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Reading as Research

One of the coolest aspects of writing for a living (if it IS a living!) is that reading can be classified as work. Isn’t that just the greatest?

I don’t have to feel guilty about spending a day devouring fun books. My reading doesn’t have to be “serious,” I don’t have to worry about being tested, and I can read to my heart’s content–and feel righteous.

Because. . . it’s, um, work.

So what have I been reading?

Well, a whole lot of genre fiction, commercial reads: a lot of Anne Stuart’s backlist, everything David Baldacci’s written, and I have some of the .99 Kindle downloads to read so that I can see if I like that author’s voice. While I know I’m crazy about Jill Marie Landis’ work, I hadn’t read her Hawaiian goddess books, and since Mai Tai is available for .99, I seized that opportunity to try this newer series from her.

I’ve been trying to read across the board although I haven’t read any sci-fi or fantasy. Hmmm. Maybe I’m NOT reading “across the board” since as I really think about it, I’m reading romance, romantic suspense, and thrillers.

But, so what? It’s. . . all work!

Golly, I love my work. . . .

Now, cookies, what have you been reading–for whatever reason?

 

 

 

VOICE, VOICE, VOICE

My kingdom for a voice! My kingdom for a voice!

So, Story Conference today, looking at a synopsis I’d done. An overly long, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink synopsis, and it might have included the kitchen sink. Atthat point, I couldn’t tell.

But here’s where voice became The Elephant in the Room.

Honest to pete, I know what my voice is. It’s edgy, tense, emotional, dramatic, and when I’m on my game, sexy. What did I have in this gawd-awful synopsis?

Cutesy. Yeah, cutesy.

Now, while I am a fabulous audience (Really, truly I am!) for funny and clever, shugah, I cain’t write funny to save my life.

Unfortunate, but true.

How in the world did all this cutesy, um stuff, make its way into a 31-page synopsis? Huh? Huh?

Because I got caught up with other people’s ideas and voices and lost sight of my own. Other writers could have turned these incidents into rib-splitting fabulosity of funniness and cleverness.

Not me. And, even in my best grammatic mode, not I. Nope, no way.

Now it’s back to the drawing board, thanks to my wonderful writing friend Margaret Watson, to fix this story and get it into my voice. My voice.

It ain’t easy being. . . real. Being yourself.

Even when you know better, really know better, you can still trip yourself up.

You just have to be on guard. All the time.

That’s one of the reasons writing is. . . ‘work.’

FINISHING?

Trying to wrap up several writing projects and finding it hugely, hugely difficult. I don’t know why finishing things becomes such a huge speedbump in the career highway, but for me it is. Fear? Avoidance of facing rejection? Sense of inadequacy? The old trope of the adult child of an alcoholic?

Sure, those may all be true. They may all be valid.

But they’re all excuses.

I know that.

But I also know that excuses, fear, avoidance and all that other garbage don’t count for diddly in the grand scheme of things. The only thing that counts, really, isn’t what you fear. . . but what you do.

I’m trying. I’m trying.

Finishing. It’s all about. . . finishing, isn’t it? When push comes to shove?

Like I said, I’m trying.

Catching up with Old Book Friends

Been loading up my Kindle and reading a whole bunch of old Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick titles from the nineties. Have been reminded of why I fell in love in the first place with romances.

She tells her core story with such charm and weaves in the historical stuff seamlessly so that it doesn’t burden the story. Well, shoot, she does a lot of things fabulously, but I’m always amused by her ability to pull out some quirky historical detail and then center her story around that historical fact.

Her Regencies are just. . . delicious fun. I’d forgotten how much fun.

Fun Shopping!

I did a dangerous thing today.

Yes.

I went to. . . my local Borders.

And went overboard. Of course.

Because I’ve been waiting for new books from Brad Meltzer (The Inner Circle); Tami Hoag’s second in her pre-high tech forensic science series; the new and unbelievably wonderful The Border Lords by T. Jefferson Parker (I am such a fan of his writing and of his stories; he’s such a terrific storyteller and stylist); and, of course, the new Call Me Irresistible from Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

All four books were there.

You know what I did, right?

I have no, I tell you, absolutely no, ability to resist a terrific story. And four terrific stories? On an icy, bitterly cold weekend?

Well, of course I bought all four. And that’s what I’m looking forward to while the Bears and the Packers battle it out for a Super Bowl berth. Whee!

Packing Away the Holiday Spirit

So all the boxes have been dragged up from the newly painted, newly re-ceiling-tiled, newly tidied basement. The red and green will disappear into the big plastic boxes and vanish into the darkness of the closets as if Christmas had never happened.

But it did–and it was almost perfect. There will always be an empty chair at our table, and that reminder keeps perfection just a step away. Still, thanks to Wes’ sisters, their children and husbands, and friends, Rob had the magic of Christmas to wind up 2010. I love that they’ve all extended themselves on Rob’s behalf and in memory of Wes. I find that very endearing, and it touches me deeply.

Perhaps I’m at a point in my life where sentimental things resonate more powerfully with me. Maybe it’s that I’ve been to too many funerals and wakes lately. I don’t know, but the passage of time weighs on me at this time of year most powerfully.

Or it could just be my habit of starting up a new calendar and filling it out, then realizing that I’ve already blocked out a lot of 2011!

I’ll remember the good stuff from 2010, though, even as I make up my lists and goals for 2011. There were so many moments of joy and silliness, and I feel very, very blessed by the people in my life. Hope you do, too.

Do you have a best moment of 2010? A really good motivation to achieve something in 2011? I do. And I’m going to work really hard to wind up saying in December, 2011, that I. . . .

Nope. Not going to jinx myself by saying it out loud! Stay tuned! And wish me luck?

Leaving you with an image of the year’s first sunrise, from The Son and Heir in Tokyo, to start off your brand spanking new year. Make the most of 2011!

First Sunrise of 2011 as seen in Tokyo

HARLAN COBEN

Well, I have been a fan, a worship-at-his-feet fan of Coben ever since writer Margaret Watson insisted I had to read Coben’s Tell No One.

Fabulous beyond belief with its blend of thriller elements and emotion. I was knocked out of my socks.

So I tried to read his Myron Bolitar series. Myron is a former great basketball player who blew out his knee his first pro game and then became a sports rep on the side, occasionally getting into some detective work as needed for his clients. Couldn’t get into it. Didn’t like the tone with its blend of smartass and then these hits of really powerful emotion. Something about that didn’t work for me.

Until. . . I decided to give them a second try. Okay, I confess. I’m hooked. I read all of them. I’m still bugged by what is for me ajagged tone, but even the Myron Bolitar books are now a must buy, must read for me.

Perhaps, like a lot of relationships, the timing was just not right on our first meeting?

Anyway, if you haven’t yet read any of Coben’s work, give yourself a holiday treat and find one. You’ll be glad you did.

And if you’re not? Hey, you might need to wait a while and hit the books again. As I did.

HOLLY JOLLIES

Whoopee! The Son and Heir arrives home Sunday evening!

Are there words for how over-the-moon-excited I am? Nope. Not a one.

He’s my favorite child. Of course he’s our only child, but, hey, he’s the fave.

I’ll meet him at the airport with hot chocolate or coffee, maybe yogurt, something, anyway, to let him know his mom still needs to do the “mom thang.” He’ll think it’s sweet, amusing, and, yes, totally unnecessary. Which, of course, it is.

But I need to do it.

Just as I need to have the house sparkle and shine for him, need to have a real tree (even though I put up an artificial one), and have needed to bake muffins and cook soups. Even though I am probably, if not the worst cook, among the more challenged cooks, I still have this need to provide, to make things, fix things.

I’ll spend the first night he’s here just enjoying the sound of his feet thumping back and forth through the house.

When you were a young adult, were there any traditions, special foods that meant “home” to you, that meant, “I’m okay, everything is all right because I’m home”?

Just wondering. . . .

Wowsers!

Just returned from celebrating the fiftieth anniversaty of some dear friends. What a lovely time–and how touching to be able to join with them and their many, many friends in toasting their life together.

One comment that struck me was that because they’d met young, they’d “grown up together.” I think how profound a comment that is. If you meet your person, the one who’s right for you, when you’re very young, you have a different relationhip than you do if, say, you meet later, in your thirties or forties.

Not that one way is preferable, simply my realization that when you meet and click really has such a strong impact on who you become. On who each of you becomes. And affects everything that follows.

Anyway, how many of you have had very long relationships? Thirty years? Forty? Anyone else at fifty???

Just one more thought from me–I wish I’d had fifty years with my person. Seems especially poignant at this time of year, fourteen years after losing him.

Although ‘losing’ isn’t quite the right word, is it? Itâ not as though I misplaced him, not as though I left him somewhere out in the rain or snow.

Don’t know what the right word is, but I know that the missing never leaves.

Burn Notice Returns!

All right, I admit it:  I am an unabashed fan of Jeffrey Donovan, Bruce Campbell, Gabrielle Anwar, Sharon Gless, and, now, Coby Bell.  What, you say?  You mean you've missed Burn Notice  these several seasons?

I'm so sorry!

Anyway, Burn Notice is  a destination show for me.  I love the writing, the interplay among the leads, and Miami just looks divine–lucky you if you live there, I reckon.  A friend and I got to see Jeffrey Donovan in a live theatre performance here in Chicago, one of those farces much like Noises Off, where doors open, shut, characters zip on and off the stage with dizzying rapidity and everything depends on timing and physical comedy.

Very fast-paced, and so funny that my cheeks hurt from laughing, but what was so fascinating was seeing how terrific Donovan was in an all-comedy role and how adept he is at the physicality of that kind of play.  I don't know how many of his Burn Notice stunts are performed by stuntment, but I swear he has the ability to do an awful lot of them himself, I'd think, based on what I saw him do live.

But with Burn Notice, the plot's not really the draw–just these fabulous characters and how they relate to each other.  Me?  I lovelovelove the show.  If you haven't seen it, now's your chance to catch up.  I don't think you'll be sorry.

And if you have seen it, what's your take?