Friday, September 30, 2011

List Fascination by Lynne Marshall

List Fascination (And I’m not just talking NY Times Bestselling)

First off, I’d like to thank Mona Risk and Voices From the Heart for inviting me to guest blog today. As a Mills & Boon, Harlequin, and Wild Rose Press author, I am thrilled to be here.

Are you a list maker? Do you know one? I wrote about one in ONE FOR THE ROAD, my current contemporary romance from The Wild Rose Press. Writing lists helped D’Anne Palmer make her out of control feelings manageable. If she could lay down some ground rules, in her mind, she’d have a better shot of surviving her radically changing circumstances. But more about that later with an excerpt.

One thing I’ve noticed, thanks to TV and entertainment shows, is that people not only make lists, but they read other people’s lists too. Especially top ten lists. Movies, books, records – an artist hasn’t arrived until they make a list – best colleges, best states to live in if you’re single, best retirement cities for our seniors, best football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer teams. You see what I’m saying?

Our fascination with lists led me to Google, and you know what happens when you resort to the Internet – weird stuff. So strictly in the name of blog entertainment, I’m going to share some of the lists I discovered on-line.

The Top Twenty List of Last Words Written by Famous People in their Suicide Notes (I kid you not). No, I’m not going to share what they wrote! This list included Virginia Woolf, Kurt Cobain, Freddie Prinze (not to be confused with Freddie Prinze Jr.), and Vincent Van Gogh, to name a few.

Here was another interesting list: Celebrities Who Have Been Stabbed. Out of seven, the only person I recognized on that list was an actress from the 80s (maybe the 70s) named Theresa Saldana. I think she was in Raging Bull with Robert DeNiro Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Andy Warhol get stabbed? Or maybe he got shot. Hmm, off to look up a list of celebrities who’ve been shot when I finish this blog.

Here’s a dishonorable list: All-Time Worst People in History. You can guess who’s number one, right? cough::Hitler::cough. Followed by Stalin and Pol Pot, and far, far, too many others.

Looking for a list that’s a bit more fun? 16 Most Surprisingly Bilingual Celebrities. This list includes Sandra Bullock, who speaks fluent German, and Bradley Cooper who speaks French, which he learned as an exchange student during high school.

In the US we have David Letterman’s top ten lists of silliness on his late night show.

Don’t forget the lists we write for ourselves: Grocery lists, honey-do lists, Christmas/holiday/birthday lists, guest lists. How about a list of reasons to break up with your current significant other? What was the name of that movie? Ten Things I Hate About You.

We do seem to be a society fascinated with lists, don’t we? My call out question to you readers, and hopefully blog commenters today is two-fold: Are you a list maker? If so, what’s the weirdest list you’ve ever made?

As a set-up for my excerpt, here is a short blurb for One for the Road:

D’Anne Palmer leads a life others dream of until she’s widowed, broke, and must return to California by hiring out her Deluxe RV. One-hit-wonder Tyler White hopes his three-week tour will recharge his career. Journeying from Nashville to Las Vegas, can close quarters help a has-been singer and the widow with California style find love?

Excerpt from ONE FOR THE ROAD:
D’Anne didn’t want to admit it, but she probably was nuts to let a complete stranger come over to look at the RV. Why not just put a huge sign on the door, “Alone and vulnerable. Please take advantage.”

Why in the world should she take the campground manager’s word about some cowboy country musician? If she hadn’t recalled his only hit record, something about a honky-tonk heart, she wouldn’t have. His one claim to fame evidently still opened doors for him, even if they were only doors to a deluxe RV.

D’Anne practiced looking stern and businesslike in the mirror. It didn’t work. Smile lines etched into her cheeks and blew her cover. A tiny streak of gray across her brown bangs made her feel old. She’d been told she didn’t look her age, but today she felt

every bit of her forty-six years. Several sleepless nights hadn’t helped much either. And she still had to come up with a list of rules before the singing cowboy arrived. She sat down at the kitchen table, picked up a pencil, and began to write. Number one: No smoking. Number two: Pick up after yourself. Number three: No drinking.

She liked a glass of wine every now and then, so that wouldn’t be fair. She erased number three, and thought for a second, tapping the pencil eraser against her lip. No drunk or disorderly conduct.

“God help me,” she whispered to the ceiling.

Number four: No sex in the RV. She really didn’t want to go there, but figured she’d better cover the bases. Five: Be respectful and courteous to your driver and she’ll be the same to you. Six: Five minute showers. Seven: Toilet seat must be left down!

She read over her list then folded the paper and tucked it into her overall bib pocket. Thinking she’d like to sneak away and postpone the meeting, she put her foot out the door just in time to see a tall cowboy walking her way. He wore a brown Stetson propped on top of his head, tight faded jeans, and scuffed boots.

One word popped into her head. Big.

One for the Road is available at   The Wild Rose Press and   Amazon 
as well as multiple other e-book vendors on the Internet.

You can visit Lynne at her website:

Finally, FYI, I looked it up, Andy Warhol was shot by an irate scriptwriter. A woman. Now I’m off to find a list of top ten celebrities who have been shot…

Once again, thanks for letting me visit your blog!

Lynne Marshall

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Is the Book Always Better?

I'm a fan of Stephanie Plum series.  I have all seventeen novels, each colorful book lined up on my bookcase.  I read them over and over.  The spines are bent.  The pages are crinkled.  And I still laugh when the bird poops on Stephanie.  I can't see Tastykakes without thinking of her.  See I'm a fan. I've attended a few of Janet Evanovich's signings where her daughter gives out gifts.  And I proudly declare that I'm a cupcake. Yes,  Joe has my heart.

Through the years, there has been much talk about novels being turned into movies. If you've been at a signing you know how picky fans are about who will play Stephanie.  Various names had been rumored attached like Sandra Bullock and Cloris Leachman.  Well, Katherine Heigl got the job.  Will she do a good one?

I don't know but I will give the movie a chance and hope that it comes close to the book, that it possesses the humor, the family warmth and wonderful characters.  Yes, I hope it does the book justice. Though books turned into movies rarely do.  If you're older than 30, you remember the The Bonfire of the Vanities fiasco in the late 80s. These movies are generally a bomb and not just regular bomb but nuclear.

Although both are art forms, books rarely translate well to the big screen especially if you are a fan.  I read The Da Vinci Code and the suspense and the twist of information that had impact in the book were lacking in the movie.  Besides, Tom Hanks' hair was too weird for me to forget.   Really, what was that blowout helmet thing?

Few translations retain the spark snapping from the page, an ingredient that usually turns the book into a bestseller or classic, which naturally leads Hollywood to produce a film.  Little Women with Winona Ryder came close and the Swedish versions of The Millennium Trilogy. For me, those Lifetime Nora Roberts flicks are just cheesy.  I can't watch them without cringing for all those involved.

So why is that? What is missing from the translation? Is it the emotional impact?  Is it us as viewers staring up at a scene outside of the story instead of in it, hunched in the story's trenches with the heroor heroine?  I wonder too how this can make our storytelling better for our readers?  Do you know the answers? Tell me -- Tell me, I must know! 

Can you think of any good movies translated from a book?    Or a few sucky ones? How about a book you would like adapted?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Skimming vs. Reading?

Okay, so the other day, I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine.

Until I read Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series, I was not a fan of series fiction.  To be honest, it didn't matter the medium: TV, books, movies.  I preferred the story to be complete at "The End."

But, like so many others, I was caught up in the Twilight series, which made me search out other authors known for their series fiction.

Unfortunately, the stories began to feel all too familiar.  I described one series to my friend as the same story continually repeated, except the hero/heroine had different color hair.  In some of the other stories, I found myself skimming.  Can you believe it.  Skimming.  (I admit skimming a time or two in high school, but I swear...that was the only time or two.)  Until now.  Not even the sex scenes kept me interested.  I found myself skimming through all of the description searching for dialogue (who knows what I missed.)

All of this reminded me of something said by Elmore Leonard (an excerpt is pasted below.)
8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants", what do the "Ameri­can and the girl with him" look like? "She had taken off her hat and put it on the table." That's the only reference to a physical description in the story.

9 Don't go into great detail describing places and things, unless you're Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don't want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

Because we are writers, do we sometimes get a little carried away with description, world building, or backstory that we bore readers?

When I critique someone's story, one area that always jumps out at me is pacing.  A writer's use of sentence structure, word choice, paragraph structure, etc. all of it goes into their pacing.  If I find myself losing where I was in the story, forgetting what I read, not knowing if I'm in a flashback or not...I always wonder if it's me (and the type of story I like to read), or if it's the story.

Be honest, do you ever skim?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Setting a Story in a Place You Love: A Ghost of a Chance at Love and The Winged Fae!

You spend months, sometimes years, perfecting a novel and so what do you have to show for it??? A book that is ready for readers to enjoy!

My only regret is that I finally have A GHOST OF A CHANCE AT LOVE available two years after my mother died. She and I used to love to visit Salado, Texas, where this book was set. A place that every time we visited, I longed to write about a woman who somehow becomes tied to the past with one visit that changes her life forever. A ghostly tale of love and romance, a jaunt to the past, and a return to the present, only to discover that no matter where she is, her life is in danger. And the love of her life from the past isn't letting her go, no matter what.

I haven't been back to Salado since my mother died. But a part of me will always remember the special time we shared, and the fun she had in reading what I had written back then, and being part of the whole process. The Stagecoach Inn where I set the story wanted me to come and do a signing, and I plan to when the book is in print. But it'll be hard for me to do so without my mother to share in the experience.

I dedicate the book to her for always being there for me.



Lisa Welsh only wishes to leave a messy divorce behind for a couple of days stay in Salado, Texas but wakes to nightmares and a cowboy in her bed, and she has no earthly idea how he got there. But the situation gets worse when she learns she’s now living in 19th Century Salado. Even more worrisome is the tall dark stranger, and everyone else in town believes she’s some woman named Josephine Rogers who is supposed to be dead.

Jack Stanton can’t believe the clerk gave him an occupied room at the Shady Villa Inn, but worse, he was ready to ravage the woman in that bed—until he realized his mistake. Now the woman he thinks is Josephine claims to be some other woman—and though he could never abide by Josephine’s fickle ways, this Lisa Welsh intrigues him like no other. Still, if she isn't Josephine, he figures he best help her find her way back to where she really belongs no matter how much he wants to keep her with him.

Together, Lisa and Jack must solve the mysteries and face the troubles in their worlds or they will never be free to share the love that binds them across the ages.

And the 3rd book in The World of Fae, THE WINGED FAE is available!

I'm working on another couple in the series, and also Tom's story of the wolf fame! :)

The Winged Fae

Ebook By Terry Spear

Published: Sep. 02, 2011
Category: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Romance
Category: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
Words: 45210

Serena, a royal member of the Mabara winged fae, has one goal in mind. Stop an impending marriage with a dark fae. As the fae are known to do, she stirs up trouble that she hopes will make her point and get her off the hook. Only nothing goes as she plans.

Niall, a royal member of the Denkar, aka the dark fae, is visiting South Padre Island when he catches a winged fae painting graffiti on a wall on the island claimed by his people. He is at once fascinated with the lovely girl and intrigued by her audacity, but as one of the Denkar, he must take her to task. Yet she's armed with a sleeping potion that makes his life intolerable. Between freeing her from his people's dungeon, her own tower, and fighting a knight in her honor, he wonders if he's lost his mind over one beautiful winged fae--when she's betrothed to his cousin!

Available at these fine stores:

B & N

In The World of Fae, I have also highlighted a location I love--South Padre Island, Texas. It's just as magical a place as Salado is to me.

In Colorado, I loved to ski--I loved the quaint old western silver mining town of Telluride, and I loved Breckenridge also and so I set the Destiny of the Wolf pack in Colorado, basing it on the towns I love. And Oregon, also, for some of the rest of the series. And even Deadly Liaisons, the vampire romantic suspense is set in Oregon. Just seemed perfect for the story!

Do you have special real locations that you love so much, you want to write about them in your stories?

"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male."

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Writerly friends and fallow times

For the first time in years, I'm not enthused about writing. I've had occasional moments like this before, but this has been dragging on for a month or more.

It's not a big concern to me. I still have stories to write and I'm sure I'll write them. But it's odd. A big part of my life is missing. I think it's because we moved and I got out of the habit of writing. So many other things took the place of writing: packing, unpacking, financial details, movers, new town, new friends, new house, new office... I also had 8 books release this year: 4 new ones and 4 re-releases, and they all released before July. So I was so damn busy with that, as well...

Writing is a business, an avocation, and a chore sometimes. There isn't a lot of reward (financial or otherwise), but it can be fun, too. I had lunch with two local writers lately, and that interaction reminded me about the fun of writing, the enjoyment to talk with others who know about plot points, arcs, and character development. I do a Skype session once a week with a writing friend, but that one-on-one interaction with other writers was a lot of fun.

I'm on vacation now (and away from the computer, so forgive me if I don't answer a comment), and I hope when I get back that I can re-capture that writing "glow" so that I enjoy sitting down to the computer again. I envision myself looking at the snow falling as words fly off my fingertips...

I can hope, right? You bet!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pepper - My Hometown's Character

I grew up in Santa Rosa, California, a town about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco. I recently uncovered an article about the town character and wanted to share parts of it with you. Pepper might be someone that could be used in a story or give you ideas for a story. It was a column written by Gaye Lebaron of the Press Democrat.

Let's just say that San Francisco had Emperor Norton. Santa Rosa had Pepper.

Pepper Garcia Dardon, whose given name was perhaps Florence or maybe Linda, depending on what day you asked, was Santa Rosa's undisputed town character for 50 years.

PEPPER'S JOB -- and she was diligent -- was to patrol the downtown, hollering at jaywalkers, whistling on street corners, yodeling in banks or into the microphones at market check stands, offering candy to small children who were generally too overawed by her appearance to accept, tagging after pedestrians to tell them they'd dropped their footsteps.”
Tongue-in-cheek, “officially,'' she was the “town marshal.” The badge she flashed was given to her in the early '60s when a promotional “shootout” between representatives of downtown and Montgomery Village was canceled.

She was a sight to behold -- built like a fireplug, heavy on the makeup, including glitter and those gold stick-um stars the teacher puts on very good tests; heavier yet on the perfume, which she applied from test bottles on the counters at Rosenberg's and the several drugstores on Fourth Street.

She wore shorts or, in later years, bright-colored muumuus, with plastic flowers in her hair. You get the picture?

IN TERMS of her downtown activity, there's no question she got away with a lot. She was a kind of mascot to our smaller-town Police Department. The officers treated her like a pet.

When she'd had a bad day -- pounding pavement in her moccasins, hollering “Hey, Girl!” at long-haired male teenagers, calling businessmen “Jungle Boy” and “Lizard,” bringing coffee to secretaries tied to the telephone, running any errand a merchant asked her to run or, on appropriate days, selling literally hundreds of dollars worth of white canes for the Lions' blind fund or tickets to the Kiwanis pancake feed -- she would pop in at the Police Department and beg a ride home in a patrol car. In exchange, she kept pedestrians in line; helped Watt Maxwell direct traffic at Fourth and Mendocino before there was a stoplight there and sometimes ordered pizzas delivered to the station -- which she never paid for.

PEPPER was born in the Salinas Valley and came to Santa Rosa, by way of Sonoma State Hospital, I believe, in 1942 when a number of high-functioning wards of the state were deemed capable of looking after themselves.

She lived for a time in a household where she cared for children and did housework. In 1953, she married Paul Dardon, a big, amiable guy who worked as a janitor at the Occidental Hotel. You'd see them walking hand in hand to their apartment on College Avenue when Paul's workday ended.

They made a pair. Pepper was perhaps 4-foot-10 in her shoes. Paul was a loose-limbed 6 feet tall and dressed exclusively in bib overalls. While Paul was on the job, Pepper was around town, at her life's work, which was assisting the police in keeping law and order and annoying those who found her annoying.

When Paul died in 1969, Pepper was devastated as well as being without resources. Bob Bishop, the Ford dealer whose agency was on Fifth Street, joined Dr. Rudee and me in a small fund-raising effort that kept her rent paid until Bishop, who had some political clout, was able to arrange for her to be tested and certified as “unemployable handicapped,” which brought her a state pension.

When her landlord sold the apartment building where she later lived, on Humboldt Street, her neighbors came forth to testify what a good housekeeper she was and what a good friend and neighbor she had been.

WHEN SHE DIED, at age 78, Santa Rosans stepped in to see that she both had a proper funeral and that she came home to Santa Rosa to be buried. There was a respectable crowd at her services. Most of the mourners knew it was the end of an era.

Santa Rosa had been a farm market town of about 13,000 when she arrived. When she hit her stride, in the '60s, the population was approaching 50,000. When she had a fall and was seen no more on her rounds, there were 113,000 people here. She was missed by many, but many more didn't know what they'd missed.

If another Pepper were to emerge today, we'd undoubtedly pass a law making her illegal. Certainly we'd have to crack down on her shoplifting penny candy to give to kids. Or we'd have to arrest her for collecting (and pocketing) 50-cent fines for jaywalking.

My Mother would avoid Pepper at all costs, especially after the lady followed us out of a dime store yelling that Mom was leaving her footprints behind. I can still smile at seeing Pepper. She always seemed happy, walking down the street whistling or singing, and embarrassing the heck out of anyone that interested her.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lose pounds, Gain story characters

A few months ago I read a news article that stated as you age you may be healthier carrying ten extra pounds. Wait a minute, why didn’t I read this last year before I invested hundreds of dollars with a trainer to lose that nasty fifteen pounds hanging around my tummy, hips and thighs.

I’m the gal in the doctor’s office who always removes her shoes before stepping on the scale, in hopes of hitting that perfect BMI (body mass index) number qualifying me for a “good girl” high five. I finally succeeded in coming in at 25 only to learn I should have kept on the weight and not reached the perfect BMI. I hate mentioning those letters twice. They sound like something one doesn’t say in polite society. I hit my BMI.

Since I don’t have deep pockets I cut back on sessions with my trainer in the past months. As a writer I’ve already planned on using my trainer as a model heroine. I mean she’s fantastic at five foot nine with what I label a luscious body, a California surfer girl with streaked blonde hair. She’s all for the idea, having asked me a couple times if I’ve began ‘her’ story.

In an effort to stay in shape I now hike once a week with a local Sierra Club group. I'm exploring places I’ve never seen up close. Since we live near the coast the club opts for beach walks all summer rather than hot and humid inland hikes. We are fortunate to have this option.

My new hiking buddies not only offer new friendships but plenty of story fodder. Vietnam vets, divorcees, devoted vegans, and the list grows as I continue my weekly jaunts. It’s fun to meet new people when you spend most of your hours alone staring at a monitor screen. The simple act of participating in the outside world expands your plot ideas and character models.

As writers most of us struggle with flab issues due to time spent at the keyboard. Each of us owes herself the time to stay in optimum health and, hopefully, include meeting people at the same time.

What is your ‘stay healthy’ plan?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Color me green

Each spring as the trees around my house break their long winter dormancy, I marvel at varying hues of green. I become jealous of photographers, who can record colors as the sun moves higher in the sky. I envy painters, who can add a dab of this or that, spin their brushes, and mimic Nature on a canvas. How can I, a simple lover of words, recreate for a reader what I see so vividly all around me?

I was gifted an old PMS ink selector by my local print shop. The colors, five up on a side, have numbers that are linked to the formula that creates each color. No silly names, like those in retail paint stores, but still, no names.

My Flip Dictionary lists seventy-two words under ‘Green.’ Spruce is accessible, although needles on the spruce trees in our farm’s windbreaks have more than one color. The new needles are pure baby spruce green. They’ve not baked in the summer sun or been covered with hoar-frost on a sub-zero winter morning. Older, weather-tested needles are thick and dark, true spruce green. Then there are the dying needles, yellowing slowly from base to tip, no longer useful to the only tree they’ve ever known.

Niagara Green. I think of Niagara as the falls. Billions of gallons of foaming white and blue water crashing down hundreds of feet. I don’t get green, except possibly from the economy-supporting money local restaurants and motels make off honeymooning tourists and the occasional over-the-falls-in-a-barrel daredevil.

Parrot has me stumped. I think of parrots as raucous, multi-colored birds perched on a one-eyed pirate’s shoulder.

Emerald is easier. So is olive, and lime. I can look up Myrtle in a plant identification book.

Leaf green: That’s ridiculous! There are so many shades of green just in the Brassicas in my garden. Broccoli green is different than cabbage green and cauliflower green, not to mention all the various kales and Brussels sprouts.

Dark green. That color in the crayon box.
Hunter green. The green in camouflage.
Bottle green. German beer bottles.

Clair de lune sounds like the greenish, witch-y, I-can-drive-without-headlights-at-midnight glow generated by a full moon at perigee.

Envy green. Not in the 64-ct crayon box.

Eau de Nile. Anybody know what color green this is?

Thursday, September 15, 2011


It’s a record! My husband and I have spent 111 days together on our trawler, INTREPID, on our virgin voyage to Alaska! Yesterday we returned to our slip in Anacortes, Washington, relieved to tell our friends and relatives that we had a problem-free trip. Our sainted Ford-Lehman 135 performed perfectly, the generator and electrical systems amped correctly, our head (toilet) worked flawlessly, and our new Dickinson stove kept us toasty warm.

We traveled 3,000 miles in 111 days at an average speed of 7.5 knots which is about 8 miles an hour. Yes, we’re talking slow…a chance to take in scenery, for sure, some of the most beautiful terrain in the world. We watched glaciers calving, got up close and personal to black and brown bears as well as humpback whales, puffins and sea otters. And except for the times we moored in Ketchikan, Sitka, Petersburg, Wrangell, Meyers Chuck and Elfin Cove, we anchored, usually all by ourselves in the most isolated places on earth. Heaven help us if we encountered a serious boat problem or health issue…and in some places we anchored, not even the Coast Guard could hear our call for help.

In the dark of night, anchor down, when we’re floating alone in our little boat, we pretend that this adventure is no big deal. But it is, really. We give each other courage with a mixture of humor, logic and positive attitude. I suppose it’s like climbing Mt. Everest or trekking the Cascade Crest trail. We do it with a spirit of adventure as well as a love of nature. Because it’s there, we have to experience it.

But it has to be a pair. To problem-solve; to anguish over issues; to share amazing takes two of us. That’s the romance in the adventure, the deepening of a relationship that comes from facing new challenges together. In fact, an experience like this one, this cruise to Alaska and back, a trip we’ve been preparing for (and putting off) for years, is truly romantic in the spiritual sense. As a couple, we accomplished this feat together and we could not imagine being successful handling the task either alone or with any other person. That says something.

Are we ready to close up INTREPID and head for our house in California? Yes. Are we yearning for bigger spaces to roam and another kind of adventure to seek? Sure. But are we proud of ourselves for working together to make this cruise a success? Absolutely!

LAST RESORT – on sale now, print and download

The Wild Rose Press:




Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Working through the writing doldrums

Lately it has been hard to get to work on my writing. Some of that is a matter of it being summer and feeling lazy. Some has been that sense of depression all writers get from time to time, that no one really cares about their work and it isn't going to sell anyway, or if it does find a publisher, no one will buy it, so why bother... and so on.

I'm pretty sure everyone reading this has felt this way from time to time. Oddly enough knowing that almost everyone goes through the same feelings doesn't really help that much. In most cases it is an irrational reaction and by definition that makes it hard to get rid of. But we have to get rid of it as soon as possible.

We can't let the doldrums bog us down and keep us from writing. If you need a break, take one, but remember it is just that, a break, and not a matter of quitting writing. 

I will get this latest WIP finished and sent off to my editor, and I will put together an outline for a new project for NaNoWriMo before the end of October. These are my goals for the next six weeks.

It will be done, one way or another.

What do other people do to drive themselves back to writing?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Is Your Writing Process?

What is your writing process? How do you get the idea in your mind started on the screen/blank page?

Over the years as I write and my craft improves, my process has changed. When I wrote my first book, Crashing Hearts, I had an idea and just started writing. Very little plotting, I just went with my gut and let the characters lead the story. That particular story was very near and dear to me as it has a lot of real life emotions in it. Having had an autistic son myself, the book was very therapeutic for me to write. The more I wrote, the more my own heart healed from hurts and disappointments in my own life.

As I started my second book, I started with doing skeleton character sketches, but again let my characters decide the course of the book. With my third book, I plotted even more -- doing more in depth character interviews and plotting out different scenes that ran through my mind.

Does that mean one book I wrote better than the other? I don't think so in the meaning of plotting style. Yes, my craft has improved and with each book I would like to think my writing gets better and better. However, I think with each book the plotting style, or lack of, has been based on my personal needs and life events that shape the way it is written.

As you go through life, does your style of plotting or being a panster change? What is your writing process?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Reviews and Critics and Books - OH MY!

A critic can only review the book he has read, not the one which the writer wrote. ~ Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960

Have truer words ever been spoken? Don’t we “bleed” and “sweat” over our work and write the best books we can? Don’t we all have that sinking feeling from time to time when a reviewer or critic doesn’t “GET” our book/plot/characters?

Still, in looking at things from another perspective, a reviewer doesn’t know about the energy we’ve put into that particular book. They only know what they’re holding in their hands and how it makes them feel. It doesn’t matter that we’ve agonized over every word, every sentence, every paragraph – and fought with our editors over some point or another. The only thing they know is what they read.

Hopefully the emotion of the work itself comes through to them. Hopefully they fall just as much in love with our characters as we do. But there’s no guarantee is there? When you get that notification that your book has been reviewed, do you get those butterflies? The ones that feel like sweet fragile Monarch migrating in Sherman Tanks right across the Sahara that used to be your stomach? You know the ones I mean. Do you avoid all reviews or, like me, do you obsessively search to see if there are any out there that you’ve missed?

It’s great to get a super review, but how do you handle those that don’t get you, your characters or your book? What is your method for navigating the harsh critiques that we all seem to get from time to time? Do you know what not to do?

It seems like a no-brainer to not respond in anger, but many of us come unglued when our babies, I mean our stories, are ‘mistreated.’ We cannot fathom why someone would not love our work. Do I need to point out all those rejection letters we piled up before that first beautiful “yes” from a publishing professional? Do I really need to remind you of those contests you once entered hoping that an editor or agent would scoop you up as “the next big thing” only to get your score sheets back to find your beautiful best-seller pounded into the dirt by some judge?

How were we all taught to react to those by our critic groups, by our writing loops, even by our parents? We were taught to say, “thank you” even if we said it through gritted teeth and added a few expletives under our breath. We were taught to write out our true feelings and then delete that email. Burn that letter. Rip it into tiny shreds of paper so we COULD say “thank you” when someone took the time to give us honest feedback on our work – even if that honesty caused us pain.

There are examples all over the internet of “writers behaving badly” in responding to reviews, and those things go viral quicker than you can go back and delete your post. Remember that there are people out there who revel in this sort of thing and they will spread your vitriol and might even try to draw you into personal attacks.

So please never ever respond in anger to a review. Particularly one that is in print where you can’t retract your remarks. The internet is rife with examples of what that can do to your career. And baby, it ain’t good! Even when you remove your outbursts, the aftermath lives on in the comments from those all to o willing to tell you how you screwed up. The internet is not your friend when it comes to temper tantrums.

So even though the critic can only review the book he has read, the author should only thank that critic. Do not spit on him like Richard Ford did or sullenly say you hope to meet them one day to tell them what you think of them (Norman Mailer). It is probably a good idea to remember Thumper’s advice: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

( )

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Author Websites--Why do you go?

I'm going to do a website upgrade soon and I'm trying to figure out exactly what I want done. I like my website design/template, so it's not a case of wanting a completely new look. But aside from maintenance and upgrades, which the site desperately needs, I'm looking at what I can do to improve the visitor experience.

But what do people want when they visit an author's website? Why do you go? I know when I go it's usually for one of three reasons: 1) I've read a book for the first time by an author and I want to know more about what they write; 2) I've read a book in a series and I want to find out how many others are in the series and what the order to buy them is; 3) I want to know when the author has another book coming out, particularly if it's in a series I'm reading. Anyway you slice it, I'm looking for information on books. It should be easy to find and when I get there I like to see a blurb, so I know what the story is about and maybe the possibility of an excerpt.

There are many ways to present your books, but which is the most convenient for a visitor? Some authors will group their series together if they have that many published. Others put all their books on one page and you simply scroll down and down and down to check out each one. Still other authors put the cover up and then you click on the cover to lead you to another window with all the information you need.

Then there is the home page. I know I don't like busy. I also don't like colors that are hard on the eyes. I think it's useful to see what authors are up to and it's great to have new releases and upcoming releases advertised on that home page, but what else? I know some authors put up RSS feeds, Twitter, and newsletter buttons. It's all about getting readership and I get that sort of...though the introvert in me simply wants to go back into my cave and write and not deal with all this social media. ( :

So I guess I'm putting it out there to readers and authors alike. What author websites do you like and think exemplify what a site should do? What advice would you give as far as the layout for a bookshelf page? What should and shouldn't be on the home page (if there are any rules)?

Thanks for your help!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dave Barry and the Fruit Fly mating ritual

Hi Everyone,
If you've followed this blog every month, you'll know that Dave Barry is obsessed with fruit flies. Well, this month is no different, so the following is a funny excerpt from a Classic Dave Barry. Enjoy!

"According to a Reuters article, when a male fruit fly wants to have sex with a female fruit fly, he goes through a series of specific steps, the first one being to pound down approximately eight martinis. No, wait, that's what a human guy would do if her were going to attempt to mate with a female who had six legs and 17,000 eyeballs, which trust me is not out of the question for some guys, and you know who you are. What male fruit flies do is engage in a courtship ritual, which according to the article includes "tapping the female, extending and vibrating a wind, and "singing." (The article doesn't say what they sing, but I assume it's "Cant Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" by the late Barry White)."

Me again: I promise I won't ask about your mating ritual, but please leave a comment, anyway. :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Research: Scottish American Style

I didn't have an opportunity to go to Scotland before writing my Scottish inspired fantasy time-travel series—Garden Gate. I read dozens of books and ran internet searches on the clan, time period and setting. I also traveled to North Carolina and attended the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering O' Scottish Clans where the stories begin.

To immerse myself in the culture of my characters, I continue to attend Scottish gatherings in the US. If you're on the East Coast and so inclined here are a couple of upcoming events you might consider attending:

New Hampshire Highland Games on September 16, 17 & 18 at Loon Mountain, Lincoln, NH.
Maryland Renaissance Festival with guest Albannach from Scotland on September 24 & 25 near Annapolis, MD.
Virginia Celtic Gathering & Highland Games on September 30 & October 1 at Rockahock near Williamsburg, VA.
Stone Mountain Highland Games on October 14, 15 &16 at Stone Mountain Park, GA


Reminder: Night Owl Reviews Full Moon Web Hunt is in full swing. Win Cool Prizes! September 1 - October 31 Details here.


Dawn Marie Hamilton writes Scottish inspired fantasy and paranormal romance. You can also visit Dawn Marie at Castles and Guns on Tuesday September 13 & 27. Twitter: @DawnM_Hamilton

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Clockwork Fairytale

I'm delighted to tell you about my new release. A fantasy romance suitable for both adults and YA, it is set in a Victorian style fantasy world with magic, monsters and steampunk elements.

Plucky, seventeen-year-old Melba was raised like a boy to pick pockets and run messages in the poor outer circles of Royal Malverne Isle, but she longs to move up the criminal hierarchy and become a spy. When nineteen-year-old Turk, a spymaster and local folk hero, accepts her pledge to join his gang, she thinks the Great Earth Jinn has heard her prayer. With his exotic, dark southern looks and wealthy lifestyle in the inner circle, Turk fascinates her. Yet he is not what he seems—he is really a monk working undercover for the Shining Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has secret plans for Melba that will challenge Melba and Turk’s beliefs about life and tear them apart, just when they are growing to love each other. But the Shining Brotherhood is not alone in plotting to use Melba. The evil Royal Victualler wants her to help him steal the throne and to persuade her, he’s willing to use foul magic.


Chapter One
If the Great Earth Jinn warns you something is wicked, do it quick before you change your mind. –Master Maddox

Master Maddox had taught Melba to keep her cap pulled down and her face dirty. The port area of Royal Malverne Isle was a dangerous place at night and if someone recognized her as a girl, she’d be done for.

She avoided the area if possible, but tonight Maddox had sent her there with an urgent message for a smuggler. As she made her way home by moonlight, a tavern door burst open in front of her. Raucous laughter and light spilled into the narrow alley. Three men stumbled out, cursing and shoving each other. She pressed back against the damp stonework of the brothel opposite. If the Great Earth Jinn were on her side, the men would turn the other way.

On the shoulder of the tallest man’s coat, the gold insignia of the Royal Fleet caught the light. A chill curled in her belly and her fingers sought the handle of the dagger wedged in her boot. Bluejackets would doubtless head for the brothel—straight toward her.

The shortest man carried a staff with an unlit lantern swinging from the hook on top. He paused by the tavern lamp, lit a twist of hay, and touched it to the wick of his lantern.

“Get your arse moving or we’ll not finish with the tarts before the tide turns,” the tall man said.

Melba sidled away from the brothel door, praying they were too drunk to notice her.

The short one stumbled against his fat friend causing the lantern to swing wildly, flashing light around the alley.

“Ha! A boy,” Fatty shouted.

Melba’s grip tightened on her knife.

“Up to no good, I’ll wager.” The short one raised his lantern and Melba squinted against the glare. “Extra rations for a week if we take the lad back to the cap’n.” The men spread out and advanced.

Life on board ship was dismal for a boy pressed into service, unthinkable for a girl. Melba darted a few steps one way, then the other, testing their reactions. They paused, arms spread to block her escape. They might be drunk but their wits were still sharp.

The tall sailor lunged for her. She jumped aside only to crash into the fat one, who had moved to flank her. She stumbled to her knees, dropping her dagger in the gutter. Before she could scramble away, a hand grabbed the back of her jacket and hauled her off the ground.

“Nothing of ’im.” The stench of rotten teeth and ale curdled her guts. She jabbed her elbow back and connected with soft flesh. Breath whooshed out behind her, but the grip on her collar held.

“Bleedin’ tyke.” A fist thumped her side, knocking the wind from her lungs. She hung limp and helpless, gasping for air, while her hands were yanked behind her. Eyes watering with pain, she tried to think how to escape. Whatever happened, she must get away from the sailors before they reached the ship.

A dull thud echoed off the surrounding walls. The hand holding her let go suddenly and she landed awkwardly, skinning her knees on the gritty dirt through the holes in her breeches. She had no idea why she’d been released and she didn’t wait to find out. Shaking the half-tied twine from her wrists, she lunged forward to snatch up her knife and then hid in the shadows by the wall.

Another man had entered the fray and he seemed to be on her side. The tall dark stranger kicked out at head height, the buckle on the side of his boot glinting in the light as his foot connected with the fat sailor’s chin. With a grunt, Fatty crumpled to the ground. The stranger had worked fast. The tall sailor was already lying in the gutter beside the tavern door. At the sight of his fallen comrades, the short sailor threw down his lantern and scarpered.

Melba’s heart thudded and she flexed her fingers on her dagger as she assessed the stranger. Just because he had dispatched the three lowlifes didn’t mean he was her friend. Many people on Malverne Isle had cause to hate the sailors of the Royal Fleet. Had she evaded capture by the bluejackets only to fall into the hands of someone worse?

The man turned toward her, his black garb relieved only by a glint of silver at his throat. “Come, boy. Mustn’t be caught with sailors of the Royal Fleet at our feet or it’ll be The Well for both of us.”

Melba swallowed back bile, fear of the man temporarily forgotten at the thought of something worse. She’d heard the screams of men tossed down The Well. If you were lucky, the bluejackets threw you down at high tide and the sea took you right away. If you were unlucky, you lay broken on the rocks at the bottom for hours before the water flowed in and put you out of your misery.

Her rescuer strode away into the shadows and she hesitated a moment longer, but she had to follow or risk being caught. She raced after him as the tavern door opened behind her and shouts of alarm chased her along the alley.

As she caught up to him, her rescuer glanced over his shoulder at her. “Ever traveled the skyways?”

Melba shook her head. Runners and thieves like her took the waterways, escaping through the drains and flood defense pipes crisscrossing beneath the city.

Only spies traveled with the birds.

That meant, Sweet Earth Jinn, he must be a spy. Excitement bubbled inside her.

He stepped back and, with a soft grunt, leaped onto a wall as tall as she was. Then he held down a hand and whispered, “Put your foot up—”

“I know.” She’d played at spies with the boys often enough. She put her scuffed boot against the wall, leaned back so he took her weight, and walked up as he pulled.

Shouts echoed along the alley below. Her rescuer glanced down. “Time to disappear.”

He darted up the sloped wall to roof level, his soft leather boots near silent on the rough-hewn stone. Melba tugged her cap down, sucked in a breath, and ran after him. Balancing took all her concentration as her tight boots pinched her toes.

He waited for her at the end of the wall where the row houses finished. As soon as she caught up, he leaped across an alley. His jacket flapped up behind him to reveal four silver stars on his belt.

Melba’s breath froze halfway in. Only one man carried lethal spiked throwing stars. Her rescuer was far more than a spy, he was a legend. Poor people of the outer circles thought he was a benevolent Earth Jinn stealing from the nobs to give to the poor. Thieves spoke of him in reverential whispers as Master Turk, spymaster extraordinaire. Old Maddox had told her that Master Turk even had spies on the top of Nob Hill in the Royal Palace.

She’d prayed for the opportunity to catch a spymaster’s interest and have the chance to better herself.

Shouts of alarm from below pierced her thoughts.

“Jump,” Master Turk urged. “Two more streets and you’ll be safe in the third circle.”
Melba was used to crawling through dirty pipes and squeezing through holes, but jumping gaps twenty feet in the air.... She peered over the parapet to the street below.

“It’ll be easier if you take off those clodhoppers,” he said, pointing at her feet.

She looked down at her boots and shook her head. All her life Master Maddox had drummed into her one vital lesson, keep your boots and breeches on. His other boys often went barefoot, but he always made her wear boots, so people wouldn’t see her strange feet and breeches, so no one discovered she was a girl.

She took two steps back and hauled in a breath. She must make a clean jump and clear the gap. If she impressed Master Turk, he’d be more likely to accept her pledge. She belted forward, leaped, and landed in a clattering heap at his feet. Bruises throbbed and grazes stung, sending tears to her eyes, but she kept her face down so he wouldn’t see her embarrassment. She must be tough if she wanted to do well.

Without a word, he pulled her up by an arm and set off at a trot along the valley gutter between two rows of terraced cottages. After they had leaped another alley, he led her behind a thick brick chimney that shielded them from the street below.

He turned to face her and rested a shoulder against the brickwork. “You should be safe now.” He pointed to the right where a sloping wall led down to the back of a shop. “That’s your best way down. Not much of a drop.”

Melba pressed her tongue on the back of her teeth and gathered her courage. “You’re Master Turk.”

“Observant, lad.” He angled his head to examine her. Moonlight glistened on the dark strands of his hair, sculpted his profile with light and shadow. He had dark eyes and golden skin like the foreign sailors up from the south. Her heart gave a strange little bump. She had never met a master so young and handsome. But how would she persuade him to take her on?

“Let me pledge to you. I’m a superior runner and thief. I’ll be a great spy. I see stuff all the time. Pledge me, sir, please.”

“Superior, huh?” He smiled. “What are you, thirteen?”

She nodded vigorously. Although she was seventeen, she was small and skinny and passed for a lad of thirteen easily.

In the roof beside them, a lamp sputtered to life behind a small skylight. Master Turk put his finger to his lips and peered through the window. After scrutinizing the room for a few seconds, he relaxed and leaned back against the chimney.

The light revealed the fine fabric of his jacket, the stitching almost invisible. The five small circles of a tiny silver Earth Blessing gleamed against his dark neck cloth. Black jewels glittered on his ears. He dressed like a nob.

“What’s your name?” he asked.


“Well, Mel, if you’re such a good runner and thief, won’t your current master miss you?”

Her hand went to the tin disk stamped with Master Maddox’s symbol on a length of twine around her neck. His baker’s shop in the third circle was the only home she’d known. She’d been happy there, but lately things had changed. Since she’d turned sixteen, he’d stopped her bunking with the boys in the warm storeroom behind the bakery oven and made her sleep alone in the loft. And he never let her fill her belly anymore, telling her it was best she stay skinny.

“He won’t miss me,” she said, hating the catch in her voice. She couldn’t afford to be soft like a girl or she’d get found out and end up in a whorehouse or as skivvy in a tavern.

“Give me your hand.” Master Turk leaned closer, bringing with him the tang of lemon spice. He even smelled like a nob.

Don’t give anyone your hand unless you’d give them your blade. Maddox’s lesson echoed in her mind. Why did Master Turk want to touch her? She thought about refusing, but then he might turn down her pledge. She inhaled deeply, tasting the lemony scent of him on her tongue, and held out her hand.

His fingers closed around hers, his grip firm and warm. Melba held her breath, risked a glance up at his face, and found him watching her, dark eyes narrowed. A strange shivery feeling washed through her that made her squirm inside her clothes.

He dropped her hand, pressed his lips together, and scrutinized her from head to foot.

With a flare of horror, she thought he’d sensed she was female.

“Mayhap I’ll give you a chance. What will you pledge me?”

On a sigh of relief, she looked down at the three carved wooden toggles on her jacket and slid her fingers behind her favorite. “Carved this meself from a sliver of ironwood I found on the shore.”

He raised his eyebrows and ran a finger over the pattern. “That’ll suffice.”

She grabbed the knife from her boot and sliced off the toggle before dropping it in his outstretched palm. He tucked her pledge inside his jacket and felt in his pocket. “Hold out your hand.”

When she did, he dropped something smooth, black, and oval into her palm. She stared at it aghast. Poor masters gave their boys tin disks, the more prosperous used carved bone or wooden tokens. She’d never seen the likes of this pledge before.

“It’s a starlight stone,” he said in answer to her quizzical expression. “Hold it up to the moonlight.”

She turned the warm weight of the stone over in her hand and then angled it toward the moon. Tiny sparks of light danced across the stone’s surface as silver, purple, and green streaked through its crystalline depths. For a moment, she forgot where she was, entranced by the colors.

“Take another look tomorrow,” he said. “It contains different colors under the sun.”

“Oh.” Melba curled her fingers around the treasure. Nobody had ever given her something this pretty before. A little fizz of excitement went through her. Perhaps he liked her. She glanced up at his darkly handsome face. “Do you give this type of pledge to all your boys?”

He nodded.

She ignored the sting of disappointment and jammed the stone deep in the secret loot pocket in her breeches where it couldn’t fall out. All that mattered was that Master Turk had accepted her pledge. As long as he didn’t discover she was a girl, she had a chance to become a spy and make something of her life.

“You stink as bad as an alley cat,” he said with a grimace. “When we reach the bunkhouse, first order of business is to get you out of those filthy clothes and into a bath.”

If you would like to read a longer sample, the first chapter is available on my website, and a longer sample is downloadable from Amazon

Monday, September 5, 2011

We’ve been home for about a month.  In that time there have been three wildfires in the area.  The last one was less than one half mile from our property.  My husband and I had been out shopping and we could see the smoke from I-30.  It was in the general vicinity of our property but we didn’t know how close until our son called and told us that the main road was blocked off.  Of course, we went directly home, in case we had to evacuate.  The good thing about living in an RV--we should be able to save the majority of our “stuff” including the RV.  We’d have to get it away pretty fast though.

By the time we got there, the fire was out but it did put a fear in us since this fire and the last one were only one week apart and so much closer than the first fire.  We decided to get everything put up in the RV to make it ready for pullout, like when we’re traveling so we’d be able to evacuate quicker. 
My husband has rearranged our shed.  Putting what he considers important in the bottom storage area of the RV while putting bigger items near the opening of the shed so we can load it into my truck if we do have to evacuate.

The one thing I consider fortunate—our smaller local wildfires aren’t making the news nationwide.  It keeps my parents, especially my dad, from worrying.  I swear he’s the worrier in the family, not Mom.  He gets upset with me when I’m traveling and don’t call and check in with him every night.  Of course, he doesn’t say it, instead he bugs Mom about it and she tells me.  He expects to hear from any of his kids or their families who are traveling whether it’s for work or leisure.

So, imagine what he goes through when a hurricane hits South Carolina where my sister lives, or DC where her son works.  Now, not only is he worried about tornadoes where we live but hurricanes for my sister and her son and now we’ve added earthquakes on the East Coast.  No way am I mentioning wildfires to him.

We fled from Hurricane Ike when it hit Houston.  We packed up the RV and went to San Antonio for a few days (love that city and the bagpipe player).  We didn’t have to worry about losing anything.  Dad didn’t have to worry either because we left with the advance warning.  Okay, okay, we did go RV shopping and bought the 5th wheel we have now.

I grew up in an area where we got the occasional blizzards, thunderstorms, and floods but no earthquakes, tornadoes, or hurricanes.  Sure, we’d get rain from the hurricanes but overall, the area I grew up in was calm. 

You’re probably wondering why we moved.  The cold and our two story house, with a full basement and attic were getting to be too much for us to handle.  The warmer winter weather and smaller RV are easier for us, less pain and more fun in our lives.

So, do you live in a different area from where you grew up?  Is the weather very different?  Did you consider the weather when you moved?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For

There is an old Russian proverb that goes: be careful what you wish for because you might get it. Initially, the proverb sound paradoxical. Wouldn’t it be great to have your fondest wish come true? It all depends on the wish and the rationale behind it at the time. We want different things at different times in our lives.

A close friend measures his business success by having a large home in an exclusive neighborhood. The problem with the showcase houses is everything is big about them from the gas bills to property taxes. They not only consume money, but time too with constant maintenance and repair. Then add to that neighborhood association that charges you a fee for living in the area, then saddles you with rules that make living there an ordeal. Finally, disgusted with the fact that the house consumed his entire income, stealing away any hopes of vacation or hobbies, he finally gave it up.

Once he gave up the house, he felt a huge sense of relief. Instead of measuring his worth by the house, he found other ways to find fulfillment because the house definitely wasn’t doing it. He chose to live frugally instead of going back to his initial wish for a McMansion.

My personal wish that I got and now I don’t want is the in ground pool. After a bitter divorce and a move to another state, I thought I deserved something nice and the pool was it. The first year was probably our best year together, the pool and I. It was probably because my brother-in-law came over and cleaned it a great deal. The second year the joy was a little less as I battled ducks for ownership of the pool and cleaned it a lot more. People who do not own pools are unaware how much cleaning and expensive chemicals it takes to maintain a pool. They are more trouble than the pets when you go on vacation because the pets you can board. The pool just turns green while you’re gone. By year four, all I could think of was how much valuable writing time I spent cleaning the pool.

By this time, I am thinking of moving to a home without a pool. Maybe the pool was good that first year, but each year it became progressively worse with a weakening pump, and an erratic filtering system. I joked my tan was not from paddling around in the pool, but by standing topside and cleaning it. Imagine working ten hours, then coming home to clean the pool, it doesn’t sound like such a great wish now? Be careful what you wish for because you might get it.

Is there something you wished for and did get, but now regret?

Friday, September 2, 2011


Jazie Miles Davis getting ready to send a tweet.
We have a beloved tabby cat called Jazzie. This three-year old feline is my shadow and my nap buddy. He also helps me write, snuggled on the chair, his head resting against my leg, his soft snores creating a soothing rhythm.

Still, I have to keep an eye on him. More than once while I was in the kitchen pouring a cup of coffee or sneaking a cookie or four, he's gotten on Twitter and begged for treats.

You see, the cat has the same genetic abnormality that my youngest son had in his teen years. A bottomless stomach. Who knew?

Calvin has Jazzie on a diet. When he runs, his stomach sways from side to side. The cat's, not Calvin's. Our furry fella has five requirements in life: food and lots of it; fresh water; a clean liter box; our bed made right away in the morning so he can take a mid-morning nap on smoothed bed linens; and his own Twitter account. Calvin grumbles that the cat has more followers than he. Hey, what can I say?

At Calvin's insistence, I've stopped buying Jazzie treats. Well, except for the emergency bag I have hidden in the drawer. You know, for special times like this week. I can't stand to celebrate alone. When I got the email that Storm's Interlude was voted Book of the Week at LASR, Jazzie got three treats. And when I got the email that my short story Those Violet Eyes was accepted into the Honky Tonk Hearts Series at The Wild Rose Press, he got four treats. Six treats hit the floor when I got notification TWRP wanted to publish my romantic suspense, Mona Lisa's Room.

So when Calvin stopped in his tracks this evening, tilted his head to the side and asked, "Does the cat look fatter to you?" Well, I had to play dumb. I mean, what choice did I have?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Natural Disaster as Plot

Hurricane Irene had me thinking how as writers we use natural disasters as plot for our stories. Allison Brennan used an earthquake to engineer a San Quentin prison break in her series that had Killing Fear as the first book. Nora Roberts had wildfires and smoke jumpers in Chasing Fire. Jennifer Blake wrote of the real hurricane that took out Isle Diernere in Midnight Waltz.

Why choose what is a tragedy to many as a plotline for a book? Disasters bring out the best in people and the worst in people. To show that in a book is to touch on true human nature. The danger of the situation strips people of pretensions. It shows them in all their glory, for who they truly are.

Does your character loot the store? If he loots the store, is it for money and big items, or for diapers and baby food for the child in the upstairs apartment? Does he leave a note for the owner that he will pay later? With his address and phone number.

Does your villain use the storm and chaos to try to do in the hero? Is the hero more vulnerable because the heroine is somewhere in danger and he must get to her?

Man against nature is the oldest conflict in the world. How we deal with it says so much about us as people. Do you pound the steering wheel of the stalled car and curse the heavens or do you get out and push the car to dry land?

What ways have you used nature or natural disasters in your writing? Do you enjoy disasters in your reading or is it too real?

Jill James