Saturday, March 27, 2010

Springing Up All Over

Do you love flowers? I do. This time of the year is bliss, especially after such a long, snowy winter. The bloom in Philadelphia has begun: daffodils, tulips, crocus, hyacinth. Even the trees are getting into the act as the cherry blossoms begin to cast a cotton-candy-pink haze over the neighborhood. Soon there will be little wind-blown eddies of delicate petals all over the sidewalk, drifting out into the street.

I recently went to the Philadelphia Flower Show. This year’s theme was 'Passport to the World' and there were some truly amazing displays. I saw a hot-air balloon completely covered in flowers. A giraffe stretched its long orange-orchid-bedecked neck over the festivities. There was an elephant, too! The scents were exquisite, sometimes almost overpowering. A convention hall full of flowers is pretty potent. The skill and artistry of the floral designers was delicious.

All this bounty of color and beauty sparked a discussion among my friends. We debated various favorite flowers. (Mine: tulips and grape hyacinth. I love how succulent they look and the vibrant colors.) Then we got talking about cut flowers. Do you send them? I used to send my husband flowers after a deal had gone well, or if I knew he’d had a particularly bad week. The secretaries in his office loved it. Now he works from home, so I can buy flowers that brighten both our days. I used to send my mother sheaves of spring flowers on May Day. Now she wants blooming plants and thinks cut flowers are a waste. I bow to her wishes; my goal is to bring color into her life, not argue about thrift.

I buy cut flowers for myself, especially in the spring. When it’s dreary, I can’t resist the cheerful colors. I like to bring flowers to hostesses, along with a bottle of wine, when we dine out. Often, I’m struck by how surprised and delighted people are to receive flowers. I wonder if flower-giving has fallen out of fashion. Still, I love to get them. Why shouldn’t I give them, too?

A young friend of mine asked me what he should get his mother for Mother’s Day. I said: flowers. He argued, saying it was lame, cliché, too impersonal, and besides, they die. A week later, I had dinner with this mother and she spent thirty minutes telling me about the flowers her son had given her—he had taken my advice after all. How she had found them waiting for her in the morning with a card. How lovely the colors were. How good they made the house smell. How some of the flowers had wilted quicker than others, so she got a different vase and rearranged the remaining blooms for a different effect. There was absolutely nothing ‘lame’ in her joy and I relayed the story to my young friend. He conceded that he had learned a lesson and thanked me.

To me, flowers show appreciation, love, affection, regret. Heartfelt, simple and just plain pretty.

What about you? Do you give flowers? How often do you get them? Is it for a special occasion or ‘just because?’ Do you prefer cut flowers or blooming plants? Bouquets or sheaves of flowers you can arrange yourself?

Thinking about love and flowers—Lisa

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It Takes A Village

Did you know the word “Harlequin” can make me cry like a baby? It’s true. The day my editor called with the news that she wanted to buy my book, I started crying the minute “Harlequin” appeared on the Caller ID. The day my contract came in the mail, the day the line edits arrived via courier, the day I first saw the beautiful cover of my book, all those special “Harlequin” days earned their own, very happy tears. And, a couple of weeks ago, when a box of books arrived on my doorstep and I saw “Harlequin” on the shipping label, I cried again. This time, because inside that box, the one that seemed far too small to hold the culmination of a life-long dream, lay copies of The Officer’s Girl.

If I had known they were coming on that particular day, I’d have hired a marching band to serenade the delivery man. Cheerleaders would’ve lined the walkway leading from the street to my front door. After all, this was a momentous occasion. It deserved fanfare. This was the day my debut book for Harlequin American Romance arrived.

That evening as I cradled a copy of The Officer’s Girl to my chest, sniffed its printed pages, admired it’s beautiful cover and didn’t want to let go—ever—I couldn’t help comparing my book to a baby. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and whoever “they” might be, I think they’re right. The same is true for books. It takes a village.

A whole lot of people inhabit my village. My own personal cheering squad, my family. My critique partners, both past and present. The instructors in every one of the hundreds of classes, workshops and writing seminars I’ve attended. The speakers at conferences, the authors of three bookcases filled with books on writing. The ten thousand members of the Romance Writers of America and, in particular, those in my local chapter, STAR. The authors who’ve taken me under their wings and taught me that I was a better writer than I thought I was. The amazing Harlequin staff. And a host of others, including the book distributors and sales staff who will make sure that, come April 13th, The Officer’s Girl appears on store shelves or arrives in mail boxes.

Yes, it takes a village…and I’m grateful to every member of mine.

Who’s in your village?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Norway gives nod to romance author

My father called me on Sunday and told me to turn on the TV and check out the Norwegian women’s curling team. “They copied your bookmarks with their pants!” he said.

“How can the Norwegian women’s curling team copy a romance author’s bookmarks?” you ask.

Like this.

Thank you, Norway!

Happy reading, everyone!

Until next time,

PS: If you’d like an autographed bookmark, please email me through my website. If you'd like a pair of polka dot curling pants, visit Loudmouth.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Writing While Fuzzy Brained

Good morning from the lake house in cold, foggy, Mineola, Texas! While it is below freezing (sorry, plants I forgot to take inside) with light snow at our home in Richardson, about 90 miles away, on Saturday we had cold rain and blustery winds - until this Sunday morning.

Just about an hour ago, before dawn, it began to snow. Right now, soft flakes are drifting down on the deck, the bird feeders, the grass, and our car. We've never been here before when it snowed and it's very exciting to see. I can't wait for the sun to come up to see the lake and trees! (Sorry for the blurry image - I think my hand was shaking from the cold temperature outside.)

I've also included a photo from our absolutely gorgeous day on Friday, when we were out working in the yard and garage in our shirt sleeves. This is facing west over the lake with the rising sun reflected in the water. Mist was rising from the lake because of the warm weather. Many of the trees are budding out and blooming, although you can't see them in the photo. Much more springlike than the actual first day of spring!

One of my goals for the weekend was to get my next release almost finished. My understanding editor gave me another month after my three weeks of absolutely fuzzy-brained non-production from the middle of February to the first week in March. I had a bad sinus infection, then strep throat. I took lots of medication which left me goofy and sleepy until I finished all the doses. I then had about four days of clear, energy-filled, fired-up creativity and dedication.
Then I got a cold. The sniffles have just about departed, depending on how much time I spend outdoors in all the pollen. I'm not coughing very much. We even went out to dinner last night at Kitchens restaurant and I could taste my food!

I thought I'd share some techniques I've been using to try to keep writing while on medication that made me less than cognizant. (For example, I stared at my computer for a full two minutes the other day and couldn't remember a major character's name! ) Ever since I started writing series for Harlequin American - first Ranger Springs and now Brody's Crossing - I've maintained a separate Word file titled "People and Places." I add to this file with each book, listing the most current hero and heroine at the top of the list with their ages in the year of publication, their status, description, family situations, etc. I then list any new characters I've introduced in that book with their physical descriptions, ages, etc. Near the bottom of the list I have various places around town where my "regulars" work and congregate, such as Clarissa's House of Style, the Cafe, Dewey's Saloon and Steakhouse, etc. I include descriptions and any relevant history of the establishment in these listings. I save this file under the folder "Brody's Crossing" in my Harlequin American folder so I can find it easily when I can't remember who the police chief is or what month and year someone got pregnant. It's so much easier than trying to remember what book I mentioned that factoid in and trying to find it by doing a text search in Word. I also created a Word file with a map of fictional Brody's Crossing so I know street names, locations of places in relation to blocks of the downtown, etc. I don't think I can upload that image, but if you'd like a copy, I'll be glad to email it to you.

The second thing I've been doing in this book, tentatively titled Texan in Her Heart, is create another word document for "What Leo knows about Amanda" based on what she's told him in conversation., This is where the fuzzy-brained condition really played out; I couldn't remember if he'd assumed something, she'd mentioned it in introspection to the reader, or they actually had a conversation. So when they talk about her mysterious (from Leo's perspective) reasons for being in Brody's Crossing, I copy and paste relevant parts of their dialogue into a file. I also note the page number where the conversation took place. Although this might change later, it probably won't be too far off because I write the book front to back. (Many authors write scenes and place them later, or write out of order when they visualize a scene farther back in the book.)

I also sometimes create a document for "Go back and add" things. These are notes to myself to check on things I'd written, or add something like a motivation or description. In other books, when I used to print out the manuscript as I went, I used Post-It notes to tell myself where things happened or where I wanted to go back and add something. In the interest of saving money and not cutting down so many trees, I've stopped printing out as I go along. I've had to learn new techniques to keep up with the story.

I hope this might help aspiring authors who are having the same fuzzy-brained moments as I sometimes have. Also, it might give readers some insight into how we keep up with characters and events in our books, especially series where it has to make sense over a longer period of time. Brody's Crossing originated in 2006 and will go on through 2011 at least, so that's five years of characters, places and descriptions to keep up with in my mind. That's a lot of details!

Have a great springtime. I hope yours is less cold and rainy than mine!