Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Blog? What Blog?

Okay, so I've been a little busy. I'm close to finishing "Death by Scandal" but "The Ruination of Prudence" wouldn't wait. Prudence is a cheeky git! I had to stop and write her story. Between kids out for the holidays and work and writing, poor little Murder Blog went begging. I'll be back to blogging regularly after the holidays.

So until then: Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanza and a Lovely New Year to everyone!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

You Ought to Know...

In an effort to make my blog more than my personal winge column, I'm adding a new feature. (yay for features.) Each week I'll post a "you ought to know" article about a person of interest from the 19th century (mostly). First up next week will be James Gordon Bennet, both the junior and the senior. A two fer! How's that for a treat?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cue Evil Laugh

I've done it! Fifty thousand words. Best of all, I'm rather pleased with the story--except I'm feeling a little guilty. My characters are very nice people and I've chased them up trees and thrown rocks at them.

My hero and heroine just got to their wedding day and I had twinges of guilt the whole time I was writing about their bliss. Their anticipation was so intense that they started getting it on in the carriage when he stopped her. After all, their marital bed was waiting for them and they had the rest of their lives.

Oh, I'm sorry. Did you think you were going to consummate your marriage tonight? Pwned!

What I knew and they didn't was that a man with a gun was waiting to ambush them. There would be no connubial bliss. The scene turned out much darker than I originally intended but my heroine surprised me with her strength. She started out this novel crying at the drop of a hat. I think she's grown quite a bit through her ordeal. :sniff: I'm quite proud of her now. Still I felt sorta bad about the whole thing. It was supposed to be her happiest moment and I made it hell on earth, but hey--who said growth was easy?

So, what's the most evil thing you've done to your characters recently?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

La La La! I can't hear you!

So, I'm fighting the derail in my story right now. I've been hit with the new project bug, a shiny new virus determined to suck away productivity from my current WIP. It beckons to me with seductive new characters ripe with promise and free from the taint of convoluted subplots and unexpected plot twists. It won't hurt at all. Sooooooooooo easy to give in.

No! I must fight it! I must not allow the infection to take hold. There is no antibiotic, but I've done what I can to plump up my immune system. I've outlined the new story in order to purge it from my system. It has not been effective.

This isn't the first new product virus to attempt invasion during NaNo, but it has been the most successful. The characters whisper to me in my dreams. I picture them as I'm shopping in the grocery store. They pursue me with shamless intensity.

But I shall prevail. I have a new strategy. This is my carrot, my reward for finishing this novel. When I am done with Death by Scandal, I'm allowed to write the Ruination of Prudence. (And give it a better name too.)

How about you? Other projects trying to get a little me time and steal your attention? How do you fight them?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Three cheers for stupid!

Like the picture says, sometimes success means fail and sometimes fail means success. What I'm trying to say is that sometimes it is more interesting to see our characters make poor decisions than good ones, just as long as they feel the consequences of their actions.

What makes TSTL characters so maddening is that everything turns out okay for them. Someone bails them out. The hero rescues the heroine from her stupid decision and no one calls her on it. She never realizes the error of her ways. Even worse, her impetuous and foolish behavior is praised as brave. This makes me want to leave a permanent forehead impression on my desk.

In real life, people do make bad decisions or act without thinking, but they have to live with the consequences. Failure can lead to personal growth and for characters, that leads to win and awesome! Isn't that what we hate the most about Mary Sue characters? If she is beautiful and sweet and a rocket scientist who speaks seven languages and knits blankies for orphans in between composing piano sonatas--well, where is the drama. Of course she will succeed. Ho hum. On the flip side is someone so flawed that I just can't bond with her at all, but that's another rant for another day.

In my current WIP, my heroine makes a bad choice and conceals information in a murder investigation. She thinks she is simply protecting herself but it becomes harder and harder to maintain the falsehood. The small bit of information she hides becomes increasingly important to the investigation. Finally, she must own up to her actions and live with the consequences. She finally triumphs by making smarter choices.

So lets hear it for failure and stupidity. Huzzah! Don't they make life grand?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Two Steps Forward...

So, I had this great idea and tinkered around with my plot this morning. I started the day with a bonehead move. I left my laptop at home. DOH! It was an odd day without email or teh intrawebs. This gave me a chance to pull out my handy, dandy notebook. Fortunately I never travel without.

I noodled about and then had one of those glorious heavenly choir light from above epiphanies. :cue sparklies: This was followed by more brilliance and suddenly I had this awesomesauce plot twist and it worked perfectly...except...except...oh crap. It required my heroine to do something TSTL*.

Dang it. I hate that. It sounds like a good idea at the time but when you look at it under the lights--not so much. Very deflating.

But!!!!! But the first part of my uber wonderful idea? Still greatness.

Now if I can only pull it off! What false steps have you made in your WIPS?

*Too Stupid To Live

Monday, November 17, 2008

Time to kill somebody

No, don't worry. This isn't one of those "mary goes off the rails" moments. I meant in my WIP. I hadn't really planned on more than one death (except the murderer who will meet a bad end) but I think I'm heading toward another dead body. My heroine has inadvertantly pissed off the killer and put herself in harm's way. I think the murderer will make an attempt on her life and kill the wrong person.

I was afraid I had made a bad move and resolved some of my conflict far too early, but I think this just might redeem it. I was losing my sense of danger to the protagonists. This should do nicely. Nothing like someone who wants to kill you to heighten the tension.

Then again, I don't want to rely on cheap plot devices to manufacture tension. Oh hey, story getting stale, time to kill someone again. It has to feel organic and necessary to the plot. I think it is. The killer has framed my protagonist for the murder. Now she's going to try and fake her suicide. Too bad she doesn't know my gal doesn't like chocolates and will hand off the poisoned present to someone else.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Turtling along

So, I'm still at it. Baking my Black Forest Torte one layer at a time. I should hit 20K tonight. Yay. But progress has been slow this week and I have violated the most sacred tenet in all of NaNodom.

I've been editing.

Yup. Several times now I have looked over my writing and started editing.

Even worse?

I've taken words out.

It goes against everything NaNo stands for and yet I've been unable to restrain myself. When I read and see words that don't belong--or even worse, entire scenes--it goes against everything I've trained myself to do as a writer to simply leave them for later. I must fix it now.

I'm not sure if this is growth on part as a writer or simply a dread of the inevitable rewrites that will fall my way. See, I've been down this road too many times now. I'm not a starry-eyed writer in love with her first novel. I have quite a few novels cluttering my hard drive now. (And one out a LuLu and one partial still in the hands of an agent) For me, the thrill isn't so much in the idea of finishing a novel. That I can do.

But I know how much work will come with finishing one. Writing is the easy part and editing is a bitch. Perhaps I am more cautious because of last year's NaNo project where I wrote with complete abandon. Dawg that was fun. But the edits...OY!

Will my rewrites be any easier for my more cautious approach? Check back in January.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Noms for Everyone!

So, I've already whined about how different this NaNo is for me compared to years past. Last year, Nano was a blast. I was done by around the 20th and just played and padded my wordcount for the remaining 10 days.

I easily breezed out 5,000 word days. No sweat. It was good fun. The words just tumbled out so easily.

2008? Not so much.

Methodical. Plodding. Deliberate. All those words come to mind. Now I happen to love this WIP and have hopes for it, but it is not the giddy delight of last year. The difference? I think it's the book.

Last year was a breezy paranormal mystery told in first person with a sassy chick lit voice and a snarky humor. It was so much that it ought to be criminal.

My current WIP's style of prose requires much more thought and precision. I have been unable to simply vomit on the page and let the ugly hang out. Oh, it's still ugly--damn ugly in places.

Last year was chocolate mousse, fluffy and light and delicious. Speed is an asset when making chocolate mousse. If you take too long the cream settles and you lose the whip. It's all a scurry of motion and rapid chill.

This year is black forest torte, dense layers that take time to craft. The secret to making a perfect black forest torte is patience. You need to cook the first layer and then let it cool completely before adding the next. If you put a cold layer on top of a hot one, the hot one bubbles through and the layers mix. It loses its texture. You need to cook the chocolate mixture. Let it cool. Fill the pie crust. Add the cherry mixture. Another layer of chocolate. Whipped cream. More cherries. Curls of dark chocolate. It takes time, but oh so worth it.

We'll just see if I can keep the thing from collapsing into a hot mess.

But whatever the WIP, however it needs to be written, we shall all nom.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Inching Along

I'm a plodder. I've come to this conclusion after seeing the massive word counts some people are posting for NaNoWriMo. I thought I wrote with decent speed, but I now see that I'm methodical and deliberate and kinda slow actually.

2K a day. That's me. I putz along at my own speed while others post 5, 10, 15 thousand words a day.

That's okay.

I don't mind be the turtle.

Just so long as I still get my share of the lettuce.

Friday, October 31, 2008

All Hallows' Eve Rituals

So, now is the time for my October 31st rituals. They are two-fold. First, I have to dress the kiddos up and take them out to acquire enough sugary goodness to rot their teeth before puberty. The youngest will be a pirate. See, he's planned on being a pirate for weeks. The costume is made, right down to the eye patch and plastic sword. Except yesterday he decided he wanted to be a Power Ranger again. Nice try kid.

The eldest has decided that he is too old and too cool for candy begging--although he will deign to take his little bro around to get the goodies. And he will wear a black cape. That's pretty much it. :sobs: They grow up so fast.

The rest of my ritual revolves around NaNoWriMo. Unless you are some hapless soul who wandered in here and can't find the exit, you're one of my writer friends and probably know all about National Novel Writing Month. 30 days. 50,000 words.

Last year I went in with a 50 page outline. This year I only have a 15 pager. I'm a wee bit apprehensive, but I'll manage. I hope.

Naturally I'm staying in the 19th century and continuing to work on Death by Scandal (or Murder by Scandal. I can't decide on a title.) The story is humming along and I have a firm idea of where the next 10K are going. I hope to write them this weekend. Yes, that is absolutely insane. But this year I have a secret weapon.

I have my new office downstairs which means I can write late at night if I want and tonight I intend to hit the ground at midnight. I have a coffee pot and by that time I will be armed with my children's Halloween candy.
What more can any writer as for?

Obligations in November? I have a few. Full time job. Kids in school. The conclusion of soccer season and beginning of basketball. Thanksgiving. Two camping trips planned. A jury trial next week. And those 50,000 words. Piece of cake.

So how about you. Do you NaNo? I want to hear about everyone's project!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

You Know Who (wink-wink, nudge-nudge)

Todays post is familiar detectives in mystery. Those dependable, tried and true investigators.

1. LOLs: No, I don't mean Lolzcats. I mean Little Old Ladies. They are a snoopy breed with free time and disposable income. Between cups of tea and their knitting, they manage to ferret out evildoers from our midst. THE CLASSIC: Miss Jane Marple of course.

2. Nosy Kids: If there is anyone more curious than an LOL, it's a kid. Put a gang of them together and apparently they are more potent than a trained police force. Hey, school only lasts a few hours and if it's summer then they have nothing but free time. I'm including teens and that means THE CLASSIC: Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys tie FTW! (but I'm not ignoring the 3 Investigators or Trixie Belden!)

3. Falsely Accused: They don't want to be embroiled in a crime and would rather not try to investigate a murder, but they have no choice. The coppers think they did it and--not fancying a looooooooong sentence breaking rocks (or a date with Old Sparky the electric chair)--they must marshall their faculties and find the true bad guy. THE CLASSIC: That guy on the Fugitive. Richard Kimble maybe? I'm too lazy to google it. Or I don't care enough. Take your pick, but feel free to correct me in the comments.

4. The Professional: This is where you find the defective detective (police or private) or cop with a mistake in his past that he's trying to atone for. Maybe he convicted an innocent man and discovered it too late. Perhaps he was an alchoholic and now his wife and kids no longer speak to him. But he's always got personal reasons for his Holy Crusade for Truth and Justice. You can bet that the other cops will try to thwart him, but he's the Good Guy and will prevail. Not only is he battling the forces of evil, but his own personal demons as well. THE CLASSIC: Sherlock Holmes. He's a brilliant drug addict with serious personal issues.

5. The Investigative Reporter: Of course he is after the story, but mostly he just has a passion for revealing the hidden. Expect lots of freedom of the press speeches with this one and expect those in power to be engaged in a conspiracy to cover up the crime. But Clark Kent is not deterred by those who seek to hide under rocks. He believes in absolute truth, justice, and the American Way. Just don't ask his real identity. THE CLASSIC: Carl Kolchak of The Nightstalker.

So who am I missing? You tell me!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

5 Things You Can Learn From a Dame

Especially if the dame is Dame Agatha Christie. Okay, so I blogged about 5 tropes that chap my hide in mysteries. Now it's time to feel the love. See, there is bad familiar--that brother-in-law you will smack if he says "You gonna eat that?" one more time. Then there is that good sort of familiar--Mom's apple pie. You know how it will taste, but you love it. What tried and true favorites still make my tastebuds tingle?

1. The Locked Room Mystery: I love a good puzzle and nothing is better for me than the How Dunnit. I think my favorite may be Agatha Christie's Evil Under the Sun. Then again, you can't count out the ABC Murders (originally published as Who Killed Roger Ackroyd). Nobody does it like the Dame.

2. The Big Speech: The one where Charlie Chan lays out exactly what happened and how he deduced the solution. Then the lights go out. A gunshot rips through the darkness. *happy sigh* Yes, it's cheesy, but I love it. Just in case I missed something, it's reassuring to know all the answers. Monk also does this and Hercule Poirot was another master of the explanation. It's all in zee leetle gray cells, Hastings.

3. The Romantic Crimesolving Duo: In movies the king and queen were Nick and Nora Charles of the The Thin Man series. In TV, it was Jennifer and Jonathan of Hart to Hart. In literature, Tommy and Tuppence were my favorite romantic duo in all of the Agatha Christie novels. Even as a married pair, the sizzled with attraction for one another and the smart repartee kept me grinning. Nothing spices death like a pinch of love.

4. Exotic Locals: Remember the Carribean in Sparkling Cyanide? Or the gorgeous visions of Egpyt in Death on the Nile? I want to go someplace when I read and nothing appeals to me more than these exotic settings. Mysteries seem more mysterious, romance is more romantic, danger is more dangerous. It takes the known and familiar and sweeps it away. I can be completely immersed in the alternate world of fiction. For a bonus, anything written by M.M. Kaye can do that for you. I've recently decided to purchase (I've lost my old copies somewhere in a move) all her books and reread them. I can't wait.

5. It was nice knowing you: Mr. Redshirt extra guy from the away team. Mr. Bit Player who dies only to serve as exposition. In Agatha Christie, this was usually a maid or handyman who snoops too much and falls prey to the murderer. She made this work so well for her. That's what makes Miss Marple so cozy. A nice safe murder of a minor player. Lovely.

So those are some of my favorite Agathaisms. What makes you smile in a good sort of familiar way?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Butler Did it!

Okay, so I've blogged a lot about romance lately and I've been reading stacks of it, but I've recently returned to my first love. I'm a fickle bitch, but for me there is nothing like a good mystery. I had gotten bored and frustrated with the offerings on the market. Nothing did it for me anymore. Cozy? Blah. I don't need another niche mystery about knitting or dog training or herbal gardening with a bit of sleuthing on the side and a safe love interest. Snore. A savage police procedural? A twisted legal thriller? Um, no. Thanks. I work in the justice system. I want escape, not a further dose of my life. Private Detectives? Not so much. So he drinks and has issues with his ex. Whatever.

But then I (insert happy snoopy dance of joy) discovered historical mysteries and it was Calgon, take me away once more. Recent joys have been Tasha Alexander's And Only to Deceive and Deanna Raybourn's Silent in the Grave. Both are excellent debuts set in Victorian England. 19th century Europe? Squee!

Now I'm happily back to writing mysteries (historical of course!) and I've been thinking about the familiar tropes of the genre that rub my kitty fur the wrong way.

1.Dangerous to Know: This is the amateur sleuth who manages to stumble across the dead body of a minor player in the first 30 pages of every novel. Seriously, how many dead bodies can one person find?

2.He had it coming: The victim is EEEEEEEEEEEEVVVVVVVVIIIIIIIILLLLLLLL!!! With capital E and stuff. He's a baddy mcbaddy who evicts little old ladies, kicks puppies and steals candy from kids for kicks. It isn't a question of who had a motive, but of who didn't. Oh, and the one person who doesn't have a motive? That's your killer. Yep. This is especially prevalent in cozies where bad stuff shouldn't really happen to good people.

3. Vee Haf Vayz of Making You Talk: tricking the killer into a public confession or going to retrieve incriminating evidence or moving the body or any other bluff to magically solve the crime. I like to call this the Scooby Doo Method of crimesolving. It seems to work best with overconfident/panicky/stupid criminals. I'd have gotten away with it if it wasn't for you meddling kids!

4. Keystone Cops: This is an older but a goody. The inneffective/corrupt/stupid police. They are incapable of solving the crime. Good thing the knitting circle's little old ladies are on the job! This is another trope that cozies are especially guilty of. Naturally an inquisitive elementary school teacher is better suited for solving crimes between classes than trained professionals. Bonus points awarded if she receives assistance from cute kids and a dog.

5. Can Johnny Come out and Play? I seriously hate killers who leave playful clues or engage in games with the cops. Poetic messages, children's rhymes, a black rose, hints about the next victim, taunting calls to the detective's unlisted number? Jack the Ripper beat you to it. Been there, done that, have the 19th century T-shirt to prove it. Time for fresh meat.

Okay, that's enough ranting for one day. I feel better now. Much better. Whist and charades anyone?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

La La La! I can't hear you!

Ever been in your own little world? Of course you have. That's why you're a writer. Lately I've been inhabiting the fantasyland of my latest book. Since it is set in the nineteenth century, I find I've gotten a little strange. French phrases have begun to pepper my vocabulary. I felt chilly this morning and wondered where my pelisse was. I find gaslight strangely soothing.

Yes, I've well and truly lost it. Worst of all, I intend to stay in my London fog (no, not the coat) for at least another couple of months. My poor family.

But this started me thinking about imaginary worlds and books. Isn't this why many of us read? I want to be transported from my land of dirty dishes and homework to something different, something not mine. I want history, far away lands, vampires, victorian drawing rooms, flying monkeys. I want to be transported. That is basically why I read. Any author who can take me away (Yes. Just like Calgon.) is someone I will return to over and over.

That is what the best authors do. They create another world and invite you to step into it. I suppose this explains my current fascination with historical fiction. It is so very clearly NOT the here and now. I'm gonna ruminate on this for a couple of days--perhaps over a nice cuppa or some sherry. It's almost calling time and I need to be ready to recieve callers. Please instruct my groom to prepare the carriage. I have some shopping to do on Bond Street and I need to see my modiste.

Monday, October 6, 2008

10 Things I Hate (and <3) about you

Actually it's just five things I hate and five things I love in a hero. These are my personal preferences.

1. Mr. Forced seduction. Yuck. No want. You can add spanking and all manner of asshole coercive behavior to this. I don't find it appealing in any way shape or form. IMHO all this does is reinforce the stereotype that no means yes and that all women really want a man who treats them like crap.

2. Mr. Insert-Stupid-Name-Here. Need I say more? Don't name him Racque Woodmount. Just don't.

3. Mr.Rake to Mr. Pussywhipped in a single kiss. I mean really. Do men really go from hounddog to family man just like that? He beds anything that moves until he gets a gander of our heroine and suddenly he just wants a country house and babies with the misses while they play whist with the vicar on friday. Right. And speaking of, why is it supposed to be appealing that he's been indiscriminately promiscuous? Diseases? Surprise teenage bastards showing up on your doorstep looking for Daddykins? That's another no want!

4. Mr. Perfect. So don't name him Racque, but don't name him Gary Stu either. You know this hero. He's taller and handsomer than anyone else and more masculine and smarter plus he can shoot, fence, drive, and make whoopee better than any man in the history of forever. I like my heros flawed and tasty. Keep your rainbow-pooping Gary Stu in your own fantasy.

5. Mr. Personal Security System. He protects her from herself for her own good. This is sort of an offshoot of number 1, but deserves it's own spot. I include all the stalkerish, watching-her-sleep, hiring-someone-to-follow-her stuff here. I'm all about him keeping her safe, but this is usually just another form of abusive, controlling behavior. If she is TSTL and can't even be trusted to take a hand in her own safety, why is he supposedly wanting her in the first place? Get a dog you can kennel. Sheesh.

Okay, so now I sound like a picky bitch. (guilty!) I hate uber-controlling, violent, sexaholics with stupid names. So what do I love in a hero?

1. Mr. Tortured Soul. Oh, he's misunderstood and has a tragic past, but he tries to smile through the pain. Come here, baby. I'll make it better. Looooooooooove him.

2. Mr. Not Conventionally Handsome. Yes, I'm a sucker for the scarred or maimed hero. I realize as I'm drafting this list that I must have some sort of deep-seated nurturing instinct run amok. Oh well. I love him anyway. So there. I have a distrust for the too pretty. I don't want a man better looking than I am and I doubt I'm the only woman out there who feels that way. He should be manly, but he doesn't need to be Gerard Butler (although I sure wouldn't boot him out of bed if I managed to get Gerry drunk enough to...nevermind. Staying PG here.)

3. Mr. Humor. Love me some funnyman. Not the yucking it up sort of way, but a wry appreciation for the absurdity of life and a man who doesn't take himself too seriously gets me right in the... *cough* ...moving right along... *fans self*

4. Mr. Smart. No big dumb meatheads need apply. This slot in my heart is reserved for the intelligent man. Bonus points if he's got common sense. I have a serious affection for the geeks of the world. I think one of my favorite heros is the slightly nerdy man with unrequited love for the heroine who rises to the challenge to protect her and wins her heart. Om nom nom nom.

5. Mr. Capable. I don't want a perfect Gary Stu, but the guy should be capable of providing for his family, changing a lightbulb or at least shooting the bad guys. If he's good for nothing, she needs a puppy instead. And I adore a man who is very talented at something. Good with his hands. Yeah, that too.

So basically I'm looking for a capable, intelligent man with a wry sense of humor, unconventional looks and a tortured soul. Got any spare ones lying around?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Blog? What Blog?

Um, yeah. I haven't blogged in a bit because my life was operating a critical mass for about 10 days. Whew. When squeezed by life, online activities were the first thing to get chucked out the window. I'm back and blogging again. In fact, I may double-dip and blog again later today.

I was inspired by Dear Author's Super-sizing of Alpha-Males post a couple of days ago. I'm going to blog about my loves and hates for heros and then again for heroines. As always, feel free to join me in feeling the love (and the hate, cause we all know snark is fun.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sssssssh! My Show is On: a deux

Part 2 of Everything I Need to Know about Writing Mysteries I Learned from my Television: Ten Lessons in High Definition

6. Stargate: It's all in how you tell the story. Let's face it, there are only so many plots to go around. The important thing is to keep it fresh. A cool idea will only take you so far. You go through the gate into another world and something happens that you have to set right in 1 hr (2 hours if you've got a continuing story). You can take the story and twist it. Add compelling characters and torture them. Yes, the story is important, but it's in how you tell it. The great storytellers of our time know how to hook you and keep you absorb. They make you care with their art. I'm convinced that this part of writing, more than any other, is a natural gift. I think part of the knack is simply paying attention. Look at a great story and break it down. What appeals to you? How does the teller build the tension and hold your interest? Old can become new and shiny if it is done well, but the more familiar the trope, the better job you had better do in execution. The little black dress is a staple. Everyone sells one. But the perfectly tailored little black dress from the right fabric? Magic. Your locked door mystery or village cozy had better shine.

7. CSI: Plant your clues with care. A mystery can be as twisted and complicated as you like, but you must play fair with the audience. I'll say that one again. YOU MUST PLAY FAIR WITH YOUR AUDIENCE. There is a sort of pact between mystery authors and their readers. The mystery must be something solveable. If you do it well enough, they will be surprised but in an "Of course! Why didn't I see it?" sort of way and not in an "OMG! WTF BBQ on top! You have got to be kidding me!" sort of way. One should be able to work backwards through the book after reading it once and spot the clues. The evidence must be there. If you drop in the solution that no one could possibly predict and solve your mystery with a flourish of deus ex machina, you will end up with some pissed off readers and we know where that leads. (Toe nail stringing and the pummeling, remember? Stay with me!) The villian should make sense, not be some tacked on element, but an integral part of the story.

8. The Ghost Whisperer: Pay attention to the dead guy. He needs to be more than just a body in the library. This was a person and his death is your catalyst. He needs to be a fully fleshed human being. We need to know him intimately and understand how he relates to all the people in your story. The same goes for the villian. Please don't let him be the guest star of the week (Murder, She Wrote, I'm looking at you!) I could do another show on this, but I've already devoted an entire blog post to the cardboard villian. It isn't a murder mystery without a murder. Make yours count.

9. Sex in the City: Everything tastes sweeter with a little romance. And it isn't just romance that sweetens things. It's relationships. What makes genres like romance and mystery so enduringly popular are the characters and their relationships. Monk is just Monk, but when he's paired with Sharona as a foil, he's funny. The show isn't just about some weird guy. It's about his relationships with his dead wife, his earthy streetsmart caretaker, his former boss, etc... We need to feel the relationships. Murders should involve passion, greed, betrayal, something to provoke enough emotion to kill. Think of these as more than just "detective", "killer", "love interest", "dead guy". It's all in how they relate to one another that makes the story compelling.

10. Lost: Don't be that guy. You know the one. He corners you at the cocktail party and proceeds to tell you his life story. The info dump: fear it! Just when you get embroiled in events on the island, suddenly the story shifts and you learn allllllllllll you ever wanted to know about a character's back story. This is tough to do well and even harder in a novel. Obviously, a mystery is going to be about a past event and these people will have motivations and histories that are crucial. You have to dole it out in bites. Don't try to cram an entire steak down the readers' throats in a single sitting. They'll gag. (Then pursue you for more pummeling.)

11. Project Runway: Shut your face. Did I say ten lessons? This is a bonus. I adore PR and if you've ever seen the runway critiques at the end, you know where I'm going with this. Invariably there is a contestant or two who becomes unhinged when the judges say unflattering things about their precious creation. Those loser judges just didn't appreciate the creativity and the staggering genius of his work and besides it wasn't his fault because his partner was a slacker and the model didn't do things correctly and someone sabotaged his sewing machine, and blah, blah, blah. This never goes well. Sometimes we just have to learn to turn a critical eye on ourselves and try to see what others do. Shut up. Listen. Maybe we can learn something. Maybe not. But you never know if you don't listen. It's better to simply say : okay, thanks. And then digest.

Okay, this was fun for me. How about you? What lessons have you learned from TV?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Sssssh! My show is on!

Everything I need to know about writing mysteries, I learned from TV: Ten lessons in high definition.

Yes, it's true. I know that it is fashionable to bash the boob tube, but I'll go on record as saying that I love me some tv. It is SO educational. Don't believe me? Yes, I've learned everything from secrets of an awesome souffle to sacrifical rituals of the Moche. Plus some other stuff. I've even learned a lot about writing mysteries. Yes, the lessons are there if you only pay attention. Missed them? You must be watching the wrong shows.

1. Six Feet Under: Beginnings count. Oh, yes they do. This show was the master of the spell-binding opening sequence that dared you to look away. It was impossible. I would try not to get sucked in, but somehow--even though you KNEW someone was about to bite it--I couldn't tear my eyes from the screen. Someone was about to die. Who? How? Why? If only I could master this art, I would be a happy woman. I guess the most important thing is that something always happened in these openings. They weren't static. There was no thoughtful rumination on life and everything, no extended periods of examining the weather. It wasn't always a bomb or something going off, but it was always something. You don't have to kill somebody on the first page, but you had better do it soon. Conflict begins with the first paragraph.

2. The Sopranos: Endings count too. This show had probably the worse WTF ending ever. Seriously. Nothing happened. No resolution. No answers. Nothing. They went inside. W. T. F. Don't do this. Even if your novel is part of a series, you must resolve the murder and provide some closure or readers will hunt you down and string you up by your toenails while they pummel you into unconsciousness with an organic carrot. M'kay, maybe not, but they will be pissed at you and that isn't what you want. It doesn't have to be a sappy, perfect, everybody-now-poops-rainbows sort of ending and it's okay to leave some questions and allow for a multi-book story arc, but you must actually reach some sort of resolution or risk losing your audience. {bonus lesson: most heartbreaking ending ever? Quantum Leap. What do you mean he never returned home? :cries:}

3. Quantum Leap: Keep your settings interesting. We never knew where Sam would end up next, but you can bet he wouldn't be sitting around the table sipping tea and discussing the weather--at least not unless he were in the body of a woman and there was a man with a gun or a bomb under the table or a rabid bat attack or SOMETHING. Static is boring. Sitting in the car is boring. The breakfast table is boring. Looking out the window is boring. Any scene can be improved by a unique location. Take the rabid bat attack and move it from the kitchen to the windswept plains of outter Mongolia. It's even better.

4. Seinfeld: A show about nothing. This won't work in a book and it really didn't work in Seinfeld. It wasn't about "nothing." It was about conflict. There is no story without conflict. Will George's boss catch him sleeping under the desk? Who will Jerry choose, Schmoopie or the Soup Nazi? Conflict! Every single scene, no matter how small needs the push and pull of opposing forces. Remember: static is boring. Movement is interesting. Without that push and pull there can be no movement. Kramer wants something. So does Newman. The race is on and only one can prevail. Conflict.

5. Survivor: Torture is fun. At least it is when it happens to other people. You've heard the old addage. Run your characters up a tree and then throw rocks at them until they fall and break something. Yes, don't be ashamed to torment your characters. No one wants to read your version of Mary Sue's Perfect Life. Everyone needs flaws and they need bad shit to happen to them or why else would we care. And the bigger the stakes, the more serious the risks, the more interesting the conflict. Give them a no win dilemma. Who will they save from the burning building, their child or their spouse? Either way, it sucks to be them. Yay! So enjoy creating your fascinating, defective characters. Fall in love with them. Dream about them. Talk to them when no one else is around. And make their lives hell. Your audience will thank you for it.

Okay, that is my first five. Next blog will be the final five lessons from TV Land. Stay tuned until tomorrow (or maybe Sunday.) Same bat time. Same bat channel.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Full of Awesome

I have a lot to rant about. Something (we're thinking opossum) has killed all my pet ducks. My queries have stalled. My writing has stalled. My work schedule for the next two weeks is grinding me to a nub. My insomnia is back and I've probably only slept three hours in the last two day.

Now I'm done. Yup. No long SpongeBob Rantypants style posts today. Today I'm going to focus on the fact that I'm here and alive able to hug my children. I'm married to a nice man who tolerates my eccentricity. I live in a lovely little town with a great school district. Both my children are healthy. My parents live close by and I see them every day.

I have a house filled with love and toys and lots of animal companions. This morning I woke up, hugged both my boys and trudged downstairs for coffee. My elderly dog who has been with me for 15 years padded over, tail wagging. I ate chocolate with my coffee and read a romance novel until it was time to get the kids dressed for school. There was no traffic on the way to school. The weather this morning is cool and lovely. We need the rain with which the hurricanes have thoughtfully drenched us.

I had plenty of hot water for my shower. Clean, comfortable clothes for work were hanging in my closet. There was no heavy traffic on my way into work. All my morning cases were resolved in my favor. I get paid on friday.

My neice is four this weekend and saturday will be a huge family party (Barbie themed of course). Everyone will be there and my sister will have double the amount of food required to feed us all. We'll sit around watching the kids play and keep careful eyes on the college football scores.

Amazon just shipped me the order I placed with all the gift certificates I got for my birthday last month. I should have about 10 new novels to read this weekend. I intend to spend Saturday night (and perhaps all night if I still can't sleep) sipping hot tea (decaf) and nibbling on ginger snaps while devouring my new books.

My life if full of win and awesome and on this anniversary of the day so many people lost their lives, I'm going to celebrate it. I'd like to pretend that I won't return to my whiny ways tomorrow, but the truth is that I'm funnier when I snark and I like to rant.

Just not today.

Friday, September 5, 2008

I can haz do over?


I suck at them.

There is no nice, sugar-coated way to say it.

It is a propostion universally accepted that a Soccer Mom in possession of a novel needs a better beginning. Or something like that.

I know all the wisdom about how to make a great beginning and yet I fumble them time and time again. I just looked at my WIP (I know. I know. Never look down. Too late. Dammit.) and realized that that I must have five pages of people talking and dancing. Dancing. And talking.


I don't kill anyone until like page 30. I'm thinking this needs a lot of work. I should plow on, but I have some ideas.

Cover me. I'm going in.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Uphill Both Ways...


In the snow.

Okay, so now I'm doing the hard stuff in my novel. I love, love, love reading historicals, right? And I adore research, right? Plus I've read like a zillion things set in this time period, right?


It seems like two steps forward and one step back. Everything I write sends me running for a reference book. I compulsively fact check because I have a horror of getting things wrong. If I get things wrong, I'll be called the stupidest laziest author to ever live. I'm not kidding. I read on a message board I frequent where a well known author got something wrong with the money system. You should have seen the scathing over-the-coals treatment. Honestly, folks sounded ready to banish her from the kingdom. It was scary.

I've loved the characters, but this mystery has taken more time to come together. It is finally starting to gel. I haven't written new words in three days (oh wait. I rewrote two scenes. I guess that counts. Nor really new, more like "pre-owned" words.) But I feel like I've answred some important who and whys, plus even a couple of hows that had puzzled me. There are multiple baddies running around (with varying degrees of badness) which was getting my little kitteh brain befuzzled.

Now if I could only find more information about the Chinese Pagoda that burned in St. James Park in 1914 during HRH's Grand Jubiliee. I want to throw a body off it and I need to know the feasibility of this. Strangely, I'm finding this info difficult to locate. Go figure. History books never do tell me the good stuff.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Baking a Genre Pie

My novel can't decide what it wants to be when it grows up so I'm taking a write and see approach. Is it a murder mystery or a romance? Could it be romantic suspense? I'm leaning toward murder as a main course with a side dish of romance, but I'm wondering if I've stirred in too much romance.

This got me started thinking about genres and how much fun playing mix'em and match'em can be. I think the two universal spices are mystery and romance. They are the salt and pepper of the literary world. The onions and peppers. The parsley and mint. You get the idea. Things just taste better with love and danger added.

What are the two things we always hear that a great story needs? Well, it needs a hook. A question that must be answered, a journey into the unknown in search of enlightenment. Spice with a whiff of personal peril and you've got mystery. Nom!

Second, a novel needs compelling characters that matter to us. We want to see them, learn from them, larger than life personalities that we can't look away from. Enter romance, stage left. This is what romance does so well. A romance is all about compelling people (and a little hot nooky, but mostly about the people.) Nom nom!

Romance and mystery work together so beautifully, it seems to me that they are the perfect match. Whether you start with danger as the catalyst for love or spice the intrigue with a pinch of desire, the result is the same: Awesomesauce.

Both genres have a formula that must be followed, most especially the ending. The mystery must have a solution and the romance must have its HEA (Happily Ever After). This could be so limiting and yet these are two of the most popular genres. They account for a large portion of published novels and reading tastes. Why?

I think the familiar framework allows for greater creativity within the rules. Instead of trying to reinvent chicken pot pie, mystery and romance writers perfect the recipe and make it their own, give it their own signature flavor.

My time is limited and I read for entertainment, so I like knowing that my novel will be resolved, that my questions will be answered and that the couple will end up together. I like HEA. I spend enough time worrying about my kids and their future. I don't want to waste my energy worrying about characters in a novel.

What's your favorite genre recipe? Share time!

Friday, August 22, 2008

That Plan's Just Crazy Enough to Work!

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a hardcore outliner. This is partly just because I'm an anal retentive map reader and list maker and partly because my chosen genre requires so much advance planning.

How many times have you picked up a mystery with an awesome premise that starts out wicked awesome and then wanders around to some unsatisfying deus ex machina conclusion? Planning. Bringing a mystery to satisfying conclusion requires planning.

In fact, I usually start with the solution and work my way backwards. It just works for me. In this case, I started with the idea for setting and history. I guess I've read one too many novel set in Regency England and my pitiful brain snapped. Now my office is stuffed with books researching the period and I'm knee deep in my outline/rough draft. (Yes, both at once. More on that in a minute.)

First, I created my primary detective (who is not longer the primary detective) and constructed a cast around her by logically asking myself who belonged in her world. Then I gave them a murder and worked backwards to how it was discovered.

A funny thing happened on this trip. I gave her a best friend, bubble-headed scandle prone Lady Calandra as well as a brother, the quiet but confident Lord Arthur Alsbury, Viscount of Bellingfort and a mother and--well, the minor characters took over. It is now Calandra and Arthur's story. Hunh. Whaddya know. Calandra isn't a bubble-head at all and Arthur knows this. He's in love with her. Oh my.

Rough draft/outline. Yes, I do both at one time. What that means is that as I outline, I write whole scenes and snippets of scenes bridged by long bits of placeholder information such as {scene where Calandra discovers rumours have caused her to be snubbed at social event. Arthur consoles. She crashes event anyway. Much chaos ensues}.

My "outlines" often end up about 20,000 - 30,000 words. It's part outline and part rough draft, but it works for me and most importantly it makes my feeble brain happy. It's the only way I can see the entire structure of my book in front of me, complete with clues cleverly planted and character arcs. Adding history to the mix only complicates things because now I keep finding things I need to research.

I'm sure there is a twelve step program for outliners like me, except that I can stop anytime I want to and I'm not hurting anyone, I swear it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008



Why do I do these things to myself?

I'm a nice person--good to children and animals. I give excellent advice and people often ask my opinion. In fact, I often give excellent advice when it comes to writing. THEN WHY DON'T I FREAKING TAKE MY OWN EXCELLENT ADVICE?????


Ahem. Here is what I have done. My WIP stalled at 20K. No big deal. Done that before. I know that I need to keep pressing and get through it and things will pick back up. So what have I done instead of being a good little writing soldier and doing my duty for God and Country?

I started another WIP.

All I can say in my defense is that I got this idea and it would not let go. The characters appeared in my head and would not shut up. They followed me around for days, telling me their life stories and having witty conversations with one another. Two of them fell in love (which surprised me because I never would have seen these two together and yet they make sense and it is so sweet.)

I fought the good fight. I did. Honest. But in the end I was weak and started typing. I emerged 4,000 words later with aching wrists and the trembles. I'm obsessed with this story and these characters and they are something unlike anything I've written before. I don't write historicals and yet here I am writing a regency mystery and loving it.

Whoa! Go figure.

Back to my story:

Lady Calandra is in a panic. Her almost betrothed is dead, the police suspect her of murder and even if she is not arrested, she is so tainted with scandal that she may never be married. She has only recently recovered enough from last season's scandal to find her place in society again and secure an engagement to Marquess Westborn, Thomas Lynton only to have him murdered in his bed a few days later at a weekend party where she was expecting his proposal. Death by poisoned chocolate. Now she has no bridegroom and few prospects.

Unfortunately, this isn't the first of her suitors to suffer misfortune. Last year's scandal was the shooting of Robert, Earl of Camdenshire, in an apparent hunting accident shortly before he was to propose to Calandra. She was very sorry and it was truly an accident on her part, but alas the Earl still walks with a limp.

Things seem dire when rumors abound that Calandra might have had a hand in Thomas' murder, so she falls upon the only help that is offered. Her dearest friends, siblings Julia and Arthur Alsbury aren't about to let Calandra be falsely accused and vow to do everything in their power to help solve the crime themselves. As the duo uncover the shocking truth the Marquess was killed to suppress, Arthur is in danger of revealing his own most intimate secret, that he has loved his friend Calandra since childhood.

I'm having a riot of a time with these people. I know I should go back and try to finish the other WIP, but I just can't. I'm actually dreaming about these characters.

Well, I'm off to research strychnine. Poison is such a fun murder weapon. How is it possible that I have never used it before?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Whizzing on Bestsellers

I understand not liking an author. They make both chocolate and vanilla for a reason. What I don't get is the urge some folks have to raise a leg and whizz on anyone having success. It goes hand in hand with the common lament that So much of what they print nowadays is crap. There are too many books being published and most of them are garbage.

The unspoken follow up is of course Why won't they publish my tomes of deathless prose? I'm twice as good as the piles of poo they call urban fantasy/romance/mysteries/insert genre of choice.

JR Rowling did nothing more than make a mish mash of familiar tropes smushed up with too many adverbs and dialogue tags. Whizz!

Dan Brown is derivative and silly and his characters describe themselves while looking in the mirror. Whizz!

James Patterson writes twenty word chapters and the female characters are more plot device than woman. (okay, I'll give you the last one. He's not my cup of tea.) Whizz!

It seems that I can't go for a week without someone decrying the general state of publishing and the lack of quality product. Get over it.

Seriously, there is a reason McDonald exists. I enjoy fine dining and an excellent steak. I like swiss chocolates and truffles. I like chicken nuggets and Hershey bars too. There is room on the shelf for them all.

The reason things are bestsellers are because people like them. I like Harry Potter and enjoy JK Rowling's writing style. I get sick of the nasty, bitter "why should she be rich and famous when she isn't any better than I am" talk. Face it. She ignited something with Harry Potter and rode that rocket to the moon. Good for her.

There is (IMHO) no such thing as manuscripts that "deserve" to be published or don't "deserve" to be published. Editors don't make decisions that way and there is no reason for them to. Here is a shocking revelation, but they publish things that they like and that they think people will buy. Shocked? It gets even more amazing. "Deserve" has nothing to do with the process. It doesn't matter if the author is a lovely person, what the author has sacrificed or how hard they have worked. It's about the novel. (I'm talking specifically about novels and not NF where the author and qualifications make a huge difference.)

I've heard that editors don't care about books and I'm telling you that nothing is farther from the truth. They love them, adore them, have a passion for the business. Business. Yes, it's a business and they are looking for things they think people will like. You may not like books about boy wizards, murderous albinos, or serial killers, but enough people obviously do. When an author strikes a chord, they can go from struggling to the bestseller list.

Some books get to the bestseller list because of the author's great backlist, regardless of whether this new book is great or even adequate. That is okay. I'm at peace with that. Bestsellers make a convenient target for snark.

It's perfectly valid to not like an author for specific reasons [and for the record, this isn't about book reviews] I don't get Patterson. But it really isn't my job to announce that he's crap and that anyone who reads him should be ashamed for perpetuating such dreck and damnit we should yank his books in favor of quality literature. People like him. They are entitled to without me taking a whizz on them for it.

It's easy to feel jealous. I know there are times when I read something and know in my heart that I write as well as this author. This gives me hope in a strange way. It isn't that this author "took my slot". It means I still have a chance. People with my skills are being published and I have faith that I will too.

Thus ends my rant. Are blogs great? I can take a whizz here instead of doing it on the people annoying me.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Who Saw That One Coming?

Some things don't go according to plan. Just ask the French Men's 4 x 100 Relay Team. See, they were supposed to win. Everyone knew they were going to win. They knew it. The commentators knew it. The Press knew it--partly because the French team had been talking smack, like how they were going to "smash the Americans", their next closest competitors. Evidentally Jason Lezak didn't know this because he swam the race of his life, shattering the world record and catching the French team on the last lap. It was a staggering performance that left the Water Cube rocking and Michael Phelps with an uncharacteristic display of joy as the Americans cheered their unlikely win. The French team stood around looking stunned as they had been slapped by the Clue-By-Four of Life.

That's why they actually have the race and don't just hand out medals based on who is supposed to win. The best laid plans yadda yadda yadda. Writing is like this too. (You just knew I would get to that, didn't you?)

My characters aren't behaving. Understand that I'm not one of those nuts who draws pictures of her muse and holds conversations with her imaginary characters. Nope. I'm a believer in the writer being in control of the story, but I'm telling you that these stupid characters won't mind me at all. I've threatened and cajoled and spanked them all and sent them to bed with no supper and they still refuse to mind me, the willful things!

I had it all set up for my villian, with red-herring villians sprinkled along the way. Who is the baddie? The handsome spoiled prince or his equally handsome spoiled brother (and the heir to the throne)? Gah! Why won't the rotten spoiled princes behave? First, the heir to the throne refuses to be handsome and impressive. He's a nerd. He can't sit a horse. He has a weak chin and beady eyes. He runs away to hide when the hunting party is attacked. FAIL! He's going to make a terrible ruler, but he's not the bad guy and if I'm being perfectly honest, the little twerp has grown on me.

Yep, Daedan is a twerp, but at least Rhon is being handsome. He would make an impressive ruler. He's tall and behaves nobly in a fight. He's brave, but impetuous. We have a winner. Yippee. Too bad that he's stupid and I'm going to have to kill him.

I can make it work. I can. I think. Not quite the clash of the titans I had hoped for with Prince Nerd and Prince Bonehead. How about you? Are your character playing well with others or snorting milk at the lunch table? Are they memorizing their times tables or shooting spit wads?

You don't always get what you want. (Thank you, Rolling Stones!) But if you try, you might get what you need.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

3 Ways Writing is Complete Awesomesauce on Top

Every gig has its perks. Cops don't give other cops speeding tickets. Doctors get free drug samples from RX companies. Golf Pros play free golf. Secretaries bring home free pens and paperclips (Seriously--I can't be the only one who appreciates that perk. Free PENS people!!!) Today I was reminded of some of the sweet joys of writing. So here they are in no particular order.

3 Ways in Which Writing is Complete Awesomesauce on Top

1. Everything is research. Why is this awesome? That book on medieval weaponry? Research! I must have it. It doesn't matter if I'm actually writing a medieval historical novel. I might want to and thus would need that book which I might never find again. Better buy it now. Too much time spent online? Research! An amazing show on the Discovery Channel? I need it on DVD. Research. You never know! A trip in a submarine? Book it. Research. Was I flirting with that waiter? Research, I swear it! Star Wars action figures? Of course I had to buy them. How else can I block out my intergalactic battle scenes? Oooh, let's take archery lessons. Well, of course it's research. Repeat after me: Everything is research.

2. Murder is Legal. Okay, strictly speaking--it still isn't legal, but where else can you kill off people you hate without all the blood and the inconvenience of the police showing up at your door. Not to mention all those legal fees. People who piss me off in real life end up in my books and it usually isn't pretty. Case study? The girl who bullied my kid in kindergarten. She was a rotten, horrible child and made his life hell for months. He was afraid to hit a girl and too ashamed to tell. Little bitch. But I got even with her. Oh yes I did. Her fate? She became a hooker (or at least she did in my story) who ran afoul of a serial killer and suffered a grusome demise. Parts of her surfaced in dumpsters around the city until she was finally identified by her finger prints. Hah! Take that! As
JKcates said on Absolute Write: "That's part of the fun of writing is putting people in it we know and doing horrible things to them. Its like the Sims without the graphics." Amen.

3. You can do it in public without getting arrested. Don't underestimate how wonderful this is. Writing is portable. All you need is a pen and paper. You can write on your desktop, your laptop, in a fine moleskin notebook, spiral pad, on the back of an envelope, on anything. You can write with a $350 Faber Castell Guilloche Black Chevron, a $1 Bic, a #2 Pencil or a broken scrap of crayon with the paper peeled off. Only the words matter. You can write anywhere and anytime (well, almost. I won't elaborate. You understand.) I do some of my best writing at the soccer fields while the kids run drills. Drills are boring. Drills aren't games. They're just...drills. Yawn. In fact, my novel up at Trunk was written outside a bar while waiting for my 20th high school reunion and at the soccer fields.

If you think about it, those are some pretty damn good perks. Okay, now it's time to give me your awesomesauce on top reasons for being a writer. What do you love?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A big fangirl Squeeeeee!

So I've done a fair bit of ranting lately and just so you know I'm not really a bitter woman, I'm going to rave for a change. Specifically, I'm going to rave about some awesome world building. Fans of kicking-ass-and-taking-names-urban-fantasy heroines must check out Ilona Andrews series set in Atlanta. The first book is Magic Bites.

This is Atlanta like you've never seen it. The name-taking heroine is Kate Daniels, a mercenary in dystopian Atlanta where magic comes and goes in flares. Kate's job is to clean up paranormal messes and her current task is more like a vendetta. Her guardian has been murdered and a pack of undead critters are on the loose. She must learn to work with the sexy but uber scary Beast Lord (pack leader of the shape-shifters)and the controlling, rule obsessed Order (the official government agency which handles paranormal enforcement) to achieve her goals (catch a killer and save the world).

I picked this book up to take on vacation and devoured every delicious bite in two days. As soon as I returned home, I ordered the next book, Magic Burns, and crossed my fingers that it would be just as good. It is. Yummy!

What makes this series so appealing is the world building. The dialogue is snappy and the characters are fascinating--though I don't believe I would have any of them over for tea. But the world. Atlanta has been trashed by the tides of magic that push and pull at the city. Buildings have toppled and the landscape twists and morphs while all manner of beasties and ghouls prowl the shadows. I love the glimpses into the organized societies of these creatures. Everything works together so beautifully. These are not seperate pockets of society, but all the groups merge and blend and relate to one another so that you can see the past history.

Kate didn't just wake up one day deciding to kick ass. She isn't an innocent thrust into a world she can't understand. She is a product of her environment and has valid reasons for having chosen her path. The characters all belong to this world. You couldn't pick one of them up and move them somewhere else. They belong right where they are. That is so rare.

The magic has been imagined in meticulous detail. It works. It makes sense. And the rules are different when the magic is up versus when the "tech" is up. It's brilliant.

I seriously can't say enough good things about this series. I only hope she can maintain this fascinating world without fading into another case of Good Authors Gone Bad.

I will be watching and waiting with a slight string of drool from the right side of my mouth until her next book.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Disposable Villians

Warning: A little spoilerific of Mummy III (but not really and you know you aren't going for the plot anyway).

Okay. So I blogged about Teh Great Virgin Trope in romantic literature, so it is only fair to spread the attention around. I have another rant, this time about plastic, interchangeable villians. You know exactly what I mean. I don't have to describe them. They are the mustache twirling, scenery chewing, heroine kidnapping, Baddy McBaddies for no other reason than they are evil.

Pure evil. Why? Maybe they feel they were slighted in the past or they hunger for power, but the excuse is always flimsy and out of proportion to their sheer badness.

"What do you want to do tonight, Brain?"

"The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world."

Seriously, what is it with the villians bent on world domination. Why? Why the whole world? Why not just England? Maybe Texas? What are they going to do with the world when they get it?

I just saw the Mummy III. It was unimaginably awful. I'm a big fan of campy adventures, but this wasn't entertaining. The plot...well...there wasn't one. Every device known to man (including a 2,000 year old virgin who wears lip gloss, knows kung fu, speaks Yeti and apparently understands ballroom dancing. I swear I'm not making this shit up.) is included in this big screen atrocity, most especially the disposable villian. Actually, there are multiple disposable villians and none of them made any sense. The dead emperor wants to raise his dead army and destroy everyone in the world and take over. What's he gonna do with this empty world? IDK. Got me.

He is aided in this quest by some modern day general who wants to serve him and help him take over the world. Why? IDK.

The general also gets his very own henchman (or henchwoman rather) to assist his nefarious purposes. She's got a nifty scar and mad skills and she's fiercely loyal enough to leap to her death when the general gets his just desserts. Why? IDK. None of this is ever explained.

You know you're in trouble when the best part of a movie is the ten minute info dump at the start. I think I might have actually enjoyed a movie that explored the character of General Ming and the circumstance that led to his betrayal of the emperor, but alas--Ming was dead in the space of ten minutes and the movie was downhill from there.

So the point is that I'm taking extra pains with my villian. She's likeable. She means well. She has noble motives, but twisted means to achieve them. She's a part of the story (I hope) not just pasted in whenever I need a little conflict to spark things along. After all, she is the Empress Consort and her son should have been the heir. It was really a fluke that a lesser wife gave birth to a son first. That should never have happened and the villian's son would make a much better ruler anyway. So a murder to fix that inconvenient fact wouldn't really be so bad now, would it?

She's not bad. She's just written that way.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Virgins Ahoy!

So I was tempted to throw another book at the wall today. I was in the mood for romance, but unfortunately this tale of a widow seduced turned out just to be another case of "virgin's ahoy." You see, her newly deceased husband was a cold fish who couldn't keep it an up and she had never gotten a chance to do the happy-happy. Why didn't she take a lover? Because women of her time didn't do such things. I'll buy that I guess. Except as soon as she meets the inappopriate Duke of Something, she can't wait to do the happy-happy all over the place out of wedlock.

Ack! I don't do virgins.

Wait...that sounds nasty. I don't write about innocent virginal characters in either my romances or mysteries and prefer not to read about them. I'm a sucker for two world weary types who find one another. It isn't their first time at the happy-happy rodeo, but hopefully it's their HEA. (Actually, since I've been married for almost sixteen years, I truly DON'T do virgins. But that's another post and TMI.)

What is it with romance novels and virgins? I just don't get it. What is supposed to be so damn sexy about deflowering a virgin? And the virgins in these novels don't behave the way I remember. Maybe it's because my memory (admittedly a bit faded) of early happy-happy wasn't OMGHOT!, but more like ow! and where does this go? Now what? I remember it as awkward fumbling, not exactly the transcendant experience of romance literature.

And the virginal heroine is always paired with a rakish hero who had been around the block a time or twenty. I guess somebody has to know what goes where. Maybe I should write about a virginal hero who was trapped in a loveless marriage but is quickly seduced by an older hot to trot...oh wait...Hello, Mrs. Robinson. Are you trying to seduce me? Maybe not.

I like my characters to have some rough edges and enough experience to recognize when they have found something worthwhile. Sex needs to be so much more than "insert tab A into slot B" and for my money, virgins are too much about trying to remember what goes where. I'm casting characters for a short story right now. No virgins need apply.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Soccer Mom and the Sea

Well, I'm back. The cruise was good fun (no thanks to that bitch Dolly). How was the weather? Let me tell you all about it. The first part of my trip sucked. Sucked, sucked, sucked. Ten foot waves. I'll repeat that so you know it wasn't a typo. Ten. Foot. Waves. Seriously. They kept men with buckets and mops scurrying around to clean up all the puke.

People took to their cabins and hid for the first two days. The pools and decks were closed due to the hazards and it rained and stormed. Fortunately my family proved to be good little sailors (I was the only one who got queasy and some dramamine and rum fixed that nicely). Suffice to say that this was not my image of a "fun day at sea" as promised in the brochures, but once we got to closer to Mexico, the weather cleared.

Actually, it was rather exciting to sit and watch the stormy seas. I discovered a new place to write. All along the upper decks were enormous glas windows with huge padded window seats. Across the deck was a coffee bar with amazing mochachinos. Bliss! I'm still processing all the writing I did on the trip. Wow. If I had my very own personal cruise ship, I bet I could write a book a month. You know, assuming the crew tended to my every need: cleaned my cabin, fed me gourmet food, plied me with alcohol and caffiene, etc...

So how did going naked turn out? Fabulous. I loved it. I had so much fun perching on deck at night (when the weather improved) or in the window seats that I almost didn't want to go ashore for the excursions. It was that lovely.

Now I'm wondering if I could write a mystery set aboard a cruise ship. I'm sure it has been done, but it's a lovely contained setting. Glamour! Intrigue! Shuffleboard! The possibilities are endless. Maybe I could even claim the cruise on my taxes. Research, right? K mebbe not.

Anyway, the vacation was amazing and the writing was good. Now if you will excuse me, I have a notebook to go type up.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Going Naked

The blog will be dark over the next week because I'm going on a cruise. Yipee! I really need this vacation.

Of course, being a crazy writer type, I'm all atwitter about the chance to write without the daily distractions of ordinary life. Yes, I'll have the distractions of a cruise (booze, beaches, and duty-free shopping), but they will be different and I'm really rolling on this book.

I've decided that I'm going on this trip naked. No, NOT sans clothes. It isn't that type of cruise. Gutterminds! I've decided that I'm leaving my electronics at home. No laptop. No email checking. I resolve to stay out of the internet cafe they have on board. Naked.

This is very scary for me. I always take along my toys, but I've decided to only take pens and paper. I do write in short bursts on paper--say a couple of pages--and then transfer to my computer later, but never for this long. It's scary and exhilarating at the same time. Naturally I'm also taking paperbacks (including some of my favorite crack. I bought the Evanovich book. Yes, I'm weak.)

But I'm looking forward to laying (lying? My brain is already on vacation) by the pool with my trusty notebook and scribbling away without electronic distractions or dirty laundry taunting me. How sick is that? When I get back, I'll give you all the lurid details of my naked vacation. Unless I have writer's cramp that is.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

When Good Author's Go Bad

Yesterday was a roller coaster ride. Multiple rejects. Sad. Partial request. Happy. And Flopsy the duckling is no more. Big sad. Poor little guy. He tried so hard, but he just couldn't make it.

Writing? I got nothing done. I did however get quite a bit of thinking done. I thought about a lot things. Life. The Universe. God. Sex. Death. Love. And why good authors turn bad.

You know it's true. I'm talking about the authors you love so much that their books are like crack. You need the fix. You reread them until the next release. Books one, two and three in the series are magicky, special crack just for you. Each new release is a happy sigh and an excuse to call in sick to work. Just you, the couch, the chocolate, and your magicky, special crack.

Book four comes along. You still like it. It's not as good as the first three, but you love the characters and you have to find out what happens next.

Book five. Book six. Your crack is no longer magicky and special. It's just crack. The characters haven't grown. (koff:Janet Evanovich:koff) The plot has wandered all over hither and yon. (koff:Terry Goodkind:koff) Will this freaking quest ever end? (koff:Robert Jordan:koff) Will we get a new plot or just rehash the same one over and over? (koff:Mary Higgins Clark:koff). Or the author has just plain jumped the shark with their plot. (koff:Laurell K Hamilton:koff).

You know you should quit reading. You know they aren't good anymore. Is it pressure to keep cranking out books one after the other? Did they only have so many stories to tell? Did they get too full of themselves? IDK, but either way, you can't quit. It's your crack.

You swear that you won't buy the next one. The last one is still freakin' embedded in the wall from where you threw it after the last preposterous twist. EVIL TWIN? GAH! NEVER AGAIN! But it happens. You go to the bookstore, weak from having nothing to read in days and there, face out, in hardcover, on the bestseller shelf it sits, taunting you with it's shiny fresh cover. You finger trails the spine longingly. You are weak. It is your crack. The big red sticker promises that this copy is 30% off the cover price.

Oh Dean Koontz! Why can't I quit you????

So who's your literary crack?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fuzzy Yellow Overlords

Yes, I am still ruled by ducks and particularly an inept and hopeless little duckling. Flopsy still can't walk. But he's just as perky and determined as ever. Add to my worries that I'm leaving for 10 next saturday which means I'll have to persuade my crusty old farmer father to come over and hand feed a duckling 3 times a day. But Dad is a sucker for an underdog and hopefully in this case an underduck.

Back to the writing. Yesterday was awesome. My story again caught fire and it was so much fun. Writing is like dating and I was afraid that I had already passed from the first blush of infatuation into the dreaded routine, but--Ah sweet majesty of life! Love for my characters again took hold and romance has bloomed anew. In other words, I worked out my plot kinks and off we go!

Queries? I'm done for now. I'll let these come back to me and see if I get any feedback.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I'm clearly off my rocker.

My but a week can make a difference. This week I've welcomed new baby ducklings and guinea keets. Boy has that been a roller coaster and more on that one later.

I've also sent my first batch of queries. 84 of them. Yes, that is eighty-four. Not four. I know. I'm clearly off my rocker. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that says query and tweak. Query and tweak based on feedback. I've done that before. This time I'm doing things differently. This time I wrote my query based on my own voice, not what I think the agent wants to hear. My theory is that the right agent will "get" me based on this. That remains to be seen.

Never fear, there are lots more agents to be queried. I'll just sit on this batch and watch the reactions roll in (or maybe I should say the REJECTIONS roll in. heh.)

Back to the birdies. There has been some attrition which always happens with hatchlings, but the oddest development has been the duckling that wouldn't die. Flopsy (it's bad when you name one) is just too onery to die. Flopsy can't walk. I don't know what is wrong with him. Both legs work, but he simply flops onto his back. He's learned to right himself and scoot, roll, and scrabble his way around. I have to keep him seperated from the others so they don't trample him. He has his own box which he scoots around happily.

Other than an inability to walk, he's bright-eyed and enthusiastic about everything. Several times a day, I take him out and hold him at the waterer so he can drink and take him to the feed so he can eat. Sometimes I hold him in the water and let him splash around which makes him very happy.

That's his hallmark in life. Flopsy is the happiest critter you've ever seen. I hold him around the others so he can have contact with them and he receives their pecks and dishes out his own. I probably should have let him die the first day when it was clear he couldn't fend for himself, but he was just so determined to live that he's now made me his slave. If he isn't able to become mobile enough to be safe outside, I may have acquired a house duck. For those keeping track, that means two cats, two bunnies, and a duck in my house.

I'm am now officially a slave to fuzzy yellow duckling.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Let's start at the very beginning.

Cause it's a very good place to start. I've sent the first queries. I sent 25 yesterday and I'm going to send another 25 today. This is an about face from my previous cautious attempts at querying and is more than just a new attitude. It's indicative of how strongly I feel about this project. I'm going to sell this one. I can feel it.

I've gotten my first two rejects. For some reason, this hasn't kicked me in the gut like projects past. I still fell really positive. Catch me again on rejection number 50 and I may have a different feeling, but for now it's all roses and hearts and happy-happy joy-joy.

Speaking of hearts and roses, I'm still writing the romance, but it's erotic romance now and I'm loving this project--really loving it. The characters interest me. It's fantasy and the world building intrigues me. I'm thinking it will best be served as a novella, but I'm flexible. This is virgin territory for me and I'll just see where it takes me. For now I'm going to enjoy the ride.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

And they're off! Almost.

The beginning had been rewritten. The query, polished. The synopsis, smoothed. Today I will send the first queries off. Yay! I'm going to send them off in smallish batches starting with some of the agents I think are best suited for my work. I haven't sent off queries for anything in months and I'm a tad bit nervous.

On the exhilarating side, I've also started a new project, something completely different. Psst. Come closer and I'll whisper. It isn't a mystery.

Gasp! Shock! Horror!

Okay, so it's romantic suspense and there will a dead body or two littering the pages. And lots of sex. So far, it's been lots of fun to write. They're always fun in the beginning, like a new boyfriend before you discover that he leaves towels on the bathroom floor, won't put the seat down, and flirts with your friends behind your back. But right now? I'm loving the book.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Make it work!

Tim Gunn is right. I adore Project Runway and he's a big part of the reason. With each weekly challenge the young designers face, he drops by to give his guidance on their WIP. Sometimes her raves. Sometimes he blanches. Always, he gives them the advice that regardless of their chosen path "Make it work."

I'm still trying to make those first three pages work. I think I might finally have it and so I've moved on to the synopsis (which is nearly as much fun as a root canal without novocaine.)

I haven't been as productive as I'd hoped. I took the kids to see WALL-E (loved it! A must see!) and I've done laundry. Plus I've watched far too many SG-1 reruns.

On a happy note, my novel is out next month at Trunk Novels and I need to get busy adding links to this blog. But first, time to cram four hundred pages of twisty-turny plot into a one page. I can do this. I can make it work. I CAN!

Yeah. Where's that novocaine?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Are we there yet???

Goals! I has them! And I've failed. I wanted to be sending queries today. Instead, I'm rewriting the opening to my novel yet again. Everyone agrees that by chapter two, my book is rolling along and they're hooked. But agents and readers are less forgiving than my beta club. They won't give me until chapter two. I have to hook them right off the bat and for some reason that boffo opening has eluded me.

Just so you know how frustrated I am, I finished this novel in November. NOVEMBER!!!
To be fair, I haven't worked on it continuously since then. I put it aside until February and then rewrote it. Then I put it aside again. I've rewritten it two more times based on feedback and everyone agrees that it's really good now. Except of course for the beginning.

Why are beginnings so hard? They should be fresh and wonderful. All possibilities for the story exist. I love writing beginnings to my short stories. Why is this one so hard?

Well, I'm off to work on it again. I've redone the first three pages and I have four people reading them. Once more into the breach, dear friend!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Oh good! You're Up!

Welcome to my new blog. This one is going to be all about mystery. Well, okay--mostly about mystery. We all know I can't stay on topic worth a...ooooh shiny! Where was I? Mysteries. Oh yes. I'm a sucker for a good mystery.

Mysteries were my first love. I started with Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden. Before I knew it, I was reading Agatha Christie. I'm a sucker for the unknown and I have a hard time not flipping to the end of a book just to see how it turns out. I can't help it. I'm nosy. I just have to KNOW!

I want to have that effect on people. I want them turn the page because they have to answer a question, have to see what happens to the characters, have to know whodunnit and why and what ever happened to Uncle Jake who was mentioned on page three and never again. That's what I want to do.

I've written a half dozen mysteries and I finally feel like I have "the one." This is the one that will get me published.


Now that you're up: Make me some waffles? Please?