Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Misfits: Fairy Tales' Misunderstood

So lately I’ve been kind of preoccupied with fairy tales. It’s almost as if I’m writing a series on them with some really cool, sexy name like Fairy Tales Unleashed. Or something like that. As I was saying, I’ve been reading a lot of fairy tales lately. You have your old favorites. Sleeping Beauty. Snow White. Beauty and the Beast. And then there are your lesser known tales. Brother and Sister. The Six Swans. The Bushy Bride. Seriously, I did not make that up. Reading these stories have brought back so many memories of my mother, sister and I sitting on the couch while she read The Boy Who Cried Wolf and Billy Goat Gruff to us. *sigh* Those were great times. Great stories. And some serious WTF moments. Listen, I know the great thing about fairy tales is the happily-ever-after but, man, some characters were stuck with really raw deals! I mean they were shafted! I know what you’re thinking. That’s crazy talk! Or get a grip! But follow me here for a moment…

The Six Swans. In this story the most obvious people wronged are the six brothers that were turned into swans by their evil stepmother. But the sister, who not only has to sew—sew?? For real??—six shirts for them is also struck mute and is unable to laugh for six years—the number of years she has to complete these shirts before the enchantment is permanent. Raw deal #1. Then a king sees her, is mesmerized by her beauty and marries her. All good, right? But no, another wicked stepmother steals all three babies she births and blames their disappearance on the sister/queen. Does king-y stand by his woman? Nooo. Instead she’s sentenced to burn at the stake. Shaft #2. Just as the match is ready to be set to kindle, the six swan brothers flock to her, she throws the shirts that she’s finally finished in the air and her brothers return to human. Yay! Except, here’s Shaft #3. She didn’t have time to finish the sleeve of the youngest brother’s shirt so he has to live life with one wing. *&^%$#!!!

Rumpelstiltskin. The princess was treated so wrong, right? Wrong! There was one character in this story crying out here. And that was Rumpelstiltskin! Rumpy—as we’re calling him because, hey, Rumpel-etc.-etc. is simply too much to type!—is used for his talents, lied to, cheated on and he’s the bad guy. Now the miller’s daughter is conscripted into doing the impossible—turning straw into gold—because of liar-dreams-of-grandeur father. She faced execution from the greedy king but Rumpy shows up and does the task for a small price. I mean really, what’s a ring and necklace compared to her life? Well when Rumpy requests her firstborn in exchange for the last ginormous pile of straw, the miller’s daughter agrees. I mean she never imagined the greedy-selfish-fill-my-coffers-with-gold-or-I’ll-decapitate-you king would offer his hand in marriage and she would actually have a baby. So of course that’s enough reason to renege! What did Rumpy do but hold up his end of the bargain? He didn’t throw his daughter to the wolves. The miller did that. He didn’t threaten an innocent woman with beheading over the idea of gold. No, the kind did that. And he didn’t go back on his word, not delivering on his end of the bargain. The queen did that. So what does Rumpy get for being a man of his word? One foot in hell. Literally. Now I know what you’re thinking. But he wanted her baby. Look, I have kids and let’s face it. After one week with the kid, he would’ve given it back!

Sleeping Beauty. Just purge the Disney version of this tale out of your mind. Sleeping Beauty had her happily-ever-after but she went through straight Not-Heaven before she got it! First because Queen Mom neglected to invite one pissed-off fairy, Sleeping Beauty ended up with a curse over her head that they didn’t tell her about! Forget the fact that due to mom’s mistake—drink more ginkgo, lady!—a lot of people lost their livelihood with the banishment of the spindle! If they had only told Sleeping Beauty about the curse she wouldn’t have went anywhere near that spinning wheel, not to mention the creepy old lady locked up in a room she knew nothing about! That’s sooo not a red flag. So she pricks her finger and falls into a coma-like sleep for one hundred years. One hundred years! Do you know how many balls, parties and fashions she missed in a century? So she awakens to a kiss from a prince with no gum in sight. Que music. They all lived happily-ever…*screech* Nope, that’s so not the end of this story. The prince secretly weds Sleeping Beauty and keeps her his little secret from his stepmother. In the meantime he continues to make booty calls and she has two children. Where do these princesses in these tales find these men? Well when his father kicks the bucket, he ascends to the throne—and surprise!—springs his ready-made family on the stepmother, who happens to be wicked (No! Didn’t see that coming!) and of ogress lineage. Talk about the mother-in-law from hell! Her husband leaves on some kingly duty and abandons his wife and children to the tender care of his stepmother. Tender as in tender meat, because that’s what she tries to turn them into. Succulent tender meat on her dinner table. Long story short, Sleeping Beauty has to face the voracious appetite of her Shrek-like mother-in-law, save her kids from becoming rack of lamb and elude a pit of vipers. King shows up just in time and stepmother ends up in her own viper pit. All this because Sleeping Beauty’s mother forgot a name…this whole thing could have been avoided if her mother had just made an invite list to that doggone christening!

Did I make a believer out of you yet? Do you see what I mean about raw deals? C'mon! Jump on my bandwagon!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I'm Gearing Up!

It's almost that time of year again! National Novel Writing Month or more commonly known as NaNoWriMo! Whoo-hoo! Yay! (That's my Week One cheer...it'll sound a little less enthusiastic by Week Two...) This is the time of year when hundreds of thousands of people around the world come together in an awesome display of mass psychosis and tackle writing a 50,000 word novel in one month. Isn't it wonderful!!

I've attempted this monumental challenge three times before and have never achieved the 50,000 goal. I've fallen waaay short...oh yeah, way short. But out of those three times I participated I discovered an amazing writing community, not to mention the reincarnation of my first published book, Sweet Ultimatum, and the start of Love and Protect, my second full-length novel with Ellora's Cave. I've had a ball!

This year, though, I am determined to knock out the 50k! I'm like Hulk-Hogan-meets-Rowdy-Roddy-Piper-flying-off-the-ropes going to knock it out! Yes, I just went old school with the wrestling analogy. But I want it! And in the last ten days I have amassed the requisite staples in order to have a successful November. I'm prepared ya'll!

1. And this may be why I came shy of the count in previous years. I found out I was supposed to have a hat! Sheesh! Why didn't anyone tell me? I know this disrupted my writing karma! But now I have my NaNoWriMo chapeau! Not only does it invoke thoughts of me tapping furiously away in a dim, smokey Irish pub while a light rain falls outside, misting the uneven cobblestones , but it also lets Thing 1 and Thing 2 know that when the cap is on I can't be distracted with run-downs of the latest iCarly episode or hear why Ray Mysterio can take out that Cena guy.

2. Coffee! What undertaking of this magnitude can be attempted without coffee?? And thanks to my sweet hubby I have a single cup coffee maker to supply all my caffeine related needs and cravings! I love you, sweetie! Mwah! Mwah!

3. Symphony bars. Turtle Chex Mix. Cherry Coke. Ranch flavored Pringles. The snacks of champions! With these four major food groups in my pantry and 'frig I fully expect to reach 50k...and ten pounds. But we must suffer for our art!

4. I must have my soundtrack! Music sets the mood for not just writing, but the story. I can lose myself in my compilation of 80s hits, Kenny G, Annie Lennox, The Police... And if I stop writing in the middle of a scene, I can go back to the song that was playing at the time and dive right back into the mood of the scene. Plus...I bought some really cool, mega-size headphones with the funkiest design! And nooo they are not to drown out my son playing the trumpet! How dare you suggest such a thing! He absolutely kills "Mary Had a Little Lamb"! Kill in a good way, I mean...

5. The WriteorDie program! I've been trying this out in the last week and it rocks! Talk about keeps you writing! Let me put it this way. You have the piercing sound of evil violins blare in the library just one time and see if you don't keep writing! Trust me when I say it's a tad bit embarrassing to have people peep at you over the top of their computer screens and roll their eyes. Hee-hee!

6. Okay, so I do have an outline. It's not cheating! I have a road map of where I'm headed and it helps plough through the Week Two sludge! Of course there is plenty of room for different turns that my characters may decide to take...but with my outline, I know where we will eventually end up...It's not cheating...

What I'm looking forward to most of all, though, is letting go. Believe it or not I've never had a rough draft of any of my novels. I edit so much as I write that I've never allowed myself to have a horrible, much needed revised draft. So this month I'm giving myself permission to write a bad book full of repetition, cliches, misplaced commas and misspells. It will need to be reviewed, edited and thesaurus-ed the hell out of! And you know what? I'm actually looking forward to it! Okay, folks! Happy NaNoWriMo!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Martial Discord and that Wooow Feeling

Yes, you heard it here. Only two weeks after celebrating my eleventh wedding anniversary I am now experiencing marital trouble. Though I love my husband, I just don’t know if I can forgive this betrayal. I’m angry, but more than that, I’m hurt. Last Friday he informed me that he intended to go see the remake of Footloose…how could he? This is about more than one hundred and twenty minutes of pseudo-Ren-and-Ariel-wannabees crunkin’ and line-dancing in possibly the last drive-in movie theatre in America. This is about solidarity! Agreement! Principle! And he abandoned the front. I mean, what’s next? Tickets for the Dirty Dancing remake? ‘Cause the last one did sooo well.

Okay, rant over. Had to get that out.

Believe it or not, Benedict Simone is not the subject of my post today. It’s about that “Wooow” feeling. Kind of similar to the “For reeaall” feeling, but not the same thing. This Saturday a member of my RWA chapter and I spent the afternoon speaking to teenagers about writing powerful and memorable heroines. Yes, I said teenagers. Now you have to know I prayed before going there. Because first, I don’t like speaking in front of people and...did I mention teenagers?? My son starts to get that “Oh look at the pretty flowers” look in his eyes when I talk and he has to listen to me! So imagine my anxiety! I went in there with a bit of a nervous stomach and those kids looked at me...and I looked at them…and the Tilt-a-Whirl in my gut came to an abrupt halt. Lisa, my friend from my chapter, had already arrived, and begun the workshop. I dived right in and, together, we had a wonderful experience. Time seemed non-existent as all of us started talking about a topic we loved—reading and writing. These kids were amazing! Simply amazing! I was in awe of their minds! The creativity, emotion, characters, plot...if I was a wee bit less ethical one of their plots might have turned up in my book!!

At one point a sixteen year-old girl read aloud the characteristics from her brainstorm list, and started detailing the plot. I’m not going to give it away, but one moment I’m leaning forward and the next I’m pinned to the back of my chair, blown away by her plot twist. All I’m going to reveal is it had to do with a circus, a gift, love and abandonment issues. Oh and a fire-eater. Okay, you had to be there. It was awesome! And that wasn’t even the “Wooow” moment. That came when a fifteen year old boy spoke about his character, a blacksmith, who desired to be more than this family job that was expected of him. The smile that came over his face as he talked about his hero...just wooow. My stomach did another flip, but this time in reaction to the joy and excitement in his grin over writing. I realized at that moment, that Lisa and I were looking at the authors whose books my children would read one day. The pleasure in those kids' eyes and faces as their characters and stories started to develop was priceless. Though we had come to instruct them on deepening their characters and bringing them to life, we were the ones honored to be there.

I think the revelation I received that day offset the stinging betrayal of hubby with the Footloose-Stomp-the-Yard debacle...it was close, though...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Flowers, Candles and Red Box

Friday I celebrated my eleventh year wedding anniversary. Eleven years with my wonderful, supportive, sexy husband. Oh how I love thee! One of the reasons I love and appreciate him so much is he had to put up with me for over a decade...and he stuck around when any sane man would have run screaming for the Downy-scented-laundry-folded-hot-meals-on-the-table hills. Maybe I made him crazy enough to stay.

One of the odd things about our pairing is he's such a romantic and, well, I'm not. I know, I know. How can a romance writer not be romantic? Believe me. It's possible. My pastor asked me the same question when he found out what I wrote--which was right after he received a letter from an anonymous member who wanted me put out of the church because of my evil, depraved ways...Apparently me and Jezebel are kin! Hee-hee! Seriously, I think he was more shocked that the woman from the annual couple retreats who follows up the word "sex" with "I don't need all that. Let's just get to it" is the same one who pens hot and detailed love scenes. It's true though. I don't need all the bells and whistles. Flowers and candles. Ropes and feathers. The first time my husband sent flowers to my job for a birthday I later told him, it was sweet 'n all, but don't bother. Black stuff grows on the vase, the flowers die and I feel like I'm watching thirty bucks die on the vine. That's depressing! Give me a pair of shoes or a gift card to Barnes 'n Nobles and let's call it a day. He might have been a little perturbed then but with distance, I really think he appreciated my honesty.

In my humble opinion--and since this is my blog I can give it--romance is subjective. One person's candlelit dinner is another's Red Box movie and take-out. That would be me, by the way. My idea of a great time is a whole day together doing nothing but lying in bed and watching t.v. or movies. Add some take-out from our favorite Italian restaurant and I'm in Utopia. His idea, on the other hand, is a linen-covered table, candles, wine, flowers, great food and Kenny G--or R. Kelly--playing softly in the background. Sometimes I feel like pulling the Julia Roberts card in Pretty Woman and say, Hey, I'm kind of a sure thing. But I know sex isn't the reason--well, not the main reason--he loves doing these things for me. It's his way of expressing his affection and appreciation. So, as bad as it sounds, I let him. And he lets me.

Although, this weekend he did surprise me with a gaw-geous hotel room complete with flower petals from the door to the bed, votive candles, a fountain and Cherry Coke chilling in the ice bucket. *sigh* I have to admit, it was romantic. Especially that Symphony chocolate bar sitting in front of the ice bucket. But, a secret? The best gift by far was the single cup coffee maker with the huge water reservoir. Now that made me want to jump his bones!! And I did! *snicker*

Now you know my Al Bundy-esque idea of romance. What's yours?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Getting It Down

I had a really relaxing Labor Day. Because it's like monsoon season outside and my front yard appears as if we're smack dab in the middle of the Jumanjii game, we didn't cook out. But that's okay. I spent all day watching the Deadly Women marathon on ID Discovery. *sigh* Yeah, a good day full of murder, sociopaths, deception, betrayal and the craziest women of the last few centuries. A real good day.

But I also managed to get some work done. I'm starting a new manuscript and, I tell you, it's one of the most exhilarating--yet unnerving--moments of writing. I'm a plotter, so I always outline my story first. Outline. *snort* Riiight. As anal-author-mistress-of-the universe-my "outline" usually ends up being between five and ten pages long! I include bits of dialogue for certain scenes that I don't want to forget. Or the emotions of the character at a particular moment that will really deepen his/her motivation. So, it's pretty looong. But even after all that planning and plotting, that first word or sentence of a new story is the hardest for me to write. I type. Delete. Type, type, type. Delete, delete, delete. For me those initial words set the tone for the entire book. And though I definitely self-edit (admittedly more than I should!) it's rare that I come back to the first lines. They're so important to me that I can't go further in the book until they are perfect. I did mention I was anal, right? They're either going to draw the reader in, entice her/him to keep reading or--Lawd, no!--have them start skimming! As a reader, I'm captured by that beginning paragraph. Of course I realize I won't understand the full story or even really know the character, but I will have that glimpse into the mind of the person I'm going to read about for the next forty to sixty thousand words! And I need to be seduced!

After hours of angst, I did get it down. And I must say, I am happy with it. It's kind of like giving birth. All that agony, but afterward it's forgotten in the joy of seeing your precious baby. Well, no. Bad analogy. I mean, I loved seeing my kids but I remember every moment of those births! And not one pang or twinge has been forgotten! Still, getting down that first page made the entire day productive. And watching Deadly Women even more of a sweeter reward! LOL!

Wait! Wait! Not over! My booktrailer for my upcoming release, A Perfect Fit: Fairy Tales Unleashed, Book II was completed today! Take a look!!

P.S. - I'm sorry this post is so late! My power just came back on since last night! And after a night and day trapped--did I say trapped? I didn't mean trapped--inside a house with no power and two active kids under the age of twelve...let's just say Mama's having her a pina colada smoothie, hold the smoothie, right after this posts!! Have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ooh, You're So Baaad

One of my favorite books is Say Goodbye by Lisa Gardner. *shudder* It had to be one of the freakiest books I’ve ever picked up—and devoured. Now anyone who has talked to me for at least ten minutes discovers that I hate spiders with a passion usually reserved for hot dreams starring Vin Diesel. When we were younger, my sister and I stapled the spider section in the Encyclopedia Britannica together so we wouldn’t flip to it by mistake. When we moved into our house ten years ago, I spied this huge spider—yes, it was huge!—in the basement. And I haven’t been down there in, let’s see…one, two three…yeah, ten years. Yup, it’s that deep.

I reveal all this seemingly random information for a purpose. It just so happens that Say Goodbye is about a serial killer who does women in with spiders. Even now, I don’t know how I made it through that book with her detailed descriptions of Brown Recluses (did I spell that right? I don’t know, but I’m not Google-ing it to find out!), Black Widows and every kind of tarantula possible! But what kept me reading like strawberry cake awaited me on the next page was the villain. Freaky. Creepy. Scary. Disturbed. Did I mention FREAKY??

Even now, months later, he still haunts me. Now that is the earmark of a damn good villain! As writers, it’s so easy to make our antagonists bad because…well, just because they’re villains and they’re supposed to be bad. *raising my hand and waving madly* I’ve so done that in my writing life time. But I’ve discovered that the most interesting, compelling and memorable villains are three dimensional. They have layers. Lisa Gardner’s villain contained all that and then some!

An antagonist should have a history just like the hero and heroine. I need to know what makes him tick. What is his motivation? Even if it is completely irrational, I want to get into his head and be a visitor in his crazy mind. I mean, if he kills women who wear Betty Boop t-shirts because she was his wife in a former life and she left him for another man, I want to read how he rationalizes that! Also, he needs to be scary intelligent. I mean, really, if Barney Fife could nab him with that one bullet in his pocket…I ain’t buying it! In order to be pitted against the hero and heroine he definitely cannot be too stupid to live!

And, oddly, I need to be invested in him as much as I am in the main characters. He should have a stake in the story, and I want to care about whether he reaches his goal or not. Lisa Gardner created a character that was so evil, so devoid of human empathy and emotion, it terrifies me that someone like him may actually exist out there. Yet his past, the pain and horrible abuse he endured caused me to actually feel for him—even though I wanted him to die. How conflicted is that? And I still think about him…I still ache for him, a fictional character, even as I feel just a bit safer that he’s dead. Have I been drawn in to that story, or what?

That’s what I desire as a writer. To create a villain so terrifying, so evil…so heartbreaking…that weeks later he or she will continue to haunt readers. You think it’s too early to ask Santa for an X-mas gift in my stocking…or my next book? *snicker*