Friday, August 31, 2007

One Grain of Sand

"In the beginning, it is always dark."

That's how it is for me, anyway, and it seems that the Childlike Empress would agree. But while she holds the final, precious grain of sand from Fantasia, all I start with in my own beginnings is a nebulous image shimmering faintly in the dark fog of my imagination. And unlike Bastian, who has only to wish to rebuild a world of his wildest dreams, plucking that one inspiring spark from the darkness and expanding it until it's big enough not only for my hero and heroine, but for vast stretches of territory that encompass mountain ranges and oceans, endless forests and barren wastes, takes a little more doing.

Oh, all right, a LOT more doing.

Still, the Empress's tiny grain of sand is, in many ways, a lot like what I start with when I begin to build my worlds. It's a magic thing, bursting with possibility limited only by one's own imagination. It is also a slippery little sucker that can vanish into the carpet if you aren't really, really careful. Those grains are rare and precious, falling into your hands when you least expect it. For me, whole worlds are born with a sudden mental image captured so perfectly in my head that I can almost smell the spices in the air, can nearly hear the calls of the strange and wild creatures that inhabit that place. It's that mental snapshot that drives the creation of all the rest, staying with me long after I've typed those blessed words "The End" on something. It's where the characters live, and sometimes how I discover them in the first place. It's one small moment, the inspiration for an entire world, and if I don't grab on tight and learn its secrets, I'm lost. The Nothing wins, I go on a Ben & Jerry's binge, and a possible world vanishes back into the dust from whence it came.

One grain of sand. But it's everything.

I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that a lot of we worldbuilding-inclined writers draw the inspiration for our fantastic destinations from a single, glittering kernel of an idea. It could be as simple as a story you heard as a child or as complex as a daydream escape you stated working on in college Geology (not that I would know anything about that). A scene in a movie, a favorite song, a photograph or even a bright burst of an image that just came to you from somewhere out in the ether...any of those things can be the grain of sand that starts the adventure and begins to grow your own, singular world. For me, the inspiration seems to be nature, maybe because I chose to create characters that are intrinsically tied to the places they inhabit. My heroes prowl the misty Highlands, a place that I didn't create myself but that have inspired countless writers with their mystery and beauty. The realm of their otherworldly archenemies, however, came from an image that I couldn't seem to get out of my head, a purely imaginary vision of violet lightning flashing over a dusty plain, jagged and pitch-black mountains rising in the distance against an eternally half-lit sky.

Yes, I built it in my sandbox. No, I'm not sure you should poke at it...the things that live there tend to bite.

But I don't always work from things caught out of thin air, either. The sight of a shadowy forest, lush and green with Summer and heavy with the sultry July heat, was all I needed to create my current heroine's natural habitat in the same world as those forbidding mountains. Expanding their borders to touch took some stretching and flexing of the ol' mental muscles, but once I did it, those puzzle pieces clicked right into place. And no, despite my mention of him in my last post, Fabio will not be riding a Luck Dragon through the skies there anytime soon. Oh, come on, now. Dry your tears. The magic of Fabio will always be there for those who seek it. Though, um, if you don't mind, I'll be taking the Luck Dragon for myself, thanks.

Maybe it seems like a haphazard way of creating. Someone once described my process as "organic." I liked that, since I had always thought of it as being a word slightly less-printable:-) But worldbuilding, like every other aspect of writing, is a highly individualized undertaking. Being a semi-pantser, or She-Who-Waddles-Around-With-Pants-Half-Down (and wearing the toesocks as a bright distraction) seems to work for me. I love to have that flash, that first quick glimpse of an entirely new place, and then start expanding my view. Yes, I do have to make lists of perinent info, and I do have to outline and set rules for these brave new worlds. That part can be fun too. Well, sort of sometimes, anyway. But in the beginning, it's just me and that one glowing grain of sand in the dark.

And I like it that way.

So I'm going to get all interactive here, like Talia did when she let us watch her Blackberry-wielding warriors try to manage her dragons' financial situations (an image that, as you can see, is still not quite out of my head). Pick a world, any world you've created, and share the inspiration that started it for you, no matter how seemingly mundane or totally bizarre. Descriptions, of course, are welcome...I love to hear about places that may one day be stamped in my Fantasy Passport! It's looking a little ragged and stained these days, sadly, but that's what happens when you travel with an overflowing mug of coffee at all times.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday Thirteen: Story Settings That Tug Readers In

One long, hot summer I worked in a non air-conditioned dry cleaners. Around noon when the last cleaning loads finished, everyone left because of the stifling heat – except for me, the lowly counter girl. I sat on a stool and, to pass the time, read the owner’s paperbacks between customers. I remember being startled when a white-haired gentleman thumped the counter. I looked up from page 78 of The Wolf and the Dove and blinked. I couldn’t fathom what this man wanted until he thrust his claim ticket at me. Yes, I must admit: I was so engrossed in my book I missed the door buzzer and failed to notice my customer until his counter slap brought his presence to my attention.

I’d been transported to Darkenwald, in Saxon, England -- out of Kathleen Woodiwiss’ imagination.

Last night I curled up in my favorite armchair and let my present world slip away so that I could ride shotgun with Stephanie Plum. We cruised the streets of Trenton, New Jersey, in yet another ill-fated Honda CRV. Again I was transported. It was like experiencing a pleasant dream.

James N. Frey in How to Write a Damn Good Novel II says, “As a fiction writer, you’re expected to transport a reader. Readers are said to be transported when, while they are reading, they feel they are living in the story world, and the real world around them evaporates.”

I’ve often wondered how you cause your reader to slip into your story’s world? James N. Frey suggests using vivid details.

Chrystal McCoy says, “Setting is a great way to allow your reader to become part of your story.”

Janet Evanovich in How I Write gives these tips about setting:
· “Provide the setting and atmosphere information as close as possible to the beginning of the book.”
· “Place the character for the reader.” Mention the where and when of the character’s life.
· “Use your atmosphere to cause the reader to feel something.”
· “Engage all the senses when describing a place.”

Noah Lukeman in “The First Five Pages” agrees with using all FIVE senses to bring a setting to life. He also states: “Most importantly, have your characters interact with your settings. . . . The ultimate goal of your characters’ interaction with the setting is to have your characters actually affected by the setting.”

Summing up: An intriguing setting can be the launch pad of a great story. Here’s my list of some of the best settings I’ve read. Can you guess who created them? Give it a try. I’ll post the list of their authors in comments later this week.

13 Fantastic Fictional Places I’d Like to Visit (And some of the reasons why)

1.) Alagaesia. I want to find an egg for myself.
2.) The Land of Ingary in hopes of spotting a moving castle
3.) Bree, Rivendell or Rohan Who wouldn’t want to meet elves and hobbits?
4.) The Well of Souls, provided I could choose what creature I became
5.) Earth-Sea. I’ve wanted to attend Roke for some time.
6.) The Crooked Magician’s house in Munchkin County. The Patchwork girl, Ozma and I could be great friends.
7.) The twin cities of Reality and Illusion in the Kingdom of Wisdom.
8. Damar. I’m sure one of my long-lost relatives came from the Hillfolk.
9.) Angelshand or Kymil. I’m fond of wizards and mages.
10.) Ansalon. Flirting with danger, I’d like to study magic with Raistlin Majere.
11.) Hed or Yrye. I’m pretty good with riddles.
12.) TirAsleen. I’d like to help Thorn.
13.) The city of Hagsgate, to see how Molly’s getting along.

Happy Thursday!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
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! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Building By the Seat of Your Pants

I am a pantser-a writer who does little pre-planning, and generally writes off the top of her head. As I have shifted into novel and novella length fantasy and paranormal, creating alternate realities has gotten more complex. I realized it may be a good thing to begin each new world without using my pants, so to speak...

When I start a new world, I try to jot down some basic information to help keep the continuity in my story. It can be on note-cards, or in separate document. Start with the question "How is this alternate reality the same, and how is it different from our world?"

It seems simplest to start with the big issues:
What type of government exists, what kind of laws and enforcement are in place, and what drives the economy? Are there castes or slavery? Is there a monarchy, theocracy, or any kind of 'cracy? Is there an army, or enforcers of the laws that exist? Is there money exchanged, taxes, (thanks Talia), or trade? Is it an economy based on magic power?

Then we step down a level:
How do the residents of this world interact socially? Are there families and friendships? How do they form relationships? (This may be particularly important in a romance novel.) Do they reproduce and raise children? How are people educated? What kind of industry or jobs exist?

Finally we get down to the individual level:
What kind of humans and paranormal or fantasy creatures inhabit your world? What are their powers and skills? What other sexes may exist besides male and female? This section could also include any interesting aspects of intimacy that are different from our own. Are these alternate lifestyle choices accepted?

It can't hurt to do a short description of personal characteristics for your characters, especially the main ones that are not human. You can refer back to these notes as you write so you won't create awkward exceptions along the way. Consistency is a big issue with editors and publishers, and for us pantsers, it can become a real problem.

So when world building; I advise every pantser to let their pants down, metaphorically speaking, and do a little outlining of your strange new world. You can still write that plot straight out of your imagination, but your details will make more sense if you have a basic world-plan to access. There are tons of forms and sites you can google, here are a couple.
The first site is a set of forms you can use, the second has links to a lot of world-building info and exercises.

Hope my fellow pantsers find this useful, but my friends we have to change this name. Do you like Freestylers better?

Chat with you all soon!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Playing God on Paper

Oh the joy of building castles in a sandbox of your own making! One of the joys and headaches of writing paranormal is creating your own world. Yeah! My world! My rules! I am in complete control! MWAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Wait, you want what? Logic? And consistency? But--but I want to play! You stomp your foot, cross your arms and threaten to take your sandbox home.

Calm down. Worldbuilding is fun but it's also hard work. Hey, you have to convince your reader that your world exists for 300 pages or so. And that doesn't mean you have to be dull. You can mix things up like having dragons paired with warrior accountants. Just don't throw them together without having logical reasons. Do dragons need accountants to keep track of their hordes? Or maybe they need to take some creative tax deductions?

Or maybe it's a clever way to launder money between magic and non-magic worlds. Hmm. See? Even humorous logic can work.

So let's try an exercise: what are some elements you would add to a world that paired dragons and accountants as allies in any of the above?

Elements can be physical (like weather or landscape) or societal, but how would you add dimension to this premise? I look forward to your comments but won't be checking in til night.
I've got a sudden urge to read the tax codes....



Sunday, August 26, 2007

I always wanted to be a science fiction writer. The old Star Trek series introduced me to SF, which I then began to read voraciously. It wasn’t long before I tried to write my own, but my science fiction stories put it nicely, horrible. Eventually I gave up and began writing contemporary stories. Everything I wrote seemed to have people falling in love, so I finally gave up the pretense and began admitting I wrote romance. I still occasionally tried to write science fiction, but my muse just wasn’t working with me.

My life changed one day in 1997. I attended a one-day romance writers conference, and one of the speakers was Catherine Asaro. Ms. Asaro, a respected science fiction writer and scientist with multiple degrees from UCLA and Harvard, stood in front of us and proudly stated she wrote science fiction romance.

I was stunned. I’d never heard of such a thing. Combine science fiction and romance. I had discovered Nirvana! The world suddenly opened. I just didn’t have the guts to actually try this great new thing I’d discovered, especially since it was such a new sub-genre. Ms. Asaro sold her books as science fiction, and I'd already found my muse didn't play in that sandbox. I contented myself with putting tiny paranormal elements into my contemporary romances.

At this point, my life took a couple of side trips. I wrote, but not a lot, and I didn’t submit much either. I did, however, manage to find and read some paranormal romances. Among the novels that had the most influence on me were Catherine Asaro’s books (of course), the old Silhouette Shadows books (especially Waiting for the Wolf Moon by Evelyn Vaughn), Nora Roberts’s Three Sisters Island trilogy, and Linda Lael Miller’s vampires. There were others, but I can’t them remember right now.

Eventually, I read a Katie MacAlister vampire novel and began to look for, and read funny paranormal romances. Since the first little piece I’d ever had published was humor, it seemed a natural for me to try my hand. With mixed excitement and trepidation, I began a humorous paranormal romance about a woman who moves into a haunted house.

My muse had other ideas. The dang thing got darker and spookier. Yeah, there was still a wide streak of humor, but it was a part of a spooky whole. I tried to beat the story into shape, but my muse refused to work with me. I threw up my hands in surrender, and wrote a dark paranormal with comic relief. I didn't care, because I’d come home. I could have my cake and eat it too (the cake here at the diner is wonderful, by the way).

Other paranormal romance authors who have influenced and inspired me are Sherrilyn Kenyon, Mary Janice Davidson, Susan Grant, Kerrelyn Sparks, Charlain Harris, Michelle Rowen, Ann Macela, Susan Squires, Jesse Verino, and many more that I just can’t think of right now. Plus there are more that are on my "gotta buy/read soon" list.

Okay, I have to go now. I should write, or do housework, or something constructive. What I want to do is curl up and read.

But isn’t that what it’s all about?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Guest Blogger Shara Lanel

I'm pleased to introduce everyone here at the diner to my good friend and our first guest blogger Shara Lanel.

Shara Lanel dashes in humor and paranormal angst in her books for Liquid Silver, Loose Id, and New Concepts. Secrets and Spies is her latest release about a girl with telekinesis and the agent who loves her. And watch for her upcoming release, Blame It On The Moon, about a werewolf and a mind reader investigating a murder.

Give Me Some Laughs with that Vamp!

When Lori mentioned the topic of humorous paranormals, I immediately thought of Mary Janice Davidson. I absolutely love her books, from a reluctant vamp with a shoe fetish to a "retooled" cyborg who'd rather not work for the government. This author has a quirky way of expressing herself, so it's her voice that has me on the floor laughing as much as what's going on in the books. And that's why I love Janet Evanovich, too. No, she doesn't write paranormal, just mystery, but it's her voice that brings her books to life as much as her characters. (Joe or Ranger? Tough choice!)

Then there's Katie MacAllister--cool web site, by the way, and I love that she writes cross-genre: straight contemporaries, paranormals, and YA, all with the humor running strong throughout. Her latest anthology boasts Viking ghosts and Irish gods. And I never would have thought of a shape shifting dragon, though they seem to be the rage now. Katie is an inspiration to me personally, because I tend to alternate between suspenseful contemporaries to humorous paranormals to angsty futuristics. I know, I know. I should settle down and brand myself, but I love exploring all the different sub-genres of romance.

Now some paranormal authors don't seem comic for the most part, but they know when to sprinkle in some laughter. That’s why I enjoy Angela Knight, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Charlaine Harris. Too much downbeat tension makes for a dull book, wouldn’t you say? And this reminds me—Harry Potter! My son loves Ron’s expressions in the films and as we’ve been reading the first book together, I was reminded of all the wonderful humor JK Rowling puts in names and contrasts in the books, like Hagrid being too big for a broom so he rides a motorcycle and poor Uncle Vernon trying to figure out why people are dressed so oddly on a city street while whispering about the Potters.

I personally have been researching ghost hunting for a few months. The obsession started with watching Most Haunted, which I find quite funny, particularly after watching Hugh Laurie's SNL skit on YouTube. I also enjoy Ghost Hunters, because they tend to approach their search with a healthy dose of skepticism. So then I discovered Lisa Cach, who wrote A Babe in Ghostland. This book was romantic, fun, and full of atmosphere. I also enjoyed Ghost, Interrupted by Sonia Singh, which had a similar story line. However, the best book I've read by Sonia was about a reincarnated Kali: Goddess for Hire. It's like Chick Lit crossed with Bollywood and starts out with "I never believed in dharma, karma, reincarnation, or any of that spiritual crap..."

My current release Secrets and Spies brings in the fun ala Romancing the Stone and hijinks like Remington Steele with a dash of James Bond. Parker thinks his babysitting-Casey-Summers assignment is bogus, his boss’s way of sending him on vacation so he can lower his blood pressure, while Casey wishes she could control her telekinesis and get it to stop screwing up her life. I was definitely inspired by Mary Janice Davidson and Katie MacAllister while working on this book. I wanted it to be escapist and humorous, everything I love in a great romance. You can find an excerpt at And I’m going to give away a free e-copy to a lucky commenter today. Just post a comment on something I’ve mentioned in this blog and I’ll pick a winner at the end of the day!

Shara Lanel

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ellora's Cave Turned Me On...

To Paranormal Romance, that is. I'd say minds out of the gutter here...but, well, it is Ellora's Cave. ;-)

Yes, I read Warrior's Woman back in high school. And, yes, I read some time travel back then (Of course, that stopped after reading Knight In Shining Armor. I'm sorry, and I know it's just my opinion, but a reincarnation is NOT the same man!!! I was very, very upset with that ending.), but I never really strayed much from the traditional Historical Romance until Elloras Cave.

Suddenly, I was face to face with hot werewolves and steamy vampires. The quintessential alpha male. *Sigh* Whoooo Baby! I was HOOKED! I don't remember the first humorous paranormal I read, but I can share a few of my favorites. These are books and authors I love and go back to every time. Some got their start at Ellora's Cave and are now making quite a name for themselves with the big guys in NY.

One of the first series I got involved with is Dark Promises by Elisa Adams. These are very entertaining. I really liked how Elisa used more than the typical paranormal fare. She delves into demons and other dark creatures. Definitely thumbs up from me.

Oh! And you can't forget the Fantasy Fixed series by Christine Warren. I sucked these books down. Her dry wit and sarcastic humor is fantastic! And, I'm not the only one who thinks so. The first six books in this series are with Elloras Cave, but the next two are with St. Martin’s Press. She is a must read on my list.

I love Myla Jackson's Trouble series. Each of the heroes have been cursed into a genie bottle, forced to grant their "owner's" every wish. Ummm, usually these wishes have a decidedly sexual bent and make for some incredibly humorous scenes. Try Trouble with Harry I think you'll like it.

I've just pointed out a few with some humor in their writing, but there are so many more.

What sorts of humor do you look for in your reading? Do you like the in your face slapstick humor? Or the more subtle sarcastic wit? I think I'm partial to the latter.

~Sandra Barkevich

I am hosting a "workshop" post on World Building with Nalini Singh at Sandra's Goings On. So, whether you're a writer, just toying with the idea of writing, or a reader who wants a little behind-the-scenes-know, stop by on the 6th.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My Paranormal Childhood

Since we're all paranormal photoblogging and making confessions, here's mine - I've loved the paranormal romance since before I could talk.
Like so many other little girls, I grew up on tales on knights in shining armor slaying dragons for their princesses. Yes, that's a paranormal romance.
In fact, the paranormal romance has been around for well over 300 years. Giambattista Basile is first credited with writing down the tale of Rapunzel, who is locked in a tower by a witch in 1634. The Grimm brothers changed a few details and created the more modern adapation we love today way back in 1812!

One of my most treasured books to this day is my Grimm Brother's Fairy Tales book. It's pages are worn and yellowed.

What little girl hasn't dreamed of being Sleeping Beauty? Falling asleep to wake to your very own Prince Charming kissing you senseless and living happily ever after? Um, yes, there's nothing ordinary about falling under a spell - it's a paranormal romance!

Search through all your childhood stories and you'll find paranormal tales of witches and dragons and magic. How about Snow White and the poisoned apple? How about Cinderella and her Fairy Godmother?
So when I sat down to write my own version of a romance, I knew deep in my heart that I would always stay true to my roots, no matte how hard I tried I could never fight the pull of the power of the paranormal. After all, doesn't every woman and little girl know that happily ever after is always magical (whether there is actual magic involved or not!)

And there you have it - my inspiration for writing paranormal romance comes from my childhood - from deep in my soul, where the little girl still lives and thrives, and knows that happy ever after is a state of mind and love is a state of the heart!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I have a confession to make...

I'm not an avid reader of paranormal romance. Up until recently, I'd never read about vampires or werewolves or shapeshifters and the idea of dragons in a romance novel was absurd! Those things belonged in Harry Potter books (love them!), not mine.

Now, now, put the torches and stones down, and hear me out. My first love is contemporary, always has been and probably always will be. But one day, about ten years ago, I picked up A Knight in Shining Armour by Jude Deveraux. I didn't know at the time I was reading a paranormal romance, although nowadays it would be considered time travel. I loved this book and to this day, it's one of my favorites.

Not too long after that, my mother-in-law gave me a book by Barbara Michaels, Ammie, Come Home. It's not a romance, but a ghost story with some romantic elements. I loved it. Ever since then I've had a fascination with ghosts (who else watches Ghost Hunters every Wednesday night?)

Here's another confession. The first time I read a Nora Roberts book was..... last year. I can hear you dropping those torches and stones in shock, but it's true. My sister-in-law is a huge fan of The Nora and gave me three of her books, Key of Light, Key of Knowledge and Key of Valor. I was skeptical. A trilogy about Celtic gods? I read all three books over a weekend.

I never thought I could write paranormal. I mean, I do have an imagination, but how could I ever compare with these authors? But there is something liberating about making up weird stuff and no one can tell you you're wrong. Ya can't do that with a contemporary and you'll be burned at the stake if you try it with historical romance.

So, I've read and have written about ghosts, time travel, gods, witches, angels and magic. Huh, waddaya know. I guess I'm an avid fan after all.


Monday, August 20, 2007

The One That Started It All (for me)

I have to confess, I came to the romance world relatively late in life. As a teen, with the exception of the occasional V.C. Andrews or Judy Bloom novel, I was more interested in boys than books. In my college years, if it wasn’t required for class credit, I didn’t read it. Then one day, at the ripe old age of 28, I found one of my roommate’s romance novels sitting on the coffee table in front of me. As I recall, it was one of those Indian brave/white captive stories. What’s a girl who’s in love, newly engaged and bored to do? I read it of course! My interest piqued, off to the bookstore I went to see what else was out there.

There was no rhyme or reason to what I bought after that, although I tended to stick to historicals, fanning out from Indians to Highland warriors to pirates to knights in shining armor. Once I discovered the used book store, I began buying them in bulk, reading 3 to 4 books a week. Yes, I admit it--I’d become a romance novel junkie, always in need of that next HEA fix.

But something was missing in my mountain of books. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Then, in the bottom of one of those grocery bags of to-be-read novels was an anthology I didn’t even remember buying. There, tucked between Jude Deveraux, Judith McNaught, and Arnette Lamb was a story by an unknown (to me) author. It was the quirky, funny tale of an earthbound angel and the lonely, cynical man who falls in love with her on a magical Christmas Eve. It totally captivated me. As I finished that story, I remember thinking, “Now THIS is what a romance should be!”

You see, in my skewed view of the world love is hardly ever smooth and painless. We all stub our toes along the way, suffering bruises, bumps and often humiliating public embarrassment as we struggle toward that elusive thing called love. Even the most confident he-man alpha hero will act like a total idiot when he’s in love with a woman who gives him fits. Then throw in a paranormal element like a bumbling angel on Heavenly suspension and you’re just asking for trouble--in a laugh-out-loud-in-public, snort-soda-up-your-nose hilarious way.

That novella was “Daniel and the Angel” in the Holiday of Love anthology. The author was Jill Barnett and on that day she introduced me to the world of humorous paranormals like no other author ever had . . . and I haven’t looked back since!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Forty Years of Pern

F'lar as drawn by Robin Wood
I've written romance since I was a teenager, but the idea of mixing romance with paranormal themes didn't occur to me until I read the Dragonriders of Pern® series by Anne McCaffrey. Anne's books were not full out romance, but rather sf/paranormal with romantic elements but they inspired me to write nonetheless. Why? I discovered the Pern fan culture. Rabid fans who created their own characters and wrote about them using rules specified by the DragonLady herself. It was incredible. Incredible fun and a great proving ground for me as a writer.
Anne's first dragonrider book was published in 1967 so her unique world is celebrating a 40th anniversary this year. Talk about longevity. Not only that, but how many writers can pass a writing legacy on to their children. Oh their royalties, sure. But their world? Anne's son Todd has taken over the reins of her worlds and has written several novels in his own right now.

Why am I so taken with her world and why did it inspire me to write? The characters. Anne writes amazing, complex characters that recognize shades of gray. LOTS of gray. I also love the way her characters could look at life and see humor. I loved Lessa with all her prickly edges and sarcastic humor and I wished I could steal F'lar from her. Now there was a hot dragonrider!

Anne's Dragonrider series was one of the first where m/m relationships were accepted. A daring breakthrough in 1967. Now m/m romance is all the rage. What goes around comes to speak.

Pern fandom was a blast. It was one of the first times I met people from all over the place via the computer. This was the bad ole days when AOL was huge and hugely expensive (2.95 a minute) using dial up and I often had to call a long distance number to access things on top of it. Ouch. But it was worth it because I met equally obsessive Pern fans who wanted to create their own characters on Pern. I even went to DragonCon and met a bunch of them about ten years ago. A community of writers to brainstorm and collaborate with - could there be anything cooler? Early versions of social networking.

I value the experiences and the friends I made then and I want to wish Anne McCaffrey a happy 40th Pern anniversary. To find out more about Pern fandom, please visit The Pern Museum and Archives. Any other Pern or Anne McCaffrey fans out there? Sound off and leave a comment or two!

Friday, August 17, 2007

What That Thing Was

I was frightened to touch it, but it broke through the weed barrier fabric all by itself. And it was...

A stupidly monstrous mushroom. Here is my poem about it:

It grew in a day
in soil of clay
without any water
when it couldn't be hotter.

Considering the weather and the circumstances NOT being conducive to mushroomic growth, it could still be space fungi...right?

Jody W. *

Aliens Gone Wild (And One Gone Suspiciously Fabio)

When we decided to spend this week and next either photoblogging with a paranormal bent (para-photoblogging?) or talking about inspiring paranormal romances, I knew exactly what I had to do. No, not photoblog, though I'm sure everyone would be enthralled by the contents of my hero pic folder (subtitled "The Carousel of Studs") and/or pictures of my giant cat sleeping on his back and impersonating roadkill. Let's face it. Nothing I could do would beat the survivalist lawn gnome living in Jody's rock garden anyway. So I'm going to talk about The One That Started It All where myself and paranormal romance is concerned. The one that made me sit up and go, "Ohmigod, this is, like, WICKED cool!" No, really. I was thirteen at the time. I said "wicked" a lot.

I have loved romance for years. I started stealing my mother's romance novels sometime in sixth grade, and from then on, I had to have my Happily-Ever-After fix on a regular basis. I read 'em all. Regencies. Scottish Historicals. Vikings. Sultans. They were the comfort food of my youth and remain some of my oldest friends, though many of the copies are now dog-eared and stained with REAL comfort food, i.e. cheezie poofs. However, in 1990 one book came along that utterly changed my notions of what a romance novel could be. The author was Johanna Lindsey, and the book was Warrior's Woman.

Yeah, so I scrounged up the Totally Eighties Cover (they've since changed it to reflect the P.F., or Post-Fabio, state of cover art). There's lots of purple eyeshadow, some ridiculously falling-off extraterrestrial dress thingie, and Fabio-as-alien-with-a-whonking-big-sword. But believe me when I tell you that beneath that amusing clinch cover, which I admit I still kinda love for sentimental reasons, is magic. Tedra De Arr, a smart-mouthed babe with a lethal weapon body, is one of the original kick-ass heroines, paving the way for all of us today who write smart, assertive, take-no-prisoners women. I'll admit, Tedra was a lot different from the other heroines I'd read at the time, but as I read, she grew on me. I liked that she was sarcastic and difficult. I liked that her hero was going to have the fight of his life getting to her heart. And I REALLY liked the notion that somewhere out there, there is a planet populated entirely by giant, beautiful, sword-wielding barbarians who can make you theirs with a single word.

Well, um, I know. I'm just being honest.

Really, though. Setting a romance on an entirely different planet sparked my interest like no other book had. I'm not sure, but it seemed like that was a really cutting-edge idea at the time. It would have been easy for something like that to feel flat and contrived, of course, but Ms. Lindsey created a richly-textured, multi-layered world that I left only reluctantly. It was, in a word, amazing. So amazing that even to this day, I would don as much purple eyeshadow as I had to if only I could bring planet Kystran to life. Along with the sword-wielding general populace, of course:-)

The love story of Tedra and Challen Ly-San-Ter, as well as the story of their daughter in the equally awesome Keeper of the Heart, marked a major turning point in what I was looking for in a romance. I had turned to other genres when I needed a fix of fantasy, or sci-fi, or even horror. But Warrior's Woman made me realize that there were romances that would let me have it all at once. I loved that unique blend. I sought it out. As the market changed and broadened, that got easier. And finally, I set out to write the sort of books that I fell in love with, complete with force-of-nature heroine, supernaturally-inclined hero, and worlds where the unexpected and fantastic lurks just around every corner. Johanna Lindsey, by doing something so original at the time, helped shape me as both a reader and a writer. Oh, and earned my undying devotion as a fangirl for life, of course! Which, in my opinion, is the greatest gift of all. *fluffs hair, admires nails*

So, how about you? What was the first paranormal romance you really fell in love with? And more importantly, did it have Fabio on the cover? Tell me about it, and I'll sneak a bite of that French Silk Pie you've been neglecting. There's nothing sweeter than a favorite romance, but chocolate pie comes close! Especially when it's as wicked good as ours.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

13 Things I’ve Learned About Writing from Natalie Goldberg

First, I must start with a disclaimer. I don’t know Natalie. I’ve never met her in person. I haven’t read all her books, but I’m a fan just the same. The truth is, I’ve read many of her books and I’d like to share 13 things she taught me about writing.

Note: As my friends know, I don’t always pay attention to the main points. Some of these aren’t Natalie’s core rules, but many are. Any poor wordings or misunderstandings here are student error (mine), not Natalie’s.

1.) To start writing, you need to begin. Start cheaply with a good pen and some paper. You don’t have to spend a lot.

2.) Once you start, don’t stop. “Keep your hand moving,” she says.

3.) Give details. Be as specific as possible. There’s a big difference between a flame point Siamese and a lynx.
4.) Say what you want. Don’t worry about being polite or proper. If you want to swear or cry or rant, go ahead.

5.) Don’t worry about all those writing rules from English literature and high school composition. If need be, basics such as grammar, punctuation and spelling can wait until you’ve got your ideas on paper.

6.) Write like a street fighter. Don’t be afraid to gut-punch or throw a haymaker.

7.) Get what you need to say out.

8.) Good writing takes time. Have the compassion to give yourself that time.

9.) Practice. Writing, like all learned skills. takes practice.

10.) If you want to get good at writing you have to practice a lot. (Yeah, I know I’m repeating. That’s how practice works.)

11.)Tell the truth. Honesty adds power to art.

12.)Time your writing. Do 10-minute drills. They work.

13.)When you get discouraged about your writing journey, read Natalie, she’ll lift your spirits.

My favorite quote from Natalie comes from her Minnesota Workshop, "Writing the Landscape of Your Mind." She says, "The gift of good writing is a moment in being present and if the writing is present, you almost physically can't turn from it."

Do you have a favorite Natalie quote? Has she inspired you?



Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

1. MamaArcher

2. Nancy Bond

3. Comedy Plus

4. Colleen

5. Damozel

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

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! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Moon Child

I have always desired to live in an enchanted world. This passion began with fairy princesses and The Wizard of Oz. I wanted to live over the rainbow, fly to the moon, and even swing on a star. Once I read The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, it became a lifetime obesession.

It was destiny, of course. I was born under a full moon, a true child of the night. My moods and creativity wax and wane with the supernatural rhythms of the moon, shifting constantly with the tides. My words flow like glittering moonbeams in the ripples of a lake, or lie hidden behind dark clouds. Sometimes my muse gets shrouded in storms of indecision.

I am at my best when the moon reaches its zenith. That is when my mind is most alive, and there is magic in the air. If I were a witch I would put on my robes, grab my cats and dance beneath the mystic moonlight. Unfortunately my neighbors and family might not find this form of expression completely sane.

So I gather my cats, turn on my laptop and let the magic find its power in my writing. In my mind I float through the sky, anchored to the cradle of the moon by gossamer threads of starlight. Here my muse guides me to places of bright imagination. Dark mysteries mingle with comic adventures, in lands where no man or woman has gone before.

Destiny made me a child of the moon, and my heart has kept me basking in its soft caress as I write on, and on, and on. May moonlight guide your footsteps to your own magic places, or join me and my staff-mates in ours.

Shine On,
Debralee Daniels

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

When Reading Leads to Writing Writers

Books. Gotta love 'em. And if the stories chronicled in those books move or inspire you into actually picking up a pen or sitting down at your keyboard to set down your own story, then chances are there's an author out there you may want to thank.

Before I had decided to write for publication, I went to my local library and picked up a book called Must Be Magic by Patricia Rice. It's a historical paranormal with situational humor and a cast of characters that truly tickled my fancy. So much so, that I shot off an email to Pat telling her how much I enjoyed and that I wanted to write, did she have any advice? I was shocked when she actually wrote me back. Not only that, but she gave abfab advice by telling me to join RWA and learn the craft. I did exactly that a month later and wrote her back telling her that I had joined and was going to my first conference later that year. Incredibly, Pat was giving a workshop at the very same conference and I had the honor and pleasure to meet her in person.

Romance writers are a wonderful community of creative, hard-working people. And Pat's generosity of spirit is in no way uncommon. Since then, I have emailed many authors and have received some wonderful advice from these wordsmiths. That they still manage to take the time to answer a reader is one of the many magical aspects of this profession. Our words touch others.

So have you read a great story lately? Been touched by a spunky heroine? Fallen in love with a funny, sexy hero? You have? Great! Write the author a note telling her that. Or if you've already done this and gotten a great reply, share it with the rest of us. Spread that good karma around.

BTW, Pat's latest novel comes out next week. I think I'll be writing another email very soon.



Monday, August 13, 2007

What the Heck Is This Thing?

I have a rock garden.

By that, I don't mean that I have some lovely, proportionate rocks artistically stacked in rings around clumps of ferns or desert flowers. I mean my former flower garden is covered with weed barrier fabric, a layer of small rocks, and an assortment of larger rocks. While there are two terra cotta pots at either end of my rock garden, there are no plants anywhere else. Not even any weeds. (Dead leaves don't count!)

When the inlaws ask what I want for my birthday, I ask for rocks. When we go on vacation, we try to find a good sized rock to remember our journey--and help fill the rock garden. When I do the spring lawncare shopping, I buy rocks instead of flowers and fertilizer. My hubby humored me and put in the rock garden five years ago when it became painfully obvious I was not going to maintain any sort of living garden; and nor was he. So we've had our funny little rock garden in place for five years, slowly increasing in depth and number of rocks.

And what does this have to do with photoblogging and writing? Well, here in TN we've been experiencing a drought and 100+ temperatures. The other day when dashing from the air conditioned house to the air conditioned car, my eye chanced upon a strange protuberance in my rock garden. The white pea gravel had humped up in an odd fashion, so I reached down, poked around, and discovered:

I mean, what **is** that? The only things beneath my rock garden are weed barrier fabric and hard, dry Tennessee clay.

At first I thought it was a strange grey rock. Then I prodded it. It was smooth and round, like a softball. It had a bit of give, unlike any rock I know. And it was beneath the weed barrier fabric.

I couldn't piddle around in the 101 degree heat and contemplate the issue, so I trundled off on my errands, unable to put the strange protuberance out of my mind. Why was it there? What could it be? Was it dangerous?

And here is where the part about writing comes in. The things I imagined the protuberance could be that would lead to a story include:

1) A dinosaur egg about to hatch, baked to readiness in the unusually hot sun
2) An alien dinosaur egg about to hatch
3) An item buried, long before the rock garden, that was supposed to remain hidden for all time, possibly of a "Jumangi game" or "one ring" nature since it managed to burble to the surface in search of a new victim
4) An item buried mere days ago by someone fleeing the police/mob/Spanish Inquisition and desperate for a place to conceal it (next to show will be the code written in blood on my aggregate walk referencing a great work of art)
5) Some kind of weird chemically-induced bubble, hardened, from an underground lava lake/hotsprings/insert your chemical-releasing disaster movie fodder

What do you think it could be? For reals? For funs? I'll post the answer in a few days when one of our other staff members consents to share the day with my quick update :)

Jody W. *
PS: For the next two weeks, the staff at the Otherworld Diner is going to be doing some photoblogging (blogs inspired by photos) and bookblogging (blogs inspired by favorite paranormal romances). Y'all be sure and join us, if the starving alien dinosaur that hatches hasn't made mincemeat pie of the Diner!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Other Flavor of Funny

My fellow Otherworld employees have posted wonderful blogs this week regarding humor in paranormal novels. I started a little essay, but wasn’t at all happy with it. There just didn’t seem to be anything new to say. Then I realized what I really wanted to blog about was “the other humor.” The in-jokes.

You hear about it all the time in movies and TV shows, those little instances where you have to know certain facts to “get it.” For instance, on the TV show House, Dr. House’s address (No. 221, Apt. B) is a reference to Sherlock Holmes’s famous address (221B Baker St.). Some are more personal though, like using the names of family and friends on a list that is only seen on the screen for a moment.

Books can do the same thing. I first realized this while reading a romance novel several years ago. There was a character named Mrs. Stoddard, and I immediately thought of the old Dark Shadows TV show. Then a little later, a Collins appeared, and I knew the writer was deliberately planting little references. I began to pay attention when I read, and in other books I found references to soap operas, movies, and popular music, among others. It made reading those books a little more fun.

Of course, sometimes only a few people will see the connection. For instance, I was reading a book written by a friend of mine, when I realized four characters mentioned in passing bore the names of mutual friends of ours. I loved it, but only a select few people would have seen the humor.

The first time I put an “undercover” reference into my writing, I was working on my first novel and was trying to figure out the right name for my heroine. It was at this time that Karen Carpenter died. I named the character Caren in honor of the lost musician. Now you know how long I’ve been writing. I’ll tell you something else, that first novel was a short story gone wrong, and I’m grateful it’s never been published. It was horrible! To be honest, it read like a Dick and Jane book. Something along the lines of, “Caren went to her car. She saw something in the rearview mirror. Slowly she realized it was a bee.” Yeah, it was that bad.

Many years, and numerous writing books and articles later, I was writing another manuscript. Somehow when it came to naming a minor character, it seemed proper to name her Mrs. Stoddard. I obviously couldn’t stop there, so I put in other references to Dark Shadows. Now, was I paying homage to the old TV show, or to the all but forgotten book that got me going in this direction? The important thing is that it was a lot of fun. As I wrote other manuscripts, I began to throw in references a reader might pick up on, and some that they wouldn’t. Like the little girl in the bookstore who was named after my oldest granddaughter.

Of course there’s a darker side to all this. The coffee mug sitting on my desk says “I kill off my enemies in my book. You’re on page 12.” And there’s truth in that statement. Lets’ just say that people I don’t like tend to become fodder for marauding vampires, or silly characters who water plastic flowers, or sidekicks to villains. I don’t usually make them the actual villains, that gives “their” characters too much power. Also, I usually change the names a bit, so as not to be too obvious.

Catching that extra level while reading a book can be a lot of fun, as can putting the reference there in the first place. Whether you’re a reader or a writer, in-jokes can add to the experience.

Now, were you the kid who stole my lunch when we were in the fourth grade? It’s just a coincidence that the werewolf in my latest manuscript dines on a person with a similar name to yours.

Well, maybe not.

Friday, August 10, 2007

For Those We Have Lost

A friend of mine lost their child to suicide a couple of weeks ago and it got me thinking about our last two topics, why we blog and why we write with humor. Sort of brought it all into perspective for me. I think in our own way each person needs to be connected to one another. And in a society where one would think we're more able to get around, because of advances in technology, we have actually managed to isolate ourselves more instead. The online population is growing, which can only mean more people are spending time on their computers. And you don't do that with someone else.

When I went to the Romance Writers of America Conference I heard the same story over and over. "I'm so happy to meet other writers. I feel so isolated sitting in front of my computer." In one of the keynote speeches the speaker actually changed into her PJ's in front of us and said this was how she usually dressed. I know for myself I have to consciously pull myself away to get out of the house and do other things. It's easy to get lost in the world of writing. I imagine it's easy to get lost in other areas of the computer as well.

So it got me thinking. We're not the only genre to write with humor. We write dark brooding heroes, and I think we need to add a bit of humor or wit, almost like seasoning a stew. To find balance in our lives. We add just the right amount for ourselves to make it taste right or feel right.

I can't help but wondering if this young person couldn't find that balance in their life. And that if our society hasn't advanced itself out of the most important thing: human contact. So maybe that's why blogging has become so popular.

What do you think?


Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Art of Hero Torture

Ok, so far the Ladies have covered some of the reasons for blogging and why we like to add a little—or a lot—of humor to our paranormals.

Since I agree with all that’s been said, and posting “Yeah, what they said.” might be considered bad form, I’ve decided to look at this topic from a different angle.

Where do I get my humorous ideas?

Imagine, if you will, a hero. He’s dark. Commanding. Every inch the quintessential bad boy, infused with smoldering sensuality. The Alpha. Used to getting his way. Always.

Nice, Huh? I think so. *fans self wildly*

This is the hero I like to torture. I find these guys, by their very nature, provide a veritable smorgasbord of humorous delight. Anyone else with me on this? I mean, come on! Who doesn’t like to watch the cool, confident alpha squirm in his boots? Especially if it’s the heroine making him squirm. Oh! The joy!

But, why do it?

When reading a paranormal, or any romance for that matter, that has humorous elements, I think I enjoy the ones that take real world situations and turn them against the characters the most. This technique can be used most effectively in that very dark paranormal where slapstick doesn’t really have a place.

For me, the humor found in this type of book allows me to connect better with the characters. Face it. In real life, there is humor to be found in most any situation. If you look for it. And, sometimes, you need to do just that in order to preserve your sanity. Humor can help us cope with some of life’s harsh realities. And by allowing your characters to do this, you give them an air of believability. Make them more…human. Even if they aren’t. Human that is.

Have you come across any authors who do this well? Infuse that subtle real-world humor into their books so their non-human characters become real?

~ Sandra Barkevich

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Welcome to the light side

Welcome to Wednesday, or if you prefer, Hump Day. Somehow the meaning of the hump day phrase was lost on me from the moment I watched Young Frankenstein. The image of Marty Feldman and his side-changing hump will forever be stuck in my brain.

So far, my esteemed colleagues have extolled on why they blog and the power of adding humor to their paranormals. I have no words of wisdom on either front. I blog because I love the feeling of connecting with both my friends and feature readers. I write paranormals with a hint of humor (or more accurately, snarky wit) because it feels right!

Being a born and bred New Yorker, I think being cynical and snarky is so deeply rooted into my psyche, it would impossible at this point to remove it and keep any of my personality in tact. Humor, snark and my love of the lighter paranormal side of life are entwined in who I am, my thoughts, my actions and in my writing voice.

Though only on this bumpy road to publication for a short time, I’ve come to believe your heart has to be in what you’re writing. I can’t imagine not having a ghost in my story – even if he’s not a central character. I can’t imagine a story with no snark, no hint of humor to lighten a moment here and there. I should clarify that statement - I will read something with no humor – I just won’t write it! While humor isn’t appropriate on every page or in every scene, my characters are free to see the lighter side of every situation.

Humor in my real life is just as important as it is to my fictional world. In fact, science has proven laughter is good medicine. It lightens the heart, frees the soul and makes a tough situation more tolerable. And being a vain woman – I prefer to think of those wrinkles on my face as laugh lines and not frown lines!

So, here’s a few more reasons to put a smile on your face – our new blog (where I hear a contest or two is coming soon. Ssh, you didn’t hear that from me :) ), making some new friends along the way and getting to know some up and coming authors that will make you smile while drawing you into their version of paranormal. And who can forget a hump day joke?

“Where do fashionable ghosts shop for sheets?”

Check the comment section for the answer – and feel free to share the laughter by telling us something that put a smile on your face today.


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Serving Sorbet

Yesterday, Lori posted a wonderful blog, “Can Paranormals Be Funny?” By now, I hope you’ve all responded with a resounding, YES! Today, I thought I’d ask the question, “Why write humor?”

There’s so much going on in a paranormal romance, between the internal and external conflicts, world building, character building and plot. Writing humor isn’t easy. Why drive ourselves crazy by adding it?

In some fine restaurants, they serve sorbet. It’s often served between courses to cleanse the pallet before the entrée. That’s how I look at humor in paranormal. It’s a small reprieve between courses.

Years ago I read a contemporary romance. In the first half of the book, the heroine’s sister went insane from childbirth, the baby died and the heroine was sent to prison for the baby’s death. The book was well researched and very accurate. You know what I did? I skipped the first half. It was too dreary, too accurate. Although very well written, it never gave me a chance to catch my breath. I put the book down feeling depressed. The author didn’t serve a sorbet.

Paranormal romance can sometimes be very intense. There are more chances for graphic details. There can be horror and blood and long, yellow fangs that rip into human flesh. When sorbet is served, you can rest assured one of those long, yellow fangs would have a nasty cavity in it. Vampires would be going into bars ordering Bloody Mary’s and you just know, before the end, one of the characters would shriek the phrase, “Have you gone batty?” Ok, I know, I can hear the groans now. I can assure you my humor is a little more high brow.

Another reason I put humor in my paranormal is *drum roll please* I can’t help myself. If I see my heroine cry, I want to make her laugh. If my hero is heartbroken, I want to give him reason to smile. I once tried to write something serious. It was a delightful tale about a woman abused by her father and a man who found his fiancée in bed with his twin brother. Before I made it to the second chapter, the hero was working at the Empire State Building and afraid of heights. The heroine was six-foot-one, wearing three inch heels. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll go back and add in a cross-dressing demon.

Light or dark, high-heat or sweet, quirky to downright frightening, our paranormals are always served to cleanse the pallet. Whether it is in the form of witty dialog, a comedic character or humorous situations, humor is, in my opinion, the best sorbet.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Can Paranormals Be Funny?

When you think of paranormal romance, the first thing that comes to mind are strong, alpha male werewolves who make us want to howl at the moon and dark, brooding vampires who have us baring our necks and saying “Ooo, baby. Bite me. Bite me!” So you might ask, with all this oozing dark sensuality, can paranormals be funny? There’s a group of us here at the Otherworld Diner (who often moonlight as writers, just incase you didn’t know) who say “Absolutely!”

Imagine, if you will, that tall, dark and handsome hero with the pointy teeth I just mentioned--what if the object of his affections is a hemophiliac? Could make those love hickies he gives her a bit messy--not to mention life threatening--don’t ya think? Or what if your heroine has serious allergy issues, then falls for a guy who gets hairy once a month? The fact that she has a major sneezing fit every time her werewolf boyfriend tries to snuggle up could make for some very funny moments. Or how about a novice witch who turns her boyfriend into a toad every time she gets aroused? Or what if your mortal hero has the hots for the sexy little ghost haunting the castle he’s just inherited, but every time he tries to make love to her, he falls through her onto the bed? Any and all of these could make for some very funny situations. Okay, funny for us readers and writers, not so funny for our poor hero and heroine who have to deal with these little bumps in the night.

But does getting giggles with your romance mean you have to sacrifice the dark, sexy element that we’ve come to associate with paranormals? Of course not--not if it’s done right. Just check out some of the authors who manage to give us both and do it very well:

from the light . . .
Lisa Cach, Kathy Love, Minda Webber, Sandra Hill, MaryJanice Davidson, Katie MacAlister, Lynsay Sands

to the dark . . .
Karen Marie Moning, Nina Bangs, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and even early Laurel K. Hamilton (if you like dry sarcasm)

And that’s what we’re all about here at the Otherworld Diner. Each and every one of us is here to serve you up paranormal romance--some with just a dash of humor, some so smothered in it you won’t be able to find your plate. Here, you can have your cake and eat it, too.

-- Lori

P.S. An extra slice of cherry pie for anyone who recognizes the famous 'love scene' pictured at the start of this post *G*

Saturday, August 4, 2007

What's blogging done for me lately?

As we get the blog up and running, the topic for the week is "Why I blog." You know, I'm not sure. No, really. I have a heck of a time keeping my personal blog up to date, so why agree to participate in another blog? Am I a masochist? An idiot? Is it helium-arm run amuck? What's this thing called blogging for, anyway, and why did I decide to do it?

As Kendra said yesterday, it's a way to connect. Connecting isn't just why I blog, it's why I write. I write so I can share my story with other people and maybe make them feel something. Anything. Laughter, tears, desire, horror. Whatever it is, this gift called writing allows me to get my reader, and myself, to tap into the inner core of who we are. I am blessed to touch the heart and soul of others and I love it.

When I was a kid, I connected to my parents through what we read then discussed during meals. One of my fondest memories is reading Watership Down with my mom when I was around 12. We read it out loud to one another and it brought us closer. We shared horror at the wholesale murder of a warren of rabbits and we rooted for our favorite characters. Now, I'm not saying mom and I wouldn't have connected without Watership Down, but it sure made things easier.

Books made connections happen with friends as I got older, but not just books. Computers helped, too. Fan fiction connected me to friends all across the country just as the Internet was getting exciting, and when it still cost so much per minute to connect! Those were the days! Those were the bills! In chat rooms and via e-mail I met people I never would have had the chance to meet even 20 years earlier. It's all about connections. Connection speed and personal connection.

So now, we have listservs where we meet people from across the country and around the world, which is how I met the lovely ladies with whom I am honored to share this blogging space. We met via an RWA listserv and found we had similar interests. We liked to write paranormal stories blending strong emotion with humor so we decided to find a place to talk about what we write. How best to share our philosophy of humor-filled angst? A blog. An online journal that permits stream of consciousness. Not only can we post our thoughts but we can ask readers what they think then we can have a conversation about it. We connect.

Connection is why I'm here. I want to connect with fellow writers and with readers. So why are you here? Is it to make a connection? Do you want to be entertained? Did you find the blog by accident and decide to stay? Comment and let me know what you think.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Confessions of A Blogophobic

I'll let you in on a little secret.

No, it's not that I have excellent taste in shoes, althought I appreciate you noticing. Waiting tables in patent leather stilettos isn't easy, but a girl's got to keep up appearances.

Actually, it's kind of embarassing. Ready? Okay, here goes. See, the thing is...

Blogging kind of freaks me out. Even now. As I sit here. Total freak-outage, along with some egregious made-up-wordery.

Yeah, I know. It's silly, right? Babealicious waitress like me, great taste in footwear, little black book full of hot-blooded werewolves and cold-blooded vamps (at least in this real life, the only thing scary about my husband is his driving), frightened of a little thing like the fabulous internets. But it's true. And maybe it's true for some of you, too. Because being a writer, I have discovered, does not necessarily equal supreme comfort with technology, much less an eagerness to gab a trail across cyberspace. After all, when we start out, it's often just us, a notebook/computer, and that fascinating little worry stone of an idea that we simply can't stop turning over in our minds. Nice and simple, or as simple as pulling an entire world out of your head and putting it on paper ever is.

Then, hopefully, we write the book.

And suddenly, whether or not we sell, we discover that ohmigod help me, there is more. And worse, at least for the technologically-impaired like me, it is online.

Cue the disembodied screams and clanking chains.

Like every good heroine, I railed against my fate, and it only got worse after I sold. I can't send posts out to the universe at large! I'll put my foot in my virtual mouth! Both feet, even! I'll inadvertently offend someone and get revenge spammed with grammatically tortuous ads for Viagra! Worse, I'll be BORING! In short, AAAAAGGGGGGHHHHH!

So after the insanity passed (sort of), what possessed me to take the leap into the virtual darkness and get blogging? Brenda discussed some of the common reasons we choose to blog yesterday, and those certainly hold true. Um, apart from the ego thing, at least in my case (see "Tirade of Despair" above). But what are some reasons you should give it a try, particularly as a writer? As a blogging newbie, I can think of a few. For one thing, it's a great creative outlet for someone who maybe possibly has some procrastination issues and also maybe possibly might suffer a brain implosion if she looks at Perez Hilton too many more times while trying not to freak about an onrushing deadline. Not that that's, er, me. Or anything. But writing begets writing, in my experience. And getting out of the storybox to play with something different once in a while, for me, keeps the joy in it. I got lucky. I stumbled ino a group of like-minded romance writers who also wanted to get their voices out there. And that brings me to the bigger, more important reason blogging is worth the old college try, and why I'm out here at all. Nope, not promo, though of course that doesn't hurt!

It's simple, really. I'm here because I like to know I'm not alone. Well, and also because I find myself ridiculously amusing, but that's a discussion for when you're not armed with our truly excellent banana cream pie.

Writers need support groups more than almost any other groups of professionals I know, mainly because when we're actually writing, we write alone. No, children underfoot, dogs asking to go out and a husband who suddenly doesn't seem to know where to find ANYTHING in the house do not count. Believe me, I know all about that. At its heart, this is an incredibly solitary profession. And no matter how much support you get from family, spouse, kids, pets (my cat is actually quite supportive), nobody is ever going to "get it" like another writer. Nobody has more info about the business, nobody is more interested in talking about what sort of hero your imaginary main man is shaping up to be, and nobody will understand your trials and triumphs like other writers. Writers are cool. Writers can rock a pair of virtual stilettos like nothin' doing. And best of all, you can say something like "I'm thinking of doing a paranormal chick-lit/historical hybrid with heavy erotic elements" and no one will bat an eye. In fact, someone will inevitably say, "Man, I wish I'd thought of that!" We need to be one another's therapy, because let's face it, writing is a wonderful, bizarre, kinda crazy thing to do. I finally decided that, if my chattering away about the stuff I know a little something about (writing with/despite little kids, learning to embrace sleep-deprivation as a way of life, how to make your dialogue crackle instead of clunk, for instance) helps someone, or even just makes 'em smile because they see themselves, then hey, we should ALL be blogging!

I used to be a computer-illiterate writer with nothing but a manuscript and a need for information. Now I'm a semi-computer-illiterate (just being honest!) blogger with a two-book deal and a diner full of friends. And I'm learning. It's a steep curve, but I'm learning. Why am I blogging? Hey, why not? There are lots of us out here, and networking is, as Martha would say, a Good Thing. So come out and play. Maybe jaw a little about how you started blogging, how you felt the fear and did it anyway, and what you've gleaned from the experience so far. And please, order some pie while you're here.

I mean, come on, sugar. It IS a diner:-)


Thursday, August 2, 2007

Why Do You Blog?

Conceived at Langley, the Echo communications satellite, designed to reflect radio and radar signals, undergoes an inflation test in 1959. Echo was the world's first passive communications satellite. Credit: NASA

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3.
Are you reading me? Hope so

Is this thing on? Is it coming through? This is my first blog and -- making no excuses -- I confess I’m not totally certain what I’m doing. But I’m sure it’ll work out, even if there are a few missteps at the outset.

Why am I blogging?
Good question. To come up with that answer, I started by searching online to look at reasons why others have blogged, hoping to see myself. John C. Dvorak from The Blog Phenomenon, an article in PC magazine, says people blog for these reasons:

► Ego gratification
► A need to be different, which he calls anti-depersonalization
► Frustration relief
► A need to share
►A desire to be a writer

In an article for Digital Inspiration, Amit Agarwal’s headline reads: “Why do people blog? Pleasure, money and even guilt.” I question guilt, but he quotes people who say, pardon my paraphrasing, that once you have an audience, you don’t want to disappoint them. He also says people blog because everyone else does.

So why do I want to blog?

Communication, I guess. I’m a writer from a family of writers. I’d like you to read my words and respond to them. I’d like dialog. I want to read what you have to say. I’m eager to hear the ping -- the answer back. Sending out my signals, I’d appreciate a response.

In my 20s I lived in Asia and Africa. Daily, I composed journal entries and letters, which I mailed. I longed for return replies. I felt a little like NASA. I was launching my satellites into the big beyond, hoping for some interaction. Communication’s a lot easier now with instant messages and Internet connections, so that desire is intensified.

Herman Melville said, “We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”

Isn’t it amazing that he wrote these words before the Internet! It makes me ponder occasionally on how we’re all connected and maybe how we all can make the world a better place by reaching out and responding to each other. …

So why do you blog? Write back and tell me.

“Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after,” Anne Morrow Lindberg once said. And I agree.

-- Brenda Davis

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Strike while the Cauldron is Bubbling

The creative process of writing can be compared to the delicate procedure of baking the perfect pie.

Start with the crust-this is the stage where you are coming up with the solid base on which your pie, or story, will stand. Make sure you preheat the oven by coming up with a brilliant premise that will make your work a totally unique sensory experience. Then bake the crust along with an assortment of tasty ideas that will keep your customers wanting more. Now the oven is really hot, and soon your crust is baked and ready for the next step.

All the amazing ingredients we can mix and match to produce the exact flavors we desire. It isn't romance without the sweet indulgences of sugar and spice-a touch of cinnamon perhaps? The hero and heroine, a combination with the drama of milk or darkest chocolate, and humor as delightfully airy as a meringue topping. Then finish it off with the delicious assortment of secondary characters, anything from sour lemons to salty nuts. Just be careful with your measurements. You can always wind up with too much of a good thing. A talented cook is careful to find that perfect balance to make the results blissfully unforgettable.

Now you have it all together, so go ahead and strike while the oven is hot. So many times something can come between us and our perfect pie. Time is an enemy that stalks every cook and writer I know. You have a tough day at work, then come home to a couple of screaming children or a dirty house. Then there are the bills to be paid and before you know it reality bites you in the backside before you get to share a single bite of your creation. It's such a crime to waste that wonderful pie, which doesn't do well if left in the oven until extra crispy.

Take it out and start again if you need to. We all have those moments when the process becomes a drain, the ideas refuse to flow, and the words are not appearing on our word processing screens. Suddenly the oven is cold, and the pie is something we chose to ignore. These dry spells shall pass, and suddenly the oven heats up again, and we find a new recipe that's sure to be a hit. Out of the oven comes the story that catches the editor's eye, and they ask us for a slice of our pie!

That's an idea witch you can taste!
Happy Baking Y'all,

Hugs from Debralee : )