A Trip to the Dark Side

Let me begin by saying that I am on vacation, and what I do on a stay-cation vacation is to have lunch with friends and buy books. Well, buying books is what I do on travel vacations, too. I am a big believer in supporting local, independently owned bookstores, and while I do have an Amazon Prime account, that’s more for instant gratification than anything else if I want something and can’t get it immediately. I buy probably 60% of my books locally and the rest from online venues, including epublishers.

Today, however, I am frustrated with one of the independent bookstores in my town. I stopped in a week ago Friday to browse; they didn’t have the books I wanted but promised to order them for me, as well as hold back a non-book item I wanted, all for pickup this Friday. I was told to return yesterday to pick up the items. They have my phone number and I didn’t receive a call telling me of any problems with the shipments. So I made the 25 minute trip to this store and breezed in, expecting my two books and my promised-to-hold item.

The item was gone, out at a convention. One book hadn’t been ordered (a “computer glitch”). The other didn’t arrive because of some payment fiasco on the part of the distributor.

This is the second time this has happened in the last six months.

The woman I speak with while I’m there is very, very friendly. Very nice. Very knowledgeable. But I am a voracious reader in possession of an Amazon Prime account. I waited a week to get the books I wanted, which was no hardship, but without a phone call saying, “Nothing’s going to be here – come on Wednesday and we’ll have everything you wanted” (which would have been FINE) I drove 25 minutes down there, waited 2 hrs for the UPS man to arrive in the hope of getting at least one of the items I ordered (he didn’t come – apparently the payment fiasco canceled the Friday shipment), and drove home again completely empty-handed.

At home I pulled up Amazon. A little after 4 p.m. yesterday I ordered the two books I wanted, both at a considerable discount ($5.10 off one book and $5.76 off the other). I added overnight shipping for $7.98. No tax. Even with the overnight shipping the total was still less than I would have paid at my local bookstore. The books were on my doorstep at 10 a.m. this morning, 18 hrs after I ordered them.

I love independent bookstores. I do! I do, I really, really do. I shop at them and look for them when I travel. I will continue to shop at this store (although perhaps not place special orders through them). But my advice to any independent retailer fighting the good fight against Giant Internet Retailers is to please, please do not give people a good, solid reason to shop at Amazon. This was a customer service #FAIL, something small stores simply cannot afford when the only selling point for less discriminating, locally focused buyers is the personal attention and customer service you get from a knowledgeable bookseller.

/end rant

So. One more week of stay-cation, including a 3 day silent retreat, then it’s back to business. I’ll spend a couple of weeks finishing up a contemporary romantic suspense (non-erotic) I hope will find a home somewhere, then plan to spend the rest of the year finishing up my next erotic novel. Thanks for stopping by – I hope you’re having a wonderful summer!

A Post! Wow!

I’m almost ashamed at how little I’ve posted recently, except I’ve been WRITING, and since y’all are here because of my writing, I hope that’s okay. 😉

It’s been a busy few weeks. I’m working hard on revising a romantic suspense story I wrote back in 2007. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned just from writing steadily for a couple of years. There really is no substitute for steady practice leavened with studying craft. I thought the story was good when I wrote it. It was…okay. The premise has promise, but the execution…rough, baby. Rough. I can make it better now, and I will. Maybe it will find a home somewhere, and maybe it won’t, but either way, I’m learning, writing, working it out in my head, working it out on paper (completely different, in my experience, from working it out in my head), finding someone to give it a fresh read, writing, polishing, revising, working, working, working.

In other news, we just returned from vacation. It was fun, although as a completely bookish introvert I find spending a week with my family in a small car and/or small hotel room really exhausting. I love them, but work and school are good things for everyone. Now I’m off to transfer the laundry to drawers and closets via the foyer (sorting area in poorly-designed house) and the laundry room. Then it’s the grocery store. I need a vacation from my vacation!

Happy Mother's Day!

To all you mothers, or aunts, grandmothers, sisters, anyone who takes care of anyone else. Mothering isn’t limited to those with kids, if you think about it.

I had a nice day. Breakfast in bed, which was a success because I didn’t have to wash all the bedding afterward, a dozen roses, and best of all, my husband cleaned the bathrooms. 2 1/2 shiny bathrooms – toilets, sinks, showers, tubs, mirrors, floors – and I didn’t have to lift a finger…an excellent Mother’s Day gift. Then he took our son to visit Grandma, so I have the house to myself. It’s so interesting how the best gifts often don’t cost a penny…

Happy Mother’s Day!

Wickedcrazybusy

It’s spring. I barely remember winter except it seemed like it would last forever and I would never be warm again. And I’m wickedcrazybusy which isn’t a word, but should be. Things are settling down, slowly, but between prepping for RT and writing because THAT’S WHAT I DO, several times in the last month I have forgotten to brush my teeth. So far I have not forgotten to deliver the Small Boy to and from school. Relief. All appears normal to the outsider, appears being the key word in that sentence.

So, yeah, I’ll be in Columbus, Ohio next week at the Romantic Times conference. If you’re going, look me up. I’ll have chocolate, I promise! I’m speaking on the Harlequin Series panel on Wednesday 4/28 at 2:30 with Julie Miller et al, and giving a workshop at 11 a.m. on 4/30 called Revision Quest with the fabulous Robin L. Rotham. Robin and I both believe strongly in an effective revision process being key to writing books readers love, and we’ve worked hard to gather our ideas and techniques into the workshop. I’ll also be at the print book fair on 5/1, and just around, hanging out, the rest of the time.

In the meantime, I hope spring has arrived in your part of the world. The trees and grass are so green here that my eyes hurt when I look out the window. It’s wonderful.

Fast Draft

Historical romance author Jo Beverly wrote a very interesting article for RWA’s national magazine, the Romance Writer’s Report, about a topic guaranteed to provoke discussion: plotting vs. pantsing. She calls pantsing “flying into the mist”, and she’s a confirmed, open believer in that technique. All of the books or stories I’ve written, up until this one, have been mist stories. I had a vague idea of the plot/HEA, a much stronger idea of the characters and their struggles, and a desire to write. So I sat down and wrote the books without thinking much about goals, motivations, conflicts, structure, hooks, etc. This was more…fun…in some ways than preplotting a book, the method with which I’m experimenting for the current novel. This time I created charts to track the plot and build tension, wrote character back story, identified turning points, etc. I’m now writing a fast draft, which is to say I’m writing forward to the tune of about 1500 words a day until I’ve reached The End.

In the past I’ve discovered if I don’t Just Do It, I get hung up on things like research. My current hero works on the oil rigs. I have never worked on an oil rig. No one I know has worked on an oil rig. I know nothing about oil rigs, or the oil industry, so when I get to points in dialogue when he’s supposed to say something about working on an oil rig, I simply type in DO MORE RESEARCH HERE and keep on moving forward.

This amuses my editor no end. I had several rounds of edits sent back with a note saying, “Want to finish that research?” The funny thing is, by the time I’ve sent the book to my editor, I often don’t need whatever detail I felt I was missing when I was writing or revising the book.

The planning writers can do before writing a work definitely smooths out the process. I now have a list of about 40 scenes, including turning points, plot points, and emotional reactions that drive the story forward. I know what motivates the heroine and the hero. I know their end goals, I know what they give each other they can’t get from anyone else. That’s my stick in the sand: I’m writing what I’ve got…until someone does something surprising that takes the story in a different direction. When I was revising and expanding LIBERATING LACEY I got so confident in the writing I forgot to look at my scene outline until after the book was PUBLISHED. Needless to say, I’d deviated from that document…but the end result was better than what I planned.

So far knowing all this stuff hasn’t prevented me from writing the fast draft. For some authors, it does. My friend Julie Miller says if she knows what’s happening she can’t write the story. The characters’ surprises keep her coming back to the keyboard. Most writers I know well don’t do a really detailed outline – they get an idea, do some planning, then go for it.

Finding that balance between knowing enough to make sure the story’s workable and not knowing so much you get bored with the writing isn’t easy to do. If you’re hung up in the planning, try writing a scene or two, a key scene. If you’re stuck in the middle of a draft, try taking a step back and doing a synopsis or an outline and see if that helps. Most of all, keep writing!

How Did You Get Here?

One of the fun things about having a website is the ability to see the search engine phrases people typed in to get to this page. For example, I posted about Katherine Heigl and Janet Evanovich, and presto, got a couple of hits from people searching the Internet for those phrases. Yesterday I got a hit from someone who typed “sexy romantic fucking movie” into a search engine. Um. Yup. Not a movie. A book. But yup…that’s the basic idea + characters, a plot, and a HEA. Carry on.

My favorite, my absolute favorite, is the person who typed “large breasts in a lacy hunter green bra” in a search engine and found…well…Lacey and Hunter. I do not want to know WHY said individual was searching the internet for “large breasts in a lacy hunter green bra” but all the same, welcome, and thanks for the laugh!

Wow!

LIBERATING LACEY won first place in the EPIC Awards Contemporary Erotic Romance category at EPICon last night! I’m truly honored and delighted. Congratulations again to all the finalists in the very competitive category, and to the winners!

Good Earth Quote

I like a brand of tea called Good Earth. The strings attached to the bags have little paper tags on them, and pithy sayings on the tags. Today’s tea bag held the following Danish proverb:

He who would leap high must take a long run.

Nice. Good for writers, who have to be in it for the long haul. I have a little collection of fortune cookie sayings and caps from Honest-T bottles (which also have short quotes printed on the underside). Usually these inspire me in some way, like the Winston Churchill quote, “If you are going through hell, keep going.” But I’ll never forget the fortune I got shortly before I took a pregnancy test six years ago. It read, “You will soon need a new wardrobe.”

Two days later the pregnancy test had two lines, not one, and two months later I was buying maternity clothes. Freaky!