Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Guest Blogger Jeanette Grey - But What If I'm Not Normal??

One of my favorite things about writing romances is coming up with new characters. I love fleshing them out, giving them names, figuring out who they are and what makes them tick. Like many writers, I find little bits and pieces of myself seeping into my characters here and there. I mean, it's unavoidable, right? We write about the things we know, and even if we're trying not to, our own experiences color how we see things, which colors how our characters see things.

But here's the problem: Apparently, characters are supposed to be relatable. Normal, even.

Big problem. Because I'm not normal.

For starters, I've been a vegetarian for ten years. Every time I write a scene that involves food, I get all antsy, trying to decide what normal people would eat. I mean, my red-blooded alpha male probably isn't going to go for the veggie tempura, right?

For another, I'm a former science teacher who's married to an engineer. Star Trek passes for pop culture in my household, and new articles from Scientific American are fodder for small talk.

I still cling to music from the nineties. I don't understand skinny jeans, and I haven't had long, sexy locks since I was sixteen. My house hasn't been clean since about then, either.

Mind you, I'm not so out of touch with the real world that I can't glean some elements of normalcy from it and use that to help infuse my characters. It's a buffer of sorts around the bits of crazy that inevitably do find their way in. Because, sure, I try to keep my own idiosyncrasies from overwhelming my characters, but I've long since given up trying to keep them out completely.

While I want my characters to be relatable, I'm starting to get that normal is relative. Too much 'normalcy' runs the risk of becoming generic, and while a vegetarian, geeky, flannel/baggy-jeans-wearing, short-haired mess might be tipping the scales too far in the other direction, a little quirk is what makes everyone interesting.

So, yeah, I'm not normal. And my characters aren't either.

But that's okay. Because, to me at least, that makes them real.

About Unacceptable Risk:

She may learn to live for love…if vengeance doesn’t kill her first.

Plix spends her lonely, gritty life trying to solve the mysteries her father left behind. Armed with a variety of cybernetic enhancements and a talent for getting into places she shouldn’t be, she searches for clues to his murder—and who’s responsible for poisoning her city.

Waking up on a street corner with her brain wiring fried to a crisp, she figures she must have gotten close this time. There’s only one man she trusts to pull her back from the brink: a tuner who can retrieve the evidence hidden deep in the recesses of her mind. A man she dares not let too close to her heart.

When Edison downloads a secret SynDate schematic from Plix’s burnt-out circuitry, he knows with dreadful finality that nothing—not even the fiery kiss he’s been holding back for years—will stop her from pursuing her quest past the point of insanity.

All he can do, as he helps her plan her final mission, is ease her pain, watch her back…and hope one of them doesn’t pay with their lives.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Unacceptable-Risk-ebook/dp/B005OVZ7X0
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/unacceptable-risk-jeanette-grey/1105946840
Samhain Store: http://store.samhainpublishing.com/unacceptable-risk-p-6566.html

About Jeanette Grey:

After brief, unsatisfying careers in advertising, teaching, computers, and homemaking, Jeanette Grey has returned to her two first loves: romance and writing.

When she isn’t writing, Jeanette enjoys making pottery, playing board games, and spending time with her husband and her pet frog. She lives, loves, and writes in North Carolina.

She is a member of Romance Writers of America and Carolina Romance Writers.

Website: http://www.jeanettegrey.com/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/jeanettelgrey

Monday, January 30, 2012

Five things I wish I'd learned about Twitter early on

1. Hashtags are a great way to spread your tweet to a targeted group--but #please don't #overuse #hashtags because that's #really #annoying! #socialmedia #socmed #tip

2. 3rd party management programs, like HootSuite, Seesmic, or Tweetdeck provide more versatility than the twitter website. You can keep track of your lists, hashtags you follow, AND your facebook profiles and pages, all from the same program. Also, these three have mobile app versions, so you can use your phone or tablet to keep up to date.

3. The Buffer app is a great way to not only ensure that you always have tweets going out (you pre-write and queue them up), but the program analyzes your follower activity and sends out your tweets at the optimal times. I like to use this as I'm going through my RSS feed and find interesting articles to share.
4. Put your link 25% of the way through your tweet, and you're more likely to get click-throughs. (Courtesy of Dan Zarella)
5. Follow the 80-20 rule: keep self-promotion to NO MORE than 20% of your outgoing tweets. The other 80% should be general interest information and conversation. This rule holds true for Facebook too.

What have you learned about Twitter that has optimized your usage and made you a more savvy tweeter?

Friday, January 27, 2012

This Post Has No Title

Yep, that's right. No title. 'Cause I'm just that out of ideas. Blame it on the move from hell. Blame it on the migraine from hell. Blame it on depression or an excess amount of stress, or, you know, whatever.  But never mind that.  On with the post...

I took a day off this week. I mean really off. You know how people like to say that some days are just not worth getting out of bed for? That was Wednesday. I woke up with a headache (the aforementioned migraine) that I just knew was going to get worse, and I decided nothing was going to be gained by my getting up. So I didn't. And it was nice. It gave me a much-needed break and a chance to re-charge my creative batteries a little bit...or at least I like to think it did.

Anyway, that's what today's post is all about: taking a break, re-filling the creative well, all that good stuff. And, since a picture's worth a thousand words (and because, frankly, my brain's not yet up to speed anyway) I'm using pictures to make my point. Specifically, I'm using the pictures created by Julian Beever...

Julian Beever does the most amazing pavement art. Things like this:

Or this: 

Or this:

 I have to admit I love the "behind the scenes" shots just as much. I love knowing how things work. I love the magic involved in crafting illusions. Because that's really what art is all about, isn't it? Creating something that your mind or your heart or your eyes can believe in--if only for a little while.

So I love knowing that this...

Also looks like this...

Or this...

Looks like this:

To see more, check out the website at: http://www.julianbeever.net/pave.htm And TGIF. Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Put a Raincoat On That Soldier!

Like most romance writers, I have to write the occasional sex scene (actually, more than occasional unless you want your book to slide into the “sweet” category). And like most romance writers, I grapple with a central point—who’s going to be responsible for protection this time around?

Actually, it’s not much of a struggle. Most of us go with the guy and condoms. As a matter of fact, I actually had a reader ask me once why none of the women in Konigsburg took the pill because it seemed to him the men were always the ones who did the protecting.

I’m not sure why I do my scenes this way. But I think one reason I have my heroes doing the protection rather than my heroines may well be because I want to be very upfront about my characters using safe sex, and having the hero take responsibility makes that very obvious. Contrary to the misconceptions of some uninformed critics, romance novels have stressed safe sex at least from the nineties on (and I’m guessing it showed up in at least some novels in the eighties). We may not have the obsession with Big Ideas that characterizes our lit fic brethren, but we do have a few points most of us are adamant about, and safe sex is one of them.
Still, getting that safe sex into the book can sometimes be a pain and a half. Picture it: Hero and heroine are hot to trot. They’re shucking off their clothes and heading for the first flat surface that appeals to them. They’re there. They’re ready. And…where’s the condom? Oh, okay, it’s back in the hero’s pants. Where are his pants? Back in the hall where he shucked them. Rats.

Okay, maybe the heroine has a condom box in her bedside table. But then all of a sudden it’s the heroine who’s telling the hero she’s got condoms. And suddenly the plot takes a possibly unexpected turn. Because whenever one of the characters actually talks about protection, that makes protection itself a plot point. Now that may work (I used it myself in Wedding Bell Blues), but it may introduce a conversation you don’t need or want in a sex scene.

So assuming we’re going to let the hero do the protecting, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. If the hero is naked, he can’t whip a condom out unless he has it concealed in some really unfortunate place

2. Condoms themselves can be funny if that’s appropriate to the story. Linda Howard does this (hilariously) in Open Season.

3. Although the hero produces the condom, the heroine can always put it on him.

4. Few writers actually deal with the details of disposing of a condom after sex just because it doesn’t seem necessary. On the other hand, it’s worth pointing out that multiple sex acts require multiple condoms, something erotica writers have to contend with.

Actually, I just wrote a couple of stories that had a heroine tell the hero she was on the pill, and it wasn’t that hard. Still, I’m not sure what’s going to happen from now on. It’s sort of on a case-by-case basis.

And my title? That was the advice the father of my son’s friend gave him after stumbling haplessly through the “responsible sex” lecture. It may sound a little weird, but it’s still apt.

So, dear readers, what do you think? Do condoms in a story make you squick? Seen anybody do a good job of working in birth control pills? Or do you just wish the whole issue would disappear (here’s a hint: it won’t)?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Guest Blogger Gabriella Hewitt - The Ultimate Hero

Lately, I have been doing a lot of soul searching and I’m thinking I need more than a flashlight and a plastic bag to get rid of half the garbage I am touting around.

Sometimes I need to take a step back and realize that crap is going to pile up along with the laundry, that someone is going to piss me off with some irrelevant rude comment and I’m going to lose my car keys when I need to go pick up my kids from school.

Just when I think things have gotten out of control and I want to vent to the world, then I go food shopping and listen to the woman at the checkout counter talk about how she has to finish up her shift and go to her night job to pay her way through college, or listen to a kid beg his father for a candy bar but dad quietly tells him “no” and then gives the cashier a WIC check. That is when it hits me that my life is good and I shouldn’t complain. Then I go home and watch an episode of Real Housewives, shake my head, kiss my washing machine and get down to business with the dirty laundry.

Hey, I’m human and life has a way of getting messy, but that’s okay because it’s those messy bits that make for a good story.

I take those little moments of eavesdropping in on the drama unfolding with my neighbors and wonder how I can make a hero appear out of all that mess, give a girl some hope and somewhere in there drop a big, scary monster to slay.

The world needs heroes and I am more than happy to oblige. The opportunity to get lost in another place, to leave behind all the stupid stuff, even if just for a moment, brings me joy. The satisfaction of getting to chop off a head or tear down a wall and be the big, bad bitch I always wanted to be, is priceless.

I think it is the beauty of being a writer, the opportunity to escape and solve all the problems of the world with a strong man with a dark soul and a huge sword, as in the case of my Aztec Shadow Warriors, a macuahuitl. Best of all, I get to showcase some hot and heavy lovemaking that transcends the universe and defeats evil.

Tomás is my perfect hero, muscular, tan, dark eyes, and long black hair. He was born to be a warrior, a lone sexy male with a beastly side that can’t be tamed. Tomás is a lost soul with the burden of destroying demons that plague the earth and while trying to save humanity. ((SIGH)) Now I wonder if he can save me from my laundry hell…Then he truly would be the ultimate hero.

Do you have a perfect hero? What would he look like, what powers would he have, and how could he save your day?

Leave a comment and be entered to win an ebook copy of OUT OF THE SHADOWS.

OUT OF THE SHADOWS ~ Samhain Publishing~ Available Now

Book 1 in the Shadow Warriors series.

With each demon he vanquishes in service to the Aztec sun god, Tomás fulfills his duty to defend humankind—and surrenders another piece of his humanity to his wolf spirit. All hope seems lost until a mission leads him to the door of the one thing he thought he’d never find…his spirit mate. The only woman who can save him from oblivion.

When Carolina hears the wolf’s howl, it pierces the very core of her lonely heart. Yet she dare not answer. As the last guardian of her land and the secret it contains, she is haunted by the mistake that cost the lives of her family. Never will she repeat that mistake, especially with a warrior who is more beast than man.

Chasing away the demon is easier than breaching the barriers around the heart of the young woman who possesses a strange power over water—and his very soul. But if they are to survive the night, he must convince her they are destined to stand together.

When the last shadow warrior falls, so will all humanity.

SHADOW VISIONS ~ Book 2~coming March 20th ~Samhain Publishing

About the author:
Gabriella Hewitt is the pen name of creative writing talents Sasha Tomaszycki and Patrizia M.J. Hayashi. Together they weave tales of romantic suspense and dangerously sensual paranormals. Check out the website www.GabriellaHewitt.com to find out about upcoming releases and events on their blog. You can also follow them on Twitter: @GabriellaHewitt.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I F$#&ing love swearing!

 I grew up with a father whose language was colourful,  to say the least (and hilarious, truth be told). When I was a kid, my sister and I had a “cuss box” where we made my dad put a quarter in every time he swore. We made a lot of money off it, while wearing our little clean-mouthed halos.

It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started using swear words, and at first it was actually uncomfortable for me. In fact, I’m not sure when it became so comfortable for me to swear. My friends swear. I’ve always had a lot of “guy friends” and they swear a lot. When I started working, I found a lot of people swore in the office. I do know that when I got married, I had to learn to watch what I said around my straight-laced in-laws. Had a few embarrassing moments when things slipped out in front of them. Then when I had kids, I had to watch what I said even more. It actually wasn’t that hard, once the habit was broken.

As the kids got older, my tongue got looser. Then they learned swear words from their friends that I`d never heard of, LOL.

Now, I fucking love swearing!

So I was interested to learn recently that there are benefits to swearing. People need an outlet for strong emotions. It helps relieve stress, blow off steam. It can also help establish a group identity, express solidarity with other people, and express trust and intimacy (apparently mostly when women swear in the presence of other women). It can also add humour, emphasis or "shock value"(I’m particularly fond of that!) Also swearing when you’re in pain can apparently help you endure more pain. This is kind of funny, because the doctor who led the research into this got the idea for the study after watching his wife give birth to their daughter while swearing a blue streak while she pushed and pushed. 

I can relate to that.

Who hasn’t stubbed their toe and yelled out a resounding “FUCK!” Well, it turns out there’s a good reason for yelling out a swear word (or maybe a few!). It’s part of the “fight or flight” response. It’s aggressive, which helps reduce your sensitivity to pain.

What is it about certain words that can do that?

Swear words fall into different categories:

Deistic (related to religion): Jesus Christ! Oh my God!
Visceral (related to the human body and its functions): Fuck! Shit!
Relating to someone’s ancestry or parentage: Bitch! Bastard!

My most recently completed manuscript, One Man Advantage, features a heroine who is French Canadian. She`s fluently bilingual, but she swears in French. A lot of French swearing is the “deistic” type, which are curses against the Catholic church, for example: Mon ostie de saint-sacrament de câlice de crisse! You can’t even really translate that, it doesn’t make any sense. But it’s bad. Very bad.

Researchers have theorized that men swear to create a masculine identity and women swear to be more like men. I don’t know about that. I think I swear for the reasons above. I swear when I’m stuck in traffic and frustrated. I swear when someone pisses me off. I swear when I hurt myself. I probably would have sworn a lot while delivering my babies, but I was too conscious of the other people around. Now I know I should have, it probably would have helped the pain!
But it does seem more socially acceptable for men to swear than for women. In my writing, my characters swear but I do tend to have my men swear more, and more vulgarly, than my female characters. To me, this is how real people talk. A guy who says, “Oh darn,” or “oh fudge” just isn’t going to be realistic to me. My female characters swear too, because again, that’s realistic to me, but they swear in different ways and at different times. I’m more aware of my language when I’m with people I don’t know...I won’t swear in front of them. And certainly in business situations like meetings, and especially with clients, I don’t swear. And neither do my female characters. But my male characters might. And they do swear in bed.

My favourite swear word is the F word. It’s so versatile. So expressive. From “What the fuck? to “He’s fucking nuts” to “Fuck off” to “Fuck me” ― there are so many different ways to use it. But it has to be used in moderation. Otherwise, it loses its impact.

So what do you think? Do you swear? What are your favourite swear words?