Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Who you going to call?

Two things are happening as I write this blog. One (and most obviously), I'm watching Ghost busters. Two, I just returned from a week at school.


For the past week, I've been immersed in classes, workshops, critiques, presentations, and hotel elevator conversations about writing. I even got to meet the agent in person, and got a few minutes to chat with her one-on-one.

I've only been to one writing conference, but I have a feeling that conferences and my twice-yearly week-long residency as part of my Writing Popular Fiction program are quite similar. There's an energy that comes over me, both to inspire and challenge me. I get to learn new things, and share what I know with other writers. I get a variety of critiques and comments from readers of all genres.

Some of the critiques were constructive, tactful, and inordinately helpful. Those I look forward to each semester, and will use well. I always prepare for those "other" critiques, those who will bash me for the sake of bashing, and during those, I grit my teeth, smile politely, and move on. As Chance recently reminded us, there's no point in listening the bashers, especially ones you don't know, or those who's opinion you don't hold in high esteem to start with. But this semester, I got lucky -- no bashing, only helpful, critical and very well-thought-out advice.

When I return, I'm desperate to write, eager to put my fingers on the keyboard. Usually, I'm bursting with excitement. So in lieu of being able to attend conferences, I use this week not just to re-charge my batteries, but to be inspired, to be challenged by other writers, and generally just share that writer-ly atmosphere that the poor staff at the Marriott must plain dread (we do tend to take over the hotel -- sorry about that!).

How do you get that enthusiasm and energy for writing? Are you going to Nationals? Have you already gone through the list of panels and highlighted all the ones you're dying to attend? (even though I can't go, I still do that!). Are you going to smaller, more intimate conference? Do you have writerly friends you meet with who encourage and inspire you? Or is your writerly connection limited to online interaction? Do you find online interaction just as helpful as in-person? Or do you prefer a healthy mix of both? Basically, when you've lost that passion we all need so desperately, who do you call?
Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hero Hot Seat

I love the questions Sue Grimshaw asks on the Borders True Romance blog during author interviews.  I've even used them to get a better feel for my characters (okay, okay – maybe I was practicing for the day I will be asked those questions--hopefully--about my books). 

It inspired me to create a few questions of my own.  Only I'm not planning on interviewing any authors.

What I have in mind are questions for our heroes--something to let His Hunkiness seduce potential readers on a talk show. 

I can't say that this actually serves any useful or creative purpose.  It's meant to be a fun diversion, something to entertain yourself when you can't get fired up about writing.  It's definitely not intended to delve into the characters' motivations or goals or anything serious like that.  Although I think it does help answer the question "What is your story about?", so that kind of qualifies as a higher purpose.

However, the goal here is to tantalize, not analyze!

So we'll be live in three, two, one. . .

DRD:  Today our guest on Hero Hot Seat is Detective Ryan Nichols, from the Eastboro Police Department.  He's currently starring in I Do. . .or Die, a romantic comedy/mystery that. . .well, I'm just going to let him explain what happens.  Give it up for Detective Nichols!

*Ryan walks out onto the stage and lifts a hand in greeting*

*wild applause and several ear-piercing whistles ensue*

*Ryan takes a seat and smiles at the audience*

DRD:  I think I just saw someone faint.  We're gonna have to ask you to keep that smile under wraps.

RN:  *grinning*  I'll see what I can do.  No promises though.

DRD:  *fans face with notecard*  Did they turn off the A/C in here?   So, Ryan, tell us a little bit more about your current project.

RN:  Well, this was a lot of fun.  I'm a detective investigating a shooting that happened during a wedding, and I get to reconnect with the maid of honor, Shelby.

DRD:  Reconnect?  So you've known her before?

RN:  *laughs*  Sort of.  A few years ago, I was called to a bachelorette party that was getting pretty rowdy, and *laughs again* for some reason she thought I was a stripper, dressed as a cop. 

DRD:  Easy to see how that could happen.  *mouths "OMG" to the camera*  And now that you're investigating the shooting—

RN:  It actually turns into more than one shooting, so I postpone my vacation to give Shelby round-the-clock protection.  It gives us a chance to figure out who the shooter is, and we get to know each other a lot better, despite our best intentions.

DRD:  *gulps an entire glass of water*  Lucky gal.  And it does sound like a fun project.  Can't wait to get my hands on it—the book—when it comes out.

RN:  I think you'll enjoy it.  *smiles mischievously*  Wait til you see my dance moves.

DRD:  Okay.  *clears throat to get rid of squeaky sound*  As you know, we like to finish with a few quick questions.  Nothing too difficult, just whatever is on the top of your head.  Okay?

RN:  *nods head*  Sounds good.

DRD:  Here's an easy one:  Baseball or football?

RN:  Definitely baseball.  I play in the department's softball league every year, and I'm a pretty good hitter.

DRD:  Your favorite alcoholic beverage?  When you're off duty of course.

RN:  Of course.  I'd say it's probably beer.  Although I am fond of cosmos. . .when Shelby's drinking them.  *grins*  She's pretty sassy on a regular day, but after one or two—

*muffled noise backstage and then stage curtain flutters wildly*

DRD:  I think maybe Shelby wants to give her side of the story.

RN:  How did you guess?  *grins again*

DRD:  Next question--are you a licker or a biter?  *audience gasps* People!  I'm talking about ice cream cones!  Good grief.

RN:  *laughs*  I'll say biter.  But I've learned to be flexible, so, depending on the situation--  *winks at camera*

DRD:  I'm going to have to get Security to escort you out of here.  One last question.  Leg man or butt man?

RN:  Oh, I can't choose just one.   Seriously, have you seen Shelby? 

DRD:  We met briefly before the show.  She seems to be a little on the jealous side though.  *glances quickly backstage*  One last quickie—question—any idea who'll be playing you in the movie?

RN:  Not sure yet.  Probably somebody you haven't seen before.  *grins*  Shelby's mentioned a few she wouldn't mind playing my part.

DRD:  We'll be sure to ask her about it when she's here next month.  Unfortunately, folks, that's all the time we've got.  Thanks, Ryan, for stopping by Hero Hot Seat and playing along with us today.  

RN:  Thanks for having me, DRD.  It's been a lot of fun.

Okay, pirates.  The talk show set is all yours.  Feel free to rearrange it to suit yourself, and your heroes.  You can use the questions above, or come up with your own.  If you can't think of anything, don't hesitate to ask the studio audience if WE have any questions—we'll be happy to chime in!  Let's heat up some heroes!
Monday, June 28, 2010

Revision Ain't For Sissies Part 1 - The Art of the Opening Scene

All that celebrating over finishing my first rough draft of a novel seems like ancient history now. That was the fun part. Everything was kisses and carnivals and sock monkeys, now it’s all boring and back story and hair pulling.

In the first week of my six week revision class, I was flying high, smug even. Our assignment was to list all our scenes on index cards or post its and put them up on a board somewhere. I’d done that during the writing, so I was ahead. Oh yes, I thought I was so prepared.

Then the second week came. The opening scene. I’ve always worked at creating that perfect opening line. With this MS, I once again was smug in believing I’d written a doozy. It was an ode and a parady and cute and I thought my dreck didn’t stink.

Boy, was I wrong.

There’s a lot more to this opening than one dinky line. (Which went out the window this past weekend.)  I’ve spent two weeks trying to rework this scene. The teacher had warned us, the opening would take longer than all the rest and would be the toughest to get right. I admit, I thought she was crazy. It’s one scene, how hard could that be? Then I found out what all this scene is supposed to do.

You talk about multi-tasking.

First, you have to hook the reader in, starting in the middle of the action. But then again, you want to establish a tiny bit of the character’s normal world, before you turn it upside down. Without info dumping or bombarding the reader with back story, of course. Then you need an antagonist for the scene. Not necessarily the antagonist of the book, but someone or something who is keeping your character from getting what he/she wants.

The scene should have anywhere from four to seven beats depending on how long you want to go. (You can ask me about beats, but I’ve no idea if I can explain it to you in the comments. But if you want to know, ask and I’ll give it my best shot.) I started with three beats and have expanded to five. I’m pretty damn proud of that AND it made the scene a hell of a lot stronger.


But we aren’t done yet. This scene also needs to set up the conflict. Think of it like that opening scene in Jaws. We never see a shark. But we hear that music and we know, this ain’t good. We know something scary is coming. Your opening scene should have a hint of that Jaws music at the end. Something that makes the reader think, “Uh oh, this is going to get messy.”

And the cherry on top of the sundae, the opening scene should present a promise to your reader that you’ll fulfill in the final scene. In other words, this is the beginning of the end and will dictate all that is to follow.

All this, from one scene. No, no, my friends. This shit is not for sissies at all.

What about everyone else? You got a killer opening scene? Have you found that perfect formula, the balance that makes all these elements work seamlessly together? Anyone want to talk about the great opening scenes from our favorite authors? I think SEP might be the queen of the opening scene. Come on, she put the heroine in a beaver suit. Who does that?!

PS: This is the Revision class through Storywonk and I can't recommend it highly enough.
Sunday, June 27, 2010

Your Life as a Theme Park

The lines were long, the butterbeer was delicious, and the candy at Honeydukes was exactly like you see in the movies. (Though I don’t think the Bertie Bott’s folks make the earthworm or dirt flavors any longer, so it wasn’t as festive as the boxes of beans I bought in 2007 that had those flavors. Soap was good too.) If jellybeans aren’t your thing though, there are bars of Honeyduke’s chocolate in case those nasty dementors (found in The Forbidden Journey ride) knock you out. There are also peppermint humbugs, fizzing whizzbees (these were sold out), chocoballs (I don’t know if they actually made you levitate), peppermint toads, chocolate frogs, and beautiful suckers. (I didn’t see any acid pops this time, but I imagine they’re around. They had pygmy puffs, but sold out of them the first day. And good luck finding a Harry Potter wand.)

Next door in Zonko’s Joke Shop were sneakoscopes, screaming yo-yos, and a number of muggle joke items, like chattering teeth and whoopee cushions. The Owl Post could standard mail a postcard to you (which I did, complete with a Hogsmeade stamp); and Dervish and Banges was insanely crowded. Mr. Ollivander was everything you’d expect in a spooky wandmaker.  Moaning Murtle haunts the bathroom, but she’s actually quite pleasant. The Three Broomsticks and the Hogs Head were both packed, but when you taste the butterbeer, you understand why. The Cornish pasties are really good too.

The rides are…well, rollercoasters. I’m not a rollercoaster fan. I have this gene from my mother, where she’d remind you of every headline about rollercoaster catastrophes, and most of the time on the ride, I’m mentally screaming, “I’m going to die!” This is even true on the kiddie rollercoasters. It’s sad really. The Dragon Challenge offered to let you ride the Chinese Fireball or the Hungarian Horntail (who was blue instead of black, but whatever). Clearly the only reason we picked this ride was because it was only a 10 minute wait. I can see why the line was short: no one repeated this ride. Once I was strapped in, my feet dangling over air, all I could think was: This damned ride flips upside down several times. What were you thinking? And we were off! I gulped as we climbed the hill, and then didn’t draw a breath as we dropped the incline and immediately began whipping around the park. I closed my eyes out of self-preservation. In my head, all I could think was: “This ride is 45 seconds, maybe a minute, breathe, breathe, OMG! OMG! Breathe, breathe, you’re fine, you’re fine, oh, thank God the ride is over.” I shook as I exited, looked at Susan, and said, “I don’t need to ride the other dragon for comparison. I’m good.” She was thrilled to know this.

Again, I repeat, the kiddie friendly Hippogriff ride wasn’t my cup of tea either. But at least I wasn’t so paralyzed that I could actually scream for the duration, unlike with the dragon. But my favorite ride, the ride worth going to, was The Forbidden Journey. You stood in line for about half your life, winding your way through parts of the castle. At first you’re not going much of anywhere. At one point, it dawned on me we were standing in the greenhouse, and Susan turned and said, “So help me if we’ve stood in line for 90 minutes and we cross that threshold and there is only a ride and no castle parts, I’m going to be pissed.” After that Dragon crap, you’ll understand I was suddenly very Zen. “Be cool. It’s not going to be just the ride. There will be stuff to see.” With such authority, you’d think I had already been on it. The doors finally opened to us and voila, Hogwarts. There were statues and the magical hourglasses that kept points for the houses. On the walls and in a big gallery, there were talking portraits. The four heads of houses were particularly entertaining; and though I’d never seen them in a movie or had them particularly described, I could figure out who was who pretty quickly. Salthazar Slytherin was deliciously nasty—I mistook him for Phineas Black (because they look rather similar, I think)—but that was immediately corrected by Helga Hufflepuff. You couldn’t mistake Godric Gryffindor; and the cool lady in blue with the crown on her head couldn’t be anyone but Helena Ravenclaw. We moved into the next room and saw Professor Dumbledore’s office—which incidentally is where I began hopping up and down and squealing. Books floor to ceiling in his office. The pensieve. The big phoenix statue.

In the next room we get to see Harry, Hermione, and Ron, who promise instead of the Professor Binn’s lecture we’re going to, they’ll be sneaking us out for a Quidditch match. (We get to play hooky in Hogwarts! How cool is my life?) Finally we get to the ride itself, after hearing the sorting hat sing to us about what the ride will entail—all in rhyme. Strapped into a bench and off we’re flying in a simulator ride with dementor and acromantula puppets. We get to see glimpses of the Chamber of Secrets and the Forbidden Forest. We get chased by a dragon and get to play in a Quidditch game. Good times. Couldn’t wait to do it again.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is definitely an ode to the fans. Lots of cute pointy topped houses with snow, which looks incredulous when you’re standing in 100 degree heat; and the Hogwarts train at Platform 9 ¾. The Hogwarts castle is supremely detailed; as is Hagrid’s Hut. I have little stamina, so by 2:45 on the second day, I uttered words that I never thought would come out of my mouth: “Let’s leave. I’m all Harried out.”

In fact, I’m still Harried out. I need a vacation from my vacation. But I did have a brief thought—in the midst of all the Harry Craziness—which was: I bet a theme park with Twilight would be crazier. I bet there would be a rollercoaster like the one at my local Six Flags called the Timberwolf. Wild, crazy, and ill-advised—and so has Jacob written all over it. There’d have to be a vampire rollercoaster, more like the Dragon challenge, where you flip over and over again, doing loop-di-loops and drop suddenly from several hundred feet. And I’m sure the simulator ride would have something that had to do with the Volturi and that meadow that started all the fuss. It would be insane. There’d be shops with dream catchers and shops with Indian knickknacks. The Italian restaurant where Bella and Edward had their first date. It would be chaos. Granted, if you want to go to Forks, WA, you sorta get that. But without the rides. Everything is better with rides.

If my Adam & Eve story were a theme park, there would be a rollercoaster of marriage ride (lots of screaming banshees in that one and deceptive lulls before air crushing drops), and a Lucifer ride where he’d by turns scare you to death and tempt you beyond all reason. His stores would feature every tempting but useless item your money could (and would) buy. And there’d be a sex shop. Eve would have a confectionary shop and sell pastries. Adam would have a golf store…and probably a golf simulator game ride.

So if your book were a theme park, what would the rides be? What would be featured there? If your favorite book series were turned into a theme park, what would have to be there to make it perfect? Anyone else want to see the Wizarding World of Harry Potter?
Saturday, June 26, 2010

When Fiction Comes to Life

I don’t know if you’ve heard (and you probably don’t give a rat’s behind) but they are making the book series that made me WANT to write into a big screen picture. This beats the Twilight Saga hands down, no contest. My fictional sex god is coming to life. I honestly don’t know what to do with myself.

That’s right, One for the Money (Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series) is finally a go ahead to film.

I’m going to get to see Ranger on the big screen.

(Insert my fan girl sex god swoon right here.)

I’ve tried to tell myself he will be nothing on screen like he is in my head.

I’ve tried to tell myself that he will be a MINOR character in the first movie and not even really be much more than a passing thought to Stephanie (except when she gets handcuffed to the shower curtain rod).

What I wouldn’t give to be shivering naked around Ranger.

So tell me, what fictional character from a book would you like to see come to life on the big screen or TV?

Thanks, Lisa for throwing me a life line and uploading me some pics. I heart you babe. But I'm still not sharing Ranger.
Thursday, June 24, 2010

Making The Great Escape

I had a really strange horoscope last week. From Rob Brezsny, who does a great column, called Free Will Astrology. I’m a Sagittarius and this is what Rob said:

I wouldn't say that things are about to get darker for you. But they're definitely going to get deeper and damper and more complicated. I don't expect there to be any confrontations with evil or encounters with nasty messes, but you may slip down a rabbit hole into a twilight region where all the creatures speak in riddles and nothing is as it seems. And yet that's the best possible place for you to gain new insight about the big questions that so desperately need more clarity. If you can manage to hold your own in the midst of the dream-like adventures, you'll be blessed with a key to relieving one of your long-running frustrations. 

I read that and thought, “Fabulous.”


But it all made sense, in a strange fashion. Last week was just steeped in surreal frustrations and I’ve yet to figure out the key, but I’ll hang in there. One thing I have is faith in life, so it will shake out.

I also realize I write this way, a lot. Rabbit holes, slipping into riddles and nothing is as it seems. I love it. Pure, total chaotic escape from reality. (Reality is over-rated.)

Sure, I love my life, for the most part. And I dig the challenges and I relish the chances I’m given. But I’m also a big one for slipping away and playing. (Hence, pirate festivals, renaissance faires, scifi conventions, steampunk gatherings…) So, I believe in escape! Writing escape is what we’re all about as authors.

Now, there are different levels of escape. Some write simple, barely leaving the real world behind. Set in this time, this age…real problems. Rent, bankruptcy, job woes, family heartache…nothing we all haven’t faced or known someone who battled these problems. And, of course, romance worries. Since we basically are dealing with romance one way or another.

Contemps are the light escape and often falls into rescue. Either by a romantic interest or through growing into one’s own, rescuing self. Very empowering.

Ah, there is the historical escape. Leave the modern world behind and step into a place and time that is totally unreal. (I mean come on, no matter how historically accurate a writer goes, if it’s a romance, a certain level of creative invention takes place. Even if it means there are less fleas in the beds, and no one smells from not bathing.) The challenges of the historical? Well, threat of poverty. Threat of social shunning. Threat of spinsterhood. Threat of losing the ranch? (Westerns are historicals.)

(Hellion is still on vacation, right? I know how particular she is about historical accuracy.)

But what a lovely escape they can offer! The clothing, the balls, the carriages, the country homes, the horses… And rescue. Lots of rescue in historicals.

The paranormal/urban fantasy/steampunk/adventure…one way to escape the real world is to totally remake all the rules. Forget about the bills, the broken radiator…we’re going to look at major baddies. Bloodthirsty vampires, maniacal sorcerers, demons! At risk? Your soul! Your life! The world!

Risk it all, gain it all. Or sometimes you don’t gain much, other than you won. You survive. And that isn’t a bad thing. Today’s world needs survivors as much as it needs heroes.

The great escape from the real world can consist of so many things, places, times… I recently spoke of the pirate circus. I can envision this…total escape. Everyone has heard of the idea of running away to join the circus. The basic circus has never really appealed to me, but a pirate circus? Oh, yeah. I may need to write this ship into my third Kraken book… The pirate circus ship, traveling from port to port, putting on shows…this is going to be fun to write and a great escape for me.

(Where’s my muse? I have a new packet of marshmallows and we need to get a campfire started, flesh this idea out…) (He’s gonna want to work the trapeze, I just know it. Thinks he’s Burt Lancaster…)

What is your favorite escape? Historicals? Contemps? Suspense? Paranormal? Adventure? (Vote for me!) And, OMG, I can’t forget comedy… What do you find works for you when writing? What takes you away from the worries of real life? Who wants to serve cotton candy at the pirate circus and who wants to work the trapeze?
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why No Greek Alphabet for Our Heroines?

We spend a fair amount of time talking about heroes around here, as does most of the romance writing community.  Alpha, Beta, Gamma… it’s practically a frat party when we get going.  But when it comes to heroines, our ability to define them isn't as clear cut.

Oh, we have the different “positions” if you will.  The bluestocking.  The wallflower.  The adventurer.  Whatever.  But within these different constructs there’s plenty of room to maneuver.  There’s no archetype, at least not in the way of Alpha, Beta, Gamma.  The heroines regularly defy the position they’re put in and, in fact, we want them to stretch out of the molds.

Take Penelope Featherington from Romancing Mr. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn.  A wallflower at first glance, but part of her charm, part of the brilliance of her character is how she isn’t a wallflower, how she becomes more than a wallflower through the story.  Or Haven Travis from Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas.  She’s the rich, society girl.  But then, the circumstances of the plot make it so she doesn’t fit that mold.

I’m not saying that heroes don’t defy their archetypes.  Alphas soften to love their heroines.  Betas prove they’re tough when it counts.  But at the end of the story, they’re still Alpha or Beta or whatever.  I would suggest that some of these heroines aren’t what they’re initially drawn to be by the time the story concludes.  At least, they prove to be more than the sum of some label.  And we love every second of watching them do it.

Do you think that we as readers and writers expect our heroines to perform a different role than our heroes?  If we want heroes we can fall in love with, what do you think our heroines’ purposes are?  Do we want to be them?  At least to relate to them?  Why do you think the heroine archetypes are so much less stringent than the heroes?  Do you think they are less stringent?
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The One that Got Away

haha, I once wrote a short story with the same title. Only to have it parodied, which was even funnier.

Music of the week (It was a tough choice. I used my allowance to buy a bunch.)
"While the City Sleeps"- Digital Summer (Counting the Hours, 2010)

I went to see SATC2 with Hellie on Saturday. (You all are aware; I’m sure, since you read Hellie’s blog on Monday.) While Hellie wasn’t a fan of SATC the entire time it was on air, I was. I have this thing about forbidden relationships. Secret relationships. Complicated relationships. Anything you can’t have easily, I like. I like to be difficult. I like to play games. That’s just my personality.

SATC had plenty of that. Carrie wanted Big. Big didn’t want what Carrie wanted in life (I’m not even for sure Carrie knew what she wanted out of life) and kept a casual relationship with her. Carrie and Big were on and off. Carrie always wanted him regardless. Even when Aiden came along. The difference between Aiden and Big is beta vs. alpha. (One of my favorite topics of all time- but not where I’m going with this.) Carrie wanted to be wanted. Aiden was that guy. He wanted Carrie. He showered Carrie with everything a girl could ever want. Except Carrie isn’t that girl. Eventually, Big was the man she couldn’t attain; therefore, Aiden was just a way of wasting her time until she could get what she really wanted and for Big to realize she was what he wanted as well. But when *SPOILER* Carrie and Aiden see each other again for the first time in years, it feels like fate drew them together. And fate is not something you can ignore. When you are separated by years and spouses and finding yourself in a new identity, your old relationship becomes something you want but you can’t have. You either tempt fate by exploring it or you figure out your conscience is stronger willed than you thought. For Carrie and Aiden, fate was stronger than conscience. I say good for them.

We all want what we can’t have. There is this trigger in our brain that sees something that could be ours; we just have to find a way to make it happen. The instant you tell yourself you’re on a diet and can’t have a donut, then you start obsessing about what you can’t have. The one who got away is always going to be the one focal point you can reflect back on and wonder if you made the right choices, set on the right path. You’re never going to know. It is your forbidden, your secret and your complication in life.

I enjoy writing about those relationships. It’s now no secret that my heroine and hero are married. The heroine is my hero’s forbidden, secret and complication. He walked away from her. That doesn’t change that he still wants her. But she doesn’t want him. He wants what he can’t have and by her denying him of what he wants, he wants her even more. Just to prove to himself that he can have her and walk away again. My heroine is determined that while she still wants what she can’t have (this doesn’t included the hero on a silver platter with an apple stuck between his lips) he is not going to fool her again. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, and you’re dead. (I love Kiki.) It’s easy to write these relationships. Life is full of them.

So tell me about some forbidden, secret and complicated relationships either in your writing or some that you’ve come across in your reading. What about wanting what you can’t have? Ever been there?
Monday, June 21, 2010
The inspiration for my blog came from the season finale of CASTLE starring Nathan Fillion. In case you’ve never seen Castle, Nathan Fillion plays Rick Castle, a mystery writer. The female protagonist in his novels is modeled after a NYC detective named Kate Beckett. Her character’s name is Nicky Heat. As a means to jolt him out of his writer’s block, Castle trails Beckett as they solve unusual crimes.  There’s a good degree of sexual tension. You know the kind – the will they/won’t they kind that brings viewers back week after week.

But I’m not here to talk about sexual tension. That’s another blog.

THIS blog is about the poker game Rick Castle has every week with some of his writer pals. Huge kudos to CBS for using actual mystery writers, among them James Patterson (Go on. Squee. You know you want to.), Michael Connelly and Stephen J. Cannell. Rick talks to his pals about the mystery at hand but his friends bring the conversation back to his relationship with Beckett. And as a romance writer, this was particularly delicious as they challenge him to examine what he truly feels about Beckett more closely and follow suit from there. And some people say guys don’t know how to talk about their feelings and relationships.

Now many of us have been asked who you would invite to dinner at your house. There we would sit, elbow to elbow – with the likes of Buddha, Plato, Austen, and Chaplin. But the Castle episode intrigued me and prompted me to wonder which romance writers I would invite to poker night.

The first person I would invite would be Victoria Holt. Her books were the first romances I’d ever read. Classic gothics. Dramatic. Filled with grand homes with nooks and crannies as deep and dark as the characters themselves. Would she have a poker face that would leave you guessing -much like the poker face she uses in her writing. Always making the reader wonder just who the bad guys were.

I’d also invite Karen Rose whose romantic suspense novels are intense and spellbinding, leaving you on the edge of your seat. I’d imagine she bets the way she writes-with precise determination to win at all costs.

Who would the last romance writer at the poker table be? A debut author bringing a breath of fresh air to the table. Or a New York Times bestselling author would add a certain flair to the game. I’m stumped.

Who would your 4th be? Come on over to my house. I’ll set up the table. Just please, make sure you use the coasters.
Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Missing Link

Some people subscribe to the “opposites attract” theory; and others do not, saying that you need a common ground to survive. Personally, I think as a woman who is interested in men, that is all the opposite I need. Honestly, I think men are another species altogether, and at times, not a very intelligent species at that. And finding common ground is getting more and more difficult for me.

There are days—weeks, even—where I marvel that men and women ever end up together. It’s got to be the sex. Sex is good, great—so sex has got to factor in for a lot of it. And there’s probably some laughter involved. I notice the moment laughter is gone, so is most everything else.

Saturday, though, I think I discovered the missing link between men and women. The thing that makes them so alike, it’s scary. Sin and I went to see Sex and the City 2. I’m not a Sex and the City fan. I find Samantha rather obnoxious; and I think Carrie has horrible taste in clothing at times. Plus I’m not a Sarah Jessica Parker fan. I caught an episode or two in re-runs and didn’t see the appeal of the show. However, at the gym, they happened to be playing the first movie, which I hadn’t seen, and I was drawn into the friendship of these four women. There was a lot more heart in the movie than I thought the TV series displayed; and I loved every minute of it. Any movie that makes me stay on an elliptical that long is a good movie.

As much as I loved the movie though, the thing I still didn’t get: the draw of Mr. Big.

I mentioned this to Sin as we went to the 2nd movie because we were discussing that in this movie, Carrie runs into Aiden—the road not taken—and they kiss. Mr. Big fans are pissed. Me, I was excited. I love John Corbett!

Hellion: Why is Mr. Big so popular? He’s a jackass. He has all the personality of a corpse.

Sin: Yes, but that’s not the point. His attraction is that he was Mr. Unattainable. The man you couldn’t get; and Carrie got him.

Hellion: Are you fucking kidding me? That’s his appeal? Because he couldn’t be had?

Sin: Yes.

Hellion: I see. And Aiden was Mr. I Love You and I Want to Shower You With Attention.

Sin: Exactly.

Hellion: I get it. Too beta.

Sin: Too beta.

Hellion: Women are as dumb as men.

Sin: Nothing worth having is worth having easily.

And there Sin summed up 10,000 years of mankind’s modus operandi: find the most unavailable person and pursue them. Then once you get them, screw up the relationship because attaining this object only means they aren’t really as worth having as you thought.

It seems to me pretty much romance novels are all about the thrill of the chase. It’s rare to read a book that talks about what happens after you’ve attained the girl (or boy). Granted, by the Happily Ever After, the reader is supposed to be left with the feeling that no matter what, they’ll be together, and yet relationships don’t really work that way, do they? That was part of the allure of this second movie: it was dealing with the relationship after the Happily Ever After.

Marsha Moyer’s books about Lucy Hatch deal with the relationship after the Happily Ever After—and I highly recommend them—but I can’t off the top of my head think of any other books that do deal with this predicament. Well, I suppose Eloisa James’ Desperate Duchesses might work here.

It’s given me something to chew on. The way that humans haven’t changed in thousands of years: we want what we can’t have; and if we can have something too easily, it must not be worth much. It’s so easy to take something for granted. I think a good portion of my book deals with these issues. These and many more, because I like to jam as many neuroses as possible into a tiny book. Hell, now that I think on it, all my books deal with this issue: wanting something you can’t have, and then once you get it, you wonder if it was as precious as you thought.

I must keep writing about it because I want to understand it and hope one day I will.

So my questions of the day are: what do you think men and women most have in common? What issues do you write about in your stories (or what kinds of stories do you gravitate to) over and over again? And do you also subscribe to the Anything Worth Pursuing Must Be Wildly Unattainable?
Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Today is a special day on the ship. I asked if some of the pirates of the RWR would be willing to share stories of real daddies who have made us the pirates we are today. You could talk about celeb daddies who have inspired you, or your own father or dear husband.

*No hotties dripping in sweat, minus their clothes and a blatant look in their eye as they look upon you. Sorry. We’ll be back to that next Sunday.*

*blinking* Oooh. I dunno HOW that got here.

hehehehehe Hello hotties, I think all five of you will do for my new harem.

Santa: “Celebrity Dad: Hugh  Jackman. I think there's a pic of him at the beach with his daughter. Adorable. Abs on him aren't too bad either!”

“My Dad: My father was a bear of a man who was gruff on the outside but with a teddy bear soul. He's gone almost fifteen years now but I still can feel the palm of his hand as he would cup my check and call me his 'Sandarella'.  He considered himself a guide for the young guys just starting out who delivered product to us. He never turned down a kid starting out in the business who he thought should be given a shot. They don't make him like that anymore.”

“My Darling Husband is a marvelous father to our kids. He had a marvelous model in his own father who was a kind, giving giant of a man. My kids' father greets his daughters with a 'Hello, beautiful.' every morning and a resounding 'What's up, buddy?' to our son. My eldest is at an age where hugs are not given as freely as they once were but I tell him to hold steady. It'll be cool to be hugged and kissed by your dad....just in time for our youngest to scoot away.”

J Perry Stone: “Celeb:  Will Smith.  He shows his children the fabulous example of putting his marriage first.  This makes great up and coming husbands as well as up and coming wives who learn not to settle for anything less from their men.”

“My dad:  At nearly 70, my dad is still 16.  There isn't anything he won't try.  Today he tried to master one of those sand-skimmer boards that glides along shallow surf.  At 6'2" the board doesn't really skim when he jumps on it.  He came limping back to the chairs with sand in his beard and blood on his knee.   And laughing.  What's more, my dad is a renaissance man.  He can conduct a full orchestra and choir (which he did for 30 years), build houses and cars, and laugh at fart jokes while wearing a full tux with tails.”

“My husband:  He listens, he never repeats mistakes, he puts the kids to bed every night (checking teeth and reading stories), he always keeps his promises, he makes elaborate breakfasts for the kids on the weekends, he keeps kids away from their mama when she's about to go nutball with their bickering, and he puts Will Smith to shame.”

Hellion: “I love my Daddy because he's smart, handsome, capable, and witty as hell. When I was little, he would take me for rides on his motorcycle and we'd go tearing up and down the pasture, having a grand old time; he also took me fishing and he taught me to swim. He could make anything he needed--and was able to make things I'd need for projects as well; and he could also cook and clean up after himself. I get my sarcastic wit from him--and one of my favorite witticisms was him explaining to my aunt what the bead necklaces hanging off my rearview mirror meant. He claimed they were my speedometer for my car. If they were trailing toward the backseat, I was driving too fast. If they were hitting the windshield, I was braking too fast. And if they were spinning in a circle, she better be seat belted because I clearly didn't know where I was going. (This was a response off the fly, when he was 85 or 86...He's only gotten more smart-alecky as time passes.)”


“Dear daddy,

I get my ninja skills from you. We both know I could best you in a match of ultimate awesomeness. Even the flight attendant on the plane agreed. Obviously, he knew what he was talking about. He saw potential in my ninjaness. Well, among other things.

While you have lost the ninja debate, you’re a great man who I look up to and defer to your magic skills of remodel and fix-it abilities. While you spent most of my childhood working to make sure we had a roof over our head and food to eat, you took time out of relaxing in front of the TV to teach me how to pitch a softball. How to shoot the hook shot and the three and dribble like a guard in the pros. You encouraged my love of sports even though I was (and still am) clumsy, awkward and so far from graceful there should be a youtube channel of my antics. You drove me to challenge myself and continue working on my game, all the while you were teaching me the real lesson in life. You don’t have to be born with the talent to shine, hard work, determination and stubbornness can get you there too. You just have to fight for what you want and don’t get discouraged when you fall short. Pick yourself up and try again.

And I’ve fallen off ponies. And fallen off the roof in my attempt to fly. And fallen down as I tried to jump on the merry-go-round. Fallen out of trees. Been down, discouraged and ready to give up. Broken bones and skinned knees and burned the skin from my flesh (not to mention the misfortunate of sharp objects operating near me) and all the scars I have are to show that you taught me never give up. I’ll never give up.

So, in honor of all you’ve give me, I picked up something real nice for you daddy. A special, “That’s about enough of that.” for Father’s day. *grin* I knew you’d like it.

Happy Father’s day, daddy. I love you (I know you just grimaced- get over it.)

Your Monkey, Toots.

Chance: “Dad was a handsome man and sent several of my girlfriends into a bit of a swoon. He also was the master of the colloquialism. "Stand on my head and spit nickels" was a favorite of his and he actually did it while teasing my niece one day. She never forgot it! Another was "Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick" ... "We're off like a herd of turtles!" And of course, "I danced with a girl like that once."

“He's gone now, three years on the Fourth of July. One of the last things he said to my mom involved their meeting and how it changed his life. "Made all the difference." Not a bad memory to leave my Mom. I sure miss him.”

Marnee: My dad - My dad passed away five years ago, a month after my wedding.  Lung cancer, an unapologetic smoker all his life.  My mom said when she cleaned out his truck, she found massive amounts of pain meds--Tylenol, ibuprofen, prescription stuff that she isn't sure how he got his hands on it.  We're pretty sure he knew what was coming and was trying his damnedest to stay out of the hospital as long as he could.

I remember the month before my wedding, asking him if he had a preference for a father/daughter dance song.  I fully expected him to let me choose as that was kind of his way.  But he said he'd get back to me and a week later, called me across the state to say he'd chosen "In My Daughter's Eyes" by Martina McBride.  I thought it was sweet, but only later did I realize he might have been saying something to me.  I miss him.

"In my daughter's eyes I can see the future
A reflection of who I am and what will be
Though she'll grow and someday leave
Maybe raise a family
When I'm gone I hope you see how happy
she made me
For I'll be there
In my daughter's eyes."

My hubby - I haven't got enough words to say how impressed I am with the kind of father my husband has become.  Just tonight he fetched water for a preschooler trying to drag out bedtime, helped burb an infant whose mom's feet were tiring out, and watered plants with a boy who's desperately trying to feel important in a house overrun with a new baby, even though it would have been much faster to water them alone.  He loves us all every day and he humbles me.

So tell us pirates of the RWR all about a special man in your life or you can just talk about what hottie you’d like to see next week. I’m all about some naked hottieness.
Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pirate Festival!

I’ll be putting on me finery tomorrow and strolling about, surrounded by the rapscallions, villains and all manner of scurvy dogs tomorrow. Ah! Paradise.

An entire pirate village, poised at the waterfront of Vallejo, CA… There will be bright tents, banners, flags…character of all sorts. See?

Music, theater, merchants hawking wares of every sort…

And it’s FREE!

What does this have to do with writing? Not much. Other than I write pirate books, always manage to sneak in a bit of piratitude into everything I write. Or at least a tall ship or two… So, I hope to find some inspiration as I wander the pathways, peruse all manner of goods, pause to listen to music, singing…

Sigh. I can really use this time out. Been breaking my brain over the revision class the Bo’sun talked me into, wondering when I’d get comments from the book my agent has…and dancing with the general blahs that cycle through my life now and then. Being clinical depressed isn’t for sissies.

I’m meeting with a writing friend at the festival. Though before she wrote, she painted. And still paints. And she does costumes and she sculpts with modeling clay…and puts steampunk jewelry together from cogs and wheels… Yes, Pat is a renaissance woman. I could feel very small next to her…seeings how I am the queen of lazily doing nothing whenever is possible… But for some reason, she doesn’t inspire that loathing in me. It’s a nice thing, means I can just enjoy hearing all the things she does without wanting to kill her.

Pirate, you know.

I’ll be looking at the festival with a writer’s eye, considering I opened The Kraken’s Mirror at this very festival. And it will be fun to show the pirate life to Pat, as this will be her first time being exposed to the mayhem.

Then Sunday, the husband and I put on our racing colors and head to the Infineon Racetrack for a NASCAR road race… WEEEEE! And I just read a little collection of Valentines Day stories set in the NASCAR world.

(I’m pampering my multi-personality this weekend.)

Been an odd week…so, why not take advantage of that and have an odd collection of thoughts for my Friday blog. (Yeah, I know, nothing really new here!)

Let me see, how can I tie this stuff to writing? OK, here goes. How is the pirate festival like writing a book?

Well, for me, it’s a collection of wandering paths…

Nope, that don’t work.

Screw it. Anyone else have a favorite pastime they like to weave into their books? A favorite obsession or two? Or three? I managed to fit in several to the Kraken books…pirates, book binding, knife throwing… How about a favorite location, vacation spot, dream home? Do you write it real or tart it up?
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This Needs A Title For Bo'sun's Sake

I use a lot of idioms in my writing. We all do, I’m sure. They’re part of the English language, part of the way we think and speak and write.

One of my favorite parts of the show NCIS is watching Ziva struggling to learn English idioms. On a technical level, her English is flawless. Her grammar and sentence structure perfect. And then she’ll say something like, “I think he’s on a goat.”

“A sheep, maybe?” she’ll say when all she gets is funny looks. “Oh, a lamb! He’s on a lamb!” Uh, you mean he’s “on the lamb,” honey. As in, he’s on the run. But to a non-native speaker, “he’s on a goat” makes just as much sense as “he’s on the lamb.” It’d be easy to get confused.

I got to play with this recently in my own WIP. My hero is Spanish. He speaks perfect English, but he doesn’t know idioms, like most non-native speakers:
“You need more protection,” he said. “I want someone in this flat with you at all times, preferably me.”


“No? You’re sitting here like a duck.”

“It’s sitting duck,” I said absently. “Not sitting like a duck. Sitting like a duck doesn’t make any sense. It’s--”


I met his eyes across the table. His were soft, concerned. Almost pitying. “I don’t need your protection,” I spit out. “I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself. And I bloody well don’t need your pity.”

But the bigger problem I’ve run into is Josephine’s idioms and language. She’s Irish, not American. She doesn’t use the same idioms American English-speakers use. And until I had to pull every idiom out of her dialog and narrative, I had no idea how many I used.

Take this for example:
Growing up inside the leadership of the IRA gives you certain talents. Knowledge the average civilian would never gain while sitting on the couch, munching french fries and staring at the television.

I heard Luken’s “Go, go, go,” felt the subtle change in the air that signaled a change in who had the upper hand, and hit the deck face-first. That split second, before the automatic rifle-fire opened up above my head, saved my life. A civilian would have put their hands in the air, eyes wide like a deer caught in the headlights, and then promptly would have been riddled with bullet holes. I was nice and cozy—and bullet-hole free—on the dusty rock floor.

Can you spot how many American-specific phrases and idioms are in just those two paragraphs? Words and phrases an Irish woman wouldn’t understand, let alone use. (And just so you don’t think I always write like this, I added more just for the example :))

So let’s try a fun exercise today. If you write contemps, pretend the characters of your current WIP are British, rather than American. Give your characters a British accent and expressions. Stick them in a lift, eating biscuits, or watching the telly. How different do they sound, just by swapping American phrases and idioms for British ones? Or, if you write historicals, try giving your characters modern dialog. How differently to do they think and speak if they lived in 2010 rather than 1815?

p.s. -- I won't be able to reply until after noon today, but have fun without me and I'll catch up as soon as I can!


We have prizes to award! Yesterday was an awesome visit with Christie Craig thanks to so many of you who joined us. Christie has learned that DIVORCED, DESPERATE AND DECEIVED just took TOP PICK for the Book Buyers Best Award, judged by Sue Grimshaw, and got so excited, she decided to add a copy of that book to the booty chest.

So, we have TWO winners from yesterday.

The winner of SHUT UP & KISS ME is Laurie Smith and the winner of a copy of DIVORCED, DESPERATE, AND DECEIVED is Sandy!

Please forward your snail mail info to Christie at CHRISTIE (AT) CHRISTIE-CRAIG (DOT) COM.

And now to take care of some past booty business. I was seriously remiss in choosing a winner of a copy of  TEMPTING EDEN from our fun visit with Margaret Rowe. I’m happy to clear that up now and announce the winner is Barbara Elness!

Please contact Margaret at MARGARET (AT) MARGARETROWE (DOT) NET.

Congrats to all our winners and thanks for making our visiting pirates feel welcome!
Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Building Blocks

Promise Me by Kill Hannah (Wake Up the Sleepers, 2009)

When I was a little girl, I liked to build things. Now mathematics are not my forte so building things for a living probably wouldn’t suit me (unless you want to live in a house with odd dimensions or drive on a bridge that is lopsided) but I’m still fascinated with building things in my head. It’s seeing it form from the ground up. Watching it grow and prosper under your watchful eye until it takes the shape you’ve obsessed over since day one.

Writing is building. You build the foundation upon what you want your writing to be. You build your characters, the world they live in. Everything fictional in your mind is built by you. I find one of the most challenging building projects while writing is the relationships your characters have. Relationships are messy, complicated and never easy. Therefore, writing a relationship is a messy, complicated and never easy process.

When writing in your story, you can fix the relationship however you want it. Friends, family, lovers, their relationship ARCs are based how you want them to read. A relationship with someone tells your reader a lot more than just how the character interacts with that one person. It can tell them how that person perceives the world around them, the world they grew up in, and the way they live their life now. Relationships can take different turns depending on how the relationship was built. You can build a relationship through work. Common interests. Mutual respect. Love. Trust. Commitment. Duty. The list is longer than I truly want to blog. But what got me started writing was a relationship. The reason I keep writing is, well, lost to me now. Emotional ties to something intangible. Relationships with my characters who are fictional and run rampant in my head. My brain is a jumble of voices just waiting to break loose on a blank screen.

In the case of my characters, particularly my hero and heroine, they’ve deemed their relationship inhabitable. It makes for difficult writing. It also makes for frustration. Bouts of periodic pissiness on the part of the writer. And incredible mood swings.  I knew writing wasn’t easy. In fact, writing might be the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to accomplish. But characters who loathe the sight of one another (my heroine practically hisses every time he comes within a 100 yard radius of her) is giving me more fits than I care to talk about. I didn’t realize they were married. I didn’t realize she was still madly in love with him, and madder than a rattled hornets nest for him leaving her alone. Then I wrote him sitting by her bedside in the dark and realized he loved her too. It took this realization for me to be able to connect to him. He knows he’s fcked up but he can’t fix it and she wouldn’t let him if he tried.

So what does he try to do?

If you said fix their relationship… *sigh* That would be easier. But that is not the case.

So tell me what is your favorite part of writing? Doesn’t necessarily need to be your strongest point, but the part of writing you enjoy so much it keeps you going. And have you ever been surprised by a relationship in your writing you had no idea about? (Readers: Surprised by a relationship in a novel you’ve read you didn’t see coming?)
Monday, June 14, 2010

Talking Second Fiddles with Christie Craig

The Ins and Outs, and Pros and Cons, of Writing Secondary Characters who aren’t so Secondary by Christie Craig

I love ‘em.  Those secondary characters who help make up our books.  They add layers to our plots, they are the mirrors we use to reflect our heroes and heroines.  They can be good, bad, and sometimes even evil.  We can love ‘em, hate ‘em, manipulate ‘em, abuse ‘em, and even kill ‘em.  They are props, our little minions that help us tell our stories.   But to really do their jobs, they can’t ever look like props or even minions.  They have to have their own stories to tell and they have to be important to your hero or heroine’s story.  If not, you gotta kick their butt off the page and find a replacement.   

After Divorced, Desperate and Delicious, my first book with Dorchester, hit the streets, I got a lot of reader emails.  Amazingly, more people wrote and asked about Jason than they did my hero Chase.  In my mind, I could hear Chase say, “Hey, what’s up with that!  This was my time to shine.  Damn, that Jason, he always steals my thunder.  Even old women fall all over him.”

Jason, of course, would just grin his cocky smile and say, “It’s not my fault.  I can’t help it if all women love me.”  But down deep in Jason’s gut, the attention would feed his never-ending need to feel loved and accepted.  That’s what happens to men when at nine years old they were abandoned by their moms and placed in foster home after foster home. 

Did you feel that?  That tug on your heart strings?  A good secondary character will pull at the reader’s emotions.  If the plot allows, a good secondary character can become the hero in your next book.  Jason did.  But the thing is, if you are really good at writing secondary characters, you may find that these people do what Chase accused Jason of doing—of stealing the thunder. 

If you read Divorced, Desperate and Deceived, my third book in the Divorced & Desperate series, you probably remember Joey.  Joey, a big lug of a guy, was often described as a hit man with a conscience.   Truth was, Joey wasn’t a hit man, he’d signed on as a body guard.  He could protect someone, but he didn’t have the stomach to kill anyone.  He had enough bad in his life thanks to his drug-addict mom.  But when his boss tried to force him into the role of hit man, he had to decide to either kill, or very likely be killed.  At first he wasn’t sure what he was going to do.  It wasn’t as if he was a good person or anything, but when he realized the killing would involve a woman who had a small son and possibly a pregnant woman . . . well, Joey made up his mind that his life wasn’t worth that much anyway.  He’d die before he hurt or even let someone else hurt that little boy’s mom.  Don’t you just love Joey?  I did.  But he was like a piece of popcorn stuck in my teeth from day one.

Joey was one of those characters who from the moment he showed up on the page, he grabbed a hold of the steering wheel and tried to take over the plot.  He and I had numerous heart-to-heart talks about his snatching the thunder.   To this day, Luke, my hero in D D & Deceived, is pissed because Joey got more attention in the reviews than he did.  Yeah, characters are funny like that.  They can get their feelings hurt.  Now, I went back in and kept trying to make sure Joey didn’t overshadow Luke, but I won’t lie, Joey came in a close second for hero status.

Shut Up and Kiss Me, my seventh romance novel, has just hit the bookstores and already the reviewers are talking about the secondary characters.  And yes, a lot of people are mentioning poor Jose.  Now of all the secondary characters I’ve written, I was probably the hardest on Jose.  But with good reason.

I was hard on Jose because Maria, another secondary character in the book, told me what he did to her.  That he broke her heart when he chose his career over her and left Precious, Texas to go to New York.  She was so upset, she never told him she was pregnant.  And when she told me she lost that baby, and maybe even her ability to ever carry another child, well, I knew I had to make Jose pay for his sins.  And he did. 

There was the car wreck, the fire ants, the thorns, and oh, let’s not forget about the skunk, or how Jose fell head first through the sheetrock.   But even after he paid for his sin, what I had to decide was if Jose was going to win Maria back?  Or if Matt, the guy Maria was now dating, was her soul mate.  Oh, decisions, decisions. 

Anyway, now that I’ve given you a bit of a peek into the role of secondary characters, I want to point out some things you might have noticed.  Things that might help you write your own secondary characters, and things to be careful about when you do.  Remember for every rule, there are exceptions, but these are how I generally go about writing secondary characters.

Things To Do:

1)    Make sure your secondary characters didn’t just fall off a turnip truck yesterday. 

Just like my main characters, I give my secondary people their own past.  In this past, you’ll find the essence of what makes them tick.  If you have a character who is not coming alive in your book, look and see if you’ve given them a past, or if you just grabbed them off the turnip truck and slapped them into your story.  Then you have to make sure that their past is somehow important to the overall plot of your story.  That it in someway reflects, showcases, or supports the hero or heroine’s journey.  Hey, I didn’t say it wasn’t going to be hard.

2)    Being a secondary character should be hard work.  Don’t make it easy on them!

I don’t allow secondary characters who are slouchers into my books.  If a character is in my book, he/she is gonna have to work.  And by work, I mean he’s gonna have a quest.  He’s gonna want something.  And that something isn’t gonna be easy to attain.  To say it another way, even my secondary characters have goals and conflict.  And here comes the tricky part, you have to make sure that the result of them attaining or not attaining their goals will somehow affect your hero or heroine.  That’s why they call it plot; it takes a while to figure all this crap out.

3)    Give ‘em flaws.

Nobody is perfect.  And if they are, we don’t like ‘em.  They remind us of the perfect cheerleader in high school whom the whole football team drooled over.  You know, the girl who stole your boyfriend.  Yeah, that girl!!  Instead, make sure your secondary characters have flaws.  It is so often the flaws that will make someone interesting.  Then, if the character isn’t a villain, make sure the flaws are so properly motivated, that we forgive the flaws because we understand the reason behind the flaws.  A villain’s motivation also needs to be in place, but it generally isn’t forgivable.  In my books, the flaws are almost always connected to their past.  (I mean, aren’t we all messed up because of something mama and daddy did?  Or is that just me?)

Things to Be Careful about:


1)    Thunder thieves

If you have a secondary character, like Joey, who is threatening to take over the story, first make sure you haven’t given them too much page space.  Is he/she with your reader more than your main hero or heroine?  If that isn’t the case, then you need to make sure that whatever the conflict is for this character, it isn’t more dramatic, more heart rendering than that of the hero or heroine.  If this is the problem, chances are it isn’t the past of the secondary character you need to work on, it’s the past of your main characters.  I mean, why should you go in and make somebody less special when you can go in and make your hero or heroine more special?

2)    Opening a book in the Secondary Character’s POV

Our readers are like orphaned geese.  The first person they see when they open that book is generally the person the reader is gonna follow around and call mama.  And if you try to switch mamas on them, they’re likely to complain loudly and put your book down.  The exception to this rule is when perhaps you open a book up in the villain’s POV, and his actions are what propel the story forward. 

3)    Keep your secondary characters off the stage until your readers have fallen in love with your main characters.

Let the reader bond with your main character before you start introducing them to secondary characters.  I don’t usually bring in secondary characters until after chapter one, after page 25 or more, and after I’ve really grounded the reader into the main story.   It’s also wise not to start introducing too many characters in the same scene.  Have you ever been reading and aren’t clear who John is?  Is he the old boyfriend, the neighbor, or the garbage man?  Dribble those characters in and when you introduce them, make sure they have something, a character trait, a weird hairstyle, or an accent that when you bring up the next time the reader immediately knows who they are.

Okay, so there you have it.  My tips on writing secondary characters.  I hope I’ve said something that gives you insight.  And here’s what I’d like to hear from you.  Who is your favorite secondary character?  It can be your own character or one that you’ve read.   Oh, I’ll be giving away an autographed copy of Shut Up and Kiss Me to one commenter.  So make sure you post. Today I’m also blogging over at BookEnds blog on: Five Pieces of Well-meaning Writing Advice I’m Glad I Didn’t Take.  Also pop over to my blog at Killer Fiction for another chance to win.

Oh, almost forgot my manners, thank you Terri and all the Shipmates for asking me to blog!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Blog of Nothing

When I was in 4th grade, my father got the following editorial note from Miss Wilhite, my teacher: "Frances is a very good student, but I wish she would speak up and talk more." I'm guessing you can see why father found this to be the height of hilarious, right? Since when do I need a reminder--a plea--for me to speak my mind? Me not talking was as ludicrous as me not having an opinion.

In 4th grade, I could tell you what the problem was: I was shy. It wasn't that I had nothing to say. It was that I didn't have the confidence to say it. What right did I, a scrawny, ugly little gap-toothed creature, have to utter an opinion on anything? I confined my opinions to paper that only I would see and maybe a few closest friends. At no point did I imagine I'd never have something to say.

Friends, I'm here to tell you: that day has arrived. I have nothing. Not a witty comment about my life, not a remotely interesting interpretation of craft, not so much as a summary of a book I read (though I highly recommend Tessa Dare's One Dance with a Duke. Brilliant.) I blame this time of year. I have something to do at work all year long, mind you, but there are months where the work is more exhausting than others. March through July are some of the more grueling months; and it doesn't help that we've gotten a new program that doesn't have all the kinks worked out of it. At the end of the day, I hardly have the energy to go to the gym for a walk--which I know will make me feel better--let alone sit in front of the computer for a few more hours, getting into the conflict and drama of fictional people. Most days, I go home, fix something for supper (usually nothing too healthy), and zone out at some TV, which doesn't require anything from me, especially not my participation. If I feel compelled, I will open my manuscript and stare at it, but mostly I get frustrated, more critical, and I go to bed, only to repeat this cycle all over again.

The one thing I have to look forward to is that in two weeks, I'll be going to Orlando to see Hogwarts. This is my mere shred of sanity in dealing with emails, paperwork, and folders. My only hope of recovery that when I return from spending money at every conceivable store in Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, drank every drop of butterbeer I can hold, that I will somehow return back to the reality that is my life and want to engage with the characters in my Word documents. I feel drained and not myself. Most of all, I feel frustrated because surely I don't have anything to be this drained and frustrated about. But I am.

The number one rule of writing is to put your butt in the chair and write something. ANYTHING. And eventually if you do it long enough, something will be on the screen. But what do you do if there is nothing within you to put on the screen? What do you then?

How do you recharge? How do keep the well full? What do you do when you feel you have nothing left to give to the screen?
Saturday, June 12, 2010

Why do it alone when you can do it together.

You know... blow stuff up.
A few years ago when Hells and I started working towards our writing goals together, I quickly realized she is a movie person. Hells can remember all these quotes and scenes and refer back to them when she's writing or making a point. Mr. and Mrs. Smith came out and Hells said several things about this movie, to which I ignored because I'm not much of a movie person (much like I'm not much of a suspense/mystery/horror novel reader). Finally she brought it over for me to watch. "You have to see this movie. You have to."
We watched the movie and I can see why she likes it. The quips between the heroine and hero are hilarious. The action is fantastical. It's overall a great movie and sparks a lot of writing imagination. So today, we're going to celebrate Mr. and Mrs. Smith and tell me who your favorite heroine and hero are in movie. (Doesn't matter if it's animated or regular.)
Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why Do We Believe Them?


OK, crew…pet peeve Friday here. Firstly, why do we believe the tiniest, smallest, bare bit of negative feedback as gospel? WHY? WHY? WHY?

We receive heaps of praise from those who love us, know us, care about our career and we smile, say thinks…and then obsess on that tiny bit of nothing from no one we know. Hell, we obsess on the bit of negative nothing from people we don’t know!

I’ve seen this over and over again. Hell, I’ve done it also, but I am working quite diligently on retraining myself.

I’ve heard the argument that you’ll only hear positive stuff from your loved ones so you can’t trust them to be honest. I don’t buy it. And if that is how your loved ones work, well…get new loved ones. I expect people to be honest with me, period. None of this protect me crap. Don’t mean I want to be crucified by friends and family, but honestly! They know me best and know how to be honest with me.

Given, my f&f aren’t experts, but for a general opinion of storyline, plot, continuity…all my family reads. A lot. They know what works and what don’t. So, I do trust them.

Now, why are strangers considered experts? Even actual experts? Why do we trust them, implicitly? Let them set the stage and have the ultimate say over what we do and how well we do it? I do not get this. Even experts are wrong sometimes or have bad days and how many times was JK Rowling turned down before an editor said yes!?

I have a friend. A dear friend, who took her book to a scifi convention and entered it in the chance to be reviewed panel. Every single person on that panel loved her book. Praised her book, one editor said I want to see this when it’s polished… And then the last man on the panel tore her to shreds. Eviscerated the book, chapter by chapter. Her characters, her plot, her everything.

Who did she listen to?

The last man. And she put that book away, froze and didn’t write again for more than a decade. She later discovered this man was well known for doing this. A well known author who tore apart any promising author who came his way. (Now, I want to know, if this was well known what this asshole was doing being invited back again and again to destroy budding writers…but that is another story. Likely one I’ll never hear.)

Another example, more recent.

Last Saturday, at my local RWA meeting. One of the ladies was bummed. She got a rejection letter from Harlequin and it totally challenged her faith in herself as a writer. Now, one of other members had read the letter and insisted B. share details.

Crew, she got a personal rejection letter. Which began with a paragraph of all the things good and right about her book. Her plot, her dialogue, her characters.


Then there was a detailed paragraph of why this book wouldn’t fit into the Harlequin model. And a list of changes that would be necessary to see it fit. The editor wasn’t really pushing B. to make these changes, but more like offering real justification for why she had to reject the book.

Was B. thinking of submitting it to other publishers, I asked.

Not really, she sighed.

I bit my tongue wanting to know why the hell not. I don’t know B. well, and I trust C. to push her toward trying another publisher. She did say she just wasn’t sure who else would want a contemporary with regency connections… Like…Avon!?


Now, I ask you crew…in these days of modern publishing. Of agents rejecting authors via Facebook…of being told no reply means you’re book was rejected…of the form rejection and a list of why there is no personal contact… Why was she totally dejected? Why wasn’t she thrilled that an editor took the time to write a personal letter? With praise for so many aspects of her book?

Hell, proof the book was read! In detail!

I’d have been thrilled!

Now, back to the positive vs. the negative… What is it about human nature that sees us take the negative to heart and dismiss the positive? From strangers, from family and friends… Are we so pathetic and self-flagellating that we insist on the right to suffer and be victims? Is it just we Americans? Is it just the people I know?

It is such a bloody waste!

I am pledged to pay more attention to how I react to words and from who. I know my family and friends love me and I trust them. If you can’t trust the people who know you…well…I’m sorry. You may not get the sharp criticism you need, but there are other avenues for that. But for basic honest opinion? Why not trust the people who have the good judgment to count us as friends?

What are we saying about ourselves that we don’t trust the people who we care for? What does this say about how we view ourselves?

Getting tangled here, I’ll try to step it back…


What are your experiences with believing the good verses the bad? Whether it comes from family, friends, strangers, experts…? Is it better to hear negative or positive when it comes to a learning experience? (Bad may steer you right, or it may run you up on the rocks. Good can do the same… IMHO.) How do you decide who to listen to and why?
Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sexual Tension

I've spent a bit of time up in the middle of the night this week and with all this new "free time" you'd think I'd get somewhere on my WIP.  It's hard, though, to make significant progress when typing with one hand.   So, when I get fed up with the hunt and peck method, I've been reading Anna  Campbell's latest effort, My Reckless Surrender.

I could sing the praises of this book--its well-drawn characters, the marvelous intrigue, Campbell's masterful storytelling--but I'd like to focus on its sheer sexiness.  Campbell's writing is chock full of sexual tension.  Not that there isn't sex in the book-- there is.  And though its well written, it's all the other things around the sex that are making the book so sexy for me.   The characters are incredibly in tune with each other and the hero is sweetly chivalrous.   It's all very romantic and sigh-inducing.

So of course, I start asking myself if I manage this effect in my own stuff.  My answer?  I have no idea but I'm sure as hell going to try.

What do you think builds sexiness?   Romance?  Explicitness?   Hyper awareness or some kind of sweetness between them?  What books do it well and why do you think so?

I'll try to get here as much as I can but play amongst yourselves.  Hal's going to wrangle the comments today.  And be nice to the monkey.  Little bastard ran off with my new kiddo's eye patch.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Did you know "blurb" is actually a made-up word?  I'm such a word nerd, AND I like to make up words, so this tidbit makes me happier than it probably should.  Let me just give you a little history about the word "blurb".

According to, it was invented in 1907 by a humorist named Gelett Burgess.  Apparently it was a tradition at the annual trade association dinner for the publisher to distribute copies of books with a special jacket extolling the book's praises.  Mr. Burgess created his own book jacket, which shows a woman, her hand cupped to her mouth as if she's delivering an important message, with the caption, "Miss Belinda Blurb, In the Act of Blurbing".  It was all done tongue-in-cheek, to make fun of how books were described in such lofty language, as if no other reading material could hope to measure up to THIS particular book's wonderfulness.

Nowadays a blurb's purpose is to hook readers, using elements of the story and characters to make the book so irresistible, the reader rushes to give their wallet to the cashier without thinking twice. 

So how do we create a blurb?   It's easy.  Just step over here to my patented Blurb-O-Matic, and throw in some story elements, a character or two, maybe a few unexpected twists, and–yeah, that would be great to have on the kitchen counter, wouldn't it?  Maybe we'll have to explore this in a different fashion.

Let's start with a basic question in a story:  What happens?

How about an earthquake.  Or a kidnapping.  Or somebody falling in love.

Okay, those are some good events, and maybe they actually get your story started.  But—yawn—I don't really care that much.  At least, not until I know WHO it happens to. 

So we could have a scientist.  Or a Highland bride.  Or how about a man with a lot of ex-wives. 

Now I care a little bit more.  Still, not as much as when I learn WHY these events and people are connected. 

Maybe a scientist miscalculates where the next earthquake will occur. 

A Highland bride kidnaps a handsome young man to take the place of her betrothed.

A man with a lot of ex-wives falls in love with his marriage-counselor neighbor.

Now we have a premise.  It's a starting point, and it contains certain presumptions, all of it leading to the most important question in a blurb:  WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?

With the scientist, obviously professional credibility is important, so a reader can guess at the calamity that might ensue by making a wrong prediction.  But we don't know if this is the scientist's fourteenth mess up, or if the fault line is hiding underneath a nuclear reactor.  If those hints are given, there is a sense of urgency to the story that increases the need to know what happens next.

The Highland bride?  Well, we know she's not interested in the man she's meant to marry, if she's kidnapping a different one.  Maybe the young man ends up with amnesia from her inept kidnapping techniques.  Or maybe HE has a betrothed who will be charging after them.  All kinds of intriguing possibilities, even without knowing specifically WHY she wants/needs a new man.

And then there's the man who can't stay married who falls for someone counseling people just like him.  A marriage counselor has seen and heard it all, so would she even consider a man who has that many notches on his marital belt?  How about if he had been married to her best friend?

One of the most basic stories is "Boy meets girl.  Sh*t happens.  They live happily ever after."  It's the "Sh*t happens" part that makes this one simple storyline a multimillion dollar industry—all because there are so many delicious ways to answer the question "what will happen next?"

And that's the important thing to remember:  Your blurb RAISES the question, but it does NOT answer it.  Oh, no.  This is a seduction, and you're the temptress.  Think in terms of come-hither language, and promises of wonderful things between the covers (of the book).

You want the reader to see your blurb and think, "OMG, I will lose my freakin' mind if I don't find out what's going to happen next." 

So, I've tried to analyze blurbs today as a self-study thing, since I need more practice at them myself.  And in the spirit of blurbs, I've probably raised more questions than I've answered, but here's a few more. 

Do we have any volunteers who want to analyze their stories for a potential blurb?  Or maybe you've already written your blurbage, so tempt us with it.  If not, what's your favorite made-up word?  I'll be glad to show you mine if you show me yours. 
Monday, June 7, 2010

Juggling 101

So, last time around we celebrated the completion of my first full-length manuscript. It was a swell party. Rum was shared, hotties were molested, fires were started and quickly put out. Life was good. But now.

Now, it’s revision time.

I know what you’re thinking. What is she doing revising?! Why, she’s only just finished. That MS should stew longer, percolate in a deep sea hyperbolic chamber where she can’t reach it. Alas, that is not the case this time around, for I have immediately jumped into a revision class.

This is not your run of the mill month long e-course through some chapter. No, my fellow pirates, this is an in-depth six week course including a one hour live class once a week and a very active student forum. This is PRESSURE, but with lots of good stuff thrown in, I hope.

The coolest part about the first week is that the assignment is basically to read our story start to finish (WITHOUT EDITING) and create a storyboard with post-its. Aha! I already did that. Bwahahahahaha….I’m finally ahead in something.

Who’d a thunk?

I’m clearly off course of where I was going with this. Oh yeah, there was that week between when I finished and when the class started. What did I do in that week? Well, I did what every other self-respecting writer (who is dying to dig right in and mess everything up) would do, I started plotting my next story.

I didn’t set out to get too deep. Make some notes. Get some ideas. Have them ready to go when the time came. Right, like my newly talking muse was going to make it that easy. No, my friends, they never make it that easy, do they?

This means I’m now reading my completed MS and making notes for what needs fixed, where my strong points are *cough*haven’tfoundanyyet*cough* and where my weaknesses are *cough*foundplenty*cough*. But I’m also trying to get down all the great info my new characters are throwing at me.

It’s like when I did the happy dance for the first WIP, the new characters busted out of the gate and yelled, YIPPIDDY DOO DA IT’S OUR TURN. And though I’ve been rational and tried to explain not just yet, they ain’t hearing it. They’re out, they’re playing on their island and hashing out the scenes as if I’m not even needed.

So, here’s how these next six weeks could go.

Scenario A – Smooth Sailing

I could find all the holes and weak spots in the first MS, plug them up perfectly, polish her to a shine and come out smiling the week before Nationals with nothing left to do but practice my elevator pitch. All the while humming away on the new story, getting to know my characters and maybe even putting a few scenes on paper.


Scenario B – Tempest Raging

I could attempt to do everything, revise one and plot and write the other, and wind up with nothing but a mangled MS, mutinous new characters who are so pissed that they haven’t received 110% of my attention they sail off to Aruba never to return, and a head full of gray hair to rival Einstein. (Was his hair white or gray? I’m never sure.)

I’ll admit, I’m trepidatious and oddly excited to see what comes out of all this. And this is what being a pubbed writer is going to be like anyway, right? Promoting one while revising another and writing yet another? It’s like I’m throwing myself into writing boot camp for reals!

How many stories have you ever worked on at one time? Are your characters good at waiting until you get to them? Any amazing secrets or tricks you’ve figured out for revising? As for reading, anyone read more than one book at the same time? Personally, I’ve never been able to do that.
Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Kiss Is Still a Kiss

One of my frequent problems in my manuscripts is that my characters would rather banter than kiss. I like to reassure right here that I would rather kiss my Deerhunter than banter with him, though he’s excellent at both; however, in my own manuscripts, I’d rather have the witty one-liner than to let my characters be swept away by emotion and start making out like ravenous wolves. (Note: this is not how Deerhunter kisses. He has more finesse than that…though there are moments. Never mind.)

It’s no secret I’m a fan of dialogue. I think it’s why I watch so many movies: the banter. But here I was many, many chapters into my novel and these idiots refused to kiss each other. They’d rather have the last word. They were making me crazy.

So I did what all good writers do. I stared at the wall for several days, bitched to the Bo’sun about my uncooperative characters, and flipped through the pages of my manuscript, trying to figure out how to get them making out like ravenous wolves. Finally after about night six—I do a lot of wall staring—I backed up another chapter and realized I was trying to get them to kiss too late. They should kiss a chapter or so before. In fact, I found the exact spot that a kiss would work.

I weaved in a kiss. Which is not quite as nerve-wracking as writing a sex scene, but still, writing about something as personal as kiss is dicey. You run the risk of saying too little…and too much, too sparse or too purple. I read a lot of kisses. Most of them aren’t very memorable—much like the ones in my twenties—but there are kisses I’ve read that are like the kiss in the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The wedding kiss between Will and Elizabeth, which for me is one of the greatest cinematic kisses around.

But cinematic kisses are rather easy to come up with. Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, Singing in the Rain, Sound of Music…. People like the kiss in Spiderman. But literary kisses are a little sparse to come to mind.

So I hunted through my bookshelf. Here are a few of my favorite kisses:

Harry looked around; there was Ginny running toward him; she had a hard, blazing look in her face as she threw her arms around him. And without thinking, without planning it, without worrying about the fact that fifty people were watching, Harry kissed her.

After several long moments—or it might have been half an hour or possibly several sunlit days—they broke apart. –J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince

It was not like the first kiss he had given her—that swift, startling stolen kiss that had wiped her mind as blank as a new slate and left her lips tingling many minutes afterward.

This was altogether more…more…

Just more. –Anne Gracie, The Perfect Rake

There was such gentleness in the way that he held her, in the way his hands moved over her. It was the tender and gentle side of him he usually hid from the world with a veil of cynicism.

He kissed her temples, then threaded his fingers through her hair and held the back of her head, tilting it up so his mouth could capture hers. He stroked her lips with his tongue, once, twice, then parted them gently and laved her mouth thoroughly. –Jill Barnett, Dreaming

Of course, while I love a wonderful romance novel kiss, I do have the biggest preference for Harry’s kiss. The detail about the “blazing” look I know so well, and the whole bit about how he wasn’t sure how long the kiss had lasted—maybe days. It just makes me grin and sigh. But I also love ones like Anne’s, where the mind is wiped clean; and I’m a sucker for a man who uses his hands to tilt your head and kiss you proper.

There’s a lot of ways to deliver a great kiss. And kisses pretty much make or break a book for me.

How do you write kisses? Me—I think I lean toward the more vague. Less about tongue and more about how the mind has gone blank and time has no meaning. What are some of your favorite kisses in books or movies? Any tips for writing the perfect kiss?
Saturday, June 5, 2010

Let the drooling begin...

There is nothing more- um... -gratifying, satisfying, hilarious than belonging to a group of fabulous brilliant, talented, filthy pirates who enjoy a nice tall drink of dark, chiseled, wonderfully proportionate man. I'm a fan of man candy. Nice to look at, wouldn't necessarily want to hold or have a conversation with him while I'm blatantly drooling all over him, but I'm too polite to put duct tape over his beautiful lips while I imagine what else he could use them for.

So, Friday, Hells in her infinite man wisdom (of looking at man candy, of course) gave us a little something to get us pirates through the day. And I will share, only because I think it's SINFUL to keep something like this to myself. Well, I already had my way with him in my own little world, so now I'll share.  (Plus, DRD is mad that we're passing around pics of her boyfriend, so all the more reason to-) Enjoy!

Love those dreamy sex eyes... *ducking an empty rum bottle* That's not nice, Donna. I did give him back when I was through!

Thank you. Thank you. *taking a curtsy* I'll be here all month. Wait, I probably shouldn't tell you that so you'll come back.
Thursday, June 3, 2010

Who Helps Us Best?

Writing Groups, Programs & First Readers

Last weekend I attended a scifi/fantasy convention called BayCon, held in San Jose, CA, every year. It was a fun event, chocked full of steampunk regalia. I saw but two Star Trek uniforms, btw. The convention circuit is a changeable beast! Now, I didn’t stay for the big masquerade, so who knows what showed up there!

But I digress.

Situation normal, right!?

I attended one panel discussion on the value of writing groups and writing programs. They were specifically discussing the immersion programs, as well as the extended classroom type programs held at universities. (General consensus, if you’re going to write, you’re going to write and the monetary value of these programs depends on your commitment to writing. They won’t make a writer out of someone who just doesn’t have it in them.)

They also spoke of the value of groups such as the Inklings…where a group of authors get together regularly to evaluate each other’s works. (This sounded really vicious to me. I could see a very small group, but to hear how these great authors tore into each other…brrrrr! Give me a group of three, maybe four, and a promise to remain civil…) (I scare easily. Really. I do! I’m working on it…I know, I need to be braver…)

Eventually, the panel wove around to the value of contests and simple critique groups, where to find them and how to reap the greatest value from them. And cut lose the ones that offer you little assistance as a writer. (Best advice on this? Find one that is on par with your writing skills or just a scad above so that you are challenged. But everyone must progress over time, ala need less line edits, less pointing out of the obvious, etc.)

Now, knowing I was in hostile territory, I did not bring up RWA and its excellent program to assist aspiring authors. (Yes, I am a coward. I know the prejudice that exists in this venue to the romance genre. Just as the flip side is true, though I will admit, seldom as virulent.)

I’ve done some research into other groups and been pleased to discover there are actually other writing groups. But few have the open embrace of the RWA when it comes to those who are learning the skill. Months ago, the Bo’sun did a quick online search for me and came up with several dealing with fantasy. (Why can’t I find these things when I look? I am totally a dweeb when it comes to knowing how to search!)

But even those she found had little advice and welcome to those who haven’t published already. A group was brought to my attention at the panel. The California Writers Club, and I’m looking into it!

And my adorable husband actually did some research and found a writing group specialized for those who write porn. Isn’t he sweet? (He really, really, really, wants to be able to say his wife writes porn. My dear twisted husband.)

I do appreciate the specialty groups within RWA and believe they are on the right track with building the market and audience by encouraging involvement in the genre. Because in the long run, even those who never move on to write a book can appreciate the sense of belonging that the RWA generates with its multi-layered programs. And this sense of belonging builds an audience that remains loyal.

The newbie group I helped shepherd about RT in April are starting a critique group. Enough of them live around Columbus to make it work. And I think it will certainly help their feeling of belonging and likely see more completed MS than if they all went off on their own.

One very interesting thing brought up in the discussion at BayCon was the difference between a critique group and a first reader. This was the simple word the panel used, I immediate thought of the beta reader and how I used one with The Kraken’s Mirror. Scapegoat helped me a great deal with her viewpoint on the overall book, as well as specifics. (She’s a great beta reader, btw.)

As Hellion pointed out last week, the difficulty with contests is the lack of a complete read. No feedback on the overall ARC, the world building, the greater plot movement. The same can be said with critique groups. Unless a group is pledged to read the entire book…you won’t get the overall feedback on how you did in general. Perhaps the answer to this is an agreement one week where total reads are the goal… And a list of questions…

Did the story work? Could you see the building conflict coming and did I resolve it nicely? Did I surprise you? Did I make you laugh? Cry? Were you satisfied with the entire book?

I left that panel with a much more appreciative viewpoint of the importance of having a reader read your book. Beta, first…whatever you call them.

Anyone else done some research into what is offered by specific groups? I know there is the Mystery Writers of America, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the Erotic Readers and Writers of America (where the use of the word smut and porn isn’t turned away from!) and the Western Writers of America. I assume there are many, many more.

Question of the day! What is your experience with critique groups? Finding them, staying in them? Does it turn into mostly a support group and laugh fest? (Nothing wrong with that, we all need to laugh. We also need to write!) Programs? First readers? I will go on the record to be a first/beta reader…