writing

Writing Means Looking Back Occasionally

Yes! Another one thousand words. Some days writing is like pulling teeth. Okay, many days writing is like pulling teeth. But once in a while, two thousand or more words just come pouring out of my fingers onto the keyboard. And that is amazing, and wonderful, and so, so exciting.

Always, as I write and rewrite and carve away all the parts of the manuscript which don’t look like an elephant, I wonder if it’s going to be any good. And those days when the writing flows are the times when I know, in my bones, I am doing the right thing.

But that did not happen today. On days like today, I remind myself to put on blinders and march forward.

Because you can’t get to a breathtaking mountain view without lots of trudging.

And you can’t get to good writing without lots of just plain writing.

I’m not sure how much that knowledge helps, however, when the mud is thick, my boots get stuck, the backpack is heavy and it starts to rain. On those days, of which there are more than any of us would like, it’s a matter of looking back.

Because it is easy to remember bad stuff. Who doesn’t quail at the mounds of revision required to whip the thing into shape. Who quivers with anticipation at the hard editing to follow? Not to mention the distinct possibility that hundreds of agents will look a the manuscript, shrug their shoulders and say, “Meh.”

It is hard to remember the glory of the mountain one is climbing when the peak is far above and hidden by trees.

So, writer, once in a while, stop trudging and turn around. Look down the trail and give yourself some credit. No matter how much further you intend to climb, no one can take away what you have already accomplished.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

color

Color Your Calendar Day By Day

What color is today?

Some Fridays just don’t feel like Friday. Why is that? There is a thing called Grapheme-color Synesthesia which makes people associate colors with numbers, letters and even days of the week. One is white, two is red. Q might be purple with stripes and T might be a slick metallic silver.

So if you were to associate a color with Friday, what would it be? I think it is blue-green. Friday smells of fresh baked bread. It sounds like a stream in summer. It tastes like a grape.

But today didn’t taste like a grape. It tasted more like a Thursday. And that can’t be right because Thursday is the blue-purple of the sky just when the last ember of sunset disappears. It smells of rain and sounds like a fog horn. Thursday tastes like water.

Wednesday is orange, although not necessarily the fresh color of an orange peel. Maybe more like the orange-y brown of a pair of corduroys I once loved. Don’t ask. And the smell, a spice I think. Not a sweet one though. Maybe rosemary.

Tuesday is unquestionably light blue. The color of a clear sky in summer. And it smells like the lunches your mother packed for you when you were in elementary school, that indefinable scent of food which has been waiting in a paper bag, slightly smooshed by your books.

Monday is a sharp yellow color, not pleasant but certainly energizing.

It sounds like the smack of wind against the side of my house in midwinter. And it tastes like a coming snowstorm – cold, dry and acrid.

Sunday is lush, green and gold. The taste of leisure – home made scones or fresh cut watermelon.

Saturday smells of the promise of rain. It tastes like fresh apricots, the fuzzy promise of sweet answered with a burst of sharpness. And the color? That odd mixture of orange and pink which comes at sunset after a storm.

What did your day taste like?

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

book review

Book Review: The Woman In Cabin 10

Sneaky Writing.

I don’t think Ruth Ware is likely to go on a cruise anytime soon. Anyone who could write such a scary story about a luxury cruise can’t possibly feel comfortable signing up for one. Which is one reason why I’m writing this book review on dry land.

I just finished reading The Woman In Cabin 10 which is totally not a romance novel although there are some minor romance elements in it. The basic story is not new. A woman goes on a cruise, in this case as a journalist reporting on the maiden voyage of a sumptuously appointed Aurora Borealis. The group of travelers is small and select.

This is an advantage from my perspective since I often have trouble keeping track of large crowds of minor characters. It’s not an issue generally with romances but in a mystery one doesn’t know which of the minor characters may actually turn out to be significant so large numbers of them is a problem.

The “stuck on a cruise ship with ominous mysteries” plot is a challenge because it is predictable. There are only so many possibilities after all.

And I thought this book review would be about that predictability.

But as it turned out, I wasn’t reading this thriller for the ending. I was reading it because of the way Ware’s character describes her evening dress: “There was a little spritz of sequined leaves across the right shoulder because you didn’t seem to be able to get away with none. Apparently the majority of ball gowns were designed by five-year-old girls armed with glitter guns, but at least this one didn’t look entirely like an explosion in a Barbie Factory.”

And her observations on the other passengers. First the men: “There was a little knot in the far corner who looked like they could survive for several weeks off their fat reserves, if we were ever shipwrecked.”

Then the women: “They all had that lean, polished look that spoke of hot Bikram yoga and a macrobiotic diet, and they didn’t look like they’d survive long if the ship went down. Maybe they could eat one of the men.”

See, this is how readers get sucked in. They taste this kind of writing and then when the scary parts come, they can’t put the book down. It’s like a steadily increasing dose of pepper in an otherwise totally delicious cake. You keep taking one more bite for the flavor and ignoring the heat until your tongue is on fire.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. A book review occurs every week or so. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

chocolate

Chocolate Can Heal The World

Mmmm. Chocolate medicine.

I know too much chocolate is not considered healthy. But many essential nutrients can cause harm if taken in excess. For instance, ingesting too much vitamin K can kill you. But each of us needs some vitamin K to survive. This must be true of chocolate as well. At least I dearly hope it is.

Years ago I received a box of chocolates which contained a tiny sheet of paper under the tray. The short essay in miniscule font detailed the impact of chocolate on human happiness and good health. It was a bit self serving, since an employee of the chocolate company wrote it, but that doesn’t matter.

Because ever since I have had a mental image of the cramped damp basement room in which that writer probably labors. He has a wispy gray beard and piercing eyes. He sits hunched on a high stool, cramped hand clasping his pen. The room is cold enough he can see his breath when he blows on his numb fingers. All of which sounds miserable, but every morning at ten o’clock sharp a lanky youth in a droopy cardigan knocks on his door and delivers a mug of steaming hot chocolate. Which compensates for the poor lighting, endless hours and lack of central heating. Never mind the skimpy salary.

I don’t want to say this too loudly but I’m surprised chocolate is not a controlled substance.

No surgeon general places a warning on candy bar wrappers. If you want to absorb it intravenously, or inhale cocoa powder, you can. Although who would want to? It’s so much better taken by mouth, preferably every four hours.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

birds

Birds and Humans: Parallel Universes

The Private Lives of Birds

A family of birds lived in the wall of our house last Spring. They might have been wrens or sparrows. Small birds look alike to me from a distance.

They raised a brood of four most of which raising I missed out on since I am not willing to climb up to the second floor on the outside of the house. Besides, I wasn’t invited to their apartment and I have an aversion to crashing parties.

The part of their family life I did see involved the teenager birds, brash and adventurous. They chased each other from bush to tree to grass and back, stopping sporadically on the roof line where they made caustic comments about the passersby and their dogs.

Once, when the bird family was out running errands, I asked a handyman to close up the entrance. We figured the teens were old enough now to be on their own and the parents might be looking to downsize.  The handyman stuffed some insulation material into the vacant hole and tacked a shingle over the entrance.

But later that week we found the shingle on the lawn. A day later long bits of insulation were scattered around the yard. The family simply settled back into their space as though they had assessed the new home makeover, found it lacking and decided to return the nest to its former decor.

This year, the little apartment is less popular.

A family stayed there briefly, maybe the same one. And a chickadee has been eyeing it recently. Any day now I expect to see a robin with some sparrow clients, hopping along the window ledge. He will expound on the virtues of the place. It’s air conditioned in Winter, warm in Summer, sturdy construction, safe from cats. They will counter with the negatives. The bedrooms are too small, the bathrooms need remodeling, there’s not enough storage and there are rumors of a maniac who wanders about the neighborhood stuffing houses with insulation.

Maybe the original family will come back one day for a family reunion. They will chatter about how the old neighborhood has changed. The adults will compare notes on trees they remember sitting in, delicious bugs they have found in the yard, and funny things the children did when they were young. They may even glance down at us humans occasionally, but without much interest.

We’re hardly worth paying attention to. We can’t fly and we all look alike.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

Book Review

Book Review: The Forbidden Rose

Book review time again. Woo hoo!

I’m always delighted to happen upon an author I’ve never read before whose work I love. So this is a book review I am especially delighted to write.

I know I love a book when I keep putting it down not because I am bored but so I can make the experience of it last longer. That is the case with Joanna Bourne’s The Forbidden Rose.

It’s not that the story or the characters are so radical. She uses common themes and plot devices which are comfortably familiar. And the characters, while engaging, are super achievers. Personally, while I admire superheroes as much as the next girl, I don’t usually gravitate toward books which feature them. Plus, I tend to avoid historical romances since authors are often so excited about being historical, they neglect depth.

But this is not the case here.

I appreciate the comfort Ms. Bourne demonstrates with the time period she has chosen – Robespierre’s terrible reign. The references to time specific elements in the plot are neither professorial nor precious. Bourne is clear and specific without being overt about educating the reader.

I’m also impressed that no matter how many secondary characters Bourne introduces, none of them and none of the external events do anything more than ricochet off the central relationship of the two main characters.

However, what I love, love, love about this book is the sneaky generosity of the prose.

“Night stripped away the man and left myth. It was the myth she hungered for. This was the way the Old Gods came to the daughters of men. In dark strength, wearing the night around them like a cloak.”

Or this.

“The sun was low in the sky to her right, round and gold as a coin. The valley was a bowl of silence tipping away into a flat distance. Tiny figures of men had come out an hour ago to dig at a ditch in a field close to the horizon. Their piles of mud marked both sides of the black slash where they had worked. A sort of punctuation.”

See why I am dawdling?

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. A book review occurs every week or so, depending. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

Trees

Trees’ Fashion Tips for the Spring Season

Trees are in Prom Mode this month.

I wonder how trees feel this time of year, bursting with blossoms. Overdressed? Or finally hitting their stride?

When a tree goes to Sears or Macy’s to find a Spring outfit, does she head directly to the formal wear and chose a fluffy floral confection, or does she drag her roots down the aisle slowly, looking longingly at the track suits and blue jeans as she trudges along.

Surely not every tree wants to look like, well, like all the other trees in bloom this week. But tradition cannot be ignored and for trees heading for the debutante ball, there are certain expectations which must be met.

The obvious things can’t change. She’s not going to have a slimmer trunk before the big event. She put on a little weight over the winter and there isn’t time to diet it off. She can’t rely on the wind for exercise – sometimes there is wind and sometimes there isn’t. And surgery is out. The very thought of it makes her cringe.

Still, there are reasonable variants and accessories a tree can get away with – matching squirrel earrings, a rakishly tilted bird nest behind her leftmost limb, a delicate ivy necklace, and moss slippers. So she does her best, fluffing up her branches to make the best of her blossoms and swaying gently in the breeze. It’s hard to stand out, especially when one is surrounded by younger trees.

She remembers what it’s like to have a slender trunk, soft velvety petals, smooth bark. But even though looking beautiful is more work now, it’s less stressful. She knows what she is, and it’s good enough.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

sweet

Sweet Books Can Cause Cavities

Does hardship breed unbearably sweet children?

The many older hand me down books I read as a child send that message loud and clear. They don’t tell stories of sweet children cast into misery. Instead, they tell stories of miseries which somehow make children sweet.

From the perspective of these books, low standards are excellent practice for a happy life. By extension, the children who suffer privation should be grateful for the inherent lesson. The message: Appreciate what you have and make a game out of hardship. From a practical perspective, it makes sense.

You will be happy more often if you allow more things to make you happy.

Which would be a nauseatingly Pollyanna-like observation if anyone still remembered Pollyanna. Does anyone?

For those of my readers who don’t, Pollyanna, the main character in the eponymous book, focuses her entire being on seeing the good in any situation. If Pollyanna faces certain death by being dropped off a mountain top, she will find a way to be grateful for the view. I guess she nauseates me in retrospect. But at the time I read Pollyanna I considered her not only brave but ingenious in her attempts to make the best of everything.

The Five Little Peppers, an intensely saccharine bunch are even worse. All five children in the Pepper family behave dutifully, honestly, cheerfully and industriously at all times. Although they live a hand to mouth existence with their overworked and inhumanly patient single mother, they never complain. Complaint as a concept simply doesn’t exist in the world the Peppers live in.

Still, I loved those books as a child even while I understood that level of determined optimism was likely to send me into a diabetic coma.

Everyone should be loved more than they deserve. Even books. Which books do you love more than they deserve to be loved?

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

Writers

Writers Should Never Follow Advice. Or Should They?

Advice for writers can be helpful. Or not.

Writers are often puzzled by well meant advice. This is not to imply writers are puzzled more frequently than, say, barbers. Just that we get an awful lot of advice and well meaning or not, some if it is contradictory.

There is an old logic riddle about a wanderer who approaches two strangers, one of whom always tells the truth and one of whom always lies. The wanderer must choose between two paths which lie beyond the two strangers. One path leads to a vicious and hungry dragon who lives to eat wanderers while the other leads to a castle stocked with cookies and ice cream. The wanderer can only learn the best path by devising a question which will result in the same answer from both the truth teller and the liar.

The idea of one answer being both true and false is pretty cool. Unlike the actuality of an answer which is both true and false. That’s just frustrating.

For instance,  in high school English class my teacher quoted Mark Twain with advice for aspiring writers. Purportedly Twain said: Write What You Know. Although online research is telling me it could have been Hemingway, or some other random quotable person. No one seems to know who said it first.

For anonymous punsters, advising writers seems to be a popular past time.

In any case, that particular piece of advice is half wrong. If we all followed the Write What You Know rule, library shelves would be nearly empty. There would be little in the way of non-fiction on them and no fiction at all except for autobiographies which often are unintentionally fiction. I mean, really. Who would ever have come up with vampires, fairies, ghosts, disappearing islands, flying horses, flying broomsticks or the entire body of science fiction if we only wrote what we knew?

But the other truth is we writers can’t help writing what we know. We just don’t always realize we are doing so. Say Jane writes a romance about a relationship between a Billionairess from an imaginary country accessible only by spaceship and a Centaur/Merman from the continental shelf. Even though the characters and settings are out of Jane’s personal experience (unless Jane is a lot more interesting than I give her credit for) there will still be things Jane knows which end up in the story.

For example, she knows these two crazy lovers will never make it if they can’t grow and change. The Billionairess will have to give up her long held prejudice against ocean dwellers. The Centaur/Merman must learn to treasure his mixed horse-fish heritage. Jane knows this without having ever been a wealthy woman. Without having ever fallen in love with a denizen of the continental shelf.

Jane may not have personal experience being from an imaginary country or living under the sea, but she can apply the knowledge she does have to the situations she has created. Which is a good thing, since the situations she creates are pretty ridiculous.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.

Mockingbird

Mockingbird – Midnight Jazz Cat

The Secret Night Life of Morris

Last night I was awake late trying to consider my heroine’s options when I a mockingbird distracted me.

I assume Morris the Mockingbird does mundane stuff all day long, like kicking rotted food out of the nest. He stocks the larder with bugs, insects, and small things which can’t run away fast enough. He keeps a beady eye out for predators.

But in the middle of the night, Morris mutters an excuse to his long suffering wife, Rochelle, sneaks off to the bush outside my house, and becomes JazzMo.

He was amazing. The one man (well, bird) jam session lasted about an hour and as far as I could tell he sang a lot of old favorites without repeating even one.

All of which gives me hope.

Because there is a school of thought which says living beings are never truly altruistic. But JazzMo is an argument against that. I’m not saying JazzMo sang his heart out to give me pleasure. He was singing because it gave him pleasure.

The creation of unnecessary beauty is not much of a survival strategy when you think about it. But it is a great way to love the time you have.

Still, I wonder what Morris the Mockingbird says to Rochelle when he staggers home after one of these marathon sessions, exhausted yet exhilarated and reeking of hemlock sap. Maybe she secretly worries the shine has worn off their relationship. After all her feathers are dull from racing to feed nestlings all day long. She probably accuses him of hanging out with those no good opossums and while she scolds him she wonders if he’s started up again with that Mindy, the sultry hoot owl he used to go with before the babies started coming.

She doesn’t have to worry – I can vouch for him. Morris has been too busy pouring his heart out to the night sky to get up to the kind of trouble she’s concerned about. And if she reads this blog, she’ll figure that out.

So, if you see her, let her know. Better yet, tell her to sign up for the newsletter. That’ll keep her up to date.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this post, come visit the rest of the blog at www.rosegreybooks.com. Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.