Friday, February 29, 2008

Emotionally Speaking

When I’m not sitting behind my keyboard, or helping my eight year old with vocabulary words, I most likely can be found in the operating room. Just like any of you, there are some things I enjoy about my job better than others. I chose nursing as a career for the same reason I want to be a writer. I love the emotional aspect of both professions. In nursing I love bonding with my patients in the preoperative area before I take them back to surgery. Most of the time my patients never remember who I am because they are sedated before they ever see me. It doesn’t matter to me that I’m usually never named on a patient survey as a nurse who delivered quality care. It’s rewarding enough to know that I reduced their anxiety before they drift off to sleep. A little gesture such as holding their hand, or telling them that I will be with them during the entire surgery is enough to alleviate a lot of the anxiety that they experience. I treat my patients the way I would want to be treated.

The same applies to my writing. I write what I like to read. I love books that include emotional scenes that grip the heart. I give the best of me to my readers. I love writing emotion and I want it to be evident in my writing. As writers we all deliver with pride, what we do best. It doesn’t matter if what we write well, is humor, suspense, erotica, or inspiration, we excel when we are in our element. In these moments the words flow, and you become one with the keyboard.

Movie directors use actors to create a scene that provokes the most emotion for viewers. With one touch, one expression, or one tear, they can tell the story without dialogue. As writers we don’t have the liberty of cinematography, but we do have the beauty of words. If we do our job well, we can produce just as much of an impact, and possibly more than a director on a movie set.

Even though I will never be a real movie director, in my world I direct my character’s actions on the page. I’m as happy as a pig in mud when I’m knee deep in emotion and angst. There’s something about creating a scene that can evoke emotion, and make your readers want to either throw the book across the room, or grab the nearest Kleenex. To me it gives the story substance, instead of a plain cheese pizza it’s like ordering a meaty supreme.

Here’s a slice of my pie…

He was everything in a man I didn’t need, but like a pair of designer shoes-he was addictive.

He took a step toward me and I totally expected him to kiss me, but he stopped a millimeter away from my lips.

“I’m not sleeping on the couch tonight. I want to keep an eye on the outside, in case you have a visitor.”

I nodded and willed him to step away before I made a fool of myself. I was tired of being strong. Tonight I needed his strength and he had more than enough to give. It didn’t matter if he was on the couch or in my bed.

I needed him.

I leaned forward and rested my forehead on his lips. His hands skimmed up my arms and into the hair at the base of my neck.

“You okay?” He asked.

I pulled away and looked into his steel blue eyes. “I’m good.”

He nodded, and walked away. He reached the door and turned to look at me. “Call me if there’s a problem.”

The door clicked shut behind him and I was alone. I didn’t know what scared me the most, the stalker getting to me, or starting to feel dependent on Maverick. I clicked off the lamp next to the couch, walked over to the window, and pulled the curtain back. I saw him slip inside his truck and flash his lights. I slowly stepped away from the window, and let the curtain trail through my fingers.

I swallowed the emotion lumped in my throat. For the first time in my life I felt vulnerable, and I didn’t like it. My life was compartmentalized and this was screwing with the system. I looked at the sheets tucked perfectly on the couch, topped with a pristine white pillow. I walked over and sat down, closed my eyes, and leaned my head back against the cushion. I inhaled and caught the clean, all male scent of Maverick on the sheets.

A tear slipped out of the corner of my eye, and I let it go.

Do you like writing or reading emotion the best? If you don’t like writing emotion, what do you feel you write well?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

On the Road Again

I tell you- there is nothing like a vacation in the winter. Take it from me. After four months of total crap weather, a girl needs to get away before she withers into winter’s deep dark depression.

I always get a little stir crazy come February. Tis true that I’m ruled by Jupiter and like to roam about the country a bit, but there is something about knowing spring is right around the corner. I’m showing the impatience of my zodiac sign.

So to curb this impatience, I just feed it some spring like weather and hightail it to Phoenix (Arizona) for a week every February. In the winter, I can understand why my family feels the need to live in the desert. Cold to them is 60 degrees in the sunshine. Cold to me is… well, like living in the Arctic Circle where it never stops snowing and never shows the sunshine.

This year I resolved to do a bit of work while motoring around the busy streets of Phoenix and the surrounding suburbs. I already know my way about. I know which streets to take, which ones to avoid. What areas are popular and what are not. I know where the best places to eat are. I know the highways. But do I really know the “heart” of this city I’d like to write a series? No. Not really at all.

I love to people watch. I love to experience a city just by wandering around casually and stumbling onto everything day life. Listen to the sounds. Smell the atmosphere. There is something that’s inspiring about a city you know nothing about. So for a couple of days instead of playing the vacationer, I played the resident. I did nothing but what my normal routine would be back home. I got up. Early. Slipped my glasses on and went in search of coffee (which I had to make). Took my coffee to the shower (but did NOT drink it in the shower. Gimme some credit wenches.) Did my normal top secret bathroom routine, which includes many layers of war paint. Turned on the TV in search of the local news to scope out the traffic and on which roads. Jotted down notes on scenes I could possibly see. Motored out to the rental and took a drive. I had to experience traffic. City traffic. (Gotta tell you Hellion, I think we’ve got them beat.) And went back to the house. This is where my routine gets a little screwy because I wasn’t working. But I was thinking about what my heroine would be doing. That was fun. Can’t tell you though, top secret and all that jazz.

At night, I’d go for a run in the neighborhood. Since I was staying with my grandmother, it was safe to be on the street at 8pm. I took in the palm trees framed by the twinkling stars in the vast desert skyline. The way the mountains were framed in the distance and the streetlamps gave them an eerie glow. The way the cold mountain breeze rustled through the orange tress. The smell of flowers blooming, fresh cut grass, dirty water rushing from lawns and into the street. There is something calming about the night here. Things are not rushed. It’s almost peaceful. Border line relaxing once the sun falls behind the mountain peaks. And then I knew, while running down a dark, quiet street with the streetlamp coming up on my right, the dry culvert running through the side street just ahead of me, that this was the right place to start my next series. The city is almost schizophrenic in its ability to completely make a 180 from sunrise to sunset. And that’s what makes a great city to write about. The ability to draw the reader in (even if you have to fudge a bit to get it quite right) it still has the outline to which you base every scene on.

So my question today: Have you ever traveled to check out a city you wanted to base your WIP from? Fictional or fact, it doesn’t matter. We all choose location for a reason, so what was your deciding factor? Readers, does it thrill you to read a book and know the city or does it do nothing for you?

Leslie Langtry the Assassin Boards the Romance Writer's Revenge

Hellion: Hello, Leslie, and welcome aboard the Romance Writer’s Revenge. *much shouting and rambunctious cheering from grog-warmed crew and passengers; Hellion stun guns Sin who rushes up for an autograph* I said after the interview, Sin. I’m so sorry, Leslie, the ship has been abuzz since I’ve told them you agreed to this interview. This is a huge opportunity!

Leslie *not looking the least concerned*: Can I have some of that? *pointing to the grog*

Hellion: *handing her grog as she barrels on* I mean, when you said you’d answer any question, I suddenly realized I’d get to find out which of the Bombays did in JFK. I’m very curious who the shooter on the grassy knoll was. I’m hedging my bets that it was Virginia, since she was later picked off. So am I right? And are the Bombays primarily Republican or Democrat…or do they play the wild card and vote Independent? How will they be voting this November, you think?

Leslie: *blank-faced* Sorry. That information is classified. The Bombays made me take the blood oath too. As far as politics, they are split. Liv and Gin are obviously liberals. Dak is more or less apathetic, I'm afraid. Paris plays things close to the vest and all Carolina can think about is getting more grandchildren. If one of the parties introduces that as a platform - she's likely to vote for them.

Hellion: That Dak! *giggling, clearly crushing on a completely fictional character* Okay, now, I suppose we should probably explain what you write about to those who haven’t read your books yet. You write a mystery-romantic series of books about a family of assassins. The first one was about Gin Bombay, a mom just like you or the Boatswain, trying to make ends meet and get that monkey off her back by the name of Vivian the PTA Nazi—and oops, Gin happens to also be an assassin. Cue chaos and laughter. How did you come up with this series? And what’s been the most fun about writing this series so far?

Leslie: I was writing a completely different warped novel when I had a dream about the Bombays. The name Gin Bombay popped up and the whole family wouldn't shut up so I had to sit down and write about them. I think the bizarre situations are my favorite things to write. I love tormenting my characters. I guess I have a little pirate in me.

Hellion: *roguish look* Don’t we all? Do you find the cat-o-nines particularly effective on unwilling characters? No? Oh, sorry, pressing on. I’m particularly amused by the dating problems Gin had in the first book. It is Karma times ten when she meets the man of her dreams, and he happens to be the bodyguard of the guy she has to kill. I know you say repeatedly that none of this stuff is based off your real life; however, Gin manages a Girl Scout troop; and coincidentally, so do you. Gin lives in the Midwest; coincidentally, so do you. Gin is married to a hot Aussie-former bodyguard…tell the truth, you are too, aren’t you?

Leslie: You got me! It's true - I live in the Midwest, have a Girl Scout troop and am married to a Bodyguard. He's not Australian though. That would be pretty hot. I guess it's true you draw upon what you know and some of these situations may have actually happened (the part about the Girl Scout training is 100% accurate - right down to the video) but I am not training my girl scouts to be killers. Although it was funny that at a Pampered Chef party, the leader of the local boy scout troop said she was afraid of my girl scouts so maybe there's something there. *looks thoughtful, then hopeful* Is there a merit badge for piracy?

Hellion: Not yet, but we’re making some to distribute at conferences. Like a Jolly Roger with writing quills. *poked by Boatswain* Never mind. Are you going to RWA this year? Will you be doing a book signing? Do you do book signings in Missouri? Any plans to do so?

Leslie: Not a firm believer in transitions, are you?

Hellion: No, no, I’m very focused. Look, an undead monkey. *uses her gun to shoot monkey, which immediately bounds back to life and starts eating another banana*

Leslie: I LOVE undead monkeys! I will be in San Francisco for the book signing at RWA and I'm signing in Chicago at the Spring Fling conference. I don't have anything lined up in Missouri but that's just because I'm lazy.

Hellion: Damn, I knew I shouldn’t have changed my plans about the Spring Fling! I’ve got to start pirating more. *shakes head* Guns Will Keep Us Together hit the shelves just last month (and incidentally flew immediately into my cart and came home with me), and features Gin’s brother, Dakota Bombay, a complete and total hottie with great hair. I have to ask this very important question about Dak—which hair gel was discontinued that he misses so much? What is he using now?

Leslie: Well, Dak goes with the big ticket items. It's something he can only order off Sephora (which he probably wouldn't like me telling you). It was an extremely traumatic time in his life. I can't say what he uses now - but would be shamelessly open to endorsements (Hello, PRADA?).

Hellion: You really are a pirate. *laughs* It seemed in Gin’s book (and this may be totally wrong), but Gin seemed slightly less klutzy than Dak. Am I wrong in this assumption—do women make cleaner hitmen, you think? I remember thinking in the first book, Dak seemed so suave, so…smooth, but in reality, he’s rather (adorably) goofy.

Leslie: Of course, women are far more lethal than men. Look at the pirates Anne Bonney and Mary Read, who staved off an attack while Calico Jack and the others huddled below decks. History doesn't lie!

Hellion: Very true. And when he went to hang, she said, “If you had fought like a man, you wouldn’t have had to die like a dog.”

Leslie: I prove my point. As far as Dak, he looked so suave in ‘Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy because he was only a superficial character. Once he had his own book, we got to see him in an average setting - and everyone looks goofy in an average setting. I'd like to tell you I'm writing this while wearing haute couture but instead I'm wearing sock monkey jammies.

Hellion: *tsking* Looking the part of a pirate is very important. *hiding her I Love Jack Sparrow pjs beneath her coat* Never mind, moving on. Also in this book, you brought back a family favorite: Coney Island, the carny. Now this philosophical showman was funny in the first book, but he really brings something to this book. Okay, maybe that’s because you described him as a Daniel Craig and therefore every time he made it onto the page, I wanted to peel off an article of clothing, preferably his…but I was curious: will he be playing a more central part soon? Say his own book, where he gets to be all philosophical and hopefully occasionally naked? And more importantly, do you suppose I could have a role in that naked part? *jabbed in the ribs by the Boatswain* What? Have you seen Daniel Craig?

Leslie: Book 4 - which I'm currently working on - is all about the Conester. And yes, he's totally hot. As for the loofah scene, I think I'd be more partial to having you oil him up as a gladiator or something like that. Anyway, I'm having fun with it. He has a much dryer sense of humor than the other Bombays so I'm trying out two points of view in this book - the other being the heroine.

Hellion: Oil, loofah, I’m totally flexible—you don’t mind telling Coney that, do you? *poked yet again in the ribs by Boatswain* Right. Oh, yes, your third book in the series is about Missi, who has the fun task of creating toys for all the assassins. What’s her book going to be about? Can you tell us? And her sons are about to come of age where they will do their first kill, aren’t they? Will that play a part?

Leslie: Actually, the boys had their first professional kills at 15. Missi's book takes place on a cheap, Canadian rip-off of Survivor. The boys help her out, but are secondary characters. I imagine they will have their own book someday.

Hellion: That sounds fun! I am so excited about this book…and Coney’s book. Okay, okay, last question, and I’ll let you go back to that important task of writing Coney’s book…and putting in that scene where I get to loofah, oil, whatever him. *jabbed again* What? I am serious. Fine. What’s the single most important thing you think new writers should keep in mind when they’re trying to push through and finish their books?

Leslie: Just get it done. And if you don't like it - move on to the next book until you nail it. Gin's book was my fourth full manuscript and I learned a lot from the first three (but I'd rather walk the plank than ever see them in print) but I knew with Gin's book that this was it.

Hellion: *looks at crew* Look, she subscribes to the “As IF” mentality. Imagine that. *tries not to look smug, fails* Okay, okay, I’ll stop hogging the interview now. *trampled by Sin* Leslie, I think you’ve been an excellent interrogatee, um, guest pirate—and I suppose I should give my crew an opportunity to ask you some questions. Crew?

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Best Pirate Birthday Party EVER!!!!

It's a day of celebration here on The Romance Writer's Revenge – we're raising our mugs and dropping streamers from the Crow's Nest in honor of our Captain's Birthday! And this isn't just any birthday, this is her 21st Birthday.

*silence falls over the ship as everyone turns to Boatswain in confusion*

Go with it, girls. She's not taking the age thing well and unless you want her screaming "GET OUT OF MY PERSONAL SPACE" you'll follow my lead. Yes, I've seen her scream this, it's not pretty.

Now, let's get this party started. *cues AC/DC music* No party worth it's Tequila salt would forget the food. All the Captain's favorites are on the menu.

The bar is always open on the top deck but today we've stocked it with plenty to go round. We have the scotch, the beer, and of course plenty of rum.

And we would never have a party without bringing out the Hotties. This one showed up in full black tie but he made the mistake of getting a little too close to the party girl. The poor fellow.

These Hotties are here to handle crowd control. I know a crowd like this would never do anything that would make these boys have to take you below decks for a little talking to.... *eye roll* Just don't hurt them, ok?

And we couldn't possibly have a party for the Captain without Jack. Ah, now here's a man that can shiver me timbers any day!

So gather round the decks, bring your presents, raise a toast and help us celebrate Captain Hellion's 21st Birthday!!!!
Friday, February 22, 2008

From the Eyes of a Romance Novel

I blinked my eyes as the light blinded me. I smiled when I realized what this meant. I was next on the shelf; the books on top of me had finally found a happy home, now it was my place to turn on the charm. I batted my eyelashes, and looked around the store. People were milling about, picking up fellow books and glancing at their pages. My heart ached as I observed the rejected expression on a little book down the shelf from me. Book Lookers, as we call them, have no idea of the self-esteem issues they provoke. One caress of our cover, one flip of our pages, can raise our hopes only to be dashed a few moments later when they place us back on the shelf. I don’t even want to discuss the psychological ramifications of being misplaced on the shelf.

I glanced toward the entrance, watching the crowd file by one by one on their way to the lingerie store next door. If they would read pages 157-161, they would get a beautiful lesson on how the lack of lingerie can benefit the single woman. Remembering the intimate scene made my cover sweat. I blew out a breath wishing I had arms to fan myself. My author had out done herself this time. Her heroine and hero were perfectly matched, sure, they fought tooth and nail to avoid their attraction, but their love was undeniable. What reader doesn’t love angst and a huge happily ever after?

I saw a young woman make a beeline into the store, heading straight for me. I held my breath as she scanned the shelves. Her eyes lit up when she saw me, and it took everything I had not to ruffle my pages when she picked me off the shelf. I could see the excitement in her eyes when she turned me over and read the back of my cover. She sighed and I wanted to wet my binder. She carried me over to the check out counter, and handed me to the clerk.

“Oh you’re going to love this one. I think this is her best book yet.” Of course I am, was there any question?

“I can’t wait to read it. I’ve heard once you start it you can’t put it down.” Now wait a minute, I belong to the book union and I’m entitled to my breaks, especially after you read pages 157-161. Can you say cigarette?

The clerk placed me in a bag, and I was in total darkness once again. After a long dull ride in the sack, I was once again resurrected. My new owner, I’m going to call her Alice, took me out of the bag and placed me on a table near her bed. She promptly walked out of the room, and left me destitute and unread. How could this be? I’m a best seller. I wallowed in my disappointment, craving for my pages to be turned.

I don’t know how much time had passed when I felt myself floating through the air. I opened one eye and saw Alice climbing into bed with me in her hand. Yippee! It’s my time to shine. She opened my cover and began to read. She proved to be an interesting reader. She smiled and giggled in all the appropriate places, but something really bothered me about her. She made the cardinal sin of eating while reading. I was appalled by this behavior. I didn’t want my lovely pages marred with the grease from her fingertips. It wasn’t a pretty sight, from my vantage point. Every time she turned a page she stuffed a massive hand of popcorn in her mouth, does this mean there’s a movie deal in my future?

When she reached page 157, sweat beaded on her upper lip. She pushed her hair off her forehead and clamped her knees together. She reached for her phone on the nightstand and hit speed dial. Someone must have answered because she began to speak.

“Hi Baby, whatcha wearing?” Oh hell no.

She giggled and dog-eared one of my pages before she closed me. She had just committed the second cardinal sin. Never do you dog-ear a page in a book; it’s a slap in the cover. Then I witnessed a blatant display of plagiarism. She recited verbatim what she wanted to do to her phone friend just as it was written on my pages.

“Oh baby it would feel so good.” Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall… ninety-nine bottles of beer.

Finally, she hung up the phone and picked me up. She read me for four hours straight and finally finished me. When she closed my cover, she sighed and wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. I made water works! She lovingly placed me on the nightstand and flipped out the light.

“You are the best book I’ve ever read.”

I felt my pages swell with pride. It was so obvious, I had her from the moment she touched my cover.

Can you tell I had no idea what to blog about? What are some of your favorite books that made you sigh when you closed the cover? Do you ever dog-ear your book pages?
Thursday, February 21, 2008

To Goal or Not to Goal, That is the Question…

Though I am sure to be met with much chagrin from my pantsing comrades here aboard the boat, I have devised a goal spreadsheet of sort. A kind of time line in which I determine where I should be in my writing and how many pages I want to write a week, then how long total it should take me to write my book and sort of a tentative completion date.

May 25. That’s my completion date.

I see that you’re skeptical. If you think you’re skeptical, let me clue you in on the little conversation I had with myself over this date.
*GM cues the lights and allows her multiple personalities free rein aboard a makeshift stage on deck*

Little bitty voice: Whoooaa… huh? May 25 is really close. That’s, like, before the summer and stuff.

Calming voice: Yes, little panicky voice, that is before the summer and stuff.

Little voice escalating and becoming laced with hysteria: Well, how do you perceive we’re going to manage that?!

Calm voice again: Well, just like everything else happens, you naggy whiner. One bit at a time. It’s all mapped out here.

Little voice, now a loud obnoxious voice: Oh! I see how you are! You think this spreadsheet, with its color coding and pretty mathematical calculations, is going to help you in those moments of writer’s block sure to come?!

Calming voice, with a sigh: Um, no, I realize this is just a spreadsheet, nitpicky pain in my ass. I do know I will have to write the book myself.

*The lights return to normal and GM gives a sheepish shrug.*

I’ll spare you this part. Just imagine the amount of skirmish that would ensue if someone told the pirates on the RWR there would be no more rum. Ever. Yeah, it wasn’t pretty.

For some reason, the idea of a timeline frightens many and that includes me. Somehow, setting such goals/deadlines is more frightening than tackling the herculean task of writing a novel one page at a time with no definitive end in sight. Why is that?

I think it’s because if I miss the deadline, I could feel bad about it and lose momentum. This would jumpstart a downward spiral of declining self-esteem and loss of motivation, resulting in the imminent death of my WIP, perhaps even my writing in general. *panting in drama queen fashion*

I have thought of this, trust me.

However, I’m a procrastinator. If I don’t have deadlines, I’ll put stuff off until I can’t put it off anymore. Therefore, because no one is standing over me, expecting my completed manuscript, it gets set aside. “I’ll do it later,” I say. “I’ll work through that hard scene tomorrow,” I hedge.

Recently I realized that this was making me angry with myself. I’ve found out that I’m now that someone standing over me, expecting my completed manuscript. And the longer I put me off, the worse I feel about it.

Now, that isn’t to say that my date won’t get pushed back again. Originally, I’d set a goal to have my WIP finished by February. However, that was before changing it from a straight-up Regency to a paranormal Regency. I had to adjust. I assume that there may be more adjustments in the future. Vacations, family illnesses, etc. But, a little more accountability never hurt anyone. Or at least an attempt at accountability.

As the captain is so fond to say: this isn’t a rule, it’s more of a guideline.

How about it, wenches and pirates? How do you feel about goals/timelines/deadlines and the like? If you hate them, why?
Tuesday, February 19, 2008

When One Just Isn't Enough

Sometimes it’s just a longing. A brief moment that makes all of time stand still. The way you know when to exactly look across the room. The way he makes you feel when you feel the heat of his eyes travel the length of you, going slowly from staring into your eyes all the wall down to your toes and making their way back up until he’s looking into your eyes and imagining you naked beneath his touch.

It’s the way every nerve comes alive when he walks into the room. The way your body reacts when you feel him standing behind you. Close enough to touch. Close enough to feel him. The way your next breath catches when his fingers come into contact with your skin. The warm touch of his breath along the back of your neck. The way your heart beats triple time at the thought of him kissing you. Tasting you. Backing you against the nearest wall and sliding your skirt up. The way his fingers would dance along your inner thigh. The way he would feel hard against you. Nothing but you and him. Anyway you could have him. It’s all you can think about. Your hands gliding along the smooth

But then you blink and tear your eyes away from his. Strong hands slide up your forearms. Possessing you. Marking you as his territory. You glance up and you see the look. Hero 1 knows you lust. Lusting not only for him, but for another man. He’s powerless to stop you. Wanting you to be his one and only, but you always manage to stay one step ahead of him. You touch his arm lightly. You smile up into his eyes. But the other man is within your sight, standing so when you glance over Hero 1’s shoulder, Unlikely Hero 2’s waiting. Watching you. The heat. The magnetism. The tension.

How can you have it with both men and have two totally different feelings?

He leans down to brush his lips lightly against your temple. There is just the brief skittering of butterflies low in your belly. The faint rushing of feelings that used to be so strong, but now have started to flicker like a flame that isn’t fed. There is still that tie holding you two together. But this case of lust has built itself into spontaneous combustion. It’s consumed you. When you lay your head down at night, you dream of him. Touching you. Caressing you. His mouth on yours. His hand between your thighs. The way your toes curl. The way he groans your name. The way dominates you, makes you feel again. Makes you remember that feeling. The rush. The explosion. The way his arms hold you tight. The way his fingers feel running through your hair. His lips soft and tender against your forehead.

And it all just started with a look.

It’s when you’re in the shower and the water cascades over you. It’s his fingers dancing over your skin. His mouth soft at first. Becoming more urgent. Demanding. The way the steam sucks the air from your lungs, just like the feeling you get when he’s near you. The way you can’t think. You open your mouth but the words never come to you. The way it feels so wrong, but so right. You’d do anything to be in his arms for another hour. Another minute. Another second. You can’t get enough of him. And each time he’s feeding the flame. It’s white hot between the two of you. Nothing can stop you from getting what you want.

Except for the other hero. Then it becomes a major conflict. You may not be a couple, but there is something there. Something that begs for a chance. A feeling you can’t quite figure out if you want to take a giant leap of faith on. Sacrifice and Trust. A give and a take. Is it worth it? Do you dare? Can you take that risk on just one person?

My heroine is hard to figure out. I think I might tapped into her inner struggle a little deeper. Maybe figured out a thing or two about how to make her tick. I don’t want to say I’ve got her all completely wrapped around my pinkie because she resents those remarks.

My heroine is relationship challenged. If someone gets close to her, she backs away from them. So it was only logical that I bring another hero into the mix. Someone that she was close to in another life. The life she had before her sister was murdered. Then she found another person in which she could trust. There is a balance for her trusting abilities. She picks and chooses the details from her life that she wants those closest to her to know.

So then it was only fair that once those two are established, I bring into someone else. That someone else is eventually supposed to take the place of her roommate.

But it’s not working out so well for me. At least not yet. They can’t stand each other. But I imagine by mid-book two or three they will find a common ground. After all, they have to work together. But it’s the chemistry between the two of them that will set up for the explosion. The first look. That first look of sexual tension between them. You build it up and build it up and then your hero fights you on it. Then the hero that was supposed to just be a friend, inserts himself right centrally into the integral plot line. And yet, the third hero waits on the wings of book one, watching, waiting, biding his time. He messes up. She messes up. They’ve made mistakes before. And it was together. But roomie hero won’t give up. He is the look from across the room. The look that makes you question everything you thought you knew about yourself. And just behind him, there is the work hero. Watching her. Studying her. Sizing her up. Realizing there is something more behind all the anger. Realizing there is that pull between them. He wants to walk away. But something is holding him back.

And there she is- the heroine. Looking up into the eyes of the guy she wanted with all her soul as a teenager. Finally having the chance at him and almost wanting to let it go. But she can’t. He’s her last tie. The very last thing holding her to her past. How can she let him go? She can’t quite yet. Even though she’s looking over his shoulder. The future uncertain. Her feelings all jumbled. The attraction between her and three men… it’s just overpowering. And intoxicating. Frightening.

Question of the Day: It’s not often that we write our heroines with two or more heroes. And aim for them to stick it out with the two or more heroes. So at one point do they become more than a mere plot device? When you do make them become an actual option for the heroine to choose? How do you sort it out? And if you’re a reader, do you like the more than one hero option? What turns you off the most?

PS. I'm on vacation this week and the wenches are graciously covering for me in the comments. I will try to comment later on in the day. I look forward to what you have to say!
Monday, February 18, 2008

Into the Inferno: Where Are We Going, and Why Are We In This Handbasket?

What with Lent upon us, I thought maybe we should focus on the things we should repent and do no more.

Much like the way to hell is paved with good intentions, so is the way to finishing your novel. You write up the character sketches, you answer numerous questions, and you even make a half-hearted attempt at an outline (i.e. plot.) But are you writing?


You’re thinking about writing. You’re playing and practicing, but you’re not actually writing. You’re showing up for church and tossing your pennies into the collection plate, but the rest of the week, you’re drinking with the damned. (Because that’s what all writers do, of course, drink. It says so right at the very bottom of this blog with the rules.)

You circle and circle, and soon you find you’ve arrived at Hell. Welcome. Dante’s holding up that familiar sign of: Abandon all hope ye who enter here. He laughs as you point to your notebook with your notes and outlines and plans. It doesn’t matter. You’re fully fettered into Writer’s Hell, my friend, and one or more of these grievous sins is probably what landed you here.

Circle 1: Limbo. You landed here because you didn’t know any better. Not an excuse—you’re still in hell. Read up on craft and read up on your genre—and read up period. Reading will by virtue make you a better writer. You won’t be able to help yourself.

Circle 2: Lust. Your lack of commitment because everything looks like it’d be fun to write leaves you clacking about aimlessly. Saddle a horse and ride it already. A stable of thoroughbreds isn’t going to do you any good if you don’t ride one across the finish line once in a while.

Circle 3: Gluttony. You think you need more and more research books and websites and historical tidbits and facts. If you use 1/100th of all the stuff you’ve researched, you’d have a tome to rival War and Peace. There is such thing as too much research. After a point, you’re doing it to avoid writing and we all know it.

Circle 4: Greed. Stop hoarding. Don’t save it for your next book—this book deserves all you have to give it, and frankly, you might not get a next book if you don’t make this one worth reading. And while you’re at it, help fellow writers around you. If you have a skill, share it. If you find something that was of use to you, share it with the community. The next Julie Garwood will remember you.

Circle 5: Anger & Sloth. Don’t hate them because they’re published; and don’t think writing is about eating bon-bons and substituting hair and eye color for the same old book. (All romances are the same, right? Wrong.) Writing is work; it’s why so few people actually do it. Stop being cranky and get off the couch and write it already.

Circle 6: Heresy. Don’t betray your reader’s trust. Don’t promise them a Happily Ever After, then kill off one of your protagonists or have them end up divorced, on welfare, selling their kids for crack. Sure, it probably exists in the world, but it’s not why the reader picked up your romance novel. Genre fiction makes a promise: the good guys get rewarded for their virtue; bad guys get their comeuppance; the puppy is saved from the burning building. Don’t betray the trust.

Circle 7: Suicides. This is the circle where self-destructive people live. What are the big sins here? Giving up, deleting your stories/chapters because you don’t like them, and trashing other writers to make yourself look better. Exactly what’s the benefit of doing any of these things?

Circle 8: Liars. Liar, liar, pants on fire. We’ve already established the reader trust. This one is: Don’t lie to yourself. It just starts a vicious circle. And lying to the editor you can finish something in X amount of time, when clearly you’ve never finished anything, not even pie, in that amount of time only gives you an overwhelming sense of failure—and leads you to the 7th Circle. You run a marathon by training for it, not by just signing up to do it and showing up on race day.

Circle 9: Betrayers. Traitors still get executed. You’ll notice the trend about hating those who betray us, and in the deepest circle of writing hell resides those who betrayed us the deepest: those who sell out and write “jets of warmth pooled between her flaming thighs.” Seriously, the only reason the fire department will be coming to my house for this line is because I set that book on fire in my front yard! Shoot for some originality, guys. Don’t think just because a hundred books before you have jetting pools of warmth, you should do so too so you can get the big money. You might, by some miracle, get published, but it won’t get you respect. Don't give us the cliche--offer us something unique, something that touches us. Give us the Awe Factor. (You won't be doing that with "His eyes were glued to her nipples." So don't even bother with that one. Find something else.)

So what have you given up for Lent? I'm giving up circle 7 and circle 2. (I always have a problem with LUST. Damn.) Any circles that should be added to the list?

Pirate Turned Hooker

I'm not what you would call a fisherwoman but I have been before and there are times, when floating about on this pirate ship looking for anything to do to avoid writing, that I've dropped a line or two. Unfortunately, I've never caught a thing. (Remind me to pick a fishing guide hottie one of these weeks.) In analyzing why I fail to get any bites, I realize it might have something to do with my hook. Maybe the lack of a hook or I'm putting the hook in the wrong place. Fishing is a precise science, believe it or not, and just throwing any old line into the water won't get you very far.

Writing is the exact same way. You not only have to have a hook, you have to have the hook in the right place. You bury that hook in chapter three and you might as well forget it. Needless to say, I've learned this the hard way and I'm still learning it. In desperately searching for a topic for this blog, I found a series of articles called Romance writing: Tips for crafting that crucial first chapter and learned a great deal by reading Hook Them In and Keep Them There by Wendy Mackrell. What I learned is that putting the hook on page twenty or even on page five is not a good idea.

For the benefit of my point (which I somehow never seem to make in these blogs) I'm going to use my WIP as a guinea pig to show you how starting with the hook can make a difference in so many ways. Here's my opening right now…
"The universe is conspiring against me. It's trying to drive me crazy. Lucky for the universe, it's a short trip."
"I thought I was the drama queen."
"I'm not being dramatic, Miranda, it’s the truth. I’m resigned to my fate." Celi Cooper switched the cell phone to her right ear, gave a quick glance over her left shoulder and changed lanes. "Everything went wrong today. I'm sure a giant boulder will fall out of the sky at any minute. Right on my car."
"Tempting fate with that one, aren't you?" Miranda joked. Celi didn’t mind Miranda finding humor in her bad day. If it were anyone else’s life, she’d be laughing too.
"You want to know how my morning started?" Celi didn't wait for Miranda to answer. "Fatal Error. Those are the words that greeted me on my monitor this morning."
"Nice. Makes me feel better my scissors can’t talk to me." Miranda said, "Put your head down, hon" to the customer in her chair.
"I shouldn’t be bothering you while you’re working." Celi glanced to the rearview mirror and saw shades of pink, red and blue in the sunset behind her. She hoped to catch that same sunset on film over the weekend. "How much longer until you’re off?"
"Another hour."
Miranda spoke to her client again. "I need to find that gel of mine and I'll be right back." In a muffled voice she said to Celi, "If these heifers do not stop taking my shit, I'm going off."
Celi made the turn into her apartment complex. The management office looked squat between the taller apartment buildings but welcoming with its manicured shrubs and bright flower beds of fuchsia, yellow and violet. "I'm home so I’ll let you
"I want to hear the rest of this bad day story. I’ll drop my stuff in my apartment and head upstairs when I get home. I don’t suppose you’ve eaten?" Celi figured Miranda wasn't talking to her anymore when she said, "I find my stuff on your station again and you're going to find that damn brush where the hair dryer don't blow. You hear me?"
Celi smiled for the first time in hours. Maybe the entire day. "No, I haven’t had time
to eat, but I’ll find something. You get back to work and remember someday you’ll have your own salon and those heifers will be long gone."
"Why is it you can be positive for me and not yourself?"
Celi parked across from her building, turned off the engine and laid her head back on the seat. With eyes closed she said, "Positivity is not what I need. A hot bath is what I need."
"Laid is what you need." Miranda believed sex to be the ultimate cure. "You pick one of the guys on the softball team tomorrow. We'll cut him from the herd at the bar afterward and get you in a better mood."
The only thing I've managed to do here is introduce a whiny heroine who has a funny and upbeat best friend who wants to get her laid and in this bit steels the scene completely. I also imply to the reader that the hero might be the guy they cut from the herd. I assure you, he's not. So, here's the changes I've made to move the hook forward…

"The universe is conspiring against me. It's trying to drive me crazy. It's working."
"I thought I was the drama queen."
"I'm not being dramatic, Miranda, it’s the truth." Celi Cooper switched the cell phone to her right ear, ventured a quick glance into her rearview mirror, and changed lanes. "You want to know how my morning started? FATAL ERROR. Those are the words that greeted me on my monitor this morning."
"Makes me feel better my scissors can’t talk to me." Miranda said, "Put your head down, hon" to the customer in her chair.
"I shouldn’t be bothering you while you’re working. How much longer until you’re off?"
"Another hour."
Celi made the turn into her apartment complex. "I'll stop whining and let you go then."
"You're not whining, you're venting. Totally different." Miranda DiCarlo had been Celi's best friend for nearly five years and her loyalty unshakable. "I want to hear the rest of this bad day story. I’ll drop my stuff in my apartment and head upstairs when I get home."
"Alright, I’ll see you then."
Celi flipped the cell shut and dropped it into the top of her purse. The complex mailboxes set directly across from her unit and a quick check of her box revealed several bills, three credit card offers she'd never open and her latest copy of Photography Today. Tucking the envelopes beneath her arm, Celi slid her key ring on her pinky then flipped through the magazine as she crossed the lot.
Head down, Celi failed to see the black Eclipse coming up fast on her right until it was almost too late. Diving for her life she hit the ground with a thud, landing hardest on her left side and coming to a stop flat on her back.
Afraid to move, Celi remained as still as possible while attempting to catch her breath. Eyes closed, hip throbbing and knee burning, she heard a car door then foot
steps rapidly approaching. With any luck, they were coming to put her out of her misery.

What do you think? I've managed to move the hook from page seven to page two. And all of that conversation (there's even more before we get to the good stuff) can easily slide right back in later. So what have we learned? When determining where to start your story, you need to do two things - A) find your hook and B) get it in as soon as possible.

How about you? Are you pulling out your hair trying to figure out where in the hell your story starts? Do you have ten pages of back story before any of your character's speak? Are you ready to throw something at me for rambling on with no point whatsoever? And if you're a reader, are you willing to stick around for five or ten pages to get to why you should care to read a book in the first place or do you give up much earlier than that?
PS: I'm going to be away from the computer most of the day but I'll check back in as soon as I can!
Friday, February 15, 2008

There’s a Dirty Girl in All of Us

When I think back to the first time I channeled my inner dirty girl I was in high school. Yeah, so I was a late bloomer. I remember reading Judy Blume’s Forever. If you never experienced this young adult romance, you missed some great reading. I had every sex scene ear marked so I could reread them at my leisure. I searched the shelves at my local bookstore looking for more of the same. I discovered Judy Blume was the pioneer of young adult soft erotica. That was my earliest memory of a book marketing strategy. The teenage girls in the United States deserved more young adult erotic romance novels. At least a hundred junior high girls read my copy of Forever. I was determined to graduate and become the next Judy Blume, it didn’t happen, but at least I’m a lot closer today than I was 25 years ago.

I wasn’t enlightened about the sexual act until I was twelve. A female cousin pulled me aside at a slumber party and said I was a total embarrassment; I had a ten-minute Cliff Notes version of The Joy of Sex. I can remember thinking it was the most disgusting thing I had ever heard. I turned thirteen two months later, and a miraculous change took place; I started to look at boys differently. Within a two month time frame boys changed from the biggest idiots on the planet, to something worth my time. Almost overnight, my view of an erection went from disgusting to entertaining. Now that’s progress.

As early as my adolescent years, I can remember channeling my inner dirty girl and writing sex scenes in my mind. I was always a well-behaved teenager, I wasn’t promiscuous, but I loved to flirt with the opposite sex. I was never a tease, but I always liked to leave all my male counter parts wanting a little more. That didn't change when I got married. I admit I've channeled my dirty girl behind closed doors. I've swung on a few ceiling fans in my time, and played out a few role play fantasies. However, if compared with a few wenches aboard this ship, my escapades would pale in comparison. But we'll leave that blog topic for another day.*g*

One of my favorite things in character development is developing their physical characteristics. It's important to know your characters on an emotional level, but relating to and describing them well physically, can increase the sexual attraction of that character tenfold. It's the subtle or differentiating characteristics that count the most. Use those to your advantage, throw in some vivid description and emotionally grounded characteristics and you have yourself a character that will stay with the reader long after the book is closed. When developing the physical appearances of your characters, ask yourself what physical characteristics appeal to you about a character when you read a book. Take your dirty girl for a walk, I guarantee she can help you create a hero that will leave a lasting impression.

Have you coined the term sexual dance? It’s the long drawn out foreplay before you get to the act. I have a naughty co-worker who has a wonderful relationship with her DH. They have a great sex life because they work at making it exciting. We were working on Monday morning when she received a phone call. Her husband had opened his brief case in a meeting that morning and discovered she had hidden a pair of her thong panties inside as a surprise. Now how’s that for beginning a sexual dance?

We write scenes everyday that introduces sexual tension between our characters. I use the five senses when creating a scene to build sexual tension. I always try to incorporate taste, touch, smell, sight, and feel in every scene. It makes it real, and pulls the reader into the scene with the characters. We build each scene like a puzzle until we are down to the final piece that bridges together the culmination of all the sexual tension. That scene more than likely includes a bed…or does it? Here’s where you can get your freak on. You can bypass the bed for the stairs, the shower, the kitchen counter…well you get my point. Let the dirty girl out to play and in the process take care of some sexual frustration of your own. We’ve often blogged about our writing being therapy. This is just one more way of using our personal character to personalize our fictional characters.

Even if we don’t include sex in our WIP, we still have to create physical attraction, and sexual chemistry. Maybe you don’t feel the need to channel anything to write the sexual dance between your characters, but a part of us has to contribute a sexual element to our writing voice.

Judy Blume celebrated her 70th birthday a few weeks ago. I would like to wish her a happy belated birthday. Thank you Judy for helping me discover my inner dirty girl. Forever rock on!

Do you have an inner dirty girl, if so do you call her out to play when you write?
Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day: Show, Don't Tell

It’s the day of love. Cupids abound, hearts of every shade of pink and red, and people buying their special ones loads of chocolate in an attempt to prove their love through excessive caloric offerings. Those out there with no one to buy them chocolate do it for themselves – or should – resulting in the majority of us being edgy and sleepless this evening from too much sugar and caffeine. Harness that energy as you will, dear wenches.

There are mixed emotions about Valentine’s Day. Not just among the population at large, but here on the boat as well. The range of course runs from “awh, it’s sweet” to “if I have to see one more red paper heart I’ll stab my eyes out.” (Feel free to try and figure out where each of the pirates fall on that continuum. Could be entertaining for all of us.) *g*

My husband despises Valentine’s Day, claims that if you love someone that you shouldn’t need the day exploited by Hallmark to “prove” it to them. This might sound like he’s just trying to get out of buying me a gift, but this is the same guy who never let me run out of my favorite ice cream while 8 months pregnant (Turkey Hill Mint Choco Chip), remembers to scrape my car off if it’s snowing, does the vacuuming and laundry (though admittedly doesn’t fold well), and has scaled back on his snoozes from 6 to 1 – on most days – because he knows I sleep so lightly. So, while he makes a fuss and boycotts Valentine’s Day, I let him happily, knowing that he’ll do plenty of things all year long that show me he loves me best.

*A skirmish breaks out aboard the ship as pirates equal parts retch and threaten to throw their gunner overboard. Gunner Marnee attempts to hold them at bay, tossing the crew a bag of truffles and a fifth of rum as a distraction.*

Gimme a second wenches! I swear I’m not trying to touch any nerves today. *The testy pirates settle into the chocolate and liquor, placated for now but casting suspicious glances in GM’s direction.* Let me just get to the point. *Captain Hellion, mouth full of chocolate, gestures a grudging go-ahead with her pistol.*

*GM continues quickly before they change their minds.*

One of the reasons so many hate Valentine’s Day is because it can tend to feel fake. Grand gestures one day that aren’t supported by the day before or the day after and plenty of empty words.

This is a huge case of show don’t tell if I’ve ever seen it.

When heroes, or heroines for that matter, act uncharacteristically in novels, our mind and our hearts rebel against them. For example, we mentioned yesterday that we doubt the happy ending when a hero and heroine who fight the entire book have a miraculous make up at the end. Without enough support, enough characterization, we don’t believe it –just like at Valentine’s Day.

Characterization has to be built in the little things characters do quietly, even when no one else is watching. We can believe a rough-around-the-edges man with a soft spot for a stray dog would develop a similar soft spot for our heroine. We can believe a tortured widower who’s afraid to love again, but is tender and loving to his children can eventually find room in his heart for our heroine. Because if we build their characteristics appropriately, their grand profession of love isn’t a stand-alone moment; it’s the culmination of many smaller moments.

Just like Valentine’s Day’s grand gesture should be a culmination of a year’s worth of small loving gestures.

So, wenches, what authors do this creation of character through small acts well? Any practical ways to help build characters? How does everyone else feel about V-Day? Any big plans today?
Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Thin Line Between Hatred and Lust

There are constant reminders all around that tomorrow is Valentine’s day. A day retailers around the nation have groomed into being a whole day dedicated to being about love and the love of those closest to your heart. Though it’s nothing but a ploy to get you to spend exorbitant amounts of money on stuff all in the name of said love, people jump on the bandwagon like they’ve just said we’re headed west looking for gold and rainbows.

Love is meant to be celebrated every day of the year through gestures that come from the heart and can be enjoyed together no matter what day it is on the calendar. If you truly loved someone, you would show them everyday how much they meant to you.

But let’s not get me started on my soapbox this morning. I just redecorated it, and the black paint is still wet. Not to mention my rhinestone crown isn’t set yet. But the black feather boa looks nice.

Today, even though I wanted to talk about how much I despise V-day, I’m going to take the high road and talk about passion in your writing. Not just for love scenes, I’m talking throughout the entire novel. Packing that emotional punch each paragraph. Each page. Each chapter and ultimately to the HEA ending.

During the course of writing an original, you run into wild emotions. Emotions that you haven’t thought much of before you get to them, emotions that you could bank on when you started out to sea. Sometimes it comes on slowly, building up and letting the reader know just what to expect. And sometimes, well the emotion just seems to blow up. It’s explosive. It’s hot. It’s tantalizing and it’s uninhibited. It’s just the type of emotion that makes your heart thump like a drum. Your blood to heat up like molten lava. Your body lights up like a Christmas tree. You go from fighting to having sex in point zero seconds.

Now that’s what I love about writing.

Writing emotion is much like living it. Our character live through our direction. They act out mini fantasies and move through life with a passion for everything that they do. No matter if they absolutely hate what they are about to do, there’s a certain underlying passion about they way they hate. And that’s all because of the emotional impact you make through your character.

Passion is a very strong emotion. Passion can put you in several different places throughout your life. You can be passionate about something and there could be passion between you and another. Even if you’re arguing, on the border of hating, there’s passion behind every word, behind every emotional pull between the two of you. Between your hero and heroine even what’s lying just below the surface of a fight is passion for one another. Passion for the argument. Passion for the heat between them. Using the fight to pit their will against each other, getting their blood heated, their hearts pounding. It’s all the lead into the desire you’re showing and that the reader is starting to feel.

You have to have passion between your characters to make them work. Otherwise, it’s a weak and boring read that gets sat down 75 pages into the book and only glanced at once a year before they haul it off to the used bookstore for something better. Even if that passion isn’t sexual, passion makes a character stand out. Makes your reader remember your story and come back for more even after the last page is turned.

Passion can make you do stupid thing. And can make you do remarkable things in the heat of the moment. And passion is the reason behind every good love story. Ultimately there is passion in love. And there is passion in hate. Blurring the lines between the two can be a very tricky maneuver.

The easiest way for me to blur the lines is for the fight to be something that happened in the past. Something neither of them has gotten over. Something that needs to be dealt with before they can move on. But they never get that far. There’s always lust bubbling underneath the surface of their fight. It only takes one look for someone to take control and push them against the nearest wall and well… you know what happens next. It doesn’t make the fight go away but the aggression between them hovers back down at the simmering point. You get one thing out of the way and then they can think semi-rationally and have a chance at working it out.

Though, I could argue that love isn’t rational. Neither is lust. Nor is any emotion. But that’s all another blog for another day.

So I suppose my question of the day is: What do you do to amp up the passion between your characters? Any tips? Advice? Picture manuals?
Or if you don’t like that question, how about: What is passion to you?

Kim, You Are a Winner!

Come on down....

*theme music from the Price is Right*

You are the Prize Winner from Colleen Gleason's book giveaway. Please email me ( and I'll forward your information to Colleen Gleason.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.

International Man of Mystery: The Alpha Male

In truly unpirate-form, we parlayed about what we’d be blogging about this week, This Week of Love. (Since when do pirates plan?) And I committed myself to writing about great romantic gestures, the kind that makes us fall in love with the hero even though he doesn’t say “I love you.”

I know, the topic bored me too.

And then I was reading this lovely article about my beloved Jack (no, not mine), and this highly educated lady laid out the simple formula to me: about what makes any romantic hero sexy.

What, what? you ask.

“It’s a mystery.”

No, no, don’t leave in a huff. I’m not trying to be obnoxious. Much. But there are the obvious things: handsome, noble, in possession of a sense of humor as well as a modest fortune (or at least a job), and the ability to not frighten small children (since that would be handy later.) But then there is The Mystery.

As Marnee pointed out, we love to solve a mystery, whether we realize it or not. And I’m pretty sure Lisa has also opined on heroes with that sense of SOMETHING, but you can’t pinpoint what. You don’t know; it’s a mystery.

Think how boring Mr. Darcy would have been if he’d really been that pretentious jerk. It would have been so easy to loathe him; and yet the more we’re around him, the more we sense a bit of mystery about him. Something that makes us think he’s not quite as he seems, there’s something there beneath the surface if we’re willing to look.

I know we’re not exactly rule-followers around here; and I know that the first rule is: drink rum, then write. But one of the close followers to this rule is: Show, Don’t Tell. Which if anyone has had a gander at my WIP can tell you is easier said than done. I’d say the flipside to this all-important rule is: Show, But Don’t Show Too Much. Show us the 10% to intrigue us, and let us figure out the other 90. Readers want to fill in the blanks *and* we want to be right, so letting us fill in what we don’t know about a character by virtue makes us right. (For a while, at least.)

I think the problem with why Betas aren’t as valued as a sexy Alpha is that Betas don’t have secrets, and thus we know too much about them. Think of Will Turner, another pirate favorite. In the first film, he was Beta-Beta-Beta. He couldn’t have been more Beta if he’d been coached by Opie himself. The handsome blacksmith who nobly faced danger to save the woman of his dreams, with some help from the incomparable Jack Sparrow. The problem was that at the end of that movie: Will Turner was still a Beta—and he was still a blacksmith.

In the second movie, he went a bit more willingly into the danger to save his love *and* his father; and he was slightly more pirate as the movie raged on, but in the end, as he watched his fiancé kiss Jack on the deck of the Black Pearl, all I saw was betrayed blacksmith. You know, the Nice Guy Who Finished Last.

But with the beginning of the third movie, Will had developed this interesting new personality, compliments I’m sure of his loose-lipped fiancé, and he was far more Alpha than Beta in this flick. He was secretive, hurt simmering in the depths of those almost black eyes, and kept his agenda close and his enemies closer. Will was swoon-worthy before he tied on that scarf, simply because he got a bit of mystery about him.

Think about it. Aren’t your favorite romances filled with heroes whose backstories are kept close to the vest, but once revealed (at least partially) make you swoon that much harder for the hero it reveals? No one wants to go on the first date with a guy who reveals all his broken relationships and inability to commit before the dessert is even ordered. (It’s happened.) There is a certain sense of reward you feel as someone who has earned the right to know these secrets, if they’re not revealed until later in the game. That sense that he doesn’t trust just anyone with his darkest secrets; that he trusts you to keep them safe.

Do you like your men mysterious or forthcoming? Any movie or book “dark secrets” you can recall that left you totally floored and made you love the hero even more? Which Will is better: the first film or the last? Anyone have trouble with showing instead of telling like I do?

Monday, February 11, 2008

My Latest Aha! Moment - Creating Sexual Tension

In writing we are inundated with talk of conflict. Having it in our plot is absolutely critical. It can be internal or external and without it we have nothing. It guarantees a page-turner, puts our hero and heroine at odds or in danger and makes the HEA all the more satisfying.

Alas, I can hear the groans already but this is not just another lecture on stirring up trouble for your characters. No, my friends, this is about using conflict to crank up the tension – the sexual tension.

First I have to say I highly recommend taking Mary Buckham's wonderful e-course "Sex Between the Pages" in which I have found this AHA! moment. I take no credit except for the fact I paid my money and signed up. The rest of this is all Mary. *g* (Aside: Mary offers other classes too. Synopsis anyone?!)

For the majority of romance writing, sex is a crucial part of the story but we all know there's more to sex than…well….sex. It's the anticipation, the build-up, the sexual tension. But how do we create that tension? Is it by having those "jet pools of warmth" showing up from a casual handshake? I believe the Captain would say "GOOD GOD NO!" And she would be right.

We crank up the tension by cranking up the conflict. The characters need to be conflicted about their reactions and responses to each other. Notice the change from the word conflict to conflicted. It can be that simple. If there is the slightest reason, whether real or perceived in the mind of your heroine, for her NOT to be attracted to the hero, then you have officially created conflict. And in turn, created sexual tension.

First, I'll give you something I've come up with.

Kid walked into the room with the swagger of a rock star. His long blonde
hair reflected the light off the neon sign over the bar and his eyes remained
hidden behind dark shades. A familiar itch started in the pit of Amy's
stomach and had her crossing the room before she realized she was moving.

Pressing her breasts against Kid's back at the same moment he
lifted a beer bottle to his lips, Amy whispered in his ear, "I've got something
much better than a cold bottle you can put those lips against."

pulled her around to trap her between the hard bar and his already hard
arousal. "Your place or mine?"

Attraction? Yes. Sex? Obviously. Tension? Nope. There's no conflict here. No reason given for either of these characters to fight their attraction. And though this might work in an erotica, there is nothing other than finding out how good these two are at sex for the reader to turn the page.

Now, I'll give you an example of sexual tension as created by a woman I consider a master of the art, Elizabeth Lowell.

This man's deep stillness brought out in Elyssa a reckless desire to pry beneath
his composed surface to the heat and seething life of him.

But Life
had taught Elyssa that recklessness could be very costly.

Elyssa measured the cool reserve in Hunter's eyes. A deeply feminine part
of her wondered where he had been and what had happened to take from his soul
all but ice and distance … and an echo of pain that cut her like a

Why should I care about this man's past? Elyssa asked
herself fiercely. He evaded whichever Culpepper was on guard out in the
pass, and that's more than Mac with all his hunting skills managed to

That's all I should care about. Hunter's

Yet it wasn't all Elyssa was concerned about, and she was
too intelligent not to know it. This man drew her as no other ever
(Lowell, Autumn Lover, p 4)

Attraction? Yes. Sex? Maybe. Tension? Hell yeah. This is a woman alone in the wild west trying to keep her ranch and herself from being devoured by the evil Culpeppers. She's seen enough to be wary of any man and this is a complete stranger who has shown up out of no where, strode silently out of the shadows and offered his protection. She has no reason to trust him, every reason to be afraid of him, yet she wants to crawl inside of him. Tell me you could resist turning the page at this point?

It's important to note the perceived obstacle or conflict does not have to have anything to do with the overall conflict of the story. It can be as simple as a past negative experience with a jock in HS leaving a heroine wary of large, athletically built men. Which means when she meets and is instantly attracted to a very athletic, virile man, she fights the attraction telling herself she couldn't possibly have anything to do with him.

Now, am I the only one who didn't know all this? Are you a master at cranking up the sexual tension and your work is brimming with the stuff? Or are you now realizing what you've been missing and running off to add little bits of conflict to all those highly charged run-in with your hero and heroine? Also, what author(s) do you think is a master at creating the kind of sexual tension that has smoke pouring off the pages?
Friday, February 8, 2008

"Don't Doubt It"

"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt. "~ William Shakespeare

As pirates, we face traitors in everyday battle. We overcome them, force them to walk the plank, then we smile as we glance over the ship’s rail to see them washed away by the forceful current of the ocean tide.

Many times in my life, I’ve attempted to remove failure from my vocabulary. I’ve seen people use the term failure to measure a person’s worth, and to me that is so wrong. Can you really call a person a failure until you’ve walked in their shoes?

As writers, we allow doubt to seep into our minds, and begin to question if we will ever succeed. Doubt can sneak up on you when you least expect it, tearing down aspirations and the confidence you have for your WIP. It explains why one day you feel you’ve written the best 5K you’ve ever produced and the next day you have no idea what you were thinking. The most confident writer has doubts; they have moments when they question their ability. It’s normal, we all do.

How you deal with doubt defines your progress.

The answer to doubt is as simple as the universal answer to most obstacles writers face. You continue to write, and then you write some more. I face all difficult tasks in my life in the same manner. I measure the difficulty of the task, and then I question my ability. Before I ever attempted to write a book, I asked myself why I should even try. The answer is because I enjoy writing and I have nothing to lose by trying. If I don’t publish, I still have the experience of the journey. No matter how successful I become I will always be a writer. Writing has become as much a part of me as my personality.

I don’t view a writer as a failure because of the inability to publish. It’s measured by how we choose to perfect our craft. We set ourselves up for failure if we never take our peer’s advice, never learn from our mistakes and instead make excuses for every criticism voiced about our work. There are so many resources available for writers; we have no excuse for not having a grasp on our profession. If you research long enough you will find the answers. If you ask questions often enough you will become empowered. If you write long enough you will hit your stride. If you network and make yourself visible, you will become a familiar name. If you visit a scene where your WIP takes place then you write it honestly. If you believe in the story you want to tell then you will strive harder to get it told.

Shakespeare had a beautiful point; treat the doubts in your mind as traitors. Why not use the negative as a positive? Write your doubts into a corner, and then every time you glance at that corner use them to fuel your desire for success.

How do you view failure? Do you base it on the inability to publish, or what you fail to learn on the journey? How do you keep doubts at bay when you become discouraged about your WIP? Who views doubt as an internal mechanism for alerting us that we’ve veered off course?
Thursday, February 7, 2008

Voice Lessons – Part Two

Movie directors and screenwriters have it easier than straight out novelists. (At least I think so and it’s my blog so what I say goes. Pirate.) I think they have it easier than us because they can rely on visuals. Within seconds of the credits rolling and the music starting, the tone of a movie is set. The colors they use, the angles they come from, and the actions of the characters as well as the script all play a part in “setting the scene.”

When you’re a novelist, you only have the words you write. “Only!” I hear some of you wenches gasping. Well, yes, only. Think of all the visual weapons in a screen director’s arsenal. And what do we have? Words.

Yet, I constantly hear from moviegoers, “that wasn’t as good as the book.” How, if a director can make us see everything, can’t they make a movie better than a book?

A good novelist creates something that lives inside someone else’s head. That’s a tall task. When a reader picks up a book, they want to fall into the world that author has created. They want that world, those characters, to live inside their head for the few hours it will take them to reach the end.

So, how do we set that scene? What do we do to make that scene, the setting, the book, alive for that reader? I say it starts with the tone we use and, ultimately, with our voice.

But, what, beyond lots and lots of practice, attributes to our voice?

Yesterday, Sin talked about how we write emotion and I thought that really got at the heart of voice. As I mentioned in the comments (if you haven’t read them, you should, as always the wenches who visit the boat leave brilliant insight) I don’t do dark well. In addition to that, I don’t do a lot of melodrama well. In fact, I would say for the most part, I’m pretty light. But, I don’t think light has to mean light on substance.

So, my WIP is a not dark, non-melodramatic, light but substantial read. In fact, those adjectives tell you nothing concrete about my writing style.

How am I “not dark?” How do I avoid melodrama? What makes me substantial but light?

These questions got me thinking about the specifics of creating voice. Apparently we all have to “find” our voice. How many times do we hear that advice as fledgling authors? Keep writing, I hear, you’ll figure it out, they say. And, I agree. The more I write, the more clarity I have about this.

But, that doesn’t help you. So, today, I want to talk about some of the specifics. How do we create voice? My first example is this: I know that my dialogue is very light because my characters banter. It’s quick and at times silly. My characters twist each other’s words and bicker the way that attorneys do; with a one-up the other goal in mind and practically no malice. When they talk, the tones of their conversation hold the power-struggle I see between defensive parties. It makes for tension, but without the darkness. Or, so I think.

What about you? What specific things do you do that contribute to your voice?
Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Shot Through the Heart

There’s something about emotion that can weigh a character down. A feeling like the weight of the world is carried on their shoulders. The feeling of guilt. The feeling of devastation. Hopelessness. Regret. A lot of regret. It takes a lot for a character to leave that feeling behind. And it takes a strong writer to help them achieve it.

It’s the journey that makes the ending all the more enjoyable.

In every story there is an internal conflict that the character must go through to show the reader, convince them that his/her will is strong. The he/she can grow from mistakes. Learn. Move on. But what does it take out of the writer to convey that? We all tend to live through our words. Moving our characters in and out of a world that we’ve created, situations that we’ve placed them in. We give them life. We give them heartache. We give them strength to put one foot in front of the other. But when it comes down to the real emotion, the type of stuff that make a reader’s heart stop, the tears, the moment of truth, does it really come from your own experiences and drag the character through the mud? Or do you play it off, skirting around the issue, resolving it with as little drama as possible?

When I write emotion, I write how I feel. I think of the situation. I think of how I would react. How someone else would react. I see it as a play in my mind and I’m the director. Even if I’ve never experienced it before, my imagination takes it away for me. I can’t say I’ve ever seen blood pouring out of a body before (besides my own). I can’t say that I’ve had a sister been brutally murdered. Or been a FBI agent. Or even drove Porsche. But it only takes a visual image and a really good imagination to get you through it.

After following a brilliant blog by Colleen Gleason yesterday about research, and comments made about the emotion and plot weaving and what it takes to write those characters, I thought about what it takes to be a great writer. What draws your reader into your stories and keeps you coming back for more. And I think it’s the emotion the writer puts into the characters. The heart. The research. You have to feel like you’re a part of the story. To be absorbed by the world. To experience the internal dialogue. To have that moment of utter despair and hopelessness in the black moment like your world is crushing down around you. Suck them into that world and make them come back for more. Make them see it. Make them feel it. That’s the mark of a truly great writer.

So my blog is short today (and probably not sweet, lol) and really there is only one question on my mind. How do you write emotion? I know we talked about our moods bleeding into our words in the comments a few days ago, but do you roll with it when it happens? Or do you distance yourself from your own emotions and separate your heroine/heroes emotions from ones that you would normally have? If you’re a reader, what do you prefer? Do you prefer that deep emotional connection or do you prefer light and fluffy?
Monday, February 4, 2008

Colleen Gleason: Putting Truth Into Your Fiction and Other Challenges in Writing Paranormal Historicals

Pirates, please help me in welcoming Colleen Gleason to the ship! *hearty cheers*

Colleen, as if you didn't know, is a fellow pirate who traverses the salty seas, writing about vampires, if you can believe it. *superstitious routine done by crew members where they cross themselves in protection against vampires*

Captain Colleen has published three books in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles, and her newest release, The Bleeding Dusk, hits the shelves today! (She even has a rave review from J.R. Ward!): "Sophisticated, sexy, surprising. With its Regency graces and vampire lore, this book grabs you and holds you tight until the very last page!"

I love writing paranormal historicals.

One reason I like the historical setting is that it gives the heroine (and other characters) a different set of restrictions than they have in today’s world. It makes it more challenging for them—and for me.

Such as? Well, obviously, no cell phones, no texting, no Internet and email. Makes communication that much more difficult, and it makes it easier for things like swapping or taking on new identities. It also allows me to build in more tension because, again, it’s harder to get places, to contact people, to find out things.

And then there’s the whole fashion aspect. While, I admit, there are times when I wish I could put my Victoria Gardella Grantworth into some serious CFM boots, or a glittery cocktail dress, or Max into a leather duster, or Sebastian into some tight suede jeans…I also get to use the styles of dress at that time to my advantage.

It’s a lot harder for a young woman attending a Society ball to find a place to hide her stake than it was for Buffy, who just slipped it up her sleeve. I’ve had to get creative with my heroine and find ways for her to secret weapons on her person, and even to have to change in the carriage and need help from someone to unlace her corset! Fun, fun, fun.

Another reason I love writing historical paranormals is because I get to play with history. I get to take events that actually happened and give them a paranormal twist or otherworldly explanation.

For example, when I was researching the second book in the Gardella Vampire Chronicles, Rises the Night, I learned that John Polidori, the author of The Vampyre, died a somewhat mysterious death. There were differing explanations as to why/how he’d died. Well, heck, I thought...I’m certain it had to do with his exposing vampire secrets in his book The Vampyre, and they came after him for revenge.

And voila! I had a plot twist that I was able to build upon.

I also learned that secret societies like the Carbonari were very common in Italy at the time, and so I figured there had to be a secret society of vampire protectors that also existed—and thus I created The Tutela, which is just that: a society that protects and serves the undead, and appear in my books.

For my third Gardella book, I wanted to base part of the plot around something in Rome. I kept Googling things like “Rome 19th century legend” “Rome 18th century secret” “Rome myth” “Rome legend.” And while I got a lot of things about Remus and Romulus, I also found out about The Door of Alchemy (La Porta Alchemica), which is a real door that still exists today, and is described in my book The Bleeding Dusk.

In fact, because it was so fascinating, I used that door as the main focal point of the suspense plot in the book. And to think I found it quite by accident! That’s the beauty of writing paranormal historicals, and the fun stuff that research can uncover.

One more, then I’ll stop and take questions….when I was working on the fourth Gardella Vampire Chronicles book, When Twilight Burns (coming in August), I found out that during the time the book was set the former Prince Regent of England was crowned king, and that the coronation was a huge, elaborate, expensive affair…and that he refused to let his estranged wife, Queen Caroline, enter Westminster Abbey for the coronation.

I had to use that tidbit in my book, and I knew just how to build that paranormal aspect around it!

I want to thank Fran for having me and for dressing up the place so nicely—that Writer’s Angel is extremely inspiring.  I’d love to borrow him.

I’d love to take questions from anyone about the books, the series, the research process, etc.—so lay’em on me! Oh, and ARGH!!!

Hellion, again: Colleen is not only a kick-ass pirate, but she's a kick-ass pirate with booty! One lucky commenter will win one of Colleen's books--winner's choice. (Can't get any better booty than that.) So please stop and ask your most pressing questions about research, the series--and most importantly: is Sebastian a sort of Professor Snape character? And when do we get to see more of him?