Friday, September 30, 2011

RFW - Fearful Heart
Ghosts of Lovers Past - Virginia & Matt

Virginia's been through a rough time, and now she's at a coffee shop with Jack, a newfound online interest, for their first Meet.  She's excited... and she's terrified.

Denise (aka L'Aussie) & Francine, thank you so very much for starting this group, doing all the work to keep it going, and giving us such challenging prompts.  This week, Challenge #21, is Fearful Heart, written for this prompt and another reason, as well.

For the rest of the RFW poems & stories, by writers who always bring a smile to my face, go hereWord Count: 397; FCA (Full Critique Acceptable  - and requested, thank you!)

Virginia retreated to the ladies’ room to sort out her feelings.

Matt seemed nice.  So had Frank.

He’d been punctual.  Bought her coffee.  Frank was generous.  At first.

from FreeDigitalPhotos
He talked warmly about his dog, and his nephews and nieces.  Children and animals usually adored Frank.  So much for “Animals and children always know.”

Matt was responsive to her remarks, talking, but not monopolizing their chat.  Frank had seemed riveted, initially.  Later, he shut down her attempts at conversation, felt threatened by her friends, her job, her ex-boyfriends...  Gradually without realizing it, she isolated herself from almost every outside connection.

Feeling panic creep up on her, Virginia took several deep, cleansing breaths.

Matt wasn’t as handsome as Frank.  Point in his favor.

They’d disagreed - slightly - about politics.  He didn’t try to browbeat me into accepting his point of view.

A stunningly beautiful woman had strutted into the coffeeshop, and though Matt’s eyes flickered to her momentarily, they returned quickly to Virginia’s face.

She peeked out of the restroom door.  Matt waited patiently for her.  Not texting or reading his e-mail.

When Virginia returned to the table, Matt’s face lit up.  “I thought maybe you didn’t like me after all, that you’d escaped out the back door,” he joked.

“I’m sorry I took so long,” she apologized, but he waved it away.

“It’s been a long time since you’ve dated, hasn’t it?” Matt asked gently.

Virginia fought back tears - of relief or shame, she couldn’t tell.  “Yes,” she finally managed.

“I appreciate that you didn’t sit here reciting a laundry list of everything wrong with your ex - and frankly, I don’t want to hear it now.  Bet you’ve got some wicked battle scars, huh?”

She nodded.

“Me too.  I really enjoyed meeting you, Virginia, and I’d like to see you again.  There’s a concert at the Bowl in two weeks,” he named a band she’d always loved. “Already have the tickets, and I’d like you to be my date.  Interested?”

A risk, but wasn’t everything?  Couldn’t she trust that this time, she’d see the warning signs and get out, if she needed to?  Have faith in herself?

She had left Frank, despite too many years of believing it was all her fault. I am strong.  I am smart.  I am brave.

And... I like Matt.  Virginia smiled with surprisingly heartfelt pleasure.  “Yes, please, Matt,” she said. “I’d like that, too.”


October is, among other things, Domestic Violence Awareness month in the United States.  Domestic violence is not simply about physical violence, but verbal, emotional, and financial abuse as well.  It can occur between spouses, in hetero or homosexual relationships, be inflicted by parents upon children, among siblings, or to elderly people by their adult children or caregivers.

Nobody deserves to be abused.

Some Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
  • Your partner calls you names, yells at you, finds constant fault with you, frequently makes jokes that hurt your feelings, belittles you, cuts you off when you try to communicate or refuses to listen to you.  This is Verbal Abuse.
  • Your partner pressures you, openly or covertly, to minimize or cut off contact with family and friends, because “they’re trying to split us up,” or s/he doesn't like them.  Over time, you may even side with your partner, against your friends and family.  You may be experiencing Stockholm Syndrome.
  • Your partner completely controls the finances and you have no clue how much money you have in the bank, where the accounts are, what credit card debt or loans the family has, and s/he shuts you down when you try to find out.  This may be Financial Abuse.
  • Your partner threatens to commit suicide if you should ever leave, or tells you if you leave him/her, “no one will ever love you like I do.”  Hopefully, this is actually true!  Click the link to learn more about what Domestic Abuse is.
If you are now, or have been, in an abusive relationship, please follow the links above to learn more, and know that it is not your fault.  Also know, that you are not a fool or a weakling if you know you are being abused and yet do not feel ready to to end the relationship.  Nobody else is in your shoes, nobody else can tell you when it is right for you to go, or to make your partner leave, or whether in fact the relationship might still be saved through professional intervention.  Call the hotlines, talk to people who understand your situation, and develop a plan.  You, like Virginia, are strong and beautiful and you will get through this.

The Romantic Friday Writers weekly blogfest is open to all writers of romantic fiction.  Wanna join the party?  Click here for submission info.

I hope you found the story above entertaining, romantic and hopeful.  My goal, besides writing to the prompt of Fearful Heart, is to show that those who have been in abusive relationships can find love again.  Maybe Virginia and Matt won't work out, maybe they will, but even though it's scary, IMO, love is worth taking risks.

Please feel free to offer and and all feedback, and let me know if you found the story too preachy.  (I know, I know the part after it may feel that way.)


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Could We Be Any More Aware? Don't F--k With October
30+ Events, Holidays & Causes

from Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos
Yom Kippur is on October 7-8, but you better get your atoning started early, because we've got a busy month ahead of us before we get dressed up for Halloween on the 31st.

As I began to explore what I should know about October, I fell down a rabbit hole of peoples, events, health issues and hobbies of which I had not formally been Aware, but which Congress and other American and international organizations have declared I bloody well should be.

After all, I have nothing else to do in October.  (October is also Sarcasm Awareness Month.)

NaGraNoWriMo - National Graphic Novel Writing Month - or, for me, yet another writing challenge I plan to totally skip.  Y'all go right ahead and have fun with that.

If your creativity runs in a different direction, get your art on for National Arts and Humanities Month, because that's in October, too.

Como Se Dice?  Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept 15 to October 15)  was instituted by Lyndon Johnson as a single week back in 1968, expanded by Congress in 1988.  They apparently didn't realize what a PIB it would be to have the holiday spanning two months.

Got pasta?  Italian American Heritage Month celebrates the fifth largest ethnic group in the United States.  Chances are, if you're an American, you're either at least partly Italian, or know someone who is.  You may not be aware that Italians as well as Japanese were detained or imprisoned in the 1940's for speaking Italian in public.

Click the link for ways to celebrate Filipino American History/Heritage Month.  Did you know they set foot in Morro Bay 33 years before the English landed in Plymouth Rock?  Just sayin', if it was the other way around, we might be speaking Tagalog.

American Humane Association's Adopt-a-Shelter Dog Month.  Because everybody loves puppies, and older dogs make great pets.  Rescuing a pet in need, rather than buying from a breeder, is a wonderful way to help animals and feel good about yourself.

PACER's National Bullying Prevention Month - you can Run, Walk or Roll on October 1, wear orange on October 12, Unity Day, or participate in a Unity Dance on October 26.  Bullying hurts not only the victims, but the bully and bystanders as well, so let's make it stop.

Who are some of the targets of bullying?  Among others, those with disabilities, such as Down's Syndrome, those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.  Those who stutter.

October is also National Down Syndrome Awareness Month.  And October 22 is International Stuttering Awareness Day.  Did you know this year was the sixth LGBT History Month?  I certainly did not, but I do now.  If you're still in the closet, consider popping out on October 11, National Coming Out Day.  If you're not gay, you can still show your support as an ally.

"Profit by Investing in Workers with Disabilities" is the theme in 2011 for National Disability Employment Awareness Month.  Just because somebody can't use their legs, or eyes, or perhaps needs medication for a mental disability, doesn't mean s/he wouldn't make a terrific contribution to the job force.

Speaking of jobs, there's National Work and Family Month - to "communicate and celebrate the progress to creating healthier and more flexible work environments."  With economy where it is, of course, many people feel that having a job at all would be a "healthier work environment."  (Sorry, just honoring the sarcasm thing.)

You probably need your car to get to and from your healthier work environment.  And it just so happens October is Fall Car Care Awareness Month.  Seriously, folks, whether you're in the Northern Hemisphere of the Southern, it does make sense to checks your car at least twice a year for things like worn windshield wipers, fluid levels, tire pressure, brakes and lights.

Speaking of checking, how about those smoke alarms?  In honor of National Fire Prevention Month, I'm sharing a link to 10 Home Fire Safety Tips.  Because nobody is in favor of a house fire (with the possible exception of those who love a hoarder).

from photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos
The ADHA is promoting National Dental Hygiene Month, since after all we need our teeth in good shape to eat the following:  Chili, Seafood, Apples, Cookies, Tomatoes, Pizza and Popping Popcorn. during  National Dessert Month.

National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month - because drug abuse can start with what's in your medicine cabinet.  Tell your kids to cut back on the cough syrup cocktails.

Can you hear me now, or it it all blurring together?  Yep, it's also National Audiology Awareness Month & National Protect Your Hearing Month.

It's National Stamp Collecting Month, too, developed to introduce children (and adults) to this "popular and educational hobby."  And National Roller Skating Month, to get people moving off their fat, national dessert month-stuffed a$$es.

This may surprise you, but I actually skipped a bunch of other "things".  Not because they aren't all worthy causes, but because there's only so much Awareness my poor little squirrel brain can take. 

However I saved for last, three Awarenesses that are very near and dear to my heart.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month - Pretty much the USA seems covered in pink ribbons during October.  Keep in mind, breast cancer does not only happen to women, and we should be cognizant of ALL reproductive cancers, not just those impacting the TaTas.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month -  1-800-799-SAFE (7233) TTY 1-800-787-3224  National Domestic Violence Hotline   Domestic violence is not simply being hit, pushed, or physically threatened.  Verbal and financial abuse is also domestic abuse.  Click here for a Safety Plan for a Friend, Relative or Co-Worker Who Is being Abused.

Customized Ribbons available
from Planned & Unplanned Life
October is also Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month.  For those who lost a baby, or a much wanted pregnancy at any stage, this month gives them a chance to share their grief, and look for answers.  You can light a candle on October 15 at 7 pm if you'd like the join the International Wave of Light.

I'm not going to tell you what to do for October.  (I know, I'm always ready to tell you what to do, but not this time.)

What I will do, is ask.  If you feel inspired to post something as your FaceBook status, or Tweet something, or whatever - consider those who might be impacted, and reconsider just being a mindless follower of a silly and hurtful game.  If you truly want to post something to "promote breast cancer awareness," how about a personal statement, "Breast cancer and reproductive cancer awareness is important to me, because I'm a survivor"? Or "because I lost my mother to this disease."  Include a link where people can get more information, or make a donation.

Think about promoting some of the other significant Awarenesses listed on this post.  In your blogs, in your Tweets, on FaceBook, in conversation with others.  Yes, we can't promote them ALL, but we can make a difference.

If you do, come back and leave a comment here, and I will include you in a special Thank You post at the end of October.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lisa Hendrix and the Immortal Brotherhood Series

Name your pleasure in romance reading.

Paranormal?  Historical?  Strong, smart heroines?  HAWT, shapeshifting heroes?  Incredibly erotic love scenes?

Would you believe you don't have to sacrifice any of the above?  I know, I know, it sounds like chocolate that doesn't get you fat, but in this case, it's not a lie.

Confession: I picked up the first book in the series to pander.  I was planning to meet with Lisa and some other writers on their home turf, and I thought it would look impressive if I'd read their stuff, beforehand.  So I bought Immortal Warrior, braced myself for purple prose and corny, overblown dialogue, and turned the page. I girded my mental loins to say something nice about the heroine's velvet dress, or to praise the cover art. (Besides, the guy on the cover reminded me of my nephew and/or Fabio, so that was an easy go-to point.  Seriously.  See photo, below right.)

He might be family, but DAMN!
See the Fabio resemblance?
(Even more so when he wore his hair long.)
Instead of having to mumble something polite and insincere... I fell in love.  With Ivar Graycloak (aka Ivo de Vassy) and his lady, Alaida of Alnwick, with Brand and Merewyn, with the whole concept of the Immortal Brotherhood.

A crew of nine Vikings has invades England in search of a particular treasure.  While being Viking treasure-hunters, they piss off the wrong person, an Anglo-Saxon witch called Cwen (pronounced Quinn) by killing her son.  She turns them not into toads, but animals - in the shape and form of each man's particular fylgja.  (What I've gathered from reading these books, and the link, is that a fylgja, which comes from Norse mythology, is something like a Native American totem animal spirit, something like a guardian angel.)

Only our former Vikings are not animals all the time, because what kind of punishment would that be?  They are men half the time, animals half the time, transforming at sunrise and sunset.  Some are men by day and critters by night, for others it's the opposite.  Some retain more human cognizance and control over their actions, when in animal form, and others are wholly subsumed by the beast.  Only to discover when they reassume human form they have done terrible things to innocent victims (or even their own Viking crewmates).

Oh, and if you didn't guess from the title (Immortal Brotherhood) they're immortal - which means they can be harried, wounded, and painfully hurt, without having the surcease of death.  There is a way to break the spell, and assume human form and mortality again, but it's far from easy, and requires the active cooperation of a soul-mate (who may or may not have paranormal powers of her own).

Lisa was kind enough to steal some time away from her current writing schedule to discuss the series with me.

Warrior takes place during the time of William Rufus, after the Norman Conquest (1096); Outlaw during the birth of the Robin Hood/Maid Marian legends, about 1290; Champion during the period 1407-1411, when the first Lancastrian king, Henry of Bolingbroke, ruled England.  Defender, due out in summer of 2012, is set in late Elizabethan England.  The books to follow will bring the reader and the heroes through to modern day, always linked to legends and stories of the time in which they are set.

One of the things I loved about these books is Lisa gets the history right.  I love visiting the Renaissance Faire, but when I spot "Ye Olde ATM" or use a privy I am vividly reminded this is only make-believe.  (Not that I would prefer an historically accurate trench to an Andy Gump.)  This is a pet peeve of mine in historical fiction, silly anachronisms that knock me painfully out of the story.

With these books, I felt fully absorbed in the clothing, buildings, attitudes, and artifacts of the time.  Lisa mentioned being similarly jolted herself, reading a description in a book of the heroine in a velvet dress, over two hundred years before velvet was invented.  (Yes, she does do research down to that level, that she can actually tell us when velvet became a popular fabric.)

F'rinstance - in Immortal Outlaw, there is a scene where Marian has to read a parchment that has been rolled up in a tin container for several years.  She blows on it, so that the moisture in her breath will soften it enough that she can unroll it.  (Of course parchment would become stiff, even brittle over time - you already knew that, right?)  In another scene, Marian bathes in a stream, while wearing her chainse (a long-sleeved, billowy undergarment worn by both men and women), washing herself (and engaging in other naughtiness) without removing it.  Because a noblewoman of that era would never totally strip down and bathe in a stream.

If you look very, very closely at the covers of these books, you will see within the silhouette of the animal shadow, an image of a castle or manor that is absolutely authentic for the period in which that novel takes place.  (Because Lisa pointed 'em in the right direction.  She's even offered a map of where the action takes place.)

This impressive attention to historical detail makes the reading experience so much more enjoyable for me.  Although her extensive research does create the problem of making the writing process considerably slower for Lisa than for someone who writes, say, genre contemporary romance.  (I want to read all the Immortal Brotherhood books, and I want them now!  Stomping foot!)

One compromise Lisa makes - although period slang and vocabulary, including Norse terms like jarl and fylgja are sprinkled into each novel, the language she uses is contemporary English.  Which is a good thing, because it means a contemporary reader, like me, doesn't need a translator.  Note from Lisa: I use contemporary English, but work hard NOT to include words that came into the language significantly after the period of each book.  I kind of had to let it slide up into Middle English or so - definitely not past 1500, but I limited Warrior more than the others.  I get all sorts of new words for Defender!

Each hero, though he shares a Viking background and is similarly cursed, is different from the others in personality and appearance.  His fylgja suits him.  Brand (bear) is a strong, powerful leader; Ari (raven) is a storyteller and magickally gifted; Rorik (dog) and Kjell (stag) are scamps; Steinarr (lion) and Ivar (eagle) are more traditional loner heroes.  Jafri (wolf) and Torvald (stallion) are loyal friends.

Gunnar (bull), of Immortal Champion, is Lisa's favorite character (so far).  Although he is not the smartest hero, nor the boldest, he is kind and strong and possesses a special, almost innocent sweetness.

Her favorite moment in her novels is when Eleanor finds Gunnar in Eden Dene, in the cave.  Where these two lovers who've been separated by fate and circumstance are able to join together, at last.  Anyone who's ever lost a love, then found him or her again, should be able to relate.

So, Lisa is currently fleshing out Immortal Defender, Torvald's story.  (She confided her delight to me that the sword he's using on this cover is perfect for the era in which this story is set, even if he'd probably use a more formal scabbard.)

For those as geeky-obsessive as me when it comes to the historical details, when you read these books, you'll get an even better glimpse of Lisa's deep research in the notes which follow.

She does have ideas for other book series, but wants to take care of her Immortal heroes, first, a plan with which I wholeheartedly concur.  And she's got so many favorite childhood memories I couldn't get her to disclose just one.

If you've read her other interviews, you'll know that Brand came to her, in a dream, demanding that his story - and those of his crew - be told.  Who could refuse a tall, sexy, powerful Viking?

One more point about why I love these books.  Despite the richness of historical detail, and the wonder of the paranormal elements, at their heart, they're romances.  A (cursed) man and a very special woman fall in love, and despite some formidable obstacles, they find ways to be together.  (Some very exciting, erotic ways, I might add.)

Now - your turn.  What did you love (or what intrigues you) about these books?  What was your favorite line or scene?  Which hero (or heroine) would you most like to meet in the flesh?  Or, what question(s) should I have asked Lisa that I was too starstruck to think of?

Leave a comment, below, and you may just win a set if Immortal Brotherhood Romance Trading cards (you want these, they're HAWT!) and an autographed copy of Immortal Champion.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Romantic Friday Writers - Blue Moon
Demie and Reece

For the rest of the RFW poems & stories, by writers who always bring a smile to my face, go here.

Denise (aka L'Aussie) & Francine, thank you so very much for starting this group, doing all the work to keep it going, and giving us such challenging prompts.  This week, Challenge #20, is Blue Moon.

This one's a brand new story, written for the challenge.  Since my guest on Monday writes paranormal smexy romance, thought I'd give it a whirl.

Word Count: 395; FCA (Full Critique Acceptable  - and requested, thank you!)


Reece's delectable lips formed words, his baritone voice rumbled them out, and his strong, sensitive hands illustrated his speech, "...then it became not a phenomenon of the elements in the atmosphere, shading the moon a blue color, but an event on the almanac."

He was so damn cute!  Eager to please as a puppy, yet arrogantly confident.  After all, he was what, 35, 40 years old?  Adorable.

"Fascinating," Demie captured his hand, stroking its back with her thumbnail, watching Reece shiver.  She drew the line at batting her eyelashes, but otherwise granted her males a generous allotment of attention and admiration.

Tonight Demie intended for her efforts to pay off on the beach, under the brilliance of said blue moon.

The question, should she bind him as mortal consort for a few decades?

Or simply drain his lesser powers and release him?  Demie never killed her mates; that was wasteful.  You always threw the little ones back, so they could spawn more of their own kind.

"You're so beautiful," he breathed, his eyes the color of the midnight ocean, seeking hers.  Reece brought her hand to his lips, kissing it with slow, sweet skill.

Mmmmmmm.  This one has potential.  A binding.  Definitely.

Later, legs entwined with legs, naked flesh pressed against flesh, the waxing moon bathing them in her silvery radiance, Demie opened her mouth to speak the first words of ritual.

"You are mine, as I am yours, as the sea belongs to the sand, and the sand to the sea," Reece said as he entered her.

She froze.  "Who are you, mortal?"

"No more mortal than you, Demeter."  he chuckled, tweaking a nipple.  "Shall I let you go, then?  Or...?"

He moved inside her demandingly, his fierce essence blending with hers, pulsing with the moontides.  She had to think; she couldn't think.

If she continued, they could be incredibly powerful.  Together.  But she would be as bound to Reece as he would be to her.  Full partners.

Reece gazed into her eyes, brushing the back of his fingers gently against her cheek, his supple mouth a question mark.

Demie laced her fingers into his, lips touching lips, "You are mine, as I am yours, as the moon belongs to the night sky, and the sky to the moon and stars."

As the glowing moon reached her zenith, so too their binding was fulfilled.

The Romantic Friday Writers weekly blogfest is open to all writers of romantic fiction.  Wanna join the party?  Click here for submission info.

Your thoughts? 

Please feel free to offer any and all criticism.  I'd like all my work to SELL, so if there's anything that took you out of the story, anything my male character said that you don't find believable coming from a guy, passive voice, present/past tense goofs, misplaced commas, repetitive vocabulary, or other flaws not listed here, please let me know. 


P.S. Coming on Monday 9-26-11 - Interview & Discussion with Historical Paranormal 
Romance author Lisa Hendrix on the Immortal Brotherhood series.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pirates! Did You Miss Talk Like A Pirate Day?

Okay, so I missed International Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Because that's how we roll, here.  Fashionably late.  Setting trends, not chasing them.

[whispering] She had no clue, did she?

[whispering back] Not even a tiny one.

I do, however, love me some pirates.  Kittehs wearing pirate hats kind of pirates.  The nicely washed, Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow Disney-style clean kinda pirates.

Romance hero pirates who are actually loyal servants of the Crown and noblemen in disguise  (not, however, the rape-y kind of romance hero pirates).

My current main character, Lexy, thinks of herself as a sexy pirate gal.  She accents her costume  with hand-knitted red-and-white striped stockings, for Halloween, and then recycles 'em for the ugly sweater parties at Christmas.

She even named her Prius the Black Pearl, and not for the vibrator line.

And yet, somehow, I missed Talk Like A Pirate Day.  Even though it's my sister's birthday, and her husband could definitely pass for a pirate.  He even has his own sailboat, and tattoo.

By the way, does anyone really know how pirates talked?  Did they actually go around saying "Aaargh, matey," swilling rum and collecting parrots?

Talk Like a Pirate Day Trivia from the Atlanta Examiner:
  • Actor Robert Nixon is known as the “Patron Saint of Talk Like a Pirate Day.” The actor portrayed pirates in the 1950 Disney film Treasure Island, the 1954 film Long John Silver, and the 1952 film Blackbeard, the Pirate.
  • The archetypal pirate grunt "Arrr!" (alternatively "Rrrr!" or "Yarrr!") first appeared in fiction as early as 1934 in the film Treasure Island starring Lionel Barrymore.
  • It has been speculated that the rolling "rrr" has been associated with pirates because of the location of major ports in the West Country of England, drawing labor from the surrounding countryside.
  • One of the most influential books on popular notions of pirate speech was Treasure Island, a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson.
  • When the wind blows hard on a wooden ship, the timbers literally rattle. This is a cause for surprise and concern ... therefore, "Shiver me timbers" is an expression of surprise.
Did you ever notice during a swordfight the parrots magically disappear?  Where do they go?

If you fancy yourself a true pirate expert, pirate trivia quizzes here will test your skill.

Anyway, here for your enjoyment is some great Pirate Music, from the amazingly wonderful Rodrigo y Gabriela (with a little Han Zimmer sprinkled in). 

I'm looking at it this way - I am not two days late for Talk Like A Pirate Day, I am 364 days early.  (See, I didn't forget about Leap Year in 2012.)

And for more fun and frolic, do not you forget about my special chat with romance author Liza Hendrix here this Monday.  She's bringing prizes!

Did you miss out on Talk Like A Pirate Day, too?
Or were you all over that like a lusty pirate on a buxom wench?
What was your best pirate line?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Making Room for The Critic

Buy the book, audiobook, or sign up for classes at
Stand-Up Comedy
Is there anything better to do on a long road trip than tune in to some comedy?

I knew I would be finishing my manuscript soon, and wanted to listen to this audiobook before I began editing, but it was hard to find the time.  Then I had 700 miles of Interstate 5 to burn.

Problem solved.

So what does stand-up comedy possibly have to do with editing a manuscript?  True, my particular work is (or tries to be) funny, but what's in here that would be helpful to writers who are not working on comedic material?

For one thing, all writers do need to know how to write a joke, how to add lighter moments or a funny character.  Even if your work is Deadly Serious, if you don't understand humor, your work is likely to be unintentionally funny in all the wrong places.  This audiobook has wonderful tips for creating and understanding jokes and humor, and for anyone who would like to learn to write humorous material.

It also delves into writing different Points of View.  How you not only have to write dialogue, for, say, an argument, but you have to become each character, to emotionally believe his (or her) POV when you are arguing his point.  It doesn't work if one character believes what she's saying, and her opponent is simply a straw man.  You've got to spend time in that head, too, truly believe that POV is right.

But it's Chapter 7 that I found most fascinating, as a writer.  It's about the rehearsal process.

Yes, boys and girls, comedians don't just leap onto the stage and start telling a bunch of jokes they've memorized.  In fact, great comedians don't memorize routines at all.  They focus on being storytellers, conveying the emotional impact of their jokes, rather than reciting a string of memorized words in exactly this or that order.

Okay - so what does this have to do with Writing?

Writing is about rewriting, that's what.

Greg goes into wonderful detail breaking apart The Creator and The Critic. 
For example, while practicing his material, a comic may allow The Critic to interject a constant stream of negative comments through internal self-talk.  It usually goes like this:

Creator: This guys goes into a confessional.  He says to the minister...
Critic: That was terrible, it's not a minister, it's a priest.  What's wrong with you?  You're so stupid.  It's a priest.  Now, try it again.
Creator: This guy grows...
Critic: What the hell are you doing?  Take it from the top.
Creator: This guy goes into a confessional.
Critic: You didn't pay your bills today.  You're going to get late charges added on to them.  Why did you stop?  You idiot.  Do it again.
Sound familiar yet?  Has The Critic made an appearance and started mouthing off while you're trying to work out a scene in your novel or short story?

Greg has many wonderful suggestions on how to encourage The Creator, which is the lively, fun spirit that the audience wants to hear, and still save a place for The Critic, who will sharpen the performance and make it better.

The Critic (aka, The Editor) is not simply a mean, heartless a$$hole, but somebody who is vital to the process for any creative person.

Part of Greg's process is to rehearse with our body in two physically separate locations.  When it's The Creator's turn to let fly and rehearse, it happens in THIS room or spot - and The Critic isn't even permitted within eyesight of The Creator.

Then when it's time to fine-tune, we walk to a different room, or at least a different location in the room.  Then The Critic can offer suggestions, point out weaknesses, etc.  It sounds a little nutty, but by creating two different physical locations for two different mental activities, over time the brain truly does recognize what to do in spot A, and what to do in spot B.

The Critic is only allowed to talk/interrupt when s/he is in The Critic Space.  And that's where I think these concepts could be very helpful to those writing or editing a manuscript, who have a constant stream of negative comments running either inside their heads, or coming out of their mouths.

Again, The Critic is only allowed to say his piece when our body is physically is in his corner.  (Or whoever else we want to put him.)

The thing is, The Critic is a necessary part of the psyche.  The Critic is not the enemy (though sometimes she feels like it).  In The Creative Fire audio series, Clarissa Pinkola Estes also talks about The Critic, allowing him a space to be.  To even interview him and ask him what he is thinking.

She even suggest visualizing him (or her).   Her critic looks kind of seedy, like a bookie.

We can't bury important parts of ourselves, like The Critic.  We need him, even if often we don't like what he has to say. 

Magnificent Audiobook -
Every writer should give it a listen.
Available here
If we don't make space to listen to The Critic, this often leads to The Critic breaking free and running amok, talking all the time.  What works is finding a role for him, and allowing him his rightful place, listening to him, but not letting him take over everything.

One thing I am trying to learn, is to make the writing and editing process separate.  I tend to edit while I write, which means I take waaaaay too long to finish a chapter or a piece, and I still have to edit it again, anyway.  My Critic shuts down my Creator all too often.  I am trying, now, to write, and then later, print out pages, step away from the computer, and edit them elsewhere.

Now I just have to learn to give my own, inner Critic the space to say what she needs me to hear, without letting her rule the roost.

What do you think about The Creator and The Critic?
Have you tried reserving a space for The Critic - and a safe place where she is banned?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Romantic Friday Writers - Bouquet!

For the rest of the RFW poems & stories, by writers who always bring a smile to my face, go here.

Denise (aka L'Aussie) & Francine, thank you so very much for starting this group, doing all the work to keep it going, and giving us such challenging prompts.  This week, Challenge #19, is Bouquet

My first (agented) novel began as CONSTANCE AND HER SEVEN LOVERS, title later changed to THE TROUBLE WITH YES.  I recently realized several things about this novel:

1)  It was not, actually, ready for prime time, so I am glad it is yet unpublished.
2)  I still really like the bones of this story, and although on review much of it is dreadul, there is much good that can be salvaged.
3)  I still love this character, even if many of my rejections said she was unlikeable.  I think part of that is some readers see her as "too slutty," and a bigger part is I failed to convey her charm and vulnerability.  I see her as much like Ado Annie from Oklahoma (Will: Was you thinkin' about him, when you was kissin' me?  Annie (indignant): Of course not!  I'm never thinkin' about no man - lessen' I'm with him.)

I'll let Connie explain her flower dilemma in her own words.

Word Count: 397; FCA (Full Critique Acceptable (and requested, thank you!)

No, nobody died, though it does look like a funeral parlor in here.

I’m a sucker for flowers.  Something El, my fiancé, never understood.  He thinks that instead of “wasting” cash on flowers, a man should save his money, buy his girlfriend... a bond or something.  Be still my heart - not!

So when the extremely fine stripper from my bridal shower presented me with the red rose he’d held between his teeth, of course I was going to keep it.  My first mistake, though, was not telling everybody... Shawn was my ex-boyfriend.

One of them, anyway, and it was bizarre how my life became ex-boyfriend whack-a-mole.  Ran into Tommy, my childhood sweetheart, at the grocery store, and then he had to stop by with a hand-picked bouquet with flowers he’d scrounged from my neighbors’ yard.

via Randy OHC from Flickr
Then Wayne’s mom shared a hospital room with Aunt Helen, and he sent his usual, over-the-top fancy-ass arrangement, with divine-smelling freesia and yellow roses.  Still married, still a charming sleazeball, but even if I threw him out... it wasn’t the flowers’ fault.

Deborah, my BFF, is the keeper of all my secrets, like the night we, you know, experimented together in college.  Didn’t realize until recently she had a few secrets of her own.  She sent an elegant white flower, in a tall slender vase, as an apology for bailing on my bridal dress fitting.

via Wikimedia Commons
I literally bumped into Herbie with my car, and El went so jealous and weird on me, even though he was there, the whole time.  Herbie brought over the plant when he met us to sign the insurance papers.  It’s flattering that he still believes I could keep a computer running... or a plant alive.

I know judgmental people would say I shouldn’t have let Luis spend the week at my place, after he got kicked out of his own, but that actually worked out well.  He cleaned the apartment, never made a move on me, and even left me sunflowers...  strong, simple, vibrant.  Like him.
from healingdream at FreeDigitalPhotos

Sometimes I think El possesses just enough of the qualities of my past lovers to make me happy, and sometimes I think he doesn’t have any of them.  I’m beginning to think I can’t marry him unless he can listen to me.  Stop shutting me down when I try to explain... things.

He’s got to understand how much I love flowers.

The Romantic Friday Writers weekly blogfest is open to all writers of romantic fiction.  Wanna join the party?  Click here for submission info.

Your thoughts? 

Please feel free to offer any and all criticism.  I'd like all my work to SELL, so if there's anything that took you out of the story, anything my male character said that you don't find believable coming from a guy, passive voice, present/past tense goofs, misplaced commas, repetitive vocabulary, or other flaws not listed here, please let me know. 


P.S. Coming on Monday 9-26-11 - Interview & Discussion with Historical Paranormal 
Romance author Lisa Hendrix on the Immortal Brotherhood series.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

If I Could Be Anyone, I'd Be...
Watching Willow Watts Websplash

Talli Roland has invited a couple hundred of her closest blogging friends to join in this websplash party.

And our prompt is, if I could be anyone, I'd be...

Her character, Willow Watts, has let herself in for a world of trouble...

About Watching Willow Watts
For Willow Watts, life has settled into a predictably dull routine: days behind the counter at her father's antique shop and nights watching TV, as the pension-aged residents of Britain's Ugliest Village bed down for yet another early night. But everything changes when a YouTube video of Willow's epically embarrassing Marilyn Monroe impersonation gets millions of hits after a viewer spots Marilyn's ghostly image in a frame.

Instantly, Willow's town is overrun with fans flocking to see the 'new Marilyn'. Egged on by the villagers -- whose shops and businesses are cashing in -- Willow embraces her new identity, dying her hair platinum and ramming herself full of cakes to achieve Marilyn's legendary curves.

But when a former flame returns seeking the old Willow, Willow must decide: can she risk her stardom and her village's newfound fortune on love, or is being Marilyn her ticket to happiness?
So I started there - would I want to be Marilyn Monroe?

Well.  She was stunningly beautiful, warm, funny, achingly vulnerable.  I wouldn't mind being Marilyn - if I could be a little stronger and more secure, not messed up by pill-pushing doctors, and obviously, surviving my thirties would be a big plus.

In other words, not Marilyn.

Marie Curie?  Brilliant scientist, Nobel Peace prize winner for both physics and chemistry.  Widowed when her daughters were very young.  Died of leukemia due to constant exposure to radioactive elements.  Not sounding like a party in a box.

Babe Didrickson - amazing athlete, baseball star, track & field gold medalist, one of the best LPGA players of all time, with 31 tournament wins.  Golf every day for years, really?  [shuddering]

Angelina Jolie - she's beautiful, wealthy, has Brad Pitt and all those children.   Yep, she has Brad Pitt and all those children.

Dorothy Parker, famous wit, two Academy Award noms, three marriages.  Alcoholic, suicidal, blacklisted as a Commie... Could I take the talent straight up, hold the tragedy?

Cleopatra?  Queen Elizabeth (Tudor)?  Mother Theresa?  Eleanor Roosevelt?  I 'druther have a more successful sex life, thank you.

I scrolled through list after list of amazing, talented women - comediennes, politicians, athletes, singer-songwriters, fashion designers, princesses, activists, saints and businesswomen.  I found much to admire, but nobody I'd really rather be.  Not if I had to take all the bits of their lives, the tragic childhoods, the cheating husbands, the constant cameras up the backside...

Men?  Oh, please.  (See successful sex life, above.) 

For all the challenges, sorrows and frustrations I have - I still love my own life.  I wouldn't want to be anybody else (well, maybe for an hour or two.)
I think the idea of "trying on" another life, short-term, sounds like fun, and certainly Talli's book sounds like an entertaining read.  It's in my TBR queue on my Kindle this minute.

Just like in real life, I am one of the last to the party, even one that's online.  The link to find the rest of the party people participating is here on Talli Roland's blog.

Think the book sounds great?  Of course you do!  You can buy it:

So, who would YOU be, if you could be anyone else?
What if you just got to try on his/her life for size for a little while?

Monday, September 12, 2011

I Didn't Write a 9/11 Post

Flight 93 Memorial via Wikimedia.
I started to, but just couldn't.

Nor did I join in many of the ceremonies of remembrance, or post much on the blogs of others who wrote on the subject.  I didn't watch, nor record to watch later, any of the documentaries or "events" that I understand were being broadcast all week/all weekend.

Partly it was pure selfishness.  I was in the very last stretch of finishing the novel I've been plugging away on, for what seems like an eternity, and I begrudged the time.  (And yes, I finished the first draft, late last night.)  But mainly, I knew if I "went there," mentally and emotionally, I would be trashed.

Sometimes I handle dark anniversaries well, sometimes I don't.  Sometimes I need a good long wallow in sadness and heartbreak, and it's cathartic and healing.  Other times, I just need to "put on a happy face" and refuse to even skirt the edges of the heavy emotional stuff, lest I get bogged down.

An essential part of growing as a human being is learning to be present with who we are, where we are emotionally, and to respect that.  Learning to say yes to new people, experiences, challenges, but also being willing to say no.  No, I won't watch your kids for free every Friday night.  No, at the risk of appearing anti-social, I'm not going to play the "awards" game.  No, I'm not going to watch X on TV, or read Y, or go to place Z, just because everybody else is.  Not unless *I* want to.

I see so many writers who put intense pressure on themselves, to write, to promote, to befriend.  I understand that's part of the deal.  But what's up with the needless guilt and invidious comparisons?

I know (and admire)  writers like Maisey Yates and Jeremy Robinson who turn out incredible numbers of good books in a short amount of time.  I'm thrilled for them (and only a teeny bit jealous).  I know people who make fabulous comments on several dozen blogs every day.  Or read eight books a week.  Or raise six kids while completing their doctorates.

I'm not those people - I'm me.  It's my job to take care of the person who lives inside my skin, who isn't exactly like anyone else on this whole planet.

There are still only 24 hours in a day, and only 7 days in a week.  It's okay to hang up the Superwoman cape - it wasn't a flattering look for me, anyway.

Have you tried to do it all, and then felt guilty for "failing"?
Are you learning that No isn't a four-letter word?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Romantic Friday Writers - Lunch Date
Cristina & Jimmy from CLOSE KNIT

For the rest of the RFW poems & stories, by writers who always bring a smile to my face, go here.

Denise (aka L'Aussie) & Francine, thank you so very much for starting this group, doing all the work to keep it going, and giving us such challenging prompts.  This week, Challenge #18, is Lunch Date
What could be better than a lunch date for a romantic liaison!

Oooh, oooh, is it a champagne picnic? Maybe it's a romantic lunch on boat, plane, train! Perhaps it's a spur of the moment lunch date! Could even be a Big Mac on the hoof date! Then again, it could be lunch ordered in and one hell of an office surprise! Whatever, feed the romance, play on the heartstrings, and let the LUV flow!

Word Count: 390; FCA (Full Critique Acceptable (and requested, thank you!)

These characters are featured in my WIP, CLOSE KNIT, although this is a prequel that won't be featured in the novel.

She looked across the noisy loft full of women working the sewing machines, and there he was.  Very male, very Anglo, and very out-of-place, clutching a bedraggled freeway bouquet.

Cristina’s cheeks grew hot as she walked over to him.  “Hi, Jimmy.”

“I, uh, thought I’d surprise you,” he thrust the flowers at her, “and take you out to lunch.  You do get to take a lunch break, don’t you?”  He looked around nervously.

The women stole glances at him, whispering things like “que bueno!” “sexy!” and “hombre muy macho” to one another and tittering.  Someone even let out a low wolf whistle, though each time Cristina looked at a woman directly, she seemed entirely focused upon her work.

Gracias, I mean, thank you, Jimmy.”  She kissed his cheek, too self-conscious to kiss his lips in front of the employees she supervised, and took his arm as she headed to the employee break room, where she secured a vase and placed the flowers in it.  “You certainly have surprised me.  Don’t you have to work today?”

“We were having a slow day, my sister suggested I take the afternoon off, and I couldn’t wait till Friday night.  I wanted to see you, now.”  He looked sweetly worried. “ I hope I’m not getting you into trouble.”

Not unless being teased to death in the upcoming weeks counts as trouble, she thought.  Or if her supervisor - well, she’d deal with that, if she had to.  “Noooo, but we had better leave soon.  I am supposed to take my lunch when my girls do.”  The lunch whistle blew, and the floor vibrated with the tread of many feet racing for the stairs, restrooms and lunch room.

They ducked out past the crowd, hand-in-hand to a small café that Cristina knew.

Only dating for six weeks, and Jimmy was full of surprises and small kindnesses.  Cristina kept her eyes mostly on her plate, but looked up to find his blue eyes intent on her face.

“You even eat prettily.  Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?”

She shook her head.  “I’m not beautiful.”

“You are to me.  I feel like the luckiest guy in LA.”

“Perhaps I am the lucky one,” she said.  And the way he kissed her goodbye, before she floated back upstairs to her afternoon shift, she felt even luckier.

The Romantic Friday Writers weekly blogfest is open to all writers of romantic fiction.  Wanna join the party?  Click here for submission info.

Your thoughts? 

Please feel free to offer any and all criticism.  I'd like all my work to SELL, so if there's anything that took you out of the story, anything my male character said that you don't find believable coming from a guy, passive voice, present/past tense goofs, misplaced commas, repetitive vocabulary, or other flaws not listed here, please let me know. 


Friday, September 2, 2011

Wanna Get Wet?

What?  Another phoned in post?  Another one?  After I railed about this very thing?

Kinda sorta in a way - there's nothing here, true, but I do have a flash fiction story up on Karen Wojcik Berner's Bibliophilic Blather.  Slightly snarky, slightly smexy, full of tart summery goodness, like one of those tall sweet cocktails with an umbrella on top.  (Which I think I'm going to mix up, right this minute.)

Click the link to read Getting Wet with the Suicidal Bees.

Then go for a swim, or a barbecue, or a love affair. Even if you might get stung.  Life is always worth the risk.

(Re: Romantic Friday Writers - I haven't abandoned the group, just been waylaid by"stuff."  Hope to be back on track with a new story on Friday, Sept 9.  In the meantime, please check out a variety of great stories and poems by newbie and experienced writers on the theme of Heart Stopper!)

How are you spending this (USA) Labor Day weekend?  
Writing or reading anything yummy?  
Or fleeing the written word altogether?