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Glorious Day 2

July 31, 2008

Today my guys and I headed for the Pacific. The picture is taken from the walk along the cliffs in Sutro Park or maybe it was called Sutro Walk. It was a stupendous place to hike and the only reason we went up there was a man at the bus stop recommended it. We saw the ocean side of the Golden Gate Bridge. Fog had rolled in and shrouded the top of the bridge and the opposite shore.
After walking up to the memorial for the USS San Francisco which was lost at the battle for Guadalcanal, we headed down the lower coastal path. It was posted.

So of course my boys went as close as possible without stepping over the safety wires. See the opening in the cliff? That’s a tunnel under it. When you walk through you hear the waves booming against the wall to your side. It’s amazing.

We walked from the top of the cliff in the picture above to the bottom and back up the other side. Then we had lunch in the Bistro at Cliff House where from our table we could watch wetsuit clad surfers waiting for the perfect wave, a pod of dolphins swimming by and sea birds on the rocks. The food was fantastic too.
Then we went to the Zoo. Lots of walking but a great day. I enjoyed going places with my boys when they were little. Today showed me how wonderful it is doing things with them when we can relate as people instead of parent and children. They are amazing.
Another time I’ll tell you about our bus ride with the boys from the ‘hood and share the shots I took of the flamings which made me think of the Cherry Bombs but I promised to say something about the conversations I had last night. Topics of discussion included how great it is to be with people who nod and completely understand when you talk about the characters in your head digging in their heels and refusing to go where you think they should go and waking up in the night to write down an idea and not stopping ’til the alarm goes off the next morning.

People are so nice. Two women fell into step with me while I was going back to registration yesterday and we were chatting. When I realized one of them was Linda Howard, I gathered my courage, told her how much I enjoyed her books and what great things I was hearing about her latest book. She said she’d been very nervous because it was different from her other books. Wow. She gets nervous too. Once her friend had registered and put on her name tag I realized she was Beverly Barton. Nice people.
After returning to the hotel, the guys relaxed in the room while I went down to the Literacy Signing. For those who haven’t ever been, at every RWA National Convention publishers donate books and authors sign them and all the proceeds of the sales go to the local literacy fund. Walking into the expansive ballroom you are hit by a wall of noise and dazed by the masses of people–mostly women–and the tables of books. It can be overwhelming. I know it was for me my first year. I walked around with my hands behind my back and didn’t buy a thing.
Not so last year or today. I searched out some of the authors whose books I’d bought for the first time at the conference last year and whose work I had enjoyed: Melissa Mayhue has two more books in her Daughters of the Glen series; Linnea Sinclair who writes science fiction romance. I bought the new books of some favorite authors: Hope Tarr, Elaine Fox and Kristan Higgins and Saskia Walker. And I continued the tradition I started last year of picking up some books by authors that were new to me. Enjoyed talking with the authors and the people in line waiting to pay for the books.
To round out a perfect day, I got a call from my friend Dee who asked me if I wanted to go to dinner with her. We had a delicous meal of Coastal Mexican food in a restaurant in a mall a few blocks from the hotel and I loved getting a chance to catch up with her and just talk.
The workshops start tomorrow. Haven’t caught up with some other friends who are coming to the meeting. Hope to see them tomorrow. Well I have too. We’ve planned to sit together at lunch.
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I Am Here In San Francisco

July 30, 2008

Yes, I am in San Francisco for the Romance Writers of America National Conference. And I am wired. On line but also excited, excited, excited. Less than 12 hours here and already I’m motivated and inspired.

We got up at 4am Eastern Standard and have been going strong–at least I have–ever since. And of course I had trouble getting to sleep last night because of pre-conference anxiety. Did I pack everything I’ll need, is everything set at home for the pet sitter? Did the kids pack everything they will need? I maybe got 4 hours of sleep. I barely remember getting up and dressed. In fact in the Charlotte Airport between connections, I went in the restroom, looked in the mirror and thought “Wow, I’m wearing a necklace. When did I put that on?”

I spent the first flight (not long enough to pull out the computer and start writing) and the time between flights doing the in-flight magazine crosswords. Then I had to try the Sudukos. Besides there was the movie (Nim’s Island–enjoyed it) and the meal. Then I had no excuse. I needed to at least try and work on my revisions. And I wrote more than 1000 words. I had insight into the scene. I knew where I was going next. It felt so good since I’ve spent the last week cleaning house, getting errands done, packing and NOT WRITING.

Then we get to SF. BTW my DH and 3 boys came with me this year. An experiment. DH’s brother lives out here and it’s been 7 or 8 years since we were last out so I talked them into it. Wasn’t sure how it would work. I’m here to learn, see old friends, make new ones, network. But my family is here too and I want to spend some time sightseeing with them. I’ve balanced it. I had DH schedule us in early in case I went to the Leadership conference on Wed. but I decided not to do that. I’m a poor leader and not going to run for any other offices in my chapter in the foreseeable future. And to be honest, though it was interesting and stimulating last year I did not have much to bring back. Our chapter pres. attended last year too and I think she got more out of it. It’s just not my strength.

So today and tomorrow were for my DH and boys then the conference and then Sun we have time to do some more sightseeing together before we take the redeye home.

We get in, get the luggage, DH calls the car service and we go out to wait. He’s all concerned because they said they were sending a Lincoln Town Car and he thought the 5 of us and our (mostly my) luggage wouldn’t fit. I’m in conference mode. We’re here. It’s all good. So maybe we’ll be squished but we’ll get to the hotel and so what we’ll survive.

What drives up? A black stretch limo. I think that made DH19’s trip right there. Mr. Laid Back is taking photo’s with his cell phone. And I felt like a published author with a readership. It felt–good. And it helped send my self doubts right out the window. It was my first trip in a limo too. DS13 was blase. He rode in a limo after meeting a selling goal for magazines in middle school.

At the hotel, the rooms weren’t ready but I was watching the people come through the lobby and check-in and I RECOGNIZED PEOPLE. Some had done workshops I had attended. Some were familiar faces from the other conferences I attended. It felt good.

Another thing that felt good was being the one who was here on business. All our other trips have been tied to business DH was on. I was the one who took the kids around to see the sights while he was in meetings. And I loved it and am so happy we have had the opportunities. But to have the kids see me as a professional means a lot more than I ever expected. I don’t know if it makes a difference to them but it does to me. And I see it as a start. This may be the first time but it won’t be the last. My confidence is rising with every minute and I haven’t even attended the first workshop.

It was a bit off putting because all my guys were wiped out and couldn’t drum up interest in going out and about today. I was wired. It surprised them. When I told them I spent all of every conference I went to like this, DH told the boys he might have to room with them to get some sleep.

So we went to eat then got into our rooms, DS17 fell asleep. DS19 vegged out on the bed, texted his girlfriend and went on-line and DH begged for a little time to recharge his batteries. So I took DS13 swimming. Note: If you go to a conference with a bunch of women and you think no I won’t take my swimming suit because I don’t look the way I want–forget it. Everyone else is thinking the same thing and the pool is empty. So is the spa and the one here is almost big enough to swim laps. After spending almost 12 hours either on a plane or in an airport, stretching my muscles by swimming and then soothing them in the spa felt glorious. Take your suit and go to the pool.

After our swim and a shower, I took DS13 to the consierge lounge to check out the horrie doevers. I saw a friend from Australia that I’d met in the CL at my first conference in Atlanta. When DS13 went back to the room, she invited me into her group and I spent the next hour and a half talking with writers. Not big name published writers but writers of differing levels of experience, some in their 10th conference, some in their first and it was great as it always is. What I have found is that romance writers are welcoming, supportive and a whole lot of fun.

Check in tomorrow to hear what we talked about and more about the City on the Bay and the Nationals. And the wonderful and wise words of a reader friend that express exactly what it feels like to put your heart on the page and send it out into the world.

Okay, I’ve been awake for more than 21 hours. If I’m going to be functional tomorrow I better try and get some sleep.

My Garden

April 20, 2008

Below: Mahonia

These are just a few of the flowers blooming in my yard right now. The pollen from the trees is coating the porch and the cars but the flowers are beautiful and make me smile whenever I walk by them or look out the window.

Left: White lilacs

Below: Can’t remember the name but love the tiny blue flowers.


Left above: Purple lilacs with our house in the background

Above: Candytuft

Left: Purple lilacs and butterfly

Below.White azaleas


Le Left: azaleas

Below: Spring Phlox

Just wanted to share some of my flowers with you. There are more. Stay tuned.

Synopsis Blues and Bubble Baths

April 3, 2008

Yesterday, my critique group met. I think I may have mentioned what a great group this is. Constructive not destructive. Supportive and fun. All the pacing and agonizing over the chapter I mentioned in the last post was worth it. That’s the one I read yesterday. In Panera’s. Thank God I’m not to the sex scenes yet. Towards the end of lunch (we usually meet at one of the members homes then go out to lunch but she’s out of town which is why we ended up reading at Panera’s) I asked if any of them would be interested in going on a tour of the Naval Amphibious Base with me if I ever got up enough nerve to schedule it. The answer was yes but the question was why did it take nerve.

I thought about this all the way home. The hero of this book is a Navy SEAL. I love Suzanne Brockmann and it is through her books that I first became enamoured of the SEALs. But I do not want to imitate her and could not even if I wanted to. And I’m embarrassed because who am I to write about SEALs. I don’t even know any though I’ve done a lot of research and reading. So I avoid telling people that my hero is a SEAL. And I’ve tried to change his profession. But my characters just fold their arms and say “Too bad lady, that’s who we are.” My books don’t have the missions and military action of Suz Brockmann’s though there is some. There’s definitely action but most of it takes place at home not in the field.

Today, I found the number for the Public Affairs office of the Naval Base on the Internet and made myself call them. Turns out they don’t do individual tours only group. I told the woman I spoke with that I was a writer and she said she’d get her PAO (Public Affairs Officer) to call me and about an hour later he did.

He wanted to know why I wanted a tour and what I was writing and I told him my hero was a SEAL, my heroine the orphaned daughter of a SEAL and that some of the scenes took place on base. I explained that what I was looking for was familiarity so I didn’t say something so totally absurd that anyone familiar with the Navy or the base would throw the book against the wall in disgust.

So what does this have to do with synopses you ask. Well, the PAO asked me send him an email telling him what the book was about and why I needed to see the base. He has to show that to his bosses before it could even be considered. National Security you know.

One of my goals (last month but I didn’t do it so now it’s a goal for this month) is to write a synopsis because I want to enter some more contests. So now I have two reasons. I opened all the synopses of this book that I’d written before and read through them. After I finished getting sick, I started over. And froze.

If I can write a 100,000 + word book, why is it so hard to write a 250-500 word summary?

I have read some great articles and books on writing a synopsis. I’ve gone to workshops. It hasn’t helped. I get too involved in the minutia of the book. I can’t remember my initial premise. I’m not sure whether I had one.

I pulled out a timeline and some notes I’d done last year after the RWA and read through them and it is helping crystallize the characters’ motivations, their goals. It also helped pinpoint some major problems in the second part of the book. The part I’m going to start working on by next Monday. What do I do when I have a major problem like that? I take a bubble bath. Bubble baths are wonderful places for thinking.

Guess what one of the major problems with the Part Two is? None of it should take place on the base. I’ve got a totally new opening scene that brings in one of the important secondary characters and highlights Mike’s motivation. I’m really excited. But now I don’t need a tour.

Do you think I’ll get put on some Homeland Security watchlist if I don’t follow up with the PAO?

Rewrites

March 21, 2008

Rewrites are tough. I’ve probably said that before but it was more than a year ago so who remembers.

I’m back to working on the book that I did the exert from last year. Body Language. I’m determined to finish reworking it so I can start sending it out. Again. But better. I hope. No I know it is better. I have learned a lot since I finished the manuscript two years ago.

It’s been hard going getting back into the swing of writing. It is so much easier to lose myself in someone else’s published book. And once I lose myself, it is hard to find that trail of bread crumbs. So I’m trying to limit myself to reading in the evenings before I go to sleep.

I’ve started keeping track of how many words a day I am writing because I’m going to be taking part in a writing challenge come April. I’ve been frustrated because it’s been coming slow. I had planned to set a goal of 1670 words a day. Backed it down to 1000 so I could achieve it and found it a struggle to get 500.

Yesterday, I had my critique group then the kids dentist appointment and struggled to get in a few hundred words. I was close to the end of the chapter I was revising but just couldn’t manage to complete it. Finally turned off the computer in disgust at 10 pm.

Today, I wrote. Deleted. Wrote. Walked around the house. Wrote. Read it aloud. Deleted. Fed the cats. The lizard. The dogs. Wrote.

You get the picture. This afternoon I finally finished the chapter. I celebrated with chocolate peanut butter ice cream. Then I started on the next chapter.

Now this chapter is being totally changed from the original. My book has three parts. The first begins in the heroine’s point of view for the first chapter, switches to the hero’s for the next four and in the other rewrites I had the last chapter in this section in the hero’s POV. (The first draft of the book was in a zillion POV’s because I head hopped all over creation. Didn’t even know what head hopping was at that point.) I decided to switch back to the heroine’s POV for this chapter. Why? Symmetry and because she needs to be heard, to become more three dimentional.

I’m over 700 words into this chapter and am really excited about the way it is going.

That’s right over 700 words. Total today (saved words, all the deleted ones don’t count) 1671 words. I couldn’t believe it when I added it up.

Tomorrow may be a bust. I may struggle to do 200 words. I have to pack for the beach, clean at least a layer of dust off the house, run errands and drive down to the beach when the kids get out of school. That’s okay because I am going to put in at least two solid hours of writing before I start all the other stuff and maybe once we’re settled tomorrow night I can do some more.

Doesn’t matter. I have a goal and I’m working towards it.

I’d happy dance but I’m too tired.

My Voice

March 18, 2008

AHHHchoooo. waves hand in air My goodness, I didn’t realize how dusty this place would get when I left it for almost a year. Well, I’m back now and as soon as I clean up I’ll post. Long pause.

On second thought, I hate to clean so instead I’m hanging a few packages of dust masks on the hook by the door. Yes that’s the one. If you’d like to visit, just pop one on and pull up a chair. Um, no not that one. The leg’s broken. I guess I need to do more than dust. Later.

Since I was here last, I was invited to join a local critique group. Each time we meet, we read a chapter of our WIP then get feedback. All 5 of us have vastly different styles which actually makes the feedback more helpful. But it is also a learning experience. I’m not very comfortable giving the feedback to others. First, I know how hard it is to write. Second, we all have different styles and distinct voices. It’s important to not try and rewrite their words into my voice. So I am taking babysteps with the feedback. Listen. Say what I like about the chapter. Identify any spot where I’m confused about what is going on. Listen to the other feedback. That is as helpful as hearing feedback on my own writing.

I’ve heard that critique groups can be nasty. Mine isn’t. They are constructive and knowlegable. They have been writing much longer than I have. And they love my voice.

Wow.

When I first started learning about craft, that was my biggest fear. What the hell is a voice, I asked myself and what if I don’t have one. Then I learned that anyone who writes anything subjective has a voice–a style and personality to their writing. I began looking for and identifying the things in books I loved–or hated, the things that made up the author’s unique style. But still there is the fear. That is why it is so important to risk others reading your precious creation. It’s hard. You risk rejection. But having someone say they loved what you have written; having them encourage you to keep writing, to fix the rough spots or toss out the excess weight but to keep on writing. It’s like winning an Academy award. It’s like the moment when you hold your brand new baby in your arms and feel the love expanding your chest until you think you will surely explode.

So thank you. You know who you are. You who told me I had a gift for storytelling and to finish the damn book. You who came before the critique group. All of you keep me hoping. Keep me writing. Thank you.

Damn dust. It’s making my eyes water.

A Teaser from my book

February 24, 2007

The breeze rippled the green-brown water as the sailboat glided out of the creek. Sunlight flashed across its surface like the laughter of a child—bright and pure. The last knot of control she had so carefully tied around her memories and emotions loosened. She closed her eyes and tilted her head back to catch the light and the heat and let a few—just a few—escape.

The kiss of waves splashing over her toes as she ran down an endless stretch of beach; the shift of wet sand under her feet; the coconut smell of suntan lotion on hot skin. A squeal from behind and she glanced over her shoulder at the grinning boy chasing after her and the couple following hand and hand. She could run ahead, satisfy her curiosity, dive into new experiences because they were there; would always be there for her when she returned. Love, belonging, safety, happiness. The emotions that had defined her life. So important. So quickly lost.

“A sense of homecoming.” She opened her eyes at the soft words and looked at the man sitting beside her. The man who had filled part of the hole in her heart. “I feel it as soon as I’m on or in the water.” He laughed. “Born and bred in the mountains of Kentucky but the sea is where I feel most at home. Strange isn’t it.”

“Not so strange. Life began in the sea and it runs through us with every beat of our heart.” She leaned back against the arm he’d wrapped around her waist and rested her head on his shoulder. He wouldn’t know—couldn’t know how out of character that was. “Thank you.”

“For what?” He glanced down. She reached up and traced his arched brow with a fingertip and he smiled.

“For bringing me home.”

Soaked, Cold and Laughing

February 8, 2007

I thank God that I have the ability to see humor in what has been happening to us over the past year. Laughing is so much better than crying.

We are having very cold temperatures as is much of the country. The contractor had said they might be using space heaters to warm up the house since there is a delay in turning on the heat. Yesterday afternoon after I dropped DS 15 off at a friend’s,I ran by the house to make sure they weren’t leaving them on while no one is there. The last thing we need is another fire.

Opened the house. No space heaters, no heat, no workers. The same as it has been all week. But as I walked back to the kitchen I heard a roaring sound from the basement. I looked down the stairs but it’s black dark down there with no electricity so I went back to the car to get a flashlight, tripped and toppled to the ground. Luckily I’ve had years of clumsiness to teach me how to fall and I wasn’t hurt. Back in the house I shone the light down the steps and saw water. Water spraying onto the construction rubble coating the steps. Water covering the floor. A pipe had burst. In a house without the plumbing connected so the water is supposed to be off.

A quick call to my DH to refresh my memory on where the cutoff valve is then I inched down the steps keeping him on the phone in case I fell–which I did but only a couple of steps and I landed on a well-padded part of my body so no problem. Found the valve which the plumber had moved a bit, turned off the water. Meanwhile DH called the contractor to tell him. I didn’t hang around to check the damage. My shoes, coat and pants were soaked and it was damn cold in a house that hasn’t been heated in 10 months.

First fire, then flood. I laughed all the way to the shop to buy crickets for the lizards. Should have been checking for locusts. I think that’s what comes next. Or maybe a plague of frogs.

I’m going to write all this down. It can use it in a murder mystery. The victim–a contractor. The suspects–all the people whose houses he’s remodeling. I see it as the Money Pit meets Murder on the Orient Express.

Psychiatrist to patient: “Any suicidal thoughts?”

Patient: “No.”

Psychiatrist: “Homicidal thoughts?”

Patient: “No.” A long pause. “Well only about my builder.”

I’m Baa-ack

February 6, 2007

I hate not having access to internet where we are living. I’ve had bronchitis and as soon as that cleared I went into asthmatic bronchitis. So I’ve been holed up in bed when I wasn’t out doing the things that had to be done like grocery shopping, ferrying kids around and buying appliances for the house. I have this at least once a year and my doc treats it immediately instead of futzing around saying maybe it’s a virus so now I’m well and planning on staying that way.

We are still not in our house though there has been progress. They finished putting up drywall yesterday and the electrician is supposed to be hooking up the heat today so they can warm up the house so they can tape and mud. DH and I are extremely frustrated with the contractor who would probably stretch this on until April. We’ve informed him we need to get out of the place where we are living by the end of the month and hope that will spur them to finish. We aren’t telling him that we can probably stay another month if necessary.

It’s been ten months since the fire. We are all ready to go home. Home where the water pressure doesn’t drop to nothing 5 or 6 times a day. Where the downstairs isn’t 45 degrees while the upstairs is 75. Where we can have our cats and dogs with us. Where we have Internet access. In fact, we’ve learned we can get broadband there now. Home where the boys each have their own room. Where I can take a long bubble bath. Home where our hearts and spirits belong as much as our bodies.

We’ve spent several hours working on the yard the last two weekends clearing the accumulated junk while the dumpster is there. This weekend we plan to tackle the shed because we have to clear space to store the furniture we won’t be using in the house. Some of it we are storing until the boys move out and we have more room. Some to refinish in the future. Some for a big yard sale when the weather is warmer. And some because DH and I can’t agree on what to do with it.

I’ll try and post before and after photos when we have an after.

Now I’ve caught up on emails, the Crusie and Mayer writing course, and my friends blogs. After I pick up the kids I’m going to get back to my rewrites. I’m itching to write, itching.

Never post when short of sleep

December 30, 2006

Yesterday’s post was supposed to be a reflection of the past year. Instead I ended up rehashing 2005. Luckily, I split it into two posts and actually reread the second and decided not to post it. Or not without edits.

In case anyone who drops by this blog and reels in horror, I post to clarify thoughts in my mind or try to put what is going on in my life/writing in perspective. And I meander. Not aimlessly but I cover twenty miles to get to my destination that turns out to have been around the corner. But until I follow the twisty path through my mind, I don’t realize what that destination was.

Sort of like writing. Or the way I write. I know where I’m starting and where I want to end up. And I know my traveling companions, or think I do. On the journey we become better acquainted, change and hopefully grow. And the amazing thing I’ve learned is that the trip is what is important not the destination. The journey is fun, demanding, agonizing, enthralling and once it’s done I’m eager to map out the next.