Procrastination (Written Over Months)

001 (2)Dear Diary,

Please help me.

Take away these obsessive thoughts of:

Yarn websites, Candy Crush, the Kardashians, Kardashian babies, Anthropologie, all the Housewives, Girls, social media, getting my FitBit numbers higher, my hair’s summer frizz, and Vanilla Kreme donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts.

Instead, infuse my brain with motivating thoughts of:

Nature, cute animals, motivating writing/editing tips, actual exercise at the gym, vegetables, Stendhal’s Le Rouge et le Noir, a walk after dinner, finishing books instead of buying more, cleaning around the apartment, consistent kindness to others.

When I list my accomplishments, it’s not as if I’ve done nothing. In fact, I’ve done a lot — just not everything. I have no concluding sentence here. Just that summer silliness has begun.

Yours in putting things off,

p.

Five Tips for Fine-Tuning Your Romantic Voice

17SCANDAL-superJumboAdmit it, you were expecting my Barry White impersonation. No such luck! Instead, after reading a whole pile of submissions, I’ve put together pointers for you as you write that proposal/manuscript/and even that Powerpoint presentation. I swear, I follow these tips when I have to talk to a group. Be thankful that I’m not singing. Others aren’t so fortunate.

Here we go:

1. Create intimacy with your reader. I love it when a writer’s voice invites me into the story, like I’m about to get some juicy insight into a character’s plight. This is the reason why I watch reality TV, as if I’m learning about a secret world–though I don’t always like what I see! Scandal is very good at showing us the scandalous behind-the-scene world of politicians. The more a writer does this–creates a connection, reveals–the more I want to read her book. I want that intimacy with your story. Show me what the characters are hiding.

2. Start in the right place. This is a tip I repeat over and over. Part of what stops me from reading is that the set-up can seem so ordinary. Boy meets girl. They hate each other on sight. Or, girl is intrigued by boy as they are assigned together. Boy goes to destination, meets girl, conflict ensues. Some of these set-ups are necessary, but to lessen the editor yawns, there must be excitement and tension. Take a chance and start your romance in a riskier place. Those too-easy set-ups are sometimes not the most effective.

3. Take time to flesh out a moment. I may be contradicting myself here. As you create the above mentioned excitement, be sure to expand upon those mundane moments. They can please an editor’s senses. I am a big fan of routine, descriptions of a person’s process (code for: food preparation; colorful portraits of nature, which are lacking in NYC; interesting wardrobe choices), and how one lives in everyday life. Show us how the heroine decorates her cupcakes (mmmm, cake!), how a cowboy/girl takes care of a horse, how a spy may agonize over what to pack. These tiny details reveal character. If you loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, you must have enjoyed passages about their daily chores. They are the reason I cleaned my room, joyfully did laundry, and enhanced my work ethic. I could have read those chapters on baking, sweeping, and walking to school forever. Don’t deprive the editor of those details! Also, don’t go overboard.

4. End chapters with a bang. One of the reasons why everyone read Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code–aside from scintillating content–was because every chapter ended with a bang. You don’t need to give your reader whiplash, but the opening three chapters–and many chapters afterwards–should end with a crucial moment/question that leads the reader to the next page. I like the whole “this is the last thing I wanted” or “do you dare to take on this horrendous yet provocative assignment” type of situation. Also ask, what does your character want to avoid–then, make it unavoidable.

5. Stay focused on the purpose of your story (romance). As I read submissions, I can usually tell when even the writer gets tired of her story and just wants to get it done. It’s important to¬† find ways to revive your story, invest in it, keep those central themes in mind, believe in your characters. When I devour thrillers, which is often (hello, Harlan Coben), I love how the writers have at least four subplots going to augment the “Oh no” factor. Always remember the reason why you have to write this story.

There, I’ve solved everyone’s problems. Now it’s time to get back to it. I realize many of you are sad that I didn’t sing. I’ll make up for this here.

Shelving Self-Help (Temporarily)

trainingThe minute I feel a twinge of discomfort, I enroll in a class, delve into a new topic (the Battle of Actium, circa 31 BC) or buy a self-help book. A few weeks ago, I felt exceedingly middle-aged, so I signed up for a few personal training sessions. As I went through painful exercises–painful, in that they took me away from my couch–I knew that the sessions were a temporary fix, that I will never be Arnold Schwarzenegger from the 70s. And yet, I can’t fault that impulse to improve.

This is why I love self-help! My stack of self-improvement books takes up most of my bookshelf, lines the walls and makes for a healing tower on my bedstand. I’ve become obsessed with audiobooks for my walks home, especially ones about mindfulness, habit-changing, and meditation. On Facebook, I subscribe to key self-helpful authors and devour, write down, and try to remember their bullet points of advice and wisdom. Several times a day, I scroll down for a nugget and write it in my mostly empty “gratitude journal” (even though I’m very, very grateful for all I have). I’m addicted to that five-second boost, and vow to use the guidance in all future behavior or interaction with others. The skip in my step might last for a day, maybe a week. But then I’m back to who I’ll always be, which ain’t half bad.

Though I adore an engaging read that will educate me, I wonder if I really need another pep talk…or long list of steps to achieve wellness, cure insomnia, ease anxiety? It’s time to have more fun with that twinge of discomfort, develop a sense of humor about it, don’t think I can fix it by wearing a clown nose around the house and recite my self-love in front of a mirror (though that wouldn’t hurt).

For right now, I want to see what it would be like not to listen to experts on how to improve myself. As I try to resist Oprah’s Soul Sunday, Elizabeth Gilbert’s motivational Facebook page, or Eckhart Tolle’s distinct voice in my ear–it won’t be for long–I will try to lift weights to ensure better health and try to be where I am as much as possible. I might also listen to other stories. With current events such as they are, fiction is starting to sound much better. For now, in my spare time, I’m back to thrillers, even more romance, and okay, maybe one book on self-coaching…But to all these affirmations, I maintain this.

(Ps. If you have a great self-help recommendation, let me know!)

 

Romance Is My Day Job Giveaway Results!

IMG_2508Last Friday, my book giveaway ended with eleven winners of an autographed copy of Romance Is My Day Job. I’m so excited to get these to the recipients. This was such fun for me, I might have to do it again. Who knew that giving away free stuff could be this enjoyable? Here are the winners:

Ready to go in the mail, if not sent already:

Emily

John

Mia

Tammy

Margaret

Paula

Christine

These four should send me a snail mail address (send to addictedtoaltoids@yahoo.com) to receive the autographed copy:

The Turtle Writer

Real Housewife of Detroit

Deborah B.

Debra

 

Thanks, everyone, for your participation! Happy Monday to you.

 

A Romance Is My Day Job Giveaway!

coverhuhHey, don’t you want to start tax week right? Here’s how: I’m giving away 10 autographed paperback copies of my book, Romance Is My Day Job. Not just 3 or 7, but 10–and I may even sign them with sparkly pen. Recipients will be chosen at random and it is open internationally. All you have to do is post a comment from now until 5pm ET on 4/17/15 and you may be chosen to receive one of these copies. Please bear in mind that all comments must be approved so they may not appear immediately.

I look forward to hearing from you and sharing this true love story with readers!

To Emote or Not to Emote

I tend to read a lot of artist/writer blogs, the juicier the better. Because I’m not physically in high school anymore–or even in my twenties or thirties–I get a vicarious rush reading about an individual’s personal and professional trials: deadline pressures, the angst of parenting, difficulties (physical and mental), irritating moments that ruin one’s day, pep talks, who hates Jonathan Franzen today, or good old-fashioned frivolity (Housewife chat?). I’m both impressed and a little horrified at how a person can put so much out there for anyone to see. What did we do before blogs and social media? It’s so tempting to read everyone’s thoughts and then I want to emote myself. There is a lot I have to say! Fair warning, some of it is superficial. You caught me in a moment. Yesterday, I was agonizing about events in Rome, circa 31 B.C–don’t get me started. Here goes:

I’ve switched from Cheetos to White Cheddar popcorn as an evil snack. Sam loves it, too, so we get two bags. We feel like giant hogs afterwards.

Ranting on FB (about life, politics, Israel/Iran/Palestine, climate change, Obama) annoys and fascinates me. I have an appreciation for the need to connect, preach, and spread information. I’m doing that right now, see? Hey, I wouldn’t be married without Facebook. Sadly, I don’t recognize some of the people I thought I knew and I now know people who have mostly been strangers (it’s all good-ish).

No one has noticed this but I’ve been weening myself off television and reading more. I read for my day job, but currently feeling that reading day and night means stronger eye muscles…or blindness. Right now, am flying through The Sun Also Rises by The Hemingway He kinda writes like a five-year-old, Andy Cohen’s memoir (awesome), The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (you must read), The President’s Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy (who knew Harry S. and Ike could get along!), and Come Dancing by Leslie Wells (addictive, especially if you love the 80s)…11051892_1555249804734476_5339737004723344042_noh, and a biography on Charles Manson (I don’t know why…).

Because I drove with my husband to Rochester, New York, last weekend for his business, I rewarded myself before the trip with an iPhone and three secret cookies from Fika. With my gadget I was able to take cool selfies. Furthermore, if I get to see Duran Duran in concert, I can finally take a good picture of my boys! I hear the iPhone is also used for calling, but I am not good at using phones. The Candy Crush is too small for me to see.

Starting to feel that editing on paper is inconvenient and yet I don’t want to do the first edit on screen. Will I make the transition? This could be exciting news for trees.

I struggled with depression in the second half of last year. It made me a little too quiet, but I know how things shift from light to dark, dark to light–and even shades of grey (see how I got that in there?). The world is lovely again in all its forms. When I go outside, I don’t feel terror, just an appreciation of sunshine, the taste of coffee, people hanging out in my local Pain Quotidien. Notice how this gets sandwiched between lighter stuff.

I put hot rollers in my hair now, which makes me feel 100 years old, but the outcome can be splendid and slightly Mad Men if I brush vigorously like Betty–or it could be senility setting in. Am now looking around at women and wondering who secretly uses hot rollers. Fess up!

Trying very hard to accept that “awhile” and “fairytale” might be one word. This seems wrong to me.

After 30 years, I’ve stopped running. Now I walk or do the elliptical, which begs the question: Will I join a walking club and wear fussy gym clothes from Athleta? Am I someone now worried about joints and my back? Will I start doing yoga?

At 46, I should be all 1962853_664713946900219_800430870_neasy breezy about how I look, but last night, I had second thoughts about my purple pants from J Crew. Nah, they are awesome.

I recently had 10 minutes where I had no work deadlines. Now I’m swamped again. I’m not complaining at all, just observing the tides of my industry. The busier, the better.

My love/hate for CNN grows strong in both directions. I love my Anderson Cooper (very much), but hate the editorializing of most of the other anchors. Just deliver the news, please, without the moral outrage and incredulity. Sometimes, this compels me to a more conservative station. I like my headlines dry and without emotion!

Yesterday, someone sent me a fan email for Romance Is My Day Job. It put a huge smile on my face.

My After Happily Ever After: Vol. I

1504209_1388883841371074_78845019_oA friend told me that I haven’t been married long enough to write about being married. He’s probably right. But a few lessons have been valuable for me on this bridal path. I blame serial dating for twenty-five years, my “little sister” complex, and an inner princess for needing my own way at all times. What a novelty that in a relationship, you have to cooperate with another person. Here are some of my marital takeaways:

  • Being kind and respectful always wins–even when he’s irritating.
  • I’m generally nice to others but very self oriented. Now, I think about little things Sam might like. On my excursions, I’ll pick him up a snack or his favorite newspaper. It goes a long way.
  • I hold grudges, but Sam caves within minutes. He never gives up on people unless they’re truly reprehensible. This shows me how silly it is to stew in self-righteous indignation. We bicker now and then, sometimes really fight, but I’m better at saying I’m sorry.
  • Five years later, everything he does still charms me–how he walks, how his hair sticks up, his obsession with his expensive toothbrush, how fussy he is in the kitchen, even the cadence of his snoring (it changes depending on what he eats and drinks). Someday, I may take this for granted. For now, I stare as much as I can.
  • You have to do things you don’t want to do. I try to gauge what’s important to him. This can be difficult because, like a guy, he shrugs his shoulders and says he doesn’t mind one way or the other. I don’t like eating in restaurants, but he does. Sometimes I suggest we dine out and his eyes light up. His joy is well worth the inconvenience of sitting in a noisy, cramped space and waiting on potentially greasy food (I can be nuts in a restaurant).
  • Men seem to have their monthly cycles, which I find fascinating. I know to stay away certain days of the month.
  • He can’t stand to be within fifty yards of the bickering Housewives. I can still watch my precious Housewives, but I wait until he’s out of the room.
  • I just assume people are there and I don’t reach out to them as much as I should. When you live with someone you love, you can’t assume. I try to check in with him a few times a day. He’s the type who loves hearing from people so I know it’s a big deal. Being with him has made me better about calling my mother, too.

I’m sure I’ll learn more over the years and some days will be more difficult than others. Most of the time, I think how lucky I am.