Friday, April 30, 2010

Make No Mistake Booty Call!

Why yes, yes I did forget to announce the winner of the Maggie Robinson MISTRESS BY MISTAKE blog. What can I say, I’ve slept since then.

But without further ado, the winner is….


I sure hope you didn’t buy your copy yet, my dear. Send me your snail mail address where you’d like the book to be sent, and I will order is ASAP!

Congrats again to Maggie on a stellar debut and tune in next Friday, May 7th, when Maggie herself will be our special guest.
Thursday, April 29, 2010


Our resident bartender is still living it up, getting manuscript requests, chatting up important people, and possibly recovering from a hangover of Faery glitter. While we wait for her to return and tell us how to beguile agents and win over editors, I thought I'd prance out one of my parodies and ask for updates on everyone's writing. After all, that is what we're here for, yes?

Okay, so we're here for the hotties. Whatever.

Let's get everyone into the mood. We all love writing. Especially our writing. Sing along with me, guys:
Oh, listen, sister,
I love my manuscript,
And I can't tell you why.
There ain’t no reason…
Why I should love this prose
It must be something that the devil only know…

Phones gotta ring, emails gotta fly,

I gotta write this manuscript till I die—

Can’t help this crazy plot of mine….

Tell me it’s trite, tell me’s slow,

Tell me the dumb hero has got to go…

Can’t help this crazy plot of mine…

When I don’t write a line…

I near go out of my mind…

But when I sit with my pen and write—

That day is fine…those words do shine.

This plot can go to eternity,

Crazy and trite, I don’t care how it be.

Can’t help this crazy plot of mine...

All right, now we're all in the mood and happy with writing again. Bitch and brag. How's your writing been this week? Feast or famine? Mine: moderate buffet. I've starved more, let's just say. I don't absolute loathe my WIP this week (always a good sign)--could it be better? Of course. I think I'm avoiding writing a sex scene, and I'm currently trying to "recycle" chapters I previously cut when I thought the book wasn't going in the direction I wanted. I know some of you are editing/revising and some of you are writing like the wind to finish a first draft by June. How goes it?*

*If you don't want to share specific details about characters, please don't feel you have to. I know it's important to keep the magic contained. You can just say, "It's going great! I've written X pages/words/books!" or "I've written nothing because I'm being held captive in a dungeon!" That's fine.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Secret Babies and Other Surprises

I got a surprise yesterday.  If no one else was following the news, Sandra Bullock came out with two bombshells:  she’s filed for divorce and, surprise, she adopted a baby in January.

In our world of internet access and pervasive media, I was shocked she’d managed to keep her baby under wraps for so long.  And impressed.

As an aside, I feel horrible for Bullock.  Not only because I always feel bad for victims of adultery (because to me, cheating’s a coward’s way) but because she seems like such a nice lady, even if I don’t always love her movies.  She can laugh at herself.  She seems to have a quirky sense of humor.  She’s the type of girl I’d probably find myself befriending if I met her in my life.  Smart and goofy and devoted to those she loves.

When she escaped from the limelight after her husband’s hijinx were unearthed, I cheered for her.  Every time some headline about how she was keeping a low profile emerged, I’d quietly send her a mental high five.  Seriously, paparazzi.  Back off.

But a secret baby?  I never ever expected that.

Which got me thinking about secret babies in romances.  Any predictable plot twist, actually.  In this case, it seems clear that Bullock went into hiding not only to stay off the front page for herself, but because she didn’t want to exploit her child.  If her hiding hadn’t been justifiable before, it became righteous yesterday.

I’ve wondered if secret baby plots don’t do the same justification.  I mean, in most secret baby books, the heroine has kept the child from the hero because she believes he would be a negative influence in the baby’s life.  Or in her own.  When the baby is revealed, it’s generally in a way that makes the otherwise cruel action of separating a man from his child justifiable.  The secret baby usually magnifies the conflict between them, their inner struggles.

Another predictable plot twist—the forced marriage.  I can’t even count how many historicals I’ve read where the hero and heroine get caught in a compromising position and end up having to wed.  Usually this external plot twist magnifies the internal conflicts and characterization.

This felt like a real revelation to me.  The success of these stories seems to be their ability to ratchet up the conflict but in a way that still keeps sympathy for both characters.

What other predictable plots do you see a lot of?  What things have you learned from these standard romance devices that we might be able to take and make fresh?  Were you surprised by Sandra Bullock’s secret baby?
Tuesday, April 27, 2010

He had blonde hair and blue eyes you could lose yourself in for days… and other stereotypical crap.

A rant of sorts.

Bittersweet Causality (song)- Cold Driven (band)- Set in Stone (album)  -- My new Kiki and Dex theme song.

“We made a killer out of you and a hostage out of me. I’m just a bittersweet causality. We brought the devil out of you and the sinner out of me. It’s not fair; but love is war. I can’t live this way. I’m living like a hostage.  Don’t leave me. I’m too scared to say anything. But I can’t live this way.”

I read a lot of books where characters don’t actually work. You know, that thing that me and you do on a regular basis. Usually these characters are already wealthy from some endeavor before you’ve even cracked open the brand new spine of the first book. It’s usually a man- who owns half the town. Has more frienemies than actual family or friends. A new age tycoon of sorts. He’s gorgeous (of course) with a killer body, an ability to handle himself in a fight and has mass respect on the street. I don’t find anything wrong with this. In fact, if this man was real (ie: If Ranger (Evanovich- Plum series) was real and not a fictional character I’d like to tie to the bed and have my wicked way with) I would hunt him down and have to meet this real life stereotypical fictional hero. He finds heroine interesting because she’s a bumbling fumbling incompetent woman, or because she’s so sarcastic and cynical he finds it a challenge to be in her presence, and therefore decides he must have her.

I find it’s not often you run across a heroine in a novel who can handle herself and has money to run her life the way she wants to run it without man regularly around. The heroine who only invites a man into her life because she finds his friendship to be advantageous when she’s in the need of it. The heroine who devotes her life to being single and living a life outside of the box. Heroes have this life in almost every book I pick up. It’s always the hero who is closed off, who is unable to take the risk and have a relationship other than friends with benefits (FWB). And the heroine is always unwilling to take that step because they are dreaming about the life they want to have in the future and not living for the moment where they could have what they want.

Time for heroines to have the same advantages, if you ask me, we’re more equipped to deal with it. We’ve just been hardwired wrong from the beginning. We’re brainwashed by this stereotype. Women are way too detailed oriented for this to be going on. We’re organized. We’re cut throat and we’re straight to the point. I refuse to read another book about a weak heroine who needs a man to take care of her or the woman is constantly thinking about her chances of getting married with a white picket fence in her future.

No offense mama, but if you were tut-tuting me like Stephanie Plum’s mother does about her getting married and having babies, I’d blow you up in the next vehicle that came my way. Or the way Rachel (Harrison’s Hollows series) reminds herself that she’d like to settle down with a nice witch and have a famil y someday. It’s a nice dream, sure, but I don’t need reminders in novels. You don’t have to have that to have a full and rich life. It’s about the people your characters surround themselves with and who you surround yourself with in your life. That’s the richest part of the story. Life and all the great things that happen along the way. You have to take the heartache with the happiness. Growth is the essential element in all life, fictional and real.

Live for the moment and not for what will happen in the future. Here is where my “happy for now” (HFN) comes into play. I’m not a fan of the “happily ever after” (HEA) shit. I’m tired of reading it. Nothing rarely works out for the happily ever after. Marriage is work. Life is work. And it’s hard. It’s not one of those things where you slip a glass slipper on some bitches foot at the end and it all works out like magic. I’m pretty sure if Prince Charming knew Ms. Sleeping Beauty had a sleeping pill addiction and hid her pills under her feather mattress, not all would be happy in the “Charming” household. Or Snow White and her seven dwarves. I highly doubt any testosterone charged man would really just forget his wife spent time with seven dwarves. Sounds like he might find a nice little “surprise” on some pay by the second website featuring his wife as the star.

Fiction is fiction and enjoy it for what it is- yeah sure. I like fiction with challenge of life. If your character does something to disrupt the Karma flow, well I want to see the cause and effect. Kiki steals shit. Kiki gets caught, her ass kicked, blackmailed and ditched. If you keep doing the dance with Karma, I totally expect the next effect of Karma to be showing you exactly what happens when you disrespect the cosmic flow of life. And Kiki gets hers. Just like any other character in a fictional novel.

For once I want to see a strong heroine kick some ass on her own. I’m not even managing it in my own series. Dex is just getting in the way. Just like any other asshole male on the face of the planet. He’s not capable to realizing she can handle this on her own.  If I didn’t have designs for him in future novels, I’d take his ass out via acid pit, or exploding vehicle, sniper fire, flame thrower, fitted for concrete shoes and pitched into the Missouri River. I mean, I can come up with all sorts of ways I’d enjoy getting rid of him *clearing throat* I mean, all the ways Kiki would enjoy getting rid of Dex. But I can’t. I’m caught in my own web of stereotypical writing behavior.

So I want to hear what you think is stereotypical behavior in heroines and heroes. What do you read about most often and what just really irks you about the novels you read? And what stereotypical behaviors do you enjoy in novels but never see?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Maggie Robinson Takes World By Storm

Today marks the beginning of what is sure to be an amazing career.

Nearly four years ago, I stumbled upon an understated, lively little bulletin board and thus began a whole new chapter in my life. Through that board and a shared love for Eloisa James and sweeping romance, a small group of women formed friendships and bonds that have lasted to this day.

Maggie Robinson is one of the many amazing women I met back then. She and I and several others - Q, Ely, Tiff, Hellion, Janga, and more - had a ball writing 500 word drabbles and seeing who would come out the favorite for the week. The prize was little more than bragging rights and a feeling of accomplishment, mostly due to the high level of talent in the pool, but those drabbles were the start of many publishing dreams.

Now, what feels like only minutes later, Maggie Robinson’s debut release, MISTRESS BY MISTAKE hits bookshelves today. And there is no drabble here. Anna Campbell says, “MISTRESS BY MISTAKE sizzles off the page. A marvelously sexy romp.

A sexy romp. How cool is that?! Here’s the blurb from Maggie’s website:

Charlotte Fallon let her guarded virtue fall once—and she’s paid dearly for it ever since. She swore she’d never succumb to men’s desires again. But even a village spinster’s life miles from temptation can’t save her from a sister with no shame whatsoever. Or a heart that longs for more, whatever the cost…

 Sir Michael Bayard found more than he expected in his bed when he finally joined his new mistress. He’d fantasized about her dewy skin and luscious curves, assured her understanding that what passed between them was mere dalliance. But he didn’t expect the innocence and heat of her response in his arms. Nor her surprisingly sharp tongue once she was out of them…

A few days of abandon cannot undo the hard-learned lessons of a lifetime. Nor can an honest passion burn away the restraints of society’s judgments. Unless, of course, one believes in nonsense like true love…

Anyone else hearing that priest from the movie Princess Bride there at the end? Twoo wuvv…

Ahem, back to the point.

After spending so long saying things like, “I know I’m going to see your books on the shelf one day” and “One day you’re going to take the Romance world by storm”, that “One day…” is finally here! And if I’m this excited about it, imagine how Maggie must feel!

So do yourself a favor and go find this book. Or simply click that pretty cover above and order away. The first in the Courtesan Court Trilogy will knock your socks off and have you begging for more. Which is good because in addition to this Trilogy, Maggie will also see another debut in June when her first book under the penname Margaret Rowe, TEMPTING EDEN, hits shelves. The book that is destined to knock Pride & Prejudice out of the slot of best first line ever.

So here’s the questions for the day. What is the biggest mistake you ever made that ended up being something good? Are you interested in reading more book reviews from the crew? And besides the magnificent Maggie, what debuts are you dying to get your hands on?

One lucky commenter will have their own lovely copy of MISTRESS BY MISTAKE whirling it's way to your mailbox. So be sure and check back tomorrow to see if you've won!

PS: Forgot to say, Maggie will join us later this month for a special pirate visit. Wouldn't it be great if you read the book before then and could ask her all sorts of questions? *hint hint*
Sunday, April 25, 2010

A New Car is Like a New Manuscript...

I find car shopping not unlike dating…or writing. I had to buy a new-used car. I had my list of requirements for the car: not too expensive, but not the cheapest thing; not gold; and four doors. The first is pretty clear. I want to be able to afford this car, but I’m unwilling to schlep around in a Ford Focus, which we all know is an Escort in disguise. (If you have an Escort and it actually works, congratulations.) The second is that I think gold cars are pimp cars. I am not a pimp. And third, when I was a child, my dad had some two door cars and I hated it because I always had to sit in the back, crawl over a bunch of crap, and sit cramped for hours on end. I am a person who likes her own space and wants the people in her car to enjoy their own space.

I went to the car lot with a friend who actually likes to buy cars, because you should bring positive people when you decide to do something expensive and that you may regret later (like tattoos or childbirth.) We picked out a couple cars that met my criteria; I drove them both; and I picked the one I liked. I said, “I think I will go with this car. I like it.” And she asked, “Do you want to go to another lot and drive more cars?”

In a word, no. I feel once I have found a car I like and think I can commit to for its life, that going around looking for more choices is a lot like dating a really nice guy who laughs at your jokes, remembers your birthday, and is great in bed, but you decide to keep playing the field in case your “soul mate” shows up. A car is a car is a car. And men are pretty much men, no matter how long you hold out looking for that soul mate. I’m not saying that I don’t think Deerhunter isn’t the bees knees or anything, but neither do I expect him to be that Disney version of a soul mate either. I’ve noticed that a lot of things a woman expects out a “soul mate” are usually better and more easily found in your girlfriend, so you’re better off delegating some of your emotional support to other people in your life. No one car can do everything either. If you fell in love with a sedan, don’t be pissed off its not a 4-wheel-drive pickup come winter. You knew that when you bought it. Maybe that’s just me and maybe I’m wrong and a bunch of you will correct me that there are men out there willing to do the girlfriend lunch and bitch about things and be everything. That’s fine.

I realize this has very little to do with writing, except for this: there is no perfect story or story idea. When you first get a story idea, you’re going to sit down with it, tool about town with the top down, and think, “This is the best idea ever!” You can’t imagine this story idea of a car will ever break down on the highway or start emitting a funny sound around the 50,000 mile mark that makes you wonder if it’s going to make it to the 100,000 mark, which you were promised. Which you need it to do because you need to turn this book in, completed! Trading in your story idea car for a new one before you get the last one paid off only kicks you in the ass in the long run. You know what happens if you keep trading up for the “better and newer” car right? You end up paying more money on the new car, more than it’s worth, all in the hopes that this is the car that’s going to be The One.

There is no One. There are several Ones. You’d be good in most of them; and eventually you’ll probably commit to others to drive around. So if you get an idea you like, just commit and know that no story idea, like no car, is going to be perfect 100% of the time. It’s just how it is. Don’t let your inner salesman fool you that you need to trade up and deserve something new. There is something very worthwhile in hanging out with a car that goes the distance.

On the other end of that analogy, once you’ve gotten to the end of life with your car, send it out to better pastures and get something else. (Meaning: stop revising your finished manuscript and never sending it out. That’s dumb too. Enough already: send it to the editors and find a new car.)

All right, questions: I’m not very writing focused (as you can tell) so I want to know about your cars. What do you drive and what do you think they say about you? Do you buy the same kind of car? Do you like having many options or just a few? And if your WIP was a car, what kind of car would it be? (You can sometimes pinpoint who your audience is if you can figure out what your car your story is.)
Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hottie Crew Member of the Week - Oldies but Goodies

I am attempting to write thirty pages in the WIP this weekend, which means my brain is beyond fried. It would seem I used up all of my Hottie blog creativity last week. So, when in doubt, fall back on the old reliable hotties, that’s what I say.

These boys haven’t gotten any spotlight attention in a while. Which is a shame, really. Look how sad he looks?

And in this part of my WIP, I’ve brought in another man. Which means I now have two hot men to describe. (Don’t bother getting all excited, there will be no threesomes.) This is going to take added inspiration and who better to turn to for sex-inducing, hard-body inspiration than our loyal hottie crewmembers?

It’s been a long, cold winter. Time to step into the sun, throw off the long-johns, and what the hell, throw off everything. These young men have the right idea if you ask me.

Have a great day, darlings. And wish me luck!
Thursday, April 22, 2010

Girl on Girl Action - Let's Talk Heroines

First off, a quick update on the 30 pages a week mission. Got behind last week due to the Nickelback show so I have a lot of pages to get in this weekend to get back on track. Currently sitting at the middle point of the book. The good news is I had a plotting breakthrough this week and found a whole new story complication. Booyah! 

Now, to the blog. 

Ever sit around with your girlfriends and the whole body image subject comes up? And then that question goes around – If you could choose anyone in the world, who would you want to look like? There are the usual answers, Angie, Jennifer (pick one), Heidi. There’s a lot of ways you could go. But this week, I found the body I would choose. 

This one. 

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="451" caption="Christina Hendricks"][/caption]

When they coined the term “Bombshell”, this is what they meant. Forget the waif look or even the size twos, this is what a woman’s body was meant to look like. 

Oddly enough, when I create my heroines, they look nothing like this. So far, my heroines have all been tall and slender brunettes with long legs. Simple, sleek, almost understated. Nothing like Ms. Hendricks here. 

When talking about our characters, J Perry and I realized that our heroines are complete opposites, just as we are in real life. If you’ve never seen J Perry, she could hide behind the pole of a stop sign and you’d never find her. If you’ve never seen me, let’s just say, me trying to hide behind a stop sign pole would be the height of comedy. 

But J insists her heroine has my body. The poor thing. What she really means is her heroine has curves. To put it bluntly, she has a rack and those much-toted child bearing hips. I'm guessing she looks like Ms. Hendricks much more than me. Whereas my heroine has J’s body, slender with the perfect proportion of womanly curves, but nowhere near what one would call hour glass. 

This led me to wonder about other authors. 

Do they create heroines that are their likeness or do they use this fictional opportunity to create the body they wish they had? And what about readers? Do they want to read about a woman who sees that extra bit of cellulite when she looks in the mirror, or do they like to become the heroine and prefer she have a perfect body? 


You tell me. And while we’re at it, we might as well answer the first question up there. If you could pick one woman whose body you could steal, who would it be?
Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The perfect woman

I read a book last week, it had a great, hopping plot, hot sex, and a villain creepy enough to keep me up at night. But there was something the heroine who set my teeth on edge.

It took me a while to figure out what it was. I mean, she seemed like a great girl. She was a hostage negotiator, which is a pretty kicking job for a chick. She was quick with a gun and a friendly gesture. She was raising her 7-year-old daughter and taking care of her invalid mother.

She was never rude, never mean, she didn't screw up or get frustrated and snap. So what was it about her that bothered me so much?

That's when it hit me. She was freakin perfect. You know how, after a huge fight, you think of the perfect thing to say? She said it duringthe fight. She was reasonable, in all situations. Crazy guy takes his whole family hostage, she calmly talked him down. Mom had a panic attack, she comforted her. Daughter had a problem, she was super mom.

She reacted perfectly, in each and every situation she was put in. Said the perfectly reasonable thing. Comforted the right people. Talked people out of their anger. She never messed up.

I hated her.

It brought to mind two things that we, as the creator of heroine's who are not perfect:

1. Everybody, including the heroine, snaps. When we're tired, stressed, overwhelmed, or scared, we take it out on the people close to us. It's human nature. It's also while most of us just tie up the man in the basement, so there's no danger of him getting tired of bitchy moods and bolting. The question isn't if you're heroine can do the right thing every time, it's if she can make up for her mistakes. Let her snap and mouth off her to her mother. Let her see her daughter's eyes fill with hurt feelings. And then let her fix it. We can all identify with that.

2. Everybody, even the good guys, screw up. This may only be true for suspense, but I'm curious if anyone feels it bleeds over into other sub-genres. In this particular suspense plot, the heroine never messed up. No matter what the bad guys threw at her, she handled it perfectly. Problem is, that meant she could only react. She waited to see what the bad guys did next, then responded perfectly. Bad guys moved on to phase 2, heroine responded perfectly. At some point, the police making a mistake, such as following a false lead or missing a subtle clue, would have totally spiced up the plot.

What kind of mistakes has your heroine made? Any witty dialog you care to share, where your heroine snaps and tells someone off? Come on, pirates, I know we've got some heroines with super creative insults - let's share! How do you feel about characters making mistakes? What's more important to you -- making the right choice the first time or making up for the mistake later?
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dare to be High Maintenance

Dupioni silk.  Gardenia blossoms.   Thoroughbred racehorses.

These are just a few of the things that could be labeled "high maintenance".  But I think we'd all agree the care and attention required to maintain these exquisite items is definitely worth it.

Now it's time to put ourselves in that category.

Look how much we accomplish in our lives when we are wiped out, knackered, face planted against the pillow, dog-tired.  Yet we keep going, putting that slacker drum-pounding pink bunny to shame.  Despite our constant efforts to hack away at the day-to-day chores, there's ten times more on the list the following day.  And that's not counting the revising or daily word count we hope to get done.

Imagine if YOU were at the top of the daily To Do list. 

Everything, and everybody, will take your time and energy if you don't take it for yourself.  If you let everyone else have it, there's nothing left when you try to write.  And then you feel guilty for not wanting to write, or you tell yourself your writing is worse than crap, all because you're attempting it after being drained by fourteen hundred everyday obligations.

How much kick-ass writing could you produce if it were your highest priority every single day?  If YOU were the highest priority every day?

"You're so high maintenance" is code for "you are fussy, entitled, self-absorbed, and WAY too devoted to satisfying your needs, generally at the expense of everyone else".  It's synonymous with "Diva", another word that has gone from complimentary ("leading lady") to derogatory ("pain-in-the-ass") in a very short time.

I'm not suggesting you ruthlessly flatten everyone else to fulfill your wants and needs.  Not at all.  But why shouldn't you be all that you can be? Why can't you be the baked potato with all the extras?  Why aren't you considered the luxury sedan with the rich Corinthian leather seats?

Why shouldn't you be first in line to get off the plane once it's safely arrived at the gate?

I already know what you're going to say about all the non-writing stuff that needs to be done every day: If I don't do it, it won't get done

You're right, so I won't even try to argue that point. However, I suspect the folks in your sphere--whether it's work or school or family--have become accustomed to you getting it all done, and they have no real motivation to change that scenario.  So yes, if you want things to get done, you have to do it.

But you know what?  The exact same thing can be said about your writing.  If YOU don't do it, it won't get done.  Nobody else can write the stories you write.  Other people can fold the laundry, throw something in the microwave, toss Rover some of his favorite doggie treats.  And they should be happy to do that.  Because nobody else can write the stories you write.

I'm not promoting an arrogant or egotistical manifesto here.  It's simply acknowledging the desire to be more than a drone, a minion, a prototype first-generation robotic device.  If those were enough, you wouldn't dream up wonderful stories filled with pirates, and Kraken, and assassins, and hotties.  Those imaginative, fantastical, romantic tales need to be written.  Yet it's difficult, sometimes next to impossible, when writing is last on the list, when energy levels are dim or non-existent.

I know it sounds like I'm being subversive.  (I am.)  I know it sounds like this will upset the daily routine.  (Hopefully.)   I know my pirate passport is likely to be permanently revoked now.  (Dang.)

Still, it's worth it.  I don't want to miss out on the breathtaking stories that are put aside because daily chores and mundane tasks rob your creative spirit.  I'm asking that you dare to be high maintenance.  Put yourself first, so that your books and your writing have the freshest, most inspired part of you, not the leftovers. 

So, what can you do to be High Maintenance?  Does the thought of it make you uncomfortable?  Or does it secretly thrill you?  How do you plan to put your writing first today?  And how do I go about reinstating my pirate passport?
Monday, April 19, 2010

I’m Off!

Pirates. I’m leaving…on a jet plane…I do know when I’ll be back, though. (Anyone get that reference?) Tomorrow, after a 3+ hour plane flight, Jane will be picking me up in Minneapolis and taking me to her house for a few days of pre-convention madness. We’ll throw together stuff for the newbies, shop (look out, Mall of America!), help each other out…and hopefully work at polishing our pitches to a grand shine.

Pitching. I wrote a blog about this last year right before RT. And it’s a topic I should be good with by now, but I’m still learning stuff all the time. Terrio sent me a blog last week that was brilliant regarding pitch preparation.

I especially liked what he had to say about having a statement of some sort ready regarding your target audience. After toying with a statement for The Kraken’s Mirror, something along the line of … “My book will appeal to women who want to read about something other than bulimic twenty somethings getting all the action…”  Terrio talked me down to a more proper statement. How does this sound?

My book is for the empowered older woman who wants to read about characters she can relate to. The baby boomer who doesn’t consider herself sexually dead at 50.

I feel pretty good about The Kraken’s Mirror, though it should be the tougher sell. But I know there is a market for this story, it’s just convincing the pubs/editors/agents that I know what I’m talking about! It’s really just a romantic fantasy, with a twist or two.

I’m a bit less sure of my urban fantasy. In so many ways, it should be the easier sell, but I’m not feeling it as strongly. For example, my target statement? Eh.

 My book is about a woman’s journey back from the abyss of despair in a world changed by a massive displacement of time. It should appeal to women in need of something to believe in. (See I know a great song called Something to Believe In by Clannad so I get that reference in spades. Will Lori Perkins?)  

Sounds pretty wishy-washy to me. So, the question is, can I fake the confidence with the UF that feel with the RF? And how much does confidence come into selling your book at an in-person pitch?

I hear they want you to be confident and enthusiastic. Not pit bull confident or golden retriever enthusiastic…but somewhere in between. I mean, nowadays, the author plays such a large part in the promoting and winning-readers side of things. Almost makes one long for the days when the author was an invisible bookworm tapping away at a manual typewriter in some backroom, cut off from the rest of the world… (Nope. Not for me, but it sounds romantic, don’t it?)

I’m ready to take the dive into playing the idiot for the public. I swear, the older I get the more ready I am! I just know I’ll have no dignity.

I mean I bwah ha ha’d when I pitched to Heather Osborne of Tor last year! (I swear, I wanted to die. I wonder if I blushed?) But then again, it was fun. (I do hope to have a chance to pin Heather to a wall and ask about my submission. Oh, that would be bad, right? OK, I hope to buy Heather a drink in the bar and ask her politely if I should assume my submission to her, requested last year, is dead in the water since I haven’t heard anything. All the time, smiling and being polite…) (I can do that.)

If I had a good cackle, I’d probably cackle when I pitch The Kraken’s Mirror to Samhain.

I will practice decorum. No pirate hat when I pitch. (That’s for the rest of the convention and particularly for the parties.) I’ll make sure to wash out the comb-in hair color before I head for my appointments. Keep the rum drinking to a minimum until after the pitches are completed…keep the Ativan handy but only for comfort’s sake…

Yes, my bags are packed, I’m ready to go… But I’ll miss ya, crew! I hope the internet connection will be adequate for me to check in now and then. Be good without me and don’t let Mattycakes play bartender. And keep Jack out of my secret rum stash!

Anyone else have any conference plans in the next few months? It not a writing conference, then how about any other sort of conference? (I have BayCon, a sciencefiction/fantasy con at the end of May, a Pirate Festival in June and a Steampunk Con in Seattle come November, all on my calendar.) Any have any advice for me? Come on, someone rewrite that audience statement for me! Please! If you could make up a conference, with dream authors, actors…whatever…what would it be called and who would be there?


I’m calling today a Friday, even if it’s not!
Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Shanks

In the movie Tin Cup, Kevin Costner’s character (Roy) suffers from The Shanks. The Shanks is a “technical” term for every time he swings his golf club, it slices his shot and the ball doesn’t go where he wants. It bounces off buildings; it shoots off in completely the wrong direction; or it hits people—or at least it did during the movie. It’s extremely embarrassing to hit a shank shot; and most golfers won’t even say the word out loud. It’s got the same superstitions surrounding it as a certain Scottish play and theater actors.

I can’t really blame the guy; and sometimes I feel like I completely understand, even though the closest I’ve come to golfing is on a putt-putt course. Lately every time I sit down at my laptop, open my current chapter, and read the last couple paragraphs, I am seized by a case of the shanks.

I try not to think that I’ve got the shanks because nothing brings on the shanks faster than thinking you’ve got them. Self-fulfilling prophecy and all that. However, concentrating on not thinking about having the shanks doesn’t seem to work either. My fingers hover over the keyboard; I type a few sentences—short, painful sentences; I thrash around on my couch wondering when I can call it a night and go to bed. Usually if I fill my page quota, I go to bed. (As you imagine: it’s a low page quota.)

Sin and I have recently adopted a new writing goal: we will meet at the library on Saturdays and write for at least 2 hours. Our first meeting was last Saturday; and relatively it worked. A little. But I won’t give up entirely; it was the first meeting and we haven’t got a rhythm yet.

In Tin Cup, Roy starts seeing a therapist, in hopes this will help cure him of the shanks. And the other multitude of problems he has (of which there are many.) This is not without merit. In the thirty minutes before Sin arrived to the meeting and I was typing by myself, I typed approximately 20 words. I re-read two chapters. I worried about things that had nothing to do with writing. I frowned at my writing, wondering why I was bothering because it was all so stupid and no one would ever publish it in a million years. I need a therapist, or an exorcist—I wasn’t picky. Some rum might have helped, but you’re not really allowed hard liquor in the library.

Sin arrived; and her mood matched mine. She’d had a tussle with her demons—including one she lives with—and had come away with some wounds. It’s bad enough when your own self doubts tell you bad things, but if your family does it, that’s worse.

I talked about my problems and she talked about hers. Of course, we couldn’t do anything about them, but airing them seemed to take the life out of them. They were less damaging. Almost turned into something as imaginary as monsters under the bed. It’s good to remember that no matter what happens, you have friends at your back.

So we both went back to typing, and I wrote a measly 650 words before I had to leave. But I still felt better about it; and I thought maybe talking about your feelings does help you put words on the page. And that’s all we want in the end right? To put words on the page?

Our third writing member showed up; and when I ran this theory by her, she was not convinced. She exorcises her demons by writing them down. Then again, she writes a lot darker stuff than I do. I write fluffy kitten stuff: fluffy sarcastic kittens. So if I’m feeling dark, troubled, and angsty, I need to get rid of it so I can write my fluffy kitten stuff again. (Either that or I need to write a different book, which I don’t think is really an option.)

Next week, I think it will be better. Hopefully it won’t take as long to clear the air and get rid of the shanks so we can sit for two hours of solid writing. And eventually this book will be done. Done, done, done. (Though next time, I think I might go for a dark, angsty book: I think I have the personality for it.)

Your turn: do you suffer from the shanks in your writing? If so, how do you get rid of them? Do you belong to a writing group? Do you and your writing group have any special meetings just for writing or tips for getting your manuscript finished?
Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hotties of the Week - Going Country

Tonight is a big night in Country music. The Academy of Country Music awards happen live tonight from Las Vegas. I realize not all of you are fans of this kind of music the way I am, but you don’t have to like twang in your two-step to appreciate these fine, musical hotties.

We have Mr. Rough & Ready himself, Trace Adkins. At 6’ 6”, this former oil rig worker is one tall glass of water with pipes that will not only melt your pirate panties into a puddle but have you throwing what’s left of them at his feet.

Then we have the hottest example of a Real Good Man. He may be Mr. Faith Hill and a former “father of the year” award winner, but that doesn’t mean we can’t drool over the best buns this side of the sun.

And we can’t leave out the bad boy surfer from the west coast. Between the tats and the gravel and blues in his voice, Gary Allan IS the bad boy we all dream about. A broken heart, a wicked smile, and no-apologies gypsy soul, this guy can park his bike in my garage Today or any other day.
Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mercy or Murder?



* “Sin! Come off the edge of the yardarm! It ain’t worth it!” 2nd Chance shouts to the top of the billowing sail. At the very end of the crossbeam, preparing to fling herself into the foam below stands Quartermaster Sin, pale with despair.

*  “2nd, what did you say to Sin?” Cap’n Hellion gazes up at black robed ninja. “Get down here!”

* “Wasn’t me that did it, Cap’n. That series she worships ended and she’s unhappy ‘bout it.” 2nd sighs. “Granted, I did sorta rub it in, but I ‘spected she’d pull out her stars, not dash fer the yardarm… I mix up a Hooha, extra glitter, fer ‘er.”

* 2nd hurries away to the bar and pulls out her biggest tankard.

* Moments later, Sin stands before the Cap’n. “I knew it was comin’, Hel. I almost wanted it! But…” She threw herself at the approaching bartender, who held out the drink. It was seized, upended to her lips and emptied. 2nd took the empty glass and hurried to refill it…

It was going to be a long day on the Revenge.

It’s hard on the reader when an author ends a beloved series. It’s hard on the author, if they truly love the series themselves. But sometimes, sigh, a series needs to die. Sometimes they die too young. Whether it be a mercy killing or a bitter murder is the question.

I be writing a long series, I hit the twelfth book and reached an ending. And I cried, and cried, and cried! Three days of being miserable. Until I opened my laptop and found a new beginning, jumping ahead a number of years. At this point, the series is nearing the end of its thirtieth volume. If I find myself still wanting to keep going, I’ll write until I’m done. Yes, I know. They call me mad…




I don’t expect to see all of these books published. If they were, I’m sure the reading public would get tired of the characters. I don’t. I’m the writer. The public might call for a mercy killing. And they would probably be right. (I can still write them for me!)

The same goes when the author doesn’t seem to care about the series any longer, and it just ‘phoning’ them in. And the writer decides on killing the series. (If the reading public doesn’t beat them to it.) Again, a mercy killing.

There also be the case where the series has attracted a type of fan that demands it go the way they want it to go. And the writer sees it differently. Who will win in this struggle? Anyone’s guess! Either new fans come aboard that are content with the course the writer sets, or the fans end up killing the writer’s muse with constant barrage of demands. Battle ensues, but it doesn’t involve the publisher or even the public. It’s the fan-atics verses the author.

Do what the public wants? They let Maddy and Dave consummate their relations in Moonlighting and the fire went out of the series. It’s risky…who holds the wheel? If the author follows the muse, ignores the public…things can get nasty. But…

The case of Arthur Conan Doyle comes to mind. He tired of his great detective, Sherlock Holmes. And tried to kill him off honorably. Doyle was in mind to write of more paranormal subjects, found Holmes too logical for him… The public screamed. His editor screamed. He was castigated, named a villain. He gave in, resurrected Holmes. And went on for many merry years.

A case of an author who longed to do the deed. Did it. And repented.

Now, sometimes the publisher delivers the killing blow, with no satisfying ending in series. And the author cries. The reader cries. This was murder! Alas, unless it is picked up by another publisher, the books don’t reach an end. Like a poorly ended television series, the public is left with a deep pit of emptiness where that storyline once merrily bubbled.


Is there an ideal length for a series? Is it three? Or five? Maybe there is no set number. Maybe it all comes down to letting the reading public deliver the blow with their wallets.

We all know there are authors waiting in the wings, with books to sell. Who bears the brunt of the responsibility? The author? The publisher? The readers?

I know we ain’t goin’ ta get inta particulars, crew, but what do ya think in general? Be there a set limit? Can a series go on too long? Ya know, Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote 24 Tarzan novels. (I be shooting ta be the next ERB, meself…) All of the younger adult series of yesteryear went on and one and on. Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, The Hardy Boys… Can a modern day author carry it off? Nora is doing it as J.D. Robb with her In Death series. Anybody else? Maybe it’s just not possible with romance, as ya can only put off the HEA so long…            


As fer the fan-atic verses the author…I find this fascinating.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Imperfections: Characterization Thanks to Glee

So, I watched last season’s finale of Glee the other day.  I preface this by saying I don’t watch TV.  At all.  But someone posted a Glee song on Facebook and I listened and I thought, hey, not too bad.  So, I got curious and I skimmed through the season finale on Fox’s website.

I think I’d forgotten that I used to enjoy TV dramas.

All that angst.  The pregnant girl in the love triangle.  The suspended teacher leaving his wife.  The other soon-to-be married teacher in love with the suspended teacher.  All that underdog righteousness.

But, while all this makes for great television alone, I feel like some of the beauty of Glee is the insane mix of characters in the club.   It was like a cross-section of every high school I’ve ever visited, all in one show.  But somehow, it fit.

More than fit, it was brilliant.  Like real life, each character has their blessings and each has their cross to bear.  They’re all painted so well, with all their trials and tribulations, their positives and negatives, I didn’t feel like it was some sort of equal opportunity experiment.  They felt real, in all their imperfections.

The lead singer, for example.  I only watched this one episode, but her nuances came through clearly.  Phenomenal talent, talent that the rest of the club can easily see.  And they respect her for it, acknowledge her superior skills.  But she’s a bit arrogant.  A complete brown nose, tries to be little Miss Perfect.  So she remains an outcast, never really accepted.  Yet, I got the feeling she wanted to belong, wanted the rest of them to like her, but she didn’t know how really.

And the brief hints of her feelings towards the male lead (who was in love with the pregnant girl)?  Fantastic.

It all got me thinking about how the imperfections in our characters can be just as important as their strengths.

So what kind of imperfections do you saddle your characters with?  Do you choose their imperfections purposefully or do they arise as you write?  Do you juxtapose imperfections between main characters?  With a characters strengths?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

True Confessions of a Writer: Missionary Bores Me.

Okay, I’m going to put a warning on this. I don’t want a repeat of the glorious “picture” incident with Hellie. Trust me. If I close my eyes, I can still see it.  Literally startled the hell out of me. (Thanks a lot, GPS.) If you’re at work where other people can glance over your shoulder and raise their eyebrows at the type of stuff you read on your work computer, this blog may not be for you. And if you just don’t care and say fck it on a daily basis, rock on. I can respect that.

So clear your mind and think of the possibilities. Any of these strike your character's fancy?

Chandelier? Table? Backseat of a vehicle? Office? Dressing room in a retail store? Nightclub? Motorcycle? Park bench? Hotel balcony? Fed Ex truck. (sorry there is one across the street and it sparked my muse.) Truck bed? Barn roof, tack room, hay loft? Coat closet? Pool table?

I have a confession to make. And to quote an LL Cool J song, “Conventional methods kinda bore me”. That’s right. I said it. I need action. I need excitement. I need… hm, Ranger in the Explorer under a street light on a stake out.

I’m talking about sex scenes. Writing about anything in the norm puts me to sleep. Living a normal life? Boring. Stuck in a routine? Boring. Lay on your back and take it like a champ? Borrrr- ring. This might be because I lead a semi-vanilla real life. I mean no offense when I say this, but vanilla every time bores the hell out of me.

I enjoy the occasional vanilla story. (Mostly because I enjoy historicals and you can’t exactly have your historical heroine ride someone reverse cowgirl in front of a mirror right off the bat. Seems a bit too bold and contemporary.)  I’m not picking on the writers who write these stories. There is a HUGE market for vanilla. Vanilla is good but I’m a swirl kind of girl with sprinkles. So when I write, I think about all the places that could be and I go for it. I don’t have anything to lose by attempting to write it other than a horrible faking attempt and I’m a writer. One of the very first rules of writing a good sex scene is don’t get caught faking it. Or if you do, never confess to the faking. Fake the reason you faked it.

I feel like we’ve all run into stereotypical sex scene writing comments and expectations of our lives outside of writing. I have some confessions to make today, and I can’t wait to hear some of yours.

True Confession Number 1:  Just because I wrote a sex scene where the hero pushes the heroine against the wall and gets more than hot and heavy and sweaty against the door of his apartment where everyone can hear; or the heroine reverse cowgirls the hero in front of the mirror so they can both watch; or the heroine strips for the hero and video tapes it… doesn’t mean I do this is on a daily basis in my personal life.

Trust me; I’d love to attempt half the scenes I write. Maybe not the video taping one. I don’t want to see that. I’d have performance anxiety after that because I wouldn’t be able to stop from critiquing myself. Writing a sex scene is about being able to act out private fantasies (at least in my world) on paper. The thought of sex in unusual places is intriguing to me. How far can you push something without getting caught? It gets me every time. Nothing hotter than attempting something you’re not sure you’d attempt in your every day life because let’s face it. We all live vicariously through our characters.

True Confession Number 2: You are not going to receive a scarlet letter or a permanent marking on your being for writing a sex scene a little wilder than vanilla.

Your face may flame thinking about what you just wrote, but no one is gonna know you think about those things but you. At least until you’ve sold about a million copies and even if you sell one, I say to hell with it. I’m a big girl. I can write what I want.

True, we all have professional and personal lives. That’s what pen names and secret lives are for. You think if the Mattycakes ever read a sex scene that I wrote that he wouldn’t look at me with a raised eyebrow and say, “Really?” with that look of disbelief? Please. My writing world is much different than my personal world. My mind is not a dull place. Your mind is not a dull place. Do not treat it as such.

True Confession Number 3: I like to write sex scenes but being relied on TO write sex scenes kills my fictional sex drive.

Don’t get me wrong, writing sex is just another scene between my hero and heroine to move their relationship and story further on the pages. Being expected to write sex between a hero and heroine (aka: Steph and Ranger) when I’m not feeling the heat between them? NEARLY impossible. It’s almost impossible to fake tension between characters when they’ve (you’ve) lost it. And you NEED tension to make a sex scene hot and believable. It’s like writing in a round robin and everyone leaves the sex up to you. What if I’m not in the mood? What if the characters aren’t in the mood? I may like control, but if I were a character in a novel, I’d be that character that HATES to be relied on. I have a fear of disappointment. A fear of believing in my abilities. So don’t rely on me. I can’t be trusted. It makes me just want to do the opposite of everything and say the hell with it, and write about sex no one truly wants to read about. (Well I’m sure there is someone out there, probably just not my target audience.)

And for my last one of the day- True Confession Number 4:  You can’t be afraid to take a risk or make a mistake. Pull up your big girl panties and JUST DO IT!

If you never take a risk or make a mistake in writing, how do you GROW as a writer? Before I wrote my first sex scene, I was scared witless to post it and let the world read it. How would they react? What kind of comments would I get? What if I got flamed and embarrassed and could never write ever again? Writing on was like reliving the first year of high school all over again. Even with a pen name, even with NO ONE knowing me, there was still that deep down fear that I would be shunned. But I took a gamble and posted my first sex scene and haven’t looked back since. To write is to grow as a person. Don’t stifle your creativity because you’re afraid. Fear is just the unknown reaction to an action. You’ll never know what you can accomplish if you don’t jump into the deep end and swim. Or drown. Either way at least you’ll know for future reference.

Okay, ‘fess up. What’s your number one sex scene writing confession? Most interesting place you’ve let your characters do the “act”? Anyone read of an interesting sex scene place lately? I need a fresh new idea. The chandelier is proving to be quite difficult task. Gimme a challenge. I have a round robin chapter to write.

I so didn't go in the direction I wanted to go with this blog. Maybe next time.
Monday, April 12, 2010

Cue Barry White and Find a Cold Beverage

We’ll start with a page count update and those who jumped on the speedwriting rowboat can let us know how the rowing went this week. Happy to report that I have hit my page goal two weeks in a row now. That means sixty pages since March 29.

This week was looking rough with eight pages needed last night to hit my thirty. Thankfully, ten pages poured out sometime between nine and eleven Sunday night and I managed to get a few pages ahead. Which is good because it’s ten o’clock Monday night as I’m writing this and I still have no idea what this blog is going to be about. Heh.

Now starts the “winging it” portion of today’s blog.

Last Tuesday, Santa asked if sexual tension can carry a book. The resounding answer seemed to be YES. This week it’s time to find out what exactly is sexual tension?

I have go-to authors I know I can count on for sexual tension. Books where steam literally hovers between the pages. Elizabeth Lowell is one of those authors. I haven’t read her more recent Romantic Suspense books, but reading her older work requires a tall glass of ice water and the occasional open window. If you ever get the chance, check out her Gem series – AMBER BEACH, JADE ISLAND, PEARL COVE, and MIDNIGHT IN RUBY BAYOU. These were her early RS efforts and well worth the hunt to find them. But consider yourself warned, you’re going to need that water.

Another author with mad sexual tension skills is Lisa Kleypas. For me, the tension is more palpable in her contemporaries. In SMOOTH TALKING STRANGER, the hero, Jack, delivers some of most panty-melting lines I’ve ever read. Take this for instance…

“I respect you,” he murmured. “And your views. I think of you as an equal. I respect your brains, and all those big words you like to use. But I also want to rip your clothes off and have sex with you until you scream and cry and see God.”

Hold on, let me get some water. *fans self* Okay, where were we?

Yes, sexual tension. Believe it or not, Jack and Ella do not have sex after he speaks those words. Even after he follows up with stuff just as good. No idea how Ella managed to say no. Boggles the mind, but she did.

And when they didn’t have sex, THAT ratcheted up the tension. To me, this is a big part of pulling off this trick. Raging hormones and lusty words, no sex. Not until later, anyway.

What I’m finding lately is that authors (and it would seem their editors) believe sexual tensions happens when they let the reader hear (for lack of a better word) the characters thinking about sex. The hero watching the heroine, admiring her cleavage, thinking about all the things he’d like to do to her. This can be sexy, titillating even, but there’s no tension there. It’s a man thinking about sex. This is nothing new. And the heroine isn’t even involved!

For there to be tension on the page, there have to be sparks between the characters. You should open the book and have freaking sparklers sending tiny bursts of light onto your nightstand or into your bath water, wherever you happen to be reading. (Don’t you love how we always think of reading in the bathtub? Can’t remember the last time I did that.)

Sexual tension is another element you have to show and not tell the reader. All this thinking about cleavage and firm thighs and loose cravats and flashing ankles -  it’s telling. Show me the characters bouncing off of one another. Show me the hunger and the restraint, and you’ll have me hooked until the restraints come out for real. (That one’s for you, Chancy.)

For the sake of throwing out some more names, other authors I believe have mastered sexual tension are Jennifer Crusie, Nan Ryan, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. And we can’t forget Nora. No idea how she does it, but for me, she keeps the tension up even after the H/H have had sex. She’s a master that one, but then that’s why she has the “la” before her name.

Who are your go-to authors for sexual tension? When does it work for you. What can ruin it for you as a reader? Do you have tricks for writing it? Any and all examples are welcome, be it from your fav author or from your own work. I don’t think we share enough around here. Let’s share!
Sunday, April 11, 2010

Getting the Widest Audience Possible

Frequently we talk about craft elements that make books must haves: characters, plot, setting, voice, theme, pacing, etc. These are all things that must make up a best seller, yes, and as a writer, one feels almost like one is trying to juggle a bunch of knives and flaming torches to get everything into a mere 400 pages. It’s no wonder we feel sliced up and set on fire at the end, trying to accomplish the impossible: the perfect book. No book is perfect. Not even a J. K. Rowling book. Still, as writers, it is important to understand what attracts a best-seller audience. That is, if your long-term goal is to write commercial fiction, it is best to understand the audience that buys it.

But there are books that come close. Sugar Daddy was one of the most perfect novels for me. And the taut-line tension and suspense in the Deathly Hallows nearly killed me trying to get to the end. More than voice, more than craft, more than talent—there are elements that make up commercial fiction. The things you have to deliver if you want the widest possible audience. You can’t please everyone individually; but collectively, there are things that people as a whole expect from their stories.

The Universal: writers should write about things readers care about—and that they care about. What does the large collective audience care about? Family. Friends. Love. Comedy. Drama. The little guy triumphing over the bully. Justice. Fairness. Hope. Survival. Success. How these things are defined is up to you. Family is different for everyone; and love certainly encompasses a number of possibilities.

The Hero’s Journey: A nobody suddenly gets pulled into a series of events he wanted nothing to do with and/or doesn’t have time for because he’s too busy trying to keep his current life from going down the crapper; however, he faces his insecurities and accomplishes his goals with a little help from his sidekick. If he’s lucky he may be able to blow something up and kiss a girl. The key point about the hero’s journey is this: if the hero grows—changes—he triumphs and is reborn; but if he doesn’t change, he’s roadkill. Heroes are heroic; and heroes bring change. If they’re not, they’re called tragic heroes because they usually die at the end. So if your story has a “happy” ending for your hero, it means your hero changed. Make sure your reader notices.

The Escapism: The collective audience needs to escape the daily grind and wants to read your books to feel better. Prozac for the brain. Accomplishing goals; getting the girl; winning the prize—these all make us feel good about ourselves, even if it is vicariously. We all want to feel good about ourselves. We all want to think we’re special and capable of greatness. Triumph over adversity. The Chariot card in tarot. I swear this motif of storytelling came out of the primordial ooze. Best of all, once we read about someone special who is capable of greatness, we feel more special and capable of greatness. Books feed the soul; they’re a place where we can recharge before we have to face the world again.

These are the things that do it for me in commercial fiction—and these needs aren’t met, I don’t consider it commercial fiction. (I.e. this is why Nicky Sparks will never be commercial to me—he offends points two and three.)

What qualities do you bring to your commercial fiction (assuming that is what you write)? Are they same as mine, or do you have others? What do you look for in the books you read? What are some of your favorite books that offer these qualities?
Saturday, April 10, 2010

Intellectual Chick P*rn

Are you sitting comfortably?

Terri is doing a Smokey and the Bandit run, so I thought I'd cover her Hottie's blog. But not with actual pictures, but a website. A website of hotties--and like the pictures in Harry Potter's world, they move and talk and they're so much more exciting.

This is my favorite. My clothes nearly fell off just listening to the first minute of it.

Greg Wise reads Persuasion

However, if you're having  a very lazy Sunday and don't want to venture any further than these pages, Terri did say: "Put up that one of Crusoe!"

I'm sure next week, when she's not dodging the law, outracing the wind, she'll give you a slew of half-naked wonders to behold. Myself, I'm going to drool at the Carte Noire site. There is just something about Greg Wise...

Hope you're having a wonderful Sunday...
Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fallen Heroes and the Unlikely Hero

Captain Phil Harris

Next week, The Deadliest Catch starts its new season, April 13. Those who have followed this show for years got to know the men who they profile on the show. And in our own small ways, we like to think we know them well. And we miss them when they aren’t showing up on the television set.

These guys do an amazingly hard job, all for the sake of those who love crab and want to eat them. I don’t eat crab. No particular prejudice against them, just never developed the taste.

And the show is laced with profanities, stupid boy tricks and macho crap that can make a person nuts. But…it’s also a lot about tradition and family. The Hillstrand brothers share the captainship of the Time Bandit and family member step aboard. They buried their patriarch where they can salute him every time they return from a hard season.

The Northwestern has Sig Hansen and his brothers. And the Cornelia Marie had Phil Harris and his two sons, Josh and Jake. Phil passed away a few months ago, in the midst of filming. And he’s going to be missed. Not just by his family, though their claim is the most paramount one. But we’re gonna miss him.

He was a rough guy, didn’t get enough sleep, drank too much coffee, too many energy drinks, smoked wa-a-a-a-a-a-a-ay too much. We watched him two seasons ago struggle as a blood clot nearly killed him while fishing. (Or crabbing.) Saw him in the hospital, sneaking out for a smoke. He survived that and made it back to his boat. Until this season. He collapsed while unloading. I don’t know how the Discovery Channel is going to handle his death, midseason. But I know they consulted with his boys about how to do him justice.

He had sharp blue eyes and he loved his kids, loved having them on the boat with him. They drove him crazy, but you could see the love underneath all the yelling, cussing and slapping (brothers - they often smacked each other around. My DH, who has brothers, tells me this is normal for boys. My sis would hit me, but it wasn’t normal… But that’s my family dynamics!)

Captain Phil was a hero. And I think he’d be a fun hero to write about. He was covered with tattoos, had a body that looked worn and beaten and well used. And he had a sharp sense of humor, a phenomenal work ethic and a true sense of responsibility regarding what he owed his crew.

And I wonder about the women these men leave behind when they go out for weeks in the most dangerous fishing grounds there are… And their families, what is it like for them? Sig Hansen, of the Northwestern, has a pair of girls in his family. I somehow doubt he’ll want one of his girls taking up the call. His brother Edgar? Don’t know about his family. And there is another brother onboard, but he’s more camera shy.

The Hillstrands have a lot of family aboard. Jonathon and Andy swap captainship, one does king crab, the other opillio. They have another brother on board, Neal, and Jonathon’s son, Scott. I’m not sure, but he looks to be the one to keep up the family dynasty.

Two brothers, Keith and Monte Colburn work the Wizard, another boat the cameras often follow. The boats have changed over the years. I think the Northwestern is the only one that has been in from the beginning and that’s because Sig is part of the program.

Do these men do heroic things? Well, they don’t fight fires…unless the boat catches on fire. They don’t go out on rescue missions, except when they do. When a fellow fisherman is in trouble and they can get close. One year, Captain Jonathon, I think it was, saw a guy fall from another boat and they managed to save his life. They’ve kept cameramen from certain injury time and again. And when Captain Phil fell ill, the relief captain asked one of the camera guys to keep an eye on him.

They work hard, they play hard and they can be brutal to each other. But they care. A young man on the Northwestern lost his sister last year and they did everything possible to see him back to port so he could return to his family, to mourn. It was touching to see how these tough guys cared and showed it. And though the audio caught his sorrow, the cameras stayed away, asked by Sig to give the kid some room.

The men who go down to the sea in ships. The merchants, the fishermen, the Navy, Coast Guard, Marines…even the great yachtsmen (Go, Larry Ellison and congrats on bringing the America’s Cup to San Francisco! Whoop!) They work with a fickle thing. The sea. Which I love, but I know doesn’t even know I exist. It isn’t personal, it’s just doing what it does.

I’ll miss Captain Phil. And I wonder about his two sons. How will they pull together to keep the Cornelia Marie in the fleet? Neither seem old enough to take on the captainship, but circumstances may have left them little choice. Phil wasn’t ready to go, that I’m sure of. He had a lot more life to live, but it wasn’t meant to be. I understand he fell into a coma, but woke up enough to tell the cameramen to stay, this was part of the show.

The years haven’t been kind to the men. I see earlier shows and how much younger Sig looked! How worn he looks now…they all show the wear and tear of a tough job.

But they deserve a book, or a dozen. And I wonder, who will take up that banner? There is a NASCAR series out there. Firefighters, Navy Seals, Police… Who is going to take up the romance of the Alaskan Crab Fisherman?

Staring Captain Phil Harris…who I bet had a fascinating life…

We’ll miss you, Captain Phil!

These guys do an incredibly dangerous job, for cash. But it’s their everyday job. What everyday heroes have you read about? Seen cast as romance heroes and done a damned fine job of it? Delivery men? Personal trainers? Butchers?

And heroines? Our heroines often are simple working women. I have to admit, my heroes? Well, I sat down to count it out… Two pirate captains, one physician, one carpenter, one BDSM master, a mercenary, several simply independently wealthy. Heroines? Ah….a magical witch, a writer, a bookseller, a bartender, a mercenary… I’m lazy, I hate research. Though I gave Emily a side to earn money with, she crafts handbound books…

What about you? What professions do you most often write about? Read about? I enjoy reading the craftsie type mysteries to learn about assorted hobbies. Where do your heroes come from?  Your heroines?

Any heroes out there you think deserve their own romance book? Ever watch The Deadliest Catch and thought, “I’m never eating crab again…this is nuts!”
Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Surprise me!

I saw this commercial the other day. It was one of those that seemed cutely obvious, and I was sure exactly what would happen. And then . . . something else happened.

A huge shock, I know.

But I realized how seldom I'm surprised by something. This commercial was hilarious, to me, not because of how it ended, but because it ended in a way that surprised me. (you don't need any volume to enjoy)

It's funny, right? Is it just me?

It happened again, last night. This time with drama, not comedy. I was watching Criminal Minds, and it was a perfectly progressing mystery. It was wrapped up neatly, I was thoroughly pleased and then . . . I gasped. It was just a tiny thing, right at the end, but it was thrilling. I sat up and took notice.

But the really cool thing I noticed is the important part. Neither of these events was shocking or over the top. Neither was a big stretch of the imagination. A guy's toupe falling off isn't particularly funny, and the scene in Criminal Minds (I don't want to give away the ending!) wasn't really any big thing. They were simply unexpected.

Just by being unexpected, they increased the effect, the humor in the commercial and the thrill in the drama TV show.

Have you come across something unexpected or surprising lately? Did it add to the effect? Got any tips for coming up with the unexpected?
Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hierarchy of Avoidance

I've commented here recently about my "Hierarchy of Avoidance", and ever since then, people have been clamoring to hear more.  (By "clamoring" I mean I got an email, from one person.  And it was about something else entirely.  But it WAS on the same day I made my initial comment.)

So anyway, my "Hierarchy of Avoidance" theory.  Actually, it's not really fair to call it a theory, since I've used it so many years now.  It's definitely become a lifestyle, and a very productive, workable one.

Don't be put off by the word "avoidance".  At first glance it may seem like it's in the same category as procrastination.  But this isn't the case at all. The Hierarchy of Avoidance is actually a useful tool for getting things DONE, whereas procrastination. . .well, we all know it just stockpiles tasks until there's so many of them that you just get buried, and then you're tapping out a Morse code signal from inside the rubble, hoping for rescue (preferably from a Hottie with a refreshing beverage).

The important thing to remember about the Hierarchy of Avoidance is this:   Not All Tasks Are Created Equal

There is always a WORSE task than the one you don't want to do.  Think of it as a Food Pyramid for To Do lists. 

Now I'm not advocating that you ignore tasks, because that would turn into the Hierarchy of Ignorance, and that's a different situation entirely (and deserves its own post, probably on a day when the PMS needs an outlet for vent-ilation).

Remember, with my patented HOA program, you actually get things done, by avoiding other things you don't want to do.  You can accomplish a task that seems yucky, or too difficult, or agonizingly debilitating – by comparing it to something that is even MORE yucky, MORE difficult, or WAY MORE debilitating to your psyche.

Ready to give it a try?  Okay.  Deep breaths, through the nose.  And exhale, repeating after me:  ACCOMPLISHMENT, through AVOIDANCE.

I actually used this application on some recent revisions.  (That's right.  I do all the rigorous testing beforehand so you can enjoy the final product without any bugs.)  Anyway, there were several different items in this list of revisions, and while all of them were challenging, it can't be a big spoiler when I say some tasks were worse than others. 

So I whipped out my HOA chart (don't expect to see this in stores right away, since it's still in beta form).  I wrote down what I needed to accomplish, and then re-arranged the chores according to their relative Avoidance Quotient.   Actually, I shifted them around so many times, it looked like I was practicing for a three-card monte competition.

So what did I have to avoid?  A new love scene.  Okay, that's not as bad as this one, strengthening the conflict.  And all those words I repeat over and over and over. . .yikes.  That went straight to the bottom of the pyramid, because apparently I only use three different words to tell an entire 80,000 word story, so this would require a little more creative effort before it was off the list. 

Even though it seemed daunting at first, I avoided, systematically, until everything was accomplished.  Once I'd ninja-kicked the simpler tasks out of the way, I was confident and pumped up, ready to kick ass on the next thing on the chart.  Amazingly, that item didn't seem so bad anymore, because there was SOMETHING WORSE than that!

One last insider tip: don't feel like you can't mix and match avoidance chores.  This blog post was accomplished in record time because I was avoiding unpacking some boxes that have been in storage for two years. And the scene in my WIP that's making me grab a bottle of antacids is getting done next because I'm avoiding vacuuming out the sand that's accumulated in my car all winter.

So tell me, what are you going to avoid today?  And how are you going to avoid it?  Be creative.  Tell me what you're going to accomplish with your writing today by avoiding another task, writing-related or not.
Monday, April 5, 2010
I’m coming to you today, not so much as a writer, but as a reader. I love romance. More specifically, I love the idea (or is it an ideal) of romance. The way a hero tucks an errant lock of hair behind the heroine’s ear.  The catch in the heroine’s breath the moment her fingers brush against his.

The crackling fire as it casts a glow to the book lined library, the authors on their spines lean forward anticipating the next reader’s touch. Irving. Poe. Both James(es). Browning.  Shakespeare. Kleypas. Shelly. Eco. Brockway. The brown leather ottoman in front of the fire holds a banquet of treats created to arouse the senses. Lush zambaglione. Brilliant berries. Satiny chocolate mousse. And there, draped sardonically (what else would he be – right?) on the armchair next to that fire, the hero awaits his heroine’s return from a grueling day at work, ready to fulfill her every wish.

Sigh. How romantic.

And, no, they haven’t had sex yet. It’s also well into the novel and, believe it or not, they’ve just met. Really. A good fifty or so pages in and they’ve just met, after ten years apart, at the local diner. She’s back in town trying to evade her ex and he’s never gone beyond the next town over.

The romance of their story – the meeting, the instant attraction but neither willing to cross that line. They have to be true to themselves. They are on a journey of self rediscovery. Love has no place in that quest. A romance – whether for the long run or just to scratch that itch – is not on their personal itineraries. But they are pushing against what is clearly fated as their destiny. The discovery that what they’ve been searching for is the very thing they keep riling against is what drives their story.

But they’re not going to act on it….at least for another thirty pages or so. At least.

Is this kind of romance novel welcomed by readers? Can a book be written where the hero and heroine don’t meet until the third or fourth chapter and don’t have sex until a few more chapters in? Can the sexual tension alone carry a book?

I have to admit, I am on the fence about this. A book that engages all my senses and keeps me at the edge of my seat is a rare find. Does that mean it has to be full of sex as the one element used to engage my senses? Or can it be woven into the story as one of its stronger points?

What have you come to expect and accepts as a reader? Or as a writer?
Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Case for Pantsers: Writing Your Book Through Inquiry

Recently I read an article my boss wrote about science education and inquiry. He uses a lot of boring and technical language in his article, but since we’re pirates and have shorter attention spans, the term inquiry amounts to a bastardized version of this: nurturing people’s curiosity to allow them to investigate something (i.e. Why do magnets only stick to some kinds of metal?) without telling them what’s “supposed” to happen. You let them take their pre-conceived notions to the game; give it their best shot; then have them sum up the experience after the fact. Then you go over it again, straighten out the misconceptions, and voila, they supposedly have true understanding of how it all works. He was particularly scathing about the practice of “cookbook” teaching, where you’re given an assignment with all the steps to tell you what’s supposed to happen when and the answer at the end. All formula, but no passion or room for mistakes or taking chances. You may come to the right answer, but did you really believe it or care? Hands-on experience, I surmised from his article, is the best teacher to understanding and owning a subject.

To which I thought, hands-on experience and inquiry can also be the best teachers for writing a book.

In inquiry, you should come out of the experience having gained knowledge you didn’t have before—you are altered, you have grown; and with each book you write, I believe not only do the characters have an arc, showing where they change and grow as heroes; but we, the authors, are altered and grow with each book we create. We learn something more about craft; we grow as a writer; we change our perceptions—and audiences’ perceptions—about what can and cannot happen in a novel. Sometimes we come to the absolutely wrong conclusion, have to go back, correct the mistakes, but in the end, we know the subject of our book with absolute clarity. We can show it to anyone.

We should always tackle our books with inquiry and leave the cookbook approach for the kitchen. Romances, on the whole (as Nicholas Sparks will tell you), have the same cyclical journey. Most of us have read enough romances to recognize the beats of the story almost instinctively. First kiss, page 80. Sex, page 200. Black moment around page 300 or 330, depending on the length of the book you’re reading. There’s the inciting incident: boy meets girl or boy pisses off girl; and there are the handful of Turning Points, where you don’t know if you’re coming or going; and of course, the climax and resolution, most often resulting in a HEA or HFN ending. (That is, unless you’re Nicholas Sparks.)

The same beats can be identified in mysteries, horror novels, fantasy, and thriller. Commercial fiction follows beats. Audiences expect a satisfying ending of some sort from the novel: the guy gets the girl; the killer is caught; the ring is found or quest is completed; and the world is saved. Clearly there is a bit of “formula” involved, based on these expectations.

But just because a story follows genre expectations, it doesn’t mean it needs to follow the cookbook approach. There is still room for inquiry. You are still solving for knowledge you didn’t know about yourself or your characters, knowledge that you won’t quite know everything about until you get to the end. I think that is one of the most rewarding things about finishing a novel. You feel like you know something new and different about yourself. Something more than “I am a person who can write a 400 page book.” Your views, perceptions, philosophies, beliefs are there for everyone to read—whether you’re aware you had those particular beliefs or not. I think there are some perceptions and beliefs we prefer not to acknowledge or think about because they’re not comfortable; and writing forces us outside of our comfort zone of what we’re allowed to feel or believe. Except it allows us to do it through characters (role-playing), where it’s safer. We get to resolve our conflicts with these beliefs safely too.

A long-winded way of saying: writing is cheap therapy.

So yes, some days you’ll write and it will be like you can’t keep your fingers going fast enough; and some days, it will be like you have to force out every word from behind your teeth. Honestly that’s not much different than going to the therapist. Some days you won’t shut up; some days, you want to do nothing but plead the fifth. In the end though, you come out realizing you’re not as screwed up as you thought you were.

I hope I feel that way about this novel when I’m done: it’s not as screwed up as I thought it was. And in the meanwhile, I can feel better that I don’t know absolutely everything about my characters in the beginning of the experiment—that we’re all just doing this inquiry together, and maybe by the time I finish, my pre-conceived notions of how I think Adam should behave and Eve should feel will be flipped on their head. And that’s just fine. That’s how the science of writing works. You don’t know; you just experiment.

So what experiments have you done in your writing lately? Do you think you know a bit more about yourself after you’ve written something particularly hard or emotional? Do you read some books and think you know something about the author? (I’m reading one called The Accidental Bestseller and I rather feel this way; and some of Jenny Crusie’s books, I feel this way.) Do you like formula but hate cookbook, or does it matter?
Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hotties of the Week - A Very Good Night

I realized at about 10:15 last night that this is once again my month for handling the hotties. Not that I ever really abstain from handling the hotties, but you know what I mean.

Since I’ve been driving for two days, the brain cells had all checked out by that time so I decided to just post the men I spent my Saturday night with.

It was a very, very good night.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Death of Good News

Say it ain’t so.

Yes, I’m feeling it lately. I read my local big town newspaper headlines everyday. (The San Jose Mercury. Lots of news from the Silicon Valley.) I seldom read an entire story. I figure the headline and the first paragraph should do the job. And lately…all the news is bad news. I swear, from declining sea otter populations on the California coast to a new massive round of layoffs to Christian militia to… I’m thinking of giving up the newspaper. I don’t watch the television news anymore…unless it’s the occasional Keith Olbermann just to chuckle at how absurd life is sometimes.

It’s everywhere! The newbies for RT are freaking out in despair over writing blocks. Friends are dealing with health/job/relative problems. The publishing world is frozen over all the changes taking over the ballroom and trying to pick the best dance partner.

I’m just tired of bad news.

So, let’s figure out some good news to share.

See this picture?

This is Friskee. I love his smile. When I was dog searching early last year, I found his picture on an adoption site and just copied it because it made me smile. Study Friskee…this is an older dog and look at him! Doesn’t he make you smile?

Let’s look at him again…

OK, I feel better.

Dogs know how to do it. I wonder what sort of book a dog would write. HEA would be all about the best way to sprawl on the couch. Depending on the dog, it would be next to a human or just somewhere close to the human. (I’ve owned both sorts of dogs. The ones that grumble if you touch them while they’re sleeping and the ones who prefer head on lap.)

Romances would be fleeting, fabulous and all about the sex. (I could write this.)

Conflict would be about who to play with at the dogpark, what that squirrel is doing in that tree and can I catch that rabbit? Angst would involve the food not being shared by resident humans and why isn’t it dinner time right now?

Unrequited love? Well, we’ve all known those neurotic type dogs who fixate on special toys and do disgusting things to them… Let’s not go there.

I’ve read a fair amount of dog stories. From the first loves of “Big Red” and “Lassie Come Home” to John Katz and his fascination with Border Collies… And to Merrill Markoe and “What The Dogs Have Taught Me” and her various books involving conversations humans have with their dogs. (Want a good laugh? Any of them will show a true insight into the canine mind as humans see it.) (No, didn’t read or see “Marly and Me” – I avoid stories where dogs die. Period.)

Dogs don’t really believe in bad news and I guess that’s why I’m thinking of them lately. When bad news is banished with one rustle of the dog bones box….life is good. When one good belly scratch makes the squirrel that got away disappear from the brain… When a pat on a head chases away the bad dreams…

Sigh. I could spend a day being a dog. I should. It would undoubtedly do good things to my blood pressure.

But no rolling on dead seals, eating discarded anything from the sidewalk or sniffing butts. I know these are doggie things, but really… I have standards.

So, where am I going with this blog? Not sure. I just know I need a break from bad news of any sort. I don’t want to hear any whining about pages not written, about how pissed off you are that a certain author was interviewed and dissed romance in general, no anger at the agent who didn’t call, the revisions not getting done, the rewrites, the spreadsheets, the rain…

Good news Friday! Any good news? Writing!?

I spelled my name right today! Right on!

Imagine life from a dog’s perspective. Not the third world dogs having to run from stew pots. But the dogs of America who live good lives, long lives with two square meals a day, a couch at night, walkies and good sized yards or at least nearby parks.

Please. I’m desperate… Tell me some good news? Share it! Shout it. Read a good interview lately? A good news story caught your eyes? What made you laugh this week? I need something to lift the burden of all this bloody bad news!

Found a penny in the parking lot? GREAT!

OK…Good news? Good writing? Happy meals? Any particular bit of writing that you did that made you giggle at the end? Or writing? (I recommend the penis discussion at the beginning of Chapter Five from Fantasy in Death by JD Robb.)

One more look at Friskee…

Now, let’s hear some good news!