Friday, March 31, 2006

Period of Adjustment

When we were in London, we saw a couple of plays. One was written by Tennessee Williams, and it was called Period of Adjustment. This post isn't about the play (which I thought was excellent) but about the concept of adjusting. Wrapping your brain around a new or different idea or situation. Allowing yourself time to absorb and adjust.

Last night, I wrapped up and turned in the synopsis I've been struggling to write for a month. The contracted deadline was yesterday. I had permission to email it and I did so at 11:30 pm. I got it in before midnight so that counts as turning it in on March 30, right?

As I madly typed I thought, why do I always end up writing right down to the wire? I had a month to write this synopsis and yet I ended up cramming two days before the contracted deadline. It's not like I slacked off. I started this synopsis the day after I turned in my last book. But I couldn't get past the first page which was basically a summery of what had happened in the preceding story. Oh, yeah. Forgot to mention, this is the synopsis for book two in a running series for HQN--working title: The Chameleon Chronicles. Anyway, I had a premise in mind, but I couldn't connect the dots. I didn't even have any dots. Random scenes usually come to me, along with an opening and closing, but not this time. Nada. Total block.

So I worried, and obsessed, and stressed for almost a month. Last week, while in London, I remembered something I'd heard agent Donald Maas say in a workshop. It revolved around raising the stakes. I realized that my premise (Using that term loosely. It was more like a half-baked notion.) was lukewarm. What would make it hotter? Initially, a friend of Evie's mom was going to fall prey to a scam, a scam that Evie and the Chameleon team would bust. That's what Chameleon, a covert agency, does--bust grifts and scams. Sure, Evie knew this woman, but there was still emotional distance. I realized suddenly that Evie's mom needed to be the mark. Raising the stakes. Even better, the scam she's fallen prey to is known as the Sweetheart Scam. This is where a con artist charms/romances a woman (or man), usually older, widowed or divorced, winning thier trust, and conning them out of their life savings. Mrs. Parish is particularly vulnerable as she's currently seperated from her husband. More to it, but the thing is, I could have picked any one of a dozens scams, but the Sweetheart Scam, in this instance, is most devastating to this woman and my central character, Evie. Raising the stakes.

Okay. So now I had a dot. One dot. Then another epiphany about a day later (still in London). I was focusing on plot. One story. This story. But this story is a continuation of the last story as well as a set up for the next story. The series is character driven. I've already established these characters. They're alive and kicking. As soon as I put myself in their shoes, more dots (scenes) occured. It snowballed from there. Two days before deadline I started connecting dots. I kept two things in mind. Character driven and raising the stakes. Still, something felt a little off. I was missing something. The comedic angle. Night before last, I woke up out of a restless sleep thinking about a particular movie. That's it! Evie and one of the leading men are movie fanatics. Again. Character driven. It was there all along. That angle, that movie, was the last missing element. Ducks in a row. Dots connected.

Are you getting anything from this? In a nutshell, writing is hard. For me anyway. Frustrating when it doesn't click. Electrifying when you're in the zone. Always, always fascinating. For me anyway. I envy any writer who has a routine, a system, whatever. It never works the same for me. Ever. Every synopsis poses a different challenge as does every story. My only routine is chaos. I whine about it, stress about it, but my best work happens close to the wire. Something about the pressure to deliver on time zaps my creativity. All that time before, the part that feels uncomfortable or foriegn, that's my Period of Adjustment. Thanks, Mr. Williams. At least I now have a name for what plagues me.

“Success is blocked by concentrating on it and planning for it... Success is shy - it won't come out while you're watching.” ~~Tennessee Williams, Author

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Back to the Real World

Popping in to let you know I'm back in the states. Got home late last night and today it's back to our normal, busy lives. Steve already left for work and I'm leaving for the library very soon. Tonight I'll be chained to the computer, cramming on that dratted synopsis and sweating tomorrow's deadline. Wee bit stressed just now. Will post about our adventures in England (along with pics) in the coming week. Also forthcoming an update on the publishing world as I know it. Any particular topics you'd like me to touch on? Post them here or shoot me a private email. I'll be happy to oblige.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Goals, Dreams, and Happiness

Sorry I went missing all. The last couple of days have been jammed packed and I haven't had a chance to get to the Internet Cafe. To relay all that we've done would take more time than I have just now. I think what I'll do is break down our adventures and post in a short series when I get home. I have so many exciting things to share!! Pictures too, though I haven't taken nearly as many as I usually do. I mean how many shots can you take of Big Ben? I started to take a picture the other night and thought, hey, this looks just like the one I took two years ago. That's the thing about historical monuments. They don't change much from year to year. Thank goodness!

Anyhoo, I will tell you quickly that I have a new goal. Yesterday we took the train to Canterbury. It's a bustling, historical town about 90 minutes outside of London. As soon as we walked through an ancient archway and started walking a main cobble-stoned street, an eerie but wonderful feeling came over me. "This is the place," I said to Steve. "This is where we're going to live. I feel something. Something magical." He said he wasn't surprised that I felt something. That Canterbury is a spiritual place. He reminded me that for centuries people set off on pilgramages to Canterbury Cathedral to visit the shrine of Thomas Beckett. Thomas Beckett was murdered in the Cathedral by four knights in 1170 and later named a saint. It's a fascinating and tragic tale. Visit this site to read a little about the cathedral and it's history. http://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/

I can't put into words how I felt as we toured the cathedral and walked the ancient streets. I just knew that Canterbury was a place where I could flourish creatively and spiritually. The small city is quaint enough for me and cultural enough for Steve and, bonus, a short train ride from London. Steve and I have always said we would love to live in England. We'd always sort of thought London. But after yesterday I knew... it may take another ten years of hard work and saving, but... "We're going to live in Canterbury," I said to Steve. "You watch. I'll make it happen." To which he smiled and replied, "Okay." I guess he knows how determined I am when I set a goal. You know my motto. Dream big and reach for the stars.

Have you recently set a new goal? What are you doing to make it happen? Do share!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Fog Brained in Not-so-foggy London

I'm jetlagged. It's cold... and I couldn't be happier. I'm in London!

New experience for me at the airport. We usually take the tube (subway) from the airport into London. About a 45 minute ride, but inexpensive and easy. However the New York Times 'prize' (Steve won this trip) included transportation from Heathrow to our hotel via a private driver. So after we got through customs, we had to look for a man holding up a sign with our name on it. There were lots of drivers, holding lots of signs. If you've arrived at a major airport, you've probably seen these guys. Silly, but I thought it was kind of exciting looking for the sign with our name. :) Our driver was Paul, his car was lovely, he was lovely, and he got us into London in forty minutes. Very little traffic and a nice little sightseeing bonus.

We're staying in a great hotel near Trafalgar Square, which is close to several of our favorite art museums, and also Leister Square which is to London what Times Square and Broadway is to NYC. We can walk to so many things. In fact tonight after dinner, we walked to Westminster Abby (my favorite place) although it was closed. :( Saw Parliment, Big Ben, and the London Eye. All in a few short hours. We're making it an early evening so we can adjust to the time change. Will check in again when I can. Have no idea of tomorrows plans. Flying by the seat of our pants.

Cheers! Beth

NOTE: It is now Thursday morning. I wrote the above last night but couln't publish it to Blogger for some reason. Zipping off to the British Museum this morning and hopefully catching a play tonight. Will check back with you later! :) So how's it going with all of you?? Miss hearing/seeing your posts!

Monday, March 20, 2006

And the Winner is... Us!



I love New York, as the song goes. But I love London even more. Steve and I have traveled there many times over the past several years. The first time was for our honeymoon. Three days in London. Two days in Paris. It was the first time I'd traveled overseas and I was bewitched. Everything is so old over there. A history and art lover's paradise. We've also traveled to Austria and Switzerland, both beautiful, and I've been to Italy (personal favorite), but the place we love best, our place, is London.

Steve reads the New York Times on-line daily. Last year, he entered a contest where you guessed the Oscar winners. He guessed every one right. When he got the winner's letter in the mail, he thought it was too good to be true. I encouraged him to follow through as I've worked in PR and the forms looked official to me. They were. 100% the real deal. He won a trip! A week long trip, all expenses paid! He had a choice of three places. Hollywood, CA, Wine Country (CA) or.... (drum roll please) LONDON!! We blinked at the page, chuckled. "Gee," I said, "Which one are you going to pick, I wonder."

Here it is more than a year later. Deadline for taking this trip is March 30, 2006. So guess where I'm going tomorrow? LONDON!! I have to take my laptop with me, write on the plane, write in the mornings, because I have another March 30 deadline. That dratted synopsis. But I don't mind working while on vacation. I'll be in LONDON!!

We have a house/pet sitter lined up. I'm sort of packed. Tube (subway) map. Check. Umbrella. Check. Bookmarks. Check. Yes, bookmarks. I'll be stopping by Murder One, a bookstore on Charing Cross Road that specializes in mystery and romance. Actually, it's about the only place I've found in London that carries a wide offering of American romance. Most of the chains offer a limited amount and bestseller names only. The last time I stopped in (2004) I was blown away to find copies of JINXED and CHARMED on the shelves. The bookseller, Gwen, was delighted to have me autograph them. I was delighted to do it! They're selling me in LONDON!! Er, you know what I mean. I'll be dropping in again, and yes, I'll be looking for friends' books too! Pictures forthcoming. Oh, and blog posts too. Internet Cafe hear I come.

Okay. Off to finish packing. Um, is it just me, or does anyone else obsess over what to wear? I swear I've packed and unpacked various ensembles three times now. Sheesh.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

How Bad Do You Want It?

I have goals. They go hand in hand with my dream. My dream is to write for a living. Amazing how many friends and acquaintances are under the assumption that because I'm multi-published and contracted for five more books that I'm raking in the bucks. I'm a published author. My books are on the shelves. Therefore I must be making the same money as Stephen King or John Grisham or <insert any well known author>. *Cough* I wish. The fact is, I still have to work a regular gig to pay the bills. Here's a shocker. Most authors do. How can that be? you ask. J.A. Konrath has an eye-opening post on writers and 'Money'. Check it out.

So back to my goal. In order to make a living as a writer, I need to write quality material and sell it . . . as much of it and as often as humanly possible. Publishers want prolific writers. The public wants prolific writers. I remember, before I started down the publishing path, finishing a fantastic novel by one of my favorite authors and moaning when I learned her next book wouldn't be out for another whole year? "Why?" I whined. "Why do I have to wait so long?" I had no understanding of the writing process or the publishing industry. I suppose I thought she sat down at her typewriter and cranked out a book in a couple of months. I mean it's only 350 pages and it's what she does for a living, how hard could it be?

Now I know.

Where was I? Ah, yes. Goals. So, in a bid to build name recognition and to establish myself in the market, last year I set a goal of writing single-title books for two publishing houses. With the help of my amazing agent, I met that goal. I'm now writing for Medallion Press and Harlequin's HQN. This means writing two books a year. Okay. Six months to write each book. No problem. I've done it before. Only it doesn't really work out to six months. In that time you are also handling promotion for your latest release with Publisher A, writing a synopsis for the next contracted book with Publisher B, researching for the next contracted book for Publisher A, and doing revisions on a book for Publisher B. Oh, and let's not forget the bill paying job and daily life responsibilities.

*Deep breath*

I'd been chugging along with only a few freak-out, stressed-to-the-max moments. That is until this month. My brain shut down. I'm not blocked. Just tired. Unfocused and easily distracted. I've decided not to beat myself up about it. It would only make matters worse. Instead, I'm trusting my process. I work well in chaos. I'm anal and refuse to miss a deadline. So the synopsis that I had 30 days to write, I will now write in 10. The next book that I had 6 months to write, I will now write in 4. Sure, I'll bite off my fingernails and experience some hair loss, but I'll do it. I'll push myself. I'll give up whatever I have to to get it done. Why?

Goals.

I want to make my living as a writer. Rather, I want to make a living doing what I love: Writing. This means working hard and paying dues (and I'm not talking the writers' organization kind). I'm not whining, I'm just telling it like it is. There was a time when I thought the hardest part was landing that first publishing contract. Yeah, boy, that was a tough nut to crack. But it was only the beginning. If you want a career in publishing be prepared to work hard and to make a lot of sacrifices. It all boils down to, how bad do you want it? Me? I want it bad.

"The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become." ~~ Charles Du Bos

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Stars and Moon


When I was a little girl, a much older cousin was pictured in a layout for Pan Am airlines in a prominent fashion magazine. She was a stewardess (yes, that was the PC term back then). She got to wear a fashionable uniform, including a chic hat. Oh and, bonus, travel the world. I thought her life was glamorous and being featured in a magazine was just about the most exciting thing ever! I admired her, slept with the magazine under my pillow for weeks, thinking I should be so lucky.

I must have wished upon a star or something. I am that lucky. Because of my profession(s) I do get to wear fashionable clothes. I travel extensively due to business and pleasure. Because I have been involved in so many RT conventions, my picture has appeared many times in the Romantic Times magazine. It's always an honor and a thrill. Last spring, SEDUCED was featured on the cover of Affaire de Coeur magazine. I walked on air for weeks thinking this is what my cousin felt like, this is the most exciting thing ever!

Two days ago a package arrived in the mail from my publisher containing the February 2006 issue of Affaire de Coure. The issue pictured here. I was stunned. This made the second time in less than a year that one of my books made the cover of a magazine. To make the thrill even sweeter, the review of LASSO THE MOON was displayed in a special box as 'Reviewers Pick'!

"Witty dialogue puts the story on a fast pace and will have you smiling if not laughing out loud. A great combination of romance, laughter, mystery and triumph." -- Five Stars! Affaire de Coeur

I know it sounds shallow to think that being featured in a magazine is the most exciting thing ever! But it's not really about the magazine. It's about a little girl realizing a childhood dream. It's about the adult woman realizing a mid-life dream. Sometimes, most of the time, it doesn't seem real.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Natural Born Teachers

I've been a published author since 2002 and you could put what I know about the publishing industry in a thimble. The process varies from house to house, editor to editor. My experiences with Medallion Press differ greatly than those with ImaJinn Books. Everything--from contracts to the editing process to cover spec sheets--is more complicated. Not in a bad way. Things are just more involved. Wider distribution. Aggressive advertising. Foreign Sales. A company presence at nationwide tradeshows and conferences. Various aspects trickle down to the author and much of it is still Greek to me.

Currently, I'm embarking on a new adventure. I recently signed with HQN (Harlequin). I'm in the beginning phase of editing. I turned in my first contracted book, now I'm waiting for revisions while writing the synopsis for the next book. I understand from my agent that they'll be contacting me soon about input for the cover. I seem to remember from another Harlequin author's blog that their cover spec sheets are quite extensive. The editing process works differently than what I'm used to as well. So basically I feel like this floundering newbie, someone who doesn't understand how anything works.

Luckily, I have a very nice editor who assured me she'll walk me through everything--no worries. Also, there are authors out there with a wealth of knowledge and impressive understanding of the industry who are willing to share information and experiences. I have always been impressed with the generosity of writers. In addition to being creative souls, many writers are natural born teachers. All you have to do is browse blogosphere. They're not hard to find.

My two hot picks for dynamo authors who offer constant and valuable information on craft and business. . . PBW and J.A Konrath. Where do you go to learn about publishing?

*Addendum: Just visited Jordan Summers and she led me here. Holy wow. Wanna know how it works in publishing. Check out that link. Thanks, Jordan!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I Coulda Been a Sponge

Sponge Bob to be exact.

Last week Steve called me on my cell. He was at work setting up AV for a client. I was at home slogging through my latest synopsis.

Steve: "This client just told me they need someone to play Sponge Bob for an hour. They have a costume. Just need a body. I told her my wife does character work. I'll see if she's available. Are you?"

Me: "Um. I'd really rather not."

Steve: "It's just an hour and it pays <insert impressive sum>"

Me: "I'm the featured author on the Romance Junkies loop this week. I have a ton of questions I need to answer."

Steve: (over his shoulder to client) "My wife's also an author and she has prior obligations."

I hear the client say, "No problem. Thanks for trying." And I feel kind of bad for leaving them stuck, but not bad enough to change my mind. I really did have a lot of questions to answer for the RJ readers. But, truth told, I just didn't want to do Sponge Bob. Er, you know what I mean.

Sure, it entailed a mere five minute drive to the casino. A measely one hour of performance time for more money than I make pulling an 8-hour shift at the library. But, believe it or not folks, it takes a certain amount of confidence or free spirit to do character work. I wasn't feeling it. I didn't want to be a sponge. Sponge Bob to be exact. I mean he's not any ol' sponge. He's a famous sponge. With a particular voice and specific friends. I've only seen his show a couple of times. The gig was last minute. I didn't have time to prepare and I don't know his world well enough to improvise. I know he makes crabby patties, but I can't do a one-hour riff on that.

There was a time when I said yes to everything. There was a time when I thought nothing of zipping myself into a fat, fuzzy bumble bee suit or squeezing into a form-fitting super hero costume (to name two of many). I'm more selective these days. I'm more reserved. Then again writing is my passion these days, not performing.

J.A. Konrath had a recent interesting post about "What Makes a Good Blog."
#3 Stay Focused. Stick to one topic per entry, and make sure this topic is different from previous topics so your readership doesn't get bored. What is the reason for your blog? Do you have a reason?
Tess Gerritsen blogs about the ups and downs of being a bestselling thriller author. She doesn't water down her content with opinions about last night's episode of the Sopranos, lists of her favorite foods, meme tags, or life stories unrelated to publishing.
Hmm. Well, I just jumped topics. But I have a point. I am a huge fan of Konrath and Gerritsen's blogs. But I'm not Konrath or Gerritson. I will blog about things like last night's episode of the Sopranos (I just knew Tony's uncle was trouble!), and my favorite foods (or rather low-fat foods as I'm on a health kick). I'll talk about life stories, things like how I coulda been a sponge. They may seem unrelated to publishing, but they're not. Not for me. All of my entertainment experiences play into my stories and to a huge extent--networking in publishing. My insecurities about my appearance and other personal quirks play into my characters.

Each person's journey is unique. If every writer blogged about the same thing, before long a lot of readers would go back to channel surfing as opposed to blog hopping. The reason I blog is to inspire. If I can do it, you can do it. That's why I'm here. To inspire. To connect. In return the loyal readers of this blog inspire me. You've talked me through my sometimes painful, mostly exciting transition from full-time performer to (almost) full-time writer. Hey, I was just offered and turned down a gig. That's a big step for me. Okay, it wasn't Shakespeare, it was Sponge Bob, but that's not the point. What was my point? Oh, yeah...

You, me, and this blog. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being here.

Ch-ch-changes

Spring is in the air. Fresh air. New beginnings. I recently altered my eating habits. For the first time in my life I'm actually creating healthy meals on a daily basis. Cooking for me used to mean nuking a bowl of Progresso soup. Now I'm making meals, real meals, healthy low-fat meals from scratch. I'm also exercising daily. Not easy for a gal who hates to exercise. The temptation to save time and to nuke soup or to skip a day of exercising in order to spend an extra two hours at the computer is great. The key, I've decided, is to apply the same focus and determination as I do to my writing. So far, so good. The payoff? A leaner body and more energy. Boy, did I need more energy.

Other changes include a new look at my website. Done. A new hairstyle. Coming soon. And this new blog. I realize it's a pain, but please alter your bookmarks or, if I'm linked at you site, your blog roll. It's a simpler look here. Until I better understand how to manipulate this site anyway. Oh, and no smiley faces. *sigh* I think there's a way to add that feature but I can better utilize the time it would take me to figure that out. I have a synopsis to complete. Speaking of...

Wait! I just remembered. I don't have a statistics function here either, at least not that I know of. I won't know how many people relocated with me. Could you do me a favor? Even if you typically lurk, could you drop a comment? Even an "I'm here" would perk me up. I suddenly feel like the new kid in town. *frowny face*

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Plunge

I did it. I posted at my old site that I'm moving to a new site. Um, here. I hope everyone follows. Hey. I just realized. There's no statstic thingee here. So if people don't follow... I won't know. Huh. Small blessings.

Tackling Blogger

This goober tech is tackling Blogger day by day. A special thank you to Cyndi who helped me to understand how to add links to my blog roll. I have more to add, but this is a good start. These last few posts have been test posts. Nothing of much interest. Just me rambling to get a feel for this site. Wait. That's what I usually do. Ramble.

Some things never change.

And some things do! Like the look of my website--NEW!--and the location of this blog--ALSO NEW! The official change will take place in the next couple of days. Stay tuned. :)

Rambling

Second day of duel posting. Still blogging my regular posts over at Bravenet. Still getting a feel for here. Is it me? Or did Blog Spot recently make things a little easier? Creating posts looks different. The posting of pictures and other extras.... easier. Still haven't figured out how to add links to my sidebar. On the 'To Do' list.

Moving is going to be a pain. It means regular readers having to bookmark a new address and anyone who has me on the blog roll linking to a new address. I apologize for the incovience and promise not to move again anytime soon. Hey. Is there a spell check on this thing, because I am like the world's worst speller! Looking... looking... yes! No. Just tried the spell checker and it didn't work. Unless... could it be? Did I spell everything alright so far? I find that so hard to believe. Okay. Done rambling. :) Crud. I'll really miss my plethora of smiley faces.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Practice Makes . . . Doable


Okay. Practice post--Part Duex. I did the block quote thing but saw no difference. I'm sure I did something wrong. But of course. This time I'm trying italisize and a link. Oh, and bigger font. Hey, while I'm at it let's try color!

Feeling brave. Going for a picture. meet my furry friends--Sadie, Cheyenne, and Billie.

Duel Blogging

I'm going to be duel blogging this week. I'm in the process of moving my daily blog from Bravenet to Blog Spot. It's going to take me awhile to settle in here. These first few posts are rambling practice posts. Nothing to see here folks. Keep moving...

And this block quote does... what exactly? Inquiring minds...