Writer’s Block

See, I actually used to write my books on a typewriter.  That photo was taken when I was on my fifth or sixth published book, and needless to say I was a baby. In some ways I miss my typewriter – I liked the neat little clack of the keys, the pile of papers that would accumulate. I don’t miss typos and corrections and having to type three drafts (which I did in the beginning) or having to consider whether one small change was worth having to retype the whole damned page.  And I adore technology.  I just really loved my typewriter.

OMG, I realized I’m wearing the same ring that I wore back then!  How bizarre.  Then again, it’s an amber ring from Denmark that my mother gave me, so maybe that isn’t so odd.  Still, we’re talking at least thirty-five years ago.  The mind boggles.

Anyway, before I got distracted … I’m having trouble with, for want of a better word, Writer’s Block.  Except I do need a better word – for me “block” is when the words aren’t coming.  Sort of like being constipated – you strain and strain and nothing.  (Not that I know anything about that, of course).  I know what I want to write, where the story is going, what my characters are feeling, but something always seems to get in the way of me settling down to write.

But not writing makes me feel restless and uneasy.  I was talking with my therapist (oh, yes, I have a therapist – I come from two families with long histories of mental illness,  My mother probably had a borderline personality along with her depression, and my father was bipolar and an alcoholic).  Anyway, I was talking with my therapist and I came up with the notion that I should have affirmations.  Now usually I don’t like affirmations – they feel like lies you tell yourself to make you feel better. But Kim said they need to be the right affirmations, something that feels true.  She also suggested visualization but you know, I’m a word person.  Picturing myself happily writing doesn’t do it for me.

But somehow affirmations felt right for this situation, so my task was to come up with affirmations on my drive home.

It was a piece of cake.  In short order I came up with this, typed it up in a pretty font and printed it on parchment.

You love to write
Stories are your safe place
You like your own stories best
You feel secure and strong when you write
Only you can tell your stories
You love to write
It’s who you are
You’re really really good at what you do
You love to write
You love to tell stories
You love to make up stories
You love heroes and strong women
When do we get to the love part?
You love to write.

Yeah, I realize I’m fatuous when it comes to my own work but you know, if I didn’t love my stories then why would I bother?

This list of affirmations feels really good to me.  I considered putting it in “I” format, but I like “you” better.  Because I need to remind that recalcitrant, easily distracted female who happens to be me right now.

Your mileage may vary. You might prefer visualization, or despise affirmations, or like grandiose lies like “I will be number one on the NYT list.” That actually works for some people, and I respect that, but it’s not right for me.

If any of your are writers I’d be interested in seeing what kind of affirmations work for you. In fact, affirmations can be helpful in any endeavor. Feel like sharing?

Life As We Know It.

Well, you know, I could come on here and try to push my books, which is probably what anyone who reads my blog is interested in, but that’s why I never post.  I have another place where I talk about everything under the sun, and you know, I think I’m gonna do it here too.  I’ll tag the writing posts, but in the meantime I’m not big on commercial relationships.  I like friends, and whether you like it or not, my children, I consider you friends.

So, anyway, how did you guys survive the blizzard, those of you who had it? We got thirty inches or more, coming down at 4 inches per hour at times, with a strong wind. Every school in the state was closed, and we know how to deal with snow in Vermont. Now we’re opening windows (it’s only 50 or so but it’s nice to get fresh air.)  New England, lovely as it is, ain’t for sissies, but I’m Wonder Woman.  Actually I’m Sister Yoda, the impeccably demure (or do I want to be Mother Yoda?) also known as the All-Knowing Trash Heap aka Madame Heap (from Fraggle Rock).  I’ve been in this business for so long I’ve got knowledge bursting out my ears, and I have a memory for tiny, inconsequential things.  Nowadays the only thing I forget are appointments, and, since I’m teaching myself Danish, some of the French words that were second nature.  But in my quest to maintain and increase my fabulousness I’m embracing my Danish roots, gnarly as they are.

Speaking of being fabulous, I’ve decided I have to go back swimming again. I feel like I’m living in a coffin-shaped box – that’s about how much I move and can move because of arthritis (and probably the fibromyalgia but I like to ignore that). It’s only in the water that I can really stretch out. It takes time and money, but neither price is crushing – I can swim for $100 for 6 months and the pool is available from 6 am to 8 pm (with two hours off in the afternoon for students). The drive takes about half an hour, but if I lived in NYC or near traffic it would take that long or longer – it’s 24 miles away). All the time changing and showering is time I don’t waste at home doing the same thing (I go under the shower before I get in the pool). I can’t walk, my replaced shoulder is incredibly stiff and painful, and my body’s become a prison. Plus, I usually get a lot of mobility in the summer when I work in the theater, and the Forces of Evil have destroyed our wonderful theater group, so I gotta do something before it makes it too hard to sit in a chair and type (the bad shoulder doesn’t help things).  If I can’t write I may as well be in a coffin.

I’ve lost another 30 pounds in the last year and the weight is staying off (though not dropping lower – it would be lovely to drop below 220 lbs. and stay there for a while.) I guess I need to put a little more effort into it, but right now it’s absolutely painless – I don’t lust for sugar and fried food and huge amounts. But I could probably cut healthy carbs back a little.

It’s nice when it’s no longer vanity motivating me. My relationship with vanity has always been contentious (I think that’s true for most people). My sister was beautiful, and she always made it clear to me that she was the pretty one. That backfired because she started feeling that being pretty was her only value, and she basically ate herself to death (the death certificate said her death was caused by COPD complicated by obesity). But in fact I’ve been going through old photos and looking at myself dispassionately and realizing I’ve always felt way too negative about myself. I remember about 50 years ago Buffalo Springfield had a song about “pretty girl, why not love me?” I wept because I wasn’t a pretty girl. And you know, I was. Almost all 18 year old girls are.

Me, my sister Taffy and my brother Dougal

Feeling good feels a lot better than looking good, and that’s my goal. Tomorrow I will lumber onto the scale – nope, that’s too negative. I will trip lightly onto the scale, face the music, and move on.

I can’t fix everything (there’s a stunner!) and I can’t fix much, but there are things I can do.

So tell me, what’s up for you guys? Anyone serious about their weight and their mobility right now? Or is work a major consideration? Family? I’ve got all three things pulling at me, and the body tends to be the first thing to go by the wayside but I’ve got to spend time on me if I want to do all those other things. Seems I’ve got energy right now.

I’m working on Emma and Brandon’s story from the House of Rohan Universe, plus playing with a black comedy new adult (since I’m an old adult I’m not sure how I’ll pull that off) and reworking old books for reprint.

So tell me what you’re doing.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Hello, my children!  What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than with a new book?  WILDFIRE is the latest in the FIRE and ICE books – a member of Committee travels undercover to a private island in the Gulf of Mexico.  His job is to terminate the megalomaniac who lives there who’s trafficking in weapons of mass destruction.  Getting in his way will be Sophie, the man’s wife, and a former agent herself.  She’d had the original mission, and instead she’d fallen in love with the man and betrayed the Committee.  His orders are to terminate her if she gets in the way, otherwise leave her to herself.

But that was before he saw her.

Lots of sex, just a soupçon of violence, an evil, megalomaniac billionaire (is there any other kind?) and you have WILDFIRE!  It’s out in audio with Jill Redfield, a wonderful narrator, in paper and in e-book format.

On top of that, the first two in the current series, Driven by Fire and Consumed by Fire are on sale this month, both in paper and in ebook format, plus they’ll go on sale in the UK around February 20th, I think.  And who doesn’t love a bargain?

Anyway, lots of good stuff out there, and I’m really pleased with WILDFIRE.  The hero is loosely based on Hiddles, though I’d already finished writing it when NIGHT MANAGER came out.  Probably just as well – I might have gotten carried away.  If Hiddles isn’t your cuppa (foolish people) then Daniel Craig or anyone else sinuously sexy and lethal will do.  Head on over to Pinterest if you want to see some photos I gathered for inspiration at the time I was writing it.

In the meantime I’m busy writing the final Rohan book, HEARTLESS, the story (at last!) of Emma and Brandon.  I’m just at the point where I’m about to put them in bed together, and it will be a complete disaster on almost every level.  Can’t wait!

(I feel like I’m catching up with long lost friends – sorry I get so distracted and forget to come here).  Anyway, politics and this country are insane, the winter up in Vermont is very cold and very long, I’m playing with dolls (using my child’s American Girl dolls to dress them like my characters) and learning Danish, which I find highly entertaining (I’m 50% Danish, and in a melting pot like America being 50% anything is unusual).

This is my Danish family in the 1930s – the little old lady is my great grandmother, my mother is to the right and my grandmother to the left. They travelled through Nazi Germany to visit the old country when my mother had a fellowship.

Coming soon will be reissues of some of my very best books, like NIGHT OF THE PHANTOM.  In the meantime, WILDFIRE was an absolute treat to write, and I tend to feel the ones that practically write themselves are some of the very best.

Go forth and purchase!  http://tinyurl.com/zmteodv

Golden Days Ahead!

I live in one of the most beautiful areas of the country – northern Vermont – and autumn is amazing. The leaves have the most astounding colors – crimson, orange, flame, coral. Everywhere you go there is enough color to make your eyes bleed, and we all talk about when “peak” is – the day when the color is at its height. Once that’s past and the color starts fading and leaves start falling to the ground people tend to think it’s all over and nothing but winter ahead. But that’s when one of my favorite times come – what I call the Golden Time. The bright leaves turn gold, half of them end on the ground, the rest still on the trees, the tamaracks, which normally just look like evergreens, turn a rusty gold, and when the sun hits it gold everywhere. It’s a more subtle beauty, but gorgeous nonetheless, a perfect time for walks (the deer hunters aren’t out there yet) with the smell of woodsmoke in the air.

Which brings me to the big push I’ve been working toward. In the next month we’re doing a massive group of releases of what I call Krissie’s Greatest Hits (well, Anne Stuart’s Greatest Hits). We started with CINDERMAN, which we released today. I rewrite and expand the books, taking out clunky stuff and adding (usually more characterization and more sex), but when I read them it’s almost like reading something new from a favorite author. Obviously I write to my own fantasies, so Anne Stuart knows exactly what I like. And CINDERMAN was an absolute hoot! It would make a terrific tv movie, with the t-shirt wearing heroine, the grumpy professional, the paranormal comedy. We’re starting this at a $.99 introductory price, to be followed by THE SOLDIER, THE NUN AND THE BABY (it’s original title – Harlequin changed it to THE SOLDIER AND THE BABY), BLUE SAGE, NIGHT OF THE PHANTOM, and ONE MORE VALENTINE. CINDER MAN, THE SOLDIER AND THE BABY and ONE MORE VALENTINE were all RITA finalists. NIGHT OF THE PHANTOM was one of the 10 Best Books of the Year (RWA did that for a few years in the ’90s).

Then, towards the end of November, Belle Bridge Books will released BREAK THE NIGHT, another RITA finalist and my Jack the Ripper story for the late lamented Silhouette Shadows imprint.

These are some of my finest books from one of my most fertile periods, and I’ve had a blast going through them – a happy respite from the political news that churns my stomach (I shall say no more. At least, at this point).

So grab CINDERMAN while it’s cheap – it’s sexy, funny and ridiculous. The hero and heroine get slimed in a lab accident and he becomes a super-hero, of course: he’s invisible for two hours in the morning and the evening and when he wiggles his nose and blinks he can set things on fire. They have to go one the run from the bad guys, keeping low as he practices his fire-starting skills in the forest of northern California (it wasn’t a drought back then). And think of the sexual possibilities of invisible sex!

Chief Eagle Feather Rides Again!

I spend my summers acting.  Sometimes I’m a Shakespearian court member or a soprano in the chorus, sometimes I’ve got something juicier. I don’t really care — I just love being a part of our wonderful group.  I’m greedy, so this year I’m in both productions, Annie Get Your Gun and To Kill a Mockingbird.  For Annie I’m Chief Eagle Feather, complete with blonde hair and Danish complexion, as well as singing as high as an A (below high C).  Don’t think I could sing a B or a C, but fortunately I’m not called to.  And our theater group, Greensboro Art Alliance and Residency (GAAR( is wonderful in finding ways for me to participate even though I can barely walk right now.  I just limp onstage and cop and squat, then do lines or sing from that vantage point.

In Mockingbird I’m a 98 year old racist/morphine addict.  I was also supposed to weigh 98 pounds but that seemed unlikely.  Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose is downright nasty, but beneath it all she’s a romantic.  I can’t really soften her much, but I’m having fun saying awful things to the actors playing Scout and Jem.

Unfortunately I haven’t gotten much writing done.  So today I’ve printed up what I have of HEARTLESS (working title for Brandon and Emma) and I’ll work on that during the downtime.  I’m in three scenes in Act One and not sure how many in Act Two.  In Mockingbird I’m dead by Act Two, so that should give me lots of time to work before curtain calls.

Acting is a great way to open your mind up to different forms of creativity.  It’s easy-peasy for me to create a backstory for my characters, to know them in and out.  It gets my mind going in different directions, which is always a good thing.  And most of the actors (lots of them Equity members from NYC) are wonderful, particularly our artist in residence, Marla Shaffel, who was nominated for a Tony award for lead actress in a musical a few years ago.  We’ve got a couple of stinkers, and every year I make a tentative gesture of friendliness towards them, only to be iced out.  And then I ignore them.  I do have a hard time understanding why people are unpleasant when it’s so much nicer to be warm and sharing, but that’s the way it is.  I’m not cut our for a competitive environment (one reason I haven’t gone to RWA for a number of years.  The other reason is that’s our theater season, and I get a lot more joy and satisfaction out of the plays).

Some summers I’ve written every spare moment and cherished the time I had.  (Two summers ago).  Some summers I’ve written grudgingly and resented it but I had a deadline (last year).  This year my only deadline is my own, and I intend to do exactly what I want to do.  Which is write this book — I need to live partly in my fantasy world to feel truly alive – and rehearse and hobble around and be glad I’m not in the madhouse at San Diego (though San Diego is a wonderful city).

Next year’s going to be a harder decision — it’s a choice between GAAR and our brand new multi-million dollar theater or Disney World.  And I really really love Disney World.

Fortunately I don’t have to decide this year.  I just have to get to rehearsal in 45 minutes and sing my little heart out as a Scandinavian Native American.