Tuesday, October 20, 2009

OPB: Tribes

I just finished reading Seth Godin's book Tribes. It's a short book--maybe 150 pages, but in that 4x6 format. And it's packed with examples of leaders creating change by doing what they're passionate about, as well as people who became accidental leaders by looking at something they'd changed and realizing the potential (the microwave oven, for example, was one of those happy accidents).

If you have any inkling of desire to make a difference, read this book. I admit, I'm a fan of Godin's in general, but even taking that into account...I think the best way to sum it up is this: take chances on the things you care about. Tell the story you want to tell, but tell it for the benefit of your "tribe" (the people who care about what you care about) and your cause. Not to be preaching, but to be doing.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Name that hero...

"A Sheldon can do your income taxes, if you need a root canal, Sheldon's your man... but humpin' and pumpin' is not Sheldon's strong suit. It's the name." (From "When Harry Met Sally")

What's in a name? Yeah, this one gets discussed a lot. But you've no idea—unless you're writing and then you have EVERY idea—how hard it can be to come up with hero (and heroine, but we're sticking with heroes today) names that a) don't repeat, b) don't remind you of anyone you know, and c) sound, well, heroic.

Of course, it matters what type of novel you're writing. Historicals, for example, or period novels generally reflect names that either were popular at the time, or that the author thinks sounds like it could have been popular. Sometimes this gets a little confused, though. For example, it would appear that "Alfred" was a reasonably popular name during the early 19th century, as was "William," and yet, when did you last read a Regency starring a hero by either name? "Charles," on the other hand, is more or less acceptable. Less so in contemporaries, although it's a perfectly nice name. Kind of stodgy, perhaps. The kind of name where you have to know the owner to get past the idea that Charles can run a company with ruthless efficiency, but maybe isn't so much in the bedroom (my apologies, of course, to anyone named Charles who sees this. I'm not thinking of you, really.) The hero of Emerald Ecstasy is a Charlie--friendly, accessible, kind of boy-next-door-sexy. Devon and Rafe (in my first two) are cops--Rafe, of course, isn't a uniformed cop, he's an international bounty hunter who specializes in catching poachers. Rafe sounds kind of sexy-dangerous (unlike Ralph, which I believe is the English equivalent). The hero of Hungarian Masquerade is Nick--not so much on the bad-boy side of things.

Other names you don't see so much: Bill, Bob (although Rob is acceptable), Ron, Don, Howard, George or even David. Karen Rose introduced David Hunter in her first novel, and the poor guy is just now getting his own book. I think it's because these are all "nice guy" names, and don't lend themselves well to alpha hero status. For that, you need an Adam, a Dane, an Ethan, a last name masquerading as a first name....

I'm not an expert on names, by any means, so I'm only guessing. But it does make me wonder...what IS in a name?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Midweek Creativity Block-buster

Put on a piece of classical music. Yes, classical. If you don't have any, there are a gazillion radio stations online—go find one now.

Back? Okay. You'll have to close your eyes for the next part. Close your eyes and listen for at least five minutes—longer if possible. Allow images—a story—to come into your mind from the music. Use these images to serve as the basis for three pages of free-association writing.

Okay, you can open your eyes now.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

OPB: No Fear of the Storm (more on the apocalypse)

Sorry, having too much fun with the research these days. Which brings me to today's "review".

This has NOTHING to do with writing. It's one of the books I'm reading for my research on end-times beliefs. And I'm not recommending it—I can't. Except if you want to read it for the same reason I am—to try to figure out what end-times enthusiasts use for evidence and framework for their beliefs.

The author is Tim LaHaye, who made a name for himself with novels about the Christian "rapture" and what happens after. This book is a non-fiction handbook for the same—sort of. It's kind of a feel-good manifesto that smugly declares that when the cosmic shit hits the universal fan, all the "real" Christians will be safely in heaven, having ascended in the rapture. Now, I haven't read his novels. I don't particularly want to. Frankly, I'm not all that crazy about this one. But it's offering me a good look at the thoughts going through the heads of people who believe this. So in addition to being useful for research, it's kind of fascinating in a morbid sort of way. Kind of like watching a bizarre accident where you have that mingled sense of Holy Cow and WTF?

First, it seems to rely on a literal interpretation of the Christian Bible, which is something I have a problem with for many reasons, but that's not the point. I'm not arguing theology here. But it does make me want to ask if we can interpret ALL the Bible literally, and so what was that deal with Cain and Abel? Then, from the back of the book "Christians today have more evidence that Christ could come in our lifetime than in any generation that has come before." ("Could" is a wonderful word, isn't it?) Evidence based on what? Well, based on the literal interpretation of the books of Daniel and Revelations, apparently, except that you can't actually do a literal interpretation of the book of Revelations, because you'd have to come to the conclusion that John was off his rocker or in need of medication. Or that there are some really freaking weird things about to happen.

But people DO believe this. I'm not knocking that, per se—I believe plenty of things other people think are nuts. But I'm fascinated by how they seem to take this belief and turn it into a morbid fascination of their own with death and devastation. At the same time, they claim their own interpretation of the prophecies is the correct one (I know, what prophet wouldn't?) but don't recognize that it's interpretation. That is....not necessarily true. Preacher Joe is becoming more paranoid by the day.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Emerald Ecstasy cover!

Yippee! Emerald Ecstasy has a cover. And I'm pleased as can be that the castle is the right kind. Right behind the top loop of the "E" is the master bedroom where heroine Tansy Robertson...well, you'll just have to wait and read it. Let's just say she seriously makes up for the fact that Irish castles tend toward the cold and drafty when it's the end of October and no one but a ghost lives there.
And the cute, half-naked guy at the bottom of the cover? That's our hero, a brawny Irish lad with the name of Charlie McCullough. The castle might be Tansy's now, but the ghost is his. Well, not his in the sense that it's his, but it is his great-great-great-something or other grandfather, wandering around waiting for someone to talk to him. Then there's the little matter of a treasure.
Haunted castle, buried treasure, hot guy in kilt...really, what more could a woman ask for?
No release date yet.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The to-do list - October 11, 2009

Yay! I lined up almost all of the judges for next year's Touch of Magic contest. One of the judges I contacted is out of the office, so it'll be another week before I hear back from her. Just one category to cover, now.

This week had a creative onslaught for me. I got some writing and editing done, despite the week being busy, and also some interesting coincidences happen that moved one project to the front burner (or maybe at least onto the stove).

So this week is largely going to be an "in progress" week as I catch up on some stuff for CFRW, continue writing and editing, finish up the two contests that I'm still judging and continue researching The Prophet.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Research: finding a publisher or agent

Wow. I was really in a hurry yesterday morning, wasn't I? Spending a couple of days at the Southern Women's Show--yesterday gave a presentation with Michelle Young called "I wrote a book--now what?" We walked through some information on types of publishers (large, small, e-pub, self-pub) and the pros and cons of each, how to find the right publisher for your book, and the submissions process, which I lovingly titled: do your homework!

Here's my two-cents worth on the subject, straight from yesterday's discussion (see, you didn't even have to be there to get my opinion):

Submitting: Publishers/editors

Do your homework! Do they even publish/represent your genre?

  • Check the spines of books in the same genre, especially of authors you like, to see who's publishing them.
  • Go to the websites of publishers you are familiar with and see what they publish.
  • Google the name of your genre—for example, "medical romance"--you may find small publishers, or even large publisher you just didn't think of, who are interested in what you're writing.
  • Don't forget electronic or e-pubs; for certain genres—especially erotica and sci/fi/fantasy—the electronic market is growing rapidly. However, don't look at e-publishers as a shortcut to publication. Yes, the slush pile might be shorter, but e-publishers building their reputations are just as picky!

Agents: Do you need an agent?

  • At some point—yes. Agents are trained and practiced in reading contracts, in talking to publishers and editors—that 15% commission pays for a lot of hard work. A good agent can get you in doors you didn't know existed, AND they'll help you make sure there's nothing in your contract you can't live with.
  • Sometimes you need one to even talk to the publisher you're interested in.
  • Finding an agent can be tricky—they're a lot harder to research than publisher are, mostly because you've probably never heard of any of them. See if there are "thank yous" in the front of the books of your favorite authors. Check their websites for their agent information. Join a professional association and use their databases.

Your next step in either case--once you've found the agents/editors/publishers you feel are a good fit to your writing--is to find their submissions guidelines. Sometimes those are buried—and I do mean buried—on their websites (for publishers, at least). But that's the word/phrase you're looking for: submissions guidelines. Those will tell you length—in commercial fiction, word count is unbelievably important; line specifics like—in romance, for example—heat levels which is romance-writer-speak for sex, or the need for alpha heroes or specific settings. They will also tell you whether the publisher takes unagented submissions, who the editors are for specific lines, and how to submit. Do they want a synopsis? How long? Do they take electronic queries?
Follow them!!! (the rules, that is) Well, you don't have to, but you're really risking ticking someone off if you don't, and it's a small, small world.

Later, (next 'research' Saturday, perhaps) my thoughts on synopses and query letters, as well as a little submission (although not submissive) etiquette. Today, I'm taking a day off....

Thursday, October 8, 2009

OPB: Make Her Pay

Seriously, this might be the hottest Bullet Catcher ever written. Yes, I've probably said that before, but this time I really mean it.

There's buried treasure (okay, so it's buried under lots of water), centuries-old mystery, a deliciously bad-boy hero, and a heroine who gives him a run for his money—literally.

The sexual tension is high enough to qualify for the mile-high club on its own. The 'holy s**t' tension is way up there, too. Rocki managed to hit two of my personal fear scenarios in one book—yay for the book, not so yay for me! Lizzie is a great heroine, and Con...well, if I'd been Lizzie, I'd have been wavering between wanting to smack him and wanting to jump him at every opportunity. Did I mention hot?

I admit I'm really looking forward to the new series, but even though I'll miss the Bullet Catchers, this was a great way to go out.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Midweek Creativity Block-buster

Make a list. That's right, a list. Pick a topic, any topic. Names for heroes (more on this later), names for heroines. The color green. Kinds of trees...anything you like. Brainstorm as many words as you possibly can for this list. Next time you're writing something that requires one of these words, take the last one and use it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

OPB: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

An old favorite writing resource from my shelf. Authors Renni Browne and Dave King show you what to look for in your manuscripts, skipping grammar and spelling for the much tougher problems of show/tell (familiar to most writers!), proportion (giving the right weight to the elements of your story), inner dialogue (tough one), and (again familiar) dialogue mechanics. Examples, exercises, comparisons...it's an excellent tool, whether you're a new writer or have multiple manuscripts under your bed waiting to see the light of day.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The to-do list - October 4, 2009

Bigger goals stay the same, of course, with some modification--this week is the Southern Women's Show, and it will be taking my time Thursday - Sunday. Friday and Saturday mornings at 10:30 I'll be tag-teaming with Michelle Young to give a presentation titled "I've written a book--now what?" If I get any work done in the downtimes, it will probably be editing, since the only portable writing instrument I own is paper and pen.

I'm in the middle of two contest deadlines, so will get at least one of those done and back to the coordinator this week. I'm going to try to get the entries for one done today, in fact.

I'm almost done with the self-edits for Heat Index. One big scene to write and a little tweaking of the setup for the end of it, then it's off to the query wars. Hopefully that will be done today as well.

Getting commitments from final-round judges for Touch of Magic continues. Next step, revising score sheets. Hope to have that underway by this time next week (hopefully will have all judges by the end of the week--emails for most of them are going out between today and Tuesday).

I'm researching the lore of Indian burial mounds and Celtic burial mounds as power spots. Also researching Armageddon/millenialists (as noted in yesterday's post).

That's probably enough for a week that's half-shot already.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Research: end of times

Sometimes, research leads me down some interesting paths. I admit, I'm one of "those" writers—the ones who say they don't write historicals because of the research. I write contemporary, which lets me research other things.

Like Armageddon theories. I'm not going to offer an opinion, although it's probably safe to say that no one subscribing to these theories is reading this blog, unless they're looking for the sex (sorry). Right now, I'm working through several books (found at the library) on a variety of topics that may or may not be related to the idea that Armageddon is just around the corner, but they're all going into the creation of my newest criminal mastermind.

I like the odder shows on the History Channel—let's blame them. Myths, legends, prophecies. Yum. The Antichrist...yum. The end of the world? If I can put a paranormal twist to the plot (besides the ever-present demons and vampires)...I'm there. So the bad guy—let's call him Preacher Joe, since that isn't his name—subscribes to this idea that the end of the world is right around the corner—what better time to bend others to his will, right? And I'm trying to understand the mindset of "this way or no way," and—remembering this is all fiction, so if YOU believe part, but not all, please don't come after me with a shotgun; I KNOW not everyone who believes part of it believes all of it!—so among topics, I'm reading up on dominion theology, anti-"new age in school" (did you know that's why Johnny can't read?), why the return of Jews to Jerusalem signals the rise of the Antichrist, and, oh, the Book of Revelations, which may be the scariest book in the Christian Bible (don't forget I was raised on this one!). If I don't end up in a mental ward from the trauma, Preacher Joe is going to be one scary sonofabitch.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Quirky Characters

Who's the most memorable character you know? Not necessarily in a book, but that's fine, too.

Now, quickly, answer this: why?

The most memorable real-life character I know must remain nameless because I don't want to get sued over a difference of opinion. So let's just say he's memorable because he makes his living (as best I know) convincing other people of his right-ness. That's broad enough, isn't it? Of course, unlike most doctors, lawyers, marketing gurus, and bloggers, he uses, um, shall we say "less than socially acceptable" skills to do this? (Fine. As far as I can tell, based on research and acquaintance, he's a con man.) Don't really know a lot of those, which makes him stand out. Also, the absolute outrageousness of his claims is pretty memorable. He is remarkable because he is larger than life (his stories and claims are great, and if I used them in a book, I'd have to be writing comedy and he'd have to be obviously a con man—and unsuccessful—because I promise you, if I tried writing as fiction what he tries to pass off as truth, I'd never get past my critique partner, never mind an editor.).

To make your characters stand out—to keep your readers coming back for more—give your characters memorable traits. The author who can't live without coffee (that one's based in truth!); the car salesman who cannot tell a lie; the anthropologist whose greatest dream is to excavate in an unknown valley in Egypt (it's okay if you want to set this one in the 18th or 19th century). The child whose puppy-dog eyes means her alpha-hero father can't say no. The heroine whose biggest obstacle is that she's afraid of heights. Bring the characters to life with quirks, with personality traits and challenges that affect how the story turns out.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

OPB: Dust and Shadow

Yay, it's October! By the end of the month, I predict, it will be all about me, so it seems appropriate that we're starting the month with an OPB day.

Just for something different, I grabbed Dust and Shadow, by Lyndsay Faye. Dust and Shadow is a telling of the Jack the Ripper killings through the words of Holmes' sidekick, Dr. Watson. You got it: Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper in the same book. Kind of made me wonder why no one ever did this before. Then I realized maybe they had, and I just never saw it. Regardless, if you like Sherlock Holmes, you'll like this book. All gritty and gory and no punches pulled. Reference to Holmes' drug use, as well as decidedly non-romantic images of late 19th century London – not a book likely to be made into an after-school special on the History Channel (although it might be fun to watch). Done very much in the traditional style--Doyle might be apppalled that Holmes' involvement in the Ripper murders has come to light, but he'd probably approve of the job Faye does in the telling of it.