Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The arithmatic of likeability in the age of the e-reader

I've been reading a lot, and wondering at all the various things that impact my final feeling toward a book. The final question I ask myself at the end of a book isn't if I was surprised, or if I loved the characters . . . it's "did this book take me away?"

At work, I deal in research questions. I love answering questions. Most of the research I do is in the area of public policy, so it's looking at why people use or don't use services, what people need, what they want from local government, etc.

So I got to thinking . . . what if we applied those same questions to the books we love, and the books that we don't quite love as much. What's the difference between a book that takes you away to some far away, magical romantic place, and drops you off breathless back onto your couch where you have jobs and bills and families and pets . . . and a book that's just a book?

I'm thinking there are a variety of factors which affect "likeability", which I'm using to cover the "swept away and taken on a magical ride" feeling, since it's shorter and easier to abbreviate. Some of those factors are external to the reader's environment, some are internal to the reader's state of mind, and then there's the really important part - what's in the book.

External factors - I think the external factors may be the least powerful. Where is the reader sitting? Are they comfortable? Are they holding a paperback or on an e-reader? Does it matter? I've noticed, when I've downloaded a few library books at at time to my e-reader, that I'm more likely to start skimming, or give up on a book (i.e., NOT get swept away) if I'm on an e-reader. I have no idea if that's true for other readers, but I find it interesting.

Internal factors - what's the reader's state of mind? Do they feel what they paid for the book was fair? What about their opinions toward the genre or subgenre? If you decide to give Western romances a chance, for example, do you find yourself approaching the book with more skepticism than a subgenre you know you love? How about the popularity of the author -- if it's someone who's been hailed as the 2nd coming of Nora Roberts, are you more or less likely to keep reading? Do you ever read with a cut off point in mind? (like, If I'm not really into this by chapter 3, I'm putting it down).

Book factors - voice, characters, and to a lesser extent (I believe) plot. Of the three, at least, the voice or characters are more likely to sweep me away than the plot. Though I will say, a book that keeps throwing really intriguing questions at me can keep me sucked in.

What do you think? How do you define that feeling when you've forgotten you're reading a book? What are some internal or external factors that I might have missed that can affect a reader? Do you agree that the external are least important, or do you think I'm crazy for skimming on an e-reader?
Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tuesday Review: It's the End of the World as We Know It

Some book series are love affairs, some are only a summer long: June, July, and August; some are high school, a book a year for three years…and then you have the real time commitments: The Edward Cullen Marriage.

This book falls into that kind of series.

Ironically it even has vampires in it.

I have been with Sherrilyn Kenyon for a long time; and I’ll read just about anything she writes. (Caveat: I profess to a bit of snobbery at not reading the books that have her name on them but is written with someone else. I’m sure they’re good; I just haven’t read them. Otherwise, she’s on my list to read every single time.) My longest relationship with her has revolved around The Dark-Hunters.

The Dark-Hunters was urban-fantasy before the term was coined for the romance reading world. Sherrilyn is familiar with writing outside the lines of what “audiences will read”, but fortunately she’s proven them wrong every time. She writes to her strengths: strong, flawed, broken heroes; sassy, loving, strong heroines; and the kind of black moment that is impossible to recover from, usually someone’s death. Angst, angst, angst—thrown together with hot, hot sex with the hottest, most deviling hero you could imagine. It’s an excellent formula for writing a romance that rabid romance fans want to read. I know, I’m the kind of reader who loves angst, angst, angst with the hot, hot sex with the hot—

Sorry, it’s been a while.


When you’ve been in the Edward Cullen Marriage a while, there are days (or years) when you don’t think he’s the adorable, loving vampire you married, but the boring windbag telling you the same stories over and over again, expecting you to laugh. Sometimes there are books in a long series that do that. Not every one of them is going to be a grand slam out of the ball park. Some of them are just singles or doubles. They’re good; you enjoyed them—but they’re just a little meh. As I said: marriage.

Anyway, we’d gotten to a point in the series where I was beginning to wonder: what is Sherrilyn Kenyon doing? I don’t think she’s stumbling around blind or anything; I think she has a plan and I know she knows these characters like they were close cousins—but sometimes I wasn’t seeing it. Some books felt like bridges between other bigger, darker books I preferred—so I felt a little jaded. (And when you glom a lot of romances and series, it is easy to be a little jaded.)

This book, TIME UNTIME, is one of the bigger, darker books for me. It shed light on the last three books where I was going, “What the devil is going on?” It featured a hero from one of the other books that I hoped to see more of, and boy am I glad Sherrilyn wrote this story: Ren is in my top five favorite Dark-Hunters.

The Dark-Hunter world has grown from the Greek Pantheon and Atlantis Pantheon and now incorporates Native American, Egyptian, Mayan, etc, etc. If there’s a Pantheon, it’s contributing to the end of the world and wants to destroy us. Some readers have not embraced the way this has gone off from the Greek mythology, but I have enjoyed Sherrilyn tapping into her Cherokee roots and sharing mythology of Native Americans. As I said, I believe Sherrilyn has a plan and knows what she is doing with her story and her characters, what her overall outcome is whether she knows exactly every element of it.

So today’s discussion: have you ever read a series where you lost “faith” in the author but eventually they brought you back again? How much world building is too much world-building for you in books?
Monday, October 29, 2012

Rock You Like A Hurricane Sandy

If you're anywhere near the mid-Atlantic or northeast US, you're likely huddled down arse over elbow right now just like I am. As Dread Pirate Donna expressed on Facebook, this is clearly not that nice, sweet Sandy from the beginning of Grease. Nope. This is the bad-ass, leather wearing chick from the end. And she's squashing us under that cherry red stiletto of hers.

They canceled school by mid-afternoon on Sunday and I have no intention of driving through flooded streets to reach the office, so I might be a little late checking in today. That is if I can check in at all since a lack of power would be a problem. But this is the perfect chance to discuss the weather, don't you think? In books I mean.

Do you notice weather? Ever read a story all the way through and realized every day was sunny and perfect and how could that possibly be? Especially in London?! My debut novel only covers about two weeks and the weather is perfect every day. Since the time period is late May, there's a slight possibility that could happen. But it's unlikely. Damn it.

In book 2 of the series, a hurricane plays a crucial role. So in a way, this weekend is good research. Though I'd rather experience this through Google, I suppose first hand isn't so bad either. Not that this is my first hurricane but this brings the experience front of mind for sure.

When it comes to books or movies, next to a good shower scene a tension-laced scene in the rain is always nice. One of my favorite scenes in the most recent movie version of Pride and Prejudice is Darcy's botched proposal in the rain. They're both wet and panting and exchanging insults, and then they lean in ever so slightly… Steam practically rises from my TV screen every time I watch it. (And I know that's not how the scene is in the book but I don't care. It's awesome and I want to have Matthew Macfadyen's babies. Uhm…did I say that out loud?)

Anywhozit. Let's talk about the weather. Which is usually a mundane subject but can really intensify a scene when used well. How many Romances have the intrepid couple trapped in a snowstorm? Almost always alone and cut off, be it Historical or Contemporary. (Thank goodness cell phones don’t have a signal everywhere.)

Do you alter the weather in your work? Mix in some precipitation? Use it for setting but never let it affect your plot? Or do you ignore it all together. And as a reader, does it bother you if the weather is never mentioned? Any memorable scenes, book or movie, in which the weather played a role?
Friday, October 26, 2012

I Need Motivation!!!

They really do.  I'm indebted to them, really I am.  I'm just kind of ready for them to stop now.  Please. 

Okay, that sounds kind of schizophrenic.  I'm not crazy.  It's just time for the voices to take a vacation.  Maybe to Maui.  For a month.

I'm kind of full up on ideas.  My folders overfloweth with ideas.  I have so many books started that I get overwhelmed when I sit down to write. 

And the fact of the matter is, I need to focus on one idea until it's done.  But I seem to have trouble in that area. 

"Oh, take a notebook to bed to write down your ideas in the middle of the night" they say.  Bastards.  I've filled tons of notebooks with jibberish.  Apparently, when I wake up in the middle of the night to write down the idea that's surely going to make me a bestseller - I find in the morning stuff like "banana partridge orangutan goo."

As for the coherent ideas - there's just too damn many of them.  And on any given day, a different one sounds better than the rest.  That's great, and that's also not good. 

I've also tried ginko - blahblahblah, mental exercises and one really weird audio tape that sounds like static that is supposed to boost productivity and focus.  Nothing works.

I'm going to have to take drastic measures. 

I'm asking for an author sitter for Christmas.  Someone who will turn on my computer, make me sit down, choose a file for me, and sit across from me looking menacing until I crank out 20 pages. 

I'm taking suggestions for this position.  Clearly it needs to be a man, and eye-candy is a must.  Any ideas?

The Assassin

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gearing Up for NaNoWriMo

Music Influence: “Once Upon a Nightmare” Nox Arcana (Grimm Tales, 2008)

This is your friendly wake up call. I know people have probably mentioned- even reminded you, faithful writer- that the time of the year when you have permanent office chair rear and consume more than your fair share of indulgent comfort foods is coming up soon. Not to alarm you, but November starts next Thursday. (Time flies when your fingers are glued to the keyboard. Or even when you're busy procrastinating.)

National Novel Writing Month starts November 1 and races onward like a mad man chasing sanity for 30 days or until you collapse. At 11:59 pm on November 30 you'll feel wore down, beat up but extremely proud of yourself regardless of the outcome.

NaNoWriMo- this means NaNoers will be writing in full force trying to rack up 50,000 words in 30 days. Sounds like an extraordinaire feat to some. (To most.) But never fear, I'm here to boost your confidence and next thing you know, you'll be signing your life away to NaNo for 30 days.

I'll admit, I was in that mass majority that thought 50,000 words in 30 days was insanity. It clearly is insane to attempt. You learn the true meaning of sleep deprivation in those last few days. Even when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, you dig deep down and find that tiny creative spark still lit and drive forward. NaNo is not about quality writing. We all strive to put every word down on the page that looks and reads like gold. But NaNo isn't about being perfect. It's about showing yourself you can do this. You can write a novel. You can put words down on a page. And you can use December (or January if you're me) to revise and scrap.

My first NaNo was an attempt to show myself I could write an original work of fiction. That I could devise my own characters and my own settings and I could write a story with them.

I did it.

It sucked. Totally sucked. Sucked golf balls. Sucked so bad it's buried somewhere on my external with no hope in sight of seeing light again.

The next year I went into NaNo with a lot of confidence that I could succeed again. And I failed to hit the 50k mark. I was already disheartened with my writing. I was disillusioned with my original characters and the idea I'd come up with to write. And once I got started, all my confidence slipped away and I floundered. I hit the wall early. I lost sight of my creative spark. I swore I'd never try NaNo again.

And I didn't. For two years, 2008 and 2009 I refused to do NaNo. My writing was suffering. I wasn't writing nearly enough or outlining an idea to write 50k in 30 days. Why would I even try when I knew I'd fail. And I would've failed. You can't go into NaNo telling yourself you're going to fail. Because there is no such thing as failing NaNo. All attempts to do NaNo should be celebrated. You've told yourself you're going to do it. You probably even write consistently for days on end. How can you say that's a failure? It's not, my dear writer.

I'm not even going to be in the country for the start of NaNo. I'm going to be a cheater and start a day early. But I'm still going to do NaNo. Because it's not about if I actually make it to the 50k. It's that I know I'll have my rear in a seat and my fingers on the keyboard for a whole month. Just like 2010 and just like last year. I'm going to do it because I need to- not because I have to. Tell yourself you need to write. You need to challenge yourself.

So here's the thing. I did this last year, I think we should do it again. NaNo can be intimidating. But we could do our own NaNo where the goal is 25k in 30 days. That's less than 1k a day. And there are going to be some days where 1k feels nearly impossible. That's okay. We all have those days. But this is about telling yourself you can do it. All those times when you feel less than adequate because you didn't write, there's no reason for that. You have a life. Life gets in the way some times. But let's all try to see the bright side of NaNo. Everyone who dedicates a whole month to writing- even those who've never really written before- is a winner.

Do it because you're a winner.

That's the extent of my pep talk of the year. Soak it up. Next time I post I'm gonna be putting my boot to your rear and super gluing your fingers to your wore out keyboard. Just FYI.

So tell me you're going to do the 25k mini NaNo challenge. Or tell me you've got balls and you're going over to NaNo headquarters and signing up right now to do the 50k NaNo-a-thon. Have you done NaNo before? Think those who do NaNo are crazy? Join us crazies! Do NaNo!

If you want to find me and friend me on NaNo's home: christietaylor

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday Reviews: Why Did I Wait So Long?

You know how you hate to leap on a bandwagon because everyone is doing it? Usually this is because you are a perverse sort of person who hates to like anything everyone else likes. Like chocolate. But then invariably when most of the hub dies down, you decide to give it a whirl?

Sit down. I'm not talking about 50 SHADES OF GREY. You all are a suspicious lot. And I'm not even talking about HARRY POTTER, though that's my true example where I was an after the trend joiner. But this time it was Lisa Kleypas.

I love Lisa Kleypas--a great writer, lyrical, emotional, evocative. Love scenes that make the pages go up in flames. I would love to write like Lisa Kleypas. I remember when it was a big deal when she first wrote her first contemporary. Readers were all freaked out that 1) she wouldn't write historicals any longer and 2) what if they weren't as good. I think after everyone read SUGAR DADDY and BLUE EYED DEVIL, we were all feeling a little sheepish, right? I mean, how dumbass could you be?

But the newest contemporary series she's written aren't exactly like the first contemporaries she did. The first set was more a straight up contemporary, like a Kristan Higgins or Julie Garwood contemporary, but in Lisa's voice and style. But this second set even sets itself apart from the first contemporaries, being in trade back, and are like Barbara O'Neal or Elizabeth Berg, more literary women's fiction than contemporary romance. I think of these as more the Book Club kind of romance--the ones you're allowed to read in book club or recommend.

This series definitely focuses on the various forms of magic and otherworldly--you just can't predict everything or explain everything. In RAINSHADOW ROAD, the heroine is able to just manifest things into being; the heroine has her own special sort of magic.

The heroine in DREAM LAKE also has her own brand of magic: with cooking. So while this book is definitely Lisa Kleypas, you also feel the influences of Barbara O'Neal and Like Water For Chocolate among the pages. The hero has his own problems: he's being haunted by a ghost who doesn't know who he is. There's some definite notes of The Notebook as well. I just love seeing the influences that I think reflects in the author's writing.

The other big influence I think I see here is her husband. I remember a blog Lisa wrote about her husband, where they were first starting to date, he came to pick her up and he was at her house, sitting on her couch, looking at the pictures of her cats and the various cat-lady-weirdness she had going on, and he was like, "Yeah, it's a good thing I'm here." *LOL* This hero is definitely that kind of guy, of balancing out the cat-lady-weirdness of the heroine that is rather hilarious. The heroine has this Persian cat and he's quite a character. *LOL* Very jealous of attention and the heroine does entertaining things to keep her cat stress free like, gives it massages.

I know we read stories to be entertained for our own sake, but does anyone ever read new books by a beloved author and see the every day things you know about that person come out in their writing? Does it amuse you or does it jerk you too much out of the story? What do you think your writing says about you? Has anyone else read RAINSHADOW ROAD and DREAM LAKE and loved them?
Monday, October 22, 2012

Fabulous Interview with the Fabulous Blythe Gifford

 JACK: Oh, thank goodness, I thought we were never going to have another Fabulous Interview with the Fabulous and Fantastic Captain Jack Sparrow—

HELLION: You’re dropping a lot of F-words there, Jack, you need to watch yourself. Today we’re interviewing a lady. *arranges a tea set on the wooden table on the ship* Do you think she’ll one lump or two?

JACK: Of rum? I didn’t know they made them in lumps.

HELLION: Sugar, Jack. For tea.

JACK: Who wants to drink tea?

BLYTHE: Hello?

HELLION: *rushing to the door* Blythe! We’re in here! Welcome! I have tea ready. Please ignore Jack, and I wouldn’t recommend his rum either, but that is totally up to you.

BLYTHE:  I’m afraid the Fabulous Jack is impossible to ignore! *She turns aside.* No lumps, please.

JACK: *sweeping Hellion aside and escorting Blythe to the overstuffed red chair, kissing her hand as he goes* Welcome, my fair Blythe. I’m so honored you wished to conduct this interview with me today. What would you like to ask me?

HELLION: We’re interviewing her, Jack. I realize it’s been a while, but that’s what the interview is about—the fabulous authors—not you.

JACK: *pouting* Fine. *reaches into his velvet jacket and pulls out some notecards* Be predictable. What do I know about fun, flair, and skyrocketing hoards of people clamoring to meet me?

HELLION: Not nearly as much as I imagine Blythe’s newest hero does. Blythe, do tell us more about your new book, RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, and its hero, John Brunson? And most importantly, does he wear a kilt? Do share in slow, descriptive detail.

BLYTHE:  A kilt, alas, no.  But he does have the most beautiful blue eyes… *sighs swooningly*  In fact, John Brunson is the only blue-eyed Brunson.  He’s the returning warrior, coming home after spending half his life at the court of the young king of Scotland.  And at court, he’s had a reputation of having a way with the women.

JACK:  *gleefully*  Like me!

BLYTHE:  *Rolls eyes.  Bites tongue*  Let’s just say John Brunson has never met a woman who wasn’t open to persuasion.  He’s come home to force the king’s peace on his family.  After that, he plans to leave home forever.

JACK: Enough about the hero. His ancestors wear skirts for crying out loud. Tell me more about the girl. *holding up the book so we can see the cover* She knows how to hold a man’s sword. Carefully, but without hesitation. Do tell me more about her, will you? She’s not really serious about this plaid-wearing knave is she?

BLYTHE:  Certainly not at the beginning.  She’s a woman who knows how to use a sword. 

JACK:  *smiles broadly* Now that’s what I’m talking about.  I could tell that about the lass…

BLYTHE:  I mean, a real sword.  And she turns it on John when first they meet.  She even threatens his…uh, manly parts.

JACK: *makes a subtle display of crossing his legs and putting his hands in his lap* Definitely a misunderstanding.

HELLION:  But it all ends happily!

BLYTHE:  Of course!  You see, she’s set on revenge against the rival clan, and unless John persuades her to set that aside, he’ll never get the peace he’s come to enforce. 

JACK:  And he does, right?  She’s just a woman, after all.

BLYTHE:  Let’s just say she’s a woman unlike any John has known before.  And he discovers he’s more of a Brunson than he ever thought.

HELLION: The book is out right now—thank goodness—but even better there are two more to follow in this trilogy. What are they about, and where were the joys and challenges of writing them?

BLYTHE:  CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD will be on the shelves December 18.  It’s the story of Bessie Brunson, the youngest and the only sister.  She’s taken to the court of the Scottish king by a man she is sure has betrayed her family and then, she is forced to wed him.  TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL (March 2013) is the story of Black Rob, the head of the clan.  When he takes the daughter of their hated enemies hostage, he finds he’s met his match.  In more ways than one!

The challenge, in addition to the fact that I’d never written a trilogy before, was that I set myself six months to write each book.  Yikes!  Fortunately, because they are all tied together, I made it!  I truly got to know and love (and torture) these characters.  Let’s just say they had some family squabbles to resolve as well as romantic ones.

JACK: Yes, yes, yes. All this writer speak, but the real question is: did anyone eat any haggis? Just how historically authentic are these novels anyway?

BLYTHE:  No haggis.  But yes, I do get a little obsessive compulsive about my history.  It’s a great way to avoid writing, if you have to look up the exact procedure of Truce Day on the Borders during the early Tudor era.  The Brunson family is imaginary, but the real king of Scotland does show up in the series doing things he actually did.  You would have liked him, Jack.  He had nine illegitimate children, three of those before he was twenty.

JACK:  *jaw agape* By how many women, these nine children?  For historical accuracy’s sake, I mean.

HELLION: I find it comical you care about historical accuracy now, Jack. Ignore him. Do share with us about The Call. How did you get into writing? What does a typical day look like for you?

BLYTHE:  I started writing seriously after a corporate layoff.  Ten years and one layoff later, I sold my first book to Harlequin Historical.  (Overnight success!) And I most vividly remember getting The Call wearing only one contact lens.  Disorienting!  I still have a day job, but I’m self-employed, which means I work at home and juggle both careers.  Usually, I write in the morning and do my consulting in the afternoon.

JACK: Hellion, bless her heart, is so dreadful with her line of questioning. Now I, I know a good question. On a rainy day, what are you drinking, what are you wearing, and what are you reading?

BLYTHE:  Probably drinking an oaky Chardonnay, although I’ve been known to sip some rum, on occasion, Jack.  I’m probably reading history or a good serial killer thriller.  And I’m known for wearing the color turquoise from shoes to hose to nail polish! 

JACK: *looking intrigued* Really? That’s what you’re wearing? I’ll tell you what I’m—

HELLION: I’m sorry, but we’re just about out of time with our Fabulous Interview with the Fabulous—


HELLION: Blythe Gifford.

JACK: Hey! I was going to say that.

HELLION: Blythe, do you have any questions or comments for the crew before we turn the interview over to them for questions?

BLYTHE:  First a thank you for having me.  Would love to see some of you visit my webpage ( where you find an excerpt from the books, links for my newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, et al.  But I’d love to ask the crew what some of their favorite series are – and what they love about them.  As a little incentive, I’ll pick a random commenter to win a copy of RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR.
Friday, October 19, 2012

Children’s Movies with Thematic Device

It’s funny how people are… I have admitted to a complete mystification regarding the attraction to YA… Yet! I adore watching the animated movies geared for kids. For the people younger than YA… I’ve even enjoyed flipping through the books at stores. There is some odd little part of me that just loves the skill inherent in illustration. And animation.

When I worked in the bookstores, I looked forward to the new Graeme Base books. (I still own Animalia.) And those illustrated by Michael Hague? Oh, divine! (I own Peter Pan and several others.) One of the most delightful elements of a good science fiction fantasy convention is the art show. And a great many of the artists are inspired by movies, television and children’s stories. Totally twisted art, full of humor. (You should see what a group of artist’s can do to Smurfs…) (Or maybe not.)

I can’t draw a straight line. Oh, I wish I could! But sometimes, creative talent just doesn’t spread that wide! Maybe that’s one of the reasons I love the big animated movies. I gape at what they can do with a computer…

I’ve seen a fair amount of this year’s animated movies. I have no children. Doesn’t stop me from going. I often find myself laughing as I see a joke coming…and no one else does. (It get some odd looks sometimes.) I grew up with Looney Tunes! What can I say?
Hotel Transylvania was such a sweet story. A father’s love for his daughter, his little girl growing up and he’s trying to protect her. So…he’s Dracula and she’s Dracula’s daughter…the story is still there! Toss in a love interest and it’s almost Romeo and Juliet…gothic comic style!

Frankenweenie…a boy and his dog. Okay, the dog is dead, but it’s still a story of a boy and his dog! And girl and her cat, and another girl and her dog… There’s a re-animated turtle, rat, hamster and sea monkeys in there, too.

Madagascar III: Europe’s Most Wanted – Figuring out where home is and what you’ll do to get there. With a love story. Between a giraffe and a hippopotamus.  Who do a high wire act that was mind blowing.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits – A man and his desire for fame! And the love of the crew for the ship’s parrot. Which is really a dodo bird. Who they have to rescue from Charles Darwin who is trying to impress the Queen of England. (Granted, that’s not a plot you see very often.)

Ice Age: Continental Drift – Continents breaking up and again, parents who worries about their daughter. Mastodons. Oh, and pirates. One of which is a walrus.

ParaNorman – He can talk to ghosts and doesn’t fit in. Finding his group and making it work is the theme. And this movie had one of the best lines of the year, right at the end, when the teenage girl swoons at the brainless, but built side kick, about maybe they can go to  a movie sometime, and he replies, “Oh, my boyfriend would like that. He digs chick flicks.” Brilliant!

None of these stories are terribly different than what is read in adult fiction. Loves stories, family struggles, pirates… Just a different cast of characters…with all sorts of twisty elements.

I figure I’ll catch Brave OnDemand, and Rio. And I really would like to own several older ones, like Igor, Puss n’Boots, and Rango. Rango, one of the strangest animated movies I’ve seen in a long time…

Not only is storytelling simplified in animated movies, as Hellie once wrote about the animated short, Partly Cloudy and the opening sequence of UP, but the stories are the same basics we all know.

I think it takes an ability to totally suspend disbelief to enjoy animated movies. I’ve often been the only unaccompanied adult in movie theaters. (Meaning, I had no young’uns with me.) A lot of people just don’t see the point of these movies, just as I struggle with the idea of YA novels. (I seemed to have skipped from childhood to adulthood without an appreciation for adolescence.)

Perhaps it’s because I’m one of those people who grew up treated as an adult from very early on. When I stepped from believing in my invisible playmate, I went straight to reading Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. From Mighty Mouse to I, Robot.

And the memories of watching Looney Tunes on Saturday morning with my Dad, who loved the Tasmanian Devil if probably part of it all. Even as an adult, he was into Taz and at his death, at 77, we kids divided his Taz memorabilia among us. I think I inherited the love of cartoons.

For those of you with kids, what cartoon shows did you watch with them? Or fav animated movies? Or what shows (movies) did you watch with your parents? What are the stories you remember that perhaps, sneakily, show up in what you write and read? (Yes, I know, Disney kills off mothers…but how many regency stories revolve around motherless girls?) Or do you find animated movies an insane thing to spend money on? (It’s okay, I won’t scream about it!)
Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"It's not like we're characters in a romance novel or anything"

Have you ever encountered this? You're reading along in a perfectly nice romance novel and the character says something like "We're not characters in a romance novel," when they are? Or "It's not like this is a romantic comedy" when it is?

This bothers me to no end.  I've seen it done with impeccable timing a few times, and it can be laugh-out-loud hilarious, but its hard. Usually, all it serves to do is remind me that I'm reading a romance novel or watching a romantic comedy.

It takes away all the magic.

I want to believe the character I'm reading is real. I want to be in their head. And there are a million ways for a writer to yank me out of the head of their character, both obvious and subtle. I'm currently slogging through revisions, so I've been thinking a lot about examples I've seen and what signposts I can watch for in my text that points it out to me.

I've also been really working to deepen my POV. I've been revising a long time. I've known these characters for 5 years. I can go way deeper with my POV now than I ever could before.

Here's some different types of POV I've been thinking about, with examples of each

Omniscient POV
Jill looked up at the big hill and dreaded the thought of hiking all the way up. Jack was similarly nervous, but more about the trek back down with a full bucket of water.

Shallow POV: 
Jill chewed on her fingernail, a nervous gesture, while staring up at the hill. Jack smiled at her. "You got my back, sis?" he asked.

Here, there's no hopping from inside one person's head to another, but instead, the reader is standing with the two of them, watching them both. Visualize the scene -- you can see them both, right? Watch how they interact? With this type of writing (which is often an excellent choice - see caveats below), the focus tends to be on the body language between the characters, as hints to what both are thinking are feeling, rather than diving deeply into one POV.  Glances become telling. A slight crinkle to the edge of an eye conveys intimacy. Body language is something you see - TV shows rely heavily on it, and we writer's tend to rely on it as well. But we're writers. We can go deeper.

Caveat #1:  There are times (many times) in every novel where a shallow POV is called for. Not every scene can be a deep POV, just like every scene can't be tear-jerking angst.

Caveat #2: I almost always write in a shallow POV on the first draft. It's just not possible to do a deep POV until you know that character inside and out. Until you know how they think and what they would notice and what they wouldn't. For a lot of writers, that knowledge can't come until you've made it through the first draft.

Deep POV:
The hill was looming, a giant thing that filled her vision. She'd never been the best at challenges, always preferring to go tumbling through life without taking anything too seriously. But this . . . this was a challenge she had to take on. They needed this water. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught Jack's smile. Hell, she'd been chewing on her fingernail again. She rubbed her hands on her jeans. "You got my back, sis?" he asked.

The biggest difference between the shallow and deep POV examples? The shallow one could be found in any book, for any character. The second only makes sense for this character in this situation.  It's unique, simply because it's deep. Deep POV is not always the best choice, but it is sometimes, and it can be powerful.

This may have slid around topics a bit, but hopefully I'm making sense. What do you think - do you move from a shallow to deep POV through revisions? Do you use body language to show your character's emotions?  Do you prefer a deep or a shallow POV? What are your thoughts on way to achieve depth if that's what you're going for? And the original question. Do you like it when characters say, "It's not like we're in a romance novel or anything."?
Monday, October 15, 2012

Tuesday Review Day: Tiffany Reisz's THE ANGEL


So… have I annoyed you all yet with my fangirl gushing about how Tiffany Reisz is an erotica writing goddess?

If so, look away now.  Nothing to see here.

But I really can’t say enough about this series.  I loved THE SIREN and I worried that the second book wouldn’t live up.  I often feel let down by the second books in trilogies. Sometimes they have identity crises, as if they know they’re not the exciting beginning and they’re not the nail-biting end, they’re just the part you have to slough through to get to the good stuff.

Like how I used to have to eat my vegetables before I could have dessert.  To me, middle books risk being the cold, mushy carrots of the trilogy.

That is definitely not the case here.

THE ANGEL picks up a year after THE SIREN ends.  Erotica writer and dominatrix, Nora Sutherlin, has returned to Soren, her master and a Catholic priest. But he is under investigation by a journalist thanks to a possible promotion to bishop of his diocese. To try to keep their love safe from prying eyes, Nora flees to the country with budding masochist, Michael, in tow. Soren wants Nora to take Michael under her wing, to show him how to embrace his natural tendencies and to train him in the BDSM lifestyle.

The two stay with Griffin, a wealthy socialite. But while Griffin expects to spend the summer enjoying Nora, he finds himself drawn to young Michael.

Where do I start? I think trying to explain how all Reisz’s plot lines are intersecting would take a master’s style dissertation.  So, I’ll focus again, as I did with THE SIREN, on what I find the most fascinating about her writing: all her wonderful, flawed characters.

While SIREN dealt with Nora, this book offers readers a deeper view into the complex Soren.  After I finished THE SIREN, I didn’t like Soren much. I love a good alpha, don’t get me wrong, but Soren seemed to cross the alpha line and careen towards ass-hole. But, part of Reisz’s genius, I think, is her ability to keep every character flawed yet lovable.

This book gives us Soren’s heartbreaking backstory. Wretched, awful stuff.  But, what really softened me towards him was his unconditional love for Nora.  She is having a crisis of faith in their relationship. She’s been unable to forget Wesley, the intern she set free to keep them from hurting each other. While many lovers would face wandering thoughts with jealousy or insecurity, Soren thinks instead about Nora’s happiness. His final selfless act in the book made my heart ache for him.

It’s hard to remain hardened when a character acts so selflessly. And though I’m still firmly Team Wesley, I’m sad now as well. Because I can’t see how Nora can keep them both.

The most intact romance plot in the story is Michael and Griffin’s.  Griffin is a bit of the been-everywhere, done-everything kind of guy.  Born privileged and seems a bit spoiled. Or at least like he was in the past and he’s been in the process of growing up.  And Michael…. Good lord.  I just wanted to hug Michael in every scene. He’s young and sensitive. He’s been bullied his whole life by family and friends who don’t understand him. When these two meet, it’s as if they fall in love at first sight. This is a sweet love story, folks. I won’t give too much more, but they are what I look for in my romance—two souls who complement each other.

I’d also like to mention the journalist.  There were times I was frustrated by her, but I couldn’t help but sympathize with why she was dogging Soren. And Soren can certainly hold his own.

This book pushed a big boundary for me. Doesn’t happen a lot these days as I read so much and in so many genres. But there’s blood play in this book.  I’ve never read blood play and I admit I felt a little like a deer standing on some train tracks, watching an oncoming train. (“Must look away! But I can’t move!”)  The way the scene is written, though, so character-driven, I was along for the ride.  And I’m glad I was.

This is another fantastic read by Tiffany Reisz.  Honestly, even if this isn’t your usual genre, give her a shot.  I think you’ll be glad you did.  I personally can't wait for THE PRINCE, out in November.

Are there any scenes you can recall that really pushed a boundary for you?  

Make 'Em Cry

I've made it clear that I'm a fan of angst in books, but after watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower, wondered why I'd enjoy something that makes me feel anxious, nervous, and eventually heartbroken. These aren't feelings I'd invite in my real life, though I've experienced my share of them first hand, so why do I enjoy them in fiction?

Two statements must be made here. One, I highly recommend this movie. If you are a teen, ever were a teen, will someday be a teen, or are the parent/grandparent/aunt/uncle to a teen, you'll totally relate. In other words, everyone will understand these kids and what they're going through.

The second statement is that I have no answer for the question I pose above. I really have no idea why I enjoy angst so much in stories. I do know there are kinds of angst I do not like, the least favorite being humiliation. Not that a character being humiliated is angst, but as a reader, you almost always see it coming. I dread it because I have to "watch" it, even if only in my head.

Personally, I can't stand to read about or watch a character be humiliated. If the story is good enough, I'll deal with it, but it makes me very uncomfortable. I'm sure this is from humiliation in my own past, but this isn't a psychology session so let's not go there.

The Wallflower movie does not have a sad ending. All the characters problems are not magically solved, but he's better off than when the movie started and the ending is rather hopeful he'll have a positive future. But I still sobbed for the last ten minutes (or more) of the film. Why did I cry?

Because the lead character was hurting so badly. The kind of pain that makes you feel like your body will blow apart into tiny bits, and not in the good way. The kind of pain you think can kill you and while you're begging for it to stop, you wish it would just slice you in two and get it over with.

To be clear, no physical pain comes to Charlie. No one shoots him or beats him up. No horrendous car crash or debilitating disease. Just endless angst that grows into gut-wrenching pain.

I realize this is turning into a review of the movie, but this does tie into our writing, promise. There were light moments to this story as well. Laugh out loud moments even. Which is why I loved it so much. The movie took me on an emotional ride from joy to triumph to heartbreak and back.

This is what I want to accomplish with my books. Sounds terribly mean, but in addition to making readers laugh and cheer for my characters, I want to make them cry. Now I know how to do that, and it's not easy. We've often heard the advice to make our characters miserable. Take away that job she wants. Jeopardize his inheritance and standing in society. But we must go deeper.

Find the old wounds. The scar that looks healed over but isn't. Rip them open. Mentally and emotionally. Make them go there. It's hard because that means we have to go there. Tap into those moments in our lives when we wished someone would slice us in half and get it over with.

Do you do this in your writing? Do you even want to make your readers cry? (Perfectly legit to have no interest in pushing Kleenex with your books.) If you do, how do you do it? As a reader, do you enjoy stories that rip your heart out? Avoid them? (I avoid anything in which a child is in danger or hurt. Just can't go there.)
Friday, October 12, 2012

Adventure VS Drama, Stepping to the Stake

Another blog sparked by a discussion with the Bosun…
I think adventure is wasted on the young. They have no appreciation for it. The nuance of adventure is lost in the need/desire to add drama to every situation.

I’m not a fan of YA and how it has been so incredibly embraced by adult readers.

*ducking thrown bottles, daggers and refuse

Hear me out! I know I’m dancing the dagger’s edge of heresy with saying this, but really! I’m gonna leap into the precipice and invite some Friday controversy…

YA is a mediocre way for adults to indulge in fantasy without actually reading the BIG books.

Yeah, I know most of the YA stuff is big as far as word count is concerned. And they deal with big issues and growing up is the biggest issue of all and…

But…I can’t see it. I just can’t.

Maybe I’m a snob. It happens…we all have the lines we draw in the sand. For some it’s Michael Keaton playing Batman, or Fonzie jumping over a shark on Happy Days. For me, it’s the rush to embrace the YA stuff.

I mean, I’ve written some younger characters, not just my beloved active silvertons. The Pirate Circus has two kids in it! One a real kid and one a young adult who faces a massive change by the end of the book. So, I’m not a coward when it comes to writing kids. In my neverending pirate series, I have several younger characters…

But honestly, people! With so many fabulous books of adventure and growth out there, why only read the burgeoning adulthood ones? I don’t get it… I remember that time of my life without a whole lot of excitement. Hormones, social pressures, body issues… Nothing I don’t deal with right now! But it was all full of so much drama then…as YA is now.

Something that comes with age, perhaps, is the refusal to indulge in drama. The challenges thrown at us might be exciting, they might be exhausting or exhilarating…but full of drama? Not so much. I’m glad to leave drama behind…

So why would I want to read it in a YA book? Give me escapism and a chance to be an adult hero in my imagination… The thought of stepping into the head of a YA girl, even if she does have a real cool bow in her hand, is… *shudder!

Drama…eck! Adventure? Bring it on!

I’m ready, throw the rocks…I am likely a YA snob. But indulge me…do I have a point? Is there a difference between drama and adventure in your mind? What book titles come to mind if you consider the difference? Or movies?
Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Minding your C's and P's & a Little NaNoWriMo Chatter

Recently, I had one of the most productive and I'll be honest, one of the most kick myself in the ass already, conversations as writer with Mo and Terri. As much as they've helped me so much in the past, this conversation really hit home like no other for me and clicked.

Within quite a few a-ha moments during the talk there was a topic that I'd never wanted to approach before, having a real honest-to-goodness CP. See Mo and Terri have supported me, guided me and even helped me with a synopsis or two, but I've never ever considered sharing my work with them for actual feedback and critique  Again, to be honest I've totally shied away from the idea.


Well as much as I'm a HUGE believer in the idea that a real CP or CP group is a wonderful tool, nay even essential, for a writer I've always felt that I'm just not there yet.

How do I ask someone "I'm a beginner and light-years behind you in learning the writing tools and rules, but would you give me time out of your super busy world to be my one on one CP?"

Likewise, what do I have to offer them? I mean aren't they looking for someone who's light-years beyond them to give critiques?

So all of this came to a head during our recent conversations and it's lit a fire under me. I'm back to really rewriting my first WIP - really tearing it apart and reworking it so that I can actually send scenes for critique. So that I can actually take a big step forward in my writing - the step of allowing myself to be open to feedback. And I don't mean just the "Okay it's good." feedback you get from friends, I mean the brutally honest "You suck at dialogue and need to work on pacing." kind of feedback.

I've come to the epiphany that this is a step along the way to becoming a professional writer. Having a CP and being open to seeing your work from the eyes of other writers is a natural progression and again, I believe an essential one.

This isn't about letting others tell me what to change, and how they hate this or that. It's about having a critical eye tell me where it lags, what writing tools I need to develop more and so on. As a writer our goal should be to get better and better as a writer and I believe a CP or CP group will help do that.

So pirates, do you have a CP? Not just a group you share with or are accountable to, but a real exchange scenes, get critiques, be honest with each other about the writing type partner? If you do, is it helpful? If you don't, why not? Are you scared to death about the critique like I was? 

Lastly, who here is gearing up for NaNoWriMo? Do you have a story idea in mind that you have researched and ready to go on Nov. 1st? Will you use it to push your current WIP forward? 

Come on crew - let's talk, let's chat! :)