You know those signs on doors? One says “In” and one says “Out”? But exactly half of the time, I think those signs are wrong. Stay with me here. Aren’t you always going “In”? If you’re always going thru the door, and you can’t go thru something unless you’re “In” it, you should always be going “In”. I mean, theoretically, you could be going “Out” once you’ve passed the halfway point. But unless we want the signs to electronically change when we pass exactly halfway over the threshold, we should always go “In” the “In” door, regardless of whether we are entering or leaving a building because we are always going “In” the door itself. These subtleties appear to be lost on sign makers. Many times I’ve been inside a building and I’ve tried to exit by the “In” door. Nope, won’t budge. Inevitably, a bunch of well-meaning people will point to the “In” sign over my head. Yeah, like I didn’t see it!
I’ve had a love/hate relationship with signs most of my adult life. Take those diamond signs that classify chemicals. You know, the ones that say things like hazardous or oxidizer. I love those signs. I think we should use those signs to classify people. The friend who whispers about you behind your back—Toxic. The boss that plays video games on his computer all day. Obviously, an inert substance. How about the person that keeps nagging and nagging until you give in? Corrosive. Then there’s my neighbor—Irritant. Know anyone that’s explosive? I think we should abolish the entire field of psychology and just hire those sign guys to observe people and stick colored diamonds on everyone’s forehead.
But more than bad signage I detest bad drivers. That’s why, in addition to changing half of the “In” and “Out” signs, and hiring thousands of chemists to observe and classify the population, I believe every licensed driver should be issued a traffic dart gun. Here’s my idea. When you get your driver’s license, the state would give you a dart gun with three darts. These darts would have super strong suction cups on the end. When you see someone committing an obviously stupid, illegal, driving maneuver, you’d pull out the ole dart gun and stick one to the offender’s car. Three darts; automatic ticket. See a car with fifteen darts on it? Hey, it’s time to pull over, get out of the way, and let that dude drive on by. I’d even be willing to pay for my dart gun. Wow, a new source of revenue for the state. Need more darts? Make your check out to the IRS.
Why am I telling you all these things? Haven’t you guessed? November is coming up. I’m running for office. Yes, you too can have correct signage and dart guns! Vote for Kidd Wadsworth.
My neighbor, Sterling, complains. It seems I don’t bring my trash cans up promptly. But hey, I’ve got a life, and they’re TRASH CANS!
I’ve got a big brain, too. One morning as I watched Sterling take his trash to the curb and leave for work, I got an idea, a how-the-Grinch-stole-Christmas-idea. I grinned and patted my little dog on the head.
As the garbage truck rounded the corner, I ran down to the curb and drug my neighbor’s still-full garbage cans back up his driveway. When the truck had passed by, I drug them down again.
That evening, eager to see Sterling’s expression, I left work early and returned to find him standing at the curb gazing bewildered at the trash still in his trash cans while mine, and everyone else’s, were clearly empty. The next week he put his heaping cans at the curb. Quickly, I once again, hauled them back up his driveway, returning them to the curb when the garbage truck had passed.
That night his shouting rocked the neighborhood. “No, they’re not picking up my trash! It’s been two weeks! 110 Paxinosa Avenue!” I felt sorry for the trash guys. Well—almost.
The next week he had two cans full of trash and three extra bags. It was a trash party! I crossed my fingers, praying he wouldn’t wait around for the truck. He paced on the sidewalk, but after several glances at his cell phone he got in his light blue Prius, and drove away. I’d barely gotten the trash up his driveway when I heard the truck pull around the corner. On a hunch, I stowed the cans inside his garage and snuck out the back gate.
Wow, talk about dedicated. Those garbage guys actually walked up his driveway and looked around for the cans. They clearly had a note in their hands. They checked his address. Knocked on his door. All this for trash. Impressive.
When they left, I put the cans and the bags at the curb. Took two trips. That night a volcano erupted next door. I felt a little guilty—not a lot guilty—but a little guilty. I mean, I felt guilty in between giggles.
On trash day eve, nightmares of my neighbor assaulting me with a garbage can lid and a turkey bone rocked my sleep. I woke bleary eyed, to see my neighbor standing at the curb, surrounded by trash. I decided it was time I fessed up. About then the garbage guys arrived. I ducked behind my window curtains. It was ugly! The shouting, the claims of innocence, “There was no trash!” Shall I speak of the birds shot in the air, the words beginning with…well you get the picture.
About a week later, my neighbor had a backyard barbeque. I brought beer. There were four of us neighbors (right, left and across the street), beers in hand, feet on Sterling’s brick retaining wall, when Sterling told the story.
I thought no one knew. But everyone has windows facing the street. When Sterling went inside for more chips, Frank winked at me. Mark held out his hand. “Fifty, or I tell him now.”
Occasionally, I try humor. Let me know if I got it right.
Bestselling writer Maureen Child is a native Southern Californian now living in the mountains of Utah. She’s the award-winning writer of more than 150 books and novellas. A seven time finalist for the RITA, Maureen’s books have won the Golden Quill, the Prism and the National Reader’s Choice Award.
One of her books, A POCKETFUL OF PARADISE was made into a CBS-TV movie called THE SOUL COLLECTOR.
And as much as she loves Utah, she really misses her friends and the monthly meetings at OCC. For more information about Maureen and her novels please visit her on her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/maureenchild/
Jann: Today, I have the pleasure to welcome Romance Author, Maureen Child, to A Slice of Orange—and OCC misses her as well.
Do you find yourself returning to certain themes in your stories? What? Why?
Maureen: I don’t know if it’s a ‘theme’ or not, but I do find myself always returning to humor. Even in my darker books—examples, the books I wrote for Harlequin Nocturne or the Witch books I wrote for NAL. As dark as those themes were, humor kept encroaching on the story.
I think it’s because I do believe that everyone needs laughter as much as love. And maybe in those dark moments when writing, I need the light-heartedness as much as my reader might!
Jann: What’s the best writing advice you ever received?
Maureen: Actually the very best advice was something I heard at an OCC meeting about 24 years ago! Susan Phillips was giving a workshop and while she had a lot of great information that day, one phrase stuck with me.
“There is no substitute for persistence.” That sort of became my mantra. Because at the heart of it, that’s all that matters. Persistence. The determination to never quit, never walk away. To keep trying no matter what, to reach the goal you’ve set for yourself.
I still hear a lot of people say, “Oh, I’ll write a book someday.” Those people never will. To be a success at something, you have to love it and you have to put the time in and you have to never stop trying.
Jann: Have you ever suffered writer’s block? If so, how did/do you get past it?
Maureen: Actually, I don’t believe in Writer’s Block. Are there times when the well is dry? Sure. Are there days when I just don’t think I can write a word? Absolutely. Heck, there are times I want to take a hammer to my laptop!
But you write anyway. Even if you end up deleting it all the following day, you write. Because that’s what we are. That’s what I am. Writing is a job. It’s a great job, but it’s still a job. The hardest part for me is the self-discipline and I’m still struggling with it after more than 150 books!
But I have responsibilities. Deadlines. When you sign a contract you make a promise to deliver that book. And before you have a deadline with a publisher, give yourself one and stick to it. Do your pages every day even if they suck. You can always fix them later. Having ‘writer’s block’ is not an excuse for not working. I do understand that some writers can’t work past the bad days and it’s a personal thing, true. But not going to work because you don’t feel your best is just not the route I’ve ever gone.
Always remember that writing is your job and treat it like that.
Jann: What’s the best thing about being an author?
Maureen: For me, the best thing about being a writer is that I can do it by myself in my house. Wow that really sounds unsociable. But you know, most of the writers I know ARE. J We’re drawn to words. We’re drawn to people watching, studying the way strangers move and interact so we can go home and describe it. We watch a sunset and put together words in our minds to paint a vivid picture.
So in the morning when I get my coffee and go sit on my couch with my laptop, I’m officially in my ‘office’. I actually have an office that houses collections of awards and certificates and whatnot, but never sees ME. J When it’s nice out, I take the laptop to the deck and write out there. I don’t have to play well with others in my job, because I am my job. It’s perfect. Even the bad days.
Jann: What sound or noise do you love?
Maureen: I love the sound of babies laughing. That deep down from the belly laughter that just bubbles up into the air and reminds you that life should be fun.
Jann: What sound or noise do you hate?
I hate sirens. They mean that someone’s in trouble, or needs help and I worry about them. J
It was great getting to catch up with you Maureen and wish to thank her for taking the time to answer our questions. If you have any questions or comments for Maureen, please use the comment form below.
Jann Ryan grew up with the smell of orange blossoms in Orange County in sunny Southern California, where she has lived her entire life and dreamed up stories since she was a young girl. Never an avid reader, she was in her thirties when she picked up her first romance quite by accident. She fell in love with happily ever after and has been reading romances ever since.
Wanting to put pen to paper, Jann joined of Romance Writers of America®. Currently, she is working on a romantic suspense series set in Stellar Bay, a fictitious town along the California central coast to fulfill her publishing dream.
Kitty Bucholtz is the author of the romantic comedy Little Miss Lovesick and the light urban fantasy Unexpected Superhero. Though she grew up in Northern Michigan, the setting for many of her stories, she followed her husband to Australia twice. While he made a penguin named Mumble dance, she earned her MA in Creative Writing in Sydney. When she’s not unpacking or repacking, she’s working on her next book or chatting with readers on Facebook.
Kitty was interview by long time OCC/RWA member Marianne H. Donley.
Marianne: First question, do you find yourself returning to certain themes in your stories? What? Why?
Kitty: Itâ€™s funny you should ask because I discovered one theme a couple years ago, but I discovered a secondary theme while writing my book, Unexpected Superhero. After several years of writing, I finally realized that I write about women who are finding out that they have more â€œpowerâ€ than they think they have. Mostly, it comes down to personal strength, inner resolve, and the character to think through how to change a situation theyâ€™re not happy with, though in Unexpected Superhero, she literally discovers a power she didnâ€™t know she had. That theme comes directly from me and my life experience. Iâ€™ve never wanted to just accept a bad situation; Iâ€™m always trying to make things better.
But writing this new book, I realized that several of my stories have a â€œprotecting children in dangerâ€ element. Itâ€™s a little weird to me because I donâ€™t have children. Where did this theme come from? I could guess, but I donâ€™t really know. The fun part about not knowing is that I get to find out more about it as I write!
Kitty: The best advice Iâ€™ve gotten is â€œtrust yourself.â€ It takes a lot of writing for that advice to be useful, but thereâ€™s a point at which trusting yourself is the best thing you can do.
The worst advice Iâ€™ve gotten is â€œreal writers write every day.â€ That doesnâ€™t work for me. I work best in bursts. That may mean writing 5-8 hours a day for weeks to finish a book, then 10-14 hours a day doing what I call the book build, creating the files that will become the ebook and print book. Then I may read all day every day for a week, and half a day every day for another couple weeks, researching and ingesting material that will eventually find its way into another book. The only way I overcame the worst advice for me was by taking the best advice for me – I trusted that I had figured out how I worked best.
Marianne: Do you ever run out of ideas? If so, how do you get past that?
Kitty: Iâ€™m laughing! Run out of ideas? No! I get tangled up in my ideas and get stuck when I donâ€™t realize Iâ€™ve got two or more ideas working against each other. Thatâ€™s been happening a bit with my next release, Love at the Fluff and Fold. But thatâ€™s been untangling more as I finish the current book and spend more time on the new book.
An example to show you why the question made me laugh – when I was hired at E! Entertainment, the cable TV network, I had to sign a standard contract. In it was a clause that any creative ideas I came up with, at work or away from work, while employed there would be the property of E! Entertainment. I made a polite but assertive fuss about it and wouldnâ€™t sign the contract. The network attorney finally said that I should provide a list of all the titles of projects Iâ€™d already thought of and those would be exempt. My agent suggested I write down everything Iâ€™d ever thought of, ever. I took her advice and the addendum was two pages long, single-spaced. I think there were fifty or more ideas listed!
Marianne: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Kitty: I get really excited about people discussing ideas with passion. Once at a party, I got all fired up talking to a friendâ€™s uncle about economics because he was passionate and I knew a bit about the subject and was really interested in what he had to say. I love talking about God and how everything works together, from personal situations to the fact that we are on the only planet in the known universe that provides the exact mix of elements for us to live freely. I cry over commercials and TV shows, even though I know itâ€™s pretend, because Iâ€™m thinking, â€œSomewhere, thereâ€™s a real person this is happening to, and I feel for them.â€ Thereâ€™s just something about passion and energy coming together in the form of ideas that makes me crazy excited!
Marianne: What are you dying to try next?
Kitty: Ooo, good one! Well, itâ€™s something Iâ€™ve been interested in for a long time, but itâ€™s going to require a ton of research and Iâ€™m inherently lazy, so… LOL! During a class in my masterâ€™s degree program, we had to write one scene in each of eight different categories from romance to detective to thriller, etc. One assignment was to write a scene with â€œmagicâ€ in it. That led to my masterâ€™s degree final project – a spiritual warfare, angels vs. demons story set in modern New York City with a teenage girl as the main player for both sides. Kind of a Joan of Arcadia meets Supernatural story laced with the kinds of humor that are in both of those TV shows.
This is kind of a â€œbook of my heartâ€ story, inasmuch as I have some really strong spiritual beliefs that I want to use without disrespecting them. I need to research what we think we know about angels and demons, what we think we know about what is happening outside of our five senses, and I need to research New York, its tunnel systems, the political climate, the financial district, and more. Yikes! So Iâ€™m slightly terrified! But Iâ€™m hoping to have at least a strong first draft done in the next 12-15 months.
Kitty: Iâ€™m really glad I made you, Kitty. You really crack me up!
By Sandra Paul
I used to lack emotional depth.
Hey, don’t pity me. You probably still do. You just might not know it yet.
After all, I wasn’t aware of my own deficiency until about my fifth book. But when my editor returned my manuscript for revisions there it was, right in the margin next to my dramatic, climatic resolution. Plain as day, my editor had written, Lacks E.D.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t plain as day at first–because I had no idea what, or possibly who, E.D. might be.
So I called my editor to find out.
“E.D. stands for emotional depth,” she told me. “The book needs more of it.”
“C’mon,” I said, trying not whine at the thought of doing more work. “My word count is only 50,000 words. This isn”t War and Peace here.”
“No, it certainly isn’t,” she agreed, much too readily. “But even in a short contemporary romance with, I might add, extra wide margins, the reader needs to come away emotionally satisfied. I don’t even know what your characters are feeling there at the end.”
I honestly didn’t understand how she could say that. I’d written it plain as day (really!) right there on the page. “The heroine feels sad,” I said, quoting directly from the manuscript, “That the hero has found out what she’s done. He feels betrayed and angry.”
“I need more.”
I sighed. “Okay. How ’bout I say she’s very sad and he’s very angry?”
She sighed louder. “I’m not looking for adjectives here,” she replied, very heartlessly. “What I want is to feel something. To feel what your characters are feeling. Go deeper, Sandy. I know you can do it.”
I hung up the phone feeling (in case it isn’t plain as day) very resentful. Easy for her to say. She was just an editor with a stable at the time of over thirty writers, with a slush pile higher than her head next to her desk, who merely spent ten to twelve hours a day editing, writing copy, proofing, and other stuff like that. Obviously, she was much too busy to understand the stress that I, a one-book-a-year (more or less) writer, was under.
Brooding on my editor’s lack of empathy, I went and had a leisurely lunch, then took a three hour nap. When I awoke, I went and did what I should have done in the first place.
I called my critique partners.
“I think it’s fine,” Angie told me after I’d read the last chapter to her five times. “In fact, if anything, there’s too much emotion. I suggest you delete the whole thing.”
She slammed down the phone. Gingerly, I hung up, too. O-kaaay. Apparently I wasn’t the only one dog-paddling in the shallow end of the emotional pool. I then moved on to Barbara J.
“This isn’t just your typical sweet traditional,” Barbara J. informed me. “This is a transformation story about a woman who, after doing something on impulse, learns from that experience to quit being afraid of life. To start going after what she wants.”
I have to admit, I liked the sound of that. But it wasn’t much help for my E.D. problem. So I called Barbara B.
“The universal appeal of this book is that it’s about anyone who’s ever done something stupid, and had to move past it,” she told me. “You need to explore that emotional reaction for the reader. Use the five senses.”
“But I’ve never done what the heroine did. And I never would.”
“No, but you’ve done other stupid things. Use those.”
Totally inspired, I hung up the phone. As usual, Barbara B. was right. I had done stupid thing—lots of them. I’d use the pain and embarrassment I’d lived through to make this book come alive for the reader.
So, after discussing the problem once more with my Artist’s Way group, a dozen people at OCC, and a paunchy, bald guy who happened to be pumping gas at the same time as me at the nearby 7-Eleven, I got down to work.
I thought of all the times I’d humiliated myself and I wrote—and rewrote—until I could smell the heroine’s fear when the hero discovers she’s the one who’d mooned him from the company van. Until I could see the horror on his handsome (yet rugged) face, when he realizes it was her, his trusted secretary (not to mention the woman he’s learned to love) that committed the dreadful deed. I wrote until I could hear the anguish in her soft voice as she struggles to explain, until I could taste their despair as they realize—Mooner and Moonee both—that the memory of what she did will forever be there between them. A big, white blot on their love.
I sank to emotional depths so deep that even those little, jelly-like fluorescent fishes from National Geographic couldn’t survive there. Then I made the hero and heroine both very, very happy when they somehow (cause I don’t want to give the story away here!) manage to overcome all that to live happily ever after.
And when I finally turned the book in—just one month past deadline—I knew I’d done a good job. In fact, my editor told me it was one of the best—if not the best—mooning book she’d ever read.
So, emotional depth? You betcha I’ve got it now.
Step aside, Leo Tolstoy.
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