Friday, November 26, 2004

happy day after thanksgiving

Hope everyone who celebrated Turkey day didn't eat too much. Then again, the whole point of Thanksgiving is to eat too much, play football with your friends/family, and get sick because you ate too much and played football with your friends/family.

My dh has our poor kitty at the vet because she's been barfing up a storm. Poor baby. Hopefully it's just a bug. She does like to eat rubber bands, however.

An excerpt for the December installation of the mystery series, The Glass House is up at

Jennifer or

Monday, November 22, 2004

adventures in ram

It's been way too long since I posted. I mailed off Confessions of a Lingerie Addict with fingers crossed that it's a decent ms. My editor will tell me if it's not, I guess! Now I'm 32K words into Murder in High Places.

I decided to try a voice recognition software so I could write all these books and save my hands. So I plunked down money for Dragon Naturally Speaking 8. It arrived, and I realized that my old computer didn't have enough RAM to run it.

Easy, I just pop open my cover and add some more RAM. Right?

Never go to a computer superstore to shop for upgrades to your computer. They tell you they have no idea what you need (even though I had the exact make and model of my computer and the size and kind of slot I needed to fill). No, they say, "you can't upgrade that" and point you in the direction of the new computer systerm for $1500.

Pla-leeze. So I went back home through city traffic and cranked up the Internet. Sure enough, I found a nice geekie site where I plugged in what I needed, and they told presicely me what to order. That was on a Saturday. On Tuesday, my brand new RAM chip showed up at my front door. (For $92 total, including tax and shipping, which is a heck of a lot less than $1500, no?)

Happily, I ripped off the top of my computer and plugged in my chip in my 2nd DIMM slot, then booted up. Hmm. Didn't register that I had a new chip. I opened up again, swapped out the old 128K chip for the new one, and booted again. This time, the computer found the new chip and configured the system.

So, my puzzlement is, why wouldn't the computer read the number 2 DIMM slot? Any ideas? I had a 128K chip in slot number 1, and I put 256K in slot number 2. Now I have those reveresed, but the computer still reads only slot 1, and not the combined RAM of the two chips. Do I have to have, for example, two 256Ks to make 512? (In other words, it doesn't like 256+128)?

I run just fine with the 256, but I'd like to pump it all the way to 512 (which is as much as this old thing will handle).

Anyway, after those adventures, I installed Dragon, and she runs fine. Because I only have 256 RAM, I can't open any other programs with it running, but since I only need to dictate text, that's fine. I'm finding the software amazingly accurate. It understands Piccadilly, Lucius Grenville, Captain Lacey, Covent Garden Theatre, and other useful Regency London locales for my mysteries. (Admittedly it typed "UNI" for "you and I" once. I guess that's the way I speak).

So, trying to save time (!), it took me nearly a week to get my computer the way I wanted it. But although I don't think I'm saving time, per se (I still produce 5-6 pages an hour, whether dictating or typing), I'm not exhausted at the end of the day, and my hands and wrists already feel so much better.

Next time I need a new computer, I think I'll build my own. Much more fun and I can tailor it to exactly what I want. I write books and play the occassional game of Spider, so my needs are basic. :-)

Now to crank out more Murder in High Places.


Thursday, November 11, 2004

writing time

I am at 20,000 words on Murder in High Places. I won't be blogging much until I get that draft finished.

What I'm reading: Rhonda Woodward's A Hint of Scandal. Just started. A nice read that doesn't take much out of me. I like it. Also started Colleen Thompson's Fatal Error. It's a mytery/romance that's quite good so far (I'm about 100 pages into it). This is Colleen's debut romantic suspense. I recommend it highly.

Back to writing.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

romance club

I found out yesterday that my book The Pirate Hunter is the selection for Books A Million's Romance Club Read for this week. If you sign up at, you receive an e-mail excerpt of the book all week (hurry, it's already Tuesday).

I've kind of gotten back into the writing swing of things at last. Tomorrow is supposedly the last dental treatment, so I hope I'm over it soon.

I'm learning fascinating things about Newgate Prison for the mystery Murder in High Places. If you paid enough, you could have a nice room and decent food. Everyone had to pay an admission fee. It wasn't taxes that paid for prison, it was the ones arrested! If you had a wealthy family, you were ok. If your family had no money, you were SOL. Mostly Newgate was a holding place--you waited there for your trial, and then, if convicted, you waited for your hanging or transportation. Usually you didn't wait long--a couple of weeks to months. From 1783 onwards, the hanging was done right outside the prison, so you could watch the convicts ahead of you go to their dooms. Interesting, but gruesome.

Back to writing.


Saturday, November 06, 2004

Ah writer's block!

I don't believe in writer's block, but I have a case (or hopefully, had) of it. I believe in writer's burnout, though. How can I not when I've written four books and a novella this year, and am working to finish book five by December? I'll hit the 500,000 word mark this year, and that doesn't count the fifty pages here, hundred pages there, that I wrote and discarded.

Since my dentist torture experience, I've been completely fried and unable to produce very much. I still managed to write 40 pages of the Lacey novel I need to finish, and I finally believe I've gotten the story, opening, and details right. That was the hard part. Writing good prose is actually the easy part. I never used to think so. But--I'm 60 pages behind my goal for this week. That's 2-3 days of work right there. Gah.

Here's why I think published authors get writer's block:.

1. The emotional roller-coaster--the worry (is this as good as what I've written before? will the sales good? will my editor like me or dump me?); the envy (why is his first book soaring to the top while I'm struggling? why is she getting more fan mail than I am?); the guilt (I know I should be writing today, but I just can't); the doubt (this book will never sell; I'm a crappy writer; I didn't final for that award, so I obviously don't know what I'm doing); the depression (why am I doing this at all?)

2. The deadlines. Sitting down and being creative is one thing. Being creative on someone else's schedule is a recipe for stress. But if you don't meet someone else's schedule, your book won't be in the bookstores, now will it? You won't sell anything, your fans will forget you, you won't be able to afford cat food, and the world will end.

3. The focus shifts from our work to us. Publicists advise published authors to sell themselves, not the books. (For instance, I'd say--I write funny Regency pirate tales; or I write dark Regency mysteries.) That's a little frustrating for me, because I don't want to be locked in to a certain type of writing. I want to explore and learn and grow, which is the fun of writing! Also, you do start focusing on selling, and not your characters, your prose, your plotting. You think--ok, I need to do this signing, I need bookmarks, I need to meet this bookseller, I need to show up at this conference and do a workshop. All this is important, of course; it's part of the job--but publicity can suck you in and make you believe it's the most important part of the job--which it's not.

4. It really is plain hard work. Writing is a job. It can be a joyous, heady, very fulfilling experience, but it's also hard work. The physical demand of simply sitting down and typing out 400 pages of double-spaced Times Roman is high. It takes time, it takes energy. When I have a good writing day--everything flows like magic and I produce 25 pages--boy, do I sleep that night. It's like running 10K. And there's no guarantee I can produce 25 pages the next day. Those writers who decide to produce only 2-5 pages a day of very clean work pay the price of taking a year or two to complete their manuscripts.

5. Writers don't always make that much money. Money comes after you've hit a bestseller list or have excellent sell through. You usually have to wait a year or longer after pub. date to get your first royalty check. Yes, you get advances, but newbies rarely get six-figure advances any more (it can and does happen, but for every newbie with six figures, there are about two hundred newbies in the low four figures). Ergo, you can't buy food for the cat, and the world ends.

So--is it any wonder we burn out? When a writer you loved disappears from the shelves, you can bet that they succumbed to one of the above.

What to do about it? Well--my prescription is to go back to the whole reason why we started writing in the first place.

Love of the craft.

I remember when I first started writing, I was on a loop (defunct now) where we talked about characterization, plot points, pacing, dialog, and much more. A writer would post a paragraph or a scene and ask if it were plausible. Now on the loops, we talk about agents, publicity, print runs, editors, conferences, contests, and the like. These are all important matters, but I can't remember the last time someone wanted to talk about characterization.

Here are some tips for breaking through the block, hopefully some of which will help anyone with writer's block:

1. Get back to basics. Shut off the chat rooms, the loops, the blogs (!). Go to a bookstore or library or the corner of your bedroom and read books. A stack. (or if you read e-books, download one and read it away from your computer with Internet). Don't talk to the authors online, don't read the reviews at Amazon, don't critique it in your blog. Just read it. Remember what being a reader is like. Finish it and read the next one. Make your world about story, words, characters, writing.

2. Staying off the darn loops and chat rooms, start writing. If you're stymied on what you're working on right now, start something new. Or jump to a part of your story that you truly want to work on.

3. Leave the house and put reading and writing completely out of your mind. Ride a bike, hike, exercise, stroll through a park--do anything not related to reading or writing.

4. Go to the movies. Good movies (and even bad ones) can stimulate a thought or an idea. It's best to watch something you never thought you'd like--action/adventure if you love romance; romance if you love thrillers.

5. Pursue an interest that's completely outside writing. For instance, I build miniatures. It takes a different set of brain skills from writing.

6. Visit your family and friends--people you like to be with, not those you feel obligated to be with. Let them talk about their lives and their frustruations and don't talk about writing.

You get the idea. Forget about the stress of sales and marketing and whether your agent will still love you in the morning. Free your mind to think about story. Enjoy it.

Which makes me think I'll go out for a bike ride, take a shower, then fire up the computer. I wisely have my writing computer not on the Internet, so I'm not tempted to check e-mail every ten minutes.

I'll do it of course after I post this to my blog. :)


Wednesday, November 03, 2004

the day after

I can't take this stress. Does anyone else feel like they're watching a basketball game? Only one with worldwide and very important consequences. But the die is cast. It's a waiting game now.

While your waiting, check out the nice review Cindy Vallar did on The Pirate Hunter at Explore the site while you're there. It's way cool with lots of information about pirates and ships and shipboard life, etc. Much fun.

Hang in there.


Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Voting Day!

Ok, everyone in the US, get out there and do it!!

(The line wasn't too bad where I was, and I live in a huge city, so don't let fear of lines stop you.)

This election has been the most tense and exciting of any I can remember in a long, long time. Can you feel it?

I voted, now I'm hungry, so it's off to breakfast and writing. I made a small breakthrough yesterday on High Places, which I hope will carry me through. I know where I'm going; I just have to figure out how to get there. I love my job. :)


Monday, November 01, 2004

happy monday

Everyone thank God for your teeth. I'm having a heck of a time with mine and I can't eat a blessed thing without a problem. Maybe I'll lose weight. I don't recommend this diet. Gack!

Started reading Jo Beverley's Skylark, which is intriguing. Jo can get me worried right away. When a writer makes me long to give her characters a comforting hug and make everything all right for them, then she's hooked me!

I could give a lecture on hooks, but I'll just say that a hook isn't simply a witty or clever opening line. In fact, the opening line can be boring as heck--"She opened the door and was surprised by what she found." There's some bland prose. But do you wonder what she found behind that door? That's the hook. What the "hook" should do is make the reader both understand what's going on and want to read more. Tricky business.

End of lecture.

I need to dive into Murder in High Places today, so here I go. Deep breath--plunge.