Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dr. Frankenstein, or How World-Building Gets Messy

One of the things I love about writing is that it makes me the queen.  I rule over my realm of created characters and fictional situations, equal parts merciful and merciless.  If my characters act up, I can push them around in the manner of Bill Cosby in Himself:  You know, I brought you in this world, and I can take you out. And it don't make no difference to me, I'll make another one look just like you.”

Ah…  it’s good to be the queen.

When I added paranormal twists to my plot, I started to feel less like the monarch of my own little kingdom and more like Dr. Frankenstein.  Before I knew it I was creating characters that were amalgamations of historical uptight misses and butt-kicking witches. 

I debated introducing paranormal elements into my WIP for quite a while before I gave in.  I admit that part of the reason I had such an internal debate was the sheer work involved.  I mean, I already had all of the Regency research to contend with.  And, as mentioned in my blog of a couple weeks ago, I still have a ways to go with that.   Now I would have to define the limitations of my witches.  What can they do and what can’t they do?  Can they cast spells?  Can they create potions?  If not, why not?   Can they use their magic whenever or are there rules?  What rules?

I also had to think about how these powers will change my heroine’s outlook on the world.  Would she be timid, afraid of having others discover her secret?  Would she be stronger than the average Regency miss because of her powers?  Probably both, I think.  So how does all that play out when it interacts together?

Yeah, beats me too.

But, this week I started thinking that maybe I would have to do this sort of world building no matter what genre or time period I wrote in.  We all have to figure out how our character’s personality traits interact together and how that interaction then interacts with the “real world.”  It’s a matter of answering all the questions, all the hows and whys and what ifs, that makes the world we create the rich place our readers will want to live in for a few hours.

I guess the price of being queen is that I have to be Dr. Frankenstein sometimes too.  I think I can handle that.

What questions have you found the hardest to answer in the course of your world building?   What questions or obstacles to world building do you think are unique to your subgenre?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Spring Fling

If I’d kept a diary for a few days like this, it would’ve looked much like this:


Wednesday, April 23:

It's about mid-afternoon and I'm so excited I can hardly breathe! Thank goodness I didn't have to write a blog last night because I can't focus on one thing at a time. My suitcase still has to be packed. I still have to buy groceries. I need to clean the house. I need to get at least three loads of laundry finished. I mentally ticked everything off my list throughout the day. Not to mention that Thursday, I was about to embark on my first journey as a writer. Physical journey, I suppose.

I was going to a conference!

Every time I thought about it, I was filled with excitement just bubbling over the edge and spilling out around me. I couldn't wait until Thursday! It was going to be SO much fun!

Thursday, April 24:

Mildly in a panic when I realize I'm actually going to a conference. For writers. Going to a conference for writers. Okay. Breathe in through the nose. Breathe out through the mouth. Breathe in through the nose... Hell, it's not working.

I'm halfway home. It's not even noon
yet. I could turn around and drive away. Hellion would never find me. I can hide until this damn weekend is over with. I can't believe I let her talk me into going. I can't believe I'm actually going to do this to myself. I'm not a writer. I'm a wannabe going to a conference with a bunch of writers.

"Ringadingding. Ringadingding. B###* Muth*$^&&$## F*## &$@#  @$$*(@&!." 

WTH is that?

Crap. The cell phone.

I speed through a light, reach for the phone. Please. Please. Please let this be Hellion saying that the conference is cancelled and I'm getting my money back for being an idiot and saying I was going.

Nope. Dad.

You still coming home on Sunday?
*hard swallow* Yup.



Lovely conversationalist.

I arrive home, still trying to remember how to breathe. It won't be that bad, I tell myself. Hellion will be there. She will be your bumper. She will talk to everyone and no one will notice you don't know how to.

Except we're taking separate workshops. Crapola.

I look at the clock. Look out the door. Hellion is tearing around the corner like the hounds of hell are after her.

Here goes nothing.

Friday, April 25 @ 10:00am

I feel much calmer now. We arrived at the hotel without me accidentally making a jump for it. Hellion and I parted ways at the airport last night, me off with a girlfriend to the conference hotel (eek!) and Hellion off with our crit partner, Dee. I'm all alone right now, trying to remember to breathe. My fingers are numb. Probably from the two Venti Starbucks I just had. I have a baby shower to decorate for first before I make my decent into my very own personal hell complete with perfect strangers talking to me. 

This gives me the cold sweats. 

I'm off to inhale some helium. This might help calm me down.

Friday, April 25 @ 12:20pm

Oh hell. Oh hell. Oh hell.

There are people downstairs registering!

Surely it can't be too late for me to tuck my tail and run the other direction is it?

I contemplate this as I ride the elevator back up to the room. Not only do I have cold feet. I'm rather cold all over. Maybe I'm coming down with something that will allow me to stay in the room all weekend and hide.

All is quiet in the hall as I sneak back into the room, undetected. 

Wait. It that my cell phone flashing? I gingerly walk towards it, and pick it up like it might burn my hand with acid.

One missed call.


I step away from the phone and it rings. Okay, I went pretty far away from it. I take a deep breath, feeling rather sick to my stomach. I call her back.

We're here. Are you coming down?

*deep breath* Would this be the moment to say no? That would mean I didn't bring my big girl panties and everyone knows ninja's always wear their big girl panties in case they are stuck in an elevator during a fire alarm.



Friday, April 25 @ 2:30pm

I didn't have time for cake. I need cake. People are going to sit next to me and talk in my direction.

Crossover Fiction.

You can do this. This is your genre. This is the reason you came here you nincompoop. Just walk into the room.

Except I have to sit in the front because I'm blinder than a bat at noon


I put my head down and sit in the front. My awkward long legs almost reach out into the middle of the aisle. I quickly fold them back, wrap around style like yoga. The workshop instructor smiles and I flash my best smile except my inner Chandler rears his ugly head and it's more like a smirk with a bit of torture lips thrown in, probably some crazy eyes. She shrank back.

Yup, me at my finest.

I sit there quietly, head down, notebook ready. Just let me get through this. Just let me get through this.

She's introduced and I notice all the books on her table. Examples, she calls them. Heaven, I silently refer to them. All of them authors I love and adore and instantly I feel much better. I feel at home with my inner reader. And as long as I stayed one with the reader, I was going to be okay.

I even managed to jot a few notes about my para series.

Thank goodness for small favors.


The Chicago Spring Fling 2008 was my first conference. This was the first opportunity I had to actually go out and feel like I was a writer. I've got to tell you that I felt anything but a writer when I first arrived. It's easy to pretend in your mind that you can accomplish nearly anything, including 100k before September 01, but when you step into the world of actual published writers, your sense of accomplishment dwindles, at least for me. I was a nervous wreck.

If any of you have met me in real life, I either tend to babble a lot when I'm nervous or I'm extremely withdrawn. I babbled all the way from the airport to the hotel and all night, almost until 2am. Babbling, for some reason, is my natural defense against an extreme case of nerves. I didn't know anyone but Hellion and Dee
going to this conference. Which meant I was going to have to talk at some point and not that nervous babbling crap I do, but actually make sense. 

Oh boy. I had no idea what I was in for.

Several months ago, Hellion and I were emailing an author by the name of Leslie Langtry who innocently admitted that she was going to be at the Spring Fling. Here is where I'm going to admit that I might have made my decision to go a little easier at the time. I got to see people I had been missing for a while and I get to meet an author who's book made me snort aloud with laughter? Sign me up. 

Wrong! *mental head smack* Someone needs to take my decision making abilities away from me!

I make it back downstairs from the baby shower and I see Hellion in her flaming red hair wearing all black (She knows how to represent for the babes, because I was wearing all black too) and I see another redhead. Instantly, all conversation flows to a halt.

Leslie Langtry in the house!

We hug and make plans for drinks and our workshops are starting, so Hellion and I steer away from each other. Crossover fiction for me. I'm feeling rather sick at this point. Being on my own. Pretending to be a writer. Nothing more dangerous than that combination (Other than me, a bottle of Tequila and a dry bar).


I learned a lot in that first workshop. Went to a Q&A with three of the headlining authors, Christie Ridgway, Debbie Macomber and Eloisa James. I’ve always loved to listen to other people talk about their lives. Even writing. This was a good thing for me. I loosened up a bit. Headed upstairs to chill and then headed back down for another course on how to write romance (which I needed in a bad way- and learned a lot about pitching – the six minute synopsis of your book that will sell you to an agent- and how to submit.) In the process, unfortunately, the subject of what is wrong in romance. What is written versus what is factual. And one of the things that came up was “Does anyone really end up with the guy who just pissed them off to no end at first sight?”  And I couldn’t stop myself from smiling. I put my head down, but I didn’t do it quick enough. Singled out. And it was all I could do to choke out. “NO! I don’t want to share!”


Thank god I wasn’t pitching this past weekend.


After that, it was the chocolate reception. And then it was night time. The first day was done and over. I survived.


I think the best thing for me this past weekend was the speeches. All the keynote speeches I sat in on inspired me to be a better writer. That’s it. I said it. A writer. When you read a book, these authors suck you into their world. They know how to draw you in and for them to share that with you is one of the most awe-inspiring moments I’ve ever had as I’ve walked this path. They inspire me to go out there and write something more visual, filled with imagery that as you read it, you feel like you’re there. You can smell the clover in June and the fallen leaves in October. That’s who I want to be when I grow up.


An author.


Alright, I have a lot more where that came from, but I’ll save it for next week. I just wanted to give you a little of the conference. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. If you ever have a chance to go to the Chicago Spring Fling, do it. You won’t be disappointed.


When do you feel most inspired? Ever attended a speech or a workshop or a conference? What kind of impact did it have on you? And as readers, what draws you into a book?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Getting Famous Before You’re Dead

Hi, this blog is being sent to you via hologram because I am currently in Chicago and won’t even be here to comment. What’s doubly cool about this blog is that it’s working in tandem with Lindsey’s blog over at the Romance Vagabonds.


My part of the project is: Getting Famous Before You’re Dead. Or otherwise called, “The Publishers Haven't Realized What a Supercool Writer Pirate I Am So How Can I Still See My Name In The Big Lights”?


Back when I started writing, like fifteen years ago or so, I thought it’d be a lot easier to get published. I mean, I knew I was talented and stuff; and people liked my writing—so really, I was going to go to college, write my Great American Novel while getting all that experience, then voila! I’d be published by the time I was 22. 25 at the latest.


Clearly this didn’t happen, and it’s still not, so I’ve had to find new and creative ways to put my name in the big lights. I’ve managed this with some small success. How? I wrote articles for my local chapter. I recommend submitting to your local RWA chapters, and here’s why: there’s not really a rejection process. Your local RWA chapter is probably pretty desperate for quality (or even semi-quality) articles about writing, the writer’s life, getting published, getting rejected…whatever.


How do I know? Because my local RWA chapter was. I remember attending the Chapter meetings and the newsletter editor would beg for articles, and I even sent one or two articles. They were rejected. (Yeah, I know I said there was no rejection process, but I lied.) After the second rejection, I gave up article writing. Clearly it was not my forte.


Then some stuff happened.


I stopped going to the local chapter meetings (they were 2 hours away). I wrote more. I had a new way-awesome critique group and a new blog group. I was busy; and I was having a blast with the blogs. Instant gratification. I had fans who’d purposely read my blogs. I felt I had to come up with things actually worth reading on a regular basis; things I knew something about. It was work, but fun work. Then last May, I wrote the Holy Grail of all Blogs: Everything I Ever Learned About Writing I Learned From Captain Jack Sparrow.


This is what would be termed: a turning point.


I blogged it; and I got lots of positive feedback on it. I did a little dance. I thought nothing more of it—because hey, I was already successful in my own mind here, though admittedly I begged all my friends and acquaintances to read it because I was so proud of it. However, when my Critique Partner read it, she said, “This sounds like a writing article! Have you submitted this to the newsletter?” To which I reminded Dee, I wasn’t part of the chapter anymore. Dee said, “I’ll talk to her.” And she emailed the newsletter editor who, sure enough, for digging for articles. Dee helped me polish the blog into more of an article-like format. I sent it off, and rest they say, is history.


So…here’s what I learned about writing a successful article:


1.)  Be original in your unoriginality. Technically, you’re not going to be sharing anything the rest of us don’t already know in some form or another, so you need to present it in an original way. Your voice and your take on original material are what’s going to make it stand out.

2.)  Be pithy. Articles should only be 1-2 pages long, so don’t pick a topic so broad that you can’t be brief and clever about it.

3.)  Be memorable. Chapter newsletters have about 4-6 articles per newsletter; and the editors churn one out each month. It’s rather hard to be memorable, technically, but try. I can assure you that a Plain Jane article about grammar is going to have less effect on your audience if it sounds like something you turned in for a school assignment than if you wrote a grammar article that was channeling Yoda and The Force.

4.)  Be brief. Again, try to keep these things to a 1000-words or under. We’re busy; we have short attention spans unless you’re inserting pictures of Johnny Depp in between the paragraphs.

5.)  Have something to say. This is where I went wrong the first few times. I remember asking the editor, “What kind of articles are you looking for?” and she said, “I don’t know. Conflict would be good” and I went off to write something about conflict. Only I don’t know how to write something informative about conflict—let alone be pithy about it. Worse, I just read something about conflict and tried to regurgitate it—and it read like it’d been regurgitated all right. It was not pretty. This is called trying to write to market only, and this is why people fail when they do it. When you write to market, pick a topic you know—like I did with Jack Sparrow. If there is a topic I know forwards and backwards, Jack Sparrow is it.


Clearly the first four suggestions are variants of the same; and the fifth suggestion is the most important one of all. Not everyone can do pithy; and I’ve read plenty of articles where the writer had something to say—and said it memorably and brilliantly—but wasn’t necessarily amusing. And keep in mind, with all rules about anything, it’s more like guidelines anyway.


So what about you? The best articles you’ve read about writing—what was so great about them? What is there a dearth of articles in? And what articles are you sick of reading about? And be sure to go to the Romance Vagabonds and read Lindsey’s article about writing articles and resources for creating them.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Finding Inspiration in the Past

Well, it's nearly midnight on Sunday night, I just finished about seven hours of homework and now I have to come up with a blog.  What to do, what to do?  *looks around living room for inspiration*  I got nothing.  Except that my living room is a total mess.  Now I'm tired and depressed.


fife & drumI'll have to revert to time travel.  Stay with me here.  This weekend I hopped in my little white, two-seater time machine (equipped with a newly rebuilt transmission *sigh*) and went back in time to the American Revolution.  Translated, I visited Colonial Williamsburg.  I love this place.  It's gorgeous, beautifully preserved and awe inspiring when you understand the world changing events that happened in those homes, taverns and streets.


My first trip back in time happened last summer, during a heat wave, with the Captain and Vixen Jack on HorseTiff.  We had a blast, admired the scenery (ahem) and sweated a lot.  This time was the same in that I sweated (sweat?) my arse off and admired the scenery (he was on a horse!) but the difference was experiencing it with my daughter.  We watched a series of scenes meant to show the struggle of the people to choose sides, the inevitability of the war, the suffering that resulted from choices in some cases forced upon people, and the triumph of winning independence.  That last was accompanied by cannon fire and my ears are still ringing.


What made this all more powerful was explaining it to Isabelle.  And in doing so, realizing how hard it must have been when you didn't know the outcome.  It was easy for us to join in with the crowd cheering for revolution, but we know how it ended.  Sort of like watching poker on tv and yelling for the guy to go all in.  It's easy to say do it when you can see everyone else's cards.


So, since I should probably tie this into writing, for those writing history, do you research more than facts, societal norms, and cravats?  Do you do your best to understand how your characters would have felt and thought at that time?  Is it hard to forget all that you know and put yourself in that place? 


Isabelle in period garbAnd on a personal note, do you think I should use this picture of Isabelle, sitting next to Mrs. Arianna Randolph, as my Christmas card this year? That mopcap was so cute!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Give Me Boldness

And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.-Abraham Lincoln


On Sunday morning, one of my coworkers passed away from a sudden illness. Grant Johnson was 45 years old, and is survived by his wife Sharla, and his five-year-old son Carson. Grant and Sharla adopted Carson four years ago. I vividly remember the day they brought Carson to meet all of us. I’ve never witnessed any parents more proud of a baby.

Through Grant's death I discovered he has a blog. I quickly found a nearby computer, logged on to his blog, and found a wealth of treasured memories. At his wake, I spoke with his wife, and learned of his aspiration to write a novel. I passed him in the hallway everyday at work, and all we ever shared was a superficial greeting. I missed an opportunity to share our interest in writing. I am aquainted with so many individuals on a superficial level, I found it so distressing that it took Grant's death to truly appreciate him as a person. I've learned a valuable lesson this week- take time to know the person behind the face. 

If you visit Grant’s blog you’ll find he had so much potential as a writer. He leaves behind an epitaph of what an inspirational life he led as a father, Christian, and husband.

I’m dedicating this blog to Grant’s memory. I want to thank him for the wonderful example he leaves for all of us who are parents and writers. The title of his blog is Give Me Boldness, which tells me that he dreamed of so much more.

When you sit down to write today take a moment to appreciate life, and the gift of your talent and creativeness. I’ve learned through Grant’s death that times like these are not the only reason to hug your loved ones, do it everyday, for life is much too short.


Grant Johnson 1962-2008


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Paranormal and The Heart of Darkness


It’s probably a good thing sound doesn’t travel over blogs because I’m certain some of the English majors aboard probably just groaned. Or worse.

Pirates are known for their colorful language, after all.

I swear; I’ll keep this as painless as possible.

Those who have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll give a small history. The Heart of Darkness is a novella by Joseph Conrad and I believe that just about every English literature major is required to read it at some point. My teachers used it to introduce literary criticism and theory.

Blah blah.

Ok, ok. I like it, I admit it.

If you’ve ever seen Apocalypse Now, that movie was based on the story. Basically, according to Wikipedia, “The story details an incident when Marlow, an Englishman, took a foreign assignment as a ferry-boat captain … on what readers may assume is the Congo River…. Marlow is employed… to return Kurtz to civilization in a cover up.” Basically, Kurtz is making friendly with the native folks and getting in touch with his “savage” side.

One of my favorite themes in this story is the constant struggle present within every character between acting as civilization expects and giving in to the dark, barbaric impulses of human nature.

*Pause while you readers recover from English class flashbacks*

In my most recent research into current trends in paranormal romance novels, I’ve started noticing and appreciating how this theme seems to parallel a lot of recent paranormal themes.

If the hero or heroine is a vampire, werewolf, or any other paranormal creature, they tend to struggle with controlling their inner beast. It also seems that their love interest has a calming effect on the beast within; that the darkness within them recedes further behind the civility of love. While a lot of romance novel heroes are “tamed” at the end by the love of the heroine, the paranormal romance’s taming is not just a figurative taming but a literal one.

Though I admire the darkness of so many paranormals, I doubt my voice would hold up under the weight of it. Brooding and ominous aren't my forte. My story has a paranormal thread in it but I don't use my heroine's witchiness as a dark force for her to conquer, instead I use it as a plot device to allow her to do things she wouldn't technically be able to do as a Regency miss.

I admire the darkness, I'm just glad I don't have to write about it.

Do you read paranormals? What do you like/dislike about them? Ever thought of writing one (why/why not)? Have you noticed any other trends in paranormals or any other subgenre lately?
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Irish's Version of a Blogging Cannonball

CannonballI had a very schizophrenic reaction to being asked to blog with the pirates today.  Terri responded to one of my comments hinting that she may ask me to guest blog someday and then Hellion chimed in saying “Yeah, Irish should guest blog”.  I read their posts and thought… Yea, this is cool.  The cool kids want me to come out and play with them.  This is so awesome.  Sure I can blog.  This’ll be fun!  So I posted that sure I’d love to come be a guest blogger. 


The day wound down, I scrolled back over the posts for the day and thought… Holy #$%&, what the hell did I agree to?!  I don’t blog.  That’s not who I am.   I have nothing interesting to say.  I read.  I comment.  Every once in a while I say something semi-noteworthy.  I’m not a blogger.  I’m a poster.  Actually, I’m a weenie lurker most of the time.  When I get my courage up I post (and let’s face it - how much courage do you really need to anonymously state your opinion while sitting comfortably at your desk in your home, who knows where, wearing bunny slippers and drinking tea?).


Then a thought hit me…  I can be a blogger.  Why not?!  There was a time I didn’t think I could ever leave home, but I did.  I moved 2,000 miles away and lived in a different city, living with people I’d never met before, doing a job I knew nothing about and survived a riot and an earthquake.  There was a time I didn’t think I could be in a healthy relationship and I’m a happily married woman now.  There was a time I didn’t think I had what it took to be a mother and I’m a mother of two happy, fairly healthy, semi-intelligent children seemingly headed for college and not the State Penn. 


There was a time I didn’t think I could write anything beyond a grocery list and … you guessed it… I’m writing.  Nothing monumental, but the snippets I have are coherent and make sense.   My 43 year old self is capable of so much more than my 18 year old self because I’ve changed.  I’m not the same person I was then, but every now and then, the insecurities and doubts surface.  So much of who we are and what we think we can accomplish is formed in our childhood and stays with us in some form for most of our life.


I grew up the sixth child of seven in an Irish Catholic middle class family.  My therapist could tell you with very impressive words and lots of examples why I am the way I am, or to be more accurate, why I was the way I was.  But basically the upshot is that I have baggage.  Most of us have baggage and most of it we accumulated between birth and 18 years of age.  Good or bad, the people and experiences in our lives form us.  We all grow up with a perception of who we are. 


We’re all familiar with the typical stereotypes – jock, cheerleader, druggie, geek, the quiet one, the outgoing one, the nerd, the brain (and just so you all know I’m not completely out of the loop, we now have the goth girl and the skateboarders).  In families it can be the caretaker, the screw-up, the controller, the baby, the negotiator, the black sheep, and my personal favorite – the enabler.  That last one actually sounds like a super hero, doesn’t it?  Anyway, you get the idea.  Whether it’s an image given to us or one earned, it defines us until we decide to be more than the labels put upon us. 


I know I could pull a couple of the descriptions from above and slap them right on my forehead.  The funny thing is that some of them applied to me once and no longer do and vice versa.  I could have stayed the way I was and let my baggage define me, but chose instead to travel a different path.  Even with that being said, so many times when asked if I’m capable of a certain task I don’t look at my confident 43-year-old-woman self, I look at my insecure 18-year-old-girl self, and respond accordingly.  A more accurate description would be I’m a little bit of both and depending on the day one is stronger than the other.  Today I’m the happy, well adjusted wife, mother, writing, BLOGGING woman.  There was a time none of that description seemed possible.


My husband once told me a story about a classmate of his that has always stuck with me.  This guy was from a pretty messed up family and acted out a lot.  He ditched school, vandalized things, but his favorite thing to do was set things on fire.  When he was 17 his family moved out west.  He came back to his 10 year high school reunion a changed man.  He, basically, grew up.  He'd identified the problems in his life and fixed them.  Wore a suit, had a steady lucrative job and couldn’t wait to come back and catch up with all his old friends. 


Except no one saw the grown up man, all they saw was the kid who liked to set things on fire.  By the end of the evening he was pretty weary of everyone’s attempt to put that old label back on him.  He hasn’t been back since and I’m guessing he won’t be.   I went to my grammar school reunion about ten years ago and I had the strangest reaction to the greeting “Wow, you haven’t changed a bit!”  I felt like giving a PowerPoint presentation on how much and in which ways I’ve changed since they saw me last.


It’s corny and simplistic in a sense, but I truly and with all my heart believe one of life’s greatest gifts is our ability to change.  Our past does not have to define who we are or where we’re going.  And nothing touches or moves me more than a novel that drives that point home.  One of the things I love most about the romances I read (apart from the obligatory HEA) is that the redemption or growth of the hero or heroine plays such a huge part in so many of my favorites.   It does something wonderful to the human spirit to read about someone just like yourself, who isn’t perfect, or is as far from perfect as you can get, that learns and grows and ends up with their own HEA.


So, tell me how you’ve morphed into the person you are today.  Are you the same person you were in your teens, twenties, thirties?  Do you like where you are in life more than where you’ve been?  Do we have any head cheerleader/valedictorians who dated the football quarterback out there?  What book contains your favorite redemption/metamorphosis storyline or character?  What type of character do you think is harder to write - a flawed character or a perfect, larger than life character?

Monday, April 21, 2008

It's Tuesday, It Must Be Time for a Parody

1. There was no topping my last week's blog and I couldn't bear to try and fail

2. I'm going a conference this week: Chicago Spring Fling. I'm pitching to an agent (wish me luck); and my pitch still isn't perfect. I haven't even practiced. I haven't even packed. Heck, I don't even have a pair of black casual business pants that fit. Okay, I might by the time you read this because I was supposed to have bought them last night. So I ran out of TIME.

3. I miss my ridiculous parodies, don't you?

4. I've been listening to Stairway to Heaven and was totally inspired by the guitar riff. I always find it entertaining when people learn the guitar, STH is always one of the first songs learned. Or the REASON they're learning.

5. I'm very sacrilegious.

Therefore, without further excuses: Stairway to Heaven, by Hellion.

There's a writer who's sure all her writing is gold
And she's trying her best to be published
And when she gets there she dreams of tours with alpha themes
With a query she’ll get what she’s hoping

Woe oh oh oh oh oh
And she's trying her best to be published

There's a letter in the mail but her dreams feel so frail
And you know sometimes letters don’t bear good news
In a class by a Kook, there's a saying that’s said:
The only thing you can’t fix is a blank page

Woe oh oh oh oh oh
And she's trying her best to be published

There's a feeling I get when I look at my WIP
And my book is crying for completion
In my thoughts I’m verklempt of the dreams I have dreamt
And the voices who beg for their stories

Woe oh oh oh oh oh
And she's trying her best to be published

And it's whispered that quick, if we make our words stick
Then the agent will lead us to publication
And a new reign will rise for those with the guts to fly
And the TIMES will echo with ratings

And it makes me wonder

If there's an error in your plot now
Don't be alarmed—it’s allowed
It's just a practice for the Big Time

Yes there are two ways you can write by
but in the long run
You’ll likely change the plot you’re on

Your head is buzzing and it won't stop, the caffeine’s tops
Your CPs are calling you to join them
Dear writer can’t you hear the words flow, and did you know
Your publication lies from deep within

And as we write on down our WIPs
Our stories falling from our lips
There stands a writer we all know
Who shines Big Time and’s rollin’ in the dough
And doesn’t even shovel her own snow
And if you listen very hard
The truth will come to you at last:
Writing’s hard so just deal;
It’s work to put down all you feel.
Woe oh oh oh oh oh
And she's trying her best to be published

There's a writer who's sure all her writing is gold
And she's trying her best to be published
And when she gets there she dreams of tours with alpha themes
With a query she’ll get what she’s hoping

And she's trying her best to be published, uh uh uh.

Forgive me if I'm not around today. I'm trying to be a rock and not to roll. Wish me luck in accomplishing all the tasks I've been putting off. What songs inspire you in your writing? Anyone like me and adore Adam Sandler when he'd do parodies on Saturday Night Live?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

My Adventures at RT

I have to preface this blog by saying it's well after midnight, I've had a day from Hell, and I'm exhausted.  Therefore, rambling and nonsensical statements are to be expected and forgiven.

So this weekend I drove up to Pittsburgh.  I wanted to attend the Romantic Times Booksigning and my parents wanted to see Kiddo, so it seemed like the perfect plan.  Throw in traffic issues and mechanical issues and the plan starts to lose it's shine.  But, this is not going to be a whiney blog.  I'll save that for my personal one later this week.

Cathy MaxwellI did attend the booksigning and it was great.  There were SO MANY authors there.  Some I already knew, some I'd only talked to online, and some I wasKathryn Caskie introduced to for the first time.  Sophia Nash, Kathryn Caskie, and Cathy Maxwell were all their wonderful selves.  Somehow I forgot to take a picture of Sophia but she's like a total hottie model and would have shown us all up so that's alright.  And yes, Kathryn is uber-tall.







I also met a couple of Banditas from the Romance Bandits Lair.  Christie Kelly was so sweet and Donna MacMeans even let me wear her hat.  Isn't she the bestest?  I didn't want to make ChristieDonna MacMeans squeeze out from behind the table and lets face it, the less pictures I'm in, the better.Christie Kelley






J.R. WardI also talked to Madeline Hunter to whom I said the worst thing.  Yes, I said, "I'm a HUGE FAN!"  Ok, I didn't yell it or anything but I still can't believe THAT was my opening line.  *sigh* 

I searched for Kim Harrison but I couldn't find her.  I swear Sin, I tried.  But I did get you this picture.  I didn't talk to J.R. Ward because I don't read her books and her line was really long, but I did get a picture of her signing someone's book.  This was my third try as she kept moving.  That woman is fast.



 Jimmy ThomasAnd last but not least, if you know anything about the Romantic Times Convention, you know there are always cover models in attendance.  The room was crawling with them.  Intelligent woman I am, I used my child to get a picture with one.  This is Jimmy Thomas.  I asked if we could have a picture because my daughter was too embarrassed to ask him.  He probably didn't fall for it but I got my picture so who cares.  Oh, and when I went to find his website I couldn't believe it was the same guy.  And I'd looked at that site before though I have no idea why.  Well, I mean I know but I can't remember specifically...oh, nevermind.



Crazy FamilyAnd for fun, here's my dad, Kiddo and my sis.  (Mom is in that bathroom behind them so she missed her blog debut)  This was their first event of this kind so I'm hoping this is breaking them in for someday coming to see me at one of these things.  I should be so lucky.  And yes, my child was the ONLY one there and we kept having to hide bookmarks with Erotica stuff on them.  Though she left with lots of goodies anyway.  She received a fanny pack, a tiara (which she has been wearing ever since - even into Cracker Barrel today), a ring that lights up and a giant white and purple candy cane.  The candy cane was also from an Erotica author and I don't want to know what other people do with theirs.


How about you?  Have you ever been to one of these giant signings?  Have you ended up spending a year's salary on books? (I only beat my NJ total by five bucks so I did good.) And are you like me and feel terrible walking past all those authors who look at you longingly, waiting for you to come talk to them and buy their book? And check out the blond dude in the background of that pic with Jimmy.  That dude was really scary looking in person.  His hair was Fabio-esque but his chest hair (of which there was ALOT) was dark black.  Uhm...either wax or color it all doofus.
Thursday, April 17, 2008

Prolific Benefits

Prolific Benefits 

I started writing byProlific Benefits accident. I have commented before that I loved American Literature and English in high school. I had a wonderful teacher in both subjects who encouraged me with every assignment to do something more with my writing. If I ever publish she will be mentioned in my acknowledgements.

Writing has changed my life. I’m not the same person I was three years ago. I’m more confident, not only as a writer, but as a person. Discovering I could write was like polishing a diamond in the rough. With every word I write, I learn more. Every day I write I am a little more improved than the day before. I’ll admit, before I started writing, I didn’t use my brain to create anything. The only creative aspect of my life involved gardening. Writing opened up a new world for me, it allowed me to express myself, and at the time, I was starving for an outlet.

Writing empowers me. It makes me believe that I can do something beyond my day job; it serves as my light at the end of the tunnel.

More often times than not my writing relieves stress. I can vent frustration, sexual tension, and sadness through my characters. Writing serves as therapy for my soul.

Writing also opens new doors for me. I’ve met other writers, and made many lifetime friends. I’ve found critique and blog partners, and learned more than I ever thought possible about the kind of writer I can be with hard work and determination.

Writing gives me something to call my own. It’s a source of pleasure for me that I create without any help from an outside source. It’s a solo act, in which I direct, write and star.

In my day career I depend on a department director to hand down my orders, when I slip into my desk chair at home I am the CEO in charge. I make and execute the rules, and most of the time I do so in my pajamas.

Writing makes me more aware as a reader. I appreciate books more. My taste in reading has changed since I’ve become a writer. Some authors I appreciate even more and some I see in a whole new light. I remember the first book I read after I started writing. I dissected it like a pig in an anatomy class. Reading is one of the most beneficial resources I have as a writer.

I view the world through a writer’s eyes. I look at everyday life as a potential for a scene in a story. I listen to conversations. I watch people and their gestures, emotions, and reactions. I file observations of fashion, hairstyles, and automobiles in a mental file for later reference. The check out girl at Wal-Mart may be the next great heroine in my WIP.

So maybe I’m grasping for straws, but its Friday, so go with it.

How has writing enhanced your life?




Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Publish Your First Book After 50

Leaning clockThose are the words that popped into my email inbox last week.  If that isn't an omen I don't know what is.  See, I came into this writing thing a bit earlier than some but much later than most.  And to make matters worse, one year before deciding to write romance, I went back to college.  Not the best timing in the world, but in my life that's pretty typical.


So in 2007 I really threw myself into this writing thing.  Joined RWA National and my local chapter.  Enrolled in some ecourses and attended some workshops.  Attended my first conference, entered my first contest and started blogging.  After all that, I should at least have a rough first draft, right?  Wrong.


While I was spending a great deal of time and money on the craft of writing, the writing went to the back burner.  But I've finally given myself permission not to feel guilty about that.  You see, life is messy.  And random.  And unpredictable.  But most of all, if we're lucky, life is long and doing things in a hurry isn't always the answer.


It's not that I want to publish my first book after 50, but publishing my first book after 40 (which is much closer than I'd like) is not the end of the world.  Right now, I'm taking one day at a time, making some of the best friends I'll ever have, and writing a story that makes me smile, albeit slowly.  Right now, that's enough.


Did you come to writing a bit late?  Do you feel pressure to publish right away or are you giving yourself a chance to enjoy the ride?  How have you fit writing into your life and still managed to have a life?  Have you set a "getting published" deadline for yourself?


Oh, and here's a little tidbit from the article for inspiration…

"And take inspiration from the Bangladeshi writer Nirad Chaudhuri. His first book, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, was published in 1951, when he was 54 years old. Its sequel hit the market in 1988, when he was 90. And his final book, Three Horsemen of the New Apocalypse, was published in 1997—when he was 100."
Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Push it. Push it real good.

Determination is a good thing to have in reserve; you never know when you might need an extra kick in the butt to get you going. To make you stop feeling sorry for yourself. To make you stop making up excuses. A reason to downshift a gear and make it up that hill. Determination is mostly what a writer uses in order to make it through one book and onward to the next. Determination is all you have when facing a long dry spell. Determination shows what you’re made of, what you’re capable of doing when everyone has long given up on you. Determination is you.


I think the hardest thing I’ve had to come to terms with in my switch from writing fan fiction to write original fiction is character. I still write the same genre. I still stay within the same plot lines, the same story arc and pretty much the same timing. I write like I approach exercise. I put one foot in front of the other. I keep my head down; focus all my energy on the task at hand. I remember to breathe. I ignore the racing of my heart, the sweat beading down my forehead. And when I want to give up. I’m tired and can’t run that extra mile, I reach down inside and remember the only person who believes in me, is me. And that makes me determined to move just a little further. So when I write my characters, I have to remember everything I love about characters I’ve read before. Everything I hated and wanted to change. Everything I would’ve done differently (but not better, because we all do things in our own prospective) and use it as I would the stair climber. Take those steps one at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Remember to focus on what you want most out of the exercise. Remember to breathe through the frustration. And at the end, you’ll reach your goal (not to mention the end of the torture cycle) your main character. 


Building a main character is the most important part (well to me it is, besides the main plot) of the WIP. The main character is how you’ll draw that reader into your story. The main character shows off your voice to perfection, compliments your writing style, covers up your flaws. Since I write in first person and I write the female POV, I find that writing the main character is a little harder. Not as hard as writing third person, because that’s nearly impossible for me. Most main heroines have a dash of the writer in them. A lot of writers stick with the same kind of heroine, at least an echo of a heroine outline. Characters are what brings your reader back for more. Animated, lively characters, whose interaction with one another won’t let you put the book down. So how you do you find that formula? I’ve yet to find mine. It’s a harmony factor that I’ve been messing with for nearly two years. My male characters are good, but it’s all about the heroine. Once I mix up the right formula for my heroine, the story will flow like a river. It’s all about determination to get to that stage of the game.



Any advice you've learned over the years? Formulas for writing up characters? Any favorite characters you’ve read over the years that were a theme for the writer?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Writing for the Directionally Challenged

compass‘Ello me hearty mates and crew. Today we’re going to do a little elementary compass navigation and orientation. (No, Jack my love, not sexual orientation; you are prickly. And no, Sin, I’m not dumping anyone off into the middle of the woods and saying, “Well, see you at supper!” and then giving you a merit badge if you arrive back without being covered in poison ivy.)


No, I speak of: Writing Orientation. How to get your bearings in your book, head off again in the right direction (i.e. start writing again) and arrive at your destination (i.e. HEA) sometime before your supplies (i.e. the rum) run out. A handy device all pirates need if they find themselves marooned…or possibly in a hurricane in which they think their ship is going to sink.


First and most important, find due NORTH. You won’t get your bearings or headings or anything until you’ve got your center. Your due NORTH is two things: characters and goals. So if you’re ever stuck, flailing about, sitting in Doldrums and wondering if a brisk wind will come again, find due NORTH. Remember where you are going and put it in contrast with where you are now. Just like NORTH is the most important of the four, your characters and their goals are the most important part of your story. They are the story. Are your characters still behaving true to themselves? Are they pursuing their goals for all they’re worth? Like NORTH, are they bigger and bolder than everything else (i.e. plot, secondary characters)? Are you keeping your scenes (like your sails) trim? If the scenes you’re putting on the page aren’t necessary to the characters or the goals, then they’re most likely dross that’s weighing down your ship and sailing you the long way to China.



Once you’ve got NORTH, glance behind you to the SOUTH. Notice this. There is no North without South, no love without hate, no peace without war, no romance without heartbreak. Here in the SOUTH lies conflict and irony. While your NORTH is focusing on character and goals, the SOUTH should be raising hell on the NORTH, making everyone wonder which side is going to win. (Am I the only one hearing “Dixie”?) Conflict keeps your characters and their goals in sharp desire. And while you’re at it, make sure some of your conflict is of the ironic variety. If your heroine hates class reunions and hell would freeze over before she attended one, make her go to accomplish something that is very important to her, more important than her fear and hatred of confronting her demons. Irony sticks. Irony is conflict inflicted by method of laughing gas.


So we got the NORTH and SOUTH opposing each other; take a look over your right shoulder to the EAST. Venus the Morningstar is your guide. So our next important bearing: Love. Love is important since you need conflict for your Conflict, and nothing conflicts Conflict more than Love. (One of those ironic things again.) Clearly if you’re writing a romance, love is a main bearing. Make it big, make it count, and make it believable. We all need the Big 3: Faith, Hope, and Love, but most of all Love. John said it first; then the other John made a song about it. Notice, though, Love is not the sole focus of your story, nor the biggest focus—but it does shine the brightest.


Now look WEST, young man, look WEST. What good is the WEST? Why the ending, of course. We all admire the perfect sunset, and though it may be the same sun, no two are the same. The same is true of your happily ever after. Yes, it’s romance; yes, it’s a happy ending; yes, there are a 100 Regencies published a year—but your Happily Ever After is just as beautiful, just as unique as the thousand other sunsets across the world. Someone will enjoy seeing it; someone will be moved by it; someone will even remember it forever. And the thing about sunsets is you never get tired of seeing them and marveling at how beautiful they are—and how at peace with the world they make us feel. Write your happy ending; do it to make the world a little sweeter.


All right. Got your bearings now? Have you found your characters and goals? Is the SOUTH rising again? (Lisa, Sin, get your minds out of the gutter.) Have you put on that Beatles CD and a little song in your heart? Then start cracking toward that Happy Ending, mates. Head West to your destination.


What do you guys think? Any important headings I should have focused on instead? Anyone else dallied in filing their taxes like I did and are running to the post office after work like a chicken with its head cut off? Anyone else able to orientate themselves with a compass? (Me, I use the sun rather than magnets.)


Sunday, April 13, 2008

RWR Proudly Welcomes Guest Blogger, Dana Marton!

Today, the boat is a rockin' for the arrival of Pirate Author, Dana Marton!  Dana will be raffling off a copy of her newest release from Harlequin Intrigue, 72 Hours, to one lucky commenter.  You can find this fast-paced and hot read on the shelves of your local bookstore right now!  I just finished it and it was wonderful.

Without further rambling on my part, here's Dana!


Hello, Everyone! Wishing all a wonderful morning! I feel so honored to be invited to do this guest blog. Thank you!!!


As a quick introduction… I’m a Harlequin Intrigue author. And I’m still tickled pink every time I get to say that. While my novels are fast paced, my road to being published was anything but. I had to hold my breath through 12 years of writing and several manuscript rejected by everyone under the sun before Harlequin made an offer on my first published novel, SHADOW SOLDIER. Talking about the scream that was heard around the world! I was a tad overexcited. Trying to make up for lost time, in the almost five years since, I sold 20 stories to them.


I love, love, love to write just about anything, but found that romantic suspense is a really good match for my voice. I tend to write action/adventure novels that hop all around the globe. So far, I’ve written about the U.S., Europe, Middle-East, Malaysia and South America. My current release, 72 HOURS is about an embassy crisis in Paris. Undercover agent, Parker McCall, is running for his life, nowhere near being done with his last mission when he receives a new one, to save the U.S. Consul in Paris who's been taken hostage. Being held in a building stuffed with explosives and biological weapons, Kate Hamilton didn't think her situation could get worse. But then they send the devil to rescue her: her ex.


I love a good, strong undercurrent of emotions in a book, and the past these two shared, certainly provided that. I also enjoy exploring how people change over the years. How mistakes can be corrected, wrongs forgiven. I firmly believe that everyone deserves a second chance, and second chance love stories are some of my favorites.


So since my life is pretty boring… It mostly consists of writing, more writing and editing, I thought I’d say a few words about Intrigues, in case someone hasn’t tried them yet, or if someone would like to write for this line.


Intrigues are known for fast beginnings. The book starts with action. You won’t find someone in a car, going someplace, thinking about what he’ll do when he gets there, setting up the story. If an Intrigue starts with the hero sitting in a car, there better be a car bomb involved that’s set to explode any second. Which is how my Sept. 08 release SHEIK PROTECTOR, begins.


Intrigues are hero oriented, and these heroes are often larger than life. They also often carry the scars of their past. If he’s an FBI agent, he’s the best the Bureau has. If he’s a cowboy, he’s tougher than all the rest. If he’s military, he’s a super soldier who knows everything from how to fly a helicopter to how to disarm a nuclear warhead. These men are tough and rough and take care of business like you wouldn’t believe it. If there’s trouble, they don’t call the police. They will take care of whatever needs to be taken care of themselves.


Heroes this strong need exceptionally strong heroines as well. And I love writing them!

Add a villain who’s darker and scarier than all the rest, raise the stakes at every turn and make sure the hero and heroine generate enough heat to melt the cover off the book, and you have an Intrigue.


Can you tell yet that I’m completely nuts about them?


I’ll be stopping in throughout the day and would be very happy to answer any question about myself or the writing life.


Thank you, Dana, and thank you again for hanging out with us on the ship.  Now, it's your turn, wenches.  What questions do you have for Dana?   And don't forget, one lucky commenters gets a copy of 72 Hours!
Thursday, April 10, 2008

"Oh, My Word"

Words illuminate my mind like lighting bugs glowing in the summer night. I reach out and capture them until I have enough to fill the page, choosing each word with care, just as an indecisive child chooses a new toy.


I have a love affair with words. Nothing is more satisfying than finding the perfect words to illicit the exact intention. One word can make the difference between good and unforgettable.


In my writing world, finding the right word to complete a sentence is like finding the perfect pair of shoes. To find a pair of shoes that have the perfect combination of fashion appeal and comfort is divine. More importantly, is to have the desire to find the perfect word that escapes the lips-the word that gives the sentence awe potential.


Author Janet Evanovich claims to sit for hours dwelling on the perfect words to complete one sentence. Before I became so in tune with my writing voice, I didn't understand how this could be possible. Why would a writer stress that much over a few words on the page? In my transformation from a reader to a writer, I made a discovery. When you read books from a writer's perspective, you understand the brilliance of word choice.


I admit that I have a pocket Thesaurus and dictionary that I carry everywhere. I'm addicted to a source for synonyms. I don't want just a word, I want the perfect word, and I want three other choices for examples. When I find the perfect word to finish a sentence, I experience word euphoria. I grin from ear to ear with my articulate high.


Writing a WIP is like working a gigantic picture puzzle. We use words to make an illustration in the reader's mind. We have a dictionary full of words to choose from, and more than one word can fit in an open space, but the conscientious writer searches for the best word. The importance of a writer's conscious is having the determination to find the words that will make a difference. The beauty of the right words makes descriptions come alive on the page. The best books I have read are from authors who understand word placement. They execute gestures, emotions, and dialogue with the precision of a maestro.


I always try to execute words so they hover above the page and encase the reader in the cocoon of my story. I want them to empathize with my characters. I want them to use my words as an escape, and remember them as if they made a difference in their lives, if only for a moment.


Writers use many tools in creating their work. We've often spoke of our fetishes for highlighters, pens, and Post It notes. Unlike these tools, words cannot be bought, but they can become an infatuation.. We must exercise our minds, and embrace our language. As writers, we should acknowledge the power of words on the page, and use them to our advantage.


Words are a writer's sustenance, they can make us, or break us, never take them for granted.


What do words mean to you? Have you ever spent more than fifteen minutes searching for the right word? Have you read a favorite author's work and rewritten it in your mind? Do you have a pocket Thesaurus or dictionary?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Getting Over the Hump Day

No, I don’t mean that it’s Wednesday.  I haven't gotten my days mixed up.

The hump I'm referring to is the dreaded middle of the book.  I’m in the middle of my book.   Right smack in the middle and I’ve been stalled there for three weeks. 

I’ve butted my head against this realization.  I’ve strong-armed my muse, I’ve tried to take a break and read, and I’ve cleaned out my garage.  I’ve even worked on something else just to try to get the creative juices going.  As a result of this, my muse is feeling harassed, I've read a couple decent books, and my husband's stuff isn't making it impossible to navigate through the garage.

However, I have written:  (drumroll please….)  Nothing.

Oh, fine.  My page-o-meter is two pages higher.  But, that is from editing and adding elsewhere and, though it’s all well and good, I won’t finish my book writing two pages a month.  Well, I would eventually, but I’m sure the math on that puts my completion date sometime in the next decade or something.  Pardon me if I’m a little more in need of instant gratification than all that.

Sin talked yesterday about what gets us inspired and I wish I knew right now ‘cause I’d be doing it.  If you told me I would be inspired by painting my toenails green and spending time at my local bowling alley, I’d be polishing up my ball and my toes.  If you told me I would write like the wind if I ate raw squid while standing on my head, I’d give myself the head rush and the bellyache.

Yes, that’s right, I’m desperate.

Yesterday, I tried to think of my story as a mountain I’m attempting to climb.  I’ve been working to get up the tough side of the hill.  As I climbed, I knew it was hard going, but I kept thinking that when I made it to the top, the way down would be easier because the end would be in sight.

This isn’t turning out to be the case.  I forgot that when you start down a steep hill, you have to make sure your momentum doesn’t get the best of you or you can topple over. 

I’d forgotten that going down can be just as much work as going up.

So, even though the end is in sight, there is still a lot of work left to do.  And now I have all the momentum, whether good or bad, behind me.

What do you think makes for good middles?  What keeps you going through the rough patches in your WIP?  What motivates you to keep moving from the shiny beginning, through the murky muck in the middle, to the glistening promised land of the end?