Sunday, February 28, 2010

To Each Their Own

I have abysmal taste. Ask my gay ex-boyfriend and his neighbor. They will tell you stories of my horrible, godawful taste in men, shoes, clothing, and drinks.

1.) English Bonnet movies. Masterpiece Theatre is my God. North & South; Pride & Prejudice; every version of Persuasion. Lately I've been mad about Cranford and Return to Cranford. I've been dying to get ahold of the Larkrise shows. I cannot get enough of small town England with big drama over the molehills.

2.) Country music. I'm an unabashed country music fan. And not just a modern country music fan--I love the old stuff. Like Hank William, Sr, old stuff. Long Black Veil and Green Green Grass of Home makes me cry every time I hear them; and I always laugh when I hear Saginaw, Michigan. You don't get better love songs than from a bunch of country crooners.

3.) 80s Big Hair Bands. Okay, I suppose there are some folks who can give country crooners a run for their money in love songs.

4.) The Dukes of Hazzard. Two words: Bo Duke. Two more words: Waylon Jennings. To this day, hearing the opening riff to "Good Old Boys" stops me in my tracks like a person who has been hypnotized to cluck like a chicken every time she hears the word "blue." (I don't cluck, but I am in a fog for the duration of the song.)

5.) Levi's jeans. I never feel sexier than in a pair of Levi's jeans. Not sure why because I'm sure a better cut jean is out there somewhere, but I'll never know because I think my ass looks sexiest in Levi's.

6.) Daisies. They're my favorite flower. I loathe carnations because I think they are the Flower of Death. Roses are nice, but they're kinda uptown. Daisies are the flower for a Dukes of Hazzard, country music, Levi's wearing lover.

7.) Pepsi. I can tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi, and Pepsi is superior. I believe Heaven must have soda fountains with nothing but Pepsi because God is clearly of the New Generation.

8.) Scrawny rather than brawny. I prefer my men more lanky than too muscular. Dwayne Johnson is definitely a good looking man, but the slightly weedy ones are my favorites. Especially if they're wearing Levi's and come around begging for cookies.

9.) Regency rather than Medieval. I love historicals, but I typically prefer the Regency period--even with its influx of dukes--than a knight in shining armor. Regency tends to lend itself to more rompy, humorous fiction, which is what I prefer. It's hard to laugh when your castle is about to be stolen from you.

10.) Jack Sparrow trumps Edward Cullen. Seriously, no contest.

So there you go. Some of these you may agree with; some of these you may horribly disagree; and some of these you may never have heard of at all. Whatever. The thing is we're all allowed our own list of likes and dislikes, right? This is America. We're of an age. We don't have to please anyone but ourselves at this point, right?

And we've all lived long enough to realize that if you troll about on the internet long enough, you can find a club that would probably have all the same interests as you. I'm pretty sure I could find a handful of people who liked the same things I liked. I could probably find a larger group who liked about half of what I liked. I could find a really, really large group who prefer Jack to Edward.

I know Bo'sun prefers brawny men. More power to her. That leaves more scrawny little intellectuals for me. Sin prefers angry, ANGRY music; and would be apt to ask, "Brad WHO? Oh I don't care. He probably sings something [BLEEP]." Clearly we don't have to like everything together.

I spent Friday in Barnes & Noble, touching all the books in the rows and rows of fiction. I'm sure it was the tip of the iceberg of what is available in fiction, and yet there seemed to be something for everyone. There was historical fiction set in the Revolutionary War; and contemporary fiction chick-lit where one girl goes to Italy to get over a broken heart. There was science-fiction which I skipped over entirely and couldn't tell you anything about; and there were rows and rows of the types of historicals I love to read. A lot of them in the Regency period. I'm sure a lot of them featuring dukes. There was historicals about Queen Elizabeth and Henry the VIII; novels about Joan of Kent and novels about Charles II. World War II novels. Housewives in the 1950s. Oh, and let's not forget the Navy Seals, Special Ops, or FBI novels.

I'm sure if you turned all of us loose in Barnes and Noble, we'd all walk out with something different and varied to our tastes. And all those authors are depending on that. They're depending that we all have different tastes and some of us will buy their novels. The only thing these novels really had in common was that each of these authors were passionate enough about their subject to write and revise a book about it.

A variation of Abraham Lincoln's famous line goes something like: "You can please some of the people all of the time; and you can please all of the people some of the time; but you can never please all of the people all of the time." So really you should just please yourself, and shoot for one and two. There's room in Barnes & Noble for you.

What are some of your preferences that your friends don't understand? What do you wish there was more of in fiction? And are you writing it? How is your writing going this week? (Mine is very minimal with the birthday stuff that stretched out far longer than my birthday. I'll try to have something more writing related next week!)
Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hottie of the Week - A Sure Try*

I have a new fascination. And though I’m sure after seeing the lovely men of this blog, you’re going to think you know why I am so fascinated. But you’d be wrong. Well, mostly wrong.

I watched another rugby game this weekend. Last week, I watched France beat Ireland. Who’d a thunk there were large, hunky Frenchmen? Really, I never guessed. But these guys were burly. This weekend, I watched Ireland bounce back to beat England. It was close, but Ireland totally outplayed them.

So, anyone find a new fascination lately? Fell in love with those Norwegian Curling pants maybe?

*A TRY in rugby is the same as a touchdown in American football. Only it’s worth less points. And is much tougher to get.
Thursday, February 25, 2010

This Might Be a Bit Too Big…


You ever have that feeling that you might have bitten off more than you could chew? I know, it’s a well-known saying, but I think it can also be used to illustrate the writer’s dilemma.

I’m creating worlds, as I’ve mentioned before…(blogs are by definition supposed to be about personal experience, right? I worry sometimes that I’m being a big egocentric, always writing ‘me’ blogs…)

OK, for the sake or being different, let me talk about some other writer. Some other…unknown writer. She starts a story…tra la, la, la, la. Things are going along swimmingly. Great story, fun characters, nice plot… La, la, la. La. L…a.

Ooops. Ran out of plot at 65,000 words. Uh, this is supposed to be a big book. Hmmm. Well, this isn’t so much too big a bite as not really enough to satisfy. (What do they call that on the Food Network or Bravo’s Top Chef? Some French word that is supposed to mean one bite. Scar a bouche? (A prize for whoever knows this word!) Or for those of us uncultured…a snack.)

The market is tough for a manuscript this…uh, short. (Unless the eventual folderol known as the Harlequin Mess ever gets straightened out. Harrumph.)

OK. So, this writer says to herself, “Chance…” Uh, I mean, “Self! You need to do something to fatten this puppy up. It’s a good story, it’s a fun story. The characters are cool. Let’s get going!”

Self re-opens the document and begins to work on her 65k. Decides that isn’t really the ending…it was too quick. Too easy. She throws in more angst, more drama, another killing, kidnapping, oooh! Yeah, I’ll add a bigger villain! I mean, she adds a bigger villain! An über villain! Not just a threat to the heroine, but a threat to the WORLD!

On a roll! Really moving now! Yes! Toss in this plot line, this secondary couple! This… Wow. This has gotten a bit…large. From a snack to a buffet table.

Now, I like a buffet. I mean, she likes a buffet. And the market is better for a more fully developed manuscript. What market there is at present.

The rewrite begins, because this buffet needs a theme, a sense of organization. The entrees need to be near the end of the line, the deserts at the end, the salad at the beginning… (And I’m off on another metaphor! Damn!)

The gist of this blog is about starting projects that grow out of control. (Like this blog.) I do watch those cooking shows and time and again, it’s the chef that starts out too complicated that gets booted off. Or, as the picture illustrates, you start off thinking you can tackle this and then…wow, that is a big ship! And we’re small pirates.

I feel this way in general about writing at least once a month. That I’ve started something that is way too big for me. Then I get over that. But the Work In Progress will loom up with a similar theme… I’ve started something that is way too big for me. I get over that. Editing? I’ve started something…

You get the picture.

Everyone has these feelings. Every time we start an endeavor that seems overwhelming in the attention it needs. I’ve been guilty, many times in my life, of starting something with the best of intentions and then sucking at the follow through. Sometimes it works out anyway, despite my own unique way of running-away. (My house, for example…it’s still going up in value, even in this market… I live ½ from the Monterey Bay. I could let the walls fall down and it’s still going to be worth moolah.) (No, I’m not letting the walls fall in, but the paint is bad, the outside is two-toned, the yard is a jungle (and not in a pretty way…) … we redid the kitchen, never cook…. Blah, blah, blah.) Best of intentions, rotten follow through. (If I did the follow thru, the value would really climb! Whoop!)

Other endeavors I’ve managed to run away from? Making jewelry. I liked forging, soldering, sawing, filing… Casting. What was it I didn’t follow through with? Well, I really sucked at polishing. And pretty much sucked at marketing. But the big downfall was polishing. The buffing, the compounds, the patience to make something shiny instead of just…sorta shiny. Me? Sucked. Me? Don’t make jewelry anymore.

Singing. I like to sing. I have a good voice. I took classes when I moved away from my beloved, afore-mentioned, voice instructor. But…no follow-through. Didn’t look for someone who would like a voice to go with that guitar, that piano, that mandolin. Didn’t reach out, find venues for open mics…look for people who might need a voice to go with that… Uh huh. Me. Rotten follow through. I sing in the car now, that’s about it.

Now, I’m writing, and working so blessedly hard at not sucking with follow through. I’m learning how to polish a MS. I’m learning how to talk to editors/agents…write those awkward letters… “Remember me? You requested a partial from… Have you had a chance…”

Sigh. I think I suck at it, but I’m doing it. I sent some stuff out way too early…but I’m not going to just pull it. I love A Caribbean Spell, and I’ll push it until I find someone willing to work with me on making it sparkly. (Thanks fer the feeback, Q!) And I work to make it better periodically. And I work very hard at making sure the next manuscript I put out there is closer to perfect.

I constantly fight the feelin’ that I have bitten off more than I can chew. That I have a tiger by a tail. That this ship has too much sail… (I love metaphors!)

So, your turn! You feel often like you’ve over-reached yourself? Do you see a pattern in your life of being a bit…overly ambitious? True or not? (Because in truth, we are all brilliant and sparkle like the stars we are.) You know where your weaknesses lie? Am I so over the map I’ve lost you? (That’s OK, I get lost, too.) You ever read something where you can tell the author really overdid it with that buffet? You juggling too many chainsaws? (Can I fit in another metaphor?)


Blare the trumpets it's.....Cap'ns Birthday!

The undead monkey screeches, swipes his grubby paws through the icing on the cake, and darts off. Chance keeps the drinks coming, and keeps all the pirates loaded.

Cap'n Hellie stumbles up to the front, and Sin helps her stand on a whiskey barrel. "Attention crew! No one, and I mean no one, was supposed to know!"

Hal leans over to Marn: "How much has she had to drink?"

Marn: "Not that much. What's Chancey putting in these drinks?"

Cap'n Hellie totters on the Whiskey barrel, but regains her footing with the help of one of the cabin boys. "Thank you, dear. If you stick around, I'll thank you properly."

The cabin boy pinched her butt as he walked away.

Ter raised her glass: 'Now this is turning into a party!"

"Noooo!" Cap'n wailed. "No one was supposed to know!"

Sin and Chance, at the bar, looked at each other and burst out laughing. "Right, secrets on a pirate ship. Does she think she's commanding a crew who actually listens to her?"

"Apparently not!" Hellie sat down on the barrel to avoid to avoid tottering again and re-adjusted her birthday tiara.  "I thought I'd fooled you all last week with saying I was taking time off for no special reason."

Ter refilled her glass and whispered to Sin, "Right, like that was going to actually work."

"But the point," Marn said, "Is that now we get to have a party! Where'd the cake go?"

"I think the monkey ate it," Hal said.

Santa came rushing up from the galley, J hot on her heels. "I saved the cake! I saved the cake!"

J held up the undead monkey by his scrawny neck. "And I caught the little bastard." Icing coated his face while he squeaked away.

"Okay!" Hal said. "Now it's a freakin party!"

Happy birthday to Hellie! Who wants to party with us today? Chance, what are you putting in those drinks? Santa, this cake is delicious!  Who put these decorations--they're awesome! So Hellie, what did you decide to do with your time off? Johnny's at the bar. He seems sad waiting for you. He has a very special birthday present to give you!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


(Sorry, no musical influences for the week. I’m not Sin. She’s off playing somewhere other than the ship, and I graciously took over for the day. Sorry. No angst. No music. No murder. Or thoughts of murder. Live with it.)

            2nd Chance


On with the blog!

We were all newbies once. We all took the first step to a conference or a convention or an RWA meeting or a classroom at one time…stepped into that room and wondered if the big neon sign above us, shouting out TOTAL IGNORANT BOOB was working.

Admit it, we all have these signs.

I know how terrified I was at my first event. The Romantic Times Booklovers Conference in Pittsburgh, April of 2008. I was lucky. I’d signed up for the Aspiring Author workshop and one thing Judi McCoy does brilliantly is set up a bulletin board for everyone to join who takes her class. Months in advance.

So, we all had a chance to babble about our nerves, to address the questions about what we needed to bring to class a bazillion times, how to format our writing… OMG! What if we do it wrong???? We’ll be cast into no-more-chances hell and never see daylight again! Nooooooo!

Yeah, total chaos and lots of diving into the chocolate bins. Would have been much worse without the BB. As it was, because of that BB, I arrived to meet Jane in person. We’d already found common ground on the BB and started a friendship apart from that link.

Last year, Judi asked Jane and me (should that be Jane and I? These grammar things confuse me sometimes…) Anyway, she asked us to join her newbie board as a pair of experienced students who could help her, and them.(I’ve come to the conclusion this gives Judi more time to write and helps her save patience for the convention. Smart woman!)

We agreed. And we had a blast. Made friends with most of them, several we are still corresponding with. And several I lured to the Revenge. (Hi! Sabrina!) We were told by many of them how our joking back and forth set them at ease and made them look forward to not only everything they’d learn, but how much fun they’d have. And they weren’t worried about arriving at the con feeling terribly alone.

Jane and I both felt this was our opportunity to give back to the community. And to help out with making sure the newbies don’t feel as scared as we did, despite knowing each other when we arrived in Pittsburgh. (I mean, what if we’d really disliked each other on site? What then? It could have happened that way!)

We’re doing it again this year, another crop of newbies to encourage and work with. And Jane e-mails me, “Were we this freaked out?”

And I e-mail her back, “Yes! Of course we were!”

How quickly we forget! Granted, what freaked me out didn’t freak Jane out. And vice versa. But yes, we both freaked about different things.

In Orlando, it was fascinating to see how certain newbies prepared for the conference. Sabrina had a color coded notebook of all the panels, when, who…she was über organized! Willie had a pack to haul away books and I think she ended up with around 200 in that pack. (Not all freebies.) Kathy and Darelle, a niece and aunt, put together the most amazing costumes for the fairy ball! Damn, I wanted to steal that crackle glass globe atop her staff!

We’re looking forward to what this next group will surprise us with. Last year, we had goody bags for them, a total surprise for Judi, who cried at seeing her newest book included in the bags. A surprise Jane’s husband sprang for.

(The dog that inspired Judi to create her new dogwalker series passed away right before the first book made it to the bookstores. Bryan, Jane’s DH, is a big softie and wanted to contribute something to make Judi feel better. This box of books arrives at Jane’s house from an unknown benefactor and we didn’t know until months after the conference that they came from Bryan. Now, that’s romantic!)

We filled the bags with some snacks, chocolate, small notepads, pencils, snacks, pens, bookmarks I made printed with the most basic of the acronyms that had confused me in the beginning…just fun stuff. Oh, and buttons. And info about the Revenge!

And several of the newbies had visited Disneyworld before the con. Brought me a pirate flag pin and Jane got a TinkerBell mug. Sweet girls!

Even though Jane and I aren’t published, or agented, we feel it’s important to do what we can with what we know to help out the how ever we can. Jane, the insane one, is going to volunteer at the con this year. I might tag along, but nothing official. I hate being scheduled at these things…

So, you remember what it was like to be so brand new you didn’t know what HEA meant? (I do.) How did you feel the first time you walked into a conference, did it feel to you like everyone knew everything while you knew nothing? (I did!) Have you been to a conference yet? Worried, at all? (I admit, I still worry.) How do you give back or plan to give back to the writing community?
Monday, February 22, 2010

When Less is More

by J Perry Stone

I’ve been noticing, lately, a wide-spread habit of chronic over-doing. Weddings where the brides walk down the aisle to such bombastic, over-the-top music, the trumpets fairly blast them into the carpet runner. Movies where the special effects are so exaggerated, the audience is technologically tortured. I call these movies “nap time” by the way.

Even a week ago, after writing my grandfather’s obituary, the part-time editor of the village newspaper called wanting to “beef it up” by adding the names of his parents (!), the spouses of his four children, as well as the names of his six grandchildren and their six children. The poor readers! Ever read the catalogues in Homer’s Iliad? Snooze-fest.

As Americans we tend to over-do. So much so, it’s a part of our stereotype. We think if a little is good, surely a truckload is better. As a garlic-loving cook, as well as a woman with a big mouth, I’m certainly the worst offender. As a writer, probably more so, but as a reader? I'm getting weary.

Are we losing the substance of our stories in an assault of bells and whistles? Why am I closing books only to feel as though I’ve been trapped in a Chuck E Cheese during a power-surge?

I point to a couple trends.

First exaggeration: sex. Now I’m no prude and get pretty frustrated if my romance novel doesn’t provide me with at least one satisfying consummation scene. Two, even better. That said--for God’s sake publishing world!--five sex scenes in a 350 page book does not spicy sensuality make. I’ve said it before but when I read about the poor heroine getting jack-hammered over and over again, all I can think is, “How did they treat urinary tract infections in Regency England?” It isn’t the number of times the hero’s tool makes an appearance, but the emotional roil that gives a story its spice. If you don’t agree, dear writer, then I shall have to inform you that your hero’s tool bored me to tears. And frankly, as a romance writer, a boring penis is a first-degree offense.

Second exaggeration: Ego writing. Ever read a story where you were painfully aware of the author indulging herself in her own clever wit? Nothing irks me more. I can feel you, Ms. Author, inserting yourself in the story, but I don’t want you making a cameo in my escape. The story isn’t about you. It’s about the characters.

Maybe I’m just being pissy, but is a little restraint, subtlety and taste to know when less is more asking too much?

Consider this post your permission to bitch about it. What has been over-done for you lately?

(Note: my fashion journalist sister says over-doing is only acceptable when it comes to jewelry. Here I quite agree.)
Sunday, February 21, 2010

What Joan Rivers Can Teach Us About Revisions

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately, thinking of things to do with my time off on Thursday and Friday. I took time off with no particular vacation hot spot in mind; just wanted to be free to do Hellion Happy Things. Incidentally refining the list of Hellion Happy Things has been quite entertaining for several evenings, as I prioritize what I really want to do.

Most of the list involves girl stuff. Hair cut, eyebrow grooming, hair dying, and a pedicure. And some wine drinking. Just basic: “I want to loll around all day, pretending I’m a New Jersey housewife.” Minus the tanning. (And no vajazzling, so don’t bother asking.) If you saw me right now, you’d realize why all these activities made my list. Spring is coming, by God. And before Spring gets here, I need to make a half effort to actually not frighten strangers with what I look like now. It’s bad. Kathy Bates from Misery bad.

My hair style’s grown out; my eyebrows are crazy; my toenails look boring; and I’ve got a general malaise where Winter is concerned that I’m hoping some laughter with girlfriends and a bottle of wine will cure. The problems are plain and obvious and they’re things I can fix. Or more honestly, my checkbook can fix.

Then as I was making my list, I had a mini-epiphany: when you leave things alone for three months, it’s a lot easier to see what needs to be fixed.

Consider a finished manuscript. Once I finished my first manuscript, all I saw were articles constantly harping to leave your manuscript alone for at least 6 weeks (better three months) before you do revisions. But no one ever wants to do that, do they? No. They want to do it now. They want to polish and polish and then send it out in the world (which of course I did) for everyone to love it.  And which of course nobody did. At the time, I was dejected by this global rejection, but now I can see the point.

I realize now a lot of our efforts to polish and polish newly finished manuscripts is like sending Joan Rivers New Jersey Housewives out to find husbands when they’ve spent the last month in a spa. They’re too tanned, too false, too plucked, and too alike. There is nothing natural anymore because they spent all their time looking in one of those mirrors that magnifies your pores by ten times. They fix the molehills instead of the mountains. They lose their inner sparkle. They’re husks of their real selves.

I beg you: learn from Joan Rivers. Don’t start cutting right away! Let your natural beauty rest and shine for a while, then carefully and prudently correct where correction is needed. And don’t overpluck. Do not turn your manuscript into a husk of its former glory because you can’t step away long enough to look at it objectively.

I realize a lot of us like to write cleanly, edit as we go—and I’m not trying to change that. That works for a lot of writers; and if it works, don’t tinker with it. (Bull Durham: don’t fuck with a winning streak. I get that.) But once you’ve written your first clean draft; once you’ve finally gotten to the end—let the damned thing sit the Winter in a drawer before you run it through its final polish. It’s a lot easier to see the obvious when you do.

Have you ever overplucked one of your manuscripts? How do you keep yourself from editing too soon? How do you feel about eyebrows? What things do you like to do to get ready for Spring and chase away the blues of a long Winter? And if you had a day off to do whatever you wanted, what would you do? (You don’t get extra brownie points if you virtuously say: “I’d write all day.” I won’t believe you.)
Saturday, February 20, 2010

Hottie of the Week - Men of the Hour

If you’ve seen anything about the Olympics, the men in this blog should look quite familiar. Cute as they may be, the fact they’re sporting some fancy new bling doesn’t hurt matters at all.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Me Anniversary

And I missed it. So, in honor of me first blog…back on January 23rd, 2009…

What I Have Gained From My Year on the Revenge


1) I thought it would be fun. And it is fun! I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, from our guests and from those who visit and babble along with us. Yes. The mysteries of glittery hoohas, the allure of a bedazller… And actually useful stuff. I’m still not finished with my picking away at the question of genre and what it all MEANS! I think that is my eternal quest, much like that of the Holy Grail.

But my mind delights in skipping and dancing along the way to figuring something out. Anything, for the most part.

For example…

Earlier this week I sat across the kitchen table with my 70-something Mother, discussing the origins of cuss words and  how I found it interesting how the varied ways words used to describe genitalia somehow became insults. I find topics like this fascinating. Not totally sure what Mom thought, though she did chuckle once or twice.

Any day is a good day when I can make Mom chuckle.

So, the delightful back and forth of this blog suits me quite well. And if the discussions sometimes turn into not much more than I-like-this-so-there…well, it’s still interesting. Then I sit back and contemplate why that was the answer!

Yes, Hel. I contemplate not just my navel, but all navels! I am an equal opportunity navel contemplator.

The blog stimulates my mind. Thank you! I hope it stimulates yours.

2) I thought the blog would help me build a platform to use when I get published. I still think it will work that way. I do a lot of wandering around examining writing trends, and one is about the entire idea of an author platform. I see several panels at RT on platform building, on web presence, on how to use the technology available to build an audience, even if you aren’t pubbed yet…and about branding. Not sure yet what that one is all about, but I look forward to exploring it.

I’ve spoken before about putting together a video book pitch and posting it on YouTube. I’m working on the script and hope to have it up before RT. Because I think it will be fun, not because I think it will work to get me an offer. I’m even going to dress up in all my pirate finery! Stand with the Pacific at my back, look distant and all romantic. Hee, hee.

It has to be fun or I’m not going to do it. (Though I can’t make that work with synopsis writing, blast.)

As for the idea of branding… I wonder if it’s about things like Christie Craig and her hats… I suspect it isn’t. But I was recently working on business cards to take to RT and put together a card that I felt spoke of how I see myself. More than a pirate, but writer who fully embraces the anarchy of piratatude in how I write, what I write, etc.

I chose a motto of sorts… Sailing the Seas of Adventure. And I claimed the genre of fantasy. (But I’m not through contemplating it or discussing it! Fair warning to all!)

I came to all of this through my time on the Revenge. The identity I found here is my writer identity. And I love it!

Thank you!

3) Friends. I’ve found friends. Terrio, who reads the stuff I send her and comes back with such intensely common sense she stuns me sometimes. (I keep asking her to marry me. She keeps putting me off, sly girl!) Sin, who is my musical guru and sends me music to inspire my muse. Hellion, who writes brilliant blogs on how to navigate the waters of a very complex writing sea. Halleigh, who is so academically brilliant it’s scary. And her research! Damn! Marnee – the master juggler. Writing, motherhood…a real inspiration. J. Perry, Santa, Lisa…all ladies that follow their dream, forging their own path.

Sometimes it’s slow, sometimes it’s hard, but we all work our sails the best we can. And Melissa, Julie, Quantum, Sabrina and all those who come along for the ride… I adore you all, even if I don’t list your name!

My world is so much larger for stowing away on the Revenge and wheedling my way into a one day a week chance to pontificate from the bar stool.

Thank you all!

And here’s a rum toast to you all! Scotch for you, Q!

To the Romance Writers Revenge! Long may she sail!

What do you find draws you back to the Revenge? You have anything particular you found here that assist you in finding your heart’s ideal? Any mottos spring brilliantly to mind? Any thoughts on whether a blog assists a non-pubbed author as much as a pubbed writer? Wanna wish me a belated happy anniversary? ;-)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Playing with Assumptions

I started my new story a few weeks ago after fighting off the muse as long as I could.  I’m nervous about it though and not just because there’s not a hint of paranormal about it.  That definitely isn’t helping, of course.  How will I solve problems between characters if they can’t even use magic or ESP?

No, I’m worried because my heroine, in a straight Regency, comes to realize that she likes being sexually liberated.  She was a courtesan for years, even begins the story as a courtesan, and when she’s able to get out of that profession, she realizes she’s not able to play at being proper now.  She’s worked hard to make herself financial stable.  She doesn’t feel like playing a role for society.  In fact, she ends up seducing the hero, who’s much more concerned about how society views him than she is.

So, ultimately, my heroine is the rogue and my hero is the prim maiden (without the virginity thing).

And in true romance fashion, my maiden softens my rogue and my rogue brings out the recklessness in my maiden.  Their genders are just reversed.

But honestly, I’m nervous of how it’s going to play out.  I’m messing with conventions that are pretty firmly entrenched and, like all times when messing with convention, it has the possibility to backfire in my face.  Crafting my characters has been interesting, challenging.  A lot of fun.  But will it work out?  Dunno yet.

Have you ever messed with a major romance convention?  Did it work out or not so much?  What authors do a good job of turning convention on their ears?  And how do you even feel about the fact that there are conventions at all?
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What Are Friends For?

Hells and I met up for our monthly writing meeting the second Saturday of the month like usual. Goals had been set (and almost met!), agendas planned, food made and topics ready; and I brought a guest. None other than the GPS. Through the years, the GPS and I have been the closest of friends and the fiercest of allies, yet both of us struggle to portray that type of character on paper. Hells was gracious enough to allow the GPS aboard again to bring you the topic of friends and what you would and wouldn't do for them.


The Grand Pixy Sita here again bringing you the latest news from Booty magazine. I’ve got the hottest scoop on the new rage, Vajazzling. Some of you may remember the bedazzler. If you owned or operated a bedazzler, you will be more familiar with this new fad. If you’re not, maybe you can remember the phase where everyone was covering things with rhinestones. It was all about the bling; cell phones, cameras, PDAs, etc. Well, this fad is the beautiful and sparkling combination of both.

The world of the vajayjay has never looked brighter. I am headed out to investigate this brave new world and see what kind of people are really into this new taboo. Are there shops like body piercing? Is this a strictly DIY project? Is it a closet, I’m only going to trust my best friend, project?

It didn’t take much research to determine this was a DIY project. DIY with a close personal friend. (Though the tattoo artist seemed game, I didn’t feel I could trust him. Call me paranoid.) So I decided to ask my friends. They’re game, right? They’d take a bullet for me. What’s a little hot box blinging amongst friends?

As luck would have it, I happened to be flying past the RWR and was able to drop by and see my good friends Hells and Sin. A couple bottles of rum, and I’d have more material than I would ever need for my article. Jazzling Amongst Friends—I could see the title now. While I hoped they would have some insight for my article, I secretly hoped one of them had been in the closet and now had a sparkling hooha they were willing to show off like a sequined purse.

“So, Sin, have you heard of Vajazzling?”

“Have you been drinking and flying again?”

“You know, Sin,” Hells piped up, “We were blogging about it last week. In the comments. You know… the sparkles… down… well… there… you know… it.”

“So, Hells, you know about it, eh?  Have you secretly had it upgraded lately?” I was simply drooling in anticipation. A break in the story! Pixy dust was flying everywhere as my sweet little wings were buzzing in the air.

“NO. Are you kidding Sita? Why on earth would I have that done? Can you imagine the conversation of explaining where I’d want the rhinestones put? Apparently I’m the only person on this ship who refers to my special place as an it. No, thank you.”

Who knew the Captain was such a sharer?

“Well… if you ever wanted to really make your special place special—“ how I kept from laughing I don’t know—“I just so happen to have some adhesive and some beautiful blue jewels. We could have fun.”

Hells gave me a Look. “So I could have a matching blue box to go with my boyfriend’s blue….”

Sin leapt into the fray, clearly concerned for my safety. Hells was looking like someone who’d pull the wings off flies, let alone mouthy pixies. “Hells, I told you Sita would do it if you asked. She is such a freak like that.” Okay, maybe she didn’t love me that much. She had a hateful smile on her face.

Still, if she was reckless enough to step in front of the Captain, she’d surely be up for a little harmless redecorating. What was this really but a sparkly version of a bikini wax? If you could have a bikini wax done without blinking an eye, what was the big deal about gluing on crystals?

“You know, Sin, I’m not always that predictable. I’m actually trying to get out of the smut business and work for a real publication like the Treasure Chest. Unfortunately I’m having some trouble with my real investigative writing. Apparently my editors and my agent feel like I’m only suited to be the star reporter for Booty magazine. It’s not like I’ve done anything that wild. It’s not like I’ve uploaded my own video to Argtube or anything. No one has any official record of me doing anything raunchy to me or anyone else. Especially not that hot little thing I was stalking a while back. Come on, you guys have to help me. I really need a story—a human interest story about the power of friendships—to break my way in… Right after we vajazzle Hells.” I batted my eyelashes. “You know, for the sake of friendship.”

Sin and I both had a devilish look on our faces, but Hells merely drew her sword and gave the Look again. “Don’t even think about it. We’re not that good of friends.” Then she left. Poor crabby Captain. She could use some bling for her box. Then she could stop calling it an it.

“You know, Sita, if you come anywhere near me with those jewels of yours, I’ll kill you.”

“Don’t worry, Sin, we aren’t that good of friends.”

So my fellow pirates, help a fellow Pixie out: how do you write believable friendships? The kind of friendships that last and are true, the kind where you’d walk through hell and back, or in this case, let someone vajazzle you?
Monday, February 15, 2010

It's Not Always About The Medal

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am thoroughly engrossed in the Olympics. Every day there’s another athlete to admire. Another amazing triumph. And unfortunately, in these games, there has also been tragedy.

All of this means there is no shortage of stories and inspiration. From the pairs skaters who have been a couple for more than five years, yet compete against each other, to the speed skater who less than six months ago nearly ended his career at the Olympic trials when his own skate sliced his left thigh open.

There’s the Japanese figure skater who had to defect TO Russia to pursue her Olympic dream. Though many of her countrymen consider her a traitor, she poured her heart onto the ice and fulfilled her dream, proving she made the right choice. Maybe the only choice. And we can’t forget the Georgian Olympians, making the difficult decision to go forward and compete, while mourning the loss of one of their own.

The writing material is endless. Love on the ice. Love on the slopes. Love across borders or even in the stands. How could you not find an abundance of HEAs in a place where dreams are coming true every day?

But there’s more than writing material to be found. Many of these athletes know they will not be leaving Vancouver with a medal. For these athletes, it’s not about accumulating gold, silver or bronze. It’s about competing. It’s about saying “I was there.” It’s about doing something they love at the highest level, and making the memories that will last a lifetime.

When I think about getting published, I never think of best seller lists or even awards. I know I’m not in contention for any of these things. But I do want to be able to say “I was there.” I will know I wrote a book, made it the best I could, and someone thought enough of it to publish it. Or not, I was still there.

Olympic athletes can teach us a great deal about work, dedication, and dreaming. Everyone who competes is a winner. And all of us who write are winners too. So you never see your name on the NYT list. Or maybe you don’t even see your name on a book cover. It doesn’t matter. You’re writing a book, telling a story, and chasing your dreams.

You’ll always be able to say, “I was there.”

Anyone else watching the games? Any stories brewing that involve flying downhill on a set of skis, straight into the waiting arms of their soul mate? Or maybe a reunion story in which two athletes fell in love four years ago and haven’t seen each other since? Let’s throw around some ideas.

PS: I believe KD Lang’s version of Hallelujah plays on a loop at the Pearly Gates. Absolutely amazing.
Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Deadliest Sin

I’m not a Catholic, but I am looking forward to the fish fries that are going to be available between now and the end of Lent. (I’m a freak for Captain D’s; I won’t deny it.) And as it is getting to be that time of year where we think about the areas of our lives we wish to improve upon, because no one is perfect, I have to confess: I am a terrible student.

I’m taking a class. Simple. 3 weeks; just email; you’re not getting a grade. It’s a course on secrets. Secrets we keep; why we keep secrets; repercussions of those secrets being revealed—the whole shebang. Yes, the class I had everyone vote on a couple weeks ago. I’m in it; and I’m enjoying it.

And now I’ve remembered I’m a terrible student.

Here are the reasons why:
1)    The homework actually makes me think hard about my characters, digging deep beneath some layers and revealing vulnerabilities. This is a problem because I like to think of myself as the sort of general who wouldn’t send his troops out to run over a hill he wasn’t willing to run over himself. And I’m not remotely willing to run over that fucking hill. My layers and vulnerabilities are going to continue to be buried and ignored and left alone—and I swear to God, if you try to hug me, I’ll rip off your arm and club you with it. So I’m trying to do homework and make my characters do things and discuss things I wouldn’t be do or discuss if you paid me. I feel like a hypocritical therapist. And it’s no good pointing out the characters don’t actually exist, because they do.

2)    Not only do I not like digging deep for vulnerabilities, I don’t like sharing them with the rest of the class. I couldn’t avoid it forever; the teacher was nagging. I settled down in my chair and figured out some secret stuff for Adam and the rest; I was most comfortable discussing Lucifer’s vulnerabilities. Finally satisfied with my results, at least to a degree, I realized I needed to post this to the rest of a class. A class of my peers, who I had only met by sending out a one-paragraph “hi-howdy-how-are-you” meet and greet. I don’t know these people. I don’t know their judgments or knee-jerk pet peeves. I might be sitting in a room of fundamentalists for all I knew and I was going to send out my characters’ vulnerabilities to these potential jackals? Not only am I a hypocritical therapist, I’m a horrible therapist, ratting out her clients to a bunch of strangers.

3)    My latent Hermione Granger gene. You know the gene I’m talking about. The one every hyper-excelling perfectionist has beating beneath her breastbone. I don’t want to be good in this class; I want to be the one who earned 103%. And I should be ashamed of myself. Scottish kings have been stabbed for less. And if Ron were here, he probably would.

Anyway, confession aside, our current assignment in the secrets class is identifying the reason why you’re keeping the secret. SHAME, PRIDE, FEAR OF PUNISHMENT or GUILT. And the class—aside from the reasons above—has been good for me. I think I’ve figured out some things about Adam and Eve, of their time before the divorce, that I didn’t know (or realized I knew) before. I realized that most of the secrets I ever have my characters keep are attributed to PRIDE. The pig-headed variety. And I don’t even care. I just laugh as I think about it because I can’t blame them. I would do the same thing if I were in their situation, which clearly isn’t news since I’m writing them and all.

Jenny Crusie wrote a blog a few weeks ago called the Tao of Bob, and one of the revelations that Bob made was that your therapist knows what’s wrong with you the first session you meet. But you end up going for two years because they can’t tell you what’s wrong with you—mainly because you’re going to be too pig-blind stubborn to believe them. You have to figure it out yourself. I know this to be true. My therapist operated this exact way; and I had my suspicions from the beginning she knew my dirty secrets, the dirty secrets I refused to share with myself or her. Even though she already knew them.

But there it is. The core hero and heroine I write in every story I scribble. They might have low self-esteem and neuroses out the wazoo, but by Golly, they have their Pride. And if we’re writing ourselves—not that any of us are blood-sucking warriors or demon-slayers—then clearly my writing therapy is all about not succumbing to the deadliest sin of all. Good thing it’s fiction because I am not nearly as optimistic that I can implement it in my own life nearly as well as my characters can.

Oh, well. At least there’s fish.

So line up for confession: what have you realized your writing reveals most about you? And have you ever taken a writing class that you really enjoyed? Does the thought that your deepest secrets will be revealed through your writing and realized by everyone who reads your work make you break out in a cold sweat? And how do you eat your fish: battered or breaded?
Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hottie of the Week - Cupid on Deck

I’m sure we all know what today is. Whether you’re buried under snow, curled up with your Valentine, or cursing this sorry excuse of a holiday meant to extract copious amounts of money from poor, unsuspecting slobs under the guise of making their significant others happy by slipping them into a chocolate coma, this blog’s for you.

Forget the arrows, just give me cupid.

And since today is also the kick off of racing season, thought I’d pay tribute and provide a treat for Q all in one pic.

Here’s hoping winter takes a hike soon.

Waylon is the King

I know we don't usually blog on Saturdays, but I'm a big Waylon Jennings fan--he had me at the Dukes of Hazzard, and every time I hear that guitar riff and that smoky voice, I stop like I'm bewitched--and today is the day he died, eight years ago. I hope Waylon is somewhere, picking guitars, writing songs, and challenging the establishment.

He'd undoubtedly hate my parody (for not being original and trying to be cute rather than hellraising), but I think he'd just grin and shake his head. What are you going to do?

So if you like original hellraisers and challengers of the establishment--raise a glass to Waylon. Waylon is still the king.
Writers ain't easy to love and they're harder to hold.
They'd rather give you a story than bank bonds or gold.
All-ripped dark heroes and old faded sweatpants,
And each night begins a new day.
If you don't understand her, an' she don't die young,
She'll prob'ly just write away.

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be writers.
Don't let 'em peck keyboards or dream about what if.
Let 'em be waitresses who work the late shift.
Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be writers.
'Cos they'll always at home and they're always alone.
Even with someone they love.

Writers like musty old bookstores and jaunts to the sea,
Purring old cats and chocolate and men who can go all night.
Them that don't know her won't like her and them that do,
Sometimes won't know how to take her.
She ain't wrong, she's just different but her pride won't let her,
Do things to make you think she's right.

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be writers.
Don't let 'em peck keyboards or dream about what if.
Let 'em be waitresses who work the late shift.
Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be writers.
'Cos they'll always at home and they're always alone.
Even with someone they love.
Thursday, February 11, 2010

Potatoe? Potatah?


It be the dawn a’  the pirate age, when the stylish thing ta wear be a fur tricorn and weave bones in yer hair. We find two stalwart Neanderthal pirates stompin’ about the deck a’ their giant, thick walled ship. It be near sunset and Og holds a carved wooden tankard a rum. (Because there was, and always will be, rum).


Tar, his second mate, holds a large orange, sliced in half and be slurpin’ away at the juice. It’s pretty disgustin’, as his beard is all sticky and all…


A sudden gust a’  wind caused both ta loose their footing… Og manages ta hang onta his tankard (somethings never change and spillin’ rum be heresy) but Tar’s wonderful juicy orange flies inta the air…


Only ta land with a large *kerplunk* in Og’s tankard.


“Ya got fruit in me rum!” he roars.


“Ya got rum in me fruit!” Tar roars back.


Og takes a cautious sip, grunts, takes another.


And so, on a blistery day, back in the time a’ the ancient ancestors, rum punch be born.


What does this have to do with my blog topic today? Well, what came first, the orange or the rum. (I know, I should have used a pineapple, that would have needed to be one huge tankard.) (And I like OJ in my rum.)

So, we did critiques at my last local RWA chapter meeting. I put forth a few pages of my latest grand scheme to rule the… Uh, I mean, I brought two pages of my pirates with i-pods epic. And read it aloud. (Which was very helpful for me personally and I may try this reading aloud stuff more…but I digress…)

Yeah, yeah, nothing new there…


One of my chapter mates has Donald Maass as her agent and I think she’s already pubbed, but I’m not sure. (I’ve been told, I’m certain, but per norm, it went in one ear and sped through my convoluted brain, got lost, found, lost again and then dribbled out the other ear.)

This lass said, (not a direct quote, btw…remember the convoluted brain?) “You have a very literary style. It’s very compelling, but distant.”


Not because it’s compelling, or literary…but the distant sort of bugged me. I looked around at the others and they were all nodding in agreement. I asked for some clarity on exactly what is a literary voice and after some stumbling comments I left about as confused as I normally am.

Stop snickering!

I went home and thought about those comments. They touched on style, on an agreement that what I read was compelling. And even that a literary voice is very appropriate for my genre. So, I wasn’t hurting, just a tad…confused.

I said, stop snickering!



I looked up style and then voice. Well, that was fairly useless. About as much help as what came first, the chicken or the egg. One source said… “Voice is the author’s style, the quality that makes the writing unique and which conveys the author’s attitude, personality, and character.”

Well, that was some help. Though it basically said style and voice were the same thing. Another definition said that style was “the way an author writes. The word choice, tone, syntax…” 


Aside from my personal search for exactly what is meant by the term literary voice, now I’m bobbing about the sea, wondering about the entire concept of voice vs. style.

What does the crew have to offer? Any clue on the meaning behind what is to me a cryptic phrase — literary voice — or on the entire debate of what is which and which came first and if the two are the same? How do you define your voice? Your style?


And thanks to Terrio, who contributed another well earned kick in my ass when I worried if I needed to change my voice. Thanks, Ter. Whenever you need a swift kick, I’m yer pirate.

BTW, Tar wanted his orange back and Og wouldn’t share so a bloody fight ensued…all perfectly normal.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

trapping small animals and other blizzard ramblings

I've been stuck in my house since Friday. Actually I take that back -- I got to go to work on Tuesday, and then drove straight back home. My only attempt to leave the house all week. Our mayor has actually installed a curfew, threatening immediate arrests of anyone driving a motor vehicle after dark, and we have well over three feet of the snow on the ground in an area that normally never sees more than a flurry or two in any given winter.

Cabin fever doesn't even cover it. I'm all twitchy and snippity, and if I play one more game of solitaire, or watch one more rerun of NCIS, I might just lose it. I'm like a small animal that's been backed into a corner (namely, my living room), and is going to come out biting and squealing.

So to occupy myself, I started wondering how Josephine, my current protagonist, would deal with two blizzards in one week.  She just got out of prison, and has a bit of a problem with claustrophobia, so I doubt she'd deal any better than I would. Then again, she'd certainly know how to entertain herself for a few days -- what is prison if not cabin fever?

I have another character, Ana Lucia, who has been held hostage in an underground bunker for over a year. Sheesh, anyone else sensing a theme? Both women have been trapped, and been trapped for a long time. Enough time to get much meaner than just twitchy and snippity.

Long enough to come out fighting back.

Everyone reacts differently to being trapped. When we've been backed into a corner, whether it's a physical like my characters, a snow-created like me, or an emotional imprisonment, we all react in our own ways. I just bitch at my husband until he smiles all cute and talks me into playing naughty games to pass the time. Ana Lucia keeps her head buried in a book and tries not to think. Josephine creates new chemical equations, wishing she had an actual lab to test out her experiments and find new ratios for the best explosion.

What do your characters do when trapped? How would they withstand a blizzard? What if their backed into an emotional corner -- do they come out fighting? Who else is buried under feet of snow? Marn, Ter -- you guys holding up?
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Three For The Price Of One with Dee S. Knight

Ahoy, Maties! I'd like to thank the Bo'sun for inviting me to tell you about my newest book and ménage romance.

Monday, Siren Publishing released The Triple S Bride, a futuristic western ménage. Yes, there is such an animal, though I didn't know it myself until a few months ago. I'd never written a western and only one ménage, so I took this story as a writing challenge.

In The Triple S Bride, Sabina Volt escapes her abusive fiancé by changing her name and appearance and becoming a mail order bride to a man on a planet the farthest from Earth she can find. What she doesn't discover until she arrives is that she's actually committed herself to marrying three men, Walt, Dan and Charlie, the Sheridan brothers. Holy smokes! What can she do? If she balks at the contract, Walt will send her back to Earth and into the evil fiancé's clutches. Already the cad has circulated news reports accusing her of crimes for which Walt is duty bound to hand her over. If she wants to hide out on C8282, she must do all she can to make the Sheridans want to help her.

So let's recap. Dangerous, slimy fiancé on Earth if she recants her decision or if Walt decides she's more trouble than he wants, or three hunky cowboys who desire to please her in every way if she agrees to be their wife. Hmm. Golly gee wiz, I'm just not sure what I would do in that situation. Yeah, right. Step aside, Jack, and point me toward the shuttle. If you've a mind to read ménage romance, I hope you'll give The Triple S Bride a looksee.

Involving myself in ménage has raised a question in my mind, namely whether ménage romance is actually romance. Some people (including some legislators) define marriage as a covenant between a man and woman. Certainly that's what my mama raised me to believe, that any other "arrangement" fell outside the norm of acceptable society. Today, regardless of laws, most people accept different types of unions.

Readers of romance have accepted this more quickly than some other segments of the population, with sales of ménage, gay and all manner of bondage books sometimes exceeding what previously was considered "romance." A fellow Liquid Silver author set her romance between a human and a whale. I don't believe I could ever step that far outside my comfort zone--I'm afraid of water. Of course, until recently I never thought I would write a romance between a woman and three men, either, so who knows? Move over, Flipper.

One of the things I learned while in the ménage process is that there must still be romance. That is, however many people are involved and of whatever gender, there must be a bond between them. There cannot be jealousy, only acceptance of each others' desires and needs. Each must want only the best for the other members of the group. That's a tall order even when writing a romance between one man and one woman. It has taken me a little while to get my mind around the intricacies of these rules. I think the reason is that I had to come to understand that ménage romance is indeed romance.

Here's how I do it. I imagine each of two (or three) heroes as different parts of one perfect man. Every part (i.e., man) adds his own unique flavor to what makes the heroine happy and fulfilled. Which of us hasn't wished for that? For years we've all suspended belief while accepting heroes who are handsome, intelligent, quirky, fun, serious, sensitive, rich (don't forget rich), inventive and assertive. And he has good table manners, too. In a ménage, the reader still has all that, just in more than one man.

Explicit verbiage describing the various and sundry ways Tab A fits into Slot B aside, what do you think? Do ménages meet the romance criteria? Can there exist a romance between the princess and two Prince Charmings, or will ménage romance bite the dust as readers return to the tried and true, one man - one woman traditional romance?

Thanks again for allowing me across the gangplank for a visit and drop of rum.

To learn more about Dee and her books, check out her website here. And for an excerpt of TRIPLE S BRIDE, go here. You can click through and order from the website, or simply click the book cover above and go shopping.
Monday, February 8, 2010

Q & A - Heavy On The Q

I want to start this blog with a  disclaimer. There will be no writing revelations, awesome tips, or new tricks revealed in the following post. In fact, there are going to be a lot more questions than answers. So prepare yourself.

Though I’ve yet to finish a full novel rough draft, I did spend more than two years with my first story, and have spent nearly six months with my second. When I first started, it was all a mystery to me. How could you know how long a book would be until you wrote it? How do you find enough interesting material to fill four hundred pages? How much rum does it take to forget I’m a hack?

Okay, forget the last one.

I’m happy to report, I’ve found the answers to the first two. Or think I have and that’s good enough for now.

But one of the toughest questions I’ve yet to answer is how do I get into the minds of my characters? How do I know what they’ll do in any given situation? (That’s two questions, so sue me.)

In general, I know the answer to their reactions is in their motivations and partially in their back story. Unfortunately, “in general” has never gotten me very far. So, I kept going, hoping I’d find more answers.

Here’s the problem with finding answers, they often lead to more questions. Last night while writing, something happened in my scene I didn’t see coming. It moved the romance plot line forward big time, fit the story perfectly, and I hate to say, wasn’t my idea in the least.

It was Nate’s. That would be Nate Campbell, the hero of Playing For Keeps.

This same thing happened in my last WIP. I needed a way to throw my H/H together. In the middle of a scene in my hero’s POV, he pops out with the perfect answer. I didn’t see it coming and was amazed at how perfectly it would work.

The connection between these incidents is the source. The only characters I seem to channel are the heroes. Which leads to more questions. Why is it always the hero and what in the world does this say about me?

Since my heroines are often just like me, I can follow the trail to some obvious implications. But I don’t wanna. So I’m putting the questions to you. Any and all input welcome.
Sunday, February 7, 2010

Divas and D-Listers: What Jeff Bridges and Setting Have In Common

So I was thinking about the setting in The Wolfman. I watched the trailer and was completely sucked into the mood and setting of the story; and I thought, for a total remake, they did an excellent job of choosing the time and location—it was practically a character itself. And yet, description and setting are often disregarded in the realm of importance of writing.

Characterization and Plot are frequently featured like A-list celebrities, while things like Voice, Theme, and Setting often get shunted with Kathy Griffith to the D-list. Tragic, because these very writing techniques are the Jeff Bridges of the writing world. We all know they were absolutely essential to the overall product, but no one remembers to acknowledge them in their Oscar speech. Or give them their own Oscar.

Consider Dracula. A brilliant character, but nothing without the setting he was drawn in. The story wouldn’t work if he were in a setting like modern day California, with all its sunny weather and “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” people. His whole inner-makeup would dissolve like his face in the sun. He needs weather as moody and dramatic as he is, to mirror his moody and dramatic nature. We’re constantly reminded to write bigger, and using setting to the best advantage in our writing is one of the simple ways to show a Bigger Story. (Simple, but not easy.)

And the setting is much more than mere location. The when of the setting is extremely important. Timing is everything. The new movie, The Wolfman, takes place in Victorian England. What better time setting could you have given such a tale? It’s the perfect blend of science and superstition, of the modern and the old. We clearly see the progressive methods of solving crime using Scotland Yard detective work as well as new medical techniques and studies, but at the same time, the threat itself, a wolfman, is a realm of the old world. Not only are we experiencing the hero’s conflict with becoming a monster, but also the conflict of science versus magic (curse). It makes for a much dramatic telling of the story than say Teen Wolf. Which was quite a classic for me growing up, but is pretty much what would happen if we discovered a wolfman now, right? We—in theory—would be accepting of something that was different from us and wouldn’t try to trap it for the discovery of science. We’d bring it in the house and enroll it in high school.

I like to watch movies (obviously, since most of my blogs involve movies), but more than for the story. I like to watch what was included in a screen shot because I know, like scenes in a book, everything is there for a reason. And you can’t fit everything into a screen shot either. You have to focus on what’s most important, especially to the character. What shows character/story the most?

For example, I watched Adventureland and picked out all the very 80s things in the “description.” There were the girls who had their hair styled in that Gilled Lizard sort of fashion (very popular) and had their t-shirt collars ripped out and the bottom tied into a knot so we could see their midriff. Blue eyeshadow. Madonna-esque fashion accessories. All the cars the boys drove were Gremlins or those monster cars that their grandparents would drive. Cassette tapes were predominant; one boy bragged about his CD player that he paid a ton of money for. (In fact, the only thing not very setting authentic was Kristen Stewart, who not only pranced about in low-rise jeans, but whose hair looked exactly like it does from Twilight.)

The best description and setting (in my opinion) is active within the story, the little drops here and there that are explicit to the character themselves. Like the lemondrops on Dumbledore’s desk (you see them in the 6th movie); or the way Dracula’s shadow moves outside of what his actual ‘reflective’ shadow should be. Doing what Dracula would actually like to be doing to Harker. (I always laugh at that scene.) I also think description and setting is probably best done during the second draft, after you’re done getting the story on paper because after all, character and plot are the A-list; and setting and description is more in the B- and C-list range. (You know, you gotta deal with the divas first before you return for the ones who help make the whole thing hold together cohesively. You can’t have A-list characters and plot in a white room. It doesn’t work.)

I agree with some articles that say less is more (mainly because when it comes to writing description, I definitely am a less is more.) However, I’ve read some books where description is definitely that writer’s forte and I wouldn’t have them change a word. I’ve also read authors, like me, who are minimalists and you see the story just as clearly as you do Harry Potter’s world. Both ways work—just don’t forget about it.

So how do you deal with description and setting? What tips and tricks work for you? What movies have you admired for their use of setting/description? Is anyone else looking forward to The Wolfman and not Valentine’s Day like I am? Who's hoping Jeff Bridges finally gets an Oscar?


You’re going to see a lot of hard hitting guys today. At least you will if you watch the Super Bowl. (Am I supposed to say “The Big Game” so as not to get in trouble? Oh well.)

With all we hear about Alphas and tough bad boys, I thought it would be nice to go back to when a guy didn’t have to grunt and tear down a field like a Mack truck. When being suave, intelligent, and charming melted us into a puddle. Though no one would ever claim these men couldn’t hold their own if necessary.


One word described them all > TIMELESS.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Feisty Friday

Been a rough week, crew. I wrestled with deep despair over contest results. Again. (Crew, do not let me enter another contest. Ever. Club me with a rum bottle, hang me from the yardarm by my feet if I ever, ever babble about entering another one, ever.)

Our dear Bo’sun hauled me outta the pits and set me straight. So, I’m better now. But…still been a scrappy week. Felt like Hellion was going to toss me overboard a few times for disagreeing with her and refusing to acquiesce to being lashed.

So, let’s pick a few fights today. Get it all out there and bloody up the deck. The rum will flow… I’m serving up Feisty Friday Freezes.

Number one. I don’t read what I write. Who wants to take me on about this one? Now, I have a powerful green eyed jealous monster who rides me back. If I read something I felt I could have done better, should have done better, should have been first, could have been first… I shut down. Convinced it is too late, I suck…you name it. So I don’t read it.

Seldom read it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know…how can I know the genre if I don’t read it. Well, I read about it! So, come on…tell me why I’m so incredibly wrong…

Number two. I also write what I don’t do. Never been a mother, but I’m writing about a conflicted mother. Sue me.

If writers only stuck to what they had personal experience with, no one would write historicals. So, there!

I have a mother, I talk to her…a lot. About being a mother. I read…a lot. And there are so many mothers in fiction. So, I can write one. And there are daddy’s that look good on paper and to a child’s eyes they are fabulous. But are really monsters that deserve walking the plant. Over a volcano. An active volcano. Moms, too!

I also write about alien abductions, fairy, pirates and a ton of things I have no personal experience with.

Sin? Every really killed anyone? Wallowed in blood?

Hal? Last arms deal you took part in?

Marn? Have any traffic with demons lately?

Hel? Last time you dated Lucifer?

Now, I know Bo’sun coached the girl’s version of baseball…softball. So, I guess she’s the only one allowed to keep working on her stuff.

OK, Hel might actually have dated Lucifer…

Number Three. Anyone can disagree with me and not be an idiot. I feel pretty strongly about this one.

And Frodo was too a hero.

Moms who go to work do raise their children. And moms who stay home are worth way more than any family can afford to pay them.

Avatar was a good movie.

Anyone else have any tidbits they want to throw in the ring from the last few weeks? Toss it up and see who steps into the ring to duke it out? Do you read what you write? Do you write only what you know? Can you know something well enough by reading about it to write about it, convincingly? Let’s go, I’m feeling feisty!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Alice Audrey is MOVING IN...For A Day

Alice Audrey is celebrating the release of her debut novel, MOVING IN, from Wild Rose Press this week and she’s been sweet enough not only to let us be part of the party, but she’s brought her hero along to charm us all.



Diane, an insurance claims adjuster who secretly longs to be a housewife, and Trigvey, a doctor who loses faith in himself, move into the same building at the same time.  Due to a problem with the previous tenants, they get their luggage tangled together, and never quite manage to separate it again.

And now, the doctor is in.

Hi.  My name’s Trigvey Taylor.  You can find me between the pages of MOVING IN by Alice Audrey.  Alice asked me to come over here and talk to you today.

I’m a doctor.  I know, I don’t look like it, especially when I’ve been in the ER for too many days in a row and get a bit of stubble on my chin.  You should hear what Diane said about me when we first met.  Drug dealer?  Yeah, right.

Actually, I didn’t tell her at the time, but I do remember once when a patient told me he thought all doctors were drug dealers, front men for the pharmaceutical companies.  Of course, I don’t see it that way, but I can see his point.  Especially after what happened in the ER when…  Ah, but I can’t tell you that.  You wouldn’t want to read the book.

So, let me tell you a little about Diane.  She is really something.  I won’t say she’s hot because that isn’t really what’s important about her.  It’s her chicken dinner.

Yeah, I’m just kidding.  It’s her roast beef too.  *grin*

She has this way of taking care of people.  She just can’t stand to see poor, pitiful people like me suffering.  So she does stuff like help me find a good furniture store, cook, and clean, and listen.  She’s great at listening.  When she stands behind you and rubs your back and says just the right things you can end up spilling your guts to her.  But it’s all right. She won’t make you feel bad about it.  Sometimes it could even help, telling her everything.

Really, she was made to be a wife. No, strike that.  She was made to be MY wife.  Problem is, she doesn’t think that’s good enough.  I don’t mean she doesn’t think I’m good enough for her, which might be right, but that no woman should be just a wife.  Can you believe it?  What’s more, she’s afraid if she ever gets married, that’s what’ll happen.  She’ll end up quitting work and staying home all the time.  She thinks then no one will respect her.

Well, I’m going to fix that misconception. At least I hope I do, because Diane, she’d be a lot happier that way.

Both Alice and Trigvey will be hanging out all day to answer questions, so fire away. Maybe if we’re real sweet, Trigvey will offer some private exams.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Circus Act

“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” Casting Crowns. There is something about this instrumental song that brings me back to it over and over again. It’s been repeated over 300 times in my iTunes. It’s not at the record of my repeats. I’ve listened to Eclipsed (Evans Blue) almost 500 times.  (Love that song. Still need to write a blog in regards to that song. Hm, will put that on the burner for next time.)

Since I’ve gotten back into my writing, I’m finding that pounding out blogs each week is a little easier for me. Creatively, my well is feeling dry; but my brain is functioning at a higher level than usual. I’m trying to keep in mind that my year horoscope said I’m in for big successes and big life changes. I’m gearing it towards writing because I need all the positive influence and karma I can get at this point. I've become more of a circus act trying to pull everything together for entertainment purposes than a multi-tasker so far this year.

Writing for me is much like a production. You have all these players practicing their parts, learning their roles. Everyone has a purpose and a part to play. Like the circus. The main story is out for everyone to see. The daring acts, the high flying stunts and the stories we weave for the crowd, but underneath the surface lies the real truth. You play your part for the crowd, you turn it on when the light shines on you and when the light dims the real story begins.

My characters have taken on new life the last couple of weeks. Finally, I can hear them again through all the responsibility and chaos that has been my life for the past few months. Kiki is eager to get back to her life in the gray area and Sadie is ready to tackle life. Dex is ready to convince Kiki she can’t keep working her life alone and emotionally detached from everyone and everything. Ruiz is working pretty hard to convince me he should sleep with everyone. Ash is quiet. He’s always quiet. He’s making a case study of Kiki. Can’t say as I blame him. She’s pretty internal at this point. If I’d spent five years trying to locate someone who was legally dead in the system, I don’t know if I’d spend much time talking to someone I couldn’t trust any further than I could throw him.

Kiki’s emotional state is far from pretty. Her family is dead. Her life is one calculated risk after another. Kiki doesn’t care.

I’ve been told there is a fine line between making a character redeemable and making a character who turns into the bad guy at the end. Kiki is my tightrope walker.

Writing is a fairly new process to me. I’ve completed projects before. I know to seal the deal between characters. I know my way around a black moment. But this whole concept of reminding myself that a main character has to be redeemable is completely foreign. I know at this point I should just ignore all the rules and regulations but it’s one of those things that once someone puts it in my mind, I can’t let go.

Kiki can’t let go of the fact she’s alone in this world. She tells herself that it’s better for everyone if she remains that way, but when she’s alone at night, she spends her spare time looking for clues to Sadie’s whereabouts.

No one wants to be alone in the world. Not even Kiki, my uber headstrong stubborn main character.

I think I’ll just go with Kiki’s flow and see how we turn out. If she’s deemed unredeemable, well then maybe my writing is just unredeemable. I’m feeling rather indifferent about it at this point. Sort of like my apathy for V-day. It’s just another day in the record books.

More on that soapbox next week.

Do you have emotional tightrope walkers in your writing? How do you personally feel about your own writing and does that emotion sometimes bleed into your characters?

The Secrets or The Disaster

Typically Santa would be blogging about something profound, but...I'm not sure where she is. Or her blog. So I'm going to pirate her spot for a very important decision blog.

Meaning there are TWO online workshops I want to take, but I don't want to take them at the same time because I know I will only have time for one of them. (Bo'sun is taking two, but she's an overachiever like that.)

I blame the Write Chic blog for even bringing them to my attention--darn though brilliant ladies!--and now I'm torn between the class about Goal-Motivation-Conflict-Diaster AND the one about Characters and Secrets. The GMCD would be great for me now; however, the character-secret one, well, that was just looks way interesting. Plus I think Eve is hiding a secret (though she won't tell me what it is) and I don't know if this is the sort of class that might reveal it to me. If I could find them being offered again later this year, I'd take one now and one later, but I can't see that as an option.

So...what shall I take, pirates? Secrets or Disasters?