Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I encourage dissent.

Unless you're talking about me.

Oh Romanceland, how I love thee.

I'm not jumping into the fray. (I'm not even going to name the fray, unless you ask me nicely.) I am way too much of a chicken for that. I don't need hordes of fans on either side jumping on my bandwagon to defend my right to free speech. Instead, I'm just going to sit here on the sidelines, ruminating on the various ways one can "get in trouble" in the blogosphere and why I will probably encounter every one of them.

Last week I posted about why I suck. One of the things noted in the footnotes is that you won't find me in a flamewar.

There are so many reasons for this. First and foremost--it's the Internet! Who gives a flying fuck? I mean, really. No. Really. How could it possibly matter in your day-to-day life what is said on here? If you win the flamewar is your boss gonna give you a hundred dollar bonus and a pat on the back? If you lose will everyone at your grocery store point and laugh? Where are the real world implications that affect anything other than your ego?

Another reason you won't catch me in a flamewar is that I'm confident in what I say. Generally on any website or comment space I say what I mean to say and move on. I don't feel the need to defend my point, over, or re-explain myself. In fact, having watched a zillion flamewars in the past, I've noted that those who do jump back in again and again tend to look weak and defensive, vs those who are strong and stoic. I'm not saying I'm strong, or that those who argue for their POV are weak, I'm just saying how they look to outsiders.

The third reason, the one that I alluded to above, the one that makes me a chicken, is the emotional investment. Oh My God!!! Could we ever, possibly, in all the world, be more full of ourselves than when screaming to the (uncaring) heavens, "I'M RIGHT!! I'M RIGHT!! I'M RIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!!!!!!!!"

Yeah, exactly.

Temper tantrum much?

But seriously, a flamewar involves a large emotional investment from both sides to keep going back over the same ground again and again. Making the same points. Telling the other side that if they'd only *listen* they'd see how right I am. It's a game with no referee, just spectators lining up on either side waiting for blood.

It's also a game that has the potential to actually hurt my wee feelings, because once I become invested enough to argue about it, I'm invested enough to care what other people think. But it's the Internet. See point number one above, this emotional investment has no pay off. If I "win" (which I won't because people don't change their minds when emotionally invested) there's no pot of gold, it doesn't help me sleep better, it only strokes my ego and my ego is healthy enough. If I "lose" (which I won't because in a flamewar you Never. Give. Up.) there's no one to commiserate with me, or buy me ice-cream or pat me on the head with a there, there.

It's a lose-lose.

So I've been watching the most recent flamewar spring up in Romanceland. It's actually kind of funny. One side is (meanly) saying we should be nicer, and to stop being snarky and mean. The other side is saying, be nice--how dare you be mean about our snark. See the irony? It's delicious.

Currently reading: He Loves Me He Loves Me Hot
Currently reading:
B is for Burglar
Currently reading: Donovan's Promise
Currently reading: Dead Until Dark

Monday, April 27, 2009

I'm thinking of moving

I've been stagnating in Tucson. I know a lot of it has to do with not being employed. I'm sure I'd feel entirely different if I was gainfully pulling in just enough to drown below the poverty line (not). But even then, I think I'd feel as if my time in Tucson is up. I don't know where I'll go.

It's been almost nine years here. I've added a job or two to my resume, added a ring to my finger, and a few letters behind my name. None of it has left me feeling especially enriched.

I am a Cancer. Whether you believe in horoscopes or not, I share many traits with the stereotypical crab. I am a homebody who gathers her world around her. I am very, very comfortable in my shell.

Too comfortable.

I've lost my get up and go. It left without me and I didn't bother to follow, I'm not even sure I looked up when it closed the door. If I don't pry this shell off myself, I fear I will allow it to seal shut around me while I wither away on the inside, never even giving myself a chance to experience the world around me.

Like most writers, I'm a cerebral type. I make a few friends, I like them a lot. I am bad at nurturing friendships though. The love I feel for a friend rarely fades, the work of maintaining a friendship, however, is not something I'm especially good at. Like everyone, I lose friends to common attrition. Unlike everyone though, I don't pick up new ones easily. I need a change of environment to do that.

I will have to make sure I have a cushion wherever I land. I don't do well without a cushion. I'm one of those crazy chicks who thinks it fun to eat every day, and get itchy without a shower. I can survive here as it stands now, but I'm not thriving. I've become tangled in my own roots and they're starting to rot.

So I'm thinking of moving. Hoping it will save my soul.

Currently reading: He Loves Me He Loves Me Hot
Currently reading:
B is for Burglar
Currently reading: Donovan's Promise
Currently reading: Dead Until Dark

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Somedays I just can't write

This morning I tried to get past a preliminary black moment.
It didn't happen.

I wrote a bunch of pages this week, my H&H let me in and together we got some really good stuff down on paper. Of course, as is the way with emotions--even fake ones mined from fictional characters--things got messy.

I had written in some confidence issues for him early in the script that I thought I was going to have to take out in re-write, because as I wrote further, he developed past that. It wasn't really lack of confidence, it was an unconscious need to make a safe choice, which had him avoiding even looking at the brass ring, much less reaching for it.

That, in turn, lead to him leading life in a less than confident way. But here approaches the BIG black moment, and those issues are rushing to the fore again. He needs to recognize them before he can get over them.

Problem is, I don't think he's that self-aware. He's aware of the other people in his life, but is very accustomed to ignoring his own needs in favor of what other other people need from him. In other words, chances of him recognizing his need to make the safe choice in time to deal with it are low.

This is my problem as an author. I am now seeing more in his character than he has shown me. I have to strip layers off him that he doesn't want to show me, that he's uncomfortable with even having. Not only having, but admitting in his own mind, and then overcoming so he can claim his woman. It feels like a betrayal to show that to the world without his permission.

Doesn't matter though, I have to make him see that in himself. Get over his damn martyr complex and see the prize he really is. Not just for his happiness, but for my readers, the heroine, and for the benefit of the story.

This is only part of why I can't write today. The other part is because of her, the heroine. She has found her feet. She's seeing the world clearly--except for him.

They are having a little mini-Misunderstanding, that feels a tad contrived in my mind, but is real for their situation. I think mayhaps I need to rewrite her reaction. Less anger, more withdrawal / disappointment. No matter though, I still have to more forward from where they are right now, and into the REAL Black Moment.

He's doing something that is necessary for the reader - going back to his real life, away from the interlude that was their time together. And he has to see how empty that life is without her. She has to do the same thing on her side.

No wonder I'm having trouble finding the words to put on the page. Who wants to read about the misery they're both going to be in? The depression they're courting? Ugh.

I think I have my angle though. I'll let them wallow. They need to feel the depths of their own stubborn stupidity. That way, when the opportunity to seize happiness arrives, they'll both leap forward and grab with both hands.

Now, if I could just figure out the next sentence we'll be in business.

Currently reading: He Loves Me He Loves Me Hot
Currently reading:
B is for Burglar
Just finished:
Baby Love

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My dad says I should be a lawyer

My sister's a lawyer, so I'm categorically opposed to the idea, of course.

But it's interesting what dad sees in me. My sister was a criminal prosecutor for years before she moved into corporate law and now works on all of those corporate bankruptcy cases you hear about on the news.

My dad doesn't see that kind of law for me. He thinks I should be a defense attorney. I find this odd because I have no particular affiliation for the criminal element. He thinks though that I am a champion for the underdog.

I suppose a part of me is. I mean, who doesn't get swept away in any sort of David vs Goliath story? But I think the underdog thing is just what he sees. What I see in myself is a championing of equality.

Our lives are built on the faulty premise that fairness exists. We're all given the same chances. Justice is blind. All men are created equal. It's a load of bull, and I'm not afraid to call it. (At least, not within the confines of my living room.)

I have no affinity for argument. It is usually pointless outside of the confines of a courtroom. In the real world, no one changes what they believe. They just dig their heels in and argue each other into the ground. And I have no interest in trying to change someone's mind. If you choose not to open yourself up to another opinion, that's your life. Ignorance is a choice. Sometimes its even a choice I make for myself. But I don't really care if you change your mind, it won't make a difference to my life.

It so happens, in this world, the underdog is often given the shaft. The Impersonal Big Monolith company is usually wielding the power. That doesn't make either side right or wrong. It just means that I'm more likely to hear one side over another and I've trained myself to ask what's the other half of this story?

I have also learned, through the blessings of my advanced degree, how to critically analyze what I am given to search for the unspoken bits--the holes, the assumptions. They say there are three sides to every story, I contend there are four; Party A, Party B, the Truth and what the listener chooses to hear.

Most of us will listen to the side that has gained our allegiance, I try to listen to it all. That way, the rules and exceptions can be applied across the board. I don't have a bleeding liberal heart, I have a working, thinking mind. I can see behind spin and PR and sensationalistic outrage on both sides of an argument. My only question is, is that fair?

Usually, it isn't.

Currently reading: B is for Burglar
Currently reading: He Loves Me, He Loves Me Hot

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I think I own more Lori Foster books than Lori Foster does.

I went through my bookshelf today. I was looking for my copy of Midnight Rainbow by Linda Howard. I didn't find it. grrr. But since I was there, I decided to organize things a bit.

On the top level of my small bookshelf is the Stephanie Plum series, and a number of Lori Foster books (about 12), as well as the J.R. Ward BDB series and Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series.
On the next level is the Christine Feehan Dark Series and the Sherrilyn Kenyon Dream / Dark Hunter series.
Under that it's far less organized, but I have a group of Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Catherine Anderson books. I have others around the house, they just haven't made it to the proper section of the bookshelf yet. I have a few smaller groupings too--Linda Howard, Sharon Sala, Ruth Wind, Rachel Lee, Anne Stuart, Stephanie Rowe, Dallas Schultz, Elizabeth Lowell and more.

Today though I was looking for Midnight Rainbow. I found four other Linda Howards, but not the one I was specifically looking for. Instead I found a lot of Lori Fosters.

I mean, like, a LOT. Old anthologies, original Blazes, I swear a couple of British imprints even made it in there. How did this happen? I look at my MP3 collection and the number of Sting songs I have is out of control, but I know I love Sting, so that's to be expected. I knew I liked Lori Foster, but I had no idea how much Lori Foster I own. I even have two of her books in - wait, no, three of her books in my TBR right now.

I think it happened because when she came on the scene, she came on like gangbusters. Her men were different than what was out there. She had good covers. Her people had real sex, beyond what was allowed in a category at the time. (And by "real" I mean explicit, as opposed to 6 minutes of disappointment with a partner who still hasn't learned where a clit is or why it matters.) Her heroines weren't anything special to celebrate - but she knew it. She knew it from the beginning.

None of her books are called "Sheila" or "Daisy" or " Jennifer," they're named after men because they're always about the hero's journey. Always. She has a weakness in building a memorable heroine, and made it work for her. Hell, she built a career around it.

I just went back into my bedroom and checked. I already had 15 of her books on my bookshelf, not 12. I found 16 more today, and there's still my TBR with 3. That's THIRTY FOUR books from one author, based on the the happy I got from my initial read of her work. They haven't all been winners, and there were a few that have actually disappointed me. But in general, she has delivered exactly what I'm looking for in a Lori Foster novel.

I think the lesson here for me is to make sure, when I come on the scene, I write a damn good novel. Right at the beginning. And then each time after that. That seems obvious, really, but it isn't. Foster has built a huge reader base from those few initial novels. And a few bad books hasn't turned me off from her work. But if she had started with a book that was just okay, and followed up on her effort with something equally mediocre I wouldn't have a single one of her books now.

Currently reading: Mr. Valentine
Currently reading: B is For Burglar

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Blog Politics 101 aka Why I Suck

You've heard of a circle jerk, right? Everyone gets their happy because everyone has their hand in the ... er... pie. But, while being satisfied themselves, they are also required to satisfy another. If you don't, you're breaking the circle, and that sort of thing can leave you, well, unsatisfied.

It's the same in the blogosphere. In order to be noticed you must stroke the ego of another (link, comment, squee) and hope, pray, obsessively check your stats, that they will stroke yours.

I appreciate the incestuous nature of Romanceland. I can get to almost anywhere within six degrees of separation. But that doesn't mean I want to be so easily influenced myself. I am happy to read other blogs. I have learned way more than any book checked out of the library. I am happy to comment others' blogs, because I'm a bigmouth with an inflated ego and somehow think others will care about my two cents. I am not happy to come here and name names or self-referentially link back to all of the places I read something somewhere at sometime by someone.

See, I'm new to blogging. Though not to the net, or the (necessary) LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME nature of the net. I'm also new to being an author and the tenets of self-promotion. Again, I seek to bite myself in the ass with another Not Nice post. Far from being a rebel, maybe I'm just stupid, but I don't want to play that way.

When we create these links--even ephemeral Internet links to someone else--there's an implied relationship to the reader. And I don't have a relationship with any of these people. I'm not touching their 'pie', as it were, and they aren't touching mine. I may earn the right to those links, they may earn the right to mine, but as it stands, the relationships don't exist. And I don't want to give the impression that they do.

Yes, I will respond in my own space to a thought someone expressed in their own blog. Usually it's tangential, not a direct point/counterpoint, and I don't feel the need to give attribution to what sparked my idea. Oftentimes, the thing that pushes me into commenting is merely the straw, while the camel's legs have been bowed for weeks.

For example, I'm finally going to post this tonight, but I started the post five days ago. It was something I'd noticed months before that, found the words for weeks before that and finally felt things coalesce in my brain five days ago. But I still didn't have all the right words until I read this post tonight. (Irony, you like that?) So now the rest of what needed to be said is coming out.

There's more to this topic for me. Things I think I should say up front so people know why I don't do things the same way they do.
Things like:
why I rarely post pictures
why I admire bloggers who go their own way
why I don't review (on here)
why I try not to name names
my inherent anti-confrontational nature
my ego that allows me to say what I think and let it end there (or, why you won't catch me in a flame war)
and the joy of shooting yourself in the foot.

I won't mention all of these things now. After all, I heard that one of the things blog readers like least is having to read, and my fingertips can run on like nobody's business. So I'll stop for today with those few points and may be back to shore up my defenses at a later date.

Currently reading: Just The Sexiest Man Alive
Just about to start: B is For Burglar

Sunday, April 19, 2009

REPOST: Subject: Oh! miGod!!

I am re-posting this from last night because I haven't seen any outright refutations of the Meyer plagiarism rumor, and I think some should exist on the net.

For my money, I would NOT bet on the veracity of the claim below.

* * *

, which I suspect it isn't on account of the fact that I haven't been able to find anything from the purported source "Associated Press" and the initial article spelled plagiarism incorrectly.

Stephenie Meyer is being sued for idea infringement? I read about it here first. And they got the info from here. My friend sent me the info in a text message, and as I was reading my reaction went from, "yeah, whatever" to "oh wow, she has proof?"

Now, fortunately, I've been a good little reader on blogs in the past six months or so, and I know you can't copyright an idea in terms of fiction. I mean, please, can you imagine how many romance writers would be out of business? I wrote about a guy and a girl getting together and then having a fight and then making up and getting married first!!

So yeah, you can have an idea. (In my head, I already wrote that novel you're just about to publish.) But if you don't document it, you're SOL in the lawsuit department.

But this woman, Heidi Stanton, has copies of the story she wrote in college, combined with her lit professor who remembers her work as being exceptional for someone at that level. And still, I say ... eh, I doubt it will pass muster legally. Because unless Meyer had a copy of that same story and used it to reference her own world building, and then lifted passages close enough to verbatim to be copying this woman's style, then the suit won't have legs.

I shall profess here that I loved the TWILIGHT series, I gobbled them up, and I even read THE HOST. One of the reasons Meyer has been successful--whether you like her or not--is because she knows how to write angst like no other. Boy, does she know her angst.

And--whether you like it or not--Meyer has a distinctive voice. So unless Stanton was over her shoulder feeding the words into her ear during the writing of all 5 of Meyer's successfully published books, I don't think she'll get much money out of this.

I also think that it's a tad disingenuous to just come to this realization now. Yes, Stanton is a busy mother of 4, but if my ex-college roommate had published a book, I'd read it. No matter how small the press, no matter how busy I was.

If my ex-college roommate was making a mint with a series of books she'd published on vampires (something Stanton must have discussed with Meyer for the suit to have merit), and was the pride of her church (which is known for its close-knit, member-supportive policies), to the extent that you couldn't get away from knowledge of the books...you bet your ass I'd read that book! Besides, with four children, you know someone around her told her about the books.

So I'm not buying the whole, "I've been too busy to notice that my idea has made a billion dollars" argument. However, I totally buy that she wrote a story about vampires back in college. They may have even had the same characteristics as Meyer's vampires--cold, "vegetarian", baseball playing--but you can't copyright that.

Can you imagine how many authors would have to pay out for their vampires not being able to go out in daylight? or sipping but not killing? or being afraid of a cross? One doesn't get to hold on to the idea. One gets to defend the execution.

And if Meyer stole the idea, she will lower a notch in my estimation, but a small notch and her career will be fine. If she somehow (and I can't imagine) stole the execution, then I sincerely hope she gets what she deserves.

[I apologize for the blatant abuse of exclamation points in this post]

Currently reading: Caressed By Ice
Currently reading: Just The Sexiest Man Alive
Just about to start: B is for Burglar

Friday, April 17, 2009


Why, you ask?

Because I just wrote a totally kick-ass love scene at Starbucks today. We're talking brave exposure of vulnerability, trust issues exposed and overcome on both sides, POV shift from female to male, AND the dreaded mutual orgasm. Fuck yeah, bitches!!

What was even better is that I took the time today to re-read the last 80 or so pages that I had written up to that point and they were clean and smooth and moved along a lot faster than I expected. Hell, I had my MP3 player on, the music rocking (dancing in my chair), and I was still able to read through and enjoy the emotional highs and get caught up in the push-pull of their fears and emotions.

I'm at a stage now that I distinctly remember from when I was ready to finish my last book. I've cast so many threads into the ether-- plot builders, character challenges, external conflicts -- that now I need to work on bringing them together in a way that will satisfy reader expectations, and my expectations, while still maintaining enough emotional tension to carry through to the last page.

I know of 4 things that have to happen in their lives before things will be set to rest externally. And just now they've taken a MAJOR step forward towards their HEA (that love scene) but I'm not sure what the black moment will be about. These things are revealed by the characters. It will have to speak to their deepest fears about themselves, but it can't be a Big Misunderstanding.

If you've been reading romance for more than a year, you know how nothing makes a wallbanger like a Big Misunderstanding. Instead, I hope, I really hope that my hero opens up to me a bit more (so I can put him through hell). Meanwhile, my heroine is a wide-open emotional wreck. She's just struggling to hold herself together.

It shouldn't be too difficult to wring a bit more angst from her. But I have to be careful not to give away the farm with her, not expose too much of her pain up front. Instead I have to piece it out to the reader, even though she's told me almost all of it by now.

Ooooh! I think I just found my black moment. The thing that has driven her to all of the painful choices she made in her life. And YAY, it ties in with one of the external conflicts. It's still a bit Big Misunderstandingish, but given that we're dealing with a category romance here and I'm already feeling pressed to work on wrapping my threads up, it shouldn't last too long. We'll just have to see how my hero deals with it all.

Currently reading: Caressed By Ice
Just about to start: B is for Burglar
Just about to start: Just The Sexiest Man Alive

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Susan Boyle

I was going to make a post about Susan Boyle. Everyone's making posts about Susan Boyle. I started mine two days ago, but ran out of superlatives about twenty minutes into typing.

I wasn't going to say anything about judging a book by its cover. That's been stated a few million times already (There were 5 million You Tube hits when I sent the link to my mother a few days ago, now there are over 21 million. I think all the different ways to say "don't judge a book by its cover" have been covered.) What I was going to say was something along the lines of the importance of perseverance.

We ARE going to be judged by our covers. That's the way the world is now. The Idol phenomenon has built its reputation on holding people up for ridicule. It's not enough to have a little bit of talent, it's not enough to be "promising", you have to knock it out of the park every time, and you have to look good doing it. And that's just another part of the world we have built for ourselves.

But we don't all look good. We don't all come into our chosen profession already knowing how to hit a home run every time. We have to practice. We have to listen to coaches, and mentors, and learn, learn, learn. Susan Boyle stayed at home and practiced. She learned what she needed to know before she walked out on that stage.

Should we all wait 35 years before we reach for that brass ring? Hell no! Should we even wait 10? Who knows? But I do know this -- no matter how long we wait, the bastards will always be looking for a way to grind us down. The judges, with their shark's teeth, will always smile in your face and wait for you to falter.

So get out there anyway, yes they'll ridicule you. Yes, they'll mock you and make fun of you and reject you. But if you don't put yourself out there, you'll never get any reward. And yes, every time you go out there, they'll tear another strip off you and laugh when you slink away in shreds.

Until one day, they won't.

Currently reading: Caressed By Ice

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The challenge is over

I heard about something called The 100/100 Challenge a few months ago. The basic idea is to write at least 100 words per day for 100 days. The person from whom I heard about the challenge left room for a weekend in there if you need one ... a five days on, two days off thing. Three consecutive days off and you have to start all over again.

The challenge isn't really about the amount of words you produce, it's about producing every day. If you write 1000 words one day, you don't get to take the next nine days off with a smug smile, thinking you're ahead of the game. To actually be challenging yourself you have to go back every damn day, whether you feel like it or not, whether you 'got ahead' yesterday or just did the minimum. Face that uninspiring keyboard or heavy, heavy pen every day and advance your story by at least 100 words.

I took the idea to my local RWA and got a few suckers other writers to commit themselves to the challenge. It started on January 5th--time enough for everyone to have finished with their holiday excuses, but still close enough to the New Year to feel like a resolution. I also opened it up to those who were editing with the miniscule goal of 1 page a day.

I am tempted to talk about how the group did as a whole, but the truth of the matter is, no one's writing journey is about anyone but themselves. So I'm just going to talk about the effect it had on me.

  • I learned that I can write from home on a regular basis. This was about more than the challenge. It was also about saving some freakin' money. I like leaving the house to write, but it gets expensive, and I didn't want to use going out or not going out as a crutch, so with the small goal of 100 words as a target, I figured I could at least do that much from home.

  • I learned that forcing myself to write doesn't put me in that amazing headspace that allowed me to fall in love with writing in the first place. But sometimes, when I forced myself to come up with words to fill the page, that headspace would take over and I'd find myself writing a few pages instead of just the minimum.

  • I learned that the quality of my writing doesn't seem to vary, regardless of whether I'm in that headspace or not. At least not according to how it reads when I go back after a few days.

  • I learned that I can knock out a page or two in the notebook before I go to sleep and that I can write in bed, in the armchair or on the couch. Even the patio. I don't even have to be sitting up. I just have to decide to do it.

  • I learned that I cannot write every day. Some days the ideas, the voices, the inspirations just need some time by themselves to percolate. The two day forgiveness built into the challenge really saved my bacon. I never broke the 3 day rule, but I did take a full two weeks off in the middle when I had a death in the family and went home. I could have written during that time if I really wanted to, but I didn't. That time was about family, not work. For that, I am adding another two weeks to my personal challenge.

  • I learned that being accountable to a group made me more likely to pick up the pen when I had frittered the day away without getting a single new word out.

  • But I also learned that it whether I write the words or not, whether I report them or not, whether I rely on my crutches or blame my muse for abandoning me or whip out 40 pages a week, it doesn't matter to anyone but ME. It affects no one but ME. If I do the work, it benefits ME, if i don't, it only gives an edge to the author that DID finish her work.

So, at the official end of the challenge, I had only written 64 of the 100 days. But, in that time, I handwrote 121 pages, which, when typed into a manuscript (courier, 12pt, double-spaced) expands to 172 pages or approximately 43,000 words. That's not bad for a goal of a mere 100 words per day.

Currently reading: Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me
Currently reading: Wicked Pleasures
Currently reading: In A Bind

Monday, April 13, 2009

They're on a precipice

My hero and heroine are jerking around.

They're not jerking off or jerking each other off, which I would at least be able to write my way around. No, they're jerking me around.

See, they came clean. They sat their asses down, after a couple of crises of confidence, and they admitted some things to each other about why they were behaving like dorks with one another. He talked about something deep in his past, she explained something that arrested her development as a woman and now they're on a precipice.

They don't know if they want to jump (into bed) or torture themselves on the edge for a while longer, or just take a deep breath and back away because they're afraid, they're very afraid.

I'm an idiot pantser. I don't know where I'm going until I get there. I rely on my people to tell me. And neither of them are talking. I haven't set up the scene to lead anywhere in particular. They could go any way they want (cuz, you know, the story is up to them), they just won't tell me.

There could be greater emotional closeness developed through sex that will lead to them both wanting more, but questioning if they're 'good enough' for the other. There could be greater trust developed through lack of sex that will lead to more sexual tension and questioning whether they're even wanted physically by the other. There could be a quiet, bonding nap with lots of holding and sensuality, or they could freakin' run out for dinner. Something. Anything.

Instead they're just sitting there. Marinating in each other. Feeling safe enough to share their insides, but really effing confused about what to do with their bodies. It's like every awkward high school date there ever was. Neither of them will open up to me. Neither of them will tell me "This. This right here. This is what I want."

This mini-rant has helped me though, because if they're going to act like awkward teenagers, that's what I'm going to write. Prepare for some inept fumbling, mixed messages and stunted emotional growth, kids. We're going back to high school.

Currently reading: Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me
Currently reading: Wicked Pleasures
Just about to start: In A Bind

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Why can't a paranormal author write a stand-alone book?

This is a lament I've heard a few times around Romanceland. People who are happy to read one or two books don't want to be tied down in perpetuity to a never-ending series and cast of characters that have more and more obscure powers and bizarre needs and complicated relationships to the original cast of characters.

Why can't a paranormal author write a stand-alone novel?

Because we won't let them.

We're romance readers. We're used to the set up. If there's a hot, nice, unattached guy who gets more than a mention or two, we're primed for a series. Sometimes, it's even better if the single person is surly, or wounded, or selfish, because then we're jonsing for that redemption. Oh yes we are. Sometimes it's the hella cool best friend, or ultra-wonderful sister, regardless, as romance readers, we are not happy with a poor singleton left without their Happily Ever After.

The paranormal author has a different job than the contemporary author. She has to build her world. She needs to people it with interesting characters. She has to make it feel real, but with strange situations--and there is nothing weirder in a novel than strange situations filled with weak, forgettable characters. Can you imagine? Can you even calculate how quickly we'd stop reading?

The contemporary author doesn't need as large a cast of characters to build her world. "At the mall." "In an insurance office." "At the race track." The mind doesn't need more than a few cues to put that world in place. The paranormal author though has to create a more insular world - after all, most of what makes these books paranormal has to take place away from the general public. Their secret world is not built out in the open. And a brand new world, where everyone is happily mated with the life-affirming person of their choice is a boring damn world.

So we demand it. We ask for new, interesting worlds, peopled with strong, interesting characters and then have a hissy fit when these people are left single at the end of the book (or complain there was too much going on and we didn't get to know the other couple when they find love in parallel with the primary hero and heroine.)

I'm not going to join the chorus of people decrying a paranormal author's "inability" to write a stand alone novel. Instead I'm going to vote with my dollars, just like I do with every other author. If the series bores me, I'm going to stop buying it. If I enjoy an author's writing, I'm going to be glad I get to enjoy more of it.

C'est la guerre, folks. We live in the world we create.

Currently reading: Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me
Currently reading: The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide
Currently Reading: Anyone But you

Just Finished: Bachelor Number Four
Just Finished: To Trust a Wolf

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Character Dump

I tried to read a book today. I'm not going to list it on this page.

In the first eight pages of the book, I was introduced to almost twenty characters. WTF?!? Seriously? In the first eight pages I just kinda want to know who the heroine is, what she's doing, why she's doing it and where she is - plus, a nice little clue about why the power of True Love will make everything in her life better.

That's it.

I have no desire to know about her "next door neighbor's aunt sister's uncle Lisa's nephew who's calling trying to make his way through college." [Serious brownie points if you know where that's from without trying to google it.] I don't want to know these extra people. I want the hero, the heroine and a small cast of supporting characters. In a category novel you get maybe six extras, but that's at the upper limit. I'd prefer three - and most of them introduced during the story instead of thrown at me while I'm still trying to remember the heroine's name.

I was thinking some very uncharitable things about the author by the time I got to the second chapter. You know, the chapter where the story actually should have started because that's where the H&H met instead of on chapter one. Then I discovered that this was part of a series.

You'd think I'd have caught on much sooner - and normally I would have. 2 pages into the character dump I checked the author's credits. Nope. This was the first book in this series she had written, but she had about ten other books under her belt, so she must know how to tell a story, right? 5 more pages pass. Is she kidding?

I go back to the beginning of the book and start counting names. I get to fifteen, I'm only 7 pages in. I keep reading. Three more people are introduced after I flip the page. So I go back to the beginning of the book again. AH HA!!!

There it is, in the Dear Reader letter. Our esteemed author has been asked to anchor a multi-author series. I immediately forgive her for her sins. I don't know which great publishing mind came up with the idea of multi-author series, but I am here to tell you, with great and devout sincerity... They Don't Work.

This is another ass-biting column that I'm going to have to hide. It's okay, I'll tuck it away after the query letter goes out.

Multi-author series ... what's the best way to put this?
They're bad. They're just bad. It's not that the authors are bad, the stories are. There is so much made of "voice" and "characterization" that we as authors gotta get our shit together before we have a chance at getting published. But with these books, authors are made to write someone else's character in their own voice, or worse, in the voice of the author who was given that slice of the pie originally. It's awful. It's very, very bad. It does not work.

Have you caught on to how I feel about these yet?

This is the sort of thing that happens when "creativity" flows down from the publisher instead of up from the author. Someone storyboards a kidnapping or murder mystery and tries to sustain it through ten different couples in ten different books written by ten different authors. It's almost like hell, but there are more bridesmaid dresses.

At the beginning of the series you're irritated that the mystery isn't solved and there are so many threads left hanging. At the end of the series you feel like I did earlier today, asking who the fuck are these people and wondering why you're supposed to give a damn about a mystery that is nothing but a cold case by now.

So, in closing. Multi author series are bad. Single author series are good. Trickle-down creativity bad. Grassroots creativity good. Character dump bad. Info dump bad. My writing career if someone from eHarlequin ever sees this? Bad.

Currently reading: Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me
Currently reading: The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide
Just about to start: Bachelor Number Four

Friday, April 10, 2009

Learn as you go

I have mentioned before about the little voice in the back of my head that used to say, "You should write. You should write." I don't recall exactly when the auditory delusions started, I know they've been around for years, but I haven't had them since childhood or anything.

So, finally, I did write. Right before graduate school, wait, let me back up a bit more. When I graduated college... or maybe before I went off to it the first time?... things are blurry in the mists of time--but sometime when I was college aged, I made a note to myself of things I wanted to do with my life.

I don't know where the note went, I absolutely do not recall all the things that were on it, and I can say with certainty, that I'll probably be gray-haired before I learn to play an instrument. That's neither here nor there, because high on the list was "write a book." I'm sure I meant a romance. I've never had much desire to write anything else, except for this chick lit idea that's been knocking around in my head for the past 6 or 7 years. But it really only has a title, no characters or anything.

I digress. I do that a lot.

Anyway, right before graduate school I finally started my first romance book. I disciplined myself (back then I knew how to do that) and I sat at my computer for a set number of hours a day or something and tap-tap-tapped out a novel. I got 100 pages in. Not too shabby!

I also learned something, well, I learned a couple of things, but what stuck with me the most was that I can't talk about my plot or story too much while I'm still writing it. Something about opening my mouth and letting the energy of the story escape that way, prevents me from channeling the energy onto the page where it needs to be.

I was proud of those 100 pages. They're nothing like publishable, but I was proud nonetheless, because it meant that I COULD do it. I CAN create something novel-length if I put my mind to it. That attempt was halted by graduate school. My entire life was halted by grad school. Anyone who has gone knows what I mean by this, and those who haven't? Well, ask someone who has, otherwise this little essay would grow to gargantuan proportions.

My second attempt came a couple of years ago (5 years after getting that MA). I lunched with an old family friend in a foreign city. She's a romance author and I expressed to her my desire to write. She was about 88 years old at the time, and had nothing but kind encouraging words for me. I came back, sat down at the computer, and started writing again.

That book made it to a grand total of 5 pages. I wasn't ready for the work involved in writing. I had some enthusiasm, but not enough to carry me through the moment when I realized I didn't like how whiny my heroine was being. Instead of fixing it, I let it stop me.

Another lesson learned. Wanting it isn't enough. If you're going to accomplish something, you have to actually DO it. Discipline counts.

A year later I lunched with the friend again. She scolded me for not following through, and told me she'd expect to hear from me soon with a progress report. Upon my return, full of energy, I sat down for my third attempt. It was slow going, I didn't really know what I was doing, but at least I was doing something. Then I got called away - I was a month and 16 pages into my new attempt, but my family needed me on the other side of the country for 3 weeks.

I went ... and I found myself carrying around my notebook to doctor's meetings and on shopping trips. Hmmm... it sort of looked and felt like discipline, but I wasn't actually getting anything done.

In week two of the trip, another family friend entered the picture. He had a secret desire to write as well. We discussed it. We talked plot and character and story and arc. He's written three screenplays, and has so many more in his head. We'd always been friendly with one another, but over this, we bonded.

Boosted by his energy, I returned home and got down to business. I bought myself a laptop, and in the next 30 days, I managed to write about 70 pages. (handwritten, it was 50, but when typed into a MS it became over 70) I was determined to finish this time. And I did.

ORION'S KISS, my first book, is about 430 pages long, still unedited and a wonderful story. It took me five to six months to write and this time I wasn't just proud that I could, I was proud of the work itself.

Sticktoitiveness had paid off. I didn't want to lose my momentum. I liked being bitten by the writing bug and wanted more. Knowing that you need space from your project before you edit, I decided to fill that time with writing another book.

Bad idea. Not only did it take me a while to come to learn my new characters, but my old ones kept getting in the way, telling me this and that about their story. Things I should know about them, things that made a difference to them. I jotted down some notes, but I didn't give them my full attention. I was trying to work things out with my new people.

My new people are talking with me now, no longer second class citizens, but it took a while for us to get there. And now, I'm so far removed from ORION'S KISS, I don't know if I'll be able to give it the laser-pointed energy it deserves for a kick-ass editing pass.

Lesson learned. I'm a one book at a time kinda girl, at least until my publishing schedule demands otherwise ;-)

Currently reading: Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me
Currently reading: Ceremony In Death
Currently reading: The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide
Currently reading: The Cost of Eternity

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Gold, Jerry. Gold.

One of my favourite romance books ever hit all the cliches and kept on running.
Wallflower heroine who
Owned a bookstore and loved romance books
Mercenary hero (back when they were allowed to be mercenaries, instead of now when they have to belong to a secret government agency to commit random acts of murder)
Alpha (misogynistic) hero
She's a Virgin (capital V)
Marriage of Convenience
AND there's a Secret Baby

Bonus points for: her spunky best friend, foreign locale and a band of mercenary 'brothers' he'd give his life for. Oh, and cool nicknames too.

I mean, honestly - does it get any better??? All of this in a category too! Not even single title.

I rarely re-read books. There are so many new books out there and I remember the old ones too well to use up my time that way. But I still re-read this book every couple of years. It hits all the highnotes for me. Her vulnerability, his heroism, caring sex combined with post-coital where-is-this-going confusion, and he gets handed a little bit of humiliation as the price for being a jerkwad.

She grows from a woman who is afraid of living life into someone willing to take chances and stand up for herself. He grows from an asshole into a p-whipped Good Guy[tm] who's willing to change his entire life to make his woman happy. It's such mid-80s goodness I could totally barf.

I still can't forgive my high school friend for borrowing it, NOT READING IT, AND never returning it. I mean seriously, if you're going to lose my fave book ever, at least read it first. It took nine years for a re-issue and guess what, I don't loan it out. Ever.

In fact, last year, I got my bi-annual compulsion to read it and could not find it!!! I have a lot of books, it seems inevitable that some would get lost, or I'd misplace a few by thinking I held on to them when I'd actually taken them to the used book store a year ago. I knew that was not the case with this book. It is simply not possible that I would have let it out of the house again.

I sat on the ground in the bedroom and looked at every single book in my bookcase - and really, it is time to get rid of about a hundred of them - and I still couldn't find it. Luckily my local library had it in their collection and I was able to scratch the itch within a week.

Once again, it did the job. Crisis averted. Day saved.

The author has gone on to do some truly horrific work. Proof positive that even best-selling authors need to stretch their craft and grow beyond the box readers want to put them in. But no matter what came after, I'll always be grateful to her for those 250 pages of pure, unadulterated gold.

Oh, and I found my copy six weeks later, under a dresser that doesn't have room for things to fit under it. Go figure.

Currently reading: Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me
Currently reading: Ceremony In Death
Currently reading: The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

This is somehow going to bite me in the ass, I just know it.

Maybe by the time it matters, I'll put this post on private for a couple of months and hide it in a closet, like when nosy relatives visit and you don't want them to see your privates, but for now I'm gonna let it hang out.

There is a site I read on a fairly regular basis, less so now than when I first found it, but I'm still there a few times a week. This site's authors claim to love romance books. They also review romance books. And they occasionally kibbitz with authors and other review sites to talk about books. But, their way of showing their love is to "take the piss." [A British expression that captures what I mean more than any Americanism I can come up with].

In taking the piss they find popular romance tropes* and mock them. They take the cliche, the stereotype, the hooks that have blown readers out of their chair time and again and mock it to the nth degree. While this does highlight how ridiculous some of our cliches can be when carried to the extreme, it also serves to undermine the taste and choices of the readers who love these books.

It is said, "sarcasm is the lowest form of wit." I have to admit, when I first got to the site, I snickered right along with everyone else at how 'witty' the authors were. But, like too many things in life, once you see past the shiny surface, there's something ugly underneath. Those who can, do. Those who can't, heckle.

I can't be entirely sure what prompts this ugliness - perhaps that old saw of building themselves up by tearing others down? Perhaps envy? Perhaps they really are ashamed of their reading choices and want to prove they're better than the average reader by showing how smart they are not to be taken in by the popular crap the rest of us fall for?

One thing is for sure, these authors could never, ever be agents or editors. While they seem to respect the writer (really) they don't seem to have much respect for the reader. I've seen them recommend books they gave a D to because, "I have to admit I couldn't stop reading it and hey, the writing sucked and the set up was totally ridiculous, but you know lots of other people loved it, so you'll probably like it too." Seriously? What does that say about your opinion of your reader?

Truthfully I don't think the site will last much longer in its current state. I give it nine months... two years max. I just don't think they like the genre enough to continue reviewing. And it shows.

* - "trope" is a word I've only ever seen online and in conjunction with romance blogs. Ever. Click the link if you need a definition like I once did.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Something evil has invaded my body,

something nano-sized and malevolent that introduced itself as innocuous while concealing its malicious intent. My trusty little gate-keepers let it waltz on in, and now, a week or two later, I sound like an old crone who has done nothing but smoke cigarettes and knock back whiskey for the past three decades.

In other words, I'm sick.

For a while there I had almost convinced myself that it was allergies, but allergies don't get progressively worse with more and more body involvement as the days go by. No, this is a good, old-fashioned cold.

I took medicine last night to knock me out help with the symptoms and when I woke up the symptoms had merely shifted around, but they were still there. Instead of having a dry throat, I had a completely dry tongue. Can you imagine? It's quite disconcerting, believe me.

This tells me that for a significant portion of the night I was a mouth breather. Of course, given that my nose was backed-up to New Jersey, that only makes sense.

But now I'm awake and trying to determine the best course of action to conquer the invasion. So far the only things on my list are
Lots of liquids,
Keep the tissues within arms reach, and
Put lip balm under my nose.

I think I'll have some soup. And maybe coffee.
And chocolate - chocolate is good for the soul, right? It's gotta be good for the body.

Currently reading: Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me
Currently reading: Ceremony In Death
Currently reading: Nothing in Common

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Here's the scary truth.

I'm just going to put it out there so I can admit it, get over it and get on with it.

I'm afraid to edit.

I'm not afraid of it because I think that I won't be any good at it, or that I can't do it. I'm afraid of it because I'm worried it will bore me so much it will put me off writing.

I have been woefully unemployed for too long, and writing has returned a lot of joy to my days. Crafting stories, figuring out characters, allowing them to grow while still creating story arcs and something resembling a plot - it's all a blessing.

I'm good at it. That's one of the reasons it makes me happy. The other reason is that writing has finally shut up the little voice in my head that said to me, "You should write. You should write," every freakin' time I went into a book store for years.

So finally I gave in. I wrote. I'm writing. And I love it.

But editing? *shudder*
Editing is a re-examination of your story to chop it, and fix typos, and double-check grammar and tighten the language and take a mere story and turn it into art. But for me, the art was in the creation of the story.

I am one of those delusional people that thinks her first draft is pretty damn good. I am, fortunately, not delusional enough to believe that it's good enough for publication. So there I'll sit, with MS in hand, slaving over lines, and typos and double-checking if I really meant to use that word, noting incorrect POV shifts, re-arranging chapter breaks, and of course, adding new and exciting depth and language to a section to bring it more to life.

I know I'm going to have to get over it. Editing is part of being published. I can write all I damn want, but unless I'm willing to dissect my story, pull it apart, check its roots and then piece it all back together so that the sum of the parts is just as fantastic as the whole, then I can't call myself an author.

I do, however, call myself an author. So I'll suck it up and edit. But I can tell you right now, I won't like it.

Anyone else have editing woes? Share them.

Currently reading: Ceremony in Death
Currently reading: Things I've Learned From Women Who've Dumped Me

Saturday, April 4, 2009

just one more

Good thing no one reads this blog, otherwise I might feel guilty for going on and on about the BDB series. But I don't, so here's one more thing.

I was talking with a friend tonight about the series, she introduced me to it and has been waiting (im)patiently for me to catch up to her. Finally, tonight, we had a chance to do that.

She's read the compendium, I haven't, so we're still slightly off-kilter, but we're pretty much even. We talked about the hero of Book #6, and she told me about how Ms Ward writes the characters as they come to her, but she doesn't sit down and do a moment by moment outline of her work before she starts the book. Instead her work is "character driven."

After much discussion with my friend though, we came to the conclusion that the hero of this book was not in the driver's seat. In fact, as far as I can tell, he wasn't ready to be a hero at all. I suspect (with absolutely no data to verify my point of view except the book itself) that this book was written because there was a contract that needed to be filled, and this hero was the story promised to the editors. But, the hero himself wasn't ready to come out and play.

What do you do when your characters won't get behind the wheel? Ms Ward gave us filler - filler that wound up being more interesting and more compelling and more real than the promised entree. In fact, I suspect her side characters looked at the hero, said, "Whatever, dude. If you're not willing to handle your business, let me handle mine." Then grabbed the keys and hit the ground running.

As an author though, what do you do? Your bit players are stealing the scene, but the work they're turning in is so good, you can't deny them the opportunity to shine. So you let them have their head, and they reward you with deep, honest moments that bring them to life. In fact, their robust, fascinating honesty winds up highlighting how stingy your hero is being with himself.

But you can't make a character talk to you. You can give him the keys, you can put him in the driver's seat, you can even put his damn hands on the wheel, but if he doesn't want to go anywhere, your character-driven story is screwed.

Those of us who are not under contract are actually lucky in this regard. We get to write the book that wants to be written. Our recalcitrant hero gets to stay in our heads, clipping his nose hair or bird-doggin' the chicas until he's ready to step up and be a man.

But an author under contract is stuck. The professional author must deliver the story that's promised. Whether her hero is ready to play or not.

Friday, April 3, 2009

It's the story of...

I understand now why agents and editors want you to be able to sum up an entire novel in a single sentence.

I just finished Book #6 of the BDB series, and by "just" I mean at 6 o'clock this morning, followed by 7 hours of sleep, then up to apply for jobs, pay the rent and write. Book #6 was another good book, another one I couldn't put down, but for different reasons than the first 5.

Book 6 wasn't a single story. If Ms Ward, with all her phenomenal writing prowess, had handed in Book 6 as the first book in the series it would never have been published (IMO). There were lots of things going on, many threads to follow, glimpses of the world outside the Brotherhood home that intrigued the heck out of me - but it wasn't a single story.

Further, the one story it was supposed to be about was the least compelling of the many stories told.

I do not say this to criticize, I'm going to be in line for Book #7 with bated breath. She has hooked me and I'm very happy to stay wiggling on the line. I say this because I now understand what agents and editors mean.

Subplots are great, world-building is essential, getting to know and care about the cast of characters that add depth and complexity to your hero and heroine are all elements of a Damn Good series - but you can't do it at the expense of the primary story you're telling. Or you can, but only if you have a very solid backlist holding you up.

Personally, I have difficulty working in subplots. I'm fine with introducing side characters, though I often have to rein them in as they want to stand front and center in the spotlight and tell their story, but I'm not that great at subplots.

For me, the story is about Person A falling in love and finding acceptance with Person B, and vise versa. The rest of their lives are important, yes, but it's their hearts I'm after. So, the romantic suspense subplot of solving the murder, catching the thief, or discovering the cowardly villain doesn't come naturally. I don't know if it ever will.

The good thing is though, I expect I'll always be able to complete the line, "It's the story of..." in one sentence, maybe two.

Currently Reading: Things I've Learned from Women Who've Dumped Me
Currently Reading: Tempted
Currently Reading: Ceremony in Death

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I'm head-deep in the JR Ward BDB series. I cannot get my head out of it.

I'm the sort who likes to savour a good thing. If I read a Damn Good Book and it's the beginning of a series, I squeal with glee and then prepare to pace myself. 1, 2, 3 months between books is fine. I like it when I find out about a series when it's ten books in so that I can anticipate spending the next year or two enjoying the well-written goodness.

I read my first JR Ward BDB about eleven months ago. I started with Book 5 - a shocker to those of you who have been following the series. To me, who was just beginning to read paranormals as opposed to the straight contemporary romance, the book nearly broke my little heart. Ms Ward broke The Rules. She broke them hardcore. So while I could tell that she was a good author, and knew how to craft a compelling story, I was able to flit off and read other series and authors in the meantime. Book #1 could wait.

It did wait. It waited months... then, I thought, let me give it a whirl. I picked up Book 1 and Could. Not. Put. It. Down. Like, eyes burning, up way too late, can't even put it down to go to the bathroom sort of glued to the story. I had a headache when I finished. I was in looooooooooooove with her world when I finished. But I was still strong. Plus I wanted a bit of control back in my life.

So then, a couple of months later, after taunting me from the nightstand for weeks, i opened Book #2. WHAM! (and not the '80s group) It was like being body-slammed from the high wire. The book took me in its grip and would not let me go. I had this compulsive need to keep turning pages. I was tired, hungry, needed a shower - none of it mattered. I had to finish the book.

Well, clearly, this could not continue. It's all very well to enjoy your reading, but you can't let the books own you like that. I'm in charge. At least I'm supposed to be. Until the BDB comes calling.

So you know what happened next, right?


I stayed away. A few more months passed and I was able to stay away for all of them. But the books sat in my TBR, waiting for me, calling to me, promising me a deeper entrance into their world. Last week I gave in. Book #3. Another body-slam. I stopped trying to pace myself. I was like a pig at a trough. What's the point in self-denial? Who am I hurting but myself?

Book #4 came next, and within a matter of days too. I just needed to catch up on my sleep first. Then, because it had been so long, and so much had happened in the beginning of the series, I did something I rarely do, I re-read a book.

I just dragged my head out of Book#5 about half an hour ago. I started it within an hour of finishing Book 4. I am zapped. Drained. My head hurts. I am in desperate need of a shower. I need actual nutrition - not just coffee.

Book#6 is in my TBR. I have given up the fight. Tonight I will shower and sleep and make some veggies. Tomorrow I will start that book and not even bother to question myself. Everything in moderation - except the BDB.

How do you like to read a series? Do you gobble them up in as few sittings as possible or do you space them out, to be devoured as slowly as the author writes them?

Just finished: Lover Unbound
Just finished: Lover Revealed
Just about to start: Lover Enshrined
Currently reading: Ceremony in Death