Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Just finished writing something and I am afraid that most people will see it as dark and depressing, but it isn’t. It, like many truths, is a key to a wonderful freedom. There are a handful of hard truths, very real, very powerful things and it seems that most people’s lives and civilization itself is often a sad and desperate attempt to make these truths less true.
The most famous? Possibly, from the Buddha: “Life is suffering.” Or, my favorite paraphrase from “The Princess Bride”: “Life is pain, Princess. Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell something.”
Maybe that’s a big truth and maybe it’s dark and maybe it’s scary, but it is profoundly liberating. Getting handed a shit sandwich with life isn’t that big a deal… but the idea that it’s not normal, that the sandwich of life is supposed to be roast beef with bacon and cream cheese lightly toasted with brown mustard… that’s the part that hurts. The suffering, if it is that, lingers in the gap between the expectation and the reality.
Most humans through most of history have had a pretty rough deal. You don’t see it in America much (no matter how hard you try to convince yourself that the country is awash in poverty and homelessness and violence- the math doesn’t work when the greatest health risk to the poorest Americans include complications from obesity). We are programmed, it seems, to think that our lives are hard, and they are, but only compared to an ideal that never really existed. Things, stuff, money, don’t mitigate suffering, they just focus your imagination on different things to suffer about.
I’m trying not to talk out of both sides of my mouth here. There is real pain. Tasers hurt. Old bone breaks and medically installed hardware hurts in your joints when things are cold and humid. You will lose friends that you love. But most of the suffering comes from elsewhere, from an expectation that joints aren’t supposed to hurt or that friends are eternal. That is the difference between grieving and wallowing. Both are about you, but one is honestly about what you lost and the other is about what you thought you had a right to.
Accepting this truth and a few others allows you to live…more? Harder? Better? It allows you to love harder because you are busy loving instead of whining that things aren’t perfect and love is ‘supposed to be perfect’. It allows you to play and learn getting better every day instead of wasting time and emotion trying to figure out how good you are or if you are ‘good enough.’
What do those phrases even mean? What is a ‘perfect love’? What would it look, feel, taste, like? It can’t be both perfectly smooth and exciting. And ‘good enough’? For what? To who? If you ever perfectly achieved it, then what?
Most of the big truths are like that: the totality of the statement is bleak: “Life is suffering.” “You will die.” But each of them is a key. When you quit wasting energy attempting to evade the inevitable; when you quit building a structure of lies to protect yourself from the truth, you can live at the level of truth.
Caveat emptor, though. It’s really not for everybody.
Weapons, Violence and Wounds, presented by Rory Miller, runs from January 2, 2012 through January 29, 2012
Rory Miller is a seventeen-year veteran of a metropolitan correctional system. He spent seventeen years, including ten as a sergeant, with the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office in Portland Oregon. His assignments included Booking, Maximum Security, Disciplinary and Administrative Segregation, and Mental Health Units. He was a CERT (Corrections Emergency Response Team) member for over eleven years and Team Leader for six.
His training has included over eight hundred hours of tactical training; witness protection and close-quarters handgun training with the local US Marshals; Incident Command System; Instructor Development Courses; AELE Discipline and Internal Investigations; Hostage Negotiations and Hostage Survival; Integrated Use of Force and Confrontational Simulation Instructor; Mental Health; Defensive Tactics, including the GRAPLE instructors program; Diversity; and Supervision.
Rory has designed and taught courses including Confrontational Simulations; Uncontrolled Environments; Crisis Communications with the Mentally Ill; CERT Operations and Planning; Defensive Tactics; and Use of Force for Multnomah County and other local agencies.
In 2008 Rory Miller left his agency to spend over a year in Iraq with the Department of Justice ICITAP program as a civilian advisor to the Iraqi Corrections System.
He has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a blackbelt in jujutsu and college varsities in judo and fencing. He also likes long walks on the beach.
His writings have been featured in Loren Christensen’s "Fighter’s Fact Book 2: The Street," Kane and Wilder’s "Little Black Book of Violence," and "The Way to Blackbelt." Rory is the author of "Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training and Real World Violence" published by YMAA.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Last year I went to a two day lecture on the Hero’s Journey put on by Karel Segers of www.thestorydepartment.com. Every stage was demonstrated with film clips (watch Toy Story for an example of the Hero’s Journey).
What I found interesting was that in romantic fiction the first stage of the Hero’s Journey, the ordinary world, is greatly compressed. Authors don’t have pages and pages to build the world, introduce the characters and then get the start of the story where the character’s life is changed forever—also known as the inciting incident. We have one paragraph, maybe two to hook the reader and get into the action.
If we’re trying to world build at the same time this can become a problem. While in film some of the world building is done visually as the character gets into action, in fiction we can’t afford to get caught in pages of description we have to be clever about what we reveal and only sprinkle in the essential pieces. In part this comes from where the story starts.
I like to show the character only moments away from the decision that will change everything. The character doesn’t realize what is about to happen—but the reader is cued to know this event is important even if they don’t know where it will lead. This is the character living in their ordinary world so they aren’t going to be looking at it and describing it in detail. But as they interact with it things will be mentioned in passing. These things need to hint at the bigger world and the bigger conflict that will come once the reader cares enough about the character to read on.
Here are the first two paragraphs of my newest release Dark Vow.
Trouble is like a bastard-horse with a hunger for blood. If it wants you, it’ll get you and take a bite out of your ass. On a good day that’s all it’ll take; on a bad day it’ll take your life. The trouble with trouble is you never know if you’re having a good day or a bad day until after it’s happened. So when a man dressed in black and wearing the gold lightning strike of the Arcane Union Bounty Hunters stood in the doorway of my gun smithy, I knew trouble had found me.
Bounty Hunters never brought good news. Never. I had to get rid of him, politely, so I didn’t end up as fodder for his bastard-horse that was quietly growling out the front. With my husband away it would be at least a day before anyone realized I was gone.
In the opening paragraph we’ve learned the heroine works in a gun smith and a Bounty Hunter has turned up. There is something called a bastard-horse…and the heroine is worried. It’s her fear that allows the reader to empathize even if they’re not privy to all the working of the world yet, and a question has been raised. What does the Bounty Hunter want?
What are some of your tips for slipping world building into the start of a story?
A civil designer by day and an author by night, Shona Husk lives in Western Australia at the edge of the Indian Ocean. Blessed with a lively imagination she spent most of her childhood making up stories. As an adult she discovered romance novels and hasn’t looked back. Drawing on history and myth, she writes about heroes who are armed and dangerous but have a heart of gold—sometimes literally.
With stories ranging from sensual to scorching, she is published with Ellora’s Cave, Samhain Publishing, Carina Press and Sourcebooks. You can find out more at http://www.shonahusk.com
Jaines Cord plans to kill the man who murdered her husband, even though killing a Bounty Hunter is said to be impossible. One bullet took away her livelihood, her home and her love. One bullet made by her. Fired from the gun she completed for the Arcane Bounty Hunter.
Obsidian wears the scars of disobeying the powerful Arcane Union. He barely escaped with his life and now lives quietly, in a town the lawmen forgot. When Jaines arrives asking too many questions, he's faced with a decision. Help her or run…again. Obsidian knows that if he flees he'll always be looking over his shoulder. His name is one of the first on the Bounty Hunter's death list.
Yet when Obsidian is offered an opportunity to stop the stone taking over his body in exchange for retrieving the gun, he asks Jaines for her help. Now Jaines must choose: a dead man's vengeance or a living man's hope?
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
“I read this article about a local woman who I think you could be friends with,” hubby recently said one morning.
I stopped what I was doing and looked at him expectedly. Even at my age, I’m open to meeting new friends. Who doesn’t need more friends?
“She’s also a writer,” he continued.
Even better … another writer.
“She just wrote a history book about Irvine.”
Crash. Screeching halt. What?
OK, I get it, she’s still a writer and I’m sure her book is interesting and she’s a nice person. But a history writer and a writer of erotic romance don’t instantly equal fast friends.
Well, that is unless she’s a writer of the history of erotic romance. Otherwise, she’ll probably not get me.
That said, having friends who understand what you’re going through, i.e. other writers, is particularly valuable. Not everyone gets the craziness that happens within our minds. There also are those genre writers who have been there, done that before. Yes, there are definitely “cliques” within the romance industry, and sometimes inspirational authors may mingle with those who write historical romance, but surely not those who delve into same-sex BDSM … or do they? While those in the erotic realm seem “open” to all forms of writing, that’s not always true across the board.
There’s also a difference between those writers who reflect “reality,” and those who push the boundaries. I’ve always been fascinated with the world of paranormal. I started reading Stephen King at the tender age of 12, and then quickly picked up Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Then there was the fascination with even darker, horror fiction. So for me, FF&P perfectly fits that craving. When someone posts about if “werewolves can do X, Y or Z,” we have answers and opinions! (We don’t scoff.)
And, to push it further into another niche, there’s also something special about having compadres that commiserate with what it’s like to balance writing and home life. I’m being somewhat evasive – for me, it’s kids. It takes a special desire to keep writing when you have the distractions of young children and don’t always feel in the mood to … write!
Fortunately, I’ve found that magic support group, in person via local writing organizations such as the Orange County Romance Writers and also Online. And, some of those “friends” I met through social networking such as Twitter and Facebook. How can you become friends with someone Online? Well, the people who ask such a question have never done so.
These strong and dedicated writers – most of them are women, but there are a few men that I can think of via name – that relate to the obsession of writing, and sharing work with others. They know what a #WIP is, and can relate to wanting to write 1,000 words or better in an hour. And when that magic happens, when you find that tribe that fits, nourish it and cherish it.
And if you need someone to complain to about those who just don’t get it … we’ll be here, too.
Now if you don’t mind, I’ve got a few other things to do and my hubby has stayed up way past his bedtime. I need to find some alone-time.
In May 2012, Bacio will teach the Online workshop “De-Mystifying Ménage” for FF&P. http://www.romance-ffp.com/event.cfm?EventID=379
Louisa Bacio writes erotic romance, many of which delve into the paranormal realm. Her fourth full-length novel The Vampire, The Witch & The Werewolf 2: Chains of Silver will be released soon via Ravenous Romance. You can find her online at http://louisabacio.blogspot.com and http://www.facebook.com/louisabacio.
The Vampire, The Witch & The Werewolf 2: Chains of Silver
Adopted at birth, Silver Ashe discovers her blood-brother Trevor Pack is a werewolf, with a vampire and witch for lovers. All her teachings about the evils of the paranormal Others come into question. She runs to a family friend, Nick, for help.
Nick Stake takes his hobby as a vampire hunter personally. He strives to rid the world of evil bloodsuckers. When his best friend’s “kid” sister comes to him for advice, Nick discovers Silver’s more than grown up. He battles his growing desire for Silver and blindly holds true to his convictions.
Once Silver reaches her sexual maturity, she’ll inherit her full genetic heritage and turn into a werewolf. When death comes calling, Silver and Nick must face their darkest fears in order to break free from the chains that bind.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Prepare to spend March 2-4 with your fellow genre writers and fans of all things fantasy, futuristic and paranormal in the immortal city of New Orleans.
Special guests include Karen Marie Moning (keynote luncheon speaker), Bob Mayer, Angela James, literary agents, and editors from NY publishers and e-press.
Hosted at the beautiful New Orleans Marriott Hotel, the conference features 25+ workshops along with pitch sessions and book signings. Whether you're drawn to the wonder of steampunk or determined to learn how to craft a solid pitch, the 2012 Fantasy on the Bayou FF&P Conference has workshops covering those topics and others, including the latest on the future of publishing, what editors want, nurturing an audience, and crime scene forensics.
A trip to New Orleans wouldn't be complete without a party! Attendees will be treated to an awards dinner/banquet where we'll present awards, pin some PROs, and celebrate the greatness that stems from our PAN authors. There's also a strong chance for some night-time strolls through the city to feed your muse for your next novel!
Registration for FF&P members is only $250 USD. Additional information will be accessible through the official FF&P website at romance-ffp.com. The hotel rate is $195/night (plus tax) and will be available to you 2 days before and 2 days after the conference.
Keep watching the website as more details are announced soon.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
The feedback I receive from readers and reviewers that most warms my heart is praise of my characters. It’s my characters who speak to me first, who tell me what their story is [plot, GMC], how it would best be told [point of view, verb tense, genre], and when and where it takes place [setting].
For me, everything starts with characters, and what I tend most to write are character-driven stories (as opposed to plot-driven stories). By character-driven stories, I mean those stories that focus on the inner world of the character. What drives him, what scares him, what he most yearns for above all else, and what it is that makes him think he can’t have it—these become central to the plot and to shaping how the characters react to the action elements of the plot.
But how do you get into your character’s head in a way that lets you create compelling characters people will remember, care about and root for?
To answer that, consider the blank character sketch below. I almost never plot (hello, fellow pantsers! LOL), but I almost always write out a character sketch like this one:
Unique Physical Traits:
Where lives now:
Why holds that job:
Overall goal in story*:
What stands in his way of achieving this goal*:
What does he stand to lose, if not successful*:
Greatest flaw or fault:
Scars (internal or external):
What triggers fears:
Why hasn’t he achieved that dream:
Hardest thing to sacrifice:
Biggest sacrifice ever made:
Closest friend he ever had:
What happened to that person:
Closest current relationship:
Three words your character would use to describe himself:
What does he praise about himself:
What would others praise about him:
What would be the best situation your character could be in:
What would be the worst situation your character could be in:
Undeniably, plot and character are intertwined in any great story, but only the three starred questions on the character sketch explicitly relate to the action and forward motion of the plot. The rest tell you how the character thinks about the plot and how he’ll approach it and try to achieve it. Now, a more plot-driven writer might argue that what the character hates, or what secrets he has, or what sacrifice he’s made could all relate to the plot—and they’d be right. But, for our purposes here, those kinds of traits are fundamental to who this character is as a person. What their emotional make-up is. What’s going on inside their brain and heart that leads them to make one choice over another. To write memorable characters readers love, the author has to know the character’s emotional landscape inside and out. Some of what you come to learn about your character might never even make it into the story—but you as the author need to know it nonetheless.
You should consider your first pass through a sketch like this as a first draft. Complete it and tape it over your writing space. If you’re like me, you will learn more and more about your character as you write. As you learn new things that go deeper and deeper into your character, add them to the sketch.
For example, your first time through, you might respond to “Hate” with something like, “Hates the Evil Vampire Lord, who killed his whole human family and turned him into a vampire against his will.” Okay, great. That tells us a lot about the bad things that happened to your character in the past and what has injured him. But notice it doesn’t tell you how that made him feel. If you go deeper, you might add that he felt guilt for surviving when his family didn’t, grief at their loss, humiliation that he couldn’t stop the attack, and despair that he’ll never have a chance at family again. You might learn that what he really hates is himself, and that’s way, way deeper than hating the villain—because after all, villains are easy to hate.
For me, character sketches that I continue to flesh out are a great way to get into my characters’ heads, and are a great tool for helping to create three-dimensional, emotionally deep and contradictory characters who are relatable, sympathetic, likeable (even if they don’t like themselves), and able to rise to the occasion when the chips are down. Compelling characters are key to giving your readers a satisfying emotional payoff, so finding ways to create the most memorable characters you can will lead to writing gold.
If you already use character sketches, what do you feel they do for you in your writing? If not, what questions do you have about this approach? I’d also be curious to hear your take on character-driven versus plot-driven writing, and how that relates to your own stories.
Thanks so much for reading,
A multi-published author of paranormal, contemporary and erotic romance, Laura Kaye’s hot, heartfelt stories are all about the universal desire for a place to belong. Laura is the author of the bestselling contemporary romance and award-nominated HEARTS IN DARKNESS and the bestselling and award-winning paranormal romance FOREVER FREED (NJRW Golden Leaf Award for Best Paranormal of 2011), as well as an erotic romance novella, JUST GOTTA SAY. Her fourth book, contemporary fantasy romance NORTH OF NEED, is the first in the 4-book Hearts of the Anemoi series. Laura lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day. Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter SignUp
WANT TO WIN NORTH OF NEED? The North of Need Book Launch Blog Tour runs through November 20. A giveaway everyday!
Her tears called a powerful snow god to life, but only her love can grant the humanity he craves...
Desperate to escape agonizing memories of Christmas past, twenty-nine-year-old widow Megan Snow builds a snow family outside the mountain cabin she once shared with her husband, realizing too late that she's recreated the very thing she'll never have.
Called to life by Megan's tears, snow god Owen Winters appears unconscious on her doorstep in the midst of a raging blizzard. As she nurses him to health, Owen finds unexpected solace in her company and unimagined pleasure in the warmth of her body, and vows to win her heart for a chance at humanity.
Megan is drawn to Owen's mismatched eyes, otherworldly masculinity, and enthusiasm for the littlest things. But this Christmas miracle comes with an expiration--before the snow melts and the temperature rises, Megan must let go of her widow's grief and learn to trust love again, or she'll lose Owen forever.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
One of the ways to use the power of your subconscious mind to help you achieve your writing goals is to give it a “template” to follow, or a guide in the form of a Role Model that your conscious mind recognizes and understands. To do this, choose an author who has achieved the type of success you are going for and work to emulate the traits and habits of that author as best you can. Following in another’s footsteps gives you a guide for your own daily behavior as well as guideposts for your writing and writing career.
Role modeling is not copying another person or trying to be their clone; it’s simply using the qualities of another writer you admire as a touchstone to keep you moving ahead toward your own success.
When using Role Modeling, select traits and qualities in another writer that you admire and use those as a springboard for your own behaviors. Choose behaviors, attitudes, work habits, and other elements of another writer’s life that represent success to you and strive to emulate these things in your own way. It’s not necessary to know your Role Model personally; for instance, many authors post their writing schedules and their own paths to success on their websites, or in their books. Read these, and then pick out the habits and success traits of your Role Model that you want to emulate.
Let me give you an example. Several years ago I attended a large writing conference. Many attendees were wearing buttons with WWND? inscribed on them. I asked what the acronym stood for and was told it meant “What would Nora do?” meaning what would bestselling author Nora Roberts do. These button wearing aspiring authors were using the ideal of Nora Roberts as a touchstone for their own behaviors and actions as they strove toward their own writing success. For instance, when they didn’t feel like writing, the button reminded them to ask themselves what Nora Roberts would do when she didn’t feel like writing. The answer of course is that she probably writes no matter how she feels. And so forth.
In a similar way, you are working to pick an author you admire and ask yourself “What would Author X do?” It’s a good way to stay focused on your daily and long term writing goals.
A Composite Writer
An easy way to use Role Modeling is to create a composite writer. You probably have several authors that you admire; simply combine the traits and habits that these successful authors possess and strive to emulate those.
Perhaps you learned from Author X when you heard her speak at a conference that she writes Monday through Friday and takes weekends off to be with her family. So the habit of writing five days per week would be something that you want to incorporate into your composite writer Role Model. Maybe you read that Author Y was rejected three hundred times before he sold his first novel. The trait that you would want to list on your ideal composite might be persistence, or tenacity, or believing in self.
This ideal composite represents the type of writer you’re trying to become. It gives you a springboard to use as a jumping off point for your own success by guiding and directing your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. This version of Role Modeling is a great tool for both aspiring and established authors because it allows you to take traits and habits from several writers and incorporate those into your own writing lifestyle.
For more information on the many uses of Role Modeling to achieve writing success, refer to Chapter 8 in LIVING WRITE: The Secret to Bringing Your Craft Into Your Daily Life.
Question for discussion: Who is your Role Model and what traits or habits of that author will you start emulating in your writing life?
©Kelly L Stone
Leave a comment by Friday, November 11th for a chance to win a 15 page critique from Kelly L. Stone!
No Matter How Busy You Are, You Can Find Time To Write!, presented by Kelly L. Stone, runs from January 9, 2012 through February 5, 2012
Kelly L. Stone started a successful writing career while holding down a full time job. She then wrote Time To Write (Adams Media, January, 2008) to show other aspiring writers how to do it, too. Her novel, Grave Secret (Mundania Press, September, 2007) was called "powerful" and "well written" by Romantic Times Book Reviews. Her latest book is LIVING WRITE: The Secret to Bringing Your Craft Into Your Daily Life was released in October 2010.