Thursday, July 31, 2008

Up, Up and Away

Everyone who is going to the Romance Writers of America conference in San Francisco is probably already there. I would be, too, if Sister Camp hadn't intervened.

And frankly, despite loving to see folks at RWA, I'm glad it did. I get to see my sister far less often.

But Friday morning The Prof and I are flying out to SF, then after the conference, to Seattle to see sons and families and do a little R&R on Lake Chelan.

Never fear, Christo and Natalie are coming along. It's a 'working trip.' But I'm going to enjoy the change of scene. I'll be back by the 13th, I hope -- and planes willing.

Meanwhile Gunnar and friends will be holding the fort with their favorite dog-sitter, Keith. They are never really sad to see us leave (well, not much) because Keith is very high on their list of wonderful people. He's on mine, too, since he takes such good care of them.

I'll get in here as I can. No promises except to see you round about the 13th. Maybe earlier. Be good. Don't do anything I wouldn't do. Here's someone to keep you company while I'm gone.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Filling the memory bank

I wrote a blog piece that will be going live in the morning on July 29 for Tote Bags 'n' Blogs about writers using everything that they experience, witness, glimpse, taste, touch, feel in their books.

Some of those things we set about experiencing deliberately. For example, I specifically watched a professional sand castle building make a life-sized Nissan truck out of sand because he did the same work my hero was going to do.

I spent a day on a Lake Union houseboat asking every question I could think of and taking photos galore so I could write Seb and Neely's story.

I'm going to Cannes in October to do research for Demetrios's book.

But some of what I write about -- most, in fact -- comes out of filtering my characters' lives through my own experiences, my own memories, feelings, worries, relationships. You name it, if it's happened, it's fair game -- which may be why people tend to shy away from writers.

"You're not writing about me, are you?" they say.

No. I'm not. But you might have been with me when I experienced something. You might have seen the same things I did, felt the same way, been upset or delighted or worried just as I was. Such experiences are universal. It's the way readers and writers connect.

How do I know which experiences, feelings, relationships, worries, joys, and family stories will become a part of some book?

I don't.

It's the serendipitous bit of just being alive and living life to the fullest. It's the unexpectedness of experiences that often make them memorable. Yesterday, for example, my sister and I discovered that there were family connections across the river in Grant County, Wisconsin. And so we went exploring there.

We found two of the tiny communities we were looking for. We prowled through three cemeteries. We found the grave of Hannibal Thomas who has, in my estimation, the most genealogically helpful tombstone on record. It gives his birth parish in Cornwall. It gives the date of his birth, the date of his death, his exact age, and tells the date and place to which he emigrated. You can't ask for much more than that.

Not far away we ran across a one-room school with two see-saws, a slide, a tether ball and two outhouses. Right around the bend we happened on an Amish Sunday gathering and knew we'd seen their school.

The kids were as delighted to see us as we were to see them. We got waved at -- and waved back to -- a dozen or more little Amish boys resplendent in their black trousers, pristine white shirts and black vests as they played in the yard. We saw well over twenty buggies lined up in the lane and in the yard.

Will Hannibal make it into a book? Will the school house or the Amish boys or that line of buggies?

I don't know. But the memories are there. The details are emblazoned on my brain. I doubt they'll make it into Christo's book.

But down the road, time will tell.

We've got one more day and a half of "Sister Camp." So far it's been a blast.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sister Camp

I got a good week's work after Mom Camp on Christo and Natalie. I rewrote one scene more times than I want to count. But I think it got better and tighter after each run-through.

Now I'm on break again.

I don't do this playing hooky all that often. But it's going to happen frequently for the next 3 weeks. My sister has come to visit.

The only time we usually get to see each other is at the weddings of our respective children. But since now all the respective children have got married, we hadn't seen each other in three years (she missed the last wedding because it was the day before the first day of her school year. I missed her oldest son's wedding because it was the day of the Big Snow in Iowa that March and I wasn't there. I was here).

That said, we needed to find another reason to get together.

So she, who is the decisive, goal-oriented one, said last September, "I'm coming to visit you next July. I bought my ticket."

And, voila, here she is.

Well, it wasn't quite that easy because the airline changed all the flight numbers in the meantime -- not to mention the times. So when I went to check for her flight on the flight tracker gizmo, she was not coming from California, according to it, but winging her way from Fort Lauderdale to LaGuardia.


Anyway, she got here. And we have been catching up. We have six days. Then I go to San Francisco and she goes home and then immediately flies out again to see her own kids and grandkids.

But for the moment, we're just enjoying Sister Camp -- talking, laughing, reading, eating white chocolate with blood orange and cinnamon, walking by the river, brushing the dogs, walking the dogs, reading, talking some more, laughing even more than that, comparing "Dad stories."

Sisters are a good thing. Everybody should have one.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What's On Your Book Shelf?

Liz Fielding posted a list of "the top 100 books" put out by the British National Endowment for the Arts.

She got it from Kate Hardy. Kate got it from Michelle Styles. Michelle got it from Amanda Ashby. Amanda presumably, got it from someone else. Or maybe she actually reads the literature put out by the National Endowment of the Arts.

Anyway, the National Endowment people say the average reader has read 6.

I've read slightly over half.

I don't remember a lot about most of the ones I've read. Quite a few were read as part of lit courses I took, not because I was enthralled with them. But some I genuinely loved and went back to read on my own again. And again.

Others -- let's be honest here -- I hated.

And I had a heated discussion with The Prof about Madame Bovary (as always), since he loves it and I hated it. Ditto Gone With The Wind (well, he didn't love it, but he thought it was worth reading).

He said, "It's an American Madame Bovary."

And I said, "Exactly."

And he said, "They're anti-heroines, Madame Bovary and Scarlett O'Hara. You're not supposed to like them."

And I said, "Why would I waste time reading books about people I don't like?"

So, I'm a philistine. Get over it. He has. Sort of.

Anyway, here's my list. The ones I've read are in bold. Read it over and let me know which ones you've read and what you think of the list.

By the way, the comments (go to the link and scan to the bottom) over on Liz's blog are well worth reading -- as well as Liz's own comments on the ones she's read. So check them out.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
(first time I read it I was too young and bored. Then I reread it and loved it.)
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien (yes, indeed, some of us haven't)
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (and yes, there are actually romance writers -- well, one anyway -- who haven't read Jane Eyre)
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (does it count that I've read five of them and have the rest? I'll get to them someday)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (amazing book)
6 The Bible (probably not all of it, but most)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (yes, you can be a romance writer and not have read this)
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy (we read a lot of Hardy in school)
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller (loved it!)
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (does half count?)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks (bought it for my dad)
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger (ah, teenage angst)
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot (still not a big fan)
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell (hated the movie, won't read the book)
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens (like Hardy, we read Dickens till our eyes fell out)
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck (from a long line of dust bowl Okies, it cut a little close to home)
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame (loved it)
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen (loved it)
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne (over and over to my kids and never got tired of it)
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery (all the Anne books! Yes!)
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
(loved it!)
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon (memorable, moving)
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy (I told you we read a lot of Hardy)
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert (hated it)
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Flynn's Back!

It isn't that Flynn doesn't want to share the limelight.

Well, maybe it is, because I'm pretty sure Flynn thinks PJ will have lots of opportunity to promote his own book in the next few months.

So when I got an email today from Maggie at telling me that One-Night Love Child was going to be part of their series of books available by email, I told Flynn and he immediately said in his Earl's Voice, "And you've put it on your blog, of course."

He's really getting into his role as the earl, our Flynn.

Well, I was heading off to the dentist right then, and so I couldn't.

But as soon as I got back and found him tapping his toe and looking expectantly at me (I was going to say, Looking expectant, but he doesn't. That's Sara.). So I hurried right in here to post the good news.

DailyLit, in case you aren't familiar with it, sends out daily emails of the books it makes available through the site. It's like getting your own serialized version of a book daily to have with your morning coffee or on your lunch break or whenever you have a few minutes and want to dip into the daily read.

Those of you who read Kate Walker's blog know that her Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife was chosen to be given away as a free promotional title. It came out in June 2008 and is available through the summer.

So you can see what it's like by reading Kate's wonderful book. Or you can choose One-Night Love Child or any one of hundreds of books -- not only romance -- and for a modest sum have it delivered to your email box daily.

Flynn wishes they'd send his articles and books out that way. Mostly he hopes you will go check out his book there if you haven't already read it in book or e-book format.

And he was delighted to hear that when I told the DailyLit people his story began in The Great Montana Cowboy Auction, they said they'd look into including it among their offerings. I hope they do. It would be terrific to have Sloan and Polly's story available again.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Antonides' Forbidden Wife

And here we have the hard cover version of PJ and Ally's book, now known as Antonides' Forbidden Wife.

It's coming out in UK in September in this edition, which is primarily for libraries. In November it will be out as a Mills & Boon Modern (that will likely be some form of this cover with a blue background). And in January it will be out in North America as a Harlequin Presents.

As the covers turn up, I'll be uploading them here and, when and have them, I'll try to provide links on the sidebar to their site.

It's a nice cover. PJ doesn't look like PJ to me, and Ally doesn't look like Ally. But that's frequently the way it is with books. Though I must say that the artist's choice of Nathan Kamp for Flynn in One Night Love Child was inspired (probably better than the one I'd been seeing in my head). He wouldn't be bad for PJ either. This guy on PJ's cover is gorgeous, but he looks a bit buttoned-down to be PJ who spent twelve years surfing his way around the world.

Oh, well. He's not an ax murderer, either. I've had one of those. And she's not Snow White. I had her, too.

I've also had the Jay Leno and Jimmy Cagney Death Mask cover. So I'm quite sanguine about this one. It may not be my favorite ever, but it didn't send me screaming out the door, either.

What do you think?

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cover's Coming!

I got the cover for the Mills & Boon Modern hardback of Antonides' Forbidden Wife in the post the other day.

Actually, not just the cover, I got the books themselves. It seems ages ago since I wrote PJ and Ally's story. So long ago that I had to stop right in the middle of Mom Camp -- well, really right in the middle of doing the laundry -- and read it (so did my daughter) to be sure I still remembered it.

I do.

I even remembered how it ended. Also discovered that the suggestions my editor made did, as I'd suspected, make it a better book.

I have to scan the cover, which I haven't done yet, before I can post it. But stay tuned. It will happen in the next day or two. Right now I'm up to my eyeballs (I was going to say up to my teeth, but given the teeth issue this week, that seemed to be tempting fate) in kids and laundry.

We are also going on a boat ride tomorrow at the end of Mom Camp, which should be fun.

The kids are coming along. And then we're celebrating the almost 8 year old's birthday (for next week) and doing more laundry.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mom Camp on the road

We took Mom Camp on the road yesterday, going to Galena, Illinois for the day.

Galena sometimes calls itself "the town that time forgot" because for about 100 years no one except the locals seemed to know it was there.

But then people from Chicago discovered it was a nice distance for a weekend getaway. And then more people discovered it was a step back into what small-town America used to be like (ideally) and they came.

It's also where Ulysses S Grant lived before heading off to fight in the Civil War, so there is a local "Grant's Home" claim to fame. In other words, there's lots of stuff to see and do and antique shops galore to prowl around in.

These days it's pretty much wall-to-wall tourists during the summer months.

We went there last year and wandered around, had a great lunch at Vinny Vanucchi's and wandered a bit more. So this year we did the same.

The food was possibly even better than last year. The wandering was just as enjoyable, though I don't quite know why Galena is always so much hotter than Iowa (at least where we live). Maybe the breeze just doesn't blow down Main Street.

Anyway, we had a great time. And no one lost any teeth.

Today is Micah the dog's 6th birthday. We are celebrating with Greenies and rawhide sticks. He's quite pleased as he thinks food of any sort is cause for celebration.

And then we are making Jeremy Jackson's sinfully rich Chocolate Sink Holes to be shared by those who join us after dinner tonight. Dinner itself is going to be at the local Japanese restaurant. I love watching someone else cook!

We are not getting any slimmer this week, that's for sure. Maybe next year Mom Camp will have to be Anti-Fat Camp.

My daughter has gone off now to revisit the Girl Scout camp she attended for many years. As a leader herself, she's intrigued to see if her memories reflect at all what the reality is.

"I remember it being soooo big," she said the other day. She's afraid it will be far littler than she recalls.

Doesn't matter. The memories are big and have lasted a lifetime.

Did you go to camp? What do you remember? Have you been back to see it as an adult? How did it compare to your recollections.

My husband has wonderful memories of a camp he attended every summer in western North Carolina. He became a counselor there when he was old enough. I never went to camp. But I remember watching Spin and Marty and thinking I'd like a camp like that!

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Teeth? What teeth?

So Mom Camp started Sunday afternoon.

We stuck the 8 year old and the almost 10 year old in their respective groups and adjourned to take deep breaths and watch Wonderfalls (which is as good the umpteenth time around as it was the first).

And then life happened.

The phone rang. It was the almost 10 year old's mom. The camp nurse had called her to say that, um, they were playing volleyball (the almost 10 years olds, not the nurse) and, well, it seems that in the process, someone knocked three of his teeth out.

Say what?

Three teeth? Just like that? When he'd only been there five hours?

Not to mention that his major sport is FISHING.

No matter. They don't start majors till Monday. And anyway, they're out (the teeth). Baby teeth, they think. Subtext: they hope.

Call the dentist, my daughter, the athletic training professor said. I called the dentist.

Dentist said, "I want to see him. Now. Go get him and meet me at my office."

So I did.

And happily for all concerned, they were baby teeth -- and no, he doesn't really have any to speak of on that side of his mouth now on his lower jaw, and yes, the other kid with the flying elbow said, sorry, and it doesn't really hurt that much, and can you please bake cookies tomorrow?

So things are pretty much back to normal. His aunt the athletic training professor baked cookies this afternoon, and this morning he went cheerfully off to fish (and bowl and play basketball).

And we are all waiting with bated breath in case the nurse calls again, as the 8 year old is actually majoring in volleyball.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mom Camp

Last year while two of my grandkids were attending the local university's sports camp, my daughter and I and my cousin's daughter held our own camp.

We called it "mom camp" because two of us were moms and we were definitely looking for a break. The third got sucked in by proximity, and is the better for it.

We all enjoyed it so much that we're about to do it again. The cousin's daughter arrived today, timing her plane's appearance for the few minutes between thunderstorms. Clever girl, that one. And she and I are making plans for the week.

My daughter and granddaughter arrive on Saturday. Mom camp will officially begin on Sunday once the kids are deposited at kid camp.

But we're getting a head start. We're lining up books to share and DVDs to watch and places to go and recipes to make. Last year we tackled several out of Jeremy Jackson's Desserts That Have Killed Better Men Than Me.

And let me tell you, Michelle Styles -- and whoever else is listening -- that book is definitely up there among the Twyla Tharp books that you should own.

Maybe not on the same subject. But Jeremy is a man who loves his recipes.

And I gather that, just as Twyla hails the cab everyday as a part of her routine, Jeremy takes his turn in the kitchen with regularity.

Judging from the recipes we made last year, they are worth the effort. If you want a break from Twyla or Save The Cat or writing your own manuscripts -- or doing whatever you're doing -- Jeremy's book is worth a look.

We are also deep into watching the second season of Foyle's War. Yes, we know the fifth season is on television right now. But we can't ever seem to get an hour and a half at the right time when people aren't calling on the phone or the local weather demons aren't busily scrowling warnings past so much of the screen that you can barely see Michael Kitchen (who should not be missed).

So we are watching the DVDs. Great stuff.

So . . . we've got recipes. We've got DVDs. I've got some good books which I'll share with you as I share them with the rest of the mom camp gang. We'll go to the museum one day and shopping nearby one day.

Anyone got any really great suggestions? We'd love to hear them.

If you had a whole week to do what you wanted -- within reason and you can't travel for it -- what would you do?

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Going Home Again

I grew up in Manhattan Beach.

If I haven't been back in a while (say, six months), it changes. Businesses come and go. Houses go up. Others get torn down. And bigger houses go up where those were.

It looks a lot different than it did when I grew up there. And yet, in some ways, it doesn't change a bit.

It's a beach town. A faster-lane beach town than I remember. But still an informal, easy-going place where shoes were never really required, except if the sign said so. If our feet were tough enough to endure the heat of the pavement or the sand, well, then we went bare foot. No one really cared.

It's a town where people from all over the country -- and at this point, probably the world -- come by themselves and make new lives. They graduate from college and leave Iowa or New Jersey or Texas or New Delhi or Glasgow or Copenhagen -- and they never look back.

It was rare, when I was growing up there, to be a native. I can't imagine that's changed. It's very impermanence is a part of the permanent face of it that I remember the most.

I loved growing up there.

I'm revisiting it with Natalie and Christo. I'm wandering down to the beach at 10th Street where I used to go every day.

I'm walking out on the pier, doing a bit of body surfing, letting Christo take a surfboard out early before he heads off to be a high-powered hard-edged Presents hero. It's humanizing him. And it's giving me a mini-vacation in my head.

Anyone out there from MB? If so, speak up. Tell me what it's like for you now. Anyone visited recently? Let me know.

Christo is talking to his grandmother on the phone. I think he's saving the cat. I had no idea that was why he was doing it.

I guess if surfing doesn't make you like him, maybe the fact that he loves his grandmother will.

Thank you, Blake Snyder. I'm glad someone out there knows why I write the things I write.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Saving the Book

Serendipity plays a large role in my life. It's the coincidence of need and opportunity. And yesterday I got a taste of it again.

Last week Liz Fielding (she of the scrumptious sheikh Fayed) was telling me about a DVD she'd ordered and just received about screenwriting. The instructors were Christopher Vogler and Michael Hauge.

I'm familiar with, and use often, Chris's book, The Writer's Journey, which showed me clearly why I always tend to fall apart at step 6. I'm overwhelmed by possibilities, if you want to know the truth. But that's not what I want to talk about here. Or maybe it is, but later.

I have heard good things -- actually, spectacular things -- about Michael Hauge's workshops. Haven't had the pleasure of attending one, though.

Still, even though I don't have a screenplay in my future (as far as I know), I thought I'd look online and see what this DVD was that Liz had ordered. So I did. And it looked interesting. But what caught my eye was Blake Snyder's book Save The Cat.

It was a Twyla Tharp moment. One of those "accidents" she mentions in her book where you are simply "lucky" -- though of course you have to be prepared to be (and I was, I was -- I was actively looking at something that might help my work).

It was serendipity.

Me and the cat.

Maybe it was a Sid moment (you remember Sid, Kate Walker's Cat of Superior Breeding). Sid would say, "Of course you save the cat." No doubt about it.

Anyway, with Sid's blessing -- and Liz leading me to it, I bought Save The Cat. It arrived on Thursday. I read it cover to cover. I got up at 5 in the morning and re-read parts. I sat down with my meager Christo-and-Natalie, which the editor had just said yes to, and used Blake's "beat sheet" to get a good look at it.

The gaping holes were apparent. The bits that made sense and that I knew made sense were right where he said they'd be. I went back and looked at several of my other books -- ones I sweated over to get to the right place (that would be most of them), and discovered that, yes, those very things happened (not the same actual things, but the same emotional or developmental events) in the same place.

Every time.

And he'd handed me a pattern for it.

Yes, I know we supposedly write to "a formula" but God help me, I've never found one.

But Blake found the beats that create the rhythm that makes all kinds of stories work. Probably others have found it before him (Chris's The Hero's Journey and Joseph Campbell's Hero With a Thousand Faces spring to mind), but Blake wrote them down in a way that speaks to me.

He even made me think of ways to get past step 6 without tearing my hair out. Bless you, Blake. Christo and Natalie will be a better book because of you.

I sent a copy of Save The Cat to a friend last night. It's going on my shelf next to The Creative Habit and The Hero's Journey (except I keep pulling The Cat down to reread bits).

I see that Blake is speaking at the RWA conference in San Francisco. I wish I could hear him, but I'm not officially enrolled at the conference because I won't get to the city until Friday night. But anyone who is going, go hear him. Or buy his book. Or both.

You might not have a screenplay in you either, but good storytelling is good storytelling.

And as Sid says, You can never save too many cats.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Caught by a sheikh

It is rare that I am caught by a sheikh and can't put him down. Sheikhs are not my fantasy. Never have been. Never will be.

Except Liz Fielding's Fayed.

Fayad al Khalifa is the hero of Chosen As The Sheikh's Wife, which is Liz's contribution to 100 Arabian Nights, an anthology (with Kim Lawrence and Meredith Webber) that is out in UK now.

It may never see the light of day in the US or anywhere else except maybe Australia and New Zealand (though it might). But don't despair. I know how you can get it.

But first, let me tell you why you should.

Fayed is fantastic hero. He is strong, powerful and, of course, drop-dead gorgeous. More than that he's responsible, dutiful and determined to drag his nation into the 21st century without destroying the best of the past. He is also wounded. Deeply. Life has not been kind to him -- but he surviving.

Still the last thing he needs is an ancient knife -- a khanjar known as The Blood of Tariq -- to show up and complicate his life. Even less does he need Violet Hamilton who just happens to have it in her possession.

Violet doesn't want it in her life any more than he wants to deal with it in his -- for entirely different reasons. Oh, sure, it could maybe save her from being tossed out on the street when her home is repossessed. But there's a downside to the Blood of Tariq -- and it doesn't take Violet long to figure that out.

It would be hard to imagine two more different people -- the all-powerful Arab prince and the English working girl. And on the surface, that's true. But on the level where their hearts and souls meet, Fayed and Violet share a destiny.

If you want a little taste to whet your appetite, Liz has provided an excerpt on her website.

It hooked me. I went right out and ordered it. Fayed and Violet arrived in my mailbox right before lunch yesterday. I was planning on spending the afternoon with Christo and Natalie.

Fat chance.

Fayed swept me away. He didn't even have a camel. He just swooped in and transported me, first to London and then to his kingdom. It was a magical afternoon. My only complaint is that it wasn't long enough.

Liz's books are never long enough when they're 190 pages or so. This one, as a novella, was less than that. I wanted more.

I still want more. Liz is celebrating the publication of her 50th book this year. But I would like a hundred at least -- so I hope she's got her nose to the grindstone and her fingers on the keyboard.

Fayed and Violet were delightful and their story will live in my mind and my heart forever.

Lucky UK readers can just nip down to the local bookshop or wherever it is they buy books and get their own copies off the shelves. Or they can order it from M&B, I guess. The rest of us have to go to Book Depository and order online.

This is not such a hardship as you might think because dear dear Book Depository will ship 100 Arabian Nights post paid. So all you have to pay for is the book. It will come air mail. You should have it in a week or so.

It's definitely worth it -- even though it made my daily quota for Christo and Natalie fall behind. I'd do it again in a minute.

In fact I will do it again the next time Liz has a book out!

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

On the road again . . . again

After you have written 61 books (which I have, apparently) and you are embarking on the 62nd, you begin to think you've been this way before.

Maybe not quite this exact same way, but some of the memories evoked are the same even if the sights along the way are not.

When I was reading Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit last spring I wrote several blogs -- one of which is here -- about it which, having gone back and re-read them now, make me recognize the efforts. It isn't that I wasn't aware of them before, but I think it's the ritual I am more aware of now.

There is, of course, the box. Or the collage. Or the heap of papers, books and sundry junk piled in the corner that is my treasure trove for the book. Every book has one. Or at least it has something -- some collection that I go to in order to discover the flotsam and jetsam that I will need to create the novel.

Oddly, though, when I did the collage for Flynn and Sara, nothing in the book turned out like the collage -- well, except for O'Mally and Liam.

Flynn changed as the book went on. Sara did, too. So did the castle. And the setting? Well, it started out in New York and never went there at all in the finished book.

Much the same thing happened to Sebastian and Neely and their box. The box is wonderful -- very impressive. And nothing much remained of the things I put on the box, either. The story took on a life of its own.

It began with the box, yes. But then it took off from there.

So starting over with Christo and Natalie, I don't expect to end up with what I start out with, either.

Just as well. It shows the characters are growing, developing their own story, finding their own way to their happily ever after.

At least I hope that's where they're going. They haven't seen fit to tell me yet.

But I'm turning up every morning -- and so far it's working.

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