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Archive for January, 2010

A White Box

A book is a sum of things—characters, setting and description, dialogue, pace and plot. It’s the combination of all of these elements, done in the right way that makes a book exciting and sought after by readers.

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It takes a lot of work to get a book to a standard that’s saleable. My first drafts are like white boxes. People inhabit the white box—my characters that is, but they’re quiet and in shock from the lack of scenery. It’s all white in there, after all.

During the first stages, my characters are a bit superficial and half the time they have no idea what they’re doing, what their purpose is in the box. It’s almost like the first run through of a play where the cast are strangers and feeling their way into their parts.

It’s during the second and third run through that I add the color and turn my white box into a real world, complete with real people. Adding setting and description is a skill I’ve fought to learn—it certainly doesn’t come naturally.

Not so long ago, it was normal to read very flowery descriptions in books. These days descriptions in fiction are briefer and spare at times.

Here’s a paragraph from Powder and Patch by Georgette Heyer.

The Apparition wore a coat of the palest apricot cloth, with a flowered vest of fine brocade, and startling white small-clothes. Red-heeled shoes were on his feet, and his stockings were adorned by sprawling golden clocks. He carried an amber-clouded can and a jeweled snuff-box, while ever and anon he raised a cobwebby handkerchief to his aristocratic nose. He minced down the street towards the market-place, followed by the awestricken glances of an amazed population.

That’s a lot of description for one person, although I have to say I’d love to see him in person. You probably won’t find this amount of description in a modern romance, not focused on one person. We’re more likely to add it in more sparingly in bits and pieces.

This snippet is taken from Dark Lover by JR Ward.

When she was finished with the Twinkie, she flipped open her phone, hit speed dial, and put in an order for beef with broccoli. As she walked along, she looked at the familiar, grim landmarks. Along this stretch of Trade Street, there were only bars, strip clubs, and the occasional tattoo parlor. The Chinese food place and the Tex-Mex buffet were the only two restaurants. The rest of the buildings, which had been used as offices in the twenties, when downtown had been thriving, were vacant. She knew every crack in the sidewalk; she could time the traffic lights. And the patois of sounds drifting out of open doors and windows offered no surprises either.

With this paragraph, we get a little characterization along with a feel for the neighborhood. We learn that although the district is run down, the place is home for our heroine.

In another book, that shall remain nameless, the description of a room sounded like a shopping list. It mentioned an antique rug, hardwood floors, a Victorian sofa and the color of the brocade, a coffee table and the type of wood, the silver tea service on top, two Victorian chairs, a gas fireplace, silver-framed photo frames, the photos inside them, the mantelpiece, a cherry and glass counter and quite a few other things.

The actual story wasn’t too bad, but this description, done list style, made me roll my eyes. I’ve edited the list quite a bit. The descriptions took up over half a page.

What I try to do is show the character experiencing the setting, give sensory details. I show them walking across a thick carpet and wondering if their shoes are going to get lost in the pile or holding out their hands to catch snowflakes, feeling the cold and dampness or tasting it melt on their tongue. They might notice the cars buried in snow or hear the chains on the tires as they fight for purchase. I try to involve the character’s senses of sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing to make the description come alive.

Here’s a paragraph taken from Tea For Two by Shelley Munro

“I see a line of dots.” Hayley Williams peered solemnly into her customer’s white china teacup. Outside her colorful curtain-partitioned area of the tea tent, children shrieked with excitement as they lined up for the Ferris wheel and merry-go-round. Her assistant chatted to one of the ladies in charge of the tea, extolling the high points of a reading by Madam Deveraux. Somewhere in the distance, a toddler howled and a brass band played “Rock Around the Clock”. Closer, touts shouted spasmodically about the exciting things available at their stalls. The clatter of china and the muted gossip of the ladies in the makeshift café added to the cacophony of fairground sounds.

For me this is actually quite a long description, but I hope it plops you right in the middle of a fairground.

When it comes to describing characters, I’m typically very brief because as a reader, I like to imagine myself as the heroine. If there’s too much description I think it gets in the way of my imagination. Just a brief hair color, eyes, build etc is all I need. You might think differently.

How much description do you like to read in your books? Do you like lots of description or a bare minimum? Do you like detailed description of characters? And writers: what approach do you use when it comes to description? Do you have a white box like me or is your world colorful from the start?

Gone Fishing

Camera Critters

The Columbia River is a huge river and we spent some time driving beside it, driving over it on the Astoria Bridge (longest bridge in the USA) and looking down on it. No doubt about it, the river is impressive. So is the wildlife. This is a heron fishing in the Columbia River.

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To see more photographs of animals visit Camera Critters.

Horses & The Monster That Shall Not Be Named

I often come across good articles and posts relating to writing and the writing business when I’m surfing on the net. What? You thought I wrote all the time? :grin:

I don’t know about you, but I enjoy both keeping up with the writing market and learning new things. I thought I’d share the bounty and repost some of the links I’ve found.

Bootstrap Book Marketing Co-op has a post on one thing that can really derail a writing career, and that is professional jealousy. We all have times when we feel down or think someone else is getting a better deal than us and the green-eyed monster creeps in. Bootstrap has a post called The Writer’s Other Classic Curse and Four Ways to Deal With It.

Erastes writes some very thought provoking posts at Reviews by Jessewave. A recent post related to horses in historical novels. Neigh…I blame Hollywood talks about horses and mistakes writers making with them. Note Reviews by Jessewave reviews gay romances, but the post on horses relates to all historicals.

Note: There are two posts today. Scroll down…

Lost & Wandering

Wanderlust I’m visiting Nikki Duncan’s blog today where I’m talking about traveling and books. There’s a download of Wanderlust up for grabs. Comment on my post and you’re in the draw.

I’m also doing a guest spot at The Romance Studio Blue about a particular weakness of mine–my total lack of a sense of direction. Just ask my husband. :grin:

What An Insult!

Thursday Thirteen

I’m not sure where this list came from – it’s been on my hard drive for a while. I obviously saved it to be a TT because there are exactly thirteen items.

Thirteen Insults

1. I used to think that you were a pain in the neck. Now I have a much lower opinion of you.

2. No, I don’t mind that you’re talking so much — as long as you don’t mind that I’m not listening.

3. Save your breath. You’ll need it to blow up your date.

4. Someday you’ll find yourself, and you will be just as disappointed as the rest of us.

5. You say you’re a wit? Well, you’re half right.

6. If there’s ever a price on your head, take it.

7. I’ll never forget the first time we met — although, I’ll keep trying.

8. Your entire purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.

9. Do you still love nature, despite what it did to you?

10. Now I know why some mammals eat their children.

11. Oh my God, look at you! Was anyone else hurt in the accident?

12. I look into your eyes and get the feeling someone else is driving.

13. Sure, I’d love to help you out. Do you remember which way you came in?

And one extra – I’d like to leave you with a parting thought, but I’m not sure you have anywhere to put it.

Do you have any good insults to add to my list?

Conflicted with Karen Erickson.

My special guest today is fellow Samhain Publishing author, Karen Erickson who is talking about her new release. Karen’s Tangled is another hot and steamy story, perfect to provide some heat in your life if you’re suffering through a cold Northern winter.

PhotobucketI must confess something. I’m normally not a big fan of romance books featuring couples who start out hating each other and end up falling in mad passionate love. I find it kind of unbelievable and sometimes even annoying. Why the heck would you want to be with someone who drives you nuts?

Yet…in my new release Tangled from Samhain Publishing, my heroine starts out hating on the hero. She’s been chasing after another guy. The problem? The other guy has a major crush the hero. Now you can see that’s where the name Tangled came from. :smile:

You see, Scarlett can’t stand Trevor. She thinks he’s arrogant, overbearing and he’s a known heartbreaker. He’s crazy about her and he doesn’t shy away from letting her know it which she can’t help but find flattering. It doesn’t hurt that he’s gorgeous and charming and sweet.

She tried to resist. To the point where I’m afraid some readers might find her a complete pain. She was just so stubborn and it was as if I couldn’t control her. Some might even wonder why Trevor would put up with her. He even tells her at one point why does he like her so much when she treats him so badly.

I couldn’t make her any other way. Poor Trevor. He didn’t deserve the bad treatment from Scarlett but she uses her anger and stubbornness like a shield. To protect herself from being hurt because she knows she’s falling for him and in a big way. Then she goes ahead and throws Drake into the mix which is kind of confusing. A sexy and naughty too. *wink*

I hope everyone who reads Tangled enjoys it – and understands where Scarlett is coming from. I’m curious to see the reaction toward her. She’s by far one of the most complicated heroines I’ve ever written – and I wouldn’t have her any other way.

Blurb:

The girl can’t help herself…until she helps herself to a triple-hot fantasy.

Playing With Fire, Book 2

Always wanting what she can’t have. Scarlett learned this the hard way, and this time is no different. Drake, the one guy she’s hot for, isn’t hot for her. Nope, he’s hot for Trevor, the gorgeous, arrogant actor she works with. Maybe it’s time she let loose and let the right man capture her, for a change.

Trevor wonders why she can’t see that the right man is right under her nose. He’s crushing big time on the quirky, sexually confident Scarlett—a huge turn-on for a guy who’s not your standard looking-for-vanilla-sex kind of guy.

When an argument with Trevor explodes into the hottest sex of her life, Scarlett thinks nothing has ever felt so right—until Drake joins in and kicks it into white-hot gear. Trevor is astounded that she trusts him enough to make her three-way happen for her. But suddenly he’s not so sure he wants to share…

So let’s take a poll. Do you like romances where the characters start out not liking each other? Maybe feel a little wary or non-trusting of one or each other? Let me know what you think.

~ Karen
http://karenerickson.com
http://karenwritesromance.com/blog

Have Your Cake and Eat It Too!

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Hubby and I have a love-hate relationship with Ava, the stern taskmaster on our new Your Shape Wii. She barks out orders and tells us when our legs or arms are out of position. I often hear hubby cursing her. Along with orders, she dispenses health tips. One of her recent tips was to remove the icing (frosting) from a piece of cake and discard. This will mean fewer calories consumed.

Now I don’t know about you, but I think the icing is the best part of a cake. It’s the bit I enjoy most of all. I savor each mouthful. The thought of lopping it off and throwing it away… It’s just plain wrong! I doubt I could bring myself to do it. I think I’d rather forego the entire piece of cake. That would be less painful for me.

My favorite cake is carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Yum! There is no way I would part with either the cake or the icing.

Do you agree with Ava or do you side with me? For those of you who enjoy the odd slice of cake, which sort is your favorite?

Coolin’ Off

Camera Critters

One of the animals Mr. Munro most wanted to see during our last trip to the US was a bull moose. We came across this one while driving in the Grand Teton area. It was a hot day and he was ambling down the small waterway, ignoring all the tourists taking photos of him.

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To see more animal photographs visit Camera Critters.

Visiting Access Romance Today

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I’m at Access Romance today, talking about sports and romance. I love a good romance featuring a sporting hero or heroine. Do you?

Soaring Heights

Thursday Thirteen

We’ve come a long way from the humble cave. These days buildings soar to heady heights, with different countries competing to have the tallest building. Here is a list of some of the world’s largest buildings. Source: Architecture @ About.com

Thirteen of the Tallest Buildings in the World

1. Burj, Dubai (just opened) 828m
2. Taipei 101 Tower, Taiwan 509m
3. Shanghai World Financial Center, China 492m
4. Petronas Towers, Malaysia 452m
5. Willis Tower, Chicago 442m
6. Jin Mao Building, China 421m
7. Two International Finance Center, Hong Kong 414m
8. CITIC Plaza, China 391m
9. Shun Hing Square, China 384m
10. Empire State Building, New York 381m
11. Central Plaza, Hong Kong 374m
12. Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong 369m
13. Bank of America Tower, New York 366m

I’ve included only completed buildings on my list, and of course, the list is changing all the time. There are many buildings currently under construction or proposed that will bump this list. I’ve seen the Empire State building and visited Hong Kong and Dubai, but I don’t think I’ve set foot in any of these. I have a good head for heights and wouldn’t have a problem whizzing to the top and checking out the view.

Have you visited any of these buildings? How are you with heights?