Sunday, April 30, 2006

Settings & News

Alas it seems the clown has no other takers so time to move on. *g* I've spent the past few days being horribly lazy, sleeping far too much and doing no housework ie. devolving back to a teenager the second I step foot in my family home. In my defense, I've been sick. (Yes, I know - I come ALL this way, only to crash and burn. What's with that?).

But now I'm basically okay and have work to do - copy edits for SLAVE TO SENSATION - so I'm cranking myself back to life. One thing I did notice over the past few days is the difference in culture between Japan and New Zealand. Of course I knew that fact already, but seeing the contrast makes it so much more real. It made me wonder about the effect the realism of settings has on the reader.

For example, in DESERT WARRIOR, I created a very descriptive desert sheikdom that was as much a part of the story as the two main characters, while in SECRETS IN THE MARRIAGE BED, I deliberately placed the setting in the background, because the story was of a different kind - a more intense focus on what was going on behind the closed doors of Vicki and Caleb's marriage.

As a reader, I don't like long passages of setting description. But I know not everyone thinks like that. To some readers, the setting must be as well described as any of the characters because it plays a crucial part in their enjoyment of the story. Which camp do you fall in? And what impact does a realistic setting have on your liking/disliking a book?

p.s. I have news. Really cool news which I shall be revealing next week so watch this space!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Tears Of A Clown: Chapter 2

It's Friday again and time for the collaborative story effort to continue! I've decided to call it Tears Of The Clown from Diana's inspired first post last week. If you'd like to read chapter 1, click here.

Recap on how this works: Each person writes a line or two and leaves an open sentence for the next person to pick up. Repeat posts absolutely welcome but to make it more unpredictable, someone else must post something between each one of yours. Anyone and everyone can participate so don't be shy!

The last line in chapter 1 was:
As their stares burned holes through her soul, the group parted for a disturbingly familiar figure that emerged from the shadows like a shark from the shallows. It was the bearded lady...

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Books Into Movies

So did you miss me? I'm back, still slightly sleep-deprived but otherwise functioning. During my hours on the plane, I managed to catch three movies - the new Pride & Prejudice, Memoirs of a Geisha and Walk The Line.

As a huge fan of the BBC version of P & P (in case you haven't already figured that out), I was all set to dislike the new version but I found myself enjoying it for the very reason that it was different in style. I thought the new male lead (Matthew MacFadyen) brought a vulnerability to Mr. Darcy which was very sweet (in a gruff male way) and made the character his own.

I also liked Memoirs of a Geisha, thought the transition from book to movie was done very well. The little girl who played the young Sayuri had me especially entranced.

And Walk The about a love story. Beautifully done.

What interested me as I was watching, was the prevalence of movies made from books. Aside from the two above, one of the other choices was the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (maybe I'll watch that on the way back!).

I've always been divided in opinion on the subject of movies being made into movies. On the one hand, it can be very disappointing to see a bad adaptation where the characters look and act like nothing you'd imagined while reading the book, while on the other, a great adaptation can bring a book alive to a wider audience than it might otherwise enjoy. An example of the latter is The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I've tried and been unable to get fully into the books (though I haven't given up yet), but I adore the movies, which makes me want to persevere with the books.

What's your opinion on the books into movies debate? And what book would you love to see on the silver screen?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Fly Into A Prize [Edited]

* The prize winner is Cynthia E. Bagley.

The day job took over my life today – I’m exhausted. But, no compaints. It’s not bad as far as jobs go. I got to teach/play with/amuse almost a hundred kids who were delighted to see me. That’s got to be good for the confidence.

But I digress. The point of this post is to let you all know that posts will be erratic for the next week and a half as I’m heading to New Zealand soon as morning comes. It’s going to take me over twenty-four hours to make it there so no hope at all of an entry tomorrow.

However, I’ve thought up another game to keep this blog hopping while I’m napping thousands of feet over the Pacific Ocean. I want you to make up the worst book title you can think of and then write a one line blurb about it. I’ll pick a random winner from everyone who comments on this post by midnight 26th April blog time (Japan) = 8am 25th April PST. The Prize will be a copy of SECRETS IN THE MARRIAGE BED and something delicious from NZ.

Here’s my attempt: LUST AND LOBOTOMY – The tale of a surgeon who goes too far…and creates his perfect woman.

Okay, that’s pretty bad (and sick). I’m sure all you creative minds out there can do much better (worse?!) so go to it!

The Clown, the Clown!!

I unilaterally declare the weekend's experiment a sucess. So much so that I think we should continue the tale every Friday. I want to know what happens with this clown!! What do you think?

Below is what we came up with. I think this story needs a TITLE. Suggestions??

Magnolia Peach Blossom was astonished by the sight of a circus clown gagged and hogtied in her bed. Her first thought was to search for the hidden camera and perhaps try to catch a glimpse of the Punk'd film crew.

After all, since Magnoia had rocketed to fame with her subtle but stirring turn as deaf prostitute in this summer's blockbuster, TEARS OF A CLOWN, it figured Ashton Kutchner woudl try something like this to take her down a notch. Finding no cameras or crew, Magnolia cautiously approached the clown to find a note pinned to his rapidly heaving chest.

It read: "You can have him. Sincerely, Demi."

Magnolia did another cursory sweep for cameras, before she ripped the duct tape from the clown's mouth. "Ashton? Is that you?" One look at the blue lips of the clown and Magnolia knew it wasn't Ashton.

"Help. Me." The clown sputtered and coughed. Blood seeped from the corner of his mouth.

She backed off, shaking. This was no prank. Was it?Then she saw slash marks on his neck and wrists. If they had gone any deeper, the clown would have been just a hunk of meat on her bed."Who are you?" she asked, reaching for her cell phone. She had to call 911 and get help for the clown, but she feared he'd be dead before help arrived."Who's Demi?" she asked as she opened the phone.

"Demi is . . . " he began, then began to cough. "short for Demetrius. My bookie. Do you have any vodka?"

Magnolia paused, her manicured nail poised over the 1 key. She oculd see it now. Well, officer, after I discovered the bloody clown tied to my bed, I thought I'm mix him up a nice gimlet. You know, to dull the pain. She eyed the man and finished dialing. "How about some water?" Her cell phone rang before she could call 911."Hello?"

"Did you get my present?" asked a muffled voice. "I know how you've always loved clowns.A shudder iced its way up her spine.

"Who is this?" she demanded.

"It's doesn't matter," replied the muffled voice. "I wanted you to see the scene before you became a part of it."

Magnolia rushed to the window and whisked open the curtains. Under the light stood a figure in a coat right out of a Chandler novel.A cell phone was in the stranger's hand. Click.

The clown gasped behind Magnolia, making her jump. She glanced at him; his chest wasn't moving anymore.Heart pounding, she looked back out the window and saw that the first man had been joined by a smaller man. A much smaller man. She gasped. Was that the guy from Fantasy Island who was always saying "da plane, da plane"? No, that guy was dead. At least, Magnolia thought she'd read that in one of the tabloids last year. Not that she read tabloids all the time, only when she was waiting in line at the grocery . . . she shook her head. She must be losing her mind.

But the guy was a midget, a fat midget in a three-piece suit, and if she didn't do something, surely someone else was going to the Big Top in the sky. Wait. The bloodied clown... the dwarf ouside the window... Magnolia couldn't place them as extras in TEARS OF A CLOWN. They had to be the real deal.

She steadied herself against the window pane, the painful memories of her humble beginnings as the only daughter of the Bearded Lady and the Lion Tamer suddenly blindingly fresh in her mind. She'd spent years burying her past, becoming Magnolia Peach Blossom, an orphan who'd lost her memory in a train accident. But now someone was telling her that those carefully concealed roots could no longer be denied.

Trying to collect herself, Magnolia glanced out the window to an empty sidewalk. She gasped and reeled to find herself staring face to face with the little man and an assortment of other strangers, each fingering a long, sparkly baton under shiny brass knuckles.As their stares burned holes through her soul, the group parted for a disturbingly familiar figure that emerged from the shadows like a shark from the shallows. It was the bearded lady...

Friday, April 21, 2006

Collaborative Story Effort

It's Friday afternoon for me and I don't feel the least like posting anything serious, so let's play a game and write ourselves a story at the same time. I'm going to start off with the first line and I want y'all to add a new line or two each time you comment, leaving an unfinished line for the next person to pick up.

Repeat comments welcome but to make it more unpredictable, there has to be at least one comment after each one of yours before you can comment again. Make sense?

I'm going to leave this up all weekend and see what we come up with. If it works, we could start our own ongoing serial!

And the tale begins: Magnolia Peach Blossom was astonished by the sight of a circus clown gagged and hogtied in her bed. Her first thought was...[to be continued!]

Mini-Golf Anyone?

Today's post is going to be late, but why don't you try a game of mini-golf in the meantime? Lots of procrastinatory fun! *g* (And yes, I made up that word).

NB: There might be some pop-ups depending on your browser.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

New Market, Contest & More!

Today I give you a roundup of links, which I've slaved hours over mining from the vast reaches of the Internet.

To start off,
my agent Nephele Tempest has a post up about a new paying short-fiction market. And The Knight Agency as a whole is running a contest giving away copies of their author's books. Given how super duper the Knight Agency authors are *G*, I'd highly recommend entering to win!

Diana Peterfreund's talking about Heroic Archetypes (of Narnia). Go hassle her. ;)

Tess Gerritsen posted about how difficult it is for a writer to stop writing even when they've been looking forward to a break. I was nodding most of the way through this post. I turn into a completely lost soul after finishing a book.

There's an interesting interview with Allison Brennan here where she talks about her life and her journey to publication. I always like hearing how writers got to where they are are today, which is why I also enjoy MJ Rose's Backstory blog. Stuart Wood's recent entry on the best title he ever came up with was very funny.

And for the poets among you, here's a post on Bookslut stating that: "It's exceptional for a journal to get one poem out of three across to any given reader."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Good Stuff

People often talk about what their pet peeves are in books, what makes them angry/frustrated/crazy when reading. Today, I thought we'd turn that on its head, earn some good karma and talk about what makes us fall in love with a book, what makes it work for us.

For me, I think it comes down to emotional impact. A keeper book is one that makes me laugh or cry each time I read it, no matter that I already know the ending. The dvd of Pride & Prejudice (BBC) has an interview with the producer in which she says something along the lines of: "Each time I read the book, I wait to see if Darcy and Elizabeth will get together. I still suspend my disbelief." I think that puts it beautifully.

One of my favorite books is Remembrance by Jude Deveraux. I love that book and I've read it several times, but I still cry, still hope, still get sucked into the beauty of the story. Suspension of disbelief is not even a question. It just is.

Aside from emotional impact, I think my enjoying a book has to do with liking the characters. I don't need to identify with either one - both can be very different people from me - but I must understand and sympathise with their actions. So, make me fall in love with your characters, give me a ton of emotion and I'm yours.

What about you? What makes you fall in love with a book? (Feel free to recommend books you love!)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Readings & Books On Tape

Yesterday, a friend made the suggestion that I should give a reading at an upcoming picnic. I was rather surprised and given the expected audience of non-romance readers, I declined. But even if it was in front of a whole group of romance fans, I don't know if I'd feel comfortable doing a reading.

Reading has always been for me, a solitary pleasure. I learned to read at a very early age and have always enjoyed hiding away with my books. I don't think I've ever attended a reading either. Nor, actually, have I listened to a whole book on tape.

What about you? Anybody given/attended a reading? What did you think about it? And what about books on tape - do you enjoy them?

Maybe I need to widen my horizons, and I definitely to intend to try out a book on tape soon, given that I can listen to it on my own. But I still can't get my head around the idea of attending a reading. Is the magic of the book still there when you're surrounded by others and the book is being read out loud? Opinions?

Monday, April 17, 2006

World's Longest Place Name

This post is a result of something in yesterday's comments (and also a result of me going off on a tangent). According to this article, the world's longest place name is in Thailand. However, the name that's officially in the Guiness Book of Records is from NZ, being:

Tetaumatawhakatangihangakoauaotamateaurehaeaturipukapihimaungahoronuku pokaiwhenuaakitanarahu

Translated as:

The place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed, and swallowed mountains, known as land eater, played his flute to his loved one.

This name is apparently being challenged by the Welsh, who claim that
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is actually the longest place name.

What is my point? Nothing really. I just thought it was interesting. I dare one of you to use any one of these names in a book. *g*

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Let's talk names. I'm currently working on an idea for a futuristic and my characters have fairly normal names. Do you prefer this as a reader compared to more interesting alien-like names?

I'm also working with a placeholder name for one of my characters so I can do a find and replace when the right name comes to me. I did this for someone in Slave to Sensation as well. The characters know their own names and won't accept anything else but it sometimes takes a little while for them to come to me.

Tell me your favorite names, so I can add them to my list!

Hope you're all having a good weekend.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Love Scenes

Contrary to my normal hermitlike behavior, I actually attended a cherry-blossom viewing party last weekend. It really was very pretty having a picnic under the cherry trees, especially after night fell and the trees were lit up. While I was there, some people I hadn't previously met found out I wrote romance novels. I got the usual questions and that was fine - I can talk about writing forever.

But then I got one that left me somewhat lost for words. I was asked to come up with twenty euphemisms for various body parts, because that's apparently all we romance novelists do - we write endless purple-prosey love scenes. I wasn't offended, mostly because these were young guys of a certain age and seriously, we all know they have only one thing on their brains. Yet it got me thinking about how important love scenes have become in romantic fiction.

During yesterday's post and comments, we were speaking about Jane Austen, the Brontes etc. These writers wrote what are considered some of the most powerful love stories in the English language. And they were popular writers of their time, so we're not talking about literary fiction (though the passage of time alone may have made some of it so, but that's a post for another day). Obviously, they were restricted in what they wrote because of when they lived, but no one would ever argue that there's no sexual tension in those books.

And yet there are no love scenes.

Even sweet romances these days sometimes go beyond the bedroom door, or hint at things going on behind that door. It seems that our expectations have shifted to make love scenes an integral part of romance novels. For example, I loved Sharon Shinn's Archangel, but one of the complaints others had about that book was the lack of a proper love scene.

Perhaps it's because our society has shifted so that the manners and restraints of past times no longer apply, which is reflected in our books. But at the same time, there are many people who say that they skip the love scenes in a book. Given that it puzzles me why they've become one of the cornerstones of romance novels. People might skip the scenes, but they'll complain if they're not there and the book isn't marketed as a sweet romance. What gives? Do you feel cheated by a non-sweet romance that doesn't have love scenes? Why have love scenes become so important?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Alpha Males & Real Life

I recently had a fun discussion on an email group about the appeal of alpha males in fiction. We talked mostly about Mr. Darcy and Mr. Rochester, with a dash of Heathcliff thrown in. I am a huge fan of alpha males - I don't think I've ever written any other kind of hero. (As an aside, I've always found Heathcliff too cruel to see him as truly heroic).

But after having this discussion, it struck me that while alpha males are great in fiction - so much potential for explosive emotions and non-pc acts which drive the heroine nuts - they might not be so great in real life. Okay, maybe I can imagine living with Mr. Darcy *g* but he's an exception. What do you think? Would you want an alpha male in real life? (And if you have one, feel free to share what it's like!)

And since I love talking on this subject, who are your favorite alphas heroes in fiction? Why do you love them? If you're one of those rare people who doesn't like alphas, why?! I haven't had a male comment on this blog for a while but I know some of you are lurking - what's your take on alpha heroes?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Today you get a blog quiz because I'm teaching lots of two-feet tall people. Right now, they're being amazed by my typing skills and I'm being ordered to type for their amusement. :)

This quiz is particularly appropriate given my obsession with shiny, pretty handbags. I think I've bought a handbag in every place I've gone visiting. What can't you help buying?

Your Rare and Unique Designer Handbag
Surly Girl Studios

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


This is a conversation I had with a friend not so long ago.

Friend: Hey, I'm having a dinner thing tonight around six.
Me: Thanks for calling.
Friend: Of course, I don't actually expect you to come but I thought I'd tell you anyway.
Me: Very funny.

That is a very small example of some of the conversations I've had in the two and a half years I've been in Japan. I fully expect to turn up to a party one day and have everyone turn around and ask me what I'm doing there, even though I was invited. This is why I'm called the Hermit, as I've mentioned before.

But jokes aside, I think it's a question of priorities. I gave up a highly paid job to have more time to write, so if I have to make a choice between a social event and writing, it's not really a choice.

What's at the top of your list? I'm thinking about selfish 'do it for yourself' things, so you can't say your family. That's a given. I'm talking things aside from that, that you do just for you, like reading, watching t.v., knitting, writing, dancing...the list goes on. Have you ever thought about where your focus is and whether it needs to change? Or has it always been apparent to you that your priorities are exactly what they should be?

And if you're a writer, would you be willing to give up all the other extraneous things to have more time to write?

Monday, April 10, 2006


Today's post is on characterization and some of the ways writers go about it.

1. I know several writers who interview their characters. Some literally sit down and talk to their imaginary characters as if they were sitting opposite them. I think many even do this out loud.

2. Some writers use the characteristics of astrological signs ie. if they see their character as a Taurus, then they'll use the features associated with the sign like stubbornness and strong will. This is only a jumping off point for most, a very basic outline.

3. Then there are the character archetypes, sort of a 'master' list of the types of characters you can have, for example, the bad boy hero. Each type has a list of associated characteristics, which authors can use to flesh out their own creations.

4. Normal people are also good. I don't mean that authors use real people as their characters, but that they take in things about others - many people, not one - and use it to make their creation real, giving them the little eccentric behaviors that make us all unique.

5. Pictures ripped from magazines or seen on the internet can also provide writers with inspiration for character types. First, the picture may allow you to present a more detailed physical appearance for your character. Secondly, it may start your brain thinking about the person behind the picture - who are they? Most authors don't want to know the factual answer to that - they want to set their minds free to create one.

The above are just five random things writers might do to develop their characters. If you're a writer, what do you do?

And if you're a reader, what makes a character real to you? What makes you want to believe in them, cheer them on and read the book to the very end?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Underwater Proposal

What a way to pop the question. This is just too cute!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Awards & Award Winners

Thanks to Alice's tip in the comments yesterday, I have just figured out that Craving Beauty was voted the Best Silhouette Desire of 2005 by the readers at Cataromance! Yes, I need to get a clue but let's move on and celebrate!!

Actually it's funny because today's post was going to be about awards. This is the time when a lot of the nominations for various awards, including the RITAs (which are considered the Oscars of the romance world)
come out. Bronwyn Jameson (triple RITA nominee!) did a post here about how the awards/nomination process works.

The Cataromance Awards, however, are somewhat different because the author doesn't enter - it's the readers who nominate them through their own reading over the year. I've never actually entered a published author contest as yet. I don't have anything against them (it's definitely a nice buzz to final/win) - I just haven't got around to it. Maybe next year?!

But moving on to my point. While it is very nice to win (thank you Cata readers!!), do the words
Award Winning Author across a cover make any difference as to whether you buy a book? Does it make you give the book more of a chance especially if it's a new author?

(p.s. Tomorrow's post may be very late or non-existent.)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Covers (Cause they're fun to look at)

These are all covers for the same book. The first one is the original North American cover. The second is the French cover. And the third, the South American one.

Which one do you like the best? I admit I'm torn. I think they all look pretty great (though there is in fact no white wedding in the book). Opinions?

*Click on the covers to see larger images.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Sugar & Spice

Paul Verhoeven, director of the first Basic Instinct (which scored US$353 million worldwide) as well as the widely ridiculed Showgirls (now regarded as something of a camp classic), attributes the genre's demise to the current American political climate.

"Anything that is erotic has been banned in the United States," said the Dutch native.

I found that a very interesting comment in view of the explosion of erotic fiction. The full article can be found here - Erotic Thrillers Lose Steam At Box Office.

For a different point of view, have a read of this interesting RTB post by Nell Dixon where she talks about sweet romance's place in publishing today.
At the moment it seems that romantica, erotica and the spicier forms of romance are the flavour of the moment...

Diametrically opposing thoughts, but maybe it just depends where you're standing? Perhaps it's not that everything erotic has been banned in the States, but that it's difficult to make movies that are truly erotic and interesting. Or maybe it has to do with the fact that a lot of erotic fiction is written by women while the movies are made by men? Should they be making bestselling erotic novels written by women into movies instead?

I really have no idea where I'm going with this post but I just found the two opposing points of view quite interesting. I think they both hold grains of truth. Maybe the answer is somewhere in the middle?


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Tool Books

People always talk about writing books and craft books, but you know what they never talk about - the Tool books. The ones you must have if you're a writer. I have two books that fall firmly into the Tool category.

1. My dictionary. It's a really good dictionary because it has both British English and American English spellings, very necessary for me as I still occasionally get things mixed up between the two. It also has entries for common misspellings, so if you look up something with two 'l's' instead of one, it'll direct you to the right one.

There's a really cool story behind this dictionary. It was the first prize in the first ever short story contest I ever won. I was giddy that day and I still get giddy when I think about it.

2. My Synonym Finder a.k.a. my thesaurus. I have the paperback version of the one by Rodale and this thing is HUGE. I love it. Seriously. This also has a cool story behind it - I bought it at a Borders bookstore on my first trip to the States, when I also attended my first ever RWA conference. Me and Fiona Brand nabbed the last two in the store.

I shipped these two books to Japan three years ago and they'll be going back home with me. Because there are some books that you really, really can't do without.

If we head off the subject of books, other things that fall into the Tools category for me include my laptop, my notebook and a steady supply of pens, among other things. What are some tools you can't do without?

Monday, April 03, 2006

More Sakura & Good News

Good morning, everyone! Let's kick off the week with some good news. First of all, here's another picture of the sakura. They're looking awesomely pretty right now.

Now, onto the good news. I've just been told that the Japanese translation of Craving Beauty has hit the top spot in bookstore rankings for series romance! I'm #1. Doesn't that just rock the house? I could pretend to be mature and nonchalant about this but I'm not so yippeee!

I like lists like these because it means people are buying and reading my books. What more can a writer want? I wonder if this means I can call myself an international bestselling author? *g*

So, tell me your good news. Any kind of good news. Let's kick off April in style! :)

Edited: I originally posted that it was Awaken The Senses which hit #1 but my Japanese reading was a bit off. The correct title is now up! :)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Interesting Article

Have a read of this Time magazine article on Blogs Coming of Age. What's your reason for blogging?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Happy April Fool's!!

Happy April Fool's Day :)

Anyone got a good April Fool's Day story - have you ever played an awesome trick or had one played on you? Share, share!!