Monday, February 28, 2011

I Made My Mother Cry!

I realize the title of this blog sounds like a bad thing. But in this case, it isn’t. In fact, it’s exactly what I set out to do.

When I sent my book out to Beta readers, I included my mother and sister. Both have been reading Romance for years, but neither knows the first thing about plotting, motivation, or character development. Let’s just say, whatever writing talent I have does not run in the family.

To my relief, they both loved it. In fact, my mom cried at the ending. Mission accomplished!

You see, that’s what I set out to do. I want the reader to laugh, cry, and finish with a sigh. I realize the reader being my mother means she’d probably love it no matter what, but I’ll take any positive reinforcement I can get.

Especially considering the next phase of this writing journey could result in me crying. I spent the weekend researching agents and writing my query letter. I have a deadline of sending my first query no later than today, March 1. I’m only hoping I’ll be able to pull the trigger, so to speak, when the time comes to hit “send”.

But all this research can be daunting. First of all, most of these agents are better educated and, no shocker, much more well-read than I am. When they detail what kind of books they want, it’s not “a book that will make me smile and sigh.” Essentially, they want books that are going to change the world.

The problem is, I’m not writing to change the world. I’m writing to entertain. I guess it would be nice if my books make a reader think - about her relationships, her choices, or even how she sees herself. But in the grand scheme of things, I just want her to enjoy a few hours with my characters, feel better about her day, and believe the H/H really do live happily ever after.

Does that mean I’m wasting my time? Does that mean my books aren’t high-falutin’ enough? Am I aiming too low or expecting too much? You tell me. Why do you write the stories you do? And what do you want the reader to come away with once she reaches THE END?
Sunday, February 27, 2011

Guilty Pleasures and Inspirations

For my birthday, I got an amazing array of gifts. Friends, of course, and laughter; great food at The Rome and lots of laughter and good times. I’m very grateful to have friends so close at hand who are willing to celebrate your birthday even if it’s not a monumental one. But I also got some tangible gifts, like some movies I’d been wanting and a Taylor Swift CD.


Taylor Swift is one of my guilty pleasures rather like Michael Bolton. (Come on! I was a child of the 80s and Michael Bolton’s love songs were a part of that. I can’t help but turn up the radio at the strains of When a Man Loves a Woman.) Taylor is all the things I normally avoid in my music listening preferences: blonde, upbeat, so cute she makes puppies look ugly, and big doe eyes that say “I’m so helpless, I need a big strong man to drag my luggage through the airport” and of course, a hundred line up to do it. She’s the type of woman I can’t stand, at least surface-wise. However, then I saw her on SNL and I thought she was a hoot. And she was rather hilarious in Valentine’s Day with her ill-fated romance, Taylor Lautner. She grew on me. She’s young and beautiful, sure, but she seems to know how to laugh at herself too, and I can respect that.


I no sooner had the CD that I tore into it and immediately began playing it in my car. After about the third song, I began laughing because I was spending half my time singing along with the songs and trying to figure out who she was singing about. We all know it, don’t we? Taylor Swift writes from her own life, and there are these songs “in print” immortalizing a love gone wrong that we’ve read about in the scandal rags.


Back to December was easy to figure out. Dear John, even easier—and even more hilarious. If anyone in the music world needs a set down, it’s John Meyer. Jerk. I was just laughing and thinking, Go, Taylor!


I listen to country a lot; and I know Brad Paisley writes from his life (or draws inspiration from his life). I believe Keith Urban does too. Some of Alan Jackson’s seem rather autobiographical. And there are many, many more I’m sure others can name.


As writers we’re always drawing on our lives and things we read or hear about, our friends, our family (my co-workers are constantly trying to get me to write a book about my dysfunctional family), our enemies, and just anything that inspires us. It’s just a fact you can’t write in a void and make up something completely out of nothing. I’m pretty sure this applies to all things; it’s scientifically impossible I believe to make anything out of “nothing”. Even the universe constructed itself out of something that was already there. But I’m not sure; I’m not scientist. But I know as a writer, I’m not making stuff out of nothing. Even the stories that are least like me or anything I have experienced at least draw on emotions and situations similar to the ones I’m writing.


You may not have ever lost a child; however, you have a child and you can imagine the horrific-ness of such a situation. Or you have lost someone important to you—and you can draw on that grief to write about a parent who has lost a child. I’ve never been married, but I have friends who are married and I have seen how they’ve behaved. Plus I’ve picked up on some central themes that married people fight over: money and how to load the dishwasher (or how to fold the towels.) Generally people work out the dishwasher or towel problem, but money almost always causes a problem. It even caused a problem in my own parents married. Dad was always complaining to mom about how much money she spent at the grocery store, saying she got needless items and junk no one ever wanted to eat. (Dad was against weird stuff. Like kiwi fruit or spaghetti.) Mom finally had enough of it and said he could do the shopping—and Dad did. Actually I remember him asking her if she wanted to go shopping again, in that sort of male-pleading voice of “Please go, I don’t know what to buy” and she refused. Funniest thing I ever saw. In the end, Dad used to bring home the weirdest junk food. He was worse. And if I begged hard enough, I could still get kiwi and spaghetti.


In my stories, I tend to write about what I know: neuroses, good friends who stand by you, modest means (rather than opulent ones), and stern and stoic family members. The heroes are as I know men—good-hearted, brave and a little reckless at times, fond of a dirty joke, and can turn just about anything into a sexual proposition. (Even my father jested with me once when I told him about a Scottish battle called Battle of the Shirts, where the Scotsmen stripped and just fought “naked”. “Are you sure it wasn’t a battle of the sexes? And are you sure they were fighting?” Which coming from my deacon elder father was quite the dirty joke.)


Right now, my story is a crazy quilt of some comedies I’ve seen, reality TV, things I believe about marriage that are true and false, my church upbringing and my heretic nature about fundamentalist things, and the type of hero who is madly in love with his wife and always has been because that’s the kind of hero I want to believe in. These are all things that have been written about before, explored before, sung about and produced on Broadway—but this is just my attempt at making order out of the chaos.


What life experiences do you draw inspiration from? Or do you believe you can make something out of nothing? What do you think of Taylor Swift? Michael Bolton? What are you most looking forward to doing this week?
Saturday, February 26, 2011

February Ends

 And February is about done! Now, I know a lot of you are watching the Oscars tonight. I likely won't.

 Now, this is a guy who knew how to make an entrance and it was a scary movie!

 Didn't make it to the nominations, though.

I'm sure we all know who I'm rooting for. Hee, hee.

February was an interesting month! Short and hairy. I know I need a break, though I hadn't planned on being out three full Fridays in a row! Nevertheless, this coming week, I'm not blogging again. Instead, we welcome the marvelous Magaret Rowe!

As far as I can tell, the rest of the week is pretty much the crew. Captain on Monday, Bo'sun on Tuesday...but that's as far as I'm guessing after last week's fiasco!

But here's one more hottie to brighten your day!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

In Honor of Hellie's Birthday!

Happy Birthday Cap'n!  And a fine and dewy 29 ye look!  In honor of this auspicious occaision, I thought I'd unveil the cover for the Paris Bombay novella I'm working on, just for me mates! 


Here he is, your favorite Beta Male!  Paris Bombay!  Paris (as a couple of you know very well) is different from the other Bombays.  He's a passionate brunette, fond of poetry, cocktails consumed by the Rat Pack and is sensitive when it comes to women.  When I first started writing him, I pictured Adrian Brody from King Kong.  Now I see a little Ryan Reynolds in him too (Can I just ask, what the hell was ScarJo thinking???  Sean Penn???  Really???).

Anyway, Paris' love interest is most certainly a brunette also.  (No fighting, you two)  The only thing I don't have for her is her name.  You guys know how I love playing with names;  Gin Bombay, Diego Jones, Leonie Doubtfire, etc.  And yet somehow all those Kracken drinks have killed off the cells in my brain that name characters.

Help me out here!  I need a good name to go up against Paris Bombay.  Your  mission, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with something so devastatingly brilliant that I have to thank you in the acknowledgements.  Hit me with your best shot, Ladies!
Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Happy Birthday, Captain!

The Bo’sun clued me in that tomorrow is the Captain’s birthday.  She’s all quiet about it, like she expected us not to notice.  But, she doesn't give us enough credit.

We may be a bit rowdy, we may drink and eat a bit of chocolate, we might even get a bit sassy now and again.  But we never miss a reason to celebrate.

Huzzah, Captain!  Happy 29th Birthday!  Again.

So, in honor of the Captain, what would you bring to a party in honor of our Hellion? Anything you’d like, be creative.  (It’s virtual, so you don’t even have to worry about how heavy it is.)

And if you could get one birthday gift, what would it be? And let’s not pull that “health for all my loved ones” stuff.  I know we all want world peace and would use a real wish in some altruistic and selfless manner.  But today, let's just pretend.  Physical gifts only please!
Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mind Doodling

I couldn't think of a post for today. My mind just didn't have anything to say.  I know.  I was shocked too.  I never run out of things to say.

But, in the immortal words of Pink, "Sometimes it be's like that".

So what was I to do?  I stared out the window, which is usually the best way to stimulate my mind.  Everyone around me at Starbucks thinks I'm staring at them, though, so I have to keep changing which window I'm looking at, just to keep the restraining orders down to a manageable level.

And sometimes staring out the window doesn't do anything but intrigue me with things that are never going to be writing-related.  This week we've had a spate of pre-spring weather, so for the first time in a decade—okay, I exaggerate—make that a century. . .

Anyway, for the first time in a long time I can see dirt outside instead of an endless vista of white-ish snow.  And now there are birds racing around and pecking in that dirt like they're in an aviary version of Supermarket Sweepstakes.  I haven't seen these particular birds before, so it's like they were flown in just for this particular job.

Can I use that for my writing? I'm not sure.  I've kind of twirled it around in my brain, thinking how I could analogize it to something, but nope. I got nuthin'.

So I've decided my brain has to do some doodling.  I'll try to stir things up by giving it a writing assignment.  Only it balks at the word assignment.  So maybe I should characterize it as a treasure hunt.  While my brain is off trying to find something good, I'll try to figure out a way to minimize its dismay when it learns there's no actual prize involved.

And for the word nerds (ahem, me), here's a little background on the word doodle.  According to the all-powerful, all-knowing Wikipedia, doodle first appeared in the 17th Century, and it meant a fool or simpleton.  That's the meaning in the Yankee Doodle Dandy song, which was used by the British soldiers in the colonial era.  Wikipedia also speculates that the American word "dude" may be a derivation of doodle.

My favorite part, though, was the first use of doodle to mean "scribblings to help a person think".  Apparently that was invented by screenwriter Robert Riskin for the movie "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town".

Ya gotta love writers and their made-up words.

Anyway, my brain needs some scribbling and doodling, and in case yours does too, I'm going to give us a starting point:

What would make your heroine cry?

Let your pen scribble around on a piece of paper for a while.  Give your brain some space to wander around and see where it ends up.  Maybe it'll bring back a new story idea.  Maybe it'll conjure up the solution for something you've been fretting about.

There's no set ending, no goal, nothing but daydreaming and doodling.  Let your mind, and your pen, have some fun.

Okay, if you care to share your doodling, let's hear it: what would make your heroine cry?  Take it farther if you will.  Does she hate to cry?  Or does she cry at everything?  How does the hero react?  Let the doodling commence!
Monday, February 21, 2011
So it’s the week after Valentine’s Day. How’d you make out? Did you get that special someone something special? Did they give something special to you?

What did I get for the big red hearted day?

Nothing. Not a thing and I prefer it that way. I’m not a big fan of Valentine’s Day. Now before you wrest romance writer secret decoder ring from my fingers, let me explain.

Yes, I was the girl least likely to get a stuffed animal clutching a box of chocolates. Yes, I was the girl who made sure everyone in the class got a Valentine’s Day card only to find myself clutching one or two. And they were never from that cute boy I had a crush on.

Boo hoo! Cry me a river, right? Let go for Pete’s sake that was over *cough* *cough* years ago! MOVE ON!

Trust me I have. When I met my husband in college, I met my soul mate. The ying to my yang or vice versa. I had my first real Valentine’s Day with him. He took me to dinner. He held my arm and placed himself closest to the road as we walked to the restaurant. He brought me a silk rose in an acrylic vase. He ran his knuckles along my cheek as we sat down to order. He gave me stuffed raccoons that magnetically clung to one another. He leaned in and lovingly whispered my name like no one else ever had before (or since).  It was truly a magical night at the diner.

And then it struck me. Take away being taken out to dinner (sure it was a diner but we were freshmen in college). Take away the silk rose. Take away the stuffed raccoons. What was I left with? Gifts he gave me so many years ago and continues to gift me with today. Holding my hand. Protecting me from harm. Sweet little touches. And he still has a way of saying my name that makes me shiver and sigh even after all these years.

That’s what real romance is all about. Love expressed in the most beautiful ways possible everyday and not just once a year. All the cards, chocolates, jewelry and other gifts don’t really add up to a thing unless there’s romance behind it. It’s one of my deepest inspirations and what continues to drive my stories.

How do you define real romance? What makes you sigh with delight? What sends shivers down your spine?
Sunday, February 20, 2011

Unforgettable Lines

If you’ve seen a romantic comedy in the last ten years, you’ve probably drawn the same conclusion as I: writers don’t like romantic comedies. I’m not sure why this is. My theory runs along the lines that writers, like all romantics, either die young or become cynics; therefore, most of the writers for these romantic comedies must be really, really old. And really, really cynical.

The weekend I watched another in a long line of “I hate romantic comedies” romantic comedy, No Strings Attached. It had Natalie Portman, who is a fine actress; and Ashton Kutcher who is nowadays a normal stock option for romantic comedies, he’s pretty, he’s funny, he delivers. I’m not sure what this particular movie was doing, but it was neither particularly romantic nor particularly comical. It had moments—it really did, scenes that I thought “This would be good in a book”—but overall, this couple is going to be divorced in two years.

It wasn’t the hero—the hero was wonderful. Ashton Kutcher essentially played the same guy he played in A Lot Like Love: nice, sweet, charming, vulnerable, and completely in love with a woman who would rather gut him like a fish. I really didn’t get it. It’s almost the reverse of a lot of movies, where the heroine is the long-suffering character and the hero is a complete jackass for ¾ of the film. I guess there wouldn’t be a story arc if at least one of the characters weren’t emotionally stunted. I mean the heroine was really emotionally stunted, from beginning to end. Hopeless, completely hopeless; and I couldn’t figure out why she was this way. I’m not sure the writer knew why the heroine was such a mess. It felt like one of those books where the writer didn’t flesh out her characters too deeply, hoping that the audience didn’t notice. I did.

I seriously wondered if the hero was going to meet someone who was less of an emotional fuckwit and punish the supposed heroine like she deserved. It didn’t appear that was going to happen, and I wondered what I was going to say to my friend after this movie was over. I didn’t want to say, “What a craptastic movie!” because she’d bought the ticket. But then a miracle happened. THE LINE was played. The line where I thought, “Huh, I might own this movie after all, just so I can watch this line over and over.”

At the end of No Strings Attached, there was that perfect line. The line you went to the movie for or read the end of the book for; the line you wish your Mr. Right would say to you. Better than a box of chocolates in rich sweetness and toothache. And yet there I was in my red theater seat, thinking, “She was the one who was a complete dipshit this whole movie. Why is he saying the line?” It was like he nullified any character growth she might have had.

But then I thought, well, heroines don’t say THE LINE that makes us all swoon at the romance. It’s the man who says the line. It’s tradition. This is a chick flick after all, and we want the man to say the thing we’ve been waiting to hear all our lives. So when the guy has been a jerk all this time and he says THE LINE, it’s proof that he’s changed. It’s proof that not only is it going to work, it’s going to last forever. (Sorry, I was having a Wedding Planner moment there.)

Wait. I’ve just thought of the reverse example. Jerry MacGuire—Tom Cruise rambles on for a bit at the end, after he’s spent so much of the movie screwing it up, and Renee cuts across him and says, “Shut up. You had me at hello.” In that case, she had THE LINE. That’s what the line is, right? It’s THE LINE of the movie we all remember. No matter what else happened in the movie, we could forget plot or characters or scenes, but we never forget THE LINE.

When Harry Met Sally: “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

Blast From the Past: (this is between a secondary character and the heroine—but this line made this movie for me) Troy: “Eve, a man walks into your life that is the kindest, most polite, most incredibly rich guy you’ve ever met….” Eve: “And I have him committed.”

The Holiday: (not the end of the movie, but when you hear this line, you totally want to cry) Miles to Iris: “Iris, if you were a melody…I used only the good notes.” *seriously swoon*

Leap Year: “I don't want not to make plans with you. I want to make plans with you.”

The Wedding Date: (a completely forgettable movie except for this line)—“I'd rather fight with you than make love with anyone else.”

So have you thought about the last line of your novels? Do you know any novels that had a line in them that you just couldn’t forget, even if you forgot the characters’ names or even the plot? What about movies? Do you know any perfectly forgettable movies with THE LINE that makes you forgive just about anything?
Saturday, February 19, 2011


Ah, dear Geoffrey won an oscar for his part in this movie. All about a pianist who loses it, then finds it all over again! ;-)

Don't he look ecstatic in this shot? We should all look so pleased, especially considering today is a special day!

On February 20, 1933 – The Congress of the United States proposes the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution that will eventually end Prohibition in the United States.

Yeah, rum and all manner of alcohol and the lovely men that serve it! And women... ahem.

This week on the Revenge... We have... Just us. Normal week on the ship, Hellie, Terrio, Sin, Hal and ME! Oh, no, that's right. Not me. Instead we have our newest pirate stepping to the wheel on Friday, the lovely Leslie Langtry!

But the booze will be flowing, so who knows what will come up!

All hail congress!


Winners of The Mistress' House

Sorry for not posting this sooner.  The Hotties were extra needy lately, and who I am to tell them no during such a delicate time?

Anyway, there are two lucky winners for a copy of Leigh Michaels' Regency historical The Mistress' House:

Bo'sun and Scapegoat

Congratulations!  Email me your mailing address at allaboutthewriting @ and I'll send it along so you get your book!
Friday, February 18, 2011

Lacy's Booty Goes to...

*drum roll please*


Congrats, Tawny, you've won a box of Godiva Chocolates and a $10 Amazon gift card thanks to your fellow Bandita, Suzanne Ferrell. I would say contact me and I'll pass your info along, but it seems like you can probably go right to the source. LOL!

Congrats again and thanks to Suzanne Ferrell for a great visit on Monday. If the steam floating through the cracks on this ship are any indication, Lacy is still turning up the heat on The Revenge.
Thursday, February 17, 2011

Make Mine Blue, Thanks

As you all know, Monday was Valentine’s Day. And as you probably also know, I am single. Now, 99% of the time, I’m really happy with that status. As I told my daughter, a boyfriend will eventually open his mouth and talk, and that’s just annoying. There are always exceptions to the rule, but Q is married, so single I must stay.

But, I’m only human. All that love talk and the hearts and the chocolate (Gah! I’m dying without chocolate!). It gets to a girl. And by “get to” I mean there might have been an email conversation between Hellie and I over the weekend that should have been accompanied by wine and Krispy Kremes.

I say MIGHT.

Anyway, then I was chatting with Chance and got to thinking, if I did want a man, and that’s a giant IF, what kind of man would I want. She made suggestions and I kept shooting them down for one reason or another. What I realized is that I do have a preference, and that preference can be seen in the heroes I write.

I prefer blue collar. In my real men and in my fictional men.

My first hero was a chef and former sailor. My current hero is a baseball player. My next hero is a charter boat captain. Another in the future is a cop and I admit, another is a lawyer, but he’s a lawyer who goes through a bit of an awakening. Okay, he’s a namby when the book starts, but his heroine is total blue collar so it works.

The heroes I’ve loved in fiction are blue collar men. There were the wealthy CEOs of McNaught Contemporaries, but they were always capable and usually had to work their way up. I’ve waxed poetic about my love of Hardy Cates (BLUE EYED DEVIL – Kleypas) and Jack Travis (SMOOTH TALKING STRANGER – Kleypas) might have been born with a silver spoon, but no self-respecting alpha male from Texas could ever be called anything but blue collar.

Maybe this is why I don’t read the sheik and CEO and tycoons anymore. The playboy with the secretary mistress or the movie star whose never broken a nail. I’m positive that they are fantastic reads….for someone. Just not me.

I realize Dukes and Earls and Viscounts might fall into the white collar category, but some of them box and duel and use rapiers with the skill of a construction worker using a nail gun. And, they ride horses and get all sweaty. We’ll call them starched blue collar. With cravats.

I know we could say any man that is capable is attractive, but I still don’t think I could date a doctor even if he changed his own oil. I’d just never feel comfortable with the guy. I grew up with a mechanic/machinist father. I love the smell of an auto repair shop. I live for the hunky carpenter dudes on all the HGTV shows.

What about you? Do you like your collars blue or white? Or does it even matter? And do your reading tastes follow your real life tastes? (Sorry, Q, I can’t think of a way to ask you the same thing. LOL! How about, do you mind a Yankee now and then, or are you strictly English Rose stock?)
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Of Baby-making and My Writing Process: A Control Freak Learning to Trust the Universe

It’s no secret I have two kids.  My eldest is four and my youngest is 8 months.   But, what you might not know is how much effort went into having my two kiddos.  I’ll spare you the gory medical details and just tell you that I’ve spent so much time at my fertility specialist’s office over the last five years that I know all the nurses by first name, my son was given a Lightning McQueen toy by one of them for his birthday, and I spent almost a half hour last week gabbing with the receptionist when I ran into her at Walmart, complete with, “How’s your son enjoying his last year at college?”

I sent them a Christmas card last year.

I always wanted a huge family.  I’m one of three and loved having siblings.  My hubby is one of four and felt the same.  When we talked of marriage and family, we’d settled on at least three but probably four.  Four babies.  A house full of noise and chaos and mess and clutter and love.

After almost a year of working with doctors, we got pregnant and had our first, one of the best days of my life.   And a year later, we stepped back through the doors of our fertility specialist.  But, as the months dragged on, full of poking and prodding and drugs and diets and procedures, we began to worry our first would be our only.  I cried, I lost sleep, I followed every medical recommendation they gave me, I researched like a manic, all the while raging against the powers that be.  This wasn’t fair, I’d think.  We were doing everything they asked us to do.  We wanted four, not an only child.

I knew I was being selfish and I’m not proud of these feelings.  There are lots of women who have and have had worse experiences than me.  I know this.  There are women who aren’t able to have even one child.  I had one and I adored him to pieces.  With the problems I had, a hundred years ago I wouldn’t even have had that baby. I knew I was very lucky.  But I couldn’t help thinking that this wasn’t how I planned it.  When I dreamed of motherhood, this wasn’t how I pictured my future.

At my worst, I felt like a failure.  It was, after all, my stupid body giving us these problems.  I’d feel resentful of those who had babies so easily.  Of those who would say, “I just walked by my husband in the hall and got pregnant.”  Resentful and horribly, miserably jealous.  I wanted to be like them.  I’d smile, try so hard to be happy while my friends got pregnant and had gorgeous little angels.  And I was happy but a small, sad little part of me would still be thinking, why not me?  I’d see the news and I would wonder why God would send kids to abusive, horrible families that didn’t really want them and not to our family.

But, as I cried to my doctor after a very low time, asking why there wasn't more they could do--they made babies down the hall in test tubes!--she tried, very gently, to explain that science only goes so far.  After that, it’s out of their hands.  In her words, “There are just some things we can’t control, no matter how hard we try.”

Apparently, this is not an easy lesson for me.  My control freak OCD tendencies encompass lots of things, including my writing.  I spent the last year and a half trying to plot and plan my story, thinking that if I can just figure it all out, it’ll be perfect.  But, after planning it all the way through multiple times, I’d start to write only to find that it was missing the luster.

I realized a few weeks ago that this was definitely a case of “science only goes so far.”  I can plot and plan all I want, but really, the craft of writing can only take me so far.  After that, the rest of it comes from that intangible “something” that I can’t really control.  It’s just there, inside me.  It’s my voice, it’s my way of seeing the world, it’s the way I string words together and the things that make me, “me.”

“Science,” my reliance on craft, can get me a large chunk of the way, but in the end, great writing requires a leap of faith.

Because there are just some things we can’t control.  And that, just as in baby-making, is where the magical stuff really happens.

I feel like the craft part comes easier for me and the magic part is where I have difficulty letting go.  Are you like me, a bit of a control freak?  Or do you fling yourself into the magic (Chance?)?  I suspect it takes both to really excel in this industry—craft and the magic.  If you feel stronger on one side, how do you get yourself to incorporate what doesn’t come as naturally?  I know we can take classes to improve craft but what things can we do to help beef up the “magic” in each of our voices?
Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Adventures

Influences this Week- VACATION! Music: Memories Broken- Shelflyfe

I've gotta tell you, it's really hard to focus on a creative blog when I've been obsessed with numbers the past couple of months. I even had a nightmare the other night that I'd forgotten to write a blog for my day. (It's been a while since I've posted, since Hellie was so gracious to post for me during our hellacious snow storm a couple weeks ago.) The snow we've had this year is really messing with my schedule. I have a precise schedule I follow every year to get everything finished and on time. But when you spend weeks at home snowed in, that tends to mess with routines. And I'm a creature of habit. It's the only way my OCDs will allow me to function in the real world.

But despite every interruption from mother nature, I'm still going on my yearly escapade to Phoenix. I should be caught up with my responsibilities enough to get out of the office for a week. So starting Friday I won't be looking over tax forms, or 1099s from multiple insurance companies, or worrying about budgeting, or monthly finances. I'm going to enjoy the sunshine and absorb myself into another world.

I decided at the beginning of the year that this would be my year of firsts. I would finish Kiki's first book. I would work on my urban fantasy novel and start the process of building a new world within our dimension and beyond. (Also a first for me.) And I would start work on the second book in Kiki's series for NaNo 2011.

I'm in the process of overhauling Kiki's first book. NaNo books tend to have issues since it's all about pushing to get the words and not worrying about the quality. I knew it would have issues and I went into NaNo knowing the amount of work it would take to make the book start to finish. So with Kiki's first book “finished” (meaning a beginning and an end) I've made my new notes and will start adding in the scenes needed to make it flow and then I'll have to work on some flow in editing. I've got a full notebook in written notes, extra scenes and ideas to make it cohesive. The book plays out like a movie in my head. As the director, the characters allow me some creative licensing, but not a lot of wiggle room. Dex and Kiki really want in each other's pants. Tory says in no way, shape or form am I allowed to let Kiki and Dex get down and dirty. Or she will revolt and turn the second book into a free for all killing spree. Dex says I'm cruel mistress who has no sympathy for blue balls. *grin* Maybe some fan service to myself might be in order. Though, I might have to write a threesome. Which would be a first for me.

So getting back to my original thought. I'm going to world build for the first time in my writer life. We all know that Chanceroo is a pro at it. The drink slinger aboard the RWR has one helluva imagination. Her world building knows no bounds. She's my inspiration. I'm not creatively as free spirited as Chanceroo but I'm going to let my mind float around with some possibilities and go for it. Because in the words of Chanceroo once told me, it's my world. Anything and everything is possible and no one can tell me other wise because it's of my creation.

So I have a new notebook ready for notes and a brain ready to creative on my vacation. I'm looking forward to fleshing out my new dimension. Sort of like going on a new adventure with my new characters. Usually this is my least favorite part about writing. New places and faces always give me anxiety but I'm flush with excitement.

Are you adventuresome? What new thing are you going to try this year? New author, new genre? What do you like to see in your “new” world fiction? Anything that steers you away from a book right away?
Monday, February 14, 2011

What’s In a Name?


2nd Chance here, stepping in fer the Bo’sun, who is having some rough days, health wise…so I answered the call! It will be the Bo’sun on Friday!

Naming characters. I stumble a bit on this. I tend to like old fashioned sounding names, and I tend to reach for names that reflect a character’s background or personality.

But this doesn’t always ring right for me. I like old fashioned names and what I think of a certain name isn’t what someone else thinks. I want characters I like to have a name I like and associate with some key triggers. For me.

The problem with picking names this way is the simple problem that 1) that name has a meaning totally different than my association and that is what a reader is going to look up or 2) that name has a meaning totally different than my association because the reader has an association totally at odds with my association.

*blink, blink

No, I did mean what I said up there. It’s all about how I’m not terrible fond of characters named Tina. Why? I’m not sure, but I think it’s just how I wasn’t the cute little thing in school that the name Tina makes me think of. And I was reminded of this a lot. (Kids are naturally cruel, ya know?)

I’ve managed to defeat this problem for the most part. I’ve had relatives that just thinking of them makes me flinch away and grimace, and yet I can read their names in a book and not automatically hate the characters. But it takes work sometimes.

My Mom asked me a few weeks ago why I named my lead in The Kraken’s Mirror, Emily. And my reply? Well, no particular reason other than I wanted a nice old fashioned names and I have a fondness of names that end with a vowel sound. (Really, I do. Witness… Miranda, Ivy, Emily, Silvestri, Maura, Johnny…Leo, Tabitha, ) (I also seem to veer toward names that end in ‘S’ making the possessive case always an interesting  thing to spell.)

Mom sort of sighed. “You know that was the name of Granny.”

I did not know that! At least not consciously. But I thought it a neat detail and I may start lying and say that’s where I got the name.

Yup, I like names like James, Thomas, Matthew, Lucas…Charles… Actually more for the men than the female. Other than Emily I tend toward names for the female characters be more traits driven. What do you think when you hear the name Jezebel? And when I tell you she was christened Jasmina but changed it herself? Ivy came from the vision of poison ivy. Miranda? Well, it’s a name I associate with magic. Not exactly sure why…

My first book has three females that play prominent roles. Miranda, Margaret and Mercedes. I didn’t even realize I’d started all three with an “M” until it was pointed out to me. (I’ve been working on new names for two of these ladies. I sorta like Christina for Margaret, or Virginia. Mercedes? Well, she’s a pirate and her name shortened is Mercy, and I loved the irony in that, so she’s been harder. She’s Spanish so I could go for something like Beneficia…something I can shorten to sound really opposite of how she is… How about Charity? I need to come up with a good Spanish sounding name that I can shorten to Charity… Where is that Spanish/English dictionary…?)


So, how do you pick names?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Wanna Play Cowboys & Indians? Lacy Morgan & Suzanne Ferrell Tell Us All About It!

SEXY VOICEOVER ALA CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW: Award-winning author Suzanne Ferrell often day dreamed of far away places, dangerous situations and strong, sexy men. When she picked up her pen to write her first novel, little did she know how powerful those dreams could be.


A lover of Westerns from a young age, Suzanne’s heroes stand tall in the saddle in the face of danger, living and loving by their own code of honor. Lucky are the women who find themselves at the center of their passions.


Born and raised in the mid-west, it took Suzanne a few years to get to Texas, the land of her favorite heroes. Now that she’s here it feels like home to her, her husband and mixed-breed dog, Rocky. Wenches and Pirates, say hello to the incomparable, Suzanne Ferrell! *loud cheering*

Thank you, Terri and all the Revenge crew for having me here on Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day and romance novels. What could go together better? In my humble opinion—nothing! Unless of course it’s a ménage à trois of Valentine’s Day, romance novels and chocolate.

This year I can happily say I get to participate in this loving threesome, as my first published novel, The Surrender of Lacy Morgan is available to download as an e-book with the Ellora’s Cave Publishers! Yes, after fifteen years of writing and eight completed manuscripts, an editor fell in love with my characters, my story and my writing enough to take a chance on publishing my book.

I love this story and I hope you will,too. This is the story blurb:

When two steely-eyed, lean-hipped strangers ride into town, Lacy Morgan knows her past has caught up with her. What she doesn’t know is that the U.S. marshals will do whatever’s necessary to capture her stepfather and his gang of murdering thieves, including bringing Lacy to her knees to serve their sexual needs.


Quinn and his blood brother Dakota are searching for the key to finding the band of outlaws who murdered their adoptive father. When they confront the sultry stepdaughter of the gang’s leader, they discover she’s unaware of her natural submissive tendencies.


As they journey to the gang’s lair, each day the men draw Lacy further and further into a sensuality she’s never known and a trust she’d sworn never to surrender to again. Using her lusty body for their combined pleasure, they find themselves ensnared in the same tender trap.

You can read an excerpt at my website,

While the story is an erotica, you can see it is also a historical western, complete with sexy marshals and really bad, bad guys. Unlike the old westerns where the heroes were perfect and the heroine a sweetheart, I wanted mine to be grittier, my heroes willing to do whatever it took to catch the gang’s leaders.

I also wanted each sex scene to build upon the previous and to change the characters as they progressed through the story. The act of sex should change the people involved, don’t you think? It’s so personal, so intimate, people at their deepest core. Hearts aren’t always at the center of sex. But in a romance novel they should always be affected.

That growth and change through their sensuality was the thing that drew me to romance novels to begin with. How sex or sexual tension affected the characters, how it changed them. From my first Barbara Cartland, “borrowed” from my aunt’s closet; through my years of Kathleen Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rodgers and Johanna Lindsey; to my infatuation with Julie Garwood, Amanda Quick, Jodi Thomas, Sherrilyn Kenyon and Jo Davis, I’ve always loved the way the characters find love, make love and fall in love.

As for chocolate? Well, there isn’t any in Lacy’s book, but I foresee some in a future work. :)

So dear readers, what do you assosciate with Valentine’s Day? Are there any special authors you love to read and who take you on that emotional/sexual journey time after time? For one lucky commentor I have a box of Godiva Chocolates and a $10 Amazon gift card!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cowboy, Part Duex!

Why? Well because the guest we have tomorrow wrote a nice steamy hot cowboy and native american story for Ellora's Cave... So, to get into the right frame of mind... (Yeah, I know it's cowboy and indian...but I'm so very PC...I just couldn't write that!) 

Yup, Suzanne Ferrell will grace the ship with her presence and as one of the Bandits, I expect we'll be seeing a fair amount of bandits tomorrow. So, I'm off to get more rum!

And for Sin... ;-) Even if things won't line up just right...we all know which one is for Sin...

Oh, yeah...if you've got time, come check out me on the Daily Dose of Decadence!
Thursday, February 10, 2011


Yeah, run away. Go ahead! But someday…you’ll have to face this monster and figure out how you’re going to master it. Even if you are seen as the messiah of some massive New York publisher, you’re gonna have to speak for yourself at some point!

Bwah ha ha!

Think about it. Think about how you’re going to connect to your readers, find them, attract them, flirt with them and seduce them. Sure, your book will hopefully do the bulk of the work, and if you’re extraordinarily lucky, your Madison Avenue contract will give you some help with all of this. But probably not.

So, consider carefully…do you know who will be interested in hearing about you and your brilliant work? Have you considered the demographics of your reader? How old are they? What do they like to do? Where do they hang out? Why will they want to read your book?

Hee, hee. Sweating yet?

My local RWA had a woman who specialized in marketing for women business owners at our Saturday meeting. (Casey is working on packages specific to authors at the moment, when you’re ready for some professional help, I have her business card.) She talked about the different aspects of social media and how to use them to talk to you reader. Got a lot of people in my local really thinking about their audience. And freaking out. (And me seriously considering how to fit her into my budget!)

Are your readers Twitter people? Are they Facebook aficionados? Blog lurkers? Bloggers themselves? Do they read book reviews? Magazines? Listen to podcasts? Attend pirate festivals? Like to sew? Costume?

I’m also taking a class on podcasting but doing terrible at it. I’m just not tech savvy enough to understand the software and how to use it so I’m pretty much lurking. I need someone to SHOW me. But I’m getting a lot out of the research into what a podcast is and how it’s used and… WHO I want to reach. (Didn’t help that I was at Mom’s the first week and the class started on my release day. And my husband, who is my tech support, was uncomfortable with all the free ware stuff and what it would do to my computer. Sigh.)

All in all, authors do need to know this stuff. It can make a difference between a publisher looking at you seriously and moving onto the next one. Unless you are the next messiah. Then it really won’t matter and you’ll be one of the lucky few who actually has a marketing budget. From your publisher. YOU should have a marketing budget regardless.

You’ll probably need to have a website in place. Have an online identity that people recognize. And have some idea where your readers hang out. What they want and how they will find you.

I made a list: My audience is babyboomers. Females. Possibly self-employed or near retirement, mid level income, artistic/crafts oriented. Self-sufficient. Some college, perhaps a lot of college. Coasties, east and west, maybe larger city dwellers in the heartland. Health, physically active and passionately interested in sex. They don’t believe in growing too old for anything. Are open-minded, see the world as a safe place…

My list goes on and on…

So, here is what I want you to consider today… And I know it’s Friday, so don’t sweat this too hard. Think about it as fun!


When you meet your reader…what will they look like? Where will they live? What do they believe in spiritually? Where do they hang out? How do they hear about your books? How do they contact you? How do you touch them? (Get yer mind outta the gutter!)


Readers? How do you want to be touched? (Yeah, you, too. Outta that gutter!) Where do you find your authors? Where do you hang out? You want to e-mail the authors you like, write them via publishers, meet them at cons? Enter their contests? Chat with them on Facebook? Follow them on Twitter?


Come on, help out us budding authors!
Wednesday, February 9, 2011

High School Musical: A Reminder

I watched High School Musical 3 last year.  It was on HBO or Showtime or something and I was pregnant and didn’t feel like leaving the couch during nap time.  It was really sweet and I thought the two main characters—Troy and Gabriella—were cute together.  I kept wondering about the original but, well, then I had a baby and then months got sucked into a giant time vortex and the next thing I knew nearly a year had gone by.

Cue Netflix Instantly Watch.  I just saw the original this weekend and I must say, I’m hooked.  An official East High Wildcat groupie.

Besides being sweet in a typical teenie movie kind of way, there was some real conflict in this movie.  Some angst in the way of West Side Story, minus the gang violence overtones.

Troy Bolton.  High school jock, sophomore captain of the varsity basketball team.  Read:  super popular, revered in the way of athletes on the microcosmic scale of high school.  Pretty much a teenage god.  Charming, charismatic.  Zac Efron plays the part perfectly.  A smile that probably allowed him to get away with anything growing up.  All, “aw shucks, how can you be upset with me?”

Gabrielle Montez.  New girl, chemistry whiz kid.  First scene?  She’s got her nose tucked in a book.   Admits to passing out singing in church choir.  She’s so wholesome, Wonder Bread could use her as a poster child.

They’re classic jock and brainiac.  Opposites attract.  Drawn together by a shared love of singing, particularly singing together.

But their friends aren’t having it.  The jocks and the geeks band together to keep the young lovers apart (cue score from Romeo and Juliet here).   So just as our hero and heroine think they’re making headway, think that it’s okay to buck their “rightful” places in society, their doubts are fed by the people around them and they cave to pressure.  Troy denounces his budding sweetheart and Gabriella hears every word.  She’s devastated, tells herself it was too good to be true, that jocks don’t fall for chemistry nerds like her.

Dark dark moment.

They resolve their differences.  Their friends see the error of their ways when Troy and Gabriella are distraught at the destruction of their budding romance.  They patch things up.

But what I find the best about this is that the whole movie revolves around everyone learning to accept those that aren’t like them.  Troy and Gabriella learn that it’s okay to fight for their feelings, even if the rest of their friends don’t agree.  The school learns that maybe they’re all more than the clichés they belong to.  And even two of the teachers/coaches learn that they shouldn’t judge kids by their activities or their parents.  That everyone has their own strengths.

What I learned is that setting characters up on opposite sides of a spectrum makes for great conflict.  And that learning lessons about the other side makes for good drama and can carry a story through a middle and into a satisfying conclusion.

So, do you employ the opposites attract method of conflict?  What are your favorite opposite attract couples?  Any examples of books that do it well?  I know I enjoy ones that flip the traditional version.  Like the geek is the guy and the popular one is the girl, like in the movie “Some Kind of Wonderful” (even though that movie gets more complicated.  Good movie, by the way).   If you don’t employ opposites attract, how do you keep the conflict going between your hero and heroine?
Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Leigh Michaels and The Mistress' House

Donna: Pirates, set down your tankards and help me give a big bawdy welcome to today's guest, Leigh Michaels.  She's got some stories to tell us about the romance writing world, and I convinced her we wouldn't get too rowdy.  I know, I know.  That's always open to interpretation.  Welcome Leigh!

Leigh: Hi, Donna! Thanks for inviting me to stop by Romance Writers Revenge! Let me grab a cup of virtual tea (oh, heck, it’s virtual – make that a rum) and settle in for a chat.

Donna: How did you get started in romance writing?  And how is it different now than when you started?

Leigh:  I wrote my first romance novel when I was 14 – I knew SO much about love that it should have been a short story instead of a book. Mercifully, I maintained enough common sense to burn that book and the next five, before I submitted a manuscript to a publisher. I was very fortunate that the editor who picked up my first manuscript from the slush pile was the legendary Jacqui Bianchi of Mills & Boon, who loved my main character enough to write an insightful letter about where my book fell short. After two rounds of revisions, she bought that book, and I then wrote 80 sweet traditionals for Harlequin Mills & Boon.

Back then, editors still had time to help shape authors. And the books were different as well, with more room for setting and atmosphere. Now the books are shorter, and it’s more important to focus on the hero/heroine and get the action started right away.

Donna:  80 books?  *faints*  Tell us about your latest book, "The Mistress' House".  Is this your first historical?

LeighThe Mistress’ House is my first historical romance. I’ve enjoyed reading about and researching the Regency period since I was a teenager, and the time finally came to tell my own stories about aristocratic lords and ladies. This book actually started out to be a short story – only it kept getting longer, and then the characters introduced me to their friends, and suddenly I realized I was writing three intertwined stories, all of which happen in a love nest in London.

It’s a different sort of book – not an anthology, but a set of stories which all wind together – so I was fortunate to find both an editor (Deb Werksman of Sourcebooks Casablanca) and an agent (Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency) who believed in the story and helped to bring it to readers.

Donna:  It sounds delightful, and I'm looking forward to reading it. You have a nonfiction book called On Writing Romance and you also teach classes for Gotham Writers. 

What would your students say is the best advice you give them?  What is the advice they have the hardest time following?

Leigh:  I’ve been teaching romance writing in person and on line (Gotham Writers’ Workshop, for years, and about 30 of my students have gone on to publish their own books (mostly romances) with commercial publishers, so I’m quite proud of that record. When one of my students gets The Call, I feel like a grandma – I get to brag about the cute baby without having to do any of the hard work.

On Writing Romance actually started out as a self-published manual that I handed out to my students, and then Writers Digest Books picked up the text.

I hope the best advice I give students is that persistence is just as necessary as talent to make it in this business. I see a lot of good storytellers who give up – but the ones who keep at it, honing their craft and learning with each project – and being willing to do it over and over again – are the next generation of published authors.

The hardest advice to follow? Turn off the internal editor and just put the butt in the chair and write. (And yes, I have trouble following that advice myself some days!)

Donna:  I love that you're a book grandma!  My first contact with you was during last year's "Chase the Dream" contest online.  How did the contest first come about?

Leigh:  Since author Rachelle Chase credits my class at Gotham and a win in Lori Foster’s writing contest for her success, she decided to give back to others by offering a free on-line writing contest. I was intrigued by the idea and asked if she’d like to have a co-sponsor. The big win is that all the finalist entries are read by a panel of editors and agents, and many of our finalists have been offered agent representation and/or publishing contracts as a result of the contest.

DonnaIt was a great experience, and I apologize if I crashed the website servers by constantly coming over to check the comments on my entry!  *blushes*  If you didn't care about selling a book and could write whatever you want, what would it be about?

Leigh:  Exactly what I am writing! I’ve always been intrigued by the Regency period, and I wrote The Mistress’ House first and foremost for myself. I’m really lucky to have found an editor and agent who agreed it should have more readers than just me.

DonnaWho is your favorite character of the ones you've created?

Leigh:  In The Mistress’ House, my favorite character is Georgiana, who surprised me on almost every page. She was supposed to be a demure little damsel, but she turned out to be sassy and determined and original, and she made me laugh.

DonnaI'm glad she made you laugh.  Sometimes my characters' surprises can be maddening.  So tell us.  What is your writing process like?

Leigh:  I start each day with email and classes, just to keep on top of what my students are up to. Then I read what I wrote on the previous day and polish up the last scene or two, which moves me back into the story. With the last few minutes of the writing day, I try to move ahead with a very rough outline of what comes next, so that on the following day I’m not starting with a blank page. It’s very tempting to stop at the end of a scene – it’s such a good feeling to have finished something! – but I find it’s deadly to getting started again the next day.

Leigh, thank you so much for all your great insights.  While you refill your tankard, I'll remind the pirates to go to for info on Leigh's backlist as well as the numerous classes she offers.

Leigh is also giving away TWO copies of The Mistress' House today.  So now is the time to ask some questions about writing in general, and writing romance in particular! 
Monday, February 7, 2011

What Are You Good At?

We spend a lot of time as writers talking about our weaknesses, shortcomings, and struggles. We gnash our teeth and beat ourselves up, hide from our inner critics and talk ourselves down.

Today, we’re following Baloo’s advice. We’re going to accentuate the positive.

One of my favorite things to write is dialogue. If it’s dialogue between two male characters, all the better. Ironically, I’m not a fan of it in real life, but I love writing two guys ribbing each other.

Unfortunately, I had to cut one of my favorite scenes of this type. This happened to be the only scene in the book that wasn’t in either the hero or heroine’s POV, making this scene the literary equivalent of the turd in the punchbowl. So, it had to go.

But, it’s a prime example of something I think I do well. I realize this is dangerous as the rest of you could read this and think, “Holy shit, she thinks that’s good?!” But I’m pulling up my writer big girl pants and posting it anyway.

Here’s the set up. Duke is a cop, best friend of the hero and part of the secondary love story in the book. Richie is the hero’s brother, a firefighter/EMT, and the town playboy. As you’ll see, Duke is recently divorced and not exactly beating women off with a stick. Until he meets Lucille.

            “Don’t look now, but there’s a pocket pixie checking you out,” Richie said.

            “Women don’t check me out,” Duke murmured without looking up from him notes. “She’s probably thinking about starting a fire to get your attention.”

            “She’s not looking at me.”

            “How do you know?”

            “I smiled at her and she looked like someone shit on her shoe. She turned back to you and went all googly-eyed again.”

            Duke’s pen froze. He looked up to see not only was Richie not smiling, he looked insulted. “Is googly-eyed an official medical term?” Duke asked, his mood improving by the second.

            Richie crossed his arms then narrowed his eyes. “Don’t be a dick. You don’t want to talk to her, fine. Just trying to help a guy out.”

            Duke felt guilty for about half a second, until he remembered Richie had swiped every woman he’d bought a drink for in the two years since his divorce.

            Deciding he needed to make sure he had all the facts, Duke headed for the porch to ask Emma a few more questions. And maybe get the number of the red-headed pixie he definitely wouldn’t mind having in his pocket.

Now it’s your turn. Today is all about the positive. What do you do well? What’s your favorite part to write? Your MS dripping with angst? Or maybe you have a knack for the physical comedy. Lyrical prose that paints vivid pictures or unique new worlds that suck readers in. Pat yourself on the back and kick that inner critic to the Kraken.
Sunday, February 6, 2011

To Critique or Not to Critique?

One of my most memorable experiences with my local chapter (MORWA) was the Saturday critique group, that would meet once a month directly after the chapter meeting. Normally, the critique group met on Tuesday nights; however, being I was already two hours away, Tuesday night meetings weren’t exactly feasible for me. I had some experience with online groups—not as cool as ours, of course, but larger writing groups where you’d write a chapter and you’d have to critique three, and it never worked out like it was supposed to. You were either critiquing much more than you were getting feedback, or you were getting flamed in public forums because hey, it’s the internet and manners seem to be optional.

Anyway, as you see, the online groups weren’t the best option. So being I was part of this face-to-face chapter, I thought I would take advantage of the face-to-face critiquing. I figured at the very least it would be a lot more difficult to flame me to my face. As you might imagine, this wasn’t the first time I’ve ever been wrong.

This is not to say the whole critique group was a pack of wolves. They weren’t. Most of the ones that were in the Saturday group I’ve known to go on and be published and have wonderful books; and those who became published I remember as being professional and couching their comments in non-flaming tones.

And then there was this one member.

To say she did not care for my attempts at writing would be an understatement along the realms of saying that the Bo’sun does not care for most green vegetables…or vegetables at all. I had just started the manuscript—an incarnation of Girl on a Grecian Urn—and the group was reading the extremely rough chapters I had available. Where the professional members had mentioned “concern” at me having a hero who was married as not being the most marketable idea they had ever read, they did say I had an engaging voice and my writing itself was readable. They might have gone on so far as to say I was funny, but I can’t quite remember if they were that kind. Most of the critique group did not have an appreciation for sarcasm as I did. Humor as you well know is the in the laugh of the chortler.

So when it came time for the George W. member to make her opinions known about my writing, she took a deep breath and let it fly. She questioned my writing, my humor, my idea of a hero, my integrity (being I’d think adultery would be romantic in any sense), and my being in this chapter at all since I clearly didn’t want to write anything that smacked of romance fiction. She said if this had been a published book—she snorted here—she would have thrown it away at chapter three, upon discovering the guy was married, and never read anything by me again. She said my story was the ultimate wall banger.

I didn’t exactly continue going to this critique group. I mean, this was the story I was married to at the time and I wasn’t exactly in the mood to switch to something else. And besides if this group didn’t like my married guy story, what would they say about Lucifer? I began to think this critique group might not be the best for me.

This is not to say that I was looking for a group that would read my pages, sing the praises of it incessantly for an hour, and insist that I didn’t need to change a word or punctuation mark. Really that is not what I was looking for. I was looking a group of people who would read my work and not make the comment that they wished they had eye bleach so they could erase it from their brain.

What it did teach me is that not everything you’re going to critique is going to be something you’d read in real life. I know this because I read George W.’s critique chapters and they all revolved around a sci-fi world that had a Galadriel with Gandulf powers. Very unique. [insert sarcasm here] You never see that in sci-fi books: a beautiful sorceress running the show. I remember thinking within the first ten pages, “I wonder when the bitch is going to die?” Because you know she’s gonna. It’s the rule. I didn’t say it; I just thought it. George W. was also running into some issues with the group since her main character was sleeping with a man who turns out not to be the hero. Most of the group maintained she could not have her heroine sleeping around; George W. was argumentative.

This also taught me: context. It’s hard to run a critique group and have everyone read one chapter of your work and give an opinion on it that has true use to your work as a whole. I’m not sure what George W. did, but I abandoned my project for quite some time. I mean, they were right, weren’t they? Who would ever read a “romance” with a married guy as a central character?

So this is a long-winded way of me saying: beware of the critique group. Especially any group over five. It gets unwieldy; and the likes and dislikes dynamics within the group are too varied. Ordering a pizza and agreeing on a movie to watch with five people is near impossible; getting useful information about your manuscript even more so. Find your critique partner, and maybe a spare. Thank them regularly; do not take them for granted. (Thank you, Bo’sun.)

So even though my experience wasn’t the fairy tale ending I hoped, I did learn a lot. Mainly that no matter how vehemently you might feel about someone’s work, there is something positive that can be said about it—and you should lead with it. Secondly, you should not make the critique personal. Third, while it is likely you will need to say something that the writer is likely to not want to hear, there is no reason to suddenly launch into a witch-burning. Anything can be re-written; and as is shown everyday, anything can be published—so before you tell someone else that you think their work is complete crap, you should definitely keep that in mind.

As you might surmise, I prefer people who critique my work to lead what they liked about it, even if they only liked my margins. Then they are free to start listing the things that didn’t work for them, so long as they give viable reasons for why they didn’t like something—not the extremely personal kind of reasons like “I hate your heroine because she drinks Pepsi and I only drink Coke.” Really? Don’t be personal; be analytical.

Are you for critique groups or do you prefer critique partners? Why or why not? Do you avoid critiquers altogether (a la J.K. Rowling)? Do you have any nightmare critique experiences or really good ones?
Saturday, February 5, 2011

COWBOY! Or should I say CowMan!

Cause, he ain't no boy!

Yes, I snuck in and took over Sin's month, not being able to face a month of anime. So, look forward to a February full of Geoffrey!


It's a pretty calm week on the Revenge after last week's parties and mayhem... Looks like we have a guest on Wednesday, courtesy of Dead Reckoning Donna... Leigh Michaels!

I did love this movie, he was delish in it!

And his aim, it were true!

Friday, February 4, 2011


Whoohoo! I chose three winners who will each get a copy  of my book!

Stacy McKittrick!


Denise McCray!

I'll be letting Decadent know and they'll send you your copy!

Enjoy! Maureen O. Betita
Thursday, February 3, 2011

After A Long Delay...

Who Do You Write For?

The better to write for yourself and have no public than to write for the public and have no self.                     ...Cyril Connolly

OK, I watch way too much television. I admit it. This quote opened an episode of Criminal Minds, a rather violent series following FBI profilers. I vowed not to watch it when it premiered due to the graphic violence the opening episode showed toward women. I have since caught it on reruns and, sigh, am a bit hooked. I still think it is wa-a-a-a-ay too violence oriented. But I like the characters.

Characters are my weak points. I’ll watch a bad series because I like a side character. But…back to the quote.

It really caught my attention, so I looked it up. Found it had sparked a lot of thoughtful essay and even a book or two.

I have to admit that I tend to write for myself. I tell myself stories and want to hear how they end, so I write. I started that way, in back in 2003, and I’m still doing it. But I suffered a crisis of faith late in ’06. I found myself looking at the hours of writing and wondering… “Why was I doing this?”

You have to keep in mind, I was then of the mind that I COULD NOT HANDLE REJECTION. Ever. As I racked up millions of words the doubt began to creep in. I was wasting my time. I was wasting my life.

I stopped writing regularly. Writing for myself just wasn’t enough to justify the hours I spent at that table in Starbucks. My house was neglected, my yard a disaster… How could I justify the hours I spent not taking care of all of that?

Then, well…I almost died. We all know that story. And months later…I got my mojo back. But it was slow. And the fear of rejection was defeated, but I still thought about who I wrote for. And I came back to it. In the end, I still write for myself.

It’s the only way I stay true to the energy and commitment I began with. I might tinker with a few elements here and there, taking into consideration what others would like to see, but in the end…

I write for me.

When one writes for the public? Well, I think we all know authors who write for the public. And there are writers who balance the two, which may be the secret to fiduciary success. I’m not sure.

Anyone else given any thought to who you write for? And what it means to write for the public but sacrifice the self? (The place I believe I hovered at the crux of when I nearly died. But that could be just me! It does sound wonderfully melodramatic, don’t it?)
Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Minor Renovations

So there's this Taco Bell I pass on my way to work. One day, a sign goes up saying, "Closed for minor renovations." They then proceed to tear down the building and build a new Taco Bell from the ground up.

I found this hilarious, each time I drove past an empty, razed lot with that little sign out front still declaring these "minor renovations."

I'm feeling like that at the moment. I have minor revisions I want to make. I want to make them quickly. Little things like cleaning up the typos, formatting the pages correctly.

And yet, each time I sit down to correct the typos in the next scene, I end up sitting there and rewriting the entire scene from scratch. I'm razzing my Taco Bell to the asphalt parking lot, here, when all I really want to do is swap out the green pleather booths for blue.

Of course, there are two explanations here. One is that the total destruction and re-write is necessary, so really, why bother with typos and formatting? (This WIP is my thesis novel for school, and I have to turn it soon in order to graduate. I can turn it in as soon as I clean up the typos, so there's something to be said for getting it turned in at school, even if it needs more revisions later for an agent or editor).

The other explanation is that I'm crazy (who didn't see *that* one coming?). I just keep tweaking and keep tweaking. And suddenly, my story is rewritten again, even though my sign still says "minor renovations."

This week we've celebrated Chance's release and Terri finishing her revisions. Both exciting end points, where we can stop and celebrate. I admit -- I've lost sight of any end points myself. But in this writing business, even end points come with something else to jump into next.

So where are you? Do you have an end point in sight that you're hoping to celebrate soon? Or do you find yourself stuck on the same step, doing endless rounds of revisions? Can you limit yourself to minor revisions and call it done, or do you find yourself toppling a whole building?
Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Imagine a Parody Wednesday

Not sure if you've been watching the news or anything, but we're getting our butts kicked by some wicked winter weather. In fact, the University where I work actually closed the campus, which NEVER happens. I mean, never. Sin wrote me on Monday afternoon, swamped with her office phone ringing off the hook with panicky pre-storm clients, and asked me to cover her blog today.  I figure since it's a snow day, it's a good time for all us writers to bundle up in our warmest pjs and socks and sit and write. And to help us with that endeavor, I've composed a little parody for you guys.

Here goes:

Imagine there’re no Critics
It’s easy if you try,
No nay-say in your mornings,
No comments when you write
Imagine all the writers
Writing the day away

Imagine there’re no rejections
I know it’s hard to do
Agents lined up to buy your book
And Editors too
Imagine all the readers
Getting to read you in print

You may say I’m a pirate,
But I’m not the only one.
Come on deck here and join us
And the writing world will be one.

Imagine no writer’s block
I wonder if you can
No need for panic or despair,
A piratehood who understands.
Imagine all the people
Reading and writing so free—

You may say I’m a pirate,
But I’m not the only one.
Come on deck here and join us
And the writing world will be one.

Ooh, I see my formatting is going to be good times, but I'm not messing with it. I am too busy enjoying my snow day, bundled and trying to stay as warm as possible.

If you're in the path of this storm, please be careful and stay safe, and if you don't need to go out, don't. If you're not in the path of this storm and are instead somewhere warmer and more hospitable, I don't want to hear about it. I get enough of it from Bo'sun. And Deerhunter. "I'm cold, it's only 68 here." Oh, shut up.

With two days of partying, let's see if we can check in today with progress about our latest projects (whatever those might be): writing, crafting, cooking, sex, whatever--brag about it here. How are these forced snow days helping your projects?