I Believe in Fairies!

When I was very young, an annual tradition in my family was to watch Mary Martin as Peter Pan on the TV.  (That ages me, doesn’t it?)  There was a scene where Tinkerbell is poisoned and Peter looks directly at the camera and says “If all the boys and girls in the World will say ‘I believe in Fairies,’ Tinkerbell won’t die.”  My mom and I, on the couch, would hold hands and chant over and over, “I believe in Fairies.  I believe in Fairies!”  My bratty younger brother would sit in the floor, chanting, “I don’t believe in Fairies.  Die, Tinkerbell, die!”

Luckily for Tinkerbell, my mom and I outvoted David.

I always knew I loved happily ever endings.  Many is the book I’ve read that I absolutely adored the book, but never considered rereading.  And it didn’t matter whether it was mainstream, SF, history, biography, romance…whatever; if it didn’t have a happy ending, it disappointed me.  For a long time, I even felt guilty that I didn’t “like” very popular books, but if they didn’t have a happy, or at least a satisfactory, ending…

With maturity came enlightenment.  I wanted the white hat cowboy to defeat the black hat bad guy.  I wanted the space trooper to win the war against the Bugs.  I wanted the detective to solve the crime.   And mainstream or not, I wanted the protagonist to triumph.  But it is in romance that I’m GUARANTEED that every book will end with a HEA; that’s why the majority of what I read is romance.

Books that I’ve read in other genres may not have the same set up as a romance.   John of Gaunt loved his Katherine, but not as much as his need to be a king; therefore they didn’t get their HEA until very late in life, when John accepted there was no way he would ever be crowned.  Madselin, Saxon lady, used every weapon in her power to make her Norman husband/overlord submit to her wiles, but it wasn’t until the end, when he surrendered his honor to protect her, that she learned he loved her without him ever saying the words.  And Kristen Bjornsen, Human, and Zainal, Catteni, will never live a life like others of their respective species, but together, they found their own HEA.  And that’s what keeps me reading.

But what keeps me writing is I want to write nothing but Happily Ever After.  Some of my SF friends think I’m selling out.  But what did they expect?  I believe in Fairies!

It Isn’t Easy Being Green!

One of my past favorite characters said that, and I agree. Yesterday I had nice conversation with TS Susan and she asked me what had changed with regards to my writing. Medications? Sunshine? Wine, roses and chocolate? Nah, she didn’t ask that last, but DH has kept all in fresh supply lately. I didn’t have answer for her, or myself until later.

Now I’ll confess. I had a series of ah-ha moments. I didn’t want to be left behind. I didn’t want to be the tagalong, drag along, glad-we-brought-you-to-carry-our-bags Twisted Sister. A one non-hit novel writer. But that’s where I was headed. Selling a couple of short stories–one immediately–boosted a sagging ego. The last, and probably the most important, was that I took myself seriously as a writer. The strange thing about that last statement is that most of my family and friends always had.

Have you had an ah-ha or green moment?

Kudos to those who know the character who said the title of this post. And movie?

Conferences

Most of us have attended at least one conference. Either a regional or National. But are they worth the money? That depends.

There are different factors that go into which conference I chose. Not the least of which is budget. If it’s National, chances are you’ll have to fly to get there (for most of us, anyway). Then there’s the cost of the hotel, meals, books you can’t live without and of course, the cost of the conference itself. You start adding it all up and your pocketbook is going to go, “OUCH!”.

Then there’s the question of regional, National or both? If it’s regional then you won’t have the cost of airfare. But National is, well, NATIONAL! If you’ve never been, you HAVE to go. There’s nothing like being surrounded by 2,000 other romance writers . . . people who share the same passion as you. It’s loud, there are long lines, the elevators are crowded, you come home with a ton of free books, yet you can meet your favorite author and chat with her as she’s signing that free book. You learn a lot about craft, the business of writing, what’s going on in the publishing industry, can network like crazy and best of all, get reenergized about your writing.

However, if you can’t go to National, then chose a regional conference near you. It doesn’t have to be strictly a romance conference, either. I recently attended a regional conference, Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. (OWFI), where I learned about video trailers, women’s fiction, how to write a good romantic suspense plus other useful workshops. The best part about a smaller conference is you can network easier. You don’t have to push your way through thousands of other people to get to where you’re going.

 And you can make some lifelong friends. Not saying that doesn’t happen at National, but in a smaller setting it’s more likely.

Caution! Don’t choose a conference simply because it’s close by. Check out their website (surely they have one), find out who the speakers are, will the workshops pertain to what you write, will there be editor/agent appointments available, etc.?  Don’t go to a Poetry conference expecting to get information on romance. In other words, do your homework beforehand. That way you won’t waste your time and money or wind up disappointed.

Conferences are a great way to rejuvenate those creative juices. That’s what OWFI did for me. I was able to hang out with one of my favorite authors, pitch to an agent, and came home ready to jump back in to my current WIP with renewed energy.

As far as conferences go, this one was definitely worth it!

So choose well and . . .

GO LEARN!

The Best-Laid Plans of Doctors and Moms

First . . . happy Memorial Day! And a salute to our WritingSluts veterans, former Marines Jackie and Sandee. Semper Fi, ladies.

Second . . . happy birth-day plus one to my new nephew. We were all expecting Gavin on June 4th, but problems moved the date up, so we all cleared our calendars for tomorrow at noon. Well, someone apparently forgot to tell the child, or he was just impatient. Anyway, he decided to come yesterday. He was 20.5″ and 7 pounds, 12 ounces. (Imagine what he would have weighed if he’d made it to the full 40 weeks!)

Everything went smoothly with the delivery, but afterward he developed some breathing issues and had to be transferred to the NICU. (N-Mom – new mom, niece mom – is a NICU nurse herself, so she wasn’t as upset since she knew what kind of care he would be receiving.)

DH and I got to go back and see the baby when we got to the hospital. Some of the babies we passed on the way to his cubicle . . . it was enough to make my heart hurt. Teeny, tiny little, some of them small enough to fit in my palm. I just wanted to gather them all close. Compared to them, Gavin looked like a giant.

Of course, he’s a beautiful baby. Lots of dark hair, a dimple in one cheek, a cleft chin. Big feet and long, slender fingers with perfect little nails. It was disconcerting to see him under the lights, with a tiny CPAP mask and IVs and monitors. While DH and Dad discussed his condition, I stroked his arm and talked to him. Later DH said something about the babies not knowing or caring who was there with them, but my niece assured me that he knew Aunt Marilyn was there. LOL.

He certainly made his mom’s Memorial Day a memorable one.

Welcome to the world, sweetie!

Lest We Forget

As romance writers we create heroes and heroines. These characters may be based on people we know in real life, or spun entirely from our imagination. They can be flawed or superhuman. They are ultimately characters we as authors have fallen in love with, and we hope that our readers will fall for them too.

But on Memorial Day, as a nation, we stop to remember the real heroes and heroines who have fought and died for our country.

Memorial Day is the “official” beginning of the summer, my favorite time of year. Summer calls to mind that idyllic time of childhood, the time in our lives when we were young and not so jaded, when life seemed simpler and less hectic. And it seemed to go on forever.

Summer held the bright hope of a life yet to be lived to its fullest.

How fitting then, that at the beginning of summer, we take a moment in between backyard bar-b-ques, the Indy 500, and baseball, to recall those who sacrificed their lives for all that we hold dear. These fallen heroes gave all so that we would always have the bright hope of summer lived in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

May God Bless.

A Batty, Motley Rose

I got one of those emails this week. You know the one from the agent, the editor, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Now don’t feel sorry for me, because I don’t. If anything, I am more determined than ever to get published. No agent of doom, no editor of woe is going to stand between me and my dreams. On the way home from my DJ, I came up with this poem and thought I’d share it with you all. It’s a little tongue in cheek.

The inspiration for this poem came from some research I have done for my current WIP. Did you know Meat Loaf once said that it felt as though they were creating record companies solely for the purpose of Bat Out of Hell? The other two iconic groups I mention in this poem suffered early critics who brutally panned their music. They persevered and today are household names…at least our house. In the case of GNR, they shifted rock music away from glam rock back to metal. But if you read the band’s biography or listen to their later interviews, that was never their intent. They just wanted to make their music, their way.

I don’t necessarily want to turn the world upside down, I just want to tell my story and have someone read it, love it.

So here’s the poem. Hope it makes you smile.

A note received one spring morn,
Damned thing should have made me mourn.
Rejected, facing desolation,
Turned to others for inspiration.

Of the agent thought, “What an oaf!”
That’s when I recalled Meat Loaf
Whose album, Bat Out Of Hell,
Deaf producers damned to hell.

Or pre Jungle Guns N Roses,
Critics warned, “Hold your noses.”
“Great hair,” they said of Motley Crue
“But their music will make you spew.”

So the agent wasn’t smitten.
Yet, another chapter I’ve written,
Still confident in my prose,
A stubborn batty, motley, rose.

Where do you get your ideas for…?

All writers can relate to this question.  It is probably the number one question writers, published or not, get from the non-writers.  Sometimes, if I’m feeling snarly, I say “They had a sale at Wal*Marts last week.”  or “There’s this way cool website on the ‘Net…”  The truth is, most of the time, writers don’t know WHERE the idea came form…just that it’s there, gnawing at their brain to be written. 

Another thing that editors, agents, experienced writers, etc. say is “to write what you know”.  What does that mean exactly?  Does it mean if you never worked for NASA, you can’t ever write space operas?  If you’ve never lived in Alaska, you can’t write about that big dog sled race they run each winter?  Or is that like saying, if he hasn’t had a baby, a man can’t be a gynecologist?

I think there are several roads to this journey.  First, though a writer may not know it, ideas come from your life…from your experiences, the things you value, even the type of books you like to read.  Some of them come from the injustices you see around you or the people who inspire.  And some times they come from deep in your heart where the quiet things you treasure hide.

As for writing what you know…does that mean literally?  Especially in today’s ever-expanding, wor;d-wide, pool of information, it’s not too hard to find how to build, create, practice, fill-in-your verb research for any type of book you want.  So I think the “write what you know” is mostly the emotional.  Not all of us fear the same thing.  I may not love as you do or what you love.  An emotional response to life is as varied as species, gender, national origin or ethnicity.  And that, blended with the ideas that you start off with, gives you the story that makes the reader as with awe, “How did you ever come up with that idea?”

This isn’t Really About the Weather

Honest. It just starts out that way.

It’s been raining so much here in Oklahoma that Green Country has turned into Soggy-Damp-Moldy Country. I’m not sure how much more of this I — and my yard — can take. And yes, I know I’ll be whining in July, “Please let it rain!!”

But what I really want to write about today is weather as it applies to books. There used to be a TV show called “Stingray” that had a really gorgeous guy whose name, of course, I can’t remember. I always loved the premise: this mystery guy who drives a black Stingray goes around righting wrongs and helping people out of trouble, and the only payment he asks for is a promise that if he ever calls, needing the person’s assistance, they’ll give it, no questions asked.

There was one episode that involved a best-selling mystery novelist, an elderly lady who lived with her sister in a fussy old-woman type house. It had the old-time feel of Mike Hammer and ’40s mystery films, and through practically the entire show, it rained. The rain was such an element in the show that it was practically a secondary character. It was a great episode — wonderfully manipulative and twisting.

SLOW HEAT IN HEAVEN wasn’t the first Sandra Brown book I ever read, but it was by far my favorite. It takes place in the bayou, with an uber-bad boy hero, and the heat and the mugginess and the sultriness just encompassed me as I read. I was in that bayou, sweating right alongside the characters, hearing the whine of the gnats, smelling the damp and trying to breathe through the humidity. It was something I tried for — and think I achieved — in my first single title, IN SINFUL HARMONY.

I can’t think of a similar example for cold in books, though one movie scene does come to mind: in “The Hunt for Red October,” at the beginning when Sean Connery and Sam Neill are looking out over the bay before the sub sets out. It looks and “feels” so cold that I shiver every time I see it.

I love when the weather becomes such an integral part of the story — when I can feel that bead of sweat trickling down my spine, when I’d give damn near anything to see the sun shine, when the squishiness in my shoes or the heavy damp clinging to my skin is so real that I can believe I’m right there. Of course, you can’t just say, “It was hot,” and expect the same response. Like everything else in writing, it’s an art, a thread woven in so subtly that the reader hardly notices it until she’s enveloped in it.

I heard someone say once that you should always open a book with either weather or time. (Huh???) I don’t agree with that, obviously — though it might take some pressure off of us for coming up with great opening hooks, LOL. But I’m surprised by how many books I read where we never know what the weather is. It doesn’t have to be in the first paragraph or even on the first page, but somewhere in the first chapter, I want to be set in the scene. Where are we? What season is it? Bright sunny day, icy cold night, rainy, dry, dusty, etc.

Weather is all around us; it affects so many of our decisions, and it can be great for getting your reader deep into your story. And it’s easy — no research required.

Though, yeah, I think before any of us writes a hot summer day beach scene, we should get the opportunity to experience it firsthand!

The Joy of Reading

We all those moments, right? When the muse packs up and goes on vacation! Well my muse went somewhere this week, lord knows where, and left me to struggle to come up with something to blog about. I agonized over topics trying to find something funny, clever, or sentimental to write about. Then while I was sitting in the dentist office this week, I picked up a little motivational book called The Check Book, 200 Ways to Balance Your Life, by Bret Nicholaus and Paul Lowrie.

One of the suggestions in the book really caught my attention: Reread a favorite book from childhood.

The first books that came to my mind were the Nancy Drew mysteries I read as a kid. It’s not an overstatement to say that I owned the entire series of girl detective stories written by Carolyn Keene. And even though it was such a disappointment to learn that they were all ghost written by various authors, I owe the fictitious Carolyn Keene a huge debt because I discovered the joy of reading thanks falling in love with Nancy Drew.

I think, as an author that would be the highest form of praise, to know that your books inspired the love of reading generation after generation.

Writing The Military Romance

 Marilyn here:

I was reading a romantic suspense a while back, and when we first met the hero, we found out he was a Marine. On the next page, we learned his rank was commander. And on the next page, a Marine Corps general said to him, “You’re a fine soldier, son.”

{Whizzzzzzzzzz THUNK}

Some of you are probably scratching your heads, wondering what’s wrong with that? (Though I can guarantee Sandee, Jackie and Linda have caught on right away and are snorting right along with me.)

First problem: Commander is not a rank in the Marine Corps. It’s a Navy and Coast Guard rank, but you won’t see in any other service. In the Marines, the equivalent would be Lieutenant Colonel.

Second problem: No Marine Corps general in existence is EVER going to tell one of his Marines that he’s a fine “soldier.” NEVER. That would not be a compliment. He’s gonna say, “You’re a fine Marine, son.” Soldiers are in the Army. Sailors are in the Navy. Coasties are in the Coast Guard, and airmen are in the Air Force.

Marines are Marines are Marines are Marines.

Side note: it’s long been Silhouette’s policy to not capitalize “Marine” in reference to a jarhead unless it’s accompanied by the full name: U.S. Marine Corps. Otherwise, it’s a lower-case m. When we were stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, home of the II Marine Division, that drove DH’s Marine friends nuts. In their world, it’s ALWAYS capitalized. It’s a sign of respect.

What bugged me most about this book is how EASILY the rank could have been corrected. I’ve got a dictionary down in my office that’s about 25 years old, and in the back it’s got a list of all the service ranks. Far easier, Google “Marine Corps ranks.” If you want a little inspiration along with your information, go to a Marine Corps recruit office and ask one of the too-cute guys for help.

As for the second mistake, first of all, if you’re going to write military romance, learn the terminology. “Soldier” may be widely used among the civilian population these days to mean anyone in uniform, but not among the services. Sailors don’t want to be called soldiers. Soldiers don’t want to be called Marines. Each branch has its own terminology and its own pride. Take the time to learn about them before you write about them.

Just be careful who you learn from. Not everyone who claims to have served in the U.S. Armed Forces actually did. Not even all authors who claim military backgrounds actually have them. Years ago, I started another romantic suspense by an author who claimed a Navy background. When she gave her two Naval officers Marine Corps ranks (1st and 2nd Lieutenants rather than Ensign and Lieutenant Junior Grade, had them refer to the chief who worked for them by his first name, then sent them shopping for groceries at the PX instead of the commisary, all in the first chapter, I put it down. She was no more in the Navy than my granny. And I’ve never bought another of her books.

But there are plenty of legitimate websites out there — each service has one; many indiviual commands do, as well. And fall back on the old journalist’s rule: verify your information with at least two sources. Make the effort.

Another side note: while it’s perfectly acceptable to refer to someone who used to be in the Army or the Navy (but didn’t retire) as an “ex-soldier” or an “ex-sailor”, did you know the only proper terminology for someone who used to be in the Marine Corps is “former Marine”? No kidding.

These two points may seem minor to the average reader who may know little about the military and care less. But to anyone who DOES know, you’ve just shown them that you didn’t do your homework. You’ve shown them you’re careless about research. You’ve given yourself a chance to lose their readership, not only for this book but for all of your future books.

Besides that, it shows a lack of respect to your subject matter, and Marines, sailors, soldiers, etc., DESERVE your respect.