Sunday, May 31, 2009

Road Trip!

by Susan Sey

I had an epiphany the other day.

I didn't find an image of the Virgin Mary in my morning oatmeal or anything. It was pretty pedestrian as far as epiphanies go. My sudden blast of insight was more related to the ten-hour road trip I was preparing for.

When I was a kid, we regularly drove up to our family cottage in Northern Michigan for the weekend. It was a four hour trip, one way. Sometimes my dad would drive back to the city for the work week, leaving my mom & sisters & I alone at the lake until he returned late Friday night.

Every afternoon while he was away my mom would load up the giant van & take us all to the Dairy Queen in town. I can't remember what we all ate but she had an enormous Peanut Buster Parfait. Every day, rain or shine, without fail. Peanut Buster Parfait.

When I was a kid, road trips just...happened. Like Christmas & birthday parties & dinner & clean clothes. They just magically occured & I didn't bother to think about where they came from. I got in the van at home, got out several hours later at the cottage & voila. Summer vacation was upon us.

I thought about this as I stood in my bedroom the other day with suitcases piled up to my knees, a mountain of clean but unfolded laundry mounded on the bed, & an excel spreadsheet in hand listing out everything I needed to do/pack/remember. Getting a family from Point A to Point B is no joke. Succesful military campaigns have been mounted that require less planning.

When I was a kid, I thought the daily trip to DQ for was us. Now that I'm older (and have survived a few solo, ten-hour road trips sans my husband,) I know better.

That Peanut Buster Parfait was my mother's sanity. It was nothing less than an oasis of selfishness & indulgence. It was something to look forward to every day while trapped for a weeks in a tiny cottage with one bathroom, balky plumbing & no other kids for miles around. I don't remember if she read romance novels or not, but I hope she did. If ever a woman needed a HEA, it was my mom during those long weeks at the lake.

This little epiphany of mine got me thinking about other transitions I've made, other times life has forced me to rearrange my thinking. Most particularly, I've revisited how I define a good book anymore.

Before I tried writing, I didn't cut books--or authors--a lot of slack. I loved a good book. I adored a great one. I read them over & over & over again if a book took my fancy. But if a book failed to live up to the promise of the blurb? Or petered out after a promising start? Or finished with an unsatisfying limp? Oooooh. I did not forgive easily.

But now that I write books--or attempt to write books--I have a great deal more empathy for what the author tried to do rather than what she actually did. I can admire an ambitious plot turn, even if it isn't artfully executed. I can befriend a hero or heroine who isn't quite as sympathetic as I'd have demanded before.

I especially love books that are set in unusal locations (Ancient Rome, anybody?) and unpopular time periods (Vietnam War era stuff really appeals to me right now for some reason.) I love the fact that the author sank a year or more of her life into swimming upstream with no guarantee it would pay off. I love that somebody listened to her heart & wrote what was in it instead of trying to force her idea into a pre-formed & saleable slot.

So tell me: When was the last time you changed your mind? Got a fresh perspective? Redefined something? Took a risk? And you're talking to somebody who recently gave both her children homemade summer haircuts, so don't hold back. Nobody's going to judge you here. :-)

84 comments:

Anna Campbell said...

Haha! He's mine, all mine! Bwahahahahahahaha! Come to me, chooky boy!

Minna said...

Congrats Anna on getting the GR!
Ooh, I'm still about half asleep. The swans who are at the pond very near by decided to have a party around 4 a.m. %(

Aikakone - Keltainen
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYjMTeUKWXI

MAARIT Tuuli & Taivas (Wind & Sky)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDf5NDRRUoU

KEVÄT JA MINÄ - TOMMI LÄNTINEN
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FV8cRMmMAFY

Neiti Kevät
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwIgXd6avWY

Pave Maijanen - Lähtisitkö
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLlNe6vyokI

Tomas Ledin - Sommaren är kort
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVdGOz_ptDg

PinkPeony said...

Hi Susan!

Love the road signs! We have a cat named Paxil.

"I love that somebody listened to her heart & wrote what was in it instead of trying to force her idea into a pre-formed & saleable slot."

I don't feel qualified to comment on this but I believe writing from your heart about what really interests you is more important than trying to write something that's commercially viable. Funny you should mention the 70's and the Vietnam war because I'm off on some crazy tangent and doing research about the same period. Uh, was there Greyhound service between Ithaca and NYC back then? :-(

Anna Campbell said...

Oooh, Minna, I JUST beat you! The swans should have started honking five minutes earlier! ;-)

Susan, what a great post! I think writing DOES give you a different outlook on books. I was just thinking it takes me a year to write a book (I'm nearly at the end of a dirty draft so I'm thinking about milestones) and someone can knock over that story in a couple of hours. That doesn't seem right! ;-)

Minna said...

Actually it's 10 o'clock here now. I tried to sleep when they finally stopped making noise.

Helen said...

Well done Anna have fun with him

Very good post Susan as for trips when we were kids my Mum would take us away on trains niether of my parents drove so we didn't have a car so we would pack suit cases walk to the station carrying them get on one train change at one station for another one then about 2 hours later we would reach our destination then have to catch a taxi or bus to the place we were staying and she did this every year with 4 of us and Dad only came once that I can remember although my Grandparents would be with us as well I couldn't imagine doing that with my 4 we just used to pack everything in the car and go much easier.

As for reading books there have been very few books that I have read that I didn't get some enjoyment out of yes there are those that are fantastic and I can't put them down and then there are others that I enjoy. I try always to appreciate the work that the author has put into it but in saying that if I don't really get much out of a book I have read I very rarely buy that authors books again.

Have Fun
Helen

Marisa O'Neill said...

Great post Susan. I feel that the older I get, the more I gain a "fresh perspective". My preconceived notions are attacked on a daily basis by the reality of life and the bit of knowledge I gain here and there. So yes, I now understand what it takes for a mother not to loose her sanity while raising four kids in the projects. And over the past 3 years I've gained a very healthy respect for anyone who attempts to put pen to paper and write a book!

Susan Sey said...

Ooooh, Anna Campbell, with the Rooster Grab! Nice!

Susan Sey said...

And Minna, sorry about the swans. You were hot on La Campbell's heels, though. :-) Maybe next time you'll get the Rooster & you can turn him loose on any rogue water fowl disturbing your peace. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Pink Peony wrote: I believe writing from your heart about what really interests you is more important than trying to write something that's commercially viable.This is the heart break of writers everywhere. You go to a conference & you hear successful people say, "Don't chase the trends, write from your heart." Then you hear other, equally successful people say, "Don't swim upstream. Why write what you KNOW won't sell?" It's enough to make a normally sane woman bang her head on the desk, you know?

What are you working on that has you interested in the Grey Hound service in the seventies, btw?

And just so you know, I have some lovely Pink Peonies blooming in my garden this morning. We've been waiting for them for weeks & they're finally here!

Susan Sey said...

Anna wrote: was just thinking it takes me a year to write a book (I'm nearly at the end of a dirty draft so I'm thinking about milestones) and someone can knock over that story in a couple of hours. That doesn't seem right! ;-)
Tell me about it. I cringe when I think about how harshly I've judged different books & authors over the years, without any regard for their vision, their ambition, or how damn hard it is to put something coherent--let alone transcendent--on the page.

My first draft is only about half-form right now but already I can only summon up the fortitude to slog through my daily pages by reminding myself that the magic will (might? Please?) happen in the rewrites.

Susan Sey said...

Helen wrote: we would pack suit cases walk to the station carrying them get on one train change at one station for another one then about 2 hours later we would reach our destination then have to catch a taxi or bus to the place we were staying and she did this every year with 4 of us and Dad only came once that I can rememberOh my goodness, Helen. Just thinking about that makes me feel faint. :-) Your mother sounds like a phenomenal woman.

Having said that, however, I did take the girls on a train trip to Chicago once & it was really lovely. Very laid back, as nobody had to drive & I could just entertain them & read to them & color with them. I got off the train at the other end very refreshed & ready to enjoy my vacation rather than put them up for adoption.

So maybe there's something to be said for ditching the old drivers' license. My grandmother never learned to drive either. Hmmmm....

Susan Sey said...

Marissa wrote: My preconceived notions are attacked on a daily basis by the reality of life and the bit of knowledge I gain here and there. This is really well put, Marissa. Are you, by chance, a writer? :-)

Joan said...

Come to me, chooky boy!...

Ok, that reminds me of Susan Boyle and her hip swivel to Piers Morgan...

Joan said...

The swans who are at the pond very near by decided to have a party around 4 a.m. %( ...


This is so exotic to me....

I was awakened by the baby wrens in a next in the drainpipe outside my bedroom window. My first thought? "When are they going to grow up and leave the nest!" (I swear one of the chirps had a crack in it like adolescent boys get)

Joan said...

Susan, great post.....

Epiphanies...yeah been there, done that, got the T shirt.

You go to a conference & you hear successful people say, "Don't chase the trends, write from your heart." Then you hear other, equally successful people say, "Don't swim upstream. Why write what you KNOW won't sell?" It's enough to make a normally sane woman bang her head on the desk, you know? This was my first experience at an RWA conference in New Orleans. I had only just begun to believe I WAS a writer and could manage to squeak out that I WAS writing.

Then when pressed as to which sub-genre and I said historical...and they asked what time period...and I said Rome...

Well, insert every look of pity, superiority, chagrin, horror you can think of and I got that reaction.

It could have crushed me, sent me packing my bags, made me tuck my tail and limp off. But see...when someone tells me I CAN'T then my inherent bit of arrogange says, "Oh yes I CAN."

I've been fortunate to have two of these manuscripts final and win 9 contests between them including Jared in the GH (which brought me to my Banditas :-) So there ARE readers out there who are up for something different.

Uphill battle for publication? Sure. Still hearing naysayers? Once in a while. Given up on the three completed manuscripts set in Rome?

Not. A. Chance.

Right time, right place, right person is still there for Jared, Damon and Bran. And while I look for it, I continue to write.

And write and write and write.

Susan Sey said...

Joan wrote: Ok, that reminds me of Susan Boyle and her hip swivel to Piers Morgan...

Oh my goodness. She did NOT.

Did she?

I didn't watch, & although I want to believe there was no hip swivel, something about the very small amount of You Tube footage I've seen of this woman makes me think maybe she did.

Yikes.

Susan Sey said...

Joanie wrote: Uphill battle for publication? Sure. Still hearing naysayers? Once in a while. Given up on the three completed manuscripts set in Rome?

Not. A. Chance.

This gave me goosebumps, Joanie. I'm going to plant myself right in the front row when you accept your RITA. And when you give a SEP-worthy, "BAD DECISION!" speech to all your nay sayers over the years, I'm going to cheer my fool head off.

As to the looks of horror & pity upon hearing your chosen subgenre? I can totally relate. I write single title contemporary--no ghosts, no vampires, no suspense, just plain ol' romance novels. The kind Nora Roberts & Jenny Crusie write. (Well, used to write. Sometimes still do.) The kind that nobody, but NOBODY, was buying for many years. Still really aren't.

People would ask me what category my GH final was in & I finally started pre-empting the pity-filled looks by saying, "Category least likely to sell, unfortunately."

And then I sold. As a direct result of my GH final.

So THERE!

Now we'll have to wait til next summer to see if any readers are actually up for reading a plain ol' romance novel, old school. :-)

jo robertson said...

LOL, Susan, my boys survived on bowl haircuts when they were little! Great posts.

I remember those magnificent road trips with my family when I was little, especially the singing in the car with my dad. We traversed the winding hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, at that time, without guardrails, and I remember hoping my dad didn't fall asleep at the wheel. So I kept on singing with him -- Old Rugged Cross, Little Brown Jug, and lots and lots of WWII songs.

Until I took my kids on their first camping trip, I had no idea what my MIL went through with all the camping their family did. Oh my! I couldn't imagine that she really and truly enjoyed it. And there's nothing quite like changing a baby's diaper on a camping trip, pre-Pampers days.

jo robertson said...

Ooops, forgot to answer the question! As far as books are concerned, I think I'm less forgiving now that I'm writing. Before I'd just quietly stop reading a book that didn't deliver, but now I want to throw the book across the room and exclaim, "How did this tripe ever get published?!" LOL

Anna, great catch on the chook! I hope he enjoys that lovely autumn weather you're having.

Joan said...

Now we'll have to wait til next summer to see if any readers are actually up for reading a plain ol' romance novel, old school. :-) .....

Um, excuse me? PLAIN? No! I shout a resounding NO to that description.

A good story, is a good story. Period, end of sentence.

And while I have not had the same opportunity Kristen has to read any of your brillant writing, I know down to my bones that it will be spectacular!

Because I know you. Because I sense the creativity, the uniqueness the wonderful talent in...

You.

So while I will grin like a fool to see you in the front row during my RITA acceptance saying "Mistake. Big Mistake, Huge" you can be rest assured that I will be camped out at the Borders to buy your great story.

Joan said...

Oh my goodness. She did NOT. Oh yes she did.

In the semi finals she gave it the 'ol twirl and said "This is for you Piersy baby".

In the finals which, I fully believe she should have won, she actually had Simon Cowell say wonderful, respectful things including "I adore you Susan".

Epiphany: Simon is not such a hard a**

Louisa Cornell said...

The Chook is nabbed and off to the land of Oz ! Good on you, La Campbell!

Great post, Susan! You are so right. I never really thought about it, but since I started writing I have an entirely different and huge respect for the women (and some men) who write the books that save my sanity on a daily basis.

And Joan I am DYING for them to publish your Roman boys! Thank you for stepping outside the box and writing them.

My first book was rejected as being too sweet because of the youth of its heroine. I know I will go back and do revisions on it one day, but I won't change my heroine. I happen to like that wise-cracking hoyden who has NO respect at all for the hero duke's consequence.

I always thought I'd be a writer when I was growing up. I got detoured by music and it was one heck of a ride! I auditioned for so many American opera houses and got rejected by each and every one. I sent a tape to the Mozarteum on a dare and got invited to audition. We were beyond broke at that point, but we took the risk and I flew to Austria and auditioned. Another detour that changed my life.

After my DH's death I worked a number of jobs, moved around and decided my life would be a pleasant series of jobs until I retired to a little house with lots of cats. VBG

My buddy, Tammy, sent me the link to the Avon FanLit Event and on a whim I decided to enter. That little detour has definitely changed my life and has brought me full circle back to writing.

It's been a grand road trip so far and I have met the very best of companions along the way. Thanks, ladies!

Treethyme said...

I think my life has been one big epiphany. I fight change but it just keeps on coming. I'm starting to realize I might actually get bored if not for all the changes. Or maybe I'm just used to change now.

As a looooong time reader and very new fiction writer (non-fiction is another story), I have to say that I had some qualms about this very topic. I don't just like to read, I LOVE to read -- I read obsessively, can't make it through the day without reading SOMETHING. As a kid, it might have been a cereal box or a book that was way over my head, but I've always had to read.

I've always wanted to write, too, but I've been satisfied with different types of writing at different periods of my life: poetry, essays, letters, journals, non-fiction articles/books -- even ad copy. But it wasn't until I went to my first fiction-writing workshop that it occurred to me: writing books was going to change the way I READ books. Talk about an epiphany.

I almost stopped right there. I was afraid that by learning to write, I'd lose some of the magic of reading. That hasn't happened, but my attitude has changed some. One author who I always loved head hops a lot. Never so much as noticed it until I started to write, but now it pulls me right out of the story.

On the other hand, when I'm really brilliant writing now, I am just in awe of the author's talent.

I'm always aware of the author's presence now, which I wasn't before. But I don't think it takes away from my love of reading. I think it just adds another level of enjoyment, since I appreciate the effort that went into writing each book.

Treethyme said...

"On the other hand, when I'm really brilliant writing now, I am just in awe of the author's talent."

Left the word "reading" out of that -- when I'm reading really brilliant writing, etc., etc.

Taking your point further:

When I read a recent Elizabeth George book, the ending infuriated me. I literally threw the book against the wall. But when I read her essay on WHY she wrote the ending this way, I could totally understand her decision. I completely support her right to do it, too. But I didn't feel the same about that series when I read the next book, and I've lost all interest in reading anything else she writes.

Beth said...

Fun post, Susan! I'm guessing your ten-hour road trip left you tons of fun memories :-)

When I started writing I stopped labeling books I didn't enjoy as 'bad'. I realize now that though a book may not speak to me in a certain way, it can still be well-written, immensely enjoyable to others and a 'good' story *g*

Though if I'm not enjoying it at least a little bit by a certain point (usually a quarter of the way through) I don't finish it - something that's changed only recently :-)

Joan said...

Treethyme,

When I began to get serious with my writing, I signed onto the Writer's Digest Writing school.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think it is a good tool to use.

I thrived on the the fiction writing lessons but the minute...the MINUTE that I was assigned a non-fiction lesson...I stopped.

It didn't have the same energy, the same verve of creating and crafting like my fiction ones did.

Minna said...

Treethyme said: writing books was going to change the way I READ books.

Same goes for translating them.

fengfk2008 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Donna MacMeans said...

Now we'll have to wait til next summer to see if any readers are actually up for reading a plain ol' romance novel, old school. :-)

Well heck Susan, I am! Can't wait for your book to come out. Your posts and emails are so much fun, I know your book will be the same.

Your post reminded me of our annual family trip to "the cabin." It was a bonafide one-room log cabin in Pennsylvania. No electric, no water. We had to haul water from a pump about a mile away back to the cabin. Now that I'm older, I don't know how my mother could stand it! The propoerty now is the site of a nuclear power plant, I believe.

Hey Pink - the answer is probably. I was around during those years and took the Greyhound from Springfield (small city outside of Cincinnati) to Cleveland (with a stop in Columbus) a couple of times. Airplane trips were just too expensive so Greyhound was the way to go. They linked all the major cities, and quite a few of the medium ones too.

Susan Sey said...

Jo wrote: LOL, Susan, my boys survived on bowl haircuts when they were little!
I only know how to do one haircut & happily it looks cute on both my girls. I have the grown-up version myself, my husband recently pointed out to me.

At least he can pick us out of a crowd. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Jo wrote: And there's nothing quite like changing a baby's diaper on a camping trip, pre-Pampers days.
I'm a total environerd, so I'm down with the cloth diapers. I used 'em on both my girls & we all survived. But when it comes to travel--any travel, let alone CAMPING--I am disposable all the way. I can NOT imagine what your MIL went through taking non-potty-trained children camping, pre-diapers.

My hat's off. Seriously.

Susan Sey said...

Jo wrote: Before I'd just quietly stop reading a book that didn't deliver, but now I want to throw the book across the room and exclaim, "How did this tripe ever get published?!" LOL
Okay, I'll admit, I have those moments, too. It's hard to be sympathetic to sloppy writing when there are so many really talented writers out there still waiting for their turn. (Many of them right here in the lair! Humph!) Those books hit the wall in my house, too.

But writing has given me a great deal more admiration for writers who swing for the fences, even when they miss. Perhaps especially when the miss because I know how hard it must be to aim big rather than play it safe.

PJ said...

We took a lot of road trips when I was a kid but I never appreciated the work that went into them until I was 20 and took a road trip from Michigan to Florida with my three younger brothers. Believe me, I had a whole new level of appreciation for what my mom and dad went through on those family trips!

Susan, I grew up on a lake in southwest Michigan. On Memorial Day weekend, families would begin showing up at the cottages on our street. The dads would drive back into the city (usually Chicago but a few from Detroit) on Sunday evening, leaving mom and kids behind at the cottage during the week. That pattern repeated itself all summer until they all packed up and went back to the city Labor Day weekend. In all those years, I never really thought about what it must have been like for the moms, although I do remember that they always had a stocked liquor cabinet. lol! Thanks for the new perspective!

PJ said...

Congrats on bring the boy home, Anna!

Susan Sey said...

Joan wrote: Because I know you. Because I sense the creativity, the uniqueness the wonderful talent in...

You.
Awww, Joanie! *sniff* No fair making me cry! I'll look forward to the day I can camp out in my local book store to snap up my very own copy of your romans in print. You'll hear me squeeing all the way across the country.

I'll bet I won't be the only one, either. :-)

PJ said...

I gave one of my younger brothers a haircut when I was a teen. I thought it looked pretty darn good. Apparently the rest of the town disagreed. It was the cause of much laughter and pitying looks but my brother, who was around 7, staunchly defended my hair cutting skills to everyone. Still does to this day, some 40+ years later. Have I mentioned how much I love my little brother? :)

Susan Sey said...

Joan wrote: Epiphany: Simon is not such a hard a**
Wow. Who needs the title when you can be known as the woman who found Simon Cowell's heart? I predict we'll see her on the cover of People Magazine very, very shortly....

PJ said...

Susan said; I'll look forward to the day I can camp out in my local book store to snap up my very own copy of your romans in print.Well, I look forward to the day when I can camp out in the book store and snap up copies of books by all of you - Banditas and Buddies alike!

Susan Sey said...

Louisa wrote:My buddy, Tammy, sent me the link to the Avon FanLit Event and on a whim I decided to enter. That little detour has definitely changed my life and has brought me full circle back to writing.
Isn't it funny how the little decisions, the ones you make on a whim, are the ones that can change your life?

I met my husband on a night when I almost didn't go out but at the very last minute thought, "Ah, what the heck." No makeup, dirty jeans, six weeks away from moving a few states to the east, and...

...enter prince charming.

Of course.

My mom always said it would happen when you stopped expecting it.

Why is my mom always right?

And now that I'm a mom, why aren't I right more often?

Susan Sey said...

Louisa wrote: It's been a grand road trip so far and I have met the very best of companions along the way. Thanks, ladies!
I feel this way, too, Louisa! So lucky & gifted & blessed to share with wild journey with all my fellow writers--banditas & bandita buddies alike.

Susan Sey said...

Treethyme wrote: One author who I always loved head hops a lot. Never so much as noticed it until I started to write, but now it pulls me right out of the story.
You know, this drives me nuts, too. And I was complaining about it the other day to somebody, who deflated me just a bit when she mentioned that there was nothing technically wrong with writing in the omniscient point of view.

I'd kinda forgotten omniscient was an option. In romancelandia it's all close 3rd person or 1st person. And I do find it confusing to try to follow several people's thoughts in one scene.

So I stand fast. Maybe the omniscient POV isn't wrong. I just don't like it. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Treethyme said: I'm always aware of the author's presence now, which I wasn't before. But I don't think it takes away from my love of reading. I think it just adds another level of enjoyment, since I appreciate the effort that went into writing each book.
Exactly! This is what I was trying to say, you just said it a million times better! Thank you!

Susan Sey said...

Beth wrote: I'm guessing your ten-hour road trip left you tons of fun memories :-)


Oh, yeah. For sure. I had my six year old counting out change for each toll all the way through Chicago. She now has a VERY thorough grasp of what exactly each coin is worth. :-) Under time pressure, too, because those toll way ladies are NOT messing around.

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Anna, I'm scared of you and the chook together! Australia will never be the same...

I wanted to remind everyone that only 6 hours and change remain to bid on the Romance Bandits gift basket at the Brenda Novak auction to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. Our basket is STILL only $89, so get over there and grab it. What a bargain!

Romance Bandits gift basket

Susan Sey said...

Beth wrote:Though if I'm not enjoying it at least a little bit by a certain point (usually a quarter of the way through) I don't finish it - something that's changed only recently :-)

I find it impossible to put down a book, even if I don't like it. Even if I just skim all the way to the ending, I can't stand the not knowing. I wish I could learn the trick of not caring. But once I crack a book open, that's it. I have to finish.

Susan Sey said...

Minna wrote: Same goes for translating them.

Are you a book translator, Minna? I always think people who are fluent in more than one language are fascinating.

Which language do you dream in? When you're surprised, which language do you curse in? Anybody else bi-lingual? Inquiring minds want to know!

Susan Sey said...

Donna wrote: Your post reminded me of our annual family trip to "the cabin." It was a bonafide one-room log cabin in Pennsylvania. No electric, no water. We had to haul water from a pump about a mile away back to the cabin. Now that I'm older, I don't know how my mother could stand it!

Ooooh, Donna. Sounds like your mom could've used a Peanut Buster Parfait. :-)

And after dragging water bucket by bucket back to the cabin, I'll bet she'd worked off enough calories to deserve one. Or two. Or three. I sincerely hope she made you kids fetch the water.

Susan Sey said...

PJ wrote: In all those years, I never really thought about what it must have been like for the moms, although I do remember that they always had a stocked liquor cabinet. lol!

Yeah, baby. If it were me, I'd have a well-stocked liquor cabinet, a pizza delivery place on speed dial AND a freezer full of PB Parfaits.

Funny you should mention lakes in SW Michigan. My sister lives on a lake in SW Michigan, which is where we went road-tripping last weekend. It was absolutely wonderful (once we got there) and I can totally see why people would rearrange their lives to spend the summer on the lake.

Just so long as I get ice cream every afternoon. :-)

Susan Sey said...

PJ wrote: I thought it looked pretty darn good. Apparently the rest of the town disagreed.

Hey, if you were happy & your brother was happy, who cares what the rest of the world thinks? Those people needed to relax & have another PB parfait. :-)

Caren Crane said...

Being a writer has definitely changed my reading experience. When I go back to some books I used to love, I see flaws I never did back in the day. However, I've been introduced to so many brilliant writers I never would have discovered on my own that I'm grateful for being a writer.

It boggles the mind how many readers never venture beyond the tried and true authors they (and everyone else) know. But really, most readers are spoonfed bestsellers, so why would they read all those other books? I think only highly engaged readers, who are looking for more, ever creep out of the comfort zone to find new authors and story experiences.

I am currently on a suspense kick. Loving it!

Susan Sey said...

PJ wrote: Well, I look forward to the day when I can camp out in the book store and snap up copies of books by all of you - Banditas and Buddies alike!

And that, my friend, is a goal!

Can you imagine the magnitude of the party that will rock the lair on the day the 20th bandita announces her sale? Oh. My. I feel faint just thinking about it.

And when our BBs are all pubbed as well?

Yikes. We'll have to take turns babysitting the GR because it's going to be nutters. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Caren wrote: I wanted to remind everyone that only 6 hours and change remain to bid on the Romance Bandits gift basket at the Brenda Novak auction to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

thanks for the reminder, Caren! I'll have to skip over there to see how things are going! And put in my last minute bids...

Susan Sey said...

Caren wrote: It boggles the mind how many readers never venture beyond the tried and true authors they (and everyone else) know.

Absolutely! I think one of the very best things about getting hooked into a community of writers is the way we turn each other on to new writers, to wonderful new books & series.

And I'll see your suspense kick & raise you a political thriller kick!

(Just tried David Baldacci. Meh. I'm about through Vince Flynn's ouvre now & have my eye on Nelson De Mille next...)

Minna said...

Are you a book translator, Minna?

Not yet, but that's my goal.

Which language do you dream in? When you're surprised, which language do you curse in?

Finnish, of course, as it's my mother tongue. I didn't speak English until I started studying it on third grade. For most Finns, English is the first foreign language we learn at school. And about swearing: we were once talking something about English and Finnish on our Finnish lesson in high school and I remember how one of my class mates said: "English would never replace Finnish here. You can't even properly swear in English!"

Ismo Alanko-Kun Suomi Putos Puusta
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivnxAIQrLsw

PJ said...

Okay, Susan. You have my curiosity in high gear. On what lake does your sister live? You can message me on Facebook if you don't want to tell the world on the blog. :)

Helen said...

Joanie

You keep writing because I really want to read Jared Damon and Brans stories I would love to read aout the Romans bring them on I say.

Have Fun
Helen

Minna said...

Translations for the Kun Suomi Putos Puusta:
http://www.finlandforum.org/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=30842

Minna said...

Gives you an idea what it's like to translate...

Minna said...

Which language do you dream in? When you're surprised, which language do you curse in?

Finnish, of course, as it's my mother tongue.

I said that, but I must admit when I'm translating and have some problems with the text, I swear in all possible languages.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Congrats Anna! GR goes Aus! Grins.

Susan, I loved your post. I remember those summer road trips as well. They got longer when my dad's job took us farther away from "home", but I remember that we still took them on with the insouciance of youth.

I remember now, even more, the grim and gritted teeth valor with which my mother met that challenge. *shudder* And the very THOUGHT of ten hours, unaccompanied, in the car with my sons? *ssssshhhhhhuuuudddddder*

You are blessed among women, fer shure.

Interesting about your take on writing too. I find, now that I too write, that I'm both more willing to suspend disbelief, and yet, somehow...less tolerant. I'm forgiving, in that I'll keep going, keep trying to get the book to give back. And I certainly NEVER (now) give up on the author unless he/she's committed some really heinous breech. But I'm surrounded by so many fabulous authors now, both in the Lair and amongst our guests, that I guess I know I'll have a great read there. So, if I find a new book that doesn't quite make it, well, I tend to just move on, no harm, no foul.

That aside, thanks to the Lair and our fab-o guests, I'm still trying to surmount the leaning tower of TBR, so never fear...

Beth said...

I find it impossible to put down a book, even if I don't like it. Even if I just skim all the way to the ending, I can't stand the not knowing. I wish I could learn the trick of not caring. But once I crack a book open, that's it. I have to finish.Susan, I admit, I'm this way with most books, even the ones I don't really care for but I've learned to stop reading the ones that to me, aren't very good at all.

It's not easy though :-)

I'm the same way with movies. If I'm watching something on DVD and it's just sort of bleh to me, I'll fast forward to the dark moment and resolution *g*

Kirsten said...

Hey Susan, I bow down to your 10 hour road trip by yourself. I look back fondly on the cross-country plane ride I took with my son when he was six months old. There was a lot of crying along the way. I'm so glad I don't have a crying baby anymore.

We drive 1.5 hours from home to our cabin on many weekends, and it's starting to get easier, but I still find myself loading up the car with snacks, paper for drawing, CDs, and tapes. For 1.5 hours! Yeesh!! Our kids have never learned to look out the window and be still.

I think about Ma Ingalls when I start on a road trip. Her kids sat in the covered wagon for months! Unbelievable. I think kids then were from a different species.

Kirsten said...

Oh, but my epiphanies? Hmmm. At some point I realized the way I look at my children with wonder and adoration is the way my mom still looks at me. This was intensely humbling, because I know I am not worthy of that adoration. But it also made me feel that much closer to my mom.

Susan Sey said...

Minna wrote: I remember how one of my class mates said: "English would never replace Finnish here. You can't even properly swear in English!"
Oh, how funny. I don't know, though. There are some English curse words that I find *extremely* gratifying to say at certain moments. Words I've had to wean myself off once my kids learned to talk. Or more to the point, learned to repeat everything I say. It's like living with a tiny, unforgiving little mirror. :-)

Susan Sey said...

PJ wrote: Okay, Susan. You have my curiosity in high gear. On what lake does your sister live?

She's on Long Lake, just south of Kalamazoo. It's a little lake, not one of the fancier, cottage destination sort of lakes. But it's nice & shallow a long ways out, so it's perfect for the little ones. And for moms who want to park their butts in beach chairs instead of worrying when Jr.'s going to resurface. :-)

Are you familiar with the Kalamazoo area?

Susan Sey said...

Helen wrote: You keep writing because I really want to read Jared Damon and Brans stories I would love to read aout the Romans bring them on I say.

Hear, hear!

Susan Sey said...

Minna wrote: I must admit when I'm translating and have some problems with the text, I swear in all possible languages.

I envy you this. There are days when my repertoire of curse words isn't up to the day's frustrations. :-) I'd love to be able to dip into another pool for exactly the right word.

Susan Sey said...

Minna wrote: Gives you an idea what it's like to translate...

Yikes. It's so complex. Getting the words right is only half the battle--sounds like getting the cultural context right is just as important. And waaaaay more difficult. Best of luck!

Susan Sey said...

Jeanne wrote: I find, now that I too write, that I'm both more willing to suspend disbelief, and yet, somehow...less tolerant.

I know what you mean. Having been introduced to such a deep & wide roster of really good writers, I don't like to waste my time on just mediocre reads. I skim a lot more than I'm comfortable admitting, to tell you the truth.

I'm jaded a little bit. I spend so much time picking apart the story structure & critiquing the execution that I'm hard to drag into a story. But the writers who make me forget structure & just READ? Oh, my. I adore them, & am a shameless addict.

Susan Sey said...

Beth wrote: I've learned to stop reading the ones that to me, aren't very good at all.

It's not easy though :-)

I used to have trouble breaking up with boyfriends, too. I just couldn't cut them off, no matter how badly they deserved it. I mean, they weren't *bad* guys, right? They deserved a chance, right?

Ha. No. My time is valuable. I learned to break up with worthless men. I ought to learn to break up with a bad read.

Susan Sey said...

Kirsten wrote: I think about Ma Ingalls when I start on a road trip. Her kids sat in the covered wagon for months! Unbelievable. I think kids then were from a different species.

I *know*, right? I remind my 6 y. o. of this all the time when she gets all whiny. I call this our WWLD moment (what would Laura do?)

So far this is working. When it wears out, I have nothing. Suggestions would be tremendously welcome. :-)

Susan Sey said...

Kirsten wrote: At some point I realized the way I look at my children with wonder and adoration is the way my mom still looks at me.

Aww. This is so sweet. My mom, too. She genuinely thinks we (her daughters) are the smartest, most talented, most competent people around. We know better, of course, but it's so uplifting to know that somebody out there believes it with all her heart.

And I'll admit it makes me try harder. I would love to someday be the woman my mom thinks I am. The mother she thinks I am.

I've got a fair way to go.

PJ said...

Susan, I'm very familiar with Kalamazoo! I grew up in Watervliet, which you passed on the way to Kalamazoo. We lived on Paw Paw Lake. One of my brothers, lots of cousins and my remaining aunts and uncles still live in that area.

Susan Sey said...

PJ wrote: We lived on Paw Paw Lake.


Paw Paw! The town so nice they named it twice! Home of the Paw Paw Wine & Harvest Fest, at which (I'm ashamed to say) I ended up loaded by noon & had to go outside to lie down in the grass.

In my defense, I had never been to a wine tasting before & didn't quite understand that impact of many, many tiny drinks of wine is much the same as one very large one. I know better now.

But I still have a fondness for Paw Paw. :-)

PJ said...

Home of the Paw Paw Wine & Harvest Fest, at which (I'm ashamed to say) I ended up loaded by noon & had to go outside to lie down in the grass.


LOL! A lot of that wine probably came from grapes grown on my cousins' farm in Paw Paw.

You would think Paw Paw Lake would be in the town of Paw Paw but it isn't. My hometown is about 25 minutes southwest of there. Weird, huh?

Treethyme said...

Joan - I was very lucky in that the first fiction classes I attended were taught by Jenny Crusie, Anne Stuart, Alyssa Day and Lani Diane Rich.

I've also learned a lot from the presentations at my chapter meetings, taught by such illustrious authors as Donna MacMeans and Trish Milburn (and Jenny Crusie again).

Writing non-fiction is my day job, but as you mentioned, it doesn't have the same energy. I seem to spend most of my time putting technical things into words laymen can understand, and most of my non-fiction writing is reporting.

There's nothing wrong with that, but after 20 or so years, I wanted more of a challenge -- something that would require me to learn new things and use my own imagination instead of just telling people what trees to plant where.

As with the non-fiction, though, I'm pretty much learning by writing -- no English degree here. Your writing class would have probably done me a lot of good!

Jessica Scott said...

I've now rewritten 2 complete books. I think it constitutes a pretty big change of mind because setting those first words down on the paper gave them the feel of etched in stone-ness. Changing my mind on the story felt like a betrayal to those characters but now that I'm more comfortable with revisions, it's easier to do, and more often than not, better for the book.
Loved the road trip story. Thankfully, my 2 kids, 2 cats, 2 dogs and now 2 rabbits all travel well, with one of the cats being the notable - and drugged- exception. Considering we'll be making the massive trip from Maine to Texas in December when we get home from Iraq, I'm grateful that mommy and daddy don't require drugs. I can only hope my kids appreciate the time as a family we spend on the roads, together, at the beginning and the end of the family diaspora.
Jess Scott
www.jessicascott.net

Susan Sey said...

Treethyme wrote: As with the non-fiction, though, I'm pretty much learning by writing -- no English degree here.

You know, I do have an English degree & I can't say it's helped very much in terms of writing fiction. The only thing it really helped me do was read widely & analyze what I read.

But in terms of gearing me up to write creatively? Nada. I didn't take my first creative writing class until I'd been out of college a couple years, & didn't try my hand at writing any more ambitious than a journal entry until almost ten years after graduation.

And I felt completely unprepared for the endeavor. Kirsten & I have agreed that writing those first couple of books was like doing our own private MFA. The writing, the rewriting, the blood/sweat/tears over outlines, synopses, queries, character arcs, internal/external conflict...

Sheesh. It's a lot to keep on top of. People who sneer at genre fiction ought to try it some time. It's not as easy as it looks.

Susan Sey said...

Jessica wrote: Changing my mind on the story felt like a betrayal to those characters but now that I'm more comfortable with revisions, it's easier to do, and more often than not, better for the book.

I know *exactly* what you mean by revisions feeling like a betrayal of your characters. Especially if the revisions are made at the request of somebody else--like a maybe-I'll-sign-you-if-you X, Y & Z-your story agent.

But when the revisions make the story MORE rather than DIFFERENT? Ahhhh. So good. Hope you find your way there. :-)

And good luck on the road trip! Wow, that sounds ambitious! You should definitely find out where the DQs are along the way. You'll need a Peanut Buster Parfait. Or two. :-)

Susan Sey said...

PJ wrote: You would think Paw Paw Lake would be in the town of Paw Paw but it isn't. My hometown is about 25 minutes southwest of there. Weird, huh?

What? Demanding geography make sense? Pshaw. Where would the fun be in that? :-)

Treethyme said...

Oh, that is so true, Susan. I write fast, and in the past year and a half I've churned out a lot of garbage. But the thing is, I've learned something with everything I've written. Don't know if I'm there (as in publishable) yet, but I'm definitely better than I was when I started!

And, you're right -- it's not easy at all! It drives me crazy when people act as if it's a breeze.

Anna Campbell said...

Rooster bulletin - he's sleeping like a baby. Could it perhaps be the vallium I put in his lunchtime toddy? Surely not!

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