Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Birthing a New World

Somewhere around this time last year my editor at Pink Petal Books and I discussed the possibilities of a shared world. The ideas simmered and in the spring of this year we starting setting major plot bunnies loose. Last month the first of the Spellbound Treasures books released. Each novella is by a different PPB author. This week sees the release of my Spellbound Treasure book, Unbreak Me.

A year in the making, Unbreak Me isn't a pretty romance. The darkness of this plot has been cooking for a long time and neither the hero nor the heroine are pretty people. Set in a world filled with warriors who wield magic as often as weapons, the main characters are all soldiers. They've all been betrayed and suffered horrendously. Finding all their betrayers becomes part of their quest to discover the truth. In the end, only part of the conspiracy is revealed. This sets things up nicely for two sequels.

With Unbreak Me, I've felt like a pregnant woman. I've been carrying this new world around in my head for months. It grew slowly in the beginning and then more quickly when I began to actually write the scenes for the book. It's a little sci-fi, a little fantasy, and a little paranormal all mixed together and slapped between two urban fantasy chunks of bread. And really, the filling is more fantasy than anything else I've been told, but it's very heavily spiced with sci-fi rom.

In the world of Estep Realm I've mixed magic with modern weaponry, fantasy infused cities with technology, and romance with grit. My heroine is scarred all over her body. She was a sniper, an assassin with an elite fighting force, a beautiful woman, a decorated officer, and the daughter of a beloved General. Betrayed, imprisoned and tortured, she becomes a contract killer for hire after faking her own death in a prison fire. The hero is bitter, vengeful and angry, but it's he who regains hope first once he discovers some of what really happened. Then he sets about trying to right the wrongs that have been perpetuated against the woman he loves.

Birthing this world wasn't without pain. This is a darker love story than the ones I've told in the past. These characters have suffered physically and mentally. And more than that, they've been underestimated by the enemy, who in the end is no match for their combined skill set. Yet another enemy lurks in the conspiracy against them and he is the one who draws out the hero of the second book who is even more dark than the heroine of Unbreak Me.

The realms I created for Spellbound Treasure are unique and infused with my current addiction to sci-fi rom and urban fantasy. However, I can't quite leave behind my paranormal roots either. I've mixed all of these volatile elements together in my melting pot and I've said my prayers over the bubbling mixture. It's up to the readers to tell me whether they like this concoction I've come up with.

Unbreak Me will release at Pink Petal Books later this week. I hope that all of you enjoy it as much as I did giving birth to it.

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Performance Impaired Vampires? Seriously?

I just learned November is national impotence month. Of course the first thing to pop into my mind was that it would be funny to inflict a temporary case of impotence on my over-sexed character Julian Wilkes in Blood Judgment. Now I love Julian. He’s a fun guy, a kick-ass fighter, and a violinist—something dear to my heart, but he’s also a sex-pot. In fact, heading out for some action was what got him into a mess to begin with and got his book underway. If he’d had a good case of impotence he never would have cut through that alley and ran into his worst nightmare. Of course if that had happened I wouldn’t have had a story either. So I guess I should be glad Julian doesn’t have any difficulties. (No, it isn’t strange for writers to talk about their characters as if they are real people, LOL.)

But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t have had some fun with it, after all, Ann Rice’s vampires apparently suffered from some form of it. Which I thought was a terrible crime committed by Ms Rice, but that’s another issue. I wouldn’t want to do that to my characters on a permanent basis.

It would have been funny if I’d written a scene where Julian had a situation where nothing happened below the belt. I almost feel like rewriting a scene just so I can make his life miserable. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m the kind of writer who enjoys tormenting my characters mentally and physically. Besides, who wants to read about characters whose lives are golden and nothing ever goes wrong? Not me and I bet not you either. So maybe Julian could have had a little stress induced impotence for a chapter or two. It would have been funny and it would have been different. At least I think it would have been different.

I’ve never read a novel featuring a vampire who wasn’t randy as a rabbit turned loose in a pen full of females, other than Ann Rice’s vampires, but I’m betting that someone has done it. I can’t see this as anything but hysterical given that it is pretty standard to write our fanged friends as love-machines that don’t quit. So that’s my question. Has anyone read of a performance impaired vampire? If so, did it work or was it like a what the hell moment in the story?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Greetings from Synopsis Hell

A couple of weeks ago, I made the rash claim that writing a love scene was even more of an exercise in misery than writing a synopsis.

Obviously, I was full of crap.

Yes, I'm visiting you today from Synopsis Hell, a place where writers writhe and groan in pain as the flames of crumbling manuscripts lick at their extremities. A place where plot holes are exposed, where intricate worldbuilding that took months to create is reduced to the rubble of a few mangled sentences. A place where complex character development must be simplified to the level of "Fred Flintstone Loves Wilma, But Acts Like a Caveman Sometimes."

Even the guidelines one finds on synopsis writing is garbled, indicating that no one--not even those who purport to be experts on writing--know how to properly write one. "Limit it to one or two pages," says Pundit A. "Keep it to 10 or 12 pages," says Pundit B. "Single space it on one page," says Pundit C, to which Pundit D responds, "No! Double-spaced on six pages!"

Just call me Pundit E. My conclusion: I'll do whatever the hell I want.

So here it is. I finished it at 2 a.m., roughly five hours ago. It's double-spaced. It's 11 pages long. It sucks.

Maybe I'll work on it some more. Any Pundit Fs out there with advice?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Year of Freedom Comes to a Close

This year I took an aside from submitting my one finished book to polish another, finish yet a third, and start and finish a fourth. These are all separate series in very separate genres.

It was a very interesting experience let me tell you.

Now I’ve gone through the submissions gauntlet with book one (which will be getting a hard core edit next year), so I know what it’s like. And let me tell you taking the year off has been kinda cool. While I do turn a wee bit green with envy as some of my friends land agents, get contracts, etc- I have been allowed to just write without worrying about what psychologically damning missive will be flung at my head next. It’s nice not to cringe when certain email addresses pop up.

However, this year was very artificial for a writer. I wasn’t submitting and I was working on whatever I wanted. The submission process is a hard fact of our chosen profession and after this year I won’t have the luxury of avoiding it. Same with writing whatever I want.

Ask any pubbed author with a contract- they can’t chose to work on something else because it speaks to them- they have to meet the contract deadlines. So if they get a wonderful idea for a different series, they have to take notes and shove it back in the “later” bin. As an under-pubbed author with no contract, I didn’t have that restriction. I was able to work on a SF, a steampunk, and a humorous fantasy all in the same year without facing censure or evil emails from agent or editor.

This is something I do hope I never have the chance to do again.

I really enjoyed the freedom this year, and that I got to really work on my skills and find out my strengths. But obviously I’d be more than happy to give it all up to be sitting on a bookshelf somewhere. I do think my year off has shown myself (and any future agent and editor) that I can produce multiple works in different series in the same year EVEN with my full time day job. That’s my goal, to have multiple series up and running at the same time. If I can do at least two (possibly three with the things I’ve learned this year) books a year working full-time at an outside job- think what mayhem I could cause if I were allowed to write full time?

Some authors would have seen this year of mine as a waste- all that time not submitting anything. But I really appreciate what this year did for me as a writer. I think sometimes we get so caught up in getting ourselves out there that we forget to take the time to build and improve on what we do. And we forget to enjoy the process.

This year has been a grand experiment, and I’d say a successful one. I hope I can take the things I’ve learned and apply them to my future writing.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Whitewashing of Myths

I was watching the new theatrical version of "Clash of the Titans" yesterday with hubby. It was a pretty bad movie, and I don't mean in the good bad way of the original Harry Hamlin version. Good thing I was watching the RiffTrax version, or I would have been thinking it a waste of two hours of life.

Just for the heck of it, I went back and reread the original greek myths. I've always enjoyed mythology, but I admit it has been many years since I've actively studied it. I was rather surprised about reading about Medusa - you know, snake haired lady. Turns out, she was turned into the monster we all know about after being raped by Poseiden in Athena's temple. Athena was upset that her priestess had sex in her temple and decided that action needed punished, and did not consider the fact that it was by rape to be a mitigating factor.

I wondered how that little factoid had escaped my knowledge for all these years, but then decided I shouldn't be too surprised. If you just want a scary woman villian, perhaps its best not to include the fact she was unjustly punished for a horrible circumstance that was in no way her fault, or maybe your audience won't have sympathy for the hero who cuts off her head.

It's a delicate line that writers walk, between presenting the whole ugly truth and including just enough to give the sheen of legitimacy, then forgetting the rest of the bad exists - doubly true when you are dealing with the Romance genre or one of its offshoots, because Romance is an escapist genre. In general, we read Romances when we want to forget how crappy life can be.

Historical writers have been walking that line for years. Lots of things that were perfectly acceptable in 1200's England have no place in today's world, for good reason. So when you are writing a story set in 1200's England, which history do you present? How it really was, or the revisionist spit shine history that has only the barest sheen of historical accuracy but won't have today's readers throwing the book at the wall?

Paranormal writers are running into the same problem. A lot of the myths and fables that infuse Paranormal are dark, deep, and ugly. How much do you present while still being able to keep the Romantic fantasy aspect?

What do you think? When reading, do you appreciate warts and all, or do you want not to be reminded of the ugliness, and let the writer keep the fairy tale aspect front and center?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

If I Could Have a Superpower I’d…


I think my current WIPs show that I’ve got a thing for wings. I’ve got a story with a bird shifter and a series about Fae sisters. So while I’d pretty much take any power that came my way, my current preference would be a wicked set of wings.

I think if I could fly it would make my work more authentic. I wonder if anyone would buy that… “Hello book gods... I’m going to need some wings to make this experience more enjoyable for the reader.”

It would be for them… And me. Because who wouldn’t want to fly?! Except for maybe if you’re afraid of heights. But in that case, there’s no reason to fear! You can fly now… which means you can’t fall. Unless someone shoots your wing. That wouldn’t be very nice of them and kind of makes my point moot.

I think fiction shows that if you have powers, someone will inevitably want to kill you. That’s a sacrifice all the gifted have to accept. Kick ass abilities means you also have to fight for the right to breathe. Is this a fair trade? Would you make it?

What power would you choose? Any power you wouldn’t want?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Real Wounds

Real Wounds

She raised dry eyes to his with soul-deep reluctance. She expected pity. Maybe superiority. Instead she found an echo of her own pain.

“Let it go,” he said with soft insistence. “Feel it and let it go.”

The command, the darkness of the car, like a cocoon where no one else could reach her, did what no amount of debriefing and counseling had been able to do.

She wept.

As the tears flowed, it was as if she thawed her soul. Everything within her seemed to take on new life, to stretch and open up to life like a napping child who’s waking to a new afternoon.

- Jeanne Adams, Deadly Little Secrets

I finished this book a few weeks ago and this particular passage has truly stayed with me. For several reasons. And I’m going to use it in two blogs, perhaps three before I’m done. But today, it’s Castles&Guns and combines nicely I think to a blog some months past regarding the real deadliness of swords and weapons. (Danielle Monech, When Bad Gun Habits Happen to Good (?) Girls – September 14) I thought that was a good topic, dealing as it did with the skills necessary to use these weapons correctly and a certain amount of the responsibility we bare as authors to present a reality about weaponry.

There is another thing that writers tend to skim over. Most blatantly with television and movies, but even we print writers do it.

We skim over the effect that being wounded has on a person. And most especially, the reality of a close thing. In the example above, Jeanne’s heroine has escaped an assassination attempt by the skin of her teeth and a fortuitous rolling car. The bullet hit her headrest. Too damned close!

She’s a CIA data analyst but she’s never been in the line of fire. She’s recovering from losing several agents to a bombing incident in Rome, but she’s never really mourned for them. When she finds herself at the end of a sniper’s deadly bullet in the midst of investigating a very cold case, she finally begins to feel their deaths and accept the need for tears.

It was a good book and I had a difficult time putting it down. But this one passage totally caught me and made me appreciate what Jeanne had just done. She allowed her lead to have a realistic reaction to a near death experience. Ana actually accepts the reality that if her car hadn’t rolled forward, she’d be dead.

And it scares the sh*t out of her. She doesn’t have hysterics, but she reacts. Oh, bless you, Jeanne!

I realize that when writing the tough as nails UF heroine, the idea of her being able to shrug off attempts on her life is par for the course. But there had to be a first time. The first time that bullet just missed, the first time that sword aimed at her gut only scraped her ribs and so she lived… That first time or that twelfth time or the one hundredth time…there has to be a moment of reaction. Of dread. Of maybe, just maybe, this is the last time she escapes.

I don’t want a heroine who whines or collapses or freaks out. But something! Give me something! Don’t treat so lightly how close the line between life and death lays.
Give me something real, emotionally, physically, mentally… We write fiction. We write fantasy. But we need to let our characters feel what it is to live, if we want their struggles to ring true. Part of living is an awareness of the fear of death. Certainly, not everyone fears death. But there is the fear of not finishing what is started…whether it’s a mission, a path of vengeance, or whatever. So fear has to be allowed. Somewhere.

Let’s do our readers a favor and present the wounds of near death, mentally, physically, emotionally as a real thing!

I contacted Jeanne about what she’d done and expressed my appreciation for this passage. And promised myself to pay attention next time I’m writing something similar. Make it real, Maureen. Always!

Who Am I Today?

I go by three names. My real full name and two pen names. You may address me by the name my coworkers call me, or you can call me JC (Coy) or Nickie (Asher). I’ll answer to any of them. They are all me—just different flavors of me.

JC writes sexy urban fantasy and paranormals with romantic elements. Nickie writes erotica. Actually, there isn’t much difference between what JC and Nickie write except that Nickie gets a little dirtier about it. So why two names…three actually? Well, I don’t really want my employer or future employer or my mother reading the stuff Nickie writes. At the heart of the matter, I don’t want certain people knowing I write some pretty graphic sex scenes. More to the point, I don’t want them reading it and deciding I’m a bad girl for writing it and possibly ruining my life or at least messing it up momentarily in some fashion.

But my, all these identities are a pain to maintain. I have two websites to keep up. I have to decide which name to use when attending conferences. I never had this “problem” until I actually sold some erotica and all of a sudden I was a “real” author. Though honestly, that’s a problem I don’t mind.

Recently I’ve been wondering if I want to keep up the multiple name game. After all, Nickie is doing okay while JC is piddling instead of kicking butt with the agent hunt like she should be. Maybe Nickie should be running the show. But then JC speaks up and says…”What about all that social networking you’ve invested in? Are you just going to blow all that off and start over?” Then JC smirks and says, “I think not.” And the wench is right. I’m stuck with both of them. Forever. And ever. Amen.

I’m curious about how others handle pen names. I’ve seen websites were they serve double-duty and the writer puts both names on the same site. I’ll admit, this confuses the hell out of me. If someone is using two names, they must have a reason to keep them separate. Hello? Perhaps if they aren’t writing erotica and trying to keep employers and relatives off their trail they may want people to know they are both identities. But this just brings me back to the point of confusion…why used two names in the first place? Just sayin’, ya know?

How about you? How many of you are there? Do you have websites for both or do you use just one? Or do you proudly use your real name and say the heck with pen names?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I'm Too Sexy for My....Thesaurus

A month ago, I would have sworn that writing a synopsis was the most painful exercise a writer could go through. I don't mind writing blurbs or overviews--they can be sharp and provocative and teasing. The synopsis has to boil 98,000 words into a few pages, hitting all the major plot points, wrapping up the ending--and somehow STILL be sharp and provocative. Just kill me now.

For the past week, I longed to write a synopsis. Would have welcomed a synopsis. Because I found something worse--my ultimate writing nightmare. The love scene.

I have a voice, and it is not the voice of a poet. I don't write flowers and sunshine. When I entered my first book in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest and made it to the quarterfinals in 2009, I got a Publishers Weekly review. The reviewer called my writing "clean and sturdy prose," a euphemism for straightforward and non-lyrical. I write in short, choppy sentences. I describe things in straightforward ways. I go light on simile and metaphor. I abhor adjectives. Blame it on the journalistic training, or a low bullshit tolerance.

Which brings us to love scenes. As a reader, I like a good love scene. But really, you have Tab B, Slot A, and a few secondary portals, and they can all fit together in only so many ways. I know that what makes love scenes work is the emotion behind them, but the author still has to WRITE them.

So first there's the issue of what to call the tabs and slots without resorting to Heaving-Bosom-and-Throbbing-Manhood Syndrome. I prefer straightforward names, but I'm not writing erotica--paranormal romance is a different animal, and some of those words probably won't fly. My list of what qualifies as Purple Prose is extremely long. I'm running out of words.

There's also the Ridiculous Synonym Syndrome. "Groan" is a good word, as is "moan." A little breathlessness is cool. But how many groans and moans can one have in a ten-page scene without being absurd? And, I'm sorry, but my characters cannot mewl or bellow. There's just no dignity in sounding like a helpless kitten or a raging bull. I'm running out of words.

Just kill me now.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Writing Process

Writing is an opportunity. Let's go on the assumption that you've got this great idea and you want to write a story. It could be a premise, a scene, a conflict or even just a sentence.

First, marshall all your facts. That means learning about your characters motives, their goals, and the conflict keeping them apart. You need to understand them and what makes them tick to get the results you want--a satisfying, heart-felt read.

Thinking about your reader comes next, and is probably the most important step. Does your reader prefer historical, contemporary series, suspense, Christian stories or paranormal fantasy. This should not determine your style, but it will determine content and, to a degree, vocabularly. You can't have your heroine talking like a Valley Girl in a Regency.

Grab 'em with your creativity

Creativity is your big hook. I heard recently that you need to spin a story every four pages. Yikes! But with the shorter chapters, it's not an impossible feat. Just remember creativity keeps your reader turning those pages. Start immediately. With that first word, first sentence, first paragraph, first page, first chapter and keep going. Is it easy? No . . . not even "Hell, no!"

Beat writer's block before it beats you

Anyone can get writer's block. Its root is a right-brain/left-brain problem. Stream of consciousness comes from the right brain. That's where you want to spew words onto paper. Your editor portion comes from the left brain. It's where you want to put everything in order. The two get in each other's way all the time, and that's called writer's block.

So, in your first draft, forget the editor. Just write everything down. Think NaNo. Write it fast, write it sloppy. Create that first draft.

Once your right brain gets everything down, turn your left-brain editor loose on it. Organize, highlight the scenes you want to keep, find the right word or phrase, clarify the motivation. Move things here, try them there, substitue words, slice and dice, experiment--there's nothing like a computer for helping you edit.

Naturally this is a simplified version of the wtiting process. And, believe it or not, there are hundreds of ways of out there that will tell you how to do it. Find the one that fits you . . . and then go for it.

How do you write? Anyone got a neat trick?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Writer Beware

First, forgive the lateness of this post. Dani is a sickie right now, and in her dazed state the realization that a blog post was needed escaped her.

I came across two separate incidents this week that, since I am an as-yet-unpublished author, really struck home with me.

The first was I heard of James Frey's YA book making machine (yes, this is the same guy who lied about his memoir; gee, who would have thought this man may have character issues). It seems that Frey is going to different universities and soliciting YA manuscripts from the creative writing majors there - it's all very 'rah rah we'll make a ton of money'. This sounds OK until you read the contract Frey has them sign. I won't go into every detail of this disgusting document, but some high points are that they are only given $500 upfront for the book, Frey may or may not let them have credit for the book or he might give credit to someone else, they are supposed to get 40% of the proceeds, but they are not allowed to ask for any kind of accounting info, etc. Long story short, the contract is about as horrible for an author as you can come up with. No wonder he's targeting 19 and 20 year olds.

The second incident is a controversy regarding an unpublished author upset about being led on for years and thousands of dollars by an editing service, run by someone who has a good reputation.

This post is really geared to those like me, those who want to make a living as a writer but are only at the beginning of their journey, who see the long climb ahead and are scared and wondering, "Is it possible?'

These incidents remind me that we are vulnerable. We are trying to get into a business where you are on your own, and there is no one to guide you. Instead, most people around are trying to take advantage of you, because what better way to hook someone than to dangle their dreams in front of them.

Probably the most important slogan to remember is, "Money should flow TO the writer." Yes, we have to spend money on conferences, etc., I'm not talking about that. If an agent wants to sign you but you need to pay for upfront expenses - RUN! Ditto editor, ditto anyone.

Also, really consider - what do you want? Do you just want to see your name on a story you wrote for sale? Heck, if that's your dream, how easy is it to self-publish these days? Easy, and has a lot of people backing it as a valid alternative. You will need to spend a little money for that, but certainly not thousands of dollars. Do you want to published by one of the big NY publishers? Then you need to accept possibly years of waiting, and accept the reality of that it might not happen, no matter how talented you are. It sucks, I agree, but paying some 'expert' thousands of dollars will not change that reality, no matter how much we wish it would.

Please, please, please, don't fall for the literary equivalent of the 'casting couch'. Know what you want and then go for it in a professional and determined manner. That is all you can control. Everything else about this business is out of your control, and as icky as that is, it is a reality you have to face.

Don't let James Frey and his ilk offer sweet promises, but after they get through with you, you realize that they get all the money and acclaim, and you just get screwed. As hard as it is when you think your dream is in your grasp, sometimes the best answer still is 'No."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Guest Blogger Donna Grant - Winner Announced

We’ve randomly picked the winner using randomizer.org.

AND THE WINNER IS... Julia Barrett!
Please e-mail us your address at castlesandguns@gmail.com by Tuesday. We will pick another winner if the prize is not claimed by then.

Thank you Donna for the contest and to everyone for commenting. Congratulations, Julia!

Thank you to Sarah for inviting me to Castles and Guns!

The recurring theme of good versus evil shows up in movies and books more often than not.  There’s a reason for that, I believe.  It begins with the choices we make and the circumstances we find ourselves in daily.  Every decision, every path we take could take us to good or evil ends. 

In WICKED HIGHLANDER, the third in my Dark Sword series, it’s about good versus evil.  Evil has many forms.  To some it could be the co-worker who never shuts up, or plays their music to loud in the next cubicle.  It could be the neighbor who won’t mow their grass.  A “friend” who sabotages everything we do.  Or it could be the person out to do you physical harm.

I wanted the “evil” part of my series to be truly wicked, a person who didn't think twice about doing whatever needed to be done to get what they wanted.  There’s something about knowing someone has aligned themselves with the devil that gives me the willies.  And it fit with what I needed in my series.

So just how evil is my villain in WICKED HIGHLANDER?  As a Druid she’s given a choice to continue on the path of true magic or undergo a ceremony where her soul is given to the devil.  Of course, she chooses the evil path, and she’s then able to control black magic making her a formidable foe that is nearly unstoppable.  Her goal? To rule the world and have all men bow before her.

She knows just how to put people in circumstances that will leave them no choice but to align themselves with her or risk those they love.  Her black magic combined with her ever growing number of allies puts her in a position to attain everything she wants and more.  There’s just one thing in her way – a small group of men and women who will do anything to stop her.  No matter the costs.

By the same token, I also have Druids who use their magic for good.  The heroine in WICKED HIGHLANDER has the spell to bind the gods inside the Warriors once more.  But  its locked deep in her mind.  While she's trying to find the spell, she uses her magic to take the pain away from those around her.  Other heroines have special magic as well like healing, talking to trees, helping plants to grow, or seeing the future.  But always they use their magic to help people and fight evil.

What's your favorite good vs evil movie, TV show, or book?

I’ll be giving away a signed copy of FORBIDDEN HIGHLANDER to a commenter.   

Available Now!

 Available April 26, 2011

To find out more about me please visit my website at www.donnagrant.com.  To read more about the Dark Sword series, see pics of the Warriors, take the quiz, download wallpaper, search characters, or watch the book trailers, please visit www.donnagrant.com/darksword.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Guest Blogger Paty Jager

Creating Sexual Tension

I came up with this blog after attending a workshop at the Emerald City RWA conference. I went to a workshop which was called “Gimme and O or Not! It went on to say “Learn to create sensuality in your story without delving into the technical aspects of lovemaking, by including the 5 senses in your writing.

Now to me, this meant I was going to learn how to intensify sexual tension. Only I was shocked from the words that were flying about the room. The only part of the workshop that was the slightest bit interesting or on the subject was when the speaker asked the one male in the room
how he would describe a woman’s nipples. He said, “ Sweet, ripe raspberries. Chocolate drops.” He viewed a woman as a delectable dessert.

On to my thoughts on creating sexual tension – sexual tension isn’t about the hero and heroine arguing or baiting one another. Sexual tension is the force that pulls their bodies and souls together as they battle against their logic.

Every scene between the hero and heroine should show their chemistry and reveal the battle within themselves to not become involved.

Spirit of the Mountain

Wren’s eyes glistened with unshed tears. “My gift is to save The People. The weyekin who came to me in my vision quest said this.” She wrapped her arms around herself as if staving off a cold breeze.

Himiin hated that they argued when they should relish their time together. He moved to her, drawing her against his chest, embracing her. The shape of her body molded to his. Her curves pressed against him. Holding her this way flamed the need he’d tried to suppress.

He placed a hand under her chin, raising her face to his. The sorrow in her eyes tugged at his conscience. To make her leaving any harder was wrong. But having experienced her in his arms, he was grieved to let her go. Even for the sake of their people.

Her eyelids fluttered closed. Her pulse quickened under his fingers. Shrugging off the consequences, he lowered his lips to hers. They were softer than he imagined. Her breath hitched as he touched her intimately. Parting his lips, he touched her with his tongue, wanting to see if she tasted as sweet as she smelled.


She tasted of sweet honey straight from the bosom of a bee tree.

One taste was not enough. He pulled her closer, moving his lips across hers, tasting and savoring the feel of them.

Her mouth opened and she sighed.

His body came to life. The sensations transcended anything he’d experienced before.

How could one woman make him feel powerful and vulnerable at the same time? Why did he wish to crush her to him and never let go and yet feel compelled to treat her with the tenderness one would give the tiniest of creatures? He couldn’t continue this way.

To hold her, to touch her soft skin. He would never be able to let her go.

He must.

He released Wren and stepped back, avoiding her eyes. How could he show her the sensations she brought to him then turn around and tell her they couldn’t see one another any more?

This is an example of sexual tension. It shows the physical attraction and yet gives insight into the struggle going on inside the character’s head as well. The more a writer can show the attraction and the internal battle in the character the more sexual tension is built making their coming together all the more satisfactory for the reader and the characters.

buy link: http://www.thewildrosepress.com/paty-jager-m19.html?zenid=eddf524a094d6a3326a5f59abb76110f

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When Angst Rules

While I worked today, I tried to let my mind drift toward scenes I needed to complete my Christmas Cowboy story. I had the ear buds in and listened to Christmas music to foster this. I need to finish that story! But wicked plot bunnies invaded my head despite the holiday music and I hatched the first book of the Guardians series, a dark paranormal romance with two hot heroes and a lot of angst.

I'll back up here for a moment and give you the backstory to all of this.

Last year, I hatched an idea for a series about the race of magic wielding humans (Magia) that inhabit the Five Dark Realms. The series would tell tales of wizards and witches who fell in love with their Guardians, the beings who would keep them safe as their powers rose toward their ascension to the next level of magic. Unmated wizards and witches were vulnerable to attack by demons who would steal their souls and the source of their magic, rendering them simply human in some cases. In other cases, they would die.

My first book was to be about a wizard who has a half demon Guardian. Both the Guardian and the wizard are gay. But the more I thought about this 60K masterpiece I had plotted, the more I realized it was really two stories. One, was about the contemporary wizard, Wulfric, and his Guardian, Ness. The other story was a backstory about Wulfric's Uncle Casimir, a mage with a lot of secrets. So I spoke to my editor. We hashed it out and now I'm going to split the story into two distinct novellas which can be combined in a single print book. But I needed to flesh out Casimir's story better.

Fast forward to the playing of the Christmas tunes in my ear buds. While I should have been dreaming up scenes for Brad and Anne-Marie, instead I saw Casimir during the Edwardian era, struggling with his magic and the fact that he is gay. His family doesn't have a problem with it. Only Casimir does. Even his mate, a vampire who is an English lord, doesn't have issues with being gay. Only Casimir does.

I envisioned a creepy, dark London lit with flickering electric lamps and dense fog. More modern than the Jack the Ripper era, but not by much. My two heroes have been at odds and Casimir has abandoned his lover Simon after a series of escalating disagreements about whether two men could have a happily ever after together. Simon, of course, believes in this. He believes in Casimir and his power, his magic. It's Cas who doubts everything.

They play cat and mouse with each other for weeks, during which time, Casimir ensures Simon has his blood to drink in order to stay alive, but he refuses to show himself to his lover. Finally, as Casimir begins to learn that what he has with Simon is special and that they can make their relationship work, someone walks out of the darkness, intent upon ending Casimir's life. The wizard fights back but is grievously wounded. Since the wounds were inflicted with magic, Casimir cannot heal himself. Only a stronger wizard can.

Thinking he could be dying, Casimir returns to Simon. He watches outside the house as Simon goes about his nightly routine. Finally, fear and pain push him to enter the house. He finds Simon in bed and he says, "Can I come home now? I want to come home." And he collapses.

What ensues is Simon's fight to save Casimir's life. Not only is Simon supposed to protect Casimir because he's the wizard's Guardian, but Casimir is his bonded bloodmate. If Casimir dies, Simon will starve to death without his blood.

Casimir's story turned out to be much darker than I had planned. It ruled my head today, its angst flowing through me as I worked. I hadn't planned for the first two books of this series to have so much angst, but now I'm seeing that it might not be a bad thing. Sure these stories are a little darker than I usually write. But I've discovered that angst rules.

In my book Ride the Lightning, the heroine is completely angst ridden and the hero isn't free of it either. In Common Ground, the heroine's cousin is filled with angst too and he's one of the stand out secondary characters in the story. Having angst rule your writing can turn out positively if you craft your characters wisely. Ride the Lightning has an attempted suicide scene and I worried it would be too much for some readers. Apparently, that's not so. It's a 2011 EPIC Awards finalist.

So angst has its uses. It tends to make my writing darker, denser, my characters more broody and growly. But it also serves to make you go "Awwwww" when those characters learn to get over themselves. It's that time honored juxtaposition that says you can't know real happiness and understand it's value if you've never known pain.

So I'm giving the Guardians series lots of pain. If angst rules, then the happily ever after will become a shining beacon of light at the end of every story I write in this series. And hopefully, the characters' pain will translate to a HEA that draws tears to your eyes at the beauty of it all. Oh, and for those of you wondering if the entire series is gay paranormal romance...it's not. Some of the novellas will be het too. Wouldn't want to disappoint any fans. ;)

Have a great Tuesday!

PS: The cover is a mock up I did to inspire myself as I wrote Wulric and Ness's book. I suppose I'll have to make myself a Casimir and Simon cover now too. :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dark Heroes and Darker Plots

If there’s one thing you’ll never be able to accuse me of writing, it’s a tame hero. While I tend to stay away from writing heroines who are kick-ass, my boys are bad. Sometimes things get so out of hand that I have to ask crit partners if I’ve crossed the line.

I don’t stop there either. I know of writers who tell me they hate to be mean to their characters. Pft. Where’s the fun in that? When I try to read a story where nothing good (translate to mean nothing horrible) befalls the lead characters I can’t get through the book and it sure doesn’t end up on my keeper shelf.

I will admit there are a few taboo areas even I won’t venture into, but not many. I have slaughtered children on the page. I didn’t like it, but it was necessary. I subjected one hero to being raped by an older, stronger male character. This same hero also underwent some pretty nasty physical torture at the hands of another sadistic character. By the time I finished with him, he probably needed some serious therapy even though he conquered the bad guy and saved the girl by the end of his story.

I ripped another hero off the stage where he loved being the center of attention, took away his career and everything he cared about. Then I let some really mean people do terribly painful things to him before dumping him in a frightening new world. It’s amazing he kept it together as well as he did. Poor guy.

Then along comes my current hero. This guy has some serious issues. I probably shouldn’t mention that he had a thing for his sister for a while, fortunately for everyone, she put him in his place and he got a clue on that one. He also has a drug habit. Not a good thing for a creature of the night to be messing with, but I guess no one told him. More than once, he’s thought of putting himself into a situation that he can’t get out of just to end his misery. So he’s messed up. But under all his problems, this guy has potential. He has a good heart and a warrior’s courage in the heat of battle. I think he will come out of it all in the end and be okay. And there must be a special heroine out there for him somewhere.

So how about you? How do you like your heroes? Do you like them on the dark side or is that just too much?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Woman Found Buried Under TBR Pile

It may very well happen!

First off, I had to work a college football game for my day job yesterday (I think I said "Bathrooms are to the left" and "War Eagle" at least 200 times) so I just got around to reading Lisa Kessler's great guest blog yesterday. Is it just me, or did it make you want to rush over to your own blogs and write some free fiction? And then rush over to hers and read some?

My current problem, besides the enjoyable but time-sucking day job, is my out-of-control TBR pile. I've always been a voracious reader--I think most writers are. I'm currently dawdling through a book I'm supposed to be reviewing for another website, and I'm not feeling it. So I read a page and put it down, read another page and put it down. An apology in advance to the author; it's not going to be a five-star review.

Part of the problem with this particular book is its glacier-like pace and what feels to me like its self-conscious aspirations toward breaking out of genreville and becoming "literature." Puh-leeze. The other part is my fault. I'm actively writing right now, and the detached, lofty narrative (I think there have been three lines of dialogue in thirty pages) is not something I want to find myself unconsciously mimicking.

I've discovered that I need to not be actively reading a book while I'm actively writing. I absorb more than I realize, and I find my voice picking up hints of the other author's. Yet I have to be reading something during those down moments before going to bed, or sitting in a doctor's office, or during commercials. What's a girl to do?

And while I've been dawdling, my TBR stack has been piling up. My crit partner sends me wonderful boxes of books when she gets duplicate ARCs as a book blogger. Publishers occasionally send me books to review or blog about. I do reviews for Night Owl, although my numbers have been dwindling as my time gets shorter. And, mostly, I should own freakin' stock in Amazon. Am I the only person out there who pays $79 a year for Amazon Prime Shipping and considers it an amazing bargain? (Any other book whores out there, take note: Pay $79 in January and get free two-day shipping on Amazon--or $3.99 overnight--all year.) Am I the only person out there who bought a house based solely on the fact that it had a room with built-in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves?

I counted last night. There are currently 131 books in my TBR stack--well my crammed, three TBR shelves. At least 110 of them are things I really want to read; the others are obligatory reads. Sigh. This even includes several books on my "must read" author list--I'm two books behind on the Harry Dresden series, two behind on the Anita Blake series, and even one behind on my beloved Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs.

But except for the obligations, they have to wait till my WIP is done, and I'm wondering how common this is. Is it a sign that I don't know my own voice, this tendency to pick up the cadence or style of whatever I'm reading? Or does it just mean I'm incredibly attuned to language--LOL. This is the interpretation I've chosen.

How about you? When you're really cranking on a manuscript, do you find reading a distraction? And has your TBR stack ever gotten hopelessly out of hand?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Guest Blogger Lisa Kessler

Hi –

Thank you to Marie Andreas and the Castle & Guns ladies for welcoming me to the blog today!

I write paranormal fiction of all kinds. I’ve published horror short stories for anthologies and magazines, I’ve written two different paranormal romance series, and I also post a weekly blog with free short fiction. (http://blogs.myspace.com/Lisas_Lair)

The first thing I usually get asked is… Why share your fiction for free?

There are many schools of thought on this subject, but I can only vouch for my own experience.

I started posting short stories after meeting Ray Bradbury. When I asked him how I could improve my writing, he grinned and said, “Write a new short story every week for a year. At the end of the year you’ll have ideas to last a lifetime.”

At that point I’d already sold enough short stories to know you don’t get paid much for them. I was dreaming of being a full-time writer. I would need real income.

But I wasn’t grasping the big picture.

Once I started Ray’s challenge and started my own blog, I discovered something. Writing didn’t have to be solitary.

I posted my first story of the 52 weeks on my brand new blog. It was titled “Internet Dating Secrets” and I shared the link with a writing group on MySpace. (http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=37024910&blogId=385444489 )

Imagine my surprise when people commented! They even encouraged me to write more.

Every week that I posted a new short story I found new readers, and many friends. Some people were writers, some poets, and most were readers.

I also realized along the way that my writing was getting tighter. I could write faster, with fewer revisions. And best of all, I really found that elusive “voice” you hear so much about in writer circles.

My book, Moonlight, is currently a finalist in Kensington Publishing’s Writing with the Stars Contest. The winner of the contest gets their book published in 2012! Since this book actually began as a short story on my blog, my weekly blog readers have been actively participating and voting. It really feels like a huge Moonlight street-team! LOL

Posting fresh short fiction is hard work, but the interaction with readers is inspiring and the writing practice itself is priceless. So if you’re considering starting a personal blog and you’re not sure what kind of content to add, give short fiction a try. You can reach out to readers and let them discover you before you even sell your first book.

Who knew?

I’m betting Ray Bradbury did! *smiles*

You can meet Lana and Adam from Moonlight on the Writing with the Stars contest site. http://www.rtbookreviews.com/content/writing-stars-vote-best-hero-and-heroine And votes are also appreciated! LOL

Thanks again to the great group at Castles & Guns for the blogging opportunity! *smiles*

Friday, November 12, 2010

NaNoWriMo: Plotter vs. Pantser

I know, two NaNo posts in a row, and following Sarah's posts as well. I promise this will be my last NaNo pondering, and as of next week, I will go back to cool monsters and possible discussion of killing/torture methods. You know, the good stuff.

I am what is known as a 'pantser'. For those who might not be familiar with the terminology, a 'pantser' is someone who writes by without a plot figured out or a lot of planning. I start out with characters and a rough idea of where I'm going, and then just write. The other end of this is a 'plotter', which is a little more self-explanatory.

I have come to the conclusion that NaNo is not kind to the pantser. Because I have to ponder over my words and linger over decisions over where I should go next, just writing like a demon means I don't have that time. As a result, though it's not the only reason, my words have indeed stalled over the last few days.

Will I make the 50,000 words? Not sure. I would like to, and it certainly is possible - if I get a clear idea of where I'd like to go, I can write quickly.

But I don't want to write pure crap. I don't want to write a book that I'm going to throw out as soon as November ends, or just as bad, one that I'll have to take the next year revising because there is a kernel of a good story hidden, but it's surrounded by trash. Because I'm in the process of becoming a career writer, I need to be careful over wasting time that I'm given to write my book.

So, as for now, I am backing off on winning NaNo. Instead, I will take the good lessons from NaNo and apply them to my life. The biggest being, I need to somehow work on my writing everyday. No more days where I get to bedtime and wonder where all the time went, and why wasn't I able to get any writing done. If NaNo has proven nothing else to me, it has proven that more often than not, if I wasn't able to get any writing done that day, it was because I was wasting time, not that there was no time to be spared.

NaNo truly is great. It brings an energy and a camaraderie to writers, something that we in such a solitary profession very seldom feel elsewise. It revitalizes us and challenges us to look at our habits and processes in a new way. It gives our families a chance to see, yes, this writing stuff really is work, and maybe they will also appreciate it a little more as a result.

I hope my fellow writers who are doing NaNo are reaping the benefit from it as well. To my fellow pantsers, do you agree with my assesment of how NaNo treats us? You plotters out there, is NaNo easy for you?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Writing Through Good Times and Bad

November has been an interesting month so far. Good things have happened and some pretty annoying things as well. Since this month is National Novel Writing Month, I've been writing every day to try to stay at least somewhat on track with my goal to finish the post-apoc paranormal romance novel I'm working on by the end of November at best and mid-December at worst since for Christmas I'll be going out of the country.

I've had positive news, namely a revise and resubmit request (hooray!), and as great as that is, it stressed the daylights out of me.  I didn't want to mess up the revisions, so I put them off for a few days until finally the stress of having it dangling out there ate away at my ability to focus on writing my current novel. So, I decided to work on the revisions and then I still stressed about them, which made writing hard, but I told myself I would still get at least some words on page.

I've also had annoying stuff. Well, besides from the changing of season and feeling a little out of whack some days because of the move to an area with season change, as opposed to Florida. So! On to that example of a bad time. Long story short, Wednesday (yesterday) night at my house was very eventful. In between the billowing smoke coming from the fireplace, the frantic running around the house to all of the fans and almost all of the windows, the deafening noise of the smoke detector, and the herding of cats, I, with my blackened nostrils, very easily could've given myself permission to sit the night out from writing. But, I hadn't written that day, and I didn't want to fall behind with my word count goal.

Sometimes in life, it's easy to say that we're not going to write just because things either go well or don't go well at all, and this isn't to say that if you have a really sucky day that you should drop everything to plop down in front of the computer, because believe me, it wasn't the first thought that came to my mind either. But there are a few reasons why opening your word document and getting at least a hundred words down on paper could be a good thing.

  • You stay connected with your story. You don't go back in a couple days and scratch your head, having to think "What was I thinking the other day when I wrote this?" You have a better idea since there's not a lot of time that is passing by.

  • You develop a habit with writing, just like washing the dishes after dinner or brushing your teeth before bed. It's just something you do every day, which makes it easier to keep up because it becomes second nature. Sure, there are days when you don't feel like doing a habit, but they tend to be fewer.

  • You have the feeling of accomplishment that you actually wrote instead of letting circumstances get the best of you. Looking back on a chart of how much you write each day, you're not necessarily going to say "Oh, that's the day I worked on my revisions. Or the other day when I had a super crazy evening." Besides, you won't feel as guilty (or be as far behind on your word count or page count goal) the next day. You'll know that even though you might not have gotten to your word count goal, you still did something.

How about you? Do you write every day (or almost every day)? And what are things that you keep in mind to help you get in front of the computer regardless of circumstances?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How Twisted Can You Get?

Lately I’ve been attempting to expand my horizons with folklore and knowledge of mystical beings. I’ve found some very interesting information. But I’ve got a few questions. How far can we take tales of the past and twist them? Is there a line that readers won’t cross?

For example, can unicorns turn into people? I haven’t read a story where this happened. Not in paranormal romance or urban fantasy. I’ve read hundreds of paranormal books, but I’m well aware that I miss great stories every day. So maybe you can tell me if you’ve ever read a book like this, or if as a reader you’d be interested in reading one.

What about Mermaids? We’ve all see The Little Mermaid, haven’t we? Ariel is great. The story has great conflict. Not being able to speak in exchange for legs is genius. But where is the onslaught of mermaids? I haven’t seen it hit yet. I could be missing something. Does anyone know a great story about Mermaids that’s been published in the last two years?

Personally I’m a fan of using the weather as a power source. I know there are some great series out there. But I think there’s space for more.

We hear vampires and werewolves are flooding the market, and I’d like to know the reason for this. Personally, I like vampires. I like all the different versions out there but I’m especially fond of Kresley Cole and Lara Adrian. I like werewolves, too. I am fonder of Kresley Cole and Nalini Singh’s versions than Twilight. (Neither Nalini Singh or Kresley Cole actually call their beings that shift into wolves werewolves, but we’ll consider it the same thing for the sake of this conversation) I have preferences over which versions I like the best, but the point is… I read them all. There are people out there who only read vampires. So shouldn’t stories hit the market to support that? I’ll buy any well-done vampire book. Still. They just have to be good.

What’s the best book you’ve ever read in terms of the best twist on a paranormal creature? Does this element make the book a favorite? Do you note it in the back of your mind, and it’s still the characters that make or break a story?

I think with Nalini Singh’s wolves, she has a great balance between the human half and the shifter half. The way the characters express their inner animal’s feelings is genius. It really adds to my love of the novels. But I’m aware that might not always be the case.

I’ve got some twists planned for some of my upcoming books. Do we take a risk by changing the norm? Or is it a way to pave the way to a trend?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Guest Blogger Marcella Burnard

Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

I’m told I write kick ass heroines. I like stories about capable, tough women who don’t *need* mates, but who get side-swiped when the right man, shifter, demon, vampire, or woman comes along. And, heck, I’m writing fiction. Why not give a heroine a few skills I’d always wished were humanly possible? So what makes a heroine kick butt? Super powers? Insane physical fitness?

Maybe those help, but really, look around. You’re likely surrounded by women who qualify on some level already. After all, what makes a heroine kick-ass? Physical fitness? A certain mental attitude or emotional detachment? Are there limits on who can be a rough and tumble heroine? Or can anyone apply for the job? If you like writing tough, capable women, how do you also make them emotionally vulnerable? Should you? After all, go too far off the emo side and your tough chick turns into a limp, soggy, ragdoll clad in damp leather. Go too far into ‘I’m a bad ass’ territory and your heroine risks being remote and unsympathetic. How do you walk that fine line?

I’m Marcella Burnard. I write science fiction romance for Berkley Sensation. I’m told I write strong heroines. I like writing about women who don’t *need* a partner, but who are nevertheless side-swiped when the right one comes along. When it’s time to consider a new heroine, I have a few questions I have to answer before I can write:

• What’s her secret power?
• What’s her wound?
• What’s she afraid of?
• What is her tough-girl façade hiding or shielding her from?

For my first heroine, her secret power was that she was a championship fencer. Her wound was that she’d nearly died as a prisoner of war. She’s afraid she’s a danger to everyone around her. She’s also afraid she’ll never be normal again. Her hard shell hides her pain. Or so she thinks. The heroine of my second book is completely different. Her secret is that she has specialized training in a particular martial art and in code-breaking. (Weird combination, I know.) Her wound is that she’s lived most of her life in the shadows, keeping to the background, never noticed, never seen, and never appreciated. She’s afraid of not measuring up. So her tough-girl outside conceals her soft and chewy lack of self-worth. For the third book I’m working on, the heroine is a demolitions expert/pyromaniac – however you want to phrase that. Her wound is that she’s homeless. She has no one and nothing left worth fighting for. She’s afraid she’s become nothing more than a murderer for hire, that she’s compromised every principle she’d once fought to protect. Her tough girl act hides some serious rage and bitterness.

The secret power question is one of the main reasons I write science fiction. I can give my female characters powers outside the scope of normal human ability and chalk it up to different species having different abilities. But for the rest of the questions – wound, fears and what’s being hidden – that’s all about how to render the heroine vulnerable. Villains need to be able to exploit those wounds and those fears. Here’s the interesting part: So do the heroes. The villains fail to look closely enough to see through the heroine’s tough girl façade. If they did, they’d have the key to destroying the heroine. This where the hero shines because he does look past the mask. He takes hold of the key and rather than using it to destroy her, he uses it to unlock her (which, it’s interesting to note – she may *perceive* as him destroying her).

Any woman can be a kick-ass heroine if motivated. Think of a mother whose child is threatened. She isn’t going to stop to think about her level of fitness or her familiarity with arcane weaponry. She’s going to channel pissed off momma grizzly and do anything to protect her child. What if your heroine is a battered spouse? It’s an amazingly tough girl thing to do to get up, leave everything you own, take your children and your pets and attempt to disappear so the abuser can’t keep hurting every one you love. Now, whether you have her enroll in handgun courses or martial arts is your call. Watching someone sculpt fear into learning to be a bad-ass can be riveting.

Ultimately, being tough isn’t about the array of weapons (fun as those may be) or the military training. It isn’t about how cool and stone-faced a heroine can be. For me, tough, smart, capable women are driven to become shoot-first-ask-questions-later types in order to compensate for or to channel feelings of loss, fear, rage, or injustice. The more a heroine’s emotional hot button is pushed (whether by the bad guys or by the hero – who learns to *not* do that), the m and more determined she’ll become in reaction. And depending on your blood-lust, the bigger, messier body count she’ll leave in her wake.

After a stint in an alien prison torpedoes her military career, Captain Ari Idylle has to wonder why she even bothered to survive. Stripped of her command and banished to her father's scientific expedition to finish a PhD she doesn't want, Ari never planned to languish quietly behind a desk. But when pirates commandeer her father's ship, Ari once again becomes a prisoner.

Pirate leader Cullin Seaghdh may not be who he pretends to be but as far as Cullin is concerned, the same goes for Ari. Her past imprisonment puts her dead center in Cullin's sights and if she hasn't been brainwashed and returned as a spy, then he's convinced she must be part of a traitorous alliance endangering billions of lives. Cullin can't afford the desire she fires within him and he'll stop at nothing, including destroying her, to uncover the truth.


Monday, November 8, 2010

I Would Write A Book, Too – But I Don’t Have Time.

We’ve all heard it, probably more than once. When I tell someone I write and the very next thing they say is that they would, too, but they don’t have time, I usually want to laugh and say…and you think I do?

Writers write. No matter what. We find the time when there doesn’t seem to be any. We give up watching television. We give up social lives and talking on the phone. We write while we wait at the dentist’s office, on the bus, and on our lunch hour. We work out plot problems during our commute at the end of the work day. It’s what we do. We write.

We write because we have to. We have stories to tell and that’s what we’re going to do. No matter what.

For me, writing is about time management and goal setting. Because my long-term goals include a music education as well as a writing career, I am pressed down to the wire for time. Both of these goals require dedication and many hours of work. In addition, I not only have to balance my two passions, but I have a full-time IT job, a family (husband, child, elderly parent), horses, and homeschooling. My day starts at 4:50 am and ends somewhere between 1:00am and 1:30 am. Sleep and I are barely acquainted.

Why do I live like this? Because I have to. I have to write, and I have to play violin. Life is filled with choices. I choose things that aren’t easy but are very rewarding. So I write down goals and steps to achieve them. I study, I play, I write. I take online workshops. I study music at a university with top notch teachers. I do whatever it takes to reach the goals I’ve set for myself.

Maybe the next time someone says they would write a book, too, if they had the time, I will hand them my goal sheets and a schedule of my week and ask if they would like to reevaluate that statement.

I’m convinced that you can achieve anything if you want it badly enough. Yes, you have to make choices, but if it’s important, there is always a way. If you want to write a book, too, then do it. Make time. Cut the things that aren’t as important and focus on the things that are. Life is what we make of it. I choose to squeeze out every moment to my advantage—even if I never have a sane sleep schedule again.

What about you? What have you given up to achieve your dreams? What kind of crazy schedule runs your life? I don’t know of a single writer who hasn’t had to make choices to chase the dream. To me it’s worth it, and I bet it is to you, too.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Time Management 101

This is NOT the blog post where I give lots of advice about time management. This is the blog post where I whine because I can't seem to mange my time.

Here's my typical day:
6 a.m. - 7 a.m.  Wake up, check email, put out any fires, get dressed, go to work by 7:15.
7:30 - Noon. Slave away at the day job, taking a break to post a blog entry, tweet the blog entry, check email, and put out fires.
Noon-1 p.m. Catch up with personal email and work on monthly blog series I do for my publisher's website, part of my "build your platform" assignment.
1 p.m.-5 p.m. Slave away at the day job.
5:30-8 p.m. Prepare and eat dinner, feed the dogs, try to give my housebound octogenarian live-in Parental Unit (who feels neglected) some face time.
8-9 p.m. Check email, tweet blog again, put out fires.
9 p.m.-11 p.m. Write and yawn.
11:45 p.m.-6a.m. Sleep 5-6 hours if I'm lucky.

Weekends aren't much better. I worked yesterday (Saturday) and will have to work the day job again next Saturday. I have a "live" crit group that meets weekly, and an online crit group that requires me to read a chapter a week. I've already cut out one blog and reading and my social life, such as it was.

Do I spend too much time working the blogs and social media? Maybe, but my publisher tells me my "job" right now is to "build my platform." But the books waiting in the queue for them to publish are not my only projects. I'm working on the first in another trilogy and if it sells, it will likely be to a different publisher, who will have their own demands.

I have to admit I'm insanely jealous of most of the writers I've met online. About 10 percent are  full-time authors (and I salute you). Another 80 percent are stay-at-home moms, college students, or women whose loving, supportive husbands let them pursue their writing dreams. Sorry, but a pox on your houses. Okay, only kidding. Sorta.

So, for those of you who are still working 40-plus hours a week at a day job, run a household, and are also trying to craft a career as a professional writer as well as "build a platform," where the heck are you finding the time?

Okay, off now to run the weekly grocery and shopping errands I couldn't do yesterday because I was spending Saturday on the day job. Sigh.

Sorry for the whine. Just sign me Frustrated. How do you manage your time? Got any tips for me other than finding a way to clone myself?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Motion vs Emotion

Warning! Spoiler alert . . . do not read further if you already know how to write great tension. Evidently, I don't. Just received a rejection letter from an agent. I know, I know. They suck. But, to be fair, she gave me an excellent rejection. Told me that 'there is just no tension'. It wasn't an awful rejection. I got some encouragement. 'You do have something here . . . you just have to really strengthen it with emotion and connections.'

That got me to thinking. I had the motion down pat. Motion is the chorography. It's what your characters are doing. Looking across a crowded room, sucking blood from an enemy. Usually it comes first. I would say it is the five senses in action. You show your characters seeing, hearing, smelling, touching, even sensing. That I could write and the reader knew what was happening in the story.

But the emotion was missing. I believe when it comes to writing the best definition for the word is 'the part of the consciousness that involves feeling; sensibility'. Emotion makes us care, feel. Here's a thought--emotion is the music in a book. What do I mean? Have you ever watched a scary movie with mute on? Try it. The movie isn't half as scary. So, if emotion is missing in a book, there isn't any tension. The reader doesn't care about the characters.

I should really thank that agent for hitting me on the head. She made me stop and think. We need motion in our stories, but to make the reader excited and enthused, there must be emotion.

In conclusion, I've got a couple questions to throw at you. Has an agent ever given you details about how to improve your writing? Did you take it? What's your strength--motion or emotion?

Friday, November 5, 2010

NaNo Insanity and More

What, I have to write a blog? Now, in the middle of NaNo? Does this count towards my 50,000?

Yes, like most other writer types you run across, I too have signed up for NaNoWriMo and am right now diligently hunched over my keyboard, creating my great opus.

Why? That's what any sane person would ask. Why do you do that? Signing up for that craziness, in one of the busiest months of the year, why?

I speak for no one else besides myself of course, but I think many of those who do it would align with my thinking. I do it for two reasons.

First is because I'm unpublished. So? Well, unpublished means no deadlines. Unpubbed means no contracts to fill, no words that must be written. Everything I do I do at my leisure. That can be bad.

I'm sure many of the unpubs out there are like me, vacillating between believing we have a real gift and love to tell stories and should have no problem with getting our works published, and believing we are fakes, the business sucks, every time you turn around people are trying to screw over authors in yet another way, so what's the point of it all?

The mood swings are nearly whiplash inducing. Needless to say, add those to the regular demands of life, and writing can easily be placed on the backburner. Belonging to writers groups, I can't tell you the number of times I've heard (and yes, I admit to saying) "This month has been brutal, I haven't been able to get any writing done at all."

NaNo forces writing to come to the forefront, just as it would be if I were a published author. It forces you to sit at the computer no matter your mood, if someone in the house is sick, if it's your week to take care of the in-laws. None of the extras matter, you have to write.

The second reason is I'm curious just what I can do as it concerns writing. For genre writing, and especially for Romance, one book a year is not enough anymore. Editors expect at least two, and hey, three is better.

I'm working towards being a career writer, that's what I want. I want to tell my stories and make a living off of that. I'm not ashamed to admit that, I'm proud of this gift I have, and if I can make a living by bringing people some entertainment, I find that a wonderful calling.

Still, I have to know if I can truly do it or not. I think writing is fun, but even at its most fun, writing is not easy. I need to know if I have it in me that I can create at the speed that is required to make writing a career.

For me, NaNo is a step in finding that out.

So far, so good. It's amazing how quickly the excuse of Writer's Block fades when you are staring at a computer and going, "Doesn't matter, I'm not getting up until another 500 words have been written, so I better think of something."

Is what I'm writing good? Nope, it's first draft. But no less than Hemingway said, "The first draft of anything is sh*t." Do I really think I could do better than Hemingway?

And that in itself is also freeing. Yes, there will be much work to do after NaNo is over, but guess what? I'll have words down on the paper to work with. That wouldn't be true without NaNo.

I wish my fellow NaNoers much luck and writing speed. I wish you all 50,000 words. And when all is said and done, I hope NaNo fulfills whatever expectations you brought to it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Things I've learned this year in Nano

This year, I had a few setbacks with figuring out which story I was going to work on.  Some years, I've forgotten to figure out a story until the last minute, but this year, I'd planned on doing the historical urban/dark fantasy, then I decided that wouldn't be possible without me doing further historical research for the time period I want to write as well as for my heroine. So sadly I put that idea aside and struggled to pick a new one.  I was torn between one I'd like to do, and one that I'd just had sitting around that would be cool if I mustered up some enthusiasm.  Needless to say, I went with the one that I needed to muster up enthusiasm.

Except for the fact my critique partner, Kinley Baker, went to a chat room pitch session through our RWA chapter FF&P, so I decided to tag along for support.  Long story short, at the last minute I was able to pitch to the editor as well, and I had one story I thought could pitched and gain some attention with her.  A story that Kinley said should be lengthened.  I ended up throwing out that I needed more enthusiasm on since the editor wanted a full and said it needed lengthened.  Now I'm working on that story.

So, the things I've learned.

  1. If you have a good critique partner, trust him/her, at least sometimes.  They should be looking out for you.  I pondered about lengthening my current novel, but I figured if I did, it'd be something I'd work on "one of these days."  I didn't expect to get interest and have that reiterated by an editor.
  2. Just because a story starts slow, and you're wondering if maybe you should give it up, don't give up on it yet.  My current story started a little slow, and it's involving a little more science than I'd like.  But I kept with it and am super thrilled with the story.
  3. Speaking of the science, just because you notice an element in your story that you feel uncomfortable with, don't try to eradicate it.  Try to figure out how it can work to your advantage and make your world that much more unique.
  4. This one especially pertains to Nano.  If you feel like you're getting stuck with a certain scene, write out some of it and leave yourself a note on what you think should happen there.  And move on.  Last night, I stumbled upon I scene in the Hero's POV I knew needed to be there, but I couldn't figure out for the life of me what else he should do.  So I wrote what I could, and I went back to the Heroine who was being especially interesting to write.
  5. And lastly, it is important to make sure what you're writing isn't illegible to you.  Don't feel in such a rush that you can't write clearly.  It doesn't have to be perfect prose, this is a first draft after all, but I've gone through in previous years and rushed.  Sometimes, I was left with a good sentence that had an illegible word that I couldn't for the life of me figure out, so I had to throw out what I'd written.
I hope any of these help! If you're curious, I'm currently working on a post-apocalyptic paranormal romance, and my current word count is 9,035. =)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Why You Need to Train Your Dragon

I watched How to Train Your Dragon last weekend, something every fantasy author should do. Even if you don’t have dragons in your story. I took some notes while watching the movie.

Why it’s worth watching How to Train Your Dragon:

Every beast has a belly.

Even the wildest of beasts have their mates.

Everyone wants to be understood.

The unexplained often leads to beauty.

The definition of strength differs by the source. The dictionary couldn’t possibly hold all the meanings.

Your father will always be your father.

“Bad dragon.”

Fire melts ice, but only if it’s aimed in the right direction.

Every dragon has a bigger dragon. The bigger dragon is meaner, too.

Leadership is often flawed, but somebody has to do it.

True friends help you when you’re down.

Then toward the end, I was thinking “If thousands of dragons can’t tame it, you can’t either, human.”
*Shakes head… grumbles about idiots*
You’ll just have to watch the movie to see who the idiot is.

So where does that leave us? I’m not exactly sure. I just thought I’d throw these notes out there. Because despite writing different genres, authors always focus on theme. Isn't fantasy about saving the world, realm, or planet from ultimate destruction? Good must overcome evil. Humanity must survive.

I don’t think it really matters what we write or what we watch. What we believe will always shine through in our voices. Even if it’s subtle. Maybe no one else will catch it.

I can watch a movie about dragons and still cry. A cartoon movie. Because I will always sympathize with the character. I’m rarely indifferent.

In my worlds the hero will always win, the heroine will always bring him to his knees, and the world will be safe. Personally, I write how I want the world to be. Straight up with fae creatures, avenging warriors and unexplainable powers. Heartache, love and the preservation of individuality.

Do you read books because you wish the world was a little similar? Or do you use them as escape?

Last question… “May I please have a dragon?”

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Girls With Guns

For those of you who don't know me, it could be because I don't often write in the fantasy genre. I have published a dark tale of power and violence, a tale of demons known as hellhounds, in the Weirdly III anthology by Wild Child Publishing. I have Where There's Smoke - The Phoenix Prophecy Book 3, a paranormal/urban fantasy novella at Liquid Silver Publishing. Both of those stories would fit the title of this blog and it's theme, but not nearly so well as the novella I have coming in December.

Styx guitarist and front man Tommy Shaw had a solo album in the 80's called Girls With Guns. Everything I write has a song that I hear in my head over and over as I write. It's that story's soundtrack. Tommy Shaw's Girls With Guns could have been the soundtrack for my novella Unbreak Me, but it's not. Green Day's 21 Guns is actually the story's song, but the point is that my heroine is a girl with a gun. She's had an illustrious career as a magic wielding warrior. She's an assassin.

Unbreak Me is a novella in a shared world at Pink Petal Books. Every story in the series centers around an item that is magical in some way. The item is put up for sale by an angel and a demon who run an auction house that deals solely in magical items. The auction house is in a realm where all magic is void, which makes it the perfect location for dealing with items that are imbued with magic, cursed, ensorcelled, etc. The name of the auction house - and the series - is Spellbound Treasure.

The heroine of Unbreak Me, Captain Tait Boland, was part of a specialized unit within a branch of Estep Realm's finest fighting force, the Pythian Elite. Every warrior is adept at magic and magical warfare as well as conventional warfare. Tait happened to be her unit's assassin until they were all betrayed. Here's a description of Tait from her unit leader and lover Major Marcus Renniger:

Tait had been the unit assassin. Cold and ruthless. Silent and deadly. Beyond efficient. She could take a man out with a hairpin faster than a foot soldier could yell for help. With a gun in her hand, no one could best her. She had the steadiest hand, the most accurate eye. On a sniper tower, no one was more deadly.

A master of many weapons, she had been just as adept with none. Her body had been one giant versatile weapon…a virtual killing machine. Silent, deadly, and even brutal when called for, she had often been called a cold-blooded killer, but Marcus alone had known the emotional price she paid in private for her extraordinary talent. That talent had kept her alive when anyone else would have died.

The unit's betrayal leads to Tait's court martial and imprisonment. She escapes three years after her incarceration during a fire that decimates the prison. Taking on the identity of her cellmate who died in the fire, Tait goes underground in the worst part of the realm, an ancient crumbling city called Hawksmoor, filled with slums and the majority of the realm's criminal element. For three years, she lives as a paid assassin, using the skills she learned in the Elite to survive.

Tait is a strong heroine with skills most women don't have or have the opportunity to learn. Even after three years of imprisonment and torture, she is strong enough to escape. And for an additional three years, she manages to not only hide but has a thriving trade killing criminals. However, despite the strong will to live that has kept her going for six years, when her lover finds her, he discovers that inside, Tait is broken.

Rolling onto his side, Marcus cradled Tait against his chest. She rubbed her face against his sweat dampened skin.

“People die, but love doesn’t,” she whispered hoarsely. “When I heard the news that you were dead, I don’t think I ever loved you more. I tried to stop, but as you can see, it didn’t work. My heart has a mind of its own.”

He nuzzled the top of her head, his breath ruffling the white strands of hair. “When we got back a couple weeks ago and Cochrane told us you were dead, I think the only thing that kept me from losing it was the fact that I still thought you’d betrayed us,” he murmured with a sigh. “I used the anger to keep the pain at bay. But I still got drunk. Bran had to carry me to my quarters.”

Her hands lightly stroked his chest, and he could feel the tremors in her fingers as she touched his scarred flesh. He fought back a shudder, not wanting her to think he shrank from her touch. In truth, the feel of her hands on his skin filled him with more emotion than he could deal with. The tremors themselves sent flares of rage through him. She’d been so skilled, her hands more steady than any marksman he’d ever seen, and to see her thus filled him with helpless fury. No assassin could survive long with a handicap like hers. If he didn’t take her out of there, if he didn’t fix her current situation, and get her life as Tait back, she would be taken down and would die as Molly Dare. The thought chilled him to the bone and hardened his resolve.

“I killed Price, you know. Deliberately. And not pleasantly. I used the Zochen Maru Vo on him. I made him confess that he’d sent you to your death.”

Marcus’s heart nearly stopped. The Zochen Maru Vo torture had the singular distinction of leaving the victim lucid and unable to pass out while the poison fried their nerve endings, upping their pain level as the ritual knives sliced through their body. Most victims died of blood loss. Many went insane from the pain before they died.

“I took his eyelids first. I wanted to make sure he couldn’t close his eyes. I wanted him to see and feel everything,” she rasped with a cold, hard voice devoid of emotion. “I deserved the court martial.”

“You didn’t deserve prison. Had your father not been in a coma you wouldn’t even have been put in the brig for taking out a traitor to the Elite. You had a perfect right to execute him.” Marcus knew her downfall had been orchestrated. Her punishment had been far too great for her crime and not appropriate for a decorated officer and daughter of the Elite’s greatest general.

A rusty bark of laughter escaped her. “I didn’t care, Marcus. You were dead. Nothing mattered. Nothing at all.”

A heavy shudder shook her frame, and she eased back from his body. He wanted to protest, wanted to haul her close to him and wrap her in his coat and take her back to his quarters where she would be safe. But so much had changed and she had changed. He let her go if only because he sensed that she needed the space to gather herself. Her fragility hit him anew. Not only had her body become more fragile, but her state of mind, her spirit, her heart, and her soul had too. She hid the truth well, but Marcus knew her better than anyone, and he knew she was broken.

Marcus and his best friend and fellow officer Branson embark on a mission to uncover who betrayed them and why. At one point, Tait has to gather her courage and join them.

Tait trailed after Marcus, the Alizar cloak wrapped around her, obscuring her face and body. Magical wards obscured her scent to help mask her true identity. She walked one pace back and to the left of Marcus. He was right handed and should an attack occur, he would draw his side arm from that side. Despite his accuracy with a laser, Tait preferred to be on his left side, just in case.

For herself, Tait carried an entire arsenal inside the cloak. A stripped down assault rifle, an assortment of throwing stars and knives, and a laser side arm identical to Marcus’s. Not to mention a garrote and a couple of gas grenades. Hand to hand combat wasn’t possible while wearing the cloak, but Tait intended no one get close enough to try, which is why she carried the arsenal.

And in the end, faced with the man who tortured her, Tait doesn't allow any of the men in her life to defend her.

Marlowe’s eyes widened when he saw Tait and fury flushed his face. “You fucking bitch! I thought you were dead!”

"You thought wrong, warden,” she said softly, trying to clamp down on the revulsion churning in her guts. “And your eagerness to use me yourself has been your downfall.

The evidence against you lies in the footprint of your magic which is in every scar you left on my body, you fucking pervert.”

“You liked it, you cunt,” he spat, his face contorting with rage.

Marcus and Branson took a step forward, and Tait’s father rose from his chair, but it was Tait who backhanded the former warden across the mouth. Bond stood beside his desk, impassive as blood flew from Marlowe’s split lip.

Broken or not, Tait still manages to show the core of strength and the fighting skills that kept her alive for six long years under the worst of conditions. She's a heroine I'm particularly proud of writing. She's tough even when she's crying. Definitely the epitome of a Girl With Guns.

Unbreak Me will be released the first week of December at Pink Petal Books.

Wishing you all an assassin-free Tuesday! ;)