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Ah, the choices!
James West and Artemis Gordon…the originals and the redeux. I admit, I’d have a hard time choosing Arties. James? Robert Conrad, hands down.
Not really redeux. I mean this is a small selection of available Tarzans. I could have posted somewhere around twenty. Very popular franchise! I posted the three I liked the most, honestly… I sorta find the first a bit…enticing. Though Ron Ely was the one I grew up watching on the television.
Now, they are remaking Hawaii 5-0. And I’m thrilled to report that the new McGarret will not be the same man, but his nephew, or something like that. So I don’t have to make a choice. Yeah!
And for Q – The angels. I was never a fan of the originals, to be quite honest. And adore the total absurdity of the remake… You could tell they were having fun making the movies, and I love when that comes through the screen…
What do you think? And let’s admit, there are so many remakes. The Dukes of Hazard, Starsky and Hutch…who knows who is next? Well, that is for another Sunday!
By no means am I an expert on writerly conferences. I’ve been to one several years ago (Spring Fling, Chicago, 2008) and found it to be one of the best writing experiences I’ve ever had. The kinship you have with someone as a writer, even if you don’t know them well, is incredible. The knowledge passed between groups, the camaraderie, the friendship- I honestly think writerly conferences are a good way to build back up some self-esteem (no matter if you pitch or not) and rekindle the fire you have for writing. You come home recharged and ready to go full steam ahead on your current (or new) manuscript. You keep in mind all the contacts you made, cross your T’s and dot your I’s and work super hard to produce. And sometimes at the end of the road, you’re rewarded with what you’ve worked so hard to do in the first place.
Work conferences are like that as well.
Right now I’m at a work conference. Not quite as fun as a writerly conference (and from what I’ve heard, not even a TENTH of fun as the RWA National conference.) but most of the time just as educational. Once a year I mingle with the state speaking to others who do what I do and work supportively to what I do. It’s a chance to trade secrets, learn new techniques and pawn off evil doings on others. (-That I’m kidding about. Slightly.) I’ve been at this conference every year for 7 years. Every year is a learning experience because the medical world is always changing, just like the writer’s world. As a writer we have to keep up with trends, remember who we’ve met, who we’d like to meet, what publishers want what and what agent want what. In the medical field, we have to keep up with ICD-9 (soon to be ICD-10) codes and HIPAA, Red Flags and lien laws (Just to name a few). In the writer world we fight so hard to keep our new stories private so that no one has the chance to flag our unique ideas and rewrite them. In the medical world, we have to fight to keep your personal information private and keep you safe from identity theft. In all professions the opportunity to learn more, progress into a smarter version than the person we were. Conferences are a way to branch out and discover new ways to reinvent ourselves (or our office.)
So, as you’ve probably guessed, I’m not going to be on the blog today but the RWR pirates have promised to keep everything afloat while I’m out teaching the world how to ice pick properly and trying not to fall asleep in the back of the class. Let’s talk about our writing in a practical sense. Have you been to a conference? Taken a class (in person or online)? Belong to your local RWA chapter? What have you benefited from getting out there and improving yourself and your writing?
We've all had our own struggles with the beginning. How much backstory, how soon the characters need to meet, how many questions to raise.
I've spent a lot of time reading recently, and there's one other factor that I've picked up on recently. The wade-in-with-floaties-vs-the-high-dive factor.
Some books start you off slow. One character, one day. You know what they're up to, you know what their goal is, and they've just started on their quest to achieve said goal. Or you're showing them in their ordinary world.
Either way, you introduce the reader to your character. You provide the floaties, point to the pool, and say, "It's warm, I promise."
Then there's the other way. Those books where you're dropped into the center of the action. Books where the characters already know each other, or where the quest has already started. This is a bit like chanting "Jump!" while someone stands on the high-dive.
Now, neither way is bad. Just like each of you had an immediate answer to the question "high dive or floaties?" We all have ways we approach new beginnings, be they books or learning to swim.
As a reader, as I've gorged myself through more Regency and Romantic Suspense than I can count, I've noticed something. I kind of like a beginning that's in the middle.
Some authors can pull off this thing where I feel like I've been placed in the action without all the messy splash of a cannonball. Where it feels like the character was just going about their life one minute, and then the next, I was in it shadowing them like a long lost best friend. There's no introductory moment. No, "Hi, this is Ashely, and she's a Sagittarius who enjoys long walks and is currently about to be in conflict with hunk next door."
Sometimes the first chapter feels like that. Like we're getting the introductions and set up out of the way. Like everything's being explained and laid out in front of us to set the stage. Every now and then, it almost feels like that character didn't exist until she was introduced on that page (if I can say that about characters who actually exist only on a page). Others feel like they have a life before and after the book, just like ours, and we were simply gifted enough to watch for a bit.
So which do you prefer? Do you want all out action, complete with the messy cannon ball splash, a gentle introduction, or somewhere in the middle? Do you like characters that feel like live on outside the pages?
This journey to becoming a writer starts out with an unexpected urge, when you set the book you're reading on your lap and think, "I wish I could do this". Then it somehow turns into, "I think I can do this". Later, in the midst of writing your first book, it turns into, "Holy crap, how did I delude myself into believing I could do this?!"
It's just like when your characters are smack dab in the middle of a hopeless scenario: you have to keep moving forward, because it's impossible to go back. You've changed. You've become a writer. You can try to deny it, or quit writing, or even take a sabbatical for weeks or years. But it's like you're a sleeper cell that's finally been called to action. Writing is what you were meant to do, and you need to acknowledge that fact, no matter how unnatural it feels at first.
There are obvious moments when you experience that "I'm a writer" feeling: receiving your first rejection letter, attending a conference, or maybe sending in a contest entry. I've definitely felt like a writer then.
But there are other times, less momentous to the outside world, when I inched even closer to "I feel like a writer". These are individual, personal milestones, so each one of us will give significance to different events. We may not even recognize them at the time, but when we look back, we see they were signposts on our trail to writerhood.
I knew I was a writer when. . .
- I purchased my first laser printer so I could submit my manuscripts
- I got heart palpitations every time I printed my manuscript and the stack of pages got taller
- I put down "Writer" as my occupation on my tax return, even though I was working a crappy job I hated
- I could finally say out loud, "I'm a writer", without feeling like I had to qualify it, or apologize, or blush
- I quit putting everything else in life first, trying to find a substitute for what I really wanted to do, which is write
On those days when I upgraded my publishing chances from "impossible" to "slim-to-none", and my heart was breaking because I couldn't figure out how to get further along in the process, and it made more sense to quit trying to join a club that didn't want me as a member. . .even then I realized I can't do anything else BUT write. It's deeply embedded in my DNA. It's how I see myself. Writing is the viewfinder I use to interpret the rest of the world, and the way I express my participation in it.
I have no doubt there will be many more defining moments – some good, some not-so-good. But I'm fine with that, because they contribute to making me feel like a writer, and that's cause for celebration.
So now it's your turn. What moments make you feel like a writer? What kinds of things or events make you feel that way? When did you know you wanted to write?
Huh, I thought, Kim Kardashian can write? When did this happen?
Well, then I immediately needed to know what famous author I wrote like. I hoped it was someone good, like Mark Twain or basically any of the people but James Joyce. I plugged in a few paragraphs of the current manuscript, and I got Margaret Atwood. Nice. I can handle that.
Of course, I wasn’t satisfied with just one response. I needed to know if I inserted another bit of my writing I’d get the same answer. (Positively scientific of me, I know. I’m just as shocked.) You’ll be scandalized to know that I did not get the same writer. In fact, I used the same bit of writing, but restricted myself to three paragraphs instead of five or six. This time I got David Foster Wallace.
I’m no longer bored because now I have to Wikipedia the guy to find out who he is. Hmm, not bad. He seems to write in a more satirical vein, so that’s flattering; however, he was also very depressed and hanged himself. I hope this isn’t something you can catch. By now, I’ve enlisted Bo’sun in this game, and she reports back to me that she got Stephen King.
“What did you use?” Because seriously, nothing Bo’sun writes is scary…or particularly psychological. Well, not freaky I'm-a-serial-killer psychological at any rate.
“My Christmas story I’m sending to Women’s World.”
You can see why I’m getting really suspicious at this point. Bo’sun’s CHRISTMAS story is like Stephen King to this thing? I start taking out all the stops. Excerpts from my first completed manuscript (horrifying, I thought for sure Stephen King on this one)—nope, I got Ian Fleming. The James Bond guy. Now that’s rather hilarious. A different piece of the same manuscript and I got William Gibson (Mr. Cyberpunk of Science Fiction. Riiight. My stuff screams sci-fi. I’ll be sure to put that in the query letter.) An excerpt from my historical novel says my writing is like Mary Shelley—that’s nice, that means I have a historical voice then, right?
Actually I don’t really want to write like any of these authors. Bo’sun said the Atwood comparison was nice. “You’re a feminist.” Yes, I agreed, but I also write like that Wallace guy. A feminist who wants to hang herself, apparently. Clearly I’m not satisfied with any of these comparisons, mainly because none of the authors I got were authors I admired. What I actually want is a database of romance novelists’ works, and then I plug in my stuff and see who comes up.
Here’s my list of authors I’m hoping would come up and say my writing is similar to theirs:
1.) Julie Garwood: I love her ironic cliff-hanger one-liners at the end of chapters. I do that now because of her (at least I try to be ironic). Rest assured that’s the extent of the comparison. I'm no good at suspense...or hot, stoic heroes. Men of few words. My men babble unfortunately.
2.) J.K. Rowling: A wild hope for obvious, sad reasons
3.) Sophie Kinsella: If I can’t be J.K. Rowling, I want to be Sophie Kinsella. Only the American version, that is if we Americans can be as remotely funny, ironic, and clever as her British version. I don’t think we can, but it’s my endeavor.
4.) Jennifer Crusie: I want to write her characters, but without the pets. Neurotic, ironic, plagued by awful family members—it’s like reading about myself really, but with far better endings. And lots of dog hair.
5.) Lisa Kleypas: awesome characterization, phenomenal sex. I’m as likely to be compared to her as J.K. Rowling, but I had to add her.
6.) Stephanie Meyers: I’m only including her because clearly her novels are compelling and who doesn’t want to produce compelling novels? Exactly. Plus I suspect my heroines sound just as whiney as her Bella, so there is a good chance this is an author I’d be compared to.
7.) Laura Ingalls Wilder: You got me. Not a romance novelist, but really, J.K. Rowling isn’t either, and since I already cheated once…. Besides the woman was my idol all through my childhood and most of my teen years.
8.) Eloisa James: Yet another author I haven’t a prayer of being matched with—my vocabulary consists mostly of 4-letter words, unfortunately—but damn, wouldn’t I do a dance around my work station if the computer made that mistake of linking us?
I could keep this list going for another four or five days. There are so many romance novelists’ works I wish I’d written or I could write as good as: Teresa Medeiros, Anne Gracie, Linda Lael Miller, and Jude Deveraux just to name a few.
So while I’m hammering away at my manuscript, trying to be myself, but in a Sophie Kinsella-Jenny Crusie-Stephanie Meyers sort of way (think of it as a homage), what authors would you die of bliss at having your stuff compared to? Whose work do you frequently finish and go, “When I grow up, I want to be like her?” And while everyone is in Orlando, what are you reading this week? Anything good? My TBR pile is shrinking and I need some suggestions. Eloisa James' new novel is out TODAY and I'm getting it ASAP. I wonder if I can leave work early today??
I was determined to finish these bad boys off this weekend. However, there was this little thing called “packing” that had to take place. Which required “planning” out a wardrobe, which led to that horrifying thing called “shopping”. Oh, and laundry. I can iron there, right?
Anyway, I kept opening the file, staring off into space, watching some television (Ocean’s 12 AND The Holiday were on - what’s a girl to do?!), and then closing the file. *sigh* I dug in again last night, television off, and got these. All input (provided it’s gentle) is welcome.
One story, My Anna is an 18,000 word Contemporary Erotic Romance I wrote a couple years ago. Time to dust it off and get her out there. Here’s what I have.
There’s nothing like raging hormones, a heat wave and a sexy, younger man to throw a woman off kilter. Throw in sensual dreams and the subject of those dreams showing up at her front door, and Anna Robinson is definitely off kilter. A repressed librarian resigned to her fate of spinsterhood, thirty-five year old Anna is pleasantly surprised when the much younger Max Collier suggests they share a private dinner. She’s repressed but not dead, so of course, she says yes.
When Anna slips and tells her man-eating sibling Max is coming for dinner, little sister insinuates he's only coming for the food. Fed up and afraid her sister might be right, Anna decides to put herself on the menu. Lucky for her, Max is only too happy to feast on what Anna has to offer. One night of heat turns into one incredible week of passion, and a new Anna springs to life. But when Max confesses it’s time for him to leave, will the new Anna be able to stand on her own, or will she become the spinster forever longing for the one that got away?
Chance doesn’t like the fishing metaphor in the last line, which is so cliché that I didn’t even make the fishing connection. Sad, I know. I’m working on it. (For the record, there is a HFN at the end of this one.)
The other, Playing For Keeps, is my Contemporary Single-Title, which is proving beyond impossible to sum up. My sad offering so far.
High school teacher Emma Dawson has a real problem on her hands, and Major League hunk turned high school coach, Nate Campbell, isn’t helping.
All she had to do was lock in the new text books already promised, but when she refuses to meet her boss’ terms, it’s bye-bye books and hello baseballs. Now she has to convince Nate to turn down his new equipment in order to get the money back.
Problem is, Nate’s not turning down anything. His boys need that new equipment, and he’s not about to give it up, even for the enticing Emma Dawson. Then again, he’s not immune to her plight either. Or those honey brown eyes.
Joining forces to raise new funds for the books, it’s not long before Emma and Nate cross the line from coworkers to something more. A something more that sparks a burning jealously that could cost Emma much more than her job.
As you can see, I SUCK at last lines. The problem with this one is that I have to go from fun and light to DUN DUN DUUUUUUUNNNNN. Not so easy.
Now, give me what you’ve got. Feel free to ask questions about these stories as I’m guessing that might jog something loose in my brain. Oh, and one more thing. Any suggestions on how to pack five pairs of shoes in this suitcase?
Well, they're not technically jailbait, I suppose, as all of these fellows are over 18. But they're so young I almost feel dirty oogling them. Almost. I mean, they're in the public domain, right? It's not like they aren't putting themselves out there for oogling.
I know all the girls are all over Justin Bieber, but really, I don't get the fascination. And he's literally WAY too young.
Any other teenie heartthrobs these days?
I did take drama in junior college and worked on dramatic readings of lines, etc. I was memorizing and watching myself in a mirror. I was never very good at it, but I tried to have fun and just enjoy the class and what it taught me about myself. Good teacher. So good, I took the follow up classes. Just because I liked him.
No, not that way! He was a good instructor!
When I got my book back from my agent, with corrections to make, she warned me about overuse of pronouns and too much passive voice. Well, I thought…OK. What do I do about it? How do I find it and what the hell is it?
(Not pronouns, I do know that much. I have a degree in language and literature, you know.)
Yes, I did some reading about passive voice/active voice. Even read Dead Reckoning’s blog on show vs. tell, which she assured me is the same thing. I guess.
Yes, I’m in a lot of denial about this whole thing. But, Terri convinced me to read the book out loud and I’d hear what needed to be tweaked.
I mean, I kept reading about how this was a great technique. Most classes I took suggested it. I didn’t have anything against the idea…
I admit, I worried a bit about how foolish I’d feel. I have a very odd bit of self-consciousness that rears its ugly head at odd times. I mean, alone, in my house? Who cares?! Like Bonnie would care…
(She actually seemed to find it a bit entertaining. The cat? Totally uninterested. But that is cats.)
So, yes, I printed out the whole thing. My frugal, environmental self insisted we do it on the back of something I’d already printed, so I had to be careful to keep it all in order. And I sat down to read. I decided I’d try 5 chapters and see how it went.
Well, I went hoarse. Tea. That was the ticket. Some throat coat tea, lemon flavored. Used to turn the trick when I sang a lot. It helped. I wondered, how do moms manage the whole Harry Potter books without being constantly hoarse?
Terri said, “Don’t read it loud! Don’t shout!”
Well, hell…it’s dramatic! My inner thespian said read it with vigor! After the tea and a hydrating shower, I read another five chapters. That put me half way through the book! Cool! (Husband arrived home partway through. He later said he had the impression it was all about sex, all the time. Hee, hee.)
I found things to tweak. Especially repetitive words and places to replace pronouns. The passive/active stuff? I’m not sure. I worked at varying sentence form, untwisted a few twisty places. (I’m hell with keeping my timeline even, ask Terrio, she’ll tell you.)
I took the next morning and entered the corrections. And then tackled the second half of the book. This time, with a bottle of water at my side.
My eldest sister has often talked of reading Tarzan to her kids on long car trips. And Lord of the Rings… Did she ever lose her voice?
I’m lucky, I don’t need my voice for much during the day. But it has been decades since I’ve been this hoarse. Reminds me of rock concerts…but no ringing ears. Or high school football games…
But the cat still seemed bored.
OK. It was helpful. In fact, I think I’m going to try this with other books and see how much I find to clean up. A painter friend of mine spoke of how painters will look at their work in a mirror to see elements they miss with normal perspective. I assume this works in a similar fashion. A teacher friend of mine said reading aloud is a great teaching tool. Well, I learned new things!
I did find that Emily’s dialogue was a lot easier for me to read. But she’s a modern woman, not so unusual. It was harder with Alan. He speaks in a more formal manner, with the educated fashion of the era. (No, no extreme piratese for him.) I wondered if the difficulty meant it needed to be corrected, and decided against it. It reads fine. I think it’s just me.
I am an extremely informal woman with my speech; to twist it in a formal way was difficult. Not to mention all the cursing Emily erupts with when having sex… I write foul language, I seldom actually use it. While Emily has a foul mouth. She was a bartender…
So, anyone else ever played with this technique? I know Terrio has, she bragged about it. How does one do this without going hoarse? Any favorite remedies for a raw throat? Play with it. It is Friday and that means play. I dare ya, read a chapter of your stuff out loud. And let us know how it went for you!
I’ve been spending a lot of time at home this summer, mostly because bundling a tiny baby and a toddler up to go anywhere is just more work than it’s worth. And considering that it’s been over 90 for most of the summer—a temperature and air quality I won’t subject my newborn to—I’ve been spending a lot of time inside.
To pass the time, my oldest and I have had to be creative with what we do or we’d probably be at each other’s throats. Something we’ve started? Daily dance parties. Helps to relieve the boredom and helps work off some of the toddler energy, not to mention the mommy frazzles. And my little man has some serious white boy moves. (Think old men at weddings).
I turn the Pop Music station on TV and we dance around like we’re extras on Fame. Good thing Candid Camera is nowhere to be found. I hope.
What I’ve noticed about our music selection is that they’ve released a lot of singles this year. There was one today by Nikki and Rich (never heard of ‘em) called “The Next Best Thing.” It was a decent song. My son and I could shake our tail feathers so it did the trick.
I figure this rash of singles probably has to do with the economy. Record labels either promoting new authors or generating buzz for a new album. If that’s the case, these songs need to showcase the best of what they’ve got, leave the listener wanting more and willing to pay for more.
I tried to think of other times in history when businesses tried to generate buzz and my mind went to the 19th century novel. Dickens, particularly. Dickens wrote many of his stories in serialization. I think that’s why they’re almost impossible to read in one sitting. They’re so god-awful long. Seriously though, if I made more money the more I wrote, well, I’d write as long as I could too.
But Dickens is also a master of the cliffhanger. He had to write every chapter like his next chapter depended on it. Because it did. If he couldn’t keep people reading, well, he couldn’t keep collecting that paycheck.
And it worked. People kept buying, they kept turning his pages. And isn’t that what we want to do too? Keep people turning those pages, keep people buying our books? (Or in most of our cases, get someone to buy our books?)
So I suggest we take a lesson from the singles and from Mr. Dickens. Write every page, every chapter, as if our next page/chapter depends on it. Hold nothing back. Because we want to push that limit, leave them breathless waiting for more.
Who do you know that’s a master of the cliffhanger? Any suggestions for keeping suspense going throughout the story, to keep the reader wanting more? Anyone else notice all these singles? Anyone else make it through Bleak House? I swear, I thought that book would kill me. (Though I did end up enjoying it. No, really.)
Please email email@example.com with your snail mail address to have your copy of the wonderful and delightful Money, Honey sent to you! (Be sure to use your REAL names *coughsSINcoughs* because nicknames are generally not recognized by the Postal Service or FedEx.)
*To anyone who looked at this post previously and thought they saw Donna's name, Donna said, "I bought this book already and Patrick is yummy, so please let someone else have the chance to win." My lucky dart found Nancy instead.
(I bet you guys didn't see that coming. I'm in a mood. Chance get the bar ready. I want to dance.)
You can’t deny that technology is all around us. Even as readers we’re beginning to feel the effects of the technology boom. EReaders are all the rage right now. The Nook, The Kindle, the Sony Reader, even the iPad… They are here to make the readers life easier to read in style. I’m resistant to the idea of holding an electronic device to house my usual paperback novel. I like the smell of the paper and ink. I like the way the paper crinkles between my fingers as I turn the page. (One thing I don’t like is when Mina decides to make my book her new snack.) But an eReader would’ve come in handy the last time I made a trip and wanted to pack along 10 books with me. Instead of packing along 10 books, I could’ve downloaded them all into an eReader and tucked the eReader into my bag.
I can say without a doubt I’m not the person to call if you ever needed your ancient VCR programmed. Or if you need a surround system hooked up to your HiDef flat screen TV, TiVo (or whatever the hell it is that records TV now), your cable box, Blue-Ray scanner, DiVX player, XBox 360 and Wii all into one TV.
Not going to happen in this lifetime.
Now, with that being said, I like gadgets and I love gadget research. This whole eReader thing has me curious. I’ve been completely against eReaders since the Kindle came out. Did you know the battery life is supposed to last for 2 whole weeks?! And holds 1500 books?! The little reader girl in me squealed in delight when I came upon that. Fifteen hundred books? Are you kidding me? And they’ve lowered the prices on eReaders. Which has me doing furious research on eReaders for my upcoming birthday and Christmas present. Oooooooh, Undead Monkey… I’ve found what I wanted!
(Besides my very own island. A new Z28 (Nevermind they don’t come out until 2012… we’re professionals 'round here.) and that S&W .40 I’ve been wanting but no one will dare buy me. Wonder why.)
I got sidetracked from my own blog. Tangents within tangents.
I love to read about new advances in current technology that “makes” our lives a little easier from day to day. But how do we decide what technology to include in our manuscripts?
Hellie brought up a good point the other day. In advances in series that are several books in (as well as SEVERAL years in the making) how do you gauge what fits and what doesn’t? Her point was Janet Evanovich has written a series where the heroine never ages- yet the series started in the mid-90’s when stretch pants in neon colors, big hair, Walkmans and the word “rad” were all the rage. How do you integrate iPods and Harry Potter references into that? The series produces a book a year. Obviously to appeal to younger audiences you have to reference gadgets and pop culture people recognize.
I’m sure all of us would understand record player, 8-Track and cassette tape references but kids now have lived in a world where they have only known CD’s and MP3’s, iTunes and legalized Napster. (Anybody remember the days before legalized Napster? Aimster anyone? Kazaa?) I referenced a quote the other day to a teenager, “Better eat your Wheaties.” And she just looked at me with a blank stare. She had NO idea what I was talking about. I thought that was a quote that transcended generations. Apparently not.
We all know I write tech inspired fiction. I grew up with a love for computers. My first computer was a Mac Apple IIe. My parents still have it in their basement. Anyone remember the computers of old days where you had actual floppy disks? Where you had to command the computer to do functions that we take for granted now? I own several computers now (no Apple which I plan to fix in the next year). Laptops, wireless servers, encrypted emails; sophisticated programming inspired me to write about criminally conscious women who use their skills to help others in their time of need. Research on this technology is one of those things you can’t stay ahead of the curve unless you’re at the forefront.
So let’s talk about what types of technology you feel comfortable mentioning in your manuscripts. What do you wish you knew more about? Any opinions about technology in fiction?
Side note: I finished reading the Millennium trilogy (AKA Steig Larsson’s novels about the “hacker” Lisbeth Salander). While it wasn’t detailed, might I say that every time computer technology gets mentioned in a novel, even slightly, I go gaga. The only thing that saved the first novel for me was Lisbeth’s equal love for computer technology and the beauty of computer specs. All and all, the second book was my fav.
I generally subscribe to a simpler point of view and while I have no problem going to my friends for help when I really need it, I also realize that as human beings, we are ever sharpening our tendency to over-complicate matters.
That said, I keep thinking about the principle of Occam’s razor which states, "Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.” To put it more simply, “The simplest explanation is usually the correct one.”
Can’t figure out why that guy won’t call your friend? He doesn’t want to.
Wondering why your son won’t leave his devil girlfriend? He doesn’t want to.
Questioning why your cousin can’t get out of debt? She doesn’t want to (not enough to stop spending more than she makes, in any case).
I know I sound harsh, but the bald truth is people generally do what they want to do no matter what words come out of their mouths. And yet we waste so much time and energy providing excuses for their behavior because we simply cannot accept that simple deduction.
It all comes down to risk and reward, I think. A person does a thing because it’s worth it for them to keep doing it. Conversely, s/he doesn’t do a thing because it isn’t as worth it. I keep having to remember this as I work my way through my life and my book.
Why don’t my children make their beds every morning without me screeching about it? They really don’t want to. My screeching is the risk they’re willing to take in order to reap the reward of not having to make the bed.
Why doesn’t my heroine forgive my hero from the onset? She doesn’t want to so I had better provide a damn good reason for her risking a relationship with him from the get go.
The simplest explanation is usually the correct one.
So how about you? To what complication--life, plot or otherwise--can you apply Occam’s razor?
Some years later, while attending a local party, the bead exchange began in full force, and again, after having kicked back some rum, I began earning beads. But not with my usual level of gusto. I had a poor attitude: boobs were boobs, and where boobs were concerned, the biggest ones were the ones requesting I flash them before I get beads. Never mind the fact I was in a room with a bunch of other people who also had boobs, and most of them had flashier ones. Perkier or more famous ones, or best of all, boobs none of the other people had ever seen. You’ll recall, I’m old hat at this, and mine had been around. I was also single and no one interested in seeing mine on a regular basis, so why would anyone else want to look at them? I was sick of them.
But I really wanted beads.
So I got beads. However, it was while flashing two of the guys I learned a very valuable lesson. The guys laughed at me. (Makes you want to run out and try to get beads with that sort of response, right?) Clearly I was annoyed by this response, but not surprised, but when the guys got their breath, they explained.
“It’s not your breasts,” one reassured. “No, your boobs are great,” the other hastened to add. Whatever. “It’s that you look like you’re doing chores when you’re showing them to us.” “You look seriously bored.”
I couldn’t deny it. I was seriously bored flashing the same things over and over and getting no favorable response.
“What you don’t understand is that there’s no such thing as a bad boob. Boobs are awesome. There is something to admire about them all. They’re like butterflies. Every one is unique.” He grinned at this explanation. You could tell he thought he was quite the poet with this. “But if you look bored showing them, that sorta takes the fun out of us looking.”
Now I share this with you not because I want to invite anyone over for Mardi Gras. I tell you because we’ve all been with our boobs a long time and we take them for granted and can’t see that they’re magnificent. We’re too close to them. We look in the mirror and we focus on the flaws. They’re sagging; they’re too big or too small; nipples too—whatever. Seriously we tend to obsess about the tiniest details that don’t matter. Instead we try to dress them up with a low-cut shirt or a cute bra. We spend lots of money on the perfect underwire to hold them up. We envy those women who are able to prance around in a tube top and have no self-consciousness at all—they look great without trying.
Stop with the envy. Stop with the flashy props. Your boobs are great just the way they are. Really. We just need an attitude adjustment. Men like boobs and are always on the lookout to admire the next great pair, which is of course yours.
Now, obviously, I didn’t write a blog about boobs for boobs’ sake. I’m referring, of course, to your novel. The novel you’re so close to that you can’t see the charm in the rakish hero or the heroine with a heart of gold. You’ve considered every bell and whistle, perhaps even a werewolf, just to compete with all those falsies out there, and I’m begging you: Don’t.
I’ll grant you that your story might need better motivation, a tighter plot, or maybe even a more likable hero. But it won’t need an alien baby or a werewolf or any other trendy, gimmicky device unless that was the story you were dying to tell in the first place. What you need is some pride in ownership. You have the boobs, my friends, and I assure you that guys are dying to have a looksie, but they’ll admire them a lot more, if you also admire your own boobs and are willing to show them off. If you present your story in the same sheepish, I’m-so-sorry-to-waste-your-time way as I was flashing those guys at Mardi Gras, yes, you’re very much likely to get a “Sorry, but your story isn’t for us.”
Show some enthusiasm, girls. As was stated in Dirty Dancing, “God wouldn’t have given you maracas if he didn’t want you to shake them!” So the next time you’re sharing, shake ‘em, shake ‘em joyously. Those agents and editors are like those guys at Mardi Gras parties—they love stories, all stories and all types, but they’re far more likely to love your story if you love it.
So, at Mardi Gras, are you as eager to collect beads as I am? Are you like me and tend to talk about your story in a “you’re-being-kind-but-it’s-not-that-interesting” sort of way, even in your query letters? Do you have any tips for being confident?
It's summer and those of us with skin pigmentation (read: not me) have been working on their tans. If you live somewhere that isn't 1934848457 degrees (read: not here), you might be spending your summer months outside. If not, maybe you're one of the folks who spends some time at the tanning booth (again, read: not me).
One things for sure: I don't care how these fellows got their tan lines. I'm just happy they went to the trouble.
What do you think?
Happy hot summer days!
Oh, and here's one for Q. Just in case he stops by.
In fact, one of my favorite creative writing projects was my senior year and I wrote about a girl who died in a car accident and haunted her still living boyfriend in his dreams. The story grew to 30 pages- accident of course- and I stayed up all night writing it. My fingers had pencil stains on them for weeks.
I spent the majority of my high school career (when I was required to write creatively) hating it. I loathed creative writing during the year. First of all, you’re TOLD what to write about. We all know I hate to be told what to do. My brain doesn’t work by being told WHAT to write about. My brain just wants to form an idea and go with it. Second of all, it has to be CLEAN writing. Anyone who has ever gotten their hands on something I’ve written knows that my favorite words are four letters and sex and murder are my favorite ways to fill up a page. And third (and just as important) really the teacher doesn’t appreciate a good effort of imagination. I didn’t exactly have the best grasp on grammar and punctuation when I was in high school. I preferred to read, but eventually you get tired of seeing all the red marks on the page with comments of “I couldn’t follow the story because there are too many characters” or “You started out in third person and switched to first. THIRD PERSON only was the assignment”. No “wonderful usage of history in your story” or “way to use your imagination on this futuristic take on our planet”.
Honestly, I struggled because third person is a foreign language to me while writing. I just couldn’t figure out the mechanics. I’m an ADHD writer. I can’t have the ability to head hop or I will opt for it and often. And I always see the story from one POV. While I know how it ends, I don’t always see what everyone else is doing around me. So I didn’t pursue it. I was under the impression that first person POV wasn’t done (and I hadn’t read any books done in first person). And since I can’t grasp third person, I told myself reading was enough.
Obviously, reading is never going to be enough. I need my characters. I need my life through fiction. I need the ability to express myself through words just as much as I need spontaneity and routine. It’s the balance that keeps me going. And finding the right way to express my imagination has done wonders for my writing ability.
So, is a particular POV easier for you than another? When reading, do you prefer to read third person or first? What do you think you miss while reading either POV?
According to Tolonac myth, a princess fell in love with a mortal, was denied permission to marry so they ran off together. Well, they were caught and beheaded…but where their blood fell the vine of the tropical vanilla orchid grew. Isn’t that romantic? (Save for the beheading part.)
It is the most expensive spice, after saffron, because of the man-power involved. (That sounds nice if you don’t think too hard about it. Man-power…mmmmm!) Vanilla is also considered an aphrodisiac.
Everyone has a favorite bit of vanilla. Some like French vanilla, some like soft serve, some like to just inhale the pure essence. It’s been a perfume, as well as a flavor of ice cream. (Obvious which incarnation I am fond of.)
What doest his have to do with writing? Well, I think vanilla writing is all in the perspective. Not everyone will write with streaks of reddish cherry swirl and massive chunks of sinful caramel and chocolate. But one who does would likely call something vanilla that another writer would view as total scandal.
One person’s vanilla is another person’s total occasion for sin.
Just like in one part of the country the lines between erotica and smut are very close and in others, they are miles apart. It’s all in the definitions, but also in the experience. And in what one likes.
If one likes vanilla…and who doesn’t? So easy to dress up with a ribbon of fudge, some whipped cream and a few toasted nuts… Maybe some caramel or banana chunks… M&Ms or Captain Crunch… (Been to a yogurt shop lately to see some of the toppings they offer? Gummi bears? Really?)
*shakes head, must rise above threatening sugar coma…
July is national ice cream month, in case no one knew.
So, not all books offer up the blood guts and gore of Stephen King or Dean Koontz. Or the sexual twister of Laurell K. Hamilton. Or the convoluted plot paths of Dan Brown. Not all characters are multi-dimensional entities that can walk between the worlds of time and space.
Conflict isn’t always about life and death and saving the world, thwarting the assassin (or being the assassin), surviving the apocalypse or defeating the biggest bad ever.
Sometimes, it’s just about falling in love. Keeping a job. Raising a child. Buying the bodacious pair of shoes the character saw in an advert! So many things that seemingly are unimportant. So…vanilla.
Yet, these books are read, enjoyed and often rise to the pinnacle of sundae-com. And they are satisfying in their vanilla-ness. I like a good vanilla story now and then. Hell, I read mostly mysteries, which are pretty cut and dried as books go. I order the same thing at Starbucks everyday. Taco Bell always sees me with the same two items… My life, in fact…other than almost dying three years ago…is pretty vanilla.
Most people’s lives are. Now, some readers react to this by craving the absolutely most outrageous plots there are. Others? Well, others find disruptions in their day to day life leave them craving something they can really believe in. The little detour and not the alien abduction.
They don’t want the triple explosion of caramel, cherry, chocolate, nuts and fudge. They want a simple sundae…maybe with sprinkles.
All it takes is for the writer to believe that vanilla is good. Vanilla is happy. Vanilla can hold nuances of snark and sweetness, depending on where it is harvested. I say, celebrate the vanilla and reclaim the word, the idea, the ice cream!
Yes, it isn’t Friday, but it’s a play day anyway. How do you like to dress up your vanilla? As a writer? As a reader? As an ice cream aficionado?
Ahoy the Pirate Ship Revenge! Thanks so much for helping me launch my beloved debut novel Money, Honey! It’s a risky endeavor, launching a career in these uncertain times. Happily, I have a sense of humor about the whole thing. You write unpublished romance novels for any length of time, especially contemporaries –the subgenre least likely to sell, WOOT!—you laugh or you cry. Up to you.
Me? I laugh.
And just to prove it, I’ve been keeping a Top Ten list. Every time I confessed my unlikely ambition to a stranger, I made a mental note of how this news was received. If nothing else, I figured it would make for a great blog tour someday when (not if) I published. And I was right!
At the Revenge today, we’ll be discussing Response #5: “It must be embarrassing, writing sex for a living.” (I saved you guys a good one. If you’re interested in hearing about the other nine, feel free to check out http://www.susansey.com/pages.php?ID=5 for details.)
So, let’s unpack this one. There are a several assumptions at work here, all of them unflattering & most of them untrue.
Assumption #1: Writing romance is unseemly because it has sex in it.
Not only do I disagree with this assumption, I actually feel bad for people who make it. And do you know why? Because the assumption within the assumption here is that sex is dirty. And that’s just sad. I mean, can you imagine believing this? That sex is, by definition, dirty & shameful? Call me a harlot, but I think sex is beautiful. Sex between people in love—or falling in love—is a gorgeous, transcendent, transformational thing. The only thing that can make it ugly is context & intention, which leads us directly to….
Assumption #2: Romance is porn for women.
Oh, heavens. Porn is sex between strangers, people. It’s purposefully stripped of emotion, connection, or context. It’s sex *made* dirty. Romance novels have sex in them, yes, but it’s sex that celebrates connection. It’s a physical manifestation of a hard-won emotional intimacy, an outer expression of an inner tenderness. And I’m sorry but that is NOT the same thing. Read Mary Balogh if you don’t believe me. She’s the queen of the Bad Sex Scene, in which her characters have sex too early, before they’re in love, & it’s painful and awful and bordering on tragic. Susan Elizabeth Phillips does a bang up (heh) job of this, too. After they fall in love, though, it’s a different story & the sex scenes that ensue prove it.
Assumption #3: I’m making a living writing this stuff.
Oh, crap, are you serious? Yeah, me & Dan Brown. We’re raking it in. They issue you a villa in the south of France with your publishing contract, didn’t you know? Okay, seriously now. I write *contemporaries.* Getting a contract alone was a miracle. I don’t expect to make any money. Not until somebody comes along and blows up the genre the way Anna Campbell blew up the historical genre with her first Regency Noir a few years back. Would I love to be that girl? Hells, yeah. Am I planning to be? Um, not really. If I’m making enough money to help out with college tuition by the time my 7 year old graduates from high school, the universe & I will be square.
Assumption #4: Writing sex is cheap & easy, and you wouldn’t need to go there if you had any real talent.
Oh, please. Like all action scenes, sex scenes are incredibly difficult to write. (If you do them right, anyway.) A sex scene isn’t just about sex any more than a fight scene is just about the punching. You don’t punch somebody because you feel like punching them. You punch them because you have a goal & they’re in your way. Sex scenes are the same way. Characters have sex because they have a goal—they want physical or emotional gratification, they want power, they want to prove something to or about themselves, they want to distract, entice, entrap, endear, connect, something. Sex gets them closer to the goal. Period. And when you write a sex scene, it needs to work on every level—the physical action, the emotional punch it packs & the power struggle. Who’s getting what out of this? If the reader finishes the scene & doesn’t see where the plot moved forward, you didn’t do it right. (Revisions! Yay!)
So here’s a sexy scene from Money, Honey to prove my point. There’s a lot more going on here than just sexual tension. It was a ton of fun to write. Hope you enjoy it!
Patrick frowned and took his first step backward since Liz had stepped out of her car. Those bluebell eyes of hers had gone all calculating, and he had to squash the heady little zip of adrenaline that look always sent racing through his veins. God, he loved a woman with a plan. Liz’s plans had never gone well for him, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t appreciate a woman with guileless eyes, a china-doll face and a crafty, devious mind.
“What now?” he asked warily.
She blinked, as if she’d just realized he was standing in her doorway, as if they hadn’t spent the last ten minutes toe to toe, hissing at one another. Then a smile curved her lips, a smile so packed with carnal promise that his mouth went dry. “Come inside, Patrick.”
He obeyed, his brain in high-analysis mode while his body was just hopeful. He fell back on the habits of a lifetime and slouched easily against the foyer wall. Act like you know what you’re doing, like you have every right in the world to be exactly where you are, and people believed you. His ability to exude superiority had bought him considerable time in many a sticky situation over the years, and he was counting on it now. Because Liz had a new angle here, something he couldn’t quite figure out.
He gave her a lazy grin, something slow and easy and somehow southern despite the fact that he’d been born in Iowa and had never spent more than a few weeks at a pop below the Mason-Dixon. “What now? Are you going to offer me some sweet tea? Because busting into your house all afternoon surely was a thirsty job.”
His breath backed up in his chest when she laid her small, cool palm against his jaw and smoothed her thumb over his cheekbone.
“You had a little something,” she said. “Just there.”
His entire system surged to attention, making the space between their bodies suddenly supercharged and electric. But a part of his brain hung back, wondered. She’d sounded like the Liz he knew, all brisk and direct, so why was she touching him like the Liz of his dreams? Something was off.
His body didn’t much care. It was still hung up on the part where Liz was six inches from his mouth and looking suggestible. He forced himself to speak, had to really dig for an appropriately amused tone. “Liz. Darling. What are you doing?”
She leaned in, eyes wide, the faintest hint of calculation still swirling in the deep, deep blue. “I’m saying yes,” she breathed.
Then she kissed him. If he hadn’t already been leaning up against the wall, he’d have sagged there for sure. He’d kissed Liz enough lately to anticipate the punch of it, to know that it would be sweet, sharp and addictively hot, that it would have him dancing perilously close to the edge of control. How could he have possibly known she’d been holding back all this time?
But she had been. Must have. Because this kiss was like nothing he’d ever experienced. It was like being there for the birth of a star. Blinding light, incinerating heat and a merciless gravity that had him helplessly circling her like a planet in orbit. He felt his arms band around her, his mouth open to the demand of hers. The edges of reality blurred, and his entire world narrowed to her. Just her. A curvy little angel with a gun and a badge who was pressed up against him and kissing him like the fate of the free world depended on making him happy.
And she was doing a damn good job, because he was extremely happy. He tried to loosen his grip on her, show a little finesse, but she wriggled against him and said it again. “Yes.”
He lost track of his thinking. He didn’t know exactly which of them had opened the buttons of her ugly suit coat, but he slid his hand inside to find her breast. She made a hot little noise against his mouth and arched into his hand until he could feel the jut of her nipple through her shirt. Lust pounded through his veins in a steady, accelerating pulse, and he brushed his thumb over her nipple until her head lolled forward and her breathing went ragged.
Which was nice, because his own wasn’t so steady, come to think of it.
“Yes,” she said, her forehead against his shoulder, both hands fisted in his shirt. Patrick glanced toward the living room, dismissed the curvy lady couch and the hardwood floor. That wouldn’t do. He wanted a bed. A big one. He slid his hand from her shirt, vaguely disturbed at how difficult it was for his body to process the command from his mind to let her go.
“God, Liz,” he said, shaken. “I want—” He broke off. He couldn’t define exactly what he wanted. Her body, yes. And Lord, that mouth. Everywhere. But more. There was something primal and possessive racing through his system. Something that made him want to mark her, own her, claim her.
“Yes,” she said again. “Yes, yes, yes.” She chanted it like a mantra, her eyes closed, her pulse beating like mad in the delicate hollow of her throat. And it pierced the fog of desire just enough for a chilling note of doubt to creep in.
It was all she’d been saying, yes. It was all he’d wanted to hear from her for years. So why did it feel wrong?
So, let’s hear from you now! Do you have a favorite author for sex scenes? Somebody who does this action-on-all-levels thing particularly well? I offer you Mary Balogh, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Jenny Crusie as my personal heroes in this category. Who do you love? Five lucky commenters will win a copy of Money, Honey for their very own!
He’s a writer with more degrees than I have socks (okay, that might be a stretch), a literary agent and champion of the Romance genre, and dabbles in acting when he’s not teaching, wrangling kids, or officiating pool side. Straight out of Puget Sound, mastermind behind Greyhaus Literary Agency, I give you, Scott Eagan.
I want to thank you so much for visiting with all of you today. Hopefully the things we talk about will give you something to think about before you head out to Nationals. If you aren’t going, then keep these things in mind before you do pitch at later conferences.
I want you to think about the concept of opportunities. Successful writers in this business not only take advantage of opportunities, but they find a way to make opportunities. Along the same lines, writers that are successful make sure not to blow those opportunities when placed before them. Unfortunately, I see far too many writers that blow those chances when they pitch to editors or agents. They have waited for a chance to get their writing in front of these people and in those few short minutes, that chance is ruined. Why? They have forgotten one simple rule.
This is a job interview.
For some reason, writers seem to believe that what they do is somehow different than working in the real world of business. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you approach pitch sessions the same way you approach any other job interview, you will have an increased chance to being successful (assuming you have strong writing skills).
Do you apply for jobs you aren’t qualified for? Probably not. Yet many writers are applying for coveted writing slots with editors and agents and are not qualified to do so. No, I am not talking about their writing ability, but the simple fact that their writing doesn’t fit with that editor or agent. Every house has a specific style and voice. Each editor is only looking for certain things and your writing has to be that fit. It isn’t a matter of it being well written, it has to be right.
Just because a publisher says they take romance writing does not mean they take it all. They have limits, obviously, on the genres they take, but there is a bigger issue here. They have specific voices they are looking for. I always say that vampires at Grand Central Publishing are certainly far different than those you find at Harper Collins. The voices are different.
Your job, before you even think about pitching is to make sure your writing really is what they are looking for. This isn’t a guessing game. Do your research.
For a job interview, you take the necessary time to get ready. You review your qualifications. You have projects that are finished. You have researched the person you are pitching to and know their likes and dislikes. You are aware of the business and know how things work with the business.
Being prepared means that you could be ready to start that day. This means that you should never be pitching projects that are incomplete, and this includes projects that you still want to send to your critique group for consideration. The story has to be finished. No exceptions.
When we talk about being prepared, it also involves knowing the answers to all of the questions you may be asked. Before an interview, you take the time to think through how you would answer questions about your experience and so forth. Why not for a pitch? There are a lot of times that I will ask authors questions about their story and they really don’t know the answer. These are simple questions about characters or plots. If you don’t know these answers, what does this say about your readiness?
What is the image you want to give to that editor or agent? For many authors, they seem to think it is only an issue of their story being good. Unfortunately, we want to know you are someone we can work with and want to work with.
When you go to an interview with a company, do you start off by telling the person you are far from qualified? No. If this is the case, why would you start a pitch session by telling the person you are terrified and this really is the first thing you have ever done, or to tell the person you really don’t know what you are doing?
Let’s try this one. When you interview, do you dress to impress? Sure! And the same goes for pitching. Care enough to show you are the person we want.
Another element to consider goes back to being ready. You shouldn’t be reading your pitch to an editor or agent. Think about job interviews again. Do you read your resume? Then don’t read your pitch.
WHAT DO WE WANT TO HEAR?
This is really simple and straight forward. Your job is to keep things simple and to the point, but at the same time impressive. If you are going to Nationals, you need to know that we will be listening to pitches for 2 hours. You have to stand out in the crowd. I always try to break this down into THE 3 B’s. THE BASICS, THE BOOK, THE BIO
The BASICS include the information we would log into the computer. Author name, title, genre, and word count. Don’t forget all of that.
The BOOK includes the high concept and a brief summary of the book. Make sure to hit the main characters, the conflict and the solution. In this case, the key is to nail that high concept. In other words, what is it that makes your story different from everyone else out there?
The BIO is a bit about your writing career. What other projects do you have going? Where do you see yourself at in the future? Do you have prior publishing credits? Again keep it simple.
You only have 10 minutes. Make the time count and impress us.
I’ll be checking in every now and then today. Send me your questions and comments and I will see what we can do.
But I finally realized this week I hadn’t given up entirely. I simply hadn’t recognized I was still doing something constructive. And I totally am.
I’m reading. I read an article this week by a famous writer—though I’m having difficulty remembering which famous author it was, Stephen King perhaps?—who, if they were offering advice about writing, what would it be, and they said: always be reading.
I’m reading all the time. My favorite part of summer vacation as a kid was that I could read all summer long. I didn’t have to do math or science or any other yucky school stuff that I didn’t care for. (My talent for the recorder in music definitely left a lot to be desired.) I had nearly three months of uninterrupted reading time. Sleeping in late and then lounging on the couch and reading to my heart’s content. Sometimes reading favorite books over and over, but also checking out new books from the library and having something exciting to read and admire.
We lived out in the sticks, so my library books came by mail. I loved filling out the form and mailing it back in (for free) and then having those books come in the mail a few days later. Sometimes when I go to the library, I still wish I could do this. I do something similar where I put items on hold and then just run by the library to pick them up—I skip a whole step of trying to find them serendipitously on the shelves—but it’s not the same as getting them in the mail.
Today I’m reading a Jude Deveraux book called Days of Gold. When I was a teenager, I adored Jude’s books. I packed them around everywhere in junior high and high school, and I got an award once that said, “Most likely to grow up and become a romance novelist” and it was presented (facetiously) by Jude Deveraux. (My friend got a hold of my book to make sure she spelled the name right.)
In the last few weeks, I’ve read the following:
1.) Twilight: yes, re-reading, but I’d run out of books to read and wasn’t in the mood for the few non-read items I had. It really does grow on you.
2.) One Dance with a Duke: a keeper, one of the best heroines I’ve read in a long time. And the duke constantly being compared to an insensitive toad, one of the best openers to a chapter I’ve read in forever.
3.) Twice Tempted by a Rogue: took a little longer to get into, but definitely worth reading. The stork analogy is worth the money alone. I am also sensing a pattern in Tessa Dare’s heroines—they’ve all got serious flaws, and not necessarily flaws that are resolved. In this one, the heroine is a heavy drinker; and in the duke novel, the heroine tended to find comfort in food and also had that tendency to nurture everyone, even toads. There was the heroine who lied constantly; and the heroine who wanted to reform everyone (except perhaps herself.) These are all serious flaws of character, I think, but you really like these characters despite the flaws. I’m used to flawed heroes and liking them despite their flaws, but I’m not used to flaws in my heroines. Not really. It’s been interesting to consider.
4.) Barely a Lady: finally a historical romance that felt real, not just a costume drama put on by modern Americans who don’t know where the Battle of Waterloo took place. It was emotionally intense; and the heroine has been shunned by society for something she didn’t even do. Truly shunned and treated horribly. It was such a wonderful change of pace from novels where the Regency heroine has sex with someone at a party and doesn’t get so much as a snub.
5.) 10 Things I Hate About Me: this was a YA novel about an Australian Lebanese Muslim girl who dyes her hair blonde and wears blue contacts—and at school, no one knows she’s Lebanese Muslim. The father is quite hilarious—and I could quite indentify with the poor girl, even though I’m neither Lebanese nor Muslim. Who knew the Church of Christ and Islam were so similar?
6.) Married by Morning: aside from the ending, it once again hallmarks all the things that make good writing: strong, sexy characters; motivations and conflict that are solid and real for the characters; and lots and lots of tension.
7.) 10 Things I Love About You: not a YA novel, and though I do not care for the conceit here and there where you can tell the author was amusing herself (but not me), I as always enjoyed the banter and the friendship that builds between the characters before they become lovers.
8.) The Royals: this was more a non-fiction like book, but I now no longer ever want to be a princess. And I never want to work for the Queen—I love her, but what a skinflint!
9.) Finger Licking Fifteen: as much as I promise myself I won’t read another Plum novel, I always seem to be breaking my promise. It was at the library and the first page caught me. (See the importance of the first few pages?) I enjoyed the novel, though annoyed by having Ranger so close and not have her indulge. Like having an open box of chocolates and never eating the bloody things. Yes, I enjoyed it, until the last page and she ruined it completely. Fortunately I have been able to block the book back out of my head because I had to go look at my library list to see what books I’m missing off this list. I learned from this book: do not tell your readers your stories are set circa mid-90s and keep using items and references that are clearly in the 2000’s, like GPS, the internet (at least for what they’re using it for is more modern), and Harry Potter. You’d think a reference to Harry would amuse me but it only ticked me off. I’ve learned I could never write a contemporary adventure series where I played with the reality of things in a Jules Verne sort of way. I mean, I guess if JE were actually writing paranormal—but she’s not, she’s just lazy.
10.) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: clearly another reread, and this one was on CD. I laughed in all the right places and cried in all the right places. I wondered if I could ever write a book so remarkable. I’m still wondering.
So that’s what I’ve been reading lately and what I’ve learned from them. What have you been reading lately and what have you been learning? Books, newspapers, your own manuscript? What?
So, I'm a bit of a recent baseball fan. The Phillies have made it to the World Series the past two years and I must admit, watching all that excitement has really made me a new lover of the game. But the hotties definitely don't hurt. On the top, Chase Utley from the Phils. Second, Derek Jeter. The bottom, my favorite pitcher, Cliff Lee, though he just got traded to the Rangers, so this isn't a recent pic.
Got any favorite ball players? What do you think of my picks?
Aye, get yer minds outta the gutter, ya scurvy dogs! There be many nuances ta the idea a’ playing wit’ yerself! Not all involve the Nasty Duck. (Just the funner ones…)
Nah, I’m talking about taking time off in the midst of the summer, which I understand is truly testing the patience of many pirates seein’ how it’s really hot most places. Now…me? Sitting in a friendly band of fog and cooler temps. (Ah, the Monterey Bay in the summer.)
Now that you all hate me, let me continue.
So, play with yourself! Take yourself out on a playdate! Take your characters out on a playdate. Toy with them! Have them do something totally unexpected that makes you smile. At a local RWA meeting a few months ago, we did a short exercise where we wrote a scene where the hero/heroine has to wear an item of clothing they’d never put on for any logical reason, ever. And see what happens.
So, my heroine is a bit of free spirit and though I can think of things she’d put on that wouldn’t fit her personality, I had to find something that fit the genre and location I’d placed her in. So, I had her get naked for the first time in front of the man she was involved with. Usually they were in the dark, or near dark. I had her strip in daylight. She’s 53, she’s not Angelina Jolie, she’s more like…Shirley MacClaine… So, I had to write all her objections, insecurities… I played with her. And let my hero ease her fears and make her laugh about all those bumps and marks and skin, etc. But later, not in this exercise.
It was fun and it made me laugh.
Granted, my entire Kraken’s Mirror world is one big twisty turvey play ride. But even within the world there is room to just be playful.
Lately, life has been tossing a lot of grey rain on most of us. Job stuff, family stuff, weather stuff…sunspots, oil spills, elections… Crew, we need to play more. The blog has fallen off a bit, and I’d like to see it return to a bit more playful mayhem and madness. Because we need this. We need to tease and flirt and drink and get rollicking. Plan playful bits of nonsense and wicked plot twists.
Sex in the crows-nest, swimming with dolphins, swinging through the air in the midst of a fight sequence. (Caught PotC III the other night on TV and the scenes where Captain Jack is riding that line all up and down and here and there above the fight and fury on the Dutchman? Fabulous! Totally insane!)
Great bit of insane play.
We all need to play more. Get out on those swings, under a full moon, with fireflies flirting through the monkey bars. And if a little bit of adult play ensues, all the better!
How do you like to play with your characters? (Sin, I don’t mean torture.) I mean playful stuff. How do you like to play? You drive by a playground and think of sweet and wicked things to do with the swings? (Sin, not as murder weapons.) You see a pair of bright red flats in the store and imagine dancing in the moonlight with a red polka dotted dress shining in the lights of the dance floor? (Polka dots, Sin, not targets.) You see your main character dropping ice cream all over herself? Accidentally biting into a habañero pepper? (No poison, Sin. Just too hot to handle.)
Friday is official play day for the rest of the summer. No serious topics, just playful goofiness! Write a joke! Write a pratfall! Write a dog that talks and a cat that talks back! SQUIRREL!
Your turn…go on… PLAY WITH YOURSELF!
Hands off my nasty duck.
I’ll go first…this was the no clothes scene…
She’d been naked in front of her husband, but that was the years ago. As they aged, those times came less and less. But now, with Alan… He stood before her, gloriously naked and she wanted to be naked with him. But…she was old! She had droopy boobs, and stretch marks and her belly sagged and her thighs dimpled and…she just couldn’t do it. He sat back on the side of the bed, tilted his head at her. Totally relaxed with his nudity.
“Last time it was dark. I want to see you, Emily.”
So easy for him to say. Sure, his body held some flows. Wrinkles, scars, gnarly ropy veins and even a bit of a belly. But he was a man. He had a cock and it was ready and that was all men needed to feel confident.
She needed more. She turned away, knowing she couldn’t hide behind the towel forever. She wanted to be in that bed, with him. She needed to be in the bed. Slowly, she let the towel drop. Her back wasn’t unattractive…maybe she could slide to the bed backwards. Not face him.
But her ass! It drooped as bad as her boobs. She sighed. The deep longing buried inside pushed her to let go of the fear of rejection and move. The last time in his bed, none of this mattered. Or in the water, at the island’s pond, she didn’t feel naked there. He’d bathed her minutes ago! Why now?
Let it go, let it go!
Holding her breath in some vain attempt to keep her flesh tight, she dropped the towel to the deck. She stepped from that puddle and raised her hands, trying to hide her belly, her boobs…she simply didn’t have enough hands.
Turning, she covered her face. She wouldn’t watch his reaction. Moving slowly, she approached the proximately of the bed as he chuckled. Could she peek? Was he chuckling at her, at her boobs, her belly, her flaws?
He didn’t chuckle, to say the least.
We’ve talked about whether we admit our writing aspirations to the general public. Some admit to close family and friends; some announce it from the mountaintops. I’m somewhere in the middle. My family and a few close friends know so it’s not really a secret. But I usually only talk about it with acquaintances if they bring it up and I certainly don’t own any “I’m a struggling artist!” t-shirts.
So what about our reading habits? All of us are romance readers. Oh, there’s probably some genre crossover but chances are that we’ve all read at least one romance novel. Probably way more than one. Personally, when I’m not preoccupied with writing or family related stuff, I can blow through one in a day. Less if it’s really good.
There have been times in the past when I’ve hidden my reading preferences. Sometimes on the train or airplane. Or when I didn’t know the people around me. I’d hide like an off-the-wagon dieter with a chocolate bar. I didn’t do this until college. Until my senior year in college, I read romances loud and proud. I didn’t care who saw me or who knew I liked them. There were even people way back then who knew I wanted to write them some day.
But in college, when I was ready to write my senior English major thesis, I approached my adviser about writing it on romance novels. I had an idea to research the depiction of women in romance novels, a topic that would mix with my Women’s Studies Certificate. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I didn’t get far. My advisor told me—tactfully, of course—that if I wanted the approval panel to take my thesis seriously, I had to write about a serious topic. Ie, romance novels were not serious or at least not worthy of serious study.
This was another time, of course. It was 1998 and the only book I had that studied romance novels was Jayne Anne Krentz’s Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women. Now, many esteemed scholars have researched romance novels and romance conventions. But then, not so much.
I needed to get out of school that semester so I ended up writing about colonial Kenyan literature. Not as much fun. But my panel loved it. *snore*
What I took away from this was self-consciousness. A sense that what I liked was somehow inappropriate to the highly intelligent. While I’d always deluded myself into believing I was a reasonable intelligent woman, now my romance novels were my dark little secret. Suddenly, I started worrying if people were judging my IQ by my reading material. Even though my books were on the NY Times Bestsellers list, I was ashamed of my reading choices or I would laugh at them, calling them “trashy” or “smut.”
That didn’t last long. As I mentioned, I see myself as an intelligent woman. In my mind, any story that makes me feel connected, makes me feel good, or makes me lose myself in it is quality literature, snobby literary folks be damned. I mean, can’t sheer enjoyment be a measure of quality?
Now I defend my “trashy novels.” I wish I could remember the romance author who said, “I’d rather read about sex than dismemberment.” That’s so true in my book.
What about you? Do you hide your reading material or do you wave your half-naked romance novel covers for the world to see? Have you ever been judged for what you’ve read? If so, how did you react? Any good comebacks for when someone insults your favorite novel/author?
Bo’sun: So, Inspector Hennessey, or Kevin, if you’d prefer, most of us pirates have never been to your little corner of the planet. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Kevin: Thank you for inviting me here, Bo’sun. (looks about with a growing frown) This is quite an interesting ship, not to mention crew here on the Revenge.
I’ve not been an inspector for a good long while, so Kevin will do nicely.
I actually have a flat in Armagh City, a nice enough place. My sister and her husband live in Armagh too. But I’m currently spending my holiday at my late father’s cottage by the sea in County Donegal which is in the Republic. The closest village is Malin Head, the northern most point in Ireland and on the Atlantic Ocean.
‘Tis an isolated area with only a few tourists. Most folks have lived here for generations, taking their living from the sea. I think my father moved here ten years ago because my mother had died and he missed her too much to stay in the old house. ‘Tis nice and quiet with plenty of time just for thinking. My father liked that and so do I.
Bo’sun: I hear you’re a loner, what’s up with that?
Kevin: And precisely where would you be hearing that? (rolls his eyes) Oh never mind, ‘tis a hazard of small town life that everyone in the vicinity makes it a point to know your business. And what they don’t know, they’ll presume, which is even worse.
‘Tis no crime that I happen to prefer my own company. Besides, there’s been plenty to keep me busy cleaning and fixing up the house and garden, and I’ve the sound of the sea to keep me company.
Bo’sun: My crack research team tells me you have a soft spot for an American woman named Amber O’Neill. How did you and Ms. O’Neill meet? Pick her up at the local pub?
Kevin: And just where did you hear such information, then? (narrows his eyes in suspicion) I most certainly did not meet Amber at Callahan’s. The publican may be a bit of an old lecher, but he runs a respectable establishment. As a matter of fact, some of the locals actually sent her out to my cottage…
But those details are most certainly not something I’m willing to discuss. (Kevin realizes he has slipped too close to blustery) However, if your research team were any good a ‘tall then they’d know that Amber does not create a soft spot anywhere on my anatomy. Ahem… (ducks his head to hide the blush)
Bo’sun: I have to tell you, that accent is definitely floating my dingy. Are all Irishmen as gorgeous as you are?
Kevin: Accent? I’m thinking YOU are the one with an accent, Bo’sun. As for the other… (Kevin is interrupted by the sound of scuffling and more lilting male voices). Well, perhaps you can judge after meeting two of my mates from the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland). This ginger-haired knacker is Brian Walsh, and the other bogger is Derek Feeney.
(Walsh and Feeney mutter good-naturedly under their breath and give Kevin a couple of slaps on the back and arm punches)
Feeney: Holy sweet Jaysus, if I’d but known pirates looked as fine as some o’ these, I might have switched to law-breaker instead of law-upholder!
Walsh: Mind your manners, Feeney, and stop proving you were raised in a stable. These lovely lasses haven’t broken any laws, or if they have, ‘tis a long way from our jurisdiction. (His blue eyes twinkle) However, if any of them like to play with hand-cuffs, I’d be willing to oblige.
Kevin: Does that answer your question Bo’Sun? And the one about being a loner as well? (gives Feeney and Walsh a baleful look) C’mon you two gobshites, the interview is over.
Bo’sun: Wait, one more question, we have an extensive drink menu aboard this vessel and like to add new drinks in honor of our esteemed guests. Okay, esteemed might be stretching it, but what would you suggest for a drink that would represent you? Something hot, I’m thinking. And no, you can’t suggest a Guinness, that’s too easy.
Kevin: Considering I’ve stayed sober these 14 long months, and intend to continue as such, you can just brew me up a nice strong cuppa.
Feeney & Walsh: Guinness? Did someone mention a pint?
Walsh: ‘Twould be the height of rudeness to turn down such hospitality as the kind offer of a pint.
Feeney: If ‘tis too easy to suggest a Guinness, then I’m thinking we’ll need to change our names.
Walsh: Too right, you be Too and I’ll be Easy.
(Kevin sighs and shakes his head.)
Bo’sun: Anyone named Too Easy is going to fit right in with this crew. Feel free to fire off some questions for our Irish boys here, and once Loucinda wakes up and drags herself above decks, we’ll hit her up on more information about this book and her heroine’s mysterious special ability.
Essentially, a young woman finds herself pregnant, broke, and abandoned at an Oklahoma Wal-Mart. The moment she walks out of that store and realizes her boyfriend drove off without her, her life changes. It’s pretty much as bad as it could be. No money, no family, no home, and a baby on the way. This is what you call an awesome inciting incident.
My inciting incident? Not so awesome. Not even the first scene, really. This got me thinking about other inciting incidents. Mostly in the hopes of finding one more subtle so as to justify my own.
Unfortunately, this meant relying on my memory, and we all know how good that is. I’m calling pirate (or maybe parlay?) and asking you all to help me. Some of these I think I know, but several of them don’t happen at the beginning and most of them are debatable at best. So, here’s the list, you give me the inciting incident.
Sweet Home Alabama
Pride & Prejudice
When Harry Met Sally
Feel free to throw in your own choices. These are mine because I’m looking for something along the lines of my story. If you can think of one closer to yours, throw it out there and we’ll figure it out together.
Join us Tuesday when the Bo'sun whips the crew back into some semblance of a schedule.
Happy 4th of July, crew!
Sorry for the hottie delay today folks. But in honor of our American holiday, here are a few Revolutionary war (movie) hotties. Something about a guy in tight pants....
Be safe our there as you're enjoying your festivities! And watch some fireworks for me!
Dedicated to Edger Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan.
Purists disturb me. (I don’t mean ya, Captain Hellion. Chocolate be a callin’ fer ya, and defendin’ the proper use of chocolate be a noble cause.)
I write mutt fiction. Mutt fantasy. There be no purity in me books. (Quit yer snorting, Sin!) Look ‘bout this ship, mates. As most p’rates ships, we ‘borrow’ from the ships we meet. A coat here, a hat there, guns ‘donated’ from others…
And I take me piratin’ seriously. So, I ‘borrow’ a lot a’ things. Now, don’t mean I ain’t an original. I jus’ ain’t a purist. I figure me books ain’t gonna find an easy home in bookstores. I can imagine the clerks, tryin’ ta figure out where ta shelf this mutt…
The title a’ this here blog be I Write ‘B’ Books. What does that mean? Well, many a’ us be big movie fans. Now, I like a good movie, but in truth, I like a bad movie almost as much. Or the movies not quite on the ‘A’ list. The ones that used ta be the second feature at the drive-in theater. (Any a’ you ‘member the drive-in?) In this modern world, I s’pose they be the straight ta DVD movies.
They be horror movies. They be action/adventure. Sometimes they be historicals or love stories. Remakes. Sequels a’ movies that did fairly well. Me favorite ‘B’ movie? It be called Deep Rising, with a stellar cast…Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Kevin J. O’Connor…featuring a cruise ship terrorized by a ver-r-r-r-ry nasty sea monster. Great stuff!
Favorite ‘B’ books? Tarzan, all a’ ‘em. Edgar Rice Burroughs was a writer a’ pulp fiction. He created Tarzan, but also Pellucidar, a fantasy set at the center of the earth. John Carter of Mars, set on Mars, ‘course. And many more. He wrote fantasy, science fiction, historical, westerns, worked as a war correspondent even.
They weren’t big books. None a’ them. They weren’t considered literature. I ‘magin ERB didn’t make much money on those books in the beginning. But he were a shrewd man and a genius at marketing. His stories fired the mind’s eye and caught the public’s heart. We all know a’ Tarzan. And they all paid off eventually, in a big way!
He just wrote, ERB. And he wrote, and he wrote and he wrote. The world he created were wondrous, full a creations never thought of. He wrote these books beginning around 1912 and wrote until death, in 1950. ERB is me writer hero. (Despite the purely un-pc nature a’ ‘is books. Let’s face it, this were the turn a’ the century. Give the man a break…)
Fantasy gave birth ta many ‘B’ authors. They do well in their genre, but are little known outside a’ their genre. Fritz Leiber, who created Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, a daring pair of adventurers…real pirates at heart! Robert E. Howard created Conan the Barbarian. Michael Moorcock brought us Elric Of Melnibone. Well, brought me a least! I love these sword and sorcery bits a’ entertainment. And a lot would argue these are not ‘B’ authors. I mean no disrespect!
I’m hopin’ ta someday be known as 2nd Chance, the creator of Miranda and Captain Reynard! And let’s not forget her Albino Kraken and the advent of the Silverton sexual adventure series! And along the side be some rough bits a’ urban fantasy, strange tales of alien libraries, the foxborn… Who knows what insanity I’ll rise wit’ tomorrow?
I thinks sometimes…what would they call Burrough’s books in today’s market? Would any editor be brave enough ta take ‘im on? Aye, they be a product a’ their time and they be flawed, but they survived. They still be in print. In a time when most wrote straight detective fiction, or wondrous literature, he wrote adventure…a man, raised in the jungle by apes. Pretty remarkable fer ‘is time!
I dream a’ bein’ the ERB a’ my generation. (Me dreams don’t extend ta havin’ a town named after me title character, as Tarzana, CA, be, but a sweet followin’ a’ fans would be ‘nuff er me.) I don’t have ambitions a’ being James Michener, Leon Uris, Margaret Mitchell…nor Eloisa James, J. K. Rowling, Lisa Kleypas. I’m not even lookin’ fer the fame of ERB. I don’t write the grand stuff. Me? I write ‘B’ books. And that be good ‘nuff fer me.
Now, what about you? Are you gonna be on the ‘A’ list? The ‘B’ list? Do yer list go further than A & B? Are ya gonna be the Kathy Griffin a’ the book world? Do ya have a favorite ‘B’ author? A series ya can admit ta readin’? Watchin’? What’s yer favorite ‘B’ movie?