Category Archives: Authors

Life in the New Year – Looking Back to Look Forward

Looking Back

The author in 1979

About three years after this photo, I graduated high school, married, and moved off to start a new life. The young couple soon became a family of five. At the ripe old age of twenty-five, and a stay-at-home mom to three kids, I found myself in desperate need of some intellectual stimulation at an adult level. I started writing romantic stories with an eye to a career as an author.

The image above from about forty years ago now, during my junior year of high school, reminds me just how much I miss creating music. I’ve still got the violin and the memories of how to play. The feeling of the bow, the smell of rosin, and the sound of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik are as familiar now as they were then. My love of music hasn’t diminished over the long years since. The young girl in the picture remains deep inside. She just matured into someone who didn’t make time to pursue a once-favored activity

Romances morphed into TV tie-ins (glorified fan-fic!) for my favorite show. This attempt at publication attracted the attention of a well-respected editor at a well-known publishing company. Despite a face-to-face meeting with the aforementioned editor, the book didn’t quite make the top of the publishing pile and TV show (and novelizations) ended. My writing attempts continued unabated until the need for a second income led me to take a day job. Between work and kids, I didn’t write as often, but still managed a few words here and there for quite some time.

Here and Now

The kids are now grown and out of the house so I’ve plenty of time to write after work, yet I haven’t done so on a regular basis. Camp Nano and Nanowrimo aside, my attempts to finish a manuscript haven’t gone far, despite the little voice in my head telling me I’m still the same person who once attracted the attention of that editor. This is a change I plan to make in the new year.

Looking Forward

Who Knows What Tomorrow Will Bring?

The road in the photo above looks like it either dead-ends or fades into the dirt path. Does the asphalt continue? The driver will not know until they go on. This picture is a lot like life in that no one knows what tomorrow will bring. We can only follow the road until we find the way to our destination.

With this in mind, my plan of action for the new year is to take each day as it comes. I’ll follow the road until I find whether this path will head the way I hope to go. If not, I’ll find another route, like the unmarked trail with the potential for adventure. If I have to turn around, I will. The one thing I won’t do is stop at side of the road – and certainly not in the middle – to wait for guidance. The resulting boredom and inactivity are not pleasant.

Musician me will seek out my old violin and practice again whenever I get the chance. Whether or not that someday leads me to audition for the local community orchestra is on the other side of the hill.

Writer me has once again started my vehicle to make the slow drive toward those hills. Creating this blog post has moved me the first few feet forward. The road ahead looks quiet. Of course, potholes aren’t often visible until too late, but that’s something to worry about when the time comes. My current view is smooth enough for me to get at least as far as the point where the road vanishes. I’ll handle whatever I find once I get there.

Time Thief

“Procrastination is the thief of time.” Edward Young, 18th Century British Poet

What kind of distractions would an early 18th century writer find to keep them from putting pen to paper? The evenings of the well-to-do would be full of parties, dances, the theater, or games. By day, they might visit friends, travel abroad, or refurbish their homes. The impoverished would, of course, be more worried about day-to-day survival: earning enough to pay for food, clothing, and shelter. Though we might consider the 1700s to be a simpler time with fewer distractions, that wasn’t the case. The dreaded time thief procrastination could be just as much a problem then as it is today.

In the early 21st century, modern authors have the added distraction of being able to use the internet to access a world’s worth of information spanning the history of the human race from the comfort of their own home. We have TV shows, movies, video games, etc. Plus, we still have the same distractions as our 18th century counterparts to go along with all the newer ones.

Why has procrastination been such an issue for writers?

This article in The Atlantic from February of 2014 discusses why authors are the worst procrastinators. The one that resonates most with me is imposter syndrome – or the fear of being unmasked as a fraud. Even when I’ve done what I feel is my best writing, I often think my work is not up to the standards of the truly great writers. Doing everything but getting my words down on paper gives me an excuse not to risk embarrassing exposure as an imposter. If I don’t write, I won’t be embarrassed.

Yet I can’t not write. When I watch TV or a movie, read a book, do housework or whatever else I might be doing instead of writing I’m always thinking about current or future WIPs. If my mind can’t give up the idea of writing, why can’t I sit down and work? Wouldn’t that be easier than stressing about what I want to (or should) do?

Did poet Edward Young write about the time thief all those many years ago because he suffered from the same problem? Was his education a form of procrastination? Or did he avoid putting pen to paper by dancing or game playing? I’d love to know what issues might have prevented him from getting down to work and to learn what means he used to get around them.

My chosen form of procrastination at the moment is writing this blog post instead of working on my current project. Is reading this yours?

Time for us to lock away that horrible time thief and get down to the real business at hand. How else will someone from the early 24th century wonder what we did in order to settle down to write?

Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys

Nancy Drew Mysteries
One of my favorites.

A librarian first introduced me to the Nancy Drew mysteries back when I was in elementary school in the 1970s. Once I’d caught up to that series, I started in on the Hardy Boys. This was in the days when the books were released as hardcovers and the stories continued to be set in the 1950s and 1960s so they were full of women wearing awesome dresses and getting their hair done, the men sometimes wearing suits and ties, and them all driving around in what I imagined to be cool classic cars.

Nancy Drew, an eighteen-year-old from River Heights, lived with her father Carson and their housekeeper Hannah Gruen. Nancy’s mother died when she was a young child and she’d grown up with her lawyer father and the motherly Hannah. I loved the fact that Nancy was able to go out and solve mysteries with her best friends, tomboy George Fayne and the more ladylike Bess Marvin, as well as her long-time boyfriend Ned NIckerson. Though I always felt I resembled Bess in stature (she’s often described as being a bit overweight), I loved that my hair color seemed to be close to Nancy’s, which is called ‘Titian’ (or strawberry blonde) in the books. The Nancy Drew series gave me my first glimpse into a world where kids weren’t always hanging around with their parents; the characters were young adults able to go out into the world on their own to explore and experience exciting adventures, which I wanted to do in the worst way. As I entered my pre-teen and early teen years, I also enjoyed the romantic element of Nancy and Ned as a couple and dreamed of finding my own version of Ned someday. The books also introduced me to an expanded vocabulary, such as the word ‘stentorian’ (uncommonly loud) from The Phantom of Pine Hill. 

Another favorite of mine.
Another favorite of mine.

The Hardy Boys, who lived in Bayport with their father Fenton, their mother Laura (who I don’t remember), and their Aunt Gertrude also went out in the world and got into trouble without much in the way of adult supervision. Like Nancy Drew, they often got in over their heads while trying to solve mysteries, and were sometimes in life-threatening situations. I was less interested in the romantic exploits of the brothers than I’d been with Nancy and Ned and tended to be jealous of any female who showed an interest in younger brother, Joe, a fact which carried over when I started watching the television version in the 1970s and developed a huge crush on Shaun Cassidy.

Both series of books were well-written and I always looked forward to either checking out or buying the most recent release. The stories held my attention and I got into trouble on many an occasion for reading past my bedtime and being too tired at school the following day. I admired authors Keene and Dixon and had a secret desire to write both experience and write about exciting adventures the way they did.

I admired the authors until the day I learned they were nothing more than a couple pseudonyms assigned to ghostwriters hired by the Stratemeyer Syndicate (which is a post for another time). Upon first learning this news, I felt a strong disappointment in both the Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys Mysteries, but I got over that when I revisited the books as an adult. When I went back and re-read them again, I found my nostalgia for what those books had meant to me cancelled out the sense of betrayal I’d felt at learning the truth about the authors. From Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys I learned the importance of the cliffhanger chapter ending and how I couldn’t put the book down until I’d learned what happened next. I also learned not to be afraid to use words that might be unfamiliar to some readers because that can help expand someone’s language by making them curious enough to look up the term. Most of all, I learned to love reading the continued adventures of a beloved and familiar character. All these things are important to the creation of a story that will be so loved by fans that they will be re-read over and over and over again.

 

Writer Wednesday: Georgette Heyer

fridays-child
The cover of my most well-loved edition of the book.

When I first read the Georgette Heyer Regency romance, Arabella, back in high school, I fell in love with the author’s style and story-telling ability. Everything about the book appealed to me: the large, impoverished, Tallant family; the arrogant Robert Beaumaris; and the descriptions of the Regency era, from the difficulties of getting into Almacks to the use of postillions for a traveling chaise. I re-read the book so often I started to think in the language of the time with a modern British accent.

While Arabella is near the top of the list of all the Heyer books I’ve enjoyed, I have to say that my all-time favorite of her romances is Friday’s Child. From the opening of the book, when the Viscount Sheringham (Sherry) decides he’ll marry the first woman he sees, until the convoluted series of improbable events of the climax, I couldn’t put this one down until I finished. I adore the heroine, Hero Wantage (Kitten), and how her innocent naivete keeps getting her into ‘one scrape after another.’ The way Sherry’s friends Gil Ringwood, Ferdy Fakenham, and George Wrotham want to protect Kitten is incredibly sweet. Wrotham’s desire to duel everyone who shows the least bit of interest in the woman he wants to wed, Isabella Milborne, is an amusing thread throughout the story. And the development of the relationship between Kitten and Sherry is not only well-done, but takes on a heart-wrenching quality about 2/3 of the way through the story. I can almost quote verbatim the beginning of my favorite chapter of the book since I’ve re-read it so many times.

Reading the works of Heyer has influenced my writing style in subtle ways. I tend to use more formal words than are common to most contemporary romances. The relationships between my heroes and heroines develop slower than many modern readers might like and physical intimacy between them happens late in the story. What I haven’t mastered is Heyer’s skill at conveying her stories in such a way as to make readers fall in love with them so they want to go back and read them again and again. That skill is a very important one to authors in any genre and can be difficult to learn, though some seem to have a natural talent for it. Heyer seems to me to be one of the naturals.

Georgette Heyer is credited with having created the genre of Regency romance. She did extensive research into life in Regency times: the language, the clothing, and societal trends. She wove her research into her books in such a way as to make the reader feel as familiar with the times as the author. Many of her readers were so inspired by her style and skill that they started writing as well.

I knew nothing about Heyer’s background or influence on others when I first came across her books all those years ago. All I knew was that her stories took hold of my heart and refused to let go. That’s why I continue to search for any of her books I haven’t yet read, why I often re-read my favorites, and why I continue to work to make my own writing better. If someone someday says something I’ve written has made them as happy as Heyer’s works have made me, I’ll feel I’ve achieved success.

Isn’t that what every writer hopes deep down inside?

Seasons Change

Some dreams are in the night time…and some seem like yesterday…

Reading has been a favored hobby of mine since early childhood. I remember well visiting the local branch library with my dad when I was about four or five years old: the smell of books new and old, the crinkle of the plastic-wrapped covers, the texture of the pages, and the vividness of the fresh ink on the checkout cards tucked inside the back cover pockets. Being allowed to take home my early readers caused me a great thrill. An introduction to the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series often kept me up well past my bedtime (and got me into quite a bit of trouble) during my later elementary years until horse books took over from them during my pre-teen years. Romance, of course, took over in high school and remained a favored genre well into adulthood. Being a fan of both Star Trek and Star Wars led me to read science fiction. School English assignments broadened my horizons to the classics. These days, I’ll read just about anything I can get my hands on and I’m currently working my way through the hundreds of books I’ve downloaded on my Kindle.

This deep love of reading led to a desire to write stories of my own. The idea of writing romances felt…well…romantic. I wanted to be the next Barbara Cartland in the worst way and started putting pencil to paper. After awhile, my husband bought me an electric Smith-Corona and I started a love/hate relationship with correction tape. Our first computer helped ease the frustration of fixing mistakes, but led to the impatience and annoyance of listening to my dot-matrix printer whine out line after line of text. Now I have the convenience and portability of a dedicated writing Chromebook, along with a desktop computer with second monitor, a bluetooth keyboard for my Kindle, and the ability to make notes on my smartphone, yet I don’t write half as often as I once did.

Seasons change…feelings change

In recent days, I’ve often wondered why I’m having such a hard time motivating myself to write. I’m still a huge fan of reading and the written word. My dreams of becoming a successful romance author have faded a bit, but not enough for me to give up on the idea. What seems to have changed is the hunger I once had to prove myself. My earliest attempts at writing were a way to maintain my sanity while staying at home with my three young kids as well as a potential avenue of making a much-needed financial contribution to our family. The kids grew up and moved out so I no longer need to distract myself from the stresses of full-time parenting. Our finances have also improved so I’m not desperate to earn money. Plus, I fell into an unexpected career that takes up a good portion of my waking hours during the week, draining both my physical and mental energies.

My desire to write simmers beneath all the outside forces taking up so much of my time these days; the trips to visit my kids and grandkids, the household chores, and all the other little distractions of day-to-day life. The change of seasons in my life led to a shift in my feelings about writing. I’ve realized the reason I’m having trouble writing as easily as I once did is not because I don’t want to write, but that I’m no longer looking for the escapism and fulfillment I once found in the process. No longer do I feel the burning need to prove I can be a success at something other than motherhood. Nor do I now feel the urgency of bringing in a second income to help make ends meet. The story ideas that once obsessed me are now no more than an afterthought most days.

There’s time for love and for play

While the mature me continues the long-time love affair with reading that began almost half a century ago, my more recent relationship with writing has suffered. My love of reading has been as easy to maintain as my love for my husband and kids because it’s such a major part of me. Writing these days seems more like a difficult relationship that takes too much time and effort.

I need to bring back the romance I once felt with my writing in order to get any work done. Wine and candlelight may be involved.

Change the season.

(Italicized lyrics from “Seasons Change” by Expose)

A Romantic Journey

The fact that my wonderful husband, JT Hume, and I are both writers is no secret since we often talk about and joke with each other on social media. We’ve also mentioned that we both work day jobs in the public sector. As a result, the two of us spend very little time in the same room together and communicate for the most part through social media, e-mail, and instant messaging.

We bought a home together a couple years ago. The house consists of a basement, a main level, and a ‘half story’ (a converted attic with compromised head room). JT spends most of his evenings in the basement, or ‘Dungeon of Doom,” while I sit in my office on the main floor. Another portion of the main floor contains a narrow living area that spans the width of the house. The configuration makes arranging furniture awkward so at the moment I have the room sectioned in two; one end contains the too-large sectional, some shelves with our electronic components, and a fireplace, while the other is a small sitting area with a couple chairs and a tiny shelf of books.

This past weekend I came up with a grand idea to get JT up onto the same floor I’m on and suggested we use the little reading area as office space for him. The idea then evolved into changing the living room into a dual office space we can share while turning our basement into a home theater/living room. With this thought in mind, we left the house in search of a partners desk big enough to hold our collection of computers, monitors, and other electronic gadgetry.

After a series of disappointing stops at various office supply and home furnishing stores, we returned home, where I suggested that we change the focus of our search from a desk to a dining table – which would give us both plenty of room to spread out. So we again left the house and visited a variety of stores where we once more came up empty-handed. After spending the majority of the day driving many miles through parts of three counties, we’re still in our respective writing areas, tired and discouraged, but not yet ready to give up on the idea of a shared writing space.

You see, after thirty-three years as a couple, we still enjoy spending time with each other more than almost anything else. We like the idea of a shared space where we can talk out ideas, encourage each other, and maybe even play a little footsie while we write. We have a beautiful sunny space we can share. Now we only need to find the perfect piece of furniture to fit that space and our shared dream will come true.

If that’s not romance, what is?

 

Top Ten: Reasons Why I Write

The co-workers at my day job often wonder why I go home in the evenings and spend another three or four hours at the computer when I’ve just spent six to eight starting at one at my day job. I haven’t been able to answer the question up to this point so I thought I’d take a few minutes to come up with ten reasons for why I do what I do in the evenings.

1) TV. A lot of shows are boring and repetitive so I don’t watch as much as I once did. Spending my evenings with my own characters can be much more fun.

2) Reading. I often disagree with the course of the stories I read and want to change the outcome. What better way to do that than to write my own?

3) My day job. Since I work with historic documents, their content often gives me ideas I’d like to explore.

4) Sleep. My mind is so full of all the stories I’ve watched and read and the ideas I’ve come up with that I can’t rest until I’ve written them down.

5) “Lucy” syndrome. One of my favorite shows, “I Love Lucy,” gave me wacky ideas that I’m too afraid to try in real life so I try to live them through the characters I write.

6) Entertainment. I’m hopeful that someday something I write might affect someone in as positive way the works of my favorite authors amused me.

7) Immortality. How else can I hope anyone might know I existed hundreds of years in the future?

8) Change. Even fictional stories can inspire people to adjust their lives.

9) Typing. The feeling of moving my fingers over the keyboard is meditative and soothing.

10) Fame and fortune. Okay, not really. Maybe a little extra pocket change and the chance to feel like I’m somewhat known, whether I am or not.

What are the top ten reasons why you do what you do with your free time?

Work in Progress

Deep in the throes of a new manuscript, book two of my first paranormal romance series,  I’m pondering my writing process. My work in progress is in the very rough stages and the path from the opening sentence to the conclusion is still vague. In past projects, I tended to sit down and write from beginning to end without worrying too much about the details of the story until the editing phase. Now, though, my overarching story goes beyond the confines of a single book so I’m trying to determine how much detail to put into each individual piece of the larger whole. This is a new and exciting experience for me…which is also somewhat terrifying because I’ve never traveled this route before.

The same might be said about my life as a whole. As a child I had ideas about what I’d do as a grown up; first I wanted to be a nun, then a teacher, then I went through the “I just want to be rich and famous” phase, before I finally gave in to my family’s wishes and said I’d go to college to become a lawyer. After my first semester, I got married and moved 1500 miles from my parents, grandparents, and the idea of going to law school. Becoming pregnant during my second semester of college postponed the continuance of my education. Five years and three kids later, as a stay-at-home mother, I needed something to maintain my peace of mind so I turned to writing and struggled to get something published the ‘traditional’ way for the next twelve years. As my kids grew older and more independent, I ended up out in the regular working world again, my writing falling by the wayside due to time limitations. And another ten years passed.

The kids are all out of the house now and I’ve settled into a profession I had never envisioned for myself as a child: state government archivist. How I ended up in my current job is another post in itself, but I can say I love the work and I’ve settled in for the long run. As empty-nesters, hubby and I are also thinking of when we can retire (probably in another ten years or so) and we’re building the foundation of our retirement careers as authors.

Looking back at the twists and turns that brought me to this place in my own life, I realize that the characters in my work in progress are going to face the same unexpected events in their stories that I have in my own. No matter how I plan to tell the tale, something will occur to me later that I can’t imagine now, taking the story off in exciting new directions. The series itself is a surprise combination of three different story ideas I’ve had over the years that just seemed to fit together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.

Feeling nervous about the the path this book series will take is as understandable as being anxious about what might next happen in my own story. Whatever is hidden around the next curve is sure to be as unexpected and exciting as all the other surprises I encountered on the way here. I look forward to finding out what comes next.

Everyday Romance

Valentine’s Day is once again on the horizon. A day for declarations of love, flowers, candies, cards, jewelry, proposals, and weddings. This is a day when some want to enjoy a romantic date: dinner and dancing, a movie, or a weekend getaway. The day also seems to cause irritation or outright panic for anyone trying to create the perfect romantic gesture.

Trying to live up to outrageous expectations on Valentine’s Day isn’t a problem in the Carson/Hume household; we live our love every day of the year. I asked JT today whether he wanted to do anything special for the holiday and then realized I had no ideas of what might be any more special than our normal life. We enjoy meals together all the time, share movie nights in his “dungeon of doom” (otherwise known as our basement), take walks together, go for drives together…well, you get the idea.

Our relationship has been romantic since we met as co-workers at a local fast food restaurant. For our first date, he took me for a steak dinner and then to see Beatlemania at the local university. We had only a handful of outings as a couple before he left for the Air Force, but he managed a surprise visit at Christmas, which led to a New Year’s Day proposal. We married the following June.

Like any couple, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve survived the tough times and enjoy the good ones. In the days before instant and constant communication, we wrote each other notes when we were working different shifts and didn’t get to see each other as often as we’d like. We enjoyed time together at the arcade for video games and cheap hot dogs or saw the occasional bargain matinee when we couldn’t afford anything else. We’ve spent many an anniversary at a Wendy’s somewhere because that’s where we met (even when we lived in Japan and had to take trains to get there). I’ve got kitchen cabinets full of vases from the too-numerous-to-count flowers I’ve been given for birthdays, anniversaries, when I wasn’t feeling well, or just because he stopped off at the store for something else and picked up a bouquet. He also gets me cute cards, chocolates or my favorite ice cream, and other little mementos all the time. Now that we have computers and smart phones, we text and instant message each other whenever we’re apart. He tucks me into bed every night and I see him out the door each morning as we head off to work.

You can see how I’d have trouble trying to come up with something to do for Valentine’s Day. While I enjoy the holiday as much as anyone, I’ve already gotten boxes of chocolates, roses, and cards in the past weeks. We had a quiet breakfast out together just this morning and enjoyed a nice walk in the crisp February air afterward. This past Friday evening we watched Shakespeare in Love, one of our favorite romantic movies. What could be better?

The most special thing I can think of doing for my partner, best friend, better half, and the love of my life, is to let everyone know how much I appreciate him and all he’s done for me over the more than thirty-two years we’ve been married. I’m so thankful that we’ve been able to share our everyday romance for all this time and look forward to many more years of the same.

ValentineHeart

Happy Valentine’s Day, my love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Super Groundhog Day Bowl

The Seattle Seahawks may be wishing they’d played their Big Game on Groundhog Day, complete with some of the repetitions Bill Murray faced in the 1993 movie. Who could have predicted the ending of yesterday’s game? The odds and score between the teams were pretty even until the last few minutes. Then came that catch and some dubious decisions…and the New England Patriots took home the Vince Lombardi trophy. I’m not sure either team feels very good about the conclusion of the game; the Seahawks for losing by so few points in such a spectacular fashion and the Patriots for a defeat that some might consider a twist of fate instead of skill and cunning.

An independent author releasing a new book into the world these days might feel a little like the Seahawks after yesterday’s game; despite all the time, planning, writing, editing, rewriting, proofing, re-editing, and formatting, the book often turns out to be a less-than-perfect product. Readers are very good at finding the least little error, too. A switched character name, the wrong use of a word, an unintentional misspelling, and reviews start pouring in saying the book has been poorly edited or proofed and that the writer should have spent more time and effort putting out a cleaner version. The writer, of course, takes these comments with the seriousness of an arrow to the heart and start feeling like they have no skill or talent.

The good news is that modern publishing does provide a chance similar to Bill Murray’s to right what once went wrong (yes, I am a long-time fan of Quantum Leap). An author these days can go back to revise and re-release any of their works, complete with a shiny new cover, whenever they feel the need. Amazon, and perhaps others, will notify readers of the new e-book version and allow them to download the replacement, though physical copies of a work are a whole different game.

So there’s no need to feel like the Seahawks the morning after their difficult Super Bowl loss after releasing a book that’s getting less-than-stellar reviews. Keep your chin up and track reviewer comments in order to make any changes that will make the story read cleaner. Don’t be afraid to go back and make any changes that may have occurred to you after releasing the book, either. Today’s a whole new day…complete with all the chances to fix things available to someone repeating the same Groundhog Day over and over and over again.

BTW…Punxsutawny Phil also predicted another six weeks of winter so that allows us writers plenty of time to work on those summer beach reads!