Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Feeling Exposed

The Man and the Herd did some much needed yard work this weekend. The hard freezes that we’re not supposed to get this far south damaged a lot of our trees and even killed some of my favorite tropical bushes. So they cleared out all the dead branches and cut back those that might survive. They also trimmed the big oaks and orange tree. So now I stand out on the lanai and see our neighbors. It makes me feel naked.

We bought this house nearly two years ago and chose it for a reason. It’s much older than I would have liked, but, thankfully, the builders were progressive and most of the house meets today’s building code for hurricane protection (thus its survival through Charley in 2004). But we’ve had to replace nearly all of the appliances already and still need to replace the windows, update the kitchen and bathrooms, resurface the lanai…the list is never-ending. We chose it, though, for the lot. We have the best lot in the neighborhood.

Once you enter the house, you forget you’re surrounded by other people. The back opens to a lanai and then the yard, which looks like it spans for acres. Every house in the neighborhood has “green space” behind it, but none have our kind of space. The open part continues out to a canal and the neighbors on the other side are far beyond, hidden behind trees. The rest of the area is lined by more trees, blocking out the closer houses. So it looks like we have three-times the yard we really do and it’s all hidden, giving us a sense of privacy…or it did. Now there are gaping holes. I’m sure the neighbors really can’t see our lanai, let alone inside our house, but I feel so exposed.

This thought made me think of the first time my sister-in-law, who grew up on the expansive Great Plains where you can literally see for miles, came to visit us when we lived in Atlanta. She complained about the trees lining the highways and said she felt claustrophobic. I didn’t understand and thought it was because I basically grew up on the East Coast, surrounded by trees. When I’m out on the Plains, out in the open like that, I feel so vulnerable. Like whoever is watching could easily see me and get me – there’s nowhere to hide. That’s how I felt standing on the lanai today, so open and visible to everyone.

It made me wonder if this is a writer thing – the need to feel guarded, enclosed, safe. I know many, if not most, writers are introverts like me. We keep to ourselves. We like our privacy. We prefer the safety of being alone or with close friends to the unknown of meeting new people. So do we all prefer a cocoon to open spaces? Did we all grow up curled up in tents made of blankets stretched across our bedrooms or searching for hidey-holes in Grandma’s house? Are there any claustrophobic writers?

I’m sure there are. Like anything else dealing with humanity, we can’t classify us all into a stereotype. But I’m curious now. What do you think? Are you claustrophobic? Do you prefer to be hidden, even at home? Or do you like to be in the middle of wide, open spaces? Do we like hidey-holes because of all the wild and crazy things we can imagine the tiny space to be – like a crate we’re hiding in as a stow-away crossing the Atlantic or a portal leading to a different dimension – or because we like the comfort of the cocoon? I’d love to hear your thoughts….

Monday, March 15, 2010

PG Love Scene Blog Fest

Is it possible to write a sex scene for middle-grade readers? I missed the original conversation, but you can catch the gist of it here and here . For those who don’t know what middle-grade is, it’s for 8- to 12-year-old readers. So, yeah, sex scenes are really just a no-no. That’s just wrong in so many ways. However, kids read “up” – about main characters who are a couple years older than them – so the main characters could be having sex. That is, unfortunately, a reality in today’s world.

So this is really just a writing challenge to see if we could write a sex (or love, call it what you want) scene for a young audience. Basically, no details, make it PG. I just learned about the challenge over the weekend and really didn’t plan to participate. But since I’m once again procrastinating on other things and really not feeling like writing the other blog post I planned to make, I decided to give it a shot. After all, it’s definitely a break from my writing style – the main character is male and young and yes, I do like to write hot and steamy scenes. So this is a good stepping-out-of-my-comfort-zone and stretching-my-writer’s-wings experience for me.

I just wrote it in the last hour, so it is what it is. Let me know what you think (unless it’s really horrible, then you can just lie).


My hands shook as I drove the old farm truck down the country lane to Chastity’s house. How ironic that’s her name. We’d just learned the vocabulary word “chastity” in Mrs. Long’s eighth-grade language arts class last week. This Chastity, my Chastity, rebelled against everything, including her name.

She’d had this planned for a while. It was her idea, her plan. She was the one who sneaked into the drug store. She was the one who called me last night to let me know her parents would be gone this evening. Of course, I wasn’t about to argue with her.

I’d been dreaming of this moment for far too long, except not with Chastity. At least, not until very recently. It had always been with Jessica Alba or Angelina Jolie or even Stifler’s mom. Or sometimes with the hot high-school cheerleader – the dark-haired brunette with the green eyes. A couple weeks ago, though, Chastity started talking about it.

“We’ve been going out seven months now,” she’d said.

That was probably a long time for kids our age in a bigger school, but when there aren’t many people to choose from, you hang on when you have a good one. If you let go, there’s a whole grade or two of others who’d pounce on the opportunity. So we hung onto each other.

I slowly turned onto the half-mile driveway from the gravel road to Chastity’s house, set back on her family’s forty-acre property. I was fourteen and had a farm permit, which allowed me to drive for farm business only. This was not farm business, but Dad let me drive anyway, as long as I stayed on country roads and didn’t drive too fast. If he knew what was about to happen, he’d probably not have let me. But you never know with my dad. He might have been all excited, ready for me to finally be the Man he’s always wanted out of me, forcing me to grow up in every other way since I was ten. Or he might have beat the crap out of me.

I crept up the driveway. I felt like the first time I stood in line for the Speed Demon, the tallest and fastest roller coaster at Crazy Sam's Fun World. I'd only been eight or nine then. Part of me couldn't wait to take on the Demon, but something in my stomach twisted and squeezed with excited fear.

If Chastity was nervous at all, she didn't show it. She impatiently paced the front porch, her blond ponytail bobbing behind her. She ran the last fifty yards and jumped into the truck.

“Hi,” she said with a bright-blue-eyed grin. “Let’s go by the pond.”

“I thought you said your parents were gone,” I said, knowing the pond was hidden from the house and road.

“Oh, they are. The pond’s just kind of romantic, don’t you think?” She moved across the bench seat, pressing her left thigh, bare from her short jean shorts, against my right one.

“Uh, yeah, I guess.” I never thought of romantic. I honestly wasn’t exactly sure what it meant. Flowers, candy, jewelry…that’s all I really knew. A pond, though? Girls are so weird.

I cajoled the old truck up the rugged path, through the trees and over the hill, to the pond at the very back of her family’s property. I cut the engine and sucked in a deep breath. Before I even let it out, Chastity climbed onto my lap. My hands trembled as if I’d chugged three energy drinks. She didn’t seem to notice.

"I love you, Tyler," she said, placing her hands on each side of my face.

"I love you, too, Chaz," I murmured. It was true. I thought. Who knew what love really was, though?

Chastity pulled her t-shirt over her head. Nothing was new to me, to either of us. We'd already done everything butthis. But in a strange way, it all felt new. And weird.

In all of the dreams over the last few years, it never went like this. I was smooth, knew what I was doing. This was awkward. My mind went numb, forgetting what to do, at the first touch of her always soft skin. But Chastity kept encouraging me, her voice soft. I could hear a faint tremble in her words, though. I think she cried at one point, although she smiled and nodded with more encouragement. Good thing, because it was too late for me now.

I was really doing this. This was really happening. And it was greater than plunging over that first hill of the Speed Demon. Greater than winning the all-county basketball tournament. Even greater than those hilarious teen movies made it out to be. This was real!

I fell against Chastity and she wrapped her arms around my neck, pressing her lips against my ear.

“We did it,” she whispered and I could hear the triumph in her voice.

After we dressed, we sat on the lowered tailgate, staring at the glass-smooth pond reflecting the setting sun. Chastity pulled a cigarette out and waved it at me. I shook my head. She shrugged and lit it for herself. She wrapped her arm around my waist.

“We’ll be together forever, Tyler,” she said. “We’ll have a wedding right here by the pond and lots of kids running around. That’ll be fun, won’t it? Together forever.”

I kissed the top of her head and grunted some kind of noise she took for agreement. The next four years…perhaps. It’s not like I had many other choices. But if little, young Chastity from this tiny town could do that to me…what could those city girls do? I suddenly couldn’t wait to get through high school and out of this po-dunk place.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Timing Is Crucial…I’m Pretty Sure, Anyway

Now Playing: Time Is Running Out by Muse

Ha! How appropriate. iTunes is on shuffle and this is what came up. Perfect timing, heheh. Because I’m all worried about time and timing right now. We’re shooting for a summer release of PATIENCE and, preferably, early summer. We’ve been thinking and targeting for June, but I’m starting to wonder just how realistic that is with all there is to do still. I don’t want to rush anything, but…

I can’t wait for it to be out!!!

Sorry, I lost control for a moment. Anyway, I thought four months (when we first decided) was enough time; now I just don’t know. That’s the problem when we all have other jobs and homes and those darn families. Just kidding – about the families. We love them! But June just keeps charging at us, not caring at all that we’re not ready for it yet. And it would have to be early to mid-June, because…

Eclipse comes out June 30. Have you seen the just-released trailer? It’s not very exciting, IMHO, but, really, neither is the book. (It’s my least favorite.) But in case you haven’t checked it out yet, it's here: http://www.eclipsethemovie.com/

What does this have to do with PATIENCE? More than I’ll ever admit. But I will say that my books target adult fans of Twilight, as well as fans of True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse and Anita Blake, though not dark like those last two.  And not so vampire-centered. I digress again…

So June brings True Blood Season 3, Eclipse and…PATIENCE?

Here’s my conundrum (had to throw in a $5 word just to show I can do it)…should PATIENCE come out before Eclipse? Will it get any notice? Maybe take advantage of the hype? Or will it get overshadowed?

Should it come out after Eclipse, as in a few weeks or so later? Will it still be overshadowed? Or will fans be ready for something new to keep them occupied, especially since they haven’t even started making Breaking Dawn? Maybe they’ll be all heated up for something new? Maybe take advantage of that angle? Or will they be constantly comparing my main characters?

Does it really matter for my little book in the big world? Perhaps not. But in my world it does. Just like a new mom wants the very best start for her newborn, I want the very best start for mine. And I know timing is crucial in marketing. I’m sure the first readers will be close friends and family, but even they could easily get sidetracked with Eclipse (I know a few in particular).

So…what do you think? If you’re a Twi-fan, would you be more apt to notice a book aimed at you before Eclipse or after? Even if it’s not Twilight for you, maybe it’s Harry Potter or something else (hmm, can’t think of anything else right now). Do you read a whole favorite series before the next movie comes out? What do you do after, in that let-down period?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Head-Injury Ramblings

I had a couple great ideas for this next blog post, but they’ve been put on hold. They require more brain power than I have available right now. You see, I was a dumbass and rammed my head into the corner of the oven hood while making dinner tonight. It’s a feat only I can manage, especially considering I’m height-challenged – I didn’t even know I was tall enough to reach the hood! But apparently, I am, at least, in my Nike Shocks, I am. And apparently I’m not coordinated enough to talk on the phone – on a Bluetooth earpiece, no less – and take a pot off the stove at the same time. Geesh! And I was so motivated to do some actual work tonight. Instead, I’ve been nursing a terrible headache that, so far, two Advil have not tamed.

It did allow me to finish this:

Thanks to Anne Riley and her suggestion, I downloaded it to my Kindle for some lunchtime reading and finished it tonight. It’s only 150 pages and a very fun read. I laughed out loud several times. My family kept wondering, but since they’re all guys and haven’t read the Twilight books, I just shook my head and went back to reading and laughing. Unfortunately, laughter has not been the best medicine for my head. But it was worth it.

Also today, I joined Goodreads. I checked it out briefly a while ago and don’t know why I didn’t join then. If you’re a reader or a writer, or both, and haven’t joined, you should. It’s a social networking site for bookworms. You “friend” people and then get to see what they’re reading now, what they’ve already read, reviews they’ve written, authors they’ve fanned, etc. You also rate and can review books you’ve read, adding them to your virtual shelves. You can create a “to-read” shelf to track all those books on your wish list. Just by seeing what my friends have read or are reading, I’ve added several more titles to my to-read list. Like I need more, but, dude, there are some good ones out there!

And one day in the not-too-distant-future, you will see my books up there. And if you don’t read and review them, I’ll hunt you down. My trusty Beagle will catch your scent and lead me right to you…if you’re a squirrel anyway. But I’ll find you, don’t worry. Bwahahaha!

Okay, I’m wondering how serious my little head injury is. I’m having delusions of being a ninja now. Too bad I’m not making sense, or I could be writing a great story right now. Instead, I guess I’ll do some browsing for this little project I’m working on – you know, the one that gets my books into your eager hands (because I know they are soooo eager!!). I owe a little time to my biz partner. After all, she did some seriously major networking tonight that I’m trying not to get too excited about.

I’m so not excited, I won’t even bother telling you about it. Except that it’s a SINGLE degree of separation from a very famous, influential woman…from Chicago…and one of her names begins with O. Oops. I might jinx myself. Saying no more. Because, you know, I’m not excited at all. I’m sure the butterflies in my tummy just thinking about it are from my head injury. Really.

So, yes…better get to work on something besides rambling.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Procrastination...or Funk?

I’m procrastinating. In fact, the only reason I’m actually writing this right now is because my Internet connection has gas (I’m writing this in Word, which, unfortunately for me at the moment, doesn’t require me to be connected).  So I can’t be distracted by all the other blogs I’m behind on reading, Twitter or Facebook…or tons of other ways to get lost in the Netterworld. Which I’ve been doing all evening up until now.

Instead of pretending to be doing something productive, I’m left sitting here wondering why I’m not really being productive. There are a zillion-and-one things to do and most of them I’m excited about because they have to do with the release of my book. But I just can’t get enthused right now. I think I’m in a funk. But I’m not sure because if I am, it’s a little, teeny-tiny funk. Just a microscopic feeling that something’s not right. So what is it?

Well, I finished writing an end to the new first book, which for now is titled PATIENCE. It’s in the hands of a couple critters (critiques) and I’m not touching it until I get their feedback. Which means I’m not writing, nor have a plan to write, for the first time in over a year. Is this the reason for my little funk? I don’t know. If so, it could be easily resolved, because I need to write some new scenes for PURPOSE to flesh it out as its own book. But I’m not feeling it. And that’s saying something because I LOOOOVE PURPOSE. I can’t wait to work on it again.

The problem is PATIENCE just doesn’t feel right without PURPOSE and vice-versa. Perhaps this is the cause of my funk. For those of you who don’t know, PURPOSE was my first and only completed novel. It was long and actually had two stories within it, though, so I broke it into two books. PATIENCE is the first part of the old PURPOSE. The new PURPOSE is the story I originally started with, but it needed PATIENCE to lead up to it. Are you confused yet? I think I am. Probably because I’m struggling with it being split.

I think this is something I just have to get over, because I have very good reasons for making it two books. They’ll each have more focus, which is evidenced because it’s easier for me to describe what they’re about than it was to describe what PURPOSE was about. My hope is that PATIENCE draws the readers in and PURPOSE captures their hearts, because the third book is already half-written and there are more to come.

There are also logistics. Publishing a 500-600 page book is expensive and a little scary, even when doing it on my own. As an Indie, I can make the book however long I want, but how many people would buy a 600-page trade paperback (6x9, the larger ones) for $16-$18? Especially if they’ve never heard of the author? Perhaps some family and a few friends…but would they get their friends to buy it? Would you buy a paperback for that much if your friend recommended it? What if you just saw it on the bookshelf or Amazon while browsing? Yeah, it’s kind of hard to swallow. But that’s what it’d have to be just for me to do a little better than break even.

Of course, if you like PATIENCE, you’ll end up spending more total, but at least you could check it out for several bucks less…just in case you don’t like it. Which I know you will. But just because I know that and even some of you know that, doesn’t mean Jane Smith in Wisconsin does. Know what I mean? So yes, splitting the book also has to do with marketing.

But, in my heart, it’s one story. It’s meant to be read as one story. And when you get to the end of PATIENCE, you’ll want to keep reading the rest of that one story. It has a cliffhanger ending and there are too many loose ends. So, I’ll just have to spread the word that they’re meant to be read together. Of course, in my heart, I know they’re both part of one bigger story with even more parts that have yet been told. And eventually, they’ll all be meant to be read together.

Maybe I just need to change my perspective and get over this. And get excited to release PATIENCE…and to finish and release PURPOSE. So why am I still more excited for that second part – the release of PURPOSE – than I am for the first part? Is something/someone trying to tell me something? Grrrrr!!! I feel no better than when I started writing this. I think I need to procrastinate more. My Internet connection must have taken some Pepto because it’s working now…maybe tomorrow I’ll figure out the reason for the funk. Yes, even procrastinating on that. See ya in the Netterworld.