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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Team, Assemble!

The Disintegration sequel (aka The Fall of the Midnight Scorpions, which I should really start using more since I've yet to come up with a better title) is coming along swimmingly. So far, I'm really happy with the way everything's been turning out and I'm excited for what's yet to come. That doesn't mean writing it has been without its challenges, though.

I think I've mentioned before, perhaps as evidence that I play too many RPGs, that the basic plot of the book is similar to so many video games: assemble your team, save the world. After giving it careful consideration and consulting with my usual buddies, I decided to limit the number of people on the core team to six.* Six seemed like a manageable number to work with, both in terms of realism for plot purposes and making sure I could write the characters and their story well.

(*There are more than six characters in the book, of course, but the focus is primarily on this group.)

Not every one of the six teammates is going to be the star of the book, but I wanted to make sure all of them were fleshed out with their own distinguishing characteristics. That led to the age-old dilemma of how much time to spend on backstory and other details that don't really serve to push the plot along. I'd like to think I did an okay job in letting their various backgrounds and personalities come out naturally, but find me a writer who never second guesses herself.

Then there's the issue of having them all interact with each other. There have been a couple times when all six characters are in the same room involved in the same conversation, and I need to straddle the line between "realistic" and "coherent". In the real world, if it's not some sort of structured setting, I think it would be unlikely that a group of six people would be sitting around, politely waiting for their turn to speak without some sort of side conversations going on simultaneously. However, there are times when you have to cast realism aside and just tell the damn story in a way that makes sense. Sometimes, though, I'll be writing and have that moment of "Oh shit, Character C is in the room and she hasn't said or done anything in the past ten minutes." Again, even in real life, not everyone is going to be constantly actively participating in whatever's going on, but I still don't want the reader to forget who is in the scene.

Overall, I like these characters. I hope I've succeeded in bringing them to life, and I hope they're all likeable, compelling, sympathetic, flawed people. I'm not going to reveal too many plot points here, but I want you to laugh when they're laughing, cry when they're crying, and if I really do my job right, you'll feel like you're a member of the "team" right there with them.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Winter Wonder Man Blog Hop!

Hop along to all the sites on the list!

It's blog hop time! (And don't you just love the title of this one? I do!) We've had some crazy cold temperatures here in the northeast and though it's been milder this week, we're allegedly due for some more snow this weekend. I hope you've all been finding ways to stay warm!

Let's snuggle up to some heroes on this blog hop. The other authors and I are waxing poetic about what makes them so wonderful. It's a rather subjective topic, of course, and I'm sure we can all go on for pages and days. Me, I like there to be something that sets my hero apart from the other people around him. There's got to be something special, something unique, something that captivates his love interest and doesn't let him/her go.

That special something doesn't necessarily have to be a grand heroic act or an impressive feat of strength. I sometimes refer to Stephen MacClare, one of the protagonists of The Edge of the Sphere as my "quiet hero". He may not be physically imposing and he's not going to sweep the heroine off her feet and carry her fifteen miles in the snow uphill both ways, but he's got his strengths and talents nonetheless. Let's take a look at one of them.

Stephen knew he was starting to ramble nervously, and he didn’t want to bore his companion. “I thought moving out of the city would help me find the inspiration I needed. It didn’t.” The familiar flush of color rose to his cheeks, and he continued on regardless, knowing he had nothing to lose. “Until now. I…uh…I’ve been painting you,” he confessed.

She sat up straight and stared at him with an unreadable expression in her eyes. He shrunk away beneath the intensity of her gaze and looked down. “I’m sorry. That’s kind of weird, I know.”

She shook her head vigorously, and tilted his face back to meet hers with a finger on his chin. He thought he saw the beginnings of another smile appear at the corners of her mouth, yet he didn’t have much time to observe it before she leaned closer to him. Her lips brushed against his, and she slid her hand down to his chest, letting it rest right above his pounding heart. His mouth opened and her tongue slipped inside, playfully entangling with his own.

I don't know about you, but if a handsome artist confessed that I was his muse, I'd get some warm tingly feelings. If you'd like to read more, enter the rafflecopter for the chance to win The Edge of the Sphere in e-book form! Don't forget to leave a comment on the post as well (here and at all the other stops!) so you can be eligible for the hop's grand prize, an Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card! 
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Strong Women

I have plenty of thoughts about the topic that gives this post its title, enough that I may have to revisit it from time to time. I like to think as myself as a strong, competent, capable woman, and I like to read about the same. After all, don't we try to identify with the characters in the stories we're immersing ourselves in?

"Strong female characters" has always been a hot topic in literary circles. (It arguably comes up when discussing movies, too.) There have been articles and interviews and whatnot all over the place when it comes to which authors write women well, which fail miserably at it, and which seem to ignore women altogether. And as always, opinions vary greatly as to what constitutes a "strong" character, regardless of what's between his/her legs. I'm not going to make a list of links here or try to reinvent the wheel, but this is something I think about while writing.

I freely admit that not every single thing I've written passes the Bechdel test. Considering my primary genre is romance, the vast majority of it heterosexual, I don't feel a lot of self-loathing about that and I'm not going to kick myself down a shame spiral. However, I do often try to write exciting plots outside of the romance, and considering how plot-heavy this current project is, I've been examining the characters' personalities and actions more closely.

Let's take a look at a very short snippet from Chapter Ten:

Mielle raised her eyebrows. “I still don’t get it,” she said. “What’s so special about these things?”

“First of all, they’re not things, they’re people.” Ro folded her arms across her chest. “It’s easy to say they were people, but I know that whatever Zedek does to them in his lab, he can’t fully erase what they used to be.” 

Her words hung heavy in the room. No one responded. “However,” she continued, “they’re designed to be deadly. They’re stronger than us. Their reflexes are faster than ours. They can sustain more damage than us even if we go in wearing full body armor.”

The redhead blinked her long lashes. “So how do we get around them.”

In the following chapter, Mielle seeks out Ro to apologize for possibly being insensitive, and then they have a chat about a couple topics, not all of them about a man. So yay for passing the Bechdel test (which had already happened earlier in the book anyway), but the scene got me thinking - if it were a male character, would he have come to apologize? Would the original exchange have been more heated? Would the following conversation have been any different if it had been between a man and a woman?

I don't know. Obviously by this point, the characters are fleshed out enough in my head that they drive the action and the dialogue. I'd like to think that a male character could be sensitive enough to apologize for a potentially off-putting remark, but does that mean it's bland or almost expected for a woman to do it? If it had been a man, would the resulting conversation have eventually evolved into the characters trying to get into each other's pants? If it had been two men just talking about stuff, would this even be an issue?

The "what-if" games can be crazymaking, but if we don't overthink things, the problems never get better, right? And I know, of course, that I am just one tiny, tiny drop in a vast ocean, but we should all be trying to do well by our characters. Or else they might come after us and exact revenge.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Obligatory "Year in Review" Post

Happy 2014, everyone! I hope the new year is off to a fantastic start and that those of you who live in the same region as me are keeping warm. I haven't gone back to work yet, but I'm about 90% certain that when I do, the first thing I hand in will still say "2013" on it since I'm not smart enough to have changed my template files yet. I should get on that this weekend....

2013 was a decent year for me. As I was mentally compiling a list for this post, the number of writing accomplishments suddenly didn't seem like much. To me, it seems as if there are a lot of authors out there who are constantly churning out (published) work, and it's sometimes easy to get down on myself because it takes me longer. I've pretty much accepted that my schedule is my schedule and I never wanted this to be my full-time/day job anyway, so I'll keep plugging along and doing my thing as I've always done. As if I had a choice in the matter. ;)

Along those lines, perhaps the biggest adjustment to my life this past year was going back to work. Juggling writing and school (and my other obligations) was one thing; finding the balance between writing and a job job is a different story. There are times when my brain simply can't take anything more than zoning out to random websites for a while, and I need to be okay with that and not kick myself for not being more productive in my downtime. It's a process, and I hope it gets easier.

While I'm not a best-selling author and I doubt I ever will be (and that's okay!), what I did write this year was well-received by those who read it, so I try to remember that when things just aren't coming together the way I'd like. The start of a new year is a good time to remind ourselves to always be moving forward - keep writing, keep learning, keep on keepin' on, just keep going! Here's to a fabulous 2014!

(All that, and I never did actually post a "Here's What I Did" list. Oh well. Since it wasn't that long, it's not that hard to piece together from other parts of the site!)