Heat Wave

Well, I tried to be really good and do another post but WordPress was being wonky. It’s working now and it’s too hot to do anything else, so here goes.

Just read the new Susan Elizabeth Phillips and it was WONDERFUL! (Yes, I’m shouting). Just fabulous. SEP can’t write a bad book, and she’s always fun, but this one was superlative, and the audio version rocks! I highly recommend it.

Been reading older Sandra Brown novels too, and they’re fun but a bit hard-boiled. The love story isn’t front and center, the mystery is, (I’d call them suspense rather than romantic suspense) but she’s another one who can’t write a bad book.

It’s been too hot here (hotter in northern Vermont that in NJ) to do much but sit in front of a fan and read, though I do have two quilt tops basted and ready to go. It’s just too hot to start, but maybe if I do it first thing in the morning that’ll work. Thing is, Richie and I always sit on the deck with our coffee in the morning and talk, and I don’t want to give that up. Still, I can get started earlier. (update – I started quilting until the free motion foot loosened and fell off and broke the needle).

I need to find a book to swoon over. I just bought hardcover editions of two of my favorite books (My Lord Monleigh and Bride of MacHugh) from ABE book so I’ll probably dive into them when they arrive.

The good news is that THE ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY WORST MAN IN ENGLAND, SCOTLAND AND WALES is ready for my editor. My number one reader loved it, and I’m feeling happy happy happy with it. Now for all the extra work – the cover, the editing, the advertising, etc. (I don’t send the book to Jenny at this point because our finished products are so different – she micromanages and I paint with magic markers. If I gave it to her now she’d try to turn it into a Crusie, and while a real Crusie is incomparable, a Krissie-Crusie would end up like Frankenstein.)

In the meantime, I recommend you all seek out a favorite book to reread. More suggestions, please. I’m reading (I blush to admit it) TANGLED LIES because it’s one of my all-time favorites, and looking forward to the new Sarah MacLean Bareknuckle Bastards (all of this via Audible, because that’s how I roll).

And now, I can throw myself into the new/old book that I started a few years ago and got shot down on. That’s the lovely thing about indie-publishing. You can write your heart’s desire and no one’s gonna bitch about hooks and the market. Ah, Freedom (even if it comes at the price of all that annoying business stuff).

Happy Fourth of July out there. Stay in your backyards, wear masks, and think of your fellow woman/man. Cheers!

I’m Baaaack

So, okay, we know I’m terrible at keeping this blog up to date. I keep making promises and utterly failing, but I’m always hopeful. Maybe I actually write something every Monday.

So what’s been happening to me while the world has been falling apart (at this point I will keep away from politics – just know I’m as bleeding-heart liberal bordering on anarchist that you can imagine)? Anyway, Covid hit and I’m been locked in the house with my gorgeous husband of 45 years with nowhere to go. Perfect time to write a book, right?

Nope. I may have baked everything under the sun, but I did not want to write, even though I had a book that was two-thirds done. You know all those rules about writing? Apply the seat of your pants to the seat of the chair. Just sit at the typewriter and open a vein. Write whether you feel like it or not.

Uh, that can be dangerous. Because I rewrote the 2/3 of a book that I had, and finally got to the love scene, and it took me days to get them in bed. And unlike some of my prissier sisters, I love to write sex. It’s central to my adult love stories – if characters have sex I want to hear about it. It changes everything in a story, it’s immensely important, and yet I couldn’t make my couple do it. And when they finally did, I was left feeling … meh. Mind you, it was good sex. I just didn’t care.

I spent the next month or so finishing the book, working so slowly I was afraid I’d lost my mojo. I really got worried when I wrote the end – I did at at a rate of 500 words a day. Now when I finish a book I zoom through it, because everything’s coming together and the action is high and I usually write at least 10,000 words straight (Which is about 4-5 hours work if the words are coming). So, okay, my career was over, the book I wanted to get back to was going to suck and I’d hate it and if this miserable experience was my writing life from now on then I was going to say fuck it and quit.

Fortunately I have people like Crusie and Lynda Ward to talk me down. Plus my therapist. So I put the wretched finished mss. to one side for a couple of weeks, and read the next thing I was going to work on. It was clumsy, it was awkward. But it was riveting.

So I went back to my hated mss. and realized I simple had to throw out that last third of the book (Oh, the humanity!) I did. Went back to before they had sex and changed it completely and then everything began to fall into place. I have no idea how that happened – in the past when I’ve gone in the wrong direction I catch it in a chapter or two. I just didn’t listen to myself this time. Didn’t listen to the girls in the basement (speaking of which, isn’t Barbara O’Neal doing splendidly nowadays? I love it when a friend hits the big time.)

So now I’m almost done, and it works, thank God. No strange directions and characters doing things that make sense but aren’t right. Taking a look at the flawed book, it could have been a perfectly decent book. I ticked all the boxes (not literally) with motivation, character development, plot coming to a big finale, bad guys conquered. It just wasn’t my book. You’d think after all these years I’d trust my instincts, but my instincts were way off.

Now I just need one of the 10,000 days and it’ll be done. And I just gotta hope I learned my lesson.

I spent part of the quarantine rereading old favorites, like Mine Til Midnight by Lisa Kleypas, and When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James, and Cotillion by Georgette Heyer (which I love as an adult but didn’t care for as a young ‘un).

Did any of you revisit beloved old favorites? There’s such a comfort in them. If you wanted to reread something, what would you pick? (I need some new keepers to discover).

See you next Monday. I swear!

Return to Thanksgiving

So, RETURN TO CHRISTMAS has been out a little than a week and I’m getting nervous (of course) but it seems to be doing well enough. There are all these rules and algorithms for indie publishing and I can only manage the bare minimum, but I’ll keep at it, and I’m hoping word of mouth will help. You all have mouths out there – go spread the word. I really love that book!

But it’s Thanksgiving, so I thought I’d list a bunch of things I’m thankful for. There are the usual suspects – my amazing husband, my two children, my grandchildren. I’m grateful for my friends, I’m grateful for my two surrogate sisters, Jenny and Sally, for the cats, Lille and Donnerpaus, for living in Vermont with our excellent services and representatives. I’m grateful there’s only a year of Trump left (please god), that Tom Hiddleston is doing a Loki series (hell, I’m just grateful there’s a Tom Hiddleston) and my sewing machines and my chair and did I mention my husband?

But most of all, I’m grateful for my gift. it’s my vocation, it’s my curse, it’s my joy. I started writing romantic novels in 5th grade (I’m serious – Troy Donahue and a round bed). Stories are everything to me, particularly stores where two people become partners, lovers and friends, and I can write stories that fill my heart. They’re not for everyone, but for me I can make them exactly what I want, and any time I feel put-upon or sorry for myself I think of that gift and said “Life’s not so bad after all.” (And trust me, there have been so pretty horrid times).

It really does make sense to count your blessings. My mother always felt that life had done her wrong, but in truth she was smart, a brilliant writer, she had wonderful children, a troubled husband who loved her. She had good jobs where she was appreciated, she had a rich life after retirement, and she had tons of younger friends who thought of her as a role model. And yet she felt bitter and resentful and it was everyone else’s fault (including the universe). If she’d ever stopped to think about the good things she could have been so much happier.

But yes, I’m even grateful for my emotionally-abusive, crazy-ass parents. They did the best they could. Never should have had children, but then, there would never have been a glorious me, and the world would be a poorer place (I’m not entirely facetious).

So I guess, most of all, I’m grateful for me, and I think that’s the sign of a well-lived life. I hope that all of you feel the same.

Er, grateful for yourself, not for me. But hey, if being grateful I’m me floats your boat then go for it. I’ll take all the help I can get.

IT’S OUT!

So RETURN TO CHRISTMAS debuted on Friday amid record-breaking temperatures (cold, of course) and more snow. When you write a book there are worlds you want to be in, world that feel absolutely real to you. Actually, the same is true for the books you read, isn’t it? Well, that’s how Return to Christmas feels for me. I’ve always loved Macy’s – when I worked in New York city and went home on the weekends I’d walk down from the Time-Life Building (just across from Radio City) and always, always head into Macy’s before I went two blocks down to Penn Station. They sold fabric on the 8th floor, and you couldn’t charge food (I guess they felt there was no way to collect) and the entire place was a wonder.

There was a great book called THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER about two children who get locked in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which always sounded like pure heaven to me. Only Macy’s is better. I know just what I’d do: sleep in all the beds on the furniture floor, try on the most absurd pieces of clothing, drape myself in jewelry. Macy’s has everything, except, I’m quite sure, fabric, since you can’t buy fabric anywhere but Joanns nowadays. Back then I made my own clothes, including some very strange concoctions like a red satin flamenco dress and an Yves St. Laurent tailored suit. I worked for the Rockefeller Foundation, and they were very tolerant. One day I showed up in hot pants and my mother’s graduation robe and walked the halls like Groucho Marx, and of course I wrote a vampire novel about the denizens of the 41st floor (the title, CORN IS THE GLUE, came from a report I filed that said “Corn is the glue that holds together the lives of the people.” I was so horrified by the clumsiness of that line I had to immortalize it. The business office printed off a bunch of copies for everyone to enjoy.)

No wonder I’ve hard a hard time with regular jobs since then – most of my employers never had a sense of humor.

I lived in NYC to go to rock concerts – I was a rock ‘n roll nun. I saw Iggy Stooge/Iggy Pop in a tiny nightclub singing “I want to be your dog,” the Who when the Fillmore caught fire and Pete Townsend kicked one of NYC’s finest in the balls on stage before being evacuated. I saw Janis Joplin and Tina Turner sing together at Madison Square Garden (before the Stones came on), saw Ray Davies of the Kinks fall on his amplifiers after drinking too much, Eric Clapton in his “Layla” tour. Man, I saw everyone, and for the longest time rock and Macy’s was enough to make me happy, but eventually I had an epiphany, moved to Vermont to a town of 700 hundred where I didn’t know how to drive, and wrote my first book, which sold.

And after all those years I have so many more books to write that I don’t think I’ll ever quit. In fact I can’t imagine not writing – it’s who I am. So there’s tons more to come, but for now, you’ve got RETURN TO CHRISTMAS, my Christmas present to you.

THE COVER

5 days till RETURN TO CHRISTMAS debuts. (I’m counting today and Friday, the day it drops.) I’ve got a cover I adore, things are lining up, but the most important thing is that I wrote a book I love, even if it wasn’t the “smart” thing to do.

Did I ever tell you how much I love “Tin Cup” – the golf movie with Kevin Costner? (No, I don’t play golf). For me it’s a perfect metaphor for my take on creativity, and probably the reason I don’t quite play in the majors. I never, ever make the smart choice. When it comes to writing I go with my gut, every time. I never had a career plan, I’m wary of the very idea, at least as far as I’m concerned. With the books I write, I always lead with my heart.

So here’s the cover. In fact, I’ll show you the three stages. This is the first one – nice mood, but Santa needs to take a hike, and the hero was intrusive.

So I said nix the hero, nix Santa, taller buildings, nix the hat (all those were my original ideas – my cover person is so good). So we next had Mollie alone, looking up at the huge building. I loved this one, but Macy’s isn’t isolated (and for copyright issues we couldn’t use artwork with the real Macy’s).

Nice mood in that, and I loved the trees. But this was the final try, and the winner.

So did I make the right choice?