SUCH A HOT MESS AND I DON’T MEAN ME

CAT NAP

I have 5 more pages to edit of this hot mess of a current manuscript. I’m embarrassed to admit I started writing it a year ago, which may not sound like a long time for a novel, but in the world of romance, I should have written 3 novels in that time. A Harlequin author on Facebook posted, “I have to write a book in 5 ½ weeks!” and I was like, Huh? I can’t even formulate an outline for a book in 5 ½ weeks much less write the damn thing.

This is the third novel I have written. One would think writing gets easier over time. It doesn’t. My first book was a young adult novel written in 2000, back when YA was actually written for teens, rather than adults. I wrote it longhand while sitting on the most uncomfortable metal chair you can imagine in the middle of an outdoor mall in San Diego. I worked full-time at a kiosk selling spiritual items, books, and $3000 Thangka paintings that the owner had brought back from Nepal.

I had nothing to do for 8 straight hours but write. The kid in the kiosk next to me selling cell phone covers (which were a novelty back then) was waaaay busier. Needless to say, my boss closed up shop 5 months later, but I had an almost-completed novel and was pretty damn proud of myself. I polished it up and started subbing it, 9-11 happened, all things publishing halted, so I ended up shelving it. By the time I dusted it off again Twilight had been written, and since my YA had no vampires in it, it died a slow death.

My second book, The Accidental Cougar, which was published last November, was written under similar circumstances as the first. I was an office manager, alone all day, working for a company that was trying to sell a $30,000 piece of exercise equipment in a failing economy. It was very slow and I was so bored. I mean, there’s only so much porn one can watch on the office computer. I started writing, and the words flowed so effortlessly that I completed a first draft in 4 months. Because let’s face it, even when I didn’t feel like writing, when faced with another 8 straight hours of sitting on my ass, what are the choices? Porn, dusting (again), or writing. I chose writing.

I have come to the sad conclusion that in order for me to be able to complete a novel in a reasonable amount of time, I need to be working alone at a mind-numbing job for a company that will soon be going out of business. As it stands now, I work from home, where there are so many distractions it makes my head spin. Never before have I wanted to scrub a toilet more as when I have told myself I must sit down to write.

Manuscript #3 was excruciating to complete. It was like trying to give birth to a breech baby, or worse, being forced to watch a Keanu Reeves movie. Nothing flowed, and every day I questioned my ability to form simple sentences. The entire writing process from start to finish felt like Dana Carvey’s “Choppin’ Broccoli” skit, where he’s making fun of rock stars who write songs with insipid lyrics. If you’ve never seen this, you must. Right this second. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVGi7h2NTOg And while you’re watching it, think of me, sitting at my dining room table for a whole year, attempting to put together a story by pulling characters and motivations and words from my ass.

I think I’m going to print out all 286 pages of this hot mess, arrange it into a nice, neat pile and then stomp up and down on it like they do in the cartoons. Once I’m done stomping, off it will go to an editor. I can’t wait to be rid of it. I envision the euphoria will feel akin to how one would feel the day their freeloading, 36-year-old son finally gets a job and leaves the nest, or even better, the glee I would feel upon learning that Kim Kardashian has gone far, far away and will never be heard from again.

Have you ever despised a piece of writing or art, or any creative endeavor so much you wish you could have a funeral service for it and lay it to rest?

SUMMERTIME AND THE LIVIN’ IS EASY

Photo by Thomas Tolkien

The beginning of summer is like New Year’s Day for me—an opportunity to set goals. I had a lofty writing goal this summer: Finish my current work-in-progress, a contemporary romance, or some may say, actually write it, since I was only at 20,000 words. No problemo. I had the entire summer ahead of me…

Three glorious uninterrupted months of my creative muse spoon-feeding me chocolate mousse and rubbing my tired shoulders whenever I became stuck. I had the days to sleep in late in order to “replenish the well,” and the nights to dress in my most luxurious dry clean only lingerie, while tapping away at the keyboard, listening to sultry jazz in the background, a glass of chilled Riesling by my side.

Seriously?

I’m a single mother of a ten-year-old boy. We have a diva Chihuahua, three cats, and two parakeets. And an invisible sign tacked up on our front door that says: “All kids welcome.”

Here’s an example of a typical day:

“Mom, wake up, the dog pooped in my room again.”

I stagger out of bed in my boxer shorts and ratty T-shirt to clean up said mess. The cats swarm around me, demanding to eat. No sooner are the cats fed when one promptly throws up on the carpet, not the floor right next to the carpet.

“Can you help me clean this up?” I shout to my son, who’s in his room playing video games.

“What? I can’t hear you, Mom, my game’s too loud!”

Next-door neighbor kid walks in my front door without knocking. “Morning.” Diva Chihuahua begins to bark furiously despite seeing this same kid every day.

“Can you make me breakfast, Mom?”

“Will you please help me—?”

“Can’t hear you, Mom, the birds are squawking too loud!”

A knock at the door. It’s another one of my son’s friends. Diva Chihuahua growls, spies one of our cats making a beeline out the front door, and takes off after her.

After rounding up the Diva and making breakfast for everyone, I eat whatever scraps my son has left on his plate, clean up the kitchen, throw in a load of laundry, grab a second cup of coffee (or third, or fourth), and finally sit down at my computer to write. It’s almost noon. I have a sex scene on the agenda.

My office is the dining room, without any doors. “All right,” I tell myself, “time to get in the mood. Think sexy thoughts.”

I start to type…

His fingers caressed the inside of her bare thigh—

“Mom, I’m hungry!”

slowly creeping up to discover she

“Mom, what are you going to make me?”

wasn’t wearing any underwear. Her smile gave him

“Mom, can you make a sandwich for my two friends also?”

permission to venture further. But first he planned to slowly undress her and

“Mom, come on! What are you doing?”

carry her to the bed where he’d

“Mom, we’re hungry. Come on!”

Heavy sigh. —just fuck her without any foreplay. The End.

Multiply this day times June, July, and August, and you have my summer.

MY ESCAPE FROM REALITY

Those words right there are why I write romance. Those words embody my characters’ motivation, their raison d’être. And while they may have obstacle upon obstacle keeping them apart, ultimately they achieve their own happily ever after.

My taste in books BC (Before Child) was often very eclectic. I read my fair share of traditional romances, but I always balanced them out with more thought-provoking prose like Hemingway and Jane Austen.

Then AD (After Delivery) + one year of breastfeeding (which equaled 365 sleepless nights) + many craptastic happenings resulted in:

 

  1.  The feeling of being brain-dead, often with the inability to put sentences together
  2. Previous time spent reading was now occupied by CHILD
  3. Zero desire to read about craptastic things happening to other people

 

When I finally had more than five seconds to myself, I started to read again. But nothing heavy. I didn’t want to read about murder or heartbreak or family dysfunction—I had enough of that in real life. I didn’t want to read about anything resembling reality, because my reality, and the reality of those around me sucked quite frankly.

No, I wanted to get the hell away from reality. And I wanted to be able to do it in increments of two pages at a time. I wanted light, and funny, and romantic, because my life was anything but. And at the end of the day, I wanted—no, NEEDED a happy ending.

So when I decided to start a second novel, I chose to write what I had been reading—romantic comedy. I wanted to give back what was given to me, specifically a lot of laughs, a sense of romance, and a much-needed escape from reality.