Scared

Okay, so Release Point is done, in a manner of speaking.  I’ve rewritten the last half of the story, and I promised myself I’d put it aside for a week and either play with something new or just take time off from writing altogether.  My mom needs an afghan for a neighbor who just had twins (I have a “spare” in the closet but not two) but I couldn’t find a pattern I liked enough to want to spend X hours on it.  Three hours of pulling out pattern books, trying the patterns out, giving up, starting over…I went to bed at 10 thoroughly disgusted.  I should’ve just read another JR Ward book instead.

Last night, just for giggles, I opened Release Point and the first page popped up.  “On a warm July night in St. Louis, Paul Dante…”  I looked at the first line that I’ve read at least a thousand times, and I cringed.  I just couldn’t read it.  It’s like when you see your driver’s license photo and you think, “Oh my God, do I really look like that?” and then you tuck it in your wallet and hope you never have to look at it again.  I couldn’t stomach even the thought of looking at the story, and I closed the file and walked away from the computer and let Alex play on games for an hour. 

I’m working on the synopsis for RP instead, which is challenging when you consider that the synopsis I wrote to get it into the NJRW contest bears little resemblance to the “finished” product, but I’m hoping they’ll let me resubmit a revised edition in case I final.  If I don’t, then I’ll have some interesting feedback awaiting me.  Last time I entered NJRW, I saw my overall score, bagged up the entries, and tucked them on the top shelf of the closet, a place I can’t reach without a ladder…but I can sure throw things up there if I don’t need them any time soon.  It took me 6 months to pull it back down again and see what the judges said.  Most of the feedback was positive, but not positive enough to warrant high scores.  Of course, looking back, that book wasn’t all that good.  Release Point, I think, is way better than that. 

Alas, patience is not one of my virtues…

My triumphant return

I can make that statement, pretty sure in its authenticity.  Over the last 9 days I’ve been so obsessed with finishing the rewrite on Release Point that I managed to write 43K words despite a full day at Hershey Park and a half day at Citizens Bank Park at the Phillies Phestival, not to mention a minor loud argument with my husband, a day job, and assorted other responsibilities.  Yesterday, despite a major case of exhaustion (it may have had something to do with standing on line for hours at HP, then doing it all again at CBP), I wrote 10K words to finish RP for the second time.  I still think it’s WAY better than it was but I know the last scenes need a lot more emotion in them.  I can do that.

The odd thing is that emotions slipped in that I hadn’t seen coming.  At one point the heroine’s father explains why he left her mother; her mother did to her father what I did to my ex before I left.  Our expectations were so far apart that we couldn’t stay together and stay sane.  I’d lost a great deal of myself in being who he wanted me to be, until I realized I couldn’t be that person anymore.  That’s why Danny left Elizabeth.  When I finished the scene, I had to hold my breath because it really pulled something out of me to be able to admit to that.  At the time, I’d just thought I was unhappy and he was a selfish bastard.  It was as much my fault as it was his.  (Maybe more mine; he didn’t really work on conscious thought very much.  I’m convinced he had ganglion where a brain should’ve been.)

I haven’t yet re-read the last 10K words.  Once I do that, maybe I can slip in a little more feeling, and then I’ll put it away for a week before I open it up again and read it through from the beginning.  It’ll be interesting, seeing the difference from the first version and this one.  Oh, and I need a whole new synopsis.  Even the one I sent the NJRW contest is off. 

I totally love this story and I adore the characters, but almost as much, I love that this story is finally done.  I can now, with a clear conscience, sit back and read another JR Ward book, or crochet something while watching baseball on TV, or even doodle with one of my other unfinished ideas.  There’s nothing I need to get done.  I’m on my own timetable now.  What an amazing feeling of liberation!

Me again

I’m still here.  Release Point is flying fast and furious, but I had to stop to go back to drop in some added motivation on Paul’s part.  I think it really amps up his reason for what he did, and it also shows how much he’s willing to give up for Grace.  I get breathless just thinking about it. 

I updated the Excerpts page.  Take a look and tell me what you think.  I’m SO excited! 

Back to climbing the wall!  (RIP, Dr. Pausch.)

Time Off

As much as I love blogging, I’m taking some time off for a little while.  When you get a message from God telling you to focus on editing and rewriting a Work in Progress, you don’t say, “Actually, I have better things to do; thanks anyway.”  Besides, I spent some time on the rewrites yesterday and I like what came through.  This might not be the Impossible Task that I thought it would be.  The characters came back to me without a problem, and I have visions of turning the antagonist into a truly nasty guy.  I even think my voice is better now than it was two years ago when I first wrote it.

Forgive me, but I’ll be stepping away for a little while.  As Mr. Rogers said, “I’ll be back when the day is new/And you’ll have things you want to talk about.  I will too.”  🙂

Deus ex iPod

Yesterday I got a message from God.  I don’t doubt it because I talked to a friend at my RWA chapter and she said it happens to her too.  Thanks, Leslie, for convincing me I’m not just clinically insane.

It was a disappointing day, starting off with that immense feeling of failure at seeing my friend succeed where I’m still hitting a brick wall.  House-hunting is turning into a nightmare that would scare Freddie Kruger.  Then comes something every writer dreads.  (The girls at VFRW call it “the big R”.)  I was feeling lost and at odds with everything I wanted in my life.

I sat in the car and clasped my hands together in prayer and said, “God, please, just point me in the right direction.”  Of course, I’m sitting in the car at the time; God isn’t a GPS, so I felt kind of silly.  But then I plugged in my iPod.  The first song that came on had been playing in the morning when I turned it off, “Have a Little Faith in Me”.  Ironic, but I pretty much saw that one coming.

Next, though, was a song that I still believe Atlantic City gifted me with personally, Nick Lachey’s “What’s Left of Me”.  John and I went to AC for my birthday in ’07 and I wanted to walk the boardwalk so I could see where Paul’s bar in “Release Point” would be.  John had a blister on his heel so I walked it alone, no music (the way Grace did when she went walking every day in the MS), down to the south end of the boardwalk where the casinos are just buildings in the distance.  I found the location and felt a chill flutter over my nerve endings.  On the way back I passed a casino that piped music out to the boardwalk, and that song was playing.  The lyrics fit Paul so well that I knew it was a gift:  “Watch my life pass me by in the rear view mirror…I don’t wanna waste another day stuck in the shadow of my mistakes…Now I’m broken and I’m faded, I’m half the man I thought I would be; but you can have what’s left of me…take what’s left of this man; make me whole once again.”  It stopped my heart cold.  I didn’t have my note pad with me so I repeated the lyrics in my head over and over until I could get back to a pen and paper and scribble down what I’d heard.  

Next up:  Fergie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry”.  I’d been feeling like crying all day.  I didn’t.

Next:  Avril Lavigne, “Keep Holding On”.  Self-explanatory.

Next:  Mark McGuinn, “Mrs. Steven Rudy”.  Maybe God just needed a laugh.  Surely He knows I love that song for its snappy beat and the POV of someone who’s lusting after something he knows he can’t have. 

Next:  Harry Connick Jr., “Where or When”.  I couldn’t hear the song but the title said it all.

Next:  “On the Right Track” from Pippin.  ‘Nuf said.

Next:  Bruce Springsteen, “Thunder Road”.  An anthem when I was growing up, I picked up on the words, “Sit tight, take hold.”  (“Well I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk…”)

Next:  John Williams, “Theme from Star Wars”.  Not sure what that was supposed to mean but it sounded ominous.

Next:  Josh Groban.  It calmed me down when I had a case of road rage.  (One of two.  It was a full moon and the talent on the road showed it.  I wanted to cry for the adrenaline running through my veins, but I remembered the song that had played earlier.)

Next:  Susan Tedeschi’s “Alone”.  ‘Nuf said.  Snappy, jazzy beat.  “Don’t want to be here alone.”

Next:  Tim McGraw, “Live Like You Were Dying”.  That says it all.

Next:  Shania Twain, “Up!”  The lyrics:  “Up up up, can only go up from here.” 

Next:  Keith Urban, “I Thought You Knew”.  I might be stretching with that one, unless He’s addressing my nagging self-doubt.

Next:  James Morrison, “You Give Me Something”.  That song (on TNT commercials) dogged me through numerous ball games until I gave in and searched iTunes for it.  More good lyrics:  “I never thought that I’d love someone; that was someone else’s dream.”

Next:  Rascal Flatts, “I’m Movin’ On”.  “At last I can see that life has been patiently waiting for me; and I know there’s no guarantees but I’m not alone.”

Next:  Cowboy Mouth:  “Too Much Fun”.  The song that played over a highlight montage at Cooperstown last July while we waited for the Induction ceremonies to begin.  It gave me the distinct impression that baseball is one heck of a fun game to play. 

That’s when we came home.  Okay, God, I get the message.  I’m going back to work on “Release Point” ’til it’s done, and then I’ll go back to my other WIPs.

Congratulations, Judi Fennell!

My inner b*tch has to take a back seat for a little while because my RWA chapter president, my friend, has finally achieved something she’s been working toward for many, many years.  Judi Fennell sold her 3-book Mer series to Sourcebooks today. 

Judi practically broke her back in the Gather.com First Chapters and American Title contests, but she told us that she learned some amazing things about promotion from those experiences.  She encouraged us all to go to the Long Island Romance Writers Luncheon, and I’m realizing now that I should’ve sat at her table so I could’ve watched her in action.  Judi’s a fantastic writer and an amazing person, and I’m SO proud and excited for her! 

And yes, I’m jealous as hell, though I’m starting to realize, maybe I’m not so much jealous of her as I am mad at myself because I’m not quite there yet.  My day is coming and I’m damn well not giving up.  I’m definitely not as gregarious as Judi is, but I’m learning from her, and I want to learn more.  Judi stands as proof to the rest of us what we can accomplish if we keep our heads in the game at all times.  Never ever give up.

Congratulations, Judi!  As Laura said, massive amounts of cyber-bubbly to you!!  Please don’t forget us “little people” when you’re on the NYT Bestseller list.  🙂

Accepting my Inner B*tch

I’m 41 years old, dammit, and today I pick up my first (and probably not my last) pair of reading glasses.  I’m even a little happy about them; they’re cute and more importantly, I’ll be able to read books at night.  I might even be able to see the computer screen after 10 pm.  What’s not to love?

I’m overweight but I’m relatively healthy.  Sure, my butt could shelter a Peterbilt, but it also makes for comfortable sitting, and I can bump people out of my way (sometimes without even trying).  I’m learning to be comfortable in my own skin, even though I have more of it than I need.  The other day I was miserable in my own skin but that was probably PMS talking. 

I have more gray hair now than I did at the beginning of the year.  I blame most of that on the house-hunting.  I just couldn’t stomach the idea of looking at another house, so I gave myself yesterday off and went to the supermarket instead, and probably spent so much that we can’t afford a house anymore.  But I noticed this morning that the gray hair is almost kind of cute; I’m starting to get that Bride-of-Frankenstein-streak thing going on, which is unique, or at least, it would be if the Bride of Frankenstein hadn’t done it first.  At least in general my hair looks good, and I hear gray hairs are thicker than regular hairs.  I’ll take all the help I can get.  I’m so jealous of my blonde friends; their transition to gray won’t be nearly as noticeable.  I seriously considered coloring it again but a) there’s the continual problem with upkeep, and b) it’s such a pain in the butt.  So for now the gray stays where it is, and I hope I can pull off “distinguished” with a grace equal to George Clooney. 

The media these days seem to think we should be afraid of everything.  We have TSA, video cameras on every street corner, and the Patriot Act is legal despite every clause that contradicts the Constitution.  When we go home (just where we think we ought to feel safe) and look in the mirror, we should be afraid of who we see because <GASP!> we’re aging, therefore we need to buy a few hundred dollars worth of products to make sure we still look like we’re 17.  Get with reality, people.  Every 7 years our body’s cells replace themselves, and we all know that copies are never as good as the originals.  That’s why babies are so perfect; they’re still working with the original material.  After your first birthday, it all goes downhill, so relax and enjoy the ride.

Defending Chase Utley

Oh please, people; grow up.  What he said was nothing the rest of us haven’t said or at least thought once in our lives.  Especially when it comes to New Yorkers.  Trust me on this.  I was born and raised in NY.  I lived there for 33 years.  I love Philadelphia but I’ll always know that New York City is my home town.  It’s in my DNA, along with stubbornness and thin hair.

For those who don’t know, the All-Star Game Home Run Batting challenge (vociferously sponsored by some conglomerate or another) was held last night at Yankee Stadium.  For whatever reason, when Chase Utley’s name was announced, the people in the stands booed him.  I don’t understand why.  He’s a nice enough guy, he hits like a demon, he’s good to animals and he’s cute as a bug—he’s breathtaking in person!—so what’s not to like?  Why boo Chase?  But there you have it, Noo Yawkas coming out with the boos.  (You want to boo someone?  You got stuck with Bobby Abreu, who hits when he feels like it and he can’t catch a cold.  Boo yourselves!)  Unfortunately Chase forgot he was miked up, so when he took his place in line, he looked up at the crowd and said, “Boo?  F*** you.”  Lightheartedly, of course.  I would’ve thought the same thing if I’d been paying attention as the names were announced. 

Here’s a video of it:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBtkQoeaNCE  Mind you, some of the YouTube tags say it’s Chase saying F you to the Yankee fans, but I don’t think his comments were directed to Yankee fans in particular, but to those booing.

Last week Elton Brand joined the 76ers and someone asked him about Philadelphia sports fans.  He said he loves the fans here because they’re passionate.  Yes, they booed Santa Claus, but Santa shows up in a stadium of 30K people with no gifts.  You’d boo Santa too.

I can only assume that there was a strong Mets contingent in the crowd last night, which is why Chase got booed.  The Mets/Phillies rivalry is just as ugly as it ever was.  (Hey, it’s not the Phillies’ fault the Mets tanked at the end of ’07.  The Phillies almost tanked all of June but I’d rather lose 14 of 17 in June than in September.)  I’m afraid to think what it’s going to sound like tonight when the starting lineups are called.  I can already hear Bald Vinny of the Bleacher Creatures chanting, “F you Utley!” in rhythm.  The stadium’s going to rock, and MLB and the game’s sponsors are going to love it. 

I love the Yankees, I love the Phillies, I love New York (in its own unique way), but come on, people; grow up.  Chase made a mistake and he apologized.  Yankee fans forgave Jason Giambi after he admitted he used steroids and apologized.  Get over it, like you do everything else.  (And I mean that in the nicest way possible, of course.)

Rats

We had an appointment to see a house today but it was canceled; the seller found a buyer and they reached an agreement last night.  It may nag me for a while, wondering what we missed out on because we didn’t call to see it soon enough.  On the other hand, the idea of a bidding war didn’t float my boat.  The idea of going house-hunting again also isn’t floating my boat.  We have two houses in mind that we like for entirely different reasons, and what one lacks, the other has in spades.  The problem is, we can’t mix-and-match the two houses’ assets.  I suppose I could settle on one more than the other, but do you really want to spend that kind of money on something you have to settle for?  I may have to spend some time looking at the pictures again, to try to make myself fall in love with it.  I’ve done that before in my history and it got me some interesting experiences, none I care to repeat.  Ever.  (Dr. Phil said “Sometimes you make the right decision, and sometimes you make the decision right.”  He’s never been divorced.)

I probably spoke too soon about breaking through my writer’s block.  I tried to write last night, after spending the better part of the day at the ballpark (watching the Phillies win on a Pat Burrell 3-run homer; yay!) and driving to NJ to get the boys and then driving back home.  Needless to say I was tired, but I also thought I was inspired enough to make my latest WIP move.  No dice.  I even tried writing in first person, just to get deep into the hero’s POV, but it didn’t sound organic, the words didn’t flow, and it was a fight just finding the next word.  Either house-hunting has eaten my creativity, or I should know better than to try to write after frying at the ballpark and driving 120 miles. 

OR “Release Point” won’t let me work on anything else until I finish it.  I wanted to have it done by August 9th when the NJRW results come out (on the off-chance that I finaled and I’d be able to submit a more polished version to the final round judges) but when I fought my way up to page 55 and then lost complete interest in going any farther, I figured my time would probably be better spent on something new that made me excited to write again, rather than dragging-myself-through-a-pool-of-peanut-butter revision.  As of right now, it looks like I’m not getting a lot of choice in the matter.  At least she gifted me with an idea to plump up the theme.  I’ll drop that in place and see where it goes from there. 

A friend invited me to join her critique group.  I haven’t been in a crit group in YEARS, and the one I was in wasn’t the most constructive.  If you’re required to say 2 nice things (nice paper, loved the ink) and then you can let loose with what you’re really thinking, you know you’re not going to improve much.  Now my main fear is that Robin and her friend and Laura will look at what I write and laugh, much like that nightmare about showing up for class, only to find out there’s a test you had no idea about, and it accounts for 90% of your term grade.  I can only hope I come up to their caliber.  Worst case, they’ll tell me “nice paper, love the ink”.  🙂

Energy

Don’t ask about the diet.  I screwed it up royally today, but it’s only for today.  Tomorrow I’ll be better, and Monday I’ll be fully back on track.

Speaking of which, I have ideas again!  Yay!  Writer’s block is a dog but sometimes you just have to bite your tongue and get on with your life until it goes away.  Mine hit me yesterday.  I heard a song that clicked with the story about the man who writes romance novels, only he can’t tell anyone because he’s a teacher at a Catholic school.  (The nuns would frown on that.)  All of a sudden, I was writing notes and smiling again.  Last night, before I went to bed, I got an idea for an article I can write for my RWA chapter newsletter.  I was thinking about how those of us in the chapter sometimes give presentations about things that are our strong suit, but what would I have to talk about?  Do I even have a strong suit?  Of course:  sports.  I can “teach” the ladies who want to write a character who enjoys sports, or even just those who want to keep up with their husbands/boyfriends during sports seasons, what they’re watching.  After all, I knew nothing of football when Tom spent his Sundays in front of the Giants games, until the day my mom made it all make sense.  If I’ve learned one thing over time, it’s that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  Why be a football widow when you can share in the fun? 

In addition to all this, my chapter meeting was today.  It never fails to serve as a wonderful source of inspiration.  Adele gave an interesting presentation on power titles.  I was going to bring up “Release Point” when I came to two conclusions:  1. the title fits her criteria, and 2. I like it and don’t plan on changing it unless an editor has a better idea.  Of course, that one’s not finished, so I probably should’ve asked about “Listen To Your Heart” instead.  If that one had a catchier title…?  Plus Laura and I got time to catch up.  Ordinarily we write 10 page emails–it used to be daily but I think we exhausted each other–about writing and family and whatever, but this time we stood in the restaurant parking lot after lunch and talked for over an hour.  That was probably a week’s worth of email right there.  We saved our wrists for typing more WIPs.  But we had a blast, and we need this monthly communion of writers to refresh our batteries.  I know I needed it, big time.  On some level I knew today was coming so my idea cells woke up just in time, on purpose.