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Myths & Legends: Seeking Kokopelli

I’m blogging over at Access Romance today where I’m talking about myths and legends and my story Seeking Kokopelli. Here’s the link to Access Romance.

Is Your Well Full? Author, Jane Beckenham Tells Us To Smell the Roses!

I’m delighted to welcome fellow New Zealander and Samhain Publishing author, Jane Beckenham today. Jane is currently burning up the top ten sales list with her latest release, He’s The One, and I couldn’t be more pleased for her! Today she’s talking about something that I endorse wholeheartedly – filling the well. Is your well full? Over to Jane…

He's The One by Jane BeckenhamAn interesting thing occurred a month or so ago. I stopped writing. I wanted desperately to start a new book, I was seriously over edits and line edits and galleys, and the never ending promotion, but instead of starting a new book –like most writers I have a file of story ideas I reached for those.

Sad to say, they just didn’t spark.

Instead I developed a love of cleaning windows. Pathetic, but there really is a lot to be gained by looking out of windows that are no longer marred by months of dirt and grime.

Two weeks and I was over window cleaning so I tried again and got out that list of ideas.

Nope. Not one word on the page.

Scary stuff.

I mean I’ve been writing solidly for 11 years, have 12 books under contract, and several more written, (not counting the duds when I first started). What was wrong?

Was my writing life over? Come back Ms. Muse, all is forgiven.

The darn girl stayed away and my fear exacerbated.

Then I got a rejection, and that kinda put the proverbial nail in the coffin.

Rejection does that…for a bit, but I wailed to my writing buddies “What is wrong? I can’t write? I’m no good.” It was definitely all woe is me.

Then someone asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks.

“Jane, what do you do to fill up the well?”

“What well?”

“The one that sustains you as a writer, that gives you the ‘juice’ to carry on.”

Was there one? I didn’t have a clue.

“Don’t you ever stop?”

“Nope.”

“Oh…, that’s the reason then.”

“It is?”

“Sure. You need to stop, fill up the well. You see your body is like a car. It needs gasoline to keep going.

What are you doing to refill the tank, what’s your sustenance?”

“Too much chocolate,” I replied. But what my good intended writer friend meant was what was my sustenance for my soul, for the inner being of me the writer.

This was quite a new concept for Madam Writer. “I’m a wife, mother, homemaker, worker, and writer. I don’t have time to stop or ‘juice’ up.”

“And that’s why the tank is empty, ma’am, why the well is dry and you aint getting one word on the page these days.”

“Oh….”

These words of wisdom got me thinking. Could there be something in this. Does a person need to actually stop?

So I asked bunch of writers, all wonderfully successful women who I so much admire for their ability and value for their friendship.

Here’s how they refill their well.

Pat Snellgrove – Taking me time, reading, and spending time with the family.

Clare Scott – Just taking time to breathe is good, or reading a really bad book in your genre because it makes you angry so you think ‘I CAN do better than this!’ Having a complete (brief) break so you are not compelled by having to write rather by needing to write. Of course, deadlines are really good incentives too ;-) That reminds me too – I have a snippets book in which I paste articles, headlines, piccies from mags or newspapers, and also story comments, that have made me stop and think, or laugh, or have started a storyline germinating. If really stuck I just have a read thru and it’s amazing what thoughts and schemes this triggers.

(Jane here… I love this idea of pasting articles etc…might just pinch it!)

Jean Adams – I go for a walk on a beach, or do a little gardening. Getting out in the fresh air usually helps.

(Jane… Gardening… Jean, come on over, I have weeds that are giving Jack’s beanstalk a run for his money!)

Yvonne Walus – Filling the well depends, to a degree, on what’s currently missing in my life. Sometimes I need an hour listening to 80s music, or a walk on a deserted windy beach, or an evening with friends. Sometimes I need to reconnect with people, hear about their dreams and challenges in order to get inspired about mine. Sometimes I need a “worthy cause” to write about, you know, a theme like “being a mother is more important than being a successful CEO” or “a wise husband makes his wife feel she’s the only women in the world”. And sometimes – most of the time – I just need a good night’s sleep!!!!

Wonderful M&B Historical writer, Sophia James… For me the writing well is filled by exercise. I walk each day for an hour or so and just feel enervated again. With such a sedentary job I think it’s so good to get up and move and feel the air on your face, see the world outside your computer, and shake of all the problems of your hero and heroine. A cup of coffee with a friend comes in a close second!

(Jane… love those coffee moments with you too Sophia!)

Author Nicole Bishop who I’ve known right from my very first Romance Writers of New Zealand Conference… Refilling the well to me is going for a quiet walk, singing, or pottering around at home with no set plans (I’d like to do more of this!)

(Jane…Singing from me… .nope more like warbling)

Rachel Bailey – Reading books by my favourite authors. Watching good movies. Doing things that make my heart sing, like walks on the beach, playing dog-tennis with my dogs, something romantic with dh, stopping to smell the roses.

(Jane…Ah… now I’m getting somewhere. Reading… it figures, writers love to read…Note to self…I MUST read more)

Melissa James – Research is my strongest well-filler, Jane. I read something and get excited – Dark Waltz, for example, is from reading a history text about Napoleon’s secret fleet to invade England. Her Galahad was from a university reader about Aboriginal people being declared dead illegally. A Mother in a Million came from watching a show called Missing, about how missing persons affects those left behind. The Nighthawks series came from research on how espionage works. I’ve applied that, and my history texts on 1800s espionage and a book called “The Man Who Broke Napoleon’s Code” to get authenticity. It’s when it’s a subject I can’t research that I get in trouble. I lose enthusiasm, write automatically. Walks, movies, chatting to writer friends.

(Jane…research….ah that sparks something deep inside this writer who would have loved to be a history teacher…Note to self- find a book to read that is research!)

Okay, so it seems to me that I have a lesson to learn here. Stop. Smell the roses. Maybe garden a tad, have coffee, read a book or two, but perhaps I’ll pass on the singing, don’t want to frighten the dog!
Now, think I’ll go and put on the kettle for a cuppa. But seriously, I’ve learned my lesson. Go back and enjoy books, because isn’t that why we became writers in the first place.

Happy reading everyone.
Jane Beckenham

Bio: In books Author Jane Beckenham discovered dreams and hope, stories that inspired in her a love of romance and happy ever after. Years later, after a blind date, Jane found her own true love and married him eleven months later.

Life has been a series of ‘dreams’ for Jane. Dreaming of learning to walk again after spending years in hospital. Dreaming of raising a family and subsequently flying to Russia to bring home her two adopted daughters. And of course, dreaming of writing. Writing has become Jane’s addiction – and it sure beats housework.

You can contact Jane via her web site www.janebeckenham.com or email her at neiljane@ihug.co.nz

Writer Tip: Sasha White

“Don’t fall prey to believing everything you read in Craft books or hear in workshops is the only way to do things. Always remember that what people tell you works, is what works for them – and what works for them might not work for you. You may be different, and forcing yourself to do things in a way that isn’t natural to you will only hurt your writing. Ultimately you have to learn to Trust in yourself, and your own process.”

Visit Sasha White’s website at www.sashawhite.net
Sasha’s latest release, One Weekend is out today at Samhain Publishing!

Finding Love & Fortune, Old Age & Wrinkles

Tea For Two Where do you find love? It’s a question I asked here on my blog not long ago, producing some interesting answers. Today the Tea For Two Tour continues at Love Romance Passion and I’m talking about romance and meeting places. I’m also doing a giveaway so don’t forget to come and say hello.

Random thought – I must have more wrinkles than I thought because the bus driver stopped at the old folk’s home to let me off the bus, instead of continuing to the stop just a bit farther down the road. (which is closer to my house) He was trying to be nice, but I think I should be insulted. What do you think? LOL I think everyone is picking on me this year, that’s what I think.

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?

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

It’s Tea and Romance with a Side of Aliens!

Tea For TwoToday I kick off my Tea For Two book tour at Book Junkie. I’m talking about books and keeping track. There’s a giveaway, so come on over and say hello.

My monthly column at The Raven Happy Hour is also live today. Do you know what to do if you see a UFO or come face-to-face with an alien? No? Then you should come over and take notes because you never know!

Can You See Into the Future?

Albert Park, Auckland

This is a shot of Albert Park (named after Prince Albert) in Central Auckland. It’s not far from the university and on a fine day, it’s the perfect place for students to eat their lunch.

Mystery writer JA Konrath has a very interesting post about e-books and what he predicts will happen during 2010 in the e-book/e-reader world.

I’m actually feeling very positive about e-books at the moment. I love the freedom of writing for e-publishers, although the pirate issue does worry me. It’s truly disheartening when pirates put up books for free download on release day. It’s not only the e-authors who have a pirate problem though. The pirates have no compunction in making e-copies of paperback books and giving those away free too.

I think the increased competition in the e-reader market can only mean good things, driving the price down. Like Mr. Konrath, I’d like to see a standard industry format. What do you think will happen in the e-book world during the next year?

I’m guest blogging at the Samhellion blog today and talking about diaries and my upcoming release, The Bottom Line. While you’re there don’t forget to check out the special Christmas scavenger hunts to win either a Kindle reader or a Sony reader.

PDAs

I’m blogging at the Samhain blog today. My post is about public displays of affection or PDAs.
Here’s the link.

Cabin Fever!

I have a special guest today–Alisha Rai who is celebrating the release of her new book Cabin Fever. Like many writers Alisha is an avid reader and this started her journey to published author. Today she’s talking about weather, seasons and yummy treats. I definitely want to try this recipe!

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I recently moved to the Midwest from Florida, where one of my chief complaints was the utter lack of seasons. Yeah, sunshine is awesome, but after a few years of nonstop heat and humidity (and sometimes hurricanes, but for the sake of my remaining property value, I’m not going to bring that up again), I found myself starting to long for some cool weather.

Let’s not get crazy. As fond as I am of the time I lived in Buffalo, I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to experience that kind of a winter again. But right now, the weather’s going through that lovely shift from summer to fall. There are too many wonderful things that make this time perfect for me: the cool mornings, the colors of the changing leaves, the slight smell of smoke in the air…and the flavors.

Heck, yes. The flavors of fall. It’s a full section in my recipe box. September’s here, people! It’s socially acceptable to eat pumpkin pie! Not to mention a whole bunch of other tasty things which just make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, even as the weather turns chillier.

So what’s cozier than a good cup of hot cocoa? To keep my hero and heroine warm—not that they really needed help—I featured the following drink in my new release, Cabin Fever.

By the way, the name of the drink is, you guessed it: Cabin Fever. Because I’m just that big of a nerd. I can’t help it, I must sprinkle corny, obscure inside jokes into my stories. Forgive me.

Ingredients:
One shot of Baileys
One shot of crème de menthe
Whipped cream
Cup of hot chocolate (or to taste)

Mix the Bailey’s and crème de menthe, pour in the hot chocolate and stir. Garnish with whipped cream, shaved chocolate and a cherry. Enjoy and stay warm!

Alisha Rai
www.alisharai.com
alisharai.wordpress.com
Cabin Fever Now Available!

Do you have any questions for Alisha? Do you like to have different seasons? Do you like the change of seasons? Do you like a kick to your hot chocolate?