Friday, February 23, 2007

I love it when a plan comes together

I've been hanging around Anne Stuart and Jenny Crusie a lot lately, and have been reading their blogs with great interest, and I love how they do that 12 days of whatever book they're writing. I'm also amazed that they can do it. My problem is that, usually, if I'm writing about writing a book, I'm not actually writing the book. If the book is working, all I can think of is getting words down on the page before they all disappear, like soap bubbles. I think about it so much that when I'm driving I miss exits, and when I'm cooking I burn whatever's on the stove. Because I'm just not there.

Such is the case right now. I'm only taking the time to write this because my husband is working on my work computer(the computer I write on is completely separate from this one. Not only that, its working systems are completely obsolete so my kids would never play on it. Yeah, okay, they're now adults and sneer at my computer, but old habits die hard--especially the habit of creating a book in Word Perfect 6.2). So I thought this would be the perfect time to talk a bit about end stage manuscripts. At least mine.

I'm not what you'd call a scheduled writer. I'm more what we lovingly call a "binge-and-purge_ writer. I spend days wandering the house staring at nothing, and then spit out at least a chapterin about 2 hours. I just did that yesterday. I spent 60% of my time on a book in the first five chapters. It's like pulling teeth for me. I liken it to a rollercoaster, when you're heading up that long, long hill, with the tracks making that click-click noise, and you think you're never going to get there and then suddenly.....woosh!!! Well, woosh happens to me just about when it reaches critical deadline time. One of my cousins put it most beautifully. "Eileen," she said. "You're just no damn good 'til the two-minute warning." She has a point.

So here I was(right before Rick had to fix my computer), with about 3/4 of the second book in the Daughters of Myth series(I can't remember the title--because the Silhouette title committee came up with it), about Queen Mab's second daughter Sorcha who has to convince a very angry mortal that he's in possession of one of the great ruling stones of faerie, and that she needs it back before all heck breaks loose. And he's just a guy trying to escape the notoriety of a family that made its name photographing fairie--and then, allegedly, catching one. And the bad guys have found them, and since the bad guys are fairies, they can do terrible things like infect dreams with terrible violence, and I'm at the 3/4 point, and I know kinda what has to happen to get to the end of the book, but not exactly, and I'm trying to write with my eyes closed, as if, if I don't look, it'll all work out, and suddenly, why suddenly-----woooosh!

I know exactly how Sorcha proves herself, and how Harry redeems himself, and how little Lilly, his neice who has Down Syndrome, which makes her one of the world of faerie's Cherished Ones, is saved from the evil fairies. It came to me on a flaming pie, as John Lennon used to say, and that's how all the best stuff always comes to me. And, even after over thirty books, it's still a surprise.

So Rick's finished now, and I'm going to head back to my office to send Sorcha and Harry after the great Dearann Stone, with Cian on their tails, since he wants the stone to help his clan gain all the power in the world of faerie--which would also rob the earth of any more springs--and Darragh from the first book playing his part, and....

well, we'll all just have to wait to see how it turns out. The good news is that I know. Whew! What a relief. I just love it when a plan comes together.

eileen\kathleen, the evil twins

Friday, February 16, 2007

Why dog shows are like publishing

I admit it. I'm a dog show junkie. There's just something about canines on a runway that attracts me; I can't say why. So I watched Westminster the other night--well, two nights. And I have to admit that I was pleased by the results. A beautiful springer spaniel won. I was pleased. Not thrilled. I'm waiting for more big dogs to win. I'm a big dog girl. I've had two golden retrievers, two labs, and a great dane. I have dogs that would eat the entire toy category for lunch. I want a dane to win. Even an Irish setter. Come on, you have to admit that there isn't anything quite as gorgeous as an Irish setter on the move.

But those small dogs keep winning. Okay. They jump around. Okay, they have cute little legs that work like hamsters in a wheel to get down that carpet and back in the allotted time. Okay, they've been groomed to within an inch of their lives(I still say, poor poodles. My aunt had a standard poodle. It was a magnificent dog. All I could think of watching those pouffed and moussed creatures they had prancing down the runway was, a)isn't your butt cold in this weather? and b) all the other dogs must laugh at you....when they're finished laughing at the Mexican hairless, anyway.

But I realized as I watched, that indeed, dog shows are like publishing. It doesn't matter if you have the winningest dog in the US(a long pouffy mop of a dog called the Dandy Dinmont). It doesn't matter if your dog is more popular with the crowd(the ubiquitous PBGB). What matters is the objective opinion of one man or woman on one night. Like the announcer says, they come down from 2500 entries to the 7 top dogs. And the judge said he wished he could give out seven ribbons, because the best of class were all champion dogs(I still can't warm up to the poodles) (of course, I doubt they can warm up, either)(I do love the explanation of why they have those puffballs of fur on their knees. It's to keep their knees warm in the water. Well, what about the rest of their naked back half?). But, considering that these dogs were considered the very best representation of their classes, perfect in conformation and blessed with a showring attitude(boy, could that bouvier stack). (yeah, I even have the lingo), it came down to intangibles nobody can control.

So there you are as an author. You might be the best author of your generation. You might have written a book--even a series of books--that are beautifully reviewed, that are beloved by your friends and family and even the critique partner who can never find a nice thing to say about you. You might even find an agent who loves your stuff. But if you don't get the subjective approval from an editor, it doesn't matter. And no matter how brilliant a worsdsmith you are, or how beautifully you craft characters or plots or themes, no matter how timely or topical, the sad fact is that often it ends up in the area of intangibles as to whether you're picked for the show. And then whether, once picked, you get the attention of the rest of the people in the publishing house. And the sales force. And get the idea.

On the other hand, if you're a writer, you do it because you can't not do it. So you might as well shoot for that ring in Madison Square Garden and the single spot, with that judge calling, "the winner is....." I know I do.

eileen\kathleen, the evil twins