Blog

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.

Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel, Glædelig Jul

Happy Holidays, my children!

I had a truly stellar Christmas. Christmas Eve was just Richie and me – we stopped and visited with my BFF Sally after picking up some last minute things – I made seafood chowder, we lit all the candles, finished our decorating, then watched the George C. Scott version of a Christmas carol, in between face timing with Tim and the grandkids, as snow came down outside and goodwill abounded.

I was pretty tired. We’re having hellacious weather (lots of snow, some ice, and then the bottom of the thermometer is going to shatter) – so both of us snuggled down for a long winter’s nap (me listening to a cute Christmas romance on my iPhone, only to have it suddenly ring at 8 in the morning (we we exhausted so still sound asleep.) It was the grandkids in New Mexico, two hours earlier, opening their presents, excited and happy. I was on the iPad, the other grandparents on the iPhone, and we watched them romp around in joy. I’d made Christmas pajamas for all of them, and Alex was proudly wearing his (Ali was wearing hers later that day) from a large amount of Hello Kitty Christmas flannel I’d bought for Daniel when he was a kid, and they looked adorable.

We facetimed for a couple of hours, then I finally got to pee, then we had sausages and scrambled eggs, then my older child Daniel called on FT, and we watched him open his presents, and then honorary DIL Erin called for help on setting up the PS4 Pro we gave them, (2nd ft with them), while I was making Risalamande (traditional Danish Christmas dessert). Then my niece Jenny, the only one remaining from my family of origin, called me via FT, (she and my younger son Tim went out for early morning ski runs in Tahoe and then she took him out for a Christmas lunch, which was just perfect). Then grandson Alex again, then we went to my BFF Sally’s (I’d been planning to make Gløgg and Smørbrød but I crashed, cried a little, cheered up, got to Sally’s and immediately Facetimed with Tim and then with the grandkids again while they facetimed Tim on another device. Finally we went home and I had the best night’s sleep in my entire life.  The only person missing from my life was my other BFF, Crusie, but getting her to FaceTime or even talk on the phone is a major battle.

I’m sitting here this morning by the Christmas tree watching Hallmark movies and snuggling under my delicious new electric throw (which, since the temperature won’t be reaching 0 degrees for the next few days it will be very timely – a present from Sally).

So now I’ll sew and pick-up stuff and bake my grandmother’s julekage with no deadlines – we celebrate the entire week between Christmas and New Years. Life is quite wonderful. I have the best grandchildren in the world, wonderful friends (Jenny and Sally in particular), an excellent niece, fabulous children who seem to be emerging from long, difficult times. We won’t even mention that magnificent man I married. Plus two phenomenal cats.

I’m hard-wired to notice the good things around me – I think that’s partly why I’m happier than most people. Life is a banquet, and right now I have a groaning board.

October

My God it’s been a busy month.  Masses of stuff going on – the Russell books are on sale at Amazon for one more day, The Spinster and the Rake on sale till November as well.  Plus, lots and lots of new stuff going on.

To start, NIGHTFALL, what vies for my most favorite book, has just come out in audio, and I have to say the sex in that book is Epic.  OMG!  Well, the entire book, characters, relationships are incredibly intense, and the sex reflects that.  I can’t tell you how much I love that book.

BREAK THE NIGHT (do I have Night theme going on here?) has come out in paper and e-book, plus it’s going to be in audio as well!  It’s Jack the Ripper, Venice, California, reincarnation, sex, murderer, sex … another theme, alas.

And then, just this month, a long lost treasure has reappeared.  Centuries ago I wrote a book called BANISH MISFORTUNE, which, trust me, is a terrible title.  It’s named after an old fiddle tune, and it really worked, except that you can’t say it out loud even once, much less three times in a row, and you can’t abbreviate it by the initials either.  It won the RITA for best single title Way Back Then, beating Lavyrle Spencer (who helpfully send me a five-page letter on how I could become a better writer when it did) but it was part of a very short-lived program put out by Harlequin American, my publisher at the time.  They were called Harlequin American Premiere Editions, and my book sold a grand total of 5,000 copies at a time when the regular ones were selling 70 to 80,000.  It was never reprinted, though Mira had planned to.

So we changed the title, considering so few people had ever read it – it’s now WHEN THE STARS FALL DOWN, available everywhere.  There are a couple of reviews at Amazon that are very dismissing, which surprises me – I was blown away by it when I reread it after more than thirty years.  It’s very autobiographical (and I adore the subplot) so maybe it’s just me, but if you’ve read it and like it hike on over to Amazon and slap me up a good review.   I kept the time period in the early 80s, because to me it was such a clear representation of that time and how it felt.  It’s a little heart-breaking, got a perfect ending, great sex … Ah, good times.

And I finished HEARTLESS (I’m doing the revisions right now), Emma and Brandon’s story, and it’s a good ‘un.  Brandon turned out to be a bit more decent than my usual heroes – he has his demons but he also has a certain amount of fairness, and he likes tender sex as well as rough sex.

(Good God, do I only talk about sex?  I’ve written some very good books without it, and some of my favorite books have none.  However, since we’re reading and writing love stories, I want to experience all of it, not just up to the bedroom door).

More stuff is in the pipeline.  I’m not sure how Heartless is going to be published – I’ll no more when the revisions are done, and then I’m off to write a bit of revenge-porn, plus a Christmas novella, plus so many other stories …

In the meantime, though, happy reading.

 

Brrrr!

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. http://amzn.to/2sdPx64 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.http://tinyurl.com/y7exaoua

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.

Cheers!

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!