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Clearly titles aren't my talent, but let's face it, Goats on a Boat was taken, and there's no topping that.
Perhaps you’ve been a bit curious how I got to be a pirate writer, despite my decided lack in title-cleverness; how I came to follow my bliss on the high seas, in pursuit of finished WIPs and Happily Ever Afters. I know it’s easy to imagine I sailed out of the womb, brandishing a cutlass and yelling, “I want to publish romance novels” but invariably with legends, the reality is much more sedate.
So on this very first blog on the new ship, while I’m still reminiscing about how far I and me crew have come, I thought I would share how I came to be the pirate writer I am today—only slightly dramatized.
It went something like this.
3rd Period, 1992, Ms. Yount’s English class
All right. Listen up, you rocks with hair, you’re in my class now, and you’ll be passing this class if it’s the last thing you do, because I’ll be damned if I have to have you next year. Oh, yes, I’m talking right at you, Roberts. You all will become enlightened and learn to quote Thoreau and Emerson and Twain if I have to pull your strings like little wooden puppets! Open your books to page 394 and start reading, “The Open Boat.” There will be no talking….
I don’t like it.
You don’t like it?
I don’t like it, and I don’t want to do it. It’s boring. Boring, boring, boring…except for maybe that Byron fellow. And don’t look at me that way.
We’re not doing him. He’s too unboring for you lot, you hormone thrumming twits. Okay, I bite, what do you want, dare I ask?
I want to publish lots, I want to publish lots
I want to be like Nora and make the Times completely nuts.
Writing Love that conquers all, and wild sex outside the box.
I want to publish lots.
You want to write trash novels, do you? You don’t like real writers like Emily Dickinson? Or Jane Austen? If you’re going to write a novel, why don’t you write a good one? One with a plot, and a theme, and no sex? Something literary that will broaden your mind, change the world, enrich the intellect of your peers and bring about world peace. That’s the kind of book you should write—something that Oprah will read. Why don’t you write something like that, something worth reading?
I don’t like it.
You don’t like it?
I don’t like it and I don’t want it….
You don’t want it.
And I won’t do it…I’m a pirate.
A pirate? Well, Miss Pirate, what do you want?
I want to publish lots, I want to publish lots
I want to be like Nora and make the Times completely nuts.
Writing Love that conquers all, and wild sex outside the box.
I want to publish lots.
Now listen here! This isn’t a Kathleen Woodweiss Breeding Ground for Oversexed Housewives and Repressed Amish Farmers’ Daughters. This is an English class, and we will only be reading boring, real life-like stories with real unhappy endings…and there will be no sex, do you got that? I would have you thrown out of the classroom if you weren’t one of the few students in this section that shows signs of intelligence. (No, Roberts, you’re not one of the few; read the assignment.) So, missy, you’ll crack open that book and you’ll start liking Stephen Crane….
I don’t like it.
And you won’t crack open your book, will you?
I don’t want it….
And you’ll probably continue to read your romance novels during class, as if you think a 2-inch thick book can be hidden inside your schoolbook, with you sitting in the front row and all…you’re not going to read the assignment, are you?
Well, deep down, you want to know the truth—it’s not me, I don’t like it….
Well, what do you want, as if it takes a freaking rocket scientist to figure it out at this point?
I want to publish lots….
I know, I know…and make the Times completely nuts. I got it, I got it…though why you couldn’t do that with a book without sex in it, I don’t know. All right, fine, we’re all going to write… (grumbling)… Get out your notebooks. It’s not like you guys couldn’t use refinement with your writing skills anyway. 1st graders have better cursive skills than you do, Roberts. Get out your paper, now…okay, all together…one, two, three….
(Chorus of 3rd Period English class)
We want to publish lots, we want to publish lots
We want to be like Nora and make the Times completely nuts.
Writing Love that conquers all, and wild sex outside the box.
We want to publish lots.
I like it…I like it!
I kinda like it too. This might pay for little Yount’s college education….
I think that’s what Nora said.
Pen and paper, guys. I don’t want pencil marks all over hither and yon….
I don’t like pens.
You don’t like pens?
Well, no, actually…I like using a plume with a sharp nib.
With a sharp nib.
With a sharp nib, Hellion likes a sharp nib. Well, aren’t you bloody Charles Dickens?
And that was basically it. This scenario repeated itself about a dozen times throughout with college as I vexed one professor after another. After all, they found I could write—and be analytical about it, but why did I want to rot my brain and throw away my talent on genre fiction?
Because it makes me happy and it’s what I want. And that’s all the justification any pirate ever needs to make.
So, what makes you happy—and what do you want? And how do you plan to go about accomplishing it? What were your English classes like, and do you remember any of the stories you had to read? (I still don’t remember The Open Boat.)
You may ask: what does the bed-mussed Jeremy Northam have to do with this blog? Absolutely nothing, but when you're a pirate writer following your bliss, you can post whatever pictures you like. Enjoy.
I believe that no matter how successful you become, you always benefit from praise.
The praise I have received in the past is what drives me to become something more. In my writing life, praise is what fuels my confidence. The first time I posted a chapter of fan fiction no one left me a review. I took it as an indication that it was bad, and in hindsight I know it lacked grammatical skill. I’ve received good and bad reviews, and some of the better ones I can still recite. What made me believe in myself as a writer was a review left by one of my fellow pirates. I admire everything that she writes, and in praising me, she gave me what I craved the most-validation. It’s wonderful to receive praise from family and friends, but when a fellow writer gives you kudos it means something. It gives you the confidence to persevere.
In times when my confidence is at a low point I pick up a book by a favorite author and find inspiration within the pages. All authors have a launching point. Every writer’s success begins with a story. I may not have the talent of the authors on my Dream Team, but I have the same opportunities. With hard work and determination I can accomplish my dreams. Although a writer benefits from praise from a peer, their sustaining confidence comes from within. It’s the kind of confidence that kicks in at 2AM when you’re all alone and struggling to find the right words.
“Can’t never does anything.”
I’ve heard that phrase all my life, and it holds much truth. In our writing lives, can’t should be erased from our vocabulary. Yesterday, Marnee blogged about writing historical romance. I’ve often said I don’t have the voice to write a historical romance. In hindsight I should say I could if I had the desire. It’s a common occurrence to avoid things that are the most difficult to attempt. As writers we know our strengths and weaknesses. We obviously choose to write the type of romance we feel we express well. I often forget that some of the best stories I’ve written I considered out of my comfort zone. Once again the key to expression is confidence.
If we believe we achieve.
What fuels your confidence? Do you believe praise is an important component to a writer’s determination, or do you believe confidence is more effective when it comes from within? Do you ever voice praise to your favorite authors?
*Gunner Marnee clears her throat and attempts to look sheepish*. So far, despite the fact that I am writing a Regency novel and I have done some research, I haven’t been killing myself with research or gotten myself all twisted up over it.
*The Captain sashays to her feet, searching for an empty rum bottle to throw at her gunner. Finding all of the bottles still have some rum left in them, she settles for placing her hands on her hips and scowling fiercely*. Not stressing about research?! What sort of half-ass approach to writing are you pulling around here?
I can hear y’all groaning! Yeesh, whining pirates. I’ll stop now.
Sometimes I don’t know what to talk about. I know you readers have a hard time believing that based off the tangents I start in comments. But it’s true. I may be able to tangent like nobody’s business, but when it comes to a topic, forgetaboutit. *in my whiny redneck voice*
So, when I was running on the treadmill, listening to my best friend prattle on and on about her latest disaster, I realized there are some things that are just a solo project. Much like writing.
To me, writing is a pure solo sport. You can argue that it takes love and support from your friends and family to get through the rough times; but really it’s you—yourself-- who puts the words down on paper. During crisis times, you are the only one who can take the words running in jumbles and make them flow like water on a page. You’re the only one who knows the plot. Storyline. Characters. Ending… You know all of this by heart.
When times are tough you rely on yourself to pull through. To keep going. To put one finger in front of the other and snap out of it. You stay up late. You debate with your gut instinct to slash and start over. You rewrite scenes until dawn. You run over line of dialogue in front of the mirror. (And if you’re me, you literally take it outside and run over it, while screaming at the top of your lungs.) No matter how much you talk about it to someone else, they will never get it. They don’t see the story as you do. Until it’s on paper, something tangible for them to see and hold, they don’t see it unfolding as you do.
Believing in yourself is a number one priority for a writer. Because if you don’t believe in yourself, who will? Your ability to convey emotion. Your talent to make the written word come to life in front of your reader’s eyes is all on you. No one else can make you do that. It comes from deep within. And if the belief isn’t there, your words will never flow quite right. The imagery will be stilted. The dialogue stiff. The storyline dull.
Your story relies on you to tell it. You believing in your abilities makes that happen. You could have thousands of people believing in you and still not believe in yourself.
Fate plays a part in this. If you are destined for something, whether you believe or not, it happens. It’s up to you to make it a positive or negative thing. Writing is all about being positive. You’re writing for a reason. A purpose. Whether it be for yourself or to tell a story. Or for the readers you’ll eventually have. Everything has a purpose. And I think I’m just now starting to realize this.
I don’t believe in myself. It’s just my number one rule. If I become complacent with my abilities, I slack off. So for that, I tell myself I suck at it all and work twice as hard. I’ve done it all my life. And with writing, it’s no different. I always challenge myself to go one extra step more. Write another thousand words before bed. Take a scene just one step wilder. Nothing is good enough and I have to strive to do better. But eventually I’ll have to believe in myself. Eventually I’ll have to let go, not to become complacent, but to accept what may come. Whether that be publishing or be just writing for enjoyment of the moment. Writing to me is like letting my soul fly. It gives me a chance to be calm, quiet, myself. And there is nothing more rewarding than that.
At the moment, that is.
So what is the one thing you could change about your writing self? What is the one thing you consider to be your excelling point? Writing, plotting, procrastinating, dialogue. And how much stock do you put into your own abilities?
Well, you'll just have to read it. In the meantime, as you're waiting for Amazon to process your order, do read this interview. You don't want to miss this book...or this author:
Hellion: I adore your writing voice. I was immediately pulled into the story by the voice of your heroine. Does writing humor come naturally to you, or has it taken a while for your writing voice to sound as natural as it does (i.e. how many manuscripts are hidden under your bed right now)? What techniques would you recommend for honing your humorous voice?
Eileen: I adore you for saying you adore me! Love fest! I come from a funny family - and I do mean that in both the "ha ha" type of way as well as the "peculiar" kind of way. Humor is something that I've always defaulted to, it's perfect for hiding insecurities- no one notices that you're freaking out if they are laughing. The first draft of Unpredictable was a mystery. A really bad mystery. I noticed a few of my early readers wrote in the margin "well- the funny parts are good." It was then I decided to give up fighting it and write a funny book, before that I kept trying to put on other voices that weren't mine. I love to read and I read all kinds of things. I wanted to write like many of the writers I admired instead of admitting that I wrote best when I wrote like myself.
I have two full length manuscripts that should never see the light of day and many more that are partials of various ideas that sounded GREAT in the planning stage- but didn't pan out nearly so well in the execution. Part of the secret is not seeing these as failures- but part of the journey to finding your own way.
Hellion: Do you write organically or are you more a plotter? How did you keep the pacing so tight?
Eileen: I have huge plotter envy. I want to be a plotter- I buy all kinds of office supplies (ooh binders! color tabs! index cards in rainbow colors!!!) with the idea of being a very organized writer. Tragically, this never works for me, on the upside if there is ever a world wide stationary shortage I am completely prepared. When I write I start out with a premise, a main character, and a general idea of how I want the book to end. Once I have those things I dive in and start writing. The benefit of writing organically is that I enjoy having the story surprise me, on the the downside I spend a lot of time looking at the computer monitor thinking "how the heck did I get myself into this situation?"
Hellion: I swear we were separated at birth. Except all my office supplies have pictures of Jack Sparrow on them. I like to multi-task my obsessions. And coincidentally, my organization skills go awry. I'm sorry, I interrupted...writing systems...you were saying....
Eileen: *grins understandingly* One thing I've enjoyed on this path to publication is meeting other writers. Every writer has their own system. The one that really struck me was John Irving who likes to write his books backwards starting with the last chapter. This would completely screw me up. I'm much more linear. The fact that everyone does it differently be frustrating for people who want to know "how to do it" so they can copy your system, but in the end the good news is that there is no right way- just the right way for you as the writer.
Hellion: Sin and Lisa will be so thrilled to hear you say that. Of course, they've been skipping around the ship for days saying, "I told you so" to our Boatswain. They swear they have their own system, but even they don't know what it is most of the time. *consults her list of questions again* Did you intentionally leave out Sagittarius from all the horoscopes? And if so, why did you? (Are you a Sagittarius?)
Eileen: This is a funny story. (or maybe it is one of those things that seems funny only to me) In the manuscript all the signs were present- including Sagittarius. Somewhere in the publishing process the Sags were dropped. I didn't notice it, the editor didn't notice it even the copy editor didn't notice it. Once it went to the printer the very first person who read an advance copy called me to point out there was no Sagittarius. She was a Sag. I've now heard from about half a dozen people about the error. They're all Sags. I believe there is a rumor that I am a Sag hater. This is not true- who wouldn't like people born under the sign of the archer?
Hellion: I'm not a Sag. I'm just a Pisces...but I did wonder if was on purpose. *LOL* Or if you were a Sag. Incidentally I'd like to be a sign attributed with archers rather than fish. But that's neither here nor there.
Terri: Yet you're still talking about it as if it were.
Hellion: *ignoring Terr, makes a check on her question list* Are you more a skeptic or a believer?
Eileen: My believer/skeptic status depends on what we're discussing! (How's that for a dodgy answer?) In terms of psychics- I love the idea of it being true, but I haven't seen anything that has convinced me personally. Sometimes I think people are seeking out something magical and other-worldly and miss the real magic in our lives- the feeling of being in love, the taste of good chocolate, and finding a killer pair of shoes- in your size- on sale.
Hellion: Oh, I so understand that! I found the cutest pair of Candies' shoes at Kohl's last month. Adorable! *holds out her foot and shows off the three-inch heeled shoes* On sale...and right next to the gym shoes (on sale) I needed. It was like fate. *refocusing with some difficulty, crossing legs and smiling* What are you working on now? When will it be available?
Eileen: I am working on a young adult novel currently called What Would Alice Do? that will be out in January 2009. We may change the title as the publisher has a few other titles with Alice in them (and here I thought I was so clever.) This story is a retelling of the Crucible set in a modern Christian high school in Indiana. I've had a ton of fun writing YA as it allows me to tap into my high school traumas. I have material to spare. I refuse however to attach any photos of my high school self as clearly I had some channeling Molly Ringwald issues going on. I remember thinking I looked GREAT- but photographic evidence seems to imply otherwise.
Hellion: (I love the What Would Alice Do? title--that's funny! Ah, puns; it's like crack to English majors. Can't resist them. Not for love or money.) What is your favorite thing about the new book you're working on? (Why will we fall in love with it?)
Eileen: I believe it's another funny book (at least I cracked myself up). The main character, Alice, has to question what she will give up to be the kind of person that she wants to be. I love characters who are struggling with morally ambiguous situations. I'm a nice person in real life, but in fiction I really enjoy turning up the heat under other people. I'm in the editing process now and my editor at Simon Schuster has been amazing to work with- it's made me fall in love with the story all over again. I can't wait to see it in print.
Hellion: Are you doing any local signings? (Clearly you just came off a trip to my "neck of the woods"—well, within 8 hours at any rate…so how about: ) Will you be at RWA conference this year?
Eileen: I did a tour through the mid-west (Michigan, Indiana and Illinois) as that is where I grew up and had enough family that I was reasonably assured enough people would turn up so that I wouldn't look like a loser. I have a few more things planned for here in my local area and down into Seattle. I'm speaking at the RWA conference in New England in April- and I wouldn't miss this year's RWA in San Fran. Let's all get together!
Hellion: Eileen's buying the first round of rum! *crew cheers* What single most important piece of writing advice would you pass on to us struggling pirates?
Eileen: I believe it is important to enjoy the process of writing, of spinning stories. I don't mean that there aren't bad days- but that overall you should like to write. When I talk to people who describe writing as if every word causes them to bleed I think they should take up something else- knitting for example. There are so many ups and downs in this business- that if you don't like the writing I have no idea why someone would continue. At least if you knit you end up with sweater. No one sends a rejection letter if you mail them a sweater. " Dear Knitter- Thanks for your sweater submission. Unfortunately it doesn't meet our needs at this time....." A writer friend told me "writing is a craft, publishing is a casino." You have control over the writing- how much you do, how you improve, the stories you write. Focus on that- because if you try and figure out publishing you'll go wacky. The business is subjective and random at times. If you keep the focus on what you can control it makes for a happier person.
Hellion: *laughing* I'm an even worse knitter than I am a writer, and I do enjoy writing more than knitting, all criticism aside. I guess I picked the right hobby. How did you get published? (Were you a literal overnight success, or were you more the 10-year overnight success? What steps did you take? Which would you recommend; what things did you do that you wish you could go back in time and erase again? Other than good grammar—since for all appearances, it doesn't seem like I have it.)
Eileen: I know it isn't mature, but people who tell overnight success stories make me stick my tongue out at them when they turn their back. I have written for years. My parents have a story I did in second grade which I titled "George the Sighkyatrist" - spelling wasn't my thing. The teacher wrote at the bottom "I'm sure some day you'll be an author." Little did I know how much rejection would come between that story and hearing the news Unpredictable had sold. When I wrote my first novel I thought it was BRILLIANT. Alas- I was the only one. I then wrote another book, but by this time I knew enough to know it wasn't as great as it needed to be. Unpredictable was my third full length manuscript. My agent (the divine Rachel Vater at Folio Literary Management) was my top choice agent and the first one I queried. When she signed me I thought I had it made- but it took more time to find a home for Unpredictable.
When I first started writing I told myself I would be happy if I could just finish a full length novel. Then I said I would be happy if I could get an agent. Then I decided if I had a book deal I would be happy. Then I was sure having film rights optioned would do it. Now I'm on to obsessing about sales numbers and the second book. What I would advise people starting out is that publication is a journey not a destination. The people I've met that are huge New York Time's best sellers still worry about the next book or sales. You can compare yourself to other writers (even those overnight people who sign huge "significant deals" and have Oprah on speed dial), but it will only drive you crazy. I try and focus on improving myself and hope the rest of it will fall into place.
Hellion: My yoga teacher would adore you. She tells me this every week--and she doesn't even know I write. (I swear yoga is in everything!) *pushes Sin off balance, who's assumed a downward facing dog position, showing off* Oh, that felt good. A couple more questions...What authors have inspired your work? (I'm going to guess Jennifer Cruisie, but that's just me. *grins, pointing at Jennifer Cruisie quote on front cover of Unpredictable*)
Eileen: Why how did you guess Jennifer Crusie? She impresses me with how well crafted her work is and how supportive she is of new writers. I am a huge reader and love everything from non fiction to mystery to chick lit to historicals. There is the very real chance that I will die crushed by a stack of books. I can think of worse ways to go. It's hard to narrow the list of who inspired me, but certainly I've enjoyed Emily Giffin, Sophie Kinsella, John Irving, Jen Lancaster and a few zillion more.
Hellion: Last question--and the most important: Does Nick McKenna exist? If so, can you give him my phone number?
Eileen: Nick is composed of a couple different people and my very active imagination. Alas both of the real people are married- one of them to me- and I have a strict no sharing rule. : )
Hellion: What a surprise! I finally find a guy worth pursuing and he's taken! Oh, well, I guess it's still sock-stealing and obsessing for me. I should stick with my strengths at any rate. Thank you, Eileen, for interviewing with us today. You have been a wonderful--and now I'm going to turn it over to the crew for their questions and comments...
How many of you read your horoscope? (How often have you noticed it's come true? I think in all my years it's come true once, but it was a horoscope I read the day after the event. I doubt that counts.) Has anybody else read Unpredictable? What's the craziest thing you've ever done to win a guy back--and did it work?
That's why when I take my little road trips away from the ship, I almost always listen to an audiobook. And this weekend was no different. I've listened to three audiobooks so far this year and I have the same problem with all of them. The way the person reads the story is not the same way I would read it. It throws me off and, I believe, ruins the experience of the book for me.
It comes down to inflection. By putting the emphasis on the wrong word, the narrator can change the meaning of the entire sentence. Something that should have been a demand may come across as pleading. Sarcasm can be lost completely and we won't even go into the timing required for comedy.
Since I'm the example queen, I'm going to give an example. I know, big shocker. Anyway, lets choose something simple. I'm going to type out one line of dialog and bold the words I want emphasized. Now, obviously, it's hard to do this stuff out of context but since we're talking about reading this line aloud, I think this can work.
"If I wanted her, I'd have her."
With the emphasis on "wanted" and "have", this is a bold statement most likely of challenge. You can see the character saying it with eyes narrowed and jaw clenched. But what if I change it just a bit?
"If I wanted her, I'd have her."
This is much more insulting than challenging and meant to put the other character in his/her place. The speaking character is trying to make a point, defend himself or getting tired of arguing. Maybe by now you've figured out the dilemma.
We can't go through out books making bold all the words we want emphasized. This is where action tags play a key roll. Action tags are often thought of as throw away bits. Just two or three words to make sure the reader knows who is speaking. But they can do so much more.
"If I wanted her, I'd have her," he growled, never blinking.
"If I wanted her, I'd have her," he roared, throwing his hands in the air.
Now there is no mistaking how I want these lines to be interpreted. Even the simple change of the word "growled" to "roared" can change the context and meaning.
As you write, do you use action tags to their full advantage? Do you ever wonder if what the reader hears in her mind is what you intended with your words? Do you think I'm totally full of crap and have figured out that I had no idea what to write about today? And have you ever listened to an audiobook and wished you'd read it instead?
I love to give them away even more (even if they are from someone else and in this case, I'm honored to do it for Pamela Clare!)
Now, without futher ado, I give to you the contest winners. May I have the envelope please?
*Pirate Wenches roll their eyes at the sight of Sin playing make believe again*
"There she goes again," Hellion said. "I tried to have her committed. But even they said they couldn't do anything for her."
Lisa, Marnee, and Ter all shook their head sadly.
Hellion sighed and sauntered over to Sin, flicking her red hair behind her shoulder before handing her a pretend envelope.
Sin cleared her throat as she cracked open the golden seal of the pirates. "And the winners are..."
T-Lee from Australia *crowd going wild*
Stef from France *men begging for a phone number*
Janga *English Lords falling all over themselves*
and last but not least, Kelly Krysten *RWR crew members drooling all over her*
I knew those RWR crew members were NOT to be trusted! Men! Ha!
Congrats!!! You've won an awesome prize! Pamela Clare will be sending you one of her wonderful books in the mail! Please send your snail mail address to me at magnificentsin @aol.com (without the space, if you would).
Thanks so much for making Wednesday an awesome day with Pamela Clare!
Romance starts with the spark of attraction, it doesn’t necessarily have to be physical, but in most situations, physical chemistry pulls two individuals together. Lust can be the first connection between lovers, but other attributes cause a lasting bond between individuals. Some of the strongest relationships I’ve witnessed between two individuals had nothing to do with physical appearance, but everything to do with internal connection.
As writers, we develop heroes and heroines, and most of the time they are attractive, desirable individuals. We surround them with a major conflict that continually drives them further apart, but we weave enough physical and emotional attraction onto the equation to keep the heat turned up, and the lust turned on.
Have you ever read a book or watched a movie in which the attraction between the hero and heroine just didn’t work?
I read an article on Yahoo naming the most mismatched movie couples of all time. I had to give the number one choice a definite thumbs up. It was Nick Nolte and Julia Roberts in I Love Trouble. Personally, Nick Nolte has never been on my top ten list of the sexiest actors alive. He is a great actor, but I saw this movie and I have to agree, the pairing between him and Julia just didn’t work. The love scenes between them were awkward at best. Another honorable mention was Harrison Ford and Anne Heche in Six Days, Seven Nights. I admit I didn’t see the movie, but at the time, Anne was dating Ellen Degeneres. It’s hard to believe Anne was into Harrison with Ellen waiting at home every night. Even with the best acting skills in the world, it’s a daunting task to fake physical chemistry.
Most of the books I’ve read over the years had very well written heroes and heroines that were perfect matches. Have you ever stopped reading a book because you just couldn’t picture the hero and heroine together in your mind? *cue Hellion Scandal in Spring rant*
I know everyone tires of my examples of the Stephanie Plum series, but Joe and Stephanie come to mind. They have physical attraction going for them and on a certain level, they love one another, but Ranger is the elephant in the middle of the room. He’s always going to be in the picture, and even if he doesn’t appear to be relationship material, I think he’s the rabbit in the hat. It makes sense to end the series with Ranger and Stephanie together. It’s not predictable, and it brings the series full circle in my opinion.
Just as Janet created Ranger and Stephanie to compliment one another we strive to do the same. It’s pertinent to show a sizzling physical attraction between two characters, but the difficult part is weaving in subtle likenesses that the couple share. It can be anything from a love of sports, to the thrill of chasing a cold-blooded killer. The initial attraction brings them together, but emotional ties have to be established in order to make them a believable match.
Not since Plum have I read a book that the characters made such an impact on me. I’m counting the days until the release of Blue Eyed Devil, which is the story of Hardy Cates, and includes some of the same characters from Sugar Daddy. Lisa Kleypas usually manages to enthrall me every time, but this time she blew me away. I bought Sugar Daddy over three weeks ago, and glanced at it a million times in my TBR pile. I hesitated to read it, because I love Lisa’s historical writing voice. It wasn’t that I doubted she could write contemporary romance, I just wasn’t ready for that change in her voice. Oh, how wrong I was to wait, this book is a treasure.
Have you ever read a book that inspired you to be the best writer you can possibly be? I have, and in the process, I learned that I’m focusing too much on plot and not enough on characterization. You can’t lose with believable well-written characters. The key of the plot in a romance is conflict, followed with a beautifully executed resolution.
I have the characters, and plot, now I need to get motivated and execute it.
Do you believe the plot or the characters make a book memorable? Have you ever read a book or saw a movie in which the hero and heroine didn’t match? Have you read a book recently that inspired you to be a better writer?
The blessings of a laptop are that I can move all over the house with my work of crap, er, art. I’ve written at the dining room table, on the floor in the family room, and on my bed. I’ve written lounging and sitting up straight. There was even a stretch of time in the fall, after having to drive my kid around in the car to take a nap (he had a stuffy nose and was very sad), that I sat in the car with my laptop, writing in my driveway. I didn’t want to move him because he needed his sleep and I needed some face time with my WIP.
Back before I started devoting vast amount of time to my novel, I had visions of myself writing at coffee shops, vanilla-mochachino-expresso-latte-partskim-partwhole with extra chocolate sauce and extra caramel sauce, whipped cream and sprinkles in hand, my librarian glasses on, paperwork strewn about, looking all the world like a serious writer.
A far cry from the vision of me sitting in the front seat of my Jetta, the seat back as far as I could get it to go without actually sitting in the backseat, the laptop screen pressed to the steering wheel, trying not to type too heavily so I didn’t wake the booger-covered, cranky baby passed out cold in his car seat, huh?
The reality has definitely proven to be way less glamorous than I’d expected. Nowhere in my writing fantasies was I holding a baby on one hip, the laptop propped on the kitchen counter while I typed with one hand, trying to write the paragraph that sounded SO perfect in my head before it was lost to eternity and replaced by verses of “The Wheels on the Bus.”
This weekend, I was thinking of setting up a desk to keep all my writing stuff organized (ha). I initially disregarded this idea because I figured it wouldn’t work out for me unless there was some sort of super amazing toy attached that would distract my super attention dysfunctional child long enough for me to sit at said desk and produce any actual writing.
But, after further thought, I realized that I wasn’t bitter about not having a desk or a “spot” to write. I doubt, even if I had one, that I would use it. I like to flit about, writing where the mood strikes me in the house. I think that’s why I like the idea of writing at a coffee shop. It’s a fresh, creative place.
What about you? What conditions do you write under? Do you like silence or chaos? Anyone have a desk and not use it? Anyone not have a desk and wish they had one? And finally, what conditions do you think would make you a better writer?
And, a special thanks to Pamela Clare for stopping by to play on the ship yesterday! If you missed the conversation, give it a read below. It's worth the 120 comments!
Sin sauntered across the deck and into the storage chest Hellion presumably kept the gold and extra rum. There was nothing but the old loud speaker and moth balls. She held it up to her lips, waiting for it to click on. A loud, piercing whine screeched through the silence of the ship. “Hello?” Sin looked down at the speaker and scratched her head. “Hello? Can anyone hear me?”
Hellion, with her fingers stuck in her ears, said with a huff, “Yes, wench! Hold it further away from your mouth.” She muttered to herself while Capt’n Jack tried to smooth her ruffled feathers.
Lisa snorted and elbowed Marnee and Ter. “I don’t know why she bothers to use the loud speaker. Everyone knows you can hear her from Tortuga to Australia.”
Sin narrowed her eyes at Lisa. “I heard that.” Bickering ensued through the crew and Sin decided to toss the loud speaker overboard before clearing her throat. “Everyone gather ‘round. Gather ‘round.” Whipping the notebook from her lower back in sheer pirate fashion, “I have the long lost chronicles of one fierce and brave pirate. One that I’ve long admired. I thought I’d share them with y’all.”
The wenches position themselves on the deck in various seductive poses. All of the crew members stopped what they were doing to take notice of the wenches and Sin had to clear her throat once again. “Hello! I swear! You guys have the attention span of gnats! I have the Chronicles of Pamela Clare in my hand and one would think that would earn some respect!”
A hush settles over the deck. Our faithful readers take a pause. “Pamela Clare.” They all said in awe. “THE Pamela Clare?”
Sin grinned. “Well yes. THE Pamela Clare. I told you that I found get my hands on it and here it is! Voila! I’ve even got a verbal agreement that she’s going to come by the ship and have a little chat!”
Loud tittering erupts on the deck of the Romance Writer’s Revenge. “Open it! Open it!” They shout. Sin takes a seat and begins to read from the lost chronicles of Pamela Clare!
The Lost Chronicles of Pamela Clare: Act One, Scene Two: The Interview!
Page 1: What’s a normal day like in the life of Pamela Clare?
P. Clare: Monday through Thursday, I get up anywhere between 4 and 5:30 a.m., write, take a shower, grab some breakfast and head to the newspaper, where I am editor-in-chief. I work all day. No two days are alike. And then I come home around 5-6-ish, make dinner for myself and my son. He’s a senior in high school; my older son is already in college. Then I do whatever I need to do. On bad days, it’s pay bills. On good days, it’s spend more time writing. On Fridays and on the weekends, every spare moment I have goes into writing.
I don’t date. I don’t have television. I don’t go to movies except on the rarest of occasions. (OK, I saw “Fellowship of the Ring” 16 times in the theater…) I rarely party. It’s mostly work, work, work. And that’s okay. When you have a dream, you work for it.
I decided years ago that I could either sit on my butt watching other people live fake lives on TV, or I could live my own life. I cancelled my cable and that was it.
Page 2: What ultimately got you writing your first novel, Sweet Release and eventually moved you into writing your I-Team series?
P. Clare: I love historicals. They’re my first love and that’s what I read. So I knew I wanted to write historical romance. I spent seven years writing Sweet Release as a newly divorced mom working full time with two little kids. Fun. I was thrilled when it sold. Then I wrote Carnal Gift and my personal favorite Ride the Fire. While I was in the midst of writing Carnal, I was talking to my agent about an investigation I was doing of a local cement plant and of the warning I’d gotten from a state official that my life/safety might be in danger. And my agent said, “Why don’t you write romantic suspense because you live it?” And I said, “Sure, all except the romantic part.” And from that conversation the I-Team series eventually came into being. (There’s a Facebook group that I created called The I-Team that includes some of my journalistic colleagues from the real I-Team.)
I had never read romantic suspense before so writing Extreme Exposure was an experiment. I think it went pretty well. J
Page 3: How has your day job, reporter, changed or helped your writing career?
P. Clare: It absolutely helped my writing career. I left academia (archaeology) to write as a journalist, because I knew I wanted to write novels. I thought journalism would give me practice writing. Well, it did more than that. It taught me discipline, and it connected me with a wealth of truly unique, bizarre, scary, incredible, exciting experiences that you just can’t get in a normal life. From interviewing rock stars to being flown around the world to really terrible stuff like seeing horrid acts of violence — it’s been priceless for filling my well as a writer. Grist for the mill, so to speak.
Here’s my bit of advice for this interview: If you want to write, you must experience life. If you don’t push yourself and experience as much as you can, you will have very little upon which to draw. I call it “living at full throttle.” Yep, sometimes you crash (I have done that literally), but sometimes there’s a transcendence to the experience that reveals to you something about the human condition that you never understood before. Those are moments of bliss for me.
Page 4: Tell us a little about your research habits?
P. Clare: My college degree and graduate work is in archaeology, and my career has been in journalism. Both are very research intensive and involve lots of “digging.” I’m a fact addict, and though I would never claim that any book I write is free from any kind of research error, I do work very hard to be accurate, taking only the occasional liberty. Most of the research for my I-Team series has been done on the job as a journalist. There aren’t a lot of women in investigative journalism because it’s confrontational and sometimes dangerous. I’ve had a lot of really unique experiences as a result of my career, and I can probably say with some degree of certainty that I’m one of very few romance novelists who’s had a gun held on her, seen someone get his head shot off, gotten dozens of death threats, had her home broken into by knife-wielding thugs, and had a couple of stalkers.
Page 5: What does it take to go undercover as a reporter?
P. Clare: A sense that you’re a crusader. Journalism is the only constitutionally protected profession in our country. The Founders felt that a free press was essential to guarantee freedom from oppression. Journalists are supposed to act as a voice for the voiceless. We’re supposed to watch those in power. We’re supposed to shine lights into the dark corners and turn over rocks so that we can expose all the wriggling worms — corruption, abuses of power, silent suffering. I believe in that mission with my heart and soul. Not many journalists partake in journalism on that level these days; for many it’s just a day job.
To go undercover, you really have to believe that you can make a difference and change the world for the better through what you’re doing. I suppose that sounds grandiose and naïve, but when you find something unjust and are able to change what’s happening, it’s an incredible feeling. To bring justice into someone’s life is such a blessing. I could tell you stories…
Page 6: I know that you played on your experience of going undercover in a prison to write UNLAWFUL, did that make the book harder to write in the sense that you had an understanding what happened behind closed doors? And how will it affect future books in this series?
P. Clare: Actually, this book is full of experiences gleaned not only from my 24-hour stay behind bars, but also my long focus on reporting prison issues. There are a few topics I’ve specialized in as an investigative reporter, and women in prison is one of them. That experience — both covering stories and being behind bars myself — really make this book easy in terms of filling it with authentic detail. A couple of the cases mentioned in the book are stories I broke — a heroin overdose behind bars and an inmate’s stillbirth due to neglect on the part of the prison guards. In fact, the book is dedicated to the stillborn baby. I definitely feel like my own experience gave me a very real understanding of the issues.
I don’t think it will have an impact on future books because I don’t plan to set any others in the same sort of prison milieu. But I always draw from my own reporting background for the I-Team stories. One other topic I’ve reported on extensively is issues faced by contemporary American Indians, and that’s what’s going to underpin Naked Edge, the next book in the I-Team series.
Page 7: What was your favorite part about writing UNLAWFUL?
P. Clare: I loved getting lost in Marc and Sophie. Marc was a really fun person to inhabit, if I can use that word. I loved his inner dialogue.
I also loved getting to use my prison slang. I’d waited years to do that!
I loved writing about two people who are so attracted to one another that it’s almost a force of nature for them.
I also loved showing the stuff that happens behind bars and opening that up in a fictional context.
Page 8: I feel like the relationship that Sophie and Marc share is a little more special (they share a past, which I’m super excited about!) than the bonds between Kara and Reece and Tessa and Julian. Can you tell us a little bit about what it took to write each relationship and how they all differ?
P. Clare: Sophie and Marc, as you point out, have known each other since high school. When people connect during those really vulnerable years, the bonds can be very strong. Neither Marc nor Sophie has forgotten the night Marc took Sophie’s virginity. And although the present very much intrudes into their relationship, there’s always that deep affection, that remembrance, underlying their feelings for one another. There’s one scene in particular that betrays what they mean to each other — the scene in which Sophie recognizes Marc. He’s holding her down, with her wrists pinned. And gradually their hands shift until their fingers are interlaced.
For me as a writer, it was very emotionally rich stuff to draw on. I really feel my characters are real when I’m writing. So when they’ve got interesting stuff in their minds and personal histories, it because a fun thing for me to experience along with them.
Kara’s issue was an inability to trust men, so Reece came along and managed to heal that wound. Tessa didn’t really trust men, either, at least not sexually. She was very cautious. Then along comes Julian, and he turns her world upside down, at the same time proving himself to be the one man she can trust. But the relationship between Sophie and Marc is much more complicated because of past associations and what those meant to each of them.
Page 9: What was the most difficult scene/situation/relationship to write in UNLAWFUL CONTACT?
P. Clare: I spent three very difficult weeks writing the scene were Marc confronts the primary villain (no spoilers here). THREE WEEKS. Getting the flow of the action right from the moment Marc appears on the scene to the moment when the final shot is fired and keeping the emotions intact was very tricky for some reason. Usually action scenes are the easiest ones for me to write.
I also cried my eyeballs out at the climax of the story. I spent probably eight hours writing and crying and went through an entire box of Puffs.
And, of course, the sex scenes. Sex is very difficult to write, in my opinion. Drives me nuts, and not in a good way.
Page 10: What’s one thing that each Sophie and Marc would ultimately change about their past?
P. Clare: For both of them it’s one thing: Don’t lose touch with each other. Marc thinks in the story that if that one thing were different — if he’d kept Sophie in his life — everything would have gone differently, and I think he’s right.
Page 11: How does Marc Hunter compare to your previous heroes- The Senator, Reece Sheridan and über-bad boy turned FBI Special Agent, Julian Darcangelo?
P. Clare: Marc is an über-bad boy in his own way. Convicted of first-degree murder, he’s serving life without parole when the story opens. But there’s more to him than even he is willing to admit. But whereas Julian was very dark inside and out, having grown up without love in his life, Marc at least had a mother and a little sister who loved him. He might seem like more of a bad boy than Julian at first, but inside he’s not quite as dark as Julian. Reece is just the all around Perfect Man. Got to find me one of those.
Sin: Amen Pamela! *making notes to find Julian later on and have my wicked way with him*
The Lost Chronicles of Pamela Clare: Act One, Scene Three: Questions?!
Alright wenches and pirates of the Romance Writer’s Revenge!! Time to get to know Pamela Clare! She’s in the house today to talk about and answer any and all questions. No question is too tough for this pirate!! Make sure to ask LOTS of questions about her next release in the I-Team Series, UNLAWFUL CONTACT, to be released on April 01, 2008!! Inquiring minds are dying for spoilers!
Comment, Comment, Comment! There will be rewards for lucky commenters! (To be announced later today!)
All stories are the same at the core. Even our ancient ancestors knew the value of a commercial ending where good triumphs evil and the boy gets the girl. Beowulf. David & Goliath. Jesus. (Okay, so there’s some disqualifying disclaimers about the boy getting the girl thing…but I assure you, we’ve always wanted the good guy to win.) Joseph Campbell recognized it: All stories relate and put into perspective the human experiences (themes, if you will) of love and conflict. It’s why a lot of the time we stare blankly at our screens, wondering what to write and sound original, because nothing has been original since man started scribbling their stories down.
Because Joseph Campbell wasn’t a writer, he wasn’t exactly interesting in how he explained all this. And he certainly didn’t have the benefit of a smörgåsbord of pop hits to explain the key points. Music always gets me in touch with the scenes I need to write, so maybe you can use this to make a little soundtrack for yourself when you find yourself at a hero’s journey step you’re writing. Think how much better the scene with Beowulf and Grendel would be if Who Wants To Live Forever or The Final Countdown had been playing in the background.
The Ordinary World: This is the part where you reveal the lives of the hero and heroine before they meet. What are their problems, what’s missing? This aspect is frequently tied with “The Call to Adventure” as an opening hook, to draw the reader in and keep them interested. It’s a careful balance to reveal enough of the characters that we connect to them and care about the urgent problem.
Song: Ordinary World [Duran Duran]; It’s a Beautiful Life [Ace of Base]
The Call to Adventure: the inciting incident, the hook. The urgent problem that suddenly disrupts the ordinary world where the hero and heroine was previously holding it together. The more urgent, the better.
Song: It’s the End of the World as We Know It [REM]
Refusal of the Call: Clearly we don’t want urgent problems. We are content with the status quo from before, and we make every effort to ignore the problem (in hope it goes away) or give it away (make it someone else’s problem.) And because our natural inclination is to ignore our problems or have someone else take care of them, we create more conflict—and consequences to our actions and inaction.
Song: We Don’t Need Another Hero [Tina Turner]
Meeting with the Mentor: Don’t worry: this is not always Yoda or Gandalf. In a regular romance novel, you don’t exactly go around looking for little green men or white-bearded magicians to pick their brains for advice. But you usually do have the funny sidekick best friend or the precocious child who offers up the one statement that makes the hero/heroine reconsider taking the steps toward love.
Song: That’s What Friends Are For [Dionne Warwick]; You Can Call Me Al [Paul Simon]
Crossing the First Threshold: The first plot point aspect that is frequently referred to in other less fun, confusing writing articles. It is the event that is the first turning point where the hero and heroine are going to start working together.
Song: Let’s Work Together [Canned Heat]; Take a Chance on Me [ABBA]
Tests, Enemies and Allies: The first half of the middle where the hero and heroine are still getting to know each other, where enemies who will cause problems later (as well as here) reveal themselves, where we’ll meet characters who want the hero and heroine together. If you follow the four-act structure, this is the “complications” portion of the programming. I think this is where the sexual tension is building to the boiling point.
Song: Hungry Eyes [Eric Carmen]; Abracadabra [Steve Miller Band]
Approach to the Inmost Cave: Plot point 2. Midpoint of the story where the characters, whether they realize it or not, start to love each other. Trust, intimacy.
Song: Can’t Help Fallin’ In Love [Elvis or UB40]; Fallin’ [Alicia Keys]
The Supreme Ordeal: Plot Point 3, an event that has far reaching consequences and which answers the question posed in the first part of the book. (Frequently characters start out with one goal or want, and here is where it is sorely tested.)
Song: Hanging by a Moment [Lifehouse]; The World I Know [Collective Soul];
Seizing the Sword: Consequences of the Supreme Ordeal, either good or bad.
Song: Everything You Want [Vertical Horizon]; We Are the Champions [Queen]
The Road Back: A somewhat quieter time before (and including) the Black Moment where on the surface things appear fine, but beneath the surface, we know everything is going to implode and have fall out
Song: It Must Have Been Love [Roxette]; Don’t Know What You’ve Got (Till It’s Gone) [Cinderella]
Resurrection: The part after the Black Moment where the heroine womans up (or the hero mans up) to their neuroses and gets a grip. Tinkle or get off the pot. Because we’re writing HEA’s—they tinkle.
Song: Return to Me [Bob Dylan]; …Baby, One More Time [Britney Spears]
Return With the Elixir: The HEA. ‘Nuff said.
Song: Baby, I Love Your Way [Big Mountain]; Power of Love [Celine Dion]
So clearly besides my schizophrenic and questionable taste in “pop/rock” music, we can also come to the glaring conclusion I’m no closer to completing my synopsis this week than I was last week and have now chosen to pursue that most noble of all writing traditions: PROCRASTINATION. If you had a soundtrack for the hero’s journey, what songs would you put on it? What’s your hero and heroine’s theme or love song?
And speaking of songs that get you in the “mood” for scenes, what songs do you listen to when you’re writing love scenes? (Bow-chica-bow-wow…) I’m afraid my song choices are just as tasteless as the ones I’ve listed above. Right now I even have Britney’s Slave4You rolling through my mind.
And these words have back around to bite me on the ass.
I've been trying to move forward in the old WIP. Months ago I wrote a sequence of scenes down in a notebook including what would generally happen in each scene, what I wanted to accomplish with it, and maybe a line or two of dialogue. I grew dependent on the notebook as if I couldn't go forward without referring back to it. But when I came to the next scene in the notebook, it wasn't working. I just sat and stared at the screen. Words didn't come.
Then I realized that wasn't the right scene for this spot in the story. And what I wanted to accomplish with the scene needs to happen later anyway. So a new scene appeared and with it, a new character. For some reason, I had been reluctant to go against those words I had written months ago. As if I couldn't change it. I was restricted, restrained, my style was officially crimped.
So, I am a big enough pirate to say, I was wrong. I still think jotting down scenes can help at some point and there are people who can plot the entire book ahead of time and it writes itself. But I now understand the resistance to plotting on paper. The need to just let it come. The freak out shivers that afflicted Sin when the Captain made her plot.
I'm not sure if this makes me a total pantser, but I am glad this revelation came before I was ready to throw the damn computer out the window. I have a new character to develop, a new conflict and motivation for my heroine (YEEHAW!), and a new occupation for my heroine. This will be her third sort of. But this one will fit much better.
So, have you had to break any chains lately? Had any new crafting revelations? Have a large quantity of alcohol I can consume to get me through the "I told you so" dances that will be taking place all day?
I’m new to the writing game. I’ll be the first to admit I have a lot to learn on the rules, and intricacies of the world of writing. The only thing I’m certain of is that I love to write.
I’ve always been a loner.
My two brothers are 6 and 7 years older than I am. I practically grew up an only child. I played alone most of my childhood, and never once complained. You might assume it’s because I was a spoiled child. Well, that’s beside the point, but I actually enjoyed playing alone. I could sit for hours with my Barbie dolls and be completely content. I credit these moments as my earliest work with dialog. I either talked aloud or mentally conversed with Barbie, Ken, and Midge. I brought GI Joe into the mix when I wanted a little adventure action. I enjoyed making up scenes and situations for them to act out, and of course, it involved a great deal of angst. Even at an early age, I aspired to be a queen of angst.
I still am a loner. I would be content to live on an island as long as I have my laptop, a lifetime supply of Diet Coke, and a bookstore nearby. The point I’m trying to make, is that I don’t always enjoy conversing, especially when it involves talking about me. I can write stories all day, but when it comes to getting my point across, I lack ingenuity. I may have a wonderful understanding of the subject at hand, but that doesn’t mean I’ll ever prove it to anyone, and most of the time it’s not my main priority.
I realize that in networking with other writers, I meet many successful people who can prove to be great mentors. I appreciate the blog for that reason, and I admire the writers and readers who stop by every day to comment. I admit I find it hard to get to know people in type written words. It’s very easy to misinterpret words without the accompaniment of facial expression. It’s difficult enough for me to get to know a person when they are standing in front of me. You throw a keyboard and a couple of modems in the equation, and it gets even cloudier.
If being published depends on me tooting my own horn, and name-dropping then I’ll never succeed. It’s not about whom I know, or who knows me, it’s about my individuality, and how I voice it in my writing. If somewhere during the journey I make a few lingering impressions with my peers, then I’ll feel I accomplished something.
Don’t get me wrong, I love you all, but if you need me, I’ll be below deck.
Do you find it intimidating to network? Are there days when you don’t feel like commenting, or blogging, even when it’s your day to produce? Does anyone else have the sudden urge for a drink with the accompaniment of a tiny paper umbrella? Is it Friday yet?