Life 101: You Gotta Live


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On my handy-dandy schedule of blog post topics for today is something serious and author/reader centric. It’s an important subject. . .and we’ll talk about it next week. Because today, I want to talk about the importance of life.

I love to write. Can you tell by how many books I publish? I hope so. Because it’s true; it’s my passion, and I’m grateful beyond the telling for the opportunity to do it. Matter of fact, sometimes I love it so much I forget to stop doing it.

That’s right, folks. I sit down here in my comfy computer chair (with or without cats) and sometimes I don’t get up for more hours than I care to tell you. And then I crawl into bed and get up the next morning and do it all over again.

I’m not complaining one bit. But I’ve been reminded of an essential truth recently: I cannot be the writer I want to be if I stop 11051623_10152888798094145_776859053_nliving. And life, as it turns out, mostly happens away from my computer and comfy chair.

I knew this a little. I’d have a twinge of reminder when I finished a book and looked around blinking at the world that had continued to spin without my knowledge or participation. When folding laundry and cleaning my closet were a treat I allowed myself after I’d met a certain writing goal, I knew things were bad.

Today in the midst of deadlines and craziness and interviews and emails and demands, I took a day and spent it with a dear friend who’s in town from Montreal for a short time. I only see Anne-Marie about once every two years. I treasure those times, and today, I ignored all the should-bes and did the wanna-dos. We stayed up late chatting last night. 11040073_10152888367409145_754633664_nGot up this morning and sat on the back porch, looking out over the lake. Went to the outlets and raided Vera Bradley. Drove to the beach, had a beer and burger, and then took a long walk along the water. Drove home, played cards as I made dinner, ate ice cream and then talked some more.

And I don’t regret it at all.

I may not have typed a single word today, but I promise, when I hit the keyboard later this week, what I write will be better. Richer. Stronger. Because a writer can’t write if she ignores life.

And that, darling reader, applies to all of us. Read, by all means. Enjoy your movie and your television. But then put down the book, turn off the TV and go spend some time talking to real people. Take a walk. Go to the grocery store and strike up a conversation. Grab coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in weeks. Talk to your family and really listen to what they say. Play a game. Laugh. Love.

Live.

Addicted to Ahhhhs

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is, “What made you start writing books?” I have a standard answer: I always wrote, from childhood on. I was always a storyteller. And one day circumstances were such that I had the time, incentive and energy. . blah, blah, blah.

Oh, it’s the truth. But there’s actually a much deeper, much simpler motivation for why I write. I’m addicted to ahhhhs.heart shape

You know what the ahhhs are, right? It’s that feeling you get when you’re reading a book, particularly (for me) a romance. You hit a certain point in the story, and suddenly, you’re captivated. The male lead does something or says something. . .or there’s a moment between the two love interests. . .or some element of the story just grips you so totally that you’re completely invested in this world, in these characters and you think. . .ahhhhhhh.

I’ve been an addict for a very long time. I’m not sure if it began with Laura and Almanzo in These Happy Golden Years or Scarlett and Rhett in Gone With The Wind or Celia and Luke in Celia Garth. But once I discovered this feeling, like any other addict, I needed that fix. Once a book ended, I was on the prowl for yet another.

Finally, one day, I realized that just reading the stories wasn’t cutting it. I needed something. . .more. Something that was within my control, particularly when it came to timing. I wanted to give the characters lurking within my own mind their ahhhhs. And that’s when I began seriously writing.

My first personally-written ahhhhh moment came during the first chapter I wrote about Tasmyn and Michael. It was the scene of their first kiss, on the beach of a lake in central Florida. I wrote it first, before anything else in Fearless, and it fed the need, at least for a little while:

“Tasmyn, trust me. I won’t hurt you, ever, and if it’s in my power, I won’t let anyone else hurt you either. I’ve never felt this way about anyone before. May I kiss you. . .please?”

I was shaking ever so slightly as I nodded my head, barely. A smile spread over his face as he brought his other hand to my neck and gently tilted my head back. His lips brushed mine, and it was so tender and innocent that I felt tears spring to my eyes. 

Of course, pretty soon I needed another fix. And that’s why there are four books in the King Series, and why I went on to write about more ahhhhs.

I was thinking of this last night. I finished a book I’d had mixed feelings about; the storyline was a little iffy, some of the editing and grammar could’ve used work. But I connected with the characters, so I stuck with it. In the end, I enjoyed the book, even though it had some rough areas. Why did I keep reading? Because it had killer ahhhh moments.

Now it’s time for me to get back to my current story. Sometimes my own characters amaze me with the depth of their connection, with the twists and turns. . .and let me tell you, in The Only One, I think there are more ahhhhhhhs than in any of my other books to date. Mason and Rilla are setting the bar high.

What can I say? I just need one more hit. . .yeah, just one. . .

Authors, Readers and Boundaries in this Brave New World

I’m an indie author, and proudly so. I can’t imagine making this journey any other way, because it works for me. It doesn’t mean it’s anyone else’s best choice, but it’s definitely mine.

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That being said, it’s not difficult to see the shifts in the landscape of publishing, both positive and negative. I love being in control of my own career. I can publish as much or as little as I choose. I can have the book covers I want, and I can write the characters and story lines I want. I’m my own boss.

 

Some of the negatives have been slow to develop, but they’re here. I’ve noticed that some readers–none of mine, who are perfect in every way–but some out there have begun to feel that they have the right to dictate to authors what they should and should not write. . .which book should be written before another one. . .which character should live and die.

I’m not sure why exactly this change has come about, but I have a theory. Once upon a time, authors were reclusive creatures. You might write a letter to a favorite author, or you might meet her at a book signing, but there was rarely time or opportunity to share your own take on her plot lines. But here we are in the 21st century, where most authors are on social media, have email addresses available to the public and often post very personal information. Readers feel closer to authors. And in one sense they are; I like my readers very much, and I enjoy what they share with me. As I’ve said before, my readers are perfect. But I see it, and I’ve heard about it.

I like feedback, and I welcome readers’ input. But there is a line. The characters may live out in the book world, but they were born in my head, and that’s where all the magic happens. I’m sorry if some of their actions or decisions aren’t what all readers want, but that’s how it happened, I promise you.

I think the inimitable Nora Roberts captured this perfectly in her recent blog post. It’s called, appropriately enough, Bite Me.

I’m not Nora, I’ll never be Nora, and I would never, ever dare to suggest that I know anything about what she’s experienced. But I see the trend, and not just with the lovely Ms. Roberts. I see it creeping in everywhere.

I’m not unsympathetic. Heck, if you want the full truth, in the course of my reading lifetime, I wanted Bella not to turn into a vampire (or have a baby, but that’s another story), I wanted Dumbledore not to die, I wanted Claire not to leave 18th century Scotland, and I wanted Rhett not to walk out on Scarlett. But I understood that the story wasn’t mine, and I had to accept the decisions of the author.

(Now, when it comes to a TV show, like, say, How I Met Your Mother, all bets are off. The real ending was not what we saw last spring. I’m sure of it.)

The bottom line is that writers have the right to control the destiny of their own characters without influence or harassment from others. It’s one of our job perks. And if you mess around with us, no worries. . .we’ll just write you into the book. And probably kill you off. Horribly.

😉