Posted by Beth Andrews Aug 1 2012, 4:00 am in Beth Andrews, exclusive interview, romance bandits, The Writer's Life
How long have you been writing, and how has your writing changed over time?
I’ve been writing for ten years (which doesn’t seem possible, especially considering when I started writing, my youngest was five years old) and sold my first book five years ago. Well, I think most writers grow and “find” their voice after they get a few manuscripts under their belts, and that certainly happened to me, but what changed the most from when I wrote my first (currently-under-the-bed-will-never-see-the-light-of-day) book is that my stories became more real. Maybe even a bit dark as far as the themes go and the issues that my characters have to deal with – but I always try to remain true to my characters and they often find the humor and silver-lining in situations.
What drink does Sven bring you when you’re hiding in the cave?
I’m currently obsessed with iced coffee. Obsessed with…addicted to…let’s not quibble. I make my own using a recipe I found on The Pioneer Woman (I have decided Ree Drummond and I should be best friends for life) except I tweaked it a bit to suit my tastes. I add half and half (Yes. I said it. Half and half. Don’t judge.) and a little bit of fat-free sweetened condensed milk. Oh. My. So good. I think I’ll have Sven bring me one right now. Oh, Sven…
Who do you enjoy writing more — hero or heroine?
This varies for me but usually it’s one or the other and changes depending on the story and how well I know that character. However, I really enjoyed writing both Nora and Griffin in my August release, ON HER SIDE, the second book in my The Truth about the Sullivans’ trilogy. I fell hard for Griffin when he had a short scene in book one, UNRAVELING THE PAST, and when I started ON HER SIDE, Nora came alive for me. I had such a ball writing that book!
Favorite thing you’ve researched?
Oh, boy, that’s a tough one. I love, love, love research. I’d have to say that so far, the most interesting to me was researching vineyards and wineries for my Diamond Dust trilogy. Great stuff and fabulous trips to local wineries where I drank wine, had a behind-the-scenes tour, asked dozens of questions and drank more wine.
What’s in your writing cave to inspire you?
The RITA flag that was on my table at the Literacy Signing in Orlando and, of course, RITA herself (complete with the Mickey Mouse ears Tawny made her) are there for daily inspiration. For my current WIP, the first of a new series coming out next April, I made a collage to keep me on track. It’s the first time I made a collage for a story but it was so much fun, I’m definitely going to do it again!
Please visit my website to check out excerpts and more information about The Truth about the Sullivans and my other releases. Or you can find me on Facebook or drop me a line at: email@example.com. As always, wishing you Happy Reading and enjoy your time in the lair!
Posted by Anna Campbell Jun 10 2010, 4:02 am in Anna Campbell, Television, The Book Show, The Writer's Life, Workspaces
by Anna Campbell
We have a new arts channel on cable TV here (STVDIO) and I’m having a lovely time, especially on a Monday which is devoted to writers and writing.
My favorite show on this network over the last few weeks is The Book Show which is produced for the British cable outfit Sky TV. And my favorite part of The Book Show is the bit where they show a writer’s workspace. Anyway, here’s the website: http://thebookshow.skyarts.co.uk/
One of the things I love about The Book Show is that they don’t just go in for high-falutin’ literary types. Everybody gets a look-in. So far, among the interviewees, I’ve seen Sue Townsend and a couple of thriller writers, including Robert Harris, and Tracey Chevalier who I met at last year’s Brisbane Writers Festival (yeah, I know, that definitely counts as name dropping!) and Marian Keyes.
Marian Keyes by the way gave a really impassioned defense of women’s fiction. As she said, why do people feel they can make value judgments based on what women read? And what’s really sad, she said were the ‘collaborators’. Women who accept these value judgments at face value as if things that women like are automatically considered beneath serious consideration.
But that’s a rant for another time! I haven’t read MK but after seeing her interviewed, I’m interested! She definitely is one smart cookie.
What I want to talk about today is the regular segment about writers’ workspaces which I find absolutely fascinating.
We’ve had a couple of very elegant garrets high in the top of terrace houses. Fay Weldon’s fascinated me – it’s a very workaday office with steel shelving and a plywood desk at the university where she teaches. The one yesterday was a military historian called Richard Beevor who writes in a restored barn in the Cotswolds with views over the fields.
The one that really filled me envy – perhaps because like me she writes romantic fiction although in a very different style – was Jilly Cooper’s workspace. It was a converted 14th-century dovecote again in the Cotswolds. By the way, clearly when you’ve made it in Britain as a writer, you HAVE to move to the Cotswolds, snort!
This beautiful space in a stone building with views out across classic English rolling hills made my mouth water. Bookshelves everywhere. And cats. Jilly says she loves having the cats around when she’s writing – as she put it you spend so much time on your own when you’re a writer, it’s nice to have something alive in the vicinity. But something alive that lets you keep working!
Anyway, I took some photos of my current workspace only to discover that the new computer objected to linking with the camera. Sigh. As a result, I was stuck going through my old files.
These photos are slightly out of date – I’ve got another corkboard now in front of the desk, for example. And the garden, bless its cotton socks, is considerably more overgrown than it is in the picture.
But you get the idea – books, mess, postcards, computer, desk (which I love – my father rescued it from a Telstra disposal sale and did it up for me when I was in uni. I still can’t believe they threw out solid walnut in favor of chipboard back in the late 70s!). View of my garden outside.
So what’s your workspace like? If it’s like Jilly Cooper’s, by the way, I may never speak to you again, snork! Do you have a favorite room in your house? Let’s talk about our habitat! And by the way, only the rooster gets to boast of his bad habitats! Groan!
Posted by crocodesigns Jul 18 2009, 4:16 am in Aunty Cindy explains it all for you, RWA conference, The Writer's Life
posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy
I’m not really here. I’m in Washington D.C. at the RWA conference eagerly awaiting tonight’s big Rita/Golden Heart awards ceremony. Here’s hoping I’m not hung-over from being wined and dined along with the other CasaBabes by our publisher and editor last night! But I digress…
So here I am at the National conference and I have no doubt I’m having THE BEST TIME EVER!
Yes, they are expensive and often the timing is terrible, but I know there are lots of reasons to attend writing conferences.
- the chance to meet editors and agents face-to-face
- great workshops to improve your knowledge and craft
- the latest and greatest info on what the publishers are buying and selling
- rubbing elbows with ‘famous’ authors and being inspired by their speeches
But for me, BY FAR the best thing about attending any writing conference, but especially National is being with other people who “get it.”
I remember my first RWA National, 2005 in Reno. I was utterly overwhelmed by all the crowds, books, general buzz of excitement. But the best thing was when I realized that everyone at the conference “got it” about romance writing and reading.
Because many of them had been there, they understood about pouring heart and soul into the writing of a book only to have a form rejection slapped on it. Heck, they understood about rejection in general and how it was hard not to personalize even the “good”ones.
They understood about sitting day after day in front of a keyboard and monitor pecking out a few words here and there, or typing in a frenzy to get the thought down before it escaped. They knew about forcing “the muse” to produce pages whether it or you wanted to or not.
Just like me, they had walked up and down the aisles of a store staring blankly at the shelves and seeing nothing, because characters were ‘talking’ inside their heads. And the readers “got it” too! They knew that the characters we writers create are very real and considered and discussed them that way!
Discovering people who “get it” has been a revelation and a life-saver for me! People who “get it” have kept me going in spite of all the rejections and doubt demons. Both the readers and writers have boosted my confidence in my writing when it was at the lowest possible ebb. They have invested themselves in my characters and stories as much as I have (I met one of my CPs and several good writing buddies at conferences).
Knowing and being with people who “get it” truly makes all the hassles and aggravation and frustrations of the writing life worthwhile! So please accept my most humble THANK YOU for all you do and for “getting it!” I absolutely do not know what I’d do without you!
What about you? Who are some of the people in your life who “get it?” Be they DH, CP, family or friends, how did you find them?
And what have you been doing while the rest of us are whooping it up in DC?
Posted by crocodesigns Jun 18 2009, 5:35 am in Aunty Cindy explains it all for you, Jo Robertson, Romance, The Treasures of Venice, The Writer's Life
posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy
Next Tuesday I’m excited to be a guest speaker at the Solano County Library in Fairfield, California as part of their Summer Reading Program for Adults. The librarians asked me to talk about my experiences as a romance reader and writer and I thought I’d give you all a sneak peek at part of what I plan to say.
My mother is the one chiefly responsible for setting me on the winding path that eventually became my road to romance. She loved to read the great old gothic romances by Victoria Holt, Phyllis A. Whitney, and Mary Stewart.
Back in the day (all right, I’ll admit it, I’m a child of the 60s) you could very definitely tell a book by its cover. If the cover had a house with only a single lighted window, it was a gothic! My mom always had a paperback or two lying around the house. She often traded them with her friends.
As a bored young teen, I started picking them up and reading them and–WONDER OF WONDERS!–I liked them! (In fact I liked them so much, that I wound up naming my son after a character in Mary Stewart’s The Moonspinners!)
I say ‘wonder of wonders’ because in those days I was an avid science fiction/fantasy reader and an all-out LOTR fanatic! I read everything from Piers Anthony to Roger Zelazny and anything in between. In fact it was a fantasy novel first published in the late 1970s that convinced me I should try my hand at writing my own novel. That book was The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks and it was a complete homage to Tolkien.
I LOVED IT! I also decided that if some lawyer from Chicago could do it, I could too (ah, the blissful ignorance of youth). So I made my very first attempt at writing a novel. I wrote the first draft in long hand and typed the revised copy on a portable manual typewriter.
Yes indeed, it was a terrible trial and so was the story! After a few rejections (can’t believe I actually had the nerve to send it out) it went into a very large box under the bed and somehow through various moves and a divorce became lost forever. Thank goodness and may it Rest In Peace!
Meanwhile, my rocky road to romance continued. In the 80s I discovered and devoured most of the ‘bodice rippers’ of the day — Rosemary Rogers, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Patricia Matthews (remember her?). But contemporary romances pretty much left me cold and fantasy continued to be my genre of choice…
Until one day in 1992 when I was browsing the SciFi/Fantasy section of my local bookstore and I pulled out a book that had somehow been misshelved. I mean, one look at the cover (front and back) and I knew that in spite of its very odd title, Outlander, that this was a romance. My BFF’s birthday was fast approaching and I knew she liked to read romances so I bought the book to give to her. Of course, I just couldn’t resist reading the first chapter…
…And the rest, as they say, IS HISTORY! I couldn’t stop, and finished Outlander in a 3 day reading binge. By the time I gave it to my BFF wrapped in pretty flowered paper with a bright shiny bow (to distract from the slightly cracked spine), I’d already stopped at the library and checked out the sequel, Dragonfly In Amber. And when I finished it, I ran to the bookstore and bought every time-travel romance in sight. Finally, when I grew impatient waiting for Diana Gabaldon to finish the third Jamie and Claire book, Voyager, I decided to write my very own time-travel romance.
This second effort wasn’t nearly as bad as my previous sword & sorcery attempt. In fact, an editor at Leisure books actually requested the full manuscript, but didn’t buy it. But I also knew I had a lot to learn and started reading a lot of ‘how-to’ books and taking online classes. I also kept reading romance! By now, I’m happy to say I was firmly on that road.
Eventually, I joined RWA and attended some regional conferences. I also kept reading and writing, and decided to go back to my ‘roots’ and give romantic suspense a try. My first completed romantic suspense manuscript finaled in the 2006 Golden Heart (sound familiar?). And in 75 more days, that book will be released as The Treasures of Venice! Just goes to prove that happy endings happen in real life too!
Now you all know a little of my story of my road to romance, so it is your turn to share yours! Who helped set you on your own road to romance? What are some of the books you remember most along the way?
Please share and at the end of the day, Aunty will pick one commenter to receive either an autographed copy of The Wild Sight (which just WON Best First Book in the More Than Magic Contest!) , or an IOU for an autographed copy of The Treasures of Venice when it is released on September 1st.
Posted by Anna Campbell May 10 2009, 5:29 am in Anna Campbell, Marie Lloyd, The Writer's Life
by Anna Campbell
A Little of What You Fancy is the title of a rather saucy Edwardian song sung by a rather saucy Edwardian music hall star called Marie Lloyd who lived between 1870 and 1922.
She’s a fascinating character – although you wouldn’t think so if you’d watched the recent BBC movie about her life. I was looking forward to it because it featured the gorgeous Richard Armitage as her first husband. Sadly, even the gorgeous Richard couldn’t save this mess! Although I think that’s a really cute picture of him laughing his head off with the girl who played Marie.
Marie Lloyd rose from poverty in the slums of Hoxton in London to become one of the world’s highest paid entertainers. She went through three husbands, including a last guy who was considerably younger than she was. She stood up against the entertainment moguls of the day to make sure less famous music hall performers received decent pay and conditions.
And she was very, VERY naughty!
She was always in trouble with the censors. One of my favorite stories about her is that when the authorities complained about a song called I Sits Among the Cabbages and Peas (yeah, good old British toilet humor!), Marie shrugged, told them any double entendre was all in their dirty minds, and changed the lyrics to “I sits among the cabbages and leeks.” Cheeky, huh?
Another of her famous songs was Every Little Movement Has a Meaning of its Own. Again, the lyrics without her delivery could be seen as quite innocuous! But you can imagine what the delivery was like. Ooh la la!
And all this in the prim and proper late Victorian era! They weren’t quite as buttoned down as we’d like to think, those Victorians. Ask Donna!
Sadly, Marie ended up falling victim to drink and her last days were rather pathetic with her playing to dwindling crowds and acclaim. But for many years, she was unrivaled as the queen of the music halls and she became that without being a great beauty or even a terrifically good singer. It was all chutzpah and guts and spirit and sauciness. My sorta gal!
She died in rather a sad way. She was performing in a shabby music hall and she was singing one of her songs that had been a hit for her since her childhood on the stage, I’m a Bit of a Ruin that Cromwell Knocked Around a Bit. When she started to stagger and eventually collapsed, the audience rocked with laughter because they thought it was part of the act. But Marie was desperately ill and died three days later. 100,000 people attended her funeral!
All of which is a rather long winded introduction to what I’m talking about today. A Little of What You Fancy Does You Good, as Marie would have said!
I’m talking about small day-to-day luxuries. The thing you regularly use as a pick-me-up. Something that offers a tiny highlight in a day that might be all hard slog otherwise.
I work very strange hours! I get up very, very early, usually around 4am and I work through until about 11 when generally my brain is tired and I’m utterly sick of my office.
Then I stop for a couple of hours. I cook lunch as my main meal of the day, I watch a bit of TV, I often have a bit of a nap. It’s quite a European way to spend the midday hours, actually! Then I head back around 2 to start work again, feeling like a new woman.
And if I can’t get a new woman, well, I suppose an old one will do. Ha ha. A joke good enough for a Maria Lloyd song? Nah, I didn’t think so either!
But the moment of real luxury to me is that I have a glass or two of wine. Generally a nice Aussie red. Aaaaaah. Big sighs of satisfaction when I take that first sip after a hard morning at the computer face.
So do you have a small reward you give yourself most days? A piece of chocolate? Some other favorite food? A favorite TV show? A photo of a gorgeous guy you drool over (you can’t have Richard, he’s mine!)? A cuddle with your honey? Something, heaven forbid, physical like a swim or a walk or a bit of gardening. I’m not talking about the big luxuries here like a trip to Paris or a couture gown or spending up big at a bookstore – although reading a chapter of a romance or another good book would definitely count.
Come on, share! I want to see if there are other daily sybarites out there!
Posted by Anna Campbell Nov 10 2008, 5:30 am in Anna Campbell, Lipstick, Tempt the Devil, The Writer's Life
by Anna Campbell
I’m not much of a girl for wearing a lot of makeup although for glad rags events like the RWA awards night, I will slap on a bit of grease and paint.
But there’s one item of makeup I’m absolutely addicted to…
Yeah, given the title of this blog, you don’t exactly have to be Einstein to guess!
I’ve always loved lipsticks ever since I was a little girl dressing up in my mother’s old clothes. I love the names the cosmetic companies give lipsticks – they’re worthy of the greatest of romantic novelists. Pink from Paris, one of my mum’s from those early days. Doesn’t that just whisper of French sophistication? Well, it did when I was eight! Sahara Rose – a favorite Revlon shade they don’t make any more. Fire and Ice – a startling dark Hollywood starlet red that was my favorite color back when I worked in fashion in the mid-80s. Another Revlon shade now I think of it!
Other favorites include a wonderful REALLY vibrant red from Christian Dior that I inherited from a friend of mine. She’d never worn lipstick and decided to break the ice with something that would stop traffic. Needless to say, she NEVER got the guts to wear it. So her loss was my (very expensive lipstick) gain. It was called Geranium so you have some idea of the intensity of that color!
And of course, I am eternally devoted to my lucky lipstick. It’s a very intense shade of maroon red, like a ripe cherry, and it was another expensive lipstick – after the Christian Dior, I really set my sights higher! It’s from Lancome and it’s called Ah, Les Femmes and the color is JUST right. If there are any other lipstick afficionados out there, you’ll know how precious that JUST right color is.
No less an authority than the immaculately presented Lisa Kleypas commented on it, saying that although it was out of fashion, it was a great color for someone of my complexion. Yes, I know I’m name dropping! We lipstick tarts have no shame!
My great fondness for lipsticks was cemented about 20 years ago when I was in a bit of a slump (the way Everest is a bit of a hill!). I was working part-time in a really demanding but unfulfilling job which I’d taken so I had time to write. And my writing wasn’t getting anywhere. I had no money and was definitely digging myself into a hole.
Then one day, I bought myself a new lipstick – the aforementioned Sahara Rose. I do so wish Revlon still made that shade, it was a really pretty subtle brownish pink that you could wear almost anywhere.
And it gave me such a boost. It was an inexpensive way to pick up my mood immediately and I got a blast of cheeriness every time I wore my new lipstick. The effects of my purchase of course eventually wore off so I had to buy another new lipstick. So easy for addictions to come into being! At least this particular addiction isn’t fattening, though! Or bad for my liver. Although I suspect I’ve eaten an elephant’s weight of lipstick in my life, so perhaps I shouldn’t speak too fast about that conclusion!
The boost I get from a new lipstick has never faded.
Currently my favorite is an Estee Lauder called Black Cherry. It may even end up replacing Ah, Les Femmes in my affections, I’m so crazy about it. I love its elegant shiny gold container. I love the immediate intense color. It’s a GREAT lipstick!
So are you a fellow lipstick tart? Do you have something else that you know will immediately pick up your mood and give you a smile? Chocolate definitely comes to mind or a really good book or reading something I love that I’ve read before. A swim also works for me. Or a really great piece of music.
Come on! Share your little pick-me-ups!
Posted by Christina Brooke Dec 10 2007, 11:06 am in Christine Wells, Scandal's Daughter, The Writer's Life
by Christine Wells
It’s a unique and wonderful place, Romanceland. We talk with other romance lovers about
heroes and heroines, black moments, first meets, Big Mis-es to our hearts’ content and without self-consciousness. Romanceland has its own language, its own code. We know the tropes, the stars, the classic stories that become our ‘keepers’. We gossip about SEP, JAK, La Nora. We chortle at coversnark and club together in communities like the Bandits because Romanceland is just so darned fun.
We sometimes forget there’s that other place out there–the Outer Darkness that is not Romanceland. And never has that been brought home to me more than now, when my friends and family, all Children of The Outer Darkness (COTOD) are reading my first novel.
When Scandal’s Daughter was released I threw a launch party, which Foanna/Anna Campbell and Denise Rossetti and Downundergirl/Amy Andrews attended, among others. Besides fellow writers, the ‘others’ were friends, former work colleagues and family, COTODs to a man. And in that gorgeous, ultra-feminine romance bookshop, beneath the chandeliers, surrounded by cedar bookcases filled with romance novels of every description, it happened. My two very separate worlds collided. Romanceland in all its glittery glory crashed into The Outer Darkness with a shower of gold sparks.
And now my life will never be the same.
The comments filter back through to me via third parties, family members, friends. “Oh, I’ll never be able to look at her the same way again!” or from a male friend “Feel as if I ought to have a cigarette now I’ve finished that book.” One of my husband’s friends phoned another on the night of the launch to chortle like a schoolboy over the ‘naughty’ bits. This was before they’d even reached the carpark. To me, it’s strange that they focus on the ‘naughty’ bits because, living in Romanceland, I know there’s much raunchier stuff out there. I don’t really mind as it’s all in good fun. But it’s still weird and somehow…icky.
My work friends have always been supportive and seem to get a real kick out of ‘Pristine Christine’ writing romance. There was only one fly in the ointment at a work-related party, a woman I’d just met, who decided to patronize me. I was quite astonished, as I’m not used to being patronized *g*, but after trying in subtle ways to put down romance writing (she is working in the same job I was before I left the Firm) she looked at me pityingly and said, “Do you ever wonder what could have been if you hadn’t given up?”
I wish I’d thought of some witty quip to shoot back at her, but I just said, no, I was happy writing novels and looking after my children, thanks very much.
And you know, much as it would be nice to put the COTOD in their place now and again when they scoff and giggle about romance, it’s enough that I know the truth–I’m having the time of my life, doing what I love. And that, my friends, is a dream come true.
So, now, over to you! Have you ever had that embarrassing, awkward or just plain surreal moment when two totally separate existences suddenly merge? How did you handle it? Have you been called on to defend your choices lately? How did you do it? I’m giving away a signed copy of Scandal’s Daughter to one lucky commenter!
Recipe? I don’t need no stinkin’ recipe!
Thinking about Christmas favourites made me realize that most of my traditional preferences are stuck in a time-warp. You have one great Christmas dish as a kid and then you want it year in, year out, so my family recipes are all circa the Cordon Bleu Cookbook of 1981. But as my gift to all the harried, tired mothers of the world who never really get a break on Christmas Day, here is the easiest Christmas dessert ever, because your guests do most of the work. And I’m doing this from memory but I think it will be ok.
1 platter of seasonal fruit, bite-sized
a bunch of skewers soaked in water for a few hours
1 small bowl of white rum
1 small bowl of dark brown sugar
1 small bowl of whipped cream (the real stuff, please, not that fire extinguisher foam you get from a can–although on second thoughts, a fire extinguisher might come in handy:)
1 small fireproof container to burn methylated spirits in
Pour the methylated spirits into the fireproof bowl and light.
Skewer your fave fruit chunk, dip in rum, roll in sugar to coat, hold over flame to melt sugar.
Dip in cream as desired.
Warning–wait for the brown sugar to cool or you’ll burn your tongue!
Bon apetite and merry Christmas to all!
Posted by Christina Brooke Nov 21 2007, 5:52 am in Avon Red, Christine Wells, Denise Rossetti, erotic romance, The Writer's Life
Christine Wells writes: Denise Rossetti may not own bucket boots but she has a killer pair of red CFM heels–you can see them on her website. This Australian author of erotic romance and sizzling fantasy romance has written two novels and two novellas for Ellora’s Cave and has just scored an impressive 4 book deal with Berkley for her scorching fantasy romance series.
Her latest release is her novella, Coming on Strong, in an Avon Red anthology called A Red Hot New Year. Denise also happens to be my critique partner and an all-round wonderful woman. So please welcome her with a hearty Bandita cheer!
A Red Hot New Year, out November 27 from Avon Red
4.5 Stars from Romantic Times
This New Year’s Eve, turn up the heat . . .
At the stroke of midnight a new year begins—a time for passionate resolutions and brand-new pleasures; a time to let go of past restraints and embrace new sensual boundaries. Four masterful writers offer a quartet of boldly erotic tales guaranteed to heat up those winter nights.
Coming on Strong by Denise Rossetti
Sam Jones’s laid-back charm and Aussie drawl have never failed him – until he meets Gina McBride. The little Yank has to be the most skittish woman he’s ever met, and the most intriguing. Making love with her is an experience that makes Sam’s eyes roll back in his head, but she won’t do it with the light on. Then there’s that sexy little growl in the back of her throat when she comes, and she’s so strong…
Visit Denise’s website
to win an ARC of A Red Hot New Year
! Contest closes 30th November.
Finding Your Own True North by Denise Rossetti
I’m absolutely fascinated by the creative process – the way it’s so different for each of us, the utter joy and satisfaction it can bring. For me, writing is the most creative thing I do. I can knit very well indeed, sew a little, even garden, but that’s it. And in these areas, I’m a craftsperson, not an original artist.
But writing? Ah, that’s something wonderfully organic. The stories well up from somewhere inside me, no planning, no outlines with dot points. Mind you, it’s never easy – never! Dorothy Parker said, “I hate writing, but I love having written.” I don’t hate it, not at all, but heavens it’s difficult! I have to dig deep for every word. Plod, plod, plod, word after word, sentence after sentence, until The End. And I purely adore having written!
A few weeks ago, I was a tutor in an online workshop for Romance Writers of Australia. Romance 101 Bootcamp. There were other authors lending their considerable skills to character development, pacing, conflict. I was asked to do a session about the Writer’s Life. We talked about the Writer’s Compass and its four Points – Priorities, Personalities, Place and Space, and Permissions.
The participants impressed me with their clear-eyed courage as they did the soul-searching required to examine the place of creativity in their lives, each one looking for her own True North. And then I was awed all over again as they formed resolutions, declared them and followed up a week later by reporting on the changes they’d made. They were inspirational.
BTW, I warned them I’d probably come over like a Bossy Big Sister, or a noisy little cattle dog, nipping at their heels. The metaphors are a trifle mixed, but you get the idea, I’m sure! So here we go…
If you’re honest and brave, you can assess the PRIORITIES in your life relative to each other – family, work, finances, health, spirituality, community – and then add in your creative pursuit, whatever it may be. It’s that thing you do for yourself alone, the thing that gives you the gift of joy. Music, Art, Craft, Writing, Dance, Acting, Gardening. Whatever.
You will know too, how the PERSONALITIES around you usually react. Some will be indifferent, others will support you magnificently in your quest for creativity, and some – well, they won’t. Or can’t.
But what many women find difficult, I think, is giving themselves the PERMISSIONS they need. Permission to do what, you may ask? Ah well, you’re the only one who knows the answer to that.
Permission to sit quietly, all alone, staring into space? Permission not to be perfect, to hit an off-note on the piano, to write a sloppy draft? Permission to buy takeout for dinner? Permission to let someone else comfort a crying child? That’s a hard one, isn’t it?
All too often, sheer desperation compels us to carve out our own time and space, but without giving ourselves real Permission to do so. The result?
Guilt. Or exhaustion, because you’ve had to steal your “me-time” from sleep.
I’m a terrible mother/wife/partner/colleague. I’m so selfish. What about dinner/ballet practice/career/laundry? They’ll never understand. I wish I hadn’t… Sound familiar? Are you already saying to yourself, yeah sure, giving myself Permission sounds good, but I can’t because… Fill in the dots.
What makes your Priorities and Permissions worth less than anyone else’s?
It was years ago that I first read Virginia’s Woolf’s A Room of Her Own, and it made a tremendous impression on me. Such irony and intelligence, so exquisitely written. Back in 1928, Woolf pointed out that in order to write, a woman must have five hundred a year and a room of her own. I don’t think too much has changed, do you? (You can get it here for free – It’s short. Read it.)
Yes, financial independence is easier to come by, it’s even expected of women these days, but that room of one’s own… This is what I’ve called PLACE AND SPACE, because physical place and psychological/emotional space are intertwined. Of the two, mind-space is the most vital, because not everyone has the luxury of a study to themselves. I don’t. I share with two people I love beyond measure – my husband and my daughter – but it bothered me so much that I finally bought an office divider from a second hand store and set up my own space behind it. As a side benefit, I no longer have that prickly, vulnerable sensation in the nape of my neck as I sit with my back to the door. You can see my Place and Space here. You can also see that tidiness is not something I value. *smile*
Paige Cuccaro runs a wonderful site called The Cave – with photos of writers’ Places and Spaces. It runs from Susan Elizabeth Phillips to Laurell K. Hamilton to Lisa Kleypas to Jenny Crusie and Bob Mayer. Fascinating and revealing all at once!
So, think about the Writer’s Compass and its four Points. I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially on Permissions and on Place and Space. And please, you don’t have to be a writer to join in!
What have you given yourself Permission to do that has pointed you at your personal True North, given you the joy and the frustrations of the creative process ? How have you set up your Place and Space? Alternatively, what have you found most difficult and what is your solution?
Three lucky readers who comment will win signed over-sized postcards of my Ellora’s Cave covers. And don’t forget the contest to win a signed ARC of A Red Hot New Year on my website!
And in the interests of Full Disclosure, I should tell you that my children are old enough to be independent, My Beloved does the shopping and the cooking and we have a cleaning lady. But I do have a day job and I’m still Officer In Charge of the cat’s litter box.
Posted by Donna MacMeans Jul 23 2007, 10:00 am in Donna's posts, Inspiration, The Writer's Life
by Donna MacMeans
Inevitably, at some point in a conversation with a wide-eyed reader, the question will arise “Where do you get your ideas?”
And I struggle for an answer because the process never seems to be the same. I just have to trust that the inspiration for a new story will be there when I need it. (I PRAY that the inspiration will be there when I need it).
Stephen King suggests that story are ideas are buried in the ground just waiting for the author to unearth them. Jennifer Crusie credits the “girls in the basement” for sending up ideas when you need them – you just have to listen. A workshop last week in Dallas told authors to look to music and movie titles for inspiration. So I’m wondering – where do you find inspiration for a novel?
The Education for Mrs. Brimley was inspired a few years ago by Lori Foster’s contest. She encouraged entrants to submit a sexy scene in either a contemporary or historical setting. The weekly winner’s entry would go to an editor. Several novellas were purchased through that contest. My idea for a strip tease was ripe with sexual tension, but the scenario was hardly unique in a contemporary venue. So I decided to place it in a Victorian setting as those ladies wore enough clothes to make a striptease a weeklong event. Now I needed motivation for my characters, both hero and heroine. As I thought about it, an idea started to form that begged to be written. I never entered Lori’s contest because the desire to work on my Victorian striptease took over.
My next book, The Trouble with Moonlight, was inspired by the recent preponderance of TV shows and heroines with supernatural powers. That, coupled with the story of the headless horseman, led to my fun story of an invisible (Victorian) heroine.
My current work in process was inspired in part by the historical homes in Newport, Rhode Island. Discovering the charm gates in New Orleans brought about a partially written time-travel that still sits on my computer. A talk show featuring a cardiologist specializing in heart transplants inspired an earlier romantic suspense.
TV shows, vacation spots, movies, and contests…it sure would be nice if the process was consistent so I’d know where to turn when a story idea is needed. Especially as deadlines loom.
Share the source of your inspiration, or the process you use to discover your story and I’ll reward the best suggestion with a bandit mask and a Jane Austen action figure.
Posted by Suzanne Ferrell Jun 28 2007, 9:05 am in Craft, The Writer's Life
by Suzanne Welsh
About two months ago a situation occurred in my other career that set in motion a series of events that changed my life this past month. My beta reader, (the person who reads my manuscripts strictly as a reader), took a new job with greater responsibility at a new hospital. She in turn offered me a position with this new staff. Taking a leap of faith in her and my own skills, I switched hospitals.
This new position had me doing what I love, delivering babies, but it also meant a greater commitment of my time. Translation, I went from working twelve-hour nights for nineteen years, to one solid month of eight-hour days. For a confirmed vampire, this has been a shock to my system. And as a writer the whole ordeal limited my available writing time.
This month of working days gave me a new appreciation for those writers who do it on a daily basis and still find time to write. I must confess, that not all of my home time has been wasted with mundane chores or sleeping. I did manage to work on a nursing article I hope to get published in a professional journal, and I taught a continuing education course to the other nurses this month. But sadly I felt like my romance writing, in particular my current work in progress (WIP), took a backseat to everything else.
When working night shift, on my days off I am up by eight and write at least until noon, with at least one hour during that time to blog or answer e-mails or work on my local RWA chapter’s concerns. Then about one in the afternoon it’s nap time. If I work that night, then I’m good to go. If I have the night off, the nap allows me to write again later at night. This day shift gig has my system all out of whack.
The other thing I noticed was how down I felt. The creative process must feed into some mental endorphins I need to keep my mood and mind balanced. Putting aside something I enjoy to focus intently on some other part of my life seems to put everything else off the axis in which I move on a daily basis.
One positive thing that happened was during the extra half-hour it takes me to drive to and from work my mind would work like a sledgehammer on certain points I still need to write in order to finish my WIP. And one particularly disturbing morning a character from a Regency Historical I’ve played with suddenly started talking to me. Literally. The heroine sat in the passenger seat and told me her back-story and how it affected her actions in the beginning of the book. (Yeah, it freaked me out, too!)
Thank goodness I return to nights next week!
Have you ever had a situation in your life where you couldn’t concentrate on writing so you had to just tuck it away for a while? Did you find your mind gravitating towards it at odd times? How did you handle the added stress?