Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Twelve Days of Bookmas

I'm deep into copy edits--more on that later, once I've made more progress. But meanwhile I'm participating in a fun contest my agent is running. I'll be posting clues on my Facebook fan page, but I'll post them here, too, for those of you not on Facebook. Here are the details: http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the States.

If things have gone according to plan--and I sure hope they have--I have the copy edits for The Naked King in my possession, so I probably won't be posting anything here for a while. When I'm not working, I should probably spend some time with my family, don't you think?

I hope you all have family and friends around you--even if you aren't celebrating Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Revising--Letting Things Cook

Is that a good title for the day before Thanksgiving?

I finished the first draft of the novella...well, sort of. I doesn't really have an ending yet, and I know I'm going to be mad at myself when I go to revise it and get to the end to find a mess, but it's done for now. Thanksgiving and copy edits for The Naked King are coming. Time to put the novella aside.

This is actually the way I like to work. I try to finish a project with enough time before the due date to get some distance from it and then revise and polish. The thought of typing "The End" and hitting the send button in virtually one motion gives me hives. There are some writers who can do that, but I'm not one of them. Even when I think something is in pretty good shape, I realize I'm wrong about that when I go back in and start the polishing process. And having the copy edits for the King will be perfect to "clean my palette." (I haven't seen the King since January, but these are copy edits and it looks like I won't have a lot of time with them, so I will have to restrain myself and try not rewrite the book. I could probably revise until my editor yanked the manuscript from my grasping hands.)

The novella isn't due until January, but I have these copy edits, and my publisher has gotten very efficient at turning those into page proofs and zapping them back at me, and then there's the small matter of Christmas and family, so while I feel as if I'm in good shape, I don't feel like I have a lot of time to spare.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Out of the pool

The stitches came out today--yay! So I asked the doc if I could go back to swimming. He said sure--yay! But then I thought to ask him if I could wear swim goggles. Oh, no. Nothing that would put pressure on the wound for a month--the cut is near my right eyebrow.

I know there's a crazy water polo-playing Californian on swimmer boys' college swim team who swims without goggles, but even the thought makes me cringe. Swimming 3,000 meters in an indoor, chlorinated pool with no goggles? I think my eyes would explode.

So it looks like no swimming for me till almost Christmas. I am not happy.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Discussing projects

Some authors love to talk about their books, both published and in progress. I don't. I sometimes wish I did--it might make writing synopses easier. But, eh, I'm just not that good at it. At book signings I often hand folks the book so they can read the back cover copy rather than try to tell them about it.

I recently had someone ask me about the new trilogy I've just agreed to do. Now that I'd accepted the contract, would I tell her about it? Er, no.

I'm not being coy. I guess the plot--what happens in the book--is not so interesting to me as how it happens and the relationships between characters while it's happening and the funny things that happen along the way. And until I start writing the books, I don't know how all that will play out.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Deciding on a Agent

I've been thinking about choosing agents recently--talking about it on an authors' loop and with a friend who's in the agent-choosing process. Many of my thoughts are in a post I wrote for my agent's blog here.

There are a lot of things to think about and options to weigh, but I think my most important advice to someone facing the agent decision is: Know Thyself. Know what you want. Do you want an agent to hold your hand or one to just sell your work? Do you want one who edits or one who doesn't even read your material?

There are no right or wrong answers. Different writers want or need different things. And an agent that can be perfect for your best friend may be terrible for you.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Dangers of Exercise

Yesterday I arrived at the gym, all ready for another adventure in personal training. First, though, I wanted to get in a little cardio. Two of the treadmills that face the TVs were free, so I picked the one with better proximity to interesting shows--I prefer the news to sports stations--and hopped on.

Big mistake.

Repeat after me--always, always check that some idiot has not left the treadmill running.

I hopped on, and my feet were promptly carried backward. The rest of me, illustrating some lovely rule of physics I'm sure, pitched forward and then down. The brain on board was trying to make sense of this. Why am I falling? Oh, the treadmill is running. Who would get off a treadmill and leave it running? This can't be good. Oh, damn, this is going to hurt.

Then bang, whizz, I'm on the floor.

No personal training for me. Instead I go off to my regular doc and then on to the plastic surgeon for two stitches to go with my assortment of scrapes and bruises.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Novel versus novella

I once heard a non-writer ask why an author would write a novella rather than a novel. My short, non-sexy answer is because the author has a contract for a novella rather than a novel.

My novellas--I'm working on my third now--have all been contracted at 25,000 to 30,000 words. That's roughly a quarter of one of my novels. (My novel contracts have been for 95,000 words--give or take, you understand.) So in writing a novella, I have to limit things: limit the time over which the story takes place, limit the number of characters, and limit the focus to pretty much the hero and heroine.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Today I start writing the last chapter of the first draft of the new novella. I think I know what the scene will be, but I never know how things will really go until I put the characters together on the page.

Monday, November 15, 2010

We interrupt this program...

I'm trying to get a first draft of a novella finished before Thanksgiving--and before the copy edits come for The Naked King--so blog posts will be sporadic.

In the meantime, here's a link to this hilarious (IMHO) video. Mr. June (who is also one of the singers) is a high school classmate of my third son.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Summer swim team

Here's my summer swim team, the Glenwood Tigers, from many moons ago. I'm pretty sure I'm the fourth from the right in the front row with the white jacket and the headband.

I was an okay swimmer--not a star by any stretch of the imagination. But I worked hard, learned the strokes, and had fun with my summer friends. Since I went to Catholic school, I didn't see most of these kids during the year. Actually, I'm not sure how many of them saw each other, since I think the pool probably drew from more than one public elementary school neighborhood.

I think one of the greatest things about summer swimming is--assuming the parents and kids don't go all competitive crazy--that it builds community. What other activity brings together boys and girls from ages 3 or 4 (if we include pre-teamers) up to age 18 or 19 as well as parents and often college-aged coaches year after year after year?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

With thanks to all who have served and are now serving our country, and in memory of those who gave their lives.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Swim parents

Swimmer boy is a college senior; my years as a swim parent are coming to an end. Since oldest son was also a relatively serious swimmer through high school, and the middle two sons swam some, I've spent many, many hours on pool decks outdoors, slathered in sunscreen, or indoors, inhaling chlorine-laden air.

Being the parent of a kid in sports is a delicate balance. If you've ever attended a kid sporting event, you've probably seen parents behaving badly. I've signed Parents Codes of Ethics for rec soccer leagues and cringed when other parents berated the referees at basketball games. As a board member of the local summer swim league, I've spoken to--and had to make rulings on the behavior of--a number of wacko parents. One parent even adopted a cloak and dagger method, contacting me through an anonymous email site and adopting a pseudonym to tell me about a possible league rule violation--yes, she was involved because some new swimmer was displacing her daughter in the meet lineup.

It's easy to make fun of crazy sports parents, but at the same time, I, at least, can sympathize. There were times over the years when I was the parent in charge of our summer swim team that I did things that, in retrospect, I would have done differently if I had them to do over again. I may have lost perspective once or twice, and may have occasionally become a bit too ego-involved in my own kids' performances.

The thing is sports take lots and lots of parental time. Weekends are eaten up with matches or games or meets; week day mornings or evenings or both are busy with practices and constant carpooling. And different kids deal with competition differently--and so provoke a different emotional response from the parental unit.

And sometimes the parent is living or reliving their past sporting success--or failure--through their children.

But there are lots of good things about being a sports parents. I've made lots of friends and met a lot of great people, both parents and kids. Hopefully, everyone learns some good lessons about hard work, success and failure, and good sportsmanship.

And not to take sports too seriously.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Swimming and mourning

If you don't follow competitive swimming, you might have missed the news about Fran Crippen, the 26-year-old elite swimmer who died in the 10K World Cup open-water race near Dubai a few weeks ago.

I never met Fran, but I know people who knew him. He's the same age as one of my sons. And my boys were competitive swimmers, though never at Fran's level.

I was talking yesterday about mourning my father, but Dad lived a long life. He was 95 when he died, and, frankly, by the end all the systems weren't working that well. He couldn't see much or hear much, getting around was a bit of a challenge, and he was becoming forgetful. He didn't look his age, but he probably looked 85.

Fran was so young; he was just at the beginning of his life. (And while I mourn my father, I can't really imagine the pain I'd feel if I lost one of my children.)

Here's the thing about serious athletes--they are used to pushing themselves to failure and beyond. I don't think you get to be an Olympic quality athlete unless you have an incredible work ethic and a high tolerance for pain.

I haven't heard if they figured out what went wrong that day in Dubai, but I hope if there are more safety measures they can take to prevent this from happening again, they take them. I don't think it is realistic to expect the athletes to stop themselves when they are in trouble.

Here's a link a couple of my friends with sons connected to the University of Virginia's swim team posted about Fran: http://www.virginiasports.com/ViewArticle.dbml?&DB_OEM_ID=17800&ATCLID=205022430

Monday, November 8, 2010

November Mourning

The Catholic Church--and perhaps other Christian churches--sets aside time in November to remember the dead. All Souls Day follows All Saints Day (which follows Halloween). Our parish has a Mass of bereavement, and since my dad died this year, I got an invitation. And because mourning is a longish, complicated thing, I decided to go--and Mr. M very kindly went with me.

The service was very nice, but I was glad I brought tissues. In some ways I'm at peace with my loss--Dad was 95; he'd had a long life, but the quality of that life was declining and we were facing some hard decisions about his continued independence. But in some ways, the pain is still raw.

I feel a jumble of emotions: love, regret, sadness, nostalgia. Now I'm no longer anyone's child. At my age, having raised four children of my own, it seems that shouldn't matter, but somehow it does. Mourning my dad--and my mom--is mixed up with mourning the passage of time, my changing position in life, even the changing nature of the world I live in.

Friday, November 5, 2010

College Football

Here's the marching band getting ready to parade through campus before the football game.

I went to the University of Notre Dame, so I had a large dose of college football. Back then we got season's tickets because we were students. I'm pretty sure I went to all the games my freshman and sophomore years. Junior year I think we had not very good seats behind some very tall guys. By senior year I'd stopped going.

Do I hear a collective gasp of horror? Yes, I know it borders on sacrilege, but I just wasn't that into football. I'd rather walk around the lakes and hear the roar of the crowd in the distance than be in the stadium.

I'm still not very into football. I enjoy the band and the pageantry. And the energy in a college football stadium can be fun. But all too soon I get cold and bored--and my butt and back get sore from those metal bleachers--and want to go do something more interesting. So I took a pass on this game. I would have stayed to watch the band, but the swim parents' breakfast was starting, so I had to go.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Little Fall Color

This picture hardly does the scenery justice, but here is one of the views I saw as I was walking up to campus last weekend.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Halloween Painting

When I was in Boston, I called Caroline Linden to see if we could get together. She said sure, after her daughter finished painting a window.

Say what?

Apparently her town has an interesting Halloween tradition--kids can sign up to paint pictures on windows of participating shops. Above are three examples. The artists have a certain "window" of time in which to do their painting, and then the judges survey the entries and pick the winners.

As you might guess from the photo, these paintings took some effort. We saw a few of the artists at work. First they taped out the area they wanted to paint. Then, if they wanted a background like in the three pictures above, they had to paint that and let it dry before coming pack to add the rest of their picture.

Very cool--I wonder how the idea got started?

Oh, and not to worry. At some point after the contest, the organizers wash all the windows clean on artwork.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Close Encounter of the Bad Kind

So on Friday, my first day in Boston, I ran into a car.

Here's the deal. I hadn't gotten enough sleep, I was a little stressed from travel, and I was in a hurry. I was walking up to campus to catch the men's intra-squad swim meet, but I'd missed lunch (the flight was at lunch time) and I was hoping to get something to eat along the way. I saw the walk sign at the next intersection and ran to make it. I got about a step or two into the intersection when--wham!--I collided with a car.

It was as if the car had sprung up out of nowhere.

I was fine, so I picked myself off the front passenger-side fender and walked in front of the car to continue across the street. I turned to the driver and said something like "I had the walk sign." (The whole conversation was civil--no yelling or anything. Just as if we were discussing the weather.) And he said--he was a guy maybe in his 40s--well, he'd had a green light and I hadn't looked. Which was true. I'd forgotten the most basic rule of street crossing--look both ways before you cross--so I said, "sorry" and finished crossing the street.

After the initial shock and befuddlement wore off, I was irate. I thought to myself, hey, I was the pedestrian. Pedestrians have the right of way. So what if I didn't look? Drivers can't hit pedestrians in crosswalks. And how did he know I didn't look? He must have seen me coming. (Or maybe he just assumed I hadn't looked since I ran into his car.) I was going to call this blog "Crazy Boston Drivers."

But the fact of the matter is that I had far more to lose from that encounter than the driver did. Frankly, the thought of getting hit by a car is a complete nightmare. So here are some points I need to keep in mind.

1. Look both ways before you cross the street. It's a bit ironic that I made it through England without getting squashed and then run into a car when I'm back in the right-side driving States. As far as I know the driver wasn't talking on a cell phone. He did stop. (I was a bit miffed that he didn't apologize or ask how I was, but the encounter may well have given him a near heart attack.) I wasn't on a cell phone, I just was stupid. But given the number of folks, both walking and driving, who are also talking or texting---well, it's a wonder there aren't more accidents.

2. When I'm a pedestrian, I think I feel too assertive. Yes, I might have the law on my side, but if I also have a car driving into my side, the law will be cold comfort. In the battle between pedestrian and car, the car always wins. The driver might end up in jail, but the pedestrian ends up in the hospital or the morgue.

3. I need to be more careful when I'm behind the wheel. I'm driving a multi-ton death machine. I don't think of my car that way, but if it connects with a person, that's what it becomes. Even if the pedestrian is a complete idiot and even if I haven't broken any laws, I will feel terrible if I hit someone. I need to remember that wherever I need to be is not more important than someone's life or health. And I need to be careful not to drive with my brain on autopilot.

Saturday I was walking back from campus, trying always to cross with the walk sign after looking both ways, when I heard cars honking. The light was green, but the first cars weren't moving and the cars behind them were impatient. When I got up to the intersection, I saw the problem. A man with a cane was hobbling as fast as he could across the street. Now that I'm supersensitive, I've noticed that some of the walk signs don't give even an able-bodied pedestrian adequate time to navigate the roadway. Folks with handicaps or age-related infirmities have a huge challenge.

We all need to chill and think of the other person. I'll try to do that when I'm back in the driver's seat.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Flying solo

By the time this posts, I should be off to the airport to fly home to D.C.

I've often told people I'm used to traveling by myself. This is technically true. Most of my trips during the year are to writers conferences, so usually Mr. M stays home. But this trip to Boston reminded me that while I usually travel alone, I am anything but alone when I arrive. I almost always room with a friend, and I have plenty of friends to hang out with during the day. I love seeing folks and catching up with them at workshops, over a meal, or at the bar. And I often meet with my editor and my agent. Writers conferences--at least romance writers conferences--are noisy, busy, crazy, people-filled events.

This trip I'm much more alone. Yes, I saw swimmer boy--and other swim parents I've seen over the four years swimmer boy's been on the team. I even got a chance to see my writer pal Caroline Linden and her family. But I spent a lot of time by myself. Not that I don't spend a lot of time by myself at home, but that's different.

So while I was glad to come, I'm glad to go home, back to the familiar surroundings, familiar routines, and, yes, Mr. M.