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Monday, May 27, 2013

What Defines You? By Bonnie R. Paulson

They give you surveys with questions like "What are your hobbies or interests?"  and "What is your favorite ____ (Fill in the blank)?"

They try to peg you into a demographic based on age, color of skin, gender, religion, shopping interests, and reading preferences.  They pinhole you into a tax bracket, a health rating, a job or career, education level, or worse.

Who is they, you ask? They is anyone trying to get to know you. When you sit down with a new person who doesn’t have a history with you, what do they ask? What do you ask?

The standards, right?

What do you do? Do you have kids? Siblings? Where are you from? Do you do anything for fun? Interests?

I know why people do this, why I do this, but I wonder if it’s really effective in getting to know the heart of a person – the soul.

Oh, sorry, I ask these questions because I’m looking for something in common, something interesting, something I can relate to. Because we all want to be alike somehow. It makes it easier to feel safe.

But do you want to know the man sitting across from you on the bus? Do you want to know his interests to know him or to know you’re safe?  Do you want to know he’s a vampire secretly plotting the devouring of the girl next to you? Or would you prefer to just know his favorite color, because that’s safe?

Better yet, let’s take the focus off others. What would you like people to know about you? Is it enough that they know your ethnicity? Is that you? Your favorite food? Color? Football team? What about the music you like or the movies you watch? Is that you?

In the comments, I’d like to know the three words (three words ONLY) that you feel define who you are. The three words that you would be comfortable having etched into your tombstone or your obituary. Three words that YOU define yourself with – not others. So no cheating and turning to your co-worker and asking what they think.

How do you define yourself? And, most importantly, would it make others feel safe? *wink*

My three words: Mom, wife, friend.   

I think they define me without extra words needed. But if I got a fourth, I’d claim dirt bike fan or food lover. Because that’s how I roll!

Thank you so much for having me today. Please do comment below. I would love to see how you see yourself.
Check out my back cover blurb from Out of the Ashes – the final book in my Into the End series. It’s crazily fun!
America can rise, but the cost is high.

Traumatized by previous exposure to her own tests, Dr. Rachel Parker has to complete the methodical steps she swore would never see the light of day… on herself. Her sister, Brenda Krous, may be the only one capable of pulling her through intact.

If they can accomplish the feat and find resolution together, the answers they discover can help the rest of America rise up and reclaim itself from the protection of destruction.

But a nation’s fall has a time frame and pride can get in the way. Rachel and Brenda must find what they need in each other to conquer the fear in others.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Trust is a Universal Need by Cathryn Cade

Hi, I'm Cathryn Cade. I write sci fi and contemporary paranormal romance. This means my heroines encounter some pretty weird and wonderful situations, beings and villains.

However, it does not mean they escape the same needs as heroines in every sub-genre of romance. We women want a strong hero to watch our back while we battle the malign forces of the universe, whether a boss, a teenager or a slimy, multi-jawed alien who wants to feed us to her young. 

We want the emotional and financial security of a home in which to make a family—whatever that looks like—a cabin in the woods, a beach house or a rickety space station. We want a rockin', sexy courtship on the way there, in which our hero proves that not only does he have our back, he also has our front; enough that he'll continue to desire us through child-bearing, broken household appliances and the stress of dual careers. We want a man we can trust.

These are the themes of contemporary romance. We get that, because we live it.
Add the wonderful weirdness of sci fi/paranormal and the game changes … or does it?

I think Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle put it best when she said romance is universally about  ' … flawed, emotionally vulnerable heroes and heroines who … must find a way to deal with their natural conflicts so that a new family can be founded and civilization will be saved. These values survive and endure because they are core survival values for our species, affirmed anew for each generation in (romance).'

Yeah, Jayne! Tell it. 'Cause now we're to the fun part.

In sci fi/paranormal it's a given that our plucky heroine is going to have to wade through some pretty horrendous trials, BUT (and it’s a big one) she also gets to marshal some awesome powers and allies to help her! Juxtaposed with the universal trials of romance, this can lead to some amazing and sometimes downright funny situations.

Castle's famed dust bunnies ride around on her futuristic heroines' shoulders, cute little balls of fluff until their mistresses are threatened. Like they say, 'by the time you see the teeth, it's too late'. Wish we all had one of those. Who can you trust if not a beloved pet?

However, Castle's heroines still have to deal with heroes. Trust a sexy alpha ghost hunter to settle down to hearth and home? Yikes.

Trust is a universal issue for women, magnified by paranormal issues. Hard enough to trust a big strong human male to play nice during that first intimate encounter.

Vampires, shifters, aliens and super-heroes, the men of sci fi/paranormal have the daunting habit of revealing a little something extra when they take off their clothing. When he suddenly bares extra long fangs, claws or some mind-bending super-power and growls that he'd like to penetrate our heroine with those too? Holy heck!

In my Hawaiian Heroes series, the Ho'omalu family has been tasked by the goddess Pele herself with protecting her islands from those who would bring harm. To do this, she's gifted them with powers stemming from the islands, the sea and sky.

Burning up the Rain, Hawaiian Heroes Bk 4

Her powers could save her island…or bring their love crashing down.

Despite her successful career, Lalei Kai-Ho’omalu has always considered herself mere decoration in a dynamic Hawaiian family, with none of their powerful gifts. Destined for life as a useless, upper-crust Honolulu wife. Then Lalei acts on her sizzling attraction to a guest at her cousin’s island wedding, making him a bold offer he can’t refuse. A no-strings, no-holds-barred affair on Nawea Bay with the sexy Hawaiian beauty is just the break California Realtor Jack Nord needs from his fast-paced career—and an inner darkness he’d like to forget. Just for a while.

Their very public liaison is the shocking declaration of independence Lalei intended—with unintended consequences. Stirred to anger by developers set on carving her family’s unspoiled ancestral lands into a resort, Lalei discovers she has the supernatural power to stop them. But when Jack learns his lover can bring down the rain and throw bolts of lightning, whose side will he take? The money-making machine? Or the woman born to protect her island home?


Monday, May 20, 2013

Getting Away From it All by Rebecca Zanetti

Art is not in the ...eye of the beholder. It's in the soul of the artist.   --Seth Goden

So, my local RWA chapter took off for a weekend writer’s retreat up at Schweitzer mountain, a local ski resort, this past weekend.  To sum it up:  it was awesome!

This is a picture of the view from our condo.  The lake far down below was stunning, and the rain clouds created quite the opportunity to write.  I think that as writers, we need to venture out once in a while.  Not to just get away from people, laundry, and day jobs, but to something new.  A new environment where we can just take a deep breath and let the ideas arrive.

I always wondered about those folks pounding away on a keyboard in my local Starbucks.  Didn’t they have an office at home?  Or a kitchen table?  Now that I’ve been writing for a few years, I get it.  Sometimes you need to be surrounded by different sights, sounds, and smells to stay creative.  Especially when you’re under a couple of deadlines, and that laundry is starting to look like fun in comparison.

I think it’s also good to be surrounded by other writers for a time.  They understand.  No matter how supportive your spouse, friends, or family  are…they don’t quite understand how a detailed rejection can be good, or what a big deal it really is to hit one of those bestseller lists once you’re published.  Sure, they’re happy for you.  But they don’t really know how hard it is to get there.  Other writers get it.

So, if you’re having trouble getting ideas on paper at your kitchen table, maybe grab that laptop and head out into the world.  If you can’t take a weekend at a retreat, go to Starbucks, your local library, or somewhere with a view.  Even if you have to sit in your car while it rains to see that view.  Maybe you’ll be inspired.  J

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
--George Bernard Shaw
Book 2-- Maverick Montana series, UNDER THE COVERS, releases May 27th
Opposites don’t attract. They ignite.
The small Montana town near the Kooskia reserve seemed like the perfect place for Juliet Montgomery to hide from her not-so-law-abiding family. But when her peace is shattered by a break-in and threatening phone calls, it’s clear someone back in New York knows where she is. It’s time to plan her getaway, and fast—but first, she needs to tie up a few loose ends and find out exactly what the town’s sexy cowboy sheriff is hiding.
Sheriff Quinn Lodge has enough demons of his own to know when someone’s hiding something, and he's determined to uncover what’s beneath Juliet’s uptight, city-girl exterior—preferably one piece of clothing at a time. But when their chemistry goes from fizzy to full-on explosive, things start getting complicated.
How can Juliet stay beneath the covers with Quinn, when doing so means blowing her cover?
Bio:  USA Today Bestselling Author Rebecca Zanetti has worked as an art curator, Senate aide, lawyer, college professor, and a hearing examiner - only to culminate it all in stories about Alpha males and the women who claim them. She currently has series going with three publishers:  a contemporary cowboy series with Entangled, a dark paranormal series with Kensington, and a romantic-suspense with a paranormal twist series with Grand Central.  Please visit Rebecca at: http://www.rebeccazanetti.com/

Monday, May 13, 2013

Worldbuilding to Visually Reflect Story Theme and Character Values by Jamie Leigh Hansen

Worldbuilding will never have just one way to do it. There are many things to consider and master in creating a world for your novel and series. Recently, I was part of a worldbuilding workshop with 5 other published IECRWA authors. At each of 3 tables, 2 authors gave an important aspect of worldbuilding to consider. My contribution was the link between visual aspects of the world, the story’s theme and the character’s values.

Outside of a movie, or some kind of visual media, how often is that considered. Most likely each time we try to make a book trailer or envision what we’d want our book cover to look like. But those are snippets or one single visual. And a single setting is not the entire world.

"The world of the novel is composed of much more than description of landscape and rooms. It is milieu, period, fashion, ideas, human outlook, historical moment, spiritual mood and more. It is capturing not only place but people in an environment; not only history but humans changing in their era. Description is the least of it. Bringing people alive in a place and time that are alive is the essence of it. [It's] capturing a snapshot of place, moment, character or all three with clarity so vivid that it freezes indelibly in the reader's mind." — Donald Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel

Futuristisc, Fantasy and Paranormal writers have a contract with the reader to fulfill. A promise different from most other genres or subgenres because our stories vow that we will provide a fascinating glimpse of a living, breathing world and not just an intriguing or detailed setting. But how do we provide that beyond the bare bones of here’s the planet, the mountains and lakes, the clothes and the flora and fauna – boom, you’re now in Middle Earth. Love it.

"It is the combination of setting details and the emotions that are attached to them that, together, make a place a living thing." — Donald Maass, The Fire In Fiction

Examining three popular movies and how they link theme and character values with their milieu in a visually stunning way that actually made me want to pay movie ticket prices to see on a bigger screen than my 50” TV helped me see the link.

Story Theme:

The Hunger Games - What would you do to survive? The contrasts of rich/poor, abundance/starvation, volunteering/being forced, realism/fabrication fills each location with danger and challenges both natural - bugs, fire, predators - and man-made - the audiences, clothing, fences. The stage. The train. The forest. Even the mere fact that the hunger games exist shows the sacrifice and toil someone will undertake to survive and what challenges they will face in doing so. The entire movie has these tests set up visually, but they were in the novel first. Visually depicted in a way to grab the reader’s imagination. The story showed a map of society divided by fences, classes and levels of both compassion and desperation.

Lord of the Rings – There are many themes to choose from in this novel and the truth of weakness, strength and power is one. From the tiny, peaceful Shire full of lush greenery, growth and smiles to the large world of man to the ethereal, separate world of elves, we see that the strength of a sword (or axe) arm, the sharpness of a man's wit, the age-old wisdom of a long lived people are no more important than the child-like innocence, heart and spirit of a joy-filled Hobbit. Each land in Middle Earth represents its people in a stunningly visual way. The hope and greed of humans is portrayed with tall, molding statues and ambitious buildings that are crumbling. The intelligence and knowledge revered by magi in their packed libraries filled with scrolls and artifacts. The aloof beauty of Rivendale nestled within nature, fitting as if created to be there. The dark, evil land of Mordor with volcanoes, lava and the abominations - orcs.

Harry Potter - Good vs. evil, magic vs. conformity. The muggle world is shown in shades of gray, the colors bland and unnoticeable. It’s the same, house to house, car to car. Voldemort exits in darkness, wearing black and rarely seen in the light. Hogwarts, the Weasley house, Sirius Black's - the magical world is full of vivacious, vibrant colors, normal things with extraordinary twists. Cars that fly, Willows trees that whomp you, staircases that change direction. The nature is lush and overblown, to strangled into neat little boxes. It is good to be different in Harry Potter's world.

You may have noticed that in examining theme, you actually see much of the second component: Character’s values. Who they are as a society and as a race is also described. In a well-built world, this isn’t done by accident.

"The world of the story: a complex and detailed web in which each element has story meaning and is in some way a physical expression of the character web and especially of the hero." — John Truby, The Anatomy of Story

"Creating a unique world for the story - and organically connecting it to the characters-is as essential to great storytelling as character, plot, theme, and dialogue." — John Truby, The Anatomy of Story

Character Values:

The Hunger Games - Kindness, compassion, honesty vs. superficiality, greed and entitlement - Katniss is continually placed in situations where her values must be tested. The world isn't just locations, but situations. People are starving. Kids risk their lives for "entertainment". People are restricted from providing for themselves - hunting - and told to be grateful for what is given to them at the whim of others – but Katniss hunts to feed others. Katniss volunteers to be a tribute to save her sister. Katniss has to learn to play the game just to get a healing cream for Peeta by kissing him and promoting their "romance". Even the food exemplifies the differences in values between sickeningly sweet confections versus the necessary nutrients in bread and meat, the wholesome versus the superficial. A tribute saves Katniss from danger and she remains loyal to that tribute, even to the point of providing the tribute a "burial", a common courtesy that is against the rules.

Lord of the Rings - Humility, kindness, joy, peace, loyalty and perseverance, forgiveness, friendship. All these qualities a hobbit possesses, and they are tested in every situation, even as those around the hobbits fail. They cannot overcome their human greed and weaknesses, their Dwarven anger and belligerance, their unbending Elven judgment, in order to destroy the ring on their own. It is a few of each who fight, but it is the hobbits who shake up the entire adventure, creating a joyful chaos that strangely keeps everyone focused on what is truly important.

Harry Potter - Courage, loyalty, faith, overcoming impossible odds. All the traits Harry possesses are attributed to the house of Gryffindor. Their "team" is rooted for in Quidditch. Their house wins the house cup. The battle of good vs. evil is a competition and good always wins by being, well, good. Honorable. By doing the right thing and overcoming temptations, fears and anything evil or wrong.

Apply these ideas to your own story and see how you can broaden and enrich your world.

Your story:

   1.  What are your story's themes?
   2.  Who is your character as a person? What are their values?
   3.  What are the locations in your novel?
   4.  How can the locations in your novel best to visually, actively test your character's strengths, weaknesses and values? Is there a challenge to overcome, a mountain to climb a fear to defeat?
   5.  What part of your world visibly reflects your story's theme? Lord of the Rings has a map and the story is a journey across and through every part of it. Hunger Games has a symbol: a bow and arrow – old breathtaking, strange and beautiful.
   6. How do your characters feel in their setting: stifled, cloistered, abandoned, wild, free? How are their values visually reflected in that setting?
   7. What changes: time, people, perspective? Is there an item in the world that is tangible and shows growth, death or a different change as the story progresses?
   8.  What does your character think about the world they are in: the era, the perspectives, the technology, the ideology, the religions?
   9. When choosing details of your world, choose the ones that give your character's unique perspective or details that are surprising. Even in an everyday, normal city, what stands out? My two series are set in and around Spokane, Washington. What stand out? A gorgeous cathedral you can see from miles in any direction. An architecturally brilliant high school that is a hundred years old and celebrates the fact. Bring even an everyday setting to life.
    10. Link a value and a theme, then compare and contrast their opposites. Like Lord of the Rings, the hobbits' value of friendship. Compare and contrast friendship at the pub in the Shire and friendship standing over the fires of Mt. Doom.


·         The Fire In Fiction  by Donald Maass

·         Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

·         The Anatomy of Story by John Truby


Jamie Leigh Hansen is a multi-published, paranormal romance author best known for dramatic, heartfelt stories with intense emotion and engaging, unforgettable characters.

Her newest work, Murder Tales, is a series of urban fantasy short stories set in Metalline Falls, WA that features Mary, the only human ever saved and raised by the Murder, vampires and werewolves who work together to police the rogues of their world. Currently available are The Murder King's Woman and The Murder King's Summons, with more planned.

Jamie is also currently involved with BabelFAmily, co-writing The Legacy of Marie Schlau with other writers around the world. They hope the International Literary Project to Fight Friedreich's Ataxia will raise funds for FA research.

She loves to hear from friends and fans at JLH@JamieLeighHansen.com. Updates on her projects and links to social media can be found on her website at www.JamieLeighHansen.com.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

On the Road to Writer Hell by Kerry Schafer

Last week I attended the Romantic Times Convention in Kansas City. I had a lot of fun, of course, but I also learned some valuable lessons. For example, writer creativity is not limited to books.
Writers are also good at parties and costumes, and like to socialize over drinks. And if the bar should happen to be too loud or too small, some industrious furniture relocation can create an entity called The Alternabar, a perfect place for hanging out late into the night.
I also learned that I am on the road to writer hell.
This little lesson was enjoined upon me by a panel called, appropriately, The Research Notebook From HellKeeping Your Series Organized. The panelists - Yasmine Galenorn, Lynda Hillburn, Shawntelle Madison, and Michelle M. Pillow – are all successful series writers who know of what they speak.
Truth is, I have heard about The Bible before. I have even made a few feeble attempts to collect information in one place and take a few notes, only to lose interest and wander off to do more interesting things, like write. The Bible didn't seem all that important until the middle of Book Two of my trilogy. Surely I was capable of remembering what I needed about character and plot, thought I. But the memory is a sneaky and treacherous thing, particularly once you've revised a book a few times, and what I had left out and put in began to blur. I was plagued by forgotten details about minor characters, slippery bits of world building, and the basic layout of building or towns, and was driven back to my previous manuscript and Word's "Find" command over and over again.
Technically, I'm not even writing a series. I'm only two books into a planned trilogy. But what if? What if my publisher came to me and said, "We want more! We want four or six or ten books set in the world of the Between."
What then?
This is what happened to Michelle Pillow, author of both theDragon Lords and the Lords of the Var series. She had only planned to write a couple of fantasy books, so a Bible didn't seem important. But then the Dragon Lords books took off and she realized that she was in trouble.
What do you do if you're already deep into a series and you haven't created your Bible as you go along? According to Michelle, you carve out time and you sit down and make yourself do it. "It's your punishment for being a bad writer," she says.
Everybody approaches the Bible a bit differently, but the general types of information include:
· Main Characters – appearance, personality traits, favorite expressions, etc.
· Secondary Characters – appearance, personality traits, favorite expressions, etc.
· Bestiary – keep track of descriptions and when or where creatures appear
· Subplots – particularly if you have subplots running through the entire series
· Main overall plot arc
· Magic systems
· Places – shops, businesses, streets
· Groups, organizations
It's important to update as you go along, making notes at the end of every chapter. And when a book is done, make sure everything is up to date, including a short summary of what happened. Yasmine Galenorn likes to write up a short history of each character's experience during the course of the book as well.
Depending on your personal preference and comfort zone, the Bible can be physical or electronic, or both. Use a binder with pockets and plastic sleeves and paper, or a computer program such as Scrivener, which lends itself to the process. Everybody on the panel strongly recommended some sort of back up system so you don't run the risk of losing all your hard work.
And as for me and my own sins – will I repent and convert to the series Bible? I'd like to say yes, but I know me. The ability to rationalize is strong, and it's so much easier to tell myself there is only one more book to go and no need for serious organization.
But then, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Kerry Schafer is a transplanted Canadian who currently lives in Eastern Washington with her family and an assortment of pets. A mental health counselor by day, she squeezes in writing wherever she can find the time. She writes urban fantasy and is the author of Between.