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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Cat-e-chism...How to write around furry beasts

I'm home, I'm home...Call me Dorothy, but don't take the shiny shoes too far away!!

The best thing about going away is coming back and loving where you were once lost. I needed a break so badly, the business trip to DC (okay the one night of business followed by three days of sight-seeing, but for the sake of any IRS spies lurking around obscure blogs, all the milleage was for business) was a getaway long overdue.

If I'd had to write in my house one more day, I'd have booted myself to the curb. My poor family--what do you do when your writer wife/mother can't write any more and blames everyone and everything around her, including the paint on the walls and the neighbor's midnight-happy yappy dog? Why, you drive her 10 hours away (9 would be to0 few, 11 and you risk dementia from her having to use one public toilet more than the average germ-phobic writer can stand), plop her butt in a fine arts museum for two days, and say--"breath, honey...just look at all the pretty colors and breathe..."

And guess what happened... I actually could. Long deep breaths, as I gazed at creative masters, then strolled with the fam. through historic landmarks and the treasure trove that is the National Archives. And then, to my poor husband's dismay (though after travelling with me for near 20 years, you can imagine he wasn't all that surprised) I realized how much I really wished I was home... I loved feeling relaxed, but what better place to find your zen zone but at home? I wanted my bedroom and my comfy office AND my new state of "all's well with the world." Was the author just home sick? Manic-depressive? By-polar? Or just on deadline an starting to panic? Tough to say...

So, a click of my designer heels, a full day of driving, and two days of catching up on all that didn't magically get done while we were away, and here I am, creatively charged, covered in needy felines, sparkly red shoes retired to the closet but close enough to admire when I need a shot of, "you can get away again any time you need to," and, yes, actually working again!!!

I'm feeling a little spunky today, too, so let's have some fun and talk cat-e-chisms before I bury my head in my WIP and don't come up for air for the rest of the day... A catechism, the dictionary tells, is a tomb of (religious) instruction written in the form of questions and answers. I know, there's more to it than that, but this blog is a religion-free zone, because I want everyone here to believe what they're led to believe (as long as you make the effort to figure out what YOU believe, I'm happy ;O). But for our purposes today--that is, ridding myself gently of the paws and fur between me, the keyboard, the monitor and the deadline--it'll do.

So, my blog faithful (if you're still out there after my sporatic posting ever since the-spammers-who-shall-henceforth-never-be-mentioned-again sucked all the fun out of my early March blogging), lets do some Cyber Q&A! I'll start, but you guys chime in with whatever sounds fun and/or helpful... I'll post whatever you share in the comments back to the original post.

Anna's helpful guide to de-catting-e-chism:

Q 1) "I am all you need," says the cat as he plops his butt on your keyboard...

What exactly do you tell your editor when you miss your next deadline?

Anna 1) "Sorry, but my fingers kept bumping into a furry butt when I tried to type..."
Anna 2) "I was too busy scratching Bud's belly to write. You would have have done the same thing, if he'd rolled over and let you rub his little white tummy..."

Q 2) "Playing fetch is not a game, it's a state of mind," says the cat that's really a dog as he brings you his ball, hops into your lap, gives you his bottom to sniff (cats are big on the expressive power of the butt) and meows until you stop working and throw the ball...repeat sequence every 60 seconds for over an hour...

What exactly do you say to the feline who's smarter than you are because it took an hour of doing his bidding before you realized you could shut the door in his sad, sweet face and get back to work?

Anna 1) "Sorry, sweetie, you're going to have to play with your balls yourself, mommy's fingers are busy elsewhere..."
Anna 2) "Youre' not the boss of me!" You of course are saying this to yourself as you crank up the music in your office to drown out the feline whining from the other side of the closed door as Bud proceeds to argue with you about the virtues of devoting yourself to fun rather than work...after all, how much work are you really going to get done with that music blaring???
Jennifer 3) "That's what you think," her cats would say, posting themsleves on their sides (easier to slide paws under the door that way), scratching at the door, then when that doesn't work, heading outside to sit on the windowsill beside my computer to whine some more (you get the full visual effect of their surperiority that way ;O)

More questions to come tomorrow, as soon as I'm sure you guys aren't thinking I've lost my mind. So, try your hand at giving the brainey beasts who're so glad I'm home a voice to go along with their highly-skilled distraction techniques!!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Diary of a Writer On The Road: Day Last, Billy and me...

D.C. was AMAZING... So much history to absorb, and you're talking to a girl who digs biography in all it's various forms (paticularly, lately, the scathing stuff you can find online in blogs that make you laugh while you learn).

Fabio, easily bored an not liking the way the wind mussed with his lovely locks as we wandered about chilly DC, left us early on to find a goddess of lesser years for whom he could whip out his "not butter" lines and then sweep off to paradise--since I married my very own Italian hero, the Fabster's lisp is no longer this romance addicts idea of a life-long converation partner (or other types of partnering my G-rated journal has censored out).

Rob T. (said "Thomas" was feeling too juvenile as he was surfed the backseat of my sensible roadtrip car with an aging romance writer at the wheel and even more advanced in years cover model riding shotgun) wanted to kick up his heels and party a bit, so off he went to do all the St. Patricks Day things that growing up in Savanah burned out of my system years ago.

Blissfully alone at last (my natural state as an aging romance writer ;O), I struck out to search for what would be my central memory from this trip to our nation's captial. My mind takes snapshots more than my camera these days. I'm breathing in ideas and colors and textures that will feed the creativity that runs on empty all too soon, and stopping long enough to preserve the moment on film ruins the effect somehow.

I've seen so much beauty this weekend, both in the trees blooming up and down the mall and in the National Gallery, which dominated my time much more than expected. Paitings by Degas and Monet have long fed my mind's eye, as have Hissam's and Casset's...but did you know Degas was also a sculptor, among so many other things? He sculpted privately and showed only one piece, choosing for his medium wax and clay so he could constantly remold and reposition and add the effect of movement that he captures so amazingly in his paintings. There's an entire gallery in D.C. devoted to the pieces found in his studio after his death, amazing work that he did purley for his own benefit as he played with and explored ideas for other projects. Sculpture he never cared if anyone saw, and even less what others would think in response.

Let me just say, lesson learned, my friends, on the spot. Yes, I'm an entrepreneur in the business of publishing, but I'm also an artist. I have to put the business aside sometimes and give myself the gift of viewing the work of more visual artists, or tuning in to hear the lovely notes of T and others, or stopping and taking in nature's simple beauty (of course Fabio came along on this trip for more than eye-candy, but I'm not a fool!). I have to remember that artists CAN'T take all their cues from what sells and what others like. They have to learn an grow and develop an ever-changing perspective that's uniquely their own, or sooner or later they'll be simply phoning in cardboard copies of their original inspiration.

I want to be the type of artist that holds onto a piece of what I do that the world never sees. I want to keep going back to reshape and rethink and refine what is only for me. I want to explore for the sake of learning, not just to drill for new ideas I can sell. And I want to trust that all this will find it's way into the impact of my work on the world that experiences it, because I've kept searching for excactly what's trying to be said despite me getting in the way.

So, that's what I'm taking away from DC. Not so much the history or the patriatism, (Though I scooted by the Lincoln Memorial on the way out of town this morning. Standing close enough you feel like you could touch Lincoln's face, all the while his statue looms as big as the world, his Gettysburge and 2nd Inaugural Addresses framing the moment like historical bookends, you want to both clap and cry for all the men of his time did for each and every one of us). But also the inspiration to be more than myself, and to keep going back to the well until I learn to let go and let what I'm meant to in. The challenge to create what I alone can bring to this world, because I'm committed to refining what that is until I get it right. Same as our founding fathers did, come to think of it ;O)

Fabio's off to Europe with some richy-rich countess he met by the indoor pool. Rob T.'s had it with me and all my internal, angsty stuff. Hooked up with some local bands, he's happily playing pub circut and crooning for his supper. Billy's my sidekick on the trip back to lovely Georgia. Mr. Joel's greatest hits are how my husband wooed me in college, so it's only fitting that volumes 1-3 take me home to the dh. And since the man's body of work is varied enough they were able to pull together a Broadway musical from his tracks alone (tell me someone else out there has seen Moving Out!), I'm happily in the presence of genius for the next several hundred miles.

Hope you're having a LOVELY weekend. Next Friday, let's talk about Lori Handeland's latest Super, The Mommy Quest. If you haven't bought it yet, get it!!! The woman's better at creating riveting characters and turning a phrase than most in our business. It's either talk about Lori's book or a biography of Degas that I also read over the weekend (while I was supposed to be writing my own Super, mind you). And I figure you guys have swallowed enough chit chat about fine art for a week or so ;O)

Have a great rest of your weekend!!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Diary of a Writer On The Road: Day 1, Up And Out By 4 a.m.

Yes!! 4:00 A. M. So whatever you thought about pampered writers and their lazy bon-bon filled days of bubble-bath luxury, get your head straight and join me in my early morning yawn ;O)

Picture it. Thursday morning, Interstate asphalt churning beneath my nifty new tires. I'm somewhere between home and Maryland, driving with one hand and typing on my laptop (thank you, lovely wireless Internet card) with the other. A Big Gulp of icey caffination is balanced in my lap, nestled beside the KK (that's a Krispy Kreme donught, those of you who didn't teeth on the lovely southern pastries as a child), and the sun is poking it's head over the eastern horizon. My secretary (lovely muscles there, Fabio) is duitifully keying in my perfect prose for my next literary masterpiece as I dictate, and Rob Thomas is jamming from the back seat (saves wear and tear on my Dolby speakers if he simply comes along for the ride, rather than piping him in via my CD player). Ahhh, I love road trips, don't you!!

Okay, so that's not exactly what's going on in my car as I weave my way past Charlotte, NC, but what's a writer to do but paint the ideal picture for her blog guests to savor? I personally am drooling more over Rob Thomas and the KK than Fabio (when I need a hit of muscles, I drool over my favorite Italian cover model, Peter Decicco), but sometimes cliches are the best way to lock the reader onto an instant image.

So, what's your travel dream scenerio? Who's riding shotgun when you're getting the heck out of Dodge? Are you ready for a Lampoon vacation right about now, or is a Thelma & Louise get out or die excursion more what you need?

Needing to get away from something isn't always bad. It makes coming back and doing what's got to be done later a little easier to bear, I think.

The hero and heroine in my July Super, The Prodigal's Return, need to get away. I'm working on PR stuff for that book, so they're in my head and insisting that I come up with something catchy about summer getaways... Will let you know when Rob and Fabio hit on just the right image for me to take credit for ;O)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Amazing Thing About Writers is that we LOVE to write...

Sounds simple, doesn't it? That we should love what others love for us to do.

But sometimes while we're doing the work, it feels too much like work to be a well-loved thing. And when you're on the inside of work that seems like it'll never end, the end becomes the goal rather than cherishing the beauty of what you're doing.

When you're a writer, deadlines can too easily become about simply finishing. About getting to a point where you're no longer terrified that you'll fail. How can you love feeling like that?

So imagine my surprise, as I embarked on the first of the roughly 12 deadline's I'll have to meet between now and the end of the year (that's right, there are only 9 months left, so you got it, there will be sometimes more than one deadline in a month, in addition to the travel and appearances I have scheduled), to find an unfamiliar sense of peace settling over me. A surprising anticipation to tackle the opportunities ahead. A surge of joy about writing something new, after only finishing the last new thing just a week before.

I have the chance to have three books out next year!!! Dreading any part of what comes with that privilege would be rediculous. Just a few years ago, something like having three books contracted at the same time would have seemed an unattainable dream! Now I'm living it. I'm sweating the deadlines, but I'm living the dream.

So bring on the deadlines. Hit me with the spine-tingling anxiety of not knowing what I'll create exactly, but knowing it has to get done, so I'd better get to it!!

Playing with the big kids is a treat, my friends. Don't shy away from your chance when it comes. Don't worry so much. Just kick your heals up and dance. You'll never know if you can do it, unless you throw everything you have into trying. At least, that's what I'm telling myself as I move on from today's deadline into what I have to have done by Monday ;O)

Update on prizes: A few items are left to be shipped out. By the first of next week we'll be all caught up and the last of the packages will be on their way. Thanks so much for your patience.

Update on appearances: I'm off to speak at the Maryland RWA Chapter Thursday. Can't wait to meet up with old friends and meet some new ones as we chat about the planning and revising that are so key to the writing process.

And the end of the month, I'll be in California for the Celebrate Romance conference--anyone on the West Coast wanna come for a fun readers' weekend?

Here's hoping you have a week full of challenges, and an exciting weekend full of fun yourself!!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Catching-up, Woe is Me, but Partying On!!!!

As with all things inspiriational, the source of today's motivational challenge is a tad of woe--everyone, sigh, and spare just a moment. I promise a Paul Harvey ending you'll cheer for ;o)

It's the SPAM, of course. The SPAM whammie got me, kicking at the writer when she's post-online-bash weary and deadline spanked. Just when I had no time to dive in and recreate blog fun for everyone to enjoy while I had to disappear to meet next week's deadline. Just when my amazing "Shipping God" (the tireless dh) was finally getting last month's prizes in the mail, and I needed to cross-check everything in my lovely blog. Just when all the online promoting for The Runway Daughter was wrapping up, here comes nasty SPAM, rushing in to overwhelm my last dwindling brain cells...

That's a whiney way to say, sorry for ditching everyone last week. But...the book's the thing, and a proposal has to go in to my agent before I head up to Maryland to to give a workshop Thursday night. So everything else fell away, as you know happens from time to time in my frazzled life.

So--off I went, mid-Project Runway chatter (those who love Cloe, I'm happy for you and her that she won, but I REALLY don't think she's anywhere near as talented as the final two guys--or even Nick, for that matter). Hiding offline became a necessity as I sweated out the first three chapters of The Perfect Daughter. And oh...my...Gosh--it's really coming together...I'm sooooo loving the contemporary feel of this story!!! Not loving that I've had to ignore so much chaos and post-party fun out here, but the party going on in my laptop is coming along nicely, I'm happy to report!!

Making this a Party-On blog post!!! We have those a lot here, if you're new. Yes, life can suck the big SPAM one when you least expect it, but there are so many more surprises to come, you just have to ride the wave and KNOW that the good stuff is right around the next corner.

So, to catch-up: Prizes are still being shipped out (dh is handling as many as he can each week). Hang in there, and we'll get it done. Blog posts will be picking up starting today, but so many great plans have been put on hold while I get this proposal out. The Runaway Daughter is selling well, meanhwile I'm writing The Perfect Daughter (very cool serendipity, that), which means I'll have more excerpts on my Coming Soon page, well...soon. But don't be surprised if writing takes me away from online fun a little more over the next week or so, just as my personal SPAM demon has yanked away my blog archives to keep you guys entertained as I write. Picture me sticking out my tounge as said evil spirt!!

The good, the bad, and the ugly, yes--but also the groundwork for such lovely new fun to come.

So Party On!!! Join me in finding your bright tomorrow to look to, regardless of the hum-drum (or SPAM spankings) of today. I have a second book out this year (my first time with multiple titles in the same year), and I'll be sharing three new stories with you between now and December. How could I be anything but thrilled and in awe???

So take your SPAM, evil internet pests, and shove it where the woe-don't-shine!!! We're going to have a lovely time to spite you ;O)

Thanks for the supportive emails asking how things are going. They're going creative, frantic, and all-together magical. Hoping the same for you!!!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Gotta put up with me talking about PR today!!!

And I don't mean Public Relations (though I talked all last month about that in eHarlequin and will have some excerpts up soon on my Articles page). No--today and tomorrow, my mission is to brainwash you into loving BRAVO'S Project Runway as much as I do ;O)

I've made a fine dent in the pages I have to complete today--the proposal for The Perfect Daughter--and a pot roast is on the stove bubbling away (yankee pot roast, because I love the gravey and the amazing way the potatoes and other veggies end up when the whole thing cooks for hours). And I have the tiniest taste of wine here with me (needed it for the roast, so why not take a sip even if it's a tad too early in the day) as I listen to the surf break and the gulls cry out my window... Okay, the ocean sounds are from my white noise machine, but a girls gotta have some atmosphere if she's going to get a good day's work done, right?

Just the right time of the day (with my son home from school, homework done, and he and a friend screaming outside while the play the afternoon away) for us to focus on what's really important--THE PROJECT RUNAWY FINALE IS TONIGHT!!!!!! Who will win? Whose clothes will look ridiculous? Who will say what and will Santino finally get what's coming to him?

Alas, most of you probably don't know what I'm talking about and, more's the pity, there's no time in the blog to catch you up. Let's just say that someone chained to the artistic process such as myself can't look away from the site of a group of creators being forced to be artistic on demand on national television week after week. Their anxiety is mine, their doubt and fear. The runion show last week showed them working late into the night and being silly and slap-happy and losing their minds--that's me and my best writing girlfriends when we call each other in the middle of the day, delirious from lack of sleep and cursing our editors as slave drivers.

This year's show was even better than last year's. They'll be doing marathons of it on BRAVO all week, so do yourself a favor and catch up if you can. I'll be glued to my TV at 10:00--which means I have to get back to those pages and get them done first!!!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Buffy, All Grown Up and Kicking Butt in Our Own Backyards

What an amazing book--Julie Kenner's Carpe Demon. I love it for so many reasons, and not just becase it's one of the new books that's written like a chick lit (flawless first person, with an uber-accessable narrative stye), but also because a book finally, FINALLY, addresses the lives of still-hip women (at least, we'd like to think we are), over the age of thirty.

I love that the author spends no time introducing the concept of a vampire slayer to us--we're expected to understand the breed if we've picked up the book, and there are always refuns of Buffy and Angel to educate us, so why waste page time rehashing?

I love that Kate finds being a stay-at-home mom of two energetic kids and wife of an up-an-coming lawyer more of a daily challenge that demon slaying ever was--even when the demons launch themselves back into her life, it's that night's dinner party she's most worried about managing (demons are so not as big a deal). Speak to me, sister!!!

I love that the story is written, though hiply as I mention above, like a made-for-family movie (though there is a good bit of cursing, which in my opinion only adds to the realism of the work...still, for those who don't like that sort of thing beware before you hand it over to your teens): the kids are real, but not dangeraously so; the husband is self-absorbed, but not in a beat-my-wife-if-dinner's-not-on-the-tabe-at-six sort of way; the heroine is harried, but she's our hero so not to worry, she'll manage everything that comes her way; and the demons are scary, but somehow it's always clear from the start that they're going to be sorry for messing up Kate's important dinner (even though we're never sure from scene to scene, exactly how she'll manage (i.e., how will she manage to get that body burried without her dinner guests, or her husand, finding out?). Interesting and unique, Carpe Demon doesn't make me wonder if I'll be up all night after reading another chapter, so I keep reading!

It's escapism, dear readers. Just what I read light paranormal for. Exactly why so many of my generation, and not just our kids, fell for Buffy and Angel. I don't like Horror, but I like a good demon-fight as much as the next surburban mom. And it's well written escapism. Joss Weaton's (did I spell that right???) brilliance with the written word is what made his slayer shows work. You couldn't wait to hear what was going to come out of his characters' mouths next, so you kept watchinge even when his story lines became totally unrealistic. You'll feel the same about Carpe Demon.

So, the comments section is open. I know we are supposed to book chat on Friday's, but the spammers decided today would be best for us (had to wait for everyone to find the new blog).

What do you think--going to find a copy of Carpe Demon and dive in?

Many have written to say they're already fans. Tell us what you liked best.

Oh, and a little birdie shared with me the other day that they're already casting the rolls in the movie that's been optioned from the book--I CAN'T WAIT for this one to to be made into a film!!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Pound Cake, Pages, and Jackson is here!!!!!

Everyone, take a moment to scream with Fannie, her grandson Jackson is here!!!!! A week old, she told us in her comment yesterday. Well done, grandma. Newborns are the best snugglers...sigh...

Off to the grocery in a few minutes. Running errands on Saturday is not recommend for over-scheduled authors who have comments due next week on her July story (The Prodigal's Return, in case you didn't catch me gushing in my comments last night), and three chapters of her Feb. '07 story (The Perfect Daughter) due the following week. But, alas, a chocolate sour cream pound cake has been promised for the pot-luck dinner we're going to Sunday night, and I need to get it done today (just in case it doesn't come out, as home made pound cakes are want to do every third or fourth one I make for reasons never clear to me, and I need time for Plan B). Always have a Plan B--that's the Busy Girl's Code.

Oh, and there's my husband's weekend chore of pulling old boards off the side of the house and replacing them (what makes me think I'll get roped into that one before he's through?), and my son's wanting to go to the four-hour Yu Gi oH! tournament at the mall all afternoon (that'll be my baby, too, but at least I can take the laptop along and write while he duals).

So, the question of the day is the ever-inspiring, How do we as wives and mothers (and busy women, those of us not chained to--that is, not blessedly bound to--our families) fit in our pages (or whatever your personal priority is) in the midst of the pound cakes and other adventures constantly pulling us away?

My secret weapon is announcing my daily goals before anyone else is awake enough to get theirs out. I actually have daily page output and other deadline-based things planned out weeks in advance when I have as much going on as I do. Everyone knows what I have to get done. Not that that means I'm off the hook for the other wife and mom stuff, but treating my work as real business deadlines kind of shifts the conversation toward working everyone else's stuff around mine, rather than the other way around. I work at home--work. It's a valuable perspective.

I love being a wife and mom. I love baking pound cake. I love going to pot lucks and meeting the neighbors. But, I have to get my work done first--work that gets put off too often during the week as I'm carpooling and volunteering in the school and dealing with day-to-day stuff everyone else gets to leave behind when they walk out the door in the morning.

So, put the pages first (whatever you pages turn out to be), and announce your priorities as often as it takes until they become everyone else's as well. This morning, my son knows to leave mommy to her writing if he wants to go to his Yu Gi oH! tournament--isn't that a lovely thing? Now if my husband could just manage to get up and down the ladder without needing me to hand him something...I think I'll send the ten-year-old out to help for a while ;O)

How do you busy ladies manage to get your pages done????? This is a timely qestion for us all, since on Monday we'll be chatting about the harried stay-at-home mom who used to slay demons (and might just have to again) in Julie Kenner's Carpe Demon. Talk about a woman balancing a full plate and priorities no one around her even knows about. Sheesh...maybe I should stop complaining ;O)

Congrats again Fannie. Thanks again, everyone, for finding me over here and keeping me company as I pouted at the nasty spammers yesterday. You're the best!!!

Off for some pre-pound-cake shoping!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Moving to a New Blog Space

I know, I know...it's a mess over in my old blog. I'm so SORRY!!!!! Spammers have killed my blog, ladies. That lovely place we've had fun in for so long, our fun party that we were continuing into March--DEAD, because some teenager somwhere decided to get his jollies killing my host's server. Ask me how I really feel...

Am working with my tech person even as I type. Please be patient, and let's have our Carpe Demon chat out here on Monday!!!!!

In the meantime, let's spend today chatting about how much we HATE spammers!!!! All comments and sympathy welcome. ARgh!!!!!!

Bookmark this new page and keep coming back for more fun. We'll be on the mend and doing our thing again next week, promise!!!