that family of ducks over there.”

We played in the river for awhile longer, with Ozzy remaining confused about the fetching, Pythagoras risking genital frostbite in the river, and me alternating between inadvertently flashing my underwear at kayakers and answering a phone that wasn’t ringing.

Finally, we re-leashed the dogs and hiked back to the car.

“Oh,” said Pythagoras as we approached. “We left all the windows down.”

“And my purse on the front seat.”

Pythagoras peered through the rear window. “And your iPod sitting on the backseat.”

But nothing had been touched. Most likely, any passing criminals took one look and thought, “no one is that stupid – it’s gotta be a trap.”

We loaded up the dogs and started to head home. “If I put all that in a manuscript,” I told Pythagoras, “you know what readers would say?”

“That you’re nuts?”

“Something like that.”

And he’s right. No sane critique partner would let me put all that in a scene. Can’t say I blame her.

So how was your Independence Day weekend? Any random, bizarre occurrences you can share? Please put them in the comments.

It’s nice to laugh at someone besides myself.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sending you away for the holiday

At its best, the publishing industry moves at the speed of a slug on Valium crawling through a puddle of maple syrup.

In mid-summer – particularly around holiday weekends – it gets considerably slower, with many people taking well-deserved vacations and fleeing their offices early to enjoy warmer weather.

That sounds good to me.

In the spirit of fully integrating myself into the publishing biz, I’m not going to write anything witty on the blog today (unless you count the slug thing, in which case that's a bonus).

Instead, I will send you away to go read an interview I just did with Mireyah Wolfe over on her blog.

Check it out here.

Have a fabulous Independence Day weekend for everyone here in the USA. For those of you living elsewhere, feel free to use our country’s holiday as an excuse to eat too many hot dogs and set things on fire.

I know I will.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Decisions, decisions…
from running shoes to knocking boots

Yesterday morning, Pythagoras went for a run.

I didn’t think much when a couple hours passed and he still hadn’t returned. Then three hours went by. Four. Five.

I finally called his cell.

“Where are you?” I asked, my mind whirling with visions of the hospital ER or the possibility he finally ran away to join the circus.

“The sporting goods store,” he said. “I decided I need new running shoes.”

“So you’re shopping?” I felt a distinct sense of dread.

“I should be home in 30 minutes if you want to do lunch.”

I actually laughed at that. “You do know shoe shopping involves decision-making, right? Could you at least try to be home for dinner?”

As I expected, it was another two hours before he rolled in, still without a new pair of shoes. This was also expected.

Pythagoras is quite possibly the most indecisive person on the planet. Everything must be carefully contemplated. Whether he’s buying bananas or bike parts, he can spend weeks researching prices and building flowcharts to analyze the pros and cons of each option.

I knew we were in for a long haul with the shoes.

This is one of many reasons he would hate being a writer. I consider myself a fairly decisive person, but there are days I’m overwhelmed by the sheer number of decisions to be made in a single manuscript. How old is my heroine? How does she feel about brussel sprouts? Do she and the hero knock boots in chapter eight, or do they wait until chapter sixteen? When they fight, does she talk to her grandmother or go home alone and get tipsy on Sangiovese?

I’ve stalled out a few times in recent weeks, hesitating with my fingers poised over the keyboard. Every decision I make means I’m closing one door and opening another. Committing to a new character or plot element means these are things I have to nurture for the next 90,000 words.

It’s nerve-wracking, but also a little exhilarating.

Unlike shoe shopping.

After dinner, we headed out for another round. An hour later, I was lying on the floor in the shoe aisle watching cat videos on my iPhone while Pythagoras ran laps around the lingerie department to test shock absorption.

Finally, we escaped. I spotted a Baskin Robbins on the way out and made a beeline for the ice cream counter.

“One dish of raspberry chip, please,” I told the girl with the scoop.

“Oh wow,” Pythagoras said behind me. “Thirty one flavors? How many can I sample?”

I left him there. He’s probably still mulling the difference between French vanilla and plain vanilla.

I might go back and get him tomorrow. We’ll see how writing goes.