Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Turning Points: Don't Panic

When I plot my stories, I start with turning points.  I establish at least three instances in the story where my characters outlooks or situations change, throwing their worlds in disarray.

Usually the first one happens when the H/H meet each other.  So, in the first chapter.   Best to toss them to the wolves right away, I think.  Usually the easiest to write because this is where my ideas start.

The second one usually happens at about the 1/3 way mark.  Then there are either one or two left, with the last one being the black moment.

A week or so ago, Hal and I lamented our most recent writing stall-outs.  We’d hit the 20K-30K marks of our respective works and we both were spinning our wheels.  And then I get an email from her and she says, you know, we’ve done this before.  We stopped here last books around.

So of course, being the plotter/spreadsheet-maker that I am, I looked back at my notes, at my word count spreadsheet (Yes, I keep a word count spreadsheet that monitors how much I write each week… don’t make fun) and I realized with each of my last MS's, I’ve stalled out somewhere between 20K-30K of the way and then again somewhere between 60K-70K.

More interestingly, these spots just happen to coordinate with where I place my major turning points.

Sure enough, this time I’d stopped as I approached a major change in my H/H’s dynamic.   At 24.5K.  I knew how my heroine was going to react, but I’ve been poking and prodding at my hero to find out how he’s going to deal.

I think I figured it out and this week I started writing again.  I guess I haven’t written much over the last couple weeks, total.   Last MS, I stopped for an entire month (maybe longer).  The first manuscript, I believe I stopped for 2-3 months.  Both times, I railed at my MS, I whined to Hal and my other CPs.  I banged my head against the computer and cursed my muse for abandoning me.

Worse, I doubted myself, my ability, and my story.

This time, I just waited.  I thought about my hero.  I tried to get in his head.  I free-wrote him a little, tried to imagine him in a multitude of unusual situations.  I hashed out more of his back story.

What I didn’t do was doubt that I’d get going again.  The lack of panic probably saved me two or more weeks of paralyzed anguish.

Sure enough, one morning I woke up and went, huh.  Maybe he’s like (this).

And I started to write again.

I’m not citing some new writing maturity for this development.  Chances are I’m just too damn exhausted and worn out to stress that much.  But this has taught me a valuable lesson.

Don’t panic.

I may get more done in the rest of my life when working in stressed out conditions but, with my writing, the best approach is slow and steady with as little personal hang-ups as possible.

So tell me.  Do you use turning points in your stories?  Have you found that you stop at any particular spots in your MS to angst?  Do you panic over your writing and if so, why?  Wanna share any of your personal hang-ups?   Because seriously, you’re good enough, your smart enough and gosh darn it, people like you.  I swear.

PS, anyone have a good April Fool's Joke for us?  I'm not very good at that stuff, but I always like a good laugh.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Characters on Character

Stuck on Repeat:  Ten Years (song) – Rev Theory (band) – Alt. Rock (genre) – Light It Up (album)

As a writer I’ve spent countless hours contemplating characteristics for heroes/heroines, secondary characters, and villains. It’s like a mental chess game with yourself. I capture one piece; then I sacrifice another. I make a move for the future, then I distract you with another. Each turn brings me closer to the goal of checkmate. In this case each piece is strategically placed to create who I see in my mind and how I want that to translate on paper into my ever-evolving final drafted character.

Yet, no written character remains unchanged. From the first time they step out onto that page, your character is constantly changing shape. You see this growth the most in a series where the main character is changing to adapt to new situations. You see this transition much faster in a single title as your main characters only have 400 pages to change and mold into the person they need to be to have the HEA (happily ever after)/HFN (happy for now-preferred by me).  Character ARCs are complex in nature, yet one of the easiest things to write because we have a chance to draw on personal experiences. Combined with the chess game, your character becomes a bigger than life person on page and draws the reader into the story.

Songs bring a lot of personality into my writing. I tend to get stuck on certain songs when I’m writing (repeat was a wonderful invention, IMHO). A thought. A memory. A phrase. Anything can stick in your mind and influence the foundation of your character. Music tends to keep my creative flow running. If I’m having a hard time, I take a song and I write something to it with my character- take the emotion from one thing and transfer it into another. Heartbreak, disappointment, anxiety, joy, your characteristic chemistry is what helps your character deal with those emotions.  Kiki’s characteristics make it difficult for me to express emotion through her point-of-view simply because she often feels every step she takes is one that can be exploited. Yet, for me, writing with music helps me step over that struggle and keep pushing forward with her characterization.

Certain characteristics run rampant in our writing as much as your voice sticks out like a beacon to your readers. Even reading our blogs every week, you don’t need to look at the bottom of the page to know who wrote this. While it may be routine for me to blog on Wednesdays (now alternating with the fabulous DRD), if I moved to Fridays, I’m pretty sure just by the tone of sentence structure, you’d know it was me writing it. Just as you’d know it was Chanceroo, Bo’sun, Hells, DRD, Hal, Marn… so on and so forth. It’s the characterization of our personalities, of our voices that show you who we are.

I spent a few years writing fan fiction, we all know this since I’m not afraid to really talk about it no matter how taboo it is or not. Learning how to write characters through someone else’s characterization of the same character helped me learn an appreciation for what it takes to make a multi-dimensional character come alive on the page. It gave me a challenge to stretch that character into something the character wasn’t but was still recognizable to a reader.

Characterization is everywhere. I see it every day, through patients, through family members, through brief interactions with people walking down the street. That’s why people watching is good for the writers brain. It gives your brain a chance to interact with the outside world while allowing it to feed on new characteristics to bring to your writing. While observing is good practice (especially if you have a good memory bank), drawing inspiration for characters is a must to create that unique personality guaranteed to sell your story.

Where do you draw your inspiration to sketch up new characters? What author inspires you to think up your own crazy cast of characters? What characteristics do you find yourself writing most often?
Monday, March 29, 2010

New Magic Number - 30

I, like many of you, have set deadlines in the past. I have been determined to meet these deadlines. I have sworn to them, sworn at them, and sworn at myself. Yet, I have never met a writing deadline.

But this time, I mean it.

Why is this time different, you ask? (And not that I blame you for your skepticism.) Because there’s money on the line.

Okay, before you get all riled up thinking I’ve sold something I’ve yet to write, that is not the case. However, I have signed up for a revisions class that runs six weeks through the summer. And is not cheap. And I’ve registered for my third RWA National conference, also not cheap, having not pitched at either of the two I’ve already attended.

Therefore, I have a deadline induced by that greatest of all motivators, the almighty dollar. With a dash of the usual humiliation thrown in for good measure.

So, I’m currently sitting around 100 pages. (Hopefully closer to 110 as I’m writing this on Sunday and today is Tuesday.) I’d like to have at least 270 more to round out the first draft. Since my first draft is rough to the point of having almost no description or layering, I figure this is a good number. Not too high. Not too low.

The class starts June 6, which leaves me essentially two months to finish the first draft. 270 pages divided roughly into nine weeks means I need to write 30 pages a week from here on out.

Hence, the New Magic Number.

I am not going to focus on my past failures. Not going to dwell on the fact I failed miserably at NaNoWriMo. Not even going to mention….well, typing it here would be mentioning, so never mind.

I spent most of my weekend re-creating and re-working my post-its storyboard. Turns out, the spreadsheet didn’t work for me. (Gotta love that learning curve, don’t you?) This means I have a map and a plan and by throwing in a wing and a prayer, I’m as prepared for this challenge as I can be.

What I ask of you today is this. What would it take, were you in my shoes, to push you to reach this goal? Would money be enough of a motivator? Would the humiliation do it? Or would you need something more substantial? More…tangible?

Bonus question: Anyone willing to run this gamut with me?
Sunday, March 28, 2010

I Have a Dream

So Thursday, I’m propped on my couch, eating my Triple Chocolate ice cream cone, researching for my current novel by watching the latest episode of the Marriage Ref. How else am I to know how married people behave if I don’t observe them? The first couple out of the gate is a good one. The wife is the one with the beef (as about 80% of these fights are); and it seems her husband embarrasses her (as about 80% of these husbands do.) Well, it’s more than that. He’s 38 and still pursuing his dream (on the side) of becoming a (white) rapper. He’s not exactly good—he’s still waiting for his big break—and while he’s waiting for his big break, he’s making videos and having fun and working at becoming the next big rhymester. Whatever. He wasn’t exactly godawful, but even an Amish country-music listener could sense he had a bigger chance of becoming the next Madonna than the next Eminem.

Anyway, not the point. The point is that the wife ticked me off. She gets into an argument with him, wanting him to give up this stupid dream of becoming a rapper. “Why are you doing this?” she shrieked. “Because I want to be a rapper,” he says back, just as passionately. “But you’re not a success! You’ll never be a rapper! Why can’t you get over it?” blah-blah-blah.

All I could think was, “Wow, this guy is actually pretty decent because he didn’t tell her off in no uncertain terms for just telling about 4 million strangers that she thought her husband was delusional and was never going to be a success.” Then I thought, “What is her problem anyway? Is this really hurting anyone? Has he given up his day job to pursue this career as a rapper or started using her in his lyrics—that bitch my wife stabbed me with a knife—or gathered some groupie girlfriends he’s sleeping with on the side?” It didn’t appear that any of this was the case. And all I felt was sad that this wife could not feel supportive of this hobby, this passion, which I still don’t think is as weird as being supportive of a passion like cross-dressing or taxidermy.

Alec Baldwin’s first quip summed up my thoughts perfectly: “It’s not like he’s a limbless guy who wants to be an Olympic skier.” And it wasn’t. Sure, the likelihood of him being the next Eminem is incredibly slim, but if it makes him happy, why are you pissing in his Cheerios? What’s wrong with letting him be happy? Deluded people are some of the happiest people on this planet. Let him the hell alone.

I realize I’m very much in a field where I’m like a 38 year old white guy trying to be the next big hip-hop singer. Opportunities are pretty thin to the ground, my friend; however, I also know there is no harm in doing the things you love even if the success you gain is not measurable by other people’s sticks, and more importantly, quitting is the most surefire way of ensuring you never get one of those thin opportunities. Stranger things have happened. You can’t win if you don’t play; and so long as you’re still enjoying it, why not?

We all know this though. We all write because we love writing and playing with words and characters and plot. But how do you keep well-meaning loved ones from, well, pissing in your Cheerios? When you get to a certain age, you can leave home and not live with your parents who beg you to pursue a real career like teaching. You simply don’t mention your writing—though to give my father credit, he doesn’t ask me to get a real career anymore, and so long as I have my day job, he seems relatively supportive of me spending my spare time in writing. But what do you do if you’re living with someone who doesn’t support your dreams, your passions? I get that as humans we’re not going to agree about, well, almost anything, but words damage. That “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” is a bit of a lie. Maybe they do need my consent, but words matter. As a writer, you know this. You can’t let the inflictors off scot-free. They’re still assholes. And they’re even bigger ones if they’re supposed to be people who are on your side to begin with.

How are you supposed to deal with a well-meaning troll?

Do you have any well-meaning trolls in your life? How do you deal with them? Have you ever been a troll yourself? I’ve said plenty of trollish things, usually things I regret later, because who was it hurting really? Do you watch The Marriage Ref?
Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hottie of the Week- Sunny with a chance of indoor activity

It's a beautiful spring day. The sun is warm, the dogwoods are in bloom, and the air is clean and fresh. We've experienced a long hard winter. Spring fever is at maximum overdrive. Spring break is almost upon us, but you walk past your bedroom door on the way to the backyard, and what do you see?

A naked hottie, with a come hither look on his face.

The sunshine is fast losing it's appeal. A lady never leaves a willing hottie in distress. It's a good Samaritan bedroom law. No hottie must go unattended, even on a spring day. No scoffing. Hottie abandonment is a serious offense. Section 9.11 of the  Revenge Hottie Satute clearly says, if one of the men in this blog is left destitute, it is s a disservice to women everywhere.

I will never be accused of slacking in my civic duties. The first hottie on the page is mine.

Dibbs anyone?
Thursday, March 25, 2010

Follow the Recipe

Glittery Hooha

Now, the story behind the mixin’ of a glittery hooha be a long and harrowin’ one. First, ya gots ta collect the glitter. The best glitter makes the best hooha, and the natural be the best, despite the debate a’ some weeks past regardin’ the bedazzlin’ techniques.

I believe in the natural ingredients. So. First, ya stalk a pixie. Now, ya can buy pixie glitter in yer better metaphysics store, but the best comes from takin’ yer chances and findin’ a pixie ta trap.

Sin brings the GPS aboard now and then and I found there by several ways ta gather the glitter. I can foller her about wit’ a little dust pan and broom. Make her laugh and more a’ the stuff falls off. Or shake…recruit a hottie ta help and there be other ways a makin’ sure she moves her booty.

I also found a more dangerous way… Met a pixie wandering Tortuga in her mini version and trapped her in a jar. Lid had holes in it and I shook the pixie dust out a’ her. This coulda been dangerous, since pixies tend to have fierce tempers and long memories…but then I poured the jar half-full a’ the best rum. She were too drunk ta persue me.

So, we gots the glitter.

Next, ya need the blushin’ pink a’ fresh pink grapefruit juice. The most prime white rum and pure crystal ice chipped straight from a glacier hauled ta the ship by me friend the Kraken.

No, I’m not gonna tell ya the proportions. That be me secret. But ya ends up with a sweet drink, with just a bit blush…ya can add grenadine if’n yer more in favor a’ deeper pink.

The drink has a recipe, but fer the best, ya foller yer instincts.

Now, I be a big believer in follering yer instincts, be that fer mixin’ drinks or writin’. There be guidelines fer everything ya do in life.

But recipes/formulas/potions, all come ta little in the long run. I mean, we all know the writers that get these huge contracts and we read their books and shake our heads. I mean…what? Here is where Sin’s blog of last week comes into it.


So, there is luck. There is knowing your genre, knowing the business, working your craft, honing your voice, putting yourself in the way of will and not wish (all hail Captain Hellion.)

I believe in being prepared. (I musta been a boy scout in a former life.) I can over-prepare to the point of being paralyzed. Then comes the letting go and hoping luck takes a hand in things.

I believe in synchronicity and serendipity. I believe in magnetism as a magical force. You put it out into the world what you desire/deserve and the world will work to get it to you. Magnetize, know your internal compass and the natural forces out there will do their best to see you reach dream harbor.

But I’m nuts.

Yet…if you believe, they will come. The attention, the publishers, the agents… Of course, you have to build that field for them. You have to do the work, show you really want them there. You can cook and mix and bake and Martha Stewart the place settings and clean the house top the bottom and put out those little hand towels in the bathroom just for guests…but you don’t send out the invitations… This party will be a no show.

So, what are the parts to a successful career launch?

1 part voice (magic glitter)

2 parts craft (rum)

1 part preparation (ice)

1 part platform (the right glass makes the best impression)

2 parts sex (pink grapefruit juice) (OK, not really…you don’t have to have sex to get    published… ‘course, it might not hurt…but…no. I don’t think so. But it helps ta have sex in the books, somewhere.)

A good straw (more of the sex analogy)

And a mad dash of luck

(If yer writin’ erotica, ya might add the grenadine here, fer more than a blush)

Shaken, not stirred (intention)

At this point, I like at light a candle, pray ta the four directions and toss some fern seeds inta an open fire.

Then I tend ta run.

(Because I have a streak of cowardice running through me, but I’m working on that.)

Ya gots a magical formula ya rely on ta get ya through the rough spots? I feel like I could mix a bucket a hooha every day lately and still be lost, but least I be a happy sort a’ lost. But I been feeling lost lately. And I don’t even watch the show!

One thing I don’t feel lost about is that the biggest magical ingredient is voice. The glitter that makes ya stand out as a writer.

What’s yer recipe fer a successful career launch? Or a drink ta keep ya brave until ya gets there? What does preparation mean ta you? How ‘bouts’ platform? How strong is your voice…does your voice glitter?


(And no, I did not give away the recipe, because exactly what is glitter and the actual getting of it…still my secret. Because I lied.)
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The slow burn of love

I'm pretty early in a new manuscript, and I'm trying to create the all-important tension between my characters. The attraction, the little spark, the inner essence that makes you look at a stranger and yet feel intimately connected.

In my concentration and effort on creating this tension, I <i>might</i> have gone a touch overboard. Not a lot overboard, nothing in the purple prose category. No quivering bosoms or quivering pelvic muscles or . . . well, quivering anything. But when I sent the latest chapter to my thesis adviser (my very male, very non-romance-reading thesis adviser, I might add), he didn't get it.

His actual comment: "I'm not buying the sexual tension between your hero and heroine. It's too explicitly stated and too self-aware, I think."

That got me thinking. Especially the self-aware part. We tend to know everything about our characters. We talk to them, live with them crammed in our heads, give them interviews and free-write times and whatnot to get to know them better. But one of the things I've learned about my characters is that they don't always know themselves so well.

And there are all sorts of things they'd never admit, even in their thoughts.


So how do we as authors show a character's emotions without our characters being therapeutically self-aware? Cause let's face it, how many of us go around analyzing our emotions? Looking for the causes? If I'm fighting off attraction for someone, I'm not analyzing my resentment toward my father and articulating my fear of commitment. No, I'm just fuming about how much I hate the guy and being snippy when forced to be in his presence. Or maybe it's because my last boyfriend left me for a hotter version, or my mother was mean, or my third grade teacher called me a loser in class, or . . .

You get the picture. We strive to understand our character's motivations. Why are they acting the way they are acting? Why does she turn into a bitch when her mother sends a Christmas card? Why does he back off when kids are mentioned?

But I'll betcha, that while we can answer those questions, our characters can't.

Now, the fact that this professor found my the sexual tension to explicitly stated was more an issue of genre. Everything is stated more explicitly in romance *g*, and we're not the genre he usually reads. But characters being too self-aware holds true for all genres.

How about you? Are your characters introspective to the point of needing a therapist's couch? Or are they quiet about the why's of their motivations? Are you a self-aware person? Do you analyze your emotions and their causes, or just go with it?
Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Amuse Your Muse

Hi and Ahoy and all that jazz, it's your favorite and only pirate ninja aboard the RWR, Sin. Today is a very special day aboard the RWR as we're welcoming on our newest captive- um, I mean crew member- the DRD (as I like to call her), Dead Reckoning Donna! We picked up DRD from her own ship and put her up in her very own spacious dungeon- um, I mean cabin- so that she can help us help you in your quest for all things writing and reading. The very ambitious DRD will be alternating with me every Wednesday. Just think, you only have to put up with two blogs a month of my rambling nonsense. See, some good really does come to bad pirates and wenches. *grin*

With no further ado, please make some ruckus for the DRD and make her feel welcome in her new prison- um, I mean home.


Welcome to the inaugural sailing of DRD Cruise Lines!  I'm Dead Reckoning Donna, and I want to warn you, the waters can get a little choppy as we leave port (especially if you try to nickname me "Dead").  So sit back, get comfortable, and hoist your tankard of rum.  I'm going to spin you a fantastical tale while we share this three-hour tour.

Each of us has our own source of writing inspiration, something that helps us create and mold our stories, an elusive creature we worship with cult-like devotion.

No, I'm not talking about the Kraken.  I am talking about a muse.  Or in my case, Muse, capitalized because it's her title, her calling, her raison d'etre, the reason she can be such a pain in the--

My Muse is Endora.  (For the young pirates aboard, she's the temperamental mother in the TV show Bewitched.  For the rest of you, thank you for your sympathy.)

Endora is the perfect storm of haughtiness, disdain, and tough love.  During her unpredictable visits, I count myself lucky when she remembers to call me Donna instead of Durwood.  If there is anyone who is more confident of their contrary opinions, I haven't met them yet.  She'll bark out a laugh when I startle her with something funny (especially if I didn't MEAN for it to be funny).  She'll wrinkle her nose and sniff as if the litter box is overflowing when I've offended her storytelling sensibilities.

She's also incredibly surprised when I create something that amuses her.  I live for those rare moments when her heavily penciled eyebrows shoot up with astonished admiration.  She's miserly with her praise, as if each encouraging word causes a sharp pain in her soul, but I make her give until it hurts.

She's a witch with a capital B, but I'm driven to please her.   And she knows it.

Endora loves her job, but she's also flighty, and fickle, and rather capricious about when she will actually do it.  She is incapable of keeping to a regular schedule, so I've quit suggesting it.  If I accidentally bore her, there's a snap of fingers and a puff of smoke, and I'm instantly alone, staring at a blinking cursor on the computer screen, wondering how to lure the insufferable wench back.

What I usually do is tap away at the keyboard, resigning myself to the fact that I'm going to have to do this writing thing on my own for a little while.  Somehow the mundane task of typing entices Endora. Maybe she's planning to thump me on the head for waking her from her beauty nap.  Or maybe she's come to warn me of the hex with my name on it if I don't stop trying to write solo.

I'm never sure WHY this technique brings her back.  I doubt she knows either.  But it does.  The next thing I know, she's looking over my shoulder, snorting with derision, and then I hear a muttered, "I suppose that part's not too horrid."   It's hard to tell which of us is the most surprised by her grudging approval.

The tricky part is figuring out WHAT makes Endora happy, because, as with any diva, it's never the same thing twice.  If she adores chocolate one day, and the words flow after I've presented her with the most exquisite confections ever made. . .the next time she'll take one bite of the same stuff and spit it out as if I'd given her a clod of dirt.  If I take a nap to deal with the heartbreak of her desertion, she plops down next to me, whispering tantalizing plot points in my ear until I am wide awake, frantic to give her my undivided attention again.

Yet, as contrary as the old gal is, I can't imagine what my writing life would be like without her.  There's some sort of magic in this partnership of ours, and I've quit trying to figure out the dysfunctional workings of it.  Ultimately she seems proud of my efforts, and I like to believe she wouldn't hang around if she didn't get something out of the experience.  (I don't want to even contemplate how many other unfortunate writers she torments on her daily rounds.  We could probably have an annual convention.)

Mmm, looks like we're returning to port already.  *taps watch*  Did we finish early?  It sure didn't seem like we used the whole three hours. . .

Well, anyway, I want to thank everyone for choosing DRD Cruise Lines today, and I'm really looking forward to future trips with you.  I know you're reluctant to leave, but we'll be docking soon, so if you'd like to line up over here--

*ship lists severely to one side*

Careful!  Don't everyone try to de-boat at once!  You'll tip this thing over!

So, do you have a muse?  What is he/she like?  How do you keep your muse happy?  How does she reward you for your efforts?
Monday, March 22, 2010

Putting a Good Face on Your Characters

If any of you remember reading Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in high school, I’ll bet you still have some vague recollection of the Wife of Bath.

Remember her? Married multiple times, buried all her husbands and was left with lots of moolah?

If you must know, I had to seriously jog my memory to come up with those details because they are completely eclipsed in my memory by Chaucer’s description of that enormous gap between her teeth.  You see, Chaucer was a student of physiognomy–the study of a person’s character based on their outward appearance. The gap between the Wife’s front teeth told 14th century readers more than they ever needed to know about her sexual prowess–hence the multiple husbands ... perhaps even the cause of their deaths .

Of course today, the idea of physiognomy has certainly taken a back seat in the age of psychology. We know that psychopathic serial killers can look like Ted Bundy, and no matter the soft look of Osama Bin Laden’s eyes, he sees Americans through a veil of hatred. But these are psychopathic types. The villains. Those with an innate ability to hide their true nature.

More often than not, however, there is some truth of a person that shows on their face. Even my sweet sister, while extricating herself from her devil-man ex husband, broke out with such a horrid case of acne, all I could think when looking at her was that her body was desperately trying to rid itself of the poison in her life. What’s more, I’ve seen rather narcissistic people from my past age in a puffy-faced manner, as though years and years of only thinking about themselves has over-bloated them–their eyes now small and squinty because they simply cannot see beyond themselves.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="189" caption="NOT a picture of Scuttle"][/caption]

Even my own take on life is showing on my face. Around my mouth, I have pretty deep parenthesis lines. It’s from smiling. Of course, I also have a groove between my eyebrows, but I take comfort in the fact that the parenthesis is deeper than the exclamation mark.

As for writing, I once read an article in RWR that said, “Give your character some detail that shows exactly who they are.” In this case, physiognomy can be a writer’s best friend–particularly when said writer is stuck.

Gap between the teeth = slut (Madonna anyone?)
Broad forehead, high hairline = brainiac
Large, bulbous features that smile easily = someone who is partial to drink

In my own writing, I’ve used physiognomy to help pin down secondary characters in particular. See if you can guess what I’m trying to say about Mrs. Jenkins:

She had a flared-nostril, stretched-necked look about her, as though she had to labor to look down upon the multitude of sinners scuttling about her feet.

Religious zealot, right? Judgmental bitch, right? Of course the stretched-neck part always reminds me of Carol Burnett’s version of Norma Desmond, but paired with the flared nostrils, I think Mrs. Jenkins takes on a rather condemnatory appearance. Don’t believe me? Try it in the mirror.

Physiognomy can work with any character type. Is your character obsequious, timid and unassuming? He or she has no sharp lines in their face, no hard angles, no overtly-pointed point of view.

But there is always something more you can say about a person in addition to their specific features.  Roald Dahl, in his story The Twits, writes:

If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it. A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.

Yes exactly.

Now it is your turn. Think of one of your characters, or even a memorable character you’ve read, and tell me how their outer appearance helps show who they are inside. Do you think physiognomy could help you develop your characters? What feature on your face is a telltale hint as to who you are?
Sunday, March 21, 2010

Story Time: A Tale of Wish and Will

Once upon a time, there was born a set of twins named Wish and Will. They were both loved and adored and given the same opportunities; both well-liked and funny and smart. Both Wish and Will wanted the same things, but only Will ever got them.

This made Wish very angry, and he cried to his therapist, “It’s not fair that Will gets everything, and I get nothing. He’s not any smarter than I am.”

“No,” Wish’s therapist agreed.

“And he’s not any funnier.”

“Definitely not.”

“Then why is it that he’s able to get anything he wants?”

“Because,” said the wise old man, “he doesn’t just wish it to happen; he wills it to happen.”

The End.

Moral of the Story: Be a willer and not a wisher.

Bad habits die hard. I must say “I wish…” a dozen times a day. (Notably, this is in regards to students. “I wish those monkey-headed morons would get their act together and fill out a simple form correctly. How hard is it to follow instructions?”) I figure this sort of wishing is pretty benign. There is no changing the students. They’re just monkey-headed. And if the forms were any simpler, they’d be blank. But I’m plenty guilty of wishing other areas of my life.

“I wish I were married,” “I wish I had kids,” “I wish I had an iguana,” “I wish I were thin,” and “I wish I could write a book in a month!” have all come out of my mouth at one time or another. It should be noted: none of these things have come true. Thank God, in most cases. Especially about those kids, am I right?

However, I also know that the reason that these things haven’t happened is because I haven’t made them happen. Sure, it is possible to date religiously, court the right sort of men, and still not manage to end up married; however, I am not that girl. I hate dating; I love the wrong sort of men; and surprise, I’m not married. If I wanted an iguana, I could just go out and buy one. He’d probably be an excellent security guard. The first burglar who came in my house and was greeted by a honking ass iguana wearing a pirate hat would shit his pants. If I really wanted to be thin, I’d skip nightly rendezvous with Breyer’s and eat more veggies instead of pork fat.

It’s the way of all things. Wishing isn’t enough to make it happen. You have to make it happen; and people make the very things we wish we were doing happen every single day. And in all regards except one, we’re no different than those other people. We just need to be willing rather than wishing.

What are your bad habits in writing? What do you wish you could do? What have you wished for that you’re glad you didn’t get?
Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hottie of the Week- Hose it down boys!

Water glistening on perfecly sculpted muscles is a glorious sight. The terms used to describe the visual conjurs just as much as a picture in front of you. How many times have you read a description of  a hero standing before the heroine in the shower? The water gliding over  his rock hard pecs to  the definitions between his six pack . It's amazing how a little water tossed around can liven things up. Wet heroes are the portals to a perfect steamy sex scene. A shower doesn't necessarily have to be the catalyst. A good old hose of the garden variety can do wonders. It can stage a sexy water fight scene that starts out playfully, and ends with a wet and wild roll in the grass.

I like to write about couples caught in a rain storm. It spices things up a bit if they are arguing. A wet t-shirt clinging to some broad shoulders is a beautiful sight. A shoving match ensues, and the sexual tension builds. The heroine grabs the front of his t-shirt and rips it from neck to tail. The hero looks down with an intense stare, beads of water clinging to his eye lashes and dripping from his bottom lip. She leans close and sucks his bottom lip into her mouth. What follows is an all out, back against the wall, legs around his hips, sexy ride to a steamy climax.  

Yes ladies, in the writing world, good muscles, and a water source is a combination not to be missed.
Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Report from the Steam Front

What’s not to love about the quirky little genre of steampunk? It has goggles! Colored goggles, goggles with multiple lenses, goggles that telescope, goggles that glow, goggles that light up… And corsets! Leather, cloth, short, long-lined, buckles, laces, over the boobs, under the boobs… Corset coats, corset jackets with puffy sleeves, with cogs and wheels and springs and… Wings! Yup, wings that pin on the jackets or wings that ride on your back or wings that frame a watch that you wear on your wrist or on a collar or on a necklace or… And dirigibles!

And steam! Steam and derby hats and perch hats and feathers and laces and KRAKENS! There were so many krakans! Pins, necklaces, in art. Sigh. I died and went to kraken heaven. (I bought a pen, though I may take some paint ta the beast and turn him into the Albino Kraken of my newest manuscript.)

Why are there kraken? Well, here lies part of the roots of steampunk as a genre. According to some, steampunk began with Jules Verne and Captain Nemo’s Nautilus (Undersea adventures, ahoy! And giant squid, of course. A close relative of the Kraken). Or was it H. G. Wells and his time machine? Maybe Arthur Conan Doyle and the age of deductive reasoning. Or Poe and the gold bug. (I find myself wondering if my fav, Edgar Rice Burroughs write anything the steampunks would consider worthy… Pellucidar? Hmmmm!)

Was it the patent of James Watt (hope I got that name right) in 1794, which locked up the innovation of the steam engine, thus ensuring the development of electricity as the primary tool of industrialization in the long term? Is this the inspiration which became a catalyst for steampunk? The loss of possibilities for steam to innovate?

Lost you?

(One of steampunks over-riding themes is that the steam engine is the driving technology of everything.)

I attended the Nova Albion Steampunk Exhibition last weekend, held in Emeryville, CA. Which is right next to Oakland, across the bay from San Francisco. Got ya geographically centered now? OK!

I knew of steampunk as a small side genre of science fiction for a long time. Or that is certainly how I viewed it. I had no idea it was undergoing an evolution of its own all these years. It has grown to encompass so many sidelines, it’s really impossible to peg.

This, of course, means I am in love. Me and steampunk, we be sisters. We be sweet sisters. Because steampunk has no absolute identity. It’s an aesthetic. It enjoys the trappings of the Victorian era. With steam pirates, with explorers, with inventors and innovators and makers and writers and artists and anarchists.

Yes! Anarchists! I do so love me some anarchy! Everything is better with the spice of anarchy in the mix. I gets me panties in a twist at the idea of a bit a’ anarchy.

Steampunk, historically, is set in the Victorian era. With Victorian sensibilities, fashion, manners, protocol and…the political and social woes of the era. Colonialism, class struggles, the industrial revolution and the displacement of the agrarian interests. A very anarchistic era!

Modern steampunk…ah, doesn’t that sound strange? … knows no real boundary. I sat in on two panels, one full of literary types who discussed the overriding themes of the genre and a panel discussion the literature of the movement. There is futuristic steampunk, steampunk set strictly in Victorian England, western Americana steampunk – remember Wild, Wild West? And it seems to be growing and mutating constantly. (Reminds me a bit of romance in that!)

There is a recent influx of paranormal in the genre. A natural inclusion considering when Bram Stroker wrote “Dracula” and Mary Shelly wrote “Frankenstien” … add in Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson and paranormal is a legitimate member of the family.

The Traders Concourse was a dream. Oh! If I’d had the cash. The costumes wandering the hallways were inspirational! The conversations! Where else could you hear two men discussing iocane powder (The Princess Bride), Warehouse 13 (The SciFi Channel) and a venture to provide dirigibles for commuting from Sacramento to San Francisco? (reality)

And steampunk is making forays into romance. Yes, pirates! Sitting on the second panel was Gail Carriger,  the intrepid author of Soulless, a steampunk paranormal romance that has taken the fantasy world by storm. And yes, it is a romance. Ms. Carriger had the gumption to speak brave words to this room of fantasy/scifi/steampunk aficionados… For steampunk to survive and reach a broader audience, it may need to ally itself with…romance!

The room moaned, groaned… I stood up and shouted at them all, “Oh, grow up!”

(OK, I didn’t, but I wished I had.)

I briefly spoke to Ms. Carriger after the panel, telling her about the two panels scheduled at RT on steampunk. She knew of them and had offered to attend RT and take part. The fools of RT turned her down. (Fools, yes, I feel strongly about this. Why they turned her down, who turned her down… I would like to poke a finger in their eye.) She smiled at me and held her first book close. “This is romance and I’m not ashamed of it.”

What a charming woman! I invited her to come by the blog today, and perhaps in time I can convince her to guest. As far as I can see, she in a visionary. And she fills me with hope for my strange genre adventures. The entire convention filled me with hope for my odd little children. I don’t know if I am a budding steampunk author. I have my doubts because, as we all know, I am a lazy pirate and doing research into the particulars of history and science necessary to see me accepted into the genre…not likely going to happen.

But! I can be me pirate self, sail about the fringes and fire the occasional cannon into the steampunk world. Maybe plan a raid now and again, plant some seeds of piratitude with my stories that may turn some goggles my way, entice some adventurous souls into trying out some fringe steampunkery.

Steam pirate? Pirate punk? Here I come!

So, have you heard of steampunk at all? Read it? Were you a fan of Wild Wild West? The new movie Sherlock Holmes? What do you think of goggles as a fashion accessories? Corsets? Bustles? Parasols? Perch hats? Have you ever discovered a new genre that sings like a siren to your writing soul?


And the men, btw, looked delicious. All dressed in Victoriana, top hats, vests, pocketwatches, spats… Sigh. Go by Gail’s site and you’ll see pictures from the convention. I, being a flustered twitter-pated bartender, managed to erase all my pictures from my new camera. Sigh.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Writing the Male for the Female Sensibility

Most of the time I love being a chick.

I love that I can match my clothing without assistance.  I love that I can have an hour conversation on the phone and at the end say it was a great talk but not know what we talked about.  I love that I can cry at cheesy movies/commercials/books and no one thinks I’m weak, least of all me.  And I really love that I can communicate my emotions without giving myself a brain aneurism.

Not that there aren’t some men out there who can perform the above tasks, but well, they aren’t the norm.

This being in touch with my girly side is great when I’m writing female characters.  I can write emotions that make sense for a girl.  I know how the average girl thinks.  They think like I think.

But writing men?  I get all hung up.

I spent the past weekend picking my husband’s brain about what makes men tick.  When I say “picking” I mean, “prying it out of him with nagging and needling.”

It went thus:

Me:  I’m having a hard time understanding how my hero should act.

Him:  Aren’t you writing him?  Just change it.  (My DH is a “if a problem arises, just fix it” kind of fellow.  You know.  A GUY.)

Me:  It’s not that I CAN'T change him; it’s that I don’t know HOW to change him.

Him:  Huh?

Me:  Like this.  A guy doesn’t use as many words as most girls use.  He says what he has to say, with as little words as possible.

Him:  Right.  (Point proven.  One for my team.)

Me:  And a guy generally doesn’t feel comfy with his emotions.  Or he doesn’t think about them as much as a girl does.

Him:  He doesn’t?

Me:  I don’t know.  Does he?

Him:  What?

Me:  *eye roll* Do guys think about their emotions as much as girls do?

Him:  I’m not a girl.  I don’t know.

Me:  *patient sigh* Husband.  Humor me.

Him:  Hmm…  Well, I probably don’t think about my emotions as much as you do.

Me:  So what do you think about?

Him:  *exasperated* Marnee.  I don’t know.  Stuff.

This from the most communicative man I’ve ever been in a relationship with.

The above conversation didn’t help me much to understand the inner workings of my hero’s mind.  So I tried to apply what I know of men in an observational capacity.  No overtalking.  Check.  Not as skilled at communicating as a woman, at least as a general.  Check.  A fix-it mentality about everything from broken toasters to complex life issues.  Check.

That’s probably a pretty good start.  But then I have to worry about getting said “male characterization” across for a generally female audience.  Because in a romance, we don’t want the average beer-swilling, thinking-about-sex guy.  We want the Prince Charmings.  Believable Prince Charmings.

What we have is the complexity of writing the male character to appeal to the female fantasy.  No easy task indeed.

So, what suggestions have you guys got?  What differences do you find between your male and female characters?   How have you found success writing the “other”?  What female authors write believable men?


Disclaimer:  No boy belittlement intended.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Feelin' Lucky

I actually have a pair of sweatpants with "Feelin' Lucky" on the butt. I don’t wear them out of the house. I’d hate to have to explain to a police officer that he had it coming when he put his hand on my ass and said that I was about to be the lucky one.

Dream on, buddy.

Sort of like the sex instructor t-shirt. That doesn’t get worn out in public either for various reasons. Mostly because the last time I wore it, I forgot I had it on and a Carney midget (little person- I’m not sure what is preferred) solicited a good time with me because there were things he was sure as a sex instructor I needed to know.

Trust me; I think I’ve got the sex covered.

Coinwinkadinkaly, I’ve not been back to a county fair since.

Today is St. Patty’s day, and I’m not going to bore you with the details of the St. Patty’s day. (As far as I’m concerned, the only facts you need to know about today is that you should be in an Irish bar getting wasted and pretending you speak Gaelic.)

Getting lucky is what writing is all about. Writing is a lot of hard work and determination and heart break and soaring above the clouds. As a profession, we have a lot of personal ups and downs. Rationally if you look at the odds a writer faces- well, I’m not going to think about it. My odds of making it as an actual author depresses me. I like to think the more I believe in lady luck, the better my odds get at actually making it. Although, this would also entail actually finishing up my manuscript and getting out there.

That’s going to take some luck too.

Getting lucky isn’t always about scoring with the hot dude three doors down from you who always goes out into the hall to get his paper with just a towel wrapped around his waist and hair still damp from the shower, smelling like After Hours and begging to be licked dry.

(Sorry, I have to pause a second to let that just soak in. I have this thing for After Hours. It’s like breathing in liquid sex and sexy man all at the same time.)

We have the chance as writers to make our characters as lucky or unlucky as the situation we put them in.  Kiki believes (mostly because it’s my belief) you have to make your own luck. You get yourself into a situation, you either need to be able to handle it or hope you have enough Karma to burn off to get you out of it.

Unfortunately, Kiki’s luck well has run dry.

I like being in charge. I’ve been bossy my entire life. Being in the driver’s seat of my world, of my story and characters gives me a chance to boss more people around.

  • I decide if Kiki gets out of the car.

  • I decide if Kiki survives all the messes she’s gotten herself into.

  • I decide if Kiki jumps Dex in the kitchen.

  • And I decide if any of those things brings consequences of the unlucky variety of fortune.

Which knowing me, no one’s luck is that good.

I try to keep in mind with every situation; there is a good and bad outcome. Example would be:

He pulled up to the corner and told me to get out. I looked out the passenger window at the iron bars over the glass store fronts, the graffiti littering the brick and sidewalks. I shot him a look.

“No way.” I crossed my arms over my chest and shook my head. “I’m not going out there without my gun.”

He reached across me and shoved open the door. “Get out, Kiki.”

I fastened my seat belt and held on.

“Get out of the car.”

I turned my head away from him and closed the door.

“I’m not going to tell you again.”

I whipped my head around, “Or you’ll what? You’ll drop me off in the ghetto to be picked up by Soladan and his goons? Oh, golly, oh, gee. Looks like that already happened.” I leaned over the console and got in his face. “I am not bait to get your sister back.”

His gaze held mine, “You are if I say you are.”

I made a nasty noise in the back of my throat and shoved away from him. “I knew it was bad luck that brought you back into my life. It’s been nothing but one hell hole after the next since you came back.”

“The sooner you get out of the car, the sooner I’m out of your life, wildcat.” He reached passed me and shoved open the door again. “Now, are you going to puss out or are you going to get out of the car.”

I hated him. Oh, I hated him. I shoved his arm out of the way and hit the concrete with two clicks of my four inch heels. “Careful, Dex. I don’t do any favors.”

He smiled, his eyes tired and lips nearly thinned out. “Yeah, that’s what I heard around the block.”

I kicked the door closed to the car and double handedly flipped him off as he peeled away from the curb.

The nerve of that asshole!

I looked down both ways and wouldn’t you know, two minutes after I step out onto the curb, Soladan’s sentries spied me and his big bad wolf, the Muscle Man, was coming to take me in.

I thought about my options, took a deep breath and started walking towards the Muscle Man. If I got out of this semi-alive, I was going to kill Dex.

While this seems like a bad outcome, the good is just on the horizon. Positive to negative. Everything has to equal out, just like luck.

Now, do you believe in luck? And are you lucky or unlucky?

What sort of situations do you place your character in before they get lucky? How do you decide how unlucky they are going to be before you take mercy on them? Have any lucky advice? Ran into any rainbows with pots of gold? Favorite St. Patty’s day story? Drinking green rum at your desk at the moment?

May the luck of the Irish be with you today and don't wrestle with Leprechauns. They bite.
Monday, March 15, 2010

Pirate Idol!

Spotlights come up revealing a large stage on the top deck. Four pirates sit at a table before the stage, a large red cup bearing the name Captain Morgan sits before each of them. The curtain opens and a well-dressed, scrawny, little man strolls to the center.

Hello, Everyone. We’re coming to you live from the Romance Writer’s Revenge and I’m your host, Ryan Seagull. It’s coming down to the wire this season and we have aspiring writers fighting for their chance at the big time. Raise you rum and tighten your hammocks, this is…..PIRATE IDOL!

*Hottie crew members roar with applause, one holding a sign that reads BO’SUN IS THE MOSTUN!*

Before we get started, I want to introduce our esteemed panel of judges. On the end, bringing the rain, it’s the Coxswain herself, Haleigh!

Yo, Ry, what up dawg?

Uh, yeah. Okay, moving along. Next we have J Perry Scuttlebutt, bringing the sunshine.

Blow it out your ass.

Nice. Always spreading the love, Scuttle. Good work. And then we have our special guest, this guy came a long way just for The Revenge, it’s Mark Twain! How did you manage to get here, Mr. Twain?

Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today. (Direct quote, pirate’s honor)

And last but not least, or maybe least, it’s Simon Crow’sNest.

Shut up.

Right, and we’re off and running. Our first contestant is a member of this crew. *looks offstage* Isn’t that a conflict of interest? *a Ninja star flies past his ear* No! ah, no conflict. We’re good.

She’s been trying her hand at this writing thing for a few years and claims her biggest problem is her follow through, give a warm pirate welcome to Bo’sun Terrio!

*Bo’sun slowly makes her way to center stage, ducking as a pair of Speedos whirl by her*

Thank you very much. Sticking with the advice, don’t bore your readers, I’ll get right down to business. I call this one, Sibling Rivalry.

Emma finished pouring the coffee for Bridgit, who preferred it black when hung over, then set it on the table. To her sister she said, “You, drink. I’ll get the aspirin.” To her son she said, “You, go check your book bag for the sketch pad and get ready to leave and don’t roll your eyes or say another word, we both know you haven’t looked. Now go.”

          Mornings like these made Emma long for a time when she might not always be the only capable adult in the room. Life could be exhausting when you found yourself in charge of everything all the time.

          Pain pills in hand, Emma informed Bridgit, “I’m already running late this morning and now I have to drop you at your car. You can take Jordy to Mom and Dad’s with you and I can go straight to Catherine’s luncheon.” Setting her own mug in the sink, she asked, “You are sober at this point, right?”

          “Do you ever relax?” Bridgit said. “I swear you were born with a broom handle up your ass.”

          Emma swiped the mug of coffee off the table. “Feel free to walk to your car, I don’t need your crap today.”

          Bridgit lunged for the mug then winced at the movement and cradled her head. “What is your problem? God, you’d think I pissed in your cereal or something.”

          “No, just puked in my flower bed, as I mentioned.” Emma spoke again the words she’d asked a million times. “When are you going to get your life together, Bridgit? When are you going to act like a grown up?”

          “If acting like a grown up means acting like you, then I’ll pass.” The sarcasm came as no surprise, but was no less irritating for being expected. “How I live my life is none of your business. Why don’t you go out and find yourself a man? Getting laid has got to make you less bitchy.”

          Emma thought of all the men who had passed through her sister’s love life, most for a very short period of time, and didn’t see how getting laid had ever improved Bridgit’s disposition. Already tired of the fight, Emma said, “Your spare toothbrush is in the medicine cabinet. Just be ready at the car in fifteen minutes.”

*Bo’sun bows as the Hotties erupt once again in applause*

Thank you, Bo’sun, now let’s see how the judges felt about that excerpt. Hal?

I don’t know, dawg. It was kind of cliché in places. I liked it, it was okay. But I didn’t love it. But I’m still a fan!

Okay, I’m sure that was helpful. Scuttle?

She knows I love her and she’s fucking awesome and I wish I had tits like that.

Uhm, something to work with. Got it. How about you, Mr. Twain?

Barring that natural expression of villainy which we all have, the man looked honest enough. (Another direct quote. The man was full of them!)

*Ryan whispers to someone off stage* No more rum for Mr. Twain.

And now we turn to you, Simon, what did you think?

You don’t know who you are. Are you trying to be funny or serious? Is this drama? A comedy? For me, right now, it’s just a tragedy. Self-indulgent. An unmitigated mess.

*Bo’sun grabs the mic and addresses the crowd*

He’s right. I know it. This is my problem. What the hell kind of writer am I? Should I go for the joke or go for the angst? Or can I do both? I’m torn!

What do you think? Do you know exactly what kind of writer you want to be? Do you walk the line between two worlds? Or are you firmly planted on solid writing ground? And more importantly, do you think you could win Pirate Idol?!
Sunday, March 14, 2010

My Deer Hunter Analogy

My boyfriend and I live in different states, but on the rare and happy occasion we can spend time together, we do. On the weekend of his latest arrival (he’d told me he was coming up here no less than six times in the upcoming weeks), I remember wondering what exactly was going on here, in Columbia, that would galvanize him to come. And tell me about it like six times. Let’s keep it in perspective here: I’m just the nuts on the sundae, folks, not the ice cream or hot fudge.

My big visual clue about his excitement greeted me on 63 as I passed the overpass to the Boone County Fairgrounds. Missouri Deer Classic. The Boyfriend equivalent of a Harry Potter Convention. So obvious, it was like a cartoon anvil hit me on my head. Where had I been?

Now, as you might imagine, I don’t get all that excited about deerhunting. And as you might imagine, he isn’t all that into Harry Potter, shoe shopping, or writing. We’re pretty amused on the other’s behalf when they get excited about their passions, but understanding those passions is another cauldron of flobberworms. Still, despite our opposites attract model of dating, I do try to find the common ground now and again. And I’m sure he’d grandly agree there is so much you could learn about writing from hunting that elusive whitetail.

So here is a short list of the things writers can learn from the Great White Hunter.

1.) Go big or go home: My boyfriend loves saying this. I think this is the equivalent of “leave it all in the ring”, which is basically the opposite of how I was raised, which is all about saving for rainy days and stuff. Nope, he’s all about cash it all in now. Give this one everything you got or don’t bother. Writer takeaway: don’t save the good stuff for the next book.

2.)   The Secret works for 13 point bucks: The law of attraction, folks. You have to believe you’re going to get big deer for big deer to cross your path so you can shoot them. He’s been hunting ever since someone would let him outside with a gun, and he’s lived long enough that you’d think some of the enthusiasm would wane, but it doesn’t. Every year, he’s out there on the first day of deer season convinced he is going to get the mack daddy of all deer. And what do you know, he usually ends up with a deer. Writer takeaway: thinking positively is more productive than thinking negatively.

3.) Be prompt: I love him, but deerhunters are lunatics. He was up at some insane hour of the morning just so he could get this mack daddy deer. Like three in the morning. In the cold. Writer takeaway: show up to your writing sessions; don’t dawdle or put it off for something else. If finishing your book is your priority, you’d be there.

4.)  Be silent: He doesn’t run off big game by talking. (At least I don’t think he does. I’m not willing to be anywhere at 3 a.m. to document this for fact.) Anytime I see a hunting show, everyone is talking in a bare whisper if they have to talk at all. Writer takeaway: quiet your mind, turn off the cellphone and email, and lure the muse to you. You know, like that dopey 13 point deer.

5.) Remember the fun: it’s not always about the deer. It is, but it isn’t. I’ve known him to tramp around all day in cold November rain and not see a single four-legged beast all day. Worse, I’ve known him to tramp around all day and everyone else he knew got a deer. (I mean, if I got up at 3 a.m., sat in the rain and cold, and got jack nothing shit, while others got one while taking a piss, I’d be testy.) But what does my deerhunter say? “I had a blast! I got to hang out with my friends and brother all day! It was awesome!” Writer takeaway: remember you’re here because you love writing, not necessarily because you’re intent on getting on the NYT bestseller list. You have control over your writing; you don’t have control over lists. Do it anyway and have fun.

6.) If you get the opportunity, for God’s sake shoot it: this one is pretty self-explanatory so I’ll skip to the writer part. Writer takeaway: it’s amazing how many stories we hear where an editor will ask for the full manuscript, and we end up never sending it to them because we’re not actually finished with the story yet. This is like hunting with your safety on. Or getting a deer in your sights and realizing you didn’t bring bullets. WTF. Either finish your manuscript before you shop it to editors, or be prepared that they might actually say yes and be willing to finish it in a hurry. Don’t choke. You’re going to kick yourself every time you tell the story about the one that got away.

7.) And last but not least, if you get a deer, celebrate it: My darling doesn’t get a big mack daddy deer every year. He’s pretty much happy to celebrate any deer he gets. Still, when he does get The Big One, he does it up right. He gets the thing mounted and put on the wall. Makes a writer sort of envious the same isn’t done for when we get published by a big whig. “Look, this was the year Girl on a Grecian Urn won a RITA.” Writer takeaway: Don’t bother being that humble. Live a little. Any excuse is a good excuse for a party!

Well, I think that is the extent of my writer-hunter analogies. I can tell we’re all relieved. So here are my questions for you: are any of you in relationships of “opposites attract” and if so, how do you find your common ground? Do you prefer romances with opposites attract or something with less potential to turn volatile? *laughs* Can you think of any hobby less like writing and find something we could learn from it?
Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hottie of the Week-Cufflinks and Neckties

While on my quest for hottie material for this week; I discovered one of my hottie weaknesses. Men in business or evening attire. There is something to be said about a man in a tailored suit or tuxedo. A suit can often times project an image of a man in control, inside and outside of the boardroom. How many romance novels start with a man in a necktie, and before the chapter is over, the tie is securing a woman's wrists to a bedpost?


 A suit can be foreplay.  It hides the goodies, and makes a woman undress him with her eyes. It's a virtual game of cat and mouse, until  Armani is draped across the foot of the bed.

He can bring it, on and off a soccer field.

And sweet Alabama, doesn't he look good!

Is it me, or is it hot in here?
Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rock the Boat!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been working with the newbies attending this year’s RT. A few nights ago, I really don’t remember why this came up, but I mentioned my favorite of the Jack Sparrow scenes from the last movie. The one where Jack realizes the only way to return from the far side of the world is to rock the boat…

But Jack, being Jack, doesn’t bother with trying to explain his brilliant deduction. He simple begins to run from side to side and due to his sheer confidence – or madness – the others follow his lead.

And viola! It works.

Now, I’ve been working on editing together a small collection of blogs from the ship to present to the newbies and one of the more brilliant entries comes from Captain Hellion. You all know the one… Everything I Know About Writing I Learned From Captain Jack Sparrow

(Did I say I was editing? Uh…no, not editing, Hel. I’d never edit you! The blog is perfect…though I think you might want to update the info on what you’re currently working on… Just saying!)

So, Hel presents 12 perfectly logical rules, er…guidelines…to follow as a writer. I want to add a 13thHave the confidence to rock the boat.

I love how Jack throws himself into his task. He knows he’s right. Or if he doesn’t know, he believes he’s right and goes for it with everything ounce of energy inside that luscious body. He just goes for it.

Thinking about how Johnny created this role begs the question, which came first… Jack or Johnny? Johnny has been rocking the boat most of his acting career and doing it quite well. Again and again, he put together a character, then waited to be fired from a project, certain he’d gone too far this time. And we may never know the roles he didn’t get because of this tendency. Ah! But the roles he did get! And what they can teach us about moving forward with confidence and the going for it philosophy of life.

I look at Edward Scizzorhands, Ichabob, Jack, Charlie, Sweeny, the Mad Hatter…and bless Johnny Depp, a writing pirates hero!

Now, I’ve been navigating some heavy seas lately and simply have no time for lack of confidence. I must trim my sails, tighten those lines and hold that wheel with the conviction that what I am writing is the right course to steer. So, I consider Jack.

Because what I write rocks the boat. Especially this newest story. My silverton story as I call it. The Kraken’s Mirror. I finished this story last week and am already doing some basic editing. I have an extremely clear vision of this story in e-print. (Is there such a thing? Well, there is now. I just coined it. Or borrowed it if it already exists. I am a pirate, I can do that. No. I do do that!)

I can see myself selling it, pitching it, no bwah ha ha this time, but a *wink *wink perhaps. And I’m throwing myself into this project with the total abandon of Jack, rocking that boat.

I wrote a heroine who is 53 years old. She’s short. She’s got a mix of grey and brown hair. Her boobs droop. She’s got cellulite. She curses like a sailor when having phenomenal sex. And throughout most of the story she is convinced she’s insane.

I wrote a hero who is 65 years old. He’s got an old man’s butt. A few strands of dark blond snake through his silver grey hair, which is elbow length. His body is covered in scars from 50 years of pirating. And he’s cursed with good luck. (Resulting in only scars and why none were death wounds.) And he plots, seduces and uses his curse quite effectively through the story.

I’m mixing Alice in Wonderland with Pirates of the Caribbean with Peter Pan with some hints of steampunk (steampirate, doncha know!)…with senior citizens!

They say I’m mad. I say I’m rocking the boat and loving every minute of it. I’m challenging the paradigm! I’m creating a genre!

And if no one can recognize the brilliance of this story, I will give it away. I will post it on my website, I will find a way to see it read. Nope, don’t know where or how. I’ll deal with that if it comes to it.

There’s a real freedom to rocking the boat. Risk? Sure, but if life isn’t an adventure, what the hell!?

So, the discussion for this Friday… (To which I will be in and out. Sorry, pirates…I’m attending my first steampunk convention but it starts late for you east coasters, so I think I’ll be OK to attend to the blog. If I disappear…I’m lost in steamland.)

How do you rock the boat? If you don’t now, how would you like to rock the boat? Challenge the paradigm of your genre? Throw yourself with abandon into a writing project…what would you do?


(BTW…anyone have a blog they want to nominate as an excellent learning and/or inspirational device for the newbies? Feel free!)
Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring break fever

One more day until I'm officially on Spring Break. Ten years ago, I'd get really excited about Spring Break. Drinks and boys and beaches.

Now . . . . I'm just thinking, "I wonder if I'll be able to clean my house?"

I'm thinking that adults need a Spring Break now and then.  You know, that time in your life when you get away from all supervision, go somewhere exotic like Daytona Beach, and blow off everything but the tequila. One week without a single responsibility or item on your to-do list. One week without a child needing attention. One week with nothing to do but go to parties, lay out on the beach, and sleep in.

Sometimes, I wonder if my writing needs a Spring Break too. Those moments where we block out every rule, every item on our to-do list, and just write. Not worrying about if we got the setting right, or if the finished product will fit the right genre. Not stopping to fix the spelling errors or dig through the thesaurus for the perfect word.

Just write with the complete abandon that only nineteen-year-olds left unsupervised with a keg can manage.

I was writing yesterday and trying hard to get into my heroine Josephine's head. And the thought crossed my mind that Josephine doesn't react all that maturely to a lot of things. She feels things deeply, but doesn't want to admit that. So she does stupid, stupid things to stop feeling things.

I wondered if I was writing a character that was "too bad." Someone who broke too many rules to be a heroine, someone who couldn't be sympathized with. She's a bit like a nineteen year old on Spring Break.

But sometimes, we need that abandon. That complete recklessness that comes with being too young. Sometimes, we need to say to hell with the rules, and just write for the sheer joy of writing.

What does writing with complete abandon mean to you? What would you do if you could block out everything else and just write? What would you do with a whole week without a single responsibility?

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

The incomparable Miranda has chosen her winner: Bo'sun!

Congratulations, Bo'sun, and Miranda, thanks again for being an awesome guest and keeping our darling Jack on his toes.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Captain Jack Sparrow Parlays With Miranda Neville About Her Wild Marquis

*in the early morning light, where the Romance Writer’s Revenge is anchored at port in Vermont, which is truly magical since Vermont is not a state with a coastline, and the deck is suspiciously quiet. Perhaps the crew of the RWR are sleeping in preparation for their guest Miranda Neville, who will be dropping by the ship to discuss her new book, The Wild Marquis*

Miranda: *peeking over the railing* Hello? *climbing over the edge and finally standing on deck* Whew! I wasn’t sure about that rope climbing thing. I mean, even with the knots tied at intervals, it’s still pretty….

Jack: Miranda! My sweet, my luv, my precious, my pet. I’m so glad to see you. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to come get you personally, but I was busy getting the ship ready for your arrival.

Miranda: *breathless, patting down her hair* Really? The crew is ready for me?

Jack: *laughing* Oh, no, I sent them to shore. Amazing what free pints of Ben & Jerry Ice Cream coupons will do for a bunch of chocolate-loving tarts like them. I mean, I could barely get the ship pulled into port before they were diving off the sides and swimming for land. I think they’ll be stockpiling.

Miranda: But…what about my interview?

Jack: Oh, we’re still doing your interview, luv. *guiding her with one hand at her lower back* Come with me where I can now assure you no interruption as you tell me more about your delightful novel. *kissing up her arm* The Wild Marquis, is it?

Miranda:  The setting is Regency England, my favorite place, and it’s a tale rife with sex, violence, and deep, dark secrets involving ruthless rare book collectors.

Jack: The story does sound very promising. Especially the rife with sex part. The hero himself sounds very much like yours truly. What did the blurb say? “He is notorious for his wretched morals and never received in respectable houses. The ladies of the ton would never allow him in their drawing rooms . . . though some of them have welcomed him into their bedchambers.” I mean, that sounds like a page out of one of my journals! Tell me more about this Marquis. I like to know about my competition.

Miranda: Cain, the Marquis of Chase loves women. Not just for you-know-what. He really likes them as people. He was just a lad when his father kicked him out of the house and he was rescued from a robbery by some charming prostitutes. Since then all his best friends are women and he makes a point of protecting them and treating them well, not just you-know-where. This makes him unlike a lot of the befuddled hunks who inhabit so many romances (not that I don’t love a befuddled hunk too). Cain rarely misunderstands women but, perhaps because he knows them too well, he has never fallen in love.

Jack: You know, it takes a special sort of woman to appreciate men like the Marquis and me. Someone daring, someone yearning to be a bit wicked herself, someone…devastatingly beautiful. Who is this girl, and did you bring her with you? I know she’s met this Chase fellow, but do I have a shot at her at all?

Miranda: Juliana Merton is a very serious girl and I’m afraid she might not appreciate your … unusual … approach to life. Her husband was murdered and she’s having a hard time making ends meet in her rare book shop. Turns out most men don’t think women know anything. But when Cain needs an expert to help him buy back a family heirloom, he’s thrilled to find a woman with the right knowledge. Plus she’s cute as a button and Cain’s not good at depriving himself—and the women in question—of a good time. Juliana doesn’t think much of Cain at first but she needs him as a client. Then he starts to make her laugh. (Hmm. On second thought, Jack, perhaps you’d better stay away from her. She might fancy you.) Specters from both their pasts emerge and Juliana is in danger. Next thing the two of them are charging around England in a carriage, and you know what happens when you put a hero and heroine in a carriage together ….

Jack: Fine, fine. The next girl then. You definitely have to introduce me to the next girl. What’s up next for you? Any winsome wenches on the horizon for me?

Miranda: I think you’ll like Diana, the heroine of my next book. She’s quite a saucy minx. On the other hand she wants to marry a duke. The book is called The Dangerous Viscount, a hint about how that plan goes. You’ll have to invite me back in October if you want to meet her.

Jack: Where are my manners? Have a seat, my dear, and a spot of rum. *goes to pour rum but his bottle is empty* Chance has it here somewhere. *returns with two new bottles* Here you go. Go ahead, perch yourself in Hellion’s hammock. She won’t mind. So what is the daily life like for a glamorous romance novelist like yourself?

Miranda:  *holds out glass* Thank you, I will. Or just give me the whole bottle. Just to keep you all guessing, I’m going to make the account of my day multiple choice.

I start the day with (a) a little champagne (b) a lot of coffee (c) a hangover.

I step into my (a) rose-scented bath tub (b) dust-infested office (c) dungeon

where I (a) receive a massage from a Swedish movie star (b) check my email (c) am tortured by publishing professionals wanting to know where my book is.

Dressed in (a) a chic little number I picked up in Milan (b) my bathrobe (c) armor, I (a) compose ten pages by noon (b) stare at the screen for an hour then eat half a jar of peanut butter and a candy bar (c) have a nervous breakdown. Then I (a) plan my next research trip to exotic locales (b) go to my day job (c) drink heavily. It a (a) hard (b) hard (c) hard life being a romance novelist, but there are compensations, like meeting delicious pirates with a steady hand for eyeliner application.

Jack: Well, I do enjoy being a perk. (That is what Hellion called me the other night…or did the word start with j?) All right. Last question—but definitely the most important—do you think you’ll write a few pirate romances in the future? Because I can help you in the most indelible ways in researching for those stories. The way a pirate thinks. The kind of eye liner he wears. The sort of place he prefers to seduce his winsome wench. We can start researching now if you prefer….

Miranda: You know, Jack, I don’t know anything about ships, but if you could give me a few pointers I might be persuaded to put someone like you in my next book. Especially if you give me eyeliner lessons. But before you do that-- *watching Jack kiss up her arm* --let me wrap up here.

I have the most chaotic work habits and it’s a miracle my books get written. I’m still not entirely sure how it happens. I’m always madly impressed by writers who sit down at the same time each day and produce a quota of pages. Are you like that? Or do you type THE END and wonder where the heck all those words came from? (Oh, and did I mention I am giving away a copy of The Wild Marquis to one lucky commenter?)
Monday, March 8, 2010

Stay Tuned: Your Normal Programming Will Return Shortly...

Due to unforeseen circumstances [read: you know how you think you attached a file to an email and you didn't?], your normally scheduled blog has been replaced with this one. No worries, you'll be able to see the new blog later. So as you know what happens when something live on TV gets bumped by bad weather or writer's strikes or whathaveyou, you get The Sound of Music! So fire up your singing voices, ladies and gentlemen! The hills are alive...

*Hellion enters the ship’s sound stage wearing a nun-outfit. Cue laughter. Hellion adjusts her wimple, poses her hands before her in an exaggeratedly proper position and starts to sing: *


How do you solve a problem like a first draft?
How do you revise a book you wish would go away?

How do you find the strength to query?
Ben & Jerry’s ice cream?
Rum and Captain Jack?

Many a thing I need to do before I send it;
Many a thing to fix before an Editor sees
But what if it’s as badly written as my inner critic claims?
What if I’m going to need to move to Belize?

How do you solve a problem like a first draft?

Hellion: *warbling slowly*

How do you know when it’s revised enough to please?

*Other pirates also in black smocks and wimples enter stage, same hand pose and start singing: *

The blog is alive with the sound of cheering
With hurrahs we have sung with each book we complete
The blog is alive with the sound of cheering
Typing The End is a victory most sweet.

*Terri steps forward, throws off wimple and strips off smock, revealing a Regency gown; other pirates follow suit, revealing similar gowns*

Terri:  How did this outfit ever become fashionable? You could be Kate Moss and still look pregnant in these dresses? Gah.

Hellion: No idea, Terr, but you look great and not at all pregnant. *stepping forward, holding a guitar*

Hoydens in dresses and Marquises in fashion,
Rakes chasing spinsters and kissing them with passion;
Rides ‘round Hyde Park in a fast coach and four
Oh, life of the Regency rich totally scores!

Bantering intrigues and eye-spying chaperones;
Careful who you kiss or your reputation’s all blown.
A viscount, a marquis, a duke or an earl
Oh, it’s so much fun being a Regency girl!

*The Earl of Mayne swaggers out onto the main stage and all the pirates swoon; Mayne winks charmingly at the camera*

When the dishes pile,
When the kids wail,
When I’m feeling guilty as hell
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I just say: Oh, Well…

*pirates strip again and beneath is revealed to be contemporary clothing*

Chefs cooking in the bedroom and heroines eating cheap noodles,
Agents saving the USA and heroines with poodles;
Rides through the countryside in a bitching black Audi
Oh, life of the contemporary is so delightfully bawdy!

Bantering foreplay and toys with C batteries,
“You’re so gorgeous, my love” and all sorts of flatteries.
An agent, a chef, a billionaire, or a cowboy
Oh, the contemporary life brings so much joy!

When the dishes pile,
When the kids wail,
When I’m feeling guilty as hell
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I just say: Oh, Well…

Hellion:  As we all might know, I’m half-finished with my first draft of my hilarious single title, In the Beginning Again and well, I wrote this little parody to sing for when I do complete it. As you’ll see, I’m very modest.  *blushes*

I am writing, going on finishing, yippee, it’s time to plan.
Agents to entice, Editors to make nice; I need the perfect query at hand!
I have finished, now I have a first draft; Champagne I’ve drunk by score
I shall be in print, making a small mint.
Jude Deveraux, hear me roar!
Totally unprepared am I, to face the Publishing Biz;
Panicky, overwhelmed, and scared am I, of failing a possible pop quiz.
I need someone older and wiser, telling me what to do
I’ll find Christina, NYT author, she’s been a newbie too.

Marnee:  Are you always such a kiss up?

Hellion: Pirate. *smiles at audience* Now, crew, pirates, please join us in the RWR Theme song for the upcoming National Novel Writing Month, which as pirates none of us have planned for.  All together now:

Pirate crew, pirate crew,
Every morning you greet me
Nag and yell,
Giving me hell
Where’s my word count to greet thee

Here’s my page count, cut me some slack,
Cut me some slack, you termagants
Pirate crew, pirate crew,
Where would my word count be without you?

Hellion: Well, that’s all we have today. Tomorrow we’re going to have the incomparable Miranda Neville on the ship, telling us about her new book The Wild Marquis! In the meantime, how has your writing been coming? Anything you've read lately you've been dying to talk about? How about TV shows? Anyone love the new Life Unexpected?