Tag Archives: characters

Zelda, Dragon Age, and the power of choice

So you know how lots of us are into the motivational prizes? Just get your work done and you’ll win the right to buy this thing you want or some free time to do that thing you’ve been wanting to do. I’m sort of meh on whether or not this kind of self-denial really works for me. After all, if I deny myself one thing, I can keep from doing it, but I’ll often just do something else instead, defeating the purpose.

I realize that, while I used the excuse of entertaining my girl who likes to watch video games and play vicariously, I kind of substituted playing Zelda Twilight Princess on the Wii while denying myself Sims Medieval. And as I said in a recent post, I’m interested in seeing how Link’s story turns out. I want to know more. But I don’t love the game.

In the comments to that post, Lisey suggested I check out Bioware’s offerings. And as I was not feelin’ the love for Sims Medieval, I did. So I went out and got Dragon Age: Origins.

Oh. My. God.

Thank GOODNESS this was after I had finished the draft because, dude, it became my full time job to save Ferelden from the coming Darkspawn. Like, seriously, I was in that game at least 40 hours in the first week I had it. I could hardly stop playing it and I could not stop thinking about it. After that full-time week of work as a Gray Warden, I went down to Florida (where I managed to play it some more even though Disney is exhausting). In the car on the ride down, when my brain should have been working on book 3 of the Talent Chronicles, all I could do was daydream game fic.

I haven’t even come close to finishing the game, but now that my world’s opened up to this new genre for which I obviously need a 12-step, I’m already shopping around for “more like this.” And I’m also trying to figure out what it is about this game that makes me love it so much. Of course nothing ever comes down to just one thing, but here’s one I’ve been thinking about. (And you might want to take into account that I’m not an experienced gamer, so I may get stuff wrong or express ideas in some non-standard way. The console I had before the Wii was Atari 2600.)

There’s only one way for Link to go about saving Hyrule. You go the way you need to go, you fulfill the tasks you need to do, you slay the boss that needs slaying, and you move through the game in a very linear fashion. You do something else, you’re no longer moving forward and it’s obvious you’re not moving forward.

My Hero in Dragon Age has a lot more choice. And the choices matter. At one point, early on in the game, we came to a town that was having a lot of problems and the Darkspawn (the vicious hoard of underground monsters that are coming above ground to take over) were getting closer. I had a certain direction, something that needed to get done, and not being familiar with the game, I moved through the town fairly quickly and on to complete my task. I never stopped in the tavern, so I never met an important character in the story. That decision changes my story. The town was overrun by the Darkspawn after that and is closed to me. I’ll probably never meet that character. Parts of the game will never open to me (unless I play it again) because of that decision.

Now on one level, hey, that kind of sucks. But on another, how much importance do I now feel in my decisions? What I choose to do matters in a way that’s different from other games, because certain choices by me can radically alter the story I’m experiencing. And that’s actually pretty cool.

So today is Monday, and on Mondays I talk about writing. Do I have a writing point to make? Well, other than to confess how much I really want to write Choose Your Own Adventure right now, I think the lesson I get from this is that choice matters. Or it should.

Know what’s hard sometimes? Allowing a character to make the wrong choice. And then punishing them. But that’s where some of the best story stuff comes from, allowing a character to dig themselves into an ever-deepening hole until she learns enough from her mistakes to start climbing out of it.

Imagine two different stories.  In one story, the character makes a series of decisions that work out rather well in getting that character from the beginning to the end. And there’s good characterization and enough going on that it makes for a nice read and we all follow along happily to The End.

In another story, the character struggles with two different alternatives. Chooses one and ends up going backward or dealing with harsh consequences. The next time that character comes to a crossroads, how much more invested might we be in that character’s next decision? How emotional will we get when she makes the same mistake again, getting even more off track? And how much more invested will we ultimately be in the story?

Something to think about, anyway.

Assuming what I just babbled made any sense at all.

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The Hero Had a Certain Owenocity About Him…

Whenever you have an Oweny character named Owen, some blog titles are just moral imperatives. Nuff said.

I finished reading Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia. This book was originally self-published, then picked up by Baen, which seems to be a division of Pocket/Simon & Schuster. Excellent book. I said somewhere, while I was reading this 700+ page monster (in paperback!) that it’s not exactly romance. I really find I have to take that back. It actually really was.

What’s more, while I rarely read books by male authors because I so often find myself disgusted or insulted (and this is probably because I tried to read “classic” SF/F), I found this author delightful. Which may be a strange word to use for a fic that’s got a gun culture following due to lots of weapon specifics (and the author is so good that my eyes didn’t even roll back in my head as I read those), and is just packed with scenes of super violent, gory, monster-slaying action. It’s also well-constructed, really well-written, highly imaginative, and this guy’s got a great sense of humor.

What really endeared the book to me was the portrayal of the first-person protag, Owen Pitts. Yeah, there’s a heroic name for ya. And Owen Pitts is an accountant. He’s a big, awkward, self-described oaf of a man, who doesn’t get a lot of chicks, and, in the absolutely fabulous opening scene of the book, is unhappily working as an office drone for the nightmare boss that most of us have felt we’ve had to put up with at some point. And then he throws the boss out of a window.

But he had a really good reason. Trust me.

The character of Owen is brilliantly done. He’s confident in the skills that he has, but not proud, in the sense that he would brag about them. Because a lot of the things he can do haven’t been doing him much good. His military vet father trained him up to be a great shooter, and Owen loves the hobby, but that’s all it is. He’s a good brawler, and while that earned him some cash in the past as a bouncer and at other things, it seemed to be more bad than good and he’s trying to put all the violent stuff behind him. So he sets about trying to use his brain, and he’s very smart, but then he ends up in the shitty job with the shitty boss from Hell. And all this makes for a character who’s not dark, damaged, and tortured, but sees himself as tends to see himself as sort of socially awkward and oafish, pushed around by life in general.

My Mary Sue warning sirens were going off like anything (not that I’d want to have to call this big guy with all the hardware Mary Sue). He’s got all these skills, and some pretty interesting stuff starts happening to him–this thing was obnoxious wish-fulfillment waiting to happen. But it did not go there.

Instead, the author kept it fully in check. Kept the hero challenged. Let him make bad decisions. Let him fail. Let him want to curl up and die after a hard workout, and have to stand there, trying not to throw up, while talking to the girl he liked. Somehow, as badass as Owen kept becoming, as his importance to the events of the story kept building, he managed to keep both the confidence he needed, an amount of self-doubt and anxiety that made sense, and a humility that made him endearing all the way through.

Probably the most endearing thing for me, though, was the way he thought about his love interest. This guy showed so much respect for his lady that I wanted him to date my daughter–not now when she’s six, but you know. When his ardor for her increased, it was never due to the way her boobs wanted to spill out of the barely there dress she was wearing. It was because of things like courage, competence, brains. (Kind of like “just the way you look tonight” except “just the way you wielded that spear against the undead.”)

Suffice it to say that I really enjoyed it. This book was a great package, a book outside my usual reading zone that delivered on a lot of levels. Recommended.

Now this is interesting. I carried this paper monster around in my purse for the last few weeks–which really shows my devotion. Since it wasn’t even on Kindle, I figured it wasn’t available in E (plus, we had the paperback in house, so it was easy to pick up). While investigating for this post, I FOUND E! Not only did I find it, I found in cheaper than paperback, in multi-format, and they seem to be DRM-free–at least, I was able make sure the EPUB I downloaded would convert for future unknown device. Everything we want. Plus PayPal option. (Yes, you’ve figured out that even though my husband had already bought the paperback and I’d already read it, I had to buy it again in eformat. Is that wrong?)

The only drawbacks I see are that they play this subscription thing out so that you have to wait until they’re done serializing a book before you can read it as a whole. I don’t even watch TV series that way, so hopefully that’s more a sneak preview thing that comes before the actual release. The other is that they don’t also sell the books in e on other sites–like it’s not in the Kindle store–and I think that’s a big loss of browsing customer sales for their authors. I just stumbled across this because I was looking for info about the author, and that only because I had heard he was an indie-to-contract story. At least now I know that if I’m intrigued by a Baen-published book, I can probably actually buy it instead of going through the library. Yay for that! /tangent

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Filed under Superheroes, Heroism, and Romance

…Nor Do I Play One On TV

but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

Today I want to talk about expert knowledge. This take on the “write what you know” trope is inspired by a recent post from Larry Brooks, whose brain you know I admire greatly. In it, he observes how the biggest name authors, the ones we all recognize, even if we never read their genre, have taken their expert knowledge from a previous career path or life experience and use that to write books packed with inside information and perspective, to create a story that no one else could have written.

As a young writer, it can be frustrating to read an author like that, to feel that you have it in you to tell that kind of a story. The writing inspires you, and you start to spin your own genre-similar tale in your head. You love the idea. It would make a great book–if only you could get the experience as a fighter pilot to fill in the gaps. Sadly, watching Top Gun a dozen times in one weekend doesn’t seem to make that happen, now you’ve got “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” stuck in your head, and you’re seriously bummed because you’re pretty sure there’s no cooler name than Maverick, but it’s already been used, so screw this whole thing.

One thing Larry says:

There’s nothing wrong with a housewife from Wisconsin setting out to write a sexy novel about a drug dealer operating out of Havana.  Research is a beautiful thing.  But the truth is, the real ex-Havana crack dealer writing the same story already has a leg up on her, and no research in the world can supplant the vicereral, minutea-bound credibility of someone who knows.

This, by the way, reminds me of a writer I know who was drawn to a particular kind of story that she hadn’t lived, and got so wound up in perfectionist research that she was letting the minutia run the story. Her thinking was much more about what would happen next according to real procedure in the real world, and not so much about telling a story and using the research to color it and fill in the blanks.

Anyways, a lot of us are writers because we love to read, and a lot of us love to read because we love the escapist fantasy of it. Because we’re not ex-FBI agents, nor did we stay at the Holiday Inn Express last night. So while Larry’s talking about these big-name authors having a leg up because they’ve been LA crime reporters, forensic techs, spies, pilots, etc., he also says:

Sure, it’s fiction, we get that.  But you have to bring it to life, and life is about truth.  And everybody has lived a truth worth telling.

This is what I believe. And you know who really inspires me in this regard?

La Nora.

That’s Nora Roberts. Now, you don’t have to be a fan, you don’t have to like her books. But you can probably bring yourself to admit that she’s done mighty fine for herself as a writer. If you go back and read Larry’s post, and you read about the big-name authors who have “lived their way in” to their type of story…I think La Nora probably smokes them all in terms of fame and earnings. (I don’t have to be right about that and don’t much care. It’s enough to say she’s at least on par for the sake of argument.)

So what’s her expert knowledge? The story goes–and I read it in The Official Nora Roberts Companion which has a lot of interesting stuff in it–that Nora started writing in 1979 when she was snowed in with her two boys and turned to writing a novel in a spiral notebook in an effort to save her sanity. The story paints a picture some of us–ahem–can relate to. It’s a picture of family, together, sometimes driving each other nuts.

The concept of family plays a huge role in her work. Whether it’s the family you were born into or the people you choose, the family themes, plots, and subplots in her works are part of what make them different from a lot of what’s out there, and part of what helps readers relate to the work, draws them in, and contributes to her popularity. There’s a very strong component in many of her works, a connection between characters that’s almost like ownership. Whether it’s a relationship between a hero and heroine, a relationship between brothers, or the relationship between a cop and the victims she wants justice for, there’s a sense that this person is mine, mine to care for, mine to protect, mine to stand with.

I think that if you look back at what Nora chooses to reveal in her origin story, the story of a harried mother of two young boys, it’s pretty obvious where at least part of that is coming from.

She has never been, to my knowledge, a spy, a pilot, an FBI agent, a cop, a cowboy, or a vampire. Part of what amazes me about Nora, and part of why she’s managed to put out well over 100 novels, is because it seems like she can write about anyone she wants. The research is there, the feel of it, but those professions–and their attendant minutia–aren’t what her stories are about. They’re about relationships, not just romantic relationships, but relationships of all kinds. They’re about family, something nearly everyone has or at least longs for, something to which everyone can relate.

So you’re just a high school student, or a retail clerk, or a server at Applebee’s, or you’re the night person on the desk at the Holiday Inn Express, so what? Something in your brain, in the way you think, makes you so different that you’re absolutely fascinating. If you weren’t fascinating, you’d never have started writing because you’d bore the crap out of yourself. And you’re human; you’ve got something that makes you just like me. That’s why I’m going to connect with what you write and have to read every book you put out.

I think that’s the magic. If you’re Grisham, you can write about all the little lawyery details we don’t know about, and that, in and of itself is interesting, especially since we get it in a gripping tale instead of having to sit through law school. If you’re not, then maybe your tales will have lawyery flavoring and a dash of artificial attorney color #5, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about something that only you bring to it out of your experience.

At least, this is what I understand about me: I can write about things I know in an academic sense, but I can write passionately about things I’ve felt my way through. And when I write with passion, it’s a whole other level.

So, expert on all things youish, what parts of your own unique journey are you using for your current work-in-progress?

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Thoughts on NBC’s The Cape

I watched the premiere of the The Cape when it aired on Sunday. Some of you know that I don’t watch TV when it’s on TV, so this was thing– a superhero thing– and thanks go to Andrew for reminding me. (Incidentally, I do believe it also happens to be Andrew’s birthday today. So click that link and wish him a Happy Birthday.)

The pilot, which you can watch at the link above, was two hours. Basically the show is about an honest cop who is framed for crimes he didn’t commit, and it’s all very public. He escapes capture, and then falls into this whole masked crusader thing as a way to clear his name.

The Cape thing is because the properties of the cape he acquires allow him to do some cool stuff and, along with the help of other characters he meets, give this mostly ordinary good guy some hope of achieving his goals.

Speaking of the other characters, there’s also an internet crusader with an alias who’s working to expose the corruption that’s been going down. And guess what? She’s a hottie, played by Summer Glau (River, Bennett, Terminator). Sounds awesome, right? Who could ask for more?

Um, I could. Because throw into this set-up, the wife and kid our hero is trying to get back to.

Say what now?

Oh, yeah, because let’s just slam the door on any hope of romance.

Because look, if our hero hooks up with our internet crusader, or if the wife hooks up with guy who just hired her, or if the wife and the masked man start making eyes at each other while she’s newly widowed and supposed to be pining for his real identity–none of those possibilities is attractive to this romance fan.

Fail. Fail fail fail. What’s going to pull me through this series now?

Imagine Scarecrow and Mrs. King, if you’re old enough, where Mrs. King started the series with a Mr. King. And OMG, what if Mr. King was around for the whole series? Then every show, after their adventure, Scarecrow and Mrs. King would be on the stoop. Will something happen this time? Will he try to kiss her? Will she let him?

Will Mr. King open the door and interrupt?

Whole. Different. Vibe.

Imagine Wonder Woman with Steve Trevor’s wife and kids dropping in all the time.

Wouldn’t it have been swell if the mystery behind Remington Steele was that he was a runaway deadbeat dad? No. Not really.

If you’re like me, you keep coming back to a fic because you’re intrigued by the romance. Even if that’s hardly the point of the show. (BTW, if you are like me, you’ll probably enjoy this article on superheroes and romance, if you missed it when I linked to it last week.)

Making that impossible in the pilot killed any hope that I’ll follow this show. For me, this was pure fail and more OMGWHY?

I didn’t much enjoy the pilot anyway. I found the beginning really choppy, the ideas not really new or interesting enough to draw me in and hold my interest for two hours. Plus, the villain’s super-cool contact lenses are really annoying to look at.

But I probably would have come back anyway for any hope of a superhero romance.

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Filed under Superheroes, Heroism, and Romance

Beware Groundhog Day

Probably the thing I loved most about this movie was just getting a new term for the same ol’-same ol’ phenomenon.  My husband walks in. I say, “Hey, sweetie, how was your day?”

The movie gives him another option to choose from:

  • Grunt
  • Same shit, different day.
  • Groundhog Day

What was cool in the movie, though, was that it wasn’t ACTUALLY the same day over and over. Not for the viewer. Part of what makes it enjoyable is looking for the things that are the same, and for the things that Phil does differently and the way that changes events. So Groundhog Day, the movie: sweet, funny, entertaining.

Groundhog Day

  1. A movie in which a character must relive the same day over and over until he gets it right.
  2. A description of a day, or other experience, that feels tediously repetitive.

Movie = good, in life = blah, more often than not. But what about books?

The reason I bring this up is because lately I’ve noticed a personal intolerance for Groundhog Day.

The way a lot of books are written now is very visual and very TV/movie-like. Which I like. And in TV and movies, there are often only so many sets. So in a story, there are going to be places that are familiar to your characters and your reader, places they keep going back to because they have to (like school), or because they’re comfortable there (like a favorite coffee shop). Some familiar places that come to mind would the Sunnydale High library, Roswell’s Crashdown Cafe, Keith Mars’ PI office, Clark’s loft in the barn.

Having these kinds of familiar places in books is good, partly because it provides a kind of shorthand for the reader. We once we’re into the story, we don’t have to keep describing places as much because the reader already knows where we are, what it looks like, and how it relates to the life of the character. We can all concentrate on what’s happening.

But I think I get fouled up when there’s too much sameness. When there’s a combination of same place and similar sequence of events that feels like a Groundhog Day. When I feel the characters and I are experiencing a similar set of events, a change affects a different outcome to the scene, but the scene itself doesn’t give me enough that’s unique to make me feel the gift of having read it. (I’m big on gifts to the reader. Don’t get me started because I have to out this morning and there’s a towel on my head.)

I’m lazy. Even in my head. If you take me from one location to another, I like there to be a reason. Because, yes, people meander and take drives and go to coffee shops for no reason (even though they invariably stink like coffee). But characters aren’t really people. That’s why we don’t need to be in on their brushing and flossing habits either, unless it has something to do with the DNA trail or there’s a zombie behind the shower curtain.

So if we have to go into school again because that’s the time of day this scene takes place, that’s cool. I get the necessity of that. But I don’t need to go through the whole approach to the school, the bell rings, visit my locker, get a dirty look from the same person in the same place as yesterday. Too many same place, same sequence things feel like tedium, rather than a gift. Start where the new stuff happens. If there was something important in that sequence for me to see or experience, it’s important to find a way to make that new for me.

This is on my mind because I’ve complained about it a few times recently, and I’ve got a Groundhog Day twin-set of scenes in Heroes that I know will have to be combined or in some way fixed. It’s such an easy thing to fall into when you write because you know it’s different this time, and sometimes don’t realize–it’s really not different enough.

So what about you, readers? Is this all in my nit-picky head, or do you experience Groundhog Day when you read too?

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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 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

Heroes ‘Til Curfew: Cover Art and Latest Info on the Sequel to Hush Money

Ok, that was the longest title ever.

I’m sure that there are some of you out there who fondly remember a time when I had planned this book to be a fall release, with yet another book out before the end of the year. Let’s all get that laugh over with. Life just happened all over me this fall, and I’m still trying to recover.

Work on Heroes is back on in earnest now, in a way that makes me feel like I’ve got a bit of my mojo back. At least enough to go to Robin and say: these are some things I know happen, these are some themes in story, etc. (Incidentally, I think the fact that I discuss themes with Robin, as well as characters, events, and set-pieces, might be why she’s able to come up with things that work so well. Or it could be just because she’s awesomesauce.)

So I have a cover. Here it is:

Heroes 'Til Curfew Cover Art

Cover Art by Robin Ludwig

I’ll give you a moment.

Do you love it?

Ok, so when can we expect the rest of it? Right now I’m saying January 2011. I hope you’ll all run right out and start up some best of 2011 lists as soon as you read it. ETA Release info: Since this post gets a bunch of hits from people searching for release info, I wanted to say that Heroes ‘Til Curfew still isn’t finished (*cringe* sorry!), and I don’t have a release date right now. I’ve added a line at the top of the sidebar with it’s status for your quick reference, and recommend signing up for the newsletter. I so much want to thank everyone for your patience and support.

I know that’s a while yet, although, trust me, it doesn’t seem like so very long from my perspective. I do, however, have a beginning. Imogen Rose was kind enough to include the first scene of Heroes ‘Til Curfew at the end of her latest release, Quantum. That “sneak peek” excerpt is just under two thousand words.

One thing I’ll tell you about the new story: it does not pick up right after Hush Money. A little bit of time passes between the two stories. For those of you who may now be going–

But wait! What happened when Joss got home? What did her dad say?

Hey, no one wanted to know that more than I did. I’m currently working on a short story which will serve as a sort of epilogue to Hush Money. Right now, what I have is being told from Dylan’s perspective. And all I can say is, “Poor Dylan.” Heroes ‘Til Curfew is my number one priority, but I hope to get back to the epilogue while Heroes makes the rounds with the beta and proof readers. I think it would be lovely if I could have that out for you around Christmastime.

As of right now, I intend for that story to be a freebie, a gift to readers who enjoyed Hush Money enough to sign up for a newsletter that will alert them to new releases and events in the Talent Chronicles series. Anyone who signs up for the newsletter now will receive information on how to download the new story as soon as it becomes available. (And anyone who doesn’t want to receive emails about new releases will be free to unsubscribe at any time.)

Did you know that Hush Money has now sold over 2500 copies, here in its fourth month of release? This blows my mind. That’s thanks to a lot of people who have written reviews, tweeted, and even hand-sold copies of the book to their friends, for which I am so grateful. And that’s a lot of people who will need to know about that sequel! If you’d like to offer help or ideas, please feel free.

Meanwhile, I gotta go write the damn thing.

ETA for PS: If any of you wants to borrow this cover image for the purpose of generating interest in the series and otherwise having something to blog about, please feel free.

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Filed under books, goals, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, love, me me me, progress update, 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

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