Category Archives: HSOTI

Excuses, alibis and ice cream

The Lisas are always thinking. Maybe too much. Too much thinking, not so muchDisco Ball writing. We twist, we turn. We dodge, we duck. Avoiding writing is all very well, but if we don’t write we may have to clean the sink, or make the beds or something to justify our existence.

So, after a long fallow period filled with excuses, alibis and far too many bowls of ice cream, we blew the digital dust off of our work in progress. We’ve actually-factually been editing the book variously known as HSOTI, Thin Ice, or Reason #47 to Talk on the Phone Five Hours a Day.

Once we started, we remembered that this writing stuff is a real blast. Not wanting to leave you, our loyal, cult-like followers out of the fun, we’re sharing a snippet we just edited. Of course we’ll re-edit next week, and again a month from now, but what the hell.

“The hotel does retro and theme weekends. This month it’s ‘Disco Flashback.’”

“You don’t say?”

“They go all out,” Nils nodded as they entered the lobby pulling their bags behind them.

He couldn’t have been more right. A disco ball was suspended from an already cheesy-looking smoky glass chandelier and there were life-size cutouts of the band Abba and John Travolta in full Saturday Night Fever regalia, on either side of the check-in desk. Yes, Gina thought, I survived the disco-era, but what on earth made Nils think I enjoyed it? And then it hit her: Was this all because she told Nils her youthful fantasies about teen recording heartthrob Andy Gibb the last time they were playing a rousing game of pillow talk?

A slightly dazed Gina let herself be led to a room on the top floor of the six-story building.

“The honeymoon suite,” Nils said, scooping her into his arms and carrying her across the threshold while propping the weighted door open with his foot – no mean feat for most mortal men.

He set her down and turned back for the suitcases. While he placed the bags on the luggage rack, Gina took in the room. The focal point of the room was the giant bed covered in a black satin bedspread and a dozen throw pillows in various shades of purple. The most prominent pillow was in the shape of a giant pair of lips. To one side of the bed there was a heart-shaped hot tub. On the other side was a desk/table and two chairs. The table held a large vase filled with red roses and a bottle of champagne protruding from an ice bucket with two glasses sitting next to it.

“We can order room service, if you’re hungry,” Nils suggested.

Gina was not, but she knew her husband was probably famished. “Sure, that would be fine,” she said, plopping down on the bed. The bed plopped back. “What the…” Gina exclaimed, springing up.

“It’s a waterbed!” Nils grinned.

“Do you think it’s a 1970’s original?” Gina poked warily at the rubbery mattress, finally moving over to one of the desk/table chairs.

“How about popping the cork,” she suggested, trying to remain unfazed.

“Don’t you remember what today is?” Nils prodded, uncorking the bottle.

Gina racked her brain. Obviously she should remember the date. What was it? September fourteenth? Fifteenth? She settled on the fourteenth and still could make no connection. She closed one eye in concentration, but quickly reopened it, recalling how it gave her forehead unbalanced wrinkles.

Nils seemed to take this as some sort of epiphany. “I knew you wouldn’t forget about our second first-date.” He handed her a glass and sat down on the bed, facing her.

“We slept together on our first – second – date?” Surely she couldn’t have forgotten that much.

          Nils smiled. “I wish.”

Contentment is Complicated, Will You Settle for World Domination?

What is success? Is it possible to be successful in Small Town USA? Obviously it’s possible to come from nowhere and make it big. But by definition, is it possible to be successful in the worldly sense–rich, powerful, famous, experienced, respected–and never leave podunk-ville?

Our heroine in Worth Lying For, Mary Minke, is a Midwestern matron with modest expectations. All she really ever wanted out of life was to be comfortably middle-class, generally appreciated and personally fulfilled. She’s willing to work hard, play fair, make sacrifices. And still she gets no respect–until… she breaks the rules.

There is a scene in the 1994 Arnold Schwarzenegger/Jamie Lee Curtis movie, True Lies, where Helen Tasker (Jamie Lee), does not yet know her husband Harry (Arnold) is a spy, and she is taken blindfolded by him into an interrogation room. She’s been hooking up with a shady used-car dealer, Simon, (Bill Paxton) who’s been posing as a spy as a way to pick up women. A shocked and heartbroken Harry is trying to determine what made his wife stray.

Her response to why she was willing to run off to Paris with sleaze-bag Simon is classic desperate housewife:

I wanted to do something outrageous, and it felt really good, to be needed, and to be trusted. It’s just there’s so much I want to do with this life and it feels that I haven’t done any of it. You know, the sand is running out of the hourglass, and I want to look back and say, ‘see? I did that, that was me! I was reckless and I was wild, and I *ucking did it.’

Helen later goes on to team up with her hero-husband and together the two save the world, one sexy mission at a time. The movie is an action-packed thriller.

Since we’re talking domination here, (and not the Fifty Shades of Grey sort, writing along those steamy lines has us blushing and stammering), we are throwing off the bondage of our mild Midwestern personas. The heorines of our works-in-progress are similarly intelligent, intrepid women with one major advantage over beleaguered Mary Minke: they have money in the bank.

In future posts we’ll introduce you to Gina, a 52-year-old romance author and mother of three, married to Nils Magusson, a rising NHL hockey coach. Gina has been skating on smooth ice–hunky husband, happy family, dream home. But things are about to get astronomically better. And a whole lot worse. Can Gina and Nils stay on the same team, or has their relationship been nothing more than Hot Stuff on Thin Ice?

Then there’s 49-year-old Kathleen Townsend, a successful businesswoman, widowed less than two years. Busily running a non-profit foundation and planning her daughter’s wedding, the last thing Kathleen expects is a romance of her own (or is it lust?). And she certainly dosen’t expect it to take the form of Gilbert Strong, a man fifteen years her junior. That’s not the only challenge the two must reconcile. Not by a long shot. …He’s also the bride-to-be’s fiance’s uncle.

Of these two new hen-lit characters, Gina and Kathleen, who intrigues you most? Whose storyline should we offer up next?

In Order to Form a More Perfect Union: Scenario Input Needed

Thelisas are working on several projects and one of them has us a little stymied. So we’d like to pick the brains of our brilliant readers. Our work-in-progress, title acronym HSOTI, features a loving husband and wife who, after being married for over twenty years, are starting a new chapter in their lives. But they hit a snag.

The question is what kind of dilemma to put in their path. We know tension is crucial to a story. What we are trying to decide is the right level. It’s tricky to give y’all enough information without creating major plot spoilers. In a nutshell:

Scenario #1  Reconciliation of singular, long-past incident of infidelity: inspirational or unforgivable?

Scenario #2 Disproved allegations of infidelity: satisfying or simplistic?

P.S.  Main thing we’re looking for is whether you, as a reader, prefer characters who are thrown into more dramatic situations that may be difficult to overcome in real life, or characters who meander a bit into more light hearted circumstances? Honestly, we’re not trying to make you choose between ‘frustrating or boring,’ (we try to avoid both in any case).

We’re pretty sure there’s no right or wrong answer, so it will be interesting to see how this survey goes. Feel free to expound on your thoughts. Who knows? Maybe we’ll come up with an entirely different option #3: nobody cheats anybody but Death and the tax man. Yup, we need help.

Obscure Sports Part II: Hand-Eye Coordination for Fiction Writers

Sporty gals the Lisas are not, as the only sports that don’t require hand-eye coordination require some other form of coordination – feet, legs, torso, arms, hair – we lack mastery over any and all. Truth be told we’re limited in even our spectating abilities. One Lisa, however does have fond memories of pre-cable days when ten round boxing was popular on mainstream television and Howard Cosell was broadcasting king. Surely, you say, civilized people can’t imagine the appeal of two men going mano-a-mano in a contest of strength and endurance? All I can tell you is from the perspective of a shallow, pale,  formerly skinny girl, the appeal was primal: grunting, sweaty, bleeding men are sexy. Plus, there is a sense of camaraderie that goes on between not only sport participants, but spectators as well. It’s jolly good fun.

In our attempt to write romance, the Lisas are keenly aware that there is gal-speak and there is guy-speak. Listening to guy-speak is difficult enough; interpreting and copying is nigh on impossible. As we mentioned in last week’s post, as writers we draw on past, present and…no, not future experience, we’ll leave that to the sci-fi types for now. We know we need to work hard to give our stories the “feel” they need: the sights, sounds and stinky locker room smells.

So whereas Lisa2 is currently tackling tension between the strong, married characters of one manuscript, and One Lisa approaches the tumultuous “December-May” romance in another, they will do everything in their unlimited author-powers of observation to bring you, dear reader, right in the room with Gina and Nils or Kathleen and Gil…although we do our best to be inconspicuous when our couples are having, ahem, private moments. Thank you.

Never Post Grape Nuts Before Breakfast

I won’t bore y’all with the details of my residency move. You’ve either done it before and know what it’s like, or you haven’t and don’t care a lick. Suffice to say Numero Dos Lisa is happily ensconced along the Treasure Coast and trying desperately to get back on track, writing-wise. Because we know what you really care about is more fabu books by Lisa & Lisa. It’s what we care about too, darn it all.

Speaking of escapism, one of our beta readers (reluctantly) mentioned that Version 1.0 of our WIPHSOTI” was way too realistic (and boring), and therefore she “hated it.” A lot. Which is interesting, because at least half of the betas liked it better than Version 2.0. Just goes to show two things: first, we can please about half of the people half of the time, which ain’t bad. And secondly, we are versatile enough for a wide range of tastes. Since our goal is to conquer the *entire* reading population, this leads to the inevitable Third Rewrite Version 3.0. Bleck. Sounds like work. Oops, I mean, yippee! Can’t wait to get started!

If I’m sounding more scatterbrained than even what’s usual, don’t be alarmed. I’m sure it’s only temporary. That, and the ever increasing numbness in my right hand. No, I am not a hypochondriac. Why do you ask? My husband thinks I have developed adult ADHD.  I’m pretty sure he’s right about the AD part, but I can only wish for the HD part. No one has ever accused me of being hyperactive. Or Hi-Def, for that matter. In fact, I’ve been up for two hours this morning and have only managed to write three paragraphs. Of a rather dull blog post. Perhaps I should spice it up a bit with a photo of what I look like at 8:00 in the morning?

That’s right, I look somewhat Polynesian first thing in the morning – you got a problem with that?

Of course, this is what TOL (The Other Lisa) looks like. But not until after her coffee.

Okay, time for me to get back to work writing and critiquing. Right after my bowl of Post Grape Nuts. And a nice warm shower.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned From Watching the Red Wings

I am the whiny, let’s-just-give-up-you-know-nobody-is-even-reading-our-manuscript Lisa. I blame this pathetic attitude on a lack of exposure to sports. What can I say, I could quote large swathes of Jane Eyre by the time I was 12 and this segued into a deskbound life first as an English Lit major and then as a librarian.

Previously, I did not understand why otherwise normal people would obsess over other people playing a game. But last year I watched the Red Wings battle through the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And,  in short order, I became a hockey fan. Actually, let me be more specific: I became a Red Wings fan. As a fan, I am a work in progress. I don’t understand all the rules yet, (up until last year I only thought of icing as the sort of thin frosting one might put on petit fours) but I am determined to learn. And yes, sports fans, determination is one of the keys.

I am a naturally timid (read: almost pathologically reserved) person who takes criticism deeply to heart. Perhaps spending a year of my life writing a novel then sending it out to total strangers for rejection was not a terribly good idea considering this facet of my personality. Here is where watching hockey has taught me a couple of things.

  1. Never quit. Not too long ago, in two separate games, the Red Wings scored goals with less than a second to go on the clock. And I’m discouraged after two rejections and one mildly scarring critique? Lesson learned.
  2. Everyone loses sometimes. Doesn’t matter how good you are or how much you try. Sometimes you lose. This one is trickier for me. I am still working to change my reaction to possible loss from “okay, I give up before I really even get started” to “shake it off and try harder”.
  3. It’s okay to want to win. Winning means beating someone else, and I am the namby-pamby sort of person who feels sorry for the guy who loses. (Unless it’s the Penguins–that just makes me giggle a little.) I don’t really have that killer edge, but I am starting to hone it.

Even without the handy life lessons, I just enjoy hockey. A Red Wings game is a meditative experience for me. While watching the game I don’t think about anything else. I am in the now. I stop cogitating on work, or query letters, or if the recent rain will cause a leak into the basement. I only lose my yoga-like calm when my favorite player (#23, Brad Stuart) gets an unfair penalty. Then I do shout a helpful word or two to the ref, but that is a lovely cathartic experience, too. It’s all good. And it’s even better when the Wings win.

TOL (the other Lisa) here:  Just a reminder that our latest WIP (work in progress), HSOTI (still secret working title) has a hockey angle to it. And it’s coming along nicely. As a matter of fact, the Lisas will be weekend retreating once again to work on multiple projects with the intensity of a professional goalie during the Stanley Cup playoffs. So on that note, I will not mention that not only is nobody reading our manuscripts, we haven’t exactly cracked the million mile mark of blog stats either. Brew, hatching…big plans, and you, lucky reader, can get in on the ground floor. Such a deal, eh?

Baby Names

If you’re tired of hearing about Will Steal for Shoes (and frankly, we know you’re not), let us tell you more about our new manuscript project, code name: HSOTI. We gave you a tiny hint a couple of posts back, but for the most part it’s still top-secret. At least as secret as the more big-mouthed of the Lisas can keep it. Anyway, here’s the skinny about starting a new project from scratch; the good, the bad and the utterly disgraceful:

Point #1

Coming up with a vague plot is easy. Coming up with a solid beginning, middle and end is not. Lisa2B’s first instinct was to go in a direction as far, far away as possible from the last project. But the more she and LisaA1 discussed it, why mess with success? (Not that we technically have any yet, but why quibble over semantics?) In other words, we know where our strong suits lie, even if one of us can’t remember the last time she actually wore a power suit of any type. We have a feel for certain story lines and characters; to change it up too much for the sake of change alone could prove unwise. So we ditched the b*tchy new wife idea and stuck with the middle-age heroine.

Point #2

We get the pleasure (and labor pains) of choosing character names. This is yet another example of where writing with a partner has more pros than cons. (*The biggest con btw: one of us may be secretly plotting to do away with the other over projected meager advance earnings and royalties.) Two heads are always better than one, so when we agree on names, settings, locations, etc., we’re confident slavishly devoted readers will appreciate our choices. When we agree on times and dates it’s a total crap shoot, we’re both lousy with numbers.

Point #3

We don’t always see eye to eye. LisaA1 refuses to write things she believes are unrealistic (she would say “stupid”). Lisa2B has fewer qualms. Lisa2B will do anything for a laugh. LisaA1 is frequently embarrassed. There is much reigning-in, testing out and heated debate with the oft overheard, “big patootie” and “fun sucker.” “Show me,” and “prove it” are other popular refrains.

In the end (and the end is the most important part, after a killer beginning and a strong middle) it’s still a thrill to create something from nothing. Although for the sake of the world at large I think we’re all in agreement it’s a good thing our fictional “baby” is all we’re dealing with here. Hey, we warned you mental pictures could get ugly.