miercuri, 9 martie 2011

Addendum: Double Dog Dare Accepted

It must have been the double-dog-dare: Susan zapped me a picture of her office. I'd just like to point out that I didn't have fast food styrofoam anywhere in my office. Mostly because the fast food places I frequent are too cheap to use styrofoam. What's wrong with a plan old paper bag, Miss I'm-Too-High-Falutin'-For-A-Cardboard-Box? And she's kept her poinsettia alive past Christmas, which clearly means she's made a deal with the devil.

Susan writes:
"Okay, Missy, here's my office as of this very minute. Thank God you didn't challenge me to take a picture of myself because the office looks a heck of a lot better than I do. I am cringing, however, at the fast food container on my desk, but I just had my very nutritious lunch of leftover salad with no dressing. (As long as I'm making you mad...) In total fairness, I cleaned up my desk 2 days ago, but even at it's worst it never looked like--- Never mind. My headache is coming back."

"Here's the thing. Your godawful mess of an office looks like the inside of my head ALL THE TIME, which is why I have to keep my workspace reasonably organzied. Otherwise, it would all just be too painful. That mess you work in is a credit to your amazing brainpower."

See, THIS is why she's my pal, even when wearing an electric bubble shirt and lying to Rod Stewart about me. Of course, then she ruins it by adding:

"By the way, I love your new cover for DON'T LOOK DOWN. Still angry that you only gave me that first amazing chapter to read. So unfair to keep me dangling like this, but then that cruel streak of yours does have its way of sticking it's head up, now doesn't it?"

Sigh. So of course I'm sending her an ARC. How can I not?

Mare 2, Kind Of

Well, it's been one of those days, what with Susan answering my double-dog-dare, and the new tile going in my bathroom (and it's GORGEOUS, too) and about twenty million e-mails coming in, including one with the first review of Don't Look Down: "This is the first collaboration between best-selling and award-winning romance writer Crusie and adventure-thriller writer Mayer, and it is a rare and original delight. Mayer's delectably dry sense of humor perfectly complements Crusie's signature brand of sharp wit, and together the two have cooked up a sexy, sassy, and smart combination of romance and suspense that is simply irresistible."

God, I'm so happy, I'm doing the Snoopy Dance all over the house.

But I didn't get to Mare this morning. Or this afternoon. When it got to be 8PM and I was still handling business stuff and e-mails, I realized I wasn't going to get to Mare or Baby (the scene from Agnes) today. I also realized I have to get a grip on my life. I truly typed from 9:30 this morning until 8 this evening without writing one word of fiction. I did four blog entries, though. And I proofread the newsletter and did a bunch of editor and agent e-mails and an agent phone call (except we talk about everything so that's not exactly all business) and a partner phone call (except she's my kid, too, so it's not exactly all business), and then e-mails with Krissie and Eileen about the anthology and the trip next week and promotion, and then there were the lists I have to keep up with, and the call from the vet because Lucy has a double heart murmur even though everything else about her is fine and I swear to God she knows it because before she went to the vet she used to jump up on the bed just fine and now she sits on the floor and looks up at me with those big eyes and does everything but clutch her heart until I pick her up . . .

Clearly there's a lack of focus here. As if you didn't already know that from my desk.

But I did think a lot about fiction today, including writing long e-mails to Bob about what Agnes would be doing baking six kinds of cupcakes while Shane grilled her until Bob wrote back, "TMI," plus yesterday, I was out because of the vet et al and stopped by Home Goods and looked at their Christmas markdowns and there was this angel that marked down from $38 to $5 ("as is"), and I am not an angel kind of person but the face on this one was so amazing, plus she was holding her halo in her hands as if she'd just decided to take it off, plus there was something about an "as is angel" that really appealed to me, plus she was five bucks, for cripes sake, so I bought her and she's sitting on my desk and I keep looking at her fascinated. I know she's going to fuel a book. Maybe Charlotte. Maybe the one I'm going to do a couple of years from now, my verson of The Turn of the Screw. I don't know. But since I have nothing to show for my day, I thought I'd show you the As Is Angel instead

So Here's My Plan . . .

I made a lot of New Year's resolutions last year and I can't remember any of them which is good because it cuts down on the stress. But this year, I'm getting SERIOUS about this stuff. So I'm going to make a public record, thereby opening myself to ridicule and pity if I don't follow through. So here goes:

In 2006, I will finish at least one novel and one novella. No, really.

In 2006, I will lose twenty pounds. I'll still be overweight, but twenty pounds is doable. And I'll be healthier.

In 2006, I will get my office cleaned. This is my office:

And this is my desk:

I'm showing these pictures to shame myself into getting this done. Then I can post the pictures of the nice clean offic. A goal. So I'll do it today. Well, I'll start it today. I have to write in there (see Resolution One).

In 2006, I will be a kinder, gentler person, even while on the road.

In 2006, I will stop trying to do everything at once. Patience, grasshopper.

Five things. That's plenty. Especially since I just survived the December from Hell, so while I am sure there's nothing but good times ahead, I'm not going to shoot too high for 2006. Survival, that's my overall resolution.

And in January, I will . . .

Start my 2006 Journal. I've started at least two dozen journals in my life and I always end up wandering off, but this year, I'm keeping one so I can write down all the stuff I delete from this blog because it would get me in trouble. I didn't put it in the year resolutions because any more than five resolutions is masochism, but goes here. Just try it for a month, Crusie. Nobody will ever read it, so you can just jot things down. No stress.

Start the Dueling Blog for the Don't Look Down Tour, which is now called He Wrote She Wrote. We actually started it this morning, so that's one off the list.

Work on Agnes and the Hitman. Today, I'm going to concentrate on one of the supporting characters, Baby Dupres, and try to write a couple of her POV scenes, rough drafts. She's only going to get about 10% of the book, if that, so if I can get her down on paper, Bob can write her into his scenes. And so can I. I don't really know who a character is until I see what I write. So today, in the time not spent cleaning the office, I will find the keyboard to my big computer and write some Baby. To let you know how bad this is, I still don't know if she's a Southern belle or a mob wife. At the moment she's a Southern belle mob wife, but I'm not sure I can pull that off.

Work on Mare, the novella heroine, because I am heading to New York in ten days to meet with the other two authors of the anthology. More about that later because that one deserves a whole post, especially since I'm going to be doing the twelve days of Mare here shortly. Only not two thousand words a day. Especially since I'm writing Agnes. Okay, that grasshopper resolution needs some work.

Lose five pounds. This will involve exercise which is difficult because I can't write while I'm on the treadclimber. I've tried it, it doesn't work, I almost killed myself when I stopped to stare into space, trying to think of the right word.

And somewhere in there, I should get the proposal for Charlotte done, but I'll be damned if I see where.

So there, I'm on the record, now I have to follow through. Probably. I'm starting after I make pork and sauerkraut for lunch because it's good karma for Germans. I have no idea why, but thanks to my mother, I've been eating pork and sauerkraut on Jan. 1 for 56 years, and things have worked out pretty well, so I see no reason to stop now.

Here's hoping your resolutions are good ones (eat more chocolate, get a puppy, say something nice to yourself in the mirror every day), and your 2006 is terrific.

Happy New Year!

And now Mare . . .

So I’m at The RWA National Conference in Reno last July, and Eileen Dreyer (one of my favorite people and also I’m in love with her husband Rick which is why she calls me “Mormon Wife”) sits down beside me and says, “I have the best idea for a book. The heroine is a shape-shifter but she’s a virgin because every time she gets excited, she changes shape, like into the guy’s mother.” And I said, “How much have you had to drink?” and she said, “Enough,” and we talked of other things. Fast forward a couple of months and she e-mailed me and said, “Here’s the idea: Three novellas, three sisters, all with paranormal powers that they can’t control. I do my shapeshifter, Krissie does one [that’s Anne Stuart], and you do one. What do you say?”

I said, “I’m in.” Well, who wouldn’t be?

And then it turned out Jen Enderlin was in, too, so now sometime in 2007, The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes (working title but hoping it will be permanent) will be published, which means I’m now writing the youngest sister, Mare. (There are three sisters: DeeDee, Eileen’s shapeshifter; Lizzie, Krissie’s girl who changes the shapes of other things; and my girl Moira Mariposa, better known as Mare, who moves things with her mind. Psychokinetic? I know there are terms for all of those powers, but that’s what they do.) So I'm figuring I'll try to do Twelve Days of Mare and see what I get.

BUT I also have to do Agnes with Bob because I can't keep him waiting. And I can't delay Mare because Krissie and Eileen and I are meeting in New York for three days to talk this through, and I need to get a chunk of it done before then so I know what my story is about because I don't really know what I'm doing until I see what I've written.

So here's the plan: I'm going to dedicate an hour to Mare every morning. Afternoons and evenings are for Agnes, but the mornings belong to Mare. Since my mornings are really short--I usually start work about ten--and I have to answer e-mail in there, too, it should work out to about an hour a day, although it'll get trickier once I'm on the road. Twelve days starting tomorrow ends the last day we're in NYC, so that should make things more interesting. January tenth is going to be tricky because I'll be traveling plus that's Mollie's birthday (she'll be twelve) and we're going to do the NYC thing, which for us usually means a great lunch and a walk through Central Park where we talk a mile a minute, but . . .

Where was I? Right. The Twelve Days of Mare starts tomorrow. As with Trudy, the posts will be short, just a way of keeping me honest and on task and probably not very interesting, so be forewarned. And if you want to know how Agnes is doing, schlep on over to He Wrote She Wrote, because that's where we'll be talking about that. About once a week.

Meanwhile, here’s the start of the Mare collage. It's only the very beginning, but I’m liking it.

Addendum: Bob Said Daft, Heh Heh

Comment from Bob on Argh Ink Blog, 12/11/05:
"I have never used the word 'daft'."

E-mail from Jenny, 12/11/05, 10:11:
"You used the word "daft." You may have been quoting Terry, but you used it, because I was surprised you used it.
Of course, I don't think I have that e-mail anymore."

E-mail from Bob, 12/11/05, 10:14:
never have"

E-mail from Jenny, 12/11/05 10:19:
"Yes, you did. I remember it.

E-mail from Bob, 12/11/05. 10:21:

E-mail from Jenny, 12/11/05, 10:25:
"Middle of fourth paragraph. HA."
Followed by entire text of e-mail from Sept. 14 2004 that includes this line:
" "I listened to you present in Maui and the old-- I don't outline, I just write draft after draft stuck me as kind of daft-- pardon the pun. It's a hell of a lot easier to work all this stuff out in outline than draft."

E-mail from Bob, 12/11/05, 10:30:
"too long-- i don't read past the first line"

E-mail from Bob, 12/11/05, 10:30:
"I didn't call you daft
i said what you did was daft"

E-mail from Jenny, 12/11/05, 10:31:
"I believe the blog says, "I have never used the word 'daft."

E-mail from Bob, 12/11/05, 10:33:

E-mail from Bob, 12/11/05, 10:33:
"we really need lives"

E-mail from Jenny, 12/11/05, 10:40:
"I know. It's so sad."

This is going to be so much easier when we're both doing the same blog on the Crusie/Mayer site.

My Dinner with Russ

So I went to dinner one Wednesday last August at Russ Parson’s house because he’s my cousin and I adore him, and because I was in LA and that’s where he lives. And also because he’s married to one of the best women I know; there is nobody in the world better to laugh with than Kathy Parsons. And also because his gorgeous daughter, Sarah, had just graduated from college, so she should get jewelry, which I needed to hand deliver so I could also hug. And also because Russ is the other writer in the family (How To Read A French Fry, great book, you should read it) and we can talk publishing, except we never do. Mostly with the Parsons, you just laugh a lot.

It was my turn to buy dinner because the last time we’d been together it had been Russ’s birthday and we were in New York and they took to me to Per Se where we had a seventeen-course meal that lasted six hours and will always be one of the best memories of my life, both for the food and for the company, plus Thomas Keller showed us around the kitchens and it was amazing, so I definitely owed them. But Russ is one of the great foodies of our time—the guy has James Beard medals strung around his kitchen like Christmas lights—so when I said, “Let me take you out to dinner,” and he said, “No, come here, I’ll cook,” I did not argue. Nor did I argue with the champagne he poured as soon as we got there so we could toast the fact that we were all together again, and then Sarah’s graduation, and then the finished Don’t Look Down, and then his deadline extension, and then the sunset, and then I forget what else, but we toasted it. And we sat around the big table in his backyard and ate--my God, we ate--goat cheese and peppers, pasta tossed with fresh tomatoes, gorgeous glistening fresh cucumber with cracked pepper, thick grilled steaks with garlic butter, and amazing homemade peach-almond ice cream, all under trees strung with tiny white lights. And while I am a snarky, cynical bitch, I have to tell you, there is nothing better than eating great food in a beautiful garden with wonderful people you love while the sun sets. And laughing. After a lot of good champagne.

And of course we talked about food. Well, sort of. Russ said the original artichoke was some kind of weapon. Bob said, “Did you ever wonder who first looked at a squid and said, ‘I could eat that’?” (Russ said, “Squid is good if it’s fresh and well-prepared,” but Russ never met a food he wouldn’t defend.) Sarah said that she’d met one of the survivors from that Alive! plane crash when she was in Brazil.

And then we started talking about Brazilian waxes.

This is probably where I should mention that my critique partner, the lovely Valerie Taylor, got me a Brazilian wax for Christmas last year. I opened up the envelope, and it was a gift certificate for our local spa for, yep, one Brazilian wax. I looked at her and said, “Thank you so much. WHY?” And she said, “Because I want to know what it’s like. You go find out and tell me.” So now it’s Christmas again and I still have this certificate because even if the technician buys me a drink and tells me I have nice eyes, I am not letting anybody do that to me. Probably.

So we’re talking about it—well, Kathy and Sarah and I are talking about it, Russ has his hands over his ears and is saying “Lalalalalalalalala” which shows you can have a lot of James Beard medals and be internationally famous and still be immature, and Bob is saying, “I don’t want to know what that is” which shows you can be a former Green Beret and know how to kill people with your little finger and still be a wuss—and Kathy says, “Who the hell thought that up anyway?”

And I realize it’s the Squid Question. At some point, somebody said, “You know what would be a good idea?” and then ran with it. And whether it remained squid or became calamari depended on what he did with it, but the point is, he ran with it.

Which leads me to my own life because, as my daughter once put it, “Mom, it’s always all about you.” Some of my Squid Questions have been unmitigated disasters—going platinum in college is not a good memory, and there was that time I dove into cold surf and had an asthma attack that almost killed me, and I definitely shouldn’t have shown my tattoo to my therapist—but I can’t honestly say I regret any of them. If nothing else, they made me smarter. (Haven’t see me as a platinum blonde lately, have you? And one of my tattoos is the Chinese symbol that means "to risk" which I did on impulse along with the one I'd come for, and it only occurred to me later that the flash at Mother's Tattoos probably wasn't done by anybody who actually reads Chinese, and that for all I know that symbol means "This Space For Rent" or "Skanky Ho." Which is all part of the risk, so the symbol still works. But I digress.) And some were necessary disasters, like getting married at twenty-one which was really stupid, but if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have Mollie now, so it was a good thing. And then there are those that were brilliant. Quitting my teaching job when I was neck-deep in debt to go back to grad school and write romance novels was a dumb plan that turned out smart. Buying the ugliest house I’d ever seen because it was on the most beautiful land I’d ever seen is working out well. Collaborating with a writer of violent military thrillers was a terrible career move except that it resulted in the one of the best books I’ve ever done and you should see the one we’re working on now, as our agent says, “This is a riot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (That’s a direct quote from her e-mail. Well, she’s our agent so she has to love us, but trust me, she’d tell us if she hated it.)

So I’m thinking Russ is right (well, Russ is usually right) and that the point isn’t that squid is intrinsically bad, that it’s that you take the risk and then concentrate on the execution and voila! calamari. So I think maybe it’s a good idea to periodically say “yes” to the Squid Questions with great enthusiasm and no regrets, even while all those about you are saying, “Are you out of your mind?” And that maybe I should go for that Brazilian wax. Not now, of course, but maybe some day.

And I should definitely always have dinner with the Parsons because those people know food and laughter and love.

Trudy 12: What Have We Learned From This, Dorothy?

And here it is, the Twelfth Day of Trudy. This has been a valuable experiment and I have learned many things.

1. I should plan to write about a thousand words a day. That I can do without any trouble. (I did 1500 tonight, which gives me about 13,500 words.)

2. Forget me writng to an outline. I really do need to just write what's in my head and figure out where it goes later. All you linear people, go yell at somebody else. I tried it. I hated it. :p

3. But I do like writing what I hear in my head and then going back to the white board to see where it goes and what it does for the story. So I think working out turning points and listing scenes on the board in a kind of organic outline as I go is a good compromise.

4. The collage is crucial, and putting it together during the first push of the first draft is essential. (I actually found the pink kid's nail file yesterday at Kroger's. I couldn't believe it, they actually do put nail files in kid's toy manicure sets. So much for "no sharp objects in children's toys." Which is great because there's a pink nail file from a kid's manicure set in the story. Well, you have to be there to enjoy this as much as I do. Never mind.)

5. When things go really wrong outside the book, don't even try to write, just deal. Tomorrow is another thousand words.

So I'm pretty pleased even if I didn't get to 20,000. I'll do Trudy updates as I get it finished, but this forced march gave me what I needed and I'm happy. And it's looking as if there might be another novella on the horizon, so I may try this again with that one--her name's Mariposa--if it pans out. Having to report here kept me honest, and that's a good thing.

Although I realise this was probably not exactly riveting. Argh. Well, it's good to set the bar low. Let's lower those expectations, shall we? Thank you.

Just Like Cheerios

You know, the business part of writing never fails to amaze me. There's so much to it, even if you're not insane about it the way I am. My latest insanity, which I have thoughtfully inflicted on Bob, is branding the collaboration so we can sell it just like General Mills sells Cherrios. Or whoever it is that sells Cherrios.

Branding is the new buzzword in publishing. (Well, not that new. I'm never cutting edge.) The idea is to sell an author as someone who produces a certain kind of book, a product if you will. I kind of hate it because it does hem a writer in, but for the collaboration, I think it's necessary. We're trying to sell an idea here, the idea that a book with a man writing all the male points of view and a female writing all the female points of view, each writer coming from a distinctly different tradition, is fun and classy and well worth $24.95 or whatever the sucker is going to sell for. Plus Bob and I really like to teach and we want to do a five-day writing workshop in the spring, so we needed a look to market that, too. And then there's the collab website which will also need a graphic. Basically, what we needed was a logo that summed up the partnership in a clean, not-too-detailed image that we could use anywhere, in one or two colors, and that would work large or small. Not an easy design project.

So we called on the brilliant Mara Lubelle, and said, "He's a little bit violent military thriller, she's a little bit hot romantic comedy, together they solve crime," and Mara came up with four logos. And they were all good, but we're only using one, so this is the only chance to see all of them.

The first one was good, but it didn't capture the off-the-wall quality of the collboration. Nice type face, though:

The second one was better--I particularly like that bullet--but it seemed too busy and it was a little too detailed to reduce down well:

The third one I really liked and so did Bob: very clean and simple. But it was a little more violent than I was comfortable with: after all that's me in the crosshairs, or at least that's my symbol:

Which brings us to the last one, which we both liked because it made us both laugh and because it really does sum up our partnership:

No, you don't get to vote, the last one is it. But isn't it great?

Thank you, Mara Lubelle, genius logo designer.