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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quick, Is That A Dragon Behind You?

Please welcome guest blogger Eilis Flynn

When Jacquie and I started to toss around the idea of faery and dragon legends all around the world, we quickly found out that there were, literally, faery and dragon legends all. Around. The. World. It surprised the heck out of us!

Not only that, faeries and dragons can be found in places and ways you may not expect. The term “faery” itself is definitely of European origin, but the concept of supernatural or elemental spirits who are both of the world and who are not can be found all over the world, while the concept of the dragon plays and has played an important part in cultures around the world, ranging from the legend of Quetzalcoatl to the Chinese dragon.

The names may change, but whatever you call them, faeries and dragons have been both kind and mischievous, good and evil, sometimes a symbol and sometimes one of chaos. In the workshop, we’re going to take you on a quick trip to take a look at them, starting with faeries and finishing up with dragons. The Silk Road we’ll be traveling goes all the way around the world, and we’re going to start in the most unlikely of beginnings: Hollywood, hopping across the Americas and continuing on to Europe and beyond.

Just a peek at the faeries and dragons you’re going to encounter along the way:

The dragons we find by the time we get past the Mediterranean have less and less in common with the dragons we encounter in European culture. In classical Greek culture, one of the earliest mentions of a dragon is from the Iliad, where Agamemnon is described as having a blue dragon motif on his sword belt and a three-headed dragon emblem on his breast plate. And of course, the references to the “sea-monster” or “pole serpent” in the Bible, the “leviathan” of the Biblical stories, seem to be very close to the idea of the dragon we see elsewhere.

Persia, the earlier name for Iran, has in many ways more in common with its neighbors to the east, which includes China and India. Unlike its Arabic-speaking neighbors – because Iranians/Persians speak Farsi, not Arabic – Persian mythology refers to angels as its nature spirits, although there are references to demons as well. One example is the Peri, a Persian faery referred to as a fallen angel, who can’t achieve paradise until they do penance.

Then there’s the Persian version of dragons, mentioned in Zoroastrian scripture, in which stories include both positive AND negative stories – remember, Persia is a gateway culture, with influences from both East and West, with very close ties to the Hindu culture. But I found a curious inversion, commented on by comparative linguistic and folklore academics: Many things that are viewed as negative in Persian mythology is topsy-turvy positive in Hindu mythology, with names that are clearly connected, very close, but usually not exact, so their roots in Indo-European myths are pretty apparent.

As opposed to the dragon legends of the West, the dragons of the East are usually water-based, associated with rainfall and bodies of water as well as fertility, usually wingless, serpentine, often positive, often seen as an authority figure, and still very much part of contemporary culture. The Vedic version of the dragon, also known as a naga, is the personification of drought and enemy of Indra, the hero of Hindu sagas. Naga, also known as a snake-spirit, guarded great treasures, just like so many stories in Western myths about dragons. These forms of dragons can take human form and many ancient tribes claim to be descendants of nagas, especially from a union between a human hero and a feminine form of the snake called Nagini. Today, there are even tribes that are called Nagas. The Japanese word for long is “nagai.” Coincidence? You decide.

Going south, the earth spirits in Polynesia are also still going strong. The menehune are some of the most popular faeries of the region and are said to live deep in the forests and hidden valleys, granting wishes and helping those who are lost. Local legends say that the menehune built temples, fishponds, roads, canoes, and even houses. They are said to have lived in Hawaii long before the human settlers arrived, many centuries ago – which may remind you of the stories about the fae of the British isles.

And there’s much, much more in the workshop. Come on by and realize that dragons and faeries are everywhere!

Faeries and Dragons Along the Silk Road and Beyond, presented by Eilis Flynn and Jacquie Rogers, runs from April 16, 2012 through April 29, 2012.

Eilis Flynn has spent a large share of her life working on Wall Street or in a Wall Street-related firm, so why should she write fiction that’s any more based in our world? She spends her days aware that there is a reality beyond what we can see … and tells stories about it. Published in multiple genres, she lives in verdant Washington state with her equally fantastical husband and spoiled rotten cats. Her latest works are The Riddle of Ryu, in which dragons play a part, and Static Shock, in which dragons play no part, but it’s still an exciting adventure story. She can be reached at eilisflynn.com.

Jacquie Rogers’ first burning desire was to be a baseball announcer, but that didn’t work out so she decided to write romance novels. She has several novels out, the latest is the second in the Much Ado western romance series, Much Ado About Madams. Faery Merry Christmas is her latest fantasy release.  She also writes non-fiction with Ann Charles, including Nail It! The Secret to Building an Effective Fiction Writer’s Platform, and Growing Your Audience.  Jacquie is owner of Romancing The West, a popular western blog, and teaches online classes on various writing topics. You can reach her at jacquierogers.com.

Friday, March 16, 2012

2011 On The Far Side Contest for Unpublished Authors

Got fantasy, futuristic, or paranormal? Then the On the Far Side contest is for you!!
Welcome dragons, witches, ghosties, vampires, shape shifters, unicorns, and any creature your imagination can conjure up in a galaxy far, far away, in a time long past, or in your very own backyard.

**NEW: Enter contest today to reserve your spot, but you can upload your file any time until contest deadline!

2011 On The Far Side Contest for Unpublished Authors

Sponsor: Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal Special-Interest Chapter
Fee: $20 FF&P members / $25 non-FF&P members
Deadline: April 15, 2012
Eligibility: Must not be published in full length fiction (40,000+) for the genre entering/or not published in genre entering for past 5 years
Enter: 2 page maximum synopsis (OPTIONAL) and first 20 pages of manuscript

To enter, go to the website http://www.romance-ffp.com/OTFS.cfm

Payment via PayPal is preferred.

2011 Categories and Final Judges:

Romantic Elements: Liz Pelletier, Publisher, Entangled Publishing

Hard Science Fiction/SF/Futuristic: TBA

Dark/Light/General Paranormal: Renee Rocco, Publisher, Lyrical Press, Inc.

Time Travel/Steampunk/Historical with Paranormal Elements: Deb Werksman, Editor, Sourcebooks

Dark/Urban/General Fantasy: Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary Agency

Young Adult: Kevan Lyon, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency


1.       All entrants must be valid members of RWA National® with a valid RWA® number.

2.       Entries shall consist of first 20 pages of manuscript plus an optional, unjudged 2 page maximum synopsis of the novel. A prologue and/or second chapter may be included if within total page guidelines.

3.       Do not include illustrations, author bio/photos, vocabulary lists, or footnotes.

4.       Entries shall be in standard manuscript format, 12 pt Courier or Courier New font or 14 pt Times New Roman font, 1" margins, and double spaced. (Documents not in these formats will be disqualified and contest entry fees will be forfeited.)

5.       The title and category should be on top left of the page, page number on top right.

6.       The author's name should not appear anywhere on the manuscript or synopsis. Entries bearing the author's name on them shall be disqualified and entry fee will be forfeited.

7.       Entries must be submitted by midnight EST April 15, 2012. If requirement is not met, entries will be unopened and entry fees will be forfeited. Payment must also to be received by Contest Coordinator before deadline.

8.       NEW!! Entry forms may be submitted in advance of file upload. Entrants will receive an email with instructions for how to edit their entry form and/or upload or re-upload their files. No changes may be made after the contest deadline.

9.       Entries must be received in RTF (Rich Text Format) files only. (To convert your file to RTF, open the document, go into File, click on Save As and choose RTF format. This will create a new document with the same title in RTF format.)

10.   No more than TWO (2) entries per entrant per category.

Questions: Please contact the Contest Coordinator, Qaey Williams at otfscoordinator@romance-ffp.com

Monday, March 12, 2012

Plotting and the Premise

Please welcome guest blogger Gail Gaymer Martin

Plotting is what creates the action in your novel. The technique varies. Some people are what writers call Pantsters or SOTP (writing from the seat of their pants) while some writers create an outline or synopsis. Often the outline or synopsis is sketchy, leaving openings to take interesting detours on the character’s journey. This allows creativity without being tied to a pre-proposed plot. No matter what kind of writer you are, one element that happens early in the story planning is called creating the premise. A premise is the core of the novel—what it’s about and the dramatic issues that move it to its ending. A premise also forms assumptions for readers. From the way you build your story, readers presume the story will follow a logical pattern, so authors can be assured that readers have expectations.

The readers expectations are based on their past experiences. Let’s say, a man and woman decide to marry on an exotic island. Readers assume the novel will contain a wedding and a trip to an island, probably romantic, possibly humorous. If a book opens with a man lifting the lid of his trunk and finding a dead body, the reader assumes he will contact the police and the story will be the pursuit of the killer and perhaps why the body was in this man’s car. Consider your personal assumptions when you hear the premise of a novel or movie.

A premise begins with the central story idea.  Something is going to happen. For example, what happens if someone left a baby on your doorstep? What would happen if you received a letter saying you are the heir to your great uncle’s fortune? What would happen if you won a multi-million dollar lottery? What would happen if the woman you loved asked you to marry her only for convenience? You could come up with a hundred ifs.
                    . . .if your dog dug up a human arm in your back woods?
                    . . .if you found an old map in your attic?
                    . . .if you learned as an adult you had a biological mother who gave you away?
                    . . .if you were accused of murder without an alibi?
                    . . .if your husband vanished coming home from work?
                    . . .if you fell in love with a prisoner?
                    . . .if you were asked to work undercover?
Here are some movies you may have seen that offer a unique premise.
                    . . .if people were unable to lie.  Invention of Lying
                    . . .if four men on an overnight stag party forget what happened.   Hangover
                    . . .if an abused pregnant teen decides her life must change.     Precious
This list could go on eternally, but this premise list is a sample of many creative “what ifs”. The premise is the central idea that you will use to build your story.

Authors, though, want their novels to be unique and different, not just the standard premises that are sometimes overused. By creating a premise with a traditional expectation and twisting it, you come up with a more original story. What if. . .
                    the person who falls in love with the prisoner is a man and not a woman?
                    the body in the trunk looks identical to the man who found it?

                    the map in the attic leads to a place vaguely recalled from childhood where something happened but the person had blocked it from his memory?
                    the body found in the woods is the person’s former spouse?

By twisting the premise, you open new doors and make your novel more original. Look at your WIP’s premise and ask yourself how you can give it an unexpected twist. How can you make it more original? How can you add something that will surprise your readers? A unique premise is one way you can add a spark to your story that will linger with readers long after they’ve read your novel.

To learn more about plotting techniques, please join Gail Gaymer Martin for a three week online workshop—Plodding or Plotting?—from April 9 to April 29 sponsored by the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal, a chapter of RWA.

For more information about me, visit www.gailmartin.com and for more information about Writing Fiction Right visit my blog at www.writingright-martin.blogspot.com.  You can also find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1429640580

I also invite you to look for A DREAM OF HIS OWN a Love Inspired June release in stores the last week of May.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My Muse Has Left Town

Please welcome guest blogger Kimberly Gardner

My muse has left town. At least I think he's left town since I haven't seen him for weeks. Then just when I figure he's gone for good, that I'm on my own, the bastard calls and wants to get together.

I want to say no, forget it. I want to kick him to the curb and find myself another muse, one who's dependable and not so temperamental, one who shows up when he says he will, who does his part in the relationship. And I almost do. Then I remember the good times, how great it is when he's with me, really with me, the shiny ideas we come up with together and the great stories we write, and I can't do it. So we make a date.

I get everything ready: wine, candles, a romantic dinner, then I shower and slip into his favorite outfit, the one he likes best on me. Even though I'm still a little mad I want everything to be perfect.

The doorbell rings. My stomach does that funny little fluttery thing and my pulse picks up. Maybe he'll bring me flowers, or, and this would be even better,  a shiny, new story idea. I make myself walk, not run, to the door. I open it.

"Hey babe." He grins, that lazy, sexy grin that makes me hot all over. "Long time no see."

"I'm not the one who was MIA," I say and immediately regret it. I don't mean to antagonize him.

He shrugs. "Yeah, well, I needed a little break. I was beat after we finished the last project."

He's talking about my latest novel, Slave Master's Choice. It's my first attempt at fantasy world-building and released last November. I cringe a little because, yeah, that one nearly killed me. Sounds like it was hard on him too. My first impulse is to be sympathetic. I squash it.

"That was months ago. Where--" I stop myself. I will not ask where he's been since then. I won't give him the satisfaction.

His eyes narrow a fraction. He has such pretty eyes, golden and long-lashed. I'd forgotten how long his lashes are.

"Can I come in?"

I step back and let him in.

He looks amazing in low-slung jeans and a faded Arcadia University sweat-shirt with the sleeves torn off, the epitome of casual sexy and I drink him in with my eyes. His dark chestnut hair is longer than I remember, falling just past his shoulders and before I can stop myself I wonder who's been running their fingers through it because that's exactly how it looks.

He takes in everything with a glance, the table set for dinner, the candles ready to light, the wine shimmering pale gold in the glasses. He walks to the table, picks up a glass and sips, studying me over the rim.

"Mexico's nice this time of year," he says. It's his way of letting me know where he's been. The bastard.

"Isn't it really hot?"

"I like it like that."

"Who took you to Mexico?" The question is out before I can stop it. Damn it.

He laughs. "Jealous much?"


"You are too." He sets his glass down on the table and advances on me. He moves like a panther, all stealthy, cat-like grace, his tawny gaze steady, focused.

" Not so fast. You have some explaining to do, pal." I back up.

He keeps coming. We circle the table. I slip behind the kitchen counter. He thinks he has me, I can see it in his eyes. But just as he reaches for me I fake  left then duck under his arm and escape down the hall toward the bedroom.

He curses mildly under his breath and I know I'm in for it now. I smile and pause.

It takes only a second or two before he appears in the hallway. He backs me into the bedroom, neither of us talking now. The tone of the game has changed, I feel it low in my belly. I know he feels it too. I see it in his eyes, in the way he moves, with purpose, like he's driven.

Without warning he lunges, catching me around the waist and yanks me against him. My breath whooshes out and my pulse jumps.

"I love it when you're jealous." He scoops me up like I weigh nothing at all.

"I'm not jealous." My head spins a little even though he had the wine, not me, and I wrap my arms around him.

He laughs. "Save it for the fiction, babe."

He carries me to the chair in the far corner, sits down and settles me on his lap. He turns us toward the laptop softly humming on the table.

He looks at me, suddenly serious, and positions my hands on the keyboard. "Okay? You ready?"

"What if I can't do it?" It's the thing I'm most afraid of, my biggest worry the whole time he's been gone.

He rests his chin on my shoulder. His breath is warm in my ear. "You can do it. I'll help you."

He lays his hands over mine on the keyboard, and we begin.

Crafting the Erotic Novella, presented by Kimberly Gardner, runs from April 9, 2012 through April 29, 2012

Kimberly Gardner is a current member of the Rainbow Romance Writers. She has a B.A. in theatre arts from Arcadia University and has been writing professionally since 2008. Her first novel, Phoenix Rising, was an Eppie finalist in the GLBT category. She lives in historic Philadelphia with her husband, a dog named Friday and three very bossy felines.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Focal Motivation and the Transformational Character Arc

Please welcome guest blogger Jodi Henley

While you might know a character's stats, childhood and what she's supposed to do—numbers and facts aren't "flesh." Stories driven by emotion are stories driven by character, because emotion can't exist without real people to feel them.   

While a story can be "plot-heavy" and still get emotion across (The Silence of the Lambs), it can't be plot "driven" (The Stepford Wives). Plot-driven stories work with the thinking part of your brain (wow! How horrible is that??) (Figure out the Code or die!)  

A story laden with emotion is a story driven by character, because people care about people. Characters shouldn't simply exist to serve the needs of the plot because they get slapped down when they rebel (my characters won't do what they're supposed to do) or just sit there. Although it's an easy fix to "write" them through the motions, you get the emotional connection between your story and reader by finding out the reasons your characters act the way they do.

Let's give our character, Kim, a cliché job. Kim is a struggling bed and breakfast owner who is taking care of her child after the death of her husband. And conveniently make the hero useful. Jason owns a small construction company and in his spare time he's an amateur chef.

Kim needs to add a bathroom to the "Honeymoon suite" and hires Jason. He was the low bid because he just relocated his company and he needs to show people what he can do. Jason hits it off well with Cleo (Kim's daughter) and since Kim can't boil water without burning it, invites them over (he's the single dad down the street) for dinner. Cleo and Tyra connect and become friends. He lost his wife because she refused to settle down, and Kim lost her husband. It should be a marriage made in Heaven—or is it?

It "sounds" like there's an emotional component and that there is a transformational arc but because the writer doesn't understand how the arc impacts the story, it's just set-up.

1. Kim hires Jason, the new single dad down the street to fix her bathroom.

2. He likes her kid (and her!) and invites them over for dinner with his kid.

3. Their kids get along.

4. They fall in love.

Although a story can be life-like, it needs a reason to exist. It needs conflict, which means it needs motivation—not motivation in the terms of GMC where the character is trying to get to a goal. Kim's goal is not to win the hero. The writer's goal is to get Kim and Jason together. Kim just wants to take care of her kid. 

This is motivation as a focal point for the character's actions and reactions in "this" story—in other words, the starting point of Kim's transformational arc. Focal motivation is a story driver, which is why a character focused story is called character-driven, because something pushes Kim from pt A to pt B.

Motivation is specific to your characters. If I can remove Kim and replace her with Tiffany, then I don't have emotions in my story or the right people and arcs. A well-thought out, multi-dimensional character with the proper motivation and strong arc can't be removed without damage.

In a plot-driven story, the story events drive the characters--so if I remove Kim and insert Tiffany, a childless twentysomething, her "Tiffany-ness" doesn't matter. What does matter is the "weight" of the plot.

To carry Tiffany, the plot would have to override personal details.

For an example, let’s talk about First Blood and the Rambo series. First Blood, for those who haven’t seen it, is the first Rambo movie. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Blood

Loosely based on the David Morrell book of the same name, it’s the psychological study of a Vietnam vet.

In the movie, Rambo is a drifter. Everything that happens in First Blood builds on both his backstory and who he became because of that backstory. When he heads up into the mountains and does his whole poncho-survivalist thing, it's understandable because he was Special Forces. When he refuses to leave town, it's because he was controlled (former POW) for such a long time, he refuses to let anyone control him.

All actions are based on who he is, what he did, what he became, and what's happening to him because of that. Because he was a prisoner of the North Vietnamese he refused to leave town when told to get out. Which made him turn around and walk back in, which made the Sherriff arrest him, which made the jailor try to give him a haircut and shave him (it's a 70's thing. It's an old book) which triggered Rambo's PSTD which started the story going.

Motivation is a bull’s-eye of concentric rings, each spreading out like ripples from a central event that drives your story. Not general backstory or the fact that Kim is a single mom with a cute kid.

While the first Rambo movie is character-driven, the later "Rambo" movies are plot-driven. Although Rambo is still at the center of each movie, he could easily be replaced by Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal because the scriptwriters forgot the simple incident Morell based Rambo's reactions on—he was a POW, he has PSTD and control issues.

In the movie, Rambo is at the end of his arc, which means that arcs can also be other than a full-fledged transformational "arc", and what you use in terms of an arc serves the needs of the story you're trying to tell. In this story, Rambo can't be removed.

Kim needs a reason she can't be removed from her story—something so overwhelming and gut-wrenchingly personal that the idea of falling in love with Jason tears her apart. She needs to "feel" the emotion, instead of be driven by story needs. She needs a transformational arc.

Showing the Transformational Character Arc, presented by Jodi Henley, runs from March 12, 2012 through March 25, 2012

Jodi Henley is a long-time member of the popular on-line writer’s forum "Romance Divas" where her craft of writing articles have been archived as downloads in The Place for answers, Romance Diva’s on-line library. Highly sought after for her plain-English approach to problem solving, Jodi spends her time dissecting the craft of writing. Her obsessive Myer-Briggs INTJ personality drives her to explain her findings, and she considers herself lucky to have a receptive audience. A long-time blogger, her blog, "Will Work for Noodles", is a popular writer’s reference for people in fields from play-writing to Christian magazines and newspaper journalism. Praise for Jodi Henley: "I'm so glad this story is FINALLY going somewhere! I've been working on this thing for like 4-5 years and then Jodi came along with her organic structure and BOOM! I always felt like this story could be something special but I just never felt I was ready to work on it. Jodi is a wealth of information"--Lauren Murphy, author of Cara’s Christmas Fantasy