Monday, May 31, 2010

Mission Accomplished!

Two miracles happened over this holiday weekend. One bigger than the other. Mine is the smaller of the two.


Not that I’m excited about that or anything. Okay, I might be a little excited. Since 2007, I’ve watched no less than fifteen friends finish manuscripts. Several finished four or five in that time (maybe more) and half a dozen have become published authors.

You can see why I feel a tad silly doing the snoopy dance for one rough draft. In my defense, while my friends were writing those books, I was accomplishing something. There is that degree after all. The one we partied for last fall.

I think it’s time for another party.

String up the lights, cover the decks in Hotties wearing nothing but strategically placed crepe paper, and pass me a stiff one. (Thanks, Scuttlebutt, for the idea.) Pull down the top shelf goodies and someone tell Santa to get the ovens going. We’re partying on The Revenge!

And to get us going, tell me about the first time you finished an MS. For the readers in the bunch, share you greatest accomplishments. My top is my kiddo, of course, but the degree and this MS are a very close second.

PS: The bigger miracle has something to do with Gunner Marnee. If you spend any time around here, I’m sure you can guess what it is.

PPS: I created this mock up cover for the book. They say picture what you want, right? Consider me thinking it into being.  (And Emma actually wears some hot purple under pretties in the book, so this picture was too good to pass up. *g*)
Sunday, May 30, 2010


The RWR is docking for the day and taking a much needed shore leave. We'll talk to you tomorrow bright and early, hopefully with updates about all the "research" we've done and the writing we've accomplished over the weekend.

In the meantime, we just want to give thanks to all the veterans and active military who serve and protect us. You guys are awesome--and we hope wherever you are today, you're safe and smiling. If you're home with your military hero today, grill him or her an extra hamburger and pony up the beer. (Come to think of it, I probably better bring beer to the farm. Dad would probably enjoy it. Those Navy boys....)

Anyway, have a great day off, crew, and be sure to thank your local heroes today!
Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Today's Hottie Choice is not a typical choice, but I chose her for a couple reasons. One, she's Q's second favorite hottie (the first being his wife) and I think Q is awful patient with us, posting half-dressed, dubiously intelligent men all the time. Second, Marilyn Monroe's birthday is June 1st, and she was always one of my favorite celebrities. I think because I was enchanted by her power to enchant men, which I think was more than her looks. (I mean, the looks were the hook, but she had a whole process for keeping them on the line.) It was amazing to watch in films--or even in still photos. You can see the power she has over the people around her. And yet as powerful as she was, she was so unhappy. And never taken seriously in her profession, which I think she worked very hard to be great in.

There is this famous quotation by Dolly Parton where she says, "It takes a lot of money to look this trashy." I think it probably took a lot of lessons and practice to look that helpless. There's an art to making men look like the most capable people in the room--and I know it because men are so rarely the most capable people in the room. (Sorry, Q.) And she did it with a straight face. I think that's talent right there.

Who is your favorite girl celebrity (dead or alive) and why? Do you think blondes really do have more fun? (I do...there was one Halloween I wore a blonde wig, and the boys were drawn to me like moths to a lightbulb. Funny really.) Do you have a favorite Marilyn Monroe movie? I love her in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes--you get two for one. Marilyn at the top of her game; and Jane Russell, looking gorgeous and flinging the snarky remarks. (The brunette gets the hottie in that one!) And there's that pink dress...

Booty From The Bandita!

Once again, Anna Campbell brought the party to the ship and tore the masts down. Which didn't make the Hotties who had to fix them happy, but they had a good time too, so it all worked out.

Anna was sweet enough to offer up a signed copy of MY RECKLESS SURRENDER to one lucky commenter, and that winner is...

Jeanne Adams aka la Duchesse!

Congrats, Jeanne! Send your smail mail address to Anna (I'm pretty sure you have the address ;) ) and she'll get that book on its round the globe trek!
Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Undercover Plotter

Sin, don’t freak out. I do plot. But I’m sneaky about it. I suppose that makes me the ultimate pirate plotter! As I mentioned before leaving for RT, I discovered my muse has a phenomenal adverse reaction to actual organized plotting. I have to be sneaky or he just plain old mutinies on me. (Damned pirate muse!)

(Tiffany? Sorry, I try to write short but it never works out. Bear with me!)

I find myself amazed at the organizational skill of such writers as our Bo’sun Terrio, who has it all color coded and on a wall. I fear if I did that my muse would slit my throat, cackling all the while. (He cackles quite effectively. Though he snickers better.)

I consider our own Haleigh and the degree she is working on from the Seton Hill in Pittsburgh. (That’s where it is, right?) Gods. What would happen if I made an actual study of plotting methods, etc? I managed to slither through several junior colleges…let me see…four! Yes, four, over…uh…twelve years? No more than that… But I finally emerged with an Associates of the Arts in Language and Literature. If I had actually had a plan and followed through with it… Would I have graduated earlier? Or never?

I never managed to finish the Associate of Sciences Degree in Desktop Publishing. One class short, but it was a terribly boring class and I’d decided I didn’t like working with people on websites by then. So I tossed it. Call me fickle. But I was glad I figured out that I’d end up in jail for shooting some customer who wanted me to change the background color for the fiftieth time because that shade of pink wasn’t just right. So I think I made a good decision.

Besides, it all changes so bloody fast, why bother. I swear, everything I learned was out of date before I left the school anyway!

OK, where was I?

Oh, plotting. So. As I’ve mentioned, I took the W Plot Diagram online course and I swear, nearly had anxiety attacks. It was amazing how totally lost I was from the very beginning. (A goal! I needed a goal, a tangible goal!? I’m a panster, I don’t need no stinkin’ goal!) (Now, read that with the Mexican accent from Sierra Madre and you’ll get my sentiments better.)

I did discover the W Diagram worked great as a platform to write a synopsis from, so not a total loss. And I clued in another writing friend who is about as…dare I say it…? Yes, I will. She is as anal as they come. Has to have it all figured out to the twelfth degree of heaven as she writes or she panics. She fell in love with the W program and is merrily scribbling away.

Good! Nothing is wasted.

I hear of this EDITS system. Using multi-colored highlighters to mark every POV and step of the book as you edit. (Have I got that right?) And I can hear my muse sneering in my head. (Yes, I can hear him sneer. He sneers quite loudly.) I can imagine myself sitting with my manuscript on a table, a pile of unused highlighters at my side as I stare out the window, admiring the butterflies. (I do know myself well.)

Bonnie needs a walk!? Sure, let’s go climb Everest! Got that Hierarchy of Avoidance down pat, Donna! (Though my avoidance is never actually useful stuff, like cleaning or organizing. More like plucking my eyebrows, watching reruns of Bones, NCIS or some true crime thing on Discovery… A useful HOA might be nice!)

So, what to do? Well, I like to write a loose outline of my plot, in paragraph form. Before this comes, there is the daydreaming about the world I want to develop. Followed by the bedtime story as I lay in bed, waiting for sleep to take me off. I watch the story in my head, tell it to myself…reach a certain place where it’s time to write it. But first, I sneakily, stealthily, write a sort of pre-plot blurb. A long blurb.

After reading Lori Perkins book, The Insiders Guide to Getting an Agent, I realize I’m actually writing a loose proposal, of sorts. I may start calling it that so the muse doesn’t cotton on to what I’m doing.

For example. After I finished writing The Kraken’s Mirror… I started down the path of ‘what next’ and found another story. The story of the captain of the ship Emily takes refuge on. The story of Captain Jezebel. Where did she come from? She wasn’t a native of this strange Tortuga, nor were most of the officers of her mostly female crew. She’s a very intelligent woman, but extremely closed off emotionally. Has a dashing lover, who falls over himself to get a smile from her. She’s very, well…stoic.

About this time, I’d been to that steampunk convention I raved and ranted about. So…I put the two together. Jezebel is an escaped inventor from a dark steampunk world. Yeah! I liked this. And the next story is about those roots coming back to haunt her. Given her lover, Captain Michael March, a chance to finally be the hero he longs to be for her.

Emily will be back and I get to incorporate all sorts of steampunk details into the book. I’m enjoying the plotting.

Hell, did I just say plotting? I mean…uh…the proposing I’m doing as I figure out some light structure for this book. I think me muse enjoys this aspect of my process because he gets to hear the story being told, gets to chime in.

It’s like we are sitting on a beach, it’s dark and there is a fire merrily snapping before us. Amidst the wonderful wash of the surf, we roast marshmallows and I tell him a story I’m thinking about and he brainstorms with me as we make s’mores.

We pass the rum bottle and together, find some wonderful places to frolic.

Just don’t tell him it’s plotting.

So, we all have our techniques. How organized do you need to be? Is it necessary to be organized to the twelfth degree of heaven? Or is roasting marshmallows enough for you? Any favorite tricks? Walk the beach with me, pull out a dry twig and have a marshmallow…  Just don’t use the word plot in front of my muse, please. He has a pistol and he’s very good with it…
Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Contest Expectations

I entered another contest.

I’m not sure if I should have.  My mom actually talked me into it.  She's here, distracting me in the last week before my kid comes.  I was explaining how the last contest I entered was only the first chapter.  I was wondering how my second chapter would go over with readers, especially because the second scene in my second chapter (got that?) ends a little disturbingly—with my heroine (a mistress) being raped by her benefactor.

My mom said I should enter a contest that would get that scene in front of readers because an agent/editor is going to read that if they request a partial.  So, if it’s going to fall flat, it’d be nice to have some indication of that sooner than later.

Mind you, both my CPs have really liked the scene which alleviates a lot of stress.  But it’d be nice to have some additional feedback from folks unfamiliar with my writing and the opportunity to get in front of an agent/editor.

I realized this might be an odd reason to enter a contest.  But in my mind, I think it’s good to go into a contest having a realistic expectation.  Maybe it’s that just for some general feedback.  Maybe a contestant enters, interested in getting in front of a dream agent/editor.  Or maybe the entrant is trying to get a final or a win to put on their query letter.

I know there’s a love/hate relationship out there about contests.  So I thought we could chat about why you would (or wouldn’t) want to enter a contest.  Have you had good experiences?  If so, please share.  If not, why do you think they weren’t positive?  Why do you enter or not enter contests?  Are there any things that would make you enter?

Sorry for the short, lame-ish blog.  I'm a little off my game right now.  (Less than 5 days and counting!!)
Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Title Me This

Which comes first?  The title?  Or the story idea?

A lot of times the title shows up to me first.  It's a phrase I've heard, or read, that has such intriguing story potential.  "Every Maiden's Dream", one of the first books I wrote, started as a title.  These words are used by the hero's best friend, in a semi-sarcastic way, to describe how the hero has been forgotten by the ladies during his year-long absence from Society.  It is also meant to be ironic, since the heroine seems to have no use for our dashing hero, to his great surprise (and distress).  Yet it also ends up being an accurate description of him as he becomes a vital part of the heroine's happily-ever-after.  That is one hard-working title!

Another title, "A Short Step to Crazy", was part of a phrase I recently read in an online article, and it was an instant winner.  I knew it could be part of a trilogy, so I brainstormed other "crazy" titles, and then set out to find a story to go with the titles.  That's when I thought of three sisters and, "if they lived anywhere else, they'd be normal".  It's been a lot of fun working through the story possibilities that emerged because of an unexpected title dropping into my laptop.

Sometimes the story comes first, and the title requires some effort.  I have one book that I've re-titled so many times I'm not even sure what it is anymore.  I'm still digging in my brain for one of those "Yes!  This is perfect!" titles for it.   I'm not sure why it's so hard to find the right fit either.  Perhaps I will have to ask someone to read the book and ask them what titles come to mind.  (It's a process that could be fraught with peril, or the advent of genius.  I'll let you know how it turns out.)

I like to think of the title's job as literary seduction.  It should beckon, in an irresistible fashion, until you have no choice but to read the first line, and then the first paragraph, and then just one more chapter. . . and cripes, now it's time to devise a plausible excuse for missing work because you stayed up all night reading.  

Lately it seems too many titles have NOTHING to do with the book.  I find this aggravating, especially if the book is part of a series.  I have to read the cover blurb to see if I've already read the book, because it sounds like they just shuffled the words in the previous book's title.  This "title disconnect" seems to happen most often with romantic suspense, so I guess there's only so many romantic ways to say "Danger Ahead!  Ye Be Warned!" 

Sometimes it's obvious the title is solely meant to be titillating, even more so than the cover model's chesticular qualities.  That can be disappointing as well, because then I feel like I fell for a Ponzi scheme, and I'll grumble for the rest of the day.  It's my own fault if I buy a book just because I was mesmerized by a spectacular set of male pectorals.  But if I buy a book with a title that promises one thing, yet delivers another. . .well, that makes me unhappy, and do we really want that?  No, we don't.

Another trend that's fun, but can be a huge stretch from what the story is about:  titles which are actually a pun on OTHER titles, especially TV shows and movies.  I definitely appreciate the humor and wit involved, but it feels as if it's meant to be clever wordplay for its own sake rather than an indication of the storyline.  Again, I've been promised one thing, but given something else.  And we know how I feel about that (see answer at the end of previous paragraph).

So, which came first for you, the title, or the story?  Give us a title from your manuscript, and what made you choose that one (i.e, the story behind the story).  Or describe titles that made you pick up a book, and whether it met your expectations.  Just for fun, come up with a NEW title for a book you've read, one that describes it even better than the published one.
Monday, May 24, 2010

Torturing Prisoners, Me Hearties!

Break out the Hoohas and pour in the Glitter, it's time to celebrate! The Revenge is happy to welcome back one of our favorite (and rowdiest!) guest pirates, the always punny, Anna Campbell!!! 

Hey, pirates! Great to be back on the Revenge’s heaving deck (hmm, do I need a heaving bosom to take my place on the heaving deck? It can be arranged!) , setting sail on the Seven Seas of Sensual Somance. OK, it’s ‘romance’ but give me some poetic license! I mean, you’re pirates, license rules! 

[caption id="attachment_1529" align="alignleft" width="266" caption="Pirate Anna with her latest booty!"][/caption]

Thank you for inviting me back to share in the mayhem. After my last visit, I had such a hangover, I needed to drink a barrel of rum to forget about it. Hic! Then I forgot my name as well which wasn’t in the plan! 

Who am I again? Bosun, you know! I’m sure you do! 

I’m here to fill the hold with multiple copies of my latest release – so latest it’s out TODAY! – MY RECKLESS SURRENDER. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect book for a band of buccaneers? Well, the reckless part anyway! And with that yellow cover, I wouldn’t blame other pirate ships for thinkin’ there’s gold, gold, gold in them thar bilges! 

Actually what there is in them thar bilges is a book that is a MAJOR (sorry to mention the armed forces here, shipmates, I know they send a shiver of fear through your stalwart seadog backbones!) change for me. 

Well, some of it is still in the old Anna Campbell mold (hopefully not in the moldy Anna Campbell). There’s still plenty of drama and sexual tension – and lots and lots of naughty bits. Actually this book is as full as a loaded cannon with naughty bits! Honestly, this hero and heroine are like rabbits. I needed a bucket of cold sea water hauled over the side to control them! 

My first four books feature that mainstay of romance fiction, the tortured hero. Don’t we all love a tortured hero? The man with a secret sorrow? The man who’s been through the wringer and come back with the scars to prove it? I know you pirates do – I can see you nodding your heads! 

Does MY RECKLESS SURRENDER feature this kind of hero? 

Not on your nelly! 

Tarquin Vale, Earl of Ashcroft, the hero of MRS, is pretty OK with his world. He’s in his early thirties, so obviously he’s got a few pieces of baggage on his tramp steamer, but they’re nothing like the ocean liner worth that someone like Kylemore or Gideon has. Ashcroft enjoys the amusements London offers an attractive, rich, single man and fights for reform in parliament. Wow, almost a respectable citizen. Well, except maybe for the rakish pursuits! And he’s a charmer too – he gets what he wants with a smile! Well, usually! 

Life changes big time when he falls in love as you can imagine! 

The dynamics of writing a non-tortured hero were completely different. This is a guy whose pain isn’t based on what happened to him in the past. Any pain he suffers (and his nicely arranged life is about to undergo a major upheaval with Diana’s arrival – she tortures him plenty!) happens to him in the course of the story. 

So, pirates and other writers, do you have an element that turns up in most of your stories? Have you found yourself turning that trope on its head? How did it change the way you wrote? 

Pirates, other writers and readers, do you have a favourite non-tortured hero? The one who springs to mind for me is the delightful Rupert Carsington in Loretta Chase’s MR. IMPOSSIBLE. 

And no, having a non-tortured hero is not an excuse for you girls to make him walk the plank just so he gets a taste of misery! Sheesh! Why is it always chaos when I work with the pirates? 


If you can answer the chaos question or any of the others, or if you just want to swing by, shake your cutlass and say hello, I’ll choose one commenter to win a signed copy of Tarquin’s story, MY RECKLESS SURRENDER! And you can see just how reckless Diana gets when she meets this rakish roué!
Sunday, May 23, 2010

DIK: Linda Lael Miller and Other Summer Reading

I’m an auto-buy reader. I almost always only buy books from authors who have established themselves to me as a Good Read. Actually more than that. They have to be a Great Read, and I have to consider them a Desert Island Keeper (DIK) for me to auto-buy them.

In my youth, Julie Garwood and Jude Deveraux were my DIKs; and I’d have a list of books for Christmas so I could have my collection of favorites. I know many people love A Knight in Shining Armor as their Jude’s All-Time-Greatest; however, my favorite was The Raider because of the madcap humor, the nail-biting adventure and danger, and the underlying theme of looking past the surface of what someone looks like to the man or woman beneath to find real love. I still want to write a Revolutionary War era set book because of this novel.

In college, I found Teresa Medeiros and Jill Barnett. And toward the end of college, I had added Lisa Kleypas to the list. I loved Teresa for her lush prose; Jill for her ditzy but lovable heroines; and Lisa for heroes to swoon over. Before I bought any of them though, I had checked out their books from libraries, then fell so helplessly in love with the book I had to possess my own copy.

One of those books I remember reading—and blushing over—was Linda Lael Miller’s Lily and the Major. It’s set around or right after the Civil War, just as the Transcontinental Railroad has been completed and the country did interesting things like the concept of “orphan trains.” Sending city orphans West to be adopted by settlers. I’d like to think they meant well, and yet, what were they thinking?

I’m guessing Ms. Miller had the same thought because she wrote a trilogy based on three sisters who are adopted by different families, in different towns and states, and how they struggle to reunite with each other when they are grown. And because these are romances, they all fall in love. Lily’s hero is a major in the army; and she hates majors—and she hates the army. It’s one of those books, I think, where you either love it or hate it. I think the hero means well, but he can come across as a jerk. (But I think that's just Ms. Miller's ability to do Lily's POV.) Lily does spend a lot of her time trying to tick him off.

I’ve read Ms. Miller’s books for probably twenty years, and if I were washed up on a desert island and there were a pile of her books, I can’t say I’d be particularly disappointed with my lot. Hey, hey, a vacation! I was so used to her historicals, it wasn’t until much later I realized she also wrote contemporary novels. I was introduced to them this February when I was sent McKettricks of Texas: Tate*.

I admit, I was momentarily put off at first. I don’t read many contemporaries. There has to be a draw or a reason. Humor especially. The cowboy part was a plus, as was the author—but then there were the two things I never like in novels: dogs and kids. It’s like commercials. I feel like I’m being manipulated. I have to like these people because they have a dog or a kid, which incidentally is why they use dogs and kids in commercials to get you to buy their product. But I sucked it up and started reading, and I couldn’t put the book down. It was a good solid read. A keeper. And best of all, I knew there were going to be two more books about the brothers, Garrett and Austin. (Austin is way yummy and troublesome. Woooboy.)

By the time I had savored the book, I decided it was too late to brag about it then—but I’m catching up now. Garrett’s book, you see, is coming out May 25, and I want everyone aware of this book for part of their summer reading. I know this summer we have a slew of historicals for the picking: Tessa Dare, Eloisa James, and Lisa Kleypas just to name a few on my must-read lists. But I’m definitely adding this contemporary to the pile, if only as a reminder that heroes are just as delicious in Wranglers and pickup trucks as they are in ballrooms and formal wear. And while you’re ordering it, if you haven’t read Tate’s book, toss that in as well. It’s well worth the read. The kids and dogs totally grow on you.

Linda Lael Miller doesn’t have ambivalent characters—you either love them or hate them. (I think my sister still snarls whenever I mention the major from Lily and the Major. *LOL* I loved him, but she did not.) I truly believe her plot derives from the characters she creates and not the other way around. This is why I enjoy her novels so much because I prefer the character-driven story. I like to think the more books of hers I read, as well as books like hers (character-driven) will help me write in a more character-driven way.

What types of stories do you prefer to read? What sorts of books do you read to help with your writing? Who were your favorite authors when you were younger? What books are you most looking forward to this summer? And if you were tossed onto a desert island, what books would you hope were there to keep you company?

*Nancy Berland Public Relations sent me the book to review. I imagine since it took me this long to review it, my reviews from now on will be out of my own pocket. However, since I think book reviews are supposed to mention how the book was acquired, I'm offering full disclosure.

Me and My Shadow

I'm reaching here, folks. I'm just glad I only have one week left of official Hottie duty before I have to pick it up again in 6 months. I'm a one-man pirate and constantly looking for new men to post and on-and-on is too stressful for me.  Although I should get some points for not sharing Taylor Lautner EVERY week, and I've varied the Johnny Depp pictures a bit.

When Deerhunter comes to town, he doesn't shave. Why? Because I perversely *love* 5-o-clock shadow. Some girls swoon for the clean shaven James Bond suave and debonair guy in a tux, but not me. You have a bit of 5-o-clock shadow, look a bit ragged, hell maybe even sport a goatee, and I am on you like white on rice. So here is a group of some of my favorite shadowy celebrities.

What inexplicable thing do you most enjoy about men or turns you on? Is it his smile, his biceps, or how his levi's ride? Or is it even anything physical? My friend loses her mind whenever a man comes in and starts hanging shelves in her house. And another loses her mind if a man has some Latin in his hips and loves to dance. Me, it's just about anything, because boys--dumb as they are--are HOT...and I'm a shallow, shallow pirate. 5-0-clock shadow, a nice bicep, wide shoulders, narrow hips, and a flirty grin--I'm toast. That's my Deerhunter. (Though he's smart. I better clarify that...just in case he's watching.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

You Know You’re Not In California Anymore When…

 My trip to Minnesota and subsequent drive to Columbus, OH, with me sidekick, Jane… (yes, you’re the sidekick, it’s my blog. I can be your sidekick in your blog. So there!) … Anyway, exposed me to sights me California brain shrieked at.

Before I get into the details, I contemplated, after I quit hyperventilating, about how these things can be used in the writing of characters. I often feel a bit at a loss that what I’m writing will never be understood by those who live in the middlelands of America. My voice is very Californian…or very coasty orientated. But I discovered…I can use that.

How best to explore the authenticity of a character than to plot them into a we’re not in Kansas anymore mentality? How to make that believable? Give the midlands a chance to smirk at me California sensitivities. Everyone likes to laugh at someone else.

Well, first example…

Jane picks me up at the airport in St. Paul/Minneapolis where I’m informed the two cities have a rivalry to challenge the whole North/South thing. Interesting! Not shocking, but interesting. I’m calmly sitting in the passenger side of her truck, enjoying the fact that there is no constant roar of airplane engines in my ears. Nice countryside, just greening up.

Oh! Was that the Mississippi we crossed? Cool!

Nearly to Jane’s…about 45 minutes north of the great feud, and there it was. Jane was chatting and I politely didn’t interrupt her. But I thought, never in a million years would I see this in California.

A billboard. From a gun range. Babe to the left side, in shorts and a tank top, cradling a machine gun in her arms. Smiling seductively.





Not something I’d see in California. Ever. I later questioned Jane about this billboard and she calmly said something to the effect of, “Oh, yeah. Big thing here.”

Hmmm. Well, good regional detail to include if I ever want to set a story in MN…

Machine guns? Really?

Next was the billboard with a smiling (and waving with articulated arm) George Bush with the slogan, “Miss Me Yet?” Followed a few miles later by the answer, “NO!” and a list of reasons why he was not missed.

Hmmm. Battle of the billboards! Not something we see in CA…maybe billboard prices are higher in CA and people don’t express their political viewpoints there. Too busy smacking each other about on the radio, like most civilized places. (Billboards like this would be covered in graffiti so fast!!!! Not to mention likely attract picketers.)

Days later, we were heading to Columbus and stopped for a late breakfast at Cracker Barrel (yes, I saw the chocolate desert everyone was drooling over a few months back. It was breakfast, I got French Toast. It was very good!) Hours later, another restaurant, in Wisconsin. And sitting at the bar was a gentleman, smoking.

Hey! I’m not in California! They actually allow smoking in restaurants in Wisconsin! Another bit of reality smack for me and another note in my writer’s journal regarding regional details.

I was feeling the fish out of water and very far from safe old California. But my analytical mind was taking notes! (Yes, safe in California where earthquakes are considered so-o-o-o-o-o scary…as we drove through the night, later discovering we’d driven through several areas of tornado warnings…)

Made it to the conventions without any more shocks to my system. I mean, the small signs, ala Burma Shave style, with bible quotes or pro gun stuff barely registered to me. Private property, have at it.

Though the outdoor gun range, next to the highway, prompted some concern on my part. What if someone tripped and the gun ended up pointed at the cars accidentally and was fired? I sense big law suit possibility here!

No, my last regional shock was in Ohio, on the drive back to Jane’s place. A McDonalds, of all places. No, it wasn’t more smoking. Not the subtle changes in menu. It was the placemats on the trays. Courtesy of the local Baptist Church. Complete with Bible quotations, church schedules and things for the kids to color.

Whoa! A corporate chain hand in hand with a church! There was a shriek from my liberal California soul that I’m sure shattered windows somewhere.

But I appeared totally calm and sedate.

All of these things I pondered in the days I spent at Jane’s place before flying home to California. Jane’s neighborhood, where no house has a fence around it. (Which sorta causes problems when it comes to exactly where is the property line and do you have the right to cut that tree down? I don’t think so!)

Good thing those machine guns are only available at the gun range.

I think.

I knew I wanted to blog about these things and how it all can play into writing.

I so enjoyed the strong wind and huge clouds we had in Columbus the first day. Jane was practically flinching and worried about tornadoes. Ignorance is bliss? I didn’t know any better!

So, what regional differences can you think of to better anchor your characters where they live? Or to set them adrift in a strange and foreign land, still within the confines of the continental USA? And yes, I know several things in California that would freak out the midlands. And New York has them, I’m sure. Everywhere does. What comes to your mind?

Machine guns? Really???

Act it out for me, baby.

I'm always looking for ways to add more description to my writing. It's like I have these characters, this plot, and it's all happening against an empty backdrop (or at least, if not empty, then definitely sparse).

I stumbled upon a tip on how to deal with this particular problem, and thought I'd share. The tip (that's a bit of an "oh duh" one): set everything to action. A house isn't large and stately. It sprawls down the side of a mountain. Palm trees aren't planted at 10 foot intervals. They stand guard, fronds reaching to grasp snatches of pre-dawn light, at ten foot intervals across the front of the house.

The replacement of "was" or some other boring verb with an action verb like sprawl or stand or reach completely changes the dynamic of the description. Even the replacement verbs aren't spectacular, but the new sentences give readers a picture of a house that's alive and breathing, not just one "The house was large and stately, and palm trees were planted at 10 foot intervals across the front."

When we look around us, our eye is automatically drawn to anything moving. Try it. Look out the window at the pretty scenery, and our eyes will zoom directly to the bird flying past, or the cat slinking away, or the bowing of a tree from the wind.

Any movement creates a natural sort of curiosity. Not a lot of it -- no one's gripping the oh-shit handles in their car, yelling, "Oh my god, there goes the hawk! He's swooping, he's swooping! Will he catch anything? Oh the suspense!"

But we do wonder what the hawk is doing just enough to let our eyes be drawn to his movement. Now, this isn't to say that descriptions of still things shouldn't be in your novel, or every description has to include big, melodramatic movements.

Just that when our description feels staid and boring, or when description isn't there at all, setting the scenery into motion can breathe new life into your writing.

Here's an awesome example from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby:
The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun dials and brick walls and burning gardens—finally when it reached the house drifting up the sides in bright vines as though from the momentum of its run.

bogota mansion

The scenery is moving and breathing, not just relegated to the background. My large and stately house? Here's what I ended up with in the end:

The pinkish hue of the stone walls gave no hint to the violence and bloodshed they contained. The house sprawled low and wide, turrets and eaves haphazardly stacked atop; a bastion of defense and Spanish architecture. Palm trees were granted sentry duty, standing tall, fronds reaching for snatches of pre-dawn light, at ten foot intervals across the front. Craggy mountain tops wore the green flush of summer; guarding from the rear, they remained silent and unmoved.

Your turn! As a fun exercise, describe some aspect of the room you're sitting in -- be it your office or living room or bathroom. . . . you know, where ever you read the Revenge (and if it's the bathroom, maybe lie?). Set the description to life. What's the stapler doing? The coffee table? Just for fun, let's take this idea of action waaaaaay too far!
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Different Fictional Outlets

Tear the World Down- We Are the Fallen (Tear the World Down, 2010)

Once again, it’s time to step away from the box.

What does this have to do with writing? Has anyone else started to notice a trend lately with their favorite series? Anita Blake is now a Comic. (Kim Harrison) The Hollows are going Graphic (Not to mention the Twilight series has gone there already). And my favorite old school Manga (Sailor Moon) was turned into a cartoon series (1990s) and even spawned into some movies. The art of picture novel is looking for a broader audience, starting with you. Yes, you my little novel reader.  Why? Why not. In the world of Internet, Podcasts and the Kindle, there are fewer and fewer people picking up the written word. And in the world of the writer, change is on the horizon and you’ve got to find ways to make yourself marketable to the masses. Marketing yourself to the masses means widening your written horizons.  And to widen those horizons and stay true to your abilities, you’ve got to think on different creative levels to gain those would be readers.

Now, you might be wondering what the difference is between comics and graphic novels (I hear it’s a topic that comes up a lot). Or even wondering WTF manga is or if it’s a new term for the Alan Alda. (I promise manga is NOT.) And because I heart the Wiki, the Wiki is what I’ll use to explain these to you (or not. You’ve probably stopped reading by now. If that’s true then boo on you.)

Comics are pretty self-explanatory, I would think. Most of us grew up with Spiderman, Superman, Iron Man, The Hulk, Wonder Woman, Batman as comic book heroes (and heroines). I couldn’t wait to read the comic strips (ie: Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts) in  the newspaper on Sunday morning. (Do they still do that?) Recently, Hollywood has gone Comic book mad and made a bunch of comic books into movies. (Kick-Ass was pretty kick ass. The Losers, meh, I wasn’t sold on it. I thought it was lackluster at best.) Comics are a series told over a span of editions and volumes. Usually comics are targeted over the broader audience range, aiming for kids and adults alike. While there may be violence and the occasional “encounter” with a member of the opposite sex, it’s usually pretty mild. Comics have been around for a while and lots of people are collectors and enjoy the simplicity of comics as an art form. But when you flip to the last page in your comic, it’s not the end of the story. Just the end of the comic until the next edition comes out.

Graphic novels takes a comic book to the next level by making the comic book an actual illustrated version of a novel. There is a beginning, a middle and an end to every book. I think the actual work is more detailed, vivid, the novel themes seem to be darker. A great example of GN to movie is Watchmen. The GN isn’t geared toward younger audiences, tending to go for more adult themes.

Experts and readers alike argue over the terms of comic book or graphic novel. Some people are not keen on the “graphic novel” label. I’m a fan of the definition to separate the two.

Now, Manga.  Manga being Japanese comics/graphic novels (interchangeable). (See, I told you not the Alan Alda.)

I’m a fan of the visuals Manga inspired comic bring to the page. The art form of Manga is beautiful all on its own. Japan, with the original art form of Manga, haas everyone beat on the beauty the artist can bring to the page with the story. One of my favorites is Sailor Moon. The story of a clumsy girl who happens to turn out to be the leader of a ragtag mix of girls destined to save the universe from evil doers who would harness the good in everyone to destroy everything.

Amerimanga is often referred to when speaking of Manga inspired American comic/graphic novel illustrators and writers. The American art form of Manga is a different style than the tradition Japanese Manga. I believe mostly based off the differences in culture and popularity of the illustration design.

When thinking of all three forms, I think of the difference in illustration as visual form of difference. And if thinking about visual differences in outlets, I can’t stop this blog without writing about the recent trend to bring book series to life on the TV and Silver Screen.

In the move to get more readers excited about reading, Hollywood has come calling to several authors for big time movie contracts and TV deals. One of my favorite series of all time, Stephanie Plum (Author: Janet Evanovich) is finally *crossing fingers* going to make it to the big screen. Ms. Evanovich sold her rights to the first book, One for the Money, more than a decade ago. Several scripts were written. A TV movie made and shelved quickly and more scripts and production companies later, the book is finally coming to life. Nicholas Sparks *eye roll* has plenty of books turned movies (I will concede The Notebook broke my heart, but I did not cry.) Not to mention the interest the movie builds for movie goers who don’t typically read fiction. The Time Traveler’s Wife, My Sister’s Keeper and The Lovely Bones generated more interest in the fiction novel that inspired the movie. (I’d like to see the numbers on book sales after the movie made it to the big screen and numbers on library loans.)

But movies aren’t the only way to go. Many book series’ have been turned into TV series’. I bet you know of True Blood on HBO. (Fangbanger, anyone?) Charlaine Harris started the Sookie Stackhouse series (AKA: Southern Vampire series) in 2001 (I’m pretty sure, correct me if I’m off.) and the series and it’s popularity has grown into a massive following of readers and TV Series lovers alike.

The series Blood Ties on Lifetime hooked me into a world of a vampire, Henry (none other than Henry, dead son of Henry the VIII) partnered to a former police officer turned private investigator, Vicki Nelson, to solve crimes of the paranormal kind. The Blood books were written in the 90’s (early 90’s) and just adapted into a TV series in the mid 2000’s. This was one paranormal series I had not enjoyed before the series made it to TV. I’m sad that Tanya Huff stopped at 6 books but it was about the closure she gave her readers without dragging it out and killing the love of the characters.

Okay, I can talk about this all day, so I’m just going to get to the question. With the growing trend of the written word into visual form, could you imagine branching your novel out into a visual representation of your story? And what form would you want it to take?
Monday, May 17, 2010

Purple People Eater Need Not Apply

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not appropriate for those under….I don’t know….13 maybe? Anyway, proceed with caution (especially to the comments.)

As most of you know, I’ve been sailing through the first draft of my current WIP on a hard deadline for the end of the month. Most of you also know I’ve never made it to the end of a full-length MS before. In fact, I’ve never made it past page one hundred before.

This means I’d never written the middle, or the sex scenes, the black moment, or, of course, a HEA. By some miracle, the middle didn’t really sag and now that the black moment is about to break, the angst levels are through the roof. Love me some angst.

The part I was really dreading was writing the sex scene. Which turned into “scenes” plural, but that’s another blog. The big bang didn’t happen for my characters until more than 250 pages in. Since I have much to add to the front in revisions, that means it’ll end up well past 250 in the final product.

This means pressure, and not just on my poor characters’ anatomies. This scene had better be good. This is the pay off the reader has been hanging around for. All the tension and interrupted make-out sessions led to this moment. There could be no premature page turning. No “and we’re kissing and we’re kissing some more and oh look it’s the next morning” trickery. (I read a book like that once. Very upsetting.)

So I buckled down, charged through all my insecurities, fought the performance anxiety, and wrote sex for two days. And then, I sent it off to Chance and Hellie for some feedback. Thankfully, Hellie had nothing but good things to say. I’m pretty sure she kept her real opinions to herself, and she’ll never know how much I appreciated that.

But Chance had one demand. NAME IT! You see, my book is a single-title contemporary. Straight forward, as mainstream as you can get. And it’s generally sweet. Not in the Inspy way, I could never pull that off, but there’s not a lot of cursing. No shock factor. It was important for the sex scenes to blend with the rest of the story. I couldn’t jump from sweet to *beep* and her biting his *beep* or him *beeping* her *beep*.

I just couldn’t do it.

As writers, we hear time and time again NOT to write the purple prose. But when I think of purple prose, I think Historicals. I think of “his sword sheathed in her throbbing petals of love” or “her weighty orbs yearned for his languishing touch.” (I have never read either of these lines in a book, but you get the idea.) The point is, I never equate purple prose with contemporaries.

That’s where you guys come in. (NO pun intended. Squick.) Put on your thinking caps, use your imagination, and bring out the big euphemism guns. What would you call Hero’s Little Hero in a contemporary novel? Not an erotica, there’s really one good one for that sort of story and I think we all know what it is. In fact, don’t we have a drink using that one?
Sunday, May 16, 2010


The Deerhunter likes to point out when I should be writing. I can’t say he’s wrong. There are plenty of times during the week when I could be writing and I’m not, like say on a Sunday morning, when most people are at church or playing golf (Deerhunter), I am in bed, sleeping. Sleeping quite happily, let me say. For me that is what weekend mornings are for: sleeping.

And when Deerhunter called me to talk about his golfing session (which he lives for), he expounded happily that even though it started raining heavily on the 11th hole and didn’t let up, he continued golfing, and he ended up with a 91 at the end of 18 holes. (I think par for the course is 90, so you see why he’s smug about this. Pouring rain, and he still only hit over par.) The only way I could compete with this is if I worked 60 hours a week, had little league practice on nights and weekends, and still managed to write 30 pages a week. I am not that competitive. Okay, maybe I am, but I’m not willing to work 60 hours a week and take up little league coaching to compete with him.

Writing is different than golf. A lot of writing is sitting in your chair, with your laptop open and document blinking at you, and you’re staring off across the room, waiting for the scene to unfold in your head so you can begin writing it down. The only equivalent I can think of in golf for this is waggling, lining up your shot and cooling your nerves so you can give the ball the best whack you can from the start. There is a lot of waggling in writing.

Don’t get me wrong. I do a lot of the “Grip It and Rip It” approach to golf-writing, and then I end up trashing pages and pages of my book because I should have waggled more. Maybe there is something to be said for the Tiger Woods approach (in golfing, not marriage) with squatting down to get the lay of the land, tossing some dirt to see where the wind is blowing, and then giving it your best whack, some risk but a whole lot of confidence that you’ve been doing this a while and know what you’re doing. Waggling is waiting for the right time to start, while still showing up. Grip It and Rip It is well, what you do when you’ve been waggling for the last hour and the people behind you are going, “Enough already! Some of us have places to go, you know.”

There is nothing wrong with waggling. It’s just that sometimes it feels like a waste of time, when you can be doing something more productive like napping. (You don’t have to waggle to nap. Or at least I don’t.) But maybe it’s more like trying to attempt golf in your living room versus attempting golf on an actual golf course. There’s less waggle and more golfing when you’re actually on a course.

A year ago when I moved into my apartment, I was very excited to have a place of my own. A place of quiet. I had a whole Virginia Woolf monologue in my head (without the rocks though). But I’m beginning to see that my home is my refuge. It’s the place I go where I don’t have to work. It is my place to relax. It is my place to nap. If I want to write—write big, long strokes of prose—I’m probably going to have to get used to the idea of going somewhere that isn’t home and doing my golf-writing there. I’m going to have to start going to courses instead of practicing shots in my living room.

Fortunately my library isn’t far from me; and there are lots and lots of chairs to sprawl in and outlets to plug into. (With the added bonus that the wireless on my computer no longer works, so I can’t surf the internet as a means of distraction.) The library is generally quieter than my local bookstore; and the coffee is slightly cheaper. There is something a little poetic about writing your great American novel in a room filled with great American novels. Like you’re sitting somewhere where Muses dwell to begin with.

My writing group and I have been using Saturdays (not the 2nd Saturday we meet) to go to the library and write. Aside for the initial chit-chat, it’s helpful. We’ve written more doing this than we’ve written in weeks (or months.) We’ve been doing a lot less waggling and a lot more golfing, and I think it’s because we’ve finally taken our game out to the course.

Where do you like to write? What rituals do you have when you write? What do you prefer to do with your Sunday mornings? Did anyone else watch Tin Cup? *LOL* Are you a waggler or a Grip It and Rip It writer?
Saturday, May 15, 2010

It's Spring, Look Out for the Robins!

Okay, that was a terrible pun. Never ask me to name anything, especially not your child. "Horace. He looks like a Horace to me." It'd be awful.

Anyway, if you haven't been hiding under a rock, you know that summer blockbusters are coming (Ironman last week was a particularly good one, I enjoyed it) and this week, it was time for the Scott Ridley summer blockbuster. Lots of action sequences, blowing stuff up, and people dressed in a bunch of crazy SCA clothing, screaming at each other and waving swords. (I love me some SCA!) Robin Hood is coming back to theaters. He's been a favorite of Hollywood for years now; and because I'm just old enough, I am a huge fan of the often maligned Kevin Costner version in 1991. I even remember the movie theater I saw it in--I saw it with my sister and I didn't stop talking about it for at least six months. It was my first VHS movie I ever owned; and I was very proud of it. It was also where I was first introduced to Alan Rickman (but that's a different Hotties blog.)

Russell Crowe, his personality notwithstanding, is an outstanding actor. No one can deny it. He reminds me of Joaquin Phoenix in his ability to meld himself into a character until you can't discern which is Russell and which is the character. Equally great is that Cate Blanchett is playing Maid Marian, and she's awesome in everything I've seen her in. So although this movie looks like an overly serious cross between Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, I'm still seeing it as soon as possible.

In the meantime, I think everyone should pick the Robin who best suits them. Enjoy!

Which Robin would you be Maid Marian for and why? And which Robin Hood movie is your favorite? What Summer Blockbuster are you most looking forward to?

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Actually the winner is going to get something much better than a chicken dinner...the winner is going to get in bed with Charlotte and Bay. Well, sorta. You can take the book in bed with you.

Enough with the suspense.

And THE WINNER IS: Karen H in NC. (Winner picked by

Congratulations, Karen--please send your snail mail address to

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Pitchin’ Pirate

- Have ya any idea how tired I be, Captain?


- Don’t care, Chance. Suck it up and blog about pitching or I’ll throw you off the ship.


* Sigh

Nah, she didn’t threaten ta throw me off the ship, though I have no doubt if I disobeyed a direct order she’d find something diabolical ta assign me. Like writing a Harry Potter metaphor. (She’d enjoy doing that, ya know. I wouldn’t. More power ta Cpt. Hel!)

So, as ya all know, I be returned from the Romantic Times Convention in Columbus, where I took the publishing world by storm and am now a totally returned ta ya as a bonifide success.

I wish.

But I did do good. I pitched me heart out. Selling three unsuspectin’ ladies on reading me epic, The Kraken’s Mirror and one a’ those three wants ta see The Changed World in addition! Huzzahs!

How, are ya askin’, did the silly bartender from the Revenge manage such a stupendous bit a’ sneaker-ee?

Months a’ planning, plotting, and nagging the Bo’sun ta help me with pitching and synopsis writing. (I planned, ya know, ta be ready ta submit supersonic fast. So, yes, synopsis done. Fer both! I bought somethin’ special fer the Bo’sun, if I can jus’ entice the slippery thing inta a bottle…)

What truly be the secret a’ me success?


I’m gonna credit me buttons. I went nowhere without me Romance Writer’s Revenge button, including me personal motto, “Writing with Piratitude” plus a few other pirate style buttons. (I gots me a button making machine ‘bout two months ago and am now insane fer making buttons.) Anyone want a button made?


*twitch, wink

(Yes, I have made some new Revenge buttons and will have them out there for whoever would like one soon… Any other design or motto ideas? Sin and I were working on some ideas…speak up!)

Me buttons gave me confidence. Gave me the secret little bit a’ power that radiated from me ‘bout me pirate epics. I’m sure me eyes glowed and no, it weren’t the Rum Runners, though they were REALLY good. (The Changed World may not be about pirates, but I do have a tall ship in it… Never write without something of a fantatsical bit a’ sailing in the plot….that  be me. Or rum, I like writing about rum. All that taste testing ta make it authentic…)

One by one, I beguiled the ladies, two editors, one agent – actually I suppose it be two agents as there were sharing the table, though they be with the same agency – but I digress…

One by one, I beguiled the ladies with me pirate charm, mentioned me own personal genre, piratepunk and watched eyes light up. As a matter a’ fact, when I approached the agents table, where I had been planning ta pitch me futuristic urban fantasy, The Changed World, one turned ta the other and said, “We need more pirate stories.”

I be one lucky pirate.

I sat and calmly said, “Well, I were planning on pitching me urban fantasy but I have a romantic pirate fantasy also. What would ya like ta hear?” (No, I didn’t use me pirate voice, though I think they might have enjoyed it. Maybe next time.)

Long story short, I was told both. And both were requested, by both agents. Double score!

Ta be serious, what is the secret of successful pitching? Believe in yourself, enjoy what you be talking about. If ya love yer character, say so. If you love your world, say so. If you love the publisher or the agent in front of ya, say so. If you are saying hi from a certain pirate to an old friend, do so. If yer beta reader be someone ya think they’ll know, tell them. (Hi! Scapegoat!) (Yes, they knew you!)

In other words, do anything to be charming and witty and establish connection. I told one editor that her publisher is my dream publisher. (It is.) I told her I’d been reading their books for decades. (I have.) I told her I’d be stalking her at conferences for years until I found something she liked. (I will.) And she smiled, saying, “I’ll be here!”

I were an honest pirate. I sold meself as much as me stories and in the months ahead, I’ll discover if me writing be up ta the story I told at me pitches.

Now, me cohort? She pitched differently. No scheduled appointments. Her brand a sneaker-ee be different. She volunteered and just happened to mention, many times, ta various connected people, that she be a writer… Yes, she received requests and suggestions and help. From authors, editors and agents.

I wore a pirate hat to three out of four evening parties. She wore a lampshade to one. She got into everything early, as a volunteer. I got in first at the door because I went early so she could volunteer and was first in line. AND I DIDN’T HAVE TO WORK!!!

Now, who was smarter?

On top a’ the requests for this year, I be happy to report that one editor who I never heard back from regarding last year’s request, told me to send her an e-mail and remind her. Include the e-mail and approx. date I sent it. She will search for it and let me know. In other words? A do-over.

(Thank you again, Scapegoat! I never did run into Heather at the bar, but I will see about scheduling a time to get her drunk…did I say that out-loud? ... at the Nationals.)

So, me crewmates! What is me best advice fer successful pitching? Be clever, be confident, where nice shoes…brand new shoes bought just days beforehand, put on just around the corner from the pitch tables, replacing the sloppy comfortable sandals scant seconds before the pitch…

Also wear a pirate coat if possible.

I advise it be purple.

Yes, I believe my appearance is important. Jane heard an editor talk about how she hated it when authors got all gussied up to pitch. I don’t go that far. (No silk stockings…though if you were writing something with silk stockings as an important prop…why not?) I do believe in adding touches of what you write to your appearance. Why not give a peek at how you would assist in the marketing of your story? Even if I’m not pitching pirates, I still dress nice. Not like soap-opera-diva-photo-shoot, but nice!

I already knew the woman I was pitching to would appreciate a professional appearance when pitching. I’d read her book.

Easiest way to be subtle about the link to you and your book/characters? Pins. If not motto/slogan pins, then nice tasteful pins or jewelry of some sort. Your heroine is a gardener? A flower pin. Your hero is the devil? Pitchfork pin. I tell you these things are out there! And I believe worth that little nudge to show your willingness to play along with marketing. So…

OK, all jokes aside. I was confident. I made it clear that I loved my characters, that I had created something different. That I wanted to work to make these stories right for the houses I pitched to. All of them are houses I believe in. The agent charmed me right back, btw. I wandered a bit in the basic pitch…took three lines and made them about nine lines. I did not bwah ha ha this time, but I did use a line from Julie… “Old enough to know what she likes and young enough to still do it.”

Thank you, Julie.

Piratepunk is my genre. And I am damned proud of that.

Any questions for the master pitcher? HA!


And I had an awesome time this year. I laughed more than I have in years. The parties were fun, the elevators were quick and I got to walk around Columbus and visit the replica of Christopher Columbus’ ship, the Santa Maria. And I got to pose with a bunch of cavemen…


(Side note, all requested materials have been sent out with suitably charming letters and offers to buy drinks in Orlando. That extra week helped, thanks fer stepping in Mags and being our guest last Friday. Took me the entire week ta feel back in focus again. As focused as I get!)
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Writer's ADD

I’ve had some difficulty focusing these past couple months.  I blame it on pregnant brain. But it could just be that I’m not sleeping for crap.  Whatever the cause, my WIP is suffering.

Things have gotten worse as my nesting instinct has kicked in this past couple weeks.  I sit down in front of those pages and I immediately want to go organize something.  I’ve rearranged my cabinets.  I’ve cleaned out two closets, donated three or four bags of clothes to Goodwill.  I’ve packed my “go to the hospital” bag three times, written an extensive note about my son’s daily habits (for his caretakers when my husband and I aren’t with him), and I’m grocery shopping like a maniac to make sure the house is constantly supplied with food for the onslaught of visitors I’m sure we’ll receive after the little guy is born.

Needless to say, there’s little room in all this manic activity for thoughts about my hero and heroine’s relationship struggles.

It’s Writer’s ADD.

Let’s be honest, though.  The majority of us don’t have the resources to just sit around all day, thinking about our stories and writing.  We generally start on this journey with jobs, children at home, or both.  Add the plethora of responsibilities that go along with LIVING (housework, financial issues, elderly relatives’ care, etc) and writing can easily move to the bottom of our priority list, whether due to lack of time or lack of focus.

Right now I’m chalking my ADD up to something that will fix itself when I manage to remove the person growing in my uterus.  But when this “illness” strikes on a regular day/week/month, I can usually battle it by forcing myself to stare at my MS.  Most of the time, if I’m stuck or distracted, if I just carve the time out of my day (like I should for working out) I can get myself to write something.  Maybe it’s junk, maybe I’ll delete it later.  But it’s something.  And sometimes it’ll jar something better loose.

How do you fight off Writer’s ADD?  What are your biggest distractions and how do you combat them?  Anyone else have any suggestions for remembering stuff?  Seems I write myself notes and then forget those.  Not helpful.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010


The waiting game known as publishing will drive you to the brink of insanity.  For some of us, the brink is close enough that we can walk.  Still, it requires dedication to keep plotting and plodding when it feels like time is deliberately backpedaling.  Dedication bolsters your belief that there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and it's from the spotlight shining on your bestseller in the bookstore.

But sometimes dedication to your manuscript starts to waver.  You are beaten down, wondering why you ever attempted to write anything longer than your Celebrity Freebie List (2010 Edition).  It's not easy to write, rewrite, revise, and polish (lather, rinse, and repeat) AND keep your spirits buoyant.  Some days it's too difficult to keep that dedication from crumpling to the ground, whimpering, defeated by the hardship that is the writer's path.

Fortunately I have something that will instantly revive your dedication.  It will not only resuscitate it, but rejuvenate it. 

(I know you think I'm talking about the Hotties right now, but I'm not.  Because they're, um, busy---decorating the DRD portion of the ship.  *whistles*  Hey!  Hottie guys.  When I said "decorate", I meant arrange yourselves artfully on the two king-size beds you put in my quarters earlier.  Yeah, just like that.  Wait!  There's not enough room?  *grips the railing to stay upright as knees give out*)

Okay, what was I talking about?  Oh yeah.  I'm here to tell you about something creative, yet extremely cathartic, that is guaranteed to refresh your writing mojo.

It's the Dedication page.  Of YOUR book.

I know you've imagined writing this.  Don't even pretend you haven't.  Wait a minute--I'm really the only one who's done this?

Well, no matter.  It's easy enough to get started.  Just think back to all those people who spewed their beverage when you said you wanted to write a book.  At the time you simply gritted your teeth and, after sheathing your weapon, you thought, "I can't WAIT to include them in the Dedication of my book!"

The same with the angelic souls who have nurtured you along this perilous route.  They definitely deserve a place of prominence, since they had faith in you when the haters did everything possible to force you into their Non-Believers Club.

It's time to work on our Dedication pages, so they'll be written and polished when we get The Call.  And, just to speed things along, I prepared a few ahead of time to share with you.

*unfurls a parchment scroll, which rolls down the deck for several minutes before coming to a complete stop*

"To the Pirate Wenches of RWR.  You gave me one of the biggest thrills of my writing life when you asked me to join your blogging crew.  It was exciting to be picked because you liked my writing (yeah, I actually believed it, so we're gonna stick with that as the official reason).  You somehow set things in motion which led to other great things in my writing life.  I consider all of you the reason for my good luck, and if I could, I'd wear you every day on a charm bracelet—although, now that I think about it, it would make more sense to put you on cocktail stirrers instead."

And here's another:

"To my BFF.  You're the first one I trusted to read my manuscripts, and I never realized just how devoted a fan, and friend, you would become.  Even though I want to kill you every time you loudly announce in the bookstore, "I can't WAIT to read the new book by Donna Cummings", I'm also secretly delighted by your unswerving belief in me, before I've even signed a publishing contract.  You can easily differentiate the nineteen thousand variations of my whining, determining in an instant whether to prescribe a mojito, or a kick in the butt.  I do not know how to thank you, except to promise this:  you will always get first dibs at the casting couch when Hollywood comes a-calling."

Okay, pirates!  Grab some rum and a stack of parchment.  I've got plenty of sharpened quills for you here.  Get creative, get vicious, get emotional.  But get to it!  *claps hands*  I wanna see a boatload of dedication here!  And to minimize any potential lawsuits, let's use initials or fictitious names.  I've got the shredder right here, but it doesn't seem to work so well on blog comments!
Monday, May 10, 2010

Tuesday Update From The RWR Newsroom

Good morning, I’m Bo’sun Terrio and these are the stories rocking the boat this Tuesday in May.

There will be less twang and more Tink at the RWA National Conference this year. With the worst flooding to hit middle Tennessee and the surrounding areas in fifty years, the original destination hotel, Gaylord Opryland, took a substantial hit, rendering the facility unable to host the annual celebration. Drying vibes go out to all affected and there is hope RWA will fit Music City into the schedule for a future conference.

The surprise flood meant redirecting two thousand romance writers, which looked like a daunting task to all. But RWA pulled off what some might call the miracle of 2010, landing in the Greatest Place on Earth - Disney World. In July. Heh.

The new site is the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort and if the pictures on the website are any indication, this could result in embarrassing pictures of inebriated Romance writers riding a large swan twirling their vajazzled boostiers over their heads. However, my goal is to keep Chance off the roof so we’ll see how it goes.

May isn’t just Mom’s Month, it’s also the month for auctions around Romanceland. First we have the big one, Brenda Novak’s annual auction for Diabetes Research. Everything and anything relating to Romance, be you a reader, a writer, or both, is available in this auction. From ARCs to signed books to critiques to Zumba lessons. *pauses and holds earplug* Our crack research department has not been able to confirm the Zumba lessons, but we’re still checking.

Loosen up those purse strings and get yourself something nice. I can’t promise a Vibrating Cutlass, but we have plenty of those over here anyway.

Another auction worth checking out is the DO THE WRITE THING FOR NASHVILLE auction. With high water comes great loss and the writing community is reaching out to lend their support. Everyone is stepping up for this one. Editors and agents aren’t just giving critiques or putting up a couple hours of their time to read your submission, they’re offering themselves for a lunch meeting and business advice. *taps earplug again* What do you mean they’re running off? All of them? Damn it.

Looks like that’s all we have time for on this episode. Tune in again next month when we’ll bring you up to date on the latest happenings in the world of Romance. May your seas be calm and your Hooha Glittery, goodnight.

*smiles into camera, waiting for screen to go black* Hello. *still smiling* Someone needs to cut the camera. Oh hell. Looks like we’re going to keep rolling. Any other news out there to report? Record writing sessions? Incriminating pictures from RT? Sudden labor pains? Anything?!
Sunday, May 9, 2010

Frederick Jackson Turner and the End of the Frontier

Your history moment of the day: May 10, 1869, at Promontory Summit, Utah, the last spike was laid for the First Transcontinental Railroad in America. This accomplishment is considered one of the greatest American technological feats of the 19th century, even beating out the Erie Canal, which brought about the ability to settle the West, mainly because it made tradegoods so much cheaper to buy for settlers heading West.

Settling the West was big business in the 19th century. The Americans couldn’t do it fast enough. They did it so fast, in fact, that in 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner wrote a thesis about the importance of American expansion on the American spirit and ingenuity. He was rather worried that without the West to occupy our minds and hands, we were going to lose our creative edge. (He was wrong, since clearly Star Trek was the final frontier, not the American West.)

More seriously, we’ve expanded our creativity in other ways. Our discoveries in science in the 20th century can easily be compared to the Industrial Revolution accomplishments of the 19th, and science hasn’t begun to be tapped for all its resources. There is always something new to discover or enhance. I think Freddie would be impressed with how we’ve turned our minds to making the frontier a better place to live through medicines, curing diseases, and improving technologies.

It’s always funny though that people think that there is an end to something. That everything must be finite. The world is flat—and there will come a time when you get to the edge and fall off it. Or we’ve settled all the land ever possibly available, so civilization is going to die off and degenerate.

Writers aren’t exempt from this sort of crazy thinking. Here we are, exploring new frontier in our WIPs, mapping out a story, and finally determining where the final frontier might end, and we start panicking that this might be all there is. There is no other frontier to explore. Nothing new to create or mold.

I bet even Nora has even thought this. For a second or two at least.

Sometimes we get so nutty in thinking we’ll never find a frontier as cool as the one we’re in, we refuse to finish the frontier we’re in. We keep taking the wagon train back to the beginning and going a different direction to get to the same end. It’s like we’re playing a perpetual game of Oregon Trail. Occasionally we do this because we died somewhere on the trip and you have to do a do-over, but a lot of the time, I think it’s because we like the game. Which route is the best? Which route is the right one? Which route is the version that the editors will buy? Never mind that you might be in a frontier that an editor is simply not interested in buying.

Oh, well, no experience is without knowledge. Even if you keep playing Oregon Trail like some compulsive gamer, I’m convinced you are learning something. Still, I do recommend you try new frontier every once in a while. After all, people stopped using the Oregon Trail in 1869 because the railroad made it obsolete.

I’ve realized I’ve been on this particular Oregon Trail for three years, and I still haven’t gotten to Idaho yet. My oxen are skeletons at this point because I keep re-inventing the wheels on my wagon. I’m not sure why I’m doing this, only that maybe, perhaps, I’m a little apprehensive what I’ll do once I actually get to California. I’m going to have to forge a new frontier again, and I’m not sure I have another idea as good as this one.

Which is stupid. Look how wrong Freddie was.

So are any of you afraid of running out of frontier? Afraid of not finding new frontier? Do any of you re-invent your current frontier over and over again? And most importantly, did any of you like the orphan train books?
Saturday, May 8, 2010

Teepee Fever

A latent fantasy has re-emerged lately. I blame New Moon. Because if you just put the characteristics of Jacob and Edward side by side, I have to admit, they're pretty equal with their annoying behaviors. And as I was staring at Jacob's too-young-but-still-greatly-desirable chest on the screen, it occurred to me. I have a thing for Native boys. That's why I like Jacob--because he has a tan. And plenty of his tan showing.

I admit part of my fascination is that Indians naturally come with horses, and before I ever loved boys, I loved horses. Falling in love with an Indian brave just seemed like a simple way of acquiring that horse I always wanted as well.

Even in Last of the Mohicans, though Hawkeye was hot and all, my love was for his brother, the actual Indian. And when he died, I agreed with the girl who jumped off the cliff to be with him.

Anyway, all the fiction I've been reading lately, has been Indian related. One of the first books I ever remembered getting was called "Autumn Dove", and I read it until the covers fell off. Not only was he an Indian, but he was a half-breed. And I love nothing more than an outcast who finds true love. Another book I adore is by Pamela Morsi called "Runabout" which features another "half-breed", who is gorgeous and ends up falling in love with his best friend and Plain Jane, Tulsy.

When I went looking for Native American books, All About Romance came to my rescue.

Then I watched a movie I own called Now and Forever, with Adam Beach, who is soooo pretty, and not as young as baby Taylor.

Here are a few more. Some more legitimate than others. Native boys are hard to find I tell you!

So do you have any Gone Native fantasies? Read any really great books featuring Native American braves? Done any big heaps of writing this weekend? (Did the Great Spirit move you?)
Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bo'sun Chats with Newest Star Maggie Robinson

Here ye! Here ye! We have a very special guest on the ship today. She’s been with us from the beginning. For Hellie and I, even before that. It was always obvious we’d see her on the bookshelves one day so it’s extra special to have her here to celebrate her debut release, MISTRESS BY MISTAKE.

It's Maggie Robinson!!!

 I had Chance whip us up a pitcher of our best Glittery Hoohas, and Maggs and I sat down to chat. This is what we got before we fell out of our hammocks drunk…

First off, we must start at the beginning – The Call.

The Call actually came for Margaret Rowe’s Tempting Eden. My agent told me something was finally afoot after seven long months on submission. I was in the high school library where I worked and I couldn’t scream. I got the call for the Courtesan Court Trilogy two months later driving home from getting a pedicure.

Where did the idea for the Courtesan Court Trilogy come from and more specifically, where did you get the idea for MISTRESS BY MISTAKE?

I actually wrote Mistress by Midnight (December 28, 2010) first, and had my heroine Laurette wonder what the hell everyone else was doing on Jane Street, London’s infamous “Courtesan Court” while they waited for their men to show up. I realized I could write more books and tell her. I wanted all the books to be Mistress by SomethingbeginningwithanM, so the title actually came first. Mistake starts with M. Then I wondered how one could find oneself in that position. In many positions. ;) Turns out there are TWO other books with the same title, and here I thought I was so original.

You are original. And I’m curious about these other positions. Ahem. Can you tell us about the rest of the Trilogy?

Mistress by Midnight is Cathy and Heathcliff without the crazy (and with a secret baby. *Hangs head in shame*). Mistress by Marriage is an opposites-attract-and-drive-each-other-mad-with –lust story. There will be two novellas also set on Jane Street in future Brava anthologies.

Five visits to Jane Street? What intelligent publishers. Speaking of the pubbers, how are you transitioning from writing to your own deadlines to those of your publisher?

I’ve never imposed deadlines on myself, really. But I’m a boring good girl, and turn everything in early.

*whispers to Chance* We’re gonna need more liquor in here.

 I know you are a proclaimed pantser. How much of the story do you really know before you start? Other than knowing the story will end happily, do you know or at least have a specific goal in mind of how the book will end?

I know nothing—it’s quite horrific how blank my brain can be—but my fingers seem to find the right keys eventually.

*slams bar across the door before the crew can attack*

 Did you ever imagine you’d be writing under two different names? How has it been to juggle so many projects and deal with different editors?

I spent a few years trying to establish myself as Maggie Robinson, so I wasn’t wild about the dual identity at first. But Margaret is edgier and I can let her be as bad as she wants to be. My websites are nearly identical and I’ve tried to twin promo when I can. As author Beverley Kendall said when she read Tempting Eden, “it’s still Maggie’s writing.” Just darker. I hope you’ll have me back as the dirtier writer next month when Tempting Eden debuts. I’ll bring a mop.

Of course we’ll have you back. Silly wench. And the Hotties are here to do the mopping, no worries there. You’ve mentioned using visuals as inspiration for your settings and characters. Which do you start with first? Do you find your setting and story first, or do the characters take center stage out of the gate?

The squirrels come first, then characters. I use visuals to help me sharpen my focus (a hopeless task). YouTube has been great for an armchair traveler.

What do you most want readers to take away from your books?

People can make mistakes, but don’t have to let the mistakes make them. You can overcome a lot with love and determination.

Spoken like a true romance writer. *sigh* Now to the important stuff, if you could name a drink for our Revenge Bar Menu, what would it be?

The Courtesan’s Cutlass—served in cut glass, of course.

We can’t let you get away without asking for your best advice to those still aspiring and to the Newbie about to embark on this same crazy journey.

Wake up every morning at 4 AM and write. Just kidding. But write as much and as often as you can. Don’t ever give up. It took me seven years for my dream to come true.

Thanks so much for having me on board! A virtual round of rum and a real signed copy of Mistress by Mistake for one commenter!

You heard her gang, one lucky commenter gets a free signed copy, so fire away!

Responsibility the pirate way.......argh!

I've been making goals for myself, when it comes to writing. Terri inspired me with her fabulous 30 pages a week goal that she not only made but is keeping! How awesome is that?

Me? Not so much. I wrote a few hundred words yesterday. A few hundred here and there over the last few weeks. But no forward progress, no new scenes or new chapters or new ideas.

It's the pirate version of being a responsible writer, right?

Arrrrrrggggghhh! I also need to be researching. I have all sorts of things I need to know for this book. Have I been doing it? NO! I ordered a book on undercover cops in bomb squads, so that will help. When it gets here. When I get around to reading it. My current novel is set in Spain too (WHY do I keep choosing these settings that require so much research? Next book, I'm setting it across the street).

Going along with the theme of being a "responsible" pirate, I was also absurdly late with this blog. But we're pirates, right?

What things in your life do you give the pirate-heave-ho to when it comes to being a responsible adult or writer? Anyone let the dishes pile up? Set your books next door so you don't have to research the setting? Put off revisions or the synopsis until you can't stand it? Come on wenches, time to fess up!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
In totally unrelated news, RWA has announced that its 2010 conference will officially be moving from Nashville to Orlando, due to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel closing due to the recent flooding. The new conference is at the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort, at the same price, with rooms for $149. No word about flights or those who already paid for the Nashville room. I know there's a lot of pirates planning on going to Nashville -- what does this do to your plans? Excited about going to Orlando instead?
Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Blythe Gifford Rolls in the Blankets with Our Captain Jack Sparrow

*camera zooms in on Captain’s Quarters, specifically onto a bright tartan blanket, which appears to have a pair of bodies writhing beneath it*

Captain Jack Sparrow: Did….

*high pitched feminine squeal and a slap of flesh hitting flesh*

CJS: I suppose I deserved that. Excuse me, luv, I work better with light in the room. *pops up from the top of the blanket* There, that’s much better. Don’t you agree?

Blythe Gifford: *emerging from the blanket as well, hair rumpled, slightly disgruntled* I’m sorry we didn’t find your rum bottle. *straightening hair*

CJS: What were we doing before my rum went missing? Oh, yes… *grins roguishly* We were talking about your new novel, His Border Bride, and about heroes who are born on the wrong side of the blanket, like me.

Blythe: You were born on the wrong side of the blanket?

CJS: I think so. Isn’t that what it means when people call you a bastard?

Blythe: Not always. But in my hero’s case, he really was born on the wrong side of the blanket. He’s a bastard by birth, not personality. Gavin Fitzjohn is the illegitimate son of a prince of England and a Scots woman. Not only is he torn between royal and noble, he’s torn between two kingdoms. “A rebel without a country,” as the back cover copy says, he’s a man with a reputation so terrible, he’s outcast by both sides. He refuses to try to change anyone’s opinion of him. He just puts on that lazy smile lets them think he’s as bad, or maybe even worse, than the rumors. He’s my first “bad boy” hero.

CJS: You mean I’m not your first?

Blythe: *bats eyes and smiles*

CJS: He sounds like he has a reason to be cranky--*sniffs*--much like me. I feel sorry for the poor girl who ends up with him. What’s she like? A hellion who can match him toe-to-toe, or an angel of the house who he couldn’t even begin to deserve?

Blythe: A woman who is looking for the perfect “knight in shining armor,” of course! Clare Carr expects perfection in herself and in her future husband. But Gavin’s business, like that of any knight, was violence, dominance, and death. It’s no wonder that a “knight in shining armor” might hide some dark deeds beneath the shiny façade. Or, that the bad boy might see beyond a woman’s spotless reputation to the things she’d prefer to keep hidden…

CJS: Ooo. A beauty with hidden secrets. I like her already. What is it about Medieval history that interests you? And how much research do you do for your stories?

Blythe: I’ve been interested in the 14th century since I read Anya Seton’s Katherine in Junior High. It is the story of a lifelong love affair between John of Gaunt, a son of Edward III of England, and Katherine Swynford, his mistress of many years. They had four children together, eventually married late in life, and their descendants sat on the throne of England. It sparked my interest in the royal family, the 14th century, and children born on the wrong side of the royal blanket – all the things I write about today!

In addition, I write angsty historicals and to me, the medieval period seems very conducive to the wounded hero. I do a lot of research, but that’s one of the things I love about writing historical. Somehow, I’ll discover an historical tidbit and it’s as if I’ve found a piece of my character’s backstory. The story grows as I explore the period.

CJS: And do you find it challenging to write Medievals when it seems like most historicals are set in the Regency or currently, the Georgian era?

Blythe: There are many wonderful writers of Regency. No reason to be a “me, too” in a popular time period when another one really speaks to me. Writing medieval means it may be a little more challenging to find my readers, but it would be even more difficult if I were trying to chase the market.

CJS: That’s my philosophy. I let the ladies come to me, if you know what I mean. *Blythe raises an eyebrow; CJS clears throat, changing subject* The crew always—ALWAYS—wants to know about Call Stories. What is your Call Story?

Blythe: Actually, my best Call Story was when I got the call that my manuscript had finaled in the Golden Heart contest. This was back in the dark ages and they made the calls on a Sunday night instead of posting on the internet after each call while we all hit refresh every ten minutes. I had no expectations, so I was watching the Oscars at 8 p.m on a Sunday when I got a call from a Phoenix phone number. It was Tara Taylor Quinn telling me I was a finalist. I was totally, totally incoherent. She was trying to explain what was to happen next and finally, I sort of blubbered, “Do I have to do anything intelligent tonight?” I have a picture of myself that evening in my jammies with a bottle of champagne! (Rule to live by: Always keep a bottle of champagne in the fridge in case a celebration breaks out. Although rum will do in a pinch.)

My real Call Story, which came nearly two years later, wasn’t quite so dramatic. Harlequin had had the Golden Heart manuscript for months and I had spoken both to the editor and senior editor, so The Call (at 10 a.m. in the morning) wasn’t exactly a surprise. I was prepared with my list of questions and all, but I had just gotten out of the shower and had one contact in and one out. So I really did need to ask if I could call back because without my eyes in, I was even more disoriented than you might expect!

CJS: What are you working on now?

Blythe: I just signed a contract with Harlequin for three more historicals, so I’m working on the first. I’m a little superstitious about saying too much too soon. I will say I’ve stayed on the Scottish borders, but I’ve changed time periods. (And no, not to Regency!)

CJS: And lastly, what writing advice would you recommend to aspiring authors?

Blythe: Know why you write what you write, beyond the desire to be published. I do not downplay fame and money! I’ll happily accept more of both. But when you are sitting at the keyboard facing a blank screen, those aren’t the things that bring forth your most authentic work. It’s the soul you bring to the page that connects to the reader. That’s what brings them back for more.

CJS: Blythe, I must say, you have been a most gracious, beautiful guest, and I’ve had a most lovely time rolling around in the blankets with you. I still think it would have been perfect with a bit of rum, but nonetheless, just lovely. Is there anything you’d like to say or ask the crew?

Blythe: Thanks so much for having me! I love to have visitors so come see me at or at I’d love to hear from the crew about what everyone is working on (or reading!) and what calls to them about their own genre or setting.

BLYTHE GIFFORD is the author of five medieval romances from Harlequin Historical. She specializes in characters born on the wrong side of the royal blanket. With HIS BORDER BRIDE, she crosses the border and sets a story in Scotland for the first time, where the rules of chivalry don’t always apply. Here’s a brief description:

Royal Rogue: He is the bastard son of an English prince and a Scotswoman. A rebel without a country, he has darkness in his soul.

Innocent Lady: Daughter of a Scottish border lord, she can recite the laws of chivalry, and knows this man has broken every one. But she’s gripped by desire for him—could he be the one to unleash the dangerous urges she’s hidden until now?

Her 2009 release, IN THE MASTER’S BED, has just finaled in the Readers Crown contest. Blythe loves to have visitors at or

Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ®and T are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited and/or its affiliated companies, used under license. Copyright 2010 ■ Author photo by Jennifer Girard