Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday's Links

Some links for today, while I prowl downtown Denver with my daughter on a field trip. Wish me luck--it's scary down there!

Linky linky McLinkerson...

Nathan Bransford talks about contradictory characters and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Bob Mayer--The Perfect Storm Is Coming in Publishing.
Writing Integrated Sex Scenes--Romance
Writer Unboxed--Why You Should Only Query 6-8 Agents at a Time
Learning to Love Book Reviews--some good resource links here on how to write reviews, although the article itself is fairly sparse.
Publishing Perspectives--How Self-Published Authors Get Their Covers Right
Judging Books by Their Covers--I think this is the first time I've seen a hedgehog on a book cover. Follow this one with More on Covers, at the same blog.
Blogging Tips--Keep Social Media in Mind When Writing Your Opening Paragraph
Writing Physical Descriptions--Hair Colors. Some interesting tidbits here.
Write more ebooks to prepare for the Kindle Fire--The Fire is Coming!! (ok that wasn't even funny)
What is a Writer's Minimum Viable Product?--Interesting idea, but my automatic reaction is don't downgrade your content.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Guest Posting today at Romance with SASS

I'm guest posting today over at Romance with SASS, talking about the Writing Life. Drop by and say hi!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Persistence of Memory

My earliest memories are buried deep. They bubble up from time to time, but not as often as they used to. Some of them are strange. I’m not sure all of them are real.

I remember being in a cave. It is dark and close, and I feel like I’m alone. There are vague lights here and there. The darkness isn’t threatening. It just is

I remember lying on a mattress watching TV. On the screen is a rocketship in a scaffolding, ready to launch. There is a black cat. The room I’m in is small, and I have to look up to see the TV, which is sitting on a dresser.

I’m not sure where the memory of the cave comes from. I know my family visited Carlsbad caverns when I was very young, but whether this cave is related, I’ve never managed to find out. Maybe it was a dream. Maybe I’m remembering the womb. Maybe it’s nothing significant at all.

The TV sequence was a real event. The show was Star Trek, and the episode I was watching was from the third season, not long before the original series was canceled.

Is there a point to this? I don’t know. Maybe that reality is so subjective we can’t even be sure our memories feed it back to us accurately. Do we really remember what we think we remember? If we’re made of our memories, does this inaccuracy have a fundamental effect on our psyche?

In the end, does it really matter?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ceremonial Closing of the Tabs

I seriously have like fifty tabs open in Firefox today. Going to trim them down to stuff that you all might actually find interesting.

Using an Agent to Get on Kindle--John Carpenter's publishing journey. An interested snapshot of a changing marketplace. Also I think I'll get this book for my son. Jane Friedman's blog.

Life Stages of a Writer--interesting take on how to look at your work. (Terrible background color--I used to keep from getting eyestrain.)

Tips on Successful Blogging--Creative Penn. These are both podcasts, but if you scroll down there are links to .pdf and online transcripts if you'd rather read. Blogging Basics and Advanced Blogging Tips for Authors.

Certainty Anchors. This is an excerpt from the book Uncertainty, by Jonathan Fields, about how ritual helps anchor creativity. Jane Friedman.

Product vs. Author Brand. Part 3 of the series on branding I linked to last week. From Write to Publish.

But What About the Quiet Ones? Writer Unboxed. About the challenges faced in promoting the "quiet" novel.

5 Stephen King Quotes Every Writer Should Heed. Because Stephen King is awesome, even though I don't like all of his books.

Marketing is Dead. Traditional marketing vs. "Tribe Building."

5 Timeless Insights on Fear and the Creative Process. More on how ritual enhances creativity, this time with five recommended books on the topic.

Downtown Trains... Oh, never mind. That's all about hockey. Moving right along...

15 Prompts to Help Kick-Start Your Story. Some useful tidbits here if you're looking to start a story or deepen one you've already written.

And that's all for today. Unfortunately it looks like I might have opened as many tabs as I closed on this round. Sigh...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rachel Brimble: Synopsis Writing – Ahhhh!!!!

Today I'm turning the blog over to Rachel Brimble. She offers some hints and tips on writing the Dreaded Synopsis, as well as information about her newest release, Paying the Piper.

I visited a blog recently and talked about my mantra of allowing yourself to write a ‘crappy’ first draft and how much this changed my writing output overnight. I really think writers put more pressure on themselves than any editor, agent, reviewer or reader ever could so when I discovered how much more I get written when I stop obsessively editing, it was SO liberating!

But are we ever happy with our writing? Do we ever fully believe we haven’t written the best story we possibly can? Do we fully embrace the potential to receive five star reviews for all those thousands of little words that we spent weaving into a novella or full-blown novel?

Nooo, of course not!! That would make sense. It’s far better just to beat ourselves up and constantly rant and rave that we can’t write, we’re not good enough or how would anyone want to spend a weekend of their time, sitting on a couch with a cold glass of wine and one our books.

Yes, this is said with my tongue in my cheek…but it isn’t entirely untrue. Well, not for me anyway.

But I digress…the topic of my blog today is synopsis writing and how I write mine. As a result of that author visit I mentioned at the start of this post, apparently the stage in the writing process when I write mine is rare, as opposed to my method so I thought I’d share both.

When do I write a synopsis?

BEFORE the first word of the story is written, of course. Don’t you? No? Okay, well, I never claimed to be normal or I wouldn’t write in the first place, right? ;)

How do I write a synopsis?

The general rule of thumb is as follows:

First paragraph – I start with my blurb, this is my HOOK. If you can get this job done now, it will help you massively once you’ve typed ‘The end”. Try to summarise you book in a single paragraph, keeping the mood and tone of the story as your focus.

Introduce your hero and heroine – and most importantly their ‘problem’ or goal. In other words, here is where you establish, Goal, Motivation & Conflict (never easy!)

Next, you establish the high points of your story – the pivotal moments. The best tip I was ever given when writing this stage is every high point should include an ACTION, REACTION and a DECISION.

Finally, the resolution – how is everything tied up into a nice neat package leaving the reader happy and satisfied.

Easy, right? Well, I never said that did I? ;) But why writing this BEFORE I start the book works for me is because I have a ‘skeleton story’ established that I can refer back to if I get lost, but also gives me the freedom to change and go with the flow as much as I want. If I change things along the way, or the characters take the story off in a different direction, that’s okay.

I just remember to update the synopsis as I work so when my story is finished, so is my synopsis (more or less!). Good, huh?

Rachel’s latest release is Paying The Piper, available from Lyrical Press on September 19th.


Nightclub manager Grace Butler is on a mission to buy the pub where her mother's ashes are scattered but the owner wants to sell to anyone but her. And that owner happens to be her father...who has a secret she will do anything to discover.

Social worker and all around good guy Jimmy Betts needs funds to buy a house for three special kids before their care home closes. Time is running out and he's desperate for cash. He agrees to to a one-time 'job' for bad-man Karl Butler. But in a sudden turn of events, Jimmy finds himself employed by Karl's beautiful, funny and incredibly sexy daughter, Grace. Their lives couldn't be more different, yet one thread binds them: they're both trying to escape the bonds of their fathers. Maybe the only way they'll be free is by being together, instead of alone.

Rachel lives with her husband and two young daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. Having always believed there’s someone for everyone, Rachel started writing her own tales of love once her children were at school. Since then, she’s had several books published with The Wild Rose Press, Eternal Press and Lyrical Press. She has recently acquired a US agent with her second Victorian historical. A member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, Rachel cannot imagine her life without romance or writing!

When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family.And in the evening? Well, a well-deserved glass of wine is never, ever refused…

Check out Rachel's work, and if you'd like to guest post here, drop me a line.

Monday, September 19, 2011

New Short Story Collection

I've just published a new collection of short stories at Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, All Romance eBooks and 1PlaceforRomance. Six from the Heart features six romances, including The Gift, which was previously published as a one-shot. The other five stories will be available as one-shots over the next week or two, but the anthology gives you a great price break.

Six From the Heart

Zoe's Voice--He's not sure who she is, but if she'll keep talking to him in that voice, he'll give her everything.

Second Chances--He had something important to say. She misunderstood--bigtime. He wants to try again--this time without his foot in his mouth.

The Test--The test is positive. What now?

Hope, and Glory--Glory moved away a long time ago. Now she's back, and things are looking up.

Dinner for Two--Lauren won dinner with the third-grade teacher. Her daughter thinks she should go, but Lauren's not so sure.

The Gift--Affrick has loved Gilly since they were children. How will she catch his attention now that he's decided to wed again? (Scottish historical.)

Amazon (Kindle edition)
Barnes & Noble (Nook edition)
Smashwords (Multiple formats)
1PlaceforRomance (Multiple formats)
All Romance eBooks (Multiple formats)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Closing Many Tabs Day

I had intended to do this on Friday, but I got distracted. These things happen...

Anyway. I have tons of tabs open in my browser, so as I close them down I'm going to share. (I kinda sorta stole this idea from Neil Gaiman, but he has lots of ideas so I'm sure he won't miss it terribly.) It's a wide variety of STUFF, so I hope there's something in here you'll enjoy.

A really embarrassing typo happens to an author. Susan Andersen's hero becomes altogether filthier after memorable editing error.

My friend Jennifer's Deviant Art page, with pictures for Halloween.

A breakdown of the first ten pages of the script for Inception.

Fear is the Downfall of Publishing. Blog post by Bob Mayer.

Epic Black Car--Social Media is a Tool, Not a Magic Bullet.

Epic Black Car--Romance Novelists are a Secret, Epic Army. (I found this one really entertaining.)

Livia Blackburne--How to Self-Promote Without Selling Your Soul.

Write to Publish--Branding: Where to Begin

Write to Publish--Branding: Part 2--The Basics

Write it Forward--The Real Gatekeepers in Publishing Now? Authors. More from Bob Mayer.

Husbands: The Series. A new web series from former Buffy the Vampire Slayer scribe Jane Espenson, et al.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Guest Bloggers

Starting next Wednesday, 9-21, I'll be hosting guest bloggers. My first guest will be Rachel Brimble, spotlighting her latest novel.

If you're an author and you're interested in guest blogging, drop me a line at to arrange a date.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What I’m Reading—Earth’s Children—Plains of Passage

Photo from Affiliate link.
iconIn the course of researching for Ring of Darkness and the rest of the books I plan to write in the Ring Saga (I’m working on Ring of Light right now), I’ve spent time thinking about how religious systems are structured and the differences between patriarchal and matriarchal cultures. Though there are still a very few societies in the world that function under matriarchal ideologies, the major religions on our planet have all bent to the demands of patriarchy.

Some believe that, long ago in our prehistory, this was not the case. Before human beings could record their beliefs in written language, there might have been a belief system based on a Mother Goddess. These speculations—and unfortunately they are just speculations—are based on art from this prehistoric period. Before we had written language, we had art, and much of this art is interpreted to support the idea of a matriarchal society and a companion Goddess-based religion.

Lately I’ve been re-reading the Earth’s Children series by Jean Auel. I first read the first three volumes many years ago, and now that there is another book to be had, I decided to pick them up again.

In these books, Auel recognizes the school of thought that believes our earliest belief systems focused on a goddess. But her presentation, to me, doesn’t stay true to this vision.

In Clan of the Cave Bear, we meet the Clan, a group of Neanderthals who take in Ayla, the too-good-to-be-true heroine of the series who is presented as a modern human. The Clan worships an Earth Mother, but their society is structured in such a way that males and females hold tightly proscribed roles. Men hunt and do manly things. Women are mothers, healers, and preparers of food. And ne’er the twain shall meet, as Ayla discovered when her more flexible brain realizes she is perfectly capable of hunting.

More disturbingly, the females are expected to make themselves sexually available at a signal from any male in the tribe. Auel attributes all these characteristics of the Clan culture to a racial memory. All the Clan hold these memories, which go all the way back to the primeval goo. A neat idea, but also far too easy an explanation for a culture that supposedly believes in a Mother Goddess, yet subjugates all its women.

The belief systems of the more modern humans, represented by Ayla’s eventual lover Jondalar, seems very different at first. Women are free to perform any duties they find appropriate to their skills, from hunting to cooking to sacred prostitution. The role of certain women in initiating men sexually aligns with many of the ideas of how a Goddess-based society might have worked. Women are also initiated by chosen men, “opened” so that male spirits can enter their wombs and impregnate them. (The idea that, at this point in history no one but Ayla was able to figure out the relationship between sex and pregnancy is another major quibble.)

Ayla finds herself in a position to express herself more freely as a woman and an individual as she travels with Jondalar, and learns more about his people and their relationship to Doni, their mother goddess.


A sub plot in Plains of Passage, to me, undermines this idea of an idyllic Goddess-based belief system. A young woman in a tribe Ayla and Jondalar visit has been gang-raped by a group of thugs who have been similarly harassing the Clan females in the area. (Another aside—the Clan response to the rape of their women is generally, “But they didn’t give us the signal. If they’d just given the proper signal, we would have been happy to succumb to their demands. It’s what a good Clan woman does.” Also cringe-worthy.)

This young woman, who has suffered this horrible violation, is not treated with love and respect. Instead, her family is devastated that their virgin daughter was taken sexually before she could be properly “opened” by an approved male in the relevant ceremony. And in order to be acceptable to the eligible males in the tribe, she must be cleansed in a special ceremony—performed by a man.

This strikes me as severely ridiculous. The idea of a woman being “ruined” by rape—or, for that matter, by consensual sex—is part and parcel of a patriarchal mindset. Why in the world would a Mother Goddess place these kinds of proscriptions on women? Rules that allow a man’s actions to define a woman’s status?

To me, Auel’s portrayal of the belief systems of these people is deeply rooted in the misogynistic prejudices of current religion, particularly Western ideologies. In addition to this bit of nonsense, her tone toward the Clan is consistently positive, as if the limited roles allowed women in this culture, not to mention the virtual sexual slavery enforced upon them, is actually better than the more liberal ideas presented by Jondalar’s people. And Jondalar’s people, while making obeisance to a goddess figure, and holding the Mother above all others, still hold the idea that a woman’s worth is judged by the condition of her genitals.

This seems to be to be a far cry from the ideology proposed by many who have conjectured and theorized about the makeup of the Goddess culture. If this kind of belief system actually existed, I hope it was far more accepting of women—who are, after all, the embodiment of the theoretical Goddess—than Auel’s version.

In my own books, as I continue to work on research in the course of building stories set in the Five Lands, I’m also struggling with the way men and woman would relate to each other in societies that are extremely matriarchal, extremely patriarchal, or some combination of the two. I’m not sure I’m happy with what I’ve done so far with these ideas in Ring of Darkness. But as the stories grow and evolve, I hope to incorporate elements of a matriarchal society and how it could function in ways that don’t carry with them ingrained prejudices of our own largely patriarchal world.