Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June News

Come and celebrate our members' news.

1-I have two releases this month. Memories Undone by Cricket Starr was released in ebook format by Ellora’s Cave on the 18th and last week it went out in print along with Memories To Come and Memories Revised in a book titles Memories Divine.

Cricket Starr

2- I recently signed a contract with The Wild Rose Press. The edits went quickly, but I don't have a cover or release date yet. Unless they decide to change it, the title is The Mitchell Money, and since the heroine is 45 and the hero pushing 50, it'll come out under the Last Rose of Summer category.

Sue Fineman

3- My book NEW BLOOD was a finalist in the Golden Quill contest and is also a finalist in the Booksellers Best Award in the paranormal romance category. It didn't win Golden Quill, and I won't know how it did in the Booksellers' Best until after RWA National. :)

Gail Dayton

4- The Magic Knot has won an award of merit for best first book in the Holt Medallion contest.

Helen Scott-Taylor

5- Rx For Trust received a five stars review at Readers Favorite.

Mona Risk

6-Seduced by the Wolf, to be released by Sourcebooks in August 2010.

Terry Spear.

7-I have my first sale to The Wild Rose Press. Edits have been exciting so far. If they don't change the title it will be Tempting Adam, no release date yet.

Amanda Murphy w/a Jill James

8- My first book Simple Wishes was nominated for the Booksellers Best Award.

Lisa Dale

If you have more news please add them in the comments and I will post them.

Congratulations to our members.

My Way

Last week I finished the first draft of my category romance.  Hooray!  According to Stephen King's On Writing he advises to stash away the draft for six weeks, not to touch one word, a comma or anything else.  Since he's Stephen King, I'm following his advice and letting my mental batteries recharge.  Before I waited at least a couple of weeks but during that time, I  tweaked a scene or added one.  I never gave my eye to freshen for my work.  Not anymore, I'm a convert and it's wonderful.

My TBR pile is shrinking from a shaking beanstalk to a manageable size that won't collapse on top of me.  I'm catching up on my favorite TV shows I recorded.  It's like rediscovering the outside world.  The greatest part is feeling the surge of writing energy building.  For me, this humming starts beneath my muscles and in the depths of my core and spreads to the tips of my toes and fingers.  Slowly, this force builds until it vibrates through me. My skin tingles from it and never lets me rest.  My mind comes alive with scenes, characters, dialogue, and anything and everything to do with my new work.  It percolates until a moment when I have to sit down at my computer and let the energy transform into a novel.

Right now, the hum shakes through me.  Even as I'm writing this, my leg is jiggling from the restless power.  I'm still at the beginning stages where my characters are starting to form and breathe in life.  The story is thickening and soon I'll write it.

Once that's finished, I'll pull out my waiting work.  I'll blow of the figurative dust and bring out my pens and start my revisions while another work slumbers and the mind is refreshing and the eye is new so that draft can be tweaked, rewritten, polished and everything else. I like always having something to work on. My way propels me forward like a rolling stone and never lets my writing collect moss.

That's my process.  It works for me but I'm always searching for new ways that might improve it.  What's your process?  Do you have any advice to share?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Fodder Alert!

In my last post, I chatted about my madness as a romance writer. I may, perhaps, have another writer’s flaw. My non-writing friends consider it far worse than voices that wake me in the night. After all, my characters don’t disturb their sleep.

Latest hunky hero says “Hey.”*

This flaw strikes anytime, anywhere. It favors inopportune moments: a sob-broken eulogy, a co-worker’s tale of woe, over crème caramel in a romantic restaurant.

Some insignificant thing captures my writer’s fancy.

Suddenly, I’m scrounging for notepad and pencil. I've worn countless pencils to the nub. Really, a writer should come with a built-in version.

It happens so often, the Loving Husband coined a phrase for this special spasm of my mine: Fodder Alert.

I confess. I hang my head in shame. I apologize in advance and arrears. Not only am I a mad writer, I’m a scene spy. Shh!

Family, friends, acquaintances; all are surreptitiously observed for story ideas. Strangers are better as they never find out they've been—OMG—used.

Before you all shun me, please know that the final scene seldom mirrors the originating incident. My peculiar madness bends and twists the original beyond recognition. Innocent contributors are protected by a thick veil of privacy. I do, after all, want peaceable relations with my family and friends.

When and where do your Fodder Alerts sound? Which was your favorite?

*Ryan Chisholm, hero of Above Scandal (my romantic women’s fiction work-in-progress) informed me last night, “I'm not idiot enough to use a little girl against her own mother”. He and Carter of The Painted Ladies must be gossiping behind my back.

Joan Leacott

Heart, humour and heat...Canada style

Further musings by Joan

Photo Credit: Carlos Porto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Romance at the Drive-Ins???

"A Nat King Cole song of the era proclaimed that at the drive-in
“you’ll see more kisses in the car than on the screen,” and often kissing was just the beginning of the
festivities. By the mid-‘50s the adults had caught on and drive-ins were condemned as “passion pits” by
America’s clergy."--From Palo Alto History

When we were kids, we loved to go to the drive-in theater to watch the epic movies in California and Florida. A playground gave us a chance to swing and slide before it got dark and we returned to the car to watch the movie. With tubs of popcorn, wearing flannel nightgowns, and tucked up with our pillows and blankets, we watched until we were too sleepy to see the end.

So when I had kids of my own, I wanted them to enjoy the experience too. With our silly standard poodle, we went to a drive-in and had a blast. The idea of eating anything they wanted that we had brought with us, wearing pajamas, bundled in blankets and resting against pillows was a lot of fun.

It's too bad that very few drive-ins exist any longer.

I was reading a romance book that had been written about 20 years ago, that talked of romance at the drive-in. I thought about including a drive-in scene in my current book, but alas, there are none within three hours drive from their location. Sooo, no drive-in.

I was reading an article that spoke of how so many have never even seen a drive-in theater. The one we have locally is now a flea market downtown. But when I've gone to it, I think of what it had once been with it's huge movie theater screen, sign post that at one time would have announced the features playing, and ticket booth. I'm afraid like men washing windows on your automobiles or filling the gas tank is a bygone era...so are drive-in theaters. :)

If you've ever been to a drive-in theater, what was your favorite thing about them???

"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Time to post and run

I'm scheduled to leave town in a few hours, so I have to post and run.

Which brings me to today's topic: am I the only person who makes plans then later wonders, "What the hell was I thinking?" This seems to happen to me often. I'll merrily book a trip then a few days beforehand I'll think: "Wait a minute -- I don't have time for this? Why did I think I could do this?"

Now this is a minor trip: an overnight stay at a 'camping cabin' in a State Park. We carry in our bedding, etc., stay overnight, do some hiking, etc., then head for home. The key words here are "we carry in..." My DH said, (and I quote), "We'll just play it by ear. Toss a few things in the car and get there whenever we feel like it and..."

Can you spot a potential problem in the offing? (1) It's the weekend at a State Park. It will be crowded. It will be busy. We can't just plan to get there whenever because we'll probably be in traffic. (2) I don't know about you, but I like a sheet and maybe a towel. Maybe a pillow. So I need to gather a few things. (3) Food? Hmm. Should we consider that?

All in all, this took about an hour of my time to gather a few things together. I'll make my DH drive tomorrow, so at least I can read while we sit in traffic. And I printed out a few "things to see" along the route in case we decide to sightsee. So it's not a biggie -- except I was out of town for 5 days last week, I'll be out of town for 4 days in another week, and I'd like to do some gardening, and maybe some writing, and ...

What was I thinking?

And on that topic (and related): Is anyone else going to RomCon in July? I'm booked to fly in on the 8th for that brand new conference. I don't have a costume yet for the party, have no idea what I'll take for the dinner on Saturday, and I need to get in touch with my niece and firm up our plans for the 8th (since I'll be meeting her there).

Anybody else going? If so, let's meet up! Of course, I'm going to be out of town for a few days beforehand, then I leave town when I get back ...

What was I thinking?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

When Worlds Collide

This is a story about my grand-dog and grand-cat. I had no idea how gifted my grand-animals were until I heard a cute story at lunch today.

The set up: The kids have had two cats for several years, a brother and sister. The female cat has a regular name, but they always call her Princess because of her high and mighty attitude. She looks down her nose at strangers and hides under the bedspread with her brother whenever someone enters their domain. Two years ago someone brought a Jack Russell Terrier into the office where Kristen works. The little guy was a couple of weeks old, the runt of the litter and missing a kneecap. She took the puppy home and they named him Tucker. The two cats hated him on sight. How dare they bring home this intruder into their world?! They have treated him with contempt from the moment he arrived.

In the beginning the kids fed Tucker premiere dog food, but after a while started feeding him whatever they found, not giving it a thought that he really didn’t seem to be eating right, was highly over-stimulated and barked all the time. This week Kristen picked up the same canned and dried premium dog food as they had fed him in the beginning and filled his bowl. He nearly attacked the food and licked the bowl clean. Kristen got to thinking maybe he’d been hungry all the time and that the premium food was probably the answer to his problems. The next evening Stanton mixed the canned food with some of the dried. Tucker picked every one of the dried pieces out and set them on the floor. No way was he going to lower himself to eat anything but the good stuff now that they were finally giving him what he demanded.

The finale: Princess was sitting on the table watching Tucker’s antics. She jumped down to where he ate, got in his face and hissed like she was telling him to get off his high horse, turned around, ran her tail across his face and returned to her perch. Tucker watched her leave and then ate every one of the dried pieces of food.

A Writer's Time Travel

"...The 1940's is portrayed so vividly that the time and place become characters of their own. I could see the clothing, hear the music and feel the scratchy car upholstery..."

~ Romance Readers at Heart

When I sat down to write THE PASSENGER, of course I hadn't been to California in the 1940's but I knew this was both the time and place for the story.

I knew in order for me to bring my readers there, I had to find my way there too.

So I set a challenge for myself... I decided to transport myself there using whatever means available.

I read books on the decade. Browsed the antique stores for old copies of magazines. Visited the library of a local art college to look through Sears catalogs and Town and Country. Rented movies and watched documentaries.

I listened to the music. When I was writing and when I wasn't. In fact, the Andrews Sisters became a favorite of my daughter's when she was younger. What four year old in this decade knows all the words to the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy?

The research became an adventure and as fun for me as the writing!

I'd love to hear about your adventures - what do you do as a writer to prepare yourself for a story? As a reader what details transport you there?

Until next time...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How much is too much writing time?

I’m sure you’re wondering what sane writer would ask such a question. Well, please bear with me for a few minutes. Unlike some of my writing colleagues, I have ample free time for tush-in-the-chair keyboarding. That sounds great, but, where does that leave my husband?

Recently, as sunset turned to twilight, my husband and I walked up and down our dead end street. I realized with a jolt that we rarely take these walks like we used to in past years. We’re stay-at-home empty nesters so spending time together should be a snap, right? Well, I’ve become a cave dweller, writing hour after hour, lost within my character’s lives, feverishly taking online workshops, or keeping abreast of the industry via the internet.

That evening as we passed by our neighbor’s houses I slipped my arm inside my husband’s and told him he’s a DH. Since he’s not into messaging or texting I explained the meaning. A dear husband. He laughed in that soft way I love, music to my ears. Then the quips began. Over the years we’ve developed a fun, word play game, setting our imaginations free. Whether traveling in another country and lost––as usual––or confounded by life’s inequities, we skew the situation with humor. That’s one thing I adore about my DH! One of us tosses out a crazy exaggeration or a weird, often off-kilter interpretation, and we’re off and running.

We came up with a several takes on DH, and I’ll share my favorite. My husband said DH means Disabled, as in stuck in his recliner chair all night waiting for me to deliver his sugar-free pudding with Cool Whip on top. My man loves attention and he gets little of it these days. Can you hear my guilt? It sometimes skyrockets, driving me into the kitchen to whip up a gourmet dinner. My husband walks in and gives me that special smile, his eyes lighting up in surprise and pleasure.

So, I wonder how much writing time is too much. My DH never complains about my long hours away from him in our home. He’s a rock of support. Tonight, I’ll leave my desk and we’ll stroll together, admiring sunset and sharing our ups and downs for the day. I know I’m not alone in my struggle to maintain an important relationship while pursuing my dreams. If you’ve found a good balance between the two, I’d like to hear from you.

Monday, June 21, 2010

One Flaw In Women

I thought of all the wonderful writers in the FTH group and how appropriate this verse fits. I do not know who the author is.

One Flaw In Women
Women have strengths that amaze men

They bear hardships and they carry burdens,
but they hold happiness, love and joy.
They smile when they want to scream.
They sing when they want to cry.
They cry when they are happy and laugh when they are nervous.
They fight for what they believe in.
They stand up to injustice.
They don't take "no" for an answer
when they believe there is a better solution.
They go without so their family can have.
They go to the doctor with a frightened friend.
They love unconditionally.
They cry when their children excel
and cheer when their friends get awards.
They are happy when they hear about a birth or a wedding.
Their hearts break when a friend dies.
They grieve at the loss of a family member,
yet they are strong when they think there is no strength left.
They know that a hug and a kiss can heal a broken heart.
Women come in all shapes, sizes and colors.
They'll drive, fly, walk, run or e-mail you to show how much they care about you.
The heart of a woman is what makes the world keep turning.


Posted by Jaclyn DiBona

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Judging Diva

Ahhh, contests.

We’re all familiar with the hit-or-miss world of contesting our babies (AKA WIPS). Some of us do it a tad more than others, but we’ve all seen the results splashed across various loops.
I’m not here to tell you why you should enter. Oh, no. I’m going to tell you why you should judge.
Entering is the easy part. (Nail biting aside, yes, it is. It’s out of your hands as soon as you hit send and you go back to work. You do go back to work on it, right?) Judging is quite a bit harder and takes more time but I’ve learned far more judging than I’ve ever learned from entering.
The first reason is simple. Judging is a way to give back to the romance writing community, to use your skills to help a fellow writer. We’ve all got strengths we can use to read others’ work and offer suggestions where needed. Yes, we’ve all got weaknesses, too. I’ve found carefully reading the entry and scoresheet and honestly answering the scoring questions balances that. Follow your instincts. All you need to be is fair.
Here’s the biggest reason. Craft. I’ve learned so much about craft from the entries I’ve judged over the years. This, for me, is hands down the most valuable thing. It’s how I learned about conflict, saw how other authors of varying skill levels employed it or not. Pacing. Description. Voice. POV. Characterization. Dialogue. Tension. Sexual tension. Emotion. Everything. I’m not saying I used judging as a proving ground. I wasn’t a brand-spanking-new writer when I started. However, it’s seeing all these things in action over the years in many different entries by many different writers that I’ve been able to see how they work--or don’t--and take that to my own writing.
Finally, some caveats. Judging does not mean you rewrite another’s work. It does not mean you sabotage someone who is a better writer than you or competition for your CP. Ever. That’s unethical and shame on those who abuse the position. If you truly believe you can’t judge an entry it is your responsibility to let the coordinator know ASAP so she can assign it to someone else. (That’s what you would want for your own entry, right?) Don’t sign on if you can’t devote a reasonable amount of time. Give the entries the kind of treatment you’d want for your own baby. It’s not fair to simply give random scores and call it a day.
If you can, sign up the next time a call goes out. It’s free. You get to help a fellow writer along the publishing path. Judging is a big responsibility. But by striving to be fair and investing some time you might even learn a little something that helps you grow as a writer.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Summertime! Is the livin' easy?

I don't know about you, but summertime livin' is easy...and it isn't.

For one thing, I live on the Gulf Coast, and while the oil spill hasn't yet made its way to the Texas coast, (the current goes the other way--have seen nary a tarball so far) it's still a typical Texas coastal summer. Meaning Hot and Humid. To be honest, the weather's better during the rest of the year. But the water is warm enough to suit me for swimming. Yeah, I like it bathwater warm to swim. (That picture is of the beach, two blocks from my house.) (I didn't take that one.)

And summertime is when RWA has its conference, and local groups have their Science Fiction and Fantasy cons--I write steampunk fantasy romance, so I go to those meetings too. I also go with the fella I'm married to, to at least one of his summer conferences. And then the Dallas grandboys come down to visit--they're doing the local Sea Camp daycamp this year for the first time. And the daughter usually comes down from the "frozen northland" (aka Pittsburgh) to thaw out, and brings her son and spouse (if he can get off work), which means we need to go get the other boys from Dallas so the cousins can play... I'm exhausted already--and I've decided not to go to RWA this year.

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE having them visit. The more the merrier. Honest. We'll have a shrimp boil and a barbecue, go swimming, hit the historic downtown and just have a blast. Last year, my siblings rented a beach house down the island from us, and brought our parents down and as many of our kids as we could assemble--it's harder now that a bunch of them are grown with their own kids--and we played for a week. When I was trying to finish a book on deadline.

That's the not-so-easy part of summertime. Because the deadlines don't move. They're still there, like giant brick walls, waiting for us to run into them.

I've found that it's almost impossible to write anything when I have company, especially grandkids. So I'm going to have to work really, really hard to get the writing done in between visits and trips out of town. Wish me luck.

What about y'all? What do you love about summertime? What don't you like so much?

A Face for my Hero

SPECIAL NOTE: Morgan Wyatt is the lucky winner of Barbara Monajem SUNRISE IN A GARDEN OF LOVE & EVIL. Morgan, I will send your email to Barbara.


I can't describe a hero without a clear picture of him in front of me.
Hugh Jackman who was voted Sexiest Man Alive in 2008 and hosted the 2009 Oscars, lost his Aussie accent to become my aristocratic Count François de Valroux in French Peril. Hugh’s angular features and hazel eyes perfectly matched those of my French hero. I still have the lovely picture of Hugh sent to me that my Playground friends for my birthday. I printed a pathree years ago ge-size copy and daydream while I type.

Another friend knew I was writing a medical romance and gave me the right inspiration. George Clooney’s picture landed on my desk next to that of Hugh. Dark, tall and handsome Clooney who played Dr. Doug Ross in ER became my model for my Puerto Rican Dr. Marc Suarez in Babies in the Bargain.

While writing my fifth book, a medical romance set in Belarus, Prescription in Russian, I asked Pierce to lend his heart-stopping smile and suave charm to my hero, Dr. Fyodor Vassilov. Can you understand now why the heroine, Dr. Jillian Burton, an American physician on a mission to Belarus, loses her heart despite her life-long pledge never to fall in love? Could you resist a Pierce Brosnan look-alike? I couldn’t. By the time I typed THE END to my manuscript I was head over heels in love with my hero—whether his name was Fyodor or Pierce.

I loved him in The Thomas Crown Affair, a light suspense comedy he played with Rene Russo about a billionaire playboy who steals priceless work of art from the Louvre Museum until a lovely detective puts an end to his infuriating hobby.

Laws of Attraction was even better. Brosnan starred opposite Julianne Moore in the story of two divorce attorneys who don’t believe in love and compete against each other in court but become attracted to each other.

And recently have you seen Pierce singing in Mamma Mia? According to an interview with Reader’s Digest, Pierce said he’d accepted the role as soon as his agent said, 'Meryl Streep, Mamma Mia!' And he was trained by two singers from the Sweedish pop group ABBA who wrote the music for Mamma Mia. Hmm I wasn’t very fond of his singing but…

Don’t you just love him!!!
I didn’t use an actor to picture my hero in my first book To Love A Hero. The handsome real-life colonel X worked with me on a laboratory renovation project in Minsk, Belarus, ten years ago. He was hero enough to make any woman daydream. I had several pictures of him lying around on my desk for the duration of my wriring.

Now, imagine my surprise when I received a notification from Facebook a week ago informing me thatColonel X wanted to friend me and has left me three messages. I smiled to my ears and opened my messages. X said he found me on Facebook. He and his wife and daughters have checked my website and were thrilled to learn that I wrote a story set in Belarus. I sent him an electronic copy of To Love A Hero. And he sent me a family picture. Big disappointment: The handsome colonel who retired from the army was wearing a suit and has gaineda lot of weight and turned gray. Good thing I wrote my book before he found me on Facebook!!!

Do you look at the face of your hero when you write or read a book? WHO do you visualize in his arms when he holds and kisses the heroine?
All my books are available at amazon.com, fictionwise and the publishers, The Wild Rose Press and Cerridwen Press.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Writing Life

This month I’m discussing “Writing Life”. What a great topic, especially since that’s my daily routine.

I recently read an article on this very subject where the author suggests all sorts of things to eliminate boredom. Boredom??? Who the heck is bored??

Now perhaps I read that incorrectly, but quite honestly, if you’re bored, then it’s time to take a break from the novel you’re writing and move onto another.

Starting a new story is so much fun, isn’t it? Where do my story ideas come from? Conversations, eavesdropping, funny things that happen to me, or my friends, or when I’m writing suspense, I’m using the newspaper for ideas. This is when the ‘what if’ game comes into the picture to formulate the ideas through various perspectives until I settle on an idea that excites me.

Once that’s done, I begin my process by developing my characters and doing profiles. I conduct interview sessions with lots of questions, after which, I match the profiles up against the personality types as based on the Meyers-Briggs Personality test, and then, I find the closest match of sun signs found in “Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs”.

Now comes the fun part of collecting pictures of my characters from magazines, or an Internet search for models of all ages. Soap Opera characters’ photos work really well too. I’m always mindful about selecting images of characters I know nothing about simply because I don’t want to change protagonist’s personality type after I’ve gone through all the trouble to mold them into what I want them to be. Sort of like playing God, don’t you think?

Next comes a brief outline, chapter by chapter, with as much information as I can come up with. Sometimes it’s a little brief until I actually begin doing the research, but this is the time to develop the story no matter how long it takes. This is called doing your homework.

It’s almost like being in school again, don’t you think?

Monday, June 14, 2010

An interview with Barbara Monajem

Today's spotlight is on a talented new author and rising-star, Barbara Monajem.

Barbara writes short Historical Regency stories, NOTORIOUS ELIZA, for Harlequin Historical Undone and paranormal vampire stories, Bayou Gavotte Series: SUNRISE IN A GARDEN OF LOVE & EVIL, and TASTES OF LOVE & EVIL, for Dorchester.

Here is what critiques are saying about Bayou Gavotte Series, Book One
"...a fresh and sultry voice joins the paranormal romance genre..." -- Romantic Times

"...charming, offbeat characters..." -- Patricia's Vampire Notes

"A breath of fresh air, in the spirit of Charlaine Harris's Dead Until Dark." -- New York Times Bestselling Author Susan Squires

Please join me in welcoming Barbara Monajem.

How did you sell your first book? Tell us about the Call.

I was a finalist in the Daphne contest in 2005, and although I didn’t win, one of the final judges, Christopher Keeslar of Dorchester Publishing, requested the full manuscript. I finished writing the story and sent it to him a few months later. Three years after that, he emailed to ask if it was still available, and if so, he would read the rest and get back to me. Talk about a big surprise!! The next day he called and made me an offer. I didn’t jump up and down and scream (that’s just not me), but I was doing a lot of very happy dancing inside. :~)) He’s an amazing editor to work with.

Here’s the blurb for Sunrise in a Garden of Love & Evil, which is book one of the Bayou Gavotte Series.

Bayou Gavotte, Louisiana, has a post office, a city hall, and an active PTA. It has magnolias and passion vine. It also has fetish clubs. And vampires.

Being irresistible sucks: Ophelia Beliveau learned that at puberty. When her friends developed breasts, she sprouted fangs as well. The effect on boys was even more dangerous.

Ophelia’s peril has only increased. As a woman, there’s been only one solution, but she can’t avoid men forever. Solitude satisfies no craving, and now her self-imposed exile must end. A vandal has destroyed her garden. A web of blackmail and murder is being woven across town, with her at its heart. And then there’s Gideon O’Toole, a detective sworn to uncover more secrets than she thirsts to bare…

How did you sell your second book? Please share your call.

The second call (actually an email) was from Harlequin about a short story I had submitted for their Historical Undone! line. I received the call while at RWA National last year, which was just wonderful, as I got to meet some of the editors and other authors of historicals, and attended some of the Harlequin events. It’s a Regency called Notorious Eliza, about a woman who paints nudes for a living and is hired to cover up some racy murals on the walls of a ballroom. I had a ton of fun writing that. It’s much different from the contemporary paranormals of the Bayou Gavotte Series, and I love writing in a different voice about a completely different time and place.

The third was from Dorchester (again, an email) offering a contract for three more paranormals in the Bayou Gavotte Series, as well as a story in an anthology. The second paranormal is a September release this year, and the anthology is slated for January 2011.

What gave you the ideas for your books?

The idea for Sunrise in a Garden of Love & Evil came right after I read Dracula, which I absolutely loved. I felt I just had to write a vampire story, but there are lots of characteristics about vampires which I don’t particularly like, such as being undead (which for me suggests bad breath) and immortal (which is a big complication in romance), and having to avoid sunlight (because I’m a day person). But I love the sexy aspect of vampires, and blood is powerful and compelling (as well as being red, my favorite color :~)). I started playing with the idea of a vampire heroine who was sexually irresistible and all the problems this would cause, and after that the story practically wrote itself.

The idea for Notorious Eliza came partly from some beautiful murals a friend painted on his dining room walls, and partly from A World Lit Only by Fire by William Manchester. It’s a fascinating book about the changes in European civilization from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, and it contains lots of funky information of the kind you don’t hear in school, such as orgies held by the Borgia popes. I combined the orgies with the murals and came up with a scandalous ballroom that had to be painted over before the hero could get married. :)

Here’s a short blurb for Notorious Eliza:

Patrick needs a respectable new wife to be a mother for his daughter.
Notorious Eliza paints nudes to support her young son.
They should resist the attraction. (They don’t.)
They dare not fall in love. (They do.)
They must not marry…for one day Eliza’s most scandalous secret will surface and destroy them all.

Do your heroines take after you?

No way! They’re all talented at things I can’t do, such as landscaping, costume-making, portrait painting, etc. They’re also a lot more gutsy than I am. Oh, and I’m not irresistible (thank heavens!).

Any model for your hero?

No, my heroes are entirely imaginary. I have a few favorite actors (such as Johnny Depp and Liam Neeson), but my heroes aren’t based on them or anyone else in real life.

Any other book coming soon?

Tastes of Love & Evil, the second in the Bayou Gavotte series, is a September release. Here’s the blurb:

Rose Fairburn is on the run. Her vampire nature can’t protect her from everything, especially not herself. Now, when she should be worried about escaping her past, she can only think about one thing. Her kind can’t live without blood or sex. Love they must forego.
Jack Tallis can slake her thirst. Tall. Handsome. Trustworthy. And not a man alive can resist a vamp’s allure. But…Jack can. And he has other secrets, like why underworld hit men are on his trail, and how he can vanish into thin air. Love suddenly seems possible, but the shadows hide mysteries darker than Rose can even dream, and all will be revealed in the fetish clubs of one strange Louisiana town…

Barbara, thank you for being with us at Voices from the Heart, and sharing your amazing experience on the road to publication.

Barbara will give a free copy of SUNRISE IN A GARDEN OF LOVE & EVIL to a lucky commentator


The Accidental Series

By Janet Miller/Cricket Starr

The subject of series came up recently at one of my local RWA chapter meetings and it made me think about the kind of series that I’ve written. There have been four of them so far, all of them in different worlds, and I’m working on a fifth one now.

I call these series “accidental” because for the most part the first book in the series was never intended to part of a series. They were stand-alone books that were well received and so I found myself expanding on minor characters to give them their own stories. This differs from “planned” series where the author maps out from beginning to end each book in the story arc in advance of the first book’s completion.

The most recent series I’ve created is called Memories Divine, about a fantasy kingdom called Gal and a goddess called Gillan D’Amatah who likes to meddle in other people’s love life through their dreams. The first tale was Memories To Come, a short story about a warrior chained and dying in an abandoned fortress, and Gillian’s visit to him to show him what his life would have been like if he’d just stayed with that village woman the goddess had put in his way years earlier. I had so much fun with the story that I wrote a companion short story called Memories Revised where a similar plot had the heroine of Memories To Come rethinking about that warrior she had been too timid to entice into her life. The stories dovetailed together at their ends with both heroine and hero having a happy ending.

For the third story I wrote Memories Undone, which will be released as a short novel on June 18th in ebook format, and in print along with the other two stories in an anthology called Memories Divine next month. Memories Undone is much longer and features a minor character from both the other two stories named Captain Albinan, a handsome nobleman with a scar and a lack of faith in love. His love interest is actually his long-estranged wife, and it begins with him receiving a letter from her ordering him back home. She is the princess of Gal and she thinks she needs to have a child to save the country...but the goddess comes into the picture and points out that perhaps everything is not as it seems to be.

Series exist for several reasons. Readers tend to like them. If they enjoy the world building in a book, they will look for more in the series because they want to see more of that world. If this is a character-based series with the same main characters, they want to see more of those characters. People pick up books in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series because they want to see what happens next to Stephanie, Joe, and Ranger.

If the series arc is about a group of people, such as a set of siblings or good friends, then readers want to see what happens to “brother John’s” character, introduced in the first book as someone scoffing over the idea of love, then falling in love himself in book three. With each book the author broadens their world to include a vast array of characters. Sometimes one or more minor characters are too colorful to forget and will actually spawn another series. Some authors can build entire career on these linked series.
Authors like to write series because dedicated fans will always pick up the next book of a series. It is as close to a guaranteed sale as you can get. You build one world and set of characters and then build a story around them...while this doesn’t mean the book will be easy to write, it can have advantages over writing in a brand new world every time.

The key to writing series, even if you end up doing by accident, is that once you know for sure that you are going to be writing more than one book you need to create an outline for the series. Something like a guide to how the books will relate to each other. If you have continuing characters (and you most likely will) you should create bios for them with at the very least name, description, and other details that you’ll need for the rest of the series. This can be done very simply, or in great detail, but it is far easier to have in one place the eye-color of your main character from book two rather than have to constantly be opening a copy of that book to look it up. If your character in book three never curses, it would not be a good idea in book six to have them swearing...unless you can explain it to the reader.

In general accidental series can work out okay, but it can be far better if you planned your series story arc in advance. If you don’t then be prepared to scramble together a series story arc that works with what is already out there, and do it fast because once that first book is out there the readers will be waiting for the next one...and the one after that.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I Was Here

My oldest daughter graduated high school yesterday. In honor of her, I am blogging about her quest to make a difference in others lives.

I was here. This has become the theme song for my daughter. She's 18 now and has decided she wants to touch people lives in a way that makes a real difference. High expectations? I don't think so. Alexa has always been a very kind hearted child. Her newest endeavor is a three day walk for a cure for breast cancer in Boston, MA in July. This is a 60 mile walk over the course of three days, 20 miles a day, which requires each participant to raise $2,300 in sponsors.

Having a grandmother and a great aunt who both had breast cancer, I whole heartedly support her in this endeavor. How many woman have been touched by this disease in one way or another either by having it themselves or having a loved one be inflicted. As I watch Alexa train for this walking up to 6 miles a day at this point, with blisters on her heels, I am amazed at her determination to touch someone's life.

Every day I watch her I am learning a lesson of the person I should be, and want to be. How often do we get caught up in our own lives with all the stress, mundane tasks, and just every day life, that we just don't give a thought to things of this nature.

I ask any of you that may feel the desire to help to donate towards Alexa's goal to help find the cure for breast cancer. Donations can be made under Alexa Davis' name here.

I thank all of you that may contribute to such a worthy cause. My hope is with this post we will all endeavor to touch someone's life through our own everyday life.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

So you want to write a series…

Whether with another writer, a group of writers, or just your very own special series just for you (well, and your readers!), there are certain things you must be prepared to do. World building is a must – whether you’re working by yourself or with others. Your first consideration should be continuity. What time period will you be writing in? If you’re working with other writers, you must decide on what commonalities your works are going to have – are you going to set all your stories in the same town, in the same hotel or restaurant, or nightclub? Are your characters going to interact with the characters of the other stories? If so, you have to come to some understanding of the other author’s writing process and figure out how your characters are going to interact and how often.

You need to track when a character mentions parents, hometowns, siblings, etc. A series is really a type of soap opera when you think about it. Characters in the same place who may or may not interact with one another. An interesting example of a crossover is J.R. Ward's new Covenant series. In the first book, a character from her previous series makes an appearance. It's subtle and you have to have read the first series (Black Dagger Brotherhood) to get the reference. But trust me, if you have readers who have read the other books, they will notice when the heroine of your fifth book is the sister of the hero of the first book who said in book one he only had brothers.

If you’re doing your own series, there’s still plenty of world building that must be done. You have to decide on the “rules” of your world and then stick to them or the readers WILL call you out on that. Want to write a vampire story with a twist? Better use that twist but don’t forget what it is! Want to set all your stories in the same town? Don’t move any building from one story to the other unless it’s part of your plot to have disappearing buildings or blow something up!

One thing to do to preserve continuity is to have a character from a past book do a cameo in another book. This will do two things at the very least. It anchors your new book in your world. Plus if someone is reading out of order (and we all do that at some point), it will alert them to past books hopefully encouraging them to pick up some backlist.

Series shouldn't try to reinvent a wheel that was created in the first book. That's why a bible is important. No, not that Bible. In this case a bible refers to important story pieces that you need to remember.

In our Lusting Wild series, we have a several groups of shifters. Our bible includes listing who is in which Pack. For instance there's the Compound Pack who cause quite a bit of trouble in Changing Times and Changing Hearts, books one and two in the Lusting Wild series. But by book three, Changing Focus, the Compound Pack has shifted (you should pardon the pun) towards a more law-abiding pack although they still have one or two control issues that the hero of Changing Focus, has to deal with.

When you are writing a series, you really want to make sure that you provide enough clues for the next character's story as well. We recently got a comment on our publisher's page regarding a supporting character from book three. The reader was hoping his story would be next. We have good news for that reader. Gareth's story is definitely one we will be working on. Book three also re-introduced a were-leopard lawyer character who had a small role in book one and a minor character from book two, a member of the Compound pack, who is a wolf as well as a lawyer. The interaction between them intrigued us enough to start plotting their romance as well.

Currently, we are working with a group of fellow Ellora's Cave authors on a new multiple-author series. This particular series will have only two common elements-a phone number and a private club. The stories will be contemporary erotica with a BDSM twist. We have all worked on the concept and common characters as well as shared our synopses for each of the books. The next step is putting a proposal together to pitch to The Powers That Be aka our Editor-In-Chief. Our hope is that she will like the series idea enough to give it the thumbs up. Then we have to write the books individually. The process will be the same in that we have to submit them to an editor, but because they will tie into one another, we plan to have a group marketing effort.

A good example of this type of multi-author series is the Crimson City series. Authors Liz Maverick, Marjorie Liu, Jade Lee, Patti O'Shea and Carolyn Jewell all wrote manuscripts within this world. Their paranormal world featured a cast of races that allowed the authors to delve into their favorites while pulling in cameos from other characters in other books. It was so well-done that there is a rumor that Crimson City may be making a comeback.

So do you read series? If you do, what do you like best about them? Do you catch small mistakes from a secondary character's emerald green eyes suddenly becoming ice blue in the fourth book? Why do you read series? Do you prefer single titles to series? Considering all of this will help you become a better series writer if that is your goal.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Greetings from Algeria

Today I'm blogging from the beautiful seaside town of Zeralda, Algeria. I originally came to Algeria to research the Sahara for my next novel. When our travel plans were delayed, we decided to skip the heat and stay on the Mediterranean Coast instead.
Algeria's neighbors, Morocco and Tunisia, are well known for their tourism. But this is the Barbary Coast, famous for pirates like Barbarossa and Rais Hamidou. Fiercely independent and proud to be self-sufficient, Algerians have never courted foreign favor. U.S. Citizens must have a visa to get into the country, and the journey is physically challenging even in the age of aviation. So I felt privileged to explore a part of the world few Americans ever see.

Due to negative media reports, family and friends warned me not to go. Algeria is regularly featured on U.S. State Department travel advisories and terror watch lists. But the Algerian government has spared no expense in its fight against terrorism.

Security is tight in the capital and all touristic areas. Our hotel had a metal detector and x-ray machine for screening incoming luggage. Around the capital, one cannot go more than a few miles without passing through a checkpoint. Still, I found the omnipresent military and police forces more reassuring than intrusive.

Geopolitics aside, the best diplomats for Algeria are its ordinary citizens. We were greeted with friendly curiosity everywhere we went. The vendors selling traditional mint tea and homemade donuts on the beach were patient with my broken Arabic and inability to understand their currency.

The Algerian flag is everywhere, draped on corner cigarette stands and painted on the outside walls of apartment complexes. But don't mistake this for a ominous sign of excessive nationalism. It's all in preparation for the World Cup, soccer's biggest international event. Ordinary life has been put on hold while the country awaits their first match against Slovenia. Algeria is scheduled to play the United States on June 23rd. If you want to make friends with the locals, that's a good conversation starter.

My only regret is that I did not have time to see all of the historical treasures the region offers. The Casbah in Algiers, the Palace of the Rais, and the impressive Roman ruins at Tipaza have been declared World Heritage sites by UNESCO. Cleopatra's daughter is buried nearby. Other points of interest include Notre Dame of Africa, the Grand Post Office, and the "New Mosque", which is actually 400 years old.

Have you been to Algeria? If so, I would love to hear about your experience there. If not, what is the most unusual place you have visited to do research for a novel?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Reading Jitters?

I’m so excited for my first post on this blog! Thanks to Mona and everyone who helped put this together!

A question for you writers out there for today.

So, because I live in New Jersey, I was lucky to be able to attend the Lady Jane Salon reading this past week. Let me tell you—the club where the reading was held, Madame X, was a romance writer’s dream. Rich red lighting, shabby-ish red velvet furniture, big Victorian lamps with black fringe (and red light bulbs, of course). It was like Fangtasia (woot! to fellow True Blood fans!)—but NYC style.

I heard and met some fabulous writers, Maya Rodale, Andrea Pickens, and Elizabeth Mahon reading for Amanda McCabe.

For the most part, reading a romance novel has always been such a private pleasure for me. When I’m reading silently, I can adore and embrace the wonderful cheese and gratuity of some romances however I please. I make no secret of loving romance for its grandiose passion and unselfconscious style.

But Lady Jane turns all of that private pleasure thing on its head. Hearing someone read (perform) a romance is a much different thing than reading silently and alone!

I’ll be honest, I’d be lying if I said I didn't want to giggle--giggle, as in, like a school girl—at some of the racier camp that I love so much. It was so great hearing how other people interpret those wonderful “come hither” lines and flirtations. Some part of me got to relish her inner twelve year old in public, and it was fabulous!

So here’s the question part. So far in my (newish) career (my last two books with GCP, my two forthcoming ones with Berkley), I’ve managed to avoid reading my own work aloud. I give talks and lectures, sit on panels—all easier than reading my own work in my own voice.

Apparently I’m not the only one who gets reading shy. Rumor has it that Eloisa James is also a bit skittish about reading her work aloud.

What’s your take on this? Do you feel shy to read your own work to a crowd? Or do you love it? What’s your secret?

Also, because I can’t resist myself, True Blood starts this weekend. Is anyone else pumped?!?


Lisa Dale

PS - A quick note: Along with rallying the nerd-troops in support of libraries everywhere, I’m giving away a copy of Robyn DeHart’s wonderful historical romance Seduce Me over on my blog today. Drop in to win!

PSS - I normally wouldn't put my face on a blog post like this, but I was stumped as to what pict would be appropriate to use! So...my face it is.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Joanne--Food for thought and dinner.

My fifteen year old daughter has decided to go on a low-carb diet. I’ve done the research because, after all, she’s only fifteen. What I’ve found is that some doctors say a low-carb diet is good for you, such as Atkins and South Beach, and some doctors say low-carbs are not so good.

My daughter has become extremely health conscious, and spouts daily facts about how bad white bread is for you, how sweets are the enemy, and how one tablespoon of cod liver oil a day is beneficial.

All this nutritional research prompted me to ask: What can writers do to eat healthier?

All of us juggle full or part-time day jobs, as well as home and family responsibilities. I work best at night, after my family is settled for the evening. This means, of course, that I get very little sleep---but I’ll save the topic of sleep-deprivation for another blog.

Writers sit in front of computers several hours each day pounding out our latest manuscript. The occasional chocolate bar (well, OK, not so occasional in my case), and caffeine-laden drinks help many of us to write longer and hopefully better. (Me, for example.)

And, here comes the guilt. Many of us get very little physical exercise---but I’ll save that topic for yet another blog.

Taking all this into account, are we as productive as we can be? Do we make optimal use of our very limited time and feel energized because of our healthy diets?

We all know what we should and should not be eating, how proper nutrition works. Who can’t visualize the infamous food pyramid?

New research shows that high-fiber foods such as vegetables, whole grains, and fresh fruits are beneficial. These foods are filling, and help you to feel satisfied longer.

Is a fat-free diet going to help us become, well, skinny? New research shows that some fats are good, and some are bad. Saturated and trans fats are bad, and olive oil, avocados, and nuts are good.

But what kind of nuts, and how many?

And what about salt and potassium?

A recent article on the internet stated to “skip the fads, and focus on diet and nutrition.” Wise advice for any diet or weight maintenance program.

Food for thought. If blogs are supposed to be informative, I’m afraid I’ve raised more questions than I’ve answered.

And dinner? Tonight my daughter is having salmon and a salad. She’s skipping the low-fat brownie, though, which means there will be more for me.

Share your thoughts. Which healthy and no-so-healthy diets work best for you?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Chili Cookoffs are like Writing Contests

Or are writing contests like chili cookoffs?

As writers, if we are pansters, we begin with a story concept and maybe an outline. If we are plotters, we develop a detailed plot and possibly a storyboard. If we find ourselves in the realm somewhere between plotter and pantser, we perhaps utilize a combination of techniques.

I fall into the later category. I start with an idea, a hero and heroine and their backstory. I write the hook. I create an outline and turn it into a high-level storyboard. I write and revise the storyboard as my muse dictates. I write and write and wordsmith and write. My critique group weighs in. Then I edit until the manuscript makes me smile.

As a chili chef with the hope of earning a cookoff title, I begin with my concept of the final product--great tasting chili. How can I make my entry special? I start with good ingredients. I experiment with different spice combinations. I taste test. And when I'm happy with the results, I have my recipe.

Chili cookoffs are like writing contests because you can enter the same chili sample or manuscript to two different judging panels and receive contradicting results. Sometimes after receiving results from a chili cookoff, we tweak the recipe before we try again. After a writing contest, we review critiques received from the judges, and if the suggestions resonate, we revise the manuscript to make it stronger.

Other times, we are confident in either our manuscript or recipe and we enter contests again without changing anything. This happened to me recently, twice.

I submitted the same 30-page entry plus 5-page synopsis to two writing contests and received significantly different results. In the first contest, I received a couple of scores in the high sixties with one in the nineties. In the second contest, I'm happy to report, my entry finaled.

My entry for SEA PANTHER finaled in the paranormal category of the 2010 Touch of Magic contest sponsored by the Central Florida Romance Writers.

I entered my favorite chili recipe in a local charity chili cookoff in 2009 and didn't place. In 2010, the same recipe finaled in 3rd place. I doubt I could compete in Texas, where the making of chili is a fine art. But in Southern Maryland my chili tastes just fine.

Crimson Storm Dark Pirate Chili
(named for my CRIMSON STORM Paranormal Romance Series)

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 lb. ground beef
2/3 cup catsup
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Worcester sauce
1 tsp vinegar
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
3 cans black beans, rinsed
3 cans diced tomatoes
1 tbsp mild chili powder
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce

Saute' onion in olive oil. Add beef and brown lightly. Drain off excess fat. Add the other ingredients above the dashed line; simmer covered for 30 minutes.

Add black beans, diced tomatoes with liquid, chili powder and chipotles. Simmer for an additional 30 minutes.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Joy of Research

My favorite part of writing fantasy novels is the research and world building. I enjoy researching the mythology and folk law on which I base the world I’m developing. I’ve used mainly Celtic mythology with a touch of Norse in my Magic Knot series. One of the most useful research books I have is The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Fairies by Anna Franklin. Another book on my reference shelf that I refer to regularly is The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures. There is a series of Element Encyclopedias covering everything from witches to secret societies—well worth checking out of the library or purchasing if you are interested in the paranormal and supernatural.

I love visiting places that I’m planning to use as settings. I combine research with vacations and my husband has got used to the fact that we always have to vacation somewhere that I plan to set a book. Before I wrote The Magic Knot, we visited Ireland; specifically the area near Dublin called the Wicklow Mountains. The area isn’t mountainous but high moorland. The area combines lush green tree-filled valleys with purple moorland. Unfortunately, when we visited the mist was so thick on the moorland that I could hardly see the road in front of our rental car.

We visited a beautiful Palladian mansion called Powerscourt near the village of Enniskerry. I recommend a visit if you are ever in the Dublin area of Ireland. The outside of the house is majestic and the gardens spectacular, with a lake featuring a fountain. Powerscourt was the inspiration for my Irish Fairy Queen’s mansion in The Magic Knot.

We also visited many sites with evidence of Celtic history. One of the most interesting was the Medieval monastic settlement of Glendalough founded in the 6th century and destroyed by English troops in 1398. There is a graveyard full of beautiful Celtic crosses.

Last summer I spent two weeks in Scotland where I managed to visit some wonderful castles while my husband watched Tom Watson lose the British Open Golf Championship by a whisker. (What an amazing man Tom Watson is!) One of the interesting things about Scottish castles and manor houses is that many are still owned and lived in by members of the nobility. This is unusual in England where I live. Here, The National Trust now owns most castles and manor houses as the original owners can’t afford to maintain the properties.

I visited Culzean Castle on the West coast of Scotland in South Ayrshire. An amazing castle perched on the cliffs above the Firth of Clyde in acres of parkland. The National Trust for Scotland owns and runs this property. The house itself is eighteenth and nineteenth century, but there has been a castle standing on the spot since the 1400s when it was known as Coif Castle.

Brodick Castle is another one cared for by The National Trust for Scotland. Although this castle has medieval origins, it is predominantly a Victorian estate in a beautiful location overlooking the Clyde estuary on the east side of the Isle of Arran.

We then travelled across Scotland to the Borderlands of the East where we had the pleasure of visiting Bowhill House, home of the 9th Duke of Buccleuch. Although the history of the estate lands goes back to the fourteenth century, the present house dates from the early 1800s.

My favorite castle from my Scottish vacation has to beFloors Castle. I get a shiver of excitement just remembering the magnificent house and beautiful grounds. I’m definitely a historic house addict. This is the home of the 10th Duke of Roxburghe and his family. The amazing thing about walking around this castle is that there are personal family photographs and items still in the rooms that the family uses when the castle is closed to the public. I love to think that this magnificent building is used as a family home rather than just being a glorified museum as so many of the historic houses are in the UK.

Although I set my stories in a contemporary fantasy world, the characters often reside in historic houses. With the UK being so rich in heritage, I can’t resist blending a touch of history with the fantasy.

For information and to read excerpts go to www.helenscotttaylor.com

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Great Time Gobbler

About six months ago, Hank Phillippi Ryan spoke at our local writers’ group meeting. I was thrilled to be able to converse with a well known published author. Sure, I met people at book signings before. Nora Roberts and Garrison Keilor to name a few, they said a few polite words as I shoved a copy of their latest book at them to sign—that was the extent of our conversation. Hank stopped by our Indiana RWA Chapter meeting one Saturday. Even with her books gaining widespread popularity, she wasn’t taking it easy by a long stretch.

“You give up a great deal to write,” she told the avid audience. She continued to tell of all the things she gave up to find time to write. First, there was social life, leisure time, sleep, even nookie—she told the group only to be met by nervous laughter. I thought to myself, well, you’re a big time investigative reporter and a writer—of course, you have no time. I did take in consideration that she never mentioned children.

Those of us who have currently or have raised children realize they devour almost all our waking time. Most of the prolific writers I meet have adult children. When their children left home or at least learned to drive, they managed to carve out more time to write. I decided this year was the year I quit playing around and write. Writing had to be a priority for me. It is hard to call yourself a writer when you don’t write. My first foray into finding time to write was after work. Big mistake, at least it was for me.

After getting up at five, working ten hours, I wasn’t exactly creative or energetic. Sometimes I found myself lured away from the keyboard by CASH CAB on Discovery. It was so much easier watching other people struggle to answer questions as I zoned out. Too tired after work, I decided to try mornings which worked pretty well. I am the only one who gets up early in my household. I could get an hour in on the weekdays before work and on the weekends I could sometimes get in as much as five hours since everyone tends to sleep late.

I grab my cup of tea and my laptop and crawl back in bed since I keep my house at a ridiculous 61 degrees to save money. In the summer, I will sit in the backyard with the premise being if the family can’t find me I can continue to write. They usually find me. Sometimes, though, I am my own distraction. I get busy answering my email and end up reading one of those stories that pop up on a side bar, then another and I’ve wasted 60 minutes. I could refer to this as research and sometimes it is. While morning writing is a good plan, I don’t always adhere to it either.

I find myself in the wee hours of the morning working on merchandise for my online store. The demand for out of print books seems to have picked up with my need to write, but since I like the money I have to handle the orders first. My day job has consumed almost all my Saturdays recently. Then there is my social life which is somewhat limited to a couple friends and my sweetie. Sometimes, I just tell them that I have to write and I can’t go on that weekend jaunt. Other times, I justify my social life by saying I can go and write about it later---which I usually don’t do. A trip to the outlet mall to search for new sandals will somehow fit into my Civil War historical, yeah right.

Trying to establish myself as a writer takes more than just writing, who would have thunk it? Not me, I was absolutely clueless at the start. I find myself attending conferences, reading craft books and designing a web site--that’s the tip of the iceberg. As a writing buddy, I critique work, attend book signings and vote online for fellow author’s books. It is all part of being a writer. Quite frankly, I am often overwhelmed.

I remember when I had my first child and I came home from the hospital wanting to sleep for the next fourteen hours, but my son had different plans. I thought I would never be that tired again, but then I had my middle son. I think you can see where this is going. Each time, I thought I was as fatigued as humanly possible, but each time the ante went up a little bit more. Each time I met the demands. I think writing can be like that. Just when you think you have one thing licked something else pops up. That’s why the writing community is so important.

When my agent wouldn’t call me back, I found out through the writer community that she closed shop. She could have told me, but she didn’t. When I wanted my RWA PRO status, the group walked me through the procedure. When I signed with a less than savory publisher, my fellow writers wondered why I didn’t ask them first. Slow learner, I guess, but I will next time. Writing is all consuming. It does gobble time, but it provides so much satisfaction. It creates a special culture that is unique to writers. Only writers would be amused about an article that linked the creative mind and schizophrenia. The writing community has also made me more accountable in regards to the time I actually spend writing. When asked what I’m currently working on by a fellow writer, it is hard to confess that I am doing deep research by watching NCIS reruns. One of my characters, just happens to look like Mark Harmon. Without the writing community much more of my time would be spent stumbling down dead ends. So Hank told the truth when she said you give up a lot to write. You do, but you get more back. It also makes me wonder if writing is the real time gobbler? Or is it everything else stealing from our writing time? I think it is the latter. By the way, you also do not have to give up nookie no matter what gobbles your time.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lemonade From Lemons

Over the Memorial Day holiday, my husband and I had big plans. We were going to escape to the beach, go crabbing, and have a big old time. Well, as happens when you have big plans, things went awry.

We got to the beach all right. Got the boat into the water and got the crab pots filled with old, stinky bait. But when we loaded up the boat and tried to start the motor…nothing. Not a sound. The battery was okay. Plenty of gas. The jackplate worked to lift the motor up and down, but all the rest of the electrical systems were dead.

What to do?

Well, as it happens, our tiny place is located on Nelson Bay where, except for a very deep channel in the center, the water only comes up to your chest. So, after considering this for about two minutes, we shrugged and sloshed through the water and carried the crab pots out about a 100 yards from the dock. No problem.

And by the next day, we had enough crabs to get together with our neighbors and have a fantastic cookout.

This got me thinking about characters and characterization, or more specifically, what make a character sympathetic. Creating likeable and sympathetic characters is one of the most difficult tasks a writer tackles. It’s a skill I constantly have to work at, because I’m often more interested in the prickly characters that most people don’t like. Perhaps because in “real life,” I’m drawn to those same kinds of people: the ones who appear grumpy, rude and disagreeably honest. For example, the teachers everyone else hated in school because they actually had expectations and made you put in the effort to learn something. When you earned an A from one of them, you'd accomplished something!

Unfortunately, it's not easy to make grumpy characters appealing…but as I thought about our weekend and how it turned out, I realized that the ability to keep on trying in the face of all discouragement, hardship, and bad luck is an important element. The strength of character and fortitude to go on in the face of adversity is what makes our heroes and heroines worthy of those titles. Ultimately, it is also what makes the reader love them.

This is not to say that my husband and I did anything heroic this weekend when we figured out a way around our own minor setbacks. However, it did spark that small flicker of understanding that the ability to make lemonade out of lemons is a critical trait for our characters. It’s what will ultimately allow them to triumph.

So if you’re writing about characters who leave a lot to be desired on the kindness front, it might serve you well to give that character a setback or a problem to solve in the first chapter. Not the huge problem they are going to have to tackle to make it to the happy ending, but a small thing. It is how that character reacts to a setback that will reveal if they have The Right Stuff, or not. If the character shrugs and gives up, the reader will too, because who wants to read about someone who gives up at the first sign of trouble?

Oddly, enough, it’s that same trait—or what my Mom used to call, “stick-to-it-tive-ness”—that makes each and every one of us the hero or heroine of our own real life stories.

It is also one of the fundamental traits of the men and women we honor on Memorial day. The heroes and heroines in our armed forces never give up—even if they ultimately sacrifice their lives to preserve freedom for the rest of us. I’m grateful to them and proud to live in a country that remembers our heroes.

Thank you!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

4 Stars from Romantic Times!

I just got my July issue of RT Book Reviews today and found a great review for Binding Ties, a print anthology coming from Samhain in July which includes my novella, Bound by Design. 4 Stars!

The review said "Fans of BDSM will revel in these super-hot, titillating tales. Expect a lot of action tempered by love as each couple finds their HEA in these fast-paced, character-driven stories."

I know I'm not supposed to care about reviews. A review is only one person's opinion. If we can ignore the bad ones, then we can't put all that much importance on the good ones. But I can't help it. A good review means that someone got it. Someone read my story and enjoyed it enough to share their positive thoughts with others. On the days when the writing isn't going well and I think that every word I'm typing onto the screen is pure crap, a good review can remind me that once in a while I did something right.

So what about you? Do you read reviews? If you're a writer, do you pay attention to reviews? As a reader, do you put a lot of stock in reviews when you make your decisions on what books to read?

And I'm delighted to announce I just sold another story, an erotic short titled See Me, to Samhain.