Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lots of good stuff

There's so much good news I hardly know where to begin! I've been working tons of overtime so I finally put some of it to get use. Our furniture was in pitiful condition. I have this odd idea that furniture is a permanent investment that once made, never has to be made again. Of course, my general cheapskate tendencies have always been strengthened by my family who love to give me their cast-off furniture so I never have to buy anything.

Well, I finally bought some brand, spanking new furniture! Got it delivered, too (instead of hauling it to the house sticking out of the back of our pickup truck). Went whole-hog.

That beauty of a chair my husband so loved, that leaned to the left and had the stuffing come out of it has been replaced. Even though the old chair is still sitting on our porch, waiting for us to haul it away to the "green box mall" (i.e. dumpsters) in the back of our pickup truck.

Yes. We're hicks. Which is an odd confession for someone who writes Regency romances set in the early 1800's in England. And who even went to school for a year at the University of Scotland in Aberdeen (a truly gorgeous place). But whatever. We are what we are.

And here is our NEW furniture! Looks just like the old junk, except the stuffin' has yet to come out. But give it time...

And the new furniture isn't all the "news fit to print" although some of it (the really, really GREAT stuff) will have to wait until it gets confirmed later in the year.

More good news: I've got two, count 'em TWO, new books coming out within the next couple of months!

The Bricklayer's Helper, a Regency romantic mystery, will be out August 6!

Vampire Protector, a contemporary paranormal romance will be out Nov 12!

And over the next few months, I've got all kinds of interviews and blogging dates with all kinds of wonderful people!
I've already got the following dates:

I blog with Romance in the Backseat the first of every month about gardening (another of my hobbies).

On the 3rd of every month, I blog with Voices of the Heart about whatever hits my fancy.

On the 18th of every month, I blog on my publisher's historical site, The Wild Rose Press Historical Authors, about all things historical.

The wonderful blog at  The LoveStruck Novice will be interviewing me on August 6, just in time for my Regency romance release.

And I promise there will be a lot more! Pretty exciting stuff.
I also have a third book coming out soon, a Regency romance entitled, The Necklace, from Highland Press. It's been a little delayed, but I still have hopes that it will come out this year. It is actually the "prequel" to I Bid One American. Once it gets released, I'll have three books in the Archer family series:
The Necklace
I Bid One American
The Bricklayer's Helper

Although they don't have to be read in any particular order, it does give a better "feel" for the family's history and interlocking stories if they are read (at some point) in that order.

Right now, I'm editing another Archer family book (it's gone through several titles, none of which I adore, but at the moment, I'm tentatively calling it: The Adventurers) as well as writing a contemporary mystery.

Things are moving right along, although they'd move a little more swiftly if I wasn't working all this overtime. :-) But I can't complain since the overtime did get me brand new furniture.

Finally, I added a picture from our garden, which is blooming with daylillies at the moment. Our veggies are also putting out all kinds of produce, including tomatoes, squash, and eggplants, so I probably need to get a move on and get outside. The weather has been atrocious with very high temperatures, so I'm spending a lot of time watering the plants (as well as the dogs and me).

Just for the heck of it, I also included a picture of the road to the mailbox. Despite the heat, the doggies enjoy romping through the cornfields on our 1/2 of a mile trek to the mailbox. It's not exactly uphill box ways, but that 1/2 of a mile feels like it on a hot day! But walking it does give me a much needed mile of exercise at least once a day.

Enjoy the weather and stay tuned--I'm hoping for more good news this summer, plus a release date for The Necklace!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Characters and their Code

Sometimes in writing contests, writers get lower marks and comments like, “I couldn’t warm up to your hero or heroine.” And although there really aren’t any rules, there are a few (very few) guidelines. Over the past few years, I’ve randomly written about characterization, and this is yet another blog on that topic, albeit with a slightly different spin.

Great characters need to have well-defined motivation that the reader understands and accepts. That’s a given. But sometimes, it’s hard to get “cozy” with a character because you can’t trust the character to do the right thing. That’s not to say heroes and heroines can’t make mistakes, or poor decisions, but they have to have the right reasons. Characters must have weaknesses or they won’t be realistic, however when push comes to shove, those weaknesses can't stop them from doing the right thing.

I always think about Monk (the massively phobic TV detective in the TV show “Monk”) and Becker (the truly obnoxious doctor with the big mouth in the TV show “Becker”) when it comes to great characterization. There is no doubt that given their personalities, they are about as far from “loveable” as you can get. But the odd thing is, you do love them and care about them. Why? Because when push comes to shove, they do the right thing. They may grumble and complain about it until you want to kill them, but they will come through for you.

You can trust them.

Interestingly enough, the comedy in “Becker” mostly consists of him SAYING the wrong thing—something mean and nasty—but immediately following that up by DOING something extraordinarily kind for someone who really needs help. He is a compassionate and caring doctor, even when he spouts the most horrible, mean and nasty drivel. And Monk may be germ-phobic, but he'll go into a sewer to save someone and solve a murder.

And that's the point. The bad qualities don't get in the way of doing the right thing. And in Becker's case, actions speak much louder than words. Becker and Monk will always come through in the end, regardless of their complaints.

The rules? Now, keep in mind these are mostly for romance genres, but they are still mostly true for almost every other form of fiction. Break the rules at your peril and with full knowledge of what you are doing.

1) Heroes and heroines can never cheat on spouses. Ever. And they can't really cheat on their betrothed, either. No cheating. There are ways around this, e.g. she thought her husband was dead, etc, but if you want a hero or heroine to be sympathetic, he or she cannot cheat on his/her partner. Otherwise, you're talking literary genres that are depressing and unromantic.

2) Heroes and heroines must do the right thing. They can grumble about it.

They can moan about it. But in the end, they have to do the right thing.

3) Heroes and heroines must be smart. They can make the wrong decision, but they can't be dumb about it. We all make bad choices because few—if any—of us can see the future or have all the facts. But we think we're making the only possible, and right, decision when we make it. It sounds logical and reasonable, given the available information. The audience must agree with this, even when it turns out horribly. And it must turn out horribly for there to be a story.

4) Heroes and heroines must be willing to sacrifice themselves for others at the critical point. They must be honest and have personal integrity. If they are a crook, they must have a personal code they live by—even if that code is warped. That's why we can love a hitman—because he acts with honor within his code (i.e. he gives back the money if he fails to kill the mark, etc).

Yes—they can have faults, but the reader must know that when the chips are down, the hero and heroine will do the right thing. That makes the character worthy of the reader's trust and sympathy. If the hero or heroine fails to act with integrity, then the reader's trust is broken. The writer must then redouble his efforts to regain that trust and make the hero/heroine still sympathetic. Each time the trust is broken, it will be harder to repair, until no repair is possible.

The real key is giving the character some sort of code, regardless of how warped it is, and making that character stick to it. Think of Mel Gibson in “Payback”. He was bad. Really bad. He did some pretty horrible things and yet…two factors made us go along with him:

  • We understood his motivation—after all, they betrayed and tried to kill him 
  •  He had his own, consistent code of behavior. He was internally honorable to his code. 
His code was his promise to the audience that he was worthy of our attention and affection.

Personal integrity may be an outdated concept, but it's still key to good fiction.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Special Guest Author: Wynter Daniels

And now for something completely Monty Python used to say. I'm featuring another writer, today.


Wynter Daniels is the naughty alter ego of contemporary romance author Dara Edmondson She lives in Central Florida with her husband of more than twenty years and their two nearly grown children. They are all the slaves of two very demanding cats. After careers in marketing and the salon industry, Wynter’s wicked prose begged to be set free. You can find her steamy contemporary romances at



Copyright © WYNTER DANIELS, 2010
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.

Chapter One

Marin Shay stared through her barred bedroom window and watched a man dressed all in black get out of a limousine in the circular drive. Over the estate’s high wall she glimpsed a dozen or so tall news van antennae. Backing away from the glass, she let the heavy curtain fall into place.

Those tabloid people with their long-distance lenses never relented. Wasn’t it enough that they’d splashed her dirty laundry over the covers of their newspapers and magazines for years? Did they have to know every minute detail of her life?

Didn’t matter now. Soon enough she’d be on her way to her yearly escape. No paparazzi, no scripts or directors, no cameras flashing in her face. And no entertainment empire to run.

A gentle knock tore her attention to the task at hand. She slipped on a curly blonde wig resembling her natural hair. “Yes?”

Joseph, her newest bodyguard, poked his head into the room. “They’re ready, Miss Shay.”

“Thank you.” She managed a smile, although she suspected Joseph would eventually sell any information he’d glean from working for her. A former maid had fetched a five-figure bounty for a pair of Marin’s panties on eBay just weeks ago. Her last hairdresser had auctioned off clippings of her hair. The obsession with anything and everything she’d ever touched or worn baffled her.

And that was precisely why no one in her employ had all the details of her travel plans. The two weeks of privacy were well worth the four flights, the dozen disguises, the hours she spent making her own arrangements under aliases. She’d even paid two decoys this time, rather than her usual one.

Unable to resist, she teased back the edge of the curtain again and observed a woman who looked amazingly like her slip inside the limo. Minutes later, as the car cleared the gate, most of the news vans hurried after like hungry dogs chasing a scrap of meat.

She couldn’t contain her curiosity at the spectacle in the driveway. The other decoy—cloaked in Marin’s own black designer cape and oversized sunglasses—hurried into an SUV with dark tinted windows. The driver loaded four Louis Vuitton bags into the back. As the sun set the vehicle pulled away and headed toward the gate. The remaining news vans took the bait and sped after it. Perfect.

She sucked in a relieved breath as all the tension evaporated. After removing the wig, she glanced in the mirror and hardly recognized her own reflection. She’d never colored her own hair before, had no idea how easy it was. Flat ironing had taken less than twenty minutes. Her signature blonde curls were gone, replaced by straight brown hair pulled back in a simple ponytail. Dark contacts and wire-rim glasses hid her blue eyes and her complete lack of makeup made her look like a teenager.

She tucked her hair into a cloth turban then slipped a wide-brimmed hat over that, making sure no stray brown locks escaped. The staff didn’t need to know she masqueraded as a brunette. Satisfied with her transformation, she strode from the room and headed to the mansion’s service entrance.

Fifteen hours and four flights later, she climbed out of an ordinary-looking rental car in Roatan,Honduras, with the men she’d hired to be both bodyguards and decoy husband and son. No matter that she and both men were around thirty, or that the bigger one looked at least part African-American. With a little Hollywood magic she’d picked up from her years in the business, they appeared to be a fifty-ish couple with their twenty-ish son.

The place she’d rented appeared exactly as it had in the pictures. Three stories of pastel blue dollhouse directly on the beach with a balcony wrapped around each level. She inhaled a breath scented with saltwater and flowers as she took in the view. More orchids than she’d ever seen grew in flowerbeds near the entrance. Mountains to the north contrasted with the ocean to the south. Several coconut palms flanked one side of the house, providing a little privacy from any telephoto lenses, although no one could possibly guess she was here. Even the bodyguards didn’t know who she was and hopefully had bought her story about being an heiress on vacation in need of privacy. One spoke passable Spanish, which might come in handy if she decided to venture into town, though she probably wouldn’t.

Inside the house, she waited for the men to close all the blinds before taking off the salt-and-pepper wig. The heavy, confining cage of her world fell away. She found her old, easy smile, the one she’d worn before fame had transformed her. The need to scrub herself clean of Hollywood’s poison suddenly overwhelmed her. “I don’t know about you two, but I’m dying for a shower.”

“Me too. But I’ll wait until you’re through in case the water pressure is a problem.” Tony, the man who’d played her son, gave her a wink. Most women would kill to have those thick, dark eyelashes. “The right amount of pressure is important.” His gaze dropped to her breasts, then rose to her eyes.

Awareness hummed through her, hardening her nipples to painful points. Automatically, she folded her arms over her chest. Lifting her chin higher, she pulled in a breath infused with the scent of his spicy cologne and male sweat. She grinned, wondered if he could take what he dished out. “I just hope it’s big enough.” She made a show of staring at the bulge in his pants. “I like big ones.”

That elicited another wink, this one more playful—and more inviting. “I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.”

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