My very brief flirtation with being a David Foster Wallace fan

I was originally seduced by the commencement speech David Foster Wallace gave at Kenyon College in 2005, titled “This is Water”.

Of course, David Foster Wallace is a name you hear all the time, a towering figure in the world of modern literature.  (There’s something about that triple moniker that adds gravitas.)  However, I had never read a single thing DFW wrote until I stumbled upon the speech.  It was so lovely, so compassionate in its view of everyday life, so exactly the philosophy I would want my children to absorb that I was hooked.

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So I bought the massive tome that is Infinite Jest, DFW’s most famous novel.  (Such a great title too!)  It’s a very long book, but I’m not afraid of words so I plunged in…and stopped.  And tried again from the beginning…and stopped.  After a third attempt, I threw in the towel and loaned it to a friend.

However, as serendipity would have it, D.T. Max, who wrote a well-researched biography of David Foster Wallace, came to speak at my local women’s club.  He gave a fascinating presentation, so I bought his book Every Love Story is a Ghost Story and read it with great interest.  After learning of DFW’s struggles with chronic depression and addiction and how heroically he fought his demons, I wanted to give his work another chance.

I suggested that my book group read The Girl With Curious Hair, a collection of David Foster Wallace’s short stories.  Once again I plunged into his writing with high hopes.  Once again, I found I couldn’t finish the book.  Every member of my book group struggled with the stories, but we had a very intense and lively discussion about them.  So they refused to allow me to apologize for subjecting them to such difficult reading.

I confess that I won’t be reading any more David Foster Wallace, but I don’t regret the time I spent with him.  His writing can be absolutely glorious; the kind of sentences I want to re-read a hundred times, knowing I will never, ever be able to write anything even half that amazing. His vocabulary is spectacular and perfectly calibrated.  I revel in the way he undercuts his flights of gorgeousness with a dive into the rhythms of everyday speech.

So why do I struggle to read him?  I suppose his themes and his characters don’t resonate with me.  Perhaps I am just too old for a writer who is all about tearing down false idols and snarkily shredding the culture around him; that’s more appealing to the younger reader, I think.  I like DFW at his simplest, when he is speaking from his heart.

So I choose to remember David Foster Wallace as the man who said, “The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you you’re going to try to see it.  You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.  You get to decide what to worship…”

99-cent sale on the Whisper Horse books on #Kindle!

Yeehaw! My publisher has put my two Whisper Horse novels, Take Me Home and Country Roads, on sale on Kindle for 99 cents(!) each until Sunday, March 23rd!  Here’s the link to them on the Kindle Love Stories blog.

To my loyal readers who have already purchased my books, a heartfelt thank you!  You are the best!  I’m hoping this sale will put my books in the hands of new readers, so may I ask you to tell your friends about this great opportunity?  It would be a huge favor to me as an author and a friend!

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Final front cover CR

Can you write 30,000 words in 28 days?

That’s known as a writing challenge, and I took it this February, participating in (and leading, for full disclosure) Jersey Romance Writing Month (JeRoWriMo). 

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I founded the challenge three years ago for the New Jersey Romance Writers because many of us liked the idea of National Novel Writing Month.  However, it takes place in November when we are madly scrambling to prepare for the holidays.  So for our challenge, I chose February, the month of lovers, and also the dead of winter when our members have fewer non-writing obligations.

I’m a slow-and-steady kind of writer generally. I need to think before I sit down at the keyboard.  I don’t pour forth dozens of pages a day as some much-envied writers are capable of doing.  Taking on a writing challenges forces me to push myself beyond my usual comfort level.  And when I do that I learn things about myself as a writer.

This year, I did something I thought I could never, ever do.  I worked on two stories at the same time!

What led to this breakthrough?

I started the challenge expecting to finish the Christmas novella I had already written several chapters of.  It was going slowly, and I thought JeRoWriMo would give me the kick I needed to get it done.  Instead, I found myself struggling, bogged down in key moments that should have been flowing easily.

In desperation, I wrote the first chapter of a new book I had proposed to my publisher.  It was so much fun that I wrote the next scene.  And the next.  My fingers were flying across the keyboard again.  What a feeling!  I hit my 30,000-word goal at a gallop.

And suddenly, I wanted to get back to my novella.  My subconscious had been working silently on the emotional underpinnings of those critical scenes, and now I knew where they should go.

That’s why I recommend taking on a writing challenge: desperation makes you try new things. When you try new things, you discover strengths you didn’t know you had.

(On the purely practical side, I’ve made noticeable progress on two manuscripts.)

 

Apology from a bad blogger

Wow! I need to blog more.  I just noticed that my last entry was from nearly a month ago.  So why DON’T I blog?

Excuse #1: It uses the almost the same writing muscles as fiction does, and I need to conserve energy for writing my books.  Because those are what folks really want to read.  And they pay the bills.

Excuse #2: It takes time, a commodity we all have precious little of.

Excuse #3: There’s nothing I have a burning desire to talk about.  Not every day in my life is noteworthy…or at least not noteworthy enough to write several paragraphs about.  And I don’t want to bore my blog readers with prosaic posts.  Facebook is more suited to my “short thought” days.

Excuse #4: My children were home for the holidays and I wanted to hang out with them.

Excuse #5: My editor and/or agent will notice that I am not doing my copy-edits (which are due in three days) and politely point out that those are more important, if less fun.

Excuse #6: I’m reading my Facebook news feed.

Okay, the excuses are getting pretty weak, so it’s time to stop procrastinating and go back to my copy-editing.

I’ll be back when a) I’ve turned in my copy-edits, and b) I am breathless with the need to share my brilliant thoughts with you.  Bet you can’t wait!

Anyone out there have some better excuses than mine?

Sale: TAKE ME HOME is $1.99 on Kindle!

Book 2 of the Whisper Horse Novels

My publisher is giving my readers a holiday gift.  They’ve lowered the price of TAKE ME HOME to $1.99 on Kindle until December 28th.  So treat yourself to your own little gift.  Escape to the mountains for a few hours and find out how a whisper horse might change your life. It’s hometown romance with heart…and heat!

Click here to buy it for your Kindle.

 

You’re editing your book AGAIN?!

Non-writers are always shocked when I tell them I’m doing edits yet again (as I am now for The Place I Belong).  No, it’s not that I’m a particularly sloppy writer.  It’s just the process that every book goes—or should go—through.  The more eyes you can get on a manuscript, the more polished it will be when it’s published.  Let me explain the stages of editing.

Step 1: Self-editing.  This is what I do before I turn the book into my editor at Montlake Romance for the first time.  It helps that I have a fabulous critique group where I get lots of constructive suggestions for improving the book.  However, they only see about a third to half the book before I have to hand it in to the publisher (those nasty deadlines!).  The rest is just little ole me reading my own work with as critical and detached an eye as I can bring to something I just sweated bullets over for the past nine months.

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Step 2: Developmental editing (also known as line editing, confusingly enough).  The developmental editor reads through the whole book with the big picture in mind.  Are the characters’ emotional arcs consistent and satisfying?  Are there any glaring plot holes?  Are there any places where my writing is not up to snuff?  Have I brought in the secondary characters in an effective way?  She’s not worried about the proper use of commas and italics, although she often notices when I overuse a particular word (such as “locked” or “deep”, my two favorites in the current manuscript).

My D.E. and I will send the manuscript back and forth one or two times as we work through the issues she’s spotted.  At this stage, I can still make major changes to the book if my developmental editor and I feel they are warranted.  Then we return it—better and stronger!—to my supervising editor at Montlake so it can go to the copy editor.

Step 3: Copy editing.  This is where the nit-picking begins (but doesn’t end).  Commas, paragraphs, spelling of proper names, capitalization…all that gets scrutinized under a microscope.  In addition, the copy editor checks that the characters’ eye color doesn’t change mid-book.  Or that I don’t make some poor child go to school ten days in a row (yes, my copy editor caught that in Shower of Stars).

Timelines and continuity are checked carefully.  Overuse of words and/or images is noted.  Locations are vetted.  If they’re real, is my description accurate?  If they’re fictional, is my portrayal consistent throughout the book and the series?  I can make significant changes at this stage, but I try not to since that would precipitate another round of copy editing.

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I work through the annotated manuscript to fix all the problems the copy editor has marked.  I confess to letting the experts handle the commas; whatever they say is right, I just agree to.  I knew the punctuation rules once, but they’ve slipped my overstuffed mind by now.  However, word choice is something I sweat over when it needs changing.  I think that’s my training as a poet coming to the fore.  When you can only use a few words on a page, they take on a huge importance.

There are times when I exercise my right as the author of the book to “stet” a suggested change.  That means I want to keep it the way I wrote it.  The folks at Montlake have a great deal of respect for their authors, so this is never a problem with them.

I return the polished-up manuscript to my supervising editor who forwards it to the formatter.  This is where it gets turned into what you’d recognize as a book with page numbers and pretty chapter headings.  In this form, the pages are called “galleys.”

Step 4: Proofreading.  I get the galleys after the Montlake proofreader goes over them and marks his/her corrections.  At this point, I am only allowed to correct actual mistakes that somehow snuck in during the formatting or weren’t caught in the copy editing stage. (It seems impossible but this does happen.)  No major changes can be made because that would require reformatting the book.  Again, I’m allowed to say no to changes the proofreader suggests because I’m the author.  Love that!

Finally, I am done with the editing.  Someone at Montlake does one more pass through the galleys after they receive my annotated version.

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Do I get really tired of seeing that same book over and over again?  Oh, yeah!  However, this tedious process is what allows me to sleep at night, knowing my editors and I have done our level best to make the book as perfect as it can be.

Treadmill Desk Fame

Who knew my do-it-yourself treadmill desk would make me famous?  Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but the folks at a great website called Work While Walking saw my June 26th blog post and asked to add it to their “Water Cooler” blog.  I included a couple of updates to the post since I’m now a more experienced write-walker.  Here’s the link:

http://www.workwhilewalking.com/write-walking-notes-from-my-treadmill-desk

If you’re interested in your own treadmill desk, Work While Walking has a wealth of information about all levels of desks.  I’ve been learning new things while browsing around it.  Mosey on over and check it out!

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