Monday, August 20, 2012

Sunlight vs. Darkness

It seems like forever that I have started a blog entry, but I am assuaging my guilt with the fact that I was holed up finishing Book 1 and working through the tedious process of editing my book.  While it is by far the worst part of the writing process and a very important one, it seems like it will never end.  The worse part is that is doesn't end, at least until it's finally in print and out or your hands.

Currently I'm going through the depressing part where others are reviewing what you have written and will either gleefully rip it apart, smile a fake smile and pretend it's great or shrugging indifferently.  I'm not sure which response I would prefer at this point.  My nerves are shot as I eagerly await feedback. 

While I have been playing the waiting game, I managed to go outside and remember what the shining thing is the sky is and that there are other food options aside from caffeine laced snacks and soda.  I almost feel like I have a life again.  So of course what do I do after a few weeks of normalcy?  I start working on the other books which are in various states of outline, partial chapters and notes.  I'm a sucker for torture.

I feel like if I don't keep going, then I will lose momentum and completely forget what I wrote in Book 1 and forget what my intended objectives are for the remaining books.  I was gleeful when I lay down, intent on taking a nap and instead envisioned huge sections for Book 2 that come in blinding glimpses of the obvious.  I, of course, had to write them down, and then edit them, and the expound upon them and ultimately forsake my nap.

I am constantly amazed that as well I pretend to know about the world that I'm writing about, I'm taken by surprise by all the things I never knew about.  I almost feel like a new reader who is starting a book and turning the pages as quickly as possible to find out what happens next, except that I'm writing the new pages and trying to get to the next one as fast as I can type.  It's an exciting experience, if not a little frustration since I want to know how it ends too.

There are days when I think, even if no one else ever reads my books, at least I will have had the amazing opportunity of writing them and getting this interesting world down into print.  Other days I hope like heck that someone will read it and tell others and before you know it, tons of people love it.  Of course every writer feels that way.  I'm just another in a sea of millions, but who cares?  I'm doing what I want to do, hopefully.

While it was fun to play in the sunlight for a little while and actually read books that I hadn't written, it's more enticing and interesting to sneak back into the darkness of my room, lit only by my monitor and explore the places inside my head that make me type as fast as I possibly can.

I know more blog posts will follow now that I'm securely back in the curtain drawn room where the sunlight is just a myth and a concept.  All the really intriguing things live in the dark. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Balancing Work and Writing

I have to admit that I am not a full time writer, though there are times that I think I would like to be one.  Given that I am still in the process of writing my series, I still have to pay the bills in someway.  So, since I must work and take care of my family and dogs, I have to find the time to write.  Thankfully I have a husband that supports me, usually, as long as the house isn't falling apart while I'm in my writing cave.  Yet, even with the support of my family, I still have to find a few precious hours here and there to focus on my writing and get my words down on paper.

In previous blogs I have mentioned that you have to make time for yourself if you want to write.  Even though I am committed to my project, there are days when I'm tired or cranky or blocked, yet I don't give up.  I don't allow myself to forget what my goal is and why I'm doing this.  I'm not doing this for fame and fortune, though I wouldn't threw it away, but I'm writing because I like my characters and want to bring them to life.  It's that goal that makes me sit down once everyone is in bed and write for a few hours before I pass out.  Granted it's easier when inspiration is driving me crazy and nagging at me to type faster and get all my ideas down, but even when I'm not motivated, I still have to get things done.

I ask you, after a commute to and from work, after being yelled at by your boss or having trouble with your co-workers and dealing with customers, and then coming home, making dinner, stopping all the unnecessary sibling fights, do you want to sit down and write, probably not?  What I find most helpful is thinking about what I want to write during my spare moments in the day.  I love talking things out in the car, while making dinner, taking a long shower, but I have to find the energy to sit down at night and work.  There are weeks were I'm too stressed to concentrate but then I look forward to the weekend.  I steal any time that I can during those two days to kick the crap out of my keyboard and jam as much into the computer as I can.  For example, last weekend I added a scene to Book 1 that helps with an emotional response that I found was originally lacking.  I realized my character never really accepted that she loved the hero, or in this case, the anti-hero.  By adding a few paragraphs, I was able to show an important emotion that will balance out the story.  It took a few hours to re-work until I was happy, but it was well worth it and it didn't take weeks to write.  I also came up with a kick-butt opening to Book 6.  Something I didn't even know I had in me.

Balancing out your life is never an easy thing, no matter what your interests or responsibilities are, but it's important that you don't lose sight of your goals.  We are constantly kicking Thing 1 in the butt about what goals he should be setting in his life, goals for 1 year, 5 years, 10 years.  It's important to set realistic goals with your writing so that work and life won't overtake your passion.  Even if you get stalled for a week or two, don't just walk away and let your project sit around collecting dust.  If you are passionate enough about what you do and the story you are writing, you will learn to make the time alotted, work for you.  It may take a day, a month or a year to finish what you started, but don't let anything get in the way of your dream, even if it's bills.  If you want something badly enough, you will find a way.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Turning Trauma into Something Positive through Writing

You don't have to be an author to be able to write.  That may sound silly, but it's true.  So many people tell that they don't like to write or that they don't enjoy it, yet writing is simply a physical account of things that could have easily been spoken.  We all speak everyday.  We all have ideas that populate our brains, some people just enjoy chronicling their words for others to read.  If you speak about something, you are creating words that are just as meaningful as the ones that are written.  This is why we need to be careful about what we say as well as what we write.  We can use our words to be kind to people, to influence people to do amazing things, or we can use our words to hurt others and tear them down.  You don't have to write the words down for them to upset someone. 

There is a national campaign that is actively trying to combat bullies not only in the school systems, but in everyday life.  They are trying to gain support by telling kids to talk to their parents and teachers about what is happening to them.  I have read so many heartbreaking stories about kids who have given up on life because they have been beaten down by bullies.  It's hard to believe that people can be cruel enough to cause others to consider taking their own lives, but it happens and it happens everyday.

The popular thing to do for awhile was to write your experiences and feelings down on cards and play music in the background to express sadness.  It opened up the eyes of a lot of people.  I read an article about a woman who told her story on her Facebook so that everyone she went to school with could understand what she went through and how she survived.  It takes a lot of strength to come forward to talk about your experiences. 

Every single person has experienced some form of bullying in their lives.  It could have been someone in school, or a sibling, or an adult, or an abusive parent. Regardless of who did the bullying or abusing, the worse possible thing to do is be silent.  Silence hurts more than the words that are said to us.  When we stay silent and allow ourselves to suffer, the positive things die inside of us. Confidence, Self-Esteem, Courage, Happiness, and Hope are beaten down until they are gone.  We start to believe the words that we hear and we give the bullies even more power over us. 

The longer we stay silent, the longer the words grow into fear and depression.  Why do we believe other people when they call us stupid?  Why do we care if someone doesn't like our clothes?  Why to we let the popular kids tell us that we aren't cool enough?  Why do we believe that we are worthless?  The answer is, because we need other people to believe in us because we can't believe in ourselves.  It's sad, but it's true.  Instead of looking for others to tell us if we are funny, or smart, or pretty, or talented, we need to start believing these things about ourselves.  We need to take the power away from the bullies and find our own source of confidence.

Everyone has suffered in their lives and so many people are afraid to speak out. What happens when someone does speak out and no one listens or doesn't act on it?  For years I remained silent about the abuse that I was suffering at home.   It wasn't until I was much older that I started to talk about it.  I never thought that anyone would believe what I was going through.  I didn't have bruises or scars to show anyone.  The evidence that I did have was locked away and inaccessible.  So who is going to believe a teenager over an adult?  Even when I did find the courage to speak out, my efforts were stalemated and help never came.  My source of help came when I called 911 because I finally had enough and wanted to end my life.  It was my own mother was asked me the simple question of, "Why?"  Why would I want to escape my life?  Because I confided in the wrong person and help never came.  My words were ignored and claimed to be misunderstood.  I retreated further into my depression and swore I would never speak out again.  Silence became my best friend and my worst enemy.  Looking back I realized who I should have spoken to and often wondered what would have happened if I did confide in the right people.  Maybe I would have been saved much earlier and maybe I wouldn't have had to call an ambulance to help me.

While it may seem scary to talk about your experiences, it can be quite liberating when you do and sometimes positive things can come from it.  I wrote the beginning draft of a story when I was a teenager.  It was violent and angry and allowed me to express some of my feelings even if I wasn't talking about my own problems.  I was able to vent my frustrations through writing.  I recently found the draft and it was different than how I remembered it.  When I read it I remembered that I used part of my suicide note in the story.  I felt at the time that it was the only way for me to tell my story, even if it was embedded within a fictional story.  Today I am finally working on the story that came from my original
draft and from my pain.  It has allowed me to finally work through some of the emotions that I had at the time, even if  the story has little to do with my life.  Some of the frustrations and emotions that I had are spread throughout the story.  Perhaps it's a way of finding some sort of closure, a way to deal with what happened to me.  I'm using my words to deal with the difficult things that I have endured.  I encourage you to do the same.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Google Me This

Most of us remember the 90's and earlier where you had to actually go to a bookstore or dig out your encyclopedias to research anything.  We have become completely spoiled by the internet and our smart phones and how easy we can find information.  If someone is talking about a song and argues with someone about what year it came out, we simply whip out our iPhone and Google it.  In a matter of seconds you can have the date it was released, the person who sang it, the position it was on the charts and the full lyrics.  I say, thank you internet gods for inventing such a marvelous thing! 

When I started writing in the early 90's I had a hard time referencing real places or historical facts since I only had an encyclopedia from 1970 and it wasn't a good one.  It was difficult writing about different places or people since I didn't have enough information at my fingertips.  I also couldn't drive at the time and didn't want to have to ask my grandmother to take me to the library so that I could write for fun.  It just didn't work.  Now that I'm older and technology has advanced to the point of instant information, I am overjoyed.  I desperately try to use it to my advantage.  Without even getting out of my chair I can search for a type of perfume from 1995 that a teenage girl would have worn...and no I had no personal reference since I was not cool and trendy enough and never wore perfume.  I was clueless. I found out that Angel perfume was popular at the time and it fit perfectly into my story.  Yey Wikipedia!  Don't even get my started on video game references.

The interesting thing about using search engines to aid in my writing is all the different ways I have been able to use it.  Yes, I can search for natural disasters that happened 3000 years ago and I can learn about different geographical locations created by an ice age, but I can also use it to help me design furniture or room layouts.  I'm the type of writer who is good with characters and speeches.  I can do emotions and drama.  My downfall is describing what a room or a landscape looks like.  I'm terrible with interior design and don't know a chaise from a vanity.  Just last night I was try to design my heroine's room and I had to Google a ton of different furniture ideas.  I would have never been able to come up with such elaborate designs without a little help.  Even if I don't always describe them in epic detail, just looking at the image will sometimes help me set up a scene.  I personally hit up the Pottery Barn website to get an idea of what my vampire farmboy's modern apartment would look like.  It gave me so many ideas of how to layout the room that I felt more comfortable writing about it. 

I personally have collected images that remind me of my characters or my locations so that I can rummage through them when I need inspiration.  While I'm a very visual person, I tend to have trouble keeping the images focused in my head.  When I write, I think about the characters actions and words, not necessarily the way they look so I need to go back and look at what photo originally inspired me so that I can create the detail.  My collage of photos makes everything real, allowing me the freedom to create my story. 

If anyone were to look through my browser history they would immediately be concerned.  I know the genre that I'm writing for is dark and there so many different kinds of characters that I am creating that I need a vast array of websites needed.  There are many times when I have to turn to the dark side and learn about less favorable subjects.  I have Googled prisons, insane asylums from the 1800's, cult leaders, and of course Satan.  I have even looked up what is considered to be the first prison in Italy located in Rome.  Some of these subjects would be embarrassing or difficult to research in person.  I like keeping my distance from the asylums since they freak me out.  I'm perfectly happy to let Wiki and Google access the information and keep me safe.

I know people will argue that going to these places and searching through books is the best way to learn about these things, but I'm not writing a historical romance novel but merely sprinkling these things throughout my stories.  Besides, I was in Rome and I don't remember the prison being on the tour, though the building does look vaguely familiar.  (My personal favorite was pulling up pictures of the Colosseum and turning the camera view to get all the sides.  Having been there it was a nice refresher and I enjoyed the detail.)  Also, I'm not going to rummage through furniture stores looking for the perfect chair.  I find that taking a few hours away from what I'm writing to research something outweighs the time taken from writing.  Having pictures of Romanian castles, cliffs in Norway and cabins in Montana have vastly improved my settings and detail so that I can put my characters in interesting a exciting locations.  I wouldn't give it up for anything.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Musical Inspiration that Can Help Your Writing

One night, I was reading a story to Thing 2 called "Bad Kitty".  It's a series about well, a bad kitty.  This one was about politics and explained how kitty wanted to become head of the neighborhood block patrol.  The story is written for kids and it's sarcastic and funny.  It has illustrations of what the cat is doing to keep the kids interested.  There were two pages in the book where it showed a six panel cartoon sketch explaining the action.  On the top corner of the panel was a note written from the writer of the book to the editor of the book.  They broke the 4th wall and went outside of the story to make a joke.  The note said..."Bob (the editor), here would be a good place for the swelling dramatic music".  There was a reply below it that said, "John (the writer) this is a book.  We can't use music."  The writer replied, "Oh right, never mind".  While we all get the joke that a book can't have a musical score playing in the background and a theme song it doesn't mean that the writer can't use music to inspire their writing.

People love to use music in all areas of their lives.  We use it for celebrations like weddings or dances.  Everyone knows the wedding march or the number one song currently playing on the radio.  We listen to songs when we are sad and want to cheer ourselves up or listen to a upbeat song just because we are happy and want to express it.  Come Monday morning I want to listen to any dance song I can find to motivate myself to wake up and start my day.  I am also known to blast Industrial music or Metal when I'm angry and had a bad day.  Music helps us cope with life, so why not use it to help our writing?

After a long day, it's time to sit and write. You try to relax but the kids are screaming and there was a ten car pile up on the Parkway and a customer yelled at you on the phone, and you can't invoke the right mind set to write a kissing scene where the two people are so focused on each other that the entire world has fallen away.  

One way that I overcome this hurdle is to lock the door, put on my "mood music" and pretend that nothing else exists other than the characters being intimate.  I personally like "Overcome" by Tricky Tricky - Overcome, "Fade Into You" by Mazzy Star Mazzy Star - Fade Into You or Portishead, "Sour Times" Portishead - Sour Times.  I can listen to these songs and put myself into a place far away from the distractions and write what I need to write.

The best part about music is that there is an unlimited supply of it and every song makes you feel something unique.  A happy song can make us angry because it reminds us of an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend or a sad song can remind us of someone that we lost.  The lyrics don't even have to match your mood as long as the music creates the emotion needed.  Whatever song you use needs to match the feeling you are trying to create.  Let it drive the action or the plot or the emotion of the character.  There are endless ways of allowing music to enhance your writing.

I was driving in the car the other favorite place to work through my writing ideas and I was listening to Front Line Assembly "Prophecy" Front Line Assembly - Prophecy and came up with my battle scene for Book 6.  I had always envisioned a battle while listen to it, but didn't know who was fighting.  I started thinking about my Fallen Angels and my pesky vampire problem and voila I had a war.  I also like Smashing Pumpkins "The End is the Beginning is the End" Smashing Pumpkins - The End is the Beginning of the End - The Watchmen version, not the Batman version.  It's good for a nice creepy battle with things that have fangs and claws.  While you can't write in slow motion I certainly think of it that way in my head.

Now the speed round...listen to this and tell me what you want to write about...Jem - "It's Amazing" Jem - It's Amazing...

(No peeking and no copying off anyone else's sheet.)

Here's what I came up with...first round draft notes version:  There is a grand staircase in a museum.  People are all dressed up, chatting about the exhibits and paintings.  A woman in a long tight dress descends the staircase, champagne in hand.  She has her eyes locked a man who is talking to his security detail, but obviously a man of importance in his tux.  He turns and politely speaks to the woman standing next to him and out of the corner of his eye sees the woman on the staircase.  She crosses the marble floor and smiles at him, but keeps walking.  She accidentally brushed against his back in the crowded room. He turns to look at her. She smiles seductively at him and he holds out his hand to her. He smirks and nodded to the head of security to keep an eye on things.  She leaves her drink on a side table and follows the man into an elevator.  He gets into the elevator and waits for the doors to close.  They quip about the crowd and and the champagne.  He invites her to a private suite.  She smiles and says she prefers the elevator.  She stops the elevator and grabs him for a harsh kiss.  She pulls off his jacket and throws it behind her.  He grabs her and pulls her closer.  She leans back, punches him with a right cross, sending him into the wall.  She kicks him with a roundhouse to the face, but he blocks the kick.  He throws a punch and she ducks.  She throws herself shoulder first into his gut and propells him into the wall.  He hits his head and is rendered unconscious.  She throws her red hair back and fixes her dress and makeup.  She grabs the jacket from the floor and pulls out the security card.  She activates the com in her ear as the door at the top of the elevator opens to reveal her partner.  She tossed the key to him and jumps up to escape the elevator.  She walks through the open elevator door on the floor above them and descends the stairs to rejoin the party.

(Not that this is my style of writing, but it's something that came to mind in the few minutes that I listened to the music.  It's also a first draft, so ignore the writing, it's merely meant as an example of what you can write by listening to the music.)

No matter what kind of song you listen to or what you are writing, there is a song to fit every style of writing.  Use it to unlock places in your mind that you didn't know existed.  Just stay away from the corny stuff like the "Chicken Dance" or "YMCA".  I'll leave you with a grand sweeping dramatic song. Escala - Requiem for a Tower 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Finding Time to Write

I have so many people tell that they don't have time to write or that there just aren't enough hours in the day.  I personally I have said it a million times, yet I told myself that I am committed to creating my series and want to see it through.  So how can you find time to write with a job, husband, kids and dogs?  You steal every spare moment that you can. 

This past week has been very difficult on the writing front.  My husband was away for the week so I had full time kid duty.  I wasn't focus on writing at all.  Dinners had to be made, dogs had to be walked and even a birthday party had to be planned.  I technically didn't write a single word, but that doesn't mean that I wasn't writing.

When you have an idea in your head that you feel is strong enough to put down on paper, it comes from your mind, or surroundings or people you know.  It's important to look around your busy life and see what inspiration you can get from it.  Did the kids say or do something funny?  Did the dogs create such havoc that it inspired a funny moment?  So often I hear phrases from friends and co-worker that would fit into different places within my story, even if it's something silly.  One word or phrase can open a door or lead you down a path that you might never have thought of.  My person fav so far would be from my son, "Eww...pit sweat".  It was in reference to a bad guy who could create a gush of water that could drown an entire room.  Given that my character is already sarcastic and in a verbal battle with the creature, it's well placed.  Of course the way my son said it was beyond perfect.  He has excellent comedic timing.

When I don't know what to write and I'm stuck, I let my mind wander.  I take whatever quiet time I can get and use it to my advantage.  When I lay down to go to sleep, I will think of a character and let my mind wander and see what happens.  So many of my ideas have come from just falling asleep or just waking up.  It's that time and place where dreams are starting to take over and allow for fascinating things to happen.  I also take advantage of the quiet in the bathroom.  As odd as it may seem I can stare at the blank white walls, brush my teeth and forget about who is punching who in the next room or what Stinkeroo has in his mouth.  Sometimes I only need a few minutes of peace to come up with a simple idea and expand upon.  Instead of singing in the shower I have whole conversations as my characters.  I come up with their humorous or their serious moments.  On more than one occasion I have made myself cry in the shower because I came up with an emotional speech.  You remember to get out of the shower and back into the real world before you are late for school or work.

Another place to find time to write outside while on a long walk with the dog.  I have two different kinds of dogs, the stroller who stops and pees on every plant and the speed walker that just keeps going.  Both of them can get the job done.  The stroller allows me to look at the trees and the sky and feel the warm breeze and enjoy the moment.  I have conversations, come up with landscapes, character motivation, whatever.  The speed walker gets me going and I can think of action moments or battle scenes.  The dogs can't talk back and don't understand, so who cares what I say to them.  They also don't keep asking what time it is or if they can watch TV or who invented the prison system...yes Thing 1 ask me that when he was 4.  So next time, volunteer to take the dog for a walk and take the long route.  Talk until you are blue in the face and it will amaze you to see what you have accomplished.  Personally I figured out a boat load about Book 2 one day and I was grateful.  Oh, but don't walk them together otherwise you will only get a workout and nothing written.

My best and favorite place to come up with ideas would be the car.  Now, I admit, I do sing in the car.  I will sing just about anything.  A friend once told me she puts on a performance in the car.  I do the same thing, when I just want to forget about everything.  When I want to work on a writing problem, I turn down the radio, look at the open landscape and let my mind play.  It was on my way to work the other morning that I came up with the battle sequence for Book 6.  I have characters and a vague plot, but I wasn't sure what was really going to happen.  Thankfully it came to me in full color and surround sound even though I started off with the simple thought of, what do the vampires do?  Why were they created?  Then bam, I had the answer.  Just make sure you are carefully watching the guy who is took busy texting in the next car over to drive straight and stay in his lane.

While it does take time to type everything out and edit and reedit, I will steal any precious minutes that I can.  So many mornings I have sat in the parking lot outside of work and typed out basic thoughts on my smartphone and emailed them to myself.  I have sat during the kids activities with my iPad and jotted down notes or phrases or even a few words so that I can turn them into something later.  It's important to look up and root for the kids and let them know that you saw the goal that they just made.

As much as we all want to publish our stories and our ideas, writing doesn't have to be a 9-5 job.  Given that I don't have deadlines, aside from the ones I impose on myself, I have the freedom to write when it comes to me and make time when I have enough to form something cohesive.  When I am ready to bust my butt and really write, I make the time.  The bottom line is, if you want something badly enough, you make the time for it.  Sure I typically write after the kids go to bed for a few hours before I pass out and I will dedicate most of my Sunday to tackling my project full force, yet I try not to let it get me down when I do have to join the real world and leave my writing for the day or the week.  I know that even if I don't get a single word written, my mind is still doing the work and I give it every opportunity to so.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Writing the Romantic Moments of the Romance

Everyone who has ever read a romance novel or any novel involving intimacy between characters wonders how the writer creates these moments.  Are they based on something that they have done?  Are the characters based on real people?  What is real and what is made up?  This is yet another question that my husband asked me.  "How do you come up with the kissing stuff?"

Okay, so before I answer the question about the intimacy, I will address the character question.  (Always keep them waiting for more.)  Do I base my characters on real people?  For the most part no, though there are certainly times when I draw from different people whether it's a phrase they use, or a personality quirk, or something that I enjoy about them.  Though it's still a representation of them, not the real person. 

All of the men in my stories, angels or mortals, are based on a type of person that I want to write about.  Some are heroes, some are bad guys, but they are all characters that I personally find interesting.  I try to make my bad guys truly mean and crazed, while my heroes are flawed yet redeemable.  That's just what I enjoy.  Each angel has their own personality and quirks, the same with the mortals.  All of the angels are weighed down by darkness which gives me a broader canvas to use.  My mortals have had rough lives that adds an extra layer to them.  I love all of my characters for different reasons.  My bad boys are funny or sarcastic, yet can pull a gut wrenching moment out of nowhere.  My mortals struggle to get beyond their past experiences and make serious choices about their future.

Once I know who my characters are and what their personalities are, then I can decide how they will deal with intimacy.  I want my characters to be intimate in ways that their personalities would allow.  That's not to say that the quiet guy is the sweet and sensitive type, it means that they will approach a woman in the way they have always wanted to.  If they are timid, they may express themselves more fully with someone that they love while behind closed doors.  I try and define their intimate encounters based on what I know about them.

Writing a romance that is heavy on storyline and character motivation sometimes causes problems when it comes to finding time for intimacy.  There is so much going on that you have to find a way to isolate the characters from the action and the people who want to kill them to give them time to express their desire for each other.  You try and make it plausible, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet and pull them out of the story even though they should be running for their lives or fighting back.  Given that it's a romance, you have to find time to add that aspect to your story and let me tell you, it's not always easy.

Okay, now the good stuff.  How do I come up with the kissing and hugging parts?  As I have said, I try to let those moments be defined by the characters.  I imagine what it would take for a character to satisfy their wants and needs.  Sometimes they prefer being tender and meaningful, other times they fully intend on rocking someone's world.  I also have to figure out where they are most comfortable being intimate with someone.  I have one character who prefers to be out in the open for anyone to to see him.  I have another who starts off tender and shy, but embraced his darker side as the excitement builds.  Another was abused and had no control over the situation so he enjoys being in control. 

Have I drawn on my personal experiences to create the intimate sections?  Sure.  I have used moments that I have experienced, good and bad, but mostly I try to figure out what the character would enjoy.  For example, my Angel of Death relies on his eyes to focus his power and see into a person's soul to figure out how best to tempt them to commit murder or suicide.  No one likes looking him in the eyes.  When my characters finally get together, they lock eyes the entire time which brings a level of intimacy for both characters.  She can look death in the eye without flinching and Death can look at someone in a positive way. 

As a romance writer I also get to explore things that I have never experienced.  Instead of trying to be intimate while the kids are screaming, the dogs are jumping on the bed and worrying about getting up on time, I can imagine a place and setting where the characters are alone and have enough time to do everything they want to do, without distraction.  I am also allowed to do things I would never do for a variety of reasons.  Characters in romance novels don't tire out as easily, don't get cold in the shower when the water isn't hitting them and don't have to worry about certain times of the month.  It's a fantasy world where people shrug off the reality of the world and do what the have always dreamed of doing.  Do I really want to stand in a freezing castle and be intimate?  No, not without a space heater, but my characters find it thrilling to be caught.  So as you can see, I try and let my imagination go to the places that I'm not will or able to go.

While I enjoy writing about the "good stuff", I spend more time writing about the story, the plot, the characters, and the character motivations.  Truth be known, I only spend about 5-10% of my time writing about the "good stuff" because I'm busy filling in the space between the intimate parts.  I  want to be able to create an interesting story where people happen to fall in love with each other and can express their feelings for each other. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Romance vs. Smut

So I asked <3 to give my a topic for my blog and after much deliberation he came up with this question.  What is the different between writing romance and pure smut?  Okay before I go any further know that I everyone loves reading something completely down and dirty once in while, so I'm not knocking it, I'm merely talking about the difference and why I, for the most part, write romance.  Of course I'm sure there are times when things get carried away and go over the line, overall the intent is to write romance.  Having said that, let's continue on.

The intent in writing a romance is creating characters that have some kind of obstacle or difficulty that they must overcome to find love.  There are a thousand different reasons why people are lonely and haven't found the right person.  In the supernatural world it goes beyond simply having bad luck with men/women or not being able to find the right person.  Typically there is a larger problem at hand, sometimes it's a curse, or a power that keeps them from someone, but usually our character is so lost in darkness that they don't think they are worthy of love.  They need to find someone who can look beyond their flaws and past deeds and find the good in them.  There are also times when there is one person made for them that they have to find them, coupled with the darkness problem.  My characters fall into either categories, depending on if I'm dealing with the humans or bad guy angels.

The characters that are mired in darkness need to find a reason to believe in themselves and either stop doing evil or realize that what their doing isn't technically evil, but perhaps a necessary evil.  The emotional baggage for an awesome romance character is enough to push the best therapist to their limit.  The men/women who are supposed to dig deeper into our bad characters needs compassion, understand, patience and above all, an open mind.  Once our bad character sees themselves through the good person's eyes and starts to believe that maybe they aren't crazed psychos, then they can open their hearts and learn to love.  That's a good paranormal romance.

Throughout the exploration of the characters and their redemption there is always teasing and tempting where they want to love the other person but can't for a ton of reasons.  The "good parts" start when there is a physical connection that can't be denied by the characters, but they don't go all the way until they get past their baggage.  The characters attempt intimacy but there is something that stops them from giving their heart away completely, all the while making the other character, and you wanting more.  There is a build up between characters emotionally and physically until you finally get to the end and the problems have been addressed and the characters have had their true intimate moments.

Smut on the other hand will create scenarios whereby not much else is going except frivolous hook ups and physical pleasure devoid of any real emotion and intimacy.  Again, not knocking it, but showing the difference.  Of course there are plenty of times where the write, myself included, can get carried away with the characters and indulge themselves with pure smut to satisfy all the emotional heaviness that it took to finally get to the end.  Everyone is guilty of loving their characters a little too much and pouring everything they have into their intimate encounters.  After all, the readers want to escape from the real world and enter the places where steamy jungles and cool mountain top retreats exist.  (Personally most of mine take place in fairly normal locations, normal being Hell and motel rooms, but when you are dealing with dark characters like the Fallen Angels in Hell you dont' exactly expect the Ritz.)

Hopefully, if the romance writer has done their job, the reader will want to read the parts in between the intimate moments to follow the characters journey to love.  And yes, we have all jumped ahead to read the more interesting parts, but hopefully we go back to engage ourselves in the story line.  Personally, I want my readers to connect to my characters emotionally while waiting to get to the good stuff.  As long as I feel that there as been a journey whereby someone had been redeemed, then I will stand by my writing as romance rather than smut.  (Of course I'm not done writing my series yet ;)  )

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Write What You Like

It may seem silly to tell someone to write about something that they like yet there are people out there who will write about something because they think it will sell or make money even though it's not something they are really interested in.  To write a good story and have it be convincing and well done, you need to at least enjoy the subject matter.  Personally I could never write a novel about politics since I have little interest in politics and I don't understand it very well.  It's like writing about Shakespeare when you don't get what it's trying to say.

Once you know what you find interesting, you have to stop and think about the subject and whether or not you can write about it.  Just because I find biographies of famous people interesting, I would never be able to write about it.  I'm personally better at fiction than fact.  Writing a biography would entail a lot of research and examination of the person and what they did in their lives.  I like reading about them but have no patience to explore their lives and then detail and chronicle it in a book. 

It can be frustrating for someone who thinks that they want to write because it sounds interesting and fun and then decide on a whim to write the next great American novel.  You really have to understand who you are and what kind of personality and imagination you have.  Are you a serious person?  Are you a sarcastic person?  Can you picture things in your mind with great detail?  Can you create interesting dialogue between characters?  Odds are if you are a very serious person, you aren't going to write a satire or a comedy, unless it's a dry humor.  You need to play to your strengths and talents.

Personally I like to see how characters relate to each other and the world around them.  I enjoy writing fiction because I have total control over the environment.  I also tend to fall into the horror/fantasy category because that's the way my mind works.  I have a dark humor and use sarcasm to get through my day so when I combine all of these things I end up writing about characters who are dark and mean and sometimes hurt each other, yet I also have a softer side that ultimately wants a happy resolution, at least until they get into the next situation.  I like taking a character and watch them progress throughout the story and see what happens to them in the end.  I want to see if they rise to the occasion and become a better person or if they take the dark path and end up evil.  That is what I find interesting, so I write about it.

When I was younger I used to write stories because I was told to.  They would give us a starting sentence and we had to complete the story.  Example....Peter's father gave him a new red ball which made Peter very happy...complete the story.  While most kids would write about how much Peter loved the ball and how grateful he was that his father bought it for him. I would have taken a different route.  I would have said that Peter's father bought him the ball as a way to bribe his son into forgiving him for not showing up the week before when he promised that he would come.  Instead of showing up to play with Peter, he spent the day with his other family and other children and didn't have time to pick Peter up.  So the ball was met as a tool for forgiveness which Peter bought hook, line and sinker since he seemed to love the ball and it made him happy.  Later Peter would grow to hate the ball since it represented his father's love for his other family and it would because a means for Peter to forgive his father without having ever received a true apology from him.  Peter would spend a lot of time and money in therapy because of it.

As you can see my interpretation of the story would be very different given who I am and my experiences.  I would have also felt better writing the story.  It appealed to me to write it that way and I would have felt a kinship with Peter for his struggles.  I took a simple character, created an emotional response to something banal and put thought and feeling into the story.  People may not like the story, or they may relate to it, but either way I was passionate about the story because I allowed what I think, feel and know to temper the story.  I could have said that Peter loved his father and learned to play baseball because of it, but I would have found nothing fascinating about the story and it would have been boring since I care little for baseball. 

When you write about something, you need to express something beyond the words and sentences written on the page.  You need to breathe life into your stories and characters by relating to them, or liking them, or even hating them strongly.  If you care nothing for your characters or your stories, then neither will your reader and you will end up with a happy boy with a red ball.  Personally I prefer the angst ridden little boy who desperately wants his father to choose him over his other family.  That is a little boy that I can relate to and a story that would interest me because it's filled with emotion and you know the writer felt something when he wrote it.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Write, Read, Rewrite, Repeat

I have heard about writers that write an entire story in one day and publish it/post it immediately.  This concept baffles me.  It's one thing to sit in English class and be asked to write a short story or an essay and hand it in at the end of class.  No one expects it be a masterpiece.  You make your points and support them as best you can given the time limitation, but it will never be War and Peace.  Granted, I have no interested in writing War and Peace, but I also want to write something that took time and effort to think through and compose. 

Every book starts with an idea and when we think the idea is good enough, we write it down.  One idea leads to another and suddenly you have a story.  That doesn't mean you have a good story, it just means that you have words strung together that hopefully make sense.  It doesn't mean that it's interesting, well though out or entertaining.  The problem is, sometime we think our idea is amazing and the best thing ever.  Then we leave the idea alone and come back to it only to realize it wasn't all that great.  I am reminded of Brave New World where they took hallucinogenic drugs and thought they had the most inspired and fantastic ideas while under the influence.  The speaker in the story decides to write down all his mind blowing thoughts to record them for posterity.  Once he is clear headed again he goes and reads the notes he made.  It turns out that it was complete nonsense and sounded more like a rhyming jumble of words, most of which weren't real worlds.  So, as you can see, it's important to leave the idea to rest for a little while and go back to it with a clear head and new perspective.

There have been many times when I'm on a roll and I'm furiously writing because I have so many thoughts in my head.  I think that it's the most brilliant writing to date and I am proud of it when I'm done.  I will walk away for a day, a week, a month and work on other sections or books.  When I return to my brilliant work I often find mistakes or sentences that are unclear.  That is why editing it paramount.  An idea can always be improved and expanded.  So many times I have a simple frame work that originally seemed epic, so I have to go back and add detail or descriptive words.  Other times I will have come up with an even better idea and have to make changes along the way.  The more that you put into your story the better it will be.

I love examples, so here we go.  My main heroine has a hall within the castle in the underworld, the Hall of Mirrors.  I never questioned why she had it, she simply did.  I decided that it was given to her along the way.  It was an abandoned hall before her.  I went back to the idea and wondered why it existed.  Did someone own it before?  Yes, one of Lucifer's previous lovers had it, though sadly she was absolutely insane.  Well why the mirrors?  Oh, well she was a punisher and used them to punish people.  Well, the hall wasn't built for her, so who was the original owner.  Tabbris.  There were three angels who fell from Heaven to reign over the underworld.  The hall in the tower was created for him but he hated being in the underworld and wanted to go back home.  No one liked him and he didn't trust anyone, so he installed the mirrors so that he could thwart the attacks on him and see his enemies coming for his back.  My simple thought of my heroine residing in the Hall of Mirrors turned into a much more interesting and elaborate story after many rewrites and additional ideas.  Mind you, that's only a fraction of the story, more of a side note, but it I had published my story after my original thought, it would have been very two dimensional.  I managed to create two entirely new characters because I had a simple thought of, who owned a hall.  Both characters have become full blown leads and are heavily featured throughout the series...oh and one of them is dead.

In the end, no matter how brilliant our idea is, there is always room to make it exceptional.  I find that it helps me to read and reread and read again so that I can fill in the spaces within the story and build something that is more interesting and detailed.  I also find it helpful to talk through some of my ideas with people I know so that I can get their perspective and see if it makes sense.  Often one of them will find a problem with my logic or train of thought and I will have to made adjustments.  If you don't go back and read what you have written, you will never go forward and finish your amazing story.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Killing off a Favorite Character

When creating a book series you want to make sure that you keep the story moving and progressing and headed in some sort of direction.  In every book you create new characters, good and bad, otherwise the story doesn't always have room to grow and develop.  Many times we have to sacrifice characters along the way to progress the story.  Killing a character is fairly simple.  There are thousands of interesting ways to kill a character.  You can create a grand battle where the villain falls in an epic fight scene or tragic accident.  We love to kill off the bad guys.  Everyone roots for the villain to get his teeth kicked in and get whomped at the end of the story, as long as the bad guy warrants the death.  He has to be so evil that people want to see him destroyed.  There are plenty of amazing ways to kill a bad guy and satisfy your reader.  The problem comes when you have to kill off a beloved character.

When I speak of "beloved" characters, I mean characters that we have gotten to know over time and have an emotional connection to.  They could be someone who you are romantically attracted to. It could be the knight in shining armor who stays with the girl and helps her pay her mortgage, or someone who is likable and you could be friends with, though you are not in love with them.  There are times when the story needs a catalyst for something larger to happen or you need to emotionally shake up the reader.  There are of course dangers that come along with killing off a favorite character.  You have to make sure the death is justified and not just for shock value. You also have to make sure that it isn't a character that will cause riots by your readers if they die, yet they have to be characters that are likable enough that people will care that they are missing.

Killing for the sake of killing is fun but it's shallow.  The high wears off quickly and people will shrug once they think about it.  You want your reader to be upset that the character is dead, but know that there was a good reason, or a greater purpose to the death.  Take for example Beaches, I cry my eyes out every time I see it.  I'm a sucker for it!  While one of the main characters dies it was, I hope, for a good reason.  In Beaches, we see the friendship that developed between two characters over the years.  They had good times and bad times just like every relationship.  When Selia dies in the end it's to put an emphasis on how short life is especially when you care so much for someone.  It brings the two characters closer in the end and makes them realize that they should spend time together and appreciate each other before their friendship ends.  It also gives CC a reason to get past her selfishness and grow up since she is entrusted to raise Selia's daughter.  We cry because we care about these women and can relate to them and their relationship.  It shows us that it's important to connect with people and share our lives and experiences with them.  

The same goes for your character.  If your reader can take time from their busy lives to read your book, hopefully you will not abuse that relationship by building up a wonderful story and amazing characters only to kill off the main character just for shock value.  It cheapens the relationship and makes the reader not want to trust you.  Personally, I wanted to throw Bridge to Terabithia at the wall.  If you me that the story is about how short young life is and how we need to reach out to the strange and interesting girl next door to broaden our minds, I will still tell you it was crap.  I fell in love with the girl and I am still pissed that she died.  Don't even get me started on the movie My Girl.  It was crap that Macaulay Culkin's character died. 

When you decide that a main character has to be killed off, you have to decide if it will cause readers to be turned off completely because they can't imagine the series without the character.  For example, good luck killing off Edward Cullen from the Twilight Series or god forbid Jacob, you will have girls crying in the streets.  Yet, if Stephanie Meyers had decided to kill off Seth or Leah, for example, the death would have been tragic but we would have moved on.  Granted Harry Clearwater died, but we didn't know him as a character except in the movie, but we all knew that it was coming.  His death at least served a purpose.  You want to carefully chose who takes the dirt nap so that the story and the reader are satisfied.  

When I told my son that I had to get rid of a character for a number of reasons, he told me to choose my personal favorite.  I told him heck no, I don't think I would write the series without him, yet I could pick someone that I care enough about to mourn the loss of.  It's up to me to make sure the character is likable enough for the reader to agree with his popularity.

Once you have decided how to create the perfect death, there has to be an equal reaction whether it's strictly mourning by the other characters or a full out retaliation and war.  If you are going to spend the time and energy in making an awesome character only to kill them off, the other characters in the story should acknowledge the passing.  There is nothing worse that an epic death and no one else seems to care.  You know you cried when Kirk's father died in the new New Star Trek movie when his wife realized that he would never see his son.  His death sparked James T Kirk to make his father proud, after getting his butt whomped a few times in his youth.  (And yes I'm old enough to have seen the original series and movies, so don't go there.  Just making a point here.)  The point is, make the death worth while.

In short, once you have decided to travel the slippery slope of eliminating a character that is well liked and received, make sure that you are doing the right thing for the story and the reader.  And for the love of all that is holy, make sure he stays dead unless the point is for him to come back.  If you are truly going to commit to killing the character, don't wus out three bookes later and bring the character back because you have run out of ideas or because of reader backlash.  If there is that much reader backlash then you didn't think it through well enough.  Trust me, no one wants to see Macaulay Culkin's character return from the dead as a zombie bee sting kid.  (Don't even get my started on why there was a sequel to that movie.)  And no one wants to feel emotionally cheated that they mourned a character that spontaneously returns with little or no explanation.  If the character will return at some point, at least give the reader a teaser to let them know that "maybe" the end really isn't the end, otherwise they might not buy the next book that will clear up mysterious death.  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Writing Characters That You Connect With

It's sometimes hard to create an entire cast of characters from scratch.  It may seem daunting but if you want your book to be interesting, then you need to have a great plot, descriptive landscapes, imaginative worlds and above all, interesting characters.  If the characters are two dimensional and bland then people won't want to read past the first chapter.  So how does someone write a character that is interesting?  I find that the more I can connect to a character the more emotional I am and the more realistic the character becomes.  Once I have the idea for a character and have some kind of connection, (i.e. I like them, hate them, want to kill them, or want to love them) I have an easier time describing them and coming up with their dialogue.  When a character is fully realized, they can practically write themselves.

Let's say, for example, you have a guy, dressed in a suit, holding a gun.  It's clique in our violence saturated movie and TV worlds but it's still someone people like to see or read about.  So we take our simple guy in suit, holding a gun, and we decide, is he a good guy or a bad guy?  Well go with the choose your own adventure method and go with good guy.  (Well like good guys when they are armed.)  So we have a good guy with a gun.  Why is he wearing a suit?  Businessman...presuming it's a normal work suit, bodyguard...presuming he looks like Jason Statham, FBI...we'll assume it's off the rack, former gangster...if it's seriously pinstriped.  Let's go with former gangster.  Having once been a gangster gives him an edge over most of the other suits.  So we have a former gangster with a gun.  Why is he holding the gun?  He's facing off against his former associates?  Someone is trying to rob him?  The FBI doesn't believe that he has really left the mob?  Let's go with that.  So our former gangster is being hunted by the FBI because they believe he is still the bad guy.  Well go with gun stand off with the FBI as the reason for the gun.  Next, will he shoot?  Probably not since he is now the good guy, though he could shoot at something harmless like the tires of the cop car or avoid the fatal shot and wing someone to delay the FBI's pursuit. 

Okay, so our former gangster turned good guy has a shoot out with the FBI who are hunting him down for his involvement with the mobsters.  He grazes someone with a bullet and blows out the tires of the car.  Now, why did he leave the mob?  He was tired of the drugs, the backdoor deals, killing?  Did they threaten his family?  Did he simply take the money and run so that he could start a better life?  Let's go with threaten his family and being tired...we can mix and match.  So his mob boss questions his loyalty and kidnaps his young daughter to scare him and prove to him that they can get to him through her.  This now gives our character a wealth of emotions to play off of.  His daughter is being held hostage and instead of giving into the demands of the mobsters, our hero decides he is tired of the lifestyle and wants a better live for his family.  Now he can play off of fear...losing daughter because the mobster could easily kill her...anger...that's easy shows he loves his daughter during a tear jerking moment when the mobster puts a gun to her head....vengeance...he swears that he will hunt them down for killing her.  Not exactly noble..but he has that edge to him since he was once a bad guy, it makes him unpredictable.  Will he kill everyone in the end, or will he lead the FBI right to the doorstep of the mob?  You decide.

As you can see, we took a simple two dimensional idea of a guy in a suit, with a gun and gave him a reason, motivation, emotion and detail.  We could give a whole background of having a terrible childhood which caused him to become involved with the mob.  He could find an amazing woman who shows him how to love and gives him the strength to leave his life of crime behind.  Now it becomes a romance.  The more you put into your characters, without flooding them, the more your readers will find a reason to like them and cheer for them.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Character Motivation

I typically feel guilt when I haven't had a chance to write since sometimes life gets in the way of writing.  Other times I remind myself that even when I'm writing or doing other interesting things, my brain is still working in the background.  There have been a number of times in the past week where I think, geez, I need to get writing, and then something wonderful happens and a brilliant idea pops up out of nowhere, and I realized...that's why I didn't write.  I wasn't ready yet.  Sometimes you can't force things.  I've had two awesome ideas that explain why I haven't been writing as much...I wasn't ready!  Now, things have come into perspective, and I can carry on with something even better than anticipated.  Yey!

One of the problems I sometimes face is the fact that I sometimes know a characters original motivation because I know what he is like now, in the present.  You have characters that you know are evil, or troubled or hate someone or some thing.  Problem is, you don't always know why they are like this.  It's easy to say that someone is evil and go from there.  Sometimes its more fun to figure out why they are evil.  That's what I did last week.

I have a cast of ten angels and I know who they are since I'm working with them in the present, but I don't always know how they came to be this way.  I know that certain characters don't get along because they have told me as much.  I took it as fact that my leader of the angels hates a number of the other angels, but I didn't know why.  He simply hated them and wouldn't talk about it.  He wouldn't tell me.  He simply said, that he refused to say the name of one of the angels, that one was a jerk and the others he somewhat got along with.  Well that doesn't exactly help me.  I had to figure out why they hated each other.  It dawned on my that these angels all had a life before my main character meets them.  They all started off good, though separate, then had to join together for a common goal, united under a lead angel.  Over time the darkness changed them and they became evil.  Well, there is a whole lot of history between these characters that I know nothing about.  So it's up to me to figure out why they all act a certain way.

I knew my leader angel and the angel he refused to speak about probably had a serious fight for there to be so much anger between them.  The more I thought about the rage my leader felt, the worse the fight had become. (Keep in mind, I only have the leader's perspective to work from.  The other angel hasn't been brought into the story yet.) Then it dawned on me, punching someone in the face wouldn't elicit this much anger, it had to be some kind of betrayal, which implied that they were very close at one time.  What would cause two close friends to despise each other?  A woman?  Too easy.  Money?  They're angels who don't care for money.  Faith?  Yep, they are angels.  They lost faith in each other.  No just faith in God, but faith in someone you consider a brother.  There had to be something so terrible that they no longer could trust the person, believe in what they said, and fundamentally ruin the relationship that they had.  Once I understood that, my reason came to light and boy was I taken by surprise.  The reason and motivation was crystal clear and heartbreaking.  I love it!

Now of course I am writing a romance novel here so love is always a great motivation for a character, but I don't want that to be a crutch for these characters.  I wanted them to feel like they served a purpose, so I need to make sure that they all have some sort of job or roll to fill in this world and with my female lead.  They can't just follow her blindly because they love her, though that doesn't hurt.  They have to feel that being with her is a better option than not being with her because they feel useful in her world.  It's easy to find jobs for the hunter, werewolf and vampire, but it's sometimes more difficult to find a job for the rest.  Some of the characters have gone through an overhaul on their personalities and lifestyle.   I've had to come up with professions that would make it easier for them to fit into the story while giving them an outlet to feel fulfilled.  Sometimes it's something simple, other times it's a little more complicated.  One character will help her find loss souls in the world and help them find their way to the afterlife, good or bad.  One will stand as her advisor since he has more life experience than the others.  I had to make one a therapist because Lord knows I have some serious head cases on my team.  One is a medical professional that also has a big heart.  One is a serious head case but causes the team to err on the cautious side of things.  He is more in touch with the cause of evil than most...he's the survivor.  One holds faith above all else and will be the one who changes everything.  My female character has a lot to learn from each of them and hopefully will use all that these characters have to teacher her so that she can grow up and face each new challenge.

In short, I'm hoping to avoid the easy path of, well these two characters just don't like each other and have never gotten along, to taking the difficult path of truly looking into these characters and giving them enough history, emotion and motivation to keep them from being two dimensional.  Granted, some of these characters will develop more fully over the series, but in the end are strong enough for people to connect to and care about, whether they love them or hate them.  The characters will hopefully cause them to feel something.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Following the Lead

Last week I managed to gain a lot of headway on book 1, which is what I am supposed to be doing, yet all this week book 4 is haunting my backside.  Everything I do leads me back to the characters in that book.  I'm supposed to be creating the beginning of the series and setting up the characters, landscape and rules but the problem is, in some cases I already know the rules and don't want to stop and define them.  The other issue is, as I write the books in the future, the rules become clearer or I am able to think about them in different terms.  What's a girl to do?  Keep ignoring the characters that seem like they really want to come out and keep plugging away at the beginning, or am I allowed to play with the characters who are demanding attention?  I've decided to play in book 4 for a little while, lest I forget everything that I have come up with.  Slap me on the wrist but I'm going for it.

While driving this week I focused on a relationship that I knew was bad between two people, but I didn't know why it was bad.  I hate when I know the end, but don't understand the reasoning behind it.  I know they don't like each other and they have a long history of hating each other.  I met the first character in book 2 and he told me hated the character in book 4.  Well great.  At least I know something about them.  Unfortunately I only have his perspective on their relationship and as we know, there are always two sides to the story.  The character in book 4 really hadn't found his voice yet, so I didn't know why they really hated each other, what the core problem was.  Thankfully he spoke up this week and gave me a really interesting reason for the fight.  It wasn't something as simple as, he liked a girl that I liked, or he stole my favorite shirt, it was something more fundamental, faith.  They had lost faith in one another.  I was shocked.  The more I write these characters, the more heartbreak I seem to find.  All of the characters in each book know each other and have decided to go their separate ways.  My heroine is trying to bring them all together, and yeah right, make them get along. 

I feel like I'm writing a high school reunion as a minor theme underneath all of the paranormal aspects and kissing and plot.  I knew my characters no longer liked each other and decided to disperse into the world, but I didn't know how dramatic it would be to bring them back together.  While I haven't written all of the relationships yet, I know that I'm going to have to tackle the issue.  At some point they were mostly friendly with each other, but now so much as happened to them its hard to get past all of the old issues.  Can you ever become friendly with your high school bully?  Maybe, maybe not, but what about the guy who used to be your best friend, that you loved like a brother who managed to somehow change and leave you behind?  Can you forgive him?  I'm not sure about that either.  It's easier to continue hating someone that you feel you have reason to hate.  It's hard to hate someone that you should forgive and love.  I guess that's why families have such a hard time.  As much as you may want to hate them, something inside tells you that you should get a long with them, even if you would rather pull out your own eyes.

When you have a person that you are loyal to and take them as a leader, you put your faith in them.  You believe in what they are doing and want to help them attain a common goal.  It's doesn't matter if that goal is fighting a war, running for political office or making sure the gym is ready for the Homecoming Dance.  You follow someone because you believe they have the ability to accomplish something that you feel you can't accomplish on your own.  What happens when that person quits and leaves you in the lurch?  Do you pick up where they left off and become the leader?  Do you find someone else to take the helm and finish the task?  Do you quit and give up too, knowing that you can't do it yourself?  This is what my bad boy in Book 4 goes through, only it's not the Homecoming Dance he has to worry about.  He has to worry about losing himself to the darkness that surrounds him.  He looked to his leader to guide him when the choices were impossible to make. He had faith in his leader to get him through the tough spots because he couldn't do it on his own.  Once his leader was gone, my guy lost it.  He no longer knew how to function.  He gave up and turned to the darkness and lost faith.   Knowing this made me like my character so much more. 

All of these guys have done really bad things over time but you have to find a way to like them and redeem them.  I was not looking forward to writing the bad boy for book 4 because I thought he was just a jerk and not redeemable.  Then this huge reason for the way he is rears up and kicks me in the face.  Now I feel like I can write him.  I feel like can finally open up to him and allow is voice to come through.  I'm looking forward to finding out what happens between him and my heroine and if he can come to terms with his former leader.  If not, it should be a really great fight.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Middle

I saw a twitter post the other day that said a writer wished he knew what happened in the middle of the book.  I couldn't agree with him more.  I find that I run into one of two problems.  Either, I know the beginning and end or only parts somewhere in the middle.  It's a rare case when I know what will happen straight through the story.  Of course the story is ever evolving and changing and the amazing things tend to take place when you aren't looking.

I have been focusing on Book 1 again and I had the same issue.  I knew the beginning and mostly the end, but the middle was rather murky.  I decided that I needed to change perspectives and tell some of the middle from a different character's point of view.  I had a lot of information that I needed the reader to know, but it would have been a bit draggy if the same characters threw out all this description.  I found that when I'm stuck on how to present new info, I should change my character and give the reader a new vantage point.  I was also able to let the readers learn a little about a character that would continue on throughout all the books.  He was able to guide me through some tricky spots and then hand off to a third character that will be equally important.

So I was writing the big reveal the other day and I was having trouble arranging it so that it made sense.  I had all of this information, but it felt like one giant mess.  I decided to slow down the pace a little and instead of having huge descriptive paragraphs from one character, I made it more of a conversation so that the information flowed more easily.  I ended up cutting and pasting and rearranging the info and allowed my character to process it all before hitting her with something else.  I didn't want all of this news to be hurdled at her, but broke it up into understandable chucks and let her drive the conversation.  I am much happier with the result. 

In short, sometimes you have to allow a story the freedom to grow and develop in a way that feels right.  I tried to force the writing a number of times in that section and I hated it each time.  This chapter has been weighing on me for months.  I tried coming at it from different angles but it wasn't right.  I felt so much more relaxed once I had taken my time and let the story unfold rather than jam everything together and give the reader and my character whiplash. 

I was having so much fun writing the other day that I wrote a scene that I hoped would make the first book, but in the end I decided that it should really be used in the 2nd book.  I love writing something that is fun and cracks you up as you are writing it.  I told my son, Thing 1 what I had written, and the King of the One Liners threw out the funniest thing I had heard in awhile.  Thing 1 has a tendency to not only have great witty remarks, but the tone in which he says it would break the most serious person.  I was driving the car at the time and actually considered pulling over to the side because I was laughing so hard.  He's had this ability since he was about 2.  The kid is good.  It was so awesome that I decided to add it to the scene.  This is the kid that was condemn for not having enough creativity to write his own book.  (He is currently considering writing a story about dragons, having moved on from vampires.)

I am grateful to have the support of my family so that I can get through the tough middles and impossible endings.  Whenever I'm stuck, I can always go to Thing 1 and talk about a monster or an odd problem and get a new perspective.  Even if I don't use his idea, I can talk it through with him and find a resolution.  Thankfully Thing 1 takes after me and loves vampires, werewolves and zombies.  (Actually I have to thank his girlfriend for getting him into horror novels, but still we both have a love of the unexplained, and superheros, and Greek Mythology.)  I'm hoping that he doesn't become a serious adult who only watches the news and Masterpiece Theater, though somehow I don't think he will.  I'm hoping that one day he can write a book and I can help him with his impossible middles.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I'm sure that most people will tell you that they get their best ideas from talking to people they know or about things that happen in their own lives.  Others dream about things they wish would happen to them.  Somehow my inspiration comes at really random times.  Aside from closing my eyes and seeing the characters play out their own lives, as I have mentioned before, I also get weird little flashes while I'm doing something completely different than writing or thinking about writing.  I was walking up the stairs yesterday looking for a random item for Thing 1 or Thing 2 and bam, a great idea came to me.  I wasn't even thinking about my books.  How can looking for socks suddenly give you flash of brilliance that has been a plot problem for over a month?  I don't get it.  It will only be one sentence or one image and suddenly it makes hundreds of other things make sense.  It's like finding the missing dot in the connect the dot puzzle that you didn't even know was missing.  (Now the lion has a extra whisker that balances out his face better.)

My other source of inspiration is driving alone in the car, which of course is the worst place to have an idea.  I'm terrible at recording what I'm thinking.  I end up not even using what I said on tape.  Instead, I have to wait until I get to my destination and email myself on my phone the general outline.  To anyone walking past my car, it would look like I was having a texting war with someone.  I look intense and my thumbs are going a mile a minute trying to remember everything from a 30 minute car ride. 

I also find that my characters help me out as well.  As we all know this series has been sitting in my head forever and I have pictured what it looks like a million times.  Well, it took a character to enter into one of the Halls and look around and make a random comment to change something completely.  He added a history to the location that even I didn't know.  How the heck does that happen?  I have been there for 16 years and in 1 second he tells me something I never knew.  I was floored by that one.  It still gives me chills. 

I should be angry with my characters for changing my writing.  I will think about something and have this whole conversation or idea in my head and the second I put my hands on the keyboard and start writing for the character that is supposed to have the conversation, his or her voice takes over and the conversation completely changes.  Apparently they are a lot smarter than I am since their conversation comes out so much better than my original one.  I should be jealous or concerned that I'm losing my mind.  Either way, I usually happy with the result.  I find that when I write in my own voice, like in my blog, it's never as interesting as when I can channel the voice of the character.  (I usually delete what I wrote and let the character's voice win.)  It's funny when I got back and read the dialog and laugh out loud because I either forgot what I wrote, or it so completely fits the character's attitude.

The last 2 nights I've had trouble deciding on how to work a number of ideas and places into my first book.  I had to erase most of it because I hated it and it didn't feel right.  I realized that I had lost my character's voice.  Once I let them speak, I suddenly had the scene from the correct perspective and was actually able to write something decent.  What a relief.  Now if I only had the time and energy to write everything that I want to write.  I have forced myself to refocus on book one otherwise it will never get done as I play with the other books.  I'm dying to get to 12 now that I have an outline, and 8 since it doesn't seem as daunting anymore.  Even 5 would be more fun.  Sadly, you sometimes have to start at the beginning.  I have the pieces of the puzzle, I just need to get my crayons out and color them to match the rest of the puzzle. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Why Write Romance?

While most people wouldn't bat an eye lash over someone writing a paranormal novel given the popularity of scary monsters and sexy vampires in our culture, many of them will raise an eye brow, or two when you tell them that you are writing a romance novel.  I get many interesting responses when I decide to share my secret with people that I know.  The responses range from interest and questions, to, "oh, that's nice", while changing the subject.  Others just don't quite know what to say.  The funny thing is, we are all adults and it's obvious that they enjoy intimacy with their spouses, yet it's still considered risque to talk about.  I try to limit my conversations when people hear that I am writing a book series and keep it vague on purpose.  Wouldn't want to offend anyone.  That isn't certainly is the kind of person I'm writing for anyway.  I am writing for the people who need a little kick start in their day who, even if they have intimacy, may enjoy hearing from someone else about their different experiences with relationships.  I know I do.

I didn't start reading romance novels, or even books, until I decided to read Twilight.  Before that I was more of a movie person, despite being an English major and writing for fun in my spare time when I was younger.  I always like vampires, so don't think Twilight turned me on to the paranormal, I have always been interested in the strange stuff.  But once I read Twilight, I realized that I could read for enjoyment instead of the books that I hated reading for English classes.  Much like me telling my son to write about things that interest him and blowing his mind, this book showed me that I could care about a character I had never seen in a movie (obviously I read it before the movie came out) and could make a connection to.  Up to that point in my life I had read Shakespeare, which was interesting, and some other books that were okay, but the majority of them were classics like Paradise Lost, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Tom Sawyer, The Yearling, The House of the Seven Gables, 1985, Brave New World, and the like.  While I could relate to some of the Shakespeare characters, as a kid I had trouble relating to fawns, kids from Missouri painting fences, futuristic government controlled worlds, new civilizations, odd mind altering drugs in a supposed Utopian society vs savage worlds and a house that had seven gables (my English teacher that year, God rest her soul, was terrible at teaching House of the Seven Gables and combined two different characters into one...Malborne Holgrave...even after being told by my one friend who had read the book, that she was making a I only remember that much about the book).  My mind was had always been dark and has always sought out disturbing and dangerous characters.  Kids from Missouri who paint fences may have been real trouble makers at the time, but are not what I would consider dangerous.  Being a goody two shoes my whole life and having suffered from some seriously disturbing life altering situations, I tended to seek out the darkness to appease the side of me that was angry and frustrated with my life since I couldn't change it.  I channeled all my rage into the evil side of the stories.  I cheered for Maleficent when she turned into a dragon.  I wanted Keifer's vampire to win.  I would have been chosen for Slytherin.  So I had trouble finding my niche when it came to stories.

When I found Edward Cullen and his sullen life, I became addicted to him.  In my head, I removed his in action and recreated him into someone who had the best of both worlds.  He could kill with his teeth, yet he still got the girl.  In many senses I made him my own, just like most of the world.  What I was surprised to find was that I enjoyed the intimate moments that he shared with Bella.  Because of his raw power and killing potential, he had to force back his dark side and make himself kinder for her.  In many ways, I felt the same way.  I had to curb my anger and hatred and become kinder if I wanted my relationships to work out.  It was because of Edward that I remembered what it was like to want intimacy.  I had been going through a hard time in my life and I forgotten how to connect to people because of my pain.  <3 were having trouble talking to each other and remembering why weren't close anymore.  Edward unlocked some of the feelings that I kept hidden like, desire and love and kindness and compassion.  When people are in turmoil, they seal off the parts of themselves that can be hurt, to save themselves, and only show people what will keep their enemies at bay.  We snarl and growl to keep people away and protect ourselves.  Edward showed me how defensive and cold I had become.  In short, Edward helped me remember my softer side.  Ironic that a vampire, the creature I had turn to when I was angry with the world, could help me open up and discover what I was holding back.

After Edward, I wanted to find other books that would help to chisel away the ice inside of me.  I needed something to restart the fire and passion within me that I had buried.  My outer shell was too tough for anyone to get through so I needed to crack through it myself to be able to reach out to people. They certainly weren't getting in, so I had to get out.  I went to Barnes and Nobles and wandered into the taboo Romance section and was embarrassed at first.  What if someone saw the me there, oh no?  I picked up a novel and took it home and read it.  While the genre wasn't right, the cover had mislead me, I did find a little of what I was looking for.  I got to read about an impossible relationship and how the characters were attracted to each other and compatible, yet had to overcome great adversity to be together.  That was exactly how I felt.  Once I found the right genre, I made the connection complete.  I read about vampires who's emotions were locked away since they were warriors and how they found someone who made them want to change.  I read about how they learned how to love someone and be intimate.  Ultimately it helped me on many levels.  I found my passionate side, which is always fun.  But I also learned to how to trust someone.  I had to learn that it was okay for me to give a part of myself to them for safe keeping.  I didn't have to keep this wall around me to protect myself, even though I was already sharing my life with someone.  It taught me to rely on someone else for emotional support.  It showed me that I don't have to be an island onto myself.  For the first I trusted someone enough to be intimate.  So I fell in love with the genre.

My heroine was locked in Hell for years and years before I allowed to her to return to the human world.  In Hell she had been miserable, wandering around lost and insecure.  She feared everything and never grew up.  After years of holding her hostage, I finally let her interact with people.  That's when she found her romance.  Orginally, I came up with different men for her to deal with and learn from.  Over time she developed relationships with them.  That's when my story started to write itself.  Granted, as I've said, the characters in my head for 16 years aren't exactly the characters that I'm writing now, but the characters now have more substance to them.  When I started envisioning the men in her life, it was because they were cute or friendly, but once I started writing them, they took on problems and issues of their own.  In writing about her getting through to her men, I realized that I am writing about people getting through my own wall.  I have been able to throw all of my pain and experiences into my characters so that they can hold onto the pain for me and I can breath again. 

So when I write about romance, it isn't just about the intimacy between the characters, it'ss more about how they got to that point and what is going on in the moment.  They are allowing themselves to trust someone for the first time.  They are finding out that it's okay to have love and be loved.  That no matter what they did up to this point, they still deserve to be happy.  Most romance novels have that message at its core.  Unfortunately most people can't see past the bedroom moments to dig deeper into the message leading up to and following the bedroom scene.  I have cried more at my romance novels than I have from any of the books I read in High School or College and I think that's a good thing.  If you cry, that means you are connecting to something, whether good or bad.  While I may have cried with the deer died, it wasn't as gut wrenching as having a hardened man who had endured years of abuse finally embrace someone and tell them that they love them.  It gets my every time because it gives me hope.  At least they could eat the deer to survive if they needed to.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Good vs. Evil

When you come up with characters, you have to decide on whether or not your character will be considered good or evil.  There are plenty of gray areas in between to play with, but usually a character has to fall on their side of the line.  What happens when you have a character that has traditionally known to be evil and has been portrayed as a fiend forever but turns out to be good?  Can they overcome the predisposed notions that people have of them?  People have been turning vampires and werewolves from the horror novel/movie bad guys into redeemable people, worthy of love and human relationships.  Audiences have been falling in love these reformed evil creatures and now adore them.  Yet, there are still plenty of evil vampires out there to give us a good scare and remind up to lock our doors and windows at night.

What happens when you take a character that had been predetermined to be good and turn them evil?  I have been dealing a lot with angels in my books, but they aren't the Heavenly creatures that save people from burning buildings.  These angels all once started out as good creatures, but over time have been influenced by humanity and their wicked free will.  Now the shiny beautiful creatures are tarnished and are choosing sides.  Will they stay with God?  Will they strike out on their own?  I am playing with the ideas of good characters being less than good and evil characters being less than evil.  I don't think good and evil are as cut and dry anymore.  Evil has become redeemable, but what about good?

Think about the night in shining armor that rescues the girl from the dragon and the action hero that kills the bad guys and gets to kiss the girl in the end.  Now what happens if the dragon was really the one who was trying to rescue the girl and the night in shining armor had ulterior motives and wasn't really trying to hurt the girl?  What if the bad guys that are killed by the action hero are the ones who were stalking our supposed hero because he was running an illegal drug ring and our bad guys were really vigilantes helping the girl?  The lines become blurred when you try and decide a character's motivation.  Some of them are doing what is considered evil but for the right reasons.  How is a girl to know who to believe?  It becomes a matter of perspective.  I think it's time for the girl to decide for herself who's motivations are true and who is trying to snow her.  If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.  Or maybe she should stop looking to her white knight to come along and get herself out of trouble.

While I'm trying to write a strong female character, I still want her to fall in love and care for people, but at the same time, I'm trying to teach her that black isn't necessarily evil and white isn't always good.  She has to evaluate each situation and decide for herself what is real.  I want her to forget about the preconceived notions of different creatures and look at what they are doing before deciding to trust them.  Maybe there shouldn't be good vs evil.  Maybe there should just be, open your eyes and ears and figure out what makes sense.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The End Game

I was trying to sleep last night and I was stressing about what to do with the last of my character books, book 12.  (Book 13 is a finale book with all of the characters joining together or maybe it will be the beginning of something new.  Who knows?)  I have decided which characters will be introduced in each book, even if I don't know all there is to know about them yet.  I have a basic character structure for my main people and have an idea about how they will act.  Of course they tend to surprise me once I start writing for them.  Anyway, during my sleeplessness I came up with the plot for book 12.  This one has been driving me nuts since it's a difficult premise to deal with.  Happily I found my muse for the main character in this book and it took off from there. 

I had been toying with the idea of having a human bad guy for this one.  My heroine has faced off against monsters, vampires, werewolves and all the traditionally scary things of the paranormal, but she hasn't had to battle someone who was still human and completely evil. At least not as a main bad guy. So I came up with a basic plot, which of course will change once I start writing it, but at least something is down in print.  As I was thinking about the scenario and what the villain was like, I started to hated to truly hate my villain.  I think I hate him more than any other bad guy so far. 

It's easy to dismiss evil when it comes in the form of a creature that was either created to be evil or is synonymous with being bad.  Kill a vampire or a werewolf in their truest monstrous form and no one will cry for them.  Shoot a zombie and people start to cheer.  Kill a human villain, that's tricky.  You stop and think, can they be redeemed?  Will people cry for the human?

Have a person who is living and breathing makes you stop and decide how to handle him.  Do you keep him alive because killing people is wrong?  Do you have him go through the justice system and roll the dice?  Given that this isn't a criminal justice book, I doubt they will have to go through jury selection for this guy.  Yet it isn't so cut and dry.  You kill the monster without thought, unless you think there is some good in them.  Do you kill off the human who is doing more harm than some of the monsters you've faced?  Tough question.  That is something that I will have to decide once I write the end of the book. 

In the end, I'm just grateful to finally have a strong enough story that I think will provide enough for me to write about and enough for people to be interested in.  Hopefully I can sleep better tonight, though I still have to deal with Book 9 and 10 and 11, so we shall see.