Jennifer's Journal


Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Day in the Life

Ever wonder what a day is like in the life of a writer?  As with everyone else in the world, it differs according to what's happening around them, still, just for the fun of it, here's today, 02-07-08:


Up at 3:30 a.m.  I woke earlier and couldn't go back to sleep, started thinking about the book in progress and just decided to get up.  Made a cup of coffee and carried it from the kitchen to my office, a matter of a dozen steps.  On the way, I turned up the thermostat, since I was in robe, gown and slippers and the second floor of the house was chilly.


My computer was up and running – it's been sluggish lately, taking forever to boot up after being off, so I'd left it on.  Sat down in front of it, brought up the book file, Masters at Arms #6.  Annoyed all over again by the problem I've been having with the paragraphing.  Somehow or other, the format style in use inserts two double spaces between every paragraph.  Not good, since it's throwing off the page count.  Sudden bright idea: change the formatting to "Normal" then use Ctl-2 to create the required double spacing for the lines.  Then change the font from Arial, the default, back to Courier New 12.  Aha, problem fixed!  Except the "fix" removed all the indentions for paragraphs.  Rats.


On the theory that it will take less time to redo all the indents than it might to figure out how to retrieve them, I set out to do that.  Fine.  Except going back through the manuscript calls for a change here, a change there.  Three hours later, I'm only half done with this job and it's time to walk the dogs (Maltese-poodle mix named Luckster and shih tzu called Buffy) then head back upstairs to make coffee so my husband and I can have it in bed.


An hour spent, coffee up in hand, watching Robin on CNN and Carl, Becky, Joe and the gang on CNBC's Squawk Box.  Crawl back out of bed again and jump in the shower, get dressed in jeans, turquoise T-shirt, blue jean shirt and walking shoes.  Breakfast is cereal for my husband, but an omelet for me because I'm on a high protein diet.  He didn't want an omelet, okay?


Back at the computer, I finish indenting everything, then decide to make certain all my chapter headings and the space above them is the same, also that no one chapter is longer than I want it – trying to do shorter chapters these days for the sake of readers .  Divided one chapter, so I am now working on Chapter 15 instead of 14 out of a projected 24 chapters.  Great.  Except that with the removal of the extra space between paragraphs, I've "lost" 18 pages.  I'm now on page 233 instead of 255 for my goal of a 400 page manuscript.  Hmm.  Looks like I may need to come up with a couple more scenes to go in here somewhere.  So I'll figure out how much story I have left and what else can happen.  Nothing like being organized…


Since I enjoy writing in pen and ink, I turn from the computer to my desk and a nice legal pad from Levenger's.  Do I feel like the Sheaffer pen with black ink or the Lalex with Bahama Blue.  Blue has it.  But maybe I need a cup of tea to help with brainstorming.


Got the tea, Twinings Lady Gray with artificial sweetener in the gift cup from my daughter that reads: "Live Boldly.  Take Risks.  Make Somebody say, What the Hell was THAT all about."  Good advice.  Time for serious concentration since half of writing is thinking about what can happen next.


Uh-oh.  Ran across the handwritten notes made yesterday about the book's next scene, which happens to be a major love scene.  Since I have another idea or two about it, I capture these first.  My hero has to settle an issue for the heroine that's left over from her first marriage to a wimp.  Plus, he has to put the theme of the book into words.  Tall order for this sword master, but he can do it.  I hope.  Somehow.  Eventually.


Well, darn, drank my tea while pondering a love scene with an injured hero and still haven't solved the problem of creating added scenes.  The love scene is clearer in my mind, however.  Maybe I should just write that first.  Nah, not in the mood.  Still need to work on the emotional aspect, not to mention the hole in his side.  Let it simmer on the back burner a little longer. 


Jotted down a point or two which should add 20 – 30 more pages to the story.  Still need more but can't think just now.  Too close to lunch time for serious contemplation.  Maybe I'll check my email since I haven't done that today.  Lovely message from Natalia in Spain ("Dear fantastic Jennifer Blake" she writes – good thing she doesn't know I'm having such problems today.).  She loves my books and I've inspired her to write.  Always grand to hear.  Zap a note of thanks.  Another message from someone who would like my advice on what to do with her historical romance manuscript as to agents, publishers and improvements.  Whoa, that could take a while.  Recommend joining Romance Writers of America and accessing all the great how-to articles on the web site -- but also relent and take five minutes to give basic newbie advice such as to avoid vanity publishers.


Lunch is a hot dog minus the bun and served with leftover sautéed cauliflower—the diet, remember.  Yeah, leftovers.  What, you thought I had a chef?  Time to walk the dogs again, afterward.  Stroll to the "Y", which is the Y-shaped junction where our private drive joins the main road, about a half mile for the round trip.  Stop at the rural mailbox on the way back.   Nothing interesting, a gardening catalog and a notice from AT&T.  Lovely sunshiny day with temps in the 50s though the cool wind off the lake makes a jacket feel good.  Stop to pick a bouquet of narcissus.  Make a note to go look at the camellias later.  They're trying to bloom out again, though the last round of blooms were turned to brown mush by a freeze.


Arrange the flowers in an antique blue and white vase and set it on my desk.  Lovely fragrance, ought to be inspiring.  Back to pen and ink, the Sheaffer and black this time, to try for the basic events that will happen in the remainder of the book.


Success at last.  Two full pages of notes, approximately 50 different ideas divided among the final 9-10 chapters as a blueprint.  A good day's work, after all, even if the book isn't a single word longer.  It's now 3:30 and I've been at this, one way or another, for 12 hours.  Time to quit, go look at the camellias, then pick up the old Patricia Wentworth murder mystery on my bedside table.


February Newsletter

Hello Everyone:

So here we are, in the month of romance.  Drum roll, please!—GUARDED HEART was officially released on 01-29-08.  That's right, this new story, book #4 in the Masters at Arms series, should be on the shelves now, in plenty of time for Valentine's.  It was shipped a couple of weeks ago in boxes stamped with January 29 as the "lay-down" date, or the date it should be shelved.  The purpose of this was to cluster initial sales around a single day so they show up together for positioning on best seller lists.  Well, we can hope anyway…

Reviews continue to come in for GUARDED HEART.  Maria Shaink at Romance Junkies gave the book their highest award of Five Blue Ribbons.  It's at:

Romance Reviews Today's Lisa Baca has also been complimentary:

Well-known reviewer of romance novels, Harriet Klausner, had good things to say as well, avowing that this Masters at Arms tale was written by "(a) master writer:

In the meantime, I'm finally in the writing groove after the holidays, have progressed to just over the halfway mark with book #6 of the Masters at Arms series, TRIUMPH IN ARMS.  (For those new to the newsletter, book #5, GALLANT MATCH, is on my editor's desk and will be published in 2009.)  It's taken most of January to get to this point since several new ideas cropped around Christmas, ideas which required going back and inserting quite a few extra pages in the first few chapters.  I think the book is stronger for them, however, which makes the delay worthwhile.  Also, you may remember that I was debating back in the fall over whether to cut the prologue written for the story?  It has a permanent place now.  It seems the book wouldn't be same without it.

For foreign sales this month, two older titles were licensed for publication in Poland, ROYAL SEDUCTION and WILDEST DREAMS.  One of these days, I'm going to add up how many times RS has been issued in different formats (hardcover, trade paperback, book club, large print, mass market paperback, electronic, etc.) and also how many different languages.  This 1983 title just goes on and on.

I mentioned last month that I'd been doing email interviews to be posted on a couple of blogs.  The first of these covers my career, including working methods, research, New Orleans as a setting, etc.  It's now posted on the blog of fellow author Shauna Roberts.  Shauna is a member of SOLA (South Louisiana chapter of Romance Writers of America) and former resident of New Orleans though she's recently relocated to California.  Be sure to take a look at her other blog entries and the rest of her great site if you investigate this interview.  The address is:

Shauna has also begun a monthly interview series on the Orange County Romance Writers blog which is called, appropriately enough, "A Slice of the Orange."  Her focus here is on things authors wish they'd known when they started in the business, so is personalized advice for beginning writers.  For this one, go to:

Over the past few days, I've been playing with my latest toy, high speed Internet.  We live so deep in the backwoods here on the lake that this is just getting to us.  What fun—though it's also a time-stealer.  Because of this new set up, I have a different email address.  Though my old AOL address will remain active for a while, I can be contacted now at either or

Valentine's Day, as we romantic types know so well, is just around the corner.  My husband and I will probably eat out since that's our tradition.  There will be decadent chocolates, of course, and I'll make a pie for him as I've done since we first married.  What kind?  Lemon, as that's his favorite.  At one time, it would have been a Cherry Pie-O-My, made with the milk, cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice then topped with cherry pie filling.  I made this every Valentine's for nearly twenty years, and he ate it, too -- until I overheard him telling someone he really doesn't like cherries!  To eat a pie you don't like for twenty years just because your wife made it for you?  Ah, romance.

With warmest wishes for love and romance every day of the year,