Saturday, October 25, 2008

Witchy Woman

Let's be honest. It's a whole bunch of fun to create characters who always say and do the right things. And even when they say and do the wrong things, it's because you made them that way.
Writing is like casting the ultimate spell. We have the power to turn our craziest fantasies into fiction. Dress up our protagonists in costumes. We have so much more control over our heroes and heroines than we do our kids or significant others or our friends. I suppose in some ways writing is like playing dolls or "let's pretend" for grown-ups.
As a kid, I'd go into my family's only bathroom and imagine all sorts of scenarios. It was the only room with a lock in the house. Needless to say, I did not make myself too popular with the three other people who lived there. But in my wildest imagination, I never would have foreseen that umpty-ump years later, I'd be writing books. I used to get criticized for "dreaming." Now I consider it my job to dream.
Still, it's not always easy to get your characters to cooperate fully. Sometimes they have dreams of their own. They surprise you on the page. They say things you didn't think of. They even change their names. Take Sir Michael Xavier de Bayard in Mistress by Mistake. He just didn't like the"de." Too French. He fought the Frogs valiantly in the Peninsular War and was going to distance himself, no matter his Norman ancestry. He's now just Sir Michael Xavier Bayard, Bay to his friends.
He was Major Sir Michael Xavier de Bayard to me long before he ever consented to be in the current book---originally he was supposed to escort a freckled young widow and her teenage pupil from India to England in quite another story, but he was having none of that. The logistics were onerous. There were going to be elephants. Uprisings. Swarms of locusts. Desert sands. Altogether too much research about Mr. Waghorn's overland route. The teenage pupil had designs on him too, and he thought that was awkward and undignified. He has now happily retired from the army and has a fine oceanfront property in Dorset, where he is busy falling in love with his new heroine Charlotte Fallon, who is not the freckled young widow Delia Winters at all. I think we all share the relief except for the naughty schoolgirl Alice, who was last seen in her shift up in a banyan tree in the seventeen abandoned unnamed pages where she and Major Sir Michael and Delia made their ill-fated debut.
So, how are your love potions bubbling along? Is your wand working or do you want to recharge the batteries? Are your characters behaving? Time to bitch, witches. And have a Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Good Morning

5:00-6ish A.M.: Hands are numb. Painful. Carpal tunnel alert. Get up. Brush down hair, which looks like I've been electrocuted by John in the night. Potty. Pills.

In the kitchen: Boil water for tea. Toast toast. Butter. Honey or jam. Carry this gourmet treat to writing room.

Writing room: Power up the Dell. Check two e-mail accounts. Respond when necessary. Read New York Times, Bangor Daily News and Lewiston Sun Journal online. Depressed now. Check MRMR and Vauxhall Vixens. Romance Writer's Revenge. Romance Vagabonds. Several other romance/writing blogs. (Hey, Tessa! Originals! Links on sidebar.) Cheer up. Look at weather. Wonder what to wear for work. Read some political sites, which make me grateful I took my blood pressure meds. Pray. Open up Mistress by Mistake. Stare. Read back a few pages. Sometimes type something.

9ish: How the hell did it get so late? Bathe, dress, leave for work by ten.

And these are the first 4 or 5 hours of my day. It takes that long before I'm fit to join the madding crowd.

How do you get yourself started in the morning? When's your writing time?
I'll tell you how the sun rose a ribbon at a time. ~Emily Dickinson

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Voyage of Discovery

Things have changed a great deal since I was in school, or even when I taught school. Columbus Day is now not the shiny happy day off it once was. Historians have discovered many unpleasant truths about Chris and his impact on the new world. But I'm not here to argue national pride or genocide. I'm going to talk about my own exploration as a writer. This post was inspired by Pirate Sin over at the Romance Writer's Revenge. Believe me, the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria have met their match with Captain Hellion's crew.

Although I dabbled as an English major who wrote bad poetry and indifferent short stories, it wasn't until five years ago I was compelled to wake up in the middle of the night and write. (See? Two examples of bad poetry in this post already.) I believe I've gone on record that my first "book" was 23,000 words. Who knew Word had a word-count feature? You must remember I grew up typing term papers on an old Royal upright that my father bought at the Salvation Army and I would have to hand-count each and every word. The 'e' key stuck. (Any idea how often you type the 'e?' You watch Wheel of Fortune, I'm sure. ) It was a huge deal when Dad went to the Salvation Army again and found an electric typewriter when I was in college. Welcome to the 20th century! My adult jobs did not require much computer literacy. Exploring the computer has been a challenge but I've finally figured out how to get 25 lines per page and turn off the widows and orphans feature.

It took a good three years and three books for me to follow the map without running aground. The last two years have been buffeted by strong, favorable winds and better friends, who've shared their expertise, hopes, dreams, frustrations and support. I've discovered I'm not alone, bobbing in circles in the middle of the ocean. I may not ever reach my destination, but the trip itself has been worthwhile.

So thanks to all of you in the flotilla with me. Godspeed and safe harbor.

How long have you been on your writing journey? Do you navigate by stars or compass? Ever feel like throwing yourself overboard? What New World have you accidentally discovered?
One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. ~André Gide

Saturday, October 4, 2008


"I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair...."

I don’t know about you, but it drives me crazy when I run out of cream rinse when I’ve still got plenty of shampoo left. I mean, I went to a lot of trouble buying two plastic bottles of cheap shampoo/conditioner that smell alike (this round it’s Tropical Coconut, in attempt to imagine I’m on a beach somewhere with a pina colada. Or two.) So because I was a writing recluse this summer (see post somewhere below), I decided to skip using cream rinse so that eventually the bottles would match up. I was on vacation and the only people I saw regularly were an eleven-month-old baby, the postmistress, the lady at the library (who should really cruise the Miss Clairol aisle), and my husband, who doesn’t care what my hair looks like as long as it's not too short.

I’m just grateful I have some hair left. It’s a lot thinner than it used to be (I blame having four children), and bends funny. The strangest thing---it’s actually looking better since I’m not ‘replenish[ing] the natural beauty of [my] hair with this special formula combining humectants and vitamin E’ with cream rinse. What is a humectant anyway? So I’m making do with the cheap shampoo and a dollop of styling cream, which has fruit micro-waxes. Umm, Delicious.
Hair is such a funny thing. Here are dead cells which somehow bring us to life when they're looking good. Hair in fiction is important, too. In the historicals I read and write, hair fanned across the pillow or cascading in satiny curls is de rigueur. Long hair does seem to have power over men. I wear my hair in a longish bob with bangs, so my power is limited, LOL.
What's your style? Do you have preferences when it comes to the hero's/heroine's hair color? What have you given up that you thought you couldn’t live without? What do you absolutely have to have to write?