Thursday, December 11, 2008

Eco-fugitives

Word of the Week: Eco-fugitive

Much of what I write -- which I hope will be available for everyone to read sooner rather than later -- has deeply rooted environmental issues. In one of my short stories, the hero is an activist, not so subtle there.

So, of course I became interested when I saw this government's new list of environmental fugitives. The new website supporting this new initiative seems to be bogged down, which I take as good news that enough people care for it to be bombarded. Here's the new site, but if it's still tied up, check the news release.

I can see plenty of story ideas here, but I also have hope that some of these people will be stopped before more damage is done.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

deus ex machina

Deus ex machina is this:
"Captain, we've spent the past 200 pages of this novel trying to escape the evil zombies. We cannot escape this inescapable maze of doom. How will we ever make it?"

"Sergeant, I have no idea. Put your finger on that little red button. We'll self destruct in 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, Wait! What's that alien spaceship doing?"

"Lo and Behold, a greater than us, almost god-like species, never before introduced in the plot of our 200 page novel, has just swooped in to save us, the world, and the universe in the last 10 pages of our story."


Reader: throws novel against the wall, let down by the author.

Deus ex machina. "God from the Machine."
The classics were full of this. Aristotle was the first to say, "Whoa, Nelly". The resolution of the plot must be internal to the plot. It has to come from the progression of the story, not out of left field at the last moment.

This is like the end of The Abyss, where the ending has no real relation to the first 3/4 of the movie and the climax/resolution did not flow from the buildup/conflict. This is beyond a surprise ending, where clues are dropped, but from an entire new concept. Twist endings are great. God-like intervention endings are a disappointment. But, hey, I loved The Abyss, so *shrug* sometimes it works for a portions of the audience, but I have seen this movie completely panned because of the ending.

The end of The Abyss seems a direct homage to 2001 A Space Odyssey, which has a similar deus ex machina, in the form of the monolith, in itself a "god machine".

It's debatable whether deus ex machina works in a story. If it does, perhaps it's due to the odyssey (nod to The Odyssey intended). The allusion to the Greek-like journey lends itself to such a grandiose end. Is this the author's laziness, or that idea that humans can't save themselves, but some sort of divine intervention (or other-worldly) is necessary to help humans rise above the depths.

For more about deus ex machina, there's a little info on Wikipedia.

As an aspiring author working on a manuscript where the ending is a surprise to the hero and heroine (H/h), I took great pains to create a timeline that worked for the reader while leaving the H/h in the dark. Part of that was to add an additional POV besides the H/h to avoid the deus ex machina. It may be more work, but the readers will get more out of the story.

And they hopefully won't throw the book against the wall.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Duality by Renee Wildes

Duality by Renee Wildes published by Samhain was released yesterday. Renee is a friend of mine, and I'm happy to see the glowing reviews this wonderful writer has already received. If you have a hankering for Fantasy Romance, check these reviews, then RUN to get your copy.

Coffee Time Romance
***** (out of 5 cups)
"Duality is a stunning read with glorious mental vistas. While the book is a fantasy, it has a definite message we all can easily relate to—that love can be found during great adversity. I enjoyed reading about how Dara gains her strength to be who she truly is from her love for Loren and her ancestors. Loren as the valiant warrior who loves his lady in spite of her differences brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion. This book has the best of everything in the romance genre, and I highly recommend it. It is a keeper!"
Regina
Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance


Ecataromance
***** (out of 5 Stars)
"Duality, by Renee Wildes, is the best fantasy story that I have ever read! This story has it all: Heart stopping adventure, True evil versus good, Love, Handsome Fae, and a gorgeous dragon. What more could a reader desire? This fabulous story is to die for!"
Reviewer: Susiq2

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fantasy & Fantasy-Romance Workshop

Please join us at Romance Divas THIS WEEKEND!

Friday October 10th and Saturday October 11th, we will be joined by some huge names in fantasy and fantasy-romance for a workshop on what the difference really is between the two genres.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

For fellow writers -- Word Macros

I've shared this with friends before, and thought I'd share again. This time, I'm putting it here so I can get feedback/questions, which I may or may not be able to help with.

There are two macros.

HiLite will run in Word to find a list of words (which you can edit) and highlight them. I haven't written an install, but here's how it works. If you have Word 2003, download this Weakwords.doc. Be sure to have macros enabled in Word. If you have Word 2007, this is the version you need: WeakWords.docm. The macro uses a dictionary file (download) which needs to go with other dictionary files, here: C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Application Data\Microsoft\UProof\CautionList.dic.
The macro searches for "ly" words and highlights them.
It also highlights all of the weak words in a manuscript. What constitutes weak? I put together a list from online how-to sites for writers, but I've since edited this down for my own writing style. Edit the words to reflect you own watch/problem words. You can open the dictionary file in notepad or word and edit it. It's essentially a text file.

The Word Frequency macro will list every word with the number of times it appears in the document.
Let me know if you have any questions/comments.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Banned

My word of the week is banned.
This is Banned Books Week. I highly encourage everyone to go out and read one today, and exercise those brain cells in new, expansive ways. Your brain will thank you for it. Two books from the list of popularly targeted books are in my top ten, all time favorite books. If you haven't read them, do so. If these don't appeal, check out this list of banned books.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.
This book rocked my world. I've never looked at racism in the same light since.

William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.
A tour de force of characterization, setting, and skillful use of multiple narrative style. Sheer brilliance. 15 points-of-view, and it works! Stream of consciousness in it's finest.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Articles of interest

I've stumbled onto several intriguing articles in the blogosphere in the past week. I thought I'd share:
Allison Brennan on writing Taboos at Romancing the Blog. Basically, write what you love and write well, then the taboos and "rules" need not apply. But, the key is to write well.

Last year, John Scalzi, author of Old Man's War (which comes highly recommended by the better half), wrote openly about money & how much he's made writing fiction.

Heather at The Galaxy Express on Science Fiction Romance and a discussion of possible directions for that genre.

Generation-R (for Reader). Teen/YA sales are "booming". Is this a second golden age for YA?

The Next Big Thing: Space Wenches, by Rose Fox at Publisher's Weekly.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sorrow

The word of the day, is sorrow.


010913-N-1350W-003 New York, N.Y. (Sept. 13, 2001) -- A New York City fire fighter looks up at what remains of the World Trade Center after its collapse during a Sept. 11 terrorist attack. U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Jim Watson. (RELEASED)

Source: http://www.news.navy.mil/view_single.asp?id=1465

Monday, September 8, 2008

Kick A$$ Characters



Kick A$$ Characters By Authors Who Know How To Kick A$$


September 12-13 at Romance Divas


Featuring:

Bob Mayer
Lori Avocato
Maggie Price
Lindsay McKenna
Barry Eisler
Linnea Sinclair
Larissa Ione
Merline Lovelace

Want to know how to write authentic action, suspense, law enforcement, and military romance? Ask authors who know firsthand! Romance Divas is hosting a 2-day workshop with some of the hottest names in the genre. It will take place at the Romance Diva Forum. All are welcome. To get access to the forum you will need to register by entering the site and clicking on Forum.

I'm looking forward to attending this one!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Judgment

My word of the week is Judgment. As in, I had jury duty.
First time I get a notice in the mail to show up for jury duty, and I end up sitting in the box.

The long awaited day started. I headed to the courthouse on public transportation on a beautiful, sunny, breezy day and thought that this was great. I'm providing a service to the community. I should be proud. During the long wait to see if we'd be needed, instead of staying in the sparse room with folding chairs and tables, I was directed up a few floors in the courthouse highrise to find vending machines that worked. Milling around in the lobby were young people in different groups, obviously awaiting word from inside the courtrooms. Big mistake to go to that floor, but I had no idea that's where the courtrooms were. I couldn't help but overhear one young man explaining to the woman with him how his friend had done dumb things because he was young. Yeah, I think a lot of us did. No, I don't think I sat in the jury on that one.

Later, I'm selected, and I get to hear a case. Drunk driving. Don't need the particulars here except that nothing but his car got hurt. Thank goodness. And though I voted guilty, which he clearly was, and he should NOT have been behind a wheel of a car, I felt horrible. Duty is not fun. The woman who happened to be juror number one by luck of the computer draw nearly cried and couldn't say the verdict out loud. She was shaking like a leaf the whole time.

This brought a lot home to me in terms of judgment. As a normal, everyday citizen, the law is pretty abstract, even if I understand the law itself. Something we don't see outside of Law and Order reruns. You have to look at a young man sitting behind that table and know that his life is changed forever for a mistake that could have been avoided. "Thank goodness no one got hurt" might been my first reaction. But someone did. He got hurt because now he's got a record. Juror number One got hurt because it wrecked her to announce that verdict. I got hurt, because I didn't want to say "guilty", and it made me doubt the ability to judge impartially. It's harder than you could realize.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Passionate Ink Contest Results

NOVELLA
Stroke of Midnight
First Place - Scenting Cinnamon, by Ella Drake
Second Place - Reaction Time, by Alannah Lynne
Third Place - From Afar, by Ava March
HM - Full Moon, by Tiffany Kenzie
HM - Him, Memoir of My Second Marriage to the Egyptian God of Fertility, by Constance Denson-Hamilton

Passionate Plume
First Place - Male Call, by Denise A. Agnew
Second Place - Rescue Me, by Anna Leigh Keaton
Third Place - Hot Down Under, by Susan Lyons
HM - Second Chance Christmas, by Mackenzie McKade
HM - Desert Heat, by Leigh Wyndfield

CONTEMPORARY
Stroke of Midnight
First Place - Liberating Lacey, by Anne Calhoun
Second Place - Laws Of Attraction, by Crystal Kauffman
Third Place - Nice and Naughty, by Jayne Rylon
HM - Love, Lust and Lies, by Cathleen Ross
HM - Trading Favors, by Reece Butler

Passionate Plume
First Place - Wicked Ties, by Shayla Black
Second Place - Roped, by Ann Jacobs
Third Place - Suite Seventeen, by Portia Da Costa
HM - Twin Fantasies, by Opal Carew
HM - Nothing To Lose, by Mechele Armstrong

HISTORICAL
Stroke of Midnight
First Place - Plantation Rule, by Noelle Henderson and Barbra Moser
Second Place - Show Me-The Spartan Chronicles, by Nadia Aidan
Third Place - Seeking Truth, by Francesca Hawley
HM - A Gentleman For Her, by Ava March
HM - Wild At Heart, by Crystal Kauffman

Passionate Plume
First Place - At Love's Command, by Samantha Kane
Second Place - Mirage, by Monica Burns
Third Place - Nicholas, by Elizabeth Amber
HM - One Bashful Lady, by Brenda Williamson
HM - Anchor and Storm, by Kate Poole

FUTURISTIC/FANTASY/SCIENCE FICTION
Stroke of Midnight
First Place - Wings Of Desire, by Sindee Sexton
Second Place - Fairy Prince, by Leanne Karella
Third Place - Almost Darke, by P.M. Black
HM - Soul Bound, by Barbara Morgan
HM - Goddess in Trouble, by Maggie Nash

Passionate Plume
First Place - Tailspin, by Denise Rossetti
Second Place - Close Encounters of the Sexy Kind, by Karen Kelley
Third Place - Seducer, by Aubrey Ross
HM - Settler's Mine 2: The Lovers, by Mechele Armstrong
HM - Born Again, by Rena Marks

PARANORMAL / TIME TRAVEL
Stroke of Midnight
First Place - The Tiger's Tale, by Nara Malone
Second Place - Saving Jenna, by Violet Summers
Third Place - Bluebeard's Hunger, by Ella Drake
HM - Minotaur, by Hortense Powdermaker
HM - Believing Is Seeing, by Corinne Davies

Passionate Plume
First Place - Mona Lisa Blossoming, by Sunny Chen
Second Place - Blood Rose, by Sharon Page
Third Place - Mystic's Run, by Jory Strong
HM - Ethereal Foes: The Dragon's Demon, by Marie Harte
HM - Blood Red, by Sharon Page

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

12th Annual Dixie First Chapter Contest

And the results are in.. Bluebeard finals in 1st place!
Thanks to the Magnolia State Romance Writers (MSRW) and all the hard work of their judges.
Updates on Bluebeard are here: Bluebeard blog posts and here: Ella's fiction page.
The manuscript revisions have been completed, the title has changed to The Forbidden Chamber, and it's out in the wide world looking for a home. Fingers crossed!

12th Annual Dixie First Chapter Contest:


Contemporary
1 * Proof And Consequences DONNA MEIER
2 * Texas Hold'er JUNE LOVE
3
Kiss Me Cowboy CHELLE SANDELL


Historical
1 * Fatal Fortune JOANNE BARNABA
2
Maiden Widow VICTORIA WHITAKER
3
The Masquerading Duke STEPHIE SMITH


Inspirational
1 * Dead Letter C J EERNISSE CHASE
2
Undercover Marriage KELLY ANN RILEY
3
Knowing Grace DEBRA E MARVIN


Paranormal/Futuristic/Time Travel
1
Bluebeard's Hunger ELLA DRAKE
2
Fallen Angels In Paradise CATHY LEMING
3
Dark Guardian ROBIN L PERINI


Romantic Suspense
1
Truth And Consequences ROBIN L PERINI
2
Pleasant Lake P.D. KELLY FITZPATRICK
3
In Cold Storage KATHY-DIANE LEVEILLE


Super Sexy
1 * Heart for Hire MARY RHYAN
2
Rock Hard DEE CYMBER
3
Waking The Witch LISA WHITEFERN

Thanks again, and SQUEE!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Unobtanium

Word of the day: Unobtainium, that elusive metallic alloy that is just the right answer to fixing the intergalactic space catastrophe. Or, the impossible last ingredient to complete the world-saving vaccine to avoid the apocalypse.

This is the term used when scientists jokingly refer to a certain component/material they need but it's impossible to obtain for reasons such as cost or insurmountable conditions. In Science Fiction, this might be a material that has impossible strength/properties/physics. Think Kryptonite or Adamantium. Adamantium is "adamant" as in unbreakable. Unobtanium is unobtainable. An impossible alloy/material/mineral.

Despite the low viewer and critical ratings of the movie The Core, I thoroughly enjoyed it in part because it's darn fun. Forget any problems you may find in the science of the film. How can you not like a movie that creates a ship to go to the core of the Earth? To top it off, they use unobtainium as the metal for the hull of the ship. "Unobtainium" is the nod, saying: "Yes, this is clearly impossible, but suspend your disbelief and go with it."
From Powerpuff Girls with their Chemical X to Star Trek's dilithium, futuristic fiction is loaded with the stuff. What powers that FTL engine in that space opera?

All that to say, I've created a graphite material to use in my Science Fiction Romance. Is it unobtainable, or futuristic? What's the new unobtainium? Carbontonium? Graphitilium? Newvium?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Writing Fiction as a Career

Recently, a few blog postings have come to my attention that are well written and, from my nonpubbed perspective, seem to be right on. Writing in the hope of publishing can take such a very long time. And quitting the day job may take even longer. Check these out, each are well worth the read:
Agent Nathan Bransford's How Long Does It Take to Sell A Novel?
Author Jeaniene Frost's Money
Author Jennifer Jackson's advances - what they are really made of

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Lean over a little more...

Over the dinner table, his dark hair contrasted sharply with his eyes that glinted in the dim light. He smiled with a devilish quirk to his mouth.

"Do you want to give it a try?" he asked.

He lifted his fork and beckoned for her to taste. The morsel too far way, she leaned over the table. His eyes traveled from her parted lips, down, down. He pulled the fork back and grinned, eyes glued to her low cut dress.

"Lean over a little more," he purred.

She knew what he wanted. The table in her way, she leaned so far over he was sure to see her belly button.

While he was distracted, salivating over her cleavage, she licked his hand. His fingers tensed on the utensil, and she smelled his excitement.

Between her moist parted lips, as red as the wine she drank, her tongue caressed her lengthening incisors. She smiled at his panic before she sank her teeth into his wrist. Such a tasty morsel. She hated to let go for a second, but she wanted more. She reluctantly removed her mouth from the arm she held like a shackle against his struggles. Quick as a the predator she was, she pulled him arm first across the table. He lay there, like the meal he was, his neck exposed. His jugular beat an erratic pulse.

"Lean over a little more," she whispered in his ear.

She pulled him closer and sank her teeth into his sweet neck.

dedicated to my dinner friends, you know who you are! (snicker)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Should an avian shifter have a strong sense of smell?

The Forbidden Chamber, my gothic paranormal manuscript--previously known as Bluebeard's Hunger, is a story with Raven shapeshifters. Even though shifters aren't real, an understanding of birds and Ravens in particular adds an authentic layer to the story. For instance, if I had my avian shifters breathing under water, it might throw the reader out of the story. Right?

Of note, Ravens are monogamous, as much as any animal, and mate for life. They are incredibly intelligent and use "tools". They have complex societal structures with various responsibilities within the flock. A flock of Ravens used to be called an unkindness, but that term is no longer common.

There is debate on whether birds have sense of smell, but research has found that some homing pigeons do have a heightened sense of smell, though they do not rely on it for "homing". I have a hunt scene, and since I do have a fantasy creature, I have decided that in this gothic tale, the heightened sense of smell works well with a strong shifter race.

Since there is debate on the extent of bird olfactory senses, during the scene, I spend some time reinforcing how scenting works. I think it adds to the idea of homing to a life mate. It's a strong concept that helps create a bond between the hero and heroine.

Isn't research fun?

Some of my resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raven
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corvus_%28genus%29
http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/printable/raven.html
http://www.stanford.edu/group/stanfordbirds/text/essays/Avian_Sense.html
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1200/is_8_168/ai_n15393211

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bluebeard's Hunger

Bluebeard's Hunger, now titled The Forbidden Chamber, is a finalist in two contests:
* Finalist, 2008 Royal Ascot (Hot and Wild Regency)
The Beau Monde
* Finalist, 2008 12th Annual Dixie First Chapter Contest (Paranormal)
The Magnolia State Romance Writers


This manuscript has also placed in two other contests. Let me just say that I'm honored, and this gives me confidence that one day, with more hard work, this manuscript will find a home. I greatly appreciate all of the efforts of judges in RWA chapter contests. The feedback I've gotten has been invaluable. I get out my shaker of salt when I look at the comments (after all, I do get diametrically opposed suggestions), but every time I take a critical eye and beat this work with a sledge hammer, it gets better.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Nightkeepers by Jessica Andersen

Unique!
This is a superbly built paranormal world with real characters. The love vs. the end of the world crisis is believable and heart wrenching. Excellent read.

The Nightkeepers by Jessica Andersen
(Novels of the Final Prophecy, Book 1)
The exciting debut of a new paranormal romance series

As a Miami narcotics detective, Leah Daniels never knows how her day will turn out. But she certainly never expected to be strapped to a stone altar, the human sacrifice in an ancient Mayan ritual meant to coax up a demon from the underworld. Or that she’d be saved by a handsome warrior-priest king who claims to recognize her from his visions...

Jaguar Strike wishes he hadn’t made the mistake of reuniting his fellow warrior priests, or broken the law by saving their chosen human sacrifice. Now, he has no choice but to join forces with Leah and invoke dangerous magic in a death-defying race against the end of time.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Teach Me Tonight: IASPR and JPRS: Call for PEOPLE

A peer reviewed journal is being put together for the academic study of the Romance genre. This is something to watch, and I hope they have great success:
Teach Me Tonight: IASPR and JPRS: Call for PEOPLE

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Word Choices

My Bluebeard story, title changed to The Forbidden Chamber -- was Bluebeard's Hunger, is set in England, 1823. Striking a balance between using terminology of that day while still keeping the modern reader interested can be tricky. For instance, the term "making love" as a euphemism for sex is relatively new. One of my favorite sources to check on etymology is the Online Etymology Dictionary. It dates that use of the term at around 1950.

However, when someone asked me if the term "chopping block" was around in 1823 (yes, Bluebeard is a dark story), references to the Tower of London beheadings at the block can be found before that date.

But here's an interesting resource, written in 1811. It gives authentic everyday, vulgar language definitions. Pretty cool resource for writing historicals. Check out the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, by Captain Grose et al. This does have the chopping-block:
"He or she sits like a toad on a chopping-block." There are a bunch of really good words, or cant, listed here. I like this one : SLUICE YOUR GOB. Take a hearty drink.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bluebeard, tales of a wife murderer

For various reasons, one of which is research for my master's thesis topic, I read a few versions of the Bluebeard fairy tale. It's a folktale, so there are different versions that arose from various areas in Europe, but the basic idea beneath them all is of Bluebeard, a wealthy nobleman, who has had three wives, all of whom disappear. No one knows what has happened to them, but they are assumed murdered. Bluebeard manages to marry another young woman, who is told of a secret room she must not enter. In some versions there is a key she must not use. In others there is an egg--yes, I know, why an egg? Each tale is different, but in the end, the new wife escapes being murdered after she enters the forbidden room and finds the dead wives. Bluebeard is beheaded.

There are several morals attributed to the story. For a more detailed account of the versions of the story and their supposed lessons, check out Bluebeard and the Bloody Chamber by Terri Windling.
One "moral" is along the lines of curiosity killing the cat, as in, the wives should have obeyed the husband and not entered the forbidden room. Dare I say, that in centuries past, the moral would have been that they got what they deserved? My sensibilities are of course offended by such, since fascination in the forbidden closet of mystery is a natural thing (nod to the Simpsons). And why the egg? There are sexual and reproductive undertones to the bloody room and the egg. Once virginity is lost, it can never be returned, so the egg, once entered into the bloody room, cannot come clean. Obvious nod to reproduction and unfulfilled pregnancy. If a woman opens the door on her sexuality, will she meet her comeuppance?

Margaret Atwood's story Bluebeard's Egg brings up another thought, of the idea of infedelity tied to the unsullied egg. Her new treatment on some of the themes was intriguing, and one important element to me was the idea of hidden sexuality. A few twists and turns, and my story, Bluebeard's Hunger was born.

So what if the hero of the story HAD killed his wives, could the heroine still love him? What exactly is in that room? What if the heroine was a plucky, intelligent, woman who is innocent, but awakened to that hidden sexuality? Why did the wealthy nobleman kill his wives & what if he had good reason? What would that reason be? What if there were demons?

Bluebeard's Hunger
was a blast to write. It's a finalist in two contests, the Fab Five from WisRWA, and Passionate Ink's Stroke of Midnight. Got my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

You never know what you'll see at RT



Sword fighting? Sure, why not? Mr. Romance Contestant Luke Walsh and a certain Phaze editor who shall remain nameless. Or not, you can check his blog...


This last pic taken by Frances Stockton


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Wow! RT Convention

Went to the Romantic Times Convention last week, and I'm still spinning. I'll never make sense of it all. Here's a smattering of pics for a quick flavor.


Critique partners
Sunny, Venus (yes, her real name), and me.



Frances Stockton, my bud who's posted her own pics on myspace.



Venus and me at Faery Ball.



Roomie aka Diana Groe aka Emily Bryan aka The Dirty Librarian.


Trista Ann Michaels, me, and Liana.

Saturday, February 9, 2008