Saturday, April 18, 2009

Return from Paradise

"Love is a portion of the soul itself, and it is of the same nature as the celestial breathing of the atmosphere of paradise." ~Victor Hugo

I'll post some vacation pictures later on today, after I finish unpacking (and recovering from yesterday's red-eye flight. yikes - how do people do that on a regular basis??) But yes, I'd say a week in Hawaii was just what the doctor ordered to chase away stress and sadness and steel myself for the craziness of the next 2 months!

I wish we could go back every year. Maybe if we lived in southern California, so the flight wasn't so long (or darn expensive), or if the prices went down -- c'mon! $15 for a glass of wine? $90 for a pedicure? Or if I signed that six-figure contract...which reminds me, I have some writing to do...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Waiting for the Payoff

"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." ~Victor Hugo

I had an interesting conversation with a woman yesterday who asked me if I'd read the Twilight books. (Note: if you don't know my opinion on them, here's a recap). When I admitted I'd read the first but not the other 3, she sighed and said, "I confess, I'm on the fourth one right now. I can't put them down!"

I asked her why, exactly, she loved them so much. (I'm always interested in knowing what keeps a person reading a particular book.) She said, "I'm not really sure. I think it's that I keep waiting for the big payoff."

And I thought that was such a great, honest way of putting it. Somehow, Stephenie Meyer has written a series that gets readers involved enough with the characters that they simply keep reading - through multiple books - to see if Bella and Edward WILL ACTUALLY END UP TOGETHER.

Isn't that what keeps us reading most of the time? No matter the genre or even the subject, when the author does it right, we turn the pages because we're promised some kind of payoff, some kind of resolution to all the conflict, and we simply can't wait to find out what it might be and how it might come about.

It was a good reminder for me, to continually up the ante and create believable conflict and angst when I write. We have to make the reader ache for the payoff!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Debra St. John

Welcome back to Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm chatting with Wild Rose Press author Debra St. John...

Debra, welcome! When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

I started writing in high school. (Not well, but the enthusiasm was there!) I subscribed to Harlequin American and got four shiny new silver books in the mail each month. After reading half a dozen or so, I thought, “I want to write one of these some day.” And I’ve been writing ever since. Not always seriously, but it was always something I came back to time and time again.

Tell us about your latest writing project or published title.

Right now I’m I the middle of working on a sequel, or spin-off, to “This Time for Always”. This story features Zach as the hero, who is a secondary character in the first book. I also have a new release coming soon called “Wild Wedding Weekend” which is currently in the final editing stage with my editor at The Wild Rose Press.

What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?

Keep at it and don’t give up on your dream. I played around for a long time before becoming serious about my writing, but I learned a lot along the way. Enter contests. You can get such great feedback from them. Join a writers’ group. My local RWA chapter, Chicago-North, has been invaluable to me. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve learned from the talented and wonderful ladies in that group. Find a critique partner or group. You’ll learn a lot from reading other people’s work.

Describe your writing space.

The computer in my den is what I like to think of as “home base” for my writing. I have pictures and sticky notes and such pinned up all over the place. I also have award certificates for contests I’ve won hung up to keep me going when I hit a wall. The den itself is decorated with old family pictures, so it’s a cozy and welcoming space.. Then last summer (I know I’m really behind the times!) I bought a laptop. This has been one of the best investments I’ve ever made. Now I can take my writing virtually anywhere. In the summer I like to take the laptop out to the back porch and spend an hour or two writing in my jammies before I start the day. My living room couch and the rocking chair on my front porch are also favorite “portable” writing spots. I go wherever the mood strikes me!

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

When I’m not writing I love cuddling up on the couch and watching movies with my hubby. In the summer I like to play in my garden or sit on the front porch in a rocking chair with a good book. Spending time with friends scrap booking or just hanging out is also one of my favorite things to do.

When you write, do you use the computer or compose by hand, oral dictation, or some other method?

I work mainly on the computer, but if inspiration strikes suddenly and I’m away from a computer I will hand write a scene or two and then transfer it into the manuscript later.

Debra, thanks so much for being here today! Readers, want to know more? Visit her website here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What I'm Reading Now

One of the things I like doing on vacation is peeking to see what other people are reading. And since people inevitably leave their books lying on their pool chairs, it's fun to walk around and read titles. I've seen a lot of "light" reading - no surprise there - not a whole lot of nonfiction, mostly romance/women's fiction or James Patterson/Dean Koontz types of titles.

I brought 4 books along with me, though I probably won't get through them all (even with a 10 hour flight each way!):

Tribute by Nora Roberts
Too Good to be True by Kristan Higgins
Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

I finished Tribute, and I always enjoy reading Nora only because her plots and subplots are so well written and tied together, and because she develops her characters so well. It inspires me to go back and tackle my own writing on a deeper level. I'm part way through Too Good to be True, and what I like most so far is the first-person narrator's voice. Kristan does a great job with that.

It's tough reading when you're a writer, though - I find I'm always analyzing the author's choices and figuring out how that reflects in my own work.

What about you?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Breaking the Rules

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh!" he whispered. "Yes, Piglet?" "Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you." ~A.A. Milne

"I felt it shelter to speak to you." ~Emily Dickinson

"Soul-mates are people who bring out the best in you. They are not perfect but are always perfect for you." ~Author Unknown

I picked up a Writer's Digest the other day, and one of the articles talked about creating the perfect romantic couple: what your hero and heroine should/should not be made up of. Among the top qualities: make them imperfect, don't make them mean, and above all, don't let them commit adultery.

OK, I can agree with all of that. But here's the problem: my latest WIP, Entwined, breaks one of these rules.

First, let me just say that I don't think Entwined is going to be a typical genre romance novel. It always has felt much more women's fiction/literary fiction/mainstream than something that will fit neatly into "contemporary romance."

Maybe that makes a difference, maybe it doesn't.

Here's the thing: my hero commits adultery. When the book begins, he is living with his girlfriend and their 4-month old baby girl. By the third chapter, he has moved across the country (doing research for his dissertation), met the heroine, and begun a torrid affair with her. Let me qualify this slightly by explaining that from the start, we know his relationship is miserable. His girlfriend won't sleep with him, barely tolerates him, and he has a suspicion she is seeing someone else.

No, I know this isn't an excuse. But much of the book's premise centers on the notion that sometimes we are drawn to another person despite every rational thought and every effort we make to stop it, that there are such things as soulmates and when we meet ours, we know instantly that is the person we are supposed to be with. No matter what. No matter the mess it might create around us.'s my question: do you think I need to change the opening chapters somewhat? I don't want readers to think my hero is a total jerk. And much of what happens to him is explained and justified later in the story. But at the start, he's a semi-committed guy who falls for another woman and acts on his desires.

Will you dislike him for that?

[Note: I'm cyber-waving to Liz, who has already read the first 2 chapters, so I'm hoping she'll drop by and tell me what she thinks...]

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Why We Stayed Inside Yesterday...

"For I remember it is Easter morn,
And life and love and peace are all new born."

~Alice Freeman Palmer

Yes, we're vacationing in one of the most beautiful places on earth. And yes, we spent a good deal of yesterday inside. Why? Well, aside from the fact that I decided 15 SPF was strong enough sunblock (um, it wasn't), and after 1:00 or so had to stay out of the rays for good, hubby sat down with Lost in Paradise...


proceeded to read the entire thing.


He brought the book along with the goal of finishing it by the end of the week, but couldn't put it down once he started it. For me, that's a good enough reason to spend an afternoon in Hawaii indoors. :)

To everyone who celebrates it, here's wishing you a wonderful, peaceful, and happy Easter Sunday!