Monday, July 13, 2009

Long Dry Spring into Summer

I’ve always been the kind of person who tries to keep their mouth shut if I don’t have anything relevant to say, and it’s felt like I’ve had mental amnesia for the last few months, and this blog has truly suffered. If there is anyone out there who, in the past, has followed it, I sincerely apologise.

This is supposed to be a writing blog. I’m not a particularly ‘private’ fact I’d go so far as to say I’m quite capable of telling people far more than they want to know about supposedly private things. However, the journey that brought me to the point where I even WANTED to blog was taken on the road to publication. I didn’t think it fair or particularly wise to share more intimate details of my life in general with the world at large. My life is intertwined with so many other people’s—my husband, children, friends outside of the writing world who have no need or wish for wider publicity—I didn’t, and still don’t, think it would be right.

So what happens when my life outside of writing takes a left at WTFville? I find myself with nothing relevant to say about writing, stop blogging for a while and hunker down, trying to get a handle on it. I even sometimes stop writing, although that is a painful and rather depressing place to be. I take my hat off to the bloggers who always seem to have something interesting to impart. Me? Sometimes I just have to keep my mouth shut, so as not to cross the line into the forbidden territory of sharing stuff no one on the internet really needs to know.

Having said all that, I have to say I’m slowly getting back to a place where writing is at, perhaps not the forefront of life again, but certainly closer to pole position. I have some exciting news I’ll be sharing with my blog readers soon, and next month I’ll be the wrangler for the Samhellion, the Samhain author’s official newsletter. The theme for the month will be History and Research...right up my alley!

So if in the past you’ve been a reader of my blog, and wondered why I fell off the edge of the earth...can I tell you, WTFville is not the kinda place I would wish for anyone to have to visit. It’s too damned easy to get lost going through there, and sometimes feels like you might never get back out. But sometimes, just sometimes, the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a train.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Hint of Wicked is, well, wicked!

With all the craziness, I missed my good friend and critique partner, Jennifer Haymore’s release date for her Regency set, A Hint of Wicked.

My bad!

Okay, to be honest, I’ve enjoyed this book from the very first time I saw it as a beta reader, and I’m thrilled beyond words to finally see it in print. I'm also so very happy to see I'm not the only one who appreciates Jennifer's amazing plot and prose. She's garnered some amazing reviews. And yes, you can eat your heart out...I have a signed copy of this gorgeous and enthralling tale in my grubby little hands.

Now I’ll be pestering the author to get the sequel, A Hint of Scandal, finished...
*cracks whip*

Monday, May 18, 2009

How things change!

So I went to visit my pal, Franny, of ParaNovelGirls and what does she do? She not only feeds me delicious things I shouldn't eat, puts me up for the night, introduces me to her gorgeous family and lets me hear a fox in the wild for the first time (VERY FREAKY when it's at two in the morning, on a full moon night) but when I was leaving she gave me a bag of books.

So what? I hear you ask.


Yeah, you read right, a garbage bag...

I could see the look on my husband's face when I walked in with it but, bless him, he said nothing. I was on hiatus from writing, and reading is just as good in keeping me mellow (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it).

That bag of books ranged from newer releases to some older stuff, and it's the older stuff that made me realise how things have changed in the last number of years, and also how true it is that you can get away with breaking some of the writing rules.

First I read a couple of old Nora Roberts books, Truly Madly Manhatten (2003) and part of the Donovan Legacy series, Entranced (1992). I'll be the first to admit I haven't read a Queen Nora in a while, although I have read several in the past. What did I learn from those older books? Nora Roberts head-hops- a lot - or used to anyway. But the only reason I noticed is because I'm a writer too. I never gave it a second thought when reading BD BW (Back in the Day, Before Writing). What Nora Regina has is the ability to tell a damned good story, and that reinforces what I've believed for a long time: a great storyteller trumps a great technician every time. I don't think it means I, or any other writer, can get away with sloppy craft. Just that if you have the gift of being able to pull the reader (read editor or agent, first and foremost) completely into the tale, maybe you can get away with some of the writing habits touted as 'verboten.'

Or is it that with so many of us striving for the few publishing spots, publishers/editors/agents can now be extra picky? Hmmm....

Another book I read was Donna Kauffman's The Legend MacKinnon (1999) and the first thing that struck me, as I read the back blurb was, "Why wasn't this a series?" Series seem to be all the rage now. Then I laughed to myself. I'm one of the people who really sees both sides of the issue, even though I don't like this particular trend much. On the one hand it's great for a writer/publisher to have a series of interconnected books coming out at intervals, hopefully with the readers salivating for the next one. On the other hand, what the hell is wrong with a stand-alone book? Sometimes I really just want something I can read all the way through without any unresolved questions. I also think some authors just don't know when to quit and series go on far too long, becoming either predictable or too complex.

And it seems a shame when I hear of a book being rejected by a publishing house because they can't figure how to make it into a series. Not everything should be a series...some books are grand just as they are. (And wasn't one of my books that was rejected that way! Such a cynical world we live in, I thought I'd just say...)

Sure, Ms. Kauffman might have been able to expand the three interconnected stories in The Legend MacKinnon into three books. There was enough plot there, although the timeline would have had to be severely altered. But would it have been as much fun to read? Probably not.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Word Power

I've been on a self-enforced and necessary break from my keyboard but, like any other addict, I just haven't been able to stay away from loops and feeds. Getting my fix of reviews, commentary and snark just never gets old. People, with all their myriad complexities, are facinating. And scary. The sneaky bitch-assery they do to get their point across blows my mind. The fact that they think they're being clever, even when the true intent shines through like a beacon, makes me chuckle. The overabundance of anger evident in some posts just makes me sad. I definitely don't subscribe to the "If you don't have anything nice to say" school of thought, but I also don't subscribe to the 'let me rip you a new one' school either. For me moderation, or a clearly defined style of snark, work a lot better.

And please note I said 'snark,' not vitriol/rage/destructiveness.

Whether we like it or not, words have power. Whether we like it or not, our opinions are simply that--OUR opinions. Just because I don't believe something to be right, or even true, doesn't mean someone else who holds the opposing opinion is necessarily wrong. I learned that a long time ago, forced into the realisation by circumstances and my wise grandfather's words:

"There are three sides to ever story; yours, mine, and the truth."

And often the truth resides in the gray areas we don't want to inhabit or even examine. In this hard-edged world people seem determined to be the blade, the stabbing point, the bludgeon. Slice, dice, obliterate the "enemy,"; be heard by screaming the loudest, even if what they're screaming is opinion, unsupported by anything other than conviction that they're RIGHT, DAMMIT! Often there is no hesitation, no apparent urge to temper a response, even though it will cause pain, escalate conflict, make someone else feel small or stupid. Debates aren't won that way; they're destroyed, and in the destruction is also lost the chance to listen, to learn and to grow.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Goosebump making diversions

I write about I thought this was appropriate. Bob knew the true international magic of music, and I can't watch these videos without feeling choked up. The following video is even more poignant. Halle Salassie's words are as timely and important today as they were when he spoke them in front of the UN..."Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and perminently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war..." While I love the whole idea of Playing for Change, I will admit to loving, above all else, Bob's version of 'War'.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Out of the mouths...

I have to admit some of the conversations I have with my son could very well be classified as unconventional, and this one ranks right up there with the best of them. First, a little son is fifteen, and quite mature in many respects. He's also a thinker, given to coming out with pronouncements so clear sighted I wonder why he isn't doing better than he is in school! I should also tell you I don't hide what it is I write from him, although he's (obviously) not allowed to read any of it.

So...I'm cruising the blogs and happen to mention to him the growing popularity with m/m romances, many of which are written by women, for women. He looks at me for a long moment, then shrugs. "I can see that," he says, to my surprise. "What do you mean?" I ask. "Well," he replies, "How different is that from all the girl-on-girl stuff men write?"

That blew me away, because honestly I'd never looked at it that way before. But he was right, and looking at it from that angle, it became logical and very understandable.

Then he grinned and added, "Of course, there is one major difference. The stuff you guys write probably has to have a plot."

After I finished laughing and picked myself up off the floor, I decided I wasn't going to make any inquiries into his obvious familiarity with porn...making a fuss would be, I think, rather hypocritical!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My apologies to LOLcatz

I couldn't Mo.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Blame it on the gremlins

After seeing thorough chastisements in all the places where people have been expressing disgust at Amazon's latest stupidity, including being told we're paranoid, spouting off without having the facts, seeing bogies where none exist, etc. the only response from the corporate behemoth is the old saw about all of this being a "glitch" which will be remedied soon.

If we (romance writers, and erotic/GLBT writers in particular) are simply throwing conspiracy theories around, I know which group I'd propose as the power behind this act, just to shit-disturb. Who suffers most from egg on their face when authors like Erastes and Alex Beecroft threaten to challenge the 'tried and true', being put out by the usual suspects, on the best-sellers list?

Unfortunately, that's just my late-night, over-active, insomnia stressed imagination at work...but damn, that would be fun. Disillutioned as I am with the workings of the world, I have to look for my amusement where I can find it...

I'm preparing to be tickled even further tomorrow, as the PR machine at Amazon churns out spin to try and recover from this friendly fire incident. I feel rather sorry for 'Ashlyn D', who replied to Mark Probst's inquiry. Girlie, you're probable gonna get thrown under the bus by management, with a big sign saying "Scapegoat" hanging around your neck.

That's the way of the world...and frankly it sucks.

Crazy people, crazy times

Just when you think "civilization" has moved past the blatant bigotry of the past, Amazon makes you realise sheer stupidity and ass-wipe prejudice hasn't died: it was just waiting to find a powerful, fucked-up jackass corporation to lead the charge.

In a move of monumental ridiculousness, Amazon has stripped sales figures and rankings from a wide selection of books they deem to have "adult content." To put it into context, they have decided to to exclude GLBT, erotica and some romance novels from their rankings, which converts into those books not showing up on best seller lists and even on searches done within Amazon. From what I have been able to glean, the main thrust of this book banning exercise is to get all books with any mention of gay, lesbian, transexual or bi-sexual relationships out of the public's view.

To experience the ridiculousness of what they are doing, please visit Meta Writer, for their list of books that have had their sales ranks removed. I'll quote one thing, of the many, that caught my eye in that list. Regarding the stripping of sales rank from The Well of Lonliness by Radclyffe Hall, there was this brief note: "(the only "sex scene" in The Well of Loneliness consists in its entirety of the words "And that night they were not divided.")"

Frankly, no matter how you look at it, it's censorship, pure and simple, with a thick, nasty overcoat of bigotted prejudice.

Sarah, from the Smart Bitches website, has created a new definition for Amazon Rank and it says it all far better than I ever could.

I'm not the combative type, but Amazon is really starting to piss me the hell off. I keep picturing Bezos as The Brain, with the guy who suggested this fuckery as Pinky, saying, "Gee Brain, what do you want to do tonight?" and Bezos replying, "The same thing we do every night, Pinky--try to take over the world."'re gonna have to go through a bunch of us first.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Not so funny ad rant

Anyone else notice the preponderance of goofy men in television ads? Whether oblivious, stupid or silly, it seems to me there are fewer and fewer “normal” men being portrayed in television advertising. Jackasses abound. One builds a deck in his living room as a way to avoid responding properly to, “Honey, we need to talk,” another is so intent on his hamburger he fails to hear his wife say she wants to try for a fifth child. There is the office yoghurt stealer, the slightly demonic looking red-head who seems pleased to inform his wife they will, indeed, one day have arthritis, and the two dads having the late-night snack, sobbing to each other about crying babies.

I’m getting really annoyed. The numb-nuts who runs into his sliding glass door was bad enough, but this is getting truly aggravating.

I love TV ads. They’re like the cartoon strips of television. My son and I have spent many a happy hour yucking it up over them (poor soul inherited my sense of humour) but I’m finding less and less of them to enjoy. The Ikea ads amuse me. My co-workers had to get used to occasionally hearing me say, “Start the car! Start the car!” at the end of a shift. No matter what I’m doing I can’t help stopping and watching the kitchen ad with the guy raging in the background and the Antonio Banderas-like voice over. Those are funny. The people look normal but not cartoonish. In most other ads the men fall into two categories: the bumbling fool or the too-cool-for-normal-guy-with-buckets-of-money. How f***ing sad is that?

Ads have tropes too, but what are the advertisers trying to say with these doofus ads? “Women, if you’re married to or dating the guy who wears expensive cologne, drinks $40-a-shot liquor, or drives the $40,000.00 car, then good on you. If not, we know you’re married to an idiot—and you are the real brains behind the outfit?” What ever happened to the idea of partnership in marriage and relationships?

Even in the world of romance writing we’ve come to the point (ab-awesome covers notwithstanding) where we realise we need to make our heroes and heroines more accessible to the readers. I wonder if that was the tack advertisers were trying to take...if so, for this viewer anyway, they’ve missed the mark by a mile. There’s enough bashing, both male and female, going on in the world without them jumping on the bandwagon. Funny is one thing, but these ads make men look like a bunch of absolute losers. Its swung so far I can’t even find them amusing anymore—just enraging, and saddening too.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blog wandering

Since I've confessed to my growing blog habit, I figured it might be fun to occasionally talk about some of the blogs I find interesting. It's a big ol' blogsphere out there, but that's half the fun of it...

In the blog vein, I discovered a blog called “The Red Brick Store,” where writers of the Mormon faith have banded together to offer advice and support to each other on their writing journeys. First let me say, I don’t belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the way I found this blog is fairly typical of my strange blog wanderings.

A fellow author posted on a loop saying she had just gotten a somewhat unusual review, along with the link to the blog where the review (or perhaps anti-review) was posted. I was curious (what’s new, right?) and went to the blog to check it out.

I was a little surprised by the post, and frankly by the Samhain author and her actions which lead to the post too, but that’s perhaps another story altogether. Sufficed to say, I thought such archaic notions of gender held by the author had gone out with the Ark. Anyway, the end result was that I found the blog refreshing and interesting (although not enough to add to my growing RSS feed list) and, as is my habit, decided to see what other blogs that blogger liked. And that eventually led me to The Red Brick Store, and the reaffirmation of something I’ve long believed—that our differences, one human from the next, simply serve to emphasise our similarities.

At the Red Brick Store they talk about the difficulty of being true to both their religion and also their artistic visions. They elucidate the difficulties of forging a new literary path within the confines of the Mormon culture. Support is offered to each other as they individually struggle to find the time, and give themselves permission to find that time, to write. A post by Lisa Torcasso-Downing called, 'My House is a Mess' made me both smile and want to cry. She could be my secret twin, separated by distance and culture, nurtured into a different reality but my soul-mate by nature and desire and need.

The bloggers at the Red Brick Store are bound by their faith, and while I can’t join with them in that respect, I hope they won’t mind my following along with their journey. It isn’t much different from my own, although driven by different forces, but that’s another tale to be told another time.

Monday, March 30, 2009

My Blog Obsession

So I finally broke down and started subscribing to feeds because I kept finding all these fascinating blogs I wanted to go back to over and over again. Now, I know many of you are thinking either, “What’s the big deal?” or “Why did you hold off?” and I can’t blame you. It makes sense to subscribe to a feed if you often read the blog, but the reality is I get obsessed with things if I’m not careful. Bad enough to waste time checking my email five-hundred times a day, but to add feeds to the mix? The time wasting possibilities become endless.

Case in point...I started with maybe five feeds I read on a regular basis. Two weeks later, there are thirteen blogs in my list, and a couple more I just haven’t remembered to add. The possibilities just keep expanding. I’ll be posting every now and then on some of the things I’ve discovered during this around-the-world-of-blogs tour.

P.S Reminded of those missing blogs by writing this post, I went back to add them—added one and found another that wasn’t on the original list...I’m a lost cause.

And Amy Ruttan was wondering why I don’t Twitter???

So which are your favourite blogs? I’m open to suggestions. Give me more to waste my time on!

Small rant...really...just a little one

So I’ve been trying to spend a bit more time cruising the blogs, just to see what people are saying and keep up with industry news and views. It’s also a good way to show support for other writers, although I don’t often comment. Seems to me I should have something interesting or informative to say before saying it, or the post is about something I really relate to. Otherwise I just browse and enjoy the variety of opinions and subjects.

For the most part I’m amused and entertained by what I come across but occasionally I have to stop and wonder about what the person posting was thinking, and it usually has nothing to do with subject. Here’s the thing...

Most of the blogs I read have something to do with writing and many are posted by writers. There’s no excuse then for the typos and poor regard for grammar I occasionally come across. In fact it’s downright silly. And I’m not talking about a single typo or strange sentence construction. That’s not a big deal. No, it’s the “I’m just dashing this off willy-nilly because I feel I should post today” blog entries that aggravate. Even worse when the writer is guest posting on someone else’s blog. Then it goes from silly to downright RUDE.

Come on! Just a little foresight will have any writer with the “who cares?” attitude to blogging giving their heads a shake. Sure, maybe the number of people who know your name as a writer right now are substantially less than you want, but who knows when that will change? Blogs are forever, as those given to making idiots of themselves find out the hard way. There have been a number of blogs shut down after their owners or moderators have committed what turned out to be extreme internet faux pas, but somehow those final crazed posts just don’t seem to go away!

A sloppy posting isn’t the same as a net-tantrum or cyber flounce, but why chance turning a prospective reader off by publishing what can be considered to be an example of your worse work?

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Well, one large project out of the way for the time being, and I'm celebrating with a libation and a quiet night, frankly too brain-dead to do much more. There are so many things I've had to put on hold the last few weeks, and so many obligations for the upcoming weeks, I'm beginning to wonder when I'll be able to put in a concentrated stretch of writing.

I'm getting realllllll antsy.

It puts me in mind of Maureen McGowan's blog post on Drunk Writer Talk, when she asked, 'what are you willing to give up?'. Honestly, I'm not sure what I have to give up now, but if I have to find something and excise it from my life to be able to continue writing, so be it! I re-discovered television in all it's varied glory this past week as I was sewing, but will happily go back to my couple of 'must sees' hereafter. Unfortunately I discovered sleep is a already suspect brain goes to complete mush without it!

Tomorrow I'm off to the library with the youngster, who needs to do some research, so I'll take my trusty computer and settle in there for a while.

Perhaps it's the advent of spring, or just the right time, but there is a sense of anticipation bubbling inside me, as though something wonderful is just on the horizon. I received my goodie bag from Cassandra Curtis today and the contents seemed to align themselves with this feeling. I got a wonderful Strength talisman (which I'm wearing now, and intend to continue to wear) and a money spell! Hope they both work...

Speaking of the talisman: I got the best compliment ever from my son, who, after hearing what it represented, said he thought Cass picked the perfect one for me. Long may he continue to think of me that way!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Comfort Food for my soul

Where my husband works there is a small library of books in the employee’s lunch room and the other day he brought home a real treasure: a collection of three of James Herriot’s books. This is a blast from my past. Because of Mr. Herriot’s evocative writing I wanted to be a vet. The life he described seemed like Nirvana to a young animal lover, especially one who grew up in a city and longed for country life. Unfortunately when I finally got a job working in a veterinary clinic I discovered not even James Herriot’s descriptive powers had done justice to the smell. I also discovered an aversion to hurting the animals, which is often necessary to be able to help them.

Still, re-reading these books has been a real treat and reinforced something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. As a writer I have to be aware of my surroundings and engaged with the world. James Herriot didn’t begin writing his books until after more than twenty-five years of being in Yorkshire, yet the stories show a remarkable recall of situations, personalities and details. Without his powers of recall and description those books would have been a dry, perhaps slightly humorous, relation of facts. Instead they are a rich, warm, laugh-out-loud or bring-tears-to-your-eyes recounting of a journey scattered with characters well worth becoming acquainted with. Even after all these years I’m still riveted and the old longing reasserts itself. I want to run off to Yorkshire and become a vet.

Of course, being an unrepentant animal person who has never owned a dog or cat that was anything less than a crazy personality, these books appeal to me on so many different levels. But even if you have no interest in animals at all, they are well worth reading for the characterizations and descriptions of the landscape, people and dialogue.

For me, reading his books is like eating a favourite comfort food—satisfying, uplifting and just plain good.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Taking a Break

I took a break from my crazy great-coat sewing session yesterday to attend the live chat with artist Kim Reale Johnson, hosted by the Facebook group Red River Writers. Kim paints, and her range of subject matter intrigued me—landscapes, Ukrainian Easter eggs, and interpretations of old photographs—so I went along to listen in on how she developed as an artist. It was a lot of fun just to sit back with a cup of tea and listen to what she had to say. I might even take up her suggestion and experiment with oil painting...although when I’ll have a chance to do that remains a mystery!

That suggestion of Kim’s came when I asked her which of the various media she thought was most forgiving for someone who just wanted to explore their artistic side. I have a few painters in my family, but I can’t count myself in with them. I’m okay with sketching, even did well enough to pass my senior high-school art exam, but realistically fine art isn’t my forte. Not that I don’t love it. On the contrary, I think I love it all too well, and hate the fact that I could never produce what I envisioned each time I started a piece.

Impatience? Yes. Perfectionism? Probably more than a hint of that too. Both really bad attitudes to take into a painting project. I also stayed away from oils, feeling somehow intimidated by them for some reason. Perhaps because they were my grandmother’s medium of choice, or was it that time I got too close to one of my sister’s paintings and got red oil paint on my favourite green-and-white gingham dress? I recall my mother being quite angry about that...Who knows...

Anyway, I think for the time being I’ll stick to writing and sewing, and the occasional craft project. I have the arrival of Kim’s piece to look forward to (I won a beautiful autumn scene she was giving as a gift!) and no time to even scratch my head just now, so it’s all a moot point at the moment. The twin-pack of canvases I have stashed in my garage will go unused, although I'm now forced to wonder if somehow the hand of Fate was in play when I saw them on sale and, without any thought of what I would do with them, bought them!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Death of a Pantser

I’ve always been a pantser—starting with a basic premise, whether a character or situation or dilemma, and just writing. For a long time it worked for me just fine. Yes, on occasion I found myself abandoning a concept partway through because I’d lost interest in the story, or had written myself into a corner, but for the most part it was great.

Recently, however, I’ve begun to think I may have to make a change in my writing habits, and it corresponds, I think, to a change in my way of life.

When I started writing I was working at the mall, in one of those retail jobs that consisted mainly of standing around for a good part of the day doing mindless chores. I also took the bus to and from work. All this waiting, either for the bus, customers or even a hamburger at lunch, gave me ample time to plot the next scene, twist or plot point. By the time I got home, I was ready to sit at the computer and type away.

Well, that’s all changed. I drive to work now, am back to working retail but in a capacity that doesn’t allow for mindless standing around, and have taken on a job sewing re-enactment clothing. I still try to plot mentally as I’m doing other things, but it no longer works the way it used to. The activities I’m involved with now take up too much brain-space. I even had to stop trying to plot when I’m driving since I almost crashed one day, lost in thought, trying to decide which way I wanted to take my latest tale.

I wish I could think the problem lay somewhere else, or could be solved in another way. I’ve always said to my writing buddies that plotting was like writing the story twice and by the time I got to the end of the plotting process I was too bored with the story to try and write it out. Thinking about it though, writing is kind of like knitting a sweater. Sure, you can, if you want, simply start with your wool, a pair of needles and an idea and take it from there. There may be problems if you get halfway through and decide the pattern you created isn’t working out the way you wanted, or you realise you’ve forgotten to shape for an armhole. Then you have to pull it out and redo it, or put it down without finishing.

It’s so much easier to start with a pattern.


Although logically it sounds like what I need to do, I’m still resisting. It just doesn’t seem natural. I’ll give it a try and see...maybe there’s some happy medium to be found? I’m going to start with my friend and fellow writer Amy Ruttan’s suggestion—write a synopsis first, add some plot points, and THEN write the book...

I’ll let you know how it works out!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Ranting author here

Okay, so I pick up a book the other day and start to read. It’s a literary novel written by a prominent Canadian author and nominated for a very prestigious literary prize. By the time I finished skimming through it (I couldn’t bring myself to read further than a few chapters in) I was depressed, upset and, yes, a little angry too.

Isn’t it amazing that the literary devices genre writers are constantly criticized for using—the big misunderstanding, great whopping gouts of backstory, the sacrifice of communication for description, etc.—constitute genius in the hands of literary writers?

Firstly let me make it clear—I have no beef with literary novels. There have been a number I thoroughly enjoyed and they remain as keepers on my book shelf. Between their covers I found beauty and clarity of language that made my heart sing. The message transmitted by the worlds those authors carefully constructed was worth hearing, and holding on to. Not all of them were cheerful, or even uplifting. In fact there can be a special kind of emotional pain so intense as to be almost sweeter than any joy imaginable. The moment you are forced to confront your worse fear, your deepest shame, the most tightly held secret in the safety of another’s narrative is worth re-visiting.

Having said all that, I have found the same sense of wonder, joy and emotional satisfaction in genre fiction too. There are sci-fi and fantasy novels, thrillers, mysteries and romances that I will never part with, because the stories found within their covers struck the same types of emotional cords as the above-mentioned literary offerings. A great writer is, IMHO, no less great because he or she chooses to pen a romance or thriller. The ability to take us outside ourselves, make us suspend all tightly held beliefs and simply hang on for the ride, laughing, crying, screaming and, yes, on occasion creaming our panties, is not limited to those “lofty” few who swim in literary waters. In fact, in recent years I’ve found far more genre novels worth keeping than literary.

Just because a book contains a mish-mash of self-consciously overdone (and self-congratulatory) prose and imagery does not, in my eyes, make it a work of genius. If an author feels the need to be so esoteric you have to scramble for a dictionary, thesaurus or encyclopaedia (or all three) every two paragraphs or so, then something’s wrong. The object is to keep the reader in the moment, not lead him or her off on an unscheduled tangent.

Likewise it seems strange to me a piece of fiction can be lauded as an emotional tour-de-force, and yet leave me completely and utterly unmoved. I consider myself an author’s dream reader. I am open to everything—willing, no downright eager, to plunge into the world between those covers—anger, pain, joy, lust, heartache, love, hate, WHATEVER...bring it on. Just don’t bore me, or go into such minutiae my mind wanders off to other, more important things, like flossing, or laundry.

And the comments above are aimed at all writers, no matter the genre.

In the end though, what really made me angry is the realization that really good genre novelists will never be offered the kinds of prizes, awards and accolades some of these literary hacks (YES I SAID THAT BAD WORD) are. While the elite few are enjoying their grants and retreats, compliments of governments and snooty endowments, where are the incentives for genre writers? Where the encouragement and offers of help to allow them time to grow and develop? Where the respect?

Funnier yet, when you realise which of these two groups makes the bigger economic impact, selling the most books, creating the bigger cash flow. Genre fiction keeps publishing, even in its mostly archaic state, viable. Genre fiction is, and will continue to be, in the vanguard of the publishing revolution now taking place.

Not all genre fiction is good. Not all literary fiction is either. All I wish is that there was a more of an admission of those facts, and people would stop looking down on very good authors in favour of others, less deserving of the praise just because they are considered "literary".

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Wow...just Wow

Having a spin through the internet, I came upon a review of a newly released book. It was, IMHO, a well-balance, well thought out review that went into a great deal more detail than many other reviews do. No, it wasn’t all complimentary. In fact it was decidedly mixed. Instead of leaving well enough alone, the author chose to jump to her own defence.

Wow…just Wow.

Now, all authors repeat after me:

You can’t be a part of the writing world without someone telling you, overtly or indirectly, that you’re doing something wrong. It’s not only human nature, but a product of the fact we are all different people. Books that I have liked have been horribly panned by reviewers; others I thought were a pile of s**t were lauded to the sky. Reviews are, by their nature, subjective. Besides which, each of us have ready-formed likes, dislikes and pet-aversions. One man’s meat is another’s poison and all that crap. Accepting that will lead to a happier, healthier life and public image.

The author in the case I’m talking about ended up looking like a jackass…

When a reviewer says she/he didn’t like a book we’ve written, or gives a so-so review, what should we do? Best bet, I think, is to get off the internet, turn off your computer. Go for a walk, scream cry and pout if you like, but in the privacy of your own home. This does not include pouting on your blog, which is the equivalent of undressing in your unfenced front yard. Do whatever you need to release the tension—anything but reply! Perhaps a restrained, “Thank you for your review” is appropriate but anything more can only make a bad situation worse.

Believe me, I know the urge to strike back. I know it well, and very, very personally. Even now, writing this post, I have to hold back from giving voice to a rebuttal aimed at a reviewer’s comment concerning something in The Pearl at the Gate. “I can use it as an illustration of how reviewer’s prejudices can unnecessarily colour their comments,” that little must-always-be-right voice whispers in my ear.

Get thee behind me, thou feelings of being unnecessarily put-upon.

I still think that comment was ridiculous. I still want to shout it out to the world and say, ‘Everyone, back me on this. Is this or is this not the most asinine reasoning, ever???’

But I won’t.

Why? Am I chicken-shit?

Maybe…but I also have a well developed sense of self-preservation.

And a louder voice is reminding me that everyone has a right, in my world anyway, to their own opinion.

Very important, that.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Anya Revealed...sort of

So, the ladies at The Long and Short of It asked if any of the Samhain erotic writers would be interested in being interviewed for their Whipped Cream Erotic Romance Review site, and I said yes. The questions were really fun, and I had a blast answering them, but when I realised they wanted a picture to go with the interview, I was stumped.

I don’t like having pictures taken. My driver’s licence could belong to a hardened criminal, the photo is so bad. My hair is in that in-between stage where there is nothing to be done with it except find ways to con it into believing it can behave. I hate studio portraits even more than candid...

...Okay, I think you get the gist.

Maybe one day I’ll be forced to give in and get a really nice picture taken of myself for publicity purposes. In the meantime, please meet Anya Avatar (top left), who will be standing in for me in any situation where my image is requested or needed. She’s the version of me I like to portray to the world...a little sassy, fun and smiling. Please note the red dress and shoes (it’s my favourite colour despite (or because of?) the fact my mother didn’t much care for it) and the hair that looks sort of stylish instead of just out-of-control!

My son was candid enough to point out I seem to have, um, exaggerated a few attributes (I’ll leave you to guess which) but I stuck my nose in the air and told him that was what artistic license was all about.

Damn these young know-it-alls. I hope I live to see him have a bunch of kids who are just like him!

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Well, as you can see from my dearth of blogs, I’ve been like a chicken without a head for the last few weeks! The Evil Day Job is one reason. My sideline of making re-enactment clothing is another. But the biggest problem has been my addiction to reading...

I finished a sub a couple weeks back and sent it off. It usually takes me a few days to move past that and get back to writing, so I decided to indulge in some reading in the meantime. As much as it hurts not to be reading all the time, I rarely pick up a book when I’m writing. Being immersed in someone else’s words/world tends to color my thought patterns and divert me away from my own work.

I didn’t realise just how much I missed the magic of sinking into a good book until I started on my TBR pile. It all began with Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a hardcover copy of which I picked up at my local community centre for the grand price of one Canadian dollar. I’d heard of it a while back and wanted to read it, so I couldn’t resist. After all, it was in brand-new condition!

Reading it was bittersweet, because I found out that Steig Larsson died right after he delivered the edited version, and two of the planned sequels, to his publisher. Sounded rather like a lyric from Alanis Morissette’s ‘Ironic’, until I read he was overweight, driven to working 20 hour days and had a 60 cigarette-a-day habit.

The book was intriguing, once I got into the rhythm of his prose. His style is slightly stilted—a little formal—and it took getting used to. I also found his characters a little cold, but was willing and able to put all that aside and just enjoy the book.

So that whet my appetite, and thank goodness I read quickly or nothing—no work, no cooking, no NOTHING—would have gotten done over the past few weeks. I finished my orgy, my gluttonous read-fest, with Greenmantle by Charles de Lint. Can I tell you...if I ever was going to go Fan-girl over anyone, it would be over him? Greenmantle grabbed me, held me, rocked and shook me, and now, having come out on the other side, I’m ready to go back to work. Reading one of his books is, for me, like a day at the spiritual, emotional spa. He’s washed me clean, and I can go forward into life once more.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

CAPA Winners announced today!

Yea! It’s the day that The Romance Studio will be announcing the winners of the 2008 Cupid and Psyche Awards. A bunch of the nominees have posted on the CAPA blog site with excerpts of their books. So take a “stroll” over and happy reading!

And once again, good luck to all the nominees...Christine, I'm rooting for yah, babe!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Movie deux

In a previous post I said I, who hardly ever watches movies, sat through two in a row. The first I happened on by chance, and watched because there was nothing else on at the time. When I realised the second one, The Wedding Date, was coming on, I warned my husband (for whom no movie is complete without bombs and explosions) he was going to have to find alternative entertainment.

Truthfully, I had seen it before, was eager to see it again, would watch it right now if I knew it was coming on. If I were the buying movie type, I’d own it. Hey, come to think of it, I still might buy it.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a classic. There are no profound messages to be gleaned from the plot. What it is that attracts me (besides that glorious glimpse of Dermot Mulroney’s ass) is the dialogue and the interaction between the characters. Debra Messing captures every nuance of desperate avoidance, every iota of wanting to please everyone all the time. We share her despair at her family circumstances, the love/hate relationship we can only truly experience with those we hold most dear.

And the secrets...think of all the secrets you think you hold, how those secrets would impact your family. Now imagine the only one who actually doesn’t know exactly what is going on is you.

What a horribly lonely place to be.

Some of it was overdone. If my sister were as overtly disgusting as Amy Adam’s character I’m afraid one of us wouldn’t have made it past adolescence. But in making her selfishness and need to be better, prettier, more attractive than her sister so blatant, we are forced to acknowledge one of the many forces that drive family relationships. We even feel sorry for her in the end, when all we wanted was to strangle her initially. There-in lies the subtle genius of the movie.

The less subtle genius of the movie can be found in Dermot Mulroney. Frankly, he could park his slippers under my bed any night. There were a couple times I felt just like the cousin, T.J., when she said, “Oh God, I think I just came.” The man, quite honestly, is HOT! And one of the things I really like about him is that he’s not ‘pretty.’ Brad Pitt is pretty. George Clooney is pretty. You look at them and are immediately aware of just how almost perfect they are. Dermot Mulroney, on the other hand, is a little rough. His features are irregular. He’s shorter than many women would want. But, man, he pushes all the right buttons. Even if I didn’t enjoy the movie for any other reason, I’d watch it for him.

Favourite scene? When he backs her up against the car and makes her feel like the sexiest, most beautiful woman in the world. Keep your eyes on his hands and I dare you not to feel hot and bothered at the end.

Favourite secondary character? T.J. (played by Sarah Parish), who reminds me of a couple of my favourite relatives and has the personality I’ve always secretly wanted.

If you have a taste for romantic comedies this is a good one. Popcorn and a friend to laugh and comment with during the flick will make it perfect.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Journey down Memory Lane

I’m not a huge movie person. I enjoy them, when I get around to watching them, but it’s not something I will go out of my way to do. Having said that—I recently found myself watching two movies in a row. I had the flu and my brain just couldn’t seem to get into writing gear, so I was flipping around, trying to find something to watch on TV. None of my usual shows were on, nothing seemed interesting, so I ended up watching ‘The Wedding Singer’ with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore.

Okay, not a keeper, but it was fun. I’m a child of the 80’s, so it was amusing to me to see all the imagery from those days. His band-mate, who dressed like Boy George, was particularly funny to me, since (dare I admit it) we all tried to dress as close to that as we could, some with more success than others! When he began to sing the pre-Emo Emo anthem of my time, ‘Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?’ I sang along.

I also loved the fact that the guy at the airport counter had his hair done a la ‘Flock of Seagulls’. An obvious image, but fun none-the-less.

What I realised at some point along the line was the way I was drawing lines from the past (as portrayed in the movie) to the present. Adam Sandler’s ex-girlfriend, who was willing at the end to ‘get over’ the fact he was a wedding singer instead of a rock star, could have been the inspiration for Bowling for Soup’s ‘1985’. Boy George was Emo before anyone knew what Emo was. Don Johnson and Miami Vice may have faded from popularity but just the sound of the theme song still brings it rushing back to mind...and men in loafers without socks still look unfinished. LOL!

Just another indication that the more things change, the more they stay the same!

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Long and the Short of it

The guidelines for Historical Undone, the new line of e-shorts offered by Harlequin, states, “If you've always wanted to write for Harlequin Historical, but were daunted by the length, now is your chance to submit something shorter!” Now, far be it for me to take issue with this submission call, but when I first saw this my instinctive reaction was, “Yeah, right”!

Truthfully, the differences between novel and novella writing are, in my humble opinion, huge. And it’s not just all about length either. The inference a writer, especially a novice writer, can and probably will draw from the Harlequin guideline is that writing a shorter piece is a much simpler and easier task than writing a novel.

To quote ‘Q’ from Star Trek TNG, “Au contraire, Mon Capitan!”

I've written both and writing a romance novella may be a faster process, if you are lucky, but it is not simpler or easier. In fact it’s damn hard work, especially if you’ve never done it before or if your first attempts at writing were, as is the case with most of us, full length novels. And if you look at the structures of both novels and novella with an eye to comparison, you can see why.

Both romance novels and novellas are expected to have a beginning, middle and end. There must be a couple brought together by circumstances, kept apart by conflict and, in the tradition format with its obligatory happily-ever-after ending, finally united against all odds. Whatever the setting and background, the writer must draw the reader in, get them to suspend disbelief, allow them to feel they are actually there, in the story, with the characters. The readers must at least sympathize with the heroine, but preferably should understand and completely empathize with her. They should also, in a perfect world, fall in love with the hero. Most importantly, the writer must come up with a great plot and tell a damned good story; one that satisfies the readers at the end.

These things do not change between novels and novellas, but there the similarities end. In the novel, which can have a length of between 65,000 and 120,000 (or more) words, the writer is free to introduce a plethora of secondary character, sub-plots and situations that reveal everything the reader needs to know about the hero and heroine and their circumstances. Entire pages can be devoted to descriptions of the clothing, landscapes, minor characters, events and minutia that bring the surroundings to life. The characters can undergo change gradually, and that change can be precipitated in a variety of ways, including fairly long periods of time away from the main setting. Although rather frowned on nowadays, the writer has time, space and leisure to introduce all the backstory necessary to bring the reader up to date.

Anyone who has made any kind of study of the novel as an art form will tell you there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of ways to express the hero/heroine’s journeys. But each of these methods, tricks if you like, take the one commodity in short supply when writing a novella.


The length of a novella is something much debated, but let’s for our purpose here use the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America definition, which is between 17,500 and 40,000 words. In that number of words, a writer must do everything expected of them as set out above, but without the frills and furbelows with which novels are often adorned. Everything must be pared down, sparse, tightly woven—especially the plot. There is no space for elaborate convolutions, tangents or right angles. The plot must be simple, yet enthralling, and each and every word, situation, circumstance and conversation in the piece must be ruthlessly surveyed to ensure it is not only necessary but essential to that plot. Description must be crafted in as few sentences as possible, yet must also fire the reader’s imagination. Secondary characters are a luxury, and can only be allowed to survive if they too are essential and carry the plot forward in a way nothing or no one else can.

In short, a novella is not a short novel, no matter what the name may imply. It is a totally different beast; one that must be attacked in its own discrete way and that can go horribly wrong if approached with the same mindset needed to write a novel.

Now, to go back to my original point, having gone through the differences in writing a book 65,000 words long and one only, say, half the length.

Harlequin Historical Undone is for short stories between 10,000 and 15,000 words.

That is less than a quarter of the length of a 65,000 word novel, yet the same rules as for novels and novellas apply when it comes to characters, plot and expectations.

Does it seem as simple as it first sounded now?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

February, when a woman's fancy turns lightly to free stuff...and chocolate

For the first time since I moved to the ‘Frozen North’ I’m excited about February! It’s cold out, with huge piles of snow everywhere (we’ve had a near record-breaking six feet of the white stuff already this year!), but things are actually heating up in my writing life. There’s my Valentine’s Freebie, Cupid Be Mine, which will be released through The Samhellion tomorrow, February first. Yes, Freebie--as in do not pay for this short story, or any of the other stories that will be released between now and February 16th! And there’s The Samhellion’s Valentine’s Swag Hunt, now officially underway (note the graphic to the left.) If you’re not participating, you should! Lots of great prizes are on offer. If you haven't already done so, you can subscribe to the Samhellion here.

To top it off, The Romance Studio CAPA’s will be announced on Valentine’s Day. Truthfully, I’m not expecting to win (have you SEEN the authors I’m up against???) but there’s still that little spark of hope, the tiny whisper in the back of my mind saying, “You never know...” LOL! I’ve been around the block too many times to be horribly disappointed if I don’t win, but it’s still exciting. Hopefully anticipation doesn’t kill me in the meantime!

I’ve also just finished a new short, which is a bit experimental and therefore both exhilarating and scary at the same time. Now that I’ve mumbled over it, polishing and primping, it’s time to try and find that baby a home...And, while it goes out into the world, it’s back to work for me. Lots of stuff waiting for me to get back to them, and I’m eager.

Almost as eager as I am for Spring...

And good luck to all the Swag Hunters!!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Samhellion Newsletter

For anyone who likes a little free stuff, you should sign up for The Samhellion, the Samhain writer’s newsletter. Every month it contains articles, free short stories, recipes and an interview with one of our host of interesting writers. The Samhellions are a fun group, and the newsletter reflects the diversity that makes Samhain one of the leaders (in my humble opinion, THE leader) in e-publishing.

And this is a great time to sign up for the newsletter. Over the past holiday season subscribers were given access to free shorts from 30 (yes, I said 30!) Samhain writers. The Freebies were so popular, they’re doing it again. In honour of Valentine’s Day there will be another 16 free shorts on offer, one per day, starting January 31st! Since the December holiday shorts are still available also, you’ll have 46 short stories, from sweet to super sexy, to enjoy.

My short, “Cupid Be Mine” will be released on February 1st, 2009, and I hope readers enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.

So, what are you waiting for? Go on…sign up! You can do that here

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hurray for Jane

My name is Anya, and I’m a Jane Austin fan.

There, I’ve said it.

In a world where everyone and their grandmother will jump on any bandwagon rolling by, I’ve kept my adoration of JA close to my chest. There are so many reasons to love her, including her wit and style, her characters and ability to pull you into a time and place so you feel you are there, the laugh-out-loud moments. All of these, and so many others, make her novels worthwhile reads. I read both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility as a teenager. Not even having S&S as one of my final examination books could spoil the pleasure.

I’m also generally speaking, a purist. Movie adaptations generally leave me cold. I’d rather read the book.


...Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in the A&E adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Need I say more?

There is one particular scene I absolutely adore, and when I get to a point in my career where I can successfully get a moment like that on to paper, I’ll probably run screaming down the street in glee. Hopefully I’ll not have been writing commando at the time.

Scene: In the withdrawing room, at Pemberley. Elizabeth Bennett has just finished playing and singing, and sits at the pianoforte speaking to Mr. Darcy’s sister, Georgiana. Elizabeth compliments Miss Darcy on the fineness of the instrument, and is told it was a gift from her brother; a gift she is quite sure she does not deserve. Elizabeth reassures her on that point, saying she is quite sure if Mr. Darcy deemed her deserving of such a fine present, it must be so, for,
“ you know, he is never wrong.”

At that moment, Mr. Darcy looks across the room, only to find himself the focus of the two young ladies attention. He freezes, his eyes flicker from one to the other, and in his face can be seen a sensation we all have, at one time or another, felt.

They are obviously talking about him. What are they saying?

You can see his lack of confidence, only marginally tempered by hope.

In the film the moment is fleeting. If you take a sip of your drink you will miss it. To the story itself, it is a major turning point. Darcy is portrayed as all that is proud, a man supremely confident of his place in the world. In that one swift moment, we see the transformation of his character to a humbler place more clearly than any soliloquy could have told.

I love it, and for me there can only be one film Darcy...just watching him walk away from Elizabeth in the garden at Pemberley is enough to make me sigh. Of course, his prior dip in the pond is artistic license at its height, since it doesn’t appear in the book and Jane Austin probably rolled in her grave when they added it in. But even a purist like me can appreciate, greatly, Colin Firth in a wet linen shirt, breeches and riding boots!

(To see a really nice shot of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, entitled “IBM, Ideal Breeding Material” click here.)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rock On, E-Publishing

It’s an exciting time to be affiliated with a really good e-publishing firm. The world is changing, and publishing too is in the midst of a massive overhaul. Business as usual just isn’t cutting it anymore, and smart people are actively looking for new ways to publish and deliver books to the people who want them. I may be biased, but to me e-publishing, and companies like Samhain, are not just the wave of the future, they’re the wave of NOW.

I still have to put up with people saying things like, “Soon you’ll really be published,” although I’ve had the pleasure of two releases. It’s just ignorance, so I stifle my annoyance and tell them that I already am published, and leave it at that. Then I read an article like this one, in Time Magazine on-line, and realise irrespective of those views, I’m probably on the right track. Sure, it would be nice to be able to say I have a NY contract with Avon, or Berkley, or one of the traditional publishing houses. But there is a part of me that would rather not deal with issues like massive returns and bogus sales numbers.

Besides, there is news like Lorelei James topping the movers and shakers list at Kindle, which makes us romance writers know the readers are out there, and they’re following the trends. Instead of a book in every hand, how about an “E-reader in Every Hand” campaign?

And for all you readers interested in what the most popular books were at Samhain this past year, the best covers, etc. make sure you join us for the Sammie Awards! It’s gonna be a blast!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Oh thyself

Canada, like most other countries, is a mass of contradictions, but it’s almost schizophrenic when it comes to sex. Years ago, when I still lived in Jamaica, I used to spend a lot of time at Negril during the summer months. For anyone not familiar with the island, Negril is a resort town at the western tip. Nowadays it’s a tourist trap, undistinguishable from any other tourist trap despite the ‘seven miles of white sand beach’ the brochures boast about. Back in the day when my aunt ran a small club and lived in a wooden house on the beach, Negril was quiet, undeveloped, and a haven for pleasure seekers looking for something good to smoke, a little mushroom tea, a place to get wild, or all three.

I saw a lot of getting wild there, and a lot of the people whooping it up were Canadians. I’ll never forget the story of my aunt covering her daughter’s eyes as two elderly French Canadians, having just got off a bus, decided to have at it right on the beach—in broad daylight. Somehow, in the midst of all this letting loose, I got the impression Canadians were pretty liberal.

Privately they are—swinging and swapping and enjoying themselves mightily—but publicly it seems if you don’t really talk about sex, your virginity grows back.

I recently received my copy of February’s Chatelaine, the premier women’s magazine in Canada. Obviously, if somewhat obliquely, aimed at a Valentine’s Day audience, it was full of love and romance, Canadian style. Inside was an article called, ‘Burn after reading’ subtitled ‘Racy reads for cold nights’. Being a book junkie and, of course, an erotic romance writer, I went straight to that page. They listed three books; none by Canadian authors, only one of the books written in this century (two were published in the 1960’s) and one of them, which will remain nameless, I read when I was in my teens and even then found to be lacking in style and substance.
I just shook my head.

There is a plethora of writing talent in Canada, and yes, that includes writers of erotic literature. I’m not saying Chatelaine should have gone off the deep end—I’m sure if they listed some hard-core erotica they would have lost a good half of their subscribers—but I’m also sure with a little research they could have found some suitably subdued, mildly titillating books written by Canadians. Failing that, how about some more written in the 2000’s?

In trying so hard to ignore the fact that Canadians actually have a wild side, this magazine seeks to perpetuate the image of “Canada the Good” and frankly looks quite silly doing it.

(In researching this post, I came across some really interesting sites, including an article at titled ‘You said Beaver’, a blog post from 2002 outlining the slow but inexorable defrosting of Canadian literature. This, of course, led me to a mass of other sites, but I’ll leave you to do the surfing on your own! Just like with sex, the anticipation and discovery is half the fun...)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

And now for something completely different...

Writer and Vice president of the London Writer’s Society, Kevin Love, recently sent me a link for his latest project and I just had to share. The website, with text by Kevin and illustrations by Jon Oaker, is an introduction to Aiki-DOH!-Ka, a somewhat inept although always enthusiastic practitioner of the martial art Aikido. I found it hilarious, perhaps because a few years ago I took Kung-Fu and can totally relate to poor Aiki-DOH!-Ka’s incompetence, and his determination to stick with it.

For those unfamiliar with Aikido, it is a Japanese martial art and the name is sometimes interpreted as ‘The Way of Harmonious Spirit’. Practitioners are called Aikidoka. Aikido concentrates on grappling (rather than kicking or punching) and re-directing force, both to defend against attack and try to minimize damage to the attacker.

That’s the ideal...but perhaps the most famous practitioner of the art is Steven Seagal of movie fame, who certainly didn’t seem to worry too much about not hurting the bad guys. Of course that was only on the screen, so it doesn’t really count. What you might want to do however, if you ever get a chance to watch one of his movies, is take note of the absolute fluidity of Seagal’s movements. Aikido is beautiful when done properly and he knows what he’s doing.

Having done that, go back to and the genius of Kevin and Jon’s creation becomes evident. Aiki-DOH!-Ka is the embodiment of each of us who, without great natural talent and knowing we’re probably going to get hurt, put ourselves out there over and over again—and after falling flat on our asses, lie there laughing.

As Kevin said, “If we didn’t laugh at ourselves, life sure would be dull.”

Words to live by indeed...

Sunday, January 11, 2009


While doing a spot of research I came across a website called Game Design Central. The owner of the company, Keith Meyer, has recently released a book entitled, Getting Paid to Play: The Business of Game Design, aimed at helping young designers break into the competitive board game industry. There was a brief excerpt; suggestions for the five things newby designers should avoid saying when drafting introductory emails and cover letters or making telephone contact with game companies. Being nosy, I had to click through to that page. By the time I got to number one of Keith's five phrases I was roaring with laughter. If you take out the industry specific details they were some of the pet peeves literary agents and editors talk about all the time.

With Keith Meyer’s kind approval, here is his list of ‘The 5 Phrases You Should Never Use’, with my comments after each...

5. “This game will be the next Monopoly”

For the writing industry take out Monopoly, put in ‘Twilight’, ‘Outlander’, ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ or any other best-selling book title of your choice. And, according to Keith, because of Monopoly’s scope, this claim is even bigger...more along the lines of ‘Lord of the Rings’ along with its entire franchise, and ‘The Hobbit’ thrown in for good measure. You’re more likely to be struck by lightning than have that kind of hit.

4. “This game will sell (or make us) millions”

Keith Meyer says in his notes this shows not only hubris but a decided lack of knowledge of the industry. The chances of everything in the universe being in just the right alignment for a board game to become a runaway best-seller of that magnitude are small and extremely hard (almost impossible) to predict. Sound familiar, writers???

3. How can I be sure you won’t steal my idea?

I’m not even going to comment on this, except—HAHAHAHA--which is what I said when I heard an agent say a writer had asked her the same thing!

2. My game is highly educational.

This, Keith explains, is not a bad thing to say, unless it is untrue. The players having to add the numbers on a pair of die and move the right number of spaces doesn’t mean it teaches math skills! This is analogous to claiming a book is spicy, inspirational, funny, erotic or any other number of descriptors, when it isn’t. Of course educational (which he defines as “working with current curriculum course plans”) is a great deal less subjective and easier to quantify, but research into the line or imprint you’re targeting will usually show what they are looking for. Trying to fit a manuscript (or a board game) into a niche it hasn’t a hope in hell of filling is just plain silly!

And, the number one phrase you shouldn’t use???

Wait for it...

1. “I’ve played it with all my friends and family, and they love it!”

(Anya falls off the couch laughing, unable to continue the post)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Power of Theme

Strange the things we remember from childhood and teen years. People who can tell me where they were on a particular date back in 1982, or more embarrassingly, where I was, amaze me. I have very few solid memories of my younger life, not because it was particularly horrible or anything like that, but more likely because even then my head was in the clouds. So when a piece of poetry I had first read many years ago recently came to mind I was a little surprised a) that I remembered it and b) where I remembered it from.

My mother was a committed Mills & Boon/Harlequin reader and I would often raid her stash. As a quintessential pack-rat she was in possession of books from way back when. One day I picked up a Mills & Boon from some time back in the ‘60s. I hope the author, should she ever come across this post, will forgive me for neither remembering her name nor the title of the book (although I think it was My Old Love Came). I do, however, remember the story was based on a poem I somehow memorised but had to Google yesterday to find out the writer’s name!

I made another garden, yea,
For my new love;
I left the dead rose where it lay
And set the new above.
Why did the summer not begin?
Why did my heart not haste?
My old love came and walked therein,
And laid the garden waste.

A.W.E. O’Shaughnessy

Who knows why it popped back into my head after, oh, probably twenty-five years. What it did tell me however is how powerful a book’s theme can be. That Mills & Boon is long gone, but the theme, and the poem it’s based on, has lingered in my scatter-brained head all these years. That’s pretty impressive, especially in light of the fact the only other poem I think I can recite on request is Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll.

And for anyone wondering, the old love came, but the new (and true) love won out in the end!

BTW, Blogger wouldn't let me use the ampersand between 'Mills' and 'Boon' in the labels. Thought I'd mention it, in hopes no one will fuss me for not using the company's full legal name there!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


As a quick corollary to my previous post-

I wrote a short piece a few days ago, went through the gamut of emotions, including the slight depression as I hit 'send' and wished it all the best. But the compulsion to keep looking at it, seeing if there was some way to make it better, lingered. So, giving in, I opened the file one more time, and started to read...

Suddenly the story didn't seem as compelling as before! Don't you wish it was like that in life when you break up with a boyfriend/girlfriend/lover, that as soon as you know it's over, you can look at them and think, "Why was I so into them in the first place?" LOL!

I still love the story, but now I can move on...

One other thing...I just got my icon for being a CAPA nominee. I still can't believe The Pearl at the Gate was nominated and grin everytime I think about it. Here's the icon!
Isn't it bee-oo-ti-ful??? :-)

Monday, January 5, 2009


The relationship I develop with each story I write seems to be almost the same as I would have with a lover. The first rush of “meeting” the characters and the thrill of getting to know them excites me, giving me the impetus to put their adventures down on paper. I think about the story all the time, wondering what’s going to happen next. No matter what else I’m doing the characters, like an absent lover, are constantly on my mind.

Sometimes the relationship seems to falter, and the lover is put aside with the hope that, perhaps when the stars are in proper alignment, the relationship can continue. Sometimes I know it won’t, and there is a sense of loss, of failure, but after the sadness wanes, I move on (faithless hussy!). There can also be a time when I hate the book or novella, usually during prolonged editing or at those moments when I have to fight though a blockage. But that dislike is similar to feeling a lover is being difficult but the relationship is still worth saving, so you persevere.

The worst time for me is when the story is finished, and I know it’s finished. That is, for me, a time of mourning. Even if it is rejected and needs to be re-written, or accepted and has to be re-edited, the moment when I feel I’ve finally captured what I wanted will never come again. I’ve come to recognise this and instead of trying to jolly myself out of it simply accept it, ride it out.

Eventually I hear the call either of a new love or an old one waiting for me to come back, and the excitement, the obsession, builds again. Ahhh, love!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

First lesson learned for 2009...

...always write your blog post in Word first, so that when the computer goes ca-boom, you'll have it saved!

I usually do, but tonight, having had a good writing day and some really nice soup, I was feeling cocky. Lesson learnt...cocky doesn’t work for me!

The original blog post was better, but now the muse is tugging like the dickens at me and I really want to get back to writing that boiling hot love scene I was building up to. So this post will be shorter...did I hear a sigh of relief??? LOL!

Firstly thank you, thank you, thank you, to all the people who bought The Pearl at the Gate in 2008, and a huge shout-out to the reviewers at The Romance Studio, who nominated it for a CAPA!! I was a little surprised to see it in the Historical category rather than the Erotic Historical one, but hey, I’m just so chuffed they nominated it at all! The full list of nominees can be found here, on their site, so go by and check it out.

That novella really got my writing juices flowing again, so I’m hard at work on some re-writes and other stuff. This will be a year where I concentrate a bit more on promotions and getting out there, so I hope no one gets tired of seeing me around and about. I’m also trying to get the historical blog a group of us were discussing last year up and running. It’s a really exciting group of writers involved and hopefully they’re still interested and we can get going. I find myself drawn more and more to the historical and fantasy side of writing, although I love doing a really hot contemporary on occasion. I think this year I’ll be concentrating more on the historical, but you never know...the muse (in my case an old witch with an evil cackle and not much clothes) will have her way!

And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming. All the very, very best for 2009, and remember—don’t cry for yesterday, for it is already gone, but live today as though tomorrow may never come!