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Archive for May, 2010

Just finished writing a scene in which my mistress heroine’s protector is telling her, essentially, “We want a lady in the street but a freak in the bed.”

Not sure that one’s going to make the final cut.  Or even the next cut.

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Well, so much for one chapter a day.  It’s kind of like if I had a bag of cheese curls, let us say the purportedly organic “Little Bear” brand, in my cupboard.  As long as the bag is unopened, it’s really not that hard to resist opening it.  But once it’s open, what is there to stop me from just grabbing a handful  at any given moment?  And then another handful, once I’ve finished the first?  So once I moved Wicked Becomes You from my locked desk to my purse, well, that was pretty much like opening the cheese curls.

Nor can I keep my resolution to document my reading progress through 140-character updates on Twitter.  The 140-character limit may make some people pithy, but it only makes me trite.  (Or triter than I already am, perhaps.)  My postings would say, essentially, “OMG I love this book!”  Instead of what I’d really like to say, for example:

One of my great pleasures as a reader is when I can point to an exact moment where a book hooks me.  Where the author does something that yanks me off the critical-reading fence and plunks me into that sort of joyful surrender, that willingness to go along for the ride.

It’s often something small:  a bit of imagery; a choice of words; a small but vivid character action.   In Elizabeth Hoyt’s The Serpent Prince, it’s when bedridden Simon introduces himself to Lucy with a makeshift bow “that came off rather well, in his opinion.”  In Julie Anne Long’s Like No Other Lover, it’s the naturalist hero contemplating an unpleasant surprise as being like a delicate butterfly landing on his wrist and then sinking in fangs.  (Followed a few paragraphs later by a reference to “a shift in the tectonic plates of his pride,” which would have hooked me if I hadn’t already been hooked.)

Here’s where Wicked Becomes You hooked me:  I knew Gwen’s fiance was going to jilt her at their wedding (it’s on the back-cover copy), but I did not realize he was going to physically make a break for it in front of the assembled well-wishers, without explaining himself at all!  And boy does he make a break for it:

Thomas sprinted across the nave and cut a sharp left toward the arcade.  Someone made a grab for him; he ducked into a somersaulting roll, shot to his feet, and bounded out of sight behind a row of pillars.

It was the somersault that really did me in.  I could so clearly envision this groom in his Victorian finery, somersaulting through the church on his way to freedom.  That’s the moment I completely committed to this book.

And oddly enough, contrary to my fears of an unproductive funk, I actually cranked out double my usual word count yesterday.  Go figure.

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Okay, I broke down and took the book out of my desk.  I am resolved to read no more than one chapter per day, and only when it’s not practical to be writing.

There’s still a decent chance it will lead to an unproductive, cheese-curl-eating funk.  But I can’t hide forever.  Sherry Thomas’s new book comes out next week, and Joanna Bourne’s is already casting its long shadow from a month away, and either of these is also likely to make me feel like a talentless hack.  So I’ve gritted my teeth and started reading, and trying to log my progress in 140 characters on Twitter.

I will not peek ahead to chapter 2… I will not peek ahead to chapter 2…

Bonus Content For People Who Found Their Way Here Because Eyebrow Maven Stacya Silverman’s Twitterfeed Told Them To

What’s so great about Tweezerman tweezers?  Can they really be that much better than other tweezers?  Because they look an awful lot like Revlon tweezers.  Discuss.

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Ugh.  This is squirm-inducing, because it involves personal vanity.  Which I happen to love in fictional characters, but don’t find half so endearing in myself.

Anyway, the backstory here is that God, or my gene pool, did not do right by me when it came to eyebrows.  Too few hairs and the hairs are too pale.  So when I sold my book(s) and suddenly had some money with which to buy myself something splurgey, the thing I decided to splurge on was eyebrows.

(Also my website and also the national conference, but those are tax-deductible business expenses.  I don’t think I can get away with deducting the eyebrows.)

So now every five weeks I go to this local eyebrow professional with a national reputation, and she tints my few hairs and waxes what there is to be waxed and generally does her best to rectify the omissions of God and my gene pool.

And she chats.  When I needed to find a photographer for my headshots, she gave me a bunch of recommendations, one of whom ended up being the photographer I used.

Well, today I was in there and the chat turned to Twitter, and the difficulty I was having in figuring out what exactly I ought to be doing with it.  The eyebrow lady talked a little about how she used it for her own promo, and then she said, “Here; I’ll show you.  I’ll google you.”  Which she did.

Then, while I watched, slow on the uptake as I often am, she went to her Twitter page, dropped my website address in the field there, added “Check out this writer,” and pressed the button.  And sent it to her five hundred and twelve followers.

Okay, so, I don’t actually have a book out yet.  I won’t until 2011.  Worse, I don’t even have a real website yet – just a “placeholder” page my designer put up while I work my way up her waiting list.  So there is in fact nothing for anyone to check out.

Worse still, I have no idea who these five hundred and twelve people are.  Some of them are probably not romance-friendly.  Some of them probably only read scholarly nonfiction (in between reading the eyebrow lady’s Twitter postings) and eagerly clicked on that link, hoping to learn of a new, exhaustively researched biography of one of the lesser-known Founding Fathers and were instead confronted with a page that features the words “historical romance” and then doesn’t even feature a historical-romance book!  Those people may be curling their affronted lips at this very moment!

(Sigh.)  Authorship isn’t for the reticent, and romance authorship is doubly not so.  But probably this is a good, bracing first step towards the sense of exposure that will come post-publication.  Right?

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Another thing at which I’m really not good:  constraining my thoughts into 140 characters or less.

As my legions of blog followers have no doubt divined, I believe if a thing is worth saying, it’s worth saying at length!  So I knew Twitter was going to be a struggle.  And sure enough, yesterday I put up only my second post, or rather tried to, and was confronted with a “you don’t have authority to do this” message.

What?  But I was logged in!  I’d done everything right, even throwing in a hashtag for good measure!  And what the heck was that -17 up above my post?  Some snide commentary on the quality of what I had to say?

Oh.  Oh, I see.  (sigh.)

Besides my natural long-windedness, the other factor of incompatibility between Twitter and myself is that Twitter appears to operate on the assumption that you’re connected all day.  And for me, this is not true. 

My job, apparently unlike the majority of people’s jobs, is strict about usage of company-owned equipment.  No social networking on the job; no blog-surfing; no Twitter.  My phone doesn’t have internet access.  And our one internet-connected computer at home is shared among four people with varying degrees of Facebook dependency.

But I’ve committed to posting to Twitter once a day for the foreseeable future.  And until I come up with anything else worth saying in brief, I’ll be posting my favorite word I wrote that day.  Already I cheated and put up a two-word phrase today:  “pertinent hells.”  But the 140-character thing should keep my cheating in check, I hope.

Anyway if anyone in my vast army of blog readers wants to watch me struggle with this, my name over on Twitter is cecikgrant.  If I get a handle on it I may even use Twitter to eventually document my reading of Wicked Becomes You, which, in an amazing display of restraint, I have not yet taken out of that desk drawer.

Oh, also I’m taking odds on how long I can go without succumbing to the use of the verb tweet, which I can only hear as a euphemism for some embarrassing inadvertent bodily function or other.

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When I daydreamed about being a published author, one thing I did not imagine doing was picking through an online gallery of one hundred seventy-five photos of myself, looking for the one I wanted to appear on my website, in the back of my book, and God only knows where else.

(Okay, 175 makes it sound worse than it was.  A bunch of those were obvious non-contenders because she was snapping the shutter at everything, including when her assistant stepped in to try to de-frizz my hair, and all of those went into the gallery.)

The good news is, I liked a lot of them.  And I picked one.  And check me out:

Cecilia Grant

Smilin’ with the eyes, Tyra-style!

And now I have to say something about what I’m wearing, just because this is how I am about clothes.

I got this jacket off the clearance rack at the Ann Taylor Loft.  According to the price tag it was originally $89.50, and I am deeply, deeply concerned about anyone who would pay $89.50 for this garment.  It’s short, sort of a lightweight cotton, a casual, warm-weather blazer-type thing.  Between clearance-related markdowns and an additional sale that was going on that day, I got it for $4.01.  I think the reason they had to put it on clearance was because it had this really unattractive decoration sewn on the left front.  Anyway I picked it off with a seam-ripper, only I didn’t do a great job and if you see it in person you can see where I broke a couple threads and made the fabric pucker some.  But that doesn’t show up in the photo, so it’s all good.

The scarf I’m wearing was a birthday present from a dear friend in 1984.  It’s actually stretch lace, which I assure you was big in 1984.  I don’t often wear it, but my fashionista teenage daughter assured me it didn’t look too dated, and in the picture you can’t even tell it’s lace.  All good.

You can’t see it, but I’m also wearing the shell half of a twin-set that a former co-worker gave me after she bought it at a yard sale.  (She’s one of those people who buys things at yard sales even if she won’t wear them herself, just because they’re great bargains, and then gives them away.)  And I got the earrings on clearance at JC Penney for $1.99.

So now you have an idea of my relationship with clothes.  At a conference last year I met Harlequin senior editor Tara Parsons, and when she complimented the blazer I was wearing it was all I could do not to blurt out “Four dollars at the Salvation Army!”

And now that I have a picture, I have to decide whether to start using it as my avatar.  I suppose I probably should.  Published authors usually do, unless they’re using their latest book cover.  I’ve just gotten really attached to that widow with her glove, though.

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There are more ways than I ever dreamed of to fail as a writer. I mean, besides not actually being good at writing. You can choose a story that’s too similar to something someone else recently wrote, and come off looking like a pallid imitation. You can get a historical detail wrong, and lose all your credibility with a certain segment of the reading audience. You can make all kinds of PR blunders, like picking fights with people who give you bad Amazon reviews.

Or, you can fail to be an interesting human being. This morning I got an e-mail from my editor’s assistant, asking me to send a bio, and I thought, “Oh, crap. Not this.”

I’ve known this was coming, and so I try to check out other writers’ bios on websites and in the backs of books. And all I’ve gained from that is confirmation of the dullness of the life I have led. (Dammit, why can’t I have been a librarian? Or a former aspiring rock star like Julie Anne Long? Shouldn’t I at least have lived in some more interesting places?)

I’m not kidding.  A few years back I auditioned to be on Jeopardy! (every now and then they hold an online test, and if you score well enough they invite you to a regional audition), and I’m convinced the reason they never called me to be on the show is because I *struck out swinging at the “personality” segment.

I did okay on the written test with which we started, and I raised my hand a lot during the warm-up questions, and generally felt like I was making a good impression.  Then when we went up in groups of three to play practice games, buzzer and all, I lucked into a couple of my wheelhouse categories and came off looking pretty sharp, if I do say so.

But then they turned to me with the dreaded words:  “Tell us a little bit about yourself.”  And I could not think of a single thing about myself that was interesting enough to say out loud!  “Um… I live with my husband.  I have two kids.  We have a cat and a dog.”  I had actually written some stuff down on my application form, because, as anyone who watches the show knows, you need to be prepared with an anecdote or two (or, in the case of Ken Jennings, a gazillion) for when Alex Trebek talks to you after the first commercial break.

But I’d never been to a Jeopardy! audition before, and I did not realize that now was the time to unleash those anecdotes.  I thought there’d be a separate interview later, and I didn’t want to go into that interview having already used up the five interesting facts about myself.  So I stood there like a dullard while the J! staff made an honest attempt to coax me into saying something memorable.  Then they gave up and moved on to the next aspirant, and that was that.

I think it took me about a month to think of those Five Interesting Facts, too, and now I don’t even remember what they are.  Too bad.  Maybe I could put them in my bio.

*Upon reflection, I think “struck out looking” is probably more accurate.  But is that a generally understood expression?  Not sure.  So I’ll add this correction, in the interest of stricter accuracy, but let the original wording stand as well.

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