Friday, July 31, 2009

Did the Recession Steal Romance?

Like many people, I saw the headlines at MSN.com yesterday. The topic that got me thinking was whether the recession was ruining romance. Of course, they were talking about the literal relationship. (At least this is what I assume since I didn't actually have time to read the article.) In that point they're true. The plague of unemployment seems to be growing exponentially as downsizing in one area (or market) expands to another in a chain reaction. I myself have felt that pinch recently, and hope that another wave will not hit my office. With no job, people simply don't have money. If they were fortunate enough to have some finances squirreled away (which isn't the majority) then it's likely being used to pay the big bills--rent, utilites, gas and then food. So buying the necessities doesn't leave much room for romance...unless you give the media hyped concept a twist.

As you may recall I did an article about Valentine's ideas on a dime, aka cheap but not tacky. Some of these included dinner at a free locale like the park, using a coupon or special deal for dinner for two, and even spluring a few cents on a special treat your "date" loves but won't fit into their budget. For the most part it's all about thinking ahead, making a plan, and carrying it out in a positive way.


It's true that what some have now to wine and dine that someone special might not be what they had a year ago, heck even a week ago, but what makes it special is that they try. Sometimes the thought is what counts. Afterall don't you want the person you love, aka your date, to like the real you that isn't hidden by the smoke and mirrors of money? This means getting real, having a conversation, and perhaps making your own fun...though that doesn't mean a trip between the sheets. (Which also seems to be a top rated activity people flock to do in a depression.) If all you give your date is a helping of your sense of humor, the gift of a special talent, or proof that you can whip up a meal from anything, you're giving them the gift of you. If they want another date, or more alone time, that means YOU struck a romantic chord.


After I solved the dating problem, I reflected on the bigger picture about how the recession has affected romance sales. Most times people suffering in a depression will splurge on books and movies, because of the escapism. However, both markets have seen a decline since January. Now, on the verge of August, it seems some publishers and studios are finally seeing an influx of customers.

Personally, I've cut down on the number of books I've bought, and have tried to limit my trips to the movies to the big blockbusters must sees. (That doesn't mean I wouldn't have gone to a smaller flick if I were drawn in by the story!) No matter when I go to the theater, I try to choose the cheapest time and never splurge on snacks which have a ton of mark-up. I try to eat before, or bring a bottle of water. (At THE UGLY TRUTH last weekend my fiance and I saw a couple smuggle in Wendy's hamburgers!) I don't really advocate breaking the food rules, since I know vending is how the theater makes their money. Plus it can get you booted...then you're money is wasted.


If I do hanker for a book, I try the library first...even if I have to put my name on a waiting list. Reading the book for free means I won't waste money on a title that sits on my TBR bookshelves to collect dust. And if I have to have a book I shop around to see what store has it cheapest. I always make the best of my bookstore discounts! Though I don't venture into the store, and temptation, just because I get a coupon in the mail or my inbox. I only go if I have a set focus of what I'm buying so I can get in and out. And I'm not above going to a local used bookstore.


Whenever my fiance asks if I want to head to Edward McKay thirty minutes away I jump at the chance. Sure the authors don't get a cut, but someone somwhere has already plunked down their hard-earned money. Plus I can look at the journey as a learning excursion because authors can glean so much from past titles. True, they're not the current bestsellers, but that doesn't mean those dog-eared paperbacks or crinkled hardbacks weren't on the lists previously. And just because an author's less recognized work is in the used book store, doesn't mean its bad. There is something in that book of use. You can learn the author's voice, structure, and how to write a good or bad book, depending on what you think after you've read it. Just like movies, it's important for writers to pick apart books so they learn what made it work and sometimes where it went wrong. There in lies the little hidden gem that might have cost you what...a quarter? But to your career it could be priceless.



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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pen Names - Honesty, trust

Yep. That's my guilty pleasure on Sunday nights. Of course, it's a soon to be over pleasure since there's only one episode to go.

I don't know if any of you have been following the contest but it's been an interesting study of personality/responsibility/integrity this year. Early on, we had two contestants who 'helped' one contestant then tried to make out that she (Melissa) hadn't really prepared her dish because they'd done the work for her. Then another contestant, Debbie, had issues on several fronts -- purchasing ingredients for a team project and shorting one of her team members, giving another team member crappy ingredients to make a dessert, lying about what she did or didn't do. Well, a lot of people weren't happy with her about all that and she was booted off last night. By the way, the first two contestants who stretched the truth about their help, had also been removed from the competition.

On another front, I'm hearing that readers are turning down books by authors who have pen names that sound phony. It seems that this is another trust issue, ie if the author gives what sounds like a phony name, the readers don't trust the author.

In an era when we hear news stories about politicians and clergy being...shall we say, less than honest, these two examples of what seems to me to be the innate desire for honesty is refreshing. The 'bad' guys from the tv show get booted for dishonesty. Authors get spurned for not being honest or forthright.

Mind you, it isn't the fact that authors use pen names that is disliked. It's the 'sound' of the pen name itself that turns the reader off. I guess Stormy Waters for an author might not be good but would do fine for a tv weather man? Or Kitten Lovecraft would be great for a stripper but not an author?

Mmm. I wonder if genre makes a difference? I could see some erotica author using either name. If fact, I've made the acquaintance/read books by some very fine erotica authors with names that are similar. But their names don't seem to hamper their sales so maybe, if this pen name-trust thing is an issue, it's for genres like mainstream fiction or romance or even sci fi?

I think most of us authors try to create a pen name that is easy to remember and pronounce. It should inspire friendliness and embody - somehow - the author's genre. Most of all, it should be a promise to readers, a way to let them know what to expect from the author's work.

Do you remember way back when...there was a saying that a man was only as good as his name? It appears that an author, too, is only as good as his/her name. That's a whole lot of responsibility for a pen name, isn't it?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Star Light, Star Bright...Interstellar Interview with Jeri Smith-Ready



Jeri Smith-Ready has written fiction since the night she had her first double espresso. A continued caffeine stream has resulted in six published novels, which have won multiple awards in the fantasy and romance genres. (These include, but aren't limited to NJRW's Golden Leaf, Virginia Romance Writers Holt Medallion, FF&P's PRISM Award, RT's Reviewer's Choice Award, and RWA's Rita Award.) Jeri has a Masters in environmental policy to boot, and lives in Maryland with her husband, cat, and greyhound.



I had the chance to meet Jeri at the RWA National Conference in Atlanta, GA a few years back. Like all great meetings at conference, it happened in the elevator! She congratulated me on my first sale ribbon. I will admit to ogling her badge which had her book cover, and of course said she was published! As a matter of fact she'd just sold EYES OF CROW to Luna, a publisher I'd also been eyeing.

Off and on since then, we've dropped each other a line via e-mail. Needless to say when her new WVMP series premiered with WICKED GAME, I was super delighted for her! And like "Aspect of Crow" it's garnered some serious attention, and not just from the FF&P crowds! We're talking mainstream here!

While I was brushing up for this interview, I also learned about her new YA series! And who knew she'd written a book about the Devil falling in love? In short, I'll just say Jeri's website is a plethora of info and fun! If you want your cursor on the pulse of hot (no, not erotic) fiction, keep it there because Jeri's career is headed for supernova status!



Out of all the sub-genres in romance, and fiction in general, what drew you to the world of fantasy?

I’ve always been a fan of the fantastic—I love stories that tweak the world just a little bit and look at it in a different way. Growing up, I mostly read animal stories, but of course my favorites were the ones where the animals talked to each other, or were gods or goddesses taking animal form (everyone knows that cats are divine, right?).



As an award winning writer of a “traditional” fantasy series, what prompted the birth of your urban fantasy “WVMP Radio” series?

Urban fantasy is actually my original passion. As I mentioned, I love stories that take our world and put a twist on it to illuminate what it means to be human. My first publication was an urban fantasy e-book called REQUIEM FOR THE DEVIL (2001, Grand Central, still available from Amazon, etc.). It tells the story of Lucifer’s first love affair and how it changes everything. In the novel, the Devil is currently masquerading as a Washington, DC, political consultant. Many people think this is closer to reality than fantasy.

As for my future urban fantasies, the “WVMP Radio” series will continue for at least two more books (BRING ON THE NIGHT in 2010 and the tentatively titled LUST FOR LIFE in 2011). I hope to bring the series to its natural conclusion after the fifth book. At this point I have no plans to write more traditional fantasies—all of the ideas percolating in my head belong firmly in the present world that I love so madly.



Music plays a big part in WICKED GAME and BAD TO THE BONE, but do you have a favorite genre? Is there a certain song that gets you pumped to write?

I have a lot of favorite genres—punk, psychedelic, indie/alternative, Celtic, acoustic blues. What I listen to on any given day depends on my mood. The last couple of years I’ve focused on new music and artists a lot more than in the previous half decade or so. Thanks to satellite radio and the internet, it’s easier than ever to discover great new acts, and there’s some really exciting stuff out there right now.

As for music accompanying my writing, it varies from novel to novel. For my current work-in-progress, BRING ON THE NIGHT, I keep coming back to Ciara’s favorite song, “Otherside” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as the title song by The Police. There are also a few CDs I play repeatedly during the more intense sequences, but I’m afraid if I list them, it’ll give away a major plot spoiler!

But if you want to check out the "WVMP Series" music, including playlists and chapter title songs, visit
http://www.jerismithready.com/books/wicked-game/music.htm


Singling out your heroine Ciara to talk about seems too easy, so who is your favorite DJ vampire? How can fans find out more about their favorite?

Definitely Shane. I love his cool exterior that hides such a depth of emotion and passion. I love his bone dry sense of humor. Plus, he plays guitar, which is auto-awesome in my book. He’d be great fun to, um, hang out with. Or whatever.

Fans can read his origin story, “Last Request,” free online at
http://www.jerismithready.com/books/wicked-game/shane1.htm

Three of the other DJs also have their stories on my site:
Jim, “When the Music’s Over”: http://www.jerismithready.com/books/wicked-game/jim.htm
Spencer, “Rave On”: http://www.jerismithready.com/books/wicked-game/spencer1.htm
Monroe, “Crossroads”: http://www.jerismithready.com/books/wicked-game/monroe.htm

Noah’s and Regina’s stories will appear at some time in the future, when I can grab a few weeks here and there to write them!

Also, people can visit the DJs at the radio station’s main website,
http://www.wvmpradio.com/djs

They each have a playlist that gives a sample of what they might play on their shows. Sometimes I’ll play them on in the background while I write scenes that feature that character.



Who can become part of your WVMP Street Team, which seems to be full of perks?

Anyone! Street Team members help me get the word out about the WVMP Radio books by handing out bookmarks to their friends, family, librarians, and booksellers; by blogging about the novels or by posting widgets on their websites; or just by spreading word of mouth.

Last year’s Street Team members each received an ARC of BAD TO THE BONE, but I have no idea if I’ll have enough ARCs to hand out next year. They also each receive a special edition bookplate. Other than that, the only “perk” is the fun of being part of a team and spreading the word about books they love. I am constantly stunned, humbled, and amazed by the efforts of my Street Teamers!

Here’s a link if anyone would like more information on joining:


http://www.jerismithready.com/street-team/



Since you’re freshly back from DC, when did you have an “I’ll never forget that” moment at RWA Nationals?

Shooting a Tommy gun during our Kiss of Death chapter tour of the FBI Academy. Winning a PRISM award for WICKED GAME in the Light Paranormal category. Making Jade Lee snarf her water during a panel. It was a good week.





As a seasoned author who’s been in the publishing trenches, what do you look forward to for the future?

Ha! I don’t consider myself seasoned at all—I still feel like I’m fumbling my way through this crazy business as best as I can. Every year brings a new challenge and opportunity.

I’m insanely excited about my young adult urban fantasy debut in May 2010, SHADE. It’s about a 16-year-old girl on a mission to find out why she and everyone younger than her can see ghosts. See, a mysterious event called the Shift happened at the moment of her winter solstice birth. She wishes she could reverse the Shift and make those annoying/terrifying ghosts go away forever. And then her boyfriend dies and becomes a ghost.

Thank you so much for having me on your site! I love to hear from readers, so you can either ask me questions here or come visit me at www.jerismithready.com. I’m also constantly on
Twitter (http://twitter.com/jsmithready), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/jerismithready), and MySpace (www.myspace.com/jerismithready).


Remember if you're interested in winning a signed copy of one of Jeri's novels, you must post below. One lucky name will be drawn for the prize!!





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Monday, July 20, 2009

Guest - Anne Kane

Good morning, everyone! Are you going away on vacation this summer? No? Well, today's author has a book that sounds perfect for the old 'staycation'. And she's offering a PDF copy of her book, Stargazers 3:Wild, to one lucky reader so read all the way to the bottom to see how you could win. -- Lynda

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How much of Science Fiction is Fiction?

I write romance, but it’s rarely set in contemporary times. As my tag line proclaims, I write science-fiction and fantasy with a sensual twist.

As I sat here, wondering what I should blog about, the term Science Fiction rolled around in my head. Science is generally though to be a method of proving natural laws by observation and careful testing. In other words, Science deals with known things that can be measured and quantified. Fiction on the other hand is entirely a product of the author’s imagination and can be as unlikely as the writer wants it to be.

When we combine the two terms, we come up with Science Fiction. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines science fiction as:

Fiction dealing principally with the impact of actual or imagined science on society or individuals, or more generally, literary fantasy including a scientific factor as an essential orienting component.

Personally, I feel that science fiction combines what is known with what I imagine could become reality at some point in the future. Travel to Mars, or Uranus, or another galaxy may not be a fact right now, but some day, I believe it be as common as plane travel is today.

When I write, I try to keep the universes I build believable. I need to create a feeling that this could happen, that this is a reasonable extrapolation of current trends”. In my Stargazers series, I’ve combined interstellar travel, which I believe will some day be a reality, with a group of women who have special talents. Those talents are based upon a belief in ley lines and other ancient practices that may or may not be based in fact. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I convince the reader that the concept is plausible.

And therein lays the challenge; to take the fiction that I create and blend it with a scientific basis in order to entertain. If in the process, I can get people to look beyond our earth-based society and dream of a life among the stars, so much the better!

Anne Kane
www.AnneKane.com
Sci –Fi and Fantasy with a sensual twist!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Series: Stargazers
Title: Wild
ISBN (13): 978-1-60521-181-7
Genres: Futuristic, Paranormal, Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi
Themes: Magic and Mayhem
Release Date: July 10, 2009
Author: Anne Kane
http://www.annekane.literalseduction.net
Publisher URL Changeling Press - Erotic Fiction

Stargazers 3:Wild·
BLURB:
Unfairly sold into slavery, Stargazer Anaya plans her escape carefully, stowing away in a ship belonging to the cynical bounty hunter, Ryland. She just needs to avoid detection until the ship docks at the next port of call.

When Ryland discovers the beauty, he assumes she's a runaway sex slave and offers her a choice: be returned to her master or stay and serve his every desire.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Anne Kane lives in the beautiful Okanagan Valley with a bouncy Jack Russell terrier, a cantankerous Himalayan cat, and too many fish to count. By day, she’s a respectable bean counter, but after hours her imagination soars and she writes romances that span the galaxy and encompass beings of all sizes, shapes and origins. She first started telling stories as a child and she just can’t seem to stop.

Her hobbies include kayaking, hiking, motorcycles, swimming, skating, karate, playing guitar, singing and of course, reading.

You can visit Anne at her website: www.AnneKane.com
Her blog: www.annekane.wordpress.com
Or Friend her on Facebook facebook.com/anne.kane.author.
Or Twitter http://twitter.com/annekane

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hi, Lynda again. Anne will choose one blog commenter to win a free copy of her book, Stargazers 3:Wild But you have to leave your comment by Wednesday night and check back to see if you've won. Anne will post the winner's name and give the details on how to collect your prize. Good luck all!

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Friday, July 17, 2009

The Score

As I sometimes do, I spent time tonight perusing my local Best Buy's soundtrack section. Is it just me or has it shrunk there and in other "big box" stores? I listened to "New Divide" blaring from overhead and was struck again by the urge to buy the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen album. I'd heard it on the radio earlier and thought...hmmm, that would be great for a big scene or to pep me up on a run. When I saw the price tag, I recoiled. Fourteen bucks, and I only knew I liked one song! So I decided to check the bytes online before I dropped that chunk of cash. (BTW, I also think this is what makes sample chapters so important!) Especially since I spotted the album for the original Transformers movie too. :0) (I do have to admit my curiosity was also piqued by a song called "100 Yard Dash".)

While I love futuristic anything, I also found that my tight purse strings kept me from picking up The End by the Black Eyed Peas. I'd already gotten Boom, Boom, Pow before the album "dropped" into stores...and it's become a go to for fight scenes and long runs to keep my energy going.

Over the course of my writing the style in music I like "in the moment" has changed, though I still have favorites I go back to. Queen, for instance! Who Wants to Live Forever will always remind me of Highlander, and my crush for Adrian Paul. Queen's Greatest Hits album was also a mainstay on my CD player while I was writing JUST ONE LIFE, my cat paranormal. For my last futuristic it was a toss up depending on the scene of Nickelback (before everyone thought they were awesome) and the Saint soundtrack with a little mix of Ronan Keating for those romantic moments. When I'm shuffling my music, I often hear a song and it brings me back to scenes I wrote while I was listening to it. Sometimes even years before. If you want to talk about things "back in the day" my first novel was written to the soundtrack of Quest for Camelot. I know...it's hokey, but so inspiring!

I think it's safe to say that each book had it's own compilation soundtrack! Another writer who uses this to the max is Jeri Smith-Ready who will be talking about her DJ Vampire series next week in the Star Light, Star Bright...Interstellar Interview. She's even gone so far as to make a website for the make believe radio station!

How about you? What music inspires you to work through the kinks, push for that big climax or plow through almost with fists during that final fight scene or BBM? As you ponder that, I'm heading over to listen to those musical tidbits...and possibly temptation.

_______________________
In other scoring news, The Final Draft, the newsletter I edit for Carolina Romance Writers, placed third in the Document Category of the RWA Newsletter Contest!



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Monday, July 13, 2009

Guest - CJ Johnson

Good morning, everyone! Today, we have CJ Johnson, a long time friend of mine whose book, JarDan, the first book of her series The Men of Anderas, has just been released. I've read JarDan and it's an excellent read, full of love and adventure and good old fashioned HAWT men, LOL. If you're looking for a good read, give it a shot. Now, on to CJ who'll be talking about how she arrived at the concept for the books.

Oh, by the way, CJ is having two drawings so make sure you read all of her article to find out how to enter. -- Lynda

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The question I’m most often asked is “How did you come up with that?” Depending on what I’m working on at the time, the answer is usually a shrug and generic comment. That isn’t the case with THE MEN OF ANDERAS. I know exactly how they came to life. My husband was watching a documentary about the probability of alien abduction and he casually asked why a being from an advanced planet would come to Earth. I think I answered him with a flip “for wild monkey-sex” or something along those lines. Later, I started thinking about that and all the “what if” situations began popping in my head.

If they came for monkey sex – why? Don’t they have women at home to do the deed? Ok, what if they DON’T have women at home? Why don’t they have any women? You see how all of this built one question after the other? Needless to say, I had a very sleepless night but by morning I had all the details of a plague that only affected the males of the planet – they were unable to father female children. No cure could be found; they realized they were doomed to extinction. Well, what could they do but go out and find the females? Knowing I had to resolve the problem even if I couldn’t solve it, I picked up a slogan from a commercial for a beer popular in the Pacific Northwest.

The first in the series, JARDAN, will be available at www.newconceptspublishing.com later this month and I'm frantically working to finish the second in the series, DAK. Everyone who leaves a message on the blog will be in the drawing for a copy of JARDAN and some other stuff as well. If you read the book and recognize the brand name of the beer in the Epilogue send me an email to cjjohnsonwriter@yahoo.com. I’ll select a winner from the correct entries for a special gift. I hope you enjoy JARDAN as much I as enjoyed bringing Melodie and JarDan to life and I look forward to hearing from you. PS – I won’t say whether JarDan and Melodie have wild monkey sex but here’s a short preview:



Excerpt

“Do you really dress like this all the time?”

"Yes.” He said glancing at his tunic and boots.

“Why?” She demanded, turning to look at him in the moonlight. “You didn’t look like Robin Hood on the space ship. Everyone there dressed like … like you’d imagine space men to dress. This,” she indicated the garden and castle with a sweep of her hand, “is like living in a fairy tale.”

She paced back and forth for several seconds and JarDan knew she was gathering her ammunition for another salvo. She was working herself up to a full-blown confrontation and he loved every minute of it. If she could get past her fear enough to argue with him -- to openly confront him -- then he was making definite progress.

“One minute I’m a farmer. Then -- ZAP! -- I’m in a space ship headed for God knows where. Now I’ve zigzagged back through a time warp expecting any minute to see knights fighting dragons or capturing unicorns or something.”

She stopped beneath the overhanging branches of a willow tree and wrapped her arms around her waist before turning to confront him.

“In all those tapes you recorded there wasn’t one word -- not one -- about this.” She swept the area with a wide arc of her arm. “I’ve never worn a long dress or been to a dance or had dinner with so many people -- unless you count eating a hot dog at the county fair. You don’t dress yourself or wash yourself or …”

She turned her back to him and JarDan had to step close behind her to hear her whisper.

“You should have told me how to greet a king. You should have told me.”


CJ Johnson
Watch for the hottest Druids to ever walk the Earth

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Friday, July 10, 2009

That Perfect Moment

Have you ever had that perfect moment? Where everything lines up and it feels just right...and no I don't mean during sex. lol. I mean in the ebb and flow of life.

One of the biggest examples I have is the night I got engaged. Our "date" was a Valentine's Day do-over and following the classic movie and dinner combo we took a stroll through Target. Yes, the department store. I was walking down the center aisle thinking what a wonderful time we'd had and telling myself to stop and enjoy the moment. I reflected on my years with my now fiance, and though I hadn't gotten the ring I wanted...we loved each other and that was enough for me. And what do you know? That very night, mere hours from that moment I had a ring on my finger and a wedding to plan. :0)

I also had a similar moment when I was putting together my registration info for RWA's national newsletter contest. Opting for the brightly colored CD covers and sticking on the logo-ed labels, I thought "Hmmm...I wonder if I'll win?" Heck, at the moment I thought that would be a fluke, and merely hoped I'd place. Then to my surprise, I found out The Final Draft was a finalist!

Not only have I had moments like this in my life, but I also seem to have them in my books. I know everything is supposed to be planned, but sometimes the magic just happens. It's how judges pick contest winners because of that little extra oomph you can't put your finger on.

For instance, who would think a slim Jim (a pressed meat stick wrapped in plastic) could be endearing? Now imagine that you're hundreds of miles from home, you've had all your dreams dashed by your ex and wish you had someone to commiserate with. Then your best friend shows up on your doorstep with an old favorite treat to dust you off, fire you up and get you back on track for love.

Or what about finding out that you aren't alone on a strange planet...and that your know-it-all computer really is as awesome was you imagine because without arms and legs she devises an escape plan and leaves clues like Hansel and Gretel so your true love can find you. Plus she has a wicked sense of humor and never lets you down, eventhough she's nothing but a hunk of metal, while you're a warrior woman who solves her own problems.

Imagine telling your honey you want a tattoo, and then having him say no way because it would mark you for ridicule, even death. Though you're not about to let a man tell you what to do as a woman who makes her own path, life gets in the way. Then wouldn't you know...you end up getting the real tattoo that changes your life forever and makes you one of the heroes you've been working to become.

Of course having things work out so perfectly can be cliche...to the point of having readers bored. But if you make things believable, in a way that stays true to your characters, then readers will embrace every moment. Those things that come out as if from your subconscious are what make novels organic...and keep readers turning pages. Sure you can plot out the points, create numerous stickies that show the way, but don't nix anything that strays from them. Sometimes that side jaunt can be what makes your novel stronger, unforgettable...award winning.

If you get the chance to congratulate contest winners, especially RITA or Golden Heart winners, please do. Then read their work to see that special spark you can add to your manuscript.




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Monday, July 06, 2009

Guest - Michelle Miles

Good morning, everyone! I hope you all had a terrific holiday (if you're in the USA) and/or a terrific weekend :-D My hubby and I did bratwursts on the grill and had a very interesting non-mayonnaise potato salad. And, of course, hubby being a natural born pyro-maniac (my fond term for him, lol) we had a mini-fireworks in our backyard. All in all, a nice relaxing day.

But, now, we're back to work and today we have special guest Michelle Miles, who will be talking about one of the most important aspects of writing, no matter the genre, Worldbuilding.

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How I Worldbuild

Hello, all! I want to thank Lynda for inviting me over to Star-Crossed Romance today!

I’ve recently finished my second full-length fantasy story (the first one was, well, awful) and thought I’d share my very strange way of worldbuilding. It actually works very well for me, but my way be a little off the wall for others. ;)

I got the inspiration for Phoenix Rising from a really strange dream I had. I knew I had to write it down and quickly before it got lost in the deep dark chasm that is my brain. As soon as I got up that morning, I headed to the computer and wrote a three page synopsis. The entire story came to me that way and I wrote it down in detail.

Then I sat on it for about six months while I pondered it.

Phoenix Rising is the story of a young woman who is a slave and forced to fight in the Games as a gladiatrix. She never imagines the only person who can free her from her life of killing is an assassin whom she falls in love with. When the tyrannical Emperor discovers their forbidden tryst, he pits them against each other in a fight to the death in the Games.

Originally, I had the story set in Ancient Rome and did a lot of research on gladiators and how their life was. I ordered these really cool DVDs from The History Channel on the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. The DVDs really aided me in giving a feel for the time period and the violence that surrounded the rulers, their insatiable need to dominate the uncivilized world, and those who were trying to make a living and survive the iron-fisted Roman Empire.

So when I set out to write the story, I took all of this as the basis for the setting. But there were things I needed in my world that weren’t part of Ancient Rome (for instance, my heroine was raised in an orphanage). It was then I realized this wasn’t really a historical; this was fantasy. I changed place names to a fictional city in a sprawling Empire ruled by a man more interested in the bloody games in his capital city than expanding his territory. (He’s also a slovenly, lascivious pig…)

As I wrote, I began to realize I needed something more concrete on where things were in the city. So I set out to draw a map. Armed with graph paper and map pencils – and an old rendering of what Ancient Rome once looked like in his heyday – I sat down and drew my fictional city. I based it on Ancient Rome but “built” my own Grand Arena, the Grand Stadium, the Emperor’s palace, the sacred temples, the gladiator barracks. I even “built” an aqueduct. And then I wrote a history of the city, which of course will never make it into the book but it’s stuff I needed to know to give my city purpose and my characters history.

When I got back to the book, I knew where everything was and I set about making the appropriate revisions. The first draft was finished in a month; the second draft in another month and weighed in at 80,000 words.

Of course I didn’t follow the synopsis to the letter but I followed it fairly closely and by the time I finished the second draft, I had a decent synopsis that just needed some tweaking.

For me, worldbuilding involves finding a civilization, a history, or an event I can base my world on and then go from there. For this story, I was inspired by a dream involving a female gladiator and knew where I wanted to go. For others, I find something I’m interested in. For example, I have another fantasy story (as yet unfinished) that is based on Celtic myths and legends.

Once I know where and what my world is, I can then set the mood and get to writing!

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Michelle Miles began writing long ago in junior high when she and her then-best friend wrote and illustrated their own Indiana Jones comic books. Star Trek fan-fiction quickly followed, as did Star Wars. Later, she dabbled in her own science fiction stories and historical fiction - princesses, towers, and handsome princes! Michelle finally found her footing on contemporary ground with her first novella, TALK DIRTY TO ME. A time travel series followed along with three more contemporaries.

For more information about her current releases and to sign up for her monthly newsletter, visit Michelle’s website at http://www.michellemiles.net. You can also friend her on Facebook and MySpace and follow her at Twitter.

Her latest contemporary, TAKE ME I’M YOURS, is available now from Cobblestone Press.

BOOKS BY MICHELLE MILES



Take Me I’m Yours (2009)
Available from Cobblestone Press
http://cobblestone-press.com/catalog/books/takeme.htm

Nice Girls Do (2007)
Available from Samhain Publishing - eBook
http://samhainpublishing.com/romance/nice-girls-do

Talk Dirty To Me (2006)
Available from Samhain Publishing - eBook
http://samhainpublishing.com/romance/talk-dirty-to-me

A Break In Time: Book 2 (2007 / 2008)
Available From Samhain Publishing – eBook and print
http://www.samhainpublishing.com/authors/michelle-miles

A Bend In Time: Book 1 (2006 / 2007)
Available from Samhain Publishing – eBook and print
http://www.samhainpublishing.com/authors/michelle-miles

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-- Lynda here. Thanks for the great article, Michelle. Your book, Phoenix Rising, sounds like something I'd read in a heartbeat. Make sure you let us know when you get a release date for it :-D


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Friday, July 03, 2009

Embrace Your Independence

Every month I get the opportunity to address my fellow CRW members as the editor of our newsletter, the Final Draft. July is always an exciting month for me, and this year is no different. July means fireworks, flags and cookouts...but it also means RWA Nationals!

I'd planned to go this year, but I got engaged. With a wedding looming, I had to make the hard decision not to trek to DC and explore it with my now fiance. I was so excited that I'd get to show him a city he'd never seen, the capital I'd visited twice and enjoyed exploring. History is in every inch of the city, almost literally...and I couldn't wait for him to see DC's wonders. Someday that will happen...and the most exciting thing about passing through won't be a hammer someone dropped on the interstate (aka a serious road hazard)!



Here's what I decided to share in my Editorially Speaking:
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July 4th a.k.a Independence Day is a day to remember our forefathers and how they fought to create a new nation with its own rights and beliefs. Now I bet you’re wondering, “How does that relate to writing?”

As a writer, you can’t always follow the fold. You must strike out on your own course. Editors are on the hunt for something different, though “old timers” will tell you they won’t stray too far from the norm. Editors want just enough oomph to give their line-up a bit of spice or the proverbial breath of fresh air. However, in these “tea party” times, you need to play the publishing game close to your chest.



Like our ancestors, we need to have courage. We need to believe in ourselves, or at least rub elbows with peers who can bolster our way of thinking. Those people, like the Declaration’s signers, must be of like mind, but also able to think outside the box. A written document can become stale, especially after dozens of edits, so you must have someone to lend fresh eyes. People who forge their own path, or at least deviate from the masses, are problem solvers. They’re people who want to see a change happen, and that can be done in writing…hence the market’s continual shift.

As our governing body did in 1776, we need to be at the heart of evolution, with our fingers on the pulse of change...which means RWA Nationals is the place to be in July! Be heard, be seen, and above all feed your curiosity in DC.
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On Saturday, the 4th, take a few moments not only to thank your stars that you are in the US, but that you also have the ability to embrace your dreams in a place that was founded for freedom. So many Americans take their "fortune" for granted...but on the 4th, use what you've been given to rebel. Write...even if it's a sentence, a paragraph about a new memory you're made, or the beginning of something more that will be your mark on history. Many have toiled through immeasurable hardships, but they never gave up even in the bleakest moment to see their dream become reality. Jot down those words locked inside your mind to give your dream a fighting chance, and if you get the chance to "storm" DC, be brave and make what you imagine a reality!





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