Letter from Barbara
Just for Fun
Writer's Daily Quote
He Said She Said
I metaphorically typed "The End" to the manuscript about an hour ago. I've never actually typed "The End" at the end of a book, even though the style sheets of old recommended it. I'm not sure why. I also don't do cover sheets although I probably should. I never seem to remember them until months later when the ce manuscript wings its way back to me and I see one on the top of the stack of pages and feel a momentary rush of embarrassment.
Anyway, I'm done. Or at least I think I am. I've been toying with the idea of an epilogue. The reader in me loves epilogues. That leap forward in time that lets you take a peek at the characters and how it all worked out is catnip to this reader's soul. But as a writer I'm a bit more skeptical. Does writing an epilogue mean I didn't get it right the first time? Is it the lazy writer's way out? Or is it a juicy present the writer gives herself and her readers, a reassurance that in a complicated, changeable, crazy world some people really do find a way to live happily ever after.
So I'm debating that right now. Is there anything else we really need to know about the characters or is it better to turn out the lights, shut the door, and leave the rest up to our individual imaginations.
Later today I'm off to Paris. My physical self will be right here in central NJ but my imagination is sailing off across the ocean to the most romantic city on earth as I jump back into next year's Harlequin novella.
A photo of Friday's supper. The recipe is on my website
- Tex-Amish Chicken Corn Chowder.Barbara
Pizza for Breakfast, Anyone?
I just spent the last hour battling Blogger. It refused to let me post to this blog. I brought up the create window with no trouble. I entered my title with no trouble. I poised the cursor in the nice white box and --
I tried again. Still nothing. I exited. I reentered. No dice. I tried secret entrances, back doors, broke a few windows. Nothing doing. Finally I went into the settings, changed nothing, saved them, and all was well.
It's me. I know it's me. I've also lost the normal window of information you see when you press Control Alt Delete on WinXP. No longer do I see the nice list of programs running. I now see a long list of who-knows-what and once I see it I can't make it go away.
Clearly my destructive electronic karma is on the march again.
What about that title, you ask? I was going to write about the fact that I managed to become a morning person but I think I'm going about it the wrong way. I'm catching morning on the dark side, just before I fall into unconsciousness on the sofa, slumped over my laptop after eating a grilled cheese sandwich with Worcestershire sauce and a pickle at five in the morning.
Oh yes. The Breakfast of Champions.Barbara
A Drudge('s) Report
The problem with being a writer is that when you're writing there's nothing to write about. Sure, there's the fictional world to deal with but that's not much use to you if you're trying to blog.
What did I do today? I got up. I got dressed. No, wait a minute. Didn't I fall asleep last night on the sofa in jeans and a t-shirt while working on revisions to
Just Like Heaven
? The last thing I remember was noting the time -- a little after 3 a.m. -- and then . . . nothing. Next thing I knew it was eight o'clock and there I was, grubby and cranky and underslept, with the laptop on my stomach and a melted cup of lemon Italian ice on the table next to me.
I am determined to finish those revisions by the end of the day tomorrow. Absolutely determined. I can see what needs to happen between Mark and Kate, I understand the emotion behind it. It's just a question of finally settling on the exactly right words to make you see it too.
The knitting blog has been calling to me. I have to stop fiddling with the template. That way lies madness and, knowing my uncanny ability to destroy everything electronic that I touch, that way also lies oblivion for Romancing The Yarn
Save Your Electronics! Save Yourself!
I had a scary moment yesterday. I was tinkering with the Romancing The Yarn
blog, trying to tweak the colors, when I decided to flip over to this blog to steal one of the buttons. Imagine my surprise when I got here and discovered that all of the post titles had disappeared and taken the comments (including the option to leave comments) with it.
To be honest, I don't know what I've been thinking. I am the acknowledged Queen of Destruction when it comes to electronic equipment, software, email, TVs, VCRs, DVD players. You name it, I've wrecked it. And not in blazing rock star fashion either. All I have to do is press the ON button and the wrath of the gods rains down on the poor unsuspecting item. I had absolutely no business setting up a blog, tinkering with a blog, breathing on a blog, because sooner or later said blog is going to go belly-up on me.
I took a deep breath and decided to try a new template for this space. They warned me that I would lose all customizations so I copied it over and tucked it aside before I began. My hope was that the old blog format (dates back a few years which is eons in cyberspace) might have run its course and that a newer one would improve functionality.
So far, so good. Now if I could just get someone else to type in my posts, it might live to celebrate a birthday or two. (Don't laugh. I've actually asked my husband to type a note for me. Sometimes it's the only way I can communicate with the outside world!)
One day I'll take a photo of the corner of my office where Electronic Equipment Goes to Die. It's quite a sight.
And so is this. I thought you might need something cool and refreshing today. (Did I ever tell you that once upon a time my mother painted my bedroom to look like the inside of a watermelon? I loved
Debbie Does Diaries
I have said many times and in many places that I was a big fan of Katy Keene the Fashion Queen comic books when I was a little girl. In fact, Katy Keene was where I got my start as a published writer. The scan is terrible and I apologize for the quality but you can clearly see "Barbara Fuller 83-17 Cornish Avenue" in the credit for both the story and the drawing of the little sports car. Steven Nazarek is listed as a co-credit. He was my sweet dear friend who lived with his grandparents in the first floor apartment of our two-family house. He was maybe 3 or 4 years younger than I and the closest thing I had to a real life sibling.
There's a very sad story attached to my memories of Stevie and some very precious ones. I hope he's well. I hope he's found some happiness. If ever somebody deserved it, it's Stevie.
On a lighter note, nine other authors and I are launching a knitting blog that I think you might enjoy. Please drop in and visit us at Romancing The Yarn
and see what Gloria Alvarez, Fran Baker, Elizabeth Boyle, Jean Brashear, Jamie Denton, Sandra Marton, Laura Phillips, Terese Ramin, Nancy Herkness and I are up to.Barbara Bretton
The Writers Room of Bucks County
The Writers Room of Bucks County Pennsylvania. I snapped that photo two years ago and I'm still wondering what it is.
Is it a padded room with restraints where writers on the verge of a nervous breakdown flee when the deadline is looming and the words aren't there?
Is it a salon where witty writers and their companions loll about on chaise longues and entertain each other over cocktails with witty stories and razor-sharp repartee?
Or maybe it's wall-to-wall computers with high speed access and laser color printers warmed up and ready to go.
I don't know why it took me so long to Google it and find out.
This is a quote from citypaper.net on March 11-17, 2004:The Writers Room itself was the product of a risky business decision made by Doylestown native Winans, who in 1998 invested a lump sum in a communal space where writers could come to work, outside their homes. It took after The Writers Room in New York, and Winans was sure of his target audience. "I started it because I was lonely, and wanted to meet other writers," he remembers. "I had been working on a number of novels at the time, and after a couple of years I found my social life had shrunk to the checkout counter at Kmart."
I'm a loner, always have been and always will be. I thrive on solitude. But I have to admit I felt a deep and unexpected longing (mixed with envy) for what they've created in Doylestown. I can't imagine what it would feel like on one of those the-words-won't-come kind of days to know there was a place where (oh hell, let me say it) everyone knows your name. (Even after 40+ books, not all that many people know mine.) Where there's a place for you. Where people understand that talking to yourself in public isn't necesarily a bad thing.
I love Doylestown. I did a book signing there years ago. Maybe we should move to Doylestown.Barbara
It's All About the Hair
No matter how I try to fight it, in the end it's always about the hair. Straight-haired people (you lucky lucky humans) have no idea what it's like to be at the mercy of the weather, to plan your day around the humidity level, to watch shoulder length hair morph into an above-the-ear bob before your very eyes.
Over the years I have set it on empty beer cans, ironed it, poured chemicals over it, dragged flat irons through it, slept in rollers the size of SUV tires, wrapped it in scarves, corraled it in scrunchies, pinned it back, pulled it up, and wondered what on earth I'd done to deserve inheriting my father's hair genes (crazy curly) instead of my mother's (smooth and straight.)
Something came over me yesterday. Maybe it was the hideous temperature outside. Maybe it was the mind-melting humidity. Maybe it was the fact that I am way too old to keep walking around with this Pebbles Flintstone hairdo. Whatever it was I suddenly knew that the time had come to embrace modern living through chemistry and make an appointment for a "softening."
You know I meant it if I was willing to show up in Basking Ridge at 9 a.m. for anything short of -- well, I can't think of anything.
So I did it. And it really wasn't bad at all. It was more like getting my hair deep conditioned. I watched as the frizz gave way to smooth normal human hair. I gasped as the stylist waved the blowdryer over my head and my hair didn't leap into a style I can only describe as the product of a mating between Don King, Bernadette Peters, and Bozo the Clown.
The stylist says this is the real thing, that while I've retained my curls and waves, I will no longer be a slave to barometric pressure. July in central NJ without the sensation of my hair curling its way into my cerebral cortex? I can't even imagine it.
Of course this brand new me with the brand new hair might have to rethink a few things. There's a line in Working Girl
where Melanie Griffith's character says, "If you want a serious job, you need serious hair," and proceeds to shear off her late 1980s mall 'do. She's right. When was the last time you saw a curly girl in a position of power? Any curly-haired rocket scientists? Diplomats? Nope. We're usually stand-up comics or trailer-park residents. Ask yourself this question: what's the first thing makeover artists do when they get their hands on a curly-haired woman? That's right. Buh-bye corkscrew frizz; hello, smooth and sleek. Look at Nicole Kidman. We had the same hair and then suddenly we didn't.
Hey, Nicole, guess what? Me too.
I tried to some editing on Just Like Heaven
while I was at the salon but didn't accomplish too much. I was far too busy eavesdropping on a conversation about a fifty year old woman who was trying to get pregnant before her newly-married twenty-eight year old daughter did.
Now it's time to get to work.Barbara
Back to Normal
I won't mention becoming a morning person and you won't ask me about becoming a morning person. How does that sound? All I will say is that so far this experiment is a resounding failure.
I need to get back to revisions on JUST LIKE HEAVEN today. Last night I heard Mark and Kate talking talking talking in my head and I couldn't get them to shut up. (I sound like a lunatic, don't I? Welcome to the world of the working writer. Imaginary friends. Voices in your head. Just another day at the office!) As if that wasn't enough, Kate launched into a major conversation with Paul that launched me out of bed in search of a pen and paper. I used to sleep with a notebook and lighted pen on the nightstand so I could capture dreams. (Don't ask. I spent years logging my remembered dreams. I'm not quite sure why but it was an interesting peek into the scary, dark recesses of my brain.) Maybe it's time to dig up the old lighted pen and press it into service again.
So much of writing is not writing. I know that sounds like the Procrastinator's Creed but it's true. To use a food analogy, it's like making a pot of soup. You toss the ingredients in and they're still just carrots and rock-hard split peas and weepy onions and some water. Not terribly interesting in their separateness but let them hang together for awhile and in a few hours you have a great pot of split pea soup. (I'm simplifying the recipe. Don't try that at home without some spices, please!) Okay, so maybe the writing process needs to meld longer than a few hours but the process is the same. Sometimes when I'm dangerously stuck, I go upstairs and lie down on the bed with one of those sleep masks over my eyes and let my subconscious do the job. I'd like to tell you that I lie there intellectually alert and think deeply creative thoughts but I like you far too much for anything but the truth. Half the time I'm asleep within two minutes. And not a polite little naplike sleep either. Deep, half-dead, the real thing. And yet something invariably happens. I wake up (thank God) and the problem has either resolved itself or the pathway to a solution is brightly lit and clearly marked with road signs.
Unfortunately there are times when all you wake up with is a bad case of bed head but those are the chances you have to take in the name of getting the book written.
Today's scrapbook entry:
Embarrassing proof that I was indeed a raging Beatlemaniac when I was fourteen.Barbara
All I Can Do Is Laugh
Sometimes there's nothing else you can do but laugh. Remember all that blather about becoming a morning person? Well, my good intentions slid down the rabbit hole last night and I stayed up until nearly four. Was it a productive late night? No, It wasn't. I was so excited about being the Guest Columnist for Suzanne Beecher's wonderful DearReader
service that I stayed up staring at my email inbox waiting for notes to come in.
The amazing thing is that the notes really did come in. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning! Those of you who know me are aware that I'm challenged when it comes to timely correspondence, but I gave Suzanne my solemn vow to answer all of my mail quickly and I'm going to keep my promise. Truth is, it's an absolute joy. (Does anyone else have the strange habit of reading email then answering it in her head? I do that all the time and then forget the witty reply never made it from said head to the computer screen. Scary.)
Since a blog entry is kind of bland without a picture or two to liven things up, how about another walk down memory lane? This is a photo of the original oil painting that served as the cover of my second book, The Sweetest of Debts
, for Harlequin American way back in 1984, when I was a whole lot younger and, strangely enough, wiser as well.
I've made great progress on pushing through a truly embarrassing backlog of unanswered emails that accumulated during this last series of computer problems. Oh, who am I kidding? This last series of computer problems has been going on for almost two years with no end in sight. I wish I knew why every electronic gadget/gizmo/necessity I touch practically blows up in my face when I just look at it.
Maybe it's genetic. My mother was one of those people who killed watches just by strapping them onto her wrist. Rolex or Timex, it didn't matter. Once she put it on, its little mainspring was doomed. Within an hour, the watch would gasp, sputter, then roll over and die.
Didn't I say yesterday that I was my father's daughter? Clearly I am my mother's daughter as well because in the last few months the litter of my electronic curse has grown: electronic ignition on the stove; television; VCR; VCR/DVD player; three laptops; label maker; dishwasher; central air conditioning. It's reached the point where my husband shields his laptop with his body when I walk by.
Admission: I told my inner clock to wake me at six.
Becoming a morning person is hard work.
See that drawing below? It's pen and ink on Bristol Board, created during the summer of 1964 when I was fourteen years old.
Yes, I was not only a Beatlemaniac, I loved The Searchers too. (Especially the drumer, Chris Curtis.) Freedomland was an amusement park that was popular at the time. Kapp was a record label. (I think they produced Ruby & The Romantics, among others.) There's a story there that I'll have to tell you one day. And Murray the K! Does anyone out there remember Murray the K? He was the voice of 1010 WINS, back when it was a rock 'n' roll station in New York City. Murray the K and His Swingin' Soiree. He was married to Jackie the K (who went on to great success as a soap star - Jackie Zeman) whose fashion icon at the time seemed to be Priscilla Beaulieu not-yet-Presley. Big brunette beehive hair. Tight capris. Little tank top. Murray was the hipster swinger type, a blend of 50s cool and 60s evolving freedom. To be honest, he dressed like a cross of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and a golfer. He had a special language we all spoke--wish I could remember the name. It was New York Pig Latin, I guess. Mee-uh-zurry the Kee-uh-zay. Wonder if the enemy was able to break the code . . .Today's Quote
You can't have everything. Where would you put it?
There's a lot to be said for chaos theory, especially if it's the force by which you live your life. I have to admit to a certain dislike for order and precision. I tend to thrive in chaos and come alive creatively when the Deadline Clock is ticking loudly in my ear.
In many ways Americans are doomed to be their high school selves well into their golden years and clearly I'm no exception. I was an adrenaline junkie who lived for marathon study sessions the day before the big exam, who studied with the television or radio blaring right by her ear, who trusted that somehow, some way the right answer would make itself known when I needed it. The truly amazing thing is that usually it did. A small miracle, yes, but a miracle nonetheless. (And enough of one to land me in the National Honor Society with a few scholarships.)
But I'm discovering that maybe chaos theory is better left to the young and strong of heart. Those of us whose creative spirits have been kicked around for more years than we might care to admit might be wise to take another look -- a long
look -- at schedules, calendars, and routine.
Ugh. There's the word I've been trying to avoid. Routine.
For me it's always meant the last stop on the road to utter creative boredom and predictability (even though in my non-writing life I adore my everyday routines and rely on them for much joy and delight.) I've started to rethink my position on creative routine and have decided there's something to be said for it after all. Our lives are filled with so many distractions -- 24 hour news channels screaming misery at us; IPODs; blogs (sorry); families; work; school; you name it -- that it's increasingly hard to turn away from the demands of the real world and allow ourselves to sink into the unreal world of the fictional mind.
Okay, okay. So maybe that's a roundabout way of saying that I'm
finding it harder to turn my back on the real world these days and let the world of my characters take over. I discovered something this winter when I was working on JUST LIKE HEAVEN (March 2007) that precipitated this change of creative heart and mind. Anyone who knows me knows I am an avowed night owl who wouldn't know daylight if it whacked me in the head with a two-by-four. I'm not quite sure how it happened but one morning I found myself awake and amazingly alert at the ungodly hour of five-fifteen. Instead of doing the expected (going back to sleep) I did the unthinkable and got up and got down to work.
It was the best thing I ever did. The words flowed in a way they hadn't in years. Morning after morning the words were there waiting for me when I came downstairs to my laptop and the only thing that had changed was my schedule.
I'm at the early stages of a novella for Harlequin right now (a terrific anthology of stories surrounding a wedding in Paris featuring Marie Ferrarella, Cindi Myers, and me) and trying to force myself to be a morning person for the duration. We'll see how it goes.
This is the fun part of the process. I'm surrounded by Paris travel guides. I'm playing French music in the background. I'm immersed in every outrageously romantic fantasy I've ever entertained about that beautiful city and getting paid for the pleasure. Is that great or what?
So How've Ya Been?
It's been a long time.
(And yes, I excel at understatement.)
Have you noticed how many places there are to blog these days? How many words are flying through the ether in search of readers? I have and I'm here to tell you that it's enough to send this sporadic blogger to her bed with a large iced tea and the remote control.
I'm hoping to get into the swing of things here but then again I am a bit of a closet optimist. When you write for a living you've got to be careful about this sort of temptation. If you're writing, you're working, right?
And I have to keep that in mind or I'll find myself back at the Golden Arches frying fish sandwiches and wondering how I came full circle.