A lion’s tooth – using own experiences in writing

I was going to write about writing fiction in a second language, like English is for me. But sometime during the day that plan disintegrated and I decided to rather focus on how I feed own experiences into my writing instead.

One of my main male characters wears a lion tooth attached to a leather band around his neck. It’s a bit out of character for him, he’s not the jewelry/accessory kind of guy, but it’s there, as a reminder of where he came from and how Africa has shaped him. The tooth is from Djimba, a lioness he encountered when he was a novice wildlife photographer, struggling to get assignments and make ends meet.

I’m writing this blog post in a scorching car parked at a waterhole in Etosha National Park, one of the largest and most well known parks in Southern Africa. The glaring midday light forces me to squint to see the words on the screen. Now and then dust devils swirl up white dust and gust it into the car. It gets stuck in the hair and makes the camera equipment squeak in protest. The bottled drinking water could be used for making tea. Continue reading

The Bowman’s Inn Anthology

I love to write. I have loved writing for many, many years, and actually am getting kind of good at it. But one thing I love more than writing is writing with a group of talented, funny people. This is a reason this blog started, and it’s also the reason for an anthology that I am part of, as Roxanna Haley.

The book is called The Bowman’s Inn, Book One, Winter. It will be released onFeatured image December 21st, 2014. I have the pleasure of introducing the authors in the anthology to you, with a bio, a blurb, and some delightful pictures that will explain where they got their inspirations.

The Prologue is by Roxanna Haley – Ms. Haley graduated from fanfic to Regency Romance, making an exciting segue into erotic romance. She’s a native California with a love for historical fiction and non-fiction, and would love to hear from you. Share your favorite reads and subscribe to her email newsletter. (Details on the newsletter will be updated here soon.) My story involved Mandy Boone, the charming Native American woman who bought a run-down bar and hotel, and is turning it into her dream. She hired Valentine Archer to tend bar, and has fallen madly in love with him. She knows she has to keep her distance, and he doesn’t seem to be more than friendly with her. And she doesn’t know what to think about those special drinks of his. Their story unfolds completely at the end of the book, and explains all the unusual happenings around the Bowman’s Inn.Featured image

Hey guys! Adrianna Adams here. (You call me Anna for short, though.)

A little bit about me: I’ve been penning stories for as long as I can remember. I enjoy reading romance as well as writing it, the spicier the better. When I’m not off in my own little writing world, I love spending time with my family and taking an obnoxious amount of pictures of them. You can find me at https://www.facebook.com/AdriannaAdamsAuthor?ref=hl

Now, about my story, Rescue Me: Thirty-six year old Violet is on her way to pick up a dog for her no-kill rescue. Tired and cranky, she stops for the night to get some sleep at an old school motel. Deciding she could use a drink, she heads to the bar and meets the handsome bartender, Val. Fed up with her life, she tells him all about it, and he offers some great advice… and an amazing drink.

Once home, Violet is relieved when a man named Ian is interested in adopting the scruffy-haired pooch. Featured imageShe quickly gets ready for his visit, but when she opens the door, is unable to form a sentence.
Ian is the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome. His gravely voice and sexy confidence make Violet quiver. What happens when he steps inside and closes the door?

I’m excited to bring this story to you!

Introducing Renee Bradford!

Renee Bradford was born and raised in Southern California, where she now resides with her husband, and three young children. She’s been an avid reader of love stories ever she picked her first romance off a gas station shelf in the midst of a cross country family vacation.
Renee loves running, hiking, and unwinding from her high stress corporate career by opening a nice bottle of wine, and writing erotic stories. She’s thrilled to now share those stories with you.
Renee would love to hear from you. You can find her by visiting her FB page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Renee-Bradford/369935359849750Featured imageFeatured image

Conflict of Interest by Renee Bradford

Donna Olson is ready to quit her job. After years of hard work, she isn’t getting the respect she feels she deserves and working alongside Jack Harper, her very sexy boss, isn’t helping.

Meet another of the lovely authors from The Bowman’s Inn Anthology, Kishan Paul.

From daring escapes by tough women to chivalrous men swooping in to save the day, the creativity switch to Kishan Paul’s brain is always in the ‘on’ position. If daydreaming stories were a college course, Kish would graduate with honors.
Mother of two beautiful children, she has been married to her best friend for over 16 years. With the help of supportive family and friends, she balances her family, a thriving counseling practice, and writing without sinking into insanity.

Kish’s upcoming releases:
Her contemporary romance, Blind Love, will be published by Samhain Publications in the summer 2015. Her novelette, Taking the Plunge, will be released in the Love Least Expected Anthology in February 2015. https://www.facebook.com/loveleastexpected

She can be found at:
http://kishanpaulauthor.wordpress.com/
https://www.facebook.com/KishanPaulAuthor
https://twitter.com/@kishan_paul

http://www.coffeetalkwriters.com/coffee-talk-authors/kishan-paul/
Sign up for her newsletter at: http://mad.ly/signups/119110/joinFeatured image
More about Kish’s story, The Ice Storm, in the Bowman’s Inn Anthology.
Twenty-eight-year old Maddie needs to make a change in her life so she leaves her family in Oklahoma and takes a job up north. When her little car skates across a road during an ice storm, she finds herself stranded at the Bowman’s Inn with a very handsome stranger named Jeremy. But a relationship is the last thing on her mind.

When the green-eyed Maddie slides into his life, Jeremy is drawn to her. Until he finds out she works for the company he plans to take over. Never one to mix business with pleasure, Jeremy knows he has to walk away. Will Valentine’s special drinks be able to melt the icy walls Maddie and Jeremy have built around their hearts or has he met his match?

Drum roll… another author wanted to say Hi to everyone.

E.D. Vaughn has been writing and talking to imaginary friends since infancy. Once she discovered pencils and paper, a whole new world opened up. Unfortunately the stick figures weren’t considered great artistic talent and she switched to writing. Now, if not on the computer turning her fingers to nubs typing a new story, she’s out hiking, jogging, taking photographs, or lazing around with her teenager watching movies. And she’s never without her faithful hobbit (a.k.a. Humphrey the Corgi) who has followed her all over the country, even Alaska.

ED’s sneak peek at Wish Upon a Dream.

Regina’s celebrating her 40th birthday, and through a series of events knows she needs a drastic change to be happy. While she makes a wish with a drink at The Bowman’s Inn, she decides to take her life back. While blazing her own trail, she catches the eye of a trainer from her CrossFit gym.Featured image

Michael rethinks his life in Special Forces after attending a buddy’s funeral. Realizing life is too short, he retires early and starts over in a new town. A little firecracker captures his heart, but he has secrets that could tear them apart. Will an amazing weekend be enough to pull them together or will the alarm Monday morning break the spell?

Bel Cosi likes traveling to exotic locations, good food and wine and excellent conversation. Since she doesn’t often get to enjoy any of those things, she invents them in her stories. Her story, Open Wide, is so much fun.Featured image Here’s a short Blurb: An underage girl walks into a bar… Val and Isaac know just how to handle her.

Alexandra Hastings grew up on the beautiful Cooloola Coast in Australia. With its ethereal waterfalls and mountains to the west and the white sand and turquoise waters on the east, this magical area provided her with sensual, romantic inspiration that carried over into her fictional worlds.

Craving new adventures, she now splits her time between two countries. When she’s not busy creating characters behind her laptop, she’s exploring the sights, people-watching and using her surrounds to evoke new passionate and erotic stories. She delights in finding romance in everyday scenes, so you never know if you’ve provided the inspiration for a new book!

Whether she’s smoothing sunscreen on her real-life hero’s back with her feet in the warm sand, or cuddling with him beneath fuzzy blankets while snow drifts softly outside, you can be sure she’s always plotting or researching a new romance.

I hope you enjoy her story Just This Once.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alexandra-Hastings/1596577353895150

Just This Once ~ Alexandra HastingsFeatured image

Nate is troubled that his wife feels their sex life needs more spice. He is a one-woman man, but he can’t deny his burning attraction to the beautiful woman at the bar.

When Suzie suggests naughty play time with her, Nate is torn between pleasing his wife and having some sexy fun of his own.

Kellie Daniels spends most of her time finding joy with her husband, two children, and family pets throughout California. Her favorite spot lies along the Central Coast, where she enjoys meditation and creativity while the tide carries her troubles away. As a little girl, she was often caught daydreaming, and that pastime has led to a passion of reading, writing, photography, and love stories.

Skeptical Love ~ Kellie DanielsFeatured imageFeatured image

Hannah has drooled over her sexy but oblivious boss Zack for as long as she can remember. When the two go on assignment to disprove allegations of supernatural forces, she realizes she hasn’t been the only one drooling.

When Hannah and her sexy but stubborn boss Zack go on a supernatural assignment, the most phenomenal discovery is each other.

Next up in our author spotlight: Brandy Ayers!

Brandy Ayers is a writer of erotic romance. Or romantic erotica, depending on how you look at it. She has been telling stories in one form or another since she was a child and decided her English / Irish heritage was boring. Instead, for a 4th grade class genealogy assignment, she wove a tale of mystery and intrigue about her great, great grandpa chief of the Navajo tribe. No one bought it. Brandy lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, son, and a very depressed basset hound.
Find her:
Facebook: facebook.com/BrandyAyersAuthor
Twitter: @BrandyWritesSex
Pinterest: pinterest.com/brandyayersauth/Featured imageFeatured image

Inconceivable ~ Brandy Ayers

Jess and Dean McCleary arrive at the Bowman’s Inn at a crossroads in their relationship. After years of struggling with infertility their marriage has become strained. Jess has decided she wants out. But she doesn’t get the reaction she expects from Dean when she asks for a divorce. Dean doesn’t want to give up. Can he convince Jess they still have a chance at love? Can Val, Cupid in disguise, help his former success story reconnect at the Bowman’s Inn?

Gianna Leighton is a writer of sexy romance. She enjoys spinning magical tales with elements of the supernatural and fantasy. When she needs a break, she loves to soak in a bubble bath with a romance book. She lives in Tennessee with her husband and two children.

Heels of Desire ~ Gianna LeightonFeatured imageFeatured image

Sam McCann is a shoe store owner who has a terrible dating record. He longs for a woman that will accept his obsession with shoes. After his date cancels, he takes a walk to The Bowman’s Inn for a drink to numb his heartache. When Jena bumps into his life, Sam finds himself confused by her unusual powers. Will he accept his love for her, or choose to walk away from the woman who understands his passion?

And as I said above, the final story by Roxanna Haley, Another Shot, explains why Cupid is working as a bartender, why he can’t court Mandy just yet, and reveals some mistakes Mandy made in her past that could shoot down their Happily Ever After.

I am excited about the release of this anthology, getting it together has been the most fun I have had in a long time. And knowing it will keep right on going with a new book out every three months is the best part! Keep track by liking our page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Bowmans-Inn/605666446205352

You’re Not All That Brilliant After All

When it comes to writing advice, over and over, we are given the adage that writing is hard. Anyone can have a book idea, but few people can make a story. Few people can weave a plot, create character arcs, and do it all in a compelling manner.

For me, writing is easy. I click open a word document or stare at a blank sheet of paper and all these scenes just pour from my mind. Oftentimes, my fingers can’t keep up. This is the part that I love. That feeling, that energy, that creation… it’s why I love to write. And I do love it. I love plotting, I love building characters, I love when my scenes become a chapter or my chapters become a draft. I love watching the word count tick upwards.

The part that is hard isn’t the writing, it’s the rewriting. It’s the revisions. I wouldn’t call myself a new writer, because I’ve always written, but I am a new novelist. For the first time in my life I’m looking for that finished product, that complete story. I’ve got three…wait… four drafts printed and ringed in binders all waiting patiently for me to define their muscles and slip on their skins.

Give me a blank fucking screen any day. Maybe it’s all the things that I have learned this year about writing, most of which have made my writing better. But I get in my own head now when I look at my written work. When I start slashing every was, realized, felt.  I get to about chapter three with my red pen and highlighter and that beautiful feeling I had when I created it sinks. There’s a moment you’re looking down at all your slashes, rephrases, notes, and repetitive words and you realize, you’re not that brilliant after all.

I wish this was one of those “this is how I made it” posts, but alas, it isn’t. This is me asking, how the hell do you get through revisions? What is your balance? I need to complete my novels; I have to find a way to get through this painful period in my journey to become a novelist. Success, to me, would be finishing my novels/novellas.  But I need to preserve my love for it along the way.

My novels are like little cranky teenagers right now, testing my dedication. I know they need my love and dedication to grow, but right now, they’re grounded so I don’t smack/rip them. It’s been an embarrassing amount of time since I’ve done anything more than minor plotting on them.

What’s your secret? And, yes, I’m talking to you Mika! Congratulations, by the way. ❤

Writing is easy, revision is hard. I can’t even think about the bitch editing is going to be.

I guess that’s the most challenging part of this journey: learning to balance what you love with what you don’t, take advice with a grain of salt and find your own way, and reconcile your vision with the red slashes on the paper.

On a lighter note, I think the title of this post will be the title of my memoir if I ever write one.

My Writing Goal for 2014

Back on January 1st, I set a goal to be published, to write and finish at least one book. No longer would I throw a half written manuscript aside and focus on another muse. Nope. I was going to be focus and finish The Scale, shop it around and get it published. Oh yes, in that process, I had to put myself out there and embrace social media. I created a twitter account, a Facebook page, and even a Tumblr account…but Sshh; I don’t know what to do with that one yet.

I’d love to connect with you. Below are all of my social media links.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8294433

Mika_Jolie Twitter: https://twitter.com/MikaJolie1

Email: Mikajolie2@gmail.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mikajolie.author?ref=hl

I decided to create a blog and document my journey of being published. Check it out at http://mikajolie.com/.

Creating a blog was a struggle, a fun one at that. Many fellow writers I’d befriended on Twitter freely gave me tips, walked me through the steps. A big thank you to them!

While on my blog, sign up for my newsletter for latest news and giveaways. No spamming.

Ooops…see, I’m becoming a walking marketing guruJ. But seriously, sign up for my newsletter.

Okay, so you might be thinking where am I going with this?

Two things…well three things really.

First and foremost as authors, whether we want to or not, we have to embrace social media. It is the best marketing tool you have in your hands. It is a way to brand yourself, get acquainted with your readers and fellow writers. I can’t tell you how many wonderful people I’ve connected with so far.

When The Scale was published, I didn’t know half of what I know now about marketing and it still became a bestseller. I have to thank social media for that. A buzz was created around the book from online groups. One person read The Scale and there you go…before I knew it, as one reader said to me, I’d become a buzz. Little me. Can you imagine?

The second and third reason for this blog, I accomplished my writing goal. Actually I’ve surpassed my goal. I released not one but two books in 2014. Need You Now was released today and available for purchase. All links are posted below.

Secret Cravings Publishing: http://store.secretcravingspublishing.com/index.php?main_page=book_info&cPath=4&products_id=980&zenid=i190auoruov2ru52vucu3eh653

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Need-You-Now-Marthas-Book-ebook/dp/B00PGC2OFQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1415793372&sr=8-1&keywords=Mika+Jolie+Need+You+Now

Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/491909

All Romance eBooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-needyounowmartha039swayseriesbook2-1671847-149.html

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/need-you-now-marthas-way-series/id940157160?mt=11

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/need-you-now-mika-jolie/1120737057?ean=2940046399219

NeedYouNow_Final

So there you go my friends, my writing goals and how I embraced social media.  Whatever your goals are, shoot for the stars and stay focus.

Happy Writing!

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

I‘m infamously indecisive. Just ask my husband. He dreads the “what should we have for dinner?” conversation. It usually goes something like this:

Me: I don’t know, what do you want?

Him: Whatever, what do you want?

Me: I’m easy, whatever.

Him: I know you’re easy, but what do you want to eat?

Me: Ha. Ha.

And around and around we go until we eventually settle on pizza or something equally boring.

So why on earth did someone with zero ability to make a simple choice start writing a romance novel with a love triangle at the heart of the story? Because I’m secretly a masochist?

And so it happened that 30,000 words into my first novel I had set up an impossible situation. 1 strong, beautiful woman. 2 hunky, sweet, awesome in the sack men. What’s a girl to do? No, not a three-some.

My main female character, Michelle and I spend hours drinking wine, agonizing over this quandary. True, Michelle is a fictional character of my own making. That doesn’t mean I can’t share a drink with her.

First there is Russ: A tall, strong, rugged man with a long history with Michelle. They dated in college, circumstances drove them apart. Years later they started a friends with benefits relationship. Now, he wants more, Michelle isn’t so sure.

Then there’s Jeremiah: He has elegant, angular features, brilliant green eyes. Smart, successful, and an amazing kisser. He seems to be everything Michelle could want in a man. There is a problem however, he’s her boss.

We go back and forth on a daily basis. It should be Russ, he has been there for Michelle for years. They have chemistry in spades. What he lacks in ambition he more than makes up for in caring and muscle.

But Michelle pops into my head. “Brandy!” she admonishes “a relationship with Russ could never work. There’s too much baggage weighing us down! Jeremiah is the obvious choice. He owns a business. Knows how to wine and dine a woman. Not to mention the body he’s spent hours sculpting in the gym.”

I try and explain to her that Jeremiah is her boss, it’s a conflict of interest. And we end up in a stalemate, both pouting in opposite corners of my brain. I really need to get this woman under control!

Letting her stew in her own juices, I turn to our men. They glare at each other across the scattered landscape of my brain.

“Okay boys, let’s rein it in and sit down to hash this out.” I scold them

Russ looks at me with those big hazel eyes “Tell pretty boy, he’s the one that horned in on my woman.”

“Your woman?” Jeremiah scoffs in disdain. “I’m pretty sure she’s her own woman. Caveman.”

(Michelle perks up, turning to me with a “See, I told you so in her eyes.”)

“Now, gentlemen, plead your case. Why should we pick you?” I clasp my hands in front of me and turn to Russ first.

“Come on Brandy, no one knows our girl better than me! I know every sexy curve of her body, I know how to meet her needs and then some.” He licks his plump bottom lip and Michelle and I shiver in unison. “She doesn’t need to resort to fantasies and daydreams when she’s with me.” He shoots an accusatory look at the man standing opposite him.

Jeremiah takes a threatening step towards him, but I return him to his corner with a well placed glare.

“Go on, Russ.”

“Sure, we have history. I did some stupid crap when we were in college. But we’re in our 30’s for God sake. I’ve changed, grown. She has just failed to see that. Yet.” He heaves a deep sigh and slumps against the wall. “She just needs to open her eyes.”

Michelle eyes him questioningly from her corner. “What haven’t I seen yet Russ?”

“Uh huh, you aren’t part of this discussion right now girlie.” My stern look shuts her mouth. For now. “And Jeremiah, what do you have to say for yourself?”

“Well, Brandy.” He puts on his best conference room voice. “Not only are Michelle and I compatible on an intellectual level, but we also have so much in common. We are both avid readers, share a fondness for body art, and we have similar ambitions for our future.”

“Ohhh, impressive.” Russ spits the comment at Jeremiah from across our little room.

“Hey, you had your chance buddy, let the man talk.” Maybe getting these two in the same room wasn’t such a good idea. “Anything else Jeremiah?”

“Yea, I may not know every curve of her body yet, but I am more than willing to learn. Making fantasies come true just so happens to be one of my talents.”

His smooth as caramel voice sends butterflies swarming in both our bellies.

Well, this has been no help at all. I send my creations back to their corners of my mind and search for my wine glass.

In the end, I know I’ll have to come to a decision. I keep hoping it will come out organically, without having to force a resolution.

For now I keep writing. I’m starting to get an inkling who Michelle’s main squeeze will be, but I hesitate to pull the trigger. Because making that decision means I’ll have to go back and make some changes. Those rewrites will make the not chosen one flawed, so it’s easier for readers to accept her decision.

But it physically pains me to have to do that to one of my perfect men. Maybe I will write another story for the loser down the line. Give him his happy ending too.

Maybe it’s strange that I get so personally attached to my characters. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thank you for taking this journey into my sometimes confused brain with me. Hopefully in a few months I’ll have a book finished, and more importantly, a decision made.

Why Rules Can’t Define ‘Good’

Everything can work.

There: you now have your answer to every possible question you could ask that begins with or along the lines of, “Am I supposed to…?”

I take a lot of pride in that rule. And it is a rule. W. Somerset Maugham is famously quoted for his words that, “There are three words for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” Of course, Mr. Maugham lived from 1874 to 1965, which was a time they’d only just worked the kinks out of tea bags and realized beer could fit in a can, so I think we’re safe to forgive the poor guy for having such a bleak outlook on humanity’s skills at problem-solving. Nevertheless, we’ve got one of ‘em.

Everything can work. And as a corollary, everything can sell.

Bad grammar?

All a dream?

Dull, insipid nothingness, the point of which is to be as dull and insipid as it can be until you choke?

Check, check, check. Historical classics, timeless tales, inexplicable Nobel winners – they’re all there.

You name it, because from monotonous repetition to a plague of characters to thinly veiled plagiarism to good ol’ shameless smut, it has all succeeded and entered the annals of literary history for better, for worse or for simply ‘cause. Hell, even basic physical formatting is not a constraint.

What does this mean for you?

Two things (three, if you count being able to plug your ears and scream, “LA LA LA I’M NOT LISTENING” like a bear whenever someone tries to tell you different).

The first, the most freeing sense of liberation you as a writer can ever ask for. The world is your oyster! Whatever crippling sense of perfectionism or self-defeat you have, there’s no reason to have it! You can never be wrong when every rule that’s been implied, suggested or enforced has been equally as deflected, ignored or broken and worked.

The second, a far more depressing back side to that coin. If you can never be wrong, you can never be right.

I want to move through this one with you.

For each of those successes I’ve listed, you can find a similar story that’s flopped. It’s as easy to call these all exceptions than it is to hold them as examples. Not a writer among us hasn’t looked to a book and thought, “I can write better than that. In fact, I have written better than that. Why are they doing so much better than me?” I’m with you there. I’ve named Albert Camus’ The Stranger as my personal bane since the day I read it English and then in French to check if I missed something (spoiler: nope). Why, why did Such-and-Such strike gold while So-and-So sits unrecognized? Why is the world so cruel? Why does this madness surround us?!

This is the problem with anarchy. It creates a vacuum. We need order. We are fundamentally conditioned to see patterns where none exist, and to call this a heinous injustice – towards us, like we somehow ticked the universe off and it’s back for revenge – when it’s plain and neutral chaos.

When I say, “Everything can work,” the kneejerk response is to think of what simply can’t, using that to fuel the idea you’re missing a key ingredient.

“It isn’t possible,” that type of person, grasping at figurative straws, might say. “Language! Come on – fundamental comprehension? You can’t tell me you’ll get somewhere when you don’t use real words! That – that – is proof that not everything can work.”

I remove one straw from that person’s reach.

“All right, all right – but that’s not the same thing. That’s supposed to be gibberish. You can’t make actual words up and pretend they’re real.”

I remove another straw.

“But you could say those are replacement words! I mean specifically mashing letters together and thinking the audience’ll let you get away with it!”

I set that person’s bale on fire.

What I’m trying to illustrate is that a book made mostly of sounds, another book inventing every little thing, and still another constructing an entire language with the growing expectation that you’ll learn it one day haven’t held authors down. Let go, guy-who’s-now-free-falling-as-he-realizes-I’m-completely-right-in-a-truly-ego-stroking-fashion-and-strawman-style-on-his-part, and give in to the second rule of writing: Read the first rule.

You, a writer, are a warrior of this craziness. You’re here to carve out a stretch of normality in amongst this billowing, twisting landscape. Traditional publishing? Online publishing? Publishing after you’ve finished your book? Before? Promotions? Word-of-mouth? It all works, as much as none of it does. But you’re the type of person who can survive that. You’ve already looked at a blank page and created a universe. What you have to do now is realize that this fierce world outside needs to be told where the lines are – not everywhere, of course, because that defies the second rule, but where you are. Everything can work, and you have to say what works where.

It’s for your own sanity. That’s all rules are for: keeping the peace inside your head, and in the heads of everyone affected (i.e., reading along). What one book does shouldn’t impact on yours unless you allow it. You hate semi-colons? Don’t have them. In your book, they no longer matter. You don’t like Oxford commas? I haven’t used one once so far! Averbs? GO NUTS. And paragraphs aren’t meant to be longer than X-length? Sure! And on the other hand, remember that someone else won’t to play inside your lines. Cherish that they don’t and that they find their own, rich voice (unless it’s Albert Camus writing The Stranger, whose voice amounted to bland whining).

But don’t forget: once you define your rules, stick to them. They can change, certainly, but only if your rules allow that, otherwise you fall back into that madness and have to crawl out painful one word at a time, also known as retconning. Keep your mental peace and stay consistent. You’ve got two of the three previously unknown rules, and as soon as we homo sapiens move beyond to a time where we’re not still dealing with plugs that take up three spaces on a power bar and printers that cannot understand what ‘print black and white document without using the empty cartridge of cyan’ means, we’ll get the third and truly become masters.

Until then, learn to live with a tiny fact: rules might make you better, but they can’t make you good.

Seriously, you guys – The Stranger is the worst. The worst.

Where to start a story?

Where to start a story

At the beginning?

Not for me! I don’t think I could start at the beginning even if I knew where it was. For both my novels I thought I knew where the beginning was. Turns out I was wrong about a hundred times. And recently, when I thought I had it, and screamed Eureka (well, not exactly, more like had a glass of wine and ate chocolate), I now think I am wrong about where my story starts. All over again.

The inciting incident.

Begin with the inciting incident is something I oft hear. So I did that. The thing was, the inciting incident for that particular action was only one in a long line of inciting incidents for lots of actions that I had no clue about when I began to write ‘Katriona’.

Character arc.

Character arc is another good one. Who knows, really, how a character is going to develop? If anyone out there is a plotter and can plot a character arc down to every degree and maintain it when writing, please let me know how you do this. Please. Failing this, I tend to start when the character is in crisis, work forwards for a several chapters and then start working backwards when I get more of an idea where the story begins. It’s quite a lot of fun. As I work backwards I can see where future behaviour came from and why.

Any scene.

Another place to start a story is in any scene that comes to mind. Is something buzzing around your brain? Write it out and see where it leads. Sometimes I get scenes that buzz around and I ignore them for a while, but then I realize that writing them means I usually gain some insight that will help me elsewhere in the story, even if the scene doesn’t make the final cut.

At the end.

Well, why not? How did the characters get to this point? What merciless suffering have they endured to get here? How deep have they had to dig into themselves to find the answers? And what skeletons can we unearth as we plunge our shovels into the dirt lying just beneath the surface…

So where do you start a story? Or should that be, at what point of the story do you stick your pen in and begin to stir, what stenches arise as you nose around?

Warm and Fuzzy…

So, you just found out your boyfriend’s a werewolf. Relax and take a deep breath, everything’s going to be fine. All those old legends, superstitions, and myths had to come from somewhere, right? This means you’re not actually going crazy. I’m hoping as you read this post some of the fears will be soothed, because let’s face it, Alpha males don’t go away easily (especially if they have it in their mind you’re theirs).

Maybe I should start first with a congratulations, you survived. Ah, the initial shock. I’m guessing you didn’t scream and go running in the opposite direction since you’re reading this… so YAY! (Hold onto that strength!) You passed the first test, because more than likely he would have chased you down. Silly werewolf guys and their need to tackle prey running away. It’s not like they’re dogs and would rather run after bones or cars or something. It’s more an instinct far greater to stalk and consume.

I’m getting entirely too off track here.

 

Should I mention my qualifications? I’ve worked with animals of various kinds for thirty some years; either, finding them along the way on my own or through the Veterinary Clinic where we treated dogs, cats, horses, cows, and the local zoo. There’s nothing quite like having a panther stare you down to show how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things. But again I’m veering slightly sideways since we’re talking werewolves. (were-panthers are an entirely different species though if you like purring and have a constant supply of raw meat…) I also write a lot of paranormal stories. This life experience translates into furry creatures that go bump in the night, often times more than once. ;}

Yes, lucky you! This guy of yours has to be pretty great if he’s showing off his furry side; normally they’re not allowed to do this for just anyone. I mean there’s a reason you were drawn to him to begin with- the muscles (and I’m sure they are pretty) or possibly the dark and brooding vibe. The whole bad-boy, Alpha Male mojo?

Once you make it past the physical prowess, something had you stare at the phone for days on end waiting to hear his deep, rumbling voice. It could have been that spark of awareness from when he touched your hand the first time and pulled you closer. His ability to shred clothing quickly! If any of these pertain, then it’ll only get better. Werewolves have a tendency to be very hands on and possessive. He might say ‘mine’ a lot now too. Who doesn’t want a cute pet name?

Don’t worry, you’ll get a few hours to yourself, once a month. During the full moon. (There are several myths and superstitions that are easy to look up and find that’ll explain in more detail so I won’t go into that now) They may be a bit more intense during this time because of the wolf needing out. Run and play, sounds fun. The whole supernatural community revers the moon though, but only the werewolf has to shift forms during this time. Isn’t that cool! So, remember he might be a tad bit of a Mr. Grumpypants, but it’s not like we don’t have our moments too during the month ladies. But don’t fear, there are a few apps out there to help track the moon. Just make sure Fluffy’s inside that night. Better be safe than sorry since that would be an awkward conversation the day after.

There have been rumors going around about vitamin combinations that help were-creatures not shift. I’m only mentioning this because werewolves might be a tad bit more irritable when avoiding the call of the moon. It would be needed though for those that have to work. It’s not like a hunky cop, firefighter, or strapping military dude can just call in with an excuse of needing to run naked under the moon.

Sorry, had to take a break for a moment and think about that.

Speaking of gainful employment, werewolves have a great work ethic. Once they sink their teeth into something, it doesn’t take long for them to devour it. In this economy too, hell yeah! Maybe it has to do with their assertive approach to life, or that they like to work with their strong hands.

Werewolves are generally pretty social creatures, and belong to a pack. Each has a hierarchy for things to run smoothly. Can you believe your luck of finding a guy that belongs to a gang to help in the day-to-day grind? From what I’ve heard, these packs, they’re a great support system and alibi.

And, if you ever get lost, the wolf has heightened sense of smell and hearing. This extra ability makes them great trackers. This could come in handy. Your guy will be able to find you anywhere.

All I’m saying is to be proud. This werewolf chose you. Give those furry ears a stroke and let him run on the moon. He’ll come home to you as soon as he’s chases the last critter away. Who wouldn’t want to be Team Jacob? Curling up with a hottie and staying warm as the calendar turns to winter. Sign me up for some of that!

Character Costume Parade

It’s Halloween night and as I sit here contemplating a topic to write on–about writing–I think of my characters and the many “hats” I require them to wear, to become just who I need them to be for any given piece. So I’ve dragged out some of my gang and locked them each in a room, with no windows–just a box of costumes and asked them to try on a few and tell us a little bit about themselves. Please enjoy this Character Costume Parade inspired by the wacky holiday where at least one day a year we have the freedom to dress up and become anyone we like!

 

CHRISTINE

Christine is a 10 yr old, red headed, precocious lil gal. She loves her dysfunctional family and really has no idea that all families aren’t exactly like hers. Her bestie is a school chum named, Pearl. The two girls have many zany adventures as they sojourn the pages of my stories side by side.

ME: Christine, can you tell us a bit about the costume you picked?

Christine: It’s not a costume, per-say.

Per se – frequently misspelled as P-e-r-s-a-y. Per se is an adverb and means: by, of, for, or in itself; intrinsically.

Momma’s an English major. She demands that I be well spoken. But my teacher is actually the one responsible for my vast vocabulary. She has us memorize our spelling words along with their definitions. I can converse with most adults on a level they can comprehend–which blows a lot of them away. But, I digress.

Digress – verb (used without an object): to deviate or wander away from the main topic or purpose in speaking or writing; to depart from the principal line of argument, plot, study, etc. Sorry, it’s a habit.

I dressed like Pippi Longstocking. It was the natural choice given my red hair and quirky nature.

Quirky –  adjective: characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits.

Me: And how do you think you identify with the character of Pippi?

Christine: We’re adventurous girls, me n Pippi. I know some folks can’t grasp the concept of kids with independent spirits but we’re wild and free. I really like that about myself and it’s fun to have a girl to look to who represents the essence of my character.

Essence – noun: the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, that determines its character.

Me: Sometimes, do you wish I’d written your character less like Pippi and more like–

Christine: Laura Ingalls Wilder? Interesting that she’s much more respected than Pippi, but has a similar personality.

Naw, I don’t wish to be anyone other than who you’ve created me to be. I like my red hair and my wacky family and my dog–Slumpy, and my bestie–Pearl. I wouldn’t have myself any other way. I just wouldn’t be me, then would I?

Me: Truly, you wouldn’t. You don’t seem to give me any grief or hassle like some of my other characters. Of course, we’ve not yet reached the teen years.

*playful wink*

Any parting words you’d like to share with our audience before I leave you to play dress-up?

Christine: I hear teens are more of a challenge to write than me. I know you have this one girl who’s quite promiscuous and has been in trouble. Mama says boys won’t marry a girl who gives away the farm. I’ll pass on the definition of ‘promiscuous.’  I think it might make some grown-ups uncomfortable to hear a girl my age define a word like that. I’m guessin’ we all know what it means.

I like the life you’ve created for me. And I like that sometimes you allow me to take the lead and shape some of my adventures. And I super-duper love you for giving me a puppy for my birthday! My parents kept saying “no, Christine” but you up and wrote him as a surprise mystery gift. No way were they gunna say I couldn’t keep a birthday gift!

Me: Well, I hope you prove trustworthy of the responsibility, Christine. We’ve yet to see what adventures are in store for you and Pearl with Slumpy by your sides.

Now, I’m off to another room to speak with another character. Have fun!

 

UNNAMED FEMALE CHARACTER

This young lady is not the girl to whom Christine made reference above. I actually intended to let said girl come and play with the box of costumes and share whatever she’d like, though that may have been unwise, before Christine even mentioned her. However, I’ve another character, who won’t stay quiet and is busting down the door to see the light of day. Unfortunately her sole role was in a piece I’d only begun to draft, and as I did, the character that emerged, and overtook the project, was nothing like the girl I’d imagined and painstakingly attempted to create. This girl was, in fact, the complete opposite. I didn’t get very far before I shelved the project because she was turning it into something that it was never conceived to be. Alas, I never gave her a name; so, to this day she remains the nameless girl from ‘Flying Fat.’  I’ll just refer to her as UFC, short for unnamed female character. Brace yourselves!

Me: Oh, I see you’ve found the box of costumes and decided on the lovely pink princess frock.

UFC: Aye, isn’t that what you want me to be? A nice girl who gives off airs and does as she’s told … dressed in a sparkling pink gown, of course. I mean, that’s why you’ve hid me away … yes? Because I wouldn’t conform to your ideal of who I should be?

Me: I see you’re still bitter. The truth is, the story I wanted to tell wasn’t suited to you. The girl I was writing it for was, admittedly, someone quite different from yourself.

UFC: So you thought you’d just stuff me away in the dark recesses of … where, your memory? Forget all about me; make sure my story never got told?

Me: I agree–your story is an important one. But, it wasn’t the project I intended to pen. When you popped up, out of nowhere, and just took the whole thing over … I didn’t know what to do. So, I shelved it.

UFC: You mean you shelved me!

Me: I suppose so, yes. I mean, you were taking over the project. And, I hadn’t quite encountered a character like you before. Not one that I’d created anyway. It was a tad overwhelming. I wasn’t sure what else to do really.

UFC: How ‘bout telling my damn story and not locking me in the closet like I was some monster–treating me like a perp instead of acknowledging that I was the victim!

Me: It was obvious you were a victim and that you’d been perpetrated upon. I never meant to treat you poorly. I’ve explained why I had to do what I did, why I couldn’t, at that time, tell your story. It wasn’t even close to the tale I set out to tell. And you weren’t the girl I meant to summon.

UFC: Because I wasn’t your perfect little princess. I was noone’s princess and far from perfect after they were done with me.

*UFC twirls around and curtsies for me, holding the corners of pink taffeta in each hand. A stiff smile stretches her lips thin. She flutters her lashes*

UFC: More to your liking, M’lady? Sweet as sugar … and save the spice for the prince who wakes me at midnight with true love’s kiss? He’ll have to take me over his knee to teach me some proper manners but he won’t leave any visible bruises. Men are trained in the ways of abusing their women. Yes?

Me: It doesn’t appear that any of the therapy you insisted on for your back story has helped in any way.

UFC: Therapy? Nay. Since it was a court appointed punishment by the King and Queen. I went, but put no real effort into it. I doubt old baldy would have believed my tale anyhow. Nobody else did.

Me: Perhaps it’s the manner in which you conduct yourself that keeps people from being able to connect with you. I know I certainly felt intimidated by such an egregious personality. No matter how hard I tried, or what scenario I put you in, you just weren’t interested in being personable.

UFC: Personable? Sorry. My mind was busy processing years of abuse at the hands of a trusted adult and how that effectively turned me into an invisible tub of lard. Guess I forgot to schedule lessons on how to be ‘personable.’

Me: Fair enough … but as I’ve already stated – your story, while not new to you, was big news to me. Unexpected news. I was neither in the place to understand it nor appropriately deal with it. It wasn’t because you weren’t a pretty little princess. The other story didn’t showcase one of those either. It was because I couldn’t cut through all your brashness to figure out where you came from and where you were going. Because you wouldn’t avail yourself of the therapist or group therapy or any other tool I tried to contribute. And because, though you never told me the details, I knew your story was so shocking that I wasn’t going to know how to let you tell it outside of the boundaries I was trying to provide for you.

It had nothing to do with the person you think I wanted you to be. Honest.

UFC: It had nothing to do with the person I think you wanted me to be? You didn’t even take the time to give me a proper name!

Me: I knew that was going to come up. Shall I name you now?

UFC: What? So you can look good and proper in front of your friends? Pass! Let them see who’s the real monster here.

*UFC turns her back and flounces across the room to sit in a corner, facing the wall. I slip quietly out, leaving her door ajar just a bit.*

 

DOMINICK

Oh, where do I start with Dominick. He’s been many a girl’s dream. He’s successful and handsome and strong, intelligent, wealthy, stupidly attractive, in control and … sexy. Oh My God–sexy!
It’s like he stepped out of a sort of bad boy mold, though appearances might beg to differ. He’s married–just a year–and already looking for something more stimulating than the wife who lies in bed next to him. He’s used to getting what he wants, the way he wants it. One day … he decided he wanted Rebecca. ← (the female lead in his story) And neither of their lives were ever the same.

D: What’s with the box, T.

Me: Costumes. Pick one and try it on. Anyone you like. Think of it as a game.

D: For whom am I dressing?

Me: Me. And our guests. They’re watching too.

D: Kinky.

Me: Come on, D. Not that kind of game. Just pick something that speaks to you. Maybe something that represents who you are, or who you’d like to be, or maybe someone you think I want you to be.

D: I already know who you want me to be. I’m wearing that outfit.

Me: You’re wearing a double breasted, three piece Armani suit, D.

D: Exactly. You’re favorite. It was my birthday gift from you. Like me, you have exquisite taste.

Me: It was from Rebecca. But thank you.

D: Come now, we both know you’re Rebecca.

Me: We do, do we? How’s that?

D: You know you’re in love with me. Rebecca’s just your … “host”, if you will.

*I sigh*

Me: You certainly are the most confident man I think I’ve ever met. I’ll give you that.

D: You’ll give me whatever I like.

*Dominick walks over to me, backing me away from him until I feel the rough wall–firm behind my back.*

D: Tonight, I think I might just like you … “Rebecca.”

*I gulp*

Me: Old reliable. You’re becoming predictable. Careful, D.

*I  hold the gaze of his lovely ice blue eyes. He brings his 6’4” frame as close to me as possible. There is no air between us. He lowers his head until his mouth finds my ear.*

D: You like the wall. That’s why I use it. Because, it always works!

*I shudder*

Me: We have an audience, don’t forget. This interview isn’t rated for adult content.

D: Not my concern; I didn’t write it. Besides, I know you like to be watched. I know all your dirty little fantasies, T, because I know you. That’s what you like about me.

Me: This has fast taken a turn I’d not anticipated. I only intended to write a little ditty about whatever outfit you chose to model. Let you have some voice to share your thoughts with the world. Are you not interested in that, D?

D: I don’t have an appetite for interviews at the moment. I do, however, have another suit I’d be happy to model for you.

*His hands find the knot on his silk tie and he begins to release it. I watch as he slides it from around his neck and then moves on to unfasten his belt. I want to avert my eyes but … he’s right; this gets me every time.*

Me: I hate that you’re right about me. I hate you! You know that, don’t you?

D: That is, again, no concern of mine, my red headed mistress. Now, are those clothes going to remove themselves or do they need some help?

*TL draws the curtains.*

He’s a bastard y’all. But he’s sexy as hell and I can’t let that go to waste!

*winks and waves goodbye*

 

EPILOGUE: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Sometimes the writer is in control and sometimes the characters are in control. I’ve experienced both. Here, you’ve seen both. (Thanking God for little Christine right about now.) Bringing them out to play in some way, allowing them to air their grievances or have a discussion with you, another character, someone from their story–these can be great tools for fleshing them out. A good character is worth it’s weight in gold. And why not? They are the driving force of any story. So spend some time getting to know them and what to expect from them when you open their Pandora’s box. They just might surprise you.