Category Archives: characters

Why the Talents Have Potty Mouths

Now, obviously, the simplest answer to that is: because I do. As you know, I’m back from a weekend up home, having seen some peeps I went to school with, and have been talking to people who use “f**kin’…” the way other people use “uh…”. This is the way we talked, from middle school on, much more gratuitously foul than the language that went into Hush Money.

Now, this isn’t confined to the place or people of my childhood. When I was a military wife, it was the same thing–only taller. And you’ll notice that while the girl Talents also cuss, it’s more often a matter of emphasis, while the boys tend to be more conversational about it.

Now, this post comes out of some of the reviews I’ve had that give me a bit of a wrist-slap and a 1-star demerit for the language. I want to say, up front, that these demerits are COMPLETELY VALID. One of these days, maybe I’ll write a post about reviews and the disconnect between writers and readers in that regard, but the short version is that writers (as I’ve read them around the ‘net) tend to think readers should be evaluating their book on some kind of objective criteria, while readers tend to rate a book based on how it affected them personally. So if my cussing kids diminished your enjoyment of the story, and assuming that a rating reflects a reader’s enjoyment of the story, then what do I expect them to do, lie? No. That would be dumb. So there you are.

Anyway, on with the behind-the-scenes stuff.

When I started to write Hush Money, I really put myself back in that time.  When I felt my way into these characters, the language just came out. Right away it gave me pause. I hadn’t really set out to write YA. When I started the book, I actually didn’t know that writing about teens would automatically make the book YA. I found this out soon after beginning the book, and I was very concerned. I’ve read YA that I consider far worse than mine in terms of adult content, but not a lot of it. Kait told me, “Don’t worry about it. Just get through the first draft and edit later.”

And, of course, that’s always excellent advice.

So why didn’t I tone down the language in the edit? I’m fairly good with words. I probably could have taken all those problem elements and re-worked them into something that still carried some strong emotion, without the actual cuss-words, right? It’s not like censoring a movie for TV and having Johnny say, “No, flip you, Dad!”

I kept the language because it’s not just words or emotion. For kids, forbidden language is part of posturing. And, as some of you may recall, posturing is very important in the wild. For those of you who went to schools where the threat of violence seemed pretty constant, maybe you’ve had that feeling that you needed to have a facade that was a little harsher and a little less vulnerable than who you really were. And maybe that’s not something all readers relate to. But I do.

The Talents live in that kind of fear state, under a constant threat, and they build walls. When I went to do the edits, I couldn’t see reworking the language as anything but removing bricks from those walls and weakening my characterization overall.

I’m not defending it like I want to change anyone’s mind. If a reader doesn’t see that, it’s probably because they either don’t relate to those feelings, or because they have personal values which override them. No book can be all things to all people, and while some people enjoyed the style of the book and have said the characters seemed very real to them, in part because of the language, others didn’t like that. I totally get that.

The point of this post was more just that it’s a thing I’ve struggled with, and I thought maybe you’d be interested in a little insight into my world.

I’m not defending it like I want to change your mind or anything. It’s more that you had mentioned being able to talk to authors about the books, and I thought you might be interested in how that particular element developed for me and why it remains.
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Filed under author blog, characters, Hush Money, ideas, insecurities, Talent Chronicles, writing

Random Thoughts From My 20-yr High School Reunion

So here I am, back from that 20 year high school get-together thing. It wasn’t a formal reunion or anything, it was more like a small smattering of people from four different graduating classes, showing up at the same bar at the same time.

In a way, writing YA is like sentencing yourself to high school all over again. (Your crime is time and it’s 18 and life to go…) At least the way I work, I have to go back there. I have to be in that place. It’s not hard for me to embrace my inner teen. A big part of me never grew up and is stuck there. I guess I just didn’t realize how much.

Anyway, it made me think some more about what it’s like to be young. Remember how dumb that was, when just talking to a guy could start rumors, teasing, speculation, petty jealousies?

And then those same boys grow up to be men who kiss you on the cheek, just to say hello.

Isn’t that lovely?

And aren’t you glad to be a grown up.

The day after this thing, my husband and I went to visit a friend who wasn’t able to make it to the thing. And he’s sitting there asking us questions about it. Now, my husband has this excuse that he missed the last two years of high school with us because he moved away and didn’t move back until it was all over. But I…don’t have that. So we’re talking about who was at the thing, and I was like so-and-so, but I didn’t really talk to them, and so-and-so, but I never made it over to that side of the room. And the friend says, “Did you just sit in the corner all night?”

“Um, yeah, what are you, new?”

“Look who I’m talking to,” with eyeroll.

We had both spoken at once.

And, yeah, what I realized this weekend was that you can’t expect to spend your school career trying to avoid eye contact, and then the next couple decades trying to put the whole miserable experience behind you, and then expect to remember anyone or have them remember you.

So I guess what I really learned this weekend was that, while I thought I took elements of myself and really focused them into something more extreme that is Joss, well, probably myself that was was a bit more extreme than I like to remember.

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Filed under characters, insecurities, Laws of the Universe, me me me, writing

Random Peek at the Talent Chronicles Universe

Beyond the book… Ooh… I don’t usually tend to talk about stuff like this, for a lot of reasons. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, I don’t want to spoil anything I might want to use as a surprise for you later, who knows what might change as the story grows…

But let’s face it, there just aren’t that many of you who read my blog, you deserve some “insider” info, and I’m hard up for something to talk about this morning. So let’s talk about Haven.

The Chronicles didn’t start in Fairview for me. They started at Haven, which is a secret enclave, a community of Talents hiding in the woods in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Yes, not very far from the couch on which my butt is parked right now. In fact, before the Talents were called Talents, before the world expanded and people started popping up all over the place, the file the notes were kept in was called Haven Chronicles.

It is, as the name suggests, a safe place for Talents to be who they are, and to become what they can be. In that respect, maybe it’s what the State Schools would have been if the government were in the business of serving the people, rather than itself. (I speak of the government in the Chronicles. Obviously, right?)

Haven was founded by Elle, who led a group of Talents in a break-out from a NIAC facility when she was sixteen. In the days before Heroes arrived on TV, she was a painter of the future. When Issac Mendez showed up on TV with her Talent, I was bummed, and sort of dropped that idea. I might pick it up again, because I now realize that I’ll probably never come up with anything that hasn’t been done somewhere. But I don’t know. Elle’s Talent isn’t who she is for me. She’s a woman of amazing drive, strength of character, and hope.

Who else lives at Haven?

Marissa, an empath and scientist, who strives to help Talents deal with their abilities, while indulging her own need to learn more about the phenomenon. She can enter and navigate a world we aren’t even aware of, seek out and find people by their unique energy pattern. Sometimes they call her Scry.

Colby, a vivacious redhead, who can draw electricity and store it like a battery for later use. They call her Copper-Top. She hates that.

Rand, dark, brooding and tortured because he was trained as an assassin and used by NIAC to hunt other Talents. His martial arts training and gravity manipulation Talent make him a dangerous and graceful killer. They call him Dancer–but not to his face. This is a man seriously in need of redemption.

Justin is music. That’s how it feels to him. While he’s learned to play a lot of instruments, he would do nothing but sing, if he could. But every note he sings puts a spell on those around him. Siren’s Talent and talent remain silent until he can tame this inadvertent mind-control problem.

There are more. I hope you’ll get to start meeting them soon.

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Filed under characters, Haven, Talent Chronicles, writing

Guest Post: Protagonist Arizona Darley, and Quantum

When my dear friend Imogen Rose, author of the Portal Chronicles, asked me if I could help with Quantum‘s launch by hosting her and her character Arizona  on launch day, I was delighted to say yes. Let’s hear from Arizona…

A note from Arizona Darley

Once upon a time–well, a year ago now!–I suddenly woke up as Arizona Darley, a blonde California cheerleader, which, of course, I’m not. I am actually Arizona Stevens, a varsity ice hockey player from New Jersey. It was confusing to the say the least–I mean really? A blonde Barbie doll… sheesh, not! It turns out that my mom’s time travel  portal was somehow responsible. Anyhow… it’s now a year later and the portal is now active again, which means that I can go home to my real dad….

-Arizona

Book Description

Quantum Cover ArtA whole year has passed. It’s October again… or is it?

As California teen, Arizona Darley, contemplates traveling back through the portal to seek out her dad, her life is plunged into a whirlwind ride through the unknown.

But this time, she doesn’t disappear through the portal.

Has Arizona been kidnapped–again? Is Raj Sen to blame? Could Dillard have taken her?

As Kellan, David and her parents launch a frantic search with the help of the Wanderers, it becomes apparent that things are much more complex than they seem – for all of them. While investigating her daughter’s latest disappearance, Olivia faces shocking revelations about the Wanderers and her life with Rupert.

In the meantime, what’s happening in New Jersey? Are both of Arizona’s worlds about to collide?

Quantum is the third book in the Portal Chronicles. Catch the start of Arizona’s adventures in Portal and Equilibrium.

Quantum can be purchased today on Amazon.com.

Book Trailer!

For more information on the author, Imogen Rose, or to read more about the earlier books in the series, visit her website: http://imogenrose.com.

…Please visit again tomorrow when I’ll have some information for you about Heroes ‘Til Curfew, the sequel to Hush Money, including the first reveal of the cover art.

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Filed under books, characters, Guests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, interviews, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

The Facebook 15 Authors Meme

I’ve been tagged twice for this on Facebook. Maybe after I finish up here I’ll figure out how to do it there.

You’re supposed to write a list of 15 authors who have influenced you and will always stick with you. Part of the directions: “Don’t take too long to think about it…”List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.”

Oh no, honey. Thinking is what I do!

1. Ayn Rand- There are so many reasons her work will always stick with me. Reading her fiction, and The Romantic Manifesto…well, she changed my life in some ways. The way I think, my ability to cope with some of the crazy I see around me–I don’t want to get too into that stuff. As a writer, she helped me understand the concept of Hero in a way that reading a few hundred romance novels hadn’t quite done yet. And she helped me see the usefulness in the character arcs of secondary players. Perhaps most of all, she taught me that a great novel is more than just a story. A great novel is about something, and the concept of theme is not something that should be left behind in High School English class.

2. Johanna Lindsay- I read the few dozen of her historical romances that were available when I was a teen. At that time, Harlequin was very tame and pretty much PG. Lindsay’s books were my first exposure to the rated R world of adult romance. While I think those books probably did more for my interest in costuming, sewing, and medieval housekeeping than the writing stuff–because historical = research = OMG no–I definitely got stuff from all the Lindsays. The way she could pull out and develop secondary characters to star in later books, the humorous interactions between characters who are close to each other, ideas about what makes for likable characters and what can redeem a character or what appears to be a bad or doomed relationship, an understanding that there’s a structure beneath romances and fiction in general.

3. Nora Roberts- I came to Nora kind of late in my reading. I’m not really sure why. Some things I learned from Nora: Characters don’t always have to be orphans to be likable; sometimes family or close friends really add dimension to the story and even make some of the writing a lot easier. Which leads to the next point, the hero and heroine don’t have to exist alone together, in a vacuum, for the entire story. It’s ok to try new things: straight contemporary, suspense, girlfriend stories, family sagas, paranormal, science fiction–and still have it be romance at the heart of it. I also learned a lot about series metaplot from reading her trilogies.

4. Shannon McKenna- She’s not a big name, but man, can she write some heroes. These are probably classified as erotic romantic suspense. They’re definitely romantic suspense, but there’s a lot of sex and it’s pretty hot. McKenna’s heroes are amazing in the same way as Suzanne Brockmann’s Navy Seals–only I think they’re even better. They’re these over-the-top Alpha males on the outside, with this creamy center of insecurity and desperation when it comes to the heroines. I think I’ve understood attraction to a flawed hero from my teens and the bodice-ripper novels, but McKenna showed me how to appreciate weaknesses.

5. Linda Howard- She’s great at coming up with story concepts. In a romance, you know the characters are going to be together at the end of the story. Howard makes me want to know how. She’s also great at choosing elements that eventually come together as scenes that move me. And that’s what I want from fiction: I want to be moved.

6. JR Ward- Who doesn’t love the Black Dagger Brotherhood? Her heroes have that same ultra-Alpha on the surface, but kind of messed up and in need of TLC quality that you now know I’m into. Another thing I get from Ward: be brave. She’d gotten plenty of criticism about her use of language, her names, her creative spelling, deus ex machina endings, but hey, I’ll bet the piles of money soften the blows. This is her world, she’s running it. People claim to be annoyed with this or that, but she stays true to her world and ultimately they keep reading because she’s just that good. She makes me want to be that good.

7. Kate Forsyth- Here’s an author who just made me want to create a fantastic world, and to people it with a cast of heroic characters in an epic struggle. Fantasy isn’t always easy for me to read, but this world was just so incredibly rich, the storylines so amazing, the characters so wonderful…And as to that, the villains were so well developed. Can’t say enough about these books–certainly I shouldn’t say “so” again.

8. L. Neil Smith- The Probability Broach is an amazing book. While as a writer, this was one of the books made me want to write libertarian fiction (but for girls), I think it’s always going to stick with me as the first time I was able to read about anarchy without simply dismissing it.

9. Laurell K. Hamilton-Her early work made me want to write a kick-ass heroine, and the change in her work made me really appreciate how much I loved the early voice that she lost. Part of the delight for me in the first few Anita Blake books, was the freshness of Anita’s voice, the unexpected Dr. Seuss references, that kind of thing. She was part of waking me up to the power of voice.

10. Janet Evanovitch- Stephanie Plum: not the most kick-ass girl I’ve ever met, and she showed me the power of creating a character who had some room to grow, someone readers could identify with and really root for. Evanovitch is another one for amazing voice. So much about One for the Money makes me smile just because it reminds me of home, of people I feel I’m familiar with. She made me want to sound, not like a writer, not like an amalgamation of all the books I’ve ever read, but as the me I am in my head and with my friends.

11. Anne McCaffrey- I don’t think you can spend any time in Pern without being touched by it.Not only did I fall hard for Lessa, kick-ass, underdog heroine, not only was I drawn in hard by the relationship between Lessa and F’Lar, but the storyline and the world-building were incredible. After the first books, going backward in time to see how it started, and then filling in the gaps in the history of the world–it just blew my mind.

12. Diana Gabaldon- Look, Outlander was the only one I could read, but it’s not going anywhere. Jamie, his capacity for bravery and sacrifice, but also the innocent sweetness of him, is always going to stick with me.

13. Harlequin- The retired Harlequin Gothic and later Harlequin Intrigue lines pumped out romantic adventures every month that even a babysitter could afford, and then dream on. These books replaced the YA I had been reading partly because they could ALWAYS be counted on to be about the romance. I guess this was when I really started to understand about commercial genres, and really started to get serious about penning my own romances. There was a lot to be learned from these, and a lot of it was about what not to do, but that’s no less important. I learned what I like in a story and in characters, what works for me as a reader and what doesn’t, and I found some authors and stories for my keeper shelf.

14. Debra Webb- is one author I found through Harlequin Intrigue. I loved her Colby series, about a private detective agency. In addition to being good stories, very well written, I learned a lot and started to get ideas about how I might one day structure books in a series. I learned about spinoffs, plots that carry over several books, using an epilogue for good (instead of to annoy me).

15. I know we all love books, but, to me, fiction is fiction. Often I think we should do a better job of learning the names of the writers behind the television and movies that really stick with and influence us. Obviously, Joss Whedon’s work is huge for me, but there’s no way he can do all that alone, and I feel like I should know more names in this category. A few random shows that have caught at my imagination: Buffy, La Femme Nikita, V, Battlestar Galactica (1978), Battle of the Planets (G-Force), Superfriends, Batman, Thundar the Barbarian, X-Men, Wonder Woman, He-Man, Dungeons and Dragons (animated, 1983), Days of Our Lives, Santa Barbara, Voltron, Veronica Mars, 90210, Firefly…

So…take on the meme if you want, but I’d love it you’d share your thoughts on any of the above, or if you’d like to share one or two of your own favorites, and what they’ve meant to you.

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Filed under books, characters, ideas, love, me me me, romance, story structure, writing

Status Update, Coming Attractions, Secret Identities

Let’s just get this out of the way. I don’t think Stacey Wallace Benefiel (authoress of Glimpse, Glimmer, Day of Sacrifice) ever initiates a conversation two times in a row using the same messenger. One day it’s email, then Goodreads PM, then Facebook message, then a DM on Twitter… Is Stacey a secret agent, trying to cover her tracks? Are there coded messages I’m too blonde to see? While posing as a home-renovating mother-of-two, is she really about to drop from a helicopter onto a moving train and wondering why I haven’t rushed her plea for extraction to the agent they have planted at the local Waffle House?

These are things I ponder.

Hush Money hit a new milestone yesterday: 2000 sales. The end of October/beginning of November was freaking awesome on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

This will probably not be the last time that I mention that there’s nothing like a shiny new paperback under the tree, should you wish to consider Joss and her friends to fulfill your gift-giving needs this holiday season.

Can you believe she’s starting up with that crap already, and it’s not even freakin’ Thanksgiving yet? Damn. I know!

Ok, what else. Oooh! Right. So Quantum! Who’s a fan of the Portal Chronicles, raise your hand? (If your hand is not raised, it’s because you haven’t read yet, so go, buy Portal, start getting caught up now, ’cause…) The third book, Quantum, releases on Tuesday, November 16th. The main character, Arizona, is due to drop by here and drop off some kind of message for you on Tuesday. So make sure you’ve done the homework.

Also of possible interest, she said innocently, the cover of Heroes ‘Til Curfew, the follow-up to Hush Money, will be revealed on Wednesday, Nov. 17th. It was not at all what I expected, and really took my breath away when I saw the initial concept. Robin is awesomesauce, and I hope you’ll all like it as much as I do.

Yes, the new book is coming along better, thank you for asking. Yesterday I finally pushed through a scene that was giving me all kinds of problems. When I was finished, I just wanted to sit and write more. Dammit. Self-washing dishes, where are you?? As I was driving to Girl Scouts, I was totally seeing the inside of the record store instead of the road, Joss was yelling, stuff was flying–it was all pretty distracting. Now imagine me, having this realization: Wow, I could totally have a really bad wreck right now! and grinning from ear to ear because I’m finally getting somewhere.

Watch out you Nano peeps. Don’t count me out yet!

Did you guys know I have another identity? No, I don’t use a pen name. In the dark and dangerous manuscript critiquing underworld, I am known, by those who can find me, as Pink Hammer. My supercharged weapon of choice? The Pink Hammer of Doom, of course. Now this is all totally wrecked by Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, because now even I am asking myself if the hammer is really my penis, and it pretty much makes me the laughingstock of the underworld. Thank you very much. Nevertheless, I persevere, and will be taking out these frustrations on Devil’s Eye by Kait Nolan. So if Kait seems a little jumpy this week, if you see her stocking up on adult diapers because she’s pissing herself in fear, be kind.

Haha, no, really. It’s not like that.

Is it?

Ok, I think I’ve babbled at you guys long enough for one morning. Anyone have news? I haven’t been getting out much; feel free to tell me what’s up.

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Filed under books, characters, Guests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, Kettle chat, me me me, NaNoWriMo, progress update, PubIt, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

Konrath’s Cross-Pollination: What do you think?

This post is eventually going to be about character cameos, guest-appearances, and working with other authors on the same book. It’s inspired by this post on Joe Konrath’s blog. Readers, I would love to hear what you think of these ideas.

I’ve talked a lot about Kindle rank lately and one thing I think about often is that it’s going to be harder and harder to break into those higher numbers as more authors/publishers seriously enter the ebook market. (Seriously as in stop insulting us with higher-prices for digital than paper, $10+ ebooks, etc.) As we continue to analyze what works and more motivated people do what they need to do to move up those ranks more quickly.

And, as Joe Konrath keeps hogging up all the slots and filling more…

Did you read that post? Does it make you grind your teeth how you’re pushing for a few hundred measly words a day, and he’s at a point, reached through a combination of talent, drive, experience, and discipline, at which he makes it look like child’s play.

Yes, I greatly esteem him. And not in an Elinor Dashwood way, though I’ll admit that past posts of his have induced Misery-inspired thoughts from time to time.

But beyond being boggled by the output, and by the amount of different stuff he must be able to hold in his brain at any given time, the massive amounts of creativity, I really enjoyed that post because the concept of working with other authors to cross-promote is one that has been very attractive to me.

Besides talking about his own characters crossing into different series, he also talks about working with other authors, having his characters appear in their series, and vice versa, writing stories together, etc.

Since Kait Nolan and I talk every day, work so closely together, and have complimentary specialties when it comes to writing fiction, we’ve often said that we should write something together. But it never happens. And there are good reasons for that. She has multiple jobs and not enough time to write her own stuff. I have to spend a lot of time spinning my wheels with this whole emo-artist persona that I wear around the house like bunny slippers. But I sort of think that, at the end of the day, we just  might not be ready to do that yet. I think maybe ego-wise, and probably mine more than hers, we might not be ready for that level of sharing and cooperation yet.

We do have a super-seekrit project proposed with a handful of other authors. An over-arching world concept under which each participating author would be able to write their own, autonomous story or stories. Sort of like writing fan fiction, except that the aforementioned concept was an original one that Kait came up with, not something taken from a book, movie, or TV show.

This was a marketing idea that captured my attention when I saw the Legend, TN website, the group of authors who created it, and read their first collection of novellas. I stumbled across that while Googling for something else and was intrigued because the fictional town is where I lived. The concept was able to get me to read not one, but four authors I had never read before. I thought it was quite brilliant.

It was not a new idea for me. Have I ever showed you my wall of Harlequin Intrigues. Remind me to dig up a photo when I have more time. Need a few hundred of those from the 80s and 90s? I need to move them and the idea of recycling them is too sad. Anyway, Harlequin’s done a lot of short series branding, having a few authors write books about the same family or bits of the same over-aching plot. A great idea that had customers looking for the next book in the story, no matter which Harlequin author had written it, possibly generating new readers for some of their authors.

I’m not really optimistic about us getting around to the super-seekrit project any time soon. Everyone is really busy with their own worlds right now, but fictional and real-life.

I’ve recently been offered a spot in an anthology. I would LOVE to be able to participate in that. It was an honor to be asked, as there are really good indie authors involved, and I’m sure it would help me find new readers. And yet, I’m not sure about my ability to write something at the requested length. I’ve never done a short before. But I’m going to try.

Anyway, I’ve gotta wrap up this rambling, so…

Q for writers: What do you think about the idea of working with other authors? Think you could do it? Think you could let another author write YOUR character into her book? Think you could stand back and let someone else tinker in your universe?

Q for readers: What do you think about these ideas? Do you buy anthologies for a single author’s story and find new authors to love? How would you feel about trying a new author in order to follow your favorite character?

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Filed under author blog, books, characters, ideas, Laws of the Universe, self-publishing, Violations, writing

Wanna Nano Buddy?

Yeah, I did it. I went and signed up all fresh and new this morning. Here’s my profile, if you think you might like to buddy me. It’s a little slap-dash. I have no idea what years I’ve tried to do Nano before, but I can tell you that I’ve never finished. I think I’ve had two accounts, the second one because I couldn’t get back into the first one for my second year because of all the website problems. This year, though, I’ve put all the past behind me, all the hiding behind a handle, afraid to tell anyone that I write, and I’m there with my real name. So there. [self-directed “so there”]

I’m working on Heroes ‘Til Curfew. I know that, technically, it’s supposed to be something fresh and new. I had hoped to have HTC out in beta and be able to possibly start the rough of the third book for Nano. Well, there’s a dream that’s long behind me as I fall further and further behind. I really feel like I need something to get me going right now. And trust me, I’ve got at least 50, 000 new words left to write in this draft.

I’m not sure how I’ll do with the goal. I’ve never finished. Nano is a difficult concept for me. The idea of waiting to start something until a set date, setting that date around one of the busiest and most stressful parts of the year, and then all that just writing whatever to get words out, the frantic output to be fixed later–that’s not really how I work at all. So I may end up plodding along at my own pace and being behind, but I think it will be nice just to be part of Nano fever, because just the energy that surrounds it is sometimes helpful–if you don’t let it stress you out and drive you mad.

Anyway, if you’re doing Nano this year, feel free to add me.

I’m feeling really reflective today, and I was just thinking about what I said above, about how I had been hiding behind internet handles and how I avoided telling any one in real life that I was a writer. It’s been really interesting, and very nice, to be able to do this with a shiny book in my hands and my name on the cover. People in my life have been very kind, supportive, and downright enthusiastic. But I’m not sure what it would have been like without that shiny book, and I wonder if I ever would have done it.

A lot of Hush Money is about fear. I know I said this in an interview somewhere, that one of the movie lines that repeated in my head while I was writing, and continues to live there when I think about the story, is from Pump Up The Volume. It’s the part at the parent meeting when Paige Woodward, the girl who blew up her kitchen, takes the stage and passionately tells the crowd how she’s just been going through the motions of being perfect. “We are all really scared to be who we really are.”

And didn’t think too much, until I started to out myself as a writer, how much of Joss’s secrecy was actually mine.

I got another bit of fan mail this morning, from someone who hasn’t quite reached the end of the story, but wanted to tell me how much I made her feel like she was there, in school, living this life. (As a writer, I should have better words for what those messages mean to me.) Looking forward to her finishing the book, wondering how she would feel at the end of it, I started thinking about the ending of the book myself, and how I lived it.

Writing that ending was very exciting. There was a sense of Oh my God, this is finally over. That feeling of exhilaration was both Joss’s, having just come through the other side of this battle and solved this big problem that had been hanging over her, as well as mine, having come through it with her, and also having come to the end of a struggle of my own. I felt like I had conquered something too. As I was typing her thoughts, I was thinking, this is starting to sound like the end of an after school special.

And then I decided that was just fine.

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Filed under books, characters, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, ideas, insecurities, Laws of the Universe, nano, NaNoWriMo, Signs, Talent Chronicles, writing

Love and Romance: Do You Believe in Magic?

Before I get onto this, a few things:

  • Hush Money is featured today at Indie Books Blog
  • It’s doing really well. It broke into the Kindle top 1000 early last week and though it’s fallen out a few times, it’s been holding position fairly well (it’s at #888 while I’m writing this).
  • Coming up, I’m going to have a post on getting to the top 1000 within the first 8 weeks of release, talking about some things I did that I think helped and a series of posts that concentrates on those things in a bit more detail.
  • Still have the Help Me Find My Dylan contest going.
  • You know the paperback is out, right?

And now, on to the post…

When it comes to Love and Romance, I absolutely believe in magic. Here are some things I believe in:

  • Love at first sight
  • True love
  • Fate
  • The idea that there is a perfect mate for every person
  • The idea that you can fall in love in a week, in a day, in a moment

And I’m going to cut that list off there before the sweetness of it gives us all cavities.

For me, these, and similar notions found in romance lit, are true possibilities in our world. Even if some of them haven’t happened for me, I can still believe in them in the same way I can take your word for it that things are made up of molecules, or that the Earth orbits the Sun.

  • I don’t have to experience everything in the world in order for it to be true for someone out there.
  • I know that people experience different things, and experience the same things differently.
  • I WANT to believe.

And so do other people. For a lot of them, that’s why they read romance.

Some people absolutely do not believe. These things haven’t happened for them, or, if they have, they didn’t see it that way. After all, love and romance, like anything good in life, require effort, work. And when you frame love as something purely mystical (which I don’t think it is), it confuses the issue for some people. It’s doesn’t make sense for their somewhat more practical take on matters.

In fiction, a disconnect between author and reader often comes about when the story falls too close to one end of this magic to pragmatic continuum.

You have that story where two characters meet, they feel this immediate, overwhelming attraction, connection, and even things like devotion and intimacy, which possibly should grow and evolve out of what they experience with each other, just kind of magically exist between them. This kind of romantic setup will be accepted by readers far at the magical end of that spectrum, but you won’t go far along the line before readers are finding this weak, thinking the author was a bit lazy in supporting the romantic elements, and the pragmatists are throwing the book at the wall and using words like “tripe.”

For me, the incredibly logical characters can be just as maddening. These are characters who are SO practical, who need everything proven to them, everything spelled out. They can be so unwilling to just feel. To take leaps of faith. Isn’t love worth taking a leap? Sometimes they come across, to magical me, as so ungrateful of the gift they’re being offered in the story. They’re so unwilling to allow themselves to feel within a context that (to me) is supposed to be about feeling.

Just because there are two people with relationship potential, doesn’t make it a romance.

What I’m getting at here, is that there’s a middle ground. A good romance finds it, finds a way to please the widest range of readers. Showing the evolution of a relationship, supporting the True Love and Fate angles with moments that allow the readers to say “this is when she fell for him” (and “oops, I just fell for him too”), deepens the experience of the romance even for the reader who would have accepted the magic of it. Allowing the characters to just feel things because they feel them, even if they need to question those feelings, allowing them to sometimes act on things they don’t quite understand yet, and to just go with the flow once in a while, can create and ebb and flow of tension, rather than frustration for the reader. It can make the characters seem more real, since sometimes people have unguarded moments, sometimes they do take chances, just because they want to, even if it doesn’t make sense.

Romantic elements, unsupported, can seem ridiculous. Characters who approach love like Mr. Spock can be maddeningly unromantic and frustrating.

But in the middle ground, between the ridiculously love-struck and the frustratingly logical, there’s room to create something special, something more than just magical.

Romance.

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Filed under books, characters, love, romance, tips, what not to do, writing

Contest: Help Me Find My Dylan- sticky

This is a sticky post. Please scroll down for newer posts.

Know what part of cover design takes the longest? Finding the right images. Robin and I spent a long time combing through images before Kait (who loves browsing stock photos, btw, but you didn’t hear it from me) came up with the perfect one.

I would like Dylan to be on the cover of Heroes ‘Til Curfew if at all possible. I have lousy GoogleFu, and it’s a deficiency that carries across all searches. While spending time browsing photos of cute boys is tempting, I really should be spending time on other things–like writing the book.

So I was thinking that maybe some of you would like to hunt for Dylan. You’ve read Hush Money (right?), so you have a sense of who he is. My current Dylanish Muse is Hunter Parrish. Here are some pics. He plays the part of Silas, the older son, in Weeds. From the earlier seasons, the longer hair look is probably more what I’m thinking. Just to give you an idea what’s in my head.

Robin prefers to work with images from Shutterstock, and she has her reasons, so images from there would have a better chance of being chosen from a practicality standpoint. But we might possibly go elsewhere if the price and conditions are ok.

Please leave links to images in the comments to this post. Enter as often as you like. If I chose one of the images for the cover, the commenter who linked to it will receive Heroes ‘Til Curfew in paperback and ebook (when they become available), and get the bragging rights to say that they “discovered” Dylan.

This contest will run until I finalize a cover design. If none of the images is chosen, I will give one entry to each individual commenter and select a winner at random for the giveaway. Sound fair? Have fun.

(and feel free to hit the tweet button on your way home)

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Filed under books, characters, Contests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Talent Chronicles