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Romancing Anaheim

Given my love/hate relationship with traveling, the trip to Anaheim filled me with anxiety and excitement. A few things tipped the scales towards excitement: I adore California. I love RWA’s annual conference no matter how busy or overwhelming it gets. A quiet girl gets unleashed for three days–a must for any bookworm.  Plus, I get to see writers, which is always a good time.

Despite the jet lag and the strange climate that is publishing, I found the tone of this conference to be quite positive (Maybe I was too tired to notice). At the heart is the joy/pain/reward of writing romance. The world is insane right now, but here is a  place where writers can support one another and share ideas. My author shared her creme brulee with me and I ate three-quarters of it.

This conference had special meaning since my first RWA was in Anaheim in 1998. That trip was thoroughly terrifying but wound up cementing my love of the genre and its authors. Last night, I got to stand on stage with my author who won a RITA–my first time up there. I also had the extreme honor of meeting face-to-face my beloved author who has written over 225 books. I’d worked with her for 11 years after getting one glimpse of her at that first Anaheim conference.

And now, I must sleep…and then spend an extra week here, touring houses of the stars, watching my accident-prone husband surf, appearing on Langdon Nation (a radio show), trying to find Michael Chiklis because we’re obsessed with The Shield, and reading on the beach.

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Romantic Life Lessons

What Book Changed Your Life?

I was 20, living in Paris, and, right after exams, I came down with the flu. Desperate for entertainment since I had no TV, I shuffled to the nearest FNAC to find a book, one in English for a change. After three months of all-French reading, I needed something that screamed “America.”  The bookstore had a bin of used paperbacks, mostly American. I picked through it and found Fools Die by Mario Puzo. I’d loved The Godfather and figured this one might be just as fun.

The minute I started reading, I knew Puzo was exactly the medicine I needed (along with aspirins). For 500 pages, I was hooked and inspired. By the end, I realized I *needed* to be involved in creating books. If not writing them, I’d read them and help shape them. This is the book that changed everything for me.

Needing a little inspiration, I picked it up again a few days ago. Thank goodness for my faulty memory because it’s like a whole new story and I’m hooked once again, can’t wait to get home so that I can keep reading. Is that a gift or what?

What book is your life changer?

Romantic Life Lessons, Writing Tips

How Do You Stay Motivated Through the Pages?

I often wonder how writers stay motivated when they have to live with their characters for 200+ pages. Dear Writer, don’t you get sick of them? What if the plot is floundering just as the hero and heroine enter the jungle? Do you insert a night of sticky passion or take a break?

Editors experience similar frustrations with a story. Sometimes, if the grammar is convoluted, I can’t tell the difference anymore after 200 pages. Asking for revisions, staring at the flood of urgent emails, sending rejections, or just the day to day work we do with a project can overwhelm the eyes. This is when I step away from the computer and pick a new task. There are days, too, when I can’t bear to look at words at all.

We all have those moments when we hit a wall. Sometimes, this is when the real fun can begin, where you pull out that angst and let it flow on the page. Through it all, you have to keep yourself pumped up. You have the stamina and you’ll get to the finish line.

In the meantime, how do you stay motivated? For me, I play games with myself or follow slightly-OCD routines. These last fifteen years, my tricks are:

I break down those gigantic tasks into smaller tasks. If you have a scene to write, break it down by page. Feel the intensity of that moment and put it down. For me, I vow to edit 10 pages instead of the whole chapter before taking a breath. For those 10 pages, I am all there and determined to do my best. Repeat.

Looking at flowers never hurts. Extended immersion in nature is healing. In NYC, this is tough, so I look at pretty pictures.

In the morning, I take a piece of scratch paper and with a black Sharpie, write out my three goals for the day. I then tape the paper to my desk (which is full of years of tape marks). I cross out each goal with the Sharpie and only the Sharpie. If I get it all done, I can have ice cream. Okay, I’m an adult, I can have ice cream anytime I want and usually do. Never mind that. Reward yourself a lot. It makes you happy and that will keep you motivated. Skip the three goals and go straight to ice cream*.

If feeling particularly listless, I’ll bring a timer with me to work. For each task, I’ll set the timer and not go below or beyond when the bell rings. It’s a little hard core, but I need it. I try to imagine my mother yelling in my ear because she wrote six books in the last year. She has this inner Olympian that pushes her to stay focused and enthused. She is scary.

Exercise and watch bad television. Escape, escape, escape while doing the body good. My hair and makeup are a mess, but I return to work happy.

When the words swim on the page and I’m liable to do harm to them, I get up and do one of my favorite things: close the door, crank up the music and empty my box of Things to File. This sounds incredibly geeky but that’s just how I roll. It’s the little things, right? It’s still work.

At lunchtime, on a particularly busy day, I will go to a store just to browse the makeup aisles. I don’t wear a lot, but this tends to relax me, like a spa.

Some time away from Romance, especially at night, helps me return to it full throttle the next morning. I choose non-fiction on most nights. Oh, and there are the oodles of shows and movies that I watch.

So, while you write, what keeps you motivated and on task? Please share your methods. I could learn a few more for the next fifteen years.

*Unless you’re watching your sugar intake. In this case, online shopping in moderation to the rescue!