Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Re-Launch!

As crazy as it sounds, we’ve been sailing this blogging ship for more than four years now. After starting on Blogger in 2007, we refit the ship a year later and settled over here on WordPress. We’ve gained new crew members and watched others venture off to other waters. Through it all, we’ve been writing, revising, plotting, pantsing, whining, and cursing our little pirate hearts out.

We wouldn’t have it any other way. But the boards grew dingy and the crew grew weary , so it’s time to change things up a bit.

As you can see right away, the ship has a new look. HUGE thanks to Carrie Spencer, aspiring writer,  self-proclaimed smartass, and my new hero, The Revenge is looking brighter and better than ever. We’ll hopefully add new elements as we go and at least now we have the ability to do so.


Chance has a brand new bar – solid mahogany with even more storage space for all the rum, and extra stools for more carousing room. Galley ‘Ho Santa has a brand new kitchen with a huge slide out (RV style), full ventilation and a powerful A/C system. Gourmet all the way!

Our new cabins are state of the art with Nags Head hammocks and dumbwaiters that make getting food from the galley that much easier. The writing room has laptops, iPads, and fully-loaded eReaders for both research and recharging. As always, Wi-Fi is top notch. And we couldn’t forget the hotties. They all have new swim trunks, of varying sizes, and are available for back rubs, long walks on the beach, and all other means of inspiration as called upon.


Other than our makeover, our blogging schedule is being tweaked to give us more time to write and still take care of husbands, kids, pooches, kitties, and demanding day-job bosses. Life happens, even for pirates. So our new schedule is as follows:

Monday – Rotation of Capt. Hellion and Bo’sun

Wednesday – Rotation of Quartermaster Sin, Gunner Marn, Coxswain Hal, and Dead Reckoning Donna

Friday – Rotation of 2nd Chance and Striker Soule (newest member of the crew soon to be introduced) with the last Friday of the month still reserved for The Assassin, Leslie Langtry.

As you can see, we will no longer be blogging five days a week. We will also be taking the weekends off. Posting on Sundays was getting in the way of the drinking. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.


We’re hoping to have even more guest bloggers and the month of June is proof. On June 6th we welcome Tiffany Clare talking about her new release THE SECRET DESIRES OF A GOVERNESS. (Hands down, prettiest cover of the year.) Then on June 8th Susan Sey pays us a visit to talk about her follow up to MONEY, HONEY called MONEY SHOT. I CANNOT WAIT for this book. Whoot! (fangirl moment over)

But wait, there’s more!

June 13th we welcome Science Fiction/Fantasy writer A.C. Crispin who is an author after our pirate hearts. Ms. Crispin has written a prequel to Pirates of the Caribbean for Disney called THE PRICE OF FREEDOM so we can get all the scoop on the young Jack Sparrow!

Then we’ll be talking more pirates with Jennifer Bray-Weber on the 20th when she brings her debut in the Romancing the Pirate series, BLOOD AND TREASURE to The Revenge.

It’s a month of changes, new sails, awesome guests, and as always, plenty of rum. What do you think of the new look? Anyone going to miss us on Tuesdays and Thursday?? Any guests you’d like to see grace the decks?
Friday, May 27, 2011

Summer Is Here - Revenge Makeover Time

It's official. The pools are open, the heat wave is here (in some places), and the grills are running at full charcoal (or gas if you're not running old school.) We Pirates are taking off this holiday weekend to relax, but we'll be back Wednesday, June 1 with some new surprises.

The Revenge is going into dry dock for a few days and if all goes as planned, she'll be back in the water come Wednesday, ready for the ceremonial christening (glass will be broken but no rum will be wasted) looking fresh and new.

To all our Pirate Pals, have a glorious, fun-filled, and safe holiday weekend and we hope you'll stop by Wednesday morning to help celebrate our relaunch. We've stocked up on extra glitter for the occasion!


Now go hug a soldier. :)
Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'm NOT Going to Kill Paris...I'm NOT Going to Kill Paris...

I would like to kill Paris Bombay. Yes, I love him and I know you love him too. He's just a pain in my ass at this particular moment in time.

Now, mind you, I want to kill all my characters at some point. Usually as I near the end of the book. Don't worry, it goes away. At least, it always has before.

The problem is that Paris is stubborn. I want him to go left but he insists on going right. I put a Tom Collins in his hand...he only wants a Pink Grasshopper. I want him to kill the bad guy...but he doesn't think the bad guy is bad enough. Go figure.

I don't make a habit out of arguing with my characters. It stresses me out and it isn't good for business. It's just that Paris is...well, persnickety. For example, we recently had this conversation:

Me: What's the problem now?
Paris: I don't wear briefs.
Me: They're not briefs. They're those things that are like boxers but with briefs material.
Paris: I want boxers.
Me: I want whatever these are. Trust me - they're comfortable and cute.
Paris: I want boxers made of Egyptian cotton, at least 600 thread count.
Me: You're a dude. How do you even know what thread count is?
Paris: It doesn't matter. I just do. And that's what I want.
Me: Fine! I'll give you the expensive boxers. I just thought the other things displayed your "package" better.
Paris: They must be snow white and don't call that my "package."
Me: Now you're just getting ridiculous.
Paris: (snifs) It's insulting. Call it my "manhood" if you must call it something.
Me: Uh, I'm not doing that.
Paris: Why not?
Me: Because I don't write stuff like "manhood." I'll call it your "junk."
Paris: No, you will not. You will never, ever call it my "junk." Never.
Me: Okay, your penis and testicles then.
Paris: (wrinkling his nose at my Mad Housewife Chardonnay) I refuse to let you do that. You are being condescending now.
Me: What??? You're the one obsessed with underwear! And stop making faces! Mad Housewife is a fine chardonnay!
Paris: It costs $6. (makes gagging sound)
Me: Hey! Stop insulting my beverage!
Paris: When I'm not drinking cocktails, I should be savoring 40-year old scotch.
Me: I don't even get that for my husband...
Paris: And another thing, why all the Sinatra on my iPod? I also like Rachmaninoff...
Me: That's it! Enough with the demands or I'll give you an afro, dress you in a purple and orange leisure suit, make you wear tidy whities with your name written in sharpie on the label and you'll drink Everclear from a dixie cup in a paper bag.
Paris: Hey! You can't do that!
Me: No! YOU can't do that!

I'll straighten him out. At least I'm not arguing with myself...
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to . . . what was I doing?

So as most of you know, my life has multiplied lately. There's a lot I'm trying to get done. It takes some major multi-tasking. And frankly, it's all more than a little overwhelming.

Anyone else feel like they're always running behind? Like you had a list of things to do floating around in your head, and you know you're exhausted, but all you can do is look around at the chaos and collapse?

Yeah. Me too.

And in the midst of all this, I want to find time to write. I need to find the time to write. I need somewhere for the crazy to go (because believe me, the hubs can only handle so much of it!).

But this is not a life that lends itself to creativity. Right now, it pretty much only lends itself to crashing into bed. At like, 9:15.

I find myself saying things like, "Once I catch up on the laundry, then I'll focus on writing." Or, "once the house is clean, then I'll take some time to write." As soon as I finish . . .

But nothing gets finished, and so once again, sitting down to write falls to the bottom of the list. And really, as much as I'd like this fact not to be true, other stuff, like work and the family, has to come before writing.

One tip for managing all the chaos is cleaning in careful routines. Having specific routines, for specific points in the day, that over time become automatic. So automatic that you don't have to think about what you're doing next. It's efficient. It's brainless. There are no wasted steps. You can do it half-asleep. No trying to figure out what needs to be done next. No getting overwhelmed by the chaos. Just simple, daily routines that free up your mind to concentrate on the things that fall to the bottom of the list, but that are, in reality more important. Like writing! Or having fun with your family!

Do you find yourself saying you'll write as soon as . . . ? What things keep pushing writing to the bottom of your list? How do you manage it? Do you  notice that when you can do things by rote, it frees your mind of its stress (like driving, where so many of us find writing inspiration!). Anybody tried getting into a cleaning routine (I've been scouring the flylady.com website for days now, and enthralled by this system!)
Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What is Love? (Baby don't hurt me.)

Influences this week: MattxMello (Death Note) fan fics, lollipops and Parabelle's new acoustic CD.

Song of the week: "Us (Walk Away)"  by Parabelle (These Electric Pages Have Been Unplugged, 2011)

A/N: If the title seems familiar, I couldn't help it. I had to use the name of a popular song used in "Night at the Roxbury" What is Love (Baby Don't Hurt Me) by Haddaway. It was too appropriate to pass up. This by no means means I liked or advocate watching this movie is you want any shred of sanity left afterwards.



So I had a blog. All thought out and written and even had photos for it. (I know. *stiff arming Hells* Don't take my temperature. I'm not sick.)


Then Jane Eyre happened. More consequently, Hells and I started emailing back and forth about it. For anyone who's been under a rock for the past couple of centuries, Jane Eyre was the second novel written by Charlotte Brontë, recently turned into a wonderful BBC film adaptation. Hells and I took our respective BFF's and met up at Ragtag (Cinema) Monday night. I've been feigning to see this movie since I caught a glimpse of a trailer preview at the last movie I saw at Ragtag. (Consequently, I can't remember what that movie was. It was some months ago.)


I'll give you the short of the story. Jane Eyre was a governess who fell in love with her employer.


*narrowing eyes* I told you I was giving you the short. Wiki or read the book if you want more. My blog is not about Jane Eyre as much as the sentiment Hells and I found behind the story.


I'm a sap for unrequited love. I don't know why. The longing. The feeling of desperate hopelessness. Of the world ending as you know it. It all inspires me in a dark twisted way. But that's not what this is about either.


I've been researching how men speak to one another. Actual nitty gritty speak. Not the cleaned up version they present to us women when we're in the vicinity. And as crude and rude as I can be, I can't hold a candle to the Undead Monkey's man speak. The phrasing and delivery is different when uttered from a woman's lips. Currently, I'm reading a fan fiction on a manga I really enjoy (a Shonen- more focused towards a male audience) about death gods. It is a male dominated manga and the man speak is very hardcore. So when I went looking for fan fiction in this genre, I went looking with the intent of finding a fic where the author obviously understood “man” speak. I find a few female authors understand this speech pattern. Pamela Clare and JR Ward usually come to mind. Lara Adrian does a great job. But it's done to a certain extent. When our audiences are predominantly females, you lose the appreciation of male dominated crude speech. We soften it up a bit. We soften what we think they actually think about. Even I do it. I'm not going to deny that.


Banter between two characters is what makes a reader fall in love with the their story. The sly looks, the one liners, even in anger, these lines delivered between your hero and heroine keep your reader on the edge of their seat waiting for what will happen next. It's the passion between them that sparks enough to keep them coming back to one another. Passion makes you feel alive and wanting. Except emotion has no boundaries. Emotion doesn't care if you have morals or ideals. Once emotion starts to burn hot inside your chest it only kindles, gathering steam until it has you so twisted you no longer know what is right or wrong. You only know how to feel in the moment. Trying to back out of that is nothing short of an emotional death. In the matters of emotions, conflicts have always been the same. Emotion is embedded in our souls from the first time we experience it. Whether the emotion be good or bad, once we learn of it, we can't step away from it. No matter how cynical and jaded you become.


Dare you run away with your heart's desire or cling to your ideas, beliefs and take a gamble at never having what you truly want?


As men and women we deal with emotions differently. (Or maybe we're the same and outwardly deal in a different ways.) How do you write your characters to deal with love? As a female writer, do you soften down your man's inclination towards crude statements? Make him more direct when facing deeper emotion? Make him show it easier? Make him softer in his outward showing of love? (And for our male audience, just reverse the “him” to “her”.) Has anyone else seen Jane Eyre? What did you think?


PS. Sorry. This blog got away from me and my original intent. Original intent was to discuss the difference between forbidden love centuries ago and how that's changed over the years. Maybe next time.
Monday, May 23, 2011

Secondary Characters - More Important Than You Think

I often compare writing a book to building a house. Which is one of the reasons some writers’ processes amaze me. How can you build a house without blueprints? Or build the roof before you’ve put up the walls? NOT that anyone’s process is incorrect, but it’s interesting how our process must suit how our brains work. And my brain works with blueprints and in a linear fashion.

Anyway, in building a house, you need tools. Some big, some small. Power tools are always good, but a simple hammer can be just as important. To build the best house, you need a full toolbox, and the same goes for a writer. I did not create the concept of a writer’s toolbox, but I have embraced it with gusto. I must have my tools or I’m lost!

A few days ago, Hellie and I were talking about how to get information to the reader without using too much internal dialog. My method of choice is regular old spoken dialog, but unless you want your characters to come across as lunatics talking to themselves all the time, they need someone to talk to.

This is where secondary characters come into play.

I admit, no character should be created solely as a sounding board for your main characters. But when you write stories without car chases, flying bullets, and explosions, you need action and that comes from interaction between the characters. All of the characters.

In Romance, the majority of interaction is between the hero and heroine, but not all of it. I suppose you could strand them on a deserted island (as Vicki Lewis Thompson did in the original Nerd book) and then they’d have to talk only to each other. Or do other things, as Vicki’s characters did. But most character, regardless of the time period or genre, need to interact with someone besides their love interest.

So what purpose should secondary characters serve? I’ve come up with three basic rules guidelines. Options, if you will

1.) Foil – According to Wikipedia (where else?) “a foil is a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight various features of that other character's personality, throwing these characteristics into sharper focus." In my first MS, I needed someone for my heroine to talk to while pondering her situation with the hero. Hence Charlotte the tuxedo cat was born. Charlotte is moody, stand-offish, and clueless to her own faults. Why yes, these terms would also describe my heroine.

2.) Confidant – Sometimes our characters need to get something off their chests. They can’t keep the secret anymore or realize they really are in love and must tell someone. These are not things they could ever tell their potential mate. For one, this would make for a very short story. For two, someone has to talk them out of telling their potential mate. The confidant can advice the main character to either do the right thing or do the wrong thing, but they are usually there to say what the main character can’t or won’t.

3.) Support – Secondary characters are often referred to as supporting characters, and for good reason. By adding more relationships, we add more dimension to our characters and our stories. I’m going to use Gilmore Girls as an example. The main story is about the relationship between mother and daughter. Lorelei and Rory are a great example of an extremely close parent/child relationship. But other relationships include Lorelei and her parents, Rory and her grandparents, Lorelei and Luke, Rory and her best friend Lane. Throw in Rory’s boyfriends, her crazy, overbearing friend Paris, and the tangled mess of Lorelei, Rory and Rory’s father, Christopher. All of these relationships (in addition to the stellar writing) are the reason this show stayed on the air for so many years. And why millions of us die-hard fans still watch the show in syndication.

But the number one, best thing about secondary characters is that YOU get to create them. Make them goofy or crazy or too serious or make them wear funny hats and speak in nothing but haiku. Your main characters may be the focus, but when you need someone for them to talk to, reach into your toolbox and pull out the perfect secondary character. Or maybe the imperfect one, it’s all up to you.

Your turn. Who is your favorite secondary character? It can be from books, television, or movies. Or all three. Why is that character your favorite? And have you manage to use secondary characters to their full potential? If not, what are you waiting for??
Sunday, May 22, 2011

Just Like Heaven Only Better: Julia Quinn's Newest Novel Is A Delight

There are those people in life—everyone has them—that you know in some regard you’re better than them. You have a better sense of style or you’re better in school; they’re just somebody to think of when you think your life is the worse hand dealt ever, you could be more unfortunate and be them. We don’t think it to be cruel; and I’m sure the people we think of also have someone they know they’re better than. It’s a coping mechanism really.


In the Regency era, those people were called the Smythe-Smiths.


Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series was a bit hit or miss with me, but the one constant I always enjoyed was the Smythe-Smith musical. It was a cacophony of musical instruments and well-dressed misses who were forced every year to perform (since 1807) and every year they were awful. Bloody awful. It was a hysterical running gag; and it was featured in nearly every book.


Now the Running Gag has its own story in JUST LIKE HEAVEN. We get to meet one of the unfortunates who has to play in this awful quartet: Honoria Smythe-Smith. She is everything we like to root for in a heroine, the definition of the spunky kid or the plucky heroine. She is a consummate team player. So even though she knows—and who doesn’t know?—that they are the most awful musicians ever, she will be the glue that holds this quartet together. It’s tradition; it’s expected; and their family actually thinks they’re good.


The hero, Marcus, the Earl of Chatteris, is the definition of the best friend hero, which we all know that Julia Quinn has perfected in her novels. (I think most of her heroes are of the best friend archetype variety.) Marcus is best friends with Honoria’s older brother Daniel, who has been disgraced and is currently living on the Continent. Before Daniel left, he asked Marcus to keep an eye on Honoria and make sure she didn’t marry an idiot. So even though Marcus hates London, he comes every season to make sure Honoria isn’t married off to just anyone.


Honoria is rather desperate to find a husband this season since the only way you can get out of playing in the quartet is to be married. And it’s from that desperation that Honoria accidentally cripples Marcus with her homemade mole hole and he nearly dies. It’s a little more complicated than that, and it’s actually very well done. What I really appreciate about Quinn’s novels is that the drama is of the lower action variety. No spies, no kidnapping villains, none of the typical fare of many of the Regency novels available. Despite this, however, she’s written a very emotional, touching novel—a novel in which the growth between the hero and heroine feels authentic, and the chemistry between the characters feels passionate but not forgetting how people would likely behave in the time period. I believe with this book, Ms. Quinn has truly earned her title as our modern day Jane Austen.


So if I haven’t been clear: GO READ IT IMMEDIATELY.


In the meantime, let’s discuss heroes. What archetype do you prefer most for your heroes? What author do you read that provides that archetype hero for you again and again? What is your favorite Julia Quinn novel? Are you excited about this new one? I’ll give away my copy I received of this book today to one commenter, so long as they don’t mind that I read this book while eating ramen noodles and did take a bath with it. (Yes, you can’t put it down.)
Saturday, May 21, 2011

Comment Winner for Week Three of the “Where Did the Kraken Go?” Contest


Well, the Kraken has been sighted so many places and I’m pleased to announce for the most part, none  of these sightings consisted of his eating anyone. (Though any inner critics are always welcome, fair writing pirates!)

Bodes well for him making it back to the Caribbean without the National Guard in hot pursuit. Yes, from helping students cheat, to lending a hand with sandbagging the swollen Mississippi, he’s been good. I know terrorizing a sushi bar owner who had no idea how much the beast could eat on the employees eat free buffet isn’t really acting the humanitarian…or cephalopodarian…but he’s doing well!

I expect him to get back with an extension postcard collection and he better bring me a shot glass from every place he’s visited!

Now, the sighting that had me the most excited was from Amanda Woodward, who reported second-hand that a friend called her with a sighting… After reading my ode to Jethro Tull on the Daily Dose of Decadence, she posted an alert. 
Wow, Maureen, after hearing the story I may owe my friend an apology! You see I thought she was picking on me. I just received a phone call from her, she was at Starbucks and claims to have seen the Kraken serving as barista. She said he was working window, counter, grinding, steaming, and blending ...She said when she spoke to the manager he said why hire 5 employees when 1 Kraken does the job better and will work for fish. If I get "crackin" I may be able to get over there and catch him.

Alas, I hurried over to my local Starbucks but he was gone before I got there. The manager said he was a great worker, but the complaints of slime making the cups slippery and the ensuing lawsuits from spilled hot coffee meant he had to go.

Amanda wins a gift card from Amazon for her studious attempts to help me find my kraken!


I personally think he’s in a funk since he wasn’t brought back for the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, On Stranger Tides. I mean, they brought back Barbossa from the dead in the third movie, and Jack…and even Will! But not the kraken! If they do a fifth and the villain in part four returns, I fear the kraken may disrupt filming and eat the director.

I mean how much is a cephalopod supposed to take?

Only nine days left in my contest and multiple entries are encouraged! Where do you think my kraken is? Enter here! Or here all week! On Monday, here! On Tuesday, here! On Thursday, here! And if you post a sighting on Facebook, I will count it!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Fair Book!

With special guest David Tutera

***Opening scene. Chance sits as her bar, hand shaking slightly as she lifts her personalized Trenti sized iced American cup to her lips. This book was proving difficult. It’s why she called in the event planner of the decade in to help her out.

***Okay, she actually kidnapped him.


Glancing up, she sees Barbossa hauling the blindfolded man toward the bar. He grimaces at her and leans close. “If’n ya needed a dandy ya could a’ asked me. I wouldn’t tied up Sparra for ye.”

She smiled. “Ya give me the nicest presents, but no…I need this one. Thanks, anyway.”

Taking David’s bound hands in hers, she cuts him free and guides him to a stool at the bar. “Let me get that…” She slips the blindfold away and tucks the dark hair back into place.

The famous wedding planner swallows nervously before taking the tankard she hands him.

“Here, this will make it better.”

“I…uh…normally take appointments at my office…but your…” He glances up at Barbossa, then shudders. “Fiancé insisted I had to come to you.” He takes a sip of the drink, coughs, but bravely takes another.  “There’s actually a process to apply for the show…”

Chance shrugs. “I know, I know, but I didn’t have the time and besides, I’m not getting married. I actually asked Barbossa there to bring ya here to ask fer advice on how ta organize the book I be workin’ on. Ya see, I recently saw ya take a bride’s dream of a pirate wedding and … smooth it over.”

“Oh. The pirate wedding. Well, that was pretty absurd…” David’s eyes flash over to Barbossa, who is snarling at him.

Chance reaches over and pats his hand, “Don’t worry. He don’t bite. But here aboard the Revenge, we likes it over the top and bit absurd. I, fer one, should I ever marry…” She lifts an eyebrow at her suitor. “Will want a Caribbean blow out, complete with Kraken rides, gold coins fer everyone and a chocolate fountain… pearls, waltzin’…” Her eyes go a bit dreamy.

“Ahem. Yes. Well, I’m sure I could do something for you. There is a form on the website…” David attempts to slide off the stool. “And I’m sure I could put your name at the top of the line…”

Barbossa steps to the gangplank and blocks David’s exit.

Chance taps the bar. “I’ll keep that in mind. Right now, I want ta talk about how much plot is too much plot fer me newest book. It’s called The Pirate Circus and I gots me main romantic couple, Janey and Daniel. She’s a pirate, he’s a brewmaster.”

“A brewmaster? What does he brew?” David has no choice but to return to the stool, Barbossa nonchalantly polishing the brass on his pistol, standing at the wedding planner’s back.

“Beer, ale…whisky…he’s a bit of a virtuoso of brewing. Now, he has a son and a niece who ran off with the pirate circus…”

“Wait. A circus and pirates? And a brewer?” David begins to look panicked.

“Yes. And an evil circus ringleader, a black magic sex change spell, and the original couple from my first book, Emily and Alan. Oh, and a bunch of young Krakens. I think I’m gonna have a climax involving a volcanic explosion… and a cat eating panther.”

“A volcano?” David’s voice rises to a pitch that makes Barbossa wince.

Chance glances at him. “Too much?”

David blinks rapidly, and wipes at his forehead with a cocktail napkin. “Well… Yes. First off, you have to get rid of the kraken, they’re slimy and slime just isn’t romant…” The well-known wedding planner’s eyes roll up in the back of his head and then he falls forward.

Barbossa looks at her innocently, and shifts his grip on his pistol. “Ya heard him! Get rid a’ the kraken? It’s balderdash! Ya’ll thank me later!”

Chance sighs, grabs some ice and bundles it in a napkin. Balancing the bundle on the rapidly growing bump on David’s head, she sighs.

He was right. She’d done it before, written herself into a plot tangle and someone found her way out again. She’d do it. She stroked David’s hair…she did like his show. Even if he did diss the pirate theme…


Yup, I’m in the middle of another plot knot. But I’m getting there and have greased the line so that I’m sliding down to the finish with speed… If I don’t run out of line and crash into the deck before the end of the month! I enjoy David’s show…and thought he’d be a fun guest… Unfortunately he’s better at wedding planning than plot planning. I should have known better!

If you could have David plan, or replan, anything about your wedding, eventual wedding, dream wedding,  what would it be? Or your plot…or the wedding of your characters…or what would the theme be of your dream wedding? And to be fair…he usually does make things better. Check it out! My Fair Wedding http://www.davidtutera.com/my_fair_wedding.php


Oh, yeah…still searching for the Kraken…entries are taken here! ;-)
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Of Flaws and Values

I know I've raved about the class I'm taking—the Deep Story class with Carol Hughes.  (Get thee to a sign up sheet.)  I've learned lots about developing emotion and planning the elements of a story for maximum impact.

But I had a setback on Tuesday.  I'd been plodding along, following through her lessons and applying them to my manuscript.  So far my changes have been small.  Defining something that I did intuitively.  Tweaking something for more emotional pow.  Adding a scene here or there to make sure the story flowed.

I was feeling pretty good about this story.  Relieved, even.

Then Tuesday happened.

The lesson's title is Building Your Characters.  I have characters, I thought.  I've made characters.  But, as I read, I got that sinking, sucking feeling in my stomach.  It wasn't about having the character, but about building the characterization for those characters.

Let me recap.  Two things she focused the lesson on were developing the characters Inner Flaw and Core Value.

The Inner Flaw is that little piece of vulnerability inside your character.  It's a fear or an old wound.   It's the thing that limits their potential and growth.  Maybe a fear of betrayal or abandonment.  Some insecurity.   With this Flaw comes the need to explain the flaw.  Why do they feel that way?

Hand in hand with the Flaw is their Core Value.  A sort of personal mantra.   It's the belief that guides their decisions and choices.

Well, I read this and promptly thought, "My characters have no internal flaw or core value!"

Personal black moment.  Insert teeth gnashing, breast beating, and general implosion of book-related self-esteem.

When my hubby came home, I lamented over dinner.  "My characters have no depth!"  (I expanded in melodramatic fashion but I'll leave that out for brevity.)

I think he just barely resisted rolling his eyes.  "I'm sure you're doing great, honey.  Are you sure?  Maybe you've got more than you think and you don't realize it."

As this has happened a few times this month, I took a deep breath and conceded that I would look again.  DH, having fixed my problem in male fashion, went back to his dinner, content.

I remained skeptical but concealed my panic.  It's not good for everyone's digestion for me to wail and pull my hair at the dinner table.

But late Tuesday night, while I was up with my teething kiddo, I tried to approach my panic rationally.  And perhaps it isn't as bad as I thought.

My hero's father was alcoholic, a mean and violent drunk.  He would vent his ire on his wife and his son.  Growing up in that sort of unpredictable environment made my hero determined to live methodically and responsibly, to be steadfast and upright where his father was not.  (His CORE VALUE.  See, I was doing better than I thought.)

I thought again and decided that the flaw/wound under that is that he's secretly afraid that he is as worthless as his father said he was, or as worthless as he thinks his father was.  (FLAW!  Yay!!)

My heroine was harder, as I've found she has been so far in the course of this class.  Good to know because I've been able to think through her more.  Bad to know because, well, it's hard.

My heroine's been let down by everyone and she's afraid of being let down again (FLAW) so she keeps her expectations low.  But heroine has a son and she's determined not to be the source of let down for him (CORE VALUE).  I'm still working on how this works out for her, because she's sort of my Achilles' heel right now.  But she's coming together.

The lesson of this class lesson was that if you put your hero and heroine into situations that make them violate their core value or face their flaw, then you ramp up the tension and emotional investment.

That sounds great to me but I'm SURE that I need to work harder there.  But it isn't as bad as I thought.  At least I have something to work with.

So, ladies and gents.  How about playing along?  Can you pinpoint your hero and heroine's Flaw and Core Value?  Any book that can serve as a good example of these things?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Twittorial for People Who Hate Twitter

I used to think I hated Twitter. I couldn't see the point of sending sound bites to strangers about every little inane thing in my boring life. But once I gave it a try, I discovered not only was I wrong about hating it, I had completely misjudged what it was about.

Think of Twitter as being here on the ship, only it's BIGGER. And tweeting is like leaving blog comments, only smaller.  

Make sense?

Okay, here are a few tips that might help you navigate the Twitterverse:

1.  Have fun – Refer to this constantly. No, it's not a guideline. It's a rule, set in stone. Twitter is meant to be fun. If you look at it that way, everything else falls easily into place.

2. No eggs allowed – You need to put a picture of something, anything, as an avatar. If you have an egg, prepare to be ignored, or worse, blocked, by people who think you're spam.

3. Get thee a bio – Think of the bio as your tagline, or logline, or pickup line. It gives people an idea of who you are, and what to expect from your tweets. Be not afraid, because you can update it whenever you want (like when you get that multi-book deal).

4. Engage with people – It's a big ole party, with lots of different folks coming in while others leave. Some are newbies, but others have known each other a long time. Start out by standing around with your drink, and listening, to see what everyone's doing. Mosey on up to someone who has said something interesting, and reply to them. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT just run into the room, shout out a sentence, and then leave. You'll earn a well-deserved "WTF?" for that behavior. 

5. Cleverness rocks – This is your chance to use all those snappy comebacks that occur to you a half hour after a conversation has ended. On Twitter it doesn't matter WHEN you answer somebody else's tweet. They won't know you thought of that clever zinger until much later. Use that to your advantage. 

6. Think 120, not 140 – If you shoot for 120 characters instead of 140, it leaves room for someone to add a comment when they reply to you, which leads to a conversation. Sometimes I want to respond to a tweet, but there isn't even room to add a "LOL", so I end up not saying anything, which is a missed opportunity for the original tweeter. 

7. @Mentions -- Check the tab labeled "@Mentions" to see the tweets addressed to you. This always gets overlooked by everyone starting out. I personally think it's good manners to reply to anyone who has sent you an @mention, but not everyone does this. (But they're wrong.) 

8. Direct Messages (DM) -- These are private messages of 140 characters that only you and the sender can see. You will see these at the top of the screen under "Messages".  The most important thing to remember is you can NOT send a DM to someone if they do not follow you.  

9. Hashtag (#) – This is primarily an organizational tool. If you click on a hashtag word, such as #amwriting, you'll see ALL the tweets that included that word. If it's something you want to see again, click on "Save this search" at the top of the screen.

Some fun ones are #mancandymonday, by some romance fans who post pics of hotties on Monday evenings, and #pubtip, which agents/editors use to give publishing tidbits. I've met a lot of fellow writers through #1k1hr, where writers jump in to write for an hour, hopefully doing 1k in wordcount, and then get back together to announce their results.

People also like to use hashtags for humor, kinda like a punchline to a joke. It's fun. #noreallyitis

10. Retweet – This is easy sleazy. You see a tweet you want to share with your tweeps, so you click on the "retweet" button and click "yes" when it asks you to confirm your choice. You don't add anything, but your name is listed as the retweeter, which is a good way to make friends. Don't retweet EVERYTHING, though, because that can be annoying to your followers.

There is a tab next to "Mentions" called "Retweets" where you can see who has retweeted you, and which tweet they considered retweetworthy. I like to check this often, because it's nice to thank people for retweeting you, and possibly gain a new follower/followee.

11. Who to Follow –When you click on a person's @name, it will show you their pic, bio, and their last 3 tweets.  I click on "view full profile", because it shows all of their tweets, giving me a better sense of their personality. I can see if they just send out retweets, or links to other websites, or if they're constantly promoting something. If they don't have any tweets, I don't follow them, because I already know what they're going to say (nothing).

The easiest way to discover if someone you follow also follows YOU is to click on their name, and look at their mini-profile. If you can see the "Message" button, that means they are following you – because you can't message someone unless they follow you.

12. Unfollowing – Every once in a while you might want to review the list of people you follow, to see if you're still feeling the love. I continue to follow some people that I find a bit annoying, because they have connections I find interesting, or it makes good business sense to hear what they have to say.

I'm starting to unfollow people who NEVER respond when I send them a tweet, which kinda defeats the purpose of a social connection site. So don't be that tweeter. Respond to people when they tweet you.

I have also unfollowed people who, out of the blue, began ranting about something I find unpleasant or offensive. It's okay to have opinions and beliefs, but don't force-tweet them down my throat.

Bottom line: You don't have to LOVE Twitter, but it's a good idea to keep in mind how it can benefit you. It's a free way to get to know potential readers and fans, and it's a free way to connect with fellow writers and publishing professionals. 

I couldn't cover everything, so feel free to blast me with questions!  Or we can go to Twitter for a field trip. What else would you like to know? What Twitter tips do you have? Feel free to share them!
Monday, May 16, 2011

The Bo'sun's Coming Out Ball

When the time approached to start the querying process, one of the things I wanted to include in my query letter was a link to my website. Now, I know what you’re asking yourself. “Bo’sun has a website?” Well, I didn’t, which is why I needed a plan.

Donna set the example by using Typepad to manipulate a blog site into looking like a website. Chance had used the same program, with a little help from DRD to set up her own blog. When I need an inexpensive plan, Typepad seemed the way to go. So I dove in.

It should come as no surprise that this little endeavor did not go smoothly. In fact, poor Donna had to deal with my blundering during a phone call back in February as I tried to figure out what the heck I was doing. If she didn’t think I was nuts before, that phone call made it official.

I eventually got things the way I wanted, labeled a couple pages “Under Construction” and set the site aside to get some other things done. Ironically, when I sent out my (whopping) two query letters into the agent world, I didn’t include the website, since it wasn’t done yet. Another project left unfinished.

Until last week.

I don’t know what’s going on in my brain lately, but something told me I needed to get that site done and take this writing thing seriously. I have an internet presence, but not a “This writer is for reals” kind of presence. If watching Chance attack the land of the published has taught me anything it’s that you don’t want to wait until you’re published to do these things. Grant it, when I publish, I’ll need something more professional, but for now, I needed something. We’ll call it a starter site.

After one hefty hiccup, which resulted in having to delete the site I’d completely finished and starting over, I now have a website that includes a short bio, MS/WIP blurbs, and the unedited version of the short story published in Woman’s World magazine last fall.

Today is my coming out party.

Check me out here and tell me what you think. What am I missing? I’ll eventually add elements like a photo gallery and if things go really well, a “published books” page. A girl can dream.

EDITED TO ADD: What author websites are your favorites and why. What do you expect from an author website and what aspects would put you off. (Meant to add this last night.)
Sunday, May 15, 2011

Melissa Marr's Graveminder: American Gothic Is Back

So say you were tired of reading about love triangles, vampires, and shapeshifters? And say you did want to pick up a book that was more spooky than sweetly inspirational? What would you pick up? I mean, is there a book out there that is spooky without being about vampires or demons?


Actually there is. And I’m sure the answer is: actually there are, as in there are more than one book that isn’t about vampires, shapeshifters, or demons, oh, my. But today I’m only equipped to tell you about one: Graveminder by Melissa Marr.


I will file my disclaimer first—as is true with almost all the books I review here—I got the book for free, but before I agreed, I did go to Melissa’s website and read the first excerpt and that’s what sold me. Even if they didn’t send me the book, I would find a copy and read it. It had one of those openings.


I mean, how can you resist shivering at the words whispered over a grave: “Sleep well, and stay where I put you.”


Graveminder is about a pact with Death, a centuries old contract a town has had in exchange for long life and ‘safety’, about death and loss and secrets, and occasionally about zombies. There’s a tunnel to the land of the dead under the town; and there is an Undertaker and a Graveminder, and they’re bound to each other—so to speak—a sort of soul mates (said without any irony). Okay, and maybe there is a bit of a love triangle. You have Charlie (Death) and Byron (the Undertaker) and Rebekkah (the Graveminder). And both of them want Bek. Bek doesn’t really want either of them, per se, but I would say she is attracted to both of them in different ways.


On the whole fantasy-horror isn’t my normal read, but this book was imminently readable. It was interesting and complex and creepy and compelling. I didn’t want to stop turning pages; and I got to a certain point in the book and thought, “There is no way everything can be resolved in fifty more pages.” And I realized this would be a series. Or I hope it is. I want to know more about the pact with Death; I want to know about Charlie; and I want to know more about Byron and Bek.


This book read a bit like American Gothic—except it is still very much its own story. It’s more; and it’s one of those books you could see as a TV show and you hope they didn’t screw it up. This story is chock full of complex characters, conflict, emotion, and authenticity. I also enjoyed the fact the author was able to do things that is normally “forbidden”: multiple characters; multiple POVs; and flashbacks. None of it seemed out of place or overdone; none of it was confusing where I was struggling to remember who someone was.


In the end, I wish I hadn’t read it so fast so I could have enjoyed it a bit more—especially Byron who is one delicious Undertaker—but also so I could have enjoyed Charlie a bit more as well. Is it creepy to have a little crush on Death? Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of. Who knew Death could be so charming?


Do any of you read fantasy-horror? If so, who do you read? Has anyone read any of Melissa Marr’s other books (Wicked Lovely)? Does anyone else have the problem of getting a crush on the anti-hero? Have any of you heard of this book and been looking forward to reading it? Let’s discuss our favorite anti-heroes, fantasy-horror, and American Gothic books.
Saturday, May 14, 2011

Comment of the Week and more Kraken Contest Stuff

The Contest! 

This week the prime comment came from Celeste Nist… Now, Celeste is someone I know well. She is also someone the Bo’sun met in Orlando last year. Celeste is a woman of ink. Colored ink. She not only tattoos those willing to undergo the pain, but she herself is decorated with tattoos.

I love Celeste. She is a total kick and with her cohort, Kim, they prowl the conventions…making connections, drinking beer and taking no prisoners. I trust these ladies so much I made them my designated asskickers at RT. Gave them buttons and everything!

This week, Celeste finally told me where my kraken was…

He told me not to say anything, but I really want that Betsy Johnson ring.
Sigh. I'm selling him out for jewelry.
The Kraken has been with me at the tattoo shop. He's always found tattoos fascinating and given his artistic nature, he decided to do an apprenticeship with me.
Now, he's not that good *yet* but he has a ton of potential and is a very fast learner.
And with all his tentacles, he will be able to do four times the work that a normal tattoo artist can manage.
And I'm pretty sure his specialty will be realistic portraits of underwater life.



I forgave Celeste for hiding him away. After all, he would be a natural at this! I also know he’s never going to be content whiling away his time in the midst of Ohio…he needs water. So I’m sure he’ll be moving along soon…

What does Celeste win?

A note book with my wonderful cover on it so she can be a walking advertisement for me! Aren’t I generous!

Now, we all know about my sentiments regarding FB and the new crackdown on rule breakers… I’m a pirate, I do guidelines. Hence, I have removed reference to the need to ‘like’ my author page. And I won’t be using the “C” word on FB. But…I still welcome comments and I love pictures… And I am keeping a list of names… Just don’t tell FB.


So, let’s keep those comments coming! Remember, I have some serious swag to award!


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Setting A Fire



Yeah. That sounds so good. Let’s set a fire. Preferably to someone annoying.


I know, it’s frowned upon. But sometimes the desire to pile on the wood, pour the lighter fluid and strike a match is one that needs to be indulged. (At least in make believe. )

Today, Friday 13th…let’s declare it unlucky to be _____________(fill in the blank) day and pull out those Zippos. I’ll bring the big bag of marshmallow and graham crackers. Someone else bring the chocolate. I’ll also provide the rum. (Which will help if the fire dies down a little.)

Yes, I generally advocate feeding those who annoy you, generally the inner critics, to the kraken. But since he’s on walk about and presently missing from the vicinity, I say let’s have a beach party and set our annoyances on fire.

Fireside Friday!

I’ll start by tossing the lawyers of FB on the pile. I don’t know how many there are but I’m really annoyed with them at the moment. Thirteen days into my “Where Did the Kraken Go?” contest and now I’m in danger of being deleted from FB because I may have broken some rule I didn’t know about. (Or would have understood if I did know about it regardless.) (Or is that irregardless? Hellie?)

Let’s get this party going, mean and nasty and screaming like banshees… We’ll pound on drums, vent and curse and rant and rave and indulge the batshit crazy darkness at the center of our souls.

***pulls out the fireplace matches and approaches the suits all bundled up and tied to the stake

I hope they scream like little girls.

And if you’re visiting and want to enter the “Where Did The Kraken go?” contest? Sorry for the bloodthirsty nature of today’s blog. But there are days… Feel free to grab a marshmallow, join the party and let me know where you think my tentacled friend has gone! And nominate someone for the stake. (No specifics friends…but be as concise as you need to be…)

Bwah ha ha!
Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Delayed Gratification

Writing, as I'm sure we've all figured out, is a delayed-gratification kind of game. We write, we hope our readers will like it, but there's very little immediate feedback (unless you have a rocking critique group). And there's very little external validation.

Our goals are long-term, ones that take years of hard work and dedication before the pay-out. If there's a pay-out. But you can't write a best-selling novel in one draft (or at least, I can't), you can't become a household name and international sensation overnight (unless you're Stephanie Meyer), and you can't expect to see a real profit anywhere in the first decade.

Remember these pictures? The delayed gratification test? Eat one marshmellow now, or wait, and get two marshmellows later.

I read an interview with Damon Wayans Jr. and he talked about the difference in writing stand-up comedy and writing sit-coms. In stand-up, he said, you have instant feedback. The audience laughs or they don't laugh. You know if it's funny. You know if it resonates. Writing and acting in sit-coms, he had to not only write the script without any feedback, but film the scenes. He admitted to feeling a bit adrift without a live studio audience.

I'm going somewhere with this, I promise. Stick with me for a minute. I used to write fanfiction. Several of us on this blog got our start writing that way. I loved writing fanfction for all sorts of reasons, but the biggest was probably the instant feedback. Write the next chapter of my book, toss it online, and poof, my inbox was full of emails gushing and overflowing with praise (sure, there were also the negative reviews, the occasional one correcting my grammar, and the stray crazy threatening an axe -- but there were enough positive ones to give a girl an ego boost).

Writing original fiction, revising and revising and revising, querying, querying and querying . . . there's no outpouring of gushing emails in this process. There's no cheering section. I miss the cheering section. We all need it. We need the validation that we're on the right track, that we have something special, that we're not wasting time that could be better spent folding origami.


We can get some of that through critique partners, if we've found a good pairing or group. We can get it through contests (or be devastated by a harsh judge).  It's horribly tempting to seek that validation through the querying process. And because we're hungry for it (come on, admit it! If I can, you can :)), we often query or submit early. One of the pieces of writing advice I see over and over again is to wait until your manuscript is as perfect as you can possibly make it before you query your first agent. But how many of us really do that? I know I didn't. I was only half way through the first draft before I thought, "Oh I can send this one pitch." And then come the rationalizations: "Well, it'll take them two months to respond. I'll have it revised by then."

And that may not be a bad thing. Call stories are full of those eager, newbie mistakes. Few of them will stop a career in its tracks (like, say, telling a reviewer to f-off).

It's the marshmellow. It's the question this poor kid is struggling with: one marshmellow now, or two marshmellows later? The validation now? Or the blind faith that if we keep writing without the validation, we'll eventually emerge stronger for it?


It's hard to wait. It kills me to wait. I want to know if people like this story. I want to post it chapter-by-chapter online, and get flooded with gushing emails.

I want my marshmellow, dammit! I want a live studio audience that either cheers or boos, so I know exactly where I stand.Without it, I have to keep chugging forward on faith, and some days, it's easier to come by than others.

How about it pirates? How's your faith and confidence in your own skills? Are you hungry for validation? One marshmellow now or two later?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Method Acting = Method Writing?

Influence this week: The caramel macchiato I'm drinking is doing wonders for my brain.

Music: I'm almost ashamed to say this aloud. “E.T” by Katy Perry (Please put me out of my misery now.)



One of my favorite ongoing manga series is about a teenager who's a method actress. She is always evolving into a completely different character from her true nature. She changes like a chameleon. While it works great for her jobs, it's hard for her to get her name out into the spotlight because she never looks the same. While writing and acting are two separate jobs, I think they have the same mindsets. This got me to thinking about how I write and wondering how everyone else writes.


I've always been absorbed into my own little world. Since I dislike socializing, I tend to people watch more than participate. The way you lean against the wall. The one arm braced against the wallpaper as you casually sip your coffee. The way your eyes are locked onto the couple across the room. I watch you watch their conversation. The way they interact with one another. The way your eyes seem to catch every little detail.


Characteristics and human expressions are my favorite things to catch in action. The way you wave your hand. The way your face twists up when you taste something sour. The crinkles around your eyes while you laugh. The way your face turns six shades of red when someone whispers in your ear. The intimate smile playing on your lips when you see your significant other across the room. All these nuances play into how I write. I visualize exactly how the character looks in that moment. I write down in detail how it plays out.


Some actors fall into what is described as “method” acting. When they read a part in a script, they become that character. In this actor's world, this character is living and breathing. They are no longer the actor playing the part. They are the part. Certainly, knowing how to do the things described within the script helps make the movie seem authentic and real to the viewer. But the amount of power and emotion you bring to the scenes completely depends on the grasp you have over your character. Even if you've not experienced the same emotional mindset as your character, you still need to draw from deep within yourself to play the part.


As a writer, I need to draw deep within myself to pull out every little emotion from the reader. My job is to make you, the reader, feel you can see this scene as if it played out right in front of you. I need you to believe this story is true. That my characters are real people you could meet on the street, pass, and never know they were anything more than a person you passed on the street. There is a magnetism that draws your eyes to them, but they are oblivious to your attention.


So how does one fall into method writing? I feel that all of us writers fall somewhat into that category. We do our research. We draw from deep within ourselves and pull out buried emotions and feelings. I know I've spent hours with my characters learning them, becoming them. We become so absorbed into our worlds we've created, whether its the world we live in or created by our own brain power, until we see nothing else. Time passes us by in just the blink of an eye. Your fingers fly over the keys as you pound out every move. You see the production in front of you with such clarity it's hard to believe with just a few words mumbled no one else knows what the hell you're talking about.


As a reader do you often find yourself imagining the characters as if they were standing in front of you acting out the book you're reading? Of the authors you read, who do you think makes you visualize the characters the most? Writers do you envision yourself as the characters and become one with your story while you're writing it? If you don't know something you're writing, what's your first course of action to rectify that?


PS. How is everyone's writing going this month?
Monday, May 9, 2011

Judging A Book By Its Cover

I admit, I’m not always the sharpest hoe in the garden shed, but even I pick up on a pattern now and then. As aspiring writers, we’re often asked what it is about our books that will make them stand out from all the others. Then if we ever manage to come up with a stellar response to this question and convince an editor/publisher to buy the thing, what do they do to it?

Make it look like all the other books.

We all know authors have little, if any, say in their covers. Back in the day (meaning back in ancient times when I started reading Romance) the big deal on Historical covers was the long haired, bare-chested hero (Fabio, anyone?!) holding the long-haired heroine in a domineering embrace, their hair whipping in the wind. Often in opposite directions, which always cracked me up.

Then there was the bold, embossed font for the title. Very sweeping and epic. If there had been movie posters in the early 19th century, that’s the font they would have used. Looking back, I guess it’s safe to say one covered looked pretty much like the rest.

And today is no different.

I’ve sprinkled examples through the blog and I’m sure you see the patterns as well. I often wonder if early 19th century modistes aren't rolling in their graves at the idea of all those dresses just falling off with what looks to be no help whatsoever. (Okay, the chick in the green dress might have had some help.) Or maybe the maids are rolling over knowing no self-respecting Lady’s Maid would allow her to leave for a ball without her dress properly cinched, shackled and shellacked.

Contemporaries seem to have a little more variety, but they do share one trend with Historicals – the headless heroine/hero. I’ve read many complaints about the head-chopping of these poor, defenseless models, but I kind of like it. Let’s face it, the model on the cover rarely resembles the character described inside and almost never matches the image we form in our minds. So give me the neck down and I’m good.

But really, if I had my druthers, I'd prefer no people on the cover a la Crusie or Debbie Macomber.

What do you think? If you’re a writer, have you ever mocked up a place-holder cover for your book? *raises hand high* Do you dream about what your real cover will look like some day? As for the options on the shelves now, are you tired of heroines losing their dresses (and where are the shifts and stays???) Do you mind having a headless model on the cover? Do you care about the cover at all? (And feel free to talk about the man-candy on Romantic Suspense books. I had to throw one of those in too.)

Last Monday's Winners!!

Random.org generated the winners of last week's blog about Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart--and those winners are:

#3: Marnee

#31: Julie

So email me your mailing address at mshellion @ gmail DOT com and I will be winging out your prizes to you!! Congratulations!!
Sunday, May 8, 2011


I have arrived to that time of year in my job that I festively call: Hell Month. It is so named because it’s the word I use most often when speaking to people.


To my email inbox: “Who the hell is this idiot?”

To my boss who has caused a problem: “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

To no one, because everyone is scared of me now: “Where the hell are those folders?”

To my Ben & Jerry’s, at night, instead of the gym: “When the hell is all this crap going to end?”

To my friends, at the bar, over a pina colada: “Why the hell should I care again?”

To a student, who merely asked me how get her on graduation list after deadline/submit paperwork after a deadline/do anything after a deadline: “How the hell am I supposed to do that? Do I look like [BLEEP] Harry Potter to you?”


As you may have surmised, I make a lot of friends in the month of May. I also drink a lot. And at the end of each day, even if I’ve managed to get outside and walk around the block or go to the gym, I have sincere trouble sitting in front of my computer monitor to type the latest shenanigans and banter between my hero and heroine. The thought of using any more brain power to wrestle with the mysteries of the universe and form them into a book format makes me want to go to bed and sleep for twelve hours.


Now I grant you, my life could be much worse and much more stressed out. I am grateful it is not. Really all I want to do is make it through the month of May without doing any of the following: a) get arrested; b) get thrown into the looney bin; c) get fired; d) up my depression medicine; e) actually turn into an alcoholic; f) alienate all my friends and family; and g) all the above. (And actually this stress level will continue until about the end of June, but I only want to think about one month at a time.)


I certainly don’t want to take off writing for the month of May just because by 5 pm every night I’m a living vegetable. I should be able to write a couple of pages each day no matter what, even if they aren’t great pages. Yet, some days, opening that file and staring at the blinking cursor, there are no words.


What do you do when there are no words?


RWR’s magazine this month had a Well-Writer article about meditation and writing. Fortunately the author knew her audience well because she didn’t ask for any special incense or time commitments. Ten minutes and you could sit on the couch if you wanted. You just closed your eyes, breathed deeply, and focused on not thinking. I figured I should be awesome at this because by 9 pm on any given day, my brain is repeating this same chant: Uhhhhhhhhh. Which isn’t so much a chant as it is the flatlining sound that the heart machine makes when you die. Not off to a great start in my opinion.


But I figure it can’t hurt. I seem able to zone out in the middle of a Castle episode on any given night and not have a thought in my head, so the absolute silence should be a nice change of pace. And it’s only for ten minutes. If it doesn’t work out, I can always go to bed. But if it does work, then my brain should reboot, if you will, and I should be able to crank out a couple pages before putting it all to bed. Good pages. Not pages like: Adam sees Eve run. Adam likes the way her boobs bounce. Adam chases. No offense to anyone who likes Dick and Jane books...or whatever I think I'm mocking.


Anyway, even though I’ve made my goals for Maywrapimo month, 30,000 words/4 pages a day, I am adding that nightly 10 minute meditation, mainly because if I don’t, I won’t be writing anything at all.


Do any of you belong to RWA and get the RWR each month? Do you read the articles? If you do, have you liked their theme this year for the Well-Writer? And have you implemented any of their suggestions?
Saturday, May 7, 2011

Contest Comment of the Week Winner!!!

And more entries!

 As promised, I have a comment of the week to announce and an award to … uh…award!

I had so many wonderful entries… The speculations have run wild as to where the Kraken slithered off to, missing the photo shoot for my print cover! But I had to go with the entry that was posted on Facebook by T.t. Miller…it came with a picture… ;-)


The Kraken used magic to shift into a tentacled plant to eat this kitty!

 T.t. You have won a bronze tentacle bit of kraken bling!

I’m anxious to see what entries I’ll get this week!

Remember…you can enter multiple times! So, let’s keep it going!

To reiterate… Between the electronic edition of The Kraken’s Mirror and the print edition of The Kraken’s Mirror…my kraken disappeared. Now, he’s a responsible beast and I choose to believe he has a reason and a place he was driven to go… (Yes, there was a reason and it wasn’t on purpose…these things happen.)

I’m making the most of a sad situation and having a CONTEST! What am I giving away? 1st prize is a Sony Pocket Reader! 2nd prize is A kick-ass kraken parasol and…a 3rd prize is a Betsy Johnson ‘kraken’ ring! When does the contest run? From May 1st to May 31st! So… Where did the Kraken go?

Here are the options: Where did the Kraken go?

1)      He’s in Scotland, wooing Nessie

2)      He’s outside the Mines of Moria at Gandalf’s request, fighting off the menace in the waters

3)      Sharing rum with the monster in the lake at Hogwarts

4)      ? Your idea?

How to enter the contest?

1)      Comment on my blog at www.maureenobetita.com and pick an option, or create your own.

2)      Friend my author page on Facebook, Maureen O. Betita Author and leave a comment, telling me which option you’ve picked, or where you think the Kraken went.

3)      Find me on any blog I guest at during the month of May and tell me your option. (Be sure to leave an e-mail address in the comment section.)

I’ll award the three biggies on the 31st…during the month I’ll give away smaller prizes…free books, pirate perch hats and kraken jewelry. Amuse me with clever ideas and you might win something!

And yes, this is a guest blog! So you can enter here!
Thursday, May 5, 2011

Kraken Comments Dive Deep!

You know, it’s been a good week for my “Where Did The Kraken Go?” contest. I wanted to chat a bit about how wonderful it is to see how the imagination soars when challenged to wins something neat.

Is it like this with writing contests? Is it the glory of having some wondrous bit of bling to attach to the badge at the next conference? The better to dazzle the newbies in the elevators as they crane their necks, trying to read your name and identify the blitz or bling – does any of that mean you are somebody they should know and kowtow to?

(I’ve actually been tempted to buy some small pins and attach them all over, just to play with people. “OH, that? I won that for the best kiss-off scene. And that one? Best use of a kraken in a contemporary setting, from the Tortuga chapter of the RWA.”)

Is it the prize money, not the bling? Not that most contests offer much in the way off monetary glory. And most contests I see on Facebook are all about gift cards.

Now, okay, we know it’s often the prize judges. I couldn’t offer up any sort of sooper-dooper prize judges when I needed to rally some interest in my contest.

So, I resorted to bribes. Hey, selling books is about the writing, but to begin with, it’s about the readers. Actually, it’s always about the readers and getting the readers to notice the flowers with the right sort of pollen.

My pollen is a Sony Pocket Reader. For starters. And a Kraken Parasol. And a cool Betsy Johnson ‘octopus’ ring. I also will be giving away some e-books, handmade pirate perch hats, and kraken bling. Now, on Sunday the captain commented on how much all this must be costing me.

BWAH HA HA! I am a shopping genius and all I can say is this…not as much as you might think. (I’m a little worried about the postage when I award these puppies…but it’s a contest, I’m not going to limit it to the US. I’ll worry about that bridge when I come to it.)

You know, I’m off track here… Let me see… Oh, yeah! About how imaginative the comments have been! All for the sake of the bling and swag or is it because we all love a chance to stretch our minds and come up with some wild-assed ideas? Or to use my favorite image, strap those wings to the ass and leap off the cliff.

I imagine writing contests are a bit different…you need to polish and shine those entries. They are so much more restrictive than the wild whoopee leaps a fast writing challenge gives. We’ve seen it here on the blog, when the Captain challenged us to spin a story from a fast lead… And Sin-sister did a good job on Wednesday with the Q&A stuff.

I might enter more contests if they were the let ‘em rip blips. Like a make-up-a-title contest. Or throw-together-a-premise contest. A blurb contest. (For a book that isn’t written and probably won’t be written…) You know, goofing off! ;-)

What spins you up? You ever take a flash writing challenge and let it rip? And actually find it useful with the WIP? (I did!)


And those who follow the links… Yes, you can post another guess at where my Kraken went and be entered into the contest! Come Sunday, I’ll be talking the contest again and sharing my favorite guess at the Kraken’s whereabouts…and award a prize! My blog is up and running and collecting comments also!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Two Protagonists?

I started an online course this week.  It's the Deep Story course (This link is to the class in Oct but I think it's being offered other places this summer too) being conducted by Carol Hughes.  First of all, I've never taken an online course and I admit I was skeptical.  I love the classroom.  I love going to school, I love teaching at school, and I love the face to face interplay of traditional education.  I wasn't sure I was going to like learning in this new, modern way.

But the information Ms. Hughes has already given us has been worth the money I paid.  In short, this class rocks.  If you get a chance, take it this year some time.

Anyway, I couldn't even begin to tell you all the stuff that's included in just the first lesson, but one epiphany I had as a result of her course has to do with the role of the protagonist.

For years I've wondered about the seeming paradox of having two protagonists in romance.  In most romance novels, the hero and the heroine get equal face time.  They each have their conflicts, external and internal.  They are both invested in the overall story.

But there are two!!  That does NOT fit in with the story structure I learned in school.  It doesn't fit with the way I taught story structure.

In short, it didn't make sense.

Therefore, I've spent a couple years just wading around in the bogs, trying to find my way, hoping I just luck out and get it right.  I might as well get out my metal detector and roam around in a busy parking lot.  Maybe I'll find a coin or someone's lost piece of jewelry but the payoffs are small and few and far between.

Until yesterday and Carol Hughes' class.

In her material, she explained the role of the Contagonist.

I believe the term comes from Dramatica.com.

The idea is that the Contagonist is the obstacle character.  However, the Contagonist is not the Antagonist.  While the Antagonist wants to prevent the Protagonist from accomplishing their goal, the Contagonist wants to divert or delay the Protagonist from their goal, or accomplish the goal in a different way.

To give you some examples.  In Harry Potter, Snape is a main Contagonist.  In Star Wars, Darth Vader is the Contagonist.  In the Matrix, Trinity is the Contagonist.

In romance, the Protagonist and the Contagonist are your hero and heroine.

One thing I found particularly interesting is that the Protagonist doesn't have to be the heroine, something I always felt necessary in romance.  But, that's not true and, in fact,  my hero is the Protagonist of my story.

So, today I'm going to ask you to think about this idea.  Can you think of any other Contagonists in either movies or books?  Is your Protagonist your hero or your heroine?  What's the goal they're trying to accomplish?  And how is the Contagonist complicating that goal?

If you don't feel like playing along—I know, I can hear the whining, "Marnee…. This is your class, not my class"—then have you had any craft epiphanies lately?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Q&A with your character

Influence this week: I'd say mass quantities of alcohol, but I haven't drank a lick.

Music: In anticipation of getting Parabelle's acoustic CD early- “Saturnalia” by Evans Blue (w/ Kevin Matisyn) I've got my fingers crossed that the secret song on the CD is this one.



It's the first week of May, which means Mayawrapawrimo is in full swing. (Is that how we're spelling it? *dismissive gesture* Meh, it's close enough that you get the point.) We're all brimming full with promise of massive quantities of pages about to be written. Positive energy is practically oozing from your pores like pheromones calling out to other writers. This will be a great month for all of us. I'm sure of it.


I love writing. Ever since I decided to go for it, I've found joy with creating situations for characters and using the characters to do my evil bidding- I mean, goody two-shoeing- for fun. It's fun to see characters and stories come to life from your imagination. It's easy to remember as a kid having a grand imagination and using it for all sorts of childish endeavors. I spent my entire childhood outside chasing after one story to the next. It was only after I became an adult (I use that term loosely) and was inspired that I decided it was time to put my imagination to work.


Fat lot of good that's done me.


So as I struggle along trying to finish one manuscript after the next, I go back to those days when my imagination ran wild amongst the black-eyed susans and honeysuckle and purple clover. When I could climb a tree and pretend I was almost touching the sky. Imagination is meant to be fun. I sometimes lose sight of that when I'm struggling to bring my characters to life.


I know most of you do some sort of story boarding and character interviewing to understand your story better. Especially when you're first starting out. Those questions we ask all have a point that steers the story towards the end. It helps you know your characters reactions and thought processes. It's all rational. How about some silly stuff? I want to chill out with my character today. Not that any interaction with your character won't help you know them better. But how about today we have some fun?


I decided over the weekend while I could rally the pirates and friends for the Mayawrapawrimo, we really don't need a firm boot planting this early on. So let's have some exercise. I'll ask some questions and write your first response from your character's perspective.


I'm going to use my heroine for my YA whom I'm working with right now. We don't need to know the age or name or situation the character is in. The point of the exercise is fun and just finish the sentence with the first character thought that comes to mind.




Question 1. My alarm goes off in the morning and I...?


Answer: I beat it with my fist until it shuts the hell up.





Question 2: What's the first thought in your mind when you wake up?



Question 3. All you have is rotten eggs and ketchup in the fridge and you're starved... what happens next?



Question 4: Someone is calling you by a nickname. What is it?



Question 5: You hear a noise in the middle of the night. It wakes you from a dead sleep. What's your first move?


Answer: It would have to be one helluva noise to wake me from a dead sleep.


Me: *eye roll* Just go with it.


Answer: Well, there's all kinds of noise in the shelter. Are we talking like mass chaos, broken glass and screaming or atomic bombs and tanks rolling through the living room?


Me: *giving the look* The kind that means trouble, smart ass.


Question 6: You can go anywhere and do anything. What's first?


Question 7: It's a quiet night and you're home with nothing to do. What's your game plan?


Question 8: A person is interested in you and you've taken notice. What happens next?



You don't have to answer all of them. The question might not pertain to your character's situation. Ry's in a world where there's not much of an option to go anywhere and do anything. Or have a quiet night at “home”. Just answer the ones that jump out at you and your character.


PS. Pamela Clare's newest I-Team book, Breaking Point, released yesterday. Don't forget to pick it up if you're an I-Team fan!
Monday, May 2, 2011

The Scary Sound of Silence

At the beginning of April, we Pirates (Sin in the lead) kicked off Awrapaho (or whatever tribe you want to call it) and I was totally gung ho. I vowed to write  no less than 25 pages a week and what did I write? Ten. Maybe. For the ENTIRE month. I’m pretty sure I stopped in the middle of a sentence somewhere around the middle of the month and never went back.


During the month or two leading up to April, these characters were constantly yapping at me. Telling me their life stories and what they wanted and what they believed. They threw whole scenes my way full of angst and laughter, sexy banter and a few tears. But now, they’ve gone silent.

*double sigh*

I’m not quite sure why they’ve shut up. Far as I know, I didn’t tick them off. I mean, I’m only ten pages in, how far could I have deviated from the story they were practically throwing at me? My guess is the usual – it’s not them, it’s me.

Imagine your memory as a long hallway with countless doors running down both sides. Closed doors. There are some doors along that corridor you gladly throw open and dance through, swimming in the sunshine and joy of the experience. That tenth birthday when you got the bike you were sure you’d never get. The day you graduated college and knew the whole world lay at your fingertips, offering everything you ever wanted. The bright Wednesday morning when your first child came into the world.

But then there are doors you don’t want to open again. Doors you want to deadbolt and nail shut, maybe even brick up to keep them locked forever. Well, for some odd reason, these are the doors that seem to be opening for me lately. And the noise and shit that fills the small space of my memory hallway is drowning out the characters voices that were so exciting just a month ago.

I’m not looking for sympathy nor am I racing off to therapy. (I wouldn’t even know how to do that.) I’m writing this to possibly exorcise these annoying gremlins in my head and make way for the characters to start talking again. No idea if it will work but at this point, I’ll try anything.

I had a three day weekend and slept three to four hours all three afternoons. After sleeping well through the night. I’m also having dreams with famous people in them. Not the same dreams and not the same famous people, but everyone from Colin Firth to Billy Crystal to Oprah have made appearances. WTH is up with that??

Today, we’re going New Age. I won’t promise to try everything, but I’m open to all suggestions. What do you do to find focus and balance? How do you make yourself move when your body is telling you to curl up and shut down? Ever have your characters run off on vacation without you and if so, how the heck did you get them to come back?!

PS: I have an early morning doc appointment so I'll be late but feel free to get your Zen on until I get back.
Sunday, May 1, 2011

What You Should Read This Month: Or Sarah Maclean Does It Again!

Words written month of April: 13,007

Book I read this weekend: Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart (MacLean)

Book I’m reading now: Midnight’s Wild Passion (Campbell)


May is a beautiful month, and it’s going to be wonderful this year for a number of reasons. For one, I’m once again going to be writing in our Maywrapaho (sp? I’ll never get it right will I?) and I hope to at least double my word count. Well, my goal will be the same as last month’s: 1000 words a day. I hope you all will be doing the same—having your own writing goals to accomplish and revel in.


Unlike my contemporaries who refuse to read while they are writing—which is lofty, I admit and probably advised—I read. I mean let’s be frank. You’re a writer; you’re going to be procrastinating in one manner or another. You may be watching American Idol or Grey’s Anatomy (or both and all their competition!), or you may be on Facebook, catching up on the latest gossip and sucked into watering imaginary vegetables. Since I’ve deleted my imaginary gardens, I’ve found I have many more free hours to procrastinate in other ways.


So I’ve been reading. And this week I’ve been reading Sarah Maclean’s Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart. Now a lesser writer would be demoralized by how Maclean makes this all look so easy with her wit, humor, heartbreaking conflict, and sexual tension, but I refused to drown myself in the bathtub—at least until I found out how she makes the HEA happen. I also tried not to be depressed that this remarkable author must be a NYT’s bestselling author. She absolutely has the magic. I occasionally wondered if she pulled a Robert Johnson, selling her soul at the crossroads in exchange to write the most charming stories. Then I wonder what crossroads she used.


Many writing articles and craft books (Stephen King’s among them) recommend to writers that they read-read-read. Learning by osmosis, I suppose. And there is much to learn from osmosis from Maclean’s newest. She starts off the book with an Italian proverb (which I don’t even know is a real proverb—but if it isn’t, it’s a brilliant strategy to start the book because I loved this quote and it made me sigh with romance and pleasure every time I thought of it.) The proverb was: a single moment with a fiery female is worth eleven years of boring life. Ah, it just makes you want to be a fiery female, doesn’t it?


I turned the page, and our heroine, Miss Juliana Fiori, is in a bit of a mess. She’s in the gardens of her brother’s party and having to fend off the unwanted advances of a porky ass. But our heroine’s no wilting flower. First she punches him in the nose, then she knees him in the groin—and then she gets the hell out of Dodge. (Miss Congeniality would be so proud.) She then ends up in the carriage of the stuffiest duke in all of Christendom. This duke is so stuffy, he makes Mary Balogh’s Duke of Bewcastle seem positively liberal.


So of course we know these two are destined for each other.


There’s a challenge issued and some sexual tension, and then what follows are two weeks of dares and your normal Regency romance hero-and-heroine scenes. We have a horseback riding scene, a lake-picnic scene, a few ball scenes, and a country home scene. In this we have the familiar, the things we love most about Regency romances, and Maclean does beautifully at keeping the tension high and the conflict dark and painful. Because Juliana is not your typical virgin debutante, but the daughter born of a scandalous mother whose has left the legacy to her to deal with. We feel Juliana’s pain quite fiercely as part of her wishes she fit in more, but at the same time wishes she could be accepted just as she is. She struggles to be accepted and to accept herself, and here is a man she can’t help but be attracted to and he can’t accept her just as she is. It makes a reader wish to time-travel to the Regency and set some of these harpies in their place—and break a vase over the hero’s head.


Maclean doesn’t rush any fences when it comes to kisses or sex, but when the moment does present itself, she doesn’t close the bedroom door on us either. The sex complicates everything so much more—and leads to a black moment black enough to darken your eyelashes with.


But that wasn’t even my favorite part of the book. My favorite part was the duke’s secret. I have the worst time with secrets for my characters. But Maclean gave her duke the best secret ever. The secret was a perfect foil to the conflict between the hero and heroine, a subplot that reflected the bigger story, and watching the duke come to terms with these events was rather magical. It’s the kind of character growth that doesn’t seem to be apparent in many romances of late.


Treat yourself this month and read this book. You’ll enjoy it, I believe, and you won’t even realize how much you’re learning from this talented author. Maclean is wonderful at character driven plot and definitely so with this particular novel.


Ha, I meant to write this blog as the eleven scandals I would start if I were a romance heroine, but I got so caught up in telling you about the book, I forgot. Well, if I were a romance heroine, I would definitely start out by fetching my own lemonade at these parties. Waiting for a guy to pay attention to you or read your mind seems the height of stupidity. I’d probably also say that the Prince Regent needs to lay off the éclairs, and Brummel needs to lay off the frilly cravats. And most scandalous of all, I’d probably write romance novels with kissing and black moments to make debutantes swoon.


What scandals would you make if you were a romance heroine? (You are not limited to the Regency era if you find that too confining.) I have a copy of Eleven Scandals to give away today, and I also have a copy of Maclean’s previous novel, Ten Ways to Adored When Landing a Lord. Comment and you can win one of these books.

She lives for passion

Bold, impulsive, and a magnet for trouble, Juliana Fiori is no simpering English miss. She refuses to play by society’s rules: she speaks her mind, cares nothing for the approval of the ton, and can throw a punch with remarkable accuracy. Her scandalous nature makes her a favorite subject of London’s most practiced gossips…and precisely the kind of woman the Duke of Leighton wants far far away from him.

He swears by reputation.

Scandal is the last thing Simon Pearson has room for in his well-ordered world. The Duke of Disdain is too focused on keeping his title untainted and his secrets unknown. But when he discovers Juliana hiding in his carriage late one evening–risking everything he holds dear–he swears to teach the reckless beauty a lesson in propriety.

She has other plans, however; she wants two weeks to prove that even an unflappable duke is not above passion.


(And yes, I did copy and paste the book description from Sarah Maclean's website: http://macleanspace.com/romance/elevenscandals/. Incidentally Sarah does a great blog about the Royal Wedding!! And yes, Sarah, Prince Harry is total romance hero material!)