This Writer Is Always On Call

Most jobs come with a schedule. 9-5 is probably the most common. Some people punch a time clock, others just show up, put in their time and leave. If I had to describe my work hours, it would be easiest to describe them as ‘on call’.

I write for a living. So you’d think I can set my own hours. Show up at the keyboard, pound out a few pages and call it good. Right? Except it doesn’t work that way. At least not for me. I’ve read a lot of advice on the craft of writing that you should force yourself to sit down – and the words come out. Apparently my muse never got that memo. (Or she did and she’s too busy laughing hysterically to give it any credence.)

Don’t get me wrong. I prepare. I plot like there’s no tomorrow. I know what has to go into the scene I’m trying to write. I know the POV, I know the setting and I may even know whole snippits of conversation. But if it’s not ready to come out my fingertips…it’s not ready. No amount of sitting (or chocolate bribes) will get those words to flow if they don’t want to.

Here’s how my creativity works on call. I plot and plan and set up the scene…every weekday morning after the kids leave for school. Sometimes it comes right then. I write for a few hours, the scene is done. I call it a day. But sometimes (more often, lately, than not) it doesn’t. And I have to get up and do something else. Fold laundry, walk the dog, run a few errands. I’m giving it time to percolate.

I never know when it’s going to hit — that moment when the stars align and everything falls into place. It could be just an inkling, or it could be a fully mapped out, word-for-word scene. It starts in my brain, then my whole body is buzzing. My fingertips literally start wiggling. I can feel the words right there on the ends of them! The urge to run to my computer is a compulsion I cannot control. Nor, do I dare deny.

Now, unlike a surgeon who is on call…my situation gets a little more complicated. Have I mentioned I’m working on four books at once? Can you imagine an on-call surgeon with four different specialties? They’d never know if they were being called in for an appendectomy, a face lift, a c-section or brain surgery. I wait for the muse to strike, but I never know which book she’s going to hit me with. Keeps me on my toes.

Either I’ll keep my mind busy enough to ward off dementia, in my older years, or my sanity left the minute I decided to devote myself to a writing career. We’ll just pretend it’s the former. Ignorance is bliss, after all.

Anyone else have a schedule that requires them to be available on a whim? Tell us about it.

I Can Do This!

believeThat’s my new mantra. “I can do this!” Because I can. I learned the hard way. We found out in June that Home Depot refused to do our flooring project until we hired a contractor to put in sub-flooring (something they neglected to mention at the onset of the project). We were completely broke and out of options. A neighbor came over, took a look and said “Oh, yeah, we can totally do this.” Now I’ve used a hammer to hang a picture, but that’s about it.

12Fast forward to August. I put in my OWN subfloor. And instead of backing off and letting Home Depot take it from there, I kept going. I laid my OWN flooring. I learned how to use a few different types of power saws (what a rush!). Instead of a hammer, I got to use a nail gun – three different sized ones. I wore knee pads and measured and snapped, messed up and fixed it. I visited Home Depot for the supplies (oh, the irony!) and got good at choosing just the right lumber. I went to bed covered in paint and aching from every muscle in my body.

We still aren’t done. The landing and the stairs needs to be carpeted. I ripped up the old carpet and padding but we were hoping to find someone who knew what they were doing for this stretch and wouldn’t mind working for pizza and beer. Unfortunately, we were only able to find someone to talk me through it. And back in June, I would be terrified at the prospect. But now? Bring it on. I can do this! That’s on the agenda this weekend.

thisI had no idea that this mantra was going to carry over into my writing life. In July I went to RWA Nationals for the first time. I was scared spitless to pitch to the editor and agent I’d lined up months ago. What if they hated my story idea? It IS pretty different…for me. So I researched pitch sheets and one sheets. It was a little risky, and they might not even want to read it, but you never know until you try. But I did it. And both sessions went so well that I felt incredibly empowered. Both the editor and the agent asked for a full. I’m still waiting to hear back, but I am staying busy and not worrying about things I have no control over.

I-did-it_1Yesterday I was plotting out my next book with a friend. I realized I was staying very safe with the plot ending. It was time to step outside my comfort zone and go places I’d never had the nerve to go before. It was scary to think about, but at the same time…exciting. Now. I’m ready to take my writing to the next level. I’ve learned a lot about myself this summer. I’ve learned not to be afraid to try something new. Because, if there is one thing I’ve learned this summer, it’s that I can do this. 🙂

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People Watching – a Writer’s Perspective

eyesonyou I’ve got my eye on you. Yeah, you. I’ve been watching you for some time now, and you didn’t have a clue. Nah, I’m just teasing. Well … partially. I people watch. It’s part of the writer gig. We can’t help it. People fascinate us. Mannerisms, clothing styles, the way people interact with each other – or the way they studiously ignore each other. Hair styles, hair COLOR (hey, it’s all fair game). For the record, I wish I had the nerve to get one streak of bubblegum pink in my hair. I’d totally rock it.

I have to wonder if people would make a conscious effort to change their behaviors if they knew they were under the microscope, so to speak. The person who enters a store (or exits) only to stand in everyone else’s way while they, what, collect their bearings? Interesting. Or the not-so-happy family at Disneyland, that are spending their precious quality time screaming at each other, instead of enjoying their vacation. (Okay, admission: Hubby and I people watch at the Disney parks and can’t help but giggle when we discover one of these free shows.) 😉 I know. We’re terrible people.

People watching has its disadvantages too. The guy picking his nose at the stop light? Where’s my eye bleach? Wardrobe malfunctions. Litterers. It’s amazing what people will do when they don’t think anyone is paying attention.

kittywatching

And then there are the moments worth watching out for. The ‘pay it forward’ moments that make you tear up and give you the warm fuzzies. Folks treating each other with kindness. Reaching out a helping hand. Offering up a friendly smile and a hello. Parent/child bonding. Human/pet bonding. Yeah, I’m a sucker for a good dog-spoiling moment.

bonding
Even if I’m not jotting things down in my handy-dandy notebook, you can be sure I’m taking it all in and filing it away for future reference. Whoever said “Life is not a spectator sport.” didn’t know any authors. So if you walk past me on the street and I’m squinting at you, it’s not that I don’t like you. I’m just trying to decide which of your facial features would look best on my next hero or heroine. peoplewatching

Just remember, you never know when someone is studying your movements. Be kind. Look for a garbage can before you throw that wrapper on the ground. And for God’s sake – use a tissue! Just because you are in your car does not mean other people can’t see you. *shudder*

Okay, now it’s your turn. What is your favorite people watching moment? The good, the bad or the eye-bleach moments?

Always My Hero – Release Week Fun

Now available on ereaders everywhere!

Now available on ereaders everywhere!

When I announced the cover to Always My Hero, I added a description about the characters. I’ve done excerpts on a couple of other author blogs, and will be sure to promote them as soon as they are up. So today I thought I’d do something different. Here are a few fun facts about Always My Hero, and Scallop Shores in general:

1.  My original idea for the Scallop Shores series involved three books. It wasn’t supposed to be about the town, so much as it was about three best friends. Trapped in Tourist Town was the first. Always My Hero was the second and the third was a half-formed idea that never quite took shape.

2.  To get a better feel for my characters, I posted pictures on a giant whiteboard on my desk. I’m still trying to figure out the name of the actor/model that I chose for Ryan. I’m posting the picture below, and if anyone knows, PLEASE enlighten me! Bree’s character I based on Alexis Bledel, Rory Gilmore if any of you are Gilmore Girls junkies.

Ryan33.  Always My Hero is the first book I’ve ever sold BEFORE I wrote it. It’s also the book that took the shortest amount of time to write. Amazing what a deadline will do for productivity.

4.  Wynter’s Journey is a re-write of the very first book I ever wrote, about ten years ago while we were still living in San Diego and baby #1 was napping. It was never meant to be part of the Scallop Shores series.

5.  Always My Hero was started when I was pregnant with baby #2, but when morning sickness took over, all writing fell by the wayside…for a few years.

6. Next year will mark twenty years since I have lived in Maine. Holy crap! We’re heading back for a wedding this fall and that will be the first time I’ve visited in almost seven years. So all my inspiration for Scallop Shores truly comes from memory. I imagine my hometown has grown considerably and that makes me so sad.

7.  If you’re planning on attending Emerald City Writers Conference this year, I will be donating a “Scallop Shores” themed basket that will have lots of goodies from my trip to Maine. (Sorry, no actual lobster, but maybe a stuffed animal?)

8.  I hate coming up with character names, street names, business names, etc. So if you went to York High School with me, or you are just from York, Maine, see if you recognize any of the names in my books. I never use full names of anyone I actually knew. So thank you to all those who helped me get over that pesky naming hurdle.

9.  I had originally named the series “Lobster Cove”. I LOVED that name. But then my editor discovered a real town in Maine with the same name and it caused inconsistencies with my first book, Drawn to Jonah. Apparently the real Lobster Cove was a lot farther away from New York City and could not be reached in the four hours I said it took by car. Dang. So I held a contest on Facebook and chose a new name. The winner got her name listed in the acknowledgements in Drawn to Jonah. Sigh. I still miss Lobster Cove.

10.  There are several sexy new bachelors introduced in Always My Hero, leaving an opening for more books in this series. If you read the book, I’d love to know who you’d want to see getting the next Scallop Shores book.

So did you learn anything new? Did you have a question about Scallop Shores, or about writing Always My Hero that didn’t get answered? Leave it in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

10 Things About Me (the Author Me)

There. I differentiated. That means I have a whole other blog post (or two – I could split it into 10 things about me as a person and 10 things about me as a mother.) Woot! Hey, thinking up blog material is hard stuff! 😉 So today’s list is strictly things about the writer side of my life. (Does that make it sound like I have multiple personalities? Hey, I’m a writer – I DO have multiple personalities!)

At my first book signing last summer.

At my first book signing last summer.

Here we go:

1. The first piece I ever submitted was a short story for Woman’s World magazine. I *wish* they’d used form letters back then. Brutal!
2. I’ve been known to dream entire novels in my sleep (and they are DARK!). Nothing I’d write because they really are disturbing and not sweet, happy-ever-after books, so why I dream them, not really sure.
3. When I get stuck and need inspiration, I head to the shower. Something about the water drumming on my head gets my ideas going again. I even have my handy dandy Aqua Notes so I never miss a thought.


4. At a book signing for Dean Koontz, I asked that he sign it “good luck with your writing.” To which he started a discussion. OMG! Super nice guy and he very sincerely wished me luck.


5. I used to write *NSYNC fan fiction. I turned one of those into a full length novel and sold it to Crimson Romance. Five of Hearts is my best selling book to date. And I thought I was the only one who’d go for it. Still amazes me…


6. My dad had this weird policy that he would never read a book by a woman author. So when I was a kid, I made it my mission to get published one day, so that I would be the FIRST woman author he ever read. Unfortunately, he passed away before I got my first contract, but I’d like to believe I would have been the one to change his mind.


7. While I love my work space at home, I have been known to write in the car, at gymnastics, basketball practices, every coffee shop in town and nearly anywhere I have to play chauffeur for the kids. Having ‘littles’ makes me flexible, I guess.

8. When it came time to discuss whether or not I would choose a pen name, hubby reminded me that our last name is already recognizable in the Hollywood community (my father-in-law was the production designer on Top Gun, Ghostbusters and Sister Act, to name a few. And my grandfather-in-law won Oscars for his set design work on The King and I, Cleopatra and more.) He insisted I didn’t want to risk offending anyone by NOT using my married name proudly. So there ya go.

Big Sis spending time with Great-Granddad, Big John's, Oscar.

Big Sis spending time with Great-Granddad, Big John’s, Oscar.

9. I have been writing romance for about ten years now, with a niche in small town contemporary,  on the sweet side with a cast of quirky characters that you’d love to spend time with if you knew them in person. However, I have been obsessed with fairies for almost as long. And I have a series brewing in my head, to that end. Part of me is incredibly excited to start working on something so completely different. And part of me is looking for any excuse NOT to embark on an adventure so far out of my comfort zone.

10. Hubby is incredibly supportive of my writing and my latest celebrity boyfriends. When I was writing Five of Hearts and he knew I was using a photo of Chris Hemsworth for inspiration, he bought me a Thor action figure to place on my desk. When he learned I also had a thing for Chris Evans as another certain Marvel superhero, I discovered a Captain America flash drive in my stocking that Christmas. Love him (the hubby). He’s a keeper!

This guy has a special spot on my desk.

This guy has a special spot on my desk.

Saving the day - one manuscript at a time.

Saving the day – one manuscript at a time.

So that’s a little bit about the writer side of me. Yeah, I stole the first seven directly off my Facebook page. But we have already established that I am lazy, so there ya go. Kudos to everyone that got through the whole post. You rock! Anything completely surprise you? Anything you expected to see but didn’t? I’d love to hear from you.

Bucket List #1 – Travel Adventures

It’s that time of year. Winter still covering most of the country in white, while here in the Pacific Northwest it’s just a tad too chilly to do yard work or enjoy the outdoors. So naturally, my thoughts turn to vacations. Preferably somewhere sunny and warm.  We’re heading to Hawaii next month, but until then…

MY BUCKET LIST – TRAVEL VERSION

1. Ireland – any place at all in Ireland. Seriously. Any.ireland

2. Santorini – Greece is overall awesome but if I had to choose a Greek island to visit, it would be the gorgeous island of Santorinisantorini

3. New Zealand – home of all things Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. If money were no object (which I suppose applies to EACH of these destinations) then I would take every movie location tour offered. Even the ones by helicopter (though I might need to be heavily medicated). And I want to stay in a hobbit hole. Well, I want to move in, but that’s beside the point.hobbit

4. Egypt – okay, so now is probably not the best time to be visiting the great pyramids, the Sphinx and so forth. But someday? When the political unrest dies down and tourists are free to explore an ancient civilization without fearing for their lives? Then I want to go.

5. Scotland – particularly Edinburgh. The castles. The ghosts. The history. The burr. Reow! Talk to me, locals. Read the back of the cereal box to me. Love that accent!edinburgh-scotland-travel-guide

6. Paris – technically, I could cross this off my bucket list, as hubby and I went, early on in our marriage. But I want to see Paris through my children’s eyes. And for that reason, it stays on the list.

Honorable mentions: I could go on and on about places I’d like to see (if money were no object). But here are just a few more. Victoria AND Vancour, BC, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Montana, Texas (just not in the summer), New Orleans (Cafe Du Monde!), Philadelphia, Salem, MA, Rio, Alaska. And I reserve the right to add more every day. 🙂

If money were no object, where would you go? What MUST you see before you leave this Earth?