Sunday, August 29, 2010

Good Things and eBooks

Here's a great thing I discovered today: TUL pens. Try one.

Here's another awesome thing: My fellow Greater Seattle RWA writer, Susanna Fraser, released her debut historical through Carina Press last week. The Sergeant's Lady is a twist on the usual Napoleonic-era lovers: a common-born sergeant and a high-born lady. No secret dukes or heirs switched at birth. (Please check out the website Mr. Fraser built for his wife. Exceedingly not-cheesey). Carina Press gives novels like this, novels that break genre conventions, a chance to find readers. Hey ... I know a writer in Seattle with a palindromic first name who has a time-travel Western romance. Hmm...

Several blog readers have never read an ebook. (Hello, Mom). If you want to try a novel from Carina - whether it's The Sergeant's Lady or Talk Dirty to Me (do I have to explain that plot?) - you DO NOT need a Kindle or any of those other readers. I read on my laptop. It's not as fancy or as lightweight, but a computer totally works for ebooks. No one tells you that, do they? If you have a recent copy of Adobe software, you can install "Digital Bookshelf" in seconds, free, from Carina, Samhain (where Vivi publishes ), or most public library ebook catalogs. Yes, public libraries are in the free ebook business. In Seattle you can check out (download) up to twenty ebooks at a time for twenty-one days before they expire. For free. This is amazing for romance readers because our paperbacks are rarely cataloged and the bindings self-destruct after only a few borrowers, but digital copies circulate forever.
And a third good thing: Pink Martini plays at Chateau St. Michelle tonight, 7 pm. Mr. Richland advised me to take a slicker but I'm totally ready to sing Dosvedanya, Mio Bombino in the rain.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mommy, Where Do Ideas Come From?

Recently, I was asked that question all writers just love to hear above all others. Where do you get your ideas? (Yep, that was sarcasm.) And I gave my usual explanation - that ideas come from everything I see and smell and taste and touch. That I am surrounded by ideas and it is just a question of wanting to hear them.

I like to remind people of the opening scenes of Shakespeare in Love when I have this conversation. Young Will is roaming the streets of London, picking up little snippets of dialogue from everyone around him - the guy on his soap box screaming about the vileness of theatres becomes the piece de resistance in Romeo & Juliet with "A pox on both your houses!" Little moments, little fragments of life, sneak their way into your brain and come out in your stories. That, I think, is what is meant by 'write what you know.' Write the authenticity of those little moments.

But the fact of the matter is, even though the Shakespeare in Love anecdote is completely true and I trot it out on a semi-regular basis, there is still a certain degree of bullshit in that answer.

There's a line in the opening of Stephen King's On Writing where he's talking about the joys of being in the company of writers. One of the things he mentions as being the best part is that you know none of them are going to ask you where your ideas come from, because they all already know the answer. We don't know. That's the no-bullshit version.

You want the whole truth and nothing but the truth? I don't have a clue why I'm wired the way I am. If you don't understand where my ideas come from, I am equally puzzled by you and the fact that you don't have a dozen or more book ideas floating around in your head.

I realized, this most recent time, as I was shilling my usual Shakespeare in Love B.S. that the truth was I didn't get ideas. I had them. They had always belonged to me. There is a seemingly endless store of ideas in my subconscious, waiting to get out. I never feel like books come from someplace outside me. It isn't about finding them, it's about unlocking them.

Ideas are the most internal thing imaginable and that, I think, is the inherent fallacy in the question where do you get your ideas? Because there isn't an idea store we go to when we need to stock up. "Getting" ideas isn't about looking under your desk for one that might have slipped down there; it's about finding ways to listen to yourself, that internal voice. (Try calling them the voices in your head and watch the questioner back away slowly.) It always feels like I'm uncovering something that has always been there, always a part of me, even before I knew it existed.

But maybe I'm an anomaly. Where do your ideas come from? Do you get them or have you always had them? Do you have a certain method of unlocking them?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Where is the Joy?

I turned 30 on August 10th. Yes, apparently it's milestone birthday season here at DSW!

My gift to myself was an epiphany: I miss my childhood attitude towards writing.

I've been writing ever since I can remember. Before I knew how to actually write, my mother would type while I dictated. It was one of my favorite playtime activities. Fast forward to 5th grade, when I started my first novel. In 8th grade, I finished my first novel. It was a wretched Sweet Valley Twins rip-off, less of a story and more of an extended musing on (a) how much I wanted a boyfriend and (b) how little I liked sharing a bathroom with my brother. But you know what? I loved writing that thing. My parents had to force me to get off the computer and go play outside. My best friend, bless her, was always happy to hear the latest chapter.

As I've grown older--and more serious about publication--things have changed. Thankfully, I'm a better writer than I was at age 13. And thankfully, I'm no longer lavishing pages of description on my heroine's "rad" stirrup pants.

But maturing as a writer has a down side, too. My inner critic has grown stronger, and she loves to rain on my creativity parade. I've also discovered a need to procrastinate on my novel. As a bonus, I've invented clever ways to criticize myself while doing so. (Excel word count spreadsheets = an excellent time-waster. Now I've outsourced my guilt to Microsoft!)

Is there any escape from the down side? I don't want to give up my hard-won improvement as a writer. At the same time, however, I don't want to lose my sense of fun. It is, after all, why I got into this whole writing gig. So I'm asking your advice: how do you balance professionalism with pure love of writing? And how do you ignore your inner critic until it's time to revise?

Monday, August 09, 2010

Celebrate Good Times - Come On

Can I make the title song stick in your head? If I add singing dogs?

Many celebrations this week in the Pacific Northwest. It's SeaFair in Seattle. We've had several days of Blue Angels fly-bys. While SeaFair happens every year, this doesn't: I turned 4-0! My mother thinks it's crazy, and so do I, but regular readers know that I am too old to have read the Babysitter book series and old enough to be a mega-Springsteen fan, so 40 is about right. As per the marital settlement, Mr. Richland made a lovely cake. His other masterpieces are here and here.

I spent much of my birthday with a Guide to Literary Agents list, crossing off the already querieds, questionable reputations and/or dead ends. A bit of desperation mixed with my productivity. The night before, Mr. Richland and I saw "Salt" and I had an extended self-doubt moment. The Soldier will never be that taut and thrilling, I can't write action, I can't write romance, why would anyone want my stuff when things like this are out there, boo hoo. Usually good plots inspire me to say "I want to do that too," but something about the combination of a birthday, edits, and queries led to a "what am I thinking" moment. I emoted to Mr. Richland while drinking champagne cocktails (can't feel too sorry for myself, reading that). He listened, and left me to work undisturbed the next day, and voila, mojo back.

It's Monday and I'm thinking Rosie the Riveter. We Can Do It! By Friday night, I'm going to send 5 more queries, finish synopsis revisions, and enter the Golden Pen contest. That's a birthday present I can give myself. Post your week goal, writing or otherwise, in the comments. I'll report Friday on mine.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Power of RWA

I was in a writing slump recently. Bogged down by real life, the writing I'd always loved had begun to feel like work. *shudder* But now, virtually overnight, I'm back in the zone again, charged up and psyched about being an author of romancey goodness.

How'd that happen? Well, it just so happens the Romance Writers of America national conference was last week. Was I there? Nope. But reading the online "live from" updates and post-conference accounts from people who were was almost as good. Their excitement spilled over into me and I remembered that conference energy, the feeling of simpatico with other authors and romance lovers. I cheered when I read the twitter feed with the RITA & Golden Heart results and I've been getting a contact high reading my emails from recently returned conference attendees.

That's the magic of conference, the power of a community of writers - they can energize you up from a thousand miles away. I'm already making plans for RWA 2011 in New York and I'm more excited than ever about my new WIP.

What about you? What gets you going again when your enthusiasm for writing starts to slip? Are you fired up by the company of writers? Already booking your tickets to NYC in 2011?