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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rejection and Reflection the two 'R's of a Writer's Reality

When you're a writer, or any other kind of artist for that matter, there comes a time in your creative life when you spread your wings and try to fly. You spend your time preparing, honing your work...polishing it, loving it, dreaming about how it will be accepted. You daydream, you worry back and forth, but eventually you step to the ledge, close your eyes and jump...praying the whole time that the thud won't be too loud or too painful if it doesn't work out.

This scenario applies in almost every situation a writer faces, from the decision to write, to eventually submitting your work to be judged.

So, since all art is subjective, it becomes a matter of statistics. At some point in our careers we will all face rejection. It can come from a publisher telling us, thanks but no thanks, a bad review, poor sales, or not making the cut in some contest judged by industry professionals.

What happens then? What next?

For me...and many of my peers...we spend time wallowing in a vat of chocolate. But when you're done consoling yourself and you're either ready to puke or you've gained 10lbs, you climb out and it's time for reflection.

By reflection I don't mean go grab a whip and start self-flagellation. I mean ask yourself a few simple questions...

1. Was I happy with my finished my story, did I love my characters?
2. Did I enjoy writing it?
3. Does writing bring me joy?
4. Am I good at it?
5. Can I get even better?

and the most important questions of all....

If I stop writing, will I be happy? Is that what I want to do?

The questions are easy, it's the answers that are hard. Basically, every writer has to ask themselves who it is exactly that they write for? Why they write? If the answer is for money and fame, then in my opinion you're in it for some very wrong reasons. Those two things are fringe benefits that come with luck. If you do it because it's what you love, then the rest doesn't really matter. The nuts and bolts of your craft will come with time and practice...but a love of storytelling will make the difference between something average and something great.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Creating Characters

I’m not very good at this blogging thing. It just doesn’t fit. Or perhaps it’s me? The things I want to talk about - unless I’m writing a story - are basically forbidden so I’m at a quandary. What I am . . . how I see things is spiritual. The arts I practice require I know the ‘invisible’ side of life, a prerequisite so to say.

It doesn’t matter what faith – or lack of – one is; it’s the lessons one came to learn while in the physical form that’s important. And it’s different for each of us. That’s why tolerance is implored. We all have the right to believe the way we do.

Karma really exists, or as I call it: reaping what you sowed. It’s happened to me - and to many others over my lifetime. It’s not something you pay for later. You pay for it in the here-and-now somewhere along the line. As a researcher of Astrology, Tarot and Numerology, - that is how I got into them in the first place – I’ve witnessed many testimonies of the truth lying within if one only has the eyes to accept. The wisdom gained is phenomenal. This wisdom is what I use when I ‘create’ my characters, the people I become when writing.

The story itself - that just flows out of me, like I’m remembering . . . perhaps reliving? - another life. There are no outlines, no synopsis, nothing, just the feel of events are committed to paper. Excuse me- computer and cd now. It only becomes paper when it’s printed!

Editing is a must with me. My novels are long so I had to learn how to tweak them . . . big time! Eternity is Forever, when first typed, was 1100 pages long. And yet, it was only a segment of a life, a moment in time frozen on paper much like photography.

I use what I know in my novels. People are more tolerant then because it is ‘a story’, fiction and not real. Plus it adds spice. Prophetic dreams, intuition, gut instincts, the vibes, just knowing: we all get them. And if we’re smart we’d listen to them. First impression is so important. That’s why you start the story with a grab. Lure them to bite like a fish on a hook and then reel them in.

Understanding the spiritual side of life - and I want to impress that this is my opinion and I am not shoving it down your throat, that I don’t know everything but I am human just like you. We all have a standard by which we live. I live mine, and you live yours, which is as it should be.

Anyway, knowing helps me get the message across in a way that’s acceptable. Values are important, ethics upon which one should build their foundation. Life would be simpler if people treated others as they’d want to be treated.

That’ll never happen. Earth is the negative of Heaven, or Home as I call it. We came from perfection to imperfection in order to learn and that’s why it’s temporary. This is where the Tarot comes in.

The Scared Tree of Life (life paths of The Mystery Tradition of the Kabbalah) offers thirty-two paths, each corresponding to a card in The Major Arcana (as well as the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet). They start with The Fool, man and the choices he must make, and end with The World. They represent hurtles one will face in one form or another, and, like a natal birth chart, these hurtles are different for everyone. Whether they turn out positive or not is up to Free Will. We all come here for a reason, a purpose. Whether we live up to that purpose or not is up to us and the choices we make. We really are in charge of our own destiny and we don’t even know it!

The scenarios and personalities created by using such wisdom are endless. Health issues are in the natal birth chart making me know which parts of my hero’s or heroine’s body are vulnerable. Believe me, just from studying my own natal birth chart, knowing what I have faced, and will forever in one ailment, is enough to make me a believer. I know where to add drama for a life-threatening situation.

It also gives me insight into what ‘arena’ the ailment, or hardship, will play out in: Mother, Father, home, career, self, if the injury will be physically or mentally inclined. Unforeseen circumstances – they do exist – come into play. So does psychic ability, those unseen forces we feel. Fears are defined; any spirituality my character may, or may not, possess is also within the chart.

An Astrological natal birth chart really is a psychological tool, the numbers adding to it. In my thirty-eight years of research, the natal birth has never failed to provide me with an accurate picture of the personality available to the person it represents. Nothing is preordained but depends upon the choices one makes with what is offered. Free Will.

Like I said at the beginning, I am not much at blogging. I had to tone my thoughts in how I convey the intensity with which I feel. Must be one of the paths I chose to conquer.

Or – with the limitations impressed upon us in what we can blog about, maybe it’s yours?

As Carl Jung said: “We are born at a given moment, on a given day, and at a given time. And, like the vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the season into which we are born. Astrology does not lay claim to anything more.”

March 24, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

Writing Tools Evolve

On a writer's list I belong to, we have been sharing stories about the things we used when we first started writing. The thread evolved into the subject heading of "Geezer Stories" as it turned out many of us started writing longhand and then typing manuscripts on old manual typewriters. My first one was a 1940's vintage Royal, and I still have it displayed in my office. (I wrote about that on my first post here on the blog)  I was a terrible typist so it took forever to type even a short story, let along 3 or 4 hundred pages of a book.

I soon found a typist who was reasonably priced.

From there, I graduated to a small PC and a gigantic printer that weighed about 30 pounds and was about 4 feet long. It used the continuous roll computer paper and printed about a page every ten minutes. It took all day to print out a book - but, hey, I didn't have to type it or pay someone to type it and I could get my kids to help me separate the pages.

Now I have a powerful PC and two printers, neither of which weigh more than 10 pounds, and I also have a eeePC Notebook, so I am truly into the latest technology. Even so, I still like to have various notebooks on hand. I have several  in use - maybe because I have been a journalist for so long. No self-respecting newspaperwoman is caught without one.

I have one notebook that goes with me to interviews. Yes, I still do it the old-fashioned way. It is a small, Steno-type notebook that is easy to flip open and take notes during the interview. I tend to keep those notebooks. I don't know why, but I think it was a habit that started because most of us who worked at a newspaper hung on to them in case anyone ever questioned the facts of a story we wrote.

I have another notebook on my desk that I use to jot notes about things to do or whatever needs jotting. It is small, about 4 by 7 and fits nicely beside my monitor.

I have another big notebook with five sections that has notes for each of the major projects I am working on. It also has pockets where I stash newspaper clippings I'm using for research and anything else that I find interesting. People keep telling me I can do all this with computer programs that organize all your stuff, but I like my system. Not only is it a routine that I am comfortable with, there is something about putting words on paper that makes me feel so much like a writer. I don't get that same feeling when words appear on my monitor screen.

What about you? What tools do you have to write with? Have you embraced the technology that helps keep you organized?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Do You Like Your Romance Neat, Straight Up Or On The Rocks?

I did a lot of personal research for this blog post. I even meant to take notes and compare neat, straight up and on the rocks. Maybe I did take notes? The problem is that I found the subject delicious and - wait - I didn't eat the pen and paper, did I? Geez. Guess I'll just be dull and quote the font of all wisdom, Wikipedia, for this blog post.

Wikipedia says that a drink served neat consists of a single liquor poured from the bottle - it's not cooled, served with ice or mixed with anything. A drink served straight up is like 007's famous martini - it's shaken or stirred with ice and then served without ice in a stemmed glass. On the rocks means liquor poured and served over ice.

Neat, straight, straight up and up all refer to drinks without ice. Only drinks on the rocks are served with ice.

If the love story between the hero and heroine is the liquor and the secondary characters are the ice - how do you like your romance served?

I suspect that very little romance is served neat. In theory, a story about a man and a woman and love is possible. But to be neat it would have to be served without either of the hero or heroine's families, friends, enemies, rivals, schoolmates, co-workers, or running buddies. It'd be something like a romance version of Thoreau's "Walden Pond." I was an English major and a book like that sounds deathly dull. It'd likely only inspire me to run away.......far, far away.

Most romance comes on the rocks. The blend of the liquor and mixer - the lead couple - is served over the ice of a fully fleshed out plot involving secondary characters. The cocktail is the whole story. The heat and the fire of the lead couple's journey towards union is balanced by what is often a romance between a couple of the ice cubes. And you know what? Even if it's not a romance, a saga involving secondary characters means that someone is throwing ice cubes into my fire. Reality - having to stop reading to tend a household chore, answer a cry of "Mom," answer the phone or whatever - it intrudes often enough. When I'm in the magic of the story, I want it to build and build and build until we get the explosion we're heading towards.

So how do I like my romance? I like to read it the same way I like to write it - straight up. Take one or two kinds of liquor, a little bit of mixer and don't forget the ice. Yeah, I adore creating and reading about fun secondary characters. They flavor the world of the story and tell me a lot more about the hero and heroine than any description ever could. I like watching the lead couple interact with folks who knew them before their worlds went up into flames around them and everything became new. I like how the ice cools down the mix, so that it's nice and pleasant when you start the story. I want it cool when it starts so that the writer has a lot of room to fan the fire. If I'm the writer, fanning is my favorite part. In my books it's going to get hot and hotter and hotter and then it'll start going a wee bit mad.

I've read and enjoyed books where a big chunk detailed an experience where the hero and heroine were alone and cut off from the world - say after a plane crash or a shipwreck. But those books all started with showing the future happy couple surrounded by friends or family. We got to know them that way. Then we'd see the heat and the bond form when they were alone. But the book would end back in reality, with the couple figuring out how to fit into each other's world. It wasn't served neat and it wasn't on the rocks - it was a straight up book masquerading as neat for a little bit. And that's kind of fun.

See, I love secondary characters - I just don't want to see 'em grow and change and start acting like bushes hiding bits of my view of the lead couple. Don't get me wrong - I'm not as persnickety as Bond. I'll take my cocktails shaken or stirred - before it's served up to me. Once I get it, I don't want ice to get in the way of the experience. And whether I'm the writer or the reader - the experience I want is the blaze between the hero and the heroine.

And I don't want anybody tossing ice in that fire once it starts.

SO NOW IT'S YOUR TURN. Do you like your romance neat, straight up or on the rocks?

Quacking Alone's List of Books

Friday, March 11, 2011

I Dare You

Lately I've been really struggling to get words down in my WIPs (yeah, I work on more than one at a time ... I always have) and have resorted to doing something that always seems to work.


Way back when in ... 2005, I think, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time. I had SO much fun! But, there were times when I got stuck and simply could NOT find the 1600 words that day. Then I discovered the NaNoWriMo message boards -- and there was one in particular that excited me to no end.

The Dares.

Here are just a few that I jotted down to use. See what YOU think:

* Have a character who is so extremely obsessive about order that they can only talk alphabetically.

* Have your most serious character own (and proudly display) a hot pink tablecloth.

* Have a character that is prone to accidentally setting random objects on fire (waste baskets, slippers, dish rags, etc.)

* 15 chickens appear somewhere in your novel.
+bonus points if these 15 chickens appear every chapter

* Make at least 15 references throughout your novel to the game of Monopoly.

* Have a cat follow the main characters around EVERYWHERE.
+ BP if the cat is in places a cat simply should not be.
+ DBP if the cat is always asleep when the characters notice it.
+ TBP if the cat wakes up at the end of the story.

* Have a discreet shout out to every movie you (the author) have seen in the previous year-- aka a quoted line, a plot detail, a prop appearing in a scene.

* Include a Spontaneous Chicken Situation. It doesn't matter what a SCS is. Just include it.

* Have a character begin misquoting literary classics at every occasion

* Include a character with a pet turtle named Awkward.

* Have something a character reads or writes on the inside of a bathroom stall turn into a major plot point.

I could go on and on and on ... the writers who are reading this: How many of you got an idea from these dares?

And for everyone: I actually used three of these in WIPs. Anyone care to guess which three?

What do you do when you're stuck and the muse just won't cooperate?

Visit Marianne at her website and blog.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A FemDom pirate?

Post by Marianne LaCroix

I haven't posted here in a while. I apologize for missing last month. I've just been wrapped up in life and writing. I am working on a pirate novel for Ellora's Cave. It started out as a novella but has grown in concept. I missed the deadline for the Ahoy series, but it would be too long for that series anyway. Below is an unedited snippet of my book I call High Seas Hellion. Enjoy!

“I do believe you may be tolerable now.” Captain Robillard stood from her desk and she moved closer to stand close to the tub. She reached for a cloth left by one of the crew on a nearby stool and held it out to him. “Dry off.”

Her gaze challenged him to refuse, but Morgan wouldn’t back down. He gripped the sides of the tub, the metal manacles and chain clanking, and stood while water sluiced down over his body. He was hard as ever, much to her amusement. He reached for the towel, but she took a step backward and raised an eyebrow. Fully aware of her femininity, he stepped out of the tub, water rippled over his skin and onto the wood plank floor. He held out a hand and she paused a moment before handing him the cloth.

She turned her back and strode across the room. He used the few moments to dry his skin and then wrap the towel about his hips. His hard cock hardly could be covered, tenting the fabric, but at least it a resemblance of a small degree of modesty.

“Don’t bother.” Her voice cut the stillness of the room. She stood by her desk and once again reached into one of the many drawers, pulling out a carefully wrapped length of rope. “You better get used to being naked in my presence.”

“I think I’d rather be chained below with the other prisoners.”

She shook her head. “Not an option.”

“Then punish me.” Morgan silently cursed. The idea of her striking him, using pain in order to control, excited him. His cock grew harder.

“I don’t believe I gave you a choice.” She turned to him and unraveled the rope between her hands.

“I could over power you. You made no mystery of where you keep a flintlock. I could easily gain the upper hand and kill you.”

Colette snickered. “Kill me and you kill yourself.” She strode closer and the feminine scent of lilacs surrounded her, permeating his senses. She leaned to his ear and her warm breath caressed his earlobe. “If I scream or even make any noise of distress…” She flicked her tongue along his ear for a brief moment sending chills down his back. “…my crew will charge in here and surely kill you before you blink.”

He closed his eyes and forced himself to focus. Don’t think about her soft body. Don’t think about her raven hair falling about her shoulders and onto a pillow cradling her head. And most of all don’t think about sinking into her and rutting her tight wet center until he found his much needed release.

The towel fell to the floor and she reached down to his cock and gasped the length. He moaned, enjoying the warmth and the firm hold of her hand about his cock.

“I told you that I would break you.”

Defiant he opened his eyes and stared into her dark ones. “I am not a stallion to be broken of spirit to serve you.”

She squeezed his cock and he stifled a moan. “You have part of it right,” she said. “You are my steed, and rest assured, you will serve me as such.”

Copyright © Marianne LaCroix, 2011. All rights reserved. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Twitter's the Bing Commercial - On Steroids

I was one of those people that bestselling Scottish writer Sara Sheridan blogged about. I wasn't just a non-tweeter. I was an anti-tweeter. I was one of those folks who said that Twitter was a waste of time. I already had too much to do and besides, who'd want to read about my life? I'm at work. I'm at home - writing, doing bills, etc. None of it was anything anyone would ever want to read about. So why would I tweet? Only desperate folks who lack enough to do are on Twitter. Right?

Well, it'd be right if Twitter was an online social schedule. But you know what? It's whatever you allow it to be. At the very least, as Sara points out, it's an interesting way to meet people and share information. But Twitter can be much, much more. Like Sara says if you're a writer you need to be on the service. It doesn't make sense for "professional communicators" to shy away from "a medium that is crying out for their skills and demonstrably is the best way to communicate with a wide readership."

I've been trying to do that, to communicate with readers about giving my work a shot. One indie author whose recent success has made her a media star is Amanda Hocking. I follow her blog, "My Blood Approves" and I highly recommend it. Amanda's blog bio calls her "an obsessive tweeter." It hasn't hurt her sales. By frequenting her blog, I saw that she maintains a close, almost personal relationship with her readers. She puts herself out there and that takes guts. Did I have that kind of courage?

I took the plunge a little over a week ago. I signed up for Twitter as quackingalone. One of my new Twitter connections, a service called Novel Publicity, calls the site "a massive party" but also aptly describes it as wonderful, powerful and confusing.

Entering Twitter reminded me of the commercials for Microsoft's search service - Bing. You've seen the ads. If you haven't, take a look here (also embedded below).

Twitter is a lot like that - only more intense, more passionate. And if you've done your homework and are following the right folks, you'll be intense and passionate about jumping into the discussions. Because most of 'em will be about subjects you are very involved with and really care about. How do you know the tweets you're following will be about your interests?

You start by doing a search of the people who are interested in the same things you are. In my case, I wanted to follow writers - mostly romance but a few other as well - as well as reviewers, bloggers, literary agents, book editors, publishing services and especially and importantly - readers. So I took the plunge and started following people. Even in a group mostly filled with folks who share a lot of your interests, there will still be comments about things you don't care about. But you don't have to read those tweets. Just skip 'em. There may also be people you agree with about a whole bunch of stuff who express some opinions with which you disagree. My advice would be to skip over those tweets too. I tell my kids all the time, pick the hill you want to die on. And whatever opinions or events they're tweeting about, it's probably not the hill I want to die on. I'd jump into a group dissing indie writers in a skinny minute, or into one being sarcastic about romance authors. But I'm not likely to find too many of those folks - because I don't follow 'em. Any stray comments of that nature will be tweets at someone else I'm following.

That's another way to find new peeps. You'll see tweets at people you're following and you might reply to some of them with an @ reply. It'll go back to the original tweeter. I've gotten followers that way. Others have just wandered over to check out the strange duck lady who thinks the view is always better from over the top. Like I said, I'm very new, so I haven't built up a lot of followers yet. The number varies, but as I'm writing this, I'm being followed by 35 tweeters. I don't think that's too bad for just over a week, but I could be wrong. I so often am.

Some amazing tweets have been from Shonda Rhimes and Debbie Allen about Grey's Anatomy and the upcoming musical episode. Shonda wished her peeps a happy weekend this past Saturday morning. I was able to send back a pithy @ reply that surely got lost in the flood of all the others. And a lot of bestselling romance authors are hardcore tweeters. A couple of them were holding a writing contest this past weekend to see who could write the most words over a set period. I've read these ladies' books for years and I got to be inside their writing circle. Way, way cool. One of the writers I adore, Christina Dodd, tweeted about some writing tips she put out. I hope she won't mind if I share the link. Imagine - getting writing tips from a lady whose books I've hunted down for years. That's pretty awesome. I've also met some great folks including one who tweets as bridgemama and she was nice enough to take her own time and create some custom avatars for me - all ducks of course. One of 'em is up as my current avi and I've got a bunch more

Give Twitter a try. Whether you're a writer or a reader - or interested in anything on earth - you'll find a group of kindred spirits. Here's a link from Novel Publicity giving pointers to Twitter beginners. I understand they'll be doing other pieces about more advanced features. If you're already on Twitter, check out the link because these are publicity pros who'll help give you a "Twitter makeover."

SO NOW IT'S YOUR TURN. Do you Tweet? Give me the skinny on the favorite folks you follow and be sure to list your Twitter account so we can all check you out and sign up to follow you as well. Let's trade some war stories and get together on a site where we can follow each other!


ADD MY TWITTER LINK: Quacking Alone on Twitter

AND THE BLOG: Quacking Alone