BRAVE NEW WORLD (January 25, 2022)

The dam has burst, the block has broken, and all is sunshine and rainbows! I’m back to writing – in fact, I haven’t missed a day since the new year.(That is, not a day in my weekly five day work week. When I miss a work day I catch upon the weekend).

It Takes a Thief is finally taking shape. I’d worked last year between bouts of frustration and block and managed to squeeze out about 200 pages, most of which I despised, but i sent it to two trusted friends, Lynda Ward and Jenny Crusie, to find out whether I should toss the sucker or try to save it. Both of them said, SAVE IT, so I’ve been working on that for the last three weeks. First I had to go through it, toss it the last 14,000 words (Oh, the pain), and then go and rewrite the first 30,000 words, which I’ve had to do twice already and which will definitely need another go-round. First I changed the wishy-washy, mouse-like heroine. Then I changed the confusing villain (I’m still a bit confused about him but he’s coming together). Then I had to put my hero on the page a whole lot more. Then I had to clean up everything else.

But now I’m finally moving forward, writing more stuff and feeling normal again. For some reason I never feel quite right when I’m not writing, but nothing I could do would make it work last year. It just felt stagnant, dead in the water, utterly miserable.

I blame Covid. I was languishing, as so many people have been.

I’ve been really frustrated with Audible because there haven’t been enough new books by writers I love coming out, and then I realized they’re languishing too! (The favorite writers, not Audible. Audible is flourishing, thank God. I have something like 1,300 audio books in my library and I’m hungry for more).

But languish is no longer in my vocabulary. Not only am I moving steadily forward on this, but the follow-up, To Catch a Thief, is already fully formed in my head and I can’t wait to get to it. So as Crusie would say, nothing but good times ahead.

In the meantime, during the doldrums, I’ve been working on reprints. Coming out soon are THE FALL OF MAGGIE BROWN, which was surprisingly delightful (I’d thought of it as a sort of throwaway work since way back when it was internet only) and A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT, which is deliciously gothic and has a marvelous manga available at Amazon. https://amzn.to/3rSRl5g. I’ve also been reading and revising all my novellas, some of which are really good (some of which are meh) and now I need to figure out how to print them.

And then there’ll be the new one, sometime in March, I hope.

Ah, when I’m writing life is glorious.
Anything glorious happening for you? If you’re a writer, how’s the writing going? If you’re a reader, have you had trouble with languishing authors and finding enough of the good stuff to read?

Back From Dead

I bet you thought I’d disappeared for life. Like everyone else I’ve been dealing with Covid restrictions and being even more reclusive, but I’m fully vaccinated, spring has sprung (despite having two snowstorms in the past 2 weeks and flurries on some of the other days. Vermont is gorgeous but it doesn’t do spring.)
I’ve also been battling really obnoxious writer’s block, something I seldom have had to deal with. I’ve spent so damned much time thinking about why I’m not writing that I know a lot of the reasons – for one, the money matters, and I’ve spent most of my career making choices based on creativity, not money. The one time I thought I could take the money and run was a total disaster, and the many times I’ve chosen a less lucrative offer over a more generous one I haven’t regretted it.
And the last book, THE ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY WORST MAN IN ENGLAND, SCOTLAND AND WALES did so well, got such nice reviews and made so much money that I’m a little paralyzed in trying to equal it (when I know perfectly well this is a different book and I shouldn’t be comparing). And I’m being greedy on a creative level – I want each book to be utterly brilliant and ravishing, but the only way you write a brilliant and ravishing book is to write the damned thing.
So I was whining to Crusie yesterday, trying to decide between which two books to work on, my old-skool romantic suspense or my new historical, and I finally decided to get over myself and get to work. So that’s what I’m doing. (Of course, you notice I’m writing this post instead of actually working on the book, but that’s incidental.)
So, starting today, I’m diving back into the terribly-titled Beggar’s Ken, and I’m going to write until it’s done and then slap and knead and pummel it into shape. I was thinking of tossing out chapters, but that will just make me feel frustrated, so I’m moving forward, and as Crusie would say, nothing but good times ahead.
And then I’ll finish the Old-skool romantic suspense, which I love and isn’t what people are wanting from me, and then maybe my Indiana Jones-is adventure, or I’ll write something entirely different. Writing makes me happy.
So today I’m going to make myself happy and write.

Ch-ch-changes

OMG, I saw the first sign of changing leaves! It shouldn’t be a shock – I live in Northern Vermont where the leaf color in Autumn is amazing, and we usually see the first signs of change during the first week of August. But it was a long, hard winter, and I suspect we have another long, hard one ahead of us with the *#!^%$ virus.

I want another full month of summer, maybe even two, where I can float in my pool and listen to audiobooks (I just re-read Ilona Andrews’s WHITE HOT, which is delicious). In fact, I’ve been doing a lot of rereading. I know what I want to read, and I’m quite often disappointed in the new stuff I’m trying. Still, I do keep discovering new writers that really appeal to me. There’s just something about revisiting an old favorite.

Plans for the ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE WORST MAN IN ENGLAND, SCOTLAND AND WALES are coming along swimmingly. I’m guessing it’ll be out in about a month, and there’s other good stuff coming. The cover is wonderful – I should start flashing that around – and I love the book.

Funny thing about books – they have minds of their own. I realize why I had such trouble with the final third of Worst Man – I was trying to force it into the mold I was used to, with a dangerous, murderous hero and the world about to explode. But that simply wasn’t this story. Obviously, given the title, my hero is a very bad man. But he’s also eminently redeemable.

More details to come. I’m getting very excited about this.

What’s Up, Doc?

Ah, my theatrical career has started back up. I played half a dozen parts in a staged reading reading of Under Milk Wood last weekend, and we’re going to be doing a full production of a brand new play written by the author of “The Elephant Man” and I’m completely chuffed. Since the directors are friends, they help me work around mobility issues and stamina issues, and it brings an incredible amount to my life. Happy, happy.

It’s fun, because stretching in a completely different art form is great for my primary task, writing. I think that would be true for any discipline – you’re still creating, and in fact it’s all about the same thing. Story. Painting, music, dance, acting, singing. All about Story.

In fact, I learned from Rosann that my favorite writing quote serves for acting as well. In fact, I think it serves for life.

“One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.” 
― Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

For some reason, over-the-top creature that I am, I’ve always been subdued in auditions and most roles. I should have just thrown it all in. The director will tell you when to pull back. In fact, I don’t worry about dignity or making a fool of myself, as anyone who knows me can attest, so I don’t know why I was so cautious. If you throw extreme stuff out there, either in writing or acting (or painting, or whatever) you can clean it up later. If you don’t throw it out there then there’s nothing to work on.

Speaking of work, I’m still writing the new historical, which is insane but who cares? I think it’s delightful – funny and hot. I’m more than a third done, and I’d love it if the draft is finished by next month but it depends on time and rehearsals and stuff.

In the meantime, here’s the recipe for Welsh Cakes that I made for my fellow cast members after Under Milk Wood was done. They’re yummy and easy (and not in metric).

This is from the joandsue.blogspot.ca


Welsh Cakes

Ingredients

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1 cup flour

pinch salt

1/2 cup butter, cold

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup currants

1 egg

Directions

2 Tbsp milk

Topping

1 – 2 Tbsp sugar, for sprinkling

In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. Using 2 knives or a pastry blender, cut in the cold butter until mixture resembles course crumbs. 

Stir in the sugar and currants.

Make a well in the center and add in egg and milk.

Using a fork, mix in the ingredients until dough comes together. 

Flour a work surface and then roll dough out to approximately the thickness of your baby finger. 

Cut out with a round cookie cutter. (Apparently, traditionally the edges should also be fluted!)

Reroll the trimmings and cut out more rounds. 

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Lightly grease with either cooking spray or a little butter. 

Place as many rounds as will fit on the skillet without touching.

Cook approx 3 -4 minutes on the first side. Carefully flip over.

Cook for another 3 or so minutes. (If bottoms are going too dark, too fast then turn down your heat!)

Remove from pan to a wire rack.

Sprinkle immediately with a little sugar.

Continue cooking remaining cakes.

These are amazing served warm with a little butter OR room temp with some jam.

Like scones but different. 

Little fluffy and crispy bites of heaven. 

P.S. – This recipe makes 12 cakes using a 2.5 inch cookie cutter. 

Back to work. Life is good – the pain is being dealt with, the oncoming depression has been stopped in its tracks, and it’ll be summer eventually (not for today in Vermont, though).

Emerging from the Salt Mines

. You know you’ve done your job right when you raise a son who’s comfortable dressing as a pink unicorn while he enjoys the last day of the season at Heavenly with his cousin. He’s had a hard time the last few years, and it’s great to see him enjoying himself. His 4 year old daughter will be so proud of her daddy, the Unicorn.

But I digress. I’ve been working my tail off, trying to get Heartless ready for take off. I’m thinking that May 15th will be publication date, but man, there’s so much to do for indie publishing. I’m not a control freak, so it isn’t a total thrill, but it’s interesting enough for me to enjoy. I’ve got a fabulous cover, slaved over the cover copy, I’m still dealing with challenging edits, then proof reading, formatting, and … ta da!

I’m still trying to figure out how to balance a second full-time job in my life (publishing as well as writing) but the freedom is enormous, and since I’m very much “the glass is half full” kind of gal I expect, as Crusie says, nothing but good times ahead.

And I’ll get back to my new stories! Ooops and Not Quite a Miracle and Forever Autumn and Mary-Stewart-in-Spain and eventual Ice – the Next Generation and …

Interesting. None of those are historicals. Well, I’ve just spent two years immersed in HEARTLESS (what with the shoulder replacement and family traumas it’s taken me longer to write than usual, plus it’s probably my longest book, and you should have seen how much I’ve cut!)

But for today I finish the revisions, run through every kind of checker I can get to pick up typos, and then pass it to my proof reader while I wait to hear from Mollie, my marketing and web guru. Fortunately I’m in love with the book, with Emma and Brandon, and they’re going to be so happy to see the light of day after maundering for three years.

Oh, and if anyone out there loves a book of mine (I tentatively assume there are) go post a review somewhere, like Amazon or Good Reads. I went searching for reviews last week, always a bad idea but I needed to check feedback on a certain plot point in a certain book, and I was surprised at how few there were. Only if there’s a book you love that you feel hasn’t got enough attention.

Or hell, if there’s one you hate, go ahead and trash it. I’m a firm believer in honesty.

I’ll have more deets on HEARTLESS, including the cover. In the mean time, be excellent to each other and party on, dude.