The New Year

. Good morning, my darlings. I’ve been having lots of Great Thoughts, and I’ve decided to share them all with you. Now, in general I’m not crazy about writing blogs – I’m ambivalent about teaching. What works for me might not work for other people, and I dislike being the Voice of Authority. OTOH I don’t mind being Sister Yoda, ancient voice of wisdom, mainly because I’ve lived through a lot of shit and managed to glean a few bits of helpful hints along the way.
Another problem with blogs is that they tend to be all about selling, and selling things makes me feel scabby. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with selling – my son is excellent at it, and I’ve had other great salespeople in the family. It just doesn’t work for me. I’ll give almost anything away if someone wants it, I’m physically incapable of handing one of my books to someone and receiving cash in the other hand . Then again, I have deep-seated money issues, as so many people do, so it’s little wonder. I think I should have been born fabulously wealthy – I’d give most of the money away and I wouldn’t have to worry about things.

But I also have another blog where I faithfully write at least once a week, seldom talking about writing, just talking about my life, and I decided to move that over here and add in writing stuff as well. This way if people are interested they can engage, and it won’t seem like I’m ignoring things. One thing I do promise – I won’t ask stupid questions to get web traffic. I’ll ask questions because I want to know the answer.

Let’s see – today is Wednesday. I can try for every Wednesday, or pick a different day, but I’m going to start checking in here on a regular basis.

Here’s what I’ve been doing.

I belong on an episode of Hoarders, and while I’ve been working on it for years (I’ve stopped buying things and I donate bags and boxes of stuff all year long) it’s still out of control. I love the calm of a clean house, I just don’t love it enough to do it.

But it was time to attack our bedroom. It’s been a disaster for more than six months, and when I facetimed with my son Tim on Friday he was horrified, and he grew up with me as a mother. (The mother of one of my kids’ friends once told me I was put on earth to make other women feel better about their housekeeping). I should have taken photos of before — I had some, but it got substantially worse before I finally had enough. So I dove in, and made surprisingly good progress. If I get really energetic I’ll upload some before and after photos.

And I’ve been writing after a fitful couple of years where I stopped and started a number of things. My shoulder went haywire and I ended up having it replaced, so the combination of the physical issues of typing and the time surgery and PT took, added with the toll that anesthesia takes on your creativity, and I’ve spent a lot of time drifting and rewriting. Then I ended up with no new contract (the case for most of the writers I know given the sudden shift in publishing and the virtual death of mass market) which, being a traditional writer I found depressing. Plus the book I was working on was a royal pain in the butt.

But it’s done, and I’m working on getting it out ASAP – it’s finally Brandon and Emma, and I’ll tell you all about it next time.

But first … The Shape of Water. (An endless moment of rapturous grinning ensues).
Just … so wonderful. Not like the rampart scene in Last of the Mohicans or the bed scene in The Big Easy, more along the lines of the end of the Big Easy,when they’re dancing. I just sat in the movie theater with a big smile on my face, the one that Richie calls my Disney smile. It appears when I first arrive at Disney World. It appeared when I found out I was having a granddaughter. It’s sheer, innocent joy untrammeled by reality. You don’t find that very often, but I found it last night. I’m still smiling.

A good portion of the audience was bemused. It’s got a difficult premise (not difficult for me – I swallowed it whole, but many people aren’t as eager to throw themselves into fantasy as I am). But the Oscar nominations thrilled me, and if you’re open-minded I recommend it highly.

I’m going to toss a writing nugget out there every time as well, and I’ll start out with one of the most contentious. You’ve heard all about “no prologues, epilogues or flashbacks.” My BFF Crusie (I have two, Jennifer Crusie and Sally, my BFF from childhood) – anyway, Crusie believes in the rule with steely-eyed resolve.

Not me. Tools are made to be used, rules are made to be broken. For every reason not to use the three, there are strong viable reasons to use them. I know why writers and others hate them – prologues, epilogues and flashbacks are not the story you’re reading. They exist in another time, and in the best of worlds the book should be all about what’s happening on the screen, not other times.

But sometimes there’s no better way to do it. I find a good rule of thumb is to see if there’s any possible way to avoid them. If you can pass important background information without a flashback, do so. Same with the prologue. As for an epilogue (the one I do most) you try to set up the book so that you know they’re going to have a happy ending without a scene with a dozen babies.

BUT — I write really terse endings. I don’t like 5 pages of mush and oh my darlings after everything’s been resolved. My favorite ending is the one from NIGHTFALL, and it’s very … abrupt.

Because of that, in my historical in particular, epilogues can be very useful, sometimes even necessary to ensure that the battling couple really does live HEA. And I’m thinking of writing some epilogues to some of my older books, now that 20 years has passed, to see where my couples are now.

So those are my grandiose plans. Writing tips, popular culture (movies, men, music), regular life and epilogues. It should be fun.

You’ve got your movie suggestion. Your song of the day: America’s Sweetheart by Elle King.

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