Monday, June 29, 2009

It's a(nother) Boy!

Bright and early this morning we learned of the birth of yet another grandson.

His name is officially Solomon Turner, but his dad says he's called Sol.

Sol was supposed to arrive July 4th, but he apparently got bored and decided now was the time.

From the early pix, he looks fit and healthy. He weighed in at 7 lbs 10 oz, and is already making his presence known out west.

We are thrilled to welcome him to the family and looking forward to meeting him in person about a month from now.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Charley's Postcard

Charley the studly laptop has been recovering from his exertions getting Demetios and Anny finished and sent off to Richmond.

He was heartened in his efforts by the arrival of a postcard from one of his admirers, Scarlet S O'Dell (a very classy red English lass) who was holidaying in Lindos with her family.

Hearing from Scarlet (and heaven only knows what The Powers That Be at Mills & Boon thought of the postcard when it arrived) made Charley's -- and my -- day!

We send thanks to Scarlet (and Rach who had to write it for her because Scarlet couldn't get any connectivity out in the Grecian boondocks apparently) and are very happy to have it. It has pride of place on the bookshelf now. Charley is lobbying for a trophy case in which to put it. This is sort of like a notch on the computer bedpost, I guess.

Next thing you know he'll be getting postcards from lovely lissome lady laptops all over the world. There will be no end to his preening then.

I am in the process of cleaning my office (a long process) and watching physics lectures by Richard Wolfson (sort of physics for non-believers, er, scientists) which I'm thoroughly enjoying. This is in preparation for George's book. Fascinating stuff.

The Prof keeps looking at me strangely when I say that. I think he expected me to be bored out of my mind. Not at all. It all makes perfect sense and as long as I filter it through George's brain -- and his relationship with Sophy (whom you will meet in Christo's book) -- has a great deal of relevance to my life.

Well, I suppose the laws of physics have a great deal to do with everyone's life (gravity among other things), but I just don't spend a lot of time thinking about it specifically. Nice that George does, though.

Scarlet -- and Rach -- thank you for making Charley such a happy guy! Hope you had a good time on Lindos!

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Sailing Away

I promised you sailboats when Demetrios and Anny left the building.


I am!


Friday, June 19, 2009

The last gasp

So I'm up to my neck in chapters that need sorting and some scenes that need writing before I can say this book is done.

I'm intending to get it done by Monday. That means a lot of work between now and then. But after today, which had enough electric storms to do me for the whole summer, I'm hoping for less interruption tomorrow.

Plus The Prof, the eldest son and four of the grandsons are going camping for Father's Day -- a tradition that began a few years ago. They bond over dirt, bugs, sunburn, pain, charred food and other fun things -- and I (and the dogs) have the homefront to ourselves.

We are planning a marathon of writing. Wish us luck. If all the boats are in a row come Tuesday morning, you will know that Demetrios and Anny are on their way to England (a heck of a lot faster than they got from Cannes to Santorini)!

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Remember what I said about 'transitions?'

It's true. I was working my way back through the middle of the book, basically doing something that felt like ironing spaghetti (and about as useful), when I realized that the issue wasn't what I had written, it was where it was happening.

I needed -- or rather Demetrios and Anny needed -- just a bit more time. Not a minute-by-minute play-by-play, but rather some nice transitional jumps that would take them from one day to the next to the one a couple of days after that without dragging the readers with them.

What I needed were a few well-placed transitions.

So . . . I'm busy creating transitions, and feeling like I've finally got a grip on this thing. Not that it's ready to go in, by any means. But the sense of no longer being becalmed is energizing. There will probably be less ironing of the spaghetti strands now, too.

Charley is pleased. He thinks that we've wasted a lot of time doing that. He wants to get out and socialize more. He doesn't like having to tell all his lady friends that he has work to do.

I told him they'd be impressed that he's a hard-working responsible type. I'm not sure he's convinced. I have a feeling Charley is going to be one of those heroes who takes more than a single book to shape up.

Lucky for him I'm patient.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Check out the Pink Heart

I'm blogging over at the Pink Heart Society at the moment, taking time from Demetrios to introduce you to -- or remind you about -- an excellent choice for a hero.

Lots more interesting stuff about Damian Lewis there. Here I'll just tempt you with a few pics and then I will disappear back to my manuscript, which presently resembles a bowl of spaghetti.

I'm glad my editor is in France. She won't have the time or interest to wonder what Demetrios is doing.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

The Story is in the Transitions

I wrote a comment on Michelle Styles's blog a little while ago that, after I thought about it, seemed to beg for a blog piece of its own.

Michelle was talking about writing a partial for her editor and mentioned synyopses and trying to work smarter and understand what works and what doesn't work. It all makes a lot of sense.

We all want to work smarter. I don't necessarily love the process of tearing apart the middle of Demetrios's book and putting it back together again just to say I did. I want it to work, yes, but I would much prefer that it worked the first time!

I thought it did.

And in fact, I think I could make a case that it did. But I think it's stronger this way. And I didn't really know it until I got past the middle and had to look back on it. Logically it did work "the old way."

But the characters are stronger now. And it's getting to be, I hope, a better book. But as I write, what I'm discovering is that the movement from one point to another is only partially accomplished by what happens in a given scene.

The real keys are the transitions -- they are the bridges from one scene to the next, from one point of view to another, from one emotional place to the one that grows out of it.

Getting the right lead-in to a scene is crucial.

Yes, it should come out of the scene before it -- even if it's a contrast or a complete departure and in someone else's point of view. Still, it has to carry the story to the next place and it has to put the characters and the reader in the right frame of mind when they get there.

Stopping a day's writing at the end of a scene may seem like a good idea. There's a sense of closure, a sense of 'now I can go to sleep because these people are sorted out.' And that's fine for the day, but it's dire for the day after.

There's no momentum for starting up again. Much better to leave a scene in mid-flight, as it were. Much easier to jump back in and take up where you left off. And then when you finish that scene, at least get going on the next one -- even if only with a line or two -- so that you have the springboard already there before you quit. It's lots easier to get going the following day.

Transitions, for me, are the places where I end up reconnoitering about how the characters are feeling, how they perceive the actions they are about to take or that they observe others taking.

Getting off on the right foot with a character's understanding of things and finding the right tone to express his frame of mind is so important in dealing with the scene. It's the gut-level place where all scenes have to come from.

If I'm just recounting what happens without being inside the character's head understanding why it's happening, the scene is flat, whether it's a car chase or a a duel or two people talking about what to have for dinner.

The right lead-in and seeing the scene from the point of view of the character -- his or her investment in the scene -- is what really makes it work. Without that, it's just me pushing pieces around on a chess board with no inner reason (no why!) in mind. It doesn't work.

This is probably the long way of saying why I find synopses less than helpful.

They tell me the 'what' but I never quite get to the internal 'why' until I am actually writing the story. And that only comes when I know the people and how they grow and change.

That change, that growth, is the story. Get it wrong or even simply different and you have a whole different tale.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Ripple Effect

The discussion of revising and, particularly, of 'middles' seems to have struck a chord.

Why am I not surprised?

So I thought I would touch on the notion of the ripple effect which anyone who writes surely must be aware of. And if you're not, you need to be.

Ripples are what happen when you toss a rock in the water, yes? No rock, no ripples resulting. But the minute a rock lands -- or you make a change in a manuscript -- everything thereafter (and sometimes everything before) has to change as well.


Because everything is connected. Everything tends to result from something else and lead to something else.

Example: Anne Gracie said to me last week, "I'd rather see Demetrios convince Anny to come with him rather than have her just turn up on the boat."

Simple, yes. A new scene in which she turns up on the dock, says what she's come to say, then turns and leaves.

Why? Where's she going? Why?

And then he goes after her.

Why? (He must be out of his mind).

He convinces her.


He has his reasons.


Because of something that happened in his backstory.

Why did it happen?

Because that's the kind of guy he is, has always been.

And then presuming he succeeds, what then?

She didn't expect to be on a boat.

Now what?

And of course none of the 'now what' falls into what I've already written in chapters 5 and 6. So they have to be completely rewritten with new stuff that follows from the simple change in one scene.

So does the earlier stuff -- before the boat scene -- because otherwise it wouldn't have occurred to him to convince her. In fact, he isn't at all sure this is a good idea.

Sadly, I can't just simply write down, "Because Anne told me to."

If ripples aren't your thing, think about Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In that book he talks about making small changes.

He says that if you just change a rocket's trajectory by one degree at lift-off, it will be thousands of miles away from where it would have been if you'd kept the original trajectory. For good or ill, one small change effects everything that comes after.

Yet another way of saying, "One thing leads to another." There's just no getting around it -- even in books.

So I'm off now to deal with my ripples. I have, however, had a bit of good news to go with it.

My editor is off to France for the week so I have now got until the 22nd to deal with all the ripples and make sense of this thing.

And how are your middles doing today?

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Coping with Middles

I have been trying to think of anything an editor has ever said to me about the middle of my books because, to be honest, middles are where, for me, most of the problems occur.

And while I've had in the double digits of editors over the past 25 years, I can't recall one of them saying anything remotely useful about middles other than Ann Leslie's occasional [delete this?]. The fact is, if I could delete middles altogether, it wouldn't be a bad thing.

Unfortunately readers seem to expect them in books.

Therefore it is my job to figure them out and put them in.

They are, according to Blake Snyder's Save The Cat book and beat sheet, the 'fun and games' part. This makes them sound like they ought to be fun.

They aren't.

Or they aren't fun to write because there is too much to figure out, too many opportunities to either reject or take advantage of, too many options to explore. And in what order???

Do we play volleyball before or after we collect the firewood? Do we explore the mine shaft before or after dinner when the revelation about the hero's first marriage occurs? And why?

That's the key: why?

Because that's what gets you through the middle. Why should we play volleyball now and collect firewood later? Maybe we should just skip the firewood altogether. We could cook spaghetti instead. But then we would be cold and . . . blah, blah, blah. See? Too many options.

Which to choose? And again, why?

And not just the events -- events are easy. It's the emotional connection to each event that's important. What is it about the firewood or the volleyball or the spaghetti that will trigger the hero's emotional angst, that will move him to the next step. Why does it?


Editors, of course, never have the answers to these things. They say what they hope are Encouraging Words and Meant To Be Sustaining Things like, "You'll figure it out."

Of course I will. Eventually. Maybe. I hope.

But it's not easy. Or it isn't easy for me. I have to get inside the heads of these blockheads, er, I mean, characters. and figure out what will work for them.

The next person who asks how long it takes me to 'churn' out a book is likely to get one thrown at his/her head.

Is there an editor who specializes in middles anywhere out there, someone who can say, "Oh, I see. Of course! You just need to do this because then he'll see that that has to happen, and then you do that because he'll need to know she feels thus-and-such, and she will because he will have already told her that blah-blah, and then they'll get to Greece. Simple!"

Absolutely. So if you know of an editor like that, would you introduce us, please?

Preferably before next Monday.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

What I learned from Editors, part I

I've been blessed with good editors since day one in my writing career.

The first, at Harlequin Mills & Boon, sent me a revision letter three pages long (this before she ever bought the book) which detailed the issues she wanted addressed.

Boiled down, she said, "There are four things you need to work on: the hero, the heroine, the plot and the ending."

So I did, and sold her the book.

That was when I learned to love rewriting.

Of course I also love those handful of books that have gone straight through with no revisions at all. And I long for another one because I don't hate them so much by the time I see them in print if I haven't seen them in several incarnations first.

But that doesn't happen often.

It probably won't happen with Demetrios, though of course I can hope.

I'm the process right now of doing my own 'editorial' work trying to bring all the pieces together and then write the ending that is promised in the beginning (I just have to figure out what it is).

But as I've been working, I've been remembering what I've learned from each of the editors I've had, because they have all given me insights and understanding and I've learned something from every one of them (even if it's how badly I've communicated what I'm trying to get across to them!)

One who had a huge influence on my ability to rewrite is Silhouette editor Ann Leslie Tuttle. I worked with Ann Leslie for several years and enjoyed the process every time we worked on a book together. What I appreciated most, though, was her ability to see what wasn't needed.

I tend to write long. Mostly, I suppose, so I can grope my way through the book and find out what I want to say. Sometimes I get there with less wandering than I do in others. But when I did wander, I could count on Ann Leslie to make me cut to the chase.

She never cut things herself. She would make notes and ring me and say, "You know, I don't really think you need that scene in the ranch house before the fire."

I don't?

But I slaved days over it. It was the bog I thought I'd never get out of so I could write about the fire!

But when I went back and read it, she was absolutely right. Not only didn't I need it, the book was much faster and sharper without it.

Maybe the truth is that I needed it to see where the story was going and what the mindset of the characters was before the fire, but once I knew it, the book didn't need it -- and neither did the readers.

I could always count on Ann Leslie to point those spots out to me. She made me a better, sharper critic of my own books. But I still wish she were reading Demetrios now, pointing those places out to me.

I am trying to do it myself. But I'm not as good at it.

I cut a scene the other day and thought, "Ann Leslie, you'd be proud of me."

But a chapter later, I realized the reader really needed it, so I put it back.

Still she taught me the difference between what I need to get from one point to the next and what the reader needs.

So, thank you, Ann Leslie, for your wisdom and your deft use of the red pencil and those brackets marked [delete?].

Demetrios wishes you were here!

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Friday, June 05, 2009


No, this is not a theological treatise.

But it has that feeling. It's about one of those times when the little voice echoes inside your ear (or in this case, mine) and tells you something you might or might not be prepared to hear.

In this case, though, it wasn't about God, it was about books.

Writing. Specifically writing Demetrios and Anny.

While the saga of Charley continues, I'm in the middle of chapter seven of the book I'm supposed to be writing on him. The book that is due June 15th. The book that showed every promise of being there on time.

And yet . . .

There was something in chapter six that had the effect of making me feel as if I was going in a circle, and the circle didn't seem to be tightening.

The circle itself is not a bad sign. As I get closer to the end of a book, things are supposed to speed up, the circle is supposed to tighten. There's supposed to be a logical inevitability to the story that I, at least, can see (even if Demetrios and Anny can't yet).

It's supposed to make it easier to get to the end.

Notice all those "suppose"s in the previous two paragraphs. So, if that isn't happening -- if in sailboat terms, we're becalmed -- if the circle is flat, something is wrong.

Usually it's lack of obstacle. Usually I have to go back and dig deeper to discover what is 'really' keeping the characters apart.

In this case there was too much keeping them apart. They had one obstacle too many.

Anny couldn't go forward because of a moral imperative. Neither could Demetrios. They were going to be in this circle forever (or well past June 15th) if I didn't do something.

So today I will be going back and helping Anny sort out her dilemma rather earlier in the book. She needs to make her decision in chapter three, not chapter six. Then Demetrios and Anny can get where they're going. Or at least where I hope they're going.

Why didn't I see this sooner? Why did I have my 15 beats all figured out (and they still all exist) and yet still have a problem? I don't know.

After 63 books, I'm still learning.

So I spent the morning trying to figure out where the changes need to come. I think I've got it. Now I need to work them in. I'm headed back to chapter one.

I told Charley that a few minutes ago.

He said hopefully, "So you won't be, um, needing me right now?"

I said, "I will certainly need you. What do you think I type on?"

He looked a little crestfallen. "Oh," he said. "Sure. Be right with you."

I think he's ringing some hot red laptop, rearranging plans.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Trouble With Charley

My editor is going to love Charley -- if I don't kill him first.

Why? Because she's always telling me I should write faster, get books out more often, etc etc etc.

But that means, what? Spending more time at the computer. Working my fingers to the nub. Not to mention my brain.

I have resisted. The well of inspiration is not a gusher around here. It's generally more of a slow steady trickle -- with occasional plugs.

That was all pre-Charley.

Charley, I suspect, has ADD or ADHD or one of those acronymns that I can never get right but that means he has the attention span of, say, a chicken.

Rooster, Charley says. Attention span of a rooster.

Yes, well, whatever you want to call it, Charley needs to be kept busy. Left to his own devices, he does not stay on task.

He is easily distractable -- especially by anything with a keyboard wearing pink, red or purple.

While I'm pausing for thought, trying to figure out which Greek saint's feast day we're going to be celebrating in chapter seven and trying to use the internet to find it out, Charley won't wait.

He is busy making notes in his little black book about which girly laptop he wants to ring next.

I didn't even know he had a little black book.

Everyone has a little black book, he told me. Only now they call it an address file. Liz Fielding's sexy "Liz Machine" is in it now, and Kate Walker's new RED Dell Mini may be next.

More trouble is brewing on the horizon, too, because Kate Hardy is expecting a new laptop whom she intends to call Seb. He has already asked Charley if he wants to go out trolling for chicks!

I hope Kate gives Seb a few rules before she unleashes him on his peer group. I'm thinking Charley may need a curfew and it won't help if Seb can come in any time he wants.

I'm not sure Kate mentioned if Seb was another of those sleek black laptops like Charley. I'm just hoping he's not that Lamborghini yellow one Charley spotted this morning. I don't need him having a case of laptop cover envy.

The only way I've found of handling these energy bursts of Charley's is to make him work. He finished chapter six this morning and is working his way through chapter seven.

I tried to stop there and think a bit about the next scene, but Charley didn't want to quit.

Once he's on a roll, he won't settle down. He just wants to keep writing and writing and writing (which is why my editor will love him).

When I say I need a break or to go to the grocery store or think about where the story goes next, he starts prowling the internet looking for new girlfriends.

I suggested yanking out his wireless card. It's what I used to have to do with Old Wonky when he either spun his hourglass forever or got seriously overheated. But it won't work with Charley. His wireless card is built-in.

I'm thinking he needs some games to play. Got any suggestions? I'm not sure he's a spider solitaire kind of guy. He might need something a bit more, er, action oriented than that.

Something with guns and spies and going undercover, Charley says. And girls with keyboards (goes without saying). Ideas welcome.

In the meantime, I know what I'm going to do with him tonight. I'm going to send him downstairs at 8:00 to watch the premiere of the third season of Burn Notice.

Only problem there is that I won't be upstairs thinking. I'll be downstairs, too, watching it with him.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Flirting with Charley

Charley could be trouble.

On the plus side, he works hard, he's competent, he has stamina, he hasn't crashed yet, and he hasn't overheated.

On the downside, he's a babe magnet.

Worse, he knows it. Oh, dear.

He's been propositioned twice in the comment section (once by a luscious pink Aussie laptop and once by a hot lipstick red babe called Dell who lives in England). Today, when I took him to the hospital to work while I waited for my neighbor who was having surgery, he got propositioned three times!

By women who didn't even have computers. They wanted him for themselves!

Word is spreading.

Mary Ann's hot red Vivienne has been calling and leaving messages. The lady in the hospital gift shop told him she already had diamonds, she just needed a good . . . um, computer.

He's listening. He's got out his little black book (or the digital equivalent thereof) and he's taking names and numbers.

I'm concerned. I had no idea he was going to be so . . . appealing. Not to everyone else, that is.

He says I should be glad he makes friends easily. He's even arguing that we ought to go to a conference where he can meet my friends. I don't think so.

I think he's going to stay right here and help me finish Demetrios and Anny, and then if he's very very very good, he might (MIGHT!) be the computer who gets to come with me when I head back to Montana and Washington in July.

I told him that.

He said he is very very very good.

And then he winked at me.


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

My New Hero

Shortly before 10 this morning the FedEx guy appeared on the doorstep bringing me my perfect computer.

The fact that it appeared 3 days earlier than promised is, to my way of thinking, a good sign.

So was my first impression.

Right out of the box Mr Refurbished looked stunning and handsome, sleek and slender, with rock hard muscles and wearing a burnished silver and matte black suit. Handsome, indeed.

But looks, as we know, aren't everything.

Deep down where it counts, though, he seems pretty impressive, too.

He's fast, for one thing. But in a good way. He has a lot of memory (won't be forgetting the important things, I'm sure). He doesn't get all hot and bothered the way his predecessor did (at least so far he's stayed cool and calm under a day of arduous testing and having his programs tweaked). No sitting on the wastebasket to cool his ardor yet.

He hasn't crashed once. And he hasn't spun his hourglass for, well, hours , either. Always a good thing.

I added him to the network and he seems to be playing nice with the other computers. I was going to add him as AM-laptop, but he took exception. He told me he has a name.

His name is Charley.

I've never had a laptop with a name before. I feel almost like he expects me to write a book about him.

Next thing you know he'll be angling for a little pink laptop girlfriend. Or, possibly worse, one of those lipstick red ones like my friend Mary Ann has. That laptop is positively dangerous.

I can see right now that I'm going to have to be careful about where I take him. He may be easily led astray. I won't be able to leave him alone with Mary Ann's stunning red honey of a laptop, that's for sure.

On second thought, maybe I should.

Would they have little laptops, do you think? There's a thought.

Anyway, so far the news is good. Charley seems to be everything I'd hoped he would be and more.

But, of course, this is the honeymoon.

Tonight he gets to tackle the last of a chapter of Demetrios and Anny. It's all been fun and games here up til now. We'll see how Charley likes real work.

I wonder if he knows how to sail a boat.

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Computer Shopping

Every few years it seems imperative to find -- and buy -- a new computer.

Generally it's because the old one is weighted down with more programs than it knows what to do with. It runs (no, it walks) as if it has all the time in the world. I can not only brush my teeth while it's booting up, I can floss as well!

And since I wrenched my shoulder running through O'Hare last fall with the albatross laptop and the Asus EEE PC both in my backpack (when I went to Texas to take care of GlowKid when she had mono), I've been thinking 'less is more.' And way less (weight) on my shoulder is a much much better idea.

I reconfirmed this when I went to Montana in early May.

But the most compelling reason for getting a new laptop lately is my oldest grandson who wants to inherit the walk-don't-run laptop with the wonky battery.

"It's fine," he says. "No problem. I don't care. It's better than what I've got."

Since what he has is a desktop system that doesn't have even a passing acquaintance with the term 'pentium' he could be right.

In any case, I spent my 'free time' late last week in search of the perfect laptop -- the best blend of speed and agility and lack of weight that I could find. In my price range.

I tend to be something of a skinflint when it comes to computers.

As usual when I found what I wanted in an ideal world, I was sure I couldn't afford it. So I started figuring out other alternatives.

And that's what led me to 'refurbished' computers.

If you have experience or opinions about refurbished computers, feel free to jump in and share the benefits of your expertise. Not that it isn't already too late. But I'll be very interested in what you have to say.

My 'refurbished' ideal computer is on its way.

Maybe it will be a disaster. Maybe it will turn to dust on the spot. But if it does turn to dust within the year, it's under warranty. And my computer guru Fred assures me that if it's going to screw up (or turn to dust), it is more likely to do so in the first year than at any other time.

He called this the 'high rate of infant mortality' among computers.

Who knew?

Not me. Anyway, the new 'refurbished' computer has already been shipped. It arrives late this week, complete with warranty.

I probably won't even get to enjoy it or use it at all (other than taking my copy of Word Perfect off the wonky laptop and putting it on the new one) until I get Demetrios and Anny finished and on their way.

But once I do, I will be cleaning off all my other old programs and moving them to the newbie. I will also try to see how much faster I can get Old Wonky to run before I pass it on to the grandson.

If you're really good at this sort of thing, I'd be grateful for your advice.

And if you're not advising, at least keep your fingers crossed -- for both of us.

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