Saturday, December 30, 2006
To make myself feel better, I tell myself that I’m too creative to be tied to a schedule. Or that I wasn’t realistic when I planed out how my week should progress. Or that life is just too unpredictable and schedules just don’t work.
But the truth is, for some reason, I don’t want the schedule to work. I’m sure there are some deep issues that I could invest millions of dollars and countless hours with a therapist to find out what my problem is. Why can’t I do what I’m supposed to do? But I decided that instead I was going to figure out how to stick to a schedule and just do it. I read a few books. Books hold all the answers after all. But, I’m sad to report that this is what I’ve learned.
In order to stick to my schedule, I have to:
1) Keep my plan in sight.
2) Read it everyday (thrilling)
3) Eliminate my limiting beliefs (I guess these are the issues that keep me from following through)
4) Remind myself daily that this schedule will help me reach the goals that matter most to me.
That’s it! I have to say that I was pretty disappointed with my findings. But after giving this some extended thought, I’ve come to understand what the experts are saying. Sticking to anything (whether a schedule, a diet, a relationship) takes only two things: discipline and focus. Focusing on the end result and the discipline to do it. There’s no magic.
So as we begin a new year, I will again draw up a schedule and discipline myself to stick to it. Short of buying myself one of those dog collars that zap you with an electric jolt when you are naughty (in my case, straying from the schedule), all I can do is try again. Unless, of course, one of you have some sticking-to-it success tips you’d like to share?
Friday, December 29, 2006
I'm not an expert on balancing, but thanks to a couple of books, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and The Artist's Way, I've gained some insights that I’ll share.
According to the experts, to be at our best, our highest goal-achieving potential, we need to sustain a balance of four basic needs: the physical, the spiritual, the mental, and the social/emotional. When was the last time you took a brisk walk, prayed/meditated or spent some time alone listening to nature? When did you last challenge yourself intellectually? When is the last time you spent an evening with a friend, spent one-on-one time with your children, a date with your spouse? By becoming a more well-rounded person, we will become more creative and goal-achieving writers.
Write a Mission Statement. This is where you really look at what's important in your life. And I'm talking about life, not just your career. Really analyze your values. Dr. Covey, author of Seven Habits...., suggests you write your own eulogy. What do you want your friends and family to say about you when you're gone? Trying to write a set of goals without knowing your personal mission or value system is like studying a map before knowing your destination.
Write goals for every role in your life. What do you want to accomplish as a parent, as a marriage partner? What do you want to achieve in your career? Don't forget the personal goals. And include long term, as well as, short term goals. By including every role in your life, you are more likely to set goals that suit you the whole person, instead of "you", the wanna-be Nora.
Be realistic. The reason for goal setting is to encourage yourself to make positive steps forward. Goals should be challenging, not daunting. Goals should be written in increments, starting with tiny baby steps and leading into giant leaps that no longer feel like leaps. Meeting goals increases your self-confidence. Self-confidence increases your abilities. These two components automatically strengthen your staying power. (Self-confidence + Ability + Staying Power = Success) Make sure your goals are in your circle of influence, i.e., instead of listing your goal as: I will get on the NY Times Best Sellers List, state, I will write a book worthy to be on THE List.
Every goal met should end with a celebration. In general, we writers are very critical of ourselves. We forget that we, too, need a little TLC. So be good to yourself and make sure you are meeting the needs of the whole person and not just the writer.
And who knows...when we get our lives balanced, we might even be able to walk across the room with a book on our heads. I’ll admit every now and then, I still try it. So...do any of you have a few balancing life tips? I’d love to hear them.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
I remember quite clearly the day I filled out that page. We had one of those ice storms that coated the entire city in ice, so that the authorities were telling people to stay off the roads unless it was absolutely necessary to go out. My boss had informed us the day before that he considered coming to work to be absolutely necessary, and there would be no snow day for us. I'd planned ahead, and as soon as I saw the forecast earlier in the week, I'd started coughing, sniffling and rasping my way around the office (I really did have a bit of a cough and the sniffles, but I did elaborate somewhat). When the storm turned out to be as bad as they'd forecast, I was able to get away with calling in sick. I spent the day writing and drinking hot tea with honey and lemon, and it was pretty much my perfect day, except for the sore throat. I knew then that this was exactly the way I wanted to spend my life.
I'd already had four books published then, so it wasn't an unrealistic dream, but I was nowhere near being able to just quit my job. I found the blank page for goal setting in the planner that I'd just used to keep track of client meetings and started to fill it out. I knew I'd have to write a certain amount and save up enough money to have a financial cushion to tide me over during any publishing dry spells. I pinned that page to my bulletin board as a constant reminder of what I wanted to achieve. I wanted to work for myself instead of for a boss who cared more about keeping the doors of a public relations agency open than he cared about the safety of his employees (one of my co-workers got into a bad wreck that day on a freeway ramp when he demanded that she come to work even after she told him that the roads were impassible in her area). I wanted to do work that made people happy instead of having the kind of job where I actually made people's days better by not going to work (I'm sure there were a lot of reporters who enjoyed my snow day as much as I did). I wanted to spend my days writing instead of dealing with office politics and doing a job I generally hated.
And now, ten years later, I'm living the life I planned that day. I'm not rich by any means, but I am making a living as a novelist. I even made a profit this year, earning significantly more money than I spent on everything, including living expenses. I'm making people happy with my work, according to all the e-mails I get from my readers. Instead of harassing reporters about useless products, I'm helping people get through hard times and giving them something to look forward to after a bad day at work. The one downside is that I still don't get snow days, since I work at home and have no excuse for not getting to work, but I feel more creative on snowy days, so that works out okay. For all of this, I'm incredibly thankful.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
I've never been one for making New Years resolutions, because they're so redundant. And boring. And destined to fail. Eat Less. Exercise More. Make time -- hahahaha --for a life that has nothing to do with writing.
However, two years ago, having watched the fervor with which some writers appeared to be tackling career issues, I made the grand announcement, over a New Years Eve family dinner, that I was going to become more high maintenance in my own career. My adult son, who's known me all of his life and a large percentage of mine, seemed to sum up the collectively skeptical mood at the table when he said, "Good luck with that, Mom."
Well, it wasn't easy and although there were many times when I so wanted to just concentrate on THE WORK, as I'm always advising writer friends to do, I managed to stick with that decision all year. And you know what? Not only was it exhausting and time consuming, I'm not sure it made any difference, other than to give me more reasons to fret for twelve long months about things that were totally out of my control.
So, that was one resolution I was more than willing to put behind me. But it got me wondering exactly how far back this resolution thing goes, so I did some Googling and discovered that New Years was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4,000 years ago. (Which represents a lot of broken resolutions under the bridge!) The Babylonian celebration lasted eleven days, which makes us look like pikers, with our midnight champagne toast and horn blowing. Those horns, btw, were meant to drive away bad spirits who might be lurking around hoping to spoil the new year.
The Babylonians were also the ones to begin this resolution thing, though, unlike our modern vows to "turn over a new leaf," the ancient tradition was to pay up one's debts, which was why the most popular resolution in 2,000 B.C. was to return borrowed farm equipment.
So, assuming that you're not harboring your neighbor's plow, what resolutions will you be making for 2007? Or, if you're joining me at the "We don't need no stinkin' resolutions" table, why are you foregoing this annual tradition?
Oh, and because I do have a goal -- not a resolution! lol -- to get rid of some of those boxes of author copies cluttering up our attic, I'm giving away a hardcover copy of IMPULSE and a NO SAFE PLACE chocolate bar to one respondent chosen at random. Hopefully someone who hasn't made a resolution to cut back on chocolate in the New Year! :)
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Maybe it's just me, but sometimes it seems that you just don't get it. Sure, all those flannel jammies, DVDs, iPods, sweaters, Wii's, Game Boys, Bratz dolls, bikes, jewelry, power tools and everything else you brought us were great. You're tops at making those kinds of wishes come true. But with all due respect sir, might I suggest a crash course in Gifts That Really Matter? You know, the ones that keep giving. After all, jammies wear out, toys break, Wii's fly off wrists. Well, you get the picture. Call me crazy, but would a little world peace be too much to ask for? And what about hunger? With so much of that going around, you'd think the elves would have spent the past year cooking their little butts off for all the hungry mouths around the world. And what about homes for the homeless? If Habitat For Humanity can do it, so can you. And forever families for all the orphans and foster kids, and the pups and kitties in shelters? And let's not forget love. There's just so much we romance writers can do. You gotta help us out here.
Don't get me wrong. I'm immensely grateful for what you brought me. I am, after all, shamelessly materialistic. Yeah, you've got my number, all right. But come on, big guy. Why not surprise us all next year with something REALLY BIG? Something that will make the front page of every newspaper around the world. Something that will change lives forever. Something that will make this weary world a better place in which to live. I dare you, no I double dare you, to do it. You're a jolly old guy, and you work very hard what with driving those headstrong reindeer all over the place every year and all those slippery roofs and too-narrow chimneys, but we all know who's really calling the shots, so do I have to plead my case to Mrs. Clause?T
hanks for everything. And if you can't manage all of the above, then go for the love. If there's enough of that going around, everything else should follow.
Best regards, Nancy
So, there it is, my letter to Mr. Bowl Full of Jelly, which brings me to the subject of letter writing. Have you written or read any letters lately? I'm not talking about e-mail. I'm talking about honest-to-goodness, old fashioned, hand written letters. In this day of cell phones, roll-over minutes and e-mail, letter writing seems to have become a lost art. I don't know about you but I, for one, miss it. I used to write letters to friends and relatives all over the world, and I still have all their letters they wrote back to me. Maybe the only person who's receiving letters these days is Santa, from all those little kids around the world, and big kids like me. I guess we know what he'll be reading this year. As for Mrs. Clause, I packed up a few good romances and sent them north.
Monday, December 25, 2006
The madness is over. The malls and shopping centers are quiet for a day. The last minute shoppers have finished. The trip for Santa and his reindeers is at an end. Presents have been exchanged and opened. We can breathe and take time to enjoy family and good food.
This is the second Christmas without my mother. The memories will live on forever. She and my aunt always alternated Thanksgiving and Christmas lunch, but you could always count on me and my husband and my brothers and family being at my mother's on Christmas Eve. She put out food no one ate. I received gifts I didn't want and I'm sure, gave gifts they didn't want, but we were together. That was what was important. Everyone will be at my aunt's for lunch today, but there will be a hole left by my mother's absence.
Tomorrow the madness will start over again as people exchange presents and hit the after Christmas sales. I'm sure some stores don't even wait until after Christmas day. Living in the middle of the Bible belt, most of our stores will be closed. I can't even buy alcohol legally in my county. I'll leave the shopping for others. I'll be home back to my old routine or trying to start a new routine so I can lose weight.
What's your favorite Christmas memory?
Here's wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! May all your dreams come true in the new year.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Since the 1950's, the men and women of NORAD (and CONAD, before them) have been working tirelessly to provide the children of the US and Canada with information on Santa's trek around the world on Christmas Eve. This year is no different.
So, pour that hot chocolate, check out Santa's progress at http://www.noradsanta.org/index.php, and have a joyous and magical Christmas.
Friday, December 22, 2006
So I thought it might be fun to look and see how some of the bestselling authors started their firsts . . . novels that is.
Of course, Nora Roberts is at the top of that list! From her website:
Roberts started writing during a blizzard in 1979 when her two sons were home from school and she was on the verge of going stir crazy. She picked up a number two pencil and notepad and started writing story ideas.
Trivia question: What's the title of Nora's first published novel AND in what year?
From John Grisham's website:
Grisham began writing as a hobby while he worked as a lawyer after hearing the testimony of a 12-year-old rape victim. Her words inspired Grisham to write A Time to Kill, which was published in 1988 and experienced only modest success.
Trivia question: What was the title of Grisham's first NYT bestselling novel?
When I heard Debbie Macomber speak for the first time at RWA in Reno, I was moved. I was so happy when she agreed to be our first Reader's Luncheon speaker (go Roses!) which was a huge success. Her publishing story is so inspirational, because it shows how powerful dreams are that you can overcome any obstacles if you believe in yourself.
From her website:
I started out with a rented typewriter set up on my kitchen table and a burning desire to write. I wrote when my husband was at work and the kids were either at school or napping. For meals and homework assignments the typewriter was moved away. I wrote eight books on that typewriter until the “S” broke, and then we bought a computer. I wrote four books in five years before I sold my first novel.
Trivia Question: What was the name of Debbie's first published book? In what year?
For me, I love my computer :) I wrote at night after the kids went to bed because I had a full-time day job in the California State Legislature as a consultant. I couldn't write long hand if I tried . . . but I still remember when I was a kid, about 11 or 12, when my mom brought home an IBM Selectric. It was red. Her office was getting (gasp!) computers and the secretaries didn't need the typewriters anymore. My mom knew I loved writing (she found paper all over the house with partially written stories) so thought I'd like the typewriter. I had it until I went to college.
Do you have a favorite "first" story? If you're a reader, maybe the first book you read by one of your favorite authors . . . I also hope some of the To Be Read authors will share their "first" story . . . Pencil and paper in a snow storm? Moved by something you experienced? Typing on a broken typewriter?
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Ask any published author and they can tell you about their first time…first time getting The Call, that is.
They will remember exactly where they were, what the weather was like, who was there. They'll tell you about that giddy feeling when their editor (or agent) said those magic words: we want to buy your book.
My Call came in 2004. I experienced all the usual spectrum of emotions: elation, terror, skepticism—this must be a joke, right? Or some horrible mistake? Followed by the glow of accomplishment.
Ahh…the bliss. Of course, then comes the waiting, then the hurrying with copy edits, then more waiting, then more rushing around trying to update websites, design bookmarks, start a blog, explaining to Great Aunt Martha that yes, your book will be published for real, NYC publisher, and yes, she will be able to buy it at a real life bookstore….
I did all that and more. But no book. C'est la vie. Cover art difficulties stranded it in publishing limbo and it may never get published. Sigh…try explaining that to Great Aunt Martha.
Discouraging, yes. But hey, if you're going to dream, you have to dream big. So I kept on going, found a wonderful new agent, and with her help and the encouragement and support of so many friends, I continued to write.
Then something wonderful happened.
An editor called my agent. Would I consider creating a new medical suspense series for them? Think Grey's Anatomy meets ER.
Yes, The Call!! Let me tell you, it's just as sweet the second time around! Happy little snoopy dances that sent the cat scrambling under the nearest chair, screams of delight as soon as I hung up the phone, that giddy feeling of your stomach turning cartwheels—all back again!
So…drumroll, please…I'm happy and most excited to report that I'll now be writing for Berkley. The first book will be released early 2008.
The series will feature the lives and loves of five women who work at Angels of Mercy Medical Center. Like all my work, in addition to the romances, the books will be filled with gritty medical details and edgy suspense. I hope to have more details posted on my website (http://www.cjlyons.net) next month.
And me? I'm still smiling, blushing, and dancing happy jigs every time I talk with my editor (who is amazing!) or when I sit down to work on the project, so I don't expect this honeymoon to be over any time soon! I'm looking forward to many years of wedding bliss with my new partners over at Berkley.
Thanks for sharing my celebration!
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I've read a lot more books. She's immersed herself in the details of the ones she's read for longer.
Truth is, I have no brain power today to explore this issue. Our family has to ready the house for the house sitter and prepare for a fun-filled day...or two...in the car to converge upon my sister's home and join the extended family gathering for the holidays.
I will enjoy the visiting. The car? Not so much.
So, what I really wonder on this, Wondering Wednesday, is: why haven't the scientists caught up to the science fiction writers and given us transporters like in Star Trek? How lovely would it be to step into the family transporter and say, "Beam me there, Scotty." Yeah. I'm tired. Two books in seven weeks, work, work, and more work. Kids. Illness. So what's new? Nothing, except I'm seriously considering stepping into the shower, saying "Beam me there, Scotty," and refusing to leave until it happens. I'm immersing myself in that wonderful image. Yum.
For anyone wondering if I'd really do it? My hot water heater wouldn't hold out long enough...I really hate cold showers.
Scientists...are you listening? It's me, Kelly, dreading the next big family trip.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Now, I don't mean that I just read for a few hours every night, or that I have to have to have a book with me at all times. (I consider that normal and harmless behavior.) What I mean by binging is that when I find a book that has an emotional pull, one that gives me a sort of "rush," I read it over and over (and over!). Back to back readings, three or four times in a row. Sometimes I'll stop in the middle of the book and even read a particular page multiple times.
After a few readings, of course, the impact has lessened enough that I can finally put the book aside (although as with any addiction, I continue to think about it a lot). Invariably, though, I pick it up again several months later for another few readings. I have books on my keeper shelf that I have literally read dozens of times.
Sometimes this is a stray book I've discovered. Other times, I read everything a particular author has written. Right now, for example, I have a serious addiction to Jennifer Crusie novels. I can't count how many times I've read Bet Me, Manhunting, and Anyone but You. I've done the same thing with the older Amanda Quick and Kathleen Woodiwiss stories, just to name a few.
I have other books on my keeper shelf, of course, ones with plots or characters I particularly admire, various mystery series, books written by friends, and so on. And I do pick them up occasionally and reread them. But those aren't my binge books. They don't give me that same emotional rush. When I'm in the middle of a binge book I can't wait to get back to it. Like a true addict, I'm just passing the hours until I can read it again.
Can anyone relate to this? Am I weird and dysfunctional? I have to admit that I'm not seeking help. I actually like this addiction, so please don't offer a cure. But since I've always got room on my shelves for another binge book, if you have any to recommend, I'd love to hear about them.
Monday, December 18, 2006
The car died. The furnace died. Both within an hour of each other. No heat for nearly 24 hours in 20 degree weather. And I couldn’t seek out a warmer clime because being the only member of the family who works at home, I was the designated wait-for-the-plumber person.
And no, he wasn’t anywhere near as sexy and studlicious as Mike the Plumber
In-between trying to write (that is what we authors are supposed to do, right?), I braved the crowds at the mall (yes, the family expects gifts, and some of them couldn’t be purchased online) and baked cookies (because I’m a glutton for punishment.) And because no good deed goes unpunished, I somehow managed to drop an eggshell into the bowl as the mixer whipped around at mach 10. Ever try to pick infinitesimal pieces of eggshell out of cookie dough? Someone slap my hand if I venture near any kitchen appliance other than the microwave until after the holidays!
Trust me, you don’t want to know what else happened over the past 10 days. Makes the car and the furnace look like a day at the spa. Suffice to say I now have rows of square indentations permanently pressed into my forehead from beating my head against the keyboard. (I would have used a wall, but since I’m also the designated -- albeit, quite reluctant -- house painter, I figured it was cheaper to replace a keyboard than buy another gallon of paint, not to mention the time involved in spackling the holes my head would have produced from all that pounding.)
Yes, it’s Manic Monday here at 2B Read. Except lately it seems like Manic Everyday to me. ‘Tis the season for Murphy’s Law. What can go wrong, bah humbug, will go wrong. And there’s never a personal assistant or Santa’s elf around when you need one.
So do you think Danielle and Nora ever have weeks like this?
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Hello all, Navy Guy here. My lovely wife asked me to write a blog on the “Care and Feeding of Authors” for her web site. I thought this was particularly ambitious of her, given that my writing is almost entirely restricted to generating various Navy memoranda, reports, and instructions. Not what you might call inspiring in any setting. Also, I’m not particularly funny. This fact has been related to me on several occasions, by our children (in the direct manner that most children have) accompanied by the usual eye-rolling, and deep sighs of pity for my lameness. The dogs still find me mildly entertaining, although it is usually dependent on the presence of a squeaky toy, or some other sort of treat. Unfortunately for you, I have no grown-up squeaky toys or treats, so toss back those pre-emptive Tylenol tablets, crack open your favorite beverage (something alcoholic may help) and here we go!
The Christmas season is one of the most wonderful, and potentially lethal, times of year. Choosing the right gift for your writer is, need I say it, very important. The kids are easy. You follow a simple checklist: Seen on TV? Check. Makes noise, lights, puddles, or other debris? Check. Requires AA, C, D, and 9-volt batteries (not included of course) and stock in the Duracell company? Check.
Not so the Writer.
To be fair, I am quite possibly the worst gift buyer ever. I provide the following transcript of a real conversation which occurred in our kitchen the other day as proof:
Navy Guy (NG): “Hey sweety, you know how you were saying that your computer is acting too slow, and how that’s been aggravating you so much?”
Alesia: “Mmm Hmm” (Distractedly working on something else)
NG: “Well, I was thinking that for one of your Christmas presents, I would get you a
memory upgrade for your computer so that it would work faster!”
Alesia: “…………” (Staring at NG)
NG: Sweet Jesus! I’ve stepped on a landmine!
Alesia: “…………..” (Still staring)
NG: Stay calm, you might lose a foot, maybe the whole leg, but we can survive this! STAY CALM MAN!!
Alesia: “ Umm, No.”
NG: “Right, right! What was I thinking?! That would be a totally lame and inappropriate gift!”
Children: (Shaking their heads in disbelief and resignation.) We can’t believe we are related to him. We never saw anything about computer memory on TV. I’ll bet it doesn’t even have batteries. Poor daddy.
Dogs: I wonder if there is bacon with that.
So, you see, I am already working at a distinct (perhaps mental) disadvantage. There are many hazards on the way to finding the right gift for your romance writer. We have already seen the “Lame Electronic Gift” (there is a caveat in this category for the “impossibly-small-yet-totally-cool-gadget” gift such as the newest micro-mini MP3 player, cel phone, or digital camera) but there are other, even deadlier land mines out there. Anything that is eminently practical is not what we are looking for: Towel sets (boom!), Kitchen appliances (Boom!), Exercise equipment (KA-BOOM!!) all should be avoided.
Well then, if you are like me, you are asking yourself “Holy Mackerel! What’s left?” Well, you can’t just ask:
NG: “Hey honey, what would you like for Christmas this year?”
Alesia: “I would think that after ten and a half years of marriage and two children you would know by now!”
NG: “Well of course I do sweety! I was just checking to make sure I didn’t forget anything!” Curses! Foiled again!
This is when you must tap into the depths of the writer’s mindset. As the spouse of a writer, you are her soul-mate; the muscle-bound, yet strangely free of body hair man on the white horse on the front of those books, who swept her off her feet all those years ago. And, as her soul-mate, you just intuitively and psychically know what it is she wants for Christmas. Sadly, in my case, this psychic connection has been quite effectively filtered out by brain damage caused by an infatuation with electronics, an Electrical Engineering degree, and 20 years of military life. But all is not lost. There are a few sure-fire gifts that can’t go wrong:
Automobiles. More specifically red convertibles. Always a winner.
Adornments. Designer jewelry, designer clothes, designer shoes, expensive perfumes. All very effective.
Spa Treatments. A big winner for me last year, underappreciated writer-moms love to be pampered.
Any of these things, either individually, or in combination, are very good ideas.
The best thing of all, after a long, arduous, shopping season, is that no matter how lame the gifts may be, she will still love you. After all, you are soul-mates! Merry Christmas! And may your New Year with your writers be filled with many wonderful contracts and no writer's block! (See, I AM learning . . .)
Judd, aka Mr. Alesia
Saturday, December 16, 2006
I wake up on Monday, write out a To Do list that must be completed by the weekend and then spend the next five days concentrating on anything but that To Do list. Then, Saturday rolls around and I go into Panic Mode and try to get everything on my list accomplished by sundown.
It's a sickness, I tell you. lol.
But that's the way I've always been when I have a deadline. Book deadline. Day Job obligations. Life obligations. It doesn't matter. I usually wait till the last possible moment and then drive myself nearly insane trying to get it all done before the proverbial bell rings.
The fact that I almost always make it isn't the point. Well, mostly not the point, anyway.
The thing is, I realize that I have a problem. So, when January 1, 2007 rolls around, I intend to stop procrastinating. I will complete my To Do lists on Monday, rather than waiting till the weekend. I won't put off till tomorrow that which I should damn well be staring today. Well, that's the plan anyway. lol.
So, what about you? Do you have any bad habits you'd like to break when the new year rolls around? And, better yet, how do you handle deadlines? Since the whole procrastination thing isn't going to be working for me anymore, I probably need a few pointers. lol.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Hi, all! Today is Friday and time for announcements, so I thought I'd share that "On Danger's Edge" will be in print in FEBRUARY finally! The second book of this series is also out in e-book. "Intimate Deceptions" is out with Cerridwen Press (www.cerridwenpress.com). Just look under "new releases."
More importantly, I thought I'd share a post I've done previously. It highlights On Danger's Edge, but really it shows how much you can use your experience in writing -- even action/adventure ~ so, always, enjoy! ~ Lise
But there is also this method. Do it and figure it out for yourself.
Now I write romantic action/adventure. A lot of my stories have military heroes or some CIA connection. Right now, the series I'm working on, Dangerous Encounters, of which On Danger's Edge is the first book, has each of these elements as well as terrorists trying to infiltrate the US. Yes, I have guns, bombs, and other things for which I have no experience. And yes, I did a lot of research, especially using my husband's military background, when I wrote the book. I feel very confident in my resources. And when I write my books, I try to make them as true to life as I can, because I believe when you do that as a writer, you get people to buy more easily into the fiction aspect.
Now, On Danger's Edge takes you into the jungle ~ it's kind of a "Romancing The Stone" (an old movie) with a military hero. When I drafted it, I really only had my husband's military jungle experiences to base it on. (He was in the area of the story ~ Panama ~ at one time.) But I wanted to "feel" this for myself as well. So what did I do? I had the opportunity to go down to Guatemala a year ago and work on a new Mayan dig. It was fascinating, but more importantly, I really got the feel for the place and the people. We were located in a very small "finca", a farm area that had been a coffee plantation at one time. This plantation had been established and run by the Germans who built a watering system that still exists and is used heavily today. It still even powers the steam equipment in the old manufacturing plant and in the coffee processing plant. And everything--the plantation house, the factories, etc. was built in the mid 1870's ~ a definite statement to advanced engineering for the time.
Factory Equipment still in use.
So here we were, in the middle of these really old 'advanced' engineering things, sifting dirt to find even older mayan pottery, watering systems and other treasures, in a VERY small village with people who didn't speak any English, and in a country where some of these people fought on either side of the ethnic purging war they had only a decade ago and where touristas like us could go missing in a heartbeat, AND in an area where volcanoes are very prevalent. It's a harsh existence these people live, at least by our standards. You hear the stories of people who have left, trying to get to the US, and their families haven't heard from them in years. Water was rationed. There were times we didn't get any aqua to bathe after a filthy day in the dirt and all the water we DRANK had to be purified. You couldn't even brush your teeth without purified water. (But no worries on the bathing! It rained every afternoon as we were down during the wet season, so we took advantage of the FREEZING COLD water and bathed outside our one room living quarters.) It was an amazing trip, and I could go on and on about it.
Volcano that spewed regularly near the town
where we stayed
They say you should write what you know. Now frankly, knowing some things with personal experience is impossible. However, not always! So make the opportunities when you can.
Many blessings and thanks for reading, and as always, enjoy the adventure!
Visit Lise's Fitness & Writing Adventures blogs at: www.lisestips.blogspot.com & www.lisefuller.blogspot.com
Thursday, December 14, 2006
I don't have any specific good news in the writing arena at the moment, unless you count the fact that I am writing, despite the craziness of the season and the recent steady stream of appointments cluttering my calendar. I'm pretty grateful for that, since it can be a tough time of year to concentrate (and I've not always done a good job of it). I'm also very glad that my characters are talking--to each other, and to me. That's always a help when I'm writing (it definitely makes my job easier :-)).
After all, the muse doesn't always decide to visit, but we've still got books to write and deadlines to meet.
If the muse calls, do you have to answer? If I didn't have the outlet of writing to express my creativity, what would I do about the characters my brain tosses out into my awareness? Would they still clamor for their stories to be told, or would I simply be haunted by people who will never exist unless I bring them to life?
My muse--whoever she may be (I haven't quite figured that out yet)--has been around for a long time, though it took quite a while before I recognized her. I can't remember when I didn't plot and plan for the characters that pop into my mind. I've always been a day dreamer, and I always "directed" those day dreams, mulling over how my casts of imaginary friends might act and react, what they'd do and what they'd say. It never occurred to me to write down those day dreams; after all, I was going to be a doctor or a lawyer when I grew up . . . which later changed to an engineer when I got out of college (and everyone knows engineers don't write . . . heck, rumor is they can barely spell ;-)). I did become an engineer, but in between studying advanced aerodynamics and testing hydraulic research models, the day dreams continued until I had to write them down to purge them from my brain.
I'm glad I finally realized the truth--I'm a writer. There are times I long for the old days, when my biggest problem was how to design a reactor sump or a dam spillway. Numbers behave in a fairly consistent manner; I can't say my characters always do. However, most of the time I wouldn't trade my characters for those numbers on a bet.
I'm a writer, and I'm very thankful for that.
What are you grateful for?
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
I remember being a bit embarrassed by his lack of education when I was in grade school. By my late high school and college years, I was often amazed at what he knew and wondered where he learned so much. (No, I wasn't that abnormal. I thought I knew much more than he did and thought both my parents were total idiots until I was about 25. But idiots and knowing a lot...two different things.)
In 1996, this exam from 1895--35 years before my father's 8th grade graduation--began circulating on the internet. (It drew attention, based on an article printed in the Salina Journal, Salina Kansas using the original exam archived at the Smoky Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Saline County. Columnists and newspapers all over the country picked it up from there so you may have seen it.) This is what it took back then to graduate with an 8th grade education. I'm including only two of the easier questions from each section of the test. The original sections were 8 to 10 questions each. If you want to see the whole thing, check out the links.
8th Grade Final Exam:
Grammar (Time, one hour)
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
6. What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
Arithmetic (Time, 65 minutes)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.
Orthography (Time, one hour)
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: Trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.
Geography (Time, one hour)
7. Name all the republics of
8. Why is the
The exam was five hours long, was given orally and was also graded for penmenship.
One of the luxuries of hanging out with readers and writers is that they seem to be so much smarter than the general population. (Sorry, but I don't worry that I'm going to insult anyone since I doubt that anyone not interested in books, is going to read this.) So I wonder...as intelligent as we all are, which of us could pass this test?
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
The reason I bring this up is that I've just finished reading a marvelous author who is not new, but new to me. James Rollins has published seven thrillers, but I've just discovered him. If anyone needs a book idea for a holiday gift, check out his books.
The book I read is titled Sandstorm (Avon 2004). Safia al-Maaz is a brilliant and beautiful museum curator who travels to Oman to search for a lost city, where something both powerful and dangerous has lain hidden for centuries. Her companions are an ensemble cast, including her daring friend, Kara, Lady Kensington, and her ex-fiancé, a dashing adventurer named Omaha Dunn. In a touch of delicious wit, Rollins has Kara pretend to forget his name and refer to him as Indiana. Other fascinating men and women round out the daring ensemble--among them, agents of a secret security agency called Sigma, and a brilliant and conflicted villain. I was impressed at Rollins's ability to portray women in strong heroine and villain roles. Danger and intrigue propel the plot at a breakneck pace, but romance and character development play important parts. I had to suspend disbelief for some of the fantastic events but the story was too entertaining to mind. The next of Rollins's books I have is Map of Bones. I can't wait!
Has anyone else read Rollins's books? Any recommendations?
Monday, December 11, 2006
We had a long discussion and finally, somewhat reluctantly, I agreed to a trial period. He and his brother were ecstatic. I was concerned that it would rob them of precious time and hurt their grades. I'm not usually so cautious. My husband and I are gadget people and we'd had a PC for years. But we also limited our boys' TV watching and I wasn't sure how the computer would fit in.
Can you imagine not having the Internet? How did we connect with people? How did we research articles on cold and snowy days, when the roads were too slick to travel or the library was closed? Or it was the dead of night and we just had to find that exact image for the next scene in our book? I'm not too proud to state that I'm glad my son was persistent and we ended up with our Internet connection. And both of them continue to be on the highest honor roll -- due as much to their diligent work as their access to information and people.
This is Monday, though, and today's theme is "Life's Ups and Downs." I love the way we can connect with people all over the world in just a matter of minutes. Therein lies the downside of this topic. A week or so ago, someone sent me an e-mail movie quiz. I usually just delete those e-mails that are jokes or funny comments. Somehow, with the movie one, I accidentally opened it instead of just deleting it. I then thought I deleted it from my life and went on my way.
That wasn't the end of the story, though. I suddenly had odd e-mails being sent to me from people I hadn't heard from in months. They thanked me for thinking of them but they only answered personal e-mails. At first, I didn't know what they were talking about. Then my husband mentioned something about receiving a movie quiz from me. He had deleted it and was surprised I had sent it to him. I checked with a couple other people, had some phone calls and more e-mails and soon learned that the e-mail ended up going to every person on my contact list. Not just friends and family. Colleagues, church connections, volunteer committee members. . . editors! I quickly sent out a MAJOR APOLOGY to everyone in my mailbox.
I think the situation is now resolved, at least on my part. I found an e-mail address for the originator of the quiz, asked them for help and was told that my information and address has now been deleted from their files. The quiz should be gone from my life and I only hope it's as quickly eliminated from those who inadvertently received it from me.
I love my computer! I hate my computer! How about you? What's your relationship with your computer?
Sunday, December 10, 2006
I missed the shopping gene, it skipped straight from my mom to my daughter (which according to my rudimentary understanding of genetics means that it slumbers somewhere deep within me, long may it sleep). Woe is me if it ever wakes because I do not have the stamina of my mother or my daughter--labels do not impress me, hot trends do not even catch my eye, and the idea of shopping in a store having a major sales event to get the trendy labels for less... please!
Despite the fact I have raised three children through the gimme 80s and tech-crazed 90s, I pride myself that I never once stood in line. Not for a Cabbage Patch doll (a friend *and* his wife stood in separate long lines, got two dolls, and sold us the one that didn't look like their daughter--happy campers were we all). Not for Transformers. Not for a Talking Elmo. Not for a Playstation 1, 2, or 360.
My daughter now lives across the country. I thought I was safe. Until Nintendo came up with the Wii. My son is 20, so technically he should have been standing in line alone. However, he doesn't drive, and he doesn't have a credit card (and the people in the Playstation lines were robbed of their cash the week previous to the Wii coming out). Still, I thought he was more like me. When he wasn't able to pre-reserve a Wii (tried hard, but the pre-reservations were sold out within minutes of being available), I thought he'd be okay with waiting until they were in the stores. And then I heard him arranging with his younger brother, who does drive, when and how to get him to the stores to stand in line for a Wii. Keep in mind it is cold where we live.
I kept out of it, their strategy was good (younger brother, no dummy, would stay in the warm car and keep the cash behind locked doors). The night came; I insisted on snacks, warm clothes, and fully-charged cell phones for my fallen-too-far from the tree progeny. I admired them, in the same manner I admired those who camp out for concert tickets, or first run movie tickets (I grew up in the Star Wars era...though I did *not* see it the first week). Better them than me.
The first stop was the 24 hour Walmart. 20 chairs, all filled. On to the next store on his list, Best Buy...50 people already in line. On to the non-24 hour Walmart. 22 in line...only 20 tickets. Home he came, out of ideas (and, still my son, preferring a warm bed to further fruitless cold camping out).
Next morning, I caved. Younger brother had to work. Wii-craving son wanted to try a few more stores, so we turned out at 7 a.m. on Sunday and starting hunting. Sears...line of 3...they'd given their tickets out the night before. Circuit City...long line of very cold and cranky people. Sam's Club. Sam's Club? Oh, why not, they open at 10 and it's almost 8, I said with as much grace as I could muster. Besides, I had made a quick Starbucks stop. There was a line of six people at the door. Six machines. My son turned, dejected. "Wait," said one of those in line, then pointing at the boy next to him, he said cheerfully, "We're getting one machine, there's still one left for you."
Great! Wonderful! Fantastic! ...only two hours to stand in the cold at the front of the store. He had his Nintendo DS and played games with one of the other guys in line. I stayed in the car.
Two hours takes a long time to pass when you are a nervous mother sitting in a car in a nearly deserted parking lot and you keep running worst case scenarios through your head. What if the manager had counted wrong? What if a business member could get in earlier and circumvent the line? What if someone leaped in front of my son at the last minute? What if... well, really the possibilities were endless and it was a good thing we only had to wait two hours.
I think I understand why those who stand in line do it though, now that I've had a taste. I felt an incredible exhilaration as we rushed through the doors, price ticket in hand, disgruntled 7th placers behind us, paid out the $$ for the system and a game and left with huge grins on our faces--all in about ten minutes. So, total time in line for me? under three hours. My son? Eight hours. For eleven hours of our time, we got to pay full price for a system we could have walked in and bought off the shelf in a month or two. Was it worth it? Ummm, yes...but please don't tell my daughter I said that.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
This story opens with Will and Elizabeth being arrested on their wedding day for freeing Captain Jack Sparrow in the first movie. The bad guy is a lord who's part of the East India Trading Company and he offers Will a deal, but to free himself and Elizabeth, he'll have to find Jack and get his compass. Easier said than done since Jack is in trouble with more than a few people, including cannibals and Davy Jones. (Not Davy Jones the fabulous member of The Monkees, but Davy Jones, the scourge of sailors. :-) I just wanted to be clear.) The rest of the movie involves the search for a chest that everyone seems to want.
So what didn't I like? I didn't think this kracken beast thing that attacked on the orders of Davy Jones was all that interesting a plot device and it seemed to keep showing up over and over and over again. It also seemed as if they kept showing Davy Jones's henchmen calling the kracken over and over. I felt like, okay, already, we get it, let's move on.
The other thing I didn't like was how they ended the movie. I knew it would be a cliffhanger because I heard talk when Dead Man's Chest came out, but I figured it wouldn't be that big a deal. It was. I would have preferred they shoot it as three stand alone movies, or maybe put a plot arc over them, but wrap up the main story. They didn't and I'll have to wait now for Pirates Three to find out what happened.
Things I did like about the movie--Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom. How can any woman go wrong staring at those two guys for a couple of hours? Orlando looked hotter in this movie than he did in the first, IMO, but Johnny Depp is still the hottest. I always used to think he was too pretty when he was younger, but now that he's older--oooh, baby!
While I didn't like the cliffhanger ending, I did like who they had show up at the very end. Way cool! That alone will impel me to see Pirates Three when it comes out.
Overall, I thought Pirates of the Caribbean 2 was okay, but that it lacked the charm and humor of the first one. I didn't find anything particularly wrong with it, it just didn't excite me and enchant me like Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl did.
The move is worth watching just to look at Johnny and Orlando and there are worse ways to while away a couple of hours.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Choosing for my mom is easy. I have to find something I would never be caught dead wearing, then I can rest assured that she’ll love it. I’m just waiting until enough time passes and I can regift the blouses she gave me for Christmas. I know she’ll like them.
For my husband, he wants practical, don’t try to get creative with him. I’m sure last year’s Mr. Peanut M&M dispenser is hidden in a file drawer in his office. And the men’s bikini underwear, printed with those sexy dancing Santas? Well, he hasn’t modeled them for me yet. He swears he’s just waiting for the mood to strike. Yeah, right.
Now my daughter, her taste is hard to pinpoint, but she swore she loved last year’s reindeer sweater. Of course, I’ve never seen her wear it. And when I stopped by her yard sale last June, well . . . I was especially hurt when I found it in the ‘Free to a Good Home’ pile. ( I swear I didn’t realize that the red dangling reindeer noses came at the same level of her breasts.)
My sixteen-year-old son, if it doesn’t attract girls, or run fast enough for him to get another speeding ticket with it, he’ll stick it in the back of his closet where I’m sure all his dirty socks are hidden.
That’s the funny thing about gifts, you want them to be personal, to make the receiver think of you, but mostly you don’t want them to end up hidden with a bunch of dirty socks. So this year, instead of banking on my creative juices to come up with gift ideas, I did the unforgivable. I asked what they wanted. Yep. No more surprises at the Craig house.
And the reason I chose to blog about gifts? With my recent four sales, three to Dorchester and one to Triskelion, I’m thinking about author giveaways. I’m talking about refrigerator magnets, bookmarks, matches, pens . . . you know, marketing promotions.
Because the blunt approach seemed to work with my family, I thought it might work with you, the readers. What type of giveaways do you like? What works best in helping you remember publishing dates? What types of giveaways entice you to pick up an author’s book? And since my fellow writers will also be reading this blog, let me put the question to you? What types of promotional materials have worked best for you?
And hey, I’ll tell everyone just what I told my family, if you don’t give me a list, don’t be surprised when you wind up with a pair of men’s sexy-santa bikini underwear, or worse, I might send you one of the blouses my mom sent me. Oh yeah, and that reindeer sweater, it’s still looking for a good home.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
It's a little like old home week for me since NAL's editorial director, Claire Zion, first discovered me in the slush pile back in 1982 (ironically at NAL during Thanksgiving week), publisher Kara Welsh was deputy publisher in charge of mass market when I arrived at Pocket (and one of the main reasons I wanted to move there in the first place), and my fabulous new editor, Laura Cifelli, had spent a week driving the bidding up during an auction that landed me at Pocket when left Mira about eight years ago. (Laura was at Harper at the time.) I'm convinced there are only twelve people in publishing, and they all keep playing musical chairs.
On Thursday, Fedex showed up with a dozen roses and a lovely Waterford vase, along with a note welcoming me to the NAL family, which was way cool, and made it seem official.
Then, Friday morning, once things calmed down and we got down to discussing the nitty gritty details of the contract -- like delivery dates -- it dawned on me, that as nice as the courtship had been, they're probably going to actually expect me to write the books. LOL
Oh, in other news, I also returned home to an e-mail letting me know that BLAZE (2005) won 1st prize in the romantic suspense category of the Volusia County RWA's Laurel Wreath contest.
So, life is sweet right now. In fact, if the guys who've had the front of my house torn up since the last week of October would just finish building the never-ending porch sometime before New Years, it'd be pretty close to perfect. :)
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Sunday, December 03, 2006
I autographed the copies at my local Wal-Mart store this weekend and put out a local author "Happy Holidays" shelf talker that I made on my computer. It's nothing too fancy, just something to maybe draw the eye to my book as shoppers go down the aisle.
The Wedding Secret is lucky #13 for me. My first book was out in October 2000, so six years later I've hit 13. Wow. It's always a thrill to see a book that you've written on the shelf. There's a special feeling that never goes away.
Sure, some of the reasons I write have changed. Before it was a dream to be published. Now it's a career path. But the thrill remains. You put your book out into the world and pray it finds happy homes and gives readers a little escape from their day. The fact that I've been able to do it this much still gives me chills.
All the best,