Thursday, September 30, 2010

Follow up on Revision – Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

Last week I enjoyed a visit to Mouseland, otherwise known as Disneyland. Had a ripping good time, rode Pirates of the Caribbean and had dinner at the restaurant inside the ride, the Blue Bayou. Great fun was had by me and the mister, despite the heat and massive amounts of people.


Disney was all dressed up for Halloween and it’s a lovely sight! It’s been a while since we spent any real time there. California Adventure Resort was new and Downtown Disney had just a few storefronts the last time we visited.

Now, for our high school, we had grad nite at Disney. Oh…back in 1978. Space Mountain was the newest ride at the time. No Grizzly Mountain, no Indiana Jones Adventure…there were still sky chairs that crossed the park high in the air, actually routing through the Matterhorn! (Gone now, probably to stop adolescent punks from spitting down onto people.)

This trip, we took some time to sit back and escape from the heat and really notice what had changed. Or been…revised!

(Bet you didn’t think I’d tie this into writing, did you? HA!)

Disneyland first opened in 1955. A lot has changed since then. The Tomorrowland of the 1950s has changed, drastically. The world has no flying cars, or Monorail system, despite Walt’s hopes and visions. But we have things I’m sure he didn’t imagine. Like the internet, like cell phones, laptops, etc.

I’ve read old science fiction and though most of those stories are still fun, the technology is woefully out of date. A good reason to revise. Keep track of technology, make sure it’s appropriate for your story.

(Unless you’re me and it’s all about mucking all of those things up and making a smorgasbord out of things. Cafeteria writer, that’s me!)

Now, we also noticed how Disney updates things, other than the obvious. Some of this stuff is done well and with good reason. The Undersea Adventures of Captain Nemo went through a phase as Ariel’s something or another, now it’s all about Finding Nemo. Well, I get it. Sorta miss the giant squid and all, but I get it.

The Swiss Family Tree House is now Tarzan’s Treehouse. Yeah, I get it. Bear Country Jamboree is now Winnie the Pooh’s Adventures. (They really did need something Pooh-ish so I can dig this.) Tom Sawyer Island is now the Pirate Lair on Tom Sawyer Island. (You can never go wrong with pirates.)

Which leaves me with Pirates of the Caribbean and its addition of a plot involving the search for Captain Sparrow and the warnings of Davy Jones…all good fun! (Glad they left out the monkey.)

Rides that haven’t faired so well in revision? Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Okay, I’m glad it’s still there. While visiting Orlando’s Disneyworld, I was dismayed to see they had removed said ride. (They also tore down their Matterhorn…which means they deserve excommunication from the Church of Disney. I mean, come on! No Matterhorn? They needed another store selling t-shirts and mouse-ears?)


What did they do to Mr. Toad? They…sigh…they made it less scary. I mean it was never meant to terrify. It’s about a toad and his fascination with cars and what a terrible driver he is. (Though he is terribly charming…and quite bashful!)

Anyway, at one point, he loses control of his car…your car…and crashes into a warehouse full of explosives. And the obstacles fly out of the way of your car and there were bright, bright, super bright flashes of color and loud booms…and…now there aren’t. All the fluorescent colors are gone, no more ‘batman’ like effects. Some minor booms, some ho-hum colors. NO strobes!

Did someone have a fit on the ride? I mean, what the heck happened? This was a revision that I feel failed. They changed it, made it tame. You could say they dumbed it down. Very disappointed.

The dangers of revising to avoid offense and lawsuits (maybe some kid did have a fit… Those lights were bright!) But they took away what made it so fun and surprising. Even when Toad is sentenced and does a few seconds in hell, they removed the hot wet air and devilish imps that torment the cars… (I hate PC stuff.)

Next door is Peter Pan’s Flight. Nice revisions! They redid the stars you fly through and they are excellent. Applause for this.

What needs revision? The Matterhorn. Those bobsleds are scary. And not for the right reasons! I mean, a chiropractor could set up shop at the bottom of the ride and make a fortune with onsite adjustments. This ride needs some major technological improvements.


So, what did I learn about revisions? Starting from scratch is a sad, sad, sad thing to do. I mean, they could have dumped the submarines and put in a new shopping area. But they didn’t! They updated according to their code of keeping Disney fresh. You, the writer, had an idea…a couple, a location, a time period…keep something when you decide major remodeling…errrr…revision has to be done.

Don’t revise the fire out of things. Mr. Toad has lost some real flash, and though the very young may be happier, those of us with good memories (for a ride, what irony!) are saddened by the loss. Take chances, be willing to lose some readers to gain new ones. Keep the flash!

Invest in what needs to be changed so you don’t give your reader whiplash. Smooth out POV difficulties. Maybe five secondary plots is too many…

Side notes. Keep the marketing out of the actual ride…errr…book. Put it on the side, preferable somewhere nearby for when the reader wants to pick up something to remember the adventure with.

I know Marn covered the agony of revision last Friday, while I was flirting with Mr. Toad and winking at Jack…both of them. Sparrow and Skellington. And my captain, Captain Stephen…he makes a great pirate, don’t he!? And there I am, a blond! HA!


And some months ago, Hellie discussed the theme park that would be built around your story. But I do need a theme…How about…

Today? Favorite Disney memory? At the park or at the movies? And Stitch is going to take on the monkey again, rematch…and beat his desiccated little behind all over again!
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Feels Like the First Time With Miranda Neville

Greetings, pirate lasses. I’m thrilled to be on board The Revenge today to talk about that topic close to every pirate’s heart: virgins. I’m talking about sweet, young, innocent man flesh a girl can tie to the mast and have her wicked way with …

Maybe not. I’m not here to pimp a reverse bodice ripper. (Though that is an idea: how about shirt rippers for a new genre?). But the hero of THE DANGEROUS VISCOUNT is inexperienced. Totally. If you read THE WILD MARQUIS you’ve already met Sebastian Iverley, a book collector with glasses who has no time for women. But unlike many a misogynistic romance hero who shows his scorn for the female sex by boinking every woman in sight, Sebastian takes the logical course: he leaves them alone. Until he sets eyes on Diana (or rather Diana’s silk clad leg). At which point, for the next 400 pages, he thinks about sex pretty much all the time. In other words he turns into a normal guy.

Here’s the set up. Diana, a rich widow, wants to marry Lord Blakeney, a hot ducal heir and Sebastian’s cousin. Trying to demonstrate her own hotness to Blake, Diana bets him she can get Sebastian to kiss her.  What she doesn’t know is that (a) Sebastian has fallen for her hard and (b) he and Blake have hated each other all their lives. So when Sebastian finds out about the bet he’s devastated. He swears to seduce her in revenge and gets an extreme makeover. And Sebastian cleans up really well. I must say, I just adore him.

We are very familiar with virgin heroines, especially in historicals. It’s not so long ago that they were almost required, to the extent of having virgin widows. And if a heroine was experienced, she never enjoyed it until the hero came along (OK, I admit, I’ve written that one). These days heroines who have had and enjoyed sex are the norm (and Diana is one of those: she’s dying to marry again so she can get some). But inexperienced heroes are still relatively unusual and deciding how to portray Sebastian’s developing sexuality was an interesting – and enjoyable challenge.

I’m not going to give things away by telling you how it works out when he finally gets Diana into bed. In real life sex for the first time isn’t usually that great, especially with one or more virgins involved. But the romance writer has to decide just how realistic she wants to be. I will say that Sebastian likes to Be Prepared (and no, he wasn’t a boy scout) so he asks his buddy Tarquin for some advice.
“Don’t worry. When it comes down to it you’ll know what to do. Men have an instinct for it.”

Of that Sebastian had no doubt. His “instinct” had been lately speaking to him with great urgency. “I’d like to do better than muddling through,” he said, remembering his first attempt at a kiss. If he ever got Diana Fanshawe into bed—and he still couldn’t believe it would ever happen--Sebastian wanted to do much better.

“It’s true, the first time tends to be fast,” Tarquin said. “I was so excited I lasted exactly half a minute. Of course I was only sixteen.”


“Do women enjoy it?” Sebastian asked.

“They certainly can.”

“Even ladies?”

“The sexual tastes of ladies are outside my area of expertise, but I don’t see why not. They are just women after all. I can give you a few suggestions, I suppose.”

Sebastian wasn’t sure he was up to such frankness in conversation, even with Tarquin. “Can I learn about it from a book? All those erotic rarities you buy must hold some useful information.”

“You are welcome to make use of my library. Just let me know if you need any help with French vocabulary of a specialized nature.”

If you want to read a longer excerpt go to my website, or the HarperCollins site for the first 60 pages.

Do you like to read about virgin heroes and if so, which are your favorites? Do you have a preference for or against inexperienced heroines? If you are a writer, how have you approached writing sex scenes for virgins of either gender? One commenter picked at random or by whim will win a copy of THE DANGEROUS VISCOUNT.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Inner Critic Rehab

It seems like our inner critics have gone above and beyond lately to make us doubt our writerly abilities.

They spew criticism we would never tolerate from friends and family.  They micromanage our writing in ways that are only permissible from people who sign our paychecks.   If a critique partner dared to talk to us about our work this way. . .I shudder to think of the bloodshed involved. 

Yet this brutal inner critic's voice that knocks us to our knees, sobbing, is the very one we cater to.  It's definitely the loudest, drowning out the encouraging voice of the muse, along with the much more interesting ones of our characters. 

The inner critics know we listen to every word they utter, but even worse, they know we believe them.

They are like weather forecasters who predict it will be sunny for the weekend and then it rains the entire time.  Even then, we continue to have complete faith the next time we hear, "We'll have sun and a high of 80", even though a hurricane is flattening the trees in the front yard. 

Inner critics make us react the same way.  Yet how do they manage it?  Here's just a few of their methods:

Non-motivational quotes

"With this manuscript, failure is not an option.  It's a certainty."

Sarcastic commentary

"Snore, bore, and chore.  Alex, I know this one.  What are three words to describe this manuscript?"


"Do you really think it's any good?  I mean, I like it, but I'm not sure I like it like it, you know?  It's not anywhere near as good as all those other books you buy.  You know, those ones that actually got published.  And it's not like you'll never get published.  It's just that there are a lot a lot a LOT of really good writers out there to compete with.  I'm just sayin'."

On days when I'm feeling charitable (maybe once or thrice a year), I could argue that the inner critics are merely trying to protect us, from harm, or ridicule, or heartbreak.

But if that's true, then why are THEY the ones heaping us with harm and ridicule and heartbreak?

There's plenty to be learned from our inner critics.  But first we need to rehab them, so they can be useful, productive members of the writing team.  Anybody can point out problems.  It takes somebody creative to provide solutions.

First off, let's not take the inner critics at face value anymore.  They have to get specific with their concerns.  When they say, "this sucks", they need to explain what in particular is causing them heartburn.  Pin them down and make them deliver some practical advice we can apply to our manuscripts. No more blanket statements allowed.

Next, insist that the inner critics wait their turn.  If their relentless condemnation keeps us from producing anything, they won't have anything to whip into shape later, right?  The role of inner critic is an important one, but it is dependent on proper timing.  So write, then critique.  It doesn't work the other way.

Finally, don't be discouraged if this inner critic rehab doesn't work perfectly the first time you try it.  It might take a little time since the inner critic is an old dog, and you know how they are with new tricks.  But hang in there.  Revisions aren't perfect the first go-round either.  But isn't the finished result worthwhile?

So let's share some of the lines our inner critics spit out and see what we can do to rehab them.  Feel free to tell us how you get your inner critic to do a better job.  By the end of today, we ought to have some factory-reconditioned, refurbished, better-than-original inner critics to work on our manuscripts!
Monday, September 27, 2010

Susanna Fraser and her Sexy Sergeant!

We have a special guest with us on the ship today, a debut author who saw her first book hit the E-shelves just last month. Susanna Fraser, author of THE SERGEANT’S LADY, joins me now for a little chat between friends. (Okay, between pubbed author and wanna-be pubbed author. Same thing.)

First, we'll start with a blurb.

Highborn Anna Arrington has been "following the drum," obeying the wishes of her cold, controlling cavalry officer husband. When he dies, all she wants is to leave life with Wellington's army in Spain behind her and go home to her family's castle in Scotland.

Sergeant Will Atkins ran away from home to join the army in a fit of boyish enthusiasm. He is a natural born soldier, popular with officers and men alike, uncommonly brave and chivalrous, and educated and well-read despite his common birth.

As Anna journeys home with a convoy of wounded soldiers, she forms an unlikely friendship with Will. When the convoy is ambushed and their fellow soldiers captured, they become fugitives—together. The attraction between them is strong—but even if they can escape the threat of death at the hands of the French, is love strong enough to bridge the gap between a viscount's daughter and an innkeeper's son?

Bo’sun: Congratulations on the release of your debut Historical Romance, THE SERGEANT’S LADY. (Click the cover to buy your own copy!) I adore this cover. (Seriously, wenches, is that not GORGEOUS??) And thank you for joining us on The Revenge today. We've read the blurb (so good) but need to get to know you a bit. How long you’ve been writing and how long it took to sell your first novel?

SF: Well, I wrote my first book in 4th grade. It had a group of children whisked into a magical kingdom to help royal talking horses reclaim their throne from a usurper. (Had I been reading the Chronicles of Narnia then? Why, yes I had.)

But I started writing seriously with the intent to publish in 2001. It took me two years to finish my first manuscript, and then I didn’t write much in 2003-04—there was this little thing with pregnancy and a newborn daughter that distracted me there for a bit.

I wrote the first draft of the manuscript that became The Sergeant’s Lady in 2005 and tried to sell it to print publishers in 2006. I got lots of positive comments from editors but never quite sold, so I decided to take a break from writing romance and work on fantasy and alternative history for awhile. (I hope to sell in fantasy too eventually.)

Then, early this year I re-read The Sergeant’s Lady, realized I still loved the manuscript, and decided to send it out again. I happened to see a post on the Risky Regencies blog where the Carina editors were talking about what they liked in historical submissions, so I chose them as one of my target publishers.

Bo’sun: We have a Pirate or two around here who can relate to that baby distraction thing. Infants are so demanding. Sheesh. We love call stories around here. I know your life was pretty hectic when you sold. How did the call go for you?

SF: It was April 1. Really. I had laryngitis, and I remember thinking that between April Fool’s Day and my near-total inability to speak, this was the one day I hoped NOT to get The Call.

Fortunately for me, I got The Email instead, because Angela James was home with a sick kid whose coughing kept her from making phone calls that day. I promptly opened chat windows with my husband and one of my critique partners to share my excitement, since that was the only way I could communicate given the state of my vocal cords.

Bo’sun: “The Email.” I like that. Anyone who clicks through to your website is going to notice it looks a little different. Since this site gained you some unpredicted notice, can you tell us how that went down?

SF: Heh. Well, my husband is a web developer and a very good one. He’s been in the industry for almost as long as there’s been such an industry, he speaks at web conferences, and he’s taught university-level web development courses. So naturally I asked him to do my website.

Problem is, we’re busy people, and never more so than this spring and early summer. He was teaching a spring quarter class on top of his full-time job. I’d sold to Carina and was caught in a whirlwind of edits, because the summer releases were on a pretty tight timeline. To top it off, we bought a house and spent the month of June moving. We got a lot of square footage for our buck by Seattle standards, but that’s because the new place is a major cosmetic and minor structural fixer.

June in particular was CRAZY. Nothing but packing, cleaning, stripping wallpaper, painting, working with contractors, shopping for appliances, etc.—and since it was the end of the quarter, Mr. Fraser was swamped with grading. In the midst of all this, I asked him if he could pretty-please pull together a quickie website so I could list all my contact info in the “Upcoming Releases” section of a July newsletter.

July 1 drew closer and closer, and I still had no website. Finally, at 11 PM on June 30, Mr. Fraser sat down and dashed out my (in)famous website.

I thought and still think it’s hilarious, though I wish we’d managed to replace it sooner. He’s working on my real site now, and though the free publicity has been wonderful, I’ll be glad to have a site that reflects my writing more than Mr. Fraser’s sense of humor.

Bo’sun: Do give Mr. Fraser our kudos. We love a man with a sense of humor. And the Web skills are nothing to sniff at either. I’ve read a couple snippets (looking forward to reading the whole thing!) from THE SERGEANT’S LADY and I love your voice. Where did this idea come from and were you worried about selling an Historical that didn’t start in a ballroom or star one of those alpha dukes? (I find this fresh twist a plus, btw, but I know how hard it is to sell something different.)

SF: Maybe it’s because there’s a lot of army in my family, but I’ve always thought the Napoleonic Wars were the most fascinating aspect of the Regency time period. I love Bernard Cornwell, Patrick O’Brian, and Naomi Novik, and I wanted to try to apply that same kind of story, setting, and sensibility to a romance.

As for the commoner hero, when I got the idea I’d read three books in a row where a supposedly common hero or heroine turned out to be the long-lost child of an aristocrat and therefore a suitable match for the other protagonist. They weren’t bad books—in fact, two of them were excellent—but I decided I wanted to read a story where the commoner STAYED common and the hero and heroine had to come to terms with their class difference.

Since The Sergeant’s Lady was only my second manuscript, back when I wrote it I didn’t worry about being able to sell it nearly as much as I should’ve! I still had a full measure of newbie arrogance then, so I was sure if I just made the book awesome enough, someone would buy it. Also, “like O’Brian/Cornwell/Novik, but with more sex and a HEA ending” seemed like an obvious sell to me. Like I said, still a newbie.

I’m glad you like my voice, and I hope you enjoy the book!

Bo’sun: For the record, that newbie arrogance is easily explained away here with one word. Pirate! LOL! Feel free to use that anytime. And I just finished the other book I was reading this weekend, so you’re up next! *makes note to charge eReader*

As you mentioned, you’re published with Carina Press, one of the new eBook kids on the block. What convinced you to go with e-publishing and what has your experience been like so far? What do you wish you’d known before your book hit the virtual shelves?

SF: When I started writing, e-publishing wasn’t a viable market unless you were writing erotica, so I targeted print. But in the last year or two, I noticed more authors having success with non-erotic e-books, I felt like I had a good sense of which publishers had long-term viability, and I saw e-reading become much more popular and mainstream with the advent of readers like the Kindle and Nook. So I decided it was time to give it a try.

I’ve had a wonderful experience with Carina so far. I love working with my editor, I’m thrilled with my cover, and we authors get great support from the Carina/Harlequin team with our promo efforts.

As for what I wish I’d known going in, I wish I’d known a little more about e-book promo. Since I had less than five months from The Call to launch, I had to learn on the fly.

Bo’sun: Well you’ve got this interviewing thing down pat, no worries there. What is up next from you? Will there be more books to connect to this first one or will the next one stand alone?

SF: My next release, A Marriage of Inconvenience, is a prequel to The Sergeant’s Lady. The hero is the brother of the heroine from Sergeant. It’s a bit more traditional Regency in setting and atmosphere, but I like to think I’ve thrown in some unexpected kinks…errr…twists. It’ll be out in April.

That’s as far as I’m contracted for, but I’m working on a shipwreck book, and after that I’m planning to return to the Peninsular War, but with a paranormal twist.

Bo’sun: Shipwreck! Will there be pirates? Like maybe some sexy, writing pirates with bad navigation skills and a fully stocked bar? Wait, don’t answer that, it’s totally unprofessional. *Ahem*

To wrap it up before we turn you over….errrr….I mean turn IT over to the wenches, we’re known for our drink menu around here and try to add a new one especially for our guests. What drink would you want to add to our Glittery Hooha, the Booty Call, and the A’moral Compass? (They all start and end with rum, no worries there.)

SF: Oh, geez, I’m mostly a wine girl. Or hard cider. I loves me a pint of Strongbow. Sometimes port with dessert when I want to channel my inner Regency hero. So just pour me something. I’ll try anything. Except beer—I’m a borderline supertaster and that stuff is too bitter.

Bo’sun: One Sergeant’s Sangria coming right up! Now, your turn to ask a question. Is there anything you want to know from our faithful Pirates and Stow-Aways?

SF: I’ll be giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate to one lucky commenter. So tell me what unusual setting you’d like to see in a romance, or your favorite drink, or ask me more about my books. I’ll take any excuse to babble all day about writing.
Sunday, September 26, 2010

In the Woods Doing Nothing

There are many, many techniques and strategies when you find yourself stuck in your manuscript. All and none of them work, depending on the manuscript and writer. Sometimes it’s best to take the dying WIP and euthanize it, and sometimes it works to run through all the diagnostics and run the gamut of writing medical solutions. Sometimes it works to do nothing.

It’s like if you’re lost in the woods.

Stay with me. Writing is like hiking: you go off in the woods alone with just your canteen, a crappy little compass, and optimism you will return before supper. When you first set off on the trail, it’s fun. You’re excited. You’re walking deliberately and with great enthusiasm. You’re going to set a land-speed record of the fastest, bestest hike ever.  I’m not sure when it happens, but somewhere mid-hike, you begin to notice your mosquito bites, you’ve twisted your ankle when you fell off a rock, and your shoes are wet from crossing a creek. But you’re a pro. You’re going to tough this out. It’s good. You’re going to have quite the adventure to tell your hiking buddies at supper tonight. You keep walking. You’re still enjoying this walk, you tell yourself firmly. It’s the best goddamned hike ever. And then you get lost.

You don’t notice you’re lost right away, but around the third time you’ve passed the tree with the three boulders, you think: “Crap.” Then you think, “Don’t panic. I’m prepared. I’m a hiker. I have a canteen. I have a compass.” And you bring out your canteen and realize you’re out of water; and you look at your compass and it’s not working. You’re seriously considering abandoning this hike, except well, you don’t know to get the hell out of this mess. You keep walking. You keep passing the same tree and boulders. You really hate this hike. You promise yourself never to go hiking again. You’re the worst hiker ever.

But you keep walking and circling because you might stumble onto the path right out of here, except it’s not working. So finally you sit on one of the boulders, thinking this is an absolute waste of time. After all, if you don’t figure out something, you’re going to be stuck in these woods overnight. With the snakes and the chipmunks. This is unacceptable. You’re tempted to start down the path you did before, but you know if you do, you’re just going to be back at these boulders again. Anyway, the first rule they teach you about being lost in the woods is to stop walking around lost. Sit some place and give the rescue party a chance to find you.

Now if your rescue party isn’t good at finding you, sitting still and getting your bearings works. If your compass is broken, there are other ways to figure out your north-south-east-west. One of those ways may be exactly what you need to get you back on track.

Lastly, the best reason to stop walking in circles is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If you want to stop going in circles, then stop walking in circles.

So this was where I was in my woods. I was lost in the middle of my manuscript, and I swear to God I have circled the tree with the boulders no less than four times. I hate that tree. I admit I have done nothing, but not the sort of nothing I mean here. There is the nothing I’ve been doing, which is not writing at all. Watching TV, reading or listening to books, going to the gym—all that I have done; and they’re all necessary, but not to the point of never opening the WIP. I mean the sort of yoga nothing, the hardest nothing to do.

In yoga, you’re supposed to hold a position and not think. You’re just doing, you’re just being, you’re perfectly present. While holding a pose, I admit it’s easier (relatively) to not think of anything but holding that pose, that is if you’re as uncoordinated as me. But you get to corpse pose and your mind is supposed to be a blank slate; and I can tell you mine never is. It’s thinking about what I’ll be eating after class, will I get home in time to see Modern Family, will Deerhunter call me sometime this week.

So you’re lost in the woods and you’ve decided to practice “nothing”, except the whole time you’re thinking “what if the rescue party never gets here and I’m eaten by bears” or “what if I never finish this manuscript, everyone will publish but me.” Not good for practice.

No, the kind of nothing I mean is to sit and become part of your woods. Listen to the surroundings and become in tune. The reason you’re lost is because you’ve lost the point of your hike, being all focused on getting to the destination, concentrating more on your map than your surroundings. When you freak out about being lost, you stop listening to what the woods are saying. You may even realize when you listen, the woods are telling you to go on a path you find too scary and you want to stick to the map. But if you want to get out of the woods, you’re going to have to trust the process. Whatever the process might be this week.

Does anyone else have trouble doing “active” nothing or is everyone better than me at yoga? What do you prefer to do when you’re “lost in the woods”? Anyone else been known to wait it out until you figure out where you’re at again?  Anyone else seen the new Harry Potter trailer and absolutely so excited about it that they also can’t think of a remotely original blog?
Saturday, September 25, 2010

its all about the arms -- hottie Sunday

There's a heat wave slamming the East Coast right now. Ninety-freaking-five degrees the last weekend of September. The good news? Boys take off their shirts when it's this hot.

So this Sunday, let's appreciate the (hopefully) last heat wave of the season and check out these biceps. They're about to be put away for the long, cold winter, girls, so make sure you get a GOOD look!



and for no other reason than my huge crush on Daniel Craig:

We've got some awesome guest pirates climbing aboard the ship this week, mixed up with our regular heaping of pirate wit and humor.

On Tuesday, be sure to stop by and give a big pirate welcome to Susanna Fraser, who is celebrating last month's release of The Sergeant's Lady.

On Thursday, Miranda Neville will be returning to the ship -- you definitely don't want to miss this! Her latest, The Dangerous Viscount, comes out this week!
Thursday, September 23, 2010

Writing is Rewriting

Every writer has heard the old mantra for revisions: “Writing is Rewriting.”

Every time I heard that, I wanted to chuck my computer, manuscript still on harddrive, right over a cliff.  Because if writing is rewriting, what the hell is all the stuff I do BEFORE I rewrite?  “Writing is Rewriting” makes my first draft sound like an elaborate finger massage of my keyboard.

I’m just being ornery.  A few weeks ago, I admitted to cutting out a quarter of my manuscript.  Well, this past week or so, I realized I needed to start over.

I don’t know if I can call it starting over.  I’m using already created characters that have already starred in half of a now defunct manuscript.  But I prefer not to think of it as starting over.  That just sounds… defeated.  In this case, I’m just doing the most extensive rewrite I’ve ever undertaken.

Yeah.  I’m rewriting everything that came after “Chapter One.”

I spent a few days dejected and another few days feeling like I needed to stop pretending to be a writer and take up mosquito herding or some equally productive hobby.  But after that I started to not feel so bad about it.  I mean, I know these characters.  I’m changing their circumstances because their circumstances didn’t work.  But they are still the same characters.  I’m just going to change up the messes I put them in.  It won’t be as hard this time around.  Right?

I’d imagine I’ll use some of my old material.  But for the most part, I’m just going to pretend I highlighted everything and hit the delete key.  Literally, I’m rewriting it all.  So in this case, my writing is really rewriting.

I remember reading somewhere that some amazing author (Maybe La Nora even?) writes a complete first draft and deletes it all before starting to write the real story.  I hate to say it but I can see how this might work for me.  I don’t get to know my characters really until I’m about halfway through.  Maybe I literally need to be a rewriter, not a writer.

I kind of hope not.  I can’t even explain my pain this week as I stared at that cursor after the “Chapter One” again.

How about it, folks?  Anyone else ever done such an elaborate “revision?”  Anyone else ever hated the whole “writing is rewriting” phrase?  Or does anyone have a different take on it?  Ever read your first draft and thought, “For all that is holy, is this really what I have to work with?”  Any thoughts on managing major revisions?
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Killer Hooks

Have you ever been halfway through reading the blurb on the back of a book, and gotten so excited you stopped reading? This has happened to me a few times recently. I'll be plopped on the floor in the back corner of the library where the romance novels are shoved, glancing at the back blurbs, and suddenly, BAM! I'm reading through the blurb and something says, "Yes! This is a book that I want to read!"

Often, this concluded with me immediately dashing toward the check-out desk and only later realizing that I'd never finished reading the back copy to see what happened. But it didn't really matter -- the blurb had already done it's job.

It'd hooked me.

I picked up a Harlan Coben novel -- he writes thrillers whose characters are ordinary people like socer moms rather than James Bond -- and found this on the back. I wonder if you can guess which sentence hooked me so much I stopped reading:

An ordinary snapshot causes a suburban mother’s world to unravel in an instant. When Grace Lawson picks up a newly developed set of family photographs, there is a picture that doesn’t belong -- a photo from at least twenty years ago. In the photo are five people, four Grace can’t recognize and one that looks strikingly like her husband, Jack.

When Jack sees the photo, he denies he’s the man in it. But later that night, while Grace lies in bed waiting, he drives away in the family's minivan without an explanation, taking the photograph with him.

Not knowing where he went or why he left, Grace struggles alone to shield her children from Jack’s absence in the days that follow. Each passing day brings only doubts about herself and her marriage and yet more unanswered questions about Jack, along with the realization that there are others looking for Jack and the photograph -- including one fierce, silent killer who will not be stopped from finding his quarry, no matter who or what stands in his way.

When the police won’t help her, and neighbors and friends alike seem to have agendas of their own, she must confront the dark corners of her own tragic past to keep her children safe and learn the truth that might bring her husband home.

I don't know if hooks work universally -- I'm curious if you would have had the same reaction. After reading this, I was psyched to read this book and tell everyone about it after reading the first two paragraphs alone. Did it hook you?

Here's another example, from romance this time -- Mary Jo Putney's The Bargain:

To keep her fortune, a beautiful heiress impulsively weds a penniless officer dying of wounds received at Waterloo. But when the blasted man hasn't the grace to die, she suddenly finds herself with a healthy, vibrant husband who wants to renegotiate the terms of their bargain--and ultimately possess the heart of his bewildered bride...

I saw that, said, "He's alive? I have to read this book!"

What do you think of these blurbs? Did they work for you as hooks, or did they fail to grab you? Have any examples of books whose hook was so great you just had to read it? Have you ever thought of a hook first, and then built a book around it?
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Show Stealers

If you’ve ever seen TRUE LIES, it isn’t the bulging bicep’d Arnold Schwarzenegger character blasting his way through nuke-juggling terrorists, but Tom Arnold’s portly Albert Gibson who, in my opinion, steals the entire movie.  Oh sure, Jamie Lee Curtis has a hilarious turn, and her character’s dynamic with Schwarzenegger’s is all that is satisfying.  But it is Arnold who makes me guffaw, whose snarky one-liners remain stuck in my head sixteen years later. 

Ah, the secondary characters who steal the show …   Cinema wouldn’t be half so vibrant without them.   Technicolor is deluded if they think it’s their saturated color levels bringing vitality to the screen.  It’s the characters, first and foremost, and in this spotlight, the secondary characters pilfering the audience’s attentions. 

When I think about why show stealers imprint themselves on memory, I realize it’s the result of a few shared characteristics:  they are always funny and always oddball, perhaps because the two qualities are easily interchangeable.   Quirky is amusing, vice versa.  And, since show-stealing secondary characters don’t carry the entire story on their backs, they have the freedom to be humorous, sometimes outrageously so. 

The same reasoning holds true for oddball.   Without shouldering the burden of story, there’s a freedom to be quirky.  Outside the box.  Different, original and unexpected. After all, secondary character roles are not so prescribed.  They don’t have to be hero; they are simply the flavoring to the hero.   They don’t have to accomplish anything, in fact.  They don’t even have to grow.  There is no character arc.  Arnold is the same at the end of TRUE LIES as he is at the beginning.  And yet, I care more about him than the secret-spy husband who has been inauthentic to his wife.    

So here are some of my favorites: 

Phoebe’s brother Frank Jr. on FRIENDS.  Who can forget his “melting stuff” hobby, and his penchant for Suzie Homemaker teachers?

Joe Pesci in LETHAL WEAPONs 2-4:    “Okay, okay, okay, okay, this is the best part okay?”  Classic.

Truman Sparks as the cuckoo-ball pilot in FANDANGO. Go here for a taste.   Seriously. Go and report back.

Lily Tomlin as the peacenik/LSD selling mother in FLIRTING WITH DISASTER.  Watching her “guide”/lose it as that cop goes through his unintended acid trip is one of the funniest scenes on screen. 

Rosie O’Donnell in ANOTHER STAKEOUT and her hard-boiled egg head/olive ear appetizers. 

It’s easy to see why some characters make off with the entire show on screen; they’re played by very real people bringing very real personalities to the job. But it’s a little different in books.   Writers are the creator of the entire world.  Yeah, there are different personalities with which to contend, but they all come from the same source.  What’s more, writers are warned not to let secondary characters make off with the story, particularly if they are romance writers.  Romances are formulaic because readers have certain expectations when they purchase one.   So, in order to honor that expectation, we’re told to stick to the hero and heroine, don’t go off on a tangent, reign in the supporting cast as they’re eclipsing the main characters, etc, etc.   

But I wonder if this is good advice.   If we adore show stealers on screen so much, why aren’t we letting them have their quirky say in books?    I think of Wilbury, the elderly butler in Teresa Medeiros’ vampire duet, AFTER MIDNIGHT and THE VAMPIRE WHO LOVED ME.  Those books sang for me, in part, because of Wilbury’s crotchety take on his fantastical world.  He was the perfect, hilarious, grounding opposite for Medeiros’ hot alpha heroes (In my opinion, what alphas have in the crotch department, they seriously lack in the ha-ha department:  ability).   I fell in love with him. 

And Medeiros has since promised I can have him … but she has yet to make good on my suggestion Wilbury have his own book.    A doddering old curmudgeon can be a romance hero, no? 

So who are some of your favorite show-filching secondary characters in movies, TV and books? Do you want to see more of them?   Do show-stealing supporting casts work as well in books as they do on screen? 
Monday, September 20, 2010

The Manic Start to My Mid-Life Crisis

I spent all day Monday trying to narrow down a topic for this blog. It wasn't pretty.

I considered writing something about our evening at the oceanfront Saturday night watching our brave Navy boys parachute onto the beach covered in glow sticks. (Sadly, they were wearing uniforms as well.) Then spin that into hero talk and get everyone riled up talking about the hotness that is a man in uniform.

But then I thought, “Nah.”

I could talk about the newest member of our family who will be joining us in the new house in a little over a month. That’s right, Bumbles is getting a girlfriend. She’s extremely shy, so the warm up period could be extensive, but I think they’ll do fine. (I’ve posted a pic. Isn't she cute?) I’d then spin this topic into the choice of writing a cat into my MS when I needed the heroine to be talking to someone to reveal some info, instead of dumping it all in narrative. This was a handy trick and Charlotte the Tuxedo cat was born.

But then again, how far could that topic go?

I could write about the new place (we’ll be in by Halloween!) and spin that into talking setting and what a home/apartment reveals about a character. How by giving the heroine a closet full of shoes and a yoga mat might say one thing while revealing that same heroine has a Glock and a bullet proof vest tucked away on the top shelf would say something much more. Then we could swing into chicks that kick ass compared to those use a more subtle approach and lament once again about the ones who are TSTL.

But we’ve been there, done that.

What to do, what to do? *swishes rum around in her glass* That’s when it hit me. *ducks a flying banana* Very funny, you stupid monkey. That’s when the idea came to me that I’m totally scattered and floating in the first current of my mid-life crisis, so I can’t be expected to pick just one topic. I can’t even focus on one thing at a time. If I could, I’d focus on SLEEPING, which I haven’t done for a while.

Here’s hoping I can channel the rest of this crisis into something productive and interesting on paper. For now, answer any or all of these questions. Let’s discuss!

Would you believe in the HEA of a romance where the hero/ine remained on active duty at the end of the story? (In case you don’t know, that means he’d/she’d be around rarely at best. Like, maybe a couple months a year.)


How do you feel about pets in your stories, be they the ones you read or the ones you write? (Hellie hates them, which I’m sure she’ll tell us. In color. *g*)


How do you *show* your reader who and what your hero/ine is? Do you make a special effort to use his/her surroundings? And have you ever, while reading a character, been surprised when their home environment was nothing like what you expected?
Sunday, September 19, 2010

Art and Writing and the Creative Flow

My BFF and I were emailing about a neat costume I saw and I thought she’d like. She was amazed like me, and she asked me, “Have you thought about Halloween?” As far back as I can remember, I’ve been an avid fan of Halloween. I love the whole spooky and superstitious parts of it; I love the candy; I love the dressing up and pretending to be someone else.

The problem is: I don’t know what I’ll be dressing as. Last year I was completely uninspired and dressed as Harry Potter. Again. The year before I dressed as a slutty devil—again, completely uninspired and not nearly at my level of costuming commitment I usually do. I don’t even remember 2007. I’m sure it was also uninspired as well. Since 1997, I usually come up with some elaborate costume to dress in and I get co-workers into it. I have staff and faculty who ask me around this time of year what I’ll be dressing as because I’m that well-known. I’ve been a Scottish wench, three types of pirate, a Can-Can girl, Harry Potter, Eve, and Little Red Riding Hood. People love my costumes.

And for the third year straight I’m not feeling the Halloween spirit. Something is wrong.

This is no reason to panic, I realize. People outgrow these things. I’d go with that—except there are other things I used to do that I don’t do now. Scrapbooking homemade cards. I have a closet full of scrapbooking materials. I haven’t scrapbooked in two years. I’ve bought blank canvases and paints—but I don’t paint. I have drawing paper, but I no longer draw.

A couple weeks ago, I went to a funeral and the preacher’s wife, who knew me when I was 16 but hadn’t seen me since then, hunted me down. “I’ve been dying to talk to you. I wanted to know if you became an art teacher.”

“Um, no.” I laughed because I get the teacher thing all the time. It’s my bane in life. I don’t want to be a teacher, yet everyone asks if I am one. “Oh,” she said, looking disappointed or sad, “do you still do something in art?” “Actually no,” I confessed. I never thought of myself as an artist. My BFF was the real artist; I was just a hack who sketched people who ended up looking cartoonish. Hardly a skill. But I remembered now why she might have thought I pursued it. I was always sketching people. I grinned at her. “I was never really that good, I thought,” I explained. “I write now. That’s my creative outlet.”

Still…the preacher’s wife brought up an interesting point: I did used to create drawings and paintings; and even back then I was a writer, but I’d write and draw. One creative endeavor fed the other. And then when I was emailing my BFF and we were discussing the costumes, I realized that my costuming is what I did with my later writing. Sewing became my Art.

Now I don’t costume. Nor do I draw. Nor do I scrapbook. And guess what? I don’t write either.

My theory is this: art is a sort of yoga. When I’m sewing or drawing or gluing pieces of paper, my hands are busy and the internal critic is busy criticizing the project in hand and not paying attention to what my real brain is doing, which is thinking about the story and writing. Then when I sit and write, I write. My internal critic is either exhausted from bitching about my other artistic endeavors, or my writing brain just doesn’t care at that point and doesn’t listen. I don’t know. But my writing seems to be tied to art hobbies.

I don’t think I’m the only writer who thinks this. Jennifer Crusie makes those elaborate collages for her stories. Art and writing. I don’t exactly make costumes that mimic my books, though the year I sewed my Elizabeth Swann pirate gown, it was included in Girl on a Grecian Urn. And that might be the last year I sewed a costume, which incidentally is the last book I finished. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I need a new costume. I need to be inspired in a physical way, not a muse way. I need some brain yoga.

Is your writing tied to any other hobby (i.e. cooking, music, art)? Are you dressing for Halloween? I need some ideas. I mean, I have an idea, but if yours is better, I may steal it. Do you like Halloween? What’s your favorite holiday?
Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hotties who talk like pirates

It's Talk Like a Pirate Day, maties! And just to really get us into the pirate mentality, I thought some visual aids would be a good start to a Sunday.




and just for fun....

In the line up this week is J Perry, who always throws a fun party. So practice talking like a pirate and jump on board!
Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Friday Parody: Keeping a Positive Attitude

Hellion: Well, it’s the end of the week, and the headliners have been completely out of whack, haven’t they? We just like to keep you on your toes. No room for complacency on this ship, right? So in keeping with keeping on your toes, I thought we’d have a little Friday Musical Dance Parody. (That’s a really bad title. I really should work on that. *shrugs* Eh. No time.)

I’ve been a little dementor’d lately (yes, I made it up, stop picking) and I needed to come up with a little peppy song to inspire me. That this book IS going to rock. That this book IS good enough, sharp enough, and doggone it, people like it. (Yeah, I’m mixing it up, go with it, people.)

Sooo… *whips out a mock up of her novel, gesturing as music for “Greased Lightning” cues*

Well this book is scintillatin’, captivatin’, fascinatin’—

Why it could be a Best Seller!

*Marn & Hal whiz onto the ship’s deck on their office chairs*: “We’re listening!”

Hellion: We’ll get some overbuff heroes and some quick-witted broads, oh yeah

Marn & Hal: Keep talkin’, whoa keep talkin’!

Hellion: Work confrontation conflict and sexy chemistry, oh yeah,

Sin: I’m going to write this! I’m really going to write this!

Hellion: With some sex against the wall, they’ll be rushin’ to the mall

You know we will persist when we make the NYT list

Best Seller!

(Chorus: all RWR crew, in sequined pirate costumes and dancing around a float with rotating bestseller books and a cartoonish statue of a NYT editor)

Go, Best Seller,

You’re burnin’ up the New York Times!

Best Seller, go Best Seller,

Go Best Seller

You’ve got those readers all standin’ in lines!

Best Seller, go Best Seller,

You’re totally neat!

Success is sweet!

Best Seller

Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go
Hellion: We’ll get some mean and nasty villain and a lot of quirky friends, oh yeah,

A disabled dashhound and perhaps a meddling mother, depends, oh yeah,

With new plot twists, guns, and sex

I can get those readers to spend their checks

You know that I ain’t braggin, but my hero’s great at shaggin’

Best Seller!

Bo’sun: Hey, where did the “chicks’ll cream” go? I don’t know about you, but if a hero had me against a wall, I’d….

RWR crew: (hanging off the editor statue and synchronized hand movements and Elvis hip movements)


Go, Best Seller,

You’re burnin’ up the New York Times!

Best Seller, go Best Seller,

Go Best Seller

You’ve got those readers all standin’ in lines!

Best Seller, go Best Seller,

You’re totally neat!

Success is sweet!

Best Seller

Go, go, go, go, go, go, go, go

Hellion: Go, go, go—go write that bestseller. What the hell are you guys still doing on this deck? You should be writing, not screwing around, singing badly written parodies! Go, now! And don’t come back until you can tell me you’ve written at least 500 words today.


So it’s nearly 8am on Thursday and I just realized I’m supposed to blog today. ACK! This is going to be a bit rough.

As most of you probably know – not that I’ve been bragging or anything – this week saw my name in print for the first time. (Outside certain sections of the newspaper but we’re not going to go there.) Woman’s World magazine printed my short romantic fiction piece called The Cell Phone Switch, which they renamed to Strangers On A Train. It’s a bit edited, but it’s still mine and I’ll take it!

Now I’m waiting to hear back on a Christmas themed story I submitted in July, but I need to get more stories in the pipeline. And I’m not coming up with any good ideas, mostly because my brain is being pulled in about a million other directions. (Home inspection last night then came home to find the A/C in my apartment pumping hot air. Not even going to mention the TWO requested MS I’m trying to fix and get out the door.)

I suppose the right thing to do would be set aside time to sit down and brainstorm a bunch of ideas, following Donna’s advice and letting even the crazy ones through.

But I don’t have time for that.

Since I have a captive crew of sorts, I’m asking you. Throw me your ideas. These stories are 800 words max. They need a beginning, middle and end, but that doesn’t mean they have to span a long timeframe. The story I sold covers one scene, basically a meet-cute, as they say in the movie business.

If you were given the task of writing something happy, upbeat, and only 800 words, what would you write?
Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lovin' the Crazy

There's a whole lot of magic, and faith, involved in any creative endeavor, especially writing. 

We show up with our tools, in this case, pen and paper, or keyboard and computer screen, along with the fervent desire to create something that doesn't yet exist.  We chant the magic words, "What if?", and then we ponder and cogitate and dream, waiting for inspiration to slap us silly, convinced that brilliance is just around the corner.

Sometimes it's hard to hang on to that faith, though, because we don't really know HOW creativity works.  When an idea bursts forth from deep within our brain cells, we act like cavewomen who have just seen fire for the first time.  We are understandably afraid to believe that "whatever this is" will come back, that it wasn't just some sort of fluke.  If only someone would give us the recipe, so we can reproduce that creative miracle whenever we need it.  

What I love most about the creative process is this: it's a process.  It's not called the creative schedule, or the creative checklist.  It's a process, and we all have different ways of implementing it.  It's about as personal as religion or politics or your favorite meatloaf recipe.  Trying to force my process into a particular form would be the death knell of my creativity.

And yet. . .

I think we end up restricting our creative process all the time, without conscious intent.  We conduct archaeological expeditions in the creative centers of our minds, eager to unearth fresh new ideas for our manuscripts.  When our brain cooperates and coughs up all kinds of unusual nuggets, what do we do?  Do we drop to our knees and thank every deity in existence for the beautiful gift of these wondrous ideas?

Yeah, not so much. 

We barely give them a glance before we toss them into the trash pile, judging them as "too out there".  Before an idea has had a chance to fully form, or to show its depths and nuances, we shoot it dead, declaring, "That'll never work.  It's just too crazy."

It's like wishing on a star and then smashing the gift on the ground with a whiny, "I wanted something with more SPARKLES on it!"  Or praying for a miracle, and then refusing it on arrival, since it wasn't preceded by blaring trumpets and hosannas from wing'd angels. 

But let's go back to the idea that was instantly dismissed for being outlandish.  This is the one you want to explore, because it's different, and fresh. 

Maybe it hasn't worked before now because no one will even consider it.  It's possible this particular whacky idea might be better than anything you ever imagined.  Even if you don't ending up using it, it might have appeared on the scene simply to help you stretch your imagination, to prepare you for other ideas you might otherwise ignore. 

So, when a notion looks like it's been wrapped in too many layers of crazy, deep fried in outrageous, and then topped off with a dollop of ridiculous. . .give the poor little nutjob a chance to explain itself.  We all want recognition for what we do.  Our craziest ideas are no different.  If we don't give them an opportunity to speak their piece, they will continue to poke and nag, and the more we swat them away, the more persistent they will become--like a child ignored by its mom, chanting over and over, louder and louder, until it finally gets the attention it requested in the first place.

Maybe these kooky ideas won't lead to anything useful, but what if they do?  Or maybe they're blocking the really brilliant idea, only you can't get to it until you've dealt with the seemingly zany stuff. 

This is where faith comes in, requiring you to believe in something when it's not entirely clear how it functions.  The creative process is mysterious, there's no doubt about that.  Yet if you're willing to believe that ideas for books appear out of nowhere, then you have to consider the possibility that these oddball ideas were entrusted to you, for your benefit.

As crazy as that sounds.

So tell us all the crazy ideas that have led to the stories you've written.  Or tell us how your creative process works, and how it delivers ideas to you.  Or share your favorite meatloaf recipe.  Nothing is too crazy for us today!

Bandit Booty Aboard The Revenge

Thanks again to Jeanne Adams for being such a great Pirate Guest yesterday. Now, to announce the winner of the Dark & Deadly prize pack. The winner is…..[drum rollllllllll]

2nd CHANCE!!!

You are the lucky winner of a copy of Jeanne’s fantastic Dark and Deadly, Godiva chocolate, and a coffee card from Starbucks. Congrats and thanks to everyone who came out for the party!
Monday, September 13, 2010

Which Shoe Fits?

Morning! Bo’sun here! Didn’t I do a great job with our fabulous guest yesterday? I know, I’m just brilliant. I tell you all yet about buying a townhouse? The ipod? The…

Hee, hee. Just kidding, 2nd Chance here. We’re messing with the blog this week and everyone is out of whack, schedule wise. For today, pretend it’s Friday. Or don’t, since Friday has been shutting down so quickly lately!


On with the blog!

Well, as most of ya know, I signed a contract yesterday with Decadent Publishing, for The Kraken’s Mirror. Yippee!

I was figuring on something like this happening once Saritza Hernandez, my agent with the Lori Perkins Literary Agency, started shopping my story around…but really didn’t think it would happen so soon… ( No complaints!)

But, I figured on getting ready for marketing, publicizing, promoting more than a month ago. Let’s face it, we all know that authors are expected to do a whole lot of this stuff themselves nowadays. I have a website, and spoke with a wed designer about redoing it back in April, but she was slammed, and nothing is going on just yet. I started a new blog on Typepad which I intend to be my official writer’s blog eventually. (Do come by, it’s called Believing in Second Chances.)

Being the bright and going-for-it pirate writer that I am, I enrolled in an online class called Making Money with Your Writing Blog. I wasn’t really all that gung-ho about making money with my blog, I just wanted to learn how all the other things worked. Like Twitter, Mailing Lists, and all of that. It’s the stiletto heel of classes…

I mean, look at this synopsis!


WEEK 1 - Blogging and Website Basics:
*  A quick overview of Setup, Domain Names, Taglines, and Themes.
*  How to Blog in a way that will bring readers back.
*  How to Blog in a way that appeases the Search Engine Spiders and moves your site up in the rankings.

WEEK 2 - Getting Readers for Free
*  An overview of RSS and Email Subscriptions
*  Social Networking Basics and why Social Networking Works
*  LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook

WEEK 3 - Making Money
*  No-Pressure Money-Making Elements
*  An Overview of Affiliate Income
*  Products that will Make You Money and Help You Sell Your Books

WEEK 4 - More Readers Than Ever Before
*  Building Your Mailing List
*  How to Get Massive Amounts of Traffic
*  How to Keep People Coming Back

Like, wow! The class started first of September and within a week I was doing great. I was dancing the tango, I was learning how to foxtrot…I was…totally overwhelmed with my head spinning and plastered to a wall, eyes wide open and wondering what the hell I’d gotten myself into.

This was so fast! I needed an easier dance shoe!

So, I followed my normal course of action. I hid under the covers and sent an frantic e-mail to the Bo’sun about it. She said, “Relax! You started a blog, your publisher will help you figure out where to go, you don’t have to do it all at once…” Something like that. Very calming and practical.

I love the Bo’sun.

And I realized she is so right. All the stuff in my class that had me freaking out… RSS Feeds, LinkedIn Groups, Plug In Options, Aps and Aps and Aps…and wordtracking…


It’s nuts. And then the bulletin board of people taking the class, over 40 starting chiming in with what they did and how they did and this service and that service and…and…and…


You know, I want to do this right. I want my book to be the start of a career and know I need to be on top of doing it right from the very beginning. But I think I almost need a by-my-side tutor. I’m not ancient and I’m not a total boob with the technical jargon, but I’ve decided to take a step back. And work on making what I have pretty.

Wearing shoes I know I can dance in for now…  I’m going to step back and get the website redone, get a professional to help. Work on learning Twitter. Since Scape got me started in Orland. (It just took me nearly two months to actually get a posting up…) (It sorta scared me…)

So, I’m curious. The crew be from many backgrounds and generations… (I feel so old sometimes…) How do YOU learn this stuff? What do you figure is imperative when it comes to promoting yourself and getting ready for that great call? Come on, you all know my MO, I’m looking for shortcuts! ;-)
Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Best Revenge by Jeanne Adams

AHHOOOOY the Writer's Revenge!  Thanks, Bo'sun, for piping me aboard, and to all and sundry of the Crew for having me back.  I'm betting some of the Romance Bandits swing over in their bucket boots to visit as well, so expect a rockin' ship today.

I confess I was wracking my brain for a topic.  I've been blogging a lot since this new book came out.   I thought about summer vacation - but it's now Fall. (Yipppeeee!)  I thought about food - what's not to love about that? - but I just ate, so I'm full and don't want to think about it for a bit.  Travel?  Work?  Le Sigh, nothing appealed.

There I was, stumped, looking at the Writers Revenge blog on Sunday, despairing that I'd have anything fun to add, admiring all the cool ship-y graphics (not looking at the firemen, no, no, not me!), and sighing. (Again, nothing to do with the firemen.  Really.  Angst.  It was angst, yeah, yeah.) 

And, then, like a falling mast, it came to me!  Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!  Revenge!  What better topic for when you're on the good ship Revenge, than...revenge?  So, I did what any good writer would do when faced with a topic.  I did some research.  Grins.  You wouldn't believe how many fabulous quotes there are about revenge.  Pages of them.  To keep this interesting, and to keep the blood-letting to a minimum, I only picked a few. 

Some people say living well is the best revenge, which is actually a quote from the Talmud (L'Shana Tovah, if you're celebrating this week!).  Others, would probably tell you that burning down the no-good-cheating ex's house would be a good revenge for offenses caused.  Hamlet says, "and where the offense is, let the great axe fall!" (Ouch!  Sharp!)   In yet another play, good ol' Will Shakespeare has characters regret revenge greatly.

More quotes of the literate famous decried revenge than supported it, which surprised me.  Those old Greek and Roman philosophers were pretty big on it, of course.  Very bloodthirsty, those old boys.  In the modern, there was more temperance.  Of Eleanor Roosevelt, one of my personal heroes, author Ralph McGill said, "She got even in a way that was almost cruel.  She forgave them."

Now that's revenge.  Wouldn't it be sweet, in a revenge-y kind of way, if that person who hurt you, deliberately, seriously set OUT to hurt you, came around to gloat over his or her handiwork and found you...happy?  Now, I'm not as heroic as Eleanor.  Forgiving is sometimes hard for me; my motto at times has been "grudges are good!".  Now utterly dismissing someone as beneath my notice, as my own form of getting even?  That, I'm better at.  Shunning is good!  I read a quote from Francis Bacon once that said, "In taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing over revenge, he is superior."

Ohhhh, yeah.  Superior.  I like that.  Or Robert F. Kennedy's famous line, "Don't get mad.  Get even." 

Since beverages are such an important part of visiting the Good Ship Revenge (Glittery Hoohah, anyone?  Chance will fix you riiiiiiight up!), I'll end my quotables with the delightful Charlotte Bronte: "Something of vengeance I had tasted for the first time; as aromatic wine it seemed on swallowing, warm and racy: its after-flavor, metallic and corroding, gave me a sensation as if I had been poisoned."

Drat.  The aftereffects are obviously not healthy.  So, Chance, when you make a drink called Revenge, make sure it has a better after-finish than whatever Charlotte was drinkin'!  (Altho' I understand that all your beverages begin and end with rum, and have rum in the middle, so the finish should be smoooooooooth!)

Okay, okay, sorry, got distracted by the rum.  I hear that happens a lot on the Revenge.  Ahem.  Topic?  Oh, yes,  Revenge.  So, bear with me dear Pirates, for one last quote and I'll really wrap this around to be about the book I just wrote, DEADLY LITTLE SECRETS, which came out last week. 

Seriously.  Promise.

The inimitable Samuel Johnson wrote: "Revenge is an act of passion; vengeance of justice.  Injuries are revenged; crimes are avenged."

Ahhhh, now THAT's a differential of definition, wouldn't you say?  We can admire a hero or heroine who sets out to truly right a dreadful wrong, seeking vengeance.  It's harder to get next to someone who's truly only out for revenge against a petty slight. 

They're fabulous themes, both of them.  I play with both ideas in Deadly Little Secrets and it's sequel, Deadly Little Lies.  Revenge.  What's left when you've found it?  Is it worth everything?  Or nothing?  Vengeance, now that's another thing, and is part of the twist at the end of Deadly Little Secrets. 

The twist not even my editor saw coming. 

Let me just let loose another Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha! here because, of all people, I never, EVER thought I'd pull that twist off, and get it past my I've-seen-it-all editor without her figuring it out.  Grins.  Trust me, when she said "I SO didn't see it coming!" I wanted to open a bottle of champagne because I'd actually pulled it off.  WOOHOOO!  (See, I'm STILL excited about it!)

So, if you've already read the book, no spoilers please!  But let's talk about revenge.  Is it truly worth it?  Or does the Talmud have it right, that living well (and being superior to your "enemies") is the best revenge?  Have you ever plotted revenge and carried it out?  C'mon, give us all the small petty details so we can live vicariously.  (No actual felony confessions, please, we could be libel....)  I also find that creating a revenge in fiction is often SO much more satisfying and a wholllllle lot less messy than doing it in reality.  Getting rid of the bodies after a while, becomes SUCH a chore, whereas the editor LIKES it when there's more pages and a higher body count. 

So spill the beans - but NOT the beverages - and tell me.  What do you think of revenge?  And of vengeance?  Read any good books with either as a theme?  What did you think at the end?

Bo'sun here thanking La Duchesse for this fantastic blog. And to make it even better, Jeanne is offering up one Dark and Deadly Fall giftie package, including a copy of Dark and Deadly, Godiva chocolate, and a coffee card from Starbucks, to one lucky commenter. For more information on Jeanne and her books, click here but be sure to leave a comment first!
Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hottie Fireman

With huge blazes in Detroit and Colorado and San Francisco, our firemen have been working their butts off this week, and they're in need of reinforcements. So I found these Brazilian firefighters to help out. I think that we should sail down to Brazil this week, pick these guys up, and give them a ride. What do you say, Wenches?




p.s. -- I don't understand this last picture. Why are they naked?? And in a line? Not that I'm complaining, really.

We have an exciting line up this week, starting with

guest Jeanne Adams, whose romantic suspense, Deadly Little Secrets, cane out this week! Now that is a sexy cover. I think she deserves a Brazilian firefighter too, don't you?

And The Booty Goes To...


Congrats, Julie, you are the winner of a beautiful new, author-signed, copy of Love In A Garden of Love & Evil!! Just send me your snail mail addy to DJTLO AT YAHOO DOT COM and I'll forward it on to Barbara. Thanks again to Barbara Monajem for being such a great guest and to everyone who stopped by.

Lots of great guests still to come this month, including the fantabulous Jeanne Adams on Monday!
Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Subtle Details

I had a different blog planned for today, than Hal sparked some ideas for me with her blog yesterday. She was talking about Keep It Simple, Stupid. What I want to chat about it more how to avoid simple and explain subtle.

For example, I’ve been told a few times that my heroines aren’t realistic, don’t inspire sympathy. Basically, that there is too much distance. Sigh.

How to build a bridge across the gap I keep writing without needing to build a basic step by step bridge. I like my heroines to have some hard to pin down mystery to them. They aren’t obvious about their wounds, but they are definitely wounded.

Wounds are difficult to diagnose sometimes, and even more difficult to show as opposed to tell. If I could take the words and discuss Post Traumatic Stress Disorder…but I can’t.

In the public eye, PTSD has been sold as something very obvious. An extreme reaction to loud noises, a paranoia, a phobia regarding public exposure, aggressiveness…all fight or flight reactions. Hide out, can’t step outside into life…

When I was diagnoses with PTSD I did a lot of reading up on the disorder. And I discovered a third reaction. Freeze. Between fight, flight and freeze, most victims of PTSD hover. And over the course of months of therapy I came to understand that PTSD is mainly about protection.

For some, this means flight. Run like hell. Easy aspect to depict in a heroine. Easy to show a tendency to avoid and run when confronted with something threatening. (Can be harder to really communicate that what one person sees as threatening, another doesn’t see at all…but it can be done!)

For others, this means fight. Nails and claw, fang and fury. Oh, yeah. Great things to show. Anything threatening, scary, challenging and wham-bam-slam. I’ve added in some bits of fight. (Hard not to when dealing with post-apocalyptic worlds, for example!)

Now, freeze. Well, that was an interesting thing to read up on. Basically, we’re all gazelles and on the Serengeti there are lions. When the lions attack, we kick like a pissed off five year old. Or we run as if Beelzebub himself is at our heels. Or once those fangs touch us, we freeze. We play dead, we go limp. Part of the way instincts protect us from the inevitable crunch… But! Also the way our instincts try to buy us space and time. Maybe that lion will drop us, thinking we’re dead. Yawn, stretch…look away and maybe, just maybe, we’ll have a chance to dart to our speedy little hooves and get the hell off the plain.

Hard to really show freeze in a character. It’s a passive reaction. It’s also sneaky. And in humans, freeze can appear as floating. Floating above all the drama, all the decisions, all the self-examination that life can present. It’s all about how PTSD protects the individual from the reality of trauma induced difficulties.

I suffered sudden cardiac death and never had a real diagnosis. I had no idea if it could happen again. So, my body/mind threw up walls of defense. I floated. I floated through the implantation of my interior cardio defibrillator. I floated above my father’s death 10 weeks after my sudden cardiac death. I floated for months.


Until the panic attack. According to my therapist, the protective nature of my PTSD was breaking apart and the delayed reactions of the months before hit me. Instinct was kicking in that…maybe, just maybe, the lion’s attention had drifted? Seemed as good a possibility as anything else!

But, how does a writer show that to a reader? How does a writer show that the passiveness isn’t really about being passive? That it’s about protection and it isn’t deliberate.

I have characters that suffer from the freeze aspect of a mild form of PTSD. Trauma isn’t always blatant and everyone has a different tolerance level for traumas. Blatant trauma would be easy. Subtle? Not easy. And frankly, part of the difficulty is that my story flirts with comedy.

I admit, I do have aspects of my character that are deliberately passive. She’s a very go with the flow woman. She has never been one to challenge the status quo. She’s had few friends and skated through life content with what happens. She’s a bit of a follower. She doesn’t react, she reflects and then responds.

Sigh. These are not easy things to show in a MS! Without telling. Or without info dumping. I’ve considered a few elements I can insert. A few small examples…but I don’t want to hit the reader over the head.

Any suggestions? Anyone else every dealt with troubling subtle elements that are foundational to your character? And is this all too confusing for a Friday blog? Maybe we should all just have a drink… And celebrate the offer on my book. The book with the character I need to make more sympathetic. Oh, bother! ;-)


And huzzahs for the Bo’sun! Woman’s World is on the shelves with her story in it! Let’s all rush out and buy ten!
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Keep it simple, Gene Simmons

We all know the KISS acronym: Keep it Simple, Stupid. I had a "well, duh" moment with this while writing recently.

I mean, really, it's not a difficult concept. As implied by its title, even the stupidest person should be able to grasp it. But somehow, it often slips my mind. And this is never so obvious to me as when I'm fighting with a piece of description.

When I'm trying to describe something, I have a tendency to pile up my descriptors. And the more I struggle with it, the more I add to it, just to make sure the reader understands *precisely* what I mean.

But often, adding more description doesn't necessarily give the reader a clearer image. Sometimes it only muddies up the water.

Sometimes what's necessary is to strip it down, pull away all the excess, and leave only that one, telling detail. The simple detail.

I was working on an antagonistic exchange between my heroine and an important secondary female character recently. I wanted to make sure the reader understood that even though the dialog wasn't overtly rude, Noami (heroine) had very deliberately (if subtlety) insulted Josephine, and Jo knew it. I started going into detail after detail, describing first the tone of Naomi's voice, then the tightening of Josephine's eyes, then the way she paused before replying.

And the more detail I added, the more the subtly and tone of the original insult got lost. The interaction was muddled, and the more detail I added, the worse it got.

And I thought, aha! Delete!! Apparently, adding on more and more is just my way of coping when I don't know how to fix a scene. Deleting a few sentences here and there, pulling out the fluff to let the true tone and subtly come through -- that can be much more effective.

So what about you? When you get stuck, what do you automatically do? Pile on more, or start deleting? Does it work for you, or just make the problem worse? Ever had one of those moments where you said, Oh, duh! And did the opposite?
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Up the Creek...

“In Fate's Hands” The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus (Don't You Fake This, 2006)

I never really put much thought into what goes into making it through a day. I spent a lot of mornings in a mindless routine maintained to get me through the motions until I'm awake. This does include driving to work. For a person who lives on two hours of sleep a night, my mindless routine is what gets me going and keeps one foot in front of another until I wake up enough to bite someone's head off at work. But routine doesn't write in for disasters or little nuisances that pop up unexpectedly. The blown out tire on a two lane road with no shoulders. The down phone lines. The Internet connection that is no longer functioning. The brand new sparkly computer systems that can't seem to operate with the damned network you built. The Admin password that doesn't seem to work. The patient who feels they can be 30 minutes late and are still entitled to take another patient's spot because it's not their fault. A clearinghouse that can't seem to make your format work. The DR who sees it's sunny out and wants to play golf at lunch but needs to do his charts. None of these little disasters are built into a routine, yet as it springs up you take care of it. This is built into your character. You're programmed to head off disaster as it raises it's ugly head.

Now, not all characters are built to handle multitasking situations that arise out of routine. Some characters abhor routine. Each day is a different day filled with something that's not on a list, that's not a usual task to be taken care of and is stimulating to the character. These characters find themselves in more trouble than they can handle because they weren't looking for it. It's just the opposite. Trouble was out looking for them. These characters can look at this misfortune in two different ways. The character can either behave lackadaisical and pretend it's not happening. Or the character might think bad stuff always happens to them and Karma is out to get them. Either way, coping with the disaster is merely another adventure they absorb themselves in. It doesn't really get solved. The disaster somehow becomes a part of their daily life.

Then you have the characters who believe their shit don't stink. There is nothing they can't control. Nothing bad could ever happen to them. And why would it? Obviously, life is exactly what they've made it. When disaster strikes (what am I saying, disaster NEVER strikes these sort of characters! <snicker snort>) the disaster is quickly assessed and dealt with by pawning it off on someone else. But if you never deal with your own disasters as they come up and you let them stock pile in the corner, what do you think will happen? Exactly. The damned pile falls over on top of you and all hell breaks loose.

While I may not think about the never ending pile of stuff that ends up on top of me, I sure as hell give it thought when writing up my story. If only one bad thing is happening to your main character, they are getting off too easy. I can't remember the last time only one situation cropped up on me during the day. Try fifty. In one day. Why should my characters get off easier than me? No way. Don't think while my character is being blackmailed by one bad guy, she's not going to get blackmailed by the hero. And not to mention she's got a stalker and an “accidental” sister who shows up at her office 8 months pregnant and no where to live. And this all happens in one day. Can you imagine waking up to that day? Hell no. But that's why I'm writing it and not waking up to it.

The point is to make your characters live to their breaking point and push them one step past it. If you can't feel the character's frustration and disbelief at the day they are having, then maybe you need to have their roof collapse in on top of them. Or if you're Janet Evanovich, bring a monkey into it. Whatever suits your fancy. I'm an equal opportunity chaos distributor.

Now, what chaos do you like to distribute onto your characters? What pushes you past your breaking point? Have you read any books lately where the disasters seemed to get the best of the character?
Monday, September 6, 2010

The Pantser's Lament with Barbara Monajem

Lately I’ve been babysitting my daughter’s dog. He’s a great dog, but it hasn’t taken him long to size me up. I’m a pushover, and he knows it. I feed him when he begs. I scratch his belly when he asks me to. I let him wander where he wants on our walks. The truth is, I’m too lazy to argue. I was the same way with my kids, but kids can be reasoned with. They understand what you’re saying. They can learn the value of mutual consideration. (Don’t laugh. I’m serious! My kids turned out amazingly well, considering.) Dogs, on the other hand, only understand who’s in charge, and given the option, they’d rather be it. Lately, I’ve had to fight back, because the alternative was rolling over and giving in to his every doggy demand.

By nature, I’m a seat-of-the-pants kind of writer. I love starting with an idea or a character and just jumping into the story to see where it takes me. This is what happened with Sunrise in a Garden of Love & Evil. I’d just read Dracula, after which I was gung-ho to write a vampire romance – but not about someone who was sort of dead. (Undead, to me, equals bad breath. Not romantic!) So I chucked all the aspects of vampirism I didn’t like and found myself writing about a female vampire whose fangs, irresistible sexuality, and taste for blood were all genetic. The story practically wrote itself, and Ophelia’s added characteristics, such as healing saliva and enhanced senses, came to me as the story progressed.

Unfortunately, most stories don’t come that easily.  The flying into the wind part does, but more often than not, it gets me into big trouble. Sure, lots of cool stuff shows up en route, but unfortunately, much of it takes the form of complications and plot twists. On the other hand, if I try to plan a story ahead of time – make lists of characteristics, draw up an outline of what will happen and why – it feels awfully uninspired.  I need to learn how to soar by the seat of my imagination while remaining at least somewhat tethered to practicality. I realized this last week after a brief, enlightening conversation with an editor in London, who pinpointed exactly what was wrong with the plot-heavy historical short story I’d sent her and told me (in the form of a polite suggestion) precisely what I should do to fix it. Her idea was both brilliant and simple.  Duh. Thank God for editors. They make all the difference.

I had a similar problem with Tastes of Love and Evil, my recent paranormal release. It’s about another female vampire, but the first version had so many loose ends that I had to make the wrong character (neither the hero nor the heroine) save the day in order to drag all the ends together.  No way was I handing that mess to an editor, so I rewrote the dang thing, but it still needed a lot of editorial input and several rewrites of the ending before it was finally finished. What was I doing wrong?

Well. My daughter’s dog taught me the answer, so our struggle for domination, although exhausting for me, wasn’t entirely useless. I hadn’t realized the nature of my muse, so I was treating her all wrong. Quite frankly, my muse is a bitch. Treat her with consideration and reverence, and she’ll roll all over me. She has fun ideas, such as a different take on vampires, and sometimes she’ll hand me a story ready-made – but she’ll also use every trick in her repertoire to make sure things go her way. If the plot takes a wrong turn, she solves it by adding another twist. She’ll turn a short story premise into a full length plot, and a full-length into a multi-volume saga.  She doesn’t let up until it’s past deadline, everything has gone to hell, and I’m finally focused on the simplest way to get the damned job done.  Then she goes on vacation until the next project begins.

It’s hard to believe, but I have to learn to CONTROL my muse. “Down muse, down! NOT NOW!”

Not only that, I have to know WHEN to restrain her and when to let her off the leash.  This isn’t going to be easy, so I’m asking you all – how do you manage your muse?

PS: Bo'sun here. To learn more about Barbara and her books, check out her website here. Her's is the only vampire book I've ever read, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Click on either cover above to go straight to Amazon.

PPS: I totally forgot to mention that Barbara has been gracious enough to offer up a signed copy of Sunrise In A Garden of Love & Evil to one lucky commenter!