Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Now That the Crisis Has Passed...

I can tell you that an immediate family member suffered a serious head injury ten days ago. In the ensuing days, I've learned a lot about head injuries. For one, they are very unpredictable. For another, they're scary. Really, really scary. We're still not entirely sure of the extent to which we will get this person back the way he was. Before. For now there is before. And there is after.

I've also learned about the power of family functionality. My family is largely functional. We don't have bitter disputes or angry silences. Extending out to the majority of my first cousins (all 19 of them), we are functional and friendly and a rather fun bunch, if I do say so myself. So when this person, who I'm extraordinarily close to, was injured, I had to decide whether I needed to immediately fly 1,200 miles to his bedside where others had gathered or whether I should wait to pitch in later for what was going to be a long-haul recovery. In making the decision to stay put for the early days of the crisis, I discovered something about functionality. When you have no unfinished business with someone, when there is nothing you can say that isn't said every day, that when you LIVE the love you feel for someone, there is a certain level of peace in the midst of crisis.

We're hoping for a full recovery. We won't know for some time if we'll get it. In the meantime, we continue to hope.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sorry for the Radio Silence

Got some crazy stuff going on at the home front. No time to play right now. Will be back as soon as I can!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Love At First Flight Has a Cover

Isn't it pretty? And we have a July 1, 2009 release date!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Long Goodbye

Her hearing was the first to go. A piercing whistle no longer gets her attention the way it used to. Now it takes a loud hand clap to garner a reaction. My daily words, "Let's go to work, Consuela," are now accompanied by the nudge of a toe. Otherwise, my move to the office downstairs would go unnoticed. Same thing with "Let's go to lunch, Consuela." She sleeps deeper than she ever has before. Back in the day, the first footstep on the floor in the morning would send her shooting out of bed, but now she must be roused.

Her steps, once so spry and lively, are slower and sometimes pained. She rises from a deep sleep and takes a full minute to work off the stiffness. Then she shakes and skips along her merry way. Unlike our great friend Roscoe, whose decline was swift and sickly, Consuela, at nearly 17 years of age, is drifting slowly but surely into old age. I am pained every day watching it unfold before me.

As she declines, I grow sentimental. I remember the first time I ever saw her—emaciated, brown, most of her tail missing, in a police kennel on the Navy base in Spain where she was on day seven of a seven-day stay that wasn't going to end well for her. Newly married, we went in on a whim, before we owned a second car or a sofa, for that matter. I had no intention of coming out with a dog. Hell, we hadn't even been there long enough to know that's not where you went to find a pet. No, there was an animal welfare league that turned out perfectly lovely pets, and they later added Roscoe to our family. So I locked eyes with this delightful, emaciated dog with the big smile. The connection was deep and instantaneous. "Take me," she all but said. "Take me and you'll never be sorry." I took her, and I've never been sorry.

At home, I bathed her and discovered she was yellow not brown. I found that she was skinny enough to fit through the Gypsy bars over our back door. That exit strategy lasted about two weeks of better eating before a shriek beckoned me, and we found out she no longer fit through the bars. Those early days in a foreign country, in a new marriage, away from home for the first time ever, were made easier and more joyful by the presence of a little yellow being who loved me so passionately that if I came to a stop anywhere in the house, she crashed into me.

I can't help but think back to our earliest days with "Air Dog" as we called her, for her back legs seemed spring loaded with enough power to bring her eye to eye with her six-foot-two-inch "Dad." I remember the dog who could run five or six miles with Dad in the tropical heat of southern Spain without missing a beat, who could be hit by a moped and come out of it laughing while her parents melted down, certain they'd lost their right to parent future human children forever. I remember the dog who once fell 30 feet while chasing her beloved blue racketball, and then got up, shook it off, and went back to work. We, on the other hand, required a moment of silence and a group hug with our friends over what could have happened right in front of us on our first anniversary no less...

I remember the dog who drank lustfully, paws holding her up while I pressed the button, from the water fountains in the Spanish park, much to the dismay of Dad who told Mom she was going to get us kicked out of the country for letting her baby drink right from the fountain while our appalled Spanish hosts looked on. I remember my dynamic duo, Roscoe and Consuela, otherwise known as Bark and Lick—and for good reason. While Roscoe barked himself senseless, Consuela has never met a surface that didn't need a good licking. I remember the dogs who knew, somehow—both times—that Mom had cesarian sections and that jumping on her to say hello and welcome home would be unwise. I remember two dogs embracing those babies, who, let's face it, bumped them quite a few links down the food chain, with love and devotion that had previously been reserved just for us. I remember the two fools running—inside the tent that was supposed to contain them—through a campsite in hot pursuit of a vile cat.

Here's my favorite photo of the two of them in their prime:

For the last six years, Consuela's day has been made by the school bus that stops twice a day in front of the house and the monitor who has a biscuit for her each time. I often wonder if most of Bernice's salary doesn't go toward the primo biscuits she brings to Consuela twice a day. "Let's get the bus, Consuela."

I work at home. I have for ten years. Every day of those years, my little buddy has been my companion, my friend, my love. Around the time she turned 12, people would say, "Wow, she's getting along, isn't she?" At 16, their eyes just get wide and they tend not to state the obvious. That we're on borrowed time. I know it, Dan knows it, and lately, it seems, Consuela knows it, too. We've been told that this is the time to get another dog, so there'll be no "void." After. As if there won't be a void no matter what we do to prepare. I've thought about getting another dog, but I can't do it right now. I want to give Consuela all the time and attention I can for as long as we have her in our lives. Besides, I've learned I'm not so much a dog person as I am a Consuela person.

For now, I'm grateful for every minute with the little yellow "person" who has been my very best pal since the day we first locked eyes more than 16 years ago. We joke that she has been the third person in our marriage—the other woman, if you will—from the very beginning, and I can't imagine our life or our home without her in it.

I recently saw "Marley and Me," and commented here that it wasn't the best movie for the mother of a soon-to-be 17-year-old dog to see. One scene in particular stood out for me. Owen Wilson's character, John Grogan, took Marley for a walk at sunset. Sitting together in a grassy field, John looped his arm around Marley's neck and said, "You'll let me know when it's time, won't you, boy? You'll let me know." When Roscoe was sick, we probably waited too long as we were unable to confront the painful truth after 14 happy, fun years together. I don't want to make that mistake again, so I've decided that when Consuela no longer cares about what's being cooked in the kitchen, when she no longer rests her head on my leg during dinner to let me know she's ready for a treat, when she no longer fights back against a strong hug, when she lets us touch her front paws and doesn't get mad, when she doesn't freak out when the suitcases come out of the attic and when the arrival of the school bus no longer gets her attention, then we'll know it's time.

We're not there yet. But we're much closer than we'd like to be.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Writer's Middle Finger

Young adult novelist A.S. King has written a couple of great essays on her group blog that are must-read for all writers.

Find Part 1 Here

And Part 2 Here

Amy has traveled a long a difficult road to publication of her first book, The Dust of 100 Dogs, out in February: fourteen years and seven manuscripts before the sale. In part 2, she advises writers to embrace their "inner suck" and to keep pressing on, mindless of the rules that are intended to constrict our creativity.

Check it out! On the writing progress front, I'm still struggling to finish my 12th MS, Fatal Justice. This book is trying to kill me, so if you find my body, you'll know what to blame for my untimely death. It has challenged me and tested me and taken longer to write than it should have. The end result will be worth it, but the pain... Whoooo! Pain. I figure I am 7/8 of the way done. Of course TV has returned with new shows just as the finish line comes into view. So what's a girl who works all day supposed to do? Battle with recalcitrant manuscript or watch The Bachelor? Hmmm, well, that's a no brainer! LOL! Alright already, I will finish it this weekend. My office in Washington is closing for the Inauguration, so I have a whole day off with the kids in school next week (an extremely rare event in my world). I will finish the book. I promise. Stand by for updates. Speaking of new shows... Friday Night Lights returns this Friday. OMG, I can't wait! Our whole family LOVES that show and we've been counting down the days until it returns. If you haven't seen the first two seasons, run out and rent them. You will not be disappointed and no, it's not ALL about football. It's about so many other things. The show is dazzling. One of the best EVER. And Kyle Chandler? Yummmmmmm.

Now that we've covered writing (and TV), let's talk about reading. Something is happening to me. Something disturbing and worrisome... I think I might be becoming a fan of historical romance. Gasp, you say? Well, YES, me too! I blame my Casablanca friend Michele Ann Young for this. She wrote a great book that I absolutely loved called, "The Lady Flees Her Lord." If you haven't read this (or her earlier book, "No Regrets,") I'd suggest you check them out. One of the things I loved about both of Michele's books is that her heroines are "full figured," rather than the usual stick figures we see in romance. But after having read maybe four Lisa Kleypas historical romances over the years, I now seem to be unable to get enough of them.

In the last month, I've also read Eloisa James's book, "When the Duke Returns," which I loved. I met Eloisa at the New Jersey Romance Writer's Conference in October and heard her speak. I loved the malfunctioning water closet subplot in "When the Duke Returns." Eloisa is a very classy dame and to read her book about, well, crap, stinking up the manor, was simply hilarious. I just bought another of her Duchess books. I'm also reading Anna Campbell's "Tempt the Devil," which I really like, too. Anna is a member of the Romance Bandits with my friend Cindy McGary, so I had read about her books on the Bandit's blog. It's a fun book and very steamy!

So the died-in-the-wool contemporary girl is branching out. Don't worry too much, though. I can't imagine writing a historical romance. I'm in awe of all the research that must go into them, and it would take me the rest of my life to figure out how the aristocracy (also known as "the ton") worked in Regency England, my Lord. And I'm not going to totally lose my mind and start reading paranormals, unless of course they are written by a friend. Then I will gladly take one for the team.

On a final note, congratulations to Boston Red Sox alum Jim Rice who was voted into baseball's Hall of Fame yesterday on his 15th and final opportunity. When we were growing up in New England in the 70s and 80s, Rice was one of the best players in the game. His contentious relationship with the media, however, caused this long and protracted battle to get the recognition he deserves for outstanding numbers over his 16-year career with the Sox. He said yesterday that players should be judged solely on the numbers they post during their careers and not on whether or not they sucked up to the media. In a perfect world, that's how it would work. In the imperfect world we live in, an imperfect player gets paid back for being less than cordial to the people who hold his Hall of Fame entry ticket in their hot little hands. The debt has been paid, and a wrong has been righted.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fun, Fun, Fun

Yesterday, my friend Kristan Higgins and I presented a fun workshop that pitted plotters against pantsers. What the heck is a pantser you might ask? Well, that'd be me. While Kristan plots out each of her books, I write by the seat of my pants—no outline, no notes, no rhyme, no reason (at least none that I can document). Which way is the right way? YOUR WAY is the right way. In other words, as we told the attendees at the Connecticut Romance Writers Chapter, whatever works for each individual writer is the correct way to write a book.

To be honest, Kristan's way gives me a rash. My way gives her heart failure. Last year, I sat through a plotting workshop at a chapter meeting in which the author demonstrated her in-depth method of plotting, complete with worksheets and diagrams. My skin felt hot, my heart raced, and if it wasn't such a rude thing to do, I would've left. I want to learn. I want to be a better writer. I just don't want to hear about things that will never apply to me because they make me feel inadequate. I'm also very protective of my process. It works for me. I don't want to "infect" it with anything that will cause me to doubt it. Writers, like other creative types, are odd in more ways than one. I protect the writing. I protect myself. I protect what works for me.

When we were preparing for our workshop, Kristan made a great point—a real ah-ha moment for me. "Everyone plots," she said. Some do it with color-coded worksheets and others (like me) do it in their heads. But everyone plots. As someone who didn't think she did much plotting, I had to concede that Kristan was right about that. I've talked before about mindless tasks being my friends. Vacuuming, raking leaves, driving, washing dishes, showering, drying my hair—that's when I do the majority of my plotting. When I was close to finishing my fifth MS, I was stuck on how the ending should unfold. I knew what needed to happen. I just couldn't figure out how to make it work. I got out the vacuum, and by the time my house was clean, I had figured out what to do. It's not color coded and it's not done in advance of the writing, but it is plotting.

Thank you to CTRWA for your hospitality and to Kristan for being a lovely ying to my yang.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Book 2 Has a New Name!

Yipppppeeeee! We have renamed book 2, and I love it! Ready?


Okay, it's so perfect that I've spend most of the day wondering how I didn't think of it. Whereas some of my books simply name themselves, I struggled with one name after another for this one. The editorial team at Sourcebooks came up with this new title, and they did a great job.

The story, in a nutshell, is this: A Baltimore prosecutor set to begin the biggest trial of his career and a hair stylist with a dysfunctional family meet in the airport on their way to visit their significant others in Florida. After they each endure a disastrous weekend, they meet up again on the flight home, striking up an unlikely friendship that leads to love.

I posted Chapter 1 on my website tonight. Another thing I love about this title is how it plays into a change my editor suggested to the opening. In the first rendition, the book opened from my heroine Juliana's point of view when she is running for a flight that ends up delayed. In the final version, we see the opening from Michael's point of view and get to experience his visceral reaction to meeting Juliana. Later, he realizes he fell in love the instant he first saw her. Immersed as he is in a long-time relationship with his fiancee, Michael, a serious, grounded prosecutor, is freaked out by his reaction to Juliana. I love the new opening. I love it even better with this new title.

Renaming books is part of being published. I got lucky with Line of Scrimmage, which was published under the name I gave it. I like LOVE AT FIRST FLIGHT much better than the name I gave book 2. However, the process does feel a little like giving birth and then handing over the child to someone else to name. It's grueling for authors. But what I've learned over this last year is that there's a whole team involved with making my book fly (here come the flight puns). They want the same thing I do: to see this book do as well as it possibly can. The name they gave it today definitely helps our cause.

I'll post the new cover when I get it.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Things I Wish I Wrote

From time to time, I come across lines in books and movies that make me say, "Damn! I wish I'd written that!" Here are a few examples...

From my all-time favorite movie Pretty Woman, when they're on their way to the opera....
Vivienne says to Edward, "If I forget to tell you later, I had a really nice time tonight." The look of utter surprise on his face is perfect, and then when the elevator operator smiles... Love it. I wish I'd written that. I've seen it a hundred times and it still gets me.

From my second-favorite movie, The Sound of Music, the scene where Georg is breaking up with the Baroness... When she says "Somewhere out there is a woman who's never going to be a nun." Again, the expression on his face says it all.

Tapping into the Julia Roberts library once again, this time from Notting Hill...
"I'm just a girl, standing before a boy, asking him to love her." Sigh...

The most recent entry comes from last night's episode of Lipstick Jungle. Billionaire Joe tells Victory he gambled big and lost bigger. He's got to start all over, and doesn't want to drag her down with him. He's not sure what to do without all the things he used to own. Doesn't matter to her. "You own my heart, Joe." That scene at Coney Island was utter perfection and was huge payoff for all the Joe and Victory fans who've been waiting for just that moment.

I'll add other examples when I discover them! What are some of your favorite lines?