Romantic Life Lessons

Piles and Scatterbrain: A Love Story

It’s a Friday and my office is a mess. It didn’t used to be. Because my elementary school education in France drilled terror and organization into my soul, I’ve fixated on putting things in their proper places. Deadlines are my best friend and if I miss one, I get anxious. Will Madame G… take me by the ear and make me stand in the corner? This happened a few times when I blew off the four hours of homework–though, what do you expect from a six-year-old who can’t speak the language? I owe a lot of my work ethic/time management skills to the French school system.

Over time, my focus has splintered. Maybe it’s Facebook’s fault. Maybe we are all multitasking too much. Whatever the case, the memory of a ruler rapped against my knuckles doesn’t reverberate so much when I leave dishes in the sink. If I put aside a project mid-stream, no one will yell at me. Forty years later, I’m becoming a little scattered again and that’s just how it is.

Now, I see that I have piles and sub-piles, some consisting of one scrap of paper with one phrase scrawled, “Call so-and-so.” Other piles contain substantive emails I’ve printed out so that I’ll remember–though, let’s be honest, they often get stuck in the back of what I’m editing and I don’t find them until months later. Then, there are the To Do lists, which I’ve started to ignore. I have three lists: on my iPad, on the big pad of paper, then the beautiful little booklet I rescued from a paper store (for 20$). The sad thing: it’s the same list with minor variations. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin renewed my devotion to my lists, but I realized that I only love crossing things off. There we go there.

When I sit down at my desk, I look at the piles, panic, wonder if I have ADD or just am anxious about books. I do someĀ  prioritizing, write myself notes in bold, rearrange the piles and then start reading something, since that stabilizes me. It’s all about the reading, right? Sigh. This is where I’m most zen.

Within ten minutes, I’m back to fussing with email, figuring out which ones I can answer fast, which will sit for eons, a frustrating endeavor. Will I call so-and-so now? No, I’ll wait till afternoon, though should do now since I don’t want to be a procrastinator. Maybe I need to take Ginseng. I’ll go down to Starbucks instead for a chocolate-covered graham cracker or two. I return, look up at my shelves, the To Edit pile. This month, I have four books to turn in. I’m done with one. Now I’m editing the remaining three at once, which doesn’t help de-clutter my brain–but it’s nice clutter. Since Madame A… said I was mischievous and lazy, I secretly start on a fourth edit–one that needs more TLC–due in late October. I’m thankful that I’m not Claire Danes’s character on Homeland since she’s really got a lot on her mind. Which reminds me I have to set my DVR….

The sun is shining in my window and I look out for a few minutes, soaking in the Vitamin D. That’s enough. I go back to the 20 manuscripts sitting in my ibooks folder and start to read another few pages–before I remember about the deadline for cover ideas for June 2013. Maybe I should do another blog post. So here I am…

Writing Tips

Monday’s Pet Peeves

It’s a Monday and these romance pet peeves have been brewing inside of me for a while. Because my coffee lacked oomph today, I must unleash:

1. This pet peeve comes from Harlequin Romantic Suspense and Kensington author Melissa Cutler: It’s meal time, the hero and heroine are getting squirmy and he says something like, “I’m hungry, but not for food.” [insert suggestive eyebrow raise] This line may have been a novelty decades ago but now it’s just plain corny. I half expect the heroine to respond, “What are you getting at?” [blink, blink]

2. Referring to lovemaking (that’s another pet peeve, the word “lovemaking”) as “a dance as old as time.” How old is time? If you’re science-minded, there were asexual one-celled organisms crawling around the planet before the dinosaurs appeared. I think they lived in the ocean and probably danced with themselves. If you believe in a higher power, the dance would be as old as time — though time existed before Earth and our concept of the universe, didn’t it? My beliefs are somewhere between science and spirit and the only dance as old as time, to me, is this (I love Fred!). There must be another way to add flourish to the act.

3. The heroine slobbers on herself during a food-fest with the hero. She’s daintily eating potato skins and some sour cream doesn’t quite make it into her mouth (I can relate). The hero leans over and dabs at her lips, smirking over how cute she is. It’s supposed to be sexy, but all I can think is ew. Sure, we all have those less than elegant moments. Sometimes, after a long, hard day I am too busy shoving the bacon cheeseburger in my face to worry about ketchup and pickle juice rolling down my chin. This nastiness I try to conceal from society. In your romance novel, the heroine doesn’t need to wear her food.

4. Along these lines, food can be an important component of a developing romance. How else to get the hero and heroine together than over a meal? Dinner is romantic, as long as they don’t eat the same thing in every book. I wish I had a dime for every “garden salad” and loaf of “crusty bread” that characters have chomped on. I won’t go into how much iced tea characters seem to drink, which makes me want iced tea (I’m trying to cut down on my caffeines). Bottom line is with the ever-expanding palate of food shows on TV, consider varying your characters’ dining choices. If you can make me salivate, that’s a bonus. These days, I’m very into cupcakes.

Oooh, cupcakes. There’s an idea for a chaotic Monday. Will I get frosting on my face? No one will ever know.