Saturday, August 8, 2009

From Death to Love

I spent today doing research for The Mark of Abel.

Some nice man put together online a list of the big massacres. At 10pts it's over 15 pages long. I picked out ones I found interesting. In the back of the book, I'll list the massacres Sophia died in. Some people have play lists. I have a death list.

So I'm a little creepy. That's project number one.

The moon is amazingly beautiful. Not only does it continually change its phase and travel across the sky, but like the sun it rises and sets. Unlike the sun, the difference from day to day is more than a couple minutes, so the moon isn't always out at night. Nothing takes me out of a book faster than getting the moon wrong. So I had to get it right.

I spent way too much time on the National Naval Observatory's website looking at moonrise and moonset times. Since I write about vampires, it's a good idea to know when the sun rises and sets as well.

Of course, I had to cross reference this with when the Fall foliage is peak in New Hampshire. I found a neat map where you hover over the date and it shows what the foliage was for the entire state for 2008. As Hubby says, "In books, it's always Fall in New England." True, but I need this to be towards the beginning of the school year and a time when the nights are getting longer. October is perfect.

I know I'm nuts. That's research project number two.

Research project number three involved making Janie into the ideal teacher. I want her to be the teacher we all wish we had. That meant I had to figure out what types of teachers others wanted and appreciated. I did a search for "favorite professors." There's a lot of stuff out there. After over an hour, I decided I had enough material (and dinner needed to be made). From that I got ideas for two awesome scenes that will really show the reader who Janie is.

Reading all those nice things alumni said and figuring out two great scenes was a nice way to end the writing day.

So, tell me about your favorite teachers.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

What are you doing to break in?

Literary agent Rachel Gardner today asked What are you doing to break in?

The standard answers boil down to working on our craft and writing a lot. Everyone does that. Near perfect craft is not going to get you a publishing contract. You can work on your query and synopsis until they shine, your pitch until it sings, these won't get you through that gate if your book is missing one important ingredient--you. You are what makes your book unique. You are what makes your book interesting. You are what will get that publishing contract.

We talk about branding and platform, but that isn't what I mean. Each one of us is a collection of hopes and fears. We believe in things passionately. We wants things. We have experienced tragedy. We have moments in life where we soar. We have a heart, a mind, a soul. There are things we know, things we want to know. These are what makes us unique and these are what make our books special. Pouring these into our writing is what gets us published.

Kontanti Stanislavsky said "Craft is always secondary to the truth of emotional connection."

I work on my craft and I write everyday. I also pour myself into my writing, my time, my energy, my money, but most of all, who I am, what makes me me.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Plot holes you can drive a school bus through

This is the second part of my reaction to the Torchwood mini-series "Children of Earth"

Spoilers for "Children of Earth"

If the ending of "Children of Earth" had thrilled me, I never would have started picking the show apart, but when the show betrayed what it stood for, that is a natural reaction. People across the net have said the ending made it “realistic.” There was very little that was realistic about that mini-series.

First, it is science fiction. Yes, it is fiction, but all sci-fi requires some sort of grounding in science that allows the audience to suspend disbelief and keeps them in the story. The characters of CoE were TSTL, To Stupid To Live. Any plot that requires that doesn’t hold up, especially in science fiction.

The premise of CoE was that powerful aliens, the 456, wanted 10% of Earth’s children because the children were like ecstasy for them. Interesting premise, but Russell T. Davis forgot the root of all science fiction, “what if?” What if powerful aliens wanted 10% of Earth’s children because the children were like ecstasy for them? Interesting question. Too bad his answer had no basis in reality.

When asked what the aliens want the children for, they show one of the children. That is no answer. It isn’t until Day 5, when plans are already in motion to gather the children, that we find out why the aliens want the children. We need this answer for one reason, to find an alternative. If what the kids produce gets them high, we find another way to provide the 456 with that. It’s that simple. What if powerful aliens wanted 10% of Earth’s children because the children were like ecstasy for them? We provide the 456 with whatever it is that gets them high without harming a single child. End of story. If I can figure this out, so can the scientists and government officials.

Captain Jack has dealt with hostile aliens before. Did he really think for half a moment Ianto and he would confront the 456 and they would just back down? Did he think it was safe to bring Ianto with him to confront a hostile alien? While we are on safety, what were all those people doing at Thames House? Aliens show up and the place is down to essential personnel only. TSTL

Second the chain of events required an unrealistic portrayal of parents, the military and the government.

I’ll do parents first, since I am one. If my children froze and started saying “We are coming,” when they returned to normal, I wouldn’t go back to life as usual. Especially if it happened again, I would be demanding answers from my government. The riots would have started after the first transmission. There is no way the government can convince me aliens who control my children like this are here for good reasons. Parents would have been storming Thames House.

There are parents who won’t get their children inoculated for various reasons, chiefly the connection between early vaccination and autism. I believe in immunization and there is no way I’m going to let my child play guinea pig with an untried vaccine, unless my child is on the verge of death.

The government starts rounding up children. I see my children being taken away in a school bus. Remember Tiananmen Square? Remember the guy standing in front of the tank? I can’t think of a single parent who wouldn’t throw themselves in front of a school bus to save their child or they would get their car and block the bus’s way.

Parents aren’t dumb. We aren’t going to just rush armed soldiers. We are going to get our firearms. If we don’t have guns, we will get them anyway necessary. Gun shop owners, who tend to believe the worst in the government, would probably be handing them out. Neighbors would share. Even if the UK isn't as gun happy as the USA, there are still guns there, but you don't need guns.

There are tons of ways to make explosives. Molotov cocktails are easy to make. I’m not going to rush an armed blockade, at least not with my body. I’ll get in my car and run over anyone between me and my child. We will fight for our children and we will do so with our brains.

Next up, the military. I live on a military base and we have a school on base. I see our soldiers with not only their children, but others’. There is no way in hell soldiers will calmly round up children. Not under orders. Not under threats. They won’t do it. To show soldiers coldly carrying screaming and kicking children is an insult.

The threats would only make them more resistant. If the threat is against their family, then what is happening to these children they are rounding up? Anyone who gave the order to round children up would be shot.

On a similar note, this is supposedly happening all over the world. With their history, in Germany would any soldier agree to round up anyone, let alone children? Would the citizens allow this? What about Poland? France? The Netherlands? Anywhere Nazis rounded up people? What about in Russia or the former Soviet or Iron Curtain nations? What about in Israel? Think about that one. Russell T. Davies said “Don’t think it can’t happen here. It happens in other places.” It has happened here. The Naziis and the Soviets used to do it and that created a history that is a scar on Europe’s psyche. That’s just Europe. No soldier is going to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Now the government. Despite what some people would like to think, the government is neither stupid nor evil. Not only would they find an alternative, they wouldn’t be stupid enough to think that their immunization plan would have any effect.

Nor could they calmly sit there and agree to give up millions of children, especially when the aliens have done nothing to us. The government agreed to this before Thames House was poisoned, before we have been attacked in any way. Committing troops, grow men and women who agree to risk their lives, is not an easy decision. The government isn’t going to coldly hand over children.

The general population would already be in hysterics. Aliens show up. No one is going to sit around to be lunch. There would be looting and mass hysteria. Dogs and cats living together. The military would be too busy trying to maintain order to round up anyone. The government would be too preoccupied with trying to restore peace.

Any show that requires people be TSTL doesn’t deserve to consider itself science fiction. Any show that has plot holes big enough to drive a school bus through isn’t realistic. Any show that violates the themes it was built on betrays the audience.

And is not something I can watch any longer.

(but it makes a great show to examine what not to do)

I believed in you, I trusted you and now I'm asking why

This will be split into two entries. The first deals with my disappointment of Russell T. Davies and the second the plot holes in "Children of Earth."

Spoilers for the Torchwood mini-series “Children of Earth.”

I believed in you. I trusted you. Now I’m asking myself why.

I’m not sure who that statement applies to, Alice or me. There is one thing worse than a writer letting you down, feeling betrayed by that writer. There are writers who have never let me down and I will defend even their mistakes. Joss Whedon tops this list, but Russell T. Davies wasn’t far behind. What he’s done with Doctor Who is nothing short of brilliance and Torchwood was one of my favorite shows, emphasis on “was.”

Series, whether books or television, aren’t just based around characters. They are based around a theme. Star Trek boldly went where no one had before. Not just in terms of space exploration, but an optimistic view of the future . That wasn’t science fiction. Where was the dystopic view? Instead of a gloomy post-apocalyptic society fighting to survive, we got the triumph of the human spirit. It was truly beautiful.

At least it was until Ron Moore got his grubby hands on it and created the Borg. That was the last this avid Trekker watched. I no longer trusted the series to give me an enjoyable experience and wasn’t going to waste the little precious time I had on something depressing.

Few shows celebrate the human spirit like Doctor Who. That is the foundation, marrow and soul of the Whoverse. At least it used to be.

Russell T. Davies in the Torchwood mini-series “Children of Earth” not only turned his back on that, but stomped all over it. Alice believe in her father. If not for this belief, he never would have gotten out of jail. If not for this belief, he never would have believe in himself enough to try to save the children. How was Alice repaid? Her son was murdered. Instead of being rewarded for her faith, she lost more than anyone.

If you are going to kill kids (and you definitely don’t show this torture), there had better be a damn good reason to the story. Jack needed to be willing to sacrifice both his grandson and daughter (he knew this action would cause him to lose his daughter). It is that willingness that makes him a hero. He needed to believe he had murdered his grandson. Those things are integral to Jack’s story.

However, there was no reason his grandson had to actually die. There is an important word there, “actually.” The boy was tough enough to be the transmitter long enough to destroy the 456. If he was just a tad tougher, he would have survived.

Think about the moment this would have caused. Jack is despondent he murdered his own grandson. Alice is holding the son she believes is dead. Then his eyes open or someone notices he’s breathing. Talk about an emotional and beautiful moment. Heaven forbid Jack save everyone and the show end on a happy note.

At the end of “The Doctor Dances” the ninth Doctor celebrates that no one died. One of those saved was Jack. He was willing to sacrifice himself because he was the cause of the danger and there is a beautiful moment of him talking to his ship. Then the Doctor shows up and saves him with the Tardis. This did not negate Jack’s willingness to sacrifice himself. It did not make him any less of a hero. It just gave us a great note to end the episode on and a great way to integrate Jack into the show.

I love Captain Jack. I love his humor and his laugh. I love his smile and the way his eyes sparkle. I love the wounded hero who keeps trying. Where was that Jack? That’s the Jack Russell T. Davies wants to leave me with? (there was no guarantee of a fourth season) He is now on the same list as Ron Moore.

If the ending had thrilled me, I never would have started picking the show apart, but when the show betrayed what it stood for, that is a natural reaction. People across the net have said the ending made it “realistic.” There was very little that was realistic about that mini-series.

(next entry: some of the problems with the show)

Friday, June 19, 2009

How to Show Through Voice

I was asked by the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter of the Romance Writers of America to write an article for their blog expanding on a response I gave on their loop about how to show rather than tell.

We've all seen the examples. This is telling...this is showing. They are taken completely out of context and really did little for me. Once I started focusing on shaping the characters' voices, showing came along for the ride.

Here's the article:

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I avoid writing controversies. That doesn't seem congruous with my history--I don't avoid controversies; I cause them--but that is my net presence now. On Nathan Bransford's blog when they were talking about whether vamp novels were overdone and finished, towards the end of the discussion I said "I'm tired of people who don't read vampire novels declaring they are dead. If you want to know whether there will be an audience for vamp novels, ask the current audience." On another blog, I defended paranormal fantasy by comparing it to the romantic movement. That's as ranty as I get.

But I cannot avoid controversy. If my current MS becomes popular I will be the center of several controversies.

My oldest daughter's friend's mother is already concerned about her playing over here because I write about vampires. She hasn't seen anything. I reimagine the Bible, including the gospels, and early Christian history. The religious right is going to love me.

Janie has a paternal grandmother who is Chinese, but Janie is not in touch with her heritage. This is an important part of her backstory, but there will be those who criticize me for it.

There will people who disagree. I can either not write the story the muse is giving me or I can accept what I write will be controversial for many reasons.

Guess which I choose.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Supernatual Archetypes

Many of you know me from a message board attached to masqthephlsphr's wonderful site All Things Philosophical on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel the Series. (ATPoBtVS&AtS) Over there I was lunasea.

Many of my essays on ATPoBtVS&AtS were based on Jungian theories. Some of these essays can be found in my memories at my livejournal:
More Angel,
more Buffy,

While you are there, you might want to check out my best and most personal Joss essay.
I'm not Damaged.

At the core of Jungian theory is the Collective Unconscious and the archetypes. These are defined as "the psychic component to instinct." Some of the forms they take are mother, teacher, healer, monster, and so on. Horror movies and literature hits us so hard because they tap into these archetypes.

As our views of the psyche have changed, so have the forms supernatural creatures take. Vampires and werecreatures haven't been defanged/declawed to make them more palatable. They have evolved as we have. Because of men like Dr. Jung, we are more aware of the unconscious. Our vamps don't have to spend half their time in death sleep, and our weres can be aware of and in control of what happens during their changed forms.

As our attitudes change, so do the forms the archetypes take. What needed to be expressed in repressed Victorian England isn't the same thing as what 21st century Man is dealing with. Post sexual revolution, sexuality isn't something we fear. In the Information Age, we aren't afraid our animal sides will take over. So what happens to how the archetypes are expressed?

In urban fantasy and paranormal romance, often the story is about how supernatural creatures interact with humans. This is best illustrated in Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series, where not only are supernatural creatures out of the closet, but the world itself is built on shifting periods of "magic" and "tech." This is also illustrated by the romance storylines where a human female and a male supernatural have to find a way to make their relationship work, often resisting their attraction at first. We do not fear sexuality or our animal sides, but we have yet to fully integrate these sides. Our stories represent this.

If this were all these stories did, there wouldn't be an entire sub-genre that is popular enough to do well in these hard economic times. These books aren't built on fear. They have more in common with Joss Whedon than Bram Stoker. They are not genre literature that typically is plot driven. UF/PN is strongly character driven and each one not only has a unique universe where their are different mixes of supernatural creatures who have different powers and weaknesses, but the characters deal with different issues.

The sub-genre is driven by women. We are the majority of writers, the majority of readers and the majority of characters. Despite the equality of men and women, we have different psyches. We evolved to be different, so our archetypes are different and we look for different things for our entertainment.

A main theme present in UF is freedom. Sexual freedom, illustrated by Riley Jensen and Anita Blake. Freedom from societal expectations, illustrated by Faythe Sanders. Freedom to chose who we want for a partner.

Another common theme is dealing with the hand you have been dealt, illustrated by Sookie Stackhouse, Anita Blake, Mercy Thompson, and Elena Michaels. As tired as i get of characters whining about being supernatural, they whine because part of their storyline is accepting this.

Another theme is an outsider fighting the system, even the one they are supposed to be part of, illustrated by Harry Dresden and Faythe Sanders. Sometimes it i someone who is different feeling like they are an outsider, illustrated by Kate Daniels and Mercy Thompson.

These are issues, even as evolved as our society is, that women are still facing. Often these issues are repressed, not because we want to repress women, but because we like to think of ourselves as having evolved to a state of actual equality. These are issues that will probably always be present to some degree in both sexes, but the popularity of this sub-genre shows that these issues are strongly in play currently, especially in women.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

This or this - A writer's eye chart

This or this

Those of us optically challenged will recognize this phrase said by the optician in an attempt to correct mother nature's cruel joke. I'm sure she is in the aetheric laughing. What is funnier than giving avid readers and writers poor eyesight? At least we humans get the last laugh with stylish frames and contacts that make our eyes even bluer.

For those who are blessed with perfect vision (I don't hate you, really I don't), some man or woman in a white lab coat worn to fill us with confidence that they are just the magician we need to achieve perfection sticks this huge ugly black thing in front of us that contains the relief our poor souls are crying out for.

"This or this," he or she says as we compare the two different lens we are presented by the huge black magic glasses machine. Sometimes it's "A or B." The purpose of this activity is to determine the magic numbers that will forever change our lives by allowing us to read and write without getting headaches from squinting at all the blurry lines. It's an important activity, boring, but important.

She or he doesn't stop until this and this start producing results that are too close to tell apart, thus narrowing down the precise numbers to write on the little piece of white paper to take to another magician to get our corrective lens in whatever form our vanity decides on.

Writing is like the huge black magic glasses machine. Our wonderful muse keeps presenting us with options, at least she does when our hot male lead isn't busy seducing her, and we have to decide between them. This or this, she says as our fingers glide across the keyboard. Sometime the this'es are small things, but sometimes they aren't.

That's what I've been facing this last month. "This or this" my muse says when it comes to where to start the book. "This or this" she says as I determine which character to center the book around. "This or this," she says when it comes to the all important choice of POV.

There was one problem. To determine which this is better, we look through the huge black magic glasses machine at a chart with pretty letters on it. What is the chart when it comes to writing? That's what separates the writers who are good at their craft from those who are great writers.

"Craft is always secondary to the truth of emotional connection"
-Konstanti Stanislavsky

That is the eye chart writers use. When we lose sight of that, all the this and this'es in the world won't matter. We can't see clearly when we have nothing to look at to determine what is clear.

That quote is written in big letters above my computer. I lost sight of what drove me to write The Fallen in the first place, way back when it was called Rejection: A Vampire's Tale. A scene--a vampire biting someone, but feeling rejected when she reacts with horror--is what came to me five years ago. That strong emotion is what got me to the computer every day November 2007. Even when I had a 102 degree fever over Thanksgiving weekend, I drove myself to the library to escape the distractions of family and mirth.

Surprisingly, when I brought the story back to the emotions of the vampire, craft came along for the ride. For the first time ever, I feel like my work can compare to the likes of Kelley Armstrong and Keri Arthur. I spent 6 hours rewriting chapter 1 yesterday, and what came out was very good. It is tight, sensuous and most importantly emotional.

So with my new frames, (tenth verse same as the first) writing the story from the first person of the vampire, and my new eye chart, focusing on the emotional connection, I am tackling yet another major rewrite of The Fallen.

Let's hope the huge black magic glasses machine has steered me right.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A personal plea regarding Nalini Singh's Angel's Blood

I first heard about Nalini Singh's Angel's Blood (book one of the new Guild Hunter series) on one of the livejournal blogs mid January. The premise had me hooked. What's better than vampires, vampire hunters and archangels. I love the tag line "When archangel's play, mortals break." I couldn't wait for it to come out. It immediately went on the list I gave my local indie bookstore of books for them to get me.

A week went by and Nalini announced a contest. The prize, one of the ARC's (Advanced Reader Copies). I put my name into the hat. On Jan 20, I found out I was one of the winners. It arrived two days later. It doesn't have the pretty artwork. It's bright yellow and sticks out on my bookshelf.

When it came, I told my kids "This is the neatest thing ever." Their response, "I thought we were the neatest things ever." After I assured them that Mommy loves them, I went upstairs and devoured the book. I've been trying to figure out my review of it ever since.

I told myself that it was because I wanted to read it again. It was the first book I've read this year, where the urge to immediately reread it was overwhelming. I reread it and still wasn't able to write my review. Last night, I figured out my problem.

Writing this without being spoilery is next to impossible. The writing is superb, the characters are interesting, the pacing is dead on and everything else that makes a book great is there in droves. I can picture every detail from gleaming Angel's Tower with the angels taking off an landing right down to the beauty of the angels' wings. This book is truly beautiful. I want to see it made into a movie, just to see the various angels' wings. She creates a world that both makes the angels fit into our world, yet at the same time keeps them elevated. Oh, and these aren't cherubs with harps.

That isn't what I want to talk about. No, strike that, that isn't what I need to talk about. It is the relationship between the vampires and angels that has me emailing her to ask her how she came up with the idea. It is the ending that has me needing to know where the series will go. This is one of the most creative ideas I've ever seen.

I wanted to win that ARC very badly. Well, be careful what you wish for. Since I got an ARC, I can't go online and talk about this. Never since Buffy the Vampire Slayer went off the air has the need to talk about something been so great.

So here's what I want you guys to do (see me on my knees), please please go out and buy this book. It's available officially March 3, but I saw it in Waldenbooks Wednesday, so you may be lucky. Please, read it so I have someone to talk about it with. Then come back here and talk to me.

If you don't, I'll explode.

Monday, February 23, 2009

What a Great Night

Last week, I got thrashed when I submitted the first paragraph over on Ilona Andrews' blog, but that is really good. I need to be able to deal with bad reviews. I've changed the beginning, so that isn't even the first paragraph anymore. Comments I received over at helped me see some areas that needed work. Also, changing from UF to paranormal romance lets me focus on different things.

I put the end of chapter 12 over at Miss Snark's First Victim's blog. Hopefully, I'll get more positive comments.

Today, I started the first round of rewrites. I still have two chapters to write, but decided those would get done in the rewrites. As of right now, the first chapter has been split in two. The new first chapter is done. Five pages of something I'm actually happy with. It is tighter than before, full of tension, really puts you in Janie's head and introduces Janie and what she wants much better. The first 3 pages are completely new. Tomorrow I will create the icon of the cover I've designed.

And I won something!!! I enter so many contests, the law of averages is that I have to win occasionally. I won a signed copy of Jeanine Frost's Halfway to the Grave, her One Foot in the Grave and Charlaine Harris' Dead Until Dark (original cover, not the post HBO sextacular one). Is it May yet? I need my Eric fix.

I need to crit tomorrow and I need to write my review of Nalini Singh's Angel's Blood. More importantly, I'm in the mood for my rewrites, so hopefully, tomorrow I can knock out chapter 2 and maybe even 3. Some chapters need more work than others, so hopefully, I can do more than one chapter some days.

I'm doing my first round of rewrites. I can't believe it. I might actually stick to the schedule I've set for myself. Maybe.


Friday, February 20, 2009

My first post

I need to transfer a lot of stuff from my old blog. This is the first post I'm making here.

Two more chapters and The Fallen is done. Then I get to start the massive rewrite and I mean massive. I've taken 10K words out and moved them to the second book in the series. That leaves me at 71K now. This is good, since there are sections I greatly need to expand.

But that isn't what makes me on writer heaven.

I have the rough outline for the third book and damn is it good. If the first doesn't sell, this one definitely will. It is heavier on the UF and less on the Christian mythology. Other than Azazel, there isn't really anything biblical in it. And there are werewolves!!! Witches and werewolves and a vampire and a fallen angel. What's not to love?

This means that I have to change the name of the second vampire/Grigori that Daniel fights, but that is a small thing. John thinks I should name her Mel. Maybe I will. Let's see, research time. Melanie comes from the Greek for black or dark. Hey it works! So Azazel is now Mel.

Semhazai still works for the last vampire they face. Need a good name for the first one. Was going to be Sariel, but I think he needs a new one. Maybe I'll rename him Wayne for the Great One since he's a hockey fan. No. That 's what's the word? Oh yeah, lame.

Let's see. The Quebec Nordique's first coach was Maurice. Maurice means dark skinned. Not quite right. Their first star was JC for Jean Claude. (gotta love wikipedia) That might work. He can even be called JC, Wait, I remember what John means, seeing as I'm married to one and that definitely doesn't work. Besides I already have a Janie.

My favorite hockey player was Mario Lemieux Mario means manly. I think I have a winner. YAY!!!

Daniel: God is my judge. I liked the name and it ended up working perfectly
Mario: Manly
Melanie: Black/Dark
Semhazai: Heaven seizer
Maggie: who has her name for a reason that will be revealed book 2
Janie: wonder if she'd change her name when she becomes a vampire. Nah. That would get too confusing. Daniel/Lucifer is bad enough.

So, did you like that peek into a writer's mind?