Friday, November 30, 2007

Fear and The Writer

My biggest writing bugaboo, my personal writing demon, actually, is fear. The fear starts when I write the first sentence of a new project (which is never as good as it sounded in my head), and only gets worse through the writing and revising and submission.

I worry that my characters feel real and are likable, that my conflict is strong enough, that I don’t have too many commas (my personal grammar bugaboo), and that my description is clear and vivid.

I’d love to tell you that when you sell the fear goes away, replaced by a strong sense of having accomplished your goal. Sorry, the truth is that it just changes direction. Now I worry my editor will want revisions I can live with. I worry that my next book will sell too. I worry that I’m making the right decisions about my career. And I still worry about the same stuff I worried about before: characters, plot, description, commas, etc. It never ends.

So why keep on writing when it’s so scary? For me, it’s an addiction. If I’m not writing, I feel like I’m missing something important. The reality of finishing a book, whether anybody else ever reads it or not, is an amazing feeling.
I love what I do, and if I can actually manage to make a living at it at some point, then I’ll have achieved my wildest dream.

I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes:
"If you’re not scared, you’re not writing." Ralph Keyes in The Courage To Write.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What About Guilt???

Well, since we're talking about writing bugaboos this week, I will mention the one that wreaks the most havoc on my writing.

That would be Guilt.

Yes, I said it. G U I L T.

I often find myself sitting in front of my computer, the bedroom door shut, the family on notice that, Mama is writing, and unable to type a single paragraph, sentence, word...

The one thing that can obliterate my creativity and smother my muse is the insidious guilt that worms its way into my consciousness when the killer dust bunnies begin to overrun the house and when the kids are awake and living life without me. Oh! The worst guilt factory of all is my super understanding husband who is home with the kids all day before he goes to work in the evenings, and gives up his kid-free Saturday so I can write or attend my local RWA Chapter meetings. (It must be said here, that my husband does NOT lay any type of guilt trip on me. No. I do that well enough on my own.)

I know I'm not the only writer who has a full-time day job, who has a family and a home and all the other things life throws at us. Am I the only one hindered by guilt? How do you all handle it? Cause when I'm not battling the guilt-factor, I can really bang out those pages. And it feels GOOD. I want that feeling more often. What's your secret?

~Sandra Barkevich
*NOW, free writing workshop with Anna Campbell at Sandra's Goings On.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

There's Always Next Week . . .


What's my bugaboo?

Submitting.

Recently I joined a yahoo group that helps writers reach their weekly goals. My goals consisted of:
writing a few chapters in my latest wip
critiquing for my group
editing my last wip
submitting to at least two agents
entering a contest
exercising
reading
sticking to a food plan.

Easy, right?

As the first week went by, I checked off my goals. Writing and entering contest - check. Critiquing, editing, reading- check. Sticking to a food plan and exercise - somewhat check, but not too bad. Submitting to agents - no, but I did get a lot done. No biggie, there's always next week.

Week two, I met all my goals again, with the exception of one. Yup, you guessed it. I didn't submit to any agents. No biggie, there's always next week.

I've been saying that since June.

I can't blame my lack of submitting on my inability to write a good query. I have a query that has gotten me quite a few requests. I've had my first three chapters critiqued to perfection, thank you very much.

So why aren't I submitting?

Maybe I'm lazy. I've submitted to agents via e-mail, no problem. That's easy. Just click a few buttons and you're done. A lot of agents don't accept E-queries, so I'd have to print out the required materials, put them in envelopes, take them to the post office, pay some crazy amount to mail them all and then treat myself to a cafe mocha at Starbucks.

No that can't be it. I go to the post office all the time and I'm not afraid to spend money to further my career. Plus, any excuse for a mocha and I'm there.

Maybe it's fear of failure. Hmm, I might have something here. After sending out all those e-queries, I received some pretty fast form letter rejections. A few, "send me some pages" that eventually produced some personal rejections and one still out since May.

Maybe, but I doubt it. Rejections bother me, but they don't devastate me, especially when I get a personal rejection. It's all par for the course. I have faith in my story and my writing. I know eventually someone will feel the same way.

So why haven't I submitted to agents? I have no idea, but eventually I'm going to run out of "next weeks".

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Queen of Wordyville

Since we’re talking about our writing bugaboos this week, I guess it’s time to fess up to mine. If you can’t already tell from some of my earlier posts, I’m wordy. Not the ‘use big, multi-syllable words in every sentence so the average reader has to stop and look them up in the dictionary’ type of wordy. I just tend to use a lot of little words when I write. Too many, I’m afraid.

In my defense, I do try to keep my scenes short and to the point. Honest. I don’t spend paragraph after paragraph on description and narrative. Really, I don’t. I strive to keep my dialogue clean and crisp. I also don’t ramble on page after page with backstory, I avoid passive voice as much as possible, and there’s hardly an adverb to be found (well, except for that ‘hardly’ that somehow snuck in there *G*). But in the end, my stories always turn into these mammoth tomes. I can’t help it. I don’t think I could write a short contemporary if my life depended on it.

Looking back, my first book was 458 pages in Courier 12. Ouch! Then *presto, chango* converting it to Times New Roman (TNR) brought it down to a svelte 350 pages, all without trimming a single one of the 102,378 words. Not bad for a long historical. But I wrote that before I knew ANYTHING about writing (or POV or pacing or sagging middles or overused plot devices). Just glancing through my first pitiful attempt at romance writing this morning, I saw places so thin of description and action you’d fall through it if it was made of ice. Needless to say, it’s going right back under the bed where it belongs to keep all those multiplying dust bunnies company. My second book came in at 393 pages in TNR 12. That’s 119,963 words. Still not too bad by industry standards--I made it just under the 120,000 mark by the skin of my teeth. But as you can guess, between book #1 and book #2, I found my voice, learned the craft, and in the process, started adding more words. A lot more words.

Therein lies my problem. My latest masterpiece-in-progress is hovering at 397 pages. That’s 124,320 words folks. And the dang thing isn’t finished yet! I still have 6 chapters that need to be completed and/or polished. At the rate I’m going, this puppy is going to come in around a whopping 500 pages without some serious slicing and dicing. But where? I’ve gone through it several times and every scene so far serves a purpose--be it to show character growth, story progression, or sexual tension. If my muse was being particularly nice to me that day, some show all three. Woo hoo! But once I finish this thing (hopefully sometime this decade) and send it off to my wonderful (and very patient) agent, I’m going to live in constant fear of hearing an editor say, “I love it . . . but can you cut 40,000 words?” *argh!!!!* You’ll hear me wailing in despair from at least three states away.

You see, I’ve discovered something about myself as I’ve slaved over these three manuscripts in twice as many years. While I believe I write tight, I write long. I send my poor characters on arduous journeys where they have many challenges to face, resulting in them learning things about each other and themselves along the way. Each has a great story to tell and I’m loathe to cheat them of their time on the page to live it out. Call me an old school type of writer, but I love to take my time building the relationship between the hero and heroine which, unfortunately, takes a lot of words to do. And once those words are on the page, I’m not the impartial, ruthless editor I should be when it comes to deciding if they should stay or go. I’ll admit it. I’m a wimp. I can’t, as William Faulkner said, “kill my darlings.” I just can’t do it. Not that I think I’m this brilliant writer and every word I type is pure gold. I do cut. Some. But obviously not enough. I really should go out and get “The Dictionary of Concise Writing.” Maybe it will help--if I hit myself in the head with it several times. Or maybe I should pray for the editing fairy to sneak in one night and take magic scissors to my mound o’ words. That may be my only hope because if I try to do it myself, my manuscript is likely to end up looking like some unintelligible ransom note created by my 6 year old.

Wow, I do believe that’s the shortest blog I’ve written all year. And it’s still long! *sigh* Just carve ‘Queen of Wordyville’ on my tombstone--if there’s room for it.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Procrastination v Deadlines

Now after my last two posts being late, I'd say my worst bugaboo is forgetfulness. Between househunting and helping to organize an art show locally, I'm lucky I've managed to remember my own name during the last month. I apologize for my chronic forgetfulness everyone.

Overall though, procrastination has been my worst writing fault.

Back in grad school, I'd do my research and figure out what I planned to write but then not complete the paper until the week it was due. In a couple of cases I pulled an all-nighter because I'd not get it written until the night before it was due. I don't recommend that. In my job as a librarian, I know a few new college students and have told them to do as I say, not as I did. Do NOT pull all-nighters. The weird thing was those papers often got the highest grades. I write best under deadline.

This presents a serious problem for me right now because I have no deadline. I'm looking for a home for my completed manuscript but my current work in progress is just that. In progress. I've had trouble finishing it because no one is breathing down my neck and there are no consequences for failure. Back in school, the consequence of no paper was a failing grade but I don't have that motivation anymore.

Here are a couple of ideas I plan to implement to get myself back on track.

1. Set a realistic deadline.

Now I did this earlier this year and it didn't really help. But I'm going to try it again and see if I can add some things to help make it more stringent. I want to complete my manuscript by 6 p.m. on January 1, 2008. There I said it. In writing. Publicly.

2. Create a consequence and impose it for failure.

We tell our kids if you don't clean up your room, you don't get dessert or something similar. The premise is that a job has to be completed and if the obligation isn't met, a treat is denied. I think I can make this work. I just have to figure out what I want badly enough that denying myself would be BAD. Hmmmm. If I don't finish my book by my deadline, I can't go to Wylde Nept's concert when they play locally early next year. Oh my, that ought to do it. I love those guys.

3. Reward for meeting the goal.

You know what they say, you can get more flies with honey than vinegar. If the threat doesn't work, maybe a carrot will. So I guess my reward would be the opposite of my consequence. If I finish in time, I get to go to the concert when my favorite band in the world (Wylde Nept) plays locally next year.

4. Write daily for best results.

Earlier this year I was writing every day, but I've let that go. I think writing daily with a minimum goal of 300 words a day is doable.

Yeah, this stuff could work!

So there you have it. I'm trying to face my worst bugaboo. How do all of you get past your inertia? What tips do you have to write daily and fight the dreaded danger of procrastination?

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Curse of the White Rabbit

You've probably seen this little guy: spastic white rabbit with a pocketwatch, slightly crazed look in the eyes, incapable of shouting much but "No time to say hello, goodbye! I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!" Well, embarrassing as it is to admit, if I suddenly morphed into a Disney character, this would be me. On a good day. AFTER coffee. Since I always kind of wanted to be Cinderella, this is a bummer, but I'm just being honest.

This week and next here at the diner we're talking about writing bugaboos, those little things that torment us endlessly in our chosen profession. I have plenty of them, like the ones already covered this week. But my number one writing bugaboo boils down to one little word: time. I am in constant need of more of it, it escapes me when I desperately wish it wouldn't, and my body seems to require that I use a certain amount of it for sleep. I've tried to work around that last one, but it hasn't worked out very well.

I know I'm not alone. The thing about writing is that most of us, even if we're published, don't have the luxury of being able to write all day. We have kids, day jobs, husbands, pets, family...a million little things that can suck up the better part of a day (and the best part for writing, like when we're alert and reasonably coherent) before you know it. And if you're me, suddenly, it's nighttime again. And you're sitting in the rocker with your laptop, trying to push all thoughts of fun stuff like second grade homework and accidentally overdue field trip money out of your head. Ready to clear your thoughts and get back into the story, which you love, which you MUST WRITE. And zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Body has reached critical mass. Lights out. Another day vanished into the ether. Plus you have the added bonus of some interestingly nonsensical words typed on the screen in front of you from when you were starting to dream but could still type. Well, I do, anyway. At least it's less dangerous than sleepwalking.

People I know have asked me on numerous occasions how I juggle everything: the three kids, the newly-acquired deadlines, and managing to serve something besides Easy Mac seven nights a week. Usually I just say, "I don't know, I'm insane." Which is true to varying degrees, depending on the day. The actual answer? I wish it were different, but it would have to be "By the skin of my teeth." There are not enough hours in the day to accommodate all I need to do, and that reality is the bane of my existence, my public bugaboo number one. On any given day, I can count on the fact that for every page of writing I want/need to get done, some random thing will either occur or break in order to thwart me. And sadly, it's usually not stuff I can just ignore until tomorrow. My older son might need stitches from doing whatever it was I told him not to do that day (yes, it's happened). My daughter will be in a mood to fight about her homework. And the baby will be acting very...two years old. Add to that the amount of sleep I've sacrificed at the altar of my fickle muse (I'm a mommy. Nights are all I have), and it makes for a lot of stress. Still, I hate to wish the days away. No matter how may things are going on all at once, once a day passes, you can never get it back. And I have to write, because it's what I love to do, and because I'm lucky enough to have been given my shot to make a go of this as a career. So I smoosh the writing in somewhere, even if it fits a little funny, and even if I have to chug coffee until midnight to make my page quota for the day. But I'm not gonna lie...there are nights when it really hurts. There is a part of me that dreams of the day when the kids are all at school and I can hole up in my office to write all morning. The problem is, I'm not ready for my kids to get big enough for that pretty vision to come true yet. I'm living the Catch-22. And that, in and of itself, is a big ol' bugaboo.

So now that I've expounded on the pain of having to be a Night Writer (and I don't even get a talking computer named Kit!), why don't you tell me where you squeeze your writing into during the day or night. Is it tough? How do you manage your time? And if you could transcend white rabbit-dom, what would your ideal writing environment/schedule be? Grab a plate of leftovers and share...your thoughts, and the food:-)

-Kendra

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I Am Thankful....

...that this was on the outside of the windshield and is only the size my thumb:



Took these with my cellphone camera on the way home from the post office the other day, where I was thankful I had remembered to bring my wallet so I could mail a package. Creepy stinkbug!

Jody W.

Happy Turkey Day!

I’d like to say thank you to all the wonderful characters who have been so kind as to choose me to tell their stories. From Chris and Caren, to Ethan and Wyoming, to all those in between and the ones to come. Without all of you, I could not do what I do
Happy fictional Thanksgiving to you – and a happy real one to everybody out there in blog land!

I'm Thankful For. . .


I’m grateful for all the visitors and staff at the diner.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Interview With Raelynn Blue

Hi, Diner readers, it’s Debralee with a very special surprise. Today we have a Diner interview with multipublished and multitalented author Raelynn Blue. She is a lady who enjoys the unique and interesting, with tastes ranging from Johnny Depp movies, to opera, to reading comic books. Her writing also cuts across many barriers, and we are proud to have her with us.

Debralee Daniels:
Hi, Raelyn, thanks for coming to visit us at the Otherworld Diner! Sit down and have some coffee and a slice of our famous pie while you tell us a bit about yourself and the stories that you write.

Raelynn:
Hello, Debralee and fellow Diner readers! As a dedicated comic book reader, I’m into men in tights and those who sport dark eyeliner (i.e. Johnny Depp, Tobey Macguire in Spiderman 3, Clive Owens who is just hunky). Seriously, when I’m not writing, I’m usually reading, and when both of those two loves are not readily available, I’m an avid movie fan. The more adventure and naked male torsos, the better! (a la Jason Statham).

Debralee:
When I visited your website, I saw your writing runs the gamut from contemporary multicultural through paranormal, fantasy, and futuristic. But there was one Phaze novella which had an actual tie to the Thanksgiving season. SOUL’S KIN is a paranormal romance based on Native American culture.

Raelynn::
November is national Native American month. It isn't a hidden fact, just one that's not widely known. Since I worked in Gallup, New Mexico, for a number of years and I was surrounded by Navajo and Zuni people, I became aware of this seldom- celebrated month.

November is often thought of as the month of Thanksgiving and celebrating veterans. Each of these holidays owes great debts to the determination and sacrifices of Native Americans. Without their wisdom, knowledge, and willingness to help those starkly different from them, those colonists would have died. The same is true of the Spanish and French explorers in various sections of the so-called, “New World.”

Debralee:
You must do a lot of research to come up with the lore and legends that have gone into your work.

Raelynn:
Absolutely. Research is an intregral part of writing. Although my works are fiction, authenticity is important to setting and the overall tone of a story. SOUL'S KIN attempts to showcase the nobleness and dedication of Native Americans. It is a story drawn from Navajo, Laguna, and Zuni creation stories. It is half fantasy, half myth, and a paranormal tale. I sometimes refer to it as my Native American Romeo and Juliet story.

Debralee:
What is the story about?

Raelynn:
When Leela, the daughter of a great chief, is forced to marry a man she doesn't even know, much less love, her heart breaks into pieces. To comfort her, her lover, Kunal, vows to be with her always. Leela can't believe such talk and dismisses it as a brief bout of insanity, until on her wedding night, a coyote appears to her and howls pangs of great loss...

Debralee:
That sounds like a terrific plot. Where did you get the ideas for it and some of your other work?

Raelynn:
SOUL’S KIN, SAND STORM, and SPEED DEMON are all derived from my years spent in New Mexico, prowling around the highways at night. Nothing is close in New Mexico—in fact many cities are hours apart. During those long car trips between Gallup and Albuquerque and Farmington, the beautiful scenery and vast stretches of unspoiled land invoked my muse to no end.

For my novel, DESIRE INTO GOLD, the idea came from an urge to twist an old fairy tale. Most of my ideas are spawned by my ridiculously untamed curiosity!

Debralee:
Do you believe the trend of combining of multicultural themes with the paranormal will continue to grow? It seems very popular right now.

Raelynn:
Absolutely! People of color and their cultures have myths and legends of the paranormal and of great gods and goddesses just like the Greeks and Romans. These areas will continue to be mined and utilized in stories that appeal to everyone, regardless of ethnicity. Our world is multicultural and our literature reflects our society.

Debralee:
What is one thing about Raelynn Blue that most people would find surprising?

Raelynn:
The one thing that most people would find surprising about me is that I can’t swim, but I love to be on boats. My friends find this utterly strange.

Debralee:
Raelynn, thanks so much for taking the time to share with us right before a holiday like Thanksgiving when people are so busy. Also thanks for sharing the plot of SOUL’S KIN. We do owe our gratitude to the Native Americans who helped those first settlers to survive. It’s great when we can use our writing not only to entertain, but to educate readers about the amazing cultural contributions of others.

Raelynn:
If you’d like to learn more about Native Americans, here are some online sources that can get you started. Some of these give a detailed look at their contribution to American history and contemporary life:

Native Americans
blog.myspace.com/www.nativeamericans.com

Native American Times
www.nativetimes.com

Native American Recipes
www.kstrom.net/isk/food/recipes.html

Smithsonian Institution - Native American History and Culture
www.si.edu/Encyclopedia_SI/History_and_Culture

Of course there are other sites and print literature to expand your knowledge as well.

Debralee:
I like the recipes site, might find something we could serve here! It’s been so nice to having you share with us today. I know SOUL’S KIN is available directly from Phaze, or from Fictionwise at:
http://www.fictionwise.com/eBooks/eBook49939.htm?cache

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Raelynn You’ll always be welcome at the Otherworld Diner!

RaeLynn:
Happy Thanksgiving!
http://raelynnblue.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bugaboo: Pacing

So we're talking bugaboos and this is the one that I've been wrestling with: pacing.

Look, we're writers. We love what we write, right? Of course! Here at the diner we take the greatest care in crafting our characters and building our worlds brick by magical brick. Then we package up our babies and send them out into the big bad world.

I'm lucky. For my WIP an extraordinarily generous agent liked my voice, but told me my story had pacing problems. Pacing? Really? I mean, yeah I'd heard of it but surely people out there would just fall in love with every single nuance of my writing, each line of witty banter, every tangential situtation would keep them turning pages, right?

Err...wrong.

My critique partners (who are all wonderful and have been with me all through my journey to publication) were too close to see the problem. They loved the story and actually did find most of my literary meanderings funny. But now, armed with a concrete goal, together we planned our attack.

Here are some things that I've learned in process:

1. Be ruthless. I can't tell you how difficult it was to cut out some of my worldbuilding. I comforted myself with knowing that some deleted scenes will appear at some later time either in a later book or on my website as an "extra."

2. Find the kernel of your story and push forward. I write romance and that means the hero and heroine need to get together before page 100. A romance isn't "his" story or "her" story, it's their story. Tell it.

3. Use transitions. I started out as a page break writer. It's something about those centered stars that gets me all giddy--I love 'em. But guess what? You can use too many and when you do, you jar your reader out of one scene and plop them down into another which leads me to...

4. Set the scene. My theatre background works against me when writing fiction sinceI learned so much from reading and performing in plays. I would be perfectly happy handing the setting over to a set designer. Too bad. But consider your reader is your stage crew. Give them enough direction that they can build their own sets to let your character play in. They don't need to every detail cause hey! Readers have imagination, too!

5. Love the process. Or try to. In the end, you'll have a leaner story that pulls the reader right along on a great ride. Not unlike that pacer (or harness racer) pictured above. When you get to the end, you'll have a winner.

;)

talia
(with many thanks to goat.pirate on Flickr for the photo)

Monday, November 19, 2007

My Little Writing Bugaboo

This bi-week at the Diner, there's going to be a lot of pumpkin pies floating around, maybe some turkey pot pies after Thanksgiving as we try to use up the leftovers before they go off. On Thanksgiving itself I believe several of us are going to make an appearance to mention things we're thankful for, and if you need a break in between stuffing the turkey and stuffing your face, feel free to stop by.

Another thing we might talk about this week are writing bugaboos. I've got one of those. I even have photographic evidence, which you can click on for a larger image:

Yep, that's right. My writing bugaboo right now sure is cute, but she is also the primary thing that keeps me from getting words onto the electronic page. Some writer mamas have mad multi-tasking skillz, and some of us are not so much with the mad skillz. (I like to think the madly skilled mamas also have more cooperative children or something; otherwise I'm even more of a loser than I realize!) When I have an inspiration, a deadline or just a desperate need to be a writer for a while instead of mamamama ba doo aaaaaah, schedules have to be juggled and husbands have to be bribed. Even then it doesn't always work.

Here are some of the things I've read writer mamas can do to handle their adorable writing bugaboos. Accompanying them will be evidence of my other writing bugaboo, severe excuse-itis:

1) Get up earlier.
I already get up early. I actually tried getting up earlier for a time, but as soon as I get up, the baby sensed it and woke up as well. Then we were both up early, cranky as hell, and fought with each other the whole day. More than usual, I should add.

2) Stay up later.
I already stay up late. Here's a shock: so does the baby. By the time I get that Engergizer bunny to sleep, I am ready to pass out myself. I swear this kid needs less sleep than I do.

3) Get a sitter.
Money is an issue, so paying a sitter on a regular basis isn't an option. Playschool isn't an option at this time either, for various reasons that begin with money and end with the child's screaming, sobbing rage fits the times I tried. Trading babysitting with a friend also isn't an option because I have no friends of appropriate pliability. I do get family members to babysit on occasion, but those occasions are inevitably for doctor's appointments, errands I hate to do with kids, and so on.

4) Put the child in front of the television.
She loves Dora. She doesn't love Dora enough to watch it when I'm trying to write, though. She likes to watch Dora while sitting in my lap and alternately pointing at the TV and slapping the computer keyboard. Good times, good times.

5) Quit doing as much cooking or cleaning and use that time to write.
If you saw my house....

6) Write in quick spurts when your child is preoccupied.
Unfortunately, she is most often preoccupied with how to cling to me like a monkey, force-feed the cats all the stuff I haven't vacuumed off the carpet (see #5), or climb Mount NeverRest and careen wildly from side to side in a dangerous manner. If I happen to get lost in the La-la land of writing at the wrong time, I'm one ER visit away from a lifelong guilt trip. (Don't make me tell you about kid #1 and the chandelier! Then you'll really think I'm a terrible parent.)

I know that my bugaboo is only this buggy once. I know there are other sacrifices I could make, like giving up family time in the evenings with the older child, baby and hubby. I should also be stricter with myself when the child goes down for one of her sketchy naps and work on my WIP instead of, oh, blog entries or emails, even when they're career-oriented.

Sometimes I do. Inevitably, she wakes up sooner when I'm doing something constructive. I could probably watch two consecutive Lifetime TV movies without waking her from a nap (no comment on whether or not I have proof of this), but the more I want her to stay asleep because I'm actually writing, woo-hoo!, the less likely she is to do it. And no, I don't loudly exclaim woo-hoo! when I'm writing.

My little bugaboo just knows.

What's your writing bugaboo? Excuse-itis? Saggy middles? Grammar? Fear of submission? 3-chapter-blockage? I'm sort of scared what writing bugaboos I'll discover once my current bugaboo is less buggy, but I've always got the makings of "what-the-hell-happens-at-the-end-of-the-book-good-lord-I'm-on-chapter-20-and-I-still-don't-know" disease to fall back on.

Jody W.
A SPELL FOR SUSANNAH (a book written prior to my bugaboo!)
January 2008, Samhain Publishing
http://www.jodywallace.com/ * http://meankittybox.blogspot.com/

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Special Thanks

The topic of heroes has a special meaning to me right now. The Friday before Halloween, my stepfather was in a horrible accident. A wrecker towing two cars blew through a red light, plowed into my stepdad, and continued on into a parking lot where the wrecker and – now loose – cars did more damage. Several people were injured, and one ten year old girl was pulled into a vehicle seconds before the wrecker smashed into it. She would have been crushed.

My stepdad’s car rolled and ended up on the other side of the road, and was in flames by the time it came to rest. If not for the heroism of two passing motorists, he would have died there. These two men risked their lives to pull my stepfather from the twisted metal, and it wasn’t easy. It took time and effort to cut the seatbelt and pull him out from the passenger side of the car.

My stepfather is still in intensive care, in critical condition. If were it not for these heroes, he wouldn’t be alive today. There are no words strong enough to thank those two brave men. They have no idea how much their heroism that day means to our family, and I hope their lives are filled with joy and happiness. They certainly deserve it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cowboys, Cops and the Shy Guy


Ever since I was a teenager I've had one consistent fantasy guy who eventually turned into one of my heroes. He's a very common hero, every woman knows him.

The cowboy.

No, I'm not talking about The Naked Cowboy who sings for money on the streets of Time's Square or the real bad boy you might see on an episode of Cops.

I'm talking about the tall, rugged, tips-his-hat-at-a-lady type cowboy. The one who rides up on his black steed, wearing that stetson like he was born with it on his head, and sweeps the heroine so far off her feet, she never touches ground again.

My cowboy is a gentleman, a guy who really knows how to treat a lady. He won't swear in front of her and expects she should watch her mouth as well. He, of course, would never raise a hand to her in anger, but isn't afraid to beat the sh*t out of any guy who would. He's brave, kind, loves and respects his Momma, Daddy and God.

He has a strong sense of right and wrong and sometimes his arrogance gets himself into trouble, but in the end, he's definitely a guy you'd take home for dinner.


Another hero I love is one I didn't know about until I created him. He's a doctor. Yeah, sure, doctor's have been the backbone of Harlequin romances since I can remember, but this doctor is different.

He's young and gorgeous, a new pediatrician who gets along great with kids. He sucks lollipops all day, plays video games and loves water balloon fights.

So how is he different? He's what I call the shy type. He's terrified of women. Oh, I don't mean like how I'm terrified of beetles and locusts. He doesn't run from them screaming as he rakes his fingers through his hair. I mean he's scared of women who make a pass at him. Woman who fall for his manly good looks and innocent charm.

He stutters, he stumbles, he trips over his own two feet just to get some distance, but he's no wuss. He's strong when you need him to be, and when the woman he loves only sees him as a kid, he knows exactly how to whisk her away and show her just how much of a man he really is.


There is no way I could make a post about heroes and not include one near and dear to my heart.

The police officer.

I've never written about a cop and it's because I fear I'll never do him justice. For me a cop isn't some guy on a page who fights crime and romances his lady. The cop is my dad.

That doesn't make him any less of a hero. I grew up knowing any day(or night) Dad went to work, might be his last. I was never afraid though. I guess I just believed he would always be there for us.

Dad raised six kids on Long Island, NY on a cops salary. He worked two jobs to support us and yet I never once heard him complain. We might not have had everything we wanted, but we never went without.

Even though he was rarely home, Dad was always there for us when we needed him most. He left his work at the station house. The only time he told us about his job was when it was something funny. I can't imagine the horrors he's faced, but that's all part of being a hero.

Dad has since retired his badge and put his gun away. He now lives out his dream of retiring to the mountains of upstate NY. He lives there with his heroine, my mom, who is a hero in her own right. They will be celebrating their 43rd anniversary on the 21st of this month.

If any hero deserves a happily ever after, it's him.

~Maggie

In loving Memory of Dutch. The best dog a family could have. They can be heros too.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Lure of the Reluctant Hero

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.
-- Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for the reluctant hero. So maybe he’s not the prince born into his noble role in life. He’s not the tough-as-nails navy seal who’s trained diligently to defend life and country, or the armor-clad warrior returning victorious from the fight with the prize. He’s just your average Joe, an ordinary person thrust into extraordinary circumstances forcing him to rise to heroism through trial and tribulation -- whether he wants to or not.

You all know who I’m talking about. He starts out as the down-to-earth guy next door or the co-worker with the nice smile sitting three cubicles away. Maybe he’s the son struggling to save the family farm from the flood. Or he’s the crofter who picks up the sword and enters the battle when nobody else will. He’s the father who will sacrifice all to save his sick child. In a romance, he’s often the humorous brother/cousin/best friend to the alpha hero. If we’re lucky, he gets his chance to take center stage and get the girl in the sequel. (God, I love sequels!) He’s the beta with an inner alpha he doesn’t know he has until circumstances arise that force the hero hidden within him out. He’s the guy you might not notice at first when he walks into a room, but when the going gets tough and he finally steps up to the plate -- yowza -- we sure take notice of him then!

Us writer types will recognize the reluctant hero as one of the heroic archetypes described by Joseph Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces:


“The hero may refuse the adventure or deny the ability to move beyond the status quo. The heralded event may even be ignored – all of these constitute the ‘Refusal of the Call.’ The use of magical intervention is then needed to plunge the hero into the unknown. The reluctant hero requires supernatural forces to urge him on, while the willing adventurer gathers amulets (magical items) and advice from the protector as aid for the journey.”

Unlike a pure-bred alpha, the reluctant hero (RH) doesn’t seek out fame, glory and adventure. He doesn't want to be the star, to have all eyes on him as he rescues the kitten in the tree or saves the world single-handedly. He'd much rather stand back in the crowd and let someone else take all the glory. But the RH usually has a special skill or hidden talent, often unknown to him until he needs to use it, that will see him through his trials. So when it becomes apparent no one else will do it, our RH will heave a heavy sigh, straighten those broad shoulders we didn’t know he had and pick up the sword to charge straight into the fight. Examples of reluctant heroes include AndrĂ© Merrick in Timeline, John McClane in Die Hard, Han Solo in Star Wars, Quinn and Creedy in Reign of Fire, as well as Indiana Jones, Braveheart, Rob Roy, Harry Potter, and Spiderman, to name a few. These guys didn’t start out wanting to be heroes, but when push came to shove, they said “F*ck it” and did what they had to do.


Take a look at one of my favorite TV series, Heroes, which coincidentally airs tonight on NBC. *G* It’s chock-full of reluctant heroes. Just about every character on the show started out as someone ordinary, going about their ordinary world, when suddenly everything changes. Or, more accurately, they change. They discover they possess a superpower they aren’t prepared to deal with and then learn they must use it to save the world. Talk about pressure! Some of these heroes, like Claire, tried to hide what she is, denying it, almost ashamed of the incredible things she could do. Others, like Hiro, embraced his new-found responsibility, ready to do whatever needed to be done, even at the cost of his life. And still there were others, like Mohinder, who has no apparent super ability and yet he joins in the fight against the bad guys, because he knows it is what he must do.

Let’s examine another reluctant hero a little more closely . . .


Jack Shephard from Lost

Jack is the quintessential RH. There he is, minding his own business on a plane flight home, dealing with a family crisis and his own personal demons in stoic silence. Then -- BOOM -- he crash lands on a deserted island where his fellow castaways immediately look to him for the answers to their survival. He doesn’t ask to be the leader. He doesn’t want to be. He doesn’t think he’s the right guy for the job. But the others see something in him -- a strength of character, a hidden courage, a sense of justice -- that makes them believe he is. So he leads them, because nobody else will. He gives them hope, when sometimes all seems lost. And he’s willing to sacrifice everything for people he doesn’t even know to make sure they all live long enough to get off the island. Now that’s my kind of hero.

So you can keep your uber warriors and larger-than-life alpha studs. I’ll take the underdog any day. I love my reluctant heros . . . the guy pushed to the limit until his honor demands he take a stand for what he believes is right. So, I’ve mentioned some of my favorite reluctant heroes. Tell me, who are some of yours?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Building Complex Heroes

I wondered what I could possibly add to the great posts about heroes. Then I got to thinking about what captured me about a hero - whether he was in a book or a movie. Well, yes, I like him to be a hunk. Alpha. Dark. Intense. In short, what catches me everytime is complexity. He can't just be intense. The heroes I like best have a reason for their intensity. Part of it is nature and part is nurture. Part of it is darn good writing.

One of the best books I've read that teaches writers how to build heroes is a book called The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders. It's my bible if I get stuck while building my hero. Archetypes? Do I mean stereotypes? Cardboard cutouts? No indeed.

The authors of this book outline these archetypes, provide basic characteristics and then discuss how they might interact. Sometimes I go to this book AFTER I've created a character to try to figure out what I did with him and why he's behaving like a jerk. More importantly, how can I fix him? Sometimes, I'm not supposed to fix him, but sometimes I can.

The cool part of this is you can layer the archetypes over one another to build depth. If you have a hero who is a mysterious loner due to some dark secret in his past, you've created a Lost Soul. To make him more complex, shade a core of justice into his personality and make him a driven and controlled guy, and suddenly you've added Warrior characteristics. You've got a dark, angsty Alpha male who could be an undercover cop, a man on the run or any number of other possibilities.

I enjoy watching television shows and movies to try to figure out which archetype a hero might be. For example, Harrison Ford has a real lock on creating incredible Swashbuckler heroes. Indiana Jones and Han Solo are men of action. Indy has shades of The Professor added to him whereas Han Solo is all Bad Boy. You start with the same archetype but because of the secondary archetypes blended in, Indy and Han are two very different characters.
I really love this book. It's saved my sanity on many occasions and probably will continue to do so in the future. Like me, you may find you have an affinity for creating a particular type of hero. I can't tell you how many Warrior/Lost Soul heroes I've created but each one is unique because I pull different characteristics from the archetypes and use a different fatal flaw during building mode.
The book provides the same guidance for building heroines too. So if you are in need of inspiration pick up the Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines and get going again. You'll want to meet the authors and shake their hands. I sure do!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Hero Worship

Dark, intense, and scantily clad: in short, my ideal hero.

Okay, so Gerry here might not be for everyone (as loathe as I am to believe it...I mean, LOOK at him!). Some like blondes, some prefer redheads or heroes of the raven-haired variety. But no matter our preferences, a lot of writers look to the stars for inspiration. No, not the ones in the heavens. You really only have to look in the direction of Hollywood.

It's funny. Before I can really figure out my hero, I have to figure out how he looks. I usually have a general idea in mind...hair color, for instance. But after that, I need to see his face as more than just a blur. Often, since I like movies, I'll come up with an actor I like (not necessarily well-known, and really, that's better) who fits the bill. Then I hire him for some obscenely low wage (like allowing him to fan me with giant palm leaves while shirtless...hey, it's my fantasy, people!), send him into makeup, since my hero doesn't really look JUST like so-and-so, let him pick out some clothes, and voila! A totally different guy walks out of the dressing room. He might almost-kinda look a lot like somebody famous. But he's his own man, the hero of my story, and gorgeous to boot...'cause I like 'em that way.

I've got a folder on the computer called "Central Casting." It started out being called the "Carousel of Studs," actually, but my husband, somehow, didn't love it. It's full of edumacational pictures like the one above, not because they're just fun to drool on (though they are) but because sometimes if I have a visual, it's easier for me to see my hero, and consequently for the heroine to see him. Particularly in the beginning of the book, I like having a handy reference for describing hero guy. Let's see, who do I have in here? I've got Julian McMahon, again dark and delightful, and I've got Wolf from The 10th Kingdom, because he was the sweetest, most adorable hero EVER. I also have Sean Bean, my only blond, even though the man is ALWAYS cast as the bad guy...he's just too hot not to use! Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Colin Firth as Darcy, and of course, plenty of Gerry Butler. Timeline was a silly movie, but I think the premise was great and HE was wonderful as the secondary hero in it! And he, uh, takes his shirt off in it. For a minute. It was kind of great...not that I was paying sooo much attention or anything. Except for research purposes.

So what about you? When you picture your hero, who do you see, if only in part? Do you like the beefcake golden boy? Or the dark and rangy loner? Tell us all about it. Enquiring minds want to know!

Happy Ogling,

Kendra

Thursday, November 8, 2007

13 Considerations for Constructing a Mythic Hero

OK, as writers and readers we all know our heroes have to be more than stick figures, but how do we flesh them out?
Once we’ve invented a character’s past, charted his or her motivations and aspirations, and perhaps jotted down a physical appearance, what should we think about?
Jack Bickham in “Writing Novels That Sell,” says: “Good characters are not real people. They are exaggerated -- they’re bigger than life -- broadly exaggerated in many respect so that the reader, viewing the character as through a smoked glass, can easily detect the most salient characteristics.”
So we go back and add to their habits, appearance and personality quirks.
Bickham also says, heroes “are more goal-oriented.” They desire something fervently and they take action to get it.
Many writing experts echo this admonition. In “The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing,” Evan Marshall advises, “Define your lead’s goal.” After you do, your hero should be ready to go. Right?
But what if you’re writing more of a mythic adventure story? How do you construct a hero that draws a reader into your adventurous tale?
James N. Frey, in “The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth,” says that “the hero of a myth-based fiction has certain qualities that attract a reader and will not have other qualities that readers find repellant. These [positive] qualities are time-tested .... and heroic qualities have been proven over several millennia of testing to attract readers like honey attracts bear.”
So what are some of those heroic qualities? Glad you asked. Frey devotes a whole chapter to these Mythic Hero Must-Haves.



Thirteen Things about Frey’s Suggestions in Constructing a Hero

Here are 13 of Frey’s Suggestions in Constructing a Hero.
1) Courage. Readers can’t identify with a coward.
2) The hero is clever and resourceful. (As a reader, I know I want my heroes to be competent and skillful.)
3) The hero lives by his own rules and may not quite fit into society. He may be a James Dean, or a Holden Caulfield type or he might be a Fox Mulder, who is different because of his belief in the supernatural. Or a Ray Kinsella, the Iowa farmer who decides to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield. (If you build it, they will come!) He doesn’t conform and he’s not reluctant to carve out his own path.
4) The hero has a special talent. James N. Frey says this quality helps interest the reader in the main character. This talent makes the character special. For example, in “Willow,” Willow Ufgood does sleight of hand tricks. Later, he’s able to save the princess, Elora Danan, using one of his tricks.
5) The hero is good at his job.
6) The hero is a protagonist. At some point in the story, he takes charge after making plans to affect the story’s outcome.
7) The hero is wounded, hurt in some way. Frey says that this wound, whether physical, spiritual or psychological, makes the hero human so that we as readers can relate to him.
8) The hero is motivated by idealism or altruism. It’s hard to respect, or to get involved, with a selfish hero.
9) The hero is attractive. Friends of mine who advocate that the hero be a hunk are right, according to Frey.
10) The hero is loyal.
11) The hero may be able to deal with pain and hardship stoically.
12) The hero may think a lot of himself -- after all, he’s a hero.
13) The hero may be a wise guy. He may crack jokes like Spiderman.




Frey has other hero considerations and a wealth of other helpful advice in his book, “The Key,” but since this is a Thursday Thirteen, I’m going to stop and ask you what other qualities you think a hero should have? And for those who enjoy playing the devil’s advocate, can you name heroes who don’t share at least some of these qualities?
I’ll be happy to hear from you.

Brenda


The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!





Tuesday, November 6, 2007

To Every Warrior, Everywhere

What makes a hero to you? Are we taking about warrior males and females, our Alphas, or our Betas who are heroes and warriors in so many ways? The performer who gives 110% on stage or screen, then hundreds to charity? The doctor who crosses borders into strange land? They may not have muscles like Adonis, but they battle disease with their brains and medical skills for love of those they doesn't even know. What about the accountants who spend their weekends preparing kids for the Special Olympics? The backyard warriors in each home, who are raising their kids, and and making a safe and secure place to live? Each is a warrior, trying to gives as good as they get, and love, honor, and respect those in their keeping. They are the stuff of a hero to me.

My dad died a few years ago, my first hero, and a true warrior. He was a pastor whose battlefield was in his pulpit, and his family and congregation were the ones he fought for, preaching, teaching, counseling, befriending, and giving so much of himself. He was a warrior against cruelty, hate, broken lives, and even the shadow of death. My mother was always there beside him, fighting with him, supporting his efforts with those of her own, woman are warriors too. I fight my battles doing social work, parenting, and trying to make a difference along with my husband, my warrior of choice, not birth.

A warrior is state of the heart. When the heart is in the right place, we are all warriors, and making a difference is a kind of magic that lives in each of us.

Everyday Heroes


As a writer I love heroes, but I admit to going mush for the everyday hero. You know him. He's the average-looking guy that you body-checked into a wall to snag a prime spot near the quarterback/lead singer/hunky actor dude who BTW doesn't know you exist.

I have a teenage daughter. Imagine how often I hear the above scenario or some variation of it. ;)


For me, what I truly love writing is a a man less...overpowering than that alpha male (through I have a deep appreciation for all alpha attributes). Call me a wimp or call me a realist but I love heroes who are firmly rooted in the daily grind. They struggle with the little things like indulging his mother's request to visit a flower show when he'd rather be watching football. Or venturing down the feminine hygiene aisle for his incapacitated teenage daughter. This is the guy who shows the little league team he coaches sportsmanship by congratulating the winning team even if the umps made bad calls and the morale on his own bench is nonexistent.

My guys are big on actions and short on words and the fact that they may have wings or scales or very sharp, pointy teeth is beside the point. What they have in spades is heart. Acutely aware of their own flaws and limitations, they fall in love. And that, dear reader is when the fun really begins because when an everyday hero falls, he falls damn hard.

No sacrifice is too great, be it his pride, reputation or modesty when it comes to love. Why? Because he knows a good woman is worth it.

And they lived happily ever after....





talia

Monday, November 5, 2007

Hail, the Conquering Hero

Fearless. Courageous. Intense. Magnetic. And so, so sexy. Caught your attention, have I? Well, that's the idea. After all, I'm describing that paragon of masculinity, the hero. We romance writers create them for a living. But coming up with the perfect imperfect man isn't quite as easy as you'd think.

It is, however, a lot of fun.

Whichever way you prefer them, golden or dark, charming or brooding, fanged or winged (and around here, fangs and wings are only scratching the surface of possibility!) it's true that all heroes have certain qualities that make them, well, heroic. Whether or not they're good-natured about it, whether or not it's the role they've always longed for, some men are just destined to save the day (occasionally even the world) and get the girl. But what, exactly, makes the true hero a man apart? And why, even when they're dragging a sword around the countryside looking mean and hating life, do we still love 'em so much? They're questions every writer has to ask herself before breathing life into the latest man-of-her-dreams. Because heroes are complicated creatures by nature, often walking the fine line between things like "Alpha" and "jerk." And it's finding that balance that means the difference between your heroine wanting to throw herself into his arms or just throw him out the window.

Lucky for us, studying the subject could never truly be called a chore. And really, any profession that gives me an excuse to look at Gerry Butler a lot is darn near perfect anyway.

The options are limitless. My own favorite heroes run the gamut from sweet, like Tristan Thorn in Stardust, to dark and a little tortured, like Aragorn with all of his One-Ring-related baggage. I even have my own real-life hero at home, a Navy fighter pilot who thinks nothing of putting his life on the line on a regular basis for his country. On the surface, they don't have much in common. But they all deserve the title of "hero" for their ability to rise to any occasion, kick some bad guy butt, and come away the victor. Well, usually. I won't normally read or watch heroes who die in the end, because, surprise, I'm a little invested in my Happily-Ever-Afters! That makes me a teary drag at most Oscar-nominated movies, true. But watching and reading the sort of men who conquer and triumph for a living helps me really hone in on the task of turning a gorgeous, flawed idea of a male character into the sort of hero that does the back of my cover (and God willing, the front as well) justice. He can be anything, as long as he's the kind of guy who ultimately won't accept anything less than winning it all...and makes you want it for him too.

So as you may have guessed, we here at the Otherworld Diner are about to dive into the endlessly fascinating subject of The Hero. Who are our favorites, in books, film, and even regular life? How do we go about creating them in our own writing? And finally, which ones are we, um, fondest of looking at in our spare time? We'll be serving up some fun discussion of these questions and more over the next two weeks, so stick around. There's bound to be something for everyone who loves a good hero...not to mention some eye candy along the way! Now if you'll excuse me, I have a standing lunch date with the tall, dark, fire-breathing gentleman in booth three...

-Kendra

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Harpies: Let's set the pecking order straight

Well, here I am, trying to find out 'bout them Harpy things me teacher Mr. Barrow ask me to resurche. So's I ask me parents.

"Mrs. Jones down at the massage parlor is a real harpy," so me da' said. "Specially when I din't hand over me 20 dollars."

But then me mam says to him, "You wouldn't know a real harpy from a dead brick, an' I'll be a chopping that off if'n you go visit there again."

So, there it is. Neither me mam or da' could tell me what this Harpy thing is, so's I get meself down to Sophie who works at the library an' her books. An' this 'ere is a summry of what them book things of hers sez.

Harpies - A Summry by Arthur Noggin

A long time ago, like it were even before granda’ fell from t’ big oak in Hillsborough and broke ‘is leg. There was dis guy. ‘Is name was Typhon, you know, sounds like one of them big winds they gets in America. Anyways, this hunking guy had like a hundred snakes heads, black slithry tongues and eyes flashin’ like fire. Heh, sounds a lot like me da’ after he’s been drinking.

Seems Typhon (probably drunk like da’) manages to knock up this bird, who goes by the name of Echidna. Like, she must have been drunk too to hitch up wi’ this Typhon guy. Anyhows, Echidna, she’s a half-gorgeous babe down t’ waist, then one humongous snake below it, gets knocked up with his triplit’s. I guess when your guy’s got so many heads it kinda happens like that.

So these triplits are born—well, hatched mebbe, seeings the mom is a snake. And whaddawe get. Three scrumptulicious babes, with the body, wings an’ claws of birds. I mean, I ain’t never seen no birds with nekkid breasts before. Well, unlessn’ you include Sophie’s.

*Ow, whaddya go hit me for?*

*Okay, I’s said I’s sorry. Geesh.*

So, Harpies you see have like a women's head and breasts, and the rest of ‘em are birds. ‘Cept they’re big birds, yeah. Used t’ be Death Spirits ‘cos they was big enough to pick up the stiffs and cart them off to hell, or whatever. Didn’t seem too bad t’ me, being picked up by these nekkid birds when you die.

Must have bin good looking birds too ‘cos, old Zephyros, them Greek’s answer to Mr. Ed, had nagged one of them ‘till he’d knocked her up. Zephyros, just like a dumb, talking horse, galloped back home to some Achilles fella. Harpies one, two and three sat there and watched ‘im go while one of ‘em was stuck with a bun in the oven. I know me da’ woulda bin after ‘im with his gun had anyone done that t' sis. Typhon sux.

Whatever. Anyways one of ‘em soon gave birth to (hatched?) the West Wind, though I reckon mam was feeding ‘em too much beans which caused it. That’s when them Harpies sorta grew old and ugly and everyone called ‘em Wind Spirits now. Which don’t surprise me none ‘cos those beans of mam’s did give you wind somet’ing fierce and ugly.

Being’s as they was now ugly old women, and birds, all they was s’pposed to do was kidnap people, and torment an’ torture ‘em.

Zeus, some guy with a tazer rod, ordered ‘em to take this king dude to their island of Strophades. When they’d gotten Phineas all set up for supper they'd flutter down, snatch the food from his hands, and poop all over his dinner. Sounds like Cindy May from 12th grade. She’s always punching me round and snatching me dinner. Ain’t seen her poop on anything yet, but I bet she does.

Phineas, the wimp, jus’ let ‘em do it and sat there starving till this hero guy, Jason, came by. Just popping in on the neighbors, like. Jason, like me, was smart and inteligunt, an’ set this trap catching the old birds. Then the Harpies’ big sis Iris comes calling out of nowhere and begs this Jason dude to release her little sis’es.

Now, Jason, he’s like, got a soft heart and wants to please the bodacious babe. “But look,” he sez. “That wimpy Phineas is like starving. Can’t you keep your sis’es away from him?”

And Iris, being of soft heart too, and like, knows it’s good for smart guys to look at big boobs—

*Ouch! Whaddya go hit me again for?*

Well, Iris, she sez, “Let them go an’ I promise they’ll never poop in Phineas’ grub again.”

So like, Jason, who’s in love with big boobs, believes her; an’ Iris who’s in love with smart guys who love her big boobs, sends some winged puppies after her sis to keep them away. Zeus’s hunting mutts, they were, go baying after the birds ‘cos, hey, why should Jason get a bird an’ not them.

Iris, she kinda got a little bit busy and forgot the puppies for a while. She finally remembered and called the Boread’s back (that's what this Zeus guy called his puppies). The puppies were a little mucky from all that blood an’ stuff, an’, well, one of her sis had died. We din’t ever find out which, though, since they was all pretty messed up an’ we din’t know how to tell who taken the turkey dive, and none of them could talk seeing's as all they had were beaks now.

Dang Boreassed puppies were tough. Them Harpy feathers was like steel 'cept it din't go rusty, nasty stuff.

Anyway here’s the names of them Harpies, Mr. Barrow, if’n you ever figure out which one we need t’ put the marker up for, I knows Miss Iris would 'preciate it

There was Aello, which meant Storm Swift cos I guess she was swift like a storm, not that one from last September though, that hung around for days. Celaeno, The Dark or they did call her Podarge sometimes, The Swift. Probably thought she was evil ‘cos she cussed out the Trojans good, one time. An’ the third sis was Ocypete, The Swift Wing, who weren't quite swift enough against the Boread's.

Oh, an’ I lied about Jason and Iris doing the thing. They's really din't have anything steady going, but Sophie sez every good myth has to have a love story so she made me add it.

Well, Mr. Barrow, I kinda gotta go now. Sophie said she’s got this itch I gotta scratch, and we gotta go to this closet she knows that no one uses to scratch it. I told her like, I could scratch it here, would be my right pleasure to do so, but she sez I need this special tool that we’ll only find up the closet.

Girl's eh, guess I'll never ken them.

***


SJ Willing

About Our Guest: SJ Willing

When I was young I wanted to grow up--instead, I became a writer!

Born in the historic university town of Cambridge, England, S.J. Willing successfully published a poem in the local newspaper at seven, and it all went downhill from there. College, and a degree in chemistry, was followed by a wide variety of jobs including those as a technical writer, chemist, psychiatric nurse and Starbucks barista. Eventually, fully armed with pen and paper, a brave new outlook on life, and two cats, S.J.'s love for science fiction and romance took over. Thus a new career as a fiction writer was born and S.J.'s first novel, Cyberius III, won the Ecataromance "Best First eBook Romance" award for 2005.

Now, the P.I.A.C.T. Undercover agent romance series is storming on and the thrill of lethal space battle, searing passion and soul-healing love is blazing a way through space and onto your screens and bookshelves.

S.J. Is also the handler and trainer for the esteemed Agent Double D3, whose in-depth reports are scattered over the Internet to shock, amaze and amuse the world. (All reports are eventually archived on S.J.'s forum.)

If you'd like to learn more about the P.I.A.C.T. Universe or its characters, please feel free to send an email to S.J. At sjwillingtoo@yahoo.com with "Found you at Samhain" as the subject, or you could wander over to S.J.'S forum and linger to enjoy the view and chat -- the coffee pot's a-bubbling and friends are always welcome.

S.J.'s web page : http://www.sjwilling.com/
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Friday, November 2, 2007

"I never drink...wine."


Dracula with a long black cape, a Hungarian accent, and incredibly expressive eyes. Bela Lugosi is probably the most well-known vampire ever. But his incredible performance is only the tip of the iceberg. Vampires have been with us since the misty beginnings of human existence.



"The Mysterious Stranger," a German tale whose author is unknown, is possibly the earliest written tale of the vampire. This work, Kipling’s poem "The Vampire," The Vampyre: A Tale By Lord Byron (actually written by John William Polidori), and the work of F. Sheridan Le Fanu all likely influenced Bram Stoker when he wrote the most famous vampire tale of all time--Dracula.



Though most people believe the historical Vlad the Impaler was the inspiration for Dracula, there is controversy about this among scholars. Stoker’s original title was The Un-Dead. It wasn’t until he’d begun that he saw photographs and read of Transylvania and it’s ruler Vlad Dracul. His bloody reign of this man probably inspired many of the traits of the fictional Count Dracula, however.


In the book, Dracula is an evil, horrible creature. There are subtle themes of sexuality in the work, but sexy is not a word that could be used to describe the predator vampire. The same mix is used in the movie Nosferatu. The 1922, silent German film was based on Dracula, but could not get permission from Stoker's widow to use the name. It wasn’t until 1931 that Lugosi made the famous Count something to be lusted after.



Today, vampires run the gamut of horrible evil to sexy heroes. And they are everywhere. In the movies, on television, in books of fact and fiction, vampires abound. The thirst for blood-sucking creatures of the night is all but insatiable.


Still, there are those who still believe that under certain circumstances the dead can rise. In 1897 when Dracula hit the shelves, belief in vampires was common. And to this day vigils are held in cemeteries. As you lie quiet in the dark tonight, remember somewhere there may be those who wait for the dead to rise.
But it’s only a story. Right?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Soul Reaver:

This is a creature I created with two other authors for an anthology we are working on. I originally posted this description at a group blog we created for the anthology.

I give you one of my most favorite monsters of all time. The Soul Reaver:

Most of the time, this creature maintains a human appearance. In place of a soul, however, is the true form of the Reaver. His milky white eyes are startling against the flat, light absorbing black of his skin, which seems to be draped over its elongated bones. At his full height, the Soul Reaver would exceed seven feet tall. His arms are almost as long as his body and are usually held much the same way a praying mantis does. The Reaver’s five fingers are tipped with razor sharp talons, measuring at least twelve inches. These, he uses to “pierce” his unsuspecting victims and draw out their soul for his consumption.

The victim of a Soul Reaver can be identified by a catatonic or “empty” state, accompanied by five discolorations on the chest or back. The Reaver often gorges on the inhabitants of a town or city, creating chaos and despair. It is here, that the Reaver gains his strength. Not from the soul he has stolen, but from the rush of taking what is not his and from the turmoil that act incites.

The male Reaver can only procreate with certain female humans. When he finds a mate, he will stop at nothing to have her, usually by seduction. However, if that does not work, the male Reaver will employ brute force to impregnate his chosen. These offspring--usually male--are born human. However, when they gain a certain age, usually in their twenties and thirties, their Reaver nature will snuff out any humanity they might possess, turning them into the creature that sired them.

Once every hundred or so years, a female Soul Reaver is born. Sickly and frail, she is the polar opposite of her male counterpart; as good as he is evil. Beneath her human form, she is a soft, glowing white with jet black eyes. As with the male, her fingers are tipped with long talons. She does not feed on souls and usually doesn’t know she is anything but human.

The offspring of a male and female Soul Reaver is born a purebred and has no humanity to snuff out, making him very powerful and very evil. Therefore, the female Soul Reaver is coveted by the male and in constant danger…

~ Sandra Barkevich
 
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