Sunday, May 31, 2009

An Exercise in Frustration

For those of you who don’t know, I volunteered to coach my daughter’s softball team back in March.  At the same time, I'm finishing my final two college classes and promised myself at the beginning of the year that I WOULD NOT do anything else while taking these classes.  Other than the day job, but that’s a given.  However, with the threat of “if no one volunteers we’ll disband the team”, I caved. 


From the very beginning there have been countless issues that told me I never should have done this.  From finding out I had nine little girls who had never touched a bat before, to learning I had to make one of those girls a fast pitch pitcher. (Even the boys baseball in this age range, 7-9 yr old, is coach pitch.)  Then there was the lovely news that several other teams were stacked with experienced players and stealing was not only legal but coaches would be using it at every opportunity.


Just as writing has it’s *rules*, this league passed around their own list of rules that everyone was to follow.  However, in nearly every game, rules have been ignored, bent, or created out of the blue.  I was so furious after a game this weekend, I couldn’t sleep for running the scenario over and over again in my head.


But for all the problems I have with the adults involved, I love my little girls.  They all have unique personalities, some winning through pure enthusiasm, some asking question after question in a need to know what to do in every situation, others natural talents still waiting for their chance to shine.


The same goes for writing.  We get into this thinking it’ll be great fun. We get to write the stories we want to tell.  We bring characters to life, torture them, fight with them, make their dreams come true.  We get to THE END, smile and feel immense pride in what we have created. Then we put it out there, and the frustration begins.


A jump into a crit group might result in someone spouting venom about all the rules you’ve broken, a contest judge might hurl anything from a “doesn’t work for me” to a “what is this mess supposed to be?!” An agent might say she doesn’t get your voice or an editor might say she doesn’t see anything fresh or new.  Then again, an editor might also say the work is too fresh and new.  Anyone see the frustration here?


So, why do we keep going.  There are writers who have been at this for years, many, many years, and still waiting for *the call*.  There are writers pushing their second or third book after a dozen or more years and a dozen or more manuscripts under the bed.  What keeps us going?


Is it the characters? The words? We all know it’s not the glamour or the riches.  What keeps you going and what would make you stop?  What authors are your inspiration and have you given yourself a deadline for reaching publication? For you readers, is there something you stick with in your life simply for the love of it?


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hottie Crew Member of the Week - Bath Fitters

With the coming of Memorial Day also comes warmer temps. And those warmer temps have brought to my attention that this crew gives off some seriously foul odors after a day in the rigging in this heat.  To save us all, I’ve decided to add some better bathing quarters to the ship.


Only problem is, I can’t decide which tub to go with.  What do y’all think?


Yeah, I’m thinking we should have one of each as well.


This is going to be an awesome week on the ship.  Tuesday we have guest pirate, Anya Bast talking hotties and baddies and kick as chicks. Then Thursday we have debut Avon author, Jennifer Haymore whose first novel, A HINT OF WICKED, hits shelves this week.  She’ll be talking about the dilemma of TWO heroes instead of one.  I think we’d all agree, when it comes to heroes, two is always better than one, but when you have to choose just one, what to do? Decisions, decisions.


***Quick edit to add Kimberly Killion to the list. Totally forgot Kimberly is a last minute addition to the week.  She'll be talking singing pirates. Who could possibly miss that?!


Now, anyone up for a bath?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Power of Lies


Paths of Desire – October Project


I have traveled the paths of desire
Gathering flowers and carrying fire
Raising a grace to the reasons behind me
Looking for strength as you live to remind me
I'm drawn to you
I'm caught in you

I am the fly who dreams of the spider
The path to the web becomes deeper and wider
I dream of the silk that is tangled inside you
And know that I want to be somewhere beside you
I'm drawn to you
I'm caught in you

In your eyes
All of the promises
All the lies
Will you keep all of the promises
In your eyes

I am crossing the bridges of sorrow
Empty with yearning and full of tomorrow
The river is high and the bridges are burning
I know I've been hurt but I keep on returning
I'm drawn to you
I'm caught in you

I have traveled the paths of desire
Following smoke and remembering fire
The night is falling, the path is receding
I don't need to see it to know where it's leading

Lies, what would we do without ‘em? They drive the books we read, the books we write. Whether our hero lies, or the heroine…someone always lies. White lies, lie by omission, deliberate lie, protecting-you lie, the internal lie. A lie of the past, parental lies…they drive the conflict. Even more than simple misunderstandings. The classic misunderstanding might linger, but a lie? Ah, a lie festers.


The lyrics above are from a song by October Project. Alas, they are no more, but the words say it all. Even when she knows he’s lied, she is drawn to him. The lie lives in her, it colors her life…or sucks the color out of it. She looks at everyone, wondering if they lie…if they would lie to her. She longs to untangle the lies inside him. Or does she simply live with the lies? Has she fallen in love with the lies?


But the truth? We all lie. Some, at least a little. Even if it’s just to ourselves as we eat the cookie dough off the spoon. “Doesn’t count.” We justify the treat to ourselves. But we know better.


Lies can serve a bigger truth. I lie to myself all the time. It’s all about fooling myself. I’ll take motivation where I can find it.


So, why do you lie? What lie drives your latest MS? My hero lies as a matter of pride. He’s a pirate, lies are his by right of birth. She knows he lies, but prays he doesn’t lie to her. Of course, he does. She lies, but her lies fall under those of omission. And she lies to herself, lies she doesn’t even know are lies…those are the sneaky ones.


Do lies serve a purpose? Are they ever justified? Have you seen a lie serve the truth? Do you write a well told lie in your stories as a matter of course? I do. I admit it. (2nd Chance doesn’t lie. But I do… Bwah ha ha!)



Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Synopsis Writing: Recipe for Success


I found out this week that I’m a finalist in the Fool For Love Contest.  Squee!  I’m really excited.   

The coordinator wouldn’t let me mess with my entry but she said if I want to look at my synopsis, she’d take that.  Well, I’ve adjusted the plot since entering the contest and I decided to take her up on the offer, despite the near physical pain revising my synopsis causes.

But, that sent me back to my synopsis prep stuff and I started to think that those of you out there approaching the end of your stories or thinking about entering contests with synopsis requirements might benefit from my little torture exercise as well.

I’ve heard over and over that when it comes to synopses, the shorter the better.  This makes sense to me on a basic level:  synopses are BORING.  I mean really, it takes me back to days in the classroom when I was forced to read book reports for summer reading assignments.  Ugh.  Talk about taking the fun out of a story plot.  But when you boil 90K words down to a few pages, well, I don’t think it’s meant to be riveting, just barebones and “just the facts.” 

This is the recipe that I use for writing my synopsis.  I think this helps me to really ferret out my main points so I hope that it helps you.  It still isn’t easy but I always feel better when I have a game plan.  This “recipe” is not mine.  It was passed along to me by Wanda Richards-Seaman who is a member of a critique group I belong to.  Just giving credit where it’s due.

Paragraph 1:  A hook.  1-2 sentences of what the story is about in as high concept, quick hit way as you can manage it.  If you can’t get it, I would leave it off.

Paragraph 2:  Heroine’s GMC with a characteristic and job/attribute.  Don’t run screaming away yet.  Ie.  An prophet wants (goal) … because (motivation)… (but) conflict.  I sort of think of this paragraph as the background paragraph about my heroine.  Give the reader where she’s come from, what drives her, and what’s keeping her from her desires.

Paragraph 3:  Hero’s GMC with a characteristic and job/attribute.  Same as the heroine’s paragraph above.

Paragraphs 4-7:  These four paragraphs are about the plot.  The best points, main action.  I write in a four act style (and I’m a pretty serious plotter) so I usually use that.  I devote the fourth paragraph to the first act, the fifth to the second act (which usually ends in some sort ‘gray moment’).  The sixth paragraph is how they deal with that conflict, and the seventh leads up to the major black moment.   (If it doesn’t take you 4 paragraphs to do this, I think that’s cool.  I think it just shouldn’t take more than four).

Paragraph 8:  Climax/Black moment.

Paragraph 9:  The HEA/Ending/Falling action.

This usually puts me at a synopsis between 3-5 pages and though some places suggest that a synopsis as much as 10 pages is ok, I believe most agents/editors prefer them shorter.

I hope this helped someone out.  J 

Have you written a synopsis before?  Any suggestions for everyone else?  Any advice that you’ve heard that can help us?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dreaming in Hi-Definition

This week's influence:


Eyes on Fire- Blue Foundation


There is something child-like to dreams. Even if they are nightmares they seem so real and tangible. Even when I wake up I still can't shake the feeling like I just killed someone, got chased by someone, fell down the stairs, saw something I shouldn't have... etctera etctera.

Dreams are the memories you've forgotten to suppress, forgotten they were there. Hidden, shoved in the back of the closet until you dig through the muck and find the treasure. My reasoning being there are some you never forget and some you try hard to forget but can't. Some are more treasured than others. A lot of my dreams are reoccurring. Dreams that I write into fiction, weaving spider webs around until reality escapes the sanity. I dream Sadie's dream often. Drowning. The fear of dying like her sister. I've had it for so long that if I suddenly never had it again, I'd wonder what had changed in my life to make it go away.

The other day I told the story of Mattycakes and the little girl. I've wondered what made him think of a purple unicorn. Subliminal messaging from my brain to his? I asked for a unicorn for Christmas for as long as I could remember and couldn't figure out why I never got a real unicorn. I didn't figure it was too much to ask for- All princesses had them and I thought myself a fairy tale princess waiting for a prince on a white unicorn to come save the day and take me away from icky Ricky. But every Christmas passed and I never got one. I finally decided when I was six that I would ask Santa what the deal was. I put my hand on my hip and demanded to know where my unicorn was. He asked me if I'd been good and I told him no. Because honestly I hadn't been and I was quite the forthright child. Then he asked, were you good last year? And I said no, because lets face it, I was the devil's spawn. He laughed and asked if that's what I wanted for Christmas and I told him I wanted an apology.

I never did get the unicorn.

And I still want one.

The point is that even as a child you don't know the lines between what is real and what is imaginary. I believed for a long time that I could have a real unicorn. I still to this day dream maybe one day I'll be a published writer and have book signings with people lining up to have a book signed by me. The fact is you dream every day. You dream about the little things and the big things. If you didn't dream then life as you know it wouldn't exist. It would be this dull, gray existence where you would only put one foot in front of the other and conform to the expectations thrusted upon you. Dreaming is one thing. To pretend is another. If you couldn't dream, what would you be like now? I know that I would be hollow, withering in self-pity and lost in the wind.

I got out of the habit of spending most of my nights writing. I've lost that connection into a world of the imaginary that seems so real to me that it's hard to not think that way all day long. I get into this mode of looking at everything from a writer's prospective. From the way you take a shower to the way that you shout at someone. I memorize the facial expressions, the noncommittal words; stuff like that until everything is about writing. I ask people for their reactions and categorize it in a compartment in my brain for future use (mostly at 2AM when I'm dead tired and my brain is nonfunctional).I even catalog conversations for later modifications to work into the story lines if I deem them appropriate.

So does this mean that my everyday life is just like one big dream after another? I've often contemplated this. How do I really know when I'm awake and when I'm dreaming if my dreams are so vivid that I feel awake while having them? Like the movie "Vanilla Sky". That was a strange movie; but oddly enough, I couldn't stop watching it. Like the dreaded train wreck, it's so horrible you want to tear your eyes away, but your held spellbound. I had a feeling of deja-vu watching it.

The brain works in mysterious ways and I've had days where I felt like I was still dreaming but I wasn't. Or maybe I was. Or maybe I'm just so mixed up I don't know which way from Sunday. Anyway, the point is (and yes, I'm trying to make a point) why should we limit ourselves to living in reality when we really don't know if this is it or not. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. Dreams make that happen. Imagination makes that happen. Life without all of this would be a pale existence of nothing. And you may say, "Well she'll never grow up" and hey, that's fine. But at least I'm living my life to as how I see fit. Can you say that?

Today was going to be an exercise in learning how to channel that inner dreamer, but I couldn't find a way to exercise it. So, do you journal your dreams for further exploration in writing? What was one of your most vivid dreams you can remember (that you can actually write about in the comments without us getting too wicked today, *g*)? What tricks do you use to capture that right amount of emotion?

ABCs of Writing

I know it’s hard to imagine but I spend a lot of time in Barnes & Noble; and I enjoy items besides books. There is a little plaque that I want to buy, but I’m too cheap to part my money with called “The ABCs of Love” and they’d be things like, “Accept yourself” and “Be kind to others.” I think one was dance in the rain and kiss under park benches. It was really quite sassy and I was very much tempted to go out and do those 26 ABCs of Love, just on the hope it might enhance my love life in some way.


So I thought about it from a writing point of view. Lord knows there are books aplenty that tell you how to write the perfect blockbuster or romance. Of course we all know those books are full of crap, as all books of this nature are. Just ask Stephen King. In fact, Mr. King said something along the lines that the less said about the topic of writing the more useful it probably was.


Well, for me, long-winded windbag I tend to be, this is positively pithy. Here are my ABCs of Writing—yours may differ according to what you think matters most:


Accentuate your strengths. Boldly break new ground. Cultivate charismatic characters. Dive into first drafts. Embrace enthusiasm. Fondle your muse. Give up perfection. Humbly listen to critiques. Ignore the Internal Editor. Just write it. Kiss your frogs. Laugh at your own jokes. Master the basics. Never give up. Open yourself. Passion is everything. Quests are imperative.

Resist fiddling. Sex isn’t what your book is about; sexual tension is. Tell the truth. Understand your characters. Victory comes through persistence. Write anyway. eXpect rejection. Yes, you can. Zip along already—revision is everything.


Of course, several of these are the same theme, like “don’t quit” and “perfection doesn’t exist”, but that’s okay. I know for a fact there are several things I have to be told a dozen times a day, in a dozen different ways before I’m going to listen, so it doesn’t hurt to have them feature in my ABCs three or four times.


What are your ABCs of Writing? Did anyone get any writing done over the Memorial Day holiday? What advice do you have to tell yourself a dozen times a day, in a dozen different ways, in a bid to follow it? (I’m not limited to writing. I have to do this with dieting too.)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

What do you love?

Happy Memorial Day Pirates!  The day when we commemorate sacrifice, bravery and honor. Memorial Day always feels like an awkward holiday to me. It’s a solemn day, the day we pay respects to those we honor, and yet it’s a happy day. The day we welcome summer, have bar-b-ques with family and friends, and celebrate what we love.


So let’s give Memorial Day a writerly twist. We all sacrifice to write – time, energy, sanity (opps, was that just me?  Forget that last one, then). And courage, well, writing takes courage in abundance. Not just the courage to first put your fingers on the keyboard, but courage to show yourself, to keep writing when you know your inner most thoughts and emotions are bleeding onto the page. To keep writing when you know it’s not good enough. To keep writing when you know you’ve finally gotten good enough, and now it gets really scary because someone’s going to see it. And someone’s going to criticize it.


And it takes a certain level of personal bravery and honor to keep writing about love, even on those days our relationships don’t feel loving. To keep writing good triumphing over evil, even when the news tells us it doesn’t. And to keep writing the truth, because there are enough lies around us already.


And why do we keep doing this? Why do we soldier on, despite all the rejection, the criticism, the lack of sleep? The stakes aren’t as high for us as they are for the soldiers on the ground this morning in Baghdad and Kabul. Writing isn’t life or death. But the personal stakes are enormous. Writing is part of who we are, it’s what we do. And maybe someday we’ll all be published, and maybe we’ll simply still be writing in the quiet hours of the night, because that’s what’s in our hearts. But either way, it’ll continue to take sacrifice and bravery and honor from all of us.


Yet, Memorial Day is also about celebrating what we love. So, what is that you love about writing?  What is it that keeps you coming back, year after year, in spite of the sacrifice required? Describe your perfect writing day. Is it the kind of day where you have no distractions and the words just pour onto the page? Or the kind when the writing wrings your emotions dry and you fight over every word, but in the end you know it’s as close to the truth as you can get?


Happy Memorial Day!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hottie Crew Member for a Birthday Girl

A special member of the crew celebrated a birthday this week and I’m pretty sure she thought we’d let her get away without a party.  Ha! How little she knows us. 




Now, as Lisa was the supplier of the original Hotties around here, I figured the best present, or presents, I could give her would be an abundance of hotness. 


She tried to get away, took a pirate hiatus of sorts, but we lured her back and if the comments are any indication, all of you are as happy as we are to have her back.


After a couple of top notch guest pirates last week, this week we’re back to the usual suspects.  But we’re already working on the line up for June and we’ll start it off with Erotic & Paranormal Romance author, Anya Bast, on Tuesday, June 2nd.  Anya is a contributing author on the anthology WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS…AFTER DARK (released May 2009) which includes her novella, THE PROMISE.  But Anya is also celebrating the June 2009 release of her next full length novel, WITCH FURY, the fourth book in her Elemental Witches series.  Tough chicks, seductive hotties, and the ultimate battle of good vs. evil. What more could you want?!


Hope everyone is having a great Memorial Day weekend and don’t forget to wish Powder Monkey (and her own little monkey who is celebrating a birthday this weekend as well) a great big HUZZAH BIRTHDAY!!!!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Welcome to Judi McCoy


      Pirates, all! I want to welcome to the Revenge my friend and mentor, Judi McCoy. Judi is a longtime author, beginning with what I would call light paranormal romance and recently graduating to romantic mystery. Her newest series features a dog walker in New York City who can talk to dogs!

I’m going to crow a bit about Judi here. The royalties from her first book in this series, Hounding the Pavement, are being donated to the Best Friends Animal Society. This is the group that took in the Michael Vick dogs and is featured in the program, Dogtown, every Friday night on the National Geographic Channel. The second book in this series, Heir of the Dog, will be available in October.

She is a true dog lover and an excellent teacher, having taken over the Beginners Writing Program at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention some years ago. Her students all adore her and she makes herself available to them for years after the classes.

Lady Jane and I just adore Judi and would walk on coals for her. Please welcome Judi. She is a font of information, but new to blogging. (I’ll be helpin’ her out today.) 2nd Chance aka, Maureen


I’d like to thank Maureen for inviting me on this site. I understand the members who blog are a lot of fun, which is great. Everyone needs a bit of laughter in their lives, and it’s wonderful when you have a group of friends to share that laughter.

     I think Maureen already told you about her time in Pittsburgh and her first writing course and the time she spent in Orlando, but just to recap: She’s a fantastic person and she’s grown into a good writer. I’m very proud of how far she’s come. And Terri O, too. She’s a member of my Chesapeake Romance Writers’ chapter and, if we can get her to finish a book, will also have great success.

     I want to tell you about the very kind thing Maureen and Jane (who is also a dear friend) did for me in Orlando. They showed up with gifts that took me completely by surprise. They put together ‘Judi McCoy survival kits’; adorable bags full of goodies not only to make it through my class, but also to promote my book. Maureen made chocolate puppy paws and Jane’s husband bought each student a copy of my new book, Hounding the Pavement. I was so in awe, I started to cry. I don’t think anyone has ever done that nice a thing for me before.

     So here I am, ready to comment or answer questions on whatever is asked. Actually, I’m a terrible blogger, so I have my yorkiepoo Rudy, the star of Hounding the Pavement, write the blog for me. I know it’s a cop out, but Rudy can say things I can only think, and he does give a doggie perspective on the world around him. His blogs are available on my website so check it out. I’m running a contest and posting pictures, so feel free to join the fun.


Well, pirates? Feel free ta ask Judi bout her years of experience, her love of dogs, her new series, what she thought a’ me Fairy Dogmother costume at RT…



Wednesday, May 20, 2009

LOSING MEANING IN THE WIRES by J Perry Stone aka Scuttlebutt

On a personal writing loop, some friends and I found ourselves on two very different sides of a blog war.   Some of us defended sites that continuously blow sunshine up writers’ asses while others defended sites that seemed to gain pleasure from ripping writers a new one.


Truth is I don’t think anyone on my loop agrees with either approach, but some of the blog sites we visit do. 


Or do they?


It has occurred to me that what a person says on the Internet can be misconstrued so that it reflects whatever mood we might be in.  I can read what I deem as a bitchy blog post on Monday and then on Tuesday, I see no malice.  Why is that?  No sleep on Monday?  Tuesday the coffee kicked in?


Here’s another example:


“Terrio is opinionated.”


Now judge my motives for a second.  Am I being bitchy or simply factual?


To me, since I love me some Terrio, that statement is a truth given from the depths of my loving heart.  To someone unaware of that love, I’m criticizing her.


I’m not.  She knows this.  She’s on the phone as I write this, in fact (and is helping me like a good little thesaurus).


But the internet fails miserably in relaying tone.  We do our best with annoying emoticons,  LOL’s and ROFLMAO’s… but are we really expressing ourselves accurately in the cyber world? 


I don’t think so.  Granted, I realize the benefits of technology.  I’ve actually seen Terrio two times in my whole life, but because of emails and phone calls, I know highly intimate things about her and vice versa.  She's one of my closest friends and yet I’ve seen her twice!  It’s almost creepy.  But I can't help thinking how much richer our relationship could be if I could call her up and have lunch with her once or twice a week?


We live in a very strange age.  We feel more connected than ever before, but I’m not so sure.  The reality might be we are farther apart than ever.  As Terrio is whispering in my ear right now, “it’s a connection that causes a disconnect.” 


I don’t want a disconnect.  I don’t want my generally good intentions to be misunderstood.  I don't want to guess at the expression on Terri's face as she reads this. 


I don’t want to feel so lonely with roughly 90% of my friends strewn across the nation.


So what’re your thoughts?  And if you come at me harshly, please use a friendly emoticon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

If I Only Had a Dream

The key to the mystery of a great artist is that for reasons unknown, he will
give away his energies and his life just to make sure that one note follows
another. . . and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.

~Leonard Bernstein~


I once wanted to be a ballerina.

Ballerinas are world renowned for their superior grace and beauty, their lines perfectly symmetrical to the ballerina standing on either side of them. Ballerinas are perfection in the dancing world. As children they are weeding through and only the best are left in the class. The ones that will grow to tall, their lines aren't proportionate or won't become that way, weak legs or ankles, all history. Perfection comes with a price. A price that you have to decide if it's worth it or not to take that risk and go all in.

Writing is the same way.

Now, once I learned that I would never make it in the dancing world, (my ankles are weak and have been broken several times plus the lack of money never made it a possible dream for me), I turned to poetry. Poetry is a different kind of perfection. One that you seek within yourself and never find. Poetry is about heart and soul, the darkness you have trying to escape, the feeling of the pen between your fingers, the smell of the breeze as it flutters past you... All these things embody poetry at it's finest. Poetry is about feeling. Fiction is about gut instincts and timing and plots... very intricate and tricky. There is no difference in the amount of perfection or the quality, but all writing is different.

Writing is as different as the person who wrote the piece. Whether it be a paragraph or a hundred thousand word book, our personality shines within our words. We eat, breathe and sleep words, plots, timing, characters and their characterizations. You cry over lost notes, bleed over plots, sweat the small stuff. Even the smallest of imperfections in your plot can ruin a whole book, years of work down the drain. Much like a ballerina. Ballerinas practice their whole lives for one moment of glory and only one misstep can take that away from them. We practice and practice and practice for one moment as well. That moment we walk out of the darkness with a book in hand, gingerly carrying it, hoping not to crush our dreams in one single swoop. It only takes one thread of doubt in an authors mind to crush everything they've spent their lives doing. One judgment or opinion to put that seed of doubt there. And then you've lost it.

Writing is an art form. Many people will disagree with this, but writing in any form is an art. It's an abstract vision in your mind that once you find the will, you can put it down for all to see. It's beautiful in its individuality, unique in its presence, daunting in its power. A whole book, something that started so small in your mind, becomes a massive undertaking. It consumes you with the fire of creating, wills you to do better, try harder, push a little longer... Until you finally win the battle and then you find that you still aren't satisfied. Writers are notorious pickers. We pick and pick and pick, until there is nothing left to pick at. Perfection is never achieved, no matter how good the reviews or how great you thought it was the night before. We all go through this on some level. Writers never see perfection. It could be staring us in the face but we're blind, not by choice, but by instinct. You're told as a writer that you can never be perfect. Never give up, always tweak and fix and prune until it's close to perfection and then try again.

Perfection is different in everyone eyes. Ideas born of visions and thoughts should be perfection it's purest form, but it's not so. Has there ever been a time when you thought something was so beautiful that it was perfection in your eyes?

For me, it's that first line of prose, the beauty of dusk in the countryside, the look in a child's eyes when they look up to you, the way a ballerina's footwork and lines contrast the backdrop, contra-posing or mimicking... art is beautiful in any form. Take a look around you, enjoy yourself, the things around you more often. Trust in your abilities and those around you. Live and breath without perfection constantly on your minds. Perfection should be a freedom, not a weight holding you down.


What are you passionate about? What was the first thing you ever wanted to be perfect at?


Influence this week (And I'm about to blow some minds)

Make You Feel My Love- Adele - 19

Finally- Fergie- The Dutchess (That's right, I said it.)

And last but not least (if I'm going to ruin my rep, I might as well go all out)

All Around Me (Acoustic Version)- Flyleaf - All Around Me EP

And the Winner is...


Tell her what she's won, Bo'sun!

Okay, I will.  (When did we get an annoucer voice dude?)

Irish, you've won an all expense paid download of the incomparable Tessa Dare's best-selling e-novella THE LEGEND OF HE WERESTAG! But wait, that's not all.  In addition to the WERE-love, you've won a signed coverflat of Tessa's debut, full-length, Regency novel GODDESS OF THE HUNT hitting bookstores later this summer.

Congratulations, Irisheyes! Send your snail and email addys to Tessa at to collect your booty!
Monday, May 18, 2009

Overwriters Anonymous Unite!

Generally speaking, I think whatever men can do women can do, and in a lot of cases, we can do it better. However, there is one area that as a whole, women are notoriously bad at doing.


Telling jokes.


The reasons vary. There are those of us who laugh before we get to the punch line. And there are those of us who don’t remember the punch line. And even those of us who don’t even understand the punch line. But even more so than any of these joke-killers, it’s this: we can’t tell a joke without unnecessary details. We absolutely can’t stand it.


For instance, let me use my married friends Sarah and Mike. Mike loves to tell jokes; and he’s good at it (he’s a guy.) And generally he’ll tell his jokes to Sarah, his much adoring wife. This is a slightly dramatized example of how such a joke telling might go.


Sarah: That sounds funny! What are you laughing at?

Mike: Hellion forwarded me a joke.

Sarah: Do tell. I could use a good laugh.

Mike: Okay. A drunk blonde Irish woman….

Sarah: Why does she have to be blonde?

Mike: What? It’s a blonde joke, darling. That’s just the way it is.

Sarah: Why can’t she be a brunette or a redhead? Or chestnut haired? That’s a blend, you know.

Mike: It’s a blonde joke.

Sarah: Fine. Please continue.
Mike: A drunk blonde Irish woman walks into a casino and says she wants to bet $10,000 on one roll of the dice….

Sarah: Why? Is she in desperate straights?

Mike: Huh?

Sarah: I don’t understand her motivation. Is she trying to save her family or her house or is she just some gold-digging harpy who stole $10,000 and is trying to….

Mike: Are you going to let me tell this joke, sugar pie?

Sarah: Of course, I’m going to let you tell it. Aren’t I letting you tell it? It just doesn’t sound like a very good joke is all. A stereotypical blonde woman and no explanation where she got her $10,000….


As you can imagine, the rest of this conversation goes downhill; and the joke loses its punch. Getting obsessed in explaining every detail slows pacing and can make you feel like you’re in a very bad episode of 24. I know this. Boy, do I know this. And yet, here I am, writing my scenes like I’m writing a chick-lit version of Jack Bauer. I manage to leave out potty breaks and brushing one’s teeth, but it’s a very close thing.


My day-to-day storytelling revolves around the mundane detail. As does my friend Sarah. In fact it’s why she likes to talk with me. She says I really listen, like every detail really does matter. We’ll talk about an incident at work and end up inserting details about what we happened to be wearing that day—and yes, we did get our new shoes at DSW. So it shouldn’t be surprising that my writing is a lot like my day-to-day storytelling with my friends. Where it does have the benefit of being deep POV with my character, I get bogged down creating the sort of detail that doesn’t matter to the scene at hand. Or worse, creating entire scenes that don’t matter to the story I’m telling.


Terri was asking me where I was on my revisions on Girl on a Grecian Urn; and I explained I was at the same engagement party dinner that I was at months ago. I don’t know what to do with that scene. I couldn’t carry it, but I couldn’t go on until I’d written the scene.


But I didn’t need that particular scene. There was no reason to have that scene. It didn’t move anything forward. It didn’t impart any necessary knowledge about my heroine or hero…or even about the secondary characters that was absolutely needed at this time or that hadn’t already been related in previous or later scenes. So why couldn’t I move on?


I think it’s because I’m a horrible joke teller who tries to insert more detail than is really necessary to get the point across.


Dee, one of my superfabulous CPs, would simply say I’m an overwriter, which is what she claims she is. And I’m betting there are a lot of overwriters out there.


Are you an overwriter? And if so, how do you make yourself stay on task and keep your scenes trim and well-paced? What is your best advice for making a great scene or deciding what scenes are necessary to have? Any books you’d recommend that cover this? (I can always use a new book.) Help a fellow overwriter!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Seizing the Ship, or Hijacking the Bandwagon

It is my honor and privilege to introduce, for her first visit to The Revenge (and if we have our way, certainly not her last) Historical Romance author and the creative genius behind The Legend of the Werestag (which is AWESOME!), rising star Tessa Dare.


Arrrh, wenches!   Avast, me hearties!


All right, that’s all the pirate-speak I’ve got in me.  But it is my extreme pleasure to be welcomed aboard this fine ship.  Many thanks to Terri for inviting me!


When I began writing historical romance a few years ago, the word amongst industry folk was that Historicals were DEAD.  Paranormals were the hot subgenre, and it seemed like every author was jumping on the “paranormal bandwagon.” 


Well, if paranormals were all that would sell, then I figured my ship was sunk.  I don’t have anything against the subgenre, and I enjoy some paranormal authors immensely, but overall it’s just not my favorite.  I find it more difficult to suspend my disbelief when vamps, shifters, demons, and the like are involved, and I have a harder time sinking into the story and enjoying the romance.  And if it’s harder for me to enjoy it, I figured it would be impossible for me to write it well.


So I went ahead writing GODDESS OF THE HUNT, a Regency-set historical, anyway—and fortunately the market started to shift just as I found an agent, and I was able to sell it.  Along the way, however, I found that there were certain elements of the paranormal subgenre that I really envied.  The high stakes, for instance—in a Regency, it’s REALLY hard to devise a situation where the future of the known universe could hang in the balance.  The potential for life-or-death immediacy, for another.  Sure, Regencies see their share of duels and carriage accidents, but they’re known more for card parties and masquerade balls than thrill-a-minute action.


And then those half-human heroes…rrwowr!  Whether they’ve got fangs, claws, or fur…there’s something so irresistible about those heroes who put the real “beast” in the “Beauty and the Beast” trope.


I started wondering if there wasn’t a way I could steal some of those paranormal conventions and use them in a historical.  Not just jump on the bandwagon, but hijack it and steer it in my own direction.  Like any good pirate would, eh? 


And that’s how my novella THE LEGEND OF THE WERESTAG was born.  Since I knew I couldn’t just ignore all my own skepticisms, I decided to embrace them instead—I put those skepticisms into the mouths of my characters and let them debate the believability of a shifting man-beast.  And because the world has seen enough heroes with fangs and claws, I decided mine would have prongs.  :)


I still couldn’t quite manage to make the future of the universe hang in the balance, but I was able to work in some hair-raising action in the darkened forest.  And for my “man-beast” hero, I created Luke Trenton—a soldier just returned from war who feels he’s lost a part of his humanity.  His youthful sweetheart, Cecily Hale, has waited for him for four long years.  Luke still wants her, but he doesn’t think innocent Cecily could handle his inner beast.  But when their house-party group forges into the forest on the hunt for a local legend…it’s the Werestag who forces the issue.


So that’s how I wrote my un-paranormal paranormal and had a blast in the process.  And to my delight, Samhain was willing to publish it!  If only it could achieve the success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!  Hm, what’s next?  A Regency space opera?  The not-so-secret secret baby?  Who knows…


How about you?   Ever contemplated hijacking the bandwagon?  Do you like writing or reading cross-genre tales?  What wacky crossover would you really like to see? And…read any good beasts lately? ;)


Thanks so much for having me!


Tessa has been sweet enough to offer up one free download of her Samhain e-novella THE LEGEND OF THE WERESTAG as well as a signed coverflat of her debut full-length Regency Historical from Ballantine, GODDESS OF THE HUNT, hitting shelves in July.  Just join in the fun for your chance to win. (To order the novella or pre-order Tessa's debut novel, click on the book covers.)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hottie Crew Member of the Week

There’s been a lot of talk around here about our favorite kinds of heroes.  I happen to know that our lovely J Perry is going to dive into this topic once again later this week.  I decided to accumulate all the traits discussed and then attempt to find *that* guy.  If you go by the polls and survey answers given on this ship, the perfect guy would be broody, mysterious, capable, forceful, witty, intelligent, charming, and on some level considered a bad boy.  Let me tell you, this paragon of mankind is not easy to find.  But I did come up with a couple that I think fit this description.


You may notice that these examples of what is most popular are not exactly contemporary figures.  Makes me wonder if maybe the broody, bad ass, intelligent man is extinct.


We have some great guest coming on board this week.  We start things off with the belle of the novella ball, Tessa Dare, here to talk about the Werestag heard round the world.  You’re going to want to be here to read that details on that one.


Then taking the anchor position, we have first time guest, Judi McCoy joining the crew on Friday.  Judi has written more than a dozen Contemporary Romances and the first book in her latest series about a mystery solving dog walker in New York City hit shelves back in March.  One of the nicest, most generous ladies I’ve had the privilege to meet, I’m so happy Chance talked Judi into donning the eye patch and joining the fun.


Another killer week here on The Revenge, we do hope you’ll pull up a stool, grab a tankard of rum, and stay a while.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What Would Jane Do?


The morning was a bright one. The sun all but shattered eyes as it danced across the surface to strike the Revenge. Hellion groaned as she stirred from the captain’s cabin, a hand at her forehead.


When she was able to open her eyes again, she saw Chance setting up the bar, humming a happy tune and dancing as she did so.


Chance looked up to see the Captain gazing at her. “Mornin’, Cap’n! Grand day has begun. Would ya like ta try me new drink? I call it Jane’s Common Sense. It be full a’ fruit juice and the dark spicy rum I know ya loves.”


“You named a drink after Lady Jane?” Hellion took the proffered tankard and sipped with appreciation. “A nice one, Chance! Why the honor?”


“Well, ya ‘member how I returned from me Orlando convention brimmin’ with success and confidence? Today, I be payin’ tribute ta the lady whose straight talkin’ ways and sureness set me on that course.” Chance tapped a button on her shirt. It sported a take on an oft bandied about faith based statement.


What Would Jane Do?” Hellion chuckled. “How did that go over with the Lady?”


“Oh, she growled at me, but she were secretly flattered.” Chance smiled. “I follered me own advice and it made me braver, Cap’n. Ev’ryone needs a friend like Jane!”


Chances enthusiasm mad the Cap’n smile, it was truly contagious.


Aye crew, I be talking ‘bout the friends ya make as a writer. The ones who share yer successes, talk ya through the failures, pour the rum, share the chocolate. They read yer missives and offer sensible critique, whether what ya write be a normal part a’ their library or no.


I gots Jane. Who I met at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Pittsburgh, just last year. We both took the beginner writer’s course, met first through the bulletin board Judi McCoy set up. And we hit it off afore we met in Pittsburgh. I was feelin’ a bit peevish in Pittsburgh, first foray after me brush wit’ death and all. Jane and I, we both went home a bit overwhelmed, but stayed in touch.


I celebrated her success wit’ enterin’ contests, though found meself wonderin’ why she got all the nice judges! And she held me hand over the internet when I was crushed by ‘nother contest. She read me stuff. I read ‘er stuff. Neither of us is great at grammar, but we knew how ta talk ‘bout what was missin’ and we ‘elped each other out.


Jane-o and I, we don’t write the same stuff. We don’t read the same stuff. But we wanted ta be there, one ta the other. So’s we made it work. Havin’ different interests ‘elped us keep some distance. And so we worked tagether. And we played together. (Else why would I be wearin’ me red bad dog pajamas and a tiara ta the Saturday book fair?)


And in Orlando, we both got requests after pitchin’. I looked at an editor, sittin’ in a hallway and thought… “I can’t bother ‘er. She’s busy. But she said ta pitch ta ‘er wherever she be…” I looked at me button and read it. “What Would Jane Do?” And I walked over, asked ta pitch.


No, she weren’t interested, but it got me ready fer the agent pitch, minutes later. And it got me the name a’ another editor ta query. And it made me feel powerful. I had done what Jane would do. And it felt right. I went on ta other successes, sharing me new motto wit’ those I met.


Because Jane? She’s brave. She pushes forward, she politely finds her way till she be sittin’ ‘cross from famous authors at lunch, getting’ advice. Jane ain’t stymied by bein’ a newbie. As she say, we all starts somewhere. She’s gonna be famous one day. And there I’ll be, wit’ me pin, right next ta ‘er.


Sing the praise a’ yer partner, crew! Today be BFF day! Do ya have one like Jane? Will she let ya take ‘er picture without smirkin’ at the camera? I tell Jane-o, she gots ta learn how ta relax, ‘cause ‘er fans be wantin’ ta take ‘er picture one day.


Do ya have a critique partner that makes yer day? Someone yer able ta share the ups and downs a’ yer writin’? Or jus’ someone ya can talk books wit’ who understands the madness? Do they read or write what ya read or write? Do that ‘elp? Have they ever given ya advice that rings so true, ya feel like ya could touch the stars after readin’ how great yer next edit be? Share!



Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Pause For Reevaluation at the Dreaded Middle

I have been busily plugging away on my WIP and the further I go into the recesses of it, the better I get to know my characters. Oh, some out there would say that I should get to know my characters before I attempt to write them. I beg to differ.

First of all, I feel the best way to get to know anyone is through what they say. This holds true in real life and it holds true in romance. It isn't until my characters start talking that I really get a feel for their personalities.

I think the second part of getting to know my characters comes out in the way they act. Because just talking is bologne if it isn't backed up by action (again, true in both real life and fiction).  After my characters start mouthing off, so to speak, I start to picture what they're doing while they are mouthing off.  I feel like it takes about half the book for me to get a good read on how they react in situations.

So, at this halfway point, I paused to evaluate how they were doing.  I read through the whole first half and I adjusted a few things.  I did this the last time as well.  Apparently, I get up to the top of the hill and I need to look back at my climb to make sure that the ride down the other side is smooth sailing.  At this pause, I tweaked a few things with my heroine – toughened her up a bit and adjusted her motivation – and adjusted my hero’s reactions to her.  I also included a new external conflict that I’d been tiptoeing around but that puts them together in the second half of the book in a more realistic way.

This whole processed required some cutting (10-15K words, ouch) and some additions (about 10K that replaced what was lost). 

But now, after I reread the first half again, I believe I like them even better now than I did before. 

I know I could have probably finished the book up without this pause, gone back and redid the beginning at the end with the ending clearly in place, but I’m just not that type of writer.  I need to make sure my foundation is firm before I can keep building.

How long does it take for you to get to “know” your characters?  Do you pause in the “dreaded middle?”   Are you more the revise at the end or revise as you go sort?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This Message Will Self Destruct in Five Seconds…. 5… 4… 3…

I wish I could be witty like the rest of the crew and make a blog that would truly honor this type of title, but honestly, it was all I could think of.


Influence this week- Big Tree- Desperate for Compromise- Coalescence

"Trying to live, I'm trying to live, trying to live, trying to live through this... life."



This isn't much of a confession coming from me. I like characters who are self destructive, the darker the better.


In fact, my favorite characteristic in my favorite heroine is that she is always willing to take it on herself because she feels like she's not worthy of the people in her life.


My next favorite heroine is in love with the one person she can't have. She kills herself because she hates who she is, who she was born as, and who she will become.


And it seems to be the trend in my reading selection to pick the heroine with the least amount of self worth. The series that I tend to stick to-


The heroine lost her job, got a crappy job, lives hand to mouth- worse than paycheck to paycheck, has a jerk off ex, has a boyfriend she loves to hate, has a partner who's like the wind and she can't figure out and constantly blows up things.


The heroine lost her job (hm, this seems to be my theme), had a contract put out on her life, not once by a demon but this is a reoccurring thing. Her boyfriend used her then ditched her. Her next boyfriend was murdered. She constantly puts herself in harms way and not to mention every time she turns around she has to give up something she wants more than anything to keep someone she loves alive and breathing.


But these are the type of heroines you can really root for. I could stand beside one and know that I was doing the right thing. Here's the thing. I was thinking about this on my way home today (because Sadie was yelling in my ear to stick my foot in it and flip my moon roof open- she had a bad day apparently) and all I could hear was, "faster, faster, pass them, get in the other lane, honk your horn, flip them off, where is your gun? Blow the tires on that piece of shit. M-O-V-E."


And tonight, I've been trying to chill and she's on the edge. My foot keeps twitching like it's thumping to the beat of a hardcore metal song. I feel the need to run, or yell, or scream or punch something or someone. She needs to feel something and I just don't know how to give it to her. And that's what I love about a character, that need; the very raw feeling of emotion bleeding out and self-sacrificing. When I can't capture this feeling, I feel lost within myself, lost within my characters and uninspired. When I hear my heroines, I feel alive within the story and I just haven't felt that inspiration lately with my characters.


So after months of self destruction wading through the writing rivers of doubt and insecurity, it's like a blast of cold wind shivering down my spine. She's standing on the other side of the river, back straight, fingers loose at her sides. Her wild blonde hair is dancing in the wind and she's shivering wet but her will keeps her from showing weakness. I know that she doesn't want me, doesn't need me, but I can't keep myself from gauging the depth of the raging river, gauging the desperation in her emotions and before I can second guess myself, I jump in. The water is quicksand and worse than frigid. My legs seize, my brain shuts down. All I can hear is her yelling for me to go away but I can't turn back now, I'm in too deep. The water is deeper, swallowing my cries, swallowing my hope. I pray not to trip and let her down. The sun is fading fast, the sounds of cars getting closer, and my heart trips double time.


I pull myself up onto the bank, lungs gasping for air. I don't have time for a breakdown; I can't let her down this time. I make it to my feet, and even the smallest of steps seem like a huge feat; but when my fingers touch hers, and I slip my hand into hers, there is power there. Maybe there is no hope, and no way to make it out alive, but I'd be damned if she faced it all on her own.


This is how I feel and writing connects me into a world where self-destruction turns into self-sacrificing love and honor for someone that you love and teaches you all those valuable morals that's really true to character within yourself. It's not until you reach those depths within your own character that you can tap into those of your hero/heroine.


Tell me what characteristic you write most often in your hero/heroine and when you're reading do you identify with a certain characteristic that keeps you picking up the same kind of books over and over again? How has learning about yourself helped you as you've continued your self exploration of character depth? And in case this is completely rambling, what is the darkest characteristic you like about main characters?