Sunday, August 31, 2008

Labor Me Timbers!

An official U.S. national holiday since 1894, Labor Day is celebrated the first Monday in September and pays tribute to the contributions of the working class to our nation's prosperity, strength, and well-being (as per these people).

As someone who, well, works, I'm guessing I'm one of those people.  As are most Americans.  And if anyone wants to say stay-at-home-moms do not work or contribute, don't be saying it aboard this vessel.  You may find yerself needing a peg-leg and I ain't talking about the one that ends with a shoe.


Now, if there's anything with which a writer is well-acquainted, it's labor.  According to, labor can be defined as "exert one's powers of body or mind; work; toil."  Do we toil for our stories?  Do we exert the powers of our minds?  You better bloody believe it.


So on this day paying tribute to all of us who labor, writer's especially, I say raise yer rum and give a loud "HUZZAH!"  Now take the day off.

How are you celebrating Labor Day?  Gathering with the family?  Out on the water?  Having a picnic?  Whatever you're doing, don't forget to turn those dogs!

PS: I will be picnicking myself but I'll check in when I can.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Special Interview: Powdermonkey Lisa Interviews Candace Camp!

Lisa: Break out the rum, Captain, blogging with us today on the ship is historical author Candace Camp. Candace's first book-Bonds of Love was published in 1978. She currently has 44 (correct me if I'm wrong) published books, both contemporary and historical. Her next book- The Wedding Challenge will be released in September and is the third book in her beloved Matchmaker Series. Welcome aboard Candace! Help yourself to the rum and any hot deck hands we have running amok


Candace: Thank you. It’s great to be here. In this weather, anything with rum sounds great---and if you happen to have a deck hand running around that looks like Johnny Depp, I’ll be happy to accept him, as well. But I have to tell you, you were a little low on the book number. The Wedding Challenge will actually be my 57th book---61st if you also count the four novellas I've written for Harlequin anthologies. The Wedding Challenge is the third book in the series. There's a fourth one, The Courtship Dance, due out February, 2009. The Wedding Challenge is about the Duke's sister, Callie, who has appeared in the first two books. I'm afraid everyone will have to wait until The Courtship Dance to learn what happens with the Duke and Francesca---but take heart, all Duke and Francesca fans, they are in The Wedding Challenge more than in the first two books, and the reader will learn a little more about their pasts.


Lisa: Candace can you share with us how long it was after your first submission that you became published, and can you share your call story?


Candace: I sent in my very first novel to Avon; back then, the publishers still were very active with their slush piles. Unfortunately, Avon rejected it after about six months. So I sent it to another company; the name, I believe, was Pyramid. A few months after I sent it in, I graduated from law school in North Carolina and got a job back in Texas, so I moved to Paris, Texas. I had by this time sort of given up on this company wanting it. I hadn’t given up on submitting it again, but it had gotten pushed to the back of my mind. I had been working in Paris a couple of months, and one day I went home at lunchtime to get something at my apartment, and I picked up my mail. There was a letter there from Jove Publications, a division of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. I had no idea what it was, but I opened it. The letter was from an editor at Jove. It seems that Jove had been Pyramid and had been sold to HBJ in the meantime and changed their name to Jove. This editor liked Bonds of Love and wanted to publish it, but they had been unable to reach me by phone and so were writing me a letter in the hopes that it would be forwarded to me.


I started jumping up and down and shrieking like a maniac and immediately called my mother and told her, and we both did some more shrieking. (Thank goodness, there was no one else around at the time, or they would have thought I had gone insane, I’m sure.) Then I called the editor, afraid that they might have changed their mind in the meantime, but they had not. Needless to say, I went back to the office a little late, but grinning like crazy.


Lisa: Out of all the wonderful characters you have created over the years do you have any that you hold a greater affection for more than the others?


Candace: I definitely have my favorites---but I’ve written so many books, I’m afraid I have quite a few of them. I suppose that Luke in Rainbow Season is my very favorite male character. That book is my favorite of my books, as well. It is one that—forgive the cliché, but it’s true---came from my heart. It is set around 1900 in East Texas, where my mother was born. It’s a place and time that really resonate with me.


Other guys I really, really loved were Jeremy in Bitterleaf, Devin in So Wild a Heart, James in Evensong. (I tend to like emotionally wounded heroes, whether they’re covering it with laughter, cockiness, or a sullen attitude.)


But I also love an honorable, stand-up guy, the one you can always rely on---like the Duke in the Matchmaker series or the modern Sutton and Marshall brothers from a couple of my Intimate Moments series.


I love strong, even bossy heroines, as you may have noticed from my books. Katherine from my very first book, Bonds of Love, Meredith from Bitterleaf, Miranda from So Wild a Heart, are all very dear to me. I love a scrapper, and Francesca, in her own very uppercrust way, is a scrapper, too. I love Francesca, and I really enjoyed writing a happy ending for her in The Courtship Dance.


As for families, the Marshall family, a group of three brothers I wrote about in a Silhouette Intimate Moments series, and the Suttons, another IM family, are favorites of mine. And probably the mad Morelands are my very favorite---from their odd parents down to the always-in-trouble twins, Con and Alex.


Lisa: What do you enjoy most about writing historical romance?


Candace: I love losing myself in another time and place. I’ve always loved history; it was my minor in college. And I have read historical novels ever since I can remember. I devoured Frank Yerby novels when I was young and Anya Seton books. Victoria Holt’s and Dorothy Eden’s nineteenth century gothics. Of course, I loved the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen.


One thing that is nice about historicals is that one has very set societies with which to work. It makes it easy to set up protagonists who one way or another challenge the system. My heroes and heroines generally tend to be rebels in one way or another, even if it’s sometimes only a rebellion against social attitudes. Certain periods really appeal to me because the society is at this point of great change, a sort of breaking point, with an inherent conflict between old ways and new that makes for great settings. Two of my favorite periods fit in with this, though they are quite different. One is the Regency period, the era most of my current books are set in, and the other is the post-Civil War West. In both cases, the world is undergoing great change; there’s been the upheaval of war; attitudes and mores are fluctuating; life is never going to be the same. They are also times that see the start of great changes for women---think of the sudden rise of female writers in the Regency period and afterwards---Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, the Bronte sisters. And in the settlement of the West, I think women had the opportunity to prove themselves and to establish their independence and self-worth.


But besides all that, I just love the clothes, the hair styles, the carriages, the houses, the language. Plus, the slower-moving world gives one a greater opportunity to develop my characters and their romance.


Lisa: You write most of your books in a series format. Can you tell us why you enjoy writing mostly series, and do most of them revolve around two or more characters throughout each series?


Candace: I started writing series by accident, simply because as I developed a family for one of the main characters in a novel, I would come to like their siblings or friends so much I wanted to write other books about them. Later, as with the Aincourt series or Lost Heirs series, I set out to write about a family. But I still sometimes stumble into them. When I wrote Mesmerized, I set out to write a stand-alone novel because I had just finished two series and was a little tired of them. But then when I came up with Olivia’s odd family, I had to write about the other brothers and sisters, so I wound up doing a series of 4 books about the mad Morelands.


In my series, characters from the other books usually make an appearance in some or all of the books of the series; it just sort of depends on the story. The Lost Heirs series was a little difficult because I had to bring all the characters from the first two books back in for the end because it concerned the whole family, and arranging that scene got a little unwieldy.


But I usually don’t have a set of characters like the Duke and Francesca who have an important role in each of the other books, leading up to the last book that’s solely about them. But the matchmaking idea lent itself to doing the series this way, and I really enjoyed it. From the reader responses I’ve been getting, I think that my readers have liked it, as well.


Lisa: Can you share a blurb from your soon to be released book entitled The Wedding Challenge?


Candace: I’d be happy to. In The Wedding Challenge, Lady Calandra Lilles, the Duke of Rochford’s younger sister, sets out to find a husband, so naturally she turns to her friend Francesca, Lady Haughston, for help. Tired of having her suitors frightened away by her protective older brother and sure, after five years on the marriage mart, that she is simply not the type to fall in love, she determines to make a ‘good match.’ Armed with a list of attributes that her future husband must have, she and Francesca start their social hunt. However, she soon finds, to her astonishment, that there is a man who can steal her heart away--- unfortunately, it’s Lord Bromwell, her brother’s sworn enemy and the last man in London she should trust.


Lisa: Are you currently working on any future series?


Candace: Yes. I’ve finished the fourth book of the Matchmaker series, The Courtship Dance, in which, at last, Francesca and the Duke get to have their own story.


So now I’m at work on a new series, just in the planning stages right now. I’m not even sure of a name for the books or series, although I’m working with a tentative series title of Willowmere. It will be three books and will concern three Regency noblemen, half-brothers, who have a gaggle of marriageable young ladies dumped on them when a relative dies. It’s up to them to see the girls established in society and married well, but how are they to accomplish this with four independent and unpolished American beauties?


Lisa: Candace, thank you again for cruising the waters with us on the Romance Writer's Revenge. We hope you have enjoyed the rum, and companionship. We can't say enough, how much we admire you as an author, and we wish you much success with the release of The Wedding Challenge. Mateys, keep your eyes peeled for the release of this much anticipated third book in the Matchmaker series. Thank you. It’s been so much fun talking to you. I hope to sail these waters again sometime!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Of Taglines and Blurbs, Oh My!


I’m going to the NJ RWA conference in October and it will be my first conference.  I’m incredibly excited, especially because I’ll get to meet so many of you that I’ve only known so far through cyberspace.  If you’re going to be there, let me know!  We’ll have to get together.

I started picking the pirates' brains for ways I should be preparing.  (I'm planning to pitch).  They suggested that I have business cards to give to editors or agents, anyone I meet.

Business cards, huh?  I figured this would be as simple as visiting VistaPrint and letting my fingers do the walking.  They’d be here in plenty of time and I’d be ready to go.

Simple has nothing to do with it.

The pirates informed me that my cards could have a tagline and a blurb on them.  I promptly thought, “What a fabulous idea!  When I give them to editors/agents they’ll be able to remember my book/me better!”

Sounds easy enough, right? 

Um, no.  At least not for me.

I’ve spent the past days stressing the word choice, harassing my blogmates/CPs, and generally working myself into a mouth-foaming frenzy.   Or maybe it’s working my blogmates/CPs into a mouth-foaming frenzy.  Both, possibly.

First, I started with my tagline.  Something short, catchy, attention-grabbing.  Ok, I tell myself, think reminiscent of frustrating songs I hear in the morning and can’t get out of my head.  Sin even supplied “Sexy Back” by Justin Timberlake as inspiration.  (Yep, I sang that annoying song all day.  I’d imagine it’ll be with you today now as well.  I know, I know.  You’re welcome.)  

After much emailing and due to an inane inability to allow something to sit and congeal in my brain, I think I’ve settled on either “Making History Magical” or “History Made Magical.” 

Blurb writing was just as bad.  It needs to be a tease; give enough info to tell the reader about your story but still make them want to read it.  A few lines, tops.  But again, catchy, pleasing to the ear.  The best I’ve got so far is:

“A witch struggles to protect her guardian; her guardian struggles to protect his heart.  But will love's spell be all the protection they need?

Still messing with it, but it’s a start.

I’ve decided to wait a few weeks to start working on my pitch.  I think my blogmates/CPs need a break.

Have you written your tagline or blurb?  Any advice for the rest of us?  Are there any author’s taglines you think are great?    If you haven’t tried writing yours yet, give it a shot here today.  We’ll do what we can to help.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Livin' the Dream


“Brace yourselves and give into the moment.
You've got nothing to lose.”
Daydreamer- 10 Years- Division (2008)

There are times when you have to grab life by both hands and hold on like God poured super glue on you five second before tossing you out the door. Impulsion leads to life experience, to moments you’ll never forget (good or bad) and stories to tell for years to come. I’d forgotten what that was like. There are times in life when you get caught up with the bigger picture and forget the small things that sustain you until you reach the ultimate goal.


The sun was barely peeking through the black clouds. They hovered low to the ground, bowing back from the gusts of wind behind them. Boys in blue t-shirts manned giant squeegees and pushed massive water puddles through the chain link fence. They laughed and pushed water and splashed each other and passerby’s played along, kicking water onto each other and giggling. T-shirts were tied in knots, hats in place, wristbands advertising bands pushed up on forearms. Everyone was in a good mood. Music tends to mellow out the most aggressive bunch. Until you step into the mosh pit, then all bets are off.


I rolled my jeans up past my shoes. I’d slopped mud and water all over my tennis shoes, my socks were soaked, water sloshed around in the bottom of my soles. I had my sunglasses slid low over my eyes while I assessed the crowd. I weaved through swarms of people, carefully not to bump anyone. Yet.  I held my best friend’s hand as we got closer. I could feel the energy rolling off me as I got closer to the railing.  The dark clouds were getting thicker. The tension from the impending storm loomed closer, charging the crowd a little higher than usual. You can feel the chanting before you can hear it. It vibrates down your spine, makes your fingers tingle. The electricity runs through your body until the only thing you can do is bounce up and down with your fist in the air like a generic version of Tigger.


The first crack of lightening and the crowd goes wild.  I look to my best friend, who’s grinning like the Cheshire Cat. We’ve lived for this moment. This one moment we never thought we’d share together- the rain pit.


It is a once in a lifetime chance. A moment you have to cease with both hands and hold on- it’s one helluva ride. At first it sprinkles. The band is warming up with a few of their lesser known songs. The music was so loud that screaming at the top of your lungs won’t get you heard. Hundreds of fans are jumping in rhythm; the universal “rock on” hand symbol is out, pumping through the air as you tried to feed the band all your energy.  The words to the song pour through your mind. You’ve listened to it a million times but there’s no moment before this one when the song meant more.


The rain comes harder and you expend more energy. The drops feel good against your heated skin as you gasp for air. You’re holding your breath. You can’t believe this is happening. Living the dream you’ve always had. Except the daydream can’t hold a candle to the real thing.


Thunder roared on, lightening cracked through the sky. The band took a small break to point out all the people who’ve ducked under shelters and the crowd raved at them, showing them just what they’re missing by living on the safe side. The music slowed and the energy whispers through the pit. It simmers just under the surface until it builds up again to a boiling point. You’re soaked to the bone. Your jeans are so water logged the weight is pulling them off and still you jump up and down. Your shirt is plastered to you like second skin. Your hair is dripping onto your face. Even sunglasses can’t protect your eyes anymore. The pit became more of a water hole and the crowd dug into the water and started sloshing it everywhere as the music picked back up. The energy is just so insane; adrenaline is the only thing you recognize. Your body is no longer your own as you give yourself to the moment. To life. Every cell of your being was made for this moment and life is worth living to the fullest for just that second of freedom.


Writing is a lot like being on that stage. You never know when that can be taken away from you. When the inspiration will fly the coup. When you can't find anything to believe in but you keep trying to put one foot in front of the other. The road to stardom is a lonely road you have to travel to make it to the top. You have to keep thinking the reward is worth the price you pay. To have your name on the banner, behind you as you embrace your fans with everything you have. But to have that, you have to give yourself over to experiencing life. To accomplish your ultimate goal you have to take the biggest sacrifices and give up everything for just a chance in time. You have to write something your reader can relate to. Lyrics to a song; emotions to a writer. It’s all relative. Being in a pit reminds you of what you miss out on if you only look at the big picture. It’s all the smaller ones that help you better experience the bigger one. If you work in harmony, the result is more cohesive, easier to understand, instead if you fight it and work against the bigger picture. It’s not always about what will happen in the end as much as it is what’s happening now. What’s going to get you to that point will happen along the way. Live for the moment. Live through your characters.  Move out of that damned comfort zone for once and do the unexpected. The rewards are well worth the sacrifice.


What’s one thing you’ve had your character do that was daring and something you’d never do? Readers, you have any juicy stories to tell us about life? How about scenes you’ve read where characters have moved out of their comfort zones?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Leslie Langtry Rocks the Ship

*Leslie walks across the gangplank onto the Romance Writers’ Revenge and has barely set one foot on the deck when two loud and boisterous crew members come screaming to greet her: Hellion bolting neck and nothing and jumping several coiled ropes; and Sin swinging out of the Crow’s Nest and gliding to the deck like Batman*


Sin: OMG! I’m so excited to see you again! I’m so glad you agreed to kick off your blog-book tour with us….


Hellion: *shoving Sin out of the way* Back off, Ninja Girl, she’s my guest!


Leslie: Girls, girls, did you two forget your medication again this morning?


Hellion: Not exactly. *craning head to look behind Leslie* You didn’t happen to bring Coney with you, did you? What’s he up to lately?


Sin: *wicked grin* Oh, I know what he’s up to lately….


Hellion: *affronted gasp* I saw him first!


Sin: Apparently not.


Leslie: *waving hands* Girls, girls, can I get a drink before the catfighting begins, please? Leading the girl scout troop is less treacherous than boarding this ship.


*Sin and Hellion remember themselves long enough to escort Leslie to a cushy chair and hand her a mixed drink, before drawing up ottomans so they can perch near her*


Hellion: Thank you again for kicking off your blog tour with us. This is really exciting. So…today’s the day, right? Stand By Your Hitman comes out today. Tell us more about it. what’s it about—and more importantly, does Coney make any sort of appearance?


Leslie:  Well, the book starts with the Bombay Council sending Missi to compete in a cheap, Canadian knock-off of Survivor called Survival.  She’s supposed to be checking out a Vic and awaiting further instructions on whether to take him out or not.  Of course, then she’s actually got to stay in the game until this happens.  Coney is mentioned but doesn’t really make an appearance in the book.


Sin: Can you tell us about any of Missy’s new gadgets in this book? Or gadgets she’s working on for new books?


Hellion: Yeah, like maybe Coney’s book, perhaps?


Leslie:  I can’t tell you about Coney’s book yet, but Missi does have some fun gadgets in this one – like a tool that can cut through wood and start fires but looks like a piece of jewelry.  You also get the scoop on how she got started inventing lethal weapons and some of her more interesting hits in the past.


Terri: *stepping forward to refresh Leslie’s drink* This is your third in the Bombay series. Is it getting easier or harder? Or is it about the same? Is there anything you didn’t expect that you wish you’d been warned about?


Leslie:  Thanks, um, where’s the little umbrella?  I was specifically promised little umbrellas? *Terri opens up a cigar case where Leslie can pick her favorite color of umbrella; Leslie picks one and Terri pops it in her glass* I’d have to say each book is hard in that I have to keep coming up with new ways to kill people.  I love the Bombays and try to make each book different than the others.  That is not easy.  Fun, but not easy.


Hellion: How many Tom Collins will I need to buy you in order to make a small guest appearance in Coney’s book? Preferably as Loofah Girl or something. How about an undead monkey as a bribe?


Sin: You are so pathetic.


Hellion: Two words: Daniel Craig. Okay? So zip it, Sparky, and let the woman talk.


Leslie:  How about one undead monkey and a spastic heron with rickets?  I can definitely work you into the book.  I think I have the perfect character for you…

Hellion: *rubbing hands together* I can do the spastic heron like no one’s business. Excellent.


Sin: You realize, of course, you’re probably a Vic.


Hellion: I don’t care.


Terri: *rolling her eyes at the spatting* Missy’s new guy sounds attractive and sexy. What’s he like?  If there is anything that a shipful of love-starved lady pirates adore more than a pint of rum, it’s a hunky man pouring it for her. And we’re always adding to our crew. *smiling at Lance as he ambles over with more rum all around*


Leslie:  Lex, Missi’s hero, is based on detective Lee Scanlon on the Patricia Arquette show about the psychic.  What was that name?  How many of these drinks have I had?


Hellion: *waving hand as Terri refills Leslie’s glass without her noticing* Only a couple. And they’re small. No worries. And the name you’re looking for is Medium.

Leslie: Yes, that’s it. That’s what I said. *looks baffled to see her drink is still full, but takes drink*


Sin: I know Coney’s book is next (seriously, if you have to be near Hellion for any length of time, you know Coney’s book is next)—when will it be coming out and what will be up next? Another Bombay story, or will you take a break and introduce a new series?


Leslie:  The publisher is looking at June for Coney’s book.  I might take a break because all the creepy voices in my head won’t shut up – they all want their damned stories told.  And shock therapy ain’t helping.


Hellion: It never does. For those of us who don’t know you—or don’t stalk you—what’s your Call story?


Leslie:  I’d met my editor at a Romance Writer’s of America conference.  She wanted to see the first three chapters and I sent them the day I got back.  She e-mailed the very next day and wanted to see the whole thing (which I didn’t have done yet.  Hello?  Pirate!).  After four days of locking myself away to write (I think the kids got fed…at least I hope so) I finished it and sent it off and left the next day for a trip to L.A. for my 40th birthday.  When I came back, one week to the day I sent the full ms, Leah called and offered to buy Gin Bombay’s book.  I sat in the back yard at 2pm (a Tuesday in August) and drank two bottles of Moet & Chandon White Star champagne while I drunkenly called everyone I knew.


Marnee: Did you enter contests to help with your publishing path? Or did you query only? What do you recommend to those trying to break in—what’s most important?


Leslie:  I’m not really into contests since my work is so…well…strange.  They seem to work best for mainstream authors.  I attended 3 RWA conferences and wrote four manuscripts before selling.  I think the most important thing to remember is to keep going – perseverance leads to the payoff in this business.  Well, that and knowing how to hold your rum.


Sin: Okay, final question, non-Coney related and non-writing: what is your favorite song playing now on your Ipod/playlist?


Leslie:  I’ve been listening to Godzilla by Blue Oyster Cult a LOT.  What?


Hellion: Hey, I’m just glad it’s not Korn…or Disturbed. *Sin promptly smacks the back of her head* What? *shakes it off* Leslie, thanks again for kicking off your book blog tour with us! And I want to remind everyone to run out today and buy it!


Leslie: Thank you so much for inviting me aboard, ladies!  We’ll have to get together for some grog…SOON!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

No Antibiotics Needed

I've been at this writing thing for almost two years now, and in that time I've read countless blogs, emails and comments from other writers who say not writing makes them anxious, or irritable, or antsy.  I'm reluctant to say I've never felt that way.  I've written consistently for periods of time and gone without writing for long periods of time, but I've never felt like writing was essential to my mental stability.  [Note: If you've read my personal blog lately, you know my mental stability isn't as sound as it could be these days.]


I'm now happy to report this has all changed.  I've caught the bug and it is really taking hold.  I have not been able to open my WIP since before leaving for San Fran.  And where, in the past, this would be no more than another prod for my ever-present guilt, these days it's more of an irritation.  It's making me anxious and antsy.  I finally feel like a member of the club.


I'm guessing this virus was airborne at Nationals.  It hovered in the air, lingered in the elevators and manifested in the bar.  It passed from chair to attendee as the workshops rolled through and could have even been lifted from the moving rail of the escalators.  Heck, I might have even gotten it from the mouse in the business center.


No matter where exactly I contracted this virus, I'm damn glad it found me.  I wish it would have found me when I have more time to treat it, but I'm happy all the same.  Ideas for scenes emerge in my mind when I'm least expecting it.  My characters pace impatiently, giving me flashes of the emotion, humor and angst that is to come if only I'd sit down and type.  Three more weeks of school and then I get a break.  Then I can begin the treatment.  Only I have no intention of curing this ailment.  In fact, I'm hoping to keep it for quite a long time.


Do you have this virus?  Do you get the shivers and fall into withdrawals if you've been away from writing too long?  If you're a reader, how long do you go between books?  If you finish one and don't have another to pick up right away, does it make you anxious to get to the store?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Love & Marriage: How's a Single Girl to Research?

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about Lucifer and his cheeky red-headed stripper. Both of whom are minor characters in my current WIP. Key word: minor.


I’m supposed to be writing about Adam & Eve. Yet every time I go to sit and write about them, I stare at my screen, going, “How do you write a married/divorced couple?” I mean, talk about research deficient. Las Vegas is nothing compared to the deficit of knowledge I have on marriage. My problem is I’m certain I could write about a stripper with more authority than I could a wife.


I’ve never been married, engaged, or even dated for a long period of time. Of late, my dates have been one-timers, with a sprinkling of engagements that were good. Anomalies, I call those. Therefore, I don’t exactly sit around imagining my life if I was married because the idea seems…well…science fiction. The collection of the proposals I have received in my short life have been from married men. Men married to other women, just so we’re clear. More than one, in case the plural of “men” was lost on everyone.


So you might surmise, I don’t have a lot of faith, understanding, or much more than fearful respect for Matrimony. And I know my limitations: I know I’d make a better stripper than a wife. I can take off my clothes, and sometimes I can even keep my balance while doing it. But a wife? What does a wife do again?


I just can’t imagine marriage. (And if you’ll notice: a lot of fairy tales don’t seem to imagine it either because there is never information about what happens to the couple after they’re married.) Just what exactly is the expectation? With a stripper, you expect to see a naked girl. With a wife, well, I suspect the expectation is something similar…but it doesn’t seem as well defined. I like things well-defined. Abs, the food in the Chinese buffet line, lots of things. I like to know what I’m getting into.


So here I am. Trying to write a story about Eve, the original wife. Talk about writing fiction if I’m writing from the perspective of a woman who’d lived with one guy for over fifty years. Bore his children. Made love with him, fought with him…and well, all those things you do in marriage. Whatever those are. She probably peed right in front of him. (Who does that?)


And then there is this other problem: Eve is an optimist.


If you’ve met me, virtual or otherwise, you know I’m by no means a natural optimist. Or even a well-learned optimist. I try, again and again I try, but optimism in my brain is a lot like “light” in Terry Prachett’s world: No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it. That's just the way I roll.


So here I have a character I need to channel who’s a complete 180 from me. I’m at a loss. I was so utterly spoiled to writing from first person perspective of a character who, if she wasn’t me, was my twin. Names and circumstances somewhat changed to protect the guilty and all that. In fact, I’m dawdling on the damned revisions for GOGU so I don’t have to let go of the one character I know I can write well. (Currently on chapter 20; only four more to go!)


So, what do I do? I don’t exactly want to write a string of books where all the heroines are cynical, neurotic, twitchy pessimists and all the heroes are charming, dangerous, and great in bed. Okay, I do want all my heroes to be rather charming, dangerous, and great in bed. But I’ve got to vary up the heroines. I can do this. Surely. Besides, there is every hope that if I write an optimistic heroine, some of her will rub off on me.


So I need to do some research on marriage, I suppose. [FYI: the first crew member who suggests I go get married will be marooned without any rum rations.] I’m going to try for something less combat-intensive and hunt for some good marriage stories: but I don’t want sappy ones. I want marriage stories.


Like one of my favorite married couples got into a fight about money (God, do couples fight about money!), and she was taking too long on her long-distance phone call. She hung up, they fought, then he went to bed while she finished up the dishes. Mistake. Still pissed, she eyed the cookie jar and knew he would be back in the middle of the night to get a cookie. She eyed the bedroom door, then the cookie jar—then promptly squirt Palmolive all over the cookies. She went to bed, justice served. Days pass; and not a word from him. She knew he must know, but he acted like everything was fine. Not a care in the world. Then three days later, after she thought the moment had passed, she took a bite of her sandwich at lunch (he frequently packed it for her—again, saving money), just as her husband called. She couldn’t spit it out fast enough. Paybacks are hell. This is my Adam & Eve couple. I mean, these two love each other to death—but they’re so mean. I love it. I may have to do a Jane Goodall. I wonder if they’d mind….


Please tell me your best ANNOYING marriage story, for the sake of my writing research. And just what is a wife supposed to do anyway? I mean, I see that 50s Handbook, but that was clearly written by a crack addict. Is it me, or does it seem like marriage is just a daily test in practicing not killing someone else who is completely neurotic?


And how do you write characters who aren't like you at all? I mean, I know fiction writing is lying, but I'm not a very good liar. I'm a great exaggerator, but a poor liar. All my lies are truths in masquerade...but how do you write a lie when you have no truth to base it on?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Motivation: Don’t Start Your Story Without It


I’ve started revisions and I’ve found that I dislike them as much as I thought I would.  Something about going over something you thought you was finished and finding that it is “less finished” than you thought it was is, well, irritating.

I knew there would be a lot of things that I would want to adjust after I got back into it.  There were a few scenes I knew I wanted to cut or rewrite, but I wasn’t expecting to find no motivation for my heroine for the first half of my book.

 I could have sworn I added that in there.

I guess that’s because I know what her motivation is, what her inner conflict is.  But, here’s that whole difficult thing about writing:  just because I know doesn’t mean my reader will know unless I tell them.

So, I’m in the process of including the motivation behind my heroine’s conflict.  Apparently a person can write a full length novel without that in there.


I must admit that I truly thought it was there.   All of the parts from her POV are tainted with my perception of her motivation.  I just never stated it outright.  And I admit that she always felt off because of that, even to me as I was writing her.

It would have been easier had I done this in the beginning.

In my defense, I started writing this story with just an idea of plot, thinking I could carry it forward and it would all work itself out.  Now I wish I would have paused to rethink that strategy.

So my darling fellow wenches (and our dashing rogue – Q that’s you, my dear)…  In an attempt to help you all avoid this massive mistake, what are your character’s motivations?  I see the lot of you trying to avoid me.  Seriously, this is for our own good, I swear.  For those readers among us, what are your favorite storyline motivations? 

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Customer Service

I'm still protesting the photos. And I was at a loss at what to write until Monday, then I knew exactly what I should rant- I mean- blog about.


In a world where you must DIY, there comes a time when it is required to mingle with the rest of society. If you are anti-social like me, it’s difficult to come out of the hermit shell and remember how to talk in the right dialect but certain situations require desperate measures. Sometimes, we just need help no matter how hard it is to admit it. To someone else and to yourself.


I used to work in customer service, in retail to be exact. You really never get away from customer service. Everyday, in some small way, you are responsible for helping someone other than yourself. You give someone that extra little boost to get them going, to help them on their way, find what they are looking for and/or help them find the courage to keep on going. Customer service in writing is a lot like cheerleading. When you need help, you reach out to someone you know can give you exactly what you need at the moment. I know not everyone likes the dreaded cheerleader writer. They are usual the people pushing you to keep going, telling you everything will work out, and only think about the good things. I think it helps to have these writers. Maybe that’s because I’m a bit of a cheerleader and don’t like negative thoughts. You just have to take the customer service approach to writing and not let it get you down and find that person who helps get you through.


Customer service – much like its sister the dreaded critique and red mark edit- is very critical to the writer’s psyche.  It’s a system of checks and balances and when customer service is broken, the writer gets bound up and angry like a sidewinder being poked by a stick. I prefer when customer service is having an off day to walk away from the customer and shut the hell up. Everyone has an off day. It’s understandable. We all struggle some days (and come on, it was Monday. I do have a heart.) But nothing goads the angry bear of customer service hell worse than someone saying, “I’m sorry. I can’t help you. I know there is a law against child labor, I’m sixteen. You can’t pull your pants down here in the middle of the floor. You can’t bring that back. I don’t know what to tell you. No you can’t have your money back. I am the manager. I’m sorry did you just call me a F*$%ing twit?”


Usually when someone reaches out to customer service there is a damn good reason. And it is within your best interest to find out what that reason is for future notice and help out however you can for those future days when you’ll need help too. There are days it hurts to be helpful and all you want to do is destroy every bit of faith in mankind they might have, but that would come back to bite you in the butt eventually. So, you play nice and remember that your customer service is what keeps you in business during the dark days.


Do you function well on your own and reach out only when you desperately need it and when you do reach out, do you find it almost painful to admit it? Or do you rely on help the whole way through? For our readers, any crazy stories about searching for reading material and there was no help in sight? What did you do?


Monday, August 18, 2008

Interview: Angie Fox Rocks the Ship and Dishes About Bad Boys

Hellion: Hullo, one and all! As promised, Angie Fox is joining us today on the ship. *pokes Jack in the back to make him stop ogling her like a truffle at a confectioner* Jack, behave yourself.


Angie: That’s okay. I like the bad boys.


Jack: *kissing the back of Angie’s hand, smiling roguishly* I am behaving myself. Come, dear, have a seat and I’ll share a spot of rum with you. *leading her to one of the cushy chairs in the Captain’s Quarters* One shot or two?


Angie: Now I do believe you’re trying to take advantage.


Hellion: *sighing* Every chance he gets.


Jack: That’s a luv. *pouring her a glass* So tell me, luv, what is your pirating style?


Angie: It’s the black boots, isn’t it? I’m not really a pirate. I’m just trying to match my book cover.


Hellion: *slapping Jack on the back of the head* I’m sorry, Angie, he’s a bit of a flirt. Something about romance novelists and he completely loses his head.


Jack: *leaning forward* But not before you lost yours, if you know what I mean, lass.


Hellion: I’m afraid we do. Angie, what is your pirating style? In writing, that is. Are you a plotter, a pantser, or a combination of the two—a plantser?


Angie: Just call me a plantser. I like to know where the story is going, but not too much because when I’m having fun, that’s when the story itself takes on a lot more energy.


With The Accidental Demon Slayer, I started with a kernel of an idea that amused me. What if a straight laced preschool teacher suddenly learns she’s a demon slayer? And what if she has to learn about her powers on the run from a fifth level demon? Ohhh and wouldn’t it be fun if she’s running with her long-lost Grandma’s gang of geriatric biker witches?


I started writing and let the story evolve based on the characters and that central issue of what happens when a reluctant heroine is thrust into a series of extraordinary situations. And I knew the story was working when I couldn’t wait to get back to the keyboard every day.


Jack: Ah, not with the writing questions already, Hellie. You’re work-work-work, all the time. *pouting, pouring another jigger of rum*


Hellion: He’s fine. Just pretend he’s a prop. You know, like a cushion or something.


Angie: That’s some cushion.


Hellion: *knowing laugh* Yes, he can be. *holding up a finger to Jack* Not another word. *Jack sits back sullenly, tugging at one of Hellion’s red curls* We love Call Stories—what was yours?


Angie: The first 50 pages of the manuscript had won a contest, and the editor who judged it wanted to see the rest of the book. Problem was, it wasn’t finished. Not even close. So I hurried up and wrote the last eight chapters and emailed it off on a Thursday. A few days later, the phone rang and it was a 212 (New York) area code. I assumed it was one of the agents who had the partial manuscript. Nope. It was the editor. She read it over the weekend and wanted to publish The Accidental Demon Slayer. I was stunned at how fast it happened.


We had friends coming to stay (with their three children), so I did a quick “yay, yay, yay!” and then I had to go scrub toilets and get the rest of the house ready.


Hellion: Holy cow! That’s the most amazing Call Story I’ve heard yet. That’s like a whirlwind marriage—and it’s certainly proof to get your butt in gear if you’re asked to submit a full manuscript and you don’t have it done. It is possible to sell your book right away. Wow. *shakes head* Okay, well, let’s talk about your book. Your debut novel is The Accidental Demon Slayer. You have a very entertaining Ordinary World opening…


Jack: Oh, here we go again with the Joseph Campbell again….


Hellion: …thrust into a Call to Adventure/Inciting Incident (i.e. preschool teacher discovers she’s a demon slayer)—why a demon slayer? What is it about paranormal or demons that draws you? Any authors or shows you draw your inspiration from?


Angie: I wish I could say something profound here, but really, I just tend to write what makes me smile. I read widely – a lot of historical romance, cozy mysteries, contemporaries, paranormals, biographies. Most of the TV I watch is straight comedy (The Office, My Name is Earl, any and all Seinfeld re-runs). I think a great way to draw inspiration is to think of what you haven’t seen.


As for the question of – why paranormals? My favorite part is building new worlds and making up my own rules.


For example, when I sat down to write The Accidental Demon Slayer, I had no notes about a sidekick for my heroine. But in the second chapter, when Lizzie learns she’s a demon slayer and there are some very scary, very angry creatures on her tail, she takes comfort in her dog. As I was writing, I thought, ‘This is a sweet moment. Now how do I throw her off?’


I made the dog say something to her. Nothing big. After all, he’s only after the fettuccine from last week. And he knows exactly where Lizzie can find it (back of the fridge, to the left of the lettuce crisper, behind the mustard). It amused me, so I did it. Thanks to her unholy powers, Lizzie can now understand her smart-mouthed Jack Russell Terrier. Where else can you do that but in a paranormal?


Hellion: *laughs* Nowhere. Clearly “mad, bad, and dangerous” men are your favorite kind. (Well, I don’t recall a single kind and sensitive villain (a.k.a Evil Guy who happens to be a shapeshifting griffin) in my acquaintance, at any rate.) Why do you think women find bad boys so fascinating? Why do you think we’ll fall in love with your hero?


Angie: Dimitri is a Greek shapeshifting griffin, and what I love about him is that he’s incredibly strong. He can be an alpha male, but what sets him apart is that he’s not only a protector, but he’s also intensely loyal. Griffins were used as a symbol of marriage in the medieval church because they mate for life. So here I can have this rock of a man who hasn’t been sleeping around, who really is looking for his life mate and will know how to treat her right once he’s found her. To me, that’s sexy.


Hellion: *fans herself with her question cards* Griffins mate for life, eh? I’ve to look into getting me one of those.


Jack: What are you saying, Hellie?


Hellion: *patting his leg* Nothing, sweetie, have some rum. *turning back to Angie* Your voice is more romantic comedy (versus the broody gothic paranormals that seem popular now)—how hard was it to break into the genre? (I keep hearing Romantic Comedy is dead, so it’s always uplifting to see proof humor is alive and kicking.)


Angie: You know, I also heard romantic comedy is dead, funny paranormals too. Thank goodness I only heard that after The Accidental Demon Slayer sold. But I couldn’t have written it differently. This had to be a quirky book in order to tell the story I needed to tell.


As far as the state of the industry, I have to think funny books are becoming popular again. The booksellers I’ve met have been very positive. The Accidental Demon Slayer also hit the NY Times Bestseller list a week after it was released. Hopefully, editors will see that readers are indeed interested in light paranormals.


Hellion: You mentioned that! Congratulations—I see that you’ve slipped up even higher on the list this week to #31! That’s awesome! Now, I also know you were/are a journalist/journalism major. What might we learn from journalism that would make us better novelists?


Angie: One of my MU J-school professors used to say, “Don’t waste a single word. You have to have a reason for every word you write.” It makes sense for a radio or TV piece (where you might only have thirty or sixty seconds), and also for novels. MU taught me how to write tight.


Hellion: Yeah, a lot of us around here need to learn how to do that more. Stop poking me, Jack. *slaps at his chest* Tell us more about The Accidental Demon Slayer. And I’m particularly curious—is Grandma based off anyone you know? (Does your granny ride a harley?)


Angie: Oh my, no. My grandmother doesn’t ride a Harley. In fact, when I set out to write The Accidental Demon Slayer, I’d never been on a motorcycle before. I also had to figure out how to get Pirate the dog onto a bike.


I went online and learned about the Biker Dogs Motorcycle Club, made up exclusively of Harley riders and their dogs. I ended up meeting some of them, along with a few other bikers along the way. These bikers were so great to me. They hoisted me onto the back of their Harleys (with dogs in tow). They took me to biker rallies (note to self: don’t wear pink). And they laughed at me when I tried to put my helmet on backwards (I still say I was distracted by the Pomeranian wearing a tiny pair of motorcycle glasses).


After a few outings with my new biker friends, I was able to make my geriatric biker witch characters a lot more realistic. And I took home some great pictures, too.


Hellion: *laughs* That sounds like a blast. And I love Pirate the dog…very cool name. Did you go to RWA this year? If so, did you meet any authors in particular that made you have a Fan Girl moment?


Angie: Oh yes, fan girl moments were plentiful. Excuse me if I gush, but it was really fun to meet Sherrilyn Kenyon. She’s so open and warm. When I told her my first book had just come out, you would have thought she was the one who published it. We did the link-y, jump-y hand thing while she asked all kinds of questions and was truly excited. It was really neat. I know now why her books are so moving because she’s 100% present in whatever she’s doing.


Then I got to meet Vickie Lewis Thompson, which was a thrill because I love her nerd series. Of course I wasted no time telling her that. We talked about what we were both working on and then (fan girl) I had her sign a book. And I’ll always treasure it because she used the opportunity to write a personal congrats for Demon Slayer, which was really sweet.


Then I was able to sit down at dinner with Jennifer Ashley (I love her Immortals) and Marjorie Liu (like there’d ever be enough time to gush to her). Both of them were really great.


Hands down – the best part about having a book out is getting to meet the authors on my keeper shelf.


Hellion: Jack would want to ask you how you like your rum…


Jack: Particularly if you like it horizontal or vertical. *winces at Hellion as she slaps him in the arm*


Hellion: But since I know you’re from my hometown too, I have to ask you how you like your Shakespeare’s Pizza?


Angie: Wheat crust, pepper jack cheese, with sausage and onion and a cold beer.


Hellion: I want to thank you again for interviewing with us today. And I totally have to give a shout out to Kimberly Killion for recommending it. It’s just really cool to visit with all you guys. I hope you’re able to stay and answer some questions from the crew. *slaps a hand over Jack’s mouth* None from you. Crew—what questions have you got for the funny and wild Angie Fox?