Saturday, October 30, 2010

This Is Not Your Thing, Dawg

The audition process for American Idol is much more drawn out than we see. By the time the singers get to the point they that they sing for the panel of judges, they have been whittled down to a select few. It's no wonder that some of the worse performers are laboring under the delusion that they can sing well. They've gotten so much further than many of the other competitors, they must be pretty good.

But they're not. They are terrible. They are so terrible that they are down right funny. It's sad.

The other day I had a moment where I wondered if I was like them. No, not in singing, but in writing. Writing is part of my identity. I write because I love to write. I read what I have written and am proud of myself. My friends and family read my stuff and tell me it's good. Of course it is, I am a good writer. I have written a great book and have more in store. Thus armed with confidence, I step forward into the world of querying.

Rejection after rejection, I persevere strong in the knowledge that I am a good writer and someday the right person will read my ms and believe in me too. In the meantime, I continue to write because I love to write and am a good writer.

Then comes the thought....

What if I suck?

What if my confidence is based on my own poor taste? Most of my critiquers love me as a person for some reason or another -- will they be brutally honest or only give me their positive notes? I am too close to my own writing to be objective, just like those singers that think their voices are awesome because they can't hear themselves the way others do.

If I did suck, it would explain a lot. Then I could stop blaming my poor query skills or the industry. Then I would just be another bad writer.

This thought hits me from time to time and I pour another glass of wine. Then I get a great idea and start writing again. Then later, when I edit, I find myself chuckling over my own wit or impressed with a turn of phrase. Whether or not I actually suck, apparently my confidence in my own ability is ingrained deeply enough for me to rally back from the occasional funk. Heck, I was down about my ability when I started this post, and then I finished chapter 19 and started chapter 20.

Just for fun, here's a clip from one of the American Idol auditions. It's particularly bad, and the singer seems honestly confused that the judges are laughing. The judges, to their credit, are no purposefully rude.

How do you deal with bouts of insecurity? Or do you ever have them? Do you do anything special to pick up the pieces?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Boo-fest: Not Quite a Ghost Story, But Close

Thank you to Quinn for hosting this boo-fest. The idea is to share a ghost story -- either a personal experience or a retelling of someone else's experience.

The thing is that I am really afraid of ghosts. I'm fascinated by them, want to learn more, drawn to haunted houses, but they scare the bejeebers out of me.


The Sixth Sense bothered me for months. MONTHS. I slept with the light on. All of my weirdo childhood hangups resurfaced -- like not being able to sleep with the closet door open. Being alone at home with any light off in the house. It was bizarre and my husband had no idea how to handle it. That was the first time he found out about my ghost problem. I still have issues when I remember the vomit girl or the mom in the kitchen. *shivers* Let's not even talk about The Shining.

We moved to Ireland right before my tenth birthday. My grandparents had bought a hotel and my dad and uncle were going to manage it. I knew the hotel had been a hunting lodge, but had no idea of what that meant. I knew it was surrounded by woods, but my Southern California based prior knowledge could not comprehend it. Not really. I was not prepared for the creepier aspects.

I remember the flight and meeting my dad at the car. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in an unfamiliar hotel room. Room 18. I was in the middle of a huge, four poster bed. The type of bed so high off the floor that you should have a small set of steps to get in an out. I was tucked under a purple, velor blanket and alone. I had had all sorts of fantasy's about moving from Victorville to Ireland, all very princess-y and magical. This almost counted -- except the room was small, cold, and damp. My blanket, while probably very nice years ago, was patched and had a musty smell. The window looked out to an overgrown hill that was so steep and high that I could have reached out and touched the gorse from my second story hotel room. The overwhelming green outside filtered the light into a dusky gloom making the shadows that much more intense.

I remember climbing out of bed (there were no stairs) and going out the heavy door -- the type of door that took a big, fat key. Directly across the hall the door to room 17 was open. My Mom, brother, and sister were napping in there. We were all waking up from our jet lag. Their sleeping arrangements were less spectacular. Dad had chosen my once impressive bedroom for me on purpose.

Rooms 17, 18, and 19 were at the end of a wing. In order to get to these rooms, you had to walk down a long corridor. To the left were broad, shuttered windows with a view of the slate roof. To the right were inset cabinets that hosted the hotel's linens.

I still have bad dreams about walking down that corridor. The dreams are set both in daylight and at night. There were other portions of the hotel purported to be haunted, this wing disturbed me. I always felt watched. Really, it was a very well lit corridor, but the windows open to the first floor slate roof gave a feeling of being exposed. Vulnerable. Of course it was worse at night -- when you looked out the windows and only saw your reflection in the glass against the expanse of dark.

I still shudder.

My most recent dream I was with my husband, two daughters, and brand new baby (I don't actually have a brand new baby) . We were in the room in the main hall that faced that wing with rooms 17, 18, and 19. I opened the door and could see down all the way to room 19, the light streaming in the windows against the glossy white cupboard doors that flanked the corridor. I felt an inexorable pull as if I was being sucked toward that hall that went on forever. I knew I had to get my family out of the hotel or it would never let us leave. My husband actually believed me and helped get the girls and I went for the baby, but the hotel had already taken her. I woke up crying, my heart pounding.

I know, this is not a ghost story in the traditional sense, but I think it is a close cousin. I cannot wait to share Ireland with my family and revisit memories, but I don't think I'll ever be able to spend time in that part of the hotel.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Never Ending Scene Blogest

Thank you to Brenda for hosting this blogfest. The premise:
Here's how it works. On your blog site, write a new scene or post a scene from your current project that is no more than 500 words, which has a rocking cliffhanger (pun intended). It can be any genre. Just leave us hanging, craving more, and cursing your name for making us want to turn a page that isn't there. Easy peasy, right? Right.

This is from my rapidly concluding w.i.p., Courtly Scandals. There is frost fair on the Thames and my mc, Mary, has just noticed that the ice is shifting. POV has now switched to Charles, the male lead as he notices the same thing. Charles, a member of Queen Elizabeth's Yeomen of the Guard, is on duty as escort to the Queen and Her party. This scene ends chapter 13.

Looking up he caught the eye of two more guards men and signaled them to him. What was the best exit strategy? If the ice was not secured against the bank and the entire fair shifted the weight on the river, it could crack or worse. He would have the guard split into two groups, escorting citizens and courtiers to either side of the ice. He would ensure the Queen’s safety.
“Sir Charles.” He heard Mary’s voice registered and he turned to find her right in front of him. Oh God. She had to get off the ice. Now.
“The ice,” Mary stammered through chattering teeth, “The ice is not safe.” Looking into her clear green eyes he saw her trust. He had to trust her, too.
“You are right. My men are already beginning escorts to either side of the river. We cannot panic and we cannot rush to one side. Do you understand?”
Mary calmly nodded. “I will join the ladies again and help keep them calm.”
Charles was relieved at the resolve in her eyes. Mary was a strong woman. “Thank you. I must go to the Queen. Now.” His reverence was almost imperceptible as he ran to the Queen’s side.
Again, Charles gave the briefest of reverences and removed his hat as he approached the Queen. Time was of the essence. “Your Grace, we must leave the ice now.”
Queen Elizabeth took in the situation immediately and moved toward the water steps at Banard Castle as Sir Charles directed. “You will see to it that my subjects are seen to safety as well.”
“It is being done as we speak.” Sir Charles could not help but admire the Queen’s ability to remain calm and smiling in the face of potential disaster. She held a tight hand on Dudley’s arm, but never betrayed any sense of urgency or fear.
Sir Charles had the Queen and Her immediate court safe on the watersteps when he heard the ominous groaning sound of the ice straining to hold, followed by a resounding crack as the glossy surface of the Thames splintered into jagged sections, jostled by the current. The court was safe and, he could see, his men across the way had the merchants and other patrons safe as well. Out across the icy expanse of the river he noted the merchant’s pavilions teetering on their unsteady ground. Many people would be loosing their livelihood this day, but thank the Lord that none would loose their lives. If it hadn’t been such a sad sight, it almost would have been comical to see the bright colors of the canvas tents bobbing slowly downstream. In fact, there was the leather merchant’s tent…
Charles’ observations stopped dead. There, next to the leather merchant’s tent, was Mary, bright in her red gown against the starkness of the ice, clutching a small child.
Duh-duh- DUHHHH!
Obviously the scene prior to this cut is much longer. I don't know if it has the cliffhanger aspect as much without any background about Mary, but it will do in a pinch. :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hallowe'en Party

I'm participating in my fist Hallowe'en party in years, thanks to Nancy. Seriously, I dressed up and trick-or-treated until I graduated from high school. Then I attended parties (each costume sexier than the last) until I married. Then we hosted parties. I got older and fatter and my costumes got less and less sexy. Then I had kids.

Now I make cute costumes and take my daughters trick or treating and worry about the scary decorations.

I have not worn a Hallowe'en costume in over six years. I love dressing up. LOVE IT. It's pretty much 80% of my reason for Renaissance faires. I take my costuming seriously.

This year my daughters will be Alice (the little girl, Disney version) and Wendy from Peter Pan. Why? Because those costumes will really suit their appearances. Last year I was sick and they were cats (cat ear headband, black clothes, and eye liner whiskers -- sad, I know).

We used to live in Ireland and they don't do Hallowe'en (American style). That sucked for 9-13 year old me, but it would be very cool to attend a Samhain bonfire as an adult. As a child, my brother, sister and I went from the front to the back door of our house and trick or treated. My parents pretended to be different people each time. It's a good memory.

My sister lives in Switzerland and forces American Hallowe'en on her multi-national friends. Good for her.

I thought this blog was scheduled to post this morning at 8:00 am. It did not and, for that, I am embarrassed and grateful at the same time. I have not finished making my kids costumes for this year and have no ambition to costume myself. Why? Because I've been writing.

Shown above is pic of kid #1 in her Elizabethan lesser nobility dress from this past year's Renaissance faire. Yes, it's a cop out, but it's better than nothing. She was collecting fairy tears -- the gal at the booth let her keep five of them.

I apologize for not posting this in a timely manner. People who sign up for blog fests and then don't follow through drive me nuts and I'm ashamed to have been one of them. Perhaps I'll be more forgiving of them in the future. Who knows?

BTW, to see me in my costume, go to this recent blog post.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tag Style Blog: Eight Things About Me

1. If you could have a superpower, what would it be? I would read minds—but I’d be able to control when and where so I wouldn’t hear people’s thoughts shouting all the time. Why? I would chose to be a mind reader because (duh!) I’d be able to know what everyone was thinking.

2. Who is your style icon? Nicole Kidman. Edith Head.
3. What is your favourite quote? Oh you British folk with your extra vowels….
I have a lot of quotes, most them random. I find myself quoting “I’ve got something to say, it’s better to burn out than to fade away! Happy Hallowe’en, ladies.” From The Highlander.
I also use “Don’t get hot and flustered, try a bit of mustard.” And “Smiling makes my face ache.” Both from Rocky Horror.
Remember, I said these were random.
Also I try to figure out various ways to apply this (sometimes the accusations change) quote of Winston Churchill’s. In response to being accused of being drunk he said “Yes, but you are ugly, and tomorrow I will be sober.”

4. What is the best compliment you've ever received? I won first place in the nobility section of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire Southern’s costume contest in 2003. That was a big pat on the back, but not exactly a compliment. I’m sort of awkward with compliments. I have learned to say “thank you” instead of arguing, but I don’t actually accept them often. And when I do, I need clarification to make it make sense, which seems like I’m digging. I have issues.
Someone: "Erin, I like your earrings."
Me: "You do?" *reaches up and checks which earrings they are*
Someone: "Yes, they're pretty."
Me: "You really think so? What is pretty about them?"
Someone *shifts awkwardly*: "Well, they're shiny."
Me: "Yes, they are. Does being shiny equate pretty? I was worried that they were too flashy."
Someone: "Well, I like shiny things. Ummm... I have to go do a thing somewhere now. Bye." *backs out of door*
That is me with compliments. I suck.
5. What playlist/cd is in your ipod/cd player right now? I do not have an ipod. I have David Bowie’s greatest hits in the CD player of the car I drive to work. I have Jewell’s Pieces of Me, Roisin Murphy’s Ruby Blue, Scissor Sisters Ta-Da, ABBA Gold, The Beatles Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Rufus Wainwrite’s Poses in the CD changer in the van. I listen to a CD titled Music from Shakespeare and a Pandora station titled “Enya” (which includes all sort of Irish stuff along with Lorena McKennit, Joanna Newsom, and movies soundtracks like Last of the Mohicans) while I write.
6. Are you a night owl or a morning person? I like my sleep. I don’t care when I get that sleep as long as I get it. Sleeping is one of my favorite things to do. Don’t judge me.
Right now I’m one of the first people awake because my daughter climbed into bed with us at 7am and, when I came back from the bathroom, there was no room for me. So I chose to blog. J
7. Do you prefer dogs or cats? I am totally allergic to cats, but I like that they require no effort. I am not a pet person, but I did very much love Shelby – a black lab mix that my husband got as a tiny tiny puppy when we first started dating. It did take me four or five years to love her. When we moved to a bigger house with a yard, we got her a dog. Shelby has since passed on, but we have Portia, Shelby’s dog. She’s almost nine years old and she’s still a spastic puppy. I take care of her, but it is an obligation and I feel bad about that. I’m glad my four year old loves her.

8. What is the meaning behind your blog name? Courtly Pleasures (then Courtly Love) started out so serious (dealing with depression) that I wanted to show that I had a sense of humor. So my original blog title, suggested by my husband, was “Doing It Elizabethan Style.” That changed to “Bursting Your Corset” which became “Hold On To Your Bloomers.” I actually blogged about the change when it happened and you can see my thought process here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hook, Line, and Sinker Blogfest

I feel woefully out of the loop in regards to blogfests. The last two in which I participated, I had scheduled almost a month in advance. Since then I have not come across anything new. This morning I decided to go on a spastic blog hunt. I came across this one by Justin W. Parente and promptly put this together, rescheduling all my existing posts for later.

Here's the blogfest description:
Just to remind you, the theme of the blogfest is such: Please post a 1000 word (a few over is okay) sample of your hook. Preferably, chop it right out from the opening of your manuscript. I'd like to see the range of openings various writers have to grab attention. Can you establish a great character relationship in just those few words? How about showing the world? Whatever your hook is, post it for the fest and we'll do the little jig around it (and give you comments along the way).

The selection below is the first 1051 words from my w.i.p., Courtly Scandals.

Mary’s corset bit into her back and hip as Anne gripped her in a firm embrace.
Anne appeared unaware of Mary’s discomfort. “Christmas will be so wonderful this year!” She grabbed Mary’s hands and threw herself into a reel, towing Mary with her. “I have you, my dearest friend, with me. It will be such a jolly time.”
Mary smiled as Anne pulled her into another swift hug. She had not seen Anne for almost three years. Mary had left Anne’s father’s household just before Anne had married the Earl of Oxford and become the Countess. She had never had high expectations for the marriage, but been horrified to see how sapped, how spiritless Anne had appeared upon their reunion at Hampton Court Palace. In spite of the fact that she had not heard once from Anne in the three years they had been apart, she felt like she had no choice but to accompany her to Whitehall palace for the Christmas festivities. Anne needed a friend.
While her smile seemed genuine, Mary could not believe that she actually intended on attending any of the twelve nights of Christmas revelry. Anne was much too somber to actually enjoy a good party.
Mary did not have that particular problem.
If everything she had heard was correct, the twelve nights would be full of the most amazing entertainments, some provided by the Queen’s household legitimately, some by the courtiers unable to control themselves under the guise of Christmas. She could hardly wait.
The two ladies finished two full twirls before collapsing side by side on a chaise, their full hoop skirts fighting each other in the limited space.
Mary stood and reached out her hand. “Here, let me fix you.”
Anne accepted the offered assistance and stood, letting Mary settle her skirts into a more ladylike fashion before sitting again, this time more elegantly.
Mary suppressed a smile. Anne had let the new high rank of countess go to her head. It was nice to see a moment of honest abandon – this was the first since she had witnessed since she had joined Queen Elizabeth’s court in late September. It was now the twenty-fourth of December. Three months and nary a smile.
“Will you join the Christmas festivities then, Anne?”
“Oh, my father would have an apoplexy if I did.”
“Then why the excitement?”
“Well, you shall go, of course. Then you will tell me everything.” Anne sat forward, the façade of the mature lady gone. “And I mean, everything. You might even have a dalliance.”
Mary laughed and settled herself onto a cushion on the thick hearth rug. “You wish me to have a dalliance so I can tell you about it?”
“Well, I expect you to enjoy yourself as well. It is Christmastide.”
“Christmastide is not an excuse for everything.”
“To some it is. I recall you felt the influence of the Christmas spirit quite strongly three years ago.”
Anne’s words hung in the air as Mary tried to form a response. The past few moments had tricked her into feeling as if the past three years had never happened. As if Anne was still her fifteen year old charge and Mary was a marriageable twenty-three year old gentlewoman serving in the Burghley house.
But no, time had passed and everything had changed.
Strumming broke the silence as Girard, the Oxford house minstrel resumed on his lute, reminding Mary and Anne that they were not alone in the room. Perhaps Anne did not care her ladies in waiting and various servants could hear their conversation. After all, Anne was a countess and did not have to worry about her reputation the same way Mary did.
“Alas my love you do me wrong, to cast me off discourteously…” Girard’s soft tenor soothed the tension in the air. Mary looked around surreptitiously, noting Anne’s ladies in waiting working on their needlepoint, their eyes down cast. Of course they had been listening. Girard was sure to have heard everything, but he was a dear friend of old and already knew all of Mary’s secrets.
Mary let the silence between her and Anne stretch and made a pretense of listening to Girard’s song. Anne did not seem to notice – probably lost in her own thoughts as usual.
The Oxford household had spent the last few days moving into the massive suite of rooms at Whitehall Palace. Anne, the Countess of Oxford, had insisted that her rooms be opulent as befitted her station, so the household had travelled with wagon after wagon of boxes full of tapestries, rugs, and furnishings – not to mention Anne’s wardrobe. The rooms were packed full of high quality items that had been positioned perfectly, and still they felt cold. Mary was a special guest of the Countess and had been instructed not to help with the move. It was not so for Anne’s ladies in waiting. Mary had to wonder if they resented her – after all, most of them outranked her.
Mary leaned closer to the fire, feeling the heat soak through her heavy wool gown. Winter had come late this year – which had been convenient in regards to the move from Hampton Court Palace to Whitehall. Over the past few days, the frost had struck with a vengeance and the world outside the limed stone of the palace was crisp and harsh, stripped of life. Looking around at the thick tapestries that covered the mismatched wood paneling, Mary prayed that it would be enough to fight off the chill.
“Mary, you do know I have forgiven you for leaving me.” Anne’s words were crisp and sharp.
Anne? Forgive her? Mary had always thought it was the opposite way around. And here she thought she was being the benevolent one. “Anne, you know I had no choice at the time.” Mary’s words came out louder than she had intended.
“So you say.” Anne sniffed with her newfound countess affectation. “But you left me alone…”
Anne’s statement was cut short by a loud crash as the heavy oak door leading into the sitting room slammed open. Directly into a standing cabinet. Apparently not everything in the room had been positioned as perfectly as Anne had demanded. Her amusement was short lived when the Earl of Oxford entered the room.
Damn and Blast.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Romance Genre No-No's

Thank you to Andrew at the WriteRunner for his list of Adventure Genre No-No's. Really, each genre is very specific. I write romance and there's a whole different set of rules. I think I have learned these much in the way one learns to swim after being thrown off a bridge (assuming the impact didn't kill you).

My blog is usually about my personal experience with writing and trying to become published. I make no claims to be an expert at anything, I just hope my blog is relatable and offers a sense of connection to people in similar situations. That said, I have never written a 'how to improve your craft' blog, I write about things I have done and/or will do with no expectation of being a mentor of any kind. This one borders painfully on being a 'learn from me' moment. For that, I apologize. If you feel I'm being too teacher-y, just know that all of the comments below were inspired mistakes I have made and irritations at books I have read. I am not a published author. The no-no list shown below is my brainchild, born of experience in not getting published. I have learned through a lot of mistakes and am still trying to align the planets just so. That said, I will not be offended at all if you choose to correct and/or ignore me completely.

Romance Writers of America describes the romance genre:

Romance fiction is smart, fresh and diverse. Whether you enjoy contemporary dialogue, historical settings, mystery, thrillers or any number of other themes, there's a romance novel waiting for you!

Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending.

A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

Romance novels may have any tone or style, be set in any place or time, and have varying levels of sensuality—ranging from sweet to extremely hot. These settings and distinctions of plot create specific sub-genres within romance fiction.

With that in mind, here is my list of Romance Genre No-No's:

Do not get too gritty. Yes, things sometimes smell bad or are slimy or whatever. Chafing happens. Hygiene is a modern value. Do not forget that part of romance is the fantasy. We get enough of bodily functions in our real lives. The romance reading demographic wants to read about physical relationships without the mention of BO or flatulence.

Do not overdo euphemisms.
I had a great time drinking one night with some friends. We sat around coming up with euphemisms for male genitalia. We got very creative and I swore never to use any of them in my writing. Why? If the scene is from your main character's point of view, then the penis should be called whatever your character would call it. I doubt many people, in the throws of passion, would call it his 'lance of power.' What's worse? A reader starting to get into the scene may well start to giggle. I know some of the more crude sounding terms might be what the character would use to label their bits and pieces and, out of context, those words might come off as vulgar. However, if the scene is well written and the reader is engrossed in the moment (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), the words might seem more natural than 'man rod' or 'sweet, honeyed crevasse.'

Do not use sex gratuitously. What? Isn't that what romance books are all about? No. They are about the two main characters falling in love. Sex is part of that, but the story is not about sex. Passionate scenes should only happen to further the story. Sex should be included only as a natural progression for the characters, and only if it's integral to the story.

Do not be a history teacher (note to self): You are telling a story about romance. You are not teaching a course on the social mores or costume design of the insert era here period. Be accurate and do your research. Give explanations to help the reader (assume they know nothing about Restoration England or whatever) but cut out whatever is not necessary to the story. The story is the star -- the history is just a backdrop.

Do not be a tease: If you write sweet romance, your story has a more emotional arc than physical. While the physical still plays a part, be careful not to have too many heated glances or allusions to the physical chemistry or have too many kisses that go nowhere. I, personally, don't find that believable. Also, it's frustrating to read ten pages of heavy breathing and soft caresses, and then have the lights dim, bringing us to the next scene where they were both sated the next morning. Come on. You tease.

Do not be afraid to laugh: I think many romance authors forget disregard laughter in lieu of something more intense. Of course, we must have conflict -- conflict is a romance genre (fiction in general) requirement. But do not forget that romances, overall, are feel-good books. While conflict is expected, if it is not kept in check or balanced out it oftentimes adds a dark feeling to the story. Don't get me wrong, a little bit of darkness can be engrossing, I just have to be able to still have faith in the happily-ever-after. Poignant moments along the way add true depth, but I've read many stories where the conflicts coalesced into one big downward spiral where, when the happy ending magically happens, it's no longer believable. To balance out the terror, depression, etc., do not be afraid to be silly. Is humor a facet of your characters? Are they irreverent? Witty? Slapstick? Don't be afraid to let your character laugh at an inappropriate moment. Don't be afraid to make your reader laugh. Some of the best books have been one's that made me laugh and cry.

That's all I can think of for now, beside making sure your cover has something to do with your story (but then, that's not really the author's decision). Any ideas? What did I miss?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Confused and Betrayed

I had a sad experience today with a blog I follow. It is completely unrelated to romance or writing or publishing or anything. It is a collection of real estate pics that are just plain bad or totally awesome. The blogger is hilarious. Somehow the prevalence of cheapo plastic white chairs in the pics inspired a side project following the life of Chair. Good stuff. Many hours have been wasted on this blog site. The blog is Lovely Listings. The windmill house image featured to the right (also a link) is an example of an awesome listing.

To keep things fresh, they have brought in a second blogger. The person's first blog on Lovely Listings was a review of a consumer product. The product was ridiculous and her narrative was funny, but it was not a lovely listing. I did not click on the link to see a review of an egg cup. Give me bad or glorious real estate, please. You have betrayed the promise of your name brand. *sobs*

The section in which I bring it back to writing:
Name branding is an author's dream. There are many authors I know I will always enjoy. They have established their name brand and I would buy any book with their name on it. I am a loyal reader and fan... until they let me down. Of course, not every book is going to be gold, but when you have a name brand that promises quality and you don't deliver, there's almost a sense of betrayal. These authors are so prolific and widely read that their name sells anything. Suddenly their name is the host to novellas with newbie writers, some that are really, really bad. Recently one of these authors started a new series and I did not get into to the story until about 80 pages into the book. I never found the characters believable and started questioning my loyalty. I will probably not buy the next book in this series and feel a little sad about that. Name branding is everything. You cannot betray your name brand by simply getting something published because the publisher knows people will buy things with your name on it.

Don't get me wrong... I am all about progress. No author should let themselves stagnate in their success. Nor should they throw us curve balls. It would be like Candyland writing with perfect English grammar and talking about horticulture. Raquel including beatnik poetry in her blog and/or encouraging people to just wing it. Tim Burton making a holiday chick-flick that did not star Helena Bonham Carter. Steinbeck including car chases and exploding helicopters. Anne Rice writing about Jesus.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Just When You Think You Know Someone...

A few weeks ago my mother and I went out for coffee. The baristo was an attractive 20ish hot guy. He was funny and flirtatious and I assumed he was gay. My mother disagreed.

Eventually I decided he was not gay.

Is that important to the story in any way? Not really, except that it demonstrated that we both noticed him and discussed him.

Now, my Mom is about to turn 60. She's from the Mid-West and has the Mid-West fascination with ailments. Hers. Yours. Doesn't matter who's. Just don't ever ask her how she is or she will REALLY tell you. How about I tell you now and save her the trouble? She probably has, just had, or is about to have a migraine. Her colon is spasming and you should really have yours checked out because you never know. Then there's something random, edema, UTI, shingles, something. My Mom can also tell you date and cause of death for any celebrity. It's almost a super power.

By the way, I write this secure in the knowledge my mother will never read my blog.

So, knowing my mom and her dark and gloomy perspective on everything, I was floored when she put a couple bucks in the tip jar and made the universal telephone hand gesture to the attractive-not-gay baristo, and mouthed, "Call me." He busted up laughing and I almost died of shock. I do not have the words to express how shocked I was. Speechlessness interrupted by intermittent laughing fits. It was amazing.

The point of this story is that real people are multi-faceted. We all know this, and yet we still categorize and try to put people into neat little character boxes that we understand. As a writer, I have to be careful not to do this or my characters become too archetypal. That, in part, is why I run astrological charts on my characters. The chart throws in random traits that I am incapable of imagining in my neat little fantasy world. It is impossible for me to be purposefully random (case made by my effort to stamp leaves randomly on my bathroom wall – I needed to balance out the room and ended up with a pattern).

Authors that work in conflicting character traits create something very believable. It may not sound believable for the elderly, and somewhat snooty, mother hen to have a passionate affaire with the émigré French chemist, but Madeline Hunter pulled it off and it added depth, not only to the snooty matron, but to the main characters that had to react to the seemingly inconsistent behavior. My favorite villain from Eloisa James managed to have his own love story. He was pompous and cold, but life experiences landed him with the ability and need for a personal relationship with another human. Somewhere under his satin elitism, he was vulnerable. That incongruity in character draws the reader in and gets them invested in these make-believe people.

It’s hard to analyze my own incongruities. Between the teaching and my parenting, I would say my archetype is earth mother. Of course, I have pinches of other archetypes mixed, but none contradict the overarching earth-mother characterization as much the fact that I write steamy romance. This fits more of the temptress archetype – a definite deviation from earth mother.

How do you break out of being clearly categorized? As a person? Or how do you do this for your characters?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bad News Blogfest

Thank you to Francine at Romancing the Blog for hosting this blogfest. As soon as I read the description, I knew what I wanted to post. Unfortunately I have not yet written that scene. Well, I have until October 2nd to finish it!

Blogfest Description:
At some time or another, I expect you've all had to convey bad news to someone else, maybe to do with a pet, a relative, maybe even lover. Hence, this "Bad News Blogfest" is not about personal misery, it is to be about a character receiving bad news!

It can be written in any genre, any POV, any means of delivery i.e.
letter, e-mail, text, phone, verbal, whatever, and up to 1000 words.

Addendum: My blog actually posted like this, this morning. I completely forgot to update it. Thank goodness I was awake and online when it happened. Updating now.

This scene from Courtly Pleasures is the only thing I have written that would work. In this scene Frances learns that the man she's been fooling around with is actually her husband. Sorry about the length -- I couldn't really cut it and have it still make sense.

“We are most pleased to know Our little scheme did meet with success. Our dear Henry has proven himself quite the rake. We are blessed indeed that he has not made a play for Our heart!” General laughter ensued at Queen Elizabeth’s comment. “Our dear Dr. Dee has confirmed that you are reunited and We are feeling gracious towards the ideal of young love. Your rooms have been reassigned. Henry LeSieur is to be moved from his apartment at Parliament to your new quarters here at the palace posthaste until such time as you feel need to return to the country.” The queen raised one well shaped eyebrow and flagrantly eyed Frances’ form before winking to reinforce the not-so-private private joke. Frances appreciated that Queen Elizabeth’s merriment was sincere, though somewhat embarrassing and completely surprising.

“Yes, We are pleased. Come now Frances, I see you are in shock. No need to thank Us – the true marital happiness of Our beloved subject is thanks enough. We have never had much faith in the ideal of marital bliss and, perhaps, you and your loving husband will prove Us wrong.” Frances responded with a mute reverence and a dumb smile. “We do congratulate Ourselves on a job well done. Well done indeed.” With an audible sigh of excited happiness, Queen Elizabeth absentmindedly offered her hand to the side for one or another of the observant handsome courtiers. Kit Hatton, surprisingly giddy for a man who had lost any opportunity for dalliance with the woman he had been pursuing the past couple of months, lithely stepped up to assist Queen Elizabeth from Her throne and on to the floor as she called for a dance.

Frances remained paralyzed in front of the dais as the dancing began behind her. Just earlier that day her mother had unexpectedly arrived, bearing the news that she and her husband had reconciled with each other. She did not know what was more upsetting – that it was common knowledge that she and her husband held so little esteem for each other, that there was a rumor they had separated, or that the Queen Herself believed that something romantic had occurred between them at the pirate masque. After all had been explained to her mother, it occurred to Frances that perhaps the Queen was aware of her dalliance and sought to keep her in check by putting her with her husband. But no, her mother had not thought Queen Elizabeth would worry Herself with something like that as long as Frances wasn’t playing the strumpet publicly. Then again, why was the Queen concerning Herself with Frances’ marriage at all? And to take such a public position – as if the supposed reconciliation was part of some little scheme. Very odd.

Frances felt a pull on her hand and allowed herself to be led off the rapidly filling dance floor. Insipid smile still pasted to her face, Frances blinked her eyes to focus on her Mother. “You did well enough, though I can see you are reeling inwardly.” When Bess received no response other than Frances’ false smile, she continued, “Wake up, child! We are at court and you need to comport yourself with due consequence.” Frances jolted as her mother pinched the back of her hand. “Better. Now, come with me to gather your wits before you have to see your ‘loving’ husband.”

“He is here?” Of course he was here. Hadn’t the Queen just said She had summoned him from Parliament to join her in their new rooms. Good God! He was here! She had managed to be a very public figure at court for almost two months without ever catching sight of her husband – and now she was to share quarters here in the palace under some façade of being young lovers? This was ridiculous. Frances had come so far since leaving Holme LeSieur – she knew she had. She had come to court an insecure country bumpkin and risen to become a respected, creative, well liked, and sought after courtier. But at this moment, surrounded by the constant motion of chains of courtiers dancing the Montard indefinitely, Frances felt like the child bride overwhelmed by responsibility and crushed dreams. He was here. It was over.

Well, it was only ever going to last through Christmastide – but it would have been nice to end it all on her terms. Henry. Frances felt sick at the thought of lying under her husband and knowing how wonderful it would have been if she were, instead, in the arms of her lover. To have to dutifully smile and accept the dispassionate attentions of her husband’s marital duty was heartbreaking after feeling desired and beautiful in another man’s eyes.

“Lady Mother.” A deep voice sounded from just behind Frances.

Bess of Hartford looked up and allowed the briefest glimmer of surprise to flicker in her eyes before replying, “Henry,” in a politely gracious tone and gesturing for him to recover from his reverence.

“My Lady Wife.” Her husband’s voice continued, forcing Frances to acknowledge him. Funny, she could not remember ever noticing how deep his voice was before.

Frances no longer had the luxury to bask in her shock and dismay. The time had come for her to play her part. With a regal set to her shoulders and a smooth brow, she gracefully turned to give her husband a proper reverence in greeting.

“My Lord Husband.” Frances’ voice was even and steady as she dipped into her reverence. She was a gentlewoman and accepted at court. She was intelligent, attractive, and strong. She could do this. Bravely, she raised her eyes from examining the point of her claret satin slipper to look up at her husband. Slippers, hosen, paned slops, quality velvet and silk, smooth fitting doublet, rakish cape over one shoulder, smooth cheeks – he had shaved since she last saw him.

Good Lord in heaven.

She could not break her eyes from his. It felt as if a bolt of lightening had just struck through her entire body and welded her to the floor. His thick fringe of lashes did not blink as her pale blue stare held his. God’s teeth. What was she feeling? Desire? Anger? Fear? Anger? Surprise? Anger? Yes, definitely anger. Anger was something she could understand and use. If only she could break her eyes away from his.

“I see there is more here than I expected. I will leave you two love birds alone. They are starting Gratia d’Amore. Do join the dancers. This revelry is in your honor.” Bess’ voice seemed so far away.

“No Mother, it is unseemly for a husband to dance with his wife.” Frances’ statement, while true enough, was seen for what it was – a weak attempt at escape.

With that, Henry LeSieur took his wife’s hand in his and guided her onto the floor in time to start with the opening riverenza.

Each pair of dancers moved from the opening riverenza into a seguito ordinario, turning away from their partner and then back in full circle. That measure of music was all Frances needed to compose herself before meeting the eyes of her husband. Her lover. How could she not have known? Henry, the boy she had known for ten years. When had he changed? Why hadn’t she seen him for the man he had become? But then, if she had, would it have mattered? Certainly not to him. Steeling herself with anger again, her eyes bravely met his for the continenze, she opened her mouth to speak – still unsure what she should say.

... Needless to say, it doesn't go well. Until it does. Because all books in this genre have a happily-ever-after.
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