It’s freaking freezing here. It’s almost 11 and it’s 57 degrees a week before the fourth of July. I just had to close the window beside me, and I’m tough. I don’t button my coat until it’s ten degrees above zero (anyone remember the old song, “The Logger”? That’s me.) Not sure if we’re going to have much of a summer.

I went down to NJ to visit my Best Pal, Jenny Crusie, and we talked and cuddled dogs and went to Wonder Woman and shopped and talked and talked and talked. All of my close friends around here have moved, leaving me with only acquaintances and I tend to bemoan the fact, but you know, the quality of my friendships with people like Jenny is so high it’s a good trade-off.

Still fighting the epic battle of revising Brandon and Emma (I was a about three quarters done when I could go no further, and I’ve practically written a new book since then). The good news is, it’s going to be excellent once it’s done – I’m getting rid of all the fluff, even if I loved it, and I’ll put the best fluff here. I’ve got a number of goodies, like a deleted love scene from WARRIOR (one of the Kristina Douglas books) and some cool stuff from others that, much as I love it, just doesn’t fit. William Faulkner said “Kill your darlings” and I dutifully do so, but every now and then I like to revisit them.

There are some fabulous books out there – I listened to the Audie winner for best romance, DIRTY by Kylie Scott (excellent), WHITE HOT by Ilona Andrews (worth the wait), the latest Patricia Briggs, with a new Jay Crownover, the female Sherlock Holmes from Sherry Thomas, and so many other good things to read. I think there’s a new Meredith Duran coming out, plus tons of others. I’d love to hear recommendations if anyone has any.

New reissues (revised and cleaned up a bit but not necessarily updated – some of the stories belong in the time they were written). BREAK THE NIGHT is my Jack the Ripper story. It was a RITA finalist, and I was was surprised to see physical copies of the paperback are starting at $40 some dollars. Yikes. This was my one book for Silhouette Shadows, the short-lived paranormal line that produced so many wonderful books. Maggie Shayne had vampires, someone else had werewolves, so I said “I’ll do Jack the Ripper!” thinking gaslight and lurking evil etc.

Unfortunately I had no idea how gross Saucy Jack was. I got several books about him, then was horrified to discover that there were pictures of the crime scenes, of mutilated bodies! He was really, really foul – he didn’t cut throats, he cut parts …
Anyway, my darling niece paper clipped those pages together for me so I wouldn’t have to see them while I read about him.  I still had to wallow in the stuff in order to write the book, and in the end it was worth it, but next time I’ll do a little more research before I raise my hand and say “me, me, me!”

The book is all about reincarnation in modern day Venice, California – the hero and the heroine have shadowy memories, and they’re tied in with a new spate of killings. The hero, a freelance journalist on the edge, is horribly afraid he might be the reincarnation of Jack the Ripper himself.

For some reason the French love it – they reissued it three times. I went in and cleaned things up a bit, took out any clunky phrasing, added to the love scenes (of course), caught any mistakes (I think this was the one where the heroine’s eye color changed throughout the book). But it’s a good ‘un, part of the Greatest Hits collection (One More Valentine, Cinderman, Blue Sage, Night of the Phantom, and The Soldier, the Nun and the Baby).

And if you have a Kindle Fire, today is the day you can buy the House of Russell series (Never Kiss etc) for a special price. I need to dig out my Fire and see – I’m usually on the Paperwhite since you can read outdoors with it. But if you haven’t read them it might be a good way.

And one of my absolutely best books, NIGHTFALL, is on sale for the rest of the month for $1.99 at Amazon.

But you know, I don’t like selling books, I like talking. Go buy the new Ilona Andrews or something else – just read. It’s the most glorious thing in the world – sometimes it feels like the only safe place. At least, that’s the way it’s always been for me.


Welcome to my new headquarters!

Oooh, cool. I’m on new software, and it’s actually the same as my old software, and suddenly I can do all the things that were such a pain in the butt in the old blog program (I shall name no names). The sun is shining, the revisions are going well, and all’s right with the world.

But … I’m not getting enough work done in my allotted time, and I have all these books I want to write. Granted, I took a number of false turns with the MIP (Mess in Progress), the final book in the Rohan saga (unless I find Brother Charles salvageable and kill his wife). So I’ve tossed 20 pages here and 20 pages there (don’t worry – I’ll toss ’em up on the website later on). I’m ripping and rewriting and adding and subtracting but I don’t seem to be making progress quickly enough. Maybe I’m a little gun-shy – I kept plowing ahead with this (tentatively called HEARTLESS), thinking I could fix it in revisions, until I got so tangled up that I couldn’t go any further. I’m wary of traveling down that same road, so I may be overthinking. I’m a very instinctive writer – too much left-brain activity isn’t good for me.

I suppose all I can do is keep my head down and keep going and stop being so hard on myself. Books take as long as they need to get written, and this one seems to be taking its time. Barbara Keiler (Judith Arnold) used to say she wrote the easy ones first. For me, some are easy and some are hard and some are such a pain in the butt that I never want to read them again (I will name no names). Some of them are a massive pain in the butt and I adore them.

The longer I write (and I’ve been writing a long time) the less certain I am that I know anything about writing at all. I’ve been saving writing tips on Pinterest that I might eventually find useful (it’s not all sewing and doll clothes for me ) and working on being even more disciplined. Maybe I just need to cut myself some slack and keep going.

So masquerade romantic suspense in Spain has to wait. Revenge porn has to wait. Finale to the Fallen series has to wait. RAF pilot has to wait.  So many, many things that I want to write have to wait their turn.

Usually I love revising, but right now I want nothing more than to dive back into the book with more sex, violence, humor, passion — all those nice juicy things that usually aren’t in the revisions. I’m just not feeling like an editor right now.

Okay, enough crabbing. I’m so glad Mollie change my website – this software I know how to handle.

For now, though, it’s back to work!

Revising Old Books

Sometime I’m really going to have to learn how to use Squarespace, but I’m like most people – I jump right into a program or a piece of technology and it’s only under duress that I RTFM (Read The Fucking Manual). But I digress.

That’s a very old book of mine – Banish Misfortune (which belatedly all the editors realized you said Banish Mishfortune if you weren’t careful)l. When Harlequin was finally going to reprint it they were going to change the title, but then we took it back and I’m going to leave it, because Banish Misfortune is a wonderful old fiddle tune that’s important to the story (and if I knew more about Squarespace I could put a youtube video or music file right here). Editors grab titles out of nowhere (think A Rose at Midnight) and sometimes we writers can save the day (I was given the title One More Valentine but I managed to put it into the book is a really interesting way). You remember I’m somewhat overfond of my own writing, right? I’ve never written a ghastly book, but some could easily disappear and I wouldn’t shed a tear, and others, to me, are absolutely brilliant. Revising my older books has been an instructive journey, but this particular book is unlike all others.

This was written in 1983, on a typewriter (God help me). Back then Harlequin American had just started, and they decided they wanted a single title off-shoot – this was one of their many experiments before they finally got it right with Mira. I think there were five of us who wrote these – they were called Harlequin American Premier Editions. But like most of HQ’s early single-title experiments it foundered, and BANISH MISFORTUNE, the third of the five books they put out, had a total of just over 5,000 copies sold. That, at a time when romances were selling insanely well, was absurd.

Since then (early 1985, it turns out) it’s never been republished, also unknown in the Harlequin universe, and had no foreign sales. Which is no big deal except it won the precursor of the RITA that year (called the Golden Medallion, but RWA considers it a RITA for statistics’ sake). To my amusement it beat out a Lavyrle Spencer book (albeit a minor one). And damn, it’s a good book. But …

I’ve noticed going through all these older books that there wasn’t much editing done. I knew that anyway – I’d sometimes get mss. back with not a pencil mark on them – I think BLACK ICE didn’t have red marks until page 117 (that stuck in my mind). Now BLACK ICE is one of my best books, but even I, in my own inflated self-esteem, know i’m not that good. I think part of the problem was that I was uber-literate compared to some of the other writers – I was published when I was 25, I grew up in an academic family so grammar, sentence structure, all the technical stuff were ingrained in me, and editors seldom had to bother, so they kept attention on the ones who needed more help. (That’s not all of my books, of course, and I had some real howlers, including one where, in technically grammatical terms the hero was wearing pink panties and a lace bra instead of the heroine he was looking at.)

I caught a lot of the more ghastly ones, which I’ll tell you about later. But in the meantime, I have BANISH MISFORTUNE back in my lap, and I’m shocked, shocked I tell you.

For one thing, I head hop! Oh, the humanity! It’s one thing I find very difficult in other writers – there are some lovely books with mixed POV, but I never write them, never read them, have always considered them even worse than Jenny Crusie considers flashbacks and epilogues (and for her those are practically moral crimes). I have no idea how I could have done it it – at first I wanted to blame the editor but it happens too often for it to be someone else fucking up my book. We just go along in the heroine’s POV, where she’s looking at the hero and thinking how hot he is (or something like that) and suddenly we have a paragraph of him thinking how hot she is. Not a great crime for most people, but it is for me, and my husband’s been listening to me howling while I go through the mss.

I can only blame the typewriter. The process is so different, and while you’re mentally in the story the entire time, you’re not physically in all of it when some of it is down on paper and some of it is in the machine, beneath your fingers. I haven’t run into this before, but then, my first five books were first person, making it an non-issue. But the other ones I wrote around that time weren’t similarly afflicted.

I’ve probably written over 100 books and novellas in my 46-year career, and going back over them, picking and choosing the decades they were written, has been incredibly enlightening. Some treasures bored and embarrassed me. Some throw-aways turned out to be brilliant. But this one has been a revelation.

For one thing, it’s painfully autobiographical. Several friends of mine, like Kathleen Gilles Seidel and Donna Ball (Rebecca Flanders) had already written long books and needed a place for them to be published. (I think Kathy’s brilliant one, AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, won the RITA the year before I did.) Some of us were simply given a contract to write one, like me and Beverly Sommers, a wonderful writer (if you ever find her stuff in a used bookstore you should grab it). Anyway, I was young, and I had the impression that it was supposed to be Women’s Fiction (before anything was called Women’s Fiction) so I went for the jugular – my own. I described my dysfunctional family dynamic, the suicide attempts, I combined characters and split other ones, but as I read through it again everything gave me an unsettling feeling of deja vu. I’d lived all of that and in the years since I wrote it, I’d blessedly forgotten a lot of it. Sigh.

That was okay, though painful. It has the absolute ring of emotional truth because it is the truth, making for a complex main character (who’s painfully thin and borderline anorexic when the book opens, so all resemblance to me quickly disappeared ). Once I accepted the hard truths I then dove into the head-hopping. Urp.

When I rewrite books I don’t want to update them – rather I try to take away phrases that set it in a particular time. I don’t put cell phones and the internet in, because that makes such a huge difference in plot (since almost all my books have some kind force of evil that has to be overcome. Not in this very different book, though). So I started stripping stuff out (she wore designer clothes by very ’80s designers, etc). Since this was a long book I had a secondary love story, and that heroine came a lot from me as well – she lived the life I was living when I wrote it (though fortunately I had the love of my life with me), she drank the wine I drank back then, she wore the clothes and lived in one of my family’s houses (my main heroine lived in another one). I set it in Vermont, technically 70 miles from where I live, but mentally the same small town, with the names of the now-dead postmaster and farmers, and I don’t write books set in the place I’ve lived in for the past 46 years and visited every year before it. I don’t know why, I just don’t, but I did this time.

So I’m back in this microcosm of a time I once lived, and it’s rattling. I was almost at the end when I finally realized that I didn’t want to move this out of time. The place it existed is a place of truth, and updating designers and cars weakened it. Now BANISH MISFORTUNE (and hell, I may change the title) exists in 1985, with a new, final chapter set in the present.

When I was a kid I used to read Nancy Drews (of course) and for some reason I really loved the ones set in the 1930s, before they started updating them. I loved her snappy little roadster, etc., but clearly most people wanted them to feel current. Anyone got an opinion on this? It would probably work better for people if I did my date-less update, bt the feel and sense of the time is so rich for me that I really don’t want to.

Ah, well. I imagine it’ll come out some time in May.

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.