Posted in Other Stuff

Life is Full of Stuff

My family is experiencing a strange juxtaposition of momentous events. One Saturday, we celebrated the wedding of one of my great-nieces. The next Saturday, another of my great-nieces was killed in a car crash.

One event was a long-anticipated day filled with joy, beauty and laughter. Then, exactly one week later, an utterly-unanticipated day of shock, horror and grief. As has often been said, by people much wiser than I, “life is full of stuff.”

Happiness and pain are equally inescapable — a truth that is wonderful or terrible, depending which side of the line you happen to be walking at the moment. We will experience both, as surely as the sun rises and the rain falls. Perhaps it’s best not to know which we will experience more often, or how deeply.

While we are here, we think of young death as tragic. Most of us hope to live a long life. But in the grand scheme of things, whether we live a single day or a hundred years, it’s a flash of time so tiny that the difference between the two is hardly worth noting. All death is tragic. Or no death is tragic. All we can do is live the span we are given, and ride the waves of love and loss as they roll by.

From the instant sperm meets egg, we are hurtling toward death. Nothing is as certain to kill you as life. So if you’d rather not die, please refrain from being born. In fact, C.S. Lewis has theorized that death, not life, may be the Big Thing. Perhaps life’s true importance is that it is a prerequisite for death. You can’t get there through any other door; you have to live in order to die.

I suppose we shall see, one way or the other. Meanwhile, if there’s joy in Ojai and grief in Temecula, it’s best to remember that the distance between the two isn’t really very far.

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Posted in Other Stuff

Happy New Year!

It’s still January, right? I’m not too late? :whew: Squeaked that one under the wire.

I love this time of year. The daffodils are ready to pop, the sun is lighting up all the fresh-rinsed green of winter, and even the trees are stretching, yawning, and getting to work on flower buds and leaves. It’s a good time to be mapping out a book. Like the world outside my sun room, I’m bursting with secrets about to unfurl. Even I don’t know what they are yet. I just know they’re gathering, swelling, and jostling for position … the same process I imagine happening in the plum tree in my front yard.

Meanwhile, I received a package of books to judge for the RITA contest. So while my next book is pushing itself to the surface of my brain, I get to nibble the fruit of other author brains.

Which is a lot less icky than I just made it sound.

Posted in Books, Other Stuff, Publishing, Reading, Writing

The Next Big Thing

I’ve been “tagged” in something called (I believe) a “blog hop.” I’m supposed to answer a few questions about the book I am currently working on, then “tag” the next author — who will post her answers to the same questions next Wednesday and tag someone else. And so on. It’s rather like the white elephant game many of you are playing at your office Christmas party, only without the gifts. Or the option to swap your white elephant with someone else’s if you get something you don’t want. Or the ability to sneak out and go home, or at least check your Facebook page, while everyone else is preoccupied. Or —

Okay, it’s nothing like the white elephant game. Forget it.

Anyway, these are the questions … and my answers.

What is the working title of your book?

It will be a two-word title and the last word will be “Cool.” The first book in the series is WICKED COOL. The second book is SCARY COOL. So this book, the third one, will be, um, “[something] Cool.” The “cools” I am toying with at the moment are WAY COOL, TOO COOL, and WAY PAST COOL. Oh, wait, that’s three words. But it fits better than the others. On the other hand, it’s kind of lame. What about HALF-PAST COOL? Nah, that stinks. Maybe I’ll just call the book BITE ME. Ha, ha! No, I’m not serious. For one thing, somebody’s probably already snagged that title for a vampire book. Hmm. So what is the working title of my book? Let’s go with TOO COOL. For now.   

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Actually, I don’t have “an” idea for the book at this stage. I have a bunch of ideas, and am choosing which to use and which to toss. Then I have to comb through the ideas I’m keeping and decide which are central and which are secondary. Then I must place them in order of what happens when. Right now, I don’t know what happens in the book. I can’t hazard even a guess as to what the book is about. Frankly, I have no business answering any questions about this book yet and I can’t believe I agreed to do this blog hop.

What genre does your book fall under?

Finally, an easy question! Thank you. Young adult paranormal romance.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I shall urge the director to cast whichever actors do the best job at the auditions.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

“A young man obsessed with death falls for an old woman obsessed with life.” Oh, sorry, that’s Harold & Maude. Crap. Guess I don’t have a synopsis yet.

Will your book be published, self-published or represented by an agency?

Yes.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I haven’t written a single word of it yet. But so far? Two months. And I only wish I were kidding.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

It reminds me a lot of WICKED COOL and SCARY COOL.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

The reviewers of SCARY COOL. So far, every reviewer has given it five stars. And every last one of ‘em seems to expect a “next book in the series.” It’s hard to withstand that sort of pressure, folks.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

If I knew the answer to that, believe me, I would tell you. You and everyone else in the English-speaking world.

Now for the good part: the tag for next week’s edition of  “The Next Big Thing!” I proudly refer you to Kate Rothwell, who also writes as Summer Devon. Her blog is here, and it’s great fun to read. So are some of her books. I can’t say ALL of her books, because I haven’t read them all — yet. She’s awfully prolific. And by “awfully” I mean I am in awe of her. So “awfully” in the nicest possible sense of the word.

Posted in Books, Other Stuff, Reading, Writing

The Natural-Born Writer (and other myths)

Saw this via a post on Patrick Ross’s blog: Want to be a writer? Have a literary parent – Science – News – The Independent. Apparently some researchers in Britain have unearthed, through a complicated study, evidence of a “writing gene.” And they support their theory by noting the existence of “writing families” — the Bronte sisters, for example.

I think I agree with Stephen King. Yes, writers have a gift. If you don’t have it to begin with, no amount of training or education can give it to you. In that sense, writers are born, not made. But a gift for writing is not a particularly unusual gift. Lots of people have the knack. So what turns a possible-writer into a writer?

The indispensable trait in a writer is that you begin as a reader — a voracious reader. I have a strong suspicion that “writing families” are, in fact, reading families. Clearly, if there are writers in the family — and especially if the writers happen to be your parents — you are going to grow up in a household where books are revered, reading is taken for granted as a primary source of information and entertainment, and any writing you attempt is both encouraged and intelligently critiqued. The “writing seed” will fall on fertile soil.

I did not discover until several decades into my life that there are people — indeed, entire families — who frown on reading as a waste of time, call magazines and catalogs “books” (evidently discerning no difference between TV Guide and War and Peace), and equate a love of literature with snobbery. These people have a point — although it took me years to see it. I have spent a large portion of my life oblivious to my surroundings, for example. Would my childhood have been better spent in the “real” world – doing chores and riding bicycles, for example, instead of sitting motionless with my nose in the Chronicles of Narnia or Girl of the Limberlost? Because it wasn’t all great literature that kept me from my chores, you know. Sometimes it was Trixie Belden and Cherry Ames, Student Nurse. When you come from a family where reading is sacrosanct, whatever you are reading is, ipso facto, more important than fresh air, exercise or an uncluttered closet.

I’m guessing that Charlotte Bronte was excused from embroidery and piano lessons when she was writing or reading. I bet the Waughs lived in a dusty house and ate a lot of sandwiches. Mark my words, that “creativity gene” theory is going to be debunked. It ain’t nature — at least, not the lion’s share of it. It’s nurture!

Posted in Other Stuff, Writing

Lazy Days in Kihei

Last week I experienced the Polynesian Paradox: A complete inability to work, or even to think about working, coupled with an absolute conviction that if I could only remain in that oceanfront condo for a month … or two, or three … I would be so inspired, so filled with creativity, so utterly open to the muse, that I would whip out a novel in record time.

And wouldn’t I just love to test that theory. :sigh:

Image

Posted in Other Stuff, rwa, Writing

Okay, Now I’m Nervous

Apparently it’s not possible to sail into RWA’s national conference without a care in the world. I keep trying to tell myself I’m really in the “sweet spot” this year, there’s nothing to worry about, it’s all good, it’s going to be a blast, et cetera. No good. I’m nervous.

Perhaps the nerves are contagious. I’ve been following the #RWA12 hashtag on Twitter and all the chatter about shoes may be getting to me. I am reflexively worrying about shoes now. Weighing the risks and rewards of fashion vs. comfort.  Poring over hotel maps and mentally calculating the probable distance between point A and point B. Is the comfortable pair too shabby? Does the “nice” pair have insufficient arch support? Must I rush to the shoe store and replace every pair presently nestled in my suitcase?

This is nuts. I have no one to impress this year – and if I did, would footwear be the best way to go? (“Wow, look at those strappy sandals and perfect pedicure. I bet that woman can really write.”)

I think I need to get off Twitter and get a grip.

Seriously, this is going to be a GREAT conference. I am thrilled by the workshop offerings, the setting, the weather forecast, and the fact that for the first time ever, I am going to be in a room of my own. (I may go back to the utter-strangers-as-roommates situation for future conferences, however — maybe the summer camp/slumber party vibe is part of the conference’s charm. I may be missing out, rolling in solitary luxury. Or not.)

I’ll be posting pictures and videos over on my Facebook page, probably starting Wednesday night. So if you like to live vicariously — or if you’re just curious — stop on by!

Posted in Other Stuff, Publishing, rwa, Writing

How to Jinx a Writers’ Conference

I am really looking forward to the Romance Writers of America conference in Anaheim. I mean, I am REALLY looking forward to it. Is that a Bad Sign? Should I temper my excitement by reminding myself of, say, that Mexican Riviera cruise — which I was confident would be a dream vacation … until Day Two, when the Norovirus hit?

Maybe there’s no such thing as a jinx, but I am typing this with my fingers crossed. Just in case. Because if I manage not to jinx it, this RWA conference is going to be fantastic. FANTASTIC! There; I’ve said it.

I’ve attended quite a few, over the years, and they have all been great. But I’ve never been in quite this position before: making money from my books without being beholden to a publisher. I have no editor. I have no agent. I am not up for any awards. In other words, I am feeling no performance anxiety of any kind. I have no meetings set up. No conversations to anticipate, fret about, and mentally rehearse. No acceptance speech to write. No “graceful loser” smile to practice. No tricky etiquette questions to mull (“Which of us is supposed to pay for this lunch? After all, she invited me – but I chose the restaurant. And she’s my editor/agent/reviewer/chapter president …so does that tip the balance? And if so, in which direction?”). For the first time in my career, I will be free as the proverbial bird.

And, as if my enviable position above the fray weren’t blissful enough, I also have a book contract with NAL (or Signet, or Intermix, or whatever it is calling itself these days) — a bona fide subsidiary of Penguin Putnam. An actual “Big Six” New York publisher. Ha! Yes, I am hugging myself. Forgive me. It’s just too, too perfect. Because the contract is just for an e-release of one of my old titles — so it’s really no big deal, right? But a contract is a contract is a contract — so I am officially a Contracted Author. With a book coming out in August. Which means that, unlike most of the other self-pubbing authors, I get to attend the Signet/Berkley/NAL party on Friday night.

If you’ve never been to an RWA conference, you are going to have to trust me on this. Friday night is the night when all the publishing houses host parties for their authors. And you do not want to be left in the lobby with the wannabes, pressing your nose against the glass and watching as all the published authors are swept off in limos to glamorous destinations that you can only dream of. (Okay, there aren’t always limos and it’s not usually that thrilling of a destination — in fact, often the parties are just receptions held on the conference hotel premises — but that doesn’t matter; being in with the in crowd feels great, and being left out hurts. That’s just human.)

So. I go to the conference needing nothing from anyone, expecting nothing, able to enjoy every minute to the full without the usual high-adrenaline plague of nerves. And yet I get to attend the party. How perfect is this?!

Too perfect. Excuse me while I go throw some salt over my left shoulder.

Posted in Books, Other Stuff, Reading

Kindle Heaven

Santa brought me a Kindle Fire for Christmas. He got one for my husband, too, so I don’t even have to share it. Amazon automatically christened it for me: “Diane’s 3rd Kindle.” Which is a little embarrassing. I mean, really, how many Kindles does one pair of eyes need?

What’s even more embarrassing is, I am lusting after yet another Kindle — one I don’t have. The Kindle Touch.

Oooh. Aaah. I got one for my sister-in-law so I can live vicariously.

I have SUCH a crush on Amazon.

The Kindle Fire, if you happen to be wondering, is a different animal from your garden-variety Kindle. It’s Kindle-like, but it’s also iPad-like, and sort of phone-like as well. There’s a bit of a learning curve while you figure out how to navigate to where you want to go and how hard to touch the screen. Too vigorous, and your book jackets go flying by in a blur. Too dainty, and your commands are ignored. You feel like Goldilocks at first, struggling to find the place that’s juuuuust right. But, oh my, the things it can do!

I sat up in bed beside my sleeping husband with headphones on and watched three hours of Downton Abbey — the most exciting bout of insomnia I’ve ever suffered. I subscribed to Newsweek and the New York Times, which are now downloaded to the palm of my hand, essentially, in full-color glory. I updated my Facebook status while waiting for a plane at the Los Angeles airport. I played Angry Birds while in line at the cafeteria at work. There is, basically, no earthly reason why I should ever be bored again.

Aren’t you glad you lived long enough to experience 2012? I am.