Sunday, October 30, 2011

Last Chance For Stupidity!

Sin has brought me to the Dark Side. She promised me low-calorie, fat-free cookies. (Weight Watchers. Because it works.)


As you might have noticed, tomorrow is November 1st, and it will kick off the start of Write Your Ass Off Month, or the more conventionally known, NaWriNoMo (NaNo for short). I wasn’t going to do it, mainly because I never have. I’ve signed up. I’ve started. But much like that latch-hook rug kit I got for Christmas when I was 10, I never finished a project. I’m sure I’m the only person who has ever found NaNo demoralizing.


You hear a lot about how you should write something you’re passionate about. Something you love. Yadda, yadda, yadda. I get that. If you don’t care about something, it’s too easy to give up. But caring about something can be different than loving something. When you love something too much, you want to protect it. You definitely don’t want to make it suffer. You want the best for it. You’re too emotionally involved in it because you won’t let the project just be what it is. You want to protect it from the critics and yourself, when you realize that while you may love it, it’s not all that and a box of ho-hos.


I assume this isn’t every writer’s problem. I know many writers so in love with their book idea, they can’t see any problem with it and write along, totally in ignorant bliss about grammar, structure, plot, or characterization. While it may not be very readable in publishing circles, they have finished it, which is definitely better than anything I’m doing. I’m constantly obsessed about grammar, structure, plot, characterization, beats, voice, and basically any other thing you can list that we writers are supposed to be writing about. I’m obsessed with just about everything but the actual writing and finishing of said story idea.


So I wasn’t going to do NaNo. I didn’t want to use my current novel, which happens to be the novel from last year. I didn’t want something new. I couldn’t even think of something new. Sin said, “It doesn’t matter what you write about. You can write about anything. It doesn’t have to make sense.” Sin likes to embrace chaos. I was not impressed with this suggestion.


After a bit, I made a list of everything I did want to write about. I made a bullet list of about a hundred items. Just random things I thought should be included in the story. Things like cupcakes and kittens and really great sex. Then I made a bulleted list of items that I didn’t want to write about, things I knew would have to be included on the sheer principle of it. Stupid arguments. Helicopter parents. Paperwork that’s never filled out right. Things like that. And you know what? I suddenly had an idea; and I suddenly had some passion about the idea.


It wasn’t that I loved the idea. It wasn’t that I hated it either—it was that I felt actual passion about it. I felt I had something to say. It’s basically a story with every obnoxious person I can think of, mucking up my heroine’s life, acting like they’re the rightest person on the planet when they’re actually dumbasses. Oh, the gloriousness of this story idea. It’s like a manifesto of cathartic therapy. I can finally do to all these people what I’m not allowed to do in real life: give them their just desserts. (The Anger Management classes are all full this month. Sorry.)


Sin said, “It doesn’t matter if it works as a real book or not. This is about competing with yourself to show you CAN do it. It’s supposed to be fun. It’ll recharge your creativity.”


I hope so. I’m in it now. Best of all, this feels like the sort of joy I had for writing before. Righting wrongs with my imagination and my poison-green pen (yes, that’s a Harry Potter reference.) And besides, it’s only for 30 days. I can do anything for 30 days. Right? Okay, well, I’ll give it a shot.


How about you? Are you doing NaNo or not? Nothing like a last minute sign-up to get the creative juices flowing. What else were you going to do this month? This is the perfect excuse to ignore your weird family during Thanksgiving. Don't have an idea? Ask us--we'll jumpstart you an idea. After all, it doesn't have to make sense....


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Things I Have Learned This Past Week...

[caption id="attachment_5132" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="The Assassin with Colleen Gleason"][/caption]

1)  Just when I thought I'd seen it all, I was wrong.  I got this review.  I don't even know what "trying to take the mickey out of their readers" means.  Clearly, I am out of touch:

1.0 out of 5 stars

Really?, October 22, 2011

I just finished reading this and still can't work out if it was written by a fourteen year old, or someone trying to take the mickey out of their readers.
The idea was good, but the writing was terrible.

2)  I was at the NINC conference last Wednesday through this past Monday.  The fabulous Lori Devoti did a workshop on formatting your ebook.  She used PARADISE BY THE RIFLE SIGHTS as an example and formatted it for me for Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords (this is why I got it up so fast and had no time to warn folks).  I took fifteen pages of notes.  I am in complete awe of Lori's skills, and I was completely humiliated by how much I don't know.  Meanwhile, I got an email the next day that there are formatting issues with STAND BY YOUR HITMAN for Nook...again.  This is a crazy, crazy business.

3)  Before I went to the conference, I was considered the most knowledgeable person in my critique group about epublishing.  Once at the conference, listening to heavy hitters from Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Penguin/Putnam, Harper Collins and TOR - I realized that I know less than nothing.  Words like "swarming" and "discoverability" and "" are swirling through my head and I fear that if I look at my notes - I won't understand them.  The technology of this business changes so quickly it seems impossible to get a grip.

4)  I learned that 2 Chocolate Martinis can knock me on my ass, but I can drink beer for a long, long time before feeling it.  My usual conference cocktail is the vodka tonic.  It doesn't go to my head and I don't have to go to the bathroom every ten minutes.  But when you're on a beach, you need a beer.  Okay...I need a beer.  Beer is good.

5) I learned that I look forward to the day when all the pirates go to the NINC conference with me.  It is Florida - the perfect place for pirates.  Who's up for some rum?
Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Taking a right hook to the jaw

Over the years I've been writing, I've gotten my share of good and bad critiques. Most of the time, I can handle a critique without taking it personally. I'm partnered up some CPs who are awesome at giving feedback in a positive, easy-to-swallow way. And I know they are sincere in their desire to help me succeed, and that they won't be offended if I disagree with any particular suggestion.

But every now and then, a critique comes along, sneaks past my defenses, and comes much, much to close to home. As much as I try to be professional and not take critiques personally, yada yada yada, it can sting. Bad.

I got one like that this week. I turned in my thesis for grad school -- a romantic-thriller novel two and half years in the making -- after what felt like endless revisions and weeks cleaning up typos. I got the feedback this week.

I passed. I got some positive commentary on the book as a whole. And I got, of course, constructive criticism and suggestions. And what felt like nit-picky-comment after nit-picky comment.  Two full critiques on the full 400-page manuscript.

sting . . . sting . . . sting

Typos. Spacing errors. Garbled sentences. A plot point that doesn't make sense. A character's motivation that doesn't feel right. Dialog that feels stilted. The grammatical misunderstanding of blond vs. blonde. Chapter titles  not being true center. A timeline error in when the doctor arrives at the castle. A villain that feels one-dimensional.

sting . . . sting . . . sting

And in spite of the positive, encouraging words scattered throughout, it was hard to hear. It felt a bit like a right-hook to the jaw, and my head snapped back like that poor girl up there (20 bonus points to the first commenter who can identify the punch in the pictures!)

I've gone back and looked at the critiques again (after I iced my jaw). I've skipped the bad parts -- really, why read them again? -- and re-read the good parts. The encouraging words about how far I've come, and how well I can do with just a bit more effort on this manuscript.

And in a week or so -- okay, maybe a month or so -- I'll be able to read the bad parts, and see the wisdom and sense in their suggestions. I'll be able to see their criticism in the light of positive forward movement with this book.

How about you guys? Can you read critiques right away, or do you need a week (or month) for the sting to dissipate? Do you take them gracefully, or do you want to punch back? Are you the type to get feedback as you write, or only after it's perfect? What do you most appreciate from your critique partners?

TWO Winners - Pirate!

I picked TWO winners, because I can. First up, the winner of NO MERCY by Sherrilyn Kenyon is…



And the bonus prize of the nifty Sherrilyn Kenyon tote on the right is…



Congratulations to you both! Please drop me an email with your mailing address to DJTLO at YAHOO dot COM. (Translate that into email-speak, of course.) I’ll get those prizes out before the weekend!

Thanks everyone for playing along. I second the suggestion to have more MadLib Mondays. At least once a month!
Sunday, October 23, 2011

Road Blocks, MadLibs & a Prize

First off, Leslie Langtry’s novella in which we find out if Sin or I get our HEA with Paris Bombay is now on sale! Get it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords. Go now!

On with the blog…

I’m a fan of the show Amazing Race. If you haven’t seen it, contestants travel around the world completing challenges, facing road blocks all along the way. The teams that deal the best with stress seem to come out on top.

I may need a course in stress-management as my November is starting to look like my own Amazing Race challenge. It’s not a secret I plan to enter the Golden Heart contest. It’s also no secret that the book I’m entering isn’t finished. I’m about 15K from the end, so it’s possible. If the path stays clear.

As if life is ever that simple. Let’s say November is going to be crazy and right now I have no idea if I’ll make this GH entry deadline. But I’m going to try. For now, I’ve spent the entire weekend at work, which has fried my brain. You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m stalling on the blog here.

Basically, I got nothing. So I’m stealing an idea from Chanceroo. Here is your Romance MadLib for the day. Fill in the blanks and share in the comments. The one that makes me laugh the hardest will win a copy of NO MERCY by Sherrilyn Kenyon (from her Dark Hunter series.)

EDITED AT 5:30AM TO ADD: This is a LOOSE interpretation of a MadLib. It's more a fill-in-the-blank, which those who have already completed the task were nice enough not to call me out on. Thanks, pirates! (Now I'm going back to bed. Silly nightmare...)
He put his _________ near her ear and felt her pulse quicken. The _______ was warm from the _______________ in the corner.

Alone at last.

“__________, tell me the truth. Have you missed my ___________?” he asked, relishing the feel of her ____________ pressed against him.

She shivered. “You know I have, __________. But not as much as your ___________.” Her innocent smile stood in contrast to her _____________ words.

Lowering them both to the _____________, he said, “Promise me you’ll never _______ again.”

“I swear on my __________. Now ________ me. ___________ me now!”

 Have at it crew. And remember a free book is on the line!
Thursday, October 20, 2011

Release Party for Maureen O. Betita!

---The bar aboard the Revenge, morning---

Jack grimaced up at the taller pirate. “I get to interview the pirate writers! That’s the deal!”

“Not this time, Jackie. Chance asked me to speak ta this author. I be the choice fer today.” Barbossa smirked, pleased at the opportunity to see the nuisance that was Captain Jack Sparrow disappointed. “This time it be A Wondrous Interview with Captain Hector Barbossa. Live with it.”

Jack narrowed his eyes, fire flashing from their coal black depths. “Captain Hellion leads this ship…not the addle brained bartender! And she’ll…”

“Stay out of this. It’s Chances’ day.” Hellion patted the padded bench next to her. “Come on, sit next to me and help me with this unopened keg of special reserve of Kraken Spiced Rum…”

Jack licked his lips, tempted. He turned with a sudden smile to Barbossa. “I hope you have a wonderful interview.” He sauntered over to Hellion and sat, arranging his full captain coat to best show off his shiny boots.

Hector growled, well aware of the curse Jack had just placed on his shoulders. He shuffled the cards Chance had given him and wondered where the congenial bartender was…


Chance studied herself in the mirror. She’d put aside her online persona and donned the writer’s hat. Instead of the tricorn, she’d had her hair done professionally… The short spikes were growing out and she’d given up on coloring it. She ran her hand down the flirty navy blue dress she’d purchased for today’s event, trying to decide whether to wear a hat or not.

She slipped on the brown trilby, considered the shape, then muttered, “Nope, needs some mild piratizing. I do write pirate fiction, after all!”

She pulled a small feather clip from her bag and clipped it to the hat, first bending the brim up to give the hat a tiny bit of pirate flair. The second book in the Kraken’s Caribbean series had been released yesterday and she was a little nervous, hoping it would be received well. She adjusted the slim white belt, made certain the flirty collar lay perfectly and smiled, imagining the look on Hector’s face when she entered the bar.


Outside, the water swirled as her critic eating kraken worked on the deck decorations, hanging the special slime-proof crepe paper, the big banner. Perfect day on the cyber seas for a release party. He looked forward to the visitors and hoped they’d enjoy the loop-d-loop he’d added to the slide. The yoga lessons had increased his flexibility quite a bit!


Barbossa cleared his throat, looking at the crew, waiting patiently at the scattered tables and chairs. They didn’t seem worried at the guest being late. He ducked beneath the bar and filled his tankard from Chances special blend. When he rose to the bar, she was there. He blinked, thinking this was some sort of trick.

“Offer a lady a drink, sailor?” She grinned at him and winked. The rakish little hat amused him.

He leaned closer, both elbows on the bar and raised an eyebrow. “I have larger feathers if you’d like, Ms. Betita.” He could get used to her two faces… Twice the woman to adore.

“No, that’s all right. I’m sure you have a great many large things about you. Like the nose.” She tapped the question cards. “These for me?”

He looked forward to this little play…

Standing tall he set a tankard in front of the author and announced to the room. “And here we be, another fab…wondrous interview from Captain Hector Barbossa. And our guest today be the creator a' piratepunk, Ms. Maureen O. Betita. She last graced thiddeck when 'er premier book be released, The Kraken’s Mirror and she returns ta us today ta celebrate the next book in this series, The Chameleon Goggles.”



No one spoke. He cleared his throat. “Audience?”

“Oh.” Terri began to clap with enthusiasm. Then Sin, not to be outdone, shouted several celebratory curses, then jumped to the table top and hauled out her pistol. She fired it into the air and the crowd went dead quiet.

“Well, I hope no one was up on the deck.” Captain Hellion dryly commented.

“Ooops.” Sin hopped down, shrugging nonchalantly.

“Let’s get on with this, shall we, Maureen?” Hector reached out and tucked a strand of her hair back behind the trilby. “Nice hat.”

“Why thank you! Shall we talk about the book now? Maybe the rest of these can wait until the party is going on. The crew looks restless.” The last she whispered, her eyes darting to the muttering pirates at the tables. “You feed them yet?”

“I was supposed to feed them?”

She rolled her eyes and took the hat off. Chance rose into her speech patterns and she shouted, “Hey! Where be the platter a’ double stuffed twinkies I slaved over last night? And the batch a’ brownies? And that clever bit a’ fruit carved into a flower arrangement I ordered?”

“Coming!” Three hotties hurried from the galley and set the platters on the bar.

Chance snorted and pointed at the crew. “There!”

“Hey, what about my massage?” Donna strode out of the galley, a towel wrapped around her torso. “I took a day off for…”She stopped, glancing at the rest of the crew and then to the bar. “Oh. I forgot something, didn’t I?”

Chance, aka Maureen O. Betita, lifted her tankard and drained it. Then she slammed it down and bellowed curses at the ceiling.  Hector set a hand on her arm and she took a deep breath, “Forget it, let’s just get out on deck and start the party!”

The crew roared in approval, rushed the bar and hefted Chance to their shoulders. She ducked as this brought the ceiling dangerously close to her head, but bore it all in good spirits as they moved en mass to the deck.


Hector wiped the bar, gestured at the hotties to take the snacks to the deck and tucked his little gift away to give her later, to celebrate her newest book.


Yup! Chance, as Maureen O. Betita, has done it again. Another pirate adventure has hit the e-stands as the fantastic world of the Kraken’s Caribbean continues its pursuit of convincing everyone in the ENTIRE world that pirates are the best!

Here’s the blurb for The Chameleon Goggles…

Nothing is ever dull in the Kraken’s Caribbean, at least not for very long. Emily is settling into life with her new husband in this strange new world when things heat up again! A zeppelin sighting opens the door into another realm and unlocks the gate to Captain Jezebel’s past, barricaded for decades.

The denizens of Tortuga must band together to save their world from an invasion that threatens to destroy everything they hold dear and when Jezebel disappears, Emily and the motley crew of the Cursed Quill risk everything to travel to a world where greed is king and lives chattel for the Directors and their pet scientists.

Jezebel is thrust back into the horror of her childhood, and the carefully constructed walls protecting her mind crumble. Her life in the Caribbean, her relationship with Mick…her very sanity, hang in the balance. Novan has come for their lost daughter and all her stolen inventions. What can a 17th century pirate ship do against a military airship? Even with the great Albino Kraken at their side?


Sound cool? Yup, steampunk and piratepunk collide. Who will win? (Okay, easy to figure out knowing my preference. But still…it’s got some nice tension…really!)

The dedication on this one?

Another one for the crew of the Romance Writers Revenge. Especially Cap’n Hellion.

Next one? That’s one is all for you, Terrio… ;-)

So, how you planning on dedicating your book?

Have a kindle? You can get the book here.

Like epub? Try Decadent or

Like print? Wait a few months, I’ve been promised… Meanwhile, I'll be tossing prizes here and there all during this party, so come back often to see if ya won something...piratee!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Too Much Time

I love these lyrics from the song Too Much Time On My Hands, by Styx:

           "I've got nothing to do, and all day to do it."

It's been a while since I've been in that position, but it made me imagine how characters act--or react--when they are in this kind of scenario.

I recently did a blog post on how characters respond when they argue, or fight, or disagree. A lot of revealing info can be unearthed when you watch their response in that emotionally-charged situation. It lets you know what the characters value, as well as what they're willing to do when pushed to the limit.

I think the same is true when a character has too much time on their hands.

If your character is forced to wait somewhere—maybe it's a doctor's office, or they're stuck in a traffic jam, or a flight has been delayed--how would they react? Would they drum their fingers? Grind their teeth? Yell at the unfairness of it? Or would they pick up a magazine and start reading?

They're in the midst of a situation they can't control, but do they try to find a way to control it anyway? Would they try to figure out the cause of the waiting, to see if they can resolve the issue?

Obviously there is no right or wrong answer because each character will respond differently. That's what makes them intriguing to us as readers.

The most important question, however, is this:  what does their behavior tell you about their personality?

I'm not a fan of character worksheets, because it seems to concentrate on likes/dislikes that feel arbitrary to me, and not particularly illuminating. However, I do love Cosmo-type quizzes, and I like to think this is similar. Just thinking how a character would respond to different scenarios gives a lot of insight into them, and possibly gives you plot options for your story.

So it's your turn. Tell us how your characters respond when they've got too much time on their hands. Give us specifics. Let's find out more about these characters!
Sunday, October 16, 2011

If Virginia Woolf Taught a Writing Class

We all know I’m the worst English major ever. My lack of reading the literary greats as well as my disdain for most of these novels is horrifying, I agree, but sometimes I find I remember more than I think. It’s funny how you’ll be reading a modern romance that’s thick with sexual tension and suspense and think of Jane Eyre, or how a writing space always makes you think of Virginia Woolf. I think perhaps my Women’s Studies course in my freshman year was probably the most useful and memorable course I took my whole program.


I must have been in a nostalgic mood. I picked up The Virginia Woolf Writing Course book from my local library. I don’t remember her books, only that I was quite certain that her kind of writing and mine were too different than to even term them both as writing. I do remember we studied some of her articles about writing though, and I loved how relevant her words were then as they are now. (I guess this goes to prove there are no new ways to write a novel; just new to you.)


It’s a short book (which I find is in its favor as far as writing books go) and engaging to read (a must!) with “Sparks” at the end of each chapter to spark you own writing with techniques that Woolf suggested in her own writing.


There are seven sections: practicing, working, creating, walking, reading, publishing, and doubting.


With practicing, she reminded me of Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird advice. Giving yourself permission to write shit. (Not that that was the word Woolf used. Though I think her friend used it for her—something about, “Even if what you’re writing is as bad as what comes out of the backend of a horse.” Not a whole lot of leeway what she means, unless the horse suddenly pops out a foal, which is still a bit of a mess and requires cleanup before it looks like the foal.) And the most important part: you must kill the Angel of the House. (I loved that article! I think every woman writer must love that article.) It’s that sing-song voiced critic within you that tries to guilt and manipulate you into doing anything but writing. Things you should be doing, like cleaning, cooking, taking care of or paying attention to your kids or husband, volunteering at your church, visiting your parents, or any of the Shoulds that would make you a better and more productive member of society than writing crappy little novels that won’t change anything, even if you do manage the miracle of being published. She said not to be surprised that the woman reminds you of your mother. That’s common. But whatever she looks like, she must be killed off and often, because you’ll never write if you don’t give yourself permission to.


Working was a very practical session. About how you need to have a day job so you can write—something must pay the bills while you’re creating your art. You can’t create if you’re worried. And how your job may surprise you and teach you something about writing that can be useful to you. For her, she wrote articles for magazines and newspapers. It taught her concise writing…and writing to deadline. It also taught her how to be a better reader, which is also essential to better writing.


Creating re-emphasized having the space to write. You need a sacred space designated for writing and then you must use it—which I suppose is your way of treating it in a sacred way. No use building a church if you’re not going to worship there. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy—it seemed she liked to write in chaos—but I am a person that needs to write where there is not clutter to disturb my line of sight. Clutter stresses me out and makes me tired. I can’t sit and write, at least not well.


Those should be enough to keep me busy this week—what tricks and techniques do you use in your writing? Woolf liked to keep journals of free-writing, where she gave permission to write anything. Do you pre-write? Do you have a sacred space to write? Have you killed your Angel of the House? (And if you have, how did you do it? Was it messy or did she go quietly?) How has your job that pays the bill taught you how to be a better writer? Who is your favorite literary writer's writing advice? (No Nicholas Sparks quotes please!)
Thursday, October 13, 2011

Playing Favorites

Another blog from my Deb Dixon workshop!

Yup, I did take notes…I even scribbled along the edges of my notebook whenever she said something I thought I could finagle into a blog.

Of course, trying to make sense of those notes at this point…well…I’m working on it!

I did fiddle about with specific plot ideas for my Almost Human story. Found some great stuff to fill a sagging middle and reach the end. Now, if only I can run my writing muse down and lure him to the beach for rum and s’mores…

Anyway! Topic of the day is Playing Favorites.

You see, Deb mentioned her son (I think it was her son…no, wait, her daughter! I think…) Anyway! This relative was really excited about a book Deb had coming out and asked if it was a him story or a her story’ and that got Deb thinking… It was true.
She wrote romances, but some books were more his story and some were more her story.

The simple truth? She played favorites with her leads. And I have a confession…after some deliberation I must admit…so do I.

I write couples. Sure. My Caribbean Spell books? They are all Miranda…sure her sweetie, Jack, is part of things, but the biggest personal journey belongs to Miranda. I loved writing Jack and he had some scenes that were all his in the first book and he certainly underwent his own heroes journey. But the greater story belongs to her. Now, this is a l-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-n-g series and sometimes it’s still Miranda’s book, and sometimes it’s Jacks.

The Kraken’s Mirror? Oh, Emily!

The Chameleon Goggles (coming out next week, btw!) well, that one really belongs to Jezebel. She makes the longest, hardest voyage of the three main characters.

The Pirate Circus…I changed it around. I’d say that story belongs to Benjamin Silvestri. Yup, the guy.

When it comes to the stories my agent has out in submission…The Changed World…tough one to pick, but I’d go with Ivy. The Alien Library? Oh, Cameron.

I’m working on Almost Human and that is Sam’s story…even though Ria…

Okay, the trick to this is that there are often two journeys. The emotional journey and the heart of the journey aren’t always the same. For Almost Human…Ria’s is the emotional journey. She suffers from a loss of humanity and isn’t sure what it means to be human any longer. She knows that something is missing inside. She remembers being human, but now, after 15 years of living with aliens, she doesn’t feel human any longer. Until Sam.

Ria has to rediscover her humanity. And this is proving a challenging course to sail. It’s deep, it’s complex…

It isn’t the heart of the story.

I meant it to be. But as I wrote, I found myself concentrating on Sam… Sam, who has spent most of his life in the shadow of 9-11 and the fight on terror that consumed his country. He left the field of music therapy and stepped into a position with Homeland Research and Security, to profile terrorists. But his world has been shattered anew with the reality of the conspiracy which has misled his country for fifty years.

He sees Ria and knows she is damaged and needs him. In helping her, he makes the greater journey, back to his truth. Sam’s story drew me in and challenged me. He didn’t mean to, but he became my favorite and I put more attention, more details and the greater exploration of his heart into the writing. I’m about 1/3 of the way through this story. I didn’t mean to do this. It wasn’t my intention. But there you have it.

Generally, according to Deb Dixon, an author will play favorites. It just happens. Just as a reader is caught by one character more than the other, even when they may love the couple’s story, they will be more entranced with one of them. More sympathetic, more fascinated.

So, what about you? Who is your favorite with your present MS?
Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Going For The Golden

I entered the Golden Heart!

This isn’t my first time entering the Golden Heart, but I’m still twisted up over it.  My first go at the Golden Heart was with my first MS, a mix of Regency comedy of error and witchy hijinx.  It got mixed reviews.

I’d like to blame the mixed bag scores on readers who weren’t accustomed to that sort of genre inbreeding.  If I’m honest, it was more that the manuscript just wasn’t up to par.  Character motivation problems, plotting problems, just generally a manuscript that didn’t sparkle.  Now, I read that hero and think he sounds like Darren from Bewitched.  And who liked that guy?

I was going to enter my second manuscript but I waited until the last second to enter, hemming and hawing over whether I should or not, and when the last day arrived, I spent the day at the animal hospital and ended up having to put the family kitty to sleep.  The deadline passed.

Last year, well, I wasn’t really writing last year.  So, now we’ve come to this year.  I entered well in advance.  This manuscript has had some good feedback.  And it’s seconds from being “done” or rather, “done for now.”  So I have some time to get my first fifty all clean and shiny.  We'll see how it goes.

So, I thought I’d talk a little about why we enter this contest, why we wouldn’t, and what the judges are looking for.

The Golden Heart is different than other contests, in my eyes.  With other contests, you usually get feedback.  This, none, just scores.  You have no idea who read your story.

In general, though, more readers score your story than in an “ordinary” contest.  In other contests, it’s usually three preliminary judges.  I believe there are six readers here.  Double the readers is a bigger slice of your potential market.

I think what you end up with is a more general feel of how your audience will feel about your story, or an indication of what the market looks like.

This doesn’t favor manuscripts that are outside the box, though.  Because if the MS doesn’t fit the reader’s expectations, there’s a higher chance that it won’t overcome that bias.  I’m not saying it can’t be done, I’m just saying that it’s harder.

This contest is more expensive, in general, than the others.  Fifty bucks, plus the cost to print and mail all the materials.  Pricey.

But, the benefits of finaling are there.  In the Regency Historical category—the one I entered—of the five finalists (one had two MS’s final), four have sold to NY houses.  Whether that would have happened without the GH, who knows.  But thems the facts.

As to what they’re looking for, the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, the blog of the 2009 finalists, is doing a series about what the GH is looking for.  Check it out.  What I look for when I’m judging is that thing that keeps me reading.  That thing that makes me not put down a book.  That’s everything from plot development to character motivation.  It’s language that’s appealing and suspense.  It’s that elusive “Good Writing.”

I have no idea if I have that.  I have no idea what judges will read my story and no idea if they’ll like my story.

So, anyone else entering the Golden Heart?  If so, why, if not, why not?  What do you think are the benefits or disadvantages of this contest?  What do you think the judges are looking for when they’re reading?
Tuesday, October 11, 2011


We forgot to award Enid Wilson's guest post for ANY SAVAGE CAN PRODUCE (i.e. Pride and Prejudice in outer space. :))



Congratulations, Bo'sun, just contact Enid with your mailing details and she will get your prize to you!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Most Important Heroine

I come from a long line of women who seem to choose not to have a life. If they pursue hobbies, they don’t last long. If they have dreams, they never talk about them never mind do anything to achieve them.

If a woman who fits this description were cast as the heroine of a Romance novel, two things could happen. a) The reader might see potential for a very wide, attitude-shifting, life-changing character arc, or b) the reader would put the book down because who the heck wants to read about someone so boring and depressing?

I don’t know about you, but I’m going with B on this one. So today, we’re talking about heroines. But not the ones in our books. The ones in our lives.

To quote The Holiday (and probably numerous other sources) “Every woman should be the heroine of her own life.”

So today, we’re defining ourselves. What kind of heroine do you want to be? We’re taking matters into our own hands, defining our dreams, even creating our dream look.

I’ll start. First we pick three adjectives we want others to think of when they think of us. For me it’s independent, smart, funny. (I know. You’re shocked.) And for my style, I want an entire wardrobe from Bettie Page Clothing. Or rather Bettie designs combined with several pieces from Pin Up Girl Clothing thrown in too.

These clothes are not only straight out of the 40s (my favorite for fashion), they’re made for girls with curves. I could so rock this dress! [Click on the picture to see the details.]


 And look at those shoes! WANT!! (I have to stop looking at that website. At least until I hit the lottery. And get a knee replacement.)

Now I have to decide my story. I kind of like the details being a secret, but only because I have no idea how to teach a stubborn ass, independent woman like me that she can’t do everything herself and could be happy with a man around. Since the ending would be a HEA, I’d learn that lesson. Somehow.

It’s possible, right? Maybe?

Your turn. Pick your three adjectives, describe your dream style (with a link if you want), and tell us how the story of your life would go. To be clear, saying “I’d be married to the man I’m with right now and enjoying life raising my little darlings into fine, upstanding adults who will give me loads of grandchildren” is totally legit.

So tell us. What kind of heroine do you want to be? And by all means, cast your hero while you’re at it!
Thursday, October 6, 2011

Live Workshop! (As opposed to dead workshops…)

I’ve never understood that ‘live’ stuff. I mean, things can be prerecorded, etc…but live…just makes me think about what would be the opposite. Which is dead, of course. And a dead workshop just doesn’t sound terribly appealing.

Even if it is October.

But I begin with digression. Got that out of the way!

I attended a day long workshop before I left for Atlanta. The biggie that everyone has fan moments about. Goal, Motivation and Conflict by the FABULOUS ROCK STAR, DEB DIXON!

Okay, you fangirls out there under control now!? Done squealing?

Yes, she was really, really good. And very personable.

My normal reticence regarding following any sort of rules or guidelines had me a bit skittish, I admit. But it was an enjoyable day and I took a fair amount of notes. I still do not believe I will ever read a book and diagram it the way Deb does. The whole idea gives me the willies.

Though, yes, I’ve noticed the last few books I’ve read that I’m pausing to pay attention to the sex scenes a bit more. (Went through some editing a few weeks ago that had me contemplating throwing my laptop out a window and joining the French Foreign Legion…)

But an entire plot breakdown? Not likely. It might make me a better writer. Okay, it probably  would, but I can’t do it. I just don’t have enough years left in my life to spend reading the same book several times to do this. Hell, I don’t even watch movies this way! Even those I do view many, many, many times.

Okay, so what did I get out of this that proved really helpful? Several things, honestly. I have pages of notes! Today, let’s talk about the one that made my brain twitter with glee.

What I really had fun with? The Dominant Impression exercise for main characters. You know this one?

1)     Adjective

2)    Descriptive Noun

1 + 2 = Dominant Impression

This was interesting! She emphasized how a character’s dominant impression changes from the beginning of the book to the end and I found that a neat thing to contemplate. You know you’ve done your job right when the DI progresses…

She used the example from Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series.

In the beginning, Giles was the Beleaguered Intellectual. By the end of the series he was the Intellectual Warrior. Yeah, Giles!

So, I’m working on a new book…between going over the editing notes from my editor for the third in the Kraken’s Caribbean series…

The new story, Almost Human, is about a woman who committed suicide at 83 (in the year 2039) by throwing herself off a cruise ship. Only to wake up 11 years later…in her mid-forties and living aboard an underwater alien ship. (She hit the water, shattered and floated down to land on a small scout ship that was following the cruise ship…) Things get interesting 15 years later when she is inadvertently rescued by a naval crew and the aliens want her back…and before you know it, I
have abducted sailors, a morally bankrupt military contractor and conspiracies up the whazoo! (Good aliens, btw.) There’s a very Gibbs like character and… Well, it’s been a wild ride to write!

Anyway! I needed to figure out a DI for Ria, the main character (who wrote romance novels, quite successfully…had awards and everything!) and I came up with a good one for her at the beginning of the story…

Traumatized Idealist

Not sure where she’s gonna end up. Hopefully a Renewed Idealist. And happily in love with Sam, my Gibbs like character.


Driven Investigator was what I came up with. I’d like him to move from Investigator to Healer of some sort. (He worked as a therapist before being recruited into my extreme version on Homeland Security.)

So, it’s Friday, play with your characters… What is the Dominant Impression of your main characters, at the beginning and how do you think they’ll change? (Non-writers…play along and pick a character from TV, books, movies…and give a stab at coming up with DI.) Or better yet…what is your DI?
Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Epic Word Race

It is that time again! National November Writing Month is just around the corner. Can you feel my budding excitement?


No. Seriously. I'm excited.


So I decided to do a list of my top five things you must have to finish the race by 11:59pm on November 30. I'm hoping this will motivate you writers out there to join me on November 01 at 12:01am to start your own epic race towards the finish line.


  1. Must have all your ducks in a row: This means if you don't plot, outline, grow characters, live and breathe conflict, at least try to do some leg work ahead of time. This will allow you to write freely when you start at 12:01am on November first. I'm not what you'd call a plotter- I'm more of a pantser- but I've learned over the course of a few years doing NaNo that prep works helps you get a couple of restful hours of sleep a night during NaNo.

  2. Calm work environment: We all have our writing quirks. Movies playing epic scores in the background. Children screaming outside in the yard. Heavy metal screamer bands blaring through your headphones (Okay, that might just be me) but we need a place where we can drop our computers, pull out the keyboards and just pound the keys. If there is a stack of bills sitting beside you, you're going to be focusing on that. Not writing your story. So you need to clean up your designated computer space before the clock starts ticking away at the month of November.

  3. Chocolate- or whatever your snack of choice is- and massive quantities of caffeine: This is probably the most important. When I get stressed out or I put myself (and my characters) in a delicate and difficult situation, I need to think. I do this by sitting back in my chaise lounge, head back, eyes closed, and munching on a Blow Pop. This is my assumed thinking position. And you must have your stress relievers on hand.

  4. Procrastination is not your friend: Usually procrastination and I are hand in hand dancing through flower fields and blowing up mole hills together. We're like this *crossing fingers*. I tell my BFF Procrastination to take a hike during November and you can too. Be determined. Be prepared to fight. And believe in yourself. Procrastination is usually stimmed from when we lack confidence in our abilities to put the right words on the page. During NaNo there is no such thing. The beauty of NaNo is the free spirit of writing for the word count, not the overall quality. Worry about that in December.

  5. Remember you're human: And that means don't pressure yourself. Fifty K in 30 days is a helluva push for the most seasoned of typers. Sometimes we get swept up in the thought of writing, and we no longer enjoy the process. I think why I enjoy NaNo so much is that it allows me to enjoy myself. My random tangents. My quirks of writing out of order, or no order at all. NaNo is meant to be fun. Allow yourself to have that fun and enjoy it for what it is- a reason to gather your friends and see who's the fastest BSer while writing that great American novel.


So there you have it. My Five things. What's your one thing you have to have while writing? What's the one thing you want to do differently this year during NaNo that you didn't accomplish last year? And to those of you who haven't joined us for NaNo, what are you waiting for?! Come have some fun with us!


If you'd like to friend me for NaNo here I am: christietaylor

Sunday, October 2, 2011

All About the Attitude

I rejoined Weight Watchers meetings. Again. I’m not sharing this because I’ve actually lost any significant weight yet, or because I want to reveal my shameful top weight for all to gasp, but because the reason why it’s working this time is the reason why anything works. Writing. Exercise. Running for president.


It’s all about the attitude.


Poor attitude is like the inbred cousin of Inner Critic who picks on every bit of your writing (or efforts in anything). The Inner Critic criticizes things that are going on, efforts you are actually making. Attitude can cut you off before you ever do anything—and that is a real problem. If you continue to do nothing, nothing continues to happen. Or worse, you continue to gain weight (guilty) or your writing becomes even more difficult and your goals become even further out of reach (guilty). Doing nothing is actually very, very dangerous and demoralizing. You should stop doing nothing right now.


I’ve joined Weight Watchers in the past in support of a friend and then I promptly lost nothing because my attitude was less than ready to be a success. Then because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind and did not follow the program (the structure), I was demoralized by the lack of success I achieved and quit. Really beyond stupid; and deep down I knew it was because of my attitude and not because of the strictness of the program’s structure.


I can even tell you the Kiss of Death for me, and it’s not even Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. It’s the all-or-nothing attitude. Perfectionism. I have to be perfect on plan in order to succeed. If I fail one day or one meal, I need to trash the whole effort and stop trying. Unfortunately this all-or-nothing attitude is just as detrimental in writing as it is in weight loss.


So what’s the difference now? It’s meetings. There’s something about a group of people you’re reporting to about your success (or not-so-success) that makes you put a bit more effort in it. When I was trying to do it on my own, I would report to one or two key people, but people who knew me and would let me off the hook. When you’re reporting to a lot of people and you don’t know them as personally, you’re a lot more willing to put in the effort so you don’t lose face in front of them. I suspect the same is for writing. When you’re writing for your CP—and they’re like your best friend—your best friend will let you off, but if you’re writing and presenting pages at a group, you put a bit more effort in it. You don’t want to lose face.


Shame is a great motivator.


I’m hoping the same shame (and competitive nature) that keeps me on plan for the Group will also keep me on plan with my writing.


Share: when has shame worked for you? How has the writing been going? Anyone else doing Weight Watchers? Any tips to counter perfectionism?