Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween '09

Today is actually Halloween, but we had our church's trunk or treat last night. It was wonderful! So many people turned out and there were many cute costumes. Here's some pics of my own clan of spookies. We love Halloween ... the dressing up... the candy... the creepiness of it all. But I do NOT like slasher movies or gore, so we try to keep our costumes to the cute/pretty/creepy categories.

Celtic Elf
Red from
Rock Star
The whole gang
Greek Philosopher
Egyptian Servant
'Headless' Horseman

Hope everyone has a safe and Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Birthday present!

It's my birthday, but I'm giving away the gift!

A wonderful conincidence came about when the editors at the Samhellion scheduled my own Halloween freebie to go live today! So I get to give all my readers -- and hopefully some new readers -- a small gift. :)

Follow the link and then the instructions -- just one small hoop, but it's easy, I promise.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Write what you know???

One of the very first pieces of advice I ever heard regarding writing fiction was the simple statement: "Write what you know."

Okay, sure, on the surface it seems simple. Logical. Then follows the assumption that the only way to truly know something is to have lived it. Ah, yeah... I really don't think anyone wants to read about a stay-at-home mom with five kids. Hey, I could be wrong, but my life is not that interesting. Happy, but rather dull -- just the way I like it. ;)

So, does this mean if I haven't been an astronaut or a CIA agent, then I probably won't write a believable story about either? Okay, no, I do not plan to write anything set at NASA and I've done the later already... SECRETS AND SHADOWS. But I've never been a secret agent. I truly doubt any of the writers who have penned a romance including a spy hero or heroine ever worked for the FBI. I could be wrong.

If you do enough of the right kind of research, as a writer you should be capable of creating anything and making your reader believe in it. I've never been to Ireland, but I wrote a story set there -- ALAINA'S PROMISE. Reviewers and readers alike praised the book. One wrote how she 'fell in love' with the country and its people by reading that novel.

That was a case where my research combined with talent paid off. :) Does that mean I hit the mark? In some ways, yes. But few readers have ever been to 1870s Ireland, so I doubt I'll ever know how accurate my descriptions were.

All this said, I do feel there are some things you cannot simply read about and then write well. The foremost would be emotions. If I had never been in love, I'm not sure I could ever write a romance. Maybe I could read someone else's book and then repeat back the sensations and feelings conveyed. But even then, using my own words, I don't think it would ring true. You have to understand or have felt something before you can describe it to someone else. Otherwise, it's like trying to explain snow to someone who has never seen it when you've only seen it in a picture. You're missing way too much.

Yes, there are many other emotions involved in my writing. Despite popular opinion, romances are not all about the sex.

There's anger, deep hatred, lust, fear, greed, envy, sadness and depression. I have experienced each and every one of them -- plus others -- at some point in my life. Therefore, yes, I can write a murder scene and make you feel the anger of the killer or the fear of the victim. Have I ever killed anyone? Obviously not -- unless you count the occasional insect or two. But I have a basis in understanding those feelings I think might be involved. I can and do imagine the rest.

So I will add my own two cents of advice to the sage: "Write what you know." ... Go out and experience life. Find out what it's like to be a true friend; to fall in love. Discover every positive emotion ... and learn to control the destructive ones. But learn to feel... for without feelings, there is little point to living or writing.

Then when you want to write a story... a really good story... you'll understand your characters more thoroughly, and even the most mundane setting or character can be made riveting and real. Almost anything beyond your normal experiences can be found during research. A true writer can imagine or create the rest.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Archetype or stereotype?

I've loved all the recent posts on Shades of Suspense. Particularly the last regarding archetypes. It really got me thinking, which may or may not be a good thing. ;)

My main concern as a writer: How do I effectively use an archetype without it becoming a stereotype?

Just so we're all on the same page, here's how defines the word stereotype:


1. a process... for making metal printing plates by taking a mold of composed type or the like in papier-mâché or other material and then taking from this mold a cast in type metal.

2 & 3 are more of the same and then we reach...

4. Sociology. a simplified and standardized conception or image invested with special meaning and held in common by members of a group...

I suppose that, by this last definition, it is possible to turn any one of our standard character archetypes into stereotypes. It depends largely on the writer ... and perhaps the reader, as to what type of characters catch on. For many years the most popular archetype -- at least in category romance -- seemed to be the beautiful, virginal, sweet and naive heroine.

Let's take one of the heroine archetypes for an example: The Boss. Now how many of you have either read a book or seen a movie/tv show with a female boss character? Many times that character is depicted as the power-hungry witch who cares for no one. So, in that sense, an archetype becomes a stereotype.

Any romance lover knows, however, that her personality is going to have to soften or change completely before we can dub The Boss as the heroine of the piece. After all, not many of us cheer for the corporate raider who grinds her stilettos into anyone who gets in the way. See? Stereotyped, all the way. ;) We do cheer for the underdog secretary or the quiet mouse in the steno pool. Ummm... do they even have steno pools anymore?

Ah, but I digress.

It's obvious that few of us are any of those archetypes in whole. We all have different faucets to our personalities. Sometimes we just might be that Boss Lady with attitude; at others, we are the nurturers who take care of others because their trials bring out our soft sides. We can be any and all of these women -- and so should our characters if we want them to be three-dimensional.

Now this thought-process has been with me for a while as I climb my way back up from the bottom of one rejection and fight to finish another book. My thanks to Jerri Drennen for actually putting it all out there at SOS for me to see and ponder anew. :)

I've been contemplating the whole idea of character because I worry that my characters are bordering on stereotyped status. Am I re-writing the same hero and heroine over and over? What about my villains? A simple change of name, nationality or hair color will not do the trick.

There is nothing more riveting than a story with three-dimensional beings at center stage. THOSE are the stories I want to write. I want a heroine to whom I can relate on some level. I want a hero with whom I can fall in love. I want a villain who I can curse ... and yet, one that draws a bit of sympathy from me, as well. The latter isn't an easy thing to create.

I think the most difficult character I've written to-date has been the sister of my DREAM WALK heroine. At first she seemed to simply be the bitch who did nothing but party and sleep around -- and in the beginning of the story, in the beginning of my thought process, she was exactly that. But then I kept writing... and I let the characters speak to me.

I wondered: "Why is she like this? What made her so different from her sister?"

She told me. In a writing session where the words poured like a waterfall, she helped me understand her rather complex personality. And so I began to actually like that character a bit more. She softened right before my eyes. It was an amazing experience.

Will she ever be the heroine, herself? Not sure. I still have issues with her, personally. ;) But at least I know she's not a one-dimensional party-girl secondary anymore. She became much more sympathetic, at least in my eyes.

So maybe I do know the secret of keeping those characters from becoming stereotypes, after all! Just put your hands on the keyboard... and listen. ;)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Beyond Algebra

I'm really not what I call a math person. Sometimes the mere mention of a word problem such as "If Train A leaves Chicago at three..." will make my brain freeze up like an icepop in the Arctic. My forte is words. Numbers... yeah, well, we have a love/hate relationship.

However, give me a good math book and I can usually figure things out. Especially if they have a lot of examples. I find an example that looks similar and then try to work the problem by those steps. Easy, right? Um, no. Not always.

So when it comes to home schooling, I've had many rough teaching and/or tutoring sessions in math. Particularly Algebra. It seems my braincells did not retain everything from high school -- go figure! ;)

We have gotten through it. We're in round three of Algebra now with child number three. He's having a hard time grasping a certain aspect at the moment and is getting a bit frustrated with himself. My job is to keep on going... to cajole, cheer and urge him on as needed. It's also my job to figure out just what might do the trick to help it all click and come together.

During all the frustrations with math I've been asked over and over: "What good is this going to do me in life? How will I ever use this again?"

My answer? You probably won't. But you might.

Sometimes learning is for the sake of learning, itself. In the case of Algebra -- often the bain of my existence -- the main thing you are learning is to think logically.

Logical thinkers have a much better chance in life as a whole. They can be rational. They can think through a process from point A to point B and actually find an answer.
They can follow those annoying directions when putting together IKEA furniture and bicycles.

So when something difficult comes along, I try to remember what I learned in Algebra class ... and the lessons I've learned in teaching it to my own children. No, I don't really care what X equals -- but on the other hand, it does feel good to actually figure it out. To actually push myself beyond my own comfort zone.

Learning is so vital to both our minds and self-esteem. And yet, when you're trying to solve quadratic equations, it often feels like torture. Unless you happen to be like our child #5 who seems to have gift for numbers and LOVES math! He's a year ahead in the subject.

Yeah. He definitely gets it from his father. ;)

I've been interviewed!

Stop by Make-believe Mondays and check out my latest interview. :)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Men, and why I adore them...

It seems so easy to get into a rant about men. How dumb they can be. How confusing they are, etc. But I think I need to take a moment and let everyone know that I adore them. All men -- not just the cover-model gorgeous ones or the movie stars I sigh over.

Okay, let me qualify that a tiny bit ... I adore good men. Those with a sense of honor and integrity. Those who do what they have to do without complaining about it day in and day out. The ones who are tough, yet tear up when his child does something special or the family pet is laid to rest.

Those are the ones I truly appreciate.

Of course, I have my own special man. He's honest, hardworking, has a quirky sense of humor and is very intelligent. He loves and supports me though he doesn't always understand just what it is I do... especially how I manage to do it. He's the first to brag and often the last to get any attention himself. He's a loyal husband and friend; a wonderful father; a good man; and I teasingly call him my oldest child. (Not going for browny points here, he doesn't read my blog. LOL!)

I was recently asked why the heroes in romance novels are always young, tall, well-muscled, with lots of hair and great looks. I hesitate to reply because the reply sounds sexist. It really does. But in general, that is a woman's fantasy and I'm writing for them. Just as the totally hot, thin babe in every James Bond film is the fantasy of most men.

But I think if you look beyond the physical, you'll see a lot of 'real' men in my heroes. They have flaws, weaknesses. They often say exactly the wrong thing as well as the right one. The latter is because they have me writing the dialogue. ;)

They are men with pasts -- with things they wished they had done differently. They are often brave and completely fearless to the untrained eye. Yet, the heroine scares them to death. They make mistakes. And yes, they always wind up with the girl. Like I said, this a fantasy -- a woman's fantasy. A romance.

Just because I idealize men in my books, it doesn't mean I look down on all the real, slightly overweight and balding men out there. Quite the contrary! And if I could get away with using such heroes ... or without describing them at all, then I would. But I just don't know if it would work. Correction -- if I could make it work.

Women tend to internalize words and images. Romance novels feed the imagination, the heart with the sensual image of a man and woman together. It makes us long for love and all that comes with it. It makes us hope, if even for a moment, for that happy ending in our own lives.

So I feed the fantasy as I offer up heroes with six-pack abs and thick, dark hair. Maybe I'll become a better writer someday, and offer those same visions with merely the color of his eyes and hair, leaving the rest to the imagination alone.

Until then, I'll write the fantasies. I'll let my heroine conquer her bad-boy, rough-edged hero. I'll help the reader remember what that blush of first love felt like...and maybe inspire them to re-light the spark with their own knight in burnished armor.

But I couldn't accomplish any of this without men -- real men for me to base the most important characteristics upon: honesty... integrity... humor... compassion.

So while I might roll my eyes and implore the heavens: "What on earth was he thinking?" ... Always know that this woman does appreciate the good guys out there. My good guy, in particular. Obviously so, because I chose to live most of my adult life with him. :)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The problem with convenience

Let me first say that wireless Internet was a necessity in our home. We have four children currently in cyber-school -- all with their own laptops and their own schedules. It would be impossible to have each of them hooked up to one router in our schoolroom. For one thing, the noise would make it hard to concentrate. For another, our schoolroom isn't the most comfortable room in the house -- particularly during cold Pennsylvania winters.

So the wireless router was installed. It's great -- not perfect, but great. The signal isn't always what I'd like it to be, but it does enable the children to fan out and enjoy some measure of comfort while they attend virtual classes. Yes, they really do have the life. ;)

I've also found that this wondrous, wireless connection is my downfall. When I first got my laptop -- still in love with it, btw -- I got a lot of work done in my bedroom. I couldn't go on-line, so it made my choices simple: write or play Freecell. Freecell gets old fast. I got quite a bit of work done.

Then I connected. At first it was great. Look! I can check my email from here, I don't have to wait until later when the desktop is available. Nice.

Then I realized I could update my website, too. And change my Facebook page. Even twitter. Oh, I'd better check that FB game, my crops may need harvesting. Oh, that looks like fun.

I'd get back to the wip and suddenly hit a wall. Well, I'll take a break. One game won't hurt. I have to re-check my email, something important might come up.

And so it went ... until I found that convenient wireless Internet became my downfall. My crutch for avoiding work.

Of course, the writer's block I've been experiencing has its roots elsewhere. I can't blame the Internet or the little signal bouncing around the walls of my home. But I also can't help but wonder if I might have gotten over it more quickly if procrastination hadn't been made so easy?

Friday, October 09, 2009

Monday, October 05, 2009

Romance Junkies

I'll be chatting tonight at Romance Junkies along with two other Samhain authors. I'm sure there will be plenty of prizes, excerpts and fun for everyone involved. Come on by and join us from 9-10 p.m. (EDT)!

FYI: You'll need the latest version of Java to join in.