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Bo'sun Terri has graduated with her Bachelor's degree.
3 1/2 years, formidable late-night papers, and student loans that has our federal budget feeling slim--Bo'sun is now like every other 22-year-old newly college grad out there, going, "What the hell am I going to do now?" And in pure college grad form, the answer for her (and us) is immediate: "Hell, I'm going PAR-TAY!"
So stop by, kick back a few party punches with us, and share with Terri all the bright and wonderful things she's going to be able to do with that shiny new degree--and more importantly, what's she going to do with all that SPARE TIME on her hands?
Today, she's a college graduate--but tomorrow, it's NYT's bestseller!
Now this wouldn't be a true celebration if we didn't have a little music, and Frank stopped by specifically to offer a few verses--and a "Hey, I'm so proud to know you" heys--so here goes:
When somebody goes to class
It's no good unless she kicks all kinds of ass—all the way
Happy to be quite all done
Now she’s graduated, dish out the fun—all the way
Taller than the tallest tree is
That's how it's got to feel
Deeper than the deep blue sea is
That's how deep it goes - if its real
When somebody gets her diploma
It's near as blissful as chocolate aroma—all the way
Yes, she’s neckdeep in college loans
But guess what, all that knowledge is her own—come what may
Who knows where the road will lead her
Possibly up the NY Times
But if you’re going to graduate
It's for sure you should graduate…
All the way
JUST LIKE TERRI DID! WOOHOO, TERRI IS NOW A COLLEGE GRADUATE!
So if you'll help us celebrate
It's for sure we’re gonna celebrate—all the way
All the way
So tell us, what do you think Terri should do first with her new found freedom and bucketloads of spare time? What should we name the drink to hallmark this occasion? Best drink will win a book off of Terri's TBR pile bookshelf! (Pirate, I can totally give away my other crew member's books if I want. Captain. Besides, maybe the lucky winner will get the one about the Snard.)
You’ve won the copy of START MY UP by Victoria Dahl. Send you snail mail addy to Victoria@VictoriaDahl.com and she’ll send it on its way.
Thanks to everyone who made Victoria’s day so fun. Especially Victoria!
Hellion: Aboard this ship, we love our men like we love our rum: strong, fiery, and able to sweep us off our feet. And like our rum, we like these men to be plentiful, but of excellent quality. (Nothing worse than bad rum…and poorly written men.) So it is with great enthusiasm and sincere delight that I welcome back to the ship, the most wonderful critique partner and writer of men who meet all these qualities, Dee S. Knight!
Dee: I see you’ve been hitting the rum this morning, Hells. Flattered as I am….
Hellion: It’s all true! Sin, tell her it’s true….
Sin: Of course, it’s true. Do you think Dee would call a fiction writer a liar? Now come, Dee, and have a seat. I see you shed your saintly sister, Anne, for this trip. How is she doing?
Dee: I'd never call a fiction writer a liar. Not exactly…. Um, Sister Anne is reading up on past Dear Abby columns to see if she can best me in next week's A Little Sisterly Advice answer. No way she can, of course, but hey, gotta give her credit for trying. Thanks for asking, Sin!
Hellion: That’s all nice, but I want to talk about firemen. Your newest book with Liquid Silver Books is called Hearts Afire, and it’s about a fireman named Harm Reynolds. (Great name by the way!) Tell us more about this hunky, sexy guy—what’s he like, who did you base him off of, does he like a woman who cooks, and would he take me out on a date if I baked him some brownies?
Dee: Harm is a sucker for brownies, Hell, but I'm not sure about a date. Beth has him twisted around her grubby little finger now. He has past wife issues, too, you know, so maybe he should bake you brownies as a date bribe! I didn't base him off anyone, sad to say. He's all figment. In fact, with few exceptions I've never based a character off anyone I know. It's not that I don't know interesting people who would make great characters--writers, travelers, musicians, pirates--I just think it's safer and more fun to make people up. A good friend named three characters in her first book after her friends and gave them sketchily similar traits. Surprise, surprise! None of them were happy. That's because we almost never see ourselves as others see us. To me, it's just safer to create characters entirely. Though a couple of the guys I work with--after they found out my heroes were hunks who got beautiful women and lots of sex--have asked me to base characters on them, lol. I guess they hope the story line will rub off.
Hellion: It’s truly tragic that the best men are almost always fiction. Moving on: as hot as you made him, you made his heroine as cold as ice. In fact, she’s called Ice Queen. Do you like to put characters together who are of the opposites attract variety, or did you want to simply find out at what temperature ice melts? *grins* And how quickly did she melt, by the way?
Dee: She melted faster than a Dairy Queen hot fudge sundae in a chocolate-dipped waffle dish on an Atlanta August afternoon. The third time he was with her, he was with her, if you catch my drift. (I know Cap'n Sparrow does, 'cause he has that hungry look in his eye. And who can blame him, with all the Dairy Queen talk??) When I heard the Hearts Afire series had to feature firemen, my first thought was of fire, heat, flames. (What imagination! It's why I get paid the big bucks. Haha. More rum, if you please.) I liked the idea of pitting him against someone who was thought to be the opposite. The fact that he never sees her as cold when everyone else does, is a hint that they're made for each other. I don't always use opposites in characters. Sometimes it's fun for characters to have the same traits. When both the heroine and hero want to be on top, the sparks can be fun.
Hellion: I like to be on top. Jack usually wins the coin toss though. (I think he had a double-headed coin though.) Never mind. Did you do a lot of research about firemen, life in a firehouse, et al, to help with this book? What sorts of interesting things did you find out that you got to use?
Dee: LOL! As you know, we live a mere block from a firehouse. A friend recommended I go up and interview a fireman. I'm too shy (yes, Demure is my middle name) to tell a man I'd like to interview him for an erotic romance. So, no, no personal research. God bless the Internet! The only experience I've ever had with firemen was when our apartment burned when I was 5 or 6, and when the alarm went off over and over in our apartment building in San Francisco. The SF firemen were such hunks I think my tongue hung out. When the alarm went off the second (and third and fourth) time, I raced to the lobby--as did most of the men in the building--just to watch the brigade. And before you ask, I swear I didn't pull the alarm!
Hellion: Sure, you didn’t. Don’t worry, we won’t tell, Dee. You’re well known for writing emotionally touching, yet sexy books. (You frequently get 4 or 5 cup-star-and heart reviews because of this talent.) What advice would you recommend to writers who are trying to do the same?
Dee: Gosh, thanks! I think when I first started writing I told a pretty emotional story but with only marginal understanding of craft. When I found out that you were actually supposed to understand POV and scenes and silly stuff like conflict and motivation, I lost some of the emotion of the story because I was concentrating so hard on the craft. A good friend and wonderful writer, Jasmine Haynes, guided me back when she first read the Burning Bridges proposal years ago. She kept asking, "What is she feeling about this situation?" So, I'd pass along her same advice. When your characters have faced off (or bedded as so many of mine do), don't just describe what they're doing, ask yourself what they're feeling. I keep striving for Jasmine's expertise, but I hope I've found a decent balance between craft and emotion.
Hellion: Wow, writers really are like therapists, aren’t they? Ironic that my own characters are as reluctant to discuss their feelings as I am with my therapist. *LOL* Throughout many of your stories, your heroines are usually strong, independent career women who have confidence in pretty much every area of their life but romance. Would you say this is a common theme in your stories? If so, what do you hope readers will learn from your heroines?
Dee: Are they?? Gosh, I'm not sure I ever thought of it. You know, the strange thing is, I don't think of myself as being strong and full of confidence. Maybe I write my heroines the way I'd like to be! What I wish for my readers more than anything else is that they spend a few hours engrossed in my characters and plot and be entertained. Mine aren't message books. I like that heroines today usually seek out the alpha male, but not those of romances thirty years ago. Heroines today are hard to satisfy wenches! They want someone equally strong who will encourage them to reach their stars and be happy as individuals as they are as halves of a couple. I guess that's what we all wish for. That's what I try to provide. I'd like my readers to smile and say, "Awwww…" at the end of my books while they're out finding their own romance.
Hellion: This is your fifth book with Silver Books, but your 17th book/story you’ve published, yes? What do you like best about e-publishing?
Dee: Not quite. I have seven novels and novellas, all with Liquid Silver (nine of you count Anne's Burning Bridges with BookStrand). There are two short stories published as standalone books with Whispers Publishing, and I'm in nine anthologies, between Liquid Silver, Samhain and now Siren-BookStrand. I really like e-publishing. When I first started seven years ago, the big name publishers dissed e-pubs as being fly-by-night outfits with bad editors and few talented writers. The insults were deserved in many cases, but it's mostly not the case today. That's why many e-pubbed authors have gone on to be NY pubbed authors and why so many NY publishers are making sure they gain the e-rights to books. People will always want a book to "hold," but that term is changing in context as devices like Kindle increase in usability and decrease in price. I've been very lucky to be involved with honest, business people who recognized the need for good book covers and excellent editing, and maybe that's why I've been pretty happy where I am.
Oh, gosh, your question was what I liked best, lol. I think the shorter length of time you hear back on a submission and the general lack of restrictions placed on authors. With the e-publishers I write for, it's pretty much if you have a good idea, you'll probably be able to write it and have it accepted.
Hellion: Sweet! That is a rarity! Go e-publishing. What project are you working on now?
Dee: Well, the same day Hearts Afire - June (which I share with talented, Colleen Love) was released, another anthology project, Tasty Treats Volume 1 came out from Siren-BookStrand. It contains "The Elixir," my first attempt at a ménage. I had fun working through the challenge of how to handle one woman and two men, so I've started two more. One is intended as a novel and the other (hopefully) will be part of another anthology next fall. The novel is a contemporary western and the shorter story is a futuristic Old West, if that makes sense. Once I get past these two stories, I'd like for Anne to get her rear in gear and finish the first in her series. If you have me back, I'll tell you about it. *grin*
Hellion: Well, of course, we’ll have you back! And if Anne gets her rear in gear, we’ll have her on as well. *grins* We won’t even make her share the limelight with you.
Dee: Gee, thanks. *lol*
Hellion: What else do you have going on?
Dee: Jack (not Cap'n Jack, just Jack, who writes as Francis Drake), and I are also thinking of combining forces and writing a few books collaboratively. In that case, we'll create yet another pen name, lol. Funny, I don't have trouble keeping name and genre separate. Wonder what that says about me? When I write I often have the whole book laid out in my head. I have taken to outlining more (after someone we know and love showed me a good way to go about it, Hellion) and Jack and I brainstorm, often over breakfast at our favorite restaurant. It's a family joint, so we have to watch how detailed our brainstorming gets… Anyway, it keeps life interesting being these different writers and moving my characters around like paper dolls.
Hellion: *LOL* I know the restaurant. That is a great place to brainstorm, I’m sure. They’d definitely keep the coffee coming. I love how you refer to your characters as paper dolls because that’s the last thing your characters feel like. We all wish we had paper dolls as well-rounded as the characters you write. Sin still flinches if I bring out that plotting board, by the way. It’s almost like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with her. I’m glad you could make it work for you though! Well, I think I’ve finally run out of questions. I should let the crew ask some. Would you like more rum? Would you like some croissants and chocolate? A pillow to prop your feet up? Please stay awhile and visit—do you have any questions for us?
Dee: I'd love to slurp some rum and prop up my feet, thanks! Let's see, questions… I know you're too Amish for sex scenes, Hellion, but I also know Sin isn't. But how about some of the rest of you pirates? Does anyone else write erotic romance? If not, why not? If so, please tell me the biggest hurdle you had to overcome. I just jumped into ER because I was too stupid to know I shouldn't. My biggest problem (and based on the fireman book, still is) telling people what I write. Erotic romance aside, do you all have trouble telling people you write romance? Do you find people dismiss your writing as not "literary?
Thanks so much for inviting me aboard! The rum...I mean the questions and company have been great!!!
Scene opens with the entire crew wearing men’s dress shirts in various colors. Some buttoned more than others. *cough*Hellie*cough* Lounging on two scarlet red chaises are writing phenomenon, Victoria Dahl, and the Bo’sun. Hottie crew members are passing out drinks and bon bons.
Bo’sun: Thank you so much for joining us on the ship today, Ms. Dahl.
VICTORIA: Thanks for inviting me to the party! This is quite the set up you’ve got here. Do I get my very own cabin boy?
Bo’sun: Of course you do! Check out our Hottie Crewmen and take your pick. (I’m guessing you’ll like our resident cowboy. *w*) You can even have two if that’s your fancy. To say you are one busy lady might be the understatement of the year. Why don’t you tell everyone what you have on your plate and up your sleeve for the next year?
VICTORIA: I am a busy lady! Strange how much time I still have for snacking, but snacks aside, here’s what I have going on. My first erotic e-romance, “The Wicked West,” debuted in June. START ME UP hits the stands this week, and ONE WEEK AS LOVERS will be in stores on August 1st! Woohoo! And I have one more release in 2009; my first vampire novella, “Laird of Midnight,” which will be included in the September anthology HIGHLAND BEAST with Hannah Howell!
Bo’sun: *takes a moment to close her mouth* Is there some kind of special supplement you take every day? Or maybe some magical clock that has 33 hours a day?
VICTORIA: I get a lot of vitamin C in the margarita form. And I emulate Scarlett O’Hara every time someone asks how I’m going to make my next deadline. “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” Basically, my life has been crazy for the past year and a half, but I’ve tried to be brave in the face of sacrifice. For example, I’ve nobly given up cooking and cleaning and sewing homemade Halloween costumes with nary a complaint. Also, I never sewed Halloween costumes.
Bo’sun: You are officially my new role model. I think we should all follow your regimen. So, as you mention, July 1st you’re celebrating the release of the second in your Contemporary series titled START ME UP. What’s the book about?
VICTORIA: START ME UP is Lori Love’s story. It’s a bit of the flip side of the first book, because TALK ME DOWN was about Molly Jennings returning to her small home town, but Lori has never managed to leave, despite big dreams of traveling the world. At this point in her life, she can’t drop everything and move, but she wants to experience a little of the excitement she’s missed out on. Luckily, her childhood friend, Quinn Jennings, volunteers to help her spice things up, using her favorite erotica stories as guide books. Obviously the man is a genius. A sexy genius.
Bo’sun: *looks around to find the crew fighting over the one copy aboard* I knew that was going to happen. The first in this series featured a heroine with an interesting occupation, which led to a sort of spin off/follow-up extra story. Tell the crew about TALK ME DOWN and the bonus that came out of it.
VICTORIA: Molly Jennings, the heroine of TALK ME DOWN, writes erotic romance for a living. Throughout that book, Molly is hard at work on a story about a Wild West sheriff with kinky needs he can’t satisfy with the decent women in his town. I never considered writing the story myself, but my publisher called me up one day and asked if I’d be willing to consider it. Consider it?! I jumped on that offer faster than you can say, “Oh, Sheriff!” “The Wild West” is now available online as a short story in ebook form. And I hope it’s as fantastically delicious to read as it was to write! *dabs sweat from brow*
Bo’sun: There seems to be a heat wave on this ship today. “Oh, Sheriff!” indeed. Now, where was I? Oh yes, it’s time to bring up the reason I knew I had to have you on the ship. Other than the fact that you’re an irritatingly talented writer (*g*) and uber-cool, you created a heroine who *gasp* is sexually experienced, knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to say it. So, uhm, how’d that go for you? LOL!
VICTORIA: Well... let’s put it this way: some readers were THRILLED. And some were... er... willing to use strong language to convey how much they didn’t like Molly. But Molly is Molly. She takes joy in life and in men. As a matter of fact, I was a little surprised at some of the negative comments about Molly--“dog in heat” comes to mind--because she’s so positive about her own sexuality. There’s nothing damaged or dirty about it. And that’s how I hope ALL of us can view ourselves, no matter how much or how little experience we have. Sex is supposed to be a good time, and frankly, I’m not interested in cursing my poor heroines with a lifetime of bad sex before the hero finally makes his entrance. You never hear the HEROES complain about how miserable sex was before the heroine came along. She’s special, of course, but folks, he has been having orgasms, and plenty of them.
Bo’sun: Well let me just say THANK YOU from all of us. We certainly try to promote that sex is a good time here whenever we can. (You’ll see proof when you see the drink menu.) You are totally our hero…err…heroine. For anyone who has been living under a rock, you actually debuted in Romance with Historicals. Did you always write in both time periods and how do you handle bouncing between them?
VICTORIA: Historical was my first love. As a matter of fact, when I started to write, historicals were the only thing I read. Then I discovered paranormals. Then romantic suspense and just about every genre in between. I’ve since written historicals, paranormals AND contemporaries. For me, writing across subgenres is almost like cleansing my palate. After I’ve been concentrating on the lush, rich world of scandalous historicals, it is such a relief to crack a few penis jokes, you know? Almost like a vacation... for the first few days anyway. LOL
Bo’sun: *clears throat* Why we were just talking penises around here last week. Well, the rest of the crew were, I'd never....okay, I started it. Now, our favorite topic, heroes. *sigh* Where do you find inspiration for these delectable men and what’s your favorite part about writing them?
VICTORIA: Hmm. Well, it’s not easy. I have to spend many, many hours of prep time just lounging around with them first. You’ve got to put in the good quality time with these guys to be sure they’re worthy hero material. And sometimes they surprise you. That’s the best part. My upcoming historical hero is Lancaster, who first made an appearance in A RAKE’S GUIDE TO PLEASURE. I knew he was handsome and charming. I knew he was adorable. But suddenly, Lancaster takes off his cravat and he has this scar. A huge scar on his neck. What in the world happened to him? I was horrified! Poor Lancaster! I had to write his story just to find out. And you’ll have to read ONE WEEK AS LOVERS if you want to know too. *evil grin*
Bo’sun: You had me at “takes off his cravat”. I guess it’s time I give the crew and our pirate pals the chance to ask some questions. As mentioned, we do have an extensive drink menu on this ship so just let 2nd Chance know whether you’d like a Glittery Hooha or a Seething Passion. Then again, there’s always the Mighty Mast. We still have no idea where she gets those, shall we say, illustrative glasses. Did you have a question you’d like to put to your audience?
VICTORIA: Oh, you know I’ll have to go for the Glittery Hooha! Okay, girls, here’s my question: In START ME UP, Lori Love offers Quinn a glimpse into her fantasies by letting him read her favorite erotica books. Would you let your significant (or not-so-significant) other read your favorite books to find out what YOU think is sexy?
Thanks so much for having me! (Pun intended.) This is one fun interview!
Bo’sun: I can’t wait to read the answers to this one. There’s a copy of START ME UP up for grabs to one lucky commenter so get to it, wenches!
In the last movie review of it I read--the movie critic being a woman, no less--she panned it that Ryan Reynolds was a Ken doll, with all the acting abilities, et al, that a plastic icon can generate. All I have to say is that bitter, angry critic can kiss my romantic-comedy lovin' butt. That movie was a riot. And I enjoyed staring deep into Ryan's big brown eyes and holding my breath every time he took off his shirt.
The naked scene is ten-times funnier than it is in the movie clip.
Now you may be asking yourself, why is the Captain being allowed to blog hotties today and not Terri, who is impartial...and not seen The Proposal. The Bo'sun is busily writing her last college paper [update: finished her paper and final and is now intoxicated with excitement] --and well, she said you can't have enough beefcake pictures of dear, darlin' Ryan.
Great news! We have two great guests this week.
Monday we welcome the awesome and possibly insane (you'll understand when you hear what she has in the works) Victoria Dahl to the Pirate ship for the first time. Victoria is celebrating the release of her second Contemporary novel, START ME UP, this Wednesday. If you haven't already, add that to your TBB list!!
Then Tuesday we keep 'em coming with the return of one of our favorites and honorary Pirate, Dee S. Knight. Dee has TWO releases this month, the Paranormal Menage Romance novella THE ELIXER in the Tasty Treats anthology and the full-length THE FIREMAN AND THE ICE QUEEN from Liquid Silver.
Who's your favorite hottie this week? And what do you think of romantic comedies? Love 'em or hate 'em?
Bo'sun edit: It seemed a shame to waste this blog after the Captain worked so hard on it. And wasting this kind of eye candy is pretty much a crime, so I'm cheating and using it today. PIRATE.
Ahoy! Pirates, welcome ta the ship the multi-talented Julie Rowe. I met Julie when I took her online class from Writersonline, Query Letters That Sell, Cover Letters That Wow and Submission Packages That Shout, “Buy Me!
It be hard to pass up a class with so much promise. And it was a great class. I learn’d how ta use the right words, what the right format be, how ta concisely sum up what I be pitchin’…it were a grand class. She had us researchin’ agents, editors, pub houses…and it all were posted. So, bein’ the pirate I be, it were handy ta a…liberate…this info fer me personal list a’ resources. (Ask me later, I be willin’ ta share…)
Julie has proven ta be a ready source of inspiration and advice. She be a double Golden Heart Finalist and her ambition is ta be one a’ the crownin’ jewels of Harlequin. She's also a published freelancer with articles appearing in The Romance Writer's Report, Canadian Living, Today's Parent, Reader's Digest (Canada) and other magazines. She been writin’ medical romances fer over ten years and if’n yer nice, she may relate her experience with rejection and revision. (It be a terrible tale a’ sadness and woe…tho she made it inta a bit a’ inspirational story.)
Taday, Julie be sharin’ her tips on how ta put tagether that most elusive and dreaded a’ all submission packages… The Synopsis! Also known as the Art of Seducing the Reader. (What? Ya thought I meant somethin’ else?)
Take it away, Julie. I be mannin’ the bar and ready ta serve up somethin’ ta wet yer whistle when ya needs it. Hope ya likes rum!
Who are the characters?
What do they want? (Motivation)
Why can't they have it? (Conflict)
Make sure you're talking about the right conflict, because there are two kinds, external and internal. External conflict is concerned with the plot, the events and the repercussions of those events. Internal is concerned with the deeper goals, needs and fears of the characters.
'Fighting an evil sorceress' or 'saving the world' are the external conflicts. Answering the question "What do they want" should address not the chase or investigation or battle, but what do the characters want deep down in their soul that will make them complete as a person. Is it love? Trust? Belonging? Security? Justice? Repentance? Forgiveness? What do the characters need to be complete? And what stands in their way? Usually it's the competing needs of another character. So, if the hero needs Justice for being wronged, the heroine might need Forgiveness for wronging him or someone he identifies with. The two needs are incompatible. This is your
Many writers mistake exciting, adventurous or unusual external conflicts for internal conflict. It's easy to do. But, conflict that's not deep enough is often why manuscripts are rejected. We must constantly remind ourselves that our book isn't about the mystery that needs solving, it's about what the characters need to survive and thrive.
Let's dissect an example. This is the 'walk-the-plank' pitch for my medical thriller, RESSURECTION:
"In an effort to create a vaccine for a lethal new flu variant, research virologist, Dr. Ally Johnson attempts to rebuild the deadly Spanish Flu of 1918, but ends up resurrecting the disease that killed over forty million people world wide. Ally has to work fast if she's to prevent this plague
from sweeping across the world again, with herself as its first victim."
Who is the character? Dr. Ally Johnson.
What does she want? - She couldn't save the life of someone she loved in the past, so now her goal is TO SAVE AS MANY LIVES AS SHE CAN.
Why can't she achieve her goal? LACK OF TRUST. She believes trusting someone else is what killed her loved one, so even though she's dying of the same disease she's trying to cure, she can't trust others enough to let them help her.
Once you understand what the conflict is in its most basic terms you can then clothe it in the setting and events of the story.
The synopsis just enlarges the story details, but it's important to keep that conflict center stage at all times.
Here are a few pitch writing exercises to help you figure out what your basic conflicts are and which story events best show off those conflicts:
Write your pitch in first person POV.
Write your pitch with a limit of 100 words.
Write your pitch with NO adverbs or adjectives.
Write your pitch as if you're interviewing the main characters (you're the journalist asking the characters questions). Keep it limited to one page single spaced.
Write your pitch like a nutrition food label.
Take your 100 word pitch and enlarge it by 50 more words.
Let's have some fun - write and post your 'walk-the-plank' pitch in the comments section. It can be no more than two sentences long and it must answer the three key questions:
Who are the characters?
Why can't they have it? (Conflict)
If you've checked out our Fore & Aft section to the left (that would be <--- that way, ladies and gent) you've read our bios. Though we've been a bit slackerish about updating them recently (we're PIRATES), there is a reference to chicken salad in mine.
Maybe you just thought I loved me some chicken salad. If you did, you'd be right (what's not to love?) But, that isn't the real reason. Hellie was referencing the blog below. I wrote this blog over a year ago and it was posted on my very very neglected personal blog. Please read, then I shall continue.
So, I was bashing my head against the monitor of my laptop yesterday.... No, I lie. My laptop was an expensive purchase. I was really bashing my head on the table top in the kitchen. Anyway, I digress. In the midst of my self-abuse, I was ranting about how I was never going to finish, how hard it was to get this out, and worrying obsessively about whether it would even be any good.
My husband, in his infinite wisdom, squeezed my arm, and said, "Honey, you know how I always tell you that you can't make chicken salad out of chicken sh!t?" As this is a common phrase in our household, I nodded pathetically, unsure of where he was going with this.
"Well," he said. "You also can't make chicken salad out of an invisible chicken." Then, after dispensing this tidbit worthy of Confucius, he went off to watch ESPN. I sat in stunned silence. This made it so clear to me! He was right of course. I can't fix something or make it what I want if it's still in my head. It was his nice way of telling to quit whining and write the darn thing down.
My husband is brilliant.
This week, I've been again banging my head against my table and wondering what the heck happened to the words of my story. I know the damn thing's in my head someplace but I've been a bit paralyzed.
This was one of those am-I-any-good/will-this-story-suck-it/I-swear-I'll-never-finish weeks. *le sigh*
Clearly, I needed a little chicken salad.
Anyone else got stuff that gets the lead out your brain? Has anyone ever had these moments of clarity? And where did they come from? If not, has anyone out there had a day when they realized again why they married their spouse? Anyone else having a "Crap, I suck" week?
Or, you have a new boyfriend and you see a movie that is so funny you snort while you're laughing. And not the pretty type of snorting, but the kind that makes him get out of his chair and not come back. Nor return your phone calls.
And also, how you can kill two challenges with one pen. My 500 words (Yes, yes!! I did it! I wrote more than 500 words this weekend! Get the smelling salts, I think Ter passed out on me.) In my defense, Hellion threatened me. (You think I missed that in Friday's comments, didn't you?)
This week's influential music is: "Pain" Three Days Grace- One X
Random music for Hal: "Curse of the Broken Hearted" Papercut Massacre- If These Scars Could Talk
I met Hellion on Saturday to partake in a movie (The Proposal- hilariousness wrapped up in a romantic comedy package). After the movie, Hellion and I walked to our cars, which were neatly parked side by side after she tore into the parking like a bat out of hell. (I say that affectionately, Hellie, because you know I adore you, but you drive like the Mad Hatter. And I always imagine you as an evil laughing pirate as you drive the blue beast attempting to take out those annoying bystanders.)
Anyway, Hellion and I discussed strip clubs.
I'm pretty sure Hellion's never been in one. I could be wrong. She is a bit of a wild child. She's writing something that has a strip club in it. We discussed the merits would be of what characters could see what and where. We discussed about lap dances and whether they are in private rooms.
When I got home, I made eyes at Mattycakes, then cornered him and asked about strip clubs and what goes on. The look on his face was priceless. *laughing* Bless his heart. I can tell by the look in his eyes, he sometimes rethinks his decision to make me a permanent fixture. It's okay though because he's a fountain of naughty information that I need and I'm not afraid to ask and hear the truth.
Mattycakes confirmed that it depends on the city. (And now in my own words) Like maybe in smaller towns, low key lap dances are done out on the floor and around the stages and the hands on stuff is done in a private room. In bigger and better clubs, it sometimes is done all out in the open. So it's safe to say, Hellie, that in a place like Vegas, it might be no holds barred out on the floor. Which means, the main character we discussed getting the lap dance in the back could be getting it out on the floor and all hell breaks loose when character G comes through the door and spies character A and character L having a good time.
After speaking to the resident male of the household, I'm feeling a little left out. Hellion, it's like we're living in the 1800's when women were sheltered from male social clubs and it was immoral and improper for "ladies" to go there because of our feminine sensibilities. It's not like we couldn't go to one and scope it out.
Okay, okay, okay. I've been to one. Don't act like you're surprised.
Though, using my imagination for such scenes is so much more fun, and a lot cleaner in my mind. I have a pretty vivid imagination and I don't need more nightmares than I already have on rotation.
I've been planning a strip scene for Sadie for years now. I know- that statement smacks of plotting and I don't plot. Since Sadie lacks emotional intimacy and hates people invading her personal space, I thought it would be great to show Sadie you don't always get put into situations where your fears are easily avoided.
Sadie puts up with Ruiz being in her kitchen butt naked in the first book. She closes up when he kisses her and locks herself in her bedroom. Only because she's fearful of losing her ability to keep everyone shut out. She's afraid to care. But what happens if she's put into the situation she can't run from? She could run but if she does, she could lose the only lead she has on finding her half-sister. The main objective is to make it a "do or die" situation. And I do love writing those. Kiki sends Ash to keep an eye on her skittish cousin, Sadie, and there ends up being a whole lot there between them in this scene. Even though Ash swears there is nothing between them- he thinks she's a whole dose of annoying and too stubborn for her own good- he's drawn to her. In his character arc I'm hoping to make Ash sensitive to emotional change, and Sadie has a lot of emotional issues. Due to, well, a lot of emotional heartache in her past.
The reason for all of this is- I want to teach Sadie a lesson about herself. And in life, we often miss the point of those lessons on a daily basis. We forget to look inside ourselves for the answer and forget to grow from the experience, choosing instead to close it off and try to forget. Writing is about character growth and the ending. What happens along the way is just a part of the adventure. I want her to open herself up and I want her to grow. If she remains in her cocoon, she'll never have wings and that's one of life's biggest regrets. You can't be scared to stumble along the way.
So today let's discuss awkward moments and how your character(s) grow from such ordeals. If you don't write, tell us a little bit about a character in a book you've read that has gone through lots of awkward moments. What's your favorite?
*camera zooms in on a room on the ship that has been decorated to look like a piratey version of Inside the Actor’s Studio, complete with pirated theme music, with the major exception of the part of James Lipton. Camera zeroes in on Edward Cullen, star of the Twilight series, who looks broody and sullen, even as he looks devastatingly handsome and perpetually windblown. The camera zooms to a close-up of Edward’s mouth, then lowers to follow the open trail of his slightly unbuttoned shirt*
Hellion: Sin! What did I tell you about camera privileges!
*camera immediately zooms out and shows the entire studio, where now a new face has appeared, of a beautiful young woman who is smiling*
Edward: *giving a shy grimace of a smile* Hello, I am Edward Cullen…
*wild fan screaming*
Hellion: Sin, I mean it! For the love of God…
Edward: *blushing* Thanks, um, I’m Edward Cullen and I am very honored to be hosting here today on the Romance Writer’s Revenge, along with our special guest, J.K. Coi, author of The Immortal series...
*wild fan screaming*
Sin: It wasn’t me. It was the Vixens.
Terri: And me too.
Chance: Ye mean we can’t do any screamin’? But she’s an author, she is, we always scream for authors…
Hellion: You’re right. Continue screaming.
*wild fan screaming*
J.K.: Hello Pirates! Is it just me, or does the ship look different from this side of the yard arm? Oh, and hey there Eddie, what’s new? I can call you Eddie, right?
J.K.: Great, thanks! You know, for an undead bloodsucker, you’re a pal.
Edward: Yeah, sure. That’s what I always say. *heavy sarcasm* Anyway, let’s get back on track. You are the author of The Immortal series. J.K.--*turning his intense gaze to her*--please tell us what these books are about.
J.K.: Oh, the books! Thank you, Eddie. Actually, I think you’d fit right into the world of the Immortals, although I can’t figure out if you’d be one of the good guys or the bad guys—then again, all my warriors also tend to straddle the fence on that one too.
The Immortals are destiny’s demon hunters. They have been chosen by the divine powers that be to protect the world from hell’s escaped convicts—demons that have made their way out of their extra fiery alternate dimension and now seek to ravage the earth as they prepare the way for the return of Mastema, the demon king.
Edward: Interesting. Immortals who protect humans from demons and other things that go bump in the night. *tilts head glamorously* Like vampires. *more fan screaming*
J.K.: Yes, as a matter of fact, vampires do play a role in some of the books. A particularly nasty one made his presence known in book 2, Immortal Kiss.
Edward: What have you got against vampires? Some of us are perfectly respectable, vegetarians even, minding our own business and not getting involved with humans—
J.K.: Except for Bella, of course.
Edward: *sullen narrowed look* Well, she makes things difficult. I’m just saying not all vampires are evil. Is there any room in your future books for a peace with the vampires?
J.K.: Actually, not all of the vamps in my world are eeevil. In fact, one of them was so mysterious and sexy that I couldn’t help but give him a story of his very own and I’m working on it now. Justice is just one of those men—dangerous, hard, hot as hell...Oh, but you wouldn’t know what that’s like, right, Eddie?
Edward: *blushing* No, I’ll just have to use my imagination, I suppose. *clears throat* This latest book—Forever Immortal—features an Immortal and a Demon. Talk about a lion and the lamb teaming up. How hard is it to make such a character redeemable?
J.K.: I think the thing to keep in mind when you’re trying to redeem a demon—or any other character who has to be transformed from villain into hero or heroine—is not to force a 180 degree character reversal. The lion can never be a lamb. The demon within isn’t going to magically disappear and leave a well-adjusted social do-gooder in its wake. I try to make the shift more subtle, to make it about recognizing a need to change, while realizing that the internal struggle will always be there. But the demon will have gained an advantage (like love) to make the fight against evil worth all the pain—and there will be pain. Because there can be no redemption without sacrifice.
Edward: You sound just like Bella. You optimists will never learn, will you?
J.K.: Right. Optimist is exactly the word I think of when wanting to describe her too.
Edward: *droll look* Moving on. What is Forever Immortal about?
J.K.: Forever Immortal has two main themes. The first is about learning to see beyond the masks we all wear, even our own. The second is about understanding that everyone needs help sometimes, and it’s okay to lean on the people that we love when life is overwhelming.
Edward: What do you love most about this book?
J.K.: I love this book for a lot of things. I’ve been looking forward to Gideon’s story since I introduced him in the first book—I loved the way he sparkled with life and energy. I also loved Lyssa’s strength and bravery, not many people could survive what she has and come out of it with their sanity—not to mention their life. This book was also exciting because it begins a new chapter in the war against Mastema (which I won’t give away here). But mainly I loved this book for the back and forth between Gideon and Lyssa. Their romance is supercharged with emotion. Anger, pain, love, longing—all of it mucho intensito.
Edward: Sounds a bit angsty—not that I would know anything about that. Is the Immortal series an ongoing series, or do you have a plan of where the series will end? For instance, Colleen Gleason (another vampire hater) had her series arc over five books, but Sherrilyn Kenyon has a Dark-Hunter series (also not a fan of vampires) and the stories and world-building are never-ending. Both are very successful series. Which is yours more like?
J.K.: I would hope it’s like both, in so much as it becomes very successful! And actually, there is a very specific end to this series—two more books that are still in the planning stages at this point. Granted, I am working on a book featuring a hero that has appeared in the Immortal series, but it will still be going off in a very different direction and the new books will not showcase the Immortals at all.
Edward: My story was turned into a Hollywood blockbuster—a freak accident really, I was never expecting that—I never really understood the draw of vampires on the teenage girl psyche. *glances up at Sin who blows him a kiss* Or even the non-jailbait variety. Why do you think characters like your Immortals are so popular with our culture? What draws you to writing about such dark characters?
J.K.: Honestly, I think there’s darkness in all characters. It’s what creates our all-important conflict and drives the story. The character doesn’t have to be a vampire or a demon to be dark, just broken and torn between good and evil. It’s an internal thing that comes in many different forms—I just use the paranormal background because it’s what I’m familiar with and the kind of story that fits my voice the best. However, as to why this genre is so popular right about now...I couldn’t say. I have no idea why the trends flow the way they do. Most of the time I think there’s a catalyst (like Harry Potter) that starts the ball rolling until something as utterly fantastic but completely different takes the stage and makes way for another genre.
Edward: *baffled look around* Who’s Harry Potter?
Edward: *shrugging* Okay. Can you tell us a little bit about your next project?
J.K.: Right now I’m writing Absolute Justice (–yes, still). I can’t say too much about it, except that...it’s a vampire book! Also, I’ve just entered into a new contract with Samhain Publishing to re-release my novella The Trouble With Destiny, so you should see the new improved version coming soon!
Edward: *reaches out and takes J.K.’s hand courteously and kisses the back of it* Ms. Coi, I just wanted to thank you for being my guest here today—even if you aren’t a fan of vampires—and wish you much continued success with your Immortal series. I would like to ask what you will be doing this summer—and also if there is anything you would like to ask our readers?
J.K.: Thank you for being so gracious, Edward. I’m sure Bella would approve. And thanks to all the pirates for having me on board today! It’s always a blast.
As to my summer, unfortunately the trip to Italy will have to be postponed. This summer is going to be pretty dull for me. Hubby and Kiddo both have two months off, so they’ll be ditching me to go to the cottage while I slave away at the day job and spend my nights alone at home—hopefully writing. However, I’m looking forward to a camping trip or two and a couple of long weekends at the beach.
So what do you all think is “the next big thing” in romance? Will we see a resurgence in historicals (I think it’s already here, actually) and do you think there can be anything new in the paranormal genre or has it all been done to death? Oh, and what are your summer plans?
Learning to write is a bit like learning to drive, I think. There’s a lot of things you have to do at once, while driving. When I was learning to drive, it took me a while to figure out the mirrors. I wouldn’t remember that I was supposed to be checking my mirrors. And of course, when I would remember, I’d forget it’s supposed to be quick glance, and start paying more attention to what was behind me instead of the road.
There’s just so many things that you have to concentrate at the same time. My first week driving, I was on my way home from school, and I got confused with everything I was supposed to be doing. My brother was fighting in the back seat with a fourth-grader I was driving home, the speed limit changed, there was a curve in the road, and my cell phone rang.
If this were today – no prob. I would have been able to yell at the kids to shut up, answer my phone with one hand, navigate the turn with my knee, and hit the brakes for the speed reduction, all without taking my eyes off the road.
But my first week driving? There was no way I could have accomplished all that. One of those things simply had to fall through the cracks. Wanna guess which one it is? Oh yeah, it would be the whole “keep your hands on the wheel to go around the curve” part. I spun around about four times and landed quite comfortably in a ditch.
There’s an analogy here. When learning to write, we’re flooded with new information. There are a ton of things to think of at once, and chances are, we’re never going to remember them all, and still stay on the road. If we try to take care of everything before we’re ready….hello ditch, and the uncomfortable phone call to the parents explaining the tow truck.
But just like with driving, all these things will eventually become second nature. I don’t go into the ditch now, every time my phone rings. But if you think about it, there is absolutely no way for all the rules and tasks of driving to become second nature without actually driving. For hours and hours and hours. Oh you can take Driver’s Ed, you can read the car’s manual, but nothing replaces driving. In Maryland now, to get your license, you have to log so many hours of driving in every type of weather – wet roads, snow storms, night time, etc. Every time you change conditions, you have to pay more attention to the road than usual (i.e., changing genres, character types, etc).
So, what have you gotten better at? What are those things that used to send you straight into the ditch that now come easier? And since every time you get good at one skill, you have to learn and integrate a new one, what are the newer things popping up that trip you up now, that you never concentrated on before?
Nice, huh? And I had to put this one in for Chance, the dog lover on the ship.
According to Hellie, the movie is great and the best parts weren't in the trailer, which is always what I want to hear. I'll be taking this one in next weekend. After I see Transformers 2, of course.
Two more great guest board the ship this week. J.K. Coi, author of The Immortals series, was gracious enough to grant us an interview and you won't believe who we lined up to do it. A new visitor to the ship who definitely knows a little something about being immortal.
And Friday, Chance brings Julie Rowe, author of Medical Romances to the ship for a fun workshop day. Come prepared with a notebook and be ready to learn. (We can't be all hotties all the time *g*)
Oh, and HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!!!!! (That's mostly for Q. LOL!)
Another lovely day begins aboard the Revenge. Sin sits upon the steps to the wheeldeck, hands on her chin, observing 2nd Chance at the bar. Terrio wanders by, takes a seat next to her.
- “Who are all those folks Chance is serving our rum to?” she asks.
- “Huh? Oh, them. Well, Chance invited them aboard, she’s gonna get them drunk and then throw them to the Kraken,” Sin calmly stated.
- “Seems a bit bloodthirsty for our cheery bartender. They deserve it?”
- “She thinks so. She’s got me convinced it’s a good idea. And the Captain agreed.” Sin turned her head and gazed at Terrio. “They be critics.”
- “Well, just because they have opinions don’t mean…” Terrio stopped at Sin’s shaking head. “OK, explain.”
- Sin points to one of the people mulling about, “That one? Called Parental Disappointment. The one in the nun’s habit? The Strict Grammarian. Him in the cap and gown? Academic Expectations. The three dressed like cheerleaders? The Inappropriate Peer Group. There’s Fear, huddled under the bar stool… The Perfect Plotter is looking through Chance’s Bar Bible, see that scowl?”
Terrio held up a hand, “Ah. Inner Critics. How the hell did she manifest them?”
- “You know Chance, she does magic.” Sin stood up and shouted, “HEY! YOU! Get your hand offa that line!” She sat down, looking disgusted, “Always thinks he can do better.”
- “Benjamin Better?” Terri chuckled, having seen the list fall from Sin’s pocket and snatched it up. “Where is Paralyzed Polly?”
- “I think she’s clinging to Chance’s left leg.” Sin chuckled. “I may invite mine aboard next week…”
- “We could take turns…” Terrio thoughtfully watched the bartender set her critics at ease, listening to them while keeping the tankards full. All the while, to the starboard side, the water boiled and tumbled as the Kraken waited for the feast…
Aye, I be a bloodthirsty little pirate writer. I admits it. Wants ta join me in this endeavor? Years ago I began puttin’ names ta the critics that plague me. Those nasty little voices that nibble at the back a’ me brain when I write.
I used ta pretend they was a useful bunch, but I’ve given up me belief in that. They all be scoundrels, wasters of time, negative naysayers from the getgo. I gots a full roster of ‘em.
There be Doubtful Dougie, who never has a positive outlook on anything. Bored Betty and… Hey! Get back here! ‘Scuse me…
- Scurrying over to the rum barrel, Chance snatches a pile of paper away from a skinny old woman. “Get over there and quit editing my synopsis, Enid. I like it the way it is! There’s hard lemonade…and I think the label is on crooked…”
The woman hurries back to the bar. Chance calmly sneaks around all of them, ankle height, fixing cuffs and a long chain, which snakes from ankle to ankle to ankle. Sin meanwhile is removing a section of the railing and easing out a plank over the water. She takes a heavy cannon ball, which anchors the chain and balances it at the end of the plank. Keeping a sharp eye out for the signal, she waits. Feeling the tug, the critics have stepped out along the narrow piece of wood...too busy natterin’ at each other to recognize the danger. Plus they be a confident mob, always sure they have a place to roost. Until today.
I do beg yer pardon. I just don’t want to miss any a’ them. Where was I? OH, ‘course. So, these be the worst a’ me inner critics. I figure they be back, but maybe they be better behaved. Some time in Davy Jone’s Locker do ‘em good. I’ve decided I want ‘em scared. I want ‘em terrified. They do not help me! EVER!
- A chorus rises from the end of the line, “Should…should…should…”
- Hands at her ears, Chance begins to chant, “LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA…”
A splash sounds from the behind the bar and Chance looks over. Sin shrugs. “Couldn’t wait, one of them started to chant ‘not good enough’ at me. I had to throw them in.”
Sounds logical to me!
Yer turn. What lousy good-for-nothing inner critic would you like to see tossed to the Kraken? You ever tricked into thinking it’s all for your own good? Have you favorite critic? Or should I say, does a favorite critic have you? Speak up, Friday’s party is on, the bar is open, the bottles be stocked. Let’s watch the Kraken eat some inner critics… And be prepared, me hearties, they be sneak, these ICs and might mount a counter attack…
This day is for Sin, for J Perry, for all of us who waste way too much time dealing with these rotten scoundrels.