Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dear Diary

My eight-year-old, Charlotte, needed a diary, or so she said. "I NEED one. With a lock. It has to have a lock." So I took her to Barnes & Noble to select the perfect one from a wall of contenders. Some journals were covered brush-painted flowers, some geometric designs, all were girly (woe be to the boy who wants to journal.)

She found the perfect shade of purple (with a lock) and I even sprung for a new pen, remembering how important my diary was to me. I wish I had it now for the entertainment value alone. Oh, the angst! Jennifer cut me in line and didn't even say sorry! Jason totally ignored me at recess! I hate soccer and why do we have to play it for gym!

But most of all, I remember writing about my mom. Horrible woman! So mean! So what if I got caught making prank calls randomly from the phone book? That's no reason to ground me.

Charlotte locks her door and writes in it every day. I mean, obsessively. She's either got the beginnings of the next War and Peace in there, or something is really bugging her.

Now she's at school, and I know where she keeps her key. (Right on top of her desk. Real smooth, Charlotte.) You have no idea what restraint it's taking for me not to go in there right now and read it. I know it's ridiculous. I KNOW. She's eight. What could it possibly say? Maybe I'm just looking for feedback--any feedback--on mothering. It's not like I have a boss to give me a performance review. And it's not like I'm going to find You're great at communication, Wendy, but the whole allowance area needs improvement.

Don't worry. I won't. I WON'T. She deserves a little privacy.

Damn it.

Did you ever keep a diary?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Same page

Last night, my husband and I were watching the Haiti coverage on CNN (again) feeling sad and helpless (again.) One reporter interviewed a couple from the US who lived there and ran one of the many orphanages near Port-au-Prince. Now, this couple looked like they belonged in Haiti just about as much as I do.

He: Cowboy hat, strong (strong!) Southern drawl. Some lawd-almighties were uttered and perhaps even a woo-doggy.

She: Same drawl, but higher in pitch. Platnium, cotton candy hair, brightly painted lips.

I opened my mouth and my husband looked at me, probably convinced I was going to say something snarky. Nine times out of ten, he'd be right. (Well, not so much about the Haiti coverage, but otherwise, yes.) But instead I said, "That's pretty cool. I wonder what their story is?"

He thought it was cool, too. In fact, my husband said he's always thought of doing something similar after he retired. Not necessarily an orphanage in Haiti, but something...I don't know...meaningful. "What am I going to do? Hang around the city all day and complain about the weather? Golf? I don't even like golf."

Strangely enough, I've been thinking about the same thing. I've wanted to do something Three-Cups-of-Tea-ish for a long time. Not now, mind you. Not while the kids are still in school. Later. And I don't know what, exactly. But I have some time to figure that out.

I've come close to bringing it up many times. It always sounded kind of flakey, (Hey honey, how about living in some godforsaken country in our golden years and doing, um, something?) so I never did.

It's great to know we are on the same page.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jill Myles: Sexytimes Writer

Today we welcome Jill Myles, author of the sexy paranormal GENTLEMEN PREFER SUCCUBI, out now! So buy it! I mean really, just look at this cute trailer:

Jill's talking to us today about writing those pesky sex scenes. I don't know about you, but writing them always makes me uncomfortable. Like my mom's going to pop out from behind my shoulder and scold me. ("Wendy! For shame! That's private stuff!")

Warning: The following post has words like "orgasm" and "schlong." If you are my mother, click away. Click away now.

Welcome, Jill!

1. We all could probably think of elements *not* to include in sex scene (weird animal or botanical metaphors, lots of bodily fluid, etc.) but what do you think makes for a good one?

Good question! I think it differs for everyone and for what type of book you are writing. If you are looking to shock or titillate your readers, you have to push the boundaries of what is 'acceptable' and 'normal' in a sex scene. On the other hand, if you're looking to create a touching moment, someone whipping out the handcuffs isn't going to do it, you know? So if you're going for a touching moment, I think lots of devoted-type actions are the best -- the hero touching her cheek, stroking her hair, kissing every inch of her body, etc. If it's angry sex, think harsh, jerky motions, the heroine slamming the hero down into the bed, things like that.

2. Confession: I've only written scenes with Uncomfortable or Intentionally Ho-Hum sex, but still, I always have trouble with pacing. How do you know when to end it?

When I think someone's going to get rug burns. Kidding! It's tricky to tell when to end it. Not to be graphic, but (well, okay, I'm going to be graphic) unless you're doing something ultra-extraordinary with the hero's schlong, I think that once you get past the initial point of penetration and the heroine's orgasm (a good hero ALWAYS lets her come first) then you might consider wrapping things up. The heroine's just going to end up with friction burns if the hero's sawing away at her lady-business for seven pages more.

3. How easy is it for you to write a steamy scene? Can you whip out some heat typing away at Starbucks? Or do you have to give it more thought?

It's easy (with an asterisk next to that). I really enjoy writing the sexual scenes because they're emotionally intense and really progresses the hero and heroine's relationship. When I'm writing a sex scene, to keep my brain 'choreographing' the thing, I tend to have to write it all in one sitting. And since most of my sex scenes end up around 3 or 4k, well, it makes a good writing night and I'm always super happy when I'm done with it because that's some rockin' word count (no pun intended).

As far as thinking ahead what they'll be doing? Not really. I just let it all play by ear.

That being said, the asterisk comes in to play because I am NEUROTIC about someone reading over my shoulder for any sort of writing -- not just sex scenes. So I write when my husband is playing video games or napping, and always, always when I can have some mental privacy. Never, never at Starbucks. If there is even a shred of a chance that someone's going to see what I'm writing? I can't continue. It's this weird phobia of mine.

4. A 4,000 word sex scene?! Holy crap! was I saying? Oh yes: How do you handle other people's nosy personal questions when they find out what you write?

I work for an extremely conservative company in the day job, so I have a pen name and keep things as separate as possible. My co-workers know that I write, but they don't know what name I write under. People tend to snicker or ask personal questions when they find out you write romance, so I basically don't give them the opportunity. Maybe that's a cop-out, but it's what I'm going with. I did make attempts at one point, though -- I told my boss that I wrote romance, and she immediately came back with "Wow, your husband must LOVE that. Wink wink." It was, in a word, CREEPY. So yeah, separate lives and all that.

5. How can you tell if you've given TMI? Or are being too vague?

I leave everything in the scene, even the stuff I'm handwringy or questioning. Did I go too far? Is someone going to get offended? Did this just go over the line to non-sexy? But I trust what pops into my head and I leave it there. Usually when I'm mid-scene, I'm too close to it, and I find that if I continually edit when I'm in the scene, I tend to take the edge off of things. So I leave it and re-read it when I do my read-through after I've finished the first draft. 9 times out of 10, I can't even tell which part made me uncomfortable/awkward (which means that my instincts were good). And if something still sticks out or makes me go 'Yuck' during the re-read, it has to go.

6. How does language come into play?

When I first started writing love scenes, I had a difficult time even getting myself to use the word 'nipples'. I find it to be an awkward, strange word. No clue why. But there are only so many 'peaks' and 'tips of her breasts' that you can use, and at some point, you just have to suck it up and go nipple. And you know what? Now I nipple all the time! Nipples everywhere! But the same can be said for sex scenes overall. You feel really awkward and weird writing the first steamy scene so you try and neuter it (the scene)...but at some point, you're going to have to go nipple. And once you do, it's hard to go back to glossing over things.

That being said, I avoid certain words just because I find them kind of icky. Words like 'spurting' and 'dripping' and 'sloppy'. Not sexy. I think everyone has certain words that set their teeth on edge. Anything that makes me think of geysers of bodily fluids? Probably not going into my book. YMMV of course. Some people dig that.

Thanks, Jill! That was enlightening.

And remember, Jill is hosting a contest! Her agent, Holly Root, is offering a query critique for one lucky winner drawn at random. Leave a comment here and you'll earn one entry for the drawing. Commenting at each of the other blogs on Jill's tour will earn you additional entries.

Jill will pick the winner on January 27.

Next stop on the tour is tomorrow: Ilene Wong. More sexy stuff! And here is a list of all the stops.

Good luck!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pretty, pretty covers

The hubs bought me a Kindle for Christmas. I wasn't certain I wanted one, mostly because so many people act like Amazon is spurring the PUBLISHING END OF DAYS, but I have to say: pretty darn nice. I've already zapped a ridiculous number of new books I wanted into my reader (eleven and counting.) Forget the "smell of paper" and "crack of the spine" people pine over. Convenience trumped all that.

But you know where it's not so great? Browsing. Teeny tiny black and white book covers just do not work for me. Because I am a packaging girl--a total sucker for packaging. Just ask the clerks at Sephora. I come in for some cleanser and suddenly I'm all "Oooh, pretty! I need that!" and I leave with a giant bag full of cosmetics.

I love to explore new authors, and the greatest initial influence on me is an appealing book cover. If the title and artwork set the right tone, I'll pick it up and check out the inside flap. If that bit of highly-polished marketing draws me in, I'll read the first page. A good one? Sold.

Really. It's that simple. If I'm honest with myself, I'll even admit I use this method of judgment over personal recommendations. I can think of a number of books everyone I know loved that I picked up/put down/picked up/put down before I was finally convinced. Why? They looked boring.

Someone who worked in advertising should know better, right? Don't judge a book by it's cover and all that. Bah. I like book covers.

So anyway, yes. I'll still be buying from bookstores.

How about you? Have you submitted to the evil desires of Kindle? Thoughts?

Friday, January 8, 2010

I was wrong

I've been on this big Jennifer Weiner reading kick lately, after several years of shunning her books for no apparent reason. It's not like I haven't had friends (many, actually) recommend Certain Girls or Best Friends Forever, but, I don't know, I guess I never really gave her a chance before now. Believe me, I've recently made up for it. Just ask my new Kindle.

Maybe it's because her books were described by that dreaded phrase: chick lit. At the time, I was reading a lot of Paul Coelho. (I get on these kicks, you see.) Shoe stories? Girls who dress fierce and swan around and whatnot? No thanks.

But her books are so very not. Her themes explore loneliness and loyalty, motherhood, missed opportunities, and regret.

So here I am, faced with the fact that I, myself, a feminist for god's sake, was demeaning women-centric writing. I assumed her books were fluffy and of little worth just because of the subject matter. And they are the very subjects I WRITE! ARGH!

I'll admit it now. I was wrong.

Have you ever been surprised by something?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Baby steps

So. I'm back from our annual ski trip -- one year older, six pounds heavier, but at least with no bruised ass this time. I'd call that a success.

Vince captured this video of me in the wild:

Okay, so after five (five!) years of trying, this is about all I can manage. Snowplowing on the baby hill. Good lord. And I'm still freaking terrified of the chair lift. But at least there was less "whooooaa, whooooaa, helpmehelpmehelpme" as I made my way down the green runs this time. Progress.

I just wish I could master the heave-up-on-skis-after-a-fall ability. This eludes me: when I'm down, it's not...attractive. I pretty much just roll around in the snow for a while until my instructor or husband loses patience and hoists me up like a drunken barfly.

Oh well. Onward.

How were your holidays?