Sunday, January 31, 2010

Readin' & Writin'

As readers of my own blog know, I’ve been re-reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series over the past few months. When I was younger, I read voraciously in most genres. When I had my first child nineteen years ago, I remember the doctor telling me on his visit the day after her birth, “Enjoy that book you’re reading. It’s the last one you’re going to read for the next ten years.” I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t.

In the first years of my children’s lives, I read books like Goodnight Moon and Pat the Bunny, graduating to the Berenstain Bears and Disney books. When my daughter started fourth grade, my mom (a librarian) asked me if I’d heard of a character by the name of “Harry Potter”. I hadn’t. She told me I would soon. She was right, too. My daughter and I read through all seven books together, making JK Rowling’s epic the first books I’d read all the way through since giving birth.

But somewhere in there, I started writing books instead of reading them. I have not one, but two unfinished fantasy novels (one of which I REALLY want to get back to) as well as a historical (based on the letters home from a Union soldier – his is an amazing story I’d love to find a home for someday); these novels sit in my computer files just biding their time. Writing them gave me the same thrill I’d get when I’d open a book for the first time – the words filling my head with faraway places and strange sounding names. I got hooked.

My children are older now; my daughter’s in college and my son graduates high school this year. They don’t want mom to read to them anymore, and aren’t really interested in the books I do manage to find time for. Neither, to my knowledge, have ever read any of my books. They were off-limits till they turned eighteen and my daughter has since informed me that, while she’s very proud of me and she likes erotic romance, she just can’t bring herself to read mine because she doesn’t want to think her mother knows about such things!

I started out talking about the Outlander series and got side-tracked, I see. The point I’d intended to make was how wonderfully rich her series is and how I hope re-reading it has influenced me in a positive way. It certainly has gotten me re-reading my current work in progress (tentatively titled Services Rendered) with an eye toward adding depth and description.

So what about you-all? For the writers here, what books have influenced your own writing style? For the readers, what kinds of styles do you gravitate towards?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Bucket List

Don't we all have a list of the things we want to do in our lives? Maybe it isn't actually written on paper, but it's in the back of our minds and we think about it a lot. I'm happy that I've managed to accomplish some of the things I've wanted to do, yet there are still some I hope to do soon.

Here's a little bit from my Bucket List:

1. Become a published author. I can check off that one as done. I published my first book in 2002.

2. Be on a best-selling book list. Done that. Okay, it was on Amazon, but a list is a list.

3. Buy my own home. Check. Yes, the bank still owns part of it, but it's mostly mine.

And some items I've yet to do:

4. See Alaska. I've been to 27 states in the U.S., but haven't made it to Alaska. I hope to do that this summer. My stepson and his wife own 400 acres on an island in Alaska that I would love to see.

5. Visit New England in autumn. I've been to Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York, but during the summer. I want to go back in autumn when the leaves are changing colors.

6. Take a train all the way across Canada. This is something I probably could never afford, but I'd love to do it.

7. Travel through the British Isles. The Scribes' Cait Miller lives in Scotland. She's promised me a tour if I ever make it over there. I'm holding her to that promise!

8. Visit Australia. I know there are a lot of authors in Australia. Maybe I could get one of them to play tour guide.

Hmm, do we see a pattern here? Looks like most of my still-to-do items include travel. It's a good thing I have my passport ready!

So what's on your Bucket List? Share with me.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Case for Epilogues

At the last writer’s conference I attended there seemed to be a theme that kept popping up in workshops…Prologues and Epilogues. They were out of fashion. The theory being that a Prologue was what happened before the story started and an Epilogue was something that happened after the story ended so they weren’t needed. As romance writers, we’re trained and encouraged and berated to start with the action. Throw your reader into it. And stop when the romance is resolved.

As I writer, I love Prologues. I often start my books with them because I want to warn the reader about something, or give them a hint about a future event, or just make them curious. It’s not exactly throwing the reader into the action but I like to give a hint about the sharks circling before they make that leap.

As a reader, I love Epilogues. I love that last visit with the couple, a glance into their life—after the story—to prove that they are living their happily ever after. It’s like dropping in on an old friend and finding out that yes, things really did work out.

I have a couple of favorite Epilogues. So favorite in fact that I recently dug through my keeper shelf to find a book because I wanted to re-read the Epilogue. A line from it was stuck in my brain and I wanted to experience it again.

My favorite Epilogue…To Love A Dark Lord by Anne Stuart. She writes such great dark heroes that having that Epilogue is comforting. It tells me that he did settle down. And that all the things he warned her about at the end of the book have come true. This was the book I went looking for last week. I skimmed the book, to reacquaint myself with the characters, then skipped to the Epilogue. I’ve read it twice more since then.

My other favorite Epilogue is in Lover Awakened…the scene in the gym just tugs on my heart that I go back and re-read it whenever I need a lift. Zsadist is so damaged that you need that glimpse into his life after the "story" ends.

I think this is why series books a so popular. It’s a final check in with the characters. You get to visit old friends.

So don’t be afraid to give your readers one last glimpse so they put away the book with a satisfied “ahhhh.”

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Years...(what else, but...) Resolutions

So, today is January 3, 2010 and I’m wondering how many articles you’ve read or watched on television that has to do with a new year and a new resolution. I know I’ve had enough resolution info stuffed down my craw to last me the entire year.

My own? Ah, hell – I guess I may as well jump on the bandwagon, too.

Of course there’s the old standard that, damn, I’m going to lose some weight no matter what the cost. I don’t think there’s a person in a 40 mile radius of me that hasn’t already belted that one out.

Oh, and smoking! Yup – that old nail in the coffin is going to be a thing of the past.

I’m going to NEVER let the house get messy. I will vacuum and dust on a daily basis.

All clothes will go directly into the washing machine, then straight into the dryer. I WILL be standing beside them both so that when the buzzer alerts me that clothes are dry, I will immediately take them out and not only fold them, but put them away in the proper drawer, closet shelf, etc.

I will not leave dirty dishes in the sink or on the counter. As soon as every meal or snack is partaken of, the door to the dishwasher will be opened and machine loaded promptly.

I will teach my arrogant little dog that it isn’t proper to doodle in front of the door, but to bark and wait patiently for me to come and let him out.

I will take down my Christmas tree before April 1st.

I will organize my recipe box.

I will never let mail/paper pile up. Everything will be gone through daily and either tossed in the garbage or properly filed.

The chair in my bedroom will NEVER be piled with clothes. Each night before I go to bed I will throw my dirty socks in the hamper (that reminds me…I need to buy one) and I will either fold or hang my shirt and jeans and put them away.

If I eat pizza or ice cream in bed while watching television, I will not leave dirty dishes/napkins/spoons on my bedstand.

I will make more of an effort to save money rather than spend it…

Yeah, right. In a perfect world…maybe! I am going to promise you all something, however. I plan to sub a book on January 31st. Honest. Hmmm…just thought of something. If that’s going to happen then the clothes, dishes, dust, Christmas tree decorations, and dog shit is just going to have to pile up. Wow, just thinking of that makes me nervous enough to run to the store for a pack of cigs. So…better get going! I gotta book to write!

Have a prosperous and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Hugs, Ruby