Friday, December 29, 2006
Here's to Quiet Integrity!
When I first heard that Gerald Ford died, I'll admit, I didn't really think much of it. But when I heard WHY he pardoned Nixon (so the nation could heal) and how he took flak from everyone in both parties, not to mention that Nixon never thanked him, I was really taken aback at how some good men are never recognized in their strength. And it can actually look weak. He swore he never made any kind of deal with Nixon or parties for the pardon and when Nixon had no gratitude for him, he simply replied, "Well, that's Nixon for you." I don't mean to liken Ford to Jesus, but I just want to say using quiet strength is something that goes woefully unappreciated here on earth. Our country was able to heal from the wounds of Watergate because Ford found the humility to forgive. Isn't that great food for thought? So here's my toast to quiet strength. Quiet integrity. Know someone like that?
posted at 3:14 PM
Thursday, December 28, 2006
After 7 family get-togethers, too much fudge, numerous present-swappings, mingling, catching up, and (did I mention?) too much fudge, I have officially fizzled out.
The first party was filled with holiday wonder for the true meaning of Christmas--the miracle of Christ's birth, the joy of watching children tear through wrapping paper, the appreciation for holiday goodies that only get put out once a year (okay, 7 times, but whatever).
But by the last "party" I sat like a chunk of stale fruitcake in the corner unable to generate the energy to join the fresher fruitcakes (and I say that with genuine affection). The company was no less engaging, but one can only have so much enthusiasm, and I'm not exactly a party chick.
The celebration is over now, the presents unwrapped, the Christmas story read, the food gone--well, not really gone, just relocated to my thighs. It's no wonder the tradition of New Year's Resolutions follows Christmas, but is it too much to ask for a couple weeks between holidays to recuperate?
posted at 3:45 AM
Friday, December 22, 2006
La La Land -- I'm back from Disneyland with my four kids (dad was working!) and their friends. I'm telling you, I'm a lifelong Californian, but I don't really get the southern part of my state. I loved the weather, never saw a cloud the entire time I was there, but it's really like one big people mover down there. The traffic is horrendous, even in the "commuter" lane. People are flushed into restaurants, Disneyland, parking lots, freeways and flushed out. It's not like you have many choices down there. You just sort of go with the flow or get run over. Not that my rented, big red Hummer would let that happen, but I don't know, life is so automated down there. I feel like I don't have any choices. Have you ever seen an anchovy swim in big, coordinated silver flashes? That's life in L.A. Everyone has a shiny exterior (nice car) like sparkly, silver anchovies too, but don't you dare dance to the beat of your own drum. I think that's why everyone wears stupid hats in Disneyland. It shows your independence in a world of sameness.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
I THOUGHT I WAS ABOVE THIS
It’s enough to make a Pollyanna like me scream. Now someone with my personality believes just about any job can be accomplished. When I found out my grandson would really like a certain thing, I figured it would be a snap to find.
I started out the week with a smile and determination. Heading into the first Wal-Mart I asked for the item. The kid looked at me like I was a slug on his shoe. "We don't have any," he said like I should have known better than to ask. Okay, no problem, there are lots of stores. I went on to the next. And the next. By this time, my smile is getting pretty ragged.
I've spent the past week repeating this scenario, stopping in every Wal-Mart, Target, Toys R Us, Best Buy, Circuit City, and any other place that might carry what I was looking for. I was actually contemplating getting my grandson something else. Me, the eternal optimist, was about to admit defeat. SAY IT ISN'T SO!! But it was.
Then yesterday I was putting the last touches on the substantive edits suggested by my freelance editor (I should get Ami's today. YAY!) when I had an impulse just to call Wal-Mart and see if they had any come in. I called, got put back to electronics and asked the question. And BINGO! A small shipment had come in. They refused to hold one for me so shrugging into my coat as I ran and still in my slippers, I raced to the van, drove like a madwoman the few blocks to Wal-Mart, ran through the store in my slippers and got back to the electronics counter. All but 3 were already gone, but SUCCESS! I grabbed up the box like it was the prize in a treasure hunt.
But what is WITH these companies who don't put out enough units for the demand they KNOW is coming? It's not like it's a smart marketing decision because those who couldn't find it for Christmas will have bought something else. I almost did.
And when my grandson opens it, it will be all worth it. LOL
posted at 8:48 AM
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Most writers are observers by nature. We observe ourselves, we observe others, then we use what we observe in our writing.
Like the other day. I was driving down the road alone and had to brake suddenly for a cat. What was my response to potential disaster? (Yeah, some people don't consider a dead cat a disaster, but work with me here.) Did I make sure my purse hadn't dumped it contents or that my drink hadn't spilled?
No, I was taking note of my physical reaction. Okay, I feel a sudden rush of adrenaline, a heated prickle under my arms that's spreading to my fingertips. Okay, now it's fading but my heart is still racing. A pencil . . . where's a pencil??
Well, it's on the floor in the pile of spilled purse.
We observe other people too. Some people call this eavesdropping or being nosy, but I like to file it under research. Last week I was noting the contents of a woman's groceries in the checkout lane. You can tell a lot about a person by looking at her groceries. Don't look at me like that. You know you've done it too.
This woman for instance. She had generics galore. Generic ketchup, generic pop, generic toilet paper. But the one thing she had that wasn't generic was the cat food. Only Friskies for her darling. What, the people get the cheap stuff and the cat gets gourmet? Aren't things a little out of balance here? I'm just saying.
I imagined what motivated her buying habits and came up with all kinds of scenerios for why her cat is on the family pedestal. Hey,
maybe the woman's darling is the same cat I almost ran over. Hmmm . . . .
Don't you love it when a story connects in unexpected ways?
Maybe I'll never use any of it, but I exercised my creativity and passed the time. So go ahead and observe, guilt-free. If you're not a writer, it's cheap entertainment, and if you are a writer, you have an endless source of inspiration.www.DeniseHunterBooks.com
posted at 4:15 AM
Monday, December 18, 2006
I’m practically giddy with relief! I just finished edits for Be Sweet
(release date, June 2007), I’m supposed to get my author copies of Hot Tropics & Cold Feet
this week (due in the stores next month!), and my Christmas shopping is almost finished!!! Whoohoooo!!!! A few days of relaxation are just in view AND I have a gift certificate for a massage waiting on me (from my birthday in August!). I LOVE to reward myself with a massage at the end of edits on my latest book. Course, I don’t always get to do that, but I love it when I do!
This time of year can get overwhelming, so it’s nice to kick back a little in the midst of the crazy and remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Anyway, how is everyone out there doing? Christmas shopping done? Finished your work in progress yet? Meet your deadlines? Hiding in a closet, stuffing yourself with chocolate? We’re here for you—if you share the chocolate.
posted at 9:58 AM
Friday, December 15, 2006
I love having kids! Kids are these great barometers of reality. It's like being in high school all over again. They imply I'm a geek daily and let me know how radically "uncool" I am. This morning there was a guy running across the street and my son says, "Dude, you need to get some longer pants." (To us, not the guy.)
And I said, "Trey, those are dolphin shorts. They were the cool thing when I was in school, we didn't wear our shorts down to our knees. Dolphin shorts were cool. Dove shorts were the cheap rip offs."
And he goes, "Now Mom? Now, they're just freaky." LOL Trey is one of those kids where everything mortifies him, and you have to feel for the kid, I am his mother. My husband and I are the only adults in Tae Kwon Do with all the kids, and I'll show up to pick him up at school in my Tae Kwon Do outfit (because I'm not changing in a disgusting back room) and you can just see it in his face, "Oh heavens, look at my mother! Everyone is looking at her nerdy self. I could die!"
But see, this is a life lesson. I don't ever want my kid to be embarrassed over people seeking the zeal in life. The thing you learn at forty that you don't know at 12, is that no one really cares! And if they do, they're only trying to make themselves feel better. In reality, they wish they could let loose and have fun. I want him to go off to junior high school strong and self-confident. One of my key lines is, "There's nothing wrong with being a geek, Trey. Geeks rule the world! One day, those cool kids will be working for the geeks."
The funny thing is, his brother Jonah is oblivious to what other kids think. (Another mortification for Trey.) But Jonah can make friends SOOO easily because he makes people feel good. He says what people love to hear. "We should hang out. You want to hang out?" The kid has friends like the pied piper. Yesterday, I helped at their school and this mother said to me, "Thanks so much for helping, Kristin, you're a really fun person to be around." Now how cool is that to say that to someone you barely know? Being honest and open makes people feel good. Now go tell someone something nice!! Embrace your geekdom!! Kristin
P.S. Those are dolphin shorts. "Let's Get Physical!" Sing it with me now you children of the 80s.
posted at 1:06 PM
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Sometimes I think I’m cursed. Okay, not really, but it just seems like weird things always happen to me. Like the time (eight years ago) when I first got braces. I was a court reporter, and I had to swear in my first witness after said braces were attached to my teeth. It went something like this:
“In the testhtimony you’re about to give, do you stholemnly swear or affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”
To which the witness answered: “Yesth, I do.”
I couldn’t believe the nerve of this guy to make fun of me. I mean, isn’t it bad enough that a forty-two-year-old woman is wearing braces? But when the attorney begins his questioning, I realize the man was not making fun of me. He had a speech impediment.
I was a court reporter for ten years, and that was the only time I came across a witness with a speech impediment. What were the chances?
Then there’s the time my foot got caught in a floor register at church and when I lifted my shoe, the whole register lifted out of the floor. Never mind that the entire church was waiting on me (I was filing in with the choir to be seated). What did I do? I stood there with my foot hiked, the register dangling from my heel and I laughed. And laughed. And laughed some more. Just so you know, the congregation laughed with me, someone behind me pulled the register off my shoe and the service proceeded as usual--though the heel of my shoe was never the same.
I just have to know. Do weird things ever happen to you?
posted at 3:30 AM
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
What's the hardest thing about writing a book? For some it's creating suspense. For others it's making the emotion come alive. For others it's creating realistic dialogue or life-like characters. For me? It's all about the scenes, baby.
What scenes? Well, that's my whole point. What scene do I write next? It's the question that bugs me at the end of every scene. Sure, I have my synopsis. But that's just a map that tells me a few cities I'm visiting and what my destination is. So I'm starting in Boston and visiting New York, Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago, Kansas City, Phoenix, and San Diego. I know my destination is Portland. Do you know how many possible routes there are along the way?
Because sometimes I start a scene and it feels like I turned down a street that I thought would take me to my next city. But it's not looking so good. In fact, it's feeling a lot like a dead end. There are no houses, the road is getting bumpy and--is that gravel ahead? My mind is shouting "Turn back! Turn back!" But I forge slowly--very slowly--ahead and end up in a weeded dead end.
Yep. That's what I find so hard about writing. Those dead ends. I turn back and try and find the right route. Eventually I get back on track and find my way to the next city, but then I find myself tapping the steering wheel, wondering which road to take next.
I don't want to know every street before I start the trip, but if I just knew where to turn next, I'd be happy. So if someone figures out a way to Mapquest my story, will you let me know? My characters and I are tired of driving in circles.
posted at 9:40 AM
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
A MIND IS A TERRIBLE THING TO WASTE
It's a sad day when you realize how truly stupid you are. That happened to me yesterday. Any of you ever fly through the Atlanta airport? I've flown there before and not enjoyed the experience, but this time made the others pale in comparison. Did you know that once you go through the security checkpoint and head to the gate that you can't retrace your steps to the checkpoint, if you, say leave something behind?
I'd just gone through the horrendous security line. Laptop out, check. Shoes off, check. Jacket off, check. Liquids in a baggy and in the tray, check. I was so proud. I'd traveled by myself without Dave around to keep track of my purse. It stayed on my shoulder all day, incidentally. I wish everything else would have gone as well.
I retrieve my belongings on the other end and head down the escalator to my gate. About halfway down, I realize I didn't get my baggy of liquids. Now you have to understand, all the important things are in there. The makeup that livens up my dead and aging skin was in there. There would be no time to go to Ft Wayne and get more if I leave it behind. I gasp and say oh no. A woman on the escalator asks what's wrong and I tell her. She points to an elevator and tells me I can get back up to the security gate by riding that.
I believe her.
Then an airport security person tells me there is NO WAY to get back there. I'll have to go all the way through security. I'm at the airport early so I decide to give it a go. Without doublechecking my bag. Sigh. You're right. Just wait, you'll see.
I trudge back about a mile (I don't think I'm kidding either), tell my sorry tale to another airport employee who tells me to go to the head of the line. Even at the head of the line, there is another ten minute wait of the final go through.
When I get to the x-rays and begin to pull out the security items, what do I find? My baggy of liquids. SIGH, SIGH. I can't believe I was that stupid. To top it off, I'm in desperate need of an espresso. I ask another employee where to find a coffee shop. She sends me down the opposite wing where my gate is located. I can't see the end of the corridor and it literally takes me ten minutes to walk it. My feet are sore by now but I trudge down there to the Starbucks oasis and get my peppermint mocha. Ah.
I retrace my steps to the center then head down do my gate, at the very end in the opposite direction. After another ten minute walk, I arrive only to find---you guessed it. ANOTHER coffee shop.
I think I'll stay home next time until I grow a brain.
posted at 8:43 AM
Thursday, December 07, 2006
It's that time of year. The lights are strung, Santa's at the mall, and Kevin's in the mood for a Christmas musical. Yes, I said musical.
Here's where I part ways with my feminine side and come out and say it. I hate musicals. I'm not anti-theatre per se. I can enjoy a good play. (And believe me, I get dragged to plenty.) But the musicals . . . Can I just ask the question that's been burning on my tongue since my first one?
Who stops life during a disaster to break out into song?
I have yet to see this happen in real life. You're pulled over by for speeding. What to do? Jump out of your car and break out into song and dance of course. A betrayal by your best friend? Show them what for with a good 'ol song. Yeah, that happens.
If I had a character do it in a book, I'm pretty sure someone would throw it across the room. Probably my editor. But I wouldn't write something like that because--AHEM--people don't do that. Maybe someone can explain to me why theatre gets away with it or maybe I'll just never get it. Either way, I have a feeling I'll be in the audience again soon.
posted at 3:32 AM
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
The other day I went to my mailbox and pulled out a package from The Netherlands. Upon opening it, I found inside a copy of one of my Love Inspired books, A Match Made in Bliss,
with a new cover. But here's the really cool part: all the words were in Dutch!!! Although it may surprise you to know that Diann Waker (my maiden name) in English is still the same in Dutch.
I screamed and hollered, called my husband at work—he was in a meeting. Our daughter’s line was busy. Our son was teaching a class. My neighbor was gone. The Girls were not at their computers, and my dog is deaf. The mail lady might have been impressed had she been able to read it and had it revealed my current name rather than my maiden name.
So I partied alone. With chocolate. All day.
I don’t know how that international stuff works, but of all the languages that my book could have been published in, it’s way cool that this is in Dutch because my mother’s grandparents came from Holland to live in America!! Not that any of us can read Dutch, but still.
Thanks for letting me share my excitement. I have no clue if anything in the book resembles what I actually wrote, but my mom will get a kick out of having her own copy—even if she can’t read it.
posted at 3:11 AM
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Writing novels as a career is a really strange job. I think it involves a certain amount of mental illness because there's the creative aspect of it -- you have to understand people and how they work, and what motivates them. But then, you have to understand the business aspects too. How is a publisher's distribution? What percentage/advance ratio is best for both pub and writer? Is marketing necessary? Does a publicist work? The insecurity that is in a writer is in Nora Roberts and Stephen King, too. Don't believe me? If their novel stays at #1 for two less weeks than their last book? You can bet they stop and obsess over what went wrong
with this book, that it only stayed on the bestseller list for one year instead of two!
As a writer, you can't believe in the work alone and that's the business end of things. Sadly, it's a fact of life. No, I don't know if it is sad, it protects both publisher and writer and that's why when someone tells you that your idea stinks? It just might. Example: If you write the most brilliant novel on something no one cares about, guess what happens to it?
I'm a big supporter of the "passion" idea. If I'm not passionate about something, the idea of pulling off 90,000 words on the subject diminishes significantly. So I'm afraid the idea of starting out to write a "breakout novel" ala DaVinci Code is not something that can be planned. No publisher, no writer knows what will take root and grab up America's very short attention span, but it better darn well last through the writer's attention span.
So if you take all that into consideration and add the "need" to write. The high that comes when you are sitting at the desk, words flow and you have forgotten to plan anything for dinner, or have to get called by the school yet again to be told, "It's early pickup today, Mrs. Billerbeck." THAT is a high like no other -- not even triple espressos at Peet's. That is joy. It's so rare that a writer gets to sit down and make it happen compared to planning, proposing, editing, marketing, that I never want to take it for granted. This is a fabulous business, but like any other, there's about 90% weeds in the field and 20% total high. (That's the math of a writer!)
I turned in my book on Thursday at 1:11 a.m. Now I get to think about the next thing!!! Woohoo, this is one of my favorite parts. I think it comes from the marketing background. So if I haven't convinced you, it's part mental illness, stick around awhile, our blog should prove it in no time flat.
posted at 1:44 AM
Sunday, December 03, 2006
Friday we flew from Phoenix to El Paso where we rented a car and drove over to the Big Bend area. When we left El Paso, I tried to find a radio station. They are all in Spanish. A few miles out of El Paso on I-10, the radio stations quit altogether. In Marfa, we got in a Catholic station, but nothing else. Then there was a long silence. Nothing in Alpine, nothing all the way to the Big Bend National Park. We're talking over a hundred silent miles, people!
Ever been to Big Bend? Gorgeous, gorgeous country! I'm going to set my next book there. But I'd never live there myself. I saw TWO, count 'em TWO, tarantulas walking across the road. Dave saw a total of FIVE! He was fascinated, got out, watching the big things lumber across the road and even took a picture. I told him not to get a close up or I wouldn't be able to look at it! We saw deer, fox, bunnies, all kinds of wildlife. But I could have done with the spider sightings.
Then we got our cabin. Now I know what it's like to be a pioneer woman, no espresso, no phone in my room, no TV, and NO HIGHSPEED INTERNET! Okay, so I didn't have to cook my food over an open fire but got to go to an excellent restaurant at Chisos Mountain Lodge, and maybe I didn't have to actually BATTLE any spiders and scorpions. And so what if I got to travel in a nice, warm car (with a speed limit of 80!) instead of a covered wagon. Hmm, okay so maybe I don't know what it's like to be a pioneer woman. But this is as close as I get. And yes, Denise, Dave stopped for the bathroom anytime I asked. Tell Kevin he has something to live up to now. LOL
posted at 7:57 AM
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Dump in San Jose, CA: $990,000
Earthquakes & Governator politics: Bajillions$$$
December in Monterey: PRICELESS
I so love it here, have I mentioned that in the last five minutes?
posted at 7:32 PM