Writing

Life has been a little hectic as of late. But Mr. Nina and I are trying to settle into what we affectionately call “our new normal”. Which means my muse is a little off-kilter and not ready to jump into anything new. The best I can do for her at the moment is update a book which I’ve just received the rights back and now we’re spit-polishing it for re-release. Hopefully, before the end of the year, I’ll be re-releasing my SHIFTING BONDS series (including a new book)!

In the meantime, I thought I’d share how I came about finding the names of my main characters in this sexy erotic suspense novel.

Being the visual person that I am, I can’t even get one sentence down without knowing exactly who my characters are. And it’s not so much who they are and where they came from, as a pantser that stuff just sort of unravels itself while I write. Nope, I’m talking about their names.
 
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iwdayala0240cSo I’ve been reading books since the beginning of time. My mother was one of those who went to the library every 10 days or so and signed out stacks of books. I remember going with her. She helped me pick out some of my favorite books that I still remember. And I’m one of those readers that gets totally involved in stories. To the extent that sometimes when someone speaks to me I’m not sure where I am. And if it’s a series … forget it, I could be lost for weeks somewhere in history or the future.

I love reading.
 
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I’m hanging out my “Caution: Promo Ahead” sign today. LOL!

Every author knows that we have one line, one paragraph and if we’re lucky one page to grab the reader. I can spend days tweaking and reworking the beginning of my stories. So I thought today I’d share with you the first lines of my books (with the names removed). When you look at them individually what do you think? Does the line make you want to keep reading or not so much?

So here they are in no particular order. Can you figure out which book they’re from? (And I included a line from a book that isn’t currently available at this time.):

1.) She slammed the spade into the soil. Her booted foot thumped down on its metal edge, driving it deeper and transferring her frustration to the wounded earth.
~ Deceive Her With Desire

2.) Margaret Callaghan hid her heartache behind dark sunglasses and the Starbuck’s double-double mocha latte she carried like a shield.
~ In His Eyes

Bondage women3.) She wasn’t expecting a trip down memory lane when she sauntered into the dingy tavern, but the acrid stench and gruff hum of the Friday night crowd carried her back to one of the seedier establishments on Chicago’s south side nonetheless. ~ A Touch of Lilly

4.) She had definitely made the wrong decision. Less than twenty-four hours ago she was sure this weekend was just what she needed.
~ Invitation to Ecstasy

5.) “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…” How could this have happened to someone so young? ~ Blind Her With Bliss

6.) It wasn’t much of a noise, just an inconsequential thump in the night that was enough to rouse him from his dreamless slumber. Still cradled in the gentle arms of sleep, his blood thick with sleeping medication, he wasn’t sure if he’d simply
imagined the sound. ~ Shadows of Fire

7.) He splashed three more fingers of thirty-year-old scotch into the crystal tumbler sitting on the mahogany desk, not bothering to add ice. He didn’t need some watered-down version of liquid courage.
~ Divine Deception

8.) She sauntered into the Whip and Bull Tavern, wanting only two things—a cold beer and a hot body. ~ Bonded Souls

Rafael_iStk10XSmall9.) Jesus. Even though he wasn’t particularly religious he prayed for Divine intervention. Not that he wanted any lightning strikes or halos of light illuminating the shadowed corner of the club where he’d hidden himself, but a little more help in the patience department would certainly go a long way at the moment. ~  Maid for Master

10.) She raced through the shadows, her claws digging deep in the damp forest floor. Lush ferns of summer slapped at her muzzle but didn’t slow her speed.
~ Bonded by Need

What do you think? Do you have a favorite? Do you think any of them missed the mark?

And my latest book news? Well, I’m happy to announce all of the books in the Dangerous Affairs, sexy romantic suspense series, BLIND HER WITH BLISS and DECEIVE HER WITH DESIRE and CHEAT HER WITH CHARM are now available in audio format. What a kick-in-the-pants to hear someone else reading my stories! I hope you’ll check them out:

blind-her-with-bliss-audio-e-reader-copy
Available from:
Amazon
Audible
iTunes

decieve-audio-e-reader-copy
Available from:
Amazon
Audible
iTunes

audio - cheat-her-with-charm-web-copy

Available from:
Amazon
Audible
iTunes

As a writer all I have is my words. Words to bring the reader into the setting. Words to convey danger or passion. Words to make the reader fall in love with the characters even as they fall in love with each other. It’s not like a movie where a well orchestrated soundtrack strokes the viewer’s emotions, carrying them … biting their nails into the epic battle … or sighing with satisfaction into the first kiss.

Each word and phrase should create a visceral reaction in the reader. A reader whose emotions are involved in your story is a reader who continues to turn the page. No needy pet, ringing phone or burning dinner will pull a readers who’s emersed in your story from finishing the chapter. Hell, if you’ve done it really well … finishing the book. (Oh, come on, it’s happened to all of us. Raise your hand if you stayed up all night just to finish a book … yeah, I see you out there.)

As authors we have all kinds of tools in our writing kits to create our story and bring our characters to life. Dialogue, both spoken and internal is an immediate way to portray a character. The words they choose and how they’re spoken take a two dimensional character and give them depth. Are the words strong and bold or nervous and tentative? Are they quick to respond or thoughtful and use few words? We must think about all of that. A CIA agent might see the sun setting and think only of the convenience of night’s arrival and how that will help them hide their actions. An artist type would take time to notice the colors, how they mix with the clouds and take a moment to enjoy the scene.

What the characters are saying and what they’re thinking is important. But you can add another layer by including how your characters act and what their body language communicates. Especially if what they’re saying isn’t really how they’re feeling. Let’s look at some body parts and actions and the emotions it conveys.


HEAD
Lifted and tilted back = arrogance
Ducking head = submission
Head in hand = boredom

MOUTH
A smile quirked to the left = lying
Tight-lipped smile = keeping a secret
Licking lips = nervousness or attraction
Biting lip = shyness, insecurity
Trembling lip = sadness

EYES
Long, hard stare = anger
Furrowed brows = confusion
Slow blinks = hiding, avoiding scrutiny
Rubbing finger over eyelids = working to deceive
Wide eyes = surprise

ARMS AND HANDS
Clenched fist = anger
White knuckles = strong negative emotion (nerves, anger)
Steepled fingers = confidence

LEGS AND FEET
Dragging toes = reluctant
Tightly crossed legs = in a woman it’s protection
Crossed ankles = won’t compromise in an argument
Shifting weight from foot to foot = lying

Everything your characters do, every thought you share with the readers creates memorable characters. From the dating dance to the first kiss to the ultimate night of passion we offer our readers cues to the emotions of our characters. Skip the body details and you miss the opportunity to make your characters jump off the page and into the hearts of your readers.

So are there any body language moves I’ve missed that you really enjoy in a story? Any that are overused? And tell me some of your most memorable characters and why you just can’t get them out of your head and heart.

noteXSmallSo, it’s the question I ask myself every time I sit down at the computer with the intention of writing my next story. Do I write something that’s hot with the market or the story that’s rolling in my head? And trust me when I say … they’re not usually the same.

Now, let me clarify by saying that I’ve never written a story where I wasn’t proud of the final product. It’s just that I’ve enjoyed writing some more than others. And I have yet to have any characters just run away with the story. Nope. Soooooo not me. I’m really envious of authors who say they couldn’t type as fast as their characters talked or that scenes unraveled and they were just along for the journey.

Yeeeeah. Maybe some day.

But until then I weigh and measure which story to work on next. I have figured out I’m a one story author. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t left some of my novels to write something shorter, but I don’t work on two stories at a time. I’m singularly focused. I do have several plot ideas rolling around in my head, all the time, but until I have a really good idea where they’re going I can’t put fingers to keyboard.

For the last couple of years I’ve been really focused on what is selling in the erotic market. I’ve tailored my characters to fit in that mold. And you know what … it was hard. I’m proud of the stories and pleased with the end product, but the journey to completion wasn’t fun. Now don’t get me wrong … everyone, no matter how much they love their job, has those days when they just don’t really want to show up and when work is just that … work. And the same is true for me.

But the last book I re-wrote, the one where the rights reverted back to me, was a wonderful journey of being reintroduced to characters I loooove and writing that makes me VERY proud. It’s a futuristic erotic romance titled A TOUCH OF LILLY and is set in deep space. I really enjoyed creating the aliens and weapons and discovering a new setting. When this was out with a publisher, the reviews were awesome! The sales? Not so much. And that’s supposed to be all right because my writing should be about the story and not about what the readers are buying.

Or should it?

Let’s face it. I’m writing to make a living. I’ve never hidden that fact. When my body gave itself over to the MS I was forced to stop working. My writing has become my new career. Failure is not an option … okay, that has more to do with how I’m wired rather than my need to buy groceries and pay the electric bill. But still, I want this new career to keep me contributing to my family’s budget. So then I vacillate back to … write what the readers are buying. And with this new self-publishing thing going on it means I do have flexibility. I’m not bound to what publishers are buying. Still …

It’s a ping pong match in my head with stories vying for my attention. I don’t know what the answer is. I wrestle with it every time I sit down to write a new story. Ideally, I’d like a balance of both worlds, a story that is fun to write and one the readers will love. I have no idea if I’ll ever find the middle of that road, but I’m working on it.

So as an author, where do you head with your stories? And as a reader do you read by genre or by author or a balance of both? Because I’m dying to know.

And because this is my blog and a place for me to do a little marketing. Here’s the new cover from Dar Albert … an aaaamazing cover artist and the blurb:

399 X 650Ex-Chicago detective LILLY D’ANGELO has a secret she doesn’t share with anyone. A master of the one night stand, she’s given up ever finding a soul mate and thrown herself head first into her career. That is, until she captures the wrong alien. Kidnapped and sold into the sex slave trade, she’s shipped into deep space. Barely escaping with her life, Lilly now travels the galaxy working as a bounty hunter using her secret talents to bring down criminals and seeking revenge on the one male who ruined her life.

Agent DALLAS SAWYER works for deep space’s version of the FBI. After a disastrous mission that left several of his team members murdered, a president executed, and Dallas near death, he’s determined to take down the assassin targeting government officials. When a sexy human female gets between him and his goal, Dallas and his alien partner find themselves on the receiving end of a passionate night they won’t soon forget and a proposition that may very well blow up in their faces.

Because in deep space … true love can happen with just a touch.

 

Young Woman Looking Away from BookSince I can remember, romance books have been written in third person (character described by narrator) past tense (action already happened):

“Oh, screw you, Burkett.” Reese Colton threw his cards down as the man across the table collected the two paper IOU’s along with a pile of money. Testosterone and laughter filled the fire station kitchen. “You all suck!” Reese said before draining the drink at his elbow.

Every once in awhile I’ve picked up a book where the author wrote in third person present tense (current action):

“Oh, screw you, Burkett.” Reese Colton throws his cards down as the man across the table collects the two paper IOU’s along with a pile of money. Testosterone and laughter fills the fire station kitchen. “You all suck!” Reese says before draining the drink at his elbow.

I’ve actually read a book like this. It was odd at the beginning, but then I got into the story and barely noticed the present tense.

But now, more and more books are being written in first person. One point of view. The whole story told by the main character — usually female. Lots of young adult stories like Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series is written this way as well as EL James’s “50 Shades” series. I even picked up a mystery recently that was in first person.

Some writers do this better than others. Of course it seems to matter less if the story pulls me in and I become totally engrossed. I don’t even notice that it’s a single narrator. But other times …

Yeeeah, there are a lot of books, especially romances, where I miss that other perspective. I love being in the hero’s head … not just the heroine’s interpretation of his actions … but the actual jesus-she-smells-good-and-that-dress-hugs-her-luscious-curves-in-all-the-right-places kind of thought process. Why do I like that? I think because it makes me fall in love with the hero even as he’s falling in love with the heroine. I want to know he’s so hot for her he can’t get her all the way upstairs to the bedroom before he presses her against the kitchen wall and shows her just how much she means to him.

And you know, it’s not always the hero. I love suspense stories. When an author writes well from the villan’s perspective, it helps me as a reader understand why s/he believes they are totally justified in kidnapping and torturing all the clarinet players in their high school marching band from thirty years ago. (No, that’s not a book, but it sure could make a very disturbed villan. LOL!)

But with everything that the masses say is trending — television, phone apps and twitter, it looks like more and more books are being written in first person and readers are not only buying them … they’re buying them in HUGE quantities. It makes me wonder if some of my favorite authors are going to go in that direction.

What do you think? Is this a passing fad or are first person stories going to become the norm for our reading pleasure?

That phrase conjurs a certain image … but it amazes me how in just a short time that image has changed.

I love technology. The devolopement of the Internet has been nothing short of amazing. I’m just awed at how quickly my story can go from a nugget of an idea to a full blown ebook novel that people can buy from all kinds of retailers. What used to take years can now take only as long as it takes me to write the book (if I’m self-publishing).

When I first began writing, I submitted manuscripts and contest entries through the mail, printing and collating them, packaging them and running them to the post office. But emailing them is so much easier. And editing? I never had to go through the process of mailing a full manuscript and receiving it back with red marks I was supposed to fix. To be honest, I can’t even imagine how it used to be done without the ease of computers sending them through cyberspace in the matter of seconds.

That being said I think this wonderful technology has robbed my children and their whole generation of the thrill of letter writing. They don’t know the fun of receiving a handwritten envelope in the mail only to open it up and find pages of words lovingly written, bringing news of home or a loved one far away. And remember when you used to go on vacation and write out postcards and actually mail them? Now it’s wireless internet and digital pictures posted on facebook that are shared with family left at home. It’s just not the same thing.

My love affair for the written word began at an early age. I moved from my very best friend when I was in second grade and for years we wrote to each other. I missed her terribly. When I was a kid I wrote stories and plays that my friends would help me perform. Late in elementary school I got my first diary. I filled that one and started another. I kept this going into early high school. I have no idea what I wrote in them because I wisely destroyed them decades ago. (No, really… it was a good decision. I was a wild child. I didn’t want anyone to know the “real” me. 😉 ) In middle school I found a penpal in Japan and wrote to her for over a year. We exchanged currency because they were so different. We sent each other pictures of ourselves, our homes and our families, allowing each other glimpses of our daily lives.

It was wonderful.

Children can do that today more easily over the internet or sheesh, on their phones. Communication is not only instanteous, it also seems to be continuously streaming. Heck, let’s face it, we can now have live interactions with anyone anywhere through Skype. But they can’t take that conversation and glue it into scrapbook like I did with the letters from my friend. I saved all of them. My children will be able to read the words of a little girl from Japan, penned by her own hand about her life in a foreign land. That’s hands-on history.

My husband and I began dating when I was a freshman in high school. When I was a junior he went to college 11 hours from home. I didn’t see him for months at a time. But during our separation we wrote. A couple of letters a week. Phone calls were so expensive we agreed to call each other only once a month. The only connection I had with him was our letters. Nothing like today where cellphones and internet keep us a moment away from each other.

But I love those letters. We both saved every single one we wrote to each other. Letters of love that speak of innocent youthful cravings and tiny drawings, some marred with tears I shed while looking at them. We wrote for the two full years he was so far away. He eventually decided to go to school closer to home so our letter writing stopped. But what lovely memories we have saved in those shoeboxes in the top of my closet. I’m not sure how appropriate some of them are, but someday I will sit and pore through them and save those fit for our children to read without blushing. Our words, scripted in our own hand (or hen scratch in the case of Mr. Nina) will remind them how much their parents loved each other.

When I went to college my mother wrote to me once a week. It was my lifeline to home. Every Friday without fail her letter arrived in my mailbox. It became a tradition for me to read it outloud to my roommate and several close friends. It was like having home right there in the dorm and sharing it with those around me. My mother had an incredible talent for painting pictures with words. So my family history is recorded in those letters I saved.

As my children came along I began keeping diaries again. I wrote letters to them on the pages before they were even born. I also kept calendars for them and recorded daily activities. I journaled in baby books (written in first person as if they made the entries), tucking in little mementos like napkins from birthday parties and locks of hair.

It’s all a wonderful written history of who we were and how we got to this point. My children love reading their baby books and the antecdotes I recorded. But in the early 90’s I got a computer. I continued to write letters to my mom, but now they were printed off rather than in my own handwriting. Eventually we got the internet and my emails and phone calls took the place of the letter writing. When my children were in college, I rarely sent them mail, but spoke to them a couple of times a week and texted them nearly every day.

But it’s not the same and I know it.

It makes me sad to lose this wonderful tradition. My children won’t have the words of love and concern we shared through their college years, because let’s face it, I don’t print out their emails and I know they don’t print out mine.

It’s such a sad thing. I guess every new technology comes with its downside.

I can say that I have passed on one tradition to my children. Without fail they sit and write thank you notes for gifts they receive at birthday, Christmas, or graduation. We started it when all they could write was their name. It’s something Beautiful Girl and Baby Girl continue to do and Little Boy Blue does when I niggle him. So they’re not long newsy letters, but at least they’re handwritten.

I’d like to tell you this has inspired me to write a letter, but I’m afraid my own letter writing days are over. I have the ability to type, but writing for any length of time is nearly impossible with my MS. I do however manage to type a letter or two now and again. But every once in awhile, like now, I pine for the days when a letter I sent in the mail meant that in another few days I’d get one back.

So what about you? Do you write letters? How do you feel when you receive a letter (even if it’s just a thank you note or a card)? You know me, I’m curious about stuff like that.

That’s the sound of a truck backing up. (Can you hear it?) Anyway, this week has been very frustrating. A virus wormed it’s way into my computer and infected EVERYTHING! Tentacles wound themselves so tight around my stuff that the tech guy couldn’t find the heart of the beast.

I was amazingly calm for someone who lives on her computer. I’m not exaggerating. I turn the thing on around 8 am and shut it down as late as 10 or 11 (if I’m writing–even later than that.) Besides my books, my budgets, both business and personal are electronic.

But when I called PCWebDoc.com (yep, that’s a shameless plug for an amazing business out of Pennsylvania) I was very calm as I told them my computer was being held hostage and I wasn’t sure I could get the ransom before … oh, sorry, that’s one of my books. Anyway, things looked very bleak for my dear electronic friend as I handed my very sick computer off to the PCWeb doctor at their ER. Well, I’ve already shared the story. (Scroll down two posts to “It’s Alive”.) Dan (whom I will always secretly love) remotely took over my computer and the news was baaaaaaaad!

But I was not panicked.

I have a handy-dandy flash or jump drive that holds every single one of my books. EVERY one of them. (Even the ones that are merely a page or two and just notes.) My finshed books along with all my author copies are tucked safely into it’s folds.

Plus …

My finished books AND author copies are burned on to CDs. I even have my book trailers and website/blog info stored on both flashdrives and CDs. Overkill? You betcha. But guess what? When Dan said it may wipe out everything. I didn’t shed a tear. Groaned loudly, but truly didn’t panic. All of my gems are right here next to me. I knew my babies were safe.

There are now online ways to backup your files though I’ve never been able to get one set up.

In the end, it didn’t come to that. Everything worked just fine and I didn’t lose even one day’s worth of writing. If you live on your computer and depend on it whether you’re a writer or not … BACK UP! BACK UP! BACK UP! and back up again. Because Dan mentioned this new virus smooth-talked its way around my firewalls and there’s a high probability, now that it has my number, it may very well come back a third time.

So, did I mention you need to be dilegent about backing up your stuff? You never know when some virus will come wandering into your sanctuary and steal away everything near and dear to you.

It’s an awful place to be. Stuck.

I got nothing.

Nothing going down on the blank page. Nothing running through my brain for blogs… I’m out of words. And that is such a bad place to be. It leads to …

Panic!

Which I am working very hard to push away. Obviously if the words aren’t coming, the stories aren’t unfolding, the work isn’t getting done and the books aren’t heading out the door to be published. Without new books there aren’t new readers finding my writing. It’s such a bad place. I’d like to think it’s the time of year … but it’s been “that time of year” for nearly a year. Of course being in limbo since the spring of 2011, with no place to settle and now no job for Mr. Nina. (Fingers crossed that situation is changing soon.)

I’m floating around to other writer blogs and they’re announcing their new releases… I’m happy for them… or they’re talking about the book they just finished… you go author… or how their book was a huge sell this month… yay… or how another indie-pubbed author just bought a new house … see me enthusiastically celebrating with them… NOT!

Now don’t get me wrong. I truly don’t begrudge them their successes, a part of me is happy for them, but a bigger part of me wonders why I can’t have that? Ideas and words falling onto the page and success just banging down the door.

I’m impatient.

I know this. It’s one of the really bad things in my personality that I work hard on. I see it. I want it. And hell and be damned if I have to wait for it.

*Sigh*

But that’s the name of the game in publishing. Patience.

It’s an awful cycle. The block, the panic, the depression. Okay, so I’m not depressed… but the situation makes me mopey. Since it seems to be the topic on several panels, I suspect I’m not the only one in this situation. Little Boy Blue thinks I need some time away from my computer and maybe he’s right (pretty smart for 21). A little time to decompress and regroup. A change of scenery. Perhaps I’ll take the boy’s advice and choose some books from my HUGE TBR pile and just veg in the sun. A good read is always good for the soul.

So how’s you’re September going? This week is the official beginning of autumn … and it’s beginning to feel and look just like that outside my window! Let’s hope the change of seasons brings a change in my mindset!

Question of the day … is your laundry basket overflowing?

I’m traveling again this week. (After Beautiful Girl’s wedding this past weekend, I’m exhausted, but we’re hoping one of these trips nets Mr. Nina a new job … so it’s totally worth pushing through!)

Anyway …

I was working with a new writer recently and I kept saying show me … don’t tell me. And she looked up and burst out “What the heck are you talking about? I’m telling the story, not showing you pictures.”

The lightbulb went on for me. I wasn’t explaining myself well. And then I wondered how many authors out there keep hearing “show don’t tell”, but really can’t wrap their head around it. (If this isn’t you, then you’ll probably want to just skip this post and come back Wednesday for a little more blog fun. 😀 )

Telling is saying things like:
1. She was tired.
2. He was angry.
3. The weather was bad.

You’ve simply stated the facts. You didn’t “draw” a picture with words.

If you want to engage your reader and pull them into your scene, then paint a picture with your words. Throw out adjectives and emotions and some deep point of view and let them form an image in your reader’s mind and let them draw the conclusion you stated above.

1. Bethany dragged into the house, her legs wobbling with the effort, even hefting her satchel onto the end table seemed like a Herculean task. Flopping on the couch, she let the stress of the day drain from her muscles.

See how that shows the reader so much more? Jees, I feel like I should take a nap after reading that. Bethany’s not just tired … she’s exhausted!

2. Ryan didn’t bother to knock. He pushed through the door and stalked into the livingroom. Bethany lay sprawled on the couch, her hand covering her eyes. He didn’t care. What she’d done to him at lunch was unconscionable and needed to be dealt with now.

Ummm … as a reader I’m thinking poor Bethany doesn’t want to deal with Ryan at the moment. The man is coming unglued. (But it certainly sounds like she deserves it. (Hee hee) If this scene were from her point of view she might notice his furrowed brow or red face. Showing me, the reader, his anger.

3. The wind lashed through the tree tops, rattling the windows and throwing its fury against the glass. The storm brewing outside was nothing compared to the pain and anger radiating off Ryan in waves.

And now you have the whole thing. Her tiredness, his anger and the terrible weather. But showing your reader has made things just a little more interesting. Hmm … maybe next week I’ll talk about getting them into bed … maybe. LOL!

And just to engage my visitors … boxers, briefs, or commando for your guy?

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