Our Story Thus Far

Was it only this morning I swore to take more photos this year?

Well, I promptly left the camera in the hotel room. But I have it in my pile for tomorrow.

But today went great. At the Albuquerque Sunport, it turned out that five other gals from LERA were on my same flight to Orlando, including Gabi Stevens and Belle Sloan. Then someone called my name in the Orlando airport and it was Patti Osbeck, from the Phoenix Desert Rose chapter. Apparently all desert Southwest flights get in at the same time.

Allison got in ahead of me and immediately hit the pool bar and cabana. I unpacked and went to look for her. I ran into Darynda Jones, also of LERA, and Bria Quinlan, formerly of LERA and defected back to Boston. Michelle Miles grabbed me and introduced me to a couple of her Yellow Rose pals, while I drank my richly-deserved dirty martini.

Then Cynthia Eden and Jenn Dorough, fab FFP Secretary, came walking by, along with their chapter pal, Lee. They invited me to go eat dinner. (Okay, I glommed on, as I was resolved to make sure I actually ate something, rather than sitting and drinking martinis all night.) We snagged Allison from her socializing and ended up on the Boardwalk eating dinner in the hot, humid night with Toni Blake, Nikki Enlow and Samhain’s Managing Editor Lindsey Faber.

I might or might not have had a second dirty martini.

I wish I’d taken pics, but Cindy did take videos for her vlog, which includes me talking while Nikki Enlow makes Shiva hands behind me. I’ll probably link to it when she posts it….

At any rate, for this, my third RWA convention, I feel I’ve discovered the secret: have people recognize you, so you don’t have to worry about recognizing them. This is a great boon to me.

So, if you see me, come up and say hi!

That Time of Year

This year, I’m resolved to take more photos.

All of my pictures from last year are from other people’s cameras. (And no, we have no idea what Jeri Smith-Ready is doing in this picture. My theory is vampire dog, but you never know….) But then I was crazy busy/stressed last year. Hopefully this year will involve less of me running around like a manic person.

Tonight, the lovely and serene Cynthia Eden will host a pajama party, I believe. That ought to make for good photo opportunities.

Stay tuned – I’m off to Orlando. Save me now…

Go-to-Meetin’ Clothes

Isabel is ready to go to the RWA conference!

Now if only I was…

Actually, it’s not that bad. My plane doesn’t leave until about 12:30 tomorrow, so I don’t have to leave the house until 10 am. I’m mostly packed – including feline companion – and everything else is stacked up. We got back from Denver early enough yesterday for me to finish all the laundry and get organized on FFP’s big party at the convention – something that actually took hours and hours of work. And I finished my costume. I don’t like to do these things too far ahead of time…

People keep asking me if I’m excited to go. I should just lie and say “yes!” like they want me to. Truth is, I kind of dread going. Once I get there, I’m fine. I’ll see lots of friends and it will be a non-stop whirl of fun. I’ll have a great time; I know that. There’s just a big part of me who’d like to curl up in the suitcase, too, and stay in the den.

It’s funny having just come from my high school reunion. The turn-out was quite small and many people I would have liked to see didn’t show. But it was funny to hear some of the stories and have people ask me didn’t I remember that party? No, because I was almost never at the parties. I always thought it was because I wasn’t invited, but I think now it was more that I was usually so happy to have “my nose in a book,” as my mother would say, that I rarely got up the gumption to go socialize. When I did, I had fun.

Just like convention.

Odd, at this stage in life, to recognize this pattern in myself. It helped, oddly enough, to take the Meyers-Briggs personality test and discover that I test as an introvert. I’ve always thought of myself as a basically social person and I’m socially confident in general. But my little introvert heart is happier tucked in where it’s quiet and people don’t ask me questions.

(No, I won’t start mumbling to Precious. Much.)

Fortunately, fence-sitter me, I just barely score into the introvert category, so I can dig up some extrovertedness if necessary. The thought just sounds draining at the moment. Once I get there, the excitement will pump me up.

So – am I excited? No. But I will be.

Back In My Day…

I read a fair number of blogs about writing, reading and the publishing industry.

No surprise there.

If you read a lot of these blogs, you’ll notice that there are certain themes people like to return to. One of the favorite ones is how unlikely you are to make money as a writer. I wanted to add the phrase “especially lately.” It’s true that the economic downturn has people focused on money and lack thereof, but I’ve been hearing this lecture since I started writing back in the late 90s.

Exhibit A: http://pimpmynovel.blogspot.com/2010/07/you-aint-in-it-for-money.html. I generally like this guy’s blog, but what he’s saying about keeping the day job is pretty standard. You might make some money, but not enough to live on, is the message. At the same time, the big news last week was that Janet Evanovitch, author of the wildly successful Stephanie Plum series, now up to 16 books, asked for $50 million for her next four books. Well, her agent, who is also her son, asked for it. Same thing? I was shocked by this number until an editor on Twitter told me Evanovitch got $40 million for the previous four.

Still, she says, that’s a raise of $2.5 million per book, which is asking a lot in this economy.

So, I’m going to leave alone the concept that someone who’s already received $40 million could then want another $50 million. This is a world I don’t live in. I understand this gets to be like movie stars, where prestige rests on the price tag. I just keep thinking that once I buy the beach house in the Caribbean, what would I do with the rest of the money?

But that’s neither here nor there.

I’m wondering where the middle is?

There must be something besides “you won’t make enough to live on” and “I need $12.5 million per book.” The zone gets fuzzy because everyone thinks they need a different amount of money to live on, but still…

For most writers, the goal is to make enough money to ditch the day job and write full time. This seems like a reasonable ambition. After all, nobody practices law on the side while working as a checker at the grocery store. Nobody tells you when you go into environmental consulting that you should really plan on just enjoying it as a hobby that supplements your real income.

I’m beginning to suspect this is a bit of a “stay away” gambit. Well-meaning, perhaps, but I think a lot of these writers are seeing their pool glutted. Especially the ones who aren’t making enough money to live on. I’ve never heard Nora Roberts or Janet Evanovitch give this cautionary tale. In fact, I once heard Anne Rice announce that she was getting something like $1 million for her next book (I know – Janet was giggling) and that if she could do it, anyone could.

The upshot is: I’m tired of this particular saw and I don’t intend to listen anymore.

Our finances are good. I pay attention to where my money comes from and where it goes. We have no appreciable debt beyond our mortgage, which is solid because we bought at the bottom of the market. I know what I need to live on and what’s gravy. I think that’s just being financially savvy. We should all know where we stand and what we need. From there it’s perfectly reasonable to set income goals from our writing.

It’s not magic; it’s just being smart.

Prince of a Man

Today is David’s Birthday.

And with today, we complete the cycle that first brought us to Santa Fe. A year ago today, David turned 50 and we drove down to Santa Fe to commence our house hunt. A year from tomorrow will be the first time we saw this house. David turning 50 also marked the beginning of his early retirement, which freed him to return to school to start this second career.

Finally I can connect the cycle of how the garden looked this time last year (better than it does now, I think. alas).

In my family, birthdays are special, but I feel like David often gets a bit skunked on his. Sometimes we’ve done fun things, like the year we went to Las Vegas for a few days and saw three nights of Cirque du Soleil, and drank margaritas by the pool during the day. Or the year we drove around Wyoming during his birthday week and played tourist.

But last year I was scrambling for gifts because I’d been on non-stop travel. It should have been a special party for his 50th, like we did for his 40th. I’d hoped we’d go out to dinner on some great patio in Santa Fe, but it was pouring rain when we arrived and we just didn’t feel like going back out in it. We ended up ordering dining delivery from Maria’s Kitchen. We stayed in, drank the expensive tequila I’d gotten him and listened to the rain.

We both remember that evening with nostalgia, though there wasn’t much to it. Tonight we have reservations for the patio at Luminaria, which people say makes you feel like you’re in the Caribbean. He has class all day and an exam this afternoon. Hopefully we can do cocktails and presents on the patio before we go to dinner.

Another low-key birthday for David. But maybe that’s okay.

Next year, though, I’m thinking we should go back to Las Vegas for the weekend.

Hope Is a Thing of Dorkiness

We’re heading into good sunset season again.

Once again I’m reminded how lucky I am to be able to witness this from our front porch. Last night was a hot night, unusual for us. At about 10:30 I went and sat on the patio. Heat lightning flickered around the valley and the moon swam silver through black clouds. It felt lovely and peaceful.

I might be refilling the well for a while here. I feel considerably less depleted today, however.

I also managed to finish a big chunk of a project for the day job yesterday, so that made a huge difference.

And I sent The Body Gift off to the agent. No, not *my* agent, but my potential agent. The one I’d really like to work with. She’s responsive, positive, really good at what she does and she likes me. When she finally rejected Obsidian, she asked me to “please, please query again.” She’s the one who called The Body Gift a stellar idea (stellar/sterling – I got mixed up. forgive me). I’d emailed her last week to find out her reading schedule and see if there was a good time to read it. She wanted me to send it right away, so she can read it before National (eep).

So I sent it yesterday morning. With a little “Here it is!” And I sat there and stared at my screen, sifting through all the things I wanted to add. Wanting to pour all my hopefulness and excitement onto this little email, which adds or changes nothing. And she knows how I feel anyway. Every agent knows how writers feel when we send our manuscripts.

Finally I typed, “I know this is silly to say, but I really hope you love it.”

I know – I’m a dork.

But she replied later in the day, saying “Me too!”

Which is sweet of her. And it reminds me, should remind all of us of something that we forget. The agents really want to love our stuff. Every time they read our pages, they are also full of hope. Hope and anticipation that this will be something they can love and champion and hopefully sell for enough money that their 15% will buy more than a week’s worth of groceries.

We take turns waiting on each other. They wait while we write. We wait while they read. Each of us hoping the other will come through.

Hope feels like such a silly thing, where cynicism feels so wise and mature.

But hope is what keeps us going.

Fragments of Something

I’m calling it “Fragments.”

Yes, I finally did something with the pot Alex shattered. I planted some little heat-tolerant plants around it, too – they’re just difficult to see in the photograph. All in all, I think it looks pretty decent. And I planted the roses, too.

I thought about calling it “Fragments of a Dream,” but that seemed, well, spectacularly melodramatic, especially since there aren’t any shattered dreams around here. So I decided to leave the title of my found art as just “Fragments” – that way the viewer can fill in his or her own thing that’s disassembled.

I went through The Body Gift, too, and made everything match up (I think, I hope, I pray). Sent it to three of my Critique Partners and one, who hasn’t seen any of it, has declared herself in love already. Big sigh of relief there. The agent I’d love to sign with said to send it so she could read it before the National convention, so I’m going to have to trust in the story and send her off soon.

Yeah, okay, I’m nervous.

And depleted.

My well is bone dry. I think I’ll even take this week off from writing and not even look at any wordcounts. Plus, this will be a busy time. David’s birthday is Wednesday. We go up to Denver for my high school reunion on Friday. Then next Tuesday, I head to the RWA National Convention.

Somehow my Julys always seem to end up really busy. Here’s hoping for a lazy August!


So: it’s officially done.

The Body Gift was completed at lunchtime yesterday, bouncing into the world at 102,242 words, 460 pages.

Some of that is baby fat, of course, and will be shed in these first few days of polishing and tightening.

For the first couple of hours, I felt exhilarated, still riding the rush of the climactic scene, which turned out to be really exciting, even though I knew what would happen. Then I crashed. I felt bereft and lonely.

It was as if this huge bubble of a thing that had filled me up, with particular intensity these last few weeks, had suddenly departed. It’s still there, but it’s more like a hot air balloon tethered to me, rather than all that heat and color being in my heart.

This is a better analogy than the baby one. Victoria Dahl, a very fun romance author a great Twitter presence, has been on a rampage lately that books are not babies. She has a good point, that authors get themselves into trouble when they treat books like babies and not a commodity or a piece of art.

Still, this postpartum depression is real. Though dictionaries tend to define “postpartum” as “occurring after birth,” the Latin word “partus” means a bearing, a bringing forth. Which fits this scenario.

As the evening wore on, I felt better. Little bursts of relief that it’s done followed by intense paranoia that everyone will hate it. I get to go through now and make a few rules reconcile that I changed along the way, make sure all the correct seeds are in place. Then I’ll cut my balloon free and see if anyone shoots it down.

Meanwhile, I need to tend the garden. It’s doing okay, but not as well as last year, which is pretty much because I suck. Not at gardening in general – the irony is I once created a garden from scratch that was on our (admittedly small town) garden tour. Now I have these flowers I bought when my folks were coming for 4th of July weekend that I thought I’d plant to supplement the garden. But apparently I can’t remember that days have passed since I watered them. They’re looking quite scraggy now from drying out and I feel guilty because they were really gorgeous when I bought them. It’s like I got a puppy from the pound and tied it up out back and forgot about it.

What? You know I have an overactive imagination!

At any rate, it’s time for me to move back into the world instead of seeing the world of The Body Gift everywhere I look.

Move away from wordcount and into pages edited.

And get those roses planted already!