Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays!

May the wonder of the Season capture your imagination and inspire you all year long!

~Happy Holidays from the Rockville8

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Time Travel, Indeed

This week the Rockville 8 are thrilled to welcome Elaine Fox, USA Today Bestselling author of fifteen historical and contemporary romances, and four novellas.

I recently e-published my very first book, putting it up on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Traveler—a time-travel story about a Civil War soldier who comes forward in time—was written in 1994/95 and published in 1996 by Leisure Books, but has languished in out-of-print obscurity for a decade or more. E-pubbing for the first time was an interesting process, but as it has been exhaustively covered elsewhere, I’m not going to go into that here.

No, what I found interesting was re-visiting a book I’d written that I hadn’t looked at in probably fifteen years.

Anybody who’s ever written anything knows that on many days the outfit to wear for reading one’s own work would not be complete without mud-colored glasses. We can be our harshest critics, knowing just where to thrust the knife for maximum despair. What was polished once needs polishing again. What was never polished should be cut altogether. The plot’s unbelievable —the main character’s a fool—the book should really start at Chapter Five—and the whole thing reads like it was written by a fourth grader. What was I thinking?

I’ve read page proofs of books of mine about to be published that made me cringe with shame, and curse the page-proofing stage for its demand for close reading coupled with rules on limited input. Change a word, sure. Change a scene, forget it.

So I fully anticipated re-reading Traveler and wanting to gut the thing. I was ready to slash adjectives, adverbs, dependent clauses. Beef up plot, hack out internal thought, enhance characterization. I could do that now. I had the rights back. The book was all mine again—as it was when it was born—and the deadline was my own.

I sat down with mental red pen in hand (a.k.a. a keyboard with an eager Delete key.)

Imagine my surprise when I got caught up in the story. I actually liked the characters. The pacing was pretty good. Some of those adverbs even seemed necessary. I couldn’t always remember what was coming, but whenever I thought, “I should change it so that X and Y happen next,” I read on to discover that I’d already written X and Y! To my relief and surprise, the book worked. For me. One of its harshest critics.

While much is written about trusting the reader, maybe what we should be cultivating is trusting the writer. Try this on for size: You know what you’re doing. You’re
actually good at this. You’re a reader so you know not only what you like, but what works.

If you’re a writer who’s spent too much time thinking about genre and marketing and rejections and reviews, here’s my advice. Throw out those mud-colored glasses and start entertaining yourself when you write. Have fun. I mean it. I had fun writing Traveler because it was my first book and I was writing for myself. Because of that, at least for me, the story holds together, even sixteen years later.

I’m sure there were days while writing it that I got discouraged and found I’d donned the mud-colored glasses without realizing it. But on the whole, I was writing free, and I think it shows. (And I mean that in the good way.)

P.S. For those of you who don’t own a pair of mud-colored glasses … I bow to you. But I’ve got some you can have, if you want.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Hustle and Bustle of the Christmas Season

Once Thanksgiving hits, there’s a mad dash to January. If you’re anything like me, you don’t have a moment to spare. Every December I struggle to do it all--the full-time job, the writing, the holiday shopping, the decorating, the baking and cooking, the usual juggling of family obligations, the Christmas parties, and so on and so on. Sigh. Just thinking about it all makes me tired. ‘Tis the season to be jolly and I feel like I can’t keep up. I’m sinking under the extra load of the holidays.
Every year, I’m determined not to do it and every year I do. It’s a crazy season. Some days I don’t feel sane. And, yet, most of it I wouldn’t give up. It’s a wonderful time of year filled with family, friends, good food, and lots of festitivies. We build memories. Give. Receive. Laugh. Play.

That’s what it’s all about. This past weekend, I found myself taking time out to relax and enjoy time with friends. It helped me destress, find perspective and build my community. It was a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of the season. I still shopped, ate good food, wrote, read--all the normal things I’d have done anyway, I just found a more relaxing way to do it; in the company of friends. It was a little thing really. But it helped me find an oasis of sanity in an otherwise insane season.

So what do you do? What tricks have you found to release stress and find moments of peace during the holiday season? As writers, what do you do to keep writing during this harried time? As working moms, how do you juggle it all? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Maybe we can all help each other gain a little joy and peace this Christmas.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Work in Progress

Thursday, my big boy dog and I headed out for our customary walk, and stepped into a work in progress. The project began three months ago, involves five square blocks, and requires teams of city workers to cut holes in the streets. These holes are the size of Volkswagens. For safety’s sake, the workers cover these holes with vast steel plates at the end of the work day. They tack down the plates with ridges of asphalt high enough to ruin any SUV’s suspension. They heap their barrels and caution tape at the curb, and circle the whole area with those inevitable orange pylons. Result? It ain’t pretty.

Many of my neighbors are none too happy about this. But what can they do? The project may be time consuming—and it may be ugly—but it’s necessary.

This is a work in progress.

Well, on Thursday, one of my neighbors did something about this work in progress. He celebrated it. He strung faerie lights between the pylons, festooned them with red glitter balls, crowned his creation with Fosters beer cans, and voilá! As my big boy dog and I admired my neighbor’s handiwork, it came to me. Whether we’re wrestling with a manuscript, pounding the pavement in another round of job hunting, or pursuing our weight loss goals, we all have works in progress. At times, these works may not be pretty. But they’re necessary—to our wellbeing, to the wellbeing of those we love, to the wellbeing of our community.

Really, as we struggle with these projects day by day, we ourselves are the true works in progress. We’re not always where we’d like to be, not always as we want to be, not always as we hope to be—but we’re working on it. And that, my big boy dog and I decided, is certainly worth celebrating.

Do you celebrate your own work in progress? Does your celebration include faerie lights and Fosters? How do you celebrate where you are while keeping your eye on where you’d like to be?