Monday, June 30, 2008

Kimberly Killion Boards the Ship...Scotsman in Tow

Hellion: Hello, Kim, and welcome aboard the Romance Writer’s Revenge. *much shouting and rambunctious cheering from grog-warmed crew and passengers* Now, to give everyone a little background about how we met, Kimberly Killion is a member of MORWA, the Missouri Chapter of Romance Writers of America. She got me my start as a published article writer, beginning with my Captain Jack Sparrow article. During one of our email exchanges, Kim mentioned she had just sold a book, Her One Desire, to Kensington and it would debut in July 2008. At the time…oh, well, she tells this story better than I do. Kim, tell them the story. *perching on a cannon like a wide-eyed child listening to a daring adventure tale*


Kim *realizing now that Hellion couldn’t possibly have had a journalism class. Ever*: Oh, uh, okay…you mean about the…

Hellion: You know…how you got published. The overnight success that took like 10 years. I love this story. She pitched two books, one of a manuscript that was already finished and another….


Kim: Oh, that story. Well, having been imprisoned for months, *chained to my computer* I managed to spin a tale about a Highland laird forced to choose between avenging his father’s death and surrendering to the passion he finds in the arms of his enemy’s daughter. I call this little treasure, Highland Dragon, but ’tis doubtful the title will stick.


While waiting for my ship to sail *plane to fly to Dallas to attend the 2007 RWA National conference*, I started penning another bit of fiction I lovingly titled, The Executioner’s Daughter. This tale is about a Scottish spy escaping certain death in the Tower of London.


Upon reaching port *Dallas* I’d prepared my pitch and sat wide-eyed across from the infamous Hilary Sares. With my heart jumping all out of cadence, I tried to remember what the blokes called me back home. My name finally came to me as did the beginning of my pitch, but my well-thought out words didn’t seem to impress the wench *she is my editor now, so I use that word lightly in the spirit of swashbuckling joviality*. As the story goes, Ms. Sares did finally perk up when I told her the premise behind The Executioner’s Daughter. She asked me to send both manuscripts regardless of their condition.


I, without the slightest hesitation, agreed to her request, stood, and thanked her for her time with all the manners me mum taught me. At which point, I ran to the privy and then to the rathskeller for a much needed quaff of rum. But this is not the end of this mind-boggling tale…Upon returning to a land less inflated with agents and editors, I mailed the completed manuscript, Highland Dragon, and the puny five chapters I had of The Executioner’s Daughter.


Not a fortnight later *ten days* Ms. Sares called me with a two book offer. After I scooped myself off the poop deck, I was met with a slew of emotions that sent this bilge rat spiraling.


But wait…there was a catch. Ms. Sares decided the stronger book lie in the tale about the executioner’s daughter, aka incomplete manuscript. She asked how long it would take me to finish it. My reply, “Six months.”


As sweet as she could be, she counteroffered with three months. I agreed with a nervous laugh. What choice did I have? We blathered a bit more after which I ran for the privy and then the rathskeller for a quaff of rum.


Crewmember (shouting from rigging): “Did ye manage the feat?”


Kim: Aye, I did! Shackled in the hulk *bound to my computer in the basement* I added 80,000 words to finish what is now titled Her One Desire.


Hellion (as crew murmurs in amazement): And that’s not all. You also teach college courses, put together the monthly newsletter (Rumpled Sheets) for MORWA as well as the chapter newsletter for Hearts Through History, are married and have two children—you sound busier than one pirate trying to rob a fleet of ships at different longitudes at the same time! How do you do it all? How did you get 80,000 words done in such a short amount of time?


Kim: Well, I tied the ragamuffins *my children* in their chambers, shortened my hours at work, didn’t cook, didn’t clean, and just wrote. Oh…I also didn’t sleep.


Hellion: Amazing. Yes, it was clear you didn’t believe in sleep as soon as you mentioned having two children. That’s a glutton for punishment right there, though obviously worthwhile—much like getting this book published! What a dream come true! How have you been handling it? How exciting is it that after all these months of knowing it’s going to happen—you’ll be seeing your name in the bookstores next to Sherrilyn Kenyon and Lisa Kleypas?


Kim: Oh, aye, the K’s are right in the middle of the shelf and I couldn’t ask for better company sitting beside me. It is exciting and terrifying at the same time. Some days, I think I can’t keep up with all the promo, but it will all be worth it when Lord Broderick Maxwell and Lady Lizbeth Ives are freed into the world.


Hellion: Are you going to RWA this year? Will you be doing a book signing? (Do you think you’ll be signing near them? How cool would it be if Sherrilyn bought a book?)


Kim: Seriously, you need to switch to decaf.


Hellion: Oh, look, an undead monkey. *shoots it, monkey screams; Kim blinks but proceeds on*


Kim: I have my voucher to set sail for San Francisco in July and hope to have a quill all sharpened to sign Her One Desire as she hits the shelves in July. And if Sherrilyn Kenyon or Lisa Kleypas happen to ‘look’ my way, I’m certain to swoon.


Hellion: Lord, so would I. Okay, now…tell us about Her One Desire. What’s it about? Why are we going to fall in love with this book as much as you obviously have?


Kim: I love the hero in this book. Lord Broderick Maxwell, is gentle and honorable to a flaw, of course, he is arrogant which is forgivable given his appearance. Black hair, light blue eyes and a set of abs a tavern wench would flip her skirts for. Oh, and my Broc is funny, he makes me laugh just as he does Lizzy.


The crew might like to hear a quote by Patricia Rice, a New York Times Bestselling Author: “A sensual and spirited romance by a masterful new writer.”


Then, of course, there is the back cover blurb:




Astride a stolen horse, encircled by the shackled arms of Broderick Maxwell, a Scottish spy escaping certain death in the Tower of London, Lizbeth Ives rides to the north, hidden by the merciful darkness. By stealth and by cunning, the daughter of the Lord High Executioner has undone her father’s cruel work, compelled to save the innocent man with her. There is no turning back—they are bound as one in his iron chains. Consumed by mortal fear, driven by passion, they disappear into the night…


A single raven follows them. Is it an omen? Or only the first of those who would capture them? They must ride on. If captured, they will face death together. But if they reach Scotland, he will claim her for his own…forever.


Hellion: *looking faintly dazed, has to shake herself to sense as she realizes Kim has finished* Oh, my! A Scottish hero…a tortured heroine who just wants to save her father…and action-packed adventure. And hot, hot sex scenes. *more cheering from the crew* Now, you said you sold two books to Kensington and they wanted this one first. What is your other book about? And when will we get to have our hot little hands all over it?


Kim: The second book is titled Highland Dragon and will grace the bookshelves in October 2009. I’m proud to say this book placed first in seven RWA sponsored contests including the Molly and Reveal Your Inner Vixen. Highland Dragon takes place in the Scottish Highlands around the turn of the 15th century.


The premise:


In a struggle between love and revenge, only one can emerge victorious. Eighteen years after hiding the secret of his betrothed’s lineage, Laird Calin MacLeod is forced to choose between avenging his father’s death and surrendering to the passion he finds in the arms of his enemy’s daughter.


Intelligent and feisty, Akira Neish has been called many things…even a witch, but never has she been called “beautiful” by a man. Unable to deny Calin’s seductions, Akira opens her heart to him, only to discover their marriage is part of his calculated plan to initiate a war with her biological father.


Hellion: Did you hear that crew? All those contest wins! I bet you knew you were close when you started finaling and winning all over the place! (And I have to say this: McLeod of the clan McLeod…okay, I’ll stop before the There can be only one.) *last said with dramatic flair, crew stares at her strangely, Hellion clears throat and proceeds in James Lipton manner* 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? (I.e. what have you found that’s worked for you?)


Kim: Rum! Lots of bloody rum! *Crew raises their mugs in agreement*. Seriously, it takes dedication and perseverance and lots of support from family, friends, and other writers. I wouldn’t have sold without the support of my local chapter and critique groups. Also, when writing, I have learned that you MUST move forward. Regardless how bad the scene is, you can always cut, but you can’t edit a blank screen.


Hellion: *looks at crew* See, I told you. They don’t listen to me. It’s what I get for being such a pushover. It’s my fault. I should give out more floggings and less rum. In any case, Kim, 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.


Kim: Ho, mate! Before you set the crew to waggin' their tongues, I'd like to let everyone know I'll be giving away an autographed copy of Her One Desire away to three of you bilgemates for making me feel welcome aboard the Romance Writer's Revenge. Cheers!


Hellion: Three copies? Did you hear that, crew? What would you like to ask the fair and fierce Kimberly? And for goodness sakes, pass her the rum!


(And if you can't get enough Kimberly interviews, she is also interviewing with the Romance Vagabonds! Say hello to her over there as well!)








Thursday, June 26, 2008

Goodbye For Now

Not quite a year ago, I boarded the Romance Writer’s Revenge. I felt apprehensive, but excited to embark on a new journey with a group of ladies who shared my dream. They welcomed me with open arms and in a course of a few months; I became a better writer because of their influence. It is with a tear in my eye and a tug of my heart that today I am saying goodbye to this fine sea worthy vessel.

In the past few months, I have struggled with maintaining focus on my writing goals, so I have decided to step away from the writing arena and reassess what I need to do to get back on track. My plan is to take a break from writing, and do a little soul searching.

I want to thank the wonderful women who make this blog happen every day. They are four talented writers to which I owe a tremendous amount of thanks. I appreciate each of you for believing in me, and allowing me to share my ponderings. I promise to come by from time to time and make sure the rum is flowing, and Hellion is sharing the Jack Sparrow love.

I also want to thank everyone who took time out of their day to comment when I posted. You gave me the encouragement to share my vision. I’ve learned a great deal from the discussions, and insight you have all shared. You truly are a blessing to me.

Now for a parting toast.

*Raising my cup of rum high in the air*

May your words flow in an effortless stream onto the paper and in translation bring a sigh from the reader’s lips.


I couldn't let you leave without giving you a present.  So this is from me.

He even has the required Steph & Ranger tattoo.  LOL!  LOVE YA, GIRL!!!




Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Embarrassing Praise


Something very strange happened to me this weekend.  My husband’s best friend asked me about my writing.  He and his wife were over to visit and he brought it up in dinner conversation.  As in, “how’s your book coming along?”

In typical self-conscious fashion, I immediately wondered if maybe my DH was complaining about my writing or putting it down to his friend.  So, as soon as this question left his friend’s mouth, I started looking between faces at the table, trying to gage if there was any mocking in anyone’s expression.  But, my hubby gazed back at me encouragingly and his friend and his friend’s wife had heads tilted in interest.

The first surprising thing about this was that my husband had obviously talked to his friend about how I was writing a book.  Oh, I'd never told him not to tell his friends; I just never expected him to tell them of his own volition.   My hubby is supportive of my writing, but sometimes I think he’s uncomfortable talking about the details of the story.  (“Honey, do you think it’s more romantic if he puts his hand in her hair or on the small of her back?” = DH running away, face hidden, to look up sports or something else manly on the internet).  

So, to find out that he’d probably been bragging to his friend about me was sweet and touching.

Then, his friend was genuinely interested enough to ask me about it, then continue to express how cool he thought it was, for the span of several minutes. 

Well, having his friend-- a guy and “a guy’s guy” at that-- go on and on about how cool it was that I was writing a romance novel was embarrassing for me.

I’m usually a confident person and I don’t embarrass easily.  And I’m honestly to the point in my writing where I don’t really care if people don’t think it’s important enough to spend my time on or if they’re going to be Debbie Downer about it.  So, even though scoffing and put downs still frustrate me and make me uncomfortable when I have to defend myself, they don’t pose any threat to stopping me anymore.

But, this open enthusiasm was a different story.  I found myself playing it down.  I was like, “well, I don’t know how it’ll go, but I’m going to put it out there anyway” and “maybe it’ll never get published but at least I’m more experienced for my next try.” 

Afterwards, I wasn’t sure why I did this.  I should have felt as confident in the face of praise as I did in the face of scorn.  I just wasn’t prepared for it, especially from such an unexpected source.

It was nice.  Really nice.

Have you ever received praise either for your writing or for something else that embarrassed you?  How did you react?  Is praise from someone unexpected any better than praise from someone expected?  Why do you or don’t you think so?





REPLAY: Mary Poppins in the House

Clearly something is amiss. I think Sin might be locked in the closet again, but I'm sure we'll hear more about it later. In the meantime, since nobody wants to do math two days in a row, I thought I'd throw up a musical. (That's what they do on cable channels, right, when the normal programming isn't available?) So I bring you the interview with Mary Poppins.


Please give a warm welcome to Mary Poppins!  *background soundtrack music of  Chim-chim-chir-ree; then a silhouette of famous Poppins profile with infamous hat and flower*


MP:  *crisp British accent (CBA)*  Hello, Ms. Hellion.  Thank you for inviting me here today.  I must say I was rather surprised you thought I had anything new and exciting to share about writing but I’ve been thinking on it quite meticulously and I think you will be pleased….


Hellion:  Actually, I took the liberty of parodying some songs from your movie….


MP:  *scoffing in her CBA*  My movie?  Don’t be absurd!  As if I would ever consent to having my life filmed—and I don’t go around bursting into song.


Hellion:  Yes, you don’t make out with chimney sweeps either, but I’ve got your number.  I saw how you looked at Bert.  I know you wanted to make hot, wild monkey love and have his little sweeps.  *hands offended MP a sheaf of lyrics*  Please pardon the scratch outs.  I didn’t have a lot of time to write these….


*song cues up for “A Spoonful of Sugar”*


MP:  *glares at Hellion before looking at the lyrics finally, then cocks an eyebrow at Hellion*  Is this necessary?  *Hellion nods, Mary sighs*  Oh, well, if we must, we must.  *shakes lyrics and begins speaking crisply*

            For every story that you write

            There is a critic who’ll say it’s trite

                        You find that critic  *MP snaps her fingers, glares at Hellion*

                        And never read his crap ever again.  *gasping, then gives Hellion a look*  HONESTLY!


*singing*  And every tale you do construct,

            Expect to be rolled in the muck,

            The garbage.  The $1.99 bin at Wally World.  TIME.


            But a fifth of spiced rum makes the Bad Review go down,

            The bad review go down, bad review go down…


*Captain Jack Sparrow and his many hallucinations of himself burst onto the set behind, linking arms, slinging rum, and kicking their legs high in drunken frivolity; they join in for the last part of singing*


            Just a fifth of spiced rum makes the Bad Review go down,

            In an almost painless way….


MP:  *tossing aside the top sheet of the lyrics as the second song cues up*  Ms. Hellion, I don’t think….  *music cues and she rolls her eyes, but sings*

            Fin-finishy, fin-finishy, fin-fin your book

            It won’t write itself, you big shirker forsook!

            And as we can tell by the last lamentable rhyme,

            Hellion wrote this blog in a very crunched time!

                        Hellion wrote this blog in a very crunched time.


MP:  Honestly Ms. Hellion, you must be kidding with these lyrics…they’re positively the most…  *music cued back for second verse*

            Fin-finishy, fin-finishy, fin-fin your tale—

            Because your writing friends won’t care when you weep and wail.

            For we all know what a sad procrastinator you are—

            If you were a lawyer, you’d be given the most highest bar.

                        Hellion didn’t even research to see if lawyers get bars!


Hellion:  *clapping*  That was wonderful, Miss Poppins.  Now just one more song…


MP:  I think we’ve had just about enough.  *music cues and she gasps*  You’re mad!


Hellion:  They tell me that quite a lot.  If I weren't, a lot of this probably would never work.


MP: *frowning*  Because I was afraid to write when I was just a lad

            My father read all my works and told me I was bad,

            But then one day I learned a truth to save my achy, breaky heart!

            The biggest truth you ever heard and this is how it starts….


            It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare; they’ll probably publish you anyway….


MP:  *throwing down the last page*  This is quite enough.  *waves for the music to stop*  Beyond ridiculous!  Total codswollop!  How am I supposed to sing that last line?  It doesn’t even make any sense.


Hellion:  Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious doesn’t make any sense either, but I’m pretty sure it won song of the year.


MP:  I assure you you will not be awarded the same courtesy.


Hellion:  *shrugging, unconcerned, smiles at the camera*  And now, pirates and landlubbers, what have we learned from the talented, charming, and ever so proficient Miss Poppins…


MP:  *blushing*  Well, I…I suppose I am…


Hellion:  *counting off on her fingers*  Number one, don’t take critics to heart.  It’s their job to find fault in anything–and frankly, they’re usually bitter, wrong individuals–I mean, look what they said about POTC3.  Totally brilliant bit of filming…


Terrio: I still haven't seen it.


Sin**: Don't worry. Neither have I.


Hellion:  *ignoring them both* Number two, you can’t offend critics if you don’t finish your book and send it out…and frankly, you’re taking food out of critic’s children’s mouths, if you do that.  Do you want to be responsible for all the starving children?  No.  Finish your book.  Get it published.  Offend at will.


*grumbling crewmembers in the background at the thought that their bits of brilliance would offend anybody; Hellion gracefully dodges an empty rum bottle*


Hellion:  *smiling serenely like that dude off Actor’s Studio*  And finally, don’t be such a perfectionist in trying to please everyone, including your parents, that you never finish your manuscript.  This isn’t Shakespeare…though I’m pretty sure Shakespeare was the Nora Roberts of his time.  Now, let’s thank Mary Poppins once again for sharing her wisdom and insight.  *applauds wildly with other crewmembers*


MP:  I really couldn’t have said it better myself.  I must go now.  Cheers.


How's your writing (or reading) been going lately? Anything you want to share?

**the part of Sin is being played by Angelina Jolie as Hellion doesn't really know where Sin is or what she is up to at this time. Secret Ninja stuff, you know.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Math & Romance 101*

Math and I have never been what you might say, good friends. Reluctant acquaintances is more apt. However, it has long been proven to me that for as long as there have been romances, math has played a part in it.


So get out your calculators and rulers, we’re revisiting 8th grade math (hey, we were dumb in my school; we did this stuff later than everywhere else.)




The triangle: we’re always trying to figure out the angle of the thing, and there is nothing like a simple, uniform triangle to sufficiently tangle your story for a good 300 pages. Love, as the saying goes, comes when you least expect it. You’re not looking for it; or you’re least not looking for it with him. In fact, he’s the last person you were thinking of. Your thoughts and energies instead were focused on Mr. Ideal. The third point of the triangle.


Writers enjoy employing triangles as a writing device because they’re simply complicated, or complicatedly simple. Whichever. You’re not bogging the reader with a slew of unnecessary characters to remember, but you’re sufficiently raising the emotional stakes and tension until we’re all screaming, “Kiss him already, no, not him, the other guy!”


Sometimes writers like to do a diamond sort of thing, a triangle and a triangle, with the short line connecting our hero and heroine at the middle. Each has their own Mr. or Ms. Ideal, but are still drawn to each other. This is trickier to do, because there is a sort of timing to it. If they’re both with their ideals, or pursuing their ideals at the same time, it’s hard to keep them together and aware of each other. There is almost a choreography on ice with a diamond (get it? Ice and diamond? Right.) and one triangle is completed just after the second one takes up, so both characters suffer sufficiently. Writers who do diamonds well make you feel as tense and engaged as if you’re watching Dean and Torvill at the 1984 Olympics.


Warning: if you’re not careful, you’ll end up with the multi-triangled approach of Bhartrihari:


She who is always in my thoughts prefers
Another man, and does not think of me.
Yet he seeks for another's love, not hers;
And some poor girl is grieving for my sake.
Why then, the devil take
Both her and him; and love; and her; and me.


It’s probably more accurate in the long run, but this is only going to work if you want to write your own Gone with the Wind. And you’ll notice Bhartrihari and Scarlett did not have happily ever afters. If you want a happily ever after, keep your writing and your geometric proof simple: go for the triangle. Then when you’re ready for the Olympics, try a diamond.




Because I am a hopelessly simple English major, I’m going to keep this little math analogy as hopelessly simple as possible: we’re always solving for X.


My high school math teacher kept assuring me I would use algebra in everyday life, and I kept saying she was on crack; but it turns out on the most basic, simplistic level (not that complicated calculus she was assuring me about later), we are always using algebra (and geometry). X + Y = Z. I usually solve for X, trying to figure out how many miles to the gallon I got on this particular tank of gas. I’m pretty sure I’m doing it wrong since it’s rarely the same mileage twice. I’m sure it’s why I’m not good at solving for X in my writing too.


I think the X in a lot of fiction books is the dead body. Everyone loves a good mystery: who killed the dead guy, what happened to Aunt Meredith’s diamond and ruby necklace, just what exactly is the hero hiding about his past anyway? We’re all curious about the X and want to find the source of it. X is backstory. After all, what is a dead body at the beginning of a novel but backstory that hasn’t been revealed yet?


So for me, my writing equation to solve for X is: X + H = C. If you could remove a hero from his backstory, you’d have a much less complex creature. But add your backstory and your hero? COMPLICATED. Neurosis City.


And much like all those math classes, where I spent my time, beating my forehead on my desk, saying, “I can’t solve for X because it doesn’t make any sense!”, you can’t really have a hero without backstory, can you? If you have a hero without backstory, you have an infant, fresh from the womb, untested, untried, and unriddled with all the little slings and arrows life saddles you with. But it amuses me to see a lot of writing books where they want you define your character first, then write the backstory separate. It just seems so wrong. It’s like scrambling two eggs in a bowl, then being told to turn them back into unbroken, unscrambled eggs again. Right. That can happen.


Plus, you’ve been to character interviews, haven’t you? You’ve set your smoldering-eyed, gypsy man in a chair and start firing questions at him like you’re Barbara Walters, calm but no nonsense. For no explicable reason, your character clams up like he’s being tried by Joseph McCarthy instead. He has no answers for you. He doesn’t know. He shrugs. You don’t know. And it’s very irritating because you made him up. You’ll even offer him answers, and he continues to shrug as if that is a very nice answer but he can’t be bothered to give confirmation either way if you’re right. Bastard.


Clearly algebra is still the bane of my existence, even in writing; but geometry, which I always seemed to do well in (I loved doing proofs), seems to be something I feel a bit more equipped to do.


I generally find that people can do one math or the other, but not both particularly well. Which one were you better at? Which one are you better at in the scope of your novel—triangles or X’s? If you’re a reader, what has been your favorite triangle in a novel, or your favorite X-backstory? What triangles are you sick of and what would you like to see more of?


*Math masterminds do not need to point out Hellion’s tenuous grasp on mathematical concepts. She is already aware her checkbook doesn’t balance; and this is called literary license.







Thursday, June 19, 2008

My "First" Romance Novel

I started reading Harlequins in middle school.  Don’t hate on my mom, she took me to the library and let me rent books, even bought me some.  I just always read through them faster than she could keep me in them.   And when there was nothing else in the house, I reached for my mom’s Harlequins.  It was that or stereo instructions.  I’m sure you agree that Harlequins are a much better option.

Around the end of eighth grade, I picked up my first long historical.  And though I’d been reading romance for a while, I’ll still always remember this as my “first romance” because it’s the first one I can remember clearly.

It was The Gift by Julie Garwood. 

First of all, if you’ve never read Garwood, you should.  She’s witty and light but still has the emotional weight I love in my romances. 

Instead of getting into the details of the plot, as that’s not the real purpose of this post, I wanted to talk more about the experience of reading it. 

I remember laughing repeatedly; Garwood is the master of the one liner.  I remember there were pirates; even then I loved the adventure and suspense of pirating, but as it was longer than anything else I’d read, I really had a feel for the details.  I remember that the heroine, the very spunky Sara, was doing her best to make everyone love her, despite a knack for creating mayhem.  And I remember, as it was the longest one I’d ever read, feeling like I really cared about the characters so much that I didn’t want to leave them.  It was a grand, sweeping story and I knew I was smitten with romance on the spot.

From there, I started grilling my mother for other authors like Garwood.  I read Garwood’s entire backlist and then moved onto other big leaguers; Deveraux, Woodiwiss, Gabaldon, and fell in love with Judith McNaught. 

But, that first long historical is the novel that really got me into reading romance and therefore, it holds a special place in my heart.

How about you?  What romance novel was your “first,” the one to get you into reading romance voraciously, and why do you remember it so clearly?  Or, is there a novel that introduced you to a new subgenre? 

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Writing With Crayons

As a child, I had a veracious appetite for reading. I always had my nose in a book. As I look back at my favorite books during my childhood, I find that in one way or another they influenced me. As I matured and discovered new and interesting books, I still found myself savoring the characters I found long ago.

The first favorite book I can remember is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. This book inspired me emotionally. I wanted the boy to love the rabbit so he could be real. For me the story signified acceptance, at a time in my life when acceptance was very important. I cheered at the end of the book when the fairy made the bunny real. Because the rabbit loved the boy, and believed he could be real, he achieved his dream. As a child, it made me believe that love could really get you somewhere. Even as an adult this book still inspires me not only as an individual, but also as a writer.

My second favorite was a series of books by Astrid Lindgren about a character named Pippi Longstocking. At nine years of age, I wanted to be Pippi. I wanted to live with a monkey, and go on a different adventure everyday. Who couldn’t love a character who named herself Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraimsdaughter Longstocking? Pippi taught me courage, and to respect others but most important- to laugh at myself.

A brilliant man named Shel Silverstein authored my third favorite book. The book is Where the Sidewalk Ends. Mr. Silverstein’s poems made me giggle, and every little girl would rather giggle as to eat. I can remember even as a teenager pulling out this book and reading the poems just to smile. When I moved out of my parent’s home, I left the book behind. I remember wanting to read it years later. My dad and I spent an hour in the attic looking until we found my treasured book. I now share the poems with my nine-year-old son, and he loves them as much as I do. I thought I would share my favorite Shel poem.

Boa Constrictor


Oh, I'm being eaten
By a boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor,
And I don't like it--one bit.
Well, what do you know?
It's nibblin' my toe.
Oh, gee,
It's up to my knee.
Oh my,
It's up to my thigh.
Oh, fiddle,
It's up to my middle.
Oh, heck,
It's up to my neck.
Oh, dread,
It's upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff.


It still makes me giggle.


My fourth favorite book was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I can remember holding my breath when Mary opened the door to the garden. I loved the message of this story. How two friends tending a garden made all the difference in the world. It made me realize that we shouldn’t allow our weaknesses to hold us back. It’s a shining example that through our actions we can be a positive influence to the people around us. To this day every time I enter a garden surrounded by a wall, I look for a secret door.

I think back on my childhood and realize how fortunate I am. I can’t imagine not having books in my life, but there are many children in this world that only experience books inside of a classroom. Books have the ability to influence, teach, and entertain. In looking back at my favorite selections, they represent my voice as a writer. It is amazing to me that even as a child I didn’t choose writing, it chose me.


Thank you to my crew mate Marnee for allowing me to take her place at the helm todayJ


What were your favorite childhood books? Do you remember thinking about writing a book as a child?

Monday, June 16, 2008

So You Think You're a Stripper

There is a debate about how much research is too much. Write what you love and write what you know—then just wing the rest of it. Fake, fake, fake. Sure. But that’s not always fun, and really I think writing should be as fun as possible. The more fun you’re having, the fresher your writing will be.


Now I don’t have a lot of skills (mainly, just drinking, napping, flirting), but the one talent I’ve had pretty much since birth is: I love to research. Sorta. I know a ton of better researchers, but among my friends, I’m generally the researcher. I love to flip through books, listen to stories, and watch the History channel (well, before it went to pot.) I’m a font of useless trivia that others could really give a crap about. That sounds like I’m screwing around but really it’s amazing where those little factoids show up.


I’m always collecting research books: My Lady Scandalous, about 1700s courtesans; and What the Butler Saw, an invaluable resource about what happened below stairs in those English manors. Our Tempestuous Day, a Regency primer, if you will; and I have some books on England and Scotland. I have books on the Puritans, Colonials, and the Wild West. Astrology books (Love Signs is recommended by Debra Dixon, and I do too), and of course, writing books. I even have a book on sexual positions. Granted sex scenes are about emotion rather than what went where, but what if I did want to write about something other than missionary or doggie? I need to know where the hands are…among other things. I don’t exactly have lab assistants I can ask, and frankly if I did, I’d definitely never get any writing done.


But sometimes…sometimes, if I really want to be in character, I’ll research something about the character unfamiliar to me. I mean, not all my heroines can be secretaries who go to Weight Watchers and sew costumes at Halloween and eat Ben & Jerry’s like hedonists. No one is going to buy that book more than once.




I need to learn a new skill. One of my characters is a stripper. No, I’m not moonlighting as a stripper, but there is an exercise class called cardiostrip. A sort of research-lite. Get in touch with my inner vamp and understand a bit more about my character. Plus it'll really tone my abs they assure really, it's a win-win all the way around.


And maybe one day I’ll reconstruct a house or go on a cattle drive like my other characters, or maybe I’ll just watch This Old House and City Slickers again. Whatever. There are different ways to immerse yourself in research. There is also a cruise vacation you can take on a sailboat where you learn how to sail it. You're part of the crew. That would be fun!


What are your favorite ways to research? What are you an expert on? What would you like to learn?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Interpretive Dance for the Writer’s Soul

Or what I like to call pantsing it when you have no idea what’s going on.



Inspired by a Sunday morning impromptu dance off, I come to you live from my living room where Mattycakes is busting a move. I’m filling in for the Bo’sun today and you will have to bear with my crazy weekend antics. This is why they don’t let me blog Mondays.


We like to dance. Every Sunday morning, Mattycakes and I schedule a little dancing time. It’s our way of spending time with one another since we don’t see much of each other on the weekdays. I stay up extremely late on Saturday nights to write and then get up all goofified from lack of sleep. This is when the dancing gets wild.


We’ve spent a lot of time thinking up specialty moves that are unique to us. We turn on the radio in the kitchen and bust a move. We have something we call the lawn mower and the row boat with a little of the offset arm action to compliment each other. Then we go our own ways. Usually this is the moonwalk from me and the booty shake from Mattycakes before we move back to do a little of the freak boy made popular mostly by Too Short in the ‘90’s. You know, where the girl does the freak against the boy and the boy’s got his hand in the air like he’s a pimp or maybe that’s more popular now since the Lil Jon era. Anyways, then we go straight into interpretive dance. I call this my pantsing. This gets my brain warmed up. I love to dance. I’m not exactly the most graceful person in the room.


Mattycakes is good at the pansting. He’s actually quite creative. Today’s dance off was inspired by “So You Think You Can Dance”. I make Mattycakes suffer through this two hour affair every Wednesday night. What he calls his interpretive dance number is mostly moves he’s seen in movies. Which to watch a man who’s every bit of 6’4” and looks like a tank, try to move like a dancer is hilarious. But we have a different kind of humor here. Mostly us just jumping around like ballerinas and twiggy cheerleaders. Not a pretty sight.


I bet you’re wondering what this has to do with writing. I know Hellion is sitting on her treasure chest, chewing on the end of her dagger and trying to rationalize throwing it at me.


Just so you know, daggers hurt, babe. That’s why we’ve got a life size poster of Capt’n Jack. That’s supposed to be for target practice not me.


I went to the school of pantsing. Well, I did until I got tired of going and made up excuses not to go. For me, knowing the story before it unfolds on the page is boring. I like to go in several different directions when I write and if I’m set to one thing, it’s certain I’ll go another. The road less traveled is the one I enjoy the most.


Mattycakes and the dancing have really taught me a lot about writing. And no that’s not the lack of sleep talking.


I get an idea in my mind and I go somewhere with it. Just when I think I know what’s going to happen next, I throw a screwball in there and change it up. Dancing is just like that. You have to anticipate your partner’s moves and think up your next one.  It flows together even when you had no idea what was coming next. And if it doesn’t you move forward and interpret what to do next.


Just like dancing with a partner, you have to know your characters in order to pants. I’ve always thought pantsing is more of a character driven way of writing. You let the characters tell you what direction to head in next. Let them tell the story the way it was meant to be told. Sometimes, they aren’t sure either but that’s when you throw the screwball in, the kidnapping attempt. The phone threat. The stalker. The ex-girlfriend. The baby. Whatever.


Do what’s best for your story and you’re the only one who knows that. Learn to rely on instinct. It’s like an adrenaline rush each time you open a new page.



So today let’s discuss methods of writing. What crazy thing do you do to get into the mood to write? And if you’re a reader, do you have a method to your wicked reading ways?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Pulling Into an Irish port with Loucinda McGary

The Romance Writer's Revenge presents another fantastic guest blogger.   With her debut novel, The Wild Sight, hitting shelves October 2008, it's only a matter of time before this author's career shoots straight to the stars.  Loucinda McGary, a.k.a. Aunty Cindy on the Romance Bandits blog, blends suspense and magic while still delivering a satisfying love story.  She was generous (read: brave) enough to agree to an interview so without further ado, I give you my chat with Loucinda McGary.


Loucinda, welcome aboard and thank you for blogging with us today.  We can't offer the cabana boys you ladies keep in the Bandita Lair, but we do have a rather generous crew of Hotties.  Feel free to flag any of them down should you need a drink.  Or a foot rub maybe. Or you just want to, you know, try one on.


Why thank you, Bo’sun! As you know, Aunty likes her hotties tall and lean (a la Hugh Jackman, Eric Bana, and Paul Bettany) and a foot massage is almost The Best Thing Ever! What’s not to love about having a hottie at your feet?


Having one on his knees. J But lets get down to business. Your debut release, The Wild Sight, hits shelves October 1.  I'm stealing a page from the Bandita book and asking if you could share with us your *call* story?


Loucinda and AlienActually, I never get tired of telling this story, because truth really is stranger than fiction. And the truth is that I met my editor in an elevator at RWA’s National conference in Atlanta. My room was on the 20th floor and there were already two people in the elevator when my roomie and I got on, headed to breakfast. One introduced herself as an editor, and when she saw my Golden Heart finalist ribbon on my name badge, she asked me about it. I told her I was a finalist in romantic suspense and she said, “I’d really love to read your book.” And gave me her business card. Her name was Deb Werksman and she was acquiring for a new romance line for Sourcebooks.


Of course, I sent her my manuscript as soon as I got home. No, she did not buy it, though it took her six months to reject it. L However, at the urging of my CP and fellow Bandita Jo Robertson, I sent Deb a query for my work in progress. Three months later, she asked to see the partial. Then, on July 27, 2007 she called my house to ask me to submit the entire manuscript. I was out to lunch with three of my best friends and when I got home, my DH started babbling incoherently and shoved a piece of paper at me. He had answered the phone and when he realized it was an editor, he wrote down every single word she said, because he knew “…Cindy will kill me if I screw this up!” (And he was correct, I would have! J)


I emailed her the whole thing and promptly convinced myself that there was no way a manuscript ever sold to the very first editor who read it. Happily, I was wrong! On the morning of September 14, 2007 my ringing phone awakened me from a dead sleep. I am not a morning person, and everyone who knows me knows better than to call before 9 a.m. Expecting some dire emergency, I answered only to have Deb Werksman identify herself and say she wanted to buy my “beautiful book!” After I screamed “Oh my God!” in her ear about nineteen times, she told me she wanted to release the book in the fall of 2008. I believe it is the first romantic suspense in the Sourcebooks Casablanca line. 


So there you have it – I sold my manuscript to the very first editor who read it, and I met her in an elevator. Truth really is stranger than fiction!


Wild Sight CoverI love *call* stories. They always give me goose bumps.  Someday…someday. Where was I?  Oh yes, tell us about The Wild Sight.  Especially Donovan O'Shea. If that isn't the perfect name for an Irish hero, I don't know what is.


Faith and begorra, Bo’Sun! Like so many of my characters, Donovan arrived with his name intact, first, middle and last. But I did use some Irish census data (broken down by county) to come up with authentic names for many of the characters in the book.


The Wild Sight is actually my third romantic suspense manuscript. The previous two were set in Italy, and since nobody was exactly beating my door down to buy them, I decided that I would set my third book in Ireland. The DH and I are both of Irish lineage. In fact, his maternal grandmother emigrated from Ireland to America and he still has relatives who live there. However, they live in Northern Ireland, not the Republic. This is the Ireland I’m most familiar with and the one I chose to write about, even though I’ve never seen another contemporary romance novel set there.


Makes sense. But The Wild Sight is more than a contemporary romantic suspense, isn’t it?


Yes, all of my romantic suspense tales have what I call paranormal elements. In my first book, the hero and heroine may or may not be reincarnated 15th century lovers. The heroine of my second book receives “messages” from her recently deceased aunt in her dreams. I have always been fascinated with the Celtic notion of second sight, and decided to use it in my third book. Most of the time, female characters seem to be the ones who have this ability, so I started thinking, “…what if a man had it?” And that is when Donovan Joseph O’Shea appeared. J Here’s a bit of the back cover copy to whet your appetite:


He was cursed with a “gift”

Born with the clairvoyance known to the Irish as “The Sight,” Donovan O’Shea fled to America to escape his visions. On a return trip to Ireland to see his ailing father, staggering family secrets threaten to turn his world upside down. And then beautiful, sensual Rylie Powell shows up, claiming to be his half-sister . . .


Was it difficult to convince an editor a book that starts with the hero and heroine thinking they are brother and sister would sell? 


*ahem * Technically, the hero never believes she is his sister… But, I will say that I had several people who read the opening chapter or heard the idea react with, “EWWW!” One went so far as to tell me I’d never sell the book (Never say never!). I knew it would probably be a “make it or break it” issue. However, my critique partners were very supportive and said they couldn’t wait to see how I got my characters over this huge stumbling block. You’ll have to let me know how I did after you read the book.


As for my editor, the possible half-siblings turned out to be one of the things she loved about the book! Have I mentioned how much I LURVE my editor?


Can you tell us what's up next?  What are you working on now?  Sequels maybe?


As a matter of fact, I am working on a sequel. When my editor told me she wanted to buy The Wild Sight, she said in a rather off-hand way, “You did intend for this to be a series, didn’t you?” And I said, “Sure!” even though I’ve never before written a sequel. GAH!


But did I mention how much I LURVE my editor? Plus, she’s a very smart woman, so if she wants a series, then I’ll write one.


Here’s hoping she likes my latest ideas and decides to buy the sequel!


I think you'll find big fans of series here on the ship.  What about it Wenches?  Since Ms. Loucinda here is just starting on her whirlwind promotional tour, and we are honored she included us in her itinerary, how about everyone give her a little info on what makes you pick up a book?  What makes you buy it?  And what makes you tell all your friends about it?


Yes please! I’d love to know, and I’ll give away some Bailey’s Irish Crème filled chocolates to one lucky commenter.