Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Time - guest blogger author Susan Hanniford Crowley

Hi! I'm Susan Hanniford Crowley, a new paranormal romance author.   Thank you, Hannah, for having me over.  Halloween is my favorite holiday.  It's filled with mystery and fun.   The scraping of dead leaves blowing across the black asphalt of the street.  The shadows of skeletons hang from the trees under the full moon.   Werewolves howl.   Bat wings flutter.  Ah, the brisk night air just filled with adventure and creatures of the night.

My family has traditionally celebrated with the usual construction of a cemetery in the front yard(doesn't everyone?), ghosts hanging from the trees, handing out treats to whoever ventures to our door and the reading of a paranormal tale.  I especially love telling the story of " The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving with ghoulish effects.   "The Tell Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe is another favorite.   In the first we are scared of a ghost, while in the second, it's the character's own imaginings that terrorize him and us.  Ah, Edgar.  Baltimore recently celebrated the 200th Anniversary of his birth.

This year I'll be reading my first published paranormal romance tale WHEN LOVE SURVIVES, the story of two supernaturals who meet and fall in love on September 11th as they become rescue workers at the World Trade Center disaster.   Regina O'Malley, a college student who's discovered she's magic, will walk into Death to save others.  Gregor Vasiliev is a financial advisor and shapeshifter on a donut run from his office.  He finally sees the love of his life.  Then disaster strikes the World Trade Center.  Will he lose her forever?

It's available from All Romance Ebooks.  and published by Tease Publishing LLC.  Listed as SciFi/Fantasy, it's a story that means a lot to me personally and I've dedicated it to those who rescue.

By reading stories and books and in celebrating Halloween, we forget our daily worries and terrors and play with our fear.  It's a healthy exercise.  So when the night grows dark and the cold winds blow and our imaginations dredge up our childhood fears of a bogeyman, we drink our hot cider, watch "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown", and dress up like pirates, witches, and anything we fantasize about or fear.   This year I'm dressing up like a paranormal romance author.  They look like everyone else.  (evil wink)

Thank you, Hannah.  I loved dropping by. - Susan Hanniford Crowley

National Cat Day

Didn't even know there was one.  Cats are either loved or loathed.  I know very few people who are inbetween on  that.  I love them but I had a friend once who was sitting on her lawn with her son, the cat sitting on the edge of the lawn and some guy purposely swerved as he drove by to hit the cat.  There are shelters who won't let you adopt a black or white cat at this time of the year because of the horrible things some people will do to them.  I am allergic to dogs and a little afraid of big dogs but I don't hate them and would never willingly hurt one.  There are also a lot of people who feel a cat should live outside and the huge numbers that just get tossed aside is appalling.  A cat has been domesticated for thousands of years - they are no longer a wild animal.  They are also prey for a wide range of animals.  Coyotes see them as snack food.

Now you can't always domesticate a feral cat as - big surprise - they no longer trust humans and have regressed to a more primal state, but there is no need for people to keep making more feral cats.  Get your cat fixed.  And don't just discard any pet - cat or dog.  There are shelters.  True, too many still use euthenasia on unadoptable animals but that is changing.  And, considering the hard, short life any discarded pet has to live, euthenasia might just be a mercy in the end.

There's my rant for the day.  I have hugged all five of my cats and hope that will ease their annoyance when they are toted off to the vet in a week or so.  Bad owner that I am, I am a little behind on their shots.  So I must brace myself for trying to grab them and get them in the carriers to go to the vet.  It usually takes a couple of trips as once you get one in a carrier the rest scatter and one thing a cat can do very well is hide.  Two of the five in carriers is a good day, three is a miracle.  Then I have to wait a few days to lull the others into complacency before I make a go at them.  Fun times ahead.

So - be kind to a cat today and maybe make a small donation to a shelter.  If you are in a position to do so - adopt a stray.

Tomorrow we will have a guest blogger.  Author Susan Hanniford Crowley will talk on her new book and vampires.(oops - must have had vampires on the brain)   Halloween traditions.   Perfect for the Halloween season. Hope you will tune in and leave a comment for her.

Monday, October 26, 2009

This and that

A title that pretty much covers everything I write here.  Got sidetracked by the need to go to a conference and all the prep work for it.  Got back late yesterday and am trying to recharge today.  NJ always has a good conference and I meet a lot of old friends there.  I was sorry to see that attendance was down a bit but the economy sucks, so it wasn't a big surprise.   It's such a good conference that I'm sure it'll bounce back when the economy does(fingers crossed that the economy does bounce back)

Wrote an article for the RIRW newsletter about Black Moments - that place in the story where the main character - or characters - think all is lost and they won't see that Happily Ever After.  In romance it's that moment when the hero or heroine or both think they have failed in love or will never be able to be with the one they love.  As I confessed in the article - for the first few books I got published I was never really sure where that was in my story.  Then again, at the start I was more or less flying solo.  Then I discovered RWA and the local chapters.  And that is when I suffered a bout of extreme lack of confidence.  Had to slap some sense into myself by reminding that quivering inner coward that I must be doing something right or I wouldn't have gotten published to begin with.

It was then that I decided I couldn't take everything I heard at the workshops as the perfect way to do things - no matter how big a star was giving me that advice.  I tried everything, didn't just shrug it off, because it might have worked for me.  Some did.  Some didn't.  I finally had to accept the fact that I am not a particularly organized person.  Plot charts, character charts, plot points, marking and pre-planning all conflict ups-and-downs, etc.  work marvelously for many people.  Not for me. 

For me thinking about it works.  It's in my head.  Characters form and change and stabilize in my mind.  I then ask - okay , what would put these two people together and what could work to try and keep them apart - what is the thing they must overcome.   I scribble down notes on scraps of paper and stack them on my desk until I feel ready to get going on the story.  Sometimes I just abruptly start writing a first chapter, sometimes more, and that solidifies everything.  Because sometimes the opening scene is so clear in my mind it seems a waste of time to wait until everything else falls into place and once I get that part of the story so clear in my mind down on paper, the rest starts to come together.   Or not.  I do have a lot of false starts tucked away that may see the light of day somewhen.

And, yes, I do have to do a synopsis for each story.  I find them a painful exercise.  One thing I do, aside from all this thinking and mental character development, is collect up a bunch of possible plot points.  Then I scribble out a very thin list of things - conflict(inner or outer and I tend to prefer the outer conflict such as a psychopath after the heroine), places they will go or stay at, her inner insecurities, and such.  And, let's face it, what woman would not feel insecure or worry that she hasn't got what is needed to win the heart of the type of heroes we put in romances.  It usually gives me enough to come up with a reasonable synopsis, albeit one with very little middle to it because I don't really know what's going to happen there.  I could put something in but the chances of it changing as I go along are great. So, as all who know me have heard, the middle is usually little more than They fled across France  or They hunted down the killer.  That's what is going to happen but the details of it just aren't there yet and won't be until my characters get me to that part of the story.

So, right now, as I wrap up the tale of Hartley and Alethea(who are doing things that aren't in my synopsis thus behaving just as I knew they would - leading me along for the ride)  there is a part of my brain already playing around with an idea for the next book.  Simon Innes from HIGHLAND SINNER is skipping around in my head and he wants a Murray lass.  Which one?  Don't know yet.  Why would she meet up with Simon?  Who knows, but since he is so good at solving crimes, I have to suspect she will be smack in the middle of one.  I still have about a month to figure that out so I will let him continue to root around in my head until he finds what he thinks he wants.   He's a cutie, so I don't mind.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What Happened To Autumn?

I wouldn't live anywhere else but sometimes New England weather is enough to drive a person nuts.  It should be in the high 50sF or low 60s right now.  But , no, it's in the 40s and we've already had a few touches of frost plus snow in many areas.  Not much and mostly quickly gone, but still - it's only mid-way through October.  The wind has been strong for the past couple of days and so that 40ish feels freezingish(and I know that's not a real word but I'm sticking by it)

All the old wives' tales (and why aren't there any old husband's tales?)  are drawn out to warn of a hard cold winter ahead.  The favorite is the high number of acorns.  And there is a very high number.  You risk getting pelted with the things every time you step outside if there's an oak tree around.  They are promising slightly warmer weather, more normal, starting Tuesday but we'll see.   This is New England after all and our weather is never predictable.

So, having had to spend too much time changing all the curtains in the house(silently cursing the hubby's love of windows - I have 8 in my office not counting the door) from lace to winter heavy ones, I have done little writing.  I have done a lot of 'thinking' so here's hoping the writing will go smoothly once I can sit down and get back to it.  Unfortunately, that might not be for a while as I now have to get ready to go to NJ, hitting the road on Thursday.

And, that brings me to the crux of my whining.  Life interferes.  Simple things like needing to change the curtains or bring in the frost tender plants.  I should be writing; I want to be writing.  But there're cats to let in and out, litter boxes to change, laundry to do, floors to sweep, a car to be inspected(almsot forgot that - better make note) etc.  I wonder sometimes if I am the only writer who finds her days of writing whitttled down by the necessary minutiae of life.

I'm not talking time with the family, either.  That I will take whenever I can.  I am even trying to figure out a way to keep going to the NJ Conference since they switched the time from Columbus Day weekend to the weekend after - right at the time of my grandson's birthday.  Right now he is really too young to care much whether I am there amongst the crowd of children that come to his party or not.  But I care.  I will call him while in NJ but it's not the same.  I am certain that - if the NJ Conference falls at the same time next year - I will figure out some way to do both.   Whoever I go with may well find themselves dragged out of bed and into the car at 5am Sunday morning so that I can get home in time to go to the birthday party - even if there's a chance I will fall asleep there right in the middle of the chaos that is a child's party.  Either that or my room-mate will be kidnapped en route and have to enter that chaos with me.

So - for now - Hartley and Alethea are stuck in a corner.  The same corner so maybe they will be doing something interesting by the time I get back to them.   Lots of things one can do while stuck in a corner.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Short vacation

Sorry 'bout that.  Got distracted.  Didn't realize how many days had slipped by since I last pontificated.

Let's discuss workshops.  I have one to do in a few weeks.  I have been fine-tuning my little speech, adding a book or two to my recommended books list.  Noticed that a lot of them are from Oxford University Press, too.  Very odd.  Am now trying to come up with a handout that summarizes what I said in a clear and clever way.  And good luck with that.

After I get over my first panic attack about standing up in front of people who are expecting me to say something intelligent and helpful(poor little dreamers that they are)  I actually don't mind doing a workshop.  I especially like to answer questions as I think I am much better at that than at the pontificating part.   Those having a brief nap at the back of the room might not agree but I don't wake them up to ask them.  However, I do know that I relax when I am wrapped up in question time.  I have to wonder if there are other writers who prefer that, too.  Probably.  So be kind - at the next workshop you go to, ask questions. 

My point here, which I will eventually get to, is that I find it difficult to say what exactly I do to pull my story together or to make it something people will spend money on.  I don't have any set scheduale or plan when I write nor can I name even half of the grammar rules I blindly follow.  How does one explain something one just does?  Writing isn't like riding a bike where you can tell people exact movements to make.  If I had a special trick I would share it, but I don't think I do.  I will not tell you just how long it took me to figure out if I actually had a true Black Moment in my story but several books had already been and gone on the stands.

For instance - I have been asked how I come up with my characters.  I have no idea most of the time.  They are there in my head, nudging at me to give them a story.   Slowly, the little voice whispering in my mind takes shape as a character.  I might scribble out a few notes to fine tune that character - likes, dislikes, etc. - but he or she is already in my head.  Sometimes one is better formed than another so I matchmake for that hero or that heroine, trying to come up with a perfect mate.   I am, I believe, a writer driven by the characters more than the plot, conflict,or anything else.  If I hit a glitch - I look to the characters as I am sure there must be something I haven't done to fully flesh them out, that I have left something missing in them.  Most of the time that is exactly what is wrong.

I do do a workshop on characters.  If one ever listens closely to it, you'll hear mostly what not to do.  I know what I don't like and what I don't want my characters to do but I am not 100% sure how to tell any writer how to develop a character.  Telling someone to 'think' about it, as I do, just doesn't cut it for everyone and so it shouldn't.  Everyone has their comfort zone, and my somewhat confused stumbling to a story finale would drive them nuts.  They would never be able to get a story done.  Much easier to tell what I think a good character should and should not have even if I don't use all those things myself.  Certainly not in every character I write about. I even made up a character chart, composed of all the things I thought were good to know about your character, things that would help flesh him or her out and make writing the tale easier.  Since it is comprised of all I like I sometimes even look at it if I hit a glitch in my story.  Don't really fill it out, just look it over to see if there's something there I didn't yet know about my heroine and hero and that's why they are sitting around, twiddling their thumbs and not doing what I want them to.  That usually works but, again, some people would be made nervous by such a lack of organization and actual hands-on planning.

So, right now I am trying to organize what I need for a workshop on Words - The Magic Of Words - to be precise.  I know with every fiber of my being that the words one uses are important, can make or break the mood, the suspense, the romance.  Yet - how do you make it clear to people when it is just something you
know?   I must be making myself pretty clear, however, for the members of the RI writer's group I belong to seemed to understand me.  Wish I did.

And therein lies the crux of my insecurity.   I am more than willing to talk about what I do and share anything I have learned, answer questions and pontificate.  I just worry sometimes that I might not make clear things that I don't have the best explanations for, things I just know  and do.   Or that I sound as confused about the whole creative process as I sometimes feel.    Here's hoping I don't.   So, stay tuned - soon I might talk about how I don't plot, either.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Why am I attempting to do this in the morning?

Hi, Stuck the picture there because I thought the place needed more color.  I have decided that the 'little ' things that need doing have gotten out of control.  I spend hours doing 'little' things when I could - and should - be writing.  Sometimes it's avoidance, but at the moment it's starting to be an aggravation.

Now, it's true that not all of this is little stuff.  I need to get all my things ready and printed out for a talk I am giving in NJ at the end of the month.  I know that, if I sit down to begin seriously writing, I will suddenly realize it is almost time to drive to NJ and I haven't gotten anything ready.  Procrastination is my middle name.  So - do it now.  Then there's cleaning out my website mailbox because it got so horribly spammed and we have set up a new mailbox with better Spam control.  Takes a long time to forward about 200 or so e-mails(which is all the reasonable mail that was in amongst the thousands of Spam)  Also takes a long time to get things together for a new website but I am pleased with it.  And there's more stuff like that and we all know that getting anything done on the computer doesn't really go as fast as it should.

So - Monday is the kick off day for serious writing.  I have been playing around from time to time putting in more sexual tension but I need to crack down or Thanksgiving dinner could end up being pizza.  Frozen.  Throw it in the oven, dears, and let me know when it's ready kind of thing.  Also want to be able to go really crazy with the Christmas decorations - and hoping the Demon Duo(my two youngest cats) are no longer inclined to run up and down the tree.  I am a Christmas decoration junkie.  Got a collection of angels, of Santas, and of Nutcrackers.  Also have three trees because I have so many decorations.  Takes time to put all that stuff out and I intend to have it this year.  Hartley and Alethea better shape up.

Probably should have reread my other blogs so I would know I'm not repeating myself - but Hartley and Alethea are the hero and heroine in my current work-in-progress.  She is fine, having all her visions and doing her best to be sure the man she came to London to save stays alive and getting all hot and bothered and dewy-eyed whenever he's around.  It's Hartley that's really being a pain.  I think Monday will be spent trying to wrestle him into shape.  Popping in and out of the story while busy doing other things hasn't worked.  I'm a strong believer in characters making the story - and being most of the problem if there's a glitch.  So Hartley better gear himself up for a slap-down as it's coming to him on Monday.  I think the problem is that he is being too much the gentleman so it's time to introduce him to his baser instincts. 

Now, back to being the doorman for the cats.  Ta