Monday, December 22, 2014

Husbands for sale. Cheap!

Happy holidays to all and to celebrate I've put Husband Training School on sale.
 For now but not for long!
We love our husbands, but...

Kindle  |  Nook  |  iBooks  |  Kobo

Three wives send their husbands back to school.

Will Trailer is a super-achiever on the baseball diamond but at home? Not so much, according to his gorgeous movie star wife. 
Efficiency expert Howard Hopkins has just retired. His wife married him for better and for worse--but not for 24-hours-a-day. 
Gordo Canholme would procrastinate breathing if he could, but will he ever get the baby's room finished? Not without HTS, according to his very pregnant wife. 

Husband Training School is the creation of former Marine Corps Drill Instructor, Robin Aguirre. When their wives enroll Will, Howard and Gordo as new students, Robin thinks she is ready for anything the most improvement-resistant husbands of the 21st Century can dish out.

But is she?




Saturday, November 29, 2014

SALE! LIMITED TIME ONLY! Husbands And Lovers now 99¢ usually $3.99

SALE!  LIMITED TIME ONLY!  Husbands And Lovers now 99¢ usually $3.99

Million copy NYTimes bestseller!
Winner, Best Contemporary, Romantic Times!


Kindle  |  Nook  |  iBooks  |  Kobo


A lonely wife. A jealous husband. A passionate lover. A gun in a Tiffany bag.

The Married Woman--Drab wallflower Carlys Webber marries multimillionaire Kirk Arnold but when Kirk changes from a loving husband to a distant stranger, will Carlys risk her precious marriage for a few moments of stolen passion with handsome architect, George Kouras?

The Single Woman--Fashion world superstar Jade Mullen survives deception and divorce. She vows never to be betrayed again but what will she do when she falls madly in love with George and he asks her the one question she doesn't want to answer?

The Husband--Kirk Arnold struggles to forget the dark secrets of his tormented past. He achieves one dazzling success after another, but will the tragedy that destroyed his family destroy his marriage to Carlys, too?

The Lover--George Kouras rises from humble beginnings to the top of his profession. He and Jade think they have discovered a new way to live happily ever after, but what will Jade do when she finds out about George and Carlys?

Set in the glittering world of fashion and in high-powered executive suites, in run-down houses, ethnic neighborhoods and sedate suburbs, Husbands and Lovers is about men and women losing--and finding--themselves in the gritty 1970s and glitzy 1980s.

"Sharply and stylishly written. Harris writes with intellect, insight and humor." --The Chicago Sun-Times

"Harris's empathy for her women, especially the ugly duckling who makes herself into a swan, adds a satisfying dimension of reality. Steamy and fast-paced, you will be spellbound." --Cosmopolitan

Monday, October 20, 2014

FREE!

iBooks  | Kindle  |    Nook  |  Kobo  |  GooglePlay

2014 edition newly revised  and updated by the author for today's reader.

THREE WOMEN. THREE DECADES. Spanning the years from the optimistic post-War 1940s to the Mad Men 1950s and rule-breaking "Make Love, Not War" 1960s, DECADES is about three generations of women who must confront the radical changes and upended expectations of the turbulent decades in which they lived.

Evelyn, talented but insecure, is a traditional woman of the Forties. She is a loyal and loving wife and mother whose marriage and family mean everything to her.

Nick, handsome and ambitious, a chameleon who changes with the changing times, is her successful but restless husband.

Joy, their daughter, confused and defiant, a child of the Sixties, needs them both but is torn between them.

Barbara is the other woman, younger than Evelyn, accomplished but alone. She is a transitional woman of the Fifties who wonders if she can have everything--including another woman's husband.

DECADES, sweeping in scope yet intimate in detail, is the emotional, compelling story of family, marriage, crisis, betrayal and healing.


"The songs we sang, the clothes we wore, the way we made love. Absolutely perfect!" --Publisher's Weekly

Monday, August 25, 2014

Wave of Nostalgia: Like It Was Yesterday.



I remember the Fonz and Archie Bunker.
I remember when LBJ meant the President (Lyndon B Johnson) and not a basketball player (LeBron James).
I remember the California Raisins, Louis the Lizard and the Budweiser Frogs.
I remember when the NY football Giants moved to the NJ Meadowlands.
I remember pin curls and garter belts, home perms and "Which twin has the Toni?"
I remember Dick and Pat, Jack and Jackie, Ronnie and Nancy, Jimmy and Roslyn, Bonnie and Clyde, Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw, Liz and Dick, Ken and Barbie.
I remember when you had to get up and cross the room to change the channel.
I remember gas station attendants, newsstands and soda fountains.
I remember streakers, est and transcendental meditation.
I remember consciousness raising, encounter groups and the Manson Family.
I remember Bullitt, The Godfather, and The French Connection.
I remember Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd and Marvin Gaye.
I remember Sergeant Pepper, Tricky Dick and Flower Power.
I remember the Bouffant, the Beehive, the Shag, the D.A, The Wet Look, The Dry Look and Greasy Kid Stuff. 
I remember Joy, "the most expensive perfume in the world" and  "Modess...because"
I remember Pan Am and TWA.
I remember disco and Donna Summer, hula hoops and Rubik's cubes.

I remember lots but I can't remember:
  1. What I had for dinner last night.
  2. Where I put my glasses
  3. Why I went into the kitchen and what I was going to do there
  4. Why I clicked on Google and what I wanted to look up (Thanks to Anne R. Allen for this one!) 
I got the idea for this post while writing THE CHANEL CAPER. If you relate to ups and downs of being in your fifties, I think you'll enjoy the adventures of Blake and Ralph as they navigate their way through that sexy and sensational decade.

Kindle  |  KindleUK  |  Nook  |  Kobo  |  iBooks  |  GooglePlay 


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Big Savings On Chanel And Gatsby!

Anne R. Allen and I have put our comedy-mystery boxed set on sale!

99c for a limited time!

One click. Two books.

Get them while they're hot—and they are! ;-)

Kindle  |  Kindle UK  |  Kindle CA  |  Nook  |  Kobo





Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Freebie, A Cheapie, A Retired Husband Joke.

 FREE—AND WORTH EVERY CENT!


Kindle  |  Kobo  |  GooglePlay   |  Nook  |  iBooks

Ladies! Is Your Husband Driving You Crazy?

Is the husband you’re living with the man you married?  Or has he changed? And not for the better?
Is he too pooped to participate?
Does he get an “F” in foreplay?
Don’t give up. Get even.
Stop the ugly nagging.
Put an end to your anger, resentment and frustration.
Two sisters who managed to survive four husbands decided to do something about it.
Their creation, HUSBAND TRAINING SCHOOL, is dedicated to saving marriages—and the sanity of wives the world over.
WHERE OTHERS FAIL, HUSBAND TRAINING SCHOOL SUCCEEDS!



Kindle  |  Kobo  |  GooglePlay  |  Nook  |  iBooks
$2.99 

Three fed-up wives—and only HUSBAND TRAINING SCHOOL stands between them and murder.

Tougher than Harvard and more demanding than MIT, Husband Training School is under the command and control of its founder, twice-divorced former Marine Drill Instructor Robin Aguirre.

Hardened by years of experience, Robin knows how to train men the Marine Corps way—tear them down and build them back up. She is confident she has seen and heard it all as she prepares to meet her new students.

Will Trailer is a super-achiever on the baseball diamond but at home? Not so much, according to his gorgeous movie star wife.
Efficiency expert Howard Hopkins has just retired. His wife married him for better and for worse—but not for 24-hours-a-day.
Gordo Canholme would procrastinate breathing if he could, but will he ever get the new baby’s room ready? Not without HTS, according to his very pregnant wife.


Robin thinks she is ready for anything the most hapless and hopeless husbands of the 21st Century can dish out.

But is she?



Retired Husband Joke.

After working for thirty years, Ed B. retires. His friend asks him what he's doing now.
"I'm my wife's sexual advisor," says Ed
Friend looks slightly shocked. "What do you mean by that?" asks the friend.
"Simple," Ed says. "My wife told me that when she wants my fucking advice, she'll ask for it."














Sunday, May 11, 2014

Fallout. Fireball. Fusion. Fission. F*cked up. FREE

Kindle  |  NOOK  |  KOBO  |  GooglePlay  |  iBooks


Fallout. Fireball. Fusion. Fission. F*cked up.

FREE

Coming Soon To NOOK!

CODENAME CHEROKEE
(A 1500 word excerpt from THE ATOMIC TIMES: My H-Bomb Year at the Pacific Proving Ground)

Cherokee was the second of 17 nuclear blasts in the 1956 United States H-bomb test series, Operation Redwing, conducted in the South Pacific. Cherokee was typical of what happened when over 1600 men (including me) became guinea pigs for the Department of Defense.  The unstated motto at the Pentagon was:  Everything that CAN go wrong WILL go wrong.

And it did. Cherokee was a prime example. 

THE ATOMIC TIMES was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by its original hardcover publisher, Random House.

"THE ATOMIC TIMES is a gripping memoir of the first H-bomb tests by one of the small groups of young servicemen stationed at Ground Zero on Eniwetok Atoll.  Leavened by humor, loyalty and pride of accomplishment, this book is also a tribute to the resilience, courage and patriotism of the American soldier." --Henry Kissinger




Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Women of a certain age: Stylish and sexy? Or frumpy and dumpy? Go ahead. Guess.

Ralph Marino, at sixty, is handsomer and sexier than ever. Women of all ages notice Ralph, they swoon over him, they hit on him.

But what about Ralph's wife? Blake Weston is 56, the age when women become invisible.

  • No one listens to her even when she knows more about the subject under discussion than anyone else in the room.
  • Taxis don't stop for her.
  • Waiters ignore her.
  • Salespeople look through her even though, within reason, she can buy whatever she wants.

Is Blake happy about the situation? No way. Is she about to give up? Never.

I loved writing about Blake and Ralph, their relationship, and the deadly mystery they must work together to solve. Finding a cover image turned out to be, as they say in biz-speak, "a challenge." To put it mildly.

Since the story is told from Blake's point of view, I wanted her on the cover, front and center. I used search terms like "mature woman," "adult woman," "beautiful mature woman," "lovely adult woman," "attractive mature woman,"and here's what I got:


Inspiring, right? Grown-up women, the smart, savvy readers I write for, will love it, right? Because this is exactly what they look like and the way they see themselves, right?

Nope.

What I ended up using was a woman too young to be Blake but, after hours of searching, it was the best compromise I could come up with. :-(

I kept looking. And kept looking. Trudging my way from site to site. Wracking my brain for different search terms. Getting nowhere. Until—

At long last I finally found something I hadn't seen before: a sexy, stylish grown-up woman. Like my heroine. Like my readers.

So here she is, the beautiful mature woman—and the smart, savvy reader I write for—in all her glory:

  iBooks  |  iBooksCA  |  iBooksAU  |  iBooksNZ  |   Kobo  |  GooglePlay

BONUS EXCERPT:

A quick guide to the characters:
Julia, Blake's BFF from boarding school, has embraced Mindful Living and just made the switch from hetero to homo.
Barbara Salem is Julia's Pilates teacher and Wellness Facilitator.
Ralph is Blake's husband. They've been married for twenty-seven years. He's freaking out about turning sixty and has transformed himself via a strict diet and killer exercise regime.
Melanie is Melanie Bradshaw, a flak-jacket-weariing, gung ho war reporter and possessor of a spectacular pair of 36 Double D's.

Located on a quiet side street just off Sutton Place, the Lancaster Hotel was housed in an ivy-covered brick building that whispered of Washington Square and Henry James. It looked discreet, refined. Which it wasn’t. What it was, was a sleazy hideaway for cheaters.
As I approached the entrance, a white-gloved doorman in a dark green uniform with polished brass buttons opened the door for me. I entered a small lobby whose fresh flowers, period furniture and Oriental rugs reeked of old money, good breeding and illustrious family trees.
The illusion ended right there.
A comb-overed old galoot with his hand on the thigh of a women young enough to interest Donald Trump sat in one corner. Opposite was well-barbered forty-year-old in a $3,000 suit wearing a wedding ring and nibbling on the ear of a woman wearing a nightgown under a mink coat. The rest of the room was empty. All the other guests probably upstairs in their rooms screwing their brains out.
I made my way to the reception area, asked for the Spa, was told that it was located off the small passage that led from the foyer to the elevators.
I followed the direction and knocked on the door.
Barbara Salem presided over a tranquil area of blond wood, shoji screens, aromatherapy candles and a sound system playing Buddhist chants—according to Julia, an essential for those seeking enlightenment or, as she was currently calling it, samadhi.
Makeup-free except for lip balm and smelling of sandalwood, Barbara was wearing a t-shirt printed with a lotus flower, flowing black yoga pants and alterna-lifestyle-approved Birkenstocks.
She had a gentle smile and biceps like Mike Tyson. She welcomed me with the smile.
I took a deep breath, then I plunged in. “Julia said you might be able to help me. It’s about this man,” I said, extracting from my HBO tote a snapshot of Ralph taken the previous year. In the photo, the pre-Improved Ralph looked pale, tired and a bit pudgy. “I wonder if you’ve seen him here? He’s lost weight since this picture was taken. And replaced his glasses with contacts—”
She examined the picture and then handed it back. “That’s Mr. Piretta,” she said. Piretta was Ralph’s mother’s maiden name and I was (slightly) disappointed that Ralph, ex-detective, was so unimaginative. “He just rented a suite—”
”A suite?”
”For a month—”
“‘A month?’” I repeated, over the nauseating lump that had developed in my throat.
”He’s already moved in some clothes,” she said. ”Pants, a few shirts, some mini skirts—”
I almost choked. ”Mini skirts?”
She nodded. ”That’s what the maid told me,” she said. “He drops in every few days or so along with his guests—“
My mouth went dry. “Guests?”
She nodded. “Tough-looking guys,” she said. Ralph is into rough sex?, rough gay sex?, I wondered as Barbara went on. “Kids, too. They look like students. You know, jeans and t-shirts—”
“Boys?” I said, thinking of Julia’s late life sex switch as my stomach lurched greasily and dive bombed. “Girls?”
“Both,” she said. “Two or three at a time—”
I was speechless. Ralph was into threesomes and rough sex? Or was it group sex and orgies? More effective than goat’s milk yogurt for reviving a flagging libido, I supposed.
“Sometimes a woman joins them,“ Barbara said. She cupped her hands in front of her chest to indicate an Everest -sized pair of knockers. “If you want, I’ll let you know next time he checks in—”
“Please do,” I said, barely able to get the words out. I gave her my cell phone number and rose to leave. As I reached the door, I almost tripped over the Pilates machine in the corner. Between the adjustable metal bar, heavy-resistance springs and long leather straps, it looked like something left over from the Spanish Inquisition.
“I’d probably kill myself on that thing,” I said, trying to regain my balance.
“Don’t worry,” she smiled, extending a helpful hand. “We haven’t lost anyone yet—”
Yet,” I said and we laughed.
Or, I should say, she laughed. I was thinking of kinky threesomes and group sex, of orgies and mini skirts, of Melanie, her Mammoth Mammaries and her Raunchy Red lipstick.
I managed to make it to the office without puking.
And wondered what godawful catastrophe Fate had in store for me next.










Sunday, March 30, 2014

8 Tips For Writing A Killer Blurb

In another life, I wrote paperback blurbs, probably thousands of them over several decades. Back in TradPub days, blurbs had to be short (paperbacks only have so much space on those covers) but comparing the reader who’s browsing in a bookstore to the person who’s surfing the net is the difference between a leisurely stroll and NASA rocket flight.

You'll find my current thinking about blurbs + hints, advice, links and news of a big sale over at Anne R. Allen's.

See you there!


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Big sale! And, yes, I'm pimping a book. :-)


Big sale right now on LOVE AND MONEY.
Now 99c. Usually $4.99 so you could definitely do worse.

 Find a copy at all the usual suspects: Kindle, KindleUK, KindleCa, Nook, NookUK, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play.

Lots and lots of good reviews:

“AN IDEAL BOOK…RUTH HARRIS HAS DONE A MIRACULOUS JOB OF ENTWINING THE LIVES OF TWO WOMEN IN A TOTALLY BELIEVABLE AND FASCINATING WAY.
“A page-turner…Plausible and entertaining, Love And Money reads fast and the time frames ring true.  Harris doesn’t miss a trick, her characters are often shaped by circumstances…and her characters change, as do the years.  Ruth Harris is a talented writer who has come up with a novel so entertaining and interesting you won’t have to hide if someone asks you what you’re reading.” —West Coast Review of Books


“FAST-PACED, SUPERIOR FICTION WITH A ZINGING SENSE OF STYLE.
“A skillfully written, highly commercial “page-turner” LOVE AND MONEY is also a series of carefully drawn character studies, insightful psychological portraits of people driven by the need for love, the hunger for money and the fear of death. 
“LOVE AND MONEY focuses on three major characters.  Deedee Dahlen is a million dollar heiress, ‘born late, as if she knew ahead of time how complicated her life was going to be and needed all the time she could get to prepare for coping with its difficulties.’
“Lana Bantry, Deedee’s illegitimate sister, was born ‘six weeks prematurely, as if she couldn’t wait to get out into the world and take charge.’
“Slash Steiner — he invented the name because he thought the word sounded ‘invincible, invulnerable and unconquerable’ — a ‘man from nowhere who makes it big and becomes Deedee’s husband and Lana’s lover and business partner.
“Harris makes these characters and the joys and tragedies of their lives exciting and believable.  With a narrative style that is crisply precise and descriptive, an unerring ear for dialogue and an overall tone that is strongly reminiscent of Susan Isaacs, Harris has written a terrifically satisfying ‘good read.’” —Fort Lauderdale News Sun-Sentinel


“WELL-WRITTEN.  FAST-PACED AND DIVERTING.” Library Journal

“A SPECTACULAR, RICHLY PLOTTED NOVEL
“Racing to a shocking climax, this glittering novel is first-class entertainment…a story of love and money, and how both are made, lost, and found again.” —NY Times Book Review 

“A powerful contemporary novel of…passions, jealousies and secrets…Love and money.  Ultimately they seemed to be all anyone really understood.” —Michael Joseph

LOVE AND MONEY featured on Bookbub and  Kindle books and tips




Saturday, February 22, 2014

Notebooks (Part II)

There are notebooks on my night table, in the kitchen, on the dining room table, in the living room, my office (obviously!) and in my purse. There is even a notebook in the bathroom for those nights I wake with a "brilliant" idea I absolutely have to write down. By flashlight. So as not to disturb my DH who already knows all too much about what it's like to live with a writer.

I'm always on the lookout for new notebooks. (You'll find my first notebook post here.) These are the latest additions to my delightful, never-ending quest:

Castelli Notebook

Made in Italy with Italian style.
Muji Notebooks

Stylish and inexpensive, Muji notebooks are an everyday necessity.

InkJournal

For the notebook and caffeine-addicted! 
Made in Portland, OR, USA.
Stillman & Birn

High-quality sketchbooks because sometimes I have to draw a scene
before I can write it. I bet I'm not the only one!


Smythson

This va-va-voom pink notebook is from Smythson, the elegant and pricey English stationer.







Thursday, February 6, 2014

Know the difference between the edge jumps and toe jumps? The flip, loop, toe loop, salchow, lutz and axel—a gif guide to jumps—in figure skating.


2010 olympic gold medalist Kim Yu-Na performs her textbook Lutz

The lutz, loop, toe loop, Salchow and axel explained.

Figure skating is the sport I loved as a kid. I spent a few summers on the ice in Lake Placid working on my spins and jumps and getting better and better although not nearly as good as I wanted to be. Still, skating is the sport I know most about and, as the Olympics gets under way, I thought some of you would enjoy this excellent gif guide to the jumps.


MICHAEL AND THE BEATLES!

Michael's memoir about his days on the Ed Sullivan show and meeting the Beatles on their first trip to the U.S. is on sale now—99c reduced from its normal $4.99. So if you like celebs and inside showbiz gossip, now's the chance to snap it up cheap!

Kindle  |  Nook  |  Kobo  |  iBooks







Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Reference and Research—the World Beyond Google

This post originally ran on Anne R. Allen's always illuminating and informative blog. I'm reprinting it here for those who might have missed it there. :-)


Which president came before Theodore Roosevelt?

How do you revive a dying orchid?

How fast can a rhino run?

What does SPECTRE stand for?

In the course of writing a novel, a writer—one who will never indulge in an info dump!—will often need to find the answer to all sorts of oddball questions, some of them basic, others esoteric, still others trivial but nevertheless important.

Google and Wikipedia and YouTube are the basic go-tos but there are many other sites (just about all of them FREE) that will answer your questions and, even better, give you answers to the questions you didn’t even think to ask.

Here is a brief round up of sites I have found indispensable for research including a few that aren’t usually thought of as reference sources.

The New York Times maintains a massive searchable archive containing more than 13 million articles dating from 1851. You can search by author, section, or time periods from past 24 hours, past year or by specific dates.

The Washington Post maintains a searchable archive dating from 2005. (For dates prior to 2005, there is a paid archive search.)

USA Today, New York’s Daily News and the BBC also offer valuable search options.

Time magazine’s archive extends from 1923 to the present and includes the weekly’s covers for a visual look at what made the headlines week by week during most of the 20th Century and all of the 21st. 

From hair dos to manicures, grunge to prep: If you need a clue about what your characters are or were wearing or detailed info about their grooming routines, Vogue is the place to go.

Need to jog your memory about books, TV, movies and music? Try Entertainment Weekly.

The dish on celebs? Need inspiration from human-interest stories? What about The Sexiest Man Alive? People is the place to go. And not to forget: James Bond trivia.

Want to ask an expert? Sign up with Quora where you can choose from over 400,000 topics to create a feed of information tuned to your interests. Google Plus has communities devoted to just about any subject you can think of.

Messing with the Mafia? From Omertà to La Cosa Nostra, from Al Capone to John Gotti, the answers are here.

For the raciest in bathing suits or a who’s who and what’s what in the locker room and on the gridiron, the skating rink, the baseball diamond or the tennis court, Sports Illustrated will clue you in. Writing for a younger demo? SI Kids has the deets.

Pinterest, eBay and Etsy are usually not considered research sites but they are gold mines of ideas presented visually and, in the case of eBay and Etsy, items described in detail—a big help when you don’t know what this or that knicknack or collectible is called or when you want to find a popular hobby or off-beat interest for a character.

Need a name for a Catalan or Chinese character? Want a name for a hillbilly, a witch, a rapper? A name with ancient Celtic, Biblical or literary allusions? Try the name generator at Behind the Name

Authors of Regency fiction will find information on law, language, clothing, and the peerage plus links to other relevant sites from Regency author Joanna Waugh.

The Pew Research Center offers a searchable database covering everything from demographic data and scandals to international affairs and global religious beliefs.

Seeking a “fact checker for the internet?” Check out RefDesk.com.

Streetwise slang? Here’s the guide to current lingo: urban dictionary.

Hung up for a movie or TV series quote? This site will probably know.

Consult the Oxford dictionaries in a variety of languages including: British English, American English, German, French, and Spanish. The Oxford biographical dictionary contains bios of almost 60,000 people, English and beyond.

A dictionary on steroids, WordHippo tells you the meaning of a word and also finds synonyms, antonyms, words that rhyme with it, sentences containing it, other words starting or ending with it, its etymology, and much more. Type in what you are looking for, choose the appropriate category and WordHippo will come up with the results, as well as give one-click links to other data for the word.

Setting your story during a particular day in a certain year? Get the scoop on what happened on that day the BBC News OnThisDay site.

There’s a research blog for the history of graphic design at the University of Southern Missisippi.

Contemporary art? Try MOMA in New York City or the Metropolitan Museum. In San Francisco, try the SFMOMA, or MOCA in Los Angeles.




Science? Get information about Mind & Brain, Plants & Animals, Earth & Climate, Space & Time, Matter & Energy, Computers & Math, Fossils & Ruins at ScienceDaily.

Health and medicine? Rely on the experts at the Mayo Clinic.

Still need more? Try the Smithsonian:

The US Army has an extensive, searchable site that covers American wars from the Colonial era to the current War On Terror in the archives of the US Army Center of Military History.

Stuck? Out of ideas? Don’t even know what to look for next? Tell this site what you’re interested in and they will recommend websites/photos/videos: StumbleUpon.

We are living in the information age. Just about anything a writer wants to know or needs to find out is just a few keystrokes away. No more trips to the library. No more scrolling through hard-to-read microfiche. No more searching through heavy tomes to find that one piece of information you're looking for.


Explore beneath the surface to find the pearl of info that will make your book stand out from the crowd: the right research, properly used, can make all the difference.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Writer's Toolbox #5. Research and reference: the world beyond Google.

This week I'm doing my usual number at Anne R. Allen's blog. Whether you're a writer, a student, a teacher, an executive in need of some data or just an info junkie (like me), I've pulled together a hot list of reference resources that go beyond the usual suspects.

From a dictionary on steroids to James Bond's girls, from Middle Earth to Modern Art, you'll find it here. And did I mention they're 99.9 % FREE?

See you at Anne's!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

6 Writing Dragons: How To Slay Them...and Get Where You Want To Be in 2014

I originally wrote this post for my wonderful blog partner, Anne R. Allen. She did a superb job of editing and improving.  We're writers and this is how we roll—

Why Tough (Self-) Love (and Some Dragon-Slaying) Will Get You Where You Want To Be Next Year

The reasons (excuses?) for not writing/not getting your book finished often come down to six usual suspects:

1) The Procrastination Dragon

As if you don’t know what I’m talking about. ;-) But, just in case you only recently landed on Planet Earth, here’s a short list:
  • You’re tweeting instead of writing.
  • You’re surfing the web instead of writing.
  • You’re making coffee instead of writing. 
  • You’re answering emails instead of writing.
  • You’re cleaning the bathroom instead of writing.
  • You’re organizing your spices instead of writing.

Bottom line: You’re doing anything and everything you can think of exceptwrite.

2) The Interruption Dragon
  • The phone.
  • The kids.
  • The dog. 
  • The cat.
  • Your husband/wife/significant other.
  • The Amazon drone delivering 3 pairs of gym socks you ordered half an hour ago.
  • You lose your train of thought. If you were in the zone, you’re now out of the zone. If you weren’t in the zone, you’re now out in Siberia.
How can you be expected to write if you’re being interrupted all the time?

3) The What-Happens-Next? Dragon

Your MC is on the top branch of a burning tree and the bad guys are down below. With guns, knives, IEDs, RPGs, snarling tigers. machetes and blowtorches.
  • So now what happens?
  • What does the MC do?
  • What do the bad guys do?
  • What does his/her husband/wife, cubicle mate, best friend, bridge partner, girl friend/boy friend, Pilates teacher, dog walker, nutty neighbor, favorite TV comedian or movie star do?
  • Who says what? And to whom?
You mean you don't know? Don't even have a clue?

4) The Fear and Loathing Dragon 

  • You forgot why you’re writing the damn book and you hate every word anyway because you’re a no-talent nobody.
  • You can’t figure out whether it’s a comedy, a thriller, urban fantasy, horror or romance. 
  • You can’t remember why you started the stupid thing in the first place. 
  • You have no idea what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you got from there to here.

Excessive, much?

Not really.

Writers, like everyone else, have mood swings. Not enough for clinical intervention but enough to—at least temporarily—undermine confidence and forward progress.

5)  The "Dream Big" Dragon

You’re writing the Great American/Latvian/Cambodian novel. It’s so wonderful you’ll reach millions and millions of readers everywhere.

An invitation to the White House, to a billionaire’s yacht, to a fabulous mansion on a private island in the Caribbean is in the mail. Beautiful, brilliant people are lined up, just waiting to experience the exquisite pleasure of your company.

And, while you’ve unleashed your imagination about the rewards about to come pouring down on you, please, definitely do not forget the prizes:

  • The NBA (Not the one that’s played by tattooed seven feet tall men aka hoops. The other one.). 
  • The Booker. 
  • The Legion of Honor. 
  • The Nobel. 
  • The Pulitzer.


The list is endless.

Which leads us to—

6) The Perfection Dragon 

Every word chiseled in marble. Every syllable a treasure for the millennia. So, of course, it has to be perfect. That’s why you have that infallible misery-maker, your own personal internal critic, to tap you on the shoulder and remind you of every terrible thing anyone ever said about you, your crappy taste in clothes and your rotten books.

  • You’re so terrible, even your dog hates you.
  • You write. And rewrite.
  • Consider and reconsider.
  • Contemplate and then contemplate some more.
  • You hit the delete button. Then the undo. You open the sentence-in-question in two documents and review them side by side. Still can’t decide which one is better so you write a third version.
  • Which just adds to the confusion and misery as you scratch your chin and tear your hair (at the same time if at all possible because—don’t forget!—we’re going for perfection here) and try to decide whether or not afourth version is called for.

Getting to the point: 

Here is where tough love comes in because, believe it or not, every item on this gruesome list is identical. Each one, no matter the superficial differences, is a self-inflicted wound.

That’s right: you caused your own suffering.

It’s your fault.

You did it to yourself.

You’re the dragon.

Once you truly understand that you are the cause of your dilemmas and frustrations, you are halfway to conquering them.

We are not in “it-hurts-so-good-don’t-stop” mode here. We are in destructive, self-defeating territory, a lethal terrain in which you will never get your book written, much less edited, revised, proof read and published. 

Which is actually the good news and the point of this post. Since whatever is going wrong is something you are doing to yourself, you are the one who can undo the damage.

Let’s slay them one by one:

1) Procrastination 

Are you an adult? Or a kid who doesn’t want to go to school because there’s a history test today and you haven’t done your homework? The real answer is—or should be—that you’re a professional and professionals get the job done.

  • You shut down the internet.
  • You let the soap film remain on shower curtain. Until later. Afteryou’ve done the day’s work.
  • So the oregano is next to the thyme, not next to the pepper where it belongs? BFD.
  • You’re the boss of you. You’re a grown up. You do not give in to your self-defeating tendencies. You go back to your desk and get back to work. If you can’t do that, then you have to wonder how committed you are to your work.

Are you serious? Or are you just fooling around—and fooling yourself in the process?

2) Interruptions
  • Turn off the damn phone.
  • Close the door.
  • Put up a “do not disturb” sign.
  • Make a deal: Trade a hour of uninterrupted work for an hour of errands/child care/chores: you’ll walk the dog (the one who hates you)/do the grocery shopping/take the kid to soccer practice in exchange.
  • If your family doesn’t respect your work, doesn’t that mean you have somehow given them the signal that it’s OK to barge in and interrupt you with whatever?

Nora Roberts famously said that she will allow interruptions only in the case of blood and/or fire. NR is as professional as it gets. Isn’t her no-nonsense attitude something to emulate?

3) The What-Happens-Next? Syndrome

You’re stuck and then what? You got yourself into this pickle and it’s up to you to get yourself out.

Here is where experience is crucial. Every writer, no exceptions that I’ve ever known of or heard of, faces the blank wall, the blank screen, the blank brain. Every writer has been there before and every writer has escaped because, if they hadn’t, no book would ever have been finished.

What you need to do is develop a backlog of techniques that will get the work moving again.
  • Brainstorm with a trusted friend.
  • Go to your junk file. By that I mean drafts you wrote but junked. Never delete unused paragraphs or scenes, just put them in a junk file. When you’re stuck, open the file. You may well find just the right route forward in something you once rejected.
  • Make a list. Steven Sondheim spoke of making a list of all the words that might apply to the song he was writing. That list, SS said, revealed hidden connections he hadn’t seen before. There’s no reasons that approach can’t work for a writer.
  • Have a glass of wine. I am not talking about getting rip-roaring drunk. I am talking about having a glass of wine with dinner. The combination of a small amount of alcohol, a relaxed mood and diverting conversation can spring open a door that has been stubbornly closed.
  • Go for a walk. Take a shower. Weed the garden. Very often just getting away from your desk and engaging is a different activity is enough to break the block.
  • Face up to your own tics and twitches. For me, it’s beginnings. When I’m stuck, I go back and reread. Almost invariably, the hang up is somewhere in the beginning: either I’ve told too much or not enough. 

After I figure out the problem and make the necessary edits, I can go forward again. Once you see a pattern to your own bad habits, you will be able to develop coping techniques you can turn to again and again. 

4) Fear and loathing 

Happens to everyone. I’m not joking, either.

In fact, fear and loathing are so predictable that I and many other writers have come to see F & L as a normal part of the process.

  • Going back to your original outline can help. So can reading over your notes and research.
  • Having someone else read your manuscript and report back can also help.
  • Maybe it’s not as mind-blowingly vile as you think.
  • Maybe it is, and you have to rewrite/revise.
  • F&L is why god created beta readers, crit groups, and editors.
  • Patience, perspective, persistence, and, if necessary, a pair of outside eyes are called for.

5) Dream big, dreamer 

Dreams, even big dreams are OK and, for many, come with the territory.

They can motivate but if they lead to paralysis, you will need to ask yourself why you are allowing a dream to interfere with the necessary real-life work required to make the dream come true. Only you will be able to answer that question but unless you can look at yourself with an unflinching eye, no dream can come true.

6) Perfection 

Doesn’t exist. Everyone knows it. So why do some writers torment themselves trying to achieve something no one—not Einstein, not Picasso, not Shakespeare—ever achieved?

If you are in that group or even if you have tendencies in that direction, try a dose of reality.

Go to the Amazon page of any famous writer and check out the one-star reviews. They’re guaranteed to be there even for famous and successful writers.
  • John Grisham, The Racketeer: “this book stinks”
  • Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch: “a meandering mess”
  • Stephen King, Doctor Sleep: “one-dimensional, amateurish”

Need I go on?

So you still think you’re going to write the perfect book? ;-)

Bottom line: more times you rescue yourself from perfectionism, procrastination, a block, unrealistic dreams, the more you will become a professional, dragon-slaying writer and the closer you will be to where you want to go.