Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Scenic Routes

Influences this week: Snow, snow, snow, snow! (It's snowing while I write this.), hot liquid caffeine usually in the form of cappuccino, and Kevin Matisyn's Eclipsed.

Too Lazy to upload my own

Congrats to our very own DRD for becoming a winner of the 2010 National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo. It took a lot of grit, determination, and steady hours of fingers to the keyboard, but you did it! I'm so proud of you DRD!!

I spent last month writing. I started out writing what I thought was to be the first of Kiki's three book series. The first scene was really vivid in my mind. She wakes up to three goons hovering over her bed just before dawn. Kiki is used to trouble. Tory, her best friend, has a saying about Kiki. “Trouble follows you.” Incidentally, my BFF says this about me. Even bought me a shirt with it blazoned across the front of it.

The goons are just delivering a message. Kiki is not who the boss wants. Someone important to Kiki's past is who the boss wants. Her husband. The last time Kiki saw her husband- after he shot her father. Not exactly on speaking terms, you see.

But how did I get to that point?

I'm not quite sure.

I wrote quite a bit more. All the way to another of my favorite very vivid mental scenes. The confrontation.

“What's in it for me?”

“A divorce.”

Excellent motivation if you ask me. I'd dance with the devil for a chance like that. Kiki says about that much as well. Unlikely partners with unlikely motivation. My favorite type of writing.

The next thing I saw was how her sisters were kidnapped. That was a dream. The kind of dream you wake up in a cold sweat and not quite sure what the hell happened. This is also the kind of dream you can kick the ass of your chosen bedmate and not realize it until they are screaming at you for kicking them in the ribs because it really really hurts.

So then I wrote the scene of how Kiki finds out the twins are missing. And I go from there and realize there is an entire book before the one I started out in. In one week Kiki realizes her life is one big lie surrounded by millions of tiny white ones. It was so incredible to watch play out in my mind. And like Terri said yesterday, nothing is as great as what you see the first time in your mind as you're writing it. My job is to do a good enough job to make you visualize what I saw, continue to see as I'm writing. All these questions started coming up in my mind, the plot bunnies fornicated and multiplied at alarming rates until I thought I might lose control.

So while I didn't hit THE END on my novel by the end of November, like planned, it doesn't mean the whole month was a waste. In this case, the scenic route helped me, as the writer, better understand my character and the path she's on. I like to think this is helping me create a better novel for you to read and make me a better crafter.

Does anyone else have a problem with plot bunnies? Those suckers will dry hump just about anything. Especially blank pages. What happened to you in the month of November? Did you write, read, shop, gab, jab, climb a tree, marry a lumberjack, kiss a sailor? Let's make up great stories about our month to relieve some of the stress of the upcoming holidays. Or just tangent. I like tangents.
Monday, November 29, 2010

Warning: Elements Are Closer Than They Appear

I spent many years of my childhood playing softball. If you ever played as a child, you know every rookie paid their dues standing around in the outfield. But not me. I was a catcher almost from the start.

Basically, I had issues.

Standing in the outfield, the distance to home plate looked like four miles from my young point of view. The pitcher would arc the ball through the air (this was slow pitch, of course) and off the bat it would soar. Heaven forbid it head in my direction. When it did, I would charge forward only to have the ball land several feet behind me. On the next one, I’d run back, back, back, and the ball would drop barely out of the infield.

No depth perception.

This affliction still haunts me today. Yesterday, while my Golden Heart entry was printing, I pulled out a thin manila envelope and printed off a label. For those who don’t know, the GH requires sending six copies of both the synopsis and partial MS. At 55 pages together, that’s 330 pages.

Again, no depth perception. One UPS box later, the entry was ready to go.

Turns out, this depth perception thing applies to writing as well. An idea for a scene pops into the air and I start charging in. Inevitably, I look up from the keyboard and all the good stuff has flown right over my head. I try again and take it way back, certain I’m really catching the emotion and depth of these characters, and all I get is a big thud – it falls short.

If a better writer were handling this blog, this is when she’d start dishing out solutions. This is where you’d find the big pay off. Unfortunately for you, I am NOT a better writer.

My plan is to keep writing and hope I can practice my way out of this dilemma. But I’m sure you guys know all kinds of tips and tricks that I don’t. How do you manage to see your story, get it on the page, and not miss the mark? Is there an author that comes to mind who manages to hit the perfect balance every time?
Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nothing Grim About These Fairy Tales--A Little Bedtime Reading With Lila DiPasqua

*camera zoom on huge four poster bed with vivid (and lurid) purple sheets and comforter, trimmed in gold. In the center of the bed is the always fabulous Captain Jack Sparrow, wearing silky pajamas with pirate duckies on them; he’s got a stuffed bear with an eye patch in one arm and a bottle of rum in the other hand*

JACK: *gesturing with his bottle of rum* Good evenin’, pirates and FOPs to another Fabulous Interview with the Fabulous Captain Jack Sparrow. Tonight’s guest, the incomparable Ms. Lila DiPasqua, is going to read us a story….

LILA: I will not read you Love You Forever again. I’ve read it to you ten times already. You quoted the last page—

JACK: *scowling and waving a ‘shushing’ hand* I meant one of your fairy tales, Lila. *settles back into the pillows, pats a place beside him, grins roguishly* I wanted you to tell me one of them. Something out of The Princess in His Bed. I always like a fair princess, provided she doesn’t need to be rescued or anything.

LILA: Which one?

JACK: I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me more about each one and I’ll pick one.

LILA:  Okay.  But I’m not sitting on that bed with you.  I’m fine right here on this chair. *smoothes blue taffeta skirts and yanks up slipping bodice* Where in the world did you find those pajamas, anyway? *shakes head* Never mind.  I’d rather not know.  Now, what was the question?  Oh, yes, about my Fiery Tales in THE PRINCESS IN HIS BED.  I’ve taken three classic fairy tales, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Ugly Ducking and The Princess and the Pea and scandalously retold and renamed them, The Marquis’ New Clothes, The Lovely Duckling and The Princess and the Diamonds.  Yup, that means you get three hot historical heroes in one book!

The Marquis’ New Clothes—Tall dark and sexy, Adam de Vey, Marquis de Nattes has a penchant for fine clothes and beautiful women.  And an abundance of both!  Unknown to him, he also has a stolen ring in his pocket.  Aimee de Miran must get it back.  In order to search his pockets, Aimee must get very close to Adam and intends to seduce the libertine.  She doesn’t know Adam has wanted her for years.  And that he has a seduction of his own planned!

In The Lovely Duckling, I didn’t take a heroine who just needed some dressing up.  The fire that claimed the lives of Emilie de Sarron’s parents, left scars on her body. Emilie has put up with horrible taunts and cruel names all her life.  Worse, at her introduction into society, she was horribly teased and publicly humiliated—the hero, Joseph, regrettably a part of this fiasco.  It was the final straw.   For ten years, Emilie withdrew from society.  Now she’s back and she’s determined to grab a bit of bliss—albeit strictly physical.  Believing love and marriage are unattainable, she’s convinced that at least a physical encounter is doable.  How?  Well, she’s going to use the anonymity of a masquerade—orgiastic—ball in order to find a willing lover, and indulge. She never expected that the very man she gives herself to is none other than Joseph.

Mathias de Tesson, Marquis de Montfort (The Princess and the Diamonds)—is a former gambler. A man who’d always enjoyed vice. Now a spy for the Crown, he is working on enforcing the ban the King has placed on Basset—a card game that has brought about the ruin of many noble families.  The problem is, he can’t seem to unravel the mystery surrounding the lady who keeps showing up at the gaming den, gambles with pea-sized diamonds and dresses as a man.  He sees through her disguise.  He knows how to melt her icy façade.  Too bad he doesn’t know the woman, whom he has deliciously debauched, is none other than the King’s own daughter.

JACK: This is difficult. *takes a drink of rum* It will require some thinking on my part. The Marquis’ New Clothes is compelling—I always admire the fine fit of a velvet jacket; and I can’t resist a shy maiden, since every woman has her charms. *another roguish glance* But The Princess and the Diamonds, a girl who enjoys something hard in her bed and comes with her own wealth? That’s the clear winner. Which of these stories is your favorite?

LILA: *noticing the roguish leer, yanks up her bodice a little higher and crosses her arms over her chest*.  I don’t have a favorite.  I love them all, for different reasons.  I couldn’t choose a favorite among them.

JACK: I see the problem. It would be like asking me to pick my favorite bottle of rum. 1794 cask of stolen rum from The Falcon. You know. If you pressed a gun against my head or anything. But seriously how did you get into this fairy tale twisting?

LILA: I was raised reading fairy tales.  I fell in love with historical romance at age fourteen. And I took my love of fairy tales, history and passionate love stories, and blended them into steamy yet romantic anthologies in AWAKENED BY A KISS and THE PRINCESS IN HIS BED (books one and two in my Fiery Tales series).  Though the characters and settings might differ in my stories, you can always expect to find a sinfully seductive rake, a strong smart heroine who will make him lose his heart and scorching-hot love scenes that will leave you breathless. Prepare to be swept up and scandalized!  Ahem…*smoothes hands over her skirts again, unnerved by the rakish gleam in Jack’s eyes*

JACK: What stories will you be trying your hand at twisting next? Any pirates for your bedchamber perhaps?

LILA: No pirates this time.  Sorry, Jack.  My next hero, Jules de Moutier is devilishly handsome, drop-dead sexy and a former officer of the King’s Navy in my first full-length Fiery TaleA MIDNIGHT DANCE—out August 2011!!  A steamy retelling of Cinderella—as it’s never been done before!  It will be just as romantic and steamy as AWAKENED BY A KISS and THE PRINCESS IN HIS BED with one sinfully seductive rake and a strong smart heroine who will make her prince lose his heart.  Or his silver.  Whichever comes first.  Here is a small blurb:


Berkley (Sensation)

Historical Romance

Aug. 2011

Inspired by the tale of Cinderella, Lila DiPasqua weaves a steamy story that offers a glass slipper, a dangerous deception, and an impoverished beauty determined to find her handsome prince…and make him pay.

JACK: What is your Call Story? And what advice would you give any struggling writers?

LILA: I actually never got “the call”.  My agent sent me “the email”.  We’d been emailing back and forth that day about various projects.  Then about mid-afternoon my agent sent me another email.  I opened it, read it and screamed.  It was summer vacation and my kids where home.  Startled, they came running into my office.  After assuring them that I hadn’t fallen, seen a spider or lost my mind – I reread the email three more times before I was sure I’d read it correctly.  Berkley was interested in my historical romance AWAKENED BY A KISS!  It took a few more days until the deal was finalized.  I officially sold to Berkley the day before I was to attend the Romance Writers of America conference.  I packed, jumped on a plane, and arrived in Washington still reeling.  I had an amazing time at the conference.  It was such a thrill getting to meet my wonderful editor and agent in person!

My advice to writers is: Write what you love. Also, keep working on your craft and believe in your gut instincts when it comes to your story.  Don’t second guess yourself.  Lastly, never, ever give up.  You can never get published, otherwise.   :)

JACK: And final question before I turn you over to the crew: it’s a rainy Saturday and you’re curled up on the couch in your pjs, reading a book and sipping on something warm. What’s the book, what are you drinking, and what kind of pjs are you wearing?

LILA:  Ah…what do you mean, “turn me over to the crew”?  They’re all Johnny Depp/Orlando Bloom look-alikes, right? *lifts a brow as she contemplates walking the plank if the answer is, “No”*.  To answer your questions, I’d be reading a history book—geeky of me, I know, but I love history!  I’d be drinking coffee and I’m wearing my pink pjs.  Just plain pink.  Sans the duckies.

QUESTION: What would *your* answer be to Jack’s question: it’s a rainy Saturday and you’re curled up on the couch in your pjs, reading a book and sipping on something warm. What’s the book, what are you drinking, and what kind of pjs are you wearing?

GIVEAWAY: Today I’m adding some extra, totally fun stuff to my giveaway!! YAY!

One lucky commenter will…

1. Not only win a copy of THE PRINCESS IN HIS BED…

2.  You also get a copy of STUD MUFFINS (the tagline to this book reads: Luscious. Delectable. Yummy…and Good Muffin Recipes, too!) This book is a total treat!  *grins*

3.  Oh, and that’s not all….in celebration of the holiday season, I’m also adding a Christmas ornament—a pretty Cinderella slipper for your tree…Did I mention I’ll be signing the ornament?

Giveaway is open WORLDWIDE.

A Fiery Tales Collection

By Lila DiPasqua


Historical Romance

Berkley (Sensation) 

ISBN: 978-0425237007


Inspired by “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “The Ugly Duckling, and “The Princess and the Pea,” Lila DiPasqua spins three sexy tales that give new meaning to the term bedtime story…

The Marquis’ New Clothes: To save her cousin, Aimee de Miran must retrieve a jeweled ring from the most sinfully seductive man at court, the Marquis de Nattes. But to search his considerable wardrobe she’ll have to get very close to the notorious rake…and soon she finds herself very close to him indeed, with his clothes—and hers—utterly forgotten…

The Lovely Duckling: Reputed for his carnal skills, Joseph d’Alumbert prefers amorous encounters without emotional entanglement—until a quick-witted lady stirs tender feelings and hot desire. Emilie de Sarron suffered burns to her body as an infant, and keeps her scars—and her heart—well hidden. But Joseph is determined to peel away her inhibitions, one slow steamy kiss at a time, to reveal the beautiful swan inside…

The Princess and the Diamonds: Princess Gabrielle can’t sleep at night. There is something hard in her bed. No, not just the stolen diamonds tucked under her mattress, but the handsome Marquis on it….whose carnal talents she can’t resist. But he threatens her secret mission, and worse, she stands to lose far more than the diamonds---her heart is at stake….

“…Strong-minded heroines you can relate to, breathtaking carnally gifted male leads…DiPasqua writes with a comfortable elegance and grace, and in turn, crafts a sexy collection that readers will love.” – Fresh Fiction.

“Ripe with steamy affairs, these lusty stories are hot enough to warm the coldest winter night.” – Publishers Weekly

Allow me to introduce you to my sexy rake, Adam de Vey, Marquis de Nattes.  Read an excerpt from The Marquis’ New Clothes in THE PRINCESS IN HIS BED – http://www.liladipasqua.com/princessbook.html

Read a juicy excerpt of AWAKNED BY A KISS—


About the Author:

Lila DiPasqua writes wicked & witty historical romance for Penguin/Berkley. She lives with her real-life hero husband and three children and is a firm believer in the happily-ever-after. She loves history and enjoys traveling. She has been to four continents so far. Her novels, AWAKENED BY A KISS, and THE PRINCESS IN HIS BED are featured in Doubleday as well as Rhapsody Book Clubs.  To learn more about Lila and her books, visit www.LilaDiPasqua.com
Saturday, November 27, 2010

Window Dressing

I’m a big fan of HGTV. I especially enjoy The Antonio Treatment. Antonio is a previous winner of HGTV’S Designer Star reality show. In this show, unknown designers compete to win their own show on HGTV. Antonio can be a little over the top, but I love his originality. He recently made over a vintage clothing store in a 1930’s retro theme. He pulled off an eclectic, but beautiful transformation. The shop windows were my favorite part of his design. They took me back to a time that now seems extinct. Downtown shopping, unless you live in a large city, is a thing of the past. I remember back in the day, when a shop window could tell a story with decorative design. As much as I enjoy mall shopping, nothing beats the intimate feel of downtown shopping.

I’m sure you’re wondering how this has anything to do with Sunday hotties. Well, picture these hotties in a shop window near you. Happy Holidays!
Thursday, November 25, 2010

Black Friday Revenge Style

That’s right, it’s Black Friday. That crazy day when calm, polite people turn into an angry, elbow wielding mob charging through box store aisles in a battle for the last super-duper, I-Don’t-Need-This-But-It’s-FOUR DOLLARS deal. I want to save as much money as the next broke writer, but I’m not climbing out of bed in the middle of the night to stand in line for a television at the butt-crack of dawn. Uh uh.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a sale. In fact, we’re having a blow out of epic proportions all day long. (Epic might be overstating it, but I’m going with it.) What are we selling, you might ask? Not what you’re expecting – since I assume you’re expecting me to say rum. Nope, the rum is always free on this boat.

What we’re selling today is writing elements. The decks are covered with heroes, heroines, settings, plot twists, and, of course, more tropes than you can shake a keyboard at.

Here’s what you do. Peruse the shelves, throw the elements you want into your basket, then share what you threw together. Think of it like Romance Mad Libs.

Heroes – There are some hero elements that are a given. Tall. That’s a given. Hung. Well, that goes without saying. But there are lots of parts that are up for grabs. *ignores snickering* We’ve got alphas, betas, gammas, brooding silent types, suave dandies with rapier wit, geeks who secretly lift weights, and mysterious men hiding a dangerous second life.

Heroines – This is the girl we all want to be. But, we all want to be something different, which means a vast selection in this section. Wallflowers in the back, Femme Fatales up front, professional women, conservatives hiding a bad girl, sex kittens trying to reform, the girl next door whose sworn off men, the girl next door on the hunt for a man, and the diamond of the first water all here.

Settings – Clearly, we couldn’t fit all possible settings onto the ship. But we did manage to fit a few general ones. London. (That takes care of historicals.) Big city, small town, smaller town, alternate universe, secluded mountain cabin, tropical island, south of France, Italian villa, Arabian palace, wild frontier, and the Australian Outback.

Tropes – These are the life blood of what we do. The tried and true snatches of reality that make a story relatable for the readers. The Bluestocking reforming the Rake, the peasant winning her prince, the CEO cut down to size by love, the wild cougar/were/panther tamed by love, the girl/boy next door saving the world, beauty and the beast, and a bonus special, two-for-one secret baby special.

Plot twists – These are what make the tropes more interesting. The twists and turns that make the story ours and make the reader to sit up and say, “Man, I didn’t see that coming at all!” These are the big ticket items, so you might want to get another basket at this point. The sidekick who turns out to be evil is a favorite. The ex-wife who turns out NOT to be so ex is always problematic. The mother whose not the mother, the time-travel portal in the mirror, the stowaway under the carriage seat, the match-making albino kraken (for you Chancey!), the cop with a private agenda, the title-coveting great-uncle, and we could never forget the secret passage behind the bookcase.

Endings – HEA. (Don’t worry, we have an unlimited supply of these.)

Okay, the gangplank is open and the sale is on. Pick your poison and tell us what you’re slipping into your basket. It’s a good bet the shelves will clear quick, so feel free to throw in anything we forgot and we’ll add it to the inventory.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, Crew!

We here on the Revenge have pulled into port and are enjoying turkey, trimmings, and pie with our families.  We hope that all of you out there have a wonderful Thanksgiving.   We're thankful for you, our readers and commenters.  Without you, we would have no reason to do this.  So thank you for stopping by!

What are you thankful for this year?
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Three Simple Ways to Make Your Writing Just Like Everyone Else's

  1. Slavishly, ruthlessly, and decisively remove ALL adverbs

  2. Write lean

  3. Follow every single writing rule on every single writing blog by every single writing expert

It's easy to forget that the current rules for writing are the ones that are in vogue NOW, at this particular moment in time.  These haven't always been the rules, and it's a pretty good bet they won't always BE the rules.

Even the title I used is a slave to the current "rule" for blog titles:  Always use a number.  Catchy titles don't work.  I suspect this rule will change as soon as everyone adopts it, because if everyone does it, it won't be unique or eye-catching anymore.  The new rule will be "Never use a number in your title", and then it will change back when some subversive type decides to break that particular writing regulation.

I understand the allure of writing rules, because it creates the illusion that if you just follow them, without question, you can stay on the straight-and-narrow path to publication without suffering any of the pitfalls or heartbreak everyone else is enduring.

But if there were only one way to tell a story, we wouldn't need storytellers.  Anyone could plug the elements that interest them into the Instamatic Easy Bake Story Machine, and their book would pop out in minutes, perfectly conforming to the one-size-fits-all storytelling recipe.

That's how we wrote essays in school, right?  You needed an opening paragraph to say what you're gonna say, and a closing paragraph saying what you just said, and then a couple paragraphs in the middle to say what you have to say.  You just picked a topic and followed these rules and you were done in no time at all.

The obvious complaint about rules is how it makes everything feel regimented, with little room for experimentation, or even creativity.   The bigger problem is it tends to blandify or homogenize the writing, obliterating anything that smacks of an original voice.  It's as if the writer is always self-consciously asking, "Am I doing this right?", which doesn't leave a lot of room for fresh storytelling.

At that point, it doesn't matter whose name is on the cover because there is nothing to distinguish one author from another.  It would be easier to title it "A Story by A Writer".

Not surprisingly, the "rules" often conflict with each other.  

For example, the "Write Lean" rule appeals to a reader too busy to enjoy elegant or evocative prose, so a story has to be fast-paced, action-packed, and grab-em-by-the-throat compelling.  Yet the "Adverbs Not Welcome Here" rule is designed to immerse the reader in a story, giving them a richer, multi-sensory experience that the previous generation's "telling" style cannot.

So speed things up with one rule, and slow them down with another.   It's no wonder that writers go completely bonkers.

Just to be clear, I do understand the need for law and order when it comes to writing.  My ranting against the multitude of rules is because they too often inhibit my creative impulses, or make me second-guess the words that do emerge.

However, I also believe in amendments, and repeals, and other things that clarify the reason for the rules of writing.  They are there to serve the story, not be an impediment to it.  They should make things better, not create a new form of pandemonium. 

If not, it would make more sense to spend our time making up rules rather than stories.

So what makes your writing YOURS?  How is it different from the other stories out there?  What made you decide you had to write THIS story?  Which writing rule is your favorite one to break?
Monday, November 22, 2010

The Steampunk Convention


By popular demand, I’m going with this on Black Friday instead of my general whine about the holidays. (Yes, Quantum is the popular demander. And he’s such a sweetheart, I bowed to his demands.) (And I know, it’s Tuesday because I switched with Terrio… Confused yet?)

I don’t really want to try to define steampunk, I’m gonna list the panels I went to and see what the crew can extrapolate from the topics! (I love being evil.)

I went to 7 hours of steampunk panels, five specifically on writing. And it was really interesting!

First was Becoming A Writer. Pretty basic stuff but interesting to hear the three writers speak of their path to publication. From a right out of college English major who started with fanfic (hear this, Sin?) and was bought with her first original urban fantasy. She has a ton of books pubbed now. In fact, over a dozen. Then there was the scifi guy, who waited eleven years for his first novel sale, but sold a lot of short stores before that. And he was one of the first to talk about how he wished his books were classified as romance, since that sells the best. (hee, hee!) The mystery author said her path was seven years long. Why were these three at this con? They all had crossed in and out of what is considered steampunk.

Then I went to Magic in Steampunk. Wow! This was fascinating and gave me some real ideas for another blog. So, I’m not going to talk much about this here. It was good.


I spent a fascinating hour listening to a scholar speak of The NeoVictorian Retrofuture. He was interesting, the subject was wonderful and again, gave me food for a future blog. I will share this right now… His take on what makes a book fit into the aesthetic of steampunk is one of three elements. One, technofantasy. Two, neo-victorian. And three, retrofuture.

(I can see a bunch of pirates at this point, pulling out their cutlass and coming at me with fire in their eyes. Here! Have a nice big tankard of techno-neo-future rum!)

The Future of Steampunk Publication was an okay panel. The three people leading it had left careers working for a big bookstore chain and started their own publishing house. What made this panel new for me was they all felt that what steampunk needed to gain recognition and survive into the future (the real future, not the retrofuture) was an official writers guild. Along the lines of the Mystery Writers of America or the RWA. (hee, hee!)

What Makes A Novel Steampunk covered ground I’d already heard, but had a few interesting new bits of info…the idea that ‘punk’ came from the a reaction to authority, which could take part as rebellion, resistance or ignoring authority in general. (Piratepunk, anyone!?)


The next was a bit mind-numbing. Effects of Victorian Industrialization. The three scholars on the panel addressed the reality of the Victorian age and how it impacted the world, both negatively and positively. One of the scholars was a specialist in the American partner to Victorian England. The Guilded Age, with the years before and after. One thing I got from this was the entire concept that because people were reacting to the strict rules of the Victorian Age…one could say this is where woman’s rights was born, children’s rights, and the concept of the rights of the working man. So…give credit where credit is due?

On my last morning, I crawled out of bed and made the Character or Setting panel. Which in the first ten minutes consisted of three authors, their spouses…and me! We were preparing to adjourn to the coffee shop and chat when seven more people wandered in. Drat! Again, another wonderfully diverse group of authors on the panel, two who also wrote romance and will be at RT! This panel ended up meandering about the topic of the setting as a character and touched on the idea of plausibility verses reality when inventing contraptions for your characters to fiddle with. Like a clockwork horse that must be wound up in the middle of a chase. (hee, hee)

All in all, my brain got a workout. My eyes feasted on costumes that were amazing. I ordered a custom made under-the-bust corset and picked up a frippery to give away during Decadent Publishing’s special Holiday blog month. I froze my nose and my toes objected to the new shoes (though not until I’d worn them for six hours, so not bad!) and I got no writing done.

Just still wa-a-a-a-a-a-ay too tired from my shingles.

Next year will be better. The theme this year was Weird Weird West (Hellion, you would have loved some of the costumes I saw!). Next year is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea! Kraken lovers of the world, UNITE! Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!

So, questions? I’ll do my best to answer without giving away too much of what I want to blog about during December…
Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sun Salutation: Recalibrating My New Year's Goals and Bringing Back Yoga

Clearly I didn't know what to title this beast. I apologize.

There is nothing more difficult than resuming something you used to be good at and realizing you are actually worse than the first day you ever did it at all. Once upon a time, not that terribly long ego, I took a yoga class. I had wanted to for quite some time because I thought it would be soothing and centering, and quite honestly I thought it might be rather easy. A lot of stretching rather than trying to mimic like you’re trying to run from a bear, which I am completely unable to do. Let the bear get me, that’s my policy on running. But yoga, you pretty much stand in one place and stretch around. That, I foolishly thought, was a piece of cake.

“OMG,” I panted at my best friend a half hour into my first class, alarmingly red in the face, “I thought this was supposed to be relaxing!”

Being that it was our first class and we were rather late to show up, the instructor had put us at the front of the class, so not only was I sucking at an alarming rate, my pride was forcing me to keep going because I didn’t want to lay down and die with twenty people artlessly assuming positions behind me, making all this look like child’s play. By the time we got to the last pose, aptly named Corpse Pose, I was hooked. I would return.

It was a good thing that the next class was three days later because it took two days before my muscles recovered enough to attempt another class. I kept going, week after week, and slowly I began to see results. I could stretch deeply and lower; I could hold poses longer; I wasn’t alarmingly red through most of the poses any longer.

Now for one reason or another, none of which are interesting enough to recount here, I stopped doing my yoga classes almost a year ago; and it shows terribly. My posture, which isn’t the best to begin with (think Jack Sparrow walking down the street), would make a Marine aghast; my back hurts (always a sign I haven’t been exercising enough); and I’m neither centered nor relaxed. Miserable. I’m absolutely miserable. I’ve bought yoga videos, but it doesn’t have the same feel of going to a class, cool and dark, and being instructed by someone you trust and who corrects you gently if you’re not doing it right. That class of people is my tribe. We all move in sync; we all greet each other merrily and talk about how brilliant the class is. It’s sorta the difference between going to church versus studying the Bible at home alone. You can still find God at home if you study diligently, but there is something necessary about meeting with the group. Something reassuring. Something that makes you put in your best effort.

Granted that’s probably just me. There are those who go fishing every Sunday and commune with God just fine, but where exercise is concerned, I’m enormously undisciplined and need group stimulation. I’m suspecting the same is holding true with my writing. J.K. Rowling was able to sit in her little house, read aloud bits of her famous series to her sleeping infant, and never socialized with other writers about the trials of writing. She just sat down and did it. How I wish I were this type of writer, but you know what they say: if wishes were horses….

Friday I made myself stick in a yoga DVD (I’ve only got three or four of them) and practice. Horrendously out of practice. However, doing the bends and stretches felt good. I swear I could feel my back decompressing and lengthening just in the few minutes of stretches I did. Invariably, within about ten minutes I didn’t like where the class was going (since when are there lunges in yoga?) and I lapsed into doing some of my favorite poses instead: pigeon, staff, spinal twist, and tree. It wasn’t a long practice; and it wasn’t remotely my best practice—but I had practiced. And laying there in corpse pose at the end, my spine and lower back felt practically giddy. It was good. Saturday morning, I had delicious aches in my muscles, the kind I got after my first day of yoga and I relished each twinge. Then I went into the living room and did another half hour of yoga practice. Low key, of course, none of the lunges, but a few warrior poses which I normally dislike. I want to keep it up, even if I only do it 10-15 minutes a day. I need the stretches and the breathing and the calm.

I suspect it is going to be like this with writing again. I’ve been putting it off and the less I do it, the more out of practice I feel. Whatever the equivalent of a backache is, I have it writing-wise. I know I could cure it if I just got back to writing, even if it was just a page or two a day. I get hung up in my head that everything I contribute isn’t as good as when I was practicing at the top of my game, and it’s certainly not as good as everyone else’s in the class. (Never compare yourself in a yoga class. You’ll only upset yourself.) Worst, here I am showing up to class and my best friend is here too, all thin and firm from all her diligent yoga work, and I’m shoddy and crap. (Never, ever compare yourself to your best friend. About anything.)

It’s almost time for New Year's resolutions again and it’s time to think about the ones I had for this year. Which ones I met. Which ones I still need to meet. I was doing pretty decently the first three months with exercising and writing, then things fell off, as New Year’s goals are wont to do. July passed with practically no exercise and absolutely no writing (unless you count the blogs). August came and went, bright and shiny, and now it's Thanksgiving and I'm no closer to anything than I was January first. WTH. But the year ain't over yet. Time to get cracking, princess. I have six weeks to get something done. Specifically WRITING.

So here’s the end-year goals: more writing, more yoga, less comparison, less eating, and have more fun writing like I used to.

Is there anything you used to love doing that you don’t do anymore? Anyone else fond of yoga? Favorite poses? Any New Year’s goals you stopped doing after a few months (or days) that you’d like to try again now? Anything you're thankful for? Like the fact I didn't write another Harry Potter blog (movie was great, by the way--I'm still just trying to recover from the weekend and couldn't write about it.)
Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thankful for Men

It's the time of year that we indulge in food, family, and fine holiday spirits. This week we will  gather around a table laden with food, and surrounded by the people we  love. Holidays are a time of reflection. At Thanksgiving, we traditionally give thanks for the beauty of life, and the opportunities that have blessed us the past year. 

 As authors we create scenarios that feed the imagination. Suppose this year, you decorate your Thanksgiving table with gusto. You pull out the fine china, the sterling silver, and the Waterford crystal. The last thing you decide is whose place card will grace each setting. If you could pick the famous men of your choice to join you for Thanksgiving dinner, who would they be? Would you base your selection on looks, intelligence, or accomplishments?   I decided on a little of all three:) Jon Bon Jovi, because I rocked out to his music then, and now. Jon has stood the test of time, and he's hot as ever. Matthew McConaughey, because he's gorgeous, and I love a man who's motto is, "Just Keep Livin." Lebron James, because I'm a disgruntled Cavs fan who still needs to know why, especially when he's still not getting it done with Bosh and Wade on South Beach.   Lee Child, because he's my favorite male author, and he has a British accent.  Bradley Cooper, because he's hot as hell, and funny. Kevin James, because he's the total package, funny, cute, and we share the same appreciation for a good meal.  Happy Thanksgiving! 
Thursday, November 18, 2010

Second drafts

I always think of writing and revising as a two-step process. First I write it all down, then I tweak the wording and grammar. The changes I make during the revisions are usually at the sentence level: is this sentence saying what I want it to say? Are the words the best choices?

I read recently a few things that made me wonder if I wasn't missing some- thing. The idea in these articles was that my drafts not the first and second drafts. These are the first and third drafts. There was a second draft I was skipping.

The basic idea is that we can't really know fully what we think about something until we've written it down. Ever notice that? We start writing, and the process of writing itself clarifies your thoughts so that you're not thinking the same thing at the end that you were at the beginning? Or you have a fuller, more complete and appreciative understanding of it at the end than at the beginning.

So the first draft is us putting all the information in our head on paper. The second draft is figuring out what we said, and what we meant. The second draft is all about "finding the argument," distilling what you wrote to its heart. For us, its getting to the point where we know our characters. We know how they see the world, what they need, what it is that drives them.

The second draft isn't about looking at the words and sentences then, but at the way you told your story. Now that you know the whole story, does it hold together structurally? Does it tell the story you want to tell? Does it tell the story in the best way it can be told.

Only then can the third draft occur, where we examine sentences and words and grammar.

I thought this was a cool idea, and I've found it to be true for me. This manuscript I'm revising now is the first time I've really done big, whole-sale revisions. I'm finding myself second guessing everything from the setting to the plot to whose, exactly, story this is. I assumed the problem was because I failed to plot properly. Next time, I'd have to do better, think of things earlier.

But this idea of the second and third drafts being separate steps means I didn't actually have errors in plotting. I just couldn't have put the story together without writing it down first, because I didn't fully know what story I was telling until I'd written it.

That's not to say I won't plot -- I'm sure I still will. But it does mean I could go quicker through the first draft, skipping all the time I spend fixing the grammar and little wording issues. Get it down on paper, and then determining the final changes.

What do you think? Do you figure out the whole story before you start, or discover it as you go along, or something in between? Do you already incorporate the second-draft changes into your revisions, or do you complete three separate drafts?
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Off to Visit the Steampunk Front

Ahoy! 2nd Chance is here. Sorry ta interrupt yer regular blog schedule, but I be boarding a jet plane tomorrow and heading fer the far north – well farther north than where I be – ta attend SteamCon II, in Seattle, Washington. Theme for the weekend? Weird Weird West.



I’m going on me lonesome though I wish I had some company. But it probably be best this way. I intend ta enjoy meself, but also make certain that I don’t overdue. I’m in need of rest and am most needful ta not push meself too far.

It be but a two hour flight and it’s at the SeaTac Airport Hilton/Marriott, so not far ta travel, either to or from. The evenings should be quiet as they be holding balls that include a dinner, that ya have ta pay fer. I’m going cheap and wantin’ ta take it easy so thought I’d leave me evenin’s free. (I’ll take a lot a’ pics…and am goin’ costume light.)

Now, I’ve gone on and on about steampunk afore. And in the months since me local con, I been reading here and there, paying attention ta the trends in the genre and…decided ta add a bare sprinkling of steampunk elements inta the second volume of the Kraken’s Caribbean.

A zeppelin here, a parasol there, some mechs… Just a touch, mind ya. I am not inviting the steampunk experts ta tear me a new one fer daring ta toy with their rights.

But what I am gonna include, I wanna get right. Or at least rightish. The first volume, the Kraken’s Mirror, includes a castle where vampires live (part of the defense forces for Tortuga) and werewolves roam the forest (no wars between the vamps and wolf folk here) and I have zombies wandering the swamps, collecting rare plants for the magic woman. (But she don’t own them or direct them.) All of these bits and pieces be tossed in as a sort of tribute to the various genres that fill the bookshelves out there.

I’ll be taking notes at SteamCon, looking for the details that will make my bits of steam ring true, without inviting the entire universe to come knocking. It’s the Caribbean and it has a kraken and pirates… Steam is just visiting! (And I’m hoping I might have a chance to chat with Gail Carriger…ask if she’d let me interview her for a blog… We’ll see.) (And the Weird Weird West! What a great theme!)

I have stolen ‘punk’ from the genre as I’ve named my books piratepunk. But they stole it from cyberpunk…who probably swiped it from splatterpunk…or punk music? I don’t know the timeline, but somewhere, they are all related to the same attitude and spirit. A sense of twisting the norm. I can so go there!

I’m thinking fer the third volume, I’ll be searching fer something new ta toss into the world… And I’m rather fond a’ the pirate traveling circus…

Now, we’ve done the talks about genres and the debate about mixing them or keeping them pure. (Got a friend who has been appalled to watch the Harlequin Intrigue line putting out titles with…cowboys… She really can’t figure out how that works…but I digress…)

Have you ever considered spicing up your current WIP with a touch from another genre? Is there any particular genre you would like to sneak into your pages? A tribute to “Castle” perhaps or a hint regarding the attraction of dukes?
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Takeover

Influences this week: Nyquil (I've got a bug), Parabelle's new CD (Reassembling the Icons- Love your voice Kevin!) and Ouran High School Host Club (tis some funny nonsense anime that makes me giggle.)


I'm not exactly a goal-oriented type of person. Sure, I set goals for myself. I set my sights on something I want and I go for it. But goals, don't think so. That's seems too definite, too defined for me. I need freedom to roam around a bit before I settle in. Just ask my DH. It took me a few years to get used to the idea of marriage.

So this may come to a shock to you when I say I have a few dream jobs I'd love to have. Mystery shopper seems too good to be true (I love to shop; and I'm damned good at it). Cabana boy test-trialer. I mean, how do you think everyone ends up with all those hot cabana boys oiled down and fawning over every little detail for you while you're sipping your mojito by the pool? Someone's gotta try them out first. (It should be me. I have visions of me in a '50's inspired black swimsuit, the Hepburn hat and vintage sunglasses sitting by a pool while I'm fawned on lovingly by hot young hard bodied men. Such a wonderful thought.)

And right up there is my name, author. The thought gives me a thrill and is one of those fleeting thoughts that pings around and fades just as fast. As a writer there are times when I've allowed myself to think that someday I could be published. I could finish a book and people would actually PAY for the pleasure of reading something I put effort into writing. I've had the joy of learning how to write with my peers. I've had the joy of reading reviews of my writing in a controlled environment. (Though, I will say that JE Plum fanfic fans can be quite as rabid as the rest of them in the fanfic world.) I owe my abilities to Ms. Janet Evanovich and her characters Stephanie and Ranger. The experience taught me to love what I write. Be what I write. Write what I know and if I don't know it, fake it with confidence. Can't say I've ever been in a high-speed chase situation where people are shooting at me, but I love to write it.

So, when the pirates brought to my attention that Janet Evanovich was looking for co-authors I wanted to jump all over that band wagon. I know she's not giving over the reins to her Plum empire. (The things I'd do to Ranger- probably illegal in 49 states to write down.) But, I gave into my little fantasy world of how I would take over the Plum empire and turn it into something it is complete not and never will be. Because let's face it, I'm not the creative genius behind Plum. I'm not the author. While I read the characters, love the characters, play with the characters, they will never be mine. It is my turn to make those characters people want to write fan fiction about. That is my goal.

I want to be that author that makes you want to write fan fiction about my world.

To me, I think that would be the ultimate compliment. That my ability as an author has drawn you in so far that you can't let go. That your creative mind has thought up a complete new adventure for these characters that I, as the author, would never explore. I made Stephanie more confident, more competent and more kick-ass. I had her team up with someone she'd never partner in the books, made her fall in love and marry the man she'd never dare in the books. I want to be that author that inspires YOU, the reader, to write. To do something you'd never thought about doing before. I know it can be done. I've seen it in the fan fiction world before and it will happen again. Readers turn into writers. It's how I got started. It's how you could get started. It's a beautiful thing people.

I am a reader.

I am a writer.

Someday, I will be that author.

Now, if you were given the opportunity for a little fantasy to take over a series you love would you go for it? Has a series ever inspired you to write fan fiction? Ever read fan fiction? Know someone who writes kick ass fan fiction? Serve them up. I love fan fiction.

PS: This blog totally didn't turn out how I planned. I blame NaNo brain.
Monday, November 15, 2010

The War Against Dangerous Acronyms

Dead Reckoning’s Hierarchy of Avoidance (HOA) is almost legendary at this point. It’s integral to the operation of this ship and a natural philosophy for a group of writing pirates. But at some point, something must get done. And now is not a good time for me to become a die-hard follower of this movement.

Unfortunately, I seem to have taken this philosophy one step further. I’ve gone beyond avoidance to a whole new level. I have embraced the CAD philosophy.


I admit it, yesterday morning, while driving to work, a dangerous thought flitted through my brain.

“What’s $50? I could let it go. It’s spent. It’s no big deal.”

That’s right, I began to rationalize how bad it would be should I not send my entry for the GH and my money goes to waste. So I make one more contribution to RWA, I certainly make plenty of those during the year. What’s fifty more dollars?


Money ain’t cheap and I don’t have a lot to be throwing away. If I found a $50 bill on the street, would I toss it in the nearest garbage can? You bet your sweet knickers I wouldn’t. So what the hell was I thinking?

I know what I was thinking. CEASE AND DESIST. Go back to the days of being a couch potato when there were no voices in my head bitching that I needed to be doing something else. No more pushing this heavy-ass bolder up that giant damn hill. No worries of getting back a score card showing I was in the bottom 1 percentile of entries.

No more of this negative nelly stuff!

By some miracle, while sitting at my desk at work yesterday, after a very productive day, I opened a blank file. And I started typing. At first I flew through that first page, hit the second page running, and realized I was still describing the first scene.

Damn it.

But I dug in and I tried again. Focused. Moving it along. And by the time I left work, I had three pretty good pages of a synopsis. Even impressed myself with a funny metaphor. Can't remember the last time I did that.

No telling how many more pages I’ll get and how many new gray hairs I’ll gain trying to turn this into something usable, but by golly I’ll do it. And I’ll do it *glances at Hottie calendar on cabin wall* in less than two weeks!

*takes healthy swig of rum*

Today, I’m flipping CAD around and the plan is DAC - DIVIDE AND CONQUER.

Whose with me? How are y’all doing on NaNo? Anyone even thinking about the holidays? (They’re coming up quick!)
Sunday, November 14, 2010

I'll Have Another Bite of That

Books that stay long with me long after I’ve read The End are books with food in them. I’m a foodie. It probably started with the Laura Ingalls Wilder series—there was the description of the sugar offs and making popcorn, big fluffy buckwheat pancakes and Christmas dinners. I always wanted to come join the family and eat with them. The same is definitely true for the Harry Potter series. Food plays a huge part in the series. The Hogwarts’ Feasts and the huge Christmas dinners and the suppers at Molly’s table—I always want to make Harry Potter foods for a party before a movie release.

This year I’ll be able to: I have the Unofficial Harry Potter Cook Book. Mostly it’s American adaptations of British cooking and explanations about some British foods. I think I might make some Bangers and Mash, some Brussels sprouts or buttered peas, and treacle tart. And of course, butterbeer (though that recipe is not in the book.) Five days until the movie, pirates. I’m so ready!

But it’s not just children’s books that have done an excellent job of making the food eaten between the pages sound like the most delicious thing ever. Here are some other memorable reads I have found over the last few years.

1.) The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball. This is a memoir rather than fiction; and it is the most delicious, readable memoir I’ve ever read. Kristin is a writer from New York City who meets an organic farmer she is supposed to be doing an interview with. She ends up hoeing his broccoli—and eventually falling in love with him and moving out to their own farm to start their own organic farm business. The food and meals she describes always sound wonderful; and her anecdotes for their first year is by turns hilarious and heartbreaking.

2.) The Secret of Everything and The Lost Recipe of Happiness by Barbara O’Neal. I love reading this woman’s stuff. Her descriptions of anything feels like you’re right there, but the descriptions about the food make you want to run to your own kitchen and break out your pots and pans to make your own version of her recipes. Delicious.

3.) The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins. Contemporary and funny, but sincerely makes me want to open my own pastry shop. Or at least go to her pastry shop and eat flakey buttery horns all day and drink hot chocolate.

4.) Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. Three words: Chocolate Krispy Kremes. And then there was the whole love affair with Chicken Marsala. In fact, after reading this book, I did break out my skillet and make some chicken marsala just in the way the book described and it came out great. That was a wonderful eating night!

5.) The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. This one didn’t so much inspire me to run out and make delicious food. At first. Because the heroine didn’t know how to so much as boil water at first. But later, when she does learn to cook, some of the descriptions of the dishes are familiar comforting ones already in my repertoire. The food does play a significant role in the heroine’s growth in the book.

I like using food in my novels. My heroines know how to cook; and I think there are, unintentionally, breakfast scenes in all my books where one or more characters are cooking. (You can’t underestimate the importance of a good breakfast.)

Is food an important aspect in your writing? Do you use it mostly for holidays or big events? Or do you skip eating and food altogether? What book or movie featured food in such a way you either wanted to eat with them or recreate it in your own kitchen?
Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ink on Hotties

To ink or not to ink.

Does a tattoo on a well defined bicep send you into a frenzied state? Do you prefer a man with a single tat, or the more the better? Does a tribal tattoo gracing the chest of a hero make your panties spontaneously combust?  Or do you prefer a  man with nothing to obscure the beauty of his well defined musculature?

Whatever your choice, I'm sure we are in agreement, a tattoo can only add more heat to the pages when it comes to description.
Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Five Stages of Revision



Stage One – Denial

This isn’t so bad. *clicking down through the pages, noting the number of comments editor left on right side

I should be able to get through this fast. I don’t see any blocks of massive disagreement or requests to totally change anything drastic.

Maybe a weekend. No problem!


Step Two – Anger

*four days later

What the f*ck is she talking about? I do not over use certain words! It’s just a simple truth that things are simple and sometimes people state things in a simple fashion, with simple resignation and simple aplomb. And there is nothing wrong with repeating a word when one is making a point about that word! Sh*t, she really doesn’t get it!

What does she mean, she doesn’t remember this being said? Stupid b*tch! Didn’t she just read that scene? I made it plain that Emily doesn’t buy Mick’s anger. I know I did!

What the hell is wrong with sentence fragments? No one talks in complete sentences.

*glares at monitor

And so what if Silvestri shows a bit more sensitivity than most men of his era! He’s an exception!


Step Three – Bargaining

Look, maybe she’ll let me slide on this bit of broken dialogue if I fix the spot here in the narrative where I used too many fragments. I’ll give up the use of the word simple, but I need to keep the nautical terms. Maybe I can insert a bit more explanation for the non-nautically inclined who read the books…

I can redo the dialogue here and make it more obvious what Emily meant and how Silvestri took her seriously… Add a few lines here to show that yes, Silvestri really is that sensitive.

And here. Well, I can rearrange the structure, redo the time twisting, it is a little strange…


Step Four – Depression

Why did I ever think I could do this? It’s obvious from massive amount of comments and corrections that I need to go back and take a basic grammar/punctuation/sentence structure classes.

I can’t even follow what the heck I meant right here. I’m so lost and I’m never going to finish this stuff. I might as well just stop now.

With all the promotional stuff and the demands on my time…it’s going to get harder and harder and I can’t put the dog into doggie daycare all the time! I’m just a bad dog mom.

And I can’t write. Or tell stories.



Step Five – Acceptance

You know, I think this is going to be okay. I think maybe, if I just step back and approach it all one bit at a time, I’ll survive. Bonnie likes doggie daycare, and I’m really getting a lot done. I think I’ve learned a great deal and the next time. Well, it won’t be so bad.

(Followed by gleefully finishing, sending off to my editor and being told I didn’t use the editing program correctly and it’s going to take her more time than she thought to go through my changes.)

At this point, I imagine she is considering her own Five Stages of Revising the Revision. (Sorry, Kate!)

So, crew. I know most of us have done our personal stint at revising. We call it revising when we dig in and look for ways to improve our books. Wait until an editor/agent sends you that multi-colored document…it’s a whole new ballgame! I actually spoke to Kate and was honest with my desire to throw her off a cliff a dozen times. She laughed, said she felt the same way about her editor. Good things these things are done at a distance…

Where do you think you might get stuck when you’re at this point? Any ideas? And let’s hear it for sentence fragments!
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's the Holiday Season!

First of all, Happy Veteran’s Day to all our heroes.   I can’t express the deep gratitude I feel for what you do for us.

This next week kicks off the start of my holiday season.  My eldest DS’s birthday is the week before Thanksgiving, so the party begins a little early in the Gunner household.  From there, it’s parties and dinners and general merry-making clear through until the Monday after New Years.

I love the holidays.  All the decorations and good food and seeing people I don’t see often enough.  Lots of wine and just a general feeling of well-being.  I spend most of November and December just feeling lucky and blessed.  It's my favorite time of the year.

I was in Walmart yesterday and, of course, I was browsing the book shelves.  There is an excess of holiday themed romances available right now.  I expected the category Christmas titles but there were a bunch of single titles too.  Lisa Kleypas, Heather Graham, Mary Balogh….  All new books with holiday themes.

I admit, I haven’t read a holiday-themed book in years.  I get so busy, I rarely get a chance to read.  I'm already planning a birthday party so I haven't investigated these books either.  Therefore, I don’t know what’s in them.  But, I can probably guess based on some of the tropes from years gone by.

The Christmas Miracle – when some sort of preternatural being steps in a la Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life.  Maybe the miracle isn’t as overt as Clarence, but there’s some inexplicable force that pushed the hero and heroine together.

A Lost Loved One – when one of the main protagonists has lost a spouse.  I don't downplay the sorrow of losing a spouse.  I suspect the holidays must be difficult for those who grieve.  I can also--as a writer--see the richness of this backdrop.

A Homecoming – there’s definitely something special about homecomings at the holidays.  Returning to those we haven't seen in a while, good or bad.

I’m totally blanking on others.

Maybe the holiday-set romance is popular this year because of the downturn in the economy.  Maybe people need a boast of holiday bliss.  Maybe we're all just reconnecting with what's important and the holiday backdrop incites a nostalgic wave within.  Beats me.

So, why do you think there’s such a market for books set against the holiday backdrop?  Are there any holiday tropes I missed (I’m sure there are, I just need a refresher)?  Ever considered writing a holiday book?  If so, why and wanna clue us in on what it was about?

PS, this week the Revenge toppled over 1000 posts.  That's pretty amazing stuff.  In typical pirate fashion, we missed this milestone.  A belated hooray for us!  And a big thank you to all of you reading.  You make us keep this boat afloat.  So, huzzah to you all.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Promoting Pirate Pals - Part Deux

It’s me again. Are you sick of me yet? Since this would normally be Sin’s day (she covered for me on short notice last Friday), I’m posting an inspiration song in her honor. And not just because it reminds me of her, but I think it fits the entire crew.

My Darkest Days – Porn Star Dancing

When last we met Maria Zannini, she was fighting her way through the first round of the RT Writing With The Stars competition and kicking butt. I am happy to report, Maria made it past round one with flying colors (Pirate colors, of course) and is now chopping through the waters of round 2.

This round is for Best Hero and Heroine and even though two competitors have been tossed overboard, the waters are still rough. Ms. Zannini and her H/H, Luisa Tavares and Xander Daltry, need your votes. Head over to here and get your vote in now. We’re talking a pirate heroine and a pirate-hunting hero. Holy conflict! Throw in danger, a curse, shifting realities, and dash of werewolf and you have one heck of a recipe going.

Let's help Maria get that Kensington contract!

In other contest news, two of the Romance RoundTablers have tossed their teacups into the fray over at The Season website. ‘Tis The Season Writing Contest (for non-pubbed writers) runs through the month of November. Entries went in during October, based on specific writing prompts and a holiday theme, and the top prize is a 25 page critique from one of the editors or agent participating.

In the Suspense category we have Renee Lynn Scott with her entry, MURDER AT THE NUTCRACKER, ACT 1. I love the ballerina/tough cop combo and it sounds like these two have a sizzling past already. Click here to read and rate.

Brynna James wins the overachiever drink of the day with the max three entrees in the running. Historical CLANDESTINE here, Contemporary MCKENNA’S CHOICE here, and Suspense A MELODY OF MURDER here. Since most of us would be too lily-livered to even enter once, I think it’s safe to say Brynna deserves a toast and our votes!

This first round at The Season ends on the 12th and it’s one vote per household, so be sure to vote both from work and home when possible. Or the library. Or a friend’s house. The RT contest allows you to vote early and often so add it to your morning web stops and keep the votes coming.

I’m still working on *cough*not*cough* my synopsis for the GH. I actually have a file started and those throw away pitches I wrote this summer came in handy.  Who’d a thunk?! Thankfully, I have tomorrow off for Veteran’s Day and I plan on having that synopsis at least half done before climbing into my hammock for the night.

Who did I miss? Anyone else? Know anybody who needs our support? Have a contest experience or win you want to brag about? And does it drive you crazy, as a reader, when you fall in love with these contest entries and can’t go out and buy them to read the rest?!
Monday, November 8, 2010

Head Space

I was emailing with Chanceroo yesterday and reminiscing about a time in my life when everything was calm. I had balance and almost no stress. Grant it, I’d just come out of a not so fun divorce and was a new single mother adjusting to one income, but they were still good times. I was exercising regularly, going to bed at ten every night, eating right, feeling good, and looking better than I ever have in my adult life.

I had my shit together. But what I realized in typing this out to Chance is that it’s really easy to have your shit together when you don’t have a lot of shit to begin with.

These days, I’m surrounded by shit. Literally and figuratively. (The litter box is right by my desk.)

As expected, my balance is all out of whack. In fact, it’s jumped a ship to parts unknown and I don’t see a return date any time soon. I’m heavier and more tired than I can ever remember being, not that I can remember much. That’s another issue – braincell-lackitus.

I’ve been telling myself since about 2005 that my life would return to this more balanced state. Once I made enough money to pay the bills, got a computer, finished my degree, wrapped up that conference or company function. At what point do you call bullshit on yourself? And when is the moment you admit that balance ain’t ever coming back?

I’m not really complaining, I’ve had an awesome year. But with awesome comes insanity and I’m not sure I have any more brain cells to burn trying to keep all this crap in the air. So I need to get into a better head space. Especially since I’ve put down my money to enter the Golden Heart.

I have two hard deadlines in my life right now. My GH entry has to be in by December 2nd and there’s no way around it. I can’t push this one back or tell myself it’s okay to miss it. At the same time, my company holiday party is December 4th and I’m not even close to being ready. Hell, I haven’t even ordered the invitations or finalized the menu. (I did buy a dress, so that’s one thing off the list.)

What I need is a way to get my head back in the game. I need to clear out the shit, or at least organize it into something I can work around. I need a way to shut it down so I can work on one thing at a time without thinking about the eight others I need to be doing.

Any and all suggestions welcome, even meditating. Anyone do that and really make it work? Is there a “Meditating for Dummies” out there I could use? Anyone got a spare robot, cleaning lady, or handy man they could lend me? An awesome party planner or writer extraordinaire would be welcome too.
Sunday, November 7, 2010

Books You Should Read By Captain Hellion

CONFESSION #1: I was sent Sarah Maclean’s newest novel to review. I got it for FREE with the understanding I would review it on the blog.

CONFESSION #2: I had already pre-ordered Sarah Maclean’s newest novel when I was offered a free copy of the book to review. Which I leaped on because I’d get the book sooner. Oh, and I didn’t cancel my order because it never hurts to have a spare copy of a great book. You see I adored Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake--are these great titles or what?

So with those two confessions in mind, yes, I did get the book free, but yes, you will get my biased, but utterly honest opinion. Whether you run out and buy the novel is totally up to you. (Subliminal voice: BUYIT.)

When I started hearing the buzz about Sarah Maclean, I was skeptical. I’m not a bandwagon girl; I didn’t immediately leap onto the Harry Potter train, nor will I read some of the industry favorites like—well, that’s too appalling to confess. Just think of some of the MUST READ authors you know and I haven’t read them.

And God knows we’ve all heard my opinions about history and the historical. A debut author pretty much has one chance with me to either a) be historically accurate enough to impress me to keep reading or b) be so compelling with her story, voice, and characters that a UFO could land in the middle of her tea party and I wouldn’t bat an eye.

Sarah Maclean is such an author. Yes, yes, even to my exacting standards. I know it is hard to believe. Now while I’d say on the whole, Sarah does try to be historically accurate, I’d say she falls into the latter category. She pushes some boundaries and you find yourself letting yourself go along with the fantasy. You want to believe her characters could have existed and behaved just exactly as they did.

In Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord, I was enchanted by the 1930s screwball comedy feel of the hero and heroine. Actually it felt like I was reading Katherine Hepburn do a Regency, because pretty much everything about the heroine seemed very Katherine Hepburn to me. Beautiful, smiling, doing exactly as she wants and as she needs to, Isabel Townsend is feisty enough to satisfy the modern reader, while being constrained enough to satisfy old-school readers like me.

The hero, Nicholas St. John, has just been named THE bachelor to land by some rag magazine—which is ingenious and tidbits of the articles begin some of the chapters. They’re witty, ironic, and hysterical. I want to subscribe to Pearls and Pelisses. Nick has gone into hiding—and also gone on the hunt for a friend’s runaway sister. Of course, he meets the untamable Miss Townsend and the lies and deceit and screwball begins. The banter flies between them—absolute perfection.

Isabel is the kind of heroine you can root for; and Nick is definitely the kind of hero we love to swoon over.

"Lord Nicholas is a paragon of manhood. And his eyes, Dear Reader! So blue!”
Pearls & Pelisses, June 1823

Since being named on of London’s "Lords to Land" by a popular ladies’ magazine, Nicholas St. John has been relentlessly pursued by every matrimony-minded female in the ton. So when an opportunity to escape fashionable society presents itself, he eagerly jumps—only to land in the path of the most determined, damnably delicious woman he’s ever met! The daughter of a titled wastrel,

Lady Isabel Townsend has too many secrets and too little money. Though used to taking care of herself quite handily, her father’s recent passing has left Isabel at sea and in need of outside help to protect her young brother’s birthright. The sinfully handsome, eminently eligible Lord Nicholas could be the very salvation she seeks.

But the lady must be wary and not do anything reckless…like falling madly, passionately in love.

POTENTIAL SPOILERS: don’t read on if you don’t want to know my specific beef with the book. If I have one complaint—and would I be me if I didn’t?—it would be the black moment. I absolutely wanted to shake Isabel, which in and of itself is not a bad thing, because she definitely stayed in character, but the black moment didn’t feel…logical, per se.  Then again, people aren’t always logical and they do let their fears rule them—so maybe Isabel’s behavior was logical. But even if it was, I wish Nick had made her grovel more—and he didn’t! Granted, maybe when you love someone, you don’t make them grovel. I will let you make your own decisions about the black moment and the HEA. We all know I don’t forgive easily. SPOILERS OVER.

My one quibble aside, it was a delightful read and I can’t wait for Sarah Maclean’s next book. Her novels are the kind of warm and witty book you can sink into a bathtub with and not worry. And they’re the kind of warm and witty book that you will run off to the bathtub just to have a chance to read it. It’s worth every stolen moment to read it.

What books have you read lately that have been worth every stolen moment? If you haven’t been reading (because you’ve been writing, working, et al), what have you been wishing you could sneak away and read?
Saturday, November 6, 2010

Hotties in Hats

A hat can take a man from average to debonair in 2.5 seconds. Who knew that a toboggan would ever be considered sexy? Back in the day, ole blue eyes could rock a fedora. Little Joe Cartwright made a few girls swoon from under the brim of his cowboy hat.

Sometimes I close my eyes and envision stepping inside a carriage. I take a seat on the velvet upholstered bench, and look across the small compartment into the eyes of a gentleman wearing a top hat and tails. The midnight blue of his eyes twinkle under the low slung brim of his hat. I reach over and straighten his cravat. His lips twitch at the corners as he leans toward me, and lightly cups my chin in his hand. I feel his breath on my cheek, as he whispers in my ear, "Good evening, my sweet." 

It doesn't matter if the arena is a dusty stable, or a crowded ballroom, a hat can make a man.

Have you ever created a hero that wore a hat well?
Thursday, November 4, 2010

In a NaNo world.

Influence this week- Lots of caffeine, lots of fun size candy bars and a new playlist filled with alternative music that I love. Right now: "Please" by Ludo and "In the Night" by Cavo. STL has great local bands and if you like alternative music, check these two out.

Hi, my name is Sin. I wasn't quite sure if you'd forgotten about me. I've been hibernating in the crow's nest while I organize my thoughts. The last year has brought about a lot of changes in my personal life. Changes are a good thing, except they tend to mess with my creative flow. In order to function properly I need to have the ability to flex my creative fingers and use my imagination. My imagination lately has been in the form of paint colors and used furniture I want to revamp and upholster.

Like in fiction, characters have a “real” life where they have to work and do ho-hum every day crap to tide everyone over (even if it is a cat named Mistress.) My real persona has a real life and plays a role that I don't always relish in. I'm not the stereotypical type of person. I morph into bits and pieces I need to play in order to get the job done and flitter about until I can call it done. Then I move on. Playing the role of suburban decorating wife does not suit me. Makes me feel like climbing into a dress and heels and standing in the kitchen when my husband comes home and proudly announcing his dinner is done. (With a dash of arsenic for flavor.) Then promptly finding the nearest foot long piece of non-waxed dental floss to strangle myself with. Notice I didn't say waxed. Too slippery. And smells like mint.

* sad shake of head * Sorry, bad inside joke. At least it wasn't the toothpick and ice pick this time. I'll save them for a special occasion.

So imagine my surprise when I realize the month of October is upon us. Thanksgiving, Christmas, family gatherings and Christmas parties to plan and presents to find and buy and snow days to work around. This is the type of anxiety ridden panic that immediately swallowed me as I realized there will be times when I won't be able to breathe, let alone do something I want to do. Then I signed into my email and there was one glorious email hidden amongst the junk.

NaNoWriMo season was closing in on us again, my email read.

In 2006, someone dared me to do this feat. And a giant feat it is- a person signs into a website to become a participant in a large scale noveling event. I was new to writing in 2006 (as you've undoubtedly heard me say before) and fell in love with a character in my mind named Sadie Michaels. This grand scale monstrosity I wrote in 30 days was promptly deleted into a folder deemed “Never Open Under Penalty of Painful Death”. Not salvageable. Ever.

But it was a lesson. A lesson in I could do anything if I set my mind to it. I could write an original novel. I could create my own characters and setting. And I went back to doing what I've done since then, selectively writing fan fiction for Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. Every year since then, I've received emails telling me to come back to NaNo. Participate in another glorious month of pure selfishness and do what you love to do.

Every year I decline. The thought of organizing and actually putting together a written work of my imagination scares the hell out of me. That's right. I said it. The one thing that scares me in this world is the one thing I want most. If I fail and lose the one thing I love, where will I be without it? So I've never put forth any effort to do it.

Oh, I have plenty written in my own characters and in my own settings. I have folders upon folders of stuff about Kiki, Kady and Sadie and Tory. Dex, Ash and Ruiz. Short stories and one shots, scenes out of nowhere. I know these characters. They are mine. I am theirs. If I put them out there and they are no longer mine and they no longer speak to me, how will I get them back?

The question has haunted me late at night for years.

This year I stared at the email. I read over the contents once, twice, three times. And without a second thought on November 1, I pulled up the NaNo site and got my user name and password and became a participant for the second time.

christietaylor – user name for NaNo. Follow my word count, berate me when I fall behind, encourage me or ignore me.

I know this is going to be tough. I know I'm going to struggle and swear and probably throw something off a cliff and ice pick someone (possibly a sacrificial bunny) by the end of the month; but I have to know if I can do this. I can't fail Dex and Kiki after I've spent so much time getting to know them and learning about their story. That is failure. Not using your potential while you have it, not accessing the story and organizing it so it can be shared with someone else so that maybe your love for your characters will be passed on to someone else. Imagination and characters are a creative gift to others. Share your imagination with everyone around you. Even if you're not a writer, or even a reader. Characters are all around you in life. Find some enthusiasm and encourage others to join in.

I hope that sometime in the future you will join in on NaNo or tell someone about it and encourage them to participate. If nothing else, the forums on the NaNo site and the emails they send out could encourage you to get started in your own fictional world some day.

Have you ever done NaNo? Would you consider it? Anyone willing to become my assistant just to go on Starbucks runs in the middle of the night?

Let's not be mature and responsible, 'mkay?

One of the shows I like watching (and my inner Geek will come flying out when I admit this) is Eureka, on the Sci-fi channel.

Like many shows, there has been a budding romance from day one. Carter is the main character, the Sheriff in this odd and strange scientific town (Geeky, yes, I know). The head of the scientific research company is Allie, Carter's love interest. I've been watching this show for years, since it first started, and have been waiting for Carter and Allie to FINALLY get together.

There have been close calls. There have been wacky lapses in the time-space continuum where they're together in the future, but not in the present. Allie's ex-husband showed up for a couple seasons and then (thankfully) died. Carter dated another girl or two.

But you knew, the whole time, that they were meant to be together. It was just one of those love stories. They knew it, we knew it, it was just a matter of timing.

After five years, on an episode a couple weeks ago, they finally took the plunge. They talked. They admitted their attraction. They decided they wanted to be in a relationship. Both have children, so they discussed the implications of their relationship on the kids, and how they might handle that.

They even dropped the L-word.

And then, they went off to bed for the first time.

Frankly, I'm thoroughly annoyed with this. Where was the drama? Where was the passionate tumbling into bed, and then the immediate, "Oh crap, what have I done?" Where was the stressing about how the other felt about them?

They were freaking mature! They discussed the boundaries of their relationship, came to a mutual decision, were both assured how the other felt about them, and made every effort to protect the kids on both sides.

Basically, the were mature, responsible adults. They both put their families first, communicated openly and honestly, and will probably have a secure and wonderful relationship because of it.

And yet, I feel almost like I missed out on something. I kept thinking, "really? That's IT? They're just.....together now? And happy?"

So what do you think? Do you prefer your romance protagonists to be mature adults who think through the consequences of their decisions first? Or do you prefer the drama, the unbridled sexual tension that makes all logical thought fly out the window? Somewhere in the middle? Do you love the morning-after regrets and the new tension that brings, or prefer for all the messy, emotional issues to be on the table first, before sex happens? Would you be disappointed if your characters acted in the most mature and adult way possible?
Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rakes to the Left of Us, Pirates to the Right: Fabulous Interview of When Jack Met Kieran

*camera zooms to a deli shop/restaurant, oddly located on the ship; enter deli to find Captain Jack Sparrow and a pretty young woman seated next to him. They are seated at a round table in the middle of the busy restaurant, where others are eating*

JACK: *spreading his arms wide, welcoming* Welcome, crew, to another edition of Fabulous Interview with Captain Jack Sparrow. Today, I have with me the delightful and beautiful Kieran Kramer, whose debut book When Harry Met Molly is blazing up the charts….

KIERAN: *blushing* The book just came out yesterday, Jack.

JACK: The power of positive thinking, luv. *holding up the book* I have no doubt it’s blazing as we speak. Look at the cover. What a pretty little minx she is. Is she available? The things she could do with that fan….

KIERAN: That’s Molly. She's an impulsive young lady prone to saying the wrong thing and finding herself in a pickle. She never thought, for example, she'd feel any sort of attraction for Harry, her childhood nemesis.

JACK: I’ve found myself in a pickle a time or two myself. We’d have lots of discuss. *pauses as if he finally realizes another man has been mentioned* Pardon me, are you saying she’s not available? Not even a little? What is it with you authors, parading minx after minx under my nose, but never letting me meet any of them? They can’t all be taken. Sure, sure, she *tapping at picture again* had an “intended” sure, but how secure is that really? It’s not the same as a marriage license and a brood of children, is it? *waves book* That guy in the background knows it. I’m sure of it. Who is he anyway?

KIERAN: Lord Harry Traemore, the nemesis I was telling you about. The hero. He doesn't think he's hero material at all. But he most definitely is. He needs a good woman like Molly to remind him of that fact.

JACK: *scowling* Heroes ruin everything. Ah, but I see that look on your face. You writers are all the same. All in love with your heroes. You think they’re all so special. But are they captains of their own ship, I ask you?

KIERAN: *laughing* Does "captains of their own ships" mean the same thing as "masters of their domains?" Sure sounds like it! If you're a Seinfeld fan, Jack, my handsome hunka pirate man, you'll know what I mean. (wink wink) And, um, you might want to ask Harry about that. Ask him what happened to his sterling self-control when he was sitting in a tree and saw Molly hiding behind the house--naked and looking mighty fine. (hehe)

JACK: Naked you say? Are you sure….

KIERAN: And before you get all puffed up with pride about your OWN self, Jack, as justified as you may be, fine sir, may I remind you that you're not the only commanding man with extraordinary vision? My heroes are, too, if you allow "extraordinary vision" to mean, say, they're committed to having an excellent time about Town and not getting legshackled, especially to a simpering miss. Yes, they definitely qualify. *LOL*

JACK: He might have a pirate quality or two, I admit, but he’s no--*smoldering at the camera*--Captain. Jack. Sparrow. *starts kissing the back of Kieran’s hand* Let’s stop talking about this Harvey fellow….

KIERAN: Harry.

JACK: Right, that’s what I said. Harry. When Harry Met Molly. Why does that sound familiar?

WAITRESS: Here you go. *removing plates from tray* Caribbean Jerk Chicken Deglazed with Rum for the sir; and a large spinach salad with the dressing on the side for the missus. And a double brownie with the chocolate sauce on the side. And a pint of rum on the side as well.

JACK: Oh, yum! *reaching for rum; yelps as he’s forked in the hand by Kieran* Maybe not. I’ll have what she’s having, minus the salad and brownie. Keep them coming. *clears throat* Maybe you should tell us what the actual book is about, Kieran.

KIERAN: Okay, I will, but first, I have to say, our waitress truly got me right. I get EVERYTHING on the side when I go to restaurants, just like Sally in that movie she was in with Billy Crystal, the one that inspired the name of MY book.

In my story, Jack, my dear, when Harry met Molly, there was NO love lost between them. No, sirree. It took a while for them to warm up to each other and become friends. And why, you may ask? Well, it's because they got each other in big trouble when they were younger, trouble so big their lives seemed ruined.  No youthful high jinx for them--they were punished by their families for their "crimes."

So when they both wind up in untenable situations at a remote inn--both of them abandoned by their respective travel partners--they have to work together to save themselves.

And that involves going to a hunt party where a scandalous wager is going on. The outrageous bet, designed to keep all but one of Prinny's "Impossible Bachelors" from the marriage altar, involves a contest between mistresses called "The Most Delectable Companion" contest!! Molly is a virtuous young lady--if a bit impulsive and romantic--so posing as a mistress is going to be no easy feat for her. Nor will it be a simple task for Harry to keep from falling for her charms.

JACK:  That is a delightful tale. Can’t blame a man for avoiding the altar, can you? Is this part of a series of sorts? What’s the next book going to be about? Another fetching minx, perhaps? Did you bring her? What am I saying? Of course not. No one trusts me.

KIERAN: Thanks for the compliment. And yes, my 4-book series is called "The Impossible Bachelors." The next book in the series, DUKES TO THE LEFT OF ME, PRINCES TO THE RIGHT, is about Nicholas and Poppy. It comes out in December, and I must say, I enjoyed writing it. There's a little bit of intrigue,  a lot of mayhem, and sparks flying off the page between the mysterious, much put-upon Nicholas and the colorful character of Poppy, a dedicated Spinster with a capital S. You'll have to read the book to learn what I mean by that. <G>

JACK: *slyly whisking Kieran’s glass of rum as she’s gesturing* That is an engaging tale. I love spinsters. They’re so fun to tumble. *is forked again* Ouch! What’d I say? *scoots chair out of forking reach* Perhaps you should tell us your Call Story? Did I say that right?

KIERAN: I suppose you did! Well, as for my Call Story, it was really wonderful. When my agent wrote me a one-line email saying she was in the midst of reading my story and loving it, I was standing in my kitchen with my husband. I grabbed his hand and said, "OMG." And things happened very quickly after that. It was definitely a dream come true. When my agent called me to let me know if she'd sold the series, I was driving on a two-lane highway out in the middle of nowhere, and I knew any moment I was going to lose the cell phone signal. I almost drove off into a hay field when she actually said she'd sold it. No kidding! And then twenty minutes later, I pulled up into the tiny town of St. George and reported for jury duty selection. When they asked me to stand up and announce my profession, I said, "Professional writer." It felt so good to say that! I'm still incredibly excited to say that. I feel privileged. I'll never lose the gratitude.

JACK: All right, last question before I let you ask questions. You have an option for a lightning round with the crew members (Sin and Hellion) who will bombast you with questions about the CIA and Scotland, or—and I really suggest this option because Sin and Hellion are best handled by professionals—you can tell us the best bit of writing advice that worked for you.

KIERAN: Oh, come on, Jack! What do you think I am, a wimp? Of COURSE, I'm going for the scary lightning round!!! Bring it on!!! While I'm waiting, I'll dance in my new disco loft to Madonna's Greatest Hits. I bought a bunch of cheap floor-length mirrors from Target and tacked them up on the wall in the loft. I have a great sound system up there, too, and I play my old vinyl albums--just to remind me to have fun. ALWAYS. Life is short--play as much as you can get away with!!!

JACK: Most excellent. *tentatively reaches out for her hand to kiss it again, eyeing her the whole time* Is there anything else you’d like to say or ask the crew?

KIERAN: I just want to say...I think you're adorable. And if I weren't married to the most wonderful husband ever, I'd go for you, Jack--after I have a date with Captain James T. Kirk from STAR TREK, then Captain Von Trapp from THE SOUND OF MUSIC, and then Billy Joel and Paul McCartney. You'd be next. Honest!!! XOXO

JACK: *wicked look* Of course, I would be. All right then crew, bring it, you heard her. She’s not scared of a bunch of unruly pirates. What lightning round questions do you have for the fair Kieran?