STARTING AND ENDING

Starting, for me is easy. Something sparks an idea. It could be a dream, a piece of clothing, a song, a person, a tree…it could be anything. The excitement of a new idea makes my heart race and I can’t wait to put something down on paper. With the first burst of creative enthusiasm, the ideas flow. Creating the major players, the location, the basic storyline, it’s all intoxicating.

Then, real life interferes. The writing process becomes one more task you have to fit into the everyday events of your life. Sometimes, it’s overwhelming. Sometimes, it’s an escape. But, it’s always there, waiting for you to return. And, it’s always with you. The story replays itself in your head. The characters you’ve lovingly created dwell in a special place in your heart. They wait patiently for you to to come back to the fictional world you’ve created for them.

Starting is easy. Finishing not so much. But, whether it takes 5 months or 5 years to finish a book, the time spent writing is yours alone. It’s a personal journey of growth and emotion. It’s worth every second of time you devote to it, until you write those last two magical words…THE END

Picture credit to @Writer’s Resource

FRIDAY THE 13TH

My mom is superstitious, so she has always told us to be careful when that ominous date occurred.  Her birthday is on the 13th of November, and we like to tease her when it falls on a Friday.  But, it wasn’t until 1980 that Friday the 13th became more than just a harbinger for bad luck.  The movie with the same title was released on May 9th of that year.

It was almost forty years ago (OMG), but I still remember going to the theater to see this slasher hit.  For those days, it was pretty graphic and a different sort of horror film from the ghosts, werewolves, and vampire movies I’ve been a huge fan of since I was a little girl.

I won’t lie. It scared the crap out of me. But, I loved it. Through the years that film has provided my family with numerous party themes. The movie was filmed at Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco, which is a Boy Scout’s camp located in Hardwick, New Jersey I recently read that fans of the movie can take tours of the camp and even spend the night on special occasions. How fun (and scary) would that be?

Tonight I plan to pop the cork on a bottle of wine and watch this classic old movie again.  Jason Voorhees was never better than he was in the original film as far as I’m concerned.  Happy Friday the 13th.  Stay safe.    

THE PROMISE

Part One

It’s just two little words.  I promise.  You say those words so easily, usually without thinking of the depth of commitment they might entail.  You might promise you won’t flake out on your friends the next time they invite you to go somewhere.  Maybe you make promises to yourself that you’ll stop eating junk food or that you will exercise every day.  Most promises are easily broken or forgotten.  But, there are some promises that when made, weighs heavy in your heart, like a thick mire that continues to grow until it consumes all of you.  It’s a promise you know you can’t break. A promise made to someone on their dying bed is that sort of devout pledge.

Four and a half years ago I made a promise to my dad that I would take care of mom, which meant not putting her in a nursing home.  It was the last thing I would say to him before he took his final breath, other than how much I loved him.  I promise. Those two little words would be the start of an undertaking that has been like nothing I’ve ever imagined.  To say I was completely unprepared and naïve would be an understatement.

Both of my parents have always had an abnormal fear of being put into a nursing home. Years ago they made a pact with each other that if either of them ever had to go to a nursing home, they would commit some horrible act so that they could die together.  I would always get furious whenever they started talking about this, and would leave the room because I didn’t want to hear this insane talk from them.  But, not before I would tell them I would take care of them when they got older so they didn’t have to worry about it, anyway.  It’s the kind of thing you say when you can’t imagine it will ever happen. 

Mom and dad had been married for sixty-six years when dad unexpectedly passed away from congestive heart failure.  I thought he was superman and he would live to be a hundred years old.  Mom, who had always been the frail one, and was several years older than dad, was the first one I expected to lose.  They had always taken care of each other, but after mom had a stoke fifteen years ago, Dad took over most of the household responsibilities.  In retrospective, I know that had mom gone before dad, he would have executed his plan to be with her.  So, I guess it was a blessing he went first.

The heartbreaking day dad passed away was also the day I became a caregiver.  Friends and family are constantly telling me what a saint I am for taking care of my elderly mom, or else they tell me I’m crazy not to put her in a nursing home.  Well, I’m definitely not a saint, and although, I do feel little crazy most of the time, I’m not certifiable…yet.  I am just a daughter who made a promise to my dying dad that I would take care of mom. 

To be continued…

For my amazing dad.  I miss him so much. 

Being a caregiver has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.  When it’s over, I have no doubts I will look back and know it was also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.  But, the day to day reality of caring for a ninety-five year old senior is overwhelming at times…most times.  For a while, I’m going to write about those intense feelings in this blog.

 Even though I started this blog to promote my book writing, I feel that writing about this difficult period in my life will be therapeutic for me in all aspects of my life. I’m not going to sugar-coat the struggles mom and I have on a regular basis.  But, I am NOT looking for sympathy here, even though I’m sure there will be some poor-pitiful-me posts in this series.  However, if you’ve ever been a caretaker for someone, whether old or disabled, and you have advice for me, that is always greatly appreciated.  Thank you for sharing this challenging journey with me.

SWITCHING GENRES

Is it a mistake to try to take your writing career in a different direction if you are already established in one certain genre?  If you’ve been following my crazy writing life throughout the years, you know cowboys and Indians are my first love, but I’ve always wanted to try my hand at writing something in the horror genre, too.  After eleven Historical Romances, I finally decided to give it a go.  I spent (or wasted) three years completely obsessed with trying to write a paranormal contemporary romance about vampires.  This project was in completely new territory for me. Everything I had written up to that point was about the Old West, a subject I had been enthusiastic about my entire life.  I had a really hard time finding my ‘contemporary’ voice, but once I finally found it, creating my vampire fantasy world was the most fun I’ve ever had while writing a book.  Unfortunately, I have been trying to find a publisher for this book for over a year, and that hasn’t been any fun at all.  Excuse me for a second while I toot my own horn here, but I just don’t get it?  In my humble opinion (and also in my daughter’s opinion) this vampire book is the best thing I’ve ever written.  Okay, I know, we don’t really count.

My plan was to write a series of at least three vampire books about the ‘Blood Clan’ that I was introducing in the first paranormal contemporary romance.  But whenever I try to work on the second book in this saga, I feel like I’m wasting my time…again.  If the first book never sells, why should I be writing a second one?

I’ve tried to write a new historical.  I keep wondering if it’s the genre I really should stick with because I’ve had a measure of success with my first eleven historical romances.  But, every time I try to work on the historical I start to feel guilty about spending my limited writing time working on something other than the second paranormal.  What if a publisher finally wants to buy the first one, and I’m not ready with the second book in the series?

In an attempt to try something entirely different and to get my mind off of my obsession with the paranormal book, I started writing a contemporary erotica, but after the first fifty or so pages I decided this genre just isn’t for me.  Although, I  loved writing the love scenes in my previous books, I’ve decided I’m just a bit too old fashioned to compete with the new and totally uninhibited writers of erotica, which by the way, I do love to read.  Instead, I’ll just continue to write my mildly explicate and beautifully romantic love scenes, while being totally jealous of all those writers who can write really explicate (and sometimes really raunchy) sex scenes that make me quiver and sweat in all ‘those’ places.  So, basically my attempt to venture into another unfamiliar genre was just another waste of my time and energy.

Rejection is the bane of a writer’s existence, but I have to admit, I was a bit spoiled.  Until the past year and the four rejections I’ve received for the paranormal, my first eleven books were published without a single rejection.  Of course I know how lucky I was, and perhaps now I’m paying my dues.  As a writer I’ve learned I have no choice but to be patient, because everything in the publishing world takes an extremely long time to accomplish.  But, it’s still hard to wait anywhere from four weeks to twelve weeks after sending out a query or the entire manuscript—no wait, it’s far worse than hard—it’s downright agonizing to wait so long just to get a form rejection email, or a quick reply from an editorial assistant that they are no longer reading vampire submissions.  Speaking of long, I guess I have no one to blame but myself since it took me too long to write my vampire book and the market is no longer hot for books about this subject.  But, I can’t help but ask myself, did I also make a drastic mistake by trying to switch genres when I was already an established author in another genre?

Now here I sit confused about what direction to take my writing career at this point in time.  It’s been so long since I sold a book (four years) I’m beginning to feel like I’ve lost all my writing mojo.  Every time I post something about writing on any of my social media sites I feel like a has-been who has no business even having a writing site anymore.  I know I just need to keep writing, but should I keep working on another historical romance or the next paranormal contemporary romance in my series?  I love both genres, but I can’t write two books at the same time.  Of course, this wouldn’t even be an issue if I would just sell that darn vampire book, but until that happens (positive thinking here) I have to figure out which genre I can be the most passionate about writing right now, and I need to do it soon before the last of that mojo-thing is completely gone.  Decisions…decisions…

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HOT OR NOT

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Contemporary romance is the hot thing right now.  Historical Romance is not so hot right now.   Paranormal is still hot, but not if it’s about vampires—vampires are really cold (excuse the pun).  Witches, angels and demons are hot.  Shape-Shifters are still hot, but only if the hero or heroine shifts into something odd like a dragon or a dinosaur; or some towering hairy beast.  How about a hero with fish gills, who when in the throes of passion sprouts octopus-type tentacles shaped like penises and can do multiple women at a time?  Not your cup of tea?  Mine neither.

Recently I attended a romance writer’s conference with the hopes of being inspired to continue on my quest to switch genres from Historical Romance to Paranormal Contemporary Romance.  Instead, as I listened to some of the authors on the panels and in the workshops I came away feeling discouraged and out of touch with what is popular in the romance market at this time.  Besides cowboy and Native American heroes, I love vampires.  I’ve always read books and watched movies about vampires, so that is what I wrote about when I decided to try something different from my previous eleven Western Romances.  Switching genres and finding my contemporary voice was not easy for me.  It took me over two years to write this new vampire book and I think I might have missed the boat, so to speak, by a year or two.  One agent and one editor have already told me that they weren’t looking at any new manuscripts about vampires and the talk at the conference confirmed this trend.  It appears vampires are way too tame for the new paranormal market and I am not sure I want to write about half-reptilian heroes or demons that grow horns and tails when turned on.  A debonair warlock, maybe.  But, a mysterious dangerously sexy vampire who thirsts for the blood of his one true love will always be my first choice when it comes to paranormal heroes.

I could write another Historical and give up on my desire to write a series of romance novels about vampires, but my heart isn’t into writing another historical at this time, and after attending a panel on Historical Romance at the conference it was apparent traditional publishers aren’t buying many books in that genre right now either.  Still, I have no doubt that someday I will write about the Old West again.  What I did hear time and time again at the conference was that hot—very hot, very erotic—contemporaries are the types of books everyone wants to read right now.  Alpha males and strong heroines, such as cops, firefighters and secret agent-types are the hot commodities in the romance market at this time, and the sex should be scorching—no holds barred and preferably in public places.

So, what does an old-fashioned type writer do in this new market?  I’m just going to keep writing because it’s been far too long since I’ve had a new book released, and I won’t give up on my hot vampire hero, because I think his story is just too good not to find a literary home someday.  I’m going to start working on another manuscript about one Hell of a hot alpha male and a hot heroine who is as much of an alpha as my hero.  There will be lots of hot—very hot, very erotic love scenes in very public places, and yes, my hero is going to be a vampire.  So even though I left the conference feeling a bit defeated and confused, after having time to think about what I learned from attending, I realized that I did gain a new enthusiasm for my writing even if I don’t want to write about what is considered hot right now.  In my world ‘bite me’ and ‘I want to suck your blood’ are still quite hot.

THE DEATH OF A MANUSCRIPT

Revisions.  That part of writing where—after you’ve celebrated writing ‘THE END’ and thought you were some big shot because you did finish a whole book; you imagine your name on the New York Times Best Seller List, and start picking out the stars you think should play your hero and heroine in the movie version–you then go back and rip the guts out of your first draft.   Now, you are standing there with nothing more than bloody entrails of what was so recently your ticket to fame and fortune.

Wait?  You didn’t really think you were finished just because you wrote those two final (THE END) words, did you?  Ha!

Cowboy Up, Cupcake.   This massive operation isn’t over yet.  Hook up the heart monitor, because the writing process isn’t for weaklings.

Sure, you’ve birthed a complete manuscript, but it’s only a pitiful little skeleton of what it needs to be before you’re ready to send your brilliant creation out into the cold cruel world.  Take that scrawny baby, print it out and get a new bright red pen.  For me, the printed version looks nothing like or reads nothing like the version on the computer screen.  Then, pour some wine, or make a pot of coffee, grab lots of chocolate and settle in for the slaughter.   With knife—er—I mean, pen in hand read those words like you want to slash the fricking life out of them.   That’s what an agent or editor is going to do if your manuscript isn’t up to par when you send it out to them.   They don’t care that every word of your incredible work of genius was lovingly written with passion and devotion.   Don’t make them gag on your words because you were too anxious to give your masterpiece its wings, and didn’t complete the entire (painful) writing process before letting it fly.

At this early stage of the revision cycle I’m really excited to start reading through that entire rough draft for the first time.  Usually, it’s been a long while since I initially began writing the book to the time when I’m ready to do revisions, so it’s somewhat like that feeling I get when I’m going to see an old lover who used to make my toes curl and my socks roll up and down.  I’m all giddy and excited at the possibility of seeing him again after such a long time; I’m fantasizing about taking a hippity-hoppity skip down lover’s lane.   But, then he shows up, a total loser now, and fatter than I am, and I’m not so turned on any more.   That’s usually how I’m feeling about my first draft after a few chapters, too.   As I hack through page after page with gory red marks, notes in the margins, and huge what-the-Hell-was I thinking question marks, my enthusiasm quickly wanes.   I wonder why I had been so excited about this book, because seriously, it’s total crap.   This is where self-rejection sets in, and I’m truly my own worst enemy when it comes to my writing career.

About this time, I also start avoiding the wounded pile of red slathered vile like it has a sexually transmitted disease.   I stop bragging to my friends and to random strangers on the street about my new book.  Instead of working extra hard to fix all the problems with the poor bloody babe I’ve just shredded to bits like yesterday’s recycling, I start running blindly into the dark.   I spend my nights trolling Pinterest, cyber-stalking Facebook friends, cleaning out my Yahoo emails, and writing blog posts about revisions.   I listen to old songs I never really liked all that much.   I’m just a hot mess.

This lowly period could last a day, a month, forever.   Fear of failure is a paralyzing  emotion.   If you give into it, you will absolutely fail.   So, let yourself wallow in self-pity for a short span of time, but not long enough to let your evasiveness take control of that dream you had of publishing this book, or it will remain just that…an elusive dream.   Get a shot of penicillin and get your butt back to work.

The next phase of this major surgery really isn’t as bad as you might think.  You’ve already found the major issues such as where your heroine has blue eyes like the azure sky in one scene and hazel like the desert landscape in another scene, or you hero’s father is named Harley in the beginning of the book and Jack about mid-way through.  You’ve wrote everything from ‘puke’ to ‘you suck’ on all the scenes that really did suck and made you want to upchuck, and wrote ‘good job’ on the scenes that were so good you just had to point that out to yourself.   Now, you merely have to sit down in that chair in front of the computer—you know, the one that has started to resemble an electric chair that you must avoid at all costs—and just do it.   Stitch up all those jagged wounds you made with that evil red pen, sooth your baby’s pain, and let the healing begin.

Wow.  This second draft is so damn good.  Who knew you could write like that?  Who should play your hero in the movie?   Get real.

It’s time to get out the scalpel and do another major surgery.  Yeah, that’s right, round two.  Not as painful as the deep cuts of those first revisions, in my humble opinion, but equally as important.   I’ll talk about my next revision phase in another blog post.  I hope you’ll stop back by and join me.   Bring wine or coffee, lots of chocolate, oh yes, and a mirror.   Guess you’ll just have to wait until next time to find out what we’re going to do with that mirror.

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MY WILD ‘SECRET’ NIGHTLIFE

There’s a ankle-length dark green trench coat I wear when it’s not cold enough for a heavy winter coat.  Every time I slip it on, I feel like a secret agent and I have a little fantasy lasting a couple of minutes about a passionate rendezvous with some sexy James Bond type along the white sands of the Riviera.  This morning, as my mind filled with images of gentle waves lapping up on the shore where my fantasy lover is sensually rubbing oil into my wet sun-drenched skin—still aglow from our recent lovemaking—it occurred to me that I really do lead a ‘secret’ double life.

By day, I’m just a typical average type person, doing mundane everyday things at the office job that pays the bills, running errands on my lunch-hour, rushing home in the evening to do the normal type chores that finish off the remainder of my day.   But, as the last glow of the hazy twilight fades from the darkening sky, and night-time encompasses my little corner of the world, my wild ‘secret’ nightlife begins.

On a typical night, you’ll find me meeting a tall dangerous stranger at some exotic locale, or maybe engaging in some perilous journey sure to lead to a night of sweaty animalistic sex or sweet tempestuous love.   I might spend the entire night helping to cover up some dastardly deed, or maybe even (gasp) kill someone off.   Whatever my nightlife has in store for me, you can be assured it’s going to be the polar opposite of my daytime activities.

Do I work for an exclusive high rolling escort service, you might ask?  A fast talking pimp down on some seedy street corner?  Am I really a double agent who works under the cover of darkness and only pretends to live a normal type life in the glaring light of day to conceal the secret life I really live?   Ha!

I’m just a writer.

When I delve into this exhilarating world I create with my wild imagination, I become those electrifying characters I’ve conceived,  and I’m living their bigger than life escapades.  There is no place I’d rather be, well, unless I could live the ‘real’ adventures, of course.   Sigh.   But, oh baby, here in my secret fantasy world the possibilities are endless!

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THAT FOUR LETTER WORD CALLED LOVE

The word ‘love’ is a word I say and write about a lot.  In my books, I try my absolute hardest to create a deep emotional connection between my characters by describing all of the tender, exciting, aching, heartbreaking, passionate elements associated with this four letter word.  Hopefully, my written words will also evoke the sense of all of those emotions in my readers.  In my everyday life, I find myself saying, and/or, writing that little word all of the time, too.  Of course, I always say ‘I love you’ when I’m saying goodbye to my parents, children or grandchildren, other cherished relatives and my closest friends, whether it’s on the phone, texting, or in person.  But, it recently occurred to me that I’ve been adding ‘love you’ or ‘love ya’ to a lot of my posts and comments on social media sites, too.  Many of the people I’m saying ‘love you’ to are people I haven’t even met in person.  So, am I using this special word, this emotionally-charged sentiment, much too casually?

In analyzing my use of this word, which is something I rarely do…analyze anything.  I usually just stumble through my life blissfully ignorant of my good or bad habits, until someone else points them out to me.  But, in this case, I noticed this habit all on my own.  Wow.  When this revelation of what most would consider extreme irrelevance hit me, I began to think about why I found it so easy to say ‘I love you’ to people I don’t even know outside of our little cyber world connections.  I really don’t want to use this beautiful word in vain.  Much to my relief, I realized I don’t.  Whew.  The people I say ‘I love you’ to on social media sites are people I truly do love in a different sense of this four letter word.

I have seven media outlets where I post everything from what I ate for breakfast to my deepest darkest desires, and there are some people who care enough to respond to my online craziness on all, or most of these sites on a regular basis, with words of understanding, encouragement, and lots of humor.  Most of them, I have never met in person.  But, we have connected on so many personal levels.

So, if I am commenting or posting on Facebook, Blogging, Tweeting, Pinteresting, chatting with you on Goodreads, Amazon, or any other media site, and I write that ‘I love you’ it is because I really do.  It’s that different kind of love I mentioned earlier…it means you have touched my life in some very emotional way and made the time I spend online with you extra special.  Thank you…you know who you are because I’ve told you ‘I love you’ and I’ve meant it.

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BOTHERED

It really bothers me that I’m bothered about this subject, but since I’ve been using my blog to complain lately (sorry) I’ve decided to get something else off my chest.  I was reading Arthur Crandon’s blog this morning and something he wrote really struck a nerve with me.  Quoting Arthur—and I hope he doesn’t mind—he wrote, I just want to start this weeks’ blog on a personal note.  I am usually a very understanding and forgiving person.  But yesterday someone ‘unliked’ my fan page – http://www.facebook.com/arthurcrandonauthor.  Whoever you are, I just want you to know that I will hunt you  down like the dog that you are, imprison you for many days of excruciating torture, then set packs of wolves on you to tear you limb from limb.  I mean that, of course, in a very loving way.” 

Although I giggled when I read the opening paragraph of Arthur’s blog post, I could identify with every word, in a very loving way, of course.

It’s not like I don’t have enough to worry about in my crazy life, but for some unexplained reason the fact I cannot entice people to join my Facebook Author Page drives me even crazier. I agonize over the fact that I have 839 friends on my personal Facebook page, yet; only 299 of them have joined my author page.  Yes, I know, I shouldn’t care. But, sadly, I do care enough to write this blog about it. It’s not like my friends don’t know about my writing page…I post the link to it on my personal page at least once a week with a little blurb, “Please ‘like’ my writing page, because I want to share all aspects of my life with my friends.” Shouldn’t that be blatant enough?  Shouldn’t they want to follow my writing life if they are my friends?

I’m not totally obsessed with the idea of having lots of fans on my Facebook page, but, I do keep a watchful eye on how many people ‘like’ my page, and when the number goes down rather than up, I do experience a little biting sting of rejection.  And, trust me, as a writer I’m used to rejection.   Everytime someone ‘unlikes’ my page the same questions arise:  Why have they left?  Am I boring?  What didn’t they like?  I try to be witty;  maybe that’s why they left.   I’m probably not as witty as I think.  Less silliness and more serious writer talk, maybe?  Sometimes, I post things to get creative juices flowing for myself and for the fans on my page.  I’ll write a scenario and ask people to continue on with the story, and that will spark some interest occasionally. My favorite song lyrics and romantic pictures will get a good conversation going once in awhile. Love poems seem to fall flat, and promoting other writer’s pages doesn’t seem to draw any attention to my own page.  If I just post reviews and excerpts from my own books I start to feel way too egotistical. I really do try to post something for everyone; okay, I admit it, the drop-dead gorgeous men on Hump Day are mostly for me.

So, once again, if you aren’t too bothered, would you mind ‘liking’ my author page on Facebook?  It would mean so much to me.  And, if you do ‘like’ it, please don’t ‘unlike’ it.  I really don’t want to hunt you down like a dog…in a very loving way, of course.  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Veronica-Blake-Author/224473460912244

(Thank you to Arthur Crandon.  His full blog post is at: http://www.arthurcrandon.com/blog-blog-blog.html)