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JACK: ‘ello, luvlies, it is your lucky day. Today, we’re having another Fabulous Interview with Captain Jack Sparrow. Our prize—our booty, if you will—is the delightful and gregarious Kylie Brant, author of the treasure-worthy series, the Mindhunters… *leans in furtively* She writes about catching criminals. So don’t tell her I’m a pirate. It’s just our secret. *camera nods* Excellent. Then let’s meet her! *opens door to cabin and halts* Er…what are you doing?
*camera zooms, sweeping around the cabin to show its disarray, crime scene tape, and one innocent looking woman holding a brush and powder*
KYLIE: *straightening* Jack! You were running late, so I thought I’d do some investigation and research for my current WIP. I hope you don’t mind. Your fingerprints are everywhere.
*camera zooms in on Jack’s face who looks stricken by this knowledge*
JACK: Yes, er, how industrious of you. You Americans, very, very hardworking. *removes the crime scene tape from the door and crosses threshold* Well, I wouldn’t want to keep you from your writing. I know you’re very disciplined.
KYLIE: Well, yes, I have to be. Are you okay, Mr. Sparrow? You’re quite pale.
JACK: Captain. Captain Jack Sparrow. And I’m fine, thank you. The word ‘discipline’ makes me a little queasy. *braves a smile* Let’s start the interview, shall we? Would you like some rum? *pulls a bottle from under a loose board and undoes the cork with his teeth* I’d like some.
KYLIE: *finding a cup, wiping it out with her shirt, holds it up to Jack*
JACK: That’s okay. I don’t need a glass. *Kylie gives him a look* Oh! Yes, of course, luv. Have a drink. *laughs, pours a healthy amount in glass* This is more like it. *sweeps off the chair next to him, dumping a pile of romances to the floor* Have a seat and tell me more about your series, the Mindhunters.
KYLIE: Ahh, The Mindhunters! An admirable team of some of the best criminologists in the country, headed by the legendary ex-FBI profiler, Adam Raiker. The investigators pair with law enforcement agencies to solve particularly high-profile and puzzling crimes. *She smiles meaningfully.* One might say the bad guys can run, but they can no longer hide.
JACK: So just so we’re clear, even though you’re hunting criminals, you’re not hunting affable pirates who happen to be looking for the Fountain of Youth, right?
KYLIE: Oh, we wouldn't think of it. Affable pirates are some of my favorite people.
JACK: Good. *reaches out and pulls her chair closer to him* You were too far away. *smolders at her* So the new book, Deadly Intent, you said? What is it about? And how pretty is the heroine? Does she like pirates?
KYLIE: Macy Reid is a forensic linguist who pairs with fellow investigator Kellan Burke to find an eleven-year-old girl who's been abducted. And Macy is pretty enough to have already captured the attention of Kell. He's never been able to forget the one night they spent together. You might want to watch it with her--he's the jealous type.
JACK: *appearing unfazed by the warning* You write about some interesting topics: rape, kidnapping—is there something about you we should know? *reaches in his jacket and pulls out a folded piece of paper* See, this is your biography from your website. You wrote you love to read, hang out with family and friends, exercise, and flower garden. You’re not killing your characters with flowers, are you? What sort of research do you do for your books?
KYLIE: If there are any bodies hidden in my flower gardens, you don't really expect me to tell you, do you? You're not the most trustworthy pirate sailing these seas, you know. I talk to all sorts of interesting people who advise me on plot elements for my books. For Deadly Intent, I consulted with a forensic linguist, a mask maker, an assistant director of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and a crime writing doctor who advised me on how long a severed thumb would keep--shall we say--fresh? *Noting Jack's look of alarm, Kylie reaches over and pats his shoulder soothingly.* Don't worry, I wouldn't think of using that last bit of knowledge on you.
JACK: *smiles again, taking her hand to kiss it* That is reassuring. I always think a fine fantasy life is just the thing, though mine usually involve treasure, buxom wenches, and rum, but to each their own! What do we have to look forward to once we’ve read this book? What’s coming out next—and when?
KYLIE: Deadly Dreams, book five in the series will be released in April 2011. Someone is enacting revenge on Philadelphia police detectives by burning them alive. Risa Chandler is yanked back from semi-retirement by homicide detective Nate McGuire when her prescient dreams of death and fire might be the only hope of finding the killer. In August 2011 Deadly Sins is released, which will be Adam Raiker's story. Someone is targeting high profile people in Washington, DC for murder and suspicion falls on Raiker and his team.
JACK: Serial killers? Really? How do you sleep at night? *takes a drink of rum, then pauses to pour more rum for Kylie* Never mind. Let’s move on. What is your Call Story? That’s always fun and upbeat and doesn’t involve dead bodies.
KYLIE: *smiles blandly* I sleep fine, Jack. And I don't think I dare ask about your night time activities. *She sips daintily from her slightly grubby glass* My call story? My, that's ancient history. It so happens that I was home in bed-- *She frowns at the immediate look of interest on his face.* --in bed sick with laryngitis. *She pauses to enjoy his crestfallen expression.* The phone rang and it was Leslie Wainger's (senior editor for Silhouette) assistant on the phone. She'd been searching for my contact information since apparently I had neglected to include that in my cover letter. The assistant told me that Ms. Wainger was reading my manuscript as we spoke and would be calling me in the next hour or so. She went on to say that she was excited because she'd found me herself in the slush pile. Now I was too ignorant to know what a slush pile was, and besides, I thought she'd said flush pile, which didn't sound like a good thing at all! After I hung up I started to question whether I'd dreamed the whole thing. Had the assistant really called or had it been the result of a Vicks Vapo-Rub hallucination? It was a few hours before Leslie Wainger did, indeed call and offer me a contract for the book. When she discovered that I could barely talk she offered to call back in a couple days but I wouldn't let her hang up! I managed to croak out my acceptance and so launched my writing career.
JACK: Ms. Brant, Kylie, I can call you Kylie, right, luv? It has been my esteemed honor to host you today here on the ship for another edition of *turns to camera and grins* Fabulous Interview with Captain Jack Sparrow. I hope your Mindhunter series grows even more popular and successful. Is there anything you’d like to say to the crew? Any last recommendations or advice?
KYLIE: Thanks for 'having' me, Jack. *She smiled sweetly at his quick look.* It's been...surreal. I wish I could say I hope to meet again, but I'm very much afraid if we do, it might involve handcuffs, and I'd certainly hate to be the one to put you behind bars. So I've got a bit of advice for you and your crew. *She leans forward and drops her voice conspiratorially* Always use gloves, luv. This place is lousy with prints, and you and your crew all have records in the system.
JACK: Okay, crew, you heard her--start wearing gloves, for crying out loud. In the meantime, let's parlay: are you avid fans of crime shows? What is your favorite? Do you also like to read books of romantic suspense? In your current WIP, do you have a villain, and if so, how would you profile him/her?
Oooh, good choice, Gerard. Dracula is always a classic. Never goes out of style.
What's that, Alex? Another vampire? I don't care what anybody says, vamps are hot, every day of the year.
Of course a rock star costume, well, it rocks. But only if you have the right accessories. And Lenny is ALWAYS the right accessory.
The Tudor look is also a great go-to costume. I mean, just look at Henry's. . .boots! They go perfectly with that sword. (I'm talking about the one with the handle.)
So, I know the first thing I must do is make certain the ninja pirate in the crowsnest raises no alarm, or plants one of those pointy stars in me!
*pulls the pin on a gas grenade and tosses it easily into the crowsnest
There, that ought to do it. Nothing terribly drastic, but it will keep her and her companion stay abed long enough for me to handle the rest. Now, the captain’s cabin… How nice, she’s already tide up the chatty Captain Sparrow!
“Shhhh! I mean no harm here, Captain Hellion…”
*handily sees Captain Hellion lightly bound and carries her out to the deck. One by one the other pirates are rounded up and carefully bundled, brought out to the deck and set before Chance’s makeshift bar. The sun is rising before the task is done.
Blury-eyed, they focus on me as I pull out a small crate and perch upon it. Leaning forward, I speak softly. “I’d like to keep this chat quiet now, see if we can leave my author’s alter ego, 2nd Chance, out of this for a few hours. I promise, no violence.” I reache out and gently loosen the gags, so that they fall away.
“Where is Sin, what have you done with her?” Hellion demands.
I smile crookedly. “Now, I’ve done nothing but sin, according to many! But you mean your quartermaster. She’s simply napping under a light cloud of sleeping gas. She won’t be harmed by it, I assure you. I am a gentleman.”
Dead Reckoning eyes me closely. “I know you!”
“Yes, I imagine you all know me. Or know of me. I am Captain Alan Silvestri, the star of The Kraken’s Mirror and though your 2nd Chance may take credit for creating me, all she’s truly done is bring me out of the twilight of ‘might-have-been.’ I’m very thankful and in truth, am here in an attempt to do her a favor.”
“That’s why she’s snoring behind the bar instead of sitting on the cold deck, hands tied?” Bo’sun Terrio glares quite fetchingly.
“Yes, and I’m well aware of her internal clock being set to west coast time. I assume we’ll have a few hours to discuss her problem before she wakes and set you all free.” I take a deep breath. “Let me explain. For several weeks now, she has been moving forward with the second book of her series at a glacial pace. She’s worked out some of the greater issues and is ready to dive in, and fly to the finish. It’s a darker tale than mine, but worthy of being told.”
I look away, smiling. “In fact right now she has me and my Emily snug in her small cabin, energetically driving away the dark and enjoying each other… I have no objection to being left there for many, many, many pages.”
“Then what’s the problem?” Haleigh squirms. “I need to pee.”
“Ah, a woman in your condition has certain privileges. Let me untie you and help you to your feet….” All of them are sweet woman and I assume due to their mate’s condition none on them attempt to overpower me while I am in their midst. I know simply binding their hands before them won’t keep them still for long.
Hal thanks me sweetly and moves to the privy.
“Let me continue. Her difficulty involves the argument taking place in Captain Jezebel’s cabin, between her and Mick. It’s been going on for hours now and she’s written of the effect on the rest of the crew, how it distresses Emily. But has only stuck a single foot into the cabin to deal with the actual recording of it. I understand it’s a vitally important argument and she wants to get it just right…”
I smile as Haleigh returns and pulls up a barrel to perch upon. By now the rest are intrigued, untying each others wrists, they stretch and yawn, keeping a sharp eye on me. I am, after all, the only one armed. As if I’d draw weapons on any of them! I just hope the tripwire I set near the crowsnest offers enough warning to keep Sin from acting with some quick bit of violence at me.
“Arguments aren’t easy to write,” Marnee comments. She tilts her head at me. “Is this the final argument before the big reveal and reconciliation or the one that sets up the bigger mistakes to come?”
I consider a moment. “I believe it is the biggest real argument they will have, but it won’t clarify anything. She means it to set in motion the realization that these two understand more than they know, they just don’t know how to get past what they don’t know or are simply mistaken about.” I shake my head. “Sometimes her prose confuses me…”
“It’s going ta answer most questions but open the floor fer another round, more important questions. Like whether they can survive Jezebel’s past… Silvestri, what the hell are ya doin’?”
Chance shuffles from behind the bar, her bright yellow footwear distracts me a moment and all I can do is stare.
“What? Never seen Grimm from the comic pages!?” She snorts. Running a hand through her messy hair she glares at me again. “I told ya I’ll work it out!”
I nearly laugh, her hair is now standing up like a rooster’s comb. But I do want to remain in that cabin with Emily, so I stifle myself. Instead, I turn to the crew, on their feet now and watching the play between Chance and I.
I need all my charm now…
“Tell us, ladies, how does one write a bitter argument, full of constant misunderstandings, moments of deep clarity and end it on a note of sorrowful resignation? Yet a seed of hope remain? Is there a secret you’d like to share?”
Well? How do you write arguments?
My son was christened last weekend.
I attended a pretty standard Catholic school. I’d heard the story of Adam and Eve more times than I could count. I’ve read Genesis along with the rest of the Bible (standard part of the curriculum at my college). Heck, our fair Hellion is writing about the First Couple, per se. So, I’m familiar with the story.
But during a pre-christening meeting, our pastor claimed he always saw “Original Sin” as less like the Garden of Eden and more like Operation Entebbe.
A little background, for those unfamiliar. In 1976, an Air France flight was hijacked. The hijackers rerouted the plane to Uganda, where a sympathetic president gave them amnesty. The hijackers released all non-Jewish folks and held the Jewish, claiming they would kill them unless Israel submitted to their demands. But instead of giving into their demands, Israel sent a group of commandos that eliminated the hijackers--Operation Entebbe--with only minor casualties.
The pastor said when he thinks of original sin, that he doesn’t think of the timid version in the Bible, the apple, the snake, etc. He thinks of it like the hijackers on that plane. An insidious evil, intending to do harm, intending to enforce its will upon something else. And he thinks of baptism like the Israeli commandos, the thing that’s going to come in and wipe the slate clean.
He said that what God did, by sending Jesus, would be like if I was on this plane full of bad guys and they said to me, “We’ll let everyone go if you just give us your son to kill.” He asked me if I would be able to sacrifice my son to save many others. I answered honestly, told him that I couldn’t. I’d go myself, but I didn’t think there was anything that would make me give up either of my sons.
I’m not sure if that makes me a good person or a bad person. I’d like to think that I’m a good person, that I’m loving and charitable. But when he put it like that, if I would give up what I prized most—these little people who completely trust me—I realized that I might be “good” but I’m not that “good.”
And worse, I am not sure I want to be that good. Do I believe that the rest of those people's lives—just because there are more of them—are somehow more valuable than my one son or even both of my sons? Do I believe that sort of sacrifice would make a difference in the “hereafter?”
I got his underlying message, but I’m still not convinced the correlation worked and I’ll leave you out of my personal spiritual questioning beyond this.
However, I can’t help but think that my questioning of these sorts of things, the way I view God and all that is spiritual, helps to define me. Yet I don’t think once in my years of writing that I've stopped to think about my character’s spiritual development. Even when I was writing my last book—with angels and demons and all kinds of religious stuff—I didn’t go near their own personal spiritual quests.
I had to ask myself why. Is it that I’m afraid of turning readers off? Spirituality is a very touchy thing in this PC age. Or was this something more personal to me?
I don’t know.
But I could see how a characters belief or disbelief in a higher power might change their outlook on the world. Might make them even question their ability to love and be loved. Maybe it would even make them question whether loving at all is worth it.
So, pirates, a very deep subject for you. Do you think about your characters’ spiritualities? How do you think pluming spiritual depths might affect your characters’ motivations?
And lest it seems I am being overly greedy with an entire month rather than one measly day, consider this: you don't have to buy my present for a specific day that might be inconvenient for your schedule. YOU HAVE ALL MONTH!
So what presents do you get for a writer?
Well, besides the obvious gift this year – an e-reader – here are a few things you might want to consider when it's time for your Birthday Month.
1) Bookstore gift cards – No matter how many books a writer owns – it's never enough. A writer lusts after books, whether it's the ones they can't have, or the ones that got away. They need to read them as research for a book they're writing, or as market comparison for their genre.
Reading also consoles a writer when their own writing isn't going well, and it fills their writer's soul when they're exhausted from pouring words onto the page.
Sure, writers can go to the library, and we do – but it's just one more deadline to keep track of. (Somebody should invent a prepaid library-fine card—talk about an awesome gift for writers. I know I could use a few *cough* hundred *cough* of these.)
The gift card also benefits bookstores, which means your one gift does double duty, supporting writers, booksellers, and heck, the entire economy. Now that's a gift!
2) More time to write – Right now I have the opportunity to write at whatever time of day pleases me. But it hasn't always been that way, and it may not stay that way. Too many writers try to squeeze writing in at the end of an exhausting day (been there), or they attempt to get up at an hour when us nightowls are finally calling it quits (done that).
When someone says, "I don't know what to get you for your birthday", ask for a set amount of time to be free of your duties, to your kids, your mate, your housework tasks. I'm serious. Tell them you want to put writing at the top of your Absolutely Must Do list. It doesn't matter that you think of it as a treat, not a chore. Do what you have to do to receive this gift. Hopefully it'll be wrapped up in Peace and Quiet, and be tied with a big pretty bow made of Guilt-B-Gone.
But for those of you who insist on believing you couldn't, or shouldn't, ask for something like this, I would like to remind you of a couple of things. One, it removes a lot of burden from the gift-buying members of your inner circle. They've known you a long time and it's getting harder to find a gift for you. They're stressed trying to find something you MIGHT like, so they finally just grab something. Then you're stressed because you have to take that sucker back while pretending you kept it and love it. . .So skip that step. Remove the stress, for both of you, and get something you really want.
Two, if you don't let everyone know how important your writing time is, they won't know how important your writing time is. This is a good way to let them understand writing is more than that little thing you do once you're done taking care of everyone else's needs. You're not being selfish. You're giving your loved ones a genuine opportunity to expand their compassionate nature.
3) Writers' get-together – Yes, we get together online every day and yak and chatter and gab and you'd think that would be PLENTY, especially for people who profess to like their characters way more than the folks they see in real life.
But sometimes you need to see writer friends IN PERSON, to talk about books you've read, books you NEED to read, books that make you want to quit writing, and books you're going to buy with your new gift cards. It's deeply soul-satisfying to talk to writers who empathize with how hard it can be to write, and how much harder it is to NOT write.
Maybe a writer's get-together could be an afternoon at a coffee shop if you're lucky enough to have writer friends nearby. Or maybe it's something bigger, like a local RWA conference. Or even Nationals.
This is a gift that most people will not ask for, because "it's too expensive". If your best friend wanted a writers' get-together more than anything else in the world, would you try to give it to them? Then why not give it to yourself? This is also a gift for your friends, who will be thrilled at the opportunity to hang out with YOU. So if you don't meet with them, NOW who is being selfish?
Discover what inspires you in the great times, and keeps you going through the tough times—whatever it is, THAT is the perfect gift. Then, ask for it, or get it for yourself. You, and your writing, deserve nothing less.
I'd love to hear your writerly gift ideas—the ones you've received, or gifts you plan on giving, or even things you want to add to your wish list. Inspire us!
There, I think I got the facts straight this time. Now, back to the blog already in progress.
Before you run for another blog, this is not about politics or elections or this crazy tea vs. coffee party stuff. (Though I’d love to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity. Just sayin’.)
This is a sort of favor to a loyal lurker though she’s really doing me a favor since I had no blog topic for today. If you were around for our Open Letter to the Lurkers blog, then you might recognize the name Maria Zannini. She came out of lurking that day and even won herself an Amazon gift card for her troubles.
Off to the makings of a solid epublishing career, Maria has set her sights on a contest that could move her into traditional print and I think we should help her. You may have heard of the Romantic Times Great American Title contest. (I hope that’s what it’s called. I’m not doing a lot of research for this one. Have I mentioned I have a million things to pack before Friday?) Anywhatsit, this time around they are having a First Paragraph and Last Line contest. This contest runs for five months with several rounds and in the end, the last author standing will win a contract with Kensington.
That is one damn cool prize.
Maria has an entry in the running and to make it all the more perfect, it’s a sexy pirate paranormal. I mean, it’s like she wrote about us. (Slight exaggeration but go with me on this.) Her entry is called MISTRESS OF THE STONE and though I voted for it before reading all the entries, I totally would have voted for it no matter what. IMO, it’s the best one in there.
Here are the links.
The story is here. (Hers is the last story on the page.)
A bit about Maria is here. (She was BLIND! She deserves your vote.)
Maria’s blog is here. (I like the look of the place.)
The link to her latest e-releases is here. (Check out the cool pirate chick!)
For the sake of full disclosure, in seeking out all these links I realized that doing this blog qualifies me to win a prize. I know pirates are not always known for their honesty, but I swear on me Bo’sun whistle I did not know a thing about her “mention me and win” contest until after I put this together.
Now, who among us would take a shot at getting pubbed in this way? Would you have the guts to put your stuff out there? How are we doing on the GH entries? (I’ve done nothing but as soon as these damn boxes are unpacked I’ll get to it!)
PS: I’m not a fan of the snarky comments of the “guest judge” so consider yourself warned. I’d skip them if I were you.
Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of tricky parts: finicky materials that unravel at the slightest provocation, picky patterns, and obscure directions about how to assemble the whole thing. But I’ve managed (some more successfully than others) all these things, and really if you look for the heart of the problems I have, it always comes back to the %#(*(!@*#( tension.
When you’re sewing, there is a top and bottom thread; the bottom comes from a bobbin, and the top comes from the spool that’s been threaded through the top of the machine. The needle pushed the top thread through and catches the bottom thread and pulls it up. And somehow it weaves and holds the material together. (That part is always quite magical, so that’s the best I can tell you.)
When I’m sewing, it’s always, always the tension that makes me want to thrash around on the floor in rage. My threads are always getting tangled; and the bottom threads always look like a tangled mess. Sometimes I don’t mind so much because if the threads on top are what people will be looking at, I’ll leave it go and let the underside look like crap and move on. However, right now I’ve been sewing things on the backside of the material and the threads that will be showing are the ones beneath—the tangled, gnarly ones. I was ready to set the thing on fire. I’ll just go as a homicidal maniac for Halloween; it’s fine. (Except I pretty much go to work daily as a homicidal maniac and I’d prefer to dress up for Halloween.)
So I dug out my sewing book. There was something that was nagging me. Something about the underside threads being gnarled, then it was your topside tension you needed to fix. I found it; and I was right. So after a few minutes of trying to figure out where the topside tension button was located, I reset it to something else and gave it a test drive. The stitches were as neat on the underside as they were topside. The tension was finally balanced.
I rather wish I had a tension button to push in my manuscript actually. Wouldn’t it be neat if it were that easy? If sexual tension was the topside tension; and the bobbin provided the plot/goal tension (will hero/ine achieve their goals?), it does seem there is a fine balance between showing the reader these two are destined for each other and desperately want each other, while also accomplishing their goals (while making the reader wonder how they will do so). But if you focus the tension too much on one side or the other, it’s going to get tangled, knotted, and nothing you’d ever want to show anyone. And you might not end up with anything to show everyone on Halloween (deadline) if you don’t fix the problem and the machine breaks entirely (or you get frustrated and quit).
You can always see where plot and sexual tension collide badly. Because you notice it and it seems out of place. Like in action/adventure movies, where the hero and heroine are getting to the climax of the show, they’re in the MOST DANGER, and suddenly the hero—who hasn’t shown much sexual interest in the heroine before now—turns and kisses the heroine like he’s trying to floss her teeth with his tongue. Right there, while the bad guy is holding a gun. Really? Is that the time?
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, we’ve been waiting for 7 books for Ron and Hermione to get together. There have been some very close calls where you think they will never be together. And then, right as Voldemort is breathing down their necks, they’re trying to find the last horcux, and they’ve only got a few more minutes before the war begins, Ron says something about freeing the house elves from Hogwarts because he didn’t want another Dobby. Hermione launches herself at him and starts kissing him. He drops everything and kisses her back. Harry rolls his eyes and says loudly, “Is now the time?”
That one works for me—but Rowling spent a lot of time setting up tension between Ron and Hermione. And also the bad guy isn’t in the same room with them at the time, holding a gun (or his wand).
Granted, novels have the benefit of internal monologue that movies don’t get to have, but there have been movies that have had both and it works fine. I don’t know…it’s magic, maybe, being able to make something that should be a cliché and make it seem new and natural.
How do you balance the sexual tension and plot suspense in your novel? Do you tend to have better tension one area over the other? Is this one of those things that works better in the revision phase?
Or maybe because it gives us a chance to inspect the goods that aren't on display--just yet.
In any event, here's some photographic evidence to help us determine what makes us smile when we see a Hottie's bare feet.
I’m gonna be upfront right away with this. I suffer from chronic depression. Now, it’s not a massive tragedy. It’s just part of my chemistry and how the course of my life sails. Please, no sympathy!
I was discussing this bit of information with two different friends a few months ago. Each of them had a very different reaction.
One implored me to fight this thing! To take whatever medication was out there to bring me out of bad days. She don’t believe in having bad days. Putting up with bad days or tolerating the bleak times. She’s a common sense woman, and time is not to be wasted on the lack of focus and drive a bad day brings.
Bad days. They happen.
Days when I seldom write. Days I can’t even imagine going anywhere with stories, characters. But I do find I can get things done. Good days to do research into blogs, play with images, or organize some around the house. Not a whole lot, when I’m in the midst of a bad day, little gets done. Maybe laundry. Or dishes.
But, these are just days. And I know enough about my own malady to see them as simply days. When I do write on bad days, I work on hard subjects. A character’s fear of intimacy. Like Ivy and her hopelessness at the loss of her daughter, her anger at the survival of her rapist… Or a husband’s betrayal for another character and how it drives her lack of trust. So many characters to torture!
On good days, I read sections I wrote and I can sense where I was that day. I make good use of my blue days.
Hey, I play to my strengths, whatever they are from day to day.
So, I love this friend who pleads with me to leave the bad days behind, but I know they are productive days. Just not always pleasantly productive. She worries about me and it’s difficult. Because days like this can also make me chatty about my woes. So, naturally, she wants to comfort me.
But I can use that also.
Good times to write of angry characters, ugly characters. I tend to vent a great deal on these days. I imagine nasty things happening to people I don’t like dealing with. I create wonderfully dire happenings, play with black humor and nasty ends.
I use my black days. I just work very hard at keeping them to simply days, and limit them. I find if I really dwell on the dark stuff, I eventually get bored with it. And lighter days dawn. I work on convincing my friend that these aren’t necessarily bad days, just dark days.
(Wait, I called them bad days earlier. Well, I could go back and replace, but use the word that works for you.)
My therapist is much more pragmatic. Her take on depression involves taking advantage of these days to nurture the soul. To acknowledge the special needs of that day. A good day to take it slow, to allow myself the luxury of some self-pity, some tears and being self-centered.
She counsels me to pay close attention to myself on these days. Therapists, gotta love ‘em!
My other friend sees it in similar ways as my therapist. We all have bad days and you just sail with them. The trick is to not let them use you as a club to beat at innocent bystanders. Or, let’s face, even the guilty. (Oh, how I’d love to let lose on some people in my life and totally ream them…but it wouldn’t do any good. Wouldn’t really make me feel any better in the long run and would just make more problems when it comes to mending bridges.)
So, blue days are about keeping the mouth shut, save for on paper. Fiction paper! Because blue days don’t last and trying to reach across a chasm you caused when feeling blue can just toss one back in the chasm all over again. (Great way to create conflict for a fictional character though…Hmmmm!)
It’s a real balancing act. Or not so much an act as a lifestyle. Staying aware of how mood affects the day to day stuff, including how characters develop and how they react. On a good day, a pivotal conversation might result in thoughtful decision making and studied actions. (Or something wonderfully clever and witty. From the best days, let’s face it.)
On a bad day, this same conversation may result in a blazing bitter argument and a mad dash straight into the lion’s mouth.
I’ve said it many times, writing is therapy. The trick is in using it to write good stuff. A bit like running with your strengths.
What do you find? Bad days see you slice and dice more than usual? Or does your heroine sob in a corner? Are you aware of how your overall chemical mood affects your writing? Or do you rise above it, ignore the clamor of anger, blues, upset? I mean, let’s be honest, we all deal with ups and downs as we write… What’s your story?
But then I was reading this book last night on teaching the process of writing (I won't bore you with the details) and I came across an amazing analogy. The author suggesting taking writing advice and craft advice as a heuristic:
A heuristic procedure is an informed method of trial and error--it's a strategy, not a recipe. Mathematician George Polya's 1945 book How to Solve It popularized heuristic as a method for problem-solving, placing value on such notions as determination and discipline ("Willpower is needed that can outlast years of toil and bitter diappointments") along with more concrete strategies (such as asking, "Did you use all the data?" and "Do you know a related problem?")
It's a strategy, not a recipe.
What a way to think about my writing process! A strategy is, at is heart, an idea. Something we're going to try, to see if it accomplishes our goal. Think about it -- if you're creating a strategy, you're coming up with a game plan. It usually involves the expectation that it will not completely and fully succeed. We come up with contingencies: "If XYZ doesn't work, then I'll try...." It's full of Plan B's and Plan C's, and leaves fully open the possibilities of gathering more advice and ideas if the current plan isn't working. It implies you're consulting a compass which can only tell you the direction you're heading in, not the destination.
A recipe, on the other hand is a static thing. It's been tried and proved, and it's someone else's creation. It's written in absolutes, and it's written in the second person (Put the butter on the bread, which is grammatically commanding, You put the butter on the bread, which, when you think about it, takes on creepy Silence of the Lambs undertones. It puts the lotion on the skin . . .)
My point here, is that when a recipe fails, I assume it's because I didn't properly follow it. That I need to limit my mistakes and follow the proven instructions more carefully. When a strategy doesn't work, we widen our focus, look for other ideas and information and paths.
A recipe we can use over and over, always producing the same result. If we're planning a strategy, we need a new one each time. We create a new one, based on what we learned last time and new things we've learned since. We don't know exactly what path we'll end up taking this time, but we have confidence we'll get there, because we eventually got there last time.
I love this idea, that instead of taking craft advice as a commandment of what we shall do to achieve a set result, we take craft advice as an option we can add to our strategy by which we plan our path from where we are (an idea) to a destination (a bright, shiny, finished novel).
How do you see your writing process? Something that works better if you stick to it tightly and try to figure out the "best" way to get there? Or do you think of it more as a strategy? A trial-and-error set of ideas that you hope will help keep you find your path as you're on it?
It's put a lot of unnecessary pressure on me, until I finally realized what was wrong: I was thinking too far ahead.
I was trying to PLOT, rather than PANTS.
If there's one thing I know about myself, it's that I can't plan things more than a few days ahead of time, and even when I do, it's gonna be in pencil—while I'm brandishing an eraser in my other hand.
That's when I realized I needed to call upon a higher power: The Power of Procrastination. It's often characterized as the ugly stepsister of Avoidance, and I will admit I've helped to keep that notion alive. But I wonder if I've been a little too harsh.
After all, what is Procrastination but Avoidance allowed to roam free?
Let's take a peek at some famous procrastinators:
Scarlett O'Hara: "After all, tomorrow is another day"
Mark Twain: "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow"
Lil Orphan Annie: Honestly, is there anybody who could love "tomorrow" more than this gal?
What do they all have in common? They have a deep-seated, unshakeable, abiding belief that there is PLENTY OF TIME.
Yes, procrastination is a hope-based philosophy. Optimism is the cornerstone of this belief system, along with faith that time won't run out before we finish what we need to do. . .some distant day in the future.
Ironically, even though procrastinators believe there is plenty of time, we are actually given LESS time than that allotted to non-procrastinators. But we don't let that bother us. Why? Because we know that our efficiency and productivity kicks in whenever there is a "last minute".
We like residing on that tiny ledge that is crumbling into the abyss. It revs us up and sparks our creativity. We're adrenaline junkies, thrill seekers, addicted to the mania that comes with accomplishing something in record time while everyone around us is having panic attacks thinking we waited too long.
If there's anyone that knows how to ratchet up the suspense. . .it's procrastinators.
Yet somehow, miraculously, with hosannas from heaven above, we get it done. Because there was actually plenty of time to accomplish WHAT HAD TO BE DONE.
We didn't get distracted by all the possibilities, the paths not taken, the meanderings that might have been fun but ultimately would have paralyzed us because there was too much to choose from.
Instead, with the clock ticking, we used our laser-beam focus to concentrate on the essentials, those things that could not be ignored, and it was a bright light guiding us to our destination.
So how do we make procrastination work as a writing tool? Here are a few suggestions:
- Set a deadline. And then ignore it, until—yup, the last minute. This works particularly well with contests, class assignments, chapters that a critique partner is waiting on, or, my personal favorite, blog posts.
- Do all your Hierarchy of Avoidance chores, to make sure you get them out of the way--and then do whatever you feel like the rest of the day. After all, there's always tomorrow to do some writing. You need time to ponder all the possible plot threads in your story, and this is the time for it, not later when you're scribbling to get the word count done.
- Start something and then set it aside to work on something else. Then put it down and move onto a third project. Leave all of them half-finished until it's time to get something done, then grab the one that intrigues you and write like the wind.
These are just a few methods, and yes, I've tested all of them ahead of time, so you can be assured they have earned the DRD Seal of Approval.
Now it's your turn. Share some of your favorite tips and tricks for utilizing The Power of Procrastination. Maybe we'll even gather them and put them in a book. . . one of these days.
Taking Care of Business - I have been terribly remiss in not posting a winner from my DEAR LURKERS blog back on the 5th. The winner of either a $15 Amazon or iTunes card (your choice!) is...
Email me your card preference at DJTLO at YAHOO dot COM and we'll figure out together how best to get it to you.
Now, on with the show...
As most of you know, I finished the first draft of my first full length novel this past spring. It’s still under construction, or rather waiting for me to return to continue the construction, but should be done around the end of the year.
I’m not sure exactly what I would call my writing style, but dark is not a word that comes immediately to mind. Light, fun, angst are more like it. Still plenty of substance, but always with enough sunshine to keep things bright and loose.
On the agenda for later next year is writing the book that connects to this first one. It’s the story of the heroine’s alcoholic sister, Bridgit. By the time the book starts, she’s been sober a year and is working on repairing the damage she’s done to her life, to those around her, and to her reputation. Bridgit lives in the small town where she grew up, and if you’ve ever lived in a small town, you know memories are long and everyone knows everybody’s else’s business.
Hence the need for operation reputation rescue.
As I’ve stated, I’ve no intention of undertaking this book until after I’ve revised the current and written the love triangle story set on Ocracoke Island. This seems to matter little to Bridgit. She’s plotting away, playing out her story in my head, rolling out scenes and making my brain hurt. I’m making notes, so this isn’t such a horrible thing, but what she’s giving me has me worried.
You see, Bridgit’s story is dark. Very dark.
There’s the alcoholism, which is pretty dark already. Then I’ve got a hero with serious guilt issues, a heroine working with battered women, and an ex-fiancé who wants to drop the “ex”. When it comes to the black moment, this book essentially turns into a love triangle between a woman, a man, and a bottle of vodka.
At this point, I have angst out the wazoo, but the light and fun are practically AWOL.
Not that I’m insane enough to be worried about my career and throwing off my readers, since I don’t have a career or readers just yet, but I have to wonder if I’m even up to pulling off a story like this.
Have you ever had a story idea that took you out of your comfort zone? Ever picked up a book by a favorite author only to be surprised that it was nothing like you expected? Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
*Captain Jack Sparrow saunters onto the stage, blowing kisses to the audience*
DRD: Hey! I'm in the middle of a show!
Captain Jack: Perfect! *faces the camera and bows*
DRD: *yanks Captain Jack up by his collar* Look, I know you're big on impromptu appearances after that recent school visit, but I already have a guest today.
Captain Jack: But I'm here!
DRD: *tries to look sad* So sorry! *puts hand to corner of mouth* Psst! Security. *tilts head in Captain Jack's direction*
*two burly security guards lift him by the arms, his legs bicycling madly in the air as they head backstage*
*loud crash offstage*
DRD: *presses finger to ear mike* He did what? *looks at the camera* It looks like our guest is going to be delayed. Fortunately, we have his creator, debut author Ashley March, standing by. Because who could possibly know a hero better than his author!
Audience: THE HEROINE!
DRD: Well, yeah, but—give a big round of applause for Ashley March! Ashley, can I get you something to drink? We have a fully-stocked bar, along with a coffee maker, an espresso maker, a French press coffee maker. . .
Ashley: *cranes neck to look in the direction of Captain Jack* Is he on the menu? No? Are you sure? *gives audience salacious wink* Could he come back and serve my beverage?
DRD: Well, um, sure, but he can't even compare to Philip, your hero. I recently spent the night with him—er, well, I read his story, SEDUCING THE DUCHESS, in one night. *fans face and takes a sip of ice water* Tell us more about him.
Ashley: Ah, Philip. *eyes glaze over wistfully* Well, he looks a bit like Clive Owen. Tall, dark, handsome, of course. Also rather like Captain Jack…without the dreadlocks. The kind of man that makes you want to rip off his clothes and…I mean…*clears throat* He makes you want to rip off his exterior masks and reveal the man beneath. You see, on the surface he’s not hero material. He’s arrogant, manipulative, and can even be deceitful at times. But he’s desperately in love with his wife, Charlotte, and that’s what redeems him. For her, he’ll do anything. Even change from the villain of the story into a hero, if need be.
DRD: *sighs* This is a "reconciliation story", which sounds tough to write, because there's a history between the characters, as well as emotional obstacles in place. You did it wonderfully though because I was a nervous wreck the last third of the book! What was it like writing this kind of story?
Ashley: *still looking toward the back for Captain Jack*…Oh! What was that? Reconciliation story. Right. It warms my heart to hear you were a nervous wreck. *smiles* In some ways, it was easier to write such a story because there was a history between them. The emotions and attraction were already there, and all I had to do was get them on the page. At the same time, however, that’s also why writing the book was difficult. I had to balance the vulnerability, anger, resentment, attraction, etc. in a way which would be believable for readers. This meant I couldn’t make it easy for Philip to get Charlotte back, and Charlotte had to give as good as she got. Although their love story isn’t very neat or pretty, it shows that failures can be overcome, hearts can be healed, and even the worst marriage can be redeemed by love and forgiveness.
DRD: Did the idea for the story come first, or was it the hero?
Captain Jack: *pops up between DRD and Ashley* Did someone say hero?
DRD: *shrieks and puts a hand to her bosom* Eyes up, Captain! Or I'll pop them out with a fork.
Captain Jack: *winces* I merely wanted to ask this lovely lady a question. *lifts Ashley's hand to his lips* Your heroine Charlotte was quite the saucy wench. Perhaps even a bit of a pirate in another life. You must have created her with me in mind, no?
Ashley: *grabs DRD’s ice water and holds it to her forehead* Well…not exactly. *mouths to DRD “He kissed my hand!”* Although I’m sure she likes rum, too, I, um, created Charlotte as the perfect heroine opposite of Philip. She was inspired by Scarlett from Gone with the Wind, and--
Captain Jack: Oh. I thought--perhaps I might help inspire your next hero then. *attempts a seductive pose*
DRD: *snorts* I'm sure she's already created her next hero. Ashley, can you give us a hint of who that might be, and how long we have to wait before we see him on the shelves?
Ashley: *blushing as she looks back and forth between Jack and DRD* Sure. Sebastian Madinger, the Earl of Wriothesly, is my next hero. He’ll be appearing in Romancing the Countess, set to release in Fall 2011. It’s a story about Sebastian and his best friend’s wife, who are drawn together after their spouses die in a carriage accident and it’s discovered they were having an affair. It’s a sweet, sexy, emotional book…that’s currently lacking any pirates. *smiles at Jack* But perhaps I can convince my editor to let me make one last change.
Captain Jack: *preens* Ashley, everyone loves to hear those Port of Call Stories. So. . .when might I call upon you?
DRD: *shakes her head* Could you tell us your Call Story, either with your agent, or editor, or both?
Ashley: *leans over and whispers something in Captain Jack’s ear before turning back to DRD* Ahem. My Call Story. Yes, of course. How about with my agent? I had started SEDUCING THE DUCHESS before I got pregnant with my first daughter, and then the nausea hit…and then my hips ached…and then all I wanted to do was sleep. After she was born, I still hadn’t finished the manuscript. I had about 80 pages to go. However, being quite sleep-deprived and assuming it would take forever before I got an answer, I decided to go ahead and query a couple of agents anyway. One read the first ten pages I was allowed to submit with my query and a few days later asked for the FULL. Shocked, I asked for advice from my writer friends and replied with an email saying I needed about three weeks to “polish” the story. Two weeks and five days later, I submitted the full. The following Wednesday she emailed me, said she loved the story, and asked if she could call me the next morning. I said yes, of course, didn’t sleep at all that night, and was surprised that I even let her say two words the next day before I accepted her offer of representation. It was a fantastic day.
Captain Jack: *lays head on Ashley's shoulder* That was lovely, although we should probably talk about my pants now.
DRD: *glares at Captain Jack* He's always a bit of a flirt when we have guests, but he's quite taken with you, Ashley. I hope you don't mind. And I dearly hope he’s asking if you're a plotter or a pantser.
Ashley: No, no. I don’t mind…at all. *blushing again* Becoming a published author who submits proposals has forced me to become more of a plotter. I’m still a pantser at heart, though. I basically plot out all the major points of the story, then pants it the rest of the way. I usually don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in the next chapter until I’m finished with the current one. *bats eyelashes at Captain Jack* And may I say, Captain, your pants are quite lovely.
Captain Jack: *prances down the stage like it’s a catwalk and spins before falling off*
DRD: Ashley, thank you so much for stepping in when Philip, uh, well, became indisposed. Now it's time for questions from the audience. Hopefully Ashley can stay around for a bit, or stop by later, so fire away! Uh, forget I said fire. . .And don't forget to stop by www.ashleymarch.com for more info!
And aren't these naptime buddies the sweetest? They aren't even hogging the covers! No need to worry about it being cold this time of year. Even when they're half-dressed--or half-undressed--these hotties generate a LOT of heat.
Tortured by Chance (Now isn’t that a sexy topic? Torture and all!)
I’m being slowly roasted lately. Determined to have a second volume available for Decadent should The Kraken’s Mirror do well, I’ve been slogging through the adventures of a second couple in the kraken’s world. (A very sexy couple, whose sexual tastes run toward BDSM. The heroine is very dominant and her lover is willing to do whatever it takes to make her happy. SEXY!)
Mick is the lover of the Jezebel. She captains the ship featured in The Kraken’s Mirror. And their story is a bit more convoluted. Jezebel isn’t a native to the kraken’s world. She arrived through a portal some thirty years earlier, from an extremely aggressive, capitalistic steampunk world known as Novan. She’s brilliant and brings with her many of the innovations that enable the ipods to play, the blenders to blend, etc.
(I could have had her bring stripper poles and porn movies to Tortuga, but it is a pirates’ paradise and so those things…well, they’d already be there. Right? An open attitude toward sex being a pirate attribute. At least it’s an attribute in my pirate world!)
Jezebel is forty five years old, with fiery red hair and very protective of her adopted world. When she arrived, she allied with the magic makers of Tortuga and blocked Novan from invasion. But Jez has a lot of secrets. Her heart is fortified against softer emotions and commitment is simply not in her vocabulary.
Mick is her carefree partner. They’ve been lovers on and off for nearly twenty years. He knows she holds back but up until now, he’s been content with that. After seeing Emily and Silvestri succeed and flourish in a relationship (book one), he’s thinking it might be time to change the on and off for a more permanent berth.
Then Jezebel’s homeworld breaks though the protections, intent of bringing back their lost daughter. And all her inventions. Plus the world she discovered is ripe for harvest…
(This gets really involved. I mean, they don’t just want to use Tortuga as a new and vulnerable market. They also want to strip away the brightest and the best, offer them all the opportunities of working for Novan, in their quest to make money. And of course, several high powered Novaneese are sexual deviants, so it gets tricky!)
Bwah ha ha!
Sounds great, don’t it?
Sigh. Torture. Pure torture. (And not the fun sexy type of torture. No soft furry handcuffs and padded floggers. Darn.) Page by page, I’m slogging my way through this. Fighting to keep the adventure from bogging down in darker events. (Jez has good reasons to keep her secrets. And some serious topics that I’m working on and want to get right!)
I really want this book in the first draft by the end of the month. I’m a bit over 40k and need about 70k. I’ve done the math, figure I need 2k a day.
(I have another project I want to start with NaNoWrMo. Give this book a rest for a month. And somewhere in there, I hope to begin tackling revisions for The Kraken’s Mirror. Yes, going to be an insane holiday season. Anything to keep me out of the mall and holiday carol madness, I figure!)
So, I’ve decided two pages at a time. Two pages in the morning when I first arrive at Starbucks. Two pages right before I leave. Two pages when I get home. Two pages before bed. And I’ll have 2k a day. Between all of this is walking the dog, blogging, e-mail, twitter…oh, and some housework. And researching where to go for bookmarks, keeping track of my webpage redesign… Deciding on a sexy feathered pen…
They're coming to take me away, ha-haaa!!
They're coming to take me away, ho-ho, hee-hee, ha-haaa
To the funny farm. Where life is beautiful all the time and I'll be
happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats and they're
coming to take me away, ha-haaa!!!!!
How do you handle the deadline stuff? Besides going with those nice young men? (For reason other than sex!) Do goals like this work for you? Always liked this song…
Last month, I effectively maimed my WIP. Coupled with a lack of writing/critiquing/thinking time, I’ve tried to jumpstart my brain by revisiting craft books. Notice, I haven’t read any new craft books as that would require more energy from me than I have. But I’ve looked over books I’ve read before and I’ve read my notes. I’ve hoped that something magical would happen in the firing of my neurons.
Nothing new to save my WIP, sadly. But I did have a bit of a planning revelation.
In You Can Write a Romance by Rita Clay Estrada (the Rita behind THOSE Ritas) I found the method of structuring scenes. Ms Estrada postulates that scenes aren’t just scenes, that they should be formed in a series of scenes and sequels. The scene is the proactive part and the sequel deals with the reaction of those actions. It goes like this….
An example from my WIP: my heroine wants to extort money from my hero to pay off a debt (goal). She tells him that she can help him prove his brother’s innocence for a hefty price (action). But the hero doesn’t agree, doesn’t believe she can do what she says, and threatens to turn her over to the magistrates if she doesn’t leave him immediately (disaster). She’s surprised he won’t even consider what she has to say. She’s desperate for money and unsettled by her attraction to him. She also is guilty because she really isn’t telling him the whole truth (reaction). Her attraction to him complicates what she thought would be a heartless business venture and she considers abandoning her plan (dilemma). Ultimately, she decides she can’t stop on her course because her financial situation is dire and she gives him a ring from his brother to corroborate her story (decision).
This little revelation has made me rethink motivation throughout my story. I need to go back through and see if I actually HAVE motivation throughout my story.
I’m already having heart palpitations.
What’s the best piece of information you’ve found in a craft book? I know, I’m talking craft. Don’t everyone jump ship. Share your little tidbits of craft gold here with us today.
The picture is courtesy of my 3 year old. He's totally psyched for the Cars SEQUEL. (See? You doubted my tie-in. But it's there. See?)
So you would think with a month off of blogging on the RWR I'd have great stories and insightful things to discuss.
But undoubtedly you already knew that. I mean, we are talking about me, Sin- the very epitome of procrastination.
I would love to tell of a sweeping tale of my mischievousness and of my innate ability to get stuff done even while more stuff is crashing down around me. Alas, I cannot. I mean, I could lie. Pirates are good at that. But I don't even find excitement in the prospect of it all.
With that being said, there is something to be said for moving two steps forward. Even if you fall one steps back. I've been thinking on my urban fantasy series (UFS). I spoke a few months ago on Anime always being a part of my life. I'm caught up in the drama of the picturesque way cartoonist draw the characters and tell the story. Always tales of the hero's journey, drama, angst, romance. And the blood curdling action. Death in Anime is awe-inspiring to a writer's imagination. The very scene wells inside your heart, grabs a hold of your creative juju and forces you to formulate new ideas on description.
In my mind, my UFS has played out as a live action Manga. Not quite transformed into Anime form, more picturesque in its beauty of the art form. One scene that is firmly planted in my mind is a death scene. I don't know if you've ever encountered a death scene or a scene of great angst in Anime or Manga (I urge you to pull one up online and just look at the stills of it) but these scenes always lead to great action. The hero/heroine loses someone very close to them (albeit: friend, husband, lover, family) and the hero/heroine completely loses control. Emotions spill out like blood on pavement. Your heart races in anticipation of the outcome. You know, as the viewer, something completely story changing is about to happen.
I see my UFS alive inside my mind. My heroine loses her companion. Her family hired hoards of assassins to kill her companion, and to bring my heroine back into the fold. Yet, her family wasn't aware of one thing- my heroine was holding onto her powers vicariously through her companion. Once her companion is gone, my heroine completely loses control. Every time I close my eyes, I see this behind my eyelids. The power that rises, tickles over my skin. The way it feels burning through her veins. The very static riffles through her hair as if it were a strong breeze blowing. The life snuffs out of her companion and there is no one to hold her back. No one to tell her no. No one to care. There is no one but my heroine. My heroine destroys everything without lifting a finger. Power leaks from her very soul. She no longer cares for this life that has taken so much from her and to obliterate so much life is death to herself.
The scene replays over and over again. It never alters from its original form. So as a present to myself, the scene will come alive. And I can't wait to see it in illustration form. Manga style.
So while I've not thought of clever and witty things to discuss while I've been studiously working in my office on software bugs and claim issues, my brain has obsessed over one thing. My word must be written and I must see it if I want to move on. Learn the hero's journey, see the hero's journey, live the hero's journey.
So, lately have you jumped two steps only to fall back one in your quest to finish your latest manuscript (or even your latest project)? How do you focus on completing the task at hand? (If ever.)
PS. We've been blogging together for 3 years. Three years! I have to say this is one of the longest maintained relationships I've ever had. Oddly, while I should feel dejected I've not gotten further in my goal in publishing (my fault- procrastination has it's downfalls); I feel really accomplished and proud to be a part of RWR and it's group of wonderfully accomplished wenches. Congrats on 3 years, pirates.
Bo’sun: Thank you for joining us today, Ms. Brown.
JB: It’s a pleasure to come on board!
Bo’sun: Now that I’ve introduced you, I think it only fair we introduce your Lord Lightning. Would you tell us a bit about the book?
JB: Well, as you might have noticed it’s easy to get carried away when playing a social role that earns you a lot of attention—even if it is negative attention—nothing personal, Captain, so you can put down that cat o’ nine tails! The hero of my novel, Edward Neville, has done just that. He glories in the shocking behavior that has made society nickname him Lord Lightning and takes pride in his reputation for having the coldest of cold hearts. So when a prim, country-bred lady astrologer reads his chart in front of a room full of people and declares that he is a man who desperately needs to give and receive love, it infuriates him.
To punish the meddling astrologer he abducts her and threatens to make her his mistress—it’s merely one of his usual outrageous pranks, intended to scare her, but Lord Lightning gets a taste of his own medicine when Eliza shocks him and takes him up on his offer. She’s destitute and the money he will pay her will rescue her priceless astrological books.
Though elderly virgins aren’t at all in Edward’s usual line, he tells himself a few days with him will rid Eliza of any belief that he hides a loving heart and takes her on. But Eliza, too, is not what she appears to be on the surface, and before he knows it, she has dragged him into an adventure that before it is over will force them both to confront their deepest fears and set aside the masks behind which they’ve been hiding.
Bo’sun: It sounds like your hero has some piratical tendencies. Give that man a sash and some knee-boots and he could rule his own ship. We’ll get the craft question out of the way, and I’m sure you’ve been asked it a million times already, but do you pants, plot, or a little of both?
JB: I am constitutionally unable to plot before writing. I wish I could, as it would be nice to know where a story was going while writing it. But the only way I’ve ever been able to write fiction is to find a vibrant scene, learn as much as I can about the characters who show up in it, and let their conflicts lead me to a plot.
Bo’sun: Ah, you’re among friends here. This debut is the first of your Lords of the Seventh House series. Can you tell us where this premise comes from and the meaning behind it?
JB: The Seventh House is the segment of an astrological chart that describes our marriage partner. It’s “lord” is its ruling planet. So this traditional phrase seemed perfect to describe a romance series where each hero would bring to life the conflicts typical of each sign.
Bo’sun: Ah, astrology. Our own Captain Hellion has an interest in this area. And she’s shown me how accurate those charts can be.
JB: I hope Captain Hellion and anyone else with any acquaintance with real astrology will enjoy the fact that the lovers in my stories have real charts that describe real internal conflicts. So Lord Lightning is not only a Leo, he’s a Leo whose Moon is conjunct Mars in Taurus, and who has the newly discovered planet, Uranus at his Midheaven—much to Eliza’s dismay, since her ancient books can tell her nothing about its meaning.
Bo’sun: What do you have planned next in the series?
JB: In my next book the hero and heroine are both Scorpios. Captain Trevelyan falls hard for a seductive pickpocket, but because he's on a secret mission, his passion turns into torment when he learns she may have been sent out by his enemies to steal more than just his heart.
Bo’sun: Two Scorpios? That is a level of drama that must be read! When you decided to write fiction, did you always intend to use astrology in your plots?
JB: Not at all. I chose an astrologer heroine for the first book because her ability to read character from a chart gave her a reason to believe there was good in the hero when no one else could see it. It was my agent who convinced me to write a series with an astrological premise.
Bo’sun: Smart agent. LOL! From the looks of the bio on your website, you’ve led an interesting and varied life. From a successful career writing non-fiction to your time as a singer songwriter, do you use your experiences in your fiction writing? Have you found a way to apply them, besides the astrology, to an historical setting?
JB: I hope the broad range of experiences I’ve had over the years give me the ability to tell stories that aren’t the same old, same old. But when I find myself time traveling to the past it’s important to me to bring back stories that could have taken place in the past and turn on the way society worked during a time very different from our own. I hate supposedly historical novels where the characters behave too much like modern people. So while my characters may have conflicts that derive from experiences I’ve had in my own life, the way they play out is quite different from the way they have in mine.
Bo’sun: Be prepared for a big AMEN from this crew on that one. What was the most difficult part of switching from non-fiction to fiction writing? Did you have to change your voice or find a new one?
JB: My nonfiction is very fact-dense and based on laborious research. Most of it has also been written for an audience that is largely male. So it has been a huge shift to write imaginative works read entirely by women. I have to completely turn off the analytical side of my brain and go into an almost trancelike state to write fiction. It’s not easy for me and I’m very proud of myself for having learned how to do it, at last.
Bo’sun: With the book on shelves less than two weeks now, has the big debut been what you expected? Anything you didn’t expect? Anything you’d change?
JB: The best part of the debut has been that Lord Lightning has gotten much better shelf placement than I expected. It has been a thrill to learn that it is in the front of the store in quite a few Barnes & Nobles and Borderses and even on the racks in many Walmarts.
What I didn’t expect was how anxious I’d gets upon seeing those books on the shelves and realizing that unless strangers buy them they will all come back as stripped returns. There are so many other books by well known authors that have come out at the same time as mine competing for the same reader dollar. Now I have a much better understanding of why agents and editors hammer home the message that your first book has to stand out and be different than books by existing authors for it to have any chance at all.
Bo’sun: I’m sure what’s inside the book will create word of mouth and your books will fly high, but that cover is definitely a bonus for getting a reader to pick it up! Any advice for the waning as-yet-unpubbed author struggling to tread water these days?
JB: If you are writing fiction because you think it will make you rich and earn you the admiration of everyone you meet, get help. Most published novelists put in ten times the work for one tenth of the reward they would have earned had they put the same amount of effort into any other field of endeavor. The only reason to write is because you enjoy the actual writing.
Bo’sun: I’m pretty sure none of this crew harbor illusions of grandeur. LOL! But that’s great advice. And finally, we try to create a unique drink for all our guests. Do you have any suggestions for what would best represent your book and you? A Thunder Bolt maybe? Lick a battery then take a drink?
JB: Sounds about right!
Bo’sun: As a bonus today, you all have a mission. You can raise Jenny’s anxiety level by sending her photos of not-yet-sold copies of Lord Lightning you spot on store shelves in your region and enter a drawing for an advanced reading copy of her next book or a custom titanium bead. Find out more about the “Where is Lord Lightning” contest here.
Which is why you’re getting a blog instead of a “we’re in port” because if I have to be here, I think you should too.
But Chris does offer us writers an interesting inspiration. He’s not the first guy to play fast and loose with history, but I like to think he’s the first guy who’s got a holiday celebrating a guy who played fast and loose with history. If you think about it, I suppose you can’t blame him for not wanting the Vikings to get credit. “What? Those barbarians in a rowboat?” He was a Renaissance guy, right? If someone was going to discover America, shouldn’t it be the good-looking, well-educated, civilized guy?
(“Good-looking, well-educated, civilized” used as loosely here as “discovering America”, you understand.)
And if you think about the historicals we read now, we’re doing the same things, aren’t we? Tweaking the facts to make history more palatable. In the good old days, weren’t we all barbarians in a rowboat? Wouldn’t we like to read about the version of ourselves as good-looking, well-educated, and civilized? Of course, we do. It’s romantic.
So if you were writing a historical, what period would you write about and what would be the first thing you’d change for history’s sake? And what’s the one thing you could not compromise history for?
P.S. Just because I’m blogging in a civilized manner about corrupting history for writing’s sake does not mean I won’t be ranting about any authors in the future who use 90210 characters in their Regencies. I’m speaking more about not dying in childbirth, good dental hygiene, and perfect skin type stuff.
These poor Hotties jumped overboard to retrieve something for me, which was so gallant of them. Unfortunately I managed to misplace all the TOWELS. I don't know how that could have happened! Guess we'll just have to dry them off with our heated gazes. . .
Other than the usual… The writer room where we can shut ourselves away from distractions…something that is really impractical in this modern world. So many distractions to choose from… And I don’t have an extra room, unless I tackle the clutter room and that would take me away from writing for far too long.
So! I came up with a few ideas. We just need some intrepid inventors to put these together…
#1 – An oldie but a goodie. The writer’s GPS. That friendly little computer voice that is following along as we write and will let us know when he need to take a turn toward more conflict, for example. We could enter in destination: humor…and get directions on how to do that. Yes, an oldie, but a goodie. Desperately needed.
#2 – The Shock-o-Finger. I see this as an offshoot of the Schick Centers, once used for weight loss and to stop smoking. They used to use electrical current to train a person to dislike smoking, or chocolate cake. I figure…we need one that will shock us or poke us (for those of us who regular shocks could actually interact adversely with implanted devices) whenever we pause too long at the keyboard. Go too long without typing and *zap! (or *poke!). Push that starring off into nowhere into actual action…
Of course, this would need to come with the big bloke carrying the big club to corral us into actually sitting and pulling the computer out.
(We’re not stupid, we’d figure out pretty fast the easiest way to avoid the shock or poke is to never sit down at the computer in the first place.)
Now, if you write kink, the guy with the club can hold a whip. If you write historical, your own Mr. Darcy who will politely urge you to your computer. Sci fi? A borg will simply state ‘resistance is futile.’ Mysteries? ‘elementary, my dear writer!’
It’s a working idea…
#3 – The Sagging Middle Corset. Something we can simply lace our stories into to provide that needed curve and firmness to get from the beginning to the end. Just sort of push and shove the saggy stuff into some sweet curves. With time, corset training would begin to work and maybe we’d all find our way to that lovely shape without the added bones and lacing.
(Uh huh. Right.)
#4 – The auto shut off of social media programs. This would allot only a certain amount of time to Facebook, Twitter, blog surf and e-mail…then it would just shut them off. This could be programmed to block certain distractions…(you know who you are and what you’re doing!) And return your computer screen to the current WIP. Once you’ve written, oh…say 500 words or 1000, your computer will unlock the social media and you’re allowed another bit of recess before hustling the writer back to actual work.
#5 – The Warm Arm. Not to be totally mean, I figure a warm arm across the shoulders would be a nice writer’s invention. Pop this into the microwave, get it nice and toasty and drape it across the shoulders while you write. It will periodically flex and a preprogrammed voice will softly say, “Good job! I like that!”
(I’d like to follow the lines of that British website where sexy sounding guys read works of literature. So, let’s get Johnny, Alan…some really nice voices. Q – How about Angelie Jolie?)
This could be substituted with a cat form that sits on the lap and gentle kneads the thighs with the occasional purr. Or the dog head that gentle sets a chin on the thigh and a rhythmic *thump *thump or a simulated tail wag sounds.
What do you need for your imaginary writer’s invention? And no cheating! No, I need a robot writer to do it all! Nope, these inventions are about helping us find our way through the blocks, the distractions, etc. Well?
Next week, we're reading Hard Eight, one of the Stephanie Plum mysteries (woo hoo! I'm now I'm not the only one of this blog who could re-read that book a bajillion times and never get tired of it. Of course, the guys in the class are already complaining about being forced to read it).
This week, though, we had to read a mystery I hated. It's old, it was published in 1985, and I mean, everything about this story was 1985. The society itself that these characters were living in almost became an important secondary character. Not only was it set in 1985, but it was set inside the NYPD, in a time when women were legally allowed to hold those jobs, but were generally dismissed by the male majority.
To really top it off, the subject of the book was rape. One main character was a female sex-crimes prosecutor, one main character was a woman who had been raped, and the final main character was the victim's husband, who was also an NYPD chief and having an affair with said prosecutor.
There were a myriad of reasons I hated this book (to the point that I'm absolutely refusing to read another page of it, required or not), but it made me think about the role of society, and especially how it affects the role of women.
Romance has had to do this too -- what was socially acceptable for women or romance in 1985 is hardly even recognizable in 2010. No author today, while writing about the aftermath of a woman's violent rape, would have a doctor-character say something as absurd as (to her husband) "Don't worry about her. Women are remarkably resilient about these types of things. I should have spent more time with you than her. It's harder on men."
Seriously. Reason number #72 I refuse to read any further. 200 pages of that crap was enough. Yeah, dude, it's soooooo much harder for men. Jerk.
But even romance has gone through it's own change in how we deal with women, how we deal with women sharing both careers and families, and how we deal with the fundamental power imbalance between women and men.
Clearly, this particular (male) author never got the memo about women being equal individuals to men. But the romance authors get it (probably because we're mostly female), and our writing encompasses both where we've come from as women and where we still might go.
So, what's your take? Are there romance authors who were tackling these hard subjects back in the 80's? Are there authors who stick out to you, who can take a subject as disturbing as rape and handle in a way that doesn't portray every woman as a victim? Do you avoid books with this topic altogether? Do you find the way writer's from the 80's handled this subject to be fundamentally different from the way we handle the topic today? Do we excuse these types of misogynistic views that we now consider wrong, wrong, wrong! just because it was written in the 80's?
* * *
Some days the ideas swarm around my head, like butterflies in mid-summer. Orange, yellow, white and blue. They’re everywhere. Other days…well, let’s just say my brain only generates dust bunnies. And these aren’t cute bunnies, either. So where do ideas come from, anyway?
The first book I wrote and had published was a memoir about my severe OCD. That was not fun to write. Not even a little. But I felt I had something important to say, so I stuck with it until it was done. Sometimes even now, I can’t believe I wrote it, that I put it all out there for God and everyone to read. Although, God already knew my story :). After it was published and I floated down from cloud nine, I felt the inevitable letdown. The okay now what? syndrome. Because as writers, we need to write. It’s just something in us. We have to.
I gave a shot at children’s books. I wrote a story about a cat born without paw-pads. I shopped it around all over the place, but no one was interested. Frustrated, I set it aside. Again, I had the now what? issue. I still wanted to write, and I figured, at least one publisher liked what I’d written for my memoir. Granted, they’re a small, non-profit publisher from England and not one of the big guys, but still, I must have a least a tiny bit of talent, right?
One day while cleaning someone’s teeth, (I’m a hygienist, so don’t be scared that I simply go out on the street and start scraping some stranger’s teeth just for fun), I had an epiphany. What would happen if a hygienist fell in love with her patient? I let that thought ruminate around in my head for a while, then decided the story must be told. And I was just the dental hygienist to tell it. After it was written, I shopped it around. No, no, and again no. No takers. I even had one publisher scold me for using too many capitalized words and for using one of the characters I’d added. At first I was miffed. How dare she say those things about my writing? But you know what? She was right. I made the changes and sent it out again. Someone liked it! “Flossophy of Grace” will be published next year. Which brings us back to my current book, “Pillow Talk”. Another dental theme, it’s about a tooth fairy who falls in love with her dentist.
Ideas can come from anywhere. We all have such different life experiences that make us unique and therefore interesting. Consider your job (if, like me, you have another career besides writing), your family, pets, and hometown. Do you have hobbies? I ended up with a new hobby when I wrote “Pillow Talk”. In the book, the tooth fairy, Trixie, makes jewelry out of dental floss at her day job. Well, if Trixie could do it, I needed to try it too. I love it! Have you heard any stories lately that were so bizarre, the idea stuck in your head? Write it down! You never know what could evolve from that. I’ve read several mysteries where the authors got their idea from watching the nightly news on TV.
And the best source of all is you! If you really sat down and thought about it, there must be several things about you that are unique. For me, I work as a dental hygienist, have severe OCD, am left-handed, cat-crazy, got married at age nineteen to the love of my life, and am the youngest child of an Indiana Baptist preacher. See, the list goes on and on. And I have no doubt that every one of you has just as interesting of a list.
What are some unique things about you that you've turned into scenes or books? Love or hate the dentist? Are you a fan of the tooth fairy, or were you more a fan of the Easter Bunny?
By Ruth J. Hartman
Trixie Trident has a secret. Everyone knows she creates one-of-a-kind jewelry during the day. It's what she does on her night job no one would ever guess. She's a tooth fairy. Not the tooth fairy, just one of many. It would take her whole life just to combat the many misconceptions people have about TF's. Like how nobody wears tutus or uses a wand. Or stands three inches high. Nope, Trixie looks just like any other woman in her mid-twenties. And she'd tell people all of that stuff. If she was allowed to. But she'd sworn a sacred tooth fairy oath that she'd never tell a soul. And she hadn't. Except for her best friend, who would never breathe a word to anyone.
Graham Keebler meets Trixie when she comes to his dental office as a new patient. He's had lots of single women patients before, but no one has ever sparked his interest like Trixie. What is it about her that's so unique? He can't quite figure it out, but he's determined to try, even when she turns him down for a second date.
Trixie is attracted to Graham, like she's never been to any man before. He's what she always dreamed of in a man. And they even have the subject of teeth in common! But a relationship with the gorgeous dentist can never be. How could it? When she's a tooth fairy, and not only can't she tell him, he'd never believe her anyway.
To celebrate Ruth's new book, she will be giving away a copy of Pillow Talk to one commenter. Good luck!