Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Writing sucks

There are millions of books out there. More books than I could read in my lifetime. With bookstores and libraries and e-publishing websites, it is easy to find a story that appeals to your taste, and then to simply sit back and let yourself get carried away by someone else's hard work. So why do I sit at this computer – especially after hours spent at my "real" job – making up yet more stories?

Unfortunately (or fortunately if you happen to like erotic romances like Taking Chances or In A Dark Embrace) making up stories is not something I can choose to stop doing. Characters insist on speaking inside my head while scenes flow through my mind like a movie on a screen. There are times when my fingers stumble on the keyboard, just trying to keep up with the inner dialogue. It is a blessed sort of madness. But the result of that first flood of writing is only raw compost for a story – rich with potential but needing so much more before it is ready to face a reader.

Crafting my stories, going over and over each passage and chapter, digging for just the right word, filling in gaps, strengthening characters, twisting subtle threads into the plot and breathing detail and depth into scenes – that is just plain, hard work. And sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it is forced labor. Sometimes hours go by and I hate everything I've done. Although not always. Not even usually. More often I feel deep satisfaction with what I've managed to convey using only one humble little word after another. I am amazed at how whole new individuals and their different, wicked, wild, painful and joyous realities can be contained on pages that I have written. Bringing a finished story forth from the earthy muck of my imagination, fills me with both wonder and pride.

Mind you, no story ever feels 100% finished. At some point, you simply have to stop working on it and send it out the door to face a waiting editor. It's hard to send your new baby out, even once you have the great, good fortune of a direct link to an editor. Far, far , harder is to send your story into one of the many slush piles in which manuscripts routine lose their way. Plastered with rejection letter after rejection letter, your lovely child begins to look like a tattered urchin, desperately seeking a home. At those time, writing doesn't just suck, it damn well hurts. And yet, I and so many others, continue to do it.

Is it because of the rapture we feel when one of our stories does get accepted? The writer's happy dance upon receipt of an acceptance letter is always deeply felt, no matter how frequent or infrequent that result may be. I want to shout "my child is wanted, my child is loved"! It is indeed a wonderful sensation. But, no, by itself that would never make my labors worthwhile. If I needed an acceptance letter in order to write, I would have given up long ago.

I write to keep my own inner fires burning. There is a gratification, a sense of fulfillment and enrichment, that comes from creating any form of art that feeds the soul. And that part of writing – or painting or dance or whatever – exists whether you share your art with the world or not. Of course, there is a drive to have your creation recognized and adored by others. Fear and self-doubt fight with the urge to expose the fruits of our imagination to a (hopefully appreciative) audience. Notwithstanding that inner battle, and the inevitable moments of painful rejection when you choose to take your work out into the world, the act of creation is still worthwhile. Tapping into your creative juices, crafting that raw potential and laboring to bring forth something uniquely yours, has rewards all by itself.

Writing sucks. I highly recommend you try it.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Romance – Fantasy or Reality?

Isn't it time we called it quits on the fantasy of romance? Other than reading wonderful books about steamy romantic affairs like in my novels Taking Chances or In A Dark Embrace, of course (okay, my plug is out of the way now, you can enjoy the rest of my blog).

Seriously, in a logical world "friends with benefits" should be what we all want. Think about it. You like each other (the "friends" part), add in physical pleasure (the "benefits") and the relationship should be perfect. In this kind of soft coupledom, both parties know that a walk into the sunset wearing matching gold bands is not on the table. There are no false promises, no hard lines boxing you together forever – or at least until past all endurance. Doesn't that sound better?

Funny thing is, no one wants novels about finding the perfect benefits package. And, I suspect that anyone who has ever been in one of those relationships knows that there is something (a lot!) missing. So why the gap between logic and the heart? Is it the lack of commitment? Do we need that fenced-in feeling in order to appease the demands of romantic love? HEA (happily ever after) endings are pretty much a must in the romance biz (although I skate close to the line in my stories Healer's Price and Demon Master), but is long-term commitment really a necessary ingredient to romance in RL? A lot of people would say yes. I'm going to say no.

I'm sure we've all known women who have had romances with non-committal men. Were they all clinging to the delusion of getting to that happy-couple-standing-in-the-church ending? I'll bet a lot of them were, unfortunately, and then felt bitterly disappointed when the years passed and the proposal never materialized.

Well, I'm one of those women and I'm not delusional (at least, not about my relationship). I happen to be madly in love with a man who I know will never slip a ring on my finger. He's a wonderful, decent guy who treats me with respect, heaps of affection and constant (sometimes unearned!) admiration. He just won't make promises into the far distant and impossible to predict future. Having been through the slow, painful death of one marriage already, I figure I've had enough broken promises for one lifetime. Others might question my decision, but what we have feels too good to give up. We have no legal or religious contract, only a deep, shared pleasure in each other's company. And, in my diary at least, that's a romance.

Maybe madly is the key word. There is a madness to being in love – it's turbulent, passionate and sometimes painfully vulnerable. When you're filled with such intense emotions, when the need to touch that specific somebody fills you and – miracle upon miracles – the object of your obsession responds, then isn't that a romance? It's a real world romance, sweet even in its imperfections. I'll take it over a lukewarm "friends with benefits" thing any day. I'll even take it over diamonds and "be mine forever" Valentine's Day cards. How about you?