Tag Archives: writing

We Who Must Not be Named (and other things we cannot tell)

Thelisas have a split personality. We used to be able to talk about it, but recently decided to keep things under wraps. Since we launched our indie young people’s book under a pseudonym, with its corresponding website, we’ve determined it’s best to keep these two worlds as independent states. Kind of like the state of well-being and the state of Texarkana.

To this end we discovered it’s nearly impossible not to talk about what we are doing with our other project. The one with the other blog. Where we write about furry little critters to entertain immature human beings. And kids. It’s irresistible. It’s like being told there’s cake on the table but it’s not for you. Or margaritas in the blender. We can’t stop not talking, thinking, obsessing.

But since this blog is exclusively for sexy elderly types, we recently mined some old rough drafts to see if we could salvage anything interesting. Most of it was woefully out of date. There was the Kate Middleton/Prince William/Lisas comparison chart. And something that may have involved an 8-track tape giveaway. Way too much involved incomplete thoughts, even sentences, such as

In the end we will assure you we are not spending all of our time on the project for grade schoolers. Unless it takes off and we start raking in the dough, in which case it’s been real people, we’ll miss you. Hey, we girls gotta dream. To dream generally involves sleep…or at least resting like a feline, right?

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Writing Workshop Do and Don’t (Especially Don’ts)

As mentioned in our last post, Florida Lisa attended a children’s writing workshop in June. She regaled TOL (The Other Lisa) with the high and low lights. (Actually, the only highlight was that at lunch nobody wanted their Red Delicious apples and she collected several to eat later, alone in her hotel room.)

“I only made a fool out of myself once or twice, that I am aware of,” I hedged. “Really though, you know your memory is shot when you wonder if you remembered to check yourself out in the mirror  the moment you step out of the ladies room. So the additional possible passive faux pas factor was quite high. The way people were avoiding me I suspect the back of my dress may have been tucked into my underwear.”

“I notice you are not telling me your actual indiscretions,” TOL said.

“So much shame.”

“How bad can it be?” she countered.

“I did get a compliment on the dress I wore.”

“That’s not bad, is it?”

“You would think it would be a good thing. I was dressed to impress. I told you I shopped for two days looking for the perfect outfit, right?”

“No.”

“Well I did. And still I found  nothing. I whined to my neighbor who told me she had just the thing. It was indeed the perfect dress, so long as I wore my most uncomfortable retaining undergarments. But I digress. I decided that since I was having no luck stalking and attacking the specific editors on my list – I made dossiers, I told you that part, right?”

“No,” TOL said warily.

“I studied their profiles like a serial killer.”

“That may have been your first mistake. You’re a lunatic.”

“That’s a given. I couldn’t seem to take down my target audience, but I had two other speakers cornered – quite literally, they were behind a table in a corner. Having no idea what to say I think I said, “Hi, nice to meet you.” The female agent (who shall remain nameless) said, very sweetly, “I like your dress.” To which I replied, in a conspiritorial whisper, “Thank you. I borrowed it from my neighbor.”

“You could have stopped at ‘Thank you’ or tried ‘This is my first conference, so I didn’t know what to wear’–that might have started a conversation.”

“I could have said a lot of things, but I did not. I shuffled away like a homeless person with mental issues. No,  I believe that is an insult to to the housing-challenged community. I grinned and wrung my hands for awhile and then eventually shuffled away. It’s bound to have made a lasting impression, don’t you think? Next conference I’m going to dye my hair and wear capris. Better yet, you take the next one.”

“I’m so looking forward to it. Do you mind if I don’t mention you’re my co-author?”

“I think it would be better if you didn’t.”

“Agreed.”

So remember, boys and girls, the best way to approach a writing workshop is to come prepared to show and tell, but not about your borrowed wardrobe or secret stalking tendencies. Also be willing to learn. Florida Lisa learned it’s a good thing we already have an agent. And that it would be very easy to sneak in instead of paying; nobody checks IDs.

It’s Just a Fantasy

My niece had to read Jane Eyre for her Language Arts class. She was foolish enough to ask her Auntie Lisa’s opinion of this fine piece of English Literature. As I dramatically recited the barrage of passages I have memorized from the book, (“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?”) she rolled her eyes only the tiniest bit. Such restraint in one so young.

She thought she might write a paper with the thesis that Bronte was trying to create her perfect fantasy world when she wrote Jane Eyre. I agreed the book may have had elements of wish-fulfillment for Bronte. My clever niece then said to me, in her forthright manner, “Isn’t that why all writers write? Because they’re unhappy and they want to create  a happier world to inhabit? You’re a writer, do you think that’s true?”

Hmmm. I don’t think this is why I write. I think do it because I enjoy the process. Some people find it relaxing to string beads, design scrapbooks or subject innocent bystanders to their surgery photos. Me, I like to play with words. Also, I desperately want a job for which pajamas are the best work outfit, the standards for hygiene are low enough that weekly showers would suffice, and no one would yell at me because they can’t understand the level of technology represented by the lowly copy machine.

Then again, The Lisas do tend to favor the “happily ever after” endings. We don’t do angsty literary stuff. So maybe my niece is on to something, at least when it comes to our narrow, blinders-firmly-in-place world view. Or the fact that a couple of our main characters actually like exercise.

The cherry on the icing on the sundae cake will be sharing our sunny outlook with the public at large. Or we can stay in our pajamas, eating sundae cake and become our own large public, whichever comes first. (Hint: Agents take pity or beware, we may eat you.)

Wean, Weaning, Weaned, Weaner

Our last post on hunting and killing adverbs and adjectives got me thinking about tough love. Which of course led me think about whether animal parents love their babies the way human parents do. The long and short answer: no. Animal mothers do not coddle their young. They give them the tools they need to survive to maturity and then the offspring are on their own; so much so they are often considered competition for valuable resources and chased away, even attacked. Okay, some pack animals are a little more friendly, but even then there are rules.

Rules, rules, rules. I am the Lisa who believes rules are meant for other people. Rules are meant to be broken. Rules are for sissies. No wonder my nerves are raw – the Lisas have been methodically playing by every aspiring-author rule ever written. Even when the rules contradict each other.

Did you know that in 1784 authors were required to wear stove pipe hats when writing in public? Sure, yuk it up, but I’d like to see you concentrate at Starbucks with everyone staring in amazement/horror/jealousy at your chapeau. TOL (The Other Lisa) has it even tougher – public librarians unwilling to share their quill and ink with indigent patrons are subject to thirty lashes, imprisonment and a fine of no more than thirty cents or one week’s salary, whichever is less.

The bottom line? It’s hard not to sympathize with animal mothers who push their young into instant adulthood, especially if the progeny ask to borrow the car and return it with mysterious paint scratches and an empty gas tank. It is easy to sympathize with our fellow Starbucks authors, wild-eyed, mumbling, editing until their work is stripped naked and joyless, all while desperately trying to keep their stove pipe hats from tipping over into their lattes. It’s not as easy as we make it look.

How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack With Guide Chuck Sambuchino (as bait)

The Lisas would like to give a shout out to one of the most hardworking, helpful, creative experts in the world of writing, publishing and evil figurine fighting, Chuck Sambuchino. Among other things he is the editor of The Guide to Literary Agents and its corresponding blog. His most recent work, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack (Ten Speed Press/Sept. 2010) is a coffee table style book, large enough to be used as a weapon if all else fails. We managed to snag an exclusive interview with this worldwide protector from bad yard art.

Q: Where did you come up with the idea of gnomes as evil purveyors of doom?

A: They’ve always just kind of creeped me the heck out. It was early 2009 when I first thought about putting together a survival guide.  I went looking to see if someone had beaten me to the punch, and, surprisingly, no one had.  So I started writing some notes, and the more notes I wrote the more creeped out I got by this little buggers, and that in turn led to more material.

Q: Gnomes vs. vampires: is it even a fair fight?

A: I would say you’re comparing apples to oranges, but in the case of Gnomes vs. (anything), I would give the advantage to gnomes just because they are underestimated. Now what if you said Gnomes vs. Gnomes?  I think the universe would collapse upon itself if that type of question was posed in a public forum.

Q: Gazing balls: alien-gypsy mind control devises – agree or disagree?

A: Not sure, but what they ARE, for certain, are garden gnome communication devices. Gnomes have been known to use heliographs — light and reflection communication — using mirror balls or pieces of glass. It’s all part of their extensive nonverbal communication that happens prior to a full assault.  Gnomes will use stonescaping, mini-crop-circles, light communication and more.  If you see any of these signs (what would be considered a “gnome close encounter of the first kind”), you are in trouble!

Q: Lisa & Lisa are best friend collaborators. You are Every-Writer’s best friend. Who is Chuck Sambuchino’s best friend, as a writer?

A: If you’re asking who is my “best writing friend,” it would have to be fellow WD editor Brian A. Klems, who has been on staff for several years.  He and I are working on some screenplays together.

Q: One last query: for your book release party did you go with our suggestion, black tie and lederhosen?

A: When I ran the idea by a few venues, one said “I will call the cops if you do that,” and another just hung up on me. We kind of learned our lesson and just went for a more low-key affair. It all went smashingly.

We are grateful for your essential survival manual, Chuck. It’s imperative all readers obtain a copy if they wish to escape certain death, probably while hammocking, gardening, picnicking or other everyday activities. Thanks for all your research, insight and time spent in serious interviews.

Chuck Sambuchino (guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog) is an editor and a writer. He works for Writer’s Digest Books and edits two annual resources: GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS as well as CHILDREN’S WRITER’S & ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET. He is also a humor book writer, with his first book, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK, released in Sept. 2010.
Besides that, he is a produced playwright, magazine freelancer, former journalist, husband, cover band guitarist, chocolate chip cookie fiend, and owner of a flabby-yet-lovable dog named Graham.

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.

First Impressions (With Extra Special Polling Fun!)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a book must be in possession of a a fabulous first line. The reader’s willingness to soldier on through the rest of the text all hangs on this beginning. Or so many people believe. And we do know folks who glance at that one short phrase and that is that.

We think the real test is the first paragraph. Maybe even the first page or two. We Lisas are an easygoing pair; we will read at least a couple of pages of any book before we make the decision to read or not to read.

Our manuscript is done. This does not stop us from obsessing over that all important opening line. Does ours catch the eye and stir the imagination? Is the wording zippy? Is it round and full without being a run-on sentence, containing every aspect of the book, the characters, their dress sizes, dreams for the future and favorite colors all crammed into one tiny, fragile nutshell?

More importantly, which one should we use? Because we’ve written so many drafts, we have several firsts. Obviously, we can’t use them all. Saying the Lisas are indecisive is like saying the Alps are rather tall. Confidentially, we’re not convinced any of our opening lines will leave you breathless. But we are rather fond of our first paragraph and are deeply attached to pages 2-8.  Even that fades next to our undying devotion to pages 105-110. But our love for later sections of the book does not help us in our quandary over line one.

Dear Reader,

Why I Write: A Manifesto Against Housework

Despite a busy work life as a mom of two kids who holds down a part-time job as a librarian, I regularly make time to sit down in a chair, stare at a computer screen and desperately try to create light, amusing fiction. As I attempt this, I often think about other, better, more world-changing and life-affirming ways I could spend my time.  They are legion. But, in my heart, I know what I would end up doing if I gave up writing: more housework.

Now, a little bit of housework is a grand and glorious thing. I don’t ever want to end up on a show like Hoarders, buried under pages of rejected manuscripts. And I admit that it would be a good thing to clear out the closets and put away items from that catch-all box which indeed has been sitting in the study for an unconscionable amount of time. But neither do I want to be someone who irons her dishrags and cleans behind the washer and dryer every week.

Once I’ve gained a  point of general cleanliness, I find there is absolutely no further reward for housecleaning. There are no stadiums filled with cheering fans urging players on as they vacuum competitively. It is thankless and boring and solitary. When I die, I don’t want people to say, “Now there was a woman who kept floors so clean, you could eat off them.” Why polish your floors until people can eat off them? No one wants to.

And yet, working only part-time outside the home, I really should be keeping everything neater and tidier. I can avoid the self and society imposed guilt by declaring that I am working on a novel instead. It sounds oh so much better to say that I am writing a novel rather than saying I am reading Georgette Heyer‘s The Corinthian for the 48th time.

*TOL (the other Lisa) here: #1. I forgive Lisa for so obviously unmasking her identity – usually we like to be ubiquitous, we think it adds an air of mystery. #2. If we’re having a clutter contest I want to enter! I don’t even have a kid at home and no job whatsoever. There is currently broken glass all over my kitchen rug, which I neatly rolled up and ignored. Do I win? #3. Because we are writers we sacrifice – even to the point of painful living conditions – so our beloved readers will have something to read, temporarily escaping  their own worldly woes. You are so very welcome. (Truthfully? So we can become rich enough to hire housekeepers. Sorry.)

So Now What?

A few people peeked at our first blog post, and we know for a fact that at least one of the viewers was not one of us repeatedly looking in to marvel at our new form of self-expression. So we think there may be at least one person out there wondering, ” Okay, they said they wrote that amusing little children’s story a couple of years ago. But, what are they doing now?” Well dear reader, you may move off the edge of your seat.  We will reveal all.

Our current WIP (Work In Progress) is a book called: Will Steal for Shoes. As the title suggests, there will be theft–as well as some extremely high-end, high-heeled shoes. As you may have already guessed, it is not a children’s book. We have written about 22,000 words so far, which is about 75 pages. This is amazing, as our combined attention span is about as long as that of a fruit fly.

We feel oddly compelled to write even though we are unlikely to ever reap any gain, financial or otherwise, from our writing. We find via Google, that invaluable tool for trivia, that this is called hypergraphia. We call it: Just Another Excuse to Ignore the Housework, or Something We Do That Annoys Our Husbands.

As we did with Traxter, we would like to share the beginning of the work. This may or may not end up being the first paragraph of the finished product as we like to tweak the manuscript more than we like to continue the narrative.

Chapter One

I always thought midlife crisis implied urgency. It’s supposed to be a crisis after all. I figured it would be some intense biological imperative, inexorably driving me to rent a villa in Tuscany, or at least wear inappropriate clothing purchased from Hot Topic. I never expected the dullness, the complete lack of caring. I never thought I would feel entirely redundant at the tender age of 40, waving feebly as the world simply passed me by. If this is all the crisis I get, I want to exchange it for a better one or get my money back.

Now you know what we are up to. Next week: How we achieve our ends.