Saturday, March 29, 2008

There's No Place Like Home


I’ve made a nest in 18 places in my adult life. Whew. Makes me sound like a gypsy or a jetsetter, and I am assuredly neither. But it’s fun to unpack boxes and pull out the talismans that have followed me around the country. Nothing horribly valuable, but meaningful just the same. I have a framed poem from my friend Claudia, two green Wedgwood pitchers, my grandmother’s Tiffany vase set with turquoise. Lots of mismatched china from both sides of the family. A stuffed pig that was presented to me one Christmas from “your four little pigs.” A pastel sketch by daughter #3. My great-aunt’s marble table. A reclaimed sideboard my husband refinished.

When my kids were little I’d drag them to antiques fairs, and they’d go around saying, “Look, we have this at home.” There’s been a distinct Victorian vibe in every house we’ve had, simply because of the objects we inherited. As much as I admire sleek modernity, my eye is trained to vintage.

When I write, I try to picture what the hero and heroine surround themselves with. I make it a point to go on house tours, read up on decorative arts, watch period-set movies. Vanity Fair is a favorite of mine because of its broad scope. I guess I’m just a frustrated decorator at heart.

What makes your house a home? Do your characters have things they can't live without?

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. ~Jane Austen
I'm blogging 3/30 at Romantic Inks about the stuff on your desk you "need." Drop by!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Another Book Report (Kind Of)


Jo Beverley is guest-blogging at Romantic Inks all this week. She doesn't know it, but she and a handful of writers are pretty much the reason I started reading (and writing) romance again after a twenty-odd-year sabbatical. I missed all the bodice-rippers of the eighties and nineties because I was raising my own little hellions. I still read, of course. What sort of self-respecting English major would I be if I had not? But it was mostly best-sellers (and I could not for the life of me understand why they sold best), magazines, mysteries, the back of cereal boxes, Where the Wild Things Are. I knew where the wild things were---across the table eating Frosted Flakes.

So I have Jo to thank (or blame) for sucking me into romance. My last post (which you may still comment on below to tell me who's new to you) dealt with new favorites. Here's a chance for you to praise your old favorites (and by old, I'm not talking about chronological age, just authors you've loved for years). Don't forget to visit RI---Jo is bound to be far more witty and informative than I will ever be. Fangirl gush is over!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Book Report


Nope. Can’t write an actual book report anymore. All these clever people who review books get my respect. But I cannot follow in their footsteps. For me reading is much like my travel experience---I know I’ve enjoyed myself but cannot remember what I ate for breakfast or what the castle’s name was. Everything forms one big happy blur of satisfaction. Or not.

I thought I’d write a little about my recent blur of satisfaction, though. I won Christine Merrill’s latest UK release, A Wicked Liaison. Harlequin doesn’t have a US date yet, so I’m reading a super-secret story, feeling like a giddy, smug spy. Last year I raved about her first two books in this linked series, The Inconvenient Duchess and An Unladylike Offer. The third is every bit as wonderful.

I’m really thrilled when I find a new author (or a new-to-me author) whose career I can follow or glom. 2007 was a year I stopped buying some authors automatically, but I found several I’m now addicted to. Abe. Bourne. Mullany. Raybourn. C.L. Wilson. Carla Kelly (I know, I know, I’m really late to the party.). Debutante authors to me, whose prose is still shiny and plots fresh.

Who have you “discovered” lately?
Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures. ~Jessamyn West

Monday, March 17, 2008

Green Day


We have a family genealogy book that was printed by some distant cousin in Pennsylvania. My father’s family can be traced all the way back to Charlemagne and, apparently, Lady Godiva! There's a Mayflower ancestor and a couple of Connecticut governors, a college president, and the maker of Florida Water, a cologne that kind of reeks. Almost entirely of English stock, it was WASP Central for my dad David Trumbull Lanman.

My Viennese mother Margarete, on the other hand, was a goulash-mash from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, with an Austrian mother whose maiden name was Birnbaum (which means pear tree) and an Italian/Hungarian father named Stefan Maniero.

The closest I come to being Irish is Eva de Clare, who was a daughter to Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster, c.1100 something and a descendant of the Irish High King Niall. Almost a thousand years and lots of marriages later, maybe a millionth of a molecule on my pinkie toenail is Irish. This is irritating every St. Patrick's Day. So, no green beer, step-dancing, or cladagh rings for me. It's Austrian wine, waltzing and my Lanman family crest ring which says Fortuna Favet Audacit, or fortune favors the brave.

I'm not very brave, but I visited Ireland once. It was truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I went to Powerscourt (see picture) one afternoon to see the spectacular gardens. I was pregnant at the time, and will never forget the gatehouse keeper letting me use her bathroom while I waited for the bus back to Dublin. God bless the Irish. And their toilets.

My husband has just discovered Ballykissangel on Netflix, so we’re in store for six seasons of charm and blarney. I’m evil because I always want the Catholic priest to fall in love. I want everyone to fall in love. That's why I write romance.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Are you Irish? Have you visited the Emerald Isle? Who’s your favorite Irish hero?

Everyone is wise until he speaks.~Irish Proverb

Saturday, March 15, 2008

She's Grand!

Congratulations to Vauxhall Vixen Elyssa Papa for finalling in the NWIndiana RWA's Grand Beginnings Contest with Take a Chance on Me! I see chocolate and a handsome Brit in her future and ours.

Ely, I salute you!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Old Faithful


As I’ve nattered on, confessing my neophyte stupidity when I first started writing, you’ve learned a few things, just as I did. There’s a word-count feature on Word, and 25,000 words is not a book. You can root out all adverbs doing an “ly” search. A hero’s infidelity is fatally catastrophic. Guess who had their heroes catting around in their first two completed manuscripts?

This brings me to Elliot Spitzer, New York’s newly ex-governor, a self-proclaimed Mr. Clean who’s just been caught with someone named Kristen in a Washington hotel room. Kristen is not Mrs. Spitzer. Kristen can apparently command up to $5,000 an hour, and all I can say is she must be really good at being bad. This is not a new newstory. I can think of preachers and principals and presidents who should have kept their pants zipped. I’m tired of hearing about their sexual peccadilloes. I don’t want to watch people blubber and apologize to their wives and children. And just once I’d like the wronged wife to whip out a frying pan and bash her husband on the head at the press conference. Or perhaps she should aim lower.

One never knows what goes on behind closed doors of any marriage, and this one doesn’t want to. But I do know in the fairy-tale world of romance, fidelity is paramount. So I fixed Waking Beauty. And after revising Paradise (only the synopsis to go!), I’m ready to return to Mistress by Midnight. My characters Con and Laurette have loved each other since they were children, but Con was forced to marry someone else. He remains faithful to Laurette in his own way, and there will be a HEA. It’s time to write it.

Is fidelity an unreasonable expectation? Are men and women equally guilty? Do you take pleasure, as I do, when hypocrisy is exposed? What makes powerful men in the public eye become complete peckerheads?
Thank you, John, for a frying pan-free marriage. You really are my hero.

If a man could have half his wishes, he would double his troubles. ~Benjamin Franklin

Monday, March 10, 2008

In the Beginning


Long ago and faraway (well, several years and two counties over) I woke up in the middle of the night and started to write. My 'book' turned out to be a 25,000 word novella, so I wrote three more and tried to peddle them as a family saga. I was quite in love with the Anthony family, so wrote another four novellas, dividing up the chapters into 'girl' and 'boy' stories. Needless to say, the girls and boys have gone nowhere except two counties over.

I think about those eight Anthonys quite often, going so far as to change an earl’s name in a recent revision from Adams to Anthony as a little tribute to my first characters. Paradise has a scene plagiarized from the first novella, and particularly brilliant (!) paragraphs and phrases have been lifted and grafted into newer manuscripts. I feel like I have my own little bank to raid, although more often than not, when I step into it to pillage, I don’t find much worth plundering.

Which in an odd way makes me happy. I have actually grown as a writer. My mistakes were legion, and I’m not making so many of them now. Headhopping seems to be my most egregious offense. What’s yours? How did you get your writing start? What's your favorite writing rule?

Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum. ~Graycie Harmon

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Giggle to Grumble


Memory is a selective thing. Mine is not what it once was. I do okay with the kids’ names at my high school library, because I have to look at them, hear them say their name, then type it in to the circulation desk computer. It seems it takes three senses for everything to be branded in my brain. It’s not because I’m a complete fluff-head; I used to be pretty smart. I started college when I was fifteen, the same age as quite a few high school freshmen. But now everything needs to be written down if there’s any hope of me remembering to do it.

But memory is a selective thing. See above. If you repeat things, they stick with you. And it's weird what sticks with you. When I was a senior in high school, there was this guy who sat in front of me, Paul Korn. Everything was alphabetical then, and my maiden name was Lanman. He did this nifty thing when he signed yearbooks. He took names and then started a word with each letter to make a silly sentence. Mine was
Maggie
Always
Goes
Giggling
Into
Everything.

True? I guess it was. I’m not sure it’s true now. I read an article somewhere about a minister who encouraged his congregation to stop complaining for a stretch of time. They had purple rubber band bracelets to remind them to switch wrists when they did complain, and then they had to start the count all over. I’d probably be getting whiplash changing sides. Not only do I complain, but I’m not always going giggling into everything either.

So this post is turning into a complaint session about writing, circuitously but surely. Right now, I’ve had a requested full manuscript on an editor’s desk for over five months. Playing the waiting game. Wondering if I should send a gentle reminder. Thinking my SASE went into the shredder with the rest of the paper. Just worrying out loud. What’s your frustration? Let’s snap those virtual purple rubber bands. What's your silly sentence?

The man with a clear conscience probably has a poor memory. ~Author Unknown

Monday, March 3, 2008

D-U-N


Yes, I do know how to spell "done." This is a tribute to my youngest daughter who, when she graduated from college Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude, taped those three letters to her mortarboard with masking tape. It was her birthday the other day, and she's never far from my thoughts. None of my kids are. Here they are (#1 son is missing), so nobody gets jealous. The birthday girl is on the right.

But I wanted to say that Waking Beauty is all boxed and ready to go. It went from a 93,000 word mess to a sleek 67,000 word manuscript. Whatever happens, it was worth the month of revision. And while I'm at it, Paradise is getting its turn next. I was somewhere in the middle of revising it when I had to whip WB into shape, and the difference in my writing style and content could not be more different. My only hope is that when I'm finished, I'll still remember how to write new stuff. There are a whole bunch of starts on Begin As You Mean To Go On (Goon, for short) that are clamoring for those sultry, significant words The End.

So I guess I'm not really d-u-n. But I am trying to stick to one and get it done. How about you? Do you have more than one work in progress? Do you read more than one book at a time? Do you give yourself permission to walk away from writing for a while, or stop reading altogether?