Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Going Into Dry Dock

It wasn't that long ago when we moved this rum soaked blog from one site to another, gaining a new address in the process. Then we took a little break to tidy the place up and give the Revenge a make-over. Now we're moving again.

You can't expect a group of pirates to stay in one port too long.

The move, spit, and polish is going to take a couple weeks so the decks are going dark for a bit. However, we will hoist the colors once again on February 15th. (Just in time to miss the sappy holiday barreling down on us. *g*)

The address will stay the same, but the digs will look a little different. Never fear, we'd never get rid of the rum. Look for the new and improved Romance Writers Revenge on February 15th!
Sunday, January 29, 2012



What is so bloody terrifying about getting things wrong now and then? Or then and now? I mean, seldom is any one decision made that would result in the end of the world as we know it. Most mistakes are back-out-able.

It’s not like I’m looking at two buttons and one is nuclear annihilation and the other is lasagna instead of pizza…

Mistakes happen! All the bloody time! But nothing that will result in death, not by me.

Now, some people see mistakes as an opportunity to change things around.

Me? I see mistakes as those first steps on the road to oblivion. (But I’m working on that! As you’ll see by the end of this blog.)

Was it the kindergarten teacher who made me stand in a corner because I covered an eraser with Elmer’s glue? (No, I don’t know why I did this. I seem to remember thinking it was mad clever of me…) The sense of standing in that corner, face to the wall, sobbing in humiliation, is still with me.

Damn, I was a sensitive little thing.

Truth be told, I still am. Just a bit better at removing myself from the reach of teachers like that, who thrive on public humiliation as the answer to all bad decisions.

I recently finished a class on harvesting the prolific while dodging procrastination and fear. It was a good class. One of the lessons Hillary Rettig addressed was the issue of sensitivity and the importance not of being thicker skinned but of acknowledging my sensitivity and giving myself permission to be that way. (Convoluted enough for ya, there?) After all, the best writing is one where we feel the author truly dove into the depth of human emotions…


How does an author with a thick skin, forcibly applied in order to face a harsh world, going to go there? The point being that those of us who cry easy, who understand and face our fears while still scared shitless…we can reach those depths much easier than someone who does the stiff upper lip and convinces themselves they don’t care. Or that it doesn’t matter.

We care and it does matter. (Sometimes it doesn’t matter as much as we think it does, but it still matters.)

It also is incredibly frightening to live with that. But oddly empowering. I think empathy comes easier to the sensitive sorts.

But damn it. I do hate making mistakes and fear being called on them. I wish more teachers would encourage mistakes as learning opportunities!

Terrio has been so gracious to me, saying she wishes she could hit the emotional triggers I hit and her words fill me with appreciation for what I can do. (It also pissed me off, because she can do it, too!) But I thought of her words when Hillary wrote of not running from our sensitivity.

I recently completed the final read through of book three of the Kraken’s Caribbean, The Pirate Circus. (Out this Friday, btw.) Now, I have a real love/hate relationship with track changes in word. I adore how it can encourage learning how to edit and what to watch for and it can be so fast! I also loath how I’m never sure I’m doing it right.

I mean, I began my career as an author tangling with track changes to such an extent it took three editors at Decadent to figure out what I did.

When I screw up, I screw up good!

So, The Pirate Circus is my sixth book and I still dreaded opening that program and getting started. Because I knew I would make mistakes.

I also know, from my editors, that it’s okay and as long as I don’t manage to redo the first screw up, I’m fine…they can work it all out… (At this point, they could probably figure it out if I did do the multi-layering highlighting again.)

So, I pushed through this final edit. After nearly half a day of dithering away my time on e-mail, Facebook…blogging… Anything but having to open that program.

Fear, I won again and beat you! And hitting send was a great sensation.

But I’m sure I missed a few things. It’s inevitable. And maybe, someday, somewhere…a budding writer will be reading and grin at a mistake they notice. And feel emboldened that if the great Maureen O. Betita can screw it up and get better, so can she!

Silver lining, that’s me!

What mistakes do you see moving into the future and turning into someone else’s learning experience? If not your own? You able to push through that fear of mistake thing and move forward? What’s your secret? Are you sensitive? Or thick skinned? Or secretly sensitive despite the appearance of having a thick skin?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How About Getting A Little Captain In Us?

I have to admit something. I have a huge crush on Captain Morgan. You know, from the Captain Morgan ads? I never really liked the campaign where regular folk pretended to stand with their leg up on something that wasn't there - that's just stupid - and I tried it after drinking Captain but I kept falling over. But these new ads...

Okay, so he's not Captain Jack Sparrow - but I think he's cute. But there's something very naughty in his gaze. And he's funny. And he uses a designated rower. That's hot.

So here's what I propose - unless someone else has proposed it. We need to capture him. I think he needs to hang out on the Revenge with us. Let's face it - Jack Sparrow's been REALLY tired lately. But this guy - he'd take some of the pressure off ol' Jack (and from the rumors flying around...a certain undead monkey too - but what do I know?)

I do claim first dibs - I selflessly volunteer to "break him in" for everyone. But how hard can it be? The man does flips off the gangplank to turn a war into a party and keeps the maid from a beating by throwing his glass on the floor. I don't think he'll be a problem.  And if he is, we have the Kraken.

So, we add him to our "collection." What say you?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Using Intimidation

I’ve just finished reading all of Sherry Thomas’s books.  I’d started from her most recent and worked backwards (because all backasswards is how I roll) so I just finished PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS last night.

Blown away.

I’ve lamented of late (privately, but it still counts if it’s in my head, right?) that there’s not a lot of romance in my most recent romances.  I don’t know why that is.  Maybe writers are feeling pressure to be prolific.  I think getting really deep into emotions and character requires time and maybe they aren’t getting the time they need to go deep.  I don’t know.  But I do know that Sherry Thomas does not suffer from this problem.

She’s won the RITA the last two years in Historical Romance and I can see why.  Her stories are full of angst and emotion.  They’re about imperfect people who learn to accept each other’s flaws and their mistakes and move forward.

They are brilliant.

It might be a fault of mine but as I glommed up these gorgeous stories, completely involved in her characters and dragged under by her storytelling, all I could think was, “I’m NEVER going to be able to write something this good.”

I swear it was easier before I started writing seriously.  Back in those days I felt free to just enjoy a story.  Now, every story I enjoy is followed by re-evaluation of self-worth.  As in, “This writer is amazing, I will never compare” or some variation. It’s like I can’t enjoy something without making it into a personal assault on my writing skills.

Please say I’m not the only one.

And, the better the book I read, the worse my recriminations are.  Let’s just say, after reading Sherry Thomas’s books, I was feeling low and dejected.  (Yes, she’s just that awesome.  Go forth and read her stuff if you haven’t yet.)

In the past, I’ve recited all the platitudes to sooth my battered ego.  You can’t compare yourself to anyone else.  You’re you, they’re them, your voice doesn’t sound like them.  Just because they exist in the world—this amazing storyteller—does not mean that you cannot exist here too as an amazing storyteller.

This time, as I was reading everything I could about Sherry Thomas and how she got so darn good, I stumbled across an interview with her at Once Upon a Chapter's blog.  And in this interview, she said something as if she knew I was reading.  When asked what advice she would give to aspiring writers, she said: “Read books that are so good that it makes you despair. And then get up the next day determined to be just as good, if not better. Rinse and repeat. :)”

Wow.  I nearly waved, I was so sure she could see me reading.

This is the answer.  Reading amazing books, books that make us feel sick they’re so good, gives us that benchmark and an example.  This (insert amazing book here) is an example of how great it can be.  Because we want readers to feel that way about our stuff, don't we?

So what writers intimidate you?  What books have you held up as examples, as books you use to inspire you?
Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Art of the KA-BOOM!

Sometimes it’s challenging to keep my Deerhunter’s attention. Granted he is a busy guy, and we do check in with each other, but it feels at times, I’m getting the catch up on him and not really me. This is normal, I believe, with phone calls. One member is always the one with the better stories, and I admit where Deerhunter is concerned, nine times out of ten, he has the better story. He’s the talker.


I also grant you that my stories are a bit repetitive. I go to the same job, I deal with the same people who do the same crazy shit, and I go home, eat, and lie on my couch and read. And when I’m not doing those things, I’m sleeping. This is my ordinary life. It’s not Lara Croft’s life, but I like it. Deerhunter has neighbors and friends and meetings and coworkers—and he’s always saving a life in his stories. As I said, on the phone, one of the talkers is always the more entertaining one and in my case, it is not me.


However, Friday I had a story. And I wanted to tell it. Our conversation went as it usually did—he saved another life—and he was about to wish me good day and don’t shoot anyone at work, and I realized, he was going to hang up without my story!


I cast about quickly to figure out a way to get his attention back and said, “Okay, darling, but when you call me tomorrow like you usually do, you probably won’t get me because I’ll be talking to the cops.”




Deerhunter stopped his mid-goodbyes. “Excuse me? Why would you need to talk to the cops?”


“Oh, well, I’ll be at the farm, which is why I’ll be out of range. The cops are for Dad. He has been the target for some elderly scams.” And what proceeded was a series of gives and takes, where I told just enough to be interesting, but not too many details that would make him want to hang up again. He talked to me for an extra five minutes or better as I explained the circumstances and what was going on, and then he said, “Call me after and keep me up to date of what is going on.”


And I hung up and realized I had done to him what I should be doing to keep readers turning my pages—and that I haven’t been doing that as well lately. I need more KA-BOOMS! and less ordinary life over and over that we already know and understand. We need to find the slant in the ordinary and make it memorable and captivating. And if I can make it memorable and captivating, I’m going to have requests to keep readers updated on what happens next, no matter what.


The author who does my favorite KA-BOOMS! is Julie Garwood because she definitely does her best to make the beginning a simple innocuous statement, then a middle of ordinary life staged perfectly, and then, KA-BOOM. You turn the page while your mouth is still hanging open. She is the Queen of the Awesome KA-BOOM.


However, I know it’s not an unique technique. In fact, as rules goes for writing, I’d say KA-BOOMS are in the top five things to keep in mind when you’re writing.


I have established the first fifty pages of my manuscript (again, she says tiredly), and I’m realizing the KA-BOOMS aren’t there. I know this is because I have a Bad Habit of writing scenes like an episode of 24, assuming the reader wants to know what is going on every minute of the day. You don’t know how much work it takes to make me start a scene that starts a day later. You really don’t.


Of course, this does not mean I’ll be ditching my fifty pages in order to add more KA-BOOMS. No. Absolutely not. It just means, now I realize why I feel some of this is so boring.


Because it is.


But that’s okay, because that is what revision is for. Writing is supposed to show you what parts you’re having difficulty with this go around. And this time, I’m having more trouble with KA-BOOMS. So I will need to sit and think about this. Play with my storyboard, maybe outline a bit, and definitely scribble on some paper about ways to make my characters unhappy, uncomfortable, and with no choice but to grow up and learn from this experience—because isn’t that what great fiction does? It teaches us how to grow up and learn from the experience and be happier people for it. The KA-BOOM should be something that forces the character to do something he/she doesn't want to do, something that the reader knows the character doesn't want to do. So the first step is figuring out what will your character NOT do and then make it happen--that's conflict, that's a KA-BOOM! This is a circumstance that shows you can't have character without plot (conflict) or plot without character--rather like men and women. One is not greater than the other; and it takes both to make a great baby. :)


So…do you have a favorite KA-BOOM in a story? (My favorite KA-BOOM in a Julie Garwood story was when we found out the heroine was the pirate the hero was seeking to kill.) Do you have problems with making KA-BOOMS happen in your writing? What things do you do to keep your significant other’s attention when you’re telling them something important? What KA-BOOM are you working on right now in your WIP?
Thursday, January 19, 2012

Her Royal Majesty's Steampunk Symposium

No Boundaries!

Yup, my new writing motto and my experiences from Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium, where I spend last weekend, No Boundaries! Is it any wonder I can’t seem to get enough when it comes to the aesthetics of steampunk?

I admit, I haven’t read every steampunk classic out there. Not the modern classics, like Cherri Priest’s books, or the old classics, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. (I probably did read that at some point, but I don’t remember it.) (Not that uncommon for me when it comes to the books I read as a young woman. Or…now…) ;-)

But with steampunk, it doesn’t really matter. They embrace those who read, those who get their fix from comics (Girl Genius) http://girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php, from Online dramas, radio shows, movies (old and new)…or just because they like to make costumes! We are all equal in the eyes of Cthulhu.

Ah, Cthulhu…the many tentacled elder god of time before time began. Who sleeps, beneath the sea, waiting for his time to rise and end the realm of man, drive them insane with the terror of his visage… The scourge of…

Oh, sorry, flash back to the Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast at the convention… The sermon was actually on tolerance… Imagine that!

So, the convention was held aboard the Queen Mary. The original luxury cruise ship of the Cunard Line. She is a museum and tourist attraction in Long Beach now, after a very good life on the Atlantic. It was a stellar place to hold a steampunk convention and I find myself envying the regular tourists…who climbed aboard to wander about and found us…the alt Victorians parading about in finery.

And odd goggles, strange looking guns, fairies in cages… Yeah, I imagine it was a kick. I actually ran into a young couple who had come Friday for a tour, discovered our convention and…stayed. They bailed on the plans to get to Medieval Times, bought tickets for the con, shopped for costumes in the vendor’s room and came back on Saturday for a full day of playing with the steampunk crowd. They were from New York! Watching them dance Saturday, at the ball was priceless…


Yes, there is something magnetic about this genre.

My husband, who hasn’t gone with me to a convention of any type since The Gathering, a big Lord of the Rings con held the weekend Return of the King premiered, 2003, came with me and is very excited to go with me to Seattle’s SteamCon, in October. He is already planning his costume… It involves goggles made of portholes.

He’s a sailor type…

I had a great time at the Symposium, met some great people and let’s face it…nothing like handing a bookmark to someone at a vendor table and having them screech that they were looking for you! My book had been recommended to her some weeks prior to the con… Color me extremely flattered and tickled! (I sold her a book, needless to say!)

I met a pirate from Chicago who I’m considering employing to dazzle the crowds at the RT Bookfair in April… Delightful man! Goes by the name of BlueBeard!

Did I attend any panels? One. Yup, just on. Why? Well, this convention did a bad job of organizing the panels and making it easy to figure out what was what. Meaning…they didn’t provide a detailed program. What did they do right? Musical acts everywhere. A timely series of meals, a very nice vendor room and a great venue.

Music? Yes! Music! Groups and individuals performed in the salon, open from 10am until 1am, offering refreshments, a place to put your feet up and just listen… The dances had larger groups, one was fascinating…three guys who did the whole animatronic steampowered musical group to the max. I mean, awesome. Steam Powered Giraffe.

So, to see all my pictures, visit my FB page, but here are some of them. One of my ideas was to play with the idea of desert steampunk and I think it came out nicely! I added the vest, bought from a vendor at the con. The dress was part of my ‘found costume’ luck and purchased at Macys on my b-day. The boots came from Payless. The gun in the pic is my husband’s…I got a new gun at the con, but it needs some real work to be made desert worthy…

The next big steampunk con I’m headed for is in Seattle, in October and the theme is Victorian Monsters. You know, Jack the Ripper, Dracula, Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde…not sure what I’m gonna come up with…maybe something krakenish…

That’s the thing about steampunk, it can be so many things! What might you do given a chance to create a fantasy character with some steampunk elements? Let your imagination fly! It’s steampunk, there are no boundaries… Steampunk cowboy? Steampirate? Steamchef? A vet to mythological steampunk creatures?

Or if you like , just ask me about the con…I’ll chatter!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Requisite Start of New Year Post


I don’t do resolutions.

As Mark Twain said:  “New Years Eve.  Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions.  Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”

It’s not that I’m indifferent.  I have goals.  I have character traits that require ongoing commitment to achieve betterment.  It just seems that resolutions set up a negative relationship with my goals.

Too often these goals are set and then recited ad nauseum to all who will listen.  “I’m going to commit to a healthy lifestyle!” and “I’m going to stop *insert irritating habit here*.”  Even “This will be the year I finish my MS/get an agent/a contract.”  The public shame is supposed to act as a motivator.  If everyone’s watching, you’ll be embarrassed if you fail.

This works for lots of people, I think.  If so, by all means.  Throw your dreams into the figurative city square and let others scrutinize.  Do whatever motivates you.  But I bet there are some out there like me.  Shame isn’t my motivator.  In fact, it freezes me up.

I’m not immune to the New Year.  It’s a huge beginning.  The calendar is how we all mark time.  It’s our basis for its passage, our way of keeping track of events.  Every year I look at what’s come before and I think about what could come.  But I don’t set my goals up on some finite schedule (“I will lose X amount of weight by” or “I will tackle said monumental list of horrible DIY projects”) and give myself a deadline to feel shame if they aren’t accomplished.  Because the world doesn’t favor timelines, in my experience.  The universe has its own timeframe to accomplish tasks and I’ve found the universe (or whatever greater power you favor) knows what it’s doing better than I do.

Instead, I revisit my dreams.  They aren’t usually new dreams.  In fact, I’m pathetically predictable.  I SHOULD eat healthier.  I SHOULD try to be the best mom/wife/relative/friend/writer I can be.  I WANT to get an agent/contract.  But I don’t need a finite calendar; I need a positive attitude.  I need excitement to hack away at these goals with renewed vigor.

After all, it’s a new beginning.  I get another year (thank you, greater power) to try to be the best I can be.  What a gift this life is.

How are you approaching the New Year?  Are you a resolutions, need-a-deadline sort?  If so, have you made resolutions and how's it going? Or are you more like me, with a need to reaffirm a positive attitude?  Anyone feel like sharing their year goals (either met last year or set this year)?

Wishing you all everything you need this year.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Update: I have Shui'd the Feng

I realize that title makes no sense, but it sounds fun. Or painful. One or the other. And saying I Feng'd the Shui sounds absolutely wrong.

But I digress.

Thankfully, other than stirring up dust that tweaked my sinuses, it was virtually painless. My room is mostly decluttered (have more work to do today), my bed is facing south, and my desk is facing my bedroom door. No one will be sneaking up on me now. The added bonus is that now I'm right next to the storyboard which was previously behind me and to the left. I need to see my storyboard from the computer in order to work on revisions.

So now the big question is, have I worked on revisions? *shuffles to change the subject* Did anyone watch football this weekend? How 'bout those Giants!

Seriously, this is all part of the process. The process of getting the process going again. In order to proceed. (Am I talking in circles?)

What I want to know today is what is everyone reading? We've talked about Goals and resolutions that come with the new year, but there are also books! Our own 2nd Chance will have the third in her Kraken's Caribbean Series, The Pirate Circus, out in the next month or so. I know Assassin is also working on getting another book on the virtual shelves. Something different but you all are going to love it!

Who else? I see so many book release celebrations on Twitter I'm starting to wonder if they don't come out hourly now. Tell us what you're dying to get your hands on. It's book pushing day on The Revenge.

And Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!!!
Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Key Is In The Ch'i!

I'm covering for 2nd Chance today who is headed to Her Royal Majesty's Steampunk Symposium this weekend, being held on the Queen Mary. Does that sound awesome or what?? Well, in the true spirit of our woo-woo, metaphysical bartender, I decided to get a little ancient woo-woo on your pirate arses today.

Many years ago I read a novella by Vicki Lewis Thompson about an interior decorator heroine who uses Feng Shui to design the hero's home. The hero is a cowboy and the home is a ranch and a large, erupting fountain is involved. To this day, hardest I've ever laughed while reading a book.

But the point is, that was my first introduction to the ancient Chinese art of placement.

Though Feng Shui is still a mystery to many, most people have heard terms such as "Ch'i", "Yin & Yang", and "Tao". Today we're talking ch'i and how to get it flowing in our working area, with the positive result of the words flowing right along with it.

I have issues with clutter. My house is not spotless and will never be, but when the piles of clothes and paper and whatever else get to be too much, it's as if giant speed bumps have popped up in my brain. Until the clutter is abated, I can't concentrate and creativity is out the window. Every time I buckle down and clean my room (which is where I write) the speed bumps magically disappear.

Why? Because the Ch'i is flowing!

According to Skye Alexander in the book 10 Minute Feng Shui: Easy Tips For Any Room, "[t]he goal is to direct ch'i – a vital energy that animates all life – through your environment so that its movement resembles a gently flowing stream or a pleasant breeze." If something is blocking the ch'i from flowing freely through your home, then it's also blocking the ch'i in your life.

By using Feng Shui, we can arrange furniture, incorporate shapes and materials and even colors to balance our living space. Achieving balance in the space will help achieve balance in our lives and our minds.

What writer wouldn't like to have more balance and an abundance of flowing creativity? Now you see where I'm going.

For those skeptics out there, I'll give you an example of a Feng Shui issue in my home. Again, according to Ms. Alexander's book noted above, all the systems of your home are a reflection of the systems in your body. The electrical system is a mirror of your neurological system. (As writers, we kind of need this one to work at full capacity.)

I bought this house 15 months ago and the electrical system isn't exactly right. The light switch that turns on the stairway light cuts off all electricity to half of the living room, including the outside light, if switched down. Also, if the two switches that operate the living room ceiling fan are not in the correct positions, the fan does nothing. These positions are non-negotiable as far as I can tell.

Did I mention some outlets don't work at all? Yes, it is an understatement to say my home electrical system is out of whack. If that isn't the best way to describe my neurological system these days, I don't know what is.

I can't concentrate, get motivated, or stay focused long enough to get any real writing, or what I need these days – revision, done. My wires are crossed and for all I know all the good words are currently flowing into my pinky toe. Or out somewhere else but I really don't think we should go there.

At this time, I can't afford to hire an electrician to rewire my house. However, I can rearrange my room and apply Ms. Alexander's suggestions to my work area in order to get things moving again. I hope.

The condition and even positioning of your work area "describes your attitudes toward money, your ability to attract wealth, your career goals, and your overall work situation." It stands to reason that too much clutter on or around your desk could be holding you back. Here are three suggestions this author makes to help get that working ch'i flowing:

1. Face front!  – You need to feel relaxed and not as if anyone could wonder up behind you without being seen and startle you while you're working. I haven't figured out exactly how to make this work in my bedroom, but I plan to try it this weekend. I know when I've had my desk in an open space facing the entrance to whatever room I'm using, the words flow much better. (Wish I'd made that connection before.)

2. Bring up the lights! – The better the lighting, the better you can see. If you can see clearly, then your mind can also see clearly. The added bonus is that more light means more ch'i and ch'i is what we want. Time to start using that desk lamp again!

3. Cut the clutter! – Getting those piles of mail, receipts, story notes, and empty candy bar wrappers cleaned up and organized is going to, as Ms. Alexander says, "make room for money and opportunities to come into your life." Oh yeah, I'm on board with this one.

Now, if your desk is covered with clutter, you have books scatted around the floor, and your desk faces a corner but you're turning out the words and feeling good, by all means don’t change a thing. BUT, if you're struggling (as I am) to get the brain working in the "write" direction, what harm would it be to try this?

What do you think? Are you interested in learning more? Think it's bunk? Let's talk writing spaces and tell us what works for you.
Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Building Self Esteem As a Writer - Essential To Finshing the Damn Book!

Awhile back I purchased a book by Victoria Lynn Schmidt titled Book in a Month and perused the first few chapters numerous times but kept putting it down knowing it wasn’t the right time for me to put it into practice.

I’ve participated in NaNo before and failed. Twice. What made me then think to buy this book and even considering using it? All I can say in my defense is that I’m inspired by how this book takes you step by step through the process. Every day has an assignment to complete. Complete the assignment each day for 30 days and at the end you should have one hell of a fast draft. I’m really excited to actually try using this process.

But I don’t want to focus on the book or 30 day fast draft process today. I want to focus on something the author mentions needing to examine before you can really start out on your writing journey. According to her there are five secrets to successfully completing her plan and writing a book in a month. Today I want to focus on number four – Examining Your Self Esteem.

*I can envision Chance and Bo’Sun nodding their heads as they read that. Yes, pirates I have an issue with self-esteem of the writing kind and I’m here today to admit it publicly.*

The line that really stood out to me from Mrs. Schmidt’s section on this was, “Self-esteem means you can say to yourself “I matter, and so do my goals.”

She then lists some statements that if you agree with more than a few you need to work on your self-esteem. Here are a few I found myself identifying with:

  • I constantly blame myself for not writing enough, even if it’s not my fault

  • I make excuses for my work before I show it or read it out loud. (“This is a draft; I’m not finished with this scene yet.”)

  • I’m reluctant to set and announce my writing goals for feat that I won’t attain them

  • I’m filled with big writing dreams and goals, but just can’t get started or follow through

The list goes on, but those are the ones that really had me thinking. She suggests overcoming self-esteem issues by identifying your strengths and not allowing yourself or anyone else to criticize you (especially during a rough or fast draft).

Do you think you might suffer from a little writing self-esteem issue? I suspect I'm not the only one who identified with those statements above. I know how much Chance loves it when we feed our inner critics to the Kraken so feel free to envision throwing those damn issues overboard.

Today instead of listing our issues I want to work on our self-esteem by talking about our strengths and successes as writers. Don’t be shy. I want to hear it all including that poem you wrote in fourth grade or even a blog post you felt great about how well it was received. This is the time and place for signing your own praises! Every single strength and success counts and brings you closer to becoming the writer you want to be.

I’m officially creating a Pirates cheerleading squad today – Chance we need some drinks to celebrate! (And yes, you all must have pom poms and do the cheers – no excuses!)

And The Winner Is....*drum roll*


I say, good show, young man!

You are the winner of a digital copy of Jo Robertson's THE TRAITOR. Send me (at DJTLO at YAHOO dot COM) the email address to which you'd like to receive your prize and I'll forward it along to Jo.

Thanks again to our lovely and generous guest, Jo Robertson! And congrats again to Quantum!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Contemporary Pirates with Jo Robertson

Hi, Terri O. and the rest of the Revengers!  Thanks for hosting me today. 

It's a delight to be here because I wanted to go postal on pirates.  And I've been thinking a lot about pirates lately, and uh, not the Jack Sparrow kind (although I do love Jack), but the tall, dark, and dangerous ones.  The pirates of the romance genre. 

I don't know why pirates are a source of romantic fascination and fantasy, but from the early Vikings to the Caribbean pirates, from the Japanese pirate raids to the Barbary coast raids off North Africa, we've been fascinated by the daring deeds of these ferocious men. 

Names like Bluebeard and Captain Kidd, Jack Calico and Jean Lafitte, fill our cultural imaginations with mystique and mystery. 

But why? 

Likely these men, criminals and outcasts, were sour, smelly and sullen.  With broken teeth and without education.  With craftiness and wiles, but no finesse.

Still, there's something wickedly delicious about them – in their sanitized versions, of course.  We've whitewashed their stories because ... well, why else would they be interesting, appealing and downright fun?

While editing my latest book ("The Traitor," the final book in the Bigler County Romantic Thrillers), I revisited this description of my hero Rafe:

All the while, she'd escaped in the swirling emeralds of his eyes slashed through with tiny black flecks like angry cuts. Sharp and probing, the eyes were a strange contrast to his coppery skin and short thick lashes. A wide scar bisected his left eyebrow and gave him the roguish look of a pirate. A rush of pheromones flooded her as his gaze wandered to her mouth and lingered there, then dipped to the cleavage that spilled from the juncture of her breasts.

Although "The Traitor" is a contemporary story, I subconsciously wrote that passage likening Rafe to a romance pirate.  Metaphorically, that is.  In the "real life" of the story, Rafe Hashemi is a DEA agent trying to bring down a drug cartel operating out of northern California. 

He's in conflict with the heroine, Isabella Torres, who wants to prosecute the same villain, Diego Vargas, for human trafficking.  You can see this Vargas fellow is a nasty piece of work, intentionally irredeemable. 

However, his bodyguard and attorney of record – Gabriel Santos – is a much more complex character.  Take a look at this excerpt:

Gabriel Santos was not a man to cross.

His name among the Mexicans was El Diablo and although his given name reminded José of a holy angel, the street runners had forewarned him. Indeed, the persistent rumors of the man's ferocity and the myth that he had made a pact with Satan seemed true. 

You see, I can get behind a man who may have made a pact with the devil (pirates, Vikings, and privateers).  There's a dark appeal to such a character even if he is one of the villains in the story.  The implication is that he's wicked and dangerous because life's circumstances have given him no choice.  We're almost ready to forgive this person, hero or villain.

The pirate "hero" or "villain" reminds us of the savage part of man, the part that lies beneath the surface, ready to erupt in passion or anger or punishment.  We don't know which will spew out, but it's sure to be exciting.

Here's another excerpt of hero Rafe:

She opened her mouth to form a half-hearted protest.

"But," he interrupted with a steely gaze, pointing a finger at her like a pistol, "you do have to be honest with me. I won't put up with any bullshit tricks if I'm going to let you work this case with me."

She began sputtering. "Wh – what, you're letting me work the case? Diego Vargas has committed crimes in Bigler County. He's been under our scrutiny there, in my county, for over a year. You have no more right than I to nab him for the depraved and accumulated atrocities – "

"Shut up, Torres," he said pleasantly, which effectively took the wind out of her sails.

She stared at him with her mouth a round oh of surprise while their server returned and Rafe gave the woman both their orders.

"The federal government has jurisdiction over anything interstate," he reminded her after the server left. "You know that and I know that. Vargas' atrocities include intra-state and international drug trafficking which comes under federal drug enforcement."

He continued in a neutral, even-tenored voice as if his logic were reasonable and indisputable. "Now, in exchange for your personal files, I'll continue to allow you to work the case rather than call your boss and have you jerked off it and sent back to Hicksville.

Bella felt the hot sting of outrage creep up her neck to stain her cheeks. Not only had he steamrolled her case, but he had the affront to order her lunch for her! She blinked furiously while trying to formulate a sharp enough response for both insults.

Rafe reached for a chip and dipped it in the thick salsa. "Actually, it's a pretty good deal. You ought to take it."

And another description of Santos:

With his long black hair tied at the neck, his lean hard form, and his dark scowl, Santos looked like un angel caído, a fallen angel.

But José knew the man was no angel.

I hope my readers will find Santos as compelling as Rafe because it's the complex characters that stay with us long after we've put the book aside.  As a reader I'm attracted as much to the darkness as to the light, for in these gray shades lie the interesting and complicated facets of a person.

What about you?  Do you like your heroes squeaky clean or a little on the wild side, perhaps even a little damaged?  Want your villains to be clearly wicked or do you like the ones who are morally complex, ones you can understand, maybe even sympathize with?

I'm giving away a free download of "The Traitor" to one lucky commenter, so be sure to leave a comment.
Thursday, January 5, 2012


The Captain got us thinking about resolutions the standard fashion on Monday...now I'm shaking things up, just a bit!

I’m a big fan of Rob Brezny’s astrological forecasts, and yes…it is 6 days since the official New Year dawned, but this is just too good to offer as a way to welcome 2012.

Firstly, I’ve been reading Rob’s Free Will Astrology for a lotta years. Always enjoyed them and found a real serendipity to his write ups. He really nails Sagittarius and makes me think with his philosophical interpretations of what the stars say.

And this was a great challenge. He called it anti-resolutions. I suppose they are…though I see them more as personal social revolutions… I’ve been thinking a lot about his challenge here…

Time to create your New Year's ANTI-resolutions. 1. What outlandish urges and controversial tendencies do you promise to cultivate in the coming months? 2. What problems do you promise to exploit in order to have even more fun as you make the status quo accountable for its corruption? 3. What boring rules and traditions will you thumb your nose at, paving the way for exciting encounters with strange attractors?       Rob Brezny’s Free Will Astrology

Number One is intriguing and probably the one I’d most like to play with. What outlandish urges and controversial tendencies do you promise to cultivate in the coming months?  Outlandish urges? I’d like to drink a bit and actually stay at the theme parties at the Romantic Times Booklovers Conventions and … dance.

Yes, for me, that is an outlandish challenge. Why? Well, as I came to understand as I watched the ladies at Moonlight and Magnolias strut their stuff…I don’t know any of the current dance moves. It just wasn’t how we danced…uh…long ago and far away. I mean, we listened to the music and we moved, period. The more chaotic the music, the better. The louder, the better.


Now it’s actual moves and steps and … it’s organized!

I don’t dance organized. I mean, at the M&M convention, J. Perry was challenged to dance to “Sweet Home Alabama” and refused…said she could dance to that type of music. Now, I don’t country dance/line dance/swing/jive/disco…etc. But I could have managed that song better than the dance mix almost rap stuff.

Generally, at RT, once the music gets going, I tend to leave the ballroom. I’m…shy.

*bows my head

Really. Fear of looking a fool is my Achilles heel.

So, that is the one I’m going to tackle.

Number Two? What problems do you promise to exploit in order to have even more fun as you make the status quo accountable for its corruption?  I don’t know… I can think of a few examples where the status quo needs exploiting, whether it’s corrupt or not. But I don’t have any particular ideas on how to exploit without finding my ass in the grass. But I’m working on it… I mean, I hate being ignored as a professional, something that is status quo problem for me. How to challenge that without getting a reputation as ‘difficult’ is my trick to figure out.

Number Three. What boring rules and traditions will you thumb your nose at, paving the way for exciting encounters with strange attractors?

I know this may astound, but I do tend to follow rules. Social rules. So this one is another that I have to contemplate and consider. I do like the idea of exciting encounters with strange attractors and thumbing my nose at traditions… I have a lot of conventions I go to, with a lot of rules and traditions…perhaps it’s time to shake my adherence to them? The rules, not the conventions.

I discard writing and genre rules easily enough…

See, this why I like Rob, he makes me think!

Which of these three challenges are you up for in 2012? And if not doing, writing about… Want to see them again?

Time to create your New Year's ANTI-resolutions. 1. What outlandish urges and controversial tendencies do you promise to cultivate in the coming months? 2. What problems do you promise to exploit in order to have even more fun as you make the status quo accountable for its corruption? 3. What boring rules and traditions will you thumb your nose at, paving the way for exciting encounters with strange attractors?       Rob Brezny’s Free Will Astrology

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Dreams vs. Reality

I don't know about you but sometimes when I'm asleep it's hard to decipher between what's real and what's not. I've taken this concept into my writing and twisted it.

I've dreamed in color my entire life. Don’t know what’s up with that, but that’s just how it is. More vivid, I suppose. Helps me remember when I wake up. Dreamland for me is a chance to work out all those things during the day I didn’t get to, mostly writing. I dream about my characters often. Scenes and conversations. I always play a lead character too. Which is strange because my heroine isn’t me by any means. Maybe it’s because I voice her. But it helps me write her better when I wake up.

I think about writing while I’m in the shower in the morning, conversations between my two main characters flowing like the water from the showerhead. Dreams are what give me ideas, thoughts, conversations, pieces to carry over into fiction land. It’s like acting out a scene before writing it down. One of those poetry in motion thingys. And for me, it’s perfect. I’ve always been very hands on, sticking my nose into everything. I’ve gotta see it done first before I can write it. So if I can’t see the scene, it can’t be written the way I want it and I’m stuck. But with dreams, anything can happen. Anything in your wildest dreams. And opportunity and imagination are the two best things you can have as a writer.

So, my question to you today is: Ever have those dreams that just stick with you? The ones that when you wake up in the morning and have you thinking about your plot and characters and setting? Do you use them as a guide for your writing?
Sunday, January 1, 2012

Make a Fuss

This weekend my Dad turned 90. Not a whole lot of people make it to 90. I would say it’s pretty damned special. When Dad turned 80, my sister came down with family and cupcakes and made a fuss. We have pictures. Dad is wearing a hat and looks a lot like a cat who is forced to wear a hat and have its picture taken: PRICELESS.

This year, I thought we’d expand the family participation. I’ve been posting little Dad Updates on Facebook and have been receiving lots of positive feedback from cousins who love the Dad Stories. The man is funny. Apple does not fall far from tree.

For his birthday, Dad got every kind of pie he could ever want, and he ate about three pieces or so, washed down with some coffee. He got to talk to nieces and nephews he usually only gets to see at the June family reunion. Dad was gobsmacked by all the attention and fuss. After all, it was only a birthday. “We didn’t celebrate birthdays when I was a kid,” he explained. “It was just another day.”

But the thing is a lot of things feel like that. Graduating college. Getting married. A job promotion. Hell, probably even getting published. It’s exciting, but I’m sure it feels a bit surreal…and ordinary. You’re still you, after all.

And then there is writing. Sometimes being a writer is shameful. I spend a lot of time feeling sheepish and apologetic that I’m not more prolific, consistent, or making money hand over fist. I also feel like I should apologize for being eccentric and not quite sane. Having this attitude tends to carry over to other markers in your writing life, probably because like birthdays, you’ve been writing long enough not to be emotionally invested in the outcome or expect too much. You finished a book. You might squee to yourself; you might share with a few knowing friends; but it’s unlikely you’ll share it with the general population who’ll immediately start peppering you with questions like when it’ll be published and can they borrow some money from your big advance.

This year, I want to make more of a fuss. About everything. Celebrate it all. Not everyone writes a book or enters a contest or makes presentations. It’s not the end result (getting published) that is the only thing that matters. It all matters.

At Weight Watchers, we talk about why we come every week. I always say I’m there for the stickers. I love being rewarded for the little things—like sticking with the program, losing 5 pounds, losing 5% and losing 10%. And what’s great is that they’re “little” things, but they’re not little things to Weight Watchers. They’re important things and they’re worth celebrating. You’re worth celebrating.

Positive reinforcement—from the pats on the back from the group support and the success you see in the mirror or feel in your jeans—it feeds your motivation to stick with the program. I’m learning that Positive Reinforcement earns me more of the results I’m looking for than punishing myself and mocking my goals when I don’t do things. Shame and guilt are clearly demotivators. I need to stop feeding them.

So this year when you’re thinking of your resolutions on what to improve in your life, do try to focus them in a positive way. Positive begets positive; and negative mainly finds you next December 31 working out a new resolution for the same old thing.

The other thing I learned this week: set small measurable goals with small measurable time limits. Like lose 5 pounds in a month. That’s reasonable, realistic. Basically eat your elephant one bite at a time. It can be done. Break it down and keep with it.

This year my goals are to focus on the positive, make a fuss over the “small stuff” because it does matter, and keep with it because eventually you will get there. And I think I’m going to start printing pages of my manuscript just so I can see the pages pile up. It’s not the same to see the pages in the word document. A lot of the time I think “Oh, it’s only 50 pages or maybe 100…” but that’s actually a nice amount of paper. And there are your words on the page. You wrote them! Yeah, I think that is another thing I’ll be doing this year.

What are your goals this year? Do you work for stickers? Fan of diet plans or “lifestyle changes”? Favorite pie? Any and all conversation is open today. Let’s go.