Tag Archives: Nora Roberts

Shut Up, Voices

innercriticI’m not someone who normally struggles with writing. Making the writing good, that’s different, but producing the words on paper, nope. I was a journalist in my early career, and if there’s one thing such a program of study beats out of you, it’s the whole “tortured artist” game.

We weren’t allowed to have writers block. Words would come or you would go. Journalism is also great training for book writing because it keeps you from feeling you’re saving the world. You are producing infotainment, setting it down for people to read, and tomorrow you’ll do it again, when today’s words are carrying out the coffee grounds or scooping puppy poop. Words is words; even though they can ignite, there are a million more behind where those came from.

In other words, don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t for one minute believe you’re the reason the earth can heal, now that you’re here.

So I’ve never struggled with getting a rough draft down. Until now. For the past two weeks, I’ve been working on just setting out the basics of a story. The whole while, my inner critic has been howling like a banshee, tearing like a panther, raging like a stuck bull.

Usually I’m pretty good at turning off those voices, sotto voice just beneath the surface of creativity: “This is crap; you don’t know what you’re doing; ‘you have made the mistake of thinking everything that happens to you is interesting’ ” (a succinct and heart-sinking sentence sent to Anne Lamott in a rejection letter). As Nora Roberts said, “You can fix anything but a blank page.” I always adhered to that.

Yet it seems lately as though each finger is burdened with a ghost, clinging as I type, all muttering a non-stop cacophony through which every word can be clearly heard: “You can’t do it. You can’t write any more. This is boring. This is bad grammar. This is bad writing. You are bad.” Tiny little ghosts, grinning an evil grin, unrelenting.

Shut up, I tell them; shut up. I would like to say that, with each word that fights its way out from under the babble, their voices diminish. But they don’t.

So, if this is the new phase of writing I’m entering, the “fight for your life” phase, one might call it, so be it. Eventually the shrieking voices will have to give up out of sheer boredom, I suppose, from being ignored.

But gol-amighty, I wish I knew where they came from so I could send them back there. I’m busy, here, and they’re taking up energy.

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Filed under bad writing, between books, Big Stone Gap, blue funks, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

“I Don’t Want to Bother You….”

movie star bookstoreSeveral times this week someone has approached me as I sat at the bookstore laptop, frowning as I pondered just the right words to use. It’s a delicate business, Facebook posting….

“I don’t want to bother you, but…” the gentle inquiry began. The first time it was, “….but I really like Nicholas Sparks–”

I leaped to my feet. “Right over here.” But the lady did not follow, just stood there with hands clasped.

“Um, I meant, I’ve read everything by him. I just wondered, would you know of anybody who maybe writes a little like him, that I might enjoy reading?”

Madam, my day has been made. I led her to LaVyrle Spencer (among others – don’t judge me). We pondered and debated plot lines and writing nuances, and she left smiling.

I sat back down, smiling. Later that day another customer said, “I don’t mean to bother you …”

He had read all the Nevada Barrs we had. I showed him James Doss, Margaret Coel, Dana Stabenow and J.A. Jance. We talked plots and points and cultural sensitivity and he left with a bagful of paperbacks, smiling. I sat down, smiling.

Charlaine Harris. Nora Roberts. Mercedes Lackey. For some reason, this week, people have wanted to talk “similar authors.” Sometimes I call them starter authors, people whose body of work lead people to others who are similar in theme or style, yet different. And they lead to another, to another, and the reading path goes on and on and on, great writers, popular writers, eclectic writers, groupie writers. Who cares, so long as you’re enjoying them?

 

I love matchmaking in the bookstore. Please don’t ever apologize to a bookseller for wanting to ask about authors, dear ones. We LIVE for these opportunities. They’re not interruptions; they’re fulfillment.

Anybody wanna talk books?

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, out of things to read, publishing, reading, Sarah Nelson, Uncategorized, VA, what's on your bedside table, writing, YA fiction

Romantic Math

As incongruous as these two concepts may seem, bookslingers everywhere recognize the term: romances are to used book stores what fleas are to dog. What glitches are to healthcare.gov. What adverbs are to bad writers.

Jack and I began reducing our romances stock this fall, from their own outbuilding called The Luv Shack to four shelves inside. The goal was to get them down to a single, double-stacked shelf. And that’s when the laws of romantic math kicked in:

  • The number of old romances you box up to recycle, donate, or even dumpster after dark when the neighbors aren’t watching equals the number still on the shelves. In other words, the more you box, the more there are in your store.

    Spot the Bookseller

    Spot the Bookseller in this photo?

  • The more you reduce the price of your romances, the fewer people will buy them. “NOW ON CLEARANCE,  3 for $1!” goes to “10 for $1” slides to “$5 per box!” Yesterday I looked at two women paying for their cafe lunch and said “How’d you like a free box of romances each to take with you?” Their eyes grew wide with alarm and they all but raced out the door. They’re probably on Topix now, telling potential cafe customers: “Don’t go in there! They foist books off on you!”
  • The number of shirtless hunks lounging on–or under–the covers equals eternity–which is how long it will take you to box them. Don’t look. Laughing weakens your muscles.
  • The mere act of announcing on social media that you are reducing your romances stock will cause every Tina, Dot, and Harriet to bring you boxes of them. They take it personally when you say no: you’re rejecting romance? From them? It’s a delicate negotiation.
  • The amount of time you spend sorting books into families will exponentially expand as the number of books reduces. It takes awhile to realize those little icons alleged to make it easier for readers to see which series they want (like the spade and heart on maxi-pad packages, only different) are cross-referenced. “THIS SEASON: MAITLAND MATERNITY RETURNS TO TYLER WITH THE NEXT MCCORMICK BROTHERS FOR ROYAL WEDDINGS!” Give it up. Once you understand that cowboys are undercover sheiks and time-traveling Scotsmen are undercover Special Forces–there’s a lot of undercover in romances, tee hee–it becomes one big muddle. Plus that’s four hours of your life you’ll never get back again.
  • And last but not least, the laugh-out-loud stupidity of any given title you come across will be squared by the next title. I thought “Vampire under the Mistletoe” was the winner this year, until I found this little gem hiding at the back of a shelf:DSCN0278

Happy Christmas, everyone, and may the love in your life keep you warm!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, publishing, Uncategorized, writing