As most of you know I spent last week with my CP and good friend, Jennifer Linforth, she’s my rock. When everything falls apart and I’m reduced to a bundle of tears, she’s the one I call. (And yes, this happens on a pretty regular basis. *vbg*) She understands me and how my brain works. She’s the bestest.
So, loaded down with Cheetos, M&M’s, Oreo cookies, chips, dip, beer & coffee (beverages for relaxing and perking up!) … we settled in for two days of brainstorming. I LOVE this part of writing … especially with Jen. She’s an historical author and I write the stuff her characters aren’t even supposed to talk about. Don’t ask me why this works–it just does. Some of our conversations are hysterical. But a story is a story. Torturing characters to create a page turner is the same regardless of the genre.
She sits in the overstuffed chair in the corner, laptop in hand and cats adorning her shoulders. I hang out on the arm of her couch across the room, my feet tucked comfortable under her HUGE chocolate lab curled on the cushions, and we
argue explain chat discuss our plots.
Nina: I know … peepers!
Jen: *gales of laughter* How the hell did you get from a casino to little tiny frogs?
Nina: But it makes total sense they couldn’t get rid of the property because of an environmental issue.
Jen: At least choose something realistic like … *clicks away on computer* … woodpeckers
Nina: Like readers are going to care if they mow down trees for some ugly woodpeckers.
Jen: Well who cares about slimy frogs?
Nina: Well if I can’t have my peepers you can’t have your peckers!
And this is how it goes for two days. We work on each other’s books for hours. It’s draining. But such a blast! I’ve brainstormed with others, but they didn’t know me, didn’t know how I think or what I write. Jen knows all this. When things go in a wrong direction we stop, reassess and start again in another line of thought. Brainstorming isn’t only about throwing out the wild ideas … which we do … but actually ending up with a story outline we can personally work with. Because let’s face it, no matter how much someone else loves the plot, if you can’t live with it … you can’t write it!
Jen and I are both pantsers … writing only from the skeleton of a plot. We’ve both tried to go the traditional plotting and outlining, but it doesn’t seem to work for either of us. I think this is one of the reasons we work so well together. Now we’re thinking about brainstorming a brainstorming workshop … complete with all the right junk food!
Jen and I live really far from each other. Otherwise our brainstorming would be more like a critique/brainstorming meeting once or twice a month. But we have to settle for a twice a year tradition. We’re hoping to find a third person, because let’s just face it … sometimes we get stuck. REALLY stuck. Her man helps. Sometimes he’s farther out there than we are, but other times his off-kilter thoughts take us in juuuust the right direction! (Kudos to you dude for the whole secretly signing of the property deed plotline! MAJORLY solved that issue!)
Anyway, I’ve started pounding out words and I’m incredibly happy. With any luck both of these books will be finished in the next couple of months. Thanks, Jen … I wubs you … but you already knew that.
So I’ve been laying back for the last couple of weeks. But it’s back in the saddle this week. I don’t post goals for the coming year … avoid it like the plague. But I thought I could open 2009 with my favorite moments of 2008. Here’s the top 13 in no particular order.
1. Road trip in the summer to go visit Beautiful Girl. (We saw lots of other people during that weekend, but seeing number one child topped it off.)
2. Getting my contracts. Each and everyone of them made me smile. Okay, and a couple of times I wept with joy. But I’m queer that way.
3. All the new friends I’ve met online. I can’t believe how much the internet has opened up my circle of friends. Hugs to everyone. You know who you are.
4. Speaking at the library luncheon for seniors (as in retired). Those ladies were a hoot. I brought PG excerpts of my books and they wanted to know where the heat was.
5. Going to the Highland Games in Canada. We’ve been wanting to go for a really long time and finally just bit the bullet and made the reservations. DH and I would totally do it again. Baby Girl and Little Boy Blue … not so much.
6. Every month I made it down south to be with my home girls. The Maine Writer’s chapter of RWA is a kick-butt group of writers. I’m so happy I found them.
7. Picking up Little Boy Blue from engineering camp. He got to spend 3 days at the state university where he wants to go to school and learned all about the engineering profession. Riding 3 hours home from the camp was a chance for us to have a nice visit and I think I learned all the naughty things those high school seniors did. (My lips are sealed!)
8. The record breaking winter of 2008. More snow than northern Maine has seen in … like ever! I didn’t say I enjoyed it. I simply said it was memorable.
9. Spending 3 days with my critique partner at her house just talking writing and brainstorming plots. I was in heaven! Hugs, Jen!
10. Having a chance to ride a hot air balloon. DH insisted. I’ve always wanted to do it and it was beyond what I expected! After skydiving, it’s my favorite flying (or is it falling) activity.
11. Snowmobiling with DH. Okay, so if you look at my blogs from last winter there was more downs than ups. Still the Maine woods in the middle of winter are beautiful. And one always needs good stories about your significant other. Those trips totally added to my repetoire.
12. Visiting with my family. My sister (in-laws), my mom (and in-law), my dad, my brothers (in-laws), nephews, neices, you name it … I love seeing them all. It’s the best part of making the looooong trip home.
Oh, that’s not my family. It’s just a lovely summer picture … don’t you think?
13. The Kiss of Death writer’s retreat in Oct. Now that was an awesome retreat that I enjoyed from the moment the valet parked my car until I had to say goodbye. I can’t recommend this retreat enough. It’s in New Mexico next year. And if I can afford it, I’m going!
I’m so excited that I wrangled my critique partner, Jennifer Linforth to come to the Writer’s Block and share her newest release with us. Madrigal: A continuation of Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera is available at Highland Press.
Tell us a little bit about you and how you got into writing.
When I run I tend to look like a drunk muppet. I can’t stand lollipops with gooey centers, the color pink, or bugs that crunch when you step on them. I think frogs are cool, there is not a critter I won’t pick up and I absolutely cannot pronounce pistachio. Beyond that, when I write I must have Strawberry Quik on hand.Go figure. It’s pink. (Oh-kaaay … TMI, but I’m good. How about your writing, Jen. You want to tell us a little bit about your writing?)
As a child, I first picked up a pen and began to write in the last few months before father’s death. I found losing myself in my imagination cathartic due to the nature of his illness. I wrote actively from that point on-full length books, countless poems and short stories (mostly fantasy based). It was many years before I knuckled down and re-visited my dream of being a published author. I lost myself in historical fiction when I contemplated getting a secondary degree in historical archeology. That planted the first seed in my mind that my love of the past could be used once again to weave stories.
Please tell us about your newest release, Madrigal.
Madrigal: A Novel of Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera is a continuance of a timeless classic. Here is the story blurb:
Years ago he faked his death and vowed the Phantom would never again haunt the Opera Garnier. But strange packages left by Anna, an unwanted Samaritan turned unlikely friend, causes Erik to desire the unattainable-love.
When Anna’s haunted past puts Christine Daaé in danger, Erik is falsely accused of the vicious crime. The Phantom is reborn as Erik, forced to the brink of insanity, revisits his passion for Christine-the woman he once swore to possess. Fighting the injustice against Erik, Anna struggles to prove his innocence. Standing in the way is her past that cannot be transcended, and years of prejudice labeling Erik more monster than man.
Battling the nobleman determined to lock him away; Erik must save Christine, control his demons, and tame a heart unexpectedly beating for two opposite women: Christine, who he longs to love, and Anna the woman who saw beyond his bitter soul to the man beneath the mask.
In the midst of a brutal manhunt, can he be loved for himself or is he condemned to be
The Phantom of the Opera? Murderer, Maestro, Magician, Mastermind.
The story for Madrigal came from my constant questioning of the death of Leroux’s character, Philippe, Comte de Chagny. It never did sit well with me. Leroux made him an important secondary character, but never revealed much about his role in the plot; mysteriously, he was involved in the affairs in the Opera Garnier, but how? Why? Time, proof, details, evidence were Leroux’s livelihood (he was a jurist for many years). I kept digging in-between the lines of his prose in order to uncover more about this character. Madrigal developed out of lack of evidence on Leroux’s behalf in an angle of his plot and once I built upon it there was no turning back. Though not seen in book one, Philippe de Chagny’s life and death play a large role in the series.
Coupled with my questions regarding Chagny, was a bit of inspiration from opera itself. The early madrigalists often strung four madrigals together to weave a complete story via song. This became the foundation for modern day opera. Voices in a madrigal were manipulated in such way to reflect crying, laugher, sighing etc. I saw this as the inner workings of Erik’s mind. To me, Erik was constantly consumed by music. Such beauty lay coiled underneath the noise of his madness. His mind was never at rest, with music always reflecting some emotion. The emotion behind Madrigal’s madrigal was based off of Shakespeare’s Sonnet twenty-nine. (When in disgrace and fortune in men’s eye, I alone beweep my outcast state…) A story that is a lament that relays a man’s deepest urges for popularity like any man, though his desires and wants are hidden and repressed beneath envy and suffering.
What made you decide to continue a classic piece of literature?
I was revisiting the classics I disliked, actually. As a child I fell in love with the masters of gothic literature. Stoker’s Dracula was the first book I could not put down and I devoured everything I could find from the likes of Edgar Allen Poe. The Victorian era was always a fascinating time period to me, but I could never wrap my brain around the literature taught in school. Dickens, Brontë, Austen-while I adore them now, did not hold the dark romanticism I craved. Gaston Leroux was a master of mystery. He had a way of misleading the reader that simply fascinated me. No author made me wonder as much as Leroux did. My love for The Phantom of the Opera stemmed from a deep respect for a book that had many more questions than answers.
In revisiting those classics, I stumbled across a book, which continued Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I loved every minute of it. In my opinion it flawlessly wove the original story with Austen’s tale. From there I found other writers who did the same: Brooks, Rhys… Discovering this I was horrified at first-a bit shocked that authors would have the nerve to continue or expand upon a work in the public domain. It prompted me to pick up Leroux’s novel. In doing so I became curious about French nobility. A voracious researcher all my life, I began to read about France in the Victorian era, which led to me studying the history of opera. This fostered a desire to understand Leroux more and more. Why an opera house? What motivated him? How did he view France during the time of this novel since much of Leroux seemed to focus on political satire and class differences. Why-as a jurist-did he leave so many unanswered questions?
Philippe de Chagny was the character that sparked the idea for Madrigal and once I had the opening line in my head there was no resisting the urge to write it. Though he is not see in Madrigal, his life and death play a major role in the series.
Will there be any other books with this theme?
Madrigal is the first in a three book series. Book two of The Madrigals has been submitted to my publisher. It reveals the secrets of Erik (The Phantom) and his mysterious relationship with Philippe de Chagny. The manhunt for Erik continues throughout. Book three is currently being polished. It takes the story into new generations. There is a possibility for a fourth in The Madrigals if my readers desire it to be told.
I know Erik wears a black leather mask in your book … what happened to the white one?
The popular image of the Phantom in a white half-mask is an idea created by Andrew Lloyd Webber, not Gaston Leroux. Many know Lloyd Webber for his stage musical and his 2004 movie based on The Phantom of the Opera. He changed Leroux’s imagery of the Phantom significantly. Initially the white half-mask came out of a need of Michael Crawford’s, the actor singing the role of the Phantom in the musical. He found he could not sing in a full face mask and thus this iconic image of the white half-mask was born. It was taken one step further in the 2004 movie by making it a petite mask that only covered a quarter of the Phantom’s face.
Leroux’s original vision for Erik was that of a sensual monster-not the sexual, romantic leading man Lloyd Webber made him out to be.
If you came with a warning label what would it read?
Feisty when wet
Describe your writing space. Do you move around or always write in the same place?
I adore my office, yet find I only hunker down in there when I am starting or revising a novel. It is a small nook at the end of a hall that is completely and utterly my space. The walls are a deep burgundy with numerous candle sconces. Large windows overlook my balcony (where I sometimes sit and type while sipping a latte) and floor to ceiling bookshelves loaded with research material cover an opposite wall. I surround myself with sentimental items given to me during the course of my career. Looking at them helps to ground me and remind me of all the people in my life who believe in me and my talent as a writer.
When I edit, I move around. I work from a laptop where I use to have a desktop unit. I encourage writers to get the laptop! I find moving from room to room if I need to, helps when I seem to be in a writing slump. Plus-nothing attracts more attention than a writer and a laptop in a café, hotel lobby, book store, or car dealership.
If we asked your friends to name 3 personality traits about you, what do you think they would say?
Snarky. I enjoy amusing people out of the blue with those “snide remarks” that are often out of character for me. My writing friends have learned to duck and cover the quill when I turn the snark on.
Determined. I am an introvert. That completely contradicts the above snark, but it is the truth. I lock myself away in my imagination and often am a quiet type. When my determination comes forward it does so fiercely. I have had many friends say they admire the drive they see in me in terms of writing. It is a wonderful thing to hear.
Compassionate. This one I have heard all my life. Even as a child I was the one everyone turned to when they needed a shoulder to lean on, a ear to bend or a brain to pick. I take after my mother in this respect. Often I have a hard time pampering myself as a result of wanting to be so compassionate. I am far better at giving to others.
What happened to the first novel you ever wrote?
Return of a Dark Legend? It is still in the black binder sitting on the shelf in my office. I wrote that when I was twelve and I have no plans of ever changing it or attempting to get it published. That book is exclusively mine and I see it as a reminder to stick to your goals and dreams. I should have had the backbone as a child to pursue my career as a writer instead of listening to those around me who encouraged me to pursue a degree in fine art. I keep it within my line of sight so I know never to lose sight of what I want again.
You have a fulltime job and a child. How do you fit writing into your busy schedule?
You adjust. My writing schedule has changed as my child grows and I know it will continue to do so. I thought I would feel guilty for placing my child in daycare on my days off from my regular job, until I came to realize that writing is a fulltime job as well. I have two days a week that are mine. Usually on Mondays I market, blog, plot, write, edit and mentor. Tuesdays are affectionately knows as “typing Tuesdays” and it is that day when I close out the world and knuckle down for a solid 8 hours of writing. I spend time at night, usually from 8 until 11 multi-tasking with interviews, edits, articles and emails in addition to my days off.
I have learned that dust-bunnies do not bite. They may grow but if you glare at them the right way they will slink their furry asses into a corner until a scene is done. Then-you can kill them…
If you were sick in bed which movie would be your comfort movie and why?
The BBC mini-series of Pride and Prejudice. Originally, I adored the 2005 remake until my mother suggested my historical mind might enjoy being wrapped around Colin Firth. How right she was… The detail and brilliant storytelling each actor placed into that story simply makes my mind explode. I like being transported back in time. That movie is one that does it for me every time.
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Open your mouth and tell the world that you want to write. I kept silent for far too many years. The CEO of a major NYC press chatted with me a year before I landed my contract for Madrigal. He told me the number one thing I can do for my career is to start acting like a published author before I ever signed on the dotted line. Market yourself even if you are unpublished! Get your name out there. Network! Every small thing you do makes a ripple and ripples eventually turn into waves.
Much of writing is learning. Constantly polish your craft and always seek the advice of others. It does not hurt and it is your choice to take that advice and use it or not. At least you had the courage to ask. You never know when a door is going to open. When that door opens, be ready to walk through it with confidence.
The New England Conference for the Romance Writers of America last year opened with a quote that still is very powerful to me. I encourage every new writer to take it to heart:
“‘Come to the edge,’ he said. ‘We are afraid,’ they replied. ‘Come to the edge,’ he said. They came. He pushed them… and they flew.”
Your original critique partner is an amazing woman and a multi-published author in erotica, how fortunate do you feel that you found her?
You are kidding me, right?
The partnership I have with Nina Pierce is an odd one. I write historical fiction, she writes erotica. Writers are told it is best to have critique partners that are similar in genre. Nina and I are down right opposites when it comes to that. I am usually shoving her butt into broughams with brooding nobles and she is often frisking me with half-naked cops with hard-ons. Sometimes you have to overlook the genre and focus on the partnership. Does your CP understand your voice? Do they know how you develop your themes and characters? Can they yank you out of writer’s block and cheer you on when you meet success? Do they make a killer margarita? The relationship is most important and I am extremely fortunate to have Nina as my partner.
Although when we do attend conferences together we have a mutual understanding. I will not force her to wear a corset and carry a fan around me if she does not make me tie the bartender to her bedpost… (Hey, that was only that once and you promised never to tell. But it is a nice memory … he was totally worth the struggle … Get your mind out the gutter people … he made killer margaritas!)
Anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
Dickering with well beloved character can be a ticking time bomb. Readers get fiercely defensive of those characters they have grown to love. Writers who continue classic literature are just as passionate. If a writer does not believe in the passion behind a story, that will come across in the writing. Leroux was a lawyer and a journalist. Nothing he did was accidental. The Phantom of the Opera has transcended time for a reason. I hope it will continue to leave many more questions than answers.
When Jen’s not hanging around here, you can find her at her website and her blog. She’d love you to friend her on MySpace or at FaceBook.
Jen knows her way around, so she’s already walked away and seems to be organizing the cabana boys. If I’m not mistaken, that’s the opening bars of the Macarena … and that’s the blender. *rubs hands together*. This promises to be one heck of a party. So come on in and ask Jen some questions. She’d love to hear from you!
I’m pleased to say that Emma Sanders, author, CP and dear friend has gifted me with a blog award. This is a neat award because it’s not only a little kudo, it’s “blog with a purpose”. I’m not sure my blog is anymore than my personal ramblings, but I’m happy to think someone thinks it has a purpose! Emma’s one of my CPs and without her help, I’m sure I wouldn’t be a published author. She’s been wonderful reading through and critiquing all my stuff (and one of my last books had a minor hole in the plot and she found it!)and I love her for it!
The rules are:
1. nominate 5 blogs which haven’t had this award before (I thought this would be difficult, but I’m having a really hard time choosing only 5 *sigh*)
2. each of the blogs must have a purpose
3. the nominated blogs must make a link back to this page
4. the logo from the award must be put on their blog and it must link back to this blog!
But you know me, I never follow the rules. I’m going to give you links to 5 wonderful blogs and I hope you enjoy going there. I will not however, wrestle the authors and ask them to link back here or post to 5 other blogs. Mostly because I’m breaking another rule. I’m linking to more than 5 blogs and a couple of them already had this award.
1. Tip of the Quill – Jennifer Linforth is the author of the upcoming “Madrigal” series. Her first book is a continuation of the Phantom of the Opera and is due out from Highland Press in the fall of 2008. She blogs on wonderful historical topics and LOTS of phantom information. She’s also one of CPs who keeps me on track. I’m not sure I could do this whole publishing thing without her in my corner.
2. Under and Over – Denise Rosetti is a multi-published author from Australia who always has wonderful writing snippets or just fun stuff on her blog. I love going “down” there to visit. She’s just a very neat lady and willing to share herself with new writers like me!
3. Alien Barbeque – April Martinez is head of the art department over at Liquid Silver Books. I love visiting her blog because she always posts the beautiful book covers she has designed for LSB and other publishers. The woman is very talented. (I would have linked to Anne Cain, my very talented cover artist, but she doesn’t have an active blog … both very talented ladies!)
4. Roxy’s Flog Blog – Roxy Harte is a very talented erotic author. She’s helped me on more than one occasion with information on certain scenes involving bondage. But, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea … on her blog she shares her personal struggles and triumphs in publication. It’s just fun to pop over there and see what she’s up to.
5. MS is a crappy disease that can really drag people down. But there is nothing more uplifting than visiting the blogs of people with this disease that get up every morning, smile at the world, and keep going despite their disability. Mima’s Doings and Disabled Not Dead are two such wonderful woman who persevere despite their circumstances.
6. The Redneck Romance Writer – (I told you I couldn’t just pick 5) Jennifer Leeland (McKenzie) is a awesome writer I met through Liquid Silver. She has a wicked sense of humor and a heart the size of Texas. I visit her blog nearly every day. (Don’t yell at me Jen … I know I should be writing the sequel to “Healer’s” … but sometimes you’re too much fun to hang around!)
And Mima is so sweet, she gave me another award “You Make My Day” for my blog, but try as I might, I can’t get the picture to post… you all will just have to believe me! Really … she did!
So my post a couple of days ago made me think of impressions and what we all imagine an author looks like. Does the romance author conjur up a certain image? Do you think mystery writers or historical authors have a certain look? How about authors of erotica? Not that they “should”, but I think it’s human nature to visualize people a certain way.
suckered rounded up 13 very brave authors who’ve agreed to let me post their pictures … and I added little bios in there! (Most of the info came from their websites, but in some cases I ad libbed … forgive me authors!) So in no particular order, here they are … ENJOY!
By day, Shayla Kersten is a mild-mannered accountant. By night, she’s a writer of sexy romances. Torn between genres, Shayla writes erotic stories about hot heroes and their sexy women, as well as hot men and their passionate heroes. She writes for several publishers including Ellora’s Cave, Liquid Silver Books, and The Wild Rose Press.
Susan Vaughan is a romantic suspense author from Maine who is multi-published with Silhouette Intimate Moments. Her books have been both a Romantic Times Magazine Reviewer’s Choice Nominee and a finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence in Mystery and Suspense in 2006! Her newest release, Primal Obsession is a fall 2008 release with The Wild Rose Press.
Marisa Chenery is a very busy mother of 4 who first started writing historical romances, but now finds herself drawn more to the paranormal romance genre. She is published with Liquid Silver Books and New Concepts Publishing. When she’s not on school field trips (like the one above) with her children you can find her at home in Canada working on her next novel.
Michelle Hoppe is one of those authors who is as old as dirt. (That’s straight from her web bio … I don’t know Michelle well enough to say she’s younger than me.) It’s true, she has grandchildren and everything. Can you believe she still wears a boa like the one in her picture? Naked sometimes even…It’s true, she does. (Again … this is not a fact I know from personal experience … it’s in her bio … really!) She’s published through Liquid Silver Books and Changeling Press.
Mima writes the sexy “Within” series, which have consistently garnered four and five star reviews. She’s multi-published with Liquid Silver Books, Loose-Id, and Samhain Publishing. (Even after hanging around Liquid Silver for 9 months and visiting her website and reading her books … like her picture, Mima remains an enigma to me.)
Rae Morgan writes sensual romantic suspense stories (translation … hawt erotic novels that’ll melt your socks off!) for Liquid Silver Books. She also has several books published under “Monette Michaels”.
Jennifer Linforth is my critique partner, my slave driver, and shoulder to cry on. Oddly enough we have shared this parallel life that finally brought us together a couple of years ago. She writes historical fiction and historical romance. (And she had a hard time writing her first love scene … editing erotica has been an interesting exercise for her!) Her debut novel Madrigal: A novel of Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera is due out from Highland Press in fall 2008.
Shara Lanel obviously enjoys hamming it up with sexy men at writing conventions. She writes erotic stories of love and romance for Liquid Silver Books and Loose-Id. Her newest release “Finding Mr. Right Can be Murder” received a 5 star review from Just Erotic Romance!
Pam Champagne lives on 50 rural acres in Maine with her husband, two Siamese cats, a black Lab and a new addition, Percy, a dog rescued from death row in Florida. She writes romantic suspense and paranormals for The Wild Rose Press and Samhain publishing. One of her many books, Bed of Lies, won a 2008 Eppie Award.
Celia Kyle is everything her picture indicates! She’s a crazy woman with her fingers in all kinds of things. Besides writing hot stories of love and romance, she also does cover art and web design. Celia is one of the two authors who agreed to let me be part of a “shifter” anthology… yay us! Celia writes erotic romance for Liquid Silver Books, Changeling Press, and Cobblestone Press.
Michelle Libby is a Maine author whose other jobs include being a mom, wife (to a sexy cop), and working as a reporter for a local weekly paper. She writes romance for Wings E-Press and Champagne books. (Michelle was my roomie at the recent writer’s convention where we promised to keep all the naughty stories under lock and key … nuff said. )
Judi Phillips is a proud grammie and multi-published Maine author who writes paranormal stories and is published with Wings E-press. Her newest novel, Ghost of a Chance will be a fall 2008 release through The Wild Rose Press.
Lina Gardiner is a Canadian author writing dark fantasy. The first book in her Jess Vandermire vampire series, Grave Illusions, was released in 2007 through ImaJinn Books and has received many stellar reviews. The second book in the series, Beyond the Grave, will be out in late 2008.
Oh … look at that! We ran out of space. Sorry folks, there’s no room for a picture of me! This is Thursday 13 after all and it just wouldn’t do for me to take up more of your time… guess you’ll have to wait until next time to find out what I look like! Mwahahaha…