Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Plunder Bunnies! (with Guest Pirate Courtney Milan)

Arr, mateys!  We're fearsome pirates, and we'll be seizing your vessel and giving you a broadside of Christmas cheer, even though it be October!  Arr. Ye'll be thanking us for it when we be done.


Ahem.  *clearing throat* Sorry, I think I had a parrot stuck in there.  So maybe that's not what the commercial side of Christmas really feels like, but I have to admit, it comes close.  I despise Christmas creep.  I resent it when my Starbucks breaks out the red holiday cups before Hallowe'en.  I grouse when it's barely November and stores start playing schmaltzy carols.  In my dimly-remembered childhood, I recall a Thanksgiving barrier.  Once upon a time, it was not until the end of November--sometimes, not even until the middle of December--that the holiday season started.


Alas.  Christmas has run amuck on the high seas on the holidays, taking plunder without letters of marque from royalty.


Given my strong feelings about this, how do you suppose I reacted when my agent asked me to write a Christmas story that was going to be released not in December, not in November, not even in late October . . . but on October 1st?


Let me recount the conversation.


Wise, inscrutable agent: So, HQN has asked if you'll contribute a novella to their October anthology, a Christmas collection.


Me: Christmas? October?


Agent: Mary Balogh will be headlining, along with Nicola Cornick--


*in the distance, the sound of breaking glass*


Agent: Uh, do you need to get that?


Me: Oh no.  That was just the sound my scruples made when they crashed and burned.  Shazam!  Yes, I'll do it.


Agent: Don't you want to hear any of the details?


So there you have it.  I'm a cheap floozy when it comes to my principles on Christmas Creep.  But that's okay.  Just call me Courtney Milan: Plunder Bunny.


Because I should share the booty, the first person who can give me a source for "plunder bunny" alongside a requisite quote from the Main Hero of that work will get a free copy of the anthology.  Oh, and one random commenter will get another one, too.  So, let's talk about fine leather jackets and how much we despise Christmas creep in all instances except romances.  Arr! 
Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What Do You Get For a Second Year Anniversary and Other Fun Things

I bet you’re not going to believe this. I barely believe this, but Thursday, October 1st, is the two year anniversary of this humble little ship. Two years. Do you know there are NBC television shows that haven’t lasted that long—or are even as interesting as we are? (Yeah, I suppose that is a little more believable.)


In honor of us managing to not sink this ship in our 730 days of sailing, we’re going to have two weeks of interviews! There will be the published authors’ interviews (Courtney Milan on Thursday, Louisa Edwards on Friday the 9th, and Kimberly Killion on Tuesday the 13th); and there will be the NYP authors’ (that’d be us) interviews. All will be endlessly fascinating. Today’s NYP author interview is Sophie Sinclaire, author of In the Beginning, Again—go harass your local bookstore for it now.


*         *         *


Hellion: Welcome, pirates and wenches! It is my very great honor to introduce to you today an author very near and dear to my heart, a sister quite nearly if I may be so bold, the charming and witty, Sophie Sinclaire!


Sophie: Why, hello, Hellie, it’s so great to see you again! Thank you for having me on board the ship. Really, I was quite flattered, I wasn't aware anyone knew about my book! I didn't even know it was...published. *glancing around quizzically* Can that happen?


Hellion: I have my connections. Pirate. Neither here nor there; let’s focus on you! I just read your debut book, In the Beginning Again, and I must say it was wonderful. Charming, hilarious, but poignant. Mostly hilarious though.


Sophie: Oh, good, I was shooting for funny. *coughs* Wow, this is nerve wracking. I have a whole new respect for authors who come on the ship now. Is there any rum?


Hellion: *hands her a drink* There is no reason to feel nervous. I've interviewed scads of authors. I'm harmless.


Sophie: *glancing around* I don't suppose Jack is...


Hellion: *laughing* It's hopeless. No one wants to interview with me. Jack! Get out here!


Sophie: No, you’re great, really…


Jack: *entering from a trap door and dusting off his jacket* It’s just I know how to make a woman feel comfortable in her skin, until she’s more than willing to lay herself bare. *kisses the back of Sophie’s hand, giving his best smoldering look* Hello, kitten, I’m very glad to finally meet you.


Sophie: I am so, so glad to be met. *shakes head* OMG, did I just titter?


Jack: It’s nothing, my pet, quite common. So where were we? Ah, yes, the interview. I too got to read this book—as my sweet Hellie says, it was quite amusing. In In the Beginning Again, you’re featuring characters, if you will, of people we all know. Specifically the original romantic couple, Adam and Eve.


Sophie: You mean the original odd couple, yes, it features them. They’re a hoot, really. Always bickering about something. Married folk. This book is like Extreme Makeovers: Marital Counseling Edition.


Jack: But not based on any married people, you know.


Sophie: Oh, God, no, I want people to actually want to get married at the end. If I based this on the married couples I knew, people would probably stop getting married. No, I just pretended I was married and what sort of stupid things would send me over the edge, demanding a divorce, and I decided the KitchenAid would probably do it.


Jack: A KitchenAid? What’s a KitchenAid? Does it hold rum?


Sophie: Yeah, well, I mean nobody divorces over a KitchenAid. People divorce because they stop communicating; and when they are communicating, they’re not saying what they really mean, what the real problem is. Eve is your typical housewife: the hard-working nurturer who is quite simply tired of being taken for granted. But instead of saying, “You’re a jerk and you take me for granted”, she says, “I’m divorcing you because you got the KitchenAid.”


Jack: That does sound a lot like my last wife. What was her name again? Francesca? Francoise? *shakes head* It’ll come back to me. Anyway, women do divorce over the funniest stuff. You don’t remember their name. You were helping the chambermaid make the bed…ah, well, you live, you learn.  I found Eve to be a very complex character—I thought you did a great job at making her well-rounded *making woman shape with his hands*-- and well, you know. Tell me, did she come to you that way or is she based off anyone you know?


Sophie: Well, it’s dangerous really to create characters based off other people in your life. But I suppose she is a little. Eve is really a sort of extension of me and a couple of friends I know, who’ve also had relationships, the sort of relationships where you fight about dumb, dumb stuff. Like how to put the lid on the skillet the right way.


Jack: Interesting. How about the other characters? What about Adam? Is he an extension of anyone? Men you’ve dated perhaps? *grins roguishly* Men you want to date, perhaps.


Sophie: *titters again, then coughs* No, Adam is very much the marrying type, and I’ve never dated the marrying type myself. I date the Lucifer type. Adam is more like me and my father.


Jack: So you also have father issues? Most excellent.


Sophie: Wow, am I out of rum already?


Jack: *pours her more rum* That is the thing about this ship. The rum is almost always gone. Drink up, drink up. What about Lucifer? Is he based on men you’ve dated then?


Sophie: No, he’s smarter than the men I’ve dated. I’d say he’s me, but with a penis.


Jack: *drawing back slightly and giving Sophie a once over* You don’t, do you? *shakes head* I mean, never mind. What about Elizabeth? A fetching little piece she was.


Sophie: Definitely me, but with a lot attitude like another friend of mine. Elizabeth’s secretive nature is definitely more like my friend and less me. But the smartass, all me.


Jack: Let me see if I’ve got this right: Eve, Adam, Lucifer, and Elizabeth are all based off you, in some form or another?


Sophie: Yes. Wow, that sounds far more narcissistic than I intended. Though, I suppose you’d know more than anyone about having multiple selves running amok, wouldn’t you? And if you think about it, all authors put a little of themselves into all their characters. That’s not uncommon. But I’m not in every character in my book.


Jack: Which character in the book doesn’t have you?


Sophie: God. He’s completely made up.


Jack: What is In the Beginning Again about exactly? For those readers who haven’t had a chance to pirate a copy like Hellie and I.


Sophie: Oh, what any romance is about: boy meets girl; boy and girl fall in love; boy screws up; boy and girl have a failure to communicate and make each other miserable for thousands of years in marriage counseling; boy and girl get a divorce; boy and girl are sent to Vegas to find new soul mates, but upon placing personal ads, they end up falling in love with each other instead.


Jack: What’s up next for Sophie Sinclaire?


Sophie: Oh, I thought Lucifer has been waiting rather patiently for me to break his heart and then give him his happily ever after. He has a lot to learn, but I think he deserves a second chance.


Jack: I totally agree. Everyone should get the benefit of a second chance. If only Francoise, Frannie!—it was Frannie, I knew I’d remember her name—had had an open heart like you. Sophie, I want to thank you again for guesting with us today, and I wish you much future success in your writing adventures. I’m sure In the Beginning Again, as well as Lucifer’s sequel, will be great successes. Do you have anything you’d like to ask the crew?


Sophie: Of course! Adam & Eve is a reunion story—so mainly I want to know what everyone thinks of reunion stories. What do you think of stories that feature married couples with married couple drama? What are some of your favorites; and what sorts of things do think make for good reunion/marriage stories?



Monday, September 28, 2009

Dark Horses & the Power of One

I love a good horse race. Oh, not the races where the horses snap a leg or otherwise have to be put down on the field. But those races on clear, cloudless days, and all you can hear is the thunder of hooves and smell the nectar of horse sweat and jockeys’ tears; yeah, you’re seeing something that’s life.


Horse racing is the sport of kings, so it’s probably hard to imagine how it relates to an average person like you and me. But all those hours of hard work, practice, and hope is melted down to those three minutes; and in the end, the winner is just as much a product of luck and skillful jockeying as it is the hard work and talent. Isn’t that any of us writing? We all have the hard work and talent, but it also takes some luck and an agent who is willing to go the distance. 


I read a statistic once about how many negative thoughts come through our brains every day compared to positive thoughts, and the difference was staggering. It was like 10:1 odds, or maybe 100:1 odds. Either way, Positive Thinking was the dark horse in this bet. It is therefore no surprise, if this statistic is true, to see why negativity prevails. It has more horses in the race, and with those odds, one of them is more logically going to win.


In this scenario, one doesn’t have a lot of power.


But consider this. You read 10 editor articles about publishing. Nine editors say, “Yes, it is hard and lots of revision and persistence are needed—but we’re always on the lookout for great manuscripts and compelling voices.” And one says, “Cowboy westerns are a dead horse. Nobody is buying them.” You are particularly struck. You have been told repeatedly by friends and strangers alike you have a compelling voice; your CPs have reassured you your cowboy western manuscript is fresh and well-written. What do you do?


If you’re me, you freak out. Nothing else matters at that point, and definitely not the other nine editors. And definitely nothing logical. Because I bet you dollars to donuts, you’re freaking out at your computer going: “Dead? The genre is dead! I am never going to be published because I wrote a book in a genre that has no market and clearly never will again!” Insert wailing and gnashing of teeth. Obsess that not only is your book in a dead genre, but it’s also too quiet or too funny or too angsty or too sexy for anyone to publish mainstream. Then cry yourself to sleep.


In this scenario, clearly one holds all the power.


Let’s return to the dark horse, shall we? The one in the first scenario. If we’re going to be silly, illogical, and crazy to follow the power of one in scenario two, with the utmost belief that that one will win out, then I think we should be gutsy enough to be silly, illogical, and crazy enough to follow the power of one in the first example. Listen to that crazy little What If voice in your head that says, What if you finished that novel and it did get published? What if you did write that series? What if you did keep at it until you won?


Racehorses literally run their hearts out. They don’t stand around at the start of the race and ponder the odds of them winning; they just take the bit in their teeth and go, their eyes on the finish line and not on the distracting lights and noises flashing around them. They just listen to that voice that’s whispering, “Go, go, go.” Be the dark horse and bet on yourself. You’re more likely to win if you just keep running.


Do you believe in the power of one? And if you do, are you more apt to be a Power of One person in scenario one or scenario two? Do you believe publishing requires a bit of luck as well as persistence and talent? Are you the kind, at horse races, to bet on the horse with good odds or the one that’s the dark horse?
Sunday, September 27, 2009

say my name, say my name...

I love country music (and before you spit your morning coffee at the monitor, I happen to have it on good evidence that I'm not the only pirate on this ship who loves country music).

But a new song has made me think about sex scenes, and how we write them. More importantly, what our characters say during sex scenes.

The song is by Dierks Bently, and it's this slow, super sexy song. And there's one line in the chorus that says, "And make you say my name like only you can say it."

Every time I hear that line, I hear a breathy voice in my head saying, "Oh Dierks! Oh Dierks!" in a tone only a sorority girl can manage. And I burst out laughing. Every time.

Of course, here's a pic of our buddy Dierks, and for a guy that looks like this, I can probably manage a few "Oh Dierks" myself.

So let's hear it girls. Time to fess up. Do you say names? Do your characters say names? Do you roll your eyes when you're reading a character who screams their lovers name during the big moment?  Or do you like using names to add intimacy?

And to really have fun on a Monday, let's hear what phrases make you burst out laughing in the middle of a sex scene!
Saturday, September 26, 2009

FAME: RWR's Homage to One Great Song

Boy did you guys luck out. Not only is this a Hottie blog but it's a Hellion Parody. Except I discovered with some songs, you just don't need to change up the words to fit a situation. It's YOUR song. It tells your story, and by Golly, FAME tells the story of all of on this ship and who visit this ship. Sing it with me, guys!

*              *             *

[camera zeroes wobbily onto the deck of the ship, noises coming from sides and behind, but deck is conspicuously empty]
Terri: Lights! Kill the lights!
[darkness descends; and there are more noises, like rats scrambling, and then a bunch of mutterings like, “Ouch” and “Back off, biotch” and “Hey, Marn! What’s with the language?” and “Shhhh”. Silence descends for a long moment.]
Hellion: Did anyone remember to hit the play button on the boom box?
Sin: For God’s sake, Hellie, nobody calls it a boom box. We’re not even using a boom box.

Hellion: Does anyone know where J is?

Santa: She's running late. She said she was busy and we should start without her.

Terri: But she's the choreographer! How are we....

[music starts]
[silence. Then a light spotlights Hellion, and Hellion is dramatically posed, toe pointed and one snake arm pose over her head. Hellion smolders at the camera and sings into the microphone—for God’s sake, who gave Hellion a microphone?]
Hellion: Baby look at me
And tell me what you see
You ain't seen the best of me yet
Give me time I'll make you forget the rest
[Terri, Sin (in leg warmers and a Flashdance sweatshirt, black, of course), Marn (with a headband and 80s bangs), Hal (wearing a “Have I Told You About My Novel and Agent?” t-shirt), and Santa (holding a Blackberry and frantically texting) are in a dramatic line of poses behind Hellion.]
Hellion: I got more in me
And you can set it free
I can catch the moon in my hands
Don't you know who I am
Remember my name
Crew (jazzhands): FAME!
All: I'm gonna live forever
I'm gonna learn how to fly
[Terri and Marn leap through the air like the 10 Lords a-leaping, while Sin and Hal break into some fusion of hip hop and ballet. Hellion is trying not to look so white.]
Hellion: I feel it coming together
People will see me and cry
[Terri and Marn from left side of stage, wearing gold discos dresses and strappy heels; Sin and Hal from right side of stage, wearing silver sequin dresses and CMF shoes; from the back enter four hunky men who look suspiciously like Dwayne Johnson, Channing Tatum, Paul Walker, and Usher. There is a brief mobbing of who gets Dwayne and Channing, then there are four Baby Housemans as everyone gets to do the lift. Dwayne and Channing show off by tossing their partners to each other and catching them; Sin and Marn squeal.]
Terri: Yeah, well, anyone can do that…
Paul: That is not in my contract.
Terri: You better not be grunting, twig, or I will kick you and give you something to grunt about.
Hellion: I'm gonna make it to heaven
Terri: Are you sure about that? With that book you’re writing and all?
Hellion: [making a hand gesture without missing a beat]
Light up the sky like a flame
Crew: FAME!
I'm gonna live forever
Baby remember my name
Remember [Terri pushes Sin out of the way and Dwayne tosses her in the air. “Finally”]
Remember [Sin spider monkeys Channing and pole dances her way back down]
Remember [Hal and Usher are doing things that our censors won’t let us share]
Remember [Marn is pointing at Paul: “Who is this guy? Couldn’t Hellie find a real celebrity?]
Remember [2nd: “Don’t I get a sparkly outfit? I make the Glittery Hoohas, you know.”]
Remember [Lisa: "I was only in surgery, but yes, this was more important guys...and why does Sin always get Dwayne?"]
Remember [Jack Sparrow drops in from the ceiling (crow’s nest) by rope and scoops up Hellion]
Remember [Hellion and Jack do dramatic cha-cha-cha, pose, and music ends as all members hold poses. Silence.]
Santa: Are we ready to do the dance portion yet? I have to send this last text message and I’ll be right out there. I haven’t missed anything, have I?

Do you have a theme song in your life? Or are you like me and go around humming FAME under your breath whenever you have a particularly good (or bad) writing day? Anyone like me going to see the movie? What movies do you like to watch that are cheesy but inspirational as hell?
Thursday, September 24, 2009

Writing Toys – A Slightly Silly Topic

(but it is Friday)

(which is my excuse)

(so there!)


Ah, picture the writer of yesteryear. From hammer and chisel, to quill and ink, to pen and paper to clackety typewriter, to IBM selectric, to home computer, to laptop. To blackberry, perhaps? And the future may be voice activated… (I read of that in Asimov’s Foundation series…always wanted that… Well, one day…)


For now, I have been working through the collected clutter of many years, scattered about a back room until it obscured the floor. And as I have dug through this treasure trove of trash and wondrous memory, I have found many of the tools I once saw myself using as a writer.


The pretty pens, the numerous blank journals, the hi-lighter pens, the post its, the tablets, erasers, pencils, pens, tablets, post its, pens, pencils… On and on and on and on. I’m filling a box, or ten, to donate to local schools. Because I never used any of it. From imaging myself ensconced at a regal desk, loyal typewriter at my side, stack of paper nearby…to reality. I am a mobile writer. I traipse about the county with my trusty notebook computer and park my ass wherever I want. In fact, I find it difficult to write at home anymore.


Gone are the pretty writing tools I once saw myself using. I have even discovered the glories of an online dictionary and thesaurus, though I do keep my paper copies. I am still tempted by the aisle of pens at my local office supply store, I admit it.


Hi, my name is 2nd Chance and I am a pen addict. And occasionally a pencil addict. I am a recovering blank journal addict…


Sigh. It’s hard to give them up, but reality is…I don’t use them. I resolve to set them free, for those who would use them. Who need them.


But the romance of the writing tools remain. How to pamper my creative writer with little  gifts, little reminders that I am a writer? Well, I decorate my notebook computer with bright pirate stickers and a memorable parrot card… I keep my simple tablets with handy MS notes at my side, covered with rubber stamps, all of a pirate nature. My portable calendar is another victim of my mania for pirate stamps… (I am a writing pirate and pirate writer, after all. So writing and piracy go hand in hand…)


A bookshelf in my bedroom is full of reference books. From piracy facts and fancy to erotic instruction of the most twisted nature. Books of maps, a book of royal family lines, several treatises on dirty words. Travel books of the Caribbean, languages I like to use bits of… It’s an interesting jumble. (Found a great new book Sherrilyn Kenyon, The Writers Digest Character Naming Sourcebook. Has a new spot on this stuffed bookshelve. I really love this book!)


I once imagine myself with the great quill pen, scratching away at paper, the quintessential romantic picture of a writer. A drink by my side. A lovely bit of pink wine a stemmed glass.


Replaced by a noisy Starbucks, a melted drink and window with a view. It works for me!


What works for you? We know Sin delights in the heavy pounding of music. Some must have quiet. But what of the physical treats? The pens, the tablets, the software programs. Do you collect charms of your genre? Wear them on a bracelet and glance at them now and then to inspire you? Stickers? Stamps? Figurines of Captain Jack that chatter at you when you push a button? (Oops, better hide that from Hellion…) I’m curious, how do you gift your inner creative writer? What gifts do you give yourself? It’s Friday, let’s play!


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Clean Up, Aisle Three!


I’m in revision.

I know.  Groan, groan. 

Of all the post-writing things, I find revision to be the most intimidating.  Synopsis and query writing—daunting, yes.  But everything pales behind reading through 300 pages or so of your work—multiple times usually—and trying to figure out if it sucks as bad as you thought. 

Here’s my take on revision. 

There are four different variations of revisers.  I’m going to do this like the Myers-Briggs personlity test, with a couple different dichotomies.

*Disclaimer – this is only my opinion.  This is based on no real scientific methodology, only my own general observations.  In that vein, these observations are worth what you’re paying for them.

Ahem.  So.  Let me begin.

The first variable is the DURING writing phase.

During writing, either you’re a Vomit-It-Out (V) or you’re a Revise-As-You-Go (R).

Vomit-It-Out (V) – these writers just write full tilt, no holds barred.  They do not pass Go, they don’t collect any money (at least not until publication, of course).  The ideology: that if you get it on the page, you’ll at least have something to work with.  This is the “we can’t revise a blank page” crowd a la the Nora.  Advantage – Lots of forward progress, no pause to angst.  Disadvantage – No way to know if material is “quality” or not.

Revise-As-You-Go (R) – these writers can’t move on until what they’ve written is up to their standards.  They revise/edit each scene they write, sometimes returning to adjust/revise/edit again.  The ideology: it’s hard to keep going if there isn’t a strong foundation.  Advantages – Not as much revising later.  Disadvantages – Plenty of time to stress over every word.

The second variable is the AFTER writing phase.

After writing, either you’re a Wait-It-Out (W) or you’re a Do-It-Now (D)

Wait-It-Out (W) – these writers step away from a manuscript for a prescribed period of time before starting revisions.  The ideology:  that time will allow the writer to return to the work with a fresh perspective.  And maybe a little distance will give a little emotional distance from every word.  Advantages – Maybe a little time will make a writer’s eyes fresh.  Disadvantages – Sometimes absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder.  And many writers are eager to get submitting.

Do-It-Now (D) – these writers dive right in to revisions without any honeymoon period after completing their manuscripts.  The ideology: that time away might make them forget the things they wanted to fix.  Advantages – Done with revisions faster.  Disadvantages – No emotional distance from manuscript before making adjustments.


With my first manuscript, I was a VW reviser.  I vomited the second half of that manuscript, assuming that I’d come back after I was finished.  And lots of people told me that I should wait to revise.  So I waited a month.  Well, after a month, I started reading it and I realized that I didn’t really love the story anymore.  Even though I’d written myself notes, I didn’t find them particularly useful to my revisions and I found that the time away from my story had just distanced me emotionally from it.  In a bad way. 

Also, as I was vomiting the second half, I told myself that I’d fix what was wrong later.  But I didn’t know that I’m not the kind of person who rewrites well, especially at the end.  I found the extensive amount of revising/rewriting so daunting, I wasn’t even sure it was worth going through the pain of it.

With this manuscript, I was a RD reviser.  I edited each scene as I finished it.  And when I felt something was wrong, I stopped and fixed it, including three (four?) adjustments to motivation and two adjustments to two different internal conflicts.  And I revised the entire thing—at least what I felt was wrong—right after I finished.  I’m guessing as I ask more people to read, I’ll do more rounds of revisions as I go.  But this worked a lot better for me. 

So, what kind of reviser are you?  What do you think are the advantages/disadvantages of each of these revising methods (in your experience)?  Anyone else adjust their process as they’ve grown?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Caution: Construction Zone

Flaming Zombies!Seriously, you can't get any funnier than a picture of flaming zombies. Has nothing to do with my blog.  Music of the week:  Pin Up- Evans Blue- The Pursuit Begins When This Portrayal of Life Ends
PS: I have to say, Happy Birthday, to my little sister today. Happy birthday, punk.

I'm very linear in my methods of writing. I like the unknown that unfolds in front of me while I write from one scene to the next. I like how my characters whisper to me exactly what they want to say and how they want everything to go down. It's not exact science, it's not neat and pretty and tied with a hot pink bow, but it's me. It's how I roll.

Well at least how I used to roll.

Writer me has been in complete chaos lately. She hears a scene and she goes with it- very old school me. She hears the next and she moves on- also very old school me. Except, the old school me and the writer me lately is not meshing. I'm writing all out of order. This doesn't sound like it may be as big of a deal as I'm making it, except, I don't write a plot out and outline and do those chart thingys or read those books y'all are always trying to get me to pick up. So, I have no direction. No writing compass to guide me forward and I'm feeling a bit like I'm in limbo while I'm stumbling around writing character POV's that don't even get a POV.

Ah, the joys of first person point-of-view.

Monday, I stumbled upon a quote of my semi-villain, Kady, telling me it's so easy to destroy everything once you know how to apply the right amount of pressure. I felt like that maybe I was meant to write the ending first. Not to mention my unfortunate dangerously vivid imagination light bulb went off after being wickedly prompted yesterday and I had to write something about a button up shirt and a dark hallway between Kiki and Dex to get it out of my head. (Nevermind that. Those two need to be separated. In a bad way.) And Ruiz can't handle Sadie. And Ash hasn't even made his presence known yet, but I'm thinking about a kidnapping in his future. *sigh* Seriously. How did I get into this mess in the first place?

I'm shaking my head at all this nonsense.

So, after a blog filled with really no substance lets talk if you write linear or nonlinear. Which do you prefer? What's the benefits of either side? Because at the moment, I'm not finding any. Readers, do you think you notice while you're reading if a writer pieced it all together at the end?

And someone, PLEASE, tell my muse vacation time is OVER.

Last I heard she was in Cabo drinking mojitos and screwing cabana boys. She's about three inches tall, wearing an "I Heart Nerds" leotard, pink tutu with matching leg warmers, pink diamond encrusted tiara and usually clutches a pink fuzzy diary with entries of her various nerd encounters. (Open at your own risk.) Her name is Ms. Scarlet Coco. If you see her, grab her by her hair and drag her ass back. And she's had her shots. So if she bites, feel free to bite back.
Monday, September 21, 2009

Anne Gracie Boards the Ship!

[Hellion racing along the deck of the ship, Captain Jack Sparrow close behind]


Jack: I don’t see why I can’t be the one to do the interview. I always do the interview.


Hellion: I know, and you always spend three-quarters of the time badgering the poor author for information why more of her heroes aren’t pirates. And do not get me started what you did to poor Teresa Medeiros. I can’t even look the poor lady in the face when we meet.


Jack: You can’t tell me she didn’t enjoy it at the time.


Hellion: [scathing glare] Regardless, you’re not interviewing Anne Gracie. [strides off] I want to maintain the illusion she may come back for a second interview.


Jack: [calling after her] In that case, don’t you think I should do the interview?


[Hellion gestures at Jack with one hand, but due to blurry camera defects, we’re unable to truly see what the communication was. Hellion enters her cabin, where Anne Gracie is waiting.]


Hellion: Anne, I’m so sorry to keep you waiting.


Anne: [holding up a feather tickler with a bemused look] I’ve been keeping myself entertained. You have quite the library. And thanks for inviting me, though you didn't need to chase off Jack Sparrow. (pout) I could have kept him occupied with this— um, yes, I was saying what a fine library you have.


Hellion: I do! Here are where I keep your books. [gestures to a midrow pile of carefully kept books] The Perfect Rake, The Perfect Waltz, The Perfect Stranger, and the Perfect Kiss; as well as your new series, the Devil Riders. I did adore Harry—that first scene where he and Nell meet and he gives her his hat and gloves? That’s a BBC movie moment there. I had images of Richard Armitage, dripping raindrops and…. [clears throat] Never mind. First let’s celebrate the good news from the Romance Writers of Australia conference. The Stolen Princess, the first in the Devil Riders series, was a finalist for Romantic Book of the Year—how did that go?


Anne: I'm very pleased to say it won! I now have a ruby trophy (It's not really a ruby, but RBY, you know, sounds like ruby and the trophy is clear and throws red gleams. More when you put some red foil behind it, LOL.) It's lovely to win the RBY because it's judged by romance readers across Australia, not members of Romance Writers of Australia, so it's not your friends being nice. LOL  And thank you for taking such good care of my books.


Hellion: Your books frequently final for categories like “Best Couple” and “Favorite Funny” and “Most Hanky Read”. First, how do you create such memorable, real characters; and two, how is it you’re able to make us laugh hysterically one moment (that scene when we first meet Gideon in The Perfect Rake comes to mind), but also cry like our hearts are breaking?


Anne:  I've always worked hard on characters because for me as a reader, it's the people in the story that matter, not so much the event. My process — and this is going to sound stupid to anyone who isn't a writer — is first finding the character and getting them to turn up on the page as a walking, talking real person, and then digging deep into what makes them tick (And no, Captain Hook, if you're listening, it's not about swallowing clocks.) So after they turn up on the page, I go back and delve into their backgrounds, the events and people in their lives who made them who they are today, and uncover their dreams, hopes, fears.


Do you want me to explain the "turn up on the page" thing? OK, when I first started to write The Perfect Rake, Gideon, the hero, was supposed to be a dark and dangerous hero of the vaguely sinister sort. That was The Plan. Only the hero who strolled onto the page, being funny and flippant and charming was Gideon. And I wrestled with him for ages, trying to make him brood and be tormented, and he just refused. So then I decided to let him have his own way, and just followed along. And I'm very glad I did. :)  It can be a terrible waste of me to plan for a certain kind of character and then find I have someone different on my hands. So I try to find them first.


 As for the comedy-to-tragedy aspect of my writing, honestly, I don't know. I think it's just part of my natural voice. When I first started writing I used to get comments from people that I couldn't have comedy and deep emotion at that same time, that I should choose. But I didn't. I've always been attracted to the Greek drama mask, with comedy looking one way and tragedy looking the other. I think life's like that: that in the midst of tragedy there is comedy, and at the heart of some comedy, there's tragedy.


Plus I'm deeply flippant at heart. Ask any of my schoolteachers. I was always getting into trouble for laughing at the wrong time.


[a scratching, knocking sound occurs at the back window; and Anne and Hellion turn to find Jack hanging upside down by a rope by one foot.]


Jack: ‘ello, ladies. Anne, my luv, I had a question.


Hellion: [warning voice] Jack.


Anne: Oh, hello Jack.... [fanning self madly with feather tickler while trying to look cool and composed. ] I'm so glaaad you er, dropped in. Ropes, eh?  Hmm. Your question, Jack?


Jack: Do you have any stories about pirates?


Anne: [as Hellion groans and covers her face with her sheaf of questions] I do have one actually, though it's not yet written. It's called Miss Hetty and the Pirate. [Hellion nudges Anne, and gives her a gimlet look. Anne continues:] Oh, er, yes, that's right. Some pirates do appear briefly in my latest book, but they're a sad, rubbishy bunch, not your sort of pirate at all...not the romantic lead kind of you." [Sighs. Fanning madly]


Hellion: Thank you, Anne, and thank you, Jack, that is quite enough. I think you should go topside and find some rum. Your motorskills are in dire need of a flagon. Back to the interview…. [Jack disappears nimbly up the rope]


Anne: He’s really quite... amusing. I see why you keep him around. [twirls feather tickler thoughtfully] Or one of the reasons, I suppose.


Hellion: [blushing] Yes, um, tell us about your new book, Anne. To Catch a Bride is the third in the Devil Riders books; and it’s Rafe’s story. [grins roguishly] Tell us a little about Rafe.


Anne: [glances at back window.] Who? Oh, Rafe! Well, Rafe is a cool, elegant regency dude, very much in control of himself — he thinks— and keeping his emotions well buttoned down. He grew up estranged from his father, an earl, and his older brother, the current earl.  He was the "spare", unneeded and unwanted. But his brother has been married for 10 years and is still childless, so it's Rafe's duty to marry. His brother finds him a rich, pretty, well born lady, and the betrothal party is planned, until Rafe discovers his brother and his bride-to-be have come to a secret, outrageous agreement. In his fury, he seizes on the first excuse to leave the country he can find, to go in search of Alicia Cleeve, the long-lost granddaughter of a family friend, lost six years ago, after her father died in Egypt. He has only a sketch of the girl aged 12 or 13, and expects it to be a wild goose-chase, but he doesn't care. Instead, he find the girl in the picture, only she's not at all what he expected...There's an extract here:


Hellion: What’s up next for you? And what is your writing process like?


Anne: I'm currently working on Nash's story. I hadn't planned to write a story for him, but an idea for him bubbled up and refused to go away, so I mentioned it to my editor and she laughed and said "Write it." He's a light-hearted, bad-boy charmer of a hero – a little like Gideon. And my heroine keeps bees.


Hellion: [swoony look] Gideon….


Anne: As for my writing process, it's not at all consistent. I either dive straight into the writing day, having woken with a scene in my head, or I fritter away half the morning on email, and blogs, "getting ready to work." Sometimes the writing flies, sometimes I have to forge grimly on, but I try to stick to my minimum of 1k a day.


I'm an "organic writer" which means I don't have it all planned out ahead. I have a rough idea of where my story's going, and I know some scenes up ahead, but the more I write the more I know my characters and sometimes a story twist pops ups and surprises me, and I like that. I also do a lot of rewriting because of heading up false trails.


And I use collage. I can't show you the collage for TO CATCH A BRIDE because it gives away too much of the story, but here's one for the Stolen Princess and one for The Perfect Kiss.


Hellion: Anne, I just wanted to thank you again for agreeing to blog with us today. I hope you will come back and visit with us again—and in the meantime, I want to encourage everyone to rush out and buy To Catch a Bride. Do you have any questions for the crew?


Anne: Thanks so much Hellion, you and Jack can drop by any time. ;) I can't think of any questions in particular, but if anyone has any questions for me, go ahead and ask. I'll do my best to respond.


You hear her crew! FIRE AT WILL! I mean, line up civilly and ask questions...and for God's sake don't take her rum. [looks around for Anne] Where did she go? Where's the feather?  And where's Jack?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Worst Idea Ever

As I’ve mentioned, kiddo and I live near the beach, and rarely actually go to the beach. The harassment I’ve received about this has guilted me into taking advantage of my location. That meant spending the afternoon walking the boardwalk, which led to the title of this blog.


So, we’re walking, and to our right, bicycles and multi-person bike carts are passing. This is when kiddo says, “Why don’t we rent one of those?”  My first reaction was, “Don’t be silly.”


But, it did look kind of fun. Like real family bonding kind of fun. And as you can guess, I caved.


Within minutes, we both declared, “THIS IS THE WORST IDEA EVER!”  My legs are still on fire, my knees have officially gone on strike, and my back has headed south for the winter. I’m not sure exactly what that means, it’s just what the goodbye note said.


We spent an HOUR pedaling a 200lb cart. (And yes, that is the four person version in the picture above.) That’s how much it weighed before we added our combined *cough* pounds to the equation.  And just as we were getting to the finish line, the large blue umbrella of the rental stand in sight, the thing chokes up and refuses to go further. The happy family behind us was nice enough to point out that my jacket was caught in the chain, which explained why my pedals would no longer turn.


Fortunately, a cart repair dude (his official title, I’m pretty sure) showed up, took the chain apart, and removed the jacket. The jacket hit the garbage can, the cart went back where it came from, and it became official, this was the WORST IDEA EVER!


Kiddo will never live this down.


Now, I have had many bad ideas in my life. It would be hard to narrow it down to just one, or even a top ten. But this week, I added another to my list. I decided to read BET ME by Jenny Crusie.  


First off, if you haven’t read this book, you must. (Though I’m pretty sure I’m the only slacker who waited this long to get to it.) The book is amazing. Abso-friggin-lutely amazing. Dialogue to die for, deep POV without losing the comedy, and characters so life-like, you expect to look over and see them sitting next to you on the couch.


So why was reading this book a bad idea? I could NEVER accomplish this. I will never be this witty, this smart, this spot on. It is official, I want to be Jenny Crusie when I grow up.


Hellie can attest to the mini anxiety attack brought on by the inner critic cocktail of the awesomeness of Crusie and my abundantly obvious limitations. But it was mini. For once, I dove back into revising, told myself to do my best, and kept going.


This isn’t to say I won’t have many more of these inferiority attacks, but I’m happy to say, I recovered from this one much quicker than I’ll recover from that damn cart. (There are now Icy Hot sleeves on BOTH knees, and they are NOT working.)


I know we talk about inner critics and intimidation and doubts around here all the time. But today, we’re talking recovery. Most everyone here has finished something, be it fanfic, a short story, a text book, or a full length novel. That means we’ve all triumphed over the doubts.


What have you accomplished that you never thought you would? Did you finish college? Did you buy that house, crochet that blanket, or bake the best cookies ever? Today is a day to brag, talk yourself up, and pat yourself on the back. And if you want to make me feel better by telling me some of your really bad ideas, feel free.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The 80s: The Ultimate Collection

There are two types of music I listen to most in my office: country music and 80s. After my student worker dramatically tried to staple herself to death after being forced to listen to George Strait (I cannot believe she has no taste), we spend a lot of time together listening to the 80s. Anyway, it got me thinking about the 80s and all my childhood crushes. I'm afraid they cannot all be listed here, but I thought I would post a few common 80s hearttrobs. You have your favorites, I'm sure, and I have mine. (The Jon Bon Jovi should not be a surprise. I still know all the words to "You Give Love a Bad Name" and will scream it in my car if it comes on the radio.)

My crush when I was five:

Did anyone love Luke Duke? I think it was the car. Bo was the driver, primarily, and I admit, I was in love with the car as much as I was in love with the man. I wore my Bo Duke shirt until it fell off in pieces. It was orange with that 80s plastic print of his picture. Best of all: he's still hot. Cute movie to see him in: Sydney White (a play on Snow White, but modern day and in college. Hilarious.)


I'm sure I could have found an authentic Jon Bon Jovi from the 80s, but did anyone want to miss this version? Please.








Before Josh Brolin did movies, he was on a little show called The Young Riders. At the time, I thought it was the epitome of excellent writing and drama. I have the first season and now appreciate that it was actually a show where they had five really hot guys standing around without their shirts, putting up fences a lot of the time. Soap operaish, yes; Emmy worthy, NO. I still think they're cute though. (Josh has aged well. Ty, not so much.)












Always loved me a bad boy. Bo Duke. Bon Jovi. Wild Bill Hickok. Now I'm not an 80s movie afficianado, because I wasn't a fan of Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, et al. Sorry, John Hughes, you weren't dark enough for me. But Rob Lowe was.











Yet if you want to talk about bad boys you were dying to take home to mom, Rob Lowe wasn't quite it. There was one who topped them all. Johnny Castle. I had that poster on my wall for years. It is still my dream to dance like that sequence for "Time of My Life", even though teaching me to dance would be an exercise in frustration for everyone involved. I make Bella (from Twilight) look like Beyonce on the dance floor.


































So, who were your teenage crushes? And are you a fan of Dirty Dancing? And how many of you are hoping your little novel is the sleeper hit like DD was? *LOL*

ANNOUNCEMENTS: Ready your tankards, lassies, the incomparable Anne Gracie will be boarding the ship on Tuesday, September 22. Anne, as you may (or should) well know, is the author of funny, three-hanky reads like The Perfect Rake, The Stolen Princess, and His Captive Lady. Her latest book is out this month: To Catch a Bride, and you better not miss it. Rafe is one dead sexy Devil Rider.
Thursday, September 17, 2009

Seasons Change and So Do I

Welcome ta Fall, mates! Well, nearly there. I was thinkin’ a decoratin’ the ship with pumpkins and autumn leaves scattered about, hang up some flickerin’ lamps and invite some black cats aboard. After all, what is fall without the advent a’ Halloween!


But Hel said flickerin’ lamps be a fire hazard. And Terrio vetoed the leaves, sayin’ we’d have ta buy a rake. (Personally, I thought the romantically inspired pirates would like a rake or two aboard… *g) Sin were all fer the black cats, said the undead monkey was gettin’ hungry. Santa thought the pumpkins were a fine idea and muttered somethin’ about pies…


Marnee didn’t like me idea a fake spiderwebs, said they might attract the real sort. Hal vetoed me quoting Edgar Allen Poe or invitin’ ravens on board cause a’ the mess. Lisa felt the faked bloody bandages were too over the top.




That’s all right by me. I can get along with jus’ the feelin’ in the air right now. Ever notice how the air changes as autumn slides inta the skin? It ain’t jus’ the anticipation a’ trick or treat and bags a’ candy. Or the spices of pumpkin pie floatin’ on the air outta Santa’s kitchen…or the knowledge that December be next on the calendar.


Autumn, fer me, is about longin’ ta rest and gathering the harvest a’ the year behind me. It be about harboring energy and preparin’ fer the long nights a’ tellin’ stories around the campfire while the winter roars outside. I love the way the light changes as the sun slides lower on the horizon. The smell a’ the first rain (granted, lots a’ ya known rain all year, but not here in California.) We don’t get hillsides full a bright fall leaves. We get a tree, here and there, that surprises up with a blast of orange or red.


I walk down ta the bluff and look out on the Pacific and it be all steel grey, pelicans keepin’ low…


There be a sense a’ anticipation in the autumn. I’m not a great fan a’ the major holidays a’ the year. They go ‘gainst me grain. We should be huddled before a fire, tellin’ tall tales and sharin’ brisk nights wit’ loved ones. Not runnin’ about tryin’ to find the perfect gift fer the new great niece/nephew who won’t even care about who I am or what I send.


So, seasons change and I find meself thinkin’ ahead ta the next year and behind ta the last year. Gatherin’ all the great things I learned and considerin’ how ta weave them inta me tales, told before the great fire. Tellin’ stories about where I been and where I be goin’. More than any other time a’ the year, this be the time a’ Sleepy Hollow and Headless Horseman, the closin’ of doors and the openin’ a the imagination. Ghost stories on cold nights. Tim Burton.


We be mammals, despite all our battles ta be more. And hibernation be buried in our DNA. Ta dream deep dreams and incorporate what got away, what we caught, what tasted best, what nearly killed us.


So, I went ta Nationals. I met Terrio, J Perry, Santa and others. I laughed, I stuck foot in mouth at least once. I went ta RT and pitched ta Tor, Kensington, Sourcebooks and Crescent Moon. I took a class at RT that made me angry and I wrote a letter ‘bout why…got me nowhere, but I had ta write it. I may pay fer it come next April.


I stayed away from home and took care a’ me Mum fer three weeks. My DH lost his job and got another one. I got a dog. I gained weight…(sigh.)


And were invited ta be a blogger on the Revenge…(yippee!)


So much stuff ta wind inta me winter tales. I anticipate fall more than I do spring. I plot and plan in the fall. I reflect and recall. And I write. More than any other season, this be mine. I even clean me house in the fall. And fix up the yard. Spring is not my active season…




Favorite Harry Potter movie? The one where the tree reflected the change of seasons and the passage a’ time. Evocative, loverly. Poignant. Love the bits in Practical Magic that show the seasons are changin’… They plant, they harvest, burning leaf pile… Sigh.


As fer me changing. I be in constant flux. I were inspired by several a’ our guests this year. I want ta get the fun back inta me writin’…stop strivin’ fer anything more than entertainment when I write. Ta tell me tales around the fire with a gleam in my eye, tossin’ in the occasional “Bwah ha ha!”


I’m not givin’ up on bein’ published, but I’m open ta what the wind might blow me way. Including some new ideas. Anyone heard a podcasting?



Do ya see change in yerself from this last year? Ya plant any seeds that are bearin’ fruit? Have ta fight off pests too much? (The Kraken is still behind the ship…he loves pests!) Any new discoveries that yer cradlin’ ta yer chest as the wheel a’ the year turns? Any favorite uses of seasonal changes ya see in the cinema or books?


More than spring, fer me, Fall is the season of anticipation. I have no idea why, but I swing with it.


And remember! Tomorrow be International Talk Like A Pirate Day! Arrrrr ta ya!