Friday, January 23, 2009


It should be satisfying to finish a book, even a celebration if you wrote it. And it is - when you finally get to that very last word. But as the last chapter opens on two books, I know I don't want to finish either the book I'm reading or the one I'm writing. The characters have become like old friends in worlds that seems to me to be almost as real as, well - the real world.

Beijing, China

So now that both books are almost over, I find myself dodging endings. Maybe that's because I'm not sure what's going to come next.

Which in that stack of TBR's do I pick up? Which idea do I run with in the next story I write? The possibilities seem to stretch endlessly.

Reading or writing - do you finish books reluctantly?


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover

Is it possible that books are judged by their covers? That some languish on the shelves because of bland colors, badly chosen models or just plain themes gone askew? Would some readers not even pick such a book from the shelf? I'm afraid the answer might be yes and that I was once one of those readers.

Today it all changed. It was a book I've noticed for the last month. Yes, I noticed it but not because it had the best looking cover on the shelf. In fact, it had the worst. Drab and unappealing I'd purposely dodged it. So why did I pick it up today? I think because it was the most persistent. It always seemed to be parked right beside the book I was interested in. Sometimes I even had to move it, bland cover and all. But I didn't pick it up. For one, it was beige. I have an aversion to beige! And two, there was just nothing outwardly exciting about it, not even the title.

So what changed?

Nothing. I think the only thing that made me pick it up today was its persistence in being there on that small crowded shelf week after week. It must have lodged in my subconscious, that and there was nothing else of interest.

I began my usual broad sweep of sections of the book, went back to the blurb and back again to another section. I ended up beginning to dig into the story in the middle of the store. I almost missed what looks like a great read because of a cover that didn't appeal to me. My book picking days will never be the same! Never again will I be influenced by a cover - if I have to close my eyes and grab the first book available!

With two new books in as many days, I'm ready for that bout of cold weather they've been forecasting. It will be a chance to bundle up, read and pretend there's a different view outside by window.

Does the cover of the book influence you?

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pictures - Burma 2008

Out of the Blue

Yesterday I discovered a new author. Well, not exactly a new author, just new to me. She's been around long enough to make the shelves of a local drugstore. And let me tell you it's a small shelf so we're talking the bestsellers and just a few others. She was one of the others. The cover got me right off and following my new book purchasing policy I read more of the middle pages than I did the beginning. And then I could hardly wait to get that book to the cash register and home. The sentences were tight, the prose was beautiful and the story line intriguing. I think I found a gem.

And with our days finally lengthening, that means I can hunker down with the latest read and not turn the lights on until at least five.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Love is Blind

With Valentines day around the corner I was thinking is love really blind? I know it's one of the oldest cliches out there but in my stories I like to think or at least create a world where love mostly is blind. Of course there is the antagonist who hates pretty much everyone but for the most part - the love part - differences are something that can always be overcome. In the real world, maybe not so much.

But can romance fiction ever fix the world? Probably not. Some days I think that if there were no differences we'd create some just for something to fight over. But today, I'm not thinking that because true or not this video makes you think about how things could be. We tend to think of animals as sort of a them and us situation. But if you've ever met an elephant, this video will be that much more poignant for you'll have felt that disturbing connection from a creature who is full of personality, intelligence and curiosity. And, of course, we all know about dogs. So give the link below a click and let's meet:

And isn't that what romance is all about, getting past the differences?

In the end is love really blind?


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Snow Day – Cold Day – Adverbs - It’s all Just too Much

Today we’re the coldest in the country. News flash! I don’t want to be the coldest in the country – I’m giving the award back. -37 overnight and warming to -33 this morning is just too much. The fact that I have quoted all these temperatures in Celsius is not making it any better. It just leads me to another question where's the cold day? There are snow days in other places where snow is more anomaly than norm, days where schools and businesses shut down. I’ve heard of them but not here, at least not in the city. Here apparently we’re tough and snow doesn’t stop us. I can accept that but what I want in exchange is a cold day. Call it a writing day, call it whatever you want but I want one. This morning I resented pulling on my winter boots, hunting for the industrial gloves and trekking out into a world whose edges are rock hard, biting ice. The cold is just like the excessive adverbs in the latest book, too much. Adverbs populate this story to the point of distraction and add unnecessary girth. It’s interesting that it is more the adverbs than the adjectives that are the problem. Actions that are clearly defined are than sealed with an unnecessary adverb. Or worse, there is no action, only the dratted adverb. In a story a rock hard, biting edge is often a good thing. Kill the coldly, tenderly, as much as possible, anything ending in ly because this story is overflowing with them. And that’s not all that’s wrong but that’s a subject for another post.

This book is not alone and that’s my latest bug - books that aren’t tight. As a writer I take note of another thing I should watch out for and as a reader I’m just disappointed. Excess words often become – like the weather – just too much.

What do you find too much?


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Glimpse of China

I promised some weeks ago that I'd have guest blogger fresh from China.

A Glimpse of China
as seen by June

I can understand why Hong Kong is called the gateway to the Orient. It is amazing. There's a sense of elegance and vibrancy about the city.

From Hong Kong it was onward through China where we saw; The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, Tianomem Square, and the Ming Tombs. The Forbidden City went on and on and I thought we would never get through it. Using the facilities in these places is an experience and in some cases was a matter of not gagging to death. I think an old outhouse would have been a palace in some cases!

The next stop was Guilin which was one of those places that I was really looking forward to. To me, it is the picture of China. Limestone peaks dot the landscape. The highest single peak in Guilin is 66m and no building is allowed to be taller than this peak. It is a quiet and beautiful country side. Took the Li River cruise and the meal on board the boat that was highlighted by a bottle of snake wine being passed around with the snake still in the bottle. Let's just say I stuck to the beer and passed on the wine!

On a bamboo boat ride through the farming communities in the surrounding country side, I watched the cormorant birds fishing for the old fisherman. I even had the bird placed on my arm where it sat with its wings extended. On the last day in Guilin it was time to see the reed flute caves and for a cable car up Hua Mountain. The car is like an open chair lift. It was a beautiful hot day and the view was spectacular. Cable car or not, I still needed that foot massage at the end of the day. A luxury, that while it exists, one doesn't often see back home. Guilin was a place that I did not want to leave and would go back to again and stay for at least a week. It is truly the most spectacular place I have ever seen in all my travels.

The trip ended too quickly. Back in Hong Kong it was a trip up Victoria Peak and a view of the Big Buddha, a day in Macau and home. With winter weather to face at home, I don't know which I'll miss most, the warm weather or the interesting people.


I don't know about you but I loved the opportunity to see the pictures of Hong Kong. The description of Guilan only made me want to hop a plane.
And you - where are you travelling next?


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Blood and Guts Exposed

I mentioned literary blood and guts in an earlier post. But it's too important not to mention again. In fact this time a young acquaintance of mine, an aspiring writer, told me how her life is boring and that's how she likes to keep it. She wants to save the excitement for her stories!

It's true that the excitement of unexpected trouble is excitement we'd love to avoid in real life.
Yet it's the emotion that trouble creates that I need to foist on my story's characters.

And my current story is balking. Why? I know my characters are in emotional hell in the middle of the story - a good place for a character to be - at least in a novel. But just past the beginning where I'm stuck again, well things are just too safe and easy. There's no blood. No character has strewn their heart or guts across the page. I've got to let my characters roam as free in the early pages as they do in the middle. It's time to forget word counts, tight phrases and witty endings. It's free range. And if they over dramatize right now, that's okay, that's how they feel. All that emotion will eventually soak into other pages and spread that drama around.
Because in the end it's all about an emotion fed story - that's romance.

Isn't it?
Passport to Romance

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Prairie Winter

Back in the fall I promised some prairie pictures in winter. Winter can be beautiful. Not today.
And I didn't take the picture today.

Today was an indoor day. We don't have snow days here. If we did we'd be indoors the majority of the year. Snow and cold are normal and you just limp along in your car on square tires and carry on. But every once in awhile it gets what I call scary cold and today was it - an indoor day. Tomorrow it's back to normal but I'll haul out the backup mitts!

But on days that aren't quite so cold the prairie is beautiful. There's nothing more beautiful than virgin snow on a cloudless winter day. And while, I didn't snag one of those pictures. Here's just a regular prairie winter.

With just a bit of Eva and Tate's valley thrown in for good measure.


Friday, January 2, 2009

A Novel Versus Real Life

"This isn't one of your novels."

Yes I have heard that line from more than one person close to me. Not frequently, mind you but every once in awhile. Should I be flattered or annoyed? After all, someone is paying attention to my novelistic tendencies. Or are they just being annoyingly facetious? Either way the statement does pose a question.

Does real life differ that much from fiction?

And as romance writers do we tend to create the world we would love to populate or maybe just the perfect relationship? Most days I don't think so. At least not the fiction I create. In fact often I would hate to be my characters. Forced to face what they fear most, they survive betrayals and tragedies that are only limited by my imagination. And mostly the poor dears aren't that comfortable. I mean who would be facing poverty, a dust storm, slogging lost through a Borneo jungle, facing off against a drug lord or...

For everything good that might happen at the end of a romance would I step through the minefield that I have forced some of my characters into?

Today, I'd take a deep breath and say maybe not. Of course, maybe it's just that my real life is pretty good. What about you? Would you prefer the pages of a novel to real life?


Caught by the ReIssue

The other day I was asked what I thought about being "caught" by books that are reissued. Now, first off let me say that I don't disagree with reissues and if I was ever in that enviable position to actually have a bulk of work to reissue maybe I'd do the same. But as a reader I find nothing more disappointing than picking that "new" book from the shelf and rushing home to dive into those fresh pages only to discover conversations and situations that are well, dated. Yes, it's the reissue and I've been caught. After that disappointment it often takes me weeks, if ever, to return to the story.
Like this path that looks like a country haven but only skirts the city - a reissue hints at a newness, that no matter who the author is, it can't deliver.

It's strange because I'll read earlier works of many authors. And I don't mind purchasing a book that was written decades ago or even centuries ago. As long as I know. I hate being broadsided by a book that is packaged up to deceive by looking like it is newly published when in fact...

Now I blithely told another writer that I always take a look at the copyright page and thereby am never caught. As my mother would say, famous last words. Apparently one should not just cruise past the copyright date before parting with their money. One must read closer, through that very small print that may show an earlier copyright date. But I didn't and yes, I was caught and not totally happy about it.

What do you think of reissues?


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Elevens are Everywhere

Day 1 of the year that for me will affectionately be known as 11 or 2009.

2+0+0+9 = 11
Now what does an 11 mean in numerology? Apparently it's a master number and energies will be magnified and the universe will crackle with energy. I don't know about you but whatever truth there might be in all that, it was a lark looking it up. There's something enticing and definitely entertaining about the psychic arts. Although, I'm not 100% sure how much truth there is in it, I'm not ready to discount it all together. After all, if nothing else it's fun.

We may create luck but sometimes I think luck is just that - a matter of chance. But just for luck - I am going to read my 2009 horoscope today.

And after that I'm setting out to create a little luck of my own and getting some writing done. For while publication is never guaranteed - one thing is certain - those that don't write, don't publish.

What luck are you creating today?