Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Friday, April 30, 2010


It's not that I feel superior to reality television or, certainly not to people who watch it. I just have not allowed it to become part of my life because I watch too much television as it is. Bones, Vampire Diaries, The Tudors, House, Big Bang Theory, Desperate Housewives, Brothers and Sisters, Accidentally on Purpose, In Plain Sight. Saving Grace, Friday Night Lights. That's not even counting football and the hours I spend working crossword puzzles while I sit with The Guy as he watches every show that remotely hints that it might have a space ship, alien, or supernatural being. I admit that some of my shows are not what they used to be, but I'm invested now and I have to watch until something jumps the shark. So you can see why I have steered clear of reality TV.

Until The Hoarders. I am fascinated. If you haven't seen it, it's about what you would expect. House stacked to the ceiling with stuff. Filth. Intervention by friends and family. Professional clears it out. Homeowner cries.

Recently, I watched it with a roomful of people and everyone kept saying, "How do you get to that point?" Not me. I didn't say that. I know.

Don't get me wrong. My house it not stacked with stuff. In fact, it looks pretty good most of the time. (Except for The Guy's desk and I can't go there.) While I don't run as tight a ship as my mother did (who, I swear, got up in the middle the night to throw away the newspaper and scrub the ceilings), I can let people in without being ashamed 99 per cent of the time. I don't feel the need to keep magazines, clothes that don't fit, or books I know I won't read again.

Yet—there are a couple of things. I love the containers that takeout hot and sour soup comes in. I have dozens. I can't throw them out. Luckily I have plenty of cabinet space or they might very well be stacked on the hearth in the living room. And it's a good thing I don't have a constant source for those precious little ketchup and mustard bottles you get with room service at hotels. Unlike the soup containers, which I do use, those little bottles are utterly useless. But at three inches tall, they are so cunning, so special that I don't understand how anyone could throw them away. Plotter cured me of saving Lean Cuisine trays. The summer she lived with The Guy and me, she had an intervention. After making me say why I needed them—and there weren't that many uses—, she limited me to eight. I have kept to that.

But I understand how hoarders come to be. The feel about everything, the way I feel about soup containers and baby condiment bottles. (And, yes, previously for Lean Cuisine trays.)

Yet, I don't hoard my words. I've heard other writers talk about how hard it is to let go of a scene. But no matter how hard I've worked, how funny it is, or how golden I think the words are, if Plotter and I decide it isn't right, it's gone. I don't care. I worry about myself a little that I can throw my babies in the ditch so easily—maybe too easily.

Though we don't always completely dispose of everything that doesn't work. Maybe we do a little semi-hoarding from time to time. We had a sex scene that we thought was a work of art—steamy, tender, funny, and all the rest of it. Yet, Plotter and I decided it was a sex scene for the sake of a sex scene that didn't do anything for our story except make it even longer. And we are loquacious under the best of circumstances.

"I do hate to let it go," she said with a sigh.

"We could save it," I said. "We can change the names and use it later." I don't know if that will work but it made us feel better.

How about you? Can you let go?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Weather Day

This past weekend the weather was awful. It rained all day Saturday and there were thunderstorms and tornadoes. Throughout the day I heard from many of my friends who were experiencing the same kind of weather in different parts of the Southeast.

Some people were keeping up with the storms on a TV weather forecasting channel. In other words, they “hunkered down” to ride out the storms. Some folks re-arranged their days in order to work around the predicted times of severe weather; others just went about their regularly scheduled day, while some treated it almost like a snow day and stayed inside altogether.

I thought it was very interesting that there were many diverse reactions to the same weather. It made me think about how differently we all approach life and how it is reflected in our writing. Our reactions to things like severe weather are often indicative of our perspective on life and writing. Do you “hunker down” to ride out the storms of life? Do you just stop writing when you run into a problem until the problem is resolved? Do you assess the situation and try to make adjustments? Do you do what you need to while still considering that there may be a bumpy ride? In other words, when you write your way into a dilemma, do you try to work it out even if the process is unpleasant? (Like when your writing partner wants to cut an entire scene out!) Or do you just go on with whatever you have planned and hope for the best?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What Are You Reading?

We are both reading;

Blood Born by
Linda Howard
Linda Winstead Jones.

What are you reading?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Writing and Football--Show Me the Money

Did anyone else watch the NFL draft? I had never watched it before because I don't have a lot of interest in pro football. I am a college fan, all the way. But I was interested this year because a hometown boy was going to make good and I wanted to see it. And he did; number eight in the first round. For those of you who don't know the significance of that, there were seven rounds, with two-hundred fifty-five picks in all. And that's not even all the college players who will go the NFL. I won't go into free agent negotiations because, as much as it may not seem so, this is not about football.

Suffice it to say that number eight wasn't too shabby—millions of dollars worth of not too shabby. He said he was going to buy his mother a big house with a pond. He's not going to have any trouble doing that; they are not going to have to compromise on the size of the pond. I am delighted for him. I am delighted for all of them. They have worked hard and pushed their bodies where bodies should not have to go. Among them are spoiled prima donnas, generous fine young men, Rhodes scholars, and those who need help getting out of the rain. Some will win Super Bowls and some will get broken their rookie season. But they will all be rich. Whether they stay rich is another matter. Some will; some won't.

Yet, it all started with the love of a game. No eight-year-old boy ever put a helmet on his head, walked out on a field, and thought, "I could get a 6 year, $74 million dollar contract." He thought, "I could win. And I love this."

I think it must be the same for writers. Some get rich; some make a living; some never make a dime. But does anyone ever sit down, put hands to keyboard, and think, "I could be Stephen King rich."? Maybe. It certainly is a nice thought. But I tend to think, at least in the beginning, most of us think, "Someone might want to buy my story. And I love this."

Of course, a movie deal would be very, very nice.

How about you? When you envision success, what do you think of first? A check? A book with your name on the cover? A website with thousands of hits every day?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Writing & Toll House

This past week, I was baking some Toll House cookies when it occurred to me that baking and writing have a lot in common. You are probably thinking, “Baking and writing don’t have anything in common.” I beg to differ.

When you bake, the first thing you do is make a plan. Do you have the right recipe? Do you have all the ingredients? Do you have the pans and implements like mixers and spatulas? Now I realize that not everyone is quite as detail oriented as I am. You may be more like Pantster and just cook up any old thing that springs to mind, but my style of baking is much like my style of writing--I need a plan. How are the hero and heroine going to meet? When do they kiss for the first time? How are they going to get to Happily Ever After?

I also noticed that I had to keep adjusting things as I baked. The longer I baked, the hotter the oven became, so my later batches cooked more quickly. That meant I had to reduce the temperature, but then the cookies didn’t spread out into the desired perfect lovely circles. As a result, the cookies were too fat in the middle, so I began to drop the dough into smaller mounds, hoping my cookies would spread more.

This went on batch after batch, until I finally produced a
pan of cookies that were absolutely PERFECT!!
My careful experimentation meant that
subsequent batches could also be perfect because
I knew exactly what to do to achieve the desired effect.
Success was so sweet!!

This process isn't so different from the one Pantster and I use to get a scene just right. We swap files back and forth, talk on the phone, use our thesauruses, adjust, and edit until we feel that our work is perfect! Much like my cookie baking success, the feeling of getting my writing just right is so sweet!!

The baking and writing process comparison caught me a bit off guard. It made me realize, perhaps for the first time, that I am a real writer. I look at everything I do from a writer's perspective. Can it apply or be used in my writing? Or in this case, how does the process compare?

When was the first time you felt like a real writer?

Friday, April 23, 2010

What's Not For You?

The Vampire story is dead. We've been hearing that for years—yet it's not true. So the Vampire story must be undead. Sorry. I couldn't resist. But the fact remains, people (except those who don't) love a vampire story.

The same goes for other plot types. We all have or favorites—and our un-favorites. (Not to be confused with undead.)

• Sports Stories
• Secret Baby
• Marriage of Convenience
• Reunited Lovers
• Unexpected Pregnancy
• Rags to Riches
• Mistaken Identity
• Cinderella
• Kidnapping
• Oh, no! He's Not Dead, After All!
• Oh, no! We Hate Each Other, But We're Snowed in Together!
• I'd Love You, If I hadn't Made this Death Bed Promise
• I'll Love You as Soon as We Get Out of This Mess and My Smoking Gun Cools

That's just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on. I bet you think I'm going to ask what your favorite kinds of stories are, but I'm not. We love romance--reading it and writing it, so most of us love most kinds of stories.

But we all have that one. Plotter dislikes a secret baby story. I avoid stories where the heroine pretends to be a boy.

What plot type do you not care for?

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Where do you find inspiration?

I often wonder where other writers find inspiration. I have heard it said that inspiration can strike from anywhere. I especially like this thought at income tax time because it means I can deduct the cost of my cable, magazine subscriptions, and books. One writer told me a television commercial sparked an idea that she developed into a book. Other writers have told me they find travel very inspirational. I am thinking that I might need to do more traveling to see if this might be a good source of ideas. I think I would find many Muses living in Scotland and Ireland. And since I really want to visit Key West, Florida, I am also willing to bet that there is a colony of Muses there. All that tropical air has to be inspirational.

Pantster and I have had manuscript ideas sparked from many sources. Our first manuscript grew from an imaginary journal she started keeping as a lark. Pantster and I got the idea for our first contemporary from a story I told her after a trip (see travel really is inspiring) about a couple we knew who broke up because they “had different opinions of the definition of relationship.”

So what has inspired your creative spark?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What Are You Reading

Plotter is reading:

The Lee Girls by Mary P. Coulling
Your Jesus is Too Safe, Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel-Good Savior by Jaried C. Wilson
Duncan's Bride by Linda Howard

Pantster is reading:

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell
Confessions of a Little Black Gown by Elizabeth Boyle (still)

Tell us what you're reading!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The chicken (characters) or the egg (story)?

I am a rule follower, no doubt about it. I don't get in the express line with thirteen items; I get a mammogram every year; I floss. Once, I missed my connection at the Dallas airport because I took the train instead of walking, since that's what an airline official instructed me to do. The Guy (my husband) tried to tell me it would be faster to walk. "But she said to get on the train!" I kept saying. Oh, I can still hear myself.

Except for driving the speed limit, Plotter is a rule follower too. That's one of the reasons we get on so well. I can't tell you the times we've screamed in stereo between clenched teeth, "Why can't people just do what they say they will do?" That is always done in private because it's against the rules to scream in public unless you are being attacked or are at a football game. (If being attacked at a football game leads to double screaming, that's also within the rules.)

Imagine Plotter's surprise when it turned out that my writing style was, shall we say, free form. She's all about the story and she is very, very good at it. She wants to tell a story and needs some interesting characters to make it happen. Internal conflict, external conflict, Her black moment, His black moment, goal, and resolution—thank goodness she worries about all that so I don't have to.

I am not so much about the story. For me, the characters always come first and then I want something interesting for them to do. I've heard of other writers who fill out extensive questionnaires about their characters. I don't do that but, when developing a new character, I carry him with me in my head all the time. He does everything with me. I know what he likes to eat, listen to, read, and watch on television. I need to know if he's left handed, if he can draw, if he can dance. Even if it never comes up in the story, I want to know if he uses sugar, Splenda, or Equal and whether he eats whole wheat or sour dough. And most important, I want to know why he makes the choices he does. All that helps me know why it has to be her and no one else will do.

What comes first for you—the story or the characters? Do you have a method for character development?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Labyrinth of Life

Last Saturday our fabulous local chapter of Romance Writers of America visited a labyrinth. You may be asking yourself, “What’s a labyrinth?” I was wondering the very same thing before our program. It turns out that a labyrinth is a pathway that leads in a meandering fashion, from the one place to another. Typically, one walks a labyrinth by entering at the outside edge and going along the pathway to the innermost part.

It was very interesting to see the many different approaches we all had to this activity. Some took their shoes off and walked very contemplatively on the green grassy pathway. Others seemed to attack the pathway as they boldly strode along the grass to the center. At one point, someone said that after watching the differences in the way Pantster and I walked the pathway, she couldn’t believe we could actually write together. But in the end, we were side by side so I guess that, just as in our writing, the labyrinth walking worked itself out.

On the way home from this field trip, I contemplated the day and thought about the labyrinth activity. It was pretty easy to see how it could be a metaphor for our lives. You start at the beginning and wander around hoping to find your way to success by following a chosen pathway. But what happens when you lose track of which twist and turn you are supposed to make? What happens when you feel that you have gone around and around but are still almost where you started, while others seem to be way ahead of you? What happens if you simply get frustrated because the journey isn’t proceeding in the way you planned or hoped?

Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt that your chosen pathway wasn’t going anywhere, but since you didn’t know how to change directions, you continued but, in the end, everything worked out well?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Life's A Beach--Or Not

I hate the beach. That was a bad way to start, as I have probably already alienated those of you who love to dig your toes in the sand, swim with sharks, and find that the ocean holds some magical property that soothes your soul. And I'm happy for you—really. I just don't find anything restful about sand in my bed and squawking seagulls. The only good thing about the beach is Beach Reads, which I have found you can, in fact, read without actually being at the beach.

Yet, I am going next month, with my book club. I'm sure you have no sympathy for me, nor should you. I gave into peer pressure, just as if I was fifteen and the head cheerleader was urging me to cut class with her. Come to think of it, Dr. Great Smile was not only a cheerleader, but homecoming queen, and it was she who whipped out her iPhone and started punching in dates and giving orders. Pretty soon, I had myself a trip to the beach all lined up. But I love Dr. Great Smile and all the other smart funny women in my book club. We've buried each others' dead, held hands through divorces, celebrated marriages, and been on hand for a thought-to-be early menopause that turned out to be named Sam.

They love the beach and I flatly refused to go last time they went. I knew, sooner or later, another proposed pilgrimage to the sand and sand fleas would come up. Oldest Friend is beside herself with joy that I am going. She is one of those who draws strength from the tranquility. Cutest Girl Alive has already warned us that she has a date every day with the sand and a cooler full of beer and she won't be driving anywhere. Sam's Mom has agreed to ride the ferry with me, probably because if there are any three or thirteen-year-olds on board, they won't be hers. Ms. Classy doesn't like the beach any better than I do, so I can count on her for companionship out of the sun. Heart-breaker Soul-shaker isn't going, but who can blame her? Her husband does something important weekdays in Tokyo, London, and Opp, Alabama. She has to do her heart-breaking and soul-shaking on the weekend.

How about you? Do you like the beach?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

New Adventures

Welcome to our Blog. I am very excited about this new adventure. Like anything else in life, new beginnings can be scary but I am focusing on the exciting part. Pantster and I have often said that we didn’t think we would ever have a blog but now here we are with one. Life is funny that way, often serving up the very things you think you will never do.

Pantster and I have had MANY adventures over the years together. We have been friends for a lot of years. We have enjoyed traveling, shopping, hanging out, cooking, and entertaining together but the idea of writing together was not something that we really ever planned. As much as it pains me to admit it, the first book just sort of happened. One day we were fooling around with an imaginary journal; then, the next week we were members of Romance Writers of America and our journal was now called a Work In Progress. Then, we found one of the best RWA chapters in the world and the adventures really began. That was about three years ago and the fun hasn’t stopped since.

One of the best parts of this new adventure is that we are going to get the opportunity to make new friends and renew connections with others. I look forward to sharing this newest adventure with you all. What is the best adventure you have ever had?


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What Are You Reading

Pantster is reading:

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells
Turnaround: Paul "Bear" Bryant's First Year at Alabama by Tom Stoddard
Confessions of a Little Black Gown by Elizabeth Boyle
Down Home Carolina Christmas by Pamela Browning.

Plotter is reading:

The Last Mountain Man by William W. Johnstone
Lover Enshrined by J. R. Ward
Life-Span Development by John W. Santrock

What are you reading? Do you usually have more than one book going at once?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Never Say Never

A few years ago I made a list of things I swore I'd never do. I wrote it right in my DayRunner where I also keep a record of those I believe have wronged me or mine. (But that's another blog.)

I will never: (the list read)

1. Eat raw fish.
2. Get a tattoo.
3. Board a cruise ship for any reason.
4. Get a massage.
5. Carry a plastic purse.
6. Ever again drink tequila.
7. Write a blog.

I have violated two of those things and, today, I violate a third. Let me quickly say that when I made that seventh vow, most of the blogs I'd read were poorly written exercises in ego by people who disdained commas but loved exclamation points and incorrectly used ellipses. It also seemed that many of these bloggers forgot they were not writing in little fabric covered books with cheap brass locks. Furthermore, they often became angry when they discovered their enemies were reading what they had put out on the World Wide Web.

Before I learned there were smart funny well written blogs out there, I went so far as to write a few "blogs" in the before mentioned style to send to a few of my friends who shared my view. Clearly, I did not have enough to do.

Here is an excerpt from what made its way from my holier-than-thou brain to my keyboard:
Mood: Perky
Listening to: My very own important thoughts.

First, I got up at 6:40. I checked my blood pressure (118/77). Then I went to the bathroom and put in my contacts. Then I made the bed! Then I stood back and admired the room. and decided it looked great, mostly because of me!!!!!!!!!! Then I went to get my oatmeal and realized there wasn’t any. I had to eat toast. I like orange marmalade best so I had some of that. This was homemade. Cookie gave it to me. She bought it at the Saint John’s Bazaar. The label says it's Seville Orange. I very much doubt that. I am very smart and know a lot about oranges—and, well really, everything—and you can’t get Seville Oranges around here. I drank a Diet Mt. Dew (Oh, Elixir of Life, Diet Mt Dew!!!!!!!) I made coffee. Then there a came noise from outside!! I spent some time wondering what it was. Tucker kitty ran off. Can't stand noise, that Tucker. Then it dawned on me!!!! My yardman was here!!!! He was going to want to be paid soon and I was wearing my nightclothes!!! Shorts and a t-shirt!!!!!! Oh, no!!! I ran up and got in the shower. I got dressed in white cropped pants with little flowers on them and a short sleeved silk pink sweater. I finished my great look with pink flip-flops. I put on earrings…..earrings that would have been really impressive if they weren't CZs!!! You never know when all the yardmen might get together and make comments on the accessories of the people they work for. I want them to think I am great. I know they will. I wrote him a check. I waited until he finished with my yard. I went out and paid him. We talked about the weather and the trip I am going to take. I told him things that are not interesting to him but I told it anyway because he is bound to care, because I am so great. He did not comment on my earrings.

So there you have it. When I say never, I say it in a big way, which can make for some mighty fine humble pie. Though I am not going to say never, I will endeavor to: 1. Write well. That might mean different things on different days. 2. Remember that this is the World Wide Web and I am, in affect, putting a billboard on the moon. As for my ego—that is a problem but, after all, it is my blog.

Oh, and in my defense on the two other vows I violated—who knew spicy tuna rolls were so yummy or that Beijo would come out with such sassy upscale bags that can be cleaned with Windex?

Have you done something that you swore you never would?


Monday, April 12, 2010

Welcome to Our Blog

Welcome to the blog of the writing team Plotter and Pantster. For those of you who do not write, the terms bear defining. A Plotter has a plan, a goal, and an outline. She likely has a stylish bag to put it all in that matches her shoes. A Pantster flies by the seat of her pants and hopes for the best. Oddly enough, she may also have a stylish bag that matches her shoes. We combine these styles to write romance set in two very different worlds. We hope you'll take a look at our new website to learn a little more about us and the worlds we write in.

Meet Plotter. She made all the arrangements for our website and this blog. She wanted each of us to have five blogs written before we debuted to the world at large. I thought it would be better to just put hands to keyboard on blog day be surprised at the result. Of the two of us, Plotter has, by far, the harder job with her lists, flowcharts, and tables. She will blog every Monday and Thursday.

I would like to introduce you to Pantster. She is the reason our characters are so interesting and witty. While our creative styles may be very different, she manages to fuse our thoughts and ideas in the perfect way. Her great creative ideas bring our stories to life in a wonderfully charming way. And it doesn’t hurt one bit that she ALWAYS knows where to put the commas. Pantster has the harder job, with hours and hours spent at the computer talking back to the voices in her head. She will blog every Tuesday and Friday.

How do you approach your writing or your life in general? Are you a Plotter? Pantster? Mixture of the two? Tell us. There's a box of Godiva chocolates in it for somebody!