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Category: women

La Bella Vita

We were blogging on a group blog recently about locations: writing locations, settings in books, etc. As luck would have it I’d just returned from an amazing month away on a working vacation in Italy and Morocco. 

Below is my post about working vacations. Keep scrolling for some fun pictures of my work venues for that month, and even further down, squeee!!!, you get a first peek at my latest book cover for book 4 in my IT’S REIGNING MEN series, LOVE IS IN THE HEIR, available for pre-order and set to release in late September.

Oh! And book three, BAD TO THE THRONE, releases on June 29. It is my favorite so far in this series, complete with a Harry-esque bad boy prince who I think you’ll fall for…

 And lastly, don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter–which will be going out next week. There’ll be a little special something in there for your efforts ;-) .

I recently returned from a lovely working vacation in Italy and Morocco. And the hard part of a working vacation is the work part.

I departed for our trip with a deadline pending for the third book in my It’s Reigning Men series. I had a lot of fun writing this book–the hero in it is a rakish Prince Harry-esque black sheep, and I just loved his attitude. So I didn’t want to rush to end the book, plus I was scrambling to get ready to leave, so I left the final third of the book dangling…

Which meant I had a few days during my trip in which I had to just hunker down, abandon the idea of being a tourist, and focus on writing. Of course this was a bit of a bummer, because I would have far rather wandered the streets of ancient Italian cities and settled in for a leisurely lunch of pappardelle al sugo di anatra (fat strips of homemade pasta with amazingly delicious duck confit cooked in a red sauce) and a glass of Chianti. Which would have led to the need for a nap which would have meant no writing.

So instead, I savored my “rooms” with a view, and hunkered down to finish my novel with some of the most spectacular scenery going.

We writers are so blessed that we can do our work pretty much anywhere. And over the years I have, by default, done that: in pick-up line at the kids’ schools, on the sidelines at soccer practices, with ear plugs in while the kids watched the television that is mere feet from my “desk” which is in the kitchen and basically means hardly a quiet zone.

So my designated work stations while away this time were pretty much unbeatable: at our B&B with a spectacular view of the Duomo di Siena, which is a breathtaking work of architecture; while sitting on the ponte di Santa Trinita in Florence, with a view of the famed Ponte Vecchio in front of me and the world’s most amazing gelato just steps away (Gelateria Santa Trinita—if you’re in Florence, go there and try the sesamo nero, which sounds weird, black sesame seed gelato, but is incredible).

I wrote at an outdoor bar in the delightfully colorful Piazza Santo Spirito (full of great people-watching, which sort of causes problems when trying to focus on writing!), in the Oltrarno, the section of Florence across the Arno River that is more residential and relatively less touristy.

Not for the first time I enjoyed writing in the Giardino di Boboli, the spectacular gardens that are part of the imposing Palazzo Pitti (hoarding headquarters for the Medici family), with a splendid view of all of Florence.

I regretted missing a fascinating tour of the city of Matera in the Basilicata region of Italy, down by the boot heel. My husband got to take that tour while I hunkered down on the deadline-iest of deadline days: I absolutely had to get my book to my editor on that day or it would screw up my publication date, which would make me an enemy of Amazon ;-) . Far be it from me to get on the bad side of Amazon…

Anyhow, the “Sassi” in Matera are a United Nations World Heritage site—originally a prehistoric troglodyte settlement, considered to be among the first human settlements in what is now Italy. The Sassi are caves dug into the rocks, from which an ancient town sprung, one cave atop the other, until a warren of many thousands of caves piled atop and next to one another existed. Until the mid-20th century these caves were inhabited by the poorest of the poor, who were ultimately relocated to housing with plumbing and other modern comforts. Since then the area has been rebuilt to house apartments, hotels, restaurants and shops. It’s an amazing place, extraordinarily beautiful at night when lit up, too.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had such an phenomenal opportunity to travel and experience the world and various cultures and incorporate it into my writing (and am grateful that my husband has afforded me these opportunities because trust me, writing isn’t paying these bills). On this trip also, we visited Morocco, and immersed ourselves in an entirely different culture there (and, um, learned the hard way that the closest place to the Sahara desert in which to find a tampon would be a rugged 10-hour drive through the High Atlas Mountains to Marrakech…)

Along the way I also worked on my book while waiting for a grocery store to open in Siena as I needed to buy laundry detergent and was in a hurry to get it done before we traveled to Florence.

I love to incorporate things I experience while traveling into my books, and have used quite a bit of my extensive Italian travels in my current series, the It’s Reigning Men series, especially with the third book of the series, Bad to the Throne, which is available for pre-order now here and will be released June 29.

I hope you can enjoy a little bit of my journeys as you read my books! And please, do enjoy the view!


Gallery

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Rejection or High Praise? You Decide...

Rejection? In the publishing world? Ha! That is downright inconceivable! I mean, isn’t writing all about pouring your heart out into the novel of your dreams and then everyone loves it and you sell it for a fortune and land huge film deals and you earn enough money to quit your day job and take some fun trips and maybe pay off some loans and you all live happily ever after as you write subsequent bestsellers in your lovely Parisian artist’s garret???? Welllllllll….Gather ’round, kiddies, and let me dopeslap enlighten you! Not to complain, but just to burst your bubble open you to the potential soul-sucking vagaries realities of the publishing business… Rejection isn’t simply the rejection of your words by agents and editors and reviewers. It’s really more like the endless obstacles that threaten the potential success of your writing career/marathon. A sample of such things that you might well encounter along the way:

  • A director of sales at a publishing house who doesn’t like your book and therefore won’t do much to try to sell it (which means forget it, your book is doomed).
  • A publishing house that goes belly-up and you never see payment owed you (don’t quit your day job!).
  • Editors who are Goldilocksian in their rejection of your masterpiece (Too long! Too short! Not happy enough! Not sad enough! Lacking character development! Too much character development! Plodding! Too fast paced!). I think if the future of the human race relied upon editors loving someone’s work, the species would be long gone by now.
  • An agent who disappears off the planet after you sign with said agent, who then simply never does even the basics of what needs to be done to pitch your book, leaving you flapping in the wind and your career on default life support.
  • An editor who leaves the business halfway into the editorial process, leaving your book with no advocate (also known as Dead in the Water; see doomed book, above).
  • An editor who loves your voice and loves your book and really wants to publish it, but one editor on editorial board kiboshes it, so it’s not going to be acquired (Dead in the Water, natch).
  • A big name author who bails at the last minute with the cover blurb promised you for months.
  • You get so bogged down with marketing and publicity that you never write another book.
  • An industry that changes like the shoreline, leaving you feeling as if you are trying to capture elusive air between your fingers.
  • Life crap that decides to interrupt your creativity so that you fall off the planet and miss the myriad changes that have befallen the industry and, as an added wallop, lose your readers, while you were in a life-induced writing coma.

A career as an author is not for the faint of heart. It is for someone who has deep conviction in their product and one who is determined and hearty and perhaps a little foolish and—despite deeply-entrenched, occasionally self-sabotaging cynicism—holds out a bizarre scintilla of optimism in the face of overwhelmingly grim odds (this could simply be human survival skills at work). So my advice is this: ignore everything. Ignore it all. Because you can’t control one damned bit of it. Instead, just write. Get back to the basics: read and write and write and read and refine your craft as you so do, and to hell with the rest of it. In the early days of my career, writer friends and I repeated to one another this mantra: TPT—Talent. Persistence. Timing. Honestly, I can tell you from some books I’ve read that talent is actually optional (though desirable)—plenty of crap books get published, which still mystifies me. Persistence, however, is essential. And timing? Well, that’s the ingredient over which we have little power. If you’re lucky enough to have the fairy dust sprinkled over you and you write a book that becomes a blockbuster and you are the darling of the publishing world, well, hey, good on ya’. But if you don’t, it’s vital that you are able to maintain that very core of what started you on the process to begin with: you love words, you love stories, and you know you have an ability to combine them in a way that works. And sometimes, that’s all you can hang your hat on. I was quite frustrated recently, feeling as if launching a book nowadays is sort of like felling a tree in a remote forest—does anyone hear a thing? —wondering how anyone can hear about your book if no one is listening. And then, voila, I got a lovely review from a book reviewer, which helped me to remember what it’s all about: writing something that will touch others. Now go. Write. And to hell with all the rest of it.

The first of my IT’S REIGNING MEN series was just released: SOMETHING IN THE HEIR. Here’s the cover (alongside the covers for books two and three in the series–more to come!) … and some time soon I’m going to reissue Anywhere but Here—I’ll keep you posted. Sleeping with Ward Cleaver


The Latest Books

JennyGardiner_SomethingintheHeir200 JennyGardiner_HeirTodayGoneTommorrow200 JennyGardiner_BadtotheThrone200JennyGardiner_BiteMe200 


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Short Stories

 


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The Trials and Tribulations of Losing Your Fat Clothes...

First and foremost, let me say this: never, ever, ever give away your fat clothes. I say this while sporting my current uniform: a grungy 20-year old Penn State sweatshirt and once generously stretchy yet now extremely stingy yoga pants that haven’t, alas, been donned for their true purpose in ages. My other uniform consists of a black shirt and jeans. Black because it’s slimming. Ish. And stretchy jeggings, to be exact. Thank the lord for tender mercies, i.e. stretchable cotton. Though I was probably better off in the more punitive Levi’s of yore, which kept me honest, size-wise (that is until I could no longer wedge myself into them, and then so much for that honesty, eh?).

trying to avoid this
trying to avoid this

A couple of years ago I got, well, not skinny, but more mainstream, size-wise. Skinny hasn’t happened since the Reagan administration (when I had a youthful metabolism, not that of a tree sloth). After slimming down, I waited over a year before donating my voluminous stockpile of fatwear. They were beautiful clothes, too, all styles that helped mask the added weight I was lugging around, sadly. In giving them away, I figured it would be nice if someone in need of them happily found their way into my, um, largesse. I think the very day I dropped them at Goodwill I gained four pounds. Which brings me to another pointer for this New Year’s resolution-minded message: never, ever, ever, ever stop getting on that damned scale. Years ago, I’m pretty sure it was during the holidays, when food and wine seem to just jump into my mouth when I’m not looking, a wise, thin friend urged me not to get on the scale every day. “Oh, your weight can fluctuate by several pounds daily!” she assured me. “Just get on once a week.” Evil Scale So I took this advice to heart. After all, it was from a skinny person. They must know, right? But if you get on the scale one day and weigh two more pounds, well, news flash: wait seven more days and nothing good comes of it. Trust me on this. My weight has fluctuated so much I should’ve been called Yo-Yo. And not the person who’s great with a violin. The person who can’t seem to stick in a healthy pants size to save her soul, that’s me. This time around it was a tumultuous series of life events that kneecapped me. Not that that’s any excuse, mind you, but hey, I am the first to tell you it is really quite easy to stuff your emotions with food; I’m a pro at it. In fact if there were an advanced degree in it, I’d surely have earned one. This time around I stupidly doubled down while outgrowing my wardrobe: I bailed on the gym. For pretty much my entire life, no matter how plump I was, I always, always, always worked out. Whether it was with the Jane Fonda record (yes, I’m dating myself with that reference), Tai Bo, P90X, lap-swimming, obsessive amounts of tennis, hiking, spinning. walking, or anything, I always made time for some form of daily exercise. Feel the Burn... But then I wasn’t being productive, professionally, failing to get in the writing hours I needed. I was dropping the ball, big time. So I couldn’t justify spending time at the gym. My girlfriend and I were just discussing this gym/work dilemma. Because I get my best work done in the morning. But I also get my best workout done in the morning. That inherent conflict means choosing one over the other (I know, I could technically force myself like the grown-up that I am to do one at an inopportune time of the day, but I haven’t, okay?). And so I made the grave mistake of bailing on exercise because I should be writing prolific amounts. But instead I spent a lot of time wrestling with all those stuffed emotions and not doing diddly squat (make that any squats). Occasionally I resumed working out, though didn’t dare show up at the gym because everyone knows you don’t want to be seen at the gym while fat. I got back on my spinning bike at home, until I had a rather weird spinning accident, requiring 16 stitches on my shin. That was enough to kibosh my biking career for a while. I got back into it later in the summer, even biking one day for about 36 miles, which was really fun since we didn’t get hit by any cars, but still, I was feeling guilty for not getting work done. So I have holed up for the past few months writing. The good news: I’ve got my writing mojo back. The bad news: I shudder to witness my reflection in a plate glass window and cringe to see pictures of myself. For sure ain’t no selfie-taking going on for me (while dressed in slimming black). I imagined my zaftig brethren this holiday season wearing my really pretty hot pink raw silk jacket, or that sparkly sequin top, and all those many outfits I gave away, while instead I jammed myself sausage-like into a stretch black velvet pantsuit that somehow escaped my closet purge. I refuse to buy more fat clothes, as it feels like I’m abandoning ship, figuring thin me is a thing of the past. But with my oversized clothes shrinking (they are just shrinking, right?), where to next? I don’t want to be Admiral Perry navigating the unchartered territory of what to do once the fat clothes don’t fit. But new beginnings can start at any time. Sure it feels cliché for that to be with the new year. But now’s as good a time as any, so here’s hoping I’ll eventually be able to give away my latest wardrobe, even though they’re not even cute, just functional. Wish me luck. If not at www.jennygardiner.net, let’s hope Jenny Gardiner is at the gym, rectifying her mistakes.


The Latest Books

JennyGardiner_SomethingintheHeir200 JennyGardiner_HeirTodayGoneTommorrow200 JennyGardiner_BadtotheThrone200JennyGardiner_BiteMe200 


Other Books

      


Short Stories

 


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