No matter where you’re going, half the trip is just getting out of L.A.
The 101 was packed at all times, day and night, and so was the 210. It wasn’t until Pasadena that the traffic let up, and not until they dropped down to I-10 that Twist could finally open the throttle. Then they were cruising, way faster than they’d been able to do yesterday, and today the wind really was in her hair, and she wasn’t chilly because she was wearing a badass biker chick leather jacket, and she wasn’t nervous about riding on Twist McCoy’s bike because now they were (just) friends (and she was fine with that), and she wasn’t already dreading the ride being over because they’d be doing this for hours on the open road every day for three days in the bright sunshine (or pouring rain, and who cared) and she was finally going home.
Plus Twist was blasting Skynyrd and Georgia Satellites and Blackberry Smoke. She’d told him he didn’t have to, but he said he hadn’t listened to Southern rock in a long time and they both agreed it was the best road music. The Goldwing’s sound system was amazing. She’d brought earbuds, and plugged her phone into the passenger seat docking port, but she ended up not needing it.
So she leaned back against the comfy backrest and held her arms out straight to her sides. (Why did that make a wild, free feeling feel so much wilder and freer? She asked Sabine about it later that night, and Sabine said she didn’t know how it felt, but it looked dorky as fuck. Ronnie didn’t care.)
She’d never spent whole days on a bike, and had worried it would be boring or difficult in some way that an equivalent time in a car would not be, but she was wrong. Just being outside and in motion was enough to keep her happy for the first three hours. Later she pulled out her phone and did some texting and updated her social media to let everyone know she was free.
They made it to Tonopah before she had to pee. Twist was impressed. And no, she was not surprised that her crush on this guy was so ridiculous that his praise of her bladder control filled her with a warm, golden glow. Mostly she was exasperated, and ready for the crush to be over. All crushes ended organically. Maybe there was there a way to inorganically truncate the natural life of a crush? If she had the nerve, she’d ask Sharon. Sharon wouldn’t let a crush get this bad. Sharon would either get the guy, or get over him. But Sharon was one of those weird women who didn’t keep secrets from their husbands, so she couldn’t be trusted with something like this.
They pulled into the Four Seasons just after six.
“Wow.” She laughed. “My legs are shaky.”
“You ever been on a bike for that long before?”
“You did real good.”
“I thought I’d get bored, but I didn’t.”
He smiled. “Good. It was a good ride.”
“It was! I–”
She paused as she heard a familiar car horn—the Mustang was pulling into the valet parking area.
“Daaamn,” drawled Twist. “I thought they were at least a half hour behind us.”
Ronnie shrugged. “Sabine can drive. And you know Sharon’s not gonna be late for that spa appointment.”
Have you ever inadvertently avoided a disaster you didn’t even know was looming? And then, once you realized — Whew! — that you’re ok, you couldn’t stop thinking about how absolutely HORRIBLE it would have been if said disaster had actually happened? And in fact you can’t stop thinking about it, giving yourself goosebumps, just like you couldn’t stop sticking your tongue in the holes your wisdom teeth extraction left behind?
Lemme tell you my story.
What’s that? Oh – <teenage eyeroll & big dramatic sigh>yes, I’m writing. Rock star book coming along. Even working on Seth’s manuscript and Nick/T&J’s story line</teenage eyeroll & big dramatic sigh>. (Nick’s an asshole. No matter what I do, he keeps being an asshole.)
So, anyway. Back in May I missed RT for the first time since 2011, but I did drive up to Dallas on Friday and stayed with my NNN bud Kelly Jamieson through Sunday. I saw a bunch of friends, went with a bunch of fellow rom authors to see Pitch Perfect 2, and had dinner with my first editor, the infamous Angela James and some really nice people I’d never met face to face before.
So….that Friday night, following the Pitch Perfect show — which we saw at one of those theaters that serves food and drink, emphasis on the drink – and this was after I’d had drinks in the hotel bar, and then more drinks at dinner – I stumbled up to my room, flopped on my bed and pulled out my shiny new 8 gig hard drive, superfast, hella RAM Lenovo Thinkpad Edge to do some work before I passe fell asleep.
I’m not saying I wasn’t a wee bit more than cocktailed, because it took me a few days to remember what happened after I got settled in the middle of the bed and arranged my papers and took a sip of water and turned to my laptop, sitting there on the comfy, fluffy, slippery soft bedspread and what wait hey OH JESUS NO IT’S SLIDING OFF THE BED (AND HOTEL BEDS ARE KIND OF HIGH) AND I CAN CATCH IT I CAN CATCH IT I CAN AW FUCK HELL NO I CAN’T CATCH IT AND boom it hit the ground.
I picked it up with shaking hands (from terror, people! Not because I was drunk! Ok, I was drunk), opened the screen, and…it was fine!!! I swear to you, It. Was. Fine.
That night, at least. Next morning, not so much – by then, half the screen was white with wavy, moving back smudges – like someone was continually shaking an Etch a Sketch. The other half of the screen was fine – and I even managed to figure out how to get to my most important apps and programs using only the right side of the screen. But I knew I couldn’t live with that forever. And then I discovered that the housing at the back of the laptop, where it’s connected to the screen, was not snapping together properly.
So I take it to the hole in the wall computer repair shop where I take all my electronics – the guy who owns it is friendly and reasonable and can fix anything. He’s also slow as hell, but that’s okay because by now, I have 3 old laptops that I don’t use anymore but still work. So – backup computers. And — this is the most important part of the story, folks — I’ve subscribed to Carbonite for years. So I just have to jump on a backup laptop, download my Cloud-dwelling backed up MS of Rock My World, and get to work!
Well, not right away. I got sidetracked with Seth, and with Nick and TJ. Which was cool, because they were backed up too.
A month goes by, the guy still doesn’t have the screen and housing fixed. One of my backup laptops is beginning to fail — sometimes it can’t find a drive to boot from, sometimes it can. So I set it aside and pull out another one – a Toshiba.
That one’s a workhorse. Until one day, the screen won’t come on. And it still won’t. All the lights are on, nothing’s showing up. I hook it up to an external monitor – nothing.
Okay. Down to the last backup – the newish Toshiba I passed on to Diva a while back. It’s Windows 8, which I loathe, but I can’t afford to be picky at this point.
And then that one died too. Not just the screen – it just died. It won’t turn on. No matter what. I could buy a new battery and see if that works but what’s the point, you know?
At this point I’m seriously stressed. I need a laptop, stat. I have no desktop, and I can’t sit at Hub’s desk out in the Barn and work on his desktop because A) it’s uncomfortable as hell and B) he wouldn’t turn it over to me.
I begin to despair.
Then Moriah Jovan’s husband points me to a very reasonably priced Acer Chromebook on Amazon. Now, I’ve never used a Chromebook but Diva lives on one at school, and this Chromebook is WAY cheaper than any decent Windows laptop I’m looking at. And she’s been begging for one of her own. So – Diva gets a new Chromebook, but Mama gets to use it till the Lenovo comes home which, please God, must be before school starts – right?
So I get the Chromebook and I play around and I discover that I freaking HATE THE HELL OUT OF GOOGLE DOCS and, oh yeah – THE WORD ONLINE APP SUCKS BUTT, TOO.
I am 51. I have used Word in a Windows environment far too long to ever be comfortable enough with Google and the whole “oh you don’t need a disc drive, silly! It’s all in the Cloud! And Google Docs just streamlines your document formatting needs and you’ll LOVE it — it’s all unicorn farts and rainbow kisses, you’ll see!” bullshit. (Ok, it’s not bullshit if you’re young and don’t know any better. But I’m not, and I do.)
No, thou smug and annoying hipster children, I will not see. I will not see at all.
But discovering that Google Docs and the Word Online app suck much butt was not the worst part. Oh, no. The worst part was going into the Lenovo’s backed up files in Carbonite to discover that THE LAST BACKUP OF THE ROCK STAR WIP DID NOT HAVE ANY OF THE CHANGES I CLEARLY REMEMBERED MAKING.
It was….Not Current.
But I didn’t panic.
Oh wait, no. No. I did panic – I totally did.
I run up to the computer shop (it’s in a strip center on the edge of my neighborhood) – and ask the guy if he can please hook my laptop up to an external monitor – because he’d already called to tell me that, while he can see everything fine on an external monitor, the new screens he’s tried don’t work so it’s a vid card problem or something – and let me get to the document I need and email it to myself. I took the computer into the shop on May 31 but Carbonite said the Lenovo was last backed up on May 20. Why the 11 day lap, Carbonite, huh? HUH?
Alas. The laptop is not there – it’s out at the technician’s. (I thought my computer guy was the technician, but apparently not.) But — and this is why I love the shop – they’ll have the technician bring the laptop in in the morning. I just need to show up at 11, they’ll hook the laptop up to an external monitor, I’ll get my file — cool. I can breathe again.
Okay, yeah, I know, this is going on too long. “Bring it in for a landing,” as one of my cousins used to tell me when I went on too long.
They plug the laptop in but it won’t turn on because the housing crack is keeping the laptop from charging. So he opens the laptop, takes out my hard drive, pops it into one of those external drives, and….
…there’s nothing there. (At this point I don’t have the heart to use all caps.]
My hard drive resembled nothing I’d ever seen before. Those were not my files, and my files were not there.
The guy had no idea what happened. He kept trying to come up with ideas of what might have happened. At times I give him the benefit of the doubt, at times I don’t. Hub thinks I need to find another computer guy, I think — where? Geek Squad? Some other hole in the wall? Meanwhile, my guy’s still got my Lenovo – with the now empty hard drive — and it’s at the technician’s getting fixed.
My manuscript problem turned out okay — because I remembered that I’d emailed it to myself in its most current version, so I didn’t lose anything.
And everything else was backed up to its current state.
So the moral of the story is — BACK YOUR SHIT UP. And if you’re like me — ADD, forgetful — don’t trust yourself to back up to a drive or DropBox. Invest in something like Carbonite, or DropBox’s cloud service, or something else. Use something that backs up without your having to do anything.
And, most importantly — don’t try to work on your laptop when you’re drunk off your ass on a hotel bedspread.
I was disappointed in this post (Read This If You Have a Vulva) – really all it says is, possessing female plumbing makes you very susceptible to UTIs but everyone in possession of female plumbing already knows that, even if they’ve never experienced a UTI themselves.
Funny story (well, I think it is) – there are many, many weird coincidences surrounding Hub and I getting together–one of them is that our families had the same family doctor for many years. Doc White treated both of Hub’s grandmothers, and then Hub and his sister when they outgrew the pediatrician. He treated me and my sister since we teenagers and my mom before that. He was quite tickled when Hub and I told got together.
I’ve had bladder and kidney problems all my life, including hospital stays, and when I was young I could sneeze and get a UTI. And whenever I started having regular sex after a prolonged dry (so to speak) spell I’d get one. For some reason I never got one in the 3 years Hub and I dated, but a couple months after getting married I got whomped by a doozy of one.
So I go to Doc White (instead of my urologist for some reason – don’t know why) and he prescribes me this awesome medicine that you take before you have sex – don’t remember if there’s a specific time window. I could tell that he was embarrassed about the whole thing, which was weird as he’d treated my UTIs and kidney infections before – but he got really red when he explained that he frequently prescribed this med to newly married women. Then he explained that there was a limit to the amount of the medication you could take in a 24 hour period – “so just remember that (awkward guffaw, awkward guffaw.)”
I reminded him that Hub was 34, not 24, so all day sexxin’ wasn’t on the menu all that often, and then I felt terrible because he blushed even harder.
Sweet, sweet man and a hell of a diagnostician who kept admirably up to date on all kinds of medical areas – he knew about the studies indicating ulcers were the result of a bacteria, and not stress or diet, long before other doctors were talking about it.
Yes, I’m still writing.
They made it to Tonopah before she had to pee. Twist was impressed. And no, she was not surprised that her crush on this guy was so ridiculous that his praise of her bladder control filled her with a warm, golden glow. She wasn’t even appalled. Mostly she was exasperated, and ready for the crush to be over. All crushes end organically. Maybe there was there a way to inorganically truncate the natural life of a crush?
If she had the nerve, she’d ask Sharon. Sharon wouldn’t let a crush get this bad. Sharon would either get the guy, or get over him.
I’m currently in Grapevine, Texas, at Great Wolf Lodge. Sharing a hotel room (note: not a suite) with two 13YO girls. It’s okay – they’re off on their own most of the day, and I have wine and noise canceling headphones for when they’re in the room.
And I’m writing. The Endless Scene is about to end – although it’s a very long scene. Lots of talking around a kitchen table but hey, that kind of stuff happens, right?
Diva and her BFF (I hope she’s the BFF because I’ve adored this kid since Diva met her in kindergarten, and I hope they remain friends forever) have already blown through 100 bucks (each!!) and this was our first full day. GWL is a money suck, but the Magic Quest is the biggest cash suck of all. I told them they need to spend a LOT of time in the water (it’s an indoor water park) on Friday and Saturday. And apparently the quest thing isn’t expensive once you’ve bought all the crap up front. So now they’re running around outside (we’re on the first floor), and I’m hoping no one from the hotel decides they’re being insufficiently supervised. (I can hear them. And I haven’t had that much wine. Yet.)
Did I mention I’m writing? The Endless Scene doesn’t suck. It’s not endless, of course, just long. Trying to convince myself it’s not all exposition disguised as dialog. I don’t think it is – I think it rings true. I’m resolved to Just Keep Writing and Let The Editor Tell Me If It Sucks.
“Do you normally have an appetite?” he asked her.
“Oh yeah. I like food.”
“Me too. Most women in LA, they don’t eat. And it feels weird to go out to dinner with someone who’s not eating.”
“It always makes me think they’re on drugs,” Ronnie said.
“Most of them are,” agreed Sharon, who’d quit modeling because she liked to eat. He remembered her saying she’d gone to work for Dix because she was tired of starving, and of the hours and the stress and the sleaze and the travel. And when Twist had pointed out that she was constantly traveling with a very sleazy bunch, working long hours under constant stress, she’d replied yeah, but at least now she could eat.
“Out of all the crazy women I’ve ever known–”
“And Twist has known a lot of crazy women,” said Mig.
“–not one of them was a normal eater. My ex-wife lived on lettuce and carrots and sunflower seeds. One time I asked her why we weren’t fucking like bunny rabbits, since she was basically a fucking bunny rabbit.”
They all laughed.
“See, she didn’t think that was funny.”
“Hungry people have no sense of humor,” said Ronnie.
“Y’know, I remember Michelle’s nose twitched a lot,” mused Miguel.
In pop music – rock/pop/indie/country/I don’t care as long as it’s not classical or jazz, and that’s only because I don’t think the same dynamics would apply (although I could be wrong). I was thinking – I’ve got this musician heroine who works as a touring and studio player, and she’s got certain views and habits and lifestyle issues and I figured maybe I should talk to somebody who actually lives this so I can make sure I’m writing her realistically. I mean, I don’t expect to get a lot of female musician readers (or, you know, any) but I’d still like to have a believable character in a believable setting.
It really bugs me when a romance features a heroine who works in a field I know something about — like, for instance, law — and she behaves in a way no sane, employable person in that field would act. A female prosecutor is not going to fall in love with a guy accused of murder and run off with him and if she does, she’ll wind up in prison, even if the guy ends up being cleared or acquitted. Corporate attorneys do not take pro bono criminal defense cases. And so on. Yes, there are sleazy, stupid lawyers. Yes, lawyers do get up to sexual hijinks so bizarre that if I put them in a book you’d never read anything by me again. Yes, attorneys fall in love with opposing counsel, and judges make passes at attorneys, and all that kind of stuff. But if a romance heroine is doing anything that in real life would involve jail or disbarment then I’m sorry, I can’t finish the book. At best the heroine is TSTL and at worst she’s deeply unethical and I can’t stand either type of character.
Wait where was I? Oh yeah – so I like for my characters and their backgrounds to be believable, even if we’re talking about a world with werewolves and brownies. Now that I’m writing a contemporary I’m even more concerned about getting my characters right. If a musician did happen to read my book, I want them laughing at the funny stuff, not at how poorly I’ve portrayed working musicians. [Insert caveat about how any romance novel is necessarily not terribly realistic, blah blah blah.]
So, seeing as how I don’t have the nerve to contact violinist Amanda Shires Isbell, who joined the Texas Playboys at fifteen and has been working ever since, just like my heroine – anybody know any female working musicians?
First of all, I love y’all. All of you who take the time to email and comment and tell me you liked my books, and those who email and comment to ask when the hell am I going to publish another one, and even those who email me to say “I’m done waiting for another book from you, so adios!” Because I can totally understand that position.
I was just thinking the other night how weird it is to write a book, and release it into the wild, and see the reaction it elicits from readers. (I should’ve been writing instead of pondering, but whatever.)
I wrote Kiss and Kin very deliberately, unlike Yours Mine and Howls, which I started writing first. I’d always wanted to try my hand at writing a romance novel, and I love paranormals, especially werewolf romances, so I figured I should start with a genre I know. The plot of YMAH came to me gradually – I’d had an idea for years about a young woman who sacrifices her life to save a werewolf boy, so I started from there. The process was organic.
I was struggling with some plot details in YMAH when I read Samhain Publishing’s open submissions call for shifter romance novellas to be included in an anthology. I thought maybe I should put Cade and Ally aside for a bit and try to bang something out. I already had over fifty thousand words of YMAH so I thought thirty thousand words (the maximum length Samhain was mandating for the shifter anthology) would feel like a piece of cake.
I came up with the plot of Kiss and Kin over a weekend and then I just started pounding out the words. It’s never easy to write a book — never, ever, ever — but KnK was the easiest time I’ve had of it yet. It just sort of fell out of my head.
But, see, YMAH was actually the second werewolf romance I started to write. The first one was set in Houston, and the hero was the Alpha of the Houston pack, and he was secretly in love with his assistant and she with him. But I never got past the first scene. I don’t know why. I just got stuck. But I really liked the characters and when I dumped Houston Howl (I don’t know if I’m going to keep that title), I promised myself to go back and give it another try in the future.
So when I decided to write a novella for the Samhain submission call, I decided to set it in Houston and to use the same world I’d started building for YMAH. And I had these two characters I really liked–the Houston Alpha and his assistant–and I couldn’t see them clearly, I couldn’t give them a story, but I wanted to use them so I put them in KnK because I liked romances where the hero and heroine both have friends. A book feels claustrophobic when the H&H don’t regularly interact with anyone but each other.
I submitted KnK to Samhain, sending a copy to my sister at the same time. I knew I had a possibly good book on my hands when she called me to gush about how much she loved it and didn’t want to put it down. My sister is not a gusher. My sister is not excitable. My sister is the Queen of It’s Okay, I Guess. And she loved my book, and she loved Taran–and she thought Nick and TJ were really fun.
Then I got back to YMAH.
So then Kiss and Kin came out, and reviewers and other readers kept telling me how much they loved Nick and TJ and was I going to a book for them? And 5.5 years later, I still hear from readers about them.
And I just think that’s so cool, and so weird, and so great. I mean, if I’d deliberately set out to write a couple of secondary characters who would engage readers’ interest as much as the main characters did, I probably would’ve failed. But I didn’t — I wrote them into KnK because I liked them and I couldn’t think of what else to do with them. The fact that readers took to them was accidental, unexpected, a wonderful surprise.
Now having written KnK, and Ready to Run, I can see Nick and TJ more clearly. I have a better grasp of who they are and what makes them tick. And the plot’s coming to me, when five years ago it wouldn’t.
Speaking of plots — do y’all think alligators would be scared of werewolves?
Goodbye and good riddance 2014, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Hello 2015, I have a good feeling about you!
I didn’t finish the rock star contemporary by the end of the year as I’d hoped. I was doing really well til I ran into the abdominal surgery in July. I’m not making excuses; I’m sure Nora Roberts would’ve pounded out 12K words a day while in the hospital, even with an NG tube up her nose. And I’m sure she’d keep pounding the wordcount after she got out, even while having extremely painful stomach spasms lasting days due to an excess of scar tissue.
I really wish I were more like Nora.
But. The rock star WIP is preceding and Nick and TJ’s plot is almost halfway done – which is all I need to start writing.
Have I ever explained the difference between plotters and pantsers? Pantsers just sit down and write – they don’t know what’s going to happen until they write it.
This horrifies me and freaks me out. It’s like driving your car through fields and forests instead of on an actual road. I have to drive on a road, and I have to have a general idea of where I’m going. I need a plan, a map. The map doesn’t have to go all the way to my final destination, and I can change my route a little as I go, but I have to have a general idea of what’s going to happen in the book before I can start driving.
One last writing metaphor: even if you’re only driving a couple miles a day, you’ll still eventually get where you’re going.
One of the ways I’m forcing myself to write steadily is by rewarding myself with some books I’m reading and loving. I always read more than one book at a time. Right now I’m reading Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow and the second book in Barbara Hambly’s James Asher series.
Gravity’s Rainbow is set in London at the end of WWII and features, among many other characters, a guy who gets a hard on right before a V-2 rocket hits, and whose many sexual trysts seem to predict where the rockets will land. This in no way begins to describe the plot; it’s such a dense and weird book that guides to it have been written. I’m trying not to use one – I’m an English major, I should be able to handle this.
Barbara Hambly is SUCH a good writer. Lush, lyrical narrative, interesting characters, and when she’s writing historicals, just enough period details (technology, grooming, cultural practices) to make it engrossing but not so much that it detracts from the story. Her James Asher series is set in Edwardian England. Asher is a retired English spy and a professor at Oxford; his wife Lydia is a doctor. After discovering that vampires exist, James and Lydia get sucked into their intrigues. The Asher books are normal novels, with a beginning, a middle and an end. This makes them a nice change of pace from a Thomas Pynchon novel.
Incidentally, another of Pynchon’s novels, Inherent Vice, is now a movie starring Joaquin Phoenix. I loved the book and I expect to love the movie.
There’s another author I love that you might too – Tom Holt writes some of the funniest books I’ve ever read. My favorite one is Barking, about a sad sack London attorney who is unwittingly, and unwillingly, turned into a werewolf. He’s written dozens of books and I’ve never found one that didn’t make me laugh out loud like an idiot.
Anyway. I can’t let myself read as much as I’d like or I’d never write. So I reward myself with a couple of chapters every time I’ve written three or four pages.
If you hang out on Twitter, I invite you to follow me – tell me you’re a reader, and I’ll follow back. (I don’t auto follow.) Same with Facebook – I love talking to readers. I’m very active on Twitter (I totally understand if you decide not to follow me, because I do tend to talk a lot.)
Here’s to all of us having a safe, prosperous, stable, happy 2015.