Today’s Ask A Wench post comes from Beverly Abney. She said:
You are all authors whose work I read, and I like the blog to keep me posted on how you are and what you are writing. It is so personal and I can feel that you are friends of mine. Personal news from authors is important to readers.
I’m a firm believer that readers and authors ARE friends. Writers may pour out their souls on the page in private, but we’re exposing those souls to our readers. So how could we not trust each other and look for better understanding?
Not that a writer’s life is all that interesting, mind you! We curl up in our caves and wail and gnash our teeth for the better part of our days. In my case, I occasionally escape to play with flowers. I’m in utter awe of this orchid cactus that has multi-colored flowers!
Every so often we sneak out of our caves for research. I just did a quick run up the Pacific Coast to Santa Cruz to get a better “feel” for the area I’m writing about in my new Crystal Magic series. Occasionally we escape to go to conferences where we can talk to people who understand about wailing and gnashing. I’ll be attending the RNA conference in Leeds, UK this summer with a couple of other wenches. Lots of talking will be part of the program! Let us out from behind our desks, and we can’t stop jabbering.
And in personal news, our one and only grandchild is graduating early and heading off to college in the fall. So there’s lots of excitement and tears around the old homestead right now.
I'm currently struggling with a book — the third in my "convenient marriage" series (Rose's story). I know, more or less, what's going to happen in the story, but getting the angle right at the beginning is the hardest for me. With some books I hit the right angle from the start, with others it takes a few false starts. This book has had six different opening scenes that I've written and rejected, and even though I'm writing on, I keep coming back and tweaking the beginning. And I'm about to tweak it again — fingers crossed this time it will be right.
In other news, I've done a lovely lot of socializing. I recently attended a Romance Readers' conference in Sydney, where I caught up with a bunch of writing buddies, as well as a lot of lovely readers. Here are some of my friends with our awards. And some writer friends and I have formed a small movie-going club, where we go to movies together and then have dinner afterwards and talk about the movie. We have different tastes, so I'm getting to see some movies I wouldn't normally choose, as well as dragging them to ones they wouldn't normally see. And the other night, a small group of us went down to the docks to catch up with a writer friend, Helene Young, who lives with her husband on a yacht, and writes as they sail from place to place around Australia. They've been doing it for five years now — five years! — and don't plan to stop any time soon.
From Mary Jo:
I was born and raised on a farm in a rural area of Western New York, where wheat, hay, and dairy farming were major. The FFA–Future Farmers of America–were one of the largest groups at my high school, and they wore cool custom denim jackets. I raised gardens, went to country fairs, and absorbed a lot the feel of rural life. That farming background has been really useful for writing historical novels set in a time when much of the population was agrarian.
I'm no farmer now, but that background lingers in my love for the flowers around my house and on my deck. I have window boxes on the deck railings, big pots of flowers, and I always plant a couple of basil plants in the window boxes so we can have fresh basil all summer long. (In fact, I put my basil in this morning.) I enjoy watering and deadheading the flowers, and watching the butterflies and birds and occasional other critters. (Once a red-shouldered hawk sat on the railing, and it looked huge!)
Once Anne Gracie was staying with me for a few days after an RWA annual conference in Washington, and she was delighted to see her first ever hummingbird darting around some red blossoms. I can't take much credit for the beauty of flowers, but I love looking at them, and here's a shot of the spectacular tree peony plant just outside my kitchen window. Enjoy!
I’m currently deep in deadline territory with my latest book, another Tudor time-slip, this time telling the story of Amy Robsart, the wife of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. It’s a historical mystery that looks at the love triangle between Amy, Robert and Queen Elizabeth I, and the way it might play out in the present day. I’ve written the first half and the end and now all I have to do is join it all up. . . Easier said than done when there are so many other things going on!
It’s the Romantic Novelists’ Association Summer Party and Debut Awards on Thursday in the stunning surroundings of the Ashmolean Museum, so I need to dust off my party dress and write my chairman’s speech! We chose the Ashmolean as our venue because it is a place that has been telling stories about people and their lives for hundreds of years. What more fitting place for a bunch of romantic fiction authors who write about relationships?
After that on Saturday there is a certain Royal Wedding happening just down the road from here and I’m thrilled to have been invited by the BBC to be the royal correspondent at a special celebratory garden party in Salisbury, talking about royal weddings and their history. Another special dress needed!
Meanwhile last week I visited the real Wolfhall, setting of so much fascinating Tudor history, and I’ll be blogging about that soon. And in my spare time I go out with Lucy the Guide Dog Puppy; she is six months old and is doing well with her training. She’s been on buses, trains, to book shops and cafes… Here she is with me at the Ashmolean, checking out the party venue!
I’m working on a Paranormal Romance right now. It’s hard for me and it’s going slowly, but I’m comforted in this endeavor by having a good desk. I can sit there and look out over the valley at sunrise if I happen to be up at that time of day. I have a properly battered old chair to go with my battered and scarred old mahogany desk.
I have cool stuff on my desk. A tiny basket made of cloves that my sister gave me. It smells good when you pick it up and I think the writing buddies on my desk like having it there for company. My little writing friend bear sits to one side and holds my glasses. Behind him, in with the pens, you can see my throwing knife. (No. I can’t actually throw the knife. I use it for opening mail.) Beside that there’s a touristy Indian pot I bought when I was a teenager travelling in the Southwest. The lace snowflake propped up in the pot was made by another sister. On a hot day, like today, everybody needs a snowflake to look at.
There's a bronze dog my father brought back from China after World War II. It's supposed to be old. A lump of silver from my great grandfather. It's been sawed in half and I don't know where the other half is. Bet there's a story there somewhere. A tiny white stone fetish animal. A white bear.
Oh, and the cat.
Then there's a digital clock that resets itself by radio, because some things don't have to be old to be cool.
My life is a bit frenetic right now, what with writing projects going at full tilt (my new Lady Arianna mystery novel came out yesterday, and I’m madly working on the third Wrexford & Sloane mystery for an end of the summer deadline) and other obligations demanding time—all in a good way, but a bit exhausting at times! (And then there’s the upcoming trip to England in July to attend the RNA conference in Leeds with Nicola, Mary Jo and Pat!) So I’m doubly happy that spring is here, with the even longer days of summer stretching out ahead. In warm weather, I have a ritual of taking an early evening walk on the nearby golf course. I’ll head out around 6 pm. with my golf bag to play a few holes, in the mellow end-of-day light.
It’s not about the game, though I do enjoy the physical challenge of striking the ball well and testing my skill on the fairways and greens. But it’s really all about unwinding—switching gears from the intense mental focus of imagining a story, which for me means a lot of hours in front of a computer screen. I’ve read studies that say doing something physical changes how your brain circuitry works. You use different synapses and neural patterns, which can re-set your thinking. (I can’t tell you how many plot kinks I’ve unknotted in the middle of a backswing!) I find the walk relaxes me, and the mental focus of choosing a shot and a strategy for golf really clears the head.
But most importantly, In my daily walk is a reminder to stop and appreciate all the little joys of life. The course is on a peninsula jutting into Long Island Sound, so there are water views, salt marshes and inland tidal pools . I love watching the endlessly changing patterns of light on the water and wild grasses. The wildlife is also engaging. There are loons on the tidal pool by the 4th hole, and often long-legged white egrets and grey herons fishing in the reeds. On the 6th, a pair of swans comes back each summer, floating regally as the sun sets behind them. Hawks circle float, along with an occasional osprey. Spring often brings fox cubs along the first hole (there must be a den deep in the tangle of brambles and bushes that line the fairway.) Stopping for a moment to simply enjoy the feel of the breeze and the activity of Nature all around just sort of grounds me. For me, there is an elemental truth to stopping to “smell the roses.” All too often, we let the daily demands overwhelm that. So I really enjoy taking the time to remind myself to appreciate the rhythms and beauty of Life.
Your turn—why do you like to hear what authors are doing? And what would you like us to know about you?