Tuesday, August 30, 2005

More cover art -- and I like it!

Today I received my author copies of my next release, THE UNWILLING BRIDE, pictured to the right. Inside that cover is another depiction of the hero and heroine, and I really like it!

I finished rereading THE WOLF AND THE DOVE by Kathleen Woodiwiss. I was flabbergasted to realize how short and vague the love scenes were. No body parts described there, let me tell ya. Yet I remembered this as an extremely sexy book...and so it is, in an "old school" kind of way. Lots of sensuality, short on details -- and I like it!

However, there were a couple of things that did make me cringe. It's a real "bodice-ripper," in that the heroine literally gets her clothes ripped off, and more than once. But what troubled me most was that the heroine's body is, at times, apparently completely divorced from her mind. Her body reacts to the hero's passion even though she believes she hates him. I think the case could be made that by the time he does touch her, she's learned enough about him to not detest him, but this mind/body dichotomy disturbs me nonetheless. I don't think one's sexual response can be so separate from one's thoughts, nor should it depicted that way in fiction, either. That's too far from realistic for me.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

And I thought Empire was bad....

Feeling the lack of access to Rome, the mini-series, I decided to rent the movie Alexander, written and directed by Oliver Stone.

Oh, baby. I thought the TV mini-series Empire was terrible, but this was actually worse. At least Empire had Jonathan Cake as the gladiator, although his permanently furrowed brow got old, and he was playing the WORST bodyguard in history.

But then came Alexander. I didn't go to see this in theatres because of an early warning clue that foreshadowed disaster: Colin Farrell's hair. Yep, those blond locks were just all kinds of wrong, and having seen the film, I can now say it was downhill from there. How so? Just a few of the problems:

The now-you're-here-now-you're-there narrative. Flashbacks can work, but they can also destroy the pace of a story, and never was this more clearly demonstrated. Plus, what were they trying to show? Alex's relationship with his mother was weird? One scene would do it. He had a difficult relationship with his father? Again, one would do. Somewhere there was an idea for showing how conquerors are made (maybe Alexander came to believe he really was the son of Zeus), but it was never developed.

The battle scenes were mass confusion. I'm sure they actually were, but if you want to show us that, it doesn't take much. I got irritated. Plus, the slow-mo shots of Alexander riding? Enough already.

The yelling. Oh, my word, the yelling. If it wasn't Anthony Hopkins' sonorous voice-overs, people were yelling. Sheesh.

And don't get me started on Alexander as the great champion of multi-culturalism. That's right up there (or should I say, down there) with Julius Caesar as the great liberator in Empire.

Gladiator was great because of several factors, but here's what I consider the main one:

Maximus's goal is to (a) get home after doing his duty and (b) when he finds it destroyed and his family killed, to avenge their deaths -- to make the villain pay for his villainy. In achieving his final goal, he also happens to get rid of a very bad emperor. We care about Maximus because we can empathize with his personal goal, which also has more significant ramifications.

Frankly, I couldn't have cared less about Alexander's goal in Oliver Stone's movie. He wants to conqure the east because...the father he apparently loathed wanted to? As revenge for the father he loathed? To bring about some kind of multi-cultural New World? Boy, that last one sure didn't ring true.

And what was Augustus's motive for gaining control of the Roman Empire in Empire? As far as I could tell, because Julius Caesar, that great liberator (snort), named him heir. The character Augustus says himself several times that he's not up to the task, and I certainly believed him. Again, I simply didn't care about him. They tried to make us care about Tyrannus but (a) he was the world's worst bodyguard and (b) that name! Not exactly inspiring of affection (c) he seemed like the Poor Man's Maximus and (d) did I mention the permanently furrowed brow?

Troy had the same problem. I'm supposed to care about Achilles because... he wants to be famous? Maybe if they'd concentrated on Hector, who's fighting to protect his home from invaders, it might have worked better. At least Troy had one saving grace: the relationship between Achilles and Briseis, and that's only because I write romances and it was interesting to see a captor/captive relationship. Knowing that Briseis was really nothing more than just another prize of battle, I knew I was in the realm of fantasy, though.

While I like Gladiator (especially with the extra scenes on the DVD), so far I've never seen anything in a sword-and-sandals epic to match a heart-wrenching scene in Spartacus with Kirk Douglas. Spartacus's army, after nearly getting out of Italy, is defeated, his men are captured, and the Roman general offers the captured slaves their lives if they'll give up Spartacus. Tony Curtis (talk about miscast!) and another of the slave commanders both leap up and declare themselves Spartacus before the "real" Spartcus can. Others then get to their feet, all claiming to be Spartacus (whose fate was sure to be a slow, torturous death) rather than turn Spartacus over to the Romans. I tell ya, I tear up just thinking about it. Do I care about Spartacus? You better believe it!

Give me characters I can care about, or at least find interesting. That's what makes a movie -- or any kind of story -- worthy of my time and money.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Snip, snip here, snip, snip there....

Ah well, I've done it again. Added too much backstory to my first chapters, that is. So now I'm going back and doing a little trimming. Not that I "throw out" any of this, though. I put it in separate documents on the computer, with names like "C and M discuss R," which translates into "Constance and Merrick discuss Ranulf." That's a bit where two secondary characters (formerly a hero and heroine in their own book) talk about the hero of the new book.

Why get rid of it? Well, for one thing, Constance and Merrick have already had their own book, thank you very much, so they shouldn't really be front and center in a scene in Ranulf's story. For another, they're just talking -- not exactly dynamic. And while there's important information about Ranulf here, it would be better if Ranulf himself reveals this, and later on, as a means to deepen the relationship between Ranulf and his heroine, Beatrice. And by delaying, I'm adding some narrative tension. This is a bit of a tightrope, though -- if you don't give the readers enough information, it's a turn-off. Too much, and you lose suspense. I'm revising with that balancing act in mind before I proceed.

RE TV: Rome -- how I wish we could see this. I was seriously tempted to subscribe to specialty cable to get this, but I watch enough TV as it is. I'll just have to wait until it's on "regular" TV, or get the DVD. It has to be better than Empire, which was, I think, the worst thing I've ever seen. Seriously. Don't get me started on the history, or lack thereof, unless you want to see steam pouring out of my ears.

And in Kitty News: Luis the Knave apparently thinks getting in the back of the recliner sofa (aka TV Central) and gnawing on the fabric is fun. The Count, meanwhile, has got to have the most innocent, "Who, me?" look going. When he's caught doing something he shouldn't, he just looks at you with those big innocent kitty eyes... I've decided they have to go back to their "dorm" when it's time for me to write; they are simply too distracting. The Dowager continues to take sanctuary when they're out and about, but no cat fights yet (here's hoping!).

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The next time you're laughing at a cover, please spare a moment's thought for the unfortunate author....

Being a romance author, I'm used to having my covers mocked. I'm used to having romance covers in general mocked. And to that, I usually say, "Meh." It's like shooting fish in a barrel. Way, way, too easy.

I do wish the folks who snark would spare a sympathetic thought for the author who labored for weeks and probably months on the contents, though. With few exceptions, romance authors have no say over the covers, and trust me, I know when I've got a snarkworthy one. It's not a pleasant feeling, to put it mildly. I feel...well, terrible is probably a good word to describe it. Disappointed, too. It's like you've labored to make something beautiful and somebody comes along and slaps a really ugly coat of paint over it. Yes, the thing you created is still there, and underneath that paint, it's still good, but the first thing people are going to see is that paint.

I confess I also snark about my less-than-delightful covers. However, it's a very different thing to snark about one's own cover than to hear somebody else make fun of it. As Lucy Maud Montgomery writes in Anne of Green Gables, "'Oh, but there's such a difference between saying a thing yourself and hearing other people say it," wailed Anne. 'You may know a thing is so, but you can't help hoping other people don't quite think it is.'"

That is so true.

On the other hand, when you get a really beautiful cover, it's a complete and total thrill. But even then, I know some people would find something to snark about here. It goes with the territory.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Quote o' the Week

From Nora Roberts:

"My notion of a romantic evening is when my husband does the dishes. It's great foreplay."

In other news, I believe I'm fated to be the lackey of the Count Cat. Right now, he's sprawled behind me (meaning I can't lean back). I bring him food and drink. I attend to his toilette. Yep, I'm definitely the lackey here....

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Being a writer involves more than writing a book...

Or so I am constantly reminded. I think this is one aspect of being a writer that most non-writers never consider. People seem to think we pretty much sit and type all day. However, writers are self-employed business persons, with all that that entails (think bookkeeping and taxes).

In fact, there's a whole host of other tasks that go with being a published writer apart from actually writing a book. For instance, I either have to send out my books for review or making sure somebody at the publisher has done it. I do other PR, too, like designing and updating my website.

I have to do research. When I'm digging around in my many books or surfing the net for information about what people wore or what they ate, I'm working, but not "writing."

I also have to proofread galleys and go through copy edited changes to see if I agree or disagree with editorial changes. Again, I'm not technically "writing," but it's part of finalizing the text of the book.

There are often a lot of other smaller secretarial tasks, too, like replying to reader mail. That's usually a very pleasant task, but I'm not working on my book then, either.

One thing is fairly certain: writing for a living doesn't make for a lot of dynamic activity, unless, I suppose, you really get into your research. (I did take up fencing for awhile, come to think of it, and have the outfit to prove it.) But I think a lot of writers are like Walter Mitty, except we write our daydreams down and we're not generally the main character. I know that's bound to disappoint some people who think being a writer is glamorous and exciting, but the truth is, a lot of the time, it isn't.

But every once in a while, it does become tremendously exciting -- when you've written something you love, or you meet a fan. Then there's nothing I'd rather be than a writer.

Kitty Report: Luis and The Count have been allowed over more of the house. The Count seems to especially enjoy hiding under the bottom of the living room drapes. The Dowager Cat remains wary, which means she hisses if they come too close, but no fisticuffs. Thank goodness!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

What, I can't do laundry? Oh, hap-- gosh, what a shame...

Well, technically, I am able to do laundry. The machine is fully functional, but we've got two kitties currently using the laundry room as a dorm until they meet the Dowager Cat and are allowed all over the house. But alas! Crisis looms in the clean clothes department. So while my daughter rides herd on "the boys," I'm sorting, etc.

When I'm writing, the laundry can be either a nuisance or a good excuse for a break. It depends if it's a "good" writing day -- dialogue flowing, words a-pumpin', or a "bad" writing day, when it seems getting out a single word requires massive creative effort. If it's a bad writing day, having to move a load from the washer to the dryer seems like a ton o' fun instead of a nuisance. If the writing's going really well, that load'll just sit in the washer until later. I once left wet clothes in the washer for two days, but that's an extreme case, and of course, I wasn't chained to my computer the whole time. I just got busy, then forgot about it completely.

Ah, this author's glamorous life....

Friday, August 19, 2005

The Brothers Cat....

Now not only am I starting a new novel, I've got two new kitties at my house! Our dear old cat passed away at the end of June, so today we went to get a new kitty and we couldn't bear to separate two brothers. Eeky, our 12-year-old female cat, is upstairs sleeping and generally ignoring what's afoot in the laundry room. That's where we've put Luis and the Count until Eeky can get used to them.

This meant I didn't get to my writing until after dinner, but that was okay because there was a MAJOR thunderstorm this afternoon. Instead, I read. I'm rereading the book that made me want to become a romance writer, THE WOLF AND THE DOVE by Kathleen Woodiwiss. What a great way to spend an hour or two on a rainy day!

The break had an unexpected bonus: I came up with a solution to a plot problem involving the timing of relaying some information. I figured out when and how to do that, which was a relief.

Last night, I came up with an idea for another scene. I know exactly where it should come in to the story, which is always a bonus! And I now know that there's another bit of information the heroine will have to have before I get to that scene.

Of course, it would be good if I could have these scene ideas when I'm not trying to fall asleep, but the muse comes when she will....

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Decisions, decisions...

Once again, I'm into the first draft of a novel. That's both good and bad and exciting.

What's good is the freedom to make choices about how I'm going to tell my story. Even though I have a basic outline that my editor has approved, very little is carved in stone and there are still many things that can change in the telling.

That means, though, there are plenty of decisions to be made as I go from Point A to Point B, etc., to the end of the story. If I decide A happens, then X, Y and Z can result. If I choose B to happen, then L, M, N, or P might happen. All can take me to the next point, but in different permutations. This sort of choice can get exhausting after awhile!

And then I have to actually write my way from Point A to Point B to the end of the story, and in a way that makes sense, at a non-slumber-inducing pace and according to the characters I've chosen to live this particular story. As anybody who's ever tried to write a book will know, that ain't easy.

But then sometimes, suddenly, an idea about the story pops into my head as if from nowhere. I realize C might happen -- wow! And if that happens -- oh, boy! Or I "discover" something about a character that suddenly puts a whole new light on that character's actions, or fears, or desires.

There's nothing quite like the excitement of those "surprise" moments. They're the moments I live for as a writer. That's when my job becomes wonderful and I know I'm doing what I should be doing.

Here's hoping I surprise myself some more as Ranulf arrives at that crumbling castle in Cornwall....

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Great day in the mornin'! It's TAR time!

Let the bells ring out and the banners fly! It's nearly time for the next season of The Amazing Race and CBS has posted the pictures, etc. of the racers. This time, it's teams of four with some kind of family connection. So far, I've got the pre-like for the guy with his three sons-in-law. Hee. Here's hoping the team I've dubbed Family Von Frat are as funny as my all-time fav team, the Frat Brothers (aka Kevin and Drew), and not the Bickersons in a bad way.

My daughter and I have actually been "philiminated" in person by the Amazing Host, Phil Koegan, himself, although we have't been on the show. We met him at a TAR party in New York. What can I say? We are huge fans of the show and most of the racers, so we flew there to attend a party with other fans. Little known fact: Phil wears a delightful cologne or aftershave.

Fortunately, I have so far managed to adhere to my writing schedule, so I'd already done my work for the day before my daughter called to tell me the pictures and bios for TAR were up. Excited? Oh, geez! And the fact that I'd had a good time with the work made me even more giddy.

As always, I have to watch my tendancy to dump too much information/backstory into the opening chapters, but so far, so good! Which doesn't mean I won't be revising or editing later. I'm big on the "fixing up." In fact, I'm the sort who'll revise her grocery list to get it the "best" order.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Let's give this a go, shall we?

I've been writing a blog on my website for a couple of months now, and decided that it was time to enter the big wide world of "real" blogs -- the kind that allow for comments and feedback.

While type of things will I be blogging about? Well, I'm a writer, a published author of over thirty historical romance novels and novellas, so writing and my life as an author will be a major subject of my musings.

I'll be writing about my life in general, because it's a little goal of mine to dispute the notion that writers are basically glorified typists. You know, we just sit down and type and voila, there's a book! Heck, anybody can do it, right? If only you had the time....

And basically anything else that strikes my fancy, like my recent discovery of the TV series Stargate SG1. Where the heck have I been that I've missed this show??

To get me started today, I'll reveal that I'm starting a new novel. It's a medieval historical romance (my personal preference) called HERS TO DESIRE and it's due in four months. That's about how long it takes me to write a book. I don't schedule my writing deadlines four months apart, though. That way lies madness...and burn-out. Plus, writers have other things to do with the job other than the actual writing, revising, editing, and agonzing.

I'd already written the first draft of the first scene, so this morning, I revised that to get up to speed , and while doing so had a major brainwave about a possible future development with a secondary character. Basically, I just needed somebody to show up with some important information for the plot, but then I thought, Hey, maybe I could use this guy for that. That would be kinda neat. It means this previously no-name minor entity will have a larger role to play, and that's fine by me, because these are the moments that make writing a first draft fun.