Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Now I've Got Something!

And it's great...

Would you look at that? 50,355 words, to be exact. And eight hours before the deadline, too. Woo-hoo!!

Now, Hit Me With Your Best Shot is going to sit for a couple of weeks while I rewrite my wolfie story. Then I'll drag Hit Me back out and start the editing process and see just how much of this is worth keeping.

Typing THE END has never been so sweet.

I Got Nothin', So...'s another pic of my Muse, Urian:

Ooh. Wet.

Dark, sultry eyes.

Hard, rippling muscles.

Waistband that's undone, just begging someone to go on a fishing expedition, get wet with him. (Yeah, mmm, in more ways than one.)

I gotta tell ya'll, this guy has done wonders for me since I fired my fickle female Muse. Isn't he yummy?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Actually, I Might Just Make It After All

Well, after working most of today on my NaNo story, I think I actually might be able to reach 50,000. I only need 1,265 words now. I have one more scene to insert, then maybe a few more lines here and there. Might just make it. (You know, it’s amazing how much work you can do when your cable goes out. No phone, no TV, no Internet. For 4 hours. Can you say ‘email withdrawal’?)

After all that whining and moaning, I think I might actually do it. Thank you all for putting up with my angsting (is that a word?) over this.

I Think NaNo Is Done-Oh

And it's just under 46,000 words. Missed the goal by about 4,400 words. I know I need to work this around a little bit; the hero's all possessive and "hands off" to the secondary character, then turns around and allows a menage. Hmm. Got a bit of a problem there. There's a reason for the menage and it makes sense (I think), but there's not enough time between the "hands off" from the hero and the actual menage scene. And I think I'll have another scene between the heroine and her friend Maggie, which helps the heroine come to the decision to have "wild monkey sex" with the hero. I'm just not sure I can figure it out by tomorrow. We'll see.

Looking back over last week, from Sunday through Saturday, I wrote just over 20,000 words on NaNo and the novella. Once these are both done, I don't think I'm gonna do this again. Work like that on two at a time, I mean. I'd write on NaNo in the morning, get my daily word count goal, then have lunch and work on the novella. No wonder I have cougar-boys running in both stories; my brain was wired to work that way.

Once these are done, I MUST finish the rewrite of the werewolf story that I have an open submission call (so to speak) to Ellora's Cave. The vampire stories from my blog on Sunday will continue to percolate, and I'll be figuring out who's story gets told first and what that story is. Then I'll be immersed in vampires and witches and fairies and werewolves... oh, my!

Stephen King, eat your heart out. His vampires go around eating people and being bad. My vampires go around, um, eating people and being very bad. But when they're very bad, they're very, very go-o-o-o-o-d.

Monday, November 28, 2005

I Love Arizona

It's November 28th, and last night I turned on the heat for the first time this season. I figured, since we had a frost warning out, that it might be a good idea. Of course, the dang thing smelled for a while, but that's to be expected.

The weather here this time of year is why I moved from Ohio five years ago to begin with. If I were still in Akron I'd be wearing sweats in the house, keeping the thermostat set low (and, therefore, the house cold) in order to keep heating bills low, and cussing up a storm as I cleaned snow off the porch, the sidewalk and the car. Today the house did get a bit cold (of course, I was wearing shorts and tank top), so I put on a pair of ankle socks and a light fleece jacket, and was fine.

Temps during the day are still climbing into the 60s. Due to be in the lower 70s by Wednesday. Man, I love it here!

Those of you who are shivering in the cold snow and ice, don't hate me. And remind me of this blog in August when I'm whining about the god-awful heat.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Story Idea

Bear with me while I outline the beginning of a romantic adventure...

Two strong-willed people have been together for somewhere between 9 and 10 years. Let's call them Evie and Rick. They have a son who, as the story unfolds, is extremely bright and very talented at getting into trouble. The family travels to Egypt and are searching in a pyramid for an ancient artifact--the Bracelet of Anubis, which has the power to bring the Scorpion King to life. The heroine and hero (Mom and Dad) go off into the tunnels, searching for the artifact, and leave their son alone. While Mom and Dad are off searching, son amuses himself by building a mouse trap.

Then, he hears men's voices. He climbs up onto a high scaffolding, lying down just as three unsavory characters walk into the main room. While one man goes off looking for his mom and dad, the other two stay behind and start sorting through the pottery and artifacts already discovered. Now, he amuses himself with his slingshot by shooting hard clumps of clay at one of the unsuspecting thugs, hitting him first in the ear and then in the rump. His third shot is caught by the second man, who comes after him.

Meantime, the third bad guy is watching as Mom and Dad find the Bracelet of Anubis. Of course, the room is boobytrapped and, by removing the Bracelet from its box, Mom triggers the boobytrap.

Okay, so, I stole this from The Mummy Returns, which I watched last night for the fifth time. (Why watch it again, you ask? Well, it's got Oded Fehr in it. And... it's got Oded Fehr in it.) But this was the first time I actually sat there and thought, Why in hell would these two intelligent people leave their son ALONE in an old tomb, especially when they know what kind of trouble he can get into?!?

Yes, I know. That's the way the script was written. My point is, if I wrote this as a romantic adventure that I wanted to sell to, say, Kensington or Dorchester or Berkley, I think the first thing I'd hear is that the opening is not believable. Well, it's not believable if the heroine and hero are sympathetic, likeable characters. Which I want them to be. In an earlier blog I talked about having your characters act like real people--don't send the heroine down to the basement where the monster is without a compelling reason for her to do that.

So why is it that a screenwriter can get away with it, and romance writers can't?

(P.S. I wrote over 6,500 words yesterday. That makes about 15,600 for the week. If I weren't having so much fun with the novella, I'd probably be done with the NaNo project. But I get tired of NaNo and want to move on to something else.)

Friday, November 25, 2005

I Think I'm A Fraud

Well, not a fraud, exactly. Just someone who it's becoming very apparent is NOT very good at writing stories much longer than 20,000 words. Not yet, at any rate.

Why in the name of all that's holy did I think I could write 50,000 words in a month? Without a plot? (As much as I whine about GMC, it is necessary.) Because someone said it could be done? Aargh. I've got so many holes in this thing, I might as well call it The Titanic, cuz it's goin' down.

The middle of the book happened at around 18,000 words. That's at least two chapters early. Then, the "black moment", the one that's supposed to happen toward the end, because once this has happened, the book's pretty much over... it happened at around 31,000 words. Hello! Remember? Book's over once the black moment has happened? This is supposed to be a frickin' 50,000-word book. Not 33,000. Or 35,000. Not even 40,000. Fifty thousand!

I write because that's what I need to do to be true to myself. But I also want to be able to sell what I write. And I want what I sell to be damned good (or I won't sell very much). This exercise in futility is so far away from being damned good that it's shameful.

I'm going to keep plugging away, because I set a goal that I would write 50,000 words by November 30th. And I like to meet my goals. Do or die, or some such nonsense. Who knows? Some of this may be salvagable in the rewrite process.

Does it count if I just type blah blah blah blah blah?

Something Just For Fun

Yesterday was a bust for me, writing-wise. (Well, not a complete bust. I managed just under 900 words. But I really needed to do closer to 4,000.) But that's okay. I had plenty of stuff to procrastinate with. I fooled around with my blog, visited a few others (okay, several others), and did some surfing (all right, all right. A lot of surfing.).

After jumping around a bit, I found a pretty funny site called The Monster Name Decoder. It takes your name and "decodes" it to your monster identity. (Although I have no idea what a 'redhead-reaping imp' does, and I'm pretty sure I don't wanna know.)
Check it out:

Then there's The Cyborg Name Decoder. (Okay, that's 'rational' infiltration as opposed to 'irrational' infiltration?)

Check it out:

There's also The Sexy Name Decoder. This one
didn't work out as well for me, as it called me a stud. Hello! Woman here. Stop calling me a stud. (Oh, I guess it would help if I selected "female" where it tells me to.)

Let's try it again. Check this one out; from stud to 'sexy hottie':

Is this fun, or what?!

Then, of course, there's always the Fantasy Name Generator, which is also a lot of fun. Not to mention the The Elvish Name Generator. My Elvish name is Galadriël Sîrfalas. And what about the The Hobbit Name Generator? Meet Lobelia Bumbleroot of Haysend (that's me!). And, on a softer, fairer note, try The Fairy Name Generator. Feather Hailfrost, at your service.

There are lots and lots more. When I sail the high seas, I am pirate Carmen the Bald. With the Mafia, I am known as Blunt Force Nina. The outlaw biker gang I ride with, Bikes of Hell MC, call me Momma. Do a Google search for name generator, and you'll see.

Well, I think I've done enough damage for one day. This is Shequ Caakr, Nnigrand am of Zocor, signing off.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Giving Thanks

Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to live in a country where I am free to express my opinion and voice my disagreement. And thank You for all the brave men and women who now and in the past have fought and given their lives for that freedom.

Thank you, Lord, for the food on my table, the car in my garage, the roof over my head, the clothes on my back and all the luxuries You've afforded.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me the talent to put the whacked-out stories in my mind into words.

Thank you, Lord, for my family. They love me, even though sometimes they don't quite understand me.

Thank you, Lord, for my friends. They are the ones who carry me through tough times, lending me their shoulders when I need to cry out in pain; the sharp-pointed boot to my behind when I'm being too much of a slacker; the strong voice of encouragement when I start to lose my belief in myself.

God bless you all!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Writing By The Seat Of The Pants. Or, WTF!?

So, yesterday I'm plugging away on my NaNo story, got a really hot sex scene finished and moved on to some interaction between the 3 characters. Where I ended up leaving off, it looks like there's going to be some menage action happening soon. Within the next few chapters, at any rate.

WTF? First I end up with a character who's a shapeshifter, now I have a menage that I certainly didn't plan. That boy Urian. He's getting me into trouble already.

But, boy, has he been inspirational! I wrote 3,815 words on my NaNo book, and another 1,075 on my novella (for a total of almost 5,000 words!). Hmmm. Interesting that in both works I have characters who can either shapeshift into a cougar or who carry the DNA of a cougar. Guess I've got a cougar, um, fetish going on right now. (And no! No animal sex. Ugh. That's just disgusting. You'd be amazed at some of the stuff I turned up in my research. That people actually do this stuff...! Ack. Argh. Phooey!) {shudder}

And stay tuned for early in the year for a serialized story contributed to by me, Jenna Howard and Kate Lang. If nothing else, it'll be fun. But, don't try this at home. LOL

P.S. On the low-carb front, I've completed Day Three. I can already tell a difference in my energy/alertness level. When I was eating bad carbs, I'd be ready for bed by 7 p.m. No kidding. I had to make myself stay up until at least 9. And forget about getting much writing done. Way too tired. Last night I was up until eleven, and this morning (so far, anyway), I am raring to go again--3 pounds lighter. Yay low carbs!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Blogging Ideas

On one of my writer loops, authors have been asking others where they get their ideas for their blogs. For me, like all of my writing, it's totally seat-of-the-pants. I live a very boring life, made even more so since I'm not working an outside job and am no longer privy to the public foibles of other human beings. Well, I'm not a hermit, I go shopping, to the movies, out to eat, etc., but there's nothing like a Dilbert workplace to give you lots and lots of fodder. Unfortunately, I didn't begin blogging until after I'd quit a job that was driving me insane and most likely to an early grave.

I blog about things I'm learning as a writer, things that are going on in my life (large and up-front primarily being NaNoWriMo--at which I'm totally sucking at this point--and my new Low-Carb lifestyle), things that are going on in my writer friends' lives, etc.

Speaking of which, let me rabbit-trail here for a minute. Jeanne Laws and Sloane Taylor have both finalled in the CONNections contest in the erotic romance category. Sloane also finalled in the "best first meeting" category. Their entries are on their way to the final round of judging. Woo and hoo! I wish they both could win first place!

Back to blogging... An interesting blog that I came across yesterday is by Ronda Thompson, best-selling romance author. Ronda's blog is a serialized fiction story that she's writing with herself as the main character, written in first person. The writing is very clever, and quite funny. She said that her blog site has gotten 2500 hits in the few months she's been doing it. That sure as hell beats my roughly 60-70 a month. (And thank you, my beautiful friends, for commenting on my blog. It makes me feel much less lonely out here in cyberland.)

So, I think, maybe I could do something like that. Oh, not every day, come on. But once or twice a month, maybe? Something that is just out there for fun, without having to worry too much about GMC, plot holes, etc. Of course, mine would have to be a PG version of what I normally write. LOL.

I might just try it as an experiment. Blog on normal, boring stuff most of the time, and a couple of times a month, the next installment. We'll see how it goes. And, for inspiration, here's another pic of my Muse, Urian (maybe he needs to give your Muse some lessons about what to do with towels, eh, Kate?):

So, what do you think? Good idea, or bad? If you think it's a good idea and, keeping in mind that I write erotic romance--and keeping it fun!--anyone have any ideas for a story?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Low-Carb One-Way Ticket To Hell

I'm starting Day Two of my low-carb diet. Day One was successful, from the standpoint that I didn't put anything in my mouth that I shouldn't have. Of course, practically all day I was craving something sweet. Candy, cookies, cake, whatever. It's a good thing I have nothing in the house like that. Well, I have some French Silk ice cream, but it's chocolate mocha flavored, which I didn't realize when I bought it. Coffee flavored, and I don't like coffee. I like to smell it, but can't stand the taste.

But I digress. I've done this low-carb route before, about 2 1/2 years ago. In the first three months, I'd lost 30 pounds. Then (and I don't remember why) I went off of it. And, whoa Nelly, look out! If it had carbs, it wasn't safe around me. And if it was made with white flour or white sugar, cover your children's eyes, cuz it was NOT a pretty sight. Packed back on 20 pounds in no time. Now, having sat on my butt for nearly 3 months, I've gained the other 10 pounds back.

Time to get serious. I am, by nature, a very introverted person, although 20 years in Human Resources has taught me to be very good at sucking up and bull shitting. But I'm looking into the future, to writer's conferences, reader's conferences (i.e., RWA and Romantic Times) and seeing myself, quiet in the corner, because I don't know very many people and I hide behind my weight. My very substantial weight.

Regardless that I seem to be in good health right now (if you don't count the high blood pressure and the high cholesterol, which are currently managed with meds), I know the years of excess weight are taking their toll.

So, I'm back on the one "diet" I know I can have success with. And, call me crazy for starting it the week of Thanksgiving, but... my Thanksgiving Day will be spent alone, as my brother and his family are travelling to her brother's house out of town. So, I won't have cookies and pumpkin pie and stuffing to tempt me. I can have all the turkey I can eat (within reason!) and green beans and ... turkey and green beans. And salad. No potatoes, though. White stuff. Bad.

The thing that I hope will keep me going is the mantra I keep repeating to myself. It's not like you'll never be able to eat this stuff again. This time next year, I'll be able to eat stuffing and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie.

Now, it's onto Day Two... wish me luck.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Writing, Whether It's Inspirationals or Erotic Romance

At my local RWA chapter meeting yesterday, our morning speaker, Pamela Osback, spoke about writing Inspirationals and the Inspirational market. While I write the opposite end of the romance spectrum from Inspirationals, what she had to say was still very relevant.

Submit. Everywhere. Always have a proposal out; always have something submitted.

Write every day if you can. Give yourself a word or page goal, rather than a timed goal. (I can sit in front of the computer for 2 hours and write 10 words. If my goal is to write for 2 hours, technically I've made my goal, even if I only wrote those measly 10 words.)

You won't be published if you don't finish the book. (Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this one out, but we sometimes need to be reminded.) Writing is 20% writing, and 80% re-writing. (In other words, give yourself permission to write crap. Hmm. Where have I heard that before?)

Make yourself write even when you're tired. If you want to someday be able to support yourself as a full-time writer, you can't do it--you won't do it--if you only write when you feel like it.

In the afternoon, Cheyenne McCray and Mackenzie McKade (both of Ellora's Cave) spoke. Yep. We had an Inspirational author in the morning, and Erotic Romance authors in the afternoon. And everyone enjoyed the talks of all three.

Perhaps one of the most important things that Cheyenne and MacKenzie had to say was this: When you're writing the sex scene, build up to the consummation scene very, very slowly. Both authors said that the consummation between the hero and heroine takes place a full 1/3 or 1/2 way through the book. (In other words, throw the standard "the characters must have sex by chapter 3" out of the window.)

You want the reader so hot and bothered that the anticipation is about to kill them, and they're ready to strangle you, the author, because they want the characters to finally get on with it. (Or is that "get it on"?) When you do get to the consummation scene, draw it out. Use all the senses (sight, touch, smell, sound and taste). And, once you've written the sex scene, go back and add more touch, more scent, more sound, etc.

Another interesting thing -- both Cheyenne and Mackenzie said that their sex scenes (consummation) are anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 words. Because, once they've built up all that tension, they cannot cheat the readers. They have to give them what they've been waiting for.

As always, I came away from the meeting feeling energized and psyched up to write. When I got home, I did a few small chores (looked through snail mail and emails, commented on a few blogs, ate a couple of cookies... oh, wait, that's not really a chore. Eating cookies is important, but not really work.) and then pulled up my NaNo project and wrote just over 1,400 words (and stopped in the middle of a sex scene so I'll have something, um, interesting to start with tomorrow).

I love my RWA groups. All of 'em.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Is Blogging Addictive?

I say... yes. Not just yes, but Hell, yes!

Why do I say that? I "bookmarked" yet another blog this morning, courtesy of my pal Sloane Taylor. (You should check out her website--it's beautiful.) I already have Sloane's blog as one of my favorites. Now I've added Cabbages and Kings, a blog by author PJ Parrish. I especially like her November 8th entry -- Wanna Be a Writer? Get Real! In there she lists the 15 things you should never do (don't procrastinate; don't beat yourself up as you go along (or, as I call it, it's okay to write crap the first time around); don't neglect your theme; don't get personal, and lots more.) Go check it out. It's good stuff.

Then there's the one that Jenna turned me onto. Clublife, the blog of a bouncer in NY, is a funny and oft-times poignant look at life. It's interesting to me on a couple of levels: 1. He's a guy. I like to see a guy's perspective on things; 2. I like to get a feel for how guys write. Let's face it, they're different than women (thank the good Lord!) in so many ways, but especially in the way their brains are wired. They think differently. They express themselves (or not!) differently. (That's one thing I struggle with when I'm in my hero's POV. Making sure he sounds like a man, not a woman. And not just like any man, but like an Alpha. For example, the first time a man sees an attractive woman, does he notice that her hair seems to sparkle in the sunlight? Or is he checking out the T&A? According to Sloane's significant other, it's just about always about the T&A.) It's just very... interesting to me. The cool thing about this guy? He got a book deal because someone (I don't remember now... an editor or agent someone) read his blog and thought, hey, this guy's got good stuff to say here.

Do I think that I'll get a book deal from my blog? No. That kind of thing is the exception, not the rule. I blog to wake up my brain, to prepare for the day's writing, to connect with my readers (when I get 'em), and to share with other writers what I'm learning as I go down this path in the writer's journey. And, as I've said before, it makes for one hell of a procrastination tool.

Which brings me back to my original question. Is blogging addictive?

Hell, yes.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Things That Go Bump In The Night...

...won't leave me alone. I'm writing this book during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and I'm nearly half-way through it when a secondary character tells me he's a werecougar. WTF? I thought I was writing a straight contemporary erotic romance, and now all of a sudden I have a shape-shifting mountain lion?

Where the hell did that come from? But if that's what he says he is, who am I to argue? By the way, I'm also on the third name for him, but at least he seems happy with this one. Finally. I started out with Jake O'Dell, but the hero's last name is O'Malley and I figured that would be too confusing. So I went with Brock Ballentyne. (I love the name Brock: it's so... manly.)

Nope. He didn't like that. I wrote maybe three pages using that name, when he pretty much stopped everything and snarled, "That's not my name. What the hell kind of name is that for a shape-shifter? That's a rich-boy pussy name." So, even though technically in NaNoWriMo you're not supposed to do this sort of thing, I brought out my book of character names. I knew I wouldn't be able to move forward with the story if I didn't have this guy's name right. I went through Anglo-Saxon names (some good, guttural names there). Nuttin. Moved on to Celtic, then English, then Irish. Still nada.

I don't even think I saw this name on any page, but all of a sudden it was there very clearly in my mind. Kane. It suits him. Tall, rangy but muscular, dark blonde hair worn a little long and several days' growth of beard that tries but fails to cover a delicious cleft chin. (Think Viggo. Yummmm!)

Okay, so I have the first name. What about the last? Ballentyne just wasn't working. It didn't fit him. It didn't fit him being a shape-shifter. (Not to mention that he didn't like it.) I needed something equally brusque-sounding. Two syllables, for a good flow. And it hit me. Maddox. Kane Maddox.

And the writing re-commenced.

Man, I love it when it all falls together.

(NaNoWriMo word count is now 2,190 ahead, only 26,474 to go. And another 600 on the short story, which is going to end up as a short novella, I think.)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I've Got Editors!

A couple of weeks ago, I was assigned the editor for the story that will be in Volume 3 of Torrid Teasers (Careful Wishes). (I've got a picture of the cover below. I know, it says Volume 2, but I've been told it will really be in Volume 3. Whatever. 2. 3. I'm okay with either!) Today I got an email from Jan Janssen, the Executive Editor of Torrid, that my novella, Dragon's Bane, has been assigned to a Senior Editor. (And, just in case you haven't seen it, here's the gorgeous cover that Jinger did for me.)

Woo and hoo! This makes it feel so much more "official." I mean, I've had short stories published in the past, but they were short (under 5,ooo words) and I don't remember having an editor assigned to do anything with them.

Now... I have editors! I feel like a bona fide author!!

(P.S. Yesterday I managed 2,001 words toward NaNoWriMo, and another 575 on my shorter story. All in all, not a bad day.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Historian

I bought the book, The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova, a few months ago. I made it to page 50 and put it down. Probably 3 or 4 weeks back. I haven't had any desire to pick it back up.

It might just be me. First of all, the book is written in first person, which I've never really enjoyed reading. Plus, it's 642 pages long. For anyone, that's a huge undertaking to read. Let alone write. I'm not sure how Ms. Kostova did it.

Several writers on the FF&P loop raved about this book, which is why I bought it. I mean, it's Dracula. Whether he's the bad guy (as in most books) or the good guy (if you haven't read Fred Saberhagen's The Dracula Tape, The Holmes-Dracula File, and An Old Friend of the Family, you should), he's... Dracula. The ultimate vampire. The original. The one that changed vampires from decaying corpses who rise from their graves to attack their families to sexy, irrestistable creatures of the night who pretty much have people fighting each other to be the ones who get bitten.

This is Ms. Kostova's first novel. First. Novel. 642 pages. In hardback, no less. That's over 160,000 words. Sheesh. I'm having trouble making sure I can keep all the characters straight and have strong enough GMC to get a 50,000-word novel done. More than triple that, and you've got The Historian.

One of these years I'm sure I'll finish wading through this. There has to be something of value in 642 pages. I mean, the publisher saw something. Other readers have seen something.

It might must be me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I don't know what happened, but I haven't touched my NaNoWriMo project in three days.

Okay, okay. I do know what happened. On Saturday I had to clean and had my family over, plus I was still flying high from my news that I took first place in the erotic romance category of FF&P's On The Far Side contest. Concentration was non-existent. On Sunday, I pretty much slept. Didn't get up until 10 (I'm usually up 6:30-7:00 most mornings), and then back to bed at 1:30 until 6:00 (yep, a 4 1/2 hour "nap"). Vegged through some TV, and back in bed at 9:30. Yesterday I got up and blogged, then worked on my manuscript submission to Kensington, which will go out in the mail this morning. Yay!

All of this dithering, however, now puts me almost 5,800 words behind schedule. Oy.

Guess ya'll know what I'll be doing for the next few days. Writing my little fingers to nubs to catch up.

What the hell was I thinking?!?!?

(Oh, well, at least I have Urian now. Grrrrr.)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Novel Ideas

Susan Vreeland, in her article in the November issue of The Writer Magazine, writes about where the ideas come for novels. Much commercial fiction, she contends, begins as a story idea or plot, and then characters are invented and shaped (or misshaped and stretched) to fit the story.

My story ideas just about always start with the characters. It works something like this: there's a lonely, brooding hero. Or a strong, sexy hero with some flaws. (It just about always starts with the hero.) Then I start asking, 'What if...?' and 'Why?'

What if the hero is isolated by choice? Why? Well, what if he's a werewolf? And he doesn't trust himself to be around people without hurting them.

Okay. So, along comes the heroine, who's sassy and spunky and has a takes-no-prisoners attitude (which, okay, pretty much describes all my heroines. Who wants to read about a prissy, sissy girl who sits in a corner sobbing?) What if the heroine needs the hero to help her? Why? Because she has a werewolf after her and the hero is an acknowledged "expert" on werewolves.

Of course, the heroine has no idea that the hero is a werewolf, too. She only knows that she doesn't want to be one. Bam! Conflict.

(This is my story that's in a MAJOR revision for submission to Ellora's Cave. When I get back to it. I got stuck about 21,000 words in, so it's percolating while I do my NaNo thing. Come December 1st, I'm back to my wolfie story with a vengeance.)

So... where do your ideas come from?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

When Words Get In The Way

So many times, in our efforts to show our readers our "distinctive style," we're tempted to cut loose and start using flowery language or fancy, nearly unpronouncable words. When that happens (and an editor doesn't correct it), readers are yanked from the story because the writing's too convoluted or they have to grab a dictionary to look up a word they've never seen before.

Our job as writers is not to show readers our "voice", but to give them a story in which they can become engrossed. Write clear, crisp sentences that create pictures readers can see, emotions they can feel. When we write well, readers suspend their disbelief and immerse themselves in the worlds and characters we've created. They are unaware of the author--we are invisible.

How many times have you read a book and, at some point, the author intruded and it yanked you right out of the story? Maybe it was an awkward point-of-view shift, or all of a sudden it's the author's omniscient POV that we're seeing. We know that neither of the characters in the scene we're reading know that the monster is hiding in the bushes, but all of a sudden we, the readers, are given a bit of information that lets us know for certain that it's there. Something like... Bill and Nancy had their backs to the woods. Unbeknownst to them, a pair of eyes started glowing with crimson malevolence.

Okay, not great, but hopefully you see where I'm going with this. If Bill and Nancy are the only characters standing by the woods, then the readers should see what they see. Nothing more, nothing less. By showing the readers something more, we've yanked them from the story.

Readers shouldn't be stopped by a word, whether it's because they don't know it, it's too flowery or it's just not quite the right word. Keep it simple. In the example above, many readers might not know what the word malevolence means. It might be better to use the word "hatred" or "ill-will".

Mark Twain once said, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and lightening bug." Most of the time, the right word is the most straightforward and familiar one. Write "asked," not "queried" or "quizzed." Go for simple, down-to-earth action verbs. Tie the verb with the character's emotions. If your character is angry or having a bad day, instead of having him "insert" a key into a lock, have him "shove" it.

Author William G. Tapply does the following to show him his writing habits: He prints out several pages of his draft, then takes colored pens and goes through the pages, circling the instances of visible writing problems one color at a time. Red for adverbs (minimize the use of adverbs by finding active verbs), green for adjectives (minimize adjectives, substitute specific nouns), blue for the verb "to be," such as "was," "is," "were," and "are" (convert such weak verbs into strong ones and convert passive into active sentences), pink for fancy vocabulary words (substitute clear, simple language), orange for commas (identify long compound sentences that can be changed into two or more shorter, punchier sentences), black for metaphors and similes (do they work? Are they attention getting? Can they be eliminated?) and brown for cliches and trite expressions (take out all of them to eliminate lazy writing).

Try it. Get a visiual picture of your own writing habits that will help you to edit and revise for clarity and invisibility.

Then write some more.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

My Muse... She's Fired!

In Thursday's blog, I bemoaned the fact that my fickle Muse had gone off to play, leaving me stranded. After taking a long nap (because my allergies were kicking my butt), I woke to discover that she was down in Texas, providing help to someone who visits my blog fairly frequently--Forrest, better known as "for the trees".

I have decided that she can stay in Texas. Forrest, you keep her, okay? She seems to like you better, anyway. Fickle Muse. (mutter, mutter)

I went out and got a male Muse to guide me, restore me, inspire me. Meet Urian (Greek for "from the heavens"):

Ay carumba! He's all sultry and sexy and nekkid. What a guy, taking off his clothes for my inspiration. Gotta love that in a Muse.

Now, I'm off to throw some stuff in the crockpot that will later be known as chili, brew some iced tea, run the vacuum, dust, unclutter the couch, clean the bathrooms and run several loads of laundry. I'm several thousand words behind my goal for my NaNo project, AND I still have a short story/novella to work on, AND I have final tweaking for my Kensington submission, so Urian and I are gonna get to know each other a little bit better.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Manuscript Request From Kensington!!!

I just received an email from the contest coordinator of On The Far Side, the contest for unpublished authors sponsored by FF&P, the Futuristic, Fantasy & Paranormal Special Interest Chapter of RWA. Drum roll, please.

In the erotic romance category, who's final judge was Kate Duffy with Kensington Publishing, I PLACED FIRST! She's requested the full manuscript of City of the Dead.

I am just... speechless. Hyperventilating, and speechless.


My Muse Went Off To Play With Kate's...

Yesterday, my friend Kate blogged that her unfaithful Muse had upped and left her, even after she'd cajoled and begged and threatened. Well, it appears that Kate's Muse snuck in and convinced my Muse to go with her. Because yesterday I wrote exactly 307 words. 307, despite being home all day.

307 lousy words.

So, where do Muses go when they're playing hookey, I wonder? To the movies? To the bookstore? Over at Jenna's, ogling her Muse, Jack? In Greece for a long weekend, playing with the gods? (That's where my money is. Either ogling Jack or playing with yummy Greek gods. Damn it. Why doesn't she ever ask me to go along?! And why did I get stuck with a female Muse and Jenna got a hunky guy? Why, I ask you? Why?)

Can one trade in one's Muse? Especially when she's being a non-cooperative pain in the ass?

Inquiring minds wanna know. Because today, today I have to be productive. I'm having family over tomorrow for chili and maybe a rousing game of Balderdash, so I'll be cleaning and cooking. (All right, so there's not a lot of cooking involved in opening cans and tossing the ingredients in the crockpot, but, still. For me, it's cooking.) So I really need to put the fingers on the keyboard and actually have stuff come out.

I need my Muse to get off of Mount Olympus and get her ass back here. Pronto. Cuz I got work to do.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


I'll admit it. I (along with thousands and thousands of other people) am a LOST fanatic. The last couple of weeks have been torture for me, because the network was showing reruns. Last night, the newest episode. I'm on pins and needles watching it, because the build-up has been that someone--a main character--is going away, never to return. As I'm watching, I'm saying, Man, that Shannon is such a whiney, self-centered, spoiled crybaby. The only thing she's done is translate some French and give Sayid a chance to get laid. Please, let it be her.

I admire the writing and plot twists of the show. I am on the edge of my seat the entire hour. (Well, not during commercials, but you know what I mean.) As the former lives of those stranded on the island are revealed, you see how their lives have criss-crossed each other's, even for the briefest of moments. As a writer, you can learn a lot about scene creation by paying attention to clever shows and movies.

(Off on a tangent, sort of. I watched Sin City with a friend a few days ago. The movie was dark and clearly written from a man's point of view. I mean, all the women were either prostitutes or pole dancers, except for one barmaid. Even a nurse that showed up later was really a prostitute on loan. Sheesh. But... the writing was excellent. There were some really great lines. One that particularly stands out for me, as a romance writer, was "She smelled like angels ought to smell." (Or something like that. It's been a few days.) But, here the writers pulled in the sense of smell to help create the scene.)

In LOST, you clearly see the characters' motivations--and sometimes, for the more secretive people, not so clearly. (Like many, many other women, I'm rooting for bad-boy Sawyer. Woo-doggie!)

And the end of the show last night? Well, after a few scary moments where Sawyer was concerned, the character that bit the dust was (drum roll here for those of you who didn't see the show)... Shannon. Killed by the beeyatch Anna.

Next week promises to be even more exciting. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


I got a call from my doctor's office this morning with some much needed good news.

Let me give you some background info, first. You know those commercials for one of the cholesterol medications--the ones that show food and Aunt Ethel and Uncle Joe? The premise of the commercial is that cholesterol problems are a result of both the foods we eat and genetics. My dad, who eats like a garbage disposal (meaning, just about anything) and is about 150 pounds overweight, has perfect cholesterol. The bad cholesterol is low, the good cholesterol is high. My mom, who gets on the treadmill just about every day, watches what she eats and is maybe 30 pounds overweight, has just the opposite. High bad cholesterol, low good cholesterol.

Me? I got the weight issues from my dad, the cholesterol issues from my mom. Tell me that's fair. It's not. Bah.

Well, anyway, the last time I went into the doctor's office for my annual "put your feet in the stirrups and say aah" and blood tests, my doctor told me she wanted me have a Calcium Score Test. A CST is kind of like a CRT. The technician hooks 4 electrodes up to you (or whatever they're called), lays you on a table that pulls you chest deep into a metal donut. Then the machine takes a picture of your heart and arteries. (You have to hold your breath to the count of 50. Try it. It's not that easy. It's not really hard, but it's not that easy.) This picture shows the amount of plaque build up in your arteries.

Now, allegedly, doctors only order this test because they're concerned. Because you're a prime candidate for heart disease. Because your bad cholesterol is high and your good cholesterol is low.

Can you see me sweating? God, I'm about ready to have a heart attack worrying that I'm going to have a heart attack.

So, today, The Call. My CST was 0. Zero. Which is the lowest score you can get. The best score you can get. Oy vay. All that biting of the nails for nothing.

At least with the shorter nails, I can type better.

Another Good Day

I've managed to stay on goal with my NaNo project, although on Monday I wasn't so sure I'd be able to. It was a struggle to get written what I did, and that was less than 1,000 words. Not gonna get to 50,000 words on November 30th by writing 1,000 words a day. Ain't gonna happen.

Yesterday, I managed to corral myself and focus on writing. I made my goal with NaNo, plus got 900 words closer to finishing the short story I'm working on. Should be finishing the little story today, and plan on starting another one. I'm taking the advice of Angela Knight. In a message board on the Passionate Ink site recently she recommended that many successful writers started out by writing a lot of short stories. I am finding that I can do well with 8-10,000 word shorts. It forces me to write lean and mean, to so speak.

So, today, it's (hopefully) another 2,000 words on NaNo, and finish the short. (Or, in the words of Pinky and the Brain: "Say, Brain, what do ya wanna do tonight?" "The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world.")

One short story at a time...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Flawed Characters

The most memorable characters are those who are likeable, striking a chord with readers, but who are also imperfect, flawed. I think part of the problem with some of the heroes of the 80s' romance novels were, because of the authors' efforts to make the hero flawed, the heroes were turned into harsh, unyielding a-holes. Men who forced the women they supposedly loved into sex because the hero wanted it, or because the hero knew best and "knew" that the heroine really wanted to have sex with him, even though she said no. And then the brainless, bimbo heroines rolled over and let the heroes have their way with them, their hands across their foreheads and bosoms heaving.

And we wonder why romances are still called 'bodice-rippers.' Ack.

Making a character flawed does not mean turning him or her into people no one would like in real life. It means, for one thing, focusing on the character's vulnerabilities. These can be physical or emotional, but they have to be tied to the character. What makes your heroine sad? What frightens her? What wrongs has she done to others that she now regrets?

Also, you must understand what your character wants. What's at stake for him? What pushes him to make the decisions he makes? What does he stand to gain or lose by the end of the story? (And if this sounds familiar, yes, its the M of GMC.)

Your job as a writer is to become your characters. What things will your characters focus on? Of course, you have to listen to your characters, find out about them. Just because you like bleu cheese dressing on your salad doesn't mean your heroine does.

Find out about them, then look at the world through their eyes. And write.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Establishing Goals... and Remembering Them

I have a couple of writing buddies that help keep me accountable for what I've said I'll do. We set goals each week, then see if we've been able to achieve those goals.

My problem? For whatever reason, I don't remember that I've set the goals.

For example, last Sunday my goals were: 1) write at least 12K on my NaNoWriMo, 2) finish my short story, and 3) keep up with Pro Bootcamp (which is a 3-week online "class" for members of RWA who have Pro status, i.e., they've submitted (and, in some cases, been rejected) a novel-length manuscript to an RWA-recognized publisher.

How did I do? Well, on #1, I managed just over 10K. While that keeps me "on goal" for the purposes of NaNoWriMo, I didn't meet my personal goal. Because I didn't remember I'd set it. (Can you see me rolling my eyes?)

On #2... well, that one I did accomplish. Finished the story and submitted it, and started a new one.

#3 was pretty easy, so it really doesn't count.

This week I'm determined to write at least 14K on NaNoWriMo (2K above my personal goal of last week, since I missed it by 2K) and finish the current short story.

Now, if I can only remember... Oh, write it down, you say? Yeah. I could do that. Hmm.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Propelling Your Fiction With Props

In the December issue of The Writer Magazine (which, if you're not subscribed to, you should be!), Adele Glimm wrote about using props to establish character, plot and theme.

The writer asks, "Have you ever toured a historic house and felt the past spring suddenly to life? It was probably not the tour guide's speech that did it, but rather the sight of a hoop skirt, a chamber pot or a musket."

Using Ms. Glimm's examples, imagine, if you will, that Diane, the heroine of your story, works as a computer specialist whose personal life is nowhere near as successful as her professional life. You wish you understood her better (in other words, understood the dread GMC). Take a moment and close your eyes. Look closely at Diane's desk at work. What's there amidst the clutter of paperwork and technical manuals? Perhaps a souvenir from a childhood vacation could give you the chance to bring Diane's background to life and shine a light on what makes her tick. Maybe, even at the advanced age of thirty (and I can say that because I'm on the south side of that number), she still treasures a small Mickey Mouse statue because a trip to Disneyland was the last family vacation before her parents divorced.

Next, consider what layers of meaning might be developed around this object. What if (and that's a favorite story starter... 'What if...?') Diane is leery of having children because she's afraid of bringing them up alone after a breakup, or she just wants to make sure no child of hers has his/her world shattered like hers had been? Now, that's probably not enough conflict for Diane, so here comes the hero, who badly wants a son because of his own background, represented by... a catcher's mitt? A gold pocket watch? Some heirloom that he wants to pass down to a child of his own.

Now, have that little statue disappear from Diane's desk and watch the fur fly. Her co-workers will be surprised at the apparent irrational reaction from their usually calm and cool colleague, but your readers won't because they know what complex emotions are tied into that little mouse.

Showing is always better than telling. By having that statue on the desk and using action to show Diane's attatchment to it, maybe even a conversation with the hero about her background (let's say he's an outside computer tekkie who's come to assist her with a big project), the readers can "see" her motivations and conflict. Much better than a long monologue of 'Diane thought blah, blah, blah,' wiped her tears, more 'blah, blah, blah.'

In my blog on Friday, I included a quote by E.L. Doctorow. Here's another, on descriptive writing: "Not that it's raining, but the feel of being rained upon." Sometimes, when I'm particuarly stuck on a scene, I lean my head back against my chair and close my eyes, and type. I picture the character: what he's doing, seeing, smelling, feeling. And I write from his POV. If he's sitting in the rain, he'll feel it dripping off the end of his nose, getting his shirt collar wet, soaking through to his underwear. If he's mad, this probably will make him angrier. If he's sad, it fits his mood and makes him that much more melancholy.

Try this link, the next time you get stuck on making your prose more descriptive. It's a useful online tutorial in using descriptive detail in fiction writing, hosted by Colorado State.

And keep writing!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

I Made Another Sale!

I just got an email from the Executive Editor at Whiskey Creek Press Torrid with a contract for my short-story Chocolate-Covered Werewolves. Woo and hoo!! This will be part of the Spring Flings anthology that's due out in April 2006.

My bud Jenna Howard also had her stories accepted -- three contracts. Count 'em. Three. She'll be in the Spring Flings anth with me, plus her other two stories will be in the Summer Sizzlers and Fall Fires anthologies. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that WCP will like the two I submitted for them for those other anthologies, and Jenna and I can share the pages there, too.

2006 is gonna be a gonga year!

Did I Fry My Brain?

On Thursday I wrote just over 2,100 words toward my NaNoWriMo project, and almost 1,900 on my short story. Wow! But yesterday I only managed 900 words on NaNo. Zero on the short story.

Have I fried my brain? Or did I just get too late of a start? I think my most productive time is the morning, up to about 1 p.m. I can write in the afternoon and evenings, but I don't get the quantity that I get in the morning hours. A friend and I got together for an early lunch and a brainstorming session on promotions. (Because, frankly, I don't have a clue!)

Before I knew it, it was almost 2:00 in the afternoon. I came on home and really couldn't write anything. I just couldn't concentrate. Sat and stared at the screen for a while, then just shut it all down. Figured I'd have to make it up today, after I get back from a medical test.

And if nothing comes to me, I'll just have to write crap until it gets better. I can't have two days in a row that aren't productive.

Writers write. I have to keep telling myself that. You're a writer. So write.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Writers On Writing

The best inspiration you can have, as a writer, is from other writers. One of my favorite non-fiction books is by Stephen King. On Writing was started prior to him trying to become a hood ornament on that guy's van, and was finished during and after his recovery. If you've never read this book, go buy it or pick up a copy from your local library. It is excellent.

One of my favorite parts is toward the end of the book. King says, "Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy." He went on to write, "Some of this book--perhaps too much--has been about how I learned to do it. Much of it has been about how you can do it better. The rest of it--and perhaps the best of it--is a permission slip: you can, you should, and if you're brave enough to start, you will. Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up."

Isn't that just beautiful?

E.L. Doctorow once said that "writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." You don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination. You don't even have to see the scenery that you're passing. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. I must say, this is some of the best advice about writing (or life, for that matter) that I've ever heard.

The great Western writer Louis L'Amour said, “If you’re going to be a writer, the first essential is just to write. Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow.”

And, just in case you think writing should be easy and you must be a dummy because it ain't easy for you, think about what Harlan Ellison had to say: “People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it.”

One last one, from Virginia Wolf: "It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything."

The common advice these writers have given us is:

1. Start.
2. Keep at it.
3. Finish.

And enjoy the journey along the way.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Sometimes Ya Gotta Just Go With The Flow

Well, I didn't make my 2,000 word NaNoWriMo goal yesterday, but I did enough to keep up with the average daily required word count. I also did some unplanned work on my local RWA chapter's newsletter (I'm a co-editor). Then I'd planned to move on to my wolf story, but my Muse was pretty stubborn about that. She kept insisting that I start another short story.

Ya don't argue with the Muse. I guess my werewolf hero, Ryder, and his heroine, Taite, still have some, um, percolating to do.

So I started a story that involves humans with telepathic and telekinetic abilities and the genetically enhanced warriors that guard them. The mentally-endowed humans are being systematically placed in key positions in governments all over the world (and not for good reasons, mind you); the warriors act as their body guards. Biogenetic engineering has rendered these warriors with the appearance of humans, but has given them the abilities and senses of different animals. My hero is Max Didion, the leader of these warriors and a man wholly at ease with who and what he is. A six-foot-four hunk of humanity with the abilities of a cougar. And, of course, he ends up with a heroine named... Cat.

Hopefully in the not-too-distant future, you'll see this story in print. So far, the murder has been discovered...

So, what's the agenda for tomorrow? Write and write some more. I'm shooting again for 2,000 words on my NaNoWriMo project, and maybe 1,000 or so on this new short story.

May the Muse be with me.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I Survived...

... my first day of NaNoWriMo. I wrote 2,160 words and stopped midstream so I'll have something to jump right back into tomorrow.

That's something else that I've learned on this journey. It's a good thing to stop in the middle of scene rather than writing until you've finished it. If you finish the scene, the next day you come back to a blank screen and have to figure out where to go from there. If you stop mid-scene, the next day you come back and jump right back in where you left off, and the flow continues into the next scene. That's the theory, anyway. Sometimes those peanut butter days don't allow that to happen. But it's the best way to combat the peanut butter, really. Nothing's worse than trying to slog through peanut butter without your knife. If the knife's in hand, getting through it is at least a bit easier.

In the afternoon, I finally managed to finish the short story I've been working on. Another 1,300 words. The story ends with a steamy love scene, which always takes the longest for me to write. I have to make sure the emotional impact is there, that it's much, much more than just "insert Tab A into Slot B." While I write erotic romance, I do NOT write porn. Hence, the more arduous aspect of writing a sex scene. It has to be hot, and it has to have the character's emotions out there, naked and raw. Um, no pun intended.

But, all in all, a fairly productive day at just over 3,400 hundred words. Today, it's back into NaNoWriMo--I'm shooting for at least 2,000 words per day. If I can manage that, I'm jumping back into my werewolf rewrite. All too soon I'm going to have to go back out and get a day job, so I want to take advantage of all this time I have on my hands. Write, write and write some more.

As long as my brain holds out...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

NaNoWriMo Madness Has Begun

Well, it's official. Jenna Howard and I are completely out of our ever-lovin' minds.

We signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where we've committed to writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I had questioned Jenna's sanity before; now, there's no doubt.

But what about me?? I've been having trouble getting an 8,000 word short story completed. I should be able to kick something like that out in about four or five days. Earlier than that, if I'm particularly verbose. But... 50,000 words in 30 days?

Oy vey. I don't have all the GMC figured out yet. I have the G. I have the M. I have some of the C. But... who's the villain? I haven't figured that out yet. What happens once the inciting event happens? Dunno. Am I going to be able to make the hero sympathetic while he's being a real ass at the beginning of the story? (gulp) Again with the Oy. I am so screwed.

I think it's safe to say that I'm as loco as my friend Jenna. Maybe more so. I'm older. I should know better.