Saturday, July 30, 2005

ISO a Non-Life Threatening Injury



I've actually been writing today! I've managed almost 1,000 words so far - and considering I did less than twice that in the whole past week, I'm feeling pretty good.

My sister-in-law kidnapped my daughter for the day, my husband took off for the lake ... and I've felt inspired to do something. BUT... I have a small plot problem that I thought I'd throw out and see if any of you have ideas.

In Camilla, I need to have my hero injured and bedridden for a few weeks. Originally, I have him falling off the barn roof and breaking a leg and a hip -- effectively putting him in a spica cast for at least six weeks.

That's just too long. I need something that will keep him essentially bedridden for more like 2 - 3 weeks instead (though at some point he can use a wheelchair to get around if necessary). Any ideas? I would kind of like him to still fall off of the roof, though, if possible. Or something else that would make my heroine feel like it was her fault he was hurt.

Anyone?

Friday, July 29, 2005

Now what?

So... I've only written about 1300 new words this past week. Truly pathetic. I think the problem is that I've written myself - or my heroine rather - into an unexpected corner.

So now what?

Do I trash the whole scene? If I do... then what? Because, in my head, that scene has already happened, and it's like when you're watching those courtroom dramas and one of the lawyers says something, the other lawyer objects and the judge instructs the jury to disregard what was said.

Yeah. Right.

I guess I really just need to figure out what's going to happen to the heroine in this scene. Even if I end up not using it in the final version of the novel, it's something that happens to her. I know her, and her family and friends, well enough that I should be able to figure it out.

Maybe if I take the pressure off of myself to actually create something usable and just free write like crazy, I'll get past it. Or maybe not.

But I need to do something since my goal date for completion of the first draft is slipping away by the minute. Soon it will be un-catchable (is that even a word?).

So.

Now what?

================

As an aside, I'm in chapter nine of HP6 and still pretty much bored. It's been "a day in the life of Harry Potter" and nothing spectacular has happened to make me want to turn pages. I think JK is relying on her fan base wanting to know the end, and has gotten a bit lazy. But, that's just my opinion... I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

What To Do, What To Do....



I haven't had much time for writing anything the past couple of days -- real life intrudes. Ugh.

So as a treat, my mom decided to take my daughter for a good part of the day. They're going shopping for some crafty stuff and making a stop at Barnes and Noble, then it's off to Grandma's house to "do" a craft. This leaves me several hours, during which I have been instructed to WRITE.

I find myself, instead, moping around missing my daughter instead. Funny how she drives me crazy when she's underfoot constantly, but when she isn't I keep looking for her around every corner.

She's been gone almost an hour. Here's what I've accomplished in that time:

1. Ate lunch.
I have to admit it was kind of nice to just eat whatever I felt like eating and not take her needs into account.

2. Read a chapter of HP6.
Is it sacrilegious to say that I'm kind of bored so far? I'm four chapters in, and I have to force myself to keep reading. I'm hoping it gets better.

3. Fed the dog.
She was very grateful and rewarded me with sloppy dog kisses.

4. Discovered that Jennifer Crusie has updated her website and started a blog!
Jenny C. is my hero. I want to be her when I grow up...

5. Decided that Jed (the hero in my WIP) must have an unusual pet.
I started with the idea of giving him a snake, but couldn't stand having him feed it other animals. So, I've settled on a pig. Named Arnold. Here's the $64,000 question - and no, I haven't adjusted for inflation -- where did I get the pig's name? Anyone, anyone... Bueller?

6. Updated this blog.

Okay, okay... I have all the feedback from my wonderful, wonderful writing bud's (Thanks to P & R from TT and C from MM) and must now get to work on my contest entry.

Or maybe I'll just eat dessert and pace the house until my daughter returns.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

When Does the Sun Set in Your Town?



So, I'm writing this scene where Camilla takes one of the dogs for a walk after work. It's around 6 p.m. 30 miles outside Sacramento, CA. I have someone stalking her, and I want to know what the sun is like -- is it setting? Is it high in the sky? Dusk? What?!?!?!?!

It's a small thing, true, but sure as shootin', if I say it's dusk on May 3rd and someone in Sacramento is reading my book and know that the sun sets much later than that, I lose credibility.

Sure, I'm not writing some great historical novel, but facts still count.

My point?

I found the coolest website that tells you sunrise and sunset times for any month anywhere in the world! Man, you really can find anything on the internet if you're willing to look.

So, if you're ever curious about when the sun sets in Casablanca on January 13th... or any other capital in the world, go here: Time and Date.com.

Oh, by the way - the sunset in Sacramento on May 3rd? 8:00 pm. Damn. I was hoping for more darkness to hide Camilla's stalker.

What's the current word count? Enquiring Minds want to know: 35,529. At the rate I'm writing now, I won't be done with this draft until August 26th -- Not my original goal of August 13th. UGH. Must - write - more.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Warning: Questionable Math Figures Ahead


A lady in one of my study groups recently attended a writers conference. She sat in on a talk given by a couple of agents who indicated that the market is trending downward significantly, and that the world isn't reading books anymore. They didn't expect there to be a change in this, and all-in-all it was a very discouraging talk.

I found this hard to believe. After all, I've been to Barnes and Noble on a Saturday, and there's not a parking space to be found. Lest you think that all the customers there are window shopping, I've also found that the checkout line is usually 10 people or more deep - and that's with several clerks open!

So, I started poking around. Here's what I found (please keep in mind that math is NOT my strong suit):

I was puttering around on the RWA website, and came across a PDF file on romance books sales and statistics.

It indicates that total romance books sold in 2003 (the latest year they reported on) equaled 2,093.

If you figure that 2/3 of them were by established writers (and that's just a figure I made up, so could be wrong, but seems reasonable), then that leaves 711 books to be published by new romance writers for the year.

It also indicated that romance sales made up 33.8% of popular fiction sales for the year. Mysteries were second with 25.6%.

Bear with me and my questionable math....

If 2093 = 33.8% then approximately 6200 = 100%, so about 1,587 new mystery books were pubbed in 2003. Again, assuming that 2/3 were by established authors, that leaves 540 books for new authors during the year.

In my head, that's an awful lot of opportunity for those of us who are pre-published authors, don't you think? Lots of people write, but few finish a novel. And of the few who finish, fewer still bother to persistently query either agents or editors.

That means that those of us who finish novels and are persistent, have a wonderful opportunity before us.

It just sounds like those agents don't know what they're talking about.

But that's just my opinion.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Importance of Ten Working Digits



As I said a few days ago, I sliced my finger open and now have a bandage from stem to stern and am unable to bend my left index finger. I have since discovered how many things one relies on ones index finger for. Here are a few:

1. Typing. Man, oh man, do I miss typing correctly - I can't bend for the lower line of letters and have to stop and move my entire hand to type a "b" or "v".

2. Shuffling cards. My daughter was playing Candy Land today and wanted me to shuffle that little deck of cards... I couldn't.

3. Gripping anything. My dog takes medication everyday. Usually, I dump two pills into my left hand and, while still holding them, put the lid back on the bottle. Can't do that right now because my good fingers are holding the pills against my palm, and my index finger won't hold the bottle.

4. Giving a "thumbs up". I look like I'm pretending to shoot someone.

5. Squeezing toothpaste. Usually I hold the brush in my right hand and the tube in my left -- but I can't squeeze it with my left hand. The first time I did this I just stared and wondered how I would ever brush my teeth. Then - after a minute or two - I realized I could just switch them and squeeze with my right hand.

6. Put an elastic in my daughters hair. In this instance both items - ponytail and elastic - need to be held firmly. See #3.

7. Applying sunscreen. I nearly poked my daughter's eye out today trying to rub sunscreen onto her face using both hands. And doing it one handed was awkward and messy.

I challenge you all to try living with your finger straight. Take some masking tape and tape it up... see how much you rely on your index finger. Then post a comment here about some things you couldn't do. We'll compare notes.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Fossils and excavation



Stephen King says in his book "On Writing":

"... Stories aren't souvenir tee-shirts or Game Boys. Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer's job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it's enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all those gigantic ribs and grinning teeth. Either way, short story or thousand page whopper of a novel, the techniques of excavation remain basically the same."

The more I write, the more I agree with him. With each novel, I attempt to be more organized, to make the writing of it easier, quicker, less draining. With Camilla, I wrote up a basic plot, did an outline, character sketches and then wrote a few miscellaneous scenes to start getting to know my characters. Then I did a bunch of scene cards - listed every possible idea I had for a scene: orange index card if it's from Camilla's POV and green if it's from Jed's.

Then, all set and knowing just where I wanted it to go, I sat down to write in earnest.

Camilla and Jed cuddled up together with the McCullough clan and all their friends and brainstormed ways to stop me. Matthew proposed too early. Jed got hurt a week ahead of schedule. Lisa turned up pregnant. Lucia got the hots for Jed. Liv started stalking Camilla.

None of these things were in my original outline. I was shocked - shocked when Lisa told Camilla she was four-months pregnant!

And so, I am currently at an impasse. Things have happened in my story that I wasn't planning on and I have had to toss my current outline and start figuring out what to do now.

The worst thing about this? I'll spend hours working on it, sit down to write and they'll screw me up all over again. Characters are malicious and sneaky... even when we didn't create them that way.

What's my current word count? A measly 34,515. Well under my weekly goal.

*sigh*

Camilla and I need to sit down and have a chat. I'll let you know what she has to say, since it turns out that it isn't my story -- I just need to excavate hers.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

What Silver Lining?



So, I had big plans for the day... writing, gardening, washing the dog. But, the best laid plans ... and all that jazz.

It all started a few weeks ago, when my "pet" black swallowtail caterpillar decided to use my tomato cage to make his chrysalis instead of the sticks or any other lovely choices. So, when he tried to shed his skin, he fell - tomato cages being rather slick and not accepting caterpillar adhesive well.

My daughter was in a panic -- we can't just leave him there! Well, of course not. So I gently lifted him up and placed him inside a butterfly house we'd made for another caterpillar who had a death wish (long story). Two happy chrysalis's, right?

Two weeks later, the first one hatched into a beautiful butterfly. We promptly released him (her) in the hopes that it would lay more eggs, hence more 'pillars, on my parsley. We waited axiously for 'pillar #2.

He hatched two days later, but something had happened, and he hadn't developed any bottom wings. Oh No! Can't fly... what to do, what to do? No fairy dust handy, couldn't get him to think happy thoughts... we'll keep him as a pet.

Filled the box with popular butterfly flowers and an orange slice - this needs to be replaced daily as it dries out.

This afternoon, I pulled out that old half an orange, grabbed the knife and Whammo! Knife slips off tough orange peel and slams into my unsuspecting index finger. Blood! Eek! Must remain calm and not terrify daughter. Grab finger. Find help to put on bandaid... bleed through bandaid and the two paper towels wrapped around it. Decide going to doctor may be in order.

Ugh. I hate the doctor.

Good news? I talked to doc out of stitches if I promise to not bend my finger and keep it dry for five days.

Bad news? BIG bandage on index finger. Can't type (if I'd have left all my typos in this post you'd understand... but that would be ugly). Can't write. Can't wash the stinky dog. No gardening, except what I can do one handed -- pretty much leaves weeding.

Looking for a silver lining: Can't wash dishes for five days?

Not good enough.

In any case, blog posts may suffer as time on the keyboard hunting and pecking is driving me nuts.

All for my pet 'pillar. The things we do. Of course, the first thing I did when I got home was slice that blasted orange and put it in his house. Gotta keep my priorities straight!

On a serious note: Authors Beware!


Just received a heads up regarding an agent impersonator and wanted to share. All authors take a look at The Knight Agency blog to make sure you won't be taken for a ride!

I'll post again later, something light and fluffy... but wanted to get this out asap.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Paperclips or Puppy Dogs?



Maybe I'm weird, but man - I love my Microsoft Office Assistant. For a long time, I settled for that funky little paperclip, not caring about what my help looked like. But then, one day I was killing time between chapters and checked out my options.

Really, how cool is that goofy dog? His name is Rocky and I adore him! I remember when I left Word open behind Internet Explorer, and when I finally closed out of IE, there was my puppy, having a nap on the screen. Awwww....

I find myself animating him all the time. And I feel moderately guilty when I close out of Word or Excel and he has to go back into his little hole. He seems pretty chipper when he does it, but when he comes out for the first time, he's even happier.

My little buddy helps me keep Word open even after I feel like I have nothing more to write. My helper, my encourager. My husband says I should thank Mrs. Bill Gates -- so, Thank You from the bottom of my heart.

Oh yeah, and how's Camilla coming? Well, I'm still a bit behind my goal - but so close. I have 32,744 words... about 1,000 words short of my goal. Big thunderboomers are moving in, so I need to shut down, but maybe I can get back on tonight and meet my goal. We'll have to see how it goes.

My brick and mortar doggie is terrified of the storm. I sure hope my cyber doggie does okay.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Decisions, decisions....



Today I'm working on my synopsis for Camilla.

I'd rather stick my hand down the garbage disposal and turn it on. Thankfully, that's not an option since I don't have a garbage disposal, but I'm sure I could find an alternative.

I've been putting this off forever, but am finally in the place where I need one. Actually more than one. The main reason I'm doing this now is for contest entries. But here's my problem - this contest wants a four page synopsis, that one requires a one page and that one over there? Well, you can submit up to ten pages!

What's a girl to do? Especially when the book isn't completed and the characters keep looking at my outline and snickering amongst themselves as they plot ways to derail the story in my brain.

I've opted to start with a summary of everything I've written so far - get it down on paper and then start messing with it. That's certainly not enough, and any writing has been a bit like giving birth without the epidural lately, so I'm not producing much to keep that [censored] synopsis growing.

So I sit at the computer, ignoring the call of spider solitaire (okay, I'll be honest, sometimes I give in to the lure), put my fingers on the keys and .... nothing.

I think I'm going to have my husband install a disposal - either for my manuscript or my hand. Or maybe both. I'm not that great at those kinds of decisions.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Here's something that makes me crazy!


I belong to a writers group, well - two actually. And, for the most part the folks in the groups are outstanding (I can't say "ladies" because each group has a man apiece - and one is dedicated to romance writing.. .that's YOU Al!).

Okay, back on track...

I love my groups, I do, I do, I do... the members are talented writers, empathic yet stern, they're great at catching when I 'tell' instead of 'show' or when I get off track and my stuff is ((*gasp*)) DULL.

Yesterday though, something happened that got me steamed, and where better to rant and rave then HERE?

A (former) member of one group came back to comment on some work. In that comment was this quote:

"All very short precise sentences that pull this piece onto the firm land of good writing and away from anything that even smacks (horror of horrors) of the much loathed romance novels."

ARGH! Why is it that many other writers think writing romance is EASY? Or that romance writing is bad, or sub-standard? Granted, I may not be writing "Of Mice and Men", but to be honest, I HATED that book (and Steinbeck's stuff in general, but that's a discussion for another day).

I work hard at what I write to make it clear, grammatically correct and intriguing. I've found very few "literary" novels that interest me (though one of my groupmates has written one that is, from what I've read thus far, one that I could read from beginning to end with great interest and enjoyment).

I do agree that many books in the romance genre are really bad. Cheesy. Poorly plotted. Lacking real conflict. But, many books in EVERY genre are that way as well.

So, for crying out loud, JUST STOP IT! We romance writers work just as hard, love our work just as well, enjoy reading just as much, have IQ's just as high (if not higher) than many 'literary' (i.e. "good" or "legitimate") writers out there.

Phew. I feel better, though will probably still rant to anyone who gets near me for the next couple of days.

What think you?

Friday, July 15, 2005

It's a girl!



Please join me in welcoming to the (writing) world, 70 inches long, [censored] pounds, brown hair and eyes:

Allaina Arkins

Where did I get the name? Well, I have to thank Nora Roberts for using Gaelic in her books – I got Allaina from there. And Arkins is an anagram of my last name. I loved the meanings though, especially as they pertained to writing.

Allaina: Extremely intelligent in thought and deed, you are gifted at communication and finding practical applications for your ideas. You are strong willed and ambitious and need to have passion, freedom and adventure in your life. Always willing to help others your warm, honest and loyal nature ensures that you are loved by all. It is likely that you will achieve a great deal of success and recognition in life.

Arkins: You are fair-minded, wise and peace loving and are always willing to help others. Your mental capabilities and creativity are well marked with wonderful and original ideas which you need to bring to tangible fruition. Perceptive and understanding of others your positive approach to life and influential nature means that you have leadership qualities. There is great potential for success both financially and spiritually.

What more could any writer want?

Now, I think I can stop obsessing about a name, and start obsessing about finishing Camilla. It's currently at 30,589 words. Only 24,411 more to go!!

PS. Thanks to Boston UK for the name definitions

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I'm speechless...

Couldn't think of a thing to say today. My brain is overworked and underpaid, and today went on strike. Is there a brain's union? I'd sure like to start negotiations.

Excuses?

1. Stayed up too late (for no good reason, which makes it twice as stupid)
2. Got up too early (thanks to Bailey, my darling dog)
3. Had company most of the day (with children - making my exhaustion quota explode since I'm only used to having one around)
4. It's hot.
5. It's humid.
6. I had nothing cool and caffeinated to drink (will remedy this tomorrow)

Still absolutely focused on an appropriate pseudonym, but was punchy, so only goofy ones came to mind:

Gemstones: I could be Jade, Garnet, Ruby, Pearl, Peridot, Tourmaline (I also thought of stones like pumice and obsidian)

TV Characters: I'm frequently called Maris (like Niles invisible wife on Frasier) and so thought that might work. At least I'd answer to it. Then I thought of Daphne (same show), and moved onto pets.... wonder if I look like an Eddie?

It only gets worse.

In any case, I'm kind of hooked on Arkins or Arkin for a last name -- so anyone with a hot idea of a first name that goes with it, please feel free to forward it to me. I originally wanted something that starts with an "m", but am feeling more flexible right now.

Of course that could be dementia talking.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Of Soul Mates and Nausea


I’m struggling.

See, I’ve decided to write for a line of romances that takes a lower word count (most romances require 70,000 – 100,000 words, this one only requires 55,000). As homework, I promptly headed to my library and checked out about 25 books in the two similar lines I’m aiming for to get a better feel for the kind of story and writing that the editors want.

Can it be possible that the editors want sappy romances with little plot or conflict? That’s the impression I get from the two books I’ve read so far, and one of them had such potential in the plotline. That potential was utterly lost in the writing. The story is unbelievable and improbable, and the writing (if I do say so myself… uh, I guess there’s really no other way to say it, is there?) is … well, really, really awful. It’s so full of clich├ęs and overused metaphors I can hardly stand it.

The hero, from the moment he meets the heroine, knows somehow that she’s “Meant For Him” – i.e. soul mates. The heroine feels exactly the same. And they harp on that fact over, and over, and over…. ad nauseum.

The conflict between them falling madly in love and living HEA? What could it be that’s strong enough to keep even soul mates apart? Why, he’s ten years older than her, of course. Serious stuff. I mean, what a scandal if they should be married, huh?

So, now what? Good grief, I can’t write crud like that … and I know – she’s published (this author actually has several books published in this line) and I’m not, so clearly I have no business criticizing her.

Then the question for me needs to be this: Am I willing to write for the market instead of writing what’s in my heart if what’s in my heart will probably never be published?

**sigh**

That’s almost as tough to answer as that old chicken and the egg question.

And, no, I’m not going to include this book in my reading log. If I ever get it up and running.

But that’s another story.

Hey! I know… I can write about a heroine who is trying to learn HTML and the hero is disgusted by (albeit terribly attracted to) a woman who can’t grasp basic computer languages. He’s knows that they’re meant for each other, but in all his imaginings, his soul mate speaks HTML fluently. It’s a deal breaker. She will, of course, break through this barrier by applying herself diligently to her classes because, she knows in her heart that they are soul mates.

I’m going to get busy on that one right now. I think it shows promise.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Hmmm... I could be Jane Eyre

Gee… I’m having such an identity crisis that I started playing around with some online quizzes.

Bet you’re dying to know what literary character I am. Aren’t you?

Well ((drum roll)) ---


Jane
You're Jane Eyre of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte!


Which Classic Female Literary Character Are you?


I was okay with most of it, but patient ?!? Really… it’s clear they don’t know me well. That, and I never was a governess.

On to bigger and better things.

I haven’t decided on my new name yet, thought I’m really, really close. I'm trying one on for size today: Melody Arkins. It's like new jeans... a little stiff until you wear them for a while. I'll make the final decision in the next few days.

I have completed 29,239 words in Camilla – I’m just over halfway since I decided that I just didn’t have 85,000 words in me and started to write for a different line. Now I only need 55,000 words – YAY! I have that much in me. Plus, I only have to write about 900 words a day to meet my deadline instead of 1,400 and that’s a definite advantage.

Plans for the blog future:

1. Add a reading log. Thought I’d share the books I’m reading and my feelings about them.

2. Take a refresher course on HTML so I can add a reading log.

3. Find a way to add at least six hours to each day.

Tune in tomorrow, same bat time, same bat station and see if I managed to do any of those things!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Who am I?

I'm trying to name myself.

Okay, I'm trying to name my romance author alter-ego. You wouldn't think it would be this hard! I mean, how many times growing up have we wished our names were something else?

And now I can't think of anyone I'd rather be than me. I've spent most of my writing time this morning searching baby names sites. I know, I know, I should worry about my pseudonym AFTER I get the book done. Still, it's on my mind all the time, and is interfering with my writing.

So, help me out. First name, starting with an "M" and last name starting with an "A" or "B" -- to keep my books near the beginning of the pile. Anyone, anyone?

I'm kind of liking these first names:

Mariel
Marianne
Mariah

What do you think?

And if you could change your name to anything, what would you choose?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The first day of the rest of my blog-life

I'm officially a blogger.

Odd how, normally I can talk for hours without taking a breath (just ask my husband) and now can't think of one blasted thing to say. I'm sure that will change as time passes.

For now, I'm just posting so I can complete setting up my blog. I swear to be a bit more interesting the next time!