Musings


While celebrating my Golden Heart® finalist status in one of many phone calls over the weekend, my friend Pat said something that made me tear up a little. She said my mother would be proud.

That’s true. My mom, an English teacher before I came along, always encouraged me to write. When she died in 2003, I hadn’t yet accomplished anything in the fiction world (although I do think she watched me receive a first-place award from the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists for a series of stories on students peeved about a high school’s piercing policy).

Since her death, I’ve lost 100 pounds (and, unfortunately, regained most of it). I’ve found myself a significant other. I’ve finished more than one manuscript and — finally — gained the courage to start putting my fiction out there.

I experienced a moment of sadness that Mom didn’t live to see this moment. But I like to think she knows. Somehow, she knows … just like she knows I sit down and watch one of her favorite movies, “A Christmas Story,” at least once every year. (She grew up in Hammond, Ind., on the street Ralphie supposedly lived on.)

I’m sure I’m not the only one counting down the days hours until Golden Heart finalist calls go out.

To keep my nerves at bay, I’ve been checking in with the gals at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. They’ve been on GH countdown all week, and will have a big e-party on Friday.

I scheduled myself a massage Friday morning and (inadvertently) a chiropractor’s appointment. (I realized that when I went to enter the massage in my cell phone calendar.)

Maybe I should go shopping for some consolatory chocolate — or a celebratory tiara, as Anne Marie recommended in Wednesday’s post.

And I’ll definitely keep in mind the advice in Thursday’s entry: Not finaling in the GH doesn’t mean your story is no good. Maybe one of your judges was having a bad day … or a bad hair day. Or they hated your hero/heroine.

I hope that none of those things are the case, and that my sparkling prose earned me a lot of high scores, securing me one of those coveted calls and a spot in the 2011 class of GH finalists.

But if it didn’t, don’t worry: I’m not going anywhere. What is it they say? If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

If your mother was anything like mine, she dispensed tons of advice: Sit up straight … Don’t go outside with a wet head or you’ll catch a cold … and NEVER stop at a rest area after dark.

Well, I slouch all the time, frequently go out with wet hair and recently stopped at Sunset Point at midnight (under the Boyfriend’s watchful eye) — and the world didn’t stop spinning. My posture may suffer, but I didn’t catch my death of cold or get myself murdered.

So Mom doesn’t always know best.

She was right about one thing, though: You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

As a reporter, my best interviews happen when I approach them like I’m sitting down to chat with a friend. Interview subjects share more — and give better quotes — if you set a friendly tone and bond over something you have in common.

Interviewing characters is similar. I like to sit down with my laptop, usually in a coffee shop, and make myself comfortable. Then we chat.

Of course, your characters are in your head, so you control the response. However, if your characters are anything like mine, they’re mouthy at best, uncooperative at worst.

To get the conversational ball rolling, I lob them a few softball questions first, questions like How’d you get your nickname? Where do you live? Any roommates?

With the niceties out of the way (and the creative juices flowing), you can get serious. If you’re lucky, your characters’ responses tell you something you didn’t know or didn’t consider important … something you can use to enrich your story.

For example, when I sat down with the hero in a half-finished, still-untitled WIP, I discovered he’s a bit of a stuffed shirt who likes to please everyone but himself.

So, Drew, tell me about your childhood.

(shrugs) There’s not much to tell. I grew up in a stable home with a mother and father who both loved me to distraction. I’m the middle child, with an older sister and younger brother.

I understand they’re both screw-ups.

Denise is a successful attorney. I’d hardly call that a screw-up. Of course, Mom isn’t happy that she’s decided to get herself artificially inseminated.

How do you feel about that decision?

It’s not my decision to make. She is 32 years old and still without a husband or any prospect of one. I say if she thinks the sperm bank is the best way to achieve her goal of having a family, she should go for it. (Hmm … I sense a story there! 😉 ) Just don’t tell my Mom I said so.

Why not?

I like being “the good child.” If Mom heard me siding with Denise, I might lose my standing.

What about your brother?

Dan? He’s no threat. He can’t hold a job for more than a few months at a time. He just lost another one, for boinking some girl in the copier room.

Let’s explore your need to be “the good child.”

Now you sound like my shrink.

You have a shrink?

No, but if I did, he’d surely want to “explore my need to be ‘the good child.’”

Well?

Pass. Ask me another question.

No, I think we’re onto something here. We’re going to continue exploring this topic, if you don’t mind.

(scowls) I like making people happy. Is that a crime?

Not at all — unless, of course, by making someone else happy you’re not pleasing yourself, too.

You can’t please someone else and yourself at the same time, genius.

Of course you can, if you both have similar goals, needs and desires.

And how many truly compatible people do you find in this world? I’m willing to bet the answer is “not too damn many.”

It only takes one, Drew.

Now you’re talking romance, huh?

You got it, genius.

So grab a cup of coffee, make yourself comfortable and have a heart-to-heart with your hero/heroine. What you find out just might surprise you — and it’ll probably improve your WIP.

The English language is constantly growing and evolving.

What’s that? You already knew that? Well, so did I. But for some reason, this not-so-surprising thought whapped me upside the head the other day.

A writer friend and I were at Starbucks (where else?) when she asked if I thought OMG was in the dictionary yet.

“No, but I’m pretty sure they just added ‘friend’ as a verb.”

I couldn’t find any proof of this notion when I looked, but I did find this article from cracked.com listing “muggle,” “cyberslacking,” “gaydar,” “threequel” and “frankenfood” as new words in the Oxford English Dictionary.)

Another article says “turducken,” “frenemy,” “bromance” and “steampunk” made the cut. And in 2009, Merriam-Webster added “staycation,” “vlog,” “webisode” and “waterboarding,” among others.

While no one uses the word “bifurcate” anymore, phrases like “frenemy” and “bromance” have slipped into the common vernacular. I should know. I recently used “bromance” (correctly) in a sentence in my WIP.

And on my other blog, it’s easy to slip in an OMG. Heck, even the word “blog” itself is a relatively new creation.

It makes me wonder: Will future generations look back and laugh at the way we talk/write? Will they even be able to understand us? Or will our frenemies and cyberslacking sound as foreign to them as Elizabethan English seems to most of us?

All I can say is thank goodness “Gag me with a spoon” didn’t catch hold!

Ever wonder if your wellspring of ideas will dry up? I do.

The thought hit me tonight: When I finish the first draft of my WIP, what’s next?

Of course there will be finding volunteers to read my newly finished baby, editing, and, eventually, writing a query and shopping it around.

But what will be my next WIP? Where will the idea originate?

I used to think I had an unending supply of ideas. After all, my imagination is sometimes sparked by a blurb I see/hear on the news (as was the case for “Blind Date Bride”) or even by something I witness in the mall.

Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that those snippets don’t necessarily have the chops to sustain a novel — of any length. They might make it into the story as part of a scene, but there’s usually no conflict … nothing at stake.

Huh. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have worried about that. Good thing I’ve learned something since then, eh?

And now that I’ve had some time to mull things over in my head, I do have some good ideas rattling around in there. First off, I can finish Drew & Lainy’s story (which could probably kick off an entire series, seeing as it’s set in a high school that happens to be a hotbed of teacher-on-teacher romance).

Brad and Kenny’s brother needs his own story, too. Matt’s buddy, Dave, has a built-in backstory (complete with secret baby). Another of his teammates could also have a tale to tell. And during my recent fit of decluttering, I stumbled on an old idea with a lot of promise.

Guess my wellspring of ideas won’t be running dry anytime soon. That’s a relief!

Someone could — maybe even should — write a dissertation on what heroes’ cars say about them.

The idea came to me over the weekend, while the Boyfriend and I were gabbing (where else?) in the car. We spend a lot of time driving somewhere.

I can’t remember how the topic came up, but I was soon running through a list of my heroes and the vehicles they drive — and finding it interesting that in my last three stories, my hero has driven an SUV of some sort.

Damien has a Honda Element; Matt drives a Yukon; and Kenny has a Ford Explorer.

What does their vehicle say about them? To me, SUVs (and pickup trucks) are more rugged … manly. A man in an SUV is competent and capable.

Damien, having an Element, is also eco-conscious. (I do wonder, though, if an Element is really considered an SUV. I’ll pretend it is, because I like the thought of Damien as capable, competent and manly.

Perhaps an SUV-driving man is a cliche, like a cowboy in a pickup. But cliches have their roots in truth, right? 😉

My other stories’ heroes drive cars, except the one who has no car at all. (Drew sold his car before moving to Indiana, basing his decision on the cost to have it shipped from Arizona and the belief that everything’s in walking distance in the town he was moving to.)

Dustin, my FBI agent, drives a red Porsche convertible that he bought used and keeps in good condition. The flashy car came in handy while he was undercover with the p0rn ring. His heroine, while she likes the car, is convinced it’s proof that Dustin is all flash and no substance.

Mike James drives a black Camaro, part of the playboy image he maintains. He starts to wonder if it’s time to trade it in for something more stable and dependable — kind of like he starts to wonder if it’s time to shed his image to settle down with Bree.

The only hero with a car I couldn’t remember is Brad, from “Operation Snag Mike Brad.” It kept running through my mind that he drove a Camaro, as well … but I couldn’t see myself giving two different heroes a Camaro.

Well, I was wrong. I checked in the MS, and Brad does drive a Camaro. I think I’m going to have to change that. That car doesn’t scream “teacher in a small town.” Maybe I should give him an aging Toyota or something.

Oops … there I go with the stereotyping again. (Hmm … One of my heroines has a bad habit of doing that. Wonder where she got it.) 😛

I can’t remember the address of this website. All I know is, one night at the office, many years ago, one of my coworkers who no longer works there said, “Hey, here’s a website that tells you your p0rn star name.'” (Yeah, you’d be amazed what silly things happen during downtime in the newsroom.)

We entered our names, chuckled and went back to work. Except I entered a few extra names — those belonging to some of my heroes and heroines.

I tell you this because while I was decluttering my bedroom (a weeklong project), I discovered a Post-it note — no longer sticky, of course — with those names on it. It was buried under a pile of magazines and other crap on my dresser.

It was good for a laugh, for sure.

My fave hero of all time, Mike James, became “Adam Steele.” Dustin, the FBI agent, was “Kidd Gunn” — kind of like Kidd Video … but cooler, I hope. (Does anyone else remember “Kidd Video”? It was a Saturday morning cartoon-ish show, I think on NBC, after MTV got big).

Dustin’s heroine, Cassie Quinn, became Nikki Foxx. Her name didn’t get used, but I worked Dustin’s into the story. (He was talking with his buddy about the p0rn0graphy ring he helped break up, working undercover as … you guessed it … Kidd Gunn.)

My handwriting has gotten worse over the years, but even then, it was horrible. I had a name, Nick Carrington, written down for a character named, as best as I could make out, Gann.

Last night, I had no idea who “Gann” could be. I tried to make it into Brad (of Brad and Erin fame) and even Erin, though her p0rn star name was highly unlikely to be Nick Carrington.

This morning, it hit me: Gavin … as in Gavin Smythe, the foreign exchange student from the “High School Hell” collection I wrote with my roommate. He and Tarrah Ray hit it off by the end of those stories, and I picked up their story years later, after she followed him to London for university, abandoned him and went on to become a wildly successful writer. Gavin became a wildly successful hotel mogul, and their paths crossed again when her book was being made into a movie at one of his properties.

That’s a Harlequin Presents type of story, in case you couldn’t guess. It’s about two-thirds finished (that magic spot where I tend to lose interest and move on) — but what’s written is still pretty good.

Aw, jeez. Did I just commit to another project?

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