Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tools of the Trade...

Thanks for the congrats everyone! We've blogged about how we work, what we write, where we look for inspiration and research, but what about what we work with? You know that electronic extension of our creative minds, the computer.

I started out writing pretty much the same way everyone else does, in school with a notebook and pencil. I have twenty year old notebooks with complete stories in them somewhere. Now days it just isn't practical to pen the old fashioned way. You've got options. Typewriter or computer? More and more agents and publishers are going electronic leaving typewriters in the dust. That leaves a computer for all your writing endeavors. Easy choice right? Wrong. I don't think I want to find out, but I'm sure some tech guy knows exactly how many different computers there are out there. So what do you choose when you decide to invest?

My writing space is a relative omelet of chaos. Like Nichole I can find what I need when I need it without searching, no matter how cluttered things are. My computers are the same way. I have three personal ones (laptops), a Dell, an Acer and a Ascentia something or other. Why three? (My husband asked me that when I started drooling for the little Acer. I'm a gadget hog.) See, "Jax"(I tend to name everything.) the Ascentia was the very first computer I had. (He bought it for me back when he was a welder and I know the kind of sacrifice it cost him to buy it.) It uses the square floppy disks and is so antiquated it should probably be in a computer museum somewhere. (My ten year old types reports and paints pics on it.)

When I started writing seriously my mother gave me "Max" the Dell for Christmas. I still do a lot of my rough drafts on it because of the screen size. I can't really save anything in it. (It's been acting crazy since I totalled my car and it went ping-ponging against the car seat.) To replace "Max", the hubby bought an Acer Mini for Christmas. (Which the kids and i have affectionately named "Dinky") I keep everything on a flash drive and memory card so I can float between the three of them.

I tend to do my writing in little snippets of time, before dinner and at the park while the kids play, etc. Sometimes it isn't practical to take any of my laptops with me. (Sand) For that I have "Twinkie" a BlackjackII (did I mention I love gadgets, lol). I love that I can edit documents or sketch in details to vamp up later on my cell phone. Point is a good computer is like a sword that must become an extension of self. After all, you plan on saving a good chunk of your brain in there! So what tools do you use? Now that I've bored all of you silly. I'll let you get back to your regularly scheduled Paranormal posts.


Monday, March 30, 2009

Work space: cluttered or neat?

"If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is the significance of a clean desk?"
— Dr. Laurence J. Peter

I'm sitting in the midst of another South Dakota blizzard.  For those keeping score, it's the second one this week.  YUCK!

To be perfectly honest, I hate the snow.  I hate the cold.

But, the weather has forced me to be inside and evaluate where I am.  Right now, I'm sitting at my desk, looking around, wondering if I should be cleaning instead.

I'll be the first to admit that my desk is a mess.  My office is a mess.  It's a bit of a dumping ground for everyone else's stuff, as well as my own.  Our house is small.  Seriously small when you consider there's me, my loving husband, our teenage daughter, three cats and one dog that lives inside.  Two other dogs are "outside mutts" until the temps become too cold for that.

I also key off the weather.  A lot.  When the sun is shinning, I seem much more productive.  When the snow blows, I don't seem to get much done.

So I'm sitting here at my desk looking at the clutter.  I have sticky notes all over my monitor and the shelves above.  They decorate my dry-erase board that hosts the outline of Ghost Mountain (a trick I learned from Bonnie Ramthun).    Various papers seem to erupt from who-knows-where.

Interestingly, I know where everything is.  I can find a note in this stack of paper within seconds.  I know what books are where (even if they are under a pile of other books!) and can find them easily when I need them.  What looks like chaos to anyone else is my creativity overflowing.

What about you?  Is your workspace clean or cluttered?  Can you find everything easily or must you search?  Does the clutter make you calm cause you stress?


Thursday, March 26, 2009

(Self) Publishers

Since Beth had such awesome news (applause) this week, I thought I would talk about publishers. There are some great websites that help you filter out the bad ones from the good ones. I don't mean the big houses versus smaller presses. Independent presses can be just as sparkly as the New York giants. But there are nasty people out there who prey on writers so you have to do your homework. Learn how to spot cons and scammers at Preditors and Editors. Also, check out Writer Beware.

Here's a great site that defines the many different types of publishing. Traditional, subsidy, vanity, and a few others.

Here's two types of publishing you may want to steer clear of:

1. Vanity Presses. These are "publishers" that you pay to publisher your work. This is not how the game is played. People should pay you for your work.

From Wikipedia:
With vanity publishing, the author will pay to have their book published. Since the author is paying to have the book published the book should not have to go through an approval process as it would in a traditional setting where the publisher is taking a financial risk on the author's ability to write successfully. Editing and formatting services may or may not be offered, and they may come with the initial publishing fee (or more correctly, printing fee) or might be at an additional cost.

2. Print on Demand. Same concept, only the trick is you don't pay much up front. You pay to have each book printed. Then you go door to door to sell them. Not cost effective.

From Wikipedia:
Print on demand (POD) is a printing technology and business process in which new copies of a book (or other document) are not printed until an order has been received.POD fuels a new category of publishing (or printing) company that offers services directly to authors who wish to self-publish, usually for a fee. These services generally include printing and shipping a book each time one is ordered, handling royalties and getting listings in online bookstores. The initial investment for POD services is usually less expensive for small quantities of books when compared with self-publishing that uses print runs. Often other services are offered as well: formatting, proof reading and editing, and so on. Such companies typically do not spend their own money on marketing, unlike traditional publishers.

And for a laugh, read J.A. Konrath's experience with POD

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Keeping the Rambles going...

First off BIG HOORAYS FOR BETH!!!!! I'm doing the jealous dance as we speak.

Ok, since were doing ramblings, I'm just going to ramble a bit about my book.

I've hit a huge stumbling block. Wanda and the Detective just aren't walking along the way I envisioned them going. They want to wander around with each other. I was totally ok with them eventually becoming more than friends, but it was going to be a process in the book. But for some reason they both insist that they were together before Wanda's attack.

She keeps going on and on about the Detectives smell. Not really surprising considering she's a ware creature, but she's honestly getting annoying. One of the bad things about having empathetic abilities.... the emotions that you can pick up aren't always made by a real person. (Another reason that I don't watch soap operas) I've started to smell him. Wouldn't be so bad if he didn't smell like "Old books, stale beer, and warm earth". I suppose I'll come to appreciate it.

That's not the only problem I'm having. I have no motivation for my killer. I know WHAT he is, but not WHO. I'm really hoping that it's not one of those things where I don't find out what's going on until the readers do.

And I can't get her out of the DAMN hospital!!!!

okok, I"m done now. I feel much better

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Rambling onward...

A lot has happened over this past weekend. I submitted my paranormal romantic suspense Blood Shield and I found out yesterday it was accepted. Yay! Now comes the hard part. New territory to be learned in the form of contracts, edits, working with an actual editor, forcing my flighty (and very busy) self to stick to a deadline. Am I crazy for looking forward to it? Nah.

The rainy weather has provided me with means to stay in all weekend and write (Instead of work on the house remodel.) Yay, maybe I'll get Bite Me finished and Wolf's Bane. Then there are all those contest entries and crits I've promised. However you spend your week, have a wonderful one!


Monday, March 23, 2009

Nichole's Ramblings

We don't have a topic this week and I'll take full responsibility for that.  Oh well, we can use this week for personal ramblings or whatever may be on our minds.

My mind this week is blank.  I have a serious case of the "blahs."  I'm ready for Spring to spring.  I'm ready for green grass and blue skies and chirping birds.  I want 70 degree days and to wear flip-flops without freezing my toes off.

Of course, I get none of that today.  I have a sky the color of used BBQ charcoal, sleet, and winds that could pick up a woman on a bicycle (that would be a Wizard of Oz reference to those who are lost and confused).  There's a blizzard warning in effect for the next 18+ hours and they've even closed the interstate and schools.

So I sit here.  Wanting the warmth and feeling the cold.  It doesn't put me much in a state of mind to get writing done.  It doesn't put me in a state of mind to do much of anything, to be honest.

But I did get an interesting request this week.  I was asked to be on a short-story panel for Mayhem in the Midlands.   That makes me nervous.  I mean, I'm excited about going to the conference, but I'm not sure that I'm qualified to speak on a panel.  I only have one short story published.  Is that enough to put me on a panel?  The organizers at Mayhem seem to think so.  I'm not so sure.

In a fit of indecision, I sought advice from my writer-pal Lori Armstrong who told me to go for it.  (And in big, all-capital letters with a few exclamation points, even!)  I think I will.  But I still don't feel qualified.  I guess I'm afraid that I'll get up there and either have nothing to say or will say something that will forever label me an impostor.  Maybe I would feel differently with more than one story published.  Maybe not.

For those of you who have "been there, done that," how did you handle it?  Is this first-time-on-a-panel jitters?  Or am I truly not qualified?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Paranormal heroes and why we love 'em

The hero. Sigh. You can’t have a great book—or even a bad book—without some sort of hero. Let’s face it. As much as we complain about the men in our lives, try to change them, try to gently boss them around, and annoy them, we can’t live without them.

Our heroes.

So then, why, as writers, do we agonize over what our heroes look like, sound like? What character traits shall we bestow on them in the plotting process as if we were fairy’s giving a blessing at birth. Should they be a hunk, a guy-next-door type, should they have a disfigurement? The possibilities are endless. But what they should have is an overwhelming drive that won’t let them give up and a touch of humanity.

I have a WIP about a werewolf. Yeah, he’s drop dead gorgeous, all blond curls and sexy bod, yada-yada, but he’s allergic to broccoli AND he’s in love with a vegetarian. Intriguing and funny, no?

Humanity. That little, special touch in a character that makes him relate to a reader. It makes the reader want to root for the guy when he’s on his last leg. It’s the shining something that the reader will say “Come on, give ‘em a break!”

Why? Think about the guy in your life again. Is he Superman, is he a James Bond type, is he away on a super secret mission to save the world? Probably not. He’s a “good” guy, a “stable” guy and as much as we drool over literary heroes, we’d prefer our men hands down. Because of their humanity. There’s that indefinable something about them that drew you to that one guy.


So, now matter how dark and broken a hero is, or how funny and sexy, wimpy with glasses, or battling the bulge, these guys deserve our respect and a second, third or twentieth chance. Yup, heroes in books are wonderful to read about, cathartic to write about, and good for the soul to drool over, but chances are, deep down, the writer has planted a seed of truth about a real life hero they know.

Just ask. They’ll tell you.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Leading Men

No one has perfected the leading man like Janet Evanovich in her numbers series. First, there’s Morelli. Italian. Cop. Strong. Walks the straight and narrow. Hot as hell. He’s smart, funny, earthy, and he wouldn’t mind taking care of Stephanie, if she weren’t so hard to tame.

Early on, the reader learns that Morelli is a ladies’ man and that Stephanie Plum lost her virginity to him. Then she hit him with her car. So there’s history there. Fiery history, which implies that these two share a serious spark that may lead to fast-paced action and toe-curling romance. Not bad for a few lines of backstory.

Then there’s Ranger. Hispanic. Bounty hunter. Wears lots of black. Exotic. Renegade. Ranger thinks of laws as mere suggestions, but he never crosses the line unless it’s to help someone out. Mostly Stephanie. Ranger makes it clear that he’s more than willing to rock Stephanie’s world and he wouldn’t want her to change a thing. But that doesn’t mean he would stick around forever.

Quite the triangle we have here.

Ranger is Stephanie’s go-to guy when she needs help on the job and when she might do something on the other side of the law. Morelli is who Stephanie calls to buffer dinner with her parents and when she wants to share a pizza.

It’s the personification of most women’s desires. Domestic versus dangerous. Lust verses love. We want it all but that’s not usually possible. So here we have the best of both worlds at the same time. And the endless question keeps us reading book after book.

Who will win Stephanie’s heart?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Z(h)ero. The Myth, the Man, the Legend

I love the underdog. The way I see it, if someone is going to save the world and win the girl, he damn well better have to fight hard for it. The victory is sweeter that way. Besides girls, answer honestly, do you REALLY want the guy who has had everything handed to him on a silver platter, or do you want the guy who ahem, APPRECIATES, what he's got?

From the Disney-fied King Arthur, to the Goonies, even the Frightners (I know there all movie refs, but even a movie started out as a story), the Zeros turned Heroes give us the internal warm fuzzy. They make us all feel like we too can accomplish anything. Common, look at Bill Gates!

In a story, the Z(h)ero is the perfect plot device. Sometimes you can see it a mile away that the 14 year old kid with a crush will someday become a big bad werewolf and save the day, and sometimes you are blindsided by the one kid in all of Hogwarts that never did anything right saving the day for Griffendor.

But like all plot devices, if you use it too liberally, it looses it's power. Did you REALLY have to put the Z(h)ero so obviously right there at that moment? We all know that the 90 pound weakling will become the 250lb muscle man in the end. He probably wears blue tights and flys too. Be creative with it.

Once again, I have to confess that I've got nothing accomplished on my book in... well months now. Still haven't finished my timeline. I have nothing more on my Z(h)ero than a name and that he has a penchant for human blood. I think I'm going to have to abandon my "writing on a whim" scheme (that's been working sooooooooo well ;)) and just sit down each day and type. Blah


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Paranormal heroes...

I apologize for the late post. It's a little swamped around here amid the judging contest entries, rewrites, house remodeling, book reviews (due tommorow ugh) oh and did I mention the day job? lol. I'm afraid my kids will forget what I look like. As penance I'm giving you a sneak peek at the yummy Kail McKenna in todays post.

Okay, so let's dish about those heroes of the paranormal variety. While we are on the topic, what makes a hero heroic? Is it the super guy with the big muscles and wicked powers who falls over his feet to help the world? Or is it the average Joe who almost literally breaks his neck to save the world with only his wits and courage to aide him? Like Nichole pointed out (and this is a guess not an accurate percentage) I'd guess about seventy five percent of all paranormal stories feature a heroine with extraordinary abilty. Her hero is more likely to be average or have underused ability. Why? Does the reader prefer to see the heroine shoulder the powers and the burden along with them? Is she more real in their eyes for having triumphed because of it? Perhaps. We expect our heroes to be strong in one way or another.

I like my heroes to have something dark to overcome, either pysically or emotionally. Sometimes, I have to drag the facts out of them. Take Kail McKenna (Bite Me!) for example. He's a vampire and a cop in his present lifetime, but in 1400 a.d. he was "Keeper of Seven" which is just a glorified way of calling him a babysitter. He was chosen for the post because of his own magically ability. He could manipulate time. He was also very young, very human and hopelessly in love with one of the Seven. His distraction cost them the mission, his lover, his humanity and four of the seven's lives. In the present, he will have to overcome all that baggage if he is to help Brianna regroup the Seven.

If you'd like to read several great para-romances with heroes who are just as powerful as their mates, I recommend these. Face the Fire book 3 of Three sisters Island trilogy by Nora Roberts. Morrigan's Cross, Dance of the Gods, and Valley of Silence also by NR. Enchanted by NR. Funny, I didn't realize I had read so many of her books.

Have a blessed week, all!

Beth (Brynna)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Can a spirit guide be a "zero"?

My story doesn't really have a paranormal leading man, so this is a tough topic for me to write about. It does, however, have a spirit guide, so maybe that counts.

He Who Waits is a Lakota shaman who tells Cerri what she doesn't want to know. He has no special powers, other then being a spirit. He is very much the voice of Cerri's conscious.

I'm currently reading Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward, which has a band of vampire's. That makes them a bit paranormal (or are vampires in another catagory?). None of those guys seem wimpy. Actually, they are the polar opposite of wimps.

There aren't many other books I've read lately that have paranormal men. At least not that I can remember reading. Most of the books I read have women as the paranormal characters. I wonder if that's because women are more in tune with their feelings -- emotional and otherwise -- then men are. If you don't think so, try nursing a man with the flu! (Sorry, hubby, you know that's true.)

Maybe since women are more in tune with their feelings, that's why paranormal leading men have the reputation of being wimpy in comparison to their "normal" counterparts. What do you think?


Sunday, March 15, 2009

And the winner is.....


You've won a copy of Nancy's book, La Vida Vampire!

Please contact me so we can get your info to Nancy.

Thanks to all who posted and we hope you enjoy our blog and come back often.


Topic of the Week

Paranormal leading men: "Heros or Zeros?"

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Drawing update!

I will be drawing for a copy of Nancy's book La Vida Vampire this evening.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Magic Mania!

I was wild about Samantha Stevens of the TV show Bewitched. I wanted to be Samantha with a passion, and who wouldn’t?

Love spells? Sure, they have their place, but I wanted all those other magical powers. Changing clothes with a sweep of the hands. Cleaning the house with a snap of the fingers. Teleporting anywhere in the world with the wiggle of the nose.

Come on, how cool is that?

Much as I still fantasize about being Samantha with all her powers (and believe me, my house would appreciate the cleaning part!), I now get my magic fixes in all the great books featuring witches and warlocks and a myriad of other characters with magical powers. Which authors leap to mind? Kelley Armstrong, Linda Wisdom, Yasmine Galenorn, and Rachel Caine with the djinn in her Weather Wardens series -- and they are only a handful of the many authors I read who are writing … well… marvelously magical books. Whether the author brews up dragon magic, fairy magic, or ley line magic, I tap into it all with joyous abandon!

So why is my lead character, Cesca Marinelli a vampire and not a witch? For starters, that’s not what I heard in the peanut butter commercial that inspired Cesca. (Long story!) But, wait! I do have a wizard in my series, and Cosmil even has a shape-shifting sidekick. Pandora is not a werecreature, but spell-born Florida panther that magically shifts into a hefty house cat and back again. Cosmil and his magicks appear in La Vida Vampire, but he and Pandora take bigger roles in Last Vampire Standing. In Book 3, they’ll become Cesca’s “power” coaches.

So, do you have a favorite series that features magic-workers of any kind? Are you writing characters with magic powers? Please share a comment! I love adding titles to my TBR list, and

I’ll be giving away a copy of La Vida Vampire to one commenter!

My thanks to Nicole for inviting me to visit! May all your writing and reading be fabulous fun!

Nancy Haddock is the author of LA VIDA VAMPIRE, the first in a new and quirky series from Berkley Publishing Group. Her second novel in the series, LAST VAMPIRE STANDING, is a May 5, 2009 release. You can visit Nancy at http://www.nancyhaddock.com and enter her contests by clicking on the Beach Party page.

Welcome, Nancy!

This week's guest blogger is Nancy K. Haddock.

She has one book published, and one on the way. Congratulations, Nancy!


She's Gidget with Fangs? Cowabunga! Buried for more than 200 years under an old Victorian house, Cesca Marinelli is unearthed in a time when vampires are a protected species and dives into her second chance at afterlife. Soon she’s living la vida vampire as a surfer girl, a fiend for bridge, and a ghost tour guide in St. Augustine, Florida. That is, until the tide turns and brings a stalker, a shifter, and a killer into the picture. Cesca is forced to team up with sexy ex-slayer Deke Saber who insists that she stop passing for mortal and embrace her vamp powers. If she doesn't, she could be the next victim - and this time, the wipe out will be permanent.


Cesca Marinelli is on an afterlife high with a fun job, good friends, and nice new digs—until a budding stand-up comic, Jo-Jo the Jester, escapes from his Atlanta nest looking for sanctuary. Worse than Jo-Jo’s bad jokes, a psychotic vampire with a murderous agenda has followed Jo-Jo to Florida, putting everyone close to Cesca in danger. She must discover what the not-so-comic mess has to do with an energy-sapping plague knocking off the country’s head vamps. Even it kills her. Again.

Make sure you comment on her post (coming VERY soon).  One lucky winner will be winning a copy of  Nancy's first book!  Good luck!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tools of Paranormal

Implementing magical elements into fiction can be tricky business. Because the magic shouldn’t be used as an easy way out of a tough spot, the writer needs to draw the line on when and how it’s used. If your protagonist is at the bottom of a well and all she has to do is twitch her nose to get out of it, what fun is that for a reader? And what would be the point in turning the page if he never believed she was in real danger?

Magic, otherworldly beings, and paranormal circumstances can be a fun theme to play with but they should also propel the plot forward. They should be used as a tool, like a gun or a special talent, attributed to the character that serves as a source of protection, an element of disguise. Not a get out of jail free card.

Take the book PRACTICAL MAGIC. Alice Hoffman weaves a world where the Owens women are cursed. They can never find true love, even though they have a firm grasp on spellcasting. They cannot just snap their fingers and make everything better in their own lives, although they are often successful in helping others—sometimes too successful. In the story, the power of their witchcraft not only hinders them, but helps them. It’s a delicate balance Hoffman blends well.

So if you apply that formula in your own work, making the magical traits of your characters both bothersome and helpful, the reader will continuously wonder if the next dream/vision/spell will lead to more hot water or get her out of harm’s way. Think of the MONK books and his incredible gift for detecting. “It’s a blessing and a curse.” He says this often, and it is. Monk’s observational skills take on almost a superhero quality. He sees things that others simply don’t catch. Which helps him to solve murder after murder, yet also puts him the path of danger. Arguably, this gift may be the root cause of his paralyzing fears as well. Monk is a perfect example of the flawed genius. The superhero character with the debilitating faults. That’s more than balance, that’s a teeter-tauter that makes for great storytelling.

Play with the magic in your books this way. If your character has the ability to see dead people, as in the Wendy Roberts books, perhaps he’s also blind. He can “see” people that have passed on, but he can’t see his own wife. This would make for compelling plot points. If the character is a witch, make her dyslexic, so that she needs to use extreme caution every time she casts a spell or crazy things happen. Got a character that can talk to animals? What if the animals lied? Or what if they talked in riddles all the time and she had to figure out what the message was?

Magic in its many forms has captured audiences since Shakespeare. But as in a Midsummer Night’s Dream, magic can cause chaos and even the most gifted protagonist has no story to tell without succumbing to his own flaws. So make sure you balance the supernatural with human frailty.

Barbra Annino

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Magic is everywhere

We as humans learn our first and most powerful spell early; "NO!" With this one magical incantation we can stop someone in their tracks ("NO! Don't touch that!"), we freeze objects in mid movement ("NO! Mr. Can you will NOT roll off that counter!"), and make adults cry ("NO! Don't like you Mommy!"). But as time goes on, we forget that words are powerful, that what we say has the ability to shape the world around us.

I like the trend that some paranormal authors have been going, adding back the simple magic of words. You see it a lot in the Harry Potter books and even in the Abby and Ophelia mysteries. They have begun to ring with the simple truth that what is said, good or bad, echoes in unexpected ways.

The story I'm writing (again, slowly, haven't done a damn thing this week) doesn't really deal a lot with magic. Well, not yet anyway, I'm flexible. I'd like to bring some of the 'eclectic' magic into it, but I'm not sure exactly how to bring it in.

Maybe if I finally finish my time line.........


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Elemental Magic...

For Liv Corrigan (Blood Shield), Ana Brannon (Wolf’s Bane) and Brianna Hughes (Bite Me!) magic exists in three very different ways. Liv is your average modern woman, career-oriented and willing to set aside dreams of marriage and children for her work. She’s also a descendant of a union between a wise woman and a nixie. For her, magic is in her make-up. She doesn’t want or need the visions given her, but she’s smart enough to know when to pay attention. I like to call Liv’s talent, blood magic.

Ana was born both Irish and Gypsy. She has an additive sort of magic and uses it casually in everyday life. She heals her furry patients and one wild and reckless werewolf with her abilities. She can call up the wind, bring forth fire and restore the damaged back to its previous state. Ana’s a witch and makes no secret of the fact. She is innately magical, more so than Liv, because of her control.

Brianna is uncomfortable with magic, yet she wears a silver cross and a pendant known as “Charm of Light” because her mother gave them to her. Brianna is one of the Seven-reincarnated-, a group of the most powerful witches the continents have ever known. She doesn’t believe in it at all, even though her very environment is magical. Her lover is a vampire. Strangely enough, she has no problem believing in Kail.

When Ana calls the wind or conjures a glowing ball of cold fire, your pulse quickens. Maybe for a wistful minute you wonder what it would be like to have that ability. Brianna exists within the magic and allows it to effect her while she learns to use it, affording the reader a chance to grow and change with her. Liv simply flows with her visions, adapting amiably to the change. I like to use these rules when creating my characters. Magic happens. Magic is and Magic will be. What will you do with it? *smiles*


Monday, March 9, 2009

Environmentally conscious magic

Magic is all around us.

I've said that before.  Maybe you weren't listening.  (Or should that be "reading"?  Whatever.)

My personal belief is that we use magic when we cook.   We use it when we pray.

In my series, Cerri doesn't exactly "use" magic in the sense that she's standing over a boiling cauldron adding eye of newt to a potion.  (Cerri's mother, on the other hand, we aren't so sure about!)

Cerri does, however, bless her new home with salt.  She carries a quartz for protection.  She plants certain flowers and herbs because she knows their medicinal properties.   Or is she just making the most of what she has?  Following the traditions she learned as a child?  Using talismans as psychological tools or out of habit?  Making her own camomile tea to save her family some money and to be sure what's actually in the brew?  I guess that depends on who you ask.  Cerri doesn't consider it magic, though I would argue that she uses magic the same way and for the same reasons our ancestors would have — because that's what she knows.

In some ways, Cerri is the ultimate "green woman."  She wouldn't think of littering any more then she would consider robbing a bank.  She may not recycle in the "sort your trash" way, but she will re-use what she can as often as she can.   Her style of magic could even be described as environmentally conscious.  Defined as a hedge witch by today's standards, Cerri is really just a wise woman of old living in the here and now.  

Then again, Cerri isn't really into magic.  She wants to fit in.  To be normal.  At least that's what she thinks she wants!


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Topic of the Week

How do characters use magic?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Contests are a great thing for one reason and one reason only: they get you writing.

I belong to a writers group online called Backspace. There’s usually a contest a month over there and I’m in one right now. There’s no cash prize, no free subscriptions, not even a tee shirt that says, “I won a contest and all I got was this lousy tee shirt.” But what they do offer is free critiques. Everyone enters anonymously, and all who enter must comment about what worked, what didn’t, and then later vote on the stories they liked best.

It’s a terrific system and it gets you thinking about your writing. You see the story through other’s eyes and it’s done with complete respect, although don’t be shocked if someone says, “this didn’t work for me.” You need to listen to why it didn’t work and then apply to the piece and make it better.

Contests can also pull you out of your comfort zone. Often there are certain criteria to be met that you may not have used in your traditional stories. Perhaps you like to write in third person, and the guidelines require a first-person story or vice-versa. Or maybe you write about vampires and they want a ghost story. There’s one contest I like called “the first line” where everyone writes a story using the same first line. Great concept.

If you win or not isn’t the point of contests. I’ve used several contest entries that didn’t win to polish and submit to other markets, often with success. So consider entering just for the sake of building a portfolio, flexing your writing muscles, and the sheer pleasure of it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The last time I wrote for a contest, I was in high school (won by the way). And the rate I'm going with Venus I'm going to be too old to enter it in a contest by the time I'm done with it. (I did pick up some research books this weekend, but haven't had a chance to read through them much)

I've always thought of writing contests as something that you do when you're first starting writing in your teens. Write a couple short stories, some poems, ship them off and see what the world in general thinks of your style. If you hear back, great! If not, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again. It's kind of like the proving ground for a warrior; see if you have what it takes to not fall off the horse.

If you asked me right now what writing contests were available to someone my age and experience, I'd look at you with my mouth gaping open and a dumbfounded expression on my face. I simply don't know of any. And even if I did, I'm not sure that I'd enter one. At best it would force me to sit down and strip what I'm working on to it's bare bones, making it a short story and easily digestible for a contest. At worst I'd write something completely different and loose track of the story that I'm having such trouble with.

Might not be a bad thing, now that I've said that out loud. "Put down the coffee and step away from the laptop..."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

I need a time machine...

Well, I've never actually entered a contest, so I can't really give a lot of first hand experience on the subject. I'll take a cue from Nichole and toss the topic aside this week...

Bzzzz...Bzzzz The alarm clock, otherwise known as 'time demon from h**l' alerted me another wonderful morning has occurred and I'm supposed to crawl out of bed and enjoy it. It's 5:00 a.m. I'd set the clock half an hour early, just for the sole purpose of writing. Everyone is still sleeping and I think 'Finally, I can get a chapter done.' I'm all set up to work while breakfast cooks and then I hear feet. 'No, not feet! It's not six yet!' I look mournfully at my laptop and set in out of harm's way. By the time I get back to my laptop its 7:50 and I have to get to work.
So where do you find time to write?

I try to write late at night, after everyone has gone to sleep or early in the morning. The weekend house remodeling has taken over my 'weekend writing marathons'(Unless its raining, since I've been told it is better not to bash in floors with a sledgehammer or paint on rainy days.) I find when I only get five minutes in I have to scrap what I've written and go back. My muse seems to pout and dissapear if I don't give her at least an hour. Between the day job and family that's not easy. I certainly don't want to take any of my time away from them, but I writer who can't write is like a fish out of water.

So what tips do you use to stay on track?


Monday, March 2, 2009

Time for writing

This week's topic is writing for contests, but I'm going to skip that and babble about finding the time to write. I seem to be struggling with that lately.

Why is it we find time for so much other stuff, but finding the time to write is hard? Seriously! I can find the time to make dinner. Do the laundry. Meet a friend for coffee. Go to aerobics. Walk the dog. Do the dishes. Heck, I can even do my taxes. But carving out the time to write is just plain hard.

Imagine it. I'm sitting down at my computer. I have my notes. I've done my research. I finally know what Cerri is going to do next and.... Someone will call. The dirty dishes will call. My mother will text me. My husband will want to show me a YouTube video he finds fascinating. My teenage daughter will pick that precise moment to tell me all about her day. The dog will have to do out.

It never fails!

And I let it. I know this. It's totally my fault.

I will answer the phone. I'll let the dog out. I'll wash the dishes, text my mother back and watch the video my husband wants me to see. (Although, I won't find it nearly as interesting as he does. In fact, I'll probably wonder why I watched it in the first place.) And, of course, I'll listen to my child tell me about her day.

And then, well, I will have forgotten those inspired words I was about to write. Or else it will be time for that aerobics class I mentioned. Or time to start dinner.

I don't think I'm the only one who gets so easily sidetracked. What I'm not sure of is if it is a confidence thing or a "Mom" thing. Am I so easily swayed because I only have so many more years of my child in my house? Or because I'm not sure if this novel will ever be published and it's easier to leave it in "almost perfect" mode and never submit then it is to never see my book on the bookstore shelves?

It's a tough call to make. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I have the answer.

I do know that I must write. It's not a hobby or a passion. Those words aren't strong enough to describe my need to write. It is part of what makes me who I am. So, even when I get sidetracked by life, I'm still plugging along. They may not be the best words ever written, but they're words. Written.

And, until I can find a better way to do it, I'll be writing those words between loads of laundry and sinks full of dishes.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Topic of the Week

Writing paranormal for contests