Saturday, January 23, 2010

For the Love of Stories (and My Kindle)

I recently had a short discussion with Facebook friends about a Weezer song (“I Want You To”). I don’t quite understand the ending: Is he telling her they’ll face their defeat side-by-side? Or is he telling her to go because he wants her to be happy, although it’ll make his own heart blue? Why do I care? Because I like the story told in the lyrics, but I can’t decide how I feel about it at the end. Then someone pointed out that it’s Weezer – their songs never make sense (read: “Buddy Holly”) but they rock, so who cares?! Okay, point taken.

But this discussion, along with the heated debates about physical books versus ebooks and ereaders (Kindle, Nook, etc.), led me to realize why I heart my Kindle so much.

I love stories. I enjoy reading them. I enjoy watching them played out in movies. I like listening to them in songs. Whatever the medium, I take pleasure in the story itself. So I guess I don’t really care if I’m physically holding a book in my hand or if it’s digitized within my Kindle.

Don’t get me wrong – I have a certain appreciation for real books. Bookstores are my candy shop. I love walking through the doors and seeing all those beautiful covers with pretty, eye-catching covers vying for my attention. I love the feeling of coming home with a new book and cracking it open for the first time to drink in those exciting, shiny-new words on the never-before-touched page. I love how pretty they look on my shelves.

But once I let the story draw me in and I’m lost in a new world, what I’m holding in my hand no longer matters. Because I’m blissfully immersed in someone else’s world and life, living vicariously through their adventures. I’ve left this physical world, escaping from all its real-life issues and stresses.

Unless the pages start turning of their own accord because the book won’t lie flat. Or my arms get tired when lying on my back because the book’s heavy. Until, when reading while eating – which I do often – I slurp my spaghetti and tiny red drops spatter on the once pristine page (a cleaning wipe takes care of this on the Kindle – not so much on paper). All of these little annoyances pull me away from the story. And they ruin my once beautiful books because I’m staining the pages or cracking the spine to make it easier to read.

I saw a tweet on Twitter (I don’t remember who originally said it, so I’m sorry I can’t give credit) that was something like, “A real book is to an ebook like a man is to a sex toy. Both get the job done, but the first is more sensual.” I personally don’t get the analogy. A book and an ereader are both inanimate objects, quite different than a man versus a toy. I don’t quite feel the sensuality of holding paper, glue and ink anymore than I do holding a Kindle. Because it’s the storythat’s sensual. It’s the characters and their emotions and actions that give it life. It’s the setting and description that take you to another place. If the author has done his or her job well, you shouldn’t even notice the world around you – including the object in your hands.

Some avid readers hold an undying love for physical books – the texture, the weight in their hands, even the smell. It’s a personal decision and even a situational decision. Fortunately, I think we’ll have both options for quite some time, and if the physical book ever does become obsolete, it will be with a generation who never held a book in its collective hands to even know the difference.

P.S. If there areany books (not the stories – the books) that caress your skin, wrap themselves lovingly around you and tell you you’re beautiful…now that I can understand! So, where do I buy them?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Chuck It All

Let me start off by saying that when I started this blog (actually, many moons before, fighting the idea with claws and fangs out), I had two fears: 1) I had nothing interesting to say and would bore the tears out of my readers; and 2) not enough time. The good news is I’ve created this great list of blog topics that continues to grow every day and each idea sounds more exciting than the others, all vying for my attention. Of course, they’re fighting PURPOSE, its sequel, my day job and that herd of monsters for that attention. Which brings me to the second fear: time is more precious than any other resource in this world – you can’t discover more, make more, clone more or even buy more (though you can pay others to do things, freeing up your time…but we still all have the same number of hours in each day). And this is my long-winded explanation for why I haven’t posted in a week.

I’ve chosen to spend my time back on PURPOSE. Yes, I thought it was done. Many times. And even right now, if an agent or editor requested the entire manuscript, I’d send it to them. But I don’t know that I can ever really say it’s “done.” My (yet-to-be) agent might. My editor might. My publisher definitely will at some point so it can be printed. But even ten years after it’s published, I will find ways to make it better. I’m definitely my worst enemy and my worst critic.

So I’m once again studying, analyzing, brainstorming and finding ways to make PURPOSE even better. I’ve learned so much over the last year about character development, dialogue, plotting, conflict, tension and story arcs. And some things I’ve learned more recently have led me to realize that PURPOSE can be better, with an even stronger main character and a tighter plot. As long as it’s not contracted to go to print, I’ll continue working on it, making it the best story it can be.

“Why bother?” you may ask. So many people with whom I’ve spoken about my book admire the accomplishment in just finishing it. Many say they could never stick with a project for so long, giving it so much time when the reward may never come. Writers and editors even recommend new authors stuff their first novels in a drawer and move on to the next…and the next…until they have actually written something worth publishing, because the first one is never good enough. And maybe not the second. And some people even say, “maybe it’s time to just chuck it all and be happy with the day job.” Even writers consider this for themselves when they hit that creative brick wall, can’t trap that elusive muse or are unable to attract the attention of an agent or publisher.

I, personally, cannot imagine chucking it all. Give up on my PURPOSE? No way in hell. And I’m not slaving away on it for the money or fame. Yes, I’d like to see it published so others can meet Alexis and Tristan and hopefully fall in love with them. So they can experience the ups and downs and twists and turns of the story. So they can close the book at the end, wipe the tears from their eyes and say aloud, “I can’t wait to see what happens next!”

But more than anything, I do it because I love it. I love writing, yes. But I love PURPOSE itself. I love my characters. I love the overall story. I want it to be the best it can absolutely be, even if my only readers are family and friends. Because I started this story for myself – what I wanted to read, a world I wanted to discover, characters I wanted to befriend.

It’d be great to share them with the world. But until that time comes, I will be polishing and perfecting. And I will never chuck it. I can’t even imagine having such a thought.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Now the Deed Is Done…I Should Probably Introduce Myself

“Sometimes life barrels down like a Cat-5 hurricane, veering off its projected path and forever altering the landscape, just to remind us who’s in charge.”

That’s the current first line of my book PURPOSE. Though I haven’t lived in Southwest Florida long enough to personally experience a Cat-5 hurricane, I feel like that’s exactly what the last year has been. By writing PURPOSE, my landscape has been forever altered…and the winds continue to swirl and blow around me.

I used to write fiction, many lives ago. I wrote my first urban fantasy when I was eight years old (didn’t know it was an urban fantasy, though – it was a school assignment) and fell in love with writing. Through my adolescent years, writing let me escape my own world I couldn’t make sense of and be the main character in one I could. Those stories never went anywhere, though – I wasn’t so great at plotting then. Notebooks full of these story starters sit in a box in my attic.

I started college as an English major but became practical at some point and finished with a marketing degree. In past lives I have been a nationally published, award-winning resume writer; a writer/editor of online training programs; an award-winning journalist; and a marketing communications consultant. So I’ve always been a writer…just a practical one.

I still have a day job. Many writers say “evil day job” but I can’t call mine that. Although, my characters – the voices in my head – think it’s evil because it takes my attention away from them. I co-own a business (, I can give myself a plug, right?), serving some absolutely wonderful clients. And I have the BEST business partner in the world. No kidding. Not exaggerating. If you’re in business, you only wish you could have her. But she’s taken. And I appreciate her most of all because she puts up with me and my creative fantasies. She’s my #1 fan…but in a good way. I don’t think she’ll hack my feet off.

I also herd teenaged monsters I call my family. Three boys, 14, almost 16 and 17 – which means I can no longer get between them when they’re messing with each other because they just pick me up and move me out of the way. Believe it or not, I love this age! Because they aren’t really monsters. I’m blessed to have great kids who, for the most part, stay out of trouble. They keep our house lively and full of laughter. I actually don’t look forward to the day they leave our nest, but don’t tell them I said that. And then there’s boy #4, The Man, but that’s a complicated story I won’t bore you with right now. He’s The Man. ‘Nuff said.

So how did I find the time to write a huge-ass novel with all this going on? It happened by accident as the result of several combining factors: Son1 got his driver’s license and helps with taxi duties (Son2 is only a month away); the boys’ sports and activities are much more limited than they used to be as they focus on what they truly enjoy; teens like to do their own thing and don’t need as much entertainment; and The Man…well, he sometimes still needs entertained but he’s very tolerant. Oh, and I stopped doing housework. (Okay, not really, but I wish!)

What started as character sketches got carried away in the hurricane of PURPOSE as these characters started telling me their stories. And they wouldn’t SHUT UP! As I write the next book of the series, they still chatter away all day long until I finally give them my undivided attention. They are the voices in my head making me an A Mused Writer.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Losing My Virginity

(Not that kind! Get your mind out of the gutter!)

Once upon a time there was a girl who had to take a high school computer class when said class was about writing 50 lines of code to see your name scroll across the screen (yes, I’m dating myself). I’m sure we learned to write other, more useful programs, but that was the coolest one, so the one I remember. In college, I had to take a similar class and only survived because of a boy with the most beautiful brown eyes fringed with lashes as long as my 80s-style bangs, who happened to be an engineering major. By the end of that class, I swore I’d never touch a computer again.

Fast-forward a few years and I was now a mom to a one-year-old and very pregnant with my second child. My own mom, a computer geek since the 70s – when a machine with the power of an iPhone required the space of three college campuses – introduced me to Prodigy. Wow! I was hooked. A few months later, when I bought my own PC, I immediately joined AOL, found the mommy and preggo message boards and became addicted to what was then known as the Internet.

For many years, I was the go-to person when it came to computers. I was one of the first professional resume-writing services to have a website and for many years, I was listed #1 on Yahoo!. I sat on the cutting edge of computers and the WWW.

But somewhere along the way, technology surpassed me. I couldn’t possibly keep up with all the latest-and-greatest. Web 2.0 and social media sounded exciting, but my head ached from swiveling so much with all the applications, sites and usefulness. I let myself go, worse than an unhappily married, middle-aged housewife.

I jumped on LinkedIn several years ago but have yet to discover all of its usefulness. I joined FaceBook comparatively early for my age. But Twitter and blogging? Meh. I didn’t need those, too. Who wanted to know that I was having taco salad for lunch or helping my sons with homework? Or worse, a whole blog about my boring life?

Then I submerged myself back into fiction writing and completed my first novel. Along the road to seeking publication, I learned that writers need to take advantage of social media to market themselves and their books, to connect with other writers, agents and publishers, and to build a platform (that’s pub-speak for fans). So I finally gave in and created a Twitter account.

Wow! As I build my writers’ network on Twitter, I’m re-discovering the joy of finding those first Prodigy and AOL forums. Whoever said a writer’s life is lonely is not on Twitter. In fact, it’s so not-lonely, I don’t know how some of those tweeps get any work done. Especially when they also write fantabulous blogs. What I’d thought was an even more in-depth way to bore people – because FB status bars and 140 characters in Twitter just weren’t enough – could actually be a fun outlet to express our lives as writers.

So, I’m giving in. This is my virgin blog post. Just like other virginity losses, it’s more awkward, slightly painful and less inspiring than I’d hoped…and a little frightening (will you still like and respect me in the morning?). But it does get better, right? It has to. Otherwise, why would so many people be doing it? Blogging, that is. I told you to get your mind out of the gutter.