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?