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What's Wrong With Me?

Monday, March 28, 2005
I have a request. I'm nearly half done with edits. And suddenly, I don't want to work. I'm here. Blogging. I've already played 5 or 6 hands of Solitaire. I've hit all my boards. Three times. I've bloghopped. But I haven't whipped out the ms. I'm working off a printed copy, scribbling my notes in blue, then dumping the corrections in at night.

I know what's wrong. I can see too far ahead and I can't see anything at all. Both at the same time. I can see all the little things I have to do around the house -- grocery shop, clip coupons from yesterday's paper, clean the house, get ready for a trip. I can even see some of the problems in the ms -- my h needs more motivation, my H feels flat, and my ending SUCKS ROCKS!!! I decided to go back and make my villain more villainous. He needs it, but I'm a little afraid that he's more interesting than my H, hence the need to make H a more stand-up, stand-out guy.

Somebody remind me why I do this because it's making my chest hurt.
3/28/2005 09:08:00 AM : : Sela Carsen : : 17 Comments

Women's Fiction -- gender bias?

Saturday, March 26, 2005
I'm not actually going to expound on this topic because Brenda Coulter and booksquare have done an admirable job without my help. Little to do with romance, but an eyeopening take on fiction, marketing, and the state of society.
3/26/2005 09:07:00 AM : : Sela Carsen : : 3 Comments

The State of the Sela Speech

Thursday, March 24, 2005
Status: Lightly lit.
DUDE progress: None today.

I can explain -- honest! Today the neighborhood TOTS group went out to the firestation to look at the fire engines. (And the fireman!) We had a lovely time, had lunch at a very sweet little park and came home before the children splintered.

Today was the last day of school before Spring Break. Dd redeemed some earlier bad behavior so she was allowed out to play. Ds and I also got out for a walk and we ended up over at a neighbor's house who decided to ply me and another mom with wine while our kids played in the driveway. It was a fantastic afternoon! How often do most folks really do that? Just take the afternoon off and watch your kids play, knowing that they're having a good time, they're safe, and you can drink wine with your friends and talk about how hot Hugh Grant/Brendan Fraser/Russell Crowe/Brad Pitt are.

We were out there until sundown and lemme tell ya -- I'm in far too mellow a mood to screw it up with edits tonight. Tomorrow is time enough. I'll get through another 15 pages or so (single spaced) while the kids play in the backyard, and be well over half done.

I'm kind of glad I had today to play with the kids and with real people before I rush back to my writing cave tomorrow.
3/24/2005 07:50:00 PM : : Sela Carsen : : 3 Comments

Git the bucket

Tuesday, March 22, 2005
I may hurl. I've just finished a chat with editors from an e-pub and they let me pitch DUDE to them. They requested it! FOUL WORD! I just started fixing it up and I know it needs a new ending. I've got two weeks to pull it all together now.

And I'm scared.

Edit. Ahem. It has been brought to my attention that I have been remiss in shouting to the world that the fabulous Romance Divas hosted the chat at which DUDE was requested. If you haven't been there, it's a group of amazing, talented, funny, loving women, each one of whom is utterly Diva-licious.

Happy now, Kristen? ;-)
3/22/2005 08:00:00 PM : : Sela Carsen : : 19 Comments

Books To Look For

This is just a list of ST books that I've heard about or read about or have been recommended to me. I'll add to it from time to time and keep it out of the archives. If I remember.

The Stone War by Madeleine E. Robins
My Warrior's Heart/The Enchantment by Betina Krahn
With This Kiss by Victoria Lynn
Home Killings and Minos by Marcos M. Villatoro
Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase
Master of the Night by Angela Knight
Beast by Judith Ivory (to feed that B&B obsession)
werewolf stores by Keri Arthur
more anthologies
Wait for August when The Immortal Highlander by Karen Marie Moning comes out.
Divine Fire by Melanie Jackson
The Shadow Lovers by Liz Maverick
Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair -- whenever it comes out from Berkley.
Hit Reply by Roxanne St Claire
The Shadow and the Star by Laura Kinsale
The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy by Robert Ludlum

The following portion of the list is stolen (shamelessly!) from Jaye, who snaffled it from her own sources.
1. Night of the Phantom - Anne Stuart (Harlequin American Romance #702)
2. Never Call It Loving by Gail Link (historical romance - medieval). Hero is definitely disfigured.
3. Shadow Prince (Contemporary) by Terri Lynn Wilhelm - hero disfigured - - but not too heavy with the sex though. Loved the story!
4. Texas Destiny by Lorraine Heath - Hero disfigured - Post Civil War Texas theme - does have love scene, but not overly sensual. Great book!
6. The Sweetest Sin by Mary Reed McCall
7. Last Man Standing by Wendy Rosnau (SIM 1227 - 6/03) -- last book of a trilogy
8. Captured by Victoria Lynne
9. The Lightkeeper's Woman by Mary Burton (HH 693 - 2/04)
10. Lair of the Lion by Christine Feehan. Deep, intense, dramatic, emotional...tortured h/h...she covers it all!!
11. A Rose in Winter by Kathleen Woodiwiss
12. TO PLEASURE A PRINCE by Sabrina Jeffries!!! Great beauty and the beast type of story, very sensual.
3/22/2005 05:48:00 PM : : Sela Carsen : : 1 Comments

Writing a Novella?

Sunday, March 20, 2005
Angela Knight, author of Jane's Warlord as well as many, many novellas, has an exceptional article on crafting a novella.
3/20/2005 05:35:00 PM : : Sela Carsen : : 2 Comments

Isn't he the sweetest thing?

Saturday, March 19, 2005
My dh bought me a butter dish! Isn't he the best? And before this begins to sound lamer than last week's lettuce, lemme 'splain. When we moved here, we realized that 10 years of moving had made severe depradations into the state of our dinnerware. While in England, we bought ourselves a lovely full set of china, but our every day stuff was getting pretty raggedy. So we bought some Fiestaware. Great stuff, very sturdy, lots of colors. I actually have a mixed set of red and yellow so it's bright and cheery looking when I set the table.

One of my pet peeves, however, is cold, hard butter. How are you supposed to spread this stuff? It shreds everything it touches and never melts quickly enough on a warm muffin to make a difference. So, a few months ago, I told him I wanted a butter dish and he responded in typical fashion. "Huh? Wha? Ok."

But today, from way the heck over in wherever he is, I opened an e-mail from amazon.com to discover that he bought me a yellow butter dish.

Ain't he just darn near perfect?
3/19/2005 08:48:00 PM : : Sela Carsen : : 6 Comments

Cute Quiz

Friday, March 18, 2005
Do you speak Yankee or Dixie?

I was shocked to discover that I'm only barely into the Dixie category. Those who have heard me speak are aware that wherever I go, there's a little bit of Texas. (I wanna move back to East Texas!)
3/18/2005 07:11:00 PM : : Sela Carsen : : 4 Comments

Thursday, March 17, 2005
Recent discussions spawned at least one tangent -- why does anyone care what anyone else reads? This wasn't about what anyone specifically reads. You don't have to tell me who your favorite authors are. I appreciate that we all like different things in our books. To each her own.

This was more about a feeling I'm getting that there's a growing general malaise among many authors. It's not just selectivity in reading material, it's disillusionment. And it occurred to me that the solution, the cure for this malaise, might not be to just quit reading and accept that romance is headed down the tubes. It might be to get excited about what's exceptional in the genre. Not just to write the stories you want to read, but to dive in and wade through the books that are out there and find the ones that move you. To wave those books around in front of editors and publishers and especially readers and say, "This! This is it! This is what I'm talking about!"

edit: Diana Duncan deserves huge kudos for this inspiring entry.

Another tangent, that regarding heroines. Other bloggers have posted their opinions thoughtfully and eloquently.
Jill Shalvis asks what you want to see in a heroine.
Jorie has begun a discussion on what "needy" really means.
Lydia has totally separate musings on different versions of one type of popular heroine.
And Sharon provides some balance.

Enjoy and join in!
3/17/2005 08:50:00 PM : : Sela Carsen : : 0 Comments

Books I've recently enjoyed

Some old, some new. I figure within the last two years is still new. Not all my favorites, but all have high points.

Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Vane is one of her yummiest heroes yet. And Bride is a great, sweet, well rounded (in all senses of the word) heroine.

The Nerd Who Loved Me by Vicki Lewis Thompson. The 2nd Nerd book I've read. Lainie and Harry didn't quite work for me. Mostly I think it was Lainie. She had a really tough time opening up. But some great secondary characters in here. Definitely worth reading for Harry's mom.

Out of Danger by Beverly Barton from 1991. Surprisingly great hero in Quent, but again, Beck is too stubborn for her own good.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. Fantastic! Beautiful writing, bold characters, plenty of conflict, both romantically and in the external plot. How can you go wrong with this paragraph:
Had she but turned back then, and looked out once more on to the rose-lit garden, she would have seen that which would have made her own sufferings seem but light and easy to bear -- a strong man, overwhelmed with his own passion and his own despair. Pride had given way at last, obstinacy was gone: the will was powerless. He was but a man madly, blindly, passionately in love, and as soon as her light footstep had died away within the house, he knelt down upon the terrace steps, and in the very madness of his love he kissed one by one the places where her small foot had trodden, and the stone balustrade there, where her tiny hand had rested last.
Even by today's standards, the emotion is palpable, the fantasy inescapable. Wouldn't you give everything to have a man be that in love with you?

Sunshine by Robin McKinley. Talk about your opposite ends of the spectrum. It's not technically a romance. As a matter of fact, the heroine is torn between two extremely appealing men and it's not resolved by the end of the book. McKinley herself admits she's a slow writer, but I'm impatient for another installment of this. McKinley is a master world builder. Anyone who knows her Damar series is aware of a sense of transportation. A more cerebral read than The Scarlet Pimpernel, it nonetheless offers much stylistically.

Jane's Warlord by Angela Knight. I learned about Knight from an anthology. This futuristic tale is a balanced blend of wickedly hot Alpha hero, teetering on the jackass knife edge, and a smart, independent heroine who knows when to stand up and when to back off.

Never Too Much by Lori Foster. The follow up to Too Much Temptation. I think I preferred TMT. Ben was appealing, but a bit too pushy, and Sierra could have fessed up her Big Secret much earlier, I thought. Because she didn't, though, she became the heroine who hangs on to her independence for way too long just to prove that, really, she's an independent woman. But I learned a couple of things from this book. She weaves in a couple of subplots very nicely and hey, it's pretty hot. The sexually predatory nature of Ben's character is a major factor in the interaction between the protagonists.

A note on anthologies. I love 'em. I recently went on a kick where I picked up several at once and devoured them immediately. But I didn't read them just for fun. I was studying them. I write short and though it can be a curse, it's also very freeing to tell a simple love story. One couple, one nasty problem, one HEA. Now, you can pick up some anthologies and have every single story leave you with that "meh" feeling. I certainly don't expect every story to be a jewel, but I've learned it's often less to do with storytelling ability and writing craft than it is that some authors just don't understand the format. That aside, there is gold among the dross.

Tapestry featuring Lynn Kurland, Madeline Hunter, Karen Marie Moning and Sherrilyn Kenyon. From 2002 and still available on the shelves. That says something. Sherrilyn's tale "Dragonswan" was my favorite, mostly for the line, "Be kind to dragons, for thou art crunchy when roasted and taste good with ketchup." I nearly hurt myself laughing at that one. Lynn's "To Kiss in the Shadows" features a great heroine who can be herself because she has nothing to lose.

Bite featuring Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, MaryJanice Davidson, Angela Knight, Vickie Taylor. First off, there were two really awful stories in this. The authors apparently figured that this was the place to stick the scenes that their editor made them cut from a longer work. No romance(!), no tension, no satisfying ending. But the others made up for it. A novella, well written, is a multi-facted diamond where all the angles reflect back into the one pure fire of a perfect stone. There may be references to other stories to whet the appetite of readers for more of the same, but the author keeps the focus on the work at hand.

And for any cps and friends reading this today -- yes, I wrote on the wip already and I'm fixing to write some more. Monkey Boy is getting ready for a nap.
3/17/2005 11:02:00 AM : : Sela Carsen : : 5 Comments

Open season on Sela

Wednesday, March 16, 2005
It's entirely possible that I've gone and stuck my foot in my mouth over at Romancing the Blog. Alison's article really struck a chord with me. A sour one.

I understand people growing out of a certain type of book, but ... well. This is me, editing myself. Let's just say that I'm offended with the premise that if one woman truly needs her one man and she is necessary for him to breathe, this story is somehow unholy. Or, worse yet, "unrealistic." I think an unladylike snort will suffice for the answer to that.

So go ahead. Smack me around if you need to, agree with me if you can (please tell me I'm not alone!) The forum is open. Fire away.

Here's my post:

So your heroines want a man, but they don’t need a man. And while that sounds admirable, I find a fundamental flaw there. I need my husband. He’s deployed right now and I feel like part of me is missing. I can function without him, but I’m not whole. I like to think I’m a fully realized individual with my own thoughts, motivations and desires. Without him, there’s a hole in my heart. That’s as real as it gets.

But I’m getting from you that if that need, that less-than-wholeness was translated into fiction, that would make the heroine spineless and weak.

I admit, I had a pretty negative reaction to this piece this morning. I hoped that as the day went on, I’d mellow to it or at least be able to “agree to disagree.” But I’m beginning to see a sharp demarcation drawn between those of us who believe that finding the man who finishes us is both real and fantastic, and those who figure that if a man comes along, he’d best know how to heel.

(shaking head) Believe me, I understand that this sounds argumentative. It’s not meant to be, but maybe folks can keep this discussion going on their own blogs.

How and why did the meaning of romance change? Is romance truly dead?

Update: Alison's response:

Well, it’s obvious I’m having a hard time making ANYTHING clear, sheesh, LOL!

I am the MOST romantic person around. Were my husband not here, you can bet there would be a MONSTROUS hole in my life. I would be beyond devastated. I love him. I need him. I adore him beyond belief. Just now, he laughed from the living room, and my heart fluttered. I am over the top in love. He gives me the sweetest cards. He walks by and kisses me just because. We are goofy together. Just totally silly in our affection.

BUT if I had never met him, I would have been able to live my life either on my own or still seeking a mate, but I would not have felt as if I did not have a life if I did not have a man.

Romance novels are NOT about women already in relationships! Ergo, my post. We’re talking two entirely different situations here! I would figure that would be pretty damn clear!

(And the idea of my husband heeling is laughable! Just totally rolling on the floor laughable. )
3/16/2005 07:28:00 PM : : Sela Carsen : : 16 Comments

Morning rant

If you don't like to read romances, then why the HELL are you writing them? How dare you condescend to the masses with your "I've never met a heroine I liked -- except for mine and I'm not even sure about them" attitude? And how dare you belittle us for liking them? "I'm sure they work for SOME people" you say in your best Brahmin tones as if that makes up for your unbelievable arrogance. "Oh sure, that type of book is nice for SOME people."

Yes, there are different strokes for different folks. I prefer not to read stories with children in them. My mom loves them, so I'm glad there are folks who write with her in mind. She wouldn't pick up a vampire novel if it was the last book on the planet, so I'm extremely glad there are folks who write with me in mind as well. But that's entirely different from those who speak from their ivory tower of multiple publication and proclaim to the apparently a-literate peons below that their reading preferences are unworthy.

HEA? If you don't buy into the Happily Ever After, take a walk over to the women's fiction section. Buy something with divorce, disease and death. Real enough for ya? That should make you happy.

Women with balls of steel who don't need a man? Kind of short-shrifts the romance, if you know what I mean. I'm not saying I don't like kick-ass women -- I'm a Xena fan from way back -- but you know what? They make great f***-buddies, but they're sucky romance heroines. It would be out of character for them NOT to beat the crap out of a man who wanted some softness in his life.

For those who are so jaded that they can't even be bothered to read what's out there anymore, my advice is, "Don't let the door smack you on the ass on your way out." Cuz, sugar, I love romance, I write romance ... and I'm coming for your spot.
3/16/2005 08:00:00 AM : : Sela Carsen : : 12 Comments

Remembering cancer

Monday, March 14, 2005
Thank God I don't have it anymore!!! Today was the day of my 6 month checkup. Lacking two weeks, it's been exactly half a year since I had my hysterectomy, which got me thinking about ... stuff.

I think I can say without reservation that it's been one hell of a year. If I were a normal person with normal nerves and normal reactions to hellish things happening, I'd be in the loony bin. It began with the fear of cancer. Just an abnormal Pap smear when they'd always been blessedly normal before. Then the second Pap smear (the painful one) on the day the movers came to begin packing us out. We arrived in the States, signed all the paperwork and moved into the house with an air mattress and a card table borrowed from our neighbors. Early one morning, I got a call from England saying, "Did you get the letter yet where we tell you you have cancer? No? Well, you have an endocervical adenocarcinoma. That's cervical cancer." I cried.

After that there were a lot of things to put on my To Do list. Insurance, doctors, more doctors, exams, more words being thrown at me. I don't listen particularly well. For some reason, unless it's written down, it all goes in one ear and out the other, no matter how hard I concentrate. I have to write it down and review notes later so I can work things out.

Then it seemed like I spent an awful lot of time waiting for things to happen. Waiting for our household goods to arrive, waiting for the biopsy surgery, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Through it all I smiled. I was gracious. I was freakin' hilarious about the whole thing. But all day, every day, the word lurked in the bottom of my mind. Cancer. Sometimes it would leap out as I was doing something. I'd be washing the dishes and suddenly I'd remember. I have cancer. My heart would slam into my ribcage, but then I'd shake my head. No worries. They caught it early. So early you can barely tell it IS cancer. They'll be able to get rid of it with surgery. Platitudes to bury the fear. I felt guilty for even thinking I had "real" cancer when there were so many who were so much worse off than I was.

In the midst, there was still the laundry to do.

My mom came to be with us for the biopsy because I didn't know how long I'd be laid up. Turned out that it was only a couple of days, but she was here for two weeks. I'm an inside person, mom's an outside person. She hand-weeded the entire garden. I read.

We got the results and scheduled the hysterectomy. More words flying past me. This time I did some research on what would happen. Every day, I got more tense. My friends complimented me on my grace, the ease with which I handled what was happening inside my traitorous body. I felt sick inside every time they said it. How could I admit my fear? Admitting my fear meant the fear -- and the cancer -- were real and I was determined to believe that they weren't really, truly real. That this was just another day in the life.

I had a minor explosion about a week before surgery. It suddenly became clear that my life was going to change irrevocably. I couldn't be sure if it was for the better. Suddenly, the bubble burst. I screamed, threw an empty box and burst into tears. Words spewed out of me. What if? What if they didn't get it all? What if it hurt? What if it took months to recover instead of just a few weeks? What if things went wrong and I was never the same? My kids came running because I had screamed. I couldn't stop crying and they kept pushing at me to see what was wrong. I was so angry with them. All I wanted to do was finally cry. Finally let it all out. I was entitled, dammit!

But I couldn't. I stopped crying because it scared everyone. And I resented the hell out of the fact that I had to stop.

Today I cried. I cried because I had cancer and now I don't. I cried because of the hell I put myself through by not crying. I cried because I earned the right to cry. I cried because I don't need to anymore.

I had my hysterectomy and was up and about in a week. Haven't had any trouble since then.

Today I remember cancer so I can celebrate my freedom from it.

Happy No More Cancer Day!!!
3/14/2005 02:46:00 PM : : Sela Carsen : : 19 Comments

A Life Less Musical

Friday, March 11, 2005
Hmm. Perhaps the title isn't completely accurate. I love music. I sing. I sing in public, I sing in the shower, I sing in the car, I sing walking through parking lots, I sing in the grocery store along with the Muzak. I sing classics, I sing folk songs, I sing hymns, I sing country, I sing pop. Heck. I even rap. Ok, so it's the Naked Mole Rap from the Kim Possible soundtrack.

Certain things I do require a soundtrack. Driving, for instance. I get in the driver's seat and turn on the radio or a CD or turn it off and sing. Different actions have their unique subsets of actions. Washing dishes means it's time to call someone. Taking a shower means that I take a storyline I'm working with and extend it, mold it, act it out.

But music and writing? Nuh-uh. No way. I've tried it and ended up with more headaches than I can count. Loads and loads of my writing friends say that listening to music when they write "puts them in the mood." Some even go so far as to manufacture soundtracks for different mss. edit: I should mention that the inspiration for this blog came from Julie's latest article on Romancing the Blog. And that, unbeknownst to either of us, Vanessa Jaye posted her own thoughts on music and writing here. Great minds don't always think alike. ;-)

I've wondered why I don't/can't do this and have finally come up with a reason.

I love music.

I consider it a work of art to be taken on its own merit. To be lived with fully in the moment. Music pulls me in, absorbs me in the same utterly present way that writing does. And since, as the poet wrote, "I could not travel both [roads] and be one traveler," music is worthy of concentration as full as that which I use to write.

We all know that each of us takes our own path when we write. The world would be a poorer place if we didn't, I'm sure. And so for me, the writing road is, must be, lyrics without a tune, for the music is its own road.
3/11/2005 08:31:00 PM : : Sela Carsen : : 8 Comments

I'm back!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2005
Picture a squishy white chick what ain't got no rhythm dancing around the house yesterday as the new computer finally came online. That was me screaming, "YAY!!! I'm not stupid!!!"

Cursed, maybe. But not stupid.

After various woes and two CPUs, I'm back. It feels wonderful. Checking in from the library was not a bad deal, but certainly not I-deal. (Get it? That was a play on words. Just to prove how terribly clever I am.)

The story, COLD, is 31 pages long. I finally downloaded Bertie and that's what I ended up with. Of course, most of it is crap, but there are a few good turns of phrase contained therein. Actually, it was really enlightening to watch all the words spew across the screen. I could see where I had changed directions, where things were forced, and where they flowed.

As I slept, the story must have kept working because this morning I awoke with a less muddy vision of the whole than I have previously had. To my chagrin, it necessitates yet another change in location, but I can live with that. Luckily, it's an area I've lived in, though not for years.

Maybe the next time I post, I'll wax philosophical about some weighty issue. But not today. Today, I'm just glad to be back.
3/10/2005 12:09:00 PM : : Sela Carsen : : 2 Comments


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