Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Life in general

All afternoon, I've been sitting here thinking about two things: dinner and this blog. I didn't have any new thoughts this week about writing, other than how really, really difficult it is to cut something that was originally 94,000 words down below 75,000 words, particularly when you think your editor may not want to acquire it no matter how much work you put into it, but…anyway. I'm just depressed because my editor recently rejected one of my manuscripts and I'm now trembling in angst that she may hate the one I'm working to cut down now, too. I'm just so unworthy and pathetic. And I'm really finding that there is truly very little fat to cut in this latest manuscript and I'm desperate.

So enough about writing. My mental anguish does not need any more exposure.

The other thing was dinner. Because everything I want to eat is really bad for you and I'm starting to get sick and tired or tired and sick of paying attention to what I eat all the time. But I did give up margarine and go back to butter. I mean, what is the point? I hate margarine. There is no margarine on this planet that actually tastes like butter. Only butter tastes like butter and I've pretty much had it with the healthy thing, anyway. Especially since I've managed to gain weight, anyway, despite my best efforts not to do so. (Although I called my doctor today and he said my thyroid is a little low so maybe I have an excuse—unless it meant it's physically dropped to a lower portion of my anatomy, which wouldn't surprise me since every other part of my anatomy has also dropped a little lower.)

Let's face it, you're going to gain weight no matter what you eat unless you don't eat at all, or exercise. The key is really exercise which is just no fun. I'm substituting an hour of gardening and mental exercise each night and figuring that's good enough. Be that as it may, I actually gained close to ten pounds on the South Beach Diet, thank you very much, and it really burned me because our food bill went up by over $100 extra dollars a week to buy the stupid food, and we didn't like the food, and I religiously ate the junk and I didn't like it. And I gained nearly ten pounds on expensive crap I didn't like anyway.

I would have been much, much happier eating my normal diet supplemented by Hostess Twinkies and cupcakes and I probably wouldn't have spent as much or gained as much weight, since I actually don't snack on a normal basis.

Now, here's the real thing. I'm thinking—is it worth eating a lot of junk you don't like and that costs a lot, to extend your life…say how long? How much more "life" are you gonna get out of eating stuff you don't like? An extra year?

Okay, let's say you get an extra year after spending, say 85 years eating things you freaking hate and being miserable because you can't eat what you want to eat. Are those going to be happy years? Are you going to be glad about that? Or are you facing 85 years of misery every time you sit down at the table?

And what about that extra year, anyway? Do you get to be 17 again? 30? 50? No. You get to get another year of drooling, utterly desperate horror sitting around in an old folks' home watching random static on a broken television, waiting to die. You get that year from 86 to 87, or 99 to 100, not that year from 40 to 41 or even 60 to 61, when, let's face it, you could at least wipe both your own mouth and your own bum. When you had at least a shred of dignity left to you.

So. Are you saying you really want that extra year of life after having denied yourself everything you've ever wanted to eat?

I gotta tell you, that package of Twinkies is looking pretty damn good to me at the moment.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Almost Published

It's getting closer--my first book, Smuggled Rose, comes out May 3.
I'm trying not to get too excited about it though, because it will be months before I see anything like a royalty check and it's only out as an e-book for the first few months. Sigh. So I won't even have a paperback to hold in my hot little hands until the fall.

Anyway, so now I'm trying to decide what to do for promotion--how to get to the reading public. I mean, I doubt anyone is searching the Internet for Amy Corwin, books by Amy Corwin, or Smuggled Rose. It's interesting to me that most of the hits I do get are from folks looking for more information on...roses. Which is cool because for several years I was the newsletter editor for my local rose society. I'm thinking about writing a few articles about the history of roses, anyway, to put on my web site because some of the most frequent queries I see are "red roses" and "the history of red roses". It sort of dovetails with my book, anyway, because when we first meet Margaret Lane, the heroine, she's smuggling roses from France into England. Avid rose collectors will do anything to get new roses. Really.

In fact there are several documented cases of customers getting into fist fights at nurseries and/or auctions of new roses when there weren't enough roses to "go around" and someone really wanted that last bush.

Anyway, there are obviously still people out there interested in roses and I'm glad I already have some content related to that between my two sister sites.

The other thing I'm considering is developing a newsletter to go out quarterly. I want to make it a good newsletter, though, and not just "hey, I've just sold this manuscript and the book will be available for sale on blah, blah date". I don't generally subscribe to newsletters because frankly, I get enough sales chatter as it is.

No--what I want is to do a newsletter that somehow relates to what I write, which seem to be Regencies and Regency mysteries. So initially, I'm leaning toward content about the Regency period. I've got a lot of original source material that is way out of copyright and fallen into public domain, so maybe something like:
  • Recipes from the Regency
  • Articles about gardening in the Regency (and of course, ROSES)
  • Regency Fashion tidbits
  • Fun Regency Slang (a la Regency Word of the Day)
  • And links to a serialized novel -- this last one would also be available if folks sign up for it as a weekly e-mail so by the end of, say, 25 weeks or so, you'd have the complete novel. A sort of freebie. After that, I may also do some short stories or other things like that.

Anyway, that's what I'm thinking. I want to make it something that folks would actually want to get. Even if they never read my book, I want to make this fun.

That's about it--I'm just brainstorming here and hoping for the best.

If you have ideas about what you'd love to get as a newsletter, I'm totally open to suggestion. :-)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Spring is here

This old house could use a lot of work including a new kitchen, but at this time of year, I really don't care. I spend most of my time outside, anyway and if the floor in the kitchen is a little spongy under the linoleum and the cupboards are in danger of falling off the walls...well, we can work on those another day.

I just love this time of year. It's not too hot--yet--and the azaleas are blooming, the dogwoods are blooming, and the air is fragrant with wisteria. If I had a complaint it would be that the daffodils have already come and gone--I love them. They are so cheerful and grow so well and have such a lovely scent. Besides roses, I think daffodils may be my favorite flower. Some years when I'm having trouble with mildew and blackspot on the roses, I think daffodils really are totally my favorite flower. No fuss, no muss.

Even our old lab seems to like this weather although he doesn't seem as impressed by the azaleas as I am.

I could just sit outside for hours and stare.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

I may have mentioned that Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer are doing a wonderful writing class online as a blog. I really recommend reading through it and subscribing to the blog. You can't go wrong if for nothing else than sheer enjoyment. There is just so much material there and they are a riot--very fun to read. I'm looking forward to getting their first collaborative effort: Don't Look Down. It should arrive any day now from I bought myself a treat as a psychological boost after doing our taxes last weekend and finding out that we owe a lot--and the depressing realization that after the election, the taxes will only shoot higher. (Darn. I'm totally bummed out again--where the heck is that package from

Anyway, the thing I like about Crusie and hope I will like about the Mayer and Crusie team is that even if the plot is outlandish, the characters seem very warm, very likeable and very real. The heroine isn't some gorgeous, thin creature with no personality and no quirks and the guy has his own set of weirdnesses. I like that, which is probably why I can't get onboard with other authors like J.D. Robb or James Patterson. Now don't get me wrong--both of those last authors are great--at least I'm told they are. And they are certainly prolific and extremely popular. I've just never been able to get past the first chapter of either of them (or any of the other various personas adopted by them--I don't know what it is, but I can't read them and there is nothing I can do about it. Sorry.).

Crusie is a strange one for me to like because she mostly writes romance, although she sometimes throws in a little suspense or murder as a sop to those of us who feel that no book is complete without some sort of mayhem. It's Crusie's funny, quirky characters, though, that really grab me. And her sarcasm, of course. Let's not forget that. I'm deeply into sarcasm and misanthropic characters.

For folks who have read my blogs, they will remember me spending several nights fussing over descriptions. Worrying and fretting about what makes descriptions work--or not work--for me as a reader (and as a writer). Stuff like that. For me, Cruise's descriptions work because they are totally in character--or in the character of the characters. If the scene is in the hero's point of view, anything he describes, including the heroine, is described as he sees it--in his words. Nothing fancy or poetic, unless he happens to be a poetic kind of guy. Although for the record, none of her heroes has been a poetic kind of guy--at least not in any of the books I've read. Same for descriptions in the heroine's point of view. They are realistic and they are in keeping with the heroine's personality. (Although to be honest, I think the heroines are thinly disguised versions of Jennifer Crusie, which is okay by me because I like her and I like her heroines. What's not to like? Oh, and I liked Bob Mayer when I met him, too, so I fully expect to like his heroes, which I also expect will be lightly disguised versions of him. It's all good.)

And somewhere lost in the preceding paragraph, my folks, was the key. Although I seem to have temporarily lost it in the muck.

So...whatever. I've been reading another book, The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips, and he somehow manages to write entire sections in the character of the, uh, characters. The tale is mostly told in what you might consider first person, as journal entries first from Ralph Trilipush (the Egyptologist) and then as letters from an Australian Detective--also in first person. Somehow, the author Arthur Phillips manages to actually stay in character when writing these sections, so they have an entirely different feel, syntax and vocabulary. I don't really know how he accomplished this because it would sort of be like Claude Monet painting a picture in Van Gogh's style. Or me trying to write something, well, poetic and very literary and totally not in my voice. Anyway, unlike me, Monet could probably have done it, but he would have had to suppress his own style and work in an entirely different one. But at least he would not have had to cut his ear off, although he might have wanted to do so after forcing himself to paint in someone else's style.

Whatever. The bottom line is that is makes for extraordinary reading and totally blows me away. Crusie and Mayer manage this feat it in small patches by making sure any observations, dialog and descriptions in a character's point of view stay in that character's vocabulary and style. But to write an entire book like that the way Phillips did? Amazing.

I am in awe of what other writers do.
The thing is, though, you can't let your awe of other writers stop you from writing. Even if you are convinced you are a terrible writer, you can't just quit. Only quitters quit. The rest of us learn something new every day.