The Houston Chronicle ran an article a few days ago on Texas Highways’ readers’ top picks for Texas getaways. And there at No. 37 is Caddo Lake State Park. Caddo is Texas’ only natural lake (all the others are manmade.) I’ve always wanted to visit there–Caddo is more swamp than lake. I love swamps and it’s supposed to be a beautiful one. And it’s big–stretches into Louisiana.
This is where I set the town of Luxor in Ready to Run. Luxor is based on the town of Karnak, which is located near Caddo Lake (and is the birthplace of Lady Bird Johnson.)
Isn’t this beautiful?
The spreadsheet above tracks your actual word count against your daily/monthly/yearly goal.
Row 71 (Goal) calculates the daily word count target for each month – the value in each of these cells is 750, because that’s my minimum target every day. Plug your own goal number into row 71. If you’re unfamiliar with Excel, just click on each cell (A-N) of Row 71 and, in the formula space at the top of the spreadsheet, replace 750 with your number.
If you know how to copy and paste formula, then you only have to plug the number into February once; plug into January and then copy to March, May, July, August, October and December; and plug into April and then copy over to June, September, November.
Enter your actual word count for each day. At the end of the month, the numbers you’ve entered will be totaled in row 72, and row 73 will show the under/over. If the word count is under, the number will be in a red font to provide that extra boost of shame and judgment that we all depend on. If you’ve exceeded your goal for the month, the cell is bathed in a lovely light pink. (You’ll have to trust me about the pink because I haven’t started using this yet. Or just plug a number greater than your monthly goal and gaze at the positive pink.)
I’ve thought about doing a separate sheet for different word count targets on different days – like, if you take Sunday off or you give yourself a lower target on Friday. It might require a calendar showing actual days of the week. I bet sombody’s already done it.But on the other hand it would be an awesome procrastination tool.
I’ve been looking at word count spreadsheets prepared by Excel-proficient writers, and while I’ve been impressed with them, I’ve always been intimidated. They have bells and whistles that would probably be useful if I managed to learn how to work them, or else they have all these formulas nested in formulas and I can’t figure out where to plug in my information. I wanted a word count spreadsheet based on a calendar, where I can see cumulative weekly and monthly totals. Nothing fancy, just dates and running sums.
So I downloaded a very spare calendar template — January through December across the top, 1-31 down the side — no mucking with the days of the week. Each month is totaled at the bottom, months are totaled across.
I added some pictures just to jazz it up a bit.
You’re welcome to download it – like I said, it’s very simple. All you have to do is plug the numbers in.
Ruthie Knox recently wrote a fabulous post about her frustration with editors who insist they know what readers do or do not want in romance novels. A lot of editors seem to think that what romance readers definitely do not want is anything too close to real life:
We romance writers … get these edits that say, “No, this isn’t the fantasy, that is.” Edits that say, “Readers don’t want this. They want that.”
We get edits that say women don’t fall in love with men who cry.
Edits that say women don’t masturbate.
We get edits that say women with unapologetic sexual agency are sluts, so can you make it so she’s been in love with him forever, maybe? Or else have her thinking about how she doesn’t usually get horny like this, but this guy is special?
. . .
We get edits that say penises must be very very large, and vaginas must be very very tight, and very very wet, but not in a gross way. Never in a gross way. Here is the list of things that are gross. Note the placement of armpit hair (female).
The post is too good to excerpt so really, you should just go read it. She makes some excellent points. (Especially about heroes carrying condoms in their wallets–a very unwise practice.)
Now, I haven’t dealt with editorial gatekeeping of this nature, but I’ve had editors flag stuff that I thought was just fine. A copy editor questioned something Taran said in Kiss and Kin – I honestly don’t remember what line it was — but the copy editor thought it was sexist. And I responded that yes, it was. My werewolves are kind of sexist. That’s not exactly positive, but it’s believable and it makes sense. Sexism is a character flaw–though as long as it’s not accompanied by contempt or violence, it’s far from the worst character flaw and besides, who said protagonists had to be flawless?
We kept the line.
I don’t want to write a perfect hero or heroine. I want my characters to have believable personalities, believable problems, believable motives–whether they’re werewolves or rock stars. And of the very few people I’ve known with very few flaws, none were interesting and all made me feel uncomfortable. Probably because I have lots of flaws.
I feel that way as a reader, too. Perfect characters are boring. It’s disappointing to hear of editors who want perfect characters–or characters with “flaws” that aren’t really flaws in any true sense of the word. I don’t trust editors who insist that readers won’t accept the flaws, bad decisions, and messy lives that make characters compelling and give a story depth and texture.
The heroine in Yours, Mine and Howls is nosey–she asks questions about things that don’t concern her and if she stumbles upon a private conversation, she sticks around to listen. The guy she falls in love with, Cade, takes an instant dislike to a friend of hers for no good reason, and has kept his four-year-old on his ranch all her life instead of sending her to school in town so she could make friends. He did it out of loving protectiveness, but it was a shortsighted thing to do. That doesn’t make him a bad person overall, or unlovable.
Cade’s second, Michael, is a grumpy bastard. And Michael’s little brother, Nick, is promiscuous–a slut, really. If a guy is deeply in love with someone he thinks he can’t have, and yet goes around banging every woman who wants him–which is, like, every woman–is he a horrible person? Can he still deserve love?
Readers frequently complain about romance novels that sound and feel just like all the other romance novels. Readers like complicated characters and unusual stories. Readers can handle characters who’ve made bad decisions or say stupid things or act from less than noble impulses.
My last editor at Samhain–and I loved her, I really did–wanted me to remove a couple of lines from Yours, Mine and Howls that I didn’t think readers would have a problem with.
There’s a scene towards the end of the book, when Cade and Michael go looking for the creepy guy who Ally briefly dated back in Texas. They toss his hotel room and find a bunch of pictures he took of Dylan, Ally’s 18-year-old cousin. Ally quit seeing this guy just a few months ago because he seemed way too interested in Dylan; she thought he might be a pedophile. Michael laughs when Cade repeats what he’d said to Ally: “Baby, if that guy was really into Dylan he wasn’t a pedophile, he was just gay.”
The humor isn’t aimed at gay people; it’s aimed at Ally, who still thinks of Dylan as her little boy when he’s actually a young man (okay, werewolf.) My editor thought readers would think Cade was laughing at gay people, whereas I thought the point of the line was pretty clear. I cut it anyway, because it wasn’t integral to the scene or the overall plot and I see no reason to argue over small stuff like that. Still, it kind of bugged me because I really thought readers would get the point.
I’m on my third or fourth editor at Samhain (this is not unusual — there’s a high rate of turnover in the publishing industry, and editors move around a lot). “My” editor now is someone I’ve never worked with, and I do wonder what she’ll think of the rock star story I plan to submit. Having followed her on Twitter for a while now I don’t think she’ll want to change my characters too much, but who knows?
My hero is a rock star who’s been sober for five years. Back in the day, he was a junkie of epic proportions. He’s not proud of the things he did. There’s a lot he doesn’t remember, and there’s even more he wishes everyone would forget. He hates the way many of his antics passed into legend and get repeated with something close to admiration, because when your addiction is so bad that Nikki Sixx wonders how you’ve managed to stay alive, that’s not an impressive thing. That’s a horrible thing. He should be dead, and he knows it, and it makes him ashamed.
The heroine is a fiddle player and a successful songwriter. Her last relationship ended three years ago because her (ex-)boyfriend cheated on her. She hasn’t dated anyone seriously since then because she’s on the road or in the studio so much. But a girl’s got needs, and she finds herself waking up next to the cheating ex-boyfriend more often than she’d like. She’s caught in this cycle of ex sex, and she knows it’s unhealthy.
Will my editor tell me readers won’t accept a heroine who’s doing booty calls with her ex, or a hero with a truly sordid personal history? Probably not.
What if she does–will I change the characters, clean them up?
On her way upstairs to dress she ran into Sabine.
“Yep. I made some. You looked tired.”
“Played pool with Dusty til three. There was wine.” Sabine yawned. “I think I’m gonna get a wax and mani-pedi today. Wanna come?
“No thanks. I’m going into the studio with Miguel.”
“Oh. You know what? There’s a great salon about two blocks away from there. I’ll just ride with y’all. Sure you don’t wanna come? Those feet need some attention.”
“You’ve mentioned.” They both looked down at Ronnie’s feet. It wasn’t a pleasant sight. She sighed.
“It’s bad. And I need a wax, too. Eh. I’ll do it later this week. I don’t want to spend a couple hours in a chair.”
“Isn’t that what you’d be doing in the studio?”
“That’s different.” At Sabine’s skeptical look, Ronnie continued, “I’m going to listen to whatever Miguel’s working on, hang out with him while he’s doing it. I won’t just be sitting there.”
She loved recording studios. They’d been her third home (the road was her second) since the age of thirteen. As a teenager she’d spent as much time in them as other kids spent in school. A studio was a warm, comfortable cave cut off from the outside world. Within its soundproofed walls you had nothing to think or worry about but the music, and you were surrounded (mostly) by people who loved it as much as you did. For Ronnie, making music with people you enjoyed being around was rather like having sex with someone you cared about—even when it wasn’t really good, it couldn’t truly be bad.
And, unlike bad sex with people you weren’t emotionally connected to, making bad music with people you didn’t enjoy still resulted in a paycheck.
Sabine, who understood the music industry about as well as Ronnie understood global finance, was shaking her head.
“Whatever. I’ll meet you downstairs.”
As they piled into Miguel’s convertible a half hour later, Sabine said, “You’re not wearing makeup? Not even lipstick? What if we see somebody?”
“You can pretend you don’t know me.”
“Veronica Rose, that is not what I mean, I–”
Miguel chuckled. “Leave her alone. No one’ll see her at the studio.”
“What about when we go to lunch?” asked Sabine.
“I’ll probably do take out. If we take the time to go somewhere it makes me later getting home. Just because Sharon’s letting me out on a Sunday doesn’t mean I can stay out all day.”
“Okay, then. I promise to wear makeup when I get my wax and pedi.”
“Up to you, Sasquatch,” Sabine replied. “But if we run into the man of your dreams, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Can anyone say foreshadowing? (And see? Told you I was writing!)
Tomorrow I’m participating in Marco Polo Day, organized by the lovely and talented Voirey Linger. Go to her site and see the authors who’ll be participating, follow them on Twitter tomorrow, and when one of them tweets “Marco!” you @ them with “Polo.” If you’re the first, you win a book.
I don’t think anyone but my readers visit this blog and y’all probably have my books, but there are a lot of other great authors taking part in this and it sounds like fun.
Secondly – and y’all are gonna think I’m a ditz for not doing this at, like, Christmas, and you’d be right – back at Christmas the Nine Naughty Novelists all wrote short Christmas stories involving existing characters. Mine’s entitled I’ll Be Home For Christmas (And I Wish All These People In My House Were Too) takes place on the afternoon of Ally’s second Christmas with her new family and pack. Check it out if you want a glimpse of Cade & Ally’s happily ever after.