Archive for December, 2008



Did you say resolution or revolution?
by Sharon Ashwood on December 31st, 2008

There’s more than one meaning to “resolution.” Goal-setting. Concluding. Mystery-solving. They’re all about results. They’re all important and worthy.

Alas.

Every year I make laudable resolutions, but my “process” seems to resist structure like a cat avoiding a bath. The more I try to point it toward a logical path, the more it squirms and wriggles out of my grip.  Resolutions are unresolved within days. My acronym would read something like:

Squishy
Mooshy
Anarchic
Retrograde
Tantrum

The best I can do is to hypnotize myself into writing on a quasi-regular basis. Vague routine I can manage, and that (cross my fingers) seems to get the job done. If my aims are all about enchanting the reader, spinning the story, and enjoying the writing experience, my muse performs beautifully.

Good Muse

Good Muse

But ….

The moment Captain Deadline starts checking his watch, inspiration leaves the building quicker than Elvis on rollerblades. I end up with a thousand-yard stare at a blank screen.

The resolution to this quagmire? Severe muse abuse, a lot of sick days, and the consumption of things best not eaten. Rules don’t work for me. Bribery, emotional blackmail and trickery have potential—but bring on a “must” and rebellion ensues.

No, the very soft-footed goals I need to set are all about creating the best Muse Spa:  the right view from the window, the right tea, the right music, and enough hours to get up a head of writing steam.  I’ve learned my lesson the hard way:  Don’t tell the muse what to do. Instead, give the lady what she wants.

Naughty muse

Naughty muse

My New Year’s writing resolution? Don’t waste time. Surrender to her quirky process. It’s the only way she’ll deliver the goods.

 

If wishes were resolutions…
by Annette McCleave on December 30th, 2008

This is just my opinion, and feel free to tell me I’m full of it, but I think many of us approach New Year’s Resolutions like they’re wishes. Or hopes, wants, dreams.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I’d be the first one to swear by the power of a dream. There’s serious mojo in a dream. Or there can be…if it’s supported by actions. And there’s the tricky part: actions don’t resemble dreams at all. They’re practical and mundane and tiresome. Down right irritating, sometimes. That’s because behind every action is a commitment, a promise you make to yourself and then fulfill. It’s work.

Let’s face it, who doesn’t say things like: “I want to eat healthier in the New Year.” Heck, I did it just yesterday, while sitting on the couch trying to consume the last of the Christmas chocolates before I officially feel guilty on January 1st. But a want is not an action. Even a plan is not an action. And only actions will take you where you want to go.

Here’s the other thing I’ve discovered about my own New Year’s Resolutions: they’re monsters.

Like Jessa recommended yesterday, it’s a good thing to dream big. That’s how big things get accomplished. But the resolutions I tend to write down often look overwhelming on paper, and they get more and more overwhelming as time passes and I make little or no progress. That increasing sense of ‘this is impossible’ is what usually leads me to fail in my resolutions.

My answer? I chop ‘em up into smaller pieces. And I start small. Really small. I work out a schedule of actions that will get me to my chosen objective, but the tasks I give myself at the very beginning of the schedule are easy. Why? Because I want to set myself up to succeed.

One of my promises to myself in 2009 is to complete the first draft of my next book by the end of March. The logical way to break up the task would be to divide the number of pages required by the number of weeks between here and March 31st. When I’m on a roll, I can easily write 35 pages a week, but staring that number in the face on day one of a new project is enough to make getting out of bed a real chore. So, my commitment for the first week was to write seven pages. One page per day, 250 words. For me, very achievable.

When I successfully met my target, I felt good, really good, which made the twelve pages scheduled for week two feel undeniable. That’s why we make resolutions, isn’t it? To feel good and worthy and powerful? Succeeding does that. The heady rush of accomplishment encourages me to tackle the next goal and the next.

My overall goal is still big—in order to reach the finish line on time, there are several weeks when I’ll have to write forty pages or more. Not an impossible task, but with all the other things I have to fit into my life, it’s definitely a stretch. Stretching is good, though. All the fitness gurus will tell you that.

How about you—got any secrets to achieving your personal goals? Was there a goal in your past that you’re especially proud of accomplishing? How did you do it?

Be it resolved
by Jessa Slade on December 29th, 2008

Currently working on: Book2 of The Marked Souls
Mood: Avoiding a cold via massive satsuma infusions

I recently heard a report about a Scientific Study on New Year’s resolutions that found 40+% of people who made resolutions were still pursuing their resolution six months later, compared to 4% of people who had stated goals that did not coincide with the annual ritual of resolutions.

There’s just something about the cleansing effects of a new year to get the hopeful juices of ambition flowing.

Whether you call it a resolution, a goal, a blood oath, whatever, the Experts suggest that including certain elements will increase the likelihood of success.  These elements form the clever acronym SMART.  Tragically, the Experts immediately went out and assigned multiple meanings to their clever acronym, which makes it less SMART.  But it’s still usable.

A SMART resolution is:

  • S: specific, significant, stretching
  • M: measurable, meaningful, motivational
  • A: agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented, accountable
  • R: realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
  • T: time-based, timely, tangible, trackable

Those are all great suggestions — along with the ideas that you should write your resolution down and tell a friend who will hold your feet to the flames support your endeavor — but I’d like to add a few more muddying adjectives to your goal-setting.

Because I can’t get enough of adjectives.

S = Spectacular, siren, stellar
The Experts say your resolution should be sensible.  Right.  Because sensible gets you out of bed in the morning. 

M = Machiavellian, metamorphic, menacing
Hate to say it, but you will encounter obstacles in your resolution.  You will need to be clever and maybe cruel to pursue your resolution.

A = Arrogant, argent, awful
By awful, I mean awe-ful.  That grand, shining, full-of-yourself awe-full-ness will light your way.

S = Silent, serpentine, singular
In the end, you make your way on your own.  Friends and family can cheer you on, but you are the one with the resolution.

H = Headlong, hazardous, hellacious
This is your chance, your life.  You’ll make it happen.

So, okay, yeah, I changed the mnemonic device too.  Because it’s probably not SMART to think you can tackle your dreams just because you say so; but maybe you can SMASH your way there.

Where are you going in 2009?  What do you have to SMASH through to get there?

MERRY CHRISTMAS!
by Our Guest on December 25th, 2008
In both DARK OBSESSION and DARK TEMPTATION, my two sets of heroes and heroines find themselves having to deal with some pretty serious unfinished business in order for the souls of their dear departed loved ones to finally rest in peace. No small task, because while ghosts demand action, they can’t just snap their fingers and make things happen. They don’t really have fingers to snap, after all.  No, everything you’ve read about ghosts being able to physically manipulate the living world is pure poppycock — at least in the world I’ve created in my Blackheath Moor novels. So what’s an unsettled ghoul to do? Plague the living, of course.
 
But even that presents problems for the unliving. I guess there’s just something about crossing over between worlds that creates a bit of a disconnect when it comes to making their point, so they tend to circle the issue and use a lot of metaphors, which can be confusing to say the least. It’s enough to drive a living body crazy. Which could explain why both Grayson Lowell and Chad Rutherford tend to be a pair of deep, dark brooders — but sexy ones! So… what are my two intrepid couples doing this Christmas? I imagine them all hunkered down together at Chad’s seaside manor, Edgecombe, all cozy in front of a roaring fire while a fierce winter storm batters the landscape.
But are they alone, the four of them? Oh, no no! Because you know that once word got out among the deceased about how these two couples have become experts in finishing unfinished business, well, along with the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, every restless ghost, ghoul and spirit that happens to be haunting the earth will be lining up at their door for their chance to set unresolved matters straight. 
 
It’s going to be a busy and challenging holiday for the fab four, I should think. I imagine the manor being a lot like Hogwarts in the third Harry Potter movie, with ghosts on horseback riding in and out of the great hall while the kids calmly do their thing. Somehow, they’ve all agreed to respect one another’s planes of being and all go about their lively and unlively business.
 
I wouldn’t mind sharing my Christmas with a lonely ghost or two, because as scary as they can seem, for the most part they mean no harm. They just want someone to listen to their story and help find a solution to whatever is keeping them from finding eternal rest. Your reward just might be to free yourself from issues that have been plaguing you as well. So if a ghost ever appears to you and makes demands, instead of running for your life, stop, listen, and see what you can do for them.
 
This Christmas as family and friends gather, I think of family members who are no longer with us. Uncles, aunts, grandparents who have passed on, but continue to live in our memories and hearts. Year after year, we continue to share our Christmas with them, raising a glass, a smile, even a little laughter as we remember what it was about them that made us happy, that completed our family and our circle of friends.
Here at our home today we look fondly back at Christmas Past, we’re thankful for everything we have now in Christmas Present, and as we look into the faces of our two beautiful daughters, we look forward to all the blessings of Christmas Future.
 
Merry Christmas to all! 
  
So what do you get a werewolf for Christmas?
by Sharon Ashwood on December 24th, 2008

  

Got candy canes? Got hot chocolate? Got the roast beast? My characters are always up for a good time. After spending a lot of their existence wading through ectoplasm and smacking down ghouls, they need a break.

 

Ravenous is set in the contemporary world in a mid-sized city, so the residents are faced with all the thrills and spills of the modern holiday season. The werebeasts and vampires are no exception. After all, pretty much every culture has a big winter festival of some description, so why should the non-human species be any different? Besides, since coming out into the public eye, most of the supernatural citizens of Fairview are just trying to fit in. If that means putting up Christmas lights, many would make the effort if only to keep their human neighbours happy.

 

 

 

Each of the non-human species have their own style. Werewolves are very family-oriented. They have a big, exuberant celebration, with lots of everything. Lots of food. Lots of kids. The biggest tree ever. There are outdoor games that track mud and melting snow into the house. The alpha female grumbles about dirty floors and extra laundry. After sleeping off dinner, they all go outside for a good howl and then do the dishes. Since the weres have lived among us all along, their celebration is, in many ways, fairly similar to ours. Still working on your gift list? Wolves are easy to buy for. They enjoy gag gifts, power tools, sports gear and big-screen TVs.

 

 

My heroine (appropriately named Holly) is a witch and celebrates on the Solstice.  That’s the turning point of the year, when the longest night is honoured with the fires of the Yule log and the bright light of candles. Yule marks the start of the sun’s return, a journey that will eventually bring a new harvest to fruition. A time of hope, it’s naturally a season for get-togethers, food, and presents. Have a witch on your list?  Ornamental or practical items for the kitchen, bath, or garden are always a hit.

 

Vampires are the most interesting. They’re a bit like tigers with the added complexity of human personalities. Predators though they are, they still feel a relationship with whatever traditions they grew up with, but how they kept them would depend on the individual. Alessandro, my vampire hero, can be quite the generous Santa. Nevertheless, think twice before getting under the mistletoe with any of the coffin crowd. What to give a fangy friend?  Vamps never say no to personal adornment. A gift card to a trendy boutique is sure to please.

 

There are other species, like the ghouls and demons, that just don’t call holly jolly stuff to mind—but we’ll ignore them for now. There are plenty of challenges and more than enough darkness for the other 364 days of the year. Even dark heroes—perhaps especially them—need to see the sparkle of lights once in a while.

 

 

And that’s the best moment of all–when everything’s wrapped, baked and ready, and I can sit and stare at the tree. What’s your favorite moment of the season?

 

Bright blessings for the holidays and all the best for the New Year.

 

 

Mistletoe and mayhem
by Annette McCleave on December 23rd, 2008

Like Jessa, my books involve battles with demons, and I don’t often think of my characters celebrating Christmas.

But some of them definitely do.

I have human characters as well as immortal characters in each of my stories, and the world in which they live is very much like this one. Christmas trees, presents, turkeys. The usual stuff. I can easily picture them sitting around the holiday table discussing Peace on Earth. More specifically, discussing how they’re intending to ensure it comes to pass.

I’ve also got angels, and let’s face it, those celestial beings see Christmas as a pretty significant event. I don’t see them doing a lot of caroling on high, though. Usually, they’re busy preventing demons from spoiling the celebrations.

As for the Soul Gatherers? Most of them have seen a few too many Christmases already and would much rather avoid the whole sordid mess. Besides, demons don’t take a break from stealing souls on Christmas Day, so taking time off to relax in front of the fireplace is really just wishful thinking.

Hmmm.

Just just thinking about Christmas in Soul Gatherer country makes me grateful for the quiet moments I’ll spend with my family, the pleasure I’ll get in watching my daughter open her gifts, and the hugs I’ll get in return. Of course, if one of those hunky Gatherers needs some company over the holidays, I’ll be there for him, too.

How about you? How will you spend your holidays?

A season for writing. Or not.
by Jessa Slade on December 22nd, 2008

Congratulations to Zita Hildebrandt, winner of the unicorn gift from Sharon Ashwood.

The Silk And Shadows holiday gifting comment contest will continue after the actual holidays. Meanwhile, our topic this week is “Our characters at Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/Solstice/etc.”

Working on: Stuck on Chapter 10, having been derailed by said holidays
Mood: Restless

I haven’t been able to settle to my writing for the last couple weeks.  Distracted by the holidays, sweetie’s birthday, blowing snow, boarding a second dog, arranging for an author photo from some suitable body double, [insert additional excuses as needed], I can’t seem to get many coherent words on the page.

So why start now?

As I tried to imagine a holiday themed story for my characters, I choked.  My heroine fights demons.  She doesn’t have time to reapply her lip balm much less wrap presents or bake cookies.  So unless an incorporeal demonic emanation possesses the Christmas ham…

Sometimes I envy her.

Which is, of course, ridiculous, and not just because she’s a character in a book.  Her existence is dangerous and rife with conflicts both internal and external.  Still, it rings with clarity.  Her choices may be monumentally difficult and possibly fatal (’cuz isn’t that more fun to read?) but she lives every moment to the fine edge.  So here are three lessons I’m trying to channel from my heroine this holiday season:

  • Don’t waste time.  The world is shopping days are coming to an end.  Make every second count.
  • When time is running out, remember what is important.  (Hint: It ain’t lump-free icing.)
  • Don’t forget to say I love you.

What lessons have you taken away from your favorite novels?

Even more happy holiday prizes!
by Sharon Ashwood on December 19th, 2008

We’ll select the third winner of our weekly contest on Monday the 22nd.  Thanks to all who’ve commented so far!

Our third week’s prize is from Sharon Ashwood:

Sharon says: “Pamper your inner princess with a collection of little book luxuries: a $10 Amazon gift card, a pretty notebook and special pen to write down titles for your wish list, a fancy bookmark and aromatherapy candles to soothe you while you read. Oh, and what princess is complete without her own unicorn?”

Just leave a comment on any post this week and you’ll have a chance to win.  Get a friend to leave a comment (and your name) and both of you will have two chances to win.  Scroll down to ANY post this week and tell us your thoughts!  And thank you for visiting!

Dazed and Confused
by KimLenox on December 19th, 2008

Where do my ideas come from? I really don’t know. Am I allowed to answer that way?

I get idea ”glimmers”. (Do you see the glimmer at the end of that tunnel?) Readers have asked where I got the idea for the Shadow Guard, and NIGHT FALLS DARKLY. It started with glimmers. And let me tell you … glimmers don’t make a whole lot of sense starting off, at least not in my mind. They are a lot like fireflies. “Look, it’s over there!”  “Oh, wait. No it’s not. It’s over THERE!”

I saw the film, MEET JOE BLACK, years ago and I’ve always thought it was a really neat concept, a paranormal being living amongst us, doing his necessary work, and trying to remain separate and apart – but one person, one woman, steals his heart. I couldn’t help but ask: why her, after all those centuries? It’s an impossible love story that works out in the end. I love impossible love stories that work out in the end, so all my romances will be YES, impossible. At first.

Eventually I started to pair up that concept with the Victorian era - my favorite. Victorians were quirky, morally confused and obsessed with all things sensational. What fun

But there was also a very dark side to their society. A tragic side. In the past, I’d read Victorian accounts of “educated” and “upstanding” citizens taking secret tours along the dark streets of London, and interacting with the lower classes, and viewing (for the sake of knowledge!) all the bizarre, exotic and forbidden entertainments and curiosities that the other side of town had to offer. You know, like they were at a zoo, observing the animals. (Glimmer!) In this society, there was so much potential for misery, and as I’ve said before — light always glows the brightest in the dark. (Glimmer!)

And so I decided to combine those glimmers with a bit of the fantastical – LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, DRACULA and mildly steam-punkish elements. See, lots of glimmers. Lots of influences. They all just come together like a big soggy pile of clay, and I start shaping and rearranging things until a story emerges. Me, a linear thinker? No, no, no! I wish. I’m busy working on the proposal for my third Shadow Guard book right now, and I’m just blinded by glimmers (and soggy clay). But I love it! 

On a more concrete note: One thing that’s always a standard for me is that my books will detail my characters’ “BIGGEST MOMENT”.  The moment they have to face their biggest danger, challenge or fear. There’s emotion in all that drama. Love, passion, adventure, pain and even grief add richness and dimension to a person’s life. Do any of you ever get the feeling, while watching TV, or moving about in whatever professional or social circle, that some people never scratch the surface of their personal depth and life’s meaning and emotion? I do. And so I’m determined when I sit down to write a book, that my characters (and therefore, my readers) will see and feel and act on a large scale. I want rational, yes, but out of the box. Big picture. Global view. I really want everyone to see beyond their noses.

Anyhow, that’s how I got the idea for NIGHT FALLS DARKLY, and that’s how most of my story ideas seem to come about as well. I’m thinking I probably just scared some of you off from reading any of my books. <<bites lip>> I hope not.

Who’s reading new books over the holiday!?! Make sure you post a comment, so you’ll be entered in our contest!

Cooking Up Ideas
by Our Guest on December 18th, 2008
I’m a daydreamer. Always have been. One of the great things about being a writer is that I can sit staring into thin air indulging in my wildest fantasies and say, “Hey, I’m working…I’m plotting.” I’ve always also had a sneaking suspicion I was born in the wrong century. I just feel more “right” when I’m around old things, while too much modern sets me on edge just a little bit.
Idle daydream, or brilliant plotting? Only the author knows for sure!
 
I’ve always said I don’t have the foggiest idea how to plot a contemporary story. I read contemporaries and enjoy them, but my mind becomes a bumbling blank when it comes to envisioning enough plot points to fill a book. Give me a historical setting, however, and suddenly my passion fires up and my imagination kicks into high gear.
 
I usually start with a simple premise — what happens when a young woman with an insatiable curiosity encounters a man with a lot to hide and everything to lose? That example is from Dark Temptation, but around a basic kernel like that my stories grow layer by layer, often in successive drafts and with a lot of help from the historic accounts I read as I do my research. Cornish history is rich with tales of pirates and smugglers, secret tunnels and wild ocean storms that sent many a ship crashing into the coastline. That all found its way into my story, both in setting and actual plot. It never fails that in doing research I’ll stumble upon some specific event or person that fits right into my theme, which was the case with the real life pirate, Lady Mary Killigrew, who became the basis for my fictional Meg Keating, whose ghost might or might not be terrorizing the characters in the story. But until I discovered the real Lady Mary, that element didn’t exist in Dark Temptation.
Lady Mary Killigrew, or the evil Meg Keating? Wait, both were pretty evil!
*
 So my germ of an idea when mixed with research becomes bigger ideas and subplots, which in turn leads to more research and more ideas. Sometimes when I start a book I worry that I won’t have enough material to fill 350 plus pages, but I always do — in fact I usually end up trimming. It’s a process I’ve learned to trust.
 
Allison’s Plotting Recipe:
1. One pint daydream — as in, what if I were lost and found myself in a mystical churchyard…would I trust the brooding stranger who wrapped me in his arms?
2. Sprinkle with several generous pinches of historical detail
3. Fold in a scoop each of pacing, conflict, motivation, relationship issues
4. Whip all ingredients to a vigorous froth
5. Bring to a passionate boil, then simmer until plot thickens.  
 
What’s your recipe for a delicious story?