Friday, February 26, 2010

Dogs, horses and a bird or two

Mostly in my stories I've focused on bonds people have between more typical pets like dogs. I have some unpublished tales with cats, but I'm saving Fetch and Fetish for a rainy day. Why dogs? It isn't because I'm a dog person, I love cats, my brother was allergic to cats. No matter how much I adored cats, every time I dragged one home it disappeared to a neighboring farm faster than a fart in a wind storm. A part of me sort of got more than a bit angry, but recognized that no matter how much I wanted a cat, dogs were all I was going to get.

And no matter the wishing, from the time my little heart could form the desire and my little lips could phrase the words, "I want a horse" I didn't get one until my husband dragged home a Belgian for me a handful of years ago. That one we nicknamed T-Rex. You can find various shapes of him in the trio of drafts in Forget Me Knot.

Due to my deep love for critters I've given them a special place in my stories, most notably in the Dog Wild series. Sadly, the series stalled because of the loss of a large part of the inspiration for the doggie mayhem - Mars. The character Mars was none other than my own long-haired Chihuahua terror, Maximus. After he passed away it left a huge hole in my heart, even his compatriot in crime, the Basset, Boo (yes, he's very much like the slobbering beast from the self-same series) lost his rampaging luster and took to sulking despite being given a new playmate, an utterly brainless Beagle.

Watching pets, I've often wondered at our need for bonds with animals. Is it a need man has to form a sort of herd, or it is more basic than that? Is it a need to watch over something akin to food, like predator and prey? Or less violent and more nurturing like the bond between mother and child, a need to give and share affection, a need to feel and share a bond of caring. The last is very one-sided when it comes to cats, unless we own up to wanting a masochistic bond. Do these bonds make us better, weaken the animals, or both? Or neither... One way to find out is to keep writing and exploring the different interactions.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pets and Prose...

I think every story I've ever written had some type of pet in it, even Earth Enchanted did though you didn't get to see him. It wasn't practical for Liv's cat Moe to run from psychos along side of her and so he was left at home. You'll meet him in Wait for the Wind since Liv is (spoiler alert) at home on bedrest with twins for a lot of Ryan's story. Of course in Gypsy Moon, I used Ana's dog Taffy to drive some of the action in the opening scenes, giving Ana a reason to go out into the storm. Circe the cat also gave me the opportunity to show off Ana's magic with small mundane things that would normally go unnoticed.

I love animals, especially cats, so they tend to pop up in my writing without consiously thinking of them. Just there, to give comfort to the hero/heroine, protect, act silly, or whatever. I've always had a pet, usually several at once. Most were rescued from the side of the road where a careless owner had thrown them out or were just born strays. I take them in, feed them, treat for mange (there is a cure for the regular mange, if you need it contact me) and sometimes they just need love to forget the abuse they have suffered. Point is this. Pets stay with you in spirit, love you unconditionally, and devote themselves to making our lives richer. You can ask for a better friend than that. 

Be blessed
(in memory of Panther (nano-kitty) It's been twenty years since I lost my best friend. I still miss you.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Once again I'm sitting at my computer, drinking my coffee, wondering what I'm going to blog about here. I realize the topic of the week is "Love your pet," but I don't have any animals in my first novel. (Though it looks like the Baker Clan will be getting a puppy in book two.)

It's not that I don't love animals. I have three dogs and four cats. That's an amazing feat considering the size of my home.

Since I don't use animals often in my writing (actually, I can't think of a time when I did... Oh, I wrote a short story from the point of view of a cat once), I think I'll deviate from the weekly topic. Again.

My writing has been slow for the past few months. My first novel should be released soon, but the wait is keeping me from writing the sequel. I don't know why. It's possible that the reason lies in the undisputed fact that patience has never been my strong point. Or maybe it's because I allow life to get in my way. Or maybe I just don't have the discipline it takes to plant my butt in the chair the way I should.

So I'm soliciting advice. I know the "rules" about making sure I write each day. I know that writing takes hard work and dedication. I also know I second-guess myself and wonder if my story is actually any good. I think that probably prevents me from writing, at least a little bit.

And now I'm asking for your suggestions. What's worked for you to accomplish your goals? How do you get over the self-doubt?

I'm interested in your answers!


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Topic of the week

Feb 21 is love your pet day. This week, we discuss how animals make our lives and stories richer.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Right now I can't think of anything more I love to hate more than this blasted snow. Why? Because we're buried under close to four feet of the damned stuff and it keeps on falling. Thanks to the snowpocalyspe, as it has been dubbed, we've had the kids home for the last two weeks plus days of no power coupled with a decline in home heating oil. You'd think with all of this lovely insulation blanketing the earth, enveloping the house and covering the roof, some of the blasted heat would stay in the house... but no, instead it seems colder than ever. I hate snow. It makes me even grumpier because over the past two weeks my husband has been snowed in at our barn three separate times leaving me at home with Angsty Teen Son. Its like being locked in with gen-pop one hair from riot in the middle of summer with the AC on the fritz, only I think I'd handle heat better than cold. At least with it being hot I could kick my opponent out the door and make him stay there. I left cabin fever behind two weeks ago, I have cabin mania. If the hated white menace doesn't start melting soon I am going to get desperate enough to channel Pinky and the Brain and start crafting bizarre methods of snow removal ala flame throwers.

Aren't we supposed to be experiencing global warming? Maybe that's the ticket! I need to align the hole in the ozone layer over my house... now to put the plan in motion...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A word on self-editing

My journey as an author runs parallel to that of editor. I never intended for the latter to happen, but it was sort of one of those things that just did, through my love for genre fiction and my wish to see it improved, both in my country and farther afield. Because genre fiction authors often are even more isolate than authors of "normal" or "serious" fiction, I can't stress enough how important it is that they need to take very special care when it comes to creating their particular brand of fiction. Whether you write paranormal romance or dark fantasy, you must, must, must never stop improving your skills.

It all started innocently enough when I joined The Critters Workshop, possibly late 2003 or early 2004. That seemed easy: critiquing other writers' work in exchange for having my own receive critique. I had vague notions that I would try to get a short story or two published. The next thing I knew, I was working as a sub-editor for a newspaper, getting my novels published and freelancing as a content editor.

That was a serious, "Eh, what?" moment for me. In the space of five or so years, I'd made a complete change in focus in my career, receiving a thorough education in the publishing industry when it comes to being a wordsmith.

Thing is, I keep telling myself I've seen it all when it comes to how people, who consider themselves writers, can mangle the English language. You know what? I keep encountering nasty surprises.

Yeah, yeah... I'm not perfect and my writing does have quirks, but I'm lucky. I've had many editors, both at my day-job and my secondary career, help me by pointing out the worst of the problem areas. And you know what? I take their advice to heart. Some of them have been at this for decades and by now they should know what they're talking about. I take notes and I make damn sure I apply them.

So, today, I'm going to share some tips to improve your writing, that will make editors stop being grumpy for a few heartbeats while they're reading through the slushpile. Although this is no guarantee you'll get your work sold, I see these gremlins so often they make my eyes bleed.

There was/There were
Although it's not a mistake to start a sentence with "there was" or "there were", it's a lazy way to write. Which sentence is stronger?
"There were five shots of tequila on the bar counter."
"Five shots of tequila waited on the bar counter."

The second sentence is by far the stronger of the two. The verb "waited" also suggests more than "were", giving the idea of anticipation. Someone's going to down those five shots of tequila, which can only mean events may take a rather unexpected turn in the story.

An ugly little word called "that"
Seriously, most instances of "that" can be cut. As a content editor I do just that. **laughs**
Go back to your writing, use the "find" function in MS Word, and read the sentence where "that" appears. Ten to one, you can delete "that" and the sentence will be better for it. And your editor won't be reaching for her happy pills. Also, "that" is a filler word, in many cases, and if you need to knock down that word count, going on a "that" hunt is a decent place to start.

I saw, he saw, we all saw...
I'm sick to death of encountering sentences that start with words that act as separators. Jump right in with the action, don't tell us that your protagonist saw, heard or felt something, unless it's absolutely necessary. Consider the two sentences.

"He saw the man lift the knife and stab his brother."
"The man lifted the knife and stabbed his brother."

The second sentence has far more punch, don't you agree. When every thing that happens has a "he saw" or "she heard" or "I thought" attached to it, it slows down the pace, these words acting as separators, stealing the immediacy of an author's writing and creating a divide between the reader "experiencing" things for themselves.

Attack of the killer "She", "He" or "I"
I have one of my editors to thank for this phrase but really, sometimes I just get tired of counting how many times I encounter "She", "He" or "I" in a paragraph and I select the entire offending section and add this tag. Authors, watch out for this repetition. It's not a capital offence to start a sentence with these pronouns but if you've got five or six in a row in one paragraph, you have a problem.

Repeating words
When you revise your manuscript, keep an eye out for words that repeat themselves. While reading, try to scan for this kind of repetition, especially if it's an unusual word like "billowing" or "ungainly"... or something that's going to look odd when you repeat it two or three times in successive paragraphs. That's where a beta reader is good for you but really, you should train yourself to keep an eye out for these things in your own writing.

You need to know this. Homophones are words that sound the same as each other but have different meanings. This is death to you as an author when you write: "Their was a brake in the clouds and the son shone threw." That's when editors usually start to point and laugh.

In closing, these are the gremlins that are getting my goat at the moment. In a few weeks' time another set of authors will probably annoy me with an entirely different set of quirks, so here endeth the lesson... for now.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Topic of the week

Things we love to hate

Monday, February 8, 2010

How -- and what -- will you celebrate?

Once again, I'm going to stray from the weekly topic and discuss the "root" of the problem — Valentine's Day.

As a wife and mother, I have to celebrate the day. It's expected.

As a woman, I'm supposed to demand chocolates and flowers.

As an individual, though, I'd be happy with a good book and breakfast in bed.

When I was out selecting cards for hubby and teenager, I got to thinking about the meaning of St. Valentine's Day. I'm mostly convinced that the holiday (as we know it) can be blamed on Esther A. Howland, who first started mass-producing cards in the 1850s. Thanks to her, at least a quarter of ALL cards are sent in February. I'm sure she's the "patron saint of Hallmark." Or at least she should be.

Supposedly, St. Valentine's Day was created in honor of a Catholic priest who defied the Roman Emperor's rule that soldiers weren't to be married. Valentine married young, happy couples in secret and they all lived happily ever after.

Yeah. Right.

Yet, there's another celebration that may hold the key to the origins of the holiday.

Lupercalia, is an ancient festival which honored Remus and Romulus, the twins who discovered the site where Rome would be built, and the she-wolf which nursed them. The festival, which took place on Feb. 15, celebrated fertility and health. It chased off evil spirits and purified the city.

That holiday doesn't seem to have made it into the present day celebrations. I wonder why. Maybe a mass-produced card honoring a she-wolf just didn't sell. Who knows...

So which will you celebrate? Valentines Day? Or Lupercalia? Both? Or neither?

Personally, I think I'll just eat some chocolate and call it good!


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Topic of the week

What to do when your guy just grew blue fur and is chasing your cat with a murderer after you, where's the love? (Or "Adding the romance to paranormal suspense.")

Friday, February 5, 2010

And now for something completely different...

I had this post plotted in my head, came here, read all the wonderful definitions of romance, and retreated. In the spirit of Monty Python I decided to forge onward and announce - and now for something completely different...

My idea of romance has been screwed up since the get-go. I dunno, maybe because I was a Tom-boy, or perhaps it was because was a budding sociopath, the world may never know (sort of like the riddle of how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie-Pop!). However, my notion of romance has never been society's view of "normal."

For instance, a guy I knew in high school really liked this girl only she was ultra stuck up and wouldn't give him the time of day... so I hit her in the face with a softball during gym class. She ended up with a bloody nose, I got detention (as usual) and he, being assigned to the office for in-school detention, got to spend the rest of gym class sitting by her side with cold compresses. They ended up going out, dating and making an utter muck-up of things over the next ten years so I don't know if he'd curse me if he knew the truth (my husband being his best friend knows, but ain't tellin') or not. Personally, I couldn't stand her, so for me it was a win-win situation. I got to bean her in the face and made a friend happy. Gimme wings and call me Cupid *grins*

Yeah, you see the problem.

It only got worse as I got older. Once at the scene of a fatal car accident there were two roadkill raccoons, being bored I started wondering aloud if they had been a furry, woodland couple on a date, looking to score decent eats at the restaurant across the state highway when - blam, a soccer mom more concerned with finding out whose daughter was giggling about which boy took her eyes off the road... One little human-like hand ever reaching for the other, but never quite making it, like a bloody ying-yang symbol slumped on the asphalt. Never meeting again. The deputy coroner gave me two thumbs up for creativity, and one of the ambulance drivers was horrified enough to bury the bodies, the staties just shook their heads and told me I had been doing my job way too long.

Sadly, that wasn't the case.

I've always looked at sick and twisted with a side of gruesome and managed to see a glimmer of romance or at least eroticism in it. Most folks rub their necks and look at the floor or the ceiling and say its my way of finding "silver linings". Poop, it's just me being me. It was such a no brainer in high school English to understand the underlying seduction of Dracula the fictional creation. It's probably why I have such ease writing erotic horror scenes like the murderous impaling in Song of the Nighthawk, or the zombie lesbian tango in Frights & Delights, or even cutting out your own heart to save your love, like the heroine was willing to do in Flesh. Love isn't just about the pretty things, the happy things, the bright and shiny things, sometimes love is something dark and frightening, with fangs and claws.

Just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, romance is in the heart of the one to be wooed and won. Since there are many fish in the sea, would you catch a trout or a shark or perhaps a mermaid or kraken?

That's the difference between my way and the normal ;)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Welcome to the land of hearts and flowers, where love demands to be heard and celebrated in all its grandeur, otherwise known as the month of February. Yes, It's that time again. Valentine's Day. All the warm and fuzzy commercials (I can't stand those jewerly commercials. So sappy.) got me thinking. Okay I write paranormal romance, but what does romance really mean? Is it all hearts and flowers? Candy in pretty boxes? (Okay so I love the pretty candies, who doesn't?) OR is it something more?

So first you have to ask what is romance.  I thought hard about that question. I decided its the everyday things that take so little effort. A smile in the morning, holding the flashlight while he makes holes in his new deer feeder in the middle of the woods. (yes, that's wierd. and yes, I've done that.) It's the little things you do that you probably don't think twice about, because you love someone. It's when you've been on your feet ten hours in the Alabama summer heat welding on Valentine's Day, working overtime to take care of your family, but you stop at the Dollar store to spend your last six dollars on small boxes of candy for your wife and children. You stand in line for twenty minutes, sweaty, tired and hot and don't complain. You walk outside to the truck and there's a guy beating the devil out of his woman, slamming her into your truck and on the pavement. Of course, you have to kick his a** because you're a good guy and that's what you do, and then deal with the cops. You get home at nine with melted candy. Dinner's cold and it might as well be bedtime. ..

That melted candy was all the more special and better than any gourment treat because of what my husband went through to bring it to me. I saved the box and look at it when I'm at my wit's end. lol
Life is romantic.

Be blessed,

Monday, February 1, 2010

Candy, flowers, jewelry, oh my!

It's official. Actually, for retail purposes, it was official on Jan. 2. Valentine's Day is around the corner.

I mean, really, the big stores had red and pink candies on display in early January.

But, I digress. The second month of the year brings with it Valentine's Day and thoughts of love and romance.

Around my house, however, that doesn't mean flowers and candy — well, maybe chocolate — but is more apt to bring a card and some jewelry. (Hey, I live in the Black Hills. Ever hear of "Black Hills Gold?") Hubby grabs a ring, necklace or earrings just because it's easy. Not that I'm complaining. In fact, I have a beautiful jewelry collection and I enjoy every piece I own... well, I do have some sharks-tooth earrings that may not be my absolute favorite.

Anyway, romance isn't all hearts and flowers in my mind. Romance is the every-day things you do for those you love. Like their laundry. And not complaining when they put the toilet paper roll on the wrong way. Or just bringing them a cold drink because they're thirsty.

Romance shouldn't be saved for a huge showing one day a year. It should be lived and cherished in a thousand small ways each and every day.

At least, that's my opinion....