A Slice of Orange


Go There

May 8, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

When I was first writing “Till Death Do Us Part”, I didn’t realize that Dori had a past love. But when Pete called her name in that scene in chapter three, my heart jolted just like Dori’s. When I saw where we were going, I jumped out of my chair and paced my office. I finally turned off the computer thinking, there’s no way I can go there.

But many months later after I’d finished the story, approved the galleys and then went on to a new story, Ryan and I were watching Inside the Actor’s Studio with Clint Eastwood. In the role of Harry Calahan, Eastwood once had to jump off a bridge onto the top of a moving school bus. When James Lipton asked if he had been afraid, Eastwood replied, “No. When you’re really in the character, you can do anything.”

I realized that writing is like acting. It only becomes real when we become the character. And man, that can be scary as hell!

Even though I still run away from the computer when the story gets too real, I know that I’ll be back. Just like an actor who spontaneously discovers a new bit of dialogue or action, we writers must jump off the bridge with our characters. What I’ve come to realize is that if we don’t go there, then neither will our readers.

So when the story and the character get under your skin and it feels icky and scary and awfully itchy, just keep yourself there because that’s when the good stuff is about to happen.

Mary Castillo’s new book, Names I Call My Sister hits bookstores today. She is the author of In Between Men and Hot Tamara. Her website is www.marycastillo.com.

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It’s Worth It

May 7, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

A Fork in the Road

By Kitty Bucholtz

I turned 39 last month. For the first time. If all goes well, it’ll be for the last time. I heard your 40s are when you finally have the experience and guts to stand up and say, “This is who I am. Like it or leave it.”

I’m not sure if I’m going to do that before I turn 40 though.

I got some notes back from my agent last week and I realized that while I’ve been writing professionally for ten years this year, there are still some words that I misunderstand. Like hot. When she told me the new genre I’m writing in is hot, I was all excited because it just happened that what I want to write is popular right now.

Oh, it is. But that’s not what she meant. She meant that genre has more detailed, uh, love scenes. And from what I’ve skimmed in other books in the genre, love isn’t always a prerequisite for the action.

Oh dear. So now I have to decide how far I’m willing to go. Suddenly I feel 16 again and I’m looking at my cute boyfriend. Will mom find out? What will God think? Just how far is too far? Will I have to wait until everyone whose opinion is important to me dies? (In which case, there’s still God.) And by then, will I even remember how to do it?!

But that’s not really what I’m asking myself. I’m asking myself how far I’m willing to go to be one of the popular girls. One of the thin, blonde, pretty ones with strawberry lip gloss and a bit of mascara that they put on in the girls’ restroom so their mother wouldn’t know. Do I want to do what it takes to have lots of friends (readers)? Or will I prefer to stand off to the side, a wallflower among wallflowers, holding my values to my chest like a badge of honor, secretly wishing I could do what needs to be done to publish my stories?

I’ll tell you the truth, I’m thinking about “doing it” once to see what it’s like, to see what all the hype is about. Maybe I won’t feel I’ve crossed a line. Maybe the money will be worth it. Maybe none of my more conservative friends will think any less of me. Maybe I’ll think I’m cool. But if I decide later it wasn’t worth it, it’ll be too late.

I remember what it was like to want to be more popular, to give away my virginity and later wish I had it back. I’m older and wiser now…and I still don’t know what advice to give myself. Except that there’s nothing better than being able to look yourself in the mirror and say, “I respect myself and what I do,” and “I’m doing all I can to be a successful businesswoman and I’m proud of myself.”

A few days ago, I said to my husband, “You know, now’s the time for me to quit and become a stay-at-home mom if that’s what we want.” It was both a “last chance” moment for us to decide for sure if we wanted to be parents, and – more so – an opportunity for me to quit without answering the question – how far am I willing to go to get published?

It’s a hell of a moment…this moment. It’s “a fork stuck in the road” as the Green Day song goes. Robert Frost said the road less traveled made all the difference. Does that mean he had to have a day job?

I don’t know what I’m going to say to my agent. I don’t want to be pious or popular. I want to be me. And I know that I was created with a unique ability to create. I can’t help but think therein lies the answer. Can I be creative enough to write what the market requires in a way that doesn’t compromise my integrity?

Ask me my age next spring. If I say I’m 39 (again), it means I haven’t quite found the guts yet to stand up and be myself regardless of the cost. But I promise you this: I’ll try with all my heart to work to be that person this year. A person who counts the cost and makes a decision and doesn’t wallow in excuses. A person like that could be a good friend in life, regardless of the level of their financial success.

There will be a price to be paid to become that kind of person, that kind of writer, but I say – it’s worth it.

Kitty Bucholtz writes romantic comedies because, well, she lives one! She wrote her first book in the NBC cafeteria, the second snowed in at a Reno hotel, and the third from a tiny apartment in Sydney. Even though she loves talking about, writing about, and teaching about writing, she’s pretty sure she knows at least three people who aren’t writers.

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Things That Make Me Go Mmmruh

May 6, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

Rrrrrr! vs. Mmmruh

by Geralyn Ruane

It wasn’t my day. Or my week, month or year, apparently. Ants were taking over my kitchen; my cat was so sick I had to spend most nights at the emergency animal hospital; I’d lost my voice so I couldn’t teach and make rent; I got my summons to do jury duty; and to top it all off, I owed taxes when I’d been counting on a refund.

So, head pounding, nose running, sweats not at all fashionable, I went to Trader Joe’s to buy myself some junk food (it’s healthier if it comes from Trader Joe’s, right?) And as I was walking to the one open checkout stand, I nearly ran into this guy heading for the very same open lane. This GORGEOUS guy. He looked like an older, more roguish version of the character Peter Petrelli from Heroes. Seriously. We stopped and looked at each other in total acknowledgement that we were both racing for the same open register. Then he stepped back, smiled, and said, “Go ahead.”

Mmmmmruh! Is that the opening to a romance novel, or what?

The moment passed, but I’ve got to say, it’s these random drops of mmmruh – absorbing them into my life and incorporating them into my writing – that keeps me bouncing around in this maelstrom we call life. Endless war, random shootings, rampant indoctrinated prevarication, escalating gas prices, a widening gap in the ozone, an insane media circus. How can a warm spring evening that reminds me of home or a student telling me she’ll miss me compete with all that? How on earth does the creative spirit prevail?

Attitude, plain and simple. We just have to allow ourselves to drink in those moments of mmmruh, savor them, remember them, and make them matter.

Geralyn Ruane’s favorite Hardy Boy is whichever one Parker Stevenson played, and these days she writes romance, chick lit and women’s fiction. Last year her short story “Jane Austen Meets the New York Giants” was published in the New York Times Bestselling anthology The Right Words at the Right Time Volume 2.

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May 4, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as
Website A, B, C’s

by Gina Black

So you want to have a website, or maybe you think you should have a website, but the whole thing is so confusing you’ve done absolutely n-o-t-h-i-n-g.

Don’t despair. It’s not that complicated. Really. Let me help get you started by sharing my version of website A, B, C’s.

A is for address. Just like every business, if you’re going to have a website, your customers (or readers) need to be able to find it. Remember: Location, location, location. To a writer that means you want your name in the address (or domain name). If your website is set up properly they will be able to Google you anyway, but make it as easy as possible by buying yourname.com. But what if (like in my case) the .com that goes with your name is already taken? Then go for .net or put a hyphen in your name (gina-black.com wasn’t taken so I grabbed it), or do whatever you can think of to get it as close to yourname.com as possible. Are you going to write under a pseudonym? Then buy that too, while you’re at it. If possible, get both the .com and .net. One caveat: when you purchase your domain name your information (name, address, email, phone contact) goes on public record. If you don’t want that you can pay for a private registration (with some companies), or get a P.O. Box, which is a good thing for any author to have anyway.

But, you say, you don’t want to set up the website now. Not a problem, says I. You can buy the domain name at any time and hold onto it until you are ready to . . .

B is for build your website. In order to do that, you need a place to put it. In cyberspace, the equivalent of “land” is space on a server. Your server can be located anywhere in the world. Mine happens to be in England (just because I felt like it). There are loads of companies that would love to sell you space on their computers for your website.

C is for content (which is made out of code–called HTML, but I’m not going into that today). What kind of a cyber-home do you want? For this I can only offer you the simple advice that your website should reflect your voice and the kind of stories you tell. Some authors include lots of personal information, some don’t even have an author photo, some include blogs, and discussion forums, some have just a page or two to advertise their books and provide links to booksellers. Spend a day or two touring the various cyber-neighborhoods, make notes about what you like and bookmark the sites you love. If you aren’t a graphic designer, or don’t want to figure out how to build it yourself you can hire someone to make it for you, but it will be easier for you and them if you can tell them what you want, including colors, tone, and style. If you hire someone they might want to sell you a whole package of domain name, server space, and web design with monthly updates. The more you understand, the easier it will be to find someone who can give you what you want for what you can afford. Or, you could try it yourself!

So now that you know what you need, where do you start? I don’t want this to turn into a commercial, and it really is good to do your own research, so, I’ve included some links to Google searches:

Domain name registration
Website hosts (servers)

Web designers (for authors)

Remember, no endorsements here, just a place to start. Especially with web designers, you might wish to find one through a referral from someone who has a site you particularly like.

Gina collects domain names like some people do shoes. In her closet, she now has allyouneedisyarn.com, marciasgallery.com, gbtrynin.com (in case she ever writes that mystery), theresablack.com (her YA alter-ego), and ten others, including ginablack.net.

And yes, her computer screen really has burned itself into her glasses.

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(Mis)Adventures in Writing

May 1, 2007 by in category Archives tagged as

How a Nutritionist (Nearly) Wrecked My Writing Career

By Theresa Montana

“Sugar,” the young professional woman sitting across from me declared. She picked up an orange highlighter and uncapped it with a vengeance, and then she drew a neon orange line through the very first entry of my eating journal.

I shifted on the uncomfortable little exam table. “I didn’t put any sugar in that cappuccino, only Splenda.”

She arched an eyebrow. “Lactose,” she informed me. “Milk is at least half sugar.”

“But the South Beach diet…”

“Didn’t read it.”

“Don’t women my age need lots of calcium? I have a family history of osteoporosis.”

“There are other sources of calcium, you know.” She made a notation on the “Vitamin and Supplement Schedule” on the counter by the sink.

Theresa, I silently scolded myself, you paid $500 for this consultation. Don’t argue with the nutritionist; shut up and listen.

I watched in horror as the lady highlighted three-quarters of the entries in my food log, including fruit, milk and whole grains. She then went on to explain to me how men and women from the Paleolithic period ate. “Hunters and gathers ate lots of meat and vegetables, maybe some nuts and berries” She explained. “Only an occasional tuber and fruit only when it was in season. Certainly none of this tropical fruit we now get year round.”

Tropical cave people ate tropical fruit year round, I thought.

“And no grains! Grains came with the advent of the farming.”

She silenced my skepticism by putting me on a body fat scale. While I was still recovering from the trauma of learning how much of my body consisted of fat, she sold me $350 of high end vitamins and supplements.

Evidently she didn’t think that my gummy vitamins were doing the trick.

Later that week I met with my writing critique group at the Barnes and Noble Café. They managed not to comment when I showed up at our usual table with herbal tea, instead of my usual ice mocha with whipped cream. I put a baggie full of celery amidst the array of chocolates and pastries on the table, and then I reached into my little white shopping bag and poured out seven pills from various bottles onto a napkin.

“What the hell?” Jen, one of my writing partners, asked loudly. Suddenly every patron in the café was silent and looking in my direction.

“Don’t even go there,” I warned all three of my writing partners. “Let’s get to work.”

Char frowned over my manuscript. “Where’s your heroine’s usual wit and warmth? This dialogue makes her seem so…nasty.”

“Not all heroines are nice and compliant,” I informed her. “I decided she needed a little edge.”

The next week’s consult with the dietician went a little better, until she found the macaroni and cheese listed on my food journal.

“I used whole grain pasta and low fat cheese,” I told her. “It went over really big with my kids.”

Apparently she missed the sarcasm. “Theresa, Theresa, Theresa,” she shook her head sadly. “You just don’t get it.”

I tried to tell her how my kids were eating over at their friends more and more often, how my husband was working late every night at the office.

But she merely pointed at another entry. “Two glasses of wine?” she shrilled. “Tortilla chips? Haven’t you heard about trans fats?”

Somewhere I had read about them. “Once a week my husband and I have a couple of drinks with my next door neighbors. The wife’s from Guatemala. She’s a fantastic cook.”

I stared into the incredulous eyes of the nutritionist.

“They eat lots of black beans,” I offered weakly. “They’re healthy, aren’t they?”

“Your friend is sabotaging you. I don’t think you should go over there too often.”

“I won’t,” I promised. “Just don’t put me on that scale, please…”

I humbly bought another $250 in supplements, but I just had to ask her one thing. ‘Hunter and Gathers didn’t travel around with shopping bags full of pills and powders, did they?”

“Modern farming techniques have depleted the quantity and quality of nutrients in the food supply. And you’re nowhere near as active as a hunter-gatherer.”

“What? I go to Curves.”

Critique group of the same week didn’t go smoothly either. We went over Char’s synopsis. Like all novelists, Char hated writing a synopsis, and it showed. This one lacked her usual graceful style. It was downright choppy.

“Char,” I exclaimed. “What’s up with this sentence structure? These sentences are just horrible!”

Later in the evening I suggested to another critique partner that she give us her chapters in sequence so I could actually follow her plot. To top it all, I told Jen that she might stick to writing one novel at a time so that she could actually finish one of them.

“What is in those pills you’re taking?” Jen inquired.

“Not sugar or caffeine,” I lamented.

At the next meeting of my writing group, no one could follow my muddy prose. My plot wasn’t logical. My characters were not consistent. And I got confused trying to jot down so many comments.

The week after that, I didn’t bring any writing submission at all. “I haven’t written a word,” I confessed. “I’ve had this nagging headache all week.”

The next time I saw the dietician, I told her that I was feeling crappy and that I had “used” sugar once or twice during the past two weeks.

“Don’t lapse back into your sugar addiction!” she begged me.

“Look,” she continued. “You’re just serotonin-seeking.” She turned toward her locked cabinet of pricey vitamins and herbal concoction. “Maybe some amino acids or more B vitamins,” she murmured.

“You’re damn right I’m serotonin-seeking!” I answered.

My outburst caught her off guard. She pointed to the Janet Evanovich book in my hand. “What are you reading?” she asked me in an obvious ploy to distract me.

It worked. I never could resist talking about books. “This little gem is just hysterical. It’s laugh-out-loud funny. There’s even nutritional humor.”


“In one book the protagonist’s side kick tries out the Atkins diet. In another there’s a scene where a recently divorced women hijacks a Cheetohs delivery truck and by the time the authorities track her down she’s covered in yellow dust.”

The crisp young woman stared at me blankly. “I don’t read fiction.”

“What? What do you read for pleasure?”

“Professional journals.”

“I mean for leisure reading.”

“I really enjoy reading medical journals,” she insisted.

“You put medical journals in your beach bag? On your bedside table? Even in the bathroom?”

She looked at me askance. “I don’t read in the bathroom. Yuck.”

I never saw her again. We were just not on the same page. Heck we were not even reading the same books.

Furthermore, I decided that I didn’t really want to model my eating habits after Clan of the Cave Bear. True, most cave men didn’t develop chronic diseases, but that was because they didn’t live long enough. Many hunter-gathers died young from consuming parasites in their meat or munching on poisonous leaves and grasses. I can imagine that some cave dwellers might’ve died from eating hallucinogenic berries and mushrooms and throwing themselves off a nearby cliff or into the closest fire.

But I know of no Paleolithic human who wrote a novel or even a memoir–because coffee houses had yet to be invented.

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