The Writing Demons


Last night I started writing my third book in thirteen months. That's a lot of writing. When I finished my second novel a couple of weeks ago, I promised myself I would take a little time off before I began the next one. Maybe catch up on some reading, spend time with the family, focus my attention on school, clean the house. It's gotten rather dusty in here over the past few months! 

When I'm deep into the writing process...everything else falls by the wayside. And I can't afford to do that right now! I have three children, two graduate classes, tons of homework, an internship, tutoring, book signings, meetings. I don't have time to get sucked into another imaginary world of my own creation. And that's exactly what's happening. Again. Quite by accident.

I'm blaming the waitress for this one.

On my way home from grad class last night, I decided to stop by Eli's Kitchen for some chowder. I sat at the bar, quietly reading a magazine while the air around me buzzed with conversation. The restaurant was packed and my stomach was grumbling, enticed by the delicious smells wafting from the kitchen. I've never minded going places alone. Restaurants, movies, plays, concerts, traveling to new places. I'm pretty good company! But once in a while I get a little lonely as I watch the couples around me, interacting, sharing stories, sharing their lives. That niggling sense of loneliness was creeping toward me last night.

And then the waitress approached me.

She smiled and asked if I was the author who was in the restaurant a few weeks ago. "Did you write What if I Fly?" she asked. My eyes flew open, taken aback. I didn't remember her serving me, nor do I remember discussing my book with anyone at the restaurant, but somehow she knew. So I said yes, and she was so excited! She told me she bought my book the next morning and read it in two days, gushing how much she loved my story and couldn't wait for the sequel.

I thanked her and sat back against my bar stool, staring into the kitchen and then broke my promise to myself. No need to feel lonely, I thought as I rifled through my bag and pulled out the Moleskin notebook I keep with me at all times (just in case). There are people to be met inside my head! How convenient! I opened the blank notebook and stared at the empty page for all of thirty seconds before putting pen to paper and another story was born. I had a very loose concept for my third book brewing in my head, but as I sat there, the story unfolded on its own, and before I knew it I'd become acquainted with a whole family of characters. I wasn't alone. I was surrounded by new friends and family. In the space of an hour, I'd been sucked into the vortex of this new world, already consumed with their lives.  

Something has taken hold of me. I'm possessed by the writing demons. It's as if I'm trying to reach the light at the end of the tunnel, only to discover the tunnel never ends. There is always another story to be written, more characters to create. And when I'm not writing a story...I feel kind of lost. Purposeless. And anxious. I have forgotten how to relax! I'm beginning to think I've forgotten how to truly live. 

Do I write at the expense of my own life or does writing enrich it? I don't know anymore. Writing is a solitary process but the product I create is for the masses. It means a lot to me to know my stories bring enjoyment to others. But I'm not getting any younger. I've stayed out of the dating game for the past couple of years. I mean...why bother dating when I can write a better romance than I've experienced in reality? The simple answer is...I can love what I write, but it can never love me back. What I'm writing isn't real.

My goal this time around is to achieve balance between fantasy and reality. It may take me four months to write this book (versus the two it normally takes) but I've got some living of my own to do, and only one way to do it. Close this computer and get to it.



Saying Goodbye...and Other Thoughts

I am grieving. In the past four months, I've had to say goodbye to Will and Julia and the world I created for them. Now it's time to bid farewell to Libby and Truman, at least for the next few weeks. I miss them all. Each and every one of them. Even Avery. In creating these characters, I live inside their heads for months, they become my family. So, when I type the words 'The End' I want to cry. What will I ever do without them?

"Writing is my time machine, takes me to the precise time and place I belong." ~Jeb Dickerson

Believe me when I tell you my life is very full. Between my children, graduate school, friends, family obligations, publicizing my first book, preparing for book readings, interviews, meetings with other authors (and let's not forget annoying little things like cooking, exercising, showering, grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry) I'm a very busy gal! 

"Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say." ~Sharon O'Brien

FULL. Bursting at the seams! My cup runneth over! It's a miracle I find the time to write at all! But I do. I make the time. Writing has wrapped its tentacles around me and I'm happy in its embrace. Even when I'm not sitting in front of the computer, I'm absorbing my surroundings, jotting down ideas for the book I'm working on, or the one I'm planning to write.

"Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable." ~Francis Bacon

I've discovered it is indeed possible to live two lives at once, despite claims to the contrary. One in which I steal snippets, observations from real life, and incorporate them into the fantasy life which consumes most of my waking (and sleeping) hours.

"Writing, I think, is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind." ~Catherine Drinker Bowen

It's an obsession really, and I'm sure some would say, not a particularly healthy one. But who are they to judge? I alternate between living in the clouds, and dealing with reality. I prefer the clouds. Who doesn't?

"The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it." ~Jules Renard

Years of therapy lead me to question the motivation behind my taking such a keen interest in the lives of imaginary people. Do I have a God complex? Do I merely enjoy being able to pull the strings and decide the fate of the characters I create? Or does it indicate a desire for control in a world in which I have very little? Maybe it's a little bit of both.

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." ~Ray Bradbury

I lose myself in another world when I sit at the computer and write. Escapism. Absolutely, positively, an escape from reality. Or does that world become my reality? It sure feels like it while I'm there. Maybe a person has to be a little bit crazy to be a writer?

"Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia." ~E.L. Doctorow

There are worse ways I could spend my time. Other people find escape from reality with drugs, alcohol, sex, television, eating and a myriad of other activities. At least I'm creating something while I'm escaping the confines of my life. Not only do I get to live in another world, I feel purposeful, creative and competent while I'm there.

"To withdraw myself from myself has ever been my sole, my entire, my sincere motive in scribbling at all." ~Lord Byron

Reading the quotes above, I see I'm in good company. If love is a wise form of too is the process of writing. By doing so, I've made wonderful friends, traveled to glorious places, experienced all consuming passion and survived the depths of despair. And when our story is complete, I have to move on and say goodbye.

Sounds an awful lot like real life to me.

So, yes. I mourn the loss of the characters I've grown to love as I begin my love affair with the next book. I could sit around and watch the boob tube, or go scrub a toilet...but there are new characters to meet, places to visit, worlds to create...the fates of which I hold in my hands, at the tips of my fingers.

Not a bad way to spend a Sunday night. ;) 


The Art of Writing Steamy Scenes?

"They stand at the foot of the bed and look into each others eyes, their breathing already labored. Will removes his sweater, then his shirt. His heart is pounding in his chest as he steps forward and unbuttons her pants, then his own, his hands roaming her body as he tugs at her jeans, pulling them over her hips, down to the floor, quickly shedding his own." --Scene from 'What if I Fly?'

Let me put it right out there. There is no art to writing a sex scene. When I began writing the first love scene for my first book, I had no clue what I was doing, much like the first time I had sex (I won't go there!). So I did what people do these days, I 'googled' it. How to write a love scene. And there's a plethora of articles out there with varied suggestions. Dim the lights, play mood music, light a candle, and drink a glass of wine. None of those would hurt I suppose, but every other scene I had written evolved from my vivid imagination. I figured I'd give it a go without the props.

I'm (clearly) not a prude, however I'm not a fan of gratuitous sex scenes. If there's a steamy scene in a book, it'd better have a purpose. Whether it's creating intimacy between two characters, developing their relationship in some way, driving the plot forward somehow. Purpose, not sex for the sake of sex.

When I write a sex scene (any scene for that matter), I put myself in the mindset of the character. I'm more interested in what they're thinking in the middle of the action than discussing body parts (though a mention of those are a necessary part of the narrative). The hardest part for me was developing a 'proper' vocabulary. Writing these scenes without sounding completely cheesy is not as easy as I thought it'd be.

One of the compliments I've received about my first novel was that the intimate scenes, while certainly on the steamier side, were not dirty, they were 'filled with love and/or purpose.' Thank goodness! Mission accomplished. Those two characters were deeply in love and I wanted to convey that message whether they were between the sheets (or the back of a barn) or hanging out on the dock. Passion. Love. Electricity. Desire. Connection.

The second novel has it's fair share of steamy scenes and I didn't find it nearly as challenging as I did the first time around. This is a much different story, with more complex characters (in my opinion). The nature of the sex scenes are different as well, but they all have a purpose. I'm not only trying to capture what's going on inside the character's head, but what they're feeling, tasting, touching, smelling, seeing. Using all the senses to draw the reader into the experience.  

Yesterday I reread What if I Fly?, wanting to make sure the pacing of my second novel was as engaging as the first. I want it to flow smoothly, carrying the reader from one chapter to the next, the action consistently moving the story forward. I call it the "I couldn't put it down" effect. That's my goal and I think I've succeeded. It still needs work, but it'll come.

I alternated between laughing and wincing every time I reached a steamy section (Will and Julia, you minxes!). I've read and reread those passages dozens (hundreds) of times during the editing process and never had that reaction in the past. In the end I had to skip over each section, throwing the book down in horror multiple times. I was mortified!

Why now?

Because those words are so personal and intimate, 'experiences' I created in my head. And now? They're out there for all the world to see. It's not my experience anymore, it's everyone's. And it makes me giggle and blush like a schoolgirl. Not only has my mother read those words, but my high school math teacher, aunts, friends, cousins, former colleagues, acquaintances, my old boss...I don't even want to think about it!!!

Thankfully, no one has set eyes on the latest book. I can do my editing without turning purple with embarrassment. And as I conclude this post, I realize the real art of writing a steamy scene lies in not thinking about who may read these words somewhere down the road.  That is the key. To just wrap myself inside the heads of the characters I've created and bring their experiences to life.

I can giggle and cringe later.





A Happy Ending?

I'm a sucker for a happy ending. I hate when I get to the last page of a book and wonder 'what the hell happens next?' Ambiguity makes me crazy!!! I'm a straight-forward kind of gal. Tell me what happens! Don't make me guess.

That's why when I wrote my first book, I added an epilogue. I let the reader know that I was seriously committed to those two characters living happily ever after. Some people don't need that. Some people like to use their imaginations and create their own endings. Not my style. I want to close a book and feel sincerely happy, or utterly devastated. One extreme or the other.

As I wrote the last pages of my second novel, I wondered what would constitute a happy ending for these characters? 'Happily ever after' means different things to different people. When you delve into the romance genre, 'happily ever after' tends to mean the girl gets the guy, or vice versa.

But what if there are two important men in her life?

Does she make it work with the man she's in a complex relationship with, but still loves flaws and all? That would be one version of a happy ending. Probably the most difficult but realistic, and I do love realism.

Or does she leave the complicated relationship and go off into the sunset with the other man, someone she also cares about deeply? Another viable happy ending, with its own set of complications (what relationship is complication free?).

What if she ditches them both and concentrates on her own career and needs? To hell with the men in her life! I have to say, the feminist in me is screaming for that version of a happy ending.

I struggled with the 'happily ever after' in this book. So many choices. I knew the ending of What if I Fly? before I completed the first chapter. This one? I was completely in the dark until I reached the end, forcing myself to make a choice for the character I had created. I'm glad that's over! And I am very satisfied with the outcome.

Will everyone be satisfied by the choice I made? Maybe, maybe not. Depends on what 'happily ever after' means to you.

My second novel, tentatively titled 'As it Seems' will be available...sometime in the next two months...