Thursday, July 31, 2008

Who Needs Alcohol When You Have Sleep Deprivation

As I write this, there is a naked woman in my room.  Well, technically, she's not naked.  She's wearing a thong and gladiator slippers.  I think this bit of information will explain the blog title.


It's now 11:20pm Cali time and I admit we might be a little punchie.  At this point, I've had such a great two days, the next two are going to be gravy.  I got the chance to hang with the Romance Bandits ladies last night and today I spent my afternoon with Nora Roberts and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.  I mean, how could I possibly top these last two days?


We've hit the goodie room where there is now a large stack of notecards promoting this blog.  Yay us!!!  And selling tickets at the Literacy Signing helped me out a lot because by the time I was set free, most authors were sold out.  I did get the chance to tell SEP that I wanted to be her when I grow up.  Again, how am I going to top that?! 


The amazing thing is, tomorrow is the first full day.  Between lack of sleep and information overload, I'm not sure I can survive much longer.  But I'm willing to try for my fellow wenches, whom I miss like crazy. 


Since I'm having flashbacks to all those crazy teenage trips and giggly slumber parties, I want to know what is the silliest or craziest time you've ever had?  What's the best time you've ever had?  And I say we break out the good rum and have a party right here on the ship.  After all, all the amazing people I want to hang with are right here on this ship!  Huzzah for DC!!!

PS:  I realize if I were a good wench, there would be pictures with this blog.  But I keep forgetting to get out my camera.  I promise, there will be pictures next week!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What to Do When You’re Not at the RWA Conference (Otherwise titled: how to pass the time while your friends are off being cooler than you)

I know Terri gave a bunch of places to hang out online if you couldn’t make it to Conference.  I’m not that helpful, so I figured I could just put out some suggestions for stuff you can do while you wait by the computer (phone/email/etc) to hear from your friends who are there, currently too busy having fun to pay attention to you (er…  me, um, er…  us).

1)       Read – probably on the top of most of our what-to-do-when-killing-time lists.  Lots of great stuff is coming out this week/weekend.   Besides the one on Sin’s and my minds (*cough* Breaking Dawn *cough*), Before the Scandal by Suzanne Enoch and Some Like it Wicked by Teresa Medeiros are both out this week.  There have been some wonderful summer releases as well.  I’m looking forward to Colleen Gleason’s fourth vampire book, out on the 5th.   Reading good books can get your brain into writing mode.

2)      Movies – movies are great for revving up the old creative juices.  As Hellion is always saying, there are no new stories, so watching stories on the big screen can get your own story moving.  The most recent Mummy movie and Swing Vote both come out on Friday night, so that’s something.  I want to see Dark Knight still, so maybe I’ll have the DH take me there. 

3)      Dinner (well, more specifically dessert) – check out a favorite restaurant, try a new one, or just order take out.  A little special occasion eating always puts me in the mood for diving into my WIP (especially if there is chocolate involved).

4)    Writing – (Last but not least) as you probably noticed, all my other choices had something to do with writing.  But, seriously, what better way to make our conference going friends jealous than to have written scores of words while they were off gallivanting, sipping champagne with Nora.  Hey, it could happen, they could be jealous….

So tell me, what are you going to be up to this weekend?  Writing, reading, eating?  Any other suggestions to kill the time during conference?  Any other suggestions of activities that get your creative juices going?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


The horizon never quite looked this good. I was sure of it. I looked out at the watercolored hues meshed together in perfect harmony- pink swirled with the fairest shades of orange and purple. Dark purple clouds loomed nearby threatening the dawning stars. The brilliance of the sun struggled to hang on as it fell closer and closer to its nightly doom.

I felt at peace. That didn’t happen often. But somehow as the afternoon faded into dusk, everything seemed to fall into place. Even the way the cold glass was neutral beneath my touch seemed right. I could see like I’d never saw the world before. I could feel like I’d never touched before this moment. It was oddly fitting how this all turned around.


I never felt alive more than I did right now. Funny how he fought this with every fiber of his being. Tried to push me away and tried to make me see the light. Now that we had eternity together, maybe I could make him see there was no other place I’d rather be than with him. Nothing would keep me from doing just that. Not now, and not ever.


Music drifted around me. The strings and soft piano sang to my soul, lulling me take my eyes off the ever disappearing horizon and sway over to the open book on the desk. It was black, high gloss, the pages bound in red at the spine and hardcover to protect the precious story between them. My fingers danced over the words, lovingly written in plain scrawl. Easy to read. Mesmerizing with each word. Emotion that captivated you and pulled you into the scenes. I read every word with rapt fascination and fingered the pages with tender loving care.


It was the story of my life. The life I had before I became eternal. Those moments were few and far between in my memory but this… I touched the book and longed to remember. This was how I came to be. How we came to be. There was only one thing more precious to me than this.


And that was him.


I lifted the book into my opened hand and walked back to the window. The light was fading out. Night had approached. Soon the moon would sparkle over the creek. The starts would splatter against the black, shimmering like a million diamonds in the sky. Though my heart no longer beat, my breathing caught as I realized I was towards the end. It would soon be upon me again. The end of the life I’d been skimming before him. 


I looked out over the sky. It may be the end of the memoirs, oh, but it was only the beginning of my dreams. 



As the stars start to come out over the horizon on Friday night, I will be at my local bookstore dancing like I’ve got ants in my pants for the highly anticipated release of Breaking Dawn (the fourth installment of the Twilight Saga and the ending of the story through the heroine, Bella, POV.)  by Stephanie Meyer. I have mixed feelings about reading the end. I know it’s not the end for them. Even if Stephanie Meyer never wrote another word of them, they would live on in my mind. They would haunt the fringes of my dreams and invade my daydreaming space. The relationship between the heroine and the hero is just so tangible, so real, so breathtaking and beautiful. I find myself forgetting to breathe during certain parts because you feel like you’re a voyeur on the scene and one breath will expose you and ruin it.


So today is a fairly easy question for everyone who didn’t make it to Nationals (we’ll just go next year!). Has a scene or a book just swept you away to the point it was all you could think about? How about writing that scene? What makes the deepest impressions on you?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Leaving On A Jet Plane

Dear Jake,

By the time you read this blog I will be on a jet plane.  Don’t try to follow me.  Just let me go.  This is something I have to do.  I don’t think I can wait another day.

There’s just so much out there to discover.  I need to learn new things in order to grow.  I want you to be on fire and in order to do that I have to get in touch with some experts who can show me a few tricks of the trade.

Stay strong for me, Jake.  Trust me when I say this is the best for the both of us.  Keep that flame in your heart for me.  I’ll be back before you know it and ready to dig my talons into you.


Sandra O’Byrne

Yes, friends, this year’s RWA Conference in San Francisco is my second one to date and I am really on fire about it.  Craft is where it’s at for me.  I went to the conference last year with a newly minted manuscript ready to seize the day.  I learned a lot from that conference.

How to pitch.

How to network.

How to make my manuscript an even better one.

And that’s what I’ve been doing this past year.  A pitch here.  A pitch there.  But mostly re-working my manuscript.  I’ve been honing my baby and making it an even better book.

What do I expect to gain from this year’s conference?

More knowledge, friends.

I’m also going to have a blast re-connecting with old friends, my favorite authors and getting to meet new friends I’ve made in the romance community.

And I’ll be joining Terri in squee’ing and celebrating the accomplishments of so many talented friends.

Ciao for now.  I’ll be seeing you on the blogs.

In case you're wondering, Jake is the hero of Santa's (nice of her to change her name on me, eh?) MS called Sweet Melissa.  I was hoping she'd bring him with her as we're sharing a room and there's always room for Jake, but nooooooo.  Since Santa is actually leaving on a jet plane today and many people will be pitching later this week or later this year, today we're going to do a group pitch session.  Everyone give us your best one to three sentence pitch and lets see if we can sell some books! If you're a reader, give us a pitch for one of your favorite books and see if we can guess which book you're describing.

To help everyone out, here's the best one-liner pitch advice you'll ever find courtesy of Christina Dodd. 

Define the type of story, give a sense of the plot, use action verbs, and whet the reader’s appetite for more.




Sunday, July 27, 2008

Headed to Conference...One Way or Another

The countdown has begun.  This is my last blog before I leave for the RWA National Conference in San Francisco later this week.  *pauses as crew applauds*  Very funny.  Wenches.


This is my first national conference and my first time traveling cross-country.  I'm actually more excited than I am nervous, but I'm sure I'll start shaking like a leaf once I walk into that hotel and see all the other attendees milling around.  It's almost as if it doesn't feel real yet.  As if I'm going to wake up Wednesday morning and realize I'm not actually going anywhere.  Which would really suck since I have this suitcase packed to the brim sitting in my living room.


You would think, being the procrastinator that I am, packing is the last thing I'd do.  But no, packing is all done.  I even have a fancy new binder (for the handouts I have to print myself…gah!) and a sassy little schedule spreadsheet I color coded.  I know, this may be the most anal thing I've ever done.  But never fear, there are several things I've put off so I haven't lost my charming "I can do that tomorrow" ways.


I have three goals for this trip.  Have fun, have fun, and have fun.  Seriously, that's it.  I mean, I intend to learn lots of craft stuff that will inspire me to come back and finish my WIP by the end of September (stop laughing!) and meet as many people as I can.  It's all about the networking, baby.  But the bottom line is, have a good time!


Now, here's the cool part.  Anyone who isn't going to San Francisco can still do the same things I'll be doing.  Turns out, there are online conferences going on for those not able to make the trip this year.  First up is the Not Going to Conference Conference.  Isn't that a great name?  This one is courtesy of the Romance Diva's.  The virtual conference runs from July 30 to August 2 with lots of workshops and prizes.  Registration is free and you never know what contacts you'll make by taking part.


The other option is the Left Behind and Loving It Conference which actually starts today.  Multi-published author, Lynn Viehl, is offering workshops and prizes all week long on her Paperback Writer blog.  Everything from plotting and editing to branding and a Q&A session, this is a great opportunity to have the conference experience all from the comfort of your own home.


Then there are various other blogs that will keep you in the action.  The RWA National website will have frequent updates throughout the event and pretty much any other blog you visit on a regular basis will be talking conference.  I know you'll want to be here Friday because Santa O'Byrne (who will be here tomorrow as well with her own pre-conference blog) and I plus any of our friends we can recruit will post a "conference so far – who we've squealed at and who is taking out a restraining order against us" blog. 

EDITING!!!  Can't believe I forgot to mention where you can get your blog hook-up all in one place.  This fantastic woman named Judi put together all the blogs regarding the conference in one place.  Go HERE for everything conference at your fingertips.  (And we're there too!)



Now it's time for the questions.  If you're going to San Fran, are you packed?  Are you calm?  Or are you freaking out on the inside?  If you're not going, will you check out one of these online conferences?  Will you surf the net to every site you can find to follow the action?  Or would you rather do what we should probably all be doing and spend the time writing?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pride of Ownership

While I was busy last Saturday, trying not to die of heat and humidity, I was studiously and judiciously using my time to channel-surf the cable when I stumbled upon a show about House-Flipping. It was a two-fold educational experience, I assure you, because firstly I watched the woman of this man-woman pair manipulate the hell out of her husband. I laughed even as I wondered: does this guy not watch the final product? Is he this unaware she is playing him right into her capable hands?


Apparently he is fined $100 every time he swears; and that money gets put in additionally into the budget for restoring the house. What does the woman do? She instigates fights and situations that has this man cussing the air cerulean, while she smiles and calmly leaves chaos in her wake. She is careful to let him believe he’s Boss and respect him, but I know who’d I’d be going to if I wanted something done. It was just so artfully done. And I’ve seen my niece, barely 21, employ this same technique on her husband, with the same brilliant results. Someone should teach a class. I’d go.


While I was admiring this woman’s chutzpah and verve, the guy himself also amused me…and got my respect, even if he adored four-letter words. At one point, he calmly reamed the owners of the house by saying, “You guys need to rent.” And then he brought me to my second lesson of the day: Pride of Ownership.


What is Pride of Ownership? Clearly it’s to do with house-owning versus renting; and it’s a mental game. It’s why good homeowners are always mowing their lawns fastidiously (in the same direction), make proper repairs so the roof doesn’t cave in over their heads, and don’t do extremely tacky things like paint their Victorian a gaudy purple and put pink flamingo statues in front of it. (Although I’ve seen those people: they are rather proud of the paint job…but I think you know what I mean.)


It’s subjective. There’s no price value. It’s caring about your property before anybody else; and caring about your property even if no one else seems interested in it. In fact, since you’re the owner, you’re going to care the most, regardless, so you might as well own it and enjoy it. Be proud. Do it right. Brag about it and show your meticulous yard off with pleasure.


Same goes with your manuscript. It’s your intellectual property; and hell, you went to the trouble to finish the damned thing. You have a 100,000 word story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The percentage of people who manage this is really quite small. Most people will just tell you they’ve got a story—and want to talk about it. Or get you to write it for them. Now, admittedly, your first draft isn’t going to be a Beverly Hills mansion yet. But it has potential; and you should treat it accordingly and with respect. If you don’t respect your property, nobody else will either.


If you want converts, you’re going to have to be a convert yourself. Atheists can’t sell Christianity. You’re going to have to be the first believer and then show some pride of ownership. The gaudy Victorian people are actually quite happy with their results, even if very few people appreciate the color purple. But you wait long enough: even the gaudy people have an audience.


So have some Pride of Ownership. Finish your property, then set about painting and restoring that novel to the gaudiest, happiest, angstiest, funniest, and bestest book you can write—then invite people over to admire it. You’ll have some takers. Really.


So, do you guys have Pride of Ownership? And better yet, do you guys know how to do that manipulation thing that woman was doing? I’m telling you, it was phenomenal! It was like watching The Husband Whisperer.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Loving the Process


This past week has been, well, odd.

I made it through my initial on-cloud-nine feelings post-book and now I’m sort of hanging in writing limbo.  You know, that spot where you just aren’t sure where you fit into the process of writing and are waiting to get moving again.

I should be plotting out my book's sequel while I wait for the first book to digest.  But, no matter how much time I spend sitting in front of what should be my back-story file, nothing is coming to me.  My mind is elsewhere, digging up another story altogether.

Initially, I was frustrated by this.  Why is it that my stupid muse can’t follow directions?  I have the ghost of a perfectly good sequel just waiting to be hammered out and my gum-cracking, nail-polish-chipping muse is so over that right now.  She wants to work on what she wants to work on.  *eye roll.*

What can one do in such a situation?  I had two choices; let the little brat roam free in my mind or struggle on my own without her.  When I looked at it that way, there wasn’t really much of a choice.

I gave up arguing, pacified myself with the knowledge that I’m really just killing time in creativity waiting to revise, and rolled with her.  Little twit.

The entire experience has been surprisingly satisfying so far.  I’d forgotten how much I really love the initial brainstorming phase of writing.  So many options available.  I haven’t written myself into any corners, I have the entire world of plot twists open to me.

Once again I’m falling in love with writing.

Now that I’ve been through this before, I’ve felt strangely light-hearted about it.  Last time, when I would get stuck, I’d panic.  Should I be feeling like I’m spinning my wheels?   Is this “normal”? 

As I’m experiencing the process this time, I know a little more what to expect.  And I’m lounging, enjoying the ride.

I assume that I’ll feel the initial frustration as the details of my story tease my mind, there in the recesses but still trapped in my subconscious.  Then I’ll feel the rush of a new story, like the first glow of falling in love, all whirling and spinning around me.  Somewhere in the middle, I’ll trip over it, wonder at the sense of boredom as I stretch through the center and doubt myself, before slipping over the crest and tumbling down the hill towards the black moments and HEA.

And at the end, I’ll weep again, bittersweet tears, at the close of another journey.

What a fabulous gift spinning tales is.

What is your favorite part of writing?  Is there a phase of the story you prefer above another?  How do you feel in the first bit while you brainstorm?  Any other analogies you have to explain the writing process?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bad Habit


The windows are down and the air is so thick you can see it hovering over the road ahead of you. Twilight dances on the horizon and the road is blissfully free of traffic so you stick your foot deeper into the accelerator. The wind breezes by you, smelling sweet with honeysuckle and fresh cut hay and you just want to stretch your arms out in the sunroof and fly. You think about all those times you spent hauling ass home three hours late on curfew when the weather was just like this. Memories, memories... memories all around you. Now you only need a cigarette and a bottle of Boone’s and a reason to be at Finger Lakes at three am. Just lay out under the stars on the hood of that old Ford and be thankful for the wide open skies of Missouri countryside while drinking my Boone’s from a paper bag and listening to REO Speedwagon.


The other night on my way out into the country at one am, it was just like a night I had when I was eighteen. When I was 18, I was driving home, speeding of course, with the T-tops down, the windows down and the music blaring. The air was stale and sticking to your lungs with each inward breath. There was a low fog settled in the valley and the moonlight glared off it like blue fire. Years later, in the same place, I had this moment of overwhelming sadness come over me as I sped towards the creek valley, so I slowed down and turned the music down. I was tempted to pull over but I didn’t want my girlfriend to freak out as she sped past me on the way home. Instead, I tried to breathe it all in. I tried not to let the sadness creep into me. Tried not to let the panic make me turn the opposite way.  I thought about how I’d grown and what I’d accomplish since those days. But it’s always to get carried away in those moments and do things in the extreme.


I picked my speed back up and cruised down the winding back roads north of Columbia and drove down a gravel road that is as familiar to me as the palm of my hand. I thought about the drive home and my girlfriend mentioned she had the same déjà vu moment I’d experience and had the overwhelming urge to call her ex. Instead we went to bed with things on our mind. Which led me to think about vices later that night while trying to sleep. We all have them. It wouldn’t be right to have a main character without some. I'm riddled with them. Only fair to share the love.


What are some of the vices you’ve given your main character and are they anything like your own? Readers, if you read a character with the same vice as you does it help you identify with that hero/heroine more? Any vices you can’t stand in a character?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Writing Queen

I'm having complete and absolute Blogger's Block this week. Nothing witty, nothing pithy, and certainly nothing writer related. However, I did see Mamma Mia! last Friday and can't stop singing ABBA songs. So I re-wrote one of the songs in a bid to help me get back on track with my writing, of which I've been doing less and less (does anyone else spend the hottest parts of the day sleeping like a lizard and wondering when it will cease to be so damned hot? And also wondering: who the hell lives in Arizona on purpose?). Maybe it will inspire your writing as well.

You can write, you can scribe
having the time of your life
script that hook, create that scene
dig in you Writing Queen

Monday night and the lights are bright
looking out for the word that’s right
where the scene unfolds like
A bedsheet caught on air—
You’re writing like you haven’t got a care.

Your hero could be that guy
The singer who always makes you sigh
Every time he holds the mike
Your heart’s about to spike
you're in the mood to sit and write
and when you’re done tonight….

You are the Writing Queen
Brilliant and witty on stage and screen
Writing Queen
feel the heat from the sheets between
you can write, you can scribe
having the time of your life
script that hook, create that scene
dig in you Writing Queen.

In the meantime, I better get back to Chapter 3. It won't write itself, though I've given it PLENTY of opportunity to do so. Here's your chance: how should I start Chapter 3? Here are the options: A) With a fist fight/brawl; B) Getting lost; C) Sex; or D) A midget walks into the room and says, "Okay, everyone out of the pool!" (No offense to midgets--it will be a vertically challenged person of moderate size, of course.) You see what I'm working with here. If you have an E) or F) to offer and I can use it, I'll send you a prize package. I swear. Pirate's honor.

Does anyone have any ideas of how to not let heat and humidity suck out every breath of creativity? And also, has anyone seen Mamma Mia yet and loved it?
Sunday, July 20, 2008

RWA Conference Drove Me To It

San FranciscoIn case you haven't heard, and that is highly unlikely if you spend any time at all on this ship, I'm heading off to San Francisco next week for the annual RWA National Conference.  I've attended a smaller conference in New Jersey, but never the Nationals.  I've also never been anywhere near the west coast.  To say I'm excited is like saying Nora is kind of successful.


Though I'm a plotser (or plantser or whatever we're calling the plotter/pantser combo this week) in my writing life, in real life I pants it all the way.  I rarely plan ahead, take everything as it comes, and never, absolutely NEVER, make lists.  Until now.


Last week on the Romance Bandits blog, Blaze author Tawny Weber covered the topic of getting organized and prepared for the conference.  She ever suggested making a schedule spreadsheet complete with color coding. Her timing was perfect as I'd just had a dream – make that a nightmare – the weekend before that I had arrived in San Fran without any of the things I needed.  Say what you will, but the Universe was telling me to get my arse in gear and get prepared.


First thing I did – make a list.  This is SOOOOO unlike me it's scary.  I hate lists.  I have a friend who makes lists about making lists.  It's a constant battle not to choke her when she tries to push these lists on me.  So the fact I succumbed to this task says a great deal about my anxiety.


Open SuitcaseI learned several things from the list.  One, for the amount of bathroom items required by me daily, I should be much better looking.  Seriously, the bathroom stuff took one side of the page.  And I kept adding to it.  But almost all of these items are packed (travel size items are my friend!) and marked off the list.


Another thing I learned is that shoes are not a big deal to me.  I'm taking my tennis shoes (wearing them on the plane actually) and the heels I'll wear to get all prettied up for the awards ceremony.  Not another pair made it on the list.  With my bad knees, everyone will just have to deal with me in tennis shoes.  Otherwise, the pain will drive me to tears.  And for the record, I'm not pitching so no worries on me going in to impress an editor or agent in tennis shoes.


The final lesson was that one list leads to more lists.  I now have the list of things I still need to buy, the list of items I will wear that day, and the list of items I need to do prior to leaving.  It's like a disease that keeps spreading.  Though I admit, for a person with my memory issues, I should probably embrace list making more often.


What about you?  Do you make lists before a big trip?  Do you make lists for everyday things?  Or does making a list send you over the edge?  Could you make it through a four day conference with only two pairs of shoes, or would you need a separate suitcase for foot gear alone?  If you're going to Nationals, what's on your list that I might have forgotten to add to mine?


PS: Tune in next week when I talk about creating spreadsheet schedules and picking the right workshops.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Are You a Magician or an Audience Member?: Making Ordinary Plots Extraordinary

Readers and writers despair that there are no “new” plots.  This makes me laugh because there hasn’t been an original plot since Greece (and I’m not speaking of the musical.)  Ronald Tobias explains why this is in 20 Master Plots; he says that stories are written about the human experience.  If you have found a plot outside of the “ordinary”, you’re probably writing outside of human experience—and that’s not likely to find you a readership.  (That’s roughly paraphrased; sorry, Mr. Tobias.) 


The point is:  we read stories so we can connect with Everyman; so we don’t feel like the only person who has had their heart broken or scared by the unknown that goes bump in the night or held back by our insecurities. I believe all stories can be boiled down to two elements: love and conflict.  We seek tales that have conflict and heroes who overcome the Big Obstacle and prevail, and we appreciate this type of story if it also features love.  We have to love the character—we want to identify with the character (and that’s easier if we like/love him). We want to be liked, accepted, and loved—that is the whole point of the Human Experience.  We read books that have this theme to learn how to do it in our own lives.  We spend our whole lives trying to figure out how to do this, to explain it, to refine it, to ignore it, to pretend it doesn’t matter, to learn in the end that it IS the only thing that matters. We all learn the hard way, and that too is part of the Human Experience.


So how do you give your readers what they want: love, conflict, and the human experience without falling into “this plot is so stale pigeons wouldn’t touch it”?  Good question. 

The answer is: it depends. Are you a magician or an audience member?


Yeah, I know, this blog went in a totally different direction than you were thinking, right? Ha. Keep up.


In magic tricks (if you watch the same movies as me), you know that there are three parts, three acts to a magic trick. 


Act one is The Pledge.  It’s where the magician-type writer introduces his characters and makes everything look ordinary—though it’s not.  You make use of the misdirection you reveal here.  In act one of most storylines, you have the inciting incident that forces the hero to make the first step to Adventure.  The inciting incident is something that cannot be avoided by the hero; he must go; but he goes not truly realizing he will be changed by everything he does from here on out.  In act one, the hero might meet the quirky next door neighbor and realize they have competing, diametrically opposed goals, but he does not realize he’s going to fall in love with her.  She’s too crazy. As a writer, in act one, you’ve made a “pledge” to your audience that the hero will somehow be changed from his/her adventure, and if you’re like me, will find true love and live happily ever after. 


Act two is The Turn.  The performance of the trick—the action between Cute-Meet and Happily Ever After, complete with conflict, misdirection, misunderstanding, obstacles, and Black Moments.  This is the time where you, as the magician, make the ordinary extraordinary.  This is where you make your audience bounce on pins and needles wondering how you’re going to make the impossible possible.  “He can’t possibly fall in love with her!  They have nothing in common!  They fight all the time!  And besides, she overheard him saying she wasn’t anything special—ha! And when he did propose, it was against his will. Pigs will fly before those two get together!”


Your goal as the writer is to make the audience just as convinced as the hero and heroine that there is no possible way that everything could work out.  If you can make your characters believe there is no way on earth, you’ll fool your audience too.  Characters are people, remember. 


Make the trick big. Cutting a woman in half is always more interesting than making a coin come out of someone's ear. The bigger you make your story: the bigger the characters, the conflict, the obstacles, the black moments—the more hooked, the more fooled your audience will be when you present The Prestige.


Yes, the HEA.  Act three, The Prestige, is where you deliver the Illusion, what the audience is expecting, our Happy Ending.  How are you going to give us the Happy Ending we’re waiting for and watch us be amazed at how magical it seems?  The better you’re able to make The Turn, the more magical the kiss will be at the end when we know those two lovebirds are going to work out after all.


There have been some books I’ve read that I didn’t think there was any way on God’s green earth that a Happy Ending could be wrought, and yet the author did a slight of hand, and all was well.


So back to the “it depends”: what are you, the magician or the audience? Maybe you’re the kind of writer who writes from the audience’s POV—you want to discover the Illusion along with everyone else, or i.e. a pantser.  Or maybe you’re the kind of writer who writes from the POV of the magician, pleased to fool everyone so well, or i.e. a plotter. Or maybe you’re Michael Caine, a plotser who knows the trick and technique; but in the end you’re totally wigged when you realize what the outcome is, when you thought it was something else all along.


Anyone else see The Prestige? If you had to spend 7 minutes in Heaven with Christian Bale or Hugh Jackman, who would you pick? And are you a magician or an audience member—or Michael Caine? What sort of plot devices do you gravitate towards in reading/writing (Beauty & the Beast, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty…)?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Top Ten Things I Did After I Finished My First Novel

Instead of waxing poetic about finishing my novel (as I neither wax nor am I poetic), I figured I would map out my journey post-finishing as an exhibit for you, dear wenches.   Feel free to reference back when you finish, nod or disagree if you’ve already finished one, or just laugh at my ridiculousness.  All reactions are acceptable.





1.    Squee  -  I actually managed some really loud squeeing.  In fact, my squees scared my poor one year old so much that his little face folded in on itself as if my fit of insanity was the manifestation of one of his greatest fears (I wonder if he worries about my mental state often – hmmm…).  Then he started wailing.  This promptly made me feel horrible so I scooped him up and we danced around the room.  He laughed and I felt better.


2.    Dance around the room – see above.



3.    Send an email to friends, call friends, stop random people on the street to spread your good news, etc.  - Frankly, it was near impossible to not let my relief out.  I rambled; I babbled; I otherwise made a complete fool of myself.  My writerly friends of course smiled and nudged each other (through cyber-space), equally proud of me and happy for me, undoubtedly rolling their eyes at my silliness, but all aware of what a big accomplishment it is.  My real life friends, though happy for me, don’t get the depth and breadth of such a goal achieved but they were happy I was happy and that’s all I needed.



4.    Go out to dinner – My hubby and I went out to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner as a joint anniversary/book finishing celebration.  I had something for dinner, Chocolate Coconut Cream Cheesecake for dessert (you didn’t really care what I had for dinner, did you?   I figured just the dessert detail would be enough), and one strawberry Ketel One Martini (I’m a cheap date *sigh*).  He toasted me twice, we held hands, and he told me repeatedly how proud he was of my accomplishment and how lucky he was to be married to me.  *Sappy girl sigh.*   I can leave my characters’ romance behind as long as my hubby is my forever hero. 




5.    Read – On my way home from dinner Saturday, we stopped at Borders and I picked up Twilight.  I finished it Sunday night and stopped to get New Moon and Eclipse.  I finished Eclipse last night.  I’ve missed reading.  I completely hibernated for a couple of days.  It was wonderful.  I think the key here though was not to read any historicals.  I do have revisions coming up.


6.    Avoid revising – This sounds like such an easy one, doesn’t it?  I mean, I just spent forever with my characters.  They’ve kept me awake for months, more so in the last two-ish weeks of writing, and I should want to leave them alone.  I shouldn’t want to mess with them until I force myself.  But the urge to revise is really strong.  I even started messing around on Friday, though it was a huge mistake.  I realized though, that I was getting twisted up.  I think I’m so exhausted with it that I need to take a break for a couple weeks and then try to read it with some fresh eyes.   So, a week and a half from now I’m going to start to read it through. 




7.   Write a query letter – Ugh.  I repeat… UGH.   I started this process a couple months ago and it’s no easy task.  Condensing your huge work, even after it’s finished, into a few short lines meant to entice.  Ugh.  Still working on this.  In bits and pieces.  Have lots of time.


8.     Write my synopsis letter – Quadruple UGH.  While the query letter is hard, this is just frustrating.  Every sentence needs to be concise.  I figure I’m not sweating it yet.  I mess with it now and again and assume that once my revisions are done, this will clarify as well


9.     Try not to drown in the sea of denial that keeps my query and synopsis apprehension at bay - *blinking.*   What denial?


10.   Start my next story – In this case, I had to ask what Nora would do.  And that’s right, people, she doesn’t take a long vacation.  So, I’ve started brainstorming.  This part is fun, only requires note-taking, and just happens as I putter about in my life.

If you’ve finished a book, what did you do?  If you haven’t, what would you do?  Any advice for a newbie finisher?  Anyone ever had the Chocolate Coconut Cream Cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory?  I’m telling you, yum.

Aside:  A giant, wet, slobbery fangirl hug to all my cyber romance writer friends who have stood by offering support when I felt nervous, threatening harm when I needed prodding, and generally being awesome in every way.  Thanks to all of you, I’m forever grateful for your help.

Oh, and I absolutely can't wait for Breaking Dawn or this movie.  I am obsessed.  At least this week.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Inner Workings of a Muse

I often find myself in a fight with my muse for creative power over my brain. So today, I'm cheating. I keep a writing diary. I have for almost three years now. When we have it out, I write letters to myself. It's mostly in character. So today, I bring you the inner workings of my mind.

Date: October 04, 2006

Mood: Well, I've gotta tell you, muse, I'm just peachy because of you...  You feel me?

Inspiration: My level of confidence is in the dirt. But I'm hanging on by a thread.

Music: Brackish- Kittie  (Explains a lot, doesn't it.)

Introduction- How we met--

When I met her, it was like any other day for me. The drive into work was the same. The phone calls were the same. The music on the radio was the same. Nothing was different. Except for her voice. It was eerily haunting in its sweetness. A hint of sarcasm. Scratch that. Full of sarcasm. She threw a shoe across the room and said very quietly, Get out.


She had my full attention. To throw a shoe (which is like an offense in my book. Throw a knife. A whip. A clock. Anything but the five inch heel in patent leather. Thats a sin.) But her voice. Haunting. Like shed done this before. Knew what to expect. That it was coming. I didnt know what it was at this point, but I was engrossed. I had to know. So I listened all day. Tuned in quietly to my thoughts as she continued to talk to me. More like musings to herself, spoken to a silent confident.


Then I heard his voice. Cool. Calm. Collected. The type of voice that all women turn their heads toward on the street. The type of voice that gives you goosebumps when confronted in the dark corner of a club. His voice was enough to send shivers down my spine. But I could feel her tense up. I could feel her movements as sure as they were my own. She crossed her arms. Her breathing became more controlled, and even. And her mind shut down. This was it. This is who deserved the get out.


He walked into the room as if he owned it. I wasnt sure. He might have. The look in his eyes was a dark gleam He knew what he wanted. He expected to get it. No wasnt an option at this point between them. She closed herself off even more and I had to wonder if this was about to get really ugly. It wouldnt be the first time. My mind played host to some twisted scenes in the past. I just hoped that this wasnt going to be one of them. I liked her. I wasnt sure who she was. But I was willing to find out. That had to be something. Right?


I asked you to leave. Her voice was soft in a room full of tension and the hair rose on my forearms. There was a warning in her voice.


He laughed. A baritone rich in velvet. It was almost cruel how much I wanted to love him. You told me to get out.


I could feel her shrug. We must interpret get out differently then, because youre still here. Her voice gave away no emotion. Flat. Distant. Meant to annoy him.


But it didnt. He came to a stop at an arms length distance away from her. Close enough to touch, but he held back. His stare was hot on her skin. And it was obvious she was uncomfortable with him. I wasnt sure why. They had some sort of a relationship. I could tell that much. But the depth of that relationship was stunted by their inability to communicate with one another. Unwilling to share information.


And then it clicked all of a sudden. They worked together. The look in their eyes, they couldnt react. No matter how much he wanted to and how much she pulled away emotionally from him, it was always going to be there, between them. The fire. The ice. It was love at its greatest point.


Sadie, I thought to myself. I knew her just as I knew myself. Her name was Sadie. Her father was dead. Her sister was murdered. Her mother hates her and Sadies lived with guilt thats rotted her heart. She doesnt want anything to do with a partner. Especially one whos using her to get what he wants.


And the devil. Well he was easy. With the silver tongue and confidence of a sultan, he was Ash. And he wanted her. Not only for information, but in every way possible. And to Ash, a challenge was just the excuse he needed to get closer to her.


And there it was, at midnight, on October 4, 2006, my grandfathers birthday, I knew I had my first original plot beginnings. Sadie Madalyn Michaels was born like a wildfire blowing in a strong breeze. And we havent looked back since.


So how was it for you? Do you remember anything remarkable about your first encounter with your hero/heroine? Remember where you were? Readers, are there any hero/heroines that have stuck with you and made you think that you could write or identify with that particular character? And does anyone else keep a writing journal to refer back to? Or even just a book of thoughts?


Monday, July 14, 2008

Writer's Studio Interview: Megan Kelly and the Boy Next Door

*cued music from The Actor’s Studio, camera zooms in on Hellion, a stunning redhead (clearly a pirate due to her magnificent hat) and Megan Kelly, a petite and pretty brunette, who is sitting across from Hellion. A cover board of Megan’s new book cover is standing on an easel next to her: The Fake Fiancée*


Hellion: Hello, Megan! Long time, no see. *turns to audiences* Dear viewers, Megan is one of my fellow members of the MORWA Chapter in St. Louis. She heads the Critique Group, called CORE, and used to run two separate groups: one on Tuesday and one on Saturday. Very crazy, in my opinion. I mean, working. Megan is very brave and very persistent; and she has also very graciously agreed to be interviewed today. Everyone, please welcome Megan Kelly!


Crew: *cheering and whistling; Sin rushes over and offers Megan some grog which she happily accepts*


Hellion: Okay, let’s get started! First question, Megan, how did you get assigned into that role (with CORE), and what are your favorite parts of the job?


Megan: I had attended from the first and saw the value of getting feedback. I was a contest junkie until I sold and probably will be in the published contests now. When the moderator decided to jump ship, I was nearest the gangplank.


Hellion: I know how that can happen.


Megan: It was either volunteer or be pushed overboard, too. So I volunteered. *laughs* I love when someone reads their work and it's stronger than her earlier writing. Then I know we're doing good. Also it's a kick when one of us sells (me, Kimberly Killion, Annmarie McKenna, and Mary Paine in the past two years) or finals in a contest from something we all critiqued.


Hellion: Wow! A lot of familiar names! What a great group! How important is it, do you think, to be a part of your local chapter? I know a lot of fledgling writers aren’t even a member of RWA. How valuable do you think the chapter meetings (and CORE groups) are?


Megan: I've received so much from my chapter. I don't think I'd be published without them. Not only does MoRWA offer monthly programs, but the support of my chaptermates has been invaluable. Perhaps you don't know this (because I hid it pretty well), but for a good six years, I landed my writing ship on a sandbar, so to speak. Block, hiatus, drinking binge--call it what you will, but they were dark days. If I had quit attending meetings, I wouldn't have gotten back to writing. So a good group is very important, whether it's RWA or not.


Hellion: Mates are definitely important! A support group is indispensable.


Megan: Attending conferences put on by RWA National and other chapters has helped me learn, too, as has feedback from their contests. As for a critique group or partner, I think it's vital. My writing is stronger due to what I get from my CP and CORE. I learn from feedback when I read my own work, of course, but critiquing someone else's work means I better know what I'm talking about. Listening to other members who find different aspects in someone's work helps me make my work stronger. It transfers to my writing, but it's a mysterious process I can't explain.


Hellion: *grins* A lot of life is a mystery. How long have you been writing? (How long did it take you to publish?) And most importantly, what’s your Call Story? We love Call Stories. Do you remember when you got The Call?


Megan: Do I remember!? How long can the answer be? Okay, first: I started writing seriously in 1994. I was, like, twelve. *coughs*  I entered a contest, pitched to an editor, sent off the ms. Got back the ms. *wink*  I got THE CALL in 2007. However, there's that "hiatus" on the sandbar I took. During those six years, I didn't finish anything.


Hellion: That sounds familiar.


Megan: I started two stories but only got into "the sagging middle" of each before setting them aside. I worked on this and that, but I'd lost the belief I'd sell. The characters stopped walking around in my head. One day, for no reason I can pinpoint, they came back. Once again, I was making up stories for strangers I'd see on the street (axe murderer, bank exec, bride-to-be, pirate). The joy was back. I still didn't believe I'd SELL, but I wanted to write again.


Hellion: Been there, done that.


Megan: So... in June of 2006, my invaluable CP, Carol, showed me the Romantic Times magazine article where the Harlequin American line put out the call for mss from new authors. I had 72 pages of a book done and a synopsis I'd written for contests, so I sent a partial. Six weeks later, I got a request for the full. Of course, I hadn't touched it in those six weeks because I wasn't going to sell. I couldn't decide whether to be thrilled or scared spitless.


Hellion: Spitless.


Megan: *nodding* I set a deadline of six weeks, said goodbye to my family and barricaded myself in my office in the basement. Six weeks to the day, I mailed the finished ms, with much thanks to Carol! Four months later, March 1, 2007, I was actually working in my office, with my printer running, and the washer and dryer chugging several feet away. Didn't hear the phone ring upstairs. I went up for a break (more chocolate) and saw the message light flashing. Kathleen Scheibling, Sr. Ed. at Harlequin American, wanted to talk to me about my ms. Now, I'd had a call before, where the senior editor said right away, "this isn't the call you're hoping for." So I tried not to get excited that Kathleen's was THE CALL I was hoping for. But who could possibly NOT hope?


Hellion: *laughing* Clearly you can’t.


Megan: Exactly. Missing the first call was great for me, actually, because I had time to breathe; I found my printout of "What to Do When You Get The Call" and took time to read it over and make a few notes of pertinent questions (advance, payout, royalty), and I could walk off a little excited energy around the house. So…I called Toronto and got Kathleen's voice mail since she was away from her desk. [Are you freaking kidding me!?] I left a message then called my DH on my cell phone. He tried to talk me down. The house phone rang and Kathleen wanted to buy my book. She'd been about to leave for the day and possibly the entire weekend (this was a Thursday) due to a blizzard blanketing the city. But we got this done first and I asked her to drive VERY carefully. *laughs* That night we were celebrating my mother in law's birthday, so we had cake in the house!!


Hellion: *LOL* Your poor hubby! So he was the first one you told after The Call?


Megan: Yes. He's been my biggest fan and most solid supporter. I know women who no longer write because their husbands didn't support them. So I realize how lucky I am. Then I called Carol.


Hellion: Good husbands are hard to find. He sounds like a great guy. I’m sure he likes the research too. *grins* You write under a pen name. How did you come to choose your pen name, and why did you decide to go with a pen name to publish?


Megan: When my kids were toddlers, I told the mother of one of their playmates that I write romance. Suddenly my calls regarding playdates don't get returned, she avoided me totally, and even the calls I made to her as a customer for her business met with silence. Fortunately, the kids were too young to know what was going on, but I decided then my writing would never hurt my children. Also, I'd joined RWA and heard of writers being stalked. So a pen name made sense. I picked Megan because it sounds normal like me, and I was named for my Aunt Margaret, anyway. I've always liked the name Kelly, and it's in the middle of the alphabet so hopefully readers could find me at a bookstore or library without crawling on the floor.


Hellion: Wow, are you kidding? What a wench. That’s so not cool. I can see the definite highlights of having a pen name. Okay, what’s your favorite movie?


Megan: Wow, you’re still completely random.


Hellion: Yep, still am. *shoots the undead monkey* Part of my charm. *monkey starts eating banana again*


Megan: Uh, do I get shot, too, if I fail to mention Pirates of the Caribbean first? Gotta love the adventure and romance and hot guys. Also Field of Dreams, The Wizard of Oz, and Pride and Prejudice (preferably the mini-series with Colin Firth). 


Hellion: Good (and correct) answers! And Colin Firth is the only real Mr. Darcy. Just saying. Okay, your newest book, The Fake Fiancée is out this month. Can you tell us more about it?


Megan: Joe Riley needs to get his matchmaking mom off his back, and "enlists the help of" (ie, blackmails) Lisa, a mom who needs money for a special program for her misbehaving son. Lisa doesn't trust easily since her ex ran off with all their money and a bimbette from his office. Joe falls in love with Lisa, but it's a rocky road. He has to make up for their bad beginning and figure out how to father her two kids.


Hellion: A blackmailer! Sounds like my kind of fellow! Joe definitely had his work cut out for him to pave the road back to heroic, then. Are you working on anything new now?


Megan: I'm currently writing a spin-off of The Fake Fiancee, featuring Joe's business partner, Dylan Ross. He's a "fixer," who gets tangled up with Tara--who doesn't want him "fixing" her life, thank you very much. They're a lot of fun to write. This story features Dylan's brother, Adam, and his eight children, which I hope will be my fourth book, so I'm having a blast.


Hellion: That does sound like a lot of fun. I love Mr. Fixer—that would be a lot of fun to write! What’s your favorite type of hero to create?


Megan: I love to write about the guy next door. He's more real to me than billionaires, at least in my neighborhood. He's a strong individual who respects a woman and is supportive without fear of losing any masculinity points. He has a sense of humor, and of course is always terrific looking.


Hellion: Terrific looking is definitely a must-have. How do you write the family dynamic so well?


Megan: I'm not sure how to write without a family in the story. Marrying the Boss didn't have kids, which was a total departure for me. Then all of a sudden, the characters' parents start taking over scenes! I just went along for the ride. As you might remember, Hellion, I have two children. I'm the fifth-born in my family, as is my husband, so we have lots of "dynamic" things going on.


Hellion: Wow, that’s a lot of siblings…and cousins! I bet you have entertaining family reunions and dinners. Okay, time for some more random questions.


Megan: Again? You’re not going to threaten to shoot me again, are you?


Hellion: I don’t think so, but no promises. What’s your biggest pet peeve? If you were in Bed, Bath, and Beyond with an unlimited budget, what one item would be on your must-have list and why? And what’s your favorite flavor of Crystal Lite?


Megan: I have lots of pet peeves. Rude people would be my current number one. I don't shop in BB&B, so I don't know what they carry. I'd love to have a hot tub, though, if you're thinking of my birthday present. Thanks!!  Does there have to be a reason? Sheer relaxation. I like raspberry lemonade Crystal Lite, a pitcherful of which we keep in the fridge at all times. But I mostly live on versions of Diet Coke--caffeine free for after 2 pm and Vanilla Zero for the early part of the day, or if I need a caffeine boost.


Hellion: Caffeine is almost better than rum. Almost. Okay, final question, then I’ll turn this over to the crew to ask you questions: What’s the best piece of writing advice that’s worked for you?


Megan: "Never, never, never quit."  It's really from Winston Churchill, so I'll give you a writer's quote, this one from Nora Roberts: "I can revise anything but a blank page."


Hellion: I think I like Churchill’s better. But leave me to be perverse! Okay, crew, come talk with us! What questions do you have Megan? What is your favorite boy-next-door type of story? And do you think it’s possible to be the boy-next-door and insanely rich?