Jennifer's Journal


Sunday, May 29, 2005


I’m always reading—the love of books is what set me on the path to writing after all.  Last night, I finished PEACHTREE ROAD by Anne Rivers Siddons, called by Pat Conroy “The Southern novel of our generation.”  Covering a time period from the Thirties to the Seventies, and the childhood-to-middle-age of the characters, it’s a rich and evocative read with much to think about in its pages.  Still, it begins with: “The South killed Lucy Bondurant Venable on the day she was born.  It just took her until now to die.” It then continues with the tale of this pivotal character’s life as seen through the eyes of her male cousin, illustrating how the strictures of Southern society led to her madness and death.  It’s a flawed idea, I think.  The kind of restrictions and denigration of female worth depicted—especially the idea that a woman is nothing without a man—have never been restricted to the South.  Oh, yes, we have always had our dominate male types, our “macho men”, but it was patriarchal society, not the South, per se, that prevented women from becoming all they could be in the past.  And though the generation covered seemed particularly affected, maybe because of the contrast between extreme modern progress and this old-fashioned agenda, the many tragedies caused by the attitudes extend far back into time.  Another bone I have to pick with the book is the ending.  It would, I suppose, have been just too, too “romance novel” to give the narrator a happy ending to his angst-ridden story.  So, instead, the ending is written to be deliberately ambiguous.  The poor guy jumps off a bridge, but we never see him land so don’t know whether it’s a defining moment for him when he overcomes his fear of heights and swims toward his future which happens to be his old love waiting on the river bank, or if he dies in the rushing high-water of spring while trying to escape his own tragedy and prove something to himself.  If the happy-ever-after ending is just too, too formulaic in popular fiction, isn’t the unhappy or unresolved ending in mainstream or literary fiction just as much of a formula?

Friday, May 27, 2005


Creativity is something we are all born with, I believe.  Some of us are lucky enough to have this aspect of our inner selves nurtured while others have it suppressed as a useless commodity in the Real World--or else are told they have none.  Many people think it occurs in only the talented few, the writers and painters of the world and those who work with other artistic media.  A book I’ve been reading lately, INSPIRING CREATIVITY, An Anthology of Powerful Insights and Practical Ideas to Guide You to Successful Creating, edited by Rick Benzel, seeks to help develop the creative potential in all of us, regardless of what we do for a living.  A compilation of articles on the subject by a variety of writers, it addresses the many things that can block this powerful resource, from procrastination and lack of time to fear of failure and the difficulty of coming up with new ideas.  My particular bugaboo, and one that plagues many writers these days, is perfectionism.  Like the French writer—was it Balzac?—who followed his manuscript pages into the typesetting room still making changes, I always think I can make the book better if I polish it just one more time.  Besides, I’ve read the manuscripts submitted to contests for judging and know that some of the beginners out there turn in beautifully prepared, error-free work and feel it behooves me as a professional to do the same.  The fear that others can do better is paralyzing to the creative spirit.  A quote I like from the book says: “While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, another is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.”—Henry C. Link.  I should say that I was interviewed for this book, and have a bit to say in it about ways to overcome writer’s block.  Still, I’ve received much more from it than I ever gave.  If you sometimes need something to get your creativity going, this book may be for you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Random Thoughts

An item recently in the news gave details about a man who paid $6000 for two black silk KKK robes.  By coincidence, I was at an auction a month or so ago where a white Klan robe was offered for bid.  It was displayed on a hanger with a sign above it stating that the auction company “did not condone the history represented by the item.”  This robe, dating from early in the 20th century, sold for something in the neighborhood of $200--which seemed high for what was basically a piece of used clothing.  The valuation was based, I think, on scarcity; you just don’t see these things.  In fact, the robe at the auction was the only one I’ve come across in a lifetime of living in the South.  I’ve never known a man who belonged to the Klan, have heard nothing about it since a brief flurry of activity back in the Sixties.  Even then, it was mostly whispers about a few hotheads with more time on their hands than brains in their heads.  My impression was that it was an attempt at revival of something long defunct.  The robe sold at auction here was destined for a museum, which is where it belongs, no doubt, with all the other examples of things from the past which should stay in the past.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Random Posts2

It’s odd, but writers are often reluctant to turn loose of their finished manuscripts.  I’m not sure what it is about letting them go, whether it’s the feeling that improvements could still be made if you just read the thing one more time, the knowledge that someone else will be reading and judging the work now or, maybe, a vague unwillingness to share what you’ve created because then it will become just a story instead of part of the alternate universe in your mind.  All I know is that it rises up after a manuscript leaves my hands, making me wish I had it back again.  I also feel at loose ends, as if I’ve lost something of my purpose in life.  Oh, I have things I’ve been longing or planning to do but couldn’t get to them because of The Book, things I can’t wait to start on now.  Still, I miss my story, my internal world which, for now, is New Orleans circa the 1840s.  Yet, the weird thing is that when I’ve done the proposal for the next book and shipped that off, done the home improvements and hobby projects, the visiting and planned travel and lunches with friends that usually fills the time between books, I know very well that it will be difficult to get back into the writing mind-set.  I’ll have to force myself to sit down in front of my computer and put words on paper, one after the other.  Eternal contradiction, I suppose it just goes with scribbling.       

Monday, May 23, 2005

Random Posts

This is an experiment to see if I can send a "clean" post by email using Times Roman type.  My other email posts, sent with the default arial font used by AOL, adds masses of coding to the message, making it practically unreadable, at least on my computer.  There has to be a way to do better!
If you've missed my posts over the last few days, it's because I've been away from home, attending a daylily convention.  This was the meeting for Region 13 of The American Hemerocallis Society which includes Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas.  Held in Baton Rouge this year, it featured seven or eight display gardens plus a botanical garden--also lots of food, friends and fun.  As you might guess, I came home with lots of new daylilies; I never can resist a sale plant or a good auction!  Today was spent putting these new plants in the ground, plus bedding out a couple of dozen of the seedlings from hybridizing crosses made last year.  No, I'm not a pro at this, don't sell them.  I'm just a "dabber" who likes seeing what the "babies" will look like when they bloom a couple of years after the crosses are made.  And if you thought I probably had a gardener for tasks like this, no indeed.  Gardening is a favorite hobby of mine--and as close as I come to real exercise.  It's hot and dry here, though, and I was really, really hoping that it would rain on the new plantings.  So far, no such luck.
Tomorrow, I'll be back in my office, doing a fast scan of the manuscript for Rogue's Salute before printing it out and shipping it to my editor.  Then it will be time to tackle all the things that have gone undone these past few weeks in the last push toward finishing the book.  Or who knows?  I might decide writing is more fun and a lot less work!
Monday, May 16, 2005

Spam Blockers & Cover

I’ve had several email messages lately concerning entries to my contest being returned to the senders with notices that they were considered “spam.

This happens when an email address is at all unusual in its arrangement, the length, combination of letters and numbers, number of consonants in a row, etc. The computerized programs which block spam are programmed to watch for these types of addresses since they are often used by spammers—and they occasionally make mistakes. Please don’t worry if this happens to you. A copy of all blocked messages are sent to the spam folder on my email program where they are filtered out and added to the other contest entries on a daily basis. There’s a way around every problem!

If you came to this blog by way of the home page on my web site, then you may have noticed the recently posted cover for my next book, DAWN ENCOUNTER. I’m seriously in love with this cover!It is, or will be when published, a “stepback” cover which means that there will be a painting of the hero and heroine on the inside. Did you notice that the cover image on the home page changes to this painting when you move your cursor over it? Love that, too. I don’t yet have the “blurb” up which describes the book, but that will be posted soon.Many of you may not know that I have a fan list.I post news to it from time to time and am always available to answer questions there.

Members can chat with each other, too, if they like. To subscribe, send an email message to:
Saturday, May 14, 2005

Between Books

<FONT id=role_document face=Arial color=#000000 size=2> <DIV>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV>I finished the final read-through of the manuscript for Rogue's Salute yesterday.&nbsp; The corrections will still have to be transferred to the computer--since they were done with a red pen, scribbling directly on the pages--but I'm basically&nbsp;finished with this book.&nbsp; I&nbsp;don't have to&nbsp;start the next one for several weeks, not until the proposal for it has been written and approved, so that means I'm between books.&nbsp;&nbsp;This is always a funny position.&nbsp; On the one hand, I'm giddy with relief&nbsp;to have&nbsp;Nicholas's story out of the way after months of intense concentration on it.&nbsp; On the other,&nbsp;I'm all "discombobulated" as my dad used to say,&nbsp;at loose ends.&nbsp; There are always a bazillion things that need doing--shopping, organizing in the house, working in&nbsp;my flower garden, things I've put off while in the final stages of the book--but I really don't want to do them.&nbsp; I don't feel like vegging out, doing nothing, either.&nbsp; So I piddle around, doing a little of this, a little of that, none of which feels worthwhile.&nbsp; As if&nbsp;writing is the only thing that counts.&nbsp;&nbsp;Maybe I'll start that proposal&nbsp;in a day or two, though it isn't due on my editor's desk until August 1.&nbsp; A head start never hurt anyone, now did it?&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</DIV></FONT>

Friday, May 13, 2005

Great Quotes

<FONT id=role_document face=Arial color=#000000 size=2> <DIV><FONT face="Times New Roman" size=3>I'm one of those people who pounce on books of quotes when I come across them in antique book shops.&nbsp; I particularly love the really old ones with yellowed pages that are crumbling to bits because they contain nuggets of wisdom from long ago, rather than gatherings from more contemporary authors and philosophers.&nbsp;&nbsp;I also collect quotes from magazines and, yes, even from the Internet.&nbsp; It's fellow-feeling, I suppose; there is&nbsp;peace and comfort in knowing that others have lived through the kind of trials that come to us all.&nbsp; The quote below came to me by way of a writer friend.&nbsp; It touches the heart, at&nbsp;least in my view, of something those of us who are dealers in words and books should remember:</FONT></DIV> <DIV>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="COLOR: black"><FONT face="Times New Roman" size=3>"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at best knows achievement and who at the worst if he fails at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."</FONT></SPAN></P> <P class=MsoNormal style="MARGIN: 0in 0in 0pt"><SPAN style="COLOR: black"><FONT face="Times New Roman" size=3>Theodore Roosevelt</FONT></SPAN><o:p></o:p></P>&nbsp;</DIV> <DIV>&nbsp;</DIV></FONT>

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

(no subject)

Keeping a journal, recording ideas, impressions, feelings, events and the minutiae of everyday life, is supposed to be an aid to creativity.  Pouring these things onto paper—or in this case the computer screen—is for a writer like clearing the brain before starting to work.  It gets rid of extraneous thoughts and primes the mind for better work.  For some, it also works like warm up exercises, easing them into the terrifying job of putting the stories inside their heads onto paper where others can read and judge them.  While doing it, you’re not supposed to be profound or even especially coherent—the idea is simply to write whatever comes to mind and in whatever order and form it occurs.  Julia Cameron in “The Artist’s Way,” recommends doing three pages every morning without pause, keeping the pen to paper even if it means writing such things as “I hate this exercise and have nothing to say to anybody about anything today or maybe ever again in this lifetime.”  I don’t think I want to inflict that kind of thing on those who drop in here to see what’s on my mind—which sometimes isn’t too different from that example!—but would like to keep to the general idea.  So if I seem to ramble from time to time, that’s my excuse…


Actually, I’ve been doing this off and on for about a year, posting notes to a couple of different personal message boards in a sort of informal blog—if anything about the usual blog can be considered formal.  The problem has been that message boards tend to shut down frequently so all the bits and pieces of writing get wiped away.  Not that that’s any great loss, understand, but it’s still disheartening.  Having this official blog on my web site should be a bit more permanent as well as more orderly and easier to access.


So what’s on my mind just now?  Manuscript polishing, for one thing—I’m about to begin the final read-through for ROGUE’S SALUTE, book #3 in my Masters at Arms series.  I heard a couple of days ago from my editor who is now readying book #2, DAWN ENCOUNTER, for the publication process and she says she is “just thrilled with it.  It’s a fantastic story, and as usual your writing is clean and near-perfect.  Grand things to know, for a writer!  At the same time, I’m mulling ideas for book #4, the proposal for which is due in August.  ROGUE’S SALUTE is Nicholas’s story, so book #4 will be about the English swordsman Gavin Blackford who appears first in DAWN ENCOUNTER.  I know the story premise/situation and some of the scenes, and am letting plot ideas simmer on my brain’s back burner.  So far, nothing is on paper but that will change soon.   My current issue of RWR (Romance Writers Report), the official magazine of Romance Writers of America, came this past week, and I read it last night.  With this issue was the guide for the national convention in Reno, NV.  I don’t intend to go this year—no reason except that I have other plans.  However, one of the features is a special talk on the historical use of swords and their various kinds/names which I would certainly have enjoyed and might even have found useful.  Or maybe not, since I’ve been researching the subject for something like five years now.  That it’s on the program suggests swordsmen have special appeal these days, something that pleases me no end!


One of the controversies in this month’s RWR involves a suggestion made by a well-known agent that romance novels be assigned movie-type ratings for sexual content.  Several authors were up in arms over this, labeling it an effort to “ghettoize” romance novels since other types of popular fiction have no such ratings.  It was also pointed out that one of the nation’s major retail chains known for its anti-porn stand might use the ratings to unfairly ban certain romance titles.   I can’t get too irate over the idea since I see little chance of it being put into place, but my sympathies are with those who are against it.  Everyone knows romance novels have love scenes, and most readers understand that certain category novels have more or less sensuality depending on the line.  Anyone with an ounce of intelligence who picks up one of the newer erotica titles and scans the back blurb can tell they are more about sex than romance.  It isn’t as if young children can inadvertently be exposed to written/mental sensual content in the same way they might be to the visual form by flipping TV channels.  And who is going to decide what’s PG 13 and what’s R or X?  What about rating the mental violence and depravity found in other types of fiction?  Where do you draw the line?  To me, this is yet another example of appointing someone else to think for people instead of letting them think for themselves.  What’s your opinion?

Monday, May 09, 2005


Comments are always appreciated!