I couldn’t write when the pandemic started. I planned it, even carted my computer with me to our Spring Break trips.
But once the lockdown was in place I couldn’t: no sleep, constant worry. Especially since the week before I’d flown to Cleveland and back.
Once spring break was over I focused solely on the yearbook. It was awful to do the work from home, but looking back, I’m thankful I had the distraction.
I thought I’d get back to my steamy hockey romance after the book was done, but no. Instead I fought on Facebook with people who said masks were dumb and COVID wasn’t that bad.
Then the protests against police brutality started.
I watched the news for hours.
School was done, summer break started and I was stunned day after day by what I was seeing play out on screen.
I’d written some words. Not a lot, but my writers group met on Zoom pretty often so I had some. And I had the complete novel plotted.
And in the midst of the madness I decided I wanted to remember a different time, a different place. I wanted happily ever after.
I couldn’t get that on Facebook or twitter. I couldn’t get that watching police tear gas peaceful protestors. I couldn’t get that wishing for playoff season.
So I started writing.
And this morning at 2 a.m. I finished a crappy first draft.
My plan is to have it revised and ready to go by next beach season.
I actually plan to relaunch my writing career then. One women’s fiction a year and three steamy romances.
Wish me luck.
It took 47 minutes of trial and error to get to one word of good revision on the Sam and Patty story tonight.
And that word was glorious. No, really, it was “Glorious.” A one word sentence. That led to 1638 new words. All of them desperately needed to help flesh out this story with decent characters.
Thank God I found the words. Or they found me.
Three hours later, it’s time to call it a night.
I don’t want to.
I want to sit and write and write and write to the Ennio Morricone and Yo-Yo Ma playlist I’ve got loaded on Spotify. I never would’ve guessed those spaghetti westerns I hate would lead to great words. Unforgiven and Pale Rider? Sure. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly AND Hang ‘Em High? No way.
I didn’t realize what they were right away. I just typed in cello music and dragged a ton of songs over to the queue. I’m addicted now.
It sure makes writing easier when you want to listen to the music that moves the soul of the story.
I entered my newly completed women’s fiction in a contest today. I’ve entered a few contests in the past. A couple times I’ve even finalled. Usually I get a mix of high scores and low scores and have to get a discrepancy judge. Once I finalled in one contest and got a HORRIBLE score in another contest with the same manuscript.
So why am I doing this?
I had to really ask myself this before I ever did it. The answer: If it finals, it gets in front of a mainstream fiction editor. Without an agent. And that would make me happy.
I’m also interested in how this story plays somewhere other than Wichita Falls. So I took the chance, paid the $35 and entered a contest. We’ll see what happens.
While I was at that I lost my synopsis for my Intrigue wanna be I sent in June. I have no idea where the synopsis is. It’s not on my backup. It’s not on my hard drive. It’s like I titled it Identity Crisis and it decided to disappear. That stinks! It probably needed to be re-written anyway, so I guess now’s as good a time as any.
Which is fine really, because I’ve had a synopsis epiphany.
Actually, calling it epiphany is a stretch. I’m sure I’ve seen this a million a twelve times since 1997. But today, August 2, 2005, I finally got it.
The synopsis is a guide for me. BUT it’s really to show how commercial my book is. It’s to show an editor that I understand as a new author there has to be something to make readers BUY my book.
Good news: I can do that.
Bad news: Using that as my guide, my synopsises (Is that even a word?!) stink. UGH.
Good news: I can fix that.
When I first started writing romance I laughingly told my mom, “No, Momma, I’m not writing inspirational. I like writing love scenes.”
I wasn’t lying.
Confession time: I’m a romance novelist and I like writing love scenes. I especially love writing books where tension escalates from chapter to chapter until the hero and heroine are going crazy for each other and the simple touch of a hand triggers one of those oh-yeah scenes. You know the ones I’m talking about.
I love reading those books too.
I don’t like to read books where love scenes are thrown in with no emotional or plot purpose. I skip those love scenes. But a good love scene can put a book on my keeper shelf as quickly as a bad one can make it go in the give-away pile.
What a good love scene is not going to do is send me to hell.
I mean I never once read the words thou shall not write or read sexy scenes in books in my bible.
I’m always shocked when I hear people (some romance writers even!) say love scenes are a sin.
See my way of thinking goes more along the lines of this:
God gave us sex and pleasure in it. It’s a gift. A wonderful, beautiful, amazing gift. Thank you, God.
Is sex outside of marriage wrong? In my opinion, absolutely. And that’s where things get confusing.
A few years ago my pastor gave a sermon on all the thou shall nots. He said one of the things we often forget is why they’re there. Sex outside of marriage is dangerous both emotionally and physically. I’m pretty sure God, the all-knowing man upstairs, was fully aware of that. That’s the whole point. He gives us the thou shall nots to protect us, not to simply limit us. He totally understands human nature. He made us, so He should!
Is desire wrong? Uh—-NO!
I’ve known people who waited until marriage to make love.
Sparks practically flew when they were in a room together. They looked at each other and you saw it all over their faces.
I want you now.
They didn’t have to say a word to each other. And they were quite vocal about how we better not expect them to answer the phone for a few days even after the honeymoon. They had business to take care of.
These people were incredibly strong Christians. And guess what. They read romance novels (shock!). Romance novels where people, even unmarried people, make love.
And guess what else. The writer who wrote those stories wasn’t writing non-fiction. She was writing a fantasy. A dream.
I mean, okay, so when was the last time you nearly got ran over by a somewhat wealthy Brad Pitt look-a-like who just so happens to be the widowed father of one of your kindergarten students and before the end of two months the two of you had fallen madly, hopelessly in love and he’s given you multiple orgasms?
Exactly. Complete, total make believe. I won’t even go into my Blaze/Brava moments. Now those were REAL. Uh huh. Sure they were.
I don’t know where the idea that sex in books is bad and sinful came from. I know a romance novel without sexual tension isn’t very realistic.
I’m in the middle of writing an inspirational women’s fiction novel right now. The themes running through the book are redemption and forgiveness. It will definitely have its moments of sexual tension. It will definitely showcase the beautiful passion God gives us. I don’t know if it will have love scenes or not. But some of the most moving, powerful scenes I’ve ever read take place in the bedroom, in bed. How sad that people believe that’s wrong.
McDonald’s, a millionaire, a french fry will and Mr. Novak are all responsible for my quest for publication.
The thrill of reading my work out loud to a class quickly morphed into hours spent trying to make my friends cry. Only it wasn’t quickly at all. Mr. Novak was fifth grade. My friends weren’t crying until eighth.
By then I’d fallen in love with the romance genre and the idea of being an author.
I forgot about that dream for awhile but it didn’t forget me.
Now all these years later I’m writing books that make my friends cry again. And still I’m chasing the dream.
What is it that keeps a writer going, spending the 74 cents on a query, the hours on a manuscript even when they know chances are the story will end in rejection?
When will the rejections add up to some insurmountable wall? Does that even happen?
I don’t know. For me, the time has not come. I still enjoy the story and the process of creating it even though the rejections still sting.
The dream still lures, drawing me in and willingly I go. And with each word typed, I know the dream is there, just a few steps ahead of me. Waiting for me to find the right path to get there.
For years I’ve read Harlequin and Silhouette romances. They’ve been a sort of comfort for my soul. Lately they’ve been in the news all the time. They’re losing readers and people are wondering what’s next.? I wonder too.
By the time I was my daughter’s age, I’d already fallen in love with a few hundred Greek Tycoons. I dreamed of being the secretary who won the lottery vacation of a lifetime, or maybe I was a nurse called Sister Mary. (It took me the longest time to figure out all the nurses were Sister so and so!)
I couldn’t wait to share my love of the genre with my daughter.
She tried to read romance. She really did.
But she never got past the first couple chapters.
She eats up Shopoholic and Bridget Jones, but keep her away from romance. She’s just not interested.
I thought maybe it as just an age thing, so I asked my students. None were reading romance. At least not romance without a chic lit feel or a suspense or horror element.
I was stunned.
I have my own theory on what’s happened, and I don’t really think it has to do with the fact that kids are reading less these days.
I just think the hopes and dreams of teenage girls today don’t rest on the fantasy of wife, mother and wealth. They want careers and credit cards and cute cars and a life filled with trips abroad. And a bunch of them have seen the lifestyle of Sex and the City and decided that’s not for them either. They want stability but not necessarily husbands.
It’s interesting and it’s really made me think.
Who is my target audience? Who do I want to read my stories?
If I’m thinking those thoughts, you can bet editors are too?
Answering that question first just might help the dream of publication come true.
Isn’t funny how falling in love again with something makes everything better?
I know. All those things make this a little too vague.
For months I’ve been trudging through the world of writing and romance and what used to be my dream but suddenly seamed more like a nightmare. For the first time in memory I let myself think that being published wasn’t going to happen.
I don’t know why. Maybe it’s that I let doubt demon win. Or that I was tired. Or that I was sick. Or that I couldn’t find a book I loved, not even the ones on my keeper shelf.
I don’t know.
But for whatever reason, that’s what was happening.
And then I rediscovered my joy for the genre.
It started with Karen Templeton. For a week I thought she was just a genius writer who understood the heartbeat of romance and publication. (Okay, so she is all that!)
But then yesterday a couple strange things happened. (There goes that vague thing thing again.)
I picked up a book. Not just any ol’ book, but one I’d thrown back in the TBR pile after one chapter. I don’t know why I’d thrown it back in the pile. Usually if I don’t like a book it gets shoved in the give away or trade box. But not this time.
I’d tossed it back in TBR even though I really hated the book. It was totally unbelievable and the heroine was a wimp and the hero was a jerk. I mean I REALLY did not like this book.
Until I picked it up again yesterday and started reading and realized how cool the plot line was. And soon I was noticing how that wimpy heroine wasn’t really wimpy. And the jerky hero was just responding to a very bad situation. And before I knew it, I was reading the book and enjoying it.
So then, on a whim, I picked up another book, this one in the trade box. And yep. I liked it too. So I picked up another and yep, you guessed it.
Suddenly my scimpy TBR pile was full again.
And then the best thing ever happened.
The doubt demon disappeared and I looked at my 10 rejected stories and got excited about their potential and my potential. For the first time in a long time I WANTED to write. Really write. Write the stories I love. The stories about HEA. The stories about a guy, a girl, maybe a baby, and falling in love and wanting and needing and feeling like all hope is lost but then learning in the end that love really does conquer all.
And then I realized that even though a lot of people poo-poo the stories I love for that PollyAnna look on life, I like that look on life.
And HEA isn’t PollyAnna anyway. Trust me, I know. My grandma’s been married for almost 70 years. She tells me all the time that marriage is hard work and compromise and respect and love. And she and my grandpa are still totally in love with each other. Shoot when I was a kid, they chased each other around the house. Every once in a while, we’d hear a smack and Grandma’s “Oh Odell, stop that!” and we’d know ick, they were making out.
I don’t know what happened over the past few weeks to make me fall out of love with writing love stories. But I sure am happy I fell in love with love again.
I discovered Karen Templeton this week. And after reading one of her books I rushed to the local BookRack pretty sure there was no way all her stuff could be as good as the book I’d read, but still willing to take the chance.
So far I’ve only read two of her books. But I gotta say they’re two of the best books I’ve ever read in my life. She totally captures the fairy tale feeling of falling in love. And her books run the emotional gamut. And they seem very real even though they’re fairy tale romances. And I LOVE them.
I really needed this because other than a few hits like Suzanne McMinn and RaeAnne Thayne, I haven’t found much to love in the romance world and it was driving me crazy.
Thank God for finding new authors. Especially new authors I can learn from.
The latest rejection really hit in a weird way. It made me wonder if I know what the heck I’m doing. And as I read or tried to read all these books and none of them were grabbing me I wondered why other people can get bad books published but I can’t. And then I realized one of the problems with the books I’ve been reading is that they’re all so much the same or so completely unrealistic or simply not romances. And then I read Karen Templeton and remembered what I love so much about the stories I want to tell.
The promise of forever, the passion of new love, the excitement of seeing someone and wating and not even knowing what it is you want but knowing you by God want it, and I realized that yummy feeling is what’s missing in what I’ve been trying to do.
Will that discovery lead to me finally breaking through? Who knows. It won’t until I start to write again. 🙂 But in the mean time, I’m going to read and think and play some.
I can’t remember exactly when I first started telling stories. I think it might have been the day I was born.
But I do remember the first story I wrote. I used a purple crayon to create a young hero who saved the life of an elderlchoking victim at a McDonald’s restaurant. The victim was choking on a McDonald’s french fry. He turned out to be a millionaire and he gave a ton of money to the hero and everyone lived happily ever after. Pure heaven in my little kid mind. Probably more the idea of McDonald’s than the idea of a ton of money.
Back then we were poor, but I didn’t know it. My mom stayed home off and on when she could. My dad was in the military. McDonald’s was a huge treat. Lord knows we didn’t go out to real restaurants.
But my little kid brain had a great time creating that story. And my mom listened attentively while I read it to her. When I was done she asked me for more. I gave her what she asked for and I had a blast doing it.
A few years later I was writing teen romances for my friends. I wrote the words with blue EraserMate pens and I always used blue college ruled spirals. I have no idea how many of those stories I wrote, and I have no idea where they are today. I know my mom always asked me why my heroine’s mother had to either be dead or dying from a terminal disease. I had no idea. I just liked to make my friends cry when they read my books.
And my friends did read them. Every day they begged me for new chapters and every day I had those chapters ready. (Homework was another thing altogether!) They were a critique group of sorts, I suppose. But they couldn’t take the pplace of my number one fan for years. My mom. She doesn’t read what I write today, but she still asks me how my writing is going. She still talks about “when I get published.”
I’m lucky! And I better go call my mom and say thanks!
I heard somebody say setting is the step child of category romance. I think I’ve got to agree. My CPs keep telling me they have no real sense of place in my current story. (The one I love) so I’m going through trying to fix that. I know I need to do something with the beginning, but just a little. Right now you know it’s in the south but it could be anywhere from Texas to Georgia. It’s small town Texas, so that’s easy enough to fix. I mean, I KNOW small town Texas. 🙂
I HATE fixing it though.
As I was revising part one tonight I realized how hard it is to do setting without intruding into the character’s POV. I mean, if a character is used to something, so much a part of it, he won’t realize the setting. So you have to give it in the opposing character’s viewpoint. But if it’s snappy dialogue or sexual tension, you don’t want to take away from that with a line of setting. It’s so HARD! I keep wondering how my favorite authors do it and make it absolutely seemless. There are no breaks. Just little descriptors that give the reader an anchor point. I want to be that kind of writer. BUT DANG, it’s hard!!!!
I still love my story. I still love my characters. They are so strong. But my CPs are right. Right now, there’s no real sense of place.
I think that’s going to be something I fix on a full manuscript revision. I’ll decide before I sit down to write tomorrow night.
To fix the setting or keep writing. That is the question.
I’m heading into the middle, just dropped off the first major TP, and this is where I usually pick up steam. I don’t want to lose that sense of expectancy by going backwards, but I don’t want this bothering me for the next couple weeks either.
Sometimes I wonder if my writing process is the least bit normal!