Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hobbies Anyone?

Since so many are goofing off at RWA...fun!!! And I'm not...lol, I thought I'd post something not writing related.

Besides writing, what kind of hobbies do we have?

For me, I make award-winning teddy bears that have been featured in magazines including Texas Monthly, Texas Co-Op Monthly, The MacNeill Galley, Teddy Bear & Friends, Teddy Bear Review and numerous newspapers. The bears have sold all across the states, Canada, Russia, China, Switzerland, and as far away as Australia! http://terryspear.tripod.com/celticbears/





1950's Poodle Skirt Bear with pink sweater and felt skirt.




Like creating stories, each bear is unique, having its own personality. And when someone buys it, it's the bear's face that draws them in. :) these were 16th Century German dressed bears created for an author's new book release.

I make everything from Celtic Clan Bears, vampire bears and wizards to birth bears with names and birth dates embroidered on the paws. But one bear I've had some queries for lately--a werewolf bear--still hasn't come to fruition. LOL

Here's Patriotic Patrick, featured in Teddy Bear Review, and one found a home in Russia!



Do you have a special hobby?






Terry Spear
Heart of the Wolf, The Vampire...In My Dreams (coming August 26)






Tuesday, July 29, 2008

RWA: Feast for Writers

Like bees to honey, RWA members (Romance Writers of America) travel to the hive each summer. This year the hive is San Francisco, and for me, the national conference feels like coming home - wherever home happens to be that summer. I, along with all the other writer bees, arrive for the big festivities beginning Wednesday. This is my fourth conference - I missed one so as not to leave my newborn. Otherwise, it's a Must Attend event. Now my only new babies are books.

My first conference was in 2004. For new-bees, the conference experience is quite different than for pub-bees. I recall running into an Oklahoma author at the time who was a long-time pub-bee, and I asked her what workshops she was attending. She laughed and said, "Oh, I don't come for the workshops. It's a huge networking conference for me." I smiled, my huge highlighted workshop schedule in my bag, thinking, "when will it become a big networking event for me?" At the time, I had so much to learn. I can't believe just four years later, I've metamorphed from new-bee to pub-bee and care most about connecting with writer friends, meeting with my publicist, editor, publisher and agent and having fun.

I no longer let the ear-deafening buzz of the hive bother me. (Crowds have never been my thing.) This year I'm even taking my videocamera along to capture some great pieces for A/B TV to post on athenasbookshelf.com and YouTube. I want the world to see how fabulous this group of women is. If you see my camera, don't be a shy-bee.

If you're reading this and you're a new-bee, be sure and hit the literacy event Wednesday evening and peruse the schedule to hear from best-selling authors. I don't necessarily think their advice is any more sound than anybody else's, but you go in because you must know - you must believe - that someday that could be you giving that very same workshop. The publisher workshops are always enlightening to hear what they love and what they're looking for. The pub-hosted book signings where for the cost of standing in line a bit, you get a free author-signed copy from your favorite authors and lines.
The big shin dig is Saturday night at the "Oscar-ish" Rita (pubbed) and Golden Heart (unpubbed) awards ceremony. Unfortunately, I've gone back home each year on Saturday, usually to do with babysitting, missing my kids and not ever having nominated a book of my own (though I'll consider it for next year's.) This year I was planning on attending the gala but my daughter's Annie schedule came out and I must return to see her final performance on Sunday afternoon, which means, again, I'll be a no show. But I'll be checking in and posting all the winners on my site.
Good luck to the nominees and I hope to see you in SanFran!

Monday, July 28, 2008

My TBR Pile...Of Doom!

Okay, so it's not exactly as scary as the Temple of Doom, but if my To Be Read pile gets a whole lot higher, it's going to do some serious damage if and when it finally topples and crushes me.

I was thinking today (longingly) about what I'm going to do with my days once I'm off deadline and actually have free time again. I don't really remember what that's like right now (as I plug away at my computer at roughly 1 a.m.), but I'm sure I'll adjust. Anyway, one of the things I really want to do is tackle my towering pile of books and actually enjoy a story instead of trying to drag one, kicking and screaming, out my head to wrestle onto paper. I'm fairly fried on blogging ideas right now, for obvious reasons, but I did work up a little list of some of the books I plan on curling up with in fairly short order. Here are a few:


1. Goddess of the Rose, by P.C. Cast
2. Jewel of Atlantis by Gena Showalter (I've read the rest of the series, but not the first book!)
3. Nora Roberts' new trilogy (I think the first one is The Hollow)
4. Gena Showalter's new trilogy (Darkest Pleasures and all that)
5. Jacquelyn Frank's Nightwalker books (I read half of Jacob, loved it, and then life happened, my mom stole it, and now I need to start again)
6. All the JD Robb books I've missed in the last year and a half
7. All of the other Casablanca books, of course!! Which is becoming quite a list!

So those are just a few of my reads. My Sis-In-Law keeps telling me I need to read Amanda Quick, so I'll probably try her. And if set loose at the bookstore, I will just get random and do serious damage to my wallet! So what about all of you? What's on your TBR list right now? And if you've read anything on mine, how was it? Also, I would LOVE some recommendations on really good historicals anyone has read recently, because I've been really in the mood for a yummy Regency or a steamy Victorian, or even a medieval. Help me with my end of summer reads, everyone!

Kendra

P.S. Apologies if my cat's blogging is more interesting than mine these days. I asked if he would do it for me again this week, but all he did was yak up a hairball, which I took as a resounding "no."

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Revisions, Revisions, REVISIONS!!!!

Someone asked me the other day how long it takes to write a book, and I realized that I had absolutely no idea! What I did tell him was that, while I write pretty fast, a book is never written just once, but about ten or fifteen times!

I just finished going through what I sincerely hope is the last version of Warrior and emailed the changes to Sourcebooks. It's a good thing I write what I enjoy reading, or by this time, I'd be sending my novels into cyberspace rather than publishing them. Our editor seemed to think it was better than Slave when I first sent it to her, but it's gone through so many changes since then, I'm not sure anymore.

However, what I can tell you is that even after having read through it a million times, it didn't get boring. There are still parts that make me smile, some that make my heart beat a little faster, and others that give me goose bumps, so from my perspective, it's still a good story.

Of course, what really matters is what the readers think. I've gotten a lot of positive feedback on Slave, and several have told me that they loved Jacinth's kick-ass attitude and Cat's sweetness. I'm pretty sure that Leo is every bit as appealing as Cat--those Zetithian boys are pretty irresistible on principle--but Warrior's heroine, Tisana, is a little softer, more feminine, and may appeal to a different kind of audience. Perhaps it will have a broader appeal, but what I wonder is, if you'd read the first one and didn't care for it, would you bother to read the second? Do readers ever give an author a second chance, or are they banned from the reader's list forever?

What are your thoughts?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I Read What?


by Danielle Jackson

I’m going to make a confession right here on this blog—before
I worked with romance authors, I never read romance books. EVER. I’m not even joking.

Ok, actually I am joking (in the tiniest of ways). My mother, a lovely woman and quite possibly my favorite person on the PLANET, is OBSESSED with romance. Mainly contemporary, but she’s got quite a few historicals on her overflowing bookshelf. Little does she know, ever since I was about 12-years-old, I’ve been secretly stealing them and reading the saucy bits. So for all of the times I made fun of walking into her room while she was tearing up over a happy ending, I suppose I should bite my tongue and stop because I was more than likely doing the same.

I’m a reader—I read all the time and I am thrilled to have a job in publishing.
And for the longest time, I read just about anything (all types of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays, critiques, you name it, I read it), but I steered clear of romance. Maybe it was the high brow taste I acquired in AP English in high school and at college as an English major. Maybe it was the half naked people on the covers… I don’t know.

BUT what I do know is now that I’m working with you lovely ladies, I’m interested in romance like you wouldn’t believe. I’m making my way through all of your books and I am seriously impressed! I know I’m a little biased, but I think through this blog and our emails, I’ve gotten to know you all as people, not just authors, and that’s important for a reader. There have been some posts about writer/reader relationships, and I’m glad that I get to reach you in a way that most people don’t, and I get to see your process in creativity and how much effort you put into everything. I pay attention to other authors now, too (not just for fun, but for market research, too, hahahaha)!


And with RWA only a few days away, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be starstruck—Nora Roberts? Susan Elizabeth Phillips? And of course—all of you!

My question for you this week—what made you want to write romance? Were you an avid reader beforehand, or did you just happen upon it?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

This morning while I was trying to work toward the end of If You Can’t Stand The Heat… I remembered a conversation I had with a friend right after I finished Romeo, Romeo. We went to see a romantic comedy and after the movie, as the credits rolled, we dissected it. My friend thought the movie should have ended well before it did. He said that dragging out the ending was a fault he found in many books and movies, and then asked me, as a writer, why I thought that happened.

I knew exactly why writers have a hard time ending their stories. We don’t want to lose the characters we’ve created, nurtured, and loved. Our characters become a huge part of a writer’s life. If we were to keep a relationship with our characters after the book was finished, we’d be considered insane. It’s as simple and as difficult as that.

I’m closing in on the end of If You Can’t Stand The Heat… and I’m getting that familiar sense of loss that I get every time I end a book. I’ve spent the last six months in my characters’ lives and heads. I know their life stories. I’ve laughed with them and cried with them, heck, I’ve even gotten drunk with them, and soon, I’m going to have to say goodbye.

When I received the galley proofs for Romeo, Romeo last month, I knew I had a one-week turnaround. I jumped back into Romeo, Romeo with both feet, and I was happy to be hanging with Nick and Rosalie again. I’d missed them terribly. I read Romeo, Romeo three times that week and when I turned in my final edits, I was finished. That was the last time I would be with those characters. I gathered up all of my Romeo, Romeo files and put them in a box, and I swear I felt as if I was at a funeral.

Writers care about their characters--when I finish writing my book, the relationship with my characters ends. I always feel I’ve lost a dear friend, and saying goodbye doesn’t get any easier.

As I prepare myself to say goodbye to Mike and Annabelle, the only bright side I see is that when I start my next book in the Domestic God series, I might have them drop by for a little visit. Maybe Nick and Rosalie too.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Colorado Circus Kitten Comes to Kansas City

By Christina Harlin, with creative assistance from Jake C. Harlin

We’ve had many special guest bloggers this month in the form of our beloved animal companions. In that spirit I did a virtual unearthing of this story I wrote for my son when he was eight. We adopted our cat Magic from the local shelter and made a game of wondering what adventures he’d experienced before he came into our lives. This story was the result of our combined imaginations. Forgive me this little bit of schmaltz.

There are two important things to know about cats. The first is that all cats are gossips. They talk to each other about everything and everykitty, passing stories along so every cat in the world knows what’s happening to every other cat. The second is that each cat knows at least one magic trick. I know one orange tabby who makes people laugh, one white Persian who makes cookies disappear, and a very slinky Siamese who causes books to fall from shelves.

Our kitten was born in Colorado, to a family of circus cats that performed great tricks. They could balance on bicycles, ride ponies and twirl hula hoops. Our small kitten had big triangle ears and a long, long tail, with black spots on his tummy, grey stripes on his back and so many silvery colors in his fur that he seemed to sparkle. This was his special trick. He could make things sparkle, whether it was stars in the sky, or lights on a Christmas tree, or glitter on a birthday card. But nobody at the circus thought this trick was very special, because these things were already sparkly. The kitten’s trick only made them sparkle more. Most people were unable to see the difference.

So our kitten was not a big star in the circus. He helped carry costumes and clean up the circus sawdust. Before each performance, he said “Merow” and made all the costumes sparkle brightly so that all who came to the circus were dazzled. Our kitten loved his trick and loved to see the twinkling lights make the people happy.

As the crowds came and went, stories from cats all over the world came to the kitten and his family. They heard about lucky cats rescued from trees or crawlspaces, talented cats who appeared on television, and kind cats who took care of sick people. One day our kitten heard a story that made his ears prick up with interest. A black-and-white cat had a cousin-cat that lived next door to a little family in Kansas City. The family was us: a father and a mother, and a little boy. We were very happy together in our little house except for one thing. We had an empty spot that needed to be filled by something bright and sparkly.

When our kitten heard of our problem, he made a big decision. That night he said goodbye to all of his cat family, and promised he would keep in touch through the long network of gossipy cats. Everyone was amazed that such a tiny kitten would strike out on an adventure like this, but our kitten knew he was needed, and he was very stubborn, and nothing could stop him.

Our kitten leapt aboard a cattle train that was heading for Kansas City, and here he rode among the feet of the lumbering cows, who shared milk with him when he got hungry. It was a long way from the mountains of Colorado to the place where our family lived, through the broad, flat state of Kansas, covered with cornfields. He watched the long golden fields roll past him all through the next day. He said “Merow” as the high stalks of corn flew by, so the sun glittered off their silky tops. Everyone in Kansas was amazed by the light, and said it was the prettiest day they could ever remember.

The plains became dotted with trees and green hills rose up, showing our kitten he was almost in Missouri. The train crossed a thundering river. After that came buildings and bridges, and at last he hopped off the train in Kansas City. In no time at all he found a raggedy-eared old tabby who told him the way to the animal shelter.

The next couple of days were the hardest part of the trip for our kitten. Though the people at the shelter were kind, he shared a kennel with three other kittens so there wasn’t much room, and not much for a kitten to do, and not much that he could make sparkle. Though he heard through cat gossip that our little family would be coming soon to find a kitten, time seemed to pass very slowly.

Finally on a hot bright Saturday, our kitten woke up to see our family walk in, and he stood and stretched and yawned, tired, but very happy to see us. Right away we saw our spotty, stripy, sparkly kitten. We let him out of the kennel to scratch his chin and his big triangle ears. He let us know his name was Magic.

In his new home Magic played fetch with our little boy, kept our tummies warm, chased away the hopping crickets, and made our family laugh every day. We noticed that our Christmas tree was shinier, that our windows made more prisms, and even our neighborhood sidewalks had more twinkly sunlight in them, every time Magic said “Merow.” We told him, “That is a wonderful trick!” Magic was very pleased that we could see the difference. Now when he sends messages to his circus cat family, Magic makes sure to pass along stories of homes that need special kittens, so that all kittens can find the places they belong.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Quest for Readers

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

Writing is meant to be read. Whether by one pair of eyes or millions, the sheer act of committing words to paper (or cyberspace) demands the existence of someone to read them. Perhaps the only reader will be the same person who wrote the words, but a reader exists all the same.

From an early age, I felt the compulsion to write, to give my thoughts form by transcribing them into words. To prove the existence of my thoughts by written expression was in fact, proving my own existence. I indulged in this private form of self-expression for years, and still do by keeping a journal. For now, it is enough that only I read the pages and pages of my thoughts, but maybe someday, long after I’m gone, some distant relative will read some of those pages. Or maybe not.

However, somewhere along the line (I think it was in my teen years), I discovered the unique and wonderful concept of writing for an audience. Writing to entertain gave a whole new purpose to expressing my thoughts, unleashing my creativity. Even if only a few close friends read my writing, I had an audience. My writing was read. I felt gratified.

When I made the conscious decision to write with the intent of publication, I began a whole new quest for readers. I was no longer satisfied with entertaining the select few. I decided to begin the pursuit of the nameless, faceless mass of readers out in the world. I suppose such a pursuit takes no small amount of ego. It certainly takes far more patience and bravery than I ever imagined I possessed, not to mention sheer stubborn perseverance.

Yet somehow, probably through dumb luck as much as anything, I made it over the great hurdle. On Oct. 1st a book written by me, the story and characters solely products of my thoughts, my imagination will sit on store shelves, will be in the hands of the nameless, faceless readers whom I will never know and will never know me. But they will read the words, give substance to my thoughts, be entertained by my creativity. They will provide my ultimate validation.

I am frightened! Exhilarated! My quest won’t be over. Far from it. But an important part of the journey will have begun.

We seem to be on a “readers” kick this week. First Michele, then Marie, and now me. If you are a writer, please give us some insight into your "reader connections." If you are a reader (and you can certainly be both), do you ever think about the writers of the stories you read? Ever written a fan letter/email? Made a reader/writer connection?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Surreal and The Sublime

Forty days from today, a book I wrote, a book that bears my name will hit the shelves of bookstores across the country. For a debut author, these last weeks before the launch date are filled with the surreal and the sublime. In the surreal category, thanks to a Google alert this morning, I found out I already have a fan in Australia. She won an IOU copy of "Line of Scrimmage" on the Romance Bandits Blog and wrote about how thrilled she was to have won that particular book, how she had checked out the except on my website, and can't wait to settle in with her copy. A fan in Australia! Surreal.

Fellow Sourcebooks debut author Loucinda McGary and I recently had a chat about how crazy it is to imagine people we don't know reading our books. Up until now, no one has read our stuff unless we chose to give it to them. Now comes the phase where we have to accept that hopefully most of those unknown readers will love our books, and those who don't, well, we hope they stay off Amazon.com. :-)

In the sublime category have been moments over the last year that I dreamed about during the long road to get here—the author photo, the galley proofs, the cover with my name on it, deciding the dedication. "Line of Scrimmage" is dedicated to my parents, who always said I should and to my husband and kids who stood by me while I did. Who did you dedicate your books to and why? If you're still working toward publication, who will you dedicate your book to when your day comes?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Chrystal Blue


Everyone has been bragging about their pets. Well, this is Chrystal. She's a blue tortoiseshell. She's not especially bright. She has no extraordinary talents or degree of charm. At night she comes into my bedroom to make sure I'm in bed. In the morning, she comes in for the same purpose.

She can't do two things at once. Sometimes, she can't do one thing at once. She is, however, an excellent painting cat. Someday, when my back isn't to the deadline wall, I'll tell you how I came by her.

For now, I'm hoping a painting is worth a thousand words.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Special People who Read Romance


First I want to announce a contest for readers. You will find it at the Toronto Romance Writer's website, Torontoromancewriters.com, if the link doesn't work. There are books from amazing authors, including my new one The Lady Flees Her Lord, to be had for a very small effort. The contest will run for several months and the winner announced.


Now back to why I love readers.

Not just because they read books, or my books in particular, but because they are wonderful people.

I want you to meet one of them. Her name is Kim Lowe and I met her on-line before I attended the Romantic Times Convention and in person at the Convention. She is a great supporter of the romance genre. She also loves to travel. And when she sent me an email about her trip to the West of Britain earlier this month, I asked her if I could put it on our blog.

Kim is not only a reader and avid supporter of romance writers. She comes from a family with a military history and Kim does lots of work for the veterans of all nations. She was instrumental in the SOS event at Romantic Times. Why don't I let Kim tell you all about herself and her trip. So sit back and enjoy.

My husband is an Air Force officer assigned to the 70 Air Force Intelligence Wing (70 IW) at Fort Meade, Maryland. I met my husband at the Pentagon where we both served as communications officers. Two children later, I am now a full time soccer mom, Scout leader, and school volunteer.

I became an romance junkee while living in the Netherlands and volunteering at the Thrift Shop. I read a used copy of Cathy Maxwell's The Marriage Contract, Karen Marie Moning's A Highlander's Tough, and Jude Devereaux's Knight in Shining Armor. Since we had limited books, I created a bok swap with other romance readers, including members of the US embassy in Den Haag. Upon moving back to the US, I organized a Old Fashioned Tea Party to introduce military spouses to romance writers, connected with Kathryn Falk's military charity, SOS, and joined RWA. I continue to promote literacy on Fort Meade with the generous support of RWA friends.


Kim, may I say, you are a ball of energy and an inspiration. Tell us about your visit to Britain this summer.

My husband indulges me in a once-a-year trip to the UK so I can explore the locations of my favorite books. This year, we flew to Bristol for quicker access to to the UK's West Country, including Wales, Devon, and Cornwall. although it is hard to single out one location, we both enjoyed Tintagel Castle on the rugged Cornish coast. Tintagel is the legendary birthplace of King Arthur with Merlin's caves nestled below the castle. The castle ruins are managed by English Heritage who offer an an informative video about Arthur's legends. But nothing can prepare you for the ominous task of climbing stairs to the mainland ruins and the island ruins - but it was worth it for the breathtaking view of the turquoise sea crashing into Merlin's caves.

Like other castles in the West Country, Tintagel began as a Roman fort and evolved into a Celtic stronghold, thus contributing to the legend of Tristan and Isolde. But it was Richard, Earl of Cornwall (and brother of King John II), who built a magnificent castle in the 13th century on both the mainland and island. Claiming to be a descendent of King Arthur, Richard built his castle on "hallowed ground" to win over the Cornish people (great foresight into public relations!) Unfortunately, those elements that made the castle breathtaking also made it obsolete. The castle was difficult to maintain and held no military value. So the castle crumbled into a ruin but provided future generations with a romantic fantasy about chivalry and history. Quoting the English Heritage web page, "it still has the power to inspire."


Ironically, the Welsh claim that King Arthur mounted campaigns throughout their countryside, staying at several castles that are now in ruins (similar to "George Washington slept here" throughout New England). You can learn more about Welsh castles from www.cadw.wales.gov.uk, literally the "keeper" of Welsh history. To learn more about other historical sites in England and Wales, log onto www.nationaltrust.org.uk.

Kim Lowe, Fort Meade, Maryland, avid reader of historical romance


Kim, I think your story is inspirational, and the notes on your trip are the stuff of romance. I can't wait to find a way to incorporate Tintagel into one of my books, even if I have to call it something else.

Thank you so much for visiting with the Casablanca Authors today.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What is in a Name?

John Wayne. Actor playing rough and tough cowboys, Army hero. Real name: Marion Morrison.

Now how can anyone see him as a rough and tough anything with a name like Marion?



Sickly, small Tiny Tim was perfect in Dicken's A Christmas Carol. Tim or Timothy gives the impression of being timid so having a hulking werewolf hero by that name wouldn't seem quite right. Or how about a smooth-talking vampire by the name of Harry?

Oliver Twist seemed perfect for the little orphaned boy in the story because by a twist of fate his role is changed from one situation to another.

So what is in a name? Quite a lot really. Some names have carried throughout the ages. I hadn't realized how early the name Jane was used...from Biblical times even. I was thinking more Regency era. But some names, like Terry, are definitely not old world. So using them in a historical would be strange, unless that individual was a time traveler to the past!


Of course some names we might have an aversion to because of someone we've known in the past that gives that name a bad connotation. But no one else would feel that way. When we tried to decide on a name for our son, neither my husband nor I could agree--both of us had bad experiences with the names the other chose. I finally picked one out of the book of names. My mother always tells me of a girl's name she hates after all these years. LOL. So, yep, names can be a stickler. :)

I have a book, Naming Characters, plus I look up names on genealogy, historical, or location sites when I'm trying to find a name....for instance, for Allure of the Wolf, one of the Inuit's names was Annannok in the Canadian Arctic, so I used that for one of my secondary characters. It's a contemporary name and gives characterization to the character.


How do you feel about names? Ever not like the name of a character in a book because of past experiences? Ever felt it didn't suit the character? Ever fall in love with a character because of their name? If you had to name the guy in the photo at right, what would you call him? :)

Terry Spear

http://www.terryspear.com/


Heart of the Wolf, Don't Cry Wolf

Friday, July 18, 2008

How Settings Enrich Our Books



I feel that setting is very important in a book. It gives it that extra bit of life when the right setting surrounds the characters.Many of my books have been set in real places, others I created a town just because it’s more fun that way and I can do whatever I want with it. Or I’ll use a general area for my own purposes.


I love small town settings with eccentric characters, a place with history and an old feel to it. I wrote one Harlequin American Romance, Mommy Heiress, set it in a small Kansas town and created a town that had a little of everything. Here we have a wealthy Southern California debutante who’s been stripped of her credit cards and stuck in a small town. Total fish out of water and turned into a lot of fun to write. I also wrote a book set in Salem, MA where magic is hinted at and the heroine had an accused witch in her family history. It's also fun to make the setting out of a character's element and I've done that many times.


I like to think the settings and the characters go together. Surroundings have a personality all their own and it’s fun to set that up to make that perfect fit between setting and characters.Excellent example is Jazz in 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover. Jazz may be over 700 years old, but there’s parts of her that’s a child at heart. Hence, her love of the boardwalk and the rides there. It seemed fitting she live near the boardwalk where she can indulge her Ferris wheel and roller coaster ride addiction. She’d be a total Southern California witch, while her fellow witches Stasi and Blair, prefer their small mountain town which has more than their share of eccentric, and parnormal, creatures there. But you'll have to wait until next March to find out about them.

I also love ghost towns. When I was little we spent a lot of vacations exploring ghost towns in California, Nevada and Arizona. And I have just the right story for a ghost town.

What about you? Do you believe settings are important in the books you read/write? Do you like strong word pictures to help you visualize a book?

Linda

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Mind of Your Story

Style & Voice: Markers of Greatness

I recently reviewed The Mind of Your Story by Lisa Lenard-Cook, a hardcover writing craft book detailing how the brain creates Story for my book review site, and fortunately, you can teach an old dog new tricks. I may be a relatively new author, but I’ve been branding and marketing since big hair was in vogue. The book reminded me what’s so special about great writing and the mystery of creativity, whether that’s coming up with an idea for an ad campaign, a solution to a household problem or writing a novel.

Basically Right Brain is the creative side while Left Brain tries to come up with all the logical reasons you aren’t creative. (Probably in annoying bullets.) Which is why a lot of editing takes place in Left Brain. The “new trick” or greater understanding I got from the book was the author’s view that stories come from three seeds:

Direct personal impression (what you saw) + imagination (obsession) + writer’s resource of experiences (your emotions).

Writers naturally catalogue experiences. We may note our reaction, especially if it’s strong, and it gets filed away. If we can’t stop obsessing about it, the file begins to grow. Throw in the personal experience we may have had with the object/subject/happening and then wham, bam, you can’t type fast enough. When an author feels that the story has “taken over” it’s because Right Brain is running wild. The seeds have blossomed and out comes Story.

The book covers every area of craft, and some of it is so tried and true I’m not sure anything new or different could be said about it, but I paid close attention to the author’s section on Style and Voice. What separates the wanna-bes from the gonna-bes in any writing craft class comes down to style and voice, which is much harder to critique. Either you have it. Or you don't.

If the rhythm and cadence is missing from the story, it simply doesn't work, end of story. You can rewrite and revise all you want, but until stamp your own fingerprint of stylistic writing that sets your work apart, it's simply words on a page. I noticed the rhythm of Stephanie Meyer's work in Twilight, the book that launched a saga, a multi-millionaire, legion of fans and movie, which is sure to be a hit this December. Her style is quick. She has a lot of one-sentence paragraphs, which place emphasis and keep the story galloping along.

Style breathes life into every scene. It makes us fall in love with the characters and turn the page with baited breath. I had the good fortune of experiencing it two weeks ago when I read Mrs. Perfect by Jane Porter. Her writing style is simple and direct, yet she goes so deep into character that I felt like I was living there. I recommended the book to a friend and when she finished, she said the same thing. Style (how you write) and Voice (your unique marker) shouldn’t be confused with Language or Prose. They are simply smaller pebbles under the boulder that is Voice.

To get how a writer writes, Lenard-Cook recommends studying the Masters, being any master you hope to write like some day. She suggests propping the book up and taking a legal pad and pen and writing the scene out so you get the feel for the rhythm. It is not copying, it is learning. No amount of retyping some else’s work with make you write exactly like them, but you will have an understanding of flow and cadence and impact and emotion.


What are your thoughts on Style and Voice? Who are your Masters? Who would you like to learn more from?

Malena Lott
Dating da Vinci, Nov. '08

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bruno, Sitting In For Kendra

Hey, human playthings. What's up? I'm Bruno, and I'll be your guest blogger for today. Yeah, that's me in the picture. Don't hate me because I'm beautiful, okay? It takes long hours of relaxation to get a belly like mine. I know, I know. You wanna touch it, right? Everyone does. Lucky you, I'm into belly rubs. No poking, though. I still have my claws. The pet human chose wisely and let me keep those. Unlike some other things that I'd rather not talk about.

So normally I don't blog, being that cat humor is a little too refined for you human types. Well, and also that my claws stick in the keyboard. But I took mercy on my pet, because she's starting to look a little rough these days, muttering about something called a deadline and writing in her pajamas all day. I mean, the leopard print pajamas show very good taste, don't get me wrong, but I really need her in top condition to feed me and rub my belly and hang out with me and, uh, feed me. After a quick look at your site, here, I can see you're all just as nuts as she is (all this working, ugh), so thanks for being her support group. I don't know why she doesn't just follow my example for better living, but she's been difficult to train in that area. Oh well, more couch for me.

I can see that a lot of you have dogs. I live with a couple. I suppose I get the appeal. I mean, hey, my human's mother's dog has had the hots for me for years, and I'm okay with that (though I wish she'd get that I am not impressed by the fact that she can fit my whole head in her mouth). But there's nothing like a cat companion. Take me, for instance. I'm a paragon of felinity, the absolute pinnacle of what a cat should be. Oh, don't give me the eyeball, my human tells me what a handsome, fabulous kitty I am every day. She even says it on days when I've chewed up some of the flip flops she ccontinues to insist are hers, so she totally means it. It's not surprising that she can't keep her hands off the bod, though. I'm a purebred Siberian, which I'm told looks something like a Maine Coon, only, you know, way better. My human's mate is still complaining about how expensive I was, and I want to be like, "Hey, you wanted a cat that didn't bother people's allergies, dude. Do you hear any sneezing around here?" But he doesn't listen very well. My human seems to like him, but he doesn't toss socks at her, so that's probably why. I will never understand why he minds me tasting the chair legs. It's not like I'm chowing down or anything!

Anyway, I won't make you insanely jealous with the details of my four years with my human (deluxe scratching post, ahem), But I've gotta say, it's good to be the kitty. Especially when you're bigger than the dogs you live with. Hey, looks like I've got another nap to catch, since my human is going to sit in the big comfy chair. I know she got it because the back is such a perfect bed for me, but she seems to like it there pretty well too. She'll be wanting me to sit with her, of course. Women of all species go crazy. It's like a curse. But my human also appreciates my talent. I practically ghost wrote that Dark Highland Fire thing she's got coming out in October. I mean, yeah, it LOOKED like I was just laying on her lap while she typed, but honestly, humans can in fact absorb a little bit of cat genius through osmosis. Just a little, which is still, like, Einstein level.

No, seriously. I think they proved that a while ago.

Gotta run...well, okay, amble, because running would totally destroy this tummy I've worked so hard on...but you're very welcome for me showing up to use my mad typing skillz today. Never let it be said that I ignore my public. Drop me a comment and show some love, willya? I'll be in all day. Because she's eating ramen noodles and mumbling about plot resolution again. Though this is, I admit, far more entertaining than a laser toy. Plus I can sit still for this. Oh, wait...I sit still for the laser toy too.

Later,
Bruno

P.S. Whoever wrote that Cat Star Chronicles thing, I'm bummed. That was going to be the title of my autobiography!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Dog's Life

Hi! My name is Chewbacca, aka Chewie. I’m guest blogging this week because my mom is busy working on a book. She puts lots of animals in her stories, and I’ve been in several of them myself. I was also a consultant on the one called Warrior. She says dog bloggers are very popular, but I wouldn't know.
I’m a yellow Labrador of uncertain parentage who got thrown out of a car on a country road as a youngster. Guess my other family decided they didn’t want me anymore, though I’ve never really figured out why. Anyway, after getting run over by a car—which only smeared grease on my back—I decided the highway was not the best place to hang out, so I headed for the woods. It was fun at first, but it was hot and the bugs were biting, and I was so hungry!
I roamed for a few weeks, having no idea where I was going. Most places I went, I got chased away. Nobody fed me. I found some food another dog had left, and he chased me off, too. I’d been a house dog and wasn’t used to fending for myself. I got really itchy on my neck, and I scratched it ’til it bled.
Then one day I was going down a dusty gravel road when a big truck came by. I didn’t have anything better to do, so I followed it. It went down a long driveway to a house back in the woods and stopped. A human lady came out and talked to the driver. Then she went back in the house and I followed the truck out to the field—not too closely because it was dumping sand inside a big pen. After making sure that the sand got spread correctly, I followed the truck back to the house. The lady came out again and looked at me. I think she told me to go home, but I don’t understand humans very well, so I didn’t.
After while, she came out with another dog, and I knew I was gonna get chased off again! He was a golden retriever who said his name was Luke Skywalker and he seemed nice enough—didn’t chase me, anyway, but he was on a leash! Anyway, the lady looked at me again and just shook her head. Then she gave me a drink. It was really hot that day, and I was so thirsty! She pulled a tick out of my ear and looked at my neck. I know it probably looked really bad, but at least she didn’t scream.
Later on, she gave me some food, and I thought I might have a chance, so I stayed the night. The next morning, she fed me again. I was pretty sure she liked me, but when she gave me a bath, I knew I was in! I stayed in the house with Luke after that, and I never had an accident on the floor—though I did steal the occasional loaf of bread, so my mom, as I call her now, started putting it up where I couldn’t reach it. I couldn’t complain, though, because she let me and Luke lick the plates and clean the pans. Once in a while she’d bake a turkey and we’d sit around drooling all day until it was done. Boy, did we have a feast then!
I’ve lived with them ever since. They do odd things once in a while, like bringing trees into the house and putting lights on them, and every summer they go away for a week—which always seems like forever to me! Luke was a good friend, but he would run off and roll in manure whenever he got the chance, and though I always went with him, he was the roamer, not me! I knew what it was like to be without at home, and I always came home before he did.
Luke died several years ago, and I missed him for a while, but I still had the rest of my family—three cats and four humans. I liked to sleep under the bed, and one of the cats always curled up with me. Life was good.
Then one day, I was out chasing a squirrel and something snapped in my back. It hurt really bad, and I know I yelped. I couldn’t walk anymore, so my mom put me in the car and took me to the vet. They kept me for three days, but I didn’t get any better, and I missed my family so much! Then one morning they came and wrapped me up and put me in the back of the truck and took me on a long trip to another vet.
I was there for a long time, and they operated on my back, but I still couldn’t walk. Then my mom came and took me home. It was awful. I had accidents all the time, and I still couldn’t even wag my tail. Then one day, I felt it move. My legs were still weak, but I could move them a little. My mom would put me at one end of the hall and call me for a treat and I would drag my butt down the hall to get it. She held my back end up with a towel and I could walk! One day she put me in the car again and we went back to the vet. On the way home, we went to Steak ‘n Shake and I had a hamburger and fries. It was the best time I’d ever had!
I got better after that, but still had accidents, so I started staying outside more. I liked being in the house, but outside was great, too! There were deer and raccoons and squirrels and rabbits to chase, and every once in a while, I actually caught one! I was better at digging up moles, though, and my mom is always very happy when she finds a dead one. I don’t think she likes moles.
Last year when it was very cold, I got to hurting real bad and couldn’t move. I didn’t want to eat or drink or anything, but my mom started giving me some different pills, and I feel pretty good now, but I still can’t walk very well. I fell in a gully twice this spring, and my mom had to pull me out. I can stand up some, but most of the time I just drag my butt around, though I can run pretty fast if my mom holds my tail.
Nowadays, I sit on the porch and bark at the UPS truck when it comes. Mom gives me a munchy stick whenever she goes to the barn, and I always sit in front of the back door to make sure she doesn’t forget.
There was a deer eating leaves on the apple tree by the garage last night. I barked at it a little, but I don’t chase them anymore.
I’m not looking forward to winter—didn’t much like having to wear diapers and be penned up last year, but at least it’s warm by the woodstove. Maybe I’ll make it through another Thanksgiving if I’m lucky. *sigh* I sure would like to have turkey one more time. Maybe this year she'll give me the whole thing!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Literature Goes Hollywood!

By Danielle Jackson

Have you ever thought about what makes certain books movie material? There are so many different adaptations of literature into film that convey something that was written into something visual—and you have to hand it to directors, producer and actors for their interpretations of various literary figures!

There’s something about Jane Austen that has translated very well into film. Something we all know and love—romance—rings loud and clear both in her books and on the big screen. There are some great versions of Sense & Sensibility, Emma, and of course, Pride & Prejudice (don’t make me choose between the BBC/Colin Firth or the newer on with Keira Knightley!!). I wonder if it’s the fact that all of Austen’s beloved novels have witty banter, unforgettable characters, and an undeniably happy ending!

Even most adventure films have some element of romance driving the core message. The Princess Bride, in my opinion, is a perfect blend between comedy (first and foremost), storytelling and a great love story that even little Fred Savage can appreciate in the end. But even the most sweeping or Fantasies or Science Fictions have love stories—and I don’t think they’re there just to appeal to a female demographic (Aragorn and Arwen in The Lord of the Rings, any superhero and his “damsel in distress”--Superman and Lois Lane, Spiderman and Mary Jane, etc.).

And of course, there are so many women’s fiction and romance books that translate well onto the big screen. As of late, it seems like Nicholas Sparks is on his way to taking over the tearjearker selection at theatres (The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember—although I remember the books always being MUCH better). But books like P.S. I Love You, Practical Magic, The Love Letter, and even the sappier of Shakespeare (Ten Things I Hate About You as an update of The Taming of the Shrew, the countless versions of Romeo & Juliet, a recent musical version of Much Ado About Nothing…) have done fairly well in their adaptations from prose to motion picture.

What are some of your favorite books (romance or not) that have become movies? Do you think, if it can be done so, an author should be consulted on films, or should it be seen as an visual interpretation of something a director read? OR—if you could create a cast for your book’s movie, who would play the main characters?

Danielle




PS
In light of my last blog—the Nancy Pearl Summer Book Selection was announced last week, and our dear Georgette Heyer’s An Infamous Army was given a lovely review—check out the written article and audio here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91364064.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Animals Are Real Characters…or is it Characters Are Real Animals?










The other day my three-legged Bengal cat Raja decided my desk was the purr-fect place to spend the afternoon, despite the clutter. While removing the cup of coffee, the previous night’s water, the laptop he thought was in his way, and the flotsam and jetsam that accumulates on the desk of a messy yet creative person, I thought about how much our pets add to our lives and the lives of our characters.

Years ago, I had a dog named Clancy. She was a hundred fifty pound Black Lab/St. Bernard mix with a St. Bernard head and a Black Lab coat.

Clancy was my baby before I had children, and when we did have kids, she was convinced they were her puppies. Every night she would check on each of the children, and sleep outside their bedrooms doors to make sure they stayed where they belonged.

When my youngest was a baby and very ill, my four-year-old would beg to go across the street and play at the neighborhood park. I allowed him to go as long as Clancy was with him. Now, don’t get me wrong, I watched the two of them from my front room. I’d get them across the street, and even though I was there, Clancy would hold my son’s hand in her mouth while they walked across. She’d take him to the play equipment and was never more than a foot away from him. If he went up on the slide, so did Clancy. She really hated going across the chain bridge, but if he did, she followed. If anyone else came to the park, Clancy would take his hand and bring him home--much to my son’s dismay.

Clancy is in every book I’ve ever written, in one form or another. In Romeo, Romeo and If You Can’t Stand The Heat… she is Dave. The only difference between the real Clancy and the fictional Dave is that Dave is a boy.

In Romeo, Romeo Dave is an integral character. He serves as the gatekeeper in his mistress’s life. He’s ultra-protective, loyal, and when someone he doesn’t like stops over, he does a very realistic impression of Cujo. An effective chaperone, Dave herded Nick to the couch the first night he stayed over at Rosalie’s apartment.

Dave isn’t perfect. He has a penchant for carrying around a piece of clothing belonging to someone he likes. Unfortunately, it’s usually their underwear. He has the tendency to forget his size and step on sensitive body parts, which makes him a good form of birth control. He’s under the mistaken impression that your bed is his bed, that front seats of cars were made for him, and that running is something you only do when food is involved.


Through it all, Dave and all animals remind us of our humanity. He serves as a surrogate child, a shoulder to cry on, and a steadfast friend. He has the power to make you laugh out loud, and even shed a tear or two. I for one can’t imagine my life, or my characters’ lives, without pets.

I wonder if all Raja’s pussy footing around my desk might be a symptom of jealousy. It’s probably Raja’s way of demanding his own book. Like most Bengal’s, Raja usually gets what he wants, so don’t be surprised if you see Raja in one of my future books. He truly is a real character.

Tell me about your favorite animal character…real or fictional.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Eustacia's Romance Corner

Eustacia’s Romance Corner is a column for romantic heroines of all genres, wishing to seek romantic, compassionate and practical advice for their problems. This week’s letters express similar conundrums, with which many romantic heroines may identify.

Dear Eustacia:

I am a maiden from a medieval world. My father is giving me in marriage to man old enough to be my grandfather to increase his land holdings. I am strong willed and want to choose a husband of my own, to love a knight in shining armor.
Can you give me some advice?
Helen


Dear Helen:

Marriage as real estate transaction is common to your time. Take heart. You may have recently noticed an extremely attractive, mysterious, brooding man enter your life. He may be associated with your father or with your betrothed. There is a good chance he will end up either escorting your caravan as you journey to your wedding, or kidnapping you from it (in an honorable way). Try to play it coy, but remember that he will evoke feelings you have never felt before and your maidenly curiosity may get the better of you. By the time you reach your wedding or he releases you from captivity, you will be utterly devoted to each other, though having a tearful disagreement (you must provide the tears) about the kidnapping, or the betrothal, or someone’s revenge against someone else. Don’t fret too much; this will resolve itself neatly. Nor should you fret about your father’s land problem. Your knight in shining armor will have more land, money and a better family name than your old fiancĂ©, and there is a strong possibility that your father will have purposely put the knight in your path as a test, to see if the man was worthy of you. He is. Have a wonderful marriage.

Compassionately, romantically and practically,
Eustacia

Dear Eustacia:

My uncle, who raised me, is a gambler and our fortune is gone. I have the opportunity to marry a wealthy land baron and ease my uncle of his financial burdens. My problem is that I do not love this man. There is a traveling medicine show coming through our village and heading toward London and I am thinking about stowing away to escape this predicament. Should I?


Dear Nameless Romantic Heroine:

Were it not for the plot device of the traveling medicine show, I would recommend that you follow the advice I gave in the letter above: wait for the knight in shining armor to make his not-so-subtle appearance. But your plot is going to follow a somewhat different path. Now, I think I say this to someone every week, but I'll say it again. You need not worry about easing the financial burdens of your family. This will happen naturally because of your position as a romantic heroine. So many romantic heroines write to me with money concerns that I am convinced there is some group hysteria involved. Money matters take care of themselves; all romantic heroines end up quite financially comfortable.

More important than money is your plot. If you are at a crossroads in your life, and a traveling medicine show happens to be coming through town, it is not only a good idea to stow away with them, it is your duty as a romantic heroine. For heaven’s sake, I would think it obvious. Stow away, win their hearts, discover that you are a talented mime, and keep your eye on the devilishly handsome troupe leader who will be hiding a secret identity or plotting some brand of revenge, or perhaps spying on someone (maybe you). Be prepared to have feelings evoked within you that you have never felt before. I sense the potential of a great romantic adventure here and I want you to enjoy every moment of it.

Compassionately, romantically and practically,

Eustacia

Next time, we’ll look at letters from two romantic heroines dealing with the equally troublesome ordeals of murder and breaking an engagement. If you are a romantic heroine and have a question for Eustacia, please feel free to submit it through Christina. Be sure to include your era, as advice may change depending on the century.

And The Winner Is...


Pat!
Congratulations! You have won an autographed copy of Beth Andrews' debut release Not Without Her Family!

Please email Beth with your mailing address info: beth@bethandrews.net.

Thank you Beth for sharing your story of your journey to publication. And thanks to everyone who stopped by and made Beth's visit so much fun!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Expect The Unexpected

by special guest blogger Beth Andrews

Please join me in welcoming my friend and Romance Bandita Beth Andrews to our blog today as she shares a bit of her writing journey. Beth's debut release for Harlequin SuperRomance, Not Without Her Family hit the shelves in June and received a four star review from Romantic Times magazine! Beth will also have three more upcoming releases from SuperRomance in the coming months.

Hello Casablanca Authors! I love dropping by your wonderful blog and not just because of your super sexy covers  (Although, I have to admit, the covers are a definite lure - they are gorgeous *g*) Thank you so much for having me here today and a special thanks to my fellow Romance Bandit, Aunty Cindy for the invitation.

Although I’ve always loved to read, I didn’t always want to be an author. To be honest, the thought never crossed my mind until I had my first child. I really don’t remember what triggered my desire to write (Hormones? Lack of sleep? The extra 75--yes, 75!!--pounds I gained during that first pregnancy) but once I decided I wanted to put down some of the stories hanging out in my head, nothing could get in my way.

Well, except for that new baby who required an awful lot of time and attention. Okay, to be honest, although I realized I wanted to be an author at the age of 21, it took me 10 years before I actually sat down and wrote my first story.

What did I do during those 10 years? Took care of that first baby, had another one, dabbled in what I like to call the domestic arts, built a house with my husband, had another baby, watched an endless stream of Disney movies and I read. A lot.

And during those 10 years I never lost the desire to write and finally that Someday I’d been waiting for arrived! I had a new computer and, thanks to all day kindergarten, hours to myself each day. I sat down and wrote a book. (An entire book! Yay, me!) I sent my precious story off only to receive what seemed like thousands of form rejections. Ouch. No one told me writing would be so…painful.

Luckily, it was around this time that I discovered RWA. I joined and immediately began absorbing as much information about being a published author as I could. Over the next three years I took online workshops and attended conferences. I pitched to editors and agents and I wrote three more stories. Instead of all form rejections, I got requests for partials and fulls and personal rejections (much easier on ego *g*).

Then, in 2006, I found out I was a double finalist in the Golden Heart! Oh, happy day! This was the beginning of what I like to think of as a turning point in my writing career. I became more dedicated and over the next two years, worked with an editor at one of Harlequin/Silhouette’s lines. I even had stories passed up (twice!) to the senior editor of that line only to be rejected. The first rejection I took in stride, the second one…not so much *g* It was a week before the national conference last year in Dallas and I admit, I pouted when the editor called to tell me they were going to pass on my story. (Then I had French fries and a hot fudge sundae for dinner and felt marginally better *g*)

During the conference, I met with the editor and pitched some new ideas to her. She was very encouraging and we discussed what wasn’t working for the line and how I could strengthen my stories. I promised to send her a partial as soon as I got home.

I have to admit, even though I was once again a GH finalist that year, that was a tough conference for me. By Saturday night, all I wanted was to go home and try and figure out what step to take next for my career. And then, to my shock, I won the Golden Heart!

Yes, that really perked me up.

Back at home, I polished my partial and sent it to the editor. Then I debated. Something wasn’t working. I was obviously missing a key element that this line was looking for in a story. What if I wasn’t meant to write for this particular line? I’d read many Harlequin Superromances and loved them. What if Superromance was where I (and my stories *g*) belonged?

I debated for weeks about whether or not to send a query to Superromance. After all, I had an ‘in’ with an editor already and I loved the line I was targeting just as much as I enjoyed Supers. Plus, this editor had been so supportive and encouraging, I didn’t want to do anything to make her think I didn’t appreciate everything she’d done for me.

But still, I realized I needed to take my writing in a different direction. So, on August 21 (my husband’s birthday) I printed off a query and a partial to Supers and stuck it in a priority mail envelope. As I was getting ready to go to the post office, the phone rang. And rang. Irritated no one else in the house could answer it (and being in the bedroom with the only phone in the house that doesn’t have caller ID) I snatched up the phone and snapped out a “hello”.

It was an editor with Superromance. She’d judged my story in the Golden Heart and wanted to buy it. Freaky, huh? I stood there in total shock, staring at the envelope with my query to them and just couldn’t believe I was getting The Call.

I like to think that while getting The Call that day was unexpected, it also proved Supers was where I was meant to be *g*

What about you? What’s been the most unexpected development in your life or career? Have you set out to do one thing only to suddenly wind up going in a new direction and having things work out even better than you planned?

Beth has generously offered a free copy of Not Without Her Family to one lucky commenter. I'll announce the winner late tonight!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

And Now a Word from Susannah

By: Marie Force

I'm pleased to welcome my guest today, Susannah Sanderson, wife of NFL superstar Ryan Sanderson—

Susannah: Ex-wife. Don't forget the ex. My fiancé might be reading this. He hates when the media refers to me as Ryan's wife.

Marie: My apologies. Ex-wife. Although, you're not technically his ex yet, are you?

Susannah: No, ten more days and then I'm FREE!

Marie: And that's what you really want?

Susannah: It sure is. I've put up with a lot for more than ten years. I finally have the peaceful, calm life that I craved while living in the fishbowl with him.

Marie: Isn't your new life kind of boring after all that excitement?

Susannah: (thinks for a moment) I guess some days it is, but I prefer predictable to the roller coaster.

Marie: Hmmm, I'd think it would be pretty hard to find a guy as magnetic—and let's face it, downright sexy—as Ryan.

Susannah: Oh my God! You're a fan of his! I should've known.

Marie: Not a fan, per se. Let's just say we're friends.

Susannah: (rolling her eyes) Oh, so you're a groupie.

Marie: Not exactly. I'm the one who wrote your story.

Susannah: What do you mean? What story? I never heard anything about that.

Marie: Uh oh... You haven't heard about the book?

Susannah: What book?

Marie: Um, well, Ryan wanted the world to know how very much he loves you and how desperately he wants to put your marriage back together, so he hired me to write your love story.

Susannah: I'm going to kill him. I'm going to shoot him and then bring him back to life so I can do it again.

Marie: I'm really sorry. I just assumed he would've consulted with you about such a personal story.

Susannah: (swallows hard) How personal?

Marie: Ah.... Are you currently armed?

Susannah: Just tell me!

Marie: Very, verypersonal.

Susannah: (blushing to the roots of her blonde hair) He's a dead man.

Marie: Aren't you the slightest bit curious?

Susannah: If I know Ryan, I can only imagine where the focus lies.

Marie: It's not ALL in the bedroom, don't worry.

Susannah: I repeat: I'm going to kill him.

Marie: I'm curious as to what you see in Henry. He's Ryan's polar opposite.

Susannah: Exactly! That's what I love about him. He's safe and settled and not on the cover of every sports magazine in the country. He doesn't have women coming up to him in restaurants and pushing me out of the way to get to him. I don't miss that.

Marie: Is there anything you do miss about Ryan?

Susannah: (a wistful expression on her face) Do you promise this won't end up in the book?

Marie: (sheepish) It's probably already in there, whatever it is...

Susannah: (sighs) Sometimes I miss the fun Ryan and I had together when it was just the two of us. He used to make me laugh like no one else ever could. He can be really sweet and thoughtful—when he wants to be. I just wish he'd been like that more often when we were still married. Maybe then none of this would've happened.

Marie: I think you still love him, and so does he.

Susannah: I don't! I love Henry. I'm going to marry him.

Marie: Ryan might have something to say about that. In fact, I know he does. You've got that dinner party with Henry and his parents tonight, right?

Susannah: (wary) That's right. How do you know that?

Marie: (shrugs) Let's just say a little bird told me. You might want to leave the front light on after your company arrives.

Susannah: What's he planning? Just tell me, will you?

Marie: I can't do that. You know I can't. Read the book and find out for yourself.

Susannah: Where can I get it?

Marie: September 1st in your local bookstore. It's called "Line of Scrimmage."

Susannah: (rolling her eyes) Figures he gave it a football name.

Marie: Actually that was my idea because you, my friend, are about to go nose to nose with your ex-husband. Get ready for some fireworks.

Susannah: I suppose there's nothing I can do to stop this book?

Marie: It's at the printer.

Susannah: Did I mention that I'm going to kill him?

Marie: (laughing) That's not all you're going to do. Thanks for hanging out on the blog with me today. It's been great having you.

Susannah: Yeah, it's been a real blast. Any idea where I can find a gun?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Paintings





Sometimes I don't have anything to say. Today is one of those days. These are some of my paintings.
Mary Margret

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Throwing Rocks


Laugh and the world laughs with you.
Cry and you cry alone.


That's true, right? It should be. After all none of us like listing to someone who whines all the time. We all just talked about needing a happy ending.

But isn't bad news that sells newspapers?

It's the same for novels. Bad news, or conflict on every page according to Donald Maas, is a must. It is what keeps a reader turning the pages. It is boring if everyone is happy, sad to say. I learned very early as a writer, as soon as everyone is happy, the story is over, epilogues excepted of course.

Is it perhaps that other old truism. Misery loves company? That we are happy to see that other people have troubles worse than ours?

I think it is that only more. We want to know that our hero and heroine deserve their happy ending, that it didn't just fall into their laps, but that they, like most of us, had to work for their success, whether defeating a villain or an earthquake or a bad decision. We want to know that what they defeated was worthy of them, that the villain was clever, and perhaps justified in his goals on some level, that the people saved in the fire or flood were valued, or we aren't going to care if the ending is happy or not.

Every time our hero and heroine get comfortable, we have to kick them out of their comfort zone, you know get them up a tree then throw rocks at them until they figure a way down for themselves. Isn't this what happens to us all the time and we have to pick ourselves up and try again?

When a reader truly believes in each new problem and lives them right along with your characters it is humbling and rewarding. It is also the biggest challenge for me as a writer. Now where did I put that rock?

Monday, July 7, 2008

The End--Happily Ever After







Though I love posting my Sinfully Sexy Saturdays on Wickedly Romantic with hot hunks to feast your eyes on, the truth is, it's the hero and heroine coupled together that make the story!!
Throughout the grueling conflict, throughout the heartaches and difficulty, it's the hero and heroine's struggle that makes the story worth reading. Their growth, their love for one another, and resolving the conflicts to give us that happily ever after--that after glow is what I love to read about. There's nothing better than finishing the story, and wishing I had another one of the author's books to jump into and begin delving through all the troubles that a new delicious hero and heroine manage to get themselves into.

So yeah, it's fun having a sexy hero to drool over, but it's the heroine and hero's relationship that make it even sexier and the happily ever after that makes it a winner in my heart. And the goal I hope to achieve every time I write a story.
What do you think? Ever finish a book and want another? Want some more of the same characters? Can't keep quit thinking of the story? Of the hero and heroine's relationship?

Terry Spear
Heart of the Wolf, Don't Cry Wolf, Betrayal of the Wolf, Allure of the Wolf

Writers--if you're looking for an online writing course dealing with characterization, come join me! Only $20 for a 4 week course, discussions, handouts and critiques on your lessons--3 lessons per week, plus mini-lessons! Jul 14-Aug 8 2008
What a Character!!! Jump from Cookie Cutter to Great 3-Dimensional Characters in Your Writing! http://terryspear.tripod.com/historicals/id30.html

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Countdown Begins


I realized this past week that Hex Appeal will be out in four months. Seems like quite a time, doesn’t it? But that comes down to about 16 weeks, 123 days. Wow!

When I finished 50 Ways to Hex Your Lover I had planned on moving on to one of the other witches. Except Jazz let me know I wasn’t finished with her yet. That there was more to say. And who am I to argue with a 700+-year-old witch?

So I took the story forward a few months and more problems popped up for her. You’d think after all her years in the mortal realm she’d know better, wouldn’t you? But Jazz being Jazz, it just doesn’t work that way.

So now Jazz has nightmares. Nick’s sleep isn’t all that pleasant either. Irma’s making new demands just because she wants to. And Fluff and Puff? Well, they’re accused of the unthinkable. There Wereweasel that operates the Ferris wheel is missing and one of the bunny slippers coughed up one of his shirt buttons. They’re in magick bunny slipper jail and if they’re found guilty of this heinous crime, they’ll be no more. And Dweezil’s business is in trouble and he’s demanding Jazz’s help.

One witch can only do so much!

But we are talking Jazz and she’s determined to make all things right.

So armed with a pair of crocodile stilettos named Croc and Delilah and her dramatic flair for magick, Jazz is determined to save her beloved bunny slippers, help Nick with his business, make some compromises with Irma and along the way acquire a designer wardrobe.

As I said, one witch can only do so much.

Hex Appeal, releasing November 2008

I’ll in the author spotlight all day at Bitten By Books on Monday, July 7. I hope you’ll stop by!
http://bittenbybooks.com/?page_id=4



Friday, July 4, 2008

Fireworks: The Secret of Sexual Tension


By Kendra Leigh Castle

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! I hope you're all enjoying the day with friends and family and gorging yourselves on good barbecue. Freedom is always worth celebrating (speaking as someone who is making a living thanks to free speech!). And though it isn't perfect, America is a pretty amazing place to call home. So par-tay, people!

Even though I've got a limited audience today, I thought I'd post about something both writing and July-Fourth-related: fireworks. Except I'm not talking about the kind that will singe your eyebrows off if you get too close. I'm talking about that main ingredient of romance novels everywhere: sexual tension. You know how it goes. Boy meets girl, boy and girl talk, girl thinks boy is an idiot (because boy does stupid things), boy and girl each secretly want to rip one another's clothes off and refuse to act on it so by the time they finally do it you are just DYING and possibly yelling at the characters the way your husband yells at the television during football games. Seriously, I have read books that were dripping with so much sexual tension that when the hero and heroine started to get it on and then didn't come through AGAIN, I got vocal. I'm all for spooling up the lust factor, but there's a fine line between excitement and despair there.

Tension can go on for too long, of course (if I'm yelling, this is a good indication), or it can come to fruition too quickly ("Um, wait...didn't they hate each other three pages ago? Like, actually, really hate each other?"), or sometimes, it never really exists at all. I recently read a book wherein the hero and heroine never managed to generate a single spark of heat together. Not in their kisses. Not in their horribly awkward sex scenes. Not ever. I was bummed for them. They were so not right for one another.

Working sexual tension in a story so that the reader stays interested without eventually hurling the book at the wall is a delicate balance. I don't know that I've got the formula right any more than anyone does, but there is one main thing that often seems to make or break the sexual tension in a story. It's gonna sound completely obvious, but in every book I've read where the sexual tension was lacking, this has been missing. Ready for it? Here goes.

The hero and heroine have to like each other. And we have to buy that they would.

Sounds simple, right? But there are plenty of books out there where the hero and heroine are sleeping together, and yet there seems to be no connection except the physical for an extended period of time. Generally, the reader is asked to accept that some magical thing happens in the last chapter or two where these two mismatched souls discover that they can talk to one another without fighting and/or passing out from boredom, but I never manage to believe it. Because at that point, the hero has usually been a jerk for about three hundred pages, and the heroine has often been a doormat for just as long. I may be angry enough at both of them for their excessive and endless obnoxiousness to be wishing them on one another at that point, but I still can't believe that, were they living and breathing, they would ever be giving one another the time of day. And that's they key, isn't it? Marriages work when the partners are both friends and lovers. And lust dies very quickly if there's not any cerebral stimulation to back it up.

Now, I'm not saying that the friendship has to bloom before there can be sexy time. I have beloved books in which there is plenty of action before too many words occur. In those cases, though, I've met the hero and heroine separately, and I can see the compatability. I know they're going to like one another, even if they don't...yet. And I want to see them together, so the sexual tension is there from the get-go. But being able to see even the beginnings of that "click" that two compatible people make is crucial to sexual tension. If they can't talk to one another and be interested, intrigued, fascinated on some level, the sex, at least for me, is going to fall flat. I think that's why I love Regencies so much...the buildup is huge, and the tension has lots of time to develop because all the interested parties can DO is talk!

Some of my favorite scenes to write are the ones where the hero and heroine are just bantering. My characters generally refuse to do much pawing unless I let them interact a little first. And I don't blame them...watching those sparks fly is endlessly entertaining, and I get to watch not just the formation of a pair of lovers, but of partners, and friends.

So what are your thoughts on sexual tension? I'd love to hear!

Happy Fourth of July!
Kendra