Thursday, January 31, 2008

13 Things She Hates About Him

This is pure promo, diner guests. My first full-length novel, A Spell For Susannah, was just released from Samhain Publishing. It's based on the 12 Dancing Princesses fairy tale. The heroine's the eldest of the light-footed ladies; the hero's the guard assigned to track them.

And Susannah isn't so sure she likes this Jon Tom character. To wit:

1) She hates the fact her mother, the Queen, hired him to spy on her and her sisters to find out how they've been sneaking out of their room at night. No one's getting hurt, and wearing her sisters out keeps them from running off with unsuitable men.

2) She really hates the fact her mother hired HIM, instead of the guy who used to work with Pete & Benjamin’s Animal Circus doing a little sideshow work—lady and tiger stuff. It would have been much easier to fool him than this...Jon Tom character.

3) She hates the fact he claims to be a "detective" in a land where detectives don't exist. I mean, what does he detect, who stole the Queen's tarts?

4) She hates his wily demeanor and the way he looks at her -- like he'd rather snatch her up and eat her than dance a reel

5) She hates the way he insinuated there must be a man involved in whatever she and her sisters were doing. I mean, there are seven hundred men involved, but that's beside the point. Assumptions are rude.

6) She hates that he won their first staring contest. He wouldn't have won, if she weren't with her mother at the time, pretending to be a proper princess.

7) She hates how he seems to have cozened each one of her sisters. Handsome is as handsome does, and he's trouble, she can tell.

8) She hates how cocky he is -- when he's supposed to be guarding their room at night, she finds him sound asleep.

9) She hates how he seems to have a homing device fixed on her. He found her in the kitchen, the garden, the weaving room.

10) She hates the thought of him walking into her bedchamber when she's sleeping...her bathing chamber when she's bathing...she hates the thought so much, she really must quit thinking about it.

11) She hates the fact his voice is like velvet, even when he's teasing her.

12) She hates the butterflies in her stomach when he's around, the pleasure she takes in making him laugh.

13) She hates the fact she can't control her reactions to him, be they good, bad...or downright licentious.

Jody W.
A SPELL FOR SUSANNAH--Available now from Samhain Publishing *

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tolerating Romance?

First, let me begin by giving some big sloppy kisses to the girls at the diner who have welcomed me back to the ranks! Feels good to be back and posting again!

According to Webster’s Tolerance is the endurance of opinions differing from one’s own.

In the world of romance, whether it’s a printed novel, an e-book, a movie or even a country song – romance is often touted as being tolerated by the masses. Why?

Why is it the acceptable norm to seek out violence and not something as natural as loving relationships that make people feel good?

Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s not okay. There is nothing wrong with connecting with a character in that book or on the screen (and yes, in that song that you cry with when your alone in your car!) There is nothing wrong with wanting the romance, wanting the “happy ending” as Maggie said yesterday. There is nothing wrong with LOVE!

I’m the mother of two teenage boys who wouldn’t be caught dead in the local theater watching a romance movie. They tolerate the countless romance books covering my tables and lining my bookshelves, because I’m their Mother and hence the Queen has more rights than the peons. But I too, feel that I tolerate the violence they call entertainment.

Why do we as a society think it’s okay to witness this “entertainment” violence in our books, songs, and on the T.V.? Why is it more acceptable to watch someone get shot than it is to show a love-scene? In reality which one is more offensive to our children?

Now don’t send me hate mail, I’m not condoning letting kids watch explicit sex acts! But there is nothing wrong with showing kids that love, relationships and dealing with the issues of life is more important than bloods, guts and gore.

So, today I say “go forth and choose love!” Give an extra hug to the ones you love, proudly walk the aisles of your local bookstore romance section, and sing along to your favorite country love song. Together we can move from a mere tolerance of romance (in every shape and form) to embracing romance.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Give Me a Happy Ending

A few years ago, my sisters, Mom and I were on our way to a ladies lunch. We were very excited because it wasn't often we could all get together.

In the car, I sat next to my sister-in-law, Kristine. She's a lovely woman, great mom and wonderful wife to my brother. We were having a fun conversation, but somewhere along the line I mentioned her job as a masseuse.

This wonderful woman turned to me and I swear if looks could kill I'd have turned to dust. "Massage therapist!"

The car went silent.

In the blink of an eye (who knew my brain could work that fast?) I went from getting my back up to realizing I'd found a kindred spirit. "I'm sorry, you're right," I said. "Massage therapist."

She apologized for snapping and began to explain, but I told her she didn't have to. I understood perfectly. I can't imagine what kind of remarks she gets because of the stigma behind her chosen profession. For me a 'happy ending' is something I strive toward, for her it's an insult. It irks me. My dear sister-in-law knows her stuff and has saved me from many tension headaches.

I've seen people lift their noses in the air and say, "Romance novels are all the same. You know the guy's gonna get the girl in the end." And that's bad, why? That's what I love about romances. I know, no matter what, I'll get a happy ending.

When did a happy ending become a bad thing?

How many times have I gotten annoyed with people who say I write 'smut' or 'bodice rippers?' I don't care if you write traditional, sweet romances or the most graphic sexy steamy novels out there. None of us write smut because we all have one thing in common. First and foremost, we write romance.

How many times have I bit my tongue when someone says, "Oh, you write those books with Fabio on the cover?" I don't know why this bothers me. Maybe because I don't like having my work dumbed down to some guy a cover.

How many times have I forced a smile when some ignorant guy (sorry guys, but it's ALWAYS a man who asks) says, "Can I read one of your sex scenes?" First of all, there's more to my work than just a sex scene. Secondly, some of my stories don't even have them!

When I read Francesca's blog on Saturday, I couldn't help but chuckle and shake my head. Anyone who says erotic romance authors are less capable writers has never written a sex scene. Do you know how hard it is to write a compelling, intense sex scene? Now try doing it four or five times, each time making it new and fresh. Believe me there's a lot more to it than insert tab 'A' into slot 'B.'

It boggles my mind that we don't get the respect other fiction writers do. Without romance, where would the publishing industry be?

It all comes down to what Dr. King fought against decades ago: Ignorance. Intolerance. Prejudice. The fact that some writers have to hide what they do for fear of losing their job is absurd.

The idea that someone in our own genre, as stated in Lori's blog, belittled a fellow writer because of what she writes is too sad for words. How can we possibly demand respect if we don't respect each other?

It's ironic, because I think an historical is the perfect set-up for a paranormal romance. You can time travel or write in Vlad the Impaler's time and visit with the first and most famous vampire. Revisit a time where myths and legends were born . . . but I'm getting off track.

Sadly, even now as we approach the fortieth anniversary of Dr. King's death, we're still facing prejudice in our lives, in our jobs and even amongst out own peers.

I truly hope one day, whether you're a massage therapist healing the body or a romance writer satisfying the mind, we will all be respected for what we do and never again will we see a sneer or hear a snide chuckle when we say the words, 'happy ending.'


Monday, January 28, 2008

Tolerance Within the Family

Continuing on with the topic of tolerance this week, I have to say I’m lucky. For the most part, I haven’t been faced with rude people making snarky remarks to me for writing romance. I’m sure it will happen some day, but so far I’ve remained relatively unscathed. Part of that could be due to the fact that I kept my writing a secret for years from family and friends. Not because I was embarrassed to admit I was writing romance, but because I wanted to avoid the inevitable questions of “Have you finished your book yet?” (No -- see my Deadlinitis blog post) or “When’s it going to be published?” (As if I have much power over the ‘when’ and ‘if’ in the mercurial publishing world). But one evening, I got outted by my beloved husband at a cocktail party. Since then, my friends and family have been very supportive. Or if they aren’t, they’ve kept their opinions to themselves very well. Some have even pulled me aside and confessed to a deep, secret desire to try their hand at writing themselves someday and are envious of me for going for it. And, because I don’t get out that much, I’ve managed to avoid too many of those annoying “Have you finished the book yet?” questions.

But I have experienced intolerance within the family. No, not my flesh and blood family. I’m talking about the writing family we’re all members of. Even within our own ranks, we have intolerance and prejudice brewing among us. On Saturday, Francesca talked about prejudice against erotic romance and those who would brand such authors with a scarlet letter XXX. And we’ve all heard the snobbish remarks from authors who debase e-published authors as the less-than-successful red-headed stepchild. While I don’t write erotica and I’m not e-published, I have faced prejudice in another form from a fellow author and the incident has stuck with me to this day.

Here’s what happened. One day, I was in a bookstore chatting casually with several other writers, one of whom is a NYT best-selling author I’ve known for years. This woman has a very commanding, opinionated personality--she's inspiring to be around and people tend to hang on her every word. She asked me what I was working on and I told her it was a historical paranormal. She frowned, her brow creased, then she looked down her nose at me (which was quite a feat since she was sitting and I was standing) and said,
        “Now why do you want to do that?”
        “Do what?” I asked.
        “Ruin a perfectly good historical by making it a paranormal.”
        “Well, because that’s the way this story needs to be written,” I replied.
        “But why can’t you just write a straight historical? Why put anything paranormal in it?” asked the author who writes nothing but historicals.
        “Because that’s what I write.” Duh.
        She glanced around at her ‘audience’, snickered to the published author at her side (also a non-paranormal writer) and said in a voice that has a way of booming across a crowded room like a fog horn,
        “I don’t get it. Everyone is trying to write paranormals these days. It’s all vampires and werewolves. I just don’t understand the appeal of characters like that. Your historical story should be strong enough to stand on its own without throwing a paranormal element into it.”
        Then she laughed and went off on another tangent, as if the topic was too insignificant to waste her time on any longer. I stood there gaping like a beached fish, unable to think of a snappy comeback in the face of this public paranormal-bashing.

Keep in mind, I know this author, have for years. While she can be a force to be reckoned with, I didn’t take it personally because she knew nothing about my story or my skill as a writer (she’s never read my work). After I recovered, I realized she wasn’t putting down my story in particular--she was trashing the entire paranormal genre as a whole. I’m not sure if she even realized what she was doing with her historical-than-thou comments.

Like everyone else, she’s entitled to her opinion. That’s fine. If she doesn’t like paranormal romance, that’s all right with me. But by her words and actions that day, she demeaned my chosen genre in a very public forum. This type of behavior, especially from well-known and respected authors, undermines us all. We shouldn’t do that to each other. We get enough flack from everyone else, we don’t need to be stabbing our sisters in the back. If you want to know the truth, I don’t normally read erotica, category, or romantic suspense. But I don’t degrade the authors who write it (publicly or privately). I support the authors who brave those territories because writing those kinds of stories take a skill set I don’t have. It’s the variety of subgenres that makes romance the bestselling genre in the industry. If you ask me, it would be a sad, boring world if we’re all limited to writing one type of book, and we should all be open-minded enough to acknowledge and accept it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Day of Rest

Sundays are supposed to be a day of rest. I have spent mine working and writing, so I feel a bit guilty. I did, however, get some major things accomplished today and yesterday. My writing group yesterday agreed with my idea of not make "resolutions" this year and instead, making commitments. Five simple commitments written out on paper or somewhere else you can see them to help you accomplish five things with your writing this year. You really should try it. Because of mine, I've already accomplished writing a screenplay treatment for a fellow author, and am organizing pitch sessions for two conferences this year. It's really working for me.

But back to a day of rest: A day of rest, whether it's Sunday or any other day of the week, can be a breath of fresh air to help you revitalize your writing time. Take that day to fill your mind with creativity - go to the movies, read a book, watch a television show or movie that inspires you. Walk outside, drive around your city or out of town, or visit the library to see what kind of writing reference books you can come up with.

Motivation is key to the writing process. We all know it's a solitary occupation, at best. That's why we writers gather in groups to share our thoughts and ideas here on the internet. That's why we have chat groups and list servs and support groups - much like an addiction, writing deserves some help :)

Now, on the paranormal front, I wanted to add that I'm going to be meeting with Stacy Whitman from Wizards of the Coast. She is an editor of YA fantasy books and will be letting me know what they're looking for and what's hot right now. She'll be one of my editors at the conference in March, so I'm hoping to bring back lots of information for you guys. Let me know if you have any specific questions you'd like me to ask her!


Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Dream

I write erotic romance. I said it. Sometimes, though I hesitate to say it aloud. Why? Am I ashamed of what I write? Nope, not at all.

I love hot romances. The hotter the better. In fact, I love to read and write stories that require asbestos gloves. The issue isn't the fact that I write romance with the heat level of a habanero pepper. It's the reaction of others when they discover it. Many people have been accepting and encouraging. I thank those individuals from the bottom of my heart. But as you know, the positive can only armor you against prejudice just so far. Negatives pierce even the thickest hide and I find on this issue I'm a bit thin skinned.

I welcome the diversity within our industry and I believe there should be romances with heat levels from sweet to erotic to meet the reading needs of all romance readers but the erotic romance market has surged in the last few years. Covers from the 80s and 90s which featured Fabio's chiseled bare chest pale in comparison to the sexy covers out there now. Likewise the prose written within the books are explicit and far more graphic than those written by earlier romance writers.

The times they have changed but some readers and writers are unhappy with the changes. They complain about the "F" bomb and call heroines sluts who embrace their sexuality in a very sexual way. I couldn't disagree with them more. If their personal morals compel them to feel that way then that's their right. They aren't required to read or write books they don't enjoy. Live and let live.

I draw the line, however, when writers make these statements publicly or suggest that books should be given arbitrary ratings. I also object when authors claim that erotic romance writers are less capable writers because they write graphic, explicit prose. I'm here to tell you, it's difficult to figure out how to keep a novel length work rolling AFTER your characters have been physically intimate. Normally, that's where you get "and they lived happily ever after." But if you're like me, you always wondered... What happened after the "happily ever after?" Erotic romances go boldly into that territory. That's one of the things I love about them. Also, I can tell you that it is a challenge to write passionate, sexy love scenes that graphically discuss the act yet don't sound like anatomy lessons. It takes a strong writer to convey the emotion behind the sex. I hope one day to be as skilled as Sylvia Day, Robin Schone, and Angela Knight. (Three of my ER heroines).

One other aspect of intolerance against erotic romance hits a bit closer to home. My day job is as a librarian, and I have not "come out" to anyone but my friends in my community about what I write. I hesitate to shout it from the rooftops because I live in a fairly conservative town where in the last year or so books have been challenged at the high school library. There's nothing to stop library patrons from challenging books in the public library, too.

On the up side, I'd join the ranks of J.K. Rowling (who is one of the most challenged authors out there). The down side is people in the community might use their lack of tolerance to try to get me fired. I don't believe my director would allow this, but it's the fear of intolerance which holds me in it's thrall like an overly seductive, yet menacing vampire. The dangerous "What if?"

This is one reason I find Dr. King and his message so inspiring. He was a man who faced far worse than I, yet he had a dream. A dream I share. A dream so many have shared since he called out to the people on the Washington Mall in 1963. It's a dream which can be applied to all forms of prejudice and intolerance wherever we may find it.

A dream where all men (and women) will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

And for me, it's a dream where all erotic romance writers will be judged not by the heat of their prose but by the content within their characters.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

An Act of Kindness: Kyle's Story

This isn’t my usual blog -- and what I’m going to share with you isn’t even my writing. I can’t even credit the original author because a friend forwarded a forwarded e-mail to me.
I like it because it made me think. This week at the diner we’re discussing prejudice and conduct, how we as people interact, whatever our skin color, age or reading preference. Maybe it’s a bit mellowdramatic, but this e-mail speaks to how we treat others and how lives sometimes are shaped by small acts of kindness.
Here’s the e-mail:

“One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, ‘Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd.’

“I had quite a weekend planned (parties and a football game with my friends tomorrow afternoon), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on. Then I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They tripped him and knocked all of his books out of his arms. He landed in the dirt and his glasses went flying into the grass. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over as he crawled around, looking for his glasses, and I saw tears in his eyes. I retrieved his glasses and, as I handed him them, I said: ‘Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives.’
“He said, ‘Hey thanks!’ There was a smile on his face, one that showed real gratitude.
“I helped him pick up his books and asked where he lived. As it turned out, he lived near me, so I asked him why I had never seen him before. He said he had gone to private school before now. I had never hung out with a private school kid before. We talked all the way home and I carried some of his books. He turned out to be a pretty cool kid. I asked if he wanted to play football with my friends. He said yes.
“We hung out all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him, and my friends thought the same of him.
“Monday morning came and there was Kyle with the huge stack of books again.
“I stopped him and said, ‘Boy, you’re gonna build some serious muscles with this pile of books every day!’
“He laughed and handed me half the books.
“Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor and I was headed for business education, on a football scholarship.
“Kyle was valedictorian of our class. I teased him all the time about being a nerd. He had to prepare a speech for graduation. I was very glad it wasn't me having to get up there and speak. On graduation day, Kyle looked great. He was one of those guys who really found himself during high school. His body filled out and he actually looked good in glasses. He had more dates than I had. Sometimes I was jealous!
“Today was one of those days, but he was also my friend and I could see he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, ‘Hey, big guy, you'll be great!’
“He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one).
“ ‘Thanks.’ He cleared his throat, and started his speech, ‘Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through these tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach ... but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I’m going to tell you a story."
“My friend told the story of the first day we met. He said he was despondent and even thinking about killing himself over the weekend. He’d cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn't have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. His gaze cut to me and he gave me a little smile. ‘Thankfully, a friend saved me from doing the unspeakable.’
I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment. His Mom and Dad looked at me with that same grateful smile.
“In that moment I realized the depth of my kind act.
“Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person's life. God puts us all in each others’ lives to impact one another in some way. Look for God in others. ‘Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.’ There is no beginning or end. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today’s a gift. Show your friends how much you care.’
“I believe lives can be shaped by small kindnesses we pass along. I hope this will be one of those kind touches for you today.”

How about you? If you’d like to share a moment where you reached out to someone or someone affected your life in a positive way, please leave a comment. Thanks. -- Brenda Davis

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oh the Thinks You Can Think....

The first fantasy story I ever read by myself was a Dr Suess. I was five, and it was love at first sight. I was taken to a world of strange and marvelous creatures conjured from a fantastic imagination. Some were incredibly different, strange, behaved in the oddest ways, and I loved them all. I didn't know it at the time, but that was one of my first lessons in tolerance, not just of characters in a book, but of those who were not like me.

As I grew I continued to read; fantasy, science fiction, romance, and paranormal stories. I came to realize that you could be green or blue, have pointy hair or sunken eyes, or be from another world entirely, there was still someone out there who wanted and needed you.

My family and friends taught me to love by example, but books taught me to care because they made me think. They opened my mind to new ideas, even ones that went against what I normally believed. What a wonderful power we have as writers to teach in a way that entertains as it shares a message.

Books are magical because they can change who we are on the inside. The relationship between reader and writer is purely an exchange of ideas. What else can touch your heart, stir your emotions, or blow your mind in quite the same way as a book? Writing gives me an amazing opportunity to share pieces of myself with people who I may never meet.

I may sound a bit idealistic, but I'll end in the immortal and beautiful words of John Lennon

"You may say I'm a dreamer, well I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one."

Makes you think, doesn't it?



Monday, January 21, 2008

Inspiration: Music

It should come as no surprise that writers often turn to music for inspiration. After all, musicians and writers both struggle to connect to their audiences--only the medium is different.

For me, the quintessential artist whom I draw on for inspiration is Van Morrison. It never fails to tickle this home-grown Jersey girl that she turns to a modern Irish bard instead of a blue collar Bruce Springsteen when she needs to crystalize her vision.

For me, Van's music is integral to my MS. I originally had some of his lyrics begin my paranormal romance because they summed up my hero so perfectly. I'm not alone in loving songs since many romance authors post a list of songs that make up their book's "soundtrack." You can bet that Van will be featured prominently when I post my own list.

His songs touch on the same themes that my stories do. They explore a spiritual connection, expound a sense of wonder, articulate human failings and glorify love. His melodies sweep me off my feet and deposit me in a different place and often a different time.

I saw him in concert once--many years ago as a callow youth. And I didn't understand half of what I was listening to. I wanted the obvious hits, not the musical journey he offered at that time. Now I am both older now and wiser and his songs have become the good friends that I turn to when the blank page stares back at me and the white noise in my mind refuses to quiet.

My thanks,Van, for the gift of inspiration.

So what singer/songwriters inspire you?


(special thanks to Lichtdesigner on Flickr for the photo)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

You're My Inspiration ...

I can't tell you when I first realized I wanted to be a writer. As a child, I read everything I could get my hands on - the encyclopedia, the dictionary, National Geographic, and any book I could reach on the library shelves (okay, so I'm short). It wasn't until I began to say "I could write this better" that I actually picked up a pencil and started to write.

There was a serial story about aliens in the grade school newspaper, then the ads for the plays and playbills for our high school events, along with essays that made my teacher scratch her head. But somewhere along the way from high school, I lost the pleasure and need to write and it lay dormant for several years, while I went to college, got married and had children.

I started reading again when I had my first child. Moving forward, I took an interest in writing articles for local papers and national magazines. Finally, I got to the point where I thought I could write a book. So I did. And it sucked. Turns out not just anybody can write a book - at least in my opinion.

For me, my mother became my inspiration. She encouraged me to keep trying, so I did, and eventually, I finished another and another... and I got better and better at it. She told me often how proud she was of me, and it kept me going.

There are so many people who inspire us to be who we are and do what we do - writing is often a lonely occupation, and we need all the inspiration we can get.

This week, Martin Luther King Jr. is honored to remind us of the many people he inspired. He inspired poets and authors and so many other people. I know how grateful those people are to him. Always tell the person/people who inspire you how much you appreciate them whenever you have the opportunity- because they truly will not be around forever.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Stranger in the Blog

This year, I resolve to embrace the strange and odd. After all, that's what my books are all about.

It will come as no surprise to those who know me that I love all things weird and strange. It all began when I was a kid and my mom and grandmother tried to keep me from watching movies that "will give you nightmares." Of course, that only made me want to watch them more. I remember pretending to be asleep on the couch while my mom watched a Vincent Price movie on TV. Of course, I was watching too. So, did I learn to love odd things because I was told they were bad, therefore triggering the kid thing of wanting to do it since it was forbidden, or did I simply follow in the footsteps of my mom and grandmother—who were, after all, watching the very things they told me I couldn’t? Whatever the cause, by the time I was in high school I was reading every book I could get my hands on about UFO’s, psychic phenomena, ghosts, etc.

In a strange (or maybe not so strange) twist of fate, I also fell in love with science. Nothing makes me happier than discovering how something works, or reading an explanation of a natural phenomena. So along with the "odd" books, I also read books about black holes, dinosaurs, human remains from the very beginning of humanity, etc.

You might think it unusual that a person that loves the odd also loves the straightforward. Who believes ghosts might very well walk the night also understands why ice floats. Mutually exclusive? I don’t think so.

Personally, I believe there are things scientists haven’t discovered yet. And I think there always will be. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that scientists stopped scoffing at the idea that rocks could fall from the sky. Today, meteorites are accepted as a fact of life. Tomorrow, maybe ghosts will be the idea that took hold. In fact, within my lifetime I’ve seen psychic powers go from a ridiculous idea to something that is being studied seriously in some places. It’ll be a while before ESP theory will become a class at Harvard, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened eventually.

I like that idea.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Did someone say convention/conference?

World Horror: 13 Great Things

This March, there will be a World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City, UT. It's a great convention with lots of well-known authors (Peter Straub, F. Paul Wilson, etc.) and a wonderful place to meet new friends, pitch your paranormal thriller or just meet like-minded dark authors! Kristen Nelson (Kristen Nelson Literary Agency) and Stacy Whitman (Wizards of the Coast Editor) will be there, along with Don D'Auria (Dorchester) taking pitch sessions with attending authors.

Here's 13 great things about World Horror:

1. You don't have to be a horror author to come - we take anybody.
2. You can find everything you need at - or you can ask me!
3. Salt Lake is beautiful this time of year - they have skiing!
4. My family lives there - oh, wait. That one might just be for me :)
5. You can meet and chat with several well-known authors - and me too!
6. It's not too expensive - but register soon, before the price goes up in February.
7. Pitch sessions!
8. A gross-out contest, the likes of which I bet most of you have never seen.
9. Great people, great parties.
10. Panels on YA, comic books and more.
11. A fabulous dealers room.
12. Autographs from said well-known authors and a chance to buy new books, and get some free ones.
13. Did I mention I'll be there? :) I'm doing the pitch sessions!!

So check it out, and if you need more details, contact me at

Hope to see you there!

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, January 15, 2008

How Wonderful That I Don't Know it All

While I sat in my family room a mere 40 miles from where the ball drops on New Years Eve, I had a firm idea of what my resolution would be. The same resolution I (and millions of others) make every year. To lose weight.

A year goes by. Once again I'm sitting in my family room (we never go out:), waiting for the ball to drop and making the same resolution I did last year. It's no wonder no one takes anyone's resolutions seriously.

This year is different. This year, I didn't procrastinate. On January 2nd, I started a program. I know I can do it because this time I realized I can't do it on my own I need help. In previous years, I insisted I didn't need to learn how to diet. I knew it all.

It's the same with my writing. I thought I knew it all. I thought, just because I've read romances since I was 14, I could write one and not learn how to do it properly.

Ten years later, and not a word published, I'm starting to rethink that theory. I finally decided, gee maybe I need some help. A few months ago, I found myself some critique partners and guess what? They didn't look at me in awe saying, "This is a masterpiece! There is nothing I can add to this that would make it any better." In fact, they had some suggestions. Many suggestions.

So this year, my resolution is to learn how to write, stop thinking I know it all and actually listen to someone who knows what they're talking about. I'm going to take some on-line workshops on how to edit, build characters and add finesse to my writing. I'll read books, blogs and for once, I won't skip over those articles on how to write the saggy middle or how to make your characters come alive.

In the mean time, as I learn, I'll meet some wonderful ladies who want nothing more than to see me succeed.

And this time next year, as I'm in my family room, waiting for the ball to drop, you can be darn sure I'll be thinner, smarter and have some damn good stories finally ready to sell.


Monday, January 14, 2008


I guess if the gals here at the diner are making their New Year’s Resolutions public knowledge, I’ll fess up to mine. It’s not to lose weight (which I need to do) or to exercise more (which I should) or to declutter my house (ain't gonna happen). My goal is to set a deadline and meet it. Unfortunately, it seems to be a goal I can’t achieve. You see, I have deadlinitis.

It’s not that I can’t meet deadlines. I can. Pre-kids, I worked in the graphic design field for 14 years. Deadlines were a fact of life and I had no trouble meeting any of them. I do web site design on the side now and update my clients’ sites on time without fail. I joined the ladies here at the diner and I haven’t missed posting a blog on my Monday since we started. But every time I set a deadline to finish my latest 2-years-and-counting-WIP, I can’t meet it to save my life. Why?

I have a theory about that (other than the fact that “procrastination” is my middle name). With the graphic and web design, I have paying clients. Money is a great motivator. With this blog, I have 10 other authors relying on me to pull my weight. But with my writing, since I don’t have an editor’s deadline looming over me like a circling buzzard, I have to give myself self-imposed ones.

Therein lies the problem. I’m not a stern task master. Since I’m the only one holding ME accountable for meeting my arbitrary deadline, it makes it real easy to push it back when the deadlinitis flares up. Family vacation? No writing gets done at Disney. Christmas? I wear the Santa hat at my house and, as usual, the shopping elves were no where to be found to help me out this year. Kid’s after school activities? Once they step off the school bus, their world takes priority over mine. Major home remodel? My husband gets the urge, calls the contractor and writes the check--it falls on me to run all over town to pick out the paint, the carpet, the countertops, the tile, etc. Funeral? Major sinus infection? Unfortunately, life (and death and illness) does get in the way. I’ve pushed my deadline back for my latest WIP so many times, it’s gone into not 1 but 2 years. Pit--tee--ful! My agent is going to drop me if this thing doesn’t turn out to be a masterpiece of romantic fiction.

So my goal this year is to shake my deadlinitis, no matter what. Yeah, right. Like Francesca said in an earlier post, I KNOW ME. My last deadline was to finish my WIP by the time the glittering crystal ball dropped on New Year’s Eve. Didn’t happen . . . again. *sigh* But I’ll set that new deadline again anyway, because that’s what I do. Plus, this time if I don't have it done by my next chapter meeting (Feb. 9th, aka the new deadline), my writing friends are going to stand me up and ridicule me in front of everyone in attendance. Hey, maybe the threat of public humiliation will do the trick this time.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


My resolution this New Year was not to make any resolutions. Now, I know that sounds a bit unusual, given it's the tradition at this time of year, but bear with me.

I got scrooged for Christmas this year by someone I thought was a friend, and a few other things went wonky and the next thing you know, I don't want to put up the Christmas tree or open presents or, God forbid, cook dinner for my entire family. Not good.

Then, when I finally made it through Christmas (after doing all the above-mentioned things), I sat down and took stock of my situation and realized all the resolutions I'd made last year and the year before and the year before that didn't get done! Color me surprised? Not really. I think resolutions are fine things, but I found myself truly disappointed not to have followed through on them.

So here's what I decided to do: I didn't make any "resolutions" this year. I'm going to just do the things I keep promising myself I'll do. And I've started already. I'm working on a screenplay treatment for a multi-published friend of mine, re-editing my fourth novel, writing three anthology stories (that were supposed to be due in December), and doing my own screenplay treatments for two new movies.

What do you think? I don't know if I'm any happier, but I'm busy, which always keeps my mind off my problems. And I'm not disappointed in myself for not following through on my resolutions ... and hoping I won't be disappointed at the beginning of 2009 because I didn't accomplish the things I wanted to do.

So more power to you if you keep your resolutions! But for me, this year is about doing instead of talking ... and I'm doing what I want to be doing and what I would have resolved to do anyway! It's a win-win. If you made resolutions, get busy ... and most importantly, get writing!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Facing a Fresh Start...

*Scrooge, The Musical - Music & Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse

One of my favorite moments in a movie is in the movie musical Scrooge*, when Ebenezer Scrooge is given a second chance. He sings a wonderful song which I love called, I'll Begin Again. Scrooge closes with the refrain:

"I will start anew
I will make amends
And I will make quite certain
That the story ends
On a note of hope
On a strong amen
And I'll thank the world
And remember when
I was able to begin again"

This is a wonderful hopeful refrain and as romance writers the concept of a story ending on a note of hope really speaks to me. But once the story ends, you have to begin again...and again...and again.

The wide universe is out there and I can to start anew to create a new world and new characters. Freeing right? Maybe, but infinity is daunting. Do I write a straight paranormal or historical paranormal? Should I write fantasy or contemporary? Once I decide which subgenre I'm going to play in, then I have to create characters: protagonists, antagonists, secondary & bit players. Then I have to plot out a story that will make sense.

I can hear you saying, "If it's so hard, stop whining and don't do it." The problem is I can't NOT do it. Characters don't shut up. Ideas don't stop hitting me. My fingers itch to type at a keyboard and create even though I know it isn't as easy as it looks.

So what am I considering? Right now, I'm waffling between a sword & sorcery style fantasy and a paranormal shifter story. (Spicy to Erotic Romance is a given by the way-at least for me.)

I've already created my shifter world so that bit of work is done. I know my hero and he deserves a happy ending - big time - but my heroine won't show her pretty face no matter HOW much I beg. My hunky Muse can't find her either. When she finally shows up I won't know whether to hug her or torture her with a gut-wrenching plot. Of course that could be why she's hiding in the first place.

My S&S has both a hero and heroine. They won't shut up, either. I keep getting prodded with glimpses of scenes. I can hear you say - "well, there's your answer." Maybe, but the down side is I have to build the world from scratch and dang that's a lotta work!!!! This won't be Earth so I have to draw maps, plot a traditional sort of fantasy but bring in hot romance, figure out how magic works there... The list goes on. I have kernals of ideas for a number of others too.

It's like being really hungry. Instead of receiving a tasty yet tidy plate of food, I've been handed an empty plate (which is large and white and so painfully blank) at an infinite buffet and told to go fill up my plate and get started.

How do you handle starting a new manuscript? Are you daunted or energized? Do you wait for inspiration or plot madly? If you plot, where do you find the darn thing? All comments welcome and appreciated!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Stop the Insanity!

Like everyone, I'm looking forward to a happy, productive, hopefully fulla-good-things new year.

However, it's been one of those weeks. You know, the kind that makes you want to run screaming into the street, or just hide in a very deep hole and pull it in after yourself. Lemmee recap quickly with minimal drama: in the last five days, I had to start putting boy-diapers on my aging Peke who has decided that marking territory around the house is an excellent way to let the world know what stuff is his, my middle child developed the world's grossest rash, complete with fever, which was unidentifiable to both his regular doc and the ER doc we waited seven hours to see (yeah, SEVEN), and my husband left for a six-month stint in Japan. In short, AAAAUUUUUGGGGGHHHHH!

I'm not trying to garner sympathy, here. As a pet owner, mom, and Navy wife, I bought this package, and I have weeks like this sometimes. But what I think is relevant to all of us here is that, despite the insanity swirling around me, I have to find ways to cut through the stress and write. I have deadlines. A new book to write. Pages to approve/edit. Website copy to finalize. You know...important career stuff. So what's an overstressed writer to do? I have a few ideas that might help us all this year when the going gets tough and the tough head for the cookie jar instead of the computer.

Now, there's a disclaimer here: I am not exactly the patron saint of relaxation. This is a short list of things I've resolved to try this year when my sanity is hanging by a thread and I still have my daily page quota to meet, instead of playing Chuzzle and/or eating too many munchies. I want to lose a little poundage for National this year, after all. Yet another resolution. *sigh* Anyway, here goes. When I am losing my mind (as usual) this year, I hereby resolve to do one or more of the following:

1. Do a relaxation/breathing exercise like Debralee's scrying idea. Sometimes, all it takes is a quiet time out to refocus and center yourself again, clearing away the clutter.

2. Take a walk. Alone, if possible, but if I have to take the two-year-old, just look at it as enhanced exercise, and he likes the scenery anyway. Getting away from Crazy Central for a little while is sometimes the best medicine.

3. Try aromatherapy. I keep hearing how beneficial this is, and since I'm one of those people who smells EVERYTHING, this might really help me. Could be used in conjunction with number one.

4. Get more sleep. I'm very, very guilty of staying up way too late to get work done, and I know that by the time I finished the last book, I was looking like an extra from Night of the Living Dead. I think setting a bedtime for myself might help me with a little problem I like to call "Kendra has too much fun wandering the internets" as well. The creativity never flows as well when my body is beat up. Sleep is key. Must. Remember. Sleep.

5. Exercise. Oh, how I hate the exercise. But along with #4, this is one of those mind/body wellness issues that keeps the brain sharp. Plus, how am I gonna look fabulous by July if I don't leave the indent my butt has made on the couch?

6. Laugh. I get super serious when I'm under the gun, like most people. I hereby resolve to start taking a little time to seek out things that I know crack me up when evil is afoot around here. For instance, last night my CP introduced me to both the lolcats ( and this little animated cartoon of a writer bludgeoning himself to death with his keyboard out of sheer frustration. Okay, the latter sounds disturbing, but seriously, it's a stick man, and I think we all feel like that sometimes. If nothing else, check out the kittehs. They are awesome.

7. Listen to music. I LOVE me some music, and my ipod is a necessary item in my life. Sometimes, depending on what I need, I can use music to lighten up (as in, I sing loudly and dance like an idiot around my kitchen) or chill and visualize my characters along with a song that reminds me of them. The latter I need to do more often when I get stuck, because it seems to work for me.

8. Take a bubble bath. I never do this, but the once in a blue moon when I manage to lock myself away in the bathroom with a glass of wine, music, and bubbles in the tubbie, I wind up feeling completely rejuvenated.

9. Knock off the caffeine. Yeah, um...I'm including this because it's a good idea from all reports, not because I'm capable. I have three little kids. I need teh coffee. I hereby declare myself exempt. If you want to try it, though, I bet it actually helps.

10. Make a list, and take it in pieces. I have a major problem of becoming overwhelmed, and then paralyzed. I do like lists, and crossing things off of them (so satisfying), so this is my final idea of de-stressing when it's writin' time. Set smaller, more quickly achievable goals for yourself that lead to the big goal, so you can see the progress and actually feel like you're making some headway.

These are the things that I think are most doable, at least for me, to release some of the steam that tends to build up without scalding anyone or anything else in the process. There may be other coping strategies that work for you, too, and if so please share them! We all have stress, after all. And writing is a wonderfully crazy business at the best of times. Sometimes I thrive in it, and sometimes...well, sometimes muddling through is the best I can do. But this year, as my career starts, I'm going to try and refrain from banging my head against the keyboard and head for something more conducive to creativity once the kiddos have gone to bed. Like a vanilla scented bubble bath! Hope some of these work for you too, and more ideas are welcome.

Happy Writing (in the most relaxing way possible),


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Scrying Eyes

In the new year as we look back and reflect on things past and foward into our futures, a certain form of magic comes to mind-the art of Scrying. In stories, scrying is used for purposes of divination and fortune telling. Everyone from the gypsy with her crystal ball to the demon hunter staring into the flames of hell is looking for answers to life or death questions. While I can't vouch for the visions of imaginary characters, I do know that scrying can also be a useful tool to focus and open your mind to new and interesting ideas. Ideas that the hustle and bustle of daily life often block out.

It can be accomplished with any reflective surface, including the above mentioned crystal balls, fire, water, mirrors, or even someone else's eyes. You can get yourself into the mood by listening to relaxing music, praying, visualizing a place of comfort, or you can just go for it if you are good at focusing your attention.
Scrying helps that focus by allowing you to turn your thoughts inward and keep distractions out.
In our writing, scrying is usually associated with rituals and mysticism, and can create a great scene for a paranormal or fantasy plot. In reality you can use it to relax, tune out and turn on. Who knows what incredible ideas just might come to mind?
Below is a simple relaxation method that uses scrying technique. Not just hocus pocus, but derived from psychology.

1)Sit in a dimly lit room with and stare at the flame of a candle. With closed eyes, concentrate on your breathing. Some people envison a white light as a source of positive energy.


2)Slow your breathing, and gradually focus on thoughts of energy flowing into your body with each breath as your worries flow out.


3)When you feel truly relaxed and calm, open your eyes and look at your candle. See if you can get your focus to see through the flame and not stare into it. Let positive thoughts come into your mind slowly. This should bring a sense of well being. The next chapter of your work-in-progress counts.

If you try, I promise even without mystic revelations, you can achieve a deep and healthy state of relaxation and maybe a brilliant idea or two!

Remember, I'm watching you... :)


Saturday, January 5, 2008

Dream Big but Live in Reality.

New Year's Resolutions. I hate 'em usually. But there are two times each year when I assess what I've achieved: my birthday and New Year's Day. So inevitably I make resolutions and in the past, I've made mistakes. I've set goals such as securing an agent or getting published.

Those are wonderful dreams and aspirations, but they aren't goals. Why? They aren't goals because they are out of my control.

I can't make an agent sign me nor can I force a publisher to print my work. I could pay a publisher to print my stuff, but I've decided NOT to go the self-publishing route. So what's more realistic? What can I set as a goal that takes me in the right direction without being out of my control?

Instead of stating as a goal that I want to secure an agent, I can set the goal of submitting/querying a minimum of three agents in 2008. Or a minimum of 10 agents. Or 20 agents. The point is that I can control who I query and how many agents I query, but I can't control their response. So I can't guarantee I'll be signed, but I can hold myself accountable for making an effort.

Setting a goal to write every day won't work for me because I KNOW me. Some days I don't want to go near the computer. Sometimes, I get sick and I will not drag myself to the computer to write. Why is this a big deal? This issue is different for everyone but if I set a goal and fall short of it, I get depressed and lose motivation. For others, failing might spur them on.

Consider what you know about yourself when you write your goals. Don't set yourself up to fail, unless you find failure highly motivational. I don't.

Next, don't be afraid to rework your goals during the year.

As you complete your goals, add new, realistic goals to your list. Checking off the old and adding new will make you feel great! If a goal isn't working for you and you get frustrated, rewrite the goal so it WILL work. These things were not written on stone by God and handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai. Be flexible. Your ego will thank you.

Post your goals up where you'll see them every day.

Post them on the refrigerator. Beside your computer. Near your bed. On your bathroom mirror. Laminate them and post them in the shower. On the dashboard of your car. Whatever works for you! Remind yourself what you want to do and you'll be more likely to do it.

Finally, be grateful for your accomplishments, and keep track of them.

If you don't complete everything, don't beat yourself up. This is a tough one for me because I'm harder on me than anyone I know. Sometimes it's easy to get disgusted with yourself or frustrated because of lack of time or any number of other things. Cut yourself some slack and be grateful for what you have been able to do. If you keep track of the things you've completed, then you know what you are able to do and can aspire to do more.

So what are my goals?

1. Paint the office space in my new home, get moved, get the office organized.
2. Query at least 3 agents.
3. Query at least 3 publishers.
4. Finish my third manuscript.
5. Continue edits (and re-edits) on manuscripts 1 & 2.

These feel realistic, though I would definitely like to query more than 3 agents and 3 publishers - unless I get lucky the first time out! I can achieve these goals and it will feel good when I do. As I complete the goals on my list, I will be motivated to create new goals and that's what it's all about. Slowly climbing that mountain until you reach the peak!

Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Something Wonderful

Here at the diner, you may have noticed that we employees don't tend to knock visitors about the head with self-promo. We figure you'd rather chat about writing itself (and eat pie) than hear us go on endlessly about ourselves. However, the occasional exception gets made when one of us reaches a big milestone, like Kathleen selling not long ago. Well, I hit my own big milestone just two days ago. I got my very first cover! And since I love it so much, and it means so much to me, I wanted to share.
Maybe it's just a picture. But to me it represents dreams I've had my entire life finally coming to fruition. With the exception of beoming a mother, which is really in a league of its own, making the decision to get serious and try to become a published author is the scariest thing I've ever done. I poured blood, sweat, tears, and hours upon hours of work into CALL OF THE HIGHLAND MOON. I'd had my "learning manuscript," been through the rejection process, had my little heart crushed, and (I admit) wallowed a little before picking myself up and trying again. I was determined that this time, this book would be "the one."
It was. And that started a whirlwind of activity that hasn't stopped since. I've been through edits, copyedits, and the writing of a second contracted book. I've come so far from the writer I was just starting out three years ago that it feels more like ten. But the idea that my book would really be out in the world, on shelves, catching people's eye so they'd buy it and actually READ it, didn't start to hit home until I saw this. My baby, all dressed up and ready to go to the ball.
It's a dream come true, one of the best ways I can think of to start a new year. I hope 2008 holds great things for us all. Thanks for letting me share!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Thoughts From "Writing Past Dark," to Reflect on During the New Year

Thoughts From “Writing Past Dark,”
to Reflect on During the New Year

January’s here again and with it the after-holiday pause, an opportunity to reflect on the past year and look ahead. I think of my family and dreams, then I ponder my developing career -- that of a budding author and want-to-be-published writer. If you’re like me, you combine introspection with questions. How do others feel? Do they share my hopes and insecurities? What do others think?
I turn to books on writing done by those who have tasted success.
This year I discovered an insightful, sensitive book, “Writing Past Dark,” by Bonnie Friedman.

I’d like to share 13 quotes I’ve gleaned from her writing life.
1.) “Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing.”
2.) “When writing is going well, it is not like pushing. It’s like falling. You fall the way you do in dreams. You fall and fall. There is that same disorientation and breathlessness and speed and tension.”
3.) “The world has doors opening in all directions. I feel free, and awake and full of laughter. Writing has often been just like that for me.”
4.) “The best art risks most deeply.”
5.) “To supplement the formal workshop we need an informal one, where students are told: Write about what is most frightening to write. Write what makes you feel guiltiest. Write about the most passionate you ever have been. Write images, a whole string of images you do not understand.”
6.) “We should be told: Write fast, write close to the bone, write for 10 hours straight until you’re not thinking in words anymore but in colors, in smells, in waves of memory. Write what you care about.”
7.) “We want to abandon ourselves, to experience images that come to us ‘of their own free will,’ and yet we are opposed to it. We are, in fact, ambivalent.”
8.) “We are afraid of writing, even those of us who love it. And there are parts of it we hate. The necessary mess, the loss of control, its ability to betray us, as well as the possibility that what we write might be lousy, it might just stink and we’ll know it’s ours, or worse, we might think it’s lovely and show it to others only to realize by their constrained, uncomfortable response, that in fact we let loose a bad one. How to feel at ease with all this? How just to let one’s work be?”
9.) “On the one hand, we must write for ourselves. On the other, we must not forget the world. We must sit in our nook, our mental nook, the curtain around us in a space private as any voting booth or photographer’s cloaked crouch, and yet imagine always the needs of the audience.”
10.) The antidote to envy is one’s own work. (Brenda thinks this quote works for almost any emotion put in the blank.). Always one’s own work. Not the thinking about it. Not the assessing of it. But the DOING of it. The answers you want can come from work itself. It drives the spooks away.”
11.) “What we learn most deeply is usually what we do not know we are learning at all. Years later, if we are lucky, we recognize the shape of what we have learned -- its true anatomy.”
12.) “Fiction structures an experience for the reader to live through. This is why its force can be so great. You want your reader to feel a certain way; you want your reader to understand what you have been forced to understand—the insight that eludes words but that you know in your bones.”
13.) “To write well we must sink into the silt of this world.”
These, of course, are quotes that spoke to me. You’re likely to find even more inspiration in “Writing Past Dark” when you read the book or in your New Year’s ponderings.
Where are you in your writing life or whatever career you’re pursuing? What motivates you? Please share kernels of truth you’ve learned with the rest of us.

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