Thursday, November 30, 2006


Typed up this lovely, long post. I was jumping on the Thursday Thirteen bandwagon. I'd made my list, gone on to comment on all 13 entries, had links and was putting on some bells and whistles...when Explorer crashed on me. Lost the whole lot.

Ugh! You'd think I'd have learned by now to make frequent draft saves. Yeah, you'd think.

Anyway, I'll try again next Thursday. I think the concept is cool, not so much because I want to drive traffic here (honestly, I don't understand anything about blogrolls or linkages or whatever, so I'm not in it for that), but because I love reading trivia about people and oohing and aahing when I agree. Plus, I love to blab about myself. I mean, come on. If you have a blog, you must be at least a tiny bit narcissistic, right?

Instead I'm going to plug Men In Trees, which is on tonight 10 eastern/9 central. ABC is moving if from Fridays to Thursday nights, after Grey's Anatomy, which is a very good fit. If you like Grey's, you'll probably like MIT. It's cute and clever and brain candy of the best kind. You won't cry and you won't yell at your TV and you probably won't learn any deep messages or vote some unknown kid to superstardom. But I promise, you will grin a whole lot.

Check it out.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

More Evil Than a Pack of Spurned Serial Killers

Hope everyone had a very happy Thanksgiving holiday. Mine was...well, stressful. I had company, so with all of the preparation and cooking and cleaning up, I didn't seem to get much of a vacation in my vacation. Not to mention the electric tension between two fueding family members, so thick and rich it could be cut with a plastic knife. Ugh. I never knew I could be so uncomfortable in my own home.

Anyway...I discovered over the weekend the most truly heinous crime perpetrated in any romantic situation. Show me any evil villain or malicious spurned female set on revenge or psychopathic serial killer and I'll show you something even more vile.

I'm talking about The Woman Who Breaks The Tortured Hero's Heart.

This is not the same woman who creates the Bad Boy/Lost Soul/Tortured Hero. The one who done him wrong some time in his past such that he is no longer able to love or open up or has a (presumably) redeemable misogynistic bent. She's the one we never actually meet but only learn about through flashback and dream sequences in which Hero once was a warm, giving male who suffered so cruely at the hands of love he has lost all ability to feel the softer emotions, leaving it up to our Heroine to mend the shredded remains of his shriveled heart.

Who I'm talking about is actually that woman, with a twist. The one who meets Tortured Hero post torturing. He's hard as a rock, unbendable and unable to love already when she comes strolling into his penthouse office/brother's garage/batcave. But she breaks him open like an extra-thick pinata to expose his gooey innards by being a Worthy Love Interest. We like this girl. She's a nice one, somebody we can root for as she chips away at the hero's armor. When he finally breaks and falls in love with her, we heave a sigh of satisfaction. Our poor soul is happy at last, redeemed and set to begin his hard-earned HEA with a gal who deserves him. All is right with the world.

But then she turns on him. She may have really good reasons - they usually do or they become cardboard villains. Heck, there might even be a Big Mis involved that actually makes some kind of sense. But for whatever reason, she makes a choice to screw over the hero in some way, taking a love that is probably more rare than 100 karat diamonds and stomping it beneath the heel of her stiletto. He discovers her betrayal, naturally, and she may or may not die after he attempts to rescue her from some cruel fate despite the fact that she's now created a hole the size of a moon crater where his heart once used to live. He's a hero, after all, so no matter how much we want him to just let the bitch die, he can't do it.

So we end up with a Tortured Hero who refound love, only to have it snatched away again. If he's smart - and all worthwhile heroes are smart - he's very familiar with the old adage fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. First gal used up the shame on you, and now second gal has pushed him into shame on me. Do you think there is any way in hell that this guy is going to put himself in a position to be fooled a third time?

He's ruined. He's gone from redeemable to damaged beyond all repair. Never again could I buy that this guy will be able to fall in love, no matter how perfect the next heroine who comes along. If he does fall in love, it becomes kind of silly. "See, there was this dame, and she broke my heart. Then there was this other dame, and she broke it, too. But you, sweetheart, you I can trust." Our glorious tortured hero becomes kind of pathetic if he falls again, stripping the title of Tortured clean away. Or, if he's lucky, he's resigned to the fate of Forever Rake who can appear in the sequels but will never get his HEA without suspicion that a costly divorce looms in his future.

Thus the character that I find most loathsome in all of romance, bar no genre, is the Second Chance Girl Who Blows It All For Money/Power/Fame/Lust for Another Man. When a writer gives us a tortured hero on the brink of finding love again, believe that I will be sorely pissed off if she turns out to be only another knife in his heart. I love a good tortured hero, and to ruin one in such a way is a crime punishable by writer's block falling upon the head of the perpetrator until he or she has done sufficient penance.

Gee...I'm starting to kind of sound like Annie Wilkes.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bond. James Bond.

How weird is it that I'm totally jazzed about seeing the latest Bond movie, Casino Royale?

I'm not a Bond fan. I mean, I've seen one or two Bond movies, and I enjoy the premise of a super-agent against all odds. He's the uber hero, with his un-ruffle-able demeanor and ability to get out of any jam conceived by human and non-human. How can you not think James is the thing?

But the Bond movies always seem a little too heavy on the action and a little too light on the substance for me to really enjoy. They are the quintessential guy film. Usually I'm a fan of action-heavy guy films. But Bond is the one subgenre that contains a testosterone level too high for me to compute.

However, I'm really intrigued by Casino Royale. Perhaps it's the new Bond, actor Daniel Craig (who, gads, I see is almost a year younger than I am!). I don't know why, but I find this guy incredibly appealing. Maybe it's the ice-blue eyes of his. Or the fact that he appears pretty darn un-ruffle-able. I know a lot of Bond purists have had baby cows over Craig's casting, claiming that even if you could ignore the anti-Bond blond hair and blue eyes, he's not even tall enough to be a Double-O-7. My knee-jerk to those folks is give me a break, you are talking about a character who is virtually indestructable. Who cares what color his hair is? I'm good with this new Bond. In fact, I think I'll like him better than the Pierce Brosnan incarnation who was simply too smooth around the edges to seem like a living, breathing human.

What I think excites me most about Casino Royale, however, is the plot (warning - SPOILERS at that link if you scroll down!). Looks like in CR, we get to go back to the beginning, find out how Bond got his start and what makes him tick. Too, looks like there might be a love interest of sorts rather than another of the endless stream of Bond girls who become nameless, faceless bodies as soon as I walk out of the theater (save Pussy Galore, because, god, come on!). I am all over that if my uber-hero actually meets and develops some - gulp - feelings for an uber-heroine.

Maybe it's those marketing folks finally realizing that even really good sport females like me who don't mind an action-heavy guy flick have our limits. If they toss in a smidgen of romance, I'm sold.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Holly Lisle Is Evil!!

Why is Holly Lisle evil?

Because I have been waiting with baited breath for her to finish and release her Create A Culture Clinic e-book/workshop so I could download, read, savor, and use every last little syllable.

So when does this woman finally make it available? Today. Smack dab in the middle of NaNoWriMo Week #2 when I'm some 15,000 words behind schedule.

I'm telling you, I'd read advice from Holly on how to properly dot "i"s and cross "t"s if she were up for shelling it out. She's an amazingly gifted writer and generous soul who shares what she's pulled out of the school of hard knocks with those of us who are trying to tread the same, worn path. I'm so very grateful she decided to make the time to put out these e-books (which I'm happy to pay for as they are both reasonably priced and worth every single penny and then some). I recommend each and every one of them without reservation.

But now I'm tempted into the sin of abandoning my NaNo book so I can go play in Holly's newest sandbox. I have a huge fantasy project in the infancy stage, and this Create A Culture Clinic is just the thing to send me into raptures over the idea of jumping back into it full body, mind and spirit. But my NaNo book has nothing whatsoever to do with this fantasy world. Nor can I afford to spend the hour day week playing there.

If I were really good - and smart - I'd save this treasure as my reward for reaching my NaNo 50k word goal. I'd put a little tiny shortcut icon of the CACC artwork on the corner of my desktop to tease and tempt me into finishing fast and soon. The carrot dangling from the end of the NaNo stick.

*sigh* I just don't know if I have that kind of willpower.

Dang you, Holly Lisle! Dang your wonderful generous heart to the devil where you will be tempted by too much chocolate, soft, fuzzy slippers and an endless supply of perfectly brewed coffee!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

My Darling, You Smell...Horrible

Fans of Lost and Sawyer/Kate 'shippers everywhere got a real boon on last night's episode. At long last, the two take their maybe/maybe not relationship to the next level, engaging in some very hot jungle monkey love.

First thing my husband said when it became clear Kate and Sawyer were going for the gold? "God, they both must stink!"

Although not the most romantic remark, he had a good point. Since their capture, Kate and Sawyer have been living inside cages, outside (think the zoo), have been forced to do manual labor, have not been given a change of clothes (at least Sawyer hasn't) and, as far as I can tell, have not had the chance to shower in days save what they can manage in a tropical rainstorm. We won't even talk about their lack of proper bathroom facilities or the fact that I have yet to see a toothbrush or tube of toothpaste.

They look filthy. Clothes are torn. Faces are smeared with dirt. Hair is tangled and matted or lanky with grease. They could use a major two-for-one day at the spa.

So I imagine they both carry a healthy amount of funk right about now. Which, in the real world, would be a huge, HUGE, turnoff for me. Heck, last thing I'm feeling when the hubby comes home from a jog with a healthy aroma of cleansing sweat about him is romantic. I wrinkle up my nose and tell him to take a shower and make sure to put the dirty workout clothes in the hamper, thank you very much.

Why is it, then, that I can ignore what is likely to be pretty darn off-putting as far as smells go when I'm rooting for a hero and heroine to finally get it going? I think about all of those historicals I've loved in the past, and despite reassurances by the author that the heroine is so very unusual for her time because she just insists on bathing every day while the hero takes his daily swim in the refreshing purified lake on his palatial estate, I just know people back then stunk. How could they not? Have you ever seen Braveheart? I can't imagine anything appealing about running my fingers through Mel's head of hair. I can't imagine being able to run my fingers through Mel's head of hair.

But I'm able to forget all that when it comes to love. Perhaps it's because I figure that the bad odor of the two love interests cancels each other out. I've read anecdotes about soldiers who've spent days in the field without bathing, and how they don't mind the funk around them because everyone has it. They don't even notice it. Kind of like hanging out in the men's locker room, I suppose. You just kind of get used to it. And if both the hero and heroine are at the same level of grossness, which of them could dare to complain? How are they to know when their own stench ends and their lover's begins? Darling, is it you who smells like rotting sweat socks, or is that me?

And, I suppose, desperate situations don't leave much room for pickiness. In Kate and Sawyer's case, it's not like they've chosen to live in cages sans bathing facilities. They believe their lives are in danger, therefore waiting until both have had a chance to "freshen up" isn't an option.

Not to mention how those pent up emotions can sweep all other little inconsequentials to the side once they are finally released. In the throws of true passion, I suppose one forgets about such trifling things as B.O.

All I know is stinky or not, Kate and Sawyer sure were hot!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Any Point In Time

Kristin Nelson asked an intriguing question in her RTB column today. She supposes if the central theme of a love story is universal, why would it matter in what time period the story was set? If the story is about, say, a man seeking redemption for past wrongs and trying to win the hand of the girl-next-door, wouldn't it be smarter to set said story in the marketable Regency era rather than the unmarketable Medieval days? Since publishers seem determined to walk the narrow line as far as what they'll buy as far as historicals, why not do all you can to work the system, especially if the basic story premise is relatively neutral time-wise.

I won't argue about the smarter part as far as business goes. I'm sure it is smarter to write in a time period that is currently hotcakes hot, which I guess is Regency England.

Thing is, if you boil all stories down to their most basic elements, there are only a handful of "themes" or premises out there. Recall that there really are no new ideas. The best any writer can hope for is to take an old idea and find a way to make it fresh and appealing.

Which leads me to argue that it is actually very important where and when a story is set if a writer has any hope of accomplishing that goal. The generic premise of an arranged marriage, for example, can take on completely different parameters based on when it is set. An arranged marriage in Medieval England results from and in something different than one set in the Regency.

Too, the way that people act and react, what is acceptable or expected, possible situations versus the completely improbable all depend heavily on when the story takes place. Things that could or would happen in America's wild west certainly wouldn't be the same things one would expect in Georgian drawing rooms.

Picking a time period places a certain range of parameters on a story. Sure, the theme that anchors these parameters might pivot from the same point, but the details could be completely different. Characters might be the life blood of a romance novel, but plot pumps them from place to place. And time period is crucial to what a plot can and cannot allow.

A man on a mission of redemption could have a dozen different sins he might be seeking to clear, but those wrongs would differ from era to era. If I, as a reader, am expected to buy into the story, I need to believe that what he did really did qualify for a need for redemption. In order to do this, I need to know what the time period allowed as far as actions go. Once upon a time, having a mistress was a perfectly acceptable option for a married noble. Nearer to today, not so much. If I'm to believe the hero is seeking forgiveness from his wife for some dalliance, I need to know that such actions were not the norm for his time. If everyone else was doing it, I'd need to know what special circumstances arose that either a) made the hero believe he, alone, was wrong or b) his wife deserved some special consideration not afforded any other wives of the time.

If all this weren't enough, I think different time periods allow the writer different levels of latitude. I, for one, could never manage a Regency because I don't have the patience as a writer for all the drawing room intrigue nor the ability to seduce through words alone. I find the Regency simply too restrictive for my tastes. I'd rather romp in the Medievals.

In the end, I suppose it all comes down to a matter of taste. Whether or not I could write my story in era and still make it work is irrelevant. If I'm not having any fun writing it, if my only goal is to churn out something that will sell and therefore must be placed in a time that doesn't hold my interest, I don't see how I could fake it well enough that the reader couldn't sense my ambivalence.

Writing is simply too hard and too risky not to be any fun.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I Just Don't Get It

If someone out there can explain to me how my tiny little creative brain works, I'd be ever so grateful.

I settled on a story idea for NaNoWriMo. It had a good premise, a hero and heroine and secondary hero and heroine that I liked. I had some awesome scenes in mind. I knew how I wanted the story to begin and end. The mood was going to be light, the plot fairly simplistic. Throw in some quirkly characters for color and a small town setting and I felt good to go.

But the previous two days were a pure struggle. I could not for the life of me manage to put anything on the page that made me feel good. Everything felt forced, I had no idea what my characters should say to each other, no concept of how I was going to maneuver them from points A and B to C and D.

I was already bored after 3,000 words.

So this morning I resurrected an older idea that I've been puttering on for a while. I was determined to follow the NaNo rule that you can't bring prior work to the table on starting day. Everything you write toward the 50k word goal must be new stuff. I'm cool with that. Part of my problem is a tendency to rewrite the first few scenes over and over again. I certainly don't want to waste my month doing that.

So I decided that I would jump into the middle of the story and act as though I'd already written everything up until that point to put my characters where they needed to be. I'd skip the beginning chapters and start in the middle. Too, I determined that if I could write enough today to catch me up to my proper word count for day 3 - some 5,000 plus words - I would force myself to go back to my original idea. Remember, I'm sworn to actually finish something this time, even if what I finish bores me to tears.

And you know what happened? My brain exploded. I went wild. I wrote and wrote and wrote today. I passed by my 5,000 word goal and still have an entire night ahead of me to plow onward.

Best of all, none of it was a struggle. The characters talked to each other. In fact, they talked so much it took me twice as many words to get the scene down as I'd planned. They met and made plans. They experienced conflict. They moved forward and took steps back.

And it was fun! I didn't want to stop writing to go pick up the kids. I was annoyed when the dog interrupted me to be let outside. We're about to leave for dinner and I'm asking we go fast-food so I can get back to it.

Why? I just don't get why one story idea leaves me cold when another one sends my muse spinning in intoxication. Why one set of characters inspires me so much more than another set.

Funny thing is that what I'm writing now needs a ton - TON - of work to make it good. I'm not writing stellar stuff. I'm sticking with the It's Okay to Suck mantra of all NaNoers out there. But the quantity is coming. Easily.

Anyway, I've done what I vowed not to do in that I changed my focus. Since I'm no worse off than I would have been had I stayed the course, I'm okay with my decision. I'm now excited by the prospect of finishing instead of wondering how I'm going to spew out 50,000 words when I don't have any idea of what my characters want to say to each other. I figure this is the first step in making it happen.

Truly, I baffle myself.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

NaNoWriMo Day 1

I sat my butt in the chair this morning and pounded out 1,999 words in a little less than two hours. Not bad. I have plenty of time to do more, but I'm debating whether or not I should keep going. Part of me feels a need to pace myself, to go slow and steady so as to finish the race rather than bolting out of the starting gate only to collapse in a few days from exhaustion. I'm going for the marathon, not the sprint. The goal is to reach the finish line this time.

Problem is, I'm having a really hard time with the NaNoWriMo writer's Golden Rule: Thou Shalt Not Use Thy Internal Editor. I just can't help it because I know what I'm writing is so very bad. I can't stop from wincing with the stuff that's going down, pausing often to reflect on how terrible it all is and how I've already - in only 2,000 words - got plot holes and inconsistencies and flat characters and stiff dialogue. I landed on one of my undeveloped story ideas because I figured if I completely mucked it up, I wouldn't mind so much. I was wrong because every misstep is killing me already.

I know. I know. The goal here isn't perfection. I can shoot for that at another time.

I've thought about printing out the mantra "It's OK to suck" and taping it to the top of my laptop. Or maybe I should go with something stronger, such as "You MUST suck! It is your job to write junk!!" Anything to keep reminding me that I'm not supposed to worry about how bad it all is.

On a more pleasant note, I just got word from a good friend that she has a book contract. I'm so very happy for her. She's a wonderful writer with a Jennifer Crusie-like sense of humor, and I have no doubt she'll do very well. Too, she's the closest real friend I have who's actually succeeded in writing, so I'm getting some vicarious thrills through her.

I do admit to a tiny twinge in the heart when I read her "I've signed a book contract" e-mail. She and I started writing at about the same time, although she has a history of writing screenplays so therefore a bit more experience. We met via the same fanfic fandom where we competed for the Best New Author award against each other. She won - and she deserved it. Just as she deserves this contract. Because she did what I haven't managed to do.

She finished!

Last year I challenged her to the NaNoWriMo competition. She picked up the gauntlet and made it through the month, coming out a winner at the other end. I did not. So I have no one to blame but me.

I'm happy for her and am hoping that her success inspires me. And I'm also hoping she'll send me a signed copy of her book when it comes out because I can honestly say I knew her when.

Meanwhile, I'm just going to go with the sucky flow.