Monday, March 31, 2008
So, today is a day to remember the fantastic voyages we've taken aboard these decks, and to toast the adventures yet to come. This is where I would insert some snippets, excerpts and jokes from the brilliants blogs we've posted since October. However, the finishing touches on the new ship require tools from the old ship and work is being done as I type this (late Sunday night after driving ALL day – insert pity "pat on back" here).
Anywho, since I can't stroll through the posts or remember a damn thing, I'm going to ask you. What were some of your favorite topics covered here at Yo Ho, A Writer's Life For Me? And if that's too difficult (or lazy of me) then tell us what we haven't covered that you're just dying to talk about. Got any parody ideas for the Captain? Wanna start a petition for some of Sin or Lisa's smut? Want Marnee to post her chicken salad recipe or insist I start taking Gingko Biloba already?
Today, you have the floor….err…..deck!
Saturday, March 29, 2008
When the Media Room was unwisely built at the opposite end of the ship from the galley, I saw the need for an errand boy of sorts. Someone we could send off to bring us whatever it is we need from the pantry and allow us to remain in our luxurious hammocks, sprawled in our sexiest yet natural poses. This is where Guido fit perfectly.
Speaking of fit, it was not easy to find just the right uniform for this boy. But I think what we threw together works for him. The color brings out his eyes, don't you think? What do you mean you haven't noticed his eyes?!
INSERT BIG ANNOUNCEMENT HERE!!!
The new ship is now complete and ready to be launched. So we've set the Christening Ceremony for the new and improved Romance Writer's Revenge for this Tuesday, April 1st. NO FOOLING! I'll still have one more blog here tomorrow so we can remember, reminisce and reflect, but then it's off to our new decks. Join me here tomorrow and then bring your best rum, wear your best peg-leg, and come prepared to party like a Pirate on Tuesday!!!!
PS: Yes, that is Justin Timberlake in the upcoming The Love Guru movie. You have to check out the trailer just to see him in this get up. Seriously, it's hysterical! And if this image disturbs you, blame the Captain. This was her idea.
Friday, March 28, 2008
I believe that no matter how successful you become, you always benefit from praise.
The praise I have received in the past is what drives me to become something more. In my writing life, praise is what fuels my confidence. The first time I posted a chapter of fan fiction no one left me a review. I took it as an indication that it was bad, and in hindsight I know it lacked grammatical skill. I’ve received good and bad reviews, and some of the better ones I can still recite. What made me believe in myself as a writer was a review left by one of my fellow pirates. I admire everything that she writes, and in praising me, she gave me what I craved the most-validation. It’s wonderful to receive praise from family and friends, but when a fellow writer gives you kudos it means something. It gives you the confidence to persevere.
In times when my confidence is at a low point I pick up a book by a favorite author and find inspiration within the pages. All authors have a launching point. Every writer’s success begins with a story. I may not have the talent of the authors on my Dream Team, but I have the same opportunities. With hard work and determination I can accomplish my dreams. Although a writer benefits from praise from a peer, their sustaining confidence comes from within. It’s the kind of confidence that kicks in at 2AM when you’re all alone and struggling to find the right words.
“Can’t never does anything.”
I’ve heard that phrase all my life, and it holds much truth. In our writing lives, can’t should be erased from our vocabulary. Yesterday, Marnee blogged about writing historical romance. I’ve often said I don’t have the voice to write a historical romance. In hindsight I should say I could if I had the desire. It’s a common occurrence to avoid things that are the most difficult to attempt. As writers we know our strengths and weaknesses. We obviously choose to write the type of romance we feel we express well. I often forget that some of the best stories I’ve written I considered out of my comfort zone. Once again the key to expression is confidence.
If we believe we achieve.
What fuels your confidence? Do you believe praise is an important component to a writer’s determination, or do you believe confidence is more effective when it comes from within? Do you ever voice praise to your favorite authors?
Thursday, March 27, 2008
*Gunner Marnee clears her throat and attempts to look sheepish*. So far, despite the fact that I am writing a Regency novel and I have done some research, I haven’t been killing myself with research or gotten myself all twisted up over it.
*The Captain sashays to her feet, searching for an empty rum bottle to throw at her gunner. Finding all of the bottles still have some rum left in them, she settles for placing her hands on her hips and scowling fiercely*. Not stressing about research?! What sort of half-ass approach to writing are you pulling around here?
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
I can hear y’all groaning! Yeesh, whining pirates. I’ll stop now.
Sometimes I don’t know what to talk about. I know you readers have a hard time believing that based off the tangents I start in comments. But it’s true. I may be able to tangent like nobody’s business, but when it comes to a topic, forgetaboutit. *in my whiny redneck voice*
So, when I was running on the treadmill, listening to my best friend prattle on and on about her latest disaster, I realized there are some things that are just a solo project. Much like writing.
To me, writing is a pure solo sport. You can argue that it takes love and support from your friends and family to get through the rough times; but really it’s you—yourself-- who puts the words down on paper. During crisis times, you are the only one who can take the words running in jumbles and make them flow like water on a page. You’re the only one who knows the plot. Storyline. Characters. Ending… You know all of this by heart.
When times are tough you rely on yourself to pull through. To keep going. To put one finger in front of the other and snap out of it. You stay up late. You debate with your gut instinct to slash and start over. You rewrite scenes until dawn. You run over line of dialogue in front of the mirror. (And if you’re me, you literally take it outside and run over it, while screaming at the top of your lungs.) No matter how much you talk about it to someone else, they will never get it. They don’t see the story as you do. Until it’s on paper, something tangible for them to see and hold, they don’t see it unfolding as you do.
Believing in yourself is a number one priority for a writer. Because if you don’t believe in yourself, who will? Your ability to convey emotion. Your talent to make the written word come to life in front of your reader’s eyes is all on you. No one else can make you do that. It comes from deep within. And if the belief isn’t there, your words will never flow quite right. The imagery will be stilted. The dialogue stiff. The storyline dull.
Your story relies on you to tell it. You believing in your abilities makes that happen. You could have thousands of people believing in you and still not believe in yourself.
Fate plays a part in this. If you are destined for something, whether you believe or not, it happens. It’s up to you to make it a positive or negative thing. Writing is all about being positive. You’re writing for a reason. A purpose. Whether it be for yourself or to tell a story. Or for the readers you’ll eventually have. Everything has a purpose. And I think I’m just now starting to realize this.
I don’t believe in myself. It’s just my number one rule. If I become complacent with my abilities, I slack off. So for that, I tell myself I suck at it all and work twice as hard. I’ve done it all my life. And with writing, it’s no different. I always challenge myself to go one extra step more. Write another thousand words before bed. Take a scene just one step wilder. Nothing is good enough and I have to strive to do better. But eventually I’ll have to believe in myself. Eventually I’ll have to let go, not to become complacent, but to accept what may come. Whether that be publishing or be just writing for enjoyment of the moment. Writing to me is like letting my soul fly. It gives me a chance to be calm, quiet, myself. And there is nothing more rewarding than that.
At the moment, that is.
So what is the one thing you could change about your writing self? What is the one thing you consider to be your excelling point? Writing, plotting, procrastinating, dialogue. And how much stock do you put into your own abilities?
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Well, you'll just have to read it. In the meantime, as you're waiting for Amazon to process your order, do read this interview. You don't want to miss this book...or this author:
Hellion: I adore your writing voice. I was immediately pulled into the story by the voice of your heroine. Does writing humor come naturally to you, or has it taken a while for your writing voice to sound as natural as it does (i.e. how many manuscripts are hidden under your bed right now)? What techniques would you recommend for honing your humorous voice?
Eileen: I adore you for saying you adore me! Love fest! I come from a funny family - and I do mean that in both the "ha ha" type of way as well as the "peculiar" kind of way. Humor is something that I've always defaulted to, it's perfect for hiding insecurities- no one notices that you're freaking out if they are laughing. The first draft of Unpredictable was a mystery. A really bad mystery. I noticed a few of my early readers wrote in the margin "well- the funny parts are good." It was then I decided to give up fighting it and write a funny book, before that I kept trying to put on other voices that weren't mine. I love to read and I read all kinds of things. I wanted to write like many of the writers I admired instead of admitting that I wrote best when I wrote like myself.
I have two full length manuscripts that should never see the light of day and many more that are partials of various ideas that sounded GREAT in the planning stage- but didn't pan out nearly so well in the execution. Part of the secret is not seeing these as failures- but part of the journey to finding your own way.
Hellion: Do you write organically or are you more a plotter? How did you keep the pacing so tight?
Eileen: I have huge plotter envy. I want to be a plotter- I buy all kinds of office supplies (ooh binders! color tabs! index cards in rainbow colors!!!) with the idea of being a very organized writer. Tragically, this never works for me, on the upside if there is ever a world wide stationary shortage I am completely prepared. When I write I start out with a premise, a main character, and a general idea of how I want the book to end. Once I have those things I dive in and start writing. The benefit of writing organically is that I enjoy having the story surprise me, on the the downside I spend a lot of time looking at the computer monitor thinking "how the heck did I get myself into this situation?"
Hellion: I swear we were separated at birth. Except all my office supplies have pictures of Jack Sparrow on them. I like to multi-task my obsessions. And coincidentally, my organization skills go awry. I'm sorry, I interrupted...writing systems...you were saying....
Eileen: *grins understandingly* One thing I've enjoyed on this path to publication is meeting other writers. Every writer has their own system. The one that really struck me was John Irving who likes to write his books backwards starting with the last chapter. This would completely screw me up. I'm much more linear. The fact that everyone does it differently be frustrating for people who want to know "how to do it" so they can copy your system, but in the end the good news is that there is no right way- just the right way for you as the writer.
Hellion: Sin and Lisa will be so thrilled to hear you say that. Of course, they've been skipping around the ship for days saying, "I told you so" to our Boatswain. They swear they have their own system, but even they don't know what it is most of the time. *consults her list of questions again* Did you intentionally leave out Sagittarius from all the horoscopes? And if so, why did you? (Are you a Sagittarius?)
Eileen: This is a funny story. (or maybe it is one of those things that seems funny only to me) In the manuscript all the signs were present- including Sagittarius. Somewhere in the publishing process the Sags were dropped. I didn't notice it, the editor didn't notice it even the copy editor didn't notice it. Once it went to the printer the very first person who read an advance copy called me to point out there was no Sagittarius. She was a Sag. I've now heard from about half a dozen people about the error. They're all Sags. I believe there is a rumor that I am a Sag hater. This is not true- who wouldn't like people born under the sign of the archer?
Hellion: I'm not a Sag. I'm just a Pisces...but I did wonder if was on purpose. *LOL* Or if you were a Sag. Incidentally I'd like to be a sign attributed with archers rather than fish. But that's neither here nor there.
Terri: Yet you're still talking about it as if it were.
Hellion: *ignoring Terr, makes a check on her question list* Are you more a skeptic or a believer?
Eileen: My believer/skeptic status depends on what we're discussing! (How's that for a dodgy answer?) In terms of psychics- I love the idea of it being true, but I haven't seen anything that has convinced me personally. Sometimes I think people are seeking out something magical and other-worldly and miss the real magic in our lives- the feeling of being in love, the taste of good chocolate, and finding a killer pair of shoes- in your size- on sale.
Hellion: Oh, I so understand that! I found the cutest pair of Candies' shoes at Kohl's last month. Adorable! *holds out her foot and shows off the three-inch heeled shoes* On sale...and right next to the gym shoes (on sale) I needed. It was like fate. *refocusing with some difficulty, crossing legs and smiling* What are you working on now? When will it be available?
Eileen: I am working on a young adult novel currently called What Would Alice Do? that will be out in January 2009. We may change the title as the publisher has a few other titles with Alice in them (and here I thought I was so clever.) This story is a retelling of the Crucible set in a modern Christian high school in Indiana. I've had a ton of fun writing YA as it allows me to tap into my high school traumas. I have material to spare. I refuse however to attach any photos of my high school self as clearly I had some channeling Molly Ringwald issues going on. I remember thinking I looked GREAT- but photographic evidence seems to imply otherwise.
Hellion: (I love the What Would Alice Do? title--that's funny! Ah, puns; it's like crack to English majors. Can't resist them. Not for love or money.) What is your favorite thing about the new book you're working on? (Why will we fall in love with it?)
Eileen: I believe it's another funny book (at least I cracked myself up). The main character, Alice, has to question what she will give up to be the kind of person that she wants to be. I love characters who are struggling with morally ambiguous situations. I'm a nice person in real life, but in fiction I really enjoy turning up the heat under other people. I'm in the editing process now and my editor at Simon Schuster has been amazing to work with- it's made me fall in love with the story all over again. I can't wait to see it in print.
Hellion: Are you doing any local signings? (Clearly you just came off a trip to my "neck of the woods"—well, within 8 hours at any rate…so how about: ) Will you be at RWA conference this year?
Eileen: I did a tour through the mid-west (Michigan, Indiana and Illinois) as that is where I grew up and had enough family that I was reasonably assured enough people would turn up so that I wouldn't look like a loser. I have a few more things planned for here in my local area and down into Seattle. I'm speaking at the RWA conference in New England in April- and I wouldn't miss this year's RWA in San Fran. Let's all get together!
Hellion: Eileen's buying the first round of rum! *crew cheers* What single most important piece of writing advice would you pass on to us struggling pirates?
Eileen: I believe it is important to enjoy the process of writing, of spinning stories. I don't mean that there aren't bad days- but that overall you should like to write. When I talk to people who describe writing as if every word causes them to bleed I think they should take up something else- knitting for example. There are so many ups and downs in this business- that if you don't like the writing I have no idea why someone would continue. At least if you knit you end up with sweater. No one sends a rejection letter if you mail them a sweater. " Dear Knitter- Thanks for your sweater submission. Unfortunately it doesn't meet our needs at this time....." A writer friend told me "writing is a craft, publishing is a casino." You have control over the writing- how much you do, how you improve, the stories you write. Focus on that- because if you try and figure out publishing you'll go wacky. The business is subjective and random at times. If you keep the focus on what you can control it makes for a happier person.
Hellion: *laughing* I'm an even worse knitter than I am a writer, and I do enjoy writing more than knitting, all criticism aside. I guess I picked the right hobby. How did you get published? (Were you a literal overnight success, or were you more the 10-year overnight success? What steps did you take? Which would you recommend; what things did you do that you wish you could go back in time and erase again? Other than good grammar—since for all appearances, it doesn't seem like I have it.)
Eileen: I know it isn't mature, but people who tell overnight success stories make me stick my tongue out at them when they turn their back. I have written for years. My parents have a story I did in second grade which I titled "George the Sighkyatrist" - spelling wasn't my thing. The teacher wrote at the bottom "I'm sure some day you'll be an author." Little did I know how much rejection would come between that story and hearing the news Unpredictable had sold. When I wrote my first novel I thought it was BRILLIANT. Alas- I was the only one. I then wrote another book, but by this time I knew enough to know it wasn't as great as it needed to be. Unpredictable was my third full length manuscript. My agent (the divine Rachel Vater at Folio Literary Management) was my top choice agent and the first one I queried. When she signed me I thought I had it made- but it took more time to find a home for Unpredictable.
When I first started writing I told myself I would be happy if I could just finish a full length novel. Then I said I would be happy if I could get an agent. Then I decided if I had a book deal I would be happy. Then I was sure having film rights optioned would do it. Now I'm on to obsessing about sales numbers and the second book. What I would advise people starting out is that publication is a journey not a destination. The people I've met that are huge New York Time's best sellers still worry about the next book or sales. You can compare yourself to other writers (even those overnight people who sign huge "significant deals" and have Oprah on speed dial), but it will only drive you crazy. I try and focus on improving myself and hope the rest of it will fall into place.
Hellion: My yoga teacher would adore you. She tells me this every week--and she doesn't even know I write. (I swear yoga is in everything!) *pushes Sin off balance, who's assumed a downward facing dog position, showing off* Oh, that felt good. A couple more questions...What authors have inspired your work? (I'm going to guess Jennifer Cruisie, but that's just me. *grins, pointing at Jennifer Cruisie quote on front cover of Unpredictable*)
Eileen: Why how did you guess Jennifer Crusie? She impresses me with how well crafted her work is and how supportive she is of new writers. I am a huge reader and love everything from non fiction to mystery to chick lit to historicals. There is the very real chance that I will die crushed by a stack of books. I can think of worse ways to go. It's hard to narrow the list of who inspired me, but certainly I've enjoyed Emily Giffin, Sophie Kinsella, John Irving, Jen Lancaster and a few zillion more.
Hellion: Last question--and the most important: Does Nick McKenna exist? If so, can you give him my phone number?
Eileen: Nick is composed of a couple different people and my very active imagination. Alas both of the real people are married- one of them to me- and I have a strict no sharing rule. : )
Hellion: What a surprise! I finally find a guy worth pursuing and he's taken! Oh, well, I guess it's still sock-stealing and obsessing for me. I should stick with my strengths at any rate. Thank you, Eileen, for interviewing with us today. You have been a wonderful--and now I'm going to turn it over to the crew for their questions and comments...
How many of you read your horoscope? (How often have you noticed it's come true? I think in all my years it's come true once, but it was a horoscope I read the day after the event. I doubt that counts.) Has anybody else read Unpredictable? What's the craziest thing you've ever done to win a guy back--and did it work?