Archive for the ‘Rampant Insecurities’ Category

Do you all read Anna Cowan’s blog? She’s a soon-to-be-published (spring of 2013) Australian romance writer who grapples wonderfully with all kinds of meaty issues on her blog. (I’m working on a year-end list of favorite 2012 Romancelandia blog posts, and having trouble deciding which of hers to include.)

Anyway she’s currently hosting a series of guest posts from writers, bloggers, and readers whose thoughts interest her. She invited me to do a guest post, and I did.

I’ve talked to Anna over email about how I use “Go big or go home” as a mantra for prodding myself out onto a limb when writing sex scenes, and writing this post was definitely a GBoGH moment.

In other news, lots of people are coming out with year-end Best Books lists, and there’s been a lot of gratifying love for both Lady and Gentleman. When a few other things have slowed down, I’ll post links.

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I’ve put up a deleted scene from A Gentleman Undone on my website. It makes me cringe a tiny bit, but there are things in it I like, too.

That’s all I’ll say. You can read it and see what you think.

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Woke up just before 5:00 this morning and lay awake, thinking “Why did I agree to this? Why?” I’m hoping hard that at least one other Literary Lion is roiled with similar apprehension.

In black-tie clothing news, I discovered my black top/black skirt combo wasn’t going to work (I had envisioned it looking chic and hip, but instead it looked like I didn’t understand the dress code), so I returned the top and bought a dress. It’s purple and fancy-ish (there’s a clutch of rhinestone-type things at the waist) despite being knee-length, but my eyebrow technician (oh, you’d better believe I went to the eyebrow technician), who is apparently an old hand at black-tie-optional affairs, assures me knee-length is acceptable.

Also, I needed a clutch-style purse. I found a just-okay one at Ross Dress for Less; then found a better one at the Salvation Army.

In Documenting the Event news, I discovered I can’t do Twitter on my phone. Will see whether I can do it on my e-reader; then will think about whether it’s appropriate to carry an e-reader into a black-tie-optional event.

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To my surprise, persistent incredulity, and general befuddlement, I was invited to participate in this Notable Local Writers Fundraiser Gala Thing, put on by my county library system in conjunction with a local independent bookstore.

Literary Lions Gala: A Grand Affair, it’s called. It’s next week. Lee Child (is he local to the Pacific Northwest? I didn’t know that) will be the keynote speaker. The rest of us will sign books (or perhaps sit at our lonely tables watching other, more popular writers sign books), schmooze with the foundation’s benefactors, and eventually eat a fancy dinner while listening to Lee Child’s speech. Then maybe more schmoozing. I am frankly terrified by the prospect of this whole thing.

I seriously considered declining the invitation when it came. I’m one of those people for whom social situations, particularly with strangers, are incredibly taxing. I think of something worthwhile to add to a conversation, generally, about six hours after the conversation has taken place. Also, a function with writers of all genres, as opposed to just romance writers, raises the possibility of encountering people who will either dismiss me as Not a Real Writer, or will perhaps make jokes about Fabio, or “researching” love scenes, or the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon. It could be painful in about six dozen different ways.

But. The invitation actually disclosed the name of the selection-committee member who suggested me for inclusion, and the name of that person is:

Nancy Pearl.

(Everybody knows who that is, right? Author of the Book Lust series? Model for the Librarian Action Figure? Regular NPR guest?)

I have no idea whether she’s read my book. She might’ve just heard some buzz. I know she’s a fan of Georgette Heyer, and also of the proven-Romance-gateway Betsy-Tacy series, and a friend of mine who knows her assures me she’s not unacquainted with “bodice-rippers,” so maybe she frequents the big blogs and saw a good review or two. I don’t know. All I know is that no writer in her right mind says no to Nancy Pearl. And so I emailed back and said, sure, I will do this Literary Lions thing.

And then I sort of stuck my head in the sand about it. Dreading the sense of exposure that would result from seeing my name on the list of participating authors (I’m borderline pathological about that: the day the Paramore fans found me, my first reaction was not, “Whoa! I’m going to have my best day ever in blog stats by far!” but rather “Gaaaah! People are looking at me! People I don’t know!”), I didn’t actually look at said list until today.

I think I’m going to be the only romance writer there. I looked at the list, freaked out at the sight of my name (also of my bio, which for some reason says I’d wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, which is the opposite of the truth), freaked out more at the impression that mine was the only romance-novel cover in the selection of covers, and closed the page without going back to make sure. My survival strategy for the event had depended in large part on sticking close to the other romance writers, but now I have to come up with a new survival strategy.

This strategy may involve cocktails. It may involve live-tweeting my social angst, if I can figure out how to do Twitter on my phone.

Oh. Also. The event is “black tie optional.” I had to google to find out what that meant. Then I had to go shopping, because I don’t own anything near fancy enough. So now I have this nice black sleeveless top, which I will wear with a black skirt, and hope that this can pass for the “little black dress” that is apparently acceptable, in lieu of red-carpet gowns, at a “black tie optional” affair. (I considered looking for something over-the-top pink and frilly, perhaps with a Barbara-Cartland-style feather boa, but couldn’t bring myself to spend what that would have cost. The nice black top was on sale.)

Anyway, I’m hoping hard that I’ll get there and find out that all the authors are socially awkward and worried about not having worn the right thing. That seems like a reasonable possibility, right?

So, blog readers: have any of you ever been to a scary social event? How did you psych yourself up/talk yourself down for it? Should I be visualizing the best possible outcome, in order to make it happen, or imagining every possible disaster, so I won’t be taken by surprise?



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Pile of research books

Somewhere in here, I’m hoping hard, is the plot for my next book.  I know who the hero is, and the heroine is starting to take shape, and I have some ideas for the dynamic of their relationship, but beyond that it’s all a daunting blank.

Plot = blood; Cecilia = turnip.

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I’ve been saying A Lady Awakened will be out in spring of 2011, but it’s now looking like Bantam will fit my debut into the fall of that year, with, hopefully, the follow-up book (as yet not officially titled) to come a few months later.

I’ll be honest:  I did indulge, briefly, in fears that they’re getting cold feet about me and that this is just the first step to their deciding to push me off their calendar altogether.  Because that is the way my mind works.

But the fact is, no one ever definitively told me “spring of 2011.”  It was a preliminary guess, and I got used to it and began to accept it as fact, in the absence of any conflicting data.  But the conflicting data, she has arrived, and she says fall, not spring.

And once I can quiet the knee-jerk paranoid part of my brain, I like this news.  It means I’ll be further along (maybe hopefully finished, maybe hopefully sold) with a third book by the time my first one is out.  It also means prolonging this delightful honeymoon period in which I can point to a sale, and call myself a published author, and still imagine that all my reviews will be good ones.

It does change the dynamic of this year’s national conference a bit.  I had assumed this would be my last chance to go to Nationals as Contracted Author Whose Book is Not Yet Out.  And then when the book did come out, people would think, “Oh yeah, I remember meeting her at Nationals.  She was the one in the five-dollar linen blouse.  Maybe I’ll read her book.”

Now it seems like next year’s conference is really the appropriate one at which to tell people about my upcoming book.  This year’s just seems too far in advance.  So this year I’ll concentrate more on workshops and gawking at authors I admire and, of course, telling anyone who’ll listen that I paid four dollars and one cent for this jacket at the Ann Taylor Loft when it was originally eighty-nine fifty; can you believe it?

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I picked up Sherry Thomas’s latest, His at Night, and tore through it in three days.  (For me that’s fast.)

It was a pretty rich book and I have a lot of thoughts on it, which I may or may not distill into something worth saying later, but for the moment this is the thought at the tips of my fingers:

Last week I wrote a scene for my WiP that referenced the image of Prometheus chained to the rock with that eagle chowing on his liver.  I was kind of proud of this scene.  Such a dire, powerful image, and I liked the use I found for it.

Well, it turns out that the heroine of His at Night has a recurring nightmare in which she’s chained to the rock, like Prometheus, while an eagle comes down and tears at her innards!  For crying out loud!

This is not the first time Sherry Thomas has beat me to the punch with something, and done it with more panache.  Way back when I started on A Lady Awakened – the story of a sexual bargain with an heir as the goal – I actually used the phrase “their private arrangement” to refer to the bargain.  And then I started hearing rumblings about a book that was actually called Private Arrangements, and that featured a sexual bargain with an heir as the goal.

Arrgh.  I have gone through manuscripts and changed certain wording because of encountering the same wording, only put to infinitely better use, in one or another of Sherry Thomas’s books.  More than once.  It’s getting to the point where I open up her vivid jewel-toned covers with a simmering sense of dread.

So what to do about my Prometheus reference?  For now I think it stays.  Perhaps I’ll put a footnote on that page:  Please note that, whatever may be your opinion in regard to the originality of this image, I did not technically rip it off from His at Night.

Now, about my nightmare-prone heroine…

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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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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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Yesterday I had my second photography session, necessitated by the fact that my shots from the original session were lost when my photographer’s studio was robbed.  I think – fingers crossed – it went better this time.  The first time I just felt like I was squirming, nonstop, under that dreadful sense of exposure that comes (to me, anyway) with having a big old camera lens trained on you.

And I couldn’t figure out how to produce a realistic smile, the first time.  I’ve read that, on the old Mr. Ed show, the way they created the talking-horse special effect was by manipulating the horse’s lips via little hooks with invisible lines attached.  That’s what I felt like, the other week:  like someone had set hooks at the corners of my mouth and was tugging on them every time I was supposed to smile.

I was determined not to repeat that.  So this past week I, um, watched America’s Next Top Model.  Okay, actually I often watch America’s Next Top Model.  One of my great mundane pleasures is watching trash tv with my smart, snarky teenage daughters.  Smart snarky Prima and I bond over Gossip Girl; smart snarky Seconda keeps me company for The Bachelor and ANTM.

And if you’re familiar with ANTM, you know that at the end, when the aspirants appear before Tyra Banks for their critique, she always finds opportunities to show them how much better she can do whatever they did.  “See, you had your chin like…” [demonstrates] “…where if you’d gone like…” [demonstrates, with a flourish]  “See the difference?”

Usually this segment is one big snarkfest for me and Seconda (a flannel-shirt-&-Vans kinda girl).  This week I kept up my end of the snark while secretly taking notes:  “Oh, my God, can you just get on with it and tell them they’re going to New Zealand?”   Don’t lose your neck…must remember this… “If she says ‘smile with your eyes’ one more time, I’m going to scream.”   Okay, how exactly do you smile with your eyes?

My photographer remarked on how much more “present” I seemed this time.  I copped to having watched America’s Next Top Model for research and she thought it was a hoot.  Whether it actually resulted in a decent picture remains to be seen…

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