LizAnn Carson

Releasing stories into the world


2 Comments

But When Is It Done?

I wish I knew.

You learn a lot of unexpected things when you sit down to write a book – including how much you don’t know, and how blind you can be.

I’ve had a career in which I did a lot of writing and reviewing documents. I’m a good proofreader.  Or so I believed. I’ve been through Seducing Adam, my first book, so many times I recite it in my sleep. There can’t be anything left to improve, can there?

Can’t there?

Well, on the verge of finalizing the cover and sending it off to Kindle for publication, I decided to take one last step. I’d already read it (over and over) on my computer screen, with various levels of magnification. I’d converted it to an ebook and read it on my tablet. I’d had two advance readers read it. I thought I’d covered the bases. But, just to be sure, I decided to take absolutely everybody’s advice and print it out.

Now, printing a document over two hundred pages long is a challenge for me. All that paper, all that ink … I must have a miser in my heritage somewhere. Maybe it’s that these pages will end up in the shredder? But when you get right down to it, writing is a relatively inexpensive thing to do, once you have the computer (or the pen and pad – but I’m too impatient for that). You just sit down and do it.

I’m not always a miser. It’s sort of embarrassing, how much I’ve spent on beads to make jewelry (which I almost never wear, but that’s another story). But with the thought of my cabinets of beads tickling my brain, I recognized the utter absurdity of worrying about printing a stack of pages. I piled a the cheapest printer paper the office supply store had in stock into my printer – and ended up with a blue binder full of more changes than I could have imagined possible.

Yes, there were a few typos, weird grammar tenses, and wonky punctuations, but not all that many. Mostly, the changes had to do with improving the wording, sorting out logical inconsistencies (scenes out of order, characters knowing something they logically couldn’t know, etc.), adding to the background descriptions … sigh. Not done after all.

So Seducing Adam isn’t going to be out as soon as I’d hoped it would, and I’m working to convince myself that it’s a journey, right? Not the destination. That I’m having fun with all this.

One thing’s for sure. You have to love your book. You have to believe in it, believe that someone out there will be as crazy for it as you will. You have to believe that the work you do will enrich someone’ s life, bring a little happiness or enlightenment into it. Otherwise, why do it? Because it’s a joy, but it’s work, too.

Well, most of the changes are done now, but I’m not entirely out of tweaking mode yet. In the meantime, I’ve added a board for Seducing Adam to Pinterest, so you can get a feel for the Pacific Northwest island environment. Have a look! It’s at http://pinterest.com/lizanncarson .


Leave a comment

Thanksgiving

Holidays have a way of derailing you. You’ve got your plan for the day, week, year, lifetime, all neatly laid out, then wham! – along comes a day outside of the ordinary, and there goes the agenda.

That explains how I managed to miss a post last week. Here in Canada it was Thanksgiving, which we celebrate on the second Monday of October. This schedule has some advantages: the weather isn’t as bad as November in much of the United States. (On the other hand, we almost never get the “white and drifting snow” experience.) Having the holiday on Monday means everyone isn’t shopping around for an extra vacation day to make it a long weekend. We do tend to go all out with the pumpkins and turning leaves, not to mention the turkey, stuffing, and all the accompaniments. However, there are no pilgrim fathers in the Canadian pantheon. There aren’t lots of stories and myths around this holiday. It’s simply what it says it is: a time of thanksgiving. Of gathering together.

(And, of course, a time to head south for just a touch of cross-border shopping. But that’s a different story.)

My Thanksgiving was pretty much as expected, other than eating too much, which wasn’t expected at all. (I like to think I’ve outgrown stuffing myself, but maybe not.) One of our kids is still in town, so he and his wife contributed half of the feast. We digested with a manic four-handed round of table tennis, then carried on to the pumpkin pie. Then the son and daughter went home, and yes, I felt tons of thanksgiving at the moment my head hit the pillow that night.

Lots to be thankful for in that simple little vignette. Plenty of food on the table, health and lightness of heart to take to the table tennis table, love bringing us all together. Soft pillow at the end of it all. Not so different from an American Thanksgiving, really.

Writing an American Thanksgiving can challenge your skill – and not just because of those pilgrim fathers. Because while Canadians honor and celebrate our holiday, it just doesn’t carry the impact the American version does. So when a romance writer in Canada sets a book in the United States, she has to do her fair share of research to get the mores and memes right. That’s part of the fun of writing, for me, the learning and experimenting with ways that aren’t the ones I have here in Canada.

Still, I like my quiet, slightly understated version of Thanksgiving.

(As a bonus, so far we don’t have to contend with Black Friday. I’m thankful!)


2 Comments

Failure as a Woman

Okay, I admit it. I’ve failed the woman-test.

Makeup? I’ve never learned the mysteries. Foundation? Powders and blushes? My mother never taught me, and I never learned. My occasional dabblings have failed to enhance. Plus, I get bored trying.

Hair? At least I do get it professionally cut nowadays. With standard instruction to the stylist: whatever it looks like when I wake up in the morning is what it’s going to look like for the rest of the day. Minimum maintenance, that’s me.

Clothes? Put me in anything flirty and feminine and mentally I go straight to cow-in-a-dress. Way back when, I had my colors done – remember that? Thank the Goddess for that! Now at least I know I should stay away from forest greens and oranges and such. The problem is, I really, really don’t want to be condemned to a life of pink. Personality-wise, pink is so not me.

But my big guilty secret? I’m not interested in shoes.

This at least means that my feet are in good shape. But it affects every aspect of my external presentation. I rarely wear skirts, mainly because I don’t have the right shoes. My sturdy lace-ups would look dumb, even I know that. So I suffer wardrobe challenges on a regular basis, and mainly wear jeans. On reflection, I don’t get invited to up-market restaurants very often …

I have a life-loving, girly-girl heroine coming up in book three of the Calder Creek Trilogy, so I foresee challenges ahead. Writing what I know clearly isn’t going to work, this time out.

This is where an active imagination shows its worth. Because even though she is so different from me, I do know how Mel feels in her clothes. She feels damn good. Ready to play, complete in herself. If her long, carrot-red hair is frizzy today, she doesn’t care – perfect with a peasant blouse, one she can pull just a little bit off the shoulder. If her shorts are, well, really short, it’s a hot day and she’s likely to be chasing a Frisbee. Clubs? Something diaphanous. Work? A shade less flirty, maybe a ruffle at the neck, stronger in the color department; nothing shy and pastel about Mel.

Have I learned something about my heroine by writing this post? Yep. And isn’t that one of the joys of being a romance writer? I’m getting to know someone now who was never me, a special someone heading for the happy ending I already see on her horizon.

I’m an absolute sucker for falling for my heroes – don’t we have to love them a little to write whole books about them? But we fall for our heroines, too, or at least I do. They’re our friends and our daughters and ourselves, we learn about them and learn with them.

Yeah. Writing romance is a good thing.


2 Comments

Who Knew It Was Fun?

It’s an odd mix of fiction and real life, this writing lark. You’ve got one foot in a world of dreams and another foot in the kitchen dealing with the slow cooker.

I didn’t write for a long time, other than the occasional poem. Why? Because I had expectations. It was the next great Canadian novel or nothing, and for me that meant – nothing. It took me a long time to realize, first, that not all of us have the great Canadian novel in us; and second, that there are novels out there that are a lot more fun to read than Moby Dick.

I belong to a very intelligent book club. I mean we read books like Madame Bovary and Don Quixote. But in the middle of an otherwise challenging winter I realized that I don’t always have the stamina to handle Aphra Behn (Never heard of her? Neither had I.), or even the latest Margaret Atwood. Guess what I discovered that winter? Romance.

When, sweetly blushing, I admitted to one of the other book club members that I was reading  romance novels, she said, “You should write one.”

“You should write one.” Sometimes words get into your head. It wasn’t long before I was imagining plots, hearing dialogue, considering motivations – and buying Writing a Romance Novel for Dummies. (True. I couldn’t believe it either. Good book.)

Alas, being a romance author isn’t particularly romantic. You  wear out your eyes staring at a screen, worry that the ache in your thumbs might become carpel tunnel syndrome, and threaten to withdraw supper-making services if your family doesn’t leave you alone. Your back aches. Your cat feels abandoned. But oh, what can you do, things are bad, heroine’s weeping and hero’s in a snit ….The cat has to wait; you can’t leave them like this. Only another few more pages …

Working. Tearing hair. Discovering a plot twist ten chapters back that leads you straight to a dead end. Help! Another cup of coffee. Maybe a little cry. (Maybe a big sob.)

Strong arms, gentle hands caressing you, drying your tears …

Enough of that. Back to work. Read the thing over. OMG, it’s boring. Boring! Lament: Oh, woe! My masterpiece! What must I do to save you?

Rewrite, hone. Rewrite some more.

I love it. I fall in love with my heroes and delight in my heroines. I get a kick out of creating the quagmires they get themselves into, and cheer as they emerge – together. Sometimes, I even learn something from them.

Is it fun? Oh, yeah.


Leave a comment

My Books

Okay, I’m putting myself out there as a writer of contemporary romances, so I suppose I should at least let you, the world, know what I’m up to.

I also write poetry. I write essays. But the romance tops the list; I don’t remember when I’ve had so much fun with writing. (My husband says I live vicariously, but that’s another story.)

So here’s a summary of what I’m working on and what I expect to do with it all.

  • There’s Seducing Adam, set on a small island in the Pacific, between Victoria (where I now live) and Vancouver.
  • There’s the Calder Creek Trilogy: three women finding their men in a small town in central Ohio (where I grew up).
  • There’s a shorter one in the planning stage, which will make it to first draft in November’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), assuming I gird the old loins and go for it.

None of these exists “out there” yet. But they will. They are coming ….

My target is to have Seducing Adam and the first two books of the trilogy ready for publication around next February. Seems like a long time, but self-publishing turns out to be not simple; the writing’s the easy part. If I can get it all sorted out sooner, I will; I suffer from the writer’s lust to hold the finished book in my hands and say, “Whee-hoo! My baby!” In the meantime I have to somehow stay sane while I wade through the legalities and formatting and book covers and ISBN’s and publicity and all the rest. Agghh!

~

In the sanity department, I’m actually in a good place: lots of support and love, a wonderful place to live, and my favorite time of year. (Not my sinuses’ favorite time of year, perhaps, but I try to ignore that.) The long, glorious summer we’ve had in the coastal Pacific Northwest – glorious except for the forest fires – is almost over; today was the last day for the pots of mesclun and basil. I like the clearing-the-decks feeling of autumn, new paper and pens and rulers and protractors (remember those?). There’s an anticipation about autumn, as well as a dying off. Maybe that’s the point: making space for whatever’s next. But then I was always one of those kids who really wanted to get back to school. Geeky, I guess. And what’s next, these days, is exciting.

Good fortune to you all as we wander into autumn.