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3 posts from July 2013

RWA 2013July 24, 2013

Really? I left that crazy-faced picture at the top of my blog for that long? Ouch. 

Here's a better crazy face (mine, not theirs): 

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Twinz! Charlie! You know you're  lucky if you're out with the cutest family in Atlanta. I loved being able to see Carrie and Cathy, especially as I won't be allowed to see Cathy until she's pregnant again with #3 because the only time I've ever spent with her in person was when she was pregnant with #1 and #2. 

BIG NEWS: 

Pack Up the Moon is available for preorder! I just discovered it! I can't wait to reveal the cover to you, because it is truly the prettiest cover I think I've ever seen, but in case you're excited LIKE I AM about the book of my heart, you can preorder here: 

Amazon, Powells (other vendors will be added as I find them)

Hey, have I mentioned it in a while? I have a newsletter which doesn't go out often, but that I'd love to send to you. I also love being on Twitter and would love to chat with you there. I <3 Twitter. Facebook -- I can only say that I am there. Sometimes. 

RWA 2013

. . . was wonderful. This was my sixth (!!) Romance Writers of America National Conference, and I learned soooo much. Publishing is changing fast, and we writers haven't been quite sure of the ground under our feet for a couple of years. The last two conventions were unnerving for many of us. This year, the mood was way more positive and upbeat.

And I was upbeat as I went to my new publisher's party (Penguin-NAL). Seriously, I can think of little I like more than walking into a professional cocktail party at which I know almost no one . . . Wait. No. I was terrified, just as I always am. 

This year, though, was different in that I honestly didn't think about the terror. I literally just got dressed up and then went.

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(Every dress is Modcloth. I might have a wee dress problem there. I love how this one made me feel like the Empire State Building. Every time I work overtime I treat myself to a dress. OVERTIME ON THURSDAY, YO.) 

So I walked in and headed straight for the only person I did know (Carolyn Jewel) who knows everyone and introduced me to them. Then I confessed to everyone I met, "I know almost no one here." They all either confessed the same and/or introduced me to other people. Writers are a weird group--most of us want to be known, thus the extroversion which is pushing your book in which you bare your heart and soul (see above) on strangers, and we also just want to be in front of our computers/notebooks, alone, talking to no one but the imaginary friends we make up. Possibly ever again. 

Oooh! And I met Deborah Cooke, whom I've known on Rav writer forums forever, but neither of us "recognized" each other (I would have, had she been wearing her Ravatar name, which we should all probably do every day). It was fine, though -- we made friends in this other atmosphere because I was nervous and she was Canadian. Those amazing Canadians are good with all the jittery folks.  (Check out her knitting novel, which I just bought myself. Ooh!) 

The rest of RWA I spent either writing or learning. I swear. There were hardly any pillow fights at ALL. 

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My gorgeous darlins: Sophie Littlefield, AJ Larrieu, and Vanessa Kier. (And wedged in there, moi, still wearing my badge because I used it as my purse. I am straight klassy-with-a-K.) 

The Only Two Things You Must To Do To Be a WriterJuly 11, 2013

There are only two things you must do if you really, truly want to be a writer. 

1. Write. 

We can talk it to death (and let's do! Writers love to talk about writing and process and where and when and pens and paper and all of it), but it comes down to this: You have to write. You don't have to do it for long. I've been relearning lately that I can get 500 words written on a 15 minute break -- and if you do that four times in a day? 2000 words! Your mileage may vary, but you'll be surprised what you can do in a short amount of time. And remember, you don't have to do it well. First drafts are automatically garbage. But you do have to write. 

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I seriously hit PhotoBooth instead of WriteOrDie (the logos look similar) and I shot this snap before I knew what I was doing. This is writing. It isn't pretty. 

I like to get my writing done first thing, ideally. At my day job, I write on my breaks, when I can. But on my days off from work, the first thing I do is eat two eggs for some needed word-writin' stamina, and then I get in the car and drive to the cafe for my caffeine. (I love my cafe so much. It's my office, really. I say hi to my "coworkers" (the baristas and the other patrons) and then I put in my earphones and ignore everyone, but when I come out of the writing haze, there are people to smile at, to chat with. When I leave, everyone says, "'Bye, Rachael!" It's really the nicest feeling in the world, and it's something I worked at making happen. For years I went in there and felt unseen, which was fine for a while. Then I started methodically learning every employee's name, and that expanded to the regular coffee gang. Now I'm part of that crew, and that was NOT the point I started out to make, but that's the magic of writing -- you never exactly know where you'll end up.) 

Back to what I was saying: I try to write before I do anything else, because besides my family, my writing is the most important thing to me. And if I get something done, first thing, then at least no matter what happens later, the day's not a waste. 

You, however, might need to write at night, or in the afternoon, or on your lunch break, hidden away in an unused cubicle. Whenever and wherever works to write is the right place, as long as you're getting it done. If you say, "I'm a night writer. I could never get up a half-hour early to write--I'm just not awake enough at that time of day," that's great if you know that.

Protip:  But if you're not writing at night even though you tell yourself you will, then night ISN'T actually your ideal time, and you should stop telling yourself that. Try a different time. Sneak up on yourself. Turn off the internet before you talk yourself into checking Twitter one more time (it's not easy). For me, it helps to land at the page when I'm still a little sleepy. I feel fewer mental barriers then. Also, I usually need to get out of the house and block the internet before I write. I eventually get bored sitting in front of the computer with nothing to do, so I write. It's not a great system, but it works for me. 

Just write. For every half hour you let yourself read about writing or surf publishing industry blogs, make yourself write (badly!) for fifteen minutes.

You don't have to be published to call yourself a writer. You do have to write.

As John Scalzi so succinctly said, 

So: Do you want to write or don’t you? If your answer is “yes, but,” then here’s a small editing tip: what you’re doing is using six letters and two words to say “no.” And that’s fine. Just don’t kid yourself as to what “yes, but” means.


2. Find your circle of writer friends.

Just like at my cafe, my circle of writer friends is something I worked at. It isn't some random group I happened to trip over in the new fiction section of Books, Inc. I had to think about it. That first time I went to a local RWA meeting was one of the smartest moves I've ever made.  But do you know how hard that was to do? I'm sometimes terribly shy, most of all when something really matters. I was sick to my stomach walking up those stairs at Pyramid Brewery that first Saturday morning. But from that meeting, I met some of my core friends, my staunchest supporters, the people I can turn to for just about anything. 

Last night, I emailed Sophie Littlefield my notes on her newest work-in-progress (which is AMAZING, by the way--I can't wait to be able to tell you it's available). Today I emailed my beloved Cari Luna about my most recent work-in-progress. I needed a little a lot of hand-holding. She sent back, as she always does, the words that made all my hair lie down flat again. 

Over the years, I've cultivated friends who are in ALL stages of the publishing/writing process. I'm dedicating my March release, Pack Up the Moon, to my favorite high school English teacher and to my favorite college English professor, both of whom are still my friends. I've kept writing friends from my writing circle in undergrad, back in the 90s, when we used papyrus to write and smoke signals to Tweet. 

I know who to email when I need someone to gently but firmly nag me to keep going (again, Sophie) and I know who to email when it's bad enough I need her to meet me at the local bar for a quick drink (Juliet Blackwell). I know when a writer friend needs a phone call and not an email (the acceptance! The first bad review!). I know when to drop (literally) everything and get in the car with a bottle of champagne to toast the news that a friend (Juliet) has hit the NYT bestseller list. 

Julie, Gigi, Sophie B'Con - webres
Julie, Gigi Pandian, and Sophie at Bouchercon

I couldn't write without my people. Okay, that's not quite totally true. I could write for a while. I'm just not sure I could keep writing. 

Our voices are small. The audience is large. We need backup. Choose that backup wisely. If you end up with a crit group that makes you feel worse every time you meet, ditch them. (And if they make you feel like the best writer in the universe every single time you hook up? You might want to think about ditching them, too.) A true writing friend both believes in you heart-and-soul and isn't afraid to bring up the parts of your book that suck. Know why? Because they truly believe you can fix it. 

And you can. 

* The winner for Vanessa Kier's giveaway is Mary from TN! Thanks for commenting! 

41July 7, 2013

We went out of town for my birthday.

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We stayed at the Albion River Inn, which is much too fancy for people like us. I first went there years ago, with a girlfriend who had more expensive taste than I did, and I never forgot it. Lala and I went there for our first wedding anniversary (six years ago!). This year, I used my birthday as an excuse. 

I can't remember a more relaxing trip, ever. 

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We did nothing. Yesterday, true, we made the grueling five mile drive to Mendocino to see the craft fair (shades of hemp soap and spoon windchimes) and to eat fudge while sitting in front of the excellent Gallery Bookshop. I found yarn (Lala found it, actually -- the Mendocino Yarn Shop has moved, and is still worth seeking out). That was the extent of our out-of-hotel adventures. 

Beyond that? We moved from table to tub and back again. Y'see, in some of the rooms at this inn, the spa-tub is IN THE WINDOW (in front of private land where no one but you will walk) and you can lie in the tub and watch the ocean. (Room 17 is stunning.) 

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View from tub. 

I read a lot. (While in the tub, mostly.)

Lala drew. 

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I knitted a little.

But mostly, I sat in the tub. I sat in the tub in the morning. I sat in the tub at midnight. I sat in the tub before dinner and got our breakfast coffee in to-go cups so I could get back in the water. Yesterday afternoon, I stayed in the tub for three hours, after which I stumbled to the bed for an afternoon nap (which I don't actually remember doing. I wasn't drinking -- it just felt like I was). Last night, we lit the fire and got in the tub. We got out to do grown-up things (taxes, of course) and then while Lala slept, I got back in and listened to the waves break in the dark. 

Today, we left the hotel, sorrow in our hearts. We made it up to ourselves by wine-tasting in the Anderson Valley as we drove through it. Now, you have to know that Lala and I both enjoy four-dollar wine. Livin' high for us is wine on sale at Safeway (true! You can get a fourteen-dollar bottle of wine on sale there for seven!). We don't know what's good or what's bad, and we don't know how to taste. And neither of us have ever been financially able to go to a winery and put our noses in the air and say, "Whyyy, yes, darling, this DOES hint of palest sorrowful rose and alabaster mint grown on the steppes of inner-east temperate Yugoslavia." 

But today, we went to a few wineries on the way home, because buying a bottle or two won't break the bank (luckily). We were honest at Husch Winery, and we told Susan, "We have NO idea what we're doing." We found a few bottles we liked and brought them home, and this is a conversation we just had (word for word), a few minutes ago on the porch while our salmon cooked on the grill and while we sipped our incredible bottle of Breggo Chardonnay Reserve. 

Lala: The nose of this is...

Rachael: Nosey! 

[Falling over laughing.]

A moment later, while tasting it Very Seriously: 

Rachael: This tastes like...

Lala: Things we can't afford to eat! 

Takeaway: We are not adult enough to drink wine. 

Speaking of adults, this is how Clementine looked when we left: 

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And today:

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Things are good at Chez Hehu. I like 41 WAY better than 40. 

And apropos of nothing but I think this is lovely and I adore Dustin Hoffman more than I ever did before (which was a lot)--please watch this about how he found out he'd been brainwashed (it's worth your time):