Writing in a Vacuum

Please welcome guest author Maryann Miller to the Cafe.

I recently had one of those rare experiences that only happen to a writer once or twice in a lifetime.

A rejection that didn’t hurt.

I was talking to an editor who had to turn down an idea I have for a book, but he was so nice about it, it was hard for me to remember he was saying “no.” That was such a pleasant change from the rejections that would send me reeling…

“How dare they not LOVE my book?”

“My life is ruined.”

“It’s a conspiracy. I know it is.”

Sounds a little paranoid, I know, but for a long time the only thing I had to attest to my credibility as a writer was my basic insecurity.

Writers are insecure for a lot of reasons. Some of us were born that way, but for others it’s accumulated over the years like a fringe unbenefit.

Cat in front of monitorNot only do we have to deal with the possibility and reality of rejection on a continuing basis, we also have to work in a professional vacuum. We don’t get to discuss the latest Idol reject at the water cooler, or get some direct feedback on the day to day ac­complishments of our job. Nobody here to pat me on the back except my cat, and he’d rather sleep in front of my monitor.

Sometimes this isolation is so intense, I feel like I’m in the middle of a desert, and one kind word about my work can be as refreshing as a drop of nectar.

This morning I got a whole six pack of refreshment. Not only did this editor give me one kind word, he gave me another, and another, until I was practically swimm­ing in nectar.

We all know that we write because we think we have something to say, hopefully, something important and meaningful. Even when we get discouraged, we seem to still be drawn to the keyboard, if the cat will let us, to impart some other words of wisdom or finely crafted prose.

(Excuse me, John. I’m trying to write here.)

If expressing ourselves was all there was to it, we wouldn’t care if our words ever saw print. And I have yet to meet a writer who didn’t care. It’s good to want to say all those nice things, but the whole process would undeniably be meaningless if no one was ever going to read what we write.

The added bonus comes when someone reads the work and thinks it’s good. Or bet­ter yet, great, wonder­ful, fantastic and ter­rific.

Family members don’t count since they may be more than a lit­tle prejudiced, especial­ly if they think dinner may hang in the balance.

And now, since the August theme here at Contemporary Romance Café is food and wine, I’d like to share part of a scene from Play It Again, Sam in which Frank has planned a special surprise for Sam.

Play It Again, Sam coverThe first thing that struck Sam as she approached the balcony overlooking the skating rink was the huge crowd gathered around the railing. Elbowing her way through, she wondered what kind of attraction could entice shoppers away from their endless pursuit of the perfect Christmas present.

 As a vantage point opened, she was stunned by the answer to her wondering. A small, elegantly-set table sat in the middle of the otherwise empty ice. Slivers of light from the chandelier danced across the pristine tablecloth to bounce off the crystal goblets. One of two chairs was occupied, and Sam couldn’t mistake the silvery gleam of hair or the wide shoulders stretching the fabric of the dark suit.

A myriad of emotions swept over her. What a wonderful, touching thing to do… but he can’t expect us to sit there like a display…how embarrassing… I can’t…

Her reluctance to be the center of any attention, let alone this much, almost kept Sam from stepping onto the escalator floating down to the lower level, but her feet moved without a conscious decision. She felt a blush of embarrassment as a ripple of applause grew in volume with her descent, and she wanted to run away. Then Frank stood and walked toward her with an arm extended. The crowd erupted in cheers, the enthusiasm prodding her to place her hand on his arm.

“This is the craziest thing I’ve ever done,” she said in a low whisper.

 “Me, too.” He smiled. “And the most embarrassing.”

 “Then why?”

He stopped and turned her to face him. “Because I couldn’t find a dragon to slay to win a fair lady’s hand.”

Despite the lighthearted words, Sam sensed that he was at a very vulnerable moment. A hush fell over the crowd, too, as if the people watching were waiting for her response.

“Then feed me. I’m starved.”

Walking carefully on the ice, Frank led her to the table and seated her with a gallant bow before taking the opposite chair.

The prospect of dinner in the middle of an ice-rink didn’t seem so daunting anymore, and Sam smiled. “This is nice.”

“First class all the way.” He reached for the bottle of Dom Perignon chilling in the bucket by his elbow.

A waiter in full evening dress stepped through the far gate and walked down the runner of red carpeting that led to the table. Moving to Sam’s left, he set a domed plate in front of her. He lifted the lid with a flourish to reveal a dish that was a work of art. Succulent-looking marinated mushrooms nestled with thin strips of beef and chunks of peppers and pineapple on a bed of rice.

“Where did he come from?” she asked after the waiter had served Frank and disappeared through the gate.

“The Westin Hotel.”

“Oh.”

A violinist came down the runner next and took up a position a few feet from the table. Tucking the instrument under his ample chin, he struck the first chords of a melody so plaintive Sam didn’t know whether to clap or to cry.

As the song gained strength, the notes twirled around the huge empty space, and she could almost imagine they had wings. The music blocked all other sounds, and the awareness of the watching crowd faded.

For an hour and a half nothing existed but the food, the music, and Frank.

I think one reason we all love to read stories of romance is for moments like this. They make us smile and say, “Ahhh.” What are your favorite fantasy romantic moments? Do you have any real-life ones to share in the comments?

 ~  ~  ~

PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM

Life as she knows it ceases to exist for Samantha Rutgers when her husband of twenty-plus years decides he no longer loves her. The challenges are myriad. Can she build a life without him? Will her daughter always blame her? Can she ever trust a man again?

And what is she going to do about sex?

To read another excerpt and see all the places where the book is available, visit the BOOK page.       

~  ~  ~

Maryann Miller is a best-selling author of books, screenplays and stage plays. Her critically-acclaimed Seasons Mystery Series debuted with, Open Season, a police procedural featuring two women homicide detectives. Think “Lethal Weapon” set in Dallas with female leads. She has several other mysteries in print, as well as a short story collection, and a young adult novel. All of her books have a bit of romance in them, as romance is an integral part of life.

Miller has won numerous awards for her screenplays and short fiction, including the Page Edwards Short Fiction Award, the New York Library Best Books for Teens Award, and first place in the screenwriting competition at the Houston Writer’s Conference. She is the Theatre Director at the WinnsboroCenter for the Arts, where she especially likes working with young performers during the annual Youth Drama Camp. When not directing, Miller likes to play onstage and has appeared in numerous productions.

When not working or playing on stage, Miller enjoys her time at “Grandma’s Ranch” where she lives in the Piney Woods of East Texas with one horse, one goat, one sheep, one dog, and four cats. The cats rule.

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