Thursday, March 29, 2007

Time Off for Good Behavior

Writers in general are awfully hard on themselves, and I am no exception. Way back in the dark ages, when I decided to quit my job to become a full-time writer, I made a promise to myself. I was not going to be one of those writers who played around at the craft, who wrote "when I have time." I was a full-time, eight-hours-a-day writer, often including weekends. I did not take vacations or sick days or mental health days. I intended to give it all I had, every ounce of time, energy and determination I could squeeze out of myself.

And I did.

Flash forward twenty years. Although I'm not quite the whip-cracker I used to be, I still spend at least seven or eight hours a day in my office minimum, working on writing or writing-related activities. If I travel for any reason, I take the laptop with me so I can write during any lull in activities. In my car, I listen to writing workshops or I use my little recorder to dictate my writing. I am literally afraid to take time off. I'm afraid the gods will punish me for being "lazy."

But I've just come off an incredibly difficult year of tight deadlines, lots of revisions, editor changes, and teaching lots and lots of workshops. I promised myself I would take some time off to handle everything I've neglected in recent months--getting my hair cut, for example. Taking my pets to the vet. Income tax forms. Scrubbing the bathtub.

My original plan was to take off a year from Harlequin American. Yes, a year! I have books scheduled pretty far into the future, so I wouldn't be interrupting my publication schedule. I wanted to take one month off of writing completely, then spend the rest of the year working on a couple of other books (big suspense books) that I never seem to find time to write.

I quickly revised the initial plan. A year without Harlequin was unthinkable. Six months would surely be enough of a break to refresh me.

But now, two weeks into my "vacation" (hah!) I'm already starting to get antsy to write another Harlequin American. As a matter of fact, I have a proposal for a new trilogy almost ready to go--it just needs a bit of polish. It's calling to me from its file folder with its siren song. Forget that dark, scary suspense book. Come play with me, I'm light and funny!

Three weeks off is enough, right?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More than One Way to Turn Tanya Michaels

Does anyone remember that ad campaign for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (mmmm, peanut butter cups) about how there’s “more than one way to eat a Reese’s?” Well, it never occurred to me that there’s more than one way to read a book. I assumed most readers followed a similar pattern to mine…pick the book up, start at that opening first paragraph and read (often compulsively and through the night!) until I hit the last page, then sigh in satisfaction as I close the covers and reach for the lamp.

Yet there seems to be—gasp—an epidemic of people who do nearly the opposite! Imagine my surprise when I learned that my sister, best friend and favorite aunt all read the last chapter first. This blows my mind. “But doesn’t that spoil the ending? Aren’t you taking it all out of context? It probably makes more sense when you understand…” Yet these people hold firm that if they hate the way it ends or there’s an unhappy resolution, they don’t want to waste their time reading the 300 pages that come before.

What about you guys? Do you like the safety of knowing how a book or movie ends before you spend time or money on it? Do you trail the internet looking for spoilers on your favorite television shows, or when someone starts to tell you the latest rumor of who breaks up with whom on Grey’s Anatomy, do you cover your ears?

I guess I fall somewhere in the middle. I love romance novels because 99.99% of the time, the hero and heroine resolve their differences and find happiness together, so in a way, I do know the end. But I like taking the journey with them instead of “cheating” and looking at the map ahead of time. Of course, my husband would tell you I wouldn’t get in half as much trouble as I do if I bothered to read maps, but that’s another story…

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

New York, New York

Hi guys,
I'm off to the Big Apple - home of Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and knock-off purses. I've been up to my neck in deadlines, but I managed to finish everything yesterday. Yeah! And now I'm ready to go to the PASIC (RWA's Published Authors' Special Interest Chapter) conference. It'll be a wonderful opportunity to meet new people, learn some great stuff about the publishing industry, and see a couple of Broadway shows. What better way to spend a long weekend? So until later - right now, I'm heading downstairs to pack. Ann

Monday, March 26, 2007

Spring has sprung

I love spring. Here in the Seattle area, spring means vivid and abundant color. Cherry and magnolia trees, forsythia, tulips, daffodils, and a host of other flowers—we have them all in our yard. But while I love the beauty, I don’t enjoy pulling weeds and keeping the plants healthy and producing.

I’m what you call an armchair garden lover. I appreciate the beauty and like to sit outside and enjoy it, but I don’t do much of the upkeep. If I lived alone I’d hire a gardener, even if it is expensive. Fortunately, my husband loves to putz around in garden as often as possible. Weather permitting, he’s out there pulling weeds, digging, planting, mulching. All organically. Yep, he’s one of those.

Out of chicken wire he made a compost bin where we dump our non-meat, non-dairy food waste. It’s out back, on the side of the house, and for some reason, doesn’t smell at all. Every so often he turns the decomposing goop with a shovel. When it decomposes enough, he spreads it over the garden to enrich the soil. This year he and a friend drove to a farm and picked up a truckload of manure. Now that smelled. I stayed inside that day! But I’ll reap the rewards when the raspberry and blueberry bushes produce huge crops.

I’m thinking that writing is a lot like tending a garden. We writers have our own brain compost piles, that creative well within. We’re always tossing in tidbits—overheard snippets of conversation, intriguing newspaper stories, or anything that catches our interest. The mixture sits in our head awhile, and now and then we stir it a bit, thinking, I wonder whether… What would happen if? And voilá—a story is born.

As for the manure… Well, I’ll leave you to draw your own analogies.

Happy spring, everyone.

Ann Roth
It Happened One Wedding, April, 2007
Another Life, April, 2007

Sunday, March 25, 2007

What's upcoming????

I just heard from my editor last week about my release schedule for 2007 & the first part of 2008.

Thought this would be a good time for the HAR authors to chime in and comment on what you can be looking forward to for the rest of 2007. I know I'm always curious as to when things are coming out, and eharlequin only gives you a few months in advance. Now you'll be able to access the archive if you forget when that next book by your favorite author is out.

Here's mine:

Nine Months' Notice (4 stars from RT), out April 2007 (so look for it next month)! This ends the American Beauties miniseries.

Hart's Victory, my NASCAR continuity book, out in November 2007.

The Christmas Date (formerly titled Picture Perfect), a Harlequin American out in December 2007.

Michele Dunaway