Wednesday, October 22, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014

I know. Every year I say I'm going to do this and every year I fall apart (here, here and here). Why? Because I taught high school and, here in New York State, grades are due for the first term the second week of November. I'd have great intentions, then get flooded with term papers to grade, tests to evaluate, projects to assess. Anyone who still thinks teachers work only 40 hours a week is living in the stone age.

Besides which, November, for me, is also the lead-up to Christmas. My family usually hosts Thanksgiving, which is a minimum of two full days of preparations. The day after Thanksgiving is decorating day when the entire family is put to "work" and the house is transformed. Christmas carols play for the first time and leftovers abound. And the next day, the Saturday of that long weekend, is baking day. Christmas cookies and, increasingly, Christmas candies come forth from the kitchen while the TV watchers gorge on Christmas specials.

So what makes me think this year will be any different? For one, I'm not teaching. Well, not in that schedule, anyway. I'm adjunct at the local community college, but have no grades due in November. At all. Yay!

For two, we're not hosting Thanksgiving this year. That means the decoration boxes can come down Wednesday night and we can start decorating when we get home on Thursday. We've done that a few times over the years and like the relaxed feel. Of course, my son no longer lives at home, so we'll be one set of hands short, but I think we'll be okay. We've repurposed one of the downstairs rooms over the summer, so it'll be fun to find new places for traditional decorations. Saturday will still be baking day. I think I'd get lynched if I dropped that. :)

All this means more time to actually spend on writing come November 1st.

I've been working on a fantasy for the past few months and had originally decided to make a huge push on it in November. I've changed my mind. There's a historical romance (that will undoubtedly end up erotic in nature) that's niggling at my brain. I'm spending the next two weeks doing historical research so when the clock starts ticking, I'm ready to go. I've already thrown some spaghetti, but need to immerse myself in the world a little more before I can come up with something that sticks.

Speaking of immersing oneself in the world of one's story, I'm doing a workshop in Second Life on that very topic on November 9th. Not sure of the time yet, but probably 1:00 or 2:00 SLT. If you're around, come join the fun! I'll post more details and a SURL when I have it.

If you want to sign up at the official NaNoWriMo site, go ahead. I did this year. Because this year, I'm going to make it all the way to 50,000 words in one month. Honest!

Play safe,

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mark your calendar!

So on Sunday, I got to the Romanticon bookfair to set up my signing area and ten copies of this book are sitting at my spot. Talk about a wonderful surprise! Print copies were done up just for the convention so attendees got sneak peeks at what's coming.

Isn't this a great cover? I love the starkness...the arrangement of positive and negative space with the title (and my name!) so clearly defined.

Slated to be released on November 14th, this print book contains four, count 'em...FOUR of my shorter works:
Love in the Afternoon, Promise for Now, Hooked and Stitches in Time.

Two of these stories were in print in the past. Stitches in Time contains one of my favorite characters, Seamus O'Brien, a leprechaun of love-making nature. Originally written for the Irish Enchantment anthology, this novella is still one of my favorites (don't tell my other books that!).

Hooked was first a novella released in ebook only, but then was bought by Penguin when they were thinking of getting into the erotic romance market. As one of the books they bought, it was included in the Getting What She Wants anthology, along with stories by Scott Carpenter and Chris Tanglen. I always liked being sandwiched between two men! Hooked is the story of Tania and Jim. One likes it fast and hot, the other prefers slow and sexy. I think you might be surprised which one likes which.

Love in the Afternoon and Promise for Now are both Quickies that pack a lot of heat into a shorter read. The unnamed characters in the first story enjoy a full afternoon of sensuous activity whereas Carol, in the second story, realizes that her recent divorce now gives her permission to explore her options with her sexy neighbor. ;)

Get out your calendars and mark it down...November 14th, this compilation of four stories goes on sale!

Sidenote: the books at Sunday's sale had a misprint on the back cover of the book. Only three of the four stories was listed (Stitches in Time was inadvertently left off). So those of you who bought the book then, hang onto it! There are only ten of the misprinted covers in existence - and who knows? They might be worth something someday! :)

Play safe...and go mark those calendars!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Romanticon 2014 - with pictures!

Well, there we are...the Original Cavemen and me. These two guys are so incredibly professional (and gorgeous, but that's stating the obvious!). You can tell I'm relaxed with the two of them and don't feel the need to be anyone other than myself.

I will tell a little secret about this picture, though. As we were getting ready, I took in a deep breath and sucked in my gut. I said to CJ, "Don't want to show my belly!" He chuckled and said, "I've got the solution to that!" and he took my hand, holding it so my stomach would be covered. When Rodney reached his hand over as well...the effect was complete!'re a pro, for sure!

Of course, I got to see old friends, as well. That's Tara Nina in the middle and Cait Miller in red. We're all three members of The Sizzlin' Scribes...a group we formed years ago for the express purpose of combining our money for promotional ads. Somewhere along the way we all became friends and I love getting to see them!

And here we are Blinging our Badges. I have no idea what point I'm making, but I'm doing it with vehemence!

And, of course, RT is also about meeting new people. I sat beside Laurann Dohner for the booksigning on Sunday...she's a wonderful lady and a great author. Thanks to her husband for the picture!

Unfortunately, I didn't get pics of a lot of others I met for the first time. Confession time: I still have a slide phone and it takes crappy pictures. Perhaps by next year I'll have joined the 21st Century and have, not only a smartphone, but one that takes decent photos!

I hope you all can come next year...we can take LOTS more pics! 
Play safe!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Romanticon 2014

I haven't been to Ellora's Cave Romanticon Convention since 2010. Not because I didn't want to come, but because getting time off from my day job became extremely difficult (got a new boss who saw no educational value in bringing back information regarding the changes in the publishing world to my Creative Writing students. 'Nuff said.).

But I'm here this year and have to say, its been a lot of fun seeing so many familiar faces. I'll give a special shout-out to my Scribes sisters, Tara Nina and Cait Miller, but I've enjoyed catching up lots of other authors as well as seeing so many of the EC staff. Sat next to Raelene Gorlinsky last night, have had several conversation with Patty Marks and finally got to meet Jose in person!

Of course, one cannot discuss Romanticon and leave out the Cavemen. Rodney and CJ are two of EC's original Cavemen and both were on hand to meet and greet authors and readers. I have a great pic of me with them and will add it to this post when I get home (it needs to be scanned in and I have no scanner here at the convention). Rodney is ever the wonderful host and CJ is just as handsome as ever!

The young bucks who make up the current crop are, of course, also wonderful eye-candy. DeAngelo was the reigning Alpha Caveman -and it isn't hard to see why. He's the tallest of the Cavemen, but its his beautiful blue eyes that catch your attention...that and he's one of the few with hair long enough to run your fingers through. Perfect for a hero of romances!

This afternoon is the book signing from noon 'til 4:00 pm. After that, I head for home. Will upload pics soon!

Play safe,

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Write the book you want to read

That was the best piece of writing advice I got and I no longer remember who gave it to me: Write the book you want to read.

That's why my current work-in-progress is a fantasy. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed writing erotic romance, and I may go back to the genre in the future, but my first choice, go-to books have always been fantasies. J.R.R. Tolkien, Katherine Kurtz, David Eddings, Diana Gabaldon (which might be more historical fiction than fantasy, but then again, the whole time-travel thing...). My son's turned me on to Brian Sanderson and my daughter to Tad Williams. It's what I read when I want to escape and find adventure.

My first novel was a fantasy. It's called Discoveries and is sitting on my computer at just over 95K words and isn't finished. It's close...probably another 45-50 thousand words will do it. Why haven't I published it? Because it was my learning novel. It needs a rewrite. Badly. If there were mistakes to be made, I made them.

I also didn't finish it yet, because Ellora's Cave bought Secret Submission. That was a book I wrote because I really wanted to explore the idea that a Master/slave BDSM relationship could also be a loving one. At the time, EC wasn't publishing anything but erotic romance, so...that's what I wrote. Yes, I read it as well, but they were "beach reads" - books I could read in an afternoon. I liked them, they made me feel just a little bit naughty and writing them was fun.

But the books I wanted to read, first choice, were still fantasies.

I started writing another one, the Companion series, about ten years ago. The pitch line:

Stuck in a partnership neither wanted, an Earth Mother and her Companion discover a pillaged farm and must find a way to work together as they defend their country from an invader who has powers they don’t understand.

Avon was interested in it at one point, but ultimately passed. Probably a good thing. I didn't have the story structure down then. I do now, thanks to Lynn LaFleur who let me bounce ideas off her long-distance and who has suffered through reading the first draft of the first third of the story.

There is some sex in it, but it isn't the primary genre at all. There's action, adventure, themes of the greater good and of Power vs. what's right to do...all the components of a good fantasy. Now that I finally have the story's structure down, this is the book I'll be working on for the next several months. It's the story I want to read.

Along the way, I'll be republishing a few stories that have been out of circulation for a while as well as putting together a new anthology of short stories (just in time for Christmas!).

Oh! And the current free stories of the 12 Days of Christmas (the even numbers) are going to be 99 cents, just like the others, come November 1st. It'll still be cheaper to buy them bundled together into one volume (that book price will remain the same).

Off to write! Play safe,

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

on flogging

I have now started this particular post four times. Five, if this one is successful.

I had great qualms about watching the 6th episode of Outlander on Starz. I knew, because I’ve read the book, that this would be the episode detailing how Jamie’s back came to be so scarred. Gabaldon shows her mastery of storytelling in this. In the books, we are not told all at once. It comes out in pieces, hints here and there...and then the full telling in all its horror.

I first learned about flogging from reading pirate romance novels....where someone (usually the heroine) was always being threatened with it, but it never happened. There’d be a lurid description of the cat-o’nine-tails with the knots tied into the end for maximum damage, but it wasn’t actually used on anyone. The threat alone was enough to maintain order.

And it was always pirates. Or the British Navy. I loved reading about Horatio Hornblower’s adventures. But even there, everything was muted. The horror hinted at, the blood implied. Gabaldon pulls no such punches. She gives it to you right between the eyes and adds a gut punch to the heart for good measure.

So why the unease at watching it play out on the screen? The answer is twofold. First, I was concerned it wouldn’t live up to the images in my head from the reading of it. Alfred Hitchcock made an entire career out of letting our imaginations make the scenes far more terrifying than if he showed us exactly what was going on. He’d give hints...the blood running down the drain...and let our minds fill in the horrible blanks. And my mind has. I have seen Jamie’s flogging in my head. Heard the sound of the skin tearing, seen the pain on his face mixed with determination, felt Jack Randall’s arousal. How could such terribleness be shown without destroying what I “saw’?

And second, what if it did live up to the images in my head? Could I stand to watch what Jamie bore?

I witnessed my first flogging from a Dom who knew what he was about. The thongs were made of soft deerskin, a gentle suede that massaged rather than cut. The sub told me later, the slap of the thongs on the skin warmed it, but didn’t hurt at all. Even as the Dom switched floggers and moved to one with stiffer ends, no damage was done. The endorphins were released without harm to the body.

I've been trying to figure out just why this is so important to me and it finally came after I'd written the rough draft for this post and gone to bed. Flogging is an important part of my books. All of my books have a flogging scene in them. Most of Mystic’s do, too. They are sensual, erotic, arousing. The act is the perfect symbol of the Dominant/submissive relationship. The bottom gives their body, the Top gives his/her restraint. There is a beauty to them, to the journey the two take together.

It's a journey Jack Randall perverts. He, too, is aroused by the power that flows down his arm. But its the power of destruction, even if he calls it (in the TV series) “art created by his arm on the lad’s back.” There is nothing beautiful about it, nothing freeing. It is pain given for punishment, true punishment.

To the general public, say the word "flogging" to them and that is the one they see - the painful, bloody one made sensational by dozens of pirate novels and the British Navy. It was outlawed by the US Navy in 1850, partly because of Herman Melville's description of such an incident. Flogging in the British Navy was pretty much stopped by 1881, although it was still an allowed punishment on the books until 1948.

Why am I moved to make this distinction between flogging for sexual release and flogging for punishment? I don’t know. Maybe because I still feel a need to justify writing stories with BDSM kinks. I’ve met many in that lifestyle who do no harm to one another, in fact, quite the opposite. The love and bond they share is one to be emulated.

But seeing a device called by the same name that brings pleasure bring such destruction...there's a line here that unnerves me and makes my heart hurt.

Play safe, everyone.


edited (again!) to add this link. The producers, directors and actors of Outlander were equally concerned about filming that scene.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Writing style reflection

It's safe to say my style of writing has definitely been influenced by the authors I've read. Take a look at my earliest published novels (Secret Submission and Table for Four) and you'll see borrowings from JRR Tolkien, from Shakespeare, from Homer. Classic influences. You won't find word-for-word quotes, but definite style nods in the word choices and phrasings.

My middle works were more about finding my own voice, but they still show influences of more modern writers. There's a bit of Nora Roberts in Cabin Fever, some Katherine Kurtz in Frankenstein's Captain (formerly known as Kara's Captain) and some Victoria Holt in Shooting Star. I've read so many books by these authors, its impossible not to be influenced by their talents. Much the same way a painter will take a brush stroke from Rembrandt, a shading technique from Maxfield Parrish or a composition idea from Bob Ross, writers take their techniques from authors they love.

When it comes to world building, I have to say JRR Tolkien and Diana Gabaldon are the two authors whose stories suck me in the most. Each, however, does it a very different way. Tolkien focuses on plot and action -- the characters are less important than what happens in the story. When you come right down to it, Aragorn could be Any Hero with the Right Bloodline. Frodo is Any Little Guy who has a Big Job to do. While we come to love these guys, the reality is, there isn't much to them. It's the actions they're forced to deal with, the actions that move the plot along, that we focus on.

Tolkien also maintains a focus on imagery throughout his stories. He wants us to see Middle Earth in our imaginations. His descriptions are vivid and detailed, so much so that they've provided livelihoods for many artists (Howe, Naismith, Lee, and the Hildebrandt brothers, among others). These descriptions bring the world to life for us and give us a world to live in.

Diana Gabaldon's focus in creating the many worlds of the Outlander series, is on character. Yes, she employs imagery in her descriptions, but it isn't Lallybroch or Fraser's Ridge that first comes to mind when thinking of these stories -- it's Jamie and Claire. And Frank. And Dougal, Murtaugh and Jenny. We remember the events of Culloden, not because she describes the battle in technicolor gore (well, okay, she does, but that's not why we remember it). We remember the scene because it affected the characters we love. We saw a broken Jamie and our hearts hurt. We saw men we loved defeated and beaten and we cried.

Both approaches work. A focus on plot or a focus on character. Neither ignores the one for the other, mind. Tolkien has characters evolve, Gabaldon gives us plots that interweave, separate, come together again and end.

I am currently at work on an epic fantasy. I can only hope I've learned well from these two!


Which approach fits your style of creating a world for your story? Which comes first...plot or character? In your journal, take some time to think it though.